The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Boat Slavery Blues

It's my boat day, but I'm feeling rather glum and, yes, pessimistic.

Yesterday I received an email notice with some prickly news: "You owe Social Security 1,570 euros." It's a fricking EXTRA contribution for our beloved Portuguese austerity budget, more like a boa constrictor budget. There goes a chunk of my boat budget. 

Almost overnight my rate per translated word plunged 25%, plus I now pay more taxes and social security. But it's all for a good cause mind you. Somebody has to support a plague of endemic corruption at all levels, white elephants and a huge swarm of civil servants, most of whom do f...k all. My apologies to the 20% who work hard or, at least, pretend to.

The seduction of living a minimalist carefree life on Jakatar (at free anchorages) billowed into an exaggerated daydream, or maybe not.

My discontent was fermenting in my head as I drove along the cliff-side road under a miserably dark sky. On reaching Paimogo I was greeted by a rainbow to remind me that I'm alive and healthy and...screw the economic crisis!

Ocean Rainbow
Rainbow on a gloomy day
At the boat, the batteries were bubbling at 14.8 V and the new hydrometer showed a 100% charge, so I disconnected the charger before the batteries got fried. Next, I cut and fitted the new thermostat hose - it's thinner than the old one and buckles at the elbow...we'll see what happens.

Called Fernando the electrician and he said they'd stop by in the afternoon to install the wind generator. I made sure all the bolts and fasteners were ready and then tried to pull the remaining wire out of the mounting pole.

I'll make a long stupid story short and stupid. A long time ago I sprayed polyurethane foam into the pole in an attempt to stop the wind generator's resonating vibration from humming all over the boat and driving me crazy. Now I couldn't remove the old wires or run new wires.

Called Fernando to cancel the installation until I resolved the problem. He insisted I take it to the shop where we poked it vigorously with a broomstick, a steel rod and then a long sharp fish hook, all to no avail. Since the 2.5 m pole consists of two parts joined at the middle with an inner sleeve, we ended up taking a torch to it and whacking it repeatedly with a large hammer. Finally, we separated the parts and managed to get the foam out.

Unfortunately for me, they got a call for an emergency repair on a fishing boat. My generator will have to wait for another day.

Boat Slave Live from Peniche, Portugal

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ocean Crossing Memories Rekindled by Sunrise

A transcendental moment of reflection.
Early in the morning I finished my 30-minute exercise session, opened the skylight and saw this sunrise. I felt like a child again, felt the thrill of discovering something completely new. Before I knew it, I was whispering "Here comes the it comes."

When I crossed the Atlantic I had my share of these transcendental experiences: sunrises, sunsets and nights glittering with millions of stars so bright and vivid the mast seemed to almost graze them. I loved the night shift. On some nights I would be treated to a swirling fluorescent wake trailing from the rudder, so luminescent you'd swear the boat had an underwater floodlight. You can't buy this magic any more than you can hype yourself into living it deeply if that's not your game.

No chart plotter, no radar, no AIS, no shortwave radio, no computer, no roller furler, no automatic pilot (just a windvane with a loose connection) and not even self-tailing winches.

Except for food and water, Jakatar voyaged as lean as a roving monk. A crumpled photocopied chart of the whole Atlantic, a VHF radio, a handheld GPS and an old plastic sextant with a complicated little calculator which I had no clue how to use, those were our tools. In a worst case scenario, even without a compass, I could follow the sun and the stars that I had become familiar with. They would surely guide me to Europe or Africa.

A 3-day storm was followed by doldrums. We were plodding along on a Corbin 39 cutter: strong and steady, with a mast held in place by a forest of thick shrouds, stays and running backstays. The hull was built in 1982 but the boat was launched only in 2000 and all the rigging was new.

We were sailing in the midst of a shipping lane from New York to Europe. Ships at night were our only obstacles; flickering fireflies that would emerge in the dark horizon and quickly become two mast lights as big as the moon. In fact, one night the full moon was suddenly unveiled from behind a black cloud triggering a rush of adrenaline that jolted me out of a semi-hypnotic state as I mistook it for a ship about to run us over.

That was our crossing, now tucked in my memory like a faded magazine article.

The extraordinary sunrise this morning was my muse and inspiration for next year. There's always next year.

Drifter Sailing
The best siesta in the world

Sailing with Women
Saki  the Greek (sorry Saki, forgot how to spell your name) and our three women aboard.

Reading at sea
My brother Cesar, working on his tan and enriching his mind.

Berths at Horta Marina
Jakatar docked at Horta, Azores.
Horta Marina Wall
Karl, the fourth crew member. A brilliant guy with a huge appetite.

Ships at sea
Night is falling, just me and the stars (and those damned ships).

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Amateur Boat Mechanic

Today I decided to solve the thermostat leak, at least to diagnose it. Little jobs like this can accumulate until they become overwhelming. Not to mention that it may take weeks, if not months, to have an out-of-stock part shipped here.

This time I taped paper towels over crucial areas to reveal the source of the leak. It didn't take long to see the results and, luckily, the thermostat housing is not cracked, as I had feared. The culprit turned out to be a wire clamp that had cut into the hose. Woooh, what a relief.
Kubota heating hose
How to discover a leak with paper towels. The towel around the hose got soaked immediately.
Had lunch, with an extra glass of wine to celebrate and went for a walk along the breakwater. I don't know if was the wine, the sunshine, the fact that I had no work to finish, but whatever it was, I decided to sit and enjoy the world around me and to forget everything else. This is what I'm good at doing; it's my mantra and what I'm missing most in life. I was born to be Zen - but not a Zen monk, mind you!

It was warm and I wore a jacket to carry accessories (camera, phone, wallet, keys) and as insurance against a cool breeze that did not materialize. I sat there for nearly an hour (which seemed like a long time - which is good) and admired the serene look of the fishermen who spend hours fishing off the breakwater apparently without a care in the world. Yes, I realize that they probably envy me as I step aboard a 39-foot sailboat, but we all know how that story goes, don't we?
Fishing Boats in Peniche
What could be better than sitting here watching the coming and going of fishing boats?
Something to smile about. Why do photographs insist on making me look bald? That's not what I see in the mirror and mirrors don't lie, as Leonard Cohen said.
Peniche Port Entrance
The blue bicycle
Seagull Beach
Seagull Beach and fish bait cages in the water.
Before going home, I introduced myself to the unlucky sailor who was reading a novel in his cockpit. He's a very polite, soft-spoken man suffering from very sore ribs. It turns out that Nigel is British but lived in Toronto for 37 years until he retired. He fell in the galley against the stove and cracked his ribs when a wave jolted his boat over on its side. That's all I know because I'm not a snoop and this isn't a gossip column.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Corbin Brothers

My brother Cesar also owns a Corbin 39 (center cockpit) called Lapu Lapu, which he built from a bare hull. He also built most of the interior on my boat Jakatar. When cruising, Cesar eats only salted pork, bananas, chickpeas and also oranges to keep scurvy away; and he eats oatmeal for breakfast, but I shouldn't be telling you that.

When we docked in Horta, Azores, after a 23-day voyage from New York, he leaped from Jakatar, ran wildly down the dock and up the street barefoot, wearing a rag resembling a pair of shorts and zigzagging with "sailor's vertigo" as people scrambled to get out of his path. He came to a quick halt at a kiosk where he bough a pack of cigarettes, lit one up and looked around smiling as the nearby policeman slipped his gun back into the holster. I'm kidding of course, about the policeman.

He no longer smokes and bought a new pair of shorts.

Captain Cesar showing off his work of art and his muscles in Port Dover, Lake Erie.

My other brother Luis has a...I forget the make of his boat. It's a great boat but smaller. He's the smart one in the family. That explains why he got a smaller vessel - at a fraction of the price for triple the fun. He used to design sailboats when he was a teenager back on the farm in Canada, so I think I'll blame him for getting us all into this racket.
Luis sailing his boat on Lake Erie with his twin daughters Erika and Michelle who are also nuts about boats. It must be in the genes

My mother is crazy about boats too, so I figure we must be related to Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer who discovered the route to India. My father, on the other hand, liked fishing from the beach. That was it, he didn't even like to drink water all that much. We forgive him because, otherwise, he was a good man.

At this very moment Cesar is making his way down from Toronto to Florida (by car) where he has a house near the ocean. He plans to sail the boat down next winter. It's a tough life, I know, you bet, but I'm confident he'll survive another winter without bone-chilling temperatures, snow, slush and all that fun stuff.

I don't want to anger my Nordic readers, and I won't because snow is beautiful. Let's face it, if warm weather and beaches were all that wonderful, the whole world would be living in the Caribbean or at other similar locations. Amen.

This post was going be called "Boat Battery Saga III", but I figured you deserved something better.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Battery Blues

Love your mama
Came across this beauty during a 90-minute fitness walk
Before I start moaning about my troubles, just look at this foreign "hippie" van I came across during our 90-minute late-afternoon fitness walk. It kind of reminded me of Bumfuzzle during their van journeys and the glorious life of individuals who live their lives and don't care what other people think.

But, going back to my "non-hippie" burdens. First thing in the morning, Ana and I went to café Akiacopus. Then I went to the boat.

A little ripple of irritation ran through my skin when I read the voltmeter at 11-point-something. Something is wrong. Either the battery is shot or there's a leak in the system. If it's the latter, by the time I get it fixed, the battery will be sulphated and shot anyway.

I hooked up the little charger again and hung around for a while until I got tired of doing nothing useful. I went home and surfed the Internet looking at solar panels, wind generators and marine chargers. Money, money...that's what I kept seeing on the screen.

It's almost lunch time, Monday, and the charger is still going as I write this.

Gotta call Fernando the electrician and get something going. I can handle the mast paint blistering to hell, rust stains on the stainless accessories, mouldy wood needing varnish...but a dead battery, can't live with that!

Our walk on a windy Sunday afternoon. The beach seems like a ghost town.
Praia da Areia Branca Youth Hostel

Lifesaver's Bar

Foz Restaurant, café and bar

Praia da Areia Branca River
Ana walking ahead while I take pictures

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kubota Has a Drip

We ate baked chicken legs, chestnuts, potatoes, salad an red wine at home with the patio door open and the sun shining on my back. I also had ice cream for dessert.

Then I drove to Peniche to check the boat battery saga. It was only at 11.5 volts, but at least it hadn't gone dead like last week. Go figure. This time I had shut off the forward bilge pump, so maybe it's the culprit, who knows?

Fired up the Kubota to generate some amps. Sure enough, the antifreeze started dripping steadily into the bilge. Tried the paper towel trick to find its source, a waste of time. Should have taped it on before starting the engine, then I'd see where it got wet first.

Ryker showed up. When I went to show him the leak it had stopped. If I ever buy a lottery ticket, I'll be sure to take Ryker with me.

After about 45 minutes of running the engine, the battery seemed to be stuck at 12.58 even after increasing the rpm to 1,500.

I shut off the engine, hooked the dinky battery charger and went for a walk. 

The peaceful sunny morning turned into a dark windy afternoon, just as Windguru had predicted. It's blowing like stink and who do I see teaching his young boys to sail: Luis, of course.
Pinned against the wall by strong wind

Then it started raining and I took shelter in a fishing boat with a couple of locals. Funny how boat owners always have something to talk about. They may have absolutely nothing in common except a boat; that's good enough. Dusk cut our conversation short and we went our separate ways.

During this whole time I was enjoying a good view of Jakatar. Notice how bulkier it looks compared to the blue Wauquiez accross the channel which is only 3 feet shorter.

Shiny Corbin 39

The battery had settled back to 12.27 despite the little charger's herculean efforts to liven it up. I think I'll go back tomorrow morning and leave the charger on all day.

It's 9:12 p.m. as I type and the wind is howling outside.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Boat in Trouble

Some days are nothing but trouble.

With one leg into the companionway I glanced at the transient dock and saw that the unlucky sailor had returned to his boat. Then I saw the sky filled with seagulls and I still had time to take a shot, too late but better than nothing.

A swarm of noisy seagulls tailing a fishing boat.
Ever since the wind generator died, I've developed a habit of checking the house battery voltage whenever I'm at the boat. Today it read zero. Damn, the meter is malfunctioning, I thought. When I switched on the panel, still zero. Turned on a light, nothing. Shit! How could that happen?

Pulled out the switchboard, nothing looked out of place.
Colorful spaghetti 
Got out the 5-amp charger. Let's see, 220 amps at 5 amps per hour and the battery will be charged in 44 hours. Actually a lot longer, but I'm not going to explain why that is. No need to calculate anything anyway because the charger's fuse blew right away. That's because....ah, hell I'm not going to explain that either.

At least the engine's battery was charged (I keep the two batteries separate), so I fired up the Kubota and those amps just loved flowing into an empty battery. When I had it up to 11.00 volts I stopped the engine and drove to Intermarché for a box of wine and a pack of car fuses.

Back at the boat, I changed the fuse on the charger and went to work on a translation as the sky got dark really fast.

But that's OK. I'm cozy in the boat and the battery is charging. Then it started pouring rain and the electricity went out. Started the engine again. That battery needed some serious amps; and I need to figure out what happened.

Called Fernando, the marine electrician, but he was busy all day. Maybe tomorrow. I'm a translator, I have to work tomorrow. You can see the frustration building up, can't you?

Instead of staring at engine gauges, I decided to dry the bilge. On doing so, I noticed that the water was greenish, the color of the antifreeze. Sure enough, antifreeze is dripping from the thermostat housing. It looks as though it's cracked, can't really tell where it's coming from.
Look closely and you'll see a bead of moisture below the fan belt between the two bolts.
Damn, Damn, another problem and my translation is sitting in the laptop waiting for somebody to get working on it.

Wiped the leaking antifreeze with a paper towel to see where it's coming from. Not too easy while the fan belt is turning. Finally, gave up. I'm not sailing anywhere until Spring.

Barely got any work done, the battery settled to 12.0 volts (pretty much empty). Got so pissed I had to write about it.

Another red sunset and a couple glasses of vinho tinto and I'll sleep like a baby.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bic Bilbao Finds New Home

After agreeing with the seller to buy the kayak, I realized it was a 120-km drive either way. The add had said "located in Santarem," but when I called the seller for driving instructions he said it was in "Entroncamento."

Add 45 euros for diesel, 15 euros for road tolls and the the price jumped another 60 euros, for a total of 340 euros.

I got a paddle, a small life jacket and a helmet. I was expecting a funky metal helmet, but it turned out to be just a plastic bicycle thing. Not that I had any intention of using it.

Anyway, the kayak is in good shape and cost me half of the retail price. We also went for a drive to a little village outside of Entroncamento. At this point, I'll jump at any excuse to take a break from translation work.

transporting a kayak on a car
Back home with the new toy.
The kayak, paddle, life jacke and even the plastic helmet was covered in a thin film of diesel dust from sitting in a garage for ages. We took it to the backyard for a wash.

It only weights 21 kg. I weigh 90 kg and do tons of push ups, so I figured I could toss it onto the jeep's roof with one hand. Wrong! It's shape, length and the jeep's height make it bit tricky.

For now it will be stored in the garage until I have time to try it out. That means waiting for a break from work, good weather and calm ocean all at the same other words, probably not too soon.
how to wash a kayak

This is what happens when you live in a house...junk piling up by the day. How much of it will we actually use, need or give away? Got to start thinking about a major cleaning job before ordering the firewood that will also be crammed in here right below the kayak's nose.

This is my garage by the way. After looking at the fancy ceiling trim, it struck me that some readers may think this is my living room. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Transient dock is still full

Yesterday was like living in a cold rainy country somewhere way up north.

But today I woke up to a gorgeous warm sunny day with hardly a breeze in the air.

Got up at 6:30 to finish off a translation, which I emailed to Lisbon, and then roared out of here to Peniche.

When I arrived I was surprised to see the transient dock is still full, perhaps because the 6 knot wind is from the south or, most likely, nobody believed the weather would change so dramatically overnight. The rescued bowman 46 is still here too, empty.

Luis was coming out the gate as I was going in.

"I sleep incredibly well on the boat," he said smiling.

"Last night I said, I'm sleeping on the boat, anybody coming? The kids shouted yes and then the wife came too. They already left. Good thing I stayed longer because I just met a French guy who needs his steering fixed."

Got to the boat, set up the laptop, the boat battery charger and got down to business. Another damn translation for the 20th.

Took a little break before lunch.

advantages of a pilot house
Love the pilothouse except in summer when it's hot (I look like an Egyptian mummy).
After a lunch (pre-made) of octopus rice and salad, I went for a walk up the street past the fort that was once a political prison.

Fort in Peniche
The Fort and the shadow trees.
Turned 180 degrees and took a shot of the opposite side.

Peniche Landscape

Looking north. Can't see downtown Peniche, but it's back there.

Peniche Location

An inlet below those small colourful houses.
Inlet in Peniche

Quaint neighborhood populated mostly by local fishermen.
Ocean view houses

View of the fort and port breakwater in the background, and all the wind generators way off in the distance.
Peniche Breakwater

Driving home. The sky was on fire 1 minute before I stopped the jeep and took this picture. So here it is, imagine it 1 minute before.
Sunset near Paimogo

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Paradise No More, not today at least

Today the thermometer can't seem to push beyond 12º C. It's also raining and dark - a bad combination. How anybody can survive through the winter in northern Sweden is beyond me.

Bad Weather in Portugal
No beach paradise today
Then I took this picture facing east with the camera set to "twilight landscape" and look at this.
Nasty Weather
Talk about a doomsday look
I've got a Sony Cyber-Shot camera, and that's the best I can do. Instead of spending money on a Canon I've already offered 280 euros for a 2011 Bic Bilbao kayak that comes with a paddle, life jacket (as if I don't already have a huge pile of them) and a helmet. A HELMET!! Yeah, that will come in handy as protection against flying fish.

The seller accepted the offer. Hope I can pick it up this weekend.

It's going to be warmer tomorrow. And a good thing because I'll be working on the boat tomorrow.

Back to work, see you tomorrow at the boat.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bic Balbao Kayak Mission

In the last days, the sky has alternated between brief sunny periods and dark low clouds as I sit at my desk translating my life away.

My last guests have left: a German and his teenage son on a surfing holiday. They promised to be back in Easter.

Looking back, it seems that the first rental season wasn't too bad. My net house-rental income covered my boat expenses. The boat, does anything else matter? 

Bic Bilbao for Sale
Leaning toward a Bic Bilbao

Got serious about buying a kayak instead of just looking at Internet ads for used kayaks. Because I don't have the time to actually go out and get one, I made a "formal" commitment to the plan.

Ana and I took a quick trip to Decathlon in Torres Vedras after lunch. Besides some cheap shirts, I also bought 2 foam rolls for transporting a kayak on the jeep's rooftop.

Pretty much like committing yourself to buying a boat by getting an anchor and chain!! Easy logic, right? And to think that my parents used to say I was wasting my time studying philosophy.

Anyway, I did get a second-hand Bic Bilbao kayak for 200 euros and I'm quite happy with it. It came with a paddle, life jacket and helmet. The paddle will suffice.

Why am I happy with it? It's fairly easy to load and unload onto/from the car roof, it's stable, it goes fairly fast and tracks well without too much effort. It's also dry, except for some water drops that flick off the paddle and collect on the seat getting my bum slightly wet. For 200 euros I got a maintenance-free unsinkable vessel that's a lot of fun. It also tows really well behind the boat.

The one setback is that I have to get my feet wet getting on and off from the boat ladder. It's nearly impossible, or a least very risky, to get on and off without placing my feet on the underwater ladder rung in order to bring my butt more level with the seat.

Surprisingly, I can also transport a fairly large load in a water resistant bag. I wouldn't recommend carrying valuables such as a computer in a normal bag. The kayak is stable but there is always a higher risk of dropping something in the water during the loading and unloading operation when compared to an inflatable dinghy.