Logbook: January - December 2015
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.