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.
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.
Everything is relative in life. Just a few weeks ago I lamented that we were stuck with various defects in Aruba, that the entry regulations of other countries were preventing us from continuing our journey and that the time would be long. In less than a week, Barbara will be here and the crew is complete. We have a rental car for a week, we will show Barbara Aruba, do a bulk purchase and set sail. It's harder for me than ever.
Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that the number of posts has dropped dramatically. Only a small part of this is due to the fact that there is hardly any news here, and the greater part is due to the fact that the news is not suitable for the blog.
On the Tuesday after Easter I go to get a new V-belt. Soraida knows all the auto parts stores and drives me from one to the next. Unfortunately, that's not enough. I was very happy when I bought the Mercedes car engine when I bought Sissi. The model has been sold millions of times around the world. So I had the hope that I could get spare parts for this engine all over the world, after all, there are many more cars than boats on our planet.
The first stop is at Morgenster. The shop is named after its address, by the way, because the street on which it is located is also called Morgenster. I have the old V-belt with me, the clerk looks in his computer and then disappears into the warehouse. I am optimistic. After half an eternity, the young man comes back and says that he should actually have one, but couldn't find it. Okay, that's the way things are in Aruba. Off to the next store, just across the street.
This business, like so many others, is run by the Chinese. There is no computer here. The boss calls his wife and shows her the fan belt. She knows immediately that she doesn't have this model. It takes less than two minutes. I'm waiting for Soraida, who picks me up again after a few minutes.
In the jR Autocenter, the employee does not use a computer. He notes the number on the V-belt and measures it again to be on the safe side. It starts off well, there is no regretful “no” right away. Nevertheless, the waiting time until the “no” is quite short. Soraida picks me up again and drops me off at the next store.
I can at least order the V-belt from NAPA. He should come by the end of next week.
To be on the safe side, I ask Barbara to get another one in Germany. The good old Mercedes 190 did not make it to Aruba in such large numbers that there would now be a significant number on the island. Aruba is dominated by Japanese cars, with Europeans being the big exception. If the Netherlands had an automobile industry, it would be different, but the car transporters that regularly unload their goods here usually have the Japanese flag blowing in the wind. Incidentally, there is a large selection of V-belts for Volvo Penta or Yanmar engines at Budget Marine.
So I've spent a lot of time on the bus in the last few days and weeks and was able to combine the pleasant with the useful. On the way there are sometimes strange sights, such as this group of goats that have crossed a roundabout and are now walking on the expressway.
Or this funeral: This is where the members of the drag club gather and have brought their racing cars on trailers to pay their last respects to one of their club members. This does not happen without a certain amount of noise, because the motors of the drag racers are in operation and are revved up every now and then.
A little ritual has become common with Jens and me. About once a week we go to the Flor de Oriente, a Dutch restaurant in Oranjestad. They cook very tasty from fresh ingredients and there is not only the usual fast food, which is otherwise very common in Aruba. The taste of the food here is more geared towards European tastes than American tastes.
We can also stroke the cute little kittens in the pile from time to time. They are still very young, but they have super soft fur. If they're not frightened by a falling chair, you can even take them on your lap and stroke them. Sometimes there is also a special kind of encounter.
The Freewinds has often been the topic of the blog. During our last visit to the Flor, these three figures suddenly come running down the street. Inwardly, I think that's really annoying me right now. When I usually see them doing their “work”, they mostly disinfect the tables in the restaurants, then they move on to the next restaurant. I don't want them to disinfect our table, I'm eating. But it doesn't get that far. The three of them position themselves with laser rangefinders and measure the restaurant's terrace. The owner is watching. She was not asked for permission, but neither did she stop the hustle and bustle. The distance between the tables is also measured. Technically, that's not a problem here, because the tables are even further apart than required by the rules. It feels weird though.
In order to be able to spend an undisturbed weekend together with Soraida, I was able to get an apartment through a donkey friend. I prepare dinner on board and package it so that it only needs to be warmed up in a water bath. I'll get us a magic hat because the bus is known on the island as a sore thumb.
With this small, inconspicuous rental car, we can move around Aruba undetected. For Soraida, the passenger seat feels a bit strange. But the oncoming bus drivers do not react to their greetings, which they apparently send fully automatically. We are invisible.
It's going to be a wonderful weekend. It's great to spend a weekend with someone you love.
So I'm traveling for my pleasure. And what is Jens doing during this time? He is feeling well. And he makes sure that our cockpit gets a nice new coat of paint. Otherwise he rides the on-board bike all over the island or puts on his running shoes for evening physical exercise.
Four coats of paint and four coats of varnish should be enough for a long time. The last coat of paint only lasted two years and consisted of two coats of paint and two coats of varnish.
I didn't sleep well last night. A big American fishing boat filled thousands of liters of diesel in the afternoon and then parked next to us all night with the engine running. The air conditioning must be running. I do not like that.
The weather forecast fits perfectly. On Easter Sunday, the wind should decrease by about five knots. In addition, Soraida has two days off, so we arrange a leisurely day trip. On Saturday Jens and I get Sissi ready to go sailing. It's a lot less work than we expected. We've been pretty tidy in the last few weeks, we've always dutifully put the tools and other stuff back where we took them from. So we still benefit from the order that we actually established for the crossing to Guadeloupe.
We get up early on Sunday. Jens takes care of the tarpaulin that provides shade for our cockpit. I just want to check the engine for a moment. Oil level, cooling water, V-belts - the usual check before we leave the port. The experienced reader of this blog knows that an accident will now happen which will prevent us from leaving the port.
Recently we had this little water damage. A fine jet of water sprayed merrily against the engine from the pressurized water pipes. How long it has been like that, I can't say. During the last engine check a month ago, when we removed the mast in Varadero, I didn't notice the problem. But it probably already existed before, I wasn't thorough enough. In any case, the rust is blooming on some of the pulleys.
Shit. It has to be said that way, because the rust has left its marks on the V-belt. We have to put some work into this first. We need a new V-belt and the belt pulleys have to be derusted, otherwise it will be destroyed again immediately.
Fortunately, we have replacements on board, because the auto parts dealers are closed over the Easter holidays. I quickly write a message to Soraida that we will start an hour later. The manual is needed.
I haven't had to change the V-belt yet, so I don't have the necessary knowledge. The process itself is very, very simple and quick. Loosen a screw, carefully relieve the tensioner and then remove the old V-belt. By the way, we have the version with power steering. What normally drives the power steering moves our impeller.
Then I derust the pulleys with a toothbrush and rust remover until they are nice and smooth again and cannot destroy the next V-belt. Then the new belt takes the place of the old one, it is now put under tension with the tensioner and then Jens starts the engine. It will be exciting. Was the repair successful? Can we go out now? The engine starts immediately in the first attempt to start.
The short film gives the answer very clearly, we can't go. The V-belt is just too loose. It can be moved a hand's breadth when the engine is not running. This is too much.
Let's come to the dirty secret of Harald B. from Aurich, from whom I acquired Sissi. When he sold the boat, he also showed me the many spare parts that he still has on board. From air, oil and diesel filters to bilge pumps to the conscious V-belt. The secret is that many of the “new” spare parts are not new at all, but have already left their lives behind. Why he did that? Of course, I can't just blame Harald, I didn't look inside the manufacturer's packaging. My omission.
With regard to the used spare parts, there is no longer any risk, because we have all used them up to the present day. The “new” electric bilge pump immediately acknowledged service with a smoke signal after it was installed. Thanks to Charly von der Chapo, I was able to quickly get another pump last year, which is now doing its job reliably. The “new” air filter for the engine was already used, but looked better than the one that did its job from Holland to Aruba. Barbara will bring us another one from Germany, because so far I have been looking in vain in Aruba. The “new” V-belt goes straight to the bin. I am confident that I will be able to buy two copies in Aruba, Soraida knows all the auto parts dealers. Otherwise we have to wait for Barbara. The “new” anchor lantern caused a popping short circuit when it was first tried and was thrown in the garbage. The “new” impeller was porous and the blades were easy to break off.
I spend the day in the cockpit with Soraida. We enjoy the snacks she brought. In the course of time, my anger at myself disappears. Even if Easter is almost over in Germany - Happy Easter from the Caribbean!
We read the news from Germany about the resignations of more or less corrupt politicians in Aruba with interest. In this blog I would like to point out a message that did not make it into the news:
Somebody here in Aruba told me that when the governor's flag flutters in front of the parliament building it doesn't mean anything good. I've seen her every day since Tuesday. Last Tuesday is the Resigned government, New elections must now be scheduled within three months.
The public prosecutor's office has been investigating the ruling party POR for a few weeks. Community funds are said to have been embezzled. I am curious to see how this will develop. In any case, I'll keep following the news.
All of this is of course a topic of conversation. Topic at the bus stop, topic among the passengers, topic in bars - at least where there are not predominantly tourists. My contribution to such discussions usually comes from my German perspective. Many Arubans believe that their government has leased corruption for itself. But that's not true, unfortunately in my opinion this is a global business model.
I think I've seen the dark t-shirt from this souvenir shop on the street a lot in the last few days. The T-shirt is not a new edition. Could it be that it only recently came to the fore? Perhaps the dealer always has a box in the warehouse in the event of a new scandal.
We have a plan. At last. Nobody can close the Atlantic to us. That is why we are now planning the return trip to Europe from Aruba. Bermuda is currently open, we could make a stop there, just like in the Azores. As always, it all depends on the wind. In the middle to the end of April we get reinforcements from Frankfurt, Barbara will accompany us on the Atlantic crossing. This will enable Jens and me to sleep a few hours longer. Until then we will do a few more work on the boat, mostly painting work.
It's nice to see how the boat becomes a little more beautiful almost every day. The only thing I don't dare to touch is the ceiling paneling of the salon, it's all too crooked and needs to be renewed in Europe. All in good time. In doing so, neither of us ruin each other. Sometimes Jens goes to the beach or I go to the donkeys, sometimes we work on the boat and sometimes we take care of our vacation. Yes, it now feels like vacation sometimes.
I see Soraida almost every day now. So much for that. It feels good, it feels right I look forward to the future. We want to go sailing on Easter Sunday. Jens tells me that his friends no longer believe that I will leave the island at some point. He would probably have to come home by plane. He doesn't have to.
I miss winter, the change of seasons. Aruba offers eternal summer. I've already missed two winters. Solutions can be devised for all other problems.
So while not much is happening here, we have good news from our family. Our parents and sister all received their first vaccinations. In view of the current situation in Germany, that calms us down a lot.
But even here in Aruba, the numbers are rising rapidly. That was last after March 18, a national holiday (“Aruba Flag Day”). Now the Easter holidays are just around the corner and the government has tightened the measures. There is a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for everyone. Restaurants and bars have to close at 9 p.m. After 7 p.m. you are no longer allowed to go to the beach. Only two people are allowed on the road and a maximum of four people are allowed in the boat. In particular, violations of the curfew are punishable by heavy fines. Whether because of the measures or because of the beautiful weather, the daily number of new infections has decreased somewhat in the past few days. At times there were over 100 new cases a day, and we've been under 50 again for a few days.
This has nothing to do with Aruba Flag Day. Sometimes you see this flag in front of the parliament building, it's the governor's flag. It consists of the flag of the Netherlands and the Arubas. Anneke described it to me a while ago. She sees them often because she lives on the same street as the governor. When he's at home, it blows on his doorstep. It is always pulled up where the governor is.
On the way to the supermarket I pass Eagle Beach again. I haven't been there for a long time because Jens has always been shopping by bike for the past few weeks. I prefer to take the bus, then I don't have to drive against the wind on the way back. Actually, the island seems very crowded to me, but the beach shows that the island's infrastructure can withstand a lot more tourists. I can also see it in the fact that not everyone is still going back to work. Edward, for example, is still waiting for his employer to reassign him. Fortunately, there is still government money for such people.
This picture is rare. The two high-rise - uh - cruise ships are on their way. Of course they will come again, but for a day or two the view of the lake is unobstructed.
I sit down at the computer and order things online that we can't get in Aruba or that are too expensive here. They will all find their way in Barbara's luggage. Excess baggage is cheaper, faster and more reliable than transport by post. We have to switch back to the data flat rate for satellite telephones so that we don't become poor. Otherwise almost everything is dry. Time to relax.
Have you recently wondered what the consequences of your actions will be in the future? Acted in good faith to do something right and you really kicked the shit? I had an aha moment yesterday.
Sissi is pretty much ready to go. We still have to fill up, child's play, after all, we are less than 10 meters from the gas station. We don't even have to move the boat to refuel, the hose is long enough. Nothing to hold us in Aruba.
The bus stop is not just a place to wait for the bus. It's also an excellent hub for information, gossip and good coffee. So I stand around and drink a coffee when I am approached by a bus driver. Would I have already registered for the vaccination? No, I say, we tourists don't get a vaccination. I took a close look at the vaccination schedule for Aruba. The vaccine is currently being given to people over the age of 60 or belonging to groups that are at risk from working in hospitals, for example. I am not one of them.
But the bus driver tells me what she heard on the radio. Namely that in Aruba everyone is vaccinated now, even those who are illegally in the country. You just have to register and you will receive an email with the vaccination date. Wow i think. We want to leave Aruba, but with a vaccination it would be much easier to travel. In the evening I'll discuss this with Jens. We agree that we would like to be vaccinated.
So I let Soraida drive me to the authority where you register for the vaccination. I catch the perfect moment, a quarter of an hour before lunch. There is no longer any queue in front of me, I can go straight to the counter. I explain my concern to the clerk (or whatever it's called in this country). She asks me for my passport and looks at the pretty stamps. Basically I can get a vaccination in Aruba, but ...
... I was right in assuming that they don't vaccinate tourists. Now I come back to my opening sentence. If we hadn't gone to Cuba and if we hadn't legalized our status by leaving and re-entering Aruba, at least I would still be illegally in the country. Then I could have an appointment within a few days. I should come back at the end of June when my status changes back to "illegal". Then I could get the vaccination. But at the end of June I'll be on the other side of the Atlantic. In Aruba, everyone is vaccinated except those who are legally in the country as tourists.
In addition, I am trying to get permission from the responsible authorities to enter Guadeloupe. There are much better and cheaper ways to repair our mast there than there is in Aruba. They haven't replied to the email from the day before yesterday, but it was in English. I didn't think about it, Smurf. Today I sent another email afterwards. In French, I can do that. It's just a lot more exhausting, the vocabulary doesn't always come to my mind. I dig in the brain and the English word falls out.
As a little hamster, I have now collected almost all the parts for an engine inspection. The only thing missing is the air filter and a few liters of oil. The oil is a very common mineral 20W-50 oil, so far I have not been able to find it in Aruba. I travel from auto parts shop to auto parts shop. Soraida lets me out today at the shop where she always buys the parts for her bus. They even have my air filter in the computer, one is still in stock. But it was hiding somewhere, after a 15-minute search the seller came back to me empty-handed.
In summary, I have to say that my willingness to leave has never been greater and the possibilities have never been less. You can also cross the Atlantic from Aruba. It's like last March. Little by little, the borders are closing.
Addendum: After only three hours, the cancellation came from Guadeloupe. If you use the right language, you will get an answer.