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  • AutorenbildSanni & Gerri@

Atlantic ocean the final frontier. In the year 2021...

Aktualisiert: 16. Apr. 2022

17. - 20. December

This is the logbook of the sailing ship Alessandra and its chaos crew. On the way in search of Caribbean islands, carefree life and foreign civilizations. Before we get on board the Alessandra at the evening of the 17th December there are still some formalities to complete. The most important thing: we need cash! We have to pay the entire trip in the morning before departure in cash to the captain. In addition, we also have to change pesos to dollars for the arrival in Panama.

The Briefing

Doesn't sound so difficult at first, but pulling several hundred Euros out of an ATM in one go in Colombia is not possible. Many machines have a limit and others are simply empty. This is why we did this in several lots on the previous days. Getting to our briefing meeting we take a taxi in the morning towards the marina of Cartagena. Shortly before reaching our destination, our taxi is suddenly stopped by two police officers. They walk around the car and try to look through the tinted windows, then they ask us to open the doors. We kindly say good morning and answer the question, where we are heading to, truthfully. They ask us to get out of the car. Next our passports are required, checked and then we both have to hand over our bags for search. Gerriet's backpack contains all the cash for our upcoming trip. With all the peso bills, it is a cinematic thick stack of money. The policeman doesn’t make a face and takes the time to count the money. Phew, we just stay calm and smile friendly under the face mask. After a short conversation between the two police officers, we fortunately get our bags, including money and passports back and are allowed to pass through. This could have turned out completely different of course. In light of all the cash. According to the experience of our captain, it is quite common for the police to "reward" the surrender of the passport and the permit to pass through. Like a little gratitude for the good work they do and to provide security.

Yes, yes, the police to protect and serve... but let's not go there.

Unscathed, we arrive at the briefing and meet our captain Rudi Gamberoni; a typical South Tyrolean and at the time Colombian since 10 years. Somehow we have the feeling that this Capitano is a cool dude. It may also be due to the funny name. Anyway, with us on board a total of 10 other fellow travelers from Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland will join the trip. The atmosphere is directly very nice and we have a good feeling with this troupe. The atmosphere is pleasant from the first moment on. After the payment has been clarified and we are stocked up with dollars, we all still have to confirm that we have been fully vaccinated and have an onward ticket out of Panama again. And then we have to hand in all our passports. Since we enter Panama at sea border, the exit formalities must already be completed in Colombia. So our passports disappear into the bag of the nice lady from the booking agency. Zack they are gone. According to Rudi, we will get them back when immigration to San Blas is done. Okay, that's how it has to be. It might now sound like a big deal, but our passports are holy for us. We need them all the time, to check in at hotels, to travel by bus or of course during police controls.

We are on our way back to pack our stuff. This time, we are leaving the port by foot. We pass the hard-working police officers again. Now there are three of them. We politely greet them again. One greets kindly back, obviously recognising us. The new one, a little gargoyle, gesticulates right away and waves us over to him. We are visibly confused. Fortunately, most of the money is already gone. However, the other policeman intervenes and whistles back his colleague. He says goodbye to us particularly nicely and wishes us a nice day. It obviously doesn't suit the other gentlemen. Whatever he was up to. Christmas is just around the corner and maybe he hadn't bought any gifts yet...

Logbook Friday, 17.12.2021

20:00 h

When we board the Alessandra in the evening, we are immediately thrilled. The sailing ship is impressive. A classic sailboat made of wood, built in 1988 in New Zealand. With a length of 22 meters and a mast height of 4.70 m, up to 20 people can be accommodated here. On board there is a separate desalination system for drinking water and solar panels so that our mobile phones and cameras are always charged with enough juice. Both under but especially above deck there are beautiful and numerous places to chill and relax. Firstly, we set up our bed in a cabin of 6 and familiarize ourselves with the boat. Especially important: Where do all our beverages go? Because all guests on board have plenty of them. The entire crew consists of Rudi and his Marinero, Hermann from Argentina. They sail together for the first time. Before we can open our first beer on board, we receive a briefing with the most important rules to obey on a sailing ship. Especially with regard to the time we will be on the open sea. But the most important of all: "No Paper in the Toilet" and "No Sand on this Boat"! Okay, sounds feasible! Speaking of toilet. In total, the Alessandra has 3! Toilets that operate with an electric pump. Unfortunately, one of the toilets is out of order and the other is the exclusive captain's place, so that only one toilet is available for us 14. All right. We are all decent grown ups, it will be fine. Plus there is still the Atlantic Ocean.

22:00 h

We passengers sit together in convivial company and get to know each other for the first time. This is a really fun group. The crew is in bed. Rudi's announcement is that everyone will be on board at 05:00 the next morning and then the anchor will be cleared. Well, plenty of time so we can have another round of beer and rum. Time flies by.

Logbook Saturday, 18.12.2021

01:30 h

Suddenly, Rudi rages out of his cabin on deck and shouts loudly that we are starting NOW because he can't sleep. The entire group immediately goes silent and feels guilty, assuming that we have robbed his well-deserved sleep with our laughters. When we apologise, he continues to shout:

No, Vakuna!

It's the poison. This f**king Vakuna. Irritated by what he means, he explains to us, or further bawls out, that he got his vaccination with J&J yesterday and now he feels sick and can't sleep because he has restlessness. He said that from the first moment on he didn't want this poison and that the nurse did not want to fulfill his wish to just fake the vaccination by squirting the vaccination past his arm. We are all quiet for now, maybe a little worried about the fact that we are now leaving so hastily with a captain who is obviously not really fit. In Sanni, the "I hold the flag up high for vaccination" gene evolves and she tries to reassure Rudi that the poison is really good and safe and all that. She recommends that he should drink a lot of water. What he defiantly answers: I usually drink beer. But good, then I'll just drink water now. Just get me some!

Hey hey Captain!

When the engine starts, silence returns. Everyone smiles about the previous situation and is now full of anticipation and excitement for our first day on the Atlantic Ocean.

02:15 h

Almost one hour later agitation arises again: It smells strange on board.

Smoke from the engine compartment! Oha.

So turn off the engine and open hatches! Rudi and Hermann disappear into the hull of the ship. A short time later, the cause seems to be found. A cooling hose is defect. The root cause is clear shortly after: The day before, Rudi had craftsmen in the ship. They must have stepped onto the hose, which broke and therefore the cooling of the engine does not work properly. However, he did not say this so well formulated. His blood pressure was right back at 180 bpm considering the fact that there are simply no decent mechanics in Colombia and that you are better off with DIY. Our chaos-crew would not have deserved its name if there were not a number of other concatenations. Our captain has two cell phones, none of them work. One has no credit and the other has some other issues. Good that we have tourists on board with mobile phones and local SIM card. So Rudi, rings at night the head of the agency and discusses the situation with her. After 2 hours, it is clear that we can't go anywhere because there is no spare hose on board. This can only be obtained the next morning. So anchor out and everyone off to bed. Gerriet decides to sleep on deck.

04:45 h

Just as the excitement on board has calmed down and everyone is asleep in their cabins, Gerriet is rudely torn out of sleep by a loud horn. With his eyes half open, he turns to the side and sees a large black wall coming directly at us. And again the loud horn. Now even several times in a row. His eyes wide open, he sees how a large container ship has set course towards us. Or should it be better to say that we anchor on his course? The black wall is getting closer and closer; does not seem to dodge. Why, after all, we are located directly in the shipping channel in front of the port entrance. It's good that they discovered us in the dark at all. Because the engine is broken, Rudi turned off the position lights of the Alessandra to save electricity. Instead, only one lamp lights up on deck. In the next moment Rudi rushes to deck, takes the lamp, goes with it to the other side, where the ship continues to approach us and waves in large arches with the lamp in his hand. It feels like eternity before we see that the container ship changes course and passes us in parallel. Danger averted, we go back to sleep.

7:00 h

Rudi is on the phone with the agency again. He asks that someone brings us the spare parts to the boat. Preferably directly including mechanics. Wait a minute, what happened to "if you don't do everything yourself"?! And that's how it goes. The agency can't find anyone on a Saturday morning, so Rudi has no choice but driving the dinghy back to Cartagena to get the new hose. But this action is also a bit difficult, as the engine of the dinghy also ticks. Rudi had someone to fix it a few days earlier, which is a story in itself. During the transport to the workshop by taxi, the taxi driver took off at the second Rudi got out of the car, with the engine still in the trunk. Luckily, Rudi remembered the license plate, the police found the driver and he actually brought the engine back. However, the subsequent maintenance does not seem to be the most professional either. At some point, however, the engine runs. The only remaining question is now, if the fuel lasts for such a long ride to reach the harbour. We receive short instructions from the captain on what to say to the coast guards if they come, which is quite likely, because as I said, we anchor in the middle of the waterway. Fortunately, our fellow traveler Björn can speak perfectly Spanish and is now the official police contact person!

08:00 h

The captain has left his ship and us. Good that Herman stays. In the short time on board, we already realized that his field of responsibility is very diverse. In addition to chef, skipper, mechanic and cleaning, he is now also our co-capitano. We trust him fully!

09:00 h

A distant point on the horizon appears. As it gets closer, we finally long for him. Our captain returns and with him the replacement hose. So now it's time to get back into the ship's hull. We wait comfortably with a coffee on deck while the next giant tanker sets course for us. Fortunately, he also sees us and passes by.

10:00 h

It comes as it has to come. The coast guards are here. Björn explains our problem on behalf of Rudi, who is still working in the hull of the ship, and that we are about to solve it. But the ladies and gentlemen are not interested in that at all. They demand the captain and ask Rudi to leave the fairway immediately. Otherwise, we will be towed and that will be expensive. So Rudi and Herman continue to work at full speed in the engine compartment. During this time, the coast guard remain aside and watch us closely. Then finally the redeeming engine noise. We are leaving the fairway.

11:30 h

We stop again. The joy of the running engine is of very short duration. The temperature rises as soon as we use the engine at full power for more than 30 minutes. Therefore, we still enjoy the view of Cartagena while Rudi is working again. Meanwhile, he is sure to have unveiled the problem and to be able to solve it in a timely manner. We have time and enjoy the early day and chill on deck with a well-chilled beer. Rudi and Hermann, on the other hand, do not give up and continue to tinker and work in the engine compartment. Meanwhile, they have the support of Björn, who, as it turns out, not only speaks perfect Spanish, but is also an engineer. So if that's not a guardian angel: German engineering on board. That has to work.

13:40 h

The engine runs from time to time until the early afternoon, but our success is never long-lasting. The temperature rises every time.

To make things worse, the toilet flush of our only guest toilet no longer works. The electric switch seems to have a short circuit. Oha, now we have exactly one toilet and that in Rudi's captain's cabin. He assures that the repair of the switch is a piece of cake, but the engine has priority. And so we sail off. 14 people, without a motor, with only one toilet but full of hope that everything will be fine. Out into the blue Atlantic. Although the wind is only moderate, we drive an average of 3-4 knots (with an engine we would be about twice as fast). The further we get to the open sea, the higher the waves become. With up to 4 meters, they rock us back and forth. Moving on board is not easy for us at the beginning and most of us have already taken a travel pill prophylactically in the morning. But the longer we swing left to right, back and forth, the more we can enjoy the ride and get used to it. The rest of the day is in a peaceful and very special atmosphere. Somehow we are really happy that we sail without the loud engine.

Lunch and dinner are cooked by Herman and Rudi with excellent delicacies. We once again have a fun and convivial evening. Rudi and Herman continue sailing all night. Every two hours they alternate and the other can doze a bit. Some of us sleep in the cabins, others, like Gerriet, back up on deck because it is not as hot there as below.

Logbook Sunday, 19.12.2021

Some time around 05:00 h

We are rudely torn out of sleep by loud shouts. We realize, the open sea is not entirely unproblematic, it rocks more than violently and our two-man crew is in combat with the wind. Rudi, who obviously "does not always keep calm in situations with turbulent business operations," roars in Spanish-German constantly changing commands to poor Herman, who handles the sails.

Aribaaaa, Aribaaaa,... Nope, I said Abachoooo! Abachoooo! Hablo Chino?

Herman patiently executes all changing orders and the ship is back on track within a short time. We all can't help it and make fun about Rudi by imitating his "emotional outbreaks" which soon becomes one of our favorite pastimes. But no matter how chaotic our trip has been so far, we notice that Rudi knows exactly what he is doing at all times. After all, he has been sailing for 25 years and has already crossed the Atlantic ocean several times. And we can also quickly forget our initial pity for Herman. Because he is simply a cheerful person by nature and takes his "Capi" as he is. By the way, we are now on the open sea for good 16 hours. The engine is off.

17:50 h

We sail all day with cozy 2 - 4 knots through the meter-high Atlantic waves. An indescribably beautiful and special feeling. The mood on board couldn't be better. Everyone seems to rest extremely satisfied in daydreams. Well, almost everyone. Rudi, Herman and Björn are always busy repairing the engine pump. They don't give up. Gradually, the three feel like they dismantled all the associated parts. Once or twice we actually drive with diesel fuel again. In these short moments, when we are significantly gaining speed, we catch a Mahi Mahi directly with our permanently ejected fishing rods. Cheers, dinner is secured.

Our beverage stocks are getting smaller, the first concerns are spreading. The engine stays off.


Logbook Monday, 20.12.2021

07:00 h

Breakfast number 3 on board. Today is the day of the scheduled arrival on the San Blas Islands. We have been on board for almost 60 hours now. 40 hours of it on open sea. Although we sail all the time, the dream islands are still far away. Rudi has had an inspiration over night in a dream and is now sure to have found the solution to the defective cooling system. So he disappears back into the ship's hull and we get to the dwindling beverage supplies. Some members of our group are slowly getting a little nervous about our delay. On the one hand, there is the concern that we will no longer spend enough time on San Blas and on the other hand the already booked accommodations and the money in Panama will be lost. It's not possible to let the hostels know because no one has phone signal here, out in the middle of nowhere. Gerriet and I don't mind, as our hostel a.) is cheap and b.) was already informed by us upfront. We are rather pleased that we have now received two days of sailing as a gift. Rudi confirms that we booked 3 days on San Blas and therefore will get the three days on San Blas! When exactly these 3 days start doesn't really matter. We agree. All right, the mood calms down again. We continue sailing.

10:50 h

Euphoria on board! The engine has been running for quite some time, the mechanic team is sure:

This is the breakthrough. Celebration mood!

The captain is finally getting a beer!

We drive with 6 knots! And as soon as we have speed again, we catch two delicious tunas in a row! If this continues, we will arrive tonight! Yay! And then we can certainly also replenish our beverage stocks with the Kuna indigens who live there. Smokers are also slowly running out of cigarettes.

13:00 h

Euphoria mode off. The engine too! Finally, Rudi decides to stop all further attempts to get it up and running again and surrenders to his fate. Via satellite phone, he contacts a sailor-friend who is a professional mechanic and is currently at San Blas. He will let him take a look when we arrive. We notice that it is gnawing at him not having completed the repair. If he had not believed 100% that he would get the engine to work, he would not have left with us, he said. Because being on the open Atlantic Ocean without a supporting engine carries certain risks. Now, Rudi has more time ans we finally have the opportunity to chat with him. Rudi gradually relaxes and tells us about his life and one or the other anecdote from his diverse sailing trips. We like our weird captain more and more!

19:00 h

Another incredibly beautiful day under full sails on the wild Atlantic ocean. The meter-high waves are now part of our everyday life and we move on the boat, as if we had never done anything else. Fortunately, there is no trace of seasickness.

After the delicious dinner, which is always worth mentioning, there is a short shock moment. Herman slips and falls really hard on his knee. This swells to incomprehensible proportions within seconds. Everyone is very anxious and wants to help. Herman takes it calmly and Rudi just says: He'll be fine. After all, we can convince our Marinero to take an IBU 600 and treat the knee with our last bit of ice from the beverage freezer. Drinks are the keyword. There is still some beer, cola and rum in stock. When we get into party mood around 11 p.m., Rudi has to call for order. He intends to sail through this night again. Of course, this is not possible with drunk people on deck. So everyone off to the bunk or to bed on deck.

Hey Hey Captain!

To be continued…


*The English version of this blog is supported by automated translation*

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