The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Visit by Captain Joe Aston

Captain Joe Aston
Captain Joe Aston and s/v Anna M putting the squeeze on Jakatar.
The mobile rang Saturday at about 11:00 while I was pounding the keyboard working on a translation with a tight deadline. It was David.


"I'm at the marina and it's nearly blowing a storm here."

"Yeah I know, I can see the whitecaps from my office window."

"There are two big boats - I mean bigger than yours - tied up to Jakatar, and the wind is squeezing the crap out of your fenders."

"Why aren't those idiots at the transient dock?"

"It's crowded with smaller boats...besides, your boat is the perfect dock."

He assured me that, other than the flattened fenders, everything was OK.

I thought about the sign "Private, No Parking" hanging from Jakatar's rail and my stomach began to tighten. But I had a job to finish. The clock was ticking and I didn't have time to drive out there, shake my fist and call them a bunch of yahoos.

cozy threesome
The Brazilian Bellatrix was also involved in the cozy threesome until the marina staff pulled her across the entrance channel.
In the afternoon the club's vice-president also called me. He told me the same thing as David and said he had called the marine police. These skippers - Brazilian and Irish - were blocking the marina entrance and putting too much pressure on dock fingers not built for three boats in 45 knots.

Crowded marina in Portugal
The happy ending...I hope.

The vice-president called me later. They had pulled the Brazilian a few meters across the entrance channel an tied it alongside the Wauquiez sailboat on the transient dock. Joe, the Irish guy, refused to move. He claimed that in storm conditions safety was more important than rules. The police noted his name and vessel and told him he'd be responsible for any damage.

This morning I finished the translation and drove to Peniche. The wind had abated to about 25 knots. All seemed well and I didn't bother knocking on the Irish fellow's boat. What for? What was I going to do...and what could he do. Well, he should have placed a couple of his fenders between my boat and the dock to distribute the pressure. But that's something only really considerate people do; most people don't give a damn about others even when they're trespassing. That's the world we live in - take it or leave it, no sense whining about it too much.

I came home, Googled around and found out that Joe Aston is a sailor with an interesting, if not eccentric, background. Here's some information I dug up:

Anna M is licensed for 7 passengers, and Skipper Joe Aston has an Irish Sailing Association endorsed ticket for taking passengers to sea. Fiona [his wife, I presume], who is registered with the Irish Society of Homeopaths and holds an ITEC qualification in Indian head and holistic massage, offers these treatments from Horseshoe Cottage. Joe is a writer who has just published his first novel, Wavedancing, and with Anna M has featured in the film The Return of the Humpback Whale and the photographic book The Islands of Ireland. Buy Wavedancing diret from Joe or via AmazonHe runs the Gannetsway editorial and translation services. 

I also read that he was a goat farmer, a journalist and a couple other things I can't remember now. I have short memory.

Here's a video of Anna M and Joe sailing in rough weather. Have a good trip Joe, just don't scratch my boat on the way out.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Psyched up for the haulout

Just another Thursday - my boat day. I'm getting psyched up for the haulout and hyped about my yearly sail to the Algarve. Even though I'm a boat/translation slave, I do have a dream; it may not be a big deal, but it's better than nothing.

I walked down the marina ramp, along the pontoon, glanced at the transient dock and immediately noticed that the rescued yawl had left. Gone...where? How?

I finally spotted it sitting high and dry at the shipyard. At least that's some progress.
Peniche shipyard
Yawl on the hard in the very center - white hull dark bottom.
Ryker later told me that its shaft strut was very loose, as in dangling loose. Maybe that's why it began taking on water before the rescue. Who knows?

At the boat, I was welcomed by the smell of varnished wood, a scent that beats any incense sold at Chinese shops. Some guests say that there's a faint odor of diesel and mold; luckily I don't notice it, or maybe I don't mind it. There is one undeniable fact - the boat is alive: it moves, smells, makes noises and has its own personality.

I set up office in the salon and began translating a public tender as the wind whistled off shrouds and halyards slapped aluminum masts. I began working and soon got used to the rocking hull and groaning dock lines. Occasionally I looked over the laptop to run a complicated sentence through my head and smiled inwardly at the sunlight beaming through the hatches. I belonged here.

I worked hard and steady until noon when my eyes ached and hunger set in. The writing was getting sloppy and I flipped the lid down.

Soon, a pan of fava beans with turkey ham and parsley was sizzling on the alcohol stove while I ate salad and drank red wine. After lunch I didn't want to lie down and have another rock in my stomach. That's what I did last week, that's how I wasted my precious time. Not today.

Out in the cockpit, wincing in the glaring sun, I looked about and then went to explore what I already know in perfect detail. But there's always some transients to see and to get me dreaming of sailing somewhere, anywhere.

Spanish boat in Portugal
Spanish boat in foreground, French steel boat in the background.

Transient Dock in Peniche
A couple more transients - notice the chop.
Fishing trawler in Peniche
A couple of days ago I read that Peniche is Portugal's largest fishing port in terms of fish brought into port.
Placing boat fenders properly
Jakatar - the proper method for placing fenders on a 11-ton boat, close together at the critical spot to distribute the crushing jolts.
Not a bad day. Hope my luck stays with me.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sailing Tragedy

After translating an annual report for a bank and I'm trashed. I feel like I've been trampled by a buffalo stampede.

That was yesterday morning. Then I drove out to the boat, dispatched a small job aboard, had lunch and spent the afternoon snoozing in the sunny pilothouse. Shouldn't snooze after a meal, I spent the rest of the day feeling like I had swallowed a rock.

Another sailing tragedy took place this week, this time in Figueira da Foz about 55 miles north of here.

beached sailboat
A sailor's nightmare
Five crew were on this German sailboat that washed up on shore late in the afternoon. It's an ugly sight, even more so because two men were killed.

The crew broadcast a Mayday, after which a large marine police rib and a lifeboat were dispatched. By the time the rescuers got there the sailboat was already near the breaking waves. When the rib came alongside to rescue the crew, it was flipped over by a large wave.

Rib washed up on the beach flipped over
As a result, one marine policeman and one crew member downed. The other police and crew were hospitalized with hypothermia and/or lacerations.

The news reports provided no information as to the cause of the accident.

As shown in the picture, the boat was dismasted  It would seem that the mast broke when the boat was rolled on the beach. But if that's the case, why didn't they sail away from land before that? Why, why, why. With no information there's no lesson to be learned here.

My guess is that they were motoring toward the port, the engine quit and they failed to immediately put up some sail or the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.

But I do have this to say, most tragedies occur when approaching ports in bad weather. With 5 crew you're likely to have somebody - if not everybody - putting on pressure to go ashore. This is not the best port to visit in bad weather.

Update: at the marina I was told that the boat had been in Peniche and sailed out in bad weather that morning. They had, in fact, planned to land at Figueira da Foz. This information changed my opinion slightly: You have 5 crew on boat going back to Germany, that means 5 times the chance that somebody has to be home by a specific day. That's dangerous.