The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Visiting Gibraltar

I've been dreaming of sailing to Gibraltar for a long time. Going there by car is not the same.

Anchoring in Gibraltar

We left Seville with the plan of having lunch in the mountain town of Ronda and then making our way down to Puerto Banus.

Ronda was a big attraction on the "what to see" list. We drove slowly along the city's narrow main street looking for a parking spot and, not finding one, kept driving all the way through town. When we stopped at a gas station outside of town, we filled up the diesel tank, looked back at the cluster of buildings, took a few pictures and kept going to Puerto Banus, Marbella. Now I can say that I've been to Ronda.

Puerto Banus was a short drive away, so I called the rental woman to see if we could check in at about 1 pm. 
"Yes, yes you can. Thank you."
Luckily she spoke English because Andalusian Spanish is beyond me. 

The GPS took us to an apartment building lined with shops along the ground floor, numbered 2, 4 and 6, but not number 8 where we were supposedly staying. And the next building started at number 10.

Strangely, none of the shop owners knew where number 8 was and didn't really care. I called the apartment owner, and she said she'd send somebody to get us. We waited 20 minutes, I called again, and eventually a young guy showed up in a jeep. 

It turns out we were smack in front of no. 8, but the number plate next to the entrance gate was concealed behind a large brush. Obviously not one soul in the whole building, not even those who rent tourist apartments, have ever given any thought to trimming the guilty brush...welcome to Spain! I live in Portugal, so I'm acclimatized to this "don't worry, be happy" attitude. In the end, everybody finds number 8, so why bother trimming the brush.

Puerto Banus marina
A nice town of rich foreigners
The Puerto Banus marina is home to large yachts, expensive and/or fast cars, millionaires dressed like shop window mannequins, professional skippers and terrific-looking professional blondes. If you want to buy a pair of shoes for 800 euros or watch people wearing them, this is the place for you. That's what turns people on and attracts a crowd. "Honey, do you want to visit the art gallery or go watch the millionaires at the marina?"

The marina, a sort of yacht condo complex, had no appeal for me whatsoever. It's organised like a class system: the ritzy end has the biggest yachts that gradually get smaller toward the other end where the owners are not escorted by professional blondes.
The eastern tip of the marina had a few interesting boats. 
The next day we went to Gibraltar. Since I've always had a vague plan to sail there, I decided to scout out a good location for anchoring in Gibraltar. I saw only one anchored sailboat, and it was local, so I learned nothing.
[Back home, I did some research and discovered that the marinas are not that expensive, especially the one on the Spanish side with pontoon fingers. I also saw pictures of anchored boats in the marina basin on Google Earth, so I figure this was low season, the marina is cheap and half empty, and there's not much point in anchoring if you have some money. I'll have some money, but I may not want to spend it. When you spend money, you spend time, you spend your freedom...I know, I'm going off topic.]

Monkeys in Gibraltar

The monkeys at the top of the "rock" are quiet civilized. I'd heard they would try to steal stuff from tourists, but they hardly looked at us.

I still think I'll sail there some day, check out the chandlery shops and hopefully buy nothing because I'll need nothing and want nothing. Wouldn't that be the day, needing nothing, wanting nothing that I don't already have, except more time. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Secret of Happiness

The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage ~ Thucydides

I discovered a fascinating documentary portraying happy fulfilled people living below the poverty line. Could it be that being rich or poor is merely a state of mind. The trick - and there's always a trick - is that they don't have real jobs. Let's face it, working and living dirt poor is only fun if you're an artist.

Anyway, I've always had a weakness for this sort of stuff, and I find it especially interesting now because I haven't made a cent in over two weeks, not one cent. I think I'll watch it again and pick up some tips. 

In a world where the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer, where unemployment is steadily growing, it's only a matter of time before living poor and happy becomes a cult...a small cult, really small, like living on a boat. Most people would pull their hair out from boredom.

Oh yes, this is a boat-related blog. Spent the afternoon at the marina yesterday. I finally added 4 liters of pure blue antifreeze to the engine, cleaned the raw water pump, checked the impeller, made a impeller cover gasket with instant seal stuff, installed a battery cut-off switch between the two house batteries, cleaned up and called it a day.

Still haven't made a cent. Maybe it's time to start planning a happy life.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Two Hot Days in Seville

At 6:30 a.m.,we headed for Seville  in an overfilled station wagon. It was about 14º C when we hit the road and even cooler in the foggy plains of Alentejo.

By the time we reached Seville, checked into our apartment and walked downtown it was hot. Hot! At the end of March.
weather in Seville
I think the thermometer was exaggerating, it only felt like 32º.

Heat doesn't bother me much - I simply sweat it out. To think of it, I have a high tolerance to most things except annoying persons, and even then I try to make the best of the situation until I can escape.

I visited Seville a long, long time ago when I passed through on my way to Morocco. My memory still held images of narrow streets and buildings like the one above. It looked almost the same as I remembered except for the night life. Back then we did the nightlife, this time we went to bed early with sore feet.

Back then we stayed in a room in the old quarter and hit the bars looking for tourist girls (yeah, I was young, real young). My friend Dan, who was engaged to be married promised he was only going to look at the girls. And he stuck to his promise, which was a waste because he broke up with his fiancée soon after returning to Canada.

Seville marina
This is the Seville marina on the river. No pontoon fingers. A marina without fingers is a glorified mooring ball field. Maybe it's a subtle way of encouraging old sailors to retire.
We went on an absurd one-hour boat trip along the river. I bargained with the ticket seller and we got 4 tickets for the price of 3 (€45). A total rip-off because the ferry moved at a snail's speed downriver past the marina, turned around very, very slowly and then doubled back. It then crawled 500 meters upstream past its starting point, turned around very, very, very slowly and returned to its starting point. That's it. That's what a whole fleet of tourist boats did. You could see the same sights standing on the dock.

Horse carriage rides in Seville
Ana caught me taking a selfie with a horse. There are tourist horse carriage rides everywhere, but no horse crap because they use a canvas toilet under the horse's tail.

The next day we witnessed the "Dia del Ramos" Easter festivities that got going around lunch time. Everybody, young and old, were into it and the place was buzzing. We hung out for a while until the crowds began to build at an alarming rate and we got thirsty and foot-tired. 
Easter festivities in Seville

These guys - looking like the Ku Klux Klan - were headed...
...toward these guys. Didn't stick around to see what it was all about.
Anyway, the streets were packed with people flowing into the old city center, and we literally pushed our way out of there and finally found an outdoor café with an empty table.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Drink and Piss Method

How long does it take to change a boat engine's antifreeze? About 6 weeks. That's how it goes on a naked boat.

I discovered that you shouldn't mix different types of antifreeze. After that, I discovered that pink antifreeze may be bad for seals in older diesel engines. Lastly, I can't open the little tap that drains the coolant from the engine block.

I couldn't open the little tap with my bare hand, even after soaking it with DW-40, and I'm not about to use a wrench. It's hidden behind the oil filter in a hard-to-reach place, and snapping it would imply a major headache. In this stage of the game I need less pain and more pleasure.

After finally finding blue antifreeze at an auto parts store, I got to work using the drink and piss method, which is not painful at all.

Kubota antifreeze
Pee into the pan please.
The whole Kubota engine takes 7.5 l of coolant. Because I can drain only about 3 liters from the coolant tank, I decided on the following procedure:

  • drain the coolant tank
  • refill it with distilled water
  • run the engine until the tank is hot
  • shut the engine down and let it cool
  • drain the coolant tank again
  • repeat the process 8 times
  • in the last operation, uncouple the long hose connecting the heat exchange to the engine to remove another 1/2 liter
  • pour 3.5 l of pure blue antifreeze into the tank, run the engine to mix it up.
One more drink and piss operation and I can finally add the antifreeze and move on to the task of scraping the propeller and checking the bottom growth. If it's really bad I may haul out this year.

In the middle of all this drinking and pissing I took a trip to Gibraltar, to be covered in my next post.