Weekly status

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Some of you have shown interest in our “where, what, when and who”, and we therefore introduce this “weekly update” to keep you posted about “daily life” on Ella.

 

Weeks 44-49 (October 29 – December 9), 2018

For the first 10 days in Liapari, Preben made us company, experiencing life in the small island community built up by Noel and his Solomon wife Rose, trading with Pauline, who came by regularly with fruits and vegetables and even wild mushrooms, and a trip to Gizo, the second largest city in the Solomons, which is reached by a 45-minute ride in a Yamaha-outboard-powered longboat. These boats comprise the infrastructure in the country, in all kinds of weather (which can be rough out here), sometimes across open ocean…!! Henrik has gone through the engine supported by Noel and the local workers, and found the probable issue, which turned out to be relatively easy to solve. The biggest problem would be to get the necessary spare parts shipped to Liapari, and that would take some patience…

Longboats for transportation in the Solomons (here in Honiara)

Once again working on the engine

At the beginning of November, Preben headed back to Denmark. Thank you for your easy-going company – we will see you back in the cold!

Lakridspibe-selfie with Preben

Goodbye, Preben!

During our time in Liapari, we have lived a slow life, while preparing to go back to Denmark. We have witnessed the locals going fishing for boomers in the lagoon evening after evening, until one day the boomers left for the ocean, and fishing was suspended until a new school grew up. We have visited the local crocodile with the sisters Maurel and Maetina and continued trading with Pauline. We have hung out with other sailors, including the Danes on Christianshavn, Dario on Franca and Gavin & Luciana on Chemistry and had pot luck Sunday lunch in the leaf hut, arranged by Noel and Rose. We have played with Sascha, who has never-exhausting energy (she is a German Shepherd), and we have visited Patrick’s bee hives. We have taken a few trips with ferryman Toni to Gizo and indulged in a burger with fries at Gizo Hotel, and we have watched more movies than ever before on our journey. All in all, an enjoyable time – but we will not miss the 35 degrees and high humidity….

Trading with Maurel and Maetina

Trading catch I (yes, it is a HUGE papaya)

Trading catch II

Fishing for boomers

The “marina” in Liapari

Sunday potluck in the leaf hut

Find the queen!

Patrick and Benedikte by the bees

Beautiful Liapari

 

Weeks 41-43 (October 8-28), 2018

On our 5,5 days crossing to the Solomon Islands, we had to endure the sound of the engine most of the way, but Henrik did catch a beautiful dorado, which became sushi and French Polynesia-style “poisson cru”, and that could have been worse 😉

Goodbye Vanuatu!

The last Vanuatu sunset

Dorado…

… turned into sushi 🙂

As compared to friendly Vanuatu, Honiara felt somewhat tough, and we had to get used to trash all over town, topped up with red spit, coming from the ubiquitous betelnut-chewing, which the Solomon Islanders use as we use coffee. But when walking a little out of the capital, people were again smiling, despite having even less than their southern neighbor. Further out, there are a lot of interesting WWII sites, and we snorkeled/dived on one of the Japanese warships wrecked along the coast.

The market in Honiara

You shouldn’t be spitting…

… but everyone does…

Betelnut-sellers I

Betelnut-seller II

Shipwreck snorkeling

Shipwreck diving

After a pitstop in Russell on Henrik’s birthday, we moved on to Telina in Marovo Lagoon, where we spent some of the best 10 days of our entire journey, despite a rather intense start, when we were “attacked” within 10 minutes of setting the anchor by a horde of canoes, wanting to sell their carvings. Staying for this “long” in the same place, we actually got some kind of relation to the local people, and this definitely makes sense when travelling as we are. The kids, “led” by Stephanie, Mbati and Mbego, almost moved in on Ella, and for the first time, we were introduced to the concept of trading, which is still widely used in the Solomons: fruits and vegetables for clothes, rice or fishing lures.

Inspecting Rocky’s carvings

Telina kids

Practicing the canoe

Mbego

Mbati and Stephanie

Beautiful Solomon lady (with her machete of course!)

Trading rice for the best pineapple in the world

The reason for our prolonged stay was the engine that did not want to cooperate… Being in the “middle of nowhere”, with no engine and very little wind, we had to be creative. With the help of “Rocky” and his family, we got in touch with Leven, originally from Telina, but now working at the wharf at Liapari in the Western Province. He in turn put us in contact with his boss Noel Hudson from New Zealand, who told us that his aussie 72-year old mate Bryan by coincidence would be leaving Honiara for Liapari a few days later, and he could come by Marovo and might be able to tow us to Liapari. He arrived in his 35-tons Bruce Roberts 53 “war machine” and said “Yeah, I’ll tow you” (more than 100 nautical miles!!). What are the odds, in the country with the least fellow sailors that we have been to?!? Bryan is one of those people that make the world a better place 🙂

Working on the engine I

Working on the engine II, with Mbati quietly watching

Getting Ella out of Marovo Lagoon with one dinghy to port…

… and one dinghy to starboard

Towing by Wayuna C

In connection with the engine problems, we decided to stop our adventure in Liapari instead of rushing to Indonesia, which was the original plan. Esben and Thea therefore disembarked in Telina, to continue their trip on land in Singapore and Malaysia. Safe onwards travels!

 

Weeks 39-40 (September 24 – October 7), 2018

We sailed overnight from Port Vila to reach Ambrym and anchored between Ranon and Reventlam, where we once again were met by welcoming and smiling villagers. We had ice-cream at Melinda’s, and Joseph guided us up to the volcano Mount Marum on an exhausting, whole-day, but very beautiful and varied trek. It was unfortunately too cloudy to see the lava down the crater at the top, but we could hear it boiling!

Melinda’s ice-cream

Our Mount Marum guide Joseph

Last stop in Vanuatu was Luganville, where the Americans had their second largest Pacific base during WWII (after Pearl Harbor), to support the front further north in the Solomon Islands. At Million Dollar Point, we snorkeled/dived on the million dollars of worth remnants of war material that was dumped here when the British/French, who were to rule the islands, didn’t want to pay for it…

The market in Luganville

Million Dollar Point

War remnants at Million Dollar Point

Despite unstable and rainy weather, Vanuatu took us by storm, and we hereby give the country and its citizens our warmest recommendations 🙂

 

Week 38 (September 17-23), 2018

Monday morning, we arrived to Port Resolution on the southern Vanuatu island of Tanna. Entering the village felt like being in a National Geographic reportage: two kids only wearing flip-flops running towards us and hiding behind a tree, giggling, while covering their private parts; people stopping to say welcome with a handshake; huts made of natural materials all the way through; girls sitting on a big lawn waiting to play volleyball; one kid driving around with two smaller kids in a stroller with loud music flowing out of a boomblaster (was this supposed to make the smaller ones sleep?!) and villagers walking home along the dirt road from the field with today’s crop. The Ni-Vanuatu people are probably the friendliest and most humble we have met so far, waving at you whenever you pass by, with big, genuine smiles on their faces. Marquesas now has fierce competition when it comes to our favorite destination until now.

Ella in Port Resolution Bay

Simple living in Port Resolution

We had heard that gifting pencils and paper to the local school would be appreciated, so we went in with a bunch and met one of the teachers, who was busy preparing laplap (traditional food cooked in an underground oven) with the kids. After hearing that Henrik was an IT professional, he quietly asked if he might be able to help with the school computers that had stopped functioning. In a joint effort, we “diagnosed” all the machines, some of them now working fine again and others only missing a USB cable (which tended to disappear as they can be used for charging e.g. a cell phone…). Those couple of hours spent in the computer room were much more meaningful than giving away pens and paper (which other sailors before us apparently had done too…) 🙂

Captain in the computer room

On the other side of the bay, there is another, smaller village, where Sheila can take you on a “hot springs” tour. It was more dampy than springy, but the mud at the end of our walk was warm and colorful, and we were all painted in the faces. Down by the beach, however, there are boiling holes, and while we were walking, sweet potatoes were cooked in the natural casseroles – very tasty indeed!

Sheila and the painted sailors

Dampy!

Hot!!

After the hot springs, we had a rather spacy experience, witnessing “John Frum Wednesday”. Every Wednesday, a large group of John Frum believers from all over Tanna meet in one of the villages of the island to celebrate their religion, singing and dancing around high on spiritual energy, while the elderly interpret what the spirit tells them through the dance moves, the atmosphere being very hippy-like – just without the weed…

Hippie or John Frum?

Anyways: beautiful and colorful!

And so are the children 🙂

Wednesday was topped up with an afternoon/evening visit to the prime site of interest on Tanna, the active volcano Mount Yasur. The first thing you perceive is the rumbling as you approach the crater, and as you come closer, you can see explosions from down below. As dark sets in, it starts glowing, become more and more intense. An experience out of the ordinary…

Of course you should show off that you come from Denmark when visiting Mt. Yasur?!

Welcome ceremony at the volcano

Ella crew on Mt. Yasur

Heading back to Ella!

Mt. Yasur from the seaside

Next stop was Port Vila on the island of Efate, and we arrived just in time for the Fire Dance show at Mele Beach Bar – which was just as touristy as it sounds like (but the fire dancers were talented!)… Once again we are reminded how privileged we are to have the opportunity to visit more remote places than the beaten track.

Fire show

On Sunday, we rented a car and made it around the island, stopping at the waterfall at Mele (despite being a tad too touristy as well), the World War II museum in Havannah Harbour, featuring items (primarily bottles of Coca Cola and beer) found in the bay from the period when the Americans had a base here, Pang Pang village, where a sweet family gifted us bananas, tomatoes and papaya, just like that (has this ever happened in Denmark?!?), ending up at the Sunday chill-out Blue lagoon for a swim and a swing.

Mele waterfall

Peculiar WWII museum

Henrik explaining where Denmark is, drawing in the sand

 

Week 37 (September 10-16), 2018

After some more boat work and provisioning, interrupted by a mud and thermal bath (let the pictures speak for themselves…) and yet another goodbye to Karma, we were “sung out” of Fiji by the workers in Vuda Marina (thank you!) and set sail towards Vanuatu. The four-day passage was in the rougher end – but then it’s good to have a heavy stable lady like Ella, and luckily we had pre-prepared food for the first three days, so we did not starve 🙂 We actually didn’t get “sea legs” until the last day, which became even better when a tuna-like fish was landed by Preben.

Mud…

…mud…

& mud!

Singing farewell from Fiji

 

Week 36 (September 2-9), 2018

Before leaving Waya, we had a walk “up the mountain” from Nalauwaki, together with our guide Naura. The Fijians are quite territorial, and you cannot necessarily just walk around on your own. It was steep and hot, but the rewarding view at the top was worth the effort.

Before the “mountain” walk

View from the top

Flying skipper

Is it obvious that we have been walking in the midday heat?!

With our guide Naura

Octopus resort, on a “mountain” backdrop

We had a wonderful sail back to the “mainland” (Viti Levu), this time Vuda Marina, where boat work was on the program. In contrast to Denarau Marina, where there seemed to be loads of free space although the administration said it was all occupied, the motto in Vuda seems to be “there’s always room for one more” – so we have never been closer to our neighbors in any marina! We were happy to find out that Karma was here as well, and this was celebrated with half price pizza in the restaurant (and a Fijian bitter or two 🙂 ). Most of the week has been in the fixing, maintenance, stewing and provisioning sign. On Saturday evening, we witnessed the opening of the “Vodafone Sugar Festival 2018” in Lautoka, with Sugar Queens and Princesses, a very entertaining master of ceremonies, loud techno music in the breaks, food stalls where sausages were used by dancing salesmen for juggling before landing in the serving tray, ferris wheels driven by outdated car engines and selling of plastic stuff that you don’t need 😉

Preben working on the diesel pump

Engine on Lautoka Ferris wheel

How to cool a Ferris wheel engine 🙂

 

Week 35 (August 27 – September 2), 2018

In Beqa, an island close to Suva, we presented “Sevu Sevu” to Chief Api in the village of Lalati. As customs stipulate, a gift of kava roots is to be given to the local community in order to be allowed to use their territory. After this ceremony, you’re allowed to anchor, snorkel and go for a walk in the village. We were also invited to taste the “grog” that is made out of the kava roots, together with the elderly men that were drinking this mysterious potion, while the younger men were working on building a house. There is not a big chance that it will become our favorite, and with the prices having risen so that it now costs 60-70 USD/kg (quite annoying when we had read that the price was 15 USD/kg…), we’ll rather buy pineapples 😉

The kids go to boarding school Monday-Friday in one of the other villages, Nawaisomo, which surprised us somewhat given that, as far as we could tell, it would only take a short boat trip to reach this village – hopefully they have another sense of fellowship, where the “big family” takes care of each other.

This is what you look like when you’ve found out that the kava roots are 4x more expensive than expected…!

Tapa collection presented to us after the Sevu Sevu ceremony with Chief Api

Ella at anchor in Mulumu Bay, Beqa

Walking from Lalati to Dakuni, Beqa

After a night sail to Denarau, we had a happy reunion with our last crew member Preben, who crossed the Biscay with us (way back!). Tommy, who crewed on Ella across the Atlantic, should also have joined us, but unfortunately, he broke his ankle a few weeks ago, so we will have to wait to see him again until we come back to Denmark…

We had another village experience on the Yasawa island of Waya that we reached after a wonderful sail along the Mamanuca Islands. Sevu Sevu was this time with Chief John in the village of Nalauwaki, after which we participated in the two hour long (!!) Sunday service, which luckily was filled with a lot of skilled singing 🙂 In the tranquil and comfortable bay by Octopus Resort, we snorkeled and dived with our own equipment. The only thing we could complain about was the price on the Fiji Bitter beers 😉

Sunday service in Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki after church

Nalauwaki gals

 

Week 34 (August 20-26), 2018

Checking into Fiji takes a while, but all the officials are friendly and smiling. Health comes first to secure that there is no disease onboard (upon which the yellow quarantine flag can be lowered), followed by Biosecurity, Customs and Immigration. When all the paperwork is done and the officials have “left the building”, it is your turn to go to the town of Suva to pay the bills – and then you can enjoy the colorful surroundings, intensely full of people, a lot of Indian influence, and a great great market, where local fruits and vegetables cost close to nothing! Quite a contrast to the quiet islands we’ve been frequenting, but definitely not bad 🙂 In Royal Suva Yacht Club, you’re beamed back to the colonial 50’ies, and ground coffee (as opposed to Nescafé) is not easy to find – but if you search long enough, you’ll succeed 😉 The very tasty Indian food on the other hand is everywhere, and you can get 2 roti’s or samosas for a dollar. For the first time since Curacao, we’ve been to the cinema – of course to see a Bollywood movie, the entertaining “Gold”. On the cultivated front, we’ve been to Fiji Museum, where we’ve learnt about Fijian culture and history.  

A very warm welcome to Esben and Thea, who have now joined the crew 🙂

Busy buss station in Suva

Busy market in Suva

Cool afro hair everywhere!

The pineapples don’t get any better than this!

Cheap samosas

Canoes in the Suva sunset

 

Week 33 (August 13-19), 2018

We checked into Tonga in Neiafu, the main town of the Vava’u group. We could feel that we were on “island time”: it took George from Quarantine 30 min, a cup of coffee and two cookies to fill out a short form, which could have been done in 5 min 😉

On the 14th, we celebrated having known each other for 5 years with a walk to Mount Talau (together with the pigs moving freely around 🙂 ), beers at Mango and dinner at Bellavista. Unfortunately, our stay in Tonga was so short that the only other thing we had time for was a bike ride to see some of the villages and shoreline on the northern side of Vava’u, before checking out again already on Thursday.

Pigs and chicks 🙂

Pig crossing!

View from Mt. Talau

It IS hilly in Vava’u…

After a few days of smooth sailing (mostly without engine 🙂 ), we reached Suva on the main Fiji Island Viti Levu.

 

Weeks 30-32 (July 23 – August 12), 2018

With our clearance papers in hand, we left French Polynesia on in the late afternoon of July 24, bound for Niue – if the weather would let us stop there. The winds were variable, and we alternated between sails and engine, while doing the usual “passage stuff”: reading, cooking, fishing (trying to…), keeping watch, doing exercise, sleeping at odd hours. The difference from previous passages was the fact that it was only the two of us, so a lot of time was spent alone, while the other was sleeping – and this somehow made the time go more slowly than we have previously experienced on the long legs. Luckily, we were spared big squalls, but unluckily, on Friday, August 3, after 10 days at sea and with Niue in sight, the wind turned west – meaning that we could not use the moorings at Niue, being on the western side of the island and thus with no protection. We tried to keep going towards Tonga, but with strong headwinds and waves against us, we could not go anywhere close to the course for Tonga… We therefore decided to seek shelter on the eastern side of Niue, and so we sailed up and down that coast for 5 more days, waiting for the winds to turn back to their normal easterly direction… An exercise of patience indeed, but rather this than being out in bad weather not sailing in the correct direction… Another sailboat, Usual Suspect with John on board, made us company, having come from the mooring side, where the conditions were, as expected, terrible. On Wednesday, August 8, we could finally pick up a mooring by Niue and get a quick look at one of the smallest independent states in the world, which appropriately is called “The Rock”, all made up of coral. The town of Alofi was cosy, with a New Zealand touch, people very friendly, waving at us when passing by, and the water was crystal, crystal, clear. Unfortunately, we did not see any humpback whales, who are around this time of year.

Sadly, we had to leave already the next day, in order not to be caught by a new wave of westerlies coming up in the weekend. After two more days at sea, we finally arrived to Vava’u in Tonga on what was now Sunday, August 12, given that we had skipped a day (Benedikte’s mum’s birthday…!!) when passing the date line. What a beautiful place, and what a delight to get a whole night of sleep without any rocking!!!

Sunrise by Maupiti

Sunrise by Niue

Mooring field at Niue

“The rock”

Niue’s beautiful waters

 

Week 29 (July 16-22), 2018

On our passage to Raiatea, we had the waves from the side (for the first time it seems…), and combined with not enough wind, this meant being tossed around as if in a washing machine… So we were happy to enter pass Iriru by midday Monday. We spent a few (windy and squally) days in bay Faaroa, with a walk to the village Avera and taking Onja up the river at the head of the bay, where we met André on his old surfboard (used as a paddle board). He had a plantation that he invited us to, and we had another wonderful experience as in Troja in Galapagos, receiving a bunch of fruits and vegetables directly from the field.

River paddling

André and Benedikte

André fetching papayas

Freshly opened coconut!

We moved on to the main town of Raiatea, Uturoa, where we started the check-out procedure by the gendarmerie. It took a few days more than expected, which meant touring the island in scooter, featuring spectacular all-shades-of-turquoise & blue-views of the lagoon encircled by reef and the archeological Unesco World Heritage site Taputapuatea, and yet another Heiva evening – one of the three (!!) going on in Raiatea. More “local” than in Papeete, but just as impressive!

Ready for the Heiva!

In the competition best female dancer

In the competition best male dancer

While waiting for our clearance papers, we took advantage of visiting the sister island, Tahaa, which lies within the same lagoon as Raiatea. We anchored in Tapuamu, opposite the motu Tautau, where we went snorkeling in the beautiful “coral gardens”. We were quite surprised to find the Pari pari rum distillery in the village of Tapuamu, where they tipped us of the dancing taking place Saturday night in the major village of the island, Patio: third round of Heiva, here we go!! We got a lift into town with Yvonne and Francis, who produce vanilla in Poutoru. As Yvonne says, the vanilla fever has never ceased in Tahaa (in contrast to the “pearl fever”, although there are a couple of pearl farms left), and on a walk in the valley of Tapuamu, we could indeed see that there is a big vanilla production on the island, which appropriately is called the vanilla island. In line with the Polynesian hospitality, Yvonne and Francis gifted us some dried vanilla beans (so all of Ella now smells like vanilla 🙂 ) AND drove us back after the show.

Sunset over motu Tautau with Bora Bora in the background

Heiva in Tahaa

Heiva group performance

Henrik & vanilla

Vanilla plantation

That was a grand French Polynesian finale, and we will miss their welcoming people when we, according to plan, will start sailing west tomorrow Tuesday (if our clearance papers are ready). We will therefore be offline for as long as it takes to get to Niue or Tonga.

 

Week 28 (July 9-15), 2018

This week has, not surprisingly, been in the rig sign. Last Saturday, John from Denmark, who was in Papeete working on the Taporo freighters, had stopped by in the marina. He said he might be able to help us out with the welding of our fitting, so he showed up Monday morning, and we took Onja across the harbor to the “Taporo area”. Unfortunately, his team was not able to do the needed type of welding, and we ended up at Technimarine, where we had been on a few previous occasions (!!). Fortunately, they could do the job for the following day, such that Henrik could start putting the rig back together. He spent some hours up in the mast, with Benedikte being a standby-helper on deck, transporting tools and stuff up and down. The rig was re-adjusted by professionals, and Ella finally came back in shape by Friday.

Result of painting in the mast…

In addition to working on Ella, we were once again, due to our delay, treated with some Polynesian culture during the “fruit run” that takes place in connection with the Heiva festival. The participants run barefoot with 15-50 kg of fruit on a stick on their shoulders – pretty exhausting!! There were also visitors from New Zealand, who during the prize ceremony spontaneously performed a powerful and emotional Maori haka dance. After the run, we had a reunion with the Marquesans, who made a traditional show, and Samoan fire dancers closed the afternoon.

Fruit run

Our Marquesan friends

Samoan fire dancers

Fire dance

We also had a pleasant reunion with Mathias, whom we met in Fakarava, now in company with his brother Emil, whose “high” on Polynesian experiences the last month was very inspirational 🙂

Emil (left) & Mathias (right)

After nearly four weeks in Papeete, we were more than ready to leave on Saturday. We were planning on sailing to Raiatea, but with no real wind, we took advantage of visiting Opunohu Bay on Moorea on the way. We had a walk ashore in heavy rain, but at least we got to see some interesting well-preserved archeological sites.

Moorea as seen from Tahiti

Opunohu Bay, Moorea

On Sunday afternoon, we set course towards Raiatea.

 

Week 27 (July 2-8), 2018

We started the week on a very positive note, when we got the engine running again, thus being ready to go back sailing! Problems have a tendency to come together, however, and on a routine inspection of the rig, we noticed a flaw in the mount of the forestay… We were already late for the next leg starting in Fiji in August, so this was not a welcome discovery… Although it was absolutely better to see it now than out at sea!! Our coming crew members were fortunately ok with postponing their embarkation in Fiji, giving us room to fix the problem before leaving Papeete. With the help of a rigger, the mast was supported so that Henrik could remove the fitting. Hopefully, we will be able to get it welded at the beginning of next week so that we can resume our voyage soon 🙂

On the second anniversary of our departure from Copenhagen (July 5), we decided to take “a day off” and visit some of Tahiti – having been here almost three weeks without having seen much… Although the tourist office told us that the bus system was not to rely on, we took one bus along the East coast to Taravao, and from there another bus going back to Papeete along the West coast – so we actually managed to make the tour of Tahiti Nui. It was good for our souls to see the beautiful sceneries of the island – something else than marine shops and Papeete Marina!

It is not only a bad thing to be delayed in Tahiti, as this has given us the opportunity to experience the yearly Heiva festival, where we witnessed one of the most extravagant dance shows that we have ever seen: 100 dancers on stage, in beautiful costumes, accompanied by a big orchestra. Now we know where Safri Duo found their inspiration and where “twerk” was born!!

Papeete Marina – our home the last 3 weeks

 

Week 26 (June 25 – July 1), 2018

This week has been in the Ella engine sign, first spending a lot of time wandering around the “industrial quarters” of Papeete, in search of various spare parts and mechanic help, then disassembling and reassembling the oil pump of the gear box (which was the culprit), with the help of the brilliant, creative, friendly and talkative mechanic Bruno from Concarneau. Once we were at it, the alternator of the engine was also renovated, giving us some awkward workshop experiences at Enipac, who did not want to help as long as we did not tell him exactly what to do (which was the reason we asked for professional assistance…), but who ended up doing a perfect job, and at Galet, who definitely knew what he was doing, although his shop was a complete mess…

This is what a gear pump oil box looks like.

Bruno the mechanic

Admittedly, the engine stuff was primarily Henrik’s domain (except for French translation), and meanwhile Benedikte started provisioning and stewing meat & vegetables for the upcoming passage to Fiji.

On the social scene, the Danish boats (Vesterbro, Lady A, Atlas and Ella) have watched Denmark play soccer against France in the world cup in a bar at 4 AM (!!!), we have had a Scandinavian night at “Les Roulottes” (food vans that populate one of the squares after sunset), where the Swedish boats Carpe Mare and Rubicon and the Norwegian boat Harry Z also joined in, we have had the Swiss boat Jade Akka (Isa, Tom and Kurt) over for kir, and we have had Sunday coffee and home-grated-Fakarava-coconut-cakes with Vibeke from Vesterbro and Karma, who have now also joined the Nordic Papeete club.

Very early morning World Cup

 

Week 25 (June 18-24), 2018

Everyone says that Papeete is a horrible place, with lots of traffic and noise. To us it was a welcome change from the very quiet lives in the remote islands we have visited the last months. And when the gear box just started dripping oil on the last part of our passage from Fakarava, this was the most convenient place to be in all of French Polynesia… Although it is somewhat challenging to get things fixed this “far from everything”. First of all, it is expensive and time-consuming to get spare parts shipped in. Luckily, we quickly got in touch with the mechanic Jeremy from the Australian boat Nyame, who diagnosed the problem so that we knew which parts to order. On top of that, Sea Casa would have Katie, a new crew member, flying in at the end of next week, so we could use her as a “carrier”.

We spent a lot of time on the internet to get the correct stuff shipped to Katie, but we also tasted the local beer at “Les 3 Brasseurs”, had enjoyable evenings with the other Danish boats in town, Xenia, Lady A, Vesterbro and Atlas, as well as a great walk up to “the cross”, where you can enjoy the view of Papeete with Moorea in the background.

View of Moorea from Tahiti

By the end of the year, we will return to Denmark and start working again. We have therefore started advertising for the sale of Ella in Southeast Asia (if everything goes according to plan), so if you know of someone with a long-distance sailor gene – please let us know 🙂

As we didn’t know what the time frame of the repairs would be, Rikke and Jens chose to continue their trip on their own, Jens flying to Los Angeles and Rikke to Sydney. “Thank you for this time” as we say in Danish, and safe onwards travels!

Lakridspibe-crew

 

Week 24 (June 11-17), 2018

As last week, our aim was to sail to Tahiti as soon as the weather was up for it, but it was still pretty windy and wavy, so we had to be attentive, especially because the protection in an atoll is not the best. Meanwhile, we had some “lazy days” in Fakarava. We planned on leaving Wednesday, but this was postponed to Friday, where the wind should have calmed down without disappearing entirely. It turned out, however, to be more or less non-existing or squally (a lot of wind for a short period of time), so we had to motor. The two-day passage was therefore not the most pleasant to date… Except for the craziest whale experience until now: we had 4-5 mink whales (as far as we could tell) following us for almost an hour, one of them being as close as 10 m from the boat…!! And Jens caught a beautiful yellow-fin tuna. Finally a tuna!! Once again, by coincidence, we boat buddied with Sea Casa.

We arrived to Papeete Sunday morning, getting into a marina for the first time in 4 months! We went for a walk in the Sunday-sleeping town and celebrated Rikke’s 21st birthday in company of the Sea Casa guys, with yellow-fin tuna and layered cake on the menu 🙂

Jens and the yellow-fin!

Tahiti in sight!

 

Week 23 (June 4-10), 2018

We opened the week by celebrating our cotton wedding day, having dinner at Tetamanu village, with a view to the lagoon of Fakarava, and before moving on to the northern end of the atoll, we had sunset drinks with Anders and Katharina from the Swedish boat Carpe Mare. We would have wanted to leave for Tahiti, but due to large ocean swell, the current in the southern pass was stronger than we wanted to venture into with Ella, so we crossed the lagoon to the village of Rotoava instead. We were immediately rewarded with the most beautiful sunset we have seen so far on our voyage!

In Fakarava North, we rented bikes, one day biking as far south as we could come (15 km), another day as far north as possible (10 km). We tried to snorkel there, but the conditions that day were not optimal, and after having seen the amazing underwaters at the south pass, we have become hard to impress…  We visited two pearl farms, Hinano and Havaiki, and had a very interesting and informative guided tour with Enoha, who believes that every illness can be cured by one of the plants or flowers of the atoll 🙂 We met Mathias from Odense, and we hung out with the Vesterbro crew. We tried out most of the eateries of the village (La Paillote, La Roulotte Vaiiti (great entrecote!!), Snack Requin (at tables out in the water), Rotoava Grill) and for the first time, we dived with our own equipment!

Palm crew

Havaiki pearl farm

Pearl quality check

Find the pearl!

Pearl catch of the day

Our guide Enoha

 

Week 22 (May 28 – June 3), 2018

Kauehi has offered world class snorkeling (by the quiet anchorage in the southeast that we had all to ourselves), a walk along the motus (small islets) of the atoll, full moon bonfire on the beach (once again featuring sausages and snobrød), a visit to the village of Tearavero (= ice cream, coke and ingredients for Henrik’s killer version of “hakkebøf med bløde løg, brun sovs og kartofler” 🙂 ), where people live of copra (dried coconuts that will turn into coconut oil) and seem to take life very easy, and evening entertainment with the “Taken” movies (once you start, you apparently get Liam Neeson-addicted).

Copra in the making

Windward side of Kauehi

Jens in the air

Rikke in the air

Henrik in the air

Benedikte in the air

After a week in beautiful surroundings, we made a slow overnight passage to the neighboring atoll of Fakarava (in an effort to time exit from and entry into the atolls at slack tide), on a Pacific Ocean that we have never seen more calm. And once inside the southern pass, we were again in beautiful surroundings. In the crystal clear waters, sharks and loads of fish were swimming around the boat. And in the pass itself, we have both snorkeled and dived, drifting with the incoming current among a multitude of colorful fish, schools of white- and black-tipped and grey sharks (you get to overcome your fear…), on a backdrop of well-preserved corals. Needless to say: a neat experience, turning fun when the current picks up and you get carried away – towards the inside the atoll, that is, not towards the open ocean on the other side (timing is everything)!

Shark shark!

 

Week 21 (May 21-27), 2018

Most of the week was spent passaging to the Tuamotus, meaning: reading, cooking, playing games, sleeping at odd hours, baking half-way cake, watching the stars and trying to catch a fish. For once, we had enough and stable wind, sailing 5-6 knots most of the way 🙂 The weather eventually became rainy, which was not the most optimal for entering an atoll, where you have to navigate through areas with coral heads, that are impossible to see without sunlight… We still entered through the navigable opening in the reef, which is most conveniently done at “slack tide” (when going from high towards low tide or vice versa), as the current otherwise can become very strong. Well inside the lagoon of Kauehi, we waited for some sun to continue to the anchorage. Which was well worth the journey, when the sun finally made its entry! Even more exotic than the San Blas islands, even clearer, more turquoise waters and even more coconut palms 🙂 And we had pancakes two days in a row, once in company with the three Californian “dudes” from the sailboat Sea Casa, Connor, Chase and Stewart, our sailing buddies during the passage from the Marquesas. We don’t complain…

Kauehi!

 

Week 20 (May 14-20), 2018

Welcome to Jens, who came onboard on Monday, and welcome back to Rikke!

We started the week by filling up on water, fuel and provisioning to be ready for our next destination, the Tuamotus, where “shopping” is scarce. We have been waiting for a spare part, which didn’t arrive on Wednesday as it should have, and still not on Thursday, so we left without, after having celebrated the Norwegian National Day with breakfast pancakes. It turned out the part had never been in storage although Kevin at Yacht Services Nuku Hiva was told that it had been brought to the airport in Tahiti on Tuesday… The wonders of “fixing your boat in exotic places”. The positive thing about staying a little longer than planned was that we actually got to see some of Taiohae, which had come in second row because we had been taking care of the fat lady. Although it had felt too big compared to the other places we have been in the Marquesas, it grew on us 🙂 Rikke and I even had our try at moving only our hips while staying beautiful all along at a lesson in Polynesian dance, while the girls joining the class controlling their bodies elegantly as if they had never done anything else… Great fun, and a little embarrassing 😉

Notre-Dame in Taiohae

Gratulerer med dagen, Norge!

Our last stop in Nuku Hiva, Taioa/Daniel’s Bay, was not a bad closing of the Marquesas chapter. We walked to the Vaipo waterfall (the third highest in the world) and had lunch at Mathias and Monette’s on the way back. They hesitated at first when we asked if they could prepare lunch for us, but while we were on our hike, they didn’t spill time, and grilled tuna, poisson cru, papaya salad, manioc and “beignets de banane” came on the table.

On the way to Vaipo waterfall

Marquesan lunch

We move on from the Marquesas after having spent five excellent weeks in this spectacular archipelago, which definitely did not deceive us 🙂

 

Week 19 (May 7-13), 2018

On Monday, we had a guided tour with Jérome to the western part of Ua Pou, including a goat-and-profiteroles-lunch at Pierrot’s, a very talkative man from Sicily, who re-filled our stock of pamplemousse, a waterfall walk and a visit at Manfred’s, a German who came to the island 30 years ago to make chocolate (a really good one!) and who is fond of women, who are “allowed” to touch his “concrete” muscles 😉

Air strip in Ua Pou

Lunch at Pierrot’s

Manfred and the gals

On Tuesday morning, the cruise freighter Aranui came in with all its tourists. We had been moving around the harbor a few times, first being in the way of the other supply ship, Taporo, and then to move in position in order not to be in the way of Aranui. Which we weren’t (just close), but on the other hand, we were now in the way of the canoe race that would be taking place… And our anchor was underneath Aranui, so our only option was to set a stern anchor, meaning that we would be in the way of one of the other sailing boats… A chaotic day – but fortunately, in the midst of all the moving around, we got to see the martial “haka” dance and had lunch at Rosalie’s, which apparently only opens when Aranui is there.

Hello Aranui…!

Haka dance

Benedikte in good company

It was now time to move on to the administrative capital of the Marquesas, Taiohae, on the island Nuku Hiva. This was the anchorage with most boats until now on our voyage, but there’s almost too much space, so there’s room for “everyone”. This means however, that you have to “dinghy-jump” in order to get ashore by the dinghy dock – let’s just call it a “dinghy jam” 😉 It also means that you get to meet a lot of other sailors, and we had a nice reunion with the cool Finnish family on Panacea and were inspired to see that the “kids boats” had a joint biology class under the leadership of marine biologists Edith and Ken from the Canadian boat Alondra, where algae and whatever could be found was investigated under small microscopes 🙂  We were also four Danish boats in the bay (Karma, Vesterbro, Xenia, apart from us), as well as both Norwegian and Swedish boats – quite impressive given the small sizes of our populations, but also showing how spoilt we are, having these opportunities…

In Taiohae, we said goodbye to Søren. With perfect timing, he caught a tuna-like fish on the way from Ua Pou, which made up a brilliant farewell dinner. It has been a real pleasure to get to know you, and thank you for all the goodies you have prepared for us in the galley 🙂 See you in DK!

One happy fisherman

Lakridspibe-crew

Rikke, who will be staying with us until Fiji, took a few days on land, and we have been doing some maintenance on Ella. The week was rounded off with a mass in the beautiful church Notre Dame des Marquises, where the priest encouraged us to let the heart and intelligence go hand in hand – this invitation is now passed on! 

 

Week 18 (April 30 – May 6), 2018

Before leaving the island Tahuata, we had a short stop in Hanamoenoa bay – on Ella known as the “Hannah Montana” bay (some of the Marquesan names are sometimes difficult to pronounce 😉 ). We had heard that this should be one of the most beautiful anchorages in all of French Polynesia, and it was indeed “picture perfect”, with a white sandy beach, palm trees, clear turquoise waters (for the first time we could see our anchor on the bottom!) and good snorkeling. On the downside, the properties just behind the beach were privately owned, so you couldn’t go for a walk other than on the small beach. Having the possibility to use your legs is apparently an important point for us, so we sailed on to the island Ua Pou, which met us with its impressive mountain spires, for once being free of the clouds that usually surround them.

Hannah Montana

Jumping crew

Mr. & Mrs.

We anchored by the nice town of Hakahau, with its colorful fruit and flower gardens and what seemed to be a very good community, exemplified by lots of activity by the canoe club at the beach. On a walk in town, a kind lady gave us mangos, papaya and bananas, just because Benedikte was taking a picture of her overwhelming garden… We had a tasty dinner at Pension Pukuée, run by Jérome from France and his wife from Tahuata, made a fire by the beach at the neighboring bay, Anahoa, grilling sausages and baking “snobrød” under the stars and had a hike to Hakamoui, a former “Valley of Kings”, passing plantations of pamplemousse and soursop on the way. We have been socializing with other sailors, from the crazy catamaran Arkouda, who opened one bottle after the other of red wine (thank you!), and from SuAn, who are real long-distance cruisers, having sailed from Germany to Australia and then done the “Pacific loop” onwards to Japan and Alaska, before going back to French Polynesia!

Canoeing in Hakahau

Fruit catch of the day

Colorful Ua Pou

 

Week 17 (April 23-29), 2018

After an upwind sail (which is absolutely not our or Ella’s favorite) overnight, we arrived to the majestic Bay of Virgins in Hanavave on Fatu Hiva. It was indeed a beautiful sight. We had a great walk to “La Cascade”, the waterfall every sailor walks to, and lunch at Florida and her family’s place, with poisson cru, chicken, pig, rice, lemonade, pamplemousse and butter cake on the menu. Poisson cru, raw fish marinated in lemon and soaked in coconut milk, is a new favorite 🙂 “Aranui”, the combined supply and cruise ship, was in town during our stay, meaning a lot of activity in the harbor and local craftsmen selling their wood/bone/stone carvings while singing and playing the guitar. Although we had a nice time in Fatu Hiva, we were exhausted by the wind gusts caused by the high mountains surrounding the bay, one night constantly blowing up to 18 m/s (= very bad sleep). We were also a little saddened by the trading culture, not by the trading itself, but by what was asked for: booze by the adults and “bonbons” (sweets) by the children… We have so little booze onboard that we want to keep it for ourselves (it is indeed very expensive in French Polynesia, as we had been “warned” of), and as for the kids, we’d rather give them color pencils and glass beads. Which we did, experiencing a greediness that did not actually encourage us to do it again… 

Hanavave, Fatu Hiva

Colorful Marquesas

On the way to the waterfall

Lively harbor when Aranui is in town

Aranui

Tahuata, our next island, was more to our taste. First of all, we had a great downwind sail (that’s how we and Ella like it ;-)) to Hanatefau, second there were (almost) no gusts in the bay, and third, no one asked for booze or bonbons in the nearby village of Hapatoni. We had a very memorable walk to the neighboring village of Vaitahu, with a million mango trees along the road, coconut and banana palms, wild chicken and roosters, panicking whenever the dangerous human beings came too close, pigs, goats and horses grazing by the road side and a work-out by a thousand-fold beating a pulse training in the gym (read: up the valley, down the valley, up the next, down the next…). In Vaitahu, we could even buy a Hinano (the Tahitian beer) to be enjoyed back on the boat. We have been swimming with dolphins, playing in the bay and showing off with jumps and triple sideway screws, snorkeled with a multitude of colorful tropical fish, a few reef sharks and even a big manta (= belly butterflies – it is a huge and elegant creature)! Kaloni, one of the craftsmen in Hapatoni, has carved traditional Marquesan symbols in the piece of wood on which our life belt is normally hanging. We played pétanque with him and some other local guys, who were laughing their asses off by how bad we were at this game 😉 Life is very relaxed in the village, where most are artists, primarily earning their money at the bi-yearly exposition in Tahiti coming up in June, living of fruit and vegetables from the jungle, pigs and chicken from their backyards and fish from the sea. On a more homely note, we have been hanging out with the good people Bent and Jeanne from S/Y Karma.

Anchoring in Hanatefau (Ella furthest away)

Banana crew!

Mango, mango, mango!

Kaloni, the carver

One of Kaloni’s pigs, who seemed pleased with a coconut 🙂

Sunday pétanque

Karma and Ella crews

We haven’t bought any fruit since we arrived, and that is not because we haven’t eaten any… On top of the fallen ripe fruit you can find by the road, people are so willing to give away from their fruit yards without expecting anything in return. Hapatoni was no exception, and after Henrik had had a chat with a former parachute soldier in the French Army (the most tattooed man we have seen so far, covering almost all of the upper part of his body), we came home with avocados, mangos, lime, ginger and mint…

Although “everyone” says that Fatu Hiva is “the most beautiful” of the Marquesas Islands, that is difficult to say when all the places we have been so far have been so breathtaking… To us, Hanatefau had it all: a calm anchorage (most of the time), good hiking opportunities, great snorkeling and a welcoming small village.

 

Week 16 (April 16-22), 2018

We have spent the week in Hiva Oa. Some sailors say that there is not much to see on this island, and that the anchorage is awful, but although the water is indeed murky and there is a 40 min walk into Atuona from the port, Hiva Oa has loads to offer, and we have enjoyed it very much.

We have been hiking up the mountain, up to the cemetery where Paul Gauguin, who lived the last two years of his life here, and Jacques Brel are buried – not a bad place to say goodbye to the world, with wonderful views of the mountains and the Pacific, surrounded by colorful flower trees. We have been to church, entertained by powerful singing and the Marquesan sound of the ceremony (which was not a “mass”, but a “celebration”).

Happy hikers

We have been driving around on the crazy curvy roads that look more like trails than roads, steeping directly down into the sea. Good that we had rented a 4-wheel Toyota Hilux (which is the truck every islander drives in)… On this scenic tour, we visited the biggest Tikis (holy statues) in French Polynesia at the Iipona site in the village of Puamau, and we even managed to find the smiling Tiki, which is not that intuitive, although the locals think that their road sign “in the descending curve” (which there is only one of on this hilly island, of course…) is more than clear enough. Signs are by the way not their prime competency: Of course you know that Puamau is the first exit at the roundabout and that Hanaiapa is the second, when coming from Atuona, so no need for any signs, right…?!

Rental car on Hiva Oa

View from front seat of rental car

Big Tiki in Puamau

Well-hidden smiling Tiki

Inspired by the Marquesan guide John, who was driving another group of sailors in front of us, we started picking fruit along the road and got topped up with bananas, mangos, papaya and breadfruit. At Iipona, John invited us to grab some pamplemousse (grapefruit/pomelo) and in Hanaiapa, a couple suggested that we harvest lemons – saying that in the Marquesas – the fruit is for free (as long as you don’t serve yourself in a fenced-in property). As exotic as it may sound, they definitely have all the fruit they can eat.

Papaya

The Paul Gauguin museum in Atuona was well worth a visit (especially if you understand some French), and on Wednesday, Sandra, who operates “Hiva Oa Yacht Services”, hosted a sailor’s BBQ by her “container”, Semaphore Atuona. Søren’s 27th birthday was celebrated on Friday with Henrik’s always tasty pancakes, layered cake and lightly fried tuna, while flying our “parade” Dannebrog (it is embarrassingly big).

As some fellow sailors say, long-distance sailing = “fixing your boat in exotic places”, and after such a long passage, there was also a thing or two (or three) that was ticked off the maintenance list during the week.

 

Week 15 (April 9-15), 2018

Underway to the Marquesas, days 25-28 – and arrival to Hiva Oa!!

Those last days at sea were tough… Not weather-wise – and we are very happy to have been spared for any bad weather on the way – but mentally. Although everyone onboard was doing fine physically (and we are very happy about that too!), we were now pretty anxious to end this “puddle jump”… Apparently, there is a three-week limit for us when it comes to duration of a passage. Hence it was indeed emotional to wake up Thursday morning to the amazing sight of the Marquesas Island Hiva Oa… And even more beautiful when a heavy scent of tropical flowers came through the air…

In town, Atuona, we made a 5-minute check-in (what a contrast to the 9-hour check-out from Costa Rica…) and got a feel of this Pacific paradise. Hiva Oa is incredibly green, with majestic mountains, fruit trees all over, colorful flowers, beautiful & proud people with traditional tattoos (which on them actually look really good!!), no trash, no tourists (except for the sailors) and with a nice French touch. Absolutely wonderful 🙂

Weather: With the winds still being light, our pace was slow – which in the end was ok in order not to arrive after dark, but instead taking a last night at sea to make landfall in early morning.
Other boats: Amazon Warrior
Food highlights: Coconut/honey-roasted cashew nut-cookies (what we had left for baking!), risotto, French-style tapas on Ella together with the crews from the sailboats Vata and Karma, gigantic portions of shrimp at restaurant Hoa Nui
Fish: None…
Books read by someone in the crew: The World Without End (Ken Follett), European History, Brødrene Price – Maden, musikken, livet & kærligheden (Lone Kühlmann), The African Farm (Karen Blixen), Nynnes Dagbog 2 (Henriette Lind & Lotte Thorsen), Vi kan sove i flyvemaskinen (Ulla Terkelsen)
Milestones: Arrival to Hiva Oa after 27 days, 2 hours and 10 minutes at sea 🙂

Colorful Hiva Oa

 

Week 14 (April 2-8), 2018

Underway to the Marquesas, days 18-24

The week started like a dream, Søren finally finally catching his fish, and a school of pantropical spotted dolphins joining us, elegantly surfing on the waves – a bonus we had been longing for, since the wind continued to be more absent than what suited us… Another highlight was a VHF call on Thursday night from another boat from our sailor’s net, Kristina Regina from Estonia. It’s impressing that we for the second time got so close to another sailboat that we could have a radio conversation, despite being on this big, big ocean! We have been finding stellar constellations (now that the moon is retreating) and playing iKnow and Cranium, but we must admit that we were starting to look very much forward to seeing land!

Weather: Still very light winds meant slamming of sails and difficulty keeping the course, which led us too much south, but it got better by the end of the week.
Other boats: Fukuju Maru NO78 (presumably Japanese fishing vessel), S/Y Kristina Regina
Food highlights: Freshly caught mackerel, chia porridge, honey-roasted oatmeal, 6 AM rolls and hot chocolate, brownies, Danish rye bread with Fåborg liver paté, “Kicker rock” à la Henrik, Nutella “horn”
Fish: Finally, on day 18, a king mackerel!
Books read by someone in the crew: The World Without End (Ken Follett), Gjennom de renes land (Kristin Solberg), European History, Everything is illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer), Star Finder for Beginners (A step-by-step guide to the night sky), Sula (Toni Morrison), Brødrene Price – Maden, musikken, livet & kærligheden (Lone Kühlmann), The African Farm (Karen Blixen)
Milestones: Less than 500 nautical miles left on Friday at 11 PM and 3000 nautical miles reached on Saturday at midday 🙂

Beautiful Pacific sunrise

 

Week 13 (March 26 – April 1), 2018

Underway to the Marquesas, days 11-17

We have been somewhat frustrated by the wind being a tad too light, but at least we have had company of the moon all week, being full on Saturday, making the night shifts a little easier to endure. On Friday we had a call on the VHF from one of the other Danish boats of the sailor’s net – which was a nice surprise, although it meant that they were about to overtake us… A new activity has been introduced, in addition to reading and game-playing (and cooking of course!): movie-watching after dinner. We have so far been entertained by “Nattevagten” and “Message in a bottle”. We also sent our own message in a bottle, in the beautiful Ron Centenario bottle that we got from Warner and Veronika at Christmas – we are wondering if it will ever be found, and if yes, when and where!

Weather: Light winds all week, very often too light to keep the sails up – so we have listened to frequent slamming of sails (which hurts…). At least there has been no rain, and the swell has been very tolerable.
Other boats: S/Y Karma, Heroic Leader (presumably cargo vessel)
Food highlights: Delicious buns à la Søren, pirogues, “pizzasnails”, layered halfway cake, 6 AM pancakes à la Henrik, filled pancakes, chicken pie, home-baked crispbread, scones
Fish: None…
Books read by someone in the crew: The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett), Fall of Giants (Ken Follett), Islands in the stream (Ernest Hemingway), Gjennom de renes land (Kristin Solberg), European History
Milestones: Halfway party on Tuesday at 8 PM and 2000 nautical miles reached Saturday at 11.15 AM 🙂

Beautiful Pacific sunrise

 

Week 12 (March 19-25), 2018

Underway to the Marquesas, days 4-10

We have been slowly getting into the non-stop sailing routine, with daily e-mail check-in to the sailor’s net, position update to Marine Traffic, retrieving a weather forecast and checking of the rig. Every night after dinner, we have been reading a small story told by eyewitnesses to the world history, in “The Faber Book of Reportage”, and on the night shifts, we have eaten müesli bars and watched the stars (when we’ve been so lucky they’ve been out). To celebrate the trade winds, Henrik cut his hair for the first time since San Blas, and Rikke has been trimming Søren’s beard little by little, such that we have a new Søren appearing every other day 😉 On Sunday, we celebrated Benedikte’s birthday, and she was treated with freshly baked buns and hot chocolate for breakfast, presents from the crew, pancakes and flags 🙂

Weather: We have finally caught the trade winds! Although a little variable (read frustrating) at first, it has now stabilized to 7-11 m/s (the favorite is 8-9!), and we are advancing at a very satisfactory pace of 5-6 knots. Rainy/cloudy/sunny. Tolerable to tiring swell.
Other boats: “Eco Future” (cargo vessel)
Food highlights: Fresh produce from Troja, banana cake, banana pancakes, banana buns, delicious buns à la Søren, hotdogs, pizza, chili con carne, lemongrass/mint tea
Fish: One mahi mahi on the hook, but we lost it 🙁
Books read by someone in the crew: The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett), The old man and the sea (Hemingway), Sorgenfri (Johan Petersen & Peder Krogh), Opmålingen af verden (Daniel Kehlmann), Lord of the flies (William Golding), En historie om næsten alt
Milestones: 1000 nautical miles reached Saturday at 2.30 AM 🙂

Fixing Søren’s beard

Fixing Henrik’s hair

 

Week 11 (March 12-18), 2018

After a very nice lunch at “The Hausers”, supposedly the best restaurant in all of the Galapagos, our last provisioning was done at the farm “Troja”. We went into the field with the farmer, who harvested what we wanted on the go, picking produce of varying degree of maturity, such that our fresh stock would last longer during our upcoming passage. It was a fabulous experience, and we came back with eggplant, cabbage, carrots, spring onion, parsley, basil, mint, lemongrass, yucca, beans, green tomatoes, pineapple, papaya, bananas, pomelo and lime – all at a very reasonable price. This is the way to go!!

Walking through Troja

Pineapple!

The catch of the day

The Isabela Festival was coming up Wednesday to Friday, and although we would be missing the main party, we got a small taste of it through the crowning of the Queen of Isabela show, which the whole island seemed to witness.

Just before departure, Nicolas announced that he would disembark. We were sorry about, but respected his decision. The remaining four of us, however, were ready for the big passage, well, that is, after each of us had to go through a small round of stomach ache…

On Friday, we set out for the big ocean, and we were wished good luck by some whale sharks close to the boat and some rays flipping high above water – what a majestic farewell to the enchanted Galapagos islands!

New flag for big passage!

During the first days, the wind was not with us, so the motor was put to work (again!), in order to get out of the calm zone around the equator, in which rain and lightning on the other hand visited us. We are looking forward to catching the stable trade winds! We have joined a “sailor’s net”, where a number of boats on their way from Galapagos to the Marquesas write a daily e-mail to the group, in order to check on each other. It’s nice to know there are others “out there” even though it doesn’t feel like it, when the only thing you see is deep blue water 🙂

 

Week 10 (March 5-11), 2018

When moving on to the third and last island we will visit in the Galapagos, Isabela, we tested the anchor winch, which was serviced in Puerto Ayora. It now works like a dream – thank you Claudio, who fixed what was supposedly fixed in Cartagena many months ago…

Seeing a sea lion elegantly jumping onto a large buoy for a rest in the sun and a blue-footed booby diving for fish is a nice way of starting your day!

Although building activity is high on Isabela, the island has a more “authentic” atmosphere than San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. We have snorkeled at ”Concha de Perla” and  ”Los tuneles”, with a view to sea turtles, different kinds of rays, reef sharks, sea lions and colorful fish; we have walked up to the gigantic crater of the Sierra Negra volcano (8 km x 11 km) and to “El muro de las lagrimas” (The wall of tears, built by prisoners when there was a penal colony on Isabela in the period 1946-1959); we have kayaked in the bay and chitchatted with James, the owner of the “Booby Trap”, which is a very cruiser-friendly bar who lets you use their space and internet even when it is closed. And we had Mike (that we met in Puntarenas) for dinner before his 4000 NM single-handed passage to Hawaii (we wish you a safe journey!).

Next week it will be our turn to start a long passage, 3000 NM to the Marquesas – so there will be some weeks of silence on the website. 

 

Week 9 (February 26 – March 4), 2018

Before we left San Cristobal, we had time for a taxi tour up in the highland of the island, to visit the volcano “El Junco”, the tortoise center La Galapaguera, where we saw giant land tortoises for the first time – and that is an impressive sight! We ended up in Puerto Chino, where we thought we might be able to buy a coke, but this was not a port, but a (very beautiful) beach!

Sailing on to Santa Cruz got us away from the rain but into the “Gran Canaria” of the Galapagos, with loads of people, tourist shops and boats everywhere, Puerto Ayora being quite a big town. It was furthermore crowded with the “World ARC” boats, which luckily left after a few days, leaving some more anchor space for the fat lady. Astonishingly, there were two other Danish boats on our sides (what are the odds?!), Magic and Karma. We spent a nice evening with Karma – hopefully we will meet again in French Polynesia!

The Gran Canaria feel became less evident when we started doing trips around town and around the island. We had the most wonderful bike trip to the collapsed craters “Los Gemelos” and the Chato Ranch, where the tortoises walk around freely. It was a delight to see them in an environment very close to their natural one, as opposed to the breeding centers in San Cristobal and at the Darwin Research Centre in Puerto Ayora, although those centers are of course of paramount importance in order to maintain a viable population of tortoises in the Galapagos. Some hundred years ago, thousands of these impressive creatures inhabited the islands… Rikke, Søren and Benedikte had a fabulous dive at North Seymour, with hammerhead sharks, white-tipped and black-tipped sharks, Galapagos sharks and schools of rays all around from start to end!

Snorkeling at the volcanic cleft at “Las Grietas” in early morning before the (other) tourists start to appear is a meditative experience, while a walk to Tortuga Bay rewards you with a multitude of marine iguanas, sitting “in your way”.

Not to forget: in Puerto Ayora, there is Happy Hour “all day” (!!), yummy freshly made empanadas at the market square Sunday evening and “almuerzos” (lunch including soup, main course and juice) in the small local restaurants for 4-5 USD.

 

Week 8 (February 19-25), 2018

Monday afternoon, we suddenly had a call on the VHF: this is Neptun Rex! The King was asking for permission to enter the ship in order to allow passage for those of us who had not crossed the equator by sea before. The ritual involved drinking blue bubblegum drink and eating blue buns with blue icing (all as natural as the blue sea…), before being baptized in salt water and given a new name: Kabys-haj (Nicolas), Delfin-arm (Rikke), Gyldne mahi mahi (Søren), Flittige flyvefisk (Benedikte) and Morsomme marlin (Henrik). After Neptun’s visit, we celebrated the passing of the equator with afternoon bubbles (although we actually did not cross the line until just before midnight).

After Neptun’s visit…

Tuesday afternoon, seven days and a couple of hours after leaving Curu, we arrived in the Galapagos Island San Cristobal. We were greeted by a multitude of sea turtles, who quickly dived down again when spooky Ella approached, and in the bay of Baquerizo Moreno, the sea lions were all over the place. Magical indeed!

Wednesday morning, we had a very easy-going inspection. We had heard and read so many stories about how strict the check-in on Galapagos would be, but once again, this was a situation where things had been “overdone” on the internet, probably because only the bad experiences tend to be described. All the officials were friendly, smiling and polite, and within an hour, we were on our way into town in a water taxi – which is the preferred and comfortable transportation to/from the boats at a 1-dollar rate pr. ride.

Full boat during the inspection

It does not take long before you have made encounters with noisy, playful sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, Sally lightfoot crabs, frigate birds, pelicans, blue-footed boobies and finches, and also sharks, when going underwater either diving (Rikke, Søren and Benedikte) or snorkeling (Henrik) at Kicker Rock. There is one (less flattering) similarity to Panama and Costa Rica: we have realized that it is now the wet season, which means loads and loads of rain in the middle of the day!

Ubiquitous San Cristobal inhabitant

 

Week 7 (February 12-18), 2018

Before departing towards Galapagos, as expected, some last problems had to be sorted out (a little engine stuff and a sea chart that wouldn’t cooperate), but on Tuesday afternoon, we set course towards these supposedly magical islands.

We had a very nice and calm sail, most of the time backed up by engine, but also sailing for our new great sails a decent part of the way, which was a positive surprise. We quickly came into the routine of long-distance sailing: eating, sleeping, reading, looking at the stars, watching the boobies staying overnight on the bow sprit, baking half-way chocolate/orange cake, chatting and playing Yatzy (Rikke keeps winning…). We are still looking forward to Søren catching fish 😉

Bow sprit boobies

 

Week 6 (February 5-11), 2018

The last huge provisioning was done at the beginning of the week – requiring a truck for transportation back to the boat 😉 We thought we were ready for departure, but last minute repairs and maintenance tend to keep popping up… On top of that, we had to go through a check-out from Costa Rica of Kafkan / 1984 dimensions… After spending 9 hours over 2 days, being thrown from office to office, we now do understand that a human being can be broken down by bureaucracy (or circus?!).  We felt like Hotel California (which was played every day pan flute style in the marina bar): you can check in, but you can never leave…

After being delayed from Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursday to Friday to Saturday and getting more and more desperate to finish working and get going, we finally left Puntarenas. Thank you for the patience and skillful help from our crew during the last 10 days! Next challenge: would we be able to get out of the low waters of the estuary, now that the depths due to the moon phase were a little lower than upon arrival, and that we were a little more heavily loaded with food for a few months, 750 L water and 750 L diesel?! We only hit ground once, but we got off again quickly and anchored off the beautiful Curu Beach in the late afternoon. What a blessing to be on our way after intense weeks of preparation!

After an extremely thorough cleaning of the hull, which is necessary in order to be allowed entry into the Galapagos Islands, we made a trip inland to visit the Curu Reserve. We said farewell to the capuchin and howler monkeys, the raccoons and white-nosed coatis, the iguanas and even a small crocodile. Despite our ridiculous check-out experience, this is how we will remember Costa Rica!

Provisioning!

 

Week 5 (January 29 – February 4), 2018

Out of the working fog that has surrounded us during the last weeks came our new crew!  
– Nicolas from Copenhagen, who has already spoiled us with his extraordinary skills in the galley – we look forward to more of that!
– Rikke from Lejre, who will be joining us all the way to Fiji – we look forward to that!
– Søren from Århus/Silkeborg, who has promised us that he will catch loads of fish – we look forward to that!

As alluded to previously, we have been working and working and also passing by the Ferreteria Apui (hardware store) for materials and spare parts to such an extent that they now know us and are aware of our voyage… Nevertheless, there are still a multitude of remaining tasks before we are ready for the big Pacific, and we quickly took advantage of great helping hands from our crew, while at the same time not forgetting to have a beer or a glass of rum from time to time 🙂

Søren and Rikke working on our new main sail

 

Week 4 (January 22-28), 2018

We started the week with a trip to Herradura, as a last option to find the paint and the varnish that we have been looking for. We did find some (all too expensive) varnish, but we politely left the paint in place, having forgotten our gold bars at home… We were thus all set for varnishing day after day, once again being admired by the marina workers for doing it ourselves. We met Mike from the Oregon boat Alpha Leonis, who has had to cancel his planned circumnavigation, because his son, who should have come with him, went back home when they reached Mexico. Luckily for us, this meant that we could buy some of the guide books and charts for the South Pacific that he won’t need now.    

In the weekend, we went to San José to visit Warner and Veronika. Warner gave us a tour of the University of Costa Rica, where he is an Associate Professor, and on Saturday we visited Alajuela, Grecia and Sarchí, the latter of which is famous for constructing “caretas”, wooden, colorful carriages used in agriculture. Veronika spoiled us with yummy home-made Slovakian cakes, and we were generally taken very well care of – thank you very much!  

In this connection, we also had a check-up of Henrik’s lung (which has made itself felt since we went to the high altitudes of the Irazu volcano) at the most professional hospital we have ever encountered (Cima). Luckily, everything looks fine, and Henrik is thus ready to conquer the Pacific 🙂

At Warner and Veronika’s place in Tres Rios

 

Week 3 (January 15-21), 2018

Another week in the working sign. We used several days trying to get hold of a carpenter, who could help us renovate our floor (every day saying that he would come by tomorrow…), until we lost our patience and went to Puntarenas to find someone else for the task. We ended up at “Los Buchones”, some friendly elderly men, who from one day to the next fixed the woodwork we needed such that Henrik could do the job himself. It seemed like the workers in the marina were impressed to see a boat owner working on his own boat instead of hiring people to do it! The stewing of meat business has also started again as well as the never-ending provisioning – now that we are about to cross a big ocean.

On the leisure side, we have spent some nice time with Stan and Sally from the San Francisco boat Illusion – lovely and impressive people who don’t brag about having been “Yachtsman” and “Yachtswomen” of the year and having won Volvo Ocean Race as a navigator (Stan).

As for eating out, Shrimp Shack (= shrimp burgers) is probably the best place in town – thank you Tine and Kristin for discovering it while you were here!

Marina Puerto Azul in Puntarenas

 

Week 2 (January 8-14), 2018

We’re back in the everyday maintenance humdrum that is so common (and essential!) for a long-distance sailor, and even more necessary when preparing for the extensive stretches of the Pacific! We’re somewhat challenged concerning the availability of the materials we need, which calls for extra patience, but at least the common transportation to get back and forth to downtown is impeccable. On our first night in Puntarenas, we were happily unaware about the 4-5 km walk into town, but we quickly found out that the bus runs continuously at a “symbolic” fee. And you can always combine your shopping with a tasty and cheap casado lunch 😉

To accompany our work, there is – surprise – music all day long from the resort associated with the marina; music quiz at 10 AM; aqua-aerobic at 11 AM; karaoke for the family at 1.30 PM; latin dance classes at 3 PM; happy hour at 5 PM. And we thought that by January 8, holidays would be over!! A swim in the pool after a working day is, however, nothing to moan about, and on Sunday, we even treated ourselves with the brilliant breakfast buffet 🙂 Gallo pinto, scrambled eggs, sausages, plantain, fruits, bread and muffins, coffee and juice, for the net sum of 6 USD – and people say that Costa Rica is expensive?!

For the third time, we met up with Warner and Veronika. After our “julefrokost” in San José, we were invited to their beautiful home with a spectacular mountain view in Tres Rios, and this time, they came by Ella in Puntarenas for a Henrik pancake and a beer. Hope to see you in San José before we leave!

Benedikte, Veronika and Warner in Puerto Azul

 

Week 1 (January 1-7), 2018

Happy New Year! We started 2018 (too) early by taking the ferry to Paquera and the bus onwards to charming Montezuma. Unfortunately, we had too little time in this pleasant little town, but the bath was exceptionally good, and the squirrels in the tree above us on the beach threw half-eaten fruits down at us 😉 The ferry back was packed with happy holiday people, dancing to the ubiquitous reggaeton rythms, and the beach in Puntarenas had apparently been the place to be for a January 1st family gathering with BBQ, oversize chips bags and a beer or two. A somewhat different way to spend the first day of the year as compared to the hung-over Danes, who barely make it to the nearest fast food shop… Thank you, Kristin and Tine, for inviting us to a farewell dinner at the Italian restaurant Matobe’s!

The next morning, Tine was off to Monteverde and Arenal, where she will stay during the last part of her vacation. Thank you for joining us in Costa Rica! Goodbyes apparently come in pairs, and the same afternoon, it was Kristin’s turn to return to the cold North. Farewells to your loved ones are never easy, especially when you don’t know when you will see each other again, but we will live on all the good times we have had during your visit and count on seeing you on Ella again soon 😉

It suddenly becomes very “quiet” (well, the music is still everywhere, don’t worry!) when you go from 7, to 6, to 4, to 3, to 2… But it’s not that bad either, when you can look back at memorable moments with lovely people in a country that has taken us by storm 🙂 We had heard from some other long-distance sailors that Costa Rica was a country that we should travel through as quickly as possible – we couldn’t agree less!!

This also means that the holidays are over, and work work work is now on the agenda: Galapagos formalities, engine stuff (new water pump and oil coolers), rinsing all that can be rinsed (now that we have access to fresh water), cleaning, re-organization, sanding and painting. And last, but not least, we finally received our new sails – we are very excited to try them out!

Tine, Benedikte and Kristin in Montezuma

 

Week 52 (December 25-31), 2017

Now that the family has come all the way to Costa Rica, we should of course experience typical Costa Rican stuff.

Volcano: There are many volcanos in Costa Rica, Irazú being the highest, 3432 meters above sea level (bring a jacket!!). This time, the clouds did not steel our view, and we were even lucky enough to see the emerald lagoon in the main crater. Our volcano encounter was topped up with a visit to the cathedral in Cartago and a drive through the beautiful Orosi Valley.

Coffee: Costa Rica is renowned for its coffee, due to its microclimates and rich volcanic soil. As a suitable activity on the holiest day of the year (December 25, according to Benedikte), we tasted coffee and chocolate at Britt Coffee Tour in Heredia. Thanks to the talented and fun guides Maria and Pablo, this surprisingly educational tour can only be recommended!

Horses: Costa Rica is a farmer country, and horses are still an integral part of this industry. To celebrate these impressive animals, every Christmas there is a parade in San José, “El Tope”, where the proud owners are showing off their “dancing” horses. Kristin, Tine and Benedikte also got first-hand experience with them when joining the wonderful “Jungle Spa Adventure” at Discovery Horseback Tours outside of Playa Hermosa.

Apart from being a tourist, we had to say goodbye to Siff, who endured Christmas “with the family” (and is thus now part of the family 🙂 ). We have been so happy to have you onboard and look forward to meeting you again in Denmark!

The second goodbye was Benedikte’s mum and dad, and as Henrik has now gotten used to, these events never happen without tears… We are so grateful for your visit and sincerely hope to see you again on Ella before our return to Scandinavia 🙂

Thankfully, Kristin and Tine were still here to celebrate New Year with us and Ella in Puntarenas, with speeches of the Danish Queen and the Norwegian King, great food, bubbles, fireworks and bonfires on the beach.

Lakridspibe-Christmas-gang

 

Week 51 (December 18-24), 2017

What is more logical than loud reggaeton and salsa music on the morning ferry from Puntarenas to Playa Naranjo in the Nicoya Peninsula? In sharp contrast to this, we were driven down to the peaceful Playa Guaitilar by the owner of restaurant El Vigia, where we had had… casado for lunch of course 🙂 The only sound breaking the silence was vivid Juanita’s “Oh my God!” (the one sentence she knew in English), when she wanted to join us at our game of pétanque. She welcomed us to her province, by letting us taste the typical Christmas food, tamales, and we took group photos to remember the festive moment in this little Costa Rican pearl 🙂 

Like Juanita, Ticos generally take it easy. Don’t panic if the bus to Monteverde, which should leave at 8 AM, has not arrived by 8.30… It’s just around the corner! You shouldn’t be in a hurry either: remarkably, the bus driver doesn’t start driving again until the pregnant woman or the old man has found a seat, while dirt roads and high speed are not synonymous… Once up in Santa Elena, we were rewarded with the dense Monteverde Cloud Forest and the red-eyed leaf frog, featuring almost all the colors of the rainbow. With “jeep-boat-jeep” transportation, we continued on to the Arenal volcano, where the clouds stole our view of the top, but at least we had lunch with a bunch of white-noased coatis – without having to share 😉

We celebrated Christmas in an Airbnb apartment in the chic quarter of Rohrmoser in San José, where Kristin’s (and Benedikte’s) friend Tine joined us. More specifically, we stayed 100 meters north and 25 meters west of the house of Óscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica and the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Yes, this is how addresses are provided in this country…! We invited Benedikte’s former colleague Warner and his wife Veronika for a typical Danish “julefrokost”, where we of course played “pakkeleg”, shopped at our favorite supermarket “Automercado”, had a swim in the pool on Christmas Eve, enjoyed Mum’s traditional Christmasy pork tenderloin, had ris à l’amande with port for dessert, dansed around our plastic palm Christmas tree and gave each other great gifts – the biggest one though being together!

Merry Christmas!

 

Week 50 (December 11-17), 2017

Herradura is like Little America – for rich Americans, that is, coming to the area for FAD (fish aggregating device) fishing with their superyacht moored in the luxurious marina Los Sueños, where one night would cost 100 USD – for your dinghy!! At the local restaurant Soda Kathia, on the other hand, where the workers taking care of the pleasure crafts have their lunch, you can enjoy a traditional “casado” (fish/chicken/beef/pork, rice, beans, salad and plantain) for 5 USD, including a fruit drink – so we preferred to hang out there 🙂 Although we also did appreciate the brilliant supermarket “Automercado”, where you could get hold of anything your stomach desires 😉 The surfer towns are located on the Pacific Costa Rican coast like beads on a string, and Jacó (in the bay adjacent to Herradura) was the next on the list, yet more American-style than the ones visited so far.

We said goodbye to Herradura before a beautiful sunrise in order to get to the entrance of the Puntarenas estuary at high tide – else we would not be able to get all the way to Marina Puerto Azul with enough water under the keel… Even then, the depth gauge showed 0 meters most of the way… Whether it was the focus on depths or the fact that Ella has not been tied to land for the last 7 weeks that made us forget that fenders are to be put out when entering a marina, remains unknown… With a friendly reminder from the helpful staff at Puerto Azul, we are now safely on “solid ground”.

It seems like the rain has finally decided it’s time to take a break, and the sun is now shining from a blue sky! The arrival of Benedikte’s parents and sister by the end of the week has made the days even brighter 🙂

  Ella in Marina Puerto Azul, Puntarenas

 

Week 49 (December 3-10), 2017

We have spent the week anchored off the beautiful Punta Quepos, close to the popular national park of Manuel Antonio, which we visited along with half of America’s population… Our lunch was stolen by a bold raccoon (it was a total ambush!), but this was forgotten when we saw “our own” sloth (i.e. not pointed out by a guide and with tons of tourists with huge cameras staring up at it), climbing in slow motion around a tree. We have had yummy milkshakes at Café Tentacion, brilliant fish at the cosy Emilio’s Café with a view to monkeys on a Pacific backdrop and lunch at Brisas del Nara with a view to Rio Naranjo in Londres, which was a small quiet town where nothing really happened.

The biggest challenge in Quepos was getting ashore. According to our guide, we could use the dinghy dock in the marina Pez Vela, but this turned out to be old news. They would let us do a drop-off/drop-on 30 minute stop for 35 USD (!!), but apart from that, they could not help us… The public pier was out of the question, given the 2,5 meters tide difference. We were a little disoriented, but decided to drop Siff and Benedikte off at the breakwater, go for one of the buoys outside of the marina, and let Henrik swim in… Admittedly not the best of solutions, which we were also told by the water taxi guy who suddenly showed up, because the owner of the buoy we had chosen would be coming back soon… Arturo helped us find a vacant buoy and sailed us to shore, on the other side of the marina. Arturo and his father became our friendly and helpful saviors, although their notion of time sometimes was different from ours (read: waiting for them for more than one hour in Onja when we thought we had an agreement and while they did not pick up the phone…). Suggestion for Quepos: be inspired by Bahia Drake, where they have a protected dinghy dock free of charge!!

Raccoon eating Fåborg’s liver paté…

 

Week 48 (November 27 – December 3), 2017

This week has been in the sign of the before-mentioned breathtaking Costa Rican nature. On a fantastic walk in Bahia Drake, we were in company of howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, colorful macaws, capybaras and herons, beautiful beaches and tropical jungle. It became even more fantastic when we stumbled upon a canoe tour in Rio Claro, which had not been part of the plan when we set out. At the peaceful Finca Maresia, likewise in Bahia Drake, we had coffee on the house, because they were not used to getting visitors not staying at their hotel, and Greta the dog followed us the rest of the day – we were just about to get a ship dog…! The Nauyaca waterfalls close to Dominical, yet another chill-out surfer town, were almost too impressive, but the walk better than pulse training at the gym! And when the reward is local beer at Fuego Brewery with a view to the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean, there’s not much more to ask for.

In Bahia Drake, we said goodbye to Anne and Bettina. Thank you for your company and for Coco Loco, who continues to safeguard our journey, and best of luck with all your choices ahead 🙂

Amidst all the rain, which there is still lots of (we are looking forward to the end of the rainy season), we have started Christmas preparations: the ladies’ farewell was a decorated boat (thank you!), we read every day about Nitro the goblin and watch The Julekalender (thank you Felicia!), still epic 26 years later 😉

Capuchin monkeys

 

Week 47 (November 20-26), 2017

After spending the weekend under the yellow quarantine flag, we’re now legally in Costa Rica. As usual, the check-in presented some surprises: although this was not mentioned in any of our guides, immigration did not want to process our paperwork before we had been to the health authorities. Here, they looked at us as a big question mark, wondering first of all why we had come, and second why on earth we did not have an agent (do you really do the paperwork on your own?!?). They inspected our yellow fever vaccine documentation and asked for the “international health declaration”, which we had never heard of, but which apparently was a letter from the captain stating that the boat was disease-free and had been so for the last 10 days. Back to Ella to write such a statement, which was handed over to immigration, who would hand it over to the health authorities – so we never really found out if it was adequate… At customs, which had to wait till the next day, because they are naturally closed on Mondays, the waiting time was long: was it due to lunch or was the copy machine really defect, as they excused in the end? We could, however, admire the Christmas decorations all over their office while we were there – it seems the Ticos (Costa Ricans) are very into that! Although a little cumbersome, all the officials we met during the check-in procedure were nice, and we look very much forward to our stay in Costa Rica 🙂

Since the customs office was located in Golfito’s tax-free zone, we had a chance to take a look at that too. You wait in a line in order to receive a shopping card (“tarjeta”), which allows you to shop the following day (?!?). Although the most sold item, gigantic American-style refrigerators, would not fit in on Ella, we found a couple of useful things, and we came back the next day. While the area had been quite calm during our first visit, it was now some kind of circus, refrigerators being driven around in a row and multiple cases of hard alcohol being dragged around. We somewhat regretted having bought our few small things when we realized we had to go through a long “check-out” line, where your goods are checked and where you hand back your “tarjeta” (you’re only allowed to shop once a semester, and up to a certain amount), but we took it as an experience 😉  

On the other end of the scale, which has taken our breath away and which makes Costa Rica “pura vida” (“pure life”), is its magnificent nature: on an early morning walk in Golfito, we saw monkeys and had a beautiful view of the bay of Golfito. In Bahia Drake, we landed Onja II on a dinghy dock right next to the public path following the shore, where we could walk for hours in the lush rainforest, in company of capuchin monkeys.

Anchorage-wise, we experienced the best, in well-protected Golfito, and the worst ever, in Pavones, where we rolled around in the swell of the Pacific and wondered whether we were really on Ella or rather in a roller-coaster… The town, however, was diametrically opposite: a chill-out surfer hang-out!

Beautiful husband in beautiful Bahia Drake

 

Week 46 (November 13-19), 2017

As alluded to previously, we’re in the middle of the rainy season. Our stay in Islas Secas proved the point: rain, rain, rain… And given the 14 shrimpers who had sought refuge by the island, it was not only rainy, but also pretty windy. Luckily, we were in shelter, but after three days of constant rain, I can tell that you appreciate dry weather and a glimpse of blue sky!! The good thing about being stuck in a bay with an armada of shrimpers is that you get a gigantic bag of freshly caught shrimps in exchange for a six-pack of beer… So we had shrimp in all variations for a couple of days 🙂 We also played the spy game for the first time in over a year (and it has not been Henrik’s fault that it took so long since last time), ate well, read books, went for rainy walks on the island, took a look at the perfectly thought through luxury eco-resort that is to open its door for up to 18 (!) guests in December and had a chat with the friendly manager Jim and some of the workers.

On Thursday evening, the weather had finally calmed down, such that we could make our way to the border town of Puerto Armuelles, just in time to check out of Panama before our visa ran out and to get Helene on her plane towards Colombia. Helene, we will miss your cooking skills (despite an occasional overload of cayenne pepper 😉 ) and your clever questions and reflections. Have a great onwards journey!

We cannot believe that we have spent three months in Panama, but the conclusion is that this country is underestimated and can be highly recommended 🙂 Checking out, however, takes the price in bureaucracy, but Puerto Armuelles surprised us positively, and all that paperwork was forgotten when we saw dolphins in phosphorescence on our night sail towards Golfito in Costa Rica, where we had the pleasure of welcoming Siff onboard 🙂

Shrimp!!

 

Week 45 (November 6-12), 2017

A large group of dolphins playing by the bow, one big mahi mahi proudly caught by Helene and Bettina, a whale upon arrival at Isla Caña and an evening bath in phosphorescence – what more can you wish for? Topped up by the landscape changing with the tide, with the beautiful beaches wrapped by rainforest disappearing at high tide, as if being in two different places despite being in the same spot. In Caña Village in Isla del Rey, the men were hanging out in their hammocks, the 8 school kids were finished for the day allowing us to have a Spanglish conversation with them and their teacher, the old man went up in the forest to harvest limes for us to buy, and one family was preparing what looked like delicious food in a provisional outdoor kitchen for a birthday celebration.

Bahia Honda was reached after two days of motoring (against the wind, as seems to be the rule in this area at this time of year) and quite some rain (it is the rainy season, after all). We bought fruit and vegetables from “Kennedy”, and several locals came by for a chat, one of them having guessed that Ella was a concrete boat! The village on the island had a San Blas-without-the-Gunas touch – the kids at least stared at us as if we were coming from another planet – which we also felt during our first visit. The second time, we felt less like strangers and went for a great walk in the rainforest, walking/climbing back along the shore at low tide, and after some asking around succeeded in bying three eggs (I’m sure they eat them themselves, considering all the chicken strutting freely around!), such that we could bake a banana cake 🙂

Crew and Onja II at low tide

Week 44 (October 30 – November 5), 2017

Enjoying the skyline of Panama City from Las Brisas anchorage is not the worst view, and especially not when the fireworks light up the Casco Viejo, probably getting ready for all the national holidays coming up by the end of the week. While we have been waiting for a new dinghy cover for Onja II, the ladies (according to 7-year-old Johan from Felicia, you become a lady around the age of 18 😉 ) have experienced Guna Yala, but are now back in the city.

On Thursday, with a domestic zarpe (“exit paper”) in hand (for the net sum of 1,5 dollars and 30 minutes work at the Port Captain’s office…), we set course towards the island group Las Perlas. We have heard that the animal life is richer on the Pacific side as compared to the Atlantic, and according to our fishing luck on this first trip in the Pacific, we now have very high expectations! There was biting on Henrik’s lure several times and fighting with a tuna-like specimen (which he unfortunately lost), and a mahi mahi on Benedikte’s lure when pulling it in for the day!! So the ladies made extraordinary sushi for dinner, and there was meat enough for fish cakes for lunch the next day.

Our first stop in Las Perlas has been Contadora. Despite an anticipation that this island was only for the too rich and fancy, it proved to be a very charming place, with rainforest in between the beautiful mansions and a summer-holiday-in-Denmark-on-an-island feel 🙂

Mahi mahi sushi by the ladies!

 

Week 43 (October 23-29), 2017

Round birthdays cannot be celebrated too often, so we opened the week with a little Danish party for Kenneth (from Felicia) and Henrik’s 90 years, with Uno, beer, restaurant food, balloons and birthday cake à la Helene.

After party: work. We have started provisioning for the Pacific, taking advantage of the marina shuttle to the shopping area “4 altos” in Colón a couple of times before leaving Shelter Bay. Besides, all the last preparations for the Panama Canal were made, getting ready for the transit Wednesday afternoon.

Our advisor Amado came on board at 4.30 PM (only 1,5 hours late 😉 ) at “the Flats” anchorage and guided us towards the Gatun locks, which would rise us 26 meters up to the Gatun Lake. We were rafted alongside two big yachts, who did the line handling job, and we could just enjoy the ride 🙂 We spent the night at a buoy in the lake and continued the journey Thursday morning, when advisor McClen joined us. He told us about Panama, and we told him about Denmark, and we were once again struck by how well-functioning and fair the Danish society is (although we are very good at complaining about the system)… We had been worried that we would not be able to go fast enough through the canal to reach the Pedro Miguel locks in time, but we arrived two hours early after having slowed down for the last two hours. The engine even behaved properly, and we happily descended towards the Pacific in company of a tourist boat that Henrik entertained by “playing” on the conch he got in Guna Yala. In the Miraflores locks, we were on our own in the center, and we could finally do some line handling ourselves 😉 And now comes the cliché: as other sailors have said, it was indeed an emotional moment when the last gates opened – and we had reached the Pacific!

 

Week 42 (October 16-22), 2017

Monday morning, we were up at an ungodly hour to be picked up by a 4×4 car that would take us to Cartí in Guna Yala (San Blas). It was indeed a rollercoaster drive with showman “Mr. Everton” as the (too) proud rollercoaster driver. We survived and took the water taxi to Rio Sidra, where we met Lisa, who once again would take us on a jungle walk. Unfortunately, there was too much current to embark on the river route back as we did last time, but still a great experience! It was interesting to see the different appearance of the river now as compared to two months ago, clearly having been influenced by heavy rains. In the afternoon, the “muchacho” working for Lisa sailed us over to the neighbouring island, Narrasgandupdummat, and the Cabañas Miro, where we spent the next two nights in a hut on the beach, eating freshly caught fish and lobster, snorkeling, playing iKNOW under the palm trees and reading in the hammock. A perfect retreat after some days packed with sightseeing. The return from Cartí, this time with Joel, was less rollercoasty, just as fast and much more enjoyable!
On Friday, Karen and Asbjørn set course back to Denmark, and we jumped on the bus back to Colón. Thank you so much for the visit – it was great to share our adventure with you and put our project in perspective (read: re-realizing how many wonderful experiences we get with Ella!) 🙂

The week was closed by re-uniting with the Felicia people and welcoming Anne, Bettina and Helene on board, three young power-girls from Århus. We look forward to sailing with you!

 

Week 41 (October 9-15), 2017

This week, we “have done” the Panama Canal, except for transiting ourselves: the Panama Canal Museum in the old part of Panama City (Casco Viejo), the Panama Canal railroad from Panama to Colón and the visitor centre at Miraflores to see the big ships go through the locks. And we were so lucky to experience all of this in company with Henrik’s sister Karen and brother-in-law Asbjørn, with whom we had rented a stylish apartment with high ceilings and air conditioning in Casco Viejo. This was a wonderful base from where to explore Panama City and its surroundings during the day and drink red wine and play iKNOW in the evenings, while updating each other on the wheres, whats, whens and whos of our respective lives.

On Saturday, we said Hurray! and celebrated Henrik’s birthday with home-made buns, a walk in Parque Metropolitano, ice-cream, champagne and strawberries, topped up with an exquisite 9-course dinner at “Manolo Caracol”, where the white wine was on the house when they found out the occasion for our visit. Such a round birthday requires a good party, and I think we did a good job 😉  

 

Week 40 (October 2-8), 2017

Having hundreds of dollars in cash in your pocket in shady, downtown Colón is not a favorite… But we succeeded in handing them over to the bank to pay for the canal transit before anyone else got hold of them! Meaning that we were now ready to agree on a transit date. Although the high season is approaching for cargo ships, because of Christmas (!!), the season for sailboats does not start until January/February, so we can almost pick and choose a date that suits us. We made an appointment for October 9, and lines, fenders and volunteer line handlers were also in place – so we can confirm that the paperwork is indeed doable on your own, unless you have a very tight schedule. We postponed our transit, however, when we realized how much more cumbersome and expensive it is to leave your boat on the Pacific side. Henrik’s sister and brother-in-law will visit us in Panama City next week, and we were planning to get there before their arrival, but we will now leave Ella in Shelter Bay Marina while we’ll be going to the capital by land.

Onja has been on the verge of dying for quite some time now, so Henrik has been investigating the possibilities for bying a new one here in Panama. Surprisingly, that proved to be much more complicated than expected… After a few dodgy experiences, we finally made a deal with “José”, who was able to deliver the next day and to whom we could pay by credit card instead of cash, which is rather unsual in this country. Welcome to Onja II – we look forward to great adventures with her!

We had a spectacular closing of the week, when going for a sunrise walk in the nearby jungle and finally spotting the howler monkeys that we have been listening to since our arrival to Shelter Bay 🙂

 

Week 39 (September 25 – October 1), 2017

Arriving at the entrance of the Panama Canal, through the huge breakwaters, is a special feeling! With tankers all around you (are they moving or are they at anchor?!), it is comforting to be in contact with “Cristobal Signal Station”, who can assure you that the path is free for Ella 🙂

We have been preparing for the transit through the canal, attempting to do the paperwork ourselves (without an agent), which according to the staff at Shelter Bay Marina should be doable, in order to save a little money. At least we got measured by an official such that we could be put in the right ship category and have been several times at the ATM to withdraw all the dollars to be paid… We also got the opportunity to sail through the canal with a French Amel 54, Matira II, and her captain Marc, to get an idea of what to expect and try out line handling in the locks. Long-distance sailors help each other with the transits, as 4 people are needed in addition to the captain to control the position of the boat while ascending/descending in the locks. It was fun to crew on another boat – and what a boat! Two large cabins each with toilet and shower (with running hot water!), washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, watermaker, and, and, and… Despite the lack of this kind of luxury on Ella, we were happy to come back to her cosiness, which very few other boats can match, should we be completely unbiased 😉

We have now started recruiting crew members for the Pacific. The teams have not been sealed yet – so let us quickly know if you would like to join on one of the legs!

 

Week 38 (September 18-24), 2017

Welcome back to “civilization” where the toilets can be flushed by pushing a button and you can pay by credit card… Great thing when the dollar stock is about to reach the bottom and you visit the “holiday island” Isla Grande, with its ubiquitous restaurants and hotels, where you can get heavenly quesadillas with chicken, guacamole, cream cheese and tomato salsa accompanied by a glass of red wine – if you have a credit card that is (lucky us)! When it’s been a while since you have eaten out, that really is a treat…

In the historic setting of Portobelo, we met long-distance sailors, who had been anchored in the bay for (too) long, hanging out at Casa Vela, a nice cruiser-friendly bar/restaurant (with good wifi!).

In Shelter Bay Marina (by the Panama Canal), we met long-distance sailors, who had been berthed to the dock for (too) long. But who’s to blame when Monday is JoAnne’s birthday (with ice cream, cake, wine and beer), Tuesday is karaoke night (with chicken wings and beer), Wednesday is documentary night (with pizza and beer), Thursday is movie night (with popcorn and beer), Friday and Sunday are BBQ nights under the palapa (with wine and beer) and Saturday is open mic night (with beer)??

 

Week 37 (September 11-17), 2017

Next stop: Coco Bandera Cays – and thus back to paradise islands, coconuts, coral reefs, white sand and Guna Indians in their canoes – which we prefer to Nargana, which seems to be caught between “old and new”. We experienced the biggest “culo de pollo” (strong winds) until now in San Blas – still with everything under control (although very wet!). Maybe we are slowly getting used to this variable weather?! Panacea followed lead to Tiadup and Olosicuidup, and they are now the third long-distance-sailing-family having been exposed to Henrik’s pancakes 😉

Last stop in San Blas became Chichime, which was a pristine end to one month in these highly recommendable waters. On our first stop on the mainland, Green Turtle Cay, we anchored extremely close (in our definition) to shore in only a few meters’ depth, without encountering problems – so this is apparently also possible with Ella 😉 Sunday we had a morning swim to the beach and a walk somewhat shortened by the omnipresent bugs, before heading off to Puerto Lindo.  

 

Week 36 (September 4-10), 2017

We have enjoyed having people on board the last couple of months. This week, we have enjoyed being “on our own”, doing “nothing” for a few days: reading, drinking coffee, watching movies. By the end of the week, we moved on from Playon Chico to Nargana, a less charming Guna Yala island, but where there is a (very slow) internet connection. We could observe that we had not missed out on that much during our offline weeks. Except for hurricanes in the Caribbean that is, which we have not been affected by in any way – as Panama is located south of the hurricane belt (one of the reasons why we are cruising this area for the time being). And the earthquake luckily hit on the Pacific and not the Atlantic side. We do have variable and unpredictable weather though, due to the rainy season, which we are not quite used to yet.

On our way to Nargana, we noticed that Finnish Tuomo and Riikka, with their three kids Aarre, Kerttu and Martta that we had met in Santa Marta on their boat “Panacea”, were anchored close by, and we paid them a Sunday visit. And what do you treat unexpected guests with? Red wine and freshly baked apple cake of course! This family in one of a kind 🙂

 

Week 35 (August 28 – September 3), 2017

This week, our friends Jannick and Anja “came to see us” with their 7 months old daughter Emilie. We had a great time cruising around to some places we had already visited (Aridup and Niadup), and some new (Isla Puyadas and Isla Tigre), snorkeling on beautiful reefs, swimming, sweating, scratching (yes, there ARE bugs, so-called “no-see-ums”), fishing (Jannick proudly catching two big king mackerels!), having tasty food and an afternoon beer. Emilie did well as a sailing baby and was quite interesting to the Guna Indians, who without asking took her out of her parents’ arms to get a closer look 😉 Thank you for passing by!

In Snug Harbour, Arkin had rown out to us in his “ulu” canoe a couple of times for a chat and to sell us his bananas and limes. On Sunday, he took us on a tour inland in the jungle behind the airstrip of Playon Chico, passing by a large area that people were preparing for house building, as the island is getting over-populated, fruit trees and cemeteries. We visited his home (a hut with a few hammocks and a bed) and his family, and bought a traditional “mola” from his wife, who also cut Henrik’s hair 😉

We are very thankful for the anchoring tips we got from Felicia – we are definitely getting better at it, and we have now almost forgiven the anchor for the bad experience in Puerto Velero.

 

Week 34 (August 21-27), 2017

We hung out with Felicia at the beginning of the week. After a few days in Banedup, we moved some 5 nautical miles to Salardup, where Lisa, a local Guna Yala Indian tour guide, took us on a magic trip inland. Walking through jungle, passing a Guna cementery where Lisa’s family was buried, before arriving at a beautiful waterfall, where we were cooled down in the fresh (for once not salt!!) water. On the way back, we were told to leave our bags with Lisa’s helper, because we were taking the river route, swimming, jumping, walking and sliding. Unexpected and amazing! In the evening, we celebrated Christian’s 14th birthday.

We said goodbye to Felicia, who are going back to Denmark for a month, continued east, visiting the small and friendly Guna community in Niadup, the palm island Aridup with its beautiful reef and cheap lobster, before arriving in Snug Harbour, close to Playon Chico, from where Rikke and Heidi left by plane for Panama City. Thank you for good company – when seeing so many great places, two months pass by quickly!

 

Week 33 (August 14-20), 2017

After the last preparations in Cartagena, we set sail for San Blas, which we reached after 2 days of (motor)sailing. The most exciting event during the crossing was our near-two-whales-encounter – only a heavy reverse hindered a collision… We prefer to see these majestetic animals at a little more distance!

We met Felicia again, who with their extensive experience gave us a crash course in anchoring (thank you!).

Everyone says San Blas is paradise, and we are inclined to agree with that (on sunny days)!

 

Week 32 (August 7-13), 2017

As Monday was one of the 29 official holidays in Colombia, there was still no possibility of finding a mechanic. Everything was also closed in the Getsemaní center, so the seamstress we had met yesterday and thought we had an appointment with, was not there. Yeah for having carried the headsail back and forth!

Tuesday we finally got hold of a mechanic, who found the problem. Taking advantage of having expertise at hand, we decided to do some more amendments on the engine. The motor of Onja, which started behaving oddly, has also had an inspection including a new propeller. Edwin the mechanic set us in contact with a(nother) seamstress, who did a beautiful job reinforcing the headsail.

Now that our next stop is San Blas in Panama, where shopping options are scarce, it’s a good idea to stock up, so besides Ella/Onja maintenance and repair, the week has also been in the sign of provisioning (read: a lot a heavy carrying back and forth to the supermarket in high heat and humidity), as well as stewing of meat for the first time since the Canary Islands.

Let’s not forget the fun stuff too: “Rumba en chiva” (crazy party bus) Saturday evening, watching romantic tours in horse carriages in Cartagena by night, Playa Blanca, arepas & Colombia beers @Colombitalia in Getsemaní, “baby”sitting the children of Felicia to give Kenneth and Annemette the opportunity for a twosome dinner, and Happy birthday to Benedikte’s mum on the 11th!

 

Week 31 (July 31 – August 6), 2017

We were satisfied with our new anchor that had its debut in Puerto Velero and had a couple of calm days in the quiet bay, where Ella was also washed under the waterline (the bottom quickly becomes hairy in these warm waters!). Tuesday evening, however, became somewhat action-packed when the wind picked up, we started drifting, and the engine wouldn’t start… Hmm there’s something to Murphy’s law… We managed to get the anchor up and decided to set sail for Cartagena. The wind died in the morning when we were approaching Cartagena, but the engine was not to be fixed right away and we could not get into contact with Cartagena Port Control. Luckily, S/Y Felicia came from behind and towed us a long way (a huge thanks to you!!), before an “official” towing boat took over. It looked more like a “slim fit” party boat, with its 750 HP, but it did manage to get us into a berth in Club de Pesca.  

While Henrik stayed in bed with fever the next few days, Heidi and Benedikte went out on an expedition hunting for a mechanic, a seamstress (we have discovered yet another flaw in the headsail) and a pump for Onja that we had lost during our premature departure from Puerto Velero. No success, but in return, we experienced the very (too) local Mercado de Bazurto, where we might have found some help, but we reckoned we would be better off walking out of the area again after a quick visit.

At the end of the week, Henrik was finally on his feet again, which he could use for walking around the charming old city and say hello to the sloths in the Parque del Centenario, one of them now having a baby 🙂 As in Santa Marta, there seems to always be some festival going on in Cartagena, which you can always celebrate with some beautiful fireworks!

 

Week 30 (July 24-30), 2017

We were supposed to leave for Cartagena at the latest Monday morning such that we would be there in time for Kristin to catch her plane back to Norway. Unfortunately the weather did not agree on that plan, and the two sisters therefore jumped on a bus, riding through beautiful and varied landscapes to spend a couple of days in what we were told was a jewel of a city. Cartagena indeed is a very charming and colorful colonial-style town with murals and fortresses and houses with wooden terraces and “palenqueras” in bright dresses selling tropical fruits, as if taken directly out of a Gabriel Garcia Márquez novel. Free walking tours are offered every day and will fill you up with a lot of interesting information about Cartagena de Indias, as is its full name. You might feel that the density of street sellers of every kind in the inner city is a little too high, but then again, they do it for their living, and they (mostly) take no for an answer. The adjoining area, Getsemaní, on the other hand, is just as charming, but much more quiet, so this is a good place to wander around and have lunch or dinner, e.g. at the cosy Las Indias Boutique Gourmet, where we  had a very reasonable three-course lunch including the best mojarra imaginable. Highly recommendable! On Thursday, regrettably, it was time for Kristin to return to Europe 🙁 Thank you for being a great crew member on Ella – we will miss you!

In the meantime, Heidi had survived a four-day walk in the jungle to Ciudad Perdida, a strenuous but fantastic experience. Henrik and Rikke had babysitted Ella, while preparations for the yearly “Fiestas del Mar” were taking place in Santa Marta and the neighbouring beach El Rodadero. If Curacao knows how to party, Colombia knows it even better… The Friday Folkloric Parade, lasting 5 hours, surpassed the Curacao Carnival and Harvest Parade put together, and there was (loud) music and people everywhere.

After a nice BBQ with some of the other sailors Saturday night, we departed towards Cartagena at sunrise Sunday morning. As alluded to before, sailing plans have a tendency to change, so we did not reach Cartagena in one go, due an engine that seemed to overheat and the wind turning towards us, but we crossed the river Magdalena without problems and anchored up in Puerto Velero Sunday evening, while a fascinating thunder and lightning show was on.

 

Week 29 (July 17-23), 2017

We had been reading and reading and reading about clearance into Colombia to the point that we were more confused than informed… According to various pilot guides and internet sites the formalities seemed more than complicated, and we were therefore quite curious about how it would proceed. It turned out that Santa Marta Marina sorted it all out for us, and the only thing we had to do was handing over our papers!
With this peace of mind, we started wandering through the charming streets of Santa Marta, with its beautiful plazas (Parque de los Novios being one of the favorites), frenzy street life with all kinds of shops and workshops and of course the ubiquitous street sellers. What a blessing to be able to buy a lemonade for 2000 Colombian pesos (approx. 5 DKK) and “all-you-can-eat-on-the-street” dinner for 25 DKK, when coming from Aruba where a beer costed 12 DKK in the supermarket… Or get your broken oil dipstick welded for 12 DKK or the flaw in your headsail sown for 30 DKK… Getting hold of the mechanic, who was supposed to fix the diesel leak to the engine oil, was, however, a little challenging, but we finally succeeded Friday night at 6.30 PM, after some days of running back and forth to the yard asking when he would do the job…   

The week also featured some of the amazing nature of northern Colombia: a walk in Tayrona National Park and a visit to the coffee farm “Finca La Victoria” in the mountain village Minca. From these hikes, we can conclude that we are not used to the heat and humidity that we have encountered in Colombia. We needed a day of recovery after the hardships, while the Colombians danced and sung along “Despacito” on the way back in the bus: 1-0 to the Colombian family!!

The week ended very “feliz”, when the Danish boat “Felicia”, with Kenneth & Annemette and their three children Christian, Kirstine and Johan, arrived to Santa Marta. We have been in contact all the way since Denmark, but for some reason, our oceans didn’t cross until now. Great encounter 🙂

 

Week 28 (July 10-16), 2017

Aruba is filled with beautiful, long, white beaches, turquoise waters and straw parasols. And as a consequence of that: resorts, hotels, casinos, shopping malls and big jet planes flying hundreds of (primarily) American tourists in every day. After some enjoyable days of swimming at Arashi Beach in the West and Baby Beach in the East, flamingos at the “adult beach” (sounds more shady than it actually is) on Renaissance’s private island, pool time, feeding iguanas, and hiking in Arikok National Park, we were ready to see the sea again.

This time crossing to Colombia, which is considered to be in top five of the most difficult sailing passages in the world. With a good (conservative) weather forecast, however, it fortunately went very well, and we arrived Santa Marta after 2.5 days underway, greeted by fireworks celebrating la “Virgen del Carmen”, the patroness saint of the National Army and the navigators 🙂

We are happy to be on the “continent” again, having island hopped since Madeira in October last year and look very much forward to exploring vibrant Colombia!    

 

Week 27 (July 3-9), 2017

Despite Ella being back in the water, the week started with more working days. With a little help from our new crew member friends, however, it could have been worse, and we were now really close to sailing again, after our involuntary 5-month break on Curacao.

The day after the 1-year anniversary of our trip, we finally set sail for Aruba! With Ella racing away at 6-7 knots with only the main sail up (of course, what would you have expected after the “total make-over” Ella has been through the past month?!), it was an excellent trip sailing-wise, but rather rough waves entailed quite some seasickness among the crew 🙁

It was all forgotten when checking in at the Renaissance Marina in Oranjestad – where you are allowed to use the luxurious facilities of the Renaissance Resort Hotel, including their pool, beach and private island… Not an everyday treat for long distance sailors!  

Sadly, due to health issues, we had to say goodbye to Kurt, who flew back to Denmark on Sunday. He will be missed!

 

Week 26 (June 26 – July 2), 2017

Who would have believed that managing to put a hose on a newly installed seacock would be in the way for getting the fat lady back in the water? Well, this was what delayed the re-entry to Ella’s right element with 5 days, but it finally happened on Friday, about high time after 5 weeks on land. Juhuuu!!

In the meantime, crew members came pouring in from Scandinavia: Rikke and Heidi from Copenhagen on Tuesday, Kurt from Jutland on Wednesday, and Kristin (Benedikte’s sister) from Oslo on Thursday. Great to get some life back onboard! While the newcomers settled on the boat (even having the chance to experience life on Ella while on land…), got used to the heat and did some island sightseeing, we worked on the last bits to make Ella ready for the water again.

We took Sunday off, to celebrate the Curacao Flag Day. Yet another Party Day on the little island, although it was not as extensive in Willemstad as the previous parties we have witnessed. On the way to and on Playa Lagun on the west coast, however, it looked as if people were taking the partying seriously 😉 We simply took a dip in the beautiful water in company of a snorkel and had a coffee while iguana-spotting and gazing at the ocean horizon.      

 

Week 25 (June 19-25), 2017

The last stop of Benedikte’s Nordic Tour de Force was the starting point, Copenhagen. Strange feeling to be back in what has been one’s home town for 16 years without having a home there anymore. Now socially filled up (close to overloaded after months with almost no social interactions) and happy to be back home with Henrik and Ella 🙂 Also meaning: back to work! Despite Henrik’s intense efforts, the to-do-list before Ella could come back in the water was not yet empty. It seems as if one thing done generates a new thing to be done… Hmm, should we sell Ella, buy a van and drive through South America instead?!?! One ray of hope was, however, that Louis, our yard neighbor, helped us fix our fridge, after 2 months living without. It turned out that what was needed was a thicker electricity cable… The second light point was our other yard neighbor, Peter from Poland, being so cheerful and helpful, constantly driving us to the hardware store Kooyman whenever we needed more materials, despite the many challenges he’s facing with his own boat project. Most boat owners are probably in the same boat concerning never-ending maintenance, repair and fixing…

 

Week 24 (June 11-18), 2017

While Henrik has been working and working and working on Ella at the boatyard in Curacao (brave man!), Benedikte has been enjoying herself first in Norway, visiting family and friends, and then in the north of Denmark, where our close friends Camilla and James celebrated their two-year old American wedding on Danish soil, while their son William was baptized, now also becoming Benedikte’s godson 🙂 Wonderful to be in such good company, but extremely weird to get back to Scandinavia in 15 hours, when it took us 7 months to sail the other way…

 

Week 23 (June 5-11), 2017

After a week of sanding, we were rewarded by finally starting painting (which is much more fun than sanding!). So Ella is now almost like a rainbow below the waterline: black coal tar epoxy for a starter, then yellow primer, followed by blue/pink (sold as red, but definitely more pink than red)/black antifouling. And creamy white above the waterline.

Between all the layers of paint, our senses were put to work with the movie King Arthur – The Legend, taking advantage of the half-price-cinema-tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Willemstad. From our current location, we can actually reach the capital within half an hour by foot (completely unheard of here in Curacao…), walking through the nice district of Scharloo, with its old colonial-style houses. Some of them do need a brush up though – so if you’re after a DIY project, there are certainly opportunities there!

At the end of the week, Benedikte left Henrik and Ella for a visit to Norway/Denmark, thus being separated from her two loves for the first time since October and July last year, respectively.

 

Week 22 (May 29-June 4), 2017

Sanding. That is the one word that characterizes this past week. We already knew that Ella is a “fat lady”, but every time she comes on land, we are surprised by how fat she actually is… So there have been “some” square metres to clean off (removing shells, algae and old paint), but Ella’s bottom is now ready to be made beautiful again with new paint. As we are located at the far end of the yard, the folding bikes have been put to work again when cold water or a hot shower is needed (not only do they have a hippie ferrocement boat, they also ride a bicycle?!?!). I can promise that the after-work beer at the end of the day tastes good 🙂

The week was closed by the direct opposite of sanding, namely the celebration of our paper wedding anniversary at the Fort Nassau Restaurant. It’s been a very long time since we indulged ourselves with bubbles, 3-course menu, wine and coffee & brandy/baileys, and I can promise that that also tasted good!!

 

Week 21 (May 22-28), 2017

We have sailed for the first time in almost four months (!), making a gigantic leap from Spanish Waters to Curacao Marine in Schottegat by Willemstad. An exhilarating 10 nautical miles – but enough to get the feel of the fat lady again, and enough to get another interesting Ella experience… Having laid still for so long, there have been plenty of opportunities for marine creatures to settle on the hull, the propeller and the motor water intake – resulting in compromised maneuverability and heating of the engine – resulting in yet a towing episode, as we chose not to sail through Queen Emma Bridge by sail… In other words, it was definitely shipyard time! So here we are, sanding all day long or driving for stuff we need to do the work. In contrast to last year at Jakob Jensen’s yard in Copenhagen, we are not freezing 😉   

We will miss the friendly staff in Curacao Yacht Club, the morning “Bon dia” greeting from the cleaning lady, the myopic sweeping guy, the “Mojito man” always sitting in the bar with a drink if not out fishing or playing domino, and “Eddy” and his family (up to 8 more or less big iguanas!), sunbathing every day on the premises, to our great wonder and amusement (the locals didn’t seem as fascinated as us…). We will not miss, however, the never-stopping wind (except for its mosquito-repellent effect), the reckless jet skiers in the bay and the oversized (and noisy) engines on the many luxury yachts.

 

Week 20 (May 15-21), 2017

Our two folding bikes have been badly neglected since we left Europe. They can thank the public transportation in Curacao and the location of Curacao Yacht Club off the beaten track for their recent revival. EVERYONE on the island has (too big) a car, so no one will ever realize that the nearest supermarket is an hour’s walk away or that it takes two hours to travel the 11 km into Willemstad because the local busses neither have schedules nor specific routes… So the bikes come in handy when you have ran out of milk and metal polishing cream, if you can live with the tension of riding along a road, which is definitely not bike-friendly.

For the third Thursday in a row, we have enjoyed the “Sailor’s dinner” at “The Pier” restaurant across the bay (Spanish Waters). Most of the participants at this weekly event are Dutch guys, who have arrived to Curacao by boat and then settled down. Others are in transit as we are (although our transit has been somewhat prolonged…), like Rob and Muzzi from South Africa, whom we guested for coffee on their catamaran Lalamanzi a few days later. Great to meet other sailors again 🙂
To compensate for all the sanding, varnishing and polishing, we even spoiled ourselves to a cheeseburger in the restaurant of the Yacht Club – for the first time in three months! Topped up with a Friday night Happy Hour, featuring popcorn, a four-man band singing about Benedikte begging for kisses from her husband and a glass of wine at the expense of the car man Marc, who got a nice deal out of us when three days of rental turned into 2,5 months…

 

Week 19 (May 8-14), 2017

First of all: Henrik is rehabilitating steadily after his two months’ hospitalization and two surgeries. In order for him to regain his physical strength and get back the title of captain of Ella (which Benedikte is in possession of for the time being), we have started swimming almost every day, either at Santa Barbara or Caracasbaai Beach. The latter is our favorite (but a little further away) – a giant aquarium with loads of fish and an excellent visibility. Apart from swimming, we are doing maintenance work on Ella (the list of things to do on a boat never seems to shrink…): sanding and varnishing the gunwale, polishing metal (which is all over the place, once you start looking), fixing the generator and the outboard of Onja, electricity stuff, to name some of it. We are furthermore finding out what to do about our fridge, which has broken down for the second time in 9 months (sigh…) – and figured out that it IS actually possible to live without a fridge (although a little inconvenient when it is constantly 30 degrees Celsius…). Last but not least, we have also been bitten by the “Skam”-bacillus and eagerly await new episodes on Sundays 😉

About a week ago, after four visits to the immigration office in Willemstad and filling out of forms in Dutch, we obtained the permission to stay on Curacao for another three months. This gives Henrik time to recover well before sailing on, now being scheduled to approximately July 1st. We have finally started believing that Curacao was not the final destination of our trip and have made plans for cruising Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica for the rest of 2017. We are very excited about this unexpected opportunity to explore these countries, which were not part of our original sailing plan. We have also started recruiting new crew members, and we look very much forward to welcoming people onboard again!

Do not miss to take the big “Curacao engine quiz“! (For Chrome browsers).