Author Archives: štef emrich

A boat needs to float

Saturday, May 27th, 2016. – Marbella, Spain

Why am i here? Sitting on a boat somewhere in the south of Spain, alone, on a Saturday evening in late May.

I started to write this “first” blog post already four times. And failed four times. This is the fifth attempt.

It is not that i did not know what to write. Actually i would have a ton of things to “report”. Or more precisely: to list. All the things that happened since my last post, including repairs, work, preparation and changes in life would fill far more than a single post.

Partially it might have been the lack of time, that i did not finish any of the previous attempts. But that can always be only half true, as we don’t simply “lack” time. Instead we lack time for things that are not “as important” to us as are other things. Or because we have a bad time management and waste it on things that are not important but seem to be.

Partially it might also be, that i did not know what to write. It does not make sense to me, to put together just a list of things and/or events that took place in the past.

Maybe the answer lies within the initial question. Why am i sitting here? What brought me back to mala moja? Did i not have enough solitude yet on my past trip? Did i not see enough? Did i not face enough of my own fears? Was i simply too lazy to sell mala moja? And maybe there simply is no “reason”. Neither for not writing nor for sitting here.

And maybe i will find out in the days and weeks to come.

Afloat after half a year on the dry – mala moja still without sails and basically in winter sleep.

After having had a quite work-laden time when coming back to Lagos (Portugal) to get the boat ready (getting everything on board from the storage, cleaning the hull, applying the anti-fouling, finish the rigging and cleaning). I was just finished with the absolute minimum when my parents were already knocking on the door. But instead of spending some days with trips around Lagos we immediately took off to sail eastwards. I feared that we otherwise might not make it to Cadiz (Spain) where Meli and Marko were to come to a few days later. Within the next 7 days we were sailing on 5 days covering 180 miles. One of the sails took us 10 miles up the Rio Guadiana, which is the border between Portugal and Spain. This was a really great trip. Some people spend a week discovering the roughly 40 miles of it that can be explored by boat – and i can understand them.

My last supper in Portugal with mala moja… i really got to love this country.
Tripping upstream the Rio Guadiana. Up with the flood, down with the ebb – makes things smooth 😉
Walking throught the Cadiz night after Tapas with my parents
No, its not Sherry, it’s Manzanilla. Same same, but different. Sampled in Chipione…

When the crew changed in Cadiz (Marko and Meli for Tili and Lero) – which by the way is a really beautiful city – i was hoping that i will have a bit less of a time schedule. But the weather forced us to keep on going. There was a weather window for passing the Strait of Gibraltar which was about to close in two days. After that it would be 5-7 days of waiting on the Atlantic side of the strait, while gales with gusts of almost 50 knots would whip in the wrong (westerly) direction. So the first day after their arrival we headed for Barbate, the last marina in the West before the Strait. And from there it was another approximately 40nm to the Bay of Gibraltar.

Tuna being loadad from a fishing vessel onto a (small) cargo ship. Yes, that fin you see IS a tuna. Huge they get 😉
In preparation of entering the British waters of Gibraltar, Marko hoists the flag (and the Q for quarantaine – though only customs)

Short excursion about navigation in the Strait of Gibraltar:
The “narrow part” is about 20nm long and on the closest point the distance between Africa and Europe is less than 8nm. It’s depth varies from 900m to 300m. And everything that goes from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean (or vice versa) has to go through this little, narrow opening. Ships are the most obvious thing that crosses one’s mind. But sea life does so too. So, whales are a “navigational hazard” marked on the maps. The next problem is the wind. With the steep mountainous coastlines on both continents the wind basically only knows two directions within the strait: east-going (Ponente) or west-going (Levant). And due to the narrowing geography wind also gets much accelerated inside the strait.
And then there is the currents. On the surface, the water has a steady eastwards flow, as more water evaporates in the Med than can be replaced by its rivers. But there is also a westwards flow, albeit that is happening in the depths of the strait. The reason for this is that mediterranean water is saltier and thus (at same depth) heavier than that from the Atlantic. And finally one has to add tidal currents which are produced by moon and sun. What you get is a highly complex pattern that depends on wind, tide and “normal” current.
And it’s getting even better: There are three different streams in the strait. The northern one, close to the European shore, the middle stream and the southern one, at the African side. It is (more than?) wise to use that information to one’s advantage and not attempt to cross the strait in bad conditions. It has the potential for an orderly nightmare.

Yes, each green or yellow triangle is a ship. And some of them are going fast. Really fast.

Weather checked, currents, tides and everything else too, and off we went at 6 in the morning. No wind at all, just motoring, but we made it without problems and Gibraltar greeted us with dolphins. And heavy traffic. Having passed in front of Rotterdam (in fog) and crossed the Channel, i thought that i had seen heavy traffic. Turns out Gibraltar has more of it 🙂 But with calm weather, good visibility, two people as lookout and AIS (btw: you can check out worldwide AIS-traffic on Marinetraffic.com) below deck we arrived safely in the harbor at the same time as the first gusts of wind started to pick up.

The rock of Gibraltar is majestic. The city itself is not. It seemed like a bunch of human trash would litter the roads. The food was (partially) “a fusion of spanish slowness and english cooking-incapability” (copyright Marko) and the traffic is constantly loud and plentiful. Especially the last is really surprising in a city which is basically just a mountain with hardly and places to drive to. We stayed for three nights, walked the rock (up and down – not as easy as one would think, especially not after a night of more intense drinking) and i got some work done.

Yes, we did get a bit off track on our way up the rock of Gibraltar. But that’s what hiking is about.
Mala moja‘s berth in Gibraltar (we are on the 2nd pantoon, just after the big motor-yachts). Right next to the airport 😉
View from the rock onto the bay of Gibraltar
… and into the other direction (this is the Mediterranean), where ships are lying in the roads.
Just for comparison. This is the difference between a normal tanker and a sailing boat.
The inhabitants of Gibraltar highest up the ladder.
Dinner at (the more stylish) Queensway Quay Marina with Meli and Marko (outside the picture)

The next trip took us really into the Mediterranean Sea. So, with a slight delay of 11 months (compared to my initial, naive last year’s schedule) mala moja and i were there! The welcoming committee were: sharks. I did not believe my eyes. Nor did i want to believe them. But we had to. The water was perfectly calm and we could clearly see their dorsal fins as three of them appeared within 15 minutes. And they were all but small. There went my bathing ambitions…

Shark swimming between boaty lying on the road just in front of the rock.

After celebrating Meli’s birthday in La Duquesa Marko had to leave us and went on to Paris for the weekend. Meli and i continued in a calm sail until Marbella where we spent another two days before she left today in the morning. So, this is actually my first day alone on mala moja and with no set schedule. In the meantime, it’s past midnight. I hear the music of a (not so) close-by club and the buzzing of mosquitos – and just helped an arriving Polish sailing crew to moor their boat.

Getting ready to go for supper in La Duquesa

So nevertheless, here it is, the listing of past events. And i am sitting on top of it not knowing why i did take up last year’s trip on mala moja. Of course, there is this feeling to it, that i simply did not finish it. I wanted to summer sail. Wanted to hop from island to island. To hang loose. Enjoy the way instead of rushing towards a destination. But i realize that that is not a matter of where you are, but much more a state of mind. As i started to realize at the end of last year’s voyage, i do start to see again today.

If i do not adapt in my head, i will not become happy with this voyage. There is -again- a deadline for me, as i have to return to Austria for work and appointments by Mid of June. And then the next visitors are waiting to come to mala moja, which will again confront “my schedule” with an “external schedule”. Don’t get me wrong: it is great to have good company on board! But it is a difference whether you are on holidays (with a due-date and a certain starting and ending location) or whether you live (and work) on board and have less constraints. When on holidays we usually want to enjoy. Get food served in restaurants. Have a convenient life. But a boat is not about convenience. It is about simplicity. About reduction. It forces you to get slow (more on that in the next post).

I am curious how i will cope with all of this. Which harbor i will leave mala moja in for roughly a month (and where she’ll get her hatch repaired). And how i will get to there.

Time will tell.
So far i have reached the Mediterranean. Not got bitten by a shark. Not set mala moja aground. Have got a haircut in Spain (today). And am starting to settle into boat-life. Even though it will only last for roughly two more weeks (for a start).

Addition: just because i stumbled across, here is a great 40 tips for boat-maintenance. Seems like i intuitively (or naively planned) got a few things right.

Trying to save money. Why do them tunas only jump around the boat and not bite onto the hook?
What i’ve learned from a french sailor: get an induction plate and you can cook outside (when connected to shore power = 230V)!
Damn, we are sooo cool & sexy. Oh yes, thank you! 😀
Morning coffe while checking the work mails.
Working in the office without a roof… only possible if it’s dark, cause them laptop-screens are not bright enough. Yet.

(Cover photo: A view form our anchorage up the Rio Guadiana)

Winter storage

Firday, September 16th, 2016. – Berrrrlinn, Tschörmenie

I am stranded at the airport Schönefeld in Berlin. Delayed on my way home. And in Lagos, Portugal, mala moja is sitting in her winter storage. So we’re both in a similar situation, although at a different scale: we don’t know when our journey will continue. Mine might in a few hours. But i’m pretty sure that tomorrow i will be at home. Mala moja has to wait much longer. Maybe she will continue next June? And maybe not.
But one is for sure. For now our journey is over. Time to look back?

Looking back is often more comforting than the actual experience was. One does tend to forget the hardships and remember the good parts. A simple self-protection mechanism. Them good old days, ey?! So what do i see when i look back at the past months, trying to be objective?

Great sunrise when entering Lisbon after a night’s sailing from Peniche
Great sunrise when entering Lisbon after a night’s sailing from Peniche

First: i did already feel quite an urge to go home again. I would not consider myself being a person prone to homesickness, but this journey was different from my previous “adventures” (in my opionien “adventure” is quite a big word). The biggest difference: i was all by myself. And that is and was also the biggest challenge for me. Not that i did not frequently receive help from other people! Be it mentally and emotionally during preparation (before i even left) or when i was feeling low along the jourey, or people i met and who gave me a hand or just spent some time with me. But at the end, i was alone on mala moja. And that was all but easy for me.

Fisher in Lisbon’s harbor area
Fisher in Lisbon’s harbor area

So one one of the things i’ve “learned” is, that i really don’t know if i’m a sailor. And if somebody wants to call me one, i most definitely am not a single-handed one (navigateur solitaire, as the French call it – great song though ;). Sailing to me is a team-thing. And people that want to really go sailing have to have patience, time and devotion for it. And it was beautiful for me to experiece and thus realize that too.

In general this trip probably gave me a different perspective on things. Although i assume it’s yet too early to say – or write – something like that. But i did struggle with my “slow” progress very much until i came to Fécamp and had my (home-visiting) break there. Not that i was all that happy about still being in the Channel when my initial plan was to sail the Mediterranean by then (beginning of July). But i embraced it. And tried to enjoy as much of it as i could.

(Almost) last night in Lisbon
(Almost) last night in Lisbon

Also, this “attempt to embrace” is not something that i learned at once – i don’t even think that i “really learned” it. Just 3 days ago i was realizing that i way too seldom just sat on mala moja at anchor or in harbour and watched at the horizon… doing nothing. Often it was a bad conscience that made me itchy. For no reason. It actually is the same as at home, when i feel like i am wasting time. And i don’t have a solution for that yet. But i think that i may have gotten the idea that it is necessary to be content with the “wasting” of time. Or in other words: consciously appreciate the luxury of having time to do nothing. And most important: THEN also DO NOTHING. Not surf the internet or distract oneself from doing nothing.

So another thing is: doing nothing can be sweet. If done properly. And doing nothing can be agony if it is getting too much. But this, again, is closely related to solitude. Sailing longer trips alone gives you time that you cannot fill with “distracting” chores. So it’s reading, or – if you’re capable of doing that at sea – maintenance, little naps and the like. And sitting around letting your mind circle.

Departure from Lisbon for the last leg of the journey
Departure from Lisbon for the last leg of the journey

Another thing i learned: fog is not a British thing at all. Apparently at least. The fog i experienced was once in the North Sea and then a lot in Spain and along the Portuguese coast. And fog is not funny. Although the chances of meeting (i.e. hitting) another boat are fairly small – especially since all big commercial boats have to have AIS and thus show up on my screen – it still leaves those “small”, invisible vessels that could win the lottery.

I guess the ultimate take-away is that life on a boat makes you a bit more conscious and sensitive. The lows feel lower, the highs are higher. Maybe it’s because you live more intense. Even though your life is not directly in danger if you do things cautiously, you are still at the mercy of the elements. And you are alone – even more if sailing alone. So when you enter a new harbour, they are all beautiful. When you get to meet new people they are all interresting. A sunset, a sunrise or the milky way in all it’s glory, some hundreds of miles away from any other soul are just… humbling.

My last sunset at sea... beautyful silence, yet sometimes painful when in solitude
My last sunset at sea… beautyful silence, yet sometimes painful when enjoyed in solitude

Sure, things can easily wear off. Camariñas, the harbour that was smelling like pine when we entered it, did smell like a waste-fish-place the next morning. Some people i met turned out to be quite dull after a first meeting. But then again… Camariñas will remain for me as being that nightly bay that had this irresistable pine-smell to it. And a lovely village – dispite the smell – in the morning. And i am looking forward very much to see Martin and Eva from SY Emil again – maybe next year in the Mediterranean, at an anchorage in Greece? – and Kathi, who i did get to know and like quite a bit along the way.

And then there is mala moja. The boat that i bought “blue eyed”, as the german saying goes. Not having had a clue about the sea, boats or sailing. There is definitely a lot of things that i would have done differently if i knew then what i know now. But then again: nothing that is really worth too much discussion. Though, yes, it would be quite nice to be able to stand upright inside the boat, especially if on (and in) it for months 🙂

Marina de Lagos, mala moja’s last harbour on this trip. At the south tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
Marina de Lagos, mala moja’s last harbour on this trip. At the south tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
Taking in the beach in Lagos.
Taking in the beach in Lagos.

And there is, another thing i’ve learned, constantly something to be done and fixed on a boat. Mala moja does in any case need some care taking. The engine needs to be fixed – or actually the engine’s electrical circuit. There are three “leaking” hatches (not bad, but annoying), the underwater ship needs another layer of anti-fouling, the winches maintenance, the wind vane fine-tuning, the sink should be newly sealed, some lines need to be exchanged, the broken (old) autopilot would be nice if i could fix (and have as a backup), …

After all, i would say it was good that i did this trip. Although some find it extremely brave to do, i don’t see it as such an act of bravery. To me the conscious decission to have a kid is much more brave. But i got to know “the hard way” that it takes quite some energy to do it. And i often thought about how much easier it would be if i were not doing this trip. But then again… there were these moments that were just good.

And i hope that next year mala moja is going to go through the Strait of Gibraltar, up to Barcelona and then east, east, east into the Mediterranean. With me and a (small but good) crew.

But, that is just a whish, an idea i have…

Mala moja’s last journey - out of the water and onto a concrete parking place. Sad.
Mala moja’s last journey – out of the water and onto a concrete parking place. Sad.

(Cover photo: Mala moja’s and her skipper’s last night together. Time will tell what is to come…)

South, south, Portugal

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016. – Peniche, Portugal, part II

In A Coruña we moored just next to SY Emil who’s crew (Eva and Martin) welcomed us in España. In A Coruña we stayed for almost a week. I had some work to do, the city needed exploring, the Tapas bars a visit and the engine a check. I bought a new alternator, but that was money spent on learning the hard way. Apparently the alterantor is/was not the problem. And i still did not figure it out.
And the weather (and the skippers stomach 😉 ) threw us back once we tried to leave A Coruña. Apparently (way) too much Paella… rumor has it that there was a bit of partying involved too.

Street view from a Jamoneria in A Coruña’s city center
Street view from a Jamoneria in A Coruña’s city center

Kathi had the luxury of being temporally unconfied. And, to my pleasure, decided to stay a bit longer on board of mala moja. So we headed out to go around Cabo Finisterre, also known as Cabo muerte. Fortunatelly no humans died on the trip. Unfortunatelly the auto-pilot did. So we broke off the trip and headed for the first harbour (Camariñas) instead. We reached it just before midnight and were greated with such an intense and beautiful smell of pine tree when we entered the dark bay… it was wonderful.

A man walking his dogs while we were exiting A Coruña on the way to Cabo Finisterre
A man walking his dogs while we were exiting A Coruña on the way to Cabo Finisterre

Without being able to fix the autopilot we continued south taking turns on the rudder. The next stop was Muros, where the autopilot could not be fixed either. From there we headed for Vigo, which has several authorised Raymarine-dealers. One of them ordered the complete pilot for me (urgent delivery) as spare parts for a repair were all but (economically) feasible to try to get a hold of.

Kathi on mala moja on the way southwest...
Kathi on mala moja on our way southwest…
Sunset with a broken autopilot - but good spirits ;)
Sunset with a broken autopilot – but good spirits 😉
Home made tapas - can’t be that hard to make them, right?!
Home made tapas on board of mala moja – can’t be that hard to make them?! … thanks Kathi 😉

We stayed two nights in Cangas and waited for the delivery of the autopilot. I had office work to be done, Kathi used the time to explre and then we also had some wine and tapas to be tasted. Vigo we just wanted to visit briefly to pick up the autopilot. But i got mala moja in the wrong marina (they have 4 or more and my Vigo-map was lacking detail) and so we had to walk over an hour until we reached the city center itself. But we got a) to walk through the industrial harbor and b) the auto pilot! With that little precious we headed for Bayona where Eva and Martin from SY Emil were anchoring.

We reached them just before midnight and they were kind enough to let us go alongside, so we did not have the hassle of dropping the anchor at night. The next day we had breakfast together, i put in another office-day and at night we headed out for an overnight sail to Porto with SY Emil.

Morning at anchor - with stand-up paddlers swarming into the bay
Morning at anchor – with stand-up paddlers swarming into the bay

Eva and Kathi both got sick with a twisted stomach (no, no parties this time!) and again we had strong fog on the trip. It was really good to have SY Emil with their radar in front of us. So we followed them to Porto with about half a mile distance through the foggy night – without physically seeing them.

Sailing into the sunset and south with SY Emil
Sailing into the sunset and south with SY Emil

Around noon there it was. Laying before us was Porto! The first goal i wanted to reach. At the end of August instead the end of June – but well, one never knows when sailing 🙂
The city still is a marvel. But the Tawny Port did not really hit my taste as it did the last time i was there. To me it seemd, that it had gotten much more “liquory”. Maybe just a perception twist? Well, we needed to investigate that and did a thorough tasting.

Tiled houses in Porto
Tiled houses in Porto
Porto’s iron bridge spanning over the river Duoro
Porto’s iron bridge spanning over the river Duoro

Slowly routine was building up. Kathi explored the surroundings, i had office work to take care of and the engine remained unsettled. But all good things have to come to an end. Kathi had to return home for a job interview and so it was just mala moja and me again.

 

Taking the ferry over Duoro river for a last supper on mala moja
Taking the ferry over Duoro river for a last supper on mala moja

The next day Eva and Martin headed out for Lisboa with Emil and i followed – a few hours later – with Peniche in mind. Unfortunatelly the wind died off at night and so i had to turn on the engine. As this was the second time to have it running -after the brief starting phase- it meant to have it running all the way. But with the wind hiding somewhere there was no other option anyhow.

It was my first solo sail over night and i was hoping for more sleep. But the traffic was heavy. The fishing boats along the coast, several without AIS, did not let me go to sleep for more than 10 or 15 minute stretches. And in the second half of the night fog settled upon the sea. Not so funny.

With the fuel running low -and no desire to fill the tank with the 25 liter canister in the waves- i decided to make a stop in Figuera da Foz and wait for less fog. The fog did not go. So neither did i. Instead i was invited for supper on board of Ho’okipa, a katamaran sailed by a russian couple who we first met in A Coruña.

Yersterday the forecast said that the fog will go away and thus i headed south when it started to get thinner. But it came back. Under engine (too little wind again) i chuged south, reading Bukowksi (recommended to me by Kathi). Dolphins cheered me up. A fishing vessel that came out of the fog just some 100-200 meters away frightened me. It did not have active AIS. And had it come not from behind but approaching from front there would have been quite little time to react. So i started to really look forward to reach harbour. I did so at shortly past 2200. Despite the wind blowing with gusts of 15 knots the fog persisted. Spooky to go around a cape with the lighthouse invisible and hence just the fog signal crying.

Close encounter in the fog - the ship had no active AIS.
Close encounter in the fog – the ship had no active AIS.

Inside the harbour the wind still blew with gusts of 15 knots. The “marina” in Peniche is tiny. In this conditions maneuvering is all but funny – and definitely not easy for me. Add more than poor visibility and no free berth. I was extremely glad when i saw a guy moving aboard a moored vessel. So i shouted if i could come alongside, he helped me to tie mala moja to his boat and after a glass of Port i went to bed with my second (Factotum) book of Bukowski (i finished my first -Post Office- along the way).

So here i am. In Peniche. In earyl post-season and in the fog.
By the beginning of September i saw myself somewhere in the Adriatic or in Greece, cruising between picturesque bays. But that was 5 months ago. And several hundred miles of experience.
By now i do have a return date (Sept. 22nd) and subsequently my time aboard mala moja is less than three weeks. My icehockey team’s season is starting this weekend in Vienna. Without me.
Mala moja and i will not reach the Mediterranean.

People fishing in the fog on the cliffs of Peniche
People fishing in the fog on the cliffs of Peniche

I have a few more days left and quite some stuff to do. Meeting “the Emils” in Lisboa before they head for the Carribean is a must, office work does not stop, and then it is sailing further down south towards the Algarve where i want to find a place for mala moja to stay there over winter.
Mala moja and i will not reach the Mediterranean; this year…

(Cover Photo: A simple restaurant in the fishing village Afurada, on river Duoro just west of Porto)

Transbiscay

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016. – Peniche, Portugal, part I

Damn. Time really flew by.
Over a month since my last post and sooo much has happened. To pack all this in one single post is (more than) challenging.

It’s a Saturday and i am in the middle of Portugal, as the beginning already gives away. As my last post came from Roscoff, which still lies inside -albeit at the edge of- of the English Channel, i apparently did make a bit of a geaographic progress.

Currently i am “struggling” with engine problems. The motor battery’s juice is being drained when the engine is running. This…
a) should not be the case, as the alternator should be charging,
b) means that after i let the engine run for several hours i cannot turn it off and on again (whithout charging it in between), which,
c) in theory, is not soo bad as I) the boat is a sailing boat and II) there are work-arounds to it, but
d) sucks.

Getting ready for Biscay - securing the spare diesel canisters. Enough to cross it all on engine - if really necessary (i mean: it’s a SAILING boat)
Getting ready for Biscay – securing the spare diesel canisters. Enough diesel to cross it all by engine – if really necessary (i mean: it’s a SAILING boat) and the engine works.

This problem first occcured in the middle of Biscay. After the first day the wind died down and so we – next story – had to switch on the engine and motored through the first night. In the morning of the second day the wind picked up and we turned the engine off again. Until in the second night the wind grew strong enough to shorten sails. I decided it be easier to do with engine support and wanted to turn it on. But instead of a sound there was nothing. Silence. Well, it’s a sailing boat and wind there was plenty. So we reefed without the engine. The next day i checked on the problem and found the battery completely empty. The volt-meter read 12.1V and with less wind i could hear the engine fan turn on and the starter making a few revolutions. But it was far from starting. So the question was: take care of it now or tomorrow before we reach the spanish coast?

Sunset over Biscay... miles and miles and miles away from any soul. Pure quiet :)
Sunset over Biscay… miles and miles and miles away from any soul. Pure quiet 🙂

Fortunately enough we decided take care of it now. So i got the engine-battery out of the compartment, fixed some spare wires, rewired the solar-charger and gave the engine-battery 2 hours worth of (almost) southerly sun. Battery in place i skipped pre-heating of the engine and there it was, the ship’s diesel running like a charm again. A bit later the wind died off (completely) and we were happy to have the engine running – even though it meant that it will run through the night -no matter what- to reach Spain with a working engine.
The alternative (turning it off and eventually having to be towed into harbour) was not even close as the wind just kept too low for sailing all through the third night and beginning of the fourth day. In addition a thick fog settled in. With a flat sea and drastically impaired visibility we approached A Coruña.

As i did not want to make the trip accross Biscay myself (primarily due to sleeping breaks, but also for moral backup and a better time) i did try to find somebody spontaneous enough to do it with me. I was already preparing to do it on my own when Kathi, who i had gotten to know a while ago in Vienna, spontaneously decided to come along.

A whale blowing in the Bay of Biscay...
A whale blowing in the Bay of Biscay…

For her it was the first time sailing (total respect for that!), so everyhting was new to her. But for me quite a bit along the trip was new as well… Dolphins swimming along with mala moja not (for me). But being there, several hundred of kilometers away from any artifical light (spare the boat’s position light), made the Perseids meteor shower even more intense. Just after we sailed over the continental reef we had whales blowing some 200 or 300 meters away. Then the fog-approach of A Coruña. Somehow a pitty not have a “landfall” in Spain. But we lucked out: as we approached the harbour the “Tall Ship Race 2016” just left it… and we found ourselves swimming against hundreds of ships. The dozens of “Tall Ships” from the race were accompanied by hundreds of little boats who accompanied their running out. And all in this fog setting… awesome!

The first of the "Tall Ship Race" flotilla exiting A Coruña on our way in.
The first of the “Tall Ship Race” flotilla exiting A Coruña on our way in.

And hence, there we were: Spain! The south! Biscay left behind. In reach of Porto – which i had envisioned as my first “goal” of the trip. How things changed.

Celebrating landfall after 3 days at sea. In the sun of the south :)
Celebrating landfall after 3 days at sea. In the sun of the south 🙂
The south. Finally. After months i’m there... (unknown guy in the sea)
The south. Finally. After months i’m there… (unknown guy in the sea)

(Cover photo: Spain’s coast before A Coruña covered in fog… a “silent” landfall)

Coming home after 1000 miles.

Sunday, July 31st, 2016. – Roscoff, part II

Homecoming. And 1000 miles.
In one post.
… needs at least a separate post from the brief update of the last weeks 😉

Reaching Brittany was always this distant goal. It is the place where i landed with the Tres Hombres a year ago, with the dream of going on a long sail myself. The place and landscape that i fell in love with. And fell in love with againg today.

It is a special feeling for me. That this just coincides with having completed my first 1000 miles on mala moja is all the more pleasant. When i set out to return from Jersey to France with Ulli and Walter we were heading for Brittany. I even had already hoisted the Breton flag in Jersey, as i didn’t feel like doing so in the conditions at sea. But then we returned.

Pétanque players in Jersey, despite being British the island is strongly influenced by french culture
Pétanque players in Jersey; despite being British the island is strongly influenced by french culture
Dry harbor in St.Helier, Jersey, by night
Dried harbor in St.Helier, Jersey, by night

So my homecoming was a solo sail. The first one for which i set out at night, getting up just before 0300 in order to still catch a part of the favourable tide. When i headed out of the harbour the wind was still a high 5. The sea was “moderate” (which sounds more moderate than it is, but of course, compared to the other sea states, it is “moderate”) and it was night with a cloudy sky and dizzle. Taking the West Passage out from St.Helier i first had to fight the overfalls (an effect that creates quite a violent sea) there – not funny. And then i saw a ferry coming my way on the AIS. My heart just dropped into my boots… It’s not funny to be in a narrow channel, knowing rocks left and right of it, violent overfalls breaking over the deck of mala moja and then there is this fucking fast and humongous piece of steel coming at you in the dark of the night. To make it a bit more intimidating they turn on a spot light and scan the area for you. I felt small. And frightened. That i had the wind on my nose and dizzle coming down did not make things feel more pleasant.

Ready to depart into the night and unpleasant conditions.
Ready to depart into the night and unpleasant conditions.

The last few days i found myself thinking quite often about sailing as a team sport (or make it “team thing” if you don’t practice it as a sport). And i do believe that sailing is a team sport, where you want to have people around you that you like, respect and can rely upon. And that solo-sailing is less a matter of sport and skill but much more a psychological challenge. Sure, there is solo-sailing as a sport. But especially long solo races are much more of a mental challange than one of skills.

In that sense my decission to leave during the night was a challenge. I felt that i had to challenge myself. Maybe it will help me overcome the constant anxiousness and departure angst. I set Roscoff as my goal. A very ambitious one, unlikely to reach. But i wanted to try.

Hope street of Jersey. Convincing?
Hope street of Jersey. Convincing?

So after i passed the ferry inside the West Passage, without any problem other than a mental challenge, i continued west-southwest. The wind was supposed to let off a bit and did. But the waves kept coming straight at me. Whith theese conditions sailing was not an option to me, as real tacking would have stretched the distance to infinity. Instead i was motor-tacking with the main sail up to add a bit of speed and stabilize the boat in the waves.

I spent several hours trying to get some rest by having a 17-minute timer after which i checked everything and went to snooze again. Reaching the coast of France i was faced with a simple decission: continuing or taking the first port. As the following ports would be unaccessible due to the tide and anchoring did not seem promising with the prevailant conditions, i decided to sail up the Trieux river to Lézardrieux, even though that meant 8miles upstream and subsequently 8 miles back before being able to continue the following day.

But it was worth it. You could immediately notice a difference in the landscape and looks between the Normandy and Brittany. And of course both are again alltogther different than Jersey is. Britanny is much rougher. Its coast is rockier, its settlements rougher. But lovely. And the harbor bar that was there was “the dot upon the i” as a german saying goes. I was happy to raise the Breton flag and have a bowl of Moules Provençal in the bar.

Houses along the estuary of the Trieux river
Houses along the estuary of the Trieux river

Still tired from the day before, i did not feel like getting up at all in the morning. But in the channel the tide dictates your rhythm. And it is a mercyless 12-hours-and-a-bit rhythm. If i did not want to have up to 3.5 knots of current coming up the river, i had to leave the river before low tide. Low tide was at 1030, the river ride 8 miles thus i needed about 1.5 hours to get out of it. So i got up swearingly at seven-something (getting yourself and the boat ready takes another 30-60 minutes if your not super-rushing).

But low tide also meant that the whole channel was running eastwards now. My plan to sail north with the westerly wind and then tack down west-southwest with the slightly north-veering wind turned out to be flawed. I underestimated the power of the tidal stream. Instead south-west i was going south with almost no westerly progress.

Hence i turned on the engine to support my fully set sails. This helped and later on i could even turn off the engine for a stretch as the wind indeed veered to WNW. But the (strong) tide would stay against me for 6 hours. So again decision time. This time with three options.

1) Take the first shelter that comes up (Port Blanc with mooring bouy or anchorage) or
2) continue to the “beautiful landscape” of Ploumanac’h (basin only accessible at high tide) which was the second shelter or
3) keep on track for Roscoff.

No.2 was possibly not accessible any more (my almanach has no precise times for this little “port”). Hence i might have been forced to go back to 1) with the risk that all bouys are taken and i would have to anchor in a rocky tide area (no fun). No.3 would mean to sail against the tide until it turns and then arrive at night in Roscoff. With a coastline rich with rocks and shallows that did not sound like too much fun. So i turned off the engine and sailed the remaining stretch to Port Blanc.

On the way i witnessed an extremely elegant massacre. First i noticed a flock of birds circling an area and starting to dive into the sea for fish. Just a bit later a school of dolphins joined them, plowing the area for fish. I assume that a bunch of mackerels died there. But it just looked spectacular.

Flock of birds preying a swarm of fish - before the doplhins joined into the hunt
Flock of birds preying a swarm of fish – before the doplhins joined into the hunt

Port Blanc was, as described, an “unspoilt village”. Sooo beautiful. I enjoyed the sunset on the terrace of the “Grand Hotel” – the only bar/restaurant around, and not posh at all – after getting to shore with my dinghy.

Enjoying the sunset on the terrace of the Grand Hotel in Port Blanc
Enjoying the sunset on the terrace of the Grand Hotel in Port Blanc

Today in the morning i was woken by the mooring-bouy hammering on mala moja. I don’t understand why the boats here are not alining with the wind. The current would be one explanation, but there was none that i could notice. Anyhow, the boat was rocking really uncomfortably and the banging was nerve-wracking. To add to it i noticed that because of the strange drift the ropes scraped off some of my anti-fouling 🙁
As to add to my unhappy-angry feeling the water pump suddenly turned itself on without reason – and i found water and a piece of water pipe in the bilge. I turned it off, got the boat “ready” within 10 minutes and left the bay. Brushing teeth, breakfast and everything else happened along the way.

The good thing: this way i cought the full stretch of the tidal stream which carried me swiftly to Roscoff. And biking the city i fell in love with Brittany, again.

Just one of the countless unspectacular houses in Roscoff
Just one of the countless unspectacular houses in Roscoff

The pipe piece in the bilge was apparently lost already a long time ago and just resurfaced, the water seems to be nothing than the usual accumulation and the anti-fouling i will check when i go diving the next time.

But now i’m here. Roscoff. Brittany. Not far from Brest and Dournanez. And 1000 miles older than i was when i went aboard mala moja.

(Cover photo: Sunset sky over Port Blanc in Brittany)

Time flies by

Sunday, July 31st, 2016. – Roscoff, part I

Time flies by. The last days have been even fuller of things than before. I’ve had a few (video)conferences for work and have been visited by my family after that who were leaving a day after Ulli and Walter, two old friends of mine, came for five days. Needless to say that life on 6 square meters is turned upside down when two additional people squeeze in 😉
But the weather was great and so the times was too. A really pleasant change from my “routine”.

It would be a bit long-winded to recount all that happened in the last two weeks. But here are a few hightlight of the visits…

Fishing boats in the harbor of Grandcamp-Maisy
Fishing boats in the harbor of Grandcamp-Maisy
Morning fog creeping up towards Grandcamp-Maisy
Morning fog creeping up towards Grandcamp-Maisy

For my video-conferences i needed reasonably fast interenet-access, which is not as easy to obtain as one might think. Despite having a SIM-card with tons of download volume, the coverage was unsufficient. So i found myself checking out all bars around the port of Grandcamp-Maisy in search for a good WiFi – without succes. Subsequently i had to do a quick harbor relocation (to Carentan) to get there within the same high-tide and prior to the conf. For my early-morning sail i was rewarded with a bunch of seals escorting me in the estuary of the Carentan river.

Fishing boats in the weeds in Carentan
Fishing boats in the weeds in Carentan

The next stop from there was St.Vaast – a picturesque fishing village. A plain beauty. It was great to see how they farm oysters there. The really farm them. On fields accessible at low tide which are then entered with with tractors and harvested. Needless to say that i had to try some -and good they were!

St.Vaast’s harbor entrance at low tide (the harbor is closed with a lock)
St.Vaast’s harbor entrance at low tide (the harbor is closed with a lock)
Oyster fields in St.Vaast being harvested with a tractor
Oyster fields in St.Vaast being harvested with a tractor
More Oyster fields off St.Vaast
More Oyster fields off St.Vaast

From St.Vaast i sailed to Cherbourg in order to meet my family. It was a pleasant surprise that just before the departure i found out that SY Emil was anchoring just outside the harbor of St.Vaast in which i was staying. On the VHF we agreed to meet and sail to Cherbourg together. For me that trip was a great experience. Since i wanted to avoid the Barfleur cap (it is recommended to do so as the currents tend to get really nasty there) i made a big circle around it – and was at the northern most point of it revarded with a glimpse into what ocean sailing might be like. Close to the middle of the channel the tidal stream is weaker and thus its effect on the waves too. So i was there with a gentle wind of 15 knots calmly sailing on the “breath” of the Atlantic – a mild swell of long-spaced 1 to 2 meter waves lifting the boat up and down. It was beautyful. I had this feeling of just keeping going straight and not tacking for Cherbourg…

From Cherbourgh my brothers Marko and Joško sailed with me – the infamous Race of Alderney. With a perfect timing and calm winds it was more of a Sunday-sail, despite having “chosen” the day of spring tide. It was just amazing to see us race through there and having a 60° difference between our course steered and the course over ground to reach Diélette. We even cought a mackerel. But threw it in the sea again after discovering that this just had happened off the “nucular peninsula” between the nucular (see link before) fuel reprocessing plant “Le Hague” and the nucular (see link 😉 ) power plant Flamanville.

Church in Cherbourg with a boat fallen dry
Church in Cherbourg with a boat fallen dry
Joško in the sunset of Diélette
Joško in the sunset of Diélette

The next day our parents joined us on board so the whole family was sailing together. The conditions for this were picture perfect. A sunny day with up to 10kn of perpendicular wind. The leg was also a shorter one so we spent (after dad cought twice two mackerels) a good portion of it anchoring and picnicing off Carteret.

Marko walking into the fog - for breakfast before departure
Marko walking into the fog – for breakfast before departure
My parents sailing aboard mala moja - an honor :)
My parents sailing aboard mala moja – an honor 🙂

The last day with the family was again just us brothers on a super-relaxed sail. We played cards, slept, joked, had dolphins escort mala moja (my first dolhin sighting) and a good time on the way.

A game of "3er-Schnapsen" along the way. With a very special set of cards.
A game of “3er-Schnapsen” along the way. With a very special set of cards.
Dolphin likes mala moja. And vice versa.
Dolphin likes mala moja. And vice versa.

With Walter and Ulli i took it to Jersey, cause i wanted to see at least one of the Channel Islands. We wanted to depart the following day but decided not to, as it would have been a pitty to not have seen anything. So we had a nice day that we spent biking on Jersey.

Having lunch in a pub. Yes, fish and chips are greasy.
Having lunch in a pub. Yes, fish and chips are greasy.
Biking though what could be Schottland too. Just much milder... Jersey is beautiful.
Biking though what could be Schottland too. Just much milder… Jersey is beautiful.
Us and the sea
Us and the sea

We departed the day after. But we left a bit late and conditions were less than perfec with wind directly from our destination, a “moderate” sea and dizzle. Fearing we might not make it in daylight – with a rocky coast at our goal – i decided to turn around. This gave us another afternoon and a party evening in Jersey. The two had to take the ferry the day after to get to Paris and their plane in time and i decided to wait another day (after the party ;).

Rocks submerged during high tide, visible off Jersey at low tide
Rocks mostly submerged during high tide, visible off Jersey at low tide

(Cover image: Spider silk on mala moja’s back stay – the wire holding the mast from the back of the boat)

Follow the sun

Sunday, July 17th, 2016. – Under way

Mala moja is slowly sailing towards Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue from the Mulberry harbour off Arromanches, where we anchored the night. Yesterday was simply perfect. It started with a sunny day in Ouistreham, where i spent only one night after leaving Le Havre, which kept me for much longer than intended… But i would not want to miss the time there 🙂

The first memorable event was the game of football i “watched”. My two british neighbours (a scottish and an irish sailor) invited me to listen to the game on their boat with a very british “even though we’re leaving the Union, we can still be friends?!”. To enjouy the game with them sounded fun. Although i offered to bring my computer so we can watch it – which they gladly accepted.

With the kick-off i had to realize, that the french streaming-provider was showing the game to paying users only… bad luck. Our fallback to listen to the game as intended was unfortunately impossible either. I had imagined them to crank up the radio, but they had an ipad where they wanted to listen to BBC – which was blocked outside of the UK. After 10min of searching the web i found a US site which was streaming the BBC’s commentary for free… so we eventually got to listen how France beat Germany (much to my dismay).

But over having supper, a bit of wine and then a bit of rum, the game mutated more and more to being background noise, while we chatted. Turned out one of them had been a sailor in the Royal Navy and left it as they stopped dispensing the daily ration of rum in the beginning of the 70ies -or so he told. He then went on to live in a hippie commune, smoking the finest weed which he got from a police officer, before he relocated to California for surfing and listening to the Beach Boys. His companion was much quieter and “put up with him only because he is such a good cook”.

After a while the hippie got out his guitar and i my harmonicas and we jammed for a few hours until the second one went to sleep. We then transferred onto mala moja where we had more rum until early in the morning. Naturally the next day was not a day where i was willing to go solo-sailing…

But due to staying in harbour i got to know my other neighbours. Eva (German) and Martin (Swiss), both younger than me, who are preparing their boat Emil for a one-year trip to the carribean and back. It was great to finally meet people my age who are sailing, but they are really cool besides being “my age”…

They invited me for dinner to which a few of their french friends came, who are “homeless, but not boatless”, as they put it thmeselves, living on boats in the marina of Le Havre.

The plumber i mentioned in the last post sold me 16mm diameter pipe and i needed 15mm, so i had to keep on looking for a pipe that fit. Besides that I spent my days in Le Havre exploring, doing a bit of excercise (running), going to the beach, working (video-conferencing and mailing). On the Bastille-day Martin and i went for a short sail in really beautiful conditions (sun and a moderate to fresh breeze). And of course in the evening we went to the city’s official celebration at the beach promenade. But, having had an (extensively) prolongued supper the night before, we were sooo tired that we went home before the fireworks. So i watched those and fell asleep just afterwards.

Thanks to being in bed early i was in good condition to continue my trip – after a week spent in Le Havre. After getting groceries, the spokes of my new bike adjusted and a great lunch in the city i left port towards Ouistreham. On the way i crossed from the eastern into the western hemisphere, sailing over the zero meridian of Greenwich. I reached berth just before midnight – due to my late departure and the lock-operation schedule which pinned me down for over an hour. Despite a very poor first impression that i got from the city, it turned out to be really beautyful the next day.

Yesterday i quickly got out of the tidal lock and moored mala moja just outside of it in the waiting area to go for fresh bread and groceries… and saw the beautiful inner city.
Great!
The weather, a perfectly warm summer day, added to the impression. The whole situation inspired me to buy an artichoke and a small bottle of Champagne.

I set sails westward. With no set destination. The wind, with just around 10-12knots came from roughly 60° starboard at first and then veered slightly onto 90°. The sun was shining, it was warm and mala moja flew with 7,5 to 8 knots accross the water. It was beautifully perfect. After a few hours of sailing the wind started decreasing. I was trawling a mackerel bait all the time. So i don’t know if it was the decrease of speed down to just above 5kn or pure chance, but suddenly there it was: the first fish i cought sailing! A mackerel of moderate size. Good enough for supper for one. The artichoke started to make perfect sense. Now i was faced with the problem what to do with a freshly cought fish?! Does it need special treatment? How to store it until supper? After a short video conference with my family – i called to ask about cleaning the fish, they wanted to see the catch – i cleaned the fish and put it into the fridge.

Next i needed a place to stay. And although i was a bit anxious, i decided not to go into port, but to anchor in the Mulberry harbour. The last piece of the way i had to use the engine as the wind died off completely. Entering the remains of the harbour i asked an anchoring, local sailing boat where there was a spot with sufficient water during low tide and dropped mala moja’s anchor for the first time. With the boat being as light as it is, it took quite a time until she was half-decently alinged with the wind. So i put her into reverse… and the anchor dug in and held rock solid.

Despite no significant waves and because of practically no wind, the boat did not turn into the wind but was adrift and mostly got the waves from the side, rocking up to 30°. So making supper was a rolly thing, but it turned out perfect. The artichoke was almost better than the fish 🙂

But it was all topped by watching the sunset – for which i opened the bottle of Campagne. A perfect day coming to an end.

Sunrise and morning loo coincided so i got to see that too. And it was totally worth it again. After a long sleep in, gently rocked by the waves, i got up for a swim in the channel. I used it to test my new diving glasses and check mala moja’s belly for fouling. There is a bit on it, but not much. Though i try to clean it after reading up on how this is best done without damaging the anti-fouling.

After that, and breakfast, i lifted the anchor and set sails again towards the west. The goal might be Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. Or another anchorage at the Iles Saint Marcouf. We will see…

Note 1: Unfortunatelly my internet-connection is currently too bad for more pictures. Plus: i lost several of my (favourite) pictures due to technical issues (that hurts). I’ll try to upload more images as soon as possible…

(Cover image: Sunrise viewed from the Mulberry harbour off Arromanches.)

Halftime – and a crack in the pipe

Thursday, July 7th, 2016. – Le Havre

The first half of my trip is over. And i am still far away from the Mediterranean, where i was hoping to be by then end of June. But since i left mala moja for a two-week return to Austria things seem to have changed.

The two weeks at home i spent with appointments. Work and private. I was basically busy from when i landed in Vienna. The two, or actually three points that seem to be noteworthy are reading Tamata, the autobiography of Bernard Moitessier.
I started the book already a while ago (on my trip to Dieppe) but only finished it in the plane back to Paris. And i don’t know what it is that made this book so special to me. Maybe it’s that this outstanding person was always trying to keep going and not willing to give up? Maybe it planted the seed of an idea in me, which is saying that the sea can be scary, but if you’re prepared and respectful, you should not worry more than necessary. Nevertheless, it made an impression on me.

The second point was another book. One that i received at home for my birthday. It’s called “The Idle Traveller” (by Dan Kieran; “Slow Travel” is the german title – yes it is an english german title 😉 ). Starting reading it in the train from Paris to Fécamp was as if i stumbled across something that i was missing without knowing it. It opened my eyes – and still is, as i’m only half through yet. And it was like someone patted my shoulder saying “that was a good decission to spontaneously spend a night in Paris!”.

Asian tourists posing at the Sacré-Cœur during a quick stop - before rushing to the next attraction.
Asian tourists posing at the Sacré-Cœur during a quick stop – before rushing to the next attraction.

I don’t want to write a review of “The Idle Traveller / Slow Travel”. But the book does an outstanding job in pointing out that travel is much more than transporting your body from A to B and rushing through a list of “things to do and see”. This is naturally too short for a summary (the book is really highly worth reading!), but that’s the point that i have to refer to.

It was while reading it in the train that i seemed to start realizing that i may have set out for an “extended period of sailing”. But i apparently ended up on a journey around Europe. And as every slow journey, it puts things into perspective. It’s a difference if you enter a plane in Amsterdam and exit in Le Havre or if you take a train and notice the subtle changes during your voyage, possibly having to switch trains a few times. Or if you do the voyage in one of the slowest ways possible – under sails from harbour to harbour.
In my head i initially laid out this trip to be summer sailing in the med. Maybe add the coast of Portugal. And now i am slowly circling a continent that’s undergoing a major crisis. Or at least feels that way.

These thoughts started running in my head while on the way back to mala moja. And there i realized the third thing that changed. When i left for Austria it was late in June. Now it is early July. In the meantime vacation season has started, and there is a noticable number of young people with me on the bus. Young people with back-packs. They were there in Paris already too, i just did not notice them among all the other tourists.
So when i arrived at Fécamp again i felt differently on the inside than i did when i left it.

This of course did not influence the troubles and/or challenges. First i needed to resupply the boat. Trying to fill the water tank i realized that my hose was too short. So i went to buy an extension and am now proud owner of a total of 25m of hose. Let the garden party start 😉

Approach of Le Havre with the tower of St.Joseph’s church visible (and chimneys)
Approach of Le Havre with the tower of St.Joseph’s church visible (and chimneys)

I left Fécamp and set out for Le Havre the day after resupplying. A beautyful summer day, albeit with very little wind. On the other hand, i preferred it smooth on my first trip after almost 3 weeks of not sailing. So i motor-sailed for the largest stretch of the trip. Fortunatelly the wind picked up in the bay of Le Havre and so i even got an hour of quite sailing before entering the harbor.

Le Havre is a very busy port, so there was quite some (big) traffic in the area. From far i could see the tower of St.Jospeh’s church which intentionally looks like a lighthouse. After tying up the boat the (temporaily) fixed water pipe broke again. The initial crack grew in sice. And got company from a second one. No temporary solution no more and with no replacement on board it meant no water.
Hence i wandered to explore the city a bit. The St.Joseph’s church was closed (it was past 23:00 when i came there) and the rest of the city was closed pretty much too. So i went to read a bit and sleep.

Concrete buildings in Le Havre at a road into the city center
Concrete buildings in Le Havre at a road into the city center
Le Havre city center
Le Havre city center
Boats in line in the heart of Le Havre - in front of concrete slab buildings
Boats in line in the heart of Le Havre – in front of concrete slab buildings

Today my mission was to find a piece of pipe. And my birthdays present – my grandmother, aunt, her boyfriend and my parents presented me with the money for a new folding bike. The bike i got pretty easily (THANK YOU!). But only the fourth plumbler i visited seems to be promising for the hose. The ladies there kept the old pipe part (and my two spare connectors) and told me to come again tomorrow around 10:00. Then they probably have the piece i need.
Let’s hope so!

A place in the heart of Le Havre, surrounded by concrete slab buildings.
A place in the heart of Le Havre, surrounded by concrete slab buildings.

Finally i set to cruising the city of Le Havre. A plattenbau-marvel (concrete slab)! I whish the russians would have had sent a delegation to this city. Despite it being just concrete slabs, it is beautyful. Good enough for the UNESCO to inscribe its central city as world heritag sites (next to Brasilia the only one from the 20th century!). The city’s highlight, in my opinion, is the St.Joseph’s church. Concrete awesome!

Le Havre’s St. Joseph’s curch. Beautiful.
Le Havre’s St. Joseph’s curch. Beautiful.

Supper now and then i should find a place to watch the game Tschörmenie vs. France!

(Cover image: inside St.Joseph’s church)

The beaches of Normandy

Friday, June 17th, 2016.

Listening to a song that starts with a quote from Rocky (6?). I like this quote. It lifted my spirits after an exhausting Wednesday when i sailed to Fécamp, where i am at right now.

Actually i departed westwards for Fécamp on Monday already. But i did not get far. To be precise, i did not get further than a cable out of the harbour. That’s when i identified the incoming boat as the SY Freedom which departed roughly an hour before me. Hermann shouted over to me that they had tried tacking towards Fécamp but basically just went north and south on the same track with almost no progress towards the west. With the wind being unpleasant and the sea state moderate i decided that i don’t need try it either. Not me, being single-handed, when they, being a party of two, returned. So instead i set out for the ship chandlery where i bought a new ladder which should be compatible with the wind pilot.
I also biked up to the chappel ruling over the cliffs east of the harbor entrance. So i found out that it is a chappel dedicated to the seafarers. With a lot of commemorative plaque’s for those who never came back. A grim reminder of the sea’s indifferent lethalness.

Chapel Notre Dame de Bon-Secours (Our Lady of Good Help) over the harbour’s entrance
Chapel Notre Dame de Bon-Secours (Our Lady of Good Help) over the harbour’s entrance
Inside the seafarer’s chapel
Inside the seafarer’s chapel
Another (closed?) church in Dieppe
Another (closed?) church in Dieppe
View over Dieppe from the chapel
View over Dieppe from the chapel
And a view towards the sea...
And a view towards the sea…

With wind still steadily blowing from the west Tuesday was boat-work-day. I mounted the ladder to the boat, which was a real pain in the ass job. You have to crawl into a tiny compartment which the hatch to it being too small for both sholders at the same time. And then you try tightening bolts with extended and raised arms. This way i verified the scientific finding that swearing reliefs pain. And really felt like more swearing after realizing that the wind pilot and the ladder are not compatible after all 🙁

Swearing to tighten bolts in the hull of mala moja
Swearing to tighten bolts in the hull of mala moja

This all took me (again) longer than expected and so i did not get to buy a fishing rod before the Euro’s game Austria – Hungary. Which Austria lost. Well, at least we do have a long going experience with loosing…

Wednesday there was a chance that the wind might be veering towards north and so the SY Freedom and i decided to give it a shot towards the west. My first downer came when i wanted to bike to the harbor office to pay my dues: it seemed that my bike was not pleased with my slow progress of travel and subsequently satisfied it’s wanderlust by wandering off… not fun for me.

Out of the harbor the wind was a (very) solid 5Bft with a tendency to 6. With the tidal stream setting to the west and the wind coming from there it made for a very unpleasant sea (wind against tide). The wind forced me to tack. There is two options to do so. Either a tack every once in a while (half hour or hour) and zigzaging in front of the coast, or going out “the whole way” making one tack and coming back the whole way. Me being lazy, the way not getting longer (adding all the zigzags equals the two long pieces) but loosing speed (yeah, not substantial if not racing) at every tack and with hope that the wind might be a bit more favourable in direction out in the open water i chose to singe-tack.

Dieppe - Fécamp, my M-shaped track (marked with red arrow - i tacked too early so i went north-west again) vs. possible zigzag along the coast
Dieppe – Fécamp, my M-shaped track (marked with red arrow – i tacked too early so i went north-west again) vs. possible zigzag along the coast

Let’s make things short. Either it was the new water i put in the tank the day before (did not ask if potable) or it was the steap sea or both. But i started feeling all but good. At two points i was just a notch from throwing up. It really shattered my morals. The sea got soo much calmer as the tidal stream changed direction, but i still stayed in a sick-state. And despite the sun coming out and the sea calm i was still shaken enough that a coastguard helicopter approaching me at some 50 meters touched me deep enough to bring me close to tears.

Coastguard inspection on the way Dieppe - Fécamp
Coastguard inspection on the way Dieppe – Fécamp

An hour later or so my decision to do the one-tack-route turned out wrong. The wind died off completely. So i had to turn on the engine and motor to Fécamp – with the tidal stream now against me. Would i have stuck to a coastal zig-zag i would have had probably some 4 miles less to go than this way. Does not sound much, but with a strong tide that does make for an additional hour or more (5-6 knots under motor minus 2-3kn stream makes 2-3kn over ground and thus 1-2 hours for 4miles).

But there’s a up to every down. I motored with a steering course almost 40° appart from my course over ground towards the coastal limestone cliffs lit up by a setting sun in extremely calm waters continuing reading my book and experienced my first single-handed under-way sunset at sea.

Normandy’s cliffs in the evening sun
Normandy’s cliffs in the evening sun

Still, entering the harbor i was exhausted and happy to go to sleep soon. Set out for a route that under engine would be 30nmi i arrived in Fécamp after what turned out to be my longest leg so far (56.5nmi). I tied up the boat, cleared the sailing setup to make room for the living setup, turned on the fridge, water pump and cabin lights and was greated with a fissing noise. I located it under the starboard bench, which, when opened, greeted me with a stream of water shooting at the ceiling of the boat. The hot-water pipe coming from the boiler was burst.

I’m sure you can guess that the tools are stored under the left bench...
I’m sure you can guess that the tools are stored under the left bench…

I turned off the water pump, removed pressure from the system (opening the water tap) and checked the bilge, where there was not really a lot of water. The bit there was might have come also from other places. I pumped off what the pump could still suck and tried to repair the pipe with self-vulcanizing tape. Did not work. So i just brushed teeth and went to bed.

Sailor, a bit exhaused on Thursday morning
Sailor, a bit exhaused on Thursday morning

Yesteday was a new day. After my office-working-day (participating in a video-conference for the VALiD research project) i explored Fécamp and went to the ship chandlery. As they did not have the pipe i need i bought a bit of a (thicker) hose and temporarily fixed the rupture with a metal tightening strap. I also bought a fishing rod, which i hope will get me my lunch or dinner today, and then went to watch the Germans play 0-0 against Poland.

One of many Fécamp’s narrow streets (ruelle) with stone buildings
One of many Fécamp’s narrow streets (ruelle) with stone buildings
Fécamp’s beach and cliff
Fécamp’s beach and cliff
Somtimes i do feel time starting ticking a tick slower
Somtimes i do feel like time is starting to tick a tick slower

Today is Friday, gray and i’ll stay in Fécamp. On Tuesday i return home for two weeks and i wonder where i will have to leave mala moja then. I like the Normandy 🙂

Post script. I like to think of myself as being an optimistic realist. A saying goes that there is only three types of sailors: dead and retired ones, pessimists and beginners. And i’m not really sure about it but i do have the impression that i catch myself with an awful lot of pessimist thoughts… hope this is not permanent.
And now, off to fishing!!

Post-post script. Actually i like to sing the above song from the Shout Out Louds with replacing “Normandie” by “Brittany” as i’ve had it in my ear all the time when i arrived there with the Tres Hombres last year. But i guess i like the Normandy too.
And now, really off to fishing!
I’m hungy.

Postpostpost: here’s a tide-ebb comparison picture for Fécamp harbor that i just made.

(Cover image: fishing boat off the cliffs east of Fécamp)

The delights of France

Sunday, June 12th, 2016. – part II

In Boulogne-Sur-Mer i arrived fairly early, so i had time to explore the city and have a glass of (french) wine in the old part of town (the historic city center is within ancient fortified city walls). Together with the sunny day it really lifted my spirits. Or, as the Freedom-couple put it: the water here is bluer than in the north sea, the weather sunnier and the wind is blowing… nothing to add 😉
Besides i had a sip of skipper’s rum with Hermann from S/Y Freedom (S/Y is a common abbreviation for sailing yacht) for crossing the Dover Strait and reaching “the Channel“, the world’s busiest seaway. And no, it is not men only, Sabrina simply didn’t want one.

Coast north-east before Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Coast north-east before Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Street view in Boulonge-Sur-Mer
Street view in Boulonge-Sur-Mer

Unfortunatelly the wind-part did not hold true for the next day when we went for another long leg towards Dieppe. The whole stretch (10.5 hours) i had to go by engine. I had the sails up to generate a bit of additional speed, but that was more to comfort myself. The little wind there was came from dead astern and was of little use. Since the sea was completely flat it was at least a very calm ride. And besides some small works on the boat i could finished my book (One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel García Márquez) and start a new one (Tamata by Bernard Moitessier).

Fisher in calm waters on my way south
Fisher in calm waters on my way south
Strong current in front of the port entrance (i am heading towards the green tower on the right, despite pointing very left ;)
Strong current in front of the port entrance (i am heading towards the green tower on the right, despite pointing very left 😉

In Dieppe i arrived very late. Too late for the harbor office still being open. And too late for the kick off of the European Championship (soccer). So i had a quick shower on board (the 2nd on board) and then took off for the first bar i could find to watch the 2nd half. Turns out, i was just in time. The second half was interesting to watch and with a victory the French were pleased and started partying. I joined a band of guys who were in town for a soccer tournament themselves and had a cool evening.

Car convoy celebrating France’s victory in the opening game
Car convoy celebrating France’s victory in the opening game
More (post) victory celebration
More (post) victory celebration

Yesterday i wanted to do some shopping (maps, gasoline, ladders and stainless screws for the boat, some fishing gear and groceries) for which i hit the city roads by bike. I saw the city, but failed to find any of the necessary places… so i accepted faith and sat down for a glass of wine at a picturesque square of the beautiful town.

Market next to Dieppe’s cathedral
Market next to Dieppe’s cathedral
After market square - with sunlight
After market square – with sunlight
At a café in Dieppe
At a café in Dieppe

And so, here i am. Sitting in France, typing these lines and enjoying french life. Despite it being the north coast, it feels so meditteranean to me. The coastline changed from flat to cliffs with green meadows and sheep or cows on them. Today it’s a working day and i have to figure out my route for tomorrow. It’s west with the options of Le Havre or Cherbourg. Cherbourg is over 50nmi and has the downside of taking me 10-15nmi south, which i have to make up north again when going to Cherbourg. Cherbourg on the other hand is a 110nmi – which means over a day at sea. With the TSS limiting free space in the north, the coast close and fishing traffic this is reasonable for Sabrina and Hermann who can have a watch-change, but not for me. Or it is north to Newhaven, England. 65nmi are doable within daylight and without sleep (12-14hours). Especially as the current does not matter when crossing the channel – it takes you the same way west as it does east. So you can just go straight. Then again, if i cross the channel, i miss the opportunity to visit the site of the D-Day landing…

So it is ale in England, sailing in the Solent (the “Mecca” of sailing), hoisting the english flag (adding another country to my list) and crossing the channel versus the french coast, D-Day landing site and not having to cross the channel.
It’s hard for me to make such decissions.

Low tide in Dieppe ...
Low tide in Dieppe …
... and 6 hours later at high tide.
… and 6 hours later at high tide.

P.s.: It is really fascinating to see the huge impact of the tide here. In Dieppe there is a differnce of 8m (at spring tide) in the water levels. So it’s up every six hours and down every six hours. Just imagine what masses of water are moving here…

(Cover picture: Boulonge-Sur-Mer’s cathedral in the sunset)

The Channel – takes it’s toll

Sunday, June 12th, 2016. – part I

Dieppe, France. Here i am!
I just now realized that i did not write a post for a week now. So this is the first post from outside of the Netherlands – a small sail for mankind, but a giant leap for mala moja and me.
But let’s move along chronologically… i’ll split the post in two for easier congestability.

Traffic before Zeebrugge
Traffic before Zeebrugge

I crossed the first border when heading for Zeebrugge, Belgium. Entering port was a challenge. Not being allowed to enter due to traffice (a cruise ship leaving) the current carried me a good piece west off the entrance -which i realized quite late. So after the green light showing up, i had to go against the current (which was approx. 3kn at that place). When i finally reached the harbor entrance (not more than 100m in front of it) the light againg switched to red. Was like in a bad slapstick movie. I entered anyhow.

Once more - leisure and insutry, just a dune away...
Once more – leisure and insutry, just a dune away…

In Zeebrugge i stayed two nights to have an excursion to Brugge – which is a marvel of a city! I did not read up on it more than that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but just followed the advice to go and visit it. And i was flashed! The whole inner city feels like a giant museum. It’s beautiful. So i spent several hours biking the city before i returend (by train) to the harbor of Zeebrugge.
In the evening i talked about the plans for the next day(s) with a german sailing couple – Sabrina and Hermmann. Turns out that they are just starting a three-year sailing journey with thery boat Freedom and heading the same direction as i am (until Gibraltar).

One of the many channels of Brugge
One of the many channels of Brugge
Due to it’s channels the city is also called "Venice of the North"
Due to it’s channels the city is also called “Venice of the North”
A houses entrance in Brugge
A houses entrance in Brugge

Motivated by the Freedom-crew i (also) departed for Dunkerque, France, the next day. We were sailing in weak wind westwards befor turning southwards later on, to get past the many shoals and sandbanks off the belgian coast. The wind got less and less and so i had to motor a significant part of the leg. When approaching Dunkirque i was suprised to see three military vessels slowly moving in front of and inside the port. Asking for permission to enter i learned why: a movie shot for “Dunkerque” inside the harbor had me waiting in front of the entrance again.

Dunkerque harbor entrance - with movie set
Dunkerque harbor entrance – with movie set
Heading into harbor alongside the movie boats
Heading into harbor alongside the movie boats
More harbour traffic, thanks to Hollywood
More harbour traffic, thanks to Hollywood
Extras waiting for the shot at the harbor wall
Extras waiting for the shot at the harbor wall
Dunkerque - without Hollywood ;)
Dunkerque – without Hollywood 😉

Again i spent two nights in Dunkerque, debating with the Freedom-crew how to proceed. The two major options were crossing to England or staying in France. We both chose to stick to the southern, french coast. With Clais being apparently closed for transiting boats (info came from another sailor) this made Boulogne the next logical stop (no harbors before that).

With over 40 miles (direct route) this meant to leave early. Especially as the Strait of Dover and the ferry crossing Calais-Dover might be time consuming. In addition the tidal current at Cap Gris-Nez is also a stronger one (2.2 kn at spring tide– which was now). As i feared to be stuck fighting the tide i motor-sailed the first part. With only some 4 to 6 knots of wind from astern (blowing into your back) it was also necessary, as there would have been little progress. The wind died off more and more, but the current took me with it. The ferry line i crossed without much hassle. After contacting one of the ferries on “collision course” via VHF they explained their course will change in a minute (and it did) and that thus i am not in their way.
At the Cap Gris-Nez the sun came out and the wind started to pick up. So despite the current starting to turn, i could turn off the engine and enjoy a beautiful sail with the scenic chalk cliffs of France and England (Cliffs of Dover) in sight.

Also part of the channel traffic - boats "being in the roads" (i.e. waiting to continue)
Also part of the channel traffic – boats “being in the roads” (i.e. waiting to continue)
Dover-Calais ferries crossing in front Calais (every 20 minutes)
Dover-Calais ferries crossing in front Calais (every 20 minutes)
The cliffs of Calais on port (side)...
The cliffs of Calais on port (side)…
and those of Dover on starboard side of mala moja
… those of Dover on starboard side of mala moja…
And mala moja’s sailor at Cap Gris-Nez
… and mala moja’s sailor at Cap Gris-Nez.

Traffic here in the strait is heavy, but limited to the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) which i did not cross. But you have constant talking on the radio. Among all the routine traffic i also picked out uncomforting radio traffic… (Short explanation: radio reception range strongly depends on the hight of the sending and receiving antenna – line of sight – since coast-guard antennas are very high you can often hear the coast-guard part of conversations but not the part of the second station involved). Apparently some distress or urgency call was being made, as i could figure from the coast-guards part of the conversation.
Later it became even worse. In a second conversation there was a fisherman over board for whom a SAR (search and rescue) opeartion was initiated. As i found out later, this operation was unsuccessful.

(Cover picutr: cranes of Zeebrugge – with a war memorial)

Sailing, finally

Sunday, June 5th, 2016.

Squatting the night, beans for breakfast and a good morning.
Finally!

My idea was to go from Scheveningen/Den Hague directly to Oostende, which already lies in Belgium. Needless to say, that this plan did not work out. It would have been fairly ambitious and required (very) early departure as it would take probably some 15 hours or so. Thus i prepared several stops for along the way.

The intended departure was delayed by prolongued stormy weather for another day, which i spent doing nothing – except for shopping groceries and reading. Something i have to learn: accepting the weather. And also being OK with doing “nothing” every once in a while.

So when i actually left port 2 days ago i had to wait for the fog getting less dense. And even then, when i departed towards south (including Rotterdam’s entrance) the visibility was initally just a bit over 1nmi. Luckily it got better (approx. 4nmi) until i came to the Maas entrance, which is the way into Rotterdam.

Waves and fog en route to Rotterdam
Waves and fog en route to Rotterdam

Since the wind had been blowing with force 6 and 7 the last days, the swell was quite high (2-3m). And since the wind was really weak, i could not set the sails. They were being tossed around by the movement of the air caused by the leverage of mast and waves. So it was an unstable ride and i started feeling a bit queasy… not fun.
And i also discovered that i lost a fender under way – more plastic in the sea 🙁

Crossing Rotterdam entrance
Crossing Rotterdam entrance

So the call was to head for the first possible stop, which was Stellendam. I entered the marina and of course just then the wind did pick up while trying to park the boat in a berth with really little place to maneuver. Fortunatelly a couple helped me, cause i missed the cleat when throwing the rope and the boat was already drifting…

For yesterday i planned to do the trip to Belgium. Far, but possible. I got up at 7:30 and was ready for it. But the weather was not. Fog. Really thick fog. So thick that i would not have been able to move through the channel marked with buoys, as i would not have seen the next one. More watining – which reduced my time window. And when i got going, there was not enough time left for Belgium. Not even Vlissen, where i would have liked to go (as wind was low and current against me).

Cought by fog, this time in Stellendam
Cought by fog, this time in Stellendam

But after i could turn off the engine (took a while until the wind was strong enough) i had a really great sail. With the wind vane (which is a mechanical “auto pilot” – uses no electricity 😉 – that keeps the boat in a preset angle towards the wind) tested for the first time. And she worked like a charm!

Raise that flag - finally sun!
Raise that flag – finally sun!

I set the wind vane to a course of roughly 60° (naturally apparent) wind, and on my laptop (i use OpenCPN, a great open source programm for nautical navigation) an alarm if i get off by more than 10° from my course (yesterday the heading was 240°). The sun was partially coming through the haze, the sea calm, the wind light and steady and i reading a book. Awesome!

This is what sailing would be like in an ideal world (with a bit more wind)...
This is what sailing would be like in an ideal world (with a bit more wind)…

I came to the Roopot-lock where i wanted to just go through and go in the marina right behind it. But in the lock i met two great belgian sailors (Gregoir and Olivier) who told me they were going to stay at the pantoon right behind the lock and i should do the same. It is 1nmi closer and for free, compared to an overly expensive marina that has not much to offer. Sounded good to me! I stayed there with them – which is not really allowed to be done at that pantoon, but well… no risk no fun. And they invited me for supper. We had chicken, some wine and a good time and i got some good advice for the channel.

Well, here i am. On a sunny and breezy Sunday morning, had baked beans for breakfast (wanted to re-supply with bread in the marina) and am getting ready for the next leg. Will it be Belgium today?!

(Cover image: a west cardinal buoy and a sailing boat at sea)

Departing challenge

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016.

Sitting in Den Hague, where i arrived yesterday evening, at a coffe & tea bar to get some work done. And to write this blog (it’s getting tiresome to always just sit on the boat ;).

Deserted Scheveningen promenade
Deserted Scheveningen promenade

Had a nice bike-tour along the beach promenade yesterday nite. Though it did remind me very much of Mamaia beach after the end of the season. All bars and places (still) open, with colorful lights and (loud) music, but hardly any people around. Quite depressing. Does not really comfort my solitude. But, as to cheer me up, at the end of the promenade an (empty) bar was playing “Follow the Sun”.

More deserted Scheveningen
More deserted Scheveningen

I generally observe myself being somewhat on an emotional rollercoaster ride. For me almost everything is new. I have not been a real handyman before coming on the boat. And in addition all the work on the boat is brand new. Drilling a hole in the hull scares the shit out of me. Well, the last four (for the AIS-antenna cable) were already much easier and better than the very first one. But in general all is new. And everything i do is something i have to “force” myselft into doing.

I am still scared of leaving a port (cover picture shows the swell of the last day hitting the breakwater when was leaving IJmuiden). But it’s not fear of the things that are out there; it’s a very fuzzy anxiousness that kind of lames me. Every departure is a struggle. Starting every new task is a struggle. And there is no-one around who i can talk to and use this talk as an outlet for this unspecific anxiousness.

Somewhere there is Scheveningen, Den Hague
Somewhere there is Scheveningen, Den Hague

Then again is the great joy of coming into a new, beautiful place. And to me they all look beautiful. Might it be because their industrial charm reminds me of Russia (IJmuiden did do that very much), or because a sun-lit inner-city harbor just reflects the spirit of the people living here (IJburg, Hoorn, Enkhuizen or Scheveningen), or because it is a beautiful small fishing village (Marken, Oudeschild), or because there is some emotional connection (Den Helder as home of Fair Transport, Tres Hombres and Nordlys), or because of their intrinsic charme (Sixhaven), or because they just are (Den Oever, Broekerhaven). But also then, after the first rush of endorphines and happiness settles, i’d like to share the moment. And it is a bit sadening to not be able to do so. And no, modern communication technology is great, but it cannot do that 😉 ).

Scheveningen’s lighthouse - i guess there it is
Scheveningen’s lighthouse – i guess there it is

Well… let’s get some work done. And have a stroll in the city. And prepare for the next leg. And the passing of Rotterdam’s entrance 😉

Scheveningen’s lighthouse shining over the promenade
Scheveningen’s lighthouse shining over the promenade
My home waiting in Scheveningen’s foggy harbor
My home floating in Scheveningen’s foggy harbor

(Cover image: waves breaking at Scheveningen’s breakwater when leaving port)

Our ocean

Monday, May 30th, 2016.

Sailing is often seen as something luxurious. The sea is seen as recreation. Both is connected to holidays and good times. Today, when biking from the “Seaport Marina” located in the very last corner of the port of IJmuiden into the city, in search for some parts, i realized this “misconception”. And it’s not really our fault. As a society we completely black out, systematically neglect the two aspects that dominate our use of the oceans. It’s industry and cargo transport.

90% of everything we consume is transported by cargo ships. And every year the 16 largest cargo ships produce as much sulfur pollution as all cars on the world combined. Yes, ships are the most economic (and “environmentally friendly“) way of transporting goods. But it’s the masses of goods that we ship which cause a problem. And i am not talking about over-fishing yet…

Pleasure and industry - a dune appart
Pleasure and industry – a dune appart

Of course we do not make holidays in industrial ports but prefer nice sandy beaches and thus do not (want to) see the dark side of the sea. But the industry is still there. Sometimes out of sight literally only by one sand dune, as here in IJmuiden.

Behind the dunes at IJmuiden beach
Behind the dunes at IJmuiden beach

I think we should be a bit more aware of our exploitation and pollution of the oceans (and the world). For me it was hard to avoid seeing it, when i’m passing 3km of industrial port before reaching the city. And also there is always “big traffic” on the sea here in the north of Europe.

Anyhow, tonite i woke up all sweaty. And i mean literally soaked. I don’t remember a nightmare being the cause of it. But i assume that my planning of the next legs of my journey were the cause for it. Cause from here it is either England (100nmi directly westward) or south along the coast towards Belgium. The latter means only few harbors (roughly every 30-40nmi) and crossing the entrance to Rotterdam – speaking of industry at sea.

Not so charming weather forced me to wait a day
Not so charming weather forced me to wait a day

Due to today’s weatherforecast being wind force 6-7 from N and fog, i did not move out. The next harbor (Scheveninge, basically a part of Den Hague) is “dangerous to enter in winds of force 6 or higher from N” and crossing the entrance to Rotterdam can be “extremely hazardous in fog or at night with bad visibility”. So “all” i did is go shopping (groceries, pillows and a broom-stick which will put my AIS-antenna over 1m higher ;), work on the boat and do a bit of office work. And i was invited by Manon, who i met a few weeks ago in Amsterdam for dinner, which was really nice 🙂 ).

But tomorrow it’s off to the south.

IJmuiden port control in the fog
IJmuiden port control in the fog

And some pictures of my days at Texel… 😉

Oudeschild gravel bike track with green grass and white sheep
Oudeschild gravel bike track with green grass and white sheep
(Not only) German’s paradise
(Not only) German’s paradise
Texel’s fishing fleet seen through sunglasses
Texel’s fishing fleet seen through sunglasses

(Cover image: the industry and port of IJmuiden during my approach)

Escorting Nordlys

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016.

Today was full with experiences…
The day started with getting up early to be ready for Nordlys’ departure/escort from Den Helder. The tug boat was scheduled for 9:00, so by then mala moja and i had to be good to go. And we were. Only the tug boat took a bit longer to come.

Captain Gerhard just before Nordlys’ departure
Captain Gerhard just before Nordlys’ departure

We finally started our trip through the harbor. With a lot of wind it was not easy to tug out Nordlys, but it was uplifting to escort her through the lock and bridges on her way to the sea. Four people from Fair Transport joined mala moja for this.
Waiting in front of the lock we tied up for a cup of coffee with the Nordlys’ crew. Was a really nice experience and farewell 🙂

A cup of coffee before the lock
A cup of coffee before the lock

Exiting harbor the force 6 wind hit us right on the nose. By the time Nordlys had her sails up half the crew was salted. And so were we on mala moja. To make the experience complete a submarine of the dutch navy also left port with us. Made for a good scenery – i’m looking forward to the video of it (it will be posted by FairTransport – you can follow them on facebook 😉 )

After i dropped off the Fair Transport crew i was heading for Texel. But before i could leave i was visited by the police who inspected Rêverie and registered us. They said that future inspections would see this entry and be quicker.

Dutch navy boat passing by
Dutch navy boat passing by

The trip to Texel, where i had an appointment with the sailmakers, took longer than expected, as the current was stonger (unfavourable 2-3kn) than anticipated. On the way it seemed that there was a maneuver of the Navy in which i found myself. After the sub from the morning several navy boats passed me by and helicopters were circling over the area.

Fairly tired i arrived in Texel and had a challenge to park, as the wind was blowing unsteadily. With the sailmakers i arranged the works for the 3rd reef and i’ll bring in my main tomorrow morning. After that i tidied up the boat and tried out the “cockpit tent” from which i had learned just minutes before from Niek, the previous owner. It makes quite a cool cockpit-cover! With the downside of not being able to stand in the cockpit any more 😀
And i realized that it would have had been better to park in the other direction – this way the cockpit would have been a bit better protected from the wind. But i guess that’s all lessons to be learned.

Testing the (just discovered) cockpit tent
Testing the (just discovered) cockpit tent

After supper on my boat, second supper with Saskia and lot of snacks (i seem to be very hungry the last days) i had a skype-meeting with my colleague with whom i was working on a (really cool ;)) data-story for the ORF on the refugee migration patterns (note: as the story will be online only a week or two, i will not link to it).
Good night for now. Quite some work to be done tomorrow. The journey is waiting, tasks need to be done!

(Cover image: Nordlys with set sails on its way to Oostende)

Salt water

Monday, May 23rd, 2016.

Den Helder. The place where it started. Sort of.
Where, last year, i took off from to go on my first big sailing journey. Where i met Andreas who’s input gave the final touch to my idea of going sailing. Of buying mala moja in the Netherlands.

On Saturday i passed the last lock to the salty water. From there my first trip took me to the beautiful island of Texel. With a force 6 wind i sailed through the channels of the Wadden Sea and had also a favourable current. With speeds in excess of 10 knots i surfed down the waves to the fishing port of Oudeshild. It was great to be in salty waters. Mala moja loved it. The waves, albeit significantely higher than on the lakes, were coming in greater intervals.

The fishing fleet of Texel when entering the port of Oudeschild
The fishing fleet of Texel when entering the port of Oudeschild

The last days on the lakes i spent in Enkhuizen, which is one marvel of a city. I thought that Hoorn is beautiful, but Enkhuizen beats it with ease. It was one of the major ports used by the East India Company and apparently got wealthy through that. Enkhuizen was basically just around the corner from Broekerhaven. Or once through the lock, to be precise. So i had a hole afternoon to spend there and also used some of the next day to bike trough the city.

View from mala moja lying in one of the three old harbors in Enkhuizen
View from mala moja lying in one of the three old harbors in Enkhuizen
One of hundreds of impressions of Enkhuizen
One of hundreds of impressions of Enkhuizen

From there i crossed the IJsselmeer in just one day. It was a gray and rainy day with fairly strong wind, so it took me long until i decided to leave (until the rain seemd to level off). The wind was coming from N (where i had to go) so it was (very) close hauled sailing with a tack or two to avoid coming too close to “no-go areas”. The night i spent in front of the lock of Den Oever. The following day was already Saturday when i travelled on to salty water and Rêverie was jumping from pleasure…

Oudeschild’s harbor
Oudeschild’s harbor
Two ferries between Den Helder and Texel crossing in the fog - and a sailing boat
Two ferries between Den Helder and Texel crossing in the fog – and a sailing boat

Sunday Saskia joined me on the trip from Texel to Den Helder, where i was to escort the Nordlys to the sea on her “second maiden voyage” (she was rammed on her original one and had to undergo months of repair). The trip was really good with fair wind, calm sea and the current carrying us rapidly. The slight fog made for a great atmosphere (also see cover picture). Unfortunatelly Nordlys could not depart on Monday. They will leave port for their westward journey tomorrow 9:00 instead, and so i am still here in Den Helder.

Entering the lock to the port of Den Helder
Entering the lock to the port of Den Helder

I was using today for office work that needed be done and also tried to get the boat more orderly. I arranged an appointment with a sailmaker on Texel who i want to add a third reef in my main sail (Explanation: the main sail right now has two reefs, which means i can make it 2 steps smaller than fully opened, this is used in case that there is a lot of wind). And i went shopping and treated myself with some calory rich dinner. Which was the best that i could do on this rainy, windy and cold day.
Except from that it was also a good day because Austria avoided, by a narrow margin of a few thousand voices, to have a right-wing extremist as president. Also it is the second day off power for me and tomorrow will be the third – which is a good test as i get to see how long my batteries last. By calculation i should be able to go for 3-4 days without falling below the 50% treshold under which lead batteries start to take damage. But we will see tomorrow. And at night i hope to be lying at Texel due to my appointment with the sailmakers.

Nordlys’ crew on its deck
Nordlys’ crew on its deck

So tomorrow i will be the escort of Nordlys. We will do some filming for Fair Transport and have some volunteers on board who worked hard to get Nordlys seaworthy again during the past months.
Just before starting to write this blog Gerhard, the captain of Nordlys on this voyage (the guy with the great beard on the left in the picture above), came by and presented me with a good cup of outstanding Tres Hombres rum. Writing is even more fun now 😉

Drilling plattform on repair behind Nordlys’ sails
Drilling plattform on repair behind Nordlys’ sails

(Cover image: a sailing ship in the fog between Texel and Den Helder)

Untie the lines

Thursday, May 19th, 2016.

I’m gone.
Yesterday i untied the lines (using the name of Nike’s video-blog as a title for this entry) in Muiderzand for the last time. And started heading north.

But before that i had to go south. From Marken, where i spent Friday and Saturday. Saturday i had a cup of wine with the family (Birgit, Eric, their daughter Nienke, her friend Linde and their dog Pepe) that went alongside me on their catamaran. Which was a really cool boat. Just the sailing basics. No fancy knickknack.
They invited me over into their “tent” which creates a half-open salon on the bridge between the two hulls of the boat. Later we transferred into mala moja where we shared our dinners. And another cup of wine. We talked about sailing locations (Brittany, Kornati, …). After a longer time of solitude i very much enjoyed their company. And for mala moja it was the first time that neighbor sailors came as guests 🙂

Birgit and Eric moving their catamaran to the pier
Birgit and Eric moving their catamaran to the pier

On Sunday i left for Amsterdam where i stayed in Sixhaven again. The sail was fine as the wind had leveled off a bit. Sixhave, as alwas, was great. This place is simply cool. In the middle of the city, but still so unpretentious.
With Monday being a holiday (Whitsun), Sunday was a going out evening. And a quite cool one too. Got to know a few new places and people and had a great night on the town.

Entrance to Sixhaven
Entrance to Sixhaven

Monday was an official holiday, but for me it was a busy working day. I had to prepare a video conference and thus spent the whole day and night in front of the computer. After the video conference i took off to Muiderzand where my last delivery has had arrived. So when i came in the evening (i was sailing butterfly a long stretch there – and was quite euphoric about it) i picked up my dinghy, the outboarder, binoculars an anchor-rope and two (smaller) austrian flags. With this i was ready to go.

Somebody is crazy over butterlfy sailing ;)
Somebody is crazy over butterfly sailing 😉

Nevertheless it took me a long time to depart yesterday. Buying another fender and two hailyards – one for my boom (which i could use as a main-hailyard backup if that one breaks) and the other as backup for the Genoa (the name of the front sail if it is an “overlapping” one). And of course i tried to get the stuff for the outboarder (motor oil, gear oil and a backup-spark-plug). The last two i did not get, so i also did not inflate the dinghy.
And then it was time to say goodbye to Mariëlle and Stephan from Yachtingcompany. One more big THANK YOU! for the many things that you helped me with!

And so here i am now. Lying in the very original harbor Broekerhaven to which i arrived yesterday night. The sail up was first just under engine, as it was totally becalmed. Later the wind picked up a bit and came from a perfect angle. Close hauled mala moja made good 5-6 knots in an apparent wind of only 10kn. I don’t know what the true wind was, but as the apparent came from just a bit over 40° starboard, i would estimate that it was below 10 knots.
I was pretty much the only sailing boat around and besides crossing the traffic lane there was no traffic at all. So finally i could relax and let be sailed. A timer for a 10minute check and a book. Perfect.
But of course. Perfect is never for long 🙂
I discovered that the port i was heading (Wijdenes) to was too shallow. So i had to go further north (as south was not an option for me) and the slight rain that had started turned into a downpour. Faced with the decission, i chose not to go through the lock of Enkhuizen but to stay south of it. Which made it Broekerhaven.

Traffic in Amsterdam during working days
Me in Amsterdam’s working day traffic

(Cover image: fishermen in the morning mist in front of Broekerhaven)

Gale warning

Saturday, May 14th, 2016.

Having a cup of morning tea in the harbour of Marken. I came here yesterday, and a ride it was. Before leaving Muiderzand i checked the weather and the most extreme forecast i found were gusts of up to 27kn. Gusts and significant wave hight are always specified as the average of the highest third. This means that the highest waves/strongest gusts can easily exceed the specified numbers. Knowing this i was not totally sure whether to leave or not.
On the sea i would have stayed in the harbor, but here on the Markenmeer i was considering it as a strong but not dangerously strong wind which would be good practice for me. So i left for Marken which lies some 15nm (if travelled on shortest path) to the north of Muiderzand.
With it being really warm (20C) i left in shorts and shirt, with a fleece prepared to put on in the wind. But just after leaving the marina i realized that i would need my rain jacket, as there was spray coming over pretty frequently. Later on the wind picked up a bit and i had to sail close-hauled. So the waves came splashing on board at frequent intevalls. Which made me remeber that my rain jacket was not really waterproof any more. So i had a wet rain jacket and as the water was draining down my body i was also sitting in it. Thus another change of cloths. This time into my foul weather jacket. I figured not to put the pants because i’d be there in 1-2 hours anyhow. And it payed off to put on that jacket. There was quite some water that came splashing over me…
Just a bit later the dutch coastguard issued a gale warning. Not that it changed anything for me, it did make me a bit nervous. And i decided i would not tack another time, but use the engine for the last two miles until the channel into harbor. But, motoring this last piece in a very steep angle against wind and waves was unpleasant, especially as the engine was making only limited progress – at high revolutions.
Parking the boat with a wind of 20+kn and gusts way above (the highest reading that i got on my wind instrument were 32kn – apparent wind) proved difficult. The harbor at Marken is fairly small and the smaller berths were quite tiny. After trying to enter one for 3 times, another sailer told me to go and lie at the pier instead. He then also helped me turn the boat into the wind, so that i have some protection behind my spray hood and can sit outside as well 😉

View of the harbor from the "Land en Zeezicht"
View of the harbor from the “Land en Zeezicht”

After fixing the boat i went to one of the two bars in Marken (the one recomended by that sailor) and had a great fish and some wine.
On my way back to the boat i saw a rescue boat drifting in the harbor. And when i reached my boat it went out, to aid a second rescue boat that was towing a yacht. They came into harbor and i helped them tie the yacht up. It’s engine broke down they told me. Which has been (after my experience the other time) just what i was afraid of the whole trip.

So, now i’m sitting here, the wind is making my boat dance alongside of the pier and i’m not sure if i should leave today into this weather or stay another night in Marken.
The weather forecast for today is better than for yesterday (wind 18kn, gusts 22kn) and the wind would also be coming from the back, which makes for much more pleasant sailing, but i’m right now still tired and not in the mood to be in the cold again.
Maybe that will change after breakfast.

(Cover image: boat following me in increasing wind on the way to Marken)

UPDATE: Took it as a sign of kismet to stay another night when a family pulled up with their catamaran alongside and tied themselves to mala moja.

Low

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016.

Some days are better. Some are less.
Today was leaning towards less.
As i received my absentee ballot and subsequently had to find a post office to cast my vote. The next office is some 8km from the marina, so i used it to make a short field trip with my bike (and also buy some groceries). On the way back i was fairly irritated by the back wheel of my bike. So i decided to stop by a bike shop along the road to get it fixed.
It took the expert 2 seconds to see that it was not worth fixing. And i saw it 10 seconds later. Basically half of the spokes were broken. To replace the wheel would be at least some 70€. And then the rest of the bike would still be in the shape that it was (i.e. bad). So i will buy a new folding bike…

At home, i went to hook up the wind instrument. For this i needed to connect the wind vane (sensor) with the instrument. And, to be able to compute the “true wind” i also need to connect the (old) speed instrument to the wind instrument.
Short explanation: when sailing/moving the wind that you feel (called “apparent wind”) is a combination of the wind blowing (“true wind”) and the wind created by driving. While sailing only the “apparent wind” matters to you, as you have to set your sails into the wind that you feel and experience. But when you want to change the course it is quite nice to know where the real wind is blowing from. Also it is great to know how strong the real wind is, so that you can reduce the amount of sails and not be surprised by it’s strength. To compute the “true wind” the instruments needs the information about the “apparent wind” and the information how fast you are driving (and in what direction – usually it is assumed “straight forward”, which is not 100% precise, but close enough).

Well, so i went to connect everything and then powered it on. The wind instrument started beautifully moving. But only showing the apparent wind. As i have a really old speed instrument i need to use a converter to translate the old signal for the new instrument. And apparently there is no signal coming to the converter.
In addition i also only have screwdriver’s with a diameter of 8.5mm. And the cable for the wind instrument has a diameter of 11mm. So i could not drill from the deck into the cabin. Even worse: my drilling machin only fits drills with a diameter of up to 10mm.

So without having accomplished much, and also with my bike “gone” i went to bed. The state of my ship made matters worse. After having finally got order into it and woken up to a tidied boat, i went to bed in total chaos again. And chaos for unseccessful work it was.
Let’s hope tomorrow turns out better.

(Cover image: chaos on board after an -unsuccessful- repair attempt)

Update (11.05.2016):
Oh yes, and i manged to buy a homoepathic salve. What a shame. I think i do have an allergic reaction…

Growing wings

Monday, May 9th, 2016.

The last week with a home port has begun. My berth here in Almere/Muiderzand is paid till the end of the week, so i have a countdown running. If my last shipment of equipment (dinghy and some other stuff) and my absentee ballot arrive until then. Which i hope.

The weekend i’ve spent for another trip to Amsterdam. This time into the heart of the city – including passing a draw bridge and a lock. It was really great to drive with mala moja through Amsterdam. And the marina Sixhaven, located in the very heart of the city, is a marvel. I so fell in love with it.
Nevertheless, on the way out i had trouble pulling out with the wind and slightly touched another boat. Seems that pulling out is harder (at least for me) than driving into a berth.

In a lock towards Amsterdam
In a lock towards Amsterdam

It does scare me a bit, but the boat is almost ready. Today i bought the cables to set up a (very) rudimentary NMEA 2000 bus system so i will try hooking up the new wind instrument with the old depth & log tomorrow. The sat-phone went active today too and i brought some order into the boat. Not that it’s perfect, but i can store the most things away safely now.

Of course there is a bunch of “small stuff” that still needs to be done. But for that i do not need to stay at this place (service the remaining two winches, measure and mark the anchor chain, check the furler of the fore sail, fit the water-absorbing mat under the bed, …).

(Cover image: Boats passing when leaving from Amsterdam for Muiderzand)

A glimpse of spring

Friday, May 6th, 2016.

Today in the morning i was lying in the marina Ijburg (eastern part of Amsterdam) where i sailed to yesterday to visit a friend of mine, who happens to be visiting her sister in Amsterdam. Was a great sail on a great spring day.
Finally warm weather!
Shorts!
T-Shirt!!
And sleeping with an open hatch!
Awesome.
Though i know that the cold will be back. But it was great to experience a first topless brunch on deck today.

Lying in marina Ijburg
Lying in marina Ijburg

A few days ago i did a first night-sail. Actually i started shortly before sunset to experience that on the water too. It was really great to have this calm sail in the night with the star sprangled sky above and waves lightly clapping against mala moja.

And just now i registered and requested activation of all my electronic safety-/backup-systems (EPIRB, PLB and SatPhone). And i have to say that mounting the PLB to the life jacked made a very uncomfortable feeling crawl into my guts. I really, really hope that i will never ever need this stuff. Ever.

(Cover image: Sunset on the first night sail with mala moja)

Downs and ups.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016.
Part V

Today i finally got a second bottle of gas, so now i will not be caught off guard if the first one runs out. And i started tidying up the boat, making (to-do) plans for the next days and work my office job.

With all the action of the past days (visit home with lots of celebration), appointments, boat prep & boat tripping, i am having a bit of a struggle to settle in my “routine” again. And i find the “solitude” a bit depressing. Again. I did have the same feeling when Walter left and it took me a day or two to settle in to calmness, silence and solitude. But it was acompanied by a mental low.
So it is now. Feeling kind of mellow. Also because i know that there is still quite some things to be done.
I will have to do something against condensation under the bunk (the water tank is there and apparently the temperature difference is significant), buy & install a VHF, get a dinghi, install the wind instrumenent the wind-pilot and a lot of other “small stuff”.

In this respect i am very thankful to Nike (WhiteSpotPirates) for her great video-blog where she openly speaks about her set backs. Although not comparable, watching her struggle with Karl (her boat) prepared me mentally for my trip.

And actually there is a lot of cool things!
I do have a working GPS/AIS/Map-Setup on my computer which is connected to the main antenna and shows ships in a really far distance (15 miles under imperfect conditions). Though the connection will most likely change when the built-in VHF claims its spot. I guess i’ll try how well the old antenna works, before throwing it away.
Coming into my harbour later than planned due to the engine hiccup made me switch on the navigation lights – and discovere that the compass lighting is turned on with the navigation lights. So i have that problem fixed too (was not able to figure out the reason for the compass lights not working).
And i got myself the “pro” version of Windguru which i find very use- & helpful.

And i also got to realize an effect of living on a boat. You do not take things as granted as you do otherwise. Everything is limited. Space is obvious. But you also think twice when turning on the water. When turning on the gas to cook. When turning on a light. When turning on the engine.
Going on a two-day excursion without ability to charge the batteries quickly reorders your priorities. The real essentials come first.

(Cover image: Sunset over Amsterdam, seen from Almere/Muiderzand)

First solo sail

Saturday, April 30th, 2016.
Part IV

The way back from Hoorn i made on my own. My first solo journey. The wind was fairly strong and hence the waves on the Markermeer where coming in very short intervals. Together with having to travel fairly directly into the wind, it was a bit of an unpleasant journey.
Needless to say that i felt quite anxious for the first hour or two sailing alone.

And, of course, the first excursion needs to have a little bit of a special surprise…
When reaching Marken (the name giving settlement of Markermeer, marking roughly half-way of my trip) i had to turn directly into the wind to go to Muiderzand. So i decided to turn on the engine again and do the rest under engine.
Unfortunatelly i turn the enginge but the engine doesn’t turn… so i had to come up with alternatives.
Either sailing all the way home to the marina and reaching it way past dawn, as i would have to tack my way home. Or sailing to a closer harbour? Or dropping the anchor and wait? And in any harbour-case i would better have someone tug me in, as the wind was fairly strong and an entrance under sails into a tightly packed marina would have been quite a chance for collision with potential damage.

Fortunatelly i did reach my agents from Yachtingcompany by phone and together we figured out the problem… it was none of the many complicated possibilities i have been going through. It was the “choke” was pulled out. I had either simply forgotten to push it in after getting the sails up or accidentaly pulled it out during sail maveuvers.
I must admit, it was a big relief knowing that i can enter into harbor by engine 🙂

Closer encounter
Closer encounter

(Cover image: sailor on his first solo sail)

Riggin-check. And removal.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016.
Part III

So the next thing up was the check of the rigging. The insurance wants it for the crossing of the bay of biscay and i thought that it would not be bad to have a pro look at it. Well, the pro did not look much at it but said right away that the steel cables need to be replaced and thus the mast taken off the boat.
To see it positively, i had an easy opportunity to change the (main) halyard, fix the “Windex” (german term) and replace the navigation lights with LEDs (to save energy). And to install a radar reflector.
Well, bad thing is, i also figured out that the wind sensor was corroded and hence dead. Another unexpected replacement/repair. And while at replacing it i also found out that the VHF-antenna is at the very end of her life span. And not just the antenna, but also the cable (already corroded inside). More replacement necessary.

After this i went home for a week that was full with appointments. It was great to see family and friends again. But also a bit challenging to rush through this many events and to-do’s. And of course it was also not fun to see the outcome of the first round of the presidential elections…

Back in the Netherlands i actually wanted to take part in the King’s Day celebration in Amsterdam. But just after i came to the boat i slipped and hit my leg really hard on the edge of the dock. So i spent King’s Day at the boat doing small stuff and keeping my leg calm.
I also had my aunt visiting and we had lunch at the Harbor House.

The following day Rêverie was taken for a first “real” trip. Saskia, a friend from Tres Hombres with thousands of miles of sailing experience, came with me on that trip – which was really great. The city of Hoorn, to which we went is extremly beautiful. So with my sample of two trips, i can either say that 100% of the dutch cities sitting on water are beautiful, or that my sample is too small.

(Cover image: Saskia next to mala moja in the harbor of Hoorn)

Boat in the water – water in the boat.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016.
Part II

Finally the moment came when she got lifted into the water… So great to have her swim! And drive her the first few hundred meters to her (temporary) berth. There i made the “mistake” to check the bilge. Where water was standing. I was sooo mad at myself for not having checked BEFORE she went into water. Now i was slightly nervous that it might be outside water, and not inside water gathered over the passed months.
Usually there is a pretty easy test to determine this: taste the water! Is it fresh, all ok – is it salty, you most likely have a problem. But since Muiderzand is fresh water this test fails.
Fortunatelly enough the water did not come back (fast enough) after i got it out of the bilge. And in the meantime i know that she’s leak-tight -so far 😉
Despite this little flurry it felt absolutely great to have water under the ship! Cause it ment that i can fill up the internal water tank and use it for dishes and drinking. Also i don’t have to walk 200m in one way to get to the toilet 🙂

Meeting Niek, Rêverie’s previous owner, was great. He was super friendly and took half a day to show and help me with the engine maintenance. We changed filters and oil (a dirty job – not only literally) and then hoisted the sails. Unfortunatelly it was too windy for a short trip. So Rêverie continued to stay in water without travelling.

First trip with mala moja
First trip with mala moja

But the next day she was taken for a short trip to the neighboring settlement of Muiden with a friend who came to visit over the weekend. Muiden is a pittoresque city with lots of water – and a water castle, for which it is famouse for. Fortunatelly we also found a pub for a beer before returning to the Marina an hour later.

(Cover image: mala moja beeing craned into water)

Routine?

Saturday, April 30th, 2016.
Part I

So much and so little at once. Now i am here in the Netherlands for a bit over a month. And it’s hard for me to write about it.
It seems to me as if months have passed since then, and not four weeks. So much has happened since then. But then again, it feels as if so little have i progressed. And so, to sort all of the thoughts crossing my mind is hard.
Plus, the constant delays and lags also drag me down mentally to some extent.

On March 26 Rêverie has been ceremonialy named. I kept her name, as this is (some kind of) tradition. But also because the name fits. Rêverie meaning daydream, fantasy or cloud-castle. So the name “mala moja” intended for her was added as nickname. And in the meantime on english i dub her “boaty”.

Then, after family and friends left me alone with boaty i started working. Walter came to help – and was not only manual support, but also moral. It was great to have somebody to who i could express my thoughts and get feedback from in the early phase of doing stuff that i have never been doing before. And it was 5 hard days underneath of the boat to get the under-water ship ready. Now i have to hope that i did not mess up and that it will do its job.

Working on the underwater-ship

And of course there is potential OSMOSIS that still haunts me. But i try to talk myself into it, that this cannot be prevented by underwater paint. I read so in a fairly sophisticated article that explained how the molecular structure of steam is smaller than that of paint/coating and thus is not hindered by it…
Since i have to believe something and since the posts and articles that warn of osmotic damage if not properly sealed are far less scientific, i go with the “coating does not prevent osmotic damage” theory.

Installing LEDs

Then i discovered the wiring… it was hard for me to see that it will take me a looooong time to understand which wire goes where. And, unfortunatelly, i probably will not be able to understand how the cables run. They are hidden behind an intermediate ceiling which can only be accessed in a few locations. So i guess that i will not greatly change the wiring for the beginning.
But since i could not repair the wind instrument it was clear that i will have to checked it at a later point in time.

Then the boom hit me. Or, more precisely, i hit the boom. The boat was not even in water. I did not watch where i was going but looked to the side while heading towards the entry. And then i just walked into the boom. Hard enough to get a cut worth being stiched.
A few days later i saw into my finger (fortunately a manual saw is slow 😉
Not counting the little daily scratches and bruises.

And of course there was also the “normal” office work that i was doing. So my days flew and fly by.
To relax a bit i took a trip up north to Den Helder and Texel, where i met with people from Tres Hombres, which is always great. Besides, riding with my bike on the dikes of Texel, for the first time i had the feeling: “Now you’re travelling. This is what it feels like to be under way!”
And it was awesome. The island of Texel is beautiful, and the weather was for once gracious.

Texel’s lighthouse
Texel’s lighthouse

(Cover image: family and friends during the “(nick) naming ceremony” of mala moja)

Hvala.

Friday, February 19, 2016.

WOW.
Just WOW.
Today i totally out of the blue received a mail from a friend who i so far only met once in my life. We were together on a boat sailing a regatta in Croatia in early 2014. We got along together very well from the start and were both happy we could speak Croatian with each other – he being a dentist in Germany originating from Croatia. In the two years since we exchanged a few mails to keep each other updated about our sailing.
And today he wrote this mail that just made my day and me cry 🙂
I wrote him about my sailing plans a week ago… and he now sent me this mail, writing that he started to put together a small package with medical stuff for my travel…
It left me speachless.
Thank you Trucki!

(Cover image: Trucki on board during the Cornati Cup – after the regatta)

Trouble ahead

Thursday, February 11, 2016.

I’m down. After slowly aquiring the feeling of getting on top of things again over the last few days. I’ve started to consolidate my lists (what needs to be organized & decided, which repairs are to be done, what needs to be bought). And now this.
Carefully reading a 5th time over the equipment list required for registeration of my boat. The big sea-faring nation of Austria requires that boats registered for up to 200nm (nautical miles, off shore) need to have a satellite phone on board (or a high frequency or low frequency radio). In addition tho the VHF radio.
In addition.
So it’s either really expensive equipment plus getting certified for its operation. Or just expensive equipment with a (prepaid) satellite contract.
Seriosly started me to think about sailing the boat under another nations flag. It’s just sooo pathetically bureaucratic.
Yes i need safety equipment. Don’t get me wrong: i WANT safety equipment. And i have no intention whatsoever to save money by not taking what is necessary with me.
But a sat-phone for another 800 Euro? That’s rediculous. I’m not planning on going trans-ocean. I’m not planning on going anywhere further than a few days without coast. And I do have an EPIRB if things would come to the worst.
Right now it feels to me as if every car that wants to go over the Alps would have to get a SatPhone, because there will be no coverage in some valleys and passes… ridiculous.

(Cover image: sailing towards a thunderstorm during a holiday trip in Croatia)

Rêverie

Saturday, January 30, 2016.

On the way to Almere. The place where Yachting Comany Muiderzand is located. Slightly tired and hung over. Grey skies. But no rain…

I do have a walk of 15 minutes from the station to the marina. And of course it starts to dribble. But fine, so i’ll at least wake up. 100m before i reach the marina it starts pouring down. Now i’m wet 😀

Mariëlle, the agent who i was in contact with all the time, welcomes me and offeres me a cup of coffee. We have a chat and she starts showing me equippment of the boat (tiller pilot and such) that is stored in the office. Then we head out to Rêverie.

I look at every corner of the boat for about 2 hours. I’m convinced. As much as i can. Buying a boat the first time in my life. Not knowing how this works… crazy? Yes, a bit.

Mariëlle and i sit down inside the office, i sign the contract in three copies.

That’s it.

She’s mine.

Point of no return.

Wow…

(Cover image: me in front of Rêverie, now mala moja)

T-2

Thursday, January 28, 2016.

I bought a plane ticket… yesterday the ticket. Today i booked a hostel. Tomorrow i fly to Amsterdam.

I do not like the thought of flying up there. I wanted to take a train. Keep my footprint small(er). But it’s half the price to fly. And i don’t loose 24h for a fairly spotaneous and pretty short trip. So yes. A plane ticket it became.

Nervous. Yes.

We’ll see how it turns out…

Tomorrow i’m in Amsterdam.

(Cover image: a nightly Gracht in Amsterdam)

T-3

Wednesday, January 27, 2016.

Sleepless. It’s 4:30 in the morning and i cannot sleep. Yesterday i did receive a confirmation for my offer on a boat. Dufour 32 Classic. Built in 2000. I am scared. Anxious. It’s just one signature away any more. If it’s true…
My mind is circling. I did not talk to or with anybody about it yet. So far it’s only 3 people who know about the acceptance of my offer. Excluding the selling party. And technically there is actually nothing yet. There still is no signature, so theoretically they could sell the boat to someone else as well.
Having a cup of tea. Maybe it will calm my stomach, body and brain. High expectations towards a cup of tea. Wouldn’t want to change with this hard-working tea in the middle of the night!
So now it’s about planning the trip to Amsterdam to visit the boat. This weekend or the next? The difference: 7 more days for planning! And i feel like i have no idea of anything yet.
Insurance, registration, what to do with the boat until i come (in April), can i work there on the boat, will they identify me as a fool and beginner right away…?
And before that: how will the inspection go?! Am i able to do this myself?! Will i miss a major problem? What mistakes will i make?
Racing, restless mind.
At the core the same question all over again. Am i ready for this?

It is not that i prepared myself consciously for this adventure. For this journey. But it adds up retrospectively. Earning my sailing license in 2012. Test-skippering for the first time in 2013. Taking part at a regatta in 2014 as crew to experience a boat on the limit. Skippering again, this time for a full trip, in the summer of the same year. Working on the cargo sailing ship Tres Hombres for two weeks in 2015. Including the experience of sailing in a storm in the Strait of Dover in the middle of the night. Skippering again a few weeks later. Realizing that it is feeling quite comfortable. Trying a first maneuver single-handed (with the potential backup of the crew ;)…
And now, 6 months later i’m sitting at 5 in the morning. Restless, in awe-stricken silence. Am i ready?

It’s my first time. So i am bound to make mistakes. And it is mistakes from which one is learning. But this project is a fairly big one.
Time will tell.

(Cover image: entering San Francisco harbour on a ferry)

Stepping into the fog

Friday, January 22, 2016.

The last month has been quite a busy one. Besides work I started searching for a boat to buy. And it was – again – overwhelming. The choice, the options, the price range… making me feel small and incapable all over again.
Talking helps and helped. And i see that the decision to unveil the project was a good one. Apparently the project has grown steady enough within me to not be abolished by the “reward” of talking about it.
Recently i read the nice advice that “things can only happen when you start to go”. And it is true. You will not see the open doors unless you leave the room you are in. It sounds so smart-alec. But if you think about it, it is purely trivial.
I started to carry my plans outside of my head. I looked for boats on the net. And when i was feeling overwhelmed i talked to Evi about it. Her advice was to choose three boats i like and simply write the owners. I did so. And then i contacted other people i know (my sailing teacher, my captain on the Tres Hombres and a sailor i met last year). And i contacted the boating magazine in which i read an article about a young family who did a similar trip.
And the reactions were throughout reassuring and positive 🙂
The author of the article contacted me and was super-helpful with advice, my sailing teacher offered to meet with me and “my captain” reassured me in my decision. And “the boats” i contacted responded and answered my questions. Form the questions and answers i learned to ask better questions.
And the sailor i met last summer called me today and was also super-friendly and -helpful. He told me that he has a spare life raft that he’d sell me and gas-cans which he can lend me for a season. He also gave me quite some valuable advice on equipment and energy supply.
To conclude, i can only repeat that all these doors only started to open once i got going. Would i have not decided to do it, i would not have spread the word and contacted all these people. And subsequently would not have received all the information and offers i got.

(Cover image: fog hitting the pacific coast near San Francisco)

Breaching the surface

Saturday, December 26, 2015.

It’s out. The project is officially no secret any more. Three days ago i told close friends -my first crew- about it. A few weeks before that I told Evi. and my brothers. And today, at a family celebration i uncovered the plan in front of my whole family.
I felt vulnerable doing so. First i was and am scared that this might be the end of the plan. Talking about it before there is anything more than an informal OK of my bosses. Like these New Year’s resolutions that you brag about (this year i’ll be going for a run three times a week), and talking about them alone is “rewarding” your brain and you don’t have the motiviation to really do it any more (which is scientifically proven).
And second, i felt anxious about the reaction to come. So far everybody was supportive. Even my brothers, who i thought my be asking “are you sure this is a smart decision?”. But i really expected something like this from my larger family.
At least some doubt. If i’m capable. What my plan looks like. Something like it. But they reactions were purely supportive. It was great. It felt like i was the only one with doubts about the whole thing! Surreal!
And now it is on me. Carry it on. Don’t let the project die before it started!
It is and will be a long road from here. I’m just reading the book “Blauwassersegeln Kompakt” (“Blue Water Sailing Compact”) which is full with valuable information for those who plan to “go” sailing. Starting with choosing a boat, choosing a rigging, sail-setup, electrical systems, equipment on board, navigation, … It’s making me feel small, as it sketches the dimension of my plan.
But the book also holds the most valuable piece of information – which i’ve read and heard several times by now: just do it. There will never be “the right time” if you wait for it to come. If you want to be 100% prepared and ready, you will not get going.

(Cover image: me returning from a check dive to the propeller before the Cornati Cup)

Dawn of departure

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015.

Often i find myself lying in bed and pondering about it. My project. Code name MM – moja mala. How to do it. When to travel. How to get a boat? What to do with it for preparation? How to clean & disinfect the water tanks? Or should i buy bottled water all the time?
I figuered that i actually don’t need a fridge that much. I hardly use mine at home – spare for cheese, eggs and drinks. Cheese can be stored in a moderately warm place as well. Drinks i don’t care about/don’t need in every day life. Eggs won’t go bad within a few days – and i don’t need them on a daily basis. Bread i should maybe try making myself.
I definitely need/want a (folding)bike on board so i can go shopping – and on tours.

In the meantime i’ve already mentioned my plan to my boss in order to talk about leaving work/office. Did not seem like a too big deal for him. The question is actually more: when do I want to go? As soon as i set a date for myself and fix it with the bosses, it is all about me. Me alone. The only true obstacle. Go! Goooo!! Don’t stop. Pause, take a look and think. And then keep on going. But. Don’t. Stop. Don’t!

This is my dream. This is what i want to do to experience.
I need a date. Six months?
April, May, June, July, August, September? Sounds like a fine plan to me. Get a boat, all ready and set in April. Maybe find & buy a boat in March. And then leave in April or beginning of May. Two months are more than enough to come into the mediterranean. One month to reach the Adriatic and i’d be there in July/August. Can travel to Greece if it fits.
Or i make a detour to the Canarian islands. If it pleases me.
BUT: GO! I am my only obstacle.
Conquer it.
Fix the date. Start in April. Start your leave in April. Three weeks in December to test working from abroad. Then three more months to improve the workflow in office (and buy a boat, probably an extended weekend to the Netherlands) and then GO!
April. April it is.
Read up on it.
Buy a boat before April, get used to it and equip it in April, get going by the end of April. May and June to get to the Mediterranean with no hurries at all.

(Cover image: boats waiting for the Cornati Cup regatta in Biograd)

Doubts

Monday, October 5th, 2015.

Today I woke up and was full of worries. Is it really smart, that I buy a boat? That I set out sailing? Singlehanded? That I sail across the Bay of Biscay? 350 miles from Brest. Or the longer route from England – 500 miles. Days at sea. Doubts. A lot of them.
But should I stop chasing this dream because of doubts? Pospone it until maybe sometime. Whentime? I don’t know.
It was already staring to get bright outside, but I did try and manage to fall asleep again for a short while before the alarm woke me up for hockey practice.

(Cover image: bad weather on board of the Tres Hombres)

An idea is born

Sometime in June, 2015.

I had this idea in my head for several months. Sailing for more than a week. Or two. Real sailing.

The original plan was to get a boat for 2-3 months or so. But renting for such a long time would be fairly expensive. So the idea was born to buy a boat before summer, sail it in summer and sell it afterwards.

That was before i boarded the Tres Hombres.

And it was on this beautiful ship where the idea started blossoming. The ocean. The wind. The sunsets and sunrises. The night shifts. The calm, the stars and also the waves and storms. It was like fertilizer for this idea. And it was Andreas Lackner, Tres Hombres’ captain, who gave it the final touch. Why buy a boat in the Mediterranean? Why not in the North Sea and then sail it south?

Yes, why not.

The idea was born.

(Cover image from my sailing trip on the Tres Hombres)