Atlantik komplett

Heute 5.7.2018 um 14:25 Uhr englischer Zeit haben wir unseren eigenen Track vom 5.8.2017 gekreuzt. Damals haben wir von Falmouth UK aus zu unserem ersten langen Schlag über die Biskaya angesetzt. Heute, nach exakt 11 Monaten fahren wir wieder in den Englischen Kanal rein. Der Kreis hat sich geschlossen und unsere Atlantikrunde ist nun also komplett! In den kommenden Tagen geht es weiter nach Holland. Schöne Grüsse von Bord der Yuana!

Zurück in Europa!

Hallo Zusammen, hier sind wir wieder, zurück in der alten Welt, genauer gesagt auf den Isles of Scilly vor der südwestlichsten Spitze Englands. Man erkennt Nordeuropa zunächst vor allem daran, dass der Nordwind eine Prise Eis mit sich bringt, und dass unsere Schiffsheizung wieder läuft.

Auch brauchen wir keine ‚Atlantiküberquerungstage‘ mehr zu zählen. Yuana hat uns in den letzten Wochen hervorragend vor dem weiten Meer geschützt, und nun schützen wir sie wieder vor den Felsen der Küste. Das ist der Deal.

Wenn man den Zwischenhalt in den Azoren für den Moment mal ausklammert, so haben wir ab Karibik (Sint Maarten) bis hierher 25 Reisetage benötigt, und dabei fast 3‘600 nautische Meilen oder 6‘600 Kilometer zurückgelegt. Wie Winde waren günstig für uns, und alles ist störungsfrei abgelaufen. Das ist sehr bemerkenswert für mich, denn diese lange Etappe war stets die grosse Knacknuss an unserem gesamten Projekt überhaupt. Diese Nuss hat sich nun als durchaus knackbar erwiesen, und macht uns froh und dankbar.

Die Rückfahrt war trotzdem relativ kurz, wenn man die Rückreisezeit in Relation zur Hinreise stellt. Ab England bis in die Karibik (Barbados) hatten wir uns nämlich satte vier Monate gegönnt. Der Weg war das Ziel.

Der Weg bleibt das Ziel. Auch den nächsten Wochen wird es uns nicht langweilig werden. Nach den Islands of Scilly werden wir wahrscheinlich die Kanalinseln und die Normandie besuchen, und bei Gelegenheit noch den einen oder andern richtig gut englischen Yachtclub mitnehmen. Wir freuen uns schon darauf! Die Schweiz muss also noch ein bisschen warten.

Schöne Grüsse von Markus mit Familie

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 🙂


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

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.

Hair cut

Authorities note the last day of October 2017, not really important to us. Early morning temperature is close to 20 degrees Celsius which is considered to be a pleasant start for a Swiss summer day. It is early morning because half of the crew is still asleep. There is no wind and I feel that time has come for a haircut (not a financial one, hahaha).

Boys on board cut their hair with a machine. This gives a uniform hair length all around the head. Also that doesn’t matter too much out here.

Our last hair cuts were quite a mess, at least concerning the chopped off remnants. At that time, we cut our hair on deck and in quite windy conditions, force 3 or more. We thought that this would be very smart as cut off hair would just been blown away. This was really true. A good part of it ended up in the anchor locker, another part inside the boat because one of the hatches was open, and a smaller part in the sea.

As there is no wind this morning, lets get it done right now, head over sea railings. The sea is so flat that it gives me a useful mirror. Check the picture. It is actually the highlight of this post. The grey flakes on the water would attract all kinds of fish. Of each size, the one called ‘Winkelried’ (a thoroughly heroic figure in Swiss history) takes the first bite. The first bite would also be the last one. And no other fish of same species would even try. To hairy, unpleasant experience as it seems.

Hair dressing is the only thing which is more efficient on sea than on land, at least looking at time and cost, perhaps not so much at the new look, haha.

Karibische Reisepläne nach dem Sturm

Im September 2017 trafen die gewaltigen tropischen Wirbelstürme Irma und Maria auf die Kleinen Antillen. Sie hinterliessen teils überaus verwüstete Inseln, viel zu viel Not und Leiden lokaler Bevölkerungen, und verunsicherte Crews auf vielen Fahrtenyachten. Ein signifikanter Teil der Inseln auf unserer karibischen Reiseroute von Barbados über Grenada in die Britischen Jungferninseln war und ist davon betroffen.

Auch wenn für uns der Weg das Ziel ist, so wollen wir primär in die Karibik, und nicht primär über den Atlantik. Daher stellte sich für uns die ernsthafte Frage, wie viel Sinn die weite Reise über den Atlantik macht. Also versuchten wir anhand einer dünnen Faktenlage, uns eine Übersicht zu verschaffen. Hier ist unsere laienhafte Auslegeordnung in vier Teilen:


A) Verlängerung der Sturmsaison?

Die Sturmsaison in der Karibik dauert normalerweise von Juni bis November. Die Stürme bilden sich in den Kapverden, und ziehen dann über den Atlantik. Meist drehen sie nach Norden ab, bevor sie auf die Kleinen Antillen treffen, und lösen sich auf. Sehr starke Stürme bilden sich, wenn das Meerwasser besonders warm ist. Sie laufen länger und treffen eher auf Land. Wenn im Herbst die Sonne weiter südlich steht, nimmt die Wassertemperatur ab, und das Risiko grosser Wirbelstürme sinkt stark ab.

Im letzten Jahrzehnt lag die Anzahl sehr starker Stürme in der Karibik deutlich unter dem langjährigen Durchschnitt. Die Häufung im Jahre 2017 geht auf eine aktuell hohe Meerwassertemperatur zurück. Man muss kein Wetterfrosch sein um zu verstehen, dass die Meerwasserabkühlung länger dauert, wenn das Wasser wärmer ist. Ergo versteht der Laie, dass sich die Sturmsaison etwas über November hinausziehen könnte.


B) Etwaige Auswirkung auf unsere Atlantiküberquerung

Seit jeher planen wir, über die Kapverden in die Karibik zu segeln. Man kommt so schneller in den Passat-Windgürtel und verkürzt die eigentliche Atlantiküberquerung von drei auf zwei Wochen. Damit verringern sich die Unwägbarkeiten über das Wetter. Unsere Ankunft auf Barbados erfolgt normalerweise um den 5.-8. Dezember. Barbados liegt am unteren Ende der Hurrikan-Zugbahn. Wir haben keine Anhaltspunkte gefunden, wonach es so spät im Jahr auf Barbados einen tropischen Wirbelsturm gegeben hätte. Trotzdem wollen wir uns gedanklich einige Eventualitäten durchspielen:

Sollten zum Zeitpunkt der Abfahrt in den Kapverden deutliche Abweichungen zur üblichen Passat-Konstellation erkennbar sein, so könnten wir die Abfahrt hinauszögern.

Sollten wir unterwegs von einem sich bildenden Hurrikan überholt werden, so würden wir diesen zwei bis drei Tage im Voraus erkennen, und könnten nach Süden ausweichen.

Sollten wir sehr weit ausweichen müssen, so könnten wir Surinam oder Französisch Guyana auf dem südamerikanischen Festland anlaufen. Letzteres ist ein EU-Gebiet.


C) Zustand der beschädigten Inseln zum Zeitpunkt unseres Besuches

Die dortigen Völker und Vegetationen sind sich an ‘normal starke Stürme’ und das Beseitigen deren Schäden gewöhnt. Weil fast die gesamte Wirtschaft vom Tourismus abhängt ist man sehr bemüht, die Inseln bis zum Beginn der Reisesaison wieder ‘geniessbar’ zu machen. Einige der wüst getroffenen Inseln sind EU-Gebiet. Diese Inseln haben bereits weitreichende Hilfen erhalten. Einige der stark beschädigten Inseln werden wohl wieder einigermassen funktionieren, bis wir ankommen. Wie es um die zerfetzten Palmen steht, werden wir dann sehen.


D) Allfällige Alternativrouten

Tatsächlich wird es wohl so kommen, dass wir gewisse Ziele nicht werden besuchen können. Anhand einer selbstgebastelten Karte wollten wir verstehen, wie viele der bisherigen Ziele möglicherweise ausfallen müssen, und wie sinnvolle Ersatzziele heissen könnten. Dabei war zu berücksichtigen, welche Routen zu den jeweiligen Jahreszeiten bzw Windrichtungen überhaupt gesegelt werden können. Zum Beispiel wäre es sehr mühsam, jetzt gegen den Wind ins Mittelmeer segeln zu wollen.

Mehr als ein Duzend Reisevarianten standen plötzlich zur Disposition. Die kürzeste Extremvariante war, den Winter in den Kanaren zu verbringen, um im Frühling über die Azoren nach Kontinental-Europa zurückzukehren. Dabei hätten wir von der Karibik abgelassen. Die längste Extremvariante war, nach einem Kurzbesuch im Süden der Karibik in Richtung Panamakanal weiterzusegeln, um schliesslich die Nordamerikanische Westküste zu erkunden. Wir hätten das Schiff dabei im Sommer 2018 in San Francisco, Seattle oder Vancouver verkauft. Zu diesen und anderen Varianten gibt die Karte im Titelbild Aufschluss. Natürlich ist das eine Momentaufnahme, welche sich – hoffentlich zum Besseren – ändern wird.



Wir sind überzeugt, dass wir den Atlantik zur Passatwindzeit werden sicher überqueren können. Sodann werden wir länger als geplant auf Barbados, Grenada und Sanct Vincent and the Grenadines bleiben. Bis wir zu den nördlichen Inseln vorstossen, sollte ein Teil der Schäden behoben sein.

Einige Inseln wie Dominica oder Barbuda werden wir wohl nicht besuchen. Vielleicht werden wir sogar die Jungferninseln nicht anlaufen. In diesem Falle kann unsere Rückfahrt auch ab Antigua direkt auf die Azoren erfolgen. Den ‘Umweg’ über die Bermudas würden wir uns dabei sparen.

Die beiden Stürme haben uns geholfen, unsere karibischen Reisepläne weiter zu konkretisieren. Ein Verzicht auf unser karibisches Abenteuer und die zweimalige Atlantiküberquerung scheint zum aktuellen Zeitpunkt nicht angebracht zu sein. Diese Einschätzung werden wir zu gegebener Zeit natürlich wieder überprüfen. Wir halten uns alle Option offen und werden jedenfalls kein Wagnis eingehen wollen.

The Portuguese job

They say it brings good fortune to the sailors who paint their logo on the inside of a breakwater. Ok, nothing simpler than that, we thought, and fun for the kids as well. To say it right away, it came quite differently, and sadly, it wasn’t kids friendly at all.

Before arriving in Porto Santo we haven’t seen harbor walls as richly decorated with paintings by hundreds of sailing crews from all around the world. That wall is very, very long and whenever we pass on the way to the beach, we spot a piece of which we didn’t take notice before. We find paintings of other sailors whose blogs we were following for long. And not very surprising, many other yachts under Swiss flag have stayed here before us.

Whoever once created their own tour logo would now paint it on the wall. Others just invent their logo as they paint, or leave a fantasy picture with a sunset and a dolphin, which is actually not a fantasy to sailors. Many paintings show one or two sails, some show a more or less pretty mermaid. Some show an anchor, others a lovely customized beer can. Many paintings are tiny, whereas other ones claim large patches of that wall. Almost all pictures have in common that they display the name of a yacht, the flag of the home country, the year of visit and perhaps the names of the crew. The oldest (still visible) painting we found has been on that wall for almost 20 years!

Quite obviously, our painting contribution should include the logo from our web site. It wasn’t too hard to find a free patch, and soon we knew why: our spot wasn’t the best one because the wall was terribly uneven there. It would be difficult to nicely apply the paint. Anyway, this was where we started and where we wanted to finish our job. So we printed our logo on a couple of papers and used the scissors to produce a template. Kids job? Possibly yes, but they just wanted to paint and so I was using the scissors by myself.

Soon after we taped the template to the wall and were ready for painting. Kids job? Unfortunately not! The paper template got wet from the paint and was destroyed within minutes only. I could just do a couple of blue dots which should give a fair idea of the outlines of our logo.

Now began an epic long time of crafting, surely with no kid arts involved. I was applying the color dot by dot across the mountains and valleys in that uneven wall. That seemed to become an endless job. I accepted to trust the fishermen who were racing their old cars up and down the lane just behind my back. Since I had no brush, I dotted the sticky paint to the wall with cable ties. Wasn’t Van Gogh using that method for his beautiful arts, with a proper brush at hand of course?

More than one hour later and being half through my job I started to feel the good vibes that concentrated painting can do to the body and soul. It was such a satisfying and mind clearing activity, standing at the wall, trying not to mess up my patch with dropping color, no longer caring for the racing cars behind my heels.

Some other sailors said that they like my arts, whereas that level of satisfaction of the rest of the family wasn’t really peaking up. I missed the rest of the afternoon, dinner, and a good part of the evening. At least the job was then finished. At some time the first and then the second one of my kids showed up, being sent on a search and rescue mission by mom. They surely wanted to know when they can start with their part of painting?

“Oops, there are some other free patches along the wall, more even ones, not that elevated, and yes, they could perhaps do something very artistic which requires neither a template nor cable ties”.

“It’s cool to paint with cable ties, I wanna do that as well!”

There is even more hope for the kids: we hear that more of such decorated walls are around, for example in Funchal (Madeira) or in Horta (Azores), all of them on Portuguese territories.