Start » Blog » A visit at the Astillero Verde

A visit at the Astillero Verde

von | Feb 25, 2022 | Costa Rica, English, Pazifik

Foto: Jeremy Starn

Arriving at the shipyard with our big bag full of freshly caught fish, we had made a good start. While Sofien knew most of the people at the table, for me the faces were mostly unknown. But one turned out to be familiar! Janek, a boat builder from northern Germany. He has been a year above me in boatbuilding school and we ran into each other a few times. The others came from England, Poland, France, the USA, Costa Rica and Scotland. We had good conversations and stayed awake until late night.

On Saturday, Sofien and I took care about WASA. We could definitely recognize the two weeks of sailing mode and the Boatbuilders welcome evening on bord. We washed her down from top to bottom and spent the remaining hours before dinner chilling at the beach.

Therefore, sunday’s timescedule has been much tighter. At half past six the day began with a surf session with Arthur. As the tide rised and the waves got smaller, we prepared ourselves a very nice little breakfast on a campfire at the beach. Refreched and “refuled” we drove back to the yard and picked up the others to go to a waterfall nearby. Sweaty from the sweltering heat and the short walk to the river, we all jumped into the pool one by one and enjoyed the cold water splash on our heads.

We went out sailing a few times after work. It is a beautiful sunset in Costa Rica!

We finished the day with a two hours sunset sail before having dinner together in the shipyard.

Most oft the times, I drove back to my boat at night, which was anchored far outside in the bay due to the high tides that always left a big muddy area behind. Costa Rica is known as a very save and peaceful country, but since sailboats are very uncommon in this area, either the locals were worried and advised me better not to leave my boat alone for too long.

During the week I hoped to be able to help a little with the construction of CEIBA. I had imagined to do some small and simple stuff, such as hammering in some nails ofr fixing some bolts. Unfortunately, but also quite understandable, Linx, one of the bosses, was not really keen on this idea. Well, I am a boat builder and I know how to work with wood and metal, but l would have had to be instructed on the project anyway. Where do I find the tools, where is the harness, and how many nails to put into a deck beam? In the end, I probably would not have saved any time.

Instead, starting Wednesday, I was able to help Mara build a biochar stove. In it, the offcuts of CEIBA will be burned under exclusion of oxygen and the so gained coal can be used for planting new trees. We cut the different pieces out of 3mm steel plates and later welded them together to form an octadic stove shape.

On my last day I finally managed to immortalize myself in the ship!

When I was on a foray through CEIBA with my camera, I was able to talk the guys on the upper deck into letting me hammer one of the 30 centimeter long nails through a deck beam myself! Protected with a climbing harness and work safety crocs, I was first supposed to drill the hole with a gigantic snake drill bit before David held the nail ready for me to hammer it in. Actually, I have been a bit nervous.  After a few blows not only the nail disappeared into the wood, but also my finger had burst open, as I jammed it between the hammer and a clamp.

It cost me sweat and blood, but now there’s „my nail” in the deck beam on top of frame 6!!!

CEIBA is an unique project and the people on site are incredibly friendly! For all those who are more interested in what a working day and a life at the shipyard in Costa Rica looks like, I have conducted a small interview with Sofien.

Sofien is Boatbuilder by trade. We met each other at the boarding school in northern Germany. From September to November, Sofien joint me sailing through the San Blas and the Bocas del Torro. LAter in February he came back to the boat, we crossed the Panamacanal together and sailed up north, back to SAILCARGO. There, Sofien is now workng more then three months.

Hey Sofien! You’ve been at Astillero for over three months now. In fact, you like it so much that you want to stay here indefinitely. What was your first impression when you arrived here?

I arrived on a Saturday. Because many workers have been somewhere else over the weekend it was not that busy there. Standing in front of the gate after a whole day of bus and cab rides I was a bit confused. You couldn’t see a boat from up there and I didn’t really know where to go as well. 

But when I met the first people on the yard, the welcoming immediately was very nice. I felt very comfortable only after a few hours, we cooked together and already went to a waterfall the next day. The accompany felt like home after a short while already.

Your first day at work? What were your tasks at the beginning?

On the first day, we went straight on it!  I started building longitudinals with Eugenio. Each piece has been eight meters long. It took us almost two and a half months until we had them all in place.

What did you see as the biggest difficulties?

Well, we’ve learned boatbuilding and we’ve done things with wood before, minor repairs, things like that, but everything here appears a good bit bigger. That increases the difficulty a lot. For example you will spend more time in taking measurements or something. You don’t want to have to lift this huge piece again and again so you better do it right the first time. And of course, it’s also the heat that makes it quite difficult to think sometimes.

In fact, no one who works here has ever worked on such a large boat. You have to groove into it. But then they also give you the chance to work things out your own way. No one will tell you „you better do it this way“. Unless you ask for it. And that’s another thing I like here – that you really work as a team. You then discuss and find the best solution.

What does the standard day-to-day work look like for you then?

I usually wake up quite early. Round about half past five, quarter to six. The hallow monkeys start screaming at that time as well. There’s breakfast with fruits, joghourt and coffee ready in the kitchen. Work starts at 6.30 and ends at four o’clock in the afternoon. At nine we will have another breakfast with Pinto – a typical Costa Rican Style dish, also called rice and beans. Lunch is at one and after that it is only two hours more to the end of the day!

You are also living in a small apartment on the shipyard at the moment. What does that look like at the weekend then? Is it a big party there or is it mostly more relaxed after a long week at work?

That always differs a bit. You can go to samara, wich is known to be a bit more touristic and a good party place or visit one of the cacao farms. Or if you prefer to take it easy you can stay at the shipyard relaxing at the beach or jumping into the sea. Either way, the evenings often end in a smaller or larger party. Everyone is in a good mood.

We even had the idea to sail together across the Pacific. Now you prefer to stay with SAILCARGO, what I can understand very well. What do you like best here?

Yes, when I left WASA, I had the idea to work here for three months and then we would meet again in February and sail across the Pacific together. But as you once called it, „I fell in love with another ship.“ I think that’s a quite good match. Actually there are two aspects to it. First, to work in this huge ship and to learn something new, to get better and to be able to learn from different people with different training every day. Also, if everything goes well, that what you’ve built will last at least the next hundred years. Every piece that I put in here could easily outlast myself. And thats pretty cool!!!

On the other hand it is the social aspect of living together in such a large group. It is also a constant come and go. You welcome people  quite often, but also wave „Goodbye” regularly. Living together in this big community is nice. As you have seen yourself, it is a very funny group, funny things happen all the time and we often sit together and laugh a lot. But if you don’t feel like being around people you can just take some time alone and that’s OK as well. It’s like a small family.

Back on the Boat

For almost a week we three, Emma, Hanna and myself are sailing south along the beautiful coast of Costa Rica. Especially for Emma and me, the trip back to Panama City is a good test. Emma will join me on the Pacific crossing towards the Marquesas Islands. The different conditions on the way to the capitol are a great opportunity to get to know the boat, and especially to get to know our little ticks and behaviors.

As soon as we arrive, our main task will be the preparation for the big crossing. There is a feet long To Do list, that has to be accomplished, another long list to buy at the hardware store, a bit of paperwork and a lot of food we sill have to store somewhere in the boat.

Hanna is going to meat another friend and will continue as a backpacker through Panama and Costa Rica.