Thursday, January 26, 2012

Just having fun.

With the huge circumnavigation milestone behind us we are now simply taking life a bit easy in St-Martin which is a place easy to relax. Plenty of restaurants and stores to eat and find all those boat parts we needed for all the small repairs that were not fundamentally important but still needed to be done at one point and that’s pretty much all we’ve been doing; eating and boat projects. As someone said; the definition of The Cruising Life is boat repairs in exotic places. St-Martin is definitively a place to prove that statement!

As for the eating, Grand Case is the town to go and the place Danielle and I like the most is what we call “The BBQ place”. Basically, about four restaurants setup there BBQ grills in an outdoor square in front of their business and serve food to the many tourists visiting Grand Case. The town is well known for its expensive and fancy restaurants but our wallet forces our brains to systematically discard them and erase them from our reality and that’s why we always end up eating at the BBQ place where we can find reasonably priced meals and where they accept the US dollar at par with the Euro; this means a 35% discount just there! For about $10 we got a rack of ribs and side dishes perfectly grilled on charcoal put in a drum cut in half with a grill on top.

The picture we posted for our “We sailed around the world!” post was not the only one we took. We didn’t quite know what tone to give to that picture and in the end we took a serious one because of the importance of the event. However, Danielle was really in a happy mood that day and she had quite a different idea of how we should present our goal of a lifetime! But in the end, fortunately or not that is hard to say, my bland and serious attitude won in the choice of the picture but still the other pictures we took that day are worth showing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We sailed around the world!

We did it! On Jan 4th, 2012 Danielle and I officially completed the circumnavigation of the Earth on board our 40ft sailing catamaran Chocobo by sailing across our own wake off shore of the island of St-Martin in the Caribbean where we sailed in 2009. To achieve that goal of a lifetime we sailed 29262 nautical miles (54427 km), travelled for 3 years, 3 months and 22 days or 1208 days, we visited 48 countries, crossed three oceans, sailed successfully though the most dangerous pirated infested waters, met the best and the worst of what humanity has to offer and leisured in the most beautiful scenery of the world. Although it is a major milestone in our journey it is not the end of our trip yet as we still have another six months or so of sailing in front of us. And for those interested in figures our trip so far cost us UD $179976.03 for a monthly average of US $4499.40. It was very expensive but was worth every penny!
Now it is time to celebrate!

Arrived in St-Martin (again).

We arrived at Grand Case on the island of St-Martin from Low Bay in Barbuda on January 4th, 2012 after a passage of 78 nautical miles (145 km) that took us 14 hours for an average speed of 5.6 knots. Our arrival in Grand Case marks the completion of our circumnavigation of the earth.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vacations in paradise.

If we had known how beautiful were the beaches of Antigua and especially of Barbuda when we sailed in the area at the beginning of our trip we would have taken the time to make a detour here instead of keeping sailing south. Kilometer long beaches of fine sand are there for the visitors’ enjoyment. After two years of fast pace sailing it feels very good just to stop and enjoy the beach, work a bit on the boat and swim with the fishes.

But Barbuda is not only the nicest beaches in the world but also one of the largest frigate bird sanctuaries in the world. Tens of thousands of this majestic bird nest in the wet lands formed by the huge lagoon in the middle of the island. During the mating period the males inflate their red throat to indicate to the females their availability and somehow to impress them. Apparently, for frigates size DOES matter! According to our guide once a female has made her choice things go pretty fast. After the necessary gene interchange ordeal the female will lay one egg but the male will be responsible to sit on it but the female will have to do all the work after to feed both the chick and the father. Well, being a father at home has to have its advantages isn’t it?

As I mentioned before we didn’t have any breakups during the Atlantic crossing and we were all proud of how sturdy Chocobo was and all but if nothing snapped during the last few weeks didn’t mean things were not breaking up! I had to climb on top of the mast to change a VHF radio antenna that died with a spectacular leap of death from the top of the mast right to the deck as we were leaving Arrecife in the Canaries. This was not a very urgent task so I procrastinated until we reached that side of the ocean to actually go up there. Climbing the mast is always an interesting experience. I have to sit on a sort of harness made of a wood plank that serves as a chair hence its name the bosun’s chair. The chair is attached to the main halyard (the rope used to raise the main sail) and Danielle winches me up using our electrical winch. This may sound simple in theory but for one thing the winch is not meant to pull up 86 kg (190 lbs) of muscles and water. All right, maybe a bit of fat too! Anyway, I’m too heavy for the winch and I have to pull myself up at the same time. In the movies we see men pulling themselves up single handed along a 100m of rope. Well, it is not that easy especially for a guy who worked in front of a computer all his life! At the top of the 15m (50ft) of mast I’m totally exhausted and then the work starts which means trying to do detail and precise work while the waves rock the boat. A small balancing of the boat isn’t a big deal at the deck level but at the end of a 15m pole there’s quite an amplification factor. Some people rode their dinghy beside Chocobo as I was at the top and even waved at us “Merry Christmas!” while their dreadful wakes slid toward us and when Chocobo started to roll I had to stop whatever I was doing and to hold the mast with both my arms wrapped around it while I swung like a metronome and withholding the urge I had to tell our lovely neighbors what I thought they should do with their Merry Christmas! Of course nothing was working as planned and I had to go up and down three times before the antenna was all set.

But while playing Tarzan with the mast I noticed that the T-ball attachment of the port shroud was almost cut all the way through. The shrouds are the stainless steel cables holding the mast in place. The picture here shows the cut in the 5/8” (16mm) T-Ball that actually attaches the shroud to the mast. If this last bit of steel that still remained had snapped during the crossing we would have lost the mast! We bought this shroud in Australia one and half year ago and they are supposed to be good for ten years. Luckily for us there was a good rigger in Falmouth, Antigua and we got a new shroud made in one day. Of course, I had to go up the mast twice again but at that point I was getting the trick and somehow my newly discovered muscles had developed and I was able to hoist myself much easier.

I just couldn’t pass showing you this picture of the “STAD AMSTERDAM” we saw in Falmouth, Antigua which is in my opinion the most beautiful tall ship in the world.