The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Guru Vitamins, Window Shopping and Achievements

Guru Vitamins, Window Shopping and Achievements

Are you feeling a bit deflated? Read a guru blog. It's magic, fireworks, vitaminic and a start to a new exciting life. If the authors can do it so can you. And, coincidentally, they were even more deflated than you before they took the leap. (I was going to say "leap of faith" but my writing guru told me not to use clichés).

But it won't take long for the fireworks to go dark, the caffeine to lose its grip and the view to fade. Crap! You got all excited but got nowhere, achieved nothing. Damn it!

There are exceptions, of course. Ideals will set some people on fire and unleash a deep inner force. Action and dedication will take them there.

I call this this the "Olympics of Life." A huge audience watching a small number of top athletes. Obviously, the audience also includes many athletes active to some degree or other. The majority, however, just watch.

And if we can't make it happen, where will that leave us? Angry (at ourselves), frustrated and depressed. Not necessarily. My guess is that we'll just keep coming back for more "guru soup" much like wistful window shoppers. I suspect people become addicted to the soup, just as others are addicted to watching porno (I'm basing this opinion on Internet browsing statistics, honest). Either of these two habits will inevitably make us feel as though we're missing out on real life.

So, what am I going to do?

Don't look at me for an answer, look at yourself because you're unique and, I'd wager, nothing like me at all.

Start jogging, kayaking, cycling...write a blog, write a diary...step outside and walk ten kilometers in any direction...join a club, join two...become a volunteer. Do something, do it soon.

And, yes, read blogs that motivate you. But stop hugging your computer wishing things were different.

Get something going, get off your ass, get moving. Try this, try that...but please, stop eating guru soup, put a limit to facebooking, twittering, TV watching...bla, bla, bla.


If it doesn't work out, try something else, and stop moaning. If that's what I tell myself, why wouldn't I tell you the same thing?

Note: If you have a real physical or other disability, although it may limit your options for taking action, you can still do something fulfilling on your own terms. Search for the strength within you and try it.

Why You Need a Life Project?

No matter who you are, what you do, where you live...regardless of your strengths or weaknesses, without a life project sooner or later you'll become listless and bored, or even depressed. I've seen it happen to people over and over again.

Life Project vs. Lifestyle Fixes

So, you became a minimalist, lost weight, fell in love, learned how to communicate more effectively, overcame anxiety attacks...there's no end to what we desire to fix.

Or are you merely reading blogs about changing your life, about finding a more meaningful path and not really getting anywhere? If that's the case, you're not alone. Look around you, look closely and you'll see most people living in a cocoon ranging from total despair to totally faked happiness.

That's not to say that you won't see many genuinely content and happy people. Are they lucky, did they work for it or is it genetic? Knowing the answer isn't going to help you one bit.

You need to work with what you've got, that's what will get you moving, that's what will take you there.

And forget about the latest trend, the promising solution, the smiling face on the cover of the best-selling self-improvement book. None of that is going to change your life, because your life is you.

Some experts claim that persons who read self-help books to overcome phobias, panic attacks, emotional dysfunctions and other afflictions end up reinforcing those very ailments. The more they read, the more they are reminded of their problem, thereby reinforcing their subconscious trigger mechanism. I believe it because it happened to me. The more I read about it, the worse it got. But I won't go into that now.

The variety of self-help books is astounding: Lose Weight, Become Self-Confident, Get Rich, Manage Your Time, Improve Your Marriage and so on, including other naughtier and dubious claims. These books can be helpful, entertaining or good for making compost. You decide

I'm not talking about a tune-up, an adjustment, a boost, a little excitement, some new habits. I'M TALKING ABOUT YOU, THE PERSON THAT LIVES IN YOUR HEAD.

New habits is a way of tinkering, which may or may not improve your life. That depends on you.

Let's take minimalism as an example

You got rid of your clutter, began exercising, became more attentive to your surroundings and now feel energized and alive. You may have gone hardcore and no longer own a TV, car, cell phone, microwave or hair drier. There's so much junk we don't need.

You tasted the thrill of accomplishing a life-changing goal, of joyfully climbing out of the dead-end pit you had fallen into.

That's great, but now, what next?

You spend more time reading, preparing healthy meals, going for long walks, taking more vacations...there's no end to what you can do with a new attitude, spare time and extra cash.

You are now focused on what really clutter to tidy up, no more silly gadgets and frustrating user manuals and the couch is no longer your second home. You have become your own master and it feels empowering and awesome!

You are now a minimalist living more with less. And you're perfectly satisfied and fulfilled. Or, are you?

The routine

Minimalism is your new routine. That's because life is essentially a string of routines sprinkled with surprises, chance occurrences and occasional fireworks, such as falling in love. Most days consist of routines unless you embark on an adventurous voyage, and even that has its routines. Believe me, I've been there.

Perhaps minimalism sounded wonderful in theory but didn't quite work out for you. Does your spartan home feel cold and impersonal, are you tired of reading, are you becoming self-conscious from reminding yourself to breathe deeply, to pause before you act, to slow down and so on? Maybe, just maybe, you miss watching the evening news on TV or a movie now and then. And what if you own a boat (like me) or have a hobby which involves owning heaps of stuff?

Your friends may envy your new lifestyle, and if they don't, tough beans. But being a minimalist can turn into a drama if you don't live alone, if your partner or children don't share your goals or your means of achieving them.

There's another type of minimalism which implies living with less without being religious about it, without transforming it into a package deal. In this case, minimalism is viewed more as an adjective rather than a lifestyle, as in: a minimalist sailor, a minimalist hiker, a minimalist dresser, a minimalist traveller, and so on. Are we condemned to choose between a huge house, an expensive car, a plasma TV....or a tiny house, no car, no TV.... Minimalists who now claim to own less than 100 objects remind me of anorexics!

I have a very simple proposition: adopt a Life Project and forget about "package" lifestyles and self-help books/blogs. In other words, find your own path and then walk it, instead of reading about somebody else's hyped up achievements.

"If that's true, then why am I reading this," you ask? The answer is that "I intend to merely offer ideas and to stimulate your desires." I have no guaranteed plan, no book to sell, nothing to promote...this is about you and I having a conversation. I'm doing the talking but you can leave comments if you like.

What is a Life Project?

A Life Project involves doing something you are passionate about. The emphasis here is on doing, not merely reading about it, daydreaming about it or watching others doing it for you or even imitating gurus.

It doesn't have to be grandiose, but it must be lasting and emotionally rewarding.

Let's take me as an example. I own a sailboat and even though it probably entails more expense and headaches than I'd like to admit, I'm passionate about it. If you read my blog you'll know what I mean. I've crossed an ocean, I've sailed south to the Algarve every year for the last ten years. I also spend a lot of time reading, researching and talking about sailboats.

But it's not all fun and play. I've felt defeated and frustrated by the never-ending maintenance and to-do lists, I've been outraged by ripped sails, a rattling transmission, paint peeling off the mast and by so many hassles that I fear to even list them all....but I love it, simply love owning a sailboat.

Unlike minimalists, tiny house dwellers, travelers and other well-intentioned lifestyle experts, I am not recommending that you rush out and purchase a sailboat or a motorboat. On the contrary, I advise you not to. Why? For the same reason you shouldn't start mountain climbing just because somebody says that it's an amazing experience.

Where to Start

The best place to start is by sitting on a comfortable chair on a slow day free from distractions. Now that you're feeling relaxed, think about "you." Who are you? Are you a man, a woman, young, old, somewhere in between, are you physically fit, do you have a disability, are you adventurous or timid, do you live alone, are you poor, wealthy or somewhere in between....Who are you?

To be continued....

Friday, February 24, 2012

More Boat Maintenance

My 30-minute exercise session starts at 6:30 am. The bedroom is dark, the blankets are toasty and I have to wrench myself out of bed and up into the attic. Thirty minutes later, I'm a new man ready to face the world.

Then I drove to Peniche determined to deal with the heat exchanger once and for all.

Fishing nets
Fishermen working on their nets
OK, so here is the heat exchanger in its original place hanging from a bunch of wires which I "engineered" last summer while at anchor in Alcoutim. Daydreaming
Kubota V1902
The boat's entrails exposed.  The heat exchanger hangs over the transmission attached by a series of wires. Don't you love my Chinese imitation Crocs.
Disconnected the hoses (one was so tight I had to cut it off) and took the end lids off. Although the intake section did not have any impeller pieces as I had suspected, it contained clusters of fibrous material. The water intake holes were encrusted and reduced in size.

Cleaning a heat exchanger
The cleaned heat exchanger. Must learn how to take photographs. If the light were shining on the end you'd see what's inside instead of seeing a black hole. 
It was now about 11:30 and I was ready to visit the hardware store to look for clamps to attach the exchanger to the plywood panel beside the engine.

Checked my emails first and, sure enough, I sat staring at a translation due before 6:00.

When I finished the translation I sent it off, packed up and went home, just in time to see the fishermen loading their nets back onto the boat.
Fishing in Peniche
Notice how high the tide rose by comparing this picture with the first one

Friday, February 17, 2012

Kidnapped Dragon Tree

Killer translations always start with a phone call and end with my head spinning. When it's over, I'm left with a mental hangover from the constant gruelling concentration late into the night and again early in the morning. I need a drink!

I got a nasty one on Wednesday. That means I missed my boat day (Thursday), got insufficient sleep two nights in row and now, Friday, I feel like I've been trampled by a rodeo bull. But it's over.

After lunch I took a long walk to Paimogo under an amazing sunny sky and came back feeling as though I could do it all over again.Walking will cure just about anything.

It's such a magnificent sunny day that I decided to sit in the yard for a while. Our garden has various brushes and trees, but there is one that is special. It's special because we brought it from the Azores in our hand luggage nearly two years ago while visiting this wine museum on Pico Island.
Pico Azores
Grandpa dragon tree on Pico Island

At the time I was about to translate/revise all the nine official guidebooks for the Azores, so I thought a trip there would come in handy.

Anyway, while we were at the wine museum, we found a cluster of small dragon trees and decided to bring one home. Since they can live for up to a 1,000 years, I thought it would be an incentive to live to a ripe old age watching it grow.

It was about 6 inches long, but look at it now (the one in the middle between the rocks).
Dragon Tree
Infant dragon tree kidnapped in the Azores

Now, I know what you're thinking, "that doesn't look like a dragon tree at all." In the beginning I too began to suspect that we'd been swindled, even though we didn't pay anything for it. But, according to dragon tree aficionados, they only start to branch out after about 10 years and grow very slowly.

Moral of the story, I hope I live long enough to at least sit in its shade some day.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fort of Paimogo

Ruins on the way to Peniche. Once the home of wealthy landowners.

It's Thursday, my boat day.

I got to the marina at about 10:30 in the morning and mucked about doing nothing. Let's see, set up the laptop, the heater and the battery charger. By the time I finished doing that and some more mucking around it was lunch time.

Ever since the wind generator died, I've been charging the batteries with a regular car battery charger once per week while I'm at the boat.

I had a vague notion of reading somewhere that cheap battery chargers are no good for boats because of stray current eating up your precious metals aboard. Hum, better establish whether that's a fact or a myth.

Got the bible out, "Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual" by Nigel Calder and made myself comfortable in the sunny pilot house settee. Now that's what boating is all about!

After confirming that cheap chargers are not a good idea and while reading merely for fun somebody knocked on the hull.

It was Carlos, the harbour master, and the insurance adjuster who came to look at the gouges in the gel coat and the totally ruined windvane. (I was rammed by another sailboat)

The young friendly adjuster took some pictures, stared at the windvane for a moment and asked, "what does this do exactly?"

I'm a pro at explaining the ingenious and yet simple engineering of a windvane and he was quite impressed. Not with my explanation, with the windvane.

He left with a handshake and a smile. I'll see what comes of this, the bill is not cheap.

Spent a good 45 minutes planning on how to move the heat exchanger to another location beside the engine instead of over the transmission. Think I got it solved. On my way to the Algarve last year, the exchanger's bracket broke and the whole thing fell onto the transmission. No damage to the heat exchanger, but I suspect the transmission didn't like the extra heat much.

Ran the engine, dried the bilge and decided to leave early and visit the farm.

On the way, stopped by the fort just because I felt like it.
The old fort. Some dummies (politicians) ruined it by plastering the massive stone walls with yellow mortar. Really love the new Disneyland look of this fort built in 1674.
Here's how it looked prior to the facelift.
The original fort of Paimogo, as it was built

The fort once protected the bay of Paimogo from enemy ships.
At the farm, which is about 1 km from the fort.
Reminds me of the good old days when I actually farmed here for real.
The flat area below was once covered in greenhouses. The ocean is 300 m to the right
The jeep, a Suzuki Grand Vitara. Notice the fort in the background

Monday, February 6, 2012

Covilhã, Serra da Estrela and a bad restaurant

It was my birthday, the perfect excuse to leave town.

The mission was to visit mainland Portugal's tallest mountain, relax in the snow and and enjoy the subfreezing temperature. Appetizing!

When I used to live in Canada, I saw, felt and shovelled enough snow to last me forever, or even longer.

Ana, on the other hand, had only touched snow once. "Isn't once enough," I asked her, perplexed?

First, I took the jeep to a garage and put on new rugged front tires, added anti-freeze to the radiator (good thing because it was full of pure water) and changed the oil before driving 300 km to Serra da Estrela that rises 1,993 meters into the sky.

Ana prepared as though we were going to the North Pole: long underwear, extra-thick socks and even a heavy blanket just in case. "Canadians sit out on their decks drinking beer and tanning in -5º C," I told her.

She gave me the look, you know, the look that says "don't men ever grow up?" OK, we'll take the blanket.

To make a boring story short, after a 3-hour drive (I'm a slow driver and get better mileage that way), we found ourselves half way up the mountain feeling hungry. That's when a restaurant conveniently came into view.

Did I say restaurant? Sorry for misleading you, it was a tourist trap (which functions much like a fly trap). These establishments should be avoided and, even better, banned! They're the modern version of highway robbery. After dishing out sixty-three euros for one of the worst meals I can remember, we resumed our journey upward.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was beginning to sweat in my long underwear. We wound up the road not seeing a spec a snow, but the views were awesome.

When we reached the top, we saw everyone hunched over wearing hats, gloves and big coats. That's what it was like in Canada. It didn't look good.

I stepped out of the jeep and there was no doubt about it, this really was the North Pole. The wind whipping over the mountain top bit into my face like icy sandpaper, just like in Canada.

"This is amazing!" I shouted through the wind to Ana.
Serra da estrela
The peak of Serra da Estrela
Ski resort in Portugal
Ana loving the cold, can't you tell?

Accommodations in Covilha
View from our room at the charming Residencial Panorama in Covilhã

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Masochist Boat Owner

It's damn cold outside!!! As Hemmingway once said, "And then there was the bad weather."

A stiff breeze makes 10º C feel like ice. My apologies to anyone living in a seriously cold country. Hey, if I told you this picture was taken in the Caribbean, you'd believe me, wouldn't you?

Look closely at the fishing boat below and you'll see that it's called "Jamaica."
Peniche harbour

It's been a tough week. Got 3 hours sleep Tuesday night and been pushing the envelope for a week straight. Yes, even here on the boat, although it's nice and toasty with the heater on.

I'm ahead of the game now, so I can knock off for a while.

Had lunch, went for a walk along the pier and took these pictures. While walking, I had a brilliant thought: since I can't compete with all the exciting and fun sailing blogs written in exotic places around the world, why not take the opposite approach. You know, focus on being a masochist boat owner.

LOTS OF BOAT OWNERS COULD RELATE TO THAT! There must be thousands of sailors plugging away and dreaming about that fateful day when they are finally free to sail off somewhere, anywhere, as long as it's adventurous. Yeah, I'll say.

The problem is I've already done that. It's a bitch being stuck in the rut again.

Enough silly talk from a translator's fatigued mind. If any of your kids ever start talking about becoming a translator, send them off to the army before it's too late.

Marina in Peniche
Jakatar, my Corbin 39, in the foreground with the large yellow fender
I think I'll go home now, get the fireplace roaring and fall asleep on the couch watching the news. Na, just kidding. Still got some work to do.