The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Secret of Happiness

The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage ~ Thucydides

I discovered a fascinating documentary portraying happy fulfilled people living below the poverty line. Could it be that being rich or poor is merely a state of mind. The trick - and there's always a trick - is that they don't have real jobs. Let's face it, working and living dirt poor is only fun if you're an artist.

Anyway, I've always had a weakness for this sort of stuff, and I find it especially interesting now because I haven't made a cent in over two weeks, not one cent. I think I'll watch it again and pick up some tips. 

In a world where the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer, where unemployment is steadily growing, it's only a matter of time before living poor and happy becomes a cult...a small cult, really small, like living on a boat. Most people would pull their hair out from boredom.

Oh yes, this is a boat-related blog. Spent the afternoon at the marina yesterday. I finally added 4 liters of pure blue antifreeze to the engine, cleaned the raw water pump, checked the impeller, made a impeller cover gasket with instant seal stuff, installed a battery cut-off switch between the two house batteries, cleaned up and called it a day.

Still haven't made a cent. Maybe it's time to start planning a happy life.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Two Hot Days in Seville

At 6:30 a.m.,we headed for Seville  in an overfilled station wagon. It was about 14º C when we hit the road and even cooler in the foggy plains of Alentejo.

By the time we reached Seville, checked into our apartment and walked downtown it was hot. Hot! At the end of March.
weather in Seville
I think the thermometer was exaggerating, it only felt like 32º.

Heat doesn't bother me much - I simply sweat it out. To think of it, I have a high tolerance to most things except annoying persons, and even then I try to make the best of the situation until I can escape.

I visited Seville a long, long time ago when I passed through on my way to Morocco. My memory still held images of narrow streets and buildings like the one above. It looked almost the same as I remembered except for the night life. Back then we did the nightlife, this time we went to bed early with sore feet.

Back then we stayed in a room in the old quarter and hit the bars looking for tourist girls (yeah, I was young, real young). My friend Dan, who was engaged to be married promised he was only going to look at the girls. And he stuck to his promise, which was a waste because he broke up with his fiancée soon after returning to Canada.

Seville marina
This is the Seville marina on the river. No pontoon fingers. A marina without fingers is a glorified mooring ball field. Maybe it's a subtle way of encouraging old sailors to retire.
We went on an absurd one-hour boat trip along the river. I bargained with the ticket seller and we got 4 tickets for the price of 3 (€45). A total rip-off because the ferry moved at a snail's speed downriver past the marina, turned around very, very slowly and then doubled back. It then crawled 500 meters upstream past its starting point, turned around very, very, very slowly and returned to its starting point. That's it. That's what a whole fleet of tourist boats did. You could see the same sights standing on the dock.

Horse carriage rides in Seville
Ana caught me taking a selfie with a horse. There are tourist horse carriage rides everywhere, but no horse crap because they use a canvas toilet under the horse's tail.

The next day we witnessed the "Dia del Ramos" Easter festivities that got going around lunch time. Everybody, young and old, were into it and the place was buzzing. We hung out for a while until the crowds began to build at an alarming rate and we got thirsty and foot-tired. 
Easter festivities in Seville

These guys - looking like the Ku Klux Klan - were headed...
...toward these guys. Didn't stick around to see what it was all about.
Anyway, the streets were packed with people flowing into the old city center, and we literally pushed our way out of there and finally found an outdoor café with an empty table.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Drink and Piss Method

How long does it take to change a boat engine's antifreeze? About 6 weeks. That's how it goes on a naked boat.

I discovered that you shouldn't mix different types of antifreeze. After that, I discovered that pink antifreeze may be bad for seals in older diesel engines. Lastly, I can't open the little tap that drains the coolant from the engine block.

I couldn't open the little tap with my bare hand, even after soaking it with DW-40, and I'm not about to use a wrench. It's hidden behind the oil filter in a hard-to-reach place, and snapping it would imply a major headache. In this stage of the game I need less pain and more pleasure.

After finally finding blue antifreeze at an auto parts store, I got to work using the drink and piss method, which is not painful at all.

Kubota antifreeze
Pee into the pan please.
The whole Kubota engine takes 7.5 l of coolant. Because I can drain only about 3 liters from the coolant tank, I decided on the following procedure:

  • drain the coolant tank
  • refill it with distilled water
  • run the engine until the tank is hot
  • shut the engine down and let it cool
  • drain the coolant tank again
  • repeat the process 8 times
  • in the last operation, uncouple the long hose connecting the heat exchange to the engine to remove another 1/2 liter
  • pour 3.5 l of pure blue antifreeze into the tank, run the engine to mix it up.
One more drink and piss operation and I can finally add the antifreeze and move on to the task of scraping the propeller and checking the bottom growth. If it's really bad I may haul out this year.

In the middle of all this drinking and pissing I took a trip to Gibraltar, to be covered in my next post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Surviving on Vegetables and Fish

Lately, it's been nothing but hassles and work.

The other day, taking a break in the backyard soaking up some sunshine, I began thinking about how my life is slipping into a boring routine, and who's to blame? Me, of course. Having a sailboat, living in a semi-exotic place and being a freelance translator is no guarantee for an exciting life, I tell you. You have to work for it.

Although I don't have any revolutionary plans to make life more exciting (actually I do, but I'm not going to tell), a really small idea popped into my head.

The Big Small Plan - instead of packing a pile of cans, jars, bags and whatnot, why not try surviving on fresh vegetables and the fish I catch on my next cruise, even if it means going hungry. Going hungry is better than being bored numb. Besides, I need to lose a few pounds.

I began by experimenting with sprouts to decide whether sprouting on a boat is feasible. I tried lentils and the results were pretty good. It consumes a fair amount of water, but that shouldn't be a problem considering the size of my water tanks. Besides, I'm not planning to eat sprouts for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Growing lentil sprouts
My first lentil sprout crop
I also know a thing or two about vegetables because I used to be, among many other professions, a farmer - both in Canada and Portugal, and not a hobby farmer either - a real big-tractor, big-truck, big-machinery bad-ass, straw chewing farmer.

So anyway, here's my provisioning list:

Butternut pumpkins - they last for ages and are delicious even when simply boiled, better than bland potatoes (as far as I know, I introduced butternut pumpkins to Portugal 30 years ago).
Carrots - will last quite some time if kept cool and dry, not in a plastic bag.
Onions - hard onions without any soft spots will easily stay fresh for a month.
Dry chickpeas, lentils, beans, etc. - will last forever and you can soak them for a few days or sprout them.
Nuts - a variety of shelled nuts (the last thing you want is nut shells all over the boat).
Cabbage - the dense head variety will last for a couple of weeks; the outer leaves will gradually get yellow but you can peel them back and eat the inner compact leaves.
Green tomatoes - will last quite a few days until you go ashore to a market.
Green bananas - no brainer.
Green apples - no brainer.
Peppers - green without a speck of bruises, but will only last a couple of weeks.

I haven't researched about edible seaweed yet, but I'm not too optimistic, not to mention enthusiastic.

I'll need more lures for fish and squid to use both while sailing/motoring or when anchored. A good way for catching octopus is drop a clay pot to the bottom when anchored. Octopuses use it as a hiding place and, when you pull it up, instead of fleeing they hunker down even more because they feel safe inside the pot.

At anchorages with a rocky shore, I can also go "pole poking" for octopus. You secure a dead fish to the end of a pole with a bit of netting and you poke the stinky fish into rocky holes, preferably at low tide (sardines are best because they stink, but you can also use a small crab or even white rag tied like a bow-tie). When you feel the octopus grab, you gently pull up until you're able to net it much like you would net a fish, and then you bite it hard and repeatedly between the eyes. If you're a wuss, you can knife it. They take forever to die good and proper. For the record, I've gone octopus pole poking many a time, and usually you end up catching a lot of small crabs too.

If all that fails, I can go shelling in the mud flats of Alvor and Culatra and pray I don't get toxin poisoning.

See, it doesn't take all that much to get a grown man excited. Most women will never understand, they just roll their eyes and look at you pitifully. As one guy once asked me, "you sailed across the Atlantic? Wouldn't it be easier to fly?"

I spent today on the boat and started practicing. Since I was too busy working to go fishing, I ate vegetables.

cooking on a boat
The recipe, bottom to top: olive oil, onion slices, carrots, leek, tomato, lots of red pepper. No salt, no herbs...nothing more.
Frying with olive oil
I have to admit that I cheated a bit halfway through the meal. I dug up some 8-month-old packaged toast from the last trip. Eight months and it's still edible: it's gotta be bad for you.