Don‘t lock yourself on your boat

Torqueedo 401 Travel Electric Outborad Engine
With a smile a cruiser from England called me „The stealth german“ in an anchorage as I was the only one comming close with no engine sound.

Ever since my very cool Torqueedo 401 decided to stay in the Bahamas late 2010 I had in mind to buy a Mercury / Nissan or Tohatsu 3.5hp engine one day. The exact brand was no matter because all three of them are exactly the same and have even build in the same factory. The size of these engines is perfect to have it stowed on Paulinchen‘s limited space and it is known to be quite durable and reliable. in short: They are perfect for a cruise and that is why so many cruisers have them.

On the other hand I really enjoyed to silently cruise into creeks and especially to get way closer to wildlife than it is possible with a noisy outboard. Alone for that reason, being a photographer an electric outboard was always a very tempting option too.

A brand new engine, not only for economical reasons on the other hand, never was an option. For some in my eyes stupid political reasons: Selling new two-stroke engines became illegal in many countries today. Maybe banning them will one day result in a huge leap in environmental  protection; I doubt that! I more often think about another side effect for cruiser: reduced safety.

The key problem with four stroke engines is their size. Compared to two strokes they seem to be pretty huge to a certain amount of power where this levels out. – That is around 20hp, pretty much for a dinghy. Until then boaters have to trade safety for weight and size. Remembering the Ladies of Louise for example who carry a Honda Engine sitting on their transom that had almost the size of a 10hp two stroke build in the 90th. As far as I remember it only a 2.5 hp engine.  And that was the power my Torqueedo 401. So I know it was barely enough to walk my way up against a three knots tidal current on Hudson River or into some Inlets between Islands in The Bahamas. If you could go for a stronger engine by size and weight you would, but today you have to take the smallest one you can fit on a boat because its heavy and huge for political reasons.


Paulnichens new Outboard Engin: The Tohatsu 3.5
Not a matter of the brand. All difference between Tohatsu, Nissan and Mercury 3.5 hp engines are their housings.


Current models of electric Torqueedo engines are also stronger. But as much as I can not state how great the 401 series was and how much I liked this engine, I honestly do not like them anymore. Simply because of the ugliest change in design I have ever witnessed on a product since Volkswagen introduced the new Beetle. Seeing them instantly Joda‘s voice comes to my mind saying: „Huge they are and close to the design of the Emperors battleship is the appearance.“

But finally looking for an outboard is over! A decision has been made: I just found a Tohatsu 3.5 that was for sale and seems to be in a fairly good condition. Getting it was not a hassle too, I simply rowed to where it was for sale in a marina next to the mooring field I am in.

So after I spend yesterday motoring around, running to other boats, to the dinghy dock, to the super marked and all the way down the sound into the mangroves. I can say: I got so much used in not having a dinghy, I almost forgot how much I locked myself on the boat. Propulsion on an anchorage or in a mooring field is the ultimate freedom!

Dingy ride in Floridas beach resort Fort Myers.
Even in 2 knots of current the dinghy dock at Fort Myers is only a minute away.


Suddenly off balance

„WHEN THE SEVENTH WAVE HIT I WAS UNDER PREPARED…“ is the beginning from a song that  came to my mind a few nights ago while Paulinchen slowly came upright again.

A few gusts in the 20 knot range had been forcasted but clearly I was underprepared. Half way enroute to Key West  60 Miles off shore in a pitch black night.

A broken SSB-Antenna remains on boar a Gulf of Mexico passage off the Florida Coast.
The Antenna remains. – Now about three feet shorter it is back up but does not work as good as before.

Just a minute before I thought about taking at least the second reef out as it calmed down a lot around sunset. Maybe later even switching for the larger genoa. But a wise sailor onece told me to never unreef before the rain stopped for a minimum of 30 minutes and there was  some drizzle falling out of an overcast sky.

The squall rushed in secretly from the dark. No lightling, no thunder. Literally quiet like air. Maybe it held around 30 Knots, more would not surprise me. No time to think no time to grab a weather gear. Paulinchen’s windvane did it’s best job. Feathering the gust, turning windward and just slowly back she gave me the time to open the main sheet and release the jib from a winch half under water.

The wind picked up for another gust that catched the solar panel and flipped it around its mount, ripping off all the screws. – Just one safety pin, that hung loose next to its hole had prevented all of this. Fortunately it fell right in the cockpit. The next crack behind me was not to avoid. The SSB-Antenna broke like a match-stick. But even if maybe unavoidable it has had seen way more wind before, so I must have overseen a crack in it.

Proken solar Panel mount on Paulinchen crossing from Appalachicola to Key West.
Also the Solar Panel will be put back in place by just having a few new holes drilled in the mount. New Boat rule: The pin stays in – even in calmest conditions


The Year 2013, so much fore sure, did start not too good and went pretty bad until now. Time to cut reality out of vision and whish: Neither is Paulinchen nor am I currently in the shape to head to remote places single hand or for weeks off-shore.

There is a long list of postponed maintanance and work put on hold due to „getting forward“ and budget. Often other more importand work had to be done. Maybe a hurrican season would help me to stay put somewhere safe and get things back in shape instead of make me rush again.  By spreading the expenses over some time the pressure might be a little less. But clearly it’s time to rethink, scratch plans, and … maybe just not make a new one for now.

Only one is to find an outboard quickly to get back behind a corner on my own hook to cure the wounds and be able to dinghi ashore to get some some tightness off the lately well overstreched credit card. – And than head on in a better condition.

Trade winds you can’t buy a thing for

Thumbs down. – Looks like I will stay put for another few days. I deverted from heading to Tampa at only one third of the way and cut east to Panama City yesterday. Too strong SE winds, too little progress. They call this wind „trade wind“ but I don’t see much to buy for it. However if I could, yes, I would trade it for anything but southeast and have to admit: I underestimated its strengs and endurance. Thinking of being a big boy who crossed an ocean in my imagination that little up wind sailing did not look that bad. – But bad is the mildest word I used in the last days to describe it.

In general the weather pattern seems exaclty the same as last week and the week before: „WINDS TO GALE FORCE AND RAPIDLY BUILDING SEAS ARE EXPECTED IN THE WAKE OF THE FRONT… THE FRONT WILL WEAKEN AND STALL OVER THE SOUTH EAST GULF SATURDAY.“ (NOAA Forecast from today) Experience tells, it will then lift back north as a warm front on Sunday and back south and back north and so on and so on … Weiterlesen

Darwinism in Weather

Mobile, Alabama, USA – I almost forgot about the „waiting“ ahead of a passage. A constant mixture of feelings between „should I go or better wait“. Monitoring weather patterns helps to make this decision by giving a feeling of what is to expect out there. My first leg from here on will be straight to Cuba. Five to six days on a south south easterly heading until I round Dry Tortuga and then turn a little more easterly for Havana. The challenging Parts will be on these last two days passing the Straights of Florida. Pushed by the beginning Gulf Current, and slowed down in a probably choppy sea as the current flows against prevailing easterly Winds.

Clouds opening after a strong Front passed the Bahamas. Alan Cay, 2011
Clearing sky after the pass of cold front in The Bahamas

From now on the days start with forecasts on HF radio nets and reading fax charts. Checking long term predictions is vital prior to departure: First, to pick a day to leave, second to develop a feeling of how weather works along the next part of the trip. A friend of mine once said: „Patient sailors always have favorable wind.“ Evolving to this patient sailor requires to know about weather behavior. Wind shifts that are to be expected as fronts arrive will affect the planned route and to know about them is the key to a handsome passage.

[quote align=“right“ color=“#999999″]The weather was now quite fine and the Beagle was ready to set sail on 26 December. Unfortunately, the opportunity was lost due to the entire crew being either missing or drunk from the festivities of the night before (for Christmas). (from[/quote] Surprisingly, doing this preparation always reminds me of Charles Darwin. I read his memories when I left England for the Azores in 2010. And according to his book it took some frustrating month before HMS Beagle Captain Robert FitzRoy saw a window coming to head out on a cold morning three days after Christmas in 1831. For me I hope the departure will not take that long.

And since forecasts and satellite images help in finding such a window it currently seems there is one opening late thursday or early friday after the pass of a cold front. Ahead of it all forecast are reading like a simple command: Stay where you are, develop patience.

Forecast Mobile Bay, Offshore
Tempting conditions for today and tomorrow but not after that

Winds from south-east to south up to 22 knots are expected in Mobile Bay, slightly more in open water. The direction the wind is coming from is exactly where I am about to go. This means breaking free from a lee-shore though shallow Mobile Bay‘s nasty chop for the first 8 hours of my trip just to beat agains seas forecasted up to nine feet (three meters) for the next 100 Miles.

So everything is on „wait“ and while I gained a little extra time in the US, my time frame for Cuba shortens. But that is just what you get if you put yourself on a boat and on a schedule. – Time to evolve a little more until Friday when hopefully happens what monitoring weather patterns turned out to normally happen: The clockwise turn I already know from my winter The Bahamas: Within one day the wind will turn westerly and continue to turn until east. Picking the middle of the turn will push me out into open water and on my way to Cuba.