25 March 2012

under way again

And we're off heading towards Puerto Rico. Our departure was a little delayed as we had to wait for the authorities to check our boat. The Drug Department just caught a powervessel with 1500kg of drugs last night and therefore have been very busy...
Check out the Spot-Tracker to follow our route. So happy to be sailing again!

22 March 2012

Drive-through bar..


I’ve seen a lot of funny things in my life, but this is definitely something which goes on top of the list:

After an amazing evening in Santa Domingo (we visited a Boatshow and a sailor bar) some friends drove us home. On the way the driver mentioned a drive-through bar for a few last beers. A drive-through BAR??  That’s not possible right?

I struggled to believe until we stopped at one: It's not a cheap looking backdoor place. Nope it’s a real cool bar where they serve decent drinks while you drive….And it's even on a nice location. I just can assume that back home the police would install a fix checkpoint a few meter after the bar! I learned soon that’s not a problem over here:



So we grabbed our beers and went on the 20-minute journey home.  Which took us a bit longer as usual since the highway was diverted for whatever reason. To get the right direction, our driver stopped in the middle of the highway exit to ask two cops in a police car parked on the side. Do you get the picture? Each person in our car had a bottle of beer in his hand and the driver could hardly understand the officer as our music was a bit loud….

Knowing now the way we have been safely back on Habibi a few minutes later. Different countries different rules right?

21 March 2012

Serial Killers!


Washing laundry is one of the recurring adventures we have. This time it was not just exciting, it was life threatening! 

The machines we have in this Marina are branded "Dexter". Nothing special until it was clear why they are named this way: This brand is inspired by the TV Series which tells the story of a complete nuts Serial Killer named Dexter!!! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dexter_(TV_series)
Unfortunately for me, the three Dexter's in our marina have been tired of killing socks and underwear at one point. Like every decent Ax Murder you're craving to bring it to the next level to keep the thrill: After ripping probably thousands of innocent textiles apart they got hungry for more: real human blood!

Since I was able to write this blog you know I could escape. But it was a close call anyway. After todays usual fight with the 23 minutes washing cycles (yeah Dexters are faster than every European washing machine) I could recover some of the laundry, even a bit cleaner as before and with minimal loss of just one ripped T-shirt. But with the second load the water pipe behind the machine exploded. Immediately soaking the not very well protected electric connections. I guess the Dexters replaced the fuse some time ago with aluminum foil in preparation of this attempted murder. So I standing in a wet laundry, a sparkling shortcut on the wall and some wires touching the metal housing of the machine. Glad I made it out there in time, otherwise I would have been grilled. These bloodthirsty bastards!

When I came back to make some crime scene pictures, all looked peaceful again. The killer was still disabled and just a few, ok taped, wires are touching the machine housing. But I do not trust the peace at all, particularly since Rahel sends me over again to do some additional laundry before we leave. Could this be a conspiracy?

17 March 2012

Two views of Santo Domingo

We already went two times to Santo Domingo. The first time we had to go to the US Consulate to apply for the visa to Puerto Rico. They have strict rules: no cameras, no cellphones, no cigarettes etc. I really felt naked walking around without my camera! Marco enjoyed it as he didn't have to wait for me all the time as usual... Today we went back and I finally got my chance to snap some impressions.

We first strolled through la Zona Colonial - a section of the city with origin dating back to the 16th century and first settlement made by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish explorers of the New World. It's been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, lined with beautiful old buildings (some of them nicely renovated, others almost falling apart but I found them even more charming) and cobblestone streets. Of course there are the typical tourist shops but also some nice caf├ęs. While we had a delicious lunch and the oblicatory Presidente beer in Calle El Conde we could watch people walking by. Better than TV, I tell you!
 
 
 
 

Then we took a taxi to the area where the busstation to Boca Chica is located at (parada Boca Chica). In this part of Santo Domingo you don't see many tourists. Besides the common stores and supermarkets the streets are filled with booth where everything from fruits, veggies, matches, shoes, cellphones and a haircut get offered for sale. You see young mothers with their babies sleeping on their shoulders, little boys playing with their kites, teenagers chatting while sharing a beer, men sitting together and playing domino, women getting their hair done in the street, homeless rummaging in trash cans for food or drinks and everywhere straying, filthy dogs. It's a hustle and bustle, noisy and dirty - but that's where you see how the majority of the Dominican live. A real, uncensored picture.
 
 
 
 
 
 
From paradise, with love
Rahel

16 March 2012

Saving the world?

If you're cruising or checking out some cruising blogs you'll find a lot of folks underway for a "higher" or "better" reason. At least that's what they pretend to be doing... Some would like to bring the bible to remote places, some others sail for fundraising for a particular disease or would like to make us aware of some environmental problems. I recently met again one of this "better world" persons. I mean, he's sitting with a beer in his 200k boat in front of one of the most stunning beaches and lectures me why he is daring himself around the world to make this planet a better place. I cannot stand this kind of people. I mean, you load a cruising boat with all the gimmicks of the western world to have some luxury and explore all the nice places on this planet, well insured of course, pretending that's for a better reason? Common, how stupid do you think we are? If you really think you need to travel for whatever awareness be frank to yourself and row*, walk or bicycle around the world. Sweat your own blood so people really believe your intentions!

The only thing which is more stupid than that is the fact that there are still people who support such kinds of travels. Do your math my friends: Take at least 100k for the boat, another 25k per year  for living makes 150k at least for two years "awareness trip". Multiply this sum for bigger boats and/or crews. Your money will first pay the boat, then the expenses and maybe some beers. I would not expect that more than 5% ends up where it actually belongs to.


So, if you still like to spend some money for the better cause, you may pay us a few beers! I know we do not sail for world peace or for the awareness of the little green woodpecker. We just sail to see the world, explore some new grounds and make new friends. Simply to open our minds. I believe this are very sound reasons. And since we're doing this in a sailboat our carbon footprint is lower than that of any of you landlubbers. So if this is not worth a few bucks I do not know...


* there are of course people who are rowing the seas for a better world! Check out Roz Savages website, she is amazing and earns our full respect for what she is doing: http://www.rozsavage.com/

15 March 2012

Why biting the hand that feeds you?

What pops up in your mind when you hear the word "paradise"?  I'm sure you associate it with clear blue waters filled with colorful fish, bright skies, white sandy beaches, romantic sunsets, stunning landscapes and sipping fresh water out of a coconut just fallen off a palmtree? I would agree - and Yes, many of the pictures we've posted from our trip so far must give you this impression. But and that's a big BUT, sometimes we encounter places which are really not worth taking a picture. I did anyway: Sadly enough, it seems you find for every wonderful place a "landfill" area like this below. Plastic is everywhere: to take a snap of a nice sandy beach I sometimes struggle to NOT get one of the many plastic bottles, cans and other stuff lying around in the picture!

Both pictures are taken on the same island: in between maybe 15 minutes walking:


And since we started our trip we're witnessing the same problem in each country we hit. May it be the USA, Bahamas, Haiti or the Dominican Republic - they all are facing a garbage problem. In all those countries your groceries are stuffed in several plastic bags - sometimes they use 2 bags for a single item (bringing your own bag does not help: if you're not watching it gets wrapped in plastic anyway!). At least we use them for our garbage but in the meantime we have so many on stock to last for the whole journey! The other big problem we encounter: everything from water to soda pop to juice is filled in PET bottles and what happens to them once empty? They get thrown away and streets are lined, beaches covered with it. And now the big question: why are these countries not taking action to stop this culture of throwing away everything into the bushes or into the seas? Why are they destroying their beautiful landscapes, the soil they live on, the sea they live from? Why do they tolerate that people are biting the hand that feeds them?
Well, I guess I'm not the right person to answer that question but just a few thoughts: all those countries either have other, bigger problems to solve first before they can face the "dirt" that's smothering their paradise. Here I have to point to the US as they should know better but as long they are not able to change the American Way of Life (for example Restaurants serving food in disposable dishes) who else will? And then I think it is lack of education - people are not aware of their actions and what they cause so they don't care. An example: I recently observed a dominican schoolboy buying a candy and instead of tossing the packaging in the bin just outside the store he threw it on the street. If nobody ever told him not to do so how can he know better?
In fact there is pure money lying in front of their nose and someone would just have to introduce a proper recycling system and two birds could get killed with one stone: they could earn money and provide jobs while the country was cleared of the garbage. Too easy you mean? Maybe, but something has to be done otherwise they will choke on their own waste pretty soon.
You agree that this would be very sad and so we still will try to post more perfect pictures of paradise than of plastic bottles... by the way, you always find more pics on our facebook page. Just "like" habibisails.blogspot.com

From paradise, with love
Rahel

11 March 2012

The perfect Idol


Who is your Idol? I mean a person you can look up and learn from. And I do not refer to any rich born fashion bitch like Paris Hilton or so - think of someone with real leader capabilities! A person you can look up while riding a storm in the middle of the night:

Do you remember Captain James T.Kirk? He was one of the most famous captains of the Starfleet. I mean he saved the world several times - you have to know him! Even the Forbes Magazine wrote recently an article about his amazing leadership qualities:  Forbes - Captain James T. Kirk - read the full story to get the picture!

My favorite two quotes:
“One of the advantages of being a captain, is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.” or about never stop learning: “You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”

Cool guy isn't he?

07 March 2012

Advice for trouble free travelling on a sailboat….

I know, I'm complaining very often that stuff breaks on the boat and you're under constant repair/maintenance pressure. After the fridge shows now some signs of problems I think it's time for a warning, or call it advice for all future wanna be sailors about technical stuff on a boat.
If you hate it (like me) to crawl into small lockers when it's 55 Celsius outside (and maybe 80 inside the locker) to fix some inaccessible stuff don’t buy a boat at all. It's much more convenient in a plane, not to mention the airport lounge before you even take off.  
In Summary: First of all don’t buy a boat!  If you insist to get from A to B in the slowest, most expensive and for sure most uncomfortable way – yes, then buy a sailboat.  But at least avoid technical stuff wherever possible. Less things that can break will make your life much more easier: How is the saying: If you can't fix it don’t bring it on the boat. Here is my top list of avoidable items:

Toilette: For most boaters this is the hassle number one: It's stinky, it's leaky and you're always scared that damn thing gets clogged (and I hate to instruct all guests about the proper usage – I mean this is somehow private. Isn’t it??). Guess I can say it this way: Same shit with the holding tank!  Avoid it! The perfect answer would be a bucket! Hassle free thing. Use it and wash it out – or better throw it overboard after use! 

Pressurized water: What’s about the neat freshwater system? I mean who really needs pressurized hot and cold water from a tap? Install a foot pump under each sink and save a bunch of money. No hassle with electric pumps, filters and pressure switches. And you will save a lot of water as well, people are lazy, they will not pump 20 liters for a shower by foot. I estimate the saving potential is 80% - per shower!. Less water need means you do not need the watermaker either. Life could be so simple!

Fridge/Freezer: Since we have the boat I have a constant battle with this system. We have a huge freezer and fridge. I guess I could store a 200-pound tuna in the freezer without cutting it. At least if I finally would catch one! But I'm drifting off…. this unit uses power like hell. It’s our biggest draw in the system. And from time to time it stops working – have still not figured out why. It's currently running on an emergency wiring and not that cold as it was before. I may have to get professional help as soon available ( yes my friends – Rahel keeps telling me that for months). So get rid of a freezer/fridge: You can drink your beer out of the bilge, this is the coolest place on a boat – currently around 48 Degrees Celsius or so. In summary without a fridge you save a lot of energy  = less batteries means less solar = less $$$! And you're right, less to break.

Electricity: Since we saved now 50% of the needed electricity – we should ask ourself why not getting completely rid of it. I mean candlelight is much more romantic anyway. You could use an oil lamp at night as navigation lights – it worked for centuries. There are probably 100 miles of cables in my boat with hundreds of fuses – let's get rid of that! Replace the electric autopilot with a wind steering, instead of GPS, Plotter and Computer use a sextant, compass and the good old paper charts for navigation. You can log the depth with a manual log – same for speed. Get a manual anchor windlass too. It's all you need – nothing will fail!

Engine: We have now an electricity less boat – lets think about the engine: For probably 10’000 years sailboats had no engines. Why now? It’s stinky, loud, complicated and expensive. You need diesel, oil and a closet full of spares. Damn it’s a sailboat – why the hell are you using the engine if you could use the wind to get from A to B? It’s free and no need for this complex mechanic monsters. Get rid of it and safe a fortune! If you really need to go into a harbor without any wind use the oars in your dinghy. Towing a sailboat is a very healthy exercise and people will be very astonished about your style of cruising each time you enter a port.

By now we have reduced the stuff, which can and will break by roughly 90% - the only thing you have to deal with is the sailing gear, the hull and some minor stuff. There will be still enough to make your days miserable. But since it's now just mechanical it will be an easy fix most of the time. 

Comfort? Yes, I admit, the boat is now slightly less comfortable as well. But instead bending in a locker, swearing, covered in sweat and grease you can spend now more quality time with your wife. If she’s still there of course! Mine would have left after the bucket proposal – so I guess it’s again a trade off. You have to live with this complicated stuff, or you may find yourself sailing alone…

And yes for the sharp thinkers among us, this may raise another question of going more towards simplicity: If your boat is now that simple and there is no Admiral anymore you could go a few feet smaller. This would save a lot of other hassle…….but that’s just a theory of course…

Wind!


Yup I know we complained a bit about the heavy wind the last days. According to locals it's very uncommon and should calm down soon....but how do you explain how much wind is really too much?

Since we arrived in Zar Par Marina (a wonderful marina by the way) I may share some examples: 

Today they moved a boat from the travel lift into the water. Obviously the boat had to turn to get into the designated slip. Normally you would use the engine and voila....not today. This time the boat was going full speed, but could not turn against the wind. So the marina master deployed a dinghy into the water to push the bow in the right direction. Not enough. They deployed a very long line from the bow of the boat towards the land and with the help of every possible guy in the marina we have been able to turn the boat. In summary you need a boat with a strong engine, a guy in a dinghy and 8 guys or so towing a line just to turn a 40 footer around. I call that pretty heavy wind!

We met Frank Virgintino (the cruising guide author) again in the marina. He arrived one day ahead of us but in slightly different shape. He ripped his staysail (a storm sail designed for heavy wind!!) right through the deck. The whole sail attachment broke out, which is pretty nasty. Additional some heavy waves ripped off some wood from the bow sprit. You may need to know that he has a pretty big ketch - 50 tons or so - that's five times Habibis weight...nothing easy to break. He said the wind picked up to almost 50 knots in gusts while doing the same way we did. I mean that's almost 100kmh! Getting the picture? If not, just stick your head out of the car while driving on a highway. Then deploy an umbrella or so to simulate a sail in that wind - if you're still in the car and not convinced: Keep the speed up and leave the highway towards a bumby offroad track to simulate waves. If you survive this experiment you may have an understanding how it feels to be out there in this weather. And just for the love of god: THIS IS SARCASM - DON'T ACTUALLY DO THIS!

So yes, the last days have been pretty windy and we had again real bad waves the last 100nm. But we're safely here and we will stay until the weather is just perfect. And even if it will take a month or so - we both are getting tired about the bashings we take all the time.

03 March 2012

Holiday?

 

Once more, a friend asked lately if cruising feels like real holidays or something else - she is well aware that living off the grid can be a bit challenging. We had quite a discussion about this and came to the following point:
Cruising is not a vacation. It is a way of life. Cruising is not one long party. You have to be sober to make good choices and decisions

Living on and moving a boat is full of efforts. Daily. First the boat needs to be in good shape, the technical stuff to be maintained, or you simply have to fix broken things. Then you should know the weather before you head off. At the same time it was wise to know where you actually would like to go and have as well some "emergency" stops handy in case the weather changes or something breakes while underway. Let's not forget knowing the local rules for immigration, which port and so on. . . To cope with that we have several checklists, project lists or simple shopping lists handy - just that we do not get lost between all this tasks.

So overall, when we're not sailing we may spend a big portion of our time doing things like that, I guess more than 50%. That's maybe why we do not have a real holiday feeling, even it's the best lifestyle we experienced so far!
It's way different than working in a cubicle: First there is no boss (except the Admiral of course) and not much dealing with deadlines. Add a big portion of exotic challenges for buying spare parts (usually done in Spanglish at some hidden back yards) or shopping groceries in markets in the most stunning locations of this planet. You may end up in a merengue bar, even though you actually went out to buy a valve to fix that ever leaking tap. And if you stay on the boat to finally change the valve that you bought some folks show up the next day with beers and a story you have to hear. No chance - that damn tap will leak for another day or so...
That's our life: We plan careful but most of the time life has different ideas. As of now, since we're invited for lunch by a local family I shorten up with a quote stolen from Mark Twain:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Barahona - unexpectedly friendly

Rahel "helps" Maria in the kitchen
a typical dominican lunch
 In comparison to the passage coming from Cabo Rojo, the story of our arrival in Barahona is actually funny: We read in our guide that you can anchor in the harbors basin. But - there was a huge tug. A group of people was waving from the nearby pier and, as it turned out later, the club nautico. So we pulled in, docked and immediately all of them jumped on our boat shouting "immigrazion"! Can you immagine after that trip - we were totally exhausted and salty and the first thing they did was sitting in our messed up boat drinking cold beer! Luckily it was no problem that our despacho said Las Salinas - we heard from another boat later that they faced some problems because theirs had a different destination. In our case they were all very nice and even joked with us. I then had to sit on the back of the immigration officers motorcycle and drive to his office to stamp our passports... Marco now keeps telling me that when ever we return to the landlubber life first thing he will do is buying a motorcycle and I HAVE TO sit on the back (I always refused when he had one, that's why...)! But it turned out that Ivan, that's the officers name, was going to be very helpful and became our "guide" in the meantime. He told us to be docked in the club nautico is safe and we're protected there. He helped us to get diesel, he showed us the city by day and night and we even had lunch twice already at his home! Picture that: what ever time we agreed on the day before he shows up (always on time or even earlier!!) to pick us up, we sit on his motorcycle (Yes, the THREE of us) and he drives us wherever we want to go. And he's certainly dropping us off afterwards! We're not quite sure why he's doing all that... One reason could be since we're here for a week now and no other boat arrived that as a matter of fact he has not much to do and we're kind of an entertainment for him.
We like Barahona because it's so authentic. It seems we're the only foreigners in this area (besides the immigrated Chinese and Arabs!), there are no tourists! That makes it a bit difficult as nobody really speaks English. I have to dig out my sparse Spanish while Marco gets along pretty well with his mix of English, Italian, Spanish and hand signs of course! I guess quite a big number of people living in this area belong to the less fortunate. It surprises us even more that most people we met so far seemed to be happy and coping well with their situation (but we still get warnings not to walk around alone at night). Many are Christians and I believe that religion plays an important role in this society. And the family of course! Take our friend Ivan - he has 4 children with two different women and is only 33!
Even though we only ended up in this town because of the bad weather it turned out to be a lucky choice!

With love, from paradise
Rahel
Ivan & Marco buying meat
The butcher at work