The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sailing, Fishing and Being Lazy

trolling on a sailboat
Peniche in the background, fish lurking somewhere underwater.
Not long ago I wrote a post about the purpose of sailing in which I listed 4 reasons to go sailing ranked according to the "fulfilment/excitement" factor:
  1. Cruising 
  2. Sailing to a nearby destination and back
  3. Racing 
  4. Taking the boat out for a relaxing sail
Since then I have discovered 2 more reasons for sailing: 
  1. Fishing
  2. Escaping boat maintenance tasks (aka being lazy)
The time has come to flash the trench coat and reveal the naked truth.

Not only am I bone-weary tired of boat maintenance, I also discovered fishing. Or maybe I discovered fishing and now I've convinced myself that I'm tired of maintenance work. 

After 14 years of fixing, replacing, sanding, polishing, varnishing, painting and all that stuff, I need a break!

Every summer in the Algarve, in the early morning or early evening, when it's not so hot, you'd see me anchored polishing the stainless, scrubbing the topsides or whatever. Every summer, except for the last two years. So, I suppose my laziness began two years ago. That's about the time when the recently painted mast began blistering and shedding paint real bad. That was a real downer and probably the catalyst for my lethargic ways. I feel lazy and I don't give a shit.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still be doing mechanical maintenance - anything that's important, anything that's really ugly (for example, I do intend to slowly scrape all the paint off the damn mast to a naked pole, and leaving it that way). Other than that, screw it.

So I went fishing the other day and got hooked (lots of puns today). Not hooked on the fishing itself but, instead, on sailing and trolling a couple of lures. 

I didn't get hooked on fishing this summer in the Algarve, where I caught one fish and one seagull (the gull survived unharmed, by the way). I was too busy sailing and having fun being free. But now, back in Peniche, I will either go fishing between my annual trips to the Algarve or the boat will be doomed to collecting cobwebs at the marina.

catching mackerel
Not a big catch, but it's a start.
The important part is the sailing part. And since the best speed for trolling is about 3 to 4 knots, I unfurl the genoa and forget about the other sails.

high-cut genoa

What I need now is a fishing paravane to drive the lure deeper where, hopefully, I'll catch some bass and bigger fish. I may also get some squid lures for days when there's no wind because I love grilled squid...or perhaps I love sitting on the boat indulging, forgetting what's not worth remembering, shedding crap, being still, quiet and appreciative.

fishing paravane

As you can see, I don't need much, mostly fair weather and free time.

Monday, November 9, 2015

No Respect

It's autumn and the French cruiser migration has begun. The transient dock is cluttered with interesting and unique steel sailboats skippered by equally idiosyncratic owners. It's like turning the clock back 30 years. I don't speak French and have no clue where they're going.

reception dock in Peniche

Speaking of steel boats and winter cruising. Here's a flick about a couple that has been living aboard their home-made steel boat Emerald Steel for over 30 years. The video starts as the usual "here we are sailing" flick until the adrenaline starts to flow at a stormy anchorage. If you're in a rush, just skip to minute 10.

Now forgive me but I'm going to rant about the lack of respect for my naked boat. Despite the "Private, no parking" sign on the transom, I'm nonetheless victim of boaters who see Jakatar as a good docking pontoon. 

A friend of mine used to keep his shiny new Beneteau 50 on a hammerhead berth jut like mine and nobody ever tied up to him. I guess money talks, and real loud too. Everybody knows the score. If given the choice would you tie up to a shiny luxurious boat or to an older scuffed-looking boat?

The result is shown below. I'd love to "speak" to the ass who tied up to Jakatar using tar-encrusted fenders. No respect, I tell you. Assholes should be blacklisted from marinas.

Dirty boat fenders

More bitching. Because my berth's south finger is falling apart, I'm now tied only to the north finger and the pontoon. That's because when fingers break away from the pontoon, they flip on their side. And when that happens, the mussel-encrusted floats or, even worse, the jagged metal attachments will continuously bash against the hull.

Hammerhead berth
The bolts connecting the finger to the pontoon are incredibly sloppy because the connection plates (not visible) have rusted to hell. The finger is so wobbly I nearly fell in the water the other day. Luckily I have enough space to move Jakatar forward. That way I eliminated the strain on the finger and also moved out of contact range in case it goes belly-up.
On the positive side, it's a beautiful warm calm sunny day and it's the 9th of November. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Choosing a Liveaboard Sailboat and Scratching the Wrong Itch

"Choose your life's mate carefully. From this one decision will come 90 percent of all your happiness or misery. ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
 [edited on October 28]

Part 1: You have some bucks and you want to live aboard (and hopefully cruise near or far)

I've wanted a sailboat since I was a teenager, and a boat like the Hans Christian 43 is what I lusted for. It has the capacity and looks to take you to exotic far-away places safely and in style. In fact, it's sad to see a Hans Christian floating idly at your local marina or mooring field begging to be sailed over the horizon.

Then the French invented this!!

It looks more like a motorboat or a fancy swimming pool deck. It's more likely to induce daydreams of parties and cocktails than the romantic urge to sail to Tahiti.

"What's that? You don't want to sail to Tahiti, not even to Mexico. Really, are you sure?

I must admit that I've never been aboard a Hans Christian, but I do own a Corbin 39 - a canoe-stern go anywhere sailboat that is a poor sailor's version of a Hans Christian, sort of.

But I do have friends with boats similar to the Oceanis 45 shown above; some bigger, some smaller, with either sugar-scoop or fold-out transoms.

I've been on their boats, both sailing and socializing, and I can tell you this: there's no comparison. Not only that, I've found that almost unfailingly they'll dinghy over to my boat or call to invite me to their boat and hardly ever come aboard mine. This includes Manuel on his Beneteau 26.

Could it be I have no fridge and thus no cold beer? No, because I also have good wine. I've concluded that they've become spoiled by the ease of simply stepping aboard into a spacious cockpit and aren't too enthusiastic about climbing a ladder into a gopher hole.

Hans Christian cockpit
Charming, but a bit crowded for sundowners with friends. Forget dinner parties.
If you haven't experienced both setups, think about situations such as:

  • boarding / unboarding from the dinghy, specially for older or less agile people, and I have a friend who can't come aboard because he has a leg problem
  • bringing groceries aboard (not to mention an outboard engine or gas bottles), all the more difficult when alone
  • eating in the cockpit, and there's nothing like it in good weather
  • Sailing with more than 3 crew is too crowded
  • I could go on, but why be tedious

The interiors and deck are basically a matter of taste. I personally prefer the Hans Christian's interior, it makes me feel like I'm in a real boat and not in a swanky apartment. Being at home may be more convenient, but not as much fun. That's why you bought a boat.

I truly believe that a sailboat's cockpit can really make a huge difference when living aboard and for coastal cruising.

Part 2: You have some bucks and you want a blue-water cruising boat

Some people may argue that almost all boats are safe for blue-water cruising, it's the crew that counts. There may be some truth to that, but if I were to cross the Atlantic again I'd do it in my Corbin. Even in a storm I always felt safe in that little cockpit. Besides, we never invited anybody aboard, never had dinner parties, didn't go shopping and never used the boarding ladder, thank God. I genuinely think I'd feel scared sailing in the cockpit of the Oceanis 45 shown above being thrown around in 25-foot waves.

If you're crossing oceans, maybe it's not a bad idea to trade off a luxurious setup for a smaller, safer cockpit.

Don't scratch the wrong itch.

Sorry, gotta go. I can see a bunch of angry sailors running toward me wielding boat hooks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Purpose of Sailing

Without purpose there's no motivation, and without motivation there's not much worth doing.

A friendly club regatta is a good way for lazy sailors to hone their sailing skills. I'm a "lazy sailor" (somebody who doesn't bother to tweak sails), but I also detest motoring. I'm happy to be going somewhere in no hurry, preferably under sail. Going half a knot faster does not make me any happier.

Corbin 39
The club asked us to motor by this spot for a photograph session. We were a crew of seven, but only two of us knew that lines are placed on winches in a clockwise direction.
But in a regatta, this lazy sailor is like a hound focused on squeezing an extra tenth of a knot out of his cruising boat's sails. Although it may seem a bit silly to get excited about racing in a group of starkly contrasting vessels, the excitement is nonetheless very real. The exhilaration is not so much about winning but, rather, about learning to sail as fast as you can - even if pathetically slow - by tweaking the sails.

So, it seems that sailing with a purpose is more fun and rewarding than, let's say, taking the boat out for a spin. At the moment I can think of only four purposes of sailing, listed by order of decreasing fulfillment/excitement:

  1. Cruising 
  2. Sailing to a nearby destination and back
  3. Racing 
  4. Taking the boat out for a relaxing sail

I rated "relaxing sail" last because it's obvious - or it should be to anyone who has owned a sailboat for a while - that sailing is not so much about relaxation as it is about action...and work. Not only that, sailing 5 miles to nowhere and back becomes somewhat tedious after a few outings. Visit just about any marina and see how many sailboats have gone out for a sail on a sunny summer weekend.

You need a purpose. Has anybody ever sailed non-stop half-way across an ocean to the middle of nowhere and then returned home just for the fun of it? Without purpose there's no motivation, and without motivation there's not much worth doing.

Have I digressed? As I was saying, regattas are a good way to improve my sailing skills. And what's really good about it is that next time I sail to a destination, I'll naturally set the sails better and then forget about them out of laziness.

Upwind sailing
Doing about 4 knots on a close reach in light winds. Not bad for a boat that hasn't had its bottom cleaned in over three years.
We started in last place - as usual and at least by 10 boat lengths - maybe because I have 3 sails to handle. On the other hand, that extra sail may also have helped me finish in third place. Although there were only six boats competing this year, we fulfilled the purpose of not coming last. That honor went to a motorsailer shaped like a pumpkin whose skipper was smiling like mad because he finally had an excuse to hoist his sails and shut off the engine.

Me and my first mate at the dinner party receiving the trophy (which, being made of glass, is not visible and which, in a way is a metaphor for its importance in the whole scheme of things).