Posted by: Vegard Bleikli | 14/10/2014

Long overdue, but worth the wait. Miami and beyond!

MiamiMiami starting to disappear over the horizon

After having our fill of the big city life in Miami the magnificent Værbitt once again broke free of its mooring line restraints. Ploughing her way north through rough weather and shallow canal beds, her crew was again put to the test. But the seasoned sailors solemnly surmounted every scrupulous shackle the sea schemed, and eventually ended up in Norfolk.

On the challenging journey to Norfolk, Jens, an invaluable member of the crew, became ill. After many days with no improvement, we decided to have him checked out at the doctors, who again sent him off to the hospital for further testing. But even the most expensive medical system in the world could not figure out what was wrong. Demanding death before surrender, Jens climbed out of the hospital bed and dragged himself back to the boat. And before long, we waved goodbye to the hangar ships and all-you-can-eat venues of Norfolk.

2014-04-06 15.14.37August below USS Wisconsins 16″ main guns, who rained fire on Iwo Jima, Korea and Iraq

Crossing the calm Chesapeake Bay we could feel the effects of our northward latitude climb taking hold as the temperature crept lower and lower. Spoiled with the Caribbean climate the frailer crew members (Vegard) started taking desperate measured to keep good and steamy. Our water reserves were consequently sacrificed in favour of an array of hot water bottles placed in (not) every vacant space inside the foul weather gear. Below deck, the running engine took the role of a frosty cabins fireplace, and with its covers removed, warming feet and hands and damaging ears.

We were now on our last leg of our amazing journey and the next port would be our final. Even though the trip had skewed slightly from adventure to transportation at this point, we knew and felt the significance of these last few days at sea aboard our unfailing, beloved home. And so every view and every moment was savoured, and every lungful of crisp April air tasted a hint of bittersweet.

2014-04-09 19.29.06Nearing the end of the last chapter of the book. Our last sunset on the ocean.

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Posted by: Vegard Bleikli | 23/03/2014

`merica

Leaving Bahamas it was imperative that we set off at high tide, as the semi-dredged canal out to sea can be both shallow and unpredictable. When we arrived a few days earlier we had less than half a meter between the keel and the sand below, and keen not to have that much excitement on this crossing we set our watches for sundown and tide up. But tide-tables can be hard to read after a week ashore, and the time is no easier. So on a quickly ebbing tide we set off in to the dark. This time even one of the local sting rays would have been hard pressed to pass under our lead, but once again luck great seamanship saw us through and on to open and deliciously deep water. With no wind to fly our canvas we instead reaped the fruits of Vegard’s oil-drilling labour and motored on west, with the lights of Miami illuminating the horizon.

WP_20140309_006Going through the waterways in search of our marina.

IMG_0732Skyscrapers. Cars. America.

1Guns. More America.

First thing one does in America is to get a car. With that car one drives places to get fast food, shoot guns and goes on road trips, and with that one is free. Eager to get the full on experience we followed those instructions to the letter. We got a car, drove it to a Pulp Fiction style diner for breakfast and went next door to rent and shoot a great many guns.

20140311_192818Sunset from 7 mile bridge in the Keys.

After the range had taken all our money we set off south, and continued south as far as the roads go. There, in Key West, we reached the southern tip of the United States and also alogical place to turn around. But not before having a night out with the every student in the country, who had gone there for spring break.

Posted by: August Sandberg | 08/03/2014

Cayman Islands – Mexico – Bahamas

      9Happy days on Grand Cayman

After a very pleasant stay on Grand Cayman, Friday was coming up. And fear for our wallets and of breaking our tradition of always being at sea on weekends made us set sail again.

For the first time since our run from Hispañola to Cuba we had the wind from behind, and Værbitt war running for Mexico at a splendid pace of 7 knots. The Gulf Stream joined the party, and a couple of days later, we moored at Isla Mujeres of Cancun.

8Having fun on Værbitt’s masthead swing

One by one, our new crew members came aboard. Jostein, Jens’ brother, Halvard, a buddy from back home, and last but not least, the Captain himself; Vegard. It was a hearty meeting, and we all went out to eat and get to know each other. Everyone got along famously, and we spent a couple of fun days on the Island. We rented another golf cart, played volleyball at the beach and ate tons of tacos.

But again, the weekend was drawing near, and the winds were most favorable. We said our goodbyes to Mexico, but they were dwarfed by our goodbyes to Lars. He had proved to be an excellent mariner, a loyal shipmate, and a well of wit. Without him, the sailing would have been much harder, and a lot less fun.

7Lars and a Cuban friend hanging out in the cockpit

We set of with a gentle sea, a perfect breeze abaft the beam, and a solid hangover. We reached the north coast of Cuba before things got weird. Powerful squalls, currents and shifting winds made the sailing tough going. After a violent night of unidentified marine traffic,  reefing and course changing, the wind settled in the north-east. We were forced to beat up into the wind, tack upon tack for the last 300 miles, and the lighthouse of Bimini, Bahamas was a most welcome sight.

6Drying off in Big Game Club Marina

Væbitt was barely moored before we made our first mistake. The water, some say the clearest in world, tempted us to swim, and we did so without reading up on the local marine fauna. Afterwards, several grave locals told us that the water is infested by huge, aggressive bullsharks, and how stupid we were. Later that day, we discovered that they have a shark cage in the marina, where you can watch the sharks from behind thick metal bars for 150$. 50 meters from were we had our dip!

1Jens put his camera on a boat hook, and filmed the sharks in the marina.

Bimini is a very tiny tropical island, only 40 miles from Miami. Yet the place is absolutely deserted. Cast Away-beaches, empty resorts, and comatosed locals sitting idly along the island’s only road in plastic chairs. But after a few days, we found some fun people to hang out with, among them two friendly Norwegian sailors on their boat “Cavu”. We’ve driven golf cart around the entire post-apocalyptic island, eaten conchs, watched sharks, paddled kayaks, and relaxed on the desolate beaches.

4Summiting Biminis tallest mountain in a golf cart

But now, the islands attractions have all been explored, and we’re just about to weigh anchor. This time for Fort Lauderdale, US of A! We are looking forward to the stay, as some of the crew has not been on the mainland for over a month. The tide is turning, and it’s time to get underway. It is Saturday night, after all.

5

Posted by: August Sandberg | 19/02/2014

Panama – San Andres – Grand Cayman

9Værbitt is back!

Finally, we have time and internet to update the blog! It’s been a busy couple of weeks, loaded with exitement.

Værbitt was in an amazingly fine state where we found her in Shelter Bay Marina in Panama. We arrived around midnight, and were forced to break into our own boat as the closed office had our key. But it was a most happy reunion. Everything was right where we left it, the batteries were full, and no damage were to be seen. After we had confirmed all this, we craned her into the water, and the engine started eagerly with a loud triumphant roar, matched only by that of the captain.

DCIM100GOPROVærbitt on the move

The skilled and eager crew set about the last chores aboard, and after a few busy days of provisioning, soldering, route planning and testing, we set of for the Colombian island of San Andres. We had to beat up into the wind in a choppy sea, but the fresh crew handled it very well. And the boat did an amazing job, as always. We arrived San Andres at sunrise, and anchored in the shallow bay outside the tiny town.

DCIM100GOPROJens at the helm, idlers sleeping in the sun

This is where the problems started. Our dinghy, the ol’ “Værbitt Interceptor” was in a sorry state even on it’s last trip, and 8 months of sunbathing on Værbitt’s deck in Panama had not improved it’s posture. But duct tape, epoxy, all sorts of glue and determined pumping soon made it somewhat usable.

8Rust and fuel flew in all directions as we pulled the starter line

The old outboard engine was another matter. All screws and valves had rusted badly, and though pliers and oil solved most of the issues, the aluminum screws securing the engine to the Værbitt’s taffrail broke clean off. After having secured it to the Interceptor with ropes, prayers and a hammer, we discovered a nasty fuel leak. We changed the entire fuel delivery system, and set of for the shore. Then the fuel tank fell off, and floated away. It’s securing screws were rusted through, and the engine cover were off, as we had to control the rusted throttle with a wrench. Jens, always alert, instantly jumped into the water and swam us back to Værbitt, where we called a water taxi.

DCIM100GOPROA nice local fisherman gave us a ride after we gave up the Interceptor

San Andres was a pleasant little island, and wanting to see it all in style, we rented a golf cart. We drove around the entire island in 4 hours, seeing beautiful beaches, wildlife, a great blowhole, and the cave where Henry Morgan buried his pirate treasure. A most welcome expedition after lots of of hard work.

DCIM100GOPROCruising in style, on land and sea alike

After a few days we set sail once more, this time for the Cayman Islands 400 miles to the north. A leg that called for keen navigation, as we had to cross the treacherous Nicaraguan Banks. Shallows, reefs and currents were plentiful, but we made it safely across without a scratch. The most troublesome issue we had to deal with, was a handful of wet wipes that was flushed down our toilet. The entire system clogged, and we were obliged to dismantle the entire plumbing to locate and dig out the wipes. A most complicated and disgusting affair, made all the worse by the boat’s motion and pressing errands.

7Lars opening the waste water tank. Note the toothpaste in his mustache

Right now, were chilling in Barcadere Marina on Grand Cayman. An interesting, tax free little island with 50 000 inhabitants and some 600 banks. There are hens, beaches and stingrays everywhere, and a laid back atmosphere. We’ll stay here for a few more days, and then set sail for Cancun, Mexico, where we’re looking forward to seeing some new crew members, and dreading the departure of our beloved Lars.

DCIM100GOPROShopping has never been more fun

Posted by: August Sandberg | 28/01/2014

Tweets from the high seas!

TwitterOur Twitter has been sadly neglected , but this will soon come to an end

Brilliant as we are, we have connected our beast satellite phone to our Twitter, and will be tweeting away on our trip. Without internet, cellphone service or HF-radio, this will be the only way we communicate with the world while at sea.

The tweets will share the ships status, weather information, and everything exiting that happens on the boat. Our position will, as always, be available on Vaerbitt’s tracker page.

Follow @Vaerbittsailing on Twitter and share our adventure!

Posted by: August Sandberg | 24/01/2014

More Adventure Time

v

Patiently waiting for our return, Værbitt is as anxious to be back on the waves as we are

Two months ago, we put our dear Værbitt up for sale, and the resonse was overwhelming. A great thanks to everyone who contacted us, and to those who helped spread the message. In the end,  we sold the boat to a fellow adventurous Norwegian, whom we trust will carry on the boats legacy and treat her right.

However, the boat is not to be sold in Panama where we left her. The transaction will go down some 2000 miles away, and we are preparing for one last, epic journey.

In less than two weeks, Værbitt will set sail once again. As not to be unknowingly involved in any smuggling business, our destination is confidential for now,  put will be posted as soon as we’re back in Panama. From there, our voyage can be followed live on our tracking page. We will also update the blog as often as we can, and as most of the crew are professional photographers, we hope to show you some really great shots.

Værbitt is BACK!

Posted by: August Sandberg | 26/11/2013

Adventure for sale

It’s been nearly 8 months since we last saw our beloved Værbitt. Since then, our lives have changed dramatically, and our days as oceanroaming adventurers seems very far away. Vegard is back drilling for oil in the North Sea whilst living in Madrid with Værbitt’s first mate, Anna. I am making films in Bergen at Fet Film, and nursing my sick father back to health. Both settled down, working, and courted by amazing girlfriends, we find it hard to rip up our roots and go sailing again.

Therefore, with heavy hearts, we’re putting our dear boat up for sale.  It’s been too good a girl to be sitting on land for this long, and hopefully, a new crew will continue the adventure where we left of.

Tempted by a carefree life at sea aboard the greatest boat ever built? Check out or ad right here:

Skjermbilde 2013-11-26 kl. 11.37.11 AM

Posted by: August Sandberg | 12/06/2013

Home is the sailor, home from the sea.

9

On the 9th of April, as Værbitt was hauled out near Colon getting her last layer of anti-fouling on, a blue water sailor’s worst nightmare came true. Back home in Norway, my father had a very serious subarachnoid bleeding. I got on the first plane home, and less than 24 hours after hearing the terrible news, I was at my father’s side. He survived, as he miraculously managed to call and direct the ambulance himself, and is now on his long way back to a near-full recovery after some very scary months at the hospital.

It was weird and scary, traveling the distance we had used 8 months to cover in less than a day, not knowing anything about the situation back home. But I was grateful for the trip. We could wery well have been at sea when the accident happended, or in Cuba, completely off the grid.

Vegard finished Værbitt’s maintenance, wrapped up the adventure, and Værbitt has now been placed in dry storage in Panama. We will return there some time next year to continue our trip. The route is not yet decided, but we might sail home across the Atlantic, or maybe keep the boat in the Caribbean for a while.

A big thanks to everyone who’s been following us so far, and we’re looking forward to sharing more crazy adventures with you soon!

Posted by: Vegard Bleikli | 18/04/2013

Panama

1Vessels at anchor as we approach the Panama canal

We left Cuba with the wind in our back and the sun setting to starboard. The 700nm journey would normally take about 5 days, but we were fighting the currents and the wind was slowly dying. When the GPS told us we were going backwards we turned on the engine, and after 8 days at sea the entrance to the canal was in sight.

The marina we arrived in was previously the american Fort Sherman, where the gringos guarded the canal and practised jungle warfare. It was abandoned in 1999 and the jungle around the marina is filled with the ruins of old, overgrown military installations.  The last couple of months or so some american forces have returned to the base, in case the North Koreans decide to nuke it.

4One of the artillery batteries hidden in the jungle

5
Sloth hanging out

To prepare ourselves for the canal, we volunteered as line-handlers for another boat. Each boat going through needs a captain, an advisor and four line-handlers. Our job would be to keep the boat from hitting the walls in the locks as we were lifted up or down. It can be especially challenging going up, as the locks are quickly filled, and the water looks more like a churning river than that of a lake.

6The crew aboard the english “Shiraz”

2A cruise ship in the Culebra Cut, headed towards the Caribbean

7
Rafted up with the 105′ superyacht “Gliss”

Work on the canal was first started by the french in 1881. They wanted to make an ocean level canal which would eliminate the need for locks, but would require a lot more dirt to be moved. After 10 years of digging all they had to show for it was a big ditch in the jungle, and the project was abandoned. Some 15 years later the americans picked up the pieces from the french effort. They realized after a while that the ocean level canal would be near impossible, and decided to make an artificial lake with locks on both sides. When the canal was opened in 1914 it had claimed 28 000 lives and taken more than 3 decades to complete. It is now considered one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.

3Workers “painting” seeds on the dirt to stabilize it

 

Posted by: Vegard Bleikli | 08/04/2013

Cuba continued in pictures

 7Naomi preparing dinner in her apartment that was partially destroyed by hurricane Sandy last year, Santiago

9A leaking water pipe is the basis of a small eco-system

15Mechanic working on an old Ford truck in Baracoa

24Hand painted road sign in Havana

30With small apartments shared by several generations, trumpet practise must be done outdoors

31A yank-tank at its regular watering hole in Havana

34The standard issue Lada police car

6
Anna checking out the backyard

39Why not end on a sunset over a village near Trinidad

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