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.