The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Get a Job!

It's the holiday season and I'm slaving my life away!

That's not a very cheerful message but it's true. At least it's sunny, not -20º C and dark like in Sweden [private joke]. The sun is shining so bright that I feel like running outside and climbing a tree or some damn thing...anything except this work crap.

sunny office
Cluttered work space and Buddha on the window sill
I did go to the marina after lunch. What was supposed to be a fast boat check turned into two hours of gabbing on the pontoon. I was talking to Ryker in the warm sun and, in a wink, we were joined by a group of boat owners. Before long nearly everyone was threatening to shoot or hang the politician they despise most. I'm not kidding.

The boat is fine. Dried the bilges (when it rains they always collect a bit of water from the anchor chain pipe, the loose emergency tiller connection and probably a couple of other places). The battery charger and wind generator are working fine.

An Amel Super Maramu left the port as I was leaving. On the way home I saw it from the Paimogo road going south with all sails up.

I have a huge, I MEAN HUGE, translation for January 21 and it ain't going to be easy.

Well, fuck a duck, as they say in Canada. Grit my teeth and plow into the headwind. Way back when I was still normal, my mother used to say "get a job and stop doing crazy things." Maybe she was right.

Happy New Year.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Sheep on the Road

Ana is on holiday and at home, which altered by routine. As a result, my boat day began after lunch and I didn't even bother taking the laptop. I'm ahead on a translation and don't expect to receive any more work until tomorrow.

Once in a while I cross paths with this shepherd near Paimogo. Today I was able to take a few photographs.

sheep and egrets
There's normally a small flock of egrets following the herd, but I only got two, the others flew away as the jeep approached
It took a while to pass the herd. The dog barked and the shepherd shouted, but the placid sheep couldn't care less. What's the hurry when you're a sheep; some have a milking appointment in the evening - big deal. That was fine by me, I was in no hurry either.
shepherd dog
Does he have an iPhone in his bag?
If I loved my job half as much as this German Shepherd dog loves his, you'd never hear a complaint out of me again, ever!

At the marina I saw Manuel motoring around the port testing his new Beta engine. If you're a faithful reader, you'll recall that his Volvo engine, which was running like a clock, imploded unexpectedly as we were returning from the Algarve this summer. The camshaft broke and everything went to hell. What was destined to be a peaceful 4-day trip turned into an exciting adventure, in a minor way.

I called him on the mobile, he came along my boat, I stepped aboard and off we went motoring around trying all kinds of maneuvers, speeds and all that stuff boat owners get excited about.

The one great advantage of owning a boat is the socializing benefit in the real world, which is a lot better than doing it on Facebook. Hey, I'm on Facebook too, but I can't hear the engine running or feel the wind on my face.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Zen and Tiger Trading Method

The Zen and Tiger Trading Method
How it all began
In 2008 I was a successful translator dreaming about early retirement. I lived in an ocean-side townhouse with a large pool, drove a Mercedes and sailed a 39-foot sailboat. I was debt free and had about forty thousand euros in the bank.
That's the year the global financial crisis swept over the industrialized landscape like cold thick fog. At that time, I was a mere spectator and not too alarmed, like most people living in small countries where palm trees grow. I was an overworked freelance translator who had made a name for myself and my wife was a school teacher, a civil servant with a decent income. What could possibly go wrong?
Undisciplined Thinking
I had never bought or even considered buying stocks. Not that I was adverse to investing or to taking risks, I was simply more attracted to real estate. I had already bought and sold three properties that had contributed substantially to my lifestyle. However, making money in real estate in 2008 would be paramount to flogging a dead horse, and I knew it all too well.
Real estate was dead, but here was a golden opportunity knocking at my door in the form of cheap shares. What a lucky guy I am, I thought. Shares were freefalling as fast as panicky stockholders were running for cover. The herd mentality had taken over and the erratic stampede was raising a huge cloud of dust.

At the time it made sense to believe that stocks would fall only so low, specially bank stocks, much like the notion that housing could only climb so high. I was a firm believer in a linear cost/benefit law. I was dead wrong!
Having obtained a degree in philosophy and having dabbled in psychology, sociology and political science, I fell under the illusion that I could think through a problem from an abstract perspective. I built up this false confidence from my successful real estate ventures. I neglected the fact that the housing market is so easy to predict with reasonable accuracy, when compared with the stock market, that it’s almost child’s play.
If stocks were dirt cheap, it was time to buy. I happily transformed my 40K into a portfolio spread out over utilities, banking, industry and technology. A few months later, I was feeling smug and smart sitting by the pool having a sundowner watching my shares inching their way up the chart and telling my wife how much money I had made on that particular day. That was the life - making money for free; early retirement was now just around the corner.

The Disaster

My short-lived success was what I’ve now come to recognize as a rebound, nothing more. I had bought shares at a fraction of their peak value, patted myself on the back when they rose on a minor rebound and then watched in great dismay as my 40K quickly dwindled to about 20k in a little over a year.

Losing 20K is not the end of the world, but it was definitively a blow to my self esteem. Psychologists say that trading can have the same perverse effects as gambling. They say that addicted gamblers are obsessed with recouping their losses and, to a lesser degree, in urgent need of the emotional high that comes from being dealt a winning hand, even if they lose three times for every time they win.

I say this because when I got over the dismay, I vowed to recoup my losses and even start making some money. At the same time I was well aware of the risk I was running if I allowed emotions to lead me straight to the shipwrecked future of so many gamblers.
To prevent that sort of disaster, I sat down and began writing what I entitled “The Golden Rules for Successful Trading.” I didn’t just pick these rules out of a hat; after all, that kind of stupidity is what led to my initial 20K loss.
I was pissed and ready for a fight. If I could decipher Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” back in my university days, I could surely crack this nut. I donned my rusty academic cap and got down to work. I had no interest in buying “how to” books simply because I had already learned the most important lesson: the market is a dynamic ever-changing force that must be understood intimately.
Perhaps it’s not that simple. What I can tell you is that I wanted to create a new paradigm rather than get bogged down in what everybody else was already doing. I wanted to see the market from a fresh and clear perspective. I don’t doubt the “how to” books have something useful to teach, but to me that seemed like learning to walk by reading about it. That’s a poor analogy, I know, but that’s what I felt and it paid off.
For months I studied the market and, just as important, took notes about news articles and, in particular, about opinions by the so-called experts and corporate executives. I was shooting for an A+ grade and nothing less would do.
The Shocking Truth
You may already know about the shocking truth, but I didn’t. I knew about the real estate market spin, but that’s child’s play compared with the finely oiled machine running the stock market.
The stock market is structured like a knowledge pyramid:

·         At the bottom we find independent investors, the small fish, like me, who depend mostly on the media and financial reports for information;

·         Next, there’s the media made up of three basic types of journalists: Experts who are extremely dangerous because they’re selling an angle; Mouthpieces who are less harmful because they’re mostly repeating what the experts said; and twits who have nothing to say except reporting the day’s or week’s gains and losses.

·         Higher up, we have politicians, famous economists and analysts, rating companies and other highly toxic movers. Just in case you didn’t know, the world’s largest investment bank Lehman Brothers was rated as healthy not long before it collapsed. Wonderful.

·         Lastly, at the pinnacle we have large shareholders, CEOs, CFOs and other ego maniacs who will do pretty much anything to amass more wealth and power, including telling the biggest lies in the world.
Rising Above the Clutter
If you’re reading this book you’ve probably read or heard plenty of headlines that go something like this:
In the summer of 2012: “analysts are issuing upbeat predictions, with at least two saying Apple will top $1,000….based on forecast Christmas orders.” (shares go up);

 Two months later: “Apple is facing increasingly fiercer competition from a number of rivals threatening its forecast sales growth….we must keep in mind that iPhone and iPad sales are Apple’s largest source of revenue and profit.” (shares fall);

Here we have a perfect example of analysts proving that they’re either a pack of dummies or a bunch of liars. You decide, either way it makes little difference. Nevertheless, this is just one of the many excellent scenarios for making money…or losing it, if you don’t follow the golden rules.
Although we’re still in the introductory stage, I now feel compelled to give you a peek at the first Golden Rule: all deceitful politicians, reporters, analysts, economists, rating companies, CEOs, etc. are, in most cases, your best allies.
Yup, you heard me right. It’s a fact. Once you’ve become acclimatized to media clutter, once you’ve learned to listen to double-talk, once you’ve learned to assess the impact of news reports, once you’ve learned to compare reality with the circus show, once you've learned to interpret the clutter to your advantage you’ll have taken your first step toward The Zen and Tiger Trading Method.
I know what you’re thinking: “that name is really kitsch and just plain stupid.” Modesty aside, I think it’s the greatest title ever given to a book about trading. Hopefully, you’ll agree with me by the time you finish the book; ideally, by the time you finish the next two paragraphs.
Zen can have a lot of meanings depending on who you ask and on whether they’re drinking tea or beer when you ask them.  For our purposes, let’s just simplify Zen by saying that it’s attaining “absorption” or a “meditative state.” If you don’t learn to absorb information and to serenely and unemotionally meditate over that information, you may as well stop reading right now. If you do keep reading, we’ll look at this crucial aspect in greater detail further on.
What do tigers and traders have in common? They stalk their prey and strike at the perfect moment; any other time will lead to failure and wasted energy. Either way, a high failure rate will lead to a starving tiger and a broke trader. You may have absorbed and meditated over all the vital information only to strike out by failing to buy or sell at the right time. Timing is everything. All the golden rules will be useless if you hum and haw rather than push that buy or sell button. It’s that simple.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Live On The Margin

As a small-time trader I'm really intrigued about how the bumfuzzle book "Live on the Margin" will perform.

And I'm not talking about book sales, I'M TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY READERS WILL MAKE OR LOSE by applying its investment strategies. If they actually take a leap of faith and invest some of their hard-earned savings.

In my opinion, Patrick Schulte is a really smart guy. He made a lot of money on the stock market (according to him, which must be true because he retired really young) and now he'll make more from this book - at least enough to maintain his slacker lifestyle. Not a bad gig, I'd say.

Also, I'd like to make it perfectly clear that I'm a great admirer of the bumfuzzle crew. I also believe that they're doing a great service to their readers for a whole lot of reasons I'm not going to list here.

But, getting back to the original purpose of this post, two aspects loom large in my mind. First, if you could make easy money simply by following a plan, a method or instructions, there would be a lot of people doing it instead of marching to the 9 to 5 tune. Second, some endeavors, such as playing the stock market, require emotional intelligence - a trait that can't really be taught to any significant degree, I think.

But hey, buy the book, get excited about the "slacker philosophy," spend some time daydreaming, lose a few bucks and break the routine. What's wrong with that?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Scavenger

This blog is turning me into a scavenger...a vulture looking for tidbits to write about.

It will be about 4 months before I sail to Nazare for a haul-out and a gearbox replacement. Then it will be another 2 months before I sail to the Algarve and make my innovative mooring. That's the plan. But right now the blog menu is looking pretty damn thin.

And it's getting worse by the day. This morning, out of desperation, I squeezed the camcorder between the passenger seat and the headrest to film my trip to the marina. Shit, as if that's a big deal everybody is dying to see, right?

Since I drive a jeep and the roads are rough, the short clip was mostly a vibrating mess. I got dizzy just from watching it. I've heard of worse ideas, but not many.

Then I decided to speed it up and to apply Youtube's stabilization option and voilá, here it is.

So yeah, went out to the boat, did some translation work, had lunch and then started the engine. The new, and obviously stupid, thermostat hose also leaked. Gave up and went for a walk.

Came across Ryker on his fishing boat and he said that it wasn't the hose. "two hoses don't leak in the same spot." He told me about the days when he worked on oil drilling rigs and had to find tiny leaks even in pouring rain using compressed air. He said he could find a leak even underwater and that he'd come over later to have a look.

That was good to know, so good I went over to Nigel (the unlucky sailor) who was untangling a big pile of lines on the pontoon. His ribs are much better and he had finally pumped most of the water out of his boat. It turns out that a couple of his batteries were still usable so he bought a portable battery charger and got his bilge pumps going. He also told me somebody stole his electronics while the boat was at dock unlocked and he was in hospital.

Back at my boat, I discovered the famous leak all by myself. Took a strong flashlight to it and by squinting real hard discovered that it's coming from the thermostat gasket right next to the hose fitting. A little persistence goes a long way.

The wind generator is up and running again, but looking like it has been rolling in the mud.
Rutland 913
The Rutland 913 was spinning when I took the picture.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Life After Death

It's Thursday, my boat day, and the rain started falling as I drove into Peniche.

Don't ask me why, but I decided to take photographs as I drove into town. Why hadn't I ever though of that before. Here is a good way to enhance the virtual show. There was a slight problem though, the camera's flash was switched on. On my second shot, the FLASH exploded in the jeep just as I saw a police car approaching from the opposite direction. Damn, here I was driving and taking photographs. As we crossed paths, the two policemen slowed down and looked at me but kept going. I could almost sense what they were thinking: "Is that legal?"

Weather in Peniche
Rainy day in Peniche

Port of Peniche
The port and the new Clube Naval building in the completion stage, as seen on the far left

My heart was still beating a shade above normal when I slowed down to a crawl before turning left into the port's parking lot. Just then a guy in an old Mercedes came speeding down the blind curve in the road ahead. He must have thought I wasn't going to stop, put on his brakes, went into a skid and nearly sideswiped some parked cars. Can't you just see the policemen if the guy had hit something..."hey, that's the dude taking pictures, handcuff the lunatic!"

I've been crossing paths with a lot of birds lately. Must be a sign, who knows?

Seaguls population
Seagull invasion
Fernando the electrician and his employee arrived and got to work setting up the charger, AC breaker panel and a power socket. It was too wet to install the wind generator and the through-deck AC socket. Tomorrow, there's always tomorrow.

And yes, there is life after death. After one week without any charge the battery showed 12.72 volts and the hydrometer float reached the 100% charge level. So yes, all you boaters and battery owners, if your battery is on the blink hook up a dinky battery charger without a cut-off sensor and boil that sucker at 14.8 V until it resuscitates. But no more than that or it will die for real.
Ideal batter charge
One week after intravenous shock treatment and it's healthier than ever
And here is the new stuff nicely concealed in the pilot house locker.
AC breaker panel on boat
AC breaker panel on right charger on left

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Blackbirds Leaving Me Behind

“To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom”

- Andre Gide

Stole this quote from Alex at Project Bluesphere, but I did pay to download one of his video clips as a way of saying thank you. The funny thing is that although many people are lusting to be in his situation - living on a sailboat in exotic places - they would most likely become bored stiff and miserable within 2 or 3 weeks.

I think I'll write an essay about the above quote someday. For now I'm going to write about blackbirds and fireplaces. It's important because I'll want to read it when I'm 80 and have nothing better to do.

The blackbird migration has begun. At first I thought they were forming a huge flock and getting ready to fly south, but then I realised that dozens of thousands of blackbirds couldn't just have popped out of nowhere overnight.

They've flown from somewhere farther north and stopped for a breather. I'd also guess that they pick up smaller flocks as they fly on their route to some warmer climate. Lucky birds.

Anyway, huge flocks of birds were flying everywhere and all I got was this photograph showing a couple of hundred of them on the wing (I was driving). Obviously, you'll have to take my word for it. It was quite the sight and reminded me of Hitchcock's movie "The Birds".

migrating blackbirds
Migrating Blackbirds
I wish I was going south with them (on the boat of course). Instead I stayed home and lit up the fireplace. The weather changed from a balmy day to a chilly night pretty quick, if you consider 10º C chilly. To maintain the tradition, I once more apologise to all the Swedes, Icelanders, Norwegians, Russians (you bet, I got Russian readers too...or maybe they just look at the pictures and daydream) who are freezing their butts off somewhere in tundra land.

Fireplace and thermometer - 15º C is way too cold for me.

Another fact I have to clarify is that, by looking at this and other pictures, you may suspect that I'm wealthy or a least well off. Nonsense! I got a little deal going with the bank: as long I pay them a chunk of my income every month, they will let me live here. Mighty nice of them; mighty stupid of me. I should be living on my boat just messing around doing whatever I desire. More on that later.