After arriving in Miami, we spent about three weeks there to get some boat repairs done, explore Florida and do a big provisioning because we knew that Bermuda will be very expensive.
Since Colombia we knew that one of our lower shrouds had a broken strand, but it was impossible to get a proper repair there. So we added a dyneema backup shroud and decided to wait with the repair till Florida. In Miami, we discovered that the other lower shrouds also started to get broken strands, so we got all of them replaced. In Miami it was easy to get the job done properly, and while it wasn’t cheap it was worth it.
We also had some fun workouting in a nearby park and rented two roadbikes for a day to do a 130km trip to Key Largo and back. Biking in Miami is very nice, there are many bike lanes and except for us nearly no one was using them.
Mila stayed in the Dinner Key Marina mooring field the whole time of our Florida visit. This was much cheaper than paying for a marina berth but we could still use the showers and get stuff like spare parts delivered to the Marina. After such a long time without the ability to shop online, it was excellent to use services like Amazon again.
Our friend Henning from Germany who sailed with us in 2016 visited us again and we decided to rent a car for some days to provision and drive to the Florida Keys and the Everglades. We decided to rent a big (for european standards) truck to have enough carrying capacity and have a comfortable ride. Strangely, the rental price for the big Pick-Up for four days was less than half the price of the two roadbikes for one day.
When a good weather window came up, we departed for Bermuda. This leg is about 1000nm and took us eight days. We sailed north first to make use of the Gulf stream and then went on an easterly course to Bermuda. All in all, it was an effortless sail with no serious problems. Apart from some squalls we had mostly light winds and had to use the engine for the last part of the leg. This was our first multi-day-passage with a third person on board and it was nice to be able to get a little bit more sleep than usual as Henning was doing some of the morning watches.
Bermuda is a cozy little island with super friendly locals. The only downside is that due to being one of the richest countries in the world, everything is very expensive. Including the fixed service charge, a beer in a bar is at least 10$ and food is expensive as well. We tried to keep expenses down by going out less than usual.
Initially we planned to stay only for about one week, but then we got delayed because first I catched some kind of infection and then we had to wait for better weather. When a good window came up we finally went out on the evening of July 6th. Normally, the cruising guides suggest to go north from Bermuda to get stronger winds for sailing to the Azores. But as there were very strong winds in the north when we left and Mila sails quite good in lighter air, we decided to try a very unusual route and just sail east first. This worked well for nearly a week, but then we had to motor north for several days to get on top of the Azores high. We got excellent weather routing from our friend Dirk through our satellite communicator which was a big help.
After motoring to 38N, we could set sail again and get on course to Horta on Faial in the Azores. We had to alter course several times, either to the south to get out of the way of the next low coming through (tropical depression Barry passed north of us) or to the north to get enough wind for sailing.
After 16 days and 2000nm of sailing we were very happy to arrive in Horta. For crossing the north atlantic at the beginning of the hurricane season, it was pretty uneventful. Nothing serious broke, only the normal wear and tear that always happens on these long legs. The crossing took us two days longer than expected, which is not a big deal but meant that Teresa’s brother Steffen and his girlfriend Katja who wanted to visit us in the Azores were already waiting on the dock when we pulled in. So we instantly got that hard-earned welcome beer which was very nice.
Like all sailors who come to Horta, we visited the famous Peter’s Cafe Sport for a beer and Teresa put a painting on the dock. We also did some hiking and visited a volcanic landscape in the North of Faial. Getting around was pretty easy with acceptable Taxi prices.
From Horta, we went out for a short daysail to the next island named Pico, because we wanted to hike up the volcano. This didn’t work out because the planned anchorage was way too deep and rolly. So instead, we set sail over to Sao Jorge. This turned out to be a good decision as we went on a nice hike there as well. After two days, we set sail again for a little bit longer leg (120nm) to Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel. This is the capital of the Azores and also where the planes to mainland Europe are leaving from. We had to use the engine for most of the leg but as it was the first overnight sail for our visitors it was nice to have light winds.
In Ponta Delgada we rented a small car for some days to get around the island, did some more hiking, provisioned again and bought a lot of the excellent local cheese. The town has a lot of nightlife, just yesterday there was the “White Ocean Party” which went on the whole night and where everybody has to dress in white.
From here, we plan to sail directly to northern France. Initially we had planned to leave today, but yesterday when we did our usual pre-departure rigging inspection we noticed a broken strand in one of our forestays, so we’ll have to fix this first. Hopefully we will be able to leave in the next days.
We went back to San Blas while waiting for Lukas brother and his girlfriend to arrive. We were happy to meet Noustha and Bryan on Tarka again in the Lemon Cays. In Canbombia we caught up with Kimberly and John-Michael on Pura Vida, who we met in Santa Marta, and also got to know Michelle and John on Pineapple, the boat next to us. We all went to have dinner on the island one evening, which was prepared by the local Kuna family and served by two Kuna girls with headlamps.
In the remote anchorage of Cambombia with very bad internet reception it took me about three days to sign us up for a visa interview in Panama City in order to get a US visa. When you are flying into the US as a German you don’t have to do much, you just fill out a form online, pay 13 dollars and done. But when you want to enter the country on your own boat it’s a complete different story. You have to apply for a tourist visa, pay 160 us dollars per person, fill out a lot of forms, go to an interview in an US embassy and if you pass that, you will get a sticker in your passport that allows you to speak to a border control officer when you arrive in the first port. When I finally finished the application end of January the next date for our interview was March 12, so that gave us some more time to spend in Panama.
Why do we even go to the US? Didn’t we want to go through the Panama Canal, didn’t we want to sail around the world in about 3 years? Well yes, that was our original plan, but that changed by now.
The plans of sailors are written in the sand at low tide.
We needed some time to get this saying, but now we know it is very true and we saw it being verified by many of our sailing friends.
Due to a number of reasons, some of them are home sickness, money running out again, us traveling much slower than expected, the wish to persue our careers and so on, we decided to bring Mila back home to Germany. So our new plan is to cross the Atlantic again, first sail from Florida to Bermuda, then to the Azores, and subsequently back up the European coast. We are quite excited to visit some of the places we really liked again and get to see some places we skipped on the way here. Of course we are also sad we don’t get to explore the Pacific right now, but we both are pretty sure this will not be our last big sailing adventure. Maybe next time we buy a slightly more comfortable boat in Panama or the US and start with the Pacific right away.
We have been sailing for almost 3 years now and it has been a great experience so far, we learned so much about different cultures, got to know awesome, open-minded people, handled some difficult situations, refreshed our French, learned some Spanish, got to enjoy a lot of beautiful sunrises and sunsets at sea, saw a lot of cool wild animals under water and on land. And all the traveling definately improved our geographical knowledge as well. We are very happy we made the decision to live in a tiny floating home for a while and travel where we want with it. For now we feel like it is time to get back to normal life.
Here are some more pictures from Linton Bay
We picked up Lukas brother Urs and his girlfriend Lillia in Linton Bay and went back to our favourite islands in San Blas. We spent some sunny days swimming, snorkeling and grilling some langostinos and peppers on the islands in the evenings.
Shelter Bay and Panama canal on Pangea
The Panama canal was always a big topic amongst bluewater sailors that played with the idea to go to the Pacific. It is a pretty important step, once you are through, there is no turning back. Part of the myth is also that it is very expensive and very regulated, every boat needs to have 4 line handlers and a professional advisor on board. Despite our decision not to go through with our own boat, we still didn’t want to miss out on the experience, so we asked our friends Isabella and Tim on Pangea if we could be their line handlers for their canal transit. They were happy to have us, so our next stop was Shelter Bay, a marina on the Atlantic end of the canal, where Pangea was doing some last preparations. The marina is located on the grounds of a former US military base, which was used to protect the canal in it’s early days. When you walk out of it you find yourself in the middle of lush rainforest full of howler monkeys, sloths, coatis and a lot of tropical birds. You also find some neglected bunkers and ruins of the shacks where the soldiers were living.
On the first day of the transit we rafted up with two other boats, Pangea being the one in the middle, so the four line handlers had not much to do except for tying up to the other boats. The night was spent on a big buoy in Gatun lake. On the next day we had a bit more to do, as it was only two boats rafting up and we got to catch the monkey fists from the workers of the lock and tie our lines to them. Everything worked well and Tim did a great job steering the package of tied up boats through the locks. At the end of the canal we picked up a mooring ball at the Balboa yacht club and had some Balboas (Panamanian beer). The next day we returned the car tires and long lines, which Isabella and Tim rented for the transit, and took a long walk through Panama City. Lukas and I returned to Mila by bus and taxi.
After some days
relaxing in the Shelter Bay marina we took Mila into Rio Chagres,
which was a pretty cool experience, anchoring in a river is so
different from anchoring on the sea.
Every morning around 7 am some parrots came to our boat and woke us up. When we used a flashlight in the evening we saw a lot of eyes shining back at us, so it was quite easy to find an owl on a tree and some small crocodiles in the shallow water. In the daytime we explored the smaller arms of the river with our dinghy.
Bocas del Toro
Our next stop was Bocas del Toro, a group of islands in the very west of Panama. It is a popular spot for surfers, so the main island, Colón, was quite touristy. It still had a nice flair and very good international restaurants. I was happy to even find a ping pong table in one of the pubs. Shopping for groceries wasn’t so great though, there were only small and medium sized chinese markets and we found bugs in a lot of the products. The date for our visa interview approached, so we docked Mila safely in the Marina Carenero on Carenero Island. That marina was quite affordable and had a kitchen on the dock. Of course we got excited about the option to use a freezer and a proper oven, so we froze some popsicles and made some pizza. The island has no roads, but there is a path going round, most of the houses are close to the water and build on stilts.
Roadtrip to the US embassy
Our way to Panama city was an adventure. First we rented a water taxi to take us and our bikes to mainland, a small town called Almirante. From there we cycled 28 km to the closest car rental in Changinola. Then we drove over the mountains to the Pacific coast. It was interesting to watch the climate change during the trip, the Atlantic side gets a lot of rain, whereas the Pacific coast is very dry, we even saw some cowboys close to the highway. After about 7 hours we arrived in the Vista Mar Marina, we were lucky to get invited to sleep on Pangea in the marina. The next day we continued our trip to Panama city, where we had booked a hotel close to the American embassy. Our interview went smoothly, the hardest part was wearing long pants and sleeves in the heat and all the waiting. The interview itself was only about 3 minutes, we just answered some questions about our reason to go to the US, our fingerprints got taken, and that was it. We hoped we could collect our passports three days later, which was a Friday, but unfortunately it took longer, so we had some more time to pass. We spend the weekend back in Vista Mar on Pangea, it was nice to spend some more time with Isabella and Tim before they went on their Pacific crossing. And there was an awesome pool in the marina. We also cycled to Valle de Anton, a remote little town in a valley and a beautiful area for hiking and cycling. On Monday we went back to Panama City to pick up our passports, they where still not ready. The next day in the afternoon we finally received them and made our way back to the boat.
On march 30, we left for Mexico. The first half of the leg was very light winds and countercurrents, so we had to motor a lot. The second half was smooth sailing on a broad reach. We arrived after 7 days on passage in a marina in Cancun.
We waited for Monday and I went to the port captain to clear in, they told me we needed an agent to clear in, so I contacted the marina agent, it turned out his fee was 400 dollars. He suggested we should go to Isla Mujeres and clear in there. So we did that, clearing in was much easier there, but we still ended up using the marina agent, because we docked in the marina in very bad weather and they told us we could not walk to the immigration office, we would have to dock the boat at the authorities dock. His fee was only 89 dollars and now we met all the officials in the marina office over the next days, a doctor took our temperatures, a lady from agriculture checked what was in our fridge, and done.
There was a nice pool in the marina, and a lot of lazy iguanas were sunbathing on the paths.
Isla Mujeres is a popular destination for American tourists and almost all of them rent golf carts to explore the island while sipping on Margaritas. We explored the island on our bikes, one time around was only about 20 km. Of course we had some tacos and Lukas discovered tacos al pastor, which is tacos with meat from a doner spit like we know from Berlin. On the boat we got into the habit of putting fresh cilantro, limes and chilies into everything. Also pretty refreshing is Michelada, beer with lime, hot sauce and salt.
There are some ferries operating between the mainland and isla Mujeres, so we also took our bikes to the mainland for a little exploring up to the peninsula Isla Blanca and for some shopping in Cancun.
Sail to Miami
The sail to Miami took us three days, the first day we had good wind and then we had to motorsail for two days. Halfway, our bathroom door broke its hinges and fell on me, but Lukas fixed it later on. When we arrived, Miami greeted us with an impressive huge raincloud, that covered the whole skyline. So we drove some circles in the thunderstorm and waited for the rain to stop before we made our way into the mooring field.
After being in Santa Marta for more than two months we decided to make use of Mila’s safe berth in Santa Marta Marina and go on a vacation to visit Medellin, Bogota and Cartagena.
Travelling inland in Colombia is easy and cheap, by bus as well as by plane. A bus ride from Santa Marta to Medellin would have taken more than 20 hours so we decided to go by plane. The Santa Marta airport is only a short taxi ride from the marina and as we traveled without checked luggage and as there are no customs problems when crossing no borders flying in Colombia is fast and efficient.
Our first hotel there was cheap but quite some distance away from the city center and not very comfortable. As it was also very loud there we changed to a better place after two nights where we could have a good rest on the 17th floor and the Medellin night life was in nearby walking distance.
Medellin is a very vibrant city, we explored the city by foot, by Metro train and also took the cable car up the hill to have a view of the whole city. There are many street vendors, in general there are loads of people on the street all the time and it often is very loud.
We did a city tour with “Real City Tours” as was suggested by our friends Silvie & Dirk and learned a lot about the history of Medellin. The tour was not only about the former drug trafficking problems with the Escobar cartel, but it was an important part of it. It was hard to imagine that not so long ago Medellin was an extremely dangerous city, as we felt very safe there during our stay. We had a nice stay in Medellin and left for an 8-hour bus ride to Bogota after four days. Of the Colombian cities we’ve been to, Teresa liked Medellin the most.
For me, Bogota was much more interesting. Because it doesn’t need to be crammed inside a valley, there is a lot more space and room to breathe. Apart from the poor areas in the outer parts Bogota is very European and avant-garde for a Colombian city. It is very clean and there are many big shopping malls. Because Bogota is very high in the mountains at 2700m, the climate is very cold for a city in the tropics. We wore long pants and occasionally even a sweater. It was quite nice to have a rest from the usual sweating for some days.
Bogota also has a very active rock music scene, we took the opportunity to visit a concert of the Ukrainian metal band Jinjer. We wanted to attend one of their shows back home in Berlin some years ago, but this concert was canceled because the band could not get a Visa for Germany.
We explored Bogota for three days mostly by foot but also by Bus. Buses in Bogota run like a Metro, so they have their own lanes that are separated by a barrier from normal traffic, and their stops are comparable to a metro station.
From Bogota, we took a plane to Cartagena. Originally we planned to sail there as it is on the way to Panama, but clearance and immigration procedures for boaters are so complicated and have to be repeated everytime you change port in Colombia, so it was easier for us to leave the boat in Santa Marta. In Cartagena we met up with our Swedish friends of catamaran Pangea that took the bus from Santa Marta to explore the city with us.
Our hotel in Cartagena was very scenic, but we could hardly get any sleep there as the city center is very loud and the windows consisted only of blinds instead of glass.
Cartagena is a bit like the big sister of Santa Marta. We stayed there for one and a half days which was enough to get a good impression of this generally nice but also very touristic city.
After three and a half months it was finally time to leave Colombia, where we initially planned to stay for four weeks. For me, this country was the absolute highlight of our whole journey for now. You can really feel that Colombia is on the rise after having serious civil war problems with drug trafficking and guerillas for 50 years. All the people are optimistic and working very hard to raise their economic status. Also, they are very open-minded and social. There are millions of Venezuelans in Colombia due to the crisis in their home country, and in general this is well-accepted by Colombians even if they are quite poor themselves. Regarding our own “refugee crisis”, there are many people back home in Germany who could learn from Colombia.
The only downside of Colombia is that people on the caribbean coast and in rural areas very rarely speak English, but at least this helped us to raise our level of Spanish from inexistent to being able to communicate somehow. Also, in Bogota and Medellin we had the impression that there were a lot more english-speaking people. In Medellin we even attended a stand-up comedy evening in English, in a bar nearby the university.
Shortly before we left we did our usual rig check and noted a broken strand in one of our forward lower shrouds. We rigged Dyneema safety line which doesn’t allow us to use our Mainsail because it is wrapped around our mast.
Nevertheless, it felt good to leave the Marina and go sailing again. We made good speed using only the jib and arrived after exactly two days in our planned anchorage in Guna Yala. Guna Yala is an autonomous territory on the Atlantic coast of Panama that belongs to the Kuna indios. It consists of many small islands, most of them uninhabitated and some with huts on them. Most Kunas live a very traditional life. There is no tap water (they get water from a river on the mainland), no electricity and their means of transport is a dugout canoe. They do use mobile phones and Whatsapp though.
The Kunas we met so far have been very welcoming and friendly, completely different to the sometimes very pushy boat boys we met in the Windward Islands (especially in Dominica). Sailors and Kunas coexist together very well, they sell us fruit, Coconuts, fish or Lobster or they trade it for drinking water, beer or the opportunity to charge their phone.
We met Pangea again and spent some time with them. Barbecued the Mahi I caught on the way to Panama, went snorkeling and fishing and met some new people. We visited Green Island and took the dinghy up Rio Diablo, where Teresa saw a small crocodile. Then we went to the Holandes Cays for christmas. We had a very nice christmas dinner on the Norwegian Catamaran Mais Uma and went on BBQ Island where the Kuna living there made a big fire.
There is a big crocodile (about 4m) living on Banedup, Holandes Cays. We never saw it ourselves but we dinghied a guy that swam to the island and then saw the crocodile back to his boat as his motivation for swimming had faded. Crocodiles are freshwater animals, but they can live on the islands because there are water holes on some islands that contain water that is less salty because of being filtered by the coral. Crocodiles are endemic in Guna Yala and as they are quite fearful accidents involving humans happen very rarely, but they are known for eating sailor’s dogs. I think i also saw the Banedup crocodile running away in front of me when collecting firewood, but i’m not totally sure as it was dark.
When we started to run out of provisions after some weeks, we sailed to Linton in mainland Panama. We rented a car to visit Panama City and the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal, took the bus to Portobelo and finally bought a second folding bike to explore the area. Biking here is fun as the roads are in good quality and there is not so much traffic. Also, there are road blocks by the Panamanian police all the time and if you are on a bike they wave you through without a search.
So far, we like Panama. We will stay in the area for a while as my brother and his girlfriend will visit us here in February.
The sail to Colombia took us 2 days and 8 hours with moderate winds. Approaching the mainland in the night we saw some lightning over the high mountains, which thankfully didn’t move out to the sea. The wind picked up a little bit when we came close to Santa Marta. With all the light from the city it was not so hard to find the fuel dock in the night, where we were welcomed by two employees from the marina. The next morning we moved to our slip. It felt great to be able to take a walk on land without having to use the dinghy and to have a proper hot shower again. There is even a gym right next to the marina, which features a very motivating view over the whole bay. Some of our friends from Curaçao arrived shortly after us and we made a lot of new friends in the marina. Santa Marta is a buzzing city, at the same time chaotic and organized. Especially on the weekends the streets and squares are full of people and street vendors. But the shops are sorted quite neatly, all the motorbike shops in one street, one for electronics, one for print shops etc. Groceries and eating out, as well as drinks are much more affordable than on the Caribbean islands. The kitchen is quite diverse and international and I was surprised to see many vegetarian restaurants
After a few weeks in Santa Marta we shared a taxi with our boat friends Silvi and Dirk up to Minca, a beautiful little village in the mountains. Our hotel was about 20 minutes up the mountain and from the patio we had a breathtaking view all the way to the coast. Unfortunately the view from inside our room was not a good as we had no window. We checked out the little waterfall just 5 min down the path, went on a hike and got a little bit lost. The next day we went on a birdwatching tour awfully early in the morning. Well, I went on the tour together with Silvi and Dirk, Lukas had too many blisters from the hike. One day after that all of us went on a 7 hour hike down to Bonda, a town close to Santa Marta. We took a small track called Paso del Mango, which went through foggy hills and rich rainforest, sometime it was hard to see the trail at all. We were happy to reach Bonda just before sunset and caught a taxi back to Santa Marta. Our hiking buddies called it a day after getting soaked by the rain and decided to stay at a finca on the way.
Back on the boat I finished a sewing project that seemed quite important for us, a connection between the dodger and the bimini, to give us more shade in the cockpit. The sun in Santa Marta is mercyless. It also gave us protection from the rain, which was good because by now the rainy season had started and it rained almost every day. The drains in the city are contructed very badly and after about 10 min of heavy rain most of the streets were flooded and getting home without soaking the shoes was impossible.
At the end of the rain season I went on a two day trip to the Tayrona National Park with Isabella from Pangea. The first day we were lucky with the weather, but in the night heavy rain and wind kept us awake and freezing in our hammocks on a rock by the seaside
Then there was Lukas birthday, which we celebrated together with our friends with a barbeque in the marina. In Colombia you don’t need a special license for riding a motorcycle, so we rented one with the normal driving license and went to Minca again, where it became a little bit too adventurous when it started to pour like hell on a little path and it got very slippery and muddy. For the next day we choose an easier road and drove on the Troncal del Caribe along the coast to Baranquilla.
And shortly after, we went on a guided hike for four days through the rainforest to the Lost city, Ciudad Perdida. It is an abandoned settlement build in 800 AD high up in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta by the Tayronas. It was quite an adventure. With seven other people, one local guide and one translator we crossed the Buritaca river about two times per day and fought our way through narrow gauges that turned into knee-deep mud baths after each rain. –And it rained about every afternoon. We were quite happy we did the trip after the official end of rain season. The camps were basic, consisting of just a roof with some bunk beds with mosquito nets. The food was traditional and quite good. On the third day we reached the lost city and had to climb very steep and slippery stairs until we reached the plateau. It was an impressive site to explore and our guide gave us a good impression of how the Tayronas used to live there. The day before we also had the chance to see a more modern village of the Kogui tribe, which are decendants of the Tayrona.
We spend some more time in Bonaire swimming and snorkeling and I biked to the lake Gotomeer with our DSLR camera to shoot some better photos of the flamingos then at our first visit. This time one of the flamingos got very close to me, it was a joy to watch him eating flies in the evening sun. I also saw a cool caracara on a tree.
We loved Bonaire but were missing a little bit the nightlife. There was not much party and concerts going on. Most people seem to be diving all day and then go to bed early.
Hoping for some more nightlife on Curaçao and to meet other young sailors, we headed there.
The sail to Curaçao was very short, it only took us 6 hours, but then we needed about one hour to find a suitable anchoring spot in Spanish Waters. The anchorage was very crowded and due to a high mountain on the east side of the lagoon it was very windy and choppy. Lukas caught a big mahi mahi on the way with half of his tail bitten off. As I don’t eat fish it was good that we already had some friends in the anchorage, who could help Lukas to eat the fish. We met Bryan on Tarka for the first time in St. Maarten when he bought our old outboard, then in Grenada, in Bonaire and now again in Curaçao. Since Bonaire he is not single handed anymore. So we invited Bryan and Noustha over for dinner and enjoyed our first sunset of the island. Next day we went with the bus to the capital Willemstad to clear in, which was quite an ordeal. You have to go to three different offices spread over the city, two of them in a restricted area on the cruiseship dock. The last office we had to visit was Port Authorities and it was already closed. So I had to go there again the next day. The complicated clearing process, the fact there was only one very small dinghy dock in the fishermans harbor and that the water on the fuel dock was very expensive gave us the impression that Curaçao was not particularly cruiser friendly.
On the good side there was some more nightlife than on Bonaire and also we made some new sailing friends. Also it was easy to provision with a shopping bus going to the supermarket. We rented a car for two days and found a beach in the north west of the island with an abundancy of turtles (and tourists filming the turtles). Also we explored a fascinating underwater cave.
When Tarka crew told us they were going to Klein Curaçao for the weekend we decided to join them.
After sailing upwind for some hours we tacked and found out it was impossible to reach the small neighbor island on the same day due to the strong countercurrent. So Tarka and Mila headed to Fuik bay on Curaçao instead. The water was a bit murky but much better then in Spanish Waters, is was nice to have a swim from the boat again. We were too lazy to put our dinghy in the water, so we used the paddle board as a dinghy, which turned out to be quite hard when I tried to transport all the gear for a barbeque plus Lukas to the the beach. After dinner we saw captain Rick’s boat Sophisticated Lady arriving and because he was friends with Bryan we got invited on his boat as well.
When we arrived there were only a couple of local motorboats. But on Sunday the bay filled up with more and more boats having a big party on the boats and in the water. Tarka stayed a little and then succeeded in making their way to Klein Curaçao. We had to go back to Spanish Waters because Lukas needed reliable Internet for a work call.
We joined a meeting of boats that were preparing to go to Colombia and got the info that the easiest way to clear into the country is to go to the marina in Santa Marta. At this marina the agent is included in the docking fees and takes care of the immigration process. In Colombia it is required to use an agent. So we decided to go to Santa Marta instead of Cartagena.
That’s where we are since one month now, but more about that in the next post, which will follow in a couple of days.
About a week ago (to be honest its more like two weeks now) we finally made it to Bonaire.
Before that, because of Hurricane Beryl threatening Martinique we decided to get south to St. Lucia instead of heading to Bonaire directly as we had planned before. We made friends with Marc and Lars of SV Largio, two German barkeepers who knew some funny drink recipes.
We had a nice daysail from Le Marin, Martinique to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia and went to the Marina to be in a safe spot in case the storm would choose a path more southerly than predicted. In the end, everything worked out fine and the storm system collapsed before hitting the caribbean islands, so we had a barbecue on the pontoon on the day the storm should have arrived. Some days later we sailed further south to Marigot, where we stayed for a week because I had some work to finish for a client in Berlin.
We also took a bus to Castries to visit the St. Lucia carnival acitivities. We had a nice day but the festivities ended sooner than we expected. From Marigot, we went further south to get a short glimpse at the famous Pitons and then went offshore for the first time since our atlantic crossing to head over to Bonaire.
Sailing to Bonaire took us about 70 hours which is quite fast for a 455nm leg. On the first day, conditions were very rolly, but later they got more settled so we got back into this nice easy downwind sailing mode that I missed so much since crossing the Atlantic ocean. To me, it always feels like beeing in a night train. The boat is moving fast towards the destination, but because of the light apparent wind and the easygoing waves it feels like not much is happening. Very effortless sailing.
I nearly catched a perfectly-sized Mahi Mahi for a single fish eater (probably about 5lbs) but unfortunately lost it before I was able to board it. Hopefully there is more luck on the next passage.
Upon arrival in Bonaire we went to the Marina for three days and then went out to the mooring field in front of Kralendijk. Anchoring is forbidden on the whole island due to being a marine protected area. I didn’t like this fact before arriving but after seeing the water quality and the sea life it makes a lot of sense to me.
We have explored the island a lot in the last days, we rented a scooter and drove around the whole island, and the following day we rented bikes to explore some areas that weren’t accessible by scooter.
Snorkeling is just great on Bonaire, unforunately our underwater cameras are not exactly the best, the Gopro just died due to salt water ingress and the other waterproof camera we have is only producing mediocre image quality. We do enjoy the snorkeling anyways, in addition to the normal reef fish we saw a stingray and a turtle in the last days.
So that’s where we are right now, plans for the near future are to do a short daysail to Curacao in the next days and then head on to Colombia. We’re thinking about maybe leaving the boat in Cartagena for an inland trip to Medellin or Bogota, but we haven’t made up detailed plans for that right now.
You might never leave it again. After spending some months in Woburn bay we met so many awesome, chilled out people that became our friends. We enjoyed the regularity of life in Woburn Bay, knowing where we would meet our friends on which day of the week. Especially now, that we came to Grenada for the third time, we felt so much at home that it was very hard to set sail again.
Our original plan was to fly to Grenada, get the boat ready to float again in 10 days, launch and then leave very soon to the ABCs. So our friend Andreas, who came with us, had his flight back booked from Curaçao. And then the usual thing happened, which happens most of the time when sailors make any plans, things on the boat break, new parts are hard to get, everything takes so much longer than expected. In the end Andreas flew back from Grenada and we stayed on the island for about two months.
Knowing how expensive boat equipment is in the Caribbean, we bought a lot of boat parts and tools in Berlin and had a whole bag of 30 kg just for the boat. We had to leave the bag at the airport with customs and Lukas spend the next day getting everything declared with the help of a broker.
When we first inspected Mila, she looked ok, but then in the V-berth there was a lot of mould, because we forgot to cover up our leaking hatches before we left. So we had to throw out most of our cushions and linens. After several hours of attempting to hand grind the old antifouling, we got some workers with proper grinders to help us with that. They also did the new paint and polishing for a good price. So we had some time to focus on the other projects. Andreas and Lukas found out our windlass was not working anymore and tried to fix it for a day. We had to buy a new one second hand and get an aluminium plate made, in order to make it fit. We had to install our new shaft seal. I washed most of the clothes we left on board, because they were musty. We had to check the left over provisions and buy new supplies and cushions, clean up everything, dry the bilge and so on.
By the launch day everything was ready and we were happy the new shaft seal was not leaking.
We ordered new wet cell batteries to the boat shop in the yard. They were slightly damaged from the transport, but after some tests showed they were ok, we decided to take them and installed them.
Another project we wanted to tackle now, was to build a bigger fridge and freezer out of our L-shaped icebox and send our 14 litre Engle cooler into well-deserved retirement after 40 years of service. Andreas and I started to work on insulating the icebox. Lukas’ job would be to install the compressor and evaporator. We thought it wouldn’t be too hard to build a box out of Styrofoam plates around the box, drill some holes into the GRP from the top and fill it up with two part PE foam. Well, it was hard, it was a hell of a project. I had to work in a super uncomfortable position, crawl into a cupboard to reach the box and then we had to cut the plates around all the asymmetrical shapes next to it and adjust to the curve of the hull. The very expensive foam kept running out, so I had to cycle over a mountain to get more from the big boat shop from time to time. Now about 11 weeks passed since we started the project fridge and it is so far finished, that you can get things cold. Some cosmetics still have to be done and the freezer has to be build as well. But we love our new fridge, about 100 litres of space for beer and other stuff!
Besides all the boatwork I took part in a fun triathlon organized by the Grenada Hash House Harriers. Luckily a fellow hasher borrowed me her road bike, so I didn’t have to use our folding bike for that.
One day we went for a nice roadtrip around the coast of Grenada with some friends in their car and saw much more of the island than we already knew.
The bad thing about Grenada is, that due to the British influence the only cheese they have is cheddar and the normal bread you get has no crust and tastes a little bit sweet. So out of longing for good cheese and baguette we made the decision to sail to Martinique once more, and stuff the boat with glorious French food. Another advantage of starting the trip further North, is that the distance to Venezuela will be bigger, once we sail to the ABC islands.
So we are back in Le Marin, Martinique now.
We rented a car for some days to explore some more of the island and of course buy lots of stuff for the boat. The landscape is much more cultivated than in Grenada, there is less of wild rainforest. The roads are generally really good maintained. Lukas was happy to drive a car again, even if it was only a Dacia Sandero. While I started some sewing projects, Lukas is working regulary for his client at home. In one or two weeks we want to sail to Bonaire.
Since the beginning of August we are back in our dearly missed Berlin, refilling our cruising kitty. Autumn is freezing us to the bones already, but so far it’s not so bad, because we saved up so much sun during the amazing last year. We luckily both found jobs as freelancers very fast. It has been very strange for us to go back into everyday life in Germany with jobs and alarm clocks and stressed out people and overfilled public transport and so much traffic everywhere. The cheap prices and variety of food you can get at a supermarket here overwhelmed us a bit. I guess you can only really appreciate the advantages of your own city when you have been away for a while.
When we heard about Irma we were very worried about our friends in St. Martin. It was heartbreaking to see the huge damage she caused on the island that we called our home for 2 month. We were relieved to hear none of our friends got harmed during the hurricane. But it’s very sad that the greatest bar of the island, the JabJabs boat bar is now sitting on the bottom of the lagoon. We hope Stefan, Kristen and Daniel and will be able to salvage her and reopen very soon. We had so many great sunsets and nights there and met so many great people.
By the way, Mila is safe and on the hard in Grenada. We are so glad that we brought her down into the relatively hurricane-safe south of the Caribbean before we left her alone.
Although it feels far away now I should still tell you about what happened between June and now. So here we go.
At the beginning of June we left St. Martin and sailed to Dominica. We left out Dominica on our way up the Caribbean and I was very happy we had a chance to visit it now. The contrast between St. Martin and Dominica couldn’t be bigger. While St. Martin is very busy, almost like one big city, Dominica is much more quiet and has amazing nature to offer. On the downside provisioning was a lot harder there. We anchored in a bay close to Portsmouth. The main attraction in this area was the Indian River, so on the second day we went to see that. As we were already more or less broke at that time we wanted to explore the river by rowing in our own dinghy. Unfortunately the local guides wouldn’t let us. So we had to hire one of them. He did a good job and told us interesting information about the river and the island but the tour still seemed a little bit overpriced to us. Nonetheless I am glad that we took it because the river is just magical, the trees on its sides look like out of a fairytale book or a drawing by Tim Burton.
I was lucky because the mangoes were in season and I could collect a lot of them on our walks. They were lying around everywhere. I even started to dry some of them under our dodger. Super sweet and delicious. Lukas in the meantime tried to buy some chicken at a butcher and all he got was some skinny turkey legs.
We made friends with Alli and Dave from the Blog Finding Island Time who were in the same anchorage and went for an awesome 6 hour hike on the Waitukubuli National Trail with them. It took us trough beautiful rainforest from the west coast of Dominica to the east coast. We saw some goats, big yellow crabs, geckos, a parrot, a stick animal and many more animals. The stick animal was awesome, it was about 30 centimeters long, sitting on a branch directly on our path, but Lukas just passed it without noticing, because it blended in so well with the plant. We walked trough plantations of pineapples, bananas, limes and oranges. Also saw how cashews and avocados grow. It was so much fun. When we got back into civilization we were still quite happy that we made it before dusk. We had a well deserved Stag beer and even found a bus that took us back to our boats.
We liked the island a lot. The only thing that bothered us was that the boat boys were very pushy. They came to us on their surfboards as soon as they saw us onboard and wanted to sell us fruits or take our garbage away.
I think it was after Dominica that we decided to haul out on Grenada and fly back to Germany instead of going to Curacao. We were both very homesick, missed our families and friends, plus the lack of money and difficulty to earn some while on the way led to this decision.
After some days we left for Martinique to provision with some more cheese and bread before going to Grenada. We learned this much by now, that you always need to fill the boat with good food before you come to a british island. This time we anchored in Fort de France, in the middle of the city.
When we made our way to Grenada we had problems with our steering again, so we had to make a stop at St. Vincent, an island we wanted to avoid, because we read on noonsite about several burglaries and murder cases on this island involving cruisers. We dropped our anchor in front of Kingston and decided to get some hours of sleep first, then fix our steering and leave as fast as possible without going on land and clearing in. That worked out ok, nobody came to rob or kill us.
On 24th 6. we arrived in Woburn Bay, which is located at the south of Grenada. We met our friend Gaute, who had his boat on land to get it repaired after it got stolen.
We met a lot of sailors in Woburn Bay and Secret Harbour, that spend the Hurricane Season in Grenada. There were regular volleyball games every week, evenings with live music at the brewery and chilled out nights at Nimrods Rum Shop. Every Sunday there was a trailrun through the bush, a hash, carried out by the hash house harriers (they call themselves drinkers with a running problem). Every time it was located in a different part of the island, the start and endpoint was always a nice bar with cheap beer for afterwards. We took part about 3 times and it was always great fun.
After some weeks on Grenada we sailed up to Carricacou for a couple of days to see something else and enjoy some sailing before going back to Germany.
When we came back to Grenada we prepared Mila for hauling out. So we put away the dodger and main sail, as well as the bimini and stored all the food that was left in airtight containers, to protect it from insects.
We flew back to Berlin on August 5. Now the plan is to work very hard until January or February. Then we hopefully are able to fly back to Grenada, get some repairs and updates done on Mila and continue our journey towards the Pacific.
It’s been some time since we posted our last blog post, which apart from the usual lazyness is due to the fact that we’re currently still on St. Martin and haven’t left the island in the last two months. We anchored in Marigot Bay for some time, then entered the lagoon and anchored near the dutch border. That’s right, while the whole island of Saint Martin / Sint Maarten is about the size of Berlin, it is divided into two countries.
This also means two different mains systems (110V on the dutch side, 220V on the french side) which is normally not important for us as we are always anchored anyways. And this means not only two currencies (Euro on the french side and Netherlands Antillean Guilders on the dutch side) but three, because everyone accepts US Dollars.
So why did we stay here for so long? At first, because we really love this island. The combination of the two countries makes it really special in the Caribbean. Due to the french impact shopping for food is a pleasure, prices are at least reasonable and the food quality is quite high, but there is absolutely no nightlife on the french side. On the dutch side, there are dozens of different restaurants, bars, night clubs and casinos. And probably because of this the prices here are also reasonable, for Caribbean standards again. The dutch side even has a SXM phone app which tells you about happy hours and special events every day. We stocked up on food a lot and went to several interesting places in the evenings.
One evening, we went to a boat bar called JabJabs that is anchored in Simpson bay, made friends with the owner and found out that he just opened and is searching for bartenders. So Teresa asked if she could work there and became a bartender some days later. While i had a closer look at this boat i found out that the electric system was an absolute chaos and so was working there as well for some days to get this sorted out.
What else happened in the last few weeks? We went to a Casino, Teresa spent 11$, i had some luck and in the end spent 2$ for gambling the whole evening and night, which was nice because they serve free drinks as long as you’re playing. We went out to several night clubs and bars, went hiking to Philippsburg and to the fort nearby Marigot bay. We also hiked to La Belle Creole which is a former luxury resort that was destroyed by a hurricane in 1995.
We went to Carnival in Philippsburg with our crazy American friend Jeff in his dinghy which has a 50hp outboard. Oh, and we just recently upgraded our own outboard from 5hp to 10hp for an extremely reasonable price (after two months on a small island you know which people to ask). Now we’re getting the dinghy easily on plane with the two of us inside and go 16kts even when carrying some stuff. We bought a sewing machine because there are some projects to be done and in the end this will probably be cheaper than having a sailmaker do it. This turned out to be a harder project than expected because most of the shops for electric stuff are on the dutch side and they only sell 110V equipment, but Mila has a 220V system onboard. But in the end we found a nice Singer, which is a german brand as far as i know.
Another reason for staying here so long was that we had to sort out our future plans. As most of you maybe know, initially we planned to head to the Panama Canal in April and as we’re still here, this will not happen this year. There are two reasons for this, the first is that the hurricane season in the Pacific begins in November which would mean that we would sail from here to New Zealand in about five months. This would mean racing through the south pacific without having time to visit many islands there, which is probably one of the most interesting parts of this journey.
The other reason is that we’re simply running out of money. We initially planned to work in New Zealand, but while our cruising kitty is not completely empty right now, we just don’t have enough money to make it there. We would probably have enough canned food on board to sail there without reprovisioning, but the Panama Canal transit is expensive and visas for the Galapagos are extremely expensive. And to be able to sail these long distances with an acceptable speed we would have to haul the boat here and repaint the antifouling, which is also expensive.
So for now, no Pacific for us. Still, as the Atlantic hurricane season officially started some days ago the 1st of June, we have to head south in the next days. The current plan is to make a short stop on Dominica because we left that out on our way north. Then we will head to Grenada which is “kind of” hurricane safe, which means it has never been hit by hurricanes except three times in the last two decades thanks to global warming. We’ll stay there for a week or two to help out a friend with repairs on his boat and then head to Curacao which is hurricane safe. That’s the plan for now, from there we will think about what to do next. Maybe we will find jobs there, maybe we will put Mila on the hard and come back home for some time to work and depending on how this all works out we will decide what to do after the end of the hurricane season in December. The options we have is to sail to the pacific (which we hope to do) or sail back home (which we have to do if our funds are not sufficient) or sell the boat, which we currently can’t imagine.
So to sum it up, everything is good onboard Mila, but for now, plans have changed. But actually, we’re in good company with that. We’re underway now for about 10 months and in this time we met several other boats with more or less fixed plans to go through the Panama Canal this spring. And as far as i know there is only one single boat that is currently sailing in the Pacific which is the Little Coconut that we met in Portugal, on the Cape Verdes and on Barbados. All the others have changed plans. Boats have been sold or will be sold soon or are on the hard for at least the hurricane season. Or in one special case, are on the hard because they got stolen but were recovered and got major damage to the hull in the whole process. But in the end (apart from the story of the stolen boat) that’s an important factor of the whole cruising lifestyle: Things never work out as planned. Else, it would probably be quite boring.
We spent some days in the Marina Bas du Fort on Guadeloupe and waited for my mother to arrive. The day after she arrived we rented a car and explored the western part of the butterfly shaped island, which is called Basse-Terre. We saw some waterfalls and stopped at the Pigeon Islands for coffee and some coconut sorbet. On the way back through the rainforest it was raining heavily.
One day later we left for Marie Galante, a small island southeast of Guadeloupe. Contrary to the weather forcast, the wind increased to 30 knots and we had several squalls. My mother had no experience sailing on the ocean and got very seasick. When we arrived at the anchorage after about 4 hours there was still some swell. On the next day we went to land by dinghy. Unfortunately the weather was still very bad and we had to hide from the rain about every 10 minutes. The following day we had better weather and went to a nice beach and a cozy beach bar for the sunset.
Then we decided to check out the Isles des Saintes, a couple of small islands west of Marie Galante. As the anchorages there are very crowded we had a hard time to find a good spot. In the end we prolonged our chain so that we were able to anchor a little bit more outside. In the daytime the village Terre de Haut was full of tourists but still quite pretty. I went for a run up to the fort Napoleon, where I had a beautiful view of the bay. The other day we found a quiet beach on the nortern side of the island where we went snorkeling.
After 3 days we wanted to make some way to the north in direction to Antigua and take a stop at Deshaies at the west side of Guadeloupe. We had a pleasant sail with nearly no waves and good steady 15-20 knots from the East until the wind suddenly came from the West rather than the East and messed up our schedule. In order to still arrive before sunset we changed our plans and went to the anchorage at the plage de Malendure, behind the Pigeon Islands, the beach we have already been to with the car one week earlier. We had to anchor quite close to some other boats. At about 5 in the night we were woken by a loud sound, which made us rush outside. The boat behind us has hit Mila’s starboard rear corner while getting up the anchor. The good thing was that only a piece of metal protecting the corner got dented. The next day we decided we should check out the underwater life of the famous Jaques Custeau diving spot. So we went over to Pigeon island with dinghy and paddleboard and tied them up on one of the buoys next to the reefs. The snorkeling there was really astonishing with colourful fish and big corals. It was just a little bit annoying that there were so many people diving there.
The next day we only sailed 11 nautical miles to Deshaies, where we mainly went in order to clear out of Guadeloupe. The day we arrived we saw some dolphins in the bay, swimming very close between the boats!
When we wanted to leave for Antigua two days later the wind was gusting up in the bay so we had to wait a while before we could lift up the anchor. As a result of that we arrived in Freemans bay in the dark. Luckily there were two leading lights on shore to guide us in. When we got up the next morning we found ourselves in a beautiful and very protected bay with an amazing watercolour and a funny boat with zebra stripes next to us. Lukas requested to stay there for at least a week to relax for a bit and to recover from his cold. The bay is a part of English Harbour, which the british navy used as a hurricane hole in the 18th century. As soon as I finished clearing in (quite time consuming and complicated here compared to the other islands) my mother and me visited the museum of Nelsons Dockyard, walked over to Folsom Bay and to Pigeon Beach. The next day she took a taxi to the airport at the northern part of the island. Lukas and me spend some days doing boat projects like cleaning up all the spillages we ignored for the last days, removing algies from Mila’s hull and repairing the toilet. Also we found our favourite bar of Antigua, the Lime Lounge. The owner and one or two other musicians played live music almost every night. One night Lukas jammed with them. We went for a nice walk on the the rocky costline next to the bay and I rode the foldable bike to Carlisle bay, not knowing before that there was a big mountain in between English Harbour and there.
After nine days we set sail to Jolly Harbour. On the way we were struck by the super clear water, we could see the ground of the ocean at 14 meters!
In Jolly Harbour there is one of the only big supermarkets of Antigua, it was nice to be able to get everything we needed again, although the prices were quite high. We took a minivan to Saint Johns, the capital of the island. We didn’t like it there too much. A big part of the city consisted of a duty free shopping mall for the passengers of the cruise ships and the other part was mainly quite run down.
Funnily we ran into Manu and Stian from Mira Polaris in the the Jolly Harbour supermarket. We already met them in Mindelo and then coincidentally in Martinique. They were planning to go to a bay a little bit to the north called Deep Bay, because there was a great spot for snorkeling at a wreck. We decided to join them. And Deep Bay turned out to be a very pleasant anchorage with only a couple of other boats. We went snorkeling and had a nice barbecue/bonfire at the beach. As we almost had no water left and there was no place to leave our garbage we left for St. Martin some days later.
It was the first over night sail after a while. St. Martin or Sint Maarten is a peculiar island because it has a French part and a Dutch part. We were told it was much more convenient to clear in at the French side. So we dropped our anchor in Marigot bay on the French side and planned to go into the lagoon after two days and anchor somewhere close to the Dutch side. Now we have been here about one week and still didn’t go into the lagoon. The bridge opening times don’t match with our shedule. But we did visit the famous Maho beach, right next to the Princess Juliana Airport. A good beach for us because Lukas normally gets bored on the beach very fast, but not if he can watch the constantly starting or landing airplanes. The motto of St. Martin is “The friendly island” and we must say that St. Martin people really are super friendly. One day we were carrying our groceries on the side of the street and a friendly lady with a pickup drove us back to our dinghy. Later at night when we were on our way back from partying, an other friendly lady also drove us to where we left our dinghy. Speaking of dinghys, we finally picked up our new dinghy now! We are super happy to get to places without being completely soaked. Still working on the planing with the two of us in the boat though. The outboard is not accelerating enough, so we might have to buy a different propeller.
We want to stay in St Martin for a bit longer and maybe lift Mila out of the water to repaint her antifouling, which is already very worn off. Once that is done, we will get going for Panama. Oh, and we have to fix our toilet… again.
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