three hulls, two people, one trip around the world…

Vacamonte – on the dry

Hey, yippie! We have moved, we have moved, we have moooooved !!!!!!!!!

Finally a different surrounding. Even though the trip had hardly anything to do with sailing. Anyway, now we were land-sick on the boat and couldn’t fall asleep because there was no rocking and no gurgling of the waves!

We still have a Genua 🙂

But one thing at a time:

We had managed to get the dinghy engine into the workshop. Once there it ran without problems. One doesn’t have to understand it. Maybe the engine had not been happy. Anyway, since it was in the workshop, we ordered a complete maintenance with oil change etc. That took some time. When the engine should be returned, the mechanic who was to deliver it became ill. Not good, but can happen, hopefully it was not Corona. Only the following day could another employee bring the engine. So we both went to the marina, you need a few men to lift the heavy engine. The employee turned out to be a young female, and judging by the length of her fingernails, she was not used to helping carry engines. But as luck would have it, there were 4 workers sitting around in the marina and they helped us to lift the engine into our dinghy. They did not even want to accept a tip for it. Back at the boat we took the electric motor off and put the petrol engine on. We lifted the heavy engine with the help of the topping lift, which we can also use to lift the dinghy itself. (The topping lift is pulled out further and lifted again electrically). The freshly serviced engine started immediately and purred like never before. We noticed this when we took it on a test drive to the ice cream parlour.

Before we started our trip, we anchored further out. That way, we were able to practice manoeuvring with the dinghy as our engine and we didn’t have the excursion steamers in our way anymore when we wanted to sail off. The new view from the anchorage already gave us a good mood boost.

On a Saturday the time was ripe: Little wind and therefore little waves. This is important when you sit between the hulls in the dinghy and push the SAN. Unfortunately there was so little wind (5 knots) that we hardly made any progress under sail. So except for two small breaks I had to stay in the dinghy and operate the engine. First we weighed anchor, the diesel engine was running and I could see the cooling water flowing. That gave me the idea to look for the jet of cooling water for my engine as well “Hm, where is that supposed to come out, can’t see anything.” Better turn the engine off again. Mathias handed me a wire and said: “See if you have to clean the opening.” What opening? Where is it? Well, I searched the engine and found suitable candidates for a cooling water drain opening. The first poking brought a small jet, further courageous poking freed the opening and the cooling water could flow. I watched the jet from time to time for the rest of the day.

As I was sitting there in the dinghy pushing the SAN, I noticed that I could hit my head hard if the tow line broke. So I preferred to squat in the dinghy, that way I would be able to drive between the hulls before I had to react. That made the ride more uncomfortable and with higher waves also quite wet. Around late afternoon I was cold despite the temperatures here.

6 h long

The first task was to cross the shipping route of the Panama Canal. Mathias asked for permission by radio, but he should always wait for a ship. So we drifted along the edge until we reached the outermost buoys, when Mathias simply drove across without waiting for permission. After that we went north-west close to the coast to the fishing and shipyard harbour of Vacamonte. As I said, I spent most of the time in the dinghy, getting stiff and cold. When I didn’t want to go on, but Mathias wanted to drive a little further, the engine ran out of gas. So the decision was made and the anchor was dropped. We had already arrived near the harbour. On Tuesday the boat should be taken out of the water, so we still had the Monday to report to the harbour master and ask for towing help.

On Monday we made fenders and fender boards into lateral push points for the auxiliary boats. On Tuesday morning we drove with proven dinghy thrust until shortly before the harbour, anchored there and waited for the auxiliary boats. Nobody showed up, so I was sent to fetch boats. I managed despite the poor Spanish. In the end we had three auxiliary boats and I had hardly anything left to do. Pulling the SAN with the dinghy didn’t work at all, the dinghy is too light and I’m not skilled enough. This role was taken over by a stable auxiliary boat.

The trip through the harbour was not so exciting for me, because as a “machinist” jammed between the hulls I could hardly see anything. Mathias, on the other hand, was a bit uneasy. He “steered” an unmanoeuvrable boat into the farthest corner of the harbour. We passed several wrecks lying in the harbour and at the entrance a man waved and indicated that we should turn back. The harbour master? But we had informed him the day before. It was no use, once we had left we had to trust the auxiliary boats to manoeuvre us well.

We safely reached the platform of the shiplift, where we were pulled in by lines.

The Shiplift works like this: In a small harbour basin there is a scaffolding that can run on rails and is assembled individually for each boat. This scaffolding is on a platform under water. After the boat has entered the harbour basin, support wedges are attached to the sides and from below and supports are created on which the boat should stand when it is on land. The supports are installed by a diver. Then the platform is raised and with it the boat. After that the scaffolding is pulled ashore on the rails and moved to the parking position.

With our boat it is important to hit the places where a stiffener runs along, otherwise the relatively thin outer skin will simply be dented. Normally Neel trimarans are lifted by means of a Travellift crane. But the local Travellift was not wide enough for us. The people at the shiplift worked quite conscientiously. Once we had to get out again because the diver was not yet satisfied with the arrangement of the supports under water. There we hung on two lines and blew to the side. We protected all hulls with extra fenders at the bow. When it was time to go back over the platform, we had to lower the dinghy back into the water and give the SAN a few strong nudges from the side, otherwise we would not have made it around the corner.

This time it went up and out of the water, then the SAN became a train.

Now we are on the site and the work can begin. The outermost layer of shells was scraped off relatively quickly, but the remains are still there. We have two workers to help us. That is a good thing, because the cleaning is very exhausting and there is simply a lot of area that has to be worked on. We want to renew the primer and antifouling paint and for this we first have to scrape off the old one / sand it.

As Mathias scratched and cleaned under the boat, he noticed something on the front support: The corner of the support mat had drilled into the hull and now we have a hole in the boat.

The operator of the shiplift took the news relatively relaxed. “Fiberglas boat? I’ll send my expert right away and then we’ll patch it up.” But it’s not trivial. After all, the SAN has to be supported in another place so that the support can be removed and the hole is accessible. It took a whole day to create the new supports in the front. We now have two supports at the front under the boom connection. This is where the trimarans are supported when they are under construction. Additionally the bow was supported from the front. Now somebody is working on chiseling out the wooden block which is the old support.

The propeller or what is left of it.

So there is still a lot to be done.

What else happened:

We like to watch German crime series in the evenings, which are set in Northern Germany. There you can see people in autumn and winter clothes and also look at familiar places. We had series where they ate Fischbrötchen all the time (I had reported), then there was a series where they ate Mettbrötchen all the time and now there was one with Franzbrötchen. Mett rolls are not so easy to make without ground pork, but you can give Franzbrötchen a try. I didn’t have any butter on board, but I had croissant dough. This was converted and filled with a Philadelphia cinnamon-sugar filling. The result tasted remarkably similar to Franzbrötchen. 🙂

Because of my finger I had made another doctor’s appointment. This always requires at least a week’s notice. But because we stayed on site for so long because of all our delaying problems, I could go to the hospital on that date. Everything went well, but I was simply not called. When I asked, the male nurse claimed to have called me several times, but I wasn’t there. That was not true at all. I always saw him when he came to call, but it never sounded like my name. Now Birte is a difficult name for Spanish speakers, but Wagner or something like that is fine. Until then it had worked out fine. This nurse just didn’t make any effort. That had never happened to me before in Panama. When I’m back in Germany, I’ll always try to help foreigners to communicate. It’s really not nice when something like that happens. I was then again advised by the assistant doctor at the door. I wanted to know whether it was normal that I couldn’t move my finger properly. The assistant doctor asked if I had already been to physiotherapy. I hadn’t, because nobody had sent me there. At the last check-up the doctor had made himself particularly rare. Now the assistant doctor wrote me a note with which I could go to the other side of the waiting area, where it took ages to get an appointment for another week. As luck would have it, we were still in the area, so I was now at physiotherapy. There the therapist is very nice again and the communication in mini Spanish works well. But the exercises are more aimed at gripping and turning the finger, so I still don’t have any information about the chances of getting the finger straight again at some point. Which would be nice, as one crooked finger is enough*. By the way, physiotherapy is much more “expensive” than going to the doctor. Instead of $1, you have to pay $5 per visit.

*At the age of thirteen I had broken the little finger of my left hand. It’s been crooked ever since. It happened at a swimming training camp when I was playing ball. Why one had to play ball in a swimming training camp as a fun event remains unexplained. On the same day another girl broke her fingers, also while playing ball. Because she made so much fuss about it, I thought mine couldn’t be that bad and only found out months later that the finger was broken. Then it turned out that a piece of bone or cartilage was stuck in the joint capsule and it was no longer possible to straighten it.

Taking a Taxi:

There are many small yellow taxis in Panamacity. They honk at you to show that they are free. The taxi rides are not expensive. In the meantime, I have also taken a taxi several times, but it is always a little adventure. Seatbelts are hanging in the back, but the counterparts where you would have to buckle up are not accessible or don’t exist. The taxi drivers all drive much too fast and change lanes frequently, of course without looking into the blind spot. The traffic here just works like this. When crossing the road, you must always keep eye contact with the drivers, otherwise they will continue to drive, even at red lights. Conversely, it also works to cross a busy road, if you are seen by the cars.

After a mini accident, the participants exchange “arguments” with fists.

Mathias and Lukas (our son in Aachen) birthday on 25 November

And at home our daughter sold our old car. We have been driving it for almost 20 years. We made various removals with it, slept in it, used it as a camping bus and as a changing room for years while we sailed on the Baltic Sea with our beach catamarans. It has served us well, even took us to La Rochelle to the SAN. Another chapter closed.

I wonder which is worse for the mood: a sailboat on dry land or a sailboat lying at anchor and unable to move. For us the latter has been worse. Now at least we have the feeling that we can and will start moving again soon.

For the time after our stay in the shipyard we plan to slowly move north along the coast. With the destination USA and maybe also Canada, if it can work out visa-wise. We only want to start the big crossing when the seaworthiness of the SAN has been proven again after the long period of lay-up and when the situation in French Polynesia has calmed down and it will be possible again to call at New Zealand.

Sunset in Vacamonte

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