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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!
2022

Bermuda April 2021

 

Our arrival in Bermuda went very smooth, although we arrived at night. They are very well organized and talk to you on VHF so loud and clear and in perfectly spoken English that you exactly know what to do and where to go. On most places you have to deal with bad VHF quality and broken English or dialects that are difficult to understand in a place you are not familiar with. In Bermuda there is someone on duty 24 hours. The port authorities checked our documents, the Travel Authorization. They let us stay at the customs dock for the rest of the night and next morning we had to move over and tie up alongside the harbour wall. We just had to wait until health authorities were in the harbour to do our Covid test.

We got our test and a red wristband and were advised that we will be tested again on day 4, day 8 and day 14, if we do not leave until then. Whatever… for us Bermuda was more a functional stop as we wanted to get an appointment at the US embassy to get our US visas. Bad luck though as Bermuda just went into a lock down, shortly after we had left Antigua. So the embassy was closed and it was not clear yet when they would open again… Earliest appointments would be more likely end of May, beginning ofJune….

ARIA had arrived too and we discussed what we should do. André did a lot of research and found a solution, we could apply the ESTA visa. He described the process in detail in a seperate post you can read. It seemed to be our best option so Karsten decided to fly to New York with a one night stay to get the visas and we booked a flight to Atlanta with a two nights stay. We were there to watch ARIA while they were away and when they got back they watched MIRABELLA while we where in Atlanta.

Of course there was also time to explore Bermuda before our flights to the US. It is a beautiful island with some of the most pristine beaches we have ever seen. If you are more into hiking, there is also the Bermuda Railway Trail National Park. Spanning the island from end to end, the railway trail follows  an abandoned railbed that winds through tranquil landscapes and along stunning rocky coastlines. This combination and also the very pleasant clima makes Bermuda a great holiday destination. The only downside is the high prize level which is not very cruiser friendly. Even basic groceries are expensive as everything is flown in. There is no agriculture on the island. If you are aware of that, it is really a great destination.

Everything went well with Karstens flight to New York and we were just about to get ready to fly to Atlanta. We had chosen a good anchorage with a lot of room around and we had stayed there already a night to be sure that everything is gonna be fine, as there was quite some wind forecasted for the next day. André just wanted to quickly ask something at the harbour master office about the checking out procedures (when we are back from Atlanta). When they realized we are going to leave the island, they told him that we can not leave the boat unattended at the anchorage. Sometimes it is not good to wake a sleeping dog… if we would have not told them, nobody ever would have noticed that we are not there. But anyway, André came back quite angry and said they want us to move to the harbour wall…. that was just about two hours before we had to leave for the airport… and it was blowing. Not really an easy thing to do…

We lifted the anchor and moved towards the small harbour. The guy from the marina showed us where he wanted us to go. I asked him if he is sure that it is deep enough there…. he said “Yes,  I think so!”  by that time we already felt that Mirabella was touching the ground….this was just no good! I was getting really angry…we just hit the ground a second time. André reversed and the guy from the marina told us to grab the last buoy…the one really close to that shipwreck which lay there grounded. Honestly we trust our anchor more than some buoys, where we do not know how well they are maintained… We grabbed the buoy and I managed to get one eye over the starboard cleet. Before André could help me to get the second eye over the port cleet it snatched! The line of the buoy was torn apart! André ran back to the helm as the wind was blowing us right into that shipwreck. He managed to pull forward just on time and moved to the anchoring area to anchor in a good spot. That was just a lot of unnecessary stress! Not really what we needed before flying out to Atlanta. But except that hustle before leaving everything worked out perfectly. We got our visas, managed to get a PCR Test on time for our flight back to Bermuda and had a great day in the Aquarium of Atlanta.

After our return to Bermuda we got ourselves ready to leave for New York. It will not be an easy passage as we will have to cross the gulf stream. But the reward will be priceless… this will be another ultimate highlight of our trip. Arriving in New York will be just as unforgettable as arriving in Sydney Harbour. We were really looking forward to that, so let’s go!