I’m trying something new in this post. Scroll or read to the end – there is a video.
Bequia is part of the Grenadines. It’s called St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We have already reached the southern part of the Caribbean Sea. Only 180 nm remain between us and the next continent – South America. See maps below.
Martinique to Bequia
But before we leave Martinique there is the curse of sailing: boat repairs. We had some rig maintenance ahead of us, plus, both raw water pumps on our Volvo Pentas had failed. The port pump was constantly leaking into the bilge = very bad. The starboard pump was crusted with salt at the bottom of the housing, but not leaking as of yet. We changed both. Good we had the special tools on board to change the pumps. The Admiral learned how to pull a helical gear wheel off with a puller tool. She had to wait decades to convert from a nurse to a boat mechanic – but it finally happened! The seals on the pump’s shaft seem to be the culprits.
The engines have only 850 hours each. The equivalent of 25,000 miles of a car engine and we are now on the third set of pumps. Each cost US$940. Are we being taken for a ride?
Ah yes, and then we found a thick salt crust hidden under the diesel tanks. This must have come from the leaking Goiot emergency escape hatches. Both we replaced 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. The job required half a day of fresh water flushing and cleaning multiple times. But after that and some minor other work we were ready to go the next morning.
(above pictures have captions, if you click through the gallery)
The sail itself was fast and uneventful until St Vincent. 15 hours at sea for 88nm topping 10kts sometimes, but averaging 5.8 kts in the end. During the night, in the wind shadow of St. Vincent, we had an hour no wind and the boat was drifting motionless in circles. We don’t like the engines on at night, but started one diesel to have some control over the boat. It lasted only an hour. After that we were gliding through the night with 2 to 3knots until we came free from the wind cover of the island.
At sunrise we entered Port Elizabeth bay and dropped anchor. These one night trips are the most exhausting ones. Hence, I slept until noon and then dinghied to town to clear in with customs and immigration.
Port Elizabeth – Dinghy Dock
New Family Business?
Bequia is off the beaten track when it comes to tourism. More picturesque, more relaxed, more what you imagine the Caribbean should be without the big resorts humbug. We will come back.
Passages on Lunara always begin with ‘Day 0’, the day before leaving. Day 0 means a lot of work and stress. Most of the time ‘Day 0’ is many days of work and waiting for the right weather window. Our initial plan was to sail to Antigua with a stop in-between on Bermuda – our long-term dream destination. This year’s tropical storm season dragged on in the mid to South Atlantic and lasted longer with many active tropical depressions. The last one, Nicole, was heading up from Florida along the Eastern Seaboard early November. The unpredictability and possibility of tropical depressions convinced us to shorten our trip. We are sailing to the Bahamas! It’s not like we feel as losers after arriving here.
On November 11, we reviewed the weather forecast seriously and decided to leave on the 12th. Weather looked ‘doable’ but timing of where to position the boat at a certain time had to be perfect. A fast moving cold front following us meant strong northerly winds against the Gulf Stream, a combination which will generate a very unpleasant crossing and at worst a dangerous situation in the Gulf Stream. It’s not without reason that this area bears the name ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’. “Over 5,000 ships have sunk in these waters since record-keeping began”.
In the past weeks, we saw many sailboats with an unknown antenna on deck. New electronics always make me curious. It’s called Starlink, a satellite-based internet service. We had heard about it before, but its rumored cost of $5000 per month was ridiculously expensive for the maritime version. What we didn’t know was that a RV (Camper-van) subscription exists which is available for $135 per month 😀. The RV version was allegedly working in coastal waters (which it does!)
We ordered it. Days later, and 15 minutes (!) after opening the package, the system was up and running. Uncomplicated like an Apple product. Download speeds of up to 150Mbps right out of the box – wow! Elon Musk created another game changer.
It’s a great addition to cruising, providing a fast and reliable internet anywhere you are. Super for updating Predictwind’s weather forecasts. Over the old Iridium Satellite system, this could take hours. The only drawback is, we are not untethered anymore; not really off the grid. We’ll see how this thinking evolves.
Further prepping for long distance sailing we hauled out in September. LUNARA was on land at Severn in Hayes VA. Work was okay but there were some issues with the work, with which we are not so happy about. This southern area of the Chesapeake is a wonderfully quiet countryside with marshes. And, if you desire some action you could go to Newport News or Norfolk and you are in a busy city in a short time.
Electrical trouble – again. Honestly, on this subject can’t be much left to do onboard Lunara. Four of our 90Ah Lithium batteries died. They had become completely unbalanced between their cells and the BMS (Battery Management System) refused to switch them on for usage with the inverter or 12V DC bus. During the installation in La Rochelle in France, there was a low of 9V shown in the voltage history. The lithium (LifePo4) batteries should have lasted easily 10 years. The lesson learnt is that a low voltage, under 2.25V per cell, might not kill the battery right away, but definitely shortens its life cycle dramatically.
We added four new 200Ah Victron Lithium batteries for a total capacity of 1160Ah. That should be more than enough. This required rebuilding a new battery rack, as the old batteries had a different form factor. We got a hydraulic crimper to squeeze on the large terminals onto the cable ends. The Admiral and I have become pretty good with electrical stuff, thanks to “YouTube University” and lots of practical experience.
Coming back to leaving Cape Charles. We prepare to leave at 04:00h in the morning. A last weather check at 03:30h in the morning showed a narrowed weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream. As we do not want to be wreck number 5001 at Cape Hatteras, we postponed for another 24 hours.
Day 1 – Sun Nov 13
At 09:00 we left dock with NW winds gusting 25knots blowing right onto the dock. Our boat neighbor, sailing a sister ship of Lunara, helped casting off the lines. In the gusts the boat did not want detach from the dock, but ultimately we made it. We motored through the narrow channel into the Chesapeake and set the large Genoa with no mainsail. There is one more narrow passage ahead of us, a Bridge – Tunnel – Bridge combination (Chesapeake Channel Tunnel). Hence, no mainsail until there.
Hours later we leave the Chesapeake Bay and enter the Atlantic. A large commercial vessel anchorage surprises us in nowhere with many waiting vessels.
The night, we sail along the North Carolina coast in cold choppy waters. The Admirals stomach was protesting. It was chilly. Off watch, I needed two duvets and my sleeping bag to keep warm.
Day 2 – Mon Nov 14 2022 23:50 – 100nm East of Cape Hatteras
We made good progress on our way to the Bahamas. The first 48 hours didn’t feel like keeping my diary up to date. A cold, wet, windy and bumpy ride. Approaching Cape Hatteras the water temperature rose gradually from 18º C to 22º, while the air stayed chilly. Went into Gulf Stream near Cape Hatteras and crossed it late afternoon. Clearly steeper waves of 2 – 3 meter (6 – 9ft) with whitecaps, but no breakers. Water temperature is now a warm 26º while the air temperature needs a while to catch up. Later-on we are back to t-shirt sailing, while hours ago we were curled up in multi-layered clothing.
We are now on a southerly heading, nearly direct to Eleuthera Island. Weather forecast is good, meaning no challenges ahead (I keep my fingers crossed).
The Autopilot heading data disappeared on Ray’s night watch around 02:40h. The autopilot uncoupled. Rebooting the system fixed it. I could not find a cause for this error. (Finger crossing did not help 😞)
Day 3 – Tue Nov 15 2022 16:30 – 400nm north of Eleuthera (Bahamas)
Averaging 8 – 9kts all the time. Wind veered to 110º from the former northern direction. Blowing with 20- 25 knots. Sailing with a first reef in the main and a small staysail. T-shirt weather continues, even though it’s cloudy. Wind is supposed to lighten up into the night. If not, we have to put the 2nd reef into the main.
Wave action was more friendly in the morning – see breakfast photo of our friend Ray.
Now it’s bumpy again, also because we are sailing faster and more upwind into the waves.
We keep ourself busy with Lunara cosmetics – like here with some rigging work.
Day 4 – Wed Nov 16 2022 12:00 noon – 330nm north of Eleuthera (Bahamas)
‘Designer’ summer is back with us. ‘Designer summer’ I call weather, if it is like you would design it, if you could: 26ºC/80ºF, blue sky, some puffy clouds and 15kts wind.
Over night we stayed with the second reef and a staysail. A leftover decision from the 20 – 25kts winds during the afternoon. We were quite slow by now, averaging 4 knots after midnight. At daybreak and watch changeover we set full mainsail and the big genoa and now sail upwind with 6.5kt again. We seem to have some current going against us with 0.4kts. According to the Predictwind ocean current model we have gone some miles too far to the east and hit a small Gulf Stream eddy.
Day 5 Thu Nov 17 2022 03:30h – 260nm north of Eleuthera (Bahamas)
Sunrise or sunset? What is more beautiful? I can’t decide looking at all my photos. What I do know is that on land I love sunsets, while at sea I welcome the sunrise so much more. It’s like a relief that the sun made it back – especially after a moonless night. Sometimes, at sunset ahead of windy nights, I tell her: please come back tomorrow morning. So far that wish was granted.
Weather changed to a tropical character. Otherwise moon and stars with 16kts wind. Wind is supposed to veer into a more favorable direction at daybreak. During the night we were followed by some windy rain squalls. We tried to dodge them with limited success.
Great lunch. galley boss aka the admiral tried the new air-fryer. Yes, we ‘needed’ one – so I was told. I agree now.
Day 6, Fri Nov 18 2022 180nm to Southern tip of Eleuthera
Last night enjoyed on my 0300 to 0700h morning watch a beautiful sunrise.
Day passed by sailing upwind all the time in 15kts wind. Sometimes bumpy, but the galley was still workable.
Cloudy day. Set the Gennaker (colorful sail). Winds are light with 12kts from the north. Hoping to arrive tomorrow early evening (19th)
Late afternoon a gusty cold front passed through, but nothing exceptional.
Our friend Ray kept a diary with very nice pencil sketches. Good way to keep memories. It was his first offshore trip.
Tonight no moon, yet, and a clear starry sky. Looks fabulous. Even the Milky Way is recognizable.
Day 7 – Sat Nov 19 2022 early morning, 35nm to Marina Cape Eleuthera
Rainy, squally, variable winds from a lot to nothing. Earlier morning started one engine to keep the heading. Later quietly sailing again. Looking eagerly forward to the first Caribbean drink in the marina bar
15:30 Marina in sight but still 4nm to go.
Docking was ‘substandard’ for the Horn crew. Boat didn’t touch any pilings or the dock, but it was chaotic. We were probably a little too tired to function in a coordinated fashion.
887nm over ground with a 14989nm total for LUNARA. We are close to the 15000nm mark! This trip, we averaged 6kts with very little engine time except for docking here and leaving Cape Charles. We used our small stay sail and the second reef for most of the first 5 days and then switched to the Gennaker combined with the full mainsail.
What’s next? Some Boat TLC in the marina and touring Eleuthera then heading over to the Exumas. Yesterday, I changed oil on both engines and the generator. Exhausting work in the heat. The engines need to be hot to siphon the oil out. Working in the engine room with 50ºC required pours of cold water over my head from the stern shower to keep working.
In April we got the chance for a Covid-19 vaccination here in Sicily. It was quite a surprise during breakfast on a Sunday morning. There was chatter in the marina that the major hospital in Ragusa was having an ‘Open Vaccination’ day. Meaning anyone could come and get vaccinated. The vaccination type concerned us. Which manufacturer would we get? Regardless, we went to the hospital straightaway and despite our language barrier cleared all the hurdles. The regional authorities of Sicily and Italy pushed hard for a high vaccination rate and were so kind to vaccinate also non residents like us (for free!).
We waited three months in Marina di Ragusa for our second shot, scheduled for early July. The city of Ragusa had established a vaccination center in an unused Basketball Court. Luckily this time, we could choose and got the Pfizer vaccination
The last days before departure and still some repairs left.
Damaged 14mm Shroud near mast top. Was accidentally sheared twice during production. Requires replacement. We were lucky it held up so long. Was a long process to get it replaced.
Misaligned mainsail mast track high up in the mast. Not a straightforward repair as the drill holes were not centered. This defect destroyed many batten cars 🙁
Standard Reefing set-up chafes and damages the luff of the mainsail. Installed very different setup for all three reefs. Works much better now.
Our rudder wheels are hard to turn. One of the rudder cable guide wheels is not moving freely. We have a clue now which one it is. (Not this one). These wheels are hard to access behind walls in cramped locations. Will work on this in Carloforte
Weight and Balance. Our Nautitech has large usable storage spaces forward in the bows. It became natural to store things there until we found the boat had become nose heavy. Not good for sailing performance. We had to move a lot of weight aft. Our second anchor, chains, heavy ropes, tools and more. Distributing the lot in the bilges was not as straight forward as it sounds. Every bilge segment has sensitive stuff installed. Thruhulls, depth-sounder sensors etc.
Extricating all the heavy stuff and moving it to their new locations on the boat was exhausting in the hot and humid weather. In the end we got it all done plus ticked off all the to-do items on our seaworthiness task list.
Saturday July 10 we checked out of the marina and said good bye to the marina staff.
At 12:25 we cast off the lines for our destination Carloforte. We have 3 nights at sea ahead of us. For whatever reasons nights on sea always count more than the days. Probably a little bit because of the sleep deprivation, but nights sometimes generate uncomfortable feelings. Especially dark nights with no moon and clouds. Those nights can be eery.
TheWeather looks good.
Heading west from Sicily in summertime is a compromise between sailing and motoring. Like all sailors we don’t like sailing long stretches upwind. We chose an upwind leg close along the southern shores of Sicily followed 36 hours later with the crossing from Sicily to Sardinia. The forecast had a light southerly wind position for a nice beam reach to Sardinia (Stop dreaming captain!!). In reality we had the upwind sail which was actually quite nice followed by variable and calm winds.
Back to the start. It is hot on the water. We keep the AC running until late night. Makes the cabin feel like a luxury hotel foyer. You come inside from the heat and a wonderful cool chill surrounds you.
With the weight balance of the boat shifted towards its center, the upwind performance improved a lot. At a true wind angle of 50-55° (TWA) and wind speeds around 20kts the boat sailed 8 knots. Waves were 1 meter or less. We experienced way less slamming because of the lighter bows. We were happy with the ride and the performance of the boat. We could sail angles up top 45º true at lower speeds naturally. The VMG remained nearly the same. Sailing more directly into waves was less comfortable, hence, we staid with the 50 to 55º angles.
Clearly the boat does not like a nose heavy trim. (No boat likes that)
A 45ft monohull following us could not keep up with us upwind. Admittedly their sails were not trimmed very well. It seems we did well balancing our boat.
The first large bank we passed around is called Banco ‘Terribile’. I don’t know how the bank got its name, but probably for a reason. Several shallower large sandbars are on the way there. What looks like so much space on the charts becomes much more crowded out there. At certain wind and current setups one wants to stay clear from the ‘Bancos’. These bars are typically 10m deep but show unruly wave patterns and a lot of fishing vessels on the fringes around. About ‘Banco Terribile’ it is also said that white sharks reproduce in these waters.
The second night we had a very clear sky. Stars without end and easy to see the milky way – fascinating.
Often, late in the night, the fishermen entertain themselves with an unmistakable porn radio show on the VHF Channel 16. This kind of happening appears to be a common thing in these latitudes. Today ‘Ole, Ole’ songs replaced it. Italy must have won the EM soccer championship.
This night is also very warm and pleasant. During the watch, long after midnight, a T-Shirt is enough to keep comfortable.
The Third and last night we arrive at the island shelf of Sardinia.
We tried to time our arrival to Carloforte for around 5am. So we would have some reserve time for delays underway. The weather forecast had predicted strong winds from 10am onwards. We wanted to be in port and docked before that.
We arrived at the island shelf right after nightfall. Ship traffic became heavy and the watch more demanding. Even so visibility in general was good, this night had no moon and full cloud cover. Other vessels could only be detected by their navigation lights. Especially with smaller boats there were few clues for early detection.
The last mile into the port of Carloforte I deemed risky for night entry. The ferries run in after nightfall. But they drive this route many times every day.
There is one way, in between many rocks, marked with a magenta line on the chart. There is limited space to port and starboard. While most of the underwater obstructions are supposedly deeper than our draft, who am I to try and find out if the charts are really accurate. Two black yellow cardinal markers are shown below in the picture. They only exist on the chart. Not on the water.
July 13 0730h Docked in Carloforte. 330nm in 2 days and 19 hours, lots of engine hours and no white sharks.
Ah yes, (waiting) the obligatory docking Prosecco.
Last Saturday, September 7, we arrived safely in Madeira. We docked in the beautiful Quinta do Lorde Marina on the eastern side of the island.
The sail from Lanzarote to Madeira is on a NNW (North North West) heading for about 320nm. Prevailing winds are from the North East with waves coming from the North (mostly North Atlantic swell). Wind-wise the trip was great, wave-wise horrible. We sailed upwind all the time and from day 2 on were slamming into the waves. At a 8 seconds wave period (at best) and 2 -3m wave height it was a constant roller coaster. 8 second wave periods equal 450 waves per hour and maybe 5 or 10% of them are formed such that the boat’s bow lands hard when falling into the trough of the next wave. That’s about every 1.5 minutes. You are constantly prepared, I mean waiting for the next slam. Life onboard becomes a workout like in a gym. You cannot walk, drink coffee, push a button on the chart plotter or do anything else without grabbing a hold or jamming yourself safely between something or sit down. The steering stands are wet. Especially on the lee-side hull, salty spray streams from the bow mixed in with some extra buckets of Atlantic water when the boat hits a bigger wave. Getting up on the forward deck always requires hooking into one of the safety lines and wearing foul weather gear.
Microwaved food is the maximum culinary delight you get in this weather. We prepare special food before we leave. ‘Special’ is such food that still tastes good even when coming lukewarm out of the microwave. Spaghetti with tomato sauce with some meat added or hard boiled eggs are ‘special’. We always make an effort to be well nutritioned and have energy reserves.
Slamming into the waves means a lot of stress for man and material. We had the main sail traveller breaking and after that cold not use this sail anymore. Thank God it happened towards the end of our trip. Twice on this journey we hove-to to fix things. Heaving-to in 2 – 3 meter waves actually worked very well for us. As soon as the boat is not moving forward everything becomes calm and stable. Good for working on the mainsheet system. We will install a bigger traveller system to add working load capacity. Nautitech seems to have undersized the Lewmar traveller cars. Lewmar’s recommendation for the size #2 traveller car, as they are installed on our boat, is to use them for main sails of up to 46sqm size, while we have a 72sqm main sail! In addition, catamarans generate higher dynamic loads on the main sail sheet compared to monohulls. So, they are clearly too weak from my perspective and experience.
Short before night fall on day 1, the Admiral noticed a little bird following us, flying low over the water barely making progress towards us. We slowed down the boat so he/she could catch up.
He soon moved into our main cabin and stayed in a remote corner overnight. We offered water and a variety of food but think he consumed nothing. A land bird 50nm away from the next tiny island ‘Selvagem Grande’ and 150nm from any other land appeared very unusual to us. We later learned that it was a Garden Warbler and some of his Canadian siblings fly distances of 1500nm over open water, nonstop obviously. Next morning the bird briefly entertained the Admiral by sitting on her shoulder. At first sunlight our visitor left.
I think many people, including me, dream of visiting extremely remote islands. As a first thought the Pacific always comes to our mind as the prime location for little islands. It never occurred to me that the Atlantic has many of these little surprise locations too. ‘Salvagem Grande’ lay 50nm to the west from our course and i would have loved to go there. However, in order to visit Salvagem we would have needed pretty calm weather and a special permit from Portuguese authorities to visit this nature preserve.
Remy, our intrepid navigator tries to will us there.
Later, I found a very well written blog by a fellow cruiser who actually sailed there in 2017: Salvagem Grande
Short before sunset we passed a threatening looking squall line on its eastern side but did not encounter any strong winds. The squall line had several fair weather water spouts. I have no experience with water spouts but since they look like tornadoes at their incipient stage I have a lot of respect for them and prefer to be far away. Not more than 45 minutes later we encountered nice weather again.
On the third day 50% of the crew felt really miserable. I was a bit exhausted from long watches and pretty strenuous deck work. Luckily, ship traffic is very sparse en route from the Canaries to Madeira. We have a device onboard called Echomax, which receives radar signals from other vessels and sends them back amplified. The Echomax did not pick-up any radar signals around us for more than 24 hours, even not a far away land radar. Same for the AIS which showed no signals for an even longer time. At maximum range we often see a freighter’s AIS signal 50 miles away on our chart plotter. In this area – nothing. We were truly alone out there. So we kept a relaxed watch cycle requiring a 360º visual scan and sail check 10 times per hour or every 6 minutes during the night. That gives you a little rest in-between and allows to stretch your awake time way beyond the normal 4 hour watch cycle we typically use.
After a long watch the next morning comes and rewards you with a sunrise like this :
Short before dark, on day 3, we arrived in the Quinta do Lorde Marina in Madeira. The approach into the marina looked more narrow than I expected it from the charts and handbook. The fuel dock was non existent. We often go directly to the fuel dock at port entrance as a safe first choice, not because we need fuel. Normally, it’s easy to get there, tie up your boat and figure things out. But a storm some years ago destroyed a lot here including the fuel dock.
The marina entrance had strong gusts pushing us around about every 50 meters as we went further into the marina. The gusts shifted in direction by 180º or so. High cliffs surround the bay in which this marina is built. Catabatic winds fall down this cliff in some spots creating this unusual wind situation. Before entering we had tried to call the marina on VHF radio to get docking instructions without success. Regardless, on the entrance wall was the marinero trying to direct us, but he was very hard to understand in the wind. We simply continued to a space down in the marina where we saw a T-dock with enough maneuvering area to turn the boat if needed. Here, the marinero pointed us to one jetty further down where we nicely docked parallel to it. As so often, when you come into a marina, many of the fellow cruisers were ready on the dock to help us taking the lines. It’s always such a nice gesture and welcome. We checked in at the marina office and saved the formality part for the next work day. After 65 hours being underway we were dog tired but still hungry. We went to the local Captain’s bar, had a wine and a burger. We slept really well and long into the next morning.
Next day was deck cleaning time.
We found this little fellow on the side of one steering stand, sadly too late to help him.
It’s truly beautiful in Madeira!
With appreciation, we often feel like ‘we have arrived’. Madeira, like the Canaries, is one of these magnificent spots where one simply feels good.
Small church in the marina. I personally prefer this simplicity in church architecture over opulence.
View from our first short hike to the north side of the island.
In the coming days we want to tour and discover the island. But right now, we are repairing (again). We partially disassembled the main sail sheeting system and traveller in order to find out how to add strength and order the right parts. Main sheet traveller system
Speaking of ordering parts while on an island. Madeira is an island 600 miles away from Europe in the Atlantic. While fellow cruisers know what I am talking about, others might imagine ordering parts works like Amazon Prime in the US. Hmmm, not.
Most technical parts require very specific information in order to get the right stuff. That means you talk and email a lot with the technical support from the device manufacturers. Then you order from a supplier. Then you have to find the right shipping company. Try to ship by plane a 3 meter main sheet track (10ft). And then, depending on where you are, customs. For example on the Canaries goods could easily get stuck in customs for weeks.
We will handle it all, but more time is spent on things like that, than we ever envisioned.
Speaking of repairs. How did we spend our summer? Aside from having our grandson for many weeks onboard, which was true fun and joy, we had to work on the boat. Here is a sample gallery of our summer projects for you to click through:
Sorry, we had a long hiatus from blogging. We had family and many friends onboard plus the ongoing “technical difficulties” – like always.
We left 04:30 Lanzarote this morning and are heading to Madeira. We hopefully arrive in 3 days. It is a 300nm stretch and winds are not 100% in our favor. However, they are on the low side of our usual sailing, being forecasted to be between 5 and 15 kts. A clear plus not to have a rough sail where the ceilings drop down in the boat 🙁
I will write more about the past months while underway, as many interesting things happened. I’ll close this entry right now as we sailing away from shore and the internet will be gone quickly and then I can’t upload my blog entry anymore.
0700h this morning ASCAR lifted the boat. Some dabs of Antifouling were applied. Back in the water we had one leaking hose on a new thruhull. Was immediately fixed by an ASCAR mechanic. Now in the dock of the Yacht Club in Cartagena.
We are at ASCARS shipyard in Cartagena and despite it’s Saturday, the work continues. Quality of work so far is impressive and their willingness to understand what the customer wants is great here. Management speaks excellent english and is always outside on the yard to inspect the ongoing work on all the boats here. Large and small customers gets treated equally well.
I keep it short this morning as I have to return to the yard soon. These pictures were pre breakfast (mine). They start early here!