31 December 2012

Happy New Year from Dominica

When we passed by this beach yesterday we saw the locals enjoying some family time on and in the water. From young to old everyone seemed to have fun, children splashing or building sand castles, adults bathing while chatting to others or sipping on a Kubuli (local beer). Just a very relaxed atmosphere on a sunny Sunday afternoon with a lot of smiling faces. And they don't have much...

Since we moved on Habibi certain things are less important to us as they used to be. We enjoy every day even when for example discovering light beer in a supermarket (for Rahel of course) is the highlight of it! So, today is New Year's Eve? We don't fancy a big party. Actually we don't even have any plans. And don't get this wrong - we do not say this lifestyle is right for everyone. We really just say we learned a lot of new things the past year.

So, even there will be no big party we will spend our time gorgeously: We're having some sundowners with new found friends on their boat in a nice anchorage!

But we never forget our roots. All of you who made our dream possible and believed we can do it. There are so many people we should thank for that continuous support we get with our crazy sounding dream.

So lets say Thanks to you all: Blog Followers, Facebook Followers, our Families & Friends and as well the zillion of other people which contributed in many different ways to make our dream come true...

Thank you all and have a blast in 2013 and of course in many more years to come!

With much love from paradise
Marco & Rahel on Habibi

29 December 2012


Rainforest Hike

Oh my, we heard so many things about Dominica - bad and good. The best way to adjudicate upon something is always to check it out by yourself - and so we did.

Dominica is a poor country that has to rely on its own resources and the islanders have a standard of living well below those of its richer neighbors Martinique and Guadeloupe which being part of France enjoy generous subsidy. But as it says in our guide: "If Christopher Columbus came back today Dominica is the only island he would recognize." There are no fancy supermarkets or stores. It's still an unspoiled country as it is off the beaten tourist trail (except for some cruise ships that stop by) due to the lack of an international airport and luxury hotel developments. This on the other hand makes it an exciting destination for nature lovers. Dominica is famous for its lush mountainous rainforest, the many rivers and waterfalls and is home of many rare plant, animal and bird species. There are a number of National parks or reserves on the island. The Waitukubuli National Trail project (the original Carib name for Dominica is Waitukubuli) encompasses 114 miles of trail that winds from one end of Dominica to the other. Interesting from a cultural point of view is that there are still around 3'000 Caribs (the original inhabitants) living in a 15 km2 territory in the north-east that was granted to the people by the British Crown in 1903. On all the other Caribbean islands the Caribs were extinct by the European Conqueror.

Petty theft from yachts is on the rise in the Caribbean in general. We're staying in Portsmouth in the north east corner of the bay because that's where PAYS (the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security) is active. That's a group formed by the Indian River Guides and other businesses. We call them simply "boat boys" and they offer different kind of services: they run night patrols in the anchorage, maintain the moorings and dinghy docks, sell fruit, take your laundry, act as a water taxi and offer river and other tours. They really seem to work together as once we'd appointed Martin from "Providence" to be our guide we never got bothered by any other boat boy.

Martin "Providence"

We went on a hike with Martin on Dec 24 and what he described as an easy walk in the rainforest turned out to belong to the "difficult" trails according to the Waitukubuli website... Totally exhausted and gasping for air we had already reached the peak of the nearby mountain by 8am. We needed some time to recover before we could enjoy the beautiful view over the bay!

Portsmouth in the background

Another attraction that is not to be missed is the Indian River Tour - and it really is out of this world! For one to two hours you're riding on a row boat through the mangroves in total silence. We went in the early morning just when the sun was rising and the wild life waking up - it was magical and well worth to get up at 6am!

Indian River
We're going to stay in Dominica at least for another week. There is still so much to explore be it on land or in the water as there is a marine park nearby where we want to do some snorkeling. I wish we had an underwater camera...

From paradise with love

23 December 2012

You're never the biggest boat

We thought Dominica would be an exception - but even here you can observe the following phenomenon: when you think you're the biggest boat there is always an even bigger one coming!
The sailboat on the right - by the way under Swiss flag* - is an Oyster 575, around 60 feet and we thought it was big. Till "Skat" the yacht on the left arrived... We learned that it is 233 feet long, has 16 crew, 2 x 2700 hp, 210'000 l fuel and a helipad on the upper aft deck servicing a helicopter painted in military look colors matching the yacht.
The most interesting part to us are the information given about the owner Charles Simonyi - he is originally from Hungary, like Rahel's dad! He made his money with Microsoft and reading his biography is quite impressive! As he's spending 6 months on board of his yacht there is a big chance that he is on board right now to spend Christmas in Dominica and not in a hip place like St.Barths or so - which makes him even more sympathetic.

* As we see currently so many boats flying the Swiss flag, an American friend is doubting that Switzerland has just around 8 million inhabitants - he is insisting that he counted nearly that many Swiss flagged boats in the Caribbean alone :-)

From paradise with love

21 December 2012

Greetings from Dominica

We arrived safely in Portsmouth/Dominica (not to confuse with the Dominican Republic!) yesterday afternoon.
Our passage starting early morning from Saint-Pierre in Martinique was overall a fast but not a too pleasant one. In the channel between the two islands the swell hit us almost from 90 degrees and was more 9 than the predicted 6 feet - a feeling like on a roller coaster. Marco and I swallowed each a seasickness tablet just out of precaution... After this rather bumpy ride as soon we were in the lee of Dominica the wind died as usual, the sea became flat like a mirror and we turned on the engine. But to our surprise we encountered some stretches along the coast where we could unfurl our genoa again and had a fantastic sail - this time in flat seas! While approaching the anchorage in Portsmouth the wind peaked with 25 knots which made it difficult to get the timing right to furl our mainsail (an in-mast roller furling, always to handle with highest care that it doesn't get stuck) - but we managed it. Then we had to choose an anchor spot among all the mooring balls while we were welcomed by a boat boy. We made sure that the anchor was well set as the wind seems to be brisk here all the time. Marco then agreed with Monty, the boat boy, on a price to drive him with his speed boat to customs as it was short before closing time. The immigration process went quite smooth as you can check in and out at the same time. We now can stay up to two weeks and don't have to go back to customs. We like Dominica already!
Our stroll through town this morning was very pleasant: people seem to be very friendly but not obtrusive. It is an interesting mix of poor and rich, of modern and traditional. We are glad to be here to spend "Christmas" and are looking forward to explore Dominica's highly praised natural beauty.

With love from another paradise

17 December 2012

we're on holiday

The sun came back after a few days of rain. We rented a car and toured the island a bit. Wow, Martinique is a great place for driving! The streets are actually maintained and the signs well placed. It's like you would be driving in France. But with a Caribbean touch of course!
So we got to see some of the windward side which was just gorgeous. We were driving mile after mile through banana and sugar cane plantations always with a nice sea view.
The internet connection is limited at the moment so we'll post more later.
We're on holiday so to say!

From paradise with love

11 December 2012

Rain in Martinique

Today's forecast for Martinique looks like this:
070-080@22g30, squalls with 5-8k enhanced wind! Seas 10'/8secENE-E.
Translation for all non sailors: this means we really have a sh... weather here right now! A lot of rain, even more wind and high seas. Thanks god there is only some wind chop in our anchorage and so far it is not rolly (fingers crossed!). As there is only rain with a squall we can still get to shore dry by dinghy - we just have to get the timing right.
As this weather will linger for the next couple of days we decided to rent a car. Firstly to get off the boat and secondly to explore the island a bit. Let's hope we'll find some sun...

From paradise with love

09 December 2012

perfect conditions - unexpectedly

Kingstown, St. Vincent
St.Vincent NW coast
beautiful sky
another Swiss boat, 79ft!

cloud formations
St.Lucia, the Pitons before sunset
Martinique, Club Med in Le Marin

Rahel on the helm

Le Marin, careful not to end up like the boat on the left...

morning sport
Marco looking out for an anchor spot

How do we plan a passage? We basically calculate the distance to cover and then assume an average speed.
As we had decided to skip St. Lucia our last planning was regarding the trip from Bequia to Martinique. The wind was predicted to be around 10 to 12 kts and according to our experience it usually dies completely in the lee (behind) of the islands (we had to pass two islands on our way, St.Vincent and St.Lucia). Our Island Packet sails perfectly in winds of 15kts and more but below that she is usually, ehm, like a stone in the water... And we don't like arrivals at night especially in a new anchorage. Therefore we decided to make an overnight trip and calculated with an average speed of 4.5 kts. That lead to a departure at around 10am in Admiralty Bay and an estimated arrival at 7am the next morning in Le Marin. That was the theory.
As you can guess, the reality looked different. We encountered the most perfect conditions we've ever had! Wind speed, wind direction and sea state played out so well that we made an average speed of close to 7kts. Our enthusiasm quickly diminished when we started to calculate our ETA (estimated time of arrival) somewhere around 2am - or in other words in the pitch dark of the night... You need to know that Le Marin is an entrance full with reefs. Yes, the channel is well marked with buoys - OK in daylight but not so nice in the dark. Additionally, the French fishermen endure a sport called "catch a yacht", therefore the whole entrance to the channel is covered with fish traps and nets. Really, it looks more like a well planned mine field than an entrance to one of the main harbors in the Caribbean!
We had to slow down - urgently!! Almost with tears in our eyes we reefed our sails... But still, it was one of our most perfect sailing trips.

What's the lesson we've learned? Don't underestimate Habibi - she performs very well even in light wind conditions of 10 to 15 kts! In the planning of our next passage we'll have to take this into account when calculating our average speed.

From paradise with love

05 December 2012

The Grenadines – a culinary flight

Banana - Guava Colada @ Firefly Plantation

We enjoyed our stay in St. Vincent & the Grenadines - a lot! Not only did we enjoy the islands' natural beauty, the friendly people and the clear turquoise water but also the culinary experiences we've had. We had some of the best food the past four weeks of our whole one year journey! Here is a short list of our Top Five favourite places (or people):

1) Carriacou / Tyrell Bay: The Slipway Restaurant, see what they say on Trip Advisor

We didn't even know it existed till we stumbled over it by accident. The restaurant is furnished and decorated in a simple but lovely way. On a blackboard you’ll find written the menu which might look limited but the food was excellent: we had tuna, mahi-mahi and cornish hen - all was cooked to perfection and accompanied with some local vegetables and potatoes. There was just one dessert to choose from - a New York cheese cake - and it was to die for. The service was surprisingly attentive and charming... something you start to appreciate again after some time in the Caribbean. The best value for money we’ve got since a long time!

2) Bequia / Lower Bay: Fernando's Hideaway, top rated by Trip Advisor

We went to check out the location of this restaurant by day light as it is (like the name says) "hidden away" up the hill in Lower Bay. It is only open for dinner and a reservation is needed at least one day in advance. It looks like Fernando turned the outdoor terrace of his private house into a restaurant. A simple kitchen, tasteful furniture and decoration and a great service - finish is a hidden gem with a cozy ambiance! The owner goes out fishing in the morning and that's what he serves you for dinner. Our perfectly cooked fish was served with a variation of veggies seasoned with tasty herbs. The prices for food and drinks were very reasonable especially given the unique location. Too bad there was no space left for a dessert!

3) Union / Chatham Bay: Tim's shack

Tim was one of the "boat boys" that came out to Habibi while we've been anchored in Chatham Bay. These guys sometimes can really be a pain in the a... But we learned quickly that Tim was different. In a charming way he introduced himself and chatted with us. He mentioned that he runs a shack on the beach (means he offers a BBQ dinner with the choice of lobster, fish or chicken) but there was no pushing as it's often the case. One day he even brought Marco some bait so he could go fishing - this was literally cutting his own business! We then decided to give it a try and went to his "restaurant". It's located at the far North side of the beach – it’s recommended to take a flash light with you as the path from the beach to the place is not well lit. The ambiance of the restaurant, the selection of drinks, the food and even the washroom left us with surprise – it was much nicer than we expected it to be. Amazing how an inventive person like Tim can perform magic without running water, electricity or a road that connects him with the “civilization”!

4) Bequia / Spring: Firefly Plantation 

This beautiful Hotel is located in the middle of a lush plantation with an amazing view over Spring Bay. We just stopped there for a drink - the food sounded appealing but was a bit on the pricy side. Nevertheless the service was very friendly and we even were welcomed by a committee of dogs and a cat ;-) Just sitting there and enjoying the view was priceless. If someone is looking for a luxury holiday this is the place! And you could even combine it with a stay in its sister hotel over on Mystique!

5) Bequia / Admiralty Bay: Joseph in his little power boat "P'nut"

This is not about a place, this is about a person. Sometimes in the late afternoon you see (or better hear) a little wooden motorboat cruising the bay. The boat’s name is “P’nut” and in it sits Joseph, sometimes rowing sometimes running his noisy outboard (depends on the wind). He is always smiling and almost excuses himself that he can only come out in the evening to sell fruits and vegetables from his own garden. We bought a papaya, some passion fruits and spinach from him and everything was absolutely gorgeous. Joseph is very honest and will not tell you that the bananas are ripe enough where they aren’t. He even is very cheap so we’ve been happy to learn that this is not the only job to earn his living! 

From paradise with love