The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Me and My Seagull

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." ~ Author: Eric Cantona

This year I splurged on a 50-euro fishing licence. My largest catch so far was a seagull.
Catching seagulls
It's looking at the lure as if to say, "how did I get fooled by this plastic piece of trash?"
I finally hooked a fish in the Algarve (a type of mackerel), which I ate the next day. My plan to live on fish and sprouts fell through for two very simple reasons: I haven't learned how to fish properly and sprouting takes time. Everything boils down to free time.

Catching mackerel
The 50-euro fish.
Anyway, I caught this mackerel while motorsailing from Culatra to Alvor trailing a lure from a cheap fishing rod. Where there's one fish there's got to be more, so I plunked the lure back in the water, let out plenty of line, and caught a seagull.

It began circling about 60 m behind the boat and, sure enough, it swooped down and hit the water wings wide open. Suddenly I had a seagull on the lure. I was convinced the lure was at least a couple of meters deep like it's suppose to be, and not on the surface. 

Another punch in the gut feeling. Shit, now I'd have to get it on the boat and kill it. What choice did I have? I'd never be able to extract those nasty hooks from its throat without torturing and mutilating it beyond repair. Then I'd surely shoot myself with a hand flare out of remorse. Looking at the panic in its eyes as I reeled it in closer almost made me sick.

I put the engine in neutral, which slowed the boat to 2.5 knots in the light breeze and slowly reeled it in. The poor bird was literally walking on the water, flapping its wings, being pulled by its head held high out of the water. 

But after I had it alongside and raised it onto the deck, it stood on its feet, shook its head and the lure fell to the deck. The hook had merely caught the inner tip of its beak and had been held in place solely by the pressure of the taut line. 

It stood there for a minute or two looking bewildered and then flew away as gracefully as any other gull. As for me, I swore never to fish again. 

But after some experimenting I learned that the lure has to be closer to the boat for its nose paddle to bite and dive. Either that or you need to put a lead on the line. So maybe I will fish again.

I gutted the mackerel and, lacking a fridge, stored it in the cool bilge. The next day in Alvor I cooked a delicious caldeirada and made a toast to the unharmed seagull and wondered whether it would overcome the trauma and ever go fishing again or take to eating discarded fish and garbage like most seagulls do.

How did I feel about the fish, you may ask? A bit sorry at first, but it's not very different from buying a dead fish.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Art of Anchoring Like an Idiot

Anchoring accidents
The white boat dropped its anchor on top of the red boat's anchor. Two minutes later they were doing an intimate dance to the music of much shouting. The solo sailor on the red boat was surprisingly patient while instructing them how to disengage their anchor from his chain. 
For about an hour I watched this Portuguese-flagged boat crewed by a large French family repeatedly attempt to anchor on top of other boats, including mine - twice! It was good entertainment that ended when they accidentally dropped their anchor in a open area. Nobody was yelling at them there so they stayed in their lonely spot 30 m from the closest boat. You have to wonder what was going through their minds and whether they had ever anchored before or even had any theoretical knowledge about the art of anchoring.
After a 7-hour trip (350 km on two buses), I arrived in Olhão, Algarve, on a hot day. A confused twenty minute walk through narrow streets took me to the port where I hailed a flimsy water taxi with a 100-hp outboard that took off at full speed along the channel violently punching the choppy water toward where I had left Jakatar at anchor. I had to keep my mouth shut to keep my teeth from chattering.

"I'm anchored about 300 meters directly in front of the marina entrance," I told the driver. But there, in my spot, I saw another sailboat. After recovering from a sudden empty gut sensation, I glanced around and saw Jakatar about 200 m farther east.

The fenders I had left hanging from the sissy bars were all all deployed from the lifelines at nearly deck level to fend off other boats. I also saw some black rubber marks on the hull. I asked the taxi guy if it had been windy. "It blew like hell Sunday afternoon," he replied showing little enthusiasm for conversation. I paid him the €25 and some loose change for a tip and then climbed aboard.

Standing in the cockpit I nearly laughed when I saw that the boat anchored about 50 m behind me belonged to the bald guy who had almost screamed his tongue from his mouth while flailing his arms like a lunatic thinking I was going to anchor in front of him. During the next days I saw only a young couple on the boat continuously "smooching" in  the cockpit and in the water. 

Later, I dinghied over to a nearby Dutch boat, and the friendly couple aboard described what had happened. On Sunday, before the wind piped up, a Spanish boat dropped about 15 m of chain (in 8 m of water!!) and the crew immediately went ashore for lunch. When the wind came, the Spanish boat began merrily dragging through the anchorage pulling up anchors in its path. In no time a bunch of boats, including Jakatar, were doing the bump dance.

Cruisers came to the rescue, as always, and a big black police RIB showed up to muscle boats apart. I forgot to ask my neighbors what had become of the Spanish boat dangling on 15 m of chain. 

I spent a few days enjoying calm sunny days in Culatra in my own company, which hasn't disappointed me so far...except for the odd time.
Anchoring in Culatra
The Faro Ria. Mainland on the right, the island on the left (not visible).
Culatra anchorage
Looking at the island side. I'm relatively close to shore because I only had 35 m of chain and thus prudently anchored in shallow water. Happy to report that my chain ordering fiasco got solved and I now have 85 meters of 10 mm chain, 15 meters of 8 mm chain, plus about 200 meters of one-inch nylon rode and 3 anchors: a 25 kg Kobra, a 22 kg plow and and a FX-11 Fortress.
Restaurants in Culatra
My favorite café in Culatra.
Public transport in Culatra
There's no traffic on Culatra, except for tractors to transport merchandise from the ferry.
This trawler is sitting on the sand dunes way above any high tide. How it got here is a mystery. Somebody was living in it at the time.
Water in Culatra
The water salesman in Culatra. Since I didn't need any, I don't know how much it costs. 

Catamarans in Culatra
This is catamaran ranch at low tide. Some boats have been here for over twenty years and most of them are used as holiday homes by "sailors" from a number of countries. Early this year the town council issued a law to restore the lagoon to an nature reserve and gave boat owners 30 days to remove their vessels after notification or face destruction and removal at their expense. Since about half the boats are still there, it seems that notifying boat owners who live abroad is no easy matter.
Don't miss the next episode about my hilarious fishing exploits while sailing from Culatra to Alvor. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sines to Alvor and Culatra

Anyway, I left Sines as darkness turned to dawn and then sailed most of the way to Alvor, for a total of 15 hours. Sailing past Sagres in late afternoon the wind was a notch worse than hellish. At one point my 11-ton dirty-bottom boat was doing 5.2 kt flying only the small staysail.

During the 3 nights I spent in Alvor I noticed three things: the place has slowly been filling up with private mooring balls, there's less cruising boats anchored (which could be related to the fact that many boats run aground if they follow the two channel buoys - that's what you're supposed to do, right, and yet there's a sand bar between them that's doable only near high tide, so you have to steer an arch from one buoy to the other) and the town is becoming insanely crowded at night with tourists.
Notice the depth between the green and red buoys - talk about a grounding trap. You can't trust buoys anymore. This is the latest and updated Navionics chart. Any older version of any chart will show a nice clear channel.

moorings in Alvor
anchoring in Alvor
Jakatar is in the very middle and the only boat that is anchored. Even the big catamarans to the left have been on moorings for years. There were about 10 sailboats anchored in the wider part of the channel to the left.
Holidays in Alvor
It's still early and the streets are only about half-full at this time.
Next, I sailed to Culatra  ever so slowly. In two tacks I reached Albufeira where I anchored outside the marina breakwater for a rolly night. The next morning I motored into the marina and got 150 euros worth of diesel, 6 euros of gasoline and lots of free water.
anchoring in Albufeira
Albufeira - a sort of British colony in the Algarve
I then sailed slowly to Culatra. About 4 miles from the entrance the wind fizzed out and I was forced to start the engine. In the anchorage, while getting the anchor ready a guy on a Belgium flag boat started acting like a lunatic screaming that I was too close. I made signs that I was just getting things set up. He kept shouting so I ignored him, after which he ran up to the bow of his boat and nearly had a fit...he was thrashing his arms so wildly I was worried one of them might fly off his shoulder.

Did he think I was so stupid as to anchor right in front of him? Feeling a bit ticked off about it, I took my time about getting the anchor ready as his screaming got louder and louder: I untied the two lines securing the anchor, released the anchor clutch, carefully eased the anchor off the roller until it was dangling close to the water, fished out the anchor ball, the anchor snubber, and a line I tie to the chain in case the snubber fails. By then I was about 15 m away from his boat. 

When I stood erect, looked around and made my way back to the cockpit, he fell into silence and disappeared into his boat, realizing I had no intention of anchoring there. I had already picked a nice open spot farther ahead. 

In the end he got the last laugh, as you will find out in my next post. Not only that, much later, back in Alvor, I was placed in the same position as the screamer during the most pathetic anchoring attempt I have ever witnessed. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

All for the sake of grilled squid

Cascais to Sines

At 8:00 a.m. - after a good night's sleep in the bay of Cascais - I raised anchor, motored out, raised all sail, shut down the engine and sailed south.

Sort of. I always get fooled by the false morning breeze near most harbors. After a coupe of hours of motor-sailing and slow sailing, I finally got a good northwest breeze and sailed all the way to Sines. 

David, although he got up later, had already motored by me in his Bavaria 32. David doesn't really sail his boat. He motors in all conditions: a) if there's not much wind, he needs to motor, obviously; b) if the wind is right, he unfurls the genoa but continues to motor to go faster; c) if the wind is too strong, he furls in the genoa and motors to keep it comfortable. Also, his puny in-mast furling main sail is useless, and I don't think he's used it in years.

[I lied twice in the last paragraph. On looking for a picture of his boat (I didn't take one during the trip), I found a picture from last year showing him using the main sail in a regatta and, of course, nort running the engine.]

Sailing from Cascais
The trip of about 55 nautical miles
I arrived in Sines at about 7 pm and anchored. The government-run marina only costs about 18 euros per night but I couldn't be bothered with the docking lines, fenders and checking in. I took a sponge bath, met David in town and went for dinner in the old part of town where I had a delicious dish of grilled squid.

Anchoring in Sines
Jakatar in the center, taken on the way to dinner.