The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Sunday Outing

Ana and I drove 15 km to Baleal for a change of scenery.
(Does driving from one beach town to another beach town count as a change in scenery? Sometimes I'm awed by my "logical" thinking! I really do have a degree in Philosophy, honest.)

Baleal, Peniche and the whole Silver Coast region is becoming Portugal's surf hotspot and and a mecca for board riders from around Europe and beyond. Surfing is now "the sport" around here, and surf schools and surf hostels are popping up everywhere.
Surfing in Baleal
Two surfers for every wave instead of the Beach Boys' anthem of "two girls for every boy"

It was a perfect sunny afternoon for wandering around the narrow streets and for visiting the uninhabited part of the island (it used to be an island, at least at high tide).

A long time ago, before recorded history and probably even before my very remote ancestors had any interest in inhabiting this part of the world, let alone surfing, a tremendously powerful convulsion jolted the rock strata upward forming this dramatic landscape and the island.
Rocks in Baleal

I assure you that it looks a hell of a lot more incredible when seen in person rather than through my mediocre camera. Not only that, but compared with the adventures featured on so many action-packed blogs that nearly leap out of your computer screen to grab your attention, this little trip doesn't sound one bit exciting...but that's the difference between reading about it and BEING THERE.

Anyway, after that short sidetrip I'm now deep into translation work again.

I got an email from the office saying that they need a report translated by next's very important and absolutely necessary.

I'm the hired gun on this mission impossible. That's right, I'm the fireman, the ambulance driver, the saviour commissioned to handle fast complex jobs. Lucky me!

I'm like Horatio - from the detective series that I've never watched - hot on a mission. The difference is that I'm the REAL Horatio on a boring mision...not too exciting but real.

Once again, life gets pushed into the backseat. I dive deep into the work like a whale torpedoing toward the black depths hunting for giant squid. Somebody has to do it, right?

I will week!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rutland Wind Generator Retires

Today was my boat day.

Although I hadn't planned on taking the wind generator down yet, when I arrived at the marina I couldn't bear to have a stuffed rooster on a pole. It just sat there refusing to spin.

I quickly devised a plan. I'd remove it from the pole, take it to Fernando, the marine electrician, and see what happened. No sense on getting a new one yet just to sit in the marina for some time to come.

So I disconnected the wires, loosened the two bolts holding the stub shaft in the pole, pushed up and nothing - it wouldn't budge. Heaved, pushed, wacked it and nothing...just a lot of wasted groaning.

After taking the pole and generator down, managed to pull the shaft out about an inch, no more. Pulled and tugged some more in vain. Damn it, I was getting frustrated and decided to make lunch.
Rutland about to be beheaded

After lunch, I placed the one-legged generator on the pontoon and began pulling on the pipe back and forth while bracing the generator with my foot. Finally it parted when I broke the splice connecting the generator's wires to the wires going into the boat.

I think I'll get an electric battery charger like everyone else.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday at the marina

I parked the jeep at the marina under a velvety blue sky. It was 2 pm on a Sunday afternoon and I was on a mission: to clean the heat exchanger.

Peniche marina on a Sunday afternoon
I felt so good about the balmy weather, blue sky and my mission that I took a couple of pictures.

Port of Peniche
I felt tempted to go for a calm sail in the gentle breeze. But not today, I had a mission that I should have completed 11 years ago back in Port Dover, Canada.

Eleven years ago the raw water impeller half disintegrated and the missing rubber pieces were never retrieved. That means they're in the heat exchanger restricting water flow and causing the exhaust to steam. The engine has never overheated because I don't motor at over 2,000 rpm.

As you can see, this was a special day, regardless of the perfect weather. And that's what I like about a sailboat, it's an insatiable high maintenance mistress that keeps you on a leash in exchange for occasional moments of ecstasy.

But as I was walking down the pontoon, Ryker popped out of his fishing boat and we leaned against a motorboat talking about the Euro Zone, economics, real estate and a Dutch sailor's sexy wife who walked by pushing a bicycle. Just as we were getting ready to wrap up the conversation, Luis walked up with an electric heater under his arm and something to say, followed by another sailor with a book in hand and ideas on his mind and lastly, another friend just killing time. A regular convention on the pontoon.

Whatever happened to socializing on Facebook, instead of spending half the afternoon yakking with real people.

By the time I got to the boat the sun was already sliding down the steep curve toward the horizon.

In the cockpit, what do I immediately notice? My Rutland 913 wind generator isn't spinning. After 11 years of enduring high winds, rain, being jerked so hard in a storm I thought it would jolt itself to pieces, after all this time baking under the Portuguese sun, it suddenly stopped. Rest in peace 913. You'll probably sit on that post like a stuffed rooster for quite some time before you are added to the "missions to be accomplished" agenda.

Rutland 913, no longer spinning
Zero accomplishment. Are you kidding, I had a great time, got home just in time to light the fireplace followed by dinner and a couple glasses of red wine. Damn it, it's good to have a mistress.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Death of a Writer

Hack translator kills writer for money!!!

After 17 years of working as a freelance translator, I've butchered any hope of becoming a writer.

I stopped writing a long time ago when a nagging voice began hinting that I would never be published. Over time that feeble voice became downright aggressive and, in the end, violent. "Stop dreaming and start living!" it shouted in my face.

That's what I did.
And so I became a farmer, a greenhouse builder, a student (for the second time), a tree planter, a Kerouac impersonator, a steel worker, a delivery driver, a lazy lay-around bohemian, an English teacher and, lastly, a translator.

Looking back, I now see that I would never have made it as a writer, ever. Simply because all I did was daydream about a writer's freedom to roam the world. It was my way of counteracting a teenager's frustration of being chained to a life of never-ending chores on a vegetable farm.

And I wanted to be a writer because during the frozen winter months I read books that stoked my imagination beyond repair. Yes, beyond repair. This is not a metaphor, I really crossed the border into a territory where roads never end and you never reach your destination. "Destination" is where the palm trees are perfect and naked girls cling to your legs as you walk along a golden beach.


But those dreams took me places and lured me into adventures and misadventures, wonderful times and nightmarish experiences. And here I am in's 10:40 a.m. and I'm writing this after having walked 6 km along the cliff-side road to the fort of Paimogo as the sun came up. It could have been worse.
Walking destination

Portuguese have a habit of saying "neither 8 nor 80." Why didn't somebody tell me this when I was growing up on the farm back in Canada.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bonding and desert islands

Lonesome People

I usually get up at 6:30 a.m. to exercise for 30 minutes in the attic. I've been able to maintain this habit because I keep telling myself that it's essential...and it is.

Yesterday, I was up there working up a sweat when a thought popped into my head: what is the single most important thing in life, besides our very basic necessities?

Later, after showering and breakfast, and since there were no urgent translations on the agenda, I began listing things I could live without. You know, the objects today's trendy minimalists are disdaining such as television, cars, gadgets, clutter and so on. But that got tedious pretty quick.

Then an idea struck me! Why not just wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. In other words, instead of eliminating "things" why not ask the essential question, "what's the one thing that I could not possibly live without?"

It only took a few seconds to root out a firm answer: people.

Just imagine waking up one day and finding yourself on a desert island, forever. Not a very appealing predicament, more like a nightmare. 

Although that's a weird and completely unrealistic scenario, it led me straight to what I was looking for.

People! That's so obvious, even a gaming-addicted teenager could tell you that.

So I dug deeper and concluded that we need to engage with people. That's what we do at work, with salespeople and taxi drivers. But engagement has to go deeper than that, otherwise it's mere fluff.

What we need is friends. Whew, I'm a master at coming to obvious conclusions. How do you think I got a Philosophy Degree? Come on, dig deeper.

What we really need, what is absolutely essential, are persons with whom we can share our life experience. Now that sounds a bit more philosophical.

And what's "life experience?" It's that magical quality that makes every individual unique, unexplainable and incomparable...those little nuances that can evoke all kinds of emotions in others, some good some bad. Oh yes, I'm on a roll now.

Real living starts when we begin to bond and share. Without it, we are doomed to trod along a desolate and meaningless path going nowhere. Jackpot!

You know all this, just like you know that exercising every day is essential.

So, what's the moral of the story?

Think about the small (big) things that really matter in your life. Focus on and repeat them to yourself and they will eventually come true.

Take action!

I remember someone saying that "if you know something but don't act on it, it's the same as not knowing it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


It's a grey rainy day and I'm feeling lethargic. The energy boost from this morning's exercise session has completely worn off.

I'm in the mood for daydreaming about being somewhere else, such as anchored in the river below.

Anchored in Alcoutim, Guadiana River, in August 2011
"Going somewhere else" can be one of the ultimate pleasures of cruising on a sailboat. Raise the anchor and your escape plan is immediately placed in motion. Escapism, you say. Perhaps, but there's no need to psychoanalyze your childhood or to theorize about your real motives.

If Nietzsche, Sartre and other such sages had viewed the world from an anchored boat they would have been more keenly aware of our primal needs. What do we need? Practically nothing beyond our basic necessities, social interaction and feeling content.

Then why am I blogging? Because Jakatar is at the marina, I'm in a static house on a rainy day and expressing myself is a basic tribal need.

Why don't I just sail off? Because I can't tell you the whole truth. Remember, this is a confessional. People don't lie in a confessional, they simply omit the nasty stuff.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Live Off Your Passion

I'm a great admirer of Leo Babauta who runs the "Zen Habits" blog.  

Nevertheless, I just read a guest post on his blog written by a "snake oil blogger."

What's a snake oil blogger? It's a self-acclaimed "expert" offering a magic formula that promises to revolutionize your life. There are, I suspect, hundreds or probably thousands of snake oil bloggers, each with a scheme up their sleeve to sell you fulfillment, happiness, empowerment...whatever you desire, whatever you're missing in life.

The introductory sales pitch starts with an attention-grabbing hook such as "Live Off Your Passion."  In other words, make money doing something you love. Wow! I'm interested, who isn't?

Next, they build momentum through hyped optimism while vaguely outlining a plan that is a sure-fire solution for revolutionizing your life. All you have to do is buy their e-book or an online step-by-step course. It's easy!

And you can't deny the fact that a small percentage of individuals in this world are, in fact, living a charmed life. That's proof that it can be done. If they can do it, why can't you? All you need is a positive mindset and a 29-dollar e-book packed with a proven step-by-step program.

The TRICK here is that you'll be helping snake oil bloggers "Live Off Their Passion" while wasting your time and money!

If you want to improve your life - or at least give it a go - then buy the book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." This book has amazing insights and is the bible from which most of these hawkers draw their inspiration.

If that doesn't work, you can always read this blog to while away your time, and it's free!

What's wrong with being a beautiful loser with something to say?

Rattling transmision

I drove out to the boat in the early morning along the coastal road as the blazing sun rose from the distant Montejunto mountain. After a 3 km drive to the fort and coastguard outpost perched on the cliff, I turned inland heading for the main road to Peniche.

Driving east, I squinted into the low sun glaring off the windshield and concentrated on the narrow road winding through cabbage fields for another 2 km.

This early in the morning, the streets of Peniche and the marina were nearly deserted.
At the boat, I installed the freshly-painted panels on the ceiling and cupboard.
Shiny white panels
Then I climbed out into the cockpit for a look around and spotted the Dutch guy hosing down his 57-foot steel cutter made in Vietnam, painted in military camouflage green. I went over and we talked for a while until his wife said something from below, after which he glanced at his watch.

"Gotta adjust my transmission before lunch," I said, excused myself and left.

Back at the boat, I readjusted the transmission gear cable, fired up the engine and shifted into forward and reverse a number of times. It always engaged but slipped and rattled at low revs in forward.

So now I'm undecided on whether to replace the old Hurth with a PRM 120 or to risk another trip to the Algarve this coming summer. Oh, the life of a boat owner.

I've made 5 euros this week after a long stretch of continuous work. Hope the stream of translations doesn't run dry. Oh, the life of a translator.