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.
We had a nice overnight downwind sail from Barbados to Grenada. It was the last one so far as we headed North in the last weeks and with the prevailing Northeasterlies right now this means sailing close-hauled most of the time.
The day we arrived in Grenada, our friend Andreas joined us for three weeks.
We took a minivan with a totally crazy driver to visit the Seven Sisters waterfalls on Grenada. While I’m probably not a slow driver myself, I was really impressed by the speed of this minivan that was completely filled with about 15-20 people. After several experiences like this I start to get the impression that being on land and in a car is possibly the most dangerous thing about a circumnavigation.
Luckily, we made it to the falls without dying and had a nice hike through the woods. On the way back, we got visited by some monkeys that obviously liked climbing on humans very much.
After three days in the marina we were finished with hanging out in the pool, doing the laundry, filling up on water and food and so we went out to the anchorage. While we do have a good, oversized anchor and a heavy oversized chain as we need to have a reliable anchoring system, we had some problems getting our anchor to grip in the St. George anchorage. We tried to find a usable spot for six times but the but never hit a spot with enough sand. The next idea was to dive down and carry the anchor to a better spot, but we were not able to make it all the way down to the six to seven meters depth. Obviously, we do need more diving practice. So far, we are only able to go down about four to five meters. So we just decided to leave it as it is and not leave the boat alone for a longer period of time.
From Grenada, we did an overnight sail to Canouan which is a small island of the Grenadines. It is mostly known for its two luxury resorts for tourists with a lot of money (hotel rooms start at 350€ per night) that come to the island with a small plane and then just stay inside their resort for the whole holiday. Which is a shame, because the rest of Canouan is absolutely beautiful. People are very friendly, and there are loads of turtles, wild dogs, chicken and other animals walking freely around the island. One evening, we went to a party club on the island (probably the only one) and had a nice evening with the locals with cold beer, good food, a live band, karaoke and local comedians.
After three days, we headed over to the Tobago Cays, which is a group of uninhabitated islands with an outside reef protecting them from the atlantic swell. We were unsure about going there because this spot is known for being very crowded and there have been some thefts last year, but we decided to go there and it was totally worth it. There were a lot of boats especially in the small anchorage between the main islands, but there was enough space outside to find a cozy anchor place for Mila.
We went snorkeling every day and saw a lot of fish, turtles (some were quite big), stingrays, and a water snake.
One evening, we made friends with six german guys that sailed a charter catamaran. They invited us over for a nice dinner and some beer, and when we met them again on Martinique before they went back home they kindly gave us their leftovers of food and drink.
Next, we headed north again and had another overnight sail to Martinique. Because Andreas had to get to Guadeloupe in time to make it to his flight back home, we did not stay long. Teresa went for a run to see a little bit of the island, but other than that we mainly went to Martinique for provisioning, and bought two shopping carts of food and drinks in the first big supermarket with acceptable prices since we left Gran Canaria in December last year. We only took a short trip with the dinghy into the mangroves and saw some birds and a lot of crabs everywhere.
And now we’re on Guadeloupe, where Andreas left us this morning to get back home. We’ll be on our own for some days and then Teresas mother will join us.
Yesterday, we went out for Carnival, which started a little bit boring in the beginning but then got very interesting later in the night. In the end, we just joined one of the groups and walked through Pointe-a-Pitre with them. As it is quite a long walk from the city center to the marina, we tried to get a cab but this turned out to be impossible as cab drivers were either all asleep or probably all drunk. Which was not bad in the end, because in the end we found a way to get back to Mila much faster than with a cab, we just asked one of the powerboat guys that was in the process of leaving if he can take us with him and so we were back in less than two minutes thanks to his dual 250hp outboards.
So for now, nearly everything is great onboard Mila. The only problematic thing right now is our dinghy, which is a cheap roll-up-inflatable that is just not up to the task of being used daily and transporting stuff through a choppy anchorage. Everything on board gets completely wet if there is a minimal amount of waves and the transom started to break apart and can’t take the forces of our 5hp outboard anymore. So we are currently planning to get a new one as soon as possible and it will probably be an aluminium RIB that is quite expensive but much more appropriate for us than the current one.
On december 27 we left Gran Canaria for Cape Verde. There was still a lot of sand in the air, so almost no sun and moon visible. We spend a very relaxed New Years Eve at sea, just had a bottle of sparkling wine and continued with our shifts apart from that. The young crews of cargo ships were going crazy on the VHF playing party music and exchanging new years wishes during the night. We had a bird visiting for 3 days, occupying all the floor space in the galley. We arrived in Mindelo on São Vicente after 6.5 days. After going to the immigration office we had some welcome beers in the floating harbour bar with the crews of Paloma, Mira Polaris and Isis. We liked the atmosphere of Mindelo a lot. There was a good live band playing in almost every bar and sometimes outdoors and most of the Cape Verdeans are happy and friendly people.
Provisioning for the big crossing ahead of us was a little bit tricky as the supermarkets had only limited amount of food available and almost no vegetables and fruits. For that we had to go to the market, were it was difficult to get a good deal without speaking Portuguese. Lukas had problems buying fresh meat. Pretty much only fish was available. As the water quality in the harbour pipes was not the best, we stocked up on 35 five liters canisters of water. The good thing was that the supermarket had a very uncomplicated system of delivery. An employee just accompanied us to the marina with the shopping carts and took them back after unloading.
One day we went for a hike with some sailor friends on the neighbour island Santo Antão. We got up awfully early, caught the ferry at 7am and then jumped on a minivan to go up to a volcano and hiked down to the coast from there. The landscape changed a lot from being quite dry up in the volcano to super green and full of exotic plants when we went further down the valley. For the first time we saw banana palms, papaya trees, coffee trees, huge fields of sugarcane and many more. The vegetation on São Vicente is a lot more barren then the one on this island. We came trough little villages of the farmers and I managed to buy a papaya directly from the source. It was a wonderful day, when we arrived on the coast we were all exhausted and found a cozy art cafe, where we had some great typical Cape Verdean food. We waited so long for it that we almost missed the last ferry back to our island. The very laid back owner kept telling us not to worry and organized a faster minivan driver for us so we could enjoy our food. We were lucky that the ferry was delayed.
After one very frustrating day of boat projects, a visit to the beach in Calhau, a nice barbeque on the pier with vegetables and fish from the market, some uno and drinks with the other crews, some more exploring of Mindelos nightlife, and some final provisioning, we decided it was time to go sailing for real and cross the Atlantic.
We left on January 11 some hours after Paloma. We already had about 20 knots of wind in the marina and dented our bathing ladder while getting out of our berth. In the acceleration zone between the islands we had about 30 knots of wind for a time. In the first night we had a hard time sailing because the wind behind the islands was not consistent at all, changing directions and sometimes dying completely. After sunrise the wind settled and we had about 20 knots from the East. We were starting to feel comfortable until I discovered that our beloved Booster had torn apart. I tried to tape it and sew it and gave up when I realized that we didn’t have enough repair tape onboard. We decided to postpone the repair until we had the right material. So we set our genua and still made a good speed of around 5 knots. On the next day we overtook the Paloma. When we were next to them, both boats caught a mahi mahi. As the fish was 95 cm long and I don’t eat fish, Lukas had some problems eating all of it.
On the next day we made 138 nautical miles with the boomed out genua and the boomed out jib. Every night flying fish were landing on the foredeck and in the cockpit. Whenever we heard a noise followed by some flapping we knew what happened, I got a torch and a glove and hurried outside to throw the little fella back into the water. About every second night I baked a bread or some buns in our omnia oven. The rest of the time we spend reading, watching stars and films, cooking, eating, washing up, taking deck showers, cleaning the boat, sunbathing, sleeping, playing guitar, fishing, snoozing, writing messages on our satphone and occasionally chatting to other boats on the radio. The days seemed quite short and resembled each other. Actually we did not have to do a lot during the crossing as we did not get hit by a single squall. Just sometimes a little bit of rain, but no wind gusts at all. We were a little bit disapointed that the sky was quite overcast for most of the time, but that got better in the second half. On January 20 we made half of the way, so I allowed us the last two beers that I had hidden to save them for that occasion. Thereafter we had two days of light wind, which made us miss our booster. At one time we needed to take in the sails and run the engine for a couple of hours. We did 6 hours shifts during the day and 4 hour during the night. When we approached Barbados on the 28th the wind increased and we had 20 knots again.
We had to come into the deepwater harbour of Bridgetown to clear in. That one is build for the huge cruise ships and was very bad to Mila and got her some black strains on the side because our fenders were too small for the gaps in the wall. Fortunately it didn’t take very long to get the formalities over with. We then went out to the anchorage in Carlisle Bay and dropped our anchor close to the Norwegian boat Isis. We were overwhelmed by the bright turquoise colour of the water close to the beach. The beach is quite noisy with some beach bars on it, jet skies, horse riding, these rocket thingies that I just know from the videos at McFit, ah flyboards they are called. We noticed that the sun was more intense here and both got our first sunburn on the trip. On the left side of the bay is a channel, which is convenient for driving into town with the dinghy. Landing on the beach is a bit hard due to the surf. We noticed that food is extremely expensive on Barbados. Now we are dividing our time between boat work and having fun, like we always do. On the fun side we went out with the dinghy to look for turtles. Didn’t see any yet, but instead we found a huge wreck with some interesting fish hovering over it, which was definately the highlight of our snorkeling experiences so far.
It has been quite a while since our last blog post, but we didn’t come as far as we planned due to several technical problems. Instead of being on the atlantic crossing right now, we are still on Gran Canaria and hope to finally be able to leave for Cape Verdes tomorrow. But no worries, we have the time.
After some more days on Lanzarote with more exploring of this fascinating island, we did a small leg south to Isla de Lobos, which is a small unpopulated island north of Fuerteventura. We stayed for two days in a quite nice but unsheltered anchorage with clear water in front of a lagoon until the wind direction shifted and it got too uncomfortable due to waves coming in.
At high water it is possible to enter the lagoon by dinghy, and if you stay until low water you have to carry the dinghy over the rocks at the entrance. Luckily our dinghy is not that heavy at 32kg without the outboard, so we didn’t have to care too much about tides.
We tried some snorkeling in the lagoon which was refreshing but not as interesting as we hoped because the water in there was not as clear as outside in the anchorage. We would have loved to go snorkeling there, as we could even see a big stingray hovering over the ground behind Mila, but the currents between Isla de Lobos and Fuerteventura were to strong to go in the water.
So we went on to Gran Canaria and did an overnight upwind sail to Las Palmas. I was really looking forward to sailing upwind again, because we had not done this for such a long time, only boring relaxing downwind sailing. Well, when we went out and the wind increased to 30 knots, i quickly remembered why no one loves upwind sailing. It was exhausting as it always is, but we did fine and arrived in the Las Palmas anchorage in the late morning.
We decided to stay there for some time and get some repairs done. After 3000nm several of our sails (the main, the large genoa and the booster) had smaller problems and we found a sailmaker who did good work (as far as we know until now) for a fair price. So if you need any sailwork done on your boat, go to Sunny’s yacht service in Las Palmas. He is a bulgarian guy and former circumnavigator who is living on his boat and has a loft for sailwork, canvas work and steel welding.
We also finally installed our second water tank, now we have 200L of water which lasts quite a long time when only used for cooking and drinking. While this project went unexpectedly well, our now completed freshwater system lasted only for two days, then our freshwater pump (that we installed new in spring 2015) failed shortly before we wanted to leave to Cape Verdes. Knowing about the situation there for spare parts we decided to order a new pump in Las Palmas and wait for it to arrive. The old pump still pumps, but the pressure sensor that stops the pump when the taps are closed stopped to work. So we ordered exactly the same pump and if this one will break again we hopefully will be able to built a working pump out of two broken ones.
When the pump finally arrived, there were only some days left until Teresas 30th birthday, so we decided to stay longer to celebrate with the several people we got to know in Las Palmas or knew from Portugal and Morocco.
We had a really nice party with sailors from Sweden, Norway, Chile, Canada and Germany with loads of beer and Gin Tonic. Even if the two of us are all in all 60 years old now, the celebrations lasted the whole night until it was 6:30 in the morning.
We also decided to rent a car again to expore Gran Canaria. This works really nice on the Canaries, you simply go to the car rental, fill out a paper and then you get a car for a nice price. We paid even less than on Lanzarote, 26€ for 24 hours including unlimited kilometers and with complete insurance coverage.
We used the car to go south fast on the highway near the coast, visited Maspalomas which is very touristy and then went back to the north over the center of the island, with very small streets through the mountains.
Several days later we finally completed all preparations for doing the 850nm trip to Cape Verdes. We went to a supermarket that offered delivery to the harbour and bought provisions for 350€, filled up on Diesel, Gas and Water and set sail to Mindelo, Cape Verdes.
Or, at least this destination was the plan. When we left the Las Palmas anchorage wind speeds increased and due to this the load on the steering system also increased, which is normally no problem. But this day, we heard a strange squeaking noise coming from the steering system that we never heard before. While the weel steering worked as expected and we have an emergency tiller if it ever stops to do so, we decided to head back in to Pasito Blanco on the south end of Gran Canaria to find out what is wrong.
The next morning, i started disassembling the whole system. The steering wheel turns a chain that is connected to a steel wire that finally moves the rudder. There are several pulleys that guide the steel wire to the rudder, and i noticed that one of the pulleys was not aligned correctly. As there was some paint over the pulley mount, it must have been like this for a long time or even from factory. So i removed all the pulleys and had a close look at them and noticed that the shaft of the misaligned pulley had a lot of wear due to the sideways loading.
While this 20mm shaft that was worn down to about 18mm probably would have lasted for quite a long time, we decided to sort this problem out properly as we already had all the parts removed. The next day, i took the folding bike and found an ancient metal workshop run by a guy from Cuba below a shopping mall. He made us two new shafts (so now we have one as a spare) for 20€. We put everything back together and now the squeaking stopped, even when putting load on the rudder.
So we were ready to leave again, but this time the weather didn’t want us to. We had quite strong winds in the last days which at first made it impossible to back out of our very tight slip and then brought loads of very fine sand dust from the Sahara. This is called Calima and looks like being a quite common thing on the Canaries. Everything is covered in dust and when going out, it takes only some minutes until your eyes and throat start to hurt. Not the best conditions for going out on a boat like ours where you have to be outside to see anything in forward direction.
So we celebrated christmas in Pasito Blanco inside the boat and had a nice christmas dinner with homemade german potato salad with a recipe of Teresas mother. And i got a new haircut.
Today, the Calima winds started decreasing. The air was still a little bit hard to breathe but much better than yesterday. So we went out to the Maspalomas Dunes to take the obligatory handstand picture.
Hopefully we can leave for Cape Verdes tomorrow. We’ll probably spend New Years eve at sea then but we are looking forward to that.
Oh, and i forgot: Somewhere in between first one of my cameras died and then my phone died. Both items are replaced now but it was quite a hassle to find acceptable replacements. Experienced long distance-sailors say long distance-sailing means repairing your boat in the most beautiful places of the world. We start to get strong believers in this thesis. And we like it.
We stayed in Oeiras for quite some more time, enjoying the heavily floured buns from the marina for 13 days. The reason was that we decided to sail to Morocco instead of Madeira and therefore needed a steady North. When it was finally there, we still had to wait for a packet with some spare parts from SVB in Germany. The good thing was that we could celebrate Lukas birthday with all our boat friends with a nice bonfire at the beach. Also we bought a foldable bike in Lisbon, which made us so much more mobile. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Landkrabbene and Rosanna. And also to Oda, whom we only met one evening. She is sailing to Australia on her own, quite impressive!
Finally our packet arrived and we left the harbour with Tuuli, which also was going to Morroco. We were very happy to be out at sea again. We had the best sail ever, with 10-18 knots from behind, perfect for our booster.
In the evening of the the third day we arrived in Mohammedia. The harbour was quite full, we had to go alongside to a Moroccan boat that lay at the end of the pier. The harbour master sent us to the immigration office. We were surprised that the officer there kept our passports and the boat papers. When we came back to the marina the harbour master told us to wait for the harbour master of the outer harbour, where the big container ships are docked. So we waited in his office, watching some Moroccan television. When he came he told us that we have to pay 26€ per day for being in the big harbour plus 4€ for the facilities of the marina, a hot shower and wifi in front of the building. We were quite shocked about that price as we expected something close to 13€, like we read it in the internet. But apparently they changed the fees a bit since 2004. We were told that the customs officer would visit us in the morning. So we tidied up the boat and were not sure if we should hide some of our booze or just be honest about it. We have not really found clear information about how much alcohol you are allowed to import. In the end we settled for being honest if they asked about it.
We got up at 10 in the morning and thought the customs guy would arrive every minute. But instead another guy from the marina arrived and told us to go alongside another boat and not be so much in the way for the fishers anymore. Another German boat shortly came alongside us. After some hours we saw a very official looking guy with an uniform heading for us. That was the customs officer. He requested to see our boat papers and passports. When we told him we had to leave them at the police station he said he will come back with the police officer. We waited some more and saw that all the boats that arrived after us got their clearance before us. So we asked him. Then apparently he had lost interest and told us we were free to go. Oh, in the meantime also a guy from the coastguard came over and wanted to see our papers. Well, we wanted to take the train to Rabat, so Kristy and Thomas from Tuuli and Lukas and I went to the police office and got our passports and a 3 day Visa which we had to show to the guards at the barrier and after just 3 hours we were able to leave the harbour. The street was scattered with feathers and smelled of blood. We manged to find the train station, which was very modern. In Rabat we strolled over a market and stood a little bit too long on a crossing checking our phones to decide which way to take. Suddenly we had a guide who took us to a beautiful cemetary at the sea and showed us the medina. Well the thing about „don’t worry about it, you just pay what you want“ was more like „pay at least 30€ or you are a very bad person, most people pay 50€“ Before catching the train back to Mohammedia we ate some tagine and drank some awesome coffe in a restaurant. The tagine is a kind of stew served very hot in a clay pot. That restaurant even had a vegetarian option.
In the evening of the next day Tuuli and Mila left the very noisy harbour of Mohammedia to El Jadida. Unfortunately we had no wind so we had to use the engine for the whole trip. When I tried to talk to the harbour master of El Jadida on the radio I got no reply, I guess women are just ignored on the Moroccan radio. At least we could hear his conversation with Thomas so we understood that we were supposed to anchor just under a fort in the harbour. The Royal Yacht Club of El Jadida consists of 3 little boats rotting away on a pier. There were no showers or toilets, no wifi and we had to pay 26€ just for anchoring. Quite a difference to what you pay for food there, 90 cents for a sandwich and fries. The harbour was crowded with traditional fishing boats and we felt a little displaced with our yacht there. Even tough the water smelled like fish some children swam around in the harbour circling Tuuli and Mila. The city of El Jadida was less touristic than Rabat.
The next day Kristy and I took a train to Casablanca in order to visit the Hassan ll Mosque, one of very few mosques you are allowed to enter as a non-Muslim. It was an impressive builing and we learned a bit about the Islamic culture on the tour. As we did not feel like going trough another struggle with all the authorities in the next harbour we decided to leave Morocco and head for Lanzarote next. We were definately glad that we visited the country and had a lot of impressions to process on our next passage. And also I had some amazing sugarcane and pomegranates to nibble on.
When we approached Lanzarote after 3 days at sea we decided to first visit the Isla La Graciosa north of Lanzarote so we could arrive in daylight. The island is just about 29 squarekilometers big and looks like a mini desert with three volcanoes on it. It has no ashalted roads and just one village, the other village just consists of holiday houses. We climbed up one of the craters and went for some swimming and snorkeling in the superclear water. Also we had a very good pizza and some rum with honey for desert.
The next day we left for Arrecife on the eastcoast of Lanzarote. The water was so clear that we could see our shadow on the ground of the ocean in about 20 meters depth. The marina Lanzarote is huge and very convenient, it has lots of shops and restaurants. There is a Burger King directly at the gate of our pier. So it is kind of hard to keep Lukas from going there at least once every day. We rented a car and explored the island. Visited some caves and looked down from the cliffs that we saw from La Graciosa. The next day Lukas drove me to the Timanfaya National Park, I took a bus tour through the volcanoes there and ran 29 km back to Arrecife. Especially the first part of the track was very beautiful with the black lava fields. It was interesting to see how the farmers here are cultivating plants on the black lava sand.
Yesterday we found the courage to restart our project watertank. Since we found out in Hohensaaten that we couldn’t stop them from leaking, we have been using water canisters. We ordered new tanks to a shipyard in Oeiras and have been driving them around since then. We managed to install one of them and for once it worked, not leaking… yet. Big day for Mila and us. Let’s see when we will find the courage for the next tank.
Today we want to leave the marina and go to anchor somewhere close before we proceed to Fuerteventura.
(It’s possible to click on the pictures now for a bigger version)
To sum up the last weeks, we were a little bit lazy and just did some short passages down the Portuguese coast. Nearly all Portuguese harbours are in river entrances and can get quite rough even with moderate winds because the Atlantic swell works against the river and tidal currents.
We had some great days in Porto with crews from other boats and our friend Moritz who joined us from Povoa de Varzim to Peniche. We explored the city, had an exceptionally good sushi and did a Port wine tasting that was included in the marina fee.
After some days we headed south to Aveiro and anchored in the nearby Sao Jacinto anchoring bight, because there is a high voltage cable crossing the river that goes to the Aveiro Marina. According to our charts the minimum height below the cable is 18m, but as Mila has a height of nearly 17m including the VHF antenna we decided not to try out the accuracy of the given cable height.
The entrance to the river delta was quite rough although there was nearly no wind and only about 2m of swell outside in the deeper water. But as we approached the shallower entrance the waves got steeper and quite chaotic. It didn’t help that we arrived exactly between high and low tide. When we walked to the entrance the next day at high water the conditions were a lot calmer.
Going to Sao Jacinto turned out to be a wise decision, because it is an interesting place that is much less touristy than Aveiro. We were the only boat in the anchorage at first, and then another french boat joined us. We went to the only existing bar in the village, which was only populated by locals and had two nice evenings with cheap beer and funny karaoke singers. As this was the only place to go to there were people of all ages, and on the second evening we noticed that there were not only exactly the same people but they even sat in exactly the same spot. So we wondered whose spot we occupied…
Moritz and me went to a fish restaurant and I ordered grilled sardines and got a delicious plate of six of them. This has been the first time in my life that I ordered fish in a restaurant and was not able to eat all of it, but fortunately Moritz was able to help.
From Sao Jacinto we went to Peniche and originally planned to visit the Berlengas Island which is about 5 nautical miles west of Peniche. But this island has no harbour and there was to much swell to use the dinghy to get to land, so we just motored around the island and then went to Peniche.
When we arrived we were welcomed by the norwegian girls of Paloma which we already knew from Porto. We had told them before that we are really sad about not being able to make pizza on board because we don’t have an oven and so they invited us over for a really nice pizza dinner.
We stayed for some days and walked around the peninsula, went for a swim and to a local bar. The weather was changing a lot between warm sunshine, strong rainshowers and extremely thick fog.
Next stop was Cascais in the Tejo river nearby Lisboa. We didn’t like this town as it is a rich people’s area and so were the prices in the harbour, not only the high marina fee but also 13€ for using the washing machine and the dryer. Because of the conditions on the river we had to stay some days but then went on to Oeiras closer to Lisboa as soon as possible.
Approaching Oeiras was as rough as the other Portuguese river approaches, but this time we had a funny encounter with a portuguese submarine warship. We arrived in the darkness and the submarine was black, had no AIS transponder, the wrong navigational lights (actually it had the lights that a sailboat shows when sailing without the engine running and therefore having the right of way). The lights were mounted so low that i saw the boat at first when it was only about 50-60m away. But all went fine, probably they saw us much earlier and kept clear of us.
In Oeiras we met up again with some of the other boats. The marina has its own pool that is naturally only open during daytime but as we decided that all of us are in need of a swim in the late night we unfortunately misunderstood the pool area fence for a pool area boarding ladder. This worked quite well for about 10 minutes until the very relaxed pool guard arrived. He approached in normal Portuguese guard pace (means extremely slow) and friendly informed us that the pool is closed till the next morning. So we went back over the pool area boarding ladder and decided to go to the next beach for another swim and the usual bonfire.
In contrary to our original plans we decided not to head to Madeira next but go further south on the coast and then cross the strait of Gibraltar to go to Morocco. While Madeira would definitely have been nice too, we’re interested in going somewhere that is a little bit off the normal cruising routes, so we plan to visit El Jadida and Essaouira because those are the only harbours that we can enter with our 2m draft and do at least have some sort of small pier where a yacht can go to. After Morocco we will get back on our planned route and therefore sail to the Canaries.
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