22 May 2012

Dinghy Crash!

the "crime scene" the day after, damaged dock by dinghy
Nope not me! But we had a serious crash last evening right behind our boat. 

A guy was speeding with his very fast dink through the harbor after dark. All of a sudden we heard a very loud crash and then a motor going into high rpm. When I checked with the spotlight I could see a guy in the water and his dink on a dock opposite us, engine still yelling. There was a part of an old wooden dock drifting in the water and the guy was running full speed into it, no way you could see it in the dark!  When I finally launched the dink (I had it on the davits with the motor on) the guy had made it already to shore, but his dink was gone. He had a center console with a steering wheel which was ripped off by the impact and he flew over the whole boat into the water. Thankfully he did not hit the piece in the water - it was covered with rusty nails where it was once attached to shore. But still, he was hurt. Since the harbor patrol was alert there was not much to do from our side, except of warning the next dink which was coming full speed around the corner. Would be a heck of a night if they crashed as well. The poor guy and the leftover of his boat was finally picked up by the harbor control boat which showed up amazingly fast - maybe the owners of the drifting dock?? At least they took that murder piece with them as well...

Yep, even if I still love to rush our dink to the limits I now will for sure take care after dark and keep the engine security strap on. I have to admit I'm sometimes lazy with that. If I ever will fly out of the boat the engine will at least stop and not like in this case run away full throttle!

21 May 2012

Habibis run to St.Lucia

a pleasant sail...

We left Martinique a couple of days ago towards St.Lucia. We knew there would be 20kts or more of wind, seas as high as 7' to 8' and the possibility of squalls. But we also knew the weather wasn't going to get any better and we didn't want to spend too much time in Martinique. So off we went, had a fabulous sail in the first half of the passage and for the first time we even had all three sails out! Then two squalls hit us but weren't too bad. It was by then when we turned off the Autopilot and started to steer ourselves - it just seemed to be difficult for it to keep a steady course with the big seas and gusty wind (another point to add to our check-list).

In the last third of the trip we were hit by a real nasty double squall with gusts up to 40kts and even bigger seas and it got really hard to hold the steering wheel, while splashed with saltwater. I would lie if I'd say it was a pleasant trip. But there have been a lot of lessons learned again: we usually reefed the sails early enough, my intuition of if and when we would be hit by a squall was mostly right and Habibi with her long keel cut smoothly through the waves all the time. We felt safe and were again convinced that she will hold out against any conditions (No, we're - or I'm - not fancy to push her to the limit!).
the other sailboat almost disappeared behind the waves
With love from paradise

16 May 2012

Oak trees, Martinique and Alphorns

We left Les Saintes/Guadeloupe this Monday early afternoon for a night sail to Martinique. We kept Dominica for several reasons to port and decided not to stop at all. First its coast shouldn't be very nice and secondly it's well known for theft. Since we would like to spend a bit more time in the Grenadines a visit was out of question.

So we prepared for a 90 miles overnight sail to arrive early in Martinique. Since the forecast said just light winds with occasional gusts up to 20 knots we thought it would be a relaxed trip and we would even be able to catch some sleep. During an overnighter one steers for a few hours while the other one can catch up with a nap, either in the cockpit or down below. At least that was the plan. 

Things went a bit different. First of all, we had a very steady and brisk wind between the islands, up to 25 knots, permanently. Even with some 2 - 3m waves from the side we had an amazing sail. We did up to 7, 8 knots - it was a dream. In the lee of Dominica the wind died, so we had to run the engine, until the wind picked up again. The constant reefing or furling sails out again made it impossible to sleep. Habibi needed four hands in the cockpit all the time. 
Then after Dominica it happened: The waves picked up again and for the first time I was fighting with a really bad seasickness. No idea why then. Sadly enough they're saying that the only cure for seasickness is lying in the shade of a hundred year old oak tree. Since it's hard to find any oak trees on a boat I opted for some help from a Swiss pharmaceutical company.  Not sure what's in there, maybe some oak tree shade for your mind, at least it makes you very tired and it helped right away. After one hour, I was able to help Rahel again. Still, very unusual, I guess it may be related to our last evening with friends in Les Saintes.....

We arrived as planned early morning in Martinique, but we looked like Zombies. No sleep for over 24hours by now. After immigration (which is a blessing on French Islands) the now scary looking Zombies decided for a lunch (no human brains - just a simple Creole dish) and some short sight seeing. We opted for a small local restaurant in a market hall. During our lunch things turned wired once more. I heard some Alphorn sound! I mean you're sitting in this big market hall in the middle of the Caribbean and there is a Swiss Alphorn playing? Not sure if this was a side effect from the Swiss Drug (Caution you may hear Alphorns???), the Ti Punch which was offered from the bar or simply my tiredness. Nevertheless it did not stop playing and since all the locals gathered around another table we needed to check. Amazingly there was really a guy sitting and playing his full size Alphorn in the middle of the restaurants to the amusement of the whole local community. We did not bother to ask him anything, but he played like a pro. Our waitress told us afterwards that she heard that for the first time and she loved it. When she explained that this is a Swiss instrument from the Alps I was tempted to say anything. But I simply had no energy left....we went to bed at 5pm or so.....

12 May 2012

personal break through

For who knows me it's no secret - I don't like to put my head under water! No, it's not because it could destroy my hairdo... The imagination of not being able to breath naturally (inhale, exhale) under water just freaks me out. But don't get me wrong - I like, no I LOVE to swim and I was always wondering how the world under the surface must look like. I mean, since almost half a year we're sailing in the clearest waters and I never saw the underwater world! That was maybe the reason that caused my personal break through today. We went to a lovely beach by dinghy and Marco explained to me step by step how to use the snorkel gear. He was very patient - Yes, that's really possible - and waited till I was ready.

And I was finally able to do it! I learned that snorkeling has nothing to do with diving. There is no need to put the head under water to see below! I'm so happy I finally overcame my fear and opened up my eyes to a bigger picture of the world we're sailing in. Thank you my love!

With love from paradise

11 May 2012

Island Elections

NO, this blog is not going political - and even if you think it is so, I can assure you it will be absolute political incorrect anyway! But being in French Territory during election was quite interesting, at least. So let me share our very regional enlightening findings: 

Lately, we learned that Hollande made over 70% in the French Overseas Departments, except for St. Barth which was Pro Sarkozy. That's understandable: St. Barth is made from Millionaires for Billionaires or vice versa. So anyone who wants to scare the rich guys off with higher taxes or so will do a bad thing to the little island. They voted for Sarkozy - comprehensible.

But why did Hollande win so clearly in the other territories? I mean with 20% or so more votes than in the mainland? That's easy to explain too: 
Take the shop/bank opening hours for example; It's somehow from 8:00 -12:00 and from 14:30 - 16:30, maybe a bit longer if it is high season. But otherwise the days are pretty relaxed in paradise. Sometimes it's really hard to tell which ones are tourists and which are not: I needed a break from my hard boat life this morning and went for a coffee ashore. The guy next to me was chatting with his friends for two hours while smoking his Gitanes in this very nice coffee bar. Nothing unusual, if he wasn't wearing his bright orange working vest. But at least his fellow co-workers have been kind enough picking him up with the city truck so he would be at home on time for lunch. It's the same everywhere, people are very relaxed. I mean very. If you like to buy a baguette at the boulangerie you need to call the owner from the next bar table where he's having his early afternoon glass of vine. Or if you'd like to pay that coffee you just had, you need to ask the lady to interrupt the chat she's just having across the street.

So put that lifestyle now in perspective of the presidential elections, and imagine Europe with all its problems on the other side of the planet: There is one guy which tells you that you should work more and the government needs to save a fortune. On the other hand there is this new guy who basically says: we take the money from the rich and you still have the right to retire early. Even if I can't see any difference here between being retired and actively working it's clear to me: Anybody who is threatening this paradisiacal lifestyle should go to hell! 

So whoever you think was or is the better guy - it's all a matter of perspective. In particular if you live a few thousands miles away from Paris, Berlin or you name it :-)

09 May 2012

manger comme Dieu en France!

The French overseas territory is amazingly beautiful. But frankly we tend to forget to look around and explore as we normally do, we're simply to occupied to eat and shop French goodies! After several months on remote islands where it  was sometimes even hard to find a piece of bread we love to eat again like God in France! 

Take Les Saintes/Guadeloupe for example. The local Boulangerie is baking baguettes twice a day. If you know the timing (of course we do!) you go there five minutes early and get the bread right out of the oven! Nothing beats that! The small supermarkets stock all this nice cheeses, wines and whatever your heart desires.
We changed already some rituals: While sailing our lunch snack is some fresh baguette with amazing cheese, the anchor drink is now cold Cidre instead of a Cuba Libre. Or even the question changed: Instead of the typical "do you like a glass of wine" we ask each other now: What kind of wine do you like honey?? 

And when you think that's all, things are getting even better:  This anchorage knows how to treat guests - you can order a fresh baguette or croissants right to your boat! No early dink ride to get your warm bread for breakfast! Life is really pampering us at the moment...

08 May 2012

Leisure Suit Larry

Do you remember the "Leisure Suit Larry" Computer game from the mid 1980s? It was an adventure game which basically followed Larry's escapades. I will not go into much details since this would not be accurate, but a common link between the games are Larry's explorations of luxurious and cosmopolitan hotels, ships, beaches and resorts. And we are playing that game now again. In real!

We met "our" Larry during Hurricane Irene in Rock Hall MD, the small village where we bought Habibi 3000 miles ago. His Island Packet "The Dove" was stationed there as well. And as the world is not small enough we can somehow follow Larry's adventurous life since we're meeting hime again and again. No matter if in George Town Bahamas, St. Barth on the dock or a small anchorage in Montserrat - Larry is there! 

Larry is in Les Saintes, Guadeloupe now, anchored not far from us. And that's not planned. I do not think he is following us or we are following him. Just the same route. And it's always nice to chat with him about his next plans and since they're often similar to our plans we can exchange route and weather tips. So I'm playing Larry again - 25 years later and I still have no clue where this will end up...

05 May 2012

Anchor blues

After a stopover in Montserrat we are in Guadeloupe! It's amazing: beautiful, great food and great people. Just that thing with the right anchor spot is a pitty....

Since we arrived after dark we anchored a bit outside the bay to avoid any collision with unlighted vessels. And it had many of them - guess French laziness. Yesterday morning we finally anchored in the middle of the bay - it was a perfect spot. After immigration we had a coffee in one of the pitoresk restaurants on shore. Just to realize that another lazy French catamaran was anchoring in the meantime very close to us. When we checked it out our vessels have been two (2!!) meters apart. And he was obviously fine with that as he was not on board anymore. Did I mention that we  expect some blow the next days.....idiot!! So we changed our anchor spot again - closer to shore and closer to one of the many fish trap buoys. Anchor maneuver two of the day. 

Later that evening we had some fellow cruisers on board for one of those famous boat cocktails. Just to learn that this unmarked fishing buoy is actually a buoy to tie up the local diving catamaran. So we had to move again! And that's when the real story began:

Our main anchor, a Manson Supreme, always got into the ground the first attempt. We never had to set the anchor again. Not this time: The left over anchor spots have been so covered with a thick layer of seagrass that we could not get that damn anchor into the ground! We circled the anchorage for one hour and I guess we dropped the hook another ten times before we finally found good holding ground again. And this with two guests on board. And like in real life, cruisers always love to watch others while doing maneuvers: I think it's fair to say they had VIP Lounge seats with free drinks ;-)

We're now in deeper water than planned, but it has its advantages as well - we got free internet again and while having coffee Rahel is trying to convince one of the many turtles around us to give her a nice picture. That's amazing isn't it? Almost as good as sea turtle for breakfast...