Cartagena de Indias our new working place

August 21 – October 07, 2022; 9029 nm and 1296 days after departure from La Rochelle.

Hell, was I lazy regarding my blog. But, I have an excuse! We have been working our botties off. Why did nobody tell me that living on a boat could be so labour intensive? Most of the time it is of course really nice but at the moment…boy! Why? Because 14 year old Altimate needed a spa. Her poor steering and rudder bearings were suffering for the last months. We could feel the play getting looser and looser lately. The bearings seemed to almost cry for replacement. As well Altimate needed new sliders for the centre board box. Already back in Las Palmas/Canary Islands we were having trouble with completely getting in our beloved and needed centre board. We had already tried to fix the problem then but it was not possible as we weren’t able to get replacement sliders. The sliders hold the centre board in the box in place. The trouble was that, probably due to corrosion, the sliders were pushed out of its holding and were stopping the board to come up. A positive effect was that we now knew the problem and were able to organise new sliders. (Meanwhile we used winch power to lift up and let down the board, instead of letting it fall down and pulling it up with our hands.) The last other big project was making her lower body pretty again. After many, many layers of antifouling it was also time to give her a good scratch. Which meant scraping off all the layers which have ever been put on her down to the first primer layer. And then she was ready to get her new water-creature-and-corrosion-protecting make up. She definitely deserved her refit after taking us around the Atlantic for 4 years.

Altimate just lifted at marina Manzanilla in Cartagena, dirty and covered in shell

Altimate was looked after, but we needed some goodies too. It was time to make El Capitano happy. He was not quite satisfied with the maximum outcome of all our power generating systems. After complaining for some time about not having enough power in not perfect weather conditions I finally got the hint. He wanted more solar power! And, as even I can sometimes be a nice wife and co skipper, I said: ” Great idea, let’s go for it!” Said and done! It was so pleasantly easy to organise and finalise that in Cartagena. As now, after years of not being able to use Amazon it felt like x-mas and eastern at the same time. We could just order things! Can you imagine? All the parts we needed and couldn’t find in Cartagena we could just order online. That was just – wow! And not only that it didn’t take long and the marina guard accepted the package and even delivered it to Altimate. Just perfect😁.

the new finished solar panels with frames sewed on top of our bimini

Well my goody was, finally finishing all the cushion covers for the salon. I can’t remember if I wrote about it before? Anyhow, because we were sweating so much and usually barely dressed since we’ve arrived in the Caribbean, we just threw some blankets over our salon seatings to simplify the washing procedure. That helped to protect the cushions but was very annoying to reach the lockers underneath or behind the cushions. So irritating and so untidy 🙄. In Martinique I saw so many beautiful fabrics which were frankly calling for me. They were whispering:” Sabine, we want to be cushion covers.” Good idea my sewing heart thought. I did one cover as a trial and decided it was a manageable work and bought 16 meters of fabric. My humble goal was to sew them slowly but steadily. Needless to say I had to be in the mood too to do so. By the time we arrived in Cartagena I managed to make 3 out of 16 and these were the simple to sew ones🙈! Why did I had this crazy idea? HELP! My problem was my heavy duty sewing machine. Heavy duty means it was good for heavy duty tasks. Canvas sewing and not cotton-soft-touch-usual-whatever-fabric sewing. That fabric usually caused me spending more time adjusting the machine than actually sewing. That was the real reason I was procrastinating my project.

Little darling in action, in the background one can see the new backseat cushions covers

Meanwhile Ruffian, our English friends Fiona and Iain had caught up with us in Cartagena. It was great to see them again. Not really believing that they would have one, yet I asked if they had a sewing machine and if yes wether I could borrow it. And as glorious as they were they said yes and yes!!!! Yeahhh! Now I had no excuse anymore, I started sewing the cushions. I immediately fell in love with this nice, strong old sewing machine. After patterning and pinning the fabric together it was always a pleasure to sew with her. I called her “Little darling”. Slightly under pressure as Ruffian wanted to leave again, I was producing one cushion after the other. I cursed all the time but I got better and faster. I was sewing 8 days in a row, making 13 cushions and finished, just in time to get “Little darling” back to Ruffian. Celebration!!! Thank you guys!!!

little Mar waving us goodbye in Santa Marta, she is the daughter of our Spanish friends, the flamenco family

I gave you an excuse why I didn’t write for weeks, here a quick summery what happened since I wrote the last time.
Before we left Santa Marta in the beginning of September we spent 5 great days in the vibrant city of Medellín. We also visited Minca for a day, a little village up in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada only an hour away from Santa Marta. A beautiful escape from the city right into the refreshing cool forest. When finally our cleaned and galvanised anchor chain got back we said goodbye to our new friends and to Santa Marta. For the first time in month we were on the move again. That did feel so nice but it was so short. We spent 4 nights at two anchorages somewhere along the coast before we arrived in Cartagena and docked in the marina “Club de Pesca”. Here our work started. We arrived in the afternoon of September 2nd and started dismantling our steering pedestal the next day. That was our “fear” project as we didn’t know how it would turn out. In the pedestal all the instruments are connected, autopilot, compass, throttle, engine starter and the navigation instruments, so kind of a challenge to figure out how to dismantle the whole thing. With a lot of sweating and arm and hand yoga we managed to free the pedestal steering in one day. We were very proud! When done that we needed to find somebody who could grind off some parts to actually get to the bearings and weld it all back together. Thanks to the local OCC manager Lee we got in contact with Carlos who was able and willing to do the job. He also struggled a lot as the bearings were corroded to the metal, but he did it. On Monday we could again mantle our pedestal with the new bearings and Norbert had time the next days to properly get all the connections back running.

what is missing? exactly! the steering pedestal

When I couldn’t help him anymore it was my starting point to get going with my cushion project. In between our jobs we decided which solar panels we wanted and El Capitano was ordering everything we needed to install the panels. We went for flexible ones to put on top of the bimini and decided to sew (I needed more sewing projects, didn’t I?) a frame around the panels to protect them from getting easily lifted up from wind. All those projects kept us busy for about three weeks. Originally we planned to leave Cartagena after those finished projects and enjoy for a few weeks proper sailor life. We wanted to go to Linton Bay in Panama to lift out Altimate there to get her make up done. But after the good experience with Carlos we thought we’d rather stay here. We looked for and found another marina where we could haul out and refit our aged Lady. I must say it was a great decision. Manzanillo Marina Club where we put her on the hard did an outstanding job. We placed an order to do the complete grinding and painting as well as, in the end, the replacing of the sliders.

some of the guys of Manzanillo Marina Club who worked on Altimate

The workers were super nice and friendly but much more important they worked absolutely thorough and neat. Not only would it probably have taken us weeks to get the work done with our poor tools but I guess it also would have been halve as perfect. Same with the sliders. Of course El Capitano was always there to help or answer questions regarding aluminium specialities or whatever was important, but they had the tools, the men power and a lot of experience. Ruffi, the man who was responsible for the sliders welded a matching stick to break out the old sliders. He as well modified it to later scratch clean the slider holdings. Yes, indeed we were veeeery satisfied with the whole outcome!!! Altimate hopefully feels much younger with her new make up, she certainly looks prettier! For us it was great to have the peace of knowing that all the important refits were properly and finally done. It does give a safe feeling! Now we are free to move on.

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