Category Archives: Learning for life

Horses instead of kindergarden

It’s easter and that means, the school is closed. Instead of taking the tour towards the kindergarden with dinghy and bus – Viola and Gui hitch-hike up the valley towards the horse ranch. Viola is doing a four day horseriding holiday and you can’t imagine how happy she is. Every afternoon she returns all dirty and tired but still has enough energy to jump around in the water for an hour or two. Then all the horse smell is gone and she falls asleep while eating dinner. Heh.

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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

The Rancho Relaxo getting towed off the reef

After having arrived at the french Navy base in the early morning, the only thing we could think of was our ship. We knew that today would be a calm day but tomorrow big swell would set in and then a rescue attempt would be impossible. The pilots of the helicopter spent hours on the phone trying to find someone who could help us. Gui went off to get two mobile phones so we could stay in contact. When we reached the marina Taina our rescuers were already there and packing the ‘Vaimiti 9′ with all gear needed. TEN minutes later we were underway towards Tetiaroa.

During the hours we spent on sea we made scetches and discussed possible ways to get the boat off the reef. When we finally arrived just before sunset we saw that she was actually nearly on dry land. The images I made just before we got into the helicopter showed a different picture. So there was absolutely no way we could pull her off the coral, we need to get a crane or a – excavator. And luckily Ti Ai Moana by coincidence also had a special excavator on exactly this island. And it can go through 2m of water ! After we got the permission (this island is private and owned by the son of Marlon Brando) next morning this big yellow beast made its way through the lagoon while Yann and Sebastian were tying ropes around the Rancho Relaxo.

With the help of the digger and the 1500HP of the Vaimiti 9 the 12-ton Rancho Relaxo finally started moving. And when her back was already touching the water and the excavator only needed to retreat – it happened. The arm touched the mast and it immediatly broke. Now we had a new challenge: To get the broken rigging of our ship on the deck before the waves again put her onto the reef. The wires and ropes were cut and the pieces of the mast and boom put on deck. And finally with extremely violent motion the Rancho hit the water – and stayed afloat.

On the inside the ship was a mess but nothing was broken. The rigging was gone, so was the boom, our handrails, the sprayhood and many other little things. But it had no hole – after spending two nights on the reef.

Right now we’re back in the Marina Taina in Tahiti. We try to get some order into the chaos on deck and calculate our options. It probably will take a few days for us to get to a decision as how to move on. Luckily nobody got hurt. And lucky us we have this amazing tank like ship that keeps us save.

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Shipwreck at Tetiaroa

So. Now we’re back on the internet and sort through hundreds of emails and FB-messages while trying to understand what had happened during the last three days.

We were on our way from Moorea to the Tuamotus when we hit the southern reef of Tetiaroa at around 3am local time. It took only a few seconds and the ship was thrown onto the rocks. Everything went very quick. The kids got lifevests on, I used the VHF to send out a MAYDAY with our position and situation. As soon as we knew that help would come (in the form of a Navy helicopter) we started to gather our most important things and prepared to abandon ship, I got the sails down and closed all windows just to be sure.

One of the best moments of our life – seeing the searchlight of the helicopter appear in the middle of the night. Followed by one of the scariest things we ever did: Leaving our home, our ship, all our posessions behind and jump into the dark ocean to climb onto the reef with the kids on our arms.

The crew of the helicopter did a fantastic job and got us up in the air in no time, fatigue setting in when we saw our shipwreck from above and escaped into the night to be brought to Papeete….

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The firekings

We’re only 24 hours away from the city-island of Tahiti and we’re already feeling healthier, fresher, happier, etc.  Moorea truly is a treat after that crowded anchorage and the polluted air of the city. It’s a good thing that we like it as it could happen that we have to spend a few more days here. There is a big high pressure system passing south of us and the wind will not be right for the passage to the Tuamotus. So we’ll have to wait…

Yesterday Dan and me took the dinghy towards the reef where the wrecked yacht is bouncing in the surf. There were already a few sailors from the anchorage helping the owner get all stuff from the boat. We got all the sails down and into the dinghy to transport them towards the beach. The accident happened when going through the pass of the reef under engine where the propulsion suddenly stopped. Whether it was the gearbox or some failure with the propeller we don’t know. But it certanly was too late to get sails up and the yacht hit the reef only a minute later. The keel and rudder broke off instantly and the ship filled with water. What a sad story and how shocking to see how fast and easy something like that can happen !

In the afternoon we discovered that the small shop close to the beach is also selling burger meat ! We got the big pack and left it in the sun to defrost while we took the sailing dinghy for a ride through the lagoon.

Right before sunset we met back at the beach and Dan showed the kids how to start fire with a firestone and some dry coconuts. The short ones were fascinated !! We had a beautiful evening and everybody fell into the bunks like a stone. Good to be out in the nature again !

Posted in Kids, Learning for life, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing | 1 Comment

Round Tahiti

Here are pics of some time ago, when I went with the kids for a car ride while David was recovering from his hike.

We visited Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti with Zac, Sylvie and Dan from the SY Ustupu. They rented a car and Dan managed to drive us all around, and although I wouldn’t say he forgot how it works, I’m sure he did that a little smoother while living in Canada. Together we went looking for fruits near the streets and checked every surf spot of the island… They also started surfing in Galapagos and we where all keen to have a look at Teahopu, the legendary break. On that day the waves where not as impresive as during the Billabong Contest, but it was nice, there are very positive vibes on that whole area. I’m shure I’ll be back some day…. but it could take a little while…

The last time I  took my board I got such a mighty wave, that it made me think about my kamikaze nature. It went rrrreally fast and was a massive fun the first seconds ! I was enjoying the speed with all my body and soul, but at the moment I realised I should start getting up and try to get out of there, I saw the reef aproaching. Coming in … three… two… one… SHIT !! I crashed full force into the coral and the only thing I could do was to grab my board as tight as possible and hope for the best. Well, I’m not dead, and got only a few scatches, so I guess it did went for the best ! Yeah, that was a wild ride. So, let’s face the facts. My next surf is going to be at a SANDY beach, with little waves. No harm done.

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(Deutsch) Tiere auf Langfahrt, 3. Teil (fuer Fortgeschrittene)

In Tahiti geht’s um nichts. Nein, vielleicht um nicht viel. Es ist ja die allerallergroesste aller grossen Staedte, die es in franz. Polynesien gibt und somit auf jeden Fall schon mal ungaublich gross. Dann gibt es ein paar kleine Yachtausruester, die das Zentrum der hiesigen Seglerwelt bilden. Ansonsten wird viel an Moorings gelegen und im Internet gesurft, weil das ist ja so billig und schnell. Und natuerlich ist dann noch der Carrefour, Mekka des europaeischen Konsumkultes. Man kann auch wandern oder surfen.
Aber ich wollte eigentlich ueber Tiere schreiben. Tiere auf Langfahrt. Was kann das den sein ? Fragt sich der aufmerksame Leser. Man oder Fra denkt dabei an Wale, Delfine, Faultiere oder Pinguine. Aber gemeint ist natuerlich das Tier an Bord, womit ich nicht den Skipper meine, wenn er schwitzt wie eine Sau, kopfueber im Motorraum haengend und mit Benzinschlauch in der Hand und Oelfilter zwischen den Zaehnen. Nein, ich moechte heute ueber Haustiere schreiben !

Gerade wenn man Kinder hat, kommt immer frueher oder spaeter die Frage nach dem eigenen Aeffchen aber das ist dann immer so kompliziert mit den Quarantaenevorschriften, gerade wenn man die am Strand einsammelt. Auf der Rancho steht ein Gecko bei den Grossen hoch im Kurs waehrend es bei den Kindern ein Huhn waere, das die Eier fuer den Kaiserschmarrn liefert. Dies sind natuerlich alles praktische Ansaetze, man muss sich aber auch Gedanken ueber die artgerechte Haltung machen. Spaetestens hier scheiden die meisten Mehrzelliger aus, denn welchem hoeher entwickelten Lebewesen wollte man schon eine solche Seereise zumuten ?

Nahrungsbeschaffung ist fuer die segelnde Familie eine anstrengende und zeitraubende Angelegenheit, da will man sich nicht unbedingt Sorgen ueber die Lieblingsspeise der kleinen Salzwasserkrokodile machen muessen, welche die Kinder als Experiment in der Bilge zuechten moechten. Auch ist der durchschnittliche Fahrtensegler ein eher traeges Lebewesen, womit die Verpflegung des idealen Haustieres idealerweise kaum bis keine Zeit beanspruchen sollte. Um hier der Seglergemeinde mal helfend unter die Arme zu greifen mache ich hier eine kleine Liste mit ein paar gesammelten Erfahrungen. Aber keine Angst, viele der Tipps funktionieren genauso in einem Zuhause, das nicht schwimmt !

Wir haben oder hatten in den letzten Wochen mehr oder weniger gute Erfahrungen mit den folgenden Tierarten gemacht. Es sei mir verziehen, nicht die korrekten lateinischen Namen rausgesucht zu haben, das ueberlasse ich dem oben angesprochenen, aufmerksamen Leser:

  • Mehlbewohner: Wir haben sie zuallererst in der Getreidemuehle entdeckt, spaeter aber auch bei gekauftem Mehl. Ca. 0.5-1mm lang und roetlich bis hellbraun. Harmlos und geschmacksneutral, wird durch regelmaessige Benutzung der Getreidemuehle und besseres Verpacken von Mehl (in Flaschen) konstant auf maessiger Population gehalten.
  • Ruesselkaefer: Zuerst entdeckt in einer noch geschlossenen Nudelpackung aus Gran Canaria. 2-3mm lang, schwarz und sehen aus wie eine Art Baby-Hirschkaefer. Sie haben die Faehigkeit durch Plastikverpackungen zu bohren und lieben Nudeln ueber alles – am allerliebsten Spinat-Lasagne. Werden ausgesiebt oder auch mitgekocht und vom Nudelwasser abgeschoepft. Ebenfalls geschmacks, aber nicht konsistenz-neutral. Geht aber als Pfefferschrot bei den Gaesten durch. Wir probieren zur Zeit eine Uebernahme der Rancho Relaxo durch doppelt-Verpacken in starke Ziploc oder Umfuellen in Flaschen mit grossen Oeffnungen zu verhindern. Lorbeer hilft hier auch.
  • Kakerlaken. Wir versuchen seit Spanien welche an Bord anzusiedeln, doch bis auf ein paar Einzelgaenger, die wohl als Botschafter oder Erkunder bei uns an bord schon nach kurzer Zeit verendeten, haben wir bisher leider keine Erfolge aufzuweisen. Es mag an dieser gruenlichen Paste liegen, die wir in den Dunklen Ecken mittels Spritze ausgebracht haben. Es ist ein ausgezeichnetes Lockmittel fuer diese widerstandsfaehigen Alleskoenner (die *richtigen* Kakerlaken koennen fliegen !) allerdings hat es den Nachteil, dass es stark toxisch ist und wir somit einer Besiedelung schon von vorneweg schlechte Chancen gaben. Wir sehen es allerdings als eine Art Darwin-Test und sortieren einfach die nicht-resistenten aus. Wir wollen super-Kakerlaken zuechten, die auch mit diesem Gift zurechtkommen.
  • Ratten: Wir hatten einen kurzen Versuch in Galapagos gemacht. Man kann sie ganz leicht an Bord ansiedeln, in dem man einen Kartoffelsack mit Kokosnuessen am fruehen Abend fuer eine halbe Stunde an den Strand legt und dann mittels Dinghy an Bord bringt. Nun hat man im Normalfall eine kleine Population an Bord, welche sich ueblicherweise in den Zwischenwaneden und -decken eine Art Haus mit Tunnelsystem durch die Isolierung frisst und sich hauptsaechlich von gesundem Obst und ungesundem Dacron ernaehrt. Letzteres war dann auch der Grund, weshalb wir heute keine dieser Nager auf der Rancho Relaxo haben. Vermutlich vertragen es die Ratten einfach nicht.
  • Kopflaeuse: Haben den Vorteil, dass sie mobil sind und man so nicht nur an Bord von ihnen profitieren kann. Man kann sie ueberallhin mitnehmen und sich an ihrer Gesellschaft erfreuen. Die Capitana hatte nach einigen Tagen aber festgestellt, das dies doch nicht ‘ihre’ Tierart ist und sie mit einer Tinktur und Kamm entfernt. Scheinen einfach unbeliebt zu sein.
  • Termiten: Wenn man eine Yacht mit viel schoenem Holz hat, bietet sich diese Tierart an. Sie schicken ihre befluegelten Schwaerme am Abend aus und fallen ueber ihr neues Zuhause regelrecht her. Es ist kein Problem nach nur einem Abend eine dauerhafte Koexistenz mit diesen ueberaus interessanten Tieren zu etablieren. Sie finden in jeder Ritze ein neues Zuhause und umschwirren die stolzen Besitzer der Yacht fortan an diesen lauen Abenden in Polynesien. Wenn man (wie wir) nicht an diesen Tieren interessiert ist, zieht man am besten in einem Notmanoever den Anker aus dem Korallensand, waehrend man bereits mit Vollgas durch das Morringfeld ans Aussenriff fluechtet, wo die Tiere zwar dennoch, aber nicht in derartiger Anzahl anzutreffen sind. Eine endgueltige Entscheidung bezueglich der Aufnahme in unser Privatbiotop haben wir noch nicht gefaellt. Sie moegen Licht, aber keine offenen Flammen wie Bunsenbrenner oder Loetlampen.
  • Motten, Ameisen, Mosquitos, Spinnen, Tintenfische und fliegende Fische haben sich nicht bewaehrt bzw. gehalten und  Toelpel oder Sturmvoegel waren nett, aber nur kurz an Bord.
  • Entenmuscheln und Seepocken konnten wir in der letzten Zeit gut ansiedeln. Hier hilft es, wenn man sich Muehe gibt und versucht, in den ersten eineinhalb Jahren moeglichst 10000 oder 15000 Meilen zu segeln, damit das Antifouling runter ist. Dieses hemmt den natuerlichen Besuchs enorm und sollte am besten mit grobem Schleifpapier entfernt werden, wenn man zum Beispiel eine Moeglichkeit hat, das Schiff trockenfallen zu laessen. Wenn in genuegender Zahl vorhanden, stellt so eine Entenmuschelzucht einen nicht zu verachtende Menge Notproviant dar, waehrend die Seepocken eine Art Schutzschild um den Rumpf bilden.
  • Menschen: Haben wir gerne und in zahlreicher Anzahl an Bord. Es haben sich sowohl junge als auch aeltere Exemplare gut bewaehrt. Die beste Unterhaltung hat man, wenn man versucht moeglichst viele verschiedene Kulturen und Nationen im Cockpit oder am Vorschiff zu versammeln. Obwohl wir sehr gute Erfahrungen mit kurzen WG-artigen Experimenten gemacht haben, konnten wir bisher nur vier Menschen dauerhaft auf der Rancho Relaxo ansiedeln. dies wird wohl an der nicht artgerechten Haltung liegen. Wir arbeiten aber weiter daran !
Posted in Animals, It's funny ! Laugh !, Learning for life, LosLocos, Observations, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing | 3 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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Coconuts and pets

Somehow there seems to be a relation between those two. After our last dinner together with Tamora, Papillon and Mares, the owner of the restaurant gave us a big bag of coconuts. Since then we sometimes heard a faint scratching or crawling behind the walls and in some of our lockers. Could it be possible ? Did we finally manage to establish cockroaches on board ? No. The trail of small, black excrements we found the next morning made it clear: a rodent of medium size found a new home on the Rancho Relaxo !
The kids immediately liked the idea of a new pet, named it ‘Elvis’ and wanted to build a small Lego house for the rat. But the capitana threatened to move out: “Either Elvis moves, or I do !” So it was that the skipper and the two short ones went into the village to search for a trap. It wasn’t too easy to find it, but we finally came back home with the classic model with an extra strong spring. That should work !
Back on bord, the situation got more complicated: The capitana got a terrible stomach ache and despite us having different causes in mind, in the end it was the disgust of the rat that caused her stomach cramps. In the evening we put a small piece of cheese in the trap and everyone went to bed quite excited.
Big disapointment on the next morning: The trap went off but was empty ! – No trace of Elvis. Or actually that’s not true as he ate the cheese and then feasted on a bunch of bananas that the careless crew forgot on the saloon table.

Sensitive people and rat lovers: Don’t klick the last picture !!

The day passes with a lot of music. As planned, the skipper started to learn Guitar when entering the Pacific. The kids accompany his first musical steps with melodica and E-piano. All that while in the aft, the capitana arches because of her stomache cramps.
But this night we have a different plan: As Elvis obviously enjoys a very healthy diet, we’ll put a piece of banana in the trap and place that on the saloon table. To help the crew get sleepy we finally do a movie night – it’s been a long time. At 22hrs everybody is in the bunks and fast asleep.

At around 03h in the morning, the always watchful skipper awakenes and has to pee… – As I weasel through the dark saloon I noticed the trap has moved slightly ! And in the faint moonlight I thought I could see something small and round beside the trap. Maybe Elvis isn’t all that clever and we… I turn on the light and see the rat run to the far side of the saloon table. He again managed to get the food out of the trap and he only lost ONE whisker (!) when the trap snapped ! But now he’s behaving like most Galapagos animals and shows no fear of humans. He just sits at the table and stares at me while I – without turning away my eyes, I reach behind my back to get the machete we used the evening bevore to open coconuts. I lift it above my head – one stoke ! And I put a 1cm deep cut into our saloon table – and Elvis does his last twitch. I throw our former crew member over bord and hear the capitana sigh in her sleep. Next day her stomach ache is gone.

What I find funny about this somehow morbid story: The Galapagos are some of the strictest islands when it comes to quarantine rules. It’s pretty impossible to enter these islands with an animal aboard. Even to bring fruit or vegetables is not always easy. But it is exactly here that we and the SY Mares managed to get a rat on our ships. Hmmm. Maybe we should reverse those quarantine rules to protect the sailors ?

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Gui’s first surf

We spent Gui’s birthday at Puerto Chino, a small isolated beach at the east side of the island. Here in the bay, the waves kept rolling in constantly and with a height of about one to one and a half meters. Should be quite perfect to start surfing or what ? Well, the interval of the waves and the time before the wave breakes was quite short but nonethless Gui tried it. She managed to catch a few waves and *nearly* got up on the board before being crushed by the wave. Unfortunately I wasn’t there with the camera when that happened. But I made a few pics for you anyway.

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Funny anchoring without engine

Our fuel problems are not yet finished. Actually today we should have got Diesel and Gasoline… The Gasoline was dark-grey – looked as if someone used it to clean engine parts. And the Diesel ? Well, I put a few liters in an empty jerrycan and put a little fuel treatment on it. Only two hours later I could see the water, bacteria and dirt seperating from the fuel. So all the Diesel and Gasoline went back – we already got enough problems.

Thanks to the dirty Diesel it is that a few days ago we had to enter the anchorage of San Cristobal without engine. The main sail was just put away and we were about to turn portside into the harbour when the engine died. We quickly got the Genoa out and put up the main sail again, after which we came about and set a course upwind, passing the first reef and closing in on the second shoal. After passing that one, we steered hard on the wind to get to a good position in the anchorage. Passing in between the many charter boats. – Should be ok. But what’s that ? Why is that ship (at anchor !) moving forward ?!? No, now we can’t pass in front, whe have to go behind it. But will we have enough room to get to our anchor position ?

So we pass at the stern. And we hardly have enough room to pass the SY Mares. But it’s ok. We remove the Genoa, continue for a few meters, luff up and throw the anchor. It grabs ! We lower the sail and open a beer. Yay ! We made it to Galapagos – action included !

And tomorrow I’ll again have a look at our fuel filters. Probably they are again cloaked with bacteria-mud.  What can we do ? Maybe a few bottles of Grotamar82 will fall from the sky ? Otherwise, we’ll try to use the engine as little as possible and try not to depend on it. Maybe I can install a little 3-way-valve and put a small 10l tank above the engine. That should be enough for emergencies and is easier to clean – and keep clean. Let’s see, whether I can find the parts for that here on Galapagos.

Thanks, SY Mares for the pictures !

Posted in Learning for life, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing | 1 Comment

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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It’s one year that we left Berlin !

It’s a cliché: Cruisers loose track of time and don’t know what day of the week it is. But that’s not true. It’s WAY worse ! I sometimes have to think a long time to be sure what MONTH we have. This is mostly because we didn’t experience seasons for more than half a year but track rain- and hurricane seasons instead. After a while I figure out the month but definately have no idea what weekday or exact date we have.

So it’s to no one’s surprise that we forget birthdays and not even realize that we’ve been underway for one year and five days already ! And thus it’s time for a little résumé.

But where should I begin ? As always, a few numbers will get me started: Since we left Berlin on the 2nd of June 2011, we’ve been sailing on 137 days and stayed at anchor on 228 days. In that time, we’ve covered 8843 nautical miles – or 16377 km – which is about a quarter of our planned route around the globe.

Many things have changed since we left. In the beginning it was quite hard for us to be comfortable with such little space and limited ressources. But now we’ve got used to this permanent living in camping-style.  We learned to cook with exoctic foods, learned to fish with the line or the harpoon and can fix things with improvised tools. Gui and me reallocated some of our body-fat and transformed some into muscles. So we didn’t really loose weight but feel a lot more fit and healthy. With the kids that’s not an issue but they are very happy and balanced and are never ill anymore. They enjoy being in the nature with the family and friends but they (and we) miss our family a lot and of course also our friends at home.

But the most change we experienced is in our sailing abilities. Gui and me both just have the minimum sailing-license and only had 2500nm (me) and 500nm (Gui) of sailing experience before we left. If it would’ve been 100nm, the difference wouldn’t have mattered because all we think to know about sailing, we learned on this trip ! A voyage of 50 miles was a long one when we left – now when we sail, say, from DomRep to Panama (800 miles) we hardly do any preparations. We leave as we are and don’t give it much thought, as we’ll be there in a week anyway. In the beginning we only felt safe and comfortable when we were in a marina or harbour; now we try to stay at anchor whenever we can. One has more privacy, doesn’t have to pay, the wind always comes from the front and one can jump into the water if it’s too hot.

If you would beam us back to Berlin right now – what would we do differently ? Well, we still would leave with all the chaos and a half-prepared ship as there is plenty of time underway to fix and improve things ! We would probably stay on sea until we reach La Coruña, maybe make a stopover in Morocco but then spend 4-5 months in Senegal, Gambier and Guinea Bissau ! Europe we’d skip entirely. There’s nothing new there – we know the culture, the cities, the people. It only got really interesting once we reached Cabo Verde. And  this archipelago really was one of the highlights of our journey so far.  The trip through the Caribbean was great, but we’d skip Barbados, Antigua and the DomRep and would spend a lot more time in Grenada and the Grenadines, probably go down to Tobago (not Trinidad !), Venezuela and Colombia. Yeyeye. Would, should, had…. Anyway: Afrika rocks !

In the end the route is not too important since most people will discover their real preference while underway and everyone will have different experiences. We had friends that we’ve saild with for quite some time and although we seem to get along very well, they sometimes hated a place that we loved and the other way around. I guess, everyone will discover different things, even in the same countries. Plans increasingly become subject to change, the longer one is underway. I think it’s good to have a general idea when one would like to be where, but don’t get too specific. The longer you’re underway, the more vague the plans get. Right now we’re thinking of spending the taifun season in the Tuamotus and plan for a work-stopover in New Zealand. Although we initially didn’t want to go there at all. What’s really gonna happen, you will probably be able to read here on this blog.

We would definately want to do the trip with the Rancho Relaxo of the Seas again ! The ship is absolutely amazing ! It’s got enough space for us and our things, sails not as slow as one would think and is strong as a tank – in short, we love it !

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Two beach days in Taboga

Before Bas leaves us and we leave Panama, we decided to spend two days at the beach here in this nice little ‘island of flowers’. Taboga was really beutiful and now that we’re back in Panama City, we are all relaxed and got a little sunburn.

I’ll not write much as everybody is quite tired and we’ll have a farewell-dinner with Bas tonight. Tomorrow at this time, he’ll already be in Amsterdam and I guess after one week he’ll start missing the Caribbean. ;-) Too sad the time has passed that rapidly, we would have loved to have him on bord a little longer…

Uuuuh, and I forgot to mention something really important: VIOLA CAN SWIM !!! – She started swimming (dog-style) when we were in the Shelter Bay marina (in the pool). And now that we were in salt water again it of course worked way better. Oh, we are sooooo glad that now both our kids can swim – probably the most important thing for a family that’s living on a sailboat.

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This is the most beautiful town, I’ve ever seen !!

One of the main attractions of Kuna Yala is the snorkeling. And we go every day. Mostly just to watch all the beautiful, colorful creatures and sometimes with the harpoon to catch some fish or lobster for dinner.
Usually Bruno and Viola acompany us in the dinghy and are afraid of the dark things in the water that try to grab their feet from deep down. I remembered from my own childhood, that I loved swimming above sand but was afraid of everything dark, I suggested to come snorkeling with us.
At first both of them were completely against that idea but I told Bruno and Viola that they’ll see the most wonderul place down there, the colorful world of the coral and fish. And all the dark stuff, you see from above is actually shining in all colors and full of life. So we set out with Pinguin (Gui was already there, together with Tim, Claus, Ornella and Gabriel (from SY Amigo)). We put on the diving glasses and snorkel and slowly slided into the water, always with a hand for the kids. The first two minutes they had to get used to the breathing with the snorkel but both immediately lost their fear. We swam over corals in 2-4m of water, went along the slope where it drops down to 20m. Both were pointing with their fingers and when I lifted my head out of the water, I could hear them: ‘Aaaah !’, ‘Ooooh !’, ‘Look this, how cute…’ They both were completely absorbed and we only got out after about one hour when everybody was already a bit cold.
Back on the ship they sat down and began to paint what they’ve seen. And here it was, where Bruno told me that: ‘This was the most beautiful town, I’ve ever seen !!’ – The town of the fish.

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Guillermina can dive !!!

After Bruno learned to swim, Gui couldn’t wait any more and finished her PADI Open Water course. So now she too is an licenced diver ! Yeah !!!

I joined her on her first dive in the ocean and took a few pictures. Unfortunately the site wasn’t that exciting and the visibility was not too good. But we had a lot of fun and there are cannons, anchor and other things from a ship lost in 1752 down there. We saw lion fish and lots of other colorful little creatures.

After four wonderful days in the hotel together with Gui’s parents we’re back in Bayahibe and started to prepare ourselves for the crossing towards Panama. It’s not yet decided but I think we might leave on tuesday after checking out in Casa de Campo. Our friends on the SY Kira are right now underway to Cartagena in Colombia and the timing seems good to meet them in the Islas san Blas in a week or so. And the hopes are high to also meet with the SY Tamora and the SY Thor since both of them are right now in Bonaire and wait for good weather to go to Panama, too. Sounds like there’s gonna be a big party soon !

Posted in Learning for life, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo | 5 Comments

Bruno can swim !!!

Despite MANY good events in the recent days this has to be the headline. For a family living on a sailboat this is by far the most important thing and now it happened: Bruno learned to swim ! It’s difficult to tell who is more happy about that – the parents or the kid himself.

And for me it’s difficult to find a beginning. As always – many things happen at the same time. My family is back. And they brought along the grand parents with whom they spent a week in Miami. Now we’re enjoying a holiday in the midst of our holiday-like journey. Gui’s parents invited us to spend four days together in a wonderful hotel near Bayahibe.

The Rancho Relaxo is alone at anchor in front of the Marina de Guerra who promised to keep an eye on our floating home and our dinghy while we enjoy the all inclusive club and have Campari-Soda and Caipirinhas at the pool.

Today Gui started her PADI diving course and tomorrow we’ll go diving together somewhere out on the sea. I don’t know exactly where, but it’s gonna be fun and I’ll bring along the GoPro to make pics and videos ! That’s all for now. It’s been a long and eventful day and I’m the only one awake right now as all the others fell asleep right after sunset.

Posted in Animals, Kids, Learning for life, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo | 3 Comments

Driving a car with five years

Another child’s dream has come true: Today Bruno with his five years drove his own car ! And this he did on streets with traffic and all that.

Well, we aren’t in the capital but still – Hhe drove very well and quite save. The other cars are cautious because the whole area around the marina is a big holiday-village with lots of golf cars driving around. So we got one of these electro-golfcars for ourselves and Bruno squeezed himself behind the stering wheel, replacing the captain and rode with us through the countryside and on the streets of ‘Casa de Campo’.

In the afternoon, Gui called us on the VHF. She left the marina at 04:30h in the morning to go to Santo Domingo where she received her visa for the U.S. (finally !) Thus Bruno drove us back to the marina, we picked up Gui and went to Alto de Chavón where we had a pizza and a beautiful view of the river. Of course he didn’t go straight but found a few ‘shortcuts’ through the field. Hehehe.

Oh .- and Altos de Chavón is actually not a real medieval village but was built in the 80ies. But still very nice.

Ah – and in the morning, the captain once more put on the diaper-shoes and cleaned the bilge. One of my favourite occupations.

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Board school, a new sailing dinghy and five happy kids !

A lot has been happening during the last two days. Well what could happen ? We’re on ‘holiday’ on an island – a new beach ? No.

Now that we met the SY Express Crusader again and the 5 kids have spent the last 72 hours (!!) contiuously together, we decided to (maybe) skip the BVIs, stay a little longer in St. Maarten and then sail for the Dominican Republic directly. We net stuff for fishing and the ship as well as do a few little repairs.

But first Bruno wanted to do ‘school’ and as he is more and more interested in small type, Gui got out a magic box containing colored, beautiful letters. With a nice set to touch and move around it’s double the fun and fascination as you turn d, p, q and b around. Transforming a i into a j, a d into a c or whatever. Of course Viola was joining in writing and painting. Both had a lot of fun with it and they immediately recognize and remember because they know that only with the small letters they can really read books. And that’s what both want.

We should do a dedicated post about the school on board sometime. It’s the thing I was most afraid about bevore leaving and it turned out to be completely the opposite of what I would have it imagined. Both kids learn on their way and do it every second of the day. They ask a lot of questions, are interested in metals, volcans, poisenous beasts and things that sting. It’s amazing that sometimes the kids know exactly what’s important for them at a moment. But as I said, that’s something for another post…

Afterwards we gave a name to Bruno’s ‘first command’: PINGUIN. So this is our new crew member. Very handy and fast to row and a funny and thrilling thing to sail. I think I can say that we’ll have a LOT of fun with Pinguin !

The first night, the kids spent on the Express Crusader, the next on the Rancho Relaxo. And as our friends are both switching their work/family role tomorrow, we’ll be seven for one more night. But the kids are a delight ! All are adorable, intelligent and calm and together the five are so in harmony that it’s a real treat. After the breakfast they started paperwork involving drawing, painting, writing and making books and booklets. I had to leave for errands but it continued with yoga, dancing and culiminated, throwing sand at each other on the beach. In the evening the five got a shower aboard, had dinner and went to bed after a movie (with a book and a flashlamp) each. What more could you want as a kid or for a kid ?

Of course Gui also went to bed immediately after the kids. Spending your time watching over five little ones between 3 and 7 years while on a boat or at the beach is something that uses all your senses and a lot of energy. Speaking of – my battery level is also critical. I’ll shut down now for 8 hours to reload.

Have fun everybody !

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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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