We just stepped foot on land again for the first time in 44 days and after 3600 nautical miles (6667 km) in what seemed endless open water of all imaginable shades of blue. The pond. The Atlantic Ocean.
Two years ago, when we started planning our musical sailing adventure, we were inexperienced, optimistic, a little naïve, and our plan was slightly different from what it turned out to be: we wanted to go on a 9-month long sailing adventure from Sydney through the Suez Canal, up to Berlin. We would of course stay close to the shore at all times. Safety first. Little did we know … that no way in hell would we be able to make it in that time. Who was responsible for the time and route planning? Was it me? Was it? I must have been dreaming. Or I was drunk. Or both.
And then we kicked off our big tour with a trip from the Salomon Islands to Papua New Guinea. And with this also a first crossing of the Pacific Ocean. Not the longest crossing, but also definitely not along the coast like we had planned. But we calmed ourselves and our parents down by saying that this would probably be the longest off-shore trip.
The question is really – why did we try planning anything at all in the first place? Our planned time for the project now is already five times as long as thought, and we have crossed the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and now also the Atlantic Ocean. 30,000 km is how far we’ve come.
Before leaving South Africa for Rio, we were still not really sure how to prepare for a good 5-8 weeks at sea. Solitude. Just us and Marianne. No other family, friends, people at all, and possibly even no boat encounters. The days start to blend, and you forget which day of the week it is. And you catch yourself thinking it’s end of January, even though it’s already mid March. It doesn’t matter what you do to prepare, it is still a really. long. time!
All these thoughts and slight worries are generally overcome by excitement for the new place, new people, an interesting culture, and of course, the music and rhythms that will keep us sailing and recording! On top of all this excitement, we had lots and lots to organize and buy and load on Marianne. We loaded so much water that our whole boat sunk about 20cm. Phew, at least our newly added logo was still visible! And then there is all the positivity of other sailors and their pep-talks: “The winds here are perfect all year round and there are no tropical storms, you’ll be there in no time!”. Sounds good! Good? No, awesome!
Cast off! Setting sail to Rio! Now there was just one thing: we had to make it in maximally 7 weeks. I have a flight to catch to Germany for a great occasion. It’s my cousins wedding and that’s something that I do not want to miss. And thanks to our little accident a couple days earlier, we had already been delayed by a couple of days. So for a change, we were awaiting perfect winds, at least from 23 degrees of latitude and onwards. According to the Cruising Guide there were supposed to be reliable winds here, and so we sailed a little further up north than we would have actually had to, to get to this area as fast as possible. Again: sounds good! Maybe too good!
The first two weeks, which were actually supposed to be the roughest with respect to winds and choppy seas, were actually perfect. Almost every single day we would break our miles per day record. Our Marianne is in no way a racer, and while some sailors curse those days where they only make 200 Miles (370 km) in 24 hours, we are the happiest sailors in the ocean when we manage to cover 100 Miles (185 km) a day. Our record at the time was 117 nautical miles on our way from Sri Lanka to Madagascar, which we now broke with 119 Miles, followed by 122 Miles the next day. And then … 129 Miles the day after that. You might imagine how happy we were about this. We would be in Rio in no time. And then we finally got to the 23 degrees of latitude that we had been waiting for and was supposed to have great winds. And that, may friends, is exactly the place where the wind stopped blowing. We were expecting the 11-21 knot winds for perfect sailing with our self steering setup, and had already planned on letting the boat steer itself for the next couple of days or even weeks. We could have relaxed, read, worked, edited videos and music, drank coffee, cleaned, slept, and of course, taken a refreshing salt water shower.
The expected winds ended up being at around 4 to 10 knots, which is still fine, as long as they are steady. And they were. Just not strong, so our sails were constantly making those annoying flapping noises that we dislike so much. The flapping that tells you that the wind is just barely enough and you get clicking and booming sounds which are just indicators of not so perfect sailing. We too felt Mariannes pain, but we simply couldn’t do anything about it. Taking down the sails was not an option. Any other sailor would’ve probably turned that key to the right and started revving the engine. But there was just no way we could have afforded to waste our precious amount of Diesel at this point. Plus, we believed that our motor was going to break down again pretty soon. So it has many, many times.
So we had weak sauce winds like this for a full two weeks. Everday the same annoying thing for 14 days straight. But then everything changed again! For the worst, of course. 4 days of absolutely no winds. We just floated around wherever the current decided to take us. And it was hot. Not just kind of hot. But inferno hot. And our GPS system was not helping. Especially when we are moving slowly, we tend to glance at it every 5 minutes, with great expectations for the miles to the destination having decreased substantially. But we were so close! Just another 1000 miles. We could already feel the vibe of Rio coming closer and closer. And at last, the winds picked up again. The sails started twitching back and forth again until at some point they stopped going from side to side but were filled with wind.
Then, Rio turned out to be a real SC-magnet! The winds got stronger with every mile we got closer. We even started breaking our old records again. And then one morning: we saw land again for the first time in weeks. And other boats! With people on them. Real human beings! And oil rigs everywhere. The following night we felt like we were sailing through New York CBD: lights everywhere, felt like we were lost in a city when comparing it to what we had the past few weeks. And captains of other vessels started contacting us on the radio. Even though they generally just wanted us to get out of their way, it was exciting having someone new to talk to.
We were racing for Rio. We were so fast that all of a sudden in the middle of the night we were right there in the harbor where our marina was. And since our motor wasn’t working and we didn’t feel like maneuvering through a sea of boats around us at night, we waited until the morning to sail into the marina. And guess what happened the next morning! That’s right, no winds! For 6 hours we tried our very best to use the tiny amounts of wind to move forwards. No luck. What’s up with this weather? Global warming? Is it us? What’s wrong here? We tried to contact potential towers, and ended up having to call the marina from our satellite phone. But they unfortunately do not offer towings. It never gets boring on Marianne.
So we waited. And at some point we spotted a little boat that was picking up people from a large cargo ship off shore. Hannes tried his very best on the radio and I was waving like a mad man. And it worked. They slowly approached us and once they were close enough for conversation, we persuaded them with our sweet talk pretty quickly. They tossed us a line and then hauled us in. Fast. Probably the fastest Marianne has every gone. Our stern was almost fully immersed, and I was trying hard to keep Marianne on course.
The first steps on solid ground felt weird as ever and I could already feel that my legs were getting sore.
But who cares about sore legs – the only thing that matters right now is that we made it! The Atlantic Ocean! It’s hug-time. And then beer-time!