Category Archives: Work

Two years ago

Two years ago from today I was spending my last days in the office, most of my thoughts revolving around the still endless todo-list. The evenings and weekends were spent doing planning and preparation. It was a magic time. Images of lonely islands and adventures out on the sea in our heads. Mostly those pictures came from the many stories, blogs and books we read during that time. And although we read a lot – we still didn’t really know what it’s gonna be like. Two sailing-greenhorns on the oceans of the world ? Back then, when someone asked us about our destination, we meekly pointed towards the west.

Although the conception of our trip was not completely wrong, it still came a lot different than we thought. One and a half oceans later we wrecked our beloved Rancho Relaxo and are still in the process of settling in on the Suvarov. The paperwork is done and the austrian flag again decorates the back of the boat. Most of the work on the new boat is now finished.

The main problem right now is the Rancho. She’s still rusting away on a mooring in Taina Marina and costs money every month. Now that work on the coquito webshop is finished, we finally have time to put all the remaining stuff online for sale. And although we don’t try to have any illusions we still hope that we can find someone who wants to live on board the Rancho. Maybe even repair her and sail again… There’s still time. Gui’s visa will expire on the 30th of May and thus the date of our departure is set. A fact that I’m actually glad about because it’s really time we get away from here.

Not that I wouldn’t love these paradise-like islands and the wonderful polynesian people. But as everywhere there are also some downsides. Right now it’s the never healing wounds that drive me crazy. Even the smallest cut will get infected, swell up and take forever to heal. My ankle is showing a nice purple/black/red cut that has been there for a month now. Antibiotics and daily cleaning doesn’t seem to help much – it’s still swollen and hurts. This seems to be a general problem as most of the other sailors have had the same issues and the bodies of the lokal people also show remains of those cuts and bruises. The other thing I’m looking forward to is to finally visit some english speaking islands again and have better contact to the local people. An issue that is completely alien to our kids. Although they ‘only’ speak german, spanish and english, they have absolutely no problem communicating with the local kids. A fact that is best demonstrated by Viola who joined the local kindergarden a few days ago. She doesn’t mind at all that she has to get up before sunrise or that the other kids speak only tahitian and french. The only thing that counts is the many new friends she has and the new games she plays with them.

Posted in Kids, Learning for life, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing, Suvarov, Work | 6 Comments

Late shift

The webshop for Coquito is advancing faster than I expected. That’s mostly thanks to the weather of course. One meter beside me there are 30 knots of wind and horizontal rain – I better stay inside. Because of the sound I can’t sleep and try to work on the computer again. Suddenly I hear  noise…. a sailboat drifts past the port window….

The small, red ketch from Switzerland stops right between the Suvarov and the Domani. The anchor finally took hold after a 100m downwind ride. Luckily there is enough room in between the boats to stay like this until the wind eases. After the situation calms down a bit, I place myself at the desk again to edit CSS und Smarty templates.

Posted in Coquito, Pics, Sailing, Suvarov, Work | 1 Comment

Passing through

Although the work on the ship(s) – isn’t finished, I’m currently telecommuting. Hehehehe. Wow. That’s definately a word from the last century. I had to think about it because working over the internet is so common, discreet nowadays – nobody even thinks about it. But here in the South Pacific access to the rest of the world (whichever way) is quite expensive. As a result there are no open hotspots. So I used the precious bandwidth to download all my work and setup the software locally. Finally, the webshop for Coquito gets some attention.

In the afternoon the wind drops, it’s getting too hot in front of the computer and I hop in the water. I’m quite perplexed as I look around and see the front that’s moving closer and is sucking in all the wind. I hop into the dinghy and row to shore, meet a friend, get a baguette, some apples and 10 minutes later I’m back on bord.  The neighbors are also starting to move: Pascal is strapping his dinghy down on deck and Lawrence removes the sun roof.

A few minutes later, the wind hits, but the anchor is well set. We’re in 4m of water with 40m of chain out. That’s quite safe. I go inside, cook something and two hours later the front has passed. Those little squalls and fronts become more common in the last weeks. I guess the rainy season is now at it’s best. Or to say it differently: the watertank is – and stays – always full. Nice.

Posted in Observations, Pics, Sailing, Suvarov, Work | 1 Comment

It’s going forward

When starting to work on a new boat, everything moves extremely slow in the beginning. It quite frustrating to follow every single hose and cable to it’s end. The flooding of our bilges also didn’t improve my mood. But even when moving forward in tiny little steps, it’s still the right direction.

And this means that now I got all our stuff from the Rancho stored away, we have a seawater pump in the kitchen, the freshwater system is also working again, the water maker is installed and working and the solar panels are mounted. And finally I’m happy again. Lots of work done and now we have energy and fresh water again.

After a week of painful calm in which the heat on board was unbearable, a few hours ago the wind returned. This is another thing that makes the skipper smile. First, because the climate is a lot better and the windgenerator will produce power for me. And second because I have to get back to Tahiti and for that I need some wind. The lonesome Rancho Relaxo is still waiting for me in Faaa and I have to get the rest of our stuff and a few more things that I have to deinstall. It’s probably just gonna be a few days but I’m looking forward to the moment when I only have to takle care of one ship again.

Christmas and new year I spent with Jean Claude and his daughters. It was beautiful to spend those days together and this was also the main reason to come here. 2013 began quite amazing. I wish it stays that way !

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Moving the household

Finally I’m getting something done ! Today was the first day in over a week that it didn’t rain. Not at all – it’s unbelievable. Right after breakfast I jumped into the dinghy and started filling crates and bags with stuff from the kitchen, bathroom, aft cabin and saloon. It’s still quite slow as I have to pack everything, get it into the dinghy without dropping something. Then wrestle it on board the Suvarov and find a new location for all the stuff.

But still- half of the Rancho is already empty. I also switched the toilets the other day. – One of the only things that will actually profit from the rain.
After a sundowner with my neighbor Chico, I emptied the last crates with things from the bathroom. Tomorrow I’m gonna get the rest. Yay !

I only have pictures of rain. Sorry.

Posted in LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Suvarov, Work | 3 Comments

An new home for the LosLocos

Two days ago I took my toothbrush and moved over to our new ship, the Suvarov. Despite me being quite lonely here it feels great ! The ship is so much bigger than the Rancho Relaxo and no more banging the head a hundered times a day. The windgen (a D-400) works way better than the Silentwind we had on the Rancho, the fridge doesn’t empty the batteries and we also got a new external WLAN antenna. No more sitting in the cockpit with the laptop !

Unfortunately I’m not getting much done these days. The weather is quite nasty. It’s raining a lot the last days and the wind is quite strong. This makes the dinghy rides between the boats a really wet exercise. But I got the most important things and the rest I will move as soon as the weather is improving (which will not be soon as it seems). In the meantime I’m trying to figure out all the switches, buttons, cables and hoses and make lists of things todo and to improve and to move… Uff. Enough work for months… But what else would I do ?

Posted in Rancho Relaxo, Sailing, Suvarov, Work | 4 Comments

Starting to clean up

To postpone the thinking a little more, today we concentrated on cleaning the deck. We got all the ropes in order and removed the radar and other small parts from the mast, I dismounted the rollerfurler and folded up the Genoa. The main sail was also removed from the two parts of the boom and the lower half of the mast. Boths sails are not in too bad condition and can be stiched up easily. We removed all spreaders and stays and repaired the handrail. All in the crazy hot south pacific summer and nonstop from breakfast ’til sunset.

Then we tried to get into the internet at the marina bar but because they have a party tonight, they turned off the hotspot. So we went back to the boat to eat and that was when I found out that I couldn’t stick my foot in between the saloon bench and the mast-support. We knew that because of the bent hull the saloon bench is 3cm higher but that couldn’t be it. No it was the mast support that is bent about 5cm !! This (nearly) let me loose my appetite. So it seems that the Rancho Relaxo has more damage than we thought ?

Tomorrow I will first try to build a sun protection above the cockpit. Then I will think about how and why the mast support was bent. Maybe I’ll also inspect the engine for any water damage (the exhaust was on the side where the waves kept running in). At least the propeller is turning and the rudder is working – which really amazes me.

Posted in LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing, Work | 8 Comments

Every day something to fix. Today: Outboard engine

Finally I get to post some more pictures that were made by the kids. I guess, I should do that more often.

Yesterday we had visitors from Germany who flew into Tahiti and will buy a boat here to sail it towards Australia during the next year. A very clever and interesting idea. So we had an endess talk and did a (quite late) bbq on the Rancho Relaxo. Also when taking them to the dinghy dock of the nearby marina – and then racing back through that enormous anchorage, two people shouted at me because our engine is really loud …and really broken.

There seem to be quieter days but revently it seems that at least once a day something really important breaks. Yesterday it was the membrane of our watermaker (we don’t have replacement and will have to order it from somewhere abroad) and today it was the outboard engine. It was our friend Guenther who fixed the outboard when we were in Bequia but now it finally broke completely.

We didn’t use the big dinghy or the outboard during the last months but now we need it as the dinghy dock is quite far away and there’s no wind to sail with Pinguin. So we needed to repair it. As the shaft cannot really be fixed I just bent two pieces of  threaded rod around it and mounted the engine onto the holding clamps. Now we cannot move it up anymore but – who cares ? We also change the gear oil and cleaned the evaporator. Now it’s going full speed again. Yay !

But during that work I really went nuts. When bending that brass rod around the engine I smashed my left thumb with the hammer after which I ran through the ship (towards the first aid box) shouting and kicking everything. So I broke both doors of the tools locker who happened to be in my way….

I’ll fix them tomorrow.

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Day 2 towards Galapagos

Welcome in the Doldrums !
Yesterday just after sending the email, the rain hit and we were left without wind for a couple of hours. Flapping sails and going nowhere. Well, we knew that this would come. It seems we’ve reached the doldrums at about 07 degrees north. Could that be ? Later in the morning the wind came back and changed direction a couple of times to keep the skipper busy. Hehehe.
It was also during the last night watch that I noticed a flickering in our light at the mast topp. When the sun rose I could see why: The wifi antenna had somehow come loose and was tangling around like a straw in a cocktail glass. So I entered the mast to figure out what happenend and to fix it – only to realise that a change of course would have been convenient, before getting up there. Being at the very top of the mast when tacking against is not very enjoyable. I needed both legs and arms to hold on most of the time and thus it was quite difficult to secure the antenna using electric tape and a string. I was down a couple of minutes later, not exactly feeling very good. But the antenna is safe. Hehehe. After that we had breakfast and sailed until about noon when another rain sqall hit, after which the wind completely died.
So right now we’re sitting becalmed and are drifting with a speed of about 0.6 knots towards northeast. Not exactly helpful. But we can’t run the engine everytime, the wind is out – we don’t have enough diesel for that. So we’re sitting it out and try to cook something while the boat is shaking in the swell. Speaking of – we’ve got a swell of about 1.5m coming from the west. So there IS wind somewhere out there….

LATITUDE: 06-36.12N, LONGITUDE: 083-32.74W, COURSE: 356T, SPEED: 0.6,

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Last night in Costa Rica ?

Actually we wanted to leave tomorrow with the outgoing tide. But just now we learned that the guys at the customs office will not be working tomorrow. We’ll still give it a try and maybe we can leave without the customs papers. Otherwise we’ll be here for another night and leave tuesday afternoon.

Today I posted a couple of not so nice photos – showing some of mine mosquito stings. (And these are NOT the worst I’ve got !) These nasty little creatures somehow don’t get along well with our european blood. The stings get infectious and red and we have little wounds that excrete water and stay for more than one week. Only Bruno, Viola and me have these – it seems Gui’s got antibodies. It also only started when we came to Costa Rica; we didn’t have problems in Panama. Another reason to get going quite soon. Because even with smoke coils, sprays and mosquito nets we still get bitten sometime.

Today I spent most of the time up the mast and pulled the radar cable out to reconnect it. But without success – the radar antenna still isn’t working. I checked and measured the connections of our ST40 gyro-compass that’s also mounted up the mast. But we’ve only got readings in between 0.5 and 1 Megaohm. The resistance should be: Red to Green: 4-10 ohm, Red to Yellow: 4-10 ohm, Green to Yellow: 8-10 ohm, Screen to Blue: 8-10 ohm, all other combinations OC.
So I take, the compass is also dead&gone. Which means 66% of our Raymarine gear stopped working after one year. Well, well. We’ll manage without…

When we pulled the radar cable up the mast we damaged the LAN-cable of our wireless antenna on the mast, so I had to re-solder that as well. While doing this, our soldering iron broke. Not exactly a successful work day, eh ?

Posted in Animals, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing, Work | 1 Comment

Third workday in a row

I’m not used to work that much anymore. No, no. And definately not in these circumstances with that incredible heat. But – hey – at least I got two amazing kids who happen to help me a lot and keep the mood up. (Ok, ok. Not always…) So today we finally installed that active Radar-reflector that we had lying around since we left Europe. It’ll come in handy on the next longer passages, I hope. While Gui was in ‘town’ to finally clear in (after a more than a week that we’ve been here, hehehe) – I installed the unit on the mast of the wind generator and put the cable through the ship. And that actually was most of the work because of course all stuff has to be moved from one corner to the next, all floor boards have to be removed, all the stuff has to be moved to the saloon bench and so on….

After half a day of work the cable was finally where it’s supposed to be and it also seems to work. Although we’ve still have to test it with an active Radar in the vincinity. I also installed a pre-filter in the seawater system to protect the pump in the kitchen and the watermaker from bigger parts entering through the hose. We put the bolt holding the forestay that keeps moving to the starbord side back to where it belongs, we put a new switch for the electric bilge pump, refilled engine oil, etc.

Yesterday I also took the kerosene stove apart and cleaned everything so now both flames work perfectly again. Tomorrow we’ll try to repair the electronic kompass, reconnect the Radar and fix a couple of other minor things…. But then, I guess on monday we’re finally ready to leave ! Yay !

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Mr. Mercedes is running again !

After another day down in the engine dungeon and with great help of Bruno, our good old Mercedes engine is running again !! Yay !

Yesterday – against all odds, we managed to aquire all needed parts for our new tank ventilation and fuel outlet. We got five pre and five fine filters for the fuel and ten bottles of anti-bacteria treatment. We also installed the new fuel gauge that’s connected to our blue sea battery and tank monitor. Now all’s set. Tomorrow we’ll do another few little improvements and replace a leaking screw in the fine filter but hey – the bigger part is done. Uff ! Now I’m gonna relax with a beer in my hand and the view over Golfito bay.

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A week at ‘la casita’ with Memé

So, she’s off, back to San José !! My mother was here the last week and we “shared” the little house she rented for five days. Actually the children moved in since the moment she arrived, and the day after David and me followed, and so, enjoyed the air conditioned, the “huge” kitchen and a 100% dry bed.

Since there is not much to do here in Golfito, exept for buying parts for the boat… well, we stayed inside quite almost the whole time. Every evening we had a little chat on the bench in the terrasse, wondering what do people actually do in this lost corner of the world, at the border between Costa Rica and Panama, with heavy humidity and heat the whole day and the whole night. But the good thing is, we worked a lot on my label Coquito the time we where together… we discussed new ideas for the coming collections and skyped a lot with Annette, our college in Berlin.

And of course, Bruno and Viola where extremely happy to have her near and spend 24h/24h with their “memé”. That made also the farewell a little sad, and they cryed a lot, saying they wanted to go back to Argentina with her – their plan was that we would come and pick up them a couple of days later-  :) So, mum, it was great to have you here, even you didn’t put a foot on the Rancho Relaxo this time !

Posted in Coquito, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Work | 6 Comments

Wedding of the bacteria

That’s what our friend Guenther called it, when we emptied the jerrycans into the tank and suddently all our good diesel turned into a sludgy mess. Yesterday I finally motivated myself and got down into the engine dungeon to look at our fuel situation. First I connected a two meter fuel hose to our waste-oil pump and got about 30 l of (not too bad) diesel out of the tank.

I then disconnected all hoses and openend our fuel tank to have a first look. Definately bacterias. And lots of them ! I pumped the rest of the dirt into the jerrycans and swiped the whole tank clean. Then I started dismounting the fuel in- and outlets and cleaned all these parts. I discovered that the fuel outlet was a pipe-in-a-pipe and only held in place by a piece of rubber !! – And the fuel meter, which is stainless steel was mounted inside an aluminium (!!) pipe. How anyone doing business with boats would put an aluminium pipe inside a stainless stell tank is a mystery to me. I just think of it as another solved legacy problem.

I also discovered the reason for our mess: It was the diesel we got from the Flamenco Bay Marina ! (Thanks guys !) When I looked into the jerrycans, we filled in the marina, there was about half a liter of diesel left. After a week in the sun, one clearly could see the mud/bacteria seperating down at the bottom. Our problems during our last journey also only started after we put that diesel into our tank. Well, well…..

Now I’m gonna go into town to look whether the new fuel filters have arrived, thereafter I’ll put everything together again.

ps: Yes, we consistently use anti-bacteria additive for our fuel. Unfortunately not the good Grotamar 82, because it’s not available here…

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Peeing portholes and pooping rust

Everybody is busy. Bruno building LEGO, Viola painting with waterolors and Guenther and me replacing an porthole that started leaking.

And since I already had dirty hands, I grabbed the brush and paint and went over the deck to remove some rust. Soon we’ll have to get a few other items off the todo list (the steering chain and cable need a little attention, a winch on the mast is broken and some more painting).

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A day for the engine

Guenther arrives on a sunday. Big mistake ! By tradition the sunday is a workday on bord the Rancho Relaxo of the Seas. And on Guenther’s first trip with us it was Whitsunday when we disassembled our Yamaha outboard. And now, two and a half years later it still runs smooth and starts quick.

Yesterday the engine of the Rancho Relaxo was on the ToDo list. It’s an old Mercedes-Benz of type OM636. This engine was very universally used in cars, trucks, waterpumps and of course in yachts. And ours was in great need of new filters which we replaced and of course cleaned all parts. While doing that we flooded the bilge with diesel (by intention – I swear !) well, well….

After that we flooded the forepeak with a dilution of rust and saltwater. From the chainbox to midships everything was covered with that liquid. It’s something most of the steel boat owners forget: You have to flush the inside of your ship with saltwater from time to time. – To build up resistance !! Hehehehe. Since last time we did that was on the Isle of Wight, it was really time to repeat this exercise.

Heh, of course it was a design error in the water outtake of our anchor chain box. All the water we collecte on our trip to St. Vincent emptied itself to the inside of our ship. A colossal mess !! We had to empty the whole foreship and wash everything with freshwater. Arrrr ! This are the rare moments when I whish we had a fibreglass ship….. But now everything is clean and dry again and we still didn’t find much rust on the inside of our ship.

Posted in Hardware, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing, Work | 1 Comment

Preschool, muffins and up the mast

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and we’ve already been quite hardworking. After breakfast, Bruno went immediately to work with pre-school and today’s subject mathematics. After that the kids and Gui tried a new muffin recipe, decorated the pastries and immediately ate them.

In the mean time, I was up the mast to repair the remote compass and took measurement of  our antenna mount where the active radar reflector should be rigged. The electronic compass is now finally working. And since yesterday our ships main compass has working illumination again and Bruno and me installed the last missing part for our desalinator. We’ll check on our way to Cabo Verde whether it really works.

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Another (work)day

“Papi, what are we gonna repair today ?” – this is how Bruno wakes me up nowadays. And every morning I have a different answer. Actually we only wanted to stay a day or two (I know, I repeat myself…) but it’s just soooo convenient to have all shops and toolstores around the corner, so today we said, we’ll stay for another week. Yes, a week because I also ordered new optical sunglasses and they’ll not be ready before that. We also will get a new battery and tank monitor from the U.S. that somehow got wrecked during yesterdays battery replacement. Now the only thing it shows on it’s display is that it’ll like a new firmware to be uploaded – or to say it differently: It’s broken.

Because it doesn’t cost much, I sent an Email to Blue Sea Systems and immediately got an unbelievably friendly email back in which they announce to send us a new (refurbished) unit ! WOW, that’s customer support ! Companies of the earth: take this as an example !! Ah, and to stay on the subject: I also sent an email to our battery supplier and got an answer back. But there’s not yet any concrete development, I’ll post later on this very subject.

As you can see on the pictures: Today was sewing day. Gui made beds for the children’s puppets the other day and now of course they needed a bedding. Viola didn’t hesitate and took the needle and sewed away. Bruno and me were doing the covering for the newly installed fridge and mounted the still missing switch for the same. We repaired the pump that get’s the oil of the ship’s engine out (when it’s to be changed) and we also got the last missing parts to install the saltwater pump for the watermaker. So that will probably be tomorrow’s project. We’ve also been on the beach and right after discovered a Bio-Burger restaurant nearby. Yummie !!

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POW ! To the people.

The power is back !! Yeyeye !!! Electrical light – without cranking the dynamo-lantern constantly. No fumes of our petroleum-lantern… No. Nice, warm LED-light from the ceiling on the push of a button. Great !

Today I talked with the guys from the shop here and although they don’t have a concrete idea why our batteries died, they still told me that I’m not alone. In fact only a few weeks ago a norwegian yacht passed through and had all six (!!) of their five month old AGM batteries replaced ! So we too now have old school lead-acid batteries. Today I spent a lot of money and got four mainenance-free Vaetus marine batteries with 108 Ah each. Replacing the batteries took the whole day because of our fantastic ‘battery-cistern’. Now my back hurts but there’s again power running through the veins of the Rancho Relaxo !

Many thanks to our readers for all the helpful tips and advices that came in via comment function, facebook and email !! But still, we don’t know why the batteries died…. Today I wrote an Email to the manufacturer. We’ll see if they answer – actually it should be covered by the guarantee…. But who knows…

Did I mention that Bruno with his five years is already a good dinghy captain ? He loves to drive us to the harbour – although even more so when we are only two (because it’s faster !) Hehehe. Also in the pics: Bruno and Viola are amazed by an shop window with slide and snow made from styropor (and both hold an ice cream in theyr hand).

Posted in Hardware, Kids, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Work | 2 Comments

Battery problems – day two

Thanks to the answers of our readers, today I’ve done more tests on our batteries. I’ve tested all batteries while disconnected from the ship’s circuitry U1 is without load. U2 is with a 40watts load, measured after 30 seconds. Here come the facts:

Battery  |    U1    |    U2    |
Main 1   |  12.62V  |   9.19V  |
Main 2   |  12.72V  |   9.62V  |
Main 3   |  12.71V  |  10.70V  |
Main 4   |  12.52V  |  11.39V  |
Start    |  12.30V  |  11.79V  |

The main batteries are of the type: Effecta BTL-100 (specifications). These are 12V, 100Ah AGM batteries. The label says: cycle use: 14.4V-15V standby user: 13.6V-13.8V
The starter battery is a Vetus ‘marine’ battery of type lead-acid.

Our chargers were set as follows:
Windgenerator: off at 14.34V
Shore power: off at 14.40V (setting: ‘AGM’)
Solar charger: off at 14.30V, standby: 13.8V (setting: ‘GEL’)
Alternator: off at 13.80V, secondary regulation: 13.90V

For me this means that the chargers were set correctly and even a little too conservative. As the batteries say cycle, max. 15V – I could’ve set the solar charger to ‘AGM’ with a peak voltage of 14.70V. Hmmm. Any more input before I run off in search for new batteries tomorrow ?

Posted in Hardware, Learning for life, LosLocos, Rancho Relaxo, Work | 4 Comments