2 May 2016
Small boat on a big journey
The boats of the clients at Shelter Bay Marina vary greatly in their size. At the moment, a 173 foot (50 meter) long yacht is planning to spend its yard period in Shelter Bay Marina. But much smaller boats also put in a stop here. Such as Birgit from Germany, with her 22 foot (7 m) long boat Poco Loco. After Birgit made it through the Panama Canal on her second attempt, the next small sailboat was already here. The American Donna Lange stopped at Shelter Bay Marina with her boat Inspired (In)sanity. At 28 feet, Inspired Insanity is only a little longer than Poco Loco. The big difference between the two boats is that Inspired Insanity doesn't have any type of auxiliary engine. Since sailing is not allowed within the area of the Panama Canal, Donna needed a little help to leave the marina. Shelter Bay showed a big heart for small boats and offered Donna the use of its dinghy with a 50 hp outboard to tow her out.
Laura in conversation with circumnavigator Donna Lange.
Since Laura and I wanted to document the departure of the engine-less solo circumnavigator anyway, we volunteered to be towboat captains. During the 30-minute trip through the harbour and out of the breakwater, Donna told us about her adventures in the South Pacific. Once outside the breakwater we found a light breeze, so that Donna set her sails and made her way between the large freighters anchored in front of the Panama Canal and through to the open sea. We waved goodbye and watched a little wistfully as the little boat with the big plans sailed away.
Donna in her element – open ocean, a little wind... what more can you want? Next planned stop: Rhode Island, USA
Speaking of plans...
what are our plans? After our plans were upset this past autumn due to the assault and theft of our computers, we are organising ourselves again here at Shelter Bay Marina. We have to re-film some of the lost shots for our Running Downwind series. And we also have to make preparations for our film production in the rainforest of Ecuador. We have to finalize the shot list, plan the financing, apply for a film permit and then plan the trip to Ecuador. We will probably return to the jungle in approximately six weeks. After that comes the post-production. The third part of our Running Downwind series also has to be finished. So we have lots to do! At the end of this year or the beginning of next year we will go into the Pacific with our Corinthian.
13 April 2016
Thorsten wrote several entries in German within the past month about our experiences in Panama, but I didn't manage to keep up with the translations into English. Here they all are at once, from the most recent on Apr. 4 (An athletic weekend) to the oldest one from Mar. 17 (Recently in Panama). Enjoy!
4 April 2016
An athletic weekend - bicycle tour and soccer
We had basically already planned to do it sometime - a bicycle tour to nearby Fort San Lorenzo. But the fort won't run away. Last Saturday (i.e. Apr. 2) our friends from the German boats Fajo and Infinity said that they were planning to bike there. That was the kick in the guts that we needed to leave our work behind and get on our bikes. We made it only as far as the entrance to the Fort San Lorenzo National Park before we had our first break. A tame coatimundi approached us curiously and wanted - of course - something to eat. The park ranger gave us a few slices of bread to feed to the little guy.
Who has the bigger nose, Thorsten or the coati? To reach a bit of free food, the coati (right) performs tricks.
We continued 8 km through the rainforest to the old fort, which once guarded the entrance to the Rio Chagres.
Fort San Lorenzo, with the Rio Chagres in the background.
A day earlier Laura could match up with international soccer players. Two teams with players from Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Canada played each other. Laura, as an enthusiastic old soccer player, was in the middle of the action.
Now Laura is on the ball. Attack on the small goal (in the background).
They were playing for nothing, the goals were the size of ice hockey goals, and the field was at most a third the length of a regular FIFA field. But everyone enjoyed themselves and had lots of fun.
Even Messi (10) couldn't stop Laura - the goal and opponent Christian are lying (destroyed) on the ground.
I joined in for the cake eating afterwards, as my contribution to global cooperation.
27 March 2016
First of all, happy Easter! Cable fire and canal work
Recently, we treated ourselves to a short holiday - one time through the Panama Canal, helping our friends on board Tignanello through the locks. But it turned out that we couldn't sit back and relax the entire time. When the advisor came on board in the anchorage before the canal and we wanted to get going, the anchor windlass of Tignanello didn't want to work. With combined efforts we pulled the chain and anchor up by hand. A working anchor windlass is important in the Pacific, so I took a multimeter and tried to find the source of the problem. We re-wired the solenoid and voilà , the windlass sprang back to life.
Night shift in the canal - Laura, Willem and Remco keep the lines tight while the water shoots into the lock.
Now we're safely back on board Corinthian. Shelter Bay Marina is slowly becoming emptier and we have a little more time. We're working on several projects. Preparations are running for filming in Ecuador and Peru. Our shortwave radio needs to be repaired, the seals on the watermaker need to be replaced, and there are a few other little things to take care of.
Speaking of little things - two days ago an unwanted Easter fire gave us a fright in the early hours of the morning. Approximately half a year ago, we equipped our boat with several 12 V fans. In order to hook them up to electricity, I installed an old 12 V double plug socket that I had on hand.
This temporary solution was so good that we forgot about installing a permanent solution. When we wanted to turn on the fans in a completely calm, windless night 2 days ago, the fans didn't want to start. Laura quickly found the reason. "It smells burnt here" she said in the calm, toneless voice of a sports commentator. Then, "The socket is smoking," already an octave higher. Another second later, "The socket is burning!" I couldn't take much time to admire the small orange flame. I pulled heartily on the wire. The plastic had already reached the consistency of chocolate on a hot summer day, so the burning wire came out without much resistance. I blew on the little flame and the fire went out.
Smoking forbidden - since the 12 V outlet didn't stick to the rules, it's high time to get rid of it.
I can vaguely remember that I originally removed the 12 V outlet because I didn't consider it be completely safe anymore. Maybe Laura is right that we should install smoke detectors...
17 March 2016
Recently in Panama
On a steel thread
I only wanted to climb up our neighbours' mast to quickly change their windex (the masthead wind angle indicator). The mast already seemed a little shaky to me on the way up. When I reached the top, I noticed right away that 7 of the 19 individual wires of the the forestay (the steel wire that prevents the mast from falling to the back) were rusted through. With my weight at the top of the mast, the gap in the wire widened before my eyes. Thankfully Laura let me down again quickly.
By now, we have changed the forestay and Gymnopedies has set sail. We wish her crew fair winds.
On the rocks
It began in November. Laura and I were in Germany, driving from Berlin to Kiel, when my cell phone rang. Phone call from Panama. Christian, the owner of the 16 m X-yacht Danish Blue, had run aground on a reef that wasn't in the charts. After spending a night on the reef, the boat was pulled off the reef and hauled out of the water at Shelter Bay Marina. Both the rudder and the keel were damaged.
After an odyssey of two months, during which various experts all gave their opinions at the various stages, but during which no real progress was made, Christian had had enough. He asked me for help. Together the two of us got the boat back into a seaworthy condition and into the water.
But Christian's bad luck would continue. The new rigging that was shipped from the USA didn't fit, and the crew had to improvise. Vibe, crew member and Christian's partner, knocked on our boat the night before they planned to leave. She asked if we had any 4 mm stainless steel screws. I found 11 screws and gave them to her with the solemn words "In Germany they cost a few cents, but here in Panama they're irreplaceable. Bring whatever you don't need back." Before Danish Blue left, Christian gave me eleven 4 mm screws, just a little longer than the original ones.
We wish Christian, Vibe and the rest of the crew of Danish Blue fair winds and, as they say in German, always a hand's width of water under the keel.
Lazy animals and diligent hikers
Besides doing boat repairs, there are also other ways to spend your time in the area around Shelter Bay Marina. Laura went for an early-morning birdwatching walk together with other cruisers. Eagle-eye Laura spotted not a feathered friend, but rather a furry tree inhabitant - a sloth mom with baby who was trying her best to look like a termite's nest.
Laura's sloths. Well-camouflaged, they look like a round ball in the branches.
Here you can see mom and baby.
11 January 2016
Happy New Year (and merry very belated Christmas) from Panama. We are still in Shelter Bay Marina, where we are replenishing our depleted cruising kitty (i.e. finances/budget).
At this point we'd like to say thank you once more to everyone who supported us in any way after the robbery. We have replaced our stolen camera and received an old netbook as a donation. And there was some money left to put towards Laura's new used Mac.
A trip through the Panama Canal is a welcome change to the day-to-day life and work in the marina. We often have the opportunity to go through the Canal on another sailboat as line handlers. Here are a few impressions:
While we are waiting for our advisor in the Flats Anchorage, I pass the time by experimenting with our new camera.
An old acquaintance – Monte Cervantes in the port of Colon. I worked on the construction of this ship about 10 years ago in Korea.
It's already dark when we enter the first Gatun lock. We join a Chinese hospital ship in the lock.
Morning on Lake Gatun. Swimming is forbidden – there are large crocodiles in the lake. Everything that's forbidden is especially fun…
Four of these small locomotives steer the ship through the locks.
On the right a life raft for 8 people. The Canal isn't so wide, but what was that about crocodiles?
The visitor's tower at the Miraflores locks. As the only yacht, we are the center of attention for the tourists – and vice versa.
3 October 2015
Light and shadow after the robbery
After the armed robbery of our computers 3.5 weeks ago and the theft of our (newest) camera two months ago set us back to our starting point in terms of equipment, it was hard for us to see anything positive in the situation. However, the many encouraging emails, partly from friends and acquaintances but also from strangers, were very heartening. What took us completely by surprise was that many people wanted to help us back onto our feet with financial support. That touched us deeply. Thank you very much!
Equipment with a total value of approximately 9500 EUR was stolen. My (Thorsten's) Macbook Pro was insured, but unfortunately the same model is not built anymore. Even if we replace the computer, we will need new film editing software. All in all, that means we're left with a loss of at least 7000 EUR plus the lost work (invaluable). We can't just pull 7000 EUR out of our sailing budget.
For those who would like to help us replace our equipment and thus support our Running Downwind film series, you can donate by clicking on this Paypal button:
Thank you once again to all donors!
Light and shadow not only in our lives, but also in the rainforest. These two butterflies are fast asleep.
Besides our “Running Downwind” series, we are currently working on a documentary film with working title “Oil for 9 days.” We plan to partially finance this film via crowdfunding. This will allow us to realise our film independently of major financial backers. We recently spent 6 weeks in Ecuador researching for this project with the support of the “Filmwerkstatt Kiel” (Film Fund Kiel). The film will be about oil production in the Amazon region together with all of its threats - for nature, indigenous peoples and the climate. The story has everything that a good film needs: ups, downs, suspense and hopefully a happy ending. Enough for now, we will soon write more.
- Laura and Thorsten
Black Monday - Mugged and robbed
We're going to briefly skip the last three months, since there are important recent developments. Three weeks ago today, on Mon. Sept. 7, we were the principal performers in an armed robbery. But read the entire story for yourselves...
As a sailor I normally like Mondays. I'm always free to set my own schedule anyway, so it doesn't make a difference whether it's Saturday, Sunday or Monday. I usually have at least one repair project going on the boat and am happy that the chandlery is open again. I also usually have one or two warranty claims going and am happy that my inquiries will be answered. In short, I simply like Mondays.
But this Monday already got off on the wrong track in the morning. I was just making a few wooden plugs before breakfast when my Swiss knife, after cutting through the wood, continued right into my left thumb. In disbelief I first looked at my knife and then the new opening in my thumb. I hadn't done something like that since I was 12. The good thing was that our boat neighbour, Mike, is a veterinarian.
The first thing Mike said was, “You picked a good spot to cut yourself.”
“In the thumb?” I asked.
“No, on shore. Out on the sea you would have a problem now.”
Involuntarily I thought of the term “one-hand sailor.” Mike wrapped my thumb up and warned me to keep away from wood and knives for 10 days. I dutifully stopped working on the boat and devoted the rest of the day to computer work.
Archive photo from Grenada: Similarly to back then in Grenada, we were sitting and working in Carenero.
We worked at our computers in the TV lounge of the marina for the entire day. At approximately 9pm, Laura set off to the boat to prepare some food. On the way she noticed two young men who were sitting on the dock. We decided to be careful and keep a very close eye on our things. Laura left and I watched the two. When one of the men left the dock to make a phone call, I sat down to continue working. Big mistake. A second later, the other one was standing in the doorway. I knew immediately that this meant trouble.
I took a step towards him to prevent him from entering the room. He pulled out a pistol. I'm no weapons expert, but when I saw the small round opening of the muzzle, I knew that this is the end of the pistol that you rather don't want to see. I knew that the problem was more serious than I had initially thought. I lost valuable time as I realised that I should change my strategy from confrontation to negotiation. The bandit, however, had other ideas. He didn't want to negotiate. He darted at me and started hitting me over the head with the pistol. I hadn't expected such uncouth behaviour. Somehow, reflexively, I managed to grab hold of his gun hand. But unfortunately I could only grab it with my injured left hand and thus couldn't keep a hold of either the pistol or his hand. If only he had been left-handed...
While he continued hammering my head with the weapon - at that moment I didn't even perceive it as particularly painful, only rather loud - the other guy grabbed all of our electronic equipment that was standing on the table. When my antagonist let go of me and ran off, the other rascal was already far away. I wasted several seconds to evaluate the damage; long enough to just see the pistol man disappearing in the darkness. I called Laura to watch our other things, alerted the marina owner to call the police, and tried to follow the villains, but unfortunately without success.
The bottom line is that we are now missing two Macbook Pros, one netbook, several external hard drives with approx. 6 months worth of work, and a cell phone. All that we got in exchange were cuts and bumps on my head. At the moment we don't have any idea how to replace the computers. As an educated first guess, it will cost approximately EUR 8000 to replace everything - that simply isn't in our sailing budget.
16 June 2015
Careening Cayo Carenero
Leaving beautiful Bastimentos behind, we continued to Cayo Carenero – roughly translated to English, it means Drydock Cay. Mary, the owner of Marina Cayo Carenero, had invited us to stay in her marina for a few days while we explored the island. Well, days turned into weeks – into two weeks.
The approach was much easier than we expected. Since our charts had told us that it would be too shallow for us, we had doubts as to whether we would be able to make it into Mary's marina. But with Mary's careful description - "Go to the radio tower and then turn right" - we made it without a problem. There was only one flaw in our plan. We wanted to arrive at high tide, but completely disregarded the fact that there is always one higher and one lower high tide every day in the region. On the day of our arrival, the daytime high tide was only a few centimetres above the low tide. A hand's breadth more water below the keel would have been comforting for our nerves, but hey, we made it.
Laura maneuvered our Corinthian into the box and Mary, Fabian and I fixed the lines.
The marina is a gem. Laura and I can say with certainty that it is one of the cosiest marinas we know. Mary, being a cruiser herself, knows what is important to sailors - from a little workshop over a room for tailoring and sail repairs, a kitchen with stove, a large fridge and a freezer to a TV lounge and a herbal garden for public use.
Carenero island also has its charm: a wild coast in the north with big waves for surfing, a calm sandy beach in the east with little cafes and restaurants and, in its heart, magical rainforest.
East coast flair. Calm clear water on Carenero's sheltered side.
Bocas town, the vibrant little center of tourism, is just a short 2-min. or one dollar water taxi ride away from Carenero. For us sailors, the town and its numerous hardware stores offer a lot of things we need and would otherwise find for several times the price in marine chandleries. To sum it up, Marina Carenero was the perfect place to explore the island and to prepare our boat for storage in Almirante and ourselves for the trip to Ecuador.
Sufing without internet - it really is possible on Cayo Carenero. Just add water and waves...
12 June 2015
Bastimentos and its raging sloths
Bastimentos island accommodates a large national park. After we saw a sloth hanging in the trees on our very first visit to the island, we came back again armed with a camera to "hunt" for some pictures of these cute guys.
How hard can it be to track down animals that move so slowly that algae can start growing on them? Or so I thought. But that algae thing is exactly their trick. Sloths have a special fur on which algae can grow during the rainy season. This gives their coat a greenish colour, camouflaging them perfectly in the trees, so one can be standing literally below a sloth without spotting it.
Searching for food. Leaves don't run away, so the sloth can take its time.
Luckily, Deci, the dock manager at Red Frog Marina, found some time to show us the island. We explored some of the nicest corners of the island but, as luck would have it, no sloths. As so often before, on our way back, when we had given up all hope, our persistence was rewarded. Three sloths in a tree. To make things even better, they got really "wild" when two of them started fighting in front of the running camera. Behaviour we would not have expected from these slow fur balls. They bit, scratched and punched. The smaller one squealed in panic when it reached the end of its branch. After three minutes of fierce fighting, the small one managed to escape - to all our great relief. A happy end and all of it on camera.
A big thank-you goes to Dan and Deci who supported our filming on Bastimentos.
He really exists - the red frog, or Strawberry Poison Dart Frog. His red skin is a warning to predators that he is toxic.
3 June 2015
The long trip to Bocas del Toro
The weather forecast was for 8-10 knots of wind, tendency decreasing, meaning very little wind overall. In the following week, even less wind was predicted. The good thing - only small waves of 0.5 to 1 meter. That meant: time to set off, now or never. After we had been busy all day - meetings, buying diesel, looking at broken fridges on other boats and writing emails - we only managed to leave around 5pm. Just in time to sail through the anchor field of parked freighters and get far enough away from the entrance to the canal before it got dark.
We very soon realised that the trip to Bocas could be a long one. With 1-2 knots of current against us and wind on the nose, we had to painstakingly tack towards the west. Occasional thunderstorms, with their wind gusts and changes in wind direction, allowed us to make faster headway in the right direction. Nevertheless, the 40 hours that we had planned turned into almost three days.
We were accordingly glad when our anchor found the sand in Bocas del Toro, in front of Bastimentos village. We were rewarded with dolphins that swam around the boat and then a siesta of several hours. And the next morning - pancakes with Canadian maple syrup.
Since then we have re-anchored and are now lying in a perfectly calm anchorage between mangrove islets near the middle of Isla Bastimentos.
A dramatic sky. Besides rain, the rainy season also brings spectacular sunsets. Isla Bastimentos and Red Frog Marina are in the foreground.
Green Turtle Bay - Isla Linton - Shelter Bay
We had an Internet outage due to rain, but this entry will bring you up-to-date again. From Green Turtle Bay we took the bus into town, first to Portobelo, where we registered with the harbour master. Then we continued to Colon, to pay our visit to the port authority. We obtained our obligatory cruising permit, allowing us to sail in Panama's territorial waters, for 185 USD.
Wind from behind - in a mix of thunderstorm, rain shower and squalls we set off from Green Turtle Bay towards Isla Linton with Laura at the wheel.
We could then leave Turtle Cay Marina with a clear conscience in order to continue sailing westward. On our way out of the marina we had to drive through the approximately 100 m long dredged entrance/exit channel - and immediately found a shallow spot with a depth of only 2.2 metres. Corinthian stopped briefly before the keel came free and we continued on. So much for the official statements that the minimum depth throughout the marina is 2.5 m...
The irony of fate - after 2 months sailing in waters for which only incomplete charts exist, we run aground in the "safe" exit of the marina. Laura was on the lookout on the bow, but due to the murky water she had no chance to recognize anything. The depth sounder didn't give me any early warning either. From a starting depth of 2.6 m, you're quickly down to 2.2 m.
We sailed to Isla Linton and Puerto Lindo. We stayed two nights, inspected the keel for any damage (luckily everything looks good) and visited Silvia and Guido, who run the local yacht service and the Hostel Wunderbar.
Then we continued to Colon. With winds of 25 knots and more, our 'Cori' ploughed along at over 6 knots under only the headsail. In the early afternoon we passed the breakwaters of Colon, crossed the entrance to the Panama Canal and entered Shelter Bay Marina.
The gateway to the Pacific - the breakwater of the harbour of Colon at work.
The final excitement of the day was making fast. Not only did I have to reverse into the box with wind from the front and a 45-foot motor yacht beside us, but the approach was also partially obstructed by a catamaran lying on the opposite side.
On the first approach, the wind pushed us sideways in front of the box. With the help of the marina dock staff, we managed to get 'Cori' safely into the box without any scratches on the second attempt. Once again more excitement than necessary. Later on I found out that I also would have been allowed to drive in forwards.
Parked - our current home at Shelter Bay Marina. It's impressive how accurate the Navionics charts are.
In Colon we will plan our next steps. After almost 2 months secluded in an island world far from "civilisation", our pantry is almost empty. And we also have to extend our permits to stay in the country. The two stamps in our passports cost 210 USD. Which makes us wonder what it would cost to not have a stamp...
Adios San Blas - Hola Panama
The first thunderstorms - a sign of the approaching rainy season - and a glance at the calendar reminded us that it was time to get going. In order to cover the 45 nautical miles (approximately 83 km) to our next destination in daylight, we had to set off at dawn. Laura expertly steered Corinthian through the reefs of Laguna Bajos out into the open water. Under full sail, we sped along at approximately 7 knots until 11:00. Then the wind seemed to run out of breath. At first we bobbed up and down with our sails banging in the 2-3 metre high waves. With heavy hearts we turned on the engine and puttered along at 4-4.5 knots. When we felt a light breeze around 14:00, we set sail again. We sailed on with 5-6 knots.
Our destination, Green Turtle Bay, was smaller than we had expected. Waves were breaking on the reefs that border the small bay on either side. We were glad that we had turned on the engine to get through the period of calm and thus arrive in good light. The swell was still quite high in the bay, so we continued into Turtle Cay Marina. Four helping hands - from Peter and Andy - took our lines and helped us make fast, so that Corinthian was securely tied up at the dock by 17:00.
Fish survey - armed with her notepad, Laura makes notes of the various fish species for the organisation REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation).
Greetings from Guna Yala
We haven't written anything for a while - here in Guna Yala, the clocks run differently. Hence it's been difficult to find an Internet connection. But maybe that is exactly the appeal of the area. The islands are beautiful, just the way you imagine the Caribbean - white beaches, palm trees, turquoise water and coral reefs. And then, on the other side, the mainland - mangrove-lined rivers, jungle with all the bells and whistles, and blue mountains in the background. Definitely something for the eye to feast on.
The animal world is likewise magnificient. On our hikes on the mainland we saw snakes, monkeys, parrots, spiders, diverse insects, and birds. Plus thousands of no-see-ums, those little blood suckers, similar to sand flies but even smaller, as well as countless ticks.
While filming underwater we were treated to a good cross-section of Caribbean fishes. My personal highlight was a 2.5 meter long nurse shark that was sleeping under a coral overhang. I could just resist the urge to pinch him in the tail - better not to wake any sleeping sharks (better to let sleeping sharks lie). Laura, on the other hand, still talks about a large sea turtle that swam past us with several remora attached to its shell.
Now we are slowly heading further towards the northwest, in the direction of Panama.
Mealtime - this little filefish is keeping our anchor rope clean. After I filmed him for too long, the walnut-sized fish told me that it was enough. The brave little chap defended his food source with a feint attack.
One other update on a different note: the German versions of our films can now be downloaded directly online in HD quality. Our partner is the platform www.segel-filme.de If you speak or want to practice German, you can find them online at:
Hitchhiking across the Atlantic: http://shop.segel-filme.de/film-downloads/toernfilme/per-anhalter-uber-den-atlantik.html
The Wild Windwards: http://shop.segel-filme.de/film-downloads/toernfilme/wilde-karibik-die-inseln-uber-dem-winde.html
An English version of the web shop is in the works. We hope to have our films available online in English soon.
- Thorsten and Laura
We are still in the San Blas islands, but today we have Internet for a change. At the moment we're on the island of Nargana, by the Rio Diablo (the Diablo River). Yesterday, when we arrived here, we had really nice sailing weather again - steady wind, blue sky and sunshine.
Nargana (also called Yandup in the Guna language) is the most modern island that we have visited in San Blas until now. Hence we're using the opportunity to download our emails and stock up on some basic provisions. A steel bridge connects Nargana to its neighbouring island, Corazón de Jesús. Corazón de Jesús, or Akuanusatupu in Guna, is the smaller of the two islands with approximately 600 inhabitants.
Nargana - the showers and toilets are built on stilts over the water. That way no sewage system is needed.
From here we will sail to the eastern Coco Bandero Cays. We plan to jump in the water and do some underwater filming there.
The nautical equivalent of "break a leg" in German is to wish a sailor a hand's breadth of water under the keel. Here in San Blas, it was already quite tight with that hand's breadth of water once. We are slowly learning not to trust the charts completely. Now, however, we're in the northwestern part of the San Blas islands, where the charts are more detailed and exact. Nevertheless, it's always exciting when we enter a new anchorage. This is good practice for the Pacific.
We will spend another 3-4 weeks here in Guna Yala. Then we plan to sail to Puerto Lindo. From there it's not much further to Colón, where we can register for the Panama Canal crossing. Colón, Panama's second-largest city with over 200 000 inhabitants, is the gateway to the Panama Canal on the Caribbean side.
A new friend and traveling companion - a little remora has fallen in love with our "Cori"
He uses the "suction cup" on the bottom of his head to attach to our boat while we're underway. Once in a while he also tried to attach himself to a swimming Laura or to Thorsten's leg.
At the moment we're lying at anchor in front of Mamitupu, an island in eastern Guna Yala. By chance we met old friends from S/Y Black Elise II here. Reinhard lent us his cell phone with an Internet connection so that we could write this short update. We are doing well and enjoying our time in San Blas thus far. We plan to continue the day after tomorrow, heading northwest along the coast. Our next stop will be Mono Island, and from there Snug Harbour.
A Kuna with overseas experience, together with his family. Pablo (l) has several traditional Guna huts that he rents out to tourists. He speaks English fluently and also makes a good tour guide. So if you want to have a quiet vacation, give Pablo a try.
The crossing from Barranquilla, Colombia to Guna Yala, Panama can be difficult. Due to a semi-permanent depression off the Colombian coast, you frequently have winds of over 40 knots. The waves are often 3-5 metres high. Since we didn't want to wait a month or more for the winds to die down, we picked the best weather window we could find and set off.
An encounter during the crossing - a freighter in the seas
Our "Corinthian", a relatively light boat, made the best of it. We were rolling a lot in the seas, but for that it took us less than the anticipated 3 days to reach Isla Pinos in southern Guna Yala.
Guna Yala, the vast territory of the indigenous Guna indians, lies in southeastern Panama. The Gunas are largely independent from Panama and govern their territory autonomously. Guna Yala includes the San Blas islands, an archipelago of over 340 islands stretching along the coast, and the associated mainland areas.
A clamp - and make it quick!
No, not a wheel clamp, and nothing to do with electronics. I need a hose clamp. A hose clamp with a diameter of about 30 cm.
I had made a different plan for the day. I wanted to attach the spinnaker boom mount, fill the screw holes for the spray hood with epoxy, attach the shortwave antenna...
But then my priorities changed - while performing the routine task of turning the seacock of the engine, I made a gruesome discovery. A hose clamp that holds the rubber ring around the sail drive in place crumbled apart into three pieces in my hands - it was rusted through. The spare hose clamps that I had were a little too small and somewhat too wide. Eventually I found a clamp from an old foot pump.
Tinkering for me - Laura documented the entire episode. Here is the view through the camera.
Somewhat large, but the clamp came close to the original one. I just have to adjust it quickly... a good four hours later the new clamp was in place.
Hopefully it also stays there! Of course I also have to take something positive from the situation. It would have been really stupid if I had only noticed the repair when we were underway or if the rubber ring had sprung off.
Hence, I'm glad about the probelm that I could solve, in the hope that I won't encounter it again so soon, or at least that I'll already have the solution ready.
A new home for the clamp. Due to lack of a USB cable, I've taken a photograph of the camera display using the webcam today.
We've been back on board for over a week by now, and we still have a mountain of work ahead of us.
When you live in a house with a garden, you have to mow your lawn. Yesterday we used metal scrapers to "mow" the algae off the underwater area of our Corinthian. The layer of dirt on the mast was so thick that we could have planted radishes in it. Hence we needed to wash it all off so that our sails don't get dirty the first time we pull them up. And there are also things growing inside the boat. In this warm climate, several corners are moldy. To be on the safe side, we decided to wash and clean everything.
In between we also took some time to complete tasks that have been on our to-do list for a long time. Thorsten installed a 19 V adapter for the UV lamp of our eSpring water filter. This way we don't have to run it over our 220 V inverter (converting 12 V to 220 V to 19 V), reducing our electricity usage from 1 amp to approximately 0.1 amps. In order to save even more electricity, Thorsten installed a switch that allows us to turn off the electronics of the filter when it's not in use.
Laura organised a ride with the neighbours to a little corner shop, saving us from the 5-hour trip to the nearest supermarket for a few more days.
Since the internet is down, we can't upload any pictures. Hopefully we'll be able to squeeze this text through the cell phone.
- Thorsten and Laura
Now the Internet works - still safely moored in the Marina Puerto Velero. Our wind generator provides us with full batteries in the morning.
Finally back on board
After nearly half a year, we're back home. Home on board Corinthian. Friday evening, after a 24-hour flight marathon, we made it. While I was searched by customs in Barranquilla for an hour, Avianca summarily re-booked Laura on a flight two hours later and gave her seat away to other passengers in front of her nose. Hence Laura was stuck waiting in Bogota while I used hands, legs and my three words of Spanish to explain that I was neither a drug runner nor a smuggler. Eventually everything got sorted out. I was allowed into the country. Two hours later, the gates opened and Laura came out of the arrivals lounge. Despite several confusing messages, Raphael, our taxi driver, was also there.
We drove the 40 km to Marina Puerto Velero with him and bounced over the sandy street to the jetty. In the light of the headlights, I got my first glance of our Corinthian. She was still floating. With mixed feelings and approximately 130 kg of luggage, we walked down the long jetty. The boat looked nearly the same as we had left her. A marina employee had washed the deck. Alex, the dockmaster, had kept the sea valves turning smoothly and aired the boat occasionally. But no one had cleaned up for us. Since we had removed everything from deck and stored it inside the boat before we left, the interior looked a little chaotic. A lot of work for the next few days.
The idyllic scene is deceiving: this is a busy worksite. Can you see the sparks flying?
Where exactly is our Cori lying right now? With a little help from our friends from space, you can see her here - the last boat on the middle jetty.
Year 2014 in review
2014 is almost over. We'd like to use this opportunity to look back on our year - from the Canadian winter to the blue waters of Bonaire, Colombian indigenous villages and Ecuador's Amazon region and back to Germany...
We started the year on the west coast of Canada. We showed our new film in Vancouver, Victoria, Courtenay and Deep Bay. We also used the opportunity to show Thorsten a few corners of Vancouver Island and introduce him to the area's inhabitants - sea lions, bald eagles, deer and seals.
Q&A period after our second film screening at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay on Vancouver Island.
At the end of February we returned to Curacao, back to our boat. We found her standing in Curacao Marine just as we had left her - no one had done the work for us. After completing some work on the boat we put her back in the water and soon set sail.
With their new tractor, Curacao Marine skillfully puts Corinthian back in the water.
And she floats!
Our destination was Bonaire - against wind, waves and current. Although the straight course is only about 60 nautical miles, we covered considerably more ground as we tacked against the wind. We divided the crossing into three day sails.
We explored Bonaire above and below water. The waters around the entire island are a marine park, an invitation for us to go diving. We found the perfect partner in Dive Friends Bonaire with their friendly, knowledgeable staff who are involved in nature conservation initiatives.
Thorsten filming the underwater scenery in Bonaire's marine park.
This colourful little lizard greeted us in the national park in the north of Bonaire.
It took us only 20 minutes to collect this plastic garbage on a small beach on Bonaire's east coast. Dive Friends Bonaire organises the "Debris Free Bonaire" program to collect garbage from the island's beaches.
After approximately 6 weeks we set sail again, heading for Santa Marta, Colombia. In Santa Marta we had one further repair to take care of - fibreglassing the bathing platform. After that we hiked to "Ciudad Perdida", the "lost city", a round trip of 5 days. We hiked though the rainforest, swam in the river and explored the ruins of the city. The city was founded in approximately 650 A.D. (about 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu) and was the main city of the Tayrona indigenous people.
We needed to fibreglass the bathing platform so that no more water gets into the boat.
The sail sock that protects our foresail from UV radiation and dirt in harbour also needed to be repaired.
Ciudad Perdida, the "lost city".
On our hike to Ciudad Perdida we met many indigenous peoples who live in the mountains.
From Santa Marta we sailed further west to Marina Puerto Velero, near the Colombian port city of Barranquilla. We stored Corinthian and flew to Ecuador. From Quito we headed to Yasuni National Park, an area of the Amazon rainforest with an extremely high biodiversity. Below ground lie several oil reserves that were opened up to exploitation in August 2013 by the Ecuadorian government.
Laura hangs the plankton net, which she uses to collect microplastics, up to dry.
Corinthian lies securely tied up in Marina Puerto Velero in Colombia.
From Ecuador we flew to Germany. We arrived just in time for the Green Screen Wildlife Film Festival, where our film "The Wild Windwards" was shown. We were very pleased with the success of our film at the festival with two sold-out shows. After that we set off on a Germany tour with the film.
We wish you success, new adventures and experiences, and above all joy and health for 2015.
- Laura and Thorsten
24 December 2014
We wish you a merry Christmas, peaceful and relaxing holidays and a happy new year.
- Laura and Thorsten
25 November 2014
We support the youth paddling group of the Naturfreunde Karlsruhe (Nature Friends Karlsruhe)
In October, Thorsten and I went paddling on the "Altrhein" (the "old Rhine", which used to be the original waterway of the Rhine and is now a beautiful natural area alongside the Rhine) near Karlsruhe in southern Germany with a youth paddling group. It was wonderful - calm water, nature all around us, bird calls, and on top of that the joyful voices of the children. They enjoyed paddling, swimming and jumping from the rope swing. The group needs new boats so that they have enough boats for all the kids and so that a few new kids can also join. For this, they need money. They've entered the video competition of a local bank, the Sparkasse Karlsruhe Ettlingen. Please watch the short film (Thorsten and I did the filming!) in which the group introduces itself and then vote for us. Help us reach first place! The deadline for voting is this Wednesday, 3am PST, 12 noon in Germany.
The direct link to the video competition is:
You don't need to log in to Facebook to vote, so you don't need to have a Facebook account at all.
Below the picture of the pig with a laser sword, with a battery charge indicator in one corner and REC in the other corner, you'll see several tabs. Click on the "Voting" tab.
Then you'll see all the videos that have been entered. Ours is in the second row on the very right (at least on my computer). It's called "Wild auf Rhein!" The text below reads:
Wild auf Rhein
To watch the video, click on it.
To vote for the film, click on the "thumbs up" symbol to the right below the film. You'll be asked to enter your first name (Vorname), last name (Nachname) and email address (E-Mail-Adresse). Then check the little box (with the text " Mit den Teilnahmebedingungen bin ich einverstanden.") to declare that you agree to the conditions of participation. And finally click on "Jetzt voten!"
In order for your vote to count, you need to confirm your email address. You'll receive an email from Sparkasse Karlsruhe-Ettlingen with the subject "Ihre Stimme beim Vereinsvoting der Sparkasse Karlsruhe-Ettlingen: E-Mail-Adresse bestätigen". Click on the link in the email in order to confirm your email address. Now your vote has been counted!
The bank organizing the competition guarantees that they won't pass on your personal information and that all the data will be deleted within 3 months.
If you want to see some screen shots of the voting process, there's detailed instructions (in German) online here: http://www.naturfreunde-karlsruhe.de/index.php/component/content/article/47-uncategorised/132-abstimmanleitung
Here you can watch the video right away. And now for the voting! https://www.facebook.com/SparkasseKarlsruheEttlingen?sk=app_338571739648578&app_data
Thanks for your help!
We're super excited!
Our newest film "The Wild Windwards - Caribbean encounters" will be shown at the Green Screen International Wildlife Film Festival in Eckernförde, Germany in September.
In this film, the second in our "Running Downwind" series, we sail through the southeastern Caribbean. Along the way, we get up close and personal with nesting leatherback turtles and curious sperm whales, watch a hummingbird mother feeding her chick, hike through the rainforest and to a boiling lake, and much, much more. The film trailer is available here.
We're extremely excited that the European premiere of "The Wild Windwards - Caribbean encounters" will take place at the Green Screen Film Festival. Green Screen is the largest annual wildlife film festival in Europe. You can see "The Wild Windwards" on Fri. Sept. 5 and Sat. Sept. 6. And best of all - Thorsten and I will be there in person to answer all your questions after the film.
Fri. Sept. 5, 8pm
Sat. Sept. 6, 11:30am
Ostsee-Info-Center (OIC), Jungfernstieg 110 (Promenade), 24340 Eckernförde
Tickets: €5 regular, €4 discounted (children, students, seniors)
If you can't make it to Green Screen or can't get tickets any more, you still have the opportunity to see and meet us during our subsequent film tour through Germany. At the moment we're still planning the details. If you have suggestions or want to organise a screening nearby, send us a short email to laura(at)tigersnail.com
Thorsten on the "hunt" for iguanas on Ilet Chancel, Martinique
A leatherback turtle camouflages her nest before making her way back into the ocean in the early morning.
For more pictures, come watch the film
We're looking forward to Green Screen and our film tour!
8 July 2014
Ciudad Perdida short film
At the end of May we hiked to Ciudad Perdida, the lost city, in the Columbian mountains. It was a wonderful 5-day hike through the rainforest, during which we learned a lot. We learned about the indigenous culture, the history of the indigenous peoples and Ciudad Perdida, their former capital city, and the flora and fauna in the mountains. We also had many opportunities to jump into the river to cool down. Our guide Jhon Jairo, from the tour company Expotur, was amazing. He could identify and tell us something about all the animals that we saw or heard, explained the medicinal uses of many plants, and impressed us with his knowledge of the indigenous culture and history. On top of that, he knew the best swimming holes along the river and was a great cook! The short film that we made for Expotur about our trek is now online under Videos > Ciudad Perdida.
We're back from the blue mountains... we spent 5 days hiking in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – all the way to “Ciudad Perdida”, the lost city, and back. The ruins are found in the lands of the Colombian indigenous peoples. For the trek to Ciudad Perdida, you need an entry stamp and a guide. Our guide Jhon Jairo was absolutely wonderful. As was Expotur, the agency that organised our short expedition.
A short film of the trek will be available soon. For the moment, here are a few snapshots.
The weather cooperated – except for some drizzle one afternoon, we didn't have any rain.
The coca plant – illegal in Colombia, only the indigenous peoples are still allowed to plant it.
This young girl quickly spotted our granola bars and asked for one – successfully. The condition: she should put the wrapper in the garbage, which she did with a big smile.
Ready to go – Laura with camera, tripod and a 15 kg backpack.
The journey finally continues!!
After a somewhat longer stay than originally planned, we continue to Colombia with our Corinthian. All route descriptions for this passage warn against setting sail from Aruba with a weather forecast for more than 30 knots of wind. Now we have a weather window. The forecast shows 15-25 knots of wind for approximately four days. It looks good. There's only one thing: we're not starting from Aruba, but rather from Bonaire, putting us another 50 miles further east. We want to approach Santa Marta in daylight, so we set sail from Bonaire at 5:30am in order to arrive in Santa Marta exactly 3 days later.
Day 1: Instead of 15 knots, we have 8-9 knots of wind. We bob along with 2-3 knots boat speed. At least we're moving forward. Around 1pm our calm passage suddenly gets exciting. In a thundercloud off to our starboard side, we see a waterspout form - a geographically constrained whirlwind. Fortunately the waterspout keeps its distance. The spin-offs from the storm front do bring us some wind. With winds of 25 to 30 knots, Corinthian shoots through the water at speeds of 8 knots and more. The first night is disturbed by a squall.
Day 2: Blue sky with fluffy clouds, good sailing weather. In the second night we round the Peninsula de la Guajira, the northernmost corner of Colombia, and turn towards the southwest. From now on the waves continue to increase - as does the water level in the bilge. The bathing platform must be leaking. The waves from behind keep on swashing onto the bathing platform, and the water slowly makes its way inside the boat. Keeping with the common navigation advice, we stay in deep water at more than 2000 m depth. The disturbed seas still shake us through. Otherwise the night weather is perfect, with no disturbances.
Day 3: We turn further towards the south. The wind turns with us. We're heading towards the coast. The chaotic waves eventually organise themselves and come from straight behind. Night settles in. The water becomes shallower, the waves higher. With a mixture of respect and admiration I watch the 3 m waves as they roll past. The boat does everything by itself. Just like an experienced surfer, our "Cori" speeds from the wave peaks into the troughs. It's best if I let her do her thing. I'd rather use the time to bail water out of the bilge. By now we can take out one bucketful every three hours. Laura takes over the watch. I lie down. After an hour I wake up again - the sounds outside have changed. The wind has increased - 30 knots, in gusts more than 40 knots. To heck with the weather forecast! We completely roll in the foresail and enjoy the journey. A faint pink stripe on the horizon brings the first sign of morning. And then the sun goes up. To our surprise, a complete hand width above the horizon. In the first light of day we see the impressive mountains from behind which the sun is appearing.
Magical moment - the first glimpse of South America - Colombia in the light of dawn
We make it into the bay of Santa Marta under sail. Then we're in land cover - suddenly there's almost no wind. The VHF radio springs to life: "Sailboat captain, sailboat captain, this is Marina Santa Marta." They must mean us. In good, clear English we receive instructions on where we should go. Two dockhands will be waiting at our slip to take our lines. And the fenders should go on the port side. We turn into the marina entrance and see two men on the floating dock. One waves. Then the marina office comes through on the radio again: "Our dockhands want to tell you that your fenders are too high, please lower them a little." I'm impressed! I turn the wheel and Corinthian makes the turn. I put the throttle into neutral. With the last bit of momentum, "Cori" slides into the box. Laura throws the lines ashore. We've arrived. For both of us, it's the first time in South America.
Colombia is the gate to western South America. Our first stop - Marina Santa Marta, as seen from the mast of Corinthian.
Goodbye Canada, bon día Curacao
After three months in Canada, where we mainly worked but also managed to see some of Vancouver Island's beautiful places, it was time to say goodbye. After more than 20 hours travelling - including some quality time at the airports in Edmonton and Toronto - we arrived in Curacao on Sunday. Since it was too late to get organised on the boat right away, we stayed for a night at couchsurfer Peter's place. We caught a glimpse of the carnival and cured our jet lag with a good night's sleep.
Now we're back on the boat. In spite of the public holiday on Monday, Curacao Marine had put our boat out of the secure storage yard into the working yard. After four months, they still remembered to put Corinthian's nose high so that the water can run off the deck. We didn't know what to expect when we went inside. To our relief, everything was dry and everything was just the way we left it (see photograph). Now it's time to get cracking and back into the water.
Arriving back at our boat together with Peter, the couchsurfer who hosted us for the first night in Curacao.
Things are exactly as we left them inside 'Corinthian.' The good news - no water inside the boat, no mold, no ants, cockroaches or other insects that have taken over the boat. The not-so-good news - no one's cleaned up for us.
Laura's aloe vera plant survived well on its own. We left the plants outside on the deck and a few seem to have gotten enough rainwater to survive. The aloe vera and a big-leaf thyme plant are doing well. We'll see if we can also nurse the chives back to health.
The first few tasks are done already - tarp removed from the front of the boat, anchor chain put away, wind vane attached to the stern. We're getting ready to get 'Corinthian' back in the water!
The beautiful south
After our trip to Vancouver we went back to Vancouver Island. We had two screenings in its south. First stop was in Cowichan Bay. We had a very nice screening of 'The Wild Windwards' at the Cowichan Wooden Boat Society. There was a lively Q&A session after the film.
Then we carried on to BC's capital, the charming city of Victoria. We had some time to explore the area before the next screening.
No photographic trick - the fountain in front of the Parliament Building is frozen.
We spent a few hours hiking in the Sooke region and were rewarded with a stunning landscape and good light.
Then, Wednesday evening, we screened 'Hitchhiking across the Atlantic' at Ocean River Sports. We're proud that we were invited by this great outdoor and kayak shop. Their team created a nice auditorium in the shop giving us a unique atmosphere amongst the boats, paddles and other outdoor gear. This and the interested audience with plenty of questions made it a truly unique experience.
A wonderful setting amid the boats and other outdoor gear at Ocean River Sports in Victoria.
On tour in BC
The past 1.5 months have been full of long days in front of the computer – editing film material, researching, organising film screenings, etc. In between, we had a few film screenings.
The first was “Hitchhiking across the Atlantic” on Jan. 9 for Nature Vancouver's Marine Biology Section. It was a wonderful evening – great turn-out, lots of questions after the film, and stimulating individual conversations to round off the evening.
On Jan. 16 and 17 we were at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay to show “Hitchhiking across the Atlantic” and our newest film, “The Wild Windwards.” Friday, Jan. 17 was an exciting evening for us, since it was the world premiere of “The Wild Windwards” We were spoiled both nights by the hospitality and technical expertise of the theatre staff, and even more so by the number and wide variety of questions after the film. We had a lot of fun on stage answering all your questions.
Today, Jan. 26, we returned to Deep Bay Marine Field Station in Bowser – home turf for us – with “The Wild Windwards.” We were happy to see that many people who had seen “Hitchhiking across the Atlantic” here last year were back again. Our guests were also able to enjoy the aquariums and “touch tanks” with local marine life that are set up at the station. We're looking forward to coming back to the marine station for a second showing on Thurs. Feb. 6 at 7pm.
This week – the week of Jan. 27 – we're excited to come to Vancouver for several screenings. On Wed. Jan. 29 we return to False Creek Yacht Club with “The Wild Windwards.” We're looking forward to coming back to this beautiful venue for a second year.
There'll be two opportunities for those who missed us last year to see “Hitchhiking across the Atlantic” - the first film in our “Running Downwind” series. We'll be at UBC on Thurs. Jan. 30. This event is organised together with the International Relations Students Association. We're excited to bring our film to a university setting. No need to worry if you're not a student, though – this event is open to the public! Second chance to see “Hitchhiking across the Atlantic” is at the West Vancouver Yacht Club on Sat. Feb. 1. Again, everyone is welcome. We do ask that you register in advance for this event (in order to have accurate numbers for food preparation), but contrary to initial advertising, registration is still open: contact the yacht club office at 604-921-7575.
In the first week of February, we'll be back on Vancouver Island:
At Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre with “The Wild Windwards” on Mon. Feb. 3
At Ocean River Sports in Victoria with “Hitchhiking across the Atlantic” on Wed. Feb. 5
Our final show: back at Deep Bay Marine Field Station with “The Wild Windwards” on Thurs. Feb. 6
All the details about our upcoming screenings are on our Events page. We're looking forward to seeing a bit more of BC and to meeting lots of people in the coming two weeks.
Canada. After two months of film screenings in Germany, we finally arrived in Canada. For Laura, who grew up here, it's like coming home. For me, it's my first time in Canada and so everything is exciting. I was all the more grateful for the awesome view we had on the flight.
We took the ferry to Vancouver Island, where we're currently staying. With lots of work to do, we haven't taken much time to explore the neighbourhood. But whenever I take a break from the computer work and look out the window or stroll on the nearby beach, I'm rewarded with smashing views of ducks, gulls, herons and even mighty bald eagles flying by. And if I spend a minute and marvel at the Strait in front of the window, I surely get to see one or two seals or sea lions poking their heads out of the water.
A curious sea lion pokes its head out of the water to watch us. Or maybe he's just coming up for a breath of air?
Canada. There's one good thing about the fact that storm front Xaver mixed up our travel plans - we arrived in Vancouver with marvelous weather. We already had a good view as we flew over Greenland, and the clear sky stayed with us during our landing on the Canadian west coast.
Window seat with a good view - Canada's north on a clear day.
One more circle over Vancouver and then it's time to land.
We continued on to Vancouver Island with the ferry and finally arrived around 8:30pm. The next day we explored the neighbourhood. During our walk along the beach, we met the neighbours - two bald eagles.
The impressive bird sits patiently in the trees 30 m above our heads until I have the camera ready.
... and then simply flies away.
But we're not only here to enjoy the beautiful landscape. Laura is organising our film tour in Greater Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, and I'm working on the next film.
Next stop: Vancouver!
Our time in Germany has come to an end and with it our 2013 film tour. We would like to thank all our viewers for their interest and many positive comments. A special thanks goes to the clubs, cinemas and organisations that invited us to show "Hitchhiking across the Atlantic." We had a great time.
Goodbye Germany. We plan to be back in spring 2015 with new pictures in our luggage.
Now we continue on to Canada.
After storm front Xaver blew our travel plans around, we have now reached Amsterdam with one day's delay. From here our journey continues to Canada. As sailors we're used to the fact that the weather has a say in our travel plans, but it nevertheless seems strange that of all the flights to Amsterdam yesterday, ours was the only one cancelled due to weather.
It's a pity that the weather also claimed further victims: the option to choose our seats ahead of time via web check-in and our originally ordered vegetarian meals were lost.
Note in hindsight: the last person we spoke to in Amsterdam could finally give us good news - he changed our seats to a pair by the window and told us that the caterers had been able to prepare our vegetarian meals in time.
Anyway, as a result we have the opportunity to get to know the Amsterdam airport. The airline prescribed a compulsory break of 6 hours.
Stopover in Amsterdam. Instead of a short layover, we have the joy of spending 6 hours here. We use the time for a logbook update.
Something different for a change
Recently, as we sat in the bus from Berlin to Cologne, we heard about the dreadful situation in the Philippines and in Vietnam following super-typhoon Haiyan. Unfortunately our film and project budget is limited. We can't just simply reach into our project funds and make a donation.
We thought about what we could do and came up with the following plan. For every DVD sold in Cologne, we would donate 3 € to the typhoon relief efforts. We officially donated the money today. We used the offer - valid until the end of November - of the internet provider web.de to double every donated Euro.
We'd like to send a special thank-you to all our DVD customers.
Germany tour and pit stop. We came to Germany to show "Hitchhiking across the Atlantic" and to edit our new film, "The Wild Windwards." But a visit in our old home also serves as a pit stop for us. After we got our boat, Corinthian, into good shape and then sailed her to Curacao, we have to take care of several other errands. My Mac laptop is giving me problems, the Sony V1 video camera and my left shoulder also needed to be repaired. Between it all we drove across Germany with a truck full of furniture. Everything needs to be taken care of in our two months here, between film screenings.
Accordingly, we're always on the go. From Hannover we went to Augsburg, to Karlsruhe and then back to Hannover. From there we then continued to Kiel and Eckernförde, Berlin, Cologne and then back to southern Germany. We'll return to the north at the end of November, to Hamburg and Kiel. I've put together a short photo series of our travels below.
Next stop: Kiel Studio cinema. After a successful test run of the film on the big screen, we give our "thumbs up." The show starts at 16:00 on Sunday Dec. 1, 2013.
In the holy halls of the WDR (Western German Broadcasting Corporation) broadcasting centre - live commentary accompanies the multimedia show after the film. Many thanks to the Cologne Yacht Club and the sailing group of WDR for the invitation.
Time for culture - in Cologne I took time to enjoy a "Kölsch" (beer) and to visit the Cologne Cathedral. An impressive building!
Short visit to Berlin - the "Schiffergilde zu Berlin" (boatman's guild of Berlin) invited us. Thank you for your hospitality, the enjoyable screening and the great feedback.
Eckernförde was our most northerly event - a large audience, friendly atmosphere and good AV equipment made it a wonderful evening. Many thanks to the Sailing Club Eckernförde.
The "Ökogarten" (eco-garden) of the IGS Peine boasts a lot to see and above all a lot to learn. That's what it's all about: hands-on biology lessons, things to touch and to participate in. The director Betina Gube took us on a tour of the premises. We took a few pictures, experienced the snake feeding firsthand, and learned a lot about native and exotic animals.
Autumn in the eco-garden? This is not dew - this plant releases water using its hairs.
Recently in the eco-garden in Hannover. Laura is helping with the snake feeding: "Help, there's a knot in the snake." The corn snake is vivacious.
This small python lies comfortably in my hands - and seems to feel secure. Soon it will be feeding time.
A hairy little animal - the tarantula. By far not as dangerous as its reputation suggests.
Foundling of a special kind - a bearded dragon.
Many thanks to Betina for the private tour. Visit the website of the eco-garden (in German) here.
Extended (German) trailer on Yacht-TV
The German sailing magazine Yacht published an article about "Hitchhiking across the Atlantic" and our German film tour online on their website today. The article (in German) can be found here.
We collaborated with Yacht-TV to produce an extended trailer for the article. The trailer (in German) can be viewed at the end of the article or directly on Yacht-TV. Enjoy!
Screenings in Germany until December 2013 can be found on our German "Events" page.
The film is also available on DVD. In Europe, it can be ordered through our online shop; for orders in Canada, please send an email to email@example.com until we have our Canadian online shop up and running.
18 October 2013
Off to the south - after Gronau, Paderborn and Hannover, we're headed for southern Germany.
Movie night in the cinema Gronauer Lichtspiele - tonight is the night. Lights out, start the film. But it's more than just a movie, it's also a live presentation. Marine ecologist Laura and I will be there to answer questions. The film, of course, will also answer a few questions about our "Running Downwind" project: how it started, when Laura and I sailed together for the first time...
Tuque instead of sunhat - film release in Gronau
For those who would like to come but don't have time tonight, we have more screenings in northern Germany in the next two months.
Corinthian is parked at Curacao Marine and the two Doberman watch dogs Uno and Puma are keeping an eye on her. We're back in Germany - the Airbus A330 of Air Berlin brought us back to Germany in just under 10 hours. Shocking cold - yes, I know, we've been softened. Or maybe hardened? We just happen to be able to tolerate heat better! Luckily we have our raincoats with us.
Laura and Thorsten in their warm raincoats
But we're not here to have fun - not only. In the schedule for today was an audiovisual check at the cinema Gronauer Lichtspiele. We dealt with the initial difficulties, now everything's running in highest quality. Tomorrow is showtime - we're looking forward to it.
Third time lucky
We pulled up our anchors with heavy hearts. Of course I didn't miss a chance to make a gargantuan knot out of our 60 m anchor rope. Then we set off. Laura steered our 'Corinthian' through the needle eye into the open sea. With only a headsail we sailed with 5 knots towards Willemstad. We got caught by a melancholic mood, since we knew that it was our last time sailing before we fly to Europe and Canada.
In order to enter the harbour area of Willemstad, the Schottegat, we had to pass the “swinging lady”, the Queen Emma floating bridge. Fearlessly Laura steered directly towards the monstrosity. The bridge was supposed to open, but I heard the engine start, saw smoke clouds rising, and heard it stalling. On the third attempt the 167 m steel construction began to move. Pedestrians rushed to shore.
Open the gate - normally they open her only to boats width, for us they opened completely.
We tuckered along through the harbour to Curacao Marine.
On our first approach to the slipway we saw that our fenders and ropes were on the wrong side. So Laura moved everything to the other side while I slowly reversed out. Second approach: in the meantime Curacao Marine had put a boat into the water and our spot was taken. The workers indicated that we should make fast on the other side. So once again – reverse out and re-tie all the fenders and lines. Third approach: we sneaked between the fastened boat and the dock and made fast. Spot on – our depth sounder showed 1.7 m, our draft is 2.3 m. Luckily the sounder sits in front of the keel and the ramp drops off steeply. From then on everything was in the hands of the team of Curacao Marine. They know what they're doing and needed only one attempt to bring our boat safely out of the water.
Gentle giant - the tractor slowly pulls our Corinthian ashore.
'Corinthian' will spend the next four months here, while we hold film screenings in Canada and Germany. Dates will be announced shortly.
Heading west, to Curacao – the 'C' of the ABC islands. Until now the wind always came from the side, now it's coming from behind. That's an entirely new experience for us. We set sail from Clarkes Court Bay in Grenada with a gentle breeze from astern.
Heading west! The end of a day sailing is followed by - a night sailing... We better get used to sailing into the sunset.
The tricky thing with tail wind is that it always feel weaker than it actually is. So we didn't feel the wind picking up. The waves also got higher. And 'Corinthian' went faster – finally our GPS recorded a new top speed of 12.2 knots. We reduced our sails more and more, until we were speeding along with the third reef in the mainsail and only a tiny triangle of foresail.
After three days we were almost there, but our ETA would have been after sunset. A boat doesn't just have a brake you can pull! Since the entrance to the lagoon of Spanish Waters has only a small gap between an underwater reef on the port side and a sand bank to starboard, it would have been bad seamanship to enter at nighttime. So we had to spend another entire night at sea.
In order to not drift past Curacao we had to turn our nose into the wind. We wanted to sail up and down once with wind from the side in the protection of Bonaire. However, Bonaire is very flat and doesn't offer as much protection as we had hoped for. So we found ourselves chasing through 3-meter high waves at 7.5 knots boat speed in 40 knot winds – we overtook 2 oil tankers. Most probably 'Corinthian' was less impressed than we were. At about 8pm we took away the foresail and went on the return course. That helped. We rocked along with 3-4 knots towards Curacao. Our plan worked. At 8:30am, I steered 'Corinthian' in between reef and sand bank with white knuckles and dry mouth. Unsuspectingly I thought that the worst was over.
But the entrance was no comparison for our search for an anchor spot in Spanish Waters.
Attempt 1: Ee threw our anchor bulls-eye in a little spot between other boats. Before the anchor could hold properly, a shrieking gust with more than 30 knots whistled over the lagoon, pushing us sideways, with dragging anchor, in front of the bow of a Swedish steel boat. Laura put the throttle down to keep us off the other boat, and I pulled our anchor up as quickly as possible, before the anchors could entangle.
Attempt 2: Boat outside the official anchorage area.
Attempt 3: A few metres to the side, the anchor didn't hold.
Attempt 4: We entered a small bay, where space was so tight that people tied their boats to palm trees. Not our cup of tea.
Last attempt, if this one wouldn't work, we wanted to tie up in a marina. This time our hook held. Our stern stopped a respectful distance in front of a German catamaran.
Willemstad, the capital of Curacao. Behind the bridge take a right to Curacao Marine, who will look after our 'Corinthian'.
Behind the scenes: Writing this logbook entry is much easier with a Cafe Latte at the Cafe Copacabana.
Off we go! Anchor up! Heading for Curacao. It's not quite that easy. It's erverytime a little like moving. Everthing has to be packed away - rock-solid. If not, things start flying around. So we have to lash 'Monster' our 12-foot Porta-Bote dinghy on the deck. Wait a minute, you might say, a 12 foot dinghy on a 40 foot boat, how should that work? Here comes the trick, it's collapsible. Folded up it is not bigger than a surf board and fits behind the fence.
'Monster', our dinghy. In the short time we learned to appreciate our Porta-Bote. Now we can get ashore dry.
Then we have to restrain our garden. Chives, basil, parsley, aloe and big-leaf thyme have to be strapped down. The nets have to be fixed in front of the shelves to prevent granola and company, as well as our libary, from taking flight classes.
Preparing food for the first few hours and making some ginger tea against sea sickness. Finally we're off – heading West...
PS apparently the Grenada authorities like us to stay or they just wanted to knock off early. Anyhow, in spite of being there in office hours we found customs and immigration closed.
After our sea trial between the islands in the Gulf of Paria, we tackled our first offshore passage after our comprehensive repairs of the past months. With winds of 8 to 15 knots, “Corinthian” reached speeds of 4 to 8 knots. I was glad about the good conditions. Since we had replaced several vital parts of our rigging, I was quite nervous and paid attention to all the little noises. One missing cotter pin could mean that the entire mast would fall over. But everything worked well. Well, not quite everything – when we passed through the Dragon's Mouth, a gap between Monos Island and Trinidad, the display of our twenty-odd-year-old GPS system went on strike. Luckily the Armor X10gx, supplied by the Mettenmeier Company, has an inbuilt GPS module. With its low-glare display, it proved to be a brilliant stand-alone navigation system. But there is so much more to him...
The little jack-of-all-trades and hero of this leg - the waterproof Armor X10gx - with its in-built GPS it filled in beautifully for our striking satellite navigation system.
Now we have a short pit stop in Grenada, to check the boat, the rigging, to repair the GPS and, if I have it my way, eat some falafel and drink a smoothie.
Corinthian's power plant - the rigging, consisting of mast, boom and wires. Since there are high forces at work, it needs to be checked frequently.
Sea trial under sail
Wednesday was the day. We pulled up our sail – set course for Chacachacare, a more-or-less uninhabited island just off the South American continent.
By about 10am everything was ready. With 10 knots of wind, we hoisted the main sail with our new main halyard. The revised system worked flawlessly. Despite having only slight wind, Corinthian reached speeds of over 5 knots. The wind died off shortly before Chacachacare.
A feeling that lifts the spirit – engine off, sails up and 5.2 knots on the display.
Our anchor dug into the ground in 6 m of water at around 12pm. Anchoring in Chacachacare is a precision sport – the bottom falls off steeply and there is little room for error between grounding your boat and water that is too deep for anchoring.
After we were hooked into the steep shelf, we were greeted by the neighbours – hawksbill sea turtles surfaced every now and then to breathe. We took advantage of the clear water to jump in and rid our boat of barnacles and algae. A pink sunset concluded the day.
A rare sea turtle – the hawksbill turtle.
Almost down to the minute at midnight, the inferno broke out over our heads. The first thunderstorm crept over the mountains that surrounded our bay. Time to close the hatches, take down laundry, put out a second anchor with 50 m of rope to be on the safe side, and then disapper inside. Lightning and thunder followed each other in shorter and shorter intervals. Things became really exciting when the electrical field around our boat discharged itself with the sound of a firing spark plug. For a split second, our entire boat was lit up. Our board electronics didn't care. We experienced this phenomenon a total of three times. The last time, our battery charger began beeping.
By 2am things quieted down. At 6am in the morning, I made the rounds to take stock of the situation. The dinghy was half-full of water and our depth sounder showed a water depth of 20 meters, but we weren't moving. A low rumbling noise announced the next thunderstorm. This time it came with gusts of wind. Unfortunately, gusts usually also come with wind shifts (in direction). As a result, we had 35 knots (65 km/h) of wind from the side on several occasions, and our boat swung towards the shore. We started the engine to be able to motor against the wind if necessary. It turned out not to be necessary – our second anchor had dug its flukes in with no intention of letting go. The racket was over sometime around 8:30am. A glance at the calendar – of course, Friday the 13th.
Final preparations and night-time visitors
We've kept busy since moving ourselves and our boat to Carenage Bay a week ago – stocking up on food, varnishing, testing safety equipment, sewing, trimming the rig and much more.
Space is getting tight – where are all these things supposed to go?
Laura's sewing corner – the place for repairing covers, making lee-cloths and sewing flags.
Testing the liferaft – the manual ends with the friendly wish that we keep the liferaft for many years yet never use it.
Varnishing – if it should look nice, Laura has to do the painting.
Even though we're busy all day long, we're still happy to receive unexpected visitors on board in the evening. Every evening, shortly after it gets dark, there is a quiet crackling noise in our boat, a little bit like onion rings sizzling in a hot frying pan. It's the sound of fishes and shrimp eating. And when we looked over the railing yesterday evening, we saw a group of peculiar glowing fish that were “liming” (popular Trini word for hanging out) around our boat. In the shine of the flashlight we could identify them as a small species of catfish swimming in the bioluminescence. Using the infrared camera, we could get a few snapshots. If one of our readers is a fish expert, we would be grateful for any comments regarding an exact identification - you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mysterious visitor – this fish, visible in the bioluminescence, wants to help me with the dishes.
The whiskers give this fish - a catfish - its name.
Since Sunday evening, our “Corinthian” is rocking at anchor in Carenage Bay, Trinidad. Maybe “rocking” isn't exactly the right word. In comparison to the choppy waters of Chaguaramas Bay, where we were moored for the previous two weeks, Carenage Bay welcomed us with water flat as a mirror. Even though this bay is very popular during the hurricane season, we still found a nice spot to drop our anchor. It's the perfect place to take care of the final preparations before we head west.
"Corinthian" lies calmly at anchor.
Carenage Bay in the twilight.
A bird's eye view of "Corinthian"
Soaking up the sun
Sure – bathing trunks, sunglasses and stretching yourself out on the beach. But that's not what I mean.
While many sailboats rely on fossil fuels (such as diesel or petrol) to charge their batteries on occasion, we equip our boat to get our entire electricity from renewable resources. In the tropics, our number one source is the the sun.
Keep them clean - Thorsten wipes the panels for macimum power.
Based on our experience in the last year, we doubled our solar panel area. In order to store the extra energy we also increased our 'tank' capacity. Two additional AGM batteries and our Torqeedo lithium batteries serve as storage facilities. The lithium batteries serve as tanks for our Travel 1003 electric outboard. This way our dinghy can 'go green' as well.
Last Monday we showed the first part of our Running Downwind film series in the Sails Restaurant at Power Boats. Since 30 people had confirmed that they would come, we could count on filling the place. And it got full - we stopped counting at over 60 people. Luckily the "Sails" team had set up some extra benches. Furthermore, they provided free popcorn and put beer on special. We're happy that so many people came to watch the film - thanks for coming and for the positive feedback.
Film screening in a cosy atmosphere - over 60 people in the "Sails" Restaurant.
More good news - Tuesday is always visa day at Chaguaramas Immigration. Laura and I had our appointment for our extension at 8:00am. SHortly before 10:00am, the desired stamp hit our passports. Now we can focus on our work on the boat again.
A good stick-up - we put our stick up
A further step, and this is a large one. Last Wednesday, with the combined efforts of Glen, Larry, Jeremy, Laura and myself, we put our stick – sailor jargon for the mast – up. The extra challenge was that we still had our white plastic “tent” on deck. This made it a particularly difficult task for Glen, the driver of the Power Boats mast crane. Although he couldn't see the lower end of the mast, he expertly brought the mast into position above the mast collar (the hole in the deck) and skillfully lowered it onto the mast foot (on the inner floor). He had to rely solely on his experience and Laura's hand signals.
It wasn't a problem for Glen and his 12-ton capacity crane to hoist the over 17 m long mast on board.
The only surprises came from the new standing rigging (the wires that hold the mast upright). Our backstays and baby stay didn't fit into the holes on the mast and on deck. Likewise, the intermediate and cap shrouds required some custom adjustments to be made before we could put the mast up. This came as a surprise to us since the rigger had had the original wires, from which he could measure the diameters of the fittings.
Now we can continue – boom, solar panels, radar, awning as well as the equipment at the top of the mast are waiting to be mounted.
Breezy workplace almost 20 m above the ground - now the lights, antenna, and windex (wind direction indicator) can be mounted.
Corinthian crew jumps ship – to Grenada and back
We have by now been working almost six months to literally put "Corinthian" back together again. We've almost forgotten how to sail. Hence we jumped at the opportunity to sail to Grenada with Nathalie and Michael from “Marlin” when they offered us their empty cabin for the trip.
For them it was good to have some extra crew on hand, since on Tuesday, the day we were sailing, the weather decided to throw everything at us - rain, squalls with gusting winds alternating with occasional sunshine. Since the auto pilot – the device that keeps the boat on course – was still a little temperamental, we could take turns at the helm. I performed splendidly, steering the 18-m aluminium yacht on a zigzag course towards Grenada. After all, “Marlin” is 1.5 times as long as our "Corinthian" and has correspondingly longer reaction times.
It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived in Grenada, so the photo shoot fell through for the time being. The next day, after we had checked in, the sun came out. Since our return trip was already set for 3pm, we quickly returned to “Marlin,” left the bay, jumped into the dinghy. I filmed and took photos for all I was worth. Laura kept the dinghy pointed in the right direction with the outboard motor while the “Marlin” crew sailed up and down, passing us again and again and getting closer and closer. The last time the 26-tonne boat passed within a hair of us. We decided that we had enough material and were collected again in the 2-m-high waves. Since the photos will be printed in a renowned German yachting magazine, we cannot post any photos here yet.
After the photo shooting we continued on to visit friends of ours – Sara and Doug on the boat “Mindemoya.” Unfortunately time was running short. The two had already arranged a return trip to Trinidad for us. As much as we would have liked to stay longer, the prospect of getting stuck in Grenada with our boat standing on the hard and waiting for us in Trinidad left us no other choice. Sara and Doug showered us with gifts – rugs, Tupperware and diving equipment – since they are selling their boat. Then we were off to report to Larry on his 9.8 m long Island Packet named “The Dove.” We raised the anchor of the dove in the evening light. Larry often sails solo and accordingly has his “Dove” well under control. Every action is sure and the boat is practically equipped, so that we didn't have to leave the cockpit during the entire crossing to Trinidad. After a somewhat rough night crossing with waves to 2 m, we were at immigration and customs in Trinidad by 9:30am. The immigration official had an unwelcome surprise for us: no new permit to stay in Trinidad. While the entry regulations would normally allow us 90 days in the country, the official stamped 4 June 2013 into our passports. Since we want to set sail soon anyhow, I see it with a smile in one eye and a tear in the other. A small kick in the stern to quickly put “Corinthian” back in the water.
Step by step
we carry on. Within the last week Philipp, Laura and I repaired the cockpit of the Corinthian. The connections between the seats and the cockpit walls had to be re-fiberglassed. Philipp polished our chainplates until the grinder smoked. I reinforced the holes in the bulkhead where the chainplates will be mounted. Laura worked on the insulation of the refrigerator. We pulled around 100 m of marine cables into the mast. I soldered the cables to the switchboard. Finally, we painted the cockpit with non-skid paint. Just a few steps which get us in the right direction.
Many hands make light work
The good news: Extra help has arrived. Philipp, our new crew member, is here.
The bad news: his luggage, with the tools that he was bringing for us, hasn't made it yet.
We'll be busy working on our boat Corinthian for the next few weeks as we prepare her to go back in the water. We'll update this logbook occasionally as our work allows, but thank you in advance for your patience during this time.
- Thorsten and Laura
Two weeks ago we took our brand-new dinghy, a Porta-Bote CRIB (Collapsible Rigid Inflatable Boat), out on the water for its first test runs.
When we unpacked the Porta-Bote, we were surprised by its size - even though we knew it was 12 feet (3.8 m), those 12 feet all of a sudden seemed much larger when we had the boat lying in front of us. Luckily we had some help getting it down to the water :)
Thorsten with our newly unpacked Porta-Bote CRIB. Lying on land below "Corinthian" it looks quite big!
We were glad to have the help of a forklift and the friendly Power Boats staff to get our CRIB into the water.
The first test run with a 9.8-hp outboard and four people on board went fine. Then we tested the CRIB with a 15-hp engine and just two of us on board. No problems getting the CRIB up on a plane, but halfway through the test run, the engine quit. Everything we tried was to no avail - we could start the outboard again, but it never ran for very long. And of course, this was the one time we had no oars with us.
With a bit of effort, we caught onto the last boat in the mooring field before the open sea towards Venezuela. After a while the outboard seemed to be running a bit better, so we decided that we would try to make it back to land on our own. Our friends promised to keep an eye on us and tow us back if we had any difficulties. We set off and were making good progress - until the outboard quit again when we had reached the halfway point. Now it wouldn't start at all anymore.
Luckily the wind blew us almost directly towards a French cruiser who was preparing to go ashore in her dinghy. Her first words were, "I don't speak English," but she signalled us to throw a rope over anyway. She started towing us with her small dinghy and 8-hp outboard, but had a difficult time keeping on track - holding onto a rope tied to a 60-kg dinghy with a 15-hp outboard and two people on board while also trying to steer your boat is no easy task. I clambered into her boat to take the rope. After a few more twists and turns we were heading towards shore once again. Once back on terra firma we profusely thanked our "saviour." Towing us was no easy task, but she stuck to it with dogged determination and without asking any questions, even though (as we found out afterwards) it was only her second time operating the outboard.
After our narrow escape with the gas outboard, we took the CRIB out for a test spin with our 1.4-hp Torqeedo electric outboard. Despite the low horsepower, this outboard is a force to be reckoned with. Electric engines have more torque, hence they can have much larger propellers - these can be run at lower revolutions, allowing the engine to generate the same thrust as a faster-turning, higher-powered fuel engine. The Porta-Bote CRIB with Torqeedo attached was a wonderful ride - we cruised around with a maximum speed of 8.8 km/h (4.75 knots). Even hard-core fuel engine lovers gazed after us in awe as we sped by with no emissions and no noise.
Thorsten at the helm of the CRIB with our Torqeedo electric outboard.
Laura enjoys the ride in the bow of the CRIB - smooth, stable, and you don't get wet!
Taking the rare opportunity to enjoy a sunset from on the water. It's a good incentive to get "Corinthian" back in the water soon!
Last weekend (Feb. 10) we accompanied Pachamama, the expedition vessel of TOPtoTOP, as they left Trinidad. I got to sail on board Pachamama, while Thorsten and Michael from "Baltic Sun" kept up in a dinghy and got some footage from the water. It all went well until I had to get in the dinghy (I wasn't prepared to head west towards Panama quite yet!). By that time Pachamama had her genua out and a reefed mainsail up. When Thorsten and Michael pulled up alongside us in the dinghy, they started taking on water over the bow and risked being swamped, so I had to clamber down as quickly as possible! All went well and we made it safely back.
While we were sad to see Dario, Sabine and their kids leave, we're excited to work together with them in the future. The goal of TOPtoTOP is to raise awareness of the beauty of nature, as well as the challenges facing our planet, and to inspire young people to take action to protect the environment - very similar to our goals with Running Downwind. Dario and Sabine are now off to Bonaire, Colombia, Panama and into the Pacific. From there they plan to head north to Alaska.
You can follow TOPtoTOP on their expedition report blog at http://www.expedition.toptotop.org/