Find our latest blog entries
- 1. Love on first sight: Buying and equipping Amadie
- 2. A stonny beginning: Sailing the Croatian island realm
- 3. Europe’s hidden coasts: Travelling through Montenegro and Albania
- 4. Our odyssey: A voyage through Greece’s rocky coasts and islands
- 5. Pizza, caves and excavations: Adventures in southern Italy (part 1)
- 6. A voyage into history: Adventures in southern Italy (part 2)
- 7. An urban adventure: In the dry dock in Barcelona
- 8. Fun at work: Discovering the Spanish east coast
- 9. The Arabic influence: Southern Spain from Granada to Málaga
- 10. Two set backs and one achievement: Our last mediterranean stretch
- 11. The first Atlantic experience: Island hopping on the Canaries
- 12. On the doorstep to a new world: Reaching the Cape Verdian archipelago
- 13. Cape Verde’s most beautiful sites: Visiting Mindelo and Santo Antao
- 14. A long awaited arrival: Setting foot on Barbados and the Carribbean
- 15. Stranded in paradise: We run aground off Grenada
- 16. Back in the drydock: We move to our grenadian dream house
- 17. Two weeks in paradise: Our adventures in St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- 18. A tiny piece of Europe in the heart of the Caribbean: Our time on Martinique
- 19. The most beautiful hiking trails in the Caribbean: Two weeks on Dominica
- 20. Coming soon
The most beautiful hiking trails in the Caribbean: Two weeks on Dominica
Ah, Dominica, nicknamed “Nature Island”, for a long time we had been looking forward to this supposed hiker’s paradise, especially since the interior of Martinique was characterised by European tourism standards. From there, it was fortunately only a day-long stone’s throw from capital to capital, from Fort-de-France to Roseau.
We were not disappointed. No less than six rainbows stretched across Dominica’s lush green mountains as we, the afternoon sun to the west and the southern part of the island to the east, slowly glided past northwards. Not only did the weather give us a damp cheerful welcome, but a group of small whales blew their own fountains of water towards the regular rain showers and accompanied us on our way to Roseau. Our stay off the streets of the bustling but less spectacular capital was short-lived, however. All entry formalities for private boats had been moved to Portsmouth, the island’s most north-westerly bay, because of the corona pandemic. For us, this meant another afternoon of sailing/motoring (curse Dominica’s high mountains and their far-reaching lee), half a day of boat quarantine, 80 euros for an agent to navigate us through the entry formalities, 100 euros for the rapid entry tests (both PCR tests, which we had obtained at great expense in Martinique, and the rapid tests had been removed from the entry requirements that very weekend), another half day of quarantine… and after almost three days we had finally made it. We had arrived and were looking forward to what would probably be the two most intense hiking weeks of our trip.
The anchorage area off Portsmouth is controlled by a well-organised, private conglomerate of taxi drivers, guides, fishermen and customs officials called PAYS. This group claims a monopoly on income from the sailing tourists who have been arriving rather sparsely due to the hitherto tough Corona regulations, but also offers correspondingly good services. After entering the country, PAYS organised a trip for us in a small wooden canoe on the Indian River. This quietly flowing nature reserve (in general, a good two-thirds of the island is a nature reserve), provides a perfect habitat for all kinds of crabs, iguanas, mangroves and Pirates of the Caribbean film crews. As we glided past the remains of Calypso’s hut, the water witch from the famous pirate movies, we felt alternately like Indiana Jones, Alexander of Humboldt and Jack Sparrow. Our boat trip ended a kilometre further inland at a small jetty overgrown with creepers. While we followed our guide along a narrow path, the edges of which were being planted with all kinds of colourful flowers by other PAYS employees, he regularly reached into the thicket left and right and pulled out lemongrass, star fruit, pineapple, basil, bananas or sage. The destination of our little hike was a jungle bar, where we passed the time with banana leaf origami, rum punch and dominoes, the latter of which seemed to have the only victory condition of banging the stones as loudly as possible on the table.
The following day took us to Fort Shirley on the peninsula north of the bay. The main wing of this 300-year-old British fortification has been lavishly restored with EU subsidies, houses a museum and youth hostel and gives a fantastic insight into the life of the Redcoats who were once stationed here to protect against piracy, the French and similarly pernicious ejecta of the 18th century Caribbean. The associated hills were also home to dilapidated quarters, gun batteries, an unobscured view of Guadeloupe and the only hotel resort we were to see on this island.
On our third day of island exploration, we treated ourselves to the unprecedented luxury of a private PAYS tour guide who chauffeured us around the island’s highlights throughout the day. In the meantime, we were joined by Alex, a Swiss single-handed sailor whom we had already met in the Grenada Marina (as most sailing boats in the Caribbean sail roughly the same route at roughly the same pace, it is not unusual to meet the same crews over and over again every few days). Our tour took us through numerous villages and ridges still showing heavy storm damage from the last hurricane, stopping first at a small, somewhat overgrown Scottish estate. There, a sympathetic middle-aged Scotsman, who could only be described as a little bit weird, showed us around his in-house garage chocolate factory. The quantities produced were not large, but of excellent quality, so we gleefully stocked up on the only completely locally produced chocolate of Dominica. A short walk took us up a massif of red rock cliffs, criss-crossed by narrow gorges and spectacularly pounded all around by crashing Atlantic waves. We continued on to one of Dominica’s many beautiful and secluded sandy beaches, which seemed straight out of Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Our next stop was a visit to the Carib Territory, the Caribbean’s only reserve for its original inhabitants, that is, the islanders who populated the region before the arrival of the European colonialists and the thousands of African slaves in their wake. Barely 4,000 Caribs still live here, and in a nicely done cultural centre they guide through their history, religion, politics and handicrafts. Next stop: UNESCO World Heritage Emerald Pool, as the name suggests a shimmering bluish pool hidden between mossy overhangs as high as a house and fed by a refreshingly cool waterfall. The last stop was two more of the island’s twenty-odd larger waterfalls, which were notable for the adventurous climb to their basins. What a day!
And the adventures didn’t stop there. The next day, in good Amadie tradition, we set ourselves the goal of climbing the highest mountain on the island, Mt. Diablotin. I don’t know how anyone could come up with the idea of not taking a rain jacket with them on a hike through the rainforest to a mountain whose summit is in the clouds nine days out of ten on the rainiest island in the Caribbean. In any case, some hiking group lmembers were completely soaked before the first hundred metres of altitude, but still euphoric. Even though the adventurous “pld Pooath” turned into a breakneck slide party and a murderous mud fight, the occasional climbing and crawling challenges over boulders and through metres of roots were great fun for everyone. Once at the top, we saw…nothing. But a lot of it. Especially a lot of grey cloud. Sometimes the way is the goal.
What followed was a day at Dominica’s most beautiful, palm-fringed beach (another Curse of the Caribbean destination), a day of relaxation in a beach bar or parallel to another bird-watching hike on one of the island’s over 200km long hiking trails, and finally a BBQ evening on the beach at PAYS. Unfortunately, this was not limited to BBQ, but also included an all-you-can-drink rum punch flat rate. A terrible devil’s drink. Tastes like fruit juice and has the percentages of a mild rum. The music and boisterous mood of the other boat crews around us did the rest. Further details must unfortunately be censored at this point, but without any exaggeration it can be said that two of our crew members almost died that night.
Scene change; fade in; day; inside: Tilman is standing at the cooker frying the usual hangover breakfast in the form of 50 extra-thick pancakes. About twelve hours later, even the last one has peeled himself out of bed and eaten a few hangover calories. We now felt we had seen everything important in the north (and couldn’t be seen again) and started a new attempt to explore Dominica’s south. Base camp for this was Roseau, the only other place where one is allowed to anchor apart from Portsmouth. Our first hike took us over the cloud-covered crater ridges around a freshwater lake in the centre of Morne Trois Piton National Park. 30% of Dominica’s energy is generated by hydroelectric power from such lakes. From there, a rainy trail led us to Trafalgar Falls, two twin waterfalls at the base of which hot springs bubbled out of the mountainside. For us, this was the perfect opportunity to have a spa day after the strenuous hike. Switching back and forth between the steaming sulphur pools and the cool streams was a refreshing treat that was only halted when darkness fell.
The only logical consequence was to make an excursion the next day to more hot springs, which this time did not flow into a waterfall but directly into the sea. The heated pool was only 30 centimetres deep, but you can enjoy your rum punch in the ocean much better lying down anyway. The only logical consequence of this, however, was then a recovery day from the recovery day. Only Jan and Saskia bravely tackled another hike into the heart of the island. Dominica’s most beautiful hiking trail, the Boiling Lake Tour, first leads a few kilometres through the well-known, wild rainforest. The further inland we went, the rougher and more inhospitable the landscape became. Deciduous trees gave way to crevices in the rocks, hazy misty patches to stinking sulphur fumes and crystal clear streams to boiling mud puddles. After three exhausting hours, the strong wind finally blew a gap in the warm vapour billowing towards us from all directions and a greyish, 100m wide lake spread out in front of us. Like an oversized pot of noodle water, it bubbled and boiled all over the water’s surface, a toe dipped into it painfully confirming the suspicion: we had reached Boiling Lake. Even though there had not been a volcanic eruption on Dominica for a long time – the volcanic forces are still extremely present here. On the way back from this last hike, Dominica bid us farewell with the obligatory tropical downpour. Partly we stood confused in front of small waterfalls, only to discover after some searching around that these had probably once been our way there. Very dirty, very wet and very happy, the whole crew gathered again together with Alex on the Amadie and planned our onward journey.
We had had enough of constant rain, rum punch and hiking for now. Dominica had given us a lot, but also cost us a lot of energy and material. On the way north, we had a quick day at the beach for Jan, Tilman, Saskia and Matze, or a short road trip in a rental car for Philipp, Hendrik and Alex. Then it was time to set sail for new adventures and leave the hiker’s paradise behind in favour of unknown Caribbean climes. But for you, dear readers, this journey through the fantastic green forests and parrot-populated mountains of the “Nature Islands” still lies ahead; enjoy our Dominica video:
A tiny piece of Europe in the heart of the Caribbean: Our time on Martinique
It’s been a long time since we had such an intense sailing day as on the crossing to Martinique. Ever since we made the rude and far too close acquaintance with a Caribbean reef in Grenada, our policy has been not to anchor in the dark. This meant leaving St. Vincent at five in the morning to cover the 65 miles with an average speed of five knots to reach the French department with the last rays of sunshine. No sooner said than done. In the channel between St. Vincent and the neighbouring island of St. Lucia to the north, we made good progress, as planned. As the sharp peaks of St. Lucia became increasingly visible in the haze to starboard, we not only got a wistful feeling of having to skip this mystical-looking place due to time constraints, but also felt the wind swirls in the island’s shadow. For a few hours we worked regularly on the sails, making tacks, trimming backstay and sledges. With St Lucia behind us, Martinique was already looming on the horizon, but we had a new problem. During a tack, a genoa sheet had knocked a coiled halyard loose from the mast. The rope hung over the railing, was pulled under the boat and had wrapped itself around the propeller. No chance of starting the engine or cutting the rope loose in the swell. We hurried as fast as the winds could carry us into the wave shadow of Martinique. With the last light of day, our divers armed with knives went to work two miles offshore and freed the propeller. The sun had already set, only the nearest bay was still accessible to us and that too only under motor. Twenty minutes later, the anchor dropped on European underwater soil, the dozens of ships around us only grey shadows in the setting night. We had made it!
Early the next morning, our regular guest Tobi left us for a few weeks’ hiking holiday in Panama. But the Amadie did not remain without a visitor for long. We used the next morning to cross the south coast of Martinique in an easterly direction to Le Marin. The small coastal town turned out to be one of the largest marinas in the Caribbean. A good thousand pleasure boats are moored here in and around a gigantic buoy field. Hundreds of berths and yacht service shops with specialists for every conceivable boat problem complete the offer. It is not unusual for the sailing nation of France to have a holiday boat in the Caribbean instead of a holiday home. Whether it will be sailed is another question. At times we felt like we were at the overcrowded bicycle racks of a university campus, where lazy students unload their discarded pedals to die.
Our first challenge was to get used to a European lifestyle again after the pragmatic chaos of Grenada and St. Vincent. Streets, supermarkets, holiday homes, public buses, you could find it all the same as on the Côte d’Azur. Our first stop was the holiday flat of Jan’s mother Maike and stepfather Manuel, where we were warmly welcomed with barbecue food, salads and a washing machine. The dirty laundry of four sweaty sailors is a three-digit monthly cost factor that should not be underestimated, and we are glad of any opportunity to take advantage of a free wash. After a warm welcome, everyone moved into their cabins on the Amadie the next day. A visit to the supermarket near the harbour escalated into the biggest purchase since Spain. The French assortment was too tempting with more than one kind of cheese, real butter and affordable muesli.
Our first stop took us just three miles out of Le Marins Bay to St Anne. The coastal town is praised in travel guides for its beautiful location and beaches. A worthwhile destination we thought – and so did three hundred other sailboats. After squeezing in between the armada, the next day offered the opportunity for a dive or a hike along the wild Atlantic coast, which was completely overrun by French tourists. To make matters worse, a jolt and loud clatter jolted us out of our bunks around midnight. In a flash, our crew was standing at the bow of the Amadie, where a completely drunk French crew had thought it a good idea to SAIL in the middle of hundreds of boats lying close together in the darkness, and of course they had got caught in our anchor chain of all things. Fortunately, after we had pushed the chaotic ship away, no damage to the hull of the Amadie could be detected. Nevertheless, we weighed anchor early the next day and set off towards the capital, Fort-de-France.
On the way, we stopped at a small village in an idyllic bay, a twin pair of white and black sand beaches, and a palm-covered beach in front of a small island overlooking the coast of Fort-de-France, brightly lit in the dark. All these anchorages were small and extremely beautiful, but very well developed for tourism and correspondingly crowded, quite different from what we were used to on the neighbouring islands. Only the small island in our third bay seemed deserted. A dilapidated jetty and shady forest path led to the centre of the island, where a large, well-preserved fort towered over the bay. The barbed wire around the entrance gate surely only served to keep the herd of goats inside the fortification, so we didn’t miss the opportunity to inspect the abandoned battlements, gun batteries and soldiers’ quarters more closely.
Finally, on Sunday 13 February, we reached the capital, where it is very nice and easy to anchor directly in front of the wall of the imposing, name-giving fortress. A visit to the fortress and the rest of the city was very short, however, as 99% of all shops and establishments are closed on Sundays in the Caribbean and especially in Martinique. Even so, the impression we gained of the city was not overwhelming. A richly decorated church and library from the 19th century, a small park full of pedestals of some statues destroyed during recent protests, a few historic-looking wooden houses between their graffiti-distorted, stone neighbours – otherwise, the capital of Martinique really doesn’t have much to offer in terms of tourism. We quickly set sail and continued north.
The further we got from Le Marin, the more sparsely anchored the bays became, the fewer French families lined the beaches. The last hotspot to the north is the old capital St. Pierre. The town was completely destroyed in 1902 during an eruption of the nearby volcano Mont Pelée, 30,000 inhabitants died within three minutes and a dozen ships in the bay were sunk beyond repair. The ruins of some of the most massive old stone buildings can still be seen today – a theatre, a prison, a church, a warehouse. The stone ruins brought back memories of Pompeii. Today, however, the restored waterfront promenade once again invites visitors to take short walks, and one kilometre inland lies a rum distillery that can be visited free of charge. At the Depaz distillery, one can take a self-guided tour of the entire plant, where the most famous drink in the Caribbean is still pressed, fermented, matured in barrels and bottled in a highly professional and productive manner using steam engines, some of which are a hundred years old. The sweet smell of sugar cane hangs over the manicured grounds including the manor house in the shadow of Mont Pelée. The opportunity to enrich our impressive Caribbean rum collection with a local Martinique speciality. Of course, neither missed the opportunity to explore the fleet that sank during the volcanic eruption with our diving equipment. After 120 years, only the coral-covered hulls of the wooden ships remain, but the search for the isolated wrecks, these islands of life in an otherwise identical-looking, shimmering blue seaweed desert in all directions, was an eerie and at the same time entertaining adventure.
Our two most beautiful and last major explorations of Martinique took us first to the bay of Anse Couleuvre. Too far north to be completely protected from the Atlantic waves, few sailing boats make it to this dreamlike, unspoilt beach. Framed on both sides by high cliffs, in the shade of tropically overgrown sugar loaf mountains and overhanging palm roofs, this is the Caribbean at its best. For two days we snorkelled with turtles, built sand castles and hiked on well-maintained trails through the ruins of century old plantations and tropical forests along Martinique’s wild north coast.
The second excursion was to climb the island’s highest mountain, the infamous Mont Pelée. Unlike on St. Vincent, this volcano is well developed for tourism, and the paths to its summit are easily recognisable and marked. Still, it was damn strenuous. From the foot of the summit, it’s another 1,000 metres of steep uphill. Arms and legs are used in equal measure most of the time to climb over the numerous boulders that poured out of the volcano’s maw four generations ago. Wisps of clouds shoot over the ridges and every rock covered in lush green moss, ferns and bushes. The rugged, living mountain world, always shrouded in fibrous veils of mist, looks like the blueprint of a fantasy film setting. The strong wind constantly tore at the dense white wall, which finally capitulated and revealed the view of the miniature idyll that spread at our feet all the way to Fort-de-France, as if a model builder obsessed with the tropics had scattered all his trees and yards in a frenzy. The descent on the west side of the mountain soon turned from a scramble to an extended walk in the woods, at the end of which several litres of ice-cold drinks in a harbour bar were killed.
Our last leg led us back to Fort-de-France, where the PCR tests obligatory for the onward journey, a cleaning and shopping day and a crew change from regular guests Maike and Manuel to regular guests Matthias and Saskia awaited us. The last evening was celebrated with eight people on the deck of the Amadie with pizza and cheeks reddened by sun, wine and warmth. Our next destination is now Dominica, to which we naturally do not want to set off without first warmly recommending our Martinique videos:
Two weeks in pradise: Our adventures in St. Vincent and the Grenadines
On 28 January, almost eight months after our departure from Croatia, we finally arrived in what is often described as the most beautiful region of the Southern Caribbean. The always reliable trade winds carried us swiftly north and into the Grenadines. This archipelago of 32 islands with just 17,000 inhabitants is the perfect bridge for sailors between the two main islands of Grenada and St. Vincent. Since Croatia, we had not sailed in a comparable region where we could see the next destination harbour, the next bay, the neighbouring island from our current anchoring position. The Grenadines promised island hopping at its best. And we were not disappointed.
Our first stop was Union Island, where we went through the usual entry procedure consisting of health screening, passport control and boat registration. The main town of Clifton is a bit touristy, but has well earned this privilege with its sheltering reefs, cosy bars and forested mountains in the background. A tiny airfield with a single runway just long enough for small prop planes and some sheltered beaches favoured by windsurfers complete the tourism offering. We, however, quickly moved on to the small neighbouring island of Mayreau. As busy as the anchor bays were with other sailing boats, the palm-covered sandy beaches were mostly deserted and we we spent the next two days stretching out our hammocks, opening books and letting volleyballs fly. The whole island could be crossed in a relaxed walk in one afternoon and the hospitable inhabitants welcomed us joyfully in one of the few open bars for beer and drum sessions.
But before we could set off for the absolute highlight of the Grenadines, we had to pay a short visit to Union Island again. Rumour has it that the holy grail, the El Dorado of every circumnavigator, the long-lost gold treasure of the Caribbean, awaited us there. On a yellowed sea chart, eaten away by salt water, we had discovered a thick red cross on a small workshop on the beach east of Clifton. After weeks of exhausting, tiring search that had driven more than one crew member to the brink of insanity, we had finally found him, our saviour „Jack the Mechanic“. Behind some wrecked cars, the mechanic had hidden an old, rotten dinghy in a crowded shed that was NOT losing air. A feature that is worth its weight in gold in the Caribbean, where no one sells a dinghy in working condition. Unfortunately, the seller, Jack, also knew this and, despite tough negotiations, extorted over 1,000 gold doubloons from us for the ten-year-old vehicle. What a pirate!
No matter. Bygones be bygones, outboard motor attached and off we went. Despite the steep price, none of us regretted the purchase. Not only did the new dinghy stay full to bursting, it is also a good half metre longer than our decrepit brig. That doesn’t sound like much, but our new dinghy comfortably fits six people with luggage, while in the old one not even four passengers could land ashore drily. The new vehicle was immediately put to the test with a trip to a bar that had been built up on a reef in the middle of the water a mile off Clifton. What better scenery to toast our newfound water mobility.
The next day, our sails pulled us to the archipelago of the Tobago Cays. This island cluster seems to have come straight off the cover of a travel brochure about the Caribbean. Behind a kilometre-long protective reef that breaks the waves coming in from the east, the perfect anchorage is found among a handful of islets overgrown with palms, cacti and shrubbery. The tiny islets spill out on all sides into white, shady, sandy beaches, from where stepping into the thirty-degree, crystal-clear water is not only an invitation, but a must. For three days we explored each of the paradisiacal islands and the offshore reefs inhabited by turtles and schools of fish, and spent some very nice evenings on board of some French sailing boats (by far the largest sailing nation in the Caribbean) and the Amadie – thanks to our ice cube machine.
We probably could have spent several weeks in the Tobago Cays, but our desire to explore (and Silas’ flight home deadline) drove us further north. The last stop before the main island of St. Vincent was on Bequia. As on the other Grenadine islands, we got the impression that the villages on St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are just as hospitable and idyllic as on Grenada, but overall a bit more run-down and simple. Spice trade and tourism do not seem to flourish here as in the evergreen neighbouring country. Nevertheless, we had fun exploring the main town of Port Elizabeth (there’s just something about these colonial town names) and the surrounding hills, walking and jogging. Of course, snorkelling a thirty-year-old shipwreck was not to be missed either. Even the previously completely inexperienced crew members can now marvel at the wonders of the deep sea at a depth of 10m without any problems or equipment. It is nice to clearly notice this training effect.
But finally the inevitable moment had come when our long-term crew member Silas, who had accompanied us for almost four months or half of our journey, had to make his way home. After a heartfelt but of course melancholy farewell, the beer supplies of the colourful harbour bar had to do the mourning. You are also cordially invited to join Silas one last time on his adventures with us in our Grenadines video:
The next day, with the arrival on St. Vincent, one of the best and most eventful weeks of our entire trip began, which we can only describe far too briefly here:
Day 1: Arrive at Fort Duvernette: The remains of this old British fort can be seen on a 50m cliff just off the south coast of St Vincent. Rusty mortars and cannons are scattered across the flanks of this impregnable rock in several gun batteries to defend the surrounding bays against attacks by the French from the water and the islanders they supported from the land.
Day 2: Hike through the Mesopotamia Valley: This beautiful green valley is also known as the Garden of God or St Vincent’s Breadbasket. First by bus and then on foot, we crossed the gorge from the sea to the forested ridge in the middle of the island. To the left and right of the path, small fields were scattered everywhere, always interrupted by meadows, woods and occasional fruit trees. The plots, mostly cultivated by hand, were a prime example of sustainable, organic farming. At the end of the valley, we reached a botanical garden that was over a hundred years old. Like the vegetable fields, the gardens blended perfectly into the natural vegetation of the island. For several hours we wandered as if hypnotised through the varied greeery. It was hard to tell where the garden ended and the forest began, but we were always discovering a new secret, whether it was an enchanted waterfall, an ornate pavillon or one of the dozens of plants we had never seen before.
Day 3: Sightseeing in Fort-de-France: The industrial capital of the country doesn’t have much to offer. However, the fort that towers over the city offers excellent views over the surrounding bays and has a small art exhibition about St Vincent’s colonial past. The town’s market stalls are noisy and lively, and the old 17th century Gothic church is on a par with many European places of worship. Meanwhile, back at Fort Duvernette, our most skilled barrier fishermen bagged some delicious and (alive) highly poisonous lionfish for dinner.
Day 4: Snorkelling paradise in lonely bay. The most beautiful places on a sailing trip are usually not to be found in any travel guide or on any tourist map, because they are located where you can only get to with your own boat. More or less by chance, we anchored that afternoon in front of a cliff so steep that we would have touched it with our stern before our rudder would have made ground contact. Shore line laid and off we went cliff jumping, harpoon fishing and cave diving. Completely unexpectedly, we discovered what was probably the most beautiful reef we had ever dived on in the Caribbean. Countless fish of all sizes and colours, lobsters, corals, sea urchins were cavorting here like at a colourful fair. And not only that – at the end of the bay we dived into a cave, the second exit of which, barely 1m wide, suddenly dropped off in a narrow 15m depth, revealing an underwater view of yawning blue emptiness, mystical, eerie and incredibly beautiful at the same time.
Day 5: Visit to the Pirates of the Caribbean film set: Who doesn’t know the popular pirate adventures with Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow? We could feel a bit like pirates ourselves when we entered Walliabou Bay, the bay where numerous scenes from the films were shot. Some of the paper-mâché facades, props and equipment from the film set can still be found there. And of course, that evening we couldn’t resist watching the same film on our boat beamer and cheering loudly at every scene we saw simultaneously on the screen and from the window next to it.
Day 6: Visit Dark View Falls: The last sheltered bay in the north of St. Vincent lies in front of the small, simple fishing village of Chateaubelair, which is framed on both sides by steep cliffs covered with palm trees and weed-plantations. Behind it rises the wild, pristine mountainous interior of St. Vincent. Deep gorges carved by volcanic activity and rivers are framed by rocky ridges shooting up almost vertically. The entire centre is covered with dense, impenetrable rainforest. Only via the river valleys can one reach the interior during the dry season. We followed one of these aisles to the Dark View waterfalls. Two twenty-metre high torrents pour into two small bathing places in the middle of an untouched jungle landscape, which can only be reached via suspension bridges and stairs cut into the mountain flank. The view back into the wild valley, with birds circling and liana-covered trees as tall as houses silhouetted against the mountain flanks in the evening sun, was one of the most peaceful and sublime of the whole trip.
Day 7: Climbing La Soufrière Volcano: Early in the morning we set off on one of the most challenging and exciting expeditions of our trip. We planned to climb to the top of the almost 1000m high and extremely active volcano from which St. Vincent was formed. Our “path” led us through several hundred metre wide, dried up river beds, which gave an impression of the flash floods during hurricane season, along a deserted beach, through a narrow gorge enclosed by volcanic rock and up a densely overgrown slope. After two hours we finally reached the first ridge where we followed densely overgrown trails over, under and through the undergrowth up the mountain. Suddenly we found ourselves in a forest full of dead, bleached white tree trunks, victims of recent volcanic activity. The scree slope that followed revealed an inhospitable, rugged landscape that grew greener and more vibrant as it descended towards the coast. An unprecedented lesson in practical terraforming. We struggled on through sudden torrential rain, 60km/h wind gusts, rubble and sulphur fumes and suddenly found ourselves at the rim of the crater. The whistling wind barely allowed a word to be said, but it quickly shredded the cloud cover that poked through the cauldron, revealing a gigantic vent, a kilometre in diameter, from which sulphur funmes were rising at several scar-like cracks. All that was missing was two hobbits passing by to throw a ring into the fires of the mountain.
And with this wonderful head cinema this blog entry ends and we invite you to a little real cinema in our St.Vincent videos:
Back in the drydock: We move to our grenadian dream house
There we were in Grenada Marina, back on dry land. There wasn’t much we could do for the amply damaged Amadie at the moment, so we left the boat in the trusting hands of Isaac and his team of mechanics, who estimated a week for repairs. Since some work also had to take place below deck, the crew could not remain on board during this time. Fortunately, our insurance company Pantaenius has a very generous accommodation policy, so a suitable alternative Airbnb for that week was quickly found.
Whereby, Airbnb is well said. Instead of a small studio apartment the gates of a spacious wooden villa suddenly opened to us, whose stylish benefits knew no end: the modern and at the same time quaint wooden look, a huge open-plan kitchen with an expansive kitchen island, two tastefully furnished bathrooms, a terrace with barbecue, dining table and seating area spacious enough to fit the Amadie twice, a dreamlike sea view, a blue shimmering pool, TV corner, wide beds, a well-kept garden, quiet off-road location…in short, we felt extremely comfortable. The next week we spent more than one day just cooking, grilling, chilling and tigering from the pool to the wide patio sofas to the TV corner and the cozy double beds. A side effect of living on a sailboat is that simply having space is perceived as an unlikely luxury. And we enjoyed this luxury to the fullest.
But of course our thirst for action and our joy of discovery also drove us out to new adventures during these beautiful days. Several exciting excursions awaited us. A first jungle hike led us to a small farmers’ cooperative, who guided us in their spice garden through the countless applications of their medicinal and garden herbs. With one of the numerous and cheap minibuses, which are the main means of transportation on Grenada, we went to the northern tip of the island. There, an interesting tour of the Belmont Estate cocoa plantation awaited us. A friendly Grenadian introduced us to the process of chocolate production, from the growth of the cocoa pod to fermentation and drying of the beans to roasting and grinding of the cocoa powder. A small sample of the sweet end product and a national drink containing cocoa enriched with numerous spices were also part of the tour, as was an extremely talkative parrot fittingly named Rainbow. The colonial past of Grenadian spice and cocoa plantations was also discussed. We continued to a rum distillery between miles of sugar cane fields, separated from the sea only by a narrow strip of palm trees. Located in the middle of the rainforest and powered by a water wheel, this small factory surrounded by flowers looked like from another century. Of course, we did not miss the opportunity to buy the 75% final product and so far none of us has lost his eyesight. At most some taste buds. No regrets.
Two days later followed an adventurous jungle hike to the Concord and Annandale waterfalls. Several kilometers and similarly many hours we fought our way through the undergrowth on a small trail until we reached the small lake at the foot of the waterfall, completely sweaty but happy and impressed by the biodiversity of the deep green forest around us. This was followed by a wonderfully refreshing swim and a hasty escape back from the penetrating swarms of mosquitoes that had been lurking at the swimming hole only waiting for unsuspecting hikers. Two more excursions took us to two deserted beaches near our villa. In addition to juicy sweet mangoes, numerous of coconuts, and an abandoned beach bar, we unfortunately found some trash that had washed up on the beach and noticeably diminished the atmosphere of these otherwise paradise-like places. Although Grenada is still a very natural country, where the small houses of the inhabitants nestle unobtrusively along the few roads in the jungle, we came across several massive construction projects during our coastal walk, whose concrete facades stood in stark contrast to the lonely palm beaches.
Now take a break from reading and enjoy an exclusive room and jungle tour in our latest video:
All too soon, the week in our dream villa came to an end and we returned to the Grenada Marina. There, however, bad news awaited us. The rudder and saloon had been repaired, but after installing the rudder it was discovered that its suspension had loosened. There was no alternative but to fix the rudder quadrant. Until the insurance company’s surveyor had come by again and recorded all the damage, until the shipyard’s mechanics had fully understood the problem and implemented it correctly, another seven days passed, including the weekend, until the Amadie was finally seaworthy again. As nice as the previous week in the villa was, the week in the mosquito-infested, sun-baked Grenada Marina turned out to be pretty exhausting. While our guests were doing some excursions on Grenada, the crew decided to use the opportunity in the dry dock for some valuable work on the Amadie. Besides an engine service for the dinghy and some more gluing attempts of the same, our biggest project this week was a polishing of the Amadie’s hull. Cleaning agent and polishing paste were quickly procured, a polishing machine was borrowed and soon the hard-working Amadiebees were cavorting on scaffolding around the flanks of their yacht. The dull blue was soon transformed into a shiny, radiant mirror surface with minimum scratches. A treatment that the Amadie had probably never experienced before and that visibly did her good.
Finally, the time had come and on January 21, the Amadie slipped back into the warm water as the best version of herself. The dangerous exit from Grenada Marinas Bay was mastered without problems this time, the pantries were filled in St. George’s and the voyage continued. Continued…For us it felt more like our Caribbean journey was just beginning. After the rather boring Barbados and the immediate running into the reef off Grenada, we now had the opportunity for the first time to take full advantage of the paradisiacal island world of the Caribbean.
We had explored Grenada’s land mass enough, but the sea still held a spectacular underwater sculpture park north of St. George’s for us. The rugged underwater landscape, peppered with corals, fish and statues took our breath away for two days – mainly because we had to hold it most of the time while diving, but impressive it was nonetheless. The next island on our route was Carriacou, the largest island that belongs to the state of the same name along with Grenada. The small island was quickly walked through. From the highest peak of the small islet, there was a sweeping view from Grenada in the south to Mayreau in the north, Petit Martinique in the east and Sandy Island in the west. Dozens of islands stretched out before us as if on a map, the offshore reefs sharply outlined in the shimmering turquoise waters. We hadn’t seen such a diverse island world since Croatia, truly an absolute sailing paradise. The narrow forest paths meandered on through a dense, but not as lush green forest as on Grenada. The relatively small and flat island catches far fewer clouds than its larger neighbor, making a home for cacti rather than lianas. On the north side of Carriacous we finally reached an overgrown shipwreck, an unattractive glimpse into a possible fate for the Amadie had we been a little more unlucky two weeks ago.
A special highlight of Carriacou is a small sand strip called Sandy Island. The 20x200m long elevation is lined with numerous palm trees and populated by hundreds of hermit crabs. These droll fellows in their shell houses were soon pawing curiously over our hammocks and cookies as we made ourselves comfortable on this deserted island. A colorful fish world, huge pelicans, bright blue skies and of course an evening campfire under the palm trees rounded off this day to the perfect Caribbean experience.
Now it only remains for us to look forward to the Grenadines island chain, which stretches across the entire horizon, and in the meantime treat you to a glimpse of our adventures in our latest video blog:
Stranded in paradise: We run aground off Grenada
It was an evening like we had experienced dozens of times before on the Amadie. We had been sailing west from Barbados to Grenada for just over 24 hours in moderate to good winds. Everyone was a bit exhausted from the previous night shift, but otherwise in good spirits as night and our darkest hour fell. At dusk, a few scattered lights appeared on the horizon along the coast of Grenada. Our destination was Grenada Marina, the southwesternmost anchorage and harbor marked on our Navionics nautical chart. Shortly after midnight, we reached the buoyed harbor entrance and switched helmsmen for the mooring maneuver.
It is not easy to reconstruct the following events. In any case, overtiredness and carelessness mixed with poor visibility in the dark, strong swell, wrong distance estimation, incorrect depth data on the nautical chart and lack of preparation of the entry course. Once again, it became clear how deadly routine can be when suddenly, at a distance from land that we thought was safe, the depth indicator at the helm suddenly jumped to three meters, two meters, half a meter. Stopping the engine and engaging reverse gear did nothing to help. The inevitable blow drove through GRP, wood, marrow and bone of the entire Amadie and her crew. But we hadn’t just run aground, we were stuck! While we frantically tried to unfurl the sails to reduce our draft by the resulting heel and to free the boat from the rocks by motor steering, the next waves rolled in inexorably. Each of these 1.50-meter-high breakers lifted us up a bit from the reef only to have us smash onto the rock again with the merciless force of gravity. Crew and equipment tumbled through the area. Waves broke over the bow of the sloping ship and washed over entire cabins below decks through the open windows. The first life jackets and distress flares were already being readied when, after what felt like a nightmarish eternity, the blow of the following wave suddenly stopped. We had broken free! Quickly all floor plates in the saloon were torn out and the keel bolts were inspected for water ingress. There were several cracks around the bolts, some as wide as a finger, but at least no water seemed to be getting in anywhere – well, except from Tilman’s bed, whose mattress had been completely flooded by a wave.
After this shock, we motored for almost four hours in a wide, sweeping arc (we didn’t want to put any further strain on the rigging) around the southern tip of Grenada to anchor north of St. Georges in a wide, shallow bay in 10 meters of water. Hardly any crew member and also guest Rebecca found more than a handful of hours of sleep that night. No wonder with the adrenaline level still pumping through everyone. However, we didn’t realize the true extent of the damage until the next morning when the first dives were made under the Amadie. Besides some noticeable scratches on the keel, our rudder had taken a big hit. The bottom 10 inches were completely shredded, and of course the rudder suspension was completely loose again.
After a silent breakfast, we motored to the Grenadian capital of St. George’s to first enter the country. The internet in the harbor was used to contact our insurance company and the boat manufacturer Beneteau. Luckily we got into conversation with some other sailors, who recommended a competent mechanic, Isaac, who also spontaneously came by to inspect the damage. Here we received our first good news: the rudder stock was still intact, so it should be possible to repair the rudder rather than replace it. We would have had to wait months rather than weeks for a new rudder from France. While the repairs in the marina and the insurance documents were being prepared over the weekend, we decided not to let our spirits be spoiled in this paradisiacal place and to instead explore Grenada.
Half a blog entry and we haven’t yet said a word about the country that lies in front of our bow. Green Grenada bears its colorful title well deserved, the island is a single green rainforest paradise. Except for a few isolated wooden houses that line the picturesque bay and surrounding slopes of the capital, which has a population of just 7,000, the inactive volcanic island consists largely of densely vegetated mountains and ravines. Palm and mango trees line the numerous sandy beaches. Despite the occasional cruise ship, you won’t find any hordes of tourists. Looking at Grenada, one feels simultaneously transported to Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Totally impossible to be in a bad mood in such a paradisiacal place. Blown away was the disappointment of densely populated Barbados. Grenada is picture book Caribbean in every respect.
Our first excursion took us through St. George’s itself. The colonial past of this cozy coastal town still characterizes the cityscape with its fort ruins and brick merchant houses. The busy coastal road winds around two bays with the old and new city harbors. Inconspicuous government buildings and small stores are overshadowed by massive churches whose roofs are still awaiting repair since the great hurricane Ivan destroyed 90% of Grenada’s houses in 2004. The second walk took us to the beautiful sandy Grand Anse Beach south of town. Whether it was reading under palm trees, enjoying Grenadian favorite grilled chicken with beer at a beach bar, or simply watching the locals do flips on the beach, the feel-good factor was there for every crew member. Finally, our third tour started by cab at St. George’s Port Louis Marina, the most beautiful marina even our most well-traveled crew members have ever been to. Winding roads took us through dense rainforest to the island’s central hill country and Grand Etang National Park. Two hikes to a mountain top and to a secluded waterfall in the middle of the jungle followed. The varied flora presented a color explosion of exotic flowers, vines, lichens, shrubs, mushrooms and trees that we could hardly get enough of. The refreshing bath in the waterfall was a welcome highlight after the sweaty hike, the green idyll disturbed at most by a few mosquitoes.
During the days in St. George’s, New Year’s Eve inevitably passed by. Like Christmas, we celebrated in intimate company with a delicious tapas dinner followed by a bar tour. Since there were no fireworks in the city and the last karaoke bar closed its doors at midnight, we moved the party to the Amadie. A pack of firecrackers, a few bottles of Caribbean rum, dinner for one and a motivated crew were more than enough to celebrate the evening appropriately.
After this varied, touristy intermezzo in St. George’s, the seriousness of the situation unfortunately caught up with us again. We motored back to the scene of the incident at Grenada Marina. In daylight, the dangerous reefs were clearly visible under the breaking waves. But that was little consolation when the Amadie was hoisted into dry dock by the cargo crane. Grenada Marina is less of a marina, and more of an open-air workshop and boat storage facility for the hurricane season. Here our battered home was parked between about a hundred other yachts and the work could begin. Of course, we have prepared a video about this fateful episode again:
A long awaited arrival: Setting foot on Barabdos and the Carribbean
Here we were at last. Behind us 2100 miles of endless ocean, 16 days of solitude with wind and waves, and in front of us the rolling hills and villa-lined shores of Barbados. We had made it! We crossed the Atlantic and arrived on a new continent, in a new world, completely foreign even to the most well-traveled among us.
Neptune, Poseidon and all the other gods of the wind and the seas seemed to have been on our sides. We were able to cover the incredible distance of almost 4000km across the Atlantic Ocean a whole three days faster than we had hoped. During the whole crossing a strong trade wind blew into our genoa – mainsail and gennaker were hardly used and even when we unfurled them it was more out of boredom than lack of wind – the engine was almost exclusively used to generate some power for our watermaker and beamer every few days and we could sit back and relax and enjoy the barefoot route. After the higher waves of the first few days had subsided somewhat, cooking, playing board games and other work on and below deck was easily possible and our biggest problem became boredom and lack of exercise. Against the former, one could always look for smaller and larger daily tasks (shining shoes, sewing pants, baking, sanding and oiling a wooden door, etc.), which broke other routines of eating, cooking, sleeping, night shifts, reading, watching series,… and drove away the threatening lethargy. However, there was hardly any entertaining and sustainable remedy against the lack of movement on a wobbly undercarriage with barely 2m² of free space. So we all sighed with relief when we were finally able to climb off the ship in the large industrial port of Bridgetown, Barbados capital, and just walk straight ahead for 50 meters. Here is a detailed visual impression of this border experience:
After the usual entry formalities of Coronatest, passport and boat paper checks were cleared with the friendly harbor staff, we anchored in the sweeping Carlisle Bay on the south side of Bridgetown among a good dozen Scandinavian Atlantic travelers. Just as we maneuvered to our target position, the clutch failed to grip when we stopped. We could neither thrust forward nor backward! In a flash, the anchor was dropped on the spot. Replacement anchors and a tether to an underwater weight followed. Luckily, we lay stable and with sufficient safety distance between the surrounding ships. Despite this shock, no one was left on board the Amadie that first evening and we walked along the beach until we came upon a colorfully painted restaurant and toasted vigorously to the successful crossing.
The past two and a half weeks had obviously taken their toll on our equipment and especially our supplies, so we had to put in a few days of work before we could fully immerse ourselves in the Caribbean adventure. The shopping in Bridgetown was done quickly but with an uneasy feeling, as the prices here were about three times as high as in Germany. Fortunately, our pantries are still well filled from Spain, so we did not have to spend too much. Finding the fault on the engine proved to be more complicated. Tilman and Philipp disassembled gearbox and clutch gear by gear over two days until the corresponding wear part could be identified. Organizing the lapping paste needed for maintenance took almost another full day, even though some of Bridgetown’s less worth seeing neighborhoods could be explored during that odyssey. The repair of our cracked dinghy hull also went rather poorly. In fact, our attempts to mend it took several weeks and about a dozen gluing techniques without getting the problem under control. To make matters worse, the shaft leaked after the engine was finally reassembled. The old lady seemed determined not to share us with such a shallow sidekick as Barbados.
But we didn’t let that stop us and eagerly awaited Christmas and our first Caribbean guest, Rebecca. The time until Christmas Eve flew by. Walking and jogging we explored Bridgetown and the surrounding area. A small highlight was an excursion by Jan, Hendrik and Silas to the Bridgetown Golf Club, where an entertaining afternoon was spent with the Barbados Board Game Club. Outside the crowded, commercial, and busy core of town, miles and miles of small, brightly painted wooden houses with porches line up. While this may seem visually appealing, Bridgetownians themselves refer to it as the city’s slum. Apart from a pretty harbor entrance, there are hardly any green spaces in the city center. The built-up area extends over the entire southern part of the small island. Only in the east and north are there larger areas used for agricultural purposes, where horse breeding is practiced, among other things. The colonial, British influence is omnipresent. Not only is the national language English, all streets are titled “Trafalgar Square” or “Lord Nelson Street”, the national sport is still cricket and horse racing. These areas, with their sprawling manor houses and wide, palm-lined paddocks, are far more idyllic than the greater Bridgetown area, but even here hardly any original forest remains.
Much more recommendable is actually the bay in front of Bridgetown. While Christmas was approaching, Jan used the time to catch up on his diving license. The rest of the crew didn’t have to be asked twice for an underwater adventure either, and so we were able to marvel for days at the wrecks in Carlisle Bay, covered in coral and bursting with schools of fish. The most exotic inhabitants of the wrecks presented themselves in all colors and grotesque shapes from the Mikado stick to the crumpled ball. Turtles, flounders, surgeon fish, moray eels, lion fish and dozens of fish species, which we had not even seen in a National Geography documentary, invited us peacefully into their realm. There were more different types of fish on one wreck than we had seen in the entire four months in the Mediterranean combined. And while snorkeling is like looking through a pane of glass into an aquarium, diving is like being in the middle of it, unmolested and unobserved by its inhabitants. A unique experience that can hardly be compared with anything else.
The visit of an upbeat Christmas concert full of rap, opera singing, dance and musical interludes really got us in the mood two days before Christmas. Last Christmas presents and the ingredients for an exquisite goulash with homemade dumplings, red cabbage and a yogurt fruit dessert were quickly procured. Jan collected one last package of presents on his way back from the diving license, which Santa Claus had brought all the way from Germany to the Caribbean, the plastic Christmas tree from Cape Verde was erected below deck, the Advent wreath candles lit, Christmas music put on, presents laid out, toasted, feasted, laughed…it was time for the gift-giving. Of course, Christmas was not the same as in the homeland, for some even the first away from there. Everybody talked on the phone for quite a while on Christmas Eve with their family, who were usually more than less missed. But nevertheless we had a contemplative evening among good friends with nice presents – from a machete (Tilman) to a cooking apron (Jan) everything was there – delicious food and good music. Soon our thoughts turned back to sailing.
Rebecca arrived on Christmas Day, heavily loaded with gifts for the Amadie (no, not for her crew, the Amadie itself – some spare parts can only be brought from Europe). A light breeze carried us north along the west coast of the island until we arrived at a lonely beach lined with palm trees and poisonous manchinel trees. Perhaps it was the steep, densely overgrown slopes, perhaps the gigantic cement plant that roared right next to the beach, but in any case hardly any other visitors disturbed the Caribbean idyll of this secluded place. Hammocks were unrolled, coconuts cracked, books opened and snorkels put on. For two days, we literally dangled our legs and just enjoyed doing nothing after all the Christmas and repair stress. Even though everything we present to you often looks like a vacation, life on board the Amadie is also often a lot of work and longer rest periods are extremely rare.
In the meantime we had been on Barbados for more than two weeks and nobody was particularly sad when our last appointment on this island came closer: Our Corona booster vaccination. This was done by the responsible hospital in an uncomplicated, professional way, free of charge, just as the whole Corona protection measures of the country seemed to us reasonable, appropriate and more disciplined than in Germany – as far as we can judge that from a distance. The vaccination was followed by PCR testing, declaring our leave and setting sail in the late evening hours with course for Grenada. The choice of this departure time should prove to be our undoing. But more about that later. For now, enjoy the first Caribbean impressions in our Barbados video:
Cape Verde’s most beautiful sites: Visiting Mindelo and Santo Antao
Two stops were still ahead of us on the way to our big crossing. Two islands that should not be missing in any Cape Verde round trip for very different reasons. Our first adventure in this story took us to the south side of São Vicente to the bay of São Pedro. Again, we looked in vain for the green blooming landscapes from the tourist photos about the cape, but a short shore excursion still offered a good alternative: from the bay’s fishing village of the same name, we hiked for an hour along the beach and a narrow path driven into the steep mountain side to the whitewashed lighthouse at the southwestern tip of the island. The friendly and rather lonely lighthouse keeper immediately let us enter and inspect his workplace from inside and outside. Interesting to see one of the large rotating lamps, which we had used so often during the night on our trip, up close and personal, including a panoramic view of the bay.
Back on the Amadie, we watched some small local wooden boats take a few loads of tourists out a few hundred meters into the bay and then release them there for snorkeling and diving. Obviously there were exciting things to see here and conveniently we had our own floating vehicle with us. Equipped with diving goggles, we swam quickly to the site in question and met an unexpected welcoming committee. A handful of one-meter-long giant turtles floated gravitationally through the water. The majestic animals were accustomed to being fed by humans and came gliding up to arm’s length with calm flippers. Each time they gave us an intelligent, questioning look and, when we could offer no food, turned reproachfully away and dissolved into haze in the blue mist. Simply magical.
But the main reason we had called at the equally barren São Vicente was not a swimming trip with its armored inhabitants, but the obligatory visit to the only real marina in Cape Verde, the port of Mindelo. Conveniently, it‘s located right in front of the supposedly most beautiful city of Cape Verde. And indeed, the coastal town with its brightly painted stone houses, lively musical nightlife, chaotic market halls and petty traders entertained us for six days. Six days in which we put the finishing touches on the Amadie before the Atlantic crossing: two spotlights were fixed to the mast so we could work safely on deck at night, several leaks were sealed with silicone, lights were replaced, securing chains for the dinghy and engine were procured, water and diesel tanks were filled, fresh fruit and vegetables were stocked, an oil change was performed on the engine, and the rig was checked for soundness by a local expert. Except for the shopping, which, due to the lack of a well-stocked hardware store or car dealership, turned into a tedious, hour-long rummaging through new and yet always the same general and metal goods stores, we completed all the work efficiently and smoothly – at least after we had subjected all of Mindelo’s bars to an extensive tasting with Sharanya on the first night and had spent the following day with an extensive hangover.
As a little bonus, we were able to watch the departure of the 72 ships of the ARC+ that day. In this organized Atlantic crossing, over a hundred ships gather every year to make the crossing from Europe to the Caribbean together. In addition to detailed information on all travel formalities and organized events in all ports, the event offers a certain safety aspect, as the ARC provides one with all kinds of emergency numbers, weather data and medical support. You can start from the Canary Islands (ARC) or Cape Verde (ARC+). An interesting event, but with a participation fee of around 10,000€ for us not a debatable option.
After even the most skeptical crew member was satisfied with the state of our preparations, we had one last bonus left before we were to leave Cape Verde for good and head into the eternal blue of the Atlantic desert: A visit to the hiker’s paradise of Santo Antão. A stone’s throw later we were in front of the bay of Porto Novo and had quickly organized a driver who would take us from there to the northeast of the island (anchoring there was out of the question because of the incoming waves). From the northernmost point of the island and perceived end of the world, Ponta do Sol, we hiked along an extremely sweaty, but also extremely spectacular coastal path to the small fishing village of Cruzinha. The steep path through the canyons and ridges (1,400hm over 14km) took us through brightly painted mountain villages and abandoned stone ruins. Each steeply sloping riverbed that cut its swath through the rugged volcanic landscape was overgrown with sugar cane and palm trees, cultivated by local farmers. Chickens and goats lined the path, as did dozens of squawking flocks of birds in all shapes and colors. Our gaze regularly swept westward from the hilltops, where the deep blue plain of the Atlantic Ocean continued for thousands of miles, and each time we declared ourselves crazy to want to sail out into this seemingly endless nothingness with our little Amadie. The road itself was masterfully paved, the adjacent walls layered without mortar for miles almost seamless and stable. As we were to learn later, many of the roads and paths across the island, paved with incredible manual labor, still dated back to Portuguese colonial and slaveholding times.
Finally, tired but happy, we reached our destination Cruzinha in the early evening hours. A reader of our newspaper report from the Saarland had kindly arranged a contact for us here. Immediately we were warmly welcomed by a French couple in the “Casinha Daniel” and provided with a place to sleep, all kinds of information about the island and a fantastic view from the balcony over the foaming Atlantic coast. For dinner we went to a small but delicious local restaurant where we were served fish, chicken, octopus, yams, potatoes, all sorts of vegetables, papaya jam and pudding.
Thanks to Daniel’s local knowledge, it was easy to arrange a driver for the next day and plan our second hike. On the benched back of a pick-up truck, we drove two hours over winding mountain roads to a volcanic crater, hiked from there down to the coast, and drove back to Cruzinha. Traces from the times of the Portuguese explorers could be found everywhere. Mountain paths, abandoned terraced plantations in the rocky slopes, dilapidated stone huts – even the fields in the volcanic crater were separated in the middle by a sharp line. This is where the first two Portuguese occupiers had drawn their border dividing the island. The ridges around the crater were covered with dark green, mossy coniferous forests, a clear indication that clouds of fog probably hung here most of the time. But on this bright blue day, nothing blocked our view of the lush green Paúl Gorge, through which our path led to the coast. Sugar cane plantations and heavily hung papaya trees lined up with banana trees and mighty baobab trees. Finally we had found our tropical landscapes on Cape Verde and were quickly more than reconciled thanks to the vegetative wealth of this last island.
On our return to the Amadie, however, a nasty surprise awaited us: one of the seams of our dinghy had opened (in the hot sun or due to outside influence, we don’t know) and at least the dry way back to the ship was blocked for the time being. But the pragmatic and resourceful inhabitants of this outpost of humanity always know how to help themselves and quickly a small, helpful crowd had formed around us. Not only was the dinghy quickly mended, but an enterprising Cape Verdian also melted down two lead weights to complete our diving equipment. A last vegetable purchase followed and so we set sail in the afternoon of November 27th at 15:50 local time, well equipped and in good spirits, heading for the Caribbean. Two hours later, the last wisps of clouds, which clung to the peaks of Santo Antão like a blanket of snow, had disappeared into the night and there was nothing left around us but the endless expanse of the ocean.
The last steps of our preparation and the most spectacular (drone) shots of Santo Antão we have summarized for you in this video:
On the doorstep to a new world: Reaching the Cape Verdian archipelago
A sigh of relief went through the ranks of the five-member crew when, after six days and 800 nautical miles (40% of the distance that awaited us across the Atlantic), the shimmering blue outline of Sal, the northernmost Cape Verdian island, appeared on the horizon. The flat, elongated desert island finally promised an end to the three-meter-high waves that had tossed us back and forth on and below deck for days, limiting our range of activities to books, computer games, and Netflix series. But before we could dock in the tourist town of Santa Maria, with its white sandy beaches, windsurfers and Robinson Club resorts, we first had to clear in on the west side of Sal in the small administrative town of Palmeira.
While we waited in the bay of Palmeira for the arrival of a doctor to take our coronatest, some business-minded locals immediately provided us with information, the national flag, gas, garbage disposal and probably also a mermaid, if we had asked for it. The coronar test the next morning turned out to be a quite surmountable barrier, consisting only of a temperature measurement on the wrist. After a dinghy ride through the cold harbor basin, readings around 34°C gave the safe prognosis that we were probably all dead, but at least without a corona infection. The other passport formalities were also quickly dealt with and we got into first contact with the Cape Verdian culture and architecture during a short walk. The small fishing village with its simple stone houses, Portuguese architecture and small street stalls appealed to us much more than Santa Maria, which is overrun by club tourists. While the Amadie made its way back to the southern tip of the island, Jan, suffering from exercise deprivation, jogged the 24 km back across the island to Santa Maria. In contrast to its paradisiacal beaches, the interior of Sal is reminiscent of a parched Martian landscape, its red rocky expanses interrupted only occasionally by warped, gnarled tree stumps and fields of salt pans. Beach tourism really seems to be the only thing keeping this island alive.
Unfortunately, the crew had knocked themselves out trying to celebrate Philipp’s 30th birthday, so the next morning only allowed for a short shopping trip through Santa Maria before we set course for Boa Vista. We spent three days and nights in the quiet bays of Sal Rei and the southern tip of the island. Enough time for some snorkeling trips, which among other things led to our first shark sighting (don’t worry, just a very small one), as well as two extended hikes on Boa Vista itself. At least in some places green spots could be found here, whereas the numerous stumps of dead palm trees and stone ruins of abandoned villages gave evidence for the increasing desiccation of this island as well. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the varied landscape of sand dunes, deserted sandy beaches with rusty shipwrecks, small oases full of giant spiders that caught grasshoppers and even birds in their nets, wild herds of donkeys and horses, red rocky deserts and simple stone huts. The sunsets on the white beaches, shining intensely in all shades of red, were unparalleled.
Our Cape Verde round trip continued towards Santiago, the largest island of the archipelago and home of the capital Praia. The northeasterly trade winds continued to push us along nicely and so, at dusk, we were already reaching our stopover, the small, unspectacular island of Meio, when suddenly two things happened. First, the brake of our fishing rod hit and after a 15-minute fight we had hoisted our second big catch, a 65cm long, magnificent bonito on board and started gutting it. Just when the first pieces had gone into the pan and everyone was looking forward to a delicious dinner, Silas suddenly shouted from deck: “The dinghy is gone!”. Immediately everything was left standing (and later picked up from the bottom, as is the nature of unsecured cargo aboard a sailing yacht). We hauled in the sails, fired up the engine, and under full power retraced our route since the last gybe, when the dinghy must not have been properly attached. We had only about 15 minutes of daylight left and everyone knew that the chances of finding an unlit, two-meter dinghy in the dark with offset by wind and drift were close to zero. But the search remained unsuccessful. On our second departure of the route, everyone was already standing on deck with a flashlight, feverishly searching in the moonlight. Again nothing. Visibility was below 50 meters in either direction. Half of the crew already wanted to give up, when we decided to do a third check run after recalculating the drift vectors. And indeed, after more than two hours of fruitless searching, Tilman’s laser pointer suddenly reflected something in the darkness a few hundred meters away. We had found our dinghy! Picking it up and securing it was a small matter, but the event was nevertheless a good lesson in how highly risky it is to lose a crew member overboard at night.
There was no thought of continuing on the same night. We enjoyed the well-deserved tuna and anchored off Meio. Without further adventures, we entered the greenish murky bay off Praia the next morning. The largest city and capital of Cape Verde did not impress much from the outside at first sight. Except for a presentable government district and two or three nice beach bars, most of the neighborhoods looked very poor. Several warnings of nighttime muggings, also made us skip the city’s vaunted musical and dance nightlife. We had other plans, because a few miles away, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and first colonial settlement in Cape Verde, Cidade Velha (“Old Town”) was waiting for us. We quickly took our next guest, Sharanya, a friend of Jan’s from his time in Mali, on board and sailed to the small coastal town.
Cidade Velha is located at the end of a canyon, its nearly one hundred houses spread over the flanks of the two enclosing mountainsides. Although the riverbed is dried up most of the time, this canyon was the greenest place we had seen so far in Cape Verde. Palm trees, banana trees, sugar cane plantations, and all manner of shrubbery line the beach, canyon, and town, providing an obvious explanation as to why the Portuguese colonists had settled here. The ruins, some very well preserved, of a church, a convent, a cathedral, and a fort that towers high above the village bear witness to its importance during the 16th and 17th century. As a transshipment point for the triangular trade, Cidade Velha held an important strategic and economic position. In some cases, future slaves spent several months on Santiago for manual and linguistic training.
After giving culture and history enough space that day, it was time for some delicious fruit juices, a vegetable fish quiche and a cozy evening of games aboard the Amadie. After all, the following day we should face another long-distance trip: 150 nautical miles to São Vicente and Mindelo, the last port before the Atlantic crossing. And for you, dear readers, now follows a look at our latest video:
The first Atlantic experience: Island hopping on the Canaries
An endless blue desert, two-meter-high dunes whose crowns atomize in the strong north wind and cover everything like a fine mist, endless silence except for the monotonous and yet never the same pounding of the waves. We had finally arrived in the middle of the Atlantic. Morocco had closed its ports to us and so we had no choice but to sail from Tarifa on a direct course to the last European enclave, the archipelago of the Canary Islands. Just under 600 nautical miles south of Gibraltar and 100 miles west of the Western Sahara, this Spanish outpost is a popular destination for sun-seeking Europeans in the winter months. And for us, a welcome pit stop on the road to Cape Verde. Thanks to the constant and strong trade winds, the Amadie covered the nearly 1100km in just four and a half days, a new long distance speed record – and almost exclusively with the genoa and only three crew members (Jan was still on his three-week home leave). The only excitement was a daring escape attempt by our dinghy, whose tow rope snapped in the middle of the night. Fortunately, this was immediately noticed by the guard, who sounded the alarm and initiated a turnaround. After three minutes of searching in the darkness, the dinghy was spotted again. Nevertheless, attaching a new tow in the middle of the night in three-meter waves was a nightmare that we would definitely not want to repeat with a person overboard. Unsurprisingly upon arrival on the small desert island of La Graciosa, the crew needed a day of rest to catch up on some sleep from the exhausting night shifts of the crossing.
The barren, desert landscape of this sandy planet with its azure waters and white beaches invited us to linger, so we spent the next four days exploring the impressive volcanic landscape of La Graciosa on foot, by bike and with flippers. For the first time, we felt like we had really left Europe and were on a true WORLD-circumnavigation. The following crossing to Arrecife on Lanzarote was after the previous experiences hardly more than a six hour cat jump. While boat carpenter Tilman continued to work on fixing our rudder, which was still giving us headaches because of its stubbornness to move where ist shouldn‘t, the rest of the crew received Silas in Arrecife. We were all happy that this longtime scout friend and roommate of Tilman’s from Saarbrücken, will enrich our crew with advice, action and silly sayings for the next three months. You can marvel at the crossing to and arrival on the canareis in this first video:
The still strong north wind carried us further briskly south. Interrupted by some beer and swimming breaks we passed the southern tip of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and finally reached several remote bays on Gran Canaria. Despite the supposed remoteness, we met a handful to several dozen other sailing yachts in each bay here. Many of them were also long-distance sailors (easily identifiable by the solar panels and wind generators installed on the outside) preparing for their own ocean crossing. A short shore excursion to the dunes of Maspalomas rounded out our visit to this island.
A day’s sail later, we reached the beautiful bay of Los Christianos on Tenerife. Shielded from the northeasterly winds, this offered us a relaxing week-long retreat with panoramic views of the 3,715m Teide, the highest mountain in Spain and the heart of the island. Here we finally had time to put a long discussed project into action: Our diving license. Three days Tilman, Hendrik and Silas (Philipp already has his license) were instructed in the handling of the equipment, the dangers and the behavior on and under the sea surface and all kinds of useful tips and tricks on topics such as breathing techniques, safety or communication under water. The feeling of a dive can probably best be compared to that of a weightless floating astronaut, whose possibilities of movement are not only extended by a third dimension, but who also discovers a whole new world with numerous bizarre life forms for himself (an extremely helpful metaphor, since surely more of you have been in space than in water).
After Jan’s inevitable return, however, he and Philipp did not even think about keeping the exhausted diving trainees company during their well-deserved day of rest. Teide had been towering over Amadie for too long. Unfortunately, one needs a permit for its ascent during the day, which can be obtained at short notice only through organized tour operators. Starting from 7 o’clock the entrances are supervised by rangers. Normally no problem, since there is a hut just below the top, to which one can comfortably ascend on the previous day, in order to be on the summit just in time for sunrise. But of course it was closed because of Corona. So we took the bus to half height in the afternoon and started our evening/night climb. The first section of the route led through sparse coniferous forests interspersed with gigantic menhirs and sharp ravines. The view above the clouds on the sinking sun was simply breathtakingly beautiful. At the foot of the volcanic peak, Jan and Philipp tried rather unsuccessfully to get a few more hours of sleep. With temperatures well below freezing, they didn’t want to spend too much time waiting for the sun at 3,700m. The midnight assault on the last 800m led through a bizarre crater landscape, whose gigantic boulders protruded into the darkness like the shadows of solidified giants. Barely 400m below the summit, however, we were caught up by cold, fatigue and the warning that a heavy penalty by the rangers might await us on the descent, and we decided to break off. Well, better to try and fail than not to get out of bed at all. This gives at least material for half a blog entry 😉
A day later we left Tenerife and headed for our first port in five weeks (Mótril near Granada): San Sébastian on La Gomera. The thick cloud cover around Tenerife had not done the Amadie’s water supply any good, so we happily took the opportunity to fill the tanks and rid the good lady of the dust and dirt of the Canaries. We circled the island and reached the famous Valle Gran Rey, a green canyon where many dropouts and hippies settled in the 1970s. La Gomera is known for its unique microclimate, which has created a dense cloud forest in the center of the volcanic island. Of course, we didn’t want to miss this hiker’s paradise, so we packed our backpacks, tents and stoves and grabbed the first bus into the national park. From there we hiked for two days through the green hills and canyons full of mossy coniferous forests and exotic savanna plants. The views that regularly presented themselves from the crests of the hills provided a beautiful panorama not only of La Gomera’s forests, but also of its neighboring islands: Mocking Teide and the black volcanic eruption cloud that has hung over La Palma for weeks. Days after our departure from the Canary Islands, we still were to find ash residue from this active volcano on the deck of the Amadie. We spent the night on the only campground on the island, some stony terraces with a small but fine restaurant, which hopped up our evening. The way back the next day through the cloud forest was still a very welcome change to the otherwise rather barren and rocky Canary Islands. Depending on the need for exercise, the evening ended with a view of the sunset from the highest point on the island or a 15km descent through canyons lined with palm trees, cacti and goats to the Amadie.
All in all, the Canary Islands could convince us with their natural diversity and the pleasant climate. As a sailing area they do not reach Croatia or the Caribbean, but they offer a welcome change, especially in the cold winter months outside the Mediterranean season. Finally, we would like to invite you to some moving images in our second Canary Islands video:
Two set backs and one achievement: Our last mediterranean stretch
Heavily laden with guests and supplies, the Amadie trudged out of the port of Málaga and onto the final stretch of our Mediterranean leg. The usually reliable Spanish wind had died down and we drifted leisurely for a whole day towards Nueva Andalucia and Marbella. The region is known for its year-round mild climate, beautiful beaches, swanky villas and the highest density of golf courses in Europe. What brought us to this place?
You may have noticed that we have been trying to get our hands on a seawater desalination system for some time now, a product that can take several weeks to deliver even at regular times. So imagine, in the middle of the Corona crisis, you have to have a 5,000€, 30kg package set, of which the delivery date is unknown, delivered on time to a place in a foreign country that you yourself don’t know, because your house unfortunately has the stupid habit of shifting its location by 30km every day. In short, it was a two-month administrative nightmare, but after a few dozen emails and phone calls in three different languages across four different countries and a misunderstood delivery of the water maker to Barcelona, we finally had a suitable set of dealer, delivery address and date.
So, Nueva Andalucia. We were overjoyed to meet Kai and Eliana, acquaintances of Jan, who handed over the long-awaited machine and recommended a few places of interest in Marbella. The next day we strolled along the kilometre-long, beautiful beach promenade between the two towns. The excursion culminated in the whitewashed, flower-filled old town of Marbella. The immaculate squares there are just as tempting to drink a coffee as to visit a traditional Spanish tapas restaurant. We and our culinariely interested guests didn’t need to be invited twice, and so dinner on board unfortunately had to be cancelled once again due to acute overeating.
After some more food shopping (the supermarket shelves in Málaga had been plundered at some point to our complete dissatisfaction) and refuelling, we ended our visit to this region with a fiercly contested football match on the beach, which the crew of the Amadie lost by a hair’s breadth and completely undeservedly with 10:5 against their guests from the forest residence. Well, we all know who the winners of hearts were.
The final stretch carried us past the Rock of Gibraltar, the mighty British enclave that keeps vigilant watch over the entrance to the Mediterranean, armed with cannons and monkeys. Just beyond lies the port of Tarifa, where we sought shelter from the wind and waves in the late evening hours of our arrival. Unfortunately, the harbour does not provide moorings for sailing tourists, but two policemen were kind enough to let us moor at the ferry dock for the night, provided we would leave it before their boss arrived the next morning. Their first question after we had moored was immediately whether we had suffered any damage from orca attacks. We answered in the negative, only to be told that killer whales have been attacking sailboats of our size in the region every week for the last year or so. 50 boats this year alone, half of which were so badly damaged that they had to be towed away. This novel behaviour of the otherwise shy animals still puzzles marine biologists. Not too rosy prospects for us, at any rate.
On the advice of the policemen, we attached a signal flare to a boat hook to scare off the orcas under water if necessary. Guards were posted, the cargo secured and before dawn we set off for the four-hour crossing to Tangier on the African continent. Fortunately, apart from some evasive manoeuvres around large cargo ships, the crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar was uneventful and the anticipation of finally entering a new continent was palpable. The shock came only when we were about to enter the harbour in Tangier. Due to current Corona restrictions, it was possible to enter by plane, ferry, car, on foot, by camel and on a tricycle, but the ports remained closed to private sailing yachts. Nothing could be done, all praying and begging did not help, the border police remained firm. (Unless, of course, we had had orca damage, then they would have let us in). Bitterly disappointed, we turned our backs on the port city, which suddenly seemed three times as attractive, and returned to Tarifa.
The despair was great, the rum consumption corresponding, and so we consoled ourselves with a fun evening in a pizza restaurant in Tarifa. We spent the following days doing minor boat work and snorkelling in Tarifa, swinging between the Mediterranean and Atlantic sides of this headland depending on the wind direction. Our guests left us and Jan also travelled back to Germany for a three-week home leave to say a proper farewell to friends and family before heading out to the other side of the planet. Philipp finally finished his bachelor thesis on the energy system of the Amadie and so on 5th of October, after exactly four months in the Mediterranean, everything was ready for our big departure into the Atlantic.
While we are now struggling with wind and waves on this wild, unknown ocean, we are just a little envious at the thought that you are currently relaxing in the comfort of your still flats enjoying our latest video:
The Arabic influence: Southern Spain from Granada to Málaga
It was the 21st of September 2021, the sea was rough, the caipirinha limes were running low, Olaf Scholz was about to become chancellor and the crew had not yet seen a single cat at Cape Cat. All in all, not a particularly rosy outlook. You could say it was time for some royal glamour in our lives.
As soon as we left the lee of the cape behind us, the wind whistled around our ears with 5 Beaufort (=20kn / 38km/h). Although the autopilot soon went out in the rough conditions and we had to steer by hand for most of the day, the genoa alone was enough to sail at an average of 7kn for the day and reach our destination of Motril, 66nm away, in only 9 ½ hours. A wonderful sailing experience. By comparison, we had already needed more than two days for this distance in the windless parts of Albania. The reception in the small harbour full of motorboat storage racks was friendly and helpful. We were also able to practice our linguistic autodidactic skills further when the harbour staff explained to us in Spanish that we’d better not go out today and tomorrow because 5 Beaufort winds were forecast. Luckily, we had walked here 😉.
If you are not familiar with Motril – there is no shame in that – the small coastal town has little to offer except that it is the sea access to the famous city of Granada and its famous world heritage site, the Alhambra. So early the next morning we took the bus inland and a little later strolled through the old town, which is well worth seeing. Beautifully situated in a large valley between wooded hills, historical religious sites are lined up here with ornate administrative buildings and sprawling, white-painted residential houses. The city’s landmark rises majestically on a hill on the outskirts of the city: the fortress and palace complex of the Alhambra. We wandered for several hours through the paradisiacal gardens of the Generalife, marvelled at the exhibits in the museums of the royal palace and were dazzled by the beauty of the filigree wall decorations that adorn the entire Nasrid palaces. We did not dare to estimate how many thousands of hours of work and craftsmanship must have gone into the detailed construction of every square centimetre of floor mosaics and wall reliefs in these magnificent chambers. The evening view from the fortress walls over the city and valley was a breathtaking conclusion to this excursion into the magnificent Moorish past of southern Spain.
Next destination: Málaga. On the pleasant crossing there, we encountered several schools of dolphins in the afternoon. Dozens of animals swam curiously around the ship and rubbed against the bow of the Amadie. Much too late, we lowered a tow line into the water, wearing diving goggles, and came face to face with only a few stragglers. The lights of Malaga harbour were already flashing in the distance when the helmsman suddenly shouted: “Flotsam in sight! Or an abandoned boat. Or containers. Hard to see.” All three reasons enough for us to change course and take a closer look. In fact, the ominous green object turned out to be a drifting boat. Barely three metres long, glued together in the simplest way from GRP, without motor or rudder, a suspicion immediately arose. The shoes and musty clothes left behind confirmed this: Apparently we found an abandoned refugee boat a few kilometres off the Spanish coast. We could only guess what fate had befallen the occupants, but we hoped that the barge had only been abandoned on land and had drifted out on its own. We towed this aimlessly drifting danger to ship traffic into the port of Málaga and deposited it there in safety.
Early the next noon, every square metre of the Amadie was again filled with noise and life as our guests, Paul, Meo and Friedrich moved into their bunks. Together we strolled through the parks and streets of this southern Spanish cultural and party metropolis in the afternoon and evening. The evening ended – how could it be otherwise – in one of the numerous bars on one of the many squares. Until late into the night, we toasted old friendships and new experiences cheerfully and in the best Teutonic way with lots of beer and little else.
We were approaching the Strait of Gibraltar and thus the Atlantic. Soon our crossings would become more frequent and longer and we could no longer rely on having all the food freshly available at all times. Consequently, it was time to use our last stay in a major European city to think about our supplies for the trip to the Caribbean and beyond. Non-perishable foods such as fruit and vegetables would of course still have to be bought fresh locally at every opportunity, but availability and price were two good arguments for stocking up on at least all durable goods already in Spain. So after everyone had digested the beer of the previous evening, we began to raid the shelves of the nearest supermarket. It took 20 hiking rucksacks and 5 trolleys loaded to the brim to transport one food load after another on board throughout the day and stow it in every imaginable and even most unimaginable compartments. At the end of the day, we were almost 1,500€ poorer, the Amadie half a tonne heavier and our nerves calmed that we would not have to do without brown bread and red cabbage in the foreseeable future.
Before we stowed the items, the labels were removed from all canned goods and the contents were labelled with a sharpie. Packages with thin packaging, such as oatmeal, were sealed in foil. Both serve as a safeguard against moths and other larvae that can nestle in the paper and make entire pantries inedible. To keep track of our consumption, we made a list with the quantity and storage location. Especially the latter information saves the squirrel syndrome in the long run with 21 different food cupboards and hatches. We no longer run the risk of forgetting which nuts we buried where.
At the end of this blog entry, for a change, there is a little homework assignment while you watch our latest video. Why don’t you email us some recipes on how to combine 12 jars of pickles with 24 jars of applesauce to make a tasteful dish. Other similarly tasty combinations can be found in the list of our stored supplies below the video:
Pineapple, American Cookies, Applesauce, Artichokes, Asia Sauce Sushi, Asia Sauce Sweet, Brown Sugar, Double Cookies, Peas, Ready Tomato Sauce, Whole Tomatoes, Green Olives, Oatmeal, Oat Milk, Honey, Coffee Powder, Cocoa, Mashed Potatoes, Ketchup, Corn, Jam, Mayonnaise, Flour, Milk, Muesli, Nuts, Nutella, Olive Oil, Strained Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, Pesto, Peaches, Quinoa, Roasted Onions, Red Chilli Beans, Red Cabbage, Cream, Salty Bread Chips, Salty Biscuits, Sour Gherkins, Sauerkraut, Brown Bread, Black Olives, Mustard, Sunflower Oil, Salami Sticks, Tortillas, White Beans, White Wine Vinegar.
Fun at work: Discovering the Spanish east coast
The thunderstorm was at first just a low hum in the distance, barely perceptible above the whistling of the wind that had carried us southwards from Barcelona for almost 150 miles in the last 30 hours. The sombre sunset made it difficult to see the dense cloud formations. We had just dropped our anchor off the ugly industrial harbour of Castéllon de la Plana to take our guest Rafael to the train there the next morning when the spectacle began. Electrical discharges twitched through the cloud cover on three sides around us every other second. The spectacular weather glow, accompanied by the dull rumble of thunder, bathed the deck of the Amadie in ghostly flickering white light. Occasionally, lightning shot down to the surface of the water, at first at a reassuring distance, but we felt the electric charge of the water all the way aboard our ship. Several times that evening our electrical navigation failed and had to be restarted. While some crew members celebrated the flickering sky as a thunder god’s disco, others crawled into their bunks, careful to keep a minimum distance of 1.50m from all metallic objects so as not to risk a charge jump in case of a lightning strike.
Fortunately, it remained an audio-visual experience and we were able to continue our journey under motor early the next morning. Only to run straight into a driftwood field of thorns, branches and vines that quickly entangled our propellor. Half an hour of diving with knife and work gloves freed the hull from the undergrowth again, but we could only continue our journey in the driftwood slowly and with a lookout at the bow. This was not how we had imagined our 100th (!) day at sea. The ceremonial Glennfiddich was nevertheless unpacked.
In the early afternoon, Valencia finally came into view. We immediately liked the modern and inexpensive harbour near the beach promenade and party mile, so we decided to spend two nights here to recover from the strains of the trip from Barcelona. Besides, the 101st day at sea was urgently needed as a hangover day. Nevertheless, we used the weekend for an extensive sightseeing tour. The old town of Valencia has a lot to offer with its huge city wall gates, churches and historic market halls, but the highlight is certainly the Jardín del Turia. This “green lung” of Valencia stretches 100-500 metres wide in an old riverbed once through the entire city and is the perfect highway for cyclists, joggers and walkers from the harbour to the old town. An exotic and varied flora, numerous meadows, sports facilities, skate parks, playgrounds and small streams flow into one another here. The futuristic-looking museums and theatres in the middle of the Jardín are particularly worth seeing and have certainly earned their reputation as the city’s unique architectural feature. Valencia’s city centre doesn’t come close to the turbulent Barcelona, but a visit is strongly recommended.
We are often asked if we have good weather on our trip. Well, the answer to that is a very relative assessment. Two-metre waves, whistling wind under a dense cloud cover, splashing spray and 7kn sailing speed are a near-perfect day from our crew’s point of view. From the point of view of some of our guests hanging over the railing with green noses, rather less so. So to avoid the waves, at least at night, we entered the port of Venecia the next evening (no, not the world-famous lagoon city in Italy, more like the sad leftovers you pull out of the dumpster behind a Venetian supermarket and then sail to Spain on a rotten fishing trawler). Nevertheless, this was a good opportunity for our crew to address a problem that had been a thorn in our side for a while: one of our winches squeaked a lot when we cranked it and gave us reason to worry that abbrasion was building up here. When we took it apart, we found that the winch had probably never been properly cleaned and greased in the 13 years since the Amadie was born. So much for our day off. The crew spent eight hours disassembling our four winches into every single part, cleaning them in solvent, re-greasing them and screwing them back together. And lo and behold: suddenly it was child’s play to hoist the dinghy engine or brave crew members up the mast. The necessary effort had almost been halved! And there was even time for an evening game of volleyball on the city beach with our guests Matthias and Katha.
Despite all the luxurious amenities of a harbor stay (showers, running water, a floor that doesn’t shake), we longed back for secluded coves, crystal clear water and forested shore cliffs. The last stay in a real bathing bay was already four weeks past and half a sea away in Sardinia. So we endured (or enjoyed?) a bit of nocturnal rocking in the coming days to experience the wonderful over- and underwater world of Isla del Portixol and Punta Bombarda. The former not only offered rich schools of fish, which Philipp finally used as an occasion for his first dive, but also the opportunity to explore the densely overgrown island and its secrets scrambling up the rocks. Punta Bombarda, on the other hand, was a swimmer’s paradise with its warm, deep blue water. Exploring a derelict open-cast mine and the lighthouse at the top of the cape provided plenty of variety on land.
After so much opportunity for bathing and showering, and with full guest cabins, our fresh water supplies soon did not fare well and we set course for the next port: Alicante. (If you’re counting, you may have noticed that we’ve now spent more nights in ports in Spain than on our entire journey so far combined, thanks to strong winds and reasonable prices). The city is rather poor in tourist attractions, but offers a great abundance of bars, restaurants, clubs and every conceivable combination of these three evening establishments. A good opportunity for a proper farewell dinner with our guests, all of whom are already planning their second or even third visit on board. The following day we had to take our usual weekly care day: cleaning, shopping, laundry, minor repairs. All the more fortunate that we had a few hours left to visit the Volvo Ocean Race Museum in Alicante harbour. This most challenging and demanding team world circumnavigation race has had its start in Alicante several times. Reason enough for the city not only to draw attention to the inhuman strain and technological finesse of this historical race with video clips, exhibits and information boards, but also to display a decommissioned Ocean Racer. Admittedly, this thoroughly optimised metal box may have had a knot or two ahead of the Amadie in its prime, but this nautical equivalent of a space capsule couldn’t even begin to match its tantalising charm.
With our pantries stocked, we caught another breeze the next day (where do they all come from?) and let it carry us another 250km south over our next night shift. Our wind timing since Barcelona had been almost perfect, so that with a minimum number of sailing hours we had already left two thirds of the Spanish coast towards the Atlantic behind us. Now we had one last quiet night at Cabo de Gata (“Cat’s Cape”), a rugged prairie landscape with flat sand houses strongly reminiscent of the American Wild West. If we had known what was in store for us in the coming days, we would certainly have slept in longer.
But more about that in our next blog entry. Until then, enjoy the corresponding video:
An urban adventure: In the dry dock in Barcelona
Calmly and purposefully, the Amadie drew her lines through the water like a bird migrating ever southwards, the sea an eternal blue desert around us, full of loneliness and life, stillness and movement at the same time. For two days we had been sailing from Sardinia, at first laboriously against the wind, finally with a relaxing breeze from behind. Suddenly there was a whirring, a jolt through ship and crew. The clicker on our fishing rod had finally struck! Was the luck of our last fishing attempts still with us (a seagull, a jellyfish, a plastic bag) or was today finally the day we were destined for greater things? Cursing, Philipp jumped on the rod and began to crank methodically. The struggle lasted 15 minutes, then, finally, a shimmering bluish shadow appeared just below the surface of the water. With combined forces, boat hook and knife, we hoisted our wriggling prey on board and quickly put an end to it. In front of us, covered in blood, lay an 80cm long tuna, weighing a good 10kg, the wet dream of every sushi chef. Without hesitation, we went to work with our usual learning-by-doing mentality and cut out everything that didn’t look edible. The rest landed in the pan just minutes later. Sautéed with a little salt and lime, two hours after taking a bite, a dozen browned tuna fillets lay on our plates – and even our fish-sceptic Tilman had to admit: This was the most delicious fish any of us had ever eaten. The best thing about it: We had enough left over to feed the whole crew for two more days. Our fishing fever is awakened!
Two more days later, we caught sight of the coast of Spain, our sixth travel country, on the horizon. Unfortunately, our lucky (or very unlucky, depending on the angle of the participant involved) encounter with the tuna was not the only event during the crossing. During a routine inspection of the mechanics, we had noticed that the bearing of our rudder had developed play and thus produced some material abrasion in its suspension. Not an acute drama, but definitely a problem that needed to be addressed as soon as possible. So, with these worry lines on our foreheads, we entered the Port Olimpic, a remnant of the 1992 Olympic Games, after a very wavy and restless night off Barcelona’s city beach. The first surprise was the cheap accommodation prices compared to our previous travels (60€/night in the middle of Barcelona’s 5km city beach), which stayed the same way throughout Spain.
So while we took our first walks through this (rightly) world-famous Spanish-Catalan metropolis and some short day trips on land and water with our guests for the week (Vidu, Martina, Bernhard, Olli and Jenny), a local mechanic took a first look at our rudder installation. It quickly became clear: this damage could not be repaired in the water, the Amadie had to go into the dry dock. All praying and begging did not help, the crane reached under the old lady and mercilessly hoisted her out of her natural element. The crew and guests moved into an AirBnB in the city centre and the mechanic went to work. Unfortunately, the damage turned out to be more complicated than planned, so that a large part of the spare parts had to be manufactured anew and individually. The delivery time of the parts and the poor availability of the crane for the removal and installation of the rudder kept delaying the repair by a few days, until we finally ended up with nine days in dry dock and total costs beyond 5,000€. Of course, we used the time to do some small repairs to the antifouling on the hull of the Amadie ourselves. Fortunately, our insurance covered a large part of the costs in the end, but we will do everything we can to avoid such repair escapades in the future. But the Amadie is a 13-year-old ship, the stresses of sailing around the world are immense and the seven seas are still full of surprises.
But let’s get to the good part of this episode: our two weeks ashore in Barcelona! Suddenly, a completely new world opened up for us, a completely new attitude to life. Our shared flat was suddenly no longer on the water, but like any normal person‘s on the third floor of a block of appartment houses. The constant up and down of the waves was replaced by that of a lift, the shrill cry of the seagulls by rattling car engines and the warm rays of the sun…well, it’s the sun. It’s the same everywhere. The point is, we suddenly felt teleported back to our normal lives, at best those of a common backpacker travelling abroad. And it was nice. At least for a moment. It only took a few days and we had built up a real circle of friends in Barcelona. Be it through our guests, acquaintances from Germany on holiday in Spain, Tinder dates, local board game groups, random night-time acquaintances with exchange students. There was truly no shortage of lovely and fun people to fill our days in Barcelona. And the city itself did the rest.
Barcelona’s cityscape is characterised by numerous parks and sports facilities, seamlessly integrated into the symmetrical blocks of houses. The city beach is huge, well-kept and dotted with volleyball courts, exercise equipment and attractive Barcelonians. The old town is winding, ornate and dreamy. Restaurants and bars of all kinds line the streets and make for an excessive nightlife, despite the Corona-related curfew after midnight. The Sagrada Familia, the Güell Park, the ornate Gaudi houses and numerous churches make the city a fairytale land for anyone interested in architecture. The nights on the city beach and in the lively parks and squares made a stark difference to our usual solitude on the sea.
A special highlight was our excursion to the mountain monastery of Montserrat. Spectacularly situated on the flank of a towering rock massif, this monastery complex is a far-reaching magnet for tourists and hikers. Jan, Hendrik and Tilman also took the opportunity for a two-day hike through the wooded hills in the foothills of the rugged monastery mountains. Forests and floodplains and lonely campsites in wild nature were balm for our water-soaked scout souls.
Finally, on 08.09, the Amadie sank back into the blue waters, cleaned up and with a sigh of relief. We spent the morning loading our beloved lady with supplies and the next batch of guests consisting of our now regular guests Matze, Saskia and Rafael as well as our new arrival Katha. With a shout of joy and a broad grin on our faces, we hoisted full sail and plunged into the waves. With Poseidon’s favour behind us, the Amadie shot south towards her next Spanish adventure. Finally, freedom again!
As always, you can marvel at the moving and stirring pictures of this urban adventure in our video:
A voyage into history: Adventures in southern Italy (part 2)
On 05.08. the third disadvantage of Calabria’s cape-bay-structure made itself felt: Since there is generally little sailing traffic in this region, most of the harbours hardly have any berths ready for guests. The first two harbours we approached that evening were completely overcrowded and only in the third harbour, Agropoli, did we find a sheltered anchorage in the harbour entrance from the nightly waves. We could have done worse; The old town of this small coastal town had everything needed for a romantic evening stroll: wide stone steps, narrow streets and a medieval fort (and of course ice cream and pizza no. 3). Tilman and Philipp used the following day to strategically saw apart the floorboards under our saloon table to give us access to additional storage space in the footwell – a forward-looking expansion of our pantries for the approaching Atlantic crossing. While Réné was already saying goodbye, Jan, Hendrik, Maike and Leonie used the day for an extended hike to the picturesque coastal town of San Marco (ice cream and pizza no. 4).
After an emotional farewell the next morning to our last guests, the Amadie moved further out along the Italian coast, several historical excavation sites in sight. The first stopover took us to Paestum. On about one square kilometre, the foundations of an ancient Greek settlement were uncovered here. The absolute highlight are the three well-preserved temples, which with their broad columns and triangular gables are reminiscent of the Acropolis in Athens. The neighbouring museum offered a number of colourfully painted grave slabs, which provide an insight into the 3,000-year-old death cult of the settlers. The sultriness and exertion of such a lengthy excursion forced the crew to develop a new technique that afternoon: It turned out that with a life jacket and safety line attached to the anchored Amadie, one can float quite excellently on one’s back in the water and enjoy a cold beer without any effort at all.
Thus strengthened, we continued to Salerno, where Matthias, Caro and our youngest guest, six-month-old Matteo, moved into their cabins. The following three days along the Amalfi coast offered some fantastic views of the steep slopes of this headland, opportunities to snorkel and explore the lemon orchards and touristic towns. The penetrating heat, however, drove us steadily forward in search of refreshing bays and shady restaurants. Finally, on 12.08, we reached a long-awaited highlight of our Italian trip: Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.
Rarely had we seen an uglier city on our trip. The whole coastal strip in front of Pompeii stank like a horrible cesspit, the shore strips were littered with construction waste, rubbish and industrial plants. Neither of these things prevented the locals from enjoying their swim, but we just tried to cover the three kilometres from the shore to the world-famous excavation site as quickly as possible, past busy roads and run-down rows of houses. The excavation site, however, offered everything we had hoped for: ancient Roman villas whose well-preserved frescoes, walls and even furnishings gave the impression that the inhabitants had left them one and not two thousand years ago, entire bar quarters whose counters and kitchens were ready for immediate re-use, temples and theatres, streets and avenues, and finally a marketplace, over which Vesuvius towers majestically and menacingly, that apocalyptic conservator of Pompeii and its 10,000 inhabitants. Using a special casting technique, the imprints of some of the corpses found in the metre-high layers of ash during the uncovering of the city were also reconstructed. The black bodies in cowering postures, arms folded protectively over their heads, illustrate in a cruel, depressing way the fateful last moments of our 2,000-year-old fellow human beings.
The next day could therefore only hold one goal in store for us: The ascent of the volcano itself. First we took the bus to 200 metres below the summit. The view over the Bay of Naples was already spectacular from this height, the crater-like rocky landscape of the volcano’s slope eerie and alien. Unfortunately, access was blocked. Only with tickets to be booked online, which are always sold out three days in advance, could one cover the last two hundred metres on the official access. But we don’t give up that easily and we wouldn’t be scouts if we couldn’t find our own path. So we made our way to the back of the volcano on more or less official hiking trails, climbed a few scree slopes and racked our brains to no avail as to what the many signs saying “Passaggio vietato” might mean. Finally, we reached the edge of the crater and stood in front of a last barrier. The ranger posted here looked at us very irritated at how we had managed to walk along a hiking trail that had been closed for four years. He angrily radioed his colleague further down, who of course hadn’t seen us and we hadn’t seen her, and then graciously waved us to the edge of the crater for two minutes. After all, we had walked six hours all the way up here from Pompeii (or so he assumed). A quick look into the yawning maw of the inactive volcano and we were shooed back down the slope. After dodging the ranger at the entrance to the trail a second time, we made our way back to the bus, joyfully excited about the beautiful hike. Helpful as we are, on the way down we gave useful practical tips to a desperate, sweaty American who had already been trying to get tickets for the ascent for a week, on how to do it without – at his own responsibility, of course.
Glad to finally be able to leave the cesspit in front of Pompeii, we briefly plundered an old sail wreck and set course for Naples. Before our stay in this pulsating metropolis, however, we made the obligatory weekly stopover in a small marina to replace the damaged dinghy propeller, scrub the inside and outside of the ship and do some minor repair work. In Naples itself, we found a good anchorage next to the Castel dell’Ovo peninsula. One of the advantages of travelling with your own sailing ship is the opportunity to anchor regularly for free in spots with a picturesque view of a city for which any hotel would charge a three-figure premium. We spent the next day and a half extensively touring the forts, museums, palazzi, catacombs and churches of this aging but very lively metropolis. Aimless walks through the old town gave an impression of the dynamism and vitality of day and night life. In a side street, we unexpectedly enjoyed what was probably the best pizza of our lives (and it wasn’t even a Pizza Napoli). This discovery was immediately used for ice cream and pizza no. 5 and 6.
Positively surprised and with full pantries, we set off for Sardinia on the evening of 16 August. Twenty hours later we reached Ponza, a last insular outpost fifty miles from the Italian mainland. We were all the more surprised to see that the crescent-shaped island, not even six kilometres long, was populated by hundreds of pleasure boats. More ships were gathered here in one spot than we had seen so far in the whole of Italy combined. To this day, it is still a mystery to us why so many holidaymakers took the trouble of a night trip for this beautiful but unexceptional island. We, on the other hand, continued our journey west after a short swimming break and were soon alone again with the sea and the wind. Our night shift system works smoothly by now, the manoeuvres are rehearsed, detailed commands superfluous. Calm winds are bridged with swimming, unsuccessful fishing attempts and films on our on-board beamer. The only excitement: during a night shift, our dinghy tore two poles of the equipment carrier, to which it was tied, out of their moorings. Three men secured with torches and lifebelts spent a good hour rescuing our solar modules and stabilising the carrier. For the time being, we will only tow the dinghy behind the Amadie.
The northern tip of Sardinia is an unexpected sailing paradise. Plans for a detour to Corsica were quickly discarded. Many small islands and numerous bays with paradisiacal sandy beaches mix here with a strong wind system in the Strait of Bonifacio. The landscape is wild and beautiful, the proliferation of hotel complexes still in its infancy. We visited an old fort, spectacular rock formations, went jogging and snorkelling and spent three very relaxing days. On the last evening we stumbled abruptly into a small valley, the beach beautifully situated between white cliffs. A hundred hippies had gathered here. Between small tents and rudimentary dwellings, people were dancing, drumming, consuming all kinds of questionable substances and exuberantly celebrating a full moon festival. The spectacle around the small colony was lively and fun and is probably known in the community far beyond the borders of Sardinia. It was tempting to linger.
But we were called by another spirit and free love or not, there is no room in our lives for but one lady. So we said Arrividerci, bella Italia! The next adventure is calling!
As always, you can relive this one in our video:
Pizza, caves and excavations: Adventures in southern Italy (part 1)
“Land ho!” On the afternoon of 29 July, the stereotypical call of the steering watch rang out as the first hills began to appear on the hazy horizon. Bella Italia! We had reached the southern tip of the boot after five days and almost 1,000km.
The crossing from San Torin had been largely uneventful. After twenty-four tiring but fast hours in the clutches of the Meltemi, we came into the lee of the Peleponnes, motored for a short distance and then cruised along at a reasonable speed for two days, interrupted only by our first whale sighting and Hendrik’s birthday. On the fourth day, the wind suddenly dropped and after half a day without sailing, drifting aimlessly in the fog and with no prospect of the weather improving, we managed to cover the last 150 nautical miles (277km) under motor.
What a refreshing sight now, after all the stony greyness of Greece and all-encompassing blue of the last few days, were the green forested hills of our fifth travelling country. As soon as we approached the Strait of Messina, the wind in this strait suddenly picked up and we crossed the last miles towards our first Italian checkpoint: Reggio di Calabria. At the quay, Jan’s family (Maike, Manuel and Leonie) and Réné, a friend of Philipp’s, were already waiting for us. Despite a strong breeze, the mooring maneuver, practiced many times by now, went off without a hitch and once again we had solid ground under our feet accompanied by the obligatory land sickness. Apart from the opportunity to fill our pantries, Reggio di Calabria, probably one of the ugliest southern Italian towns, had nothing to offer and so we set sail early the next day towards the north. While our guests gained their first sailing and steering experience, we enjoyed the view of Sicily and the strait of Messina straight ahead.
The southwest coast of Italy is geographically characterized by alternating capes and up to 150km long bays in between – the Gulf of Gioia, the northern half of Calabria, the Bay of Salerno, the Bay of Naples. From a sailing point of view, this offers two major disadvantages that we were to experience again and again in the coming weeks: Firstly, there is usually a paralyzing calm in these coastal sections due to the shielding capes at both ends, and secondly, they do not have any natural, sheltered bays to find protection from swell towards land at night. However, this was compensated somewhat by the fantastic panoramic views of the wooded (and at most half-burning), long green hills and mountains of Calabria with their numerous villages nestled close to the slopes.
Braving the weak wind, Amadie fought her way bravely across Capo Vaticano to Tropea (ice cream and pizza no.1), where we renewed the worn-out ropes in our mainmast and prepared the rigging for our gennaker headsail. We continued for two days and nights to Capo Palinuro. A good opportunity for cave diving, snorkeling, bouldering and jogging was offered by the beautiful natural harbor of Baia degli Infreschi with its ice-cold freshwater inlets. At the cape itself, we explored half a dozen caves that could not have been more different and varied. From a penetratingly sulphur-smelling grotto into which we could swim for half an hour in complete darkness, to rock domes with spectacular stalagmites reminiscent of a clutch of eggs from a giant cave spider, to a cave so vast and winding that after more than two hours of hiking and climbing in the light of torches we still hadn’t even seen every tunnel. We recovered from this exciting exploration tour in the mountain village of Pisciotta (ice cream and pizza no. 2). The evening was only overshadowed by a small accident when we rammed a stone with the propeller of our dinghy motor and bent it hopelessly.
Enjoy some impression of our cave tours (among other things) in our first Italy video. How the story with our motor continued and which voyage of discovery into antiquity still awaited us, can be read in our second blog entry on Italy (coming soon):
Our odyssey: A voyage through Greece’s rocky coasts and islands
Ah, Greece, ancient civilisation, cradle of European bureaucracy…or something like that. At least that’s how we felt when we moored at the customs office in Corfu Town on 28 June and tried to declare our ship in Greece. A marathon awaited us, but in our case it was not a matter of defeating a Persian army, but of overcoming the hurdles of Greek bureaucracy. We spent almost two days in the old town of Corfu (which is otherwise well worth seeing) getting Corona vaccination certificates, passports, boat papers, vignette proofs, bank statements, a pink elephant and whatever else was needed for the declaration. Only to be told at the end that we would have to go through the whole process again the next day, 01.07., because a new month would begin. That was too much for us and after visiting the Venetian fortifications, we preferred to set sail south. The last night of our guests Tobi, Andrea and Michael at the southern tip of Corfu had a special surprise in store for us: a dive in fluorescent plankton that glowed like a cloud of stars with every movement under water, giving every hand gesture a sparking magical aura.
With reduced manpower (Hendrik had left for Germany for the second Corona vaccination), we continued southwards: after a short stopover on Paxos to fill our water tanks and enjoy a burger at the stern of the Amadie in a restaurant on the quay, the winds carried us steadily forward over two days, past Ithaki and Kefalonia to the coast at Araxos. There we wanted to pick up our next guests, Matthias and Saskia, but the wind and waves were so fierce that we could not spend the night on the agreed beach and instead had to hide behind a headland in the approach lane of Araxos airport. So as not to compete with the light buoys marking the approach to the airport, we turned out all the lights, drew all the curtains and had our first and only dinner to date below deck.
Poseidon blessed our journey with strong winds and the next day, with a strengthened crew, we roared along to Zakynthos. The highlights here were certainly the beautiful crater bay off Keri, a hike across the island’s parched olive groves and rocky fields, adventurous cave dives, but above all the beach at Navagio. Here, in a narrow bay in front of steep rocky cliffs, an old fishing boat rusts away on the beach and offers a truly spectacular sight. Of course, we did not miss a detailed inspection and climbing tour. The following night, however, the Amadie’s wide stern made itself felt: Even the smallest waves rock the Amadie at anchor, and that night no plate or glass remained in its intended place.
A longer crossing to Voidokilias and Methoni followed, where we visited more Venetian fortifications, strategically located all along the Adriatic coast. From there we continued to the southern tip of the middle finger of the Peloponnese, where we came across Hendrik and a bunch of lionfish – the plagues of the Mediterranean. There are numerous legends surrounding one of these southernmost points of mainland Europe, and an evening at the tip of the finger offered correspondingly much: the gateway to Hades, a millennia-old shrine to Poseidon, majestic tower houses on the tops of the withered hills, a magnificent, clolourful sunset at the lighthouse.
The next stop on our island tour was the hiker’s paradise of Kithira. Matthias and Saskia did a flying exchange here with our next guests, Jonas, Janusz and Rafael. Thus ten people met on board the Amadie on the evening of 9 July to celebrate Jan’s 29th birthday. A very funny evening with sick consequences for the hungover guests on the next, stormy day. Good thing that the bay of Diakofti offered us sufficient shelter. But first we filled our water tanks by hauling 300 litres in canisters from a backyard water tap at the ferry dock to the Amadie, as the actual water supply to the dock had unfortunately broken down and the local sheriff/harbour master/fire chief could not help us any further. Unfortunately there is no plumber to be reached in Greece at the weekend. The next two days were characterised by relaxing swimming breaks, strenuous hikes, delicious restaurant visits and diving along another spectacular wreck, whose underwater world seems both spooky and busting with life at the same time.
We continued on to Milos, a volcanic island with cute villages and white volcanic rock beaches. Here, to our regret, our longest guest Maite left us, with whom we had spent more time on the Amadie than without her.
The beer-heavy party mood of the current crew could now only be satisfied by one destination: The party island of the rich and beautiful – Mykonos. We felt poorly out of place when we finally anchored in a bay among dozens of mega yachts, most of which could have accommodated the Amadie in their dinghy garage. If they had one at all and the owners were not flown ashore directly by helicopter. At the associated bathing beach, where the champagne was flowing in gallons, we were basically chased away with a broom when we tried to land with a load of dirty laundry and a few rubbish bags. The tour of Mykonos Town was also very pretty at first glance, but ended up being an overpriced Disneyland of Greece. Fortunately, the search for a laundrette led us to Paradise Beach on the third day. A beach that was clearly more in line with our (price) level, where we spent an extremely sociable party evening with numerous party enthusiasts of our age from all over the world.
Now loaded with Philipp’s family, Erhard, Corinna, Nadine and our youngest crew member to date, four-year-old Finn, we continued to the neighbouring island of Delos. The island hosts an impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site: The ruins of an ancient city that housed 30,000 inhabitants at its peak. The remains of numerous temples and, in some cases, entire city quarters give a good impression of the life of a Greek metropolis 2,500 years ago.
Next destination: Naxos. The old town of the island’s capital, although also touristy, gave a much more natural and lived-in impression of a Greek harbour town. In addition to the striking white stone houses and streets, we found some culinary specialities and the opportunity to top up our food, gas and water tanks.
The last destination of our odyssey through Greece was the volcanic island of Santorini. Spectacularly, steep cliffs rise up in a ring around a small central island of gigantic volcanic boulders, as if a giant had smashed his stone jar. At first we had some difficulties finding an anchorage on the steep cliffs, especially as the Meltemi, the prevailing strong north-south wind system in eastern Greece, was whistling strongly in our ears. We were immediately chased away from the mooring buoys everywhere, as they were reserved for day-trip tourist boats. Finally, we threw a shore line to the central scree island and climbed and dived for a while in this Greek Mordor plagiarism. The next day was no less windy and we first tried calling a good dozen boat taxi companies on Santorini. Unfortunately, all of them were fully booked, no longer operated or were florists and wedding planners by now. In desperation, we tried again to anchor at the harbour of Oia and lo and behold – we got the only free place on the tiny quay wall in front of the cliff town. Of course, this town also lives only from tourism, but that did not detract from the nightly sight of the illuminated cave houses and white terraces overlooking the gigantic volcanic crater of Santorini. A truly spectacular finale to our trip to Greece.
On 24 July, the Klick family left us, we installed our AIS system so that we could be located live at all times and set full sail for our longest crossing to date, 950 km to Italy. If and how we managed this first open water stress test you can see in our newest video:
Europe’s hidden coasts: Travelling through Montenegro and Albania
At noon on 15 June, we crossed our first international border from Croatia to Montenegro and sailed into the Bay of Kotor under strong westerly winds that forced us to make our first reefing manoeuvre. Suddenly the wind and waves dropped and majestic forested mountainsides rose up around us on all sides, leaving barely enough space for two rows of houses in the many small villages on their shores. Shortly afterwards, we took our next guest, Hendrik’s brother Tobi, on board in Tivat. The sheltered bay combined with some financial incentives seemed to make it extremely attractive for numerous multi-millionaires to park their mega yachts off Tivat. About 30 luxury yachts were anchored here, most of which could have accommodated the Amadie in their dinghy garage. The majority of them, however, had one decisive, inexcusable deficit despite all the pomp and comfort: a glaring lack of sails.
It took us almost a full day to enter the winding bay. It was not until the next morning that we reached its end in the form of the old harbour town of Kotor. An evening climb up the surrounding city walls gave us a beuatiful sunset over the bay, a stroll through the picturesque old town a party life most of us hadn’t experienced since pre-Corona times.
The next morning, the crew, excluding Philipp, who had to continue working on his bachelor thesis on our energy system, set off on a three-day hike in Montenegro’s hinterland. A half-day bus ride took us through a densely forested mountain landscape, crossed only by narrow roads and deep river canyons. Inaccessible, wild and green, a real European jungle. The first stop on our hike was the Gora National Park, an untouched primeval forest around a small lake in the middle of the mountains. In just a few square kilometres, there are more plant species, amphibians, insects and bird calls here than in most German states combined. The next two days inevitably took us up the surrounding mountain slopes. A strenuous undertaking, but the views of the unspoilt Montenegrin mountain landscape more than made up for it. As a reward, we had a sumptuous dinner of freshly baked cornbread, goat cheese, ham, onions and potatoes on a lonely mountain farm. Our conclusion on Montenegro: A real insider tip in the heart of Europe for all those who love hospitality and mountain hikes.
Back on the Amadie, after the first relaxed “training weeks”, there were some bigger distances on the route plan. First we went a little further to Budva, where we stocked up on food, and finally set sail to Durres in Albania for our first night trip across the open sea. We can’t quite escape Corona yet, so Philipp and Tilman had to disembark there to return to Germany for a few days for their second vaccine shot. The rest of the crew used the time to declare the ship in Albania, do laundry, explore the not very attractive city and refuel. Unadorned skyscrapers and a lot of traffic were the most characteristic elements around the industrial harbour. Refuelling was also a bit difficult, as there are no harbour petrol stations for small yachts in Albania and we were told that there are only petrol trucks with >3,000 litres capacity. During our sightseeing tour, however, the friendly and somewhat crazy harbour staff managed to manoeuvre a pick-up truck with a diesel barrel next to our boat. By sucking on the hose, the supplier finally managed to spray the truck, the harbour, himself, the Amadie, but fortunately also the tank of our boat with enough diesel that we could continue our journey.
The next few days were characterised either by leisurely bobbing along in barely bearable sultriness and racing along in foehn-like downdrafts from the mountains near the coast. Most of the time the water was so shallow that we could safely anchor kilometres off the coast. Scenically and architecturally, there was not much of interest to see near the coast, except for a larger salt lake behind a busy bathing beach that was declared a “nature reserve”, despite the numerous villages around it. Nevertheless, with reading, board games, playing music and swimming, the time flew by and finally we reached the northern tip of Corfu. After taking two more guests on board, Andrea and Michael, we returned to Albania’s southernmost coastal town Saranda. An absolute highlight here was the visit to the Butrinti peninsula. In a strategically important position for controlling the Adriatic, the various major Mediterranean powers settled here for 2,500 years, leaving behind a gigantic, beautifully situated open-air museum in which entire history books of ruins could be seen, from Greek temples to Roman forums and villas to Venetian and Ottoman fortifications and pagan cult shrines. A surprisingly impressive end to an otherwise rather unimpressive week in Albania. But feel free to see for yourself in our latest video as we make our way to the next ancient high culture, Greece:
A stonny beginning: Sailing the Croatian island realm
In good spirits, we hoisted the sails on the afternoon of June 2nd and set out to spend the first of many nights in a secluded bay. The first furling of the sails was duly doused with a 15-year-old Glennfiddich, a special drink for a special moment. After the conversations had died down, we stayed up late that first night sitting in Amadie’s cockpit and admiring the vast canopy of stars above us, far from the nearest source of human light.
The next day began with a liberating swim in the sea – at least until we saw two fins swimming around our boat. But an expert drone flight reassured us: this was not a dreaded Mediterranean shark, but a rare blue marlin, also known as swordfish. In the next few days, we got to see larger swarms of fish and some schools of dolphins on numerous occasions. The Mediterranean Sea is in this respect a not to be underestimated place for fish watchers.
After we had made a small repair at our Dinghi engine in Sibenik, the first miles flowed under our keel. In the following days we were able to test the sailing characteristics of the Amadie on rope and cloth and so far we are very satisfied with the good steering characteristics and comparatively high hull speed (the physically maximum possible sailing speed) of about 9 knots. Only in the evening hours the wind in Croatia often drops strongly, so we could not avoid now and then to drive the last meters into the next bay under engine.
Our journey through the Croatian islands led us past numerous sights and natural spectacles. Among them were a walk along a 500 year old fortress wall against Ottoman land attacks, a climb of the cliffs on the peninsula in front of Split with a fantastic view over the surrounding bay, a dinner in a remote island village, a dive in a cave that must have been a smuggler’s hideout in its past and so on and so on. The urban highlights of these first two weeks of sailing were three of Croatia’s most famous and touristic cities: Split, Korcula and Dubrovnik. In all three, in addition to the beautiful, historic old towns with their numerous winding alleys and impressive buildings and city walls, we were particularly struck by the absence of the usual crowds of tourists. An aftershock of the Corona pandemic, which is very much to our liking. This went so far that we were interviewed in Dubrovnik by the Croatian RTL to report on the restored travel opportunities.
As always, you can see the best impressions here in our video:
In Split we took our first travel guest on board, Paul Anderheiden, who energetically accompanied us for a week of sailing, housekeeping on the Amadie, snorkeling, hiking and drinking beer. In Dubrovnik there was a flying change to Maite Andersen – and we can continue to look forward to numerous personnel changes thanks to you 😊.
The last experience in Croatia was a nighttime walk-through of the Hotel Belvedere, which was abandoned only six years after it was built during the Yugoslav war and has been a prime example of a “lost place” for thirty years by now. And indeed, we lost ourselves several times in the gigantic complex with its countless floors, annexes, halls, rooms, staircases. At night, an experience that just cried out to be the prelude to a horror movie in a haunted hotel.
But we survived. Barely. And now we can look forward to telling you about our adventures in Albania and Montenegro in our next post!
Love on first sight: Buying and equipping Amadie
When we decided in the summer of 2020 to actually put into practice the fix dream of many bar evenings and talks about travel videos of other world sailors, none of us could imagine what should expect us. And now, almost a year later in the salon of the Amadie three days after the start of our journey, we still can not really believe what we are doing here. But first, let’s review the past exhausting Corona year from the perspective of a crew-to-be.
As always, it all started with googling, this time for online boat exchanges. We had predefined a few parameters: Minimum 40 feet in length for comfort and sufficient safety and stability on a blue water trip. Ideally three cabins for Philipp, Hendrik and Jan plus a guest cabin. And not too expensive, 90 thousand including all additional equipment to be installed we planned as a limit. The list of boats in this size and price category was (fortunately) very manageable. We quickly contacted the handful of owners whose yachts came into question for us, coordinated four meetings in Croatia on one weekend and planned the trip within 10 days. Remember, traveling was not without effort even in the summer of 2020 due to Corona, so we hoped to gain as much experience as possible for the further search with a singular trip. The first yacht we visited was directly a bitter disappointment; a 15-year-old Bavaria charter yacht, which already showed so many damages at even at first glance that the necessary repairs would probably have exceeded the costs for the purchase.
Quite differently already the second yacht: Harbor Sibenik, salesman the Austrian premium charterer Luga Yachting 2000. Between all the brightly polished giant catamarans the Amadie seemed almost somewhat inconspicuous and small, although it did not have to hide itself with its navy-blue coloring and 43 feet length behind the cruising yachts of other world sailors. We liked the boat so much right away that we spent the next 24 hours disassembling the ship in every way we could think of, looking into every hatch and behind every hose to make sure we didn’t miss any major damage. But except for the expected signs of use on a 12 year old charter boat, we only noticed a few minor things that we were able to negotiate with the seller. We also agreed on the price, which was very fair from our point of view, after two rounds of negotiations and were able to conclude the purchase agreement already in October 2020. The remaining yacht viewing appointments on this trip we kept short or canceled them altogether. That we would find so quickly a suitable boat, we would never have hoped in advance!
The following months were characterized by numerous organizational video conferences due to Corona and Jan’s work in Mali, in which we extensively discussed all technical and administrative to-dos. Furthermore, from February 2021 our crew was completed by our fourth member Tilman. We could not do without a second inspection of the yacht, so Hendrik and Philipp traveled to Sibenik again in March 2021 to measure the yacht in detail for the installation of our electrical system. In the course of this, Philipp managed to combine the useful with the practical and the most effective by not only registering the planning and simulation of our solar and wind energy system as his bachelor thesis, but also by finding a generous sponsor in the company Solara, which provided us with corresponding solar panels for every free square centimeter of our deck in exchange for the corresponding energy production data.
Finally, on May 24, the time had come. Tilman and Jan had quit their jobs, Hendrik and Philipp had finished their bachelor. Almost two tons of material and equipment had been ordered and partly delivered to Sibenik, partly loaded into the cars of our helpful drivers to Croatia. At this point another big thank you to Eduard, Gabi and Erik is due! <3
Arriving after a 15-hour drive, we took little time to relax and immediately set to work with boxes of tools and a seemingly endless to-do list. A fantastic support were the employees of Yachting 2000, especially our contact Leo, who helped us with all questions and problems with local knowledge and yachting expertise. For 10 days we screwed, sawed, glued and wired the Amadie, the working days sometimes lasting until 10 p.m. only loosened up by the culinary delicacies of the self-proclaimed ship’s cook Jan and here and there an occasional movie or after-work beer. While Tilman mutated into a tireless ship’s carpenter, Philipp disappeared into boxes for days on end to re-lay the entire electrical system, Hendrik focused on the construction of our solar panel support, Jan became a first-rate dinghy tinkerer. In the end, we knew every hardware store, garage workshop, yacht specialist in Sibenik.
A (non-exhaustive) list of our work to get the Amadie seaworthy includes: Building the solar equipment rack at the stern, installing and connecting 8 solar panels, building and wiring a wind generator, repairing the torn dinghy, hoisting the new extra tear-resistant sails, building a mount for our new 8 hp dinghy motor, installing a dozen additional shelves, installing new batteries and sensor systems for the electronics and last but not least a home cinema system.
But see for yourself in our video:
On 02 June the time had finally come and we weighed anchor for departure into an uncertain but certainly fantastic and very very blue adventure!