Logbook: February - September 2013
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/
Welcome to the new logbook of "Running Downwind!"
Look for further entries of our adventures and projects putting our boat, Corinthian, back together on this page soon.