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.
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.
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’ve been to Netherlands – France – Great Britain in the last days. While Belgium would have been nice to visit too, we decided to go to France directly and ended up in Dunkerque as the wind died and our fuel tank was nearly empty.
As we liked the beach we stayed for two days. Teresa took the opportunity to run 28km to Belgium and back. There are a lot of marine hardware stores and so we stocked up on fuel filters and oil filters. Unfortunately, Henning had to get back home from Dunkerque so now we’re on our own again.
Initially, we planned to go from Dunkerque to Isle Of Wight, but as the wind increased again we decided to stop at Calais. We arrived late at night and opposed to what we expected, there was nearly no ferry traffic. As the harbor only opens at high tide, we weren’t able to get in and stayed on a mooring buoy for the night. There was quite a lot of swell in the harbor but as the buoy was for free that was okay. At some times, it was impossible to have a can of beer standing on the table without holding it securely.
As the weather forecast predicted southwesterly winds with force 3 (about 10 knots), we decided to cross the english channel and then continue to sail west to Isle of Wight. But about half way of the crossing wind speeds increased and soon we found ourselves sailing close-hauled against force 8, we measured some wind gusts over 40 knots. So still no Isle of Wight for us, we’re in Dover now. And we’re having to eat massive amounts of eggs before they go bad. Very delicious!
So far, everything works great, except that we are wishing for more winds from the north or east. But considering the pilot charts for this area, those strong westerly winds seem to be normal.
We’ve sailed nearly 900 miles now and Mila works as we expect her to, except for a small leak (or leaks, who knows…) we haven’t found until now. When sailing close-hauled at force 5 or more our bilge pump removes about a small cup of water every hour. Nothing dramatic, but we would like to have a dry bilge.
This is day 29 of our travel, we made 735 nautical miles and finally we have good wifi and some time to get started with the blog, thank you for your patience 🙂
We are in Stad aan Het Haringvliet at the moment, a little village south of Rotterdam.
What happened so far? Well, we untied our lines on August 1st in Hennigsdorf, thinking we would arrive at the SzczecinLagoon in about 3 days. But as we arrived at the Hohensaaten locks, the water level of the Hohensaaten-Friedrichsthaler-Wasserstraße, the channel behind the locks, was too shallow for Mila’s 2m draught. So we waited there for 10 days and started to think we would never even get to the sea and just chill in Hohensaaten for 3 years. Luckily we got a cold beer delivery from our friend Andreas every few days and a visit from my brother, which made the waiting much less frustrating.
When the water level rose over 2 meters on August 12th we were thrilled to be able to go through the locks finally. We stopped in Mescherin for a night and arrived in Ueckermünde the day after. Mila became a real sailboat again when we stepped her mast. My parents came with their caravan for our farewell and helped us a lot with cooking food for us, picking up our bimini top from the sailmaker in Greifswald and driving us to Szczecin for provisioning. My brother visited us as well and helped us with connecting the solar panels and getting the boat ready for sailing.
We left Ueckermünde on August 17th and decided to sail directly to Kiel to make up for lost time. In Holtenau we took our friend Henning on board, who will spend 2 weeks with us on the boat. We drove through the Kiel Canal in one day and had to come alongside a group of 3 ships in Brunsbüttel. One of them wanted to leave the harbour at 5 in the morning, the other one at 9, tough night.
Next we headed to Cuxhaven, a nice and big harbour, which is quite expensive. We got the washing done, it was raining most of the time. Lukas made a pizza out of old buns in our Omnia oven. A seal was lying on the pier for half a day.
Our next stop was Amsterdam, where went to the Sixhaven. The city is beautiful and we really enjoyed watching the small boats having traffic jams and partying in the canals. So we decided to take our dinghy for a ride trough the canals on the next day. It’s been a lot of fun but turned out to be a bit difficult because in a lot of canals you are only allowed to go trough one way. Lukas and Henning dropped me off at the Van Gogh Museum.
In the night we departed for Stad aan Het Haringvliet where we met Kristy and Thomas from Sailboat Tuuli and had a great BBQ at the beach next to the harbour.
Our next stop will be France, probably Le Havre, let’s see what the wind will do with us.
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