The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bare Aluminum Mast

If you're bored reading yet another post about my mast-climbing heroics, just imagine how I feel. I'm the one doing the climbing, grunting and scraping! Funny thing is I like it.

Everybody is asking (telling) me, "Why don't you take the mast down, lay it on some sawhorses, use some power tools, get it over with and act like a normal person?" To which I reply (or think to myself), "If I were normal, I wouldn't own a sailboat." What am I supposed to do in my spare time, learn to play cards?

Besides, it's no big deal, another 50 or 60 hours dangling up there and I'll finish the job. I might even wax it in the end. If I were younger and keeping Jakatar for an extended period, after a good "up-and-down" sanding, I'd wet sand it every 3 years with penetrating oil and it would look flashier than a Los Vegas neon sign. 

I experimented using a 2000 watt heat gun and a scraper (Ryker's suggestion, the man knows everything, almost), and it worked really well. The mast barely warms up. The trick is to maintain the scraper's edge hot, you know, much like the hot knife and butter analogy. The heat gun is good for working at deck level, but higher up the mast swinging on the top-climber I'd surely burn my nose off sooner or later, and might even look better for it.

This is a semi-finished section. The yellow blotches are etch primer that need to be sanded with very fine sandpaper, maybe 400 grit. I tried a green SOS pad (basically a dish-washing pad) but it didn't do the trick, it didn't do anything. A light sanding (always in the up-down direction) will bring it to a nice homogeneous shine. The blotches that developed under the paint must also be eliminated if it's going to look respectable.

Skeptics may point out that I'll be wearing  the mast away by sanding it. But, believe me, its a thick-walled heavy duty stick compared to the flimsy paper-thin masts on production boats. If I sand 500 grams or even 1 kg from the 50-foot mast, that means it will most likely last only 99.9 years instead of 100. And it must be good quality aluminum too because previously scraped spots basically stay the same over time, almost like the bare hull of an aluminum sailboat. If it doesn't corrode or go black, why paint it? I've never seen a painted Ovni sailboat or their owners fretting about it.

Look at that, from a short distance the bottom section, not yet finished, already looks like serious business. A real mast, a mast worthy of a tough blue-water sailboat.

How people can live fulfilling lives without a boat is beyond me...unless they just fell in love or some dang thing like that. But then again, anything that makes sense is beyond me anyway, so no hard feelings.

I've decided to buy another boat in the near future. A small production sailboat that will heel like mad with the wind in my teeth, a prayer in my pocket and just enough food and water to make it there, wherever that will be. I definitely don't want to die watching TV and eating croutons.

If I don't fall from the mast first, that is.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Stormy Weather, Bad Film, Wet Feet, Good Times

"Red Alert: waves potentially 12 to 14 m high and strong winds. Potential disaster when peak wave heights coincide with high tide at 18:00 h," said the national weather forecast. Windguru showed waves of 8.5 m from 293º. Go figure.

I arrived at the marina at 14:00 h to participate in the excitement, maybe even watch the whole kit and caboodle float away in broken pieces. I'm not a masochist, but who would want to miss a show like that.

After rearranging the fenders, lashing the main and stay sails better and adding a few strategic dock lines, I waited inside doing nothing useful, occasionally popping my head out the companionway only to see harmless foam spraying over the breakwater. 

At about 16:00 the waves began to pound louder and the foam turned to green water - foamy sheets washing over the parking lot and into the marina.

This is how it looked at about 17:00 h, shot with my Rollei 415 action cam. Pedro who runs a café in town offered to edit my next film, it's that bad. Except for the waves toward the end.

A reader, Fernando, sent photographs of me making my escape.

Two marina dock fingers broke and that's about it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Filming Life Afloat and Other Idiosyncrasies

Purely out of boredom, I made three New Year's resolutions, and I'm glad I did:
  1. Exercise arduously on a regular basis, rather than off and on. (I'm sticking to it.)
  2. Spend more time on the boat. (I'm starting to do it.)
  3. Buy only what I need. (I bought a Rollei 415 action cam and a 32 GB card for 100 euros. Am I sticking to it? Sort of.) Alright then, I need to make another resolution.
  4. Shoot more films.
This was my first rushed and disastrous attempt at underwater filming (I promise I'll have something better soon). I had my phone in hand running an app that allows me to see what the camera is filming and to control it using a WiFi connection. As soon as the camera went underwater, plunk, the WiFi connection died. The app works great out of the water though, and so does the camera. I'm looking forward to mounting it on the stern rail on my next wet and wild sail at Cabo Raso or going past Sagres. I still have my Toshiba camcorder for good weather conditions.

Hopefully I can now inspect the boat's prop, the ocean floor, and whether the anchor is properly set - if it's not too deep - and other exciting stuff. I'll practice at the marina. Owning a 12-meter boat is a real cool way to spend all my money, time and to never grow up and become bored!

I didn't shoot a better underwater scene because I rushed off to help Manuel remove his masthead fitting. We motored his boat to the fishing dock where a cherry picker made the job easy.

Cherry picker for working on the mast
I was down on the boat but, in retrospect, should have been up there too holding the mast steady allowing him to work with both hands.
The story goes like this: he ordered a new full-battened mainsail but, for a mysterious reason, the sailmaker designed a huge roach (the back part of the sail). It overlaps the backstay and makes tacking very difficult, not to mention that it would eventually destroy the sail. Since the extra roach makes the boat sail like a bat-out-of-hell, Manuel immediately fell in love with it and is now building a very long masthead fitting to position the backstay farther back.

Meanwhile, I'm redoing Jakatar's aft berth because a leak (or two) caused a lot of rot to the mostly unpainted/unvarnished decorative wood panels. Does it make sense to have ugly decorative panels? I think I'll order another two komacel sheets. Komacel never rots, looks professional (if I don't screw it up) and is maintenance free. Dish out another 200+ euros and the privilege of doing more slave work for the voluptuous mistress.

Aft cabin rebuild
The ceiling panels at the back are rotten. I painted the side panels years ago, but not the backs, which got mushy and caused the visible bulge. It's all garbage, komacel is the way to go.
Damage caused by deck leaks
In the process of removing the old panels which I'll use as templates.
Finally, just in case you're not totally bored yet, I think I'll add a picture of a Portuguese man o' war, also known as the man-of-war, blue bottle, or floating terror, which floated by Jakatar while anchored at Berlenga Island, just as I was musing about whether to dive in and check the propeller for barnacle growth.

Portuguese man-of-war

Later, after Googling it to confirm that it really was the "floating terror", I read that you're supposed to notify the authorities immediately after spotting one. The wind blew it right up to the boat and toward the tip of the island where there is no beach. Didn't hear any terrifying screams all afternoon, so I assume nobody got attacked.

This happened during a trip to Berlengas with my brother Cesar, his partner Kathleen, my nephew Justin, and Nancy and Drew from Canada.

Visiting Berlenga Island

Fort at Berlenga Island

Visiting Berlenga Island

Anchoring at Berlenga

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sailing Home Blues

I bought a bus ticket back to Olhão where a water taxi (25 euros) ferried me back at break-neck speed to Jakatar, anchored just as I had left it, except for some new neighbors.

fishing boat converted into a trawler

traditional Portuguese fishing boat used for recreational purposes
I had planned on going ashore to Culatra for a cold beer. Instead, I was struck by an attack of laziness and a deep desire to basically stare at my toes - again. I brought the mat and pillows into the cockpit and thoroughly enjoyed doing nothing and thinking nothing, to the extent that I couldn't even be bothered to get a second glass of wine.
Early the next morning I raised anchor to a weird surprise (I never take pictures of weird or exciting stuff because I'm an amateur blogger). Anyway, with no wind and no tide the chain came in fairly easy until the chain was totally vertical. Then it wouldn't budge an inch.

"It's really buried" I muttered to myself, switching the handle to the low gear on the windlass. Had do do some grunting to break it free and get it up ever so slowly. Then I saw a huge mass of weed thick as a tree break the surface.

The huge blob on my chain was way too thick to hump over the bow roller. I leaned over the bow with a serrated knife and started hacking at the weed that, as I quickly discovered, was concealing a big tangle of nylon lines.

Hell, I could hardly see the anchor. I started cutting like crazy, pulling in the chain as I cleaned it and occasionally checking whether I was drifting onto nearby boats, finding it strange that I remained in the exact same spot. When I finally reached the anchor, I could see that it had impaled a lobster pot attached to more taught lines still stuck on the bottom. I dispatched the remaining tangle in a samurai slashing frenzy, stood up sweaty and took a deep breath. I felt like the winning gladiator, like I had just battled with the devil and won, like I'd had an exciting adventure to start the day...Alive in the middle of a calm lagoon on glorious sunny day! And nobody to film it and upload it to Youtube.

The Kobra anchor had held through some strong wind, and now I wasn't sure if it was because it had been held by all this crap or because it's a good anchor. Who knows.

After this sweaty workout I motorsailed to Alvor, with a quick stop at the Albufeira marina for diesel and water. I stayed two nights in Alvor's outer anchorage but could have easily stayed for a whole year, at least.

Outer anchorage in Alvor

The weather was perfect, Alvor was nearly perfect, and 2 nights just didn't feel like enough. 

Then I sailed (using the sails only) to the port of Sagres. I left after lunch and arrived nearly at sunset. The wind in port picked up and I was debating on whether to go ashore when a young bearded guy came by in a skiff. 
"Are you staying the night?"
"Where's your anchor?"
"About 30 meters that way."
"Obrigado. I'm putting out a line of hooks for the night."
He barely finished talking when he threw the first buoy overboard, about 10 m from Jakatar. I shouted that it was too close, but he never looked back, just kept going, laying out the line. It was a hell of a long line, at least all the way to Martinhal beach where I lost sight of his stern light. 

So I'm sitting there thinking, "fuck, shit and damn, what an idiot! If the wind veers east a bit, I'll have the line and buoy under me tomorrow when I want to leave. As I'm staring at the buoy, a trawler roars out of port at full throttle straight for me, which was the wrong direction for him, turns at the last second, leaving such a huge wake the dinghy nearly flew into the cockpit. What the fuck, has everybody gone crazy around here? Lost my appetite for going ashore.

Still dark the next morning I get up and can't see the fishing buoy anymore. Feeling a bit paranoid that it might be under the boat or caught in the propeller, I spun the propeller shaft by hand for a long time (advantage of having a Duramax shaft seal)...but it kept spinning freely. So I raised anchor and left in the semi-darkness, eyes peeled for the minefield of buoys near port, ready for the long trip to Sines against wind and waves.

Going by the beach anchorage, I started hearing the Cape Vicente lighthouse foghorn, even though there's not a wisp of fog to been seen. But sure enough, on the north side of the cape I motored into a blanket of fog that later kept alternating between bad and worse for hours on end.

Much later, when the fog cleared up, my long-time rich neighbor from Culatra, who must have been anchored in front of the beach, passed me, but not too fast, and I was barely doing about 5 knots.

Arrived in Sines at sunset and anchored near the  rich guy's boat again. Stayed for two nights, ate at Adega de Sines for lunch and dinner (8 euros per meal including a jar of wine), took long showers (you can check in at the marina office when anchored, pay half price and get a card to use the facilities).

Also got up early for the trip to Cascais and, fuck a duck, my rich neighbor passed me again with much waving by me and his wife and barely a nod from him. Maybe he doesn't trust his wife around handsome solo sailors!!!!! Cough, cough.

Anchored in the bay of Cascais, this time far from the rich guy so his wife couldn't get a good view of me. 

I was already feeling the "going home blues" so I decided (or rather, invented an excuse) that the conditions weren't very favorable for leaving the next day. Stayed 2 nights in Cascais, went for long walks, had lunch on the promenade and pretended not to stare at women on the beach.

Cascais anchorage

The anchorage in Cascais seen from the very long promenade. Jakatar is somewhere in the middle near the marina entrance, where I park the dinghy behind the fuel dock - not supposed to do it, but I haven't been arrested yet.

Had an uneventful sail (motoring and motorsailing) to Peniche on the last day, except for one thing I had never done before: at lunch time, near Ericeira where the water is another minefield of buoys, I stopped the engine sailed at 1 knot toward the Azores while I leisurely made lunch, ate it and had a coffee without a care in the world.

Now I'm home, one summer older and still working. That wasn't the original plan.