Deciding our sailing route for the summer. An unpleasant welcome in the USVI and we set off for a 1300 mile sail!
After being in lockdown for 6 weeks in Antigua we were allowed to move between anchorages again. We left Green Island, the place where we dropped anchor at the start of the lockdown. It felt so good to get the sails up again. Complete freedom! We went for a short (35 mile) sail to Barbuda, a small island north of Antigua. Barbuda has amazing white/pink beaches with unbelievable turquoise waters. We spent a week in an anchorage with no one around other then our new friends Phill and Roxy, who we’ve been spending time with during lockdown.
We have been Kitesurfing, snorkelling, paddle boarding and went for long beach walks. Barbuda is a dream, but it was time to go back to Antigua again to re provision and to take some decisions due to hurricane season.
For days on end we have been indecisive about our sailing route. Hurricane season is approaching quickly and as everyone else we want to be way out of that area. Because of this pandemic it isn’t that straight forward as people might think. I got a few times from friends and family ‘Oh, just go to this country’ or ‘No complaining for you because you are in paradise’. Well, I can tell you, it doesn’t quite feel as paradise while you know that the hurricanes starting to look over your shoulder while all the countries are closed around you. It feels like me, attempting an uncomfortable gymnastic split.
Not even mentioning some other questions which have been crossing our minds. For example; Do we get a visa for the US and if we go is it sociably responsible? What if we cross the Atlantic but can’t come into a country on the other side? Anyway, I think we are “all in the same boat” and share similar feelings in each situation.
In the end we choose for going to the US. With in the back of our minds that we might need to cross anyway if we can’t get into the country. Our original plan was applying for a visa in the Bahamas. But due to the virus this wasn’t possible anymore. We heard stories that people were trying to get into the USVI and that they got a Visa waiver for 6 months (single entry). We decided to go for it too, and hoisted our sails on the 20th of May towards the USVI. A sail of about a day and half. We said goodbye to new friends and to Antigua, which has been extremely good to us during these corona times. The sail was lovely and it felt good to be back on the road again.
After trying to find a good anchor spot which seemed not easy, David left towards customs. After an hour he came back with no good news. He encountered a very unpleasant welcome and we were allowed to come into the country with a visa waiver but we had to pay a fee of 585 dollars each. We knew about this fee but with other friends the fee has been waived. Guess we were unlucky who was behind the desk this day! We considered not going to the US anymore and instead crossing the Atlantic straight from here. But after calming down a bit we decided to bite the bullet. We paid the fee, loaded our boat with fuel and left the USVI the next day. Done, we’re in!
The next leg is a bit longer, a 1100 mile sail! Normally we would stop at different places along the way but this wasn’t possible because of the virus. If there is really bad weather coming up you will be able to ask to seek shelter with authorities. But other than that the answer is ‘No’.
We were taking the longer route, via the ‘old Bahama channel’. With not much wind predicted we did decide to leave. It’s the end of May and it’s really time to move. The first days were slow with not much wind passing Puerto Rico. After passing the Dominican Republic the wind started to finally be in our favour. We had very good downwind sailing and made good progress along the coast of Cuba.
When we arrived in the old Bahama channel some squalls were hitting us resulting in wind shifts, rain and a bit of thunder. We motored quite a bit to get through it. But as soon as we were out of the channel we had great wind on the beam. We had lovely sailing through the night and at daytime we were hitting the Gulf Stream which made us fly. The next morning we dropped our anchor in West Palm Beach in the USA. In total an 1100 mile trip in 8 days.
After some well deserved and needed sleep we left the boat and took an Uber to the airport, to customs. An important part to gain in the US is a cruising permit. Without one you need to check in and check out in every place you stop. We heard from several people that due to the virus in certain states they won’t give them anymore. These people went from place to place and being disappointed/frustrated every time. With slight hope and being friendly towards customs, our officer told us we didn’t have the right papers. We missed a certain paper which they should have given us in the USVI. I think you can guess the feeling which we had right now. After showing other papers and some gentle interrogating from his side this officer sorted us out completely. He gave us the cruising permit, and we, and the boat, are all clear to sail in US waters. What a legend this guy, so happy!
For the next few months we will make our way up north; Charleston, Hatteras, New York, Cape Cod and Maine. From Maine we will cross to Nova Scotia and then to New Foundland/Canada. From there we will cross the Atlantic to Ireland.
Quite a trip ahead but looking forward to it! Wishing you all a great day!
Last bits of work in Valencia, saying goodbye to our friends, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and our current situation.
It has been way too long after my last writing. Sorry, but somehow it was busy and didn’t find the time to do so. But here we are, it will be a long one. Going quite a bit back, when we were in Valencia.
After installing our last bit of kit; a new hydraulic autopilot, plotter and radar we finally left Valencia. The installation was fairly straight forward but it involved a lot of thinking/debating bAfter 3 months of work on the boat we finally left Valencia. We have done so much to make the boat ready and our last new instalment was a new hydraulic autopilot, plotter and radar. The installation was fairly straight forward but it involved a lot of thinking/debating before the actual job was taken on. The existing auto pilot is placed under our bed in the aft cabin. To install the new autopilot things had to be cut away, moved and changed. One of the ‘arms’ had to be extended in order to give the new drive unit the space it needs to move in and out. You can see the new extended arm in the last picture. David did a very nice job and the autopilot works like a dream!
We were ready and the wind was in our favour, so on the third of January we hoisted our sails towards Gibraltar. We said goodbye to our lovely friends from Nathape. These friends (who have the same boat and we met last year in Almerimar/Spain) have helped us so much during our time in Valencia. It means the world to us and hopefully we soon see them somewhere in the Caribbean/Pacific or wherever in the world.
The sail to Gibraltar was nice and easy and took us four days. When getting closer to Gibraltar the amount of cargo ships increases. Some are pretty big but manoeuvring through them is very manageable. After arriving in the marina we treated ourselves on a big pizza and then hit the bunk. The wind looked great for the next couple of days to sail down to The Canary Islands. So we had to take advantage of that and left the day after. A quick stop at the fuel station to get a full tank of vat free diesel and then we hoisted our sails again.
The strait of Gibraltar was to us not that busy and very relaxed. More dangerous were the tiny little fishing boats who obviously don’t appear on your plotter. As soon as we left and you start to hit the The North Atlantic Ocean you can feel the swell is rising. During this trip to the Canary Islands the swell was fairly big at some stages where we were literally surfing down waves. Although it is impressive, it is very constant and clear. Not how the Mediterranean can be sometimes, messy! We made very good progress and the wind was great. Unfortunately on the last day our ballooner (one of our downwind sails) ripped at the top.
It took us 5 days when we arrived in La Graciosa, which is a volcanic island in the Canary Islands, located 2 km north of the island of Lanzarote. The anchorage was lovely so we stayed for a couple of days. In the meantime we ordered a new sail (for the one who was ripped) which would arrive in Las Palmas/Gran Canaria.
We left La Graciosa and sailed to the capital Las Palmas to stay in the marina for some last checks on the boat. Unfortunately the 10 day promise for our new sail to arrive ended up in a month! In the meantime we loaded up the boat with as much provisioning as we could. We went out for a lovely dinner and enjoyed a bit of time on land. On the 10th of February our new sail arrived and we finally got everything we needed and we left to cross the Atlantic Ocean!
It felt unreal to actually leave and that we were really going to do this. But there was no way back anymore. The first week was great with perfect downwind sailing with our new sail. It is a great set up and with our new autopilot we just followed the wind. We do really had to push to try to get west. The wind was sending us way more south than expected. After 5 days I finally had a shower. That was the first time I had some energy to do so. I have never been seasick ever in my life but somehow from day one since we left Las Palmas I got sick. I left with the last bits of flu and I reckon that all the months of work and finally leaving got me into it. Seasickness drains you, but after a couple of days I finally got my sea legs back.
On day 7 our new sail (ballooner) came down in the middle of the night, lying half in the water and partly wrapped around the anchor. Don’t ask me how, we somehow managed to get the sail back in and it was in one piece. We also had to change our course significantly when we noticed a sailing boat which didn’t have AIS (Identification system), didn’t show up on radar and had no lights. That was good practice again to stay alert during a night watch.
We had a few flying fish and squid on deck, it is very hilarious when they hit the deck. After a week we started to loose sight with the line of Cape Verde and that’s were you really started to feel that you are only surrounded by the ocean. I loved the tranquility.
Every day we had a simular set up. We would have dinner together around 18.00 o’clock. I would go to bed at 19.00 for 3 hours. Then David would go to bed for 3. Then me one more time for 3. After that David could sleep for as long as he wanted. Which most of the time didn’t ended up longer then 4 hours. In the morning we would have breakfast and for the rest of the day, we would take our time on and off equally. David was reading books like rockets and I enjoyed listening to podcasts.
After a week the wind picked up and we had a steady 27 knots with gusts to 35 with the accompanying swell. The boat was rolling heavily since our sail came down the other night. This particular sail steadies the boat up, so it gives us stability but also a lot more speed. But you can’t get this sail up in strong winds, so it was not possible to get it up in the current conditions.
After more than 7 days of fairly tiring conditions the wind finally calmed down a bit. We thought that this might be the moment to get our sail up again, and so we did. We tried our old sail first (which we got repaired in Las Palmas), we got it halfway up and then it ripped completely. Well, maybe it had its time after 25 years. So, we got our new one out again, and when it was almost up, it ripped as well!! We both could not believe that this just happened, because this is the sail we really need! Both down and tired, we got the sail down and stored it away. Seems like we have to do the rest of the crossing without.
Our last week consisted of almost no wind, how unbelievable. The boat was sometimes heavily rocking and all not comfortable. But we were coming closer to our goal and that kept us going. Mister Floyd, our dog, was doing extremely well. A very relaxed and adaptable animal which gave me so much smiles during our crossing.
On the first of March when I had my watch, the sun came up and I finally saw land. I woke up David and we had a lovely sail to the Island Martinique, where we dropped our anchor in Saint Anne. We did it! We crossed the Atlantic Ocean. We covered 2874 miles in 20 days. It felt so weird that we could finally sleep whenever we wanted and no sailing for a bit. Just quiet at anchor. I was so extremely happy that we did this. After a long shower and a little kip in the afternoon we had a BBQ at night. We both could not wait to sleep in our bed, together. All in all, an unbelievable never to forget experience. It made me grow.
We stayed a few days in Martinique where we re provisioned, got more fuel and bought some parts which we needed. After that we sailed up to the north of Martinique where we stayed in a great bay with a view to the famous Mount Pelee. In the meantime the corona virus made us decide to go quicker up north than our original plan. Our plan was spending the summer in the north of America, around Maine. You need a visa for America which we wanted to obtain in the Bahama’s. So the reason for going up north quicker was trying to get into the Bahama’s as quickly as possible. We always said we don’t want to spent hurricane season in the Caribbean.
We sailed to Îles des Saintes, formed by nine unspoiled islands. I loved it, it has bistro lined streets and turquoise waters and is apparently one of the most beautiful bays in the World. From ’Les Saintes’ we sailed to the west coast of Guadeloupe where we stopped at Pigeon Island. Here you can find the Cousteau Reserve, which is a protected underwater reserve with vibrant coral reefs and gardens. I had a great few hours of snorkelling where it felt like I was in an aquarium.
Unfortunately our generator broke down and we needed to go back south to the capital of Guadeloupe to get the parts. We got the bits that we needed but in the meantime the borders from countries around us were closing because of the virus. We did not want to be in lockdown in this country for several reasons. So, we decided to leave the next morning towards Antigua.
When David went to the immigration office in the morning it was closed; you were not able to ‘check out’ anymore, meaning leaving the country was impossible. They didn’t tell that they were closing so more boats were more then surprised that this just happend. After several phone calls, calls on the vhf to other people, emails to immigration David had the idea to go to the airport to obtain the clearance stamp. I thought no way on earth they were giving us the stamp. But two hours later David came back with the stamp! Unbelievable, so so lucky! We raised our anchor straight away and sailed overnight to Antigua. Antigua was one of the few countries that were still allowing people in. When we arrived it took us 6 hours to ‘check ourselves in’. It all felt like a big relieve.
We sailed to green island, this is a small island lying off the eastern coast of Antigua. It is a private island owned by the mill reef club since 1947. It is a great big bay where we are anchored and we are protected by the reef. As we speak Antigua went into lockdown from today. We ‘can’ still kitesurf, paddle board and all the things that we are passionate about in life. So, we feel very very grateful to spent this time right here.
It is likely we have to change our original sailing plan. If we can not get into the US we probably sail back to Europe. But for now, we don’t know what happens the next months, so we leave it a bit for what it is. I hope you are all safe and well in these times.
A lovely visit to Asturias to visit friends. All the boat work almost done, but still ‘stuck’ in Valencia.
While we thought we would have left by now we are still in the marina in Valencia. We missed a very good weather window last week. Unfortunately David got a sudden dental issue which he needed to fly back twice to the UK for. A bummer but Valencia is not a bad place to spend some time.
With being most of the boat work done I thought I give you all a little update of what exactly has been done. So, it is going to be a bit of a technical nerdy blog this one. Before we arrived we made a list of the things we wanted to upgrade or change. The list was manageable and we thought it would take us around 3 weeks. But the thing is, you start a job but then another job appears to be solved first. Meaning the list kept on growing.
One of the major jobs was the engine which has taken a long time. The turbo wasn’t working anymore and we were only making a maximum of 1800 revs. This can be caused by a numerous amount of reasons, which need to be eliminate one by one. And hopefully the first one is the right pick. We took the injectors out and brought them to a garage where they checked them. Back in, but still no good. We changed the fuel injection pump, cleaned out all the pipes, tweaked other bits and David even got into the water to clean the propellor. But that rev counter was still not going up. In the meantime we learned a lot about our engine and in a way it felt good to spend so much time on it. After many hours; in the end; we changed the turbo for a whole new one, which brought us back to 2450 revs again. I can hear you thinking; Turbo problem, why not change it straight away? Well, a new turbo cost significantly more than the other maybe possible caused reasons if you can imagine. With all the effort David has put in it feels like we have a new engine! He even gave it a paint job!
We have done a lot of work which was not necessarily needed, I talk here about cosmetic work. We ended up changing our windows in the cockpit. We saw this change on the boat of our lovely friends from SV Nathape who are in Valencia too. Our windows were scratched all over the place so we decided to change them as well. We took the old ones out and drove for two hours to a place where they only deal with plexiglass. They took the old ones to make the new ones exactly the same. After 3 hours we were able to pick them up. Great service and by the end of the day we had some new windows. They needed some painting around the edges but after that they were ready to go in. We are very happy that we have done this job. Mostly because when we sail in the night we couldnt see very well through the old windows.
I love cooking and we both spend a lot of time in the galley. With only 2.75 x 2 gas cilinders on board we found out that we run out of them very quickly. And it is really a ‘pain’ (even) in the Mediterranean to find a refill sometimes. We decided to make a bigger gas locker compartment in order to fit two times 10 gas cylinders. A big job David did, which meant designing, fibreglassing and epoxying the whole thing. It’s looking great so far and David is finishing off this job as we speak. It will take a long time before we need a refill again. Happy Kelly! But there was more fibreglassing going on, not only made David a new gas locker he also made a new bow locker floor in one of our big lockers at the bow of the boat. So much work went into these two jobs.
But with all that work it was time for some days off. We rented a car and we drove up to Asturias in the North of Spain, an 8 hour trip, where we were seeing our friends. Asturias is well known for its green landscapes, serious gastronomy, great beaches and colorful fishing villages. It is beautiful, even in the rain, which happend to be there all the time while we were around. It was a lovely weekend, filled with fantastic food, happy laughs from Mia their daughter and good company. We both completely relaxed.
But back to work again and something we wanted to do for a while was getting the swimming ladder and the last bits of our davids off. The holes still needs some sorting out but we are very happy with this result.
Our furler motor from our genoa needed some attention too. On the motor is a disk that links the gearbox to the furler profile. The three bolts in that disk where basically gone and not good. This needed replacement. It was something that had to be done by a garage because we don’t have these kind of tools to do this on board. So David spent a lot of trips backwards and forwards towards these great guys who sorted it all. A new thick disk with big strong bolts, new bearings and new grease with grease nipples.
Something visual which was high on my list was a new logo. Over the years the Amel logo has been completely faded by the sun. It’s obviously not important to cross an ocean but it makes me pretty happy this outcome.
Our Bimini is getting a bit old and actually maybe needs replacement. But with some hand sewing it still keeps together. We were thinking about a completely new one but in the end decided against it. We can do with this one just a bit longer. After some patches that I have been stitching up I stitch on 12 round patches of strong plastic. This, so we can attach our new flexible solar panels on top of the Bimini. Quite a job when you are doing the stitching by hand. The two new flexible solar panels are together worth 340 watts. Our existing solar panel system has three panels. Two are above our Bimini and one is attached on the railing on the side of the boat. Each worth a 100 watts. Back in the day when we bought our solar panels we couldn’t find the right size with the maximum output. But looking online again a year later we did. So we decided to change the ones above the Bimini. From a 100 watts each, to 160 watts. A good upgrade overall, with in total 460 more watts compare to what we had before.
And then all the other many little jobs not even mentioned. Changing a lot of lines, meaning whipping them all. Our yearly winch maintenance. We have cleared out EVERY locker and cupboard on board and throwing away what can go and rearranged it all. Our cupboards were always full of stuff and now we have put everything in boxes so it is very clear where what is. We sorted out the sun cover for our sails, which means getting all the sails down and back on again. We put new seals on the bow thruster and depth sounder and lots and lots more little jobs. The list was endless but we are almost there!
As we speak David is upgrading our existing navigation system. Last week we decided to buy an autopilot ‘on the wind’. At the moment we have an autopilot that you can set on a certain degree. Works perfectly fine, but we love to follow the wind and we have been discussing this option a lot in the last year. So, we gave ourselves a big Christmas present! That doesn’t mean we loose our old system, we just have two systems now.
But Kelly, when are you guys leaving? I can tell you, we are both dying to get out there but the wind is predominately against us. Maybe we have made a wrong decision by doing the work here, too far away from Gibraltar. But we thought we would only have three weeks worth of work. Anyway, as soon as we can, we set sail.
We hope we spent Christmas at sea. I am looking forward to that because it feels like home.
We hope you all have a fantastic upcoming Christmas and New Years! Big love from Ker Marie!
Leaving Sicily to cross back to Valencia. A storm underway and undertaking a lot of work on Ker Marie in order for crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
I love to write and always intend to do it more often, but time on the boat is going so quickly at the moment. In my last story we ended up in San Vito Lo Capo in Sicily where we waited for a good weather window to cross back to Sardinia. Well actually, Valencia, but Sardinia is our first stop on our way. After four days of waiting the weather looked good enough and we hoisted our sails in the evening towards Sardinia.
After 42 hours of sailing we arrived in Sardinia. It was a great sail with lovely wind and we made a good overall speed. We anchored in special spot which is apparently famous for his dunes, “Porto Pino”. I walked up the highest dune, which was, (I found out because someone was whistling and shouting), forbidden. I thought these boys were lifeguards, but instead they were facing the other way towards the dunes, making sure no one went into it because it is a protected area. Me, whistling, but some tunes instead, walked my way down, with a full beach looking at me. Sorry peeps…did get the shot from Ker Marie I wanted though.
The next day we left late afternoon to cross back to Menorca. A 250 nm passage and with only 25 liters of water left we thought, “better a shower less than missing this good weather window”. We had some great sailing again. Very nice wind and very good progress. We were about to get close to Menorca when I had my night watch. While having my night watch I had seen thunder for a while in the far distance, but now it looked like it was coming closer and closer to us. I decided to wake up David, when it was 2’ o’clock at night.
Together we had a close look on the radar and satellite, this was not the forecast at all, a thunderstorm was approaching Mahon, the place we were heading for. We decided we should be able to make it with only 20 nm left to get into harbour. We set up full sails and trimmed them as best as we could, to make the best speed possible. We were flying towards Mahon, but with only 2 miles left the storm was so close that David decided to turn around back to open sea again. At that point I wanted to pull a duvet over my head and go to sleep…
We were so close. For 1,5 hours we were beating against the swell to get away from the storm. We were on the edge of the storm all the time. There was proper thunder and the sea state was getting worse. Suddenly David saw a gap on the radar and decided to turn around to go for it, into safe harbour. We were now getting into the weather and very steadily the knots of wind increased, from 25 to 30, 30 to 35, 35 to 40, 40 to 45, 45 to 50, 50 to a Genoa as big as a garbage bin bag. The wind was ON and without our furler main mast motor, our main sail unfurled himself and was now wrapped around the rigging. Great! David tried to solve it but there was now way in this weather that was going to happen. The swell was big, nothing I have ever seen before. On the radio we heard a Dutch boat asking for the coastguard. With engine failure and a massive jibe on their main (they were surprised about the weather and had now idea what was waiting for them) they had to be tow’d in.
In the meantime we also had our engine on full throttle and with that tiny bit of sail we were beating the swell and trying to get into harbour before the weather was closing us in again. We hoped that we were able to get in because sometimes you can be rolled around so badly that you cannot get into harbour. But the entrance to Mahon harbour is wide. And then, finally, there we were, we made it! Both soo tired and very happy. After docking the boat there was a sigh of relieve.
It was morning at the moment and our neighbour said ‘were you out there?’. Uhm yes, we were. I think I can call this our first storm sailing moment. In a way it felt pretty good. I havent been once scared, but why would you when you know what the boat is capable of and you have the best captain you can wish for. Very happy David made the decision to turn around. Later on I went to see the Dutchies, same as us, the weather was not forecasted and they were completely overwhelmed by the storm. Apparently, as they told us, the coastguard was impressed by the weather as well when they headed out to sea. (see below a picture of the deviation we made and the weather gap on the radar)
After a few lovely relaxing days in Mahon we hoisted our sails again towards Ibiza. From Ibiza we did our last lap towards Valencia. We have been in Valencia for a month now and we have done a lot of work on the boat. To name a few: We replaced our windows in the cockpit, fixed the furler motor, Sails are repaired, winch maintenance and loads of other (endless) jobs.
At the moment David is making a bigger gas locker compartment, a new bow locker floor and fixing our engine. I guess we are not ready yet but we are really getting there.
Valencia is lovely and it is good to be here and do the work. We think we can leave in the next two weeks and head for the Canaries. All very exciting!
Will keep you updated and many thanks for all your lovely comments that I get through Facebook and Instagram. Very much appreciated.
Sailing down the coast of Italy, celebrating my birthday in lovely Ponza and Spanish influences on board Ker Marie.
After a lovely sail from Imperia/Italy we arrived in the middle of the night in Corsica. Waking up after a night sail is always a great surprise. You have no idea where you anchored and then in the morning it is most of the time a big treat, which it was. We decided to stay for the day in the anchorage for a bit of relaxing time because we didn’t catch much sleep the night before.
We hoisted our sails the day after towards Capraia Isola island, an island just off the coast of Corsica. There was a good bit of wind coming up and this was the best option to seek shelter. Half an hour before arrival we suddenly heard the fishing rod zinging…..FISH ON! We haven’t caught a proper fish yet but this time David had a serious guy on the lurer. After an hour David reeled it in and hooked it with the gaff. We had no idea what kind of fish it was but after consulting the chief fisherman (David’s friend) he told us we caught a Mahi Mahi. Not too bad! The boat and David were a bit bloody and as kids so happy we started filleting the fish. That night David made a delicious fish curry. What a great feeling to catch something from the sea and turn it into a meal. With enough fish left to feed a family of 6 we contently fell asleep after another great day on board Ker Marie.
Not long after, I woke up by the wind. I somehow have a sensor as soon as the wind starts to change direction or increases. We were anchored in seaweed which isn’t great and the wind threw us a couple of times around the anchor. Early in the morning the wind was quite strong and we decided to better sail in it, then sit in an anchorage waiting to drag. And so we did, with only the mizzen sail up we already reached 5 knots, enough wind to bring us to Elba Island, a place I really wanted to see. The anchorage in Elba was great and we would have liked to explore more of the island but we had to go down south, because we were picking up David’s friend in Sicily on a certain date.
During sailing down south the coast of Italy we have seen some great places on our way; The stunning island of Ponza where we celebrated my birthday with relaxing, swimming, exploring and enough coke and rum for my next birthday. Later on we sailed to the island of Ventotene and the famous Capri. And of course the beautiful Amalfi coast can’t be missed.
After the Amalfi coast we crossed to the Aeolian islands. First we visited Stromboli. Stromboli is a small island off the north coast of Sicily and is one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. It is very impressive to arrive here and to hear the rumbles of this active volcano.
Then over to Panarea, a very pretty island with great walks and a lovely cobbled street town. Spending a few days in Panarea we were heading for Salina where we visited the famous Hauner winery, where I danced with the locals on a night out and where David had his first granita in his life. We love the Aeolian islands and would love to come back once.
But time was marching on and we needed to get to Palermo in Sicily to pick up our Spanish friend, Inaki! Arriving in Sicily/Palermo is a very different scene compare to Italy, we are closer to Africa and suddenly you notice little bits of that in your surroundings. Inaki is just as us an avid Kitesurfer and our plan was to get to the Aegadian islands to hopefully do some Kitesurfing. The Aegadian Islands are a group of five small mountainous islands in the Mediterranean Sea off the northwest coast of Sicily.
Since we are on board Ker Marie we have only been kitesurfing twice and we really miss it. It seems out to be that Kitesurfing and sailing not always go well together. When you are seeking shelter from that strong wind with your sailing boat, that’s where a Kitesurfer gets excited and wants to go near it. A very double and annoying feeling sometimes.
To try and Kitesurf that week we anchored ‘lee shore’, but far out. For the people not knowing what this is. The wind blows on shore, meaning the wind is pointed to shore, meaning if something happens your boat might end up on the beach (worst case scenario). The preference is it to be the other way around. But with Kitesurfing this doesn’t work because in case something happens with Kitesurfing you prefer the wind to blow to the beach, so you are not being blown into the ocean. Ideal is to find a spit (long piece of sandbar) where you anchor on one side and Kitesurf on the other.
That day when we thought we would do some Kitesurfing the wind dropped and there was no kitesurfing in the end. Unfortunately this was the case for the whole week when Inaki stayed with us. But although we couldn’t Kitesurf, with Inaki you always have a great time; Getting to the local fish market in Tripani to make a delicious Frutti di Mare afterwards, eating in a fish restaurant while we really wanted to eat meat that night and trying to catch fish with the spear gun. We had a lovely week and it was really nice to have people on board.
After dropping Inaki of in Tripani where he took the bus to Palermo to catch his flight we hoisted our sails towards San Vito lo Capo. We stayed for four days and walked up ‘Mount Monaco’ with great views over the bay.
At the moment we are sailing west again because we would like to cross the Atlantic Ocean at the end of the year. But in order to that there are quite a few things that need to be arranged. We will probably do some of that work in Valencia.
Will keep you updated and thanks again for all you lovely followers. Wishing you a great day!
From Ibiza to Mallorca + Menorca and back to France. David’s brother spent his holiday onboard Ker Marie and we experienced a sailors worst nightmare.
After the rigging, that has been done in Hyères/France we set sail back to Ibiza. Ibiza is easy. The island is relatively small so If you need to hide from certain weather you can go to the other side of the island in a fair amount of time. We have spent quite some time in Ibiza before so after a few weeks it was time for something else. We hoisted our sails and were heading for Mallorca where we were picking up David’s brother, Stephen, who was spending 10 days on Ker Marie.
It all started with an extremely uncomfortable (read: very very roly) motoring day. The wind was not as predicted and the seas were very confusing. Resulting in our quest being very uncomfortable. After 1.5 days we finally arrived on the other side of the island where we had a few relaxed nights in a bay. But the last night in that particular bay was a sailors worst nightmare. We were moored on a buoy. Generally we don’t like being on a buoy, especially David, because one; you need to pay for it and two; how are you sure this buoy is going to hold your 16 tons boat in a bit of wind? That night we had winds around 15 knots, nothing special but I went out of bed several times to check the buoy and our lines. All good. Until Stephen woke us up at 6 in the morning. ‘Something is not right’ he said.
We got up and the scene was unbelievable! The mooring buoy broke (not our lines) and we have been drifting to the rocks were we stranded with our bow faced only one meter away from the rocks.
David automatically said ‘get into the dinghy and start the engine’ so we could try to pull away the boat very slowly. But how unlucky that our outboard engine broke down the night before. That was of no use. Everyone in the anchorage was still asleep and there was no option of getting to them because they were too far away. We had do to something ‘NOW’.
David had the idea to use the bow thruster to try and swing our bow a bit between the rocks from one side to another, meanwhile he had full reverse throttle. Several calls on the VHF radio asking for help were made but no answer. After half an hour it seemed like Ker Marie was moving, and yes she was, very slowly. David did it! He saved Ker Marie!
Slowly he manoeuvred backwards while we had all sort of weird feelings. Of being angry and complete happiness that we got out! The swearing vocabulary has been taken to a next level, that’s for sure. We were all so happy but we had to be careful and see if we had any damage. We checked all the floor lockers and I dived down to see if we had damage on the hull. So far we didn’t notice any severe damage, only some beauty marks. We got into contact with the marina a bit later and handed them over the broken buoy. Even the guy was surprised that this buoy basically broke from the block in the water. Unlucky or not looked after? We know what we are doing; Never on a buoy again!
After all the checks we decided to get out of there, and so we did, after a full day of sailing we arrived in a beautiful anchorage in Menorca. Menorca is lovely and a lot smaller, making it easier to shelter from weather, which can be changing all the time in the mediteranian. Compare to Mallorca anchoring is allowed in more places and there seems to be more space. We had a lovely week in several anchorages and ended up in Mahon where Stephen flew out back home again. Mahon was a pleasant surprise for me. I absolutely love it. It is not a big city but very lively and vibrant. It is located in a big sea inlet where you almost think you are on a lake when you approach the city. We had the best mojito ever and a lovely dinner in a tiny backyard with cozy lighting in an Italian restaurant. Mahon has stolen our hearts, but time to move again. Stephen got a taxi to the airport and David and I set sail back to France.
To France? Yes, to France to pick up our hoover. Can you believe it? Long story short; When we were in Hyeres our almost new hoover broke down and we brought it back. Took 2 weeks they said, but instead it took 5 and we already left France. The crossing to France was not very nice. The wind was different then predicted which meant we had to cross back to Spain first and then cross the Gulf of Lion. We had fairly strong winds, little wind, swell and no swell. Not the best crossing we had so far.
We had to be near Toulon but the wind directed us to Marseille in the end. We haven’t been up the coast near Marseille but we both liked it. The coastline is very pretty and we had a lovely time in a small place called Cassis.
During sailing we were stopped by the douane and they came on board with 6 men strong. They looked in every little locker to see if we had to hide something. I thought it was a great experience! One of the man was happy to be on board of an Amel I think. He kept on saying to his colleague ‘Un Amel, cest tres bien, solide’! It made me giggle while I was behind the wheel steering us in the right direction. After spending an hour on board they gave us a piece of paper that we were all good. The douane boat came along side again and all of them stepped back onto their boat. A wave and gone they were!
Finally we picked up our hoover after a bike ride of 20km land inwards…times two! Mister hoover maker forgot to enclose the battery. After being reunited with my yellow Dewalt hoover we decided to get up the French coast a bit more to see some super yacht madness. Saint Tropez was our first stop. A little visit through town with a drink on a terrace was enough for us to set sail again towards Cannes. And Cannes really surprised me. I didn’t know that Cannes had a few islands just off the coast.
les Îles de Lérins are a group of four Mediterranean islands off the French Riviera in Cannes. We have been anchoring between the two largest islands in this group named Île Sainte-Marguerite and the Île Saint-Honorat. Yes it is a bit of super yacht madness but you can find your spot. Somehow it was all very relaxed. There is even a pizza boat floating around. The island of Île Saint-Honorat is beautiful and the 21 monks currently make up the community of the monastery on here. Absolutely a must see when your in the area!
After spending some time in the French Riviera we made our way towards the North of Italy. We spent two days in a Marina in Imperia to get ourselves ready to go all the way down to the South of Italy (Messina) to pick up David’s friend who will spent a week on board Ker Marie. Imperia was great and David and I found an absolute winner of a restaurant! As I am writing this we are half way, so more about that in my next reading.
Thank you very much for all you loyal followers, I appreciate that a lot! Speak to you soon!
Leaving Almerimar, engine problems, big seas and strong winds, anchor dragging and Ibiza/Formentera treating us very well.
That has been a while since my latest story, meanwhile so many things happened. We finally left Almerimar were we spent almost 4 months of our time. It felt so free and relaxing when we were on the ocean again. Both smiling away with loud music on to celebrate! We had a bit of a hiccup on the way though, we stopped in the next marina of AquaDulce only 3 miles of Almerimar because the oil level from our engine had risen so much it was worrying. We thought it were the new seals in the prop shaft not placed back correctly but after some research on the ‘Amel’ forum we found out that this is normal and it is called ‘heat expansion’. Well, learned something again. We had a lovely night in the marina but the next day we set sail again heading for Denia.
And what kind of sailing! Big seas and winds up to 40 knots. It was down wind sailing so we had the ballooner up but completely reefed until it almost looked like we had a little plastic bag up. It was great sailing and we even broke our speed record; we reached 14 knots! That is very good speed for this type of boat and we did a 100 nm in less then 12 hours. Yes! We decided to anchor in Javea, a place close to Denia because of the wind direction. This is a great anchorage. We had no other boats around and we had a view on the rocks with nice clear waters. This is exactly what we love, no marina fees, just throw your anchor out in a beautiful spot. After spending a couple of days in this great bay we hoisted our sails heading for Ibiza.
And this time we had our first visitors on board for a voyage! David’s parents came with us to Ibiza. We had a great crossing from Javea straight to Cala Benirrás. A spectacular bay with blue waters surrounded by hillside. We spent a few days hopping between other bays and did a crossing towards Formentera. We had a great time with booz and good food. One night when we were having dinner; Music on and singing along with Chuck Berry ‘Nadine’ when our anchor alarm app went off. David was already up because he didn’t trust the lights ‘coming by’. Suddenly David called ‘We are dragging, come up!’. I lifted my head in the cockpit and all I thought was; OMG!
Ker Marie was drifting in the dark with a high speed (it was 25 knots of wind) backwards only a few meters from another boat. It was so close that even Floyd started barking towards the people on the boat we just passed. This couple on that particular boat were staring at us with open mouths like if they just saw Theresa May doing a backflip. Weird, dangerous and something you never want to see again!
Quickly we turned on the engine and I steered and David tried to get the anchor back in. We changed positions and in the heavy wind and rain I tried to locate our anchor so we were able to get it back in. You don’t want it to drag behind you and in the end slam your hull. Finally we got it up! We have the best anchor you can buy on the market but maybe the wind and a very heavy duty bag which was caught in the anchor caused us to drag. After re anchoring we all felt like we needed a bottle of wine. Pffff, we looked back and we have been very very lucky. We have been drifting past 5/6 other boats. We had a bit of a giggle in the end about the whole scene. All singing along Chuck Berry while we were drifting away in 25 knots of wind going for the rocks, bunch of hippies. 😉
After a great week of Ibiza/Formentera it was time to head back for Denia to drop off David’s parents so we could set sail towards Hyeres in France. We had a perfect sail back and we absolutely had a great week!
We were booked in to do the rigging of Ker Marie in Hyeres, the very last bit of work. It takes a couple of days from Denia to get there so we looked at a nice weather window. Unfortunately a strong mistral was blowing in the gulf of Lion so we had to wait a bit before we could enter the gulf. We had two stops on our way to catch some sleep at night so we would be ready for the crossing. We thought the gulf would be high seas and strong winds which was the prediction. But we had no wind, yes none. We even have been motoring the first part, but a third way in the wind was suddenly on! Seas were getting bigger and David enjoyed some good sailing at night. It was the first time I didn’t feel very well because of the swell so I have been down in the bunk a lot. Early in the morning I took over so David was able to catch some sleep. Beautiful sunrise, dolphins around and nice sailing. Finally after 415nm we arrived in Hyeres. For the next 10/12 days Ker Marie is getting a complete new rig after 25 years!
With a new rig we feel safe to cross oceans and to let the wind bring wherever it wants to take us. Again, feeling very grateful for this great adventure! Thank you for reading and feel free to share our stories.
Ker Marie finally back in the water again, electrics going wrong, David in the UK and presenting you our new website.
Yes, that was an exciting and big splash when ‘Ker Marie’ was in the slings of the crane to be lifted back into the water again. A few days before the splash we have been sorting out the replacement of the seals of the propellor (these need to be replaced after 800 engine hours or every 2 years). And I can tell you that was quite a thing. The first seal went completely wrong because somehow grit came in the shaft and it ruined one of the seals. So, seal out and new one in again. I talk like this is an easy peasy job, but it is very fiddly, greasy and especially exciting when you are doing this for the first time. All of it was a bit of a race against the clock, but we managed just before the haul in.
Even more exciting was; Is the engine going to start after all those months? We didn’t test the engine because there was no time left to try it. But this lovely lady started her engine so smoothly like she hasn’t been in the yard all those months.
I was standing on the bow when David motored us to our dock. I remember I felt absolutely incredible. The silence after the noisy yard, the sea gliding underneath me, I felt so alive and free! Arriving in our dock we straight away got the hose out to give her a good clean, so dirty she was.
David and I felt so relaxed to be back in the drink again that we started talking about our plans. Our plan is to stay here for maximum two weeks. In these two weeks we need to get the sails back on, fit our solar panels and then we can leave to Hyeres in France to replace our rigging.
But, first things first, we have to get rid of our car. So David drove the next day to the UK and IOM to store it with his family. He left for 5 days and on day 1 it was already trouble. Poniente is back again (is a strong wind direction) and we are blown with our boat against our neighbours, a fancy Amel 54. I have been rearranging all the fenders and lines in the hope it all holds. It was an very uncomfortable night where I went out of bed (I do not sleep well in these conditions anyway) multiple times to check, double check and re arrange. Even Floyd was uncomfortable and I took him inside the boat at night. Which he absolutely loved by the way. The next morning it was a hard time to get him out of his bed. Suddenly pretending (with puppy eyes up) he couldn’t get up the stairs anymore into the cockpit. Funny animal.
In the morning I was cold and turned our heating on. Yes, we are still in Spain. After 5 minutes I smelled burned rubber and turned around and smoke came out of the socket. This is one of my nightmares; electrics going wrong. Straight away I turned the main input off and then pulled the plug out. The socket was half gone, it burned a hole in there. It was still smoking away, but it eventually got less, end ended. Why now?…exactly at the time David is not here. But I learned something new again, I dismantled the heater, threw it out and way you go. Who needs a captain! Well, me, because obviously I called up David in panic mode.
The wind is not stopping, it even got stronger and stronger, accompanied by rain. Great. The Marina staff is doing very well, they are driving every hour on the pontoon to check if everything is oke. Even at night. Somehow that makes me feel a bit better and if there is really something I can call up on the VHF. Not the way my dad is using his VHF though; he refuses to talk in ‘boat language’ and just says straight away what he is after. It always makes me laugh the times I have spent on their boat. Some people are trying to correct him, but they haven’t met ‘Louis Bontje’ yet, no messing around with this one.
I had planned a lot of things these days, cleaning in/outside of the boat properly, last checks on the winches, some sanding and oiling wood. But because of the weather it was already a challenge to give Floyd his daily walks. So, instead I have been writing this and have given our website an update, which you must have noticed while reading it. And we have a logo which I am so happy with! Go and have a look on the homepage and let me know what you think!
For now I wish you all a lovely day. We will be sailing very soon and we can not wait!
Road tripping to Gibraltar. Making a huge decision about the work on the boat. Leaving Almerimar for rainy England. Visiting family & friends.
I don’t know where to start, so much has happened lately. Let’s try to start where I ended the last time. We made a trip to Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, on Spain’s south coast, to get our epoxy layer for the haul (VAT free). It was worth the trip and the shop owner was very friendly but I never wanted to leave a place so badly. I can’t believe that people can live on this small rock to safe a few pennies. Madness!
No copper coat applied yet. Nearly 60 knots of wind in the yard and a retreat to Monte Pego.
Normally I am jumping up and down when it starts to get windy around 20 knots. But the last two weeks it has been continuously very windy, 30 knots and gusts up to 40. It has been resulting in not sleeping very well because of the noice and worrying if we are maybe falling over with the boat. The last thing is only me thinking that, David starts laughing when I start that conversation again.