Sint Maarten. Ready for the Atlantic!

Sint Maarten is another European island in the Caribbean, the Northern half French, the Southern half Dutch. Yuana parked on the Dutch side. We came here to prepare the boat and ourselves for our second Atlantic crossing, this time back to Northern Europe.

Moreover, our new Crew Michael from Belgium joined our team in Sint Maarten. Michael will be helping us with the around-the-clock handling of the boat. Having an additional adult on board allows more sleep, thus making the passage more comfortably for everyone. Having at least a third adult on board is also an important safety point which we didn’t want to miss. In case one of the parents would no longer be capable following his or her daily routine on board, then handling of 1). the boat and 2). the kids and 3). a Lazarette around the clock would be too much of a task for one remaining adult only. So we are very glad that Michael is with us now.

Regarding boat maintenance, it was our intention to haul Yuana out of water with a crane to get her belly painted with three layers of new antifouling color. Antifouling prevents growth of all kinds of organisms on the boat’s underwater side, that makes the ship considerably slower.

The date for hauling out was set for May 2nd, which was a Wednesday. That turned out to be not a particularly good idea: The locals had a long weekend with Carnival on Monday and Labor Day on Tuesday. As a result of the long weekend and too much alcohol, three workers of ‘our’ boatyard ended up in hospital. Two yard workers were ‘just’ badly drunken, whereas number three on top of drinking decided to drive the car, too fast, not good.

Finally, the yard wasn’t ready for us and we couldn’t go on the dry. It was perhaps better anyway. We preferred not to have some ‘drunken’ grafitties on the hull. Alternatively we hired a sober diver to clean our boat and the keel. This will also make the boat fast, but the effect wouldn’t last very long before algae and barnacles will be back.

A mechanic gave our engine a general check, which also included the fuel injection pump, fuel injectors, valve adjustment and compression of the four cylinders. He couldn’t believe how clean that engine still is, after 19 years. I did oil and filter change, which now goes without a big oily mess. The rig was already professionally checked a bit earlier.

There was quite a bit of work on deck as well, where I removed the aft hatch completely to get it a new seating. It wasn’t watertight recently in strong rains. Also the teak around the opening of the anchor chain locker got some new putty to get the seams nicely sealed off and tight. And as I was now experienced with putty anyway, I renewed all the seams in the bathroom and the kitchen right away.

We got a sextant for celestial navigation and learned to handle it, for the unlikely case of a complete failure of all seven independent GPS systems we carry on board. The chandlers actually took the sextants off the shelves because no-one wants to buy one these days. Finally I asked in the morning radio net and found another sailor who thought that his sextant is of no use for him anymore.

Another important part of the preparation was contracting a weather routing service. We download the weather predictions daily and try to take our best routing conclusions for fair winds. On top of that, the professional weather man sitting on his office desk in Kiel (Germany) provides us his opinion where to travel for a save trip. We can also talk to him over the phone, should our observations in the area be very different from the predictions, with the further routing being judged controversially.

In general there is a pretty steady high pressure ridge a couple of sailing days North of us. We will sail almost straight North, with a small component to east. The high pressure ridge gradually moves eastwards, but still an area with no wind needs to be expected. The engine will help us passing this area, before we enter westerly winds which will carry us to the Azores.

Because of going North for some days, our route will be more than 2500 nautical miles, which we should do within approximately 18 days. Monday morning May 14 is our departure time. We are ready and good to go! Now it gets quiet personal: Last night I dreamt of arriving at home. As I was familiarizing with my old home I started to understand how unbelievably great our sailing year was for me and for all of us, looking back with mixed feelings. That dream inspired a huge motivation for enjoying our onwards journey day by day, surprise by surprise, across the vast open ocean.

P.S.: In case you can handle further hurricanes updates: The French side of the Sint Maarten lagoon is still full of ship wrecks and building roofs; Cars from Sint Maarten were found on the British Virgin Islands; Large and relatively light power boats from Sint Maarten were found on the Bahamas banks, several hundert miles away! Locals however say that the three weeks after the storm were worse than the storm itself: shops were plundered and several shootings between police and criminals forced a ban on going out. People were forced to sit at home for three weeks, many of them running low on food and water. We will have a lot of water around in the days to come, and are very much looking forward to it!

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