Category Archives: update

Hello Galapagos


The cutest little seal

The cutest little seal

We arrive at Santa Cruz in the Galapagos eight days after leaving Panama.

Aside from some repairs that Axel had to carry out on the water pump, engine, and water maker, the trip was a uneventful (read: peaceful, calm, happy).

We had many beautiful sunsets, a view of the milky way at night, and wonderfully smooth sailing. It was such a magical trip, that I actually feel a little sad when we come into sight of land…

So I needn’t have worried. Thanks to all of you who gave me encouraging words after my last blog post. Perhaps I sounded a bit frantic? Hehe.

Don’t worry. I’m learning to be more accepting of the situations we get ourselves into on the boat. Although, old habits of thought die hard…I’m always in danger of a relapse!

Five. No! Yes, Five.

As we arrive, Andre from the boat Ecapoe, who has been in the Galapagos with his wife Birgit and three kids for the last 3 months, drives up in his dinghy to say hello. The last time we saw him was in July in Santa Marta, and it is wonderful to see his smiling face.

Soon, the customs guys comes on board – very friendly, with bad english to compliment our bad spanish. In the course of his routine questionning, he asks:

“How many GPS devices do you have?”
“Five.” says Axel.
The customs official shakes his head.
“No,” he says, “How many GPS?”
“Five,” says Axel.
“No,” says the customs official.
“Yes,” says Axel
“Yes,” says Axel
“Yes, five”

The guy nods then, obviously very impressed by Axels copious GPS devices, and Axel wisely decides to keep his mouth shut when it occurs to him that we actually have nine GPS devices – that is, if you count our iPads and phones which we use for navigation as well.

“And how many VHF radios,” the customs official continues his questioning.
“Ah…four,” says Axel, a little sheepishly.
“Yes, four.”


Later, we are at the immigration office. They ask us to fill out forms with our name, address, passport information, and profession. For profession, I fill in “Software designer,” which is not exactly my job, but is the title I’ve taken to using since it is less confusing to most people than “User experience analyst,” which is what I actually do (um…did).

The immigration official takes our forms, and after a few minutes of tapping away at his computer, looks up at me and asks in Spanish “What is your profession?”
“Software designer,” I say.
He looks confused, and repeats “What is your profession?”
“Software designer,” I say, slowly enunciating the words.
He still looks confused, so I point to my form where I’d written it down.
He looks at it and shakes his head, not understanding.
“Con computadora” I say, and mime typing with my hands
“Ahhh! Secretaria!” he says
“No,” I say, shaking my head, “Soft-ware des-sign-er, ah…” I search my feeble Spanish for words to help describe what a software designer does, but end up feebly repeating “con computadora.”
“Ah!!” he says then, and nods knowingly “Asistenta!”
At which point Axel and I look at each other a little helplessly, before eventually responding with a shrug, “Si.”

Oh, nature. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…

I didn’t realize before, just now animal-free my normal environment is. I mean, we’ll get a few sparrows, some pigeons, maybe a rat or two if we’re lucky. And of course, there are cats, dogs, and other pets walking around on leashes or kept in the house.

Here in the Galapagos, we travel to town with the water Taxi, and have to step sideways around sea lions sunning themselves on the dock. In the morning, near the Charles Darwin Research station, we have to be careful not to step on any Iguanas, whose still forms fade into the concrete. Bright red crabs scuttle about on the rocks, and if you look, you will see a beautiful array of birds, including Herons, Pelicans, Warblers, Finches, and the wonderfully named Boobies.

I hear that on Bartoleme Island you can go snorkling with Penguins, and up in the highlands, you can commune with the giant tortoises.

If you are on facebook you should have seen Axel’s videos of our dives. If not, here are the videos Axel made:

I feel spoilt for having the chance to dive in the Galapagos. Perhaps I’ll never want to dive anywhere else again…there are turtles and turtles and turtles! And seals, and sharks, and a hundred thousand fish…a far cry from Santa Marta, where dynamite fishing has robbed the waters of the last remnants of coral reef.

Talk to one of the many biologists you will find dotted across the landscape here, however, and you get a sense of the constant battle between the conservationists and those out to make money off the wildlife. You hear stories of illegal over-fishing of sea cucumbers, sharks and other native fish, even in protected areas, and of certain individuals who’ve made a lot of money helping foreign fisher boats evade authorities…

Meanwhile, on the boat…

Some time during the trip here from Panama, I finally managed to settle into the boat life.

That isn’t to say that I am a “cruiser.” Not quite. I still think wistfully of the time we will arrive in New Zealand (Imagine! We will have a biig kitchen with SPACE, and a nice non-malfunctioning fridge, whose crisper I will keep stocked full of fresh berries and perishable leafy greens, and we might even have a dishwasher, and, oh oh oh, and every day I’ll take a steaming HOT SHOWER…)

But still, I am finally adjusted to life on Gudrun. I no longer swear profusely every time I have to get something out of the back lockers, I’ve stopped worrying obsessively that our anchor will drag in the night, and perhaps the most importantly, I’ve learnt to be more centered and self-contained, so that I don’t become consumed by loneliness each time we say goodbye to friends or move from one place to another, or so easily pushed into a strange depression when something unexpected happens, which is almost every week…

This week, our unexpected event involved the fridge, which simply stopped working.

Yes, the fridge stopped working. Which means that we have eaten the last of the Parmesan, and that I had to throw out the delicious chorizio we’ve been using to accent to our meals, and that there is a very real possibility that we’ll have to leave for our 3-4 week crossing to the Marquesas without a working fridge on the boat.

A year ago, I would be freaking out…”No yoghurt?” I’d think to myself, on the verge of throwing myself on the floor and writhing about in agony, “No cold drinks? No bacon? No CHEEESE!?” My lower lip would be trembling. “I can’t…it’s not possible…I need cheese or, or, I’ll DIE!!”

But, that was then, and this is now. I now realize in my infinite wisdom (could it be I am growing up a little?), that I probably won’t die if I can’t eat cheese for a month. In fact, I might do just fine.

And next?

Our time in the Galapagos is winding down. Ecapoe left for the Marquesas yesterday, and we miss them dearly. Over the next few days I’ll start thinking about provisioning – stocking up on fruit, veges, eggs, and beer, which is all that we are missing right now if you don’t count the cheese.

We plan on leaving next Tuesday for the Marquesas. We *have* to leave actually, since the authorities here have strict limits on how long boats are allowed to stay. Once we arrive on the other side, we will spend some weeks exploring the islands, as well as the Tuamotu Archipelago, and then make our way to Papeete in Tahiti. As usual, Axel will update his blog every day at 12pm our time. Here is the link:

Wish us luck!


There is always a solution to every problem

We’ve been in the anchorage La Playita in Panama for almost two weeks. In a week or less we will be leaving for the Galapagos, and I’m already feeling the pangs of separation. Axel and I talk often about what it will be like once we arrive n new Zealand. I won’t complain about the life we are living now, but I do miss putting down roots, and very much look forward to “settling down” in Auckland for a year or two at least.

We have met many wonderful cruisers during our month in Panama. Most of the boats here are owned by older couples (40, 50, 60 years old) who want to cross the Pacific. It is definitely a special type of person who will sell their assets and cash in their pensions back home and travel so far from home, so it has been interesting to hear their philosophies on life.

It is interesting to sense the underlying unease that many of the cruisers have as they talk about how they may live 20-30 years longer (must be the healthy sea air), and they’re not quite sure how they will finance it, or manage their boat as they age.

There is also this great sense of ‘can-do’ from the characters we’ve met. One older cruiser mentioned to us the other day: “Every now and then we come across a big problem, and it seems so difficult at the time. I used to get so stressed out, but in the end, every problem has come to a resolution. I have learnt by now that there is always a solution to every problem; always…”

Ok, time for me to get back to my writing.

With love,
– Liz


So, a quick update on what’s been going on with us…

After a relaxing few weeks in the San Blas (palm trees, beaches, pinapples, etc.), we arrived in Shelter Bay Marina on mainland Panama. Gudrun had to come out of the water so we could paint her with anti-fouling and so Axel could fix up the plumbing. Once out, we also found there was corrosion on the alu hull that had to be dealt with. Here’s the video:

After that, we went through the Panama canal, twice! Not with Gudrun, however, but as line-handlers with our friends from the boats Venus and Mojomo.

Here are 2 videos of the crossing with Mojomo.

Time lapse:


Next week, on the 22nd Feb, it’s our turn. Axel is, as always, busy with boat improvements, including adding a water-maker and solar panels so that we won’t have to worry so much about water/energy in the Pacific; and I have been busying myself with provisioning.

We are both looking forward to AFTER the canal crossing, where we can perhaps relax a little and NOT do any sanding, or painting, or cleaning, or installing, or running around chasing parts and packages…

With love,
– Liz

Packing, thinking, planning, and a party!

Axel and I are back in Ulm. We have been packing boxes, sorting out travel plans, and thinking about the future. It’s a funny time. One of those inbetween times where you have finished what you were doing but not quite started on the next thing. It’s hard to get motivated, but we are slowly moving forward. I have been writing a little lately, but not too much.

Last Sunday we celebrated our engagement with all the German relatives in Dietenheim. It was a fun day meeting everyone and eating (too much) good food. My Mum and Dad video-skyped in for a few minutes from New Zealand as well, which was fun :-D. In general I think that many of the relatives are not sure what to do with us. They can’t quite understand why we want to travel about so much and move to the other end of the world.

Axel asked me that again last night, “Why are we doing this again Liz?” Why don’t we just settle down and get ourselves some nice reasonable jobs and a nice house and all that jazz?  In the end Axel decided on “Because we can.” For me I think the answer is that I wanted a chance to change. To do something different. To get off my hamster wheel. It hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be, but the goal is still there: to make a different choice…

The next weeks will be busy. We have to finish clearing out the apartment, then we travel to Copenhagen, Berlin, and Cadiz to visit friends. At the end of September we will travel to New York.

Other than that I have started looking for wedding venues in New Zealand for 2013. The best places get booked up years in advance. Crazy.

Hope you are all well. Much love,

– Liz


Engagement lunch

My (soon-to-be) family!

Back in Ulm

Hey there all. Lots of traveling happening over here. Axel and I are back in Ulm for a week or so, then off to Serbia for a friends wedding. Since it is still to early in the season to travel through the Panama canal and start the pacific crossing, we are taking the time now to clean out Axels apartment in Ulm so that he can rent it out, as well as travel to meet up with friends in Europe. From September 26th until October we will be in New York to visit the city and to meet my new nephew who is due in September.

Cuba was amazing. I’m still sorting through the impressions in my head and will post a blog about it soon. We got back to Colombia a week ago, but it’s been so hot there I haven’t been doing much more than wandering about the city in a daze trying to find a cold drink, and preparing for our trip to Europe of course.

We are both doing well, and are happy to be off the boat for a while.  I went to the US embassy in Franfurt this morning and gave up my green card. I’m now finally and officially not a US permanent resident. Congratulations to me?

Much love,

– Liz

Off to Cuba!

We are finally on our way to Cuba! We will leave tomorrow morning from Cartagena where we are currently staying in a hotel (first hot shower in 3 months. Soooo good :-D).

We only have to survive the 7 hour stopover in Panama tomorrow, and will arrive in Havana in the evening. If there was an emoticon for jumping up and down with excitement, I would place it here *.

The old town of Cartagena is beautiful, but overflowing with tourists. We sat in the park and ate an interesting/tasty pizza topped with apple, pear, and blue cheese.  Then we walked around town and party boys kept trying to convince Axel to come to their party…”Hey mister, listen to me, we are having a biiig party! You should come!!”

Take care and enjoy  your weekend 🙂

– Liz


We spent a day motoring from Aguadilla to Mayagüez (the motor works fine!),  where we stayed in an empty anchorage. The next morning the sea was very still and we saw our first Manatee, who briefly surfaced about 20 meters from the boat.

Manateeee! Although from the boat we only saw a part of his tail

Yesterday we arrived in Boqueron, which is a  cute little town full of bars, restaurants and kids hanging out on the beach.

Since we arrived I have been waging a war against mosquitos. Yesterday I slathered on mozzie repellant during the day, and ecalyptus oil at night (which supposedly has anti-mozzie qualities), but neither Deet, nor my herbal remedy, nor staying up half the night with a tissue in hand trying to kill the tiny buggers, was enough to stop them from eating us alive.

Tonight,  armed with mosquito coils and “Real-Kill” insect spray I’m hoping to turn the tide. Death to mozzies! My tender thighs wern’t made to handle this kind of punishment 😦

Tomorrow morning we will finally leave Puerto Rico. Plan C is already in effect since there will probably not be enough wind to get to Cartagena, Columbia. We have instead set our sights on Santa Marta, which should take 5-6 days. It will be my longest sail yet, so let’s see how it goes.

As usual Axel will post updates here via satellite phone:

Goodbye Puerto Rico! You have a piece of my heart. I love your friendly people. I love your Dragonberry Rum and local beer. I love your chicken empanadas. But I could do without the damn mosquitos….