The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sailboat Assets and Liabilities

Fouled propeller
Another victim of a fouled propeller...Everything that could go wrong went wrong - a one-month saga and still counting in both time and money.
Speaking of expenses, in the "Jakatar World" the year is almost over and it's time to compare sailboat assets and liabilities.

2015 Sailboat Assets
A 500-mile round trip to the Algarve. I departed from Peniche on July 26, returned at the end of August and visited Cascais, Sines, Sagres, Alvor, Albufeira and Culatra. Zero days at marinas, always at anchor, always solo sailing.

During the rest of the year, on average I spent one full day at the boat per week, either translating, just messing around or both.

2015 Sailboat Liabilities
Insurance and marina -----------------------------   2,186
65 m of 10 mm chain -----------------------------      690
Oberdorfer pump N202M7 ----------------------       486*
25 kg Kobra anchor --------------------------------     312
80W Bosch Solar panel+mounting+regulator --     339
Diesel -------------------------------------------------    300
Miscellaneous ---------------------------------------    450
TOTAL ----------------------------------------------- 4,763

* Shipping and customs doubled the pump's retail price.

The Bottom Line
If I didn't have the boat, I'd most likely spend the money on crap I don't need, or even want. It's a reasonable addiction, and I'm sticking to it.

The Dutch Sailor, who is in town, came by the other day, looked up at the mast, frowned at the peeling paint and said: "That sure gives you sore eyes." He's right, Jakatar has the ugliest mast I've ever seen, but I got used to it.

The air has been windy and cool and the ocean rough and wet; instead of going fishing I went for a drive to Baleal with Ana.
winter weather in Baleal

fishing in Baleal

Monday, December 7, 2015

Groco Mechanic

"Some people love to spend money on stuff. I'd rather spend mine buying free time. But if you own a sailboat, the conflict between time and money can get ugly. What's the purpose of free time without a boat, and what's the use of having a boat if you don't have free time?" ~ Martello Mateus 

My Groco's raw water strainer basket fell victim to galvanic / electrolytic corrosion or maybe the thin metal screen simply wore out during the last 15 years.

This is what it should look like.
Groco, Plastic Strainer Baskets for Raw Water Strainers
The basket is inserted in the hole shown below. It's ingenious in a simple sort of way: the incoming water flows into the basket in which debris is trapped and prevented from reaching the lower outflow hole.

This is Jakatar's only underwater thru-hull. Seawater is filtered by the Groco and then flows into a stainless steel distribution tank. I'm using only 2 outlets from the tank - one for the engine cooling and the other for the Lavac toilet.

I stopped using the salt water kitchen faucet a long time ago. If I ever cross another ocean, I'll hook it up again. In the meantime, I'm not too keen on washing dishes with salt water in anchorages where my neighbors are flushing their toilets.

Seeing as I'm still recovering from the shock of spending 486 euros on a raw water engine pump shipped from the US, I decided I'd make my own filter basket. Also, I can't seem to find baskets for sale in Europe, and I'm not too keen on spending a fortune on shipping and import VAT/customs like I did with the water pump.

So I spent nearly an hour enthusiastically making a basket from plastic mesh, white zip ties and very thin plastic-coated wire. It didn't fit. Frustrated, I took it apart, wound the plastic into a smaller diameter and shoved it into the hole, and that's that.

It looks like I've reached a compromise: I'm using my free time to spend money on the boat!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sailing, Fishing and Being Lazy

trolling on a sailboat
Peniche in the background, fish lurking somewhere underwater.
Not long ago I wrote a post about the purpose of sailing in which I listed 4 reasons to go sailing ranked according to the "fulfilment/excitement" factor:
  1. Cruising 
  2. Sailing to a nearby destination and back
  3. Racing 
  4. Taking the boat out for a relaxing sail
Since then I have discovered 2 more reasons for sailing: 
  1. Fishing
  2. Escaping boat maintenance tasks (aka being lazy)
The time has come to flash the trench coat and reveal the naked truth.

Not only am I bone-weary tired of boat maintenance, I also discovered fishing. Or maybe I discovered fishing and now I've convinced myself that I'm tired of maintenance work. 

After 14 years of fixing, replacing, sanding, polishing, varnishing, painting and all that stuff, I need a break!

Every summer in the Algarve, in the early morning or early evening, when it's not so hot, you'd see me anchored polishing the stainless, scrubbing the topsides or whatever. Every summer, except for the last two years. So, I suppose my laziness began two years ago. That's about the time when the recently painted mast began blistering and shedding paint real bad. That was a real downer and probably the catalyst for my lethargic ways. I feel lazy and I don't give a shit.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still be doing mechanical maintenance - anything that's important, anything that's really ugly (for example, I do intend to slowly scrape all the paint off the damn mast to a naked pole, and leaving it that way). Other than that, screw it.

So I went fishing the other day and got hooked (lots of puns today). Not hooked on the fishing itself but, instead, on sailing and trolling a couple of lures. 

I didn't get hooked on fishing this summer in the Algarve, where I caught one fish and one seagull (the gull survived unharmed, by the way). I was too busy sailing and having fun being free. But now, back in Peniche, I will either go fishing between my annual trips to the Algarve or the boat will be doomed to collecting cobwebs at the marina.

catching mackerel
Not a big catch, but it's a start.
The important part is the sailing part. And since the best speed for trolling is about 3 to 4 knots, I unfurl the genoa and forget about the other sails.

high-cut genoa

What I need now is a fishing paravane to drive the lure deeper where, hopefully, I'll catch some bass and bigger fish. I may also get some squid lures for days when there's no wind because I love grilled squid...or perhaps I love sitting on the boat indulging, forgetting what's not worth remembering, shedding crap, being still, quiet and appreciative.

fishing paravane

As you can see, I don't need much, mostly fair weather and free time.

Monday, November 9, 2015

No Respect

It's autumn and the French cruiser migration has begun. The transient dock is cluttered with interesting and unique steel sailboats skippered by equally idiosyncratic owners. It's like turning the clock back 30 years. I don't speak French and have no clue where they're going.

reception dock in Peniche

Speaking of steel boats and winter cruising. Here's a flick about a couple that has been living aboard their home-made steel boat Emerald Steel for over 30 years. The video starts as the usual "here we are sailing" flick until the adrenaline starts to flow at a stormy anchorage. If you're in a rush, just skip to minute 10.

Now forgive me but I'm going to rant about the lack of respect for my naked boat. Despite the "Private, no parking" sign on the transom, I'm nonetheless victim of boaters who see Jakatar as a good docking pontoon. 

A friend of mine used to keep his shiny new Beneteau 50 on a hammerhead berth jut like mine and nobody ever tied up to him. I guess money talks, and real loud too. Everybody knows the score. If given the choice would you tie up to a shiny luxurious boat or to an older scuffed-looking boat?

The result is shown below. I'd love to "speak" to the ass who tied up to Jakatar using tar-encrusted fenders. No respect, I tell you. Assholes should be blacklisted from marinas.

Dirty boat fenders

More bitching. Because my berth's south finger is falling apart, I'm now tied only to the north finger and the pontoon. That's because when fingers break away from the pontoon, they flip on their side. And when that happens, the mussel-encrusted floats or, even worse, the jagged metal attachments will continuously bash against the hull.

Hammerhead berth
The bolts connecting the finger to the pontoon are incredibly sloppy because the connection plates (not visible) have rusted to hell. The finger is so wobbly I nearly fell in the water the other day. Luckily I have enough space to move Jakatar forward. That way I eliminated the strain on the finger and also moved out of contact range in case it goes belly-up.
On the positive side, it's a beautiful warm calm sunny day and it's the 9th of November. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Choosing a Liveaboard Sailboat and Scratching the Wrong Itch

"Choose your life's mate carefully. From this one decision will come 90 percent of all your happiness or misery. ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
 [edited on October 28]

Part 1: You have some bucks and you want to live aboard (and hopefully cruise near or far)

I've wanted a sailboat since I was a teenager, and a boat like the Hans Christian 43 is what I lusted for. It has the capacity and looks to take you to exotic far-away places safely and in style. In fact, it's sad to see a Hans Christian floating idly at your local marina or mooring field begging to be sailed over the horizon.

Then the French invented this!!

It looks more like a motorboat or a fancy swimming pool deck. It's more likely to induce daydreams of parties and cocktails than the romantic urge to sail to Tahiti.

"What's that? You don't want to sail to Tahiti, not even to Mexico. Really, are you sure?

I must admit that I've never been aboard a Hans Christian, but I do own a Corbin 39 - a canoe-stern go anywhere sailboat that is a poor sailor's version of a Hans Christian, sort of.

But I do have friends with boats similar to the Oceanis 45 shown above; some bigger, some smaller, with either sugar-scoop or fold-out transoms.

I've been on their boats, both sailing and socializing, and I can tell you this: there's no comparison. Not only that, I've found that almost unfailingly they'll dinghy over to my boat or call to invite me to their boat and hardly ever come aboard mine. This includes Manuel on his Beneteau 26.

Could it be I have no fridge and thus no cold beer? No, because I also have good wine. I've concluded that they've become spoiled by the ease of simply stepping aboard into a spacious cockpit and aren't too enthusiastic about climbing a ladder into a gopher hole.

Hans Christian cockpit
Charming, but a bit crowded for sundowners with friends. Forget dinner parties.
If you haven't experienced both setups, think about situations such as:

  • boarding / unboarding from the dinghy, specially for older or less agile people, and I have a friend who can't come aboard because he has a leg problem
  • bringing groceries aboard (not to mention an outboard engine or gas bottles), all the more difficult when alone
  • eating in the cockpit, and there's nothing like it in good weather
  • Sailing with more than 3 crew is too crowded
  • I could go on, but why be tedious

The interiors and deck are basically a matter of taste. I personally prefer the Hans Christian's interior, it makes me feel like I'm in a real boat and not in a swanky apartment. Being at home may be more convenient, but not as much fun. That's why you bought a boat.

I truly believe that a sailboat's cockpit can really make a huge difference when living aboard and for coastal cruising.

Part 2: You have some bucks and you want a blue-water cruising boat

Some people may argue that almost all boats are safe for blue-water cruising, it's the crew that counts. There may be some truth to that, but if I were to cross the Atlantic again I'd do it in my Corbin. Even in a storm I always felt safe in that little cockpit. Besides, we never invited anybody aboard, never had dinner parties, didn't go shopping and never used the boarding ladder, thank God. I genuinely think I'd feel scared sailing in the cockpit of the Oceanis 45 shown above being thrown around in 25-foot waves.

If you're crossing oceans, maybe it's not a bad idea to trade off a luxurious setup for a smaller, safer cockpit.

Don't scratch the wrong itch.

Before you rush out to buy a sailboat, maybe you should read How to Buy a Sailboat - Do the Math.

Sorry, gotta go. I can see a bunch of angry sailors running toward me wielding boat hooks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Purpose of Sailing

Without purpose there's no motivation, and without motivation there's not much worth doing.

A friendly club regatta is a good way for lazy sailors to hone their sailing skills. I'm a "lazy sailor" (somebody who doesn't bother to tweak sails), but I also detest motoring. I'm happy to be going somewhere in no hurry, preferably under sail. Going half a knot faster does not make me any happier.

Corbin 39
The club asked us to motor by this spot for a photograph session. We were a crew of seven, but only two of us knew that lines are placed on winches in a clockwise direction.
But in a regatta, this lazy sailor is like a hound focused on squeezing an extra tenth of a knot out of his cruising boat's sails. Although it may seem a bit silly to get excited about racing in a group of starkly contrasting vessels, the excitement is nonetheless very real. The exhilaration is not so much about winning but, rather, about learning to sail as fast as you can - even if pathetically slow - by tweaking the sails.

So, it seems that sailing with a purpose is more fun and rewarding than, let's say, taking the boat out for a spin. At the moment I can think of only four purposes of sailing, listed by order of decreasing fulfillment/excitement:

  1. Cruising 
  2. Sailing to a nearby destination and back
  3. Racing 
  4. Taking the boat out for a relaxing sail

I rated "relaxing sail" last because it's obvious - or it should be to anyone who has owned a sailboat for a while - that sailing is not so much about relaxation as it is about action...and work. Not only that, sailing 5 miles to nowhere and back becomes somewhat tedious after a few outings. Visit just about any marina and see how many sailboats have gone out for a sail on a sunny summer weekend.

You need a purpose. Has anybody ever sailed non-stop half-way across an ocean to the middle of nowhere and then returned home just for the fun of it? Without purpose there's no motivation, and without motivation there's not much worth doing.

Have I digressed? As I was saying, regattas are a good way to improve my sailing skills. And what's really good about it is that next time I sail to a destination, I'll naturally set the sails better and then forget about them out of laziness.

Upwind sailing
Doing about 4 knots on a close reach in light winds. Not bad for a boat that hasn't had its bottom cleaned in over three years.
We started in last place - as usual and at least by 10 boat lengths - maybe because I have 3 sails to handle. On the other hand, that extra sail may also have helped me finish in third place. Although there were only six boats competing this year, we fulfilled the purpose of not coming last. That honor went to a motorsailer shaped like a pumpkin whose skipper was smiling like mad because he finally had an excuse to hoist his sails and shut off the engine.

Me and my first mate at the dinner party receiving the trophy (which, being made of glass, is not visible and which, in a way is a metaphor for its importance in the whole scheme of things).

Friday, October 9, 2015

Avoiding Ships and Obstacles

After 13 years of part-time ocean cruising, ships still make me nervous - but mainly at night.

But I'm no hero like the skipper in the clip below.

During the day in open water, I assume ships will respect a sailboat's right of way - if sailing - and I also have a clearer picture of where they're heading. If I'm motoring, I assume I can avoid them fairly easy. 
On my way home this year, when I first saw this ship, prior to this picture, I thought it was going to pass in front of me.
In the end, after a few course changes, it steamed past my stern. To think of it, the exact same thing happened last year.
Imagine if this had happened at nigh. I'd be a little nervous to say the least. It makes sense to assume that ships will monitor their radar screens more carefully near land. But then it also makes sense to trust a pit-bull's owner when he tells you that his snarling dog doesn't least not yet! 

The truth is, just about anything makes me nervous at night, especially when sailing the Portuguese coast which, except for pirates, is mined with a variety of hazards: ships, fishing boats, many lobster pot markers, debris and sleeping skippers on automatic pilot. I'm not kidding. Some years ago while sailing with another 3 boats, we had to dodge a large sailboat that sailed right through us without a soul on deck, nobody, and all sail up.

Then there's a fishing system called "palangre". You see it only when it's right in front of you, if the ocean is calm. Otherwise you don't see it at all. It looks something like the diagram below, except the floats are cork rings about the size of a big doughnut.
The floats fishermen use around here are tiny and laid out at about 20-meter intervals. I don't know how long the surface line is because I never see where they start or end.
Although it's just fishing lines, hooks and small floats, you'd have a hell of a mess if you ever got one rolling in your propeller. Last year I dove down in open water to cut myself free from a thick line leading to a bottom net, but I don't think I'd be too enthusiastic about diving down into a mess of hooks. They're called hooks for a good reason. But you could always sail to the next anchorage, careen the boat on a sand bank and sell the fish.

That's enough pessimism for today. I guess next year I'll be sailing to the Algarve solo again.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Me and My Seagull

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." ~ Author: Eric Cantona

This year I splurged on a 50-euro fishing licence. My largest catch so far was a seagull.
Catching seagulls
It's looking at the lure as if to say, "how did I get fooled by this plastic piece of trash?"
I finally hooked a fish in the Algarve (a type of mackerel), which I ate the next day. My plan to live on fish and sprouts fell through for two very simple reasons: I haven't learned how to fish properly and sprouting takes time. Everything boils down to free time.

Catching mackerel
The 50-euro fish.
Anyway, I caught this mackerel while motorsailing from Culatra to Alvor trailing a lure from a cheap fishing rod. Where there's one fish there's got to be more, so I plunked the lure back in the water, let out plenty of line, and caught a seagull.

It began circling about 60 m behind the boat and, sure enough, it swooped down and hit the water wings wide open. Suddenly I had a seagull on the lure. I was convinced the lure was at least a couple of meters deep like it's suppose to be, and not on the surface. 

Another punch in the gut feeling. Shit, now I'd have to get it on the boat and kill it. What choice did I have? I'd never be able to extract those nasty hooks from its throat without torturing and mutilating it beyond repair. Then I'd surely shoot myself with a hand flare out of remorse. Looking at the panic in its eyes as I reeled it in closer almost made me sick.

I put the engine in neutral, which slowed the boat to 2.5 knots in the light breeze and slowly reeled it in. The poor bird was literally walking on the water, flapping its wings, being pulled by its head held high out of the water. 

But after I had it alongside and raised it onto the deck, it stood on its feet, shook its head and the lure fell to the deck. The hook had merely caught the inner tip of its beak and had been held in place solely by the pressure of the taut line. 

It stood there for a minute or two looking bewildered and then flew away as gracefully as any other gull. As for me, I swore never to fish again. 

But after some experimenting I learned that the lure has to be closer to the boat for its nose paddle to bite and dive. Either that or you need to put a lead on the line. So maybe I will fish again.

I gutted the mackerel and, lacking a fridge, stored it in the cool bilge. The next day in Alvor I cooked a delicious caldeirada and made a toast to the unharmed seagull and wondered whether it would overcome the trauma and ever go fishing again or take to eating discarded fish and garbage like most seagulls do.

How did I feel about the fish, you may ask? A bit sorry at first, but it's not very different from buying a dead fish.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Art of Anchoring Like an Idiot

Anchoring accidents
The white boat dropped its anchor on top of the red boat's anchor. Two minutes later they were doing an intimate dance to the music of much shouting. The solo sailor on the red boat was surprisingly patient while instructing them how to disengage their anchor from his chain. 
For about an hour I watched this Portuguese-flagged boat crewed by a large French family repeatedly attempt to anchor on top of other boats, including mine - twice! It was good entertainment that ended when they accidentally dropped their anchor in a open area. Nobody was yelling at them there so they stayed in their lonely spot 30 m from the closest boat. You have to wonder what was going through their minds and whether they had ever anchored before or even had any theoretical knowledge about the art of anchoring.
After a 7-hour trip (350 km on two buses), I arrived in Olhão, Algarve, on a hot day. A confused twenty minute walk through narrow streets took me to the port where I hailed a flimsy water taxi with a 100-hp outboard that took off at full speed along the channel violently punching the choppy water toward where I had left Jakatar at anchor. I had to keep my mouth shut to keep my teeth from chattering.

"I'm anchored about 300 meters directly in front of the marina entrance," I told the driver. But there, in my spot, I saw another sailboat. After recovering from a sudden empty gut sensation, I glanced around and saw Jakatar about 200 m farther east.

The fenders I had left hanging from the sissy bars were all all deployed from the lifelines at nearly deck level to fend off other boats. I also saw some black rubber marks on the hull. I asked the taxi guy if it had been windy. "It blew like hell Sunday afternoon," he replied showing little enthusiasm for conversation. I paid him the €25 and some loose change for a tip and then climbed aboard.

Standing in the cockpit I nearly laughed when I saw that the boat anchored about 50 m behind me belonged to the bald guy who had almost screamed his tongue from his mouth while flailing his arms like a lunatic thinking I was going to anchor in front of him. During the next days I saw only a young couple on the boat continuously "smooching" in  the cockpit and in the water. 

Later, I dinghied over to a nearby Dutch boat, and the friendly couple aboard described what had happened. On Sunday, before the wind piped up, a Spanish boat dropped about 15 m of chain (in 8 m of water!!) and the crew immediately went ashore for lunch. When the wind came, the Spanish boat began merrily dragging through the anchorage pulling up anchors in its path. In no time a bunch of boats, including Jakatar, were doing the bump dance.

Cruisers came to the rescue, as always, and a big black police RIB showed up to muscle boats apart. I forgot to ask my neighbors what had become of the Spanish boat dangling on 15 m of chain. 

I spent a few days enjoying calm sunny days in Culatra in my own company, which hasn't disappointed me so far...except for the odd time.
Anchoring in Culatra
The Faro Ria. Mainland on the right, the island on the left (not visible).
Culatra anchorage
Looking at the island side. I'm relatively close to shore because I only had 35 m of chain and thus prudently anchored in shallow water. Happy to report that my chain ordering fiasco got solved and I now have 85 meters of 10 mm chain, 15 meters of 8 mm chain, plus about 200 meters of one-inch nylon rode and 3 anchors: a 25 kg Kobra, a 22 kg plow and and a FX-11 Fortress.
Restaurants in Culatra
My favorite café in Culatra.
Public transport in Culatra
There's no traffic on Culatra, except for tractors to transport merchandise from the ferry.
This trawler is sitting on the sand dunes way above any high tide. How it got here is a mystery. Somebody was living in it at the time.
Water in Culatra
The water salesman in Culatra. Since I didn't need any, I don't know how much it costs. 

Catamarans in Culatra
This is catamaran ranch at low tide. Some boats have been here for over twenty years and most of them are used as holiday homes by "sailors" from a number of countries. Early this year the town council issued a law to restore the lagoon to an nature reserve and gave boat owners 30 days to remove their vessels after notification or face destruction and removal at their expense. Since about half the boats are still there, it seems that notifying boat owners who live abroad is no easy matter.
Don't miss the next episode about my hilarious fishing exploits while sailing from Culatra to Alvor. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sines to Alvor and Culatra

Anyway, I left Sines as darkness turned to dawn and then sailed most of the way to Alvor, for a total of 15 hours. Sailing past Sagres in late afternoon the wind was a notch worse than hellish. At one point my 11-ton dirty-bottom boat was doing 5.2 kt flying only the small staysail.

During the 3 nights I spent in Alvor I noticed three things: the place has slowly been filling up with private mooring balls, there's less cruising boats anchored (which could be related to the fact that many boats run aground if they follow the two channel buoys - that's what you're supposed to do, right, and yet there's a sand bar between them that's doable only near high tide, so you have to steer an arch from one buoy to the other) and the town is becoming insanely crowded at night with tourists.
Notice the depth between the green and red buoys - talk about a grounding trap. You can't trust buoys anymore. This is the latest and updated Navionics chart. Any older version of any chart will show a nice clear channel.

moorings in Alvor
anchoring in Alvor
Jakatar is in the very middle and the only boat that is anchored. Even the big catamarans to the left have been on moorings for years. There were about 10 sailboats anchored in the wider part of the channel to the left.
Holidays in Alvor
It's still early and the streets are only about half-full at this time.
Next, I sailed to Culatra  ever so slowly. In two tacks I reached Albufeira where I anchored outside the marina breakwater for a rolly night. The next morning I motored into the marina and got 150 euros worth of diesel, 6 euros of gasoline and lots of free water.
anchoring in Albufeira
Albufeira - a sort of British colony in the Algarve
I then sailed slowly to Culatra. About 4 miles from the entrance the wind fizzed out and I was forced to start the engine. In the anchorage, while getting the anchor ready a guy on a Belgium flag boat started acting like a lunatic screaming that I was too close. I made signs that I was just getting things set up. He kept shouting so I ignored him, after which he ran up to the bow of his boat and nearly had a fit...he was thrashing his arms so wildly I was worried one of them might fly off his shoulder.

Did he think I was so stupid as to anchor right in front of him? Feeling a bit ticked off about it, I took my time about getting the anchor ready as his screaming got louder and louder: I untied the two lines securing the anchor, released the anchor clutch, carefully eased the anchor off the roller until it was dangling close to the water, fished out the anchor ball, the anchor snubber, and a line I tie to the chain in case the snubber fails. By then I was about 15 m away from his boat. 

When I stood erect, looked around and made my way back to the cockpit, he fell into silence and disappeared into his boat, realizing I had no intention of anchoring there. I had already picked a nice open spot farther ahead. 

In the end he got the last laugh, as you will find out in my next post. Not only that, much later, back in Alvor, I was placed in the same position as the screamer during the most pathetic anchoring attempt I have ever witnessed. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

All for the sake of grilled squid

Cascais to Sines

At 8:00 a.m. - after a good night's sleep in the bay of Cascais - I raised anchor, motored out, raised all sail, shut down the engine and sailed south.

Sort of. I always get fooled by the false morning breeze near most harbors. After a coupe of hours of motor-sailing and slow sailing, I finally got a good northwest breeze and sailed all the way to Sines. 

David, although he got up later, had already motored by me in his Bavaria 32. David doesn't really sail his boat. He motors in all conditions: a) if there's not much wind, he needs to motor, obviously; b) if the wind is right, he unfurls the genoa but continues to motor to go faster; c) if the wind is too strong, he furls in the genoa and motors to keep it comfortable. Also, his puny in-mast furling main sail is useless, and I don't think he's used it in years.

[I lied twice in the last paragraph. On looking for a picture of his boat (I didn't take one during the trip), I found a picture from last year showing him using the main sail in a regatta and, of course, nort running the engine.]

Sailing from Cascais
The trip of about 55 nautical miles
I arrived in Sines at about 7 pm and anchored. The government-run marina only costs about 18 euros per night but I couldn't be bothered with the docking lines, fenders and checking in. I took a sponge bath, met David in town and went for dinner in the old part of town where I had a delicious dish of grilled squid.

Anchoring in Sines
Jakatar in the center, taken on the way to dinner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


sailing wing-on-wing
Sailing wing-on-wing without a pole.
The boat is anchored in Culatra and I'm back home temporarily taking care of some business.

At high tide, Jakatar is swinging on 4:1 scope. My main fear is that a clueless marina skipper - and there's no shortage of them - will anchor too close and pull up my anchor in the process. 

Part 1 - Peniche to Cascais (44 miles)

I left Peniche solo on July 26 at 10:30 in the company of a a Bavaria 32 sailed by my friend David, also solo. I left the marina with one concern gnawing at me: my new 25 kg Kobra anchor was/is attached to two pieces of spliced chain totaling 35 m, which is not the ideal situation.* Not forgetting last year's anchor disaster, I do have a spare 45-pound plow anchor on 15 m of 8 mm chain and 40 m of line stowed in the sail locker ready for deployment.

The trip was a mix bag of sailing, motor-sailing and motoring. At the dreaded Cabo Raso (which should be renamed Cape Fear), the wind was only about 25 kt but we hit a wall of fog. Wind and fog don't usually mix, but Cabo Raso is a devilish place where anything can and will happen.

I was quite amused to see a large ketch that had been shadowing me farther offshore disappear into the fog. In a matter of minutes, I saw it motoring back at full steam, after which it spun around facing the enemy, like a bullfighting horse turning on its hind legs to face the bull from a safe distance. I don't blame them. They were obviously going farther south and about to enter a busy shipping lane.
Cabo da Roca
Sailing past Cabo da Roca. The infamous Cabo Raso is just down the street. You want to start thinking about reefing here, and I had already dropped the main. Although Cabo da Roca may not look like much from a distance, notice that that it reaches the clouds...or, should I say, creates its own cloud system.
An hour later I was anchored in the sunny bay of Cascais sipping a small glass of wine. That's my ritual while waiting for the anchor to dig in.

We went ashore for dinner at a local restaurant that is getting more touristy and expensive as the years go by. The sardines were dry and the owner, on recognizing us, insisted on telling us his life story, which you probably don't want to know.

I'll tell you anyway. He claims to have been a barefoot, poverty-stricken kid who left home at 14 years of age, went hungry, worked hard and now works even harder. "Slept only 3 hours last night," he boasted. I think he was merely distracting us in the hope that we wouldn't notice that the sardines were like old leather shoes. Next time maybe I'll eat on the boat and spend the money on drinks at a sleazy bar. I've heard that bored middle-aged women are attracted to the smell of seamen.

Speaking of marina skippers and anchoring, going back to the boats we found that David's boat had dragged onto a fisherman's mooring buoy which had a filthy shuttle boat on it. The mother boat must have gone out for the night. The lines were fouled on the Bavaria's rudder and we had to do some cutting and retying, not before David cut the wrong line holding the dinghy connected to the buoy. Sitting on the oily dinghy, I caught it just in time and found myself holding the line that kept the dinghy and David's boat from floating away. Grunting and groaning, I finally managed to tie the nylon line to an oar lock.

Slept like a rock (or is is it "slept like a log"). I always sleep well, but it feels better on an anchored boat that's going somewhere.

* Wrong chain
Take note owners of a SL 555  Sea Tiger windlass looking to buy European chain.

If your windlass has a gypsy with 7 pockets = RCB70 – only 10 mm DIN 766 chain will fit (which means that the chain links are exactly 48 mm in total length.

After losing all my chain last year, I ordered a 15-m test piece which I would use for the spare anchor. It was a perfect fit. The problem was that they gave me the  wrong reference number. I used that reference number to buy 60 m of chain and, because of the wrong original reference number, I got the wrong chain.

The shop didn't want to take responsibility until I showed them two bills of sale for chain with the same reference number but different sizes. Seeing as they couldn't get the right size chain quickly, they lent me a 20 m piece they had at the shop, which I joined to the original 15 m test piece. It does the trick for now if I anchor in shallow water.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Installing a Solar Panel

"I am plagued by the simplistic ideals in a world where simplicity is mistaken for lack of ambition" ~ Martello Mateus 

Installing a solar panel is a piece a least that's what it said in the installation manual. And it would be true, if I weren't installing it on a boat!

It took only about one hour to install the 80 W Bosch solar panel on its pole mount. That part was easy. I basically used the old wind generator pole with a modified mounting frame made at a local metalworking shop.

solar panel pole mount
Not the best summer day, but good for testing the solar panel output.
Then came the wiring. The solar cables are thicker than the ones I used for the wind generator, so I had to find another hole to feed them into the boat. After much head scratching, I finally removed an old tiller pilot power socket (previously used for my ruined windvane) and fed the wires through that.

Attaching the charge controller to the bulkhead in the dungeon was also easy - 4 small screws and that's it. Next, you'd think that it would be a simple job of using the old wind generator wires to the battery. But for one reason or another, nothing is easy on on a boat.

Although the wind generator wires ran right over the house battery, I needed an extra 1.5 meters to lead them down to the battery terminals.

The problem was that they snaked through mysterious places - bunched up with lots of other wires - all the way to the engine room where they were hooked up to the wind generator controller and then to the alternator splitting system.

Tracing those two wires and pulling them out from the spaghetti mess in impossible to reach places was a good yoga workout.
Boat wiring schematics
The old wind generator wires ran all the way to the engine room seen on the far right. I needed to pull them out in order to run a direct route to the house batteries shown on the bottom left.
After copious cursing, sweating and ranting to myself, I sort of got it done...for now.

I finally got the wires hooked up and, even on a cloudy day, it didn't take long for the 180-amp house battery to hit 14.7 volts. Yes sir, it was worth the money and sweat. It felt good reading the voltmeter, real good I tell you.

PS. If I were smart (IF!!!), I would have used the old wires to charge the engine battery and installed new wires to the house battery. Now I have to run a new set of wires to the engine battery along the same path as the wires I removed. Did I ever feel stupid when I realized this. But then again, if I were smart, I'd be living the life I dream about.

That's enough for today. In my next post you'll be hearing about the biggest F#$%&! screw-up the F%&/#$ marine shop made that's making my balls hiss. Incompetent pukes!!!!! Almost as stupid as me.

The good news is that July 26 remains the planned date of departure to the Algarve.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kobra Anchor

You lose plenty during your lifetime; it can be frustrating and sad but you shouldn't dwell on it for too long. When you lose your life, you won't even give it a second thought. ~ Martello Mateus

Kobra anchor II
My new mistress...the others are history.
Over the years I've had enough anchors to become a semi-qualified expert on the matter, at least on how to lose them.

I lost my first anchor - a genuine and brand new 45lb CQR the first time I took Jakatar for a sail on Lake Erie, Canada. An anchor-roller pin was supposed to hold it in place, but it didn't...and, no, it wasn't attached to any chain or rode. I was really clueless back then.

Years later, I lost an almost brand new 35lb CQR at the marina in Peniche. I had two anchors on the roller, the 35lb CQR and a knock-off 45lb CQR. I assume a transient sailor decided that two anchors was one too many and pinched the genuine one. Either that or it worked itself free and swam back to Canada.

Last year, I lost a nearly new Rocna 25 plus 150 feet of excellent chain in the bay of Sesimbra on my way to the Algarve. It's a long, long expensive story.

Last year I also cracked the hinge on a 55lb Chinese no-name anchor when it got stuck in a rock. The damn thing was useless anyway, total crap, good for scraping the ocean bottom. It's in my garden now as a decorative piece.

So now I bought a new 25 kg Kobra II and 60 meters of calibrated 10 mm chain, plus 50 m of 10 mm line for my third reefing lines. All for a cool 1,003 euros.

plastimo chain
Painting the chain depth markers in funky colors.
Kobra vs. Rocna - I chose the Kobra for a number of reasons:
  1. It's half the price
  2. According to tests, it has almost the same holding power and sets quickly
  3. In thick mud it doesn't bring up a ton of black goo like the Rocna. Tests reveal that the Rocna may not reset quickly because of all this mud sticking to it, while the Kobra will. Since I leave the boat anchored in the muddy bottom of Culatra, this may be a big advantage.
Anyway, if I lose this anchor and chain, I'm going to sell the boat and buy a horse that knows how to swim.

I also picked up my solar panel mounting pole from the metal shop. I adapted the Rutland wind generator pole, and it looks pretty good, I think. The job cost 60 euros. Not bad.

solar panel pole top mounting

Now I have to find the time to get all this metal aboard, scrape the propeller, put in the 3rd reefing lines, wash the boat, buy some groceries and untie the lines on July 26. I'm motivated.