The 18 year old Christoph offers me a lift on his small sailboat to Jamaica. It is a 22 feet Hurley from 1978. He already sailed it all the way to Guadeloupe from Hamburg, Germany. But at first we need to do some repair work: the hinges of the hatch are broken, someone hit its bow just recently and the rigging needs to be treated against rust, so the mast has to be brought down. It takes us a few days in the marina to finish everything.
18.03.2017 - Departure at 12:00 pm from Basse Terre, Guadeloupe. Mathieu, our boat neighbour, waves us goodbye. I vomit two times overboard and am useless for the whole day. I just lay down in my bunk and try to keep the rice cake in my belly.
In the evening the horror is announced: our first calm. It probably derives from being on the lee side of Guadeloupe. After three hours the wind is blowing again and in the night we get pushed constantly. The second day I feel so much better. I still have a dull feeling in my stomach, but at least the digestion goes only from top to bottom now. Then, in the evening we get the second calm. But this time we are far away from any island, so we can't be in its lee side anymore.
The mood aboard is not very positive.
Great, there are 700 nautical miles ahead of us and the sails are wearing out with this little wind. The next days will no get any better. I always thought: it must be so idyllic to be in the Caribbean Sea when the water is still. The whole day you can sunbathe, go for a swim and drink cold cocktails. The truth on Shalom looks like this: Two young men in underwear fight for every inch of shadow, the water temperature is more like in a hot spring, there is no refridgerator and the cabins - the only constant place for shadow - are smelly, because you sweat in as much as in a sauna.
For most people this may look like paradise, for us it meant hell.
One evening, we get the wind blowing from aft. We sit in the cockpit, praising Saint Nicholas with two cans of warm beer. In the darkness we can see two birds circling around the boat. One of them sits down on the railing. He seems to be exhausted. Now he can finally stop flapping his wings and chill out for a bit to regain some strength. He really doesn't look like a bird made for the sea. So now we are three - sailing towards the west underneath the stars. But in the morning every piece of romanticism is destroyed when Christoph finds the cockpit to be smirched with white bird shit all over. And no bird in sight.
The days without wind pass by slowly. In the beginning we cursed the twelve hours of darkness, now can't wait for the sun to go down or to be covered by clouds. But it is blazing without mercy, twelve hours a day.
Due to the heat and the incapacity to move (there are only 2 m² of shadow on board) we are stuck in a lethargic mood which only allows us to spend energy on drinking, eating, reading and listening to audio books. So imagine our excitement, when there are three big Mahi-mahi (or dolphinfish) swimming around our boat. Christoph immediately grabs the harpoon and goes into fighting position. An eternity seems to pass by until one of the fish is close enough to the boat. He shoots and hits. It is on the hook! Or to be more precise: on the DIY hook made from tin and a nail. It is thrashing around a bit and then pulls itself off the hook. The self-built construction didn't last, just as the fish won't last long with that injury. Oh boy, we killed an animal for nothing and there is no fish on our plates.
In the evening we see the peel of an onion swimming on the water that we have thrown overboard in the morning. But to be honest, we are not surprised since the waves are coming from east and pushing us backwards. So we made a nice circle.
However, one night there is wind. It is so much that we can't even go to sleep. The boat has a heavy list and on the horizon we can make out a thunderstorm. Fortunately, it doesn't reach us so we only get rain, heavy winds and a lot of sea spray. This makes it very uncomfortable to use the toilet, because we don't even have a loo. Number one and number two go just overboard. So we have to hold!
Eventually, we get carried bit by bit and with light winds towards the west. The is always a short calm interrupting our surf, but at least we are getting there. The hot wine is absorbed quickly and the mood gets better every day.
Just until one night, when Christoph wakes me up to check out his eye. It is red and swollen. And he has got no ointment or anything on board. So we have to do a manual diagnosis. I put a match onto his eyelid and pull on the lashes to see if there is any foreign object underneath. It is a delicate issue and not possible to do without pain on a rocking boat in the middle of the night. But it all looks "good". It only seems to be a small infection, but I can't see any dust or splinters. After one day of rest and wearing an eye patch, it is already looking better.
You won't believe it, but after two weeks we finally see some land! At 01:00 am we reach Port Antonio on the northeast coast of Jamaica. The next morning we are really craving for a walk on land. But, since we are still in quarantine, we have to wait for the doctor and the immigration to be able to leave the boat. On a Saturday, this may take a while on Jamaica. So we spend the time on the pontoon. The local rasta man "Clive" brings us bananas and mangos and in the evening we can finally go ashore!
I didn't imagine that it would be so exhausting to sail when there is no wind. But this experience showed me again how dependent we are on the caprice of nature. This is actually the reason why I chose to travel on sailboats. Still, I am very happy, that we reached the island before our water supplies would run out and that we can finally eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Goodbye rice and beans and hello island life!