2022

Back in the Caribbean (Dez 21 – March 22)

After a short but intense visit back home in Switzerland and a long journey with a short stop in New York we arrived safely in Sint Maarten. It was great to be back on the boat together. André had arrived already a few days ahead and welcomed us at the airport.

We provisioned and soon got ready for sailing to St. Barths as we had booked two weeks of sailing classes there for Jaël and Amina. By the way, this is something really fantastic about France and all the French Islands. Sailing classes for all ages are always part of the school holiday program. So if you are on a French island in school holidays sign your kids up for the sailing classes. The wind forecast was not great as we were going against the trade winds and we had no time to wait for a quiet day as the sailing classes would start on Monday. So it was a bit uncomfortable but luckily St. Barths is the neighbour island of St. Martin, so not a big deal.

The number and size of superyachts in the anchorage outside Gustavia and in the harbour is crazy. We dinghied to town for a stroll around the harbour. Gustavia is a beautiful small town with a Mediterranean flair. You find many designer stores and up market restaurants… not quite the sailor’s budget. But there were a few places where we could afford having a drink or a meal. There was a small Christmas market near the capitainerie, with a few handicraft stalls, snacks, drinks and live music. I had just texted Rudy, one of our Réunion friends, who lived now in St. Barths, that we have arrived when we crossed each others way at the bar of the Christmas market anyway!

It was great to see Rudy again. Last time we had seen him in South Africa. He was crew on MONFREID and they had left Cape Town much earlier and were already on their way to the Caribbean when we arrived in Brazil. His brother lives in St. Barths and he had found a job there too. Due to a fateful encounter in Brazil Rudy has become a boatowner himself. So maybe in a few years he will sail back to La Réunion, who knows!

On Monday the sailing course started. In Amina’s class they were just two kids (including Amina) whereas Jaël’s class was almost fully booked. After one day they put the two small girls together with the class of the older kids. So after that Amina was mostly a passenger in Jaël’s boat. They enjoyed the course but after the great experience in St. Pierre et Miquelon the bar was set high! On the weekend we moved to the beautiful bay of Colombier, where we could grab a mooring ball. A picture perfect scenery, with a stunning beach, crystal clear water and a lot of turtles. And it was much more protected from swell than the rolly anchorage in front of Gustavia. What more could we wish for! A perfect place to celebrate our second Christmas in the Caribbean.

Another week of sailing class followed. Back in Gustavia we found a better anchoring spot than in the first week.  In addition André’s new designed Flopper Stopper reduced the rolling a lot. Jaël had a small accident in the sailing class midweek, coming home with a bleeding scratch of a boom on her cheek. We fixed it with steristrip… The New Years Eve fireworks took place just in front of us. It was amazing and the sound of all the horns of the yachts at the end was impressive and gave me goosebumps. On the second of January Rudy borrowed  the car of his brother and gave us an island tour. We finished with a swim at one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, plage du Gouverneur. St. Barths is truly a pearl in the Caribbean.

We normally wanted to leave for Guadeloupe but then we met a French family on a boat called “Rêve d’O”. They had a baby, two boys and one girl around the same age as our kids. So we decided to stay a little bit longer in the “le Colombier” anchorage. We even sailed to the remote neighbouring island called “Île Fourchue” and had a fantastic  beach barbeque there together. Unfortunately “Rêve d’O” headed towards Sint Maarten to pick up her parents, who came for a visit. We exchanged contacts and hoped to meet again in a few weeks. We definitely had to leave for Guadeloupe now as André’s sister Karin had booked a flight to Guadeloupe on the 13th of January to visit us. We had a good sail to Deshaies and arrived there in the morning. It is a good and well  protected anchorage in a beautiful bay. It can be busy but if you don’t go close to the beach you usually find a place. Deshaies is a charming little village with a bunch of very good restaurants.

We had just stepped on land when a police officer reminded us to wear a mask. Uups… that was not the warmest welcome… then we wanted to eat an ice cream but the restaurant did not accept my vaccination… It was too long ago already so the booster was due. The government had just tightened the rules. Luckily Xiaolei offered to drive us to the airport the next day to pick up a rental car and to do the booster at the vaccination center next to the airport. So by the time Karin arrived, André and me had already our booster done.

Due to the booster vaccination André was knocked out the two following days. Karin, the kids and me did a nice walk over the hill to the “Plage de la Grande Anse” and on the second day, we explored Malendure which is a little bit further down the coast, just opposite of the Jaques Cousteau Underwater Reserve. There is a beautiful beach with black sand and of course we had to try the handmade “Sorbet Coco”, Guadeloupe is famous for. And it truly is delicious and we highly recommend to watch out for the stalls with the wooden sorbet buckets. Every place seems to have his own secret recipe. We tried a few and were never disappointed. When André was feeling better we crossed the mountaineous part of the island and drove to a place where we could hike down to a beautiful waterfall. “Saut de la Lézarde” it was called and it was one of the best waterfalls we have visited so far to swim in. The hike down to the waterfall and back up to the car was quite adventerous though. Very slippery and muddy not very well marked, so we just tried to hold on to some roots and plants to avoid falling. But the swimming in the natural pool afterwards was divine and a great reward for all the effort.

Together with Karin we did another hike to a beautiful viewpoint “Mamelle de Pigeon”. The path was in surprisingly good condition at the beginning but then also turned out to be a bit muddier but nothing compared to the “Saut de la Lézarde” trail. After enjoying the beautiful view we walked the coastal trail from Mahaut to Malendure. Once again I realized how I enjoyed the hikes in Maine and Newfoundland. The problem in the tropics is that the hikes are either hot and dry or slippery and wet… there is almost nothing in between. Hiking in cooler clima zones in summer is simply perfect I would say.

André brought back the rental car and then we sailed to Malendure to snorkel around the Jean Jacques Cousteau underwater nature resort. Just when we got back into the dinghy to go back to Mirabella we saw a boat called ALISARA with two kids on board. We had seen them the evening before in a restaurant in Deshaies.  We stopped at their boat and they told us they would anchor afterwards in Bouillante, which is just around the corner. The special thing in Bouillante is that there is a natural hot spring in the bay. I had already read about the hot springs up in the mountains near the volcano La Soufrière but did not realize that there is one at sealevel that is so close to the anchorage.  Of course we where in for this and we told Douglas and Hermione, the names of the couple, that we will meet them there later.

We anchored in the bay of Bouillante and you could already smell the Sulfur in the air…. a little hint of rotten eggs. In the rightern corner of the bay you could see the people enjoying the hotsprings. And there was even a very well maintained dinghy dock just nearby – how convenient!!! The perfect time to enjoy the hot water is just before sunset or early in the morning. We enjoyed it at both times. And Jaël and Amina had a great time together with Alice and Arthur from ALISARA. We had a spontaneous dinner together. Unfortunately ALISARA was just about ready to leave for Antigua. But we exchanged contacts. Maybe our paths will cross again before we leave the Caribbean.

Next stop for us was Îles des Saintes. We anchored in the Anse du Pain de Sucre on the Island Terre-de-Haut, which is the most popular of these small islands that belong to Guadeloupe too. Karin still had a few days left with us and so we enjoyed this paradise together. The forecast was even perfect to sail back to Point-à-Pitre with Karin. So she did not have to take the ferry back to Grande-Terre. We had a great sail on the 24th of January to Point-à-pitre, where Karin could get a taxi to the airport. Once again it had been great to have her on board Mirabella.

We anchored near the Marina Bas-du-Fort off Ilet à Cochons. The anchorage is very calm and you can park your dinghy at the dinghy dock of the marina. ARIA was coming to the marina the next day as Karsten had to fly to Switzerland for business and Luca and Lucia would stay on the boat. In case of an emergency we would be near them and Xiaolei was in Pointe-à-Pitre as well.

We rented a car for two days to explore Grande-Terre. On the first day we drove all the way to Porte d’enfer and wanted to do a coastal trail there but it was too hot, so we just did a short version of it, enjoyed the breath taking scenery and made a picnic in the shade. After a short stop in La Grande Vigie we had the best Sorbet Coco ever in Anse Laborde. The beach was a bit wild and windy but the water was unbelievable clear. We ended our tour in Plage du souffleur, the complete opposite of Anse Laborde…. very calm, sandy with no rocks at all… it felt like swimming in a giant pool… we loved it! The following day, Xiaolei, Luca and Lucia joined us and we explored famous “La Pointe du Château” and had picnic and swim on the beach nearby. We had a wonderful day. Guadeloupe has really a lot to offer!

On the 31st of January we celebrated the Chinese New Year on ARIA and Xiaolei showed us how to do dumplings. It was also our last night in Point-à-pitre as we were leaving for Îles des Saintes the following day. Our friends from ALDIVI who sailed with us from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea to Maldives were going to meet us there. We had said goodbye in February 2020. They took the way through the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and we decided to take the route around South Africa. Of course we were excited to see them again after two years!

ALDIVI came from Martinique and Jaël and Amina were already in bed sleeping, when they finally arrived. André and me welcomed them in our dinghy. Unbelievable to see each other again! Jaël and Amina got up early in the morning to see if their friends from ALDIVI have arrived. Oh how happy were they to see ALDIVI anchored just next to us!!!

All February we enjoyed Guadeloupe with our dear friends. We started with Îles des Saintes where the kids could enjoy a little bit of independence by going alone to the remote beach of Anse Crawen and explored Fort Napoleon together. Then we made our way back up to the West coast of Basse-Terre. Of course we wanted to show the natural hotsprings to our Mexican friends, so we stopped in Bouillante again. The snorkelling in Jean-Jacques Cousteau’s marine reserve of course was a must too. When we were back in Malendure we also met up again with our friends from “Rêve d’O” and spent a beautiful in the Zoo de Guadeloupe au Parc des Mamelles. We also had to say goodbye to ARIA as they planned to do a short stopover in Antigua and then head towards the Virgin Islands. We most likely will see them again back in Switzerland late summer or autumn. We had been cruising together for almost a year. It was strange to go seperate ways.

From February 20st on we were back in Deshaies, also one of our favourite anchorages in Guadeloupe. What was really special about our second stay there was, that there was a group of dolphins swimming around in the anchorage almost every day. Many people from the boats jumped in and tried to swim with them. Sometimes the dolphins left as quickly as they appeared, sometimes they stayed long time and really seemed to enjoy the company of the swimmers. I once was lucky too and could swim with them.

While we were in Deshaies, André had finally put Mirabella on the market for sale. It is a hard thing to do, put your family home of the last five years on sale… it is not like an apartment as it is more than just a home. A boat takes you to your dream destinations and is your safe harbour in the middle of the ocean (at least when it is well maintained otherwise it can easily turn into a nightmare). The idea was to put her on the market while we still had the option to  choose if we go to Northern Europe or the Med.  At the beginning not much happened, after three days we had the first potetial buyers who were also ready to fly to the Azores to have a look at the boat.

And then there was this Swiss family with two girls, almost the same age as ours when we left in 2017… while I was on the Grande Anse beach with the girls and ALDIVI, André had a long video call with them, showing them around the boat. The call took almost all afternoon. They were looking for a boat that is ready to go as they were planning to leave this summer. They got our contacts  from a common friend who had met us in Mallorca in the early days of our trip. I had hoped for a perfect match like that. We all knew that it will be very hard for us to sell Mirabella as we are all so strongly connected with her and we discussed again and again if we maybe could keep her. But it does not really make sense when we are back at work and the kids in school. It would be way too expensive to keep her in the Med. So I was hoping for a family to buy her to let Mirabella’s voyage continue in a similar way.  Andrea and Silvio, these are the names of the Swiss couple wanted to sleep over it and decide in the next days. To make things short… they said “yes” and our beloved Mirabella was sold within a week! Handover end of June in Italy, where we started our trip! It could not have been better, but the feelings were too mixed for jumps of joy. But we knew, this is the perfect match and were very content for that.

On the 25th of February we celebrated Berna’s birthday with a wonderful night out. The kids were all on ALDIVI for a movie night and we enjoyed a delicious dinner at “La Kaz du Douanier”. ALDIVI was getting ready to sail to St. Martin and we planned to follow and meet them there again as soon as the sale of Mirabella was confirmed by the 10% payment.  ALDIVI left on the 28th of February. Just when we were all in the dinghy to say goodbye to ALDIVI and then have a last swim on Grande Anse Beach we discovered a beautiful oyster yacht called OYSA just next to them. A friendly couple Marina and Olgun invited us for a drink, when we were back from the beach. We enjoyed Grande Anse beach and Sorbet coco a last time.  Later on Olgun and Marina showed us their boat. Amina and Jaël agreed that if we ever buy a boat again it would be a x-yacht again or a swan… Marina is from Belgium and Olgun from Turkey. They told us a lot about the beautiful cruising grounds in Turkey. Maybe we should try to charter a yacht there one day. Despite it was a very new boat Olgun had some troubles with his licium batteries. André offered Olgun to have a look at the batteries the following day. Most likely they were not configurated properly. André spent all morning on their boat fixed the problem. In return Olgun and Marina invited us for dinner on land and we spent a beautiful evening together.

We left Guadeloupe on 2nd of March. Guadeloupe has become one of our favourite islands in the Caribbean. Hopefully one day we will come back.

In St. Martin we anchored in the Grand Case Bay this time. ALDIVI was in Marigot, where all the shipchandler and boat supply shops are but it was very busy and rolly there.  So we decided to try Grand Case instead. We went ashore to have a look around and have dinner in one of the restaurants. The main street just behind the beach has a numerous amount of shops and restaurants of all categories between high end gourmet and local BBQ places called “lolo”. We wanted to try one of the lolo’s and walked back and forth studying the different menus. In one of the restaurants there was a family with kids and the girl waved and smiled at Amina and Jaël as we walked by. It was not our first choice restaurant but Amina and Jaël begged to go there because of the girl. The tables right next to the family were all occupied, but a little furher away there was a free table. We agreed to go there but told them that they have to go and talk to the kids themselves. And of course they did 🙂 It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It was an American family with three kids living on a boat called AMANI. They wanted to move to Marigot the next day to get a new outboard engine and get a few other things done there but Drew (about the same age as Jaël) and Ainsley (between Jaël and Amina) came over to MIRABELLA for some swimming around the boat and playing. We exchanged contacts to stay in touch and meet again, when they were done with their stuff in Marigot. Hermione from ALISARA contacted me, wondering about our plans. They were on their way from Antigua to the British Virgin Islands with a short stop in St. Martin. Perfect timing! We told them that we were in Grand Case and looking forward to meet them. They arrived on 7th of March and we had a great evening together and the following day the kids played on the beach together. ALISARA hat to move to Marigot to fuel up and we decided to go there too for one or two nights to do some provisioning in the big supermarket there. We wanted to move back to Grand Case for André’s 50st birthday, where we a had booked already for lunch with AMANI and ALDIVI in a cool beach restaurant.

We had lunch together with ALISARA in  small French restaurant and walked up to the Fort afterwards. The kids loved that place. It’s the perfect location to do hide and seek! Unfortunately ALISARA could not join André’s birthday party as they had to move on to the BVI’s, where a potential buyer was waiting. So we had to say goodbye to them.

The following day we moved back to the Grand Case anchorage. ALDIVI and AMANI joined as well to celebrate André’s birthday with us.  We had a great day in Captain Frenchy’s beach restaurant. The kids could play on the beach all day long and we enjoyed the good company. Time passed much too quickly because the following day ALDIVI was leaving towards Puerto Rico. It had been a fantastic month together in Guadeloupe and it was great to have them with us celebrating André’s half century so of course everyone was sad to say goodbye. Hopefully we will see each other again one day in Switzerland or in Mexico…. bye bye ALDIVI have a safe journey back home to Mexico!

We were monitoring the weather forecast for a while already to learn about the weather patterns on our route to the Azores. So far there was no good weather window yet but we were provisioning a bit to be ready quickly. It was a very windy period and the anchorage did not have the best protection. It did not seem right to us to leave the Caribbean with that impression. We wanted to leave from a place that we really liked. So we moved to our beloved “Colombier” anchorage in St. Barths on March 15th. To everyone’s delight AMANI joined us. We had a great time together and enjoyed our last days in the Caribbean in this beautiful anchorage. There were plenty of turtles you could observe while snorkelling and Jaël and Amina loved to do Art classes with Mary when she had time.  Jack, Drew, Ainsley, Jaël and Amina got along extremly well. There was not a single fight during all the time they played together. It was a real joy to watch them play. It was sad to say goodbye to our friends but it was time to leave…

We left St. Barths on the 25th of March heading to the Azores. We knew that this passage could be tricky as it was still early in the season. The lows were still coming very frequently and you can only rely on the forecast the first half. The second half will be a surprise. The plan was to slow down if we see a low coming – and let it pass. Sounds reasonable in theory but is not so easy in practice… Read all about it in André’s chapter Caribbean to Azores!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2021

Back in the US (Nov / Dez 2021)

So we finally made it. Monday, 8th of November 2021 we were back in the US.  It was definitely late… no floating dinghy docks in the water and a tide of 7 meters. So you better plan the tide right when you tie your dinghy on a pier otherwise it will be hanging there in the air when you are back (haha…)  Almost happend to us… got a bit destracted in a football session with ARIA on land, but luckily we were just back right on time, before it was completely hanging.

The wind looked good to move on towards Portland the following morning. We left on a beautiful sunny day and arrived Thursday, 11th of November in Portland. We tried to slow down but arrived still a little bit too early, so we were drifting a few hours until daylight as we did not want to motor in the dark through the lobster pots. The sun rose and in the distance we could see Mount Washington with snow on top. If we stay a few weeks longer we can go skiiing…

First we wanted to go to a fuel dock in Portland because there was some nasty weather coming and we did not want to run out of diesel at the anchorage. Our diesel consumption had increased since the temperature had dropped. We needed the diesel mainly for our heating now. The fueling up was a bit of a challenge that late in the season…. the first marina we had tried would have been perfect, but they had a problem with the electricity so they could not operate the fuel dock. The second place – just around the corner – was just for commercial fishing boats, the third place was already closed for the season and in the fourth place we could only enter in high tide… so we anchored nearby and waited until the tide was right. Finally done we headed to Yarmouth. Stephen wrote us that there was one floating dock at Madeleine point in the water on Cousins Island at least until the following week… hurray! The public dinghy dock at his place was already gone.

The hospitality of Andrew’s siblings Stephen and Betsy was simply outstanding! We arrived at the anchorage of Cousins Island and received a warm welcome from Betsy and Joe. They had brought Stephen’s car with all the ordered spareparts and packages inside and it was parked right by the dinghy dock at our free disposal. On top of that we were invited for dinner at Stephen’s house. Both Stephen and Betsy offered us to stay in their houses in case we were too cold on the boat. But we were fine. With the heating on, it was nice and cosy. Just the dinghy rides to go on land got a bit chilly and uncomfortable, especially in rainy weather. In addition we prefered to be on the boat when the bad weather with the strong winds was coming. We had a wonderful evening with Stephen, David, Betsy and Joe. It was great to see them again. Jaël and Amina happily accepted Betsy’s offer to sleep in her guest room and had two sleep overs there. They felt like in heaven as they could have a bubble bath in a big bath tub with a beautiful view- Very cosy especially when it is raining outside. I could not resist to have a bath too when I was doing laundry there on Friday late afternoon. The weather was really nasty and the wind was picking up. The laundry was done but André could not pick me up with the dinghy as suddenly the anchor was dragging. Something that honestly only happened once right at the beginning of our trip during mistral in St. Jean Cap Ferrat, where the anchorage was too deep. Luckily André was on board but it took him a while until he had the situation under control to be able to pick me up. We reanchored again and finally the anchor was holding. The girls were having a lot of fun with Betsy, doing self crafted bath bombs and some Christmas decorations. Saturday evening we were invited for dinner at Kim and Sean’s place (the couple from the racing x-yacht PHOENIX). It was a wonderful evening and we enjoyed their company. Stephen and David had spent two days in Sugarloaf and were heading back Sunday afternoon. We were planning to have dinner together at Betsy’s place and I made lasagne for everyone. Oh how glad we were to have made it back to our friends in Portland. It was a short visit but filled with laughter and joy and beautiful friendships that we will cherish for lifetime.

We continued towards the Cape Cod Canal. Our next stop was Mattapoisett, where Ed and Alison with their kids Zoe, Nolan and Cabot live. We entered the canal around 8 o’clock and the timing could not have been better. We passed Sagamore bridge just before the boys school started. They welcomed us waving and running along the canal. What a welcome! Mattapoisett is a beautiful little town in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts with about 6300 inhabitants. Luckily there was still a floating dock in the water so we could get on land with dry feet. The dinghy ride was a bit long though. In summertime this would not bother us at all but middle of November it is a different story… Jaël and Amina were very happy to see their friends from Mount Desert Island again. We received a warm welcome and had pizza together at their house. Ed showed us the boat with which he circumnavigated alone before he had kids. It is stored safe and dry in a boatshed on their property. The kids did not want to stop playing, even though it was late already so we told them that they can see each other in the library the next day when Cabot and Nolan are back from school. Mattapoisett has a fantastic library with very friendly staff. Jaël was allowed to take a book home if she brings it again the following day (and she did and took another one home on Friday).

On the weekend we had planned a visit in Brewster, where Kristin and Ned lived with their kids Sophia and Sam. We had met them in Camden on our way North and the kids had connected so well, that we absolutely wanted to see them again. Jaël and Sophia had become penpals and had written letters to each other in the past 3 months (which we sent as a photo on whatsapp). Furthermore Ned was in contact with André as he wanted to buy a boat as well and had asked André’s opinion on some potential boats he was looking at. And last but not least we had got our new gennaker delivered to Ned’s address. So we were really looking forward to see them again. Jaël and Amina could sleep in Sam and Sophia’s room while Ned offered André and me to stay in a small cottage they normally rent in summer. It was a beautiful sunny day. We packed some sandwiches and made a nice picnic followed by a small hike around a lake. Afterwards Ned showed us some other beautiful spots in the area. Really not a bad place to live! In the evening we ate some pizza and later Ned showed us the cottage. Jaël and Amina shared the beds with and Sam and Sophia and were two very happy girls.

Ned invited us all to spend Thanksgiving on the 25th of November with them at his parents place. It was not sure yet if André could come too or if he would leave for Bermuda before. Me and the girls would come for sure as our flight to Switzerland was on Sunday the 28th of November. We drove back to Mattapoisett and moved to one of Ed’s buoys in Marion, to have more protection from the winds and a shorter dinghy ride to land. Ed had given us a ride so we could let the car in Marion and then move the boat. Afterwards we met up with Ed & his family for a late aftenoon stroll around the Cranberry Bogs.

André checked the weather again… the first part to Bermuda would be the challenging part. That late in the season it was impossible to avoid strong winds. There would be no perfect weather window, so it was just a question of how long and how strong the front would be… I was nervous about it too… since the beginning of our trip, André had never done a passage on his own and we have always been together on the boat while sailing. I would have been more relaxed if someone would have joined him for the passage but he insisted to do it by himself as a single handed passage was still on his bucket list.

The forecasts was not perfect but probably as good as it gets in late November. So André decided to leave Wednesday early morning. We had already done some provisioning on Monday but the rental car had to be returned, the rigg check to be done, the dinghy to be stored and a lift to shore and a place to sleep to be organised for me and the girls. Ed had already offered before to come and get us with the dinghy While André returned the car, we were packing our bags for Switzerland and cleaning up the boat to get it in sailing mode. With the last daylight André got up the mast for the rigg check and then we stored the dinghy on deck. Later Ed came to pick us up. It was very strange to leave André alone for the passage and I was almost as nervous as he was. But I also knew he was gonna be fine.

Ed and Alison offered us to sleep at their place Tuesday night. Wednesday late afternoon Ned would come and pick us up. Luckily Tuesday was the last day of school before Thanksgiving holiday. Traditionally Americans get their Christmas tree after Thanksgiving but Zoe, Nolan and Cabot wanted to share this special event with Amina and Jaël. So that was their plan of the day on Wednesday: get a Christmas tree and decorate it together. I woke up early and Ed was up too as he dad some work to be finished at the boatyard. We checked AIS and saw that André was just a few miles out, maybe just visible from the lighthouse. So Ed gave me a ride. It was a sunny and chilly morning… the billabongs were frozen… definitely time to move south! I spotted Mirabella and had a short talk with André on Whats App… it felt good to hear his voice… next time we will see eacht other in St. Martin… fair winds my Love.

Back at the house Alison was up and we went for a morning walk with their dog Toby. Later that day we drove to the place where they usually choose their christmas tree every year. It took us a while until everyone agreed on one… Ed put the chosen tree on the pickup and home we went to decorate. The kids had a great time to decorate and we felt very blessed to be part of this special moment. Time passed much too quickly and soon it was time to say goodbye.

Ned, Kristin and their kids had come to pick us up and we drove to Brewster. We agreed that the four kids would sleep together in one room as long as everything went well. If they would stay awake too long and not get enough sleep  I would move to the cottage with them. But that was not necessary. It was great to see how well the kids got along with each other. There was not a single fight and they enjoyed each others company. We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with Ned’s parents and his brother. It was a beautiful day and I will never forget how we were welcomed with open arms. It was a warm and friendly atmosphere. André would have loved to meet these lovely people too. And the food was simply delicious. I cannot agree to all those complaints about dry turkey… three different stuffings were served separately and I loved each of them. After being able to share Thanksgiving with Ned’s family I had the idea of teaching Sam and Sophia some traditional Swiss Grittibänz baking and made some Swiss roesti one evening for dinner. These were wonderful days and once again we were very thankful that we finally had made it back to the US. Thank you to all our friends in Portland, Brewster and Mattapoisett. You made our North American loop so special and simply unforgettable. Hopefully we can catch up again one day!

Kristin drove us to Fairhaven on Sunday morning, where our bus for New York would leave from. It was a long bus ride as the traffic was getting more and more dense towards NYC. But finally, with about 1 hour delay we made it. On the way to the subway station we passed a Wagamama restaurant and stopped for some Edamame and fried noodles. After our early dinner we walked on 5th avenue and could catch a glimpse of the spectacular Christmas decorations. Jaël and Amina were blown away… We made it on time to the airport and everything went smooth. Bye bye North America! You have really made our journey complete. It was like coming home – similar clima, culture and nature – we had never felt that close to home before in the last 4 years.

 

2021

Canada (Sep-Nov 2021)

 

 

We had a beautiful sail to Fortune. Everything worked out perfectly. We showed our PCR covid tests from Saint Pierre and got cleared in easily. Annika and Thomas from ASTA arrived at the same time. Just behind the marina there was a small trail and we found a few blueberries, raspberries and black berries… what a treat!

As hurricaine Larry was on his way, we had to leave Fortune early the following day to go West and make it to Grey River. It was a beautiful sunny morning with some foggy spots during the day. The landscape on the South coast of Newfoundland is stunning. We made it into the fjord of Grey River perfectly on time to check our anchorage options for the upcoming stormy days. ASTA and us found both a good spot with plenty of swinging room. We checked again, if everything was well attached or stowed away and were ready for Larry to come.

Everything was fine, it was very windy but we had perfect protection from waves and swell. After two days the wind calmed down and after admiring the mirrorlike water around us we made our way out of the fjord again. On the way out we wanted to stop in Grey River at the ferry dock to do a hike. We were allowed to stay until around 3 p.m. when the next ferry comes. Grey River is one of a couple of outpost villages on the South coast that are only reachable by boat. There is no road connection.

We had a chat with some locals at the dock. One of them was Clive, a very friendly guy. Luckily he repeated most sentences about three times, so we could understand about half of it. He had a very strong dialect which we found quite difficult to understand. We asked about how they make their living in such a remote place. Especially the winter season must be very tough. Clive told us that hunting karibous and moose is a very essential part of their daily life here. As there are no moose in Switzerland we asked if moose tastes similar to deer. “I will bring you some moose!” , he said and after five minutes he came back with a frozen 1.5 kg block of moose in a vacum sealed bag! We luckily had some Lindor chocolate in the galley to offer him in return. What a generous gift! We were looking forward to put that moose on the barbeque! “Wear the rubbers for the hike!”, he told us before he left. That was a good advice as the trail was partially wet and muddy from the rain that Larry had brought the previous days.

Annika and Thomas joined us for the hike. Once we had passed the woods we reached the glacier polished hilltops covered with blueberry bushes. From the top there was a beautiful view. We enjoyed a small picnic and picked blueberries for dessert. We arrived back at the ferry dock just on time to leave before the ferry arrived. Our next anchorage was a recommendation from our friends from Little Cloud, Aviron Bay. You anchor in a pool, surrounded by mountains and a stunning waterfall. I think one of the most beautiful anchorages we ever had. The only downside was that the high mountains seemed to accelerate the wind resulting in heavy gusts and a lot of swinging around. But we decided to stay for one night, as the scenery was simply breathtaking. Annika and Thomas preferred to continue to François (our next stop). It was a magical anchorage and we enjoyed the total remoteness and the views especially at sunrise next morning.

Next morning we continued to François. The small floating pontoon was already occupied by ASTA and another boat but we were allowed to go alongside a local fishing boat. The setting of this small village with 64 inhabitants is simply spectacular. Like in Grey River there is no road connection. The village is surrounded by towering mountain cliffs and only accessible by water.

We packed a picnic and got ready for a hike. Annika and Thomas joined us. We wanted to walk the Friar Trail but as a loop. A local guy, showed us the way. We followed first a small trail alongside the bay and then climbed up a steep path following a dry waterfall. When we reached about 200m above sealevel we were in blueberry heaven…. we have never seen as many blueberries before! The landscape up there was spectacular: glacier polished rocks, small blue ponds and green blueberry bushes as far as you can see. After a nice picnic and lots of blueberries we followed the path westward passing some scenic viewpoints where you can look down to the fjord of François. We ended down at the big pond above the village (and picked some more blueberries) and then took the boardwalk down to our boat. We declared this one of the best hikes we have ever done! We rounded off that fantastic day with delicious moose on the barbeque… Newfoundland we love you!

While ASTA decided to move on we wanted to stay a little bit longer in this paradise.  We moved MIRABELLA to the floating pontoon, made a lovely picnic at the pond and hiked up to Charlie’s Lookout and…. of course picked blueberries again… another day in paradise.

Our next destination was Ramea, a small island off the South Coast with about 450 inhabitants. We were allowed to stay at the town pier just behind a fishing boat. There is a beautiful boardwalk leading almost around the whole island. Everyone was very friendly and we enjoyed our time there. We loved the boardwalk and Jaël and Amina had great fun in flying the kites.

On September 22nd we headed back to Halifax as Karin spontaneously decided to visit us there. We moored on one of the floating pontoons at the Waterfront. Jaël, Amina and me walked to the bus station to welcome her and afterwards we had a nice lunch and stroll around the waterfront together. Sunday was very stormy and rainy. We walked in our complete foul weather gear to the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s market. The market was a bit disappointing. People told us that on Saturday it is much better and it had not yet regained its popularity after Covid. Karsten followed a little later with Luca and Lucia. They were back in Canada and it was great to see them again. Due to the lack of the expected food stalls we left the market hungry and stepped in a lovely pizzeria as it just started to rain again. When we arrived back at the boat it was horrible to watch how the boat was jumping at the floating pontoon. A line was just about to be chaved through and we tried our best to avoid any damage. Being all excited about our visitor we did not focus enough on the weather forecast… but luckily it calmed down in the evening.

We did some beautiful hikes with Karin during her stay. One from Lake Micmac to Shubie Park and back, another one on MacNabs Island and the best of the three around Ash lake and Fox lake with stunning scenic views. Time passed much too fast and it was already time to say goodbye again.

 

After Karin’s departure, we decided to sail to Bras d’or Lake on Cape Breton Island together with ARIA. It was a good sail up there and the timing through the locks at St. Peter’s worked out perfectly. We anchored in St. Peter’s and had a stroll around the village. You could easily spend the whole summer in the area of Bras d’or lake and around Cape Breton island as there are many nice anchorages and small villages to discover but with the late opening of the borders we were already late in the season and focused on Baddeck. It is a beautiful little town nestled along the shore of Bras d’or lake. It marks the beginning and the end of the famous Cabot trail (if you are travelling on land, an absolute must). Baddeck is also known for one of it’s most famous summer residants, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.

We arrived late afternoon and had a delicious dinner at the Freight Shed, a lovely restaurant just by the public dock. The next day we visited the Bell museum together with Karsten, Luca and Lucia  and learned all about Alexander Graham Bell and his inventions. Later in the afternoon we checked out the local library. On Saturday morning there was a great Farmers market in town. We had a chat with a Swiss guy selling beautiful wooden chopping boards and he told us where to buy the best Maple sirup. Next to the stall with the chopping boards was a Bavarian guy, who sold handcrafted soaps. Jaël and Amina got curd cheese as a gift on the cheese stall and while we where chatting with the cheesemaker about Gruyère and other Swiss cheese a local guy who knew the cheesemaker joined and started talking about skiing in Switzerland with us. His name was Brock and before saying goodbye he told us we should come to the Lakeside Restaurant this afternoon for some live music. Funny enough that would have been our plan anyway as the nice lady at the tourist office had already recommended this place before. Brock was playing there with his band “the Celtic Cowboys”. When we arrived there later in the afternoon, the place was already full and we had to wait outside until we got a free table. The music was great and after they had finished playing we had a chat with Brock and his wife Nina. He generously offered to give us all (MIRABELLA and ARIA) a lift to get to the Uisge Bàn Falls the next day and in return we invited Nina and him for breakfast on ARIA in the morning.

Next morning (my birthday) we picked up Brock and Nina at the dinghy dock, showed them our boat and then went on ARIA to have breakfast all together. Afterwards, Brock drove us all to the Uisge Ban Falls parking and joined us for the beautiful walk through the colourful woods to the waterfall. We shared a great picnic with homemade focaccia, salami and brownies made by Jaël and André. It was a great afternoon. Later on ARIA Lucia offered me a homemade unbelievably delicious chocolate cake… what a treat!

On the way back to Halifax we stayed in St. Peters for another two nights. We met Xiaolei for dinner and I went for a nice walk with her the following day. In the evening we cooked dinner together in her Air B&B.

Back in Halifax we anchored near the Armdale Yacht Club. There was a nice sailors community in the marina and as we parked our dinghy there we got to know a bunch of really nice people. Some local couples and families enjoyed their last weekends on the boat before hauling out for the winter or moving to the bubbly dock, where it does not freeze. So on the weekends Jaël and Amina always found other kids to play with and André and me got invited to sundowners and lovely get togethers. Nicolas from SELKIE, a boat we had met during our stay in Antigua, sent André the contacts of the pre-owners of their boat, who lived now in Halifax. The sailing world is very small… you always meet people, who have connections to the places you go. Angela and Eric had sold SELKIE to Maggie & Nicolas and lived now with their kids Eliana, Dorian and Anneka within walking distance to the public dinghy dock just behind our anchorage. They invited us for dinner and to our kid’s great delight they foster kittens until they are old enough to get adopted. So cute! Jaël and Amina would have loved to take one on the boat!!! Eliana was about the same age as Jaël so they got along pretty well.  It was a wonderful evening and we enjoyed the company. We felt very much at home in Halifax surrounded by all these friendly people.

Together with Xiaolei and Karsten we had a great day in Peggy’s Cove. The coastline there is of exceptional beauty and reminded me of Newfoundland. We walked from the SR 111 memorial to the lighthouse and back. On another day Xiaolei, André, Lucia, Luca and our kids made the Bluff Wilderness hiking trail. It was an overcast day but still very beautiful with the colorful leaves. Autumn was one of the things I missed during our travel. To explore Canada in this beautiful season made me extremely happy and filled me with joy and gratitude.

The days were still beautiful and sunny but towards end of October the nights were getting chilly though. We still wanted to visit our friends in Portland and Cape Cod on the way South but the US borders did not open yet. So it was getting really late. Sometimes we thought that maybe we should just take the next weather window and pull through to Bermuda. But Jaël and Amina of course insisted and said that visiting their friends in Cape Cod was not negotiable … and of course we wanted to visit them too but the good season to sail South of course was slowly but surely over.

While waiting  for the US borders to open we enjoyed Halifax. Amina and Jaël got all excited about the crazy Halloween decorations and Jaël was looking forward to celebrate her birthday for the first time in a country where Halloween is really something that almost everyone celebrates. After a long period of beautiful weather there was    a storm and torrential rain forecasted for the 31st of October…. so we decided to go bowling with Karsten, Xiaolei (who was back in Halifax in an Air B&B), Lucia and Luca. Xiaolei picked us up with her car and drove us all to the bowling center. It was good fun and we probably made the best out of this really rainy day. After the bowling we drove to Xiaolei’s Air B&B and cooked dinner all together. The weather calmed down right on time for the trick or treat tour in the neighbourhood of our dinghy dock. Jaël and Amina came back all happy and excited about the spooky decorations, their bags filled with sweets. What a fabulous birthday that was!

Finally it looked like the US borders would open on Monday, the 8th of November! To renew our US Visa we had to cross the border on land first (without the boat). Then we would have to go back to Canada (entering Canada requires a PCR Covid Test not older than 72hours) and sail with MIRABELLA to the US.  Campobello Island in the Bay of Fundy seemed like the perfect place for our endeavor. It belongs to Canada and is connected to Lubeck, Maine by a bridge. The Canadian and US anchorage are just a few miles apart. The only problem is, where to get a PCR Test… certainly not in Campobello island as it is a very small place with about 870 inhabitants. After long discussions Captain’s masterplan was the following: Karsten and André will get a PCR test in Halifax, when André gets back from the test we will leave, arrival in Campobello Island will be Sunday, Monday early morning we will cross the border and get our visas. André and Karsten will cross the border back to Canada with their PCR tests (by that time not older than 72 hours) and move the boats to the Lubeck anchorage. We will wait in Lubeck until the captain has cleared in in Lubeck with MIRABELLA and then can go back to the boat.  Quite tricky to get not only the weather window right but also to coordinate it with the PCR test. But yes, it looked like it could all work out if we leave on Friday, the 5th of November. So it was time to say goodbye…. Thank you Rob and Bettyann, Karen & Dylan, Angela & Eric, Sam & Fabian for your great hospitality! You made Halifax very special! Hopefully we will return someday!

 

It all went very well. We left Halifax after André had done the PCR Test and arrived in Campobello island on Sunday morning. There was no dinghy dock close to the border so we had to park the dinghy at Welshpool Landing. It would be about a 50 min. walk to the bridge. But we were curious to see the bridge, where we wanted to cross the border the following morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day – perfect for a walk. After about 500m we crossed a lady and greeted her. She greeted us back and asked us if we had arrived with that blue sailing boat, that is anchored in the bay. We answered yes and she explained, that she can see our boat from her kitchen window, that is why she noticed us.  Her name was Mary. As there are not a lot of boats that time of the year, she was very curious where we came from and where we were planning to go. We explained her why we were here and she generously offered us a lift to the border at 8 o’clock the following morning. She asked us to stop at her house on the way back to exchange phone numbers and confirm the time again.

We headed of towards the border on a beautiful walk through the woods and stopped at Mary’s house on our way back later in the afternoon. She had her sister in law over and both of them where very excited, to hear about our travel. We spontaneously invited them for an afternoon coffee on our boat. They enjoyed the dinghy ride and Jaël and Amina gave them a boat tour.

Monday 8’clock in the morning we parked our dinghy at Welshpool Landing and Mary was already waiting for us. She drove us to the border and we walked over the bridge. About half an hour later we got our visas in our passport… hurray!!! Jaël, Amina and me had a look around  in town if there was somewhere a coffeeshop. The  only coffee I had googled was unfortunately closed a couple of days for renovation works but luckily we found a souvenir shop that had a  beautiful terrasse on the river and served coffee and hot chocolate. In the meantime André walked back over the bridge and passed the Canadian border again to go and get MIRABELLA. After anchoring in Lubec, André cleared the boat in at the customs. Done! We were back in the US. Thank you Canada for these unforgettable two months.

2022

A pinch of Halifax and beautiful Saint Pierre et Miquelon (Aug/Sep 2021)

 

We arrived in Halifax late afternoon after a pleasant passage. To our relief we encountered no lobster pots after passing the Canadian border. We decided to have some dinner first and anchored near Mc Nabs Island. A few hours later ARIA arrived too.

We were not sure if we should contact the border control yet or wait until morning but at some point André decided to call them. First they seemed very relaxed and wanted us to come over to the waterfront the next morning but as soon as they realized that we were not US residents they wanted us to come over right away. We told them that we will be there at the waterfront in one hour.

It was about 10 pm when we moored at one of the floating pontoons at the Halifax waterfront. No one showed up… we could watch the people at the waterfront enjoying the night and taking selfies. After endless hours of waiting two officers showed up. They were friendly but determined and explained us that the borders are open for US residents only but of course they would allow us to provision and to wait for a good weather window to move on.

So we prepared for plan B which was sailing to the two small French islands Saint Pierre et Miquelon, southwest of Newfoundland. Like Reunion Island in the previous year the French will save us once again… After the first day, no one checked on us again and we split the provisioning in several tours so that everyone could have a stroll. Karsten had also moved over to the waterfront and as he had a flight ticket to Switzerland they allowed him to stay on the boat and wait for the flight. Lucia had to do a school exam back home. We would meet them again in Halifax in September when hopefully Canada will open his border to Europeans as well.

We left for SPM on Thursday. The wind was perfect but there was a lot of fog. Thick fog was something we had not experienced yet in that way. We were sailing for two days in fog and did not see anything at all. Thanks good we have a radar, otherwise this would have been very scary. Just before St. Pierre the fog lifted and the sun came out. It was a beautiful arriving.

The harbourmaster advised us where to go and took our lines. Right after that he asked us about our Covid tests… because boats with no test would get a 700 Euro fine per person. We still had our pcr tests from the US and as the Canadians did not let us in, we officially came from the US with a short stop (but no entry) in Halifax. Luckily the French do not ask tests for kids younger than 12. So there we were. We could stay at the dock for free and the sailing school was just a few steps away. The harbourmaster explained us that maybe the local television would come the next days as they were always curious about new boats in the harbour. That sounded familiar to us… we all remembered the Réunion news channel very well.

It was Saturday afternoon and we got ready to have a first look around in the village. As we walked past the townhall we heard some noise… people clapping hands… it sounded like some party or festival. We followed the noise and came to a big orange red wall ” le fronton” they call it. There were two teams of two players playing against each other ” la pelote”. It is a game that the Basque people brought to the island. The first settlers were Basque, Norman and Breton fishermen in times when cod fishing was a big industry on this archipel. The flags of the Basque, Britanny and Normandy are still represented in the local SPM flag.

The festival “La fête des basques” had started the beginning of the week and would end on Sunday. These were now the last two days with the finals in the pelote turnament and Basquue folk dances and games. Perfect timing for us to see that part of the local culture. We ate some delicious risotto and basque sweets at a food stall. Of course we would came again on Sunday afternoon to see the games of “force des basques” and the final of the pelote turnament. It was great fun! Several teams played against each other to proof their skills in sawing a tree stump, throwing hay stacks over a high line or carrying heavy jerrycans as long as possible and so on. The whole village seemed to be there to cheer the teams. What a great event and fun beginning of our stay in St. Pierre.

On Monday morning the television team came to ask for an interview and it was broadcasted the same day in the evening journal. Two days later we had a friendly visit of Emilie. She had seen us on television and was curious to see the boat. Her daughter Lilia was 5 years old and went to the sailing course for the small kids. Emiliee’s husband Guillaume worked for the French marine. He had already worked in a lot of different places, like the Caribbean, French Polynesia and before coming to St. Pierre they had lived in La Réunion for three years because of his job. With our love for this beautiful island in common we connected very quickly and arranged to do a picnic together on the weekend.

Amina would have loved to join the same sailing course as Lilia but it was unfortunately fully booked. Where as Jaël was able to join the optimist course Thursday and Friday and the whole following week. But first she had to proof that she can swim… on Wednesday afternoon they took her to the étang where the sail school had their sup and windsurf classes . The water temperature there was a bit warmer than in the sea. The instructor quickly saw that she could swim, so she was welcome to start sail class the following day.

Jaël loved the sailing course. It was the perfect setting anyway. She could jump off our boat and just walk over to the sailing school. The team there was extremly friendly, motivated, well organized and great with the kids. Amina always accompanied Jaël in the morning in order to play with the other kids before the class and towards the end of the class she would hang around there, hoping she would also get a chance to climb up the mast and ring the bell. And she did! They let her climb up too and she was so happy!

After one week, Annika and Thomas from ASTA arrived. We had not met them in Maine as they where always a bit ahead of us but we had been in touch with them on whats app. They had also tried their luck in Halifax but were not let into Canada either. So Saint Pierre et Miquelon was also their Plan B. It was great to see them again.

Our days were filled with boat schooling and exploring the island on beautiful hikes. Blueberry season had already started…. hmmmm… delicious! Some afternoons Jaël and Amina went to the scooter park by themselves and they enjoyed their independence. They even walked to Emelie’s house to play with Lilia one afternoon. Saint Pierre is a very safe place. There is hardly any crime and people don’t even lock their houses.

We felt very at home and had also found our favourite restaurant ” le petit gravier”. It does not look very special from the outside, you can barely notice the restaurant sign, but what a surprise when you made it through the ” tambour”. You will find yourself in a beautiful restaurant with a very nice interieur. They serve French cuisine with a local touch… we can highly recommend!

These “tambours d’entrée”are a typical feature of the houses in St. Pierre. It is a small enclosed porch projecting out into the street. This has the practical effect of allowing everyone to get their wet gear off before going inside. The town of St. Pierre is packed closely around the main harbour in small colourful houses. Most houses date from the first part of the 20th century, after a series of fires destroyed the old 19th century town. St. Pierre had a burst of prosperity in the 1920s, when it was the base for smuggling liquor to the east coast of the US during prohibition. There are even a few houses built from the discarded whisky cases. Since the collapse of the cod fishery SPM largely depends on subsidies from Metropolitan France.

The signs of the ancient cod fishing industry are still very present though. On Île aux Marins, the small island close to the main harbour, there is a beautiful museum built in several historical buildings, where you can learn more about the life on the archipel these times. There is also a group of people “les Zigotos” who would like to preserve the heritage of the traditional fisherboats called “les doris”. Jean-Marc and his friends are happy to welcome people in their small museum and sometimes they have live music and small events at their boatshed. We were invited to go rowing in one of these doris on a afternoon…. not so easy… they could stack these boats on a bigger boat and deployed them at the fishing grounds… that must have been tough work for these brave fishermen to be out there in these small boats in rough weather.

As Miquelon has not many protected anchorages you have to pick a good weather window to go there. We missed that oportunity because of Jaël’s sailing classes. But so we enjoyed St. Pierre even more. On Sunday the 5th September there was a charity childrens play day on the football ground near the scooter park. Jaël and Amina were all excited about it and could not wait.
Lilia and Emilie joined us and it was a great event with a lot of fun games for the children and even pony riding to Amina and Jaël’s delight. Later in the afternoon we met another family from la Réunion. Nicolas, the father had a 3 month job as emergency doctor in the hospital in St. Pierre. After that, in December they were planning to travel from Canada to Central America. They had four kids: the oldest Lola, a bit older than Jaël, then Timothey, who had been in the same sailclass as Jaël, another boy called Mahé, a bit younger than Amina and baby Zoë, the cutest little person you can imagine. Nicolas and Méli invited us for dinner the next evening, which unfortunately also was our last evening in St. Pierre before leaving. We spent a wonderful evening together with and the kids had a great time. Of course everyone was sad to leave our friends in St. Pierre.

We left St. Pierre on Tuesday, 7th of September. Finally the Canadian borders will now open for Europeans. Unfortunately the weather forecast also showed hurricaine Larry making his way up North to Saint Pierre and Newfoundland… The plan was to sail to Fortune, which was only a 20 nm trip, clear into Canada their and then sail West to the South coast of Newfoundland. We were planning to hide deep into a river fjord. There we should at least be protected from waves and swell.

Thank you to all the friendly people we met in Saint Pierre, especially Emilie, Guillaume and Lilia. We enjoyed our time on this beautiful and very special place on earth and will keep wonderful memories.

 

2022

Caribbean to Azores in March/April (2022) – how to do it

March/April is very early in the season to sail from the Caribbean to the Azores. We knew that well before we started and yet we had all intention of going this early.
We sold our yacht whilst we were in the Caribbean and had agreed to hand it over to the new owner at the end of June in Italy. We wanted to be in the Mediterranean at the end of April to have as much time as possible in the Med before we finaly say goodbye to our beloved Mirabella.

So we drew up a plan of how to do it early in the season. We would leave the Caribbean in late March and aim more or less directly at Horta. Once we reach the designated ‘waiting’ area we would evaluate the weather forecast and only continue into the ‘High Wind Zone’ if we have a favourable weather forecast. If the forecast is not good enough, we would sail slow or stop.

Key points of our plan to sail across the North Atlantic
Real time screen shot from a friend: Perfectly positioned at the edge of the low. Winds 30kts, gusting 40kts for us. 50-60kts near the Azores.

Why is it more difficult in March/April?

The ideal time to cross from the Caribbean to Europe is in May/June. By then the lows and winterstorms in the North Atlantic are fewer and they don’t go too far south anymore. The Azores high is well estabilshed and keeps the lows up north. Later then June is not ideal cause the Hurrican risk starts to increase.

We split our voyage into three different stages.
1) Leaving the tradewind belt
2) Crossing the center of the high
3) Sailing east north of 30N

Tradewind belt

The first part was no problem but maybe a bit uncomfortable. To leave the trade wind belt we had to sail close hauled against the trade winds and a substantial swell. We found a window where it only took us 36 hours to get out of the tradewinds. It was managable.

Crossing the high

This wasn’t a real big deal either. Luckily Mirabella doesn’t need much wind to move. Once we left the tradewind belt the winds got lighter and we unreefed the sails and switched to the code zero. We managed to sail most of it but for two periods of about 24hours we needed the engine to continue.

Amina, 6, goes for a swim in calm seas

 

We play Monopoly whilst motoring through the center of the high

 

Sailing east north of 30N

Here it started to get interesting. There is a real risk of strong lows tracking across the Atlantic north of 30N. In Winter and well into spring this risk is significantly higher then later in summer.
When one starts in the caribbean, this sailing area is 1000nm and more away. This means there is no real forecast for this area when you leave the caribbean.
Our strategy was to cross the tradewind belt and the center of the high and then decide based on the latest forecast if we shall continue. Before we left I defined that we only cross 32N/40W when we have a acceptable forecast all the way to Horta.

The front arrives, with rain as always

How did it work out?

When we were about 1500nm away from Horta the first forecasts started to indicate that a very powerfull low was about to cross our path. We kept sailing for another two days until we got further clarity about this low. Once it was reasonably certain that the low will come with very strong winds (50kts wind, gusts more then 65kts) we slowed down and ultimately stopped for 3 days. It was very awkward to heave-to in the middle of the Atlanic, 1000nm from anywhere. We did not want to cross 32N 41W before the center of the low had passed.

The kids are hiding below whilst it is blowing hard outside

This strategy worked out perfectly. We kept enough south to avoid the very strong winds and started sailing as soon as the front was near. We experienced 30kts wind with gusts just below 40kts. Strong winds for sure, but nothing dangerous. Without stopping we would have seen 50+kts.

Thanks to todays satellite communication and weather forecasting we have great possibilties of planning and executing save ocean crossings even early in the season. The key is to understand the weather pattern before departure and draw up an action plan for the different possible forecasts.

Hiking in the Azore. Beautiful!
2021

New York to Maine (June-August 2021)

We arrived in Manhasset Bay in the afternoon. It was a beautiful evening and we wanted to meet on land for dinner together with ARIA and LITTLE CLOUD. Andrew and Michelle were already waiting for a table and after a while we got the most beautiful table on the pontoon…. of course the prizes were outstanding too but it is not very often that we go to fancy restaurants and this setting was simply perfect.

The following day we did some provisioning and Little Cloud left already. We were planning to meet them again on Block Island. And we did. Block Island is a place we can highly recommend. It is a peaceful small island with about a 1000 inhabitants, accessible by ferry or private boat. Very close to the dinghy dock there is a bicycle rental place where we could rent a tag along for Amina and a bicycles for André, Jaël and me. We cycled first to the North Lighthouse where we caught up with Little Cloud then had pizza for lunch ) a nice garden restaurant. After lunch we cycled all the way South to see the impressive Mohegan Bluffs. What a great day we had! We all loved it! The following day we wanted to check out the local library with Jaël and Amina. Luca and Lucia joined. As soon as we had arrived in the library, Amina was completely over the moon… the library had an incredible play corner for kids of her age including a diner with a lot of accesories. It was very difficult to get Amina out of the library again. The bar was set high from then on. We visited a couple of libraries since then but the one on Block Island remained Amina’s favourite.

After Block Island the three boats had different plans. LITTLE CLOUD was heading to Boston to visit Michelles family, ARIA wanted to see Newport and we planned to go through the Cape Cod canal and then visit Provincetown. We promised to meet again in Portland.

Provincetown once was known for it’s fishing and whaling industry but now is a colourful holiday destination of the gay and lesbian scene. In the 80ies it was one of the first communities where AIDS patients were treated with humanity and respect. Today you find rainbow flags everywhere and people of every kind living together in peace.

There is a beautiful causeway to walk over to the Wood End Lighthouse and there is a great library very close to the dinghy dock too. It looks like a church from the outside and as soon as you are inside you understand why the building is constructed this way. There is a half-scale replica of the “Rose Dorothea” schooner on the first floor. In August 1907 a cup was offered by Sir Thomas Lipton for a Fisherman’s Race in Massachusetts Bay. Two of the competing schooners were from Provincetown. Despite loosing her fore-topmast in the final leg of the race, the Rose Dorothea won the race and brought the cup to Provincetown. In 1977, as a tribute to the great fishing schooner, construction began in the Heritage Museum, now the Provincetown Public Library.

We enjoyed our days in Provincetown and headed towards Portland as soon as the wind was in our favour. We wanted to pick up our new Lithium batteries. André had ordered them when we were in New York. Our old batteries did not perform very well anymore and it was time to make the move to Lithium. Coming closer to Portland we slowly understood what everyone was saying about Maine and lobster pots… there were already some around Cape Cod but there were definitely more and more towards Portland.

We anchored behind the buoys of Handy Boat and the Portland Yacht Club in Falmouth. Later in the afternoon it was getting very busy around us…. We were in the first row for the Thursday race. The starting point was set very close to our boat. It was great to watch the yachts trying to get the best starting position. There was a blue x-yacht named PHOENIX that of course caught our eyes. 

André picked up the batteries and got rid of the old heavy ones with Karsten’s help. I left the boat on Saturday, 19th of June to meet my 18 year old “godchild” Leyla. After 3 months in Hawaii she was on her way home to Switzerland and we arranged to meet in New York. Meanwhile André was going to install the new batteries. Unfortunately there was some sort of stomach flu going around, which was bad timing… Karsten had got it first and then passed it to his kids. While André was installing the batteries Amina and Jaël had been playing with Luca and Lucia on ARIA so Amina got it Saturday! A day later Jaël got it as well.
Luckily André did not join the flu party this time. There was not a lot I could do for them as I was already in New York when it all started. But I felt very sorry for André for having to deal with two sick girls in addition to the installation of the new batteries. 

It was great to be back in New York. Another two and a half days to explore this incredible city. Saturday afternoon Xiaolei picked me up at the airport. After a city stroll through Central Park and 5th avenue we went for dinner and I could stay in her Air B&B. On Sunday I met Leyla for breakfast in Bryant Park. So fantastic to see her here and explore New York together. After breakfast we left the luggage at the U Hotel 5th Avenue, just two blocks away from the Empire State building. We grabbed a citibike and started our incredible city duathlon. We cycled all the way to Brooklyn, explored the Dumbo area and then cycled and walked all the way back up to the Lincoln Center, had dinner in the Hell’s Kitchen area and walked back to the hotel with a short stopover at Times Square. What a day! Don’t know how many kilometers we had made but it was a lot… we were very tired but very happy! Our flights were both on Monday evening, so we still had most of the day. After a delicious breakfast at the Hudson river we cycled all the way up to 79th Street boat basin and then headed to Central Park. It was a very hot day so we took it a bit slower. After an ice cream stop at Rockefeller Center we walked back to the hotel to get our luggage. We finished our city adventure at Bryant Park, where we had started the day before and then took the metro to Jamaica. These were unforgettable days and I was very glad that I took the opportunity.

When I got back to the Portland Yacht Club it was already about 11pm and the kids were asleep. André picked me up with the dinghy. He had done an incredible job! The batteries were installed and working! Amina had already recovered from the flu but Jaël was still very weak.

On Thursday I went ashore to do some laundry. When André came to pick me up we saw the X-Yacht PHOENIX at the dock. They were picking up crew for the Thursday race again. We walked over and started chatting with them. A very friendly couple, Sean and Kim owned the boat and they invited us to race with them on PHOENIX next Thursday. Doing regattas with Mirabella in Tonga had been a lot of fun but of course you are not pushing the limits when you are racing with your floating home. It is like racing with the breaks on, so we were looking forward to the next Thursday race.
But before, we moved to Yarmouth which was where Andrew’s brother Stephen lived. He had invited us for a real Maine lobster bake and we were all excited about that. Stephen had already prepared the fire at the beach. On top of it he placed an eternit plate and a thick bed of seaweed. On that he put a cheesecloth. On top of that cloth followed first potatoes then lobsters, onions, wet corn cobs, a whole package of eggs, clams and even sausages in a net. He covered all that with a second cheesecloth and covered everything with seaweed again and aluminium foil. So basically the lobster and all the other ingredients get steamed in this package.

When everything was cooked long enough Stephen carefully opened the package and put everything in a wheelbarrow to bring it up to his garden. Before we had quickly built up a party tent with the help of everyone as it had begun to rain. It was a delicious meal in wonderful company. We felt very blessed to be so welcomed by Andrew’s family.

The Thursday race of the following week was moved to Wednesday but then cancelled because of thunderstorms. They rescheduled it for Thursday and André and me were all excited to race with Sean and Kim on PHOENIX with their racing crew but unfortunately there was no wind at all and the race got finally cancelled again. Kim spoiled us with heavenly delicious charcuterie and cheese and we spent a nice evening together with them and their friends. Jaël and Amina were on ARIA in the meantime.

Stephen invited us for the 4th of July parade in his neighbourhood. The color code for the parade was red and blue of course, and after a little brainstorming for ideas together with ARIA we decided to do paint some special T-Shirts. Kim (from PHOENIX) was so kind to drive me to Walmart and some other stores, where I found everything that we needed. We had great fun on ARIA to create our T-Shirts and the result of our efforts was amazing. It was a rainy morning in Yarmouth on the 4th of July, but we made the best of it and were by far the most colorful group. Even our foul weather clothing matched the colour code. Stephen and David had organized coffee with spirit, hot chocolate and donuts. It was a beautiful get together. A neighbour invited us to a live music concert in his barn in the afternoon and we promised to come. Back at Stephen’s place we had a delicious potluck (means: a meal or party to which each of the guests contributes a dish) in his garage. Stephen and David grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, Betsy (Andrew and Stephen’ s sister) brought a delicious salad and garlic bread, we brought focaccia, guacamole, rillette de thon and a chocolate cake it was simply a delicious lunch in great company. In the afternoon we walked over to the neighbour’s barn and enjoyed the live music. It felt so good to dance again and listen to live music after all this lock down period. What a great 4th of July!

We moved over to Falmouth again to invite Kim and Sean for dinner on Mirabella before leaving. They gave us a lot of useful informations and tips where to find the best anchorages and nicest places. We promised to visit them again on our way back South in autumn. Uups… yes I think I forgot to mention that…. we had changed our plan again when we were in New York! Plans of sailors are written in the sand… we had proofed that saying multiple times… As the plan of returning to Europe over Greenland and Norway had become more concrete we realized that coming home in October might not be the best timing for a new start… so we decided to do a Northern loop in summer, then sail back to the Caribbean in autumn and then do an early crossing to Europe end of March beginning of April. So we would be back May/ June.

On the 10th of July we left all these nice people in the Portland area with a firm promise to visit them on our way back South again. With all these islands and bays you have to plan your routing well, as you do not make as much progress. After a ?? mile passage which took us almost the whole day we arrived in “The basin” a beautifully remote anchorage with 360° protection as the entrance is very narrow and with a 90° turn. We went on a beautiful hike there, the Mika trail. The forecast for the next days was not brilliant so we decided to sail to Boothbay, a beautiful coastal town with a nice historic walk to do. That would also be fun when the weather is not so sunny. Stephen and David came up to Boothbay to join LITTLE CLOUD for a short weekend trip and we enjoyed pizza together in a small restaurant in town.