Visiting paradise… Archipelago de Los Roques

On Nov 24 around noon we left Curacao Marine, cleared the canal through Willemstad and made our way East – against wind, current and waves. After a few hours we started sailing, tacking our way south of Bonaire into the night – slowly moving East… very slowly. Let there be no doubt, upwind sailing is not comfortable and not very fun after a few hours. Everything becomes a struggle, even just moving around in 20-30 deg of inclination. Next morning the wind had calmed and we changed to engine for a while to charge batteries and get a break from the continuous heeling. Then, after a while, silence… motor stopped. Problem tracked down to lack of water cooling and a stripped sea water impeller. A few hours later, we could start up again. We continued making our way sailing and tacking until we reached the NW tip of the Los Roques archipelago at midnight on Nov 25 and decided to motor the last 10 miles or so. At 2 o´clock we dropped the anchor at Gran Roque and went to bed.

Los Roques is an archipelago about 70nm north of the Venezuelan coast. It is a National Park and there are number of (small) flights from Caracas arriving daily. We spent five days and the first one was dedicated to checking in and getting familiar with the little town of Gran Roque. We had learned before leaving that Los Roques was now completely dollar-based (USD as active currency), as opposed to the main land of Venezuela where the bolivar currency is struggling with the largest inflation in the world. The check-in took us the best part of the day, visiting 4-5 different locations in town. It also turned out to be a very expensive five day visit as the national park office required a total of USD 330,- for boat and crew. On the upside we did find and excellent restaurant by the beach, Aquarena, which served superb dishes including ceviche, tostones and tequenos de platano – all for an acceptable price.

Next day we rented two kites and wakeboards and headed off on the boat to a neighbouring sand bank (Cayo Muerto) and spent the day practicing and chasing the wind. The following day we had hired a high speed boat to take us to the more far reaching islands in the archipelago, stopping at the picturesque Dos Mosquises, before heading off to Cayo de Agua. We camped on the beach under a sun tent for a few hours, enjoying self made drinks from the cooler and walking across (wade knee high) to the neighbour island. For lunch we headed off to the last island for lunch on Carenero. A spectacular day!

The last two days were spent on repairs and maintenance and a daily excursions to the town for drinks and meals.

We all enjoyed the days in Los Roques and warmly recommend it to other adventurers. We left Los Roques at noon on Dec 1 and the next 4 days was spent at sea struggling agains wind, waves and currents – and a gradually deteriorating genoa sail. It was a long and tiring journey but on Dec 5 around noon we anchored in Gran Anse on Martinique – thoroughly exhausted and tired and with little fuel in our tanks.

Another unforgettable adventure completed!

Back to Caribbean

After six months in northern summer and autumn, we are now back on board S/Y LIBERTAD. It seems like a small eternity since we left our home here ashore in Curacao Marine in May 2018. Leaving the boat then after living on board close to a year was a bucket of mixed emotions. Thankfully the boat is in good conditions and the past four days have been dedicated to preparing the boat for new adventures. Living on board while the boat is ashore is a pain, it is an encapsulated cloud of heat and mosquitos. We are counting triple digit bites on each of us. That is why we are looking forward to return LIBERTAD to her right element. In the mean time we had a few small excursions to town.
Tomorrow we expect the first part of the crew to arrive and by Saturday we hope to leave Curacao headed for Martinique.

Keep following our adventures for the coming season in the Caribbean.

Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

The arrival to Caribbean and the West Indies took a surprising turn a few days after our arrival as the main battery bank, fridge&freezer and generator broke down. As if that was not enough a long planned visit from our close family was cancelled due to illness. It was hard to face the dismay and overwhelming mount of troubles. Unfortunately the misfortune did not stop there, but all this and more will be revealed in a different format and another time and place. With all the trouble we were faced with a few weeks after arriving, the crossing seemed like a well oiled and smooth running machinery in comparison.

On Feb 18, two weeks after arriving to the Caribbean, we finally left the main island of Guadeloupe behind us and sailed to Les Saintes where we arrived to a pretty full mooring field. We immediately started scouting for available buoys as we heard a familiar voice calling us from an approaching boat. It was Pieter, who crewed on Libertad on the Newport to Cascais crossing last year, and his wife Marie. They were also searching mooring buoys to stay over night with their guests. In the commotion we were also called on the radio “Blue coloured Norwegian flag sailing vessel, do you copy?”. Responding on the radio, we heard nothing back and did not understand who that could be. A month later, in Barbuda, we met the mysterious callers, a Swedish couple who had tried to alert us of a vacant buoy that was not easily visible from sea level. From their vantage point, the Napoleon fort over looking the harbour of Terre de Haut, they wanted to help us. In the end we found vacant buoys near “Pan de Sucre”.

After tying up we had a visit from Tom, who crewed on the recent Atlantic crossing. He had tracked us to the bay on his scooter and made his way down to the sea (through a number of fenced off properities) and swam to Libertad with his belongings on his head. After a joyful lunch we agreed to meet downtown in the evening. Les Saintes, and in particular Terre de Haut, is a delightful little island with a nice beach facing the anchorage and a number of great restaurants and shops. It has a distinct European village feel to it. Unfortunately, it is all well priced also. Hoards of tourists come by with the numerous ferries that shuttle people from Guadeloupe main island. In the evening we met up with Pieter and Maria on their boat for some drinks and headed into town by tender for a few more. In the process, one pair of glasses was lost in the annoying winds that plagued the islands during these weeks. We met up with Tom for dinner later on.

Next day was full of trouble. As we were taking in the beauty of the town, exploring the various shops and cafes, we ran into a Swedish fellow who asked us if were the owners of the blue Swan. Yes, indeed we are. “Well, you are sooo lucky!! I have just saved your boat …” With the increasing winds and waves, the mooring line had torn and the boat was headed towards Terre de Bas in the west. Another fellow from a neighbouring boat and himself had just managed to climb the boat and throw a rope round one of the last buoys in the anchorage. It was all safe now, he assured us. With that news we nervously made the long way back to the boat to check on it and learned from the other aide that the boat had bumped into theirs before heading off further. That may very well have been the end of the Caribbean tour.

In the evening we had another visit by Tom for dinner. I picked him up on the beach nearby with the tender and we had dinner inside on account of the wind.
About three hours later it was time to bring Tom back to the pickup point…. However, there was no tender. On deck was a snapped rope which did not look like it had been cut. We assumed that it must have snapped due to the stamping motion from the wind and waves. We called for help from a neighbouring charter boat and they kindly brought us around the tip of the island and half way to the neighbouring Terre de Bas island. No tender in sight. It was dark and a hopeless mission to begin with. There was also quite a bit of wind and spray. We gave up and returned to call the coast guard, who noted down every detail and led us to believe they would be looking for it in the morning. That was a hollow fantasy. Instead we contacted police, went ashore by paddle board walked into town and looked for possible helpers that could take us to the neighbouring island to look for the tender. At a dive center they were willing to take us, but suggested we talk to the tourist office. In town we waited patiently for them to open and the lady made a call to the town hall of the neighbouring island to ask if anyone had reported a lost tender. What a surprise we had when they could confirm that indeed a tender fitting our description had been washed up the beach across the bay and was now safe and sound. We were instructed to go the police to verify that this was indeed our dinghy (showing pictures etc) and then made our way back to the dive center to ask them to bring us across and help tow it back an approximate mile. By the time we got to there it was already lateish in the evening and we realised there was no way we could bring the tender safely back out to sea from the beach. The waves were too big and powerful. The kind lady police officer, Sandra, who had checked the tender in the morning when it was reported was waiting for us in the little (and only) harbour to take us to the dinghy. She also called for a truck driver who could drive the dinghy back to the harbour from where we could safely get it back into the water (a tender with engine like ours weighs above 100 kg). By dusk we were on the way back to Libertad with our tender and a few kilos of sand which had made its way into the boat. Back onboard we were exhausted, mentally and physically.

Next day we rented a scooter and toured the short distance locations that can be seen on the small island. In the evening we met up with Tom again, updated him on the story. Tom is a skilful and deciseful adventurer. He is also self-taught sailor who usually practices his passion for sailing on a windy lake in Germany. To him taking the ferry back to Guadeloupe was to ordinary, so he spent two hours of the day carving a message in English on a piece of drift wood. It read as follows: “30 yo German sailor looking for boat to Pointe-a-Pitre”. Then he left the board on the dinghy dock where all the boaters come and go and sat himself down in the pub next to it and waited. In less than half an hour he had already found a hitch sail back to the main island.

We, made our way north on the west side of the island en-route to Antigua, taking it slow and easy as we were waiting for our new fridge compressor to arrive to Antigua.

Nearing half point of Atlantic crossing

On Saturday 20th we left Santa Cruz de La Palma and headed south west after rounding the southern tip of La Palma (Fuencaliente) in accelarating winds reaching 35-40 knots. The next few days we had winds around 20 knots from NE.

The shortest path from Canarias (La Palma) across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean is about 2550nm from La Palma, but it is not always possible or very comfortable to stay on this course, so one must adapt to the wind conditions.

It takes a few days to find a daily rhythm onboard. Each day is filled with watch keeping, quite often repairs, cleaning and cooking. Food is a major inspiration and mood booster and so far it has been fantastic!

Tom and Lars are enthusiastic fishers and after a few days caught the first of several Mahi Mahi on a line. Several baits have also gone missing thanks to larger creatures that snapped the line off!

Trade wind sailing is either downwind, with a substantial amount of rolling, or tacking downwind keeping the wind on the aft beam. Either way with a few meters of waves means that rolling is unavoidable. It can be quite frustrating to continuously holding on to railings or guards inside when moving about, not to mention with a bowl of cereal in one hand. It is like being inside a washing machine at times.

Ocean crossing such as this takes a hard toll on deck equipment. The first week has been dominated by multiple repairs to both sails, the mast track and a number of other smaller. Fortunately, our spares store is well equipped and we have managed to replace or fix all the issues that have occurred.

Temperatures are slowly rising and it is no longer possible to sleep with a duvet. During the days we wear shorts.

Tomorrow we will pass the half way mark and we hope to arrive to Guadalupe on Feb 4.

Continued fair winds!

Return to La Palma…

It was about 20 years ago that Andreas last visited, La Isla Bonita – the island that boasts the largest astronomical observatory on European territory. The island itself has plenty more to offer visitors though; recent volcanic activity in the south, an impressive view of the main volcanic crater and long hikes along the rims of mountain ridges, isolated volcanic (black) sand beaches and much more in the lightly urbanised town of Santa Cruz.

We rented a 9 seater van and took off on Friday 19/1 midday to meet up with norwegian astronomer at the Nordic Optical Telescope, Anlaug Amanda Djupvik. The drive is about one hour with uncountable curves through at least three different faunas. The view from the summit (Roque de los muchachos) and from a view point along the road was unforgettable.
We then headed down to the NOT to get a tour of the now somewhat aged 2.5m Nordic telescope, erected 1988, by Andreas previous colleague, Anlaug. The crew enjoyed it thoroughly.

The next day we headed south to Fuencaliente, not unsimilar from Chiles Tierra del Fuego, although there are no active lave streams or geysers. Before walking along the rim of the San Antonio crater from 1644 we made a stop at the local bakery in Fuencaliente.

In the evening we made some additional shopping before heading off to try the local cuisine along Avenida Maritima.
Most of us had fish dishes with varying satisfaction levels. The next morning we returned the rental car to the airport, last shopping at the supermarket and gas for the grill before setting off to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Final preparations in Canarias

On Jan 2 the final members of the crew arrived to Benalmadena and SY LIBERTAD. We have continuously had plenty of tasks and jobs to perform onboard, while waiting to have the GPS repaired by a technician. A little delayed we left Benalmadena in the evening and arrived to Gibraltar the next morning to refuel. Motoring against the wind and current out the strait we decided to wait for better weather in Tarifa. Unfortunately, it is not an ideal place for yachts as there is no marina and we had to moor against a concrete wall in the harbour entrance. After the evenings festivitas (dia de los Reyes) we were allowed to moor along a more accessible part of the harbour and we could explore the town.

Next evening the forecast seemed better and we headed out anticipating a few hours of head winds. Within an hour we were facing thunderstorms and heavy rainfall and quite stronger winds than the forecast had predicted. By midnight the crew were all sea sick and vomiting. It was a long and tiring night. We also discovered that we had lost our dinghy.

Next day was still with 2-4m waves during the day and coming night, and still occasional swells with increases in wind and with showers. On day 3 conditions were getting better and so too the crew and spirit. We had good sailing conditions on day 4 and made good way as we passed the northern tip of Lanzarote. Next morning we arrived to Las Palmas for a scheduled reprogramming of the VHF (which was not possible), new baby stay and a number of other repair projects. We also had time to explore Las Palmas downtown and visited the Mercado del Puerto two times.

On Sun Jan 14 we sailed across to Tenerife to pick up a new chart plotter as the old helms position plotter had died during the Tarifa-Las Palmas leg. It is not easy to get products like this delivered within the span of a few days, but we picked up the new device today (Mon).

Preparing for a crossing in which we expect to be isolated on the boat for 14-16 days is not a small task. Especially with seven people onboard. The majority of the crew has been busy the last few days organising the food and meals, calculating needed quantities of ingredients and starting to shop ingredients. Tonight we inaugurated the bread baking machine, which we hope to enjoy freshly baked breads from during the months to come!

Preparation for an(other) Atlantic Crossing

In the past two months, as autumn has turned into winter and the temperatures have dropped quite a few notches we have been busy onboard fixing, upgrading and organising the abundance of things onboard. The boat has been 10 days on the hard getting a make over; new antifouling, polished top sides and a repainted transom. Yesterday, the boat was relaunched and is now back in its place in Almerimar marina while we are preparing to celebrate Christmas in Orgiva, Andalusia.

In October we posted on an announcement of opportunity to join us for the Atlantic crossing from Spain mainland via Canarias to the Caribbean. We had nearly 30 respondents and we interviewed about half of them over Skype in laste Oct. On Nov 2 we had made a final selection of 4 crew members to join us over the Atlantic. One of these has since got a job as crew onboard a yacht and had to cancel his participation and we have selected his replacement.

Our selection criteria was motivation and experience, but we also tried to find people who we think will “fit in” on board with the rest of us. Our impression is that we have selected a very capable crew full of good vibes and enthusiasm for the Atlantic crossing. We have intentionally equally selected among the female and male applicants – a well balanced crew.

Here is a summary of the crew:

Permanent crew:

Andreas Jaunsen: Norway (50)

Rossana Jaunsen: Venezuela (38)

Atlantic Crossing 2018 crew:

Juana Flores Vegas: Spain (42)
Juana is from Málaga and 42 years of age. She loves sailing, especially offshore. She has crossed the Atlantic four times before. She started to sail six years ago and has done two Atlantic crossings to the Caribbean and Panama, and two Atlantic crossings from the Caribbean to Gibraltar. She has also been working in a charter boat for some months in the Caribbean.

Estrella Martinez (25)
I‘m a 25 years old spanish girl. I’ve sailing since I was a kid in my home- town, Sitges. Then, I be- came a sailing instruc- tor in the same school, where I’ve been working for all the summers till then. I’ve spent 4 times my holidays in the Bale- aric Islands, so I did 8 times the crossing to the Islands from Sitges.
During the last years I have also participated in some races and trans- ports, always with friends.

Tom Wessel : Germany (30)
Tom is a 30 year old who is housebroken and currently working for a power transmitting company in Germany. He is taking care of tools/equipment/machinery and personal safety gear for each of his colleagues. He used to be a chef and after uncountable infinite days in several kitchens in Germany/Switzerland/France/Australia it struck him like a lightning and he decided to work on the other side of the window.

Inès Armandon: France (32)
Inès is 32 years old and has a dual French and Spanish nationalities. Her father was a skipper and she spent most of her childhood on boats, sailing every week, often on Swans. At the age of 18 she crewed in the Mediterranean for 3 months with a New Zealand family. One of her best experiences. She learned a lot of sailing but has since then forgotten. Last year she took a one week sail (refresh) course in the Caribbean.

Lars Bellekom (23)
I’m from the Netherlands. 23 Years old and a landscaper for the living. I sail since my 11th and the last 5 years I teach kids to sail. We only sail inn- land and we sail on 6 me- ter steel boats.
Going offshore is new for me, but I’m a hard worker and learn very quick, so shouldn’t be a problem. I love travelling and do it quiet often. Crossing a ocean and sailing long distance has always been a big dream of mine.

Racing down the Spanish coast

During our days in Marseilles the forecast predicted mistral winds for the weekend. We therefore set our plans to avoid getting caught in that weather during our crossing of the Bay of Lions, by crossing on Thursday. However, after having left Marseilles mid-day on Thu we realised we had forgotten to check the very latest forecast in the morning. It turned out the forecast now predicted the mistral to start at 20 o’clock on Thu evening.
There were no available spaces back in the harbour, due to an oncoming regatta. We could have opted to delay our crossing and stay in a marina on an island just out of Marseilles, but we decided to face the challenge and deal with the winds on our own.

The forecast was now spot on and the winds started picking up noticeably at the predicted time and gradually increased in the next 3-4 hours to gale winds (Beaufort scale 7, gusting into 8). There was a full moon so we had natural light throughout the night, but it was an intense and adrenaline fuelled night out on a close reach starboard tack with the occasional waves crashing over the aft cockpit. SY Libertad handled the weather like a charm with two reefs in the main and reefed Genoa doing 8-10 knots most of the night. In the early morning 5-6 o’clock, as we approached the coast of Spain, the winds died off to less than 10 knots within 10-15 minutes – again just as predicted by the forecast service.

We arrived to port in Palamos and spent the day sleeping and the evening having a look around the town. The next day we headed off and continued down the coast towards Barcelona and Puerto El Masnou were we had booked 4 nights to visit family (Marco) and receive visiting family (Nina and Joshua) for the last and final leg down the Spanish coast to Almerimar.

Nina, Joshua and Andreas took off on Oct 11 from El Masnou heading for Denia, a nearly 200 nm leg. Motoring most of the way with occasional motor sailing it was mostly uneventful. Arriving next day in Denia in the evening we made it to the marina in time to find a place to eat. The marina was very well organised and in a good state – and not very costly either. The next morning we headed off on yet another 200nm leg to Almerimar with little wind predicted for the day, so motoring again. Some hours after having past Cartagena during the middle of the night, the wind picked up and gradually turned to our stern. We hoisted the gennaker and the boat raced down along the last stretch of coast towards Cabo de Gata.

As we approached the Cabo the gusts were exceeding 20 knots and the skipper (A) debated whether to try to round the Cabo and get the wind on a broad reach instead or whether to take the red giant immediately. Too late! In a gust we broached from which we struggled a few minutes to get out of before starting to douse the gennaker. In those crucial minutes the flapping of the nylon was too much strain on the material and in a few seconds the wind tore a 15m long rip down the length of the red giant sail. We got the situation under control by rolling out the Genoa and then pulling the sock down over the gennaker behind it.

Recovering from the commotion and event we regretted not having been more determined in taking the gennaker down earlier. Better preparation for such situations was also among the lessons learned. Some three hours later, on Oct 14, we slid into Almerimar port and was met by Andreas´ parents. The Mediterranean cruising chapter was now complete.