We are reversed. We're going back to Aruba. We will be there in about 14 hours. That’s the end of the dream of the Azores. Life on the boat has come to an end for the time being. The hurricane season is starting soon and Sissi has a certain need for repairs.
After the rough night, we noticed that the starboard railing looked kind of weird. Jens found the damage on the eighth day on closer inspection. We cannot sail on with that. We run the risk of losing the mast. The engine hums. By the time the repair is done, it will be too late to try again. Our frustration could hardly be greater. The delicious goulash that simmers on the stove doesn't change that.
I won't be writing very much in the next few days. A lot has to be planned. A lot needs to be clarified. This is not the end of the trip. The trip is only over when Sissi swims on the IJsselmeer again.
In the early afternoon Jens and I drive Sissi to Barcadera to clear out. It has become routine now, the last time was only a good week ago. Then we are free, we set sail and again we sail for the last time along the coast of Aruba, past the hotels and to the California Lighthouse. Then we pull the pods really tight, Sissi has to be as close to the wind as the sails allow. After we have the protection of Aruba behind us, we dig our way through high waves. The wind blows at six to seven wind speeds.
Conditions are rougher than on May 1st. This becomes noticeable after a few hours when Jens says goodbye and asks me to hand him the cleaning bucket. There is a pungent bilge smell throughout the boat, which this time caused the seasickness. Okay, I don't have to cook dinner. I feed on the snacks that are lying around in abundance in the boat. It's getting evening, it's getting dark, it's getting night. The lights of Aruba still shimmer on the horizon.
I notice that the bilge is full. We're on the port bow, we refilled the fresh water tank a few hours ago. If you make the tank too full, the excess liters will run into the bilge. Don't worry, we have enough electricity for the bilge pump. After a few minutes, she tells me with a shuffling noise that the water has been pumped out. Well. The smell also disappears with the water. Note: If the bilge stinks, there is a reason. A general cleaning is due at home.
At 2 a.m. I wake Jens, I have a 10-hour shift behind me. I spent hours setting up the wind pilot and trim the sails. It's been about perfect since midnight. I haven't had to intervene in the controls since midnight. Whenever I sit down in the back to adjust the windpilot, a good load of water comes from the bow over the deck. Really sparkling!
An almost perfect handover. Jens is not completely fit, but he is not completely unfit either. That's enough for the watch. I crawl into my bunk and get a few minutes of sleep. Jens reefs the genoa a little, the click of the winch only slightly penetrates my subconscious. It feels like only a few minutes have passed when the sound of the hand-operated bilge pump penetrates my brain. Sorry?
It's 3 a.m. Jens informs me that the water in the salon is above the floorboards and that the electric bilge pump has failed. He pumps while I jump out of bed and start investigating the cause. I also bypass the tired electric pump fuse in the hope that it will then pump properly again. But she doesn't pump. Jens calls for the bucket again, after a few minutes at the pump he is again firmly in the hand of seasickness. The workout sucks.
At 4 a.m. the water level in the bilge fell by about 20 centimeters. It is definitely not the contents of our water tank, but crystal clear sea water. The inflow must matter. I check all sea valves and the other openings on Sissi through which water could enter. In between I pump again and again until my arms almost fall off. This will be the sore muscles of my life. I decide we'll give ourselves two hours to troubleshoot, otherwise we'll have to return to Aruba. Jens groans his approval.
An hour later I was able to lower the level by a full meter. In the meantime, it occurred to me that in my early past as a boat owner a certain problem had arisen: water ingress through the sea valve of the electric bilge pump when we were sailing on the port bow. A few minutes later the bilge is dry again and the water level is no longer rising rapidly. We don't have to turn back. I take the electric pump out of operation, the sea cock is closed. In an emergency, I can still use the watermaker as an electric pump, it can even process a few liters an hour. Around 7 a.m. it's enough for me. The sun has risen. I'm soaked in sweat, my upper arms are burning. Sailing is definitely a sport. I shower and use it to refill the bilge. Then I let Jens relieve me and find a few hours of rest. Phew We would have gone back to Aruba and put Sissi ashore. Then I would have had to look for a solution for the coming year. We're still on the way, Sissi is swimming, actually we're fine. Now I'm going to make us a goulash.
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!
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.
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!
The last day of our trip. I've signed up in Atlantis for a time slot between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. so the doctor can come to the pier and do a PCR test.
The evening before, shortly before nightfall, we take down the mainsail so that we are not too fast. Plus, it's a bastard job that is better done in daylight. We are good in time. We are doing a shortened night shift because we want to enter the port of Barcadera shortly after 5 a.m. When I hand over to Jens at midnight, everything is still according to plan.
At five o'clock in the morning I get up, the on-board computer shows a bad ... position. We've been sailing practically on the spot for five hours, the wind has turned pretty much to our disadvantage. So we decide to start the engine and run for the last six miles. The engineering work of art from Sindelfingen comes to life with the usual rumble. We take the genoa down, the gearbox does its usual beating when I put the gear into gear. The engine roars when I accelerate. Otherwise nothing happens.
The genoa is back in operation in no time, we would almost have been driven backwards against the only buoy far and wide. Whatever we do - the propeller refuses to cooperate. Getting to Atlantis is more difficult than expected. We have to sail it out to the last meter.
The Barcadera clearing port is informed at 7 a.m. At 8 o'clock it is clear that a dinghy is coming from the marina as a towing aid. At 9 a.m. we made the meeting point, but we didn't reach it until shortly before 11 a.m. We sail back and forth, the wind eases and the current gains the upper hand. Shortly before 11 am, Hans from the Renaissance Marina can finally take us in tow. He tries hard and the 40 hp engine can only barely drag us to the customs pier. Lines over, tie up, wipe sweat from my forehead. 68 miles, but one hour is still missing to the Etmal.
Clearing in was done quickly, the people are friendly and of course the customs officers on board didn't steal anything. At this point it should be over, we are tired and have to sleep. Tomorrow I'll show you some pictures from Havana.