29 August 2018

Our dinghy - CRIB goes IKEA

The dinghy that we so proudly wrote about in March 2013 is called a CRIB (Collapsible Rigid Inflatable Boat) by its manufacturer. The idea is brilliant. A rigid, foldable boat with tubes combines the advantages of an inflatable boat with those of a rigid one. The material that the tubes were made of, so we were assured, was the best of the best - UV stable, suitable for the tropics, and everything else as well…

When we received our dinghy in Trinidad, we were initially pleased (Logbook entry 10 March 2013). In several details, however, the quality was not what I would have expected from a boat of that price category (list price nearly USD 8000). Galvanised nuts and bolts and aluminium rivets shouldn’t be used in a boat designed for use in saltwater. The plastic packaging material was actually built into the boat in several areas (i.e. attached with bolts and rivets). The tubes came out of their rails at the forward end. But by and large, there were no problems that couldn’t be fixed with regular on-board supplies.

Then, when we went to San Blas at the beginning of this year, we pulled our wonderful dinghy out from under its tarp. To our great surprise, the tubes appeared to be disintegrating - not quite into nothingness, but rather into small plastic pieces. Unfortunately the tubes weren’t air-tight anymore either. The good news: The boat still floated. We had to permanently collect the small plastic pieces and pump up the tubes once a day, but the rigid shell is as good as ever. And luckily the boat is designed to float without the tubes.

Unfortunately, the seats are also made of the disintegrating tube material. And it is the seats that hold the boat open and keep its shape. In order to stiffen the wobbly hull, I have started to replace the load-bearing tube seats with plywood. I am building everything out of recycled plywood so that no trees need to die especially for this project. Old boxes and shelves are getting a new life as the inner frames of our dinghy.

files/content/rdw/Logbook Photos/18-08-29-Portabote1.jpg

Just before it was still a shelf, now it will soon be a frame for our foldable dinghy.

In order to prevent the folding boat from folding together with crew inside, I will stiffen the hull with four frames. There will be two benches to give the crew something to sit on.

files/content/rdw/Logbook Photos/18-08-29-Portabote.jpg

Three of the four frames are finished. Somehow I think that a mast and a sail would also be a good idea…

- Thorsten

23 July 2018


One job finished, two new ones discovered. That’s how things go when you’re working on an old boat. When we sailed to San Blas at the beginning of the year we noticed notches corroded into our aftstay. That means we need to change the aftstay. And to make it worthwhile, we also changed the lower shrouds and the outer shrouds. Those are the stainless steel wires that hold our mast up. When we attached the new forestay we noticed small, cosmetic cracks in the forestay chainplate. Just to be safe, we took the forestay off again and brought the chainplate to a welder.

Our wind instrument had died before our trip to San Blas. What was broken? Masttop transducer, display and the cable in the mast: basically, everything. We changed the PCB chip in the transducer, combined two broken displays into one working one, and connected the wind instrument to the ground cable of the masthead light. Hooray, it’s working again!

Then I made the mistake of taking the covers off our other instruments. Oh boy! That looked better just recently; the displays were still legible. Now they have a fat black spot in the centre.

Instrumente fehlen

Empty holes where our speed and depth instruments usually sit. The "new" wind instrument is already installed in the top right corner.

In my mind’s eye I already saw the numbers and dollar signs flying past, stopping somewhere around USD 1000. Shortly before I lost my head, Laura told me to stay calm. Resourceful as ever, within a day she had found someone in the USA who sells replacement LCD displays. If you’re in the USA, you send your damaged instrument in and he will take out the broken LCD display and put in the new one. That doesn’t work so well from Panama. He warned us that changing the display of our ST60 Depth instrument can only be done with a soldering iron for electronic repairs, a vacuum pump and a lot of soldering experience. I had to make do with what I had, so I used a file to sharpen the point of a $3 supermarket soldering iron and put two reading glasses over top of each other on my nose. A few hours later our instruments had brand new LCD displays. Still a little skeptical, I connected the instruments to the transducers again. Turned the switch on and… nothing. Too bad! Oh yeah, I had taken the fuse out. The fact that the instruments actually work again and are perfectly legible is the reward for choosing to repair rather than replace them.

Alle Instrumente funktionieren

Repair instead of replace. We revived our speed and depth instruments with new LCD displays. Now all our instruments are working!

- Thorsten

11 June 2018

Panama Canal – the first step

Long time no read… We’re in Shelter Bay Marina in Panama and are getting ready to transit the Panama Canal into the Pacific soon.

Today was an important day – we filled out our form to register with the Canal Authority and arrange for an admeasurement appointment! That’s when the admeasurer comes to your boat to measure the total length of the boat and check that you have all necessary equipment such as a horn and a toilet on board. Even with the anchor on the bow and the windvane on the stern we’re well below 50 feet overall length, so we’re not worried about the inspection (50 feet is the magic length above which the Canal fees increase signficantly).

Another important achievement - Thorsten installed our new lower shrouds today. We replaced our aftstay several weeks ago. When we took down the lower starboard side shroud, we discovered that the inner cone of the Norseman terminal was cracked slightly. We didn’t have any more spares, and they’re not easy to find since Norseman went out of business several years ago. Luckily we found a company in the USA that still has replacement cones. We had them shipped to Panama and they finally arrived last week! Now we can continue changing our standing rigging.

Our Norseman replacement cones have arrived

Finally they’re here! Thorsten shows off one of our new Norseman cones. Beneath him is the drum with our new rigging wire. 

We’ll be underway for long stretches in the Pacific, the longest being about a month to French Polynesia. We were given a dehydrator by another cruiser, and last week we tried it out for the first time. I dried pineapple and mango. They’ll be delicious snacks when we run out of fresh fruit while underway – if they last that long! They’re so delicious, especially the pineapple, that we could dig into them right away.

Dehydrator filled with dried mango and pineapple

Too bad we can’t share smells with you via the internet. The dried mango and pineapple pieces fill our boat with their wonderful fragrance.

Preparations are underway and we’ll keep you updated as our Canal transit date approaches!

- Laura