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.
Corona was not inspiring yours truly to write much. Ok, not at all. Sorry!
We drowned our sorrows this winter in Sicily, Italy with Prosecco. Well, it was not as extreme as it sounds. The given circumstances were a quasi quarantine in the widest sense of the meaning of the word. We carefully managed our social life, tasted and tested various Prosecco’s, Coppa (kind of ham) and other Italian delicacies. We needed a while getting used to a new variety of foods offered in Italy. Initially, we had ‘insisted’ on our tried and true recipes, but finding the ingredients for foreign recipes is a mismatch here. Now, our appetites have migrated to fruits, fish, tomatoes specialty meats and anything fresh you can use with olive oil. The rich choices of plant based food invites vegetarian cooking, which we do from time to time.
This past week (blog entry written on May 16) we were still zone orange. So technically, one can only move within the postal zip code (see map below). As we are now halfway vaccinated, we use our rental car more for sightseeing. We have done a little looking around before, but posted nothing. Maybe I find the energy after the spring boat projects are done. Our project accomplishment level is at 80%, so we should be in good shape.
Marina di Ragusa – Marina di Ragusa is the coastal village where the Porto Turistico and hence our Marina is. Anytime we return here the view wows us with its turquoise waters surrounding the port and we feel happy about our choice to berth here during the winter.
Ragusa and the area north of it
Yesterday, we drove north, past the town of Ragusa. More about this interesting town in another blog entry (if I overcome Blogprocrastinitis 😁). We found roads not traveled by tourists.
Mural in Ragusa
The mural above is in Italy. The country is Catholic, and this is not a special mural. It creates no tension or friction because of its existence. Imagine, you paint this mural on the Empire State Building. What would happen?
Country Side North of Ragusa
The landscape north of the town is hilly and alternating with small high plains making for an enjoyable drive and walk.
I have a tangential background in agriculture. I always loved the subject and being loosely involved with it in my past. Never, did I realize that far in the south of Europe (I am born in Northern Germany) the first grain harvest (wheat) begins in May and ends in July.
Imagine the smell of fresh straw and grain mixed with the song birds chirping and otherwise total quietness except natural sounds like the wind. Great!
It’s no surprise that prehistoric settlers around 20000BC to 10000BC stayed here for good. Temperatures are not hot in May -today 24°C. The soil is not rich, but good enough for a solid grain harvest sufficient to feed a family in ancient days. Water was not scarce and Sicily was rich in forests – until the Romans came. A lot of the forests disappeared during the long Roman Empire era (about 6 centuries). Sicily was the first grain supplier of the empire. The Romans deforested almost the entire island in order to enlarge the wheat crops.
I hope we’ll go sailing in some weeks again. We have some ideas, but do not plan anymore. Our feeling is that anytime we plan, someone high up there thinks it’s funny to throw a wrench into our gearbox. We’ll have to go to northern Germany late this month to see family and then return here and wait a little for our second vaccination early July. After that we are free.
Creative thinkers, so I believe, are prone to drift away with random thoughts. Hey, where else should all the good ideas come from. Following are some subjects that took the liberty to pop up during writing this piece.
Stay safe, get vaccinated. See you next time.
Your LUNARA Crew
I am the master of random thoughts and ideas, or must I say master finder of marginally subject related Google finds?
Here are some facts about Sicily totally new to me.
Did Sicilians invent the wheel?
3500BC Sicilians apparently invented the wheel! It took us 5500 years until we had a Tesla. What did we do in the meantime, aside from wars?
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sicily
Sicily alone has 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For reference the US totals 24 sites. If your touristic hunger leads you here, Sicily will not disappoint.
Agrigento: Archaeological Area of Agrigento (UNESCO)
Aeolian Islands: Isole Eolie. The group consists of seven islands (Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea) and five small islets (Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Lisca Nera, Bottaro and Lisca Bianca) in the vicinity of Panarea. (UNESCO)
300L diesel in our starboard tank were contaminated with dirt and water. After two years of refueling while adding anti Diesel bug additives, we had the choice to fuel polish (which is a filtering and water separation process) or pump out all fuel, clean the tank and replace it with fresh diesel.
‘Slick Hull’ pumped the tank out (company in Portimao) and cleaned it. We had 3 hour express service.
Afterwards we filled with initial 60L of fresh diesel and completed the rest at the boat gas station. Interesting the tank gauge showed still empty even when you could see 60L of Diesel swapping around of the tank bottom 🙂