After a couple of days in Bermuda taking on some new veggies and doing some maintenance on the engine we are now off and leaving Bermuda heading for the Azores. A bit boring stop here since we were not allowed ashore but nice with some fresh food.
Weather outlook looks good right now let’s hope it will be true out there on the big blue as well. See you in 2 to 3 weeks hopefully.
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So after our slight mishap with our steering we anchored up just outside of Key West. Since we do not have any visas for the USA we were a bit worried how this would work out. Also the Keys were closed to all non residents until the 1st of June. So we were not really allowed to be there. We called CBP who was gonna check us in and they told us to check in online and then visit the office in town. So we were lucky enough to find internet in the anchorage and tried to check in online and then headed in to town. But since the city were closed we were not really allowed to even use the dinghy dock for more then one hour for essential needs. But with some stretching that was not a problem.
We walked to the CBP office in town and a sign on the door said that it was closed and moved to the airport during the Corona pandemic. So after another call there and explaining what happened to us they said OK we understand no problem. Come to the airport and we will process you and charge you 585 dollar per person in a temporary visa fee. Ouch that was not fun to hear. So not feeling very happy we took a taxi to the airport and had to call them again and explain before the let us through the door. Once in the actual office we had to explain everything another 2 times. But when everyone working there understood that we had an emergency they were really nice to us making jokes and tending to our every need. It did take some time processing the paperwork so I sent an email to the guys at Ocean cruising club helping us with contacts before we arrived and immediately got an answer that he knew a guy who might be able to help and he had contacted him.
So after an hour in the office the 4 officers arrived with our paperwork and passports with a 6 months temporary visa. And with the very great new that the supervisor had waived the fee for us. You could imagine 3 very happy guys walking out of that office. So happy we forgot to ask if we should not have a cruising permit for the vessel as well. But nobody asked us about any papers so we were happy anyways.
Very relieved we decided to walk back to the boat with our newly found freedom. We had not been permitted to be out walking for a very long time now accept for getting food in Mexico. So this was a pure luxury. We could even go to a bar and have a beer on the way back so we had a couple and finally came back to the boat a bit exhausted after sailing and then messing around the whole day. We then realized our two neighboring friends had moved to another location. We stayed put though since we could reach the WIFI from were we where. So now we only needed to repair the boat and then we would be off in a couple of days or so….
The next day we started to look online what different options we had. Since we needed a steering cylinder and our old one was a European and old we could not find any direct replacement. We got recommended a guy called mark and I talked to his office and sent all the details and they were gonna come back with a quote as soon as possible. But after calling them after a day or so as soon as possible has still not occurred almost a month later. We gave him up after a couple of days and started looking at other options. West marine did not have anything in stock and could not order anything due to the corona crisis, because of course that matters. So after a lot of googling we found what we needed online and just needed to send for it instead. But by now it was memorial day weekend and nothing happened in the USA for 3 days.
For us this was a bit of a break as well. We could just wait so we took the opportunity to have some fun as well. We contacted a guy in town who happens to have the same boat as we have, it is not a common boat, for sale and asked if we could come and see it. He was very nice and said yes of course and he would love to see ours as well. So we spent the afternoon looking at each others boats and he brought his wife as well. They were the nicest couple ever and invited us to dinner with their neighbors during memorial day weekend. So this made it a really fun weekend for us even though just waiting for parts. At the dinner we also met their neighbor, Amy, who also were super nice. They also borrowed us bikes, let us use their washing machine and send stuff to their address if we needed to order anything. They also recommended another store in town who might have our cylinder. We also spent a few times with our friends From Isla mujeres with a potluck on Chibidarra and dinner out in town. They are all super nice the crews of Northern Sky, Minaki and Melakai.
So things started to look promising and we could ride around town on our borrowed bikes. When the weekend was over we went to the recommended store and they were much better and actually knew what they were talking about. They had the size bigger and smaller then we needed but after a while he could get the correct one by the next morning. To bad we did no start off here the first day, as Hanna might have suggested and I said ”it does not look open, we can maybe go there later”. Shame on me.
So we got the cylinder the next day and now we just needed to get the connections worked out. Not the easiest going from European the American. But after some silver soldering we made a couple of our own connections and the worked flawlessly. We also decided to change the hydraulic hoses that were old and I had bought new ones in Sweden and changed half of them already, so should be a quick fix. Who said something of a quick fix, stupid stupid. Of the hoses going to the outer helm of course had special connections on them so we could not use the new hoses straight away. Well we need to change them now anyway. The good thing the old connectors are reusable so we just needed some hose of the correct size and then we were good to go. Biking around to all places in town gave nothing. So we found a hose online that was the exact measurements and overnighted it to our newly found friend Amy.Since our friends had left for an RV trip by now. Now the problem was that it was weekend again and it arrived on Monday.
But as nice as people are to us here Amy invited us to a small pool party, hang around when we picked up our stuff. Very nice with good company and good food. We started to feel a bit spoiled here. The next day we just needed to fit everything together and then we could continue in the next weather window. But of course the hose we ordered was not the size it was posted online so our connectors did not work. So we had to decide what to do next. Order more parts online or make due with what we had. So the solution was to borrow two connectors for the indoor steering and disconnecting it, we have never really used it anyway and we can easily put it back in working condition when we get back to Sweden. With the borrowed connectors and some remodeling of the steering pedestal we could now use our new hoses from Sweden and everything was soon back together again. We tested and finished it the next day and nothing leaked and it seemed to work perfect.
So now we just needed to resupply some food buy some diesel and then we were off on Friday when there was an OK weather window to point for Bermuda.
So we are finally officially stuck in Mexico since all the borders of the countries we intended to travel to has closed. We wanted to leave for Cuba and Bahamas on Tuesday the 24th of March but are now stuck here for a while till we know how the worlds is gonna react further on.
Mexico and Isla Mujeres is a pretty good place to be stuck. It is fairly cheap with food and after you are checked in we can stay for a long time for free at least. The only problem is that if you stay more then 10 days in mexico you will have to temporarily import your boat in to Mexico which sounds okay but can be quite a mess. The check in process here is the worst so far in any country but it was mostly waiting for people and standing in line so not to bad. When we started out with the T.I.P. it got worse. You have to travel in to Cancun on the ferry to visit a office there and they want all sorts of different papers on the boat. So far so good we thought. We made copies of everything we knew about and happily presented them to to girl at the desk. We even brought Michelle from Pili Aloha to help with the translation since she speaks Spanish. So we did not have all that we needed from our check in with the port captain. Somehow the forgot to give us some papers. And she was not to happy about our boat registration either. So we got instructed that if we go make another copy and write a letter and sign it that this were in fact our registration on the boat she could accept it.
So we were of to a nearby hotel where we made our first copies an hour earlier but this time we needed a computer as well to write the letter. But the manager was really helpful and let us use an extra computer they had in a storage room. So far so good. Another Swedish boat were also in Cancun this day trying to Finish their TIP and they also got a complaint on their registration even though he had the original one from the government. But he had to get another one where the engine number was on as well. It worked out fine for him and he got his tip and could enjoy himself in Cancun for the day. This was however a bit unlucky for us. Because the lady behind the desk now had seen how a Swedish registration could look like she forced us to get the same paper and come back another day. She also showed us which papers we were missing from our check in. So we just had to get back to Isla Mujeres and try another day. But at least we got some epoxy from the Chandlery. Lucky us, we thought.
So back on Isla Mujeres we went to the port captain and said that we never got all the papers in the check in but of course that was not to popular but after some nice arguing, or maybe more like pleeing, we got 2 copies that we did not have but we were still missing stuff. We then went home and ordered another registration from the Swedish cruising association and payed some more fees to them as well. We then booked a new appointment for the next week in Cancun. When the new week arrived after some well earned rest after quite a wet Friday Isla Iujeres and Mexico started to catch up with the rest of the world on Corona restrictions. I got a fever on monday quite bad for maybe 24 hours and then pretty much okay. So for respect of everyone we decided to self isolate so i called and changed my appointment with the tip and we started hanging out on the boat with only ourselves and some boat work as company. When we were feeling better Isla Mujeres were in full lock down and it got harder and harder to get in to Cancun as well so we newer made a new appointment and never got the tip. Hopefully they will let it slide when we check out.
So now we were in full on lockdown on Isla Mujeres, actually the lockdown was harder on Isla Mujeres since the municipality tried to implement tougher rules earlier on then the rest of Mexico. So we settled in for at least a month of Corona lockdown. Pretty much the only thing we are allowed to do is go shopping in town. Not even at the good supermarket and only one person from each boat at a time. So we spent the days chilling out doing some boatwork, trying to make more and more strange food stuff. For example we now make sourdough bread, made our own schiracha sauce, fermented a lot of veggies and even built a drying box for curating our own meat.
Even though now we are technically not allowed to meet with other cruisers of course we had some smaller get together´s with some other cruisers. We had a few really nice dinners and cigar smoking nights with Maik from Seefalke a very nice German guy. And we have had several nice game nights with Pili Aloha who also have helped us a lot with everything you could think of. From receiving packages to translating into spanish.
We have not been the most effective when it comes to boatwork but we got some stuff done. Anders and me tried to finish our Kiteboard but the epoxy we got in Cancun did not cure properly. It took over a week for it to be hard enough so that project got put on hold for the time being.
After being stuck on the island for over a month Boats started to get fairly dry since there still is no alcohol sales on the island. Shaula a Italian boat in the anchorage were leaving soon and they managed to source 3 cases of beer from Cancun when they where provisioning for their departure. But on their way back to the boat the unimaginable happened. Their Dinghy de-laminated and the beers went down to the bottom of the sea. They where more concentrated on saving the outboard and themselves than the beer, strange people. They were leaving soon and was unable to retrieve the sunken treasure. Long story short after several attempts by a lot of different boats Chibidarra and Maik on Seefalke made a late attempt and lucky as we were we successfully managed to retrieve to whole treasure. But in some strange way only 31 of the 72 to beers made to the next day. Strange how those things work out. You can read the whole story on Maik’s website, https://sailingistruth.com/2020/04/27/island-of-tears-and-treasure/
So we were once again back in Roatan after a nice couple of weeks hanging out in Guanaja. We came back with the plan to just visit our friends in french harbor for a couple of days and stocking up on food before continuing on towards Utila, the last of the Bay Islands. So we arrived on Thursday and met up with everyone at the palapa bar for a couple of days and then waited for some nice weather to go sailing. But with no good weather window for quite some time we got stuck in Roatan for more then a week extra instead. But it is nice here and we spent the days building our new kitesurfing board. It is finally starting to look like a proper board now and we are just missing some epoxy to be able to finish it. But we have to wait until Mexico for that. W managed to do some boatwork and also celebrated Steve’s, from the vessel Pili Aloha, birthday. And Hanna got to cuddle with a monkey as well.
So during our time in Roatan we were still unaffected and pretty much unaware of the Corona crisis spreading in the world. As time was flying we decided to sail straight to Mexico and skip Utila since we were running out of time and were supposed to pick up a crew member in Cuba later on.
We found a nice weather window and booked a taxi to go check out on Saturday morning so we could leave on Sunday or early Monday morning. But things did not really work out as planned. A bit hangover we got to the taxi and Felix drove us to the immigration office. The immigration officer looked a bit confused and starting to make phone calls. We waited for a while not understanding what the problem was since we do not speak that much Spanish. But after he hangs up the phone he just states ”you cant leave, nobody is allowed to leave the island because of the weather”. So we tried a little bit but it was not his decision, he called the port captain and he decides those things. Damn not a good day today. But at least we can go shopping so we told Felix the cabdriver to go to Ace hardware instead. Not really understanding why we where not going to the Port Captain as we should, Felix does not speak English. So arriving at the hardware store our luck continues, closed on saturdays, damn it. But at least the supermarket was open and we could buy some food. Not the most fun day we had in a while.
So back in the anchorage we had 2 options wait until Monday and check out then and hope the weather window is long enough, or sail over to utila and check out there early Monday morning and be off. We did not want to pay more taxi rides in Roatan so we decided to sail to Utila on Sunday and just check out an leave from there, and that is a story for another time.
We arrived in Roatan after about 4 days sailing from Cayman. Parts of it where uite rough with a lot of wind but we did good speed. We managed to arrive before noon at French Harbour or Fantasy island. Fantasy island is a resort on a private island but they also have a small marina which they do not care about too much anymore. But they have a fantastic couple working as dock masters and they help the cruisers with everything even if you are out on anchor. So they called their go to taxi guy and he took us to the main town to check in at 2 places and we stopped at the grocery store on the way back for just 25 dollars so it was nice even if do not usually take taxis.
Honduras is a lot different from Cayman where we come from. We arrived in Roatan which is one of the Bay Islands about 30 Nm off the coast of the mainland. The Bay Islands were English colonies before they gave up all colonies. This means there are a bit more English speaking people here then in Honduras in general. Good for us since Hanna is the only one going hard on the Spanish course and this is a good Spanish start for us. The mainland is supposed to be a bit unsafe with some drug cartels fighting among each other but The Bay islands is a lot calmer and Roatan has a lot of tourism as well. But So far this place been nice and welcoming.
We spent about a week here. Chilling and did some snorkeling and diving and just enjoying a nice place. There is some other boats here and there is a get together at the bar pretty much every evening with a nice barbecue potluck on Saturdays. We enyoyed the company for a change since we do not meet that many other cruisers in these parts of the Carribean.
We also started a new project. Anders had found someone building a foiling kite board online so of course we have to give a try as well. So far we are missing some stuff to complete it but the foil and mast is almost done and now we need to build the actual board as well. We went around pretty much a whole day looking for supplies but it is really hard getting stuff here in Roatan. We liked it here and will probably come back before we leave Honduras. On Sunday morning we headed of to Guanaja the eastern most and least populated of the Bay Islands.
Now it was time to move up to the northern part of the island. Arriving there you see mile after mile of beach and high-rise hotels. This was a bit touristier then we are used too. There are literally people everywhere. The beaches were full of sunbathers in beach chairs and kids playing in the water. But we anchored of the beach in front of the hotels. During the daytime you are more or less surrounded by tour boat doing all kind of things. There were boats parasailing, jet-skis, sailboats, windsurfers, kite-surfers. But this place was full of life at least.
We were going to stay here for almost a week since Hanna was doing a Kite surfing Course here. In the meantime Anders and me Were kiting a bit as well. But this was a tough place to kitesurf the winds were quite gusty and a lot of people around. So we had problems getting upwind. But we got some riding at least and Hanna did enormous progress on her 4 day course. So now we are awaiting the next place we can kite again.
After finishing up all the kiting we did a hike on the northern part of the island. It is a nice place when you get away from the hotels there was a lot of nice wilderness and paths to walk. We then headed back to the airport anchorage to leave Jenny of to fly home, but first after having a good bye wine and pizza night on the beach until the mosquitos scared us away.
After Jenny flew home we prepped the boat and stocked up for the crossing to Jamaica and then we were off for a whole new country and our first longer crossing in quite a while.
Now it was time for a visit from Anders sister so we spent the day cleaning the boat a bit and Anders then walked to meet her at the airport. She was going to spend 2 weeks with us here in Aruba. We spent the first few days in the same anchorage doing some snorkeling, checking out the town and just chilling.
Anders sister also brought us parts that I thought we needed for the generator that has not been working since Grenada. After a completely disassembly of the generator I found a non-functioning diode in the rotor. They were hard getting by so I could only order them on the internet to Sweden. After changing the diodes there was no difference. So after another check on the old ones it turns out they were fine I had just used my faulty multi-meter. So back to the beginning and now I found 2 broken wires on the windings in the stator. So after some soldering and not a very nice looking repair it was finally up and running again. Too bad I did not do a proper diagnose the first time though.
One day we decided to hike a bit on the southern part of the island so we took a local bus and started walking. We were walking on the road for a while and then more or less in the non-existing bush finding an old mine shaft on the way but we were unable to check it out. By noon we arrived at Baby Beach one of Arubas most famous beaches and after some swimming we decided for a beer at the Flintstones restaurant. Sitting there waiting to order we got approached by a girl asking if we wanted to see some caves. We looked a bit confused and were a bit skeptical having read about the caves here but turned the idea down because of them being really touristy with entrance fees and so on. But she talked some more saying they were 3 girls wanted to go but had turned around because they were afraid alone and the just wanted us as company. So we squeezed in all 7 of us in there small car and drove away. About 5 minutes later we stopped in the back yard of local neighborhood. We were of course a bit confused. This can’t be a entrance to the caves. But we walked through some fence and started seeing some caves underneath us. And after climbing down an old three we came to a big cave entrance and started walking in to the cave. And it was huge, easily the biggest cave I have ever been to. It just continued on and on forever. i think it was about a kilometer long and really hot. The cave were apparently only known by some locals and the local girl driving us had heard about it from her husband working nearby. So we felt really lucky.
After finishing the first cave they asked if we wanted to do another cave and we said yes but we drove back down to the beach again. So we were once again a bit confused but the next cave was an old mine shaft a few meters underground and we climbed down through an old pump house with the ladder rusting away as we climbed it felt like. I was just thinking what our German safety engineer Daniel would say about this one. So we came down to a long tunnel with crystal clear water. We walked in it for maybe 15 minutes before we got bored and tired and turned around. They did not know how long the tunnel was either. So after finishing the cave our guides even drove us back to the boat. It was an amazing day and we thank them so much for taking us.
Then we moved south to another anchorage that was really nice and it were supposed to be next to a sunken airplane and another wreck. We spent a few days there hanging out, snorkeling and I did some work on the boat while the others were at the beach. We did not find the airplane since the water was a bit murky where it was supposed to be. But we did find the other wreck. A small tugboat where Hanna and I got to try some freediving with a buoy when we met some free divers looking for the wreck as well. It was fun and they had a few tips and tricks for us. This was a really nice place and we were the only cruising boat around.
Before going to Aruba we had heard very little and mostly bad or at least not good things about it. One fellow cruising boat skipped it because he was afraid customs would confiscate his wine. A lot of comment online said it was a messy check in with a rough dock you had to use. We had almost not heard any positive. But we arrived and called port control on the radio before entering the harbor in Oranjestad just to be sent away to Baracadero a nearby port instead. So we kind of thought this started out bad as well. But after some more radio contact we docked at a nice wooden dock next to some fishing boats and I was off to check us in. We had printed some papers beforehand and the immigration check in was the easiest friendliest so far. So off to the other side of the port for customs clearance a little bit nervous that they would search the boat completely and find stuff to complain about. But the customs office were more or less a tea party of middle ages women. They were talking high and low about everything and processed my papers quickly and sent me off without any boat inspection or anything. We had to leave our spear gun with them though. So all expectation were completely wrong and it was the nicest easiest check in so far.
We went off to anchor close to Oranjestad and right by the airport since Anders sister were arriving in a couple of days to visit for 2 weeks. One good thing about Aruba they have cheap direct flights from Sweden. there were only 2 other cruising boats there so definitely not crowded.
We checked out the town the next day and continued walking by the water or at least by the main road. We were going to check out a bigger supermarket to do some shopping. But the first supermarket was closed for ever and the second one was one of the strangest one we ever been to. They had a huge place with a lot of shelves but almost no stuff in there. Instead of stacking canned food behind each other to get as much as possible on the shelves this was the opposite. A whole shelf of a meter was filled up with maybe 5 cans instead. The whole store was the same. Felt a little like the apocalypse was on its way here.
We bought a couple of things anyway and headed across the road to the beach were there was some big happening. It was court after court of beach tennis. So they had maybe 40 courts for a big world championship tournament. But it was an open tournament so there were people of all levels playing everywhere. We sat down for a while in the big arena watching a game of doubles of some of the world’s best players apparently. It was nice and a bit surprising finding it there. Then we headed of finding a normal big supermarket and then walked back home to the boat.
Aruba so far starting out nice even though the beer could have been a bit cheaper.
When arriving in Bonaire after pretty much exactly 5 days we thought that the Bonaire regatta was going to end the day before. But of course this was not correct. When getting closer to town we saw a lot of boats coming out for some sailing competitions. The problem with this is they only have 40 moorings that you have to take if you don’t want to get in to the expensive marina. There is no anchoring at all in Bonaire. Some people have had problem with not getting a mooring and having to leave or go in to the marina. But we were lucky despite of the regatta and got one of the 2 last moorings.
So I headed off finding the customs office and after some looking around for a while I find it only to be told that I needed the whole crew with me when checking in. So back to the boat and getting Anders and Hanna and our spear gun that we needed to leave with them as well. The check in then went very easily and we went off paying the mooring in the marina. In the marina we also found Lotte, who sailed with us up in the northern Carribean, on her boat. So we said hello and got treated with some coffee. She then gave us a ride back to the dinghy before heading off to work. We then ended up in the middle of a giant floating party in the middle of town. We sat at the bar where we had parked the dinghy and the water in front were full off boats and people floating around on floating toys drinking talking and playing a lot of loud music. It was pretty cool but we were still tired after sailing so after a couple of beers at the bar we dinghied back to the boat and rested for a bit. Later on we headed back in to town and spent the evening with all the festivities due to the regatta. We also met a couple we knew from Grenada so we hanged with them for a while.
Bonaire is famous for its diving. You can pretty much get a decent reef dive of any point of the island. We dove from the boat on its mooring and got an ok wall dive right there. They also have a lot of moorings all around the island that you ca use to dive from. So just tie up with the sailboat and dive. It was really nice and we should probably have been diving more then we did. But we got our first night dive and a nice wreck dive and some more so we were more then happy.
Otherwise we spent the days chilling doing some small shores and got driven around by Lotte showing us the island. We helped Lotte and Alejandro on their boat trying out their new mainsail and got some afternoon sailing in the bay and it worked out fine. We also had a few nights together with them when they showed us the town and the local foods.
We had 2 little bit bigger problem in Bonaire. I was gonna finish service the windass since I started without the service kit in Grenada. Anders brought a kit from europe and also a new piece that was cracked. But of course the new piece did not fit properly. It is always nice having to take to the angle grinder the first thing you do when buying new spares :). But that part worked out good and the windlass is serviced just to find out we need a new part again. This time it is the dog clutch that got bent. Probably me who did not put it back correctly in Grenada. But that one is only used for manual operation of the windlass.
Our watermaker also stopped producing water, which is never a fun thing to discover. So after some troubleshooting I manged to find that the problem was in the pump. So ripped the pump apart to see what could be wrong only to find a nice troubleshooting manual. The manual then says first, “do not remove the cir-clip in the bottom of the pump”, of course i had started with removing the cir-clip. But with the pump completely disassembled the problem was the magnetic drive to the pump that had slipped on the pump shaft. Apparently a fairly common problem. So talked to spectra about a new piece but they had stopped selling those and wanted to sell a whole pump for 760 us dollar instead. So we molded the old piece with epoxy and it now works like new again.
It was a really pleasant couple of weeks and Bonaire was a nice place with awesome diving and a relaxed atmosphere.