The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Marina visit and a sad story

Sunday 6/11/2011

I drove 15 km to the marina to check on the boat on a typical autumn day in Portugal, under a patchwork of grey clouds splattered onto the sharp blue sky.

The port’s parking lot was still fenced off because of the recent stormy weather, so I parked the jeep near the fort and walked across the empty cheerless pavement to the marina entrance feeling the breeze that had lost its warmth.

At the boat, I dried the bilges, changed the alarm battery, readjusted the fenders a bit and left. It was one of those days when you don’t have the time or the inclination to start doing any real maintenance work. This, of course, triggered a vague feeling of guilt and sorrow.

On the way out I checked on Ryker, my Dutch buddy who has been living mostly in Peniche for a number of years. I found him sitting in the cabin of his 7 m fishing boat reading a magazine.

“Come with me,” he said, “I want to show you something.”

We walked to the transient dock and stood looking at a beautifully varnished 13 m ketch with wood masts. The lifelines were cluttered with drying clothes, but nobody was aboard.

Ryker told me how the French owner had worked seven years to restore the boat to its current pristine condition, during which time he was consumed with the dream of sailing to the Caribbean with his wife and daughter.

The hiccup was that they got caught in some nasty weather sailing down the coast, and that was it. The wife and daughter were through with sailing! This was the end of the line.

Anyway, the owner wanted my opinion on the best place to leave the boat for the winter. I told Ryker that Nazaré, only 20 miles north, would be my pick. It’s a small sheltered port and the marina is tucked into a corner protected from the wakes of commercial fishing boats. He could also put it on the hard, if he wished.

As we stood there discussing the situation, part of me wandered off into a daydream in which I sailed to the Caribbean, crossed an ocean again and lived carefree in warm foreign anchorages.

Then I though about how the French owner had worked during his spare time for seven years driven by daydreams of embarking on this very voyage that had now shipwrecked at this sorrowful marina. That's when it occurred to me that it was no longer autumn, it was already winter.
Boat Headroom
Checking a lonely boat


  1. This is precisely why my wife and I have done entirely separate deliveries as practice for when we (with our son) go offshore. She has to "grow" a love of the sea: I can't put my love of the sea inside her.

    1. Rhys

      Mine meets me there...less and less because she doesn't even like staying on the boat. I don't mind that much because I need my moments of solitude.

    2. Get used to it, then: my experience argues that if the boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't like sailing much, they don't really want to be stuck on any sort of voyage. I have many acquaintances who thought differently, which is why the most important pre-purchase question was to my wife: "Do YOU want to go sailing for years?" If she had said no, I would have just stayed with my already paid-for old sloop, and maybe crewed on a few Atlantic runs to satisfy my urge for the sea. That would have been more simple and vastly cheaper.

      But she said "yes". So here I am, a fellow boat-slave. There are worse fates.

      The only way to change a non-sailor into a sailor in my experience is to put him or her in charge...well away from the rocks and other boats, of course. A person who is busy running a boat with insufficient experience is too busy to be afraid or bored.