I did it.

Well, my mood is still rapidly changing between happy and terrified. I a did buy a boat. The idea was to get something as small as bearable for a summer trip, slow and safe, easy to handle. Then start in a place which is great for beginners, easy waters, no tides, Kiel for example. And how did it play out? Yeah, well. I bought an 9,3 meter heavy displacement offshore racer-cruiser. The thing dominated races back in the 70s. And I bought it in Hamburg, famous for having the third largest port in whole Europe. And about 4m of tidal range. So there is all kind of weird current phenomena going on and container vessels and ferries produce large waves.

On the upside, the vessel is known for being pretty bulletproof and easy to single-hand. And she is a beauty!





Designed by famous sparkman and stephens (S&S). Build by IW-Varvet in 1970 on the island of Orust, Sweden. A modern (at the time) US Design build by shipwrights whose lineage goes back to the vikings. Literally! Technical details: http://sailboatdata.com/viewrecord.asp?class_id=5505

The last couple of days were spent mostly working on the boat or planning on what to change. She is old and battered but she wears her scars with pride.

Disclaimer: I don’t believe in the myth that all ships are female, if they have a gender at all. Her current name is Baldur but the pronoun she fells more appropriate then “he” or “it” or the singular “they”. I guess there is some nonbinary genderqueer thing going on. I’m pretty sure she’s got balls as well. And in GB she was actually marketed as the “SHE-31” (South Hants Engineering being the name of the shipyard)

Success! (mostly)

Location: Emden, Germany
Odo: 309107

So yeah, there they are. My license to operate “pleasure craft” on waterways navigable by sea-going ships (required if your vessel sports more than 15hp). The other one is optional / only required if you work as a commercial skipper on pleasure crafts in coastal waters not exceeding 12 nautical miles (german version of the “yachtmaster coastal”, thats the one where you actually learn how to sail a yacht). And the last one for buying / handling distress signals such as caliber 4 rockets.

Achievements unlocked!

Achievements unlocked! A proper summary of the last autumn/winter

Ah, and some money in the bank. The only license which is missing is my radio certificate (SRC). I flunked that one because I forgot to mention the current time when ending distress communication. Whatever… I will not make the same mistake in real life because I’m not allowed to carry a radio to actually make distress calls. I mean, imagine what would happen if I omit the current time! Some bloke might have to look at his own clock in case he is interested in the exact moment when everything was back in order.

So yeah, we might take an educated guess what comes next… Let’s say I already found out that the forecastle of a Albin Vega is not long enough for me but for example a kings cruiser (successor of the folkeboot) or a Thames Marine Mirage 28 suit me just fine.


Just watched a documentery about the us navys next gen ships. The crew went to test out new equipment. Two identical guns well proven on land vehicles with newly added electrickery for naval use. One failed right off the bat during initial adjustment, the second one just at the beginning of the first engagement. Classic.

Deployed a submergable to search for mines. Six hours in the hydraulic pressure drops to a critical level. Just at the same moment as the mothership develops a hydraulic leak as well. Needless to say most of the needed spares and tools have to be flown in. Like for example a ginormous hydraulic purge unit to bleed the hydros of the submergable after repairs. Captain to Engineer (who just bleeded the ships steering hydros after changing the busted hose): “Hey, you could have done that on the sub as well, right?”. And the engineer just tilts his head, shrugs and gives the good old “yep, totally but I’m not allowed to because of procedure bullshit” expression. That is how different departments/companies/entities work together.

It’s getting better. The captain is pissed about the retest procedures taking too long, the technicians from xy complany are pissed about the captain being pissed. They work through the night as fast as possible after talking about the situation for an hour and just flunk the thing. The changed part starts acting up before the sub hits the water because they just messed around with the symptoms. And (drumroll) they can’t release the thing because of a design flaw in the release mechanism.

After that the weather starts to act up, “storms” and three meter waves. Perfect excuse for heading back to port. That leaves the problem of making the mission a success. But a young sailor has the perfect idea: The rest of the testing will take place in port. The Captain is happy because his mission is a success and the project team is happy because their crappy prototype can’t be tested in port. Captain: “We are going to keep working tactically as if we were on sea, the only difference is that we’re going to be tied up to the pier”. I wish they would fight wars this way. Everybody is happy about their “outside of the box thinking” and “flexibility”. Priceless.

Yep, governmental and corporate (software) projects are the same all over the world, the parallels to my line of work are overwhelming. You can’t make good projects by just throwing money at them.

I’m really looking forward for the moment when the realization sets in that I don’t have to cope with that kind of shit in the next couple of months. This was my last day in the office.

Skillset of a shoestring sailor

Just found the following list on a forum thread about becoming a shoestring sailor (link):

  1. Learn to navigate – the old fashioned way (with paper chart and using DR)….useful (IMO still essential) even if using a Chartplotter.
  2. Engine Mechanics – at least able to service own engine and to spot when anything is amiss before it gets serious or terminal ($$$).
  3. Electrickery – a basic understanding is good, at least enough not to fry oneself or set fire to boat!
  4. Learn to Sail! – some ability to get the sails up and move under wind power is essential. More ability is nice!

So yeah, got an exam on the 1) on sunday. I’d consider myself a serious hobbyist on 2) and 3). Training for 4) is already booked. Seems I’m heading somewhere….

Fortune Cookie Approves!


So yeah, there is stuff worth blogging about coming up. Some approve some call me crazy. Same old, same old. I made a habit of only writing about stuff I will definitely do (or which I already did) so stay tuned another month or so until I finish the preparation phase and finally set things in motion. Only one thing is pretty sure: 6 months with almost no work contracts. The rest is subject to change…

Lightning at Zwenkauer Lake

Another night at my favourite lake. An unforeseen Thunderstorm strucks and by coincidence I have got a SLR and a tripod handy.

blitz1 blitz2

The first pic is a lucky shot toying around with bulb mode. My idea was to put the camera on long exposure and that bulb mode would stop exposing when enough light has hit the sensor. Didn’t work out, I’m unsure why. So I set the camera for 15-30 seconds of exposure on program mode, 100iso, manual focus and continuous shooting (“intervalometer” feature of the awesome “magic lantern” firmware). The result: around 60 black pictures and the second pic of this post.

The times are a’changing….

Odo: 305208
Location: Zwenkauer Lake, Germany

“Lately” I read some books about sailing. Mostly while camping at my favourite lake near Leipzig.

Some volumes of cap’n fatty goodlander, “The self sufficient sailor” by lin&bill parde0y and “Sailing alone around the world” by joshua slocum (free audio book!) . It’s been like time travel. Josh sailed in the 18hundreds so it’s quite clear stuff was quite different back then.


Slocums “Spray” (still sloop rigged, later he shortened the main boom and added a second mast (mizzen?!)

Fatty is still sailing so he tells old yarns but gives advice based on today. The Lin&Bill wrote their book in the seventies and revised in in 1997. Plenty of advise is still up to date, but in some places it’s kinda weird. Cited from memory:

They ran a ship without an engine because engines are freaking expensive, break all the time and pollute the environment. Pollutions&pricing is still an issue for sure, but I guess the reliability kind of changed. I’m not familiar with boat engines but most car engines which have reputation for being virtually indestructible are from the seventies & eighties, like for example the merc m102, m111, om602, … Older engines suck because production processes were not advanced enough to get the precision and quality of material was not good enough to produce a durable engine. And because of their bad fuel economy. Newer engines are optimised on fuel economy at all costs, especially reliability is not so important any more because people have the tendency to not buy new stuff while the old stuff runs fine..

Lin&Bill ran a ship without an electrical system. Only some battery operated appliances like quartz clocks (to use with the sextant for navigation), some flash-lights and a radio/stereo. This one blew me away at first, but well, I might have done the same back then. No Computers, no digital cameras, no VCR, no halfway portable TV, no GPS, no AIS, no cellphone/mobile broadband, hell there wasn’t even internet. On top of that crappy/expensive batteries, solar cells, … Yeah, I would have done the same, there was no real benefit of an electrical system.

“The anchor light will burn for 30 hours on one-quarter pint of fuel without refilling— that’s efficiency! Compare that to the diesel fuel and noise required to generate enough electricity to run an anchor light for the same period.”

Yep, that was before LEDs for sure. Let’s consider a 8 Watt high power (three nautical mile visibility) model. 240 Watt@12V are 20Ah. Let’s say our (tiny) engine has a (tiny) 60A generator, that’s 20 min of running. The idling engine probably consumes half a litre of diesel per hour, so the electrical light uses about a one-third pint of fuel. There are also small anchor lights (2km claimed visibility) which just consume 0,1A / hour, totalling 3Ah in 30h / 5min running time of the engine / 50ish ml of diesel or a-tenth of a pint. Same ballpark for the big gun, distinctively outperformed by the small light. How come? Well, kerosene lamps squeeze out 0,25lm/Watt of light, LEDs 80-120lm/Watt (or thereabouts). 125ml (1/4 pint) kerosene has 34MJ/l, or 4,25MJ/quarter pint. That’s 1,19 kWh (0,28kWh/MJ) in 30h or 40 Watt in one hour. So 10 Lumen for the kerosene lamp, around 10 Lumen for the small LED and a whopping 800 Lumen for the 8W LED. Yeah, LEDs did change the game completely…

Anyways, a decent solar panel array should produce the needed energy in an hour (big light) or a couple of minutes (small light).

But there was still lots of good advise which wasn’t outdated: If your electronics fail you can’t crank your engine. Today that’s actually not that much of a problem any more because you utilise two separate battery banks, one for “camping” and the other dedicated to cranking the engine. So if one goes flat you still have the other. But if your starter breaks you are fucked. I didn’t realise that yet because with cars you can always push / roll start them (manual transmission) or tow start them (yet another disadvantage of automatic transmission). Back in the days of civil service I did that for a whole weekend while taxiing mothers with their children. Living in the mountains it’s quite easy to park downhill. Just turn on the ignition, shift to second gear, push down the clutch, release the breaks, accelerate and then pop the clutch. Voilà, a running engine (disclaimer: might fuck up your catalytic converter and without the engine running power steering and most importantly the brake servo isn’t working). Some folks thought that was a rather weird practise but hey, it beats walkin’…

Diving down and turning the prop by hand doesn’t sound like a good idea at all so I got to remember this. They wrote that there are some kind of hydraulic starters and spring loaded starters on certain heavy duty equipment, I think I should look into that. Especially adding a hydraulic pump to the engine would open a wide array of possibilities.

“Very few people quit cruising because of storms, bad weather, or calms. It’s the little hassles like getting phone calls through, cashing checks, or finding your mail and a hot shower that annoy you most. But then, if cruising were easy, everyone would be doing it”.

Well, welcome to the future. Satphones, 3G/4G, Email, ATMs and widely accepted credit/debit cards, online banking, … are benefits of living today. And watermakers + boiler make even the hot shower possible…

“Then Larry cuts a strip of strong, stiff plastic about inch by 1 ½ inches wide and 4 inches long and uses fiber-glass reinforced tape to attach it to the end of the flashlight ( Figure 28.2 ). Presto— a flashlight you hold with a mouth grip.”

Yeah, old timers 🙂 These were the days before you could buy cheap headlamps almost everywhere.

Sailing Licenses in Germany

I want to sail. There are lakes nearby where people are sailing and I want to sail the ocean as well. And I want to be able to charter a yacht. So what is the fastest&cheapest way to get the necessary licenses? Probably moving to another country…

To sail the lake nearby I need the SBF Binnen Segeln (sailing inland license). To get that you have to make a fully fledged course with 10+ hours of practical sailing on a real boat. If you already got the SKS Segeln (advanced offshore sailing license you need to charter boats) you get the inland licence almost for free, all you have to do is to pass the theoretical exam and pay a small fee. One may ask why we need an advanced license to charter boats offshore / why the SBF See Segeln does not suffice? Well, the offshore sailing license is not a fully fledged course but just a theoretical exam for sailing and a practical exam for motoring. So yeah, you get the license to sail on the ocean without ever touching an actual sailboat (you have to look at pictures though) but you need a fully fledged course on sailing to sail on the small lakes around town. Dafuq?


Wedding Presents #1

I try to avoid weddings wherever I could. After a couple of years it was time to re-evaluate my stance on them. Yep, still not my kind of party even though I really like the folks who got married.

They wanted money for a present, attaching it to a postcard is not that personal so I needed something different to attach the dough to. Since the groom is a petrol-head liking trashy things (driving things like MZ Motorcycles and a Buick) it seemed appropriate to dig through the trash container and spend an hour welding together trash.


forgot to take a picture of the finished product, this is only tacked together

Unfortunately the heart broke during transport when I strapped it to my bike with a ratched strap (one half fell off). I cobbled it together on the spot with a ratchet strap. Luckily nobody was upset getting a broken heart made almost entirely out of brake parts as a present. You probably could take that the wrong way…

The most upsetting thing to me was that one of my welds broke. In the end not too surprising since brake discs are mostly made of grey cast iron and you can’t MIG/MAG weld that. That means you can but it’s by far not as strong as it might look like. I forgot to take a picture but you could clearly see the grainy structure of the cast iron still sticking to the weld. So the weld actually didn’t break but pulled all the tiny grains it was attached to out of the brake disc…