30,000 nautical miles – some reflections

After 30,000 nautical miles, it is once again time to reflect a bit on our lives, sailing and other existential issues, such as the price of beer, our Grand Adventure and anything else we can think of.  Seven years ago, we took in our lines and sailed away from Copenhagen, our family, friends, career and a very comfortable upper middle class existence.

We are still enjoying our lives as “boat bums”.  It is a free existence and the days are filled with new experiences, even though we have to admit that not all the experiences are equally positive.  Which we suspect you already know if you’ve been reading our blogs.

We’ve not yet regretted our decision to take up this lifestyle and leave our old one behind.  We don’t miss our professional lives, status or material things we’ve foregone, but we do miss our family and friends (sometimes).

The biggest regret we have, and will continue to have the next couple of years is the possibility of spending time with our grandchildren and my goddaughter.  It is difficult to staying on top of their daily joys and development at such a long distance.  Facetime etc. just isn’t a substitute for being there.  We can only hope that when we once again dock in Copenhagen in 2.5 years’ time that we can catch up on what we have missed and have a good relationship with the (then) teenagers.

Are we sated with new impressions from all our travels?  Not yet, even though we realize it takes more to impress us now than when we left.

Since our 10,000, 20,000 nautical mile reflections and since we left Hawaii, we’ve asked ourselves if there have been disappointments or surprises.  There certainly have been; our health, our budget and Covid.

After we arrived in Washington State 2.5 years ago, we had to return to Denmark because of health issues requiring surgery and chemotherapy.  That was the fourth time we had to interrupt our Grand Adventure because of health issues.  We, who have never before been sick or had any major health issues, suddenly developed them.  We’ve always considered ourselves to be healthy (and let’s face it – indestructible).  We have been very happy to have our travel insurance that has covered both our doctor’s bills out here and the transportation both home and back to Capri.  They have even paid for the marina for Capri.

While we are talking money, let’s just admit that we have not been able to stay within our budget – of course, no one else, no matter what their budget, has been able to stay within their’s either.  Fortunately, we have been able to afford to continue, but we know several that have had to either give up and sell their boat or lay their boat up while they go home and earn more money.

Blue water sailing for seven years means a lot of wear and tear on Capri.  Wear and tear costs money.  Amongst sailors in Denmark is and adage that says a trip across the Atlantic (3000nm) puts as much wear and tear on your boat as sailing in Denmark for 10 years.  We’ve been sailing seven years and 30,000nm and there have been repairs on Capri that the normal Danish sailboat owner never sees.  Regular maintenance is also never-ending.

Here are just a couple of expenses.  In Denmark, most owners haul their boat out at the end of each season to put it on the hard, bottom paint, polish the hull and generally do all the small repairs that have accumulated during the sailing season.  Since they are members of a sailing club, the haulout is either free or darn close to it.  It is different for us.  A haul out for us costs at least $500 (many times more), then $50 per day for the boat to be in the yard, then $500 to splash.  Just that is easily $1500 and add to that the cost of bottom paint (very expensive) and polish and spare parts and your budget just exploded.  Capri needs a new coat of bottom paint at least every other year.  The barnacles and sea grass grows like mad in these warmer waters.  She also needs a good polish because the sun is murderous on our gelcoat if it is not protected with polish.

Our liferaft needs servicing every four years (cost: $600) and this is an expense you don’t want to ignore and try not spending – your life may depend on it.  Remember, hope is not a strategy.

Batteries are wonderful, but batteries get old and need replacing.  After 3-4 years of living on the hook and charging/discharging the batteries every day, they become less effective and need to be replaced (major expense).  Our anchor chain also began to show signs of heavy wear and needed replacement.  Our engine needs to be serviced, which we do ourselves, but most places it costs a bundle to dispose of the old oil and filters.

Our watermaker, after 5 years of making water every other day, finally needed servicing by a professional and that was expensive ($1500).  I don’t know how many liters of water that watermaker has made over the past seven years, but it is at least 100,000.  The watermaker keeps us independent and we wouldn’t be without it.

A small thing, which only cost a couple of hundred dollars, was our ice cube machine, which finally gave up the ghost this year.

I mean, who can drink G&T’s without ice?

Our new ice cube machine turns out 9 ice cubes every 7 minutes

We replaced Capri’s standing rig on Hawaii, another major expense but the rig was 16 years old and had over 25,000 miles on it.

After seven years of generating power for us, one of our solar panels bit the dust and we had to replace it.  Sunpower has a 25-year warranty, but the company where we purchased the panels has been sold to another company and while they are supposed to have taken over the warranties, they certainly didn’t want to talk to us.  They didn’t want to help and it was not only expensive but an ungodly hassle to get a new panel.  So much for 25-year warranties.

Those are the big items, but lots of small items are wear out and can be very expensive to fix/replace.  A couple of the hinges on our shower door broke.  Ok, so how expensive can a couple of hinges be?  First, no one makes a hinge like these except Jeanneau.  Contacting the American Jeanneau results in a “can’t help you” answer.  Contact the Danish dealer and he says ok how many hinges?  I say 4, since we might as well replace them all while we are doing it.  Price?  Hold on to your hat – $100 each.  Jep – a hundred bucks apiece when you get done adding the cost of the hinge, extra charges for obsolete parts, freight etc.  And then the parts are lying in Denmark and still need to be shipped to Mexico.

Another small item – these switches control our electric winch.  After seven years of sun/salt /wind/rain, the rubber is deteriorating.  So we need a couple of new rubber covers.  I have no idea what these will cost, but I’ll have to get them in Denmark.

The above just shows how difficult it is to stay within budget.  The more time spent at sea, the greater the maintenance required.  On the other hand – the money is well-spent for the privilege of being a world blue water cruiser.

The Covid-19 pandemic surprised everyone, including us.  It had enormous consequences for blue water cruisers.  Many home in Denmark thought Carsten and I were home free, isolated on faraway Pacific islands.

Sorry, but that wasn’t true.

Both the Panama Canal and all the Pacific islands closed down for cruisers.  We were fortunate, we were on Hawaii and safely at the dock in Hawaii Yacht Club when the Governor close down all the islands and forbade everyone from going out, except for 1 hour per day to buy food etc.  In Polynesia, the government forbade the cruisers from coming ashore and they were stuck on their boats for many months.  Hawaii was not the worst place to be stuck, but the quarantine and enforced inactivity did not do anything to enhance our impressions of Hawaii.

Waikiki Beach empty? Where are all the surf babes and the beach studs?

The big decision we took while on the Marquesas, turning north to Canada and Alaska, added an additional 10,000 nautical miles.  This meant we would end up sailing the “Little Pacific Loop”.  We have never regretted making that decision.  In our blogs, we have tried to describe the unique and fabulous natural and animal experiences we had, but as we’ve said before – words are poverty-stricken.  Areas like that need to be seen and experienced – they can’t be described, not even in pictures.

Whales bubble feeding, Alert Bay, Pack Creek bears, Arctic – Capri in front of a glacier, Glacier Bay, a waterfall we anchored in front of – somewhere in northern Canada

Our trip down the west coast of the United States, a stretch feared by many and respected by all, posed many challenges.  Carsten, as usual, had less concerns about our ability.  Despite our serious incident, a crash gybe that destroyed our traveler, we made and even enjoyed parts of the journey.  Our rig held despite the crash gybe – if it hadn’t we would have had a very different tale to tell.  Now we realized that we made a good investment of $16,000 on Hawaii to have the standing rig replaced.  Even better, we spent the extra money to replace the rig with Dyform (which our old rig also was).  Dyform is much stronger than normal wire.  Our mettle as sailors and our ability to function as a team were put to the test that night.  Happily, we passed with flying colors.

We did it! Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge and we can now say we are amongst the very few sailors who have sailed into both New York harbor and San Francisco Bay – in the same boat!

At the moment, we are in La Paz, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez enjoying the sunshine and the warmth.  We are debating our next great decision

How do we get home?

Our plan, when we started the Little Pacific Loop was to sail from Mexico west, back out to the Marquesas and then follow the Coconut Milk Run westward to Thailand.  From there Capri could be sailed to the Mediterranean.

As you can guess, we have spent many evenings during the past year discussing our sailing plans.  We made the irrevocable decision when we turned southward from the Artic that our highways and byways were now leading back to Denmark.  In other words, we were homeward bound.  Our concrete plans have changed almost daily – certainly, every time we discussed them.  I have tossed and turned many a night while I fretted about our sailing plans.

In March of last year, after 8 months of land cruising in our beat up old RV, we made the decision that we would sell Capri in Seattle after we came south from Alaska.  We had even talked with a couple of boat agents.

Why would we end our Grand Adventure there?  Several reasons;

  1. After our “land cruising” in the RV (an unforgettable trip through the western USA), we decided there are other things we want to do in our lives than sailing.
  2. The used boat prices in Seattle were very attractive for a boat like ours.  We could sell Capri for a lot more there than we can in Denmark.
  3. Our Grand Adventure, sailing, had already been extended two years by Covid. 

Since we decided to sell after coming south from Alaska, Capri needed a complete clean up so she would look nice when being shown to prospective buyers. All our lockers were emptied and anything not immediately useful was discarded then the lockers were cleaned so you could eat off the deck.  Carsten took up the floorboards, sanded them down and varnished them.  Capri began to look like her old self.

The decision to sell had been taken across many evenings and I cried every time we talked about it.  When you have sailed for many years in your boat across the wide oceans and through all kinds of weather, she becomes more than a boat.  She becomes family.  She has taken care of you and brought you safely through storms and into a safe harbor.  She is also your home.

You do not sell a family member in a foreign country to strangers.

These feelings made us change our minds.  We wanted to bring Capri home.  Let her taste the Baltic waters once again.  After several days of cleaning and repairing, we told the boat brokers that we had changed our minds.  We both felt that if we sold Capri in Seattle we would end up sitting in Denmark with an empty feeling.   Imagine ending our Grand Adventure by stepping off an airplane in Copenhagen, being met by family and friends waving Danish flags.

No, no, no.  We want to be met on the dock by family and friends.  Sailing Capri into Copenhagen harbor all our courtesy flags proudly steaming to show all the countries we have visited.  Carsten couldn’t agree more and so the decision changed and we both felt better for it.

Now we are in Mexico debating how to proceed.  We will not turn to starboard and sail the rest of the Coconut Milk Run across the Pacific for 2 reasons:

  1. The price for sailing Capri from Thailand to the Med has become exorbitant.  It was $30,000 when we left Denmark, now it has risen to over $65,000.  That simply is too much.  We also do not want to sail south around Cape Hope.
  2. Corona has again reared its ugly head in China and we have no idea what that means – will half the world close down again?

We will go eastwards.

  1. We will sail here in the Sea of Cortez until mid-june, then haul Capri out and leave her on the hard in San Carlos, Mexico.  San Carlos is outside the hurricane area.  Meanwhile we will go to Europe.
  2. We will be back and splash Capri at the end of October and then sail south along Mexico’s west coast, then further down the Central American coast until we reach Golfito, Costa Rica.  In May 2024, Capri will be loaded onto a freighter and shipped to Genoa, Italy
  3. We will cruise the Med for the summer, then leave Capri in Vilamoura, Portugal for the winter.
  4. Summer 2025, we will sail her back to Denmark.

This time there will be no changes to the plan.  We have contracted with a shipping company to ship Capri to the Med, so there is no backing out.  We’ve paid the 10% deposit.  We managed to negotiate a good price, $40,000 which a just a little bit more than we planned on 7 years ago.

The shipping company started by quoting $60,000, but after we got a pricing competition started between two shippers, the price magically dropped.  Best of all, this company ships out of Golfito in May, much better for us since it can be more than dangerous to sail southward along the Central American coast in January.

$40,000 is a lot of money, but neither Carsten nor I are really enthused about sailing upwind from Panama to Europe.  We have done enough of that.  We also have to look at what it would cost us to sail – that isn’t cheap.  We are not completely sure, but if we sailed it ourselves, it would probably cost something like $25-30,000. So perhaps having Capri shipped isn’t expensive at all.

Our motto the past almost 7 years has been; “we have no plan and, by golly, we’re going to stick to it!”  Now we have a plan – and yes, we are going to stick to it.

The past year has been heavy with all these reflections.

One thought on “30,000 nautical miles – some reflections

  1. Nice report and smart plan. We might venture down to Mexico before you go south. My grandson from England will be here in August but after that who knows? Enjoy it all (as you always do). Jeanne will be back on Sunday. Hilsen Bob and Torill


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