Experiences after 7 months on board
Today I am sitting in the marina of Bas-du-Fort in Pointe à Pitre – alone for once – and I realise that it has been 10 months since we left Luxembourg. We have been living aboard Rivercafe for 7 months now. First in Europe, now in the Caribbean. As time goes by.
The Rivercafe has completed her first 10,000 nautical miles, almost half a circumnavigation – and that’s before her first birthday. She’s seen her fair share of weather and sea, but she looks better than on the first day.
Ka flew to Europe for a short visit. With PCR test, antigen test and the first vaccination – traveling in times of the pandemic. The longing for the children then became too great, as their planned visits with us were cancelled. I stayed in Guadeloupe to “supervise” our last more extensive works but in reality to get a bit of coaching from the craftsmen.
The C19 rules have been tightened here since Easter because the numbers have increased slightly. Since the weekend, there is a curfew from 7 pm. This means that the restaurants have to close at 7 p.m. as well, which means I have to cook. Always. But that’s not so bad, the shops are open.The numbers here are not even a tenth relative to Germany, but the reactions are consistent.
So it’s a good opportunity to recap our entry into hippie life. The good and not so good things.
The start of our journey could hardly have been rougher. No visit to the shipyard, no handover, no training. Lots of improvisation and countless compromises. A lot of things didn’t feel good at all and not at all as planned for two years. But in the end everything went well, somehow. Because we arrived in the Caribbean in one piece, at least physically.
It’s hard to believe, but we haven’t really completely arrived in the new lifestyle yet. On the last trip, we were in sailing flow as we crossed the Atlantic. We had our daily routine on board. This time we were out of sailed since 4 years. We were already a bit alienated and didn’t have the sailing routines as it should have been. That was pretty frustrating at first. And then there was a pandemic on top.
At least we’re out of our comfort zone and hopefully we’ll soon be gliding into the Caribbean Flow. Every now and then we have days like that. And the sailing feeling is getting better and better.
I guess if I’d spent the year in the C19 dungeon in Luxembourg, there’d be a white cat on my lap and I’d be plotting world domination. Good riddance.
Let’s hope it’s just an off-season and after the hurricane season things get easier again
Sailing without a schedule
As with you I’m sure, the half-life of plans is reduced to “unplannable ridiculous”. Somewhere along the way we finally realized that we don’t have a schedule and that makes our lives less stressful. Something completely new for us goal freaks – just let it come. Feels weird, still. We are in the learning process and there is still hope.
The French West Indies (FWI) are great, but we’re looking forward to more internationality. With the exception of two (very likable) German boats, we have what feels like 100% French sailors, almost all Bretons. Must be quite empty in french Brittany. This year we have yet to meet an English-speaking ship.
Very good choices. Catamarans are great (yes, I said it). No mono offers so much comfort. And the sailing fun is also ok – you can’t have everything. And we are very happy with our choice for the Leopard45. The design is made for us and the size is perfect. We had no doubts in buying and have not yet seen a catamaran that we like better.
We feel more and more comfortable on board and get along better and better. The boat now even sails where we want to go. Despite the annoying and completely unnecessary technical problems at the beginning, the decision for Leopard was a good one.
The front lounge with the door from the saloon is sensational. Having breakfast there in the morning, a sundowner in the evening or a movie on the foredeck at night – what a living space. There is no problem at all with overcoming water in heavy seas. At anchor, just open the front door and everything is fresh and airy. That’s just great.
The Rivercafe’s interior
It was a good decision to equip the ship properly: to have a chic wooden table made, to lay teak flooring, to have first-class upholstery made – simply to choose top equipment. For the extra budget, you are rewarded with a great ambience. After all, it’s our living space.
Learn to dive
Learn to kitesurf or learn to dive? That was our choice during the preparation period. Diving was the right choice and having the gear with us gives more freedom. It’s great fun and burns 600 Kcal per hour. We can dive our boat ourselves and clean the hull. And we can collect stuff that has fallen overboard. It has already saved me two diving masks and snorkels. It’s nice down there. Stephan, you were so right. 🙂
There was plenty of stuff that we would have decided differently today. But the grace of time always makes it easier to be smart. We took bad decisions, especially with the equipment. The next block is therefore more for yachties.
In the absence of technical advice – which does not exist at Leopard – we made a few wrong technical decisions. With about 350 technical systems on board, no sales staff can help with such questions, so you need technicians with knowledge of the latest equipment. Despite our experience of the first crossing. Unfortunately, this happens quickly with a complex thing like a ship, when you can’t ask a shipyard tekkie about the configuration.
- The 110V shore power solution with inverter for US marinas was complete nonsense and is being thrown out again. We solve our shore power problem differently, with an extra inverter and lots of solar.
- Our gas supply (butane vs. propane) is not good, both types of gas should work. There is either only butane or only propane everywhere. On the FWI there’s only butane and that’s why we’re “out of gaz” right now because we’ve been relying on propane. We need a solution for both types of gas so that we can cook without worrying. We are currently using an electric induction plate.
- Our aircon hasn’t run for a minute yet. Questionable purchase.
- The Leopard standard winches are undersized. I noticed this when I we were test sailing, but I was stupid enough to let Leopard talk me into it. An expensive mistake.
- Our inverter is undersized, no advice from Leo there either. And they probably “forgot” to inform us that some systems only run with a generator. Leopard has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to advice.
After six months, we now know exactly what we want and are bringing the Rivercafe up to the right standard. Lesson money department.
We would like to have the normal Caribbean weather of 2016/2017 again. I already talked about the hopefully abnormal weather in the last article.
Corona and the new season.
I didn’t think that within a year nothing would get better. We will soon be fully vaccinated and then hopefully it will be easier. Sailors seem to think positively because the ARC alone has three rallies booked out since December, which probably means 300 additional ships. The main thing is to get the economy going again on the islands. The first islands are already preparing simplified entry for vaccinated people.
Hello – goodbye
There it is again, the sailor’s social life. It is very different from life on land. You meet each other and just as surely, you always have to say goodbye and follow your plans.
Sometimes you meet your guys in a bay or island away, sometimes you don’t see each other for a few years. It’s a constant welcome and farewell. And always a mixture between old friendships and new encounters – which can also become friendships. Nevertheless, the contact is often closer, the conversations are intense.
On this trip we have already made wonderful friendships and look forward to meeting the old ones again. But we are also always as happy as punch when our friends from our “old life” get in touch. And hopefully they will be able to visit us soon – at the then perfect Rivercafe :-). / Holger Binz