28 April 2012

A few good reasons not to have guests on board

We spent now almost two weeks with dear friends on board. It goes basically very well, of course there are a few drawbacks: Learn from our mistakes and have a "better" trip with your guests!

The most important point: Never ever have a guest which loves to cook & eat! In the beginning it's nice to get at least three hot meals served a day. But at one point your grill will break down because it tried to hold all the 20 pound T-bones (yep, it happend!) and you find yourself running for gas bottle refills in remote places. The worst part is actually the endless snacks in between! I mean after one week you start to gain all the pounds back again which you've finally lost the past few months.  

We love wine. Usually we have it for dinner. But we normally do not have it for an early apero, lunch and dinner. And of course some glasses in between as it is so refreshing during "holiday". Latest when they discovered the nice Caribbean Rums you start to think about the days after guests: Is it difficult to get regularly meetings with A.A.* while cruising?

Never, I mean really NEVER tell your guests that you have a Watermaker! Your 170 gal (650 Liter!) water tank lasts for a few hours or so. Same with electricity, our solar array is big, real big. But I literally hear my poor batteries whining when the hairdryer runs off the inverter. So it's best if you keep guests blind about technical stuff you've acquired during your outfitting process. 

The scariest part of having guests is actually if HE spoils HER. I mean Rahel is happy that someone cooks and cleans the dishes. I love that too. But it really scares the hell out of me when she starts to ask me when it was the last time I served her breakfast!!!! Don't let that happen - you will pay the next six months, at least!

Last but not least: Avoid any health freaks - I mean I know jogging every mornings is a good thing - but the look of your wife who thinks you should do something as well is real poisonous.  

So, even if we enjoy every minute of this luxury we, or most probably me, will have to pay a high price for this spoiled weeks. Learn from my mistake: Next time I will clearly plan more ahead and have some macho hardcore sailors around me who drink only beer, swear and smoke like hell. I will keep my weight and they will make me look real great!

* Alcoholics Anonymous

Hurricane Season is approaching fast..

The Hurricane* Season starts first of June and ends at the thirtiest of November. We will have Hurricanes in a very well defined area only: Between 13. to 35. degree North and 55. to 100. degree West. OK that's at least according to our insurance company. Real life could be a bit different if you check past storm tracks. Nevertheless, if we would like to keep our boat insurance we have to leave that area or store the boat safely on land. 

Safely on land means in this case: Remove the mast and all other deck clutter like solar panels, bimini and so on. Then you have to tie down the boat too with earth anchors. Quite a task and Habibi is born to be in the water right?. Besides this, all our seawater dependend systems would not work on land:  Starting with the toilet, the fridge and finally the Aircon (and that in a Caribbean summer!). Additional dry storage locations for boats are normally not the sexiest locations on the islands, you may be placed behind a Steel Mill or a sewage treatment facility.  Even I have not discussed this option with Rahel yet, I guess that's not an option for us. Guess we simply are too soft for this kind of hardcore camping. 

Keeping the boat in the water in the hurricane area would jeopardize our insurance cover. But since you never know where a storm really hits and you usually get early warnings you could move the boat always to a more or less saver place. A lot of people still do that. Does not sound too bad. I do not know why we're not considering that: could it be the fear of my father in law if something happens to his daughter or are we maybe just too soft as said before? Or maybe we are simply not yet suicidal enough.....

So our current plan says we head towards Grenada (we heard many bad stuff about Trinidad - a previously very famous shelter place). We may stay for one month there as we have a lot to do and it may be nice to stay for a few weeks at one place at a time. We're not yet sure what will happen after that - there are still so many white spots on our travel map. 
Besides a dozen islands to explore we learned that Columbia became surprisingly safe, Venezuela on the other side had a downturn. Brazil - one of my favorite place  - is very far and against current and wind. But still, is there anything comparable?? And if we would do so I promise that we will keep a bunk for Kris and Naldo warm (If Kris finally admits there is nothing above a Carioca :-))

We will continue our journey towards Grenada as soon the weather permits. Everything else is open so far. So dear readers - if you have any idea or recommendation please speak up now!

*Hurricane for Landlubbers: First of all, you need to know that it has different names: Depending on its location and strength it's named hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclone storm, tropical depression or simply cyclone. It's basically a storm system characterized by a low pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. They usually get names as soon they reach tropical storm strength: By the way, they just get names for a practical reason: Often there are multiple depressions around, so having them named helps people to avoid confusion and track "their" storms better. 
We sailor fear it like hell, not just because of the heavy winds (sometimes over 250 kmh!). More devastating than the winds are the waves. You would not believe the power of this high seas during such a Cyclone: I'm writing this in a well protected Harbor, surrounded by 5m high massive stone walls well knowing that this now so save looking heaven would be a deadly trap during such a storm! The waves will, and already have, crush everything inside this now peaceful shelter. 

25 April 2012

Engine Blues (almost)

old pipe with clamp & glue

OK, given the fact that we have currently guests we are a bit more relaxed and therefore lazy with writing blogs. Since I promised you to give you an update on our passage and the issues we had I will now take the time - of course while having a glass of Rum while Andi is preparing tonights dinner. Yes, having guests has some benefits, in particular if they are amazing chefs. But back to the story: When we prepared our longer journey from Puerto Rico to St. Maarten I checked the engine carefully in a remote anchorage, an usual task every 25 engine hours. And I was getting concerned when I discovered some dried salt in a hidden corner of the narrow engine compartment. A cooling water leak?? 

For the landlubbers among us: A boat engine is normally cooled with seawater, this is pumped from the sea and goes through a heat exchanger and then back into the sea. It's the same system as you know from your car, but due to the lack of air which runs through a normal car radiator under your car hood we pump sea water to get rid of the heat. And it pumps a lot of water. So if you have a leak in this system and you would not realize it on time it could be fatal. You overheat the precious engine until it's dead or worse you fill the boat with seawater not realizing it until you get wet feet. And before Rahel's Dad now gets more grey hairs: We have a lot of systems which should warn us before things get bad...but still it's a major issue.

So knowing I had saltwater where it didn't belong to I was searching for quite some time until I discovered a hidden drain valve that was leaking. Ha, easy task, just close it tight and things will go smooth again. WRONG! When I checked the valve I found some corrosion and even a small crack where the valve goes into the pipe. Guess it was once over tightened when Habibi was winterized from a previous specialist. I was confident I would just have to put a small hose clamp over the crack and then check it in St. Maarten. WRONG AGAIN! When I was fiddling with the clamp the whole thing broke just off. I had now a major hole in my cooling system! No way to use the engine with that.

For sure I did not have any particular spare pipe. And as I mentioned already we have been in a small anchorage far away from everything. Once again I had to made a fix with whatever Habibis spare stock was able to provide. First I was trying to place a piece of spare hose over the pipe. After one hour I gave up since the place was simply too tight to put two hose clamps in place. Finally I made a fix with some epoxy (cruisers most loved glue) and secured the whole patch with a single clamp. It worked out! After another hour drying it was not leaking one drop anymore. So after a 4 hour plus engine check and a few new bruises we were ready to go again. Of course I was checking the damn thing now every 30 minutes while underway....

Later I had the whole pipe and a new valve shipped from Miami to St. Maarten - one hour and 200 bucks later (for a piece of copper pipe and a small valve!) the thing is now hopefully better than new. Looking back I'm really happy I discovered the whole thing that early - if the valve broke while underway it could have been a little disaster...
new pipe plus valve

21 April 2012

St.Barth - holiday feelings

Since our guests arrived we're having something like a holiday feeling. I know, most of you think living and travelling by sailboat must feel like holiday all the time - but it doesn't. There is always something to fix, to polish, to organise, to plan, to take care of. But especially since we arrived in St.Barth we're taking time for exploring, for swimming, for eating delicious food and drinking good wine. Maybe it's the French environment on this beautiful island. It's off-season already and therefore very quiet and relaxed. You can stroll through town and adore the nice mix of French and Swedish influence, you don't have to make a reservation in one of the restaurants and the people are friendly and talkative. Even though there are some very big boats in the harbor you don't feel to be in a posh place - OK, there are all exclusive brands (Hermes, Louis Vuitton, etc.) present you can think of and in one of the watch stores there are a few pieces displayed in one window worth millions of Euros! Shopping is definitely only for the super rich people.

A nice side story: at our arrival in St. Barth we went for dinner with some friends of our guests. While sitting in this amazing restaurant overlooking the whole harbor Marco and this guy chatted away and tried to figure out why they think they know each other. After digging into the past they figured out having worked together in the same electronic company 20 years or so ago. How far do you have to travel to meet again the peers from your first job??? Life is amazing isn't' it?


 As always there are more pictures posted on our facebook-page. Check it out!

With love from paradise

19 April 2012

Size does matter!!

I guess not much to say: 40 ft vs. 160 ft. 12 crew for two guests on one side, 2 crew for two guests on the other.....
At least it is a socialistic approach, even if they spend millions we still share the same hip dock in the middle of amazing St. Barth.

16 April 2012

Welcome aboard!

Ines & Andi in St.Martin
One reason of many why we stopped in St.Martin was to pick up friends. Ines and Andi will be sailing with us to some places in the leeward islands. We're happy to have them on board - Andi is a fantastic chef/ handyman and Ines helps me with some sailing theory and practice advise. A perfect match! To be our guests one has to be very flexible in terms of date and location. As we sail without a fixed schedule, guided by the weather, it is very difficult for us to plan far in advance. For our guests this was not a problem as they booked the flight from Miami on a short notice.
delicious and healthy lunch creation by Andi
We had to wait out a blow for the last couple of days and spent the time on the boat anchored in Marigot Bay, St.Martin. That gave us the time to relax, doing some stuff on the boat, strolling around town and chat with our friends after a long time. But tomorrow we'll finally set sail again and head towards St.Barths. There are still some high seas predicted and winds up to 20 kts but as we now have two experienced sailors more on board we hope for a nice sail!

From paradise with love

15 April 2012

Theft No. 2

I said it before on Facebook - theft in St. Martin is a real problem. Since we learned that we chain everything - I spent actually a little fortune for locks and chain to secure our stuff. 
But it really starts to suck now on a complete new level: When our guests arrived we put all the luggage and four passengers into the new dink and started towards the boat. After just five minutes the outboard died. THE NEW OUTBOARD DIED?! I mean that's bad news, in the middle of the anchorage, dink is fully loaded to it limits and no engine? I could not imagine the engine breaking after just a few hours so I was pretty sure there is something wrong with the fuel supply. Maybe a loose plug or so. When I tried to check the fuel line I could not find it!! There was simply no fuel line anymore. Actually just a few cm before the engine. So I assumed another dirtbag tried to steal our dink - locked. So he went for the engine - locked. Fuel tank? locked as well. The only thing he could grab, or better cut out,  was the fuel line. This guy must've been a real big asshole. I mean he steals something which would cost him 20 bucks, but me at least another 100 as I need new valves as well. And worse - he jeopardized our safety. 

I really start to hate this place - time to move on! I docked my dink now four times there and had every second time a theft. That's a fifty percent chance to be robbed in a place where the government charges fees for securing that particular dinghy dock. Very efficient and perfectly under control:  Vive la France part deux! 

PS: Yes, we made it home. We docked at a fellow cruiser's  boat who borrowed us a PET bottle so we could feed the outboard through the rest of the pipe with some gas. Thanks very much MacGyver, ah Andi for this brilliant idea!

14 April 2012

Finally: New Dink!!

You may remember, our old dinghy was a bit a pain. It had an airfloor, was flat in the water and with the slightest waves we had a wet ride. Additionally it was leaking air at some point, and even if I finally fixed the last hole (at least I hope so) - it's old and questionable how long it would last for continuous daily use. Our dink is more or less our "SUV" - we need it for everything: shopping, sight-seeing, fishing or simply to go ashore - so we run it everyday a couple of times while we are at anchor.  

A new dink was on the list for so long, but it was difficult to finally get one: First you need to make a decision, and then you need to FIND what you want on some remote islands. And if you find it check the prices; Some island dealers are really bad guys and try to get advantage of desperate cruisers; A dealer in the DR offered us a particular dink for 30% above the US list price - just to let us know later that this model is second hand and out of warranty - BUHH?

So we waited for Sin Maarten, home of two big marine store chains with decent prices (tax free) and a wide choice. Our favorite shop here is Budget Marine, nice people, nice store and very helpful even with remote planning to ensure the desired stuff was on stock when we arrived. 

We had the following in mind when we decided for a new "car":
- It should be as light as possible to keep it on the davits for daily use or overnight storage for safety reasons
- It should not be over 9ft so we can store it on deck when we do a longer ocean leg (we have limited space as we have two head sails)
- A RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) which basically means it's an Inflatable with a solid bottom and a V-Shaped Hull, like a "real" boat - this is much more stable in waves, easier to beach as the bottom gets no leaks from corals or stones. 
- The tubes should be made from Hypalon (a robust coated nylon), normal PVC tubes are dead just after a few years Caribbean sun!

We finally bought an AB Lamina 9AL: The Lamina is an amazing piece of inflatable, it has an Aluminum double floor, it's 2.75 meter long and weights just 36kg without the engine! I mean think about that - 36kg of boat can carry almost 500kg of load! The downsize was that our old 5 HP Mercury Engine was a bit to weak for a decent ride, we could plane with two of us - but just with a bit of luggage (Rahel's handbag for example) we have been like glued to the water. 
So we upgraded the engine to a 9.8 HP Tohatsu. I know, for a landlubber 10 HP sounds like nothing, but that's 1 HP for each 3,6 kg boat weight. On Habibi, which is a heavy displacement sailboat, each HP has to push 180kg. The dink is flying now! And thanks to the deep V Hull we can even cut through big waves with a breeze. I really like that thing!!!! 

The downside is that we are now broke for the next two months - as usual with big boys toys I went far over the planned budget - we may just eat self cought fish for the next weeks or simply starve (don't be too scared, I improved my skills. Really!) 

And yes, thanks god I had the full support of my wife to spend that money. She hated the wet ride in the old dink and I could proof that more HP means less spray in the boat = dryer ride. Try to sell this to your wife next time you buy a car - GOSH I love boating!

06 April 2012

Hit & Miss

Surprising Food Shopping
We live now for almost six months on a boat. Guess that's time enough to make a short summary what we miss and what not:

- New friends! We met so many extraordinary people from all over the world it's a real blessing. Sadly that it is mostly just for a short period - but still: There are great guys out there on the water!
- Make-up: OK, not me as I'm looking just great naturally, but Rahel says that's a daily routine she's not missing at all - I think a natural sun tan is the best make-up at all....
- Ironing clothes: We do not even have an iron on board! Actually we wonder by now why shirts need to be ironed at all...maybe that's a rule I start to question when I'm back.
- Tight planning: We live in a bigger picture, there is actually no real plan for tomorrow. Yes we may have to be in Grenada or so before June, but everything else is open. Guys you would not believe how nice that is...
- Cellphone: We even hardly turn on our satphone anymore. Our cells are not working since months as we do not bother to buy local sim cards. Not missing that at all, in particular as I catch myself sometimes grabbing in my empty pocket when a nearby cell rings at the bar - hope this bad habit is gone soon.
- Closed shoes and socks: Who really needs them? Flip flop are a very decent footwear, actually I'm convinced by now that you could run a marathon in them. You get them everywhere, nice Havaianas starting at five bucks a pair. 
- Surprise effect: you can read as many guide books and charts you want - but we experience surprises almost in every location we arrive. May it be the amazing nature, or simply a super fast wifi in a remote anchorage, the local cuisine or as pictured above the selection in the grocery store (I mean - WHO EATS PIG'S FEETS IN PINKISH JELLY???)

- Old friends and family! Being on the road means it's sometimes difficult to catch up with them. That's a bit a pity. 
- Dubai: Yup, we have to admit we miss our past center of life sometimes a bit. Not the stress at work and some other fancy stuff. But the morning coffee ritual at the office was great, the evening beers on the terrace even better. And for the rest see above....
- A fix address: The world is so flat today you could order whatever you need online. If we just knew where we would be tomorrow. I have to admit that's sometimes a bit a hassle.
- Washing Machine: We wash clothes mostly in the laundry - God we would love to have a decent washing machine and a dryer on board, but there is simply not enough space and power....
- A hot shower: If we are on anchor for an extended period we have enough water for our daily shower. But as we just get hot water from the engine or shore power we depend on solar bags out in the nirvana. They heat the water up to a point where it's warm, but not hot...
- A non handicapped toilet: boat heads (a toilet on a boat) are notorious for clogging if you put too much thick toilet paper (tissues are definitely a no-go) in. So far ours never clogged but just because we're very careful with the (thin) paper usage. I can ensure you, our bxxx's are always clean! Still we miss the luxury of six layered double soft parfumed paper. 
- Typical Swiss food: sometimes we would kill for a simple Raclette! Rahel recently discovered a package of real Swiss Fondue in a supermarked but didn't tell me. I did not talk to her for the rest of that day....

04 April 2012

Puerto Rico vs. Dom Rep.

Is it possible to compare two islands? Or better is it even needed? Most certainly not. But I will do it anyway ;-)

As there is a always a big discussion on how to head east, a lot of cruisers pass the DR and head more or less straight to PR. As you know we did it otherwise and spent quite some time in the DR. And to keep things straight, I would most probably not do it again! Not because of the sailing which was at some point painful. It's more the country itself.

The islands are geographically very close and the Spanish had occupied both for some time. So, judging by the language and the volume level they're listening to music you would assume the islands are very similar. They're not.

The DR is really more basic, original. Something we particularly like and search for on our trip.
PR is the opposite, you recognize immediately by the number of shopping malls and McDonalds that you are on US Territory.  Interestingly PR is not much more expensive than the DR. Would this be the criterias, I would never even think to leave the Dom Rep for Puerto Rico.

In DR a lot of areas are a no go for tourists after dark, except maybe you intend to buy sex - which will be life threatening as well I guess. It’s difficult to get supplies besides food and if you get them they are 30% more expensive due to the high import tax. Do not expect any skilled worker anyway. But this could be true for several remote islands, it's not particularly a problem.

We stated before that the DR is extremely dirty. I guess the streets smelled and looked like the same in my hometown a 1000 years ago and we managed to move on, right? Why are they still kicking the trash out of the windows? After seeing now a clean island with a somehow similar appearance you realize how bad it really was. The sad thing is, that there is no excuse for that. No blame to the government as there is a waste collection. It's just the Dominicans' behavior which makes me stay away.

Or as a cruiser said out of the blue while walking the city of Ponce in PR: You know, I’m happy that we left that dirty sxxxhole DR. Not particularly the words I would use, but I guess it's close.