Saint Lucia. Or: Whether not to go home?

After having spent beautiful times in the South of the Lesser Antilles we felt the urge to move a couple of steps North. From Bequia, it was a fairly long day trip to Saint Lucia. We passed the main island of Saint Vincent and sailed all along the coast of Saint Lucia towards its northerly situated Rodney Bay.

That ride took a bumpy start: Just after lifting the anchor in the well protected Admiralty Bay, I set all sails. The sun wasn’t yet up and it was still dark. Leaving the last rocks of Bequia behind, the wind started kicking in. Yuana sailed very fast, but the steering wheel required more and more force for keeping the boat on course. Yuana desperately wanted to turn into the wind. What was wrong?

The wind increased much stronger than expected, 28 knots from the side, 60 to 80 degrees. With all sails all up, we were simply overpowered and far away from a nice balance between wind direction and force versus sail area and trim. So we reefed the first time before the day really started.

Saint Lucia was intended to be a short maintenance and duty free refueling stop on our way to Martinique. We got the boat nicely polished all around and in the cockpit. Then we hired a rigger to check the mast and all relevant parts of the rig. He was very satisfied with the condition of everything, and so were we. The Volvo dealer however had no time for the big engine maintenance. Most workshops are super busy because the yacht charter business moved South after the storm damages in the North. Upon leaving the country we bought 350 liters of duty free fuel at the attractive price of 0.77 Euro per liter.

So, now comes the really important part of this post. During the last weeks I read in the latest master piece of famous sailor Jimmy Cornell. The book carries the title ‘200’000 Miles’ which represents Jimmies vast high sea sailing knowledge, presented in an attractive autobiographical wrapper.

Reading the section about Southern Pacific infected me with the idea to continue our sail towards the Pacific rather then to sail back to Europe. In fact I never liked the idea to sail back into cold Northern European waters, with socks around the feet and gloves around the hands. So this new idea to sail into the Pacific triggered my blueprinting same as when I got infected with the idea of a sailing sabbatical.

By the way, Jimmies most infectious sentence was “We had no pressing reason to bring such a wonderful life to a premature end.” That sentence really made me thinking whether our own trip back to Europe would come to early? Why should we not sail the Pacific?

So we said: „Hey, we are just eight sailing days away from Panama. That means that we are almost at the doorstep to the Pacific, with our own yacht. That is a super huge chance, category ‚once-in-a-lifetime‘! So do something about it!“

We went through very intense weeks of ‚what-if-planning’. I studied the routing recommendations and the wind charts for the Pacific. We studied the administrative needs to cross the Panama channel as well as the selling chances for the boat on ‘the other side’ of the world. We contacted our municipality and school at home. It seemed that there were no killer criteria for an extended trip. There would have been ways to handle everything.

We would have left the Westindies during the first half of February. Our routing schedule was Martinique – Bonaire – Columbia – Panama (channel crossing) – Marquesas – Tahiti – Cook Islands – Fiji – Australia. We would have arrived in Sydney in late October 2018. The idea was to sell the boat there.

Our heads were deep in these questions since Grenada. Saint Lucia just became the place where we would take a decision. We did, and we decided to turn back to Europe as per the original schedule.

The most practical reason why not to go was that we couldn’t answer one key question: How to take responsibility for the family during the loooong leg from Panama to the Marquesas in case of an extended period of unfavorable weather, and one adult being down with a major thickness of injury? That leg is enormously 3’750 nautical miles long, almost 7’000 kilometers. Our standard traveling time would have been 27 days, easily 35 with low winds, perhaps again considerably more in a state of emergency.

That trip is absolutely doable and hundreds of private yachts are doing it every year, amongst them also friends of us from our Atlantic crossing. There were days where we were totally convinced that we should do it. On the next day our internal indicators pointed into the opposite direction. We gave ourselves the time to narrow down on this outstandingly great question. Towards the end we involved family and some friends. Finally we found a solid conclusion which is the right one for us. So, we intend to be back in Switzerland around July, 2018.

That is our season review about Saint Lucia. What about the island itself? We simply don’t know. There were other priorities which took most of our time.

So war der Montag

Kurz nachdem wir am Montagmorgen bei Jana Caniga und Dieter Burkhalter ( unsere Leinen losgeworfen haben, haben wir das Südwestkap von Grenada gerundet. Es war der am weitesten von Zuhause entfernte Punkt auf unserer Reise. Bei dieser Gelegenheit haben wir uns gefragt, was wohl unsere Freunde gerade tun. Eine kleine Umfrage hat folgendes ergeben:

Im Zürcher Oberland war gestern Montag unglaublich viel los. Fast immer hatte es etwas mit Essen zu tun.

Offenbar gibt es Mütter (zumindest eine) die am Montagmorgen um sechs Uhr früh aufstehen, um ihren Sprösslingen Pancakes mit Apfelkompott zuzubereiten. Besser kann der Tag ja wohl kaum anfangen. Also, soviel ich weiss ist mir selber sowas leider nie passiert.

Glücklicherweise gibt es auch noch andere Personen, die gemütlich den Zmorge geniessen. Wie wir verstehen lässt sich dabei einiges über die Hackordnung draussen im Vogelhäuschen lernen!

Kein Wintermorgen ist zu frisch, um erst erst joggen und dann auch noch velofahren zugehen. Die Motivation dafür war diesmal der Weihnachtsspeck. Das habe ich selbst natürlich nicht nötig, weil es für mich in der Karibik ja gar keine Weihnachten gegeben hat, haha.

Keine 300 Meter entfernt von der Abnehmrunde entfachte jemand im Rütiwald ein Feuer, um dem Herzhaften zu frönen: Da wurde doch tatsächlich in voller Skimontur die Servelat-am-Spiess-Saison eröffnet (siehe Foto). Der Schnee soll ja glücklicherweise bald wieder zurückkommen.

Auch sonst gab es zu Feiern: An diesem grossen Tag wurde der Wuffi einer Freundin unserer Tochter vier Jahre alt. Happy Dogday!

Selbst an einem kalten Winternachmittag wird auf dem Zürichsee gesegelt, wenn der Wind stimmt. Nach der Arbeit wasserte doch glatt einer sein ferngesteuertes Segelschiff, um damit ein paar Schläge zu tun. Handbreit!

30 Kilometer weiter und immer noch im Kanton Zürich hat eine junge Mutter gemeinsam mit ihrem Baby eine frisch bepackte Windel zum fliegen gebracht. Wenn jemand wissen will, wie dieser haarsträubende Fall gelöst wurde, so wende man sich am besten an Philip Maloney von SRF3.

Und nun ins Ausland nach Puerto Rico: Auch Monate nach dem Sturm gibt es keinen Strom, aber glücklicherweise Wasser und Diesel für John Deere, der Notstromgenerator unserer Auslandschweizer. John Deere musste am Montagabend noch ein paar extra Umdrehungen machen, um den Racletteofen tüchtig aufzuheizen. Zur Vorspeise gab es Bündnerfleisch. Oh, was für eine lustige Kombination! Beides fehlt bei uns an Bord völlig.

Das war diesseits wie jenseits des Atlantiks ein mehrheitlich gelungener Montag. Vielen Dank für eure tollen Rückmeldung, und lasst es euch auch von Dienstag bis Freitag so gut gehen.

Trotz allem Spass wollen wir auch daran denken, dass es derzeit nicht allen unseren Freunden und Bekannten gut geht. Stellvertretend für diejenigen senden wir unsere besten Wünsche an Otto!

Being (very) rich and in the Caribbean

Imagine you manage a big business and earn millions of Euros or US Dollars a year. Your family owns one of the larger properties in the area with every amenity one can think of. You have seen all fancy holiday places in the world and the options for enjoying the few days off get thinner. Now you are planning the next holidays:

Your youngsters shall top any holiday experiences when being back at boarding school. Your wife is sure that she deserves top notch. You may have to welcome partners but need no spotters. So you should go super-yachting the West Indies for a week or two!

Charter a motor yacht to get started on the water. The even longer sailing yacht will top the experience in the following season. There is no reason to worry about the handling of all the equipment there anyway. The ship will come with a well experienced team of six who takes care of all vessel operations and also the toys on board.

The kids will love the 30 meter slide from the top deck into the sea. Give them the seabob, then the waverunner and finally the jetovator, just to raise the fun over the days. The cinema’s sound will beat all expectations anyway.

Your wife will be happy with the first class spa and gym, and she will definitely be proud when showing the inescapable evening guests around the upper deck lounge, the dining room, and finally their bedrooms with own bubble pool. For yourself and to make it short, there will be no gourmet issue this time and the box of properly sorted cigars will be appreciated.

So why is writing about this? Because those guys are our neighbors every here and there. They pay perhaps half a million in hard currency per week, but they can’t book the nicest sandy snorkeling bays for themselves. So comes we meet with them when arriving same time on Sandy Island (Carriacou, Grenada), as it happened just two days ago.

Whereas we beach our dinghy with 4 horsepower outboard engine, their shore landing vessel comes with 3 outboard engines of 350 horsepower each, so 1.050 horsepower in total, just to enjoy the number. Sure two of their crew would have prepared the beach chairs, umbrellas and drink coolers under the palms, before Gentlemen, Madam and kids are safely brought to the island. When the sun isn’t too far from going down, the society changes to the fatboy lamzac’s which now form a lounge on the white sands, and the little shore party would go on. Comfort and Style.

When we bump into each other on our stroll along the lonely beach, everyone is perfectly sure that the other ones are just here to enjoy the their life. Some have an eye on the toys of the other ones, and the other ones would love to be back at work only after another couple of weeks or even month in Paradise. So we just nod heads and take a glimpse of each other, and everyone goes his way. When we sit in our slow-motion dinghy for motoring back to Yuana, we can be sure we would arrive there with salty wet buttocks, from the waves spilling over the pontoons of our little rubber boat.

Anyone to offer a spare rib?

As mentioned earlier, the last hour of our trans ocean passage finally brought us dolphins. Those beautiful mammals are not shy to swim very close us, almost touching distance to the boat. No question, that was GoPro-time.

With the belly flat down on the deck and the GoPro in my left hand I could
submerge the camera into the water. The first five minutes of video taping went quite well. For the sake of even better photos, I leaned further out and down. Were there some question marks in the dolphins eyes? Maybe… Anyway, imagine me leaning that far out on the left hand side of the ship the my lowest rib only on the right side of my body would rest on the rim of the deck.

To make it short, there was an ugly crack with my rib and I was then able to hold the camera even better into the water.

One of the new topics on Yuana is now whether the rib broke or just bent and released. I believe that I kind of know how it felt when it happened and how it feels now. Just by analyzing my answers to their questions the two female doctors on board have their own opinion about the status of my rib: still intact. Well, let’s hope so!

In fact, the photos and slow-motion movies are great and so the rib really doesn’t matter anyway ;-).

Young visitors

Blue water cruisers by definition visit many places all around the globe. Sometimes we find ourselves in a place we would attribute with the word paradise. This may be our impression when we spot the most beautiful beaches, rock formations or palm trees. But those palm trees or the roof of the hut behind the beach may cover poverty and anything else than paradise. And as often in such situations, the weakest are the ones which starve the most.

So it would be nothing else but human to meet these people and try to give them some comfort. This is many times easier said than done. Cornell Sailing offered us the opportunity to cover a bit of our responsibility by bringing us together with the kids from the local SOS Children Village. Ahead of that event, the crews from our rally donated money to buy a trumpet, an e-piano and an accordion for the local kids music group.

When Saturday came, drums on the pontoon would announce a crowd of girls and boys from that SOS Children’s village. They were given the possibility to meet us on the boats. We welcomed four of them aboard Yuana. As soon as I indicated that four is a good number to start with, one girl on deck and on one left on the pontoon started to cry and calling each other to come. They seemed to be sisters who were very much afraid from being separated from each other. Who knows that they had to experience earlier in their lives? So we weren’t hesitating to have the sister on board as well.

Inside the boat, our son would invite them to play with the paper roller coaster he developed over the past days. He would give them the balls made of crumpled aluminum foil. Everybody enjoyed playing the game. The daughter would take them into the sleeping room and suddenly now eight kids were sitting on the beds, wondering how soft a bed can be. We gave some finger rings and necklaces as a present. Back they went with a warm souled woman they would call ‘Mama’. Together we went to the big gathering for some culinary refreshments and local music. This was also there the music instruments were handed over.

Cornell Sailing made it a tradition for many years that the sailors of their Rallies can contribute directly to local aid projects. Taking into account the number of rallies throughout the year and contributors year after year, one would expect that this engagement makes a difference for the receivers. We saw many happy children’s eyes.

Jetzt kommts richtig übel

Eigentlich wollten die Jungs mit dem Beiboot Dorie für eine kreative Mathestunde an Land übersetzen. Der Plan war, eine kleine Wanderung zu machen, schöne Fotos zu schiessen, und spielerisch das Einmaleins zu vertiefen.

Papa’s Schritt von Yuana zu Dorie erweist sich jedoch als fatal. Irgendwie haut Dorie ab, und Markus landet im Wasser. Das wäre kein Problem, hätte ich Handy und die neue Fotokamera wie sonst immer in den wasserdichten Beutel gepackt hätte. Um es kurz zu machen: Die neue Kamera zuckt noch einige Sekunden, das iPhone ist sofort tot.

Das Schlimmste ist, dass Markus in den frühen Morgenstunden auf dem Handy noch zwei Artikel für den Blog geschrieben hat. Diese sind nun im Salzwasser ersäuft worden. Weil es hier in der Bucht kein Mobilfunk gibt, wurden von den neuesten Daten noch keine Sicherung erstellt.

Was ich mir zuvor nicht vorstellen konnte ist, wie sehr der Verlust des iPhones schmerzt. Brutal erkenne den nächsten Schritt der Evolution: du brauchst ein iPhone dringlicher als ein schönes Auto. Du nimmst dafür sogar in Kauf, kurzsichtig zu werden. Die meisten werden nun wohl entweder lachen oder den Kopf schütteln. Bitte bedenke:

Ich kann nun
– Nicht mehr aufschreiben, sobald mir eine coole Idee für den Blog kommt
– Keine Schnappschüsse mehr machen
– Nicht mehr mit Familie und Freunden e-mailen
– Nicht sehen, wo sich unsere befreundeten Schiffe befinden
– Unsere Seglerfreunde nicht über WhatsApp kontaktieren
– Nicht mehr auf unsere Satellitenanlage zugreifen
– Keine Wetterberichte einholen
– Kein Auto mieten und keine Strassenkarten nutzen
– Kein Wikipedia-offline nutzen
– Keine Bankzahlungen tätigen
– Weder NZZ noch Bluewin lesen
– Telefonieren geht nicht, und Musik hören auch nicht
– Der Taschenrechner ist weg, die Uhr und die Taschenlampe sowieso
– Nicht nachschauen, wann unsere Crew aus Schweden eintrifft

Caramba! Versteht ihr jetzt die Dimension des Problems? Wir müssen sofort aus der schönen Bucht mit schwarzem Sand raus und nach Santa Cruz de Tenerife hinunter, damit ich mit ein neues iPhone beschaffen kann. Mal sehen, wie wir das abbuchen werden. Für Dummheit hatten wir bisher nämlich keinen Budgetposten vorgesehen.

Das Schulreisli in die Kaktusberge hat natürlich trotzdem stattgefunden. Zum Glück war der Sohn dabei, denn so konnte mir jemand den Stachel aus der Zunge ziehen, nachdem ich die Kaktusfrucht probiert hatte. Alleine hätte ich das ohne Selfie-Modus nie geschafft.


PS.: Auf dem Weg nach Santa Cruz telefonierte ich mit dem Sorgentelefon von Apple. Die sagten mir, dass ich nach dem Wochenende in Santa Cruz ein neues iPhone zum Preis von 351 Euro abholen könne, 50% des Ladenpreises. Das wäre ein hervorragender Service. Wir werden sehen, ob das auch klappt.

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.