The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sailing and Sunsets

It's winter and I'm translating like mad. I feel like the sun is going down on me (hey, I'm entitled to a cliche now and then). Most evenings, sitting at my office I see the sun sinking into the ocean. I can also see it rising over the hills too; but for that luxury I have to climb the spiral stairs to the attic and poke my head out the window or walk out onto the terrace.
I've been known to complain now and then about this and that, but I can't complain about the view.
Ocean Sunset

And since I can't take my Corbin out for a sail, I do the next-best thing - watch somebody else sail on Youtube. Here's "The Greatest Sailing Film Ever Made on the Tagus River." It exemplifies the beauty of owning a Sailmar. Many of these small but fast and robust sailboats were made in Portugal by a company called Delmar Conde. Today, they build high quality mid-size cruiser/racer sailboats to order.

Then the sun went down, darkness fell and I had dinner. I can hardly stand the excitement, I tell you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Seagulls on Land

Then the wind and high waves came, and the hungry seagulls took refuge on land waiting for better days.
seaguls on land

seagul plague

Seaguls and weather

You want to know why the seagulls are in town? Look at this.
34-knot gusts today, reaching 42 knots on Tuesday along with 6.4 m [updated to 7.2 m] waves. That'll get us in the Christmas spirit. If you can't have snow, might as well have wind and frothy waves.

There was no electricity at the marina when I arrived in the morning. I have a ton of translation work and was tempted to head back home. But then a thought struck me; why not work on my new Samsung LCD laptop and see how far the battery would go, or maybe even hook it up to the inverter - I do have a Rutland wind generator after all, and it was blowing hard.

I got to work and the sweet Samsung just kept on going and going. When the power came back on before lunch, I still had lots of battery juice. So I've got the perfect laptop for next year's trip.

And that's it. I worked, had lunch, walked around the marina, ran into Ryker and found out that the "Dream Boat" was not made in Poland. It's a boat made in Russia, of all places, and purchased in Spain. The crew is a French guy and an Oriental woman. Think about it: a Russian-made boat, bought by a French sailor in Spain with an Oriental woman aboard, docked in Peniche and going somewhere. Whooo, globalization is getting out of control.

Honwave floor
Yesterday I did some laundry, including the dinghy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dream Sailboat

One thing I really enjoy about the Peniche Marina is the transient dock. 

It's low season now, so naturally the transient dock is full of French boats. Are French sailors cheap or are they simply more adventurous? Another interesting aspect is that they have a tendency to keep to themselves. Maybe that's why they cruise off-season, to avoid the crowds. Who knows.

Polish sailboat
Here's a boat, supposedly made in Poland, that is a complete contrast to mine. The cockpit is huge and inviting. The bow is thin and perfect for slicing through water. I bet it's fast, and I like it. Don't know how safe it would be in a storm, but you'd take your chances, wouldn't you? 

Large cockpit
A partial hard dodger with roll-up side curtains, mainsheet control near the wheels, carbon mast...and an electric roller furler. On the other hand, the interior is probably equivalent to that of a 32 footer, but I wouldn't complain.

On the other side to the pontoon there's an old, but nicely kept and sturdy-looking, 22 footer with a tiny cockpit. It also sailed all the way from France and will probably end up at some exotic port. The trip likely took three times as long but, as one sailor once said, "when I'm on my boat, I'm already where I want to be."

As I stood on the pontoon daydreaming about owning such a boat - the larger one, that is - I got a phone call informing me that I had been emailed work. Work, what a dreadful four-letter word.

Dragged my feet back to Jakatar with its small cockpit and huge interior. Obviously you can't have both, can you? 

I can't decide if my lunch looks appetizing or revolting. It's turkey beef, baked eggplant, zucchini slices, black beans, rice and the white droopy things on top that look like fishing bait are pieces of onion. I forgot to buy wine, ran out of tea and thus had a cup of water. 

Dining aboard
In the morning I decided to give my electronics some exercise to burn up moisture. My inventory consists of 1 fixed and one handheld VHF, hydraulic auto pilot, Magellan chartplotter, computer chartplotter, handheld GPS, depth sounder and an electronic Ritchie compass. That's it. I also switched on the running lights.
Computer chartplotter
Here's my Toshiba laptop I bought about 15 years ago displaying the Port of Peniche. It stopped working once, after having sat idle at home for a long time while I crossed the Atlantic. Somebody told me to whack it hard. I did, and it started working again. Apparently, the hard drive may stick when left unused for long periods. Every photograph I took of it showed that white spot reflecting the flash.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Safety At Sea and Near Land

Everybody makes foolish mistakes.

There's a saying that goes something like this: Geniuses figure things out fast; Wise individuals learn from other people's mistakes; Ordinary people learn from their own mistakes; Fools never learn anything.

Considering that most boating accidents are caused by human error, I'd like to offer my contribution to making sailors less foolish, including me. 
sailboat runs aground
Boating accident in April 2013 at Figueira da Foz Portugal, as described in another post.
I hope to gradually build a list of common boating accidents and my opinion on how to avoid them.

1. Run your jackline along the middle of the boat and have a short and a long tether on your harness 

Using a jackline
Note the yellow jackline. Talk about false security. This boat is owned by salty world cruisers by the way.
You have a dodger in the way. Then rig a jackline from the bow to the dodger and use some other means to clip on while getting past the dodger to the main line.

2. Wear a waterproof handheld VHF radio under your clothing held by a lanyard around your neck - especially useful for solo sailors

If you fall overboard or get locked in the head compartment (this actually happened to somebody before) you can call for help. I'm the only person I know that does this. It may sound like overkill, and maybe it is. All I know is that I've never had a car accident, but I still buckle up whenever I get into a car, and you probably do too.

3. Don't pee overboard

If you do it right, a direct deposit is not really that dangerous. But you know how it is, men aren't very smart below their waist and tend to do it wrong. You figure it out. On a windy day, drying your fingers on your pants afterward is also bad form.

3. Don't sail close to shore near windward capes. I know of one sailboat that sank at Cabo Raso, Portugal, because of this.

It would seem logical to think that if the wind is blowing hard from land there's no danger in sailing close to shore. Wrong.

For example, on a summer afternoon, offshore winds at some of Portugal's capes and along the coast of Algarve can quickly transform a leisurely sail into a wild everything-on-the-floor storm-like struggle. If you have all sail up, you'll need to reef or drop sail, fast. 

To reef or drop sail, you must turn into the wind and maintain a decent speed to keep your nose into the wind .

If you're 1 mile from shore and heading for it at 5 knots, struggling with the sails - while everybody aboard is shouting orders and opinions - you'll run aground in about 12 minutes. If you abort the operation your sails will pay the price.

Places where this is likely to happen on a summer afternoon, ranked by ferocity.

a) Cabo Raso to Cascais

b) From Sagres to Lagos

c) Cape Espichel on the way to Sesimbra

d) Lagos to Culatra (Faro)

Sinking sailboat
Courtesy of the newspaper "Jornal das Caldas." This is incredible. The boat is now on the hard in Peniche and, I've been told, for sale.
4. Tie off your anchor while sailing, untie it before you enter a port/bay

Last year, the sailboat shown above was heading north for Peniche in rough conditions and was nearly sunk. The unsecured anchor came loose and banged a hole in the hull. By looking at the picture above, it's hard to believe that the lifeboat was able to tow it into port. The boat is still in Peniche on the hard and for sale, I believe.

5. Boom preventers are like seat belts - keep them on even close to home.

I nearly always rig preventers even if I'll be sailing close hauled. If the wind direction changes, if you change your route because of an obstacle, if you turn back for any reason - meaning you'll then be sailing downwind, etc. - will you set up the preventers on the go? I doubt it. Make sure the preventer line ends go back to a winch and not directly to a cleat.

I don't want to scare you, but jibing booms have killed more than a few sailors and seriously injured many more.

6. Repeat after me, "I will press the MOB (man overboard button) when anybody falls overboard."

Fortunately, nobody has fallen from Jakatar yet. However, I know how easy it is to lose something during an "exciting moment" because I simply forgot to press the MOB button. I lost my new Rocna anchor and chain in the bay of Sesimbra because of this oversight.

7. Don't ask inexperienced crew to do anything that may jeopardize their health or the boat

Bringing in or releasing the genoa sheet during a tack may seem harmless enough, but you'd be surprised how easily an inexperienced person can get their hands trapped between the winch and sheet line.
Once when anchoring at Berlenga Island, I slowly explained to three reasonably intelligent men how to drop the anchor. Right, easy, no problem. I turned the boat into the wind until it came to a near stop in 20 meters of water (deep anchorage) and shouted "drop it."
The chain clattered over the drum for and then stopped too early to reach the bottom. What's the problem?" I asked. No answer, just three men stooping over the bow roller excitedly doing something difficult that I couldn't see. When I walked forward, I found that they had cleated the chain to the starboard docking cleat with a knot. It took some time to undo the knot under the strain of the heavy anchor and chain. I know this is hard to believe, but it's true.

To be continued, if I don't suffer a boating accident in the meanwhile.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Catching Conger Fish

I finally bought my fishing tackle at Decathlon - a collapsible pole, reel, landing net, lines, lures, hooks, floats, sinkers and a pail - all for about 80 euros. Top quality material, as you can guess from the price.

It took me a whole afternoon to spool the line onto the reel. Tip number one: when spooling the line, the reel must be under the pole and turned with your left hand. My first catch was our cat that walked into my office and into a mess of line on the floor. Before I realized it, it was all tangled, started going nuts and I had my first big game adventure before I even left the house.

Next, I practiced my casting technique in the yard. On my first try the damn sinker went right over the fence and into the neighbor's yard, scaring the crap out of her dogs. Then I overturned some decorative rocks and caught half a dozen worms. That's it, I was ready for some action.
Fishing in Portugal
My collapsible pole and bucket at Paimogo beach.
 Some things in life are downright puzzling. For example, when I opened my pack of hooks I couldn't believe what I was seeing - they had no holes for tying the line, merely a flattened head. But I'm sure there's some logic to it. 

Plan B: I used a small lure and put a worm on its hook as an added attraction. It looked like a small fish with a long poo coming out of its arse. 

I tried casting from different rocky outcrops, but nothing. The tide was low so that didn't help either. Finally, I lost my sinker and lure on a rock and gave up.

Instead of catching fish, I got a good look at what lurks in these rocky bottoms. 
Catching conger fish
While I was playing with my pole, a young diver speared two monster conger fish.
 The real test will come when I go fishing on the boat, and I have some real good (expensive) lures for that.
Paimogo restaurant
This was once an interesting fish restaurant. The local authorities closed it down because the cliff behind it will come crashing down sooner or later. It's been about 15 years and we're still waiting for the big event.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Unloved Winches

As I wrote in a previous post, my Barlow 24 halyard winch totally seized on me. Luckily, I have 6 winches and quickly rigged an alternative with a snatch block that kept me going.

I finally got around to pulling both Barlows out for servicing. As you can see, it wasn't a pretty site. When was the last time you serviced your winches? You may ask me. I can't remember. 

The main problem - besides rust and thick grease - was a broken pawl, and the inner roller bearing shall I describe it...lopsided. The pawl would be easy to replace with a Lewmar part, but the bearing makes repairing it more trouble than it's worth. I'll keep one winch and use the other one for spare parts.

Barlow 24 winch parts
Barlow 24 winch sabotaged by a careless owner.
Barlow winch pawl
A broken pawl.

Barlow winch repairs
"Almost" clean using diesel and a toothbrush.
An equivalent self-tailing winch will cost about 800 euros. I could buy a used car for that much. Why hasn't somebody started making winches using a 3D printer? When are the Chinese going to start manufacturing disposable winches? Why did I buy a 39-foot boat? It ain't easy being a boat slave, I tell you.

I'll be looking for one on eBay. But it has to be purchased within the EU or the ridiculous and somewhat arbitrary import taxes will most likely negate any advantage of buying a used...a used anything, pretty much.

On the bright side, I'm looking forward to having my very first self-tailing halyard winch. Two years ago I succumbed to a roller furling genoa, now a ST winch. What next? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Docking Single Handed

I was cranking the windlass in low gear watching the 8 mm line getting thinner under the tremendous load. 

"A little more," Ryker said hanging over the side ready to tie off the next section.

I pumped the windlass handle once more and - snap - the line broke. The two sections of dangling chain we'd already raised splashed back into the water. 

"Hell," I said as we both stared at the broken line.

We concluded that the bottom chain must be snagged on something. My windlass had nearly reached its rated pulling force of 500 kg; there's no way a chain buried in the mud could offer that much resistance.

We motored back to the marina without having checked the shackle and swivel linking the riser chain to the thick bottom chain. In the end, it wasn't that important anyway. Ryker doesn't use the mooring; it's merely a backup in case he buys another boat or whatever.

I had my camera in my pocket for a shot of the shackle and swivel attached to the 22 m studded ship's chain. One picture would have been better than this whole explanation. Better luck next time.

Back at the marina I got to work on my invention for docking single-handed, or with a crew for that matter.
Docking single-handed
Should I patent it?
All I have to do is stick the light-weight vertical pipe in the bottom one, and that's it.
In theory, when I approach the slip I can grab the line and tie if off at the midships cleat. If I'm not close enough to grab it by hand, I can easily pick it up with the boat hook. After I'm done the vertical pipe can be stored in the boat until next time.

It's made of plumbing pipe and a stainless lifesaver holder I already had lying around. The hook is screwed into the pipe and taped for good measure. The whole thing cost 7 euros. Feel free to copy the idea. No, I don't have a "donate" button.
Fender step
I've seen dirtier fenders, but not many!
I had quite an appetite after all that hard work. I'm not sure why, but some people have this thing about food. For your benefit here's what was left of my lunch when I remembered to photograph it. I tell you, I'll have to start wearing the camera around my neck!
Meals aboard
The chicken was really golden and delicious.
  After lunch I tackled the winch that seized on my trip up from the Algarve. I haven't serviced the winches for years. Believe me when I say that I'm embarrassed to have allowed the winches to reach their pathetic condition. Simply disgusting.
Barlow 24 servicing
Set up a little barrier to prevent those jumping-jack springs from popping overboard. Wasted time - all the parts were cemented in place by the goopy mess. 
Long-term marina rental in Peniche
You'd think my French neighbor is having a yard sale.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Octopussy has Arrived

Another sunny day without work. As long as I can pay the bills, I'm happy.

Catamaran in Peniche
A catamaran called Octopussy.
Does this skipper have any women aboard? If so, how do they feel about sunbathing on a boat called Octopussy. I realize that it's the title for a James Bond movie; nevertheless it gives you a funny tingle the first time you see it. At least it gave me a funny tingle, maybe I'm biased toward certain words!

I Googled "Octopussy" and found it on Facebook. At one time it was based in Greece and had a huge octopus painted on both hulls. Have a feeling that it must have changed ownership - but not the name.

Checked out the steel boat up closer. It may have some style, but it rusts - looked prettier from a distance. Later, the owner started grinding steel on deck. Good thing the wind was blowing the shavings away from the marina. Have you ever had steel shavings embedded into fiberglass? Hopefully not.
A wind generator without blades - one way to solve the vibration problem.
While I was there, I snapped this picture of Jakatar.
Corbin 39
It really does look naked and dirty.
The humidity in the boat dropped to 63%. That's closer to what I had in mind. Don't want it to get too dry or the woodwork will start shrinking, and who knows what will happen.
Humidity reader

Had a leisurely lunch with red wine. After doing the dishes, I put on my 3-euro sunglasses and walked to the end of the pier. My original plan had been to take a walk through the narrow streets in town, take some pictures and give readers a sense of what Peniche is all about. That will be my next project on a sunny day.

Haven't you seen enough ocean water and boats, you may ask? No.

That's my foot, by the way.
I sat here for about 45 minutes watching boats of all sizes and colors coming and going. The sunshine, the rhythmic gurgling of water and the inner peace that comes from not being in a rush really do have a strong soothing effect. I call it "escaping from life's constant chatter."

Sitting there I got the bright idea of buying a fishing pole so that I can stand, sit or lie down anywhere near the ocean pretending that I'm fishing. I'm in need of some variety as long as it's spelled s-i-m-p-l-i-c-i-t-y. Yeah, that's it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Life of Horatio

Anchored in Alvor - July 2013.
This summer I was fortunate to be anchored in Alvor, among other places. I'm now back to "real" life. I tell you, real life wears thin pretty fast when your heart is in Alvor, Culatra, Sagres - anywhere with a good anchorage, palm trees and cafés.

"Real" life is what most of us do nearly all the time - as opposed to what we dream of doing. Once you've indulged in what really makes you come alive, real life can get a bit tedious.

You see, although I had an enjoyable day on the boat, I don't really have anything exciting to write about. I'm just your average Horatio, a sailboat owner, a translator, a holiday home renter and occasional small-time adventurer living in Portugal. 

Well, in a worst case scenario I'll have a few laughs reading this narcissistic crap when I'm 80. Really, I'm serious.

But when you have nothing exciting to say, you borrow somebody else's stuff direct from Youtube.

This is what I should have been doing when I was 24 instead of founding a greenhouse construction company and a greenhouse farm in Portugal immediately after I realized I'd never be a writer (which I knew all along - the writing delusion was merely a good excuse to delay Real Life).

Searching for something to say. As I worked on a small translation after lunch, I photographed myself with my new Samsung Laptop. Since I'm not exactly the handsomest dude in town, less pixels work to my advantage.
I'd rather be here, one of the most fun sailing adventures without an engine on a friend's boat.
best sailing hat
Motoring against a light breeze just before the engine died.
Enough philosophizing and back to real life!

I arrived at the marina at 8:30 and performed my ritual: checked the battery charge with a cheap digital voltmeter and looked into the bilges for rainwater that sneaks in through the emergency tiller pipe, the anchor chain hawsepipe and the mast step. 

The dehumidifier, timed to run about 12 hours per day, decreased relative humidity to 70% from the usual 85%. Not as good as I had hoped; I changed the timer to 14 hours per day. 

Next, I managed to finish the job of replacing the heat exchanger zinc. I also re-arranged the fenders and added another dock line in preparation for winter. Then I had lunch. 

Another ritual is my after-lunch walk. It was threatening to rain so I walked around the marina, ran into Ryker, talked about boat stuff, and then returned to Jakatar to find a small urgent translation and a larger document for next Tuesday waiting in my mailbox.

Now that wasn't so painful was it? How was your day in real life?

Friday, November 1, 2013

A sunny day in the sweatshop

I had a hat-trick day: 1) it was my boat day; 2) it was a gorgeous sunny day; 3) and I had no translation work - not one single word to be translated.

The previous week when I ran the engine I noticed that the transmission was vibrating more than  it should. So, instead of going for a sail, I got down to business and dug out my underwater camera kit.

Setting up and using my cheap and nearly useless black&white Chinese Ebay version of what you see below would have been sufficient material for a post in itself. For some strange reason I always forget to photograph the good stuff! A bad habit that needs to be fixed.

I lashed the camera to the boat hook, slid it into the water and managed to see that nothing was wrapped around the propeller just before the screen went dead - for ever I fear. I suspect water seeped into the camera casing.

Why didn't I dive down for a close look? Because the police boat is nearby, and diving anywhere in the port is absolutely illegal unless you're an authorized diver working with an assistant.

Since the propeller was good, the alignment had to be off. I spent the next two hours on my knees and forehead aligning the propeller shaft to the transmission, and I'm happy to announce that it's almost perfect. Running in gear the engine and transmission are rock solid.

I still had enough time to change the heat exchanger zinc before lunch...then I'd go out for a short sail, I thought. If I were smart, I would have removed the exchanger's end cap and would have seen that the zinc pencil was still in good shape, still erect and doing its job. I'm not going to bore you with the grunting and sweating required to remove that stupid stubborn zinc. Somehow it welded itself to the sleeve fitting, and the result is illustrated below.
Heat exchanger zinc
Notice that the wrench handle clearly says "professional". A professional tool in the hands of an amateur can do wonders.
Anyway, the zinc stick snapped. That means I was left with a plugged zinc hole; which called for more grunting, sweating and expletives while working on my knees and forehead, with my arms down in the engine gutter. I had the hole almost cleared when I suddenly ran out of grunts, sweat and expletives. To hell with it; I screwed the little stub back on and took a deep breath. Enough is enough!
Heat exchanger setup
Easy to look at, not so easy to work on with both hands - thus the knees and forehead technique.
Ran the engine in gear for a while, had lunch, and went for a walk.

Friday, October 25, 2013

There ain't no sunshine anymore

The sun has suddenly vanished, and I'm not exactly thrilled about it. Winter's first grey days reminded me of this song performed by Joe Cocker.

I'd rather be on Jakatar Motor sailing north than sitting in the boat listening to rain and wind. "Strong-willed individuals are not affected by the weather," the experts say. Send the experts to Alaska for a couple of years and then ask them what they think!

Although Jakatar is of closed-cell airex sandwich construction above the water line - which makes it condensation-free - I still went out and bought a dehumidifier/heater. There's nothing like a cozy, warm bone-dry interior.

Sorry about the picture quality. It's dull, drab, somebody's basement.
boat dehumidifier

Look at the flag. It was nearly perfect last week. Lucky the police didn't fine me for insulting Portugal's symbol of glory. Kinda of looks like what's happening to my hairline.

The entrance is rough and murky. This heavy trawler was dancing in the swell before it entered the port.

See the ketch in the middle. It's on the mooring I sold to Antonio and consists of three 1-ton concrete blocks placed in a triangle joined by about 500 kg of ship's chain. The blocks are probably buried in the mud by now. And, yes, I really do feel like an idiot - you could moor an oil tanker to that.

Funny thing too - when I sold the mooring I was the only boat out there. What's not so funny is that I sold my bullet-proof mooring, and the marina is falling apart. We may be looking at a change of scenery in the not too distant future. Hey, when you're alive and kicking, anything can happen.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Boat Comparison Expertise

This week I went to my floating office on Wednesday instead of Thursday; blame it on a dentist appointment.

Instead of the fabulous hybrid sailboat (featured in my last post), I found this beauty parked across from me.

French sailing adventure
The French Sailing Adventure.
I don't care what you say, this boat has style...well, maybe more so 20 years ago. It's a classic that sails,  has a big anchor, and plenty or deck space for surfboards and a dinghy. Most of all....most of all, I like the way it stands out. Additionally, it makes you want to see the adventurous crew, which surely includes at least one gorgeous woman wearing shorts and a loose blouse.

Behind it, there is a no-name cat.
Used catamaran
I bet it's better than it looks.
It's definitively worth way much more than the other boat, but somehow I'm not interested in the crew that I never saw by the way. To think of it, the gorgeous woman is probably on this boat.

The Rip Curl world surfing championship is taking place 500 m from here at the Supertubos beach, and I'm too busy translating to have a look.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hybrid Sailboat

I'm home. This means work, having the boat at the marina and getting mentally prepared for winter. Without snow, winter is merely a cooler, rainy version of summer.

Being home also means making the boat my office on Thursdays. I love going to the marina because it's a playground for grown men and the odd woman. With a transient dock, there's always something going on or something new to see.

Now look at this sailboat berthed across from me and which I baptized the hybrid boat.
hybrid sailboat
What is it?
Without the masts it would be a sleek trawler. It could also be a motorsailer or a a funky sailboat. The masts are tall, and it has a generous sail area so I wouldn't be surprised to see it sail fast (maybe not upwind). It's also difficult to ascertain whether it's a very expensive factory-made boat or an affordable but excellent home-made vessel.

The unlucky sailor is back. The boat is in the water and, by the look of things, it's getting ready to go somewhere.
Leaving a boat in Peniche
The 46-foot Bowman yawl in the center, low and sleek compared with the hybrid boat.
I was talking to Ryker (who's also back for the winter season) when the 68-year-old owner walked slowly down the pontoon - tall, shoulder-length blonde hair, in a T-shirt, jeans, sandals, amazingly looking like Neil Young, or what I image Neil Young to look like these days - the perfect match for his boat and a perfect contrast to the snappy dressed, well groomed owners of the hybrid boat.

I have a translation to finish, but I'll be back. Ciao.