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!

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.

Leaving Yuana

Guest post from Jeanette:

Today Yuana is leaving Barbados and it means last day on board for me. As a last thing I finally this morning had a try with the stand-up paddleboard – getting on and off it from the boat whit no falls into the water, to keep swim wear dry before leaving. I also had the time to use my final chocolate pieces to create a advent calender for the kids to count down for Christmas before leaving for immigration office and I got lots of drawings in return as a memory. Lots of hugs and then we put all my stuff in the dinghy and surprisingly everything got on to the beach in a dry way. Apparently it also was a good day to clear out since both the boat and I was done in about 40 minutes.

However I understand some Swedish manners will still stay on board, like how to hang up swim wear without a clamp, the proper use of a butter knife, the playing rules for the game UNO and maybe also how to zoom the iPhone with index and middle fingers ;-).

I am gonna miss you all!

Jeanette on 14.12.2017
Picture: typical Bajan houses


Unser Ralley-Veranstalter Cornell Sailing war sich offensichtlich der Prioritäten seefahrender Crews bewusst, denn das Willkommenspaket beinhaltete eine SIM-Card für jedes Crewmitglied. So waren wir in Kürze mit dem Internet verbunden, und haben uns über die vielen lieben E-Mails gefreut! „Danke!“, liebe Familie und Freunde, für eure Glückwünsche zum Half Way und zur erfolgreichen und schnellen Überfahrt! Wir haben uns riesig über eure Post gefreut!

Direkt nach der offiziellen Einreise haben wir Yuana in den Stadthafen von Bridgetown verholt. Die Bajans (so nennen sich die Locals) fahren total auf Weihnachten ab. An ersten Abend wurde in einer lauten Nachtparty der neue Weihnachtsschmuck (reich befrachtete Plastik-Tannenbäume über-all) gefeiert. In der folgenden Nacht wurde gefeiert, dass Weihnachten vor der Tür steht.

Auch sonst hat es uns in Barbados gefallen. Hier und da wird man angesprochen, ob man eine Taxifahrt oder ein paar Früchte gebrauchen könnte. Keiner nimmt es einem übel, falls das zufällig gerade nicht der Fall ist. In einem Fall haben wir jedoch ein Taxi gebraucht. Wie wir während der Fahrt im Minivan gemerkt haben, wird der Wagen wohl mit umgelegten Sitzen auch für Leichentransporte verwendet. Flexibilität hilft eben beim Geschäften ;-).

In Barbados verabschieden wir uns auch von unserer Zusatzcrew. Joachim ist schon von Bord und geniesst seine 75 Quadratmeter Hotel-Suite. Jeanette wird auch noch einige Inseltage geniessen, bevor es zurück nach Schweden geht. „Joe the Fisherman“ und „Jeanette the Trimmer“ haben uns sooo toll ergänzt. Wir hatten eine super Zeit zusammen, und das erste Mal seit dem September in Lissabon konnten Manuela und Markus wieder einmal alleine ausgehen. Vielen lieben Dank Joe und Jeanette, dass ihr mit uns gefahren seid und für uns da wart!

So sind wir nach Jahren der Vorbereitung also tatsächlich am östlichsten Ausläufer der Karibik angekommen. Erst mal müssen wir uns im neuen Fahrtgebiet zurechtfinden. Auf welchen Inseln kann man in die Grenadinen einreisen, und wo gibt es eine Schiffstankstelle mit sauberem Diesel? Das geht am besten mit Internet und anderen Seglern zusammen in einer schönen Strandbar. Weil wir immer nur gerade wenige Tage planen gibt es natürlich umso mehr Bedarf, sich in der nächsten Beach Bar wiederzufinden. Damit können wir sehr gut leben.

In den letzten Monaten haben wir viele neue Freunde gewonnen. Diese Tage geht es nun in die Grenadinen, um dort ein gemeinsames Weihnachtsfest zu feiern. Auch das will natürlich wohl geplant sein. Auch in die Schweiz und alle Welt senden wir dazu ein herzliches „Viva!“ und „Prost!“ aus Barbados!

AO-Xing Day 15, Aftermath

Here we are, having arrived in Barbados after a safe crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The last hour brought the dolphins! Finally arriving and now being here after a planning time of more than three years feels outstanding at every extent.

The crossing took us 15 days and the ocean has been very kind with us. So was Yuana: she kept going so well and didn’t have the smallest technical issue for that longest stretch she had ever done. Last but not least we had (and still have) a wonderful crew. Each day was fun, which couldn’t have been expected in such a confined space.

Particularly the last days were easy and quick downwind sailing. Compared to previous crossings, this one was more relaxed, mainly because of the additional crew. Moreover and due to the length of this leg, the general target was more to survive the day and less to arrive in Barbados. We just sailed without thinking about estimated arrival date and time.

This leg included some strategic route  which was a very nice part as well. On which route would we find the combination of favorable winds, short distance and a good position for the following days of the journey? Each day midday brought the new position update for all the ship.

Who would have gained or lost a bit of ground? Studying the boats and sailing record of some of the crews, I believe that our team has done very well! Congratulations from the Captain!

How was it, compared to our expectations?
– Weather was easier than thought: winds below 25 knots, waves below 3 meters, almost no squalls
– Health: practically no sea sickness
– Fishing: we didn’t catch the big guys (or they took our lures away)
– Family: on & off sleeping patterns and the tiredness from sleeping in motion made it a bit difficult at some times to enjoy the family time. Kids were however happy with movies and pop corn
– Extra crew: reliable, lovely, charming
– No 24 hour news stream: bad, but survived

Last but not least, our daughter who always wanted to fly rather then sail announced that she will be part of the crew also once the time will come to travel back to Europe. Flight ticket saved, hooray;-)!

AO-Xing days 13 & 14

Crew post by Jeanette:

One month with Yuana for me now! And finally today I introduced the proper rules to the Uno-game that is the very favorite game of the kids. Probably played hundreds of times in the last two weeks by now. And by that I also finally won big time.

Time flies, only two more days to go now and it looks we will arrive at a good time of the day somewhere before lunch. I think everybody both enjoys time but also longing a bit to get there.

Especially Markus talks a lot about all kinds of food he misses, like steak, pizza and espresso. Although fishing has been more successful for a while now and yesterday dinner served a very nice one.

We also ran out of most breakfast, at least for those of us who does not think corn flakes goes with orange juice! But fortunately Manuela let me know where the Bounty’s are hidden, and Markus does not, so I have my night-watch snack still to enjoy.

By now all that is missing is some dolphins or wales. Except from lack of wildlife the crossing has so far been absolutely fantastic!

Nautical miles during the crossing:
Day 14: 144 nm
Day 13: 142 nm

Atlantic Ocean Crossing Days 1&2

The first two days are over and we are still waiting for wind. There was some wind around the Cape Verde Islands, and later occasionally every here and there. We reached 7 knots of boat speed during last night. This is generally not overwhelming but still counts for progress if otherwise the engine is consuming limited diesel.

Diesel was really cheap in the Cape Verdes, costing something like 0.90 Euros per liter. We stocked 415 liters. That would keep us going for another 4.5 days in same conditions. But hey, we are here for sailing. Usually there should be plenty of trade winds in our latitude this time of the year, but a big storm system which passed far north of us has stopped every wind where we are. Yes, this might also be part of the climate change which very experienced sailors such as Jimmy Cornell have noticed during the last decade already. Luckily, our Hallberg-Rassy came with two big tanks and so we can carry more fuel than many others in our fleet.

Our fleet is 23 boats and most of the have left Mindelo on Thursday within two hours. The field stretched quite rapidly. Some went for the shortest way towards Barbados hoping that winds would pick up after two days. Others intended to go two hundred miles South first to get into stable trades. After doing our own weather considerations we opted for the Swiss way which is to choose a strategy which was finally in between the ‘extreme’ positions.

By doing so, we saw the lights of ten other yachts in the beginning of the first night, with three lights remaining at the end of same night. Now when being two days into the crossing, we have also lost the last boat which was so far displayed on our electronic plotter screen.

Unfortunately we deviated from our routing strategy already on the first evening. We were then convinced that the extra miles for going Southwest would not be worth the diesel we consume. 24 hours later and with the newest weather data available we re-adjusted our course from 270 to 240 degrees, since wind seems not to pick up here for the next three days.

Anyway, the distance to destination was 2030 nm when we started. Since then, we have seen 2000, 1900, 1800 nautical miles going by. Guess what? The common feeling is that these miles go down too quickly. Let’s see what we will say next week.

The crew works very well together and we have had two lovely days. The calm weather even allowed to stop the boat once for one hour to go swimming and cooling down around the boat, followed by much appreciated shower. Air temperature is 30.4 degrees as water is 28.1 degrees.

Even fish get lazy with the calm and warm sea. Fishing success so far is limited to three small Mahi-Mahi’s, approximately 40 cm long. We made photos of each one to be documented for the fishing contest amongst the fleet, but let the fish go because each one was were not really big enough to give a good meal. So we started to create our own lures which look now bigger than the original ones, hoping that bigger fish would bite.

Jeanette and Joachim furled our genoa out again minutes ago. The 3.8 knots of true wind would give us another 0.5 knot of boat speed, now being back to 5 knots boat speed over ground. With this configuration we will continue motoring and look forward for finally reaching the trades on Sunday afternoon.

Nautical miles during the crossing:
Day 2: 125nm
Day 1: 115nm