Leaks, breakdowns and hoisted sails

Set sail, sail into the great outdoors, and in the evening watch the sunset with a gin and tonic in hand while grilling the fish we caught ourselves over the fire. This is how I had imagined our sailing sabbatical, at least almost. However, the first three weeks on the boat had other things in store for us.

The heat – up to 46 degrees Celsius below deck – paralyzed me. Often I had the feeling that I could no longer think clearly, while Mabul always presented us new problems: a leaky water tank, leaks in the engine compartment, a non-functioning dinghy davit… Once one problem was solved, three new ones popped up.

Welding on board: Our leaking water tank kept us busy for a whole week.

We have two 300 liter tanks for our fresh water. One of them leaked… Even though the leak must be old and certainly existed before we bought it, we knew nothing about it when we bought it. The previous owner said nothing and since the 30+ year old stainless steel tank was empty at sea trial, Alex couldn’t see the leak either. The tank was also under a tightly bolted board, under the bed of the master cabin. When Alex discovered the leak after the purchase, the easiest thing to do would have been to take the tank off the boat to shore and have it welded in a shop. However, that didn’t work: when the boat was built, the tank was put in first and then the deck was put on top of it. It is simply too big to carry out of the cabin and out of the boat. We had to look for other solutions….you can hear what they looked like in our second BoatCast episode.

Evening get together on our boat. Becoming a cruiser means becoming part of a community.

A boat is a project, a task for tinkerers, techies, engineers, people like Alex. At the moment, I still see myself in a kind of assistant role as far as our boat projects are concerned. With the move to the boat, our relationship dynamics have changed accordingly. The last few years I’ve been working, I’ve been in Asia for a while, and I know my way around better. Now all of a sudden Alex is in the lead, he’s been living on the boat for a while and has studied boat mechanics in depth, plus he’s an engineer. “The boating world is a man’s world,” I hear again and again when meeting other cruisers, and a look at our neighboring boats or the shipyard only confirms that. There are plenty of men living alone on a sailboat, but almost no women tackling this adventure alone. And as I quickly realized: The division of roles is classic in the majority of cruiser couples we have met so far: He is the skipper and responsible for the repairs on the boat and the sailing, she organizes the life around. With us, it doesn’t look any different at the moment: While Alex replaces broken hoses and rusty screws, I bake bread, or rather let James, our baking machine work, organize get togethers and shore excursions. While Alex can spend whole days on the boat and keep busy with the boat projects, an uncomfortable claustrophobia sets in for me after a few days if I don’t set foot on land or see other people. Life on the water, the constant rolling, the confined space is definitely one of the biggest life changes I’ve had in recent years, I have yet to find the rhythm for this life.

The oldest rum distillery in Grenada has been distilling rum for 240 years – the methods have not changed in all these years.

Speaking of shore excursions. Together with some of our boat neighbors, we made our first big island visit this week. While we’d mostly visited the sail stores, hardware stores and shopping centers so far, tour guide Cutty took us around the island for a day, showing us nutmeg, cinnamon, mango and avocado trees, taking us through the oldest rum distillery, which has been powered by a water wheel for 240 years, and to a chocolate factory where local cocoa is made into dark chocolate. We also stood on the cliff now known as Carib’s Leap, from which the island’s last indigenous Caribs jumped to their deaths from their French pursuers. Behind every sun-drenched Caribbean island lies a bloody, colonial past. Grenada, for example, changed hands several times between the French and British colonialists. In the 18th century, the British shipped large numbers of slaves from Africa to Grenada. Here they were forced to work in the sugar cane plantations.

Grenada is known for its nutmegs. When the shell bursts open, they are ripe for harvesting.

Every few hundred meters Cutty would stop the car to break another leaf, fruit or piece of bark from a tree and explain to us for what medicinal or culinary purpose it was used. No wonder this island, with its clear volcanic lakes, its rainforest that presents itself in all imaginable shades of green, and its beaches, hilltops and gardens is also called Spice Island. After days on the boat, this shore excursion was a welcome opportunity to do what sailing is supposed to be for us: A way to discover other worlds. In our third BoatCast we deal with exactly that: with the island of Grenada, its colonial past, its present inhabitants and its rich vegetation.

Our first day of sailing – Mabul is calm and stable in the water.

Sailing, too, we set out to explore these strange worlds. For the first time we set sail on a morning. Cautiously and a bit shyly we sailed through the channel out of the bay to test with little wind how Mabul feels under sail. We hoisted the mainsail and genua and sailed east along the wind of the south coast. What a difference from the charter boat we had sailed for a month in Greece in July! While the charter boat was heeling in the water even with little wind, Mabul glided calmly through the waves. No clanking, no flapping, hardly any heeling. A really stable blue water boat! It was a quiet, meditative moment, watching us slowly glide past the green island, silently feeling the wind and the waves… However, the meditation didn’t last long. When we wanted to drop the hook in a bay for lunch, the windless failed….

Sailing Mabul is awesome!

After our first sailing trip and after Alex had mended the windless, we were soon drawn back out to sea. This time we didn’t sail alone, but Jay came with his boat, David and Kendra, a young American couple who had sailed down the US East Coast in the past months, in theirs and also Horst and Amy with their dog Zoey were there with their catamaran. This time we turned west and sailed to Grande Anse Bay. From two boats it is a regatta, they say, and so it was. Mabul did not show her racing side, the experienced skipper Jay sailed away from all of us, while we glided in a few meters distance next to David and Kendra through the water.

Artist Jason de Caries Taylor has created an underwater park with sculptures in a Grenada bay.

We spent one day at the beach and the next continued to Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park. Here, at a depth of five to eight meters and an area of 800 square meters, the artist Jason de Caires Taylor created an underwater park in 2006. He has created concrete artworks and figures that can now be dived down to: a mermaid, a man sitting at a table typing on a typewriter, and children standing in a circle holding hands and looking into the wide blue of the sea. The artist writes that these children are a symbol of unity and resilience, and with their overgrowth of coral and shells, an example of how we are shaped by what we ingest and the environment in which we live. For Grenadians, these stone children, some of whom look like they have shackles on, are also a reminder of the slave trade of the past. Grenada became independent in 1974, and today more than 80 percent of the population are direct descendants of the slaves the British shipped to Grenada from Africa in the 18th century….

Cutty, our guide, is also descended from African slaves. Exactly where his distant relatives come from, he doesn’t know. He said that much more important than knowing one’s own past is to prepare a cocoa tea from fresh, local cocoa balls in the morning and eat salted fish with it. I wonder if perhaps we Europeans dig too much into our past and forget to enjoy the present in the meantime. In any case, I bought a pack of cocoa balls on our island tour and boiled one ball in the evening in hot water with some ginger, cinnamon and sugar. It tasted exquisite!

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