Atlantic Crossing 2, Days 16-17

Day 16 brings us dolphins, and hundreds of them. One dolphin school goes and the next would come soon. They even travel with us through the night! The baby dolphins move in perfect synchrony with their mums. The jumpers jump and the speedies make crazy quick changes in direction at fast pace. So good to see them!

What feels less good are the cold northerly winds. The air temperature is down to 16 degrees, with the wind chill further lowering it to estimated 12 degrees.

On the last day, we get head winds and this is when sailing becomes either fun or nasty, depending on the view. This time it is an uphill battle. True wind is at 25 knots which my doesn’t sound so bad, but it’s definitely far away from being comfortable. Waves break against the hull, the cockpit gets an ugly shower, and we have plenty of motion and noise inside the cabin.

The chilled Caribbean ‘ting’-lemonades stay in the fridge. Hot tea is the preferred drink now. The writing on the tea bag in German language says something about feeling well and cozy. But also two or three cups wouldn’t bring the Caribbean warmth back into the toilet seat. Everything feels cold and the last bit of Caribbean humidity can be found as condensed droplets on the cold aluminum frames of the windows, what a change 16 1/2 day on sea can do!

Since we were a bit lazy with adjusting the clock, we had to turn it forward by one hour, on four days in a row. That makes us sleeping long into the mornings. The good thing about getting considerably further north is that the evenings get longer before it gets dark. Oh how great this is!

After 2’420 nautical miles or 4’500 Kilometers on sea we are now reaching the outermost post of the Azores Islands. Those nine islands are still pretty far out in the Atlantic Ocean. They belong to Portugal and are part of the European Union, however the islands called Flores and Corvo geologically sit on the Northern American tectonic plate. That means that after Europe, Africa and Central America, our trip comes to a tiny little halt in North America ;-)!

Once more, YUANA did an outstandingly great job. Nothing broke so far on this crossing. So we could just focus on reaching our destination! That can by far not be taken for granted. Again: Great Hallberg-Rassy, apparently with appropriately performed maintenance. Touch wood.

The bigger compliment however goes to Manuela and the kids. Being at sea can be tough. Perhaps we wouldn’t have gone sailing, would we have known how tough such a crossing can be. Why? We wouldn’t have imagined that we can do it! And we did it and it was more all right!

Particularly the daughter wasn’t keen on sailing long distances. To relax, we gave her the option to fly from Azores to our next stop in France, would she be completely fed up with blue water cruising. Looking at her now, we see a pretty proud young lady who is aware of her achievement, with no further discussion about flight schedules. Isn’t that unbelievably great?!

On Flores, our extra crew Michael will leave the Yuana team. Michael experienced some though days with motion thickness. But finally and that is what counts, he realized his dream of an Atlantic Crossing, Congratulations!

We plan to stay a bit in the Azores, before sailing back to the continent.

Sailed distances:
Day 17: 60nm (approx)
Day 16: 130 nm

Atlantiküberquerung 2, Tage 13-15

Seit wir in Holland abgefahren sind, nutzen wir das neuseeländische PredictWind, um uns ein Bild über das Wetter der nächsten Tage zu verschaffen. PredictWind stellt vier Wettermodelle zur Verfügung, deren Prognosen über 3-5 Tage recht konsistent sind. Darüberhinaus weichen die Vorhersagen ad extremis diametral voneinander ab. Aufgrund der Angaben von PredictWind haben wir unsere bisherigen Abfahrtszeiten und Strecken geplant. Meist waren wir ja nicht länger als 24 Stunden unterwegs.

Steht eine zweiwöchige Reise durch ein unbeständiges Seegebiet an, so bringt klimatologisches Fachwissen die Erkenntnisse, welche für eine schnelle und komfortable Routenwahl notwendig sind. Weil beides sicherheitsrelevant und für uns wichtig ist, haben wir einen ausgewiesenen Spezialisten für das sogenannte Weather Routing ins Yuana-Team geholt.

Sebastian von der WetterWelt in Kiel schickt uns etwa alle 5 Tage seinen Vorschlag, wie wir den weiteren Routenverlauf planen können. Stets folgen wir Sebastians Empfehlungen, oder besprechen mit ihm unsere Alternative. Das gibt uns zusätzliche Sicherheit bei der Streckenwahl, und obendrein macht die Zusammenarbeit Spass! Sebastian wird uns bis ans europäische Festland begleiten.

Spass haben wir auch sonst an Bord: Endlich gibt ab und zu es Delfinbesuch. Es ist jedes Mal toll, diese Tiere bei ihren grazilen Luftsprüngen oder den schnellen Spitzkehren im Wasser zu beobachten.

Mehr Spass? Raclette auf dem weiten Ozean. Dem gibt es nichts hinzuzufügen. Ausserdem haben wir während dem Essen gelernt, dass die Flamen Ellenbogen sagen, wenn es bei uns Hörnli gibt. Einem Glückspilz sagen sie Glücks-Sack! Wenn wir Schweizer früher Mohrenköpfe und die Deutschen Negerküsse genossen haben, so hatten die niederländisch sprechenden Belgier dafür einen Ausdruck, den ich hier unmöglich wiedergeben kann: weder politisch korrekt noch jugendfrei. Wer es unbedingt wissen will, der kann mich ja fragen.

Unser Belgier Michael (wir nutzen oft auch den Belgischen Standardnamen Jan für ihn) ist mittlerweile auch schon recht gut bei schweizerischen Zungenbrechern: Dä Papst hät zSpiez sSpäck Bschteck zspat bstellt geht schon fast fehlerfrei!

In der ersten Nachtschicht (ca 22 bis 2 Uhr) schaue ich dem Wetterleuchten zu. Gemäss Radar ist es 25 Meilen entfernt. Die Höhenwinde bringen es jedoch rasch zu uns, und so bricht auf Yuana plötzlich der Wetter-Aktivismus los. Schnell wird die Fock gerefft. Notebook, Tablets, Handys und der Satellitenempfänger wandern umgehen in den Backofen. In diesem Faradayschen Käfig sind sie offenbar vor Blitzschäden geschützt.

Das Gewitter zieht mit einigen hellen Zuckungen über uns hinweg. Passiert ist zum Glück nichts.

Etmale:
Tag 15: 134 sm
Tag 14: 150 sm
Tag 13: 155 sm

Atlantic Crossing Days 10-12

Our expectations about what to find north of the high pressure ridge were like ‚just wind‘. We got the winds, quiet nicely in average. Unfortunately we got more than that. Compared to the before the high, the weather has changed completely:

The air is now fresh and humid, with fog particles at times, feeling cold at night. We had to dig for pullovers and long pants, something we haven’t been using for far more than half a year.

We are already 2000 kilometers away from the Caribbean. Looking up our last photographs from Sint Maarten show plenty of beach fun and beach bar. Now and just two weeks later, all those pictures appear like distant memories.

At least we are progressing well and make good speed, our bow cutting North Atlantic waters. Bermuda is in safe distance 😉 and we are sailing eastwards. There is a map pinned to our saloon wall, with colorfully decorated post-it’s around. Every 200 Miles the kids can grab one of the post-it’s, each one hiding a little surprise ready on its back side. As the clock shows 1’250 nautical miles to go, it is time for the Half Way Party! Adults get some bubbles and the kids a movie time with sweets and pop corn.

Our radio nets with Gianni become more colorful day by day. Firstly we would always tell each other the current, positions, course, speed and sail configuration. Then follows discussion of weather forecasts and conclusions for next waypoints. Our decisions were quite similar so far. Finally we exchange tails about sailing boats, design aspects or yachting destinations. That’s quite a bunch of talking, twice a day. On either side, the whole crew sits around the speaker and listens what moves the other boat.

What are the kids doing all day long? They enjoy their postponed spring holiday. For once it includes a lot of screen time. The boy became a real fan of Harry Potter. In the evenings we read the books in English, and on the next day, he would read the same in German again. Moreover, he deeply studies whatever related information he can get from our offline Wikipedia. And that’s a lot! The daughter loves playing computer games developed by her brother, quite fun actually! Then she uses her new drawing pens. She can sit in a corner for hours, drawing the same picture several times, until she likes it best.

Day 12 brings us the cold front of a low. It passes with some wind increase an significant change of wind direction. Already before that, the sea went up with waves of 4 Meter peak height. They are more fun than a problem as they don’t break this time. Yuana takes those waves very easily, going smoothly up and down with no hassle at all. It was fun flying down the waves, Yuana going faster than 12 knots.

The end of the day brings us low winds thus motoring through the night.

Sailed distances:
Day 12: 147 nm
Day 11: 156 nm
Day 10: 158 nm

Atlantiküberquerung 2, Tage 7-9

Nach sechs Tagen unter Segeln befinden wir uns bereits wieder auf der nördlichen Breite von Madeira, wenn auch noch immer auf der amerikanischen Seite des Atlantiks. Nun stecken wir bereits in der Flaute des langgezogenen Hochs, welches die südlichen Ostwinde von den nördlichen Westwinden trennt. Dieses Hoch müssen wir queren, und das geht nur mit dem Motor.

Nach der Schaukelei der vergangenen Tage ist uns das Hoch eine willkommene Abwechslung. Man kann sich im Schiff bewegen, ohne sich laufend irgendwo festhalten zu müssen.

Weil es hier keinen Wind gibt sind auch die Wellen zahm, und so halten wir das Schiff an und springen zum Baden in den weiten und tiefen Ozean. Dabei bleibt immer einer an Deck. Es soll ja mal einen schweren Vorfall gegeben haben, wo die ganze Schiffsbesatzung ins Wasser sprang. Jedoch kam keiner mehr zurück an Deck, weil man die Badeleiter nicht heruntergeklappt hatte.

Während wir fröhlich baden fährt mit einigen Meilen Abstand der VERMONT TRADER vorbei, einer der Ozeanriesen, welcher die Güterflüsse der globalisierten Welt am laufen hält. Es ist bei weitem nicht das einzige kommerzielle Schiff, welches wir in diesen Tagen sehen. Leider schwimmt entlang dieser Schifffahrtsrouten auch immer wieder Plastikmüll. Nur Fische scheint es nicht zu haben. Jedenfalls will seit Tagen keiner anbeissen. Die einzigen Lebewesen sind Seevögel und Portugiesische Galeeren.

Letztere sind eine Symbiose aus zwei Lebewesen. Grob gesagt sitzt auf einer an der Wasseroberfläche schwimmenden Qualle ein Segel, etwa so wie ein aufgeklappter Augendeckel. Anstatt Wimpern hat er Stacheln oben drauf. Von weitem sieht dieses äusserst giftige Geschöpf wie ein im Wasser stehender Boden einer PET-Flasche. Sie glitzern auf dem Wasser transparent, grazil, uns super schön!

Die ruhigen Tage Hoch geben mir die Gelegenheit für eine ausführliche Sichtprüfung der Ausrüstung an Deck. Ich nehme gleich drei Schraubenzieher mit, und ziehe einige Duzend Schrauben nach.

Abends vor dem Schlafengehen holen wir die Kinder nochmals ins Cockpit, um den Himmel zu bewundern. Im Westen brennt förmlich die Venus, während der Mars, Pluto und Saturn direkt nebeneinander über dem südöstlichen Horizont stehen. Letztere beide sehen wir vor allem auf dem Nachthimmel-App im iPad. Mit dem Feldstecher bestaunen wir die sphärische Oberfläche des hellen Halbmondes. Wir dichten lustige Geschichten, wonach Orion beim Ritt im Bärenwagen über Cassiopaia gestolpert sei. Nun liegen sie alle bewegungslos da…

Tag 9: 147 sm
Tag 8: 122 sm
Tag 7: 137 sm

Atlantic Crossing Days 4-6

We get really well along the western side of the Bermuda Triangle, outside of course, haha. The winds are good and it is already day 5 when we undo the reefs for the first time on this leg. Yuana is so nicely running and we enjoy this trip so far.

Twice each day we talk to Gianni on the nearby boat EUTIKIA over the VHF Radio. Gianni and his wife have circumnavigated the world during the last 10 years and are now on their way home to Venice. We have lots of common topics and reflect the weather forecasts and further routing strategies.

There is also a friend of Gianni on board. It didn’t take long to discover that the friend is living in Buttrio. Buttrio is a place in Friaul, northeastern Italy, and well known to all of my colleagues from former work.

So it was high time for telling a true joke which happened in our own offices in the Friaul region: Our American Sales person was there to discuss an project. The running gag was, that the American continuously understood ‘dear boy’ when his local partner (out of a unfavorable habit) in fact was badly swearing time after time in his local language Friulano.

So we had a good laugh with Gianni and his crew over the radio. Old times, good times. OMG, how much I loved being together with my peers from Udine…! Missing you guys!

Actually we are approaching the latitude of around 32 degrees where a 3000km long high pressure ridge separates the westwards flowing winds in the south from the eastwards flowing winds in the north. We need to cross the high to enter that eastward flowing wind belt. It would bring us back to Europe.

Ahead of entering this area we study the wind maps carefully. We download them daily via satellite. There are four different models and along with our own weather observations, we decide which model to believe and where to cross the high pressure ridge.

The ones who follow our track on the webpage may have asked themselves why we do funny curves sometimes rather than following straight lines? This all has to do with the winds as well. If the easterly winds turn somewhat north on our way north, then we would do a curve towards west because we don’t want to sail too high against the wind. Uncomfortable for people and equipment.

The next post will be about crossing of the high pressure ridge.

Sailed distances:
Day 6: 152 nm
Day 5: 151 nm
Day 4: 156 nm

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!

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.