To celebrate our two-year anniversary aboard Adhara we got together with Click & Boat for an Interview. The Original is in German but we’ve received so many messages from you so we translated it in English below. Don’t forget and please tell your friends about our special for you guys: SAVE 5% ON ANY BOAT RENTAL BOOKING with Click & Boat with our code “ADHARA5”
TRANSLATION FROM THE ORIGINAL: Leben an Bord – Interview mit Jan & Jessie von Sailing Adfhara (German Version)
Jessie and Jan are from Austria and Kiel respectively, bought their Contest 48CS Adhara in July 2020 and have been living on the boat full time since November 2020. Since then, they have sailed from England to the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean, Cape Verde, and the Caribbean. Jessie and Jan report on their journey on Instagram at @sailingadhara as well as on their blog.
We spoke with the crew of the Adhara when they were in Dominica to learn more about life on a sailboat and the adventure of crossing the Atlantic.
How did you discover your passion for sailing and develop your dream of sailing?
Jan: I was born in Kiel and started sailing as a child. That has always carried through a bit, although I didn’t sail that much from 15 to 30. Then I met Jessie at the Kieler Woche.
Jessie: I’m from Austria, so I had really nothing to do with sailing, but ironically we met right there (Kieler Woche = biggest sailing event in the world).
Jan: At one point we were both looking to do something new and different before lifes obligations get in the way (morgage, children,…) and there were different possibilities. We had also thought about buying a van/expedition vehicle. But it was always my dream to travel by sailboat. Then, fortunately, I was able to convince Jessie that she would like that, too.
Jessie: Jan has always followed a few YouTube channels, but I never really wanted to watch them because I thought it was unrealistic and unattainable. But if you look into it and ask a few questions, then all of a sudden it sounds kind of doable before retirement. So we said to ourselves, we’ll give ourselves a time limit of two, or three years to test it out, and maybe something will happen along the way enabling us to do it for a bit longer. But I don’t exactly know where we stand on that now.
So you guys don’t have any plans to continue this in the future, or mainly as a hobby?
Jessie: We’ve learned pretty early that sailing and making plans don’t really go together very well. It’s hard to answer that question because you always have these Highs and Lows, just because everything is so much more extreme in sailing and living on a boat. When you have a good experience, it’s the best of your life, but when you have a few bad days, they’re also the worst days ever. Those are what we call “sell the boat days” where you think to yourself: “what am I doing here and why am I doing this to myself?”. For me it also has a lot to do with sleep quality and being so exposed to the elements. Sometimes you just want to lie down on your sofa and not know anything about the boat anymore, but that’s just impossible. So from there, it fluctuates sometimes.
We’re planning to take a little break over the hurricane season, which starts here in the Caribbean at the end of May and runs through November. We’ll probably realize then that we want to get back to the boat as soon as possible, so we’ll see. I think the question will be answered in a few months, but in any case, we need the refresh now.
Was life on the boat as you expected it to be, or were there any unforeseen challenges?
Jan: It’s quite funny, we sometimes think to ourselves, we actually would have liked to have something written down somewhere about what exactly we expected because it gets mixed up with reality so quickly. It’s definitely different than what you would imagine. But the problem is more like Jessie said, you can’t hit the pause button. You learn that you have to deal with the fact that sometimes things don’t go so well and then you have to push through it. Chances are high things always turn out better than ever after a rough patch.
Jessie: You have this idea that we have that endless freedom in sailing. But that freedom is very much determined by wind and weather, and you can’t always do what you want. You always have to look: What is possible for the boat, what can we do at all? Sometimes it’s also a bit of stress that the weather changes in 3 days and you might have to leave earlier than you would have liked to.
Jan: On the other hand, we had this magical experience yesterday, watching the lunar eclipse here from our boat in Dominica. In those kind of moments you really have to pinch yourself. You’re standing on your boat, alone somewhere in the Caribbean, you look up at the sky and see a lunar eclipse and you simply can’t believe it. The highs and lows alternate extremely quickly and often and you live much more intensely.
Jessie: So true. So to answer this question I would maybe add that it’s not as easy as I thought it would be before. Youtube definitely made it look easy! To friends back home, it sounds and looks like we’re on vacation all our lives and that we’re just lounging around in the sun all day. But it’s a full-time job to keep a boat like this afloat. We sometimes get people saying that we’re not even that tan, but I can count on one hand the number of days I’ve been sunbathing here in the Caribbean… But maybe we’re not the type for that either.
“You live much more intensely.”
You crossed the Atlantic at the beginning of 2022 and were on the road for 17 days. What was that feeling like?
Jan: Correct. So we started in Gibraltar, from there to Lanzarote, it was 4 days [600 nautical miles/1,111 km]. Then from the Canary Islands on to Cape Verde, another 5 ½ days [823 nautical miles/1,524 km] and from there another 17 days [2,254 nautical miles/4,174 km] to Martinique.
Jessie: The Atlantic Crossing was actually nothing like what we expected it to be. That doesn’t mean it was bad, it was just very different to anything I’ve read, seen or heard before. In the middle of the Atlantic, you’re closer to the ISS than you are to the nearest land. But that feeling doesn’t really set in. You’re out of sight of land relatively quickly, and then everything just looks the same, so you don’t have that spatial feeling at all.
Jan: We also have add that we had relatively unusual weather for the first 11 days. Meaning we had no trade winds, as you would expect, but we had lulls, thunderstorms, and relatively little wind. So we also had to sail pretty actively and changed sails quite a bit. It wasn’t at all this “setting the sails once and then do nothing for two weeks”, as many others describe, we experienced proper trade winds only in the last 6 days. And I think because of that, we didn’t really get into the rhythm on the first part of the passage. We were writing little log entries everyday for our blog (read here: ATLANTIC CROSSING – LEG 3), and that was a real nice practice for us. We would write about what happend every day, because otherwise, the days get blurry with the watch system that you have. There were three of us, so there was always somebody on watch for 3 hours and then took a 6-hour break. Of course, at some point the time of day doesn’t matter, because you live according to your shifts. And the log writing was a nice way to remind us that another day had passed.
Was it a relief when you met Land, or were you also a bit sad?
Jessie: Jan said that it was only in the last 6 days that we had the trade winds that we dreamed of. At this point the sailing was so beautiful, we could have actually sailed even further because we it felt so right and it really felt like we were actually crossing the Atlantic. Before that, it just wasn’t what you would imagine. Again, that doesn’t mean it was bad, but we just weren’t there yet in the mindset. Then in the last 6 days it was so beautiful that it could have actually been even longer. But of course you can see on the plotter that you are really close to land, even if you still need two days to get there. So yes, we were excited. But in the end, we even slowed down so that we wouldn’t arrive at night, but at sunrise. But that was a cool feeling, also because we already met other cruisers and of course, most of them have the same goal, to sail across the Atlantic. Then, of course, it was a really cool feeling to arrive in Anchorage. Friends of ours came out with the dinghy and cheered us on arrival. Tears of joy and all. That was a very, very nice experience and a special moment I won’t forget.
Jan: Yeah, so a lot of people arrive in Martinique, there were about 300 boats there, and I would say most of the people coming from the Atlantic Crossing head for it. So there was just a really cool atmosphere because everyone made it. Many people didn’t even have a plan for what would come after that, the big plan was just the Atlantic crossing for now. I still remember how we did nothing at all for two weeks, just had a croissant for breakfast every day in Martinique. Just kidding, we did actually need to fix some stuff. And after that, everyone pursued their own plans again.
We had a bit of bad luck at our start from Cape Verde. Our third crew, who sailed with us across the Atlantic, got a call on the day we were going to sail that he probably had Corona. That was two hours before we were really going to pull up the anchor and set sail. Then we thought, should we go now? If we all get sick now, it would be extremely stupid, of course, because you can’t turn around either. We decided to wait, and two days later I and then Jessie were actually quite seriously ill, high fever, joint pains and all. So that left us sitting at anchor together for two weeks without being able to leave the boat before we even sailed. We wouldn’t have left either if the weather had been bad in any way, but we did have a bit of a time crunch at one point. This year was quite unusual weather on the Atlantic, with many low-wind zones and disruptions of the trade winds. So we started from the Cape Verdes with very little wind, and we were sailing at 2.5 knots for two days because we didn’t want to motor for two days in the beginning of the trip either. That was a bit of a morale drain when you re-calculate and the destination is suddenly 30 days away and not 14, as we had planned. For me, my mood then depends very much on the weather and how fast the boat sails.
Did you guys have any sort of cabin fever in between?
Jessie: More at anchor! The days at anchor in Mindelo [Cape Verde] were already hard when we were in quarantine. Every day you see more and more boats sail away, taking advantage of the weather window that you also picked. Especially because you are so excited to leave for such a long time and then you were just about to leave when you got the call…
Jan: When we finally did leave, it didn’t even feel so crazy, because we already have almost left before. Does that make sense?
Jessie: At some point, we said to ourselves: Let’s just leave now. So it felt like we were maybe sailing to the next anchorage instead of across the Atlantic because we had been through this whole thing so many times.
Jan: You also really live in a bubble in this cruising life. Basically, everybody in the Cape Verdes on a sailboat is only there because they are also planning to sail across the Atlantic. So somehow you’re surrounded by people who all sail across the Atlantic and so at some point it becomes sort of completely normalized and you talk about it like you’re talking about going for a walk. Weird stuff really!
Is there anything you would advise other people who want to do the same thing? Would you do it all over again the same way?
Jessie: Yes. I would definitely do it again.
Jessie: We get a lot of questions with “how much does it cost” and stuff like that, but I think that’s kind of the wrong question.
Jan: It’s really possible with almost any budget. We know some people who have a full-time job on board, they travel much slower then of course. Back then we rented a boat with friends once or twice and then we flew to the Canary Islands once because we also wanted to sail in the Atlantic. That’s just different sailing than in the Mediterranean. Then we went there again for a week and that was different because you have three-meter waves and not-so-nice weather.
Jessie: I was so seasick on the first day that I said: No, we won’t do it. I really asked myself, “Do people do that for fun? But it was also a bad course against the wind, in the rain, it was cold, and I was super seasick. Then the skipper luckily gave me an anti-seasickness pill. But the other 6 days were really super nice.
Jan: I don’t know at all, what would one advise? Of course, it depends a lot on how long you want to do it and what budget you have. But you can do it with really many budgets. We know people who are sailing around with €2 million catamarans, but we also know people with boats for €30,000.
Jessie: I would say just do it.
“I would say just do it.”
So you guys have no regrets?
Jessie: No, we haven’t regretted anything. You just have to go out, leave the marina at some point. We know too many that just get stuck in the marinas trying to perfect their boat.
Are there any other experiences you’d like to share?
Jessie: We get asked a lot, if we ever get scared or if we’ve ever gotten into a storm.
Jan: You can avoid storms very well, for example, by not setting sail towards the Caribbean in the peak of Hurricane Season. Right now in the trade winds we really have had the same wind for 4 months, which actually always comes from the east. We’ve had some stronger winds a couple of times, but we haven’t experienced a storm as you might see in movies.
And have we ever been really scared? We had one experience that wasn’t so nice. That was when we sailed out of Gibraltar towards the Canary Islands at the end of October. Just as we were out of the Strait of Gibraltar into the Atlantic, about 7 miles [about 11 km] from the Moroccan coast, we saw two people in the water. Jessie saw them from the cockpit and said to me, “There are two people in the water!”. Our first reaction was more like, that’s impossible! We had about 30 knots of wind and pretty high waves. Jessie sent a MAYDAY relay call to the Spanish Coast Guard with our VHF and relayed our position. We first tried to figure it out somehow: Maybe they’re pilots, or maybe they’re shipwrecked and their ship has sunk – You just try to make sense of it, because how else are there people floating in the water in the middle of the Atlantic? We quickly brought in the sails, turned the boat around, and with binoculars tried to find the people again. Heading into the wind and the waves, we advanced at a speed of 2 knots. The situation can quickly become confusing, and at first, we thought we had seen more than two people. Horror scenarios flash through your mind. When we finally found them again and got a little closer, we saw that there were two young men. One was sitting on a big black rubber tire, the other was in the water and had a smaller floating tire. The tires were tied together with ropes. We first tried to keep our distance, because we didn’t want to get any of the ropes in our propeller. The Spanish coast guard answered that it was Morocco who was responsible, and then it went a bit back and forth with them. Because we were not extremely far from the coast, we reckoned that sea rescue would be there quickly in a speedboat. So we kept an eye on them and kept in contact with the coast guard. I don’t know how long they had been in the water, but they certainly still had enough strength to stay afloat and pull themselves onto the big tire. Since there were only two of us on board, we didn’t try to get them on board at that point, because in the conditions we felt the risk of hurting ourselves or the men was too high. About 2 hours after our MAYDAY and just before sunset, the Moroccan Coast Guard rescued the two from the water. We stayed in close proximity until the end.
Jessie: All of that happened at the beginning of our passage to the Canary Islands. We still had 4 days at sea ahead of us. Emotionally, we were both quite taken there. After the men were rescued, the Coast Guard thanked us. The two would not have survived the night. They would have drifted out into the open ocean, no ship would have seen them. It was pure coincidence and incredible luck for the men that we were passing that exact spot with our boat at that moment and I noticed something out of the corner of my eye in the water. One then thinks of all those who are not rescued. How many people risk their lives every day, drowning or drifting out into the ocean. How dangerous and unforgiving the ocean can be.
Jan: The whole thing was a hard reality shock. Especially in the Canary Islands and along the African coast, you often hear over the radio when refugee boats are sighted. No one can prepare you for getting so close to such a tragic situation. We saved the lives of two people. That was actually the hardest and most drastic experience we had.
View our Instagram Post about the incident here: RESCUE AT SEA – SAILING ADHARA
What is your plan for the future now?
Jan: We are slowly making our way South to Grenada. There we will get the boat out in the middle of June and come to Europe for the hurricane season. We will explore Dominica with friends on the way, and we still have to do some errands in Martinique. At the beginning of November, we’ll go back to the boat, and then we’ll sail towards the Bahamas. And after that… well it’s all still very far away!
Jessie: Sailing and making plans… I told you!
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)