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Do not sail back to Aruba II

” Do not sail back to Aruba” is what our friend Greg and many others sailors that know the area told us.  However, French Polynesia was closed to most sailors during the majority in 2021. And sailing in the Caribbean had also had several constraints due to Covid. And for sure we did not want to get caught by surprise (again) and being forced to spend another 94 days (or maybe even more) somewhere at anchor without being allowed to leave the boat. 

Spending another hurricane season in Cartagena would be possible, but wouldn`t it be nice to checkout another –  hurricane safe – place?  So we decided to give it a try and sail “straight” to Aruba. Actually Nora, Jürgen and me tried twice. The first attempt only lasted 4 hours. Then a strange wave hit us and our main sheet traveler car broke. The working load limit of 1.8 tons for the traveler car obviously was too low for that wave. But if it wasn`t for the car, who knows what the second “weakest link” is that had broken if the traveler car would have been stronger? 

Because it can take several month to get a traveler car shipped to Colombia (actually that is that fast part) and through Colombian customs (that is the uncertain part) we decided to jury rigged the traveler car and tried a second time. And this time we got everything right. In winter and spring the most difficult part is getting to Santa Marta. Whereas in summer usually the highest wind and wave area moves further east towards Cabo de La Vela.

That is, leaving in March, we had a simple strategy: let`s make it to Santa Marta and then let`s take it from there. For the tactical decisions how to get to Santa Marta we made use of the fact that the wind typically calms down at around 2 or 4 AM and then pick up again at maybe 11:00 AM. This meant we planned two trips, leaving at around 4:30 or 5AM each of the two days it will take to get to Santa Marta. We planned to seek shelter the first night in a bay we considered very safe for anchoring and the second day we hoped to get to Santa Marta Marina already. Particularly for the second leg we did not want to leave earlier than 5 AM because we wanted to pass the river mouth of the Magdalena river at daylight to at least have some chance to sight logs and other stuff the river regularly carries into the Caribbean Sea. When approaching the Magdalena river mouth, on our second day of our journey, we were called on channel 16 by Barranquilla port control. They were watching us and gave us detailed recommendations on how to pass the river mouth and how to stay away from the ever-changing sand banks and the breakers that come with them. Half an hour later a big freighter called us. They gave us their observations and insights on how to proceed in safety. It felt extremely good to know others are out there and care for you. At the same time it showed us that sailing west to east along the Colombian is not too common during this time of the year.

After passing Barranquilla we hoped for the wind to shift a bit during the day, so that we do not have to tack. And so the wind did. Exactly as forecasted and as we hoped for we sailed in one big curve, parallel to the “new moon shaped” shore towards Santa Marta where we arrived 6 minutes after sunset.

 

Now the worst was over. At least that is what we thought. We took two days rest at Santa Marta and left again at 5 AM in the morning, taking advantage of the very low wind, forecasted at 8 knots with 16 kts of gusts. The plan was to motor or motor sail as far east as the wind stays low and then start sailing and beating against the wind once it will be too strong to motor against it. This was forecasted for around 12:00 or 13:00. However, as soon as we passed the cape a couple of miles north of Santa Marta we found ourselves in 36 – 40 knots of sustained wind, gusting into the mid 40ties. What happened to the forecasted 8 to 16 knots? Maybe it is only a cape effect we reckoned and further out there is less wind. But with mountains as high as 5000 Meters nearby the “cape effect” area could be a larger one. Hence we sought shelter in the first bay north of Santa Marta where we reassessed the situation. Later that day the wind seemed to have calmed down. A passing freighter, which we call on the radio confirmed that the wind was down to a gentle breeze of 25 -30 knots. So we continued our journey. The rest of the day we were beating into the wind with a true velocity made good of 2.5 knots. That meant – since the wind (and 2 – 3 meter waves) came directly out of the direction of Aruba, i.e. where we wanted to go, every hour we got 2.5 miles closer to our target Aruba which was 250 miles away.  At least it was easy to do the math and calculate how long we will have to beat against the wind and waves. Then, during the first night shift of Nora the wind picked up again to 36 knots making sailing very uncomfortable. And as we all know, during the night, when you cannot see the waves and the gusts coming, the wind feels much stronger and the waves much higher than during daylight. Again, the updated weather forecast did not foresee this wind that far out, away of the Columbian coast.

With 4 more days and nights ahead of us we knew it will only be a question of time before a line will chafe, blocks will break or for the sake of the argument a jury rigged travel car…

 

 

So we made the difficult decision to turn around, sail back to Cartagena and spend another hurricane season there. In total it took us more than 4 days to get to the point where we turned around. Sailing back however was a smooth and cozy ride of only 18 hours… 

Do not sail back to Aruba II

“Do not sail back to Aruba” is what our friend Greg and many others sailors that know the area told us.  However, French Polynesia was closed to most sailors during the majority in 2021. And sailing in the Caribbean had also several constraints due to Covid. And for sure we did not want get caught by surprise and spend another 94 days (or maybe even more) somewhere at anchor without being allowed to leave the boat. 

Spending another hurricane season in Cartagena for sure would be possible, but wouldn`t it be nice to checkout another –  hurricane safe – place?  So we decided to give it a try and sail “straight” to Aruba. Actually we tried twice. The first attempt only lasted 4 hours. Then a strange wave hit us and our main sheet traveler car broke. The working load limit of 1.8 tons for the traveler car was too low for that wave.

We 

Leon De Baviera

Leon de Baviera is an excellent German bar and restaurant in Cartagena. While we were not allowed to go on shore and had to stay on Barbarella from March to June 2020 the two lovely owners of the Leon de Baviera – Victoria and Stefan – would see Barbarella almost every day when they were having breakfast on their balcony. Unfortunately, we did not have their phone number and did not know they had observed us almost every day. If we had had their number, we would have ordered daily boat delivery of their great German food and German beer. What a pity! During January 2021 to May 2021 we made up for that by visiting them many times in their bar and restaurant. For our Pacific crossing planned for 2022 (fingers crossed!), we have already requested 15 cases of Paulaner Oktoberfest and many of their homemade sausages and Käsespätzle will certainly find their way into our freezer …

Angel

“I don’t believe in the existence of angels, but looking at Luz Elena I wonder if that is true”. (Lyrics stolen with pride from Nick Cave).

We had the privilege to meet Luz Elena and visit the school she is running in Cartagena, many smiling children, teachers, cooks and a facility manager. The school Luz Elena runs caters for 100 children, all coming from one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Cartagena. Before Covid the school property could school up to 50 children in the morning and again 50 in the afternoon. From March 2020 to August 2020 the school had to be closed because of the strict Covid lockdown. When Luz Elena had the chance to see her children again in August, she realised that many of them had been underfed. Unfortunately, the Covid rules mean that she could not yet reopen the school for all of children as before the Covid. Hence, Luz Elena came up with a new scheme that allowed her to partially re-open the school. Now she runs six time 1.5-hour slots every day for 5 days a week, with fewer kids per slot. So each child gets 1.5 hours of classroom education every day – but most importantly, each child gets a full meal at the school every day. For many of the kids that is the only meal they get that day. Despite all this great work the school does not get a single peso from the Government in Columbia or the City of Cartagena

The visit has been extremely emotional for us and we are grateful that we could contribute to the work of Luz Elena. If you want to do the same PLEASE support Luz Elena via the foundation of my friend Stefan Schumacher here: https://www.schuhmuckl-ev.de https://www.schuhmuckl-ev.deone of the poorest neighbourhoods

January 2021: Back on track - back in Cartagena

On January 14th I flew back to Cartagena. My friend Jürgen is scheduled to join on January 25th and Nora hopefully joins at the end of February. And when the admiral is back Barbarella needs to be in “ship-shape and Bristol fashion”

Message in a bottle

During our Atlantic crossing in November and December 2019 we sent a message in a bottle. In the middle of the Atlantic, right between Cape Verde and Barbados we “mailed” them. Guess where one bottle was found?

March to June 2020 - quarantine in Cartagena

We left Bonaire on March 12th 2020. When we arrived in Cartagena on March 16th the authorities claimed that the borders were closed until June 1st 2020 and that we were not allowed to enter Columbia. We had to anchor Barbarella in the quarantine area downtown Cartagena, guarded by the Armada Nacional. We could not move the boat elsewhere, nor could we go on shore.

Thanks to some truly great Columbian friends we were provisioned with fresh food regularly. We had loads of dry food. Since we had originally planned to sail across the Pacific we stocked up plentiful in Martinique and Bonaire. E.g. our strategic toilet paper stock would have lasted > 6 month :-).

After 49 days on board we were allowed to go to the marina by dinghy. We were still not allowed to move the boat or enter the country, we could only go to the marina. However, this made a huge difference, because in the marina we could easily replenish water, take showers, do our laundry, have WIFI and even get a take away lunch from the marina restaurant. And, as a bonus, we could meet other fellow sailors and made new friends. That was a wonderful improvement.

At the end of May, the Columbian government decided to keep the borders closed until September 1st. That would mean, we had to stay at least another 100 days at anchor on board, with all the Columbian summer heat, humidity, thunder storms, “culo the pollos” (20 minutes local weather phenomena meaning strong squalls, rain and wind of up to 50 – 60 kts), etc. and with no guarantee that the boarders would open September 1st. Hence, Nora and I decided that we would not wait another 100 days. We really needed to get into Columbia or to try to get Barbarella stored on the hard so that we could leave Columbia by plane. If that did not work out, we would have to try to sail back to Bonaire, Aruba or Curacao – against strong winds, waves and serious currents.

Europe we are coming

Since trying to sail back to Aruba was only the option of last resort, we intensified our hard
work to get into Columbia (or at least to get into Columbia just to leave Colombia). Together with: our immigration lawyer, the Consul of Turkey, the Consul of the Check Republic, the Honorary Consul of Sweden, the Czech and German Embassy and most importantly
the president of the Marina Club de Pesca, as well as many other friends we finally managed to get our passports stamped, get Barbarella on the hard, get a taxi organized for the 1100km ride from Cartagena to Bogota through all the road blocks due to strict curfews in order to catch a humanitarian flight back to Europe, etc.

THANKS AGAIN to everyone involved for your GREAT support in getting us those “bloody Colombian
stamps” in our passports

"DO NOT SAIL BACK TO ARUBA"...

is what Greg Dorland, a friend of ours and one of the best and most experienced sailors we know texted us unprompted and in capital letters when he learned in May that we are seriously considering to sail from Cartagena to Aruba. He continued ” I heard from around the world racers that is the most miserable upwind, up current slog you can make. I believe it is only better in October”. 

Still, we thought to ourselves, whatever we will do, we will NOT stay in Cartagena another 100 days (in the end, it would have actually been another 130 days until Columbia opened its borders for regular flights to Europe). In the video you see what wind, currents and weather considerations we took in assessing if it was possible to sail to Aruba. In the end if you want to escape prison then do not expect to be able to just walk out the front door.,

 

Marina we are coming

After 49 days on board we were allowed to go to the marina: Club de Pesca by dinghy. We were still not allowed to go on shore other than of the marina. But it, regarless, felt GREAT to replenish water, take showers, do our laundry, have WIFI, meet other sailors and make new friends. We could even bring our bicycle and do circles on the parking lot

Entertainment

On Barbarella we have around 200 DVDs. These are all the great movies we collected over the years and planned to watch “once we have time”. Now was the perfect opportunity to do so. Unfortunately our DVD player broke down after the first movie 🙁 

So we had to enjoy nature’s night entertainment instead

Approaching Cartagena downtown

On March 20th we were finally allowed to seek shelter in downtown Cartagena

They allow us in...

… at least that is what we thought

 

March 2020 - Cartagena

On March 16th we arrived in Cartagena. Read our translation of the article of our arrival of the Czech Reflex Magazine from April 2020:

Superstitious

Last night on our way to Cartagena we were accompanied by two stowaway birds. What is they want to tell us about our passage to Cartagena?

 

Fire and ice on our way to Cartagena de Indias

After we checked with our agent (yes, that is needed if you want to get into Columbia by boat) that there is no problem regarding Corona we left Bonaire in the evening of March 12th. On March 15th we saw Columbia for the first time. What a sight…

Nora parting the sea 😉

On Cayo de Aqua, Los Roques, Nora used her superpower to part the sea and she obviously enjoyed the walk-run between the two islands separated by the Caribbean waters

March 2020 amazing Los Roques, Venezuela

At the beginning, we were sceptical how safe it is to go to
Los Roques, Venezuela. Media reports are full of how bad the situation in Venezuela is. Since Los Roques is around 70nm away from the Venezuelan main land we took the risk and decided to go there. I previously visited Los Roques
in 2005 and expected everything now being dilapidated and poor. WHAT A SURPRISE! After the landfall, Gran Roque was more beautiful than ever. Locals had been painting their houses and everything was clean and well maintained. We met great people, discussed the situation in Venezuela in general and discussed their personal situation in particular. We learned how they try to cope with the difficult economic and political situation. Local people do not have a lot resources and opportunities, but they are working hard on making the best out of it. On one of the islands, in Los Roques, the Venezuelan government even still runs a sanctuary for sea turtles.

Everyone was extremely friendly, helpful and appreciative
that we visited their country.  During one occasion we asked local fishermen, if the kind of restaurant they seemed to have run was open. They said: “Unfortunately we were closed today, because our wives are in Gran Roque today”. Two hours later the fishermen came to us with 3 pieces of fish they caught, filleted for us. They wanted to give it to us for free so that we could have something for dinner. These people do not have a lot but the little they have, they even want to share… 

February 2020 - Martinique to Grenada

In February we visited St. Lucia and the Grenadines on our way to Grenada. In St. Lucia we did not only drink the local beer “Piton”, but we also climbed the Petit Piton, which was pretty steep!

Drone videos

Guntmar enjoyed flying his drone in Tobago Cays, Union Island and Mopion…

Windsurfing in Mopion

Our friend Guntmar brought his drone. A perfect chance to get great aerials from a little ride in front of the beautiful island Mopion…

 

Happy turtle

There are plenty of turtles. This one “flies” with grace next to Barbarella…

January 2020 - Tobago Cays

We spent New Year`s celebrations in Union Island, Tobago Cays and Bequia. In Tobago Cays we took a chance to swim with a “dalmatine” ray…

 

Happy dolphins

During our Atlantic crossing we saw Dolphins several times. These, we were able to record under water…

November 13th - December 12th 2019

On November 13th we set sail for Barbados via Mindelo. After 5 and 1/2  very windy days (850nm) we arrived  in Mindelo. We enjoyed a 6-day break and then continued to Barbados (2016nm) arriving safely, happy and a bit tired after another 15 and 1/2 days. We will add more pictures and videos later. For now enjoy some preview pictures… 

 

 

 

October 2019 Passage from Cadiz to Las Palmas

We had an excellent 5-day passage from Cadiz to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, together with Uli and Felipe. The first day was a bit too chaotic, with short and unpleasant waves. Afterwards, we had a relatively smooth ride, needing just 6 hours of motoring towards the end of the passage. We also had our Parasailor up continuously for about 40 hours. This gave us a smooth and relaxing downwind sail, day and night. However, not all went well. During a gust, the sheet of our Gennaker broke and we lost the entire sail. On one of the enclosed pictures, you will see the broken sheet and the leftover of one line: the only thing remained from our sail ….

August - October 2019

We had a great time both in Sardinia and in Elba. We also attended a fantastic wedding in Mallorca. We met many of you along the way. Stay tuned – we shall update our website with pictures and videos for you. In the meantime, enjoy yet another dolphin video, we shot around Corsica ….

 

How to launch

…a windsurfer. Big advantage of launching your windsurfer from Barbarella is that you can rig everything on her trampolines. Then you just toss the gear overboard 🙂 

Window repaired finally - and birthday visit

Our broken side window could not be repaired in Port Ginesta so we had to sail to Mallorca where we got EXCELLENT support from Clipper Marine. They did the window, with Barbarella out of the water. The work was finished just in time for the surprise 50th birthday visit of Kevin`s brother and his lovely family. Immediately afterwards we sailed off to Sardinia

July 2019 - wedding visit in beautiful England

On July 13th we had the honour to attend the wedding of our friends Adela and Paul in Bristol on the SS Great Britain. The SS Great Britain was build in 1843 by Isambard Kingdom Brunel – the Elon Musk of that time. After the wedding we spent another week in England visiting our many friends there

 

 

 

Happy jump

Kevin jumps for joy because we finally made it to the right bodega – after we spent two hours in the bushes because Google maps thought there was a road where there was none

Bodega searching

Little roadtrip to the Castelldefels hinterland. What we learned is that you cannot always trust Google maps. It  seems to mix up car road with a single trail for mountain bikes. In the end, we managed to find a stunning bodega and returned safely on board of Barbarella

Castelldefels

We spend several weeks in Port Ginesta & Castelldefels fitting enhancements on Barbarella and undertaking some warranty repairs, road trips and a trip to England to attend a wedding

"always be yourself

…unless you can be batman.

Then always be batman”

 was the motto of the month. No wonder, we frequently visited the chiringuito Rat Penat. Of course, we brought our visitors Freddy, Kevin and Jürgen there

Pointing

Many catamarans  – at least those  without daggerboards – do not sail upwind very well. Barbarella is no exception. To get to Port Ginesta / Castelldefels we sailed all night, that is from 20:00 to 08:00, with winds between 12 and 20 knots, just to get 31 nautical miles upwind. 

Yes, you calculated it correctly. This is a staggering velocity made good of 2.5 knot

Window getting loose

In Formentera we realized that a side window was getting loose. We had to jury rig it with duct tape so that we get safely to Barcelona where Nautitech sent us to have it professionally repaired, Little did we know that it will take two month to have it repaired – finally in Mallorca

 

 

 

June 2019 Sunset in Formentera

Nice sunset in Formentera with sun setting behind Ibiza 

Nora is enjoying the dolphins...

…while we are speeding with 12 knots 

Going too fast

While speeding from Gibraltar to Cartagena our Watt & Sea Pod propeller lost all its blades because at top speed of 19.9 knots we were far too fast for our underwater electricity generator 

 

 

June 14th 2019 we are speeding from Gibraltar to Cartagena

On June 14th 2019 we left Gibraltar for Cartagena using good winds and waves to speed along at 10.8 knots average and 19.9 knots top speed

 

Dolphin Dreaming in May 2019

In May 2019 we took Barbarella for a chilled afternoon sail across the Strait of Gibraltar

 

 

 

Barbarella & Parasailor wedding present 2014 - 2018

19 minutes Video how we searched for Barbarella starting 2014, how we “found” Barbarella in 2016 and how we got our Parasailor wedding present in 2017 and where we sailed in 2018

 

 

Install Watt & Sea Pod in June 2018

Falling dry in La Rochelle to install our watt & sea pod 

First test in La Rochelle in March 2018

First part of sea trials with our surveyor 

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