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!

Die Jungferninseln – Wo der Abschied schmerzt

Wie viele der karibischen Inseln hatten auch die Jungferninseln ihren Namen von Christoph Columbus erhalten. Gemäss unserem Reiseführer wollte Columbus mit der Namensgebung an das Martyrium von 11’000 Jungfern durch die Hunnen erinnern (5. Jahrhundert, Sankt Ursula, in der Gegend des heutigen Kölns).

Unsere Ankunft auf den Jungferninseln war kurz vor Ostern. Wir wollten Ostern unbedingt mit Freunden von der Atlantic Odyssey verbringen. Es waren wundervolle Tage. Die Kinder von YUANA, ROGUE und JaJaPaMi unterhielten sich tagelang selber. Dass wir im Vorfeld in den Läden keine Schokolade-Ostereier finden konnten, war plötzlich kein Problem mehr.

Auch die Crews von KRABAT und AKOUAVI waren da. Wir sassen ganze Vormittage auf dem riesigen Katamaran der JaJaPaMi‘s, und besprachen die weiteren Reisepläne und gängige Segelrouten. Die Nachmittage verbrachten wir am Strand, oder vielleicht eher an einer Strandbar.

Dabei wurde die White Bay auf der Insel Jost van Dyke zu einem meiner Lieblingsorte überhaupt. Der Sonnenuntergang zauberte verblüffende Farben an den Himmel und aufs Wasser. Du hängst mit Freunden und einem kalten Drink in der Hand in einem Strandsessel und bist dir sicher, dass es kein schöneres Leben geben kann. Oder anders gesagt: Wir hatten Ferien von unserem Alltag, und schulfrei obendrauf!

Bald kam der grosse Abschied, und unser Bord-Alltag war zurück: Wo können wir Einkaufen, und wo die Wäschen machen? Wo hat es einen funktionierenden Bankomaten, und wo eine Post für unsere Klassenbriefe? Wo bekommen wir Ersatz für die durchgebrannte 50 Ampere-Sicherung einer elektrischen Winsch, und welche Tankstelle ist nach dem Sturm überhaupt noch im Betrieb?

Zu Hause stellen sich solche Fragen kaum. Die Waschmaschine steht im Haus und man weiss einfach, wo es was gibt, und was einem schmeckt. Vor unserer Reise war uns nicht bewusst, wie Effizient das Leben zuhause ist. Vielleicht birgt diese bequeme Effizienz auch die Gefahr, dass man nur selten etwas Neues ausprobiert. Es gibt ja kaum einen Anlass dazu.

Vermeintlich banale Sachen wie Einkaufen, Bargeld abheben oder Waschen waren hier stets Themen, die oftmals tage- wochenlang nicht gelöst werden können. Die vom Sturm verwüstete Infrastruktur trug natürlich ihren Teil dazu bei.

Der Sturm Irma liess am 14. September 2017 ganze Häuser verschwinden. Zuweilen sieht man verwilderte Grundstücke mit lediglich einem gefliesten Boden und einem WC drauf. Dann dämmert es einem, dass dies die Überbleibsel eines Wohnhauses sind, welches Stück um Stück zerlegt und weggefegt wurde.

An den Küsten liegen alle Arten von Schiffswracks, von Yachten bis zu schweren Arbeitsschiffen aus Stahl. Keine einzige Marina ist heil geblieben. Selbst betonierte Steganlagen wurden von der Wucht der Wellen und der festgemachten Schiffe zerbröselt.

Die Sturmspitze war lediglich vier Stunden an demselben Ort, mit konstant starken Winden von 295 km/h. In diesen vier Stunden sind dem Schweinzüchter auf Virgin Gorda alle seine 700 Schweine abhanden gekommen. Er weiss nicht, wo sie geblieben sind.

Die Leute haben die Nasen voll vom Aufräumen, und tiefste Angst, dass sich so ein Szenario wiederholen könnte. Taxifahrer Cyrill sagte mir: „Mann, du denkst vielleicht, dass das ein Abenteuer war. Nein, es war grauenvoll und tödlich. Wir haben uns versteckt und gebetet, und wollten nur, dass das endlich aufhört.“ Eine ganze Region wurde traumatisiert.

Cyrill ist sich absolut sicher, dass sich das Wetter verändert hat. Die früher wochenlang stabilen Wetterlagen gibt es nicht mehr. Viel zu häufig ändern sich Windrichtung, Windstärke und Niederschläge. Für uns Fahrtensegler sind das keine guten Nachrichten, bauen doch allen Segelrouten rund um den Globus auf Wetterkonstanten auf, welche sich während Jahrzehnten als ziemlich stabil erwiesen hatten.

Zumindest erholt sich die Natur. Die Wälder tragen langsam wieder grüne Blätter. Zuweilen sieht man Schmetterlinge zu Hunderten. An einigen Stränden wurden neue Palmen gepflanzt. Gestandene Revierkenner sind sich einig, dass die Jungferninseln fast wieder so schön sind wie vor 30 Jahren, als das Charterboot-Geschäft noch nicht etabliert war.

Trotz Sturmschäden genossen wir eine grandiose Zeit in den Britischen Jungferninseln. Zuweilen hatten wir ganze Buchten und Strände für uns alleine. Wir beobachteten die Pelikane, wie sie im Flug aus 5 Metern Höhe Fische im Wasser aussuchten, und diese nach kurzem Sturzflug und einem grossen ‚Platsch’ mit einer ungelenken Kopfbewegung ihren Hals hinunter beförderten. Das Wasser glitzerte selbst nachts im Mondeslicht türkis, die Strände in fahlem weiss.

Wir lagen vor Cooper Island und verbrachten die Nachmittage im Wasser und die Abende im Beach Club: Lounge Music, Happy Hour, Sun Downers,
nette Segler aus aller Welt, die Kiddies mit Dart beschäftigt, die ganze Speisekarte durchgemacht. Etwas weiter in The Bath liegen seit tausenden von Jahren riesige rundliche Steine vulkanischen Ursprungs am Strand, wie in den Seychellen. Diese aufgetürmten Brocken bilden Höhlen, in denen wir badeten.

Und was machen die Locals? Sie fahren gerne mit amerikanischen Pick-up Trucks, 10 Zylinder für kaum mehr als 10 Kilometer Insellänge. Ich will nicht verbergen, dass mir diese sonor brabbelnden Motoren schon immer imponiert haben. Völlig unerwartet erweckten diese grossen Schlitten in mir den längst begrabenen Ehrgeiz, in meinem (künftigen) Berufsleben für einige Zeit in den USA tätig zu sein. Die Tochter winkte sofort ab, Zitat: „Papa, das ist ein absolutes ‚No-Go‘: Zu grosse Städte, zu viele Waffen, zu viele Drogen, keine herzigen Dörfer!“. Woher sie das wohl hatte? So probierte ich es mit Canada. Prompt: „Papa, vergiss es: Zu viele wilde Wölfe und Bären, viel zu gefährlich!“. Diese Schlagfertigkeit habe ich mir schon immer gewünscht, haha!

Derweil erhielten wir aus der Schweiz Bilder von hübsch blühenden Blumen, Sträuchern und Bäumen. Es war für uns ist das ein untrügliches Zeichen, dass sich unser Aufenthalt in der Karibik nun dem Ende zuneigt.

Ganz unverhofft trafen wir am letzten Ankerplatz unsere Freunde von KISU, TRITON, und VELA DARE. Dieses Mal waren wir diejenigen, die abfahren. Obwohl noch Sint Maarten vor uns liegt waren wir ziemlich sicher, dass unser karibisches Abenteur hier zu seinem eigentlichen Abschluss gekommen ist. Tatsächlich steigt in uns ein Trennungsschmerz hoch. Die British Virgin Islands haben es uns wirklich angetan!

Für die US Virgin Islands hatten wir uns nicht früh genug um das erforderliche Visum bemüht. So konnten wir leider auch unsere Holland-Freunde Ron und Irene in ihrer Residenz in Puerto Rico nicht besuchen.

Mittlerweile sind wir in östlicher Richtung nach Sint Maarten gesegelt. Hier bereiten wir uns selbst und das Schiff auf die Rückfahrt nach Europa vor. Wir freuen uns auch schon auf Michael! Er wird unsere Crew auf der Rückfahrt verstärken.

St Kitts and Nevis: Short and hefty

St Kitts and Nevis is another very small state in the Eastern Caribbean with an estimated(!) population of 55‘000 only. No state so far was too small to give us a nice Welcome. Here, they sent a pretty large whale jumping out of water several times, leaving huge splashes whenever it plunged back. Good he didn’t decide to cuddle with Yuana.

St Kitts is actually also known as St Christopher, the name given by Columbus after his own name. We have met the traces of Columbus many times here in the West Indies. He discovered most of the Easter Caribbean Islands for Spain. Touching history is so much better then just learning it out of school books.

In Columbus’ wake came other Europeans. Too many times, this ended bloody for the Caribs, also in St Kitts. A small number of aboriginal Caribs remains, today living in Dominica. Today, the lands are mainly owned and populated by the descendants of African slaves. Speaking about population of St Kitts, one should not forget to mention the green velvet monkeys. They are up and around until 10a.m., before sun gets too warm.

Arriving at the Southernmost tip of St Kitts, we were astonished to find a high finish mega yacht harbor. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Miss-leaded Investment? Nearby was the Salt Plage, perhaps the coolest beach bar we have ever seen. The palm trees, lounge sofas and high chairs were arranged on three platforms, partially over the water. Super simple and award winning design, someone did a fantastic job!

When we took a stroll to the other side of the narrow island, we came across a small luxury hotel. Another remarkable place in the middle of nowhere? Also special was that all these places were interlinked with perfectly paved roads with park-like gardens aside. On the way back, a six-seated golf cart stopped and offered us a lift back to our anchorage. The driver was a woman, with a man seated next to her.

We asked a bit what kind of development was going on here, and who in that small country could invest in such top class properties. The man in the cart looked back to me and was saying with a wide grin on his face: “I’m the crazy guy doing all that”. It turned out that he was the American businessman Charles P Darby III. Just google him. You will find the former CEO of the company who developed Kiawah-Island in the US and also Irish Doonbeg Golf Resort which was later sold to the Trump Family.

Charles explained that he bought 2500 acres of land to develop it into a huge luxury residential area, encompassing more than 200 buildings.
The most dramatic Tom Fazio golf course is the next thing they will build. Super impressive! Charles was kind enough to shake hands with us again when he showed up at the beach bar on the same evening.

Another helpful person was Elvis. He drove us high up to the Brimstone Hill Fortress, another large defense installation of the British, this time to fight the French. At those times it was of utmost importance to secure an anchorage in the vicinity of a good fresh water river. No trip back to
Europe could start without the barrels filled with drinking water. Elvis also offered us some economical insights:

As everywhere else in the West Indies the sugar cane business lost momentum decades ago and sent Kittian economy into a long sleep. Only 15 years ago when the cruise ship terminal was opened, tourism got significance and quickly became the most important economic sector. In high season, two or three cruise ships visit St Kitts every day. In the off season, its considerably less, depending on latent hurricanes.

Asking about difficulties with quickly growing tourism, Elvis said that everyone is happy with it because it creates lots of jobs. Then he added: “OK, there is one problem. With the tourists coming, many of us now must work on Sundays. Then we can’t go to Church. But the weekly service is very important for us.” More than a dozen of Christian Churches exist in Basseterre only. They compete for members in a saturated market.

Elvis blown the horn every other mile to say hello to someone else on the road. Once it was the hair dresser, then a family member and then a very good friend, the former Prime Minister who is now in the opposition. By the way, there is no Republican Party as we know it, and a Green Party is not required at all. The parties are more in the range of different shades of Labors, which started forming in the late times of slavery.

The country is proud of celebrating its 35 years of independence from UK this year. The Commonwealth improves the access to international financial markets. They however complain that loans for disaster recovery are becoming more expensive after catastrophic incidents such as most recent hurricanes. The county’s stability is questioned. “Why and how should we pay the bill for global warming which was produced elsewhere?”. A thoroughly wide topic…

Last but not least, such small country could not defend itself in case of an attack. We learned that the military interventions of UK in Falkland and the one of US in Grenada are taken as a sign that Kittians would not been left alone in such a case. In return, US Army is allowed to train in the country, and also to use its geographic position strategically. Young Kittians do not need to serve in an army.

That was a lot for little more than one day only, isn’t it? St Kitts was a very quick go for us. After leaving St Kitts and Nevis, we did a short provisioning stop in St Barths. This is the famous French place where Johnny Hallyday was buried recently. As I conclude this article, we are already on the British Virgin Islands. We have decided to meet up here with some friends for Easter. The BVI’s will perhaps be our grande finale in the West Indies, before starting our second Atlantic Crossing with new crew during May.

Wishing everyone a nice Easter Weekend
Markus and family

PS: There are some great photos from St Kitts on http://www.yuana.life . As always, Klick on our logo to randomly see the next picture.

Antigua – The upper class holiday place

Antigua welcomed us with its English Harbor, a paramount anchorage which can perhaps not be found many times in the world. Very well protected and hardly visible from the sea, it was the perfect place to protect a naval fleet. The whole area around that most beautiful bay is today listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. What is called The Nelson’s Dockyards are the docks where ships tie up for unloading and loading.

This all started 235 years ago, when Piracy was still a big issue in the Caribbean. Admiral Horatio Nelson developed the English Harbour area for the British Navy to support their claims in the West Indies. The place grew strong enough to stop the piracy of those days. Earlier, the British, French, Spanish and other Admiralties teamed up with the Pirates very opportunistically, just to win (or loose) the next battle.

The Nelson’s Dockyards were beautifully restored and are today used as a marina. Also thanks to its nice surrounding, it became a preferred docking place for super yachts. Steering my own ship into English Harbour and tying her up at the great old Nelson’s Dockyards became one of my personal maritime highlights. I realized this only in hindsight. And this was the perfect start for our encounter with Antigua.

The following days brought us back some dear friends from the yachts Krabat, A Capella of Belfast, Dream Catcher and Kisu. All of us were then anchored in Falmouth Bay, just next to English Harbour. We enjoyed sundowners in one or the other cockpit and made sure to party at the local Yacht Club.

Then came the birthday of our son. He turned eleven and was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get an invitation for Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This was at least what happened to Harry Potter at his own eleventh birthday (we are working ourselves through that book, English edition, every evening bit by bit). All of us enjoyed the day with a bit of sailing, swimming, beach games and an e-reader as top birthday present. It was very important for him to get into a marina with internet connection. Sure we did, and we closed this great day with an appropriate dinner at a great Greek restaurant.

Because we liked Antigua and wanted to get more of it, we decided to explore the Northwestern part of the country. We found dozens of quiet islands, reefs, almost white beaches and turquoise waters. We spotted breeding Pelicans and pure nature. On Long Island, one-story luxury hotels lined up along the beach, offering peace and privacy for several thousand dollars per night – the place to be.

Antigua actually has a little neighbor, with is the island called Barbuda. Barbuda is said to top the beauty of Antigua. We didn’t go there. Sadly, Barbuda got totally destructed by storm Irma, and other sailors who tried to visit the place confirmed this. So we decided not to go there.

Antigua is something special, not only for its natural beauty, but also for rules and regulations. They are so good that they need their own electronic pre-arrival notification system for sailors, whereas the other East Caribbean States teamed up for one common solution. Moreover, one has to throw the hook and dinghy in for the customs and immigration, before the boat can be tied up on a dock. ‘Work your way in if you want to be part of our place!’

The hight was when we had to register our kids as passengers rather than crew, which cost a lot of money. Dear Antiguan authorities, the sailing community just laughs about such advanced level of ridiculousness.

Other strange things? Yes, when we were on the beautiful uninhabited islands with no supermarket around the corner, we tested some canned meals which we bought earlier in Martinique. We assumed that we can find the same cans again further up North in Saint Martin, as stock for our second Atlantic crossing. Guess what? Those canned meals must have been produced in the same factory which produces the food for our cats. So: No canned meals for the long way back to Europe ;-)!

By the way: Nelson’s Dockyards called up some nice memories from the great old harbors we’d visited in England. That made me starting to like the idea to pay some more visits there on our way back 🙂

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Picture: Copper and Lumber Store, now a hotel inside Nelson’s Dockyards

Dominica

Dominica was the first country on our trip which was badly hit by hurrican Maria in September 2017. The damages were gigantic. After this happened we though that it might be better to bypass Dominica. On recommendation of other sailors, we stopped in Dominica and as so often on our trip so far, we stayed longer than expected.

The island raises steep and unprotected out of the open ocean. Nothing would withstand who monster storm crashing against that steep land there. Already when approaching Dominica from the sea some brownish-grey forests indicated that something was wrong. The leaves of the trees must have been either torn off by the wind or destroyed by the salty sea water sprayed over the place.

From our anchorage point in Portsmouth’ Prince Rupert Bay it was clearly visible that many houses got their roofs repaired already or at least covered with sturdy plastic foil, some from USaid, as we saw later. The place looked quite dark at night because electric grid was still down,
apart from the main streets.

Stepping ashore unveiled that a considerable part of disaster recovery was completed. What was worthwhile to safe for the future was put more or less in shape. Many wooden houses simply collapsed with nothing left for tomorrow. Aid organizations such as the UNICEF or World Food Programme still had their tents there. This was when I learned about the value of such field aid organizations.

One property had a huge cargo container in the garden, washed in by the flood, with the owner being left unable to remove it. One former restaurant had just its concrete basement left, with a concrete stair, the menu card painted on the wall. A huge pile of rotting wooden planks were in front. A sadly looking Shepard dog was sitting on the ruin, guarding the property of its vanished owner. On the street, almost every car came with its signs of the storm, anything from body damages to broken lights or windows.

Our river guide Anthony shared his own views: “A house is just a house. It’s not so expensive and can be replaced. Poor people build their house with light wood only. No insurance would cover it because too many wooden houses would just start to burn one night. If a concrete house had burned, then the damage is low because it just needs to be repainted and then it is as good as new. Hey man, we still have our lives!”

Masses of huge trees had fallen, same as the poles for the electric power cables or the telephone lines. The government of this 30 Miles long country with a population of 72’000 only is left with an almost endless list of capital intensive tasks.

On the radio we heard the prime minister saying that hurricanes such as Maria could be the new Normal, which might be realistic. They want to rebuild the country so that it can cope with such storms. On the prevention side, they started their program to become the first climate resilient country in the world. Clearly, this will only help if they manage to send a most remarkable signal effect into the world.

Visiting a country in distress was a pretty effective eye opener in many ways, not only for our children. Now let’s turn to the good sides. Handling of the storm damages gives a boost to some parts of the economy. On a more general side, the country is blessed the nicest people we have met throughout the Caribbean so far, and with its natural beauty.

Mentioned guide Anthony rowed us up the Indian River with its dense vegetation. He showed us where Jack Sparrow was studying a chart in the movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. He explained us that the mangroves along the river shore cope with both salt and fresh water. He pointed out that in contrary to the coconuts, the bananas trees will take much longer to recover from the storm.

We took a hike up to Fort Shirley. It was built by the British in the 18th century and apparently did a great deal in defending Dominica against the French, which successfully took possession of Martinique in the South and Guadeloupe in the North.

Unfortunately and because of the earlier mentioned accident during horse back riding, we couldn’t do our trip to the famous Emerald Pools and waterfalls in the South of Dominica.

As almost everywhere in the West Indies and during this season, the locals complain about the unusually windy and wet season with lot of rain. The good side of the rain is that it supports the vegetation to grow very rapidly. And the rain does it’s job: The greens grow so quickly that the brown-grayish rain forest definitely looked greener when we departed, just one week after our arrival.

On a humanitarian mission

In September 2017, our current host country Dominica was badly hit by Maria, one of the worst hurricanes ever. We were still in Portugal at that time and tried to figure out whether our trip into the West Indies was still meaningful. Five month further down the road, we know that it was right to move ahead and especially also great to visit Dominica.

The storm killed the trees and destroyed thousands of private and public houses. Worse, it left thousands of people homeless, insured, or even dead. Who didn’t loose their life often lost everything else, for example also the most basic things as the underwear. There was little money before the storm, and now it’s even less.

Sailors loved Dominica in the past when times were good. So many sailors
somehow feel responsible to be there with help in bad times as well. So do we. In the internet we found lists with what they need most, and so we prepared seven bags full of useful things. But to whome to give it? This was the next thing to find out.

It was Sunday when we first went ashore to get a first impression of the general situation ashore. For our first scouting mission, we left the bags on the boat. We wanted to find
– someone in need of cloth
– three parties in need of basic household things
– a school for all the paper blocks, pens, ball pens, color pens
– a doctor for the medical stuff, mainly 200 syringes and needles

We found the school and a church. We thought that the pastor should know who is in need, but we couldn’t find anyone that time of the day. Next to the church was a big white tent marked UNICEF. We assumed that this was the coordination center for children’s aid. Perfect. As it was Sunday, it was closed as well and we decided to continue our scouting on Monday.

On Monday the tent still had the door rolled down, but some noise came from inside. We found a cleaning lady in there. She explained that the tent was a temporary class room because the school nearby collapsed in the storm. We talked a bit to Simone and learned about her situation. Soon it turned out that we found someone in need of most of our things except the needle stuff. We agreed to deliver some items on the next day.

Simone was 53, actually looking somewhat younger. The youngest one of her ten children had just turned 15. She was also a proud grandma of eight, very friendly, but now homeless on her two acres of land. Simone wore the golden ear rings she wore when the storm hit and told us with a smile that she even can’t buy sugar now. She said everything with a smile. She was particularly interested in clothes and school materials for her kids. So we left her the two sets of summer clothing each of us had taken our of his wardrobe on board. Simone gladly took the household bags as well, including two of the dynamo-lamps we bought in Martinique. She recommended to bring the school bag to the school around the corner.

Entering the empty looking school, at 4.30 p.m. we met a teacher just about to lock an intact school building. She gladly received a big bag of paper blocks, and a lots of pens, color pens, ball pens and some craft materials. She recommended to see the hospital rather than the doctor for the syringes and needles we had in our last bag.

So we walked up the road to the hospital. Why did we have so many syrings on board? They were three boxes of 80 pieces with sizes 2, 5 and 20 Milliliters. Those were the smallest packs we could get at home. There should be a couple of syringes on every boat, and so we had a lot to give away.

This bunch of syringes was actually the last bag we stuffed into the car before leaving our home in Switzerland. It was always clear that we couldn’t use all our medical stuff, but we thought it was better to donate it along the way rather than to keep them in our home. Maria only came later.

At the hospital we found a doctor with a stethoscope around the neck and she was very kindly receiving our last bag. We exchanged some words an when saying good bye, she told us “Please come back!”. We found this a nice way to say to someone that we is welcome, but we preferred not to have reason to see this or another hospital from inside for the rest of our trip.

Just a few steps out of the hospital and on our way back to the jetty, a cute
little girl ran towards our daughter. She laughed all over her face and didn’t want to stop hugging our puzzled girlie. Then she hugged Manuela, me, and finally our boy. Her father nearby explained that his little girl is full of love. What a nice conclusion for our charity mission!

Madeira to Isla Graciosa – 2nd night

The day started wish some fishing. I wasn’t even through with securing the fishing gear as I heard an odd croaaak coming from the area where the hook was. Oh no, the only seagull in the area tried to eat our fishing lure which we pulled behind us. Now, the seagull is trapped somehow. Immediately we would slow down, turn back and spool in the fishing line, with no tension on the line for the bird. This gives it the time to free itself and we are bloody glad that it was like that.

Later on we catch a tuna kid, just about 35 centimeters long. We release it since we don’t want to kill it for the little flesh we would get. Another two tunas of same length follow, and all of them can go back into the blue. We discussed whether the fish would remember that at the end of the day, and learn something out of being caught. Does anybody know ;-)?

As all of the three tunas were of same length we conclude that our lure was to small. For this reason we change back to the bigger lure which was responsible for the big tuna we caught a week ago. However we wouldn’t catch anything for the rest of the day.

In the afternoon we were chattering over the radio with a solo sailor on his way from La Rochelle (F) to Gran Canaria. He would prepare there for a solo race across Atlantic Ocean to Martinique. He says that 81 single-handed boats are participating and expects to make the crossing within two weeks, on a boat of 6.5 meters length only. His biggest issue was the freeze-dried food which he apparently didn’t like so much. We wished good luck to him for the race.

Before dinner time we decide spontaneously to stop the boat and go swimming. Sea is flat and wind is down. One adult always stays aboard whilst the other three persons try not to get caught by a shark (they eat later, usually). We survive. The strangest thing about swimming out here are the 3000+ meters of water underneath. This is so incredibly deep, with an awful lot of strange animals down there.

Another day dusks and we get ready for the night. All the way from Madeira we have propelled as the winds were mostly not there, which matches with the predictions. As the evening develops, the forecasted light winds appear from starbord and slowly change to port side (from right to left). We set sails and can stop the engine as wind picks up further around 10p.m.. It will become quite a fast but bumpy ride. I reef a bit at 2a.m. to make everyone happier on board.

We do not have a particular watch scheme for the nights. We just agree on each other’s condition. The one who thinks can catch some sleep goes down to his bunk until woken up for a change. We try to let each other sleep for three to four hours in one go, at least. This night’s sleeping will be less because falling asleep is very difficult with so much motion in the boat. The kids luckily went to bed before the rocking started so they can sleep.

The magic of last night is not here today. Why would the water make this glittery shining one night, bit not the next one?

To kill time I download the latest pictures from Ophelia. Ophelia is a violent storm west of us, slowly moving north-east. Within a few days, it should pass in between Azores and Madeira, later entering bay of biscay. We are glad not to be there, because gusts of 85 knots (almost 160 km/h) is definitely not what a brave sea man want to experience out there. We start to feel uncomfy already at 25 to 30 knots of wind. We will however not get around the swell of Ophelia down in the Canaries. The waves carry on for a very far stretch, also if the storm has passes far off.

Anything else for that night? Again, no mermaid appeared ;-).