Harboring the Canaries

The last 12 hours on our way from Madeira into the Canaries were quite exhausting. We made a decent progress, in rolling waves and against the wind. Some salty drizzles went over the cockpit every now and then. The outer deck however saw a lot of sea water. Somehow, approximately 50 liters of the salty liquid ended up in the bilge, which is the deepest point INSIDE the boat.

The 50 liters itself wasn’t too much of an issue, but the fact that salt water gets into the boat is definitely unwanted. Skip this section if you are not interested in technical terms. Our cockpit and part of the deck are drained via reinforced hoses through the interior of the boat and out underneath the water line. Shorty after buying the boat I checked and fastened all of the hose clamps which secure these hoses, each one going from a hose sleeve below deck down to a valve, before going into the sea. Somehow, I must have missed one of these hose clamps, certainly the one which came loose, draining some deck water into the bilge. Item solved.

Arriving in the Canaries, we anchored in famous Francesa Bay. As many places, it has unveiled their beauty to us only after a day or two: its underwater world. The first day in the anchorage was tough again: 35 degrees Celsius at 35 knots of wind and 1 meter swell in the anchorage. Not a good anchorage on that day indeed. Anyway, we wanted to be there because it is a nature reserve and we got a special permit to be there. The good news is that our anchor held rock solid, but two anchor retention lines (the lines taking the load off the anchor winch) broke due to the heavy rocking of the boat.

Two days later and in the port of totally dry island of Graciosa, we found ourselves in a very little village, all houses painted white, with sandy lanes in between. There were only two hands full of cars for the entire village. A horse wagon on a restaurant roof reminded of the old days. During the weekend, the place was looking like a neat hippy village, with dreadlocks men and women trying to make some bucks with selling nice hand craft. Customers however seemed to be not too many.

On Graciosa and a week later on Lanzarote, we got more of the volcano stuff all over the place. In the cactus gardens we learned that the saying ‘hard shell soft core’ really can also be the other way round: some of the huge cactus were cut back. There we spotted that those cactus have a core hard as wood, packed into a relatively soft shell. Then there was the camel ride. We not only rode these fantastic animals, we also took a deep look into their eyes: most of them seamed to be good-natured. But there was one really mean looking chap, perfectly prepared for the Horror Rocky Camel Show.

More animals? Yes. When kissing our friends from yacht Tomskii Kastan goodbye, Markus learned that his beard apparently felt like a hedgehog. Too much hair in the face… At least she didn’t call me a porcupine, haha. We enjoyed great times with the Tomskii’s, certainly enough wine, great beach barbecues, and our kids learned how to carve dragons out of cucumbers. Thank you, dear friends, and see you again!

From Lanzarote we did an overnight sail to Tenerife. A teenage Mahi-Mahi of 80cm was on our hook. The colors were beautifully green and gold, until it died. Then the color suddenly changed to grayish silver, as most fish would look like. Tenerife will be the place where we conclude our preparations for the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. A separate post about the preps will follow.

Something nice to close this season review? Yes of course: If Markus shall recommend a place in the Canaries, it will be the restaurant http://www.cantinateguise.com for an overwhelming burger with truffel sauce, and for the hot pants as well.

Madeira and Porto Santo

Oh, how have we enjoyed these two islands! As we found Porto Santo to be a generally dry and earthy brown place from the beaches up to the mountain tops, the southern coast of Madeira provides all kinds of tropic flavors, including fruits, flowers and mosquitoes.

The entire Madeira archipelago is of volcanic nature. Today, it is only a fraction of what it used to be, approximately 1 million years ago. When the archipelago found its maximum extension it was as long as 1400km! Most of it has eroded and washed away by the sea. In fact and when sailing down from Lisbon, we passed several under water mountains, one peaking just 20 meters below sea surface.

Porto Santo was commercially used already half a millennium ago. By then the so called dragon trees were milked. Their red ‘blood’ was shipped to Milan in Northern Italy, where the clothing industry was eagerly seeking the red color for the fashion business.

Our days in Porto Santo peacefully started at the harbor cafe with a great espresso against 60 cents. After our school lessons we would play at the nearby beach with its healing sands, and enjoy swimming in the sea every day. We explored the island with two Quads, which are the motor bikes with four wheels. Wooaaou, it was fun for the boys crawling up and down some rocky mountains and drifting along sandy trails.

The next best place after the beaches and some hexagonal volcanic columns was restaurant Torres in the tiny village of Camacha. Go there if you can, roasted chicken stands out. We were seated in the garden, sun protected by a huge passion fruit tree. I ordered a drink which was not on the menu list, particularly a tall glass of fresh passion fruit juice. Imagine how many fruits this would take. The price for it was 5 Euro and so I decided that it would be impolite to order a second one.

It was just a short 40 miles ride to the main island of Madeira. Different world, colorful all over, with up to three huge cruise ships tied up to the Funchal quays. The market hall offered a huge variety of local fruits and veggies, best presented and well marketed at a ridiculous price.

We visited tropical gardens, volcanic caves, natural swimming pools at the sea and a museum about whales and whaling. That made it quite easy for us to cover some aspects about school requirements.

The best thing for us on Porto Santo and Madeira however was that we really touched down with the blue water sailing community. Everyone in the harbor is traveling with his or her boat for a good time of the year. Many of them would pass the Atlantic Ocean this season. What however made this community so outstandingly great was that most different people with all kinds of social and business backgrounds meet. All of them are down to sailing and have a common theme which starts when helping each other with the mooring lines upon arrival. We were neighbored not only to kids from various countries, but also to a business lady from the Caspian Sea, doctors of medicine from France, financial investors from Norway, an oil exploration engineer from the other side of the world or a Swedish manager from an internationally acting Swedish furniture company. There are also cruisers who live their way around the globe on a very tight budget. That opens up such an entirely wide field of exchange. When saying “Good bye for now!” and wishing “Fair winds!”, we also say “See you in the West Indies!” or exchange invitations to visit each other at their homes around the globe.

Before leaving Portugal for some time, we shall not forget to mention how easy it was for us to communicate with the locals. Even the bus drivers were fluent in English as far as their job required it. The lady from the bread counter in the supermarket was not shy to interrupt a colleague, just to explain to us that the reddish color of the bread comes from the beet root juice they would add. Lots of charming people, nature and culture. Great place indeed.

Surprising Portugal

We have visited only two places in Portugal, which was Porto and Lisbon, plus we have followed approximately half of Portugals coast line. Not enough to tell about? Perhaps not. But still, we leave Portugal’s main land with lots of vivid impressions.

Surprise number 1 is the town of Porto, where the famous port wine is traded. The colorful little old town houses at river Duoro and the bold bridges across the river invite to use the camera around every corner. Uphills, long building fronts with richly decorated stone carvings line up along wide avenues. The town is dotted with many Churches, courageous modern architecture, and lots of green. We stayed at the Duoro Marina and visited the town at the first day of the RedBull Air Race. I wouldn’t have thought so, but I started to like the crazy guys who do all kinds of fancy things with their little aircrafts. They race above the river, in between the town buildings, at 400 km/h.

Surprise number 2 comes as we round the the sister capes Cabo da Roca and Cabo da Rosa. First we find ourselves in fog, then we run into gale wind forces which form around the two capes. Shortly after Cabo da Rosa when reaching the (wind) shadow of the capes, temperature is suddenly raised and one needs to relieve himself from three of four layers of clothing. Sea is now flat and a gentle light wind carries marvelous scents from the flours on land over the sea. We came out of a mess and into a new world within minutes only.

Surprise number 3: It was targeted for more than one year that we could meet our parents in Lisbon, after their hiking holiday in Galicia. However and until few days before, it isn’t clear at all whether or not they can make it, due to some special circumstances. Finally it works out and it is so great to be with them for some time. Having been away from home for a long time, each personal contact becomes a very special moment.

Surprise number 4: YESSS, finally KID BOATS…;-)!!! It took two month to bump into other kid boats with kids of similar age. Now they are here and we are, too. For all three families its great that the horde of kids can play with each other and enjoy themselves. All of them show each others boats, they have fun on the playground, at the table tennis, or in a movie session on one of the boats. It seems that we will meet a couple of times during the next weeks, perhaps even month!

Surprise number 5 is the fantastic Park of Nations area of Lisbon. It encompasses a vast area including the Marina, an Oceanum, a Science House, outdoor parks, creative water fountains, playgrounds, museums, business places, apartments. The mile long seaside area provides stunning views to the Ponte Vasco da Gamma. 25 years back, this was a rundown dock area. Everything was made new for the EXPO 1998. Different to other EXPO places, this one was built to last for future. It does, and they keep and maintain everything very well.

Surprise number 6 was that same Parque das Naçoes offers us such a rich environment that (you won’t believe it!) we don’t feel the need to explore the old town (and we know it’s worth it from a visit one decade before).

Any other surprises? Yes, as we are there, famous singer Madonna announces that she will move here residence to Lisbon. That’s at least what we understand from local radio stations. Yes, it is a place to be!

More surprises: Quite unexpectedly, Portugal becomes the most expensive country on our trip so far. Some maintenance and repair isn’t cheap at all, particularly the parts are more than double price, compared to Northern Europe. The VAT of 23% also was not very helpful. Labor on the other side is very cheap. Then we went to the sports shop to stock up functional wear plus a Stand Up Paddle for Caribbean seas!

Once again, we as sailors cannot talk about Portugal without mentioning King Enrique the Seafarer and his visionary investments into sea expeditions, half a millennium ago. Within a few decades, they encountered the coast of the African continent, then the route by sea to India and beyond. What an achievement, in those early days of offshore navigation. A huge memorial at river Tejo tells stories of great seamanship, boldness and glory of the conquistadors and flourishing Portugal as such. Saying this, one should not forget poorest condition on some of the ship, including hunger, sickness, and death.

Now we are about to leave the European Continent as well, with best navigation tools available, some knowledge gathered, feeling ok to go, still not forgetting that we are still a bit greenhornish as we do that first time.

Beautiful Galicia

Galicia is the so friendly place where we unlearned sailing. Distances were lazy short and winds weren’t really there, so almost no sailing in three weeks with few but great exceptions. On the other side, Galicia is where we learned anchoring. This is again good news for a most relaxed life.

A Coruña was our landfall and first harbor in Spain, on an early morning back in first half of August. It took less than one hour until me and my son found ourselves sitting in an old town Café. The hidden plan was actually to go for some fresh bread for the entire crew. But when we saw the many Cafés with chairs and tables out in the ped zone, we understood that this was the chance to improve our plans. Sitting over the sweet breakfast with the best coffee in days and one or two Spanish croissants gave me some great yet distant memories about business trips to my friends in Barcelona.

Same evening the restaurant conceptonegra.com satisfied more culinary desires that we could think of. Up to my (limited) knowledge, only one other country in the world produces such a wide range of delicious meals and wines (the one in the med of course). Not only tongues and bellies were rewarded after 40 hours of motoring across calm Bay of Biscay. Coruña also enriched our mariner hearts: To our surprise the city hosts the oldest operating lighthouse on the planet. It is more than incredibly 1’900 years old, built by the Romans. It is another place which deserves special recommendation for Coruña visitors: torredeherculesacoruna.com

Costa da Morte was kind to us and soon after we passed Cabo Finisterre, the former end of the world. The general conditions seemed to be quite easy on that day, peaceful and fast downwind sailing. I was just typing a life-around-Finisterre message to a friend when I realized that the boom is going over. This was definitely an unwanted situation.

What did happen? The tectonic circumstances of the cape area caused sudden changes of water currents. We ran straight into a whirlpool. The autopilot couldn’t keep course and our traveling direction changed. The wind still came from behind, but now from the other side. This made the main sail flipping over, known as an accidental gybe. A main sail which goes over all in a sudden can badly damage the rig. Sailors install a so called preventer system which either keeps the boom where it was or makes the shift smooth. Our preventer was set and active for that route and nothing bad happened. Just a few question marks in the eyes of my crew and some smiling faces up on Cape Finisterre rock, I guess.

More relaxing were Galicia’s rias. Rias are fjord-like sea arms going many miles inlands. Weather is sometimes fresh and wet there, as the Atlantic itself is. And so was the sea water: 16-18 Celsius, depending on the bay. The hilly and green area sometimes reminded us of our home country. We learned to anchor in the nicest bays, played on the beaches, and some even went swimming. We went hiking, caught fish, enjoyed sunsets and scenic night views of the villages ashore.

Some of the rias are well protected by dozens of smaller and larger islands, generally rocky, with sandy beaches an patches here and there. The pictures within this blog tell about the beauty of the place.

Also the fast train which brought us to monumental Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela reminded us to Switzerland: fast, punctual, clean, and with a voice message ahead of the next city stop. Each message closed with a very logical and therefore strange reminder: “We remind the passengers who want to continue their journey that they should not exit at the stop!” Sure, what else would you do ;-)?!

Seeing the fantastic new city buildings, museums, harbor control towers, fast train stations and art pieces every here and there, it becomes quite obvious how much fluent the money was in the years ahead of 2008. Now, some Cafés sell a morning coffee plus a large croissant for 2 Euros or even less. Was it ever like that? We don’t know, but we have the feeling that this is not enough to pay the rent and make a decent living. It would be a tragedy, which hopefully will change to the better soon.

Our last days in Galicia brought a lot of morning and evening fog. Vision was sometimes poor and the fog horns were operated. A fog horn replaces the lighthouse in the case of poor visibility. They make Mooou-mooou-mooou-mooooooooou. Fog horns sound like monster cows with some calming patience in their voices. They reminded us that we should move further south.

Galicia’s final statement for us before heading down to Portugal was the Monte Real Club Nautico of Baiona, a jewel of a marina (but same as the other ones with a weak Wifi backbone). Baiona has some most pittoreske narrow lanes, which come to real life late evening when the locals go for dinner. An old fortress and now hotel sets a beautiful counter point. And the Club Nautico sits in between, with a small beach on each side. Look at the picture…

Also if we intend more than ever to cross the Atlantic, Spain will perhaps be the country where we spend most of our one-year traveling time. This is almost sure as we will be back in Spain for another two or three weeks, when entering the Canary Islands. More Queso, more Serrano, more Rioja, more Siesta ;-)!

England, we love you, too!

England, we have visited you for half a month. The first glance of you included the cliffs around Dover, brightly shining in the morning light, plums the Dover Coast Guard who checked whether we could spell the name of our boat. Sure, we could. The following days brought us into lovely marinas. We enjoyed not only your fish and chips, but also the best burgers ever, with lots of onions chopped into the meat. Markus has particularly appreciated that Punk IPA beer from the U.S. (sorry) was available in every super market, different to other places visited so far, including our home country. We take away a large bottle of Plymouth Gin and many bold and bloody histories which the old stones have offered to us. We admire the relaxed talking of Brits, too.

The highlight however was meeting again with Simon and Kate. Yes, another Kate. Her great^n-granny must have been in the EU as well on said Vicking’s day (to whomever seeking a beautiful woman in England, we recommend looking for Kates first). Kate and Simon are friends we met first time in Korfu, Greece, back in 2014. Re-united in 2017, all of us have enjoyed a lovely evening in their marina club house. Same evening, Simon arranged for a yacht repair service who showed up next morning to do some work on our boat. And we got lots of hints from them, which finally brought us to nicest places such as Cornish Fowey or the magic place called www.edenproject.com. Many thanks to you again, Simon and Kate!

On our last day, we even made new friends from Vancouver Island, Canada, and we’ve had some beers together and a lot of fun. Kevin owns a Hallberg-Rassy too, and we will set sails together to cross Bay of Biscay, starting on Saturday early morning. What a great last day in the UK!

Was there anything which was not going as expected in the UK? Yepp, two things occurred which couldn’t be stopped by MI6, at least not in time: Firstly, we experienced two winter storms. We also do have winter storms in Switzerland, but here they seem to happen in summer, too. We even had to turn our heater on. Secondly, an awful misunderstanding happened on the way back from Pendennis Castle: imagine a family with hungry kids at a rainy bus stop with no bus for the rest of the day. Within seconds, a taxi was called over the phone. The friendly person who answered the telephone with “It’s me-e!” asked for the detail and informed that a taxi would be there within four to five minutes. That was at least what Markus understood. Thirty minutes wetter and when calling the cab company again, they say that this was forty-five minutes for the taxi to arrive. And so it was. Yes, sometimes one hears what he would like to hear.

Now that we are about to leave UK, we can state that we have reached the first big target of our voyage. It was ‘to be in Falmouth by the end of July’. We set this target in order to have enough time to wait for a friendly weather window, required to sail into our three-day long journey across Bay of Biscay.

We logged 528 nautical miles to get here, something less than conservatively planned. A big part of our traveling time so far was along beautifully-rough British coast lines. We are leaving to come back again later. Bye-bye and see you again, Cornwall, England, UK!

We love the Netherlands…

… also because the Netherlanders are so unconventional!

It has been just about two years when our lives started to be enriched by the Netherlanders and their culture. The positive precipitation actually starts when entering the country on the highway. Coming from the Autobahn, speeds are lowered to 130 km/h which makes the going more relaxed, cruising style. Roads are maintained very well, and when you pull over for gas and a coffee, the bill is pragmatically rounded up or down to the next 5 cents.

When we bought the yacht in 2015, everybody involved in the buying process was uncomplicated, competent, and helpful. The previous owners of Yuana were there for us with all kinds of valuable advice. Particularly for us as first time yacht owner, this helped greatly with understanding and continuing the good maintenance concept for our new boat.

Finding our ways to the various workshops for any kind of yacht parts or repair was an experience for itself. Gerold form the stainless steel shop came up with the idea how to stabilize the new anchor. Roland the wood-man proposed an simpler way for some teak deck maintenance. The sailmakers tailored nice the lee clothes for our berth. It didn’t take more than 5 minutes for Marco to come forward with a genius plan where on the boat to install all watermaker components. And Ronald and his team installed the new navigation electronics and maintained everything, anti-fouled and polished the hull, and did all the winterizing for us. Everybody was there with instant and useful advice. Business was generally easy and fun at same time.

NL is a thoroughly big boating nation. It was once said that many Netherlanders would own more boats than cars in their lives. Yachting is common for many families and there is rarely any Marina which doesn’t offer at least one large playground for the kids! What I however did not understand initially was why I couldn’t find a yachting wholesaler in the greater Makkum area, such as one of the dominating chains in Germany. It simply doesn’t exist there. Why not?

One day and on the search for some little instrument lighting bulb, I steered into the local chandler, a marine equipment and clothing store. The building was only 6 meters wide, at most. Many old village houses are narrower anyway, but at least three times longer. There was Anko behind the counter, the owner and master over an incredible number of 5000 articles. Every corner of the store is packed with all kinds of stuff. Anko knows exactly what is present within the limits of the shop walls. But sometimes, he needs a minute or two to dig for a particular part. Prices are on the green side, and: “Why the hack would someone require a wholesaler?” Finally, this became my most favorite shop in Makkum, just after the coffee place next door.

You don’t have to go to coffee place until youu find out that the Netherlanders are charming and full of unconventional ideas. Most important, they are also willing to go the unconventional way. Most obviously, one can spot a variety of architectural highlights along the roads. My most favorite sample for unconventional Netherlanders however is the unambiguously clear indication for the chance of relive – the oversized pictographs on the wall of the toilet building at Makkum beach.

This is the view of a newcomer to yachting with specific topics to be solved. There are many other things in the Netherlands which we like a lot, such as pittoresk old town harbors, the colorful tulip fields, and the low prices in the Jumbo supermarkets and small bills at the end of a rich dinner ;-).