I really did not have time to celebrate as we were entering the inlet to Ilha de Coulatra.
Conditions were far from ideal: a two knot current against us, 20 knot winds behind us and ocean depths shallowing from 400 feet to less than 20’; it was not the time to get the cake out.
But Dauntless handled the conditions like she always does with a nonchalance that says, if this is what you want me to do, I’ll get it done.
As you can see from our inbound track, we waggled a bit, but that was the extent of it. We then proceeded to head up the well-marked river channel, only to discover that the marina was full. Now in the USA, we are accustomed to a marina being full. Making reservations, calling ahead are sometimes critical and done pretty routinely.
Instead in Europe, at least in Northern Europe, first talked about in the Cruising Forum and later confirmed by experience over last two years, is that there is always space. And if space is not readily available space will be found. Sometimes that means sailboats will be rafted together two or three deep. For the most part this Krogen escaped that inconvenience because of our large bow rise.
I think this difference in marina culture is more about the culture than anything else. I mean in the north, there is a very evident culture of the sea. Thus seafarers are accommodated pretty much no matter what. It carries over to prices also. Throughout the North and Baltic Seas, marina prices were in the $20 to $35 range; with only Helsinki being out of the normal at $50. Even with the two weeks I was in Helsinki last year, the average marina cost was only $25 averaged over the four months for our 42 foot (12.7m) Kadey Krogen.
This year, as we came south, I expected prices to rise. Prices in the west coast of France were in the $30 to $40 range and that continued into Northwest Spain, Galicia.
But as we turned south, as the temperatures got higher so did the prices. $40 becomes the going rate and other than the little gem of Vila Franca de Xira up the river from Lisbon or the Marina do Freixo, upriver from Porto, everything costs more.
The bigger disappointment however is not so much the prices, but that’s to be expected. Similar to what I noticed along the east coast of the Untitled States, the seafaring culture is alive and well in New England, but every place else it’s simply a commercial venture.
And that seems to be the attitude here.
Certainly I have always shown a preference for the cooler, off the beaten track places, Maine instead of the Bahamas, for instance, but none the less, the No Room in the Inn sign is a disappointment, especially since I must turn around in a small distance in a 20 knot wind.
I have written a lot; but getting it posted is another issue. Issues related to no internet access or most recently just related to my lack of focus.
I try to write all the time, at least every couple of days. But as I re-read my last half dozen writings, I am all over the place. I’ve written about driving in Europe in in the 70’s and 80’s, some of the most wonderful cars in my life, women, countries, Italy, Portugal, and even Dauntless.
But the problem with these writings is that simply that, they are all over the place, so for the reader, it’s a bit disconcerting. One moment he’s in Portugal and all of a sudden in Italy driving through the Alps, 30 years ago!
I wondered why have written so little and so unfocused?
Yesterday, having had a fantastic day with the family of Diogo, my new found Portuguese friend, we got back to the boat and in the ultimate downer after a wonderful day, it was hot and buggy.
Maybe for you in the Caribbean or Florida it would seem pretty good. But for me and D, who have spent the last two years in the north, basking in the sun and breeze that have made Northern Europe the vacation capital of the world, it was HOT.
How hot you wonder?
Good picture this: 30 years ago, my Trevisiana and I went to the beach in Holland in mid-August. I was now stationed in an airbase in the Netherlands and she had come for a short visit. In August, what does everyone do? We went to the beach. In Holland.
Picture this, as we parked the car, we thought it was a bit cool. Luckily, we brought sweaters for that cool night time breeze. As we walked from the car to the beach, we noticed it seemed even cooler than anticipated.
Upon gazing at the beach along the North Sea for the first time, we realized we weren’t in Kansas anymore.
Everyone was wearing overcoats! The temperature was 50F at best. Maybe colder. No wonder the Dutch took vacations in July, when the temperature is up in the 60’s. Clearly winter was over.
So now fast forward 30 years. Remember those stories of Richard and Dauntless being so happy because he had heat on the first of September as he crossed the North Sea?
Remember how the heat percolated up to the pilot house and actually defrosted (demisted) the windows of the pilot house??
So now, only a year later, early September and I’m f…ing melting. It’s 90F at 9:00 and 105F at 14:00. Yes, these are real official temperatures, not the made up crap on TV.
So I’m dying. This is the August in NYC that I have avoided for years. The heat that makes one want to jump into the river and never come out. Now, the industrial foam that goes by four times a day slaked the desire somewhat, but if it was blue water, I’d be all in.
Now, I know you are wondering, why doesn’t he just turn-on the air conditioning? Oh, it would be so simple. Maybe in my old days, you know three years ago, it would be that simple. But now? Having spent the last three summers in the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, nothing was simple. Hot weather was this animal that you thought you had tamed. Instead you woke up day to find it eating you.
So all of a sudden, you were dying. You, everyone around you, the world. Dying in a way Al Gore never envisioned.
So being a man of action, I had been thinking day and night of solutions. Dauntless has two air conditioning units. How can we best utilize them? Yes, we do think of the environment despite of Al Gore.
Well, the first step is to get them to work! Yes, read the above; do you think in my jaunts in the North Sea I was running the air conditioning all the time? Or even once?? A Year???
The two A/c units, Fore and Aft, on Dauntless need 120 volt 60 hertz power. Period.
That power is obtained in two ways, from the shore in a country based on 120 v and 60 hertz, like the USA, or from the generator on Dauntless, aka Genny, a square shape, but with hips to get the job done, therefore a beauty in every definition of the word.
So Genny powers the circuits to get the air conditioning units to come on. But in the last few days, since I have entered this inferno, no matter how much Genny implores, both A/C units have ignored her.
The forward A/C did not even wake up, just sleeping though it all, despite my pushing her buttons with the most delicate of touches.
Now, the Aft A/C unit, taking a different tack, was all talk and no action. She blew, blew & blew, but when it came down to it, it was all hot air. I would have died in her mistral if it was up to her.
After having talked to my electrical guru in Florida, David Arnold, a true Kadey Krogen guru, who luckily for us is a well-kept secret only known to a select few, (you did not get his name from me); I set out this morning to at least solve the forward A/C issue, how did she want to be touched that would produce the action I so desperately needed??
Now, the Policy of Truth (actually not, if you listen carefully) demands that I at least tell you the middle man here who was the true maestro. The water pump, who depending on 120 v power was the key to everything. Oh, sure, without him, you can get action for a bit, but within minutes you will realize you are taking a shower with a raincoat on. In other words, No Joy; something ain’t working.
Rewind a few months, as we applied a new International undercoat (anti-foul) to Dauntless’ bottom, I noticed a thru-hull (a water intake) that had been painted over. Umm, I wonder what that was? I dutifully scrapped the old paint off and made sure it was clear. I wonder why I had not noticed?
Now a few months later, Genny, having woken up the forward and aft A/C units, was getting no satisfaction in getting the water pump to do his thing. Was he pouting having been ignored for two years? Did he just get tired of pumping his life for a bunch of women and a clueless owner??
I certainly suspected the latter. So this morning, I awoke with a plan and the first plan was to get mister water pump to put up or shut up.
But first, having this day well planned, after 60 years, I knew a thing or two and the first thing is that everyone needs a little foreplay, some more than others, even the Marina Captain, but that’s another story.
So first I checked the forward A/C and discovered that like on all boats, one thing leads to another. I discovered the containers of spares and tools that were carefully stowed under the helm, had moved enough to disturb the RJ45 connector to the forward A/C unit. This only controlled the control panel, but electrons are so picky these days, it was enough. I spent the next hour making new connections that would not come off in the next storm.
Now it was time to put Genny to work. Poor Genny, neglected in body and soul for months, no years, now she has to put out in seconds or else. Or else what, I won’t change her oil for another year or two??
So Genny never complaining (we’ll just forget about the indiscretion in Maine. But you know those Maine men, one touch, and all is right with the world. Yes, George was masterful, but you would be too if you worked at the Bath Boat Works).
Genny powered up and making hay while the sun shines, I turned on all the breakers for the 120v circuits and the two A/C units.
Like before Aft A/C was blowing air, but it seemed like hot air to me, as in not really putting her heart into it; Are you done yet? As in just the Fan working.
But the Forward A/C was on, awake and actually cool. I felt the water pump, it felt like it was actually working. I ran outside, yes, water was coming out for the first time in years!! What a glorious emission!
I got my IR temperature gun, Aft A/C 75F, Forward A/C 55F. Now that’s more like it.
For the first time in more than two years, at least one A/C was working. I was on a roll. Let’s figure out what’s going on with the Aft A/C.
I felt her all over. Oh she ooh’d and ahd’d, but nothing changed. Her coils were as cold as fish, as was the compressor. Maybe I was too abrupt in the past (sure, maybe in the middle of the night, I turned her on without realizing her buddy the water pump was not along for the ride? I never said she was not kinky! She is older after all and we all want something a little different. She had knobs to turn after all; not push buttons like the little princess, the newer, younger forward A/C.) maybe I boiled off her Freon?
So now I figured I needed to get even more kinky. Both Yes, that meant both at the same time; then one, then the other, in every combination possible and a few that have been outlawed in 28 countries and 8 states.
But mister water pump did not want to play with the Aft A/C. If she wasn’t playing, neither was he.
Umm, I ‘d dealt with this before. I have had cats you know. (maybe one day, I shall have to tell you the story of Yum Yum and Gigi, aka Blackie, aka Stockings, but I digress).
These A/C units had two relays that powered the three units: Forward A/C, Aft A/C and Water Pump. Whenever either A/C unit was turned on, the water pump would come on.
But now it wasn’t.
Easiest step, but also one not without peril, for anyone who knows digital electricity meters, they also know that all those digits don’t mean a thing. So I also had my trusty analog meter along for the ride. Why, you wonder? Because the digital meter will tell you no voltage exists if it doesn’t like the looks of it. The Analog meter has no such rules; she just tells you what is and in this case, it’s enough voltage to kill.
If I die because of the digital meter, who can I sue? OK I digress.
So now, I always check with both meters initially, so I don’t waste HOURS trying to figure out why what is supposed to be there is not when it actually is. Yes, do this at home.
In short order I figured out that of the two relays that power the whole system, one was not working. Therefore, the water pump was only coming on when the compressor of the forward A/C unit engaged.
Once I figured that out, I then tried powering the aft A/C unit and sure enough, it was more than happy to cool off my hot body.
I put a jumper to the Aft A/C directly to the terminal block that runs to the circuit breaker in the salon, thus bypassing the relay. The only issue is that if I want the Aft A/C now, I must also turn on the forward A/C to turn on the water pump.
Problems solved. Now I can focus and write and that’s just the way it is.
We’re Good to Go; but if you don’t like that book, check out “Triad” by the David Crosby and Jefferson Airplane.
Portugal has been a mixed bag so far. Wonderful, warm people, always trying to help, who sound like they are speaking Russian to my English ear.
But the two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto, coupled with the location of the marinas in those cities has been a disappointment. I know I should know better. My mantra over the years to anyone who will listen is to always avoid the large cities of Europe if your goal is to really see the culture and people of any given country.
Doesn’t matter if you are in Ireland or Italy,
Dublin and Rome are more about the tourists and their expectations than the locals. This became even more evident last year in the Baltic. I saw the same tourists in Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Tallinn. Between Ryan Air and the high speed ferries, they transport the same group from city to city. And the effect is that the food and expectations in those places start to look more and more the same.
Much like the street fairs of NYC. They used to be a celebration of the neighborhood in which they were located: Italian in Little Italy, Greek in Astoria, Polish in Greenpoint, etc. But about 20 years ago, the City in a move to further commercialize, tax and regulate, increased the number.
Looked good on paper to the politician’s, probably even looked good to the clueless who just arrived in the City from the hinterland, but to New Yorker’s, the damage was done. We now have the exact same vendors every week in different parts of the City. New York, known as a city of neighborhoods, is becoming a city of Blahness. Every place you look looks the same.
OK, moving on.
The above is why I have not written a blog post in the last week. Oh, I’ve written plenty of drafts, I’ve started at least four. But they have all digressed to a point in which even I don’t see the point.
So, ignoring my own advice, since getting to Portugal, Dauntless and I have spent 90% of our time in Porto and Lisbon. And both marinas have been relatively expensive ($45 per day) and a half dozen miles from the
town’s center. People have been wonderful, especially in Porto, where the marina people made me really feel at home and we managed to make a number of new friends.
Now Porto does have different feel than Lisbon, but still.
So, when I found out about a little marina about 20 miles upriver from Lisbon, I jumped at the chance. The home of my new found friend Diogo (the star of another blog that’s yet to be published), Vila Franca de Xira, has been a wonderful little spot.
On the river, attached to a little park and only minutes away from town, it’s like being home; and I just got here.
Numerous cafes, European bars, simple restaurants and an indoor market, full of fish, meat, poultry, vegetables and fruit stalls, it’s the kind of place that makes Europe, Europe.
Very few people speak English, I get by with my few words of Portuguese, a little more Spanish and when desperate some Italian. The other day, for my main meal, which is early afternoon, when the waiter asked my desire, I just pointed to a nearby table and made the international sign for “everything he is eating and drinking”. That sign by the way is waving one hand in a big circle, while smiling foolishly and saying, “Si” (yes).
It worked and ended up with my normal 375 ml white wine, a mixed salad (tomatoes, onion and some lettuce, salt, pepper, oil and vinegar) and a half dozen little flat fishes.
My first date with my most recent companion/mate was on a bus. Yes, that was the date. We took the Fifth Avenue bus from Greenwich Village all the way to Washington Heights, an hour a half ride. We then got really wild and transferred to another bus to go all the way to the Cloisters in Inwood Park) or possibly that was on our second date).
So of course it was a natural progression for us to get our Kadey Krogen. How so?
Sitting on a bus, not driving, gives you the opportunity to see the world go by. When we moved to the Bronx two years ago, I had the chance to take the MTA Express Bus to Midtown or the Upper East Side. Even after having driven on the same exact route for 5 years commuting to my school in the Bronx, taking the bus was a revelation. I saw all sorts of interesting sights that had eluded me as a driver.
When one takes the train, more often than not, the track is in a sunken grade. So the most one sees are concrete walls with occasional level crossings and stations.
An airplane, if you are sitting in a window seat, as you crane your neck to peer out of the 5-inch window, you may see tops of clouds, or the ground from 38,000 feet. Not a very interesting panorama. Besides, if you are in a window seat, your biggest concern is timing your bathroom breaks to minimize disruption of the row-mates (not to be confused with inmates).
So Planes, Trains and Automobiles are not the best vehicles for watching the world go by.
That leaves Busses and Boats.
Another Krogen owner once remarked that the KK affords us the opportunity to watch the world pass by from our living room.
So true and certainly one of the main reasons when we first saw the KK42, we knew it was the boat for us.
This morning I was in the bus station in Lisbon seeing my nephew off on his way to France for a week before he flies back to Alaska. As I watched the people, I realized that the airlines, especially the discount airlines in Europe, have really given a large boost to bus transportation. When you are being charged $2 per pound for checked baggage and your carry-on bag is the size of a large wallet, what family can afford to travel my plane?
Thus families with kids and the baggage train they entail can travel affordably by bus.
And best of all, they get to actually see the world they are both leaving and coming to.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.
Schengen, that wonderful scheme that allows open borders from the bottom of Greece all the way to the top of Norway. The only European countries NOT in the Schengen area are England, Scotland, Ireland (one of the reasons I kept the boat there), Turkey, Russia and perhaps Croatia.
Everyone else, Schengen (drum roll please).
Now the rules are relatively simple, 90 days allowed for every 180 days. So if you stay 90 days, you must leave and not return until 90 more days have passed. Arriving my air, from a non-Schengen country (all the rest of the world plus the U.K and Ireland) as you pass through immigration, they stamp your passport.
When you leave, they look for the entry stamp and stamp you out. If you have overstayed your 90 days, then the penalty will depend up on the person checking you out and probably most importantly, what side of the bed they got out of that morning.
The penalty for over-staying, a big red stamp in your passport banning you from any Schengen area country for three years. Now with a boat in Europe that would throw a monkey wrench into the works. So that’s a fate I would like to avoid.
Now the rules for boats differ slightly. From what I have been able to determine and am still not 100% sure since I get told different things by different people all the time, boats and those who enter the country on them are treated as they have always been treated. Presumably this means that they treat the boat as always leaving and entering, so theoretically, I should check in at every port of entry in each country.
So while I am diligent, I also don’t like wasting my time. Last year, I traveled by boat through 15 countries. Only in one, the Netherlands, did anyone what to see my passport let alone stamp it. In fact, there was clearly an aversion to stamp anything.
That’s what happened a few weeks ago in France. The Customs people came by the boat, to check its papers and to make sure I had not overstayed the 18-month limit on boats and payment of the Value Added Tax (VAT) which is about 21%. Not chump change, as we said in the day.
They French Customs, checked my USCG Document, and the most important document of all, the original port of entry into the European Union (EU) that took place in August 2014 in the Azores. Now the Dutch in their vigilance, had given me another form. This one based on my August 2014 entry into the EU had an area for a stamp when I left the EU. They also told me that they would enter the information into the big brother computer in Brussels.
Last September (2015) I duly got that form stamped while in Norway to prove that Dauntless had left the EU. Unlike the rules for people and immigration, the customs rules for things and VAT are totally different and separate. But I knew it was a big deal, so I ran around Norway, well maybe not the whole country, but the little city of Kristianstad, where I found a bemused customs agent to stamp my form for me. Did he want a copy? No. Did he want to stamp my passport? No.
Since I have been living this for the last three years, just to clarify, the Schengen Area and the EU are totally DIFFERENT administrative areas. The former is for people and latter for things. Dauntless only had to be out of the EU for one day to reset the 18-month clock.
Now fast forward to France a few weeks ago. The French were very nice and easy going. I had the forms, they gave me another one, presumably to document that Dauntless was back in the EU and they went on their merry way.
But no, sorry, they could not stamp my passport. That was the job of the immigration people, who seem to only hang out at the airport.
OK I figured I get it stamped sooner or later,
So being the diligent little cruiser that I am, I had attempted to get our passports stamped while in Porto. But upon arriving at the office in the middle of town, it looked like the latest refuge boat had just docked. There were hundreds of people on line. I decided to take my chances on the next town.
Figueira da Foz was that place.
When I walked into the Immigration office, no lines, no waiting, a nice reception. The Portuguese Immigration Agent was duly summoned and I explained the problem in my “English for Foreigners” talk.
He had a colleague who was more fluent and that helped the situation. But it was obvious that he did not understand why I was all the way down here and had not gotten my passport stamped in France or even Spain or even Porto.
I put on my best Please Help Me look and hoped for the best.
He then took my documents and went back to his office to have a conversation first with his colleague and then on the telephone with a couple of people. Now I do wish I understood a modicum of Portuguese, though while my reading is almost usable, the sounds they make are hard for my language challenged brain to decipher.
In less than 10 minutes he emerged telling me he had stamped our passports, but he wanted to come to the boat to check my other two guests (they havening just arrived only days ago had their entry stamp so I had decided I did not need to also bring their passports.
He verified their passport information and that was that. I thanked him and he left.
A number of observations and reflections:
Had I not been flying out of Spain or Portugal at the end of September, I would not have bothered.
Last year’s cruise and now this one demonstrate that while a uniform rule is made in Brussels for the EU and Luxemburg for Schengen, counties in general, and marinas specifically, don’t want to hassle boaters.
Lastly, one of the biggest issues is that every agent I’ve spoken to in the last two years is convinced that every office, every agent, every country does it just as they do. It’s simple, the rule covers everyone and therefore everyone is doing the same thing.
Well, the simple fact is that the situation is exactly the opposite. Every country seems to have different interpretations of the same rule. And within countries there is not even a sandcasting of procedures. Thus, when I say, the French did not want to stamp my passport, I get a look like I have two heads.
So today’s mission was successful because unlike in the past, I knew not to tell them what they could not comprehend.
I will also add that in the plus two years Dauntless has been in Europe, having stopped in 100 cities and towns and over 15 countries, my contacts with Customs, Immigration or even just Maritime Police, were rare, only about a half dozen times and each and every time, the officers were kind, friendly and efficient. They have always asked to come aboard and always ask if they need to take off their boots (I always say it’s unnecessary).
In terms of rules and regulations, cruising in Europe could not be easier with less histrionics than I have observed in the States.
By the way, did you notice the similarity between Schengen and Shenanigan? As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in coincidences!
As I have discovered talking to Alvaro and Ana at the Marina do Freixo, Porto, aka Oporto, it is actually Porto. It seems the English, or most likely one Englishman, upon hearing the Portuguese say “do Porto” as in I am of Porto, the English combined the article with the noun, thus “Oporto” was born.
In any case, it’s Porto.
Porto, Portugal, as we know, if only for the strong wine that originates in this region.
First, let me say that in the first day, I discovered a cornucopia of “port” wines that were both red and white in a spectrum of sweetness.
Which just goes to show you, even when you think you have seen everything, like most New Yorkers, you only know the sliver the marketers, want you to see.
I had a wonderful lunch, for me dinner, at the Jimao, 11 Praça da Ribeira. The four small plates I had were as good as I have had in Europe: sardines on toast, morcella and apples, pig cheeks and I ended with panna cotta and a glass of “port” that was not so sweet and more like a rose. These were washed down with a vinho verde, a tinto (red from the region) and a “port” that was almost a rose. All perfect accompaniments.
As I meandered back to Dauntless, about 1 mile up river from downtown, I thought about how fortunate I am.
No matter what travails I have had in the past months, the reality is, I am sitting in my own boat on the River Douro in Porto listening to a classical radio station and writing this blog.
I eat well; drink better and if I had a lament, it’s nice to share great times, adventures, eating and drinking with someone who appreciates the same.
But am I suffering? Please.
As I took the bus back to Dauntless, a picturesque ride along the river, I noticed the dozens of fisherman along the river bank.
Like my father, who would go surf casting on Long Island, these fishermen (and some women) certainly enjoy fishing, but like most before them for the last eon, they also appreciated that what they caught was “meat” on the table and it was free. These aren’t sport fisherman with million dollar boats spending more on fuel and beer than their catch would ever pay for. No, these are real people, doing what humans have done for hundreds of thousands of years.
And now they have the luxury of being able to pass their time in a way both fruitful and enjoyable.
And like most Americans, just trying to get by as best they can.
In every port we have stopped, not a day goes by without someone mentioning our upcoming presidential election. Not a day. My nephews have remarked on this; coming from places in the U.S. where evidently no one they talk with talks about such things. Instead in Europe, Europeans always talk about politics, be it the government of the month or the world as they see it.
Trump is mentioned is the same way one talks about the latest disaster, with a certain gleam in their eye, knowing just the name will bring a reaction: “Did you see that train wreak last week, how could the Italians have two trains on the same track? What about that tsunami, a quarter million washed out to sea!”
What does one respond? “Yes, it will certainly be a speculator train wreak. I have tickets for the first row. I’d be glad to trade them for a few rows further back”. “Oh, I understand. You have to give your cat a bath that day.”
Just like in America, Trump certainly has his admirers, especially in Ireland. Oh those rebels. Europeans are fed up with politicians just like most Americans, but Europeans also have a better view of reality. They see Trump for what he is.
So their conversation really revolves around the theme of “how is it possible you have such poor choices?” The non-politician who pays no taxes versus the professional politician who only pays taxes on those monies given to her for her political favors.
But Europeans respect the USA in ways that can not be appreciated unless ones spends time outside the USA. Those same people who lament our choices, also know that we are strong, don’t put up with BS very long, so will vote the bum out in four years.
Most Americans are just like the fisherman along the river. They are just trying to get by and do what’s best for their families.
Our problem is that our elected leaders don’t have the same priorities.
Summer weather in western Spain and Portugal has the large high pressure area centered west of the Iberian Peninsula over the Azores. It’s called the Azores High.
The fair weather allows a lot of sun, heating up the interior of the peninsula and causing the formation of a so called “heat Low”. That is an area of low pressure caused my intense heating of the ground. Hot air rises, air must flow into this area on the surface to replace the air that is rising. Thus the typical pattern of converging air at the surface, a low [pressure area.
Now, with a Low to the East and a High to the west, we in between are caught in the winds caused by this pressure gradient. Thus as the day gets hotter, the low gets stronger and the winds therefore must increase.
These afternoon winds, hot and dry, then make the numerous forest fires now burning pretty much unmanageable. Last night was the worst here in the last three days since we have been in Baiona. The winds stayed strong all night, keeping the fires going, thus it was smoky all night.
Rinsed Dauntless off this morning, ash is everywhere.
Now this problem is exacerbated by the fact as told to me in broken Spanish and English that the problem in Spain is most of the fires are purposely set and the fire fighters are on strike. Thus the government plan seems to be to wait until winter and the rainy season.
So later this afternoon we will pull out and head south to Portugal. There they have even more fires burning, but I think they are at least trying to put them out.
Winds died down again, so after a few hours we decided to anchor in the harbor of A Guarda. A very small harbor just north of the border.
As we pulled into he very small harbor, a Spanish flagged catamaran suggested we anchor a few hundred feet ahead of him and we did do with less drama than usual.
Of course, the best part of anchoring is being in your cabin, half asleep, when you feel the boat starting to move as the winds picked up. So at midnight, up again, check everything, we have turned around, but had not dragged anchor.
In fact, we’ve never dragged anchor since I got rid of the CQR and replaced it with a 55# Delta. That’s thanks to Parks (or was it the cat) at Hopkins-Carter in Miami, who convinced me the Delta was as good as any more modern anchor.
But being in a dark cabin, felling the boat movement, if even at anchor, it is easy to convince oneself that the boat is heading out to sea or to land at 20 knots.
Doesn’t matter that Dauntless couldn’t go 20 knots over Niagara Falls.
No, your mind can convince you of anything.
So, seeing all was in order, I went back to bed.
That lasted 10 minutes, until I heard another thump.
Up again, now, I released I had to put the snubber on (when we had anchored the winds were calm).
Though the winds stayed up, the snubber sis it’s job and we pretty much stayed still other than the usual rocking and rolling. By early morning though the smoke was again obvious, so we pulled out into a very hazy, smoky landscape.
As we turned south to Porto, the Atlantic became almost flat, as the winds once again died down and went northerly at 6 knots.
Tonight, I will tie to a dock; Porto or is it Oporto?
Eons ago, back in February, when we first visited Galicia, the plan was to stay the winter. Off the beaten track, inexpensive, cool in summer and winter: Ideal.
Then, life happens and the best laid plans of mice and men go astray.
So, plan B was formulated. For those of you keeping score at home, it was really the original Plan A, but then who’s counting.
Then less than two weeks ago, while in France, an English sailor on a very big, beautiful sailboat, convinced me that to linger too long in the Bay of Biscay or even in Galicia or Northern Portugal, was cruising for a bruising.
Now, I may not heed, but I always listen. And now, having heard the same warnings yet again, I decided this needed to be one of those times I also heeded.
Thus, just last week, I bit the bullet and had to tell my three sets of friends who are coming to meet Dauntless and I over the next two months, and only weeks earlier had bought plane tickets to Spain, that they would have to change those recently bought tickets as Portugal was now the meeting point.
Galicia is out, Portugal is in.
And like most decisions, once made, it was clear to me, it was the right thing to do.
A Coruña is a wonderful town, wonderful food, beautiful people and fantastic wine.
We had two dinners in an absolutely great small restaurant, Vermuteria Martinez, that we had found in February. A must stop for anyone visiting Galicia.
But I also realized it was time for me to move on.
Now, even the extra stops I had planned over the next week have been nixed.
Sometimes the past is like an anchor.
One of those real expensive anchors with the hoop, plated in gold or platinum (or certainly priced as if they are) and while you hate to part with, having cost a small fortune plus your two middle children, you come to realize that it’s time to get the fire ax and cut that chain before you are dragged down.
Galicia and Spain, so many wonderful memories, in fact, nary a bad one, but now moving to the past. It’s time to move on.
It’s time to get to Portugal.
New places, faces and spaces.
But one cannot leave A Coruña, Galicia and Spain without a bit of melancholy or even “triste”
Thus a little Charles Aznavour seems appropriate at this time.
Three days, three nights, three hundred and fifty miles, what could go wrong?
In my early years of cruising, it what seems like just yesteryear, oh wait, it was just last year, I started out every overnight passage thinking nothing would go wrong. No muss, no fuss, no drama.
In spite of the fact that I really like Korean dramas, not all dramas are the same and dramas on Dauntless seem just that, dramatic.
But this year, 2016, I vowed everything would be different. Leaving no stone unturned, I would ruthlessly dot every I and cross every t, leaving no room for dramas of any kind.
We waited an extra day in Rochelle with an anticipated three-day weather window opening up. Day one would have brisk winds from the northwest (NW 12g18), Day 2 continued brisk winds but from the northeast, Day 3 light winds, less than 8 knots and Day 4 southwesterly winds increasing in strength to 25 knots by Day 5.
Now, what this means is since our course for the 60-hour passage would be to the southwest (240 degrees True), Day 1 would find brink winds on our beam producing 4 to 6 foot seas, Day 2 would see a following sea of the same magnitude and Day 3 should see flat seas.
But we would have to arrive before the southwesterly winds picked up, since there is nothing worse than heading into the seas and wind in a slow ass boat like Dauntless. Not only does the ride become worse than the worse hoppy horse you ever rode, but you slow down so much, you 10-hour trip becomes 20, so the time of being miserable is doubled is not trebled (see last year’s epic, beating yourself to death on the English Channel.)
Thus our departure time was carefully calibrated to the weather forecast and the opening of the gate in the marina which is only open for three hours centered around the high water time. Thus 6 hours out of every 24.
We left La Rochelle on time, 14:15 hours, just as the draw bridge opened, and got a hearty send off from the bridge attendant with gestures and yelling which could only mean “Bon Voyage”, though he was pointing to a red light in doing so, but if I have learned only one thing while boating in France, it’s that everything is advisory and as long as you don’t hit something too hard, All’s Well that Ends Well.
The afternoon of Day 1 was about as anticipated, westerly winds around 10 knots; not enough to produce significant seas. So we ran without the paravanes birds in the water. Dauntless had a nice easy gait to her. The boys were on four hour watches and they were doing very well. I could even sleep in my cabin (having slept in the pilot house on our previous passage from Ireland).
12 hours into the passage, during the early morning hours, the winds were picking up to the mid to high teens, that will produce seas 3 to 5 feet and they were from the west not NW. This meant that our heading to the SW was into a bit of seas producing some pitching. So at 02:00 as I rolled around in bed, I figured I may as well get up and deploy the birds.
Normally, upon leaving port, I set the poles out and make sure of the rigging. We did that this time as usual, but when the birds were in the water, I noticed the lines were wrapped strangely around the pole, with the net effect that the bird was not hanging from the end of the pole, but from the middle.
That just wouldn’t do, so in seas that were now 4 to 6 feet, we stopped to haul the birds, unshackle them and re-rig them. With Dauntless sitting dead in the water, standing on the side deck can be a bit frightening to the novice sailor. From the side deck, you look up to see a 6 foot waves approaching the beam. Your first thought is that this wave is not only going to soak you, but will swamp the boat.
Now I’m kneeling down, taking the shackle off, so I can unwind the line from the pole. Tony, my nephew, is standing there a bit amazed, as he warns me of the “big” waves approaching. It is a bit daunting I admit, but I tell him those waves aren’t that big.
So, 10 minutes later both birds are re-rigged and in the water.
I did notice that the lee side bird was running pretty close to the boat, but I have seen this behavior before and did not think it was significant. I got back to bed, leaving Tony or Micah on watch.
As I am laying in bad, thinking about the birds, I had gotten splashed by a few drop of good ole North Atlantic Ocean water. I went to sleep thinking I had been kissed my Mother Nature.
The winds picked up all night and into Day 2, now blowing at 15 to 22 knots. Annoyingly, they were still from the west and not the northwest as forecast (stupid me for believing the details of the weather forecast). So the seas were building and we were rolling a bit more than usual.
Then Bam, what the hell was that? I’m in bed, it’s dark. I get up, look around, I notice that the windward paravanes pole was unloading more than usual. Maybe that was the bang I heard, felt, as it picked up the slack suddenly.
Every few minutes, when the boat got into a deep rhythmic roll, I’d hear the bang. I look again, see nothing unusual. Both birds are running closer to the boat than usual, but they are also running deeper than last year.
After getting another 2-hour sleep in, I get up at 07:00, to relieve Micah so they can both get a good sleep. I am determined to find the bang. I’m standing in the stern deck, looking at the beautiful sunset and I look down during a particularly heavy roll (15 degrees in one direction) and the paravanes bird is really close to the hull. Is that the bang I am hearing??
Have the birds become asymmetric? Meaning does it now matter which side they are on? I realize that the starboard bird is running to the left, while the port bird is running to the right. Could the easy fix be to just swap them?
I decide to do just that. So for the third time I stop the boat to retrieve the birds, unshackle them and swap sides. I think you should be able to see the course change I made to facilitate this, (Share.Delorme.com/Dauntless) I turned Dauntless to run with the waves making the motion on the boat easier.
Ten minutes later, it’s done and they are running true, both now running just where they should about 13 feet from the side of the boat. So now, I better mark them. The roll was also reduced after the swap. Now they are working normally.
Day 2’s winds stayed NW all day. Never saw the NE winds that were forecast.
Around midnight of the second day out, we stopped again to pull the birds, this time because the seas had greatly diminished and I wanted the 0.7 kts back that they use.
So it’s now 08:00 on Day 3. The winds have finally died, though we have an Atlantic swell of about 6 feet every 8 seconds.
I decided to add a quart of oil to the engine while running. With the Ford Lehman, there is virtually no blowback with the oil cap off, so one can add oil without making a mess. (Don’t try this with your car with an overhead camshaft.)
This engine consumes about a quart of oil about every 50 hours, so to add some now would not hurt.
As I am pouring the oil in I notice the red plastic ring that comes off the cap was still around the spout of the oil container. As I think I must be careful not to let it fall into the engine, it falls into the engine!
What a f…ing idiot. I dash to the pilot house to kill the engine (yes, I know I need a remote start/stop in the engine room) and run back to see what I can see in the top of the oil fill on the crankcase. I bend over, flashlight in hand and see the plastic ring. Yes! Then I see a second plastic ring? And then a third.
I suppose the good news is they were not going to melt and ruin the head. I do have one of those retrieval snakes right by the engine, so a few minutes later, I had all three fished out.
I should look in there more often. Maybe I’ll find my missing books.
I had an abscess on my cheek. It didn’t seem that large, at least when it started.
I kept on thinking it would cure itself, well, at least it has some other times.
But this one kept on getting larger and larger. Sadly, it got to the size of a lemon, a large lemon.
At that point, I did what anyone would do, I took a selfie and emailed my dermatologist, a wonderful doctor at Mount Sinai. When I trust; I trust.
He responded promptly and told me to go get it lanced and get antibiotics. Good idea.
Now, the only downside of a cruising life is that one loses track of the days of the week. It turned out it was Saturday. So no doctors are working, I would have to go to the emergency room of the local hospital.
The marina office gave me the directions: a 10-minute walk, a two-minute little ferry ride and another 10-minute walk. No bad.
I arrived just after 09:00, good because they did not open until 9:00 a.m. Umm, French know when not to get sick.
There was only one other patient waiting and the nurse on duty spoke to me in very good English within a minute of my arrival. I pointed to the lemon on my cheek. They had a basic form to fill out, name, address and phone number. That’s it. There was a little section on my normal doctor, but I was told to leave that blank. I was taken into an examination room. There, a doctor’s assistant took a look, felt it, asked me some questions as to how long and any pain and called someone.
Only a few minutes later, I was back with the first nurse and she told me that they had made an appointment for me at 2:00 p.m. at the “big” hospital in Quimper, about 30 miles away. It was Saturday and thus this local hospital in Concarneau had no surgeon.
I was given a sheet of labels with my name and number. I just had to give each person I saw a label. I thought I was also told that the accountant was not work on the weekend, so I needed to return Monday to see her about payment. That was fine with me.
So, as I thought about this development, I figured that my not dealing with this problem during the week had cost me maybe a hundred Euro taxi ride.
But, it was not to be. My wonderful nurse, then told me that, while they had no responsibility to get me to the big hospital, their ambulance was heading that way in a few minutes, with a litter patient in the back, so I could ride “shotgun”.
I was so happy. My first ride in an ambulance. Though no siren, I suppose you can’t have everything!
The ambulance driver, a wiry woman, was very good, though she spoke little English. But like everyone I met, she really wanted to take care of me. Was the window open OK? I could open or close it as I liked.
Then since I got to the big hospital so soon, I read my book and was quite happy knowing this thing I had been living with for almost a month and feeling like a freak for the last two weeks would soon be taken care of.
So, just after 2:00 p.m., the doctor shows up who is going to do my “surgery”. I could tell he was the doctor because he just looked it. Small, compact man, certainly handsome, wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt. Like everyone I’d met, he just came across as both caring and so professional.
I could not NOT trust these people and this system. From the first moment earlier that morning, I had no doubt that I would be taken care of well and promptly.
So after an examination, he put a patch on my cheek that was an anesthetic and told me it needed 20 minutes. So then about 25 minutes later, I was taken to a room that seemed to serve as both an examination room and an office. A really cute moment was when his assistant reminded the doctor he should ask me my “level of pain” (Yes, the same 1 to 10 scale, but without the smiley faces). He asked and I said one, no real pain.
They laid me down, put a bib over my neck and chest and his assistant appeared with a little tray of instruments and they got to work.
It felt like it took an hour to drain the thing, but it was more like a few minutes. I felt no pain, but I do have an active imagination so I become tense when I think I should feel pain. Again, his assistant noticed that and put her hand on my leg which did help to calm my nerves.
Maybe twenty minutes later I was walking out with a few prescriptions. I asked for a taxi to take me to the train station where I figured I could get a bus back to Concarneau. While waiting for the taxi, I started walking and by the time the taxi came I was walking down the road, having figured out town was just a 15-minute walk.
The 40-minute bus ride cost only 2 Euros ($2.20) and that was my only cost so far.
The first few bandage changes and having to continue to drain the thing were pretty disgusting, but sometimes a man has to do what a man has to do (but I try to avoid that).
Today, almost a week later, I’m almost back to new. Well, maybe not new, but back to normal.
And tomorrow we leave for Spain.
My time in France has been pretty much as expected: wonderful wine, beautiful women and food, what can I say about the food, the French could cook a tree and it would be tasty.
But most of all, wonderful, helpful people in virtually every person I’ve encountered. IF I ever have to go to the hospital again, I may just return here.
Oh, by the way, on Monday morning, planning on leaving for our current stop in La Rochelle, I walked back to the hospital in Concarneau to see the accountant lady.
Upon entering the emergency room again, the nurse (yes, I actually do think they are real nurses) remembered me from two days earlier and when I told her I had come back to pay, she told me there must be some misunderstanding. I didn’t have to pay anything. On that, I thanked her and walked back to Dauntless to cast off.
My one disappointment in the whole affair, I still have my chipmunk cheeks!
31 hours into our passage to France, our second night out. it’s now 01:00 on the 15th of July 2016. I’ve just relieved the “boys”, who had their first watch without me for the last 4 hours. I had planned on sleeping another two hours, but I awoke and knowing the English Channel transit lanes were only an hour away, I figured I may as well get up.
Besides, nothing untoward had yet happened, and like the experienced manager taking the young prospect out of the game on a positive note, not letting mistakes happen as they fatigue.
Last night I had been alone, the boys sick as dogs. No, probably sicker.
I like the night, slicing through the water, the white mustache at the bow. There is a coziness the envelops the boat making us even more with nature.
We ran yesterday for 24 hours with the paravanes deployed. We needed them. The weather has been exactly as forecast, with strong NW winds 18 to 25 gusts to 32 for the first 12 hours after leaving Ireland. That caused for some rough seas, 6 to 12 feet.
The next 12 hours were a bit better, with winds decreasing to 15 to 18, gusting to 25 and they were more northwesterly. Then finally, yesterday evening they had died to 5 to 9 knots, so the seas quieted to just a few feet.
Now, as forecast the winds are westerly at about 8 knots. Not bad, not bad at all.
Paravanes worked well. I had changed the rigging a bit more since Scotland last month. They now run 17 feet below the water line and they are considerably more effective than last year.
The hardest part has been saying goodbye to so many dear friends and nice people in Waterford and New Ross. I think I’ll be back though, at least after we put a few miles on as we circle the globe. But I’m sure after a number of years and many miles, I’ll be ready for northern Europe yet again.
Just south of Waterford, we passed an old friend, Fastnet Sound. They dredge the channel just south of the Barrow Bridge, which has a tendency to silt up in the spot where the rivers Suir and Barrow meet. They then dock for the night across the river in Waterford.
Just picked up 2411 liters, 637 gallons, of gas oil, a.k.a diesel. That’s 4533 pounds of fuel, added to the 400 pounds she already had. Dauntless now sits a few inches lower than before, but looks ready to go.
And the engine room smells as sweet as ever, with no fuel smell, just the smell of new batteries and cables.
Now you wonder why all the fuss? Isn’t re-fueling supposed to be easy and routine? Well, if you are driving a car I suppose it is. I’ve filled cars with fuel thousands of times. But on Dauntless it’s been less than 30 times and on Dauntless, nothing is ever routine.
A few of the shenanigans that have taken place while fueling:
Being showered by a volcano of fuel at the Portsmouth, NH fish dock. Luckily, no fishing boat was waiting as I showered and got out of my fuel soaked clothes.
Succumbing to the fear expressed by my friends about running out of fuel, I purposely overfilled the tanks by about 10 gallons before leaving Rhode Island. This was soon followed by the little fuel runoff coming from the port side tank, a few of those extra gallons soon were in the bilge.
The most recent leak last summer that lead to the New Ross Experience. Much like the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Seattle, but more expensive.
And after each debacle, the next fueling are filled with dread; what will happen next?
So, as you can see, I have every reason to be elated about smelling nothing in the engine room.
Best of all, the 637 gallons cost half of what I paid to fill the tanks two years ago in the fall of 2014.
Tomorrow, with a full fuel and water load, Dauntless is ready to take care of business as we head south for France, Spain & Portugal.