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San Blas Adventures: Lisa’s famous jungle waterfall hike

Most San Blas Adventures take place on picture perfect deserted palm tree islands or in crystal clear water around pristine coral reefs. Not this one. The famous “Lisa tour” is actually one of the few main land based activities in Guna Yala (San Blas in the Guna’s language). It’s a lot of fun combined with a great insight to the culture of the Guna people. Lisa, your tour guide, will show you the beauty of the jungle that surrounds the river that runs by the same name as the village she is from: Rio Sidra.

Let the San Blas adventures begin

San Blas Adventures in Lisa's Lancha

Around eight o’clock in the morning, Lisa comes by the boat with her lancha (a little dug out canoe with an out board engine) to pick us up. Us, that’s Maria (captain of SV Joana), our charter guests Kerry and Scott with their daughters Lyla and Carly and me, Nike (crew on SV Joana at that time). We were anchored off the island Salardup with SV Joana, but I think there is an anchorage just off Rio Sidra as well where you could be picked up.

In our case, the boat ride was some 15-20 minutes cruising towards the beautiful green hills of the mainland. I just love it, when the trade winds have blown most of the thick rain clouds away and you can see the soft green curves of the mountains that look like comfy pillows.

San Blas Adventures: crusing towards mainland

Even though I spent a good four to five month in total in the area of San Blas with my boat Karl during the last three years, I never got to do the Lisa hike. I once tried, but there were some boat issues on the way there, so I had to turn around. Now that I finally get to do it, it’s during my first charter trip that I am working for Sail Joana. This is the second day of our guests being on board and we are off to the jungle. Fortunately, our guests are ok with me filming the adventure, so you will be able to see the trek in one of the upcoming episodes of Untie The Lines Season 3 sometime in the future.

The funeral of a saila

When we arrive, Lisa is discussing some issues with our lancha driver in Guna language. I only know about five words in Guna and have no idea what they are talking about. Our guests are looking at me with big question marks in their eyes and I feel thrown back into the times when I worked as a tour leader in Peru in my early twenties. After some investigation I find out, that there is a funeral today in the graveyard that we have to pass on the way to the river. And it is not just any funeral, but they are burying one of their sailas, which are political and spiritual leaders in the Guna culture. Understandably, they do not want to be disturbed by tourists marching through their ceremony.

Graveyard in Guna Yala

Silently we walk for some twenty minutes, keeping together and trying to find a path that will cause the least disturbance possible. It seems that the ceremony has not started, yet, and Lisa shows us the cemetery where her family is buried. She tells us that she cannot go any closer because she is feeling a bit unwell. When the Guna are ill, their spirit becomes weak and if Lisa would pass too close to her family’s graves, their spirits would try to catch her and drag her with them. Who could blame them…

When we come by some Guna women along the river, they ask us for some matches to light their incents but unfortunately we did not bring any. But we did bring Joana’s boat dog Niko. The Guna always giggle when they ask for the dog’s name, because “nika” means “I have” in Guna language. The Guna ladies have a dog with them at the river as well, and we have to make sure Niko passes quickly and smoothly. I call out “achu nika” to them, which means “I have a dog”, and they giggle again. Those moments always leave me wondering if they are laughing about me or if they are just a very jolly bunch of people.

San Blas Adventures: jungle hike

Walking uphill through the jungle

We continue hiking and the path winds slowly uphill through lush green vegetation. Lisa is pointing out some medicinal plants along the way and sharing more stories about the Guna and their beliefs. A highlight are some little red flowers along the way that she calls “the lips of Marilyn Monroe”. I will let the pictures speak for themselves…

San Blas Adventures: Marilyin Monroe lips

It’s hot and humid, but the walk is very pretty and we know that a refreshing waterfall will be waiting for us at the end of this trail. Niko is romping through the bushes somewhere and Lyla, the older one of our charter guest’s daughters, asks if there are any tapir around. “They will come out once the mangoes and avocados are ripe, still a month from now”, Lisa replies.

Our visitors are in good shape and after an hour and a half we reach our lunch spot. Just before that we enjoy a beautiful view of Salardup on the one side and the highest hill of San Blas on the other. The sacred mountain that stretches in front of us is also the border of the comarca Guna Yala, the San Blas territory.

San Blas Adventure: sea view to Salardup

A refreshing waterfall lunch break

We have just reached the Rio Sidra and the two adventurous girls, Lyla and Carly, are already splashing around in the delishous cold water. They did not hesitate for a second before they jumped off the rock, some three meters above the deep cristal clear pool. Lisa does this tour all the times, so she knows where it’s safe to jump and where not. She has been guiding this jungle hike for thirty years now and she tells me she still loves it each time she gets to do it. You can tell by the enthusiasm in her voice when she tells her stories.

Ok, but now it’s lunch time. Where are the cups, the cold water, here’s the pasta salad, the forks…”did you pack the pineapple, Nike?”. Ups, no, I did not…we had talked about it in the morning but then nor Maria nor me had actually put it into one of the backpacks. Well, “how about some Trail Mix, anyone?”. I am taking mental notes for the next run: remember to bring some fruit, Lisa and the second guide have asked for soda…Mosiquito repellent for the guests would be good, too.

San Blas Adventures: refreshing bath under the waterfall

Sliding, jumping and wading down the river

After lunch, the best part of the trip begins: from now on, we walk down the river, through the river. We are gliding down natural water slides, jump off the rocks into sparkling pools and there is even a liana to play Tarzan on. Well, in our case it’s actually mainly Janes that get to use the natural swing. The kids seem to love it.

San Blas adventures: kids having fun in the water

The only tricky part is to keep my phone reasonably dry because I don’t trust any of these waterproof phone cases…The two video cameras I took along are waterproof, but I don’t want to bugger up my new to me phone. Maybe because I did not have one for more than three years, I still guard this one like a precious treasure. But the temptation to use it for snapshots along the way is bigger than the fear of loss.

Two further attractions along the way back are the spotting of a white hawk (that of course I did not catch on camera) and a wooden “ulu” that is ready to be sent down the river for the final wood carving. “Ulus” or “kayucos” are the kayaks that the Guna use to get around the islands. They are carved in one piece from a massive tree trunk. Some of them even have a mast and sails, the others are moved purely by muscle power.

San Blas Adventures: ulu in process, made from a tree trunk

A fun day trip comes to an end

When we come back to our lancha, we are still counting four charter guests and a dog. That’s a success, I’d say, right? It’s been an exciting day and I have to say, if this is what working in charter business is like, then hey, I’m up for more! But I have to keep in mind that this is not the usual daily charter routine. It’s an additional tour with Lisa as a guide that can be booked for an extra 25$US. This fact makes it easier on our end because we only have to provide food, translation and entertainment. Wait a sec, isn’t that, what we usually do as well? Never mind…it felt good and our guests seem very happy, not only the kids…And if the guests are happy, we are happy!

San Blas adventures: happy charter guests

Cheeky Scott enjoyed the day that much, that he actually wants to try and keep this place a secret from all of you:

In case you would like to explore the beauty of this part of the world and join us for some San Blas adventures, we still have room on our two special Untie The Lines charters in June 2017 on Sail Joana. You can check out rates & dates here. Maria and I would love to welcome you on board!

San Blas Adventures: Captain Maria

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Of New Engines, Charters and Further Plans

Since the beginning of March 2017 I am back in Panama, after a four month break in Europe to see my family and friends but mostly to earn some money for a brand new engine for Karl. For those of you who do not know yet: YES, Karl is getting a BRAND NEW engine.

sailing vessel karl in Panama

The decision of buying a new engine

There are a couple of reasons why I decided to “go new”:

After some chats with different mechanics, I found out that the cost of repairing my old Ford XLD 418 would be somewhere close to half of the cost of a new engine. The timing belt had slipped, the pistons had smashed into the valves and cracked the cylinder had in various places. Who knows how it looks like further inside.

Buying a used engine often means buying someone else’s problems, which I already had a few of in the past.

But mostly I decided for a shiny new motor for Karl because

  1. Karl and I are going to head into the Pacific and are going to be far away from spare parts
  2. I have had so many engine issues in the past that I think I did tackle with a lot of patience. Don’t get me wrong, I am actually grateful for them in a way, because they taught me a lot. This is a very self-centered reason, but I think that due to the past troubles, I deserve a new engine that will give me some peace of mind for some time. I do promise to maintain it thoroughly and to avoid the mistakes from the past!

What kind of new engine is Karl getting?

Now I know you all want to know what I decided to put into Karl’s belly. It’s going to be a (massive fanfare tatatataaaaaaaaaaa):
Beta 43.

Beta Marine 43 new engine

I know, exciting, right?

It’s in production right now and will be ready on the 5th of April. I asked Beta for some pictures during the production and I hope I will get some to share them with you. I so cannot wait to open up that big box and take a look at that sexy red beast that will be part of this journey soon.

In the meantime…

Right now, I am spending some time in one of my favorite destinations ever: The San Blas Islands. No, not on Karl, since he is in the Pacific, remember? Instead, I am on my friends’ (Maria and Cathy) boat Joana that you already know from various episodes including the most recent ones.

sailing paradise san blas

Back in Germany, I have been working two jobs plus trying to fit family and friends in as best as I could. When I flew back to Central America, I just really felt like taking two or three weeks off and just enjoy nature, try out my new spear gun that I had bought for the Pacific but never got to try much yet, read a book and just enjoy cruising without the usual boat problems of my own.

Untie The Lines goes Charter

But it is not only pure vacation. I am actually helping the girls with some of their charters this season, because I am planning to kidnap Maria for the second attempt of the Pacific crossing with Karl this year. Two of the Sail Joana charters are in April and were already previously booked. But there are two charters coming up in June that will be special “Untie The Lines” charters.

sail joana charter san blas

Many people have asked me throughout the past years if I would ever take charter guests on board. Unfortunately I never had the time or facilities to do so on Karl. Joana is a boat that has anchored next to Karl for many days and has plenty of stories about him to tell (Karl loves her old French butt, but she always showed him the cold shoulder). But not only that, she is a truly amazing 70 foot steel boat with tons of comfy lounging areas on deck and a really cozy interior.

But what makes her even more special are her owners Cathy and Maria. Unfortunately, Cathy won’t be there this time, but Maria can talk for two, no worries. She is an incredible sailor, has spent more time of her life at sea than on land, has sailed around the world twice and fixes anything that comes up on her Joana.

sail joana fishing

Come Sail With Us in Paradise

There will be two five night charters in June 2017 from the 1st to the 6th and from the 11th to the 16th. You can find some more information about the San Blas Islands and sailing vessel Joana here. Joana can also be looked at in UTL III #01 and #02 and there will be some more detail about her history coming up in the next episode this Friday.

sail joana san blas

It would be really great to meet some of you in person and I know this is not Karl, but I think you are actually getting a way better (more comfortable and entertaining) deal this way!

So are Karl and I going anywhere this year?

The plan is to finally finish what was planned for last year: to cross the Pacific to the Marquesas, possibly stopping in the Galapagos. Right now the time frame for that will be something around July. But you know how it goes with boating. Well, or should I rather say you know how it goes with boating and Karl and me…

Last but not least for the ones that are still confused

This whole thing surely might sound confusing for some of you. I thought she is back on the boat, I thought she is in the Pacific, why is she all of a sudden in the Caribbean again and why is there a running engine in the new videos etc. Well, I guess, that’s life :)!

Here are some fast facts to make it a little easier to follow:

I am back in Panama, saw Karl shortly, but now I am on my friend’s boat Joana in the San Blas islands waiting for my new Beta 43.

relaxing in san blas on Joana

The new engine (Beta 43) is in production, but not here yet. Most likely it will arrive end of May and then I will try to get it in.

There will be two charters that I am doing on my friend’s boat Joana in June before trying to cross the Pacific with Karl.

The recently released videos of Untie The Lines Season III are made from material that was filmed in June 2016. We have put that info plus the location at the beginning of each new video in the hope to avoid confusion.

youtube info on time and destination

Season II finished with Karl and me arriving in Panama. Season III is starting where we left it: on the Caribbean side of Panama. There will be some episodes of prepping the boat, the crossing of the Panama Canal, some cruising in the Las Perlas archipelago and the engine failure.

Just always keep in mind please: the videos on my YouTube channel are not real time, unless stated differently! What I post on my Facebook Page is what is going on right now (possibly a delay of a day or three due to internet access) unless stated differently.

Thanks to all the great supporters of Untie The Lines

white spot pirates events

 

And to finish this post off, I would like to send out a very very big thank you: To everyone that has been and / or is still supporting the creation of Untie The Lines, to those who supported our work by coming to my presentations in Germany, Austria or the States, to the people who made those events possible, and to all of those who keep on watching Untie The Lines, give it a like, a comment or a share. And of course to Patrice, Daniel and Timo, without whose awesome work there would not be any Untie The Lines at all.

A Thanks goes out to all of you! Karl and I will be thinking of you whilst repowering and whilst hopefully peacefully crossing that big ocean this year.

panama city lights

Ahoy, Karl & Nike

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How To Cross The Panama Canal Without An Agent

Panama Canal Transit: done!

This year in August, I did the Panama Canal Transit. I crossed the Panama Canal with my sailboat Karl from the Atlantic into the Pacific. What an epic moment! I had tears popping out of my eyes. Seriously, it was quite an emotional moment when those massive gates opened in front of me. Unfortunately you will never see any of those feelings, because my GoPro decided to take a dive exactly at that minute. Crazy coincidence, yes. A friend of mine said it was

“…the cost of passing from one reality to another. Either give it up or it gets taken from you.”

Anyways, you are here because you want to read about how to cross the Panama Canal without an agent, so I will make sure I deliver!

Locks of Panama Canal opening during Panama Canal Transit with sailboat

Every great project starts with a to do list

Right? At least with me that is the case. Nothing more faszinating than ticking stuff off, I just love it!

First, I am going to give you a really short overview of the steps you need to go through for a successfull Panama Canal Transit. For those that want to know some more details, you can keep on reading below. And for those of you, that don’t like reading so much, I have added a video explaining the whole procedure at the end of this blog entry.

Checklist for Panama Canal Transit


pirate pin white spot pirates THE ULTIMATE PANAMA CANAL TRANSIT CHECKLIST

Fill out the form 4405-i and send it to optc-ara@pancanal.com (Atlantic side) or optc-arp@pancanal.com (Pacific side)

Call the Admeasurer’s Office to get a date for your boat measurment at +507-443-2298 (Atlantic) or +507-272-4571 (fairy soon after you sent your e-mail, as in one or two hours later)

Reserve a slip at Shelter Bay Marina for your measurement (this is optional, you can also stay at anchor at “the flats” instead -green pin on the picture)

Get measured and fill out tons of forms and answer millions of questions

Deposit the money at Citibank (I read some places you can wire the money, too, but I was told no…)

Call the Scheduler’s office at +507-272-4202 to get your date of transit (anything after 6pm the day you deposited the money)

Organize your four 125 feet long lines and sufficient car tires (if you have sufficient on board, no need to hire them, if you don’t call Roger +507- 6717-6745 on the Pacific or Tito +507-6463-5009 on the Atlantic side). It’s 100$ for drop off and pick up.

Make sure you have four line handlers for the Panama Canal Transit (ask friends or hire professionals fro 100$ each)

One day before your scheduled date for the Panama Canal Transit, call the Scheduler’s office again +507-272-4202, just to reconfirm you date and to aks at what time you should be at “the flats” (green pin on the picture)

Make sure your engine is purring like a kitten and everything is ship shape!

Plan enough food and drinks for all the peeps coming for the trip

Get a Zarpe from the Port Captain in Shelter Bay (with all the info about your line handlers)

Day of transit: leave a good hour before your set date to head over to the flats. Communicate with the Panama Canal Authorities (Cristobal Signal Station) on Channel 12. You will meet your advisor here and from there on, he will tell you what to do

Transit the Panama Canal, go crazy when you get to the other side (optional: or when you spend the night on lake Gatun – not advised, though)

Make sure you get your deposit back. Call the Accounting Department at +507-272-7857 in case you don’t and tell them your Panama Canal Transit ID-Nr to get information about your status


The Costs of a Panama Canal Transit

Now you know what you have to do, to cross the Panama Canal…Usually, the fact that people are interested in most is: cuanto cuesta (how much does it cost)?

Chart with Costs for a Panama Canal Transit

If you are a hand line vessel below 50 feet, you pay 800$ for the Panama Canal Transit. In addition you pay a 54$ TVI Inspection Charge and 130$ Security Charge. If you do not have an agent, you need to pay a buffer of 891$ that you will get back after your transit. Well, if you do not damage anything, that is.

Those costs add up to 1.875$ plus 100$ for the drop off and pick up of lines and fenders. If you cannot find line handlers for free, they usually charge 100$ per person. And of course you will have costs for food, drinks, diesel etc. which I will leave out of this calculation.

An agent will cost you between 400 and 500$ and usually includes the lines and tires as a service. So those costs plus the line handlers are optional, the 984$ for the Panamal Canal Transit are inevitable for each vessel below 50 feet.

two grils ready for panama canal transit

The day of getting measured

The most work during the preparation to cross the Panama Canal (apart from getting your boat shipshape) happens at the day of measurment. An official will come to your boat (make sure you tell him your dock number and boat name) and bring tons of forms that you need to fill out.

He will ask you questions like:

Does your head work? Yes, of course (he will let you prove that to him)!

Do you have a holding tank? Of course…(luckily he does not check on that one…)

What’s your average speed under engine? Six knots (it used to be five, the guy that came to my boat wanted six…but for the transit itself it’s fine if you do five)

Panama Canal Transit preparation on sailboat Karl with Canal authority and Nike

Do you have sun shade, enough food and drinks for the advisor? Sure.

Do you have your lines and fenders? Yup.

Do you have a horn that works independently? Yesssss (an electrical one that is run off your boat batteries does not count!)

I think that’s about it. At least those are the more tricky ones where you just have to say the right stuff.

Big container ship in the panama canal

For the measurment itself…As you can see, the costs go up quite a bit if you are above 50 feet. You might want to consider dismounting your bathing platform or anything that would possibly get you below 50. It’s worth the effort!

Your measurment will be valid for 60 days. Therefore, you will have to find a date within the next two months. Be aware that there are times that are way more busy than others. Usually, November to March will be busier than other times because many people will try to cross in those months. Its therefore recommended, to get measured with a bit of a buffer, get a date and then you could spend your waiting time in the San Blas islands.

I crossed in August and only got measured two days before my desired transit day. I did not get my dream date but I was able to cross one day later. But don’t expect for things to run that smoothly in high season.

sailboat on dock with tire fenders for Panama Canal transit

Depositing the money

Now, I have read many things about Colon and how dangerous it is. Yes, it’s not a stroll through a beautiful park…but in my opinion, it is not that bad that you need to invest 500$ into an agent to do all the money busienss for you. Here’s a litte video to get an impression of the town (starting at 0.45 min).

There is no ATM at the Citibank (I know, sounds weird, but that’s how it is). You will most likely have to go to a couple of different banks to get all your cash together. The ATMs usually have a 500$ maximum you can take out.

streatszene with kuna family and streatvendors in Colon in Panama

You can get your money in a place where it’s a little nicer to take out cash, e.g. at Millenium Plaza or Quatro Alto. Bring two or three people with you, just for the sake of not being by yourself. Of course you don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself when you go to Colon with tons of cash in your pocket. So leave all your expensive stuff at home.

If you don’t want to grab a cab on the street, just call a cab driver that you know and go with him. He will drop you off in front of Citibank and there is not really much of a big possibility of you to get robbed.

Everyone is different, of course. And if you have the feeling you won’t feel comfortable with it, then do get an agent. I for myself did not feel the need for it. But then I had been in Colon many times before to get tools and parts and I knew it would be ok for me.

Screenshot of navigation chart panama canal the flats

The Panama Canal Transit – Day 1

Usually, you will leave around 1pm or 2pm on the day of your transit. But the officials will tell you at what time you will have to pick up your advisor at the flats anyways. Make your way over to the flats and try to cross the canal entrance lane on the shortes way possible (not like the track I did on that picture). Drop your anchor between the yellow buoys and tell the Cristobal Signal station on channel 12 that you have arrived at the flats. Wait for your advisor standing by on Channel 12.

Once your advisor is on board, he will be the one in charge telling you exactly what to do. You will go through the first set of locks up to the Gatun lake on the first day. You will either hook up to one of the red buoys there or you will have to anchor. The advisor will leave your boat here. It is preferrable to go to the buoy. Many boats have had problems with their anchors getting stuck on some garbage on the bootom of the lake.

two hands nearly reaching

Since they are operating the new set of locks, though, it seems they don’t want you to cross the new lock entrance area. That is why they make you anchor instead. Try to find a way to convince your advisor to let you go to the red buoy. It will save you a lot of potential trouble. And remember: each extra night you will have to spend in the Panama Canal – for whatever reason – will cost you around 500$ extra.

The Panama Canal Transit – Day 2

On the second day, a new advisor will come on board between 6pm and 8pm. You will then motor along the Canal until you reach the three locks going down before entering the Pacific. The only issue we have had was in the first lock going down when a big ship came in behind us. The container ship pushed so much water into the tight locks that my boat Karl and the Catamaran we were rafted up to, were pushed dagerously to the side. Make sure your outer line handlers are on their toes and have a fast reaction. Some people have seriously damaged their boat in this moment.

two big container ships at the entrance of the panama canal

It helps to do one or two previous Panama Canal transits as a line handler before you go with your own boat. I went with two other boats to get an idea what the transit is like. Also, it is nice to help others to cross and if you are lucky, they will handle your lines in return.

Arriving in a new Ocean

After the third lock, you enter the Pacific. You will have to drop off the advisor at Balboa Yacht club. Usually they will come with a boat to pick him up. Sometimes, your tires and lines will be picked up here, too. You will have to discuss that with whoever provided them for you.

You have different options where you want to stay for the night. There are moorings at Balboa Yachtclub, slips at Flamenco or La Playita. And there are two anchorages, one in front of La Playita Marina and one on the other side called Las Brisas.

Scyline of Panama City from the water

That’s it – you did it!

It’s over so fast. For me, the sensation of having crossed through a country to go from one ocean to the other in about 48 hours was quite impressive. I had planned to enter the Pacific long time ago…In the end it took more than two years longer than I had thought it would. But I don’t regret the extra time I got to spend in the Caribbean. I could have easily spent another year or two…but new adventures in the Pacific are calling.

Getting your deposit back

Some people have stated, that they did not get their deposit back. When you do hire an agent, you don’t have to pay a deposit. For me, this has been the only reason to actually consider an agent at all. In the end I decided to risk losing my money. I just cannot imagine that the chances are very high you lose your deposit without there being any reason for it.

In my case, I had waited for a month for them to wire the money back. Then I called the Accounting Department at +507-272-7857 and a very friendly and helpful lady asked me for my Panama Canal Transit ID. Once she had the number and typed it into the system, it took her a minute to find the information. She told me the money had been sent that day and should be there the following.

cranes and containers in front of the Panama Canal entrance

The money did arrive the next day. Now you could say maybe she had not transferred it yet and just did it because I called. Fair enough…Still, this would involve one more call from you to get your money back. Still not worth 400 -500$ (for me, that is).

Good luck for your transit!

All there is left for me to say is that I wish you good luck for your own Panama Canal Transit! In case you found this Blog post helpful for your preparation, please share it with your friends. And please leave a comment if you have any suggestions, questions or aditional info that you think I should add.

Oh, and of course, the video…I split it in two parts. Part I deals with the preparation of the Panama Canal Transit. Part II (will be released soon) is about the Crossing itself and how to get your deposit back.

Last but not least, a massive thank you to Maria, Jeff, Mark and Cid. They handled the lines on Karl during the transit and we had a fabulous time together! Thank you!

Safe transit,

Nike & Karl

Container boat getting ready with tug boat for Panama Canal Transit

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Check out my new blog

I’ve changed  (life) and blogs a few times since I last wrote in this blog. Make sure to add this new one to your RSS feed http://tarutuomi.com/blog/

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UNTIE THE LINES II #56 – Ciao Cayman

The penultimate episode of UNTIE THE LINES season II is one more Cayman Video. I had spent three weeks on the island and I made some great new friends. It was a real treat to visit Cayman. Two people, Davide and Jeff, had offered me to stay in their homes. And I gladly accepted.

three people and sailboat karl on a dock in cayman island

It is actually quite the funny story how I met Davide. He is from Italy and works in Cayman as a dive instructor. When he first wrote me, he called himself a “sailing maniac”. Because he had watched my sailing videos and had followed me on Facebook, he had seen a picture I posted stating that I was visiting Cayman. He sent me a message, asking where I was at. And when I told him the name of some bar I was at, he replied “don’t move, I will be there in ten minutes”.

Five minutes later we had our first beer together and started chatting about his crazy plans of building some community in Italy. I am really greatful that I meet so many awesome people through my sailing documentary and my journey in general.

Davide offerd to take Jeff and me on a dive at Eden Rock. As I said, he works a diving instructor, so we only had to pay for the bottles, which was great. The coral formations were outstanding with beautiful colors and crazy shapes. My wish was to see some christmas tree worms and Davide did find us some.

screenshot of christmas tree worms from a cayman video diving eden rockOf course, we also had to go and eat some wicked tasty gelato and have some italian food. Davide let me use his flat as my temporary office to do some computer work, which is always a great treat. And one night we went to some crazy night club where I nearly got a heart attach when I heard what they charge for a beer. As you can tell from the picutre, it’s good that non of that is part of this last Cayman video…

man and woman making funny faces

Well, and Karl needed some little last minute repairs before I could leave, too. In Cienfuegos, Cuba, some Swedish drunk had dragged on top of Karl in a storm and had damaged my roller furler. I had managed to use it on my sail to Cayman. But it had gotten stuck every once in a while. Since I had not trusted the damaged furlex, I had ordered a replacement and had it shipped to Cayman. Quite straight forward, worked out really neat.

Jeff was so kind to lend me a hand when I changed out the roller furlex. It is a bit tricky, especially if you don’t want to lose any of the tiny bearing balls.

sailboat karl at a dock of a house with a pool in cayman island

Oh, and for those of you that remember that I said my engine did not fire up when I arrived in Cayman…It was one of those stupid things. The cable lug of my electrical fuel shut off had wiggled itself loose, which is why no fuel had gotten to the injectors.

I had checked my tank just in case, to make sure it was no algae. And whilst I had those annoying 50 diesel tank bolts off, I decided to clean the tank. In that process, I also took off the pick up pipe, to clean it and to clean the fitting. Too bad it was still lying around once I had the 50 bolts all back in and nicely snug.

Yes, I do curse. And yes, that was a moment that I did curse.

I hope you enjoy this Cayman video and that it brings some warmth to you, in case you are living in one of those places where it’s cold winter right now. Next week it’s time for the grand finale…so stay tuned!

The post UNTIE THE LINES II #56 – Ciao Cayman appeared first on whitespotpirates.com.

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What’s Going On With Karl’s Engine…And Myself

I am lifting a garbage bag half full of fresh veggies over Karl’s railing and of course

two of the tomatoes broke and successfully covered the rest of the vegetables in a slightly sticky and smelly juice. Probably not very surprising since I dragged them along from Portobelo on two bumpy bus rides, shoved them into a cab, a ferry and finally into my kayak. And of course my backpack is rather soaked as well because one of the incoming waves caught me when I departed from the beach.

But at least I made the 3pm ferry although I got there at 3.17pm. I guess sometimes the Panamanian laissez-fair also works to your advantage. And at least it’s not raining.

wsp_panama

When I used to live in an apartment in Hamburg, the first thing to do coming home after a couple of days away, would be to switch on the light, most likely drop my bag, grab a cold drink and sink into the couch.

The first thing I did today after coming home was to check if there were any snakes in my cockpit (I found a small Boa lounging underneath my cockpit bench about two weeks ago). And instead of switching on the light, I fumble around in the dark for one of my Luci solar lights instead, in the hope that it still has some charge left. The third one finally seems to have a little juice and I start searching for my meter to check my batteries. And of course they are nearly dead. Actually, I don’t remember ever having run them that low, which is a bit scary.

wsp_snake

I was only supposed to be away for two days, so I left the fridge on the lowest setting, hoping the solar panels would be sufficient for those 48 hours and my cheese would still be good when I return. But because things almost never go as planned, I returned to Karl no earlier than ten days later and my batteries are now down to 5V and the fridge obviously gave up working quite a while ago and my solar charge controller seems to be dead, too. I wonder if I should check how bad the damage is but in the moment of undoing the metal latch, I already regret my decision and start writing a list in my head for the next day:

– Charge batteries (damn it, do I have any gas left?)
– Empty nasty fridge and clean
– Laundry
– Bomb cockroaches (yeah, they love it when I am not there and get a bit too comfortable)

wsp_roach

The next thing to check is the one that always scares me most. Shyly I lift one of the floorboards to take a peek into the bilge. Dry. Wow, awesome, that’s great news, we are not sinking, that’s really good news. Did I really think Karl would sink? No, but don’t you always have this tiny bit of doubt in the back of your head purely due to the fact that your home is surrounded by water? Maybe I am just paranoid.

But why am I writing all this? If you own a boat yourself, then you know all of this, or have at least similar experiences, so there is no need for me to tell you about it. There is only one reason for me sitting here with my computer on my lap typing away: I am alone.

And I don’t think I have been by myself since…arriving to Panama, which was about three months ago. That is a long time! And yes, I was getting a bit twitchy during the last two weeks but when I finally came back to Taboga Island today and saw Karl on his mooring, I felt kinda weird. A little bit as if I had forgotten how all of this works all by myself.

wsp_friends

It’s not only that. Two days ago, my parents told me that they are coming to visit me for a week. This will be their first time ever to visit Karl and me. And I cannot even take them out for a spin because Karl’s engine is dead, finito, Endstation.

I am super thrilled about them coming but at the same time I am a bit terrified. Do you ever get that feeling when something means so much to you and you know it’s slightly different from what your parents might have had in mind for you but still you want them to see it through your eyes and understand? Well, it’s one thing trying to get the message across in words, pictures and I even have videos to show them what’s going on in my life…

wsp_karl

But now they will come here, set foot on Karl, see him, touch him, feel him, smell him (need to add “vinegar rub” to my worklist for tomorrow). It’s a big thing for me. And I realize how much I am still a small kid when it comes to my parents, even with my 35 years.

Anyways, the main reason I am telling you all this is because of that engine issue. It’s pretty bad and I have to ask myself if it makes sense to fix this old engine whose spare parts are scarce and quite pricey, or if I look for a new / old engine to replace it. I am tending toward the new / old engine option. But no, there is no further information about this yet. And there won’t be any for quite a while…

After my parents leave, I will head to Colombia to meet my sister. We had planned to meet in Ecuador, where Karl was supposed to be by now. Actually, we were originally supposed to meet in the Marquesas (looking at that engine incident, I have to say that my gut feeling was damn right telling me not to do the big crossing yet). Having a cruiser in your family requests a lot of patience and flexibility from other family members…I think I stretched it quite a bit this time (I hear my sister mumble to herself “this time”, Nike?).

wsp_karlandi

My alone time is therefore down to a couple of days until I come back from Colombia, only to leave a few days later to head to Miami (more info about the “meet & greet” event later on this week!) for a week on my way to my “other home” in Germany. Yes, I am going home for some time again. Maybe two months, maybe three, I don’t know yet. Since I was supposed to be in the Marquesas by October, I had planned to spend a part of the hurricane season with my family and once you tell your mom you are about to come home for some time you cannot just take it back, that’s just not how it works with moms.

But I would be lying to say that this decision was only made to keep my mom happy. I had felt that I needed some family and friend time, more than just the two weeks that I had last Christmas with them. And yes, I am also happy to run away from my engine problem. More than happy, actually. It’s quite a big thing and I don’t know yet, how to tackle it. The time back home will give me a chance to do some research on second hand engines, maybe to reach out to some engine companies trying to get some sponsorship or simply to win the lottery.

Now you know why there is no update yet about the engine. I promise that I will keep you informed on the subject as soon as I have new info. And I also tell you with quite a lot of certainty that this is not the end of the journey. Karl and I are not done, yet, we still have many things to explore together!

wsp_karl2

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Become A White Spot Pirate!

T-Shirt
This is so exciting! Many people have asked me in the past if there are any White Spot Pirates shirts and today I can finally answer with a “yes, there are!” I work as a brand ambassador for NO&YO, an outdoor adventure clothing brand from California who’s core values overlap with the idea of White Spot Pirates: to inspire people to go out there and chase their dreams!

There will be a two week pre-order for the White Spot Pirates shirts with a reduced price of 28$ until the 8th of June 2016, so make sure you get your shirt now!
You can order your White Spot Pirates shirt here: men / women.
To reduce the risc of production costs, we are going to start the production after the pre-orders are closed. So please keep in mind that from the time of your order, it might take up to 6-7 weeks until you will receive your tee. I know that this is a fairly long time…but the print of the shirts has a very high quality, which is why it takes quite some of time to produce the shirts. But you know, good things come to the ones who wait, right?
I am currently on the Island Grand Cayman and about to head out for my last solo passage in the Caribbean, heading back to Panama, to close my Caribbean Circle. If everything goes as planned, KARL and me will cross into the Pacific mid July. With the purchase of a White Spot Pirates shirt, you will not only receive a super soft shirt with an awesome design, you will also support KARL and my crossing of the Panama Canal.
Thanks for your support and I cannot wait to see some White Spot Pirates out there soon!!!
A big thanks to Yanni from No&Yo for supporting my journey with this great shirt-cooperation! You can also find an interview about KARL and my travels on their Blog that we did when I joined the No&Yo Ambassador Program.
Ahoy, Nike & KARL

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How To Connect A Raymarine Tillerpilot to a Windpilot Pacific

My sailboat KARL weighs about 8.5t and my Raymarine tillerpilot ST1000  is made for a displacement of around 3t. You can make the maths pretty easily and figure out that it is not quite strong enough. Many times, the ram had seized for that reason and lots of time, it just would not work at all. Of course I could buy a new one, a bigger one…and the strongest I found so far was for a displacement of around 6t. But really, I have one and I don’t really want to spend money on a new one, so I investigated a little bit to find a solution that would work with what I already have on board.

After a while I came across some people who had connected their tillerpilot to their windvanes to reduce the needed force to move the tiller. Hm, sounded promising…and cheap! And on the Windpilot website, they also talked about the possibility of doing this, so I wanted to give it a try.

When you set the windvane to a 90° agle to the wind, the pendulum of the vane is in a position that you can easily mount the tillerpilot on your aft deck pointing straigth aft to connect the ram to the pendulum of the vane.

tillerpilotwindvane

So all there is to do is to

a) build and mount a new block (or other construction depending on your setup) to mount the pilot

b) build a connection between the tiller ram and the pendulum of the vane

c) if necessary, move the power plug to a different position.

Luckily, I have a big aft cabin where I can store many many little treasures. So I crawled into my so called “midget hole” and looked for someting suitable to build a new mount. And it did not take long and I found what I was looking for:

tillerpilotmount

After a bit of grinding, filling up some spots with epoxi and drilling a hole for the foot of the tillerpilot, it was done. Fairly easy.

The next part was a tiny bit more tricky, but like so often, I was lucky and found a solution that was mounted on an old pilot that was lying around. They had used a pipe fitting with a copper tube. So all I had to do was to remodel that a little bit so it would suit my needs. Perfect! The only thing I am wondering is, if the copper will be strong enough. Maybe a hydraulic fitting might be better? I will keep my eyes open for one along the way. For now, the copper tube will have to do the job…

tillerpilotconnection

The new construction is mounted on KARL’s aft deck and connected to the windvane. And the first test on the dock went pretty well…The other thing that I am a bit worried about is wheather this construction might possibly damage my preciouos windvane (don’t tell my tillerpilot, but I pay WAY more homage to my windvane than to my tillerpilot…). That’s why I did this little video to ask Peter Foerthmann from Windpilot for advice before I go crazy with this new construciton. Let’s see what he sais.

All there is left to do now is to move the plug to a position where I can plug it in from both mounts (the “normal” position and the windvane position) and to go out on the water to try it. Wish me luck! I will keep you posted on the results.

Ahoy, Nike & Karl

karlwithvane

 

 

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UNTIE THE LINES II #19 – When Karl Decides

This weeks episode is an interesting sailing video. Matthieu and me were supposed to sail up north to Guanaja. But things came a little different.

When we headded out, I already noticed that we would have problems with our course. We did not want to get too close to the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. One reason being banks, the other reason being possible pirate attacs.

sailboat karl underway in the caribbean sea

The wind was not too bad, but not quite good enough for us to make a straight course. On top of that, Matthieu was really seasick and I had to single hand the boat. Now, yes, I do usually sail my boat solo. But it is way harder to single hand when there is actually a second person present. Especially when your crew is sick.

On top of dealing with the boat, you have to make sure your partner stays hydrated. And you have to work around someone that is lying motionless in the cockpit, usually always on top of the sheet that you just need to use.

tired solo sailing woman

In my head, I was discussion if we should maybe head in to Providencia, which was just 30 nautical miles away. I did not want to be totally tired when we have to navigate through the banks. That’s why I decided that we would change course and sail to Providencia instead.

Some 10 miles from Povidencia, I hear a massive !!!BANG!!! and something comes flying towards the cockpit. What was that? That did not sound good at all. Pretty soon I figure out what had happened. The lower shroud on the starboard side had snapped.

two pieces of a broken shroud of a sailboat

The plan had been to sail up to Guatemala for the hurricane season and give Karl a shiny new rig. Looks like my good old boy was a little bit impatient. Luckily, the weather conditions were rather light. We made it safely into port.

couple from sailing video sailing to providencia

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UNTIE THE LINES II #18 – Round And Round

In the second of our San Andres videos we take you on a scooter ride around the island. We took the road that runs around the island once. A scooter is really the best way to get around the island.

map of san andres

We stopped at a lovely little beach on the way to have some lunch. Matthieu is from France, but lives in Switzerland and he had brought some realy yummie cheese and saussage. It’s something that is hard to find round here. And if you do find it, it’s usually super expensive and not so good.

two french saussages inside a sailboat galley

Apart from the little trip around the island, we had to do some boat work. And we had to fill up Karl’s water tanks. In San Andres, the water at the marina is not drink able. The only way to fill your tanks (if you don’t have a watermaker or raincatcher) is to buy big water jugs and row them over to you boat. Once they are empty, you have to bring them back to get back the deposit for the bottles.

It was quite the act to get all the water on bard. It surely always lets you become more aware of each drop of fresh water you use. That is also why we bought a little five liter fumigation tank that we want to use as a shower. After the first trial, we found out that we use less than a liter for a fresh water rinse. Pretty good, right?

four empty water jugs on a sailboat

fumigation tank used as shower on sailboat

After we were done with it all, we headded back into town and had one of the famous “coco loco”. It’s a rum punch that comes in a coconut. “Coco loco” means crazy coconut. If you’ve tried one, you will know why they call it that…

couple on a beach with two coconut cocktails

Thanks for watching our San Andres videos! Next week we head out to sail further north, so stay tuned!

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UNTIE THE LINES II #16 – Back In The Saddle

So far, this has been my favorite solo sailing passage. Karl and me sailed 250nm from Wasaladup in the San Blas Islands to the Island of San Andres, which lies about 100nm east of the coast of Nicaragua, but is part of Colombia.

I had been waiting for a reasonable weather window for about two weeks. The sea state had been up way above 4m and the wind was often above 20 knots. But finally, I had spottet a fairly nice window with a max. of 3.5m of waves and mostly 15knots of wind, with only some hour patches of 20-25 knots.

When I sailed off anchor with Karl, I felt super excited. It had been a good decision to take a small break, to regain some confidence and calmness. Especially since I had nearly given up on this whole journey. When I left, I had the feeling I was ready for the passage ahead of me.

Maybe sailing into the, unknown to me, anchorage of San Andres was not one of my best ideas ever…but once I had dropped anchor, my new crew  for the next months, Matthieu, arrived with a nice and juicy pizza. What a great welcoming to a new destination.

 

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UNTIE THE LINES II #17 – San Andres Fish ‘n Friends

This week I have a San Andres video for you. San Andrés is a little Island off the coast of Nicaragua, but belongs to Colomobia. When I arrived in San Andrés, Matthieu was already waiting for me. He will be travelling with Karl and me for the next months until we reach Guatemala.

man and woman with palm trees in san andres

Matthieu needed a spear gun, so we headded to the Beuchat shop in the city. The guy that owns the shop, David, was really helpful and nice. We chatted a bit about the island and speer fishing options. Before we left, he invited us to come along with him and his friends on sunday. They were going to spearfish at the other side of the island at La Piscinita.

Oh, and I got some new flippers (harder ones so I can go faster) and some extra rubber for spare slings.

spear fishing equipment from beuchat

many man and one woman with spear guns in front of a beuchat van

Because David was so nice to invite us to come along for the spear fishing, we invited him and his wife and his friend for a dinner on Karl. It was quite the adventure, because Matthieu had to row over to the marina in 25-30 knots to get them with Karlitos. They took ages, the dink was full of water and aparently they nearly got tipped over…But they made it to the boat and back safely, and that’s all that counts.

sailor girl cooking fish in sailboat galley

five people on a sailboat in san andres

The island is not quite my cup of tea, lots of Colombian tourists come here from the mainland. It seems to be a bit what Mallorca is for Germany in the Med. I guess I prefer places a bit more quiet. Don’t get me wrong, the island is beautiful and there are some nice spots. But if I could go only either to one of the two Colombian Islands (Providencia & San Andres), I would defenitely chose Providencia.

beach with sunset on san andres island

 

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