it’s been a while… again

Yeah, the longer I don’t write the harder it is to get into it again because there’s so much catching up to do. Let’s just break this cycle and not catch up. Or just a little bit. The last one and a half years was more or less a filler episode. Same old, same old. Sailing, tinkering, working, travelling, … Not too shabby at all but also not spectacular in any way. One noteworthy thing is that I sold the boat and a bunch of other stuff.

Now I’m yet again working on some weird project which is conveniently a couple of 100 km away from my flat. yay! So let’s just look at some pictures in anticipation of next year. Let’s just say there is more of that to come 🙂

Some pics from sweden:

What’s happening here? Sometimes you need the AIS to get clarity.

 

Ah, a Search And Rescue Helicopter is hoisting somebody up from a boat.

Sassnitz, the shittiest harbor I’ve seen so far. Literally.

The little red ball is my anchor buoy, approx 25m away.

The nice thing about sailboats: You can tinker while sailing. That’s a step up from the so called “rolling restoration” of cars…

It’s been a while…

Log: 812nm
Engine: 431h
Position: N58' 54.1" E17' 26.7"(south of stockholm)

Still not too much to write home about. I’m just south of Stockholm and decided to take a break. I’m on holidays after all. So I spent more time listening to audio books, tanning or rummaging through the interwebs.

I’m getting more confident with stuff but sailing is throwing new challenges at me constantly (or I pick them). I finally installed a solar panel. A sorry resemblance of what I would like to run but this boat is small and it is difficult to fit a panel. It’s almost enough though, since I have no fridge and no 12V computer (only a tablet) and most lights are converted to LEDs I don’t need much Wattage. But I miss the solar array of the van. And the fridge.

After some nights of worrying I’m more comfortable with lying at anchor. Mostly because retrieving the anchor is quite some work in most cases. So it sticks there pretty good, the ground is mostly composed of some clay/mud mixture. And there are no waves in the Archipelago.

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Different types of mooring still give me trouble at times. Luckily it’s high season right now, so there is always a crowd of spectators when I’m drifting around in the harbor preparing/trying to get into a berth. So far I love the swedish Y-style finger berth because every boat has it’s own box so it’s impossible to crash into somebody else. Anchoring with a stern buoy or anchor still gives me troubles. Doing it single handed there seems no other way then leaving the helm, walking forwards, jumping over and attaching a line. I don’t like that. And I still haven’t dared to directly anchor to a rock in the wilderness like most locals do. All in good time I guess.

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just some guy paddling his plane the last meters to his weekend cottage

On the upside I’m getting more used to sailing. When I began sailing close hauled with quite some list sort of creeped me out. My brain said “It’s ok” and my gut said “I’m afraid”. I didn’t touch my genoa for the first weeks because I was afraid of the wind becoming to strong and loosing control of the boat/changing headsails under wind. Yesterday I caught myself bashing 5.5 knots upwind under genoa leisurely listening to an audio book while seawater was filling up my kitchen sink through the drain and was just about to splash out of there. This hasn’t happened before, so I guess the boat never leaned over that far yet. After a short “ooopsi” I just closed the seacock of the sink and adjusted the main traveller to reduce the list a bit. Yeah, I’m getting used to that shit…

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Sailing in a archipelago sometimes resemble flying a heli in your living room. See the red and the two green posts. Yep, you have to pass between red and green or you’re on the rocks. A tight bent to the left of the picture. Under sail in really gusty conditions (double reefed mainsail)

My biggest problem so far has been loneliness I guess. Not just for the complications of single handed sailing but also for a lack of company. You meet sailors in every port but most of them live quite a different life. It’s difficult to connect to them. They give me weird looks while they wash their boat every day. I give them weird looks for wasting so much water. My boat is too shabby, my clothing to used up, … Most folks could be my parents of even grand parents.

But every once in a while there are some folks who get me. Like one couple well in their 70s on a 50 year old steel vessel. Some passer-by described the boat as “she has seen things”. Yep, they are sailing her for 40odd years and after circumnavigating the world they now have a look at the places they speed by on previous jouneys, like the hanö-bay for example. I spent at least an hour just looking at the boat and the gazillion little details they added over the years.

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Definite role models for getting old…

And they’re tough as nails. For example constant problems with sea-sickness is no reason not to sail around the world. And Inge had the best reaction to my story so far. She basically was just surprised that other folks see what I’m doing as daring, brave, haphazard, stupid or whatever. “You did get training, your vessel is suitable for single handing, so where is the problem?” she asked. It is weird, most seasoned sailors I meet approve of what I’m doing while most hobbyists more or less disapprove. I guess listening to the pros really is a generic piece of advise.

My first “passage”

log: 246nm
engine: 393,3h
Location: Heiligenhafen, Germany

With around 36nm (66km) my first passage might also be the longest of the trip. At least it was the longest stretch of open water I “had to” pass. Why not just hug the shore you might ask? Well, our friends from the German navy are protecting our freedom just here by celebrating fireworks every f*cking day from 9-17h. At least in the summer season, they do less shooting when the weather gets crappy. And they don’t shoot on weekends, but the lack of wind crossed that on off my list of possibilities. So my beloved government is wasting my tax money and forcing me to take a detour at the same time. They post their shooting schedule on the interwebs. They announce it via radio. There are signs in the harbours around which show the times. There “traffic light” kind of installations which blink when they are shooting. And there are these buoys marking the territory. Let’s say I’m pretty unhappy to pay for all of this.

you got to stay outside the yellow “x”es

So I was sailing clearly going around the shooting range when a navy ship approached me. They circled around me and used their loud-hailer to ask me to turn on my radio. I tried to signal that I don’t have a radio so they went on: “for your information: we are shooting today, so pass all yellow buoys, …”. Ok, so I’m paying these guys as well to annoy the fuck out of me and tell me stuff I already know. Awesome. One might think our cost savy navy would use a small, economical vessel for running parameter security. A small vessel like the ones used by local fisherman. Or like the ones of the local search and rescue (SAR). Maybe even a RIB. Nope. Meet the Todendorf Class:

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Y 837, the “Baumholder”

Named after this range and purpose build for running parameter security. 29 meters long, 2000hp engines, a whopping 125tons of steel. Unarmed and probably useless in combat. And from the looks of it stock maritime radar, no fancy navy stuff. Five of these were build, one sold to the Lebanese, rest still in action. What a waste building these things just for yelling at pleasure vessels/small craft.

… and so it begins

Captains Log, Stardate 69864.7. We left the river Elbe through the BrĂĽnsbĂĽttel Lock, entering the Kiel Canal. Currently berthed at BrunsbĂĽttel Harbor. We left the influence of these weird reoccurring stream phenomena and set course to this seasons research ground: the baltic sea.

Happy Geeks Pride Day Everyone! And mind your Towels while watching Star Wars Episode IV. Quite cramed day it is. Ok, enough of that.

Today started as any well planned passage starts. I prepared everything I could and announced the ship is ready for sea. Sure, there are a gazillion of items on the ToDo list but I crossed of plenty of important stuff. So I woke up at the prepared time and my crew showed up at the time we agreed upon. Then we turned the ignition key and all we heard was the whining of a starter clutch which isn’t engaging the flywheel. No spinning flywheel means no cylinders moving meaning no combustion which renders a combustion engine useless. Tried ten or more times, just wasn’t starting. Hmm, isn’t there some item on the ToDo list for investigating the starter solenoid because it was acting up occasionally? Yep. Didn’t cross that one off. So there we were, ready to leave on the falling tide with no time to spare. And Kiel Canal legally forces you to use your engine and mostly has no wind so going under sails alone wasn’t really an option.

So we busted out the trusted special tool for non-cooperating mechanical stuff and started classic percussive maintenance. Worked like a treat and off we went.

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My favourite “friendly enforcer”. Metal core filled with sand for recoil reduction, hard plastic hitting surface and a long, grippy rubber handle. If you hold it on the front of the handle you can make very gentle tap-a-di-tap-tap and if you grap the handle fully you can beat the crap out of things without leaving indentation marks.

Smooth sailing from there, forgot to take pics.

I was kind of afraid of single handing the lock. Luckily S. agreed to tag along, so I had great and also very skilful company. We agreed that I would take the first try on my own and he would only engage if things went sideways. And as always, when you bring skilled folks along to help you out, the conditions are ideal, you are totally relaxed and everything goes super smooth. It is as if the situation smells that your specialist has done the thing a hundred times and so it plays nicely, hoping to fuck you up badly next time when you come alone.

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Some local sailor.

One last picture which pretty much sums up sailing the elbe. There is a lee shore and a pile of stones leading into the water marked by a cardinal warning sign. My instructors told us to keep well clear (100m or more) of these signs and keep a even wider berth to lee shores. These rules don’t apply here. Some say if you can sail on this river you can sail anywhere. I don’t know, I sailed around 100nm on the river, half of which alone. I did survive but it wasn’t relaxing. I had to be constantly on my toes planning my route between moving and stationary obstacles while coping with weird tidal phenomena and constant wind shifts. I’m looking forward to go there again sometime to explore the beauty of it. But for now I’ll seek out less crowded waters to take my time to actually learn how to sail. Drinking water from a firehose is kinda fun but it wears you out after some time.

Finally…

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.