Hindsight & Foresight

I love Atlantic Europe.  The people, the cultures, the food, everything.  The fact that these are all very old boating

My approximate route. Most of the little black dots are stops

communities, ties them together even more than language, though all of them do have Celtic ties and culture.

For a fascinating discussion of genetics and human migrations in Europe and western Asia for the last 50, 000 years, check out:

http://www.eupedia.com/europe/maps_Y-DNA_haplogroups.shtml

So, my thoughts return to two issues:

  • Should I have stayed in northern Europe for another year?
  • The route I ended up taking between Galicia in the Northwest corner of Spain and the Canaries.

First the additional year. I love Ireland, the people, even the weather (you never got bored). But Ireland itself is not really cruising country. Getting up and down the coasts can be a bitch, at best.  I did love A Coruna though. Why not there?  That was Plan B after all.

Then Schengen reared its ugly head.  For those of you who still don’t know what “Schengen” is, it was the city in Luxembourg in which almost all the countries of Europe (nothing to do with E.U.) decided to have open borders in 1989.  Open borders meant just that. Prior to 1991 or whenever it went into effect, one had to stop at each and every frontier and show passport. On my many drives from the Netherlands to Italy, that meant 3 border crossings. But they were pretty quick (nothing like the USA-Canada boondoggle). They never even stamped your passport.  While the rule was, you were allowed in 90 days in each country, no one cared and as I said, no one stamped passports other than at airports and not even then many times.

But with Schengen and the open borders, they decided they still had to control immigration.  Therefore non E.U. people could only stay 90 days out of every 180 days.  So, before you could move from country to country every 90 days a stay within the rules, now, you had to leave the continent or go to the U.K. or Ireland.  That’s why Dauntless was in Waterford.

Ultimately, I realized that to keep Dauntless in A Coruna for the winter would not be feasible, since I could no longer go to NYC for 3 months and then return.

By the way. So, Schengen was written to keep people from overstaying, yet today the E.U. gets about 200,000 people a month from Africa and the Middle East.

But they got Dauntless out so all is OOOKKK.

And another aside.  While those morons in Washington debate who to let in.  NO ONE, Dems or Republicans, talks about we have no system to track who leaves.  Wouldn’t you think if we really cared, the first thing would be using one of the billion computers the government has to track people as they leave and compare that list to who came in.   What a clown show!

Now, sorry for the diatribe.  My route which took me down the coast of Portugal and around the corner to Gibraltar.  I didn’t even see the Gibraltar Apes.

I suppose the real issue here is that we were really beaten up almost the entire trip from Porto, Portugal all the way to the Canaries.  By stopping in Gibraltar, I added about another 360 miles to our trip.

I actually had a sailor in France tell me that I should go direct to the Canaries from Vigo in NW Spain. But I wanted to see Portugal and I am glad I did.

The route I should have taken

But southern Spain and Morocco, ended up being exactly what I expected, hot, dry and dry and hot.

I could have spent those weeks in the Canaries.  The Canaries reminded me of everything I liked about Galicia. Great people, food and a boating culture.

Oh well, I’ll have to go back.

 

 

2016 Retrospective

Looking for something else, I came across my 2015 Post Mortem of my First Atlantic Passage.  It’s fascinating.  Makes me feel I should write another one for this passage.  I will, but also think I would like to do a compare & contrast, a great teacher’s tool.

But this is not that.  This is more about the how and why I went the way we went.  In thinking about this post, I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the past couple weeks.  But even now, I go back and forth, would I or would I? That is the question.

Rainbow of Ho Chi Minh City

Not my usual rainbow and sunset picture, but appropriate none the less.  Being in Saigon gives me the opportunity to think, reflect and plan for the future.

Being away from Dauntless, longer than originally planned, but in fact, it’s worked out for the best.  When I am on Dauntless, short term takes precedence.

As I have reflected on the events of 2016.  I found myself racing through some places I really loved, like Galicia; while staying months in places I really didn’t, like Southern Spain, Morocco.

It was a tumultuous year, in every aspect.  The year started with Dauntless was in the capable hands of the Kehoe Boys in New Ross, Ireland, another place I miss very much.  I, in the meantime, was in NY and then Julie and I took a trip to Galicia in mid-February to see if we could keep Dauntless in A Coruna or Vigo, for the winter 2016-17.  We both loved Galicia as much as we thought we would.  Thus, Plan A to return to North America became Plan B.

Plan B: Ireland, Scotland for the summer, then France in August and Galicia by mid-September for the winter. Now, the Schengen three-month rule really puts a crimp on spending time (and money) in Europe for non-E.U. cruisers, but I’d spend the off times in NY and USA.

Then Life Happened and the Plan Changed, again.

Even before leaving NYC at the end of March I found myself going back to Plan A, getting Dauntless back to the New World.

So far, so good.  Plan A would get me to Asia sooner rather than later.  But I did not think about how much I liked the cruising in Ireland, Scotland, Atlantic France (Brittany) and Spain (Galicia).

The route from Ireland to Panama is dictated by climate and currents.  Not a lot of options, but I’m not sure I really thought about the choices I did have well enough.

And that will be the topic of my next post.

 

 

Smoked Out; It’s Time to Get Out of Dodge

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.

A smoke filled Sky
A smoke filled sky

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.

Baiona, where the Pinto had landfall returning from the New World.
Baiona, where the Pinto had landfall returning from the New World.

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.

Everyone wants to have their picture taken with the Bandera Americana.
A Polish friend in Baiona. Everyone wants to have their picture taken with the Bandera Americana

That works.

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.

We anchored in this small harbor just north of this Catamaran and trawler.
We anchored in this small harbor, A Guarda, just north of this catamaran and trawler.

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.

A Smokey Sunrise
A Smokey Sunrise

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?

 

 

A Change of Plans Redux

Crossing the Bay of Biscay
Crossing the Bay of Biscay to A Coruna

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.

wp-1470576383076.jpg
Vermuteria Martinez in A Coruna

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.

Charles Aznavour, “Come è Triste Venezia”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spain – What’s Not to Like?

Just got back from a quick, one week, reconnoiter of Galicia in northwest Spain.

NW Spain and Northern Portugal Spent the first two nights in Leon; Then on to Oviedo and Aviles, just NW along the coast, though we stayed in a hotel inland. Then onto A Coruna for two nights and finally Vigo for two nights.
NW Spain and Northern Portugal
Spent the first two nights in Leon;
Then on to Oviedo and Aviles, just NW along the coast, though we stayed in a hotel inland.
Then onto A Coruna for two nights and finally Vigo for two nights.

A great week, that just confirms that the Dauntless adventure on the Iberian Peninsula this year and 2017, will be fueled by fantastic food and wine at prices that even a New Yorker would love.

Everything good, nothing bad, don’t even need any of my usual qualifiers. And that includes two run-ins with the police that were so very helpful, not punitive; an example of what every inhabitant of this planet yearns for.

So much was good, people, wine, food, hotels, costs, etc. So here are just the highlights:

  • Leon – City of free tapas. We spent 4 hours going to 7 different places, drinking a total of 8 glasses of wine (each) and eating delicious tapas at each place.  Total cost 30 Euros or $35. Try that in NYC and the bill will be 10 times more, PLUS 20% more for tips.
  • Our favorite place in Leon, Meson Jabugo.
  • Wines & Tapas – I loved:
    • Ribera del Duero, Rías Baixas aka Albariño; Ribeiro.
    • My favorite tapa, morcilla, simply because it was so good. In Leon, the cured beef, sliced like the Jamon, was also great.

      wp-1456518564317.jpg
      Cathedral in Leon
A Leon Favorite
My Leon Favorite

We went to check out these two towns in particular because they are large, good transportation access and most of all, the marina is within minutes of the town centre:

  • A Coruna – The heart of Galicia. Only slightly more expensive then Leon, but Dauntless can’t get to Leon.  Galicia is Celtic and the similarity is evident in the people.  We took in the military museum after checking out the marina ($300 per month in October).  We had gotten to the museum about 5:15 p.m., 45 minutes before it’s closing.  Virtually empty of visitors, a wonderful.

    Morcilla
    Morcilla, eaten with the bread and wine. All this cost $7
  • Vigo – The largest city in Galicia. Here the cost of the marina for a month for a Dauntless would be around $400, but it’s a year around cost and includes electricity.

Encounters with the police:  EEKwp-1456518551979.jpg

The first time I pulled over
The first time I pulled over
  1. Went to get car upon leaving Leon. We had parked
    Pizza as a tapa and free. Total cost here $3
    Pizza as a tapa and free.
    Total cost here $3
    Going down the pass
    Going down the pass

    just outside of the old center, but evidently, on the wrong street.  My mistake, the hotel staff had told me exactly the area I could park in and this block was one block sooner, but I misinterpreted the parking sign.  Yes, I know, cats speak better Spanish than I.  So, I get to the spot and see no car.  But I do see the spot it was in and as it had just rained, it was clear I had just missed the car disappearing by less than an hour.  Two hours later, after having a great visit with the policemen of the traffic police, we were underway.  Total cost was about $150.  The police were so apologetic from beginning to end.  I was relieved that the car had not been stolen nor damaged and it was clearly my mistake.

    Downhill, the snow is letting up
    Downhill, the snow is letting up
  2. Leaving Leon, we have headed north northwest, over the mountains to the coast of North coast of Spain and the city of Aviles, where I wanted to check out the marina. We took the smaller road N-630) and avoided the autopista.  As we got north, we started climbing into the mountains, the clouds came lower and lower and the light rain turned quickly to snow and then very heavy snow (2-3” per hour).  Our rental car had crappy summer tires, but I do know my snow.  Going ever slower, we made the summit of the pass, at an elevation of about 5,000 feet (1800 m).

I was relieved, as going uphill in always more problematic, so my plan was to wait until a snow plow came by and follow him.

The north coast
The north coast

OK then I discovered that traction was really bad, temperature too close to freezing, so the snow plow track was icy. It was better on an unplowed road. And in fact, I had to get on the shoulder to stop the car.

After waiting a bit, maybe 15 min, it was time to try again we did at a slow speed, but I was in second gear and this let the car get going too fast, maybe 20 mph.

Vigo
Vigo

We come around a curve, and there is a car off the road, with a police car behind him, but a policemen was standing in the middle of the road.

Marina in Vigo
Marina in Vigo

I go to slow and pull left, but any braking action, even with the anti-lock brakes, did not help and I realized that I was close to losing control in this curve.

So first I honked the horn, to warn the policeman standing in the road and then got totally off the brakes to stop the skid and knowing it was the only way to get around the turn.

After those seconds we went around the curve in the outside lane and on the next straightaway, pulled to the shoulder to stop, which we finally did in about 12” of snow.

We bought our food for the flight the next day here
We bought our food for the flight the next day here

We were stopped, but now stuck.  I waited a bit to think about the ills of the world and the errors of my ways.  About 10 minutes later the police came by and I did not know what to expect.  In the US, at best they would give you a lecture, at worst, give you a ticket and tell you the road is closed, so you must stay there for the rest of your life.

Empanada Morcilla (Masa Gallega) It was different then Leon, but excellent; not too rich.
Empanada Morcilla (Masa Gallega)
It was different then Leon, but excellent and not too rich. We had hesitated at buying such a big piece ($5), but we gobbled it up and it was sooo good. A wonderful way to end our trip. Every Day was Perfect.

Being in Spain, we got neither.  Instead, probalby grateful that I had not run him down, they were very helpful, he asked me what gear I had been in, I told him second and he said I needed to be in first gear, so the car doesn’t get going so fast (this was a 15 degree down grade).

We thanked him and he was gone.  I tried getting the car out of the ditch and after a bit of thinking, (front wheel drive cars always have better traction in reverse) I got out and we were underway again.

In first gear for a few miles until we were down to about 3,000 feet and the road was not so steep, at which point, all was right with the world again.

I’m really looking forward to being in Spain and Portugal this coming year and into 2017.  I wanted to share the details above because it is indicative of Europe in general and Spain in particular.  In all my years in Europe, I have never been in such friendly countries as Ireland and Spain.  I’m sure the Celtic connection is part of that reason.  I am looking forward to meeting new friends and having new adventures.

The fact that Spain is the most affordable country I have been in Europe in the last 20 years just makes this choice even better.

Anyone who wants to see Europe, but has a limited budget, 2016-17, will be the time to take advantage of Dauntless’ hospitality.  It won’t be until 2019 in South Korea before we experience such inexpensive places again.

The fact that Spain also has some of the absolute best wines and food, just make it ever sweeter.

And here is ashort, cute video of happy kids in A Coruna