Monthly Archives: Wednesday February 29th, 2012

Quiet days in Bayahibe

Not much going on here…. Once again I cleaned the bilge and made a few improvements to the interior of our home. Gui took Pinguin for a test sail. She’s now infected with the virus of Dinghy sailing. Yay !

Tomorrow in the morning we’ll leave for the Isla Saona to spend two or three days there before we’ll separate for a week. And I just found out that the Isla Saona “…is promoted amongst European visitors as the setting for the famous Bounty chocolate bar adverts…” Great !

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Sterling-regulator installed and on to Bayahibe

On our last trip we had to run under engine for an entire day. In cases like these it would be nice if the alternator would fill up all batteries to 100%. But this is ususally not the case. Therefore we installed the new, digital Sterling alternator regulator that will now handle the charging. I installed it together with Bruno before leaving to Bayahibe so we could test it on the way. It works great !!

So now we are in Bayahibe – just five miles east of the marina but it’s much nicer to be at anchor again. Although the village here doesn’t provide much. There is a small shop and a few restaurants, a cyber-cafe (where I’m at, right now) and a dive shop. The beaches are crowded with large skiffs with huge outboard engines. Those drive the tourists to the Isla Saona that’s around the corner. This island will be our next stop. It must be beautiful as every day hundereds of people are going for a trip there.

What else ? Well there are only six days left for Gui and the kids until they leave for Miami. Huh, then I’ll be alone here in this little village – just me and the Rancho Relaxo. Well – could be worse.

We spent a nice afternoon at the beach where we found a palm tree perfect for beginners. Everybody tried to climb and saw how difficult it is. We didn’t even get to half of the height, but still we managed to do a few quite good pictures. Hehehe.

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Carnival in Casa de Campo

While the crew of the Rancho Relaxo is busy washing clothes, putting new cables across the ship, repairing the bathroom door, backing up all laptops…. The harbour is being transformed and guests and employees alike prepare for the carnival show tonight. Not much to write about… Look the pictures:

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Driving a car with five years

Another child’s dream has come true: Today Bruno with his five years drove his own car ! And this he did on streets with traffic and all that.

Well, we aren’t in the capital but still – Hhe drove very well and quite save. The other cars are cautious because the whole area around the marina is a big holiday-village with lots of golf cars driving around. So we got one of these electro-golfcars for ourselves and Bruno squeezed himself behind the stering wheel, replacing the captain and rode with us through the countryside and on the streets of ‘Casa de Campo’.

In the afternoon, Gui called us on the VHF. She left the marina at 04:30h in the morning to go to Santo Domingo where she received her visa for the U.S. (finally !) Thus Bruno drove us back to the marina, we picked up Gui and went to Alto de Chavón where we had a pizza and a beautiful view of the river. Of course he didn’t go straight but found a few ‘shortcuts’ through the field. Hehehe.

Oh .- and Altos de Chavón is actually not a real medieval village but was built in the 80ies. But still very nice.

Ah – and in the morning, the captain once more put on the diaper-shoes and cleaned the bilge. One of my favourite occupations.

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Cleaning the ship and a stroll with Pinguin

Today in the morning as Gui was busy getting everything together for her Visa application, the kids and me were strolling through the marina and looking at a very beautiful ship that’s lying on the next jetty. A beutiful and big schooner with the most amazing stern I’ve seen so far. But how unfortunate – the ship has not been moved in more than four years ! And nobody takes care of it. So it’s rotting away…. Poor thing  – they should give it to us, we could use a little extra space. Hehehe.

And then we were doing something we never did before: We CLEANED the Rancho Relaxo and her tenders ! While most of the boats around us are not sailed but only cleaned, we usually do ot the other way around. We sail a lot and let the spray and the rain do the cleaning. But since the water in this marina has too much chlorine to put it into our tanks, we used it (a LOT of it) to make the deck and cockpit white and shiny again. We also cleaned our two tenders and finally found the little hole where our deflatable has been loosing air the past two weeks.

After that much work we took Bruno’s little ‘Pinguin’ for a ride. We left the marina and went out to sea. But not very far as our destination was the river Chavon which we sailed up for about an hour. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any nice pics as I was busy handling the boat and the two kids at the same time. But it was a lot of fun and both kids enjoyed it very much.

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The cruise to the Dominican Republic

Sorry for the delay… But after three months of anchoring we finally arrived in a marina. And as it is… there’s NO Internet ! Pah ! On pretty much every anchorage we had access to the net using our amazing WLAN antenna – but here, where we actually pay for services like these there isn’t any net available. So now I sit in a bar while Gui and the kids watch a movie in the cinema. Also not too bad.

So here are a few pics. Not too many as there wasn’t much happening during the trip. The kids did some artworks using batting and glue while Gui and me were handling the sails. And this we did quite often. It’s amazing how the Rancho Relaxo changes during a few minutes. Passat sails up, down, Blister to starboard or to port. And the last night we were sailing on the wind. Especially our batteries liked these last hours. The wind generaor was working hard and the energy supply of our ship was filled up during those hours.

Which brings me to the next mood point about that marina: Of course they have different power connectors in the Dominican Republic but why don’t they provide adaptors for us poor european sailors ? Well, the sun is shining every day and the solar panels should do for now.

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Arrived in La Romana, DomRep.

After a wonderful trip of three days and roughly 350 miles we arrived in La Romana. We’ll post more pics and a little story tonight but first, we’ll have a shower and go to town…

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In between Puerto Rico and Dominicana

It’s evening on the Rancho Relaxo of the Seas and the crew is fast asleep. Only the captain is watching for other boats and looks after course and sails. Not much to do – despite a few freighters and a big cruising ship we didn’t see much out on the sea. Funny. I always thought the caribbean would be full of sailing ships but those spend most of their time in marinas and anchorages and while travelling during the night – which we do quite often – we only once saw another sail boat during the past weeks. I don’t understand why all the others only sail during the day – but it must be that they only do short trips and thus there’s no need. But I like it a lot. It’s sooo quiet and one can sit in the cockpit, watch the stars and the glimmer of the phytoplancton in the waves. Also it’s actually easier to spot other boats during the night.

As for our trip – it was interesting because as so often the weather report was totally wrong. We should have had easterly winds most of the time and with a force 4-5. In reality we had it for the first few hours, but had pretty much no wind during the last day. Now that we’ve passed Puerto Rico (Isla Mona is to the starboard side right now), we’ve got wind from north. So we’ve been sailing with passat sails, blister to port and starboard side, genoa and now under main and genoa. Lots of maneuvers these last days… The trip so far has been one of the better ones. The weather was very nice and warm – or rather hot and everybody enjoyed the quiet and smooth sailing so far. – So far… As right now we’re sailing on the wind and it’s getting a little shaky. But that’s only the last night as we expect to arrive in La Romana tomorrow around noon. Yay !

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Nachts in der karibischen See

Schweren Herzens nur konnten wir uns und vor allem die Kinder sich von der SY Express Crusader trennen. Nach nur wenigen Tagen waren Bruno und Viola allerbeste Freunde mit den drei Kindern der argentinischen Familie geworden. Der Abschied war traenenreich und auch fuer die Grossen nicht leicht. Aber irgendwann muessen wir dann doch weiter. Vor allem, da Gui noch ihr Visum fuer die USA braucht und dieses ist ja bekanntlich mit aufwaendigen und recht sinnfreien Prozeduren verbunden. Wir wollten erst am 2.3. in der Dominikanischen Republik sein, doch da Gui’s alter Reisepass (mit gueltigem Visum !) leider nicht mehr auffindbar ist, muessen wir schon ein paar Tage vorher ankommen, um noch zum Konsulat zu kommen.

Wir planten also Gestern um 1730 lokaler Zeit die Ausfahrt aus der Simpsons Bay, doch wider Erwarten macht die Klappbruecke, die uns den Weg in die Freiheit versperrt am Samstag schon um 17h auf. Die Kinder waren noch bei ihren Freunden, als Gui und ich Hals ueber Kopf ankerauf gingen und mit zwei Dinghies im Schlepp und unter Vollgas auf die Bruecke zurasten. Doch schon war die Ampel auf rot und unsere Kinnladen hingen tief. Erst nach einem Anruf via UKW-Funke lichteten sich die Gesichter wieder. Wir muessen den Gegenverkehr abwarten, dann duerfen wir raus. Also doch noch geschafft und kurz vor Sonnenuntergang warfen wir dann den Anker gleich hinter der Bruecke und vor dem Strand. Und das allererste was zu tun war ? Ins Wasser huepfen !! Nach einer Woche in der Lagune ein absoluter Hochgenuss. Dann noch das Schiff startklar gemacht und schnell den Plan geaendert: Nein, heute wollen wir nicht mehr los. Wir fahren morgen frueh ! So haben wir noch gnaz entspannt die Kinder abge holt und sind dann am Morgen nach dem Fruehstueck los.

Tja. Und hier sitze ich nun mal wieder – in meiner Nachtwache, mit der Stirnlampe am Kopf und den Laptop unter den Haenden. Die Sterne funkeln, das Meer leuchtet, Fock und Genua sind ausgebaumt und wir rauschen mit 5-6 Knoten suedlich an St. Coix vorbei. Morgen werden wir Puerto Rico rechts liegen lassen und einen geoerigen Abstand halten – nein, nicht wegen des fehlenden Visums, aber die Insel nimmt uns sonst den Wind weg. So fahren wir einen schoenen grossen Bogen und kommen ca. 360 Meilen spaeter hoffentlich gut in La Romana, DomRep. an.

Alles relaxo auf der Rancho.

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Sint Maarten and onward

We didn’t really arrive in Sint Maarten and we’ve gotta go already. No – that isn’t exactly true. We actually spent a whole week in the Simpsons Bay. But despite the chandleries and other ship suppliers I didn’t see much. We had kids-action, waved Guenther goodbye, bought lots of replacement parts and new stuff for the ship. I think this is one of the best aspects of Sint Maarten – you get pretty much everything. But otherwise the anchorage is rather bad. The water is murky and you wouldn’t wanna swim here which is a real problem. There are mosquitos and loud bars that take your sleep and it’s very expansive compared to Grenada or the Grenadines. The ‘city’ looks very much like the U.S. with everyone riding big cars, MCD, KFC, Subway and all the other big names along the streets. The bay itself is full of gigantic sailing and motorvessels but also many cruisers. Those I cannot really understand. It’s good to make a stopover here to get things done or bought – but why would you stay otherwise ?

So tomorrow we plan to leave. I’ve got to pick up the newly wielded davit and Gui is going to the supermarket but otherwise we’re pretty much set. At 1700 the bridge will open and we’ll leave for the Dominican Republic which is about 360 miles away. So we’re out on the sea for three days and pass the BVIs and Puerto Rico on the way. At last a longer trip again after all that short and exhaustive runs in between the islands.

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Pinguin – our new sailing dinghy

A final breakfast with five kids and then we’ll have some fun: Today we’ve finally got a little wind and we can test our new sailing dinghy !!

As soon as the Nutella buns are swallowed, Bruno and Martín are up in the cockpit with their life vests on. And faster than me they climb down into Pinguin, Bruno’s new dinghy, to look for the best place to be seated. We have a light breeze and because the Simpsons Bay is nearly completely seperated from the sea we have no waves. Perfect test conditions.

Usually the Walker Bay 8 comes with an inflatable tube on the sides to give it more stability. But it’s absurdly high priced and we found an alternative by mounting small fenders all around. Works just as well and gives it a little self-made touch.

The children and the skipper were both thrilled ! The dinghy handles very well under sail and is quite fast even with very little wind. There’s enough room for me and three kids. We’ll see how we do with two grown ups – but it shouldn’t be a problem.

Another plus is that the new dinghy has the perfect size to be lifted into the Davits on the back of the Rancho Relaxo. Our inflatable was both too big and too heavy and thus we had to put it on the foredeck while sailing.  Also new for us: the Pinguin is perfect for rowing ! I was going into town and out a couple of times during the last days and even human-powered, our little friend is quite fast. And my back is very thankful for the new exercise.

But the BEST ? We don’t have to burn fuel if we want to go to town anymore. Also it’s way more stylish to leave the sailboat with a sailing dinghy – isn’t it ?

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Board school, a new sailing dinghy and five happy kids !

A lot has been happening during the last two days. Well what could happen ? We’re on ‘holiday’ on an island – a new beach ? No.

Now that we met the SY Express Crusader again and the 5 kids have spent the last 72 hours (!!) contiuously together, we decided to (maybe) skip the BVIs, stay a little longer in St. Maarten and then sail for the Dominican Republic directly. We net stuff for fishing and the ship as well as do a few little repairs.

But first Bruno wanted to do ‘school’ and as he is more and more interested in small type, Gui got out a magic box containing colored, beautiful letters. With a nice set to touch and move around it’s double the fun and fascination as you turn d, p, q and b around. Transforming a i into a j, a d into a c or whatever. Of course Viola was joining in writing and painting. Both had a lot of fun with it and they immediately recognize and remember because they know that only with the small letters they can really read books. And that’s what both want.

We should do a dedicated post about the school on board sometime. It’s the thing I was most afraid about bevore leaving and it turned out to be completely the opposite of what I would have it imagined. Both kids learn on their way and do it every second of the day. They ask a lot of questions, are interested in metals, volcans, poisenous beasts and things that sting. It’s amazing that sometimes the kids know exactly what’s important for them at a moment. But as I said, that’s something for another post…

Afterwards we gave a name to Bruno’s ‘first command’: PINGUIN. So this is our new crew member. Very handy and fast to row and a funny and thrilling thing to sail. I think I can say that we’ll have a LOT of fun with Pinguin !

The first night, the kids spent on the Express Crusader, the next on the Rancho Relaxo. And as our friends are both switching their work/family role tomorrow, we’ll be seven for one more night. But the kids are a delight ! All are adorable, intelligent and calm and together the five are so in harmony that it’s a real treat. After the breakfast they started paperwork involving drawing, painting, writing and making books and booklets. I had to leave for errands but it continued with yoga, dancing and culiminated, throwing sand at each other on the beach. In the evening the five got a shower aboard, had dinner and went to bed after a movie (with a book and a flashlamp) each. What more could you want as a kid or for a kid ?

Of course Gui also went to bed immediately after the kids. Spending your time watching over five little ones between 3 and 7 years while on a boat or at the beach is something that uses all your senses and a lot of energy. Speaking of – my battery level is also critical. I’ll shut down now for 8 hours to reload.

Have fun everybody !

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Airplanes above our heads

“The idea is to remain in a state of departure, while always arriving. It saves on introductions and goodbyes.” – a quote from my favourite movie Waking Life.

It’s really hard to say good bye to Guenther who’s been with us for two weeks. We had a great time together and the days passed way to fast. So here we are in St. Maarten and we have to say good bye again.

The journey from Barbuda to here was nice downwind sailing again. A real treat after the upwind sailing of the past weeks. During the night we had a guest on Rancho Relaxo: a small seabird circled our home a few times and finally came to a rest on our outboard engine. We arrived at the Simpsons Bay shortly before sunset and sailed into the lagoon at 17:30 when the bridge opened for the last time that day.

Inside the lagoon we met our friends from the SY Express Crusader whom we had been in search for over the past weeks. And when we dinghied Guenther to the airport, we met Armin and Lutz from the SY Jaqueline. Haven’t seen them since Teneriffe. Heh.

The journey to the airport had a second goal: The landing stripe starts directly at the beach where there’s a nice little bar run by three beautiful girls. And this is where plenty of people stay to watch the planes come in or take off. Our friend left with the only 747 on that day and the police came right before take-off to ensure people wouldn’t climb any fences or try other funny things. The blast was enough to send a few towels and caps into the sea but besides that it was mostly just very loud.

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Fitzcarraldo on Barbuda

I already announced it, so here are the photos of the eleven mile beach. Maybe they make the cold weather outside a little more bearable for you.

The beach doesn’t need a description, I guess. So I’ll tell a little of what we did on Barbuda. This island is the complete opposite of Antigua where there’s the high society of sailing. Here on Barbuda theres NOTHING ! There is a hotel on the beach but it’s far off and there’s no village. But we had a todo: We needed to clear out and thus we had to get to Cordington which is seperated by a lagoon.

So what to do ? We all saw the amazing movie Fitzcarraldo and had the splendid idea to take the dinghy and carry it over the beach and into the lagoon on the other side. This was quickly done and despite being a little exhausting it was fun. We should do that more often. Hehehe.

We drove the dinghy about 20 minutes towards Cordington. This village consists of maybe 200 houses and the offices of immigration, customs and the port office were spreaded across the whole ‘town’. So I ran through Cordington in midday’s heat and filled all needed forms. Afterwards we had a cold beer and soon after drove back to where we came from. Same game: 20 minutes ride, 10 minutes to carry the dinghy back to the beach. And then of course an exhaustive bath in the turquoise water.

And that was prettty much all we did on Barbuda. Spending time on the beach, searching for crabs and shells, swim… It would make a great place to have a beach party with friends. Unfortunately ours are all far away or sailing the south of the Caribbean…

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A night in Antigua

The last days were kind of a rush. We were in Antigua, the starting point of all Caribbean sailing and home to the famous English Harbour. This is also where we were at anchor while we were around strolling in between mega yachts.

Quite fascinating the ships that are on display here. Most of them are deserted – only the crews that are cleaning day in and out can be met along the jetties. We had a fun night out and a wonderful dinner at ‘Sun Ra’. We arrived in the middle of the night and left at 04 hours in the morning to arrive in Barbuda when the sun is high up in the sky to see any rocks or whatever on the shallow beaches of that island.

Antigua was a LosLocos-style short trip and we wished we would have had a little more time. But it wasn’t exactly our type of island anyway.

Tomorrow I’ll post pics from Barbuda. You’re not gonna believe – this beach was crayz !

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Arrived in St. Marten

At 0400hrs in the morning, we arrived in Simpson bay, St. Marteen. More later…

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Beach day in The Saints and towards Antigua

‘The Saints’ couldn’t hold us very long. We spent another day at the beach and had a really nice dinner in the little town. Next day we already prepared to leave again. Oh. And I forgot: The windlass was already prepared before breakfast. Guenther wakes up early and instead of idling around, he found the broken cable and replaced it quickly.

We actually do a lot of repairs these days. An electric cable of one of the solar panels was corroded and got replaced, and while I’m writing this, Guenther and Bruno try to glue our outboard engine together. It was broken at the mounting piece and we’ve got a special metal epoxy to fix it.

The Saints are really worth a visit. Nice, small islands with beautiful beaches, lots of goats, chickens and iguanas. But we’d like to visit Barbuda and stop vor a visit in Antigua, the birthplace of sailing in the Caribbean.

The ride towards Antigua wasn’t any special. In the lee of Guadeloupe we didn’t have any wind and had to run under engine but the rest of the trip was quite fast with the wind coming from the east. At four o’clock in the morning we dropped the anchor in English Harbour and ate the remaining cookies, Julia and Oliver made for us. (Thanks ! But next time, we need more. Let Guenther pay for the extra baggage !)

Now we’ll try the dinghy engine to clear in and visit the harbour to take a few pics of the mega yachts that are at anchor here. Maybe we’ll meet Taru and Alex, they should be around here somewhere…

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Up north and difficult anchoring

It was difficult to leave St. Lucia but at sunset we put to sea and sailed up north. Again a day of saiing hard on the wind but this time the angle is not that bad as last time, it’s gonna be a bit faster…

Our friend Guenther is steering the Rancho Relaxo and makes her race through the waves. Soon we’re past St. Lucia and pass Martinique by night. Next day we also pass Dominica.  We would have loved to visit those islands as well but there’s not enough time… Our goal are the Isles Les Saintes just south of Guadeloupe.

In the night we enter the archipelago and thanks to the moonlight and our GPS we manage the passage between the little islands. Soon after we find ourselves in the large bay of Terre de Haut. But the water is quite deep (17-20m) and all the other ships use mooring buoys. We can’t find a free one and decide to drop the anchor.

And that’s where our difficulties start: The water is about 10m and we should put about 40m of anchor chain. But the anchor drags and we’ve got to get it up again. But the windlass suddenly doesn’t work and the captain has to pull up 24kg anchor and 40m of 10mm chain by hand. And it takes another THREE tries until the anchor finally takes hold. We still don’t trust it too much and despite being completely wrecked, I am awake for quite some time to listen for any sound. But everything’s find.

Not so much for our neighbours: During the night, Guenther awaks and sees the neighbour-yacht going adrift. He tries to wake them by using a large light he flashs into their cabin but no one awakes. The ship slowly drifts into the bay…

Next day we take a picture of the SY Twizzle, go to discover the island, eat croissants for breakfast, rent bicycles to to go to a near beach. And that’s what we’re gonna do right NOW.

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At the warm waterfall

Way to fast the days run past. The three days on St. Lucia were amazing and we would have loved to stay a little longer. Also because we so much wanted to see our friends from the SY Tamora and the SY Thor. But we’ve gotta deliver our friend Guenther to St. Maarten where we have to be on the 10.2. and there are plenty of nice islands in between that we also would like to visit. So we hope to meet our friends on the San Blas archipelago in Panama.


The last day in this – probably the most beautiful anchorage we’ve been so far – we spent walking to the near waterfall. What we didn’t know is that the water runs down quite hot and thus we had our first hot shower since…. Well I don’t know.

The hike wasn’t really one. It’s just up the street and then one has to take a little path through the forest. But it was great ! Afterwards we cleaned up the ship ate dinner and prepared for our next trip northwards. – More on that in the next post.

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Climbing the Piton

At 0730h Guenther’s clock is ringing. But I woke up because of Michele’s boat rocking against the Rancho Relaxo. He’ll be back in half an hour to pick us up. Fine. Breakfast.

At 0800 sharp, Michele arrives with our guide Peter. But Pete was out partying yesterday and has (beside other problems) a huge hangover. After walking for 15 minutes we have fear that he’ll break down and send him back. So Guenther and me are walking up without guide – he’s not needed anyway. The way is quite visible and with the climbing he can’t help much.

Rainshowers pour down every couple minutes and the moisture in the air is incredible. The sweat is dripping off my forehead. We are perfectly adjusted for a climbing session: Both of us are wearing bathing shorts and Guenther even has shoes ! I’m walking bare foot. I also brought shoes but wanted to do it Moitessier-style. It’s really nice to feel the ground, the rocks, roots and the wet foilage on the ground.

The piton is about 700m high and at some stages we really had to climb. Because the rain makes the rocks and the ground slippery it sometimes can get a little dangerous but nonethless, we made it to the top. It took us about 2 hours and every minute of it was great ! The view from the top is of course amazing. I called Bruno via VHF but he couldn’t see me from the ship. Despite using a spyglass and me waving the yellow cover of my rucksack.

After climbing down we had a ‘Piton’ at the bar on the beach and Gui picked us up with the Dinghy. We really had a great day ! And maybe tomorrow we’ll all walk together to the waterfalls.

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