Atlantik English, English
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Time to return to the Azores

Sunset at Iles les Saintes.

I’ve been in the Caribbean with Blue Alligator for a little over two months now and it’s time to head back to the Azores. I’ve actually already set off once, a week ago we, my Indonesian-German companion Davy and I, untied the lines in Guadeloupe and sailed north-west. However, the increasingly loud clicking and cracking in the steering column left me no peace. After two days, we turned round and travelled around 100 nautical miles back to Antigua.

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Sceptical customs officers

Antigua of all places! The island north of Guadeloupe is beautiful, but also outrageously expensive. And the customs formalities are extremely tedious. What’s more, this time I had to explain to the sceptical customs officer why we needed three days for the short journey from Guadeloupe to Jolly Harbour on the west side of the island. We had to provide a written explanation with a date and signature.

Blue Alligator at the custom's dock in Jolly Harbour, Antigua.

Blue Alligator at the custom’s dock in Jolly Harbour, Antigua.

In the end, we were allowed to moor in the marina and I went in search of a mechanic. I found Dave Boodhoo, who turned up the same day and promised to look into the matter. As it turned out, the ball bearings were completely rusted.

Rusty bearings on the steering pedestal.

Rusty bearings on the steering pedestal.

„Do you want to sell the boat?“ Dave asked me when we talked about solving the problem.

„Of course not,“ I answered spontaneously. Then he would suggest a long-term solution, he said, which would of course be a bit more expensive. Of course it would! And in line with local prices. What wouldn’t you do for a boat that had already been badly damaged by insidious buoys on the Iles des Saints and an American catamaran in the Bas du Fort marina?

Was the Caribbean worth it?

At times like this, I ask myself whether the adventure was worth it. The question can neither be answered in the affirmative nor in the negative. The crossing from Mindelo to Martinique was a great experience, a lesson in dealing with time and unexpected incidents. Once again, I learnt a lot about how to handle the boat, how to trim it and keep it stable.

And of course the Caribbean has something to offer: Water temperatures like in a bathtub, breathtaking sunsets in equally breathtaking anchor bays with colourful fish in more or less intact coral reefs. During a dive in the reef south of Antigua, I encountered the biggest turtle I have ever seen, saw sharks for the first time without panicking, and lobsters so big that they couldn’t possibly fit in a pot on board (well, I would have left them alone anyway).

A big green turtle on a reef in the south of Antigua.

A big green turtle on a reef in the south of Antigua.

Of course, I also met many other sailors. I might meet some of them again in the Azores. Most of them I will probably never see again. But that’s part of this life.

I could certainly have seen more. But I’m more the type of person who likes to stay in one place for longer than constantly running here and there. That’s why we spent several days on the Iles des Saint (at the treacherous buoy, which we finally outwitted with the storm jib set on the backstay) and in Petite Anse on the west coast of Guadeloupe, which can only accommodate four yachts. The snorkelling there was the best and a bakery with croissants was not far away.

On Antigua, I visited Nelsons’s Dockyard. The former Royal Navy supply station is now a mixture of luxury resort, exclusive marina and museum. The latter is pretty, if not huge. I would hardly have got a place in the marina for Blue Alligator. Simply because, at ten metres long, we are far too small to be able to moor there.

Megayacht at Nelson's Dockyard.

Megayacht at Nelson’s Dockyard.

Empty tills

Guadeloupe! I found the island with its waterfalls and tropical rainforest breathtaking – which can sometimes be taken literally. But would I want to live there? A family with three children, who had come across the Atlantic in their steel boat and were moored next to us in the marina, are determined to do so. Nathan wants to find work as a welder and Julie, his wife, offers her services as a tattooist. The children should go to school in Pointe-á-Pitre, the capital of Goudeloup. But the parents are reluctant.

The town does indeed make a somewhat run-down impression and the social situation is unlikely to be completely relaxed. But home schooling seems to be banned in France now and there’s not enough money to hide away on another island for a long time.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the family that it works out. I’ve never had a neighbouring ship where there was so much laughter as on this one. I admire the serenity and courage of these people to more or less let themselves fall into life.

My co-sailor is just as confident. Her travelling fund is now empty. At least she has organised work in Scotland. So it’s time for her to set off too.

I’m looking forward to the Azores. But I have respect for the crossing. We have over 2000 nautical miles ahead of us and planning the journey is much more difficult than crossing from east to west. I had the rig checked again while still in Guadeloupe. But even a rigger doesn’t have an X-ray and can’t see inside terminals.

A German yacht that had set off much earlier experienced quite a horror trip with a failure of the wind indicator, the autopilot and a torn genoa. I hope we’ll be spared that. I’ll know it in three weeks‘ time – if the steering returns.

Kategorie: Atlantik English, English


Ich bin 1964 in Zürich geboren und habe die meiste Zeit meines Lebens als Journalist gearbeitet. Seit Sommer 2020 bin ich auf meiner Yacht Blue Alligator auf dem Atlantik unterwegs.

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