29 November 2014

Final flashback: Habibi's Sailing Adventure 2011-13

It's been more than a year that we pulled into Rock Hall/Maryland to end our sailing adventure of two years and to start a landlubber's life once again. In the meantime Habibi has found new owners and we are certain that they care for her as much as we did.

What remains are thousands of pictures and countless memories, good and bad. This short video is a collection of pictures we think represent our journey best. You're free to just watch it OR you can first read our brief summary below with links to the corresponding blog entries to get an idea of where we've been during those two years.

Either way, we'd like to thank all of you out there who joined and supported us on this ride. And even though we stopped cruising, we're still open for answering questions of all sorts regarding cruising.
Now, kick back and enjoy the show!

Yours truly
Marco & Rahel

The picture below shows us on our maiden voyage right after we had left the dock in Rock Hall/ Maryland back in October 2011.

It was freezing cold - after living 3 years in Dubai definitely not the temperatures we were used to! A bit nervous and with the initial support of our friend Kris we sailed down the Chesapeake Bay.
Following the ICW gave us time to get to know the boat better, finding our roles as a team and discovering a beautiful part of the US in slow motion, always joined by some dolphins or manatees on the way: Maryland, Virginia, North & South Carolina, Georgia. But we couldn't wait to reach warmer waters - What a joy when we saw the first palm trees in Florida!
The day before we arrived in Fort Lauderdale we passed 22 opening bridges, just insane. We pulled into a marina to do some work on the boat (installation of a water maker, checking the rigging, painting the toe rails, changing the zincs) and to do A LOT of shopping (marine stuff, food & drinks, first aid). Before going broke just shortly after we'd started we continued on to Key Biscayne where we waited for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream.
We reached the Bahamas right on Christmas day and its beautiful clear waters blew us away from the start. Who would have thought that we'd spend 2 months in the Bahamas alone? We met so many friendly cruisers, got introduced to cocktails on the beach, fed swimming pigs, Marco went fishing a lot with his buddies (and his list of weird catch started off with a shark) - we just enjoyed our sailing life to the fullest.
Then it definitely was time to continue on and leave the Bahamas behind. We fulfilled our first longer passage, a three days and nights sail to Ille a vache, Haiti. The most beautiful and at the same time poorest place we encountered.
What followed was a miserable trip to the Dominican Republic and further, which we never wanted to repeat again. It is known to be tricky to get from the US or Bahamas to the Eastern Caribbean because of the trade winds that are blowing from the East - obviously you have wind and waves on the nose!
But we finally made it to St. Martin where we bought a new dinghy and our friends Ines & Andi joined us for three weeks aboard Habibi. We sailed together to St. Barth where we met some lovely people and enjoyed French food. Talking about food - everyday was a culinary highlight as Andi cooked delicious meals aboard even while underway! Another trip led us to St. Kitts and then to Nevis where our friends disembarked and we continued on to Montserrat and Guadeloupe.
Ah, the French islands... We really started to love them, especially the baguette, cheese, wine, Ti punch... Ah, and Rahel learned to snorkel on the beach right off "pain de sucre", a little mountain on Les Saintes, Guadeloupe. On the passage from Martinique to St. Lucia we encountered our first heavy squall with winds up to 35kts and huge seas. Habibi and crew made it safely to Rodney Bay and it was like always: once we were safe at anchor or the dock everything was forgotten quickly - cruisers have a short term memory!
We then kind of hurried up on our way South as the Hurricane season was approaching fast. There was just time for brief stops in Bequia and The Grenadines. In the Tobago Cays we snorkeled and swam with some giant turtles, what an experience. On our last stop in Tyrell Bay/Carriacou before reaching Grenada, it happened: our windlass stopped working! We had once to raise the anchor chain by hand, sailed down to Grenada and docked in the Port Louis Marina for a couple of weeks during Hurricane season. One major task was now to replace the broken windlass. Fortunately we had enough time... We fell in some kind of a routine: I went to the gym and yoga every other day, Marco checked out all the marine and hardware stores and together we ticked off many boat chores. Our friend Silvia flew over all the way from Switzerland and stayed with us for three weeks. And again we met many nice people to hang out with. A special friendship started off with Carol & Alex, a couple from California. Even though we weren't big friends of "buddy boating" it just naturally happened that we did it on our way back North after the end of Hurricane season.
Now we had time to explore The Grenadines, and had for the first time our anchor drifting in Clifton/Union Island - of course it was pitch dark, raining cats and dogs and the anchorage was super crowded - again we were lucky and nothing got damaged and nobody hurt. We then spent quite some time in Bequia, a beautiful place. In Martinique we rented a car with our friends, toured the island and ate more delicious food.
Our next trip led us to Dominica. A place we really loved. It represents the imagination of a Caribbean island, it's almost untouched by tourism, lush and green. The people are very proud of and love their island even though they don't have much. We spent much more time there as initially planned - sounds familiar?
Then we spent some time in Pointe-à-Pitre, the largest city of Guadeloupe. From pure nature to a more urban place. We toured the island again with our friends and enjoyed the beautiful vistas. Soon it was time to head towards Antigua, where we welcomed our friend Nigel. He had flown over from Dubai via London, just to visit us for a couple of days! And even though he isn't a boat person he was of course as impressed as we were to see all the big yachts assembled in Falmouth and English Harbour, among them the Maltese Falcon, the third biggest sailing yacht in the world. We then sailed over together to Jolly Harbour where we marveled at the most turquoise water we had seen so far. Too soon it was time to say goodbye and we headed on to Simpson Bay Lagoon/Sint Maarten. As it was very windy we used the time to do some work on the boat, shopping and paying Maho Beach a visit. Through its proximity to the airport it is very popular to watch arriving airliners on their final approach flying over the beach at minimal altitude. We left the lagoon just before the Heineken Regatta started and sailed the short leg to Anguilla. Our friends Diana and Jörn insisted to meet there and we didn't regret it. They showed us around, we tasted delicious crayfish, had a sundowner at Elvis and listened to some live music at the Banks Estate. We could have stayed much longer... But a weather window for the passage to the BVI's just opened up and we took the chance. We spent 30 days in the BVI's, most of that time we cruised together with Rahel's sister Claudia and her boyfriend Gregor aboard Habibi. It is the perfect place to introduce someone to sailing as the distances are short and the sea state isn't usually a problem as you can always sail in the lee of an island. We did a lot of sailing, snorkeling and exploring. And when it was time for our guests to leave, dropping them off  was very convenient: the anchorage of Trellis Bay is right in front of the airport on Beef Island/Tortola. Our next stop was St. John/US Virgin Islands. The Americans really do a great job there in preserving the coral reefs as more than half of the island is a National Park. Charlotte Amalie on Saint Thomas felt like the opposite with all the cruise ships and tourists in town. In Culebra, which is part of the Spanish Virgin Islands, we welcomed Marco's brother Serge aboard. At the Dinghy Dock Bar & Restaurant we met Bill who was working behind the bar. He was a quite experienced sailor, who knew the area pretty well and could give us many valuable tips. Somehow he was responsible on how we decided to continue the next stretch of our trip. We set over to Puerto Rico, where we dropped off Serge and started our preparations for our longest offshore trip so far: 900nm to Bermuda! It's a trip we'll never forget... It took us six days to get there. Most of the time we sailed in the middle of a LO, which meant high winds and seas and many squalls. But we made it safely to Bermuda, a little paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. There we reunited with our lovely German friends Hugo & Sybille. After some explorations of the island together they set off for their crossing of the Atlantic and return to Europe. We left for Newport, another offshore trip of roughly 700nm which took us 5 days. It was a rather pleasant trip, except that we got caught in a warm eddy! On our arrival in June in Newport RI summer wasn't there yet and some cold and foggy weather awaited us. But when Bill sailed into the harbor shortly after with his friend Dave the fun started and we spent our time in good company! We met Bill's friend Durbin and his lovely wife Ludi who showed us around town. After we sailed New England a bit, Bill and Dave convinced us to come to Block Island, where we were received cordially and felt at home immediately!
But one day we had to say goodbye and continued our trip to Long Island Sound. We could have spent much more time in these waters... A highlight of our whole trip was then to sail down the East River, past the skyline of New York City and the Statue of Liberty - which also marked the end of our adventure.
Shortly after we docked Habibi again in Rock Hall/Maryland and prepared her for her next owners who hopefully will spend at least as many pleasant hours on her as we did...

July 2013: back in Rock Hall after almost 2 years of sailing