It's that time again. We are ready to leave Aruba. How many times have I written that now? Jens and I added to the supplies. We are ready. Only the weather is not as nice as it was on the last attempt. There is a lot of wind out there, we will probably be shaken up a lot.
Yesterday evening Soraida was on board with us again. We had a German dinner with bratwurst, fried potatoes and Brussels sprouts. The new farewell doesn't make life easier for either of us.
I walk to the bus stop one last time and see Soraida again. We hug, her colleagues are making stupid jokes again. Should they, I don't care.
With regard to Covid-19, we are leaving a very safe place. A recommendation from me to everyone who is hungry for vacation in Germany: Travel to Aruba. The number of infections is below 100, the so-called 7-day incidence is somewhere around 15. In addition, friendly people and good holiday weather.
The new elections are casting their shadows here. A new government will be elected next month. In the last few days we have been able to enjoy the noise of election campaign events over and over again. The corrupt ruling party is likely to be replaced by the equally corrupt former ruling party and then everyone waits for the next scandal. We don't wait, we fill up Sissi's water tank again.
Life is normal, Dorothy comes back from a fishing trip in the harbor. Other fishermen are waiting for customers for their boat trips. Soraida is waiting for passengers. And Jens and I are waiting for us to land in the Azores at some point.
The first 300 to 400 miles are critical because that is how long Aruba is the closest port. If we've got any further, there will be other emergency landing sites. We call our family one more time, then things get serious.
So, like so often. The boat is fit, we are fit, the wind is fit too. How many times have I written that? Far too often. We'll drive over to Barcadera and clear out.
In the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, we moor at the customs pier in Barcadera at exactly 11:30 p.m. In the afternoon I exchanged emails with Barbara's family doctor, who gave me a preparation that we can use to rebuild it. Soraida was so nice and got it in the afternoon at the pharmacy and given it to the security service in Barcadera. We drive to the jetty and the first line is not really tight when the security guard arrives with the medicine package and hands it over to me. Thank you Soraida!
The following morning I go to the immigration office, where I am chased out again and on board, because we still have to wait for the Covid test before we can clear in. We're coming from Aruba and we're going to Aruba and that's why we need the test now. OK. An hour later, a car from a local clinic arrives and the lady has two tests in her luggage. That makes 125 US$ per test and 120 US$ for the journey to the port. Jens and I can be tested, Barbara is not planned. Another hour later the lady comes back, Barbara is being tested and I can finally clear in, as I am no longer contagious after the test. We only have to pay the travel costs once. Then we drive to the Renaissance Marina and relax for the rest of the day.
Barbara keeps getting her electrolytes. In the evening we can even take a short walk to our local pub and play a round of music bingo. I ask Soraida if she's up for music bingo, but she's too tired. She has been worried about us for the last few days and has not slept well. We didn't win a main prize, but Barbara now has a hard grooves t-shirt.
So far so good. After a few days at sea, we need a few days to regenerate. It has always been like this. Later I wonder what actually went so wrong on our trip that we had to turn around.
Our descent was actually under a good star. The weather forecast promised only 3-4 Beaufort and moderate waves. That’s how it happened. Not even Jens got seasick on the first evening. Even after dinner we were still in good spirits. At midnight I woke Barbara, she was supposed to keep her first midnight watch (under the guidance of Jens and me). For the first time in my life, I saw someone come into the cockpit from below and be overwhelmed by seasickness within five minutes. Usually people get seasick walking down from the cockpit.
I note the time in the logbook. At some point she will go back to bed. I hope for the following morning that she has slept away from the seasickness. This is how Jens always does it and this is how it worked in the other cases of seasickness that I have encountered in my life. Just not with Barbara. She is still among the half-dead the next morning.
We have travel tablets on board that are supposed to help against nausea. We have Elotrans on board, powder for making an electrolyte solution. That is all we have available for the clinical picture. However, the Elotrans acts more like an emetic, it comes back immediately after ingestion. We give Barbara water and try to motivate her to eat and drink. It's difficult, she's in an “I don't care” state. I hope for the following night and for an improvement that does not take place. I am sending Stefan von der Roede Orm an email asking whether he can think of a home remedy and which ports we can call in the Dominican Republic, if any. The answer is the question from the sailing doctors on the Lucky Star why we don't go back to Aruba.
On the third day I make the decision. Barbara's condition has not improved and, in fact, Aruba is the closest port that can be reached, less than 200 miles away, with a comfortable and comfortable tail or half wind. Sissi picks up unexpected speeds. The boat movements change, a hint of improvement in Barbara's condition is visible. We cool the water with which we mix the Elotrans in the refrigerator in order to reduce the disgusting factor of the much too sweet taste. Barbara takes a travel tablet, an hour later we try the first glass of the electrolyte powder. This time it stays inside. Also a second glass. Barbara's condition is improving, but we're running out of Elotrans.
For the first time I pick up the satellite phone and give Dirk, your doctor, a message on the mailbox. After a short time we will be in email contact. I'll get advice on what medication to get in Aruba. When we arrived in Barcadera around midnight the next day, Barbara was sitting cheerfully with us in the cockpit. The worst is over after 65 hours of seasickness.
I perceive seasickness primarily as the illness of others. That's why I underestimated the story. In addition, there was a great desire to take advantage of the favorable weather conditions. Otherwise I would have shortened the suffering faster and turned it around much earlier. The fact that a potentially life-threatening situation could arise was not even on my radar screen at first. Before the next start, the on-board pharmacy will be upgraded a little, I will take seasickness much more seriously in the future. It is not a good idea to want to finish a 3,000 mile trip in this situation. Fortunately, we got out of it well.
As a free bonus, Jens and I are no longer expecting 3 to 4 winds in the coming week, but 5 to 6 winds. Yippie!
Happy 25th birthday, Felix. I prepared this post before we left Aruba, it was supposed to appear today, which it is doing. I just have to rewrite it a little, because after all we are no longer on the ocean, but back in Aruba.
As the last attraction in Aruba, we saved the national park before leaving. We rent a four-wheel drive jeep for the day. With it we drive into the Arikok National Park and straight away over the off-road route to the Conchi natural pool. There we can relax for over an hour before a large group of other tourists shows up.
After swimming, come the caves. We visit the two caves. As with our last visit, the second cave is the nicer one. From one room to the next it goes underground. The individual rooms are nicely lit because the ceiling has collapsed in several places.
Barbara, who bought a new camera a few days ago, is still putting it through its paces. She takes photos enthusiastically and will bring home many beautiful pictures from Aruba.
Even if she comes to Europe with KLM and not with Sissi, she will definitely remember this trip.
In my opinion, the third day of a multi-day or multi-week sea voyage is the worst. You are not yet used to life on board and the movements of the boat at night when you want to sleep. The steps on board are still difficult, the legs are not yet used to the sea. As a result, on the third day you are usually very tired and most activities are difficult. I find it very difficult to make a decision.
Barbara has been severely seasick for more than 40 hours and there is no improvement in sight. We have tried everything, from travel tablets to bananas and biscuits, light foods and and and ... But whatever we try, it doesn’t stay there. This is not a good start to a four-week cruise. There is a risk of dehydration, but she is weak anyway. Our water on board is not suitable for giving minerals to the body, because the watermaker only supplies pure water. Nuts, nibbles and the food that otherwise gives the body what it needs do not want to reach their destination.
What alternatives do we have? Calling at a port in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico would be an option. The problem is that they are all still very far away. Ultimately, there is only one option. We turn around and drive back to Aruba. We can get there in less than two days. All other goals that might be more beneficial for Jens and me are therefore canceled. So we jibe and steer Sissi back in the direction from which we came.
Immediately calm comes into the boat. A course ahead of the wind is always more comfortable and calmer than a course close to the wind. Sissi glides almost noiselessly through the waves. If there wasn't a violent wave every now and then that makes us roll properly, it would feel to me as if we were in port. A look in Barbara's face tells me that maybe Sissi is not lying as calmly as I imagine. The decision was spot on. We pull out the genoa a little more and drive at maximum speed. The navigation computer calculates an arrival time on Tuesday.
During the night the wind freshened up a bit. We sometimes come to a speed of over 7 knots. Of course the current helps a little, but it's a wonderful sailing egg. The boat is so calm that I can hardly wake Jens at the changing of the guard. Only on my third attempt does he get out of his bunk.
In the morning the voices of Barbara and Jens wake me up. She speaks. She speaks more than just a few words. I think that's a good sign. After all, she feels a little better. No, even on the downwind course, sleeping at night did not help to sweep seasickness out of your brain. The decision to turn back was spot on. Around midnight we expect to reach the port of Barcadera again. The swing will end around midnight. As I write these lines, every major wave leads to a groan on the part of Barbara. Fortunately, there are less than 12 hours left.
It is day 2 of our trip. We always count our days from noon to noon on board time when we determine our Etmal. Regular readers of the blog already know that this is the distance covered from noon to noon. So I read the Etmal on the on-board computer and enter it in the logbook. The wind is almost perfect. We sail the toughest possible course close to wind, which is also the toughest course for Sissi and her crew. Since the wind only has three to four winds and the waves are limited, we drive much more comfortably than it was on the way back from Cuba to Aruba. The hatches are watertight, we did a great job of repairing them. Our batteries are bursting with electricity, the water tank is so full that we cannot even burn the excess electricity in the watermaker. The preparation of the vacuumed vegetables is really easy, we are very happy with this strategy. But we are not happy.
First we try all afternoon to get Barbara back on her feet. Seasickness is nasty. It's not just that you just feel bad. Food intake is a problem, and fluid intake is even more of a problem. We keep reminding her that she has to drink. Unfortunately it is still the case that the bucket is a constant companion of Barbara. The only travel sickness remedy available is tablets that dissolve in the stomach. Unfortunately, they don't stay in the stomach long enough. I'm starting to look at the ports of call in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Accordingly, I am also sending a request to Stefan von der Roede Orm, who supports us in matters of weather and other things.
Jens signs off from dinner. He's not doing really well either. So he is 24 hours late by his standards. Usually he's sick the first day and never again. With two sick people on board, I don't really feel well anymore. We're going into the night. I can't really enjoy the great starry sky, I'm worried.
When I check the mail at midnight, Stefan replies with the question, why we don't go back to Aruba. He's right. Aruba is the closest port, even if we have to drive back almost 200 miles to get there. The fact sticks me in the stomach like a knife. The thought is valid and in principle the only correct thought. I sit under the stars and think about how sticky Aruba really is. I hope to see Barbara sitting happily in the cockpit tomorrow morning and that her illness is over.
I wake up at 10:30 in the morning. Barbara is lying in her bed. Jens is fine, he survived his watch. We'll discuss the situation. If it doesn't get better by evening, we'll go back. On the way back to Aruba, the seasickness will probably subside in a few hours, because then we will no longer drive close to the wind, but much more comfortably in front of the wind. In addition, the current plays into our hands, we will be back much faster. I do not want that. Of course, I look forward to seeing Soraida again. But then having to say goodbye within a few days will be a tough number. So we hope that we can get Barbara fit again in the afternoon.
On May 1st we make Sissi ready for departure in the morning. I print out the crew list because I expect to be able to use it when clearing out. It's not fun to enter all the names, dates and, above all, the passport numbers into a form by hand. However, Aruba thwarted my plans because the officials want their own forms to be filled out. So I am allowed to enter the same data in two similar looking forms for immigration and customs. Someone will be able to decipher the scrawl. Around 3 p.m. we leave the port of Barcadera and after a few minutes we set our sails, put the wind vane into operation and are in travel mode. For the next few hours we will drive along the coast of Aruba and then leisurely leave the territorial waters. The wind is not too strong and the waves promise a calm first day.
After sunset I am alone under the starry sky, which is becoming more beautiful by the minute. The sea is reasonably calm, the wind allows us a direct course to our first stopover, the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. We only drive at an average of 4 knots, but that is a good speed with the wind and the countercurrent. A huge bright spot can be seen on the horizon behind us. Even the weakly shining street lights in Aruba cause a lot of light pollution in the night sky. My thoughts fly back to this small, sandy and dusty rock that has become something of a second home to me in the last year. I think of Soraida, whom I had to say goodbye to in the morning for the months to come. I miss her, how I would like to have her on board. But now we have to be patient for the near future.
When Barbara comes into the cockpit at midnight to take on her first night shift, I'm still in good spirits. So far we have got through the night without any problems. But two minutes later she hangs over the empty railing and first empties her stomach. Together we discover that she has not eaten or drank enough during the day. Now we have the trouble. The first travel tablet goes over the railing, the second ends up undigested in the Pütz a little later. Only after a banana and some water does the third tablet stay in there. Barbara can relax a little in the fresh air in the cockpit, I stay awake and take on the first half of her shift, Jens then later the second half.
The swell is shallow and I'm not flying through my bunk. Instead, I get a lot of sleep during the night and don't wake up the next morning until around 10 a.m. I find Jens in the cockpit and Barbara in her bunk. At first glance, it looks like seasickness has been blown away by the wind. Unfortunately, I'm happy too early because she doesn't feel better after waking up. So the main task today is to get Barbara fit again. We're working on it.
It's May 1st. We're done. With the supplies, with the sightseeing program in Aruba and with the nerves. After weeks of preparation and various false starts in different directions, we are now going back to Europe with a stopover in the Azores.
Our tank is full. For the trip from Cuba to Aruba we used about 80 liters of diesel, most of it in the slipstream of Haiti. In Cuba we had already refueled 50 liters from our canisters, which also wanted to be replaced. Since we are leaving on a public holiday, we cannot refuel directly from the petrol pump before departure. The petrol station is closed on Sundays and public holidays. The amount is small and we don't have to drag the canisters far, because we're right next to the gas station.
In addition to the feed for our Mercedes diesel engine, we of course also need feed for ourselves. The question of how best to store fresh vegetables has long been answered in the Caribbean with “in the refrigerator”. At room temperatures around 30 ° C, this stuff goes bad pretty quickly.
To make the food last longer, we have the vacuum device that Jens brought with him in November. So if we're repacking all the vegetables anyway, why shouldn't we cut them into small pieces beforehand and make them ready to cook? In the port, the onions cut much better and the potatoes are also easier to peel.
Little by little the chaos clears. The three of us work non-stop for almost four hours until we have all the fresh food ready for the refrigerator. Now we can hope for fresh food for the next two to three weeks. So far we have only had good experiences with the technology. The things we took with us to Cuba lasted a very long time. Until we have finished them.
So when these lines appear, we have left. At regular intervals, at 12 noon and at midnight on board time, the position on our "Stalking page”Updated. We are sailing a distance of about 3000 miles and will probably need the whole of May for this.
Sissi is ready for a test drive. After all of our repairs and after Jens has painted it beautifully in black and red, we need to put it through its paces. Soraida comes along for the test drive, after all she should get to know Sissi as a sailing boat and not just as a floating apartment.
We have the perfect wind - most of the time. We have the perfect wave, practically none in the lee of Aruba. So Sissi reaches fantastic speeds and we can test all systems on board under real conditions. Everything works as it should. We are happy. I only have to retighten the two rear lower shrouds a little. The rigger told me a few weeks ago that I should do a test sail and that the shrouds might have to be tightened a little.
After six and a half hours of trial sailing, we come back to the port. It's time for fresh pastecci and fish croquettes that Soraida brought with her. They are life-saving, we are all hungry.
We are all happy about the beautiful day and that Sissi is in such good condition. That brings us closer to the departure day. I am sad and happy at the same time.
Today is Friday, the day of German beer. That's why I want to buy a few cans of German beer in the superfood, but apparently they also celebrate this day in Aruba. Wherever there is German beer on the shelf, everything has been swept clean today. This is a pity.
Since Monday we have a new crew member on board, Barbara. Barbara and I have known each other for decades. As a new SKS owner, she doesn't miss the chance to take on the night shift for us and make sure that we get enough sleep on our Atlantic crossing. When she arrived on board on Monday, she fell into a deep sleep after ten minutes. The journey from Frankfurt via Amsterdam to Aruba was exhausting.
We start the tourist program on Tuesday. We drive all over the island with the rental car that we have for a week. We pass a flowering Divi Divi tree on the road to San Nicolas. You don't see them that often, the flowers look very nice.
The sightseeing program will continue until Sunday. We tackle two or three items on the program every day. This also gives us the opportunity to repeat one or the other program point if something has gone wrong - for example with the photos. That's a very funny story ...
In Germany, many shops are currently closed, including the specialty shops where you can buy a camera. That's why Barbara flew to Aruba only equipped with her phone. We suggested she buy the camera here, after all, there is now a lot of space in her luggage. She had to carry a fair amount of spare parts to Aruba. After a short walk in Oranjestad, Barbara was able to purchase her new camera.
What better way to take your new camera for a test drive than photographing the beautiful pictures that have been painted on the walls of so many houses in San Nicolas. There are different lighting situations, sometimes the viewing angles are not so easy and finally the very mundane operation of the new device.
Now I know your new camera very well. Somehow it is possible to activate any camera functions while using the nose and to change important settings for exposure. At some point, Barbara realizes that many of the photos are overexposed. A few minutes later, the camera suddenly shoots a series of images that turn out to be series of exposures. A few minutes later I finally find out how to turn it off again. Funny. My ten-year-old Nikon looks pretty old at times. However, the lens can still keep up.
We end the excursion to San Nicolas on the beach of Mangel Halto. This is a very beautiful beach, on which only a few tourists, but all the more locals. Fortunately, the camera stays in the car, because the current in Mangel Halto is so strong that it pulls Barbara's feet away. That ends with very wet clothes. Of course, this moment is not documented.
Of course, we also go into the water on purpose. One of my favorites is the natural pool at the gold mine ruins. As always, the sea outside the pool is rough. And as always, the pool is good to endure.
The other visitors disappear after a few minutes. Most of them simply don't have enough time because they are part of a guided tour or have to return the rental car straight away. This allows us to relax completely and spend a nice hour and a half. Because if sailors have one thing, it's time.
The sailor has time and the sailor doesn't. My time together with Soraida is coming to an end for the time being. That makes Soraida sad and it doesn't make me happier either. On the one hand, the spirit of optimism grows, the joy of the sailing days and the fact that we will get a little closer to home every day. On the other hand, we both get sentimental when we think about the long separation ahead. It will be half a year before we can meet again.
Jens cut this little video from our visit to the pool.
What is the best way to start this post? It's best to start with my new habits. After morning coffee, I usually go to the bus stop and ride a few laps with Soraida until she leaves for work. On each lap we pass the vaccination center in Santa Cruz and see the long lines of people waiting for their vaccinations. Passengers are almost always waiting at the nearest bus stop, who proudly tell as soon as they board that they have now received their vaccinations. What strikes me in particular is that these people all get on the bus with a smile under their mask, that they have a particularly happy conversation. Sometimes people just walk past the bus and proudly point to the plaster on their upper arm. Around 30 percent of the local population are now vaccinated.
Almost two weeks ago I was looking for a new V-belt and was able to order one from Napa. Although I had the promise that the delivery would take place by the end of next week, I also ordered one in Germany that Barbara will bring with me. I've been in Aruba too long to bet a euro on appointments here. It's Friday, and so it's the end of the week when I drive past Napa with Soraida. In front of the door there is actually a delivery truck with parts, I go in and ask. You still have to check the delivery and call me when my two V-belts come with you.
I'm back on the road quickly and after a few minutes Soraida collects me again. The voltage increases. Will Germany or Aruba win? The delivery date for the V-belt from Germany is Monday, 5:30 p.m. when KLM lands from Amsterdam.
While I ride another lap in the bus, a forklift moves into position in the parking lot and unloads the van.
Soraida is closing time. I walk a little more down Main Street, then I stroll to the boat. As soon as I have told Jens the state of affairs, my Aruba phone rings. Napa is on the line. The two V-belts ordered were included in the delivery. After a moment's thought, I walk to the bus stop and let myself be driven to Napa. Now the things are there, now I can install one of them too.
I am now one of the happy people in Aruba too. I didn't get a vaccination, but I got an important spare part. I stand at the bus stop and stare a little at the sky. It feels unreal to me that after such a long time I will be leaving Aruba for quite a while. Everything here feels so familiar, meanwhile Frankfurt is very far from me. Sailing, spending a few weeks on the water, that too feels strange. Hopefully it won't be long before I get used to it again. How will it feel to have Aruba far away in the wake?
In any case, the new V-belt is installed after a few minutes. After starting the engine it looks a lot better, it looks like it should. I noticed a small leak in the external cooling water circuit, so I retightened all hose clamps. Then this leak will also be eliminated and the engine is ready for the return journey.