Picture of Rock of Gibraltar at sunrise as seen from La Linea

Waiting in Gibraltar for the wind to play nice so that we can leave, we thought we would only have a few small tasks to complete and we’d be off. Having just spent 10 weeks in the boatyard giving almost every inch of this girl an overhaul and a load of long awaited TLC, we thought we would only have a few tweaks to make to our new rigging and maybe a few little glitches to iron out before heading south. Wrong again!

Murphy, Sod whoever it is in charge of these things, has been getting in the mix again.  The only things we didn’t touch while in the yard, because we thought they were fine, decided to ’shit the bed’  If you  think you want the cruising life, you better be someone that likes DIY because most of your trip you’ll be fixing your boat in exotic places. We thought there’d be time now to sit back and enjoy the ride. Boy were we wrong!

On the way here, we had a little baptism of fire. We had everything from no wind at all to 30 Knots on the nose with a decent swell running. Not what the weather man had predicted.  Just when we really needed the “iron horse” to help us out a bit, the engine stops and we find we have a serious fuel blockage.  We staggered into the bay at Barbate to get a little shelter, though it was still pretty lumpy. We stayed  just long enough to change the filters and see if we could get some joy out of the engine.  Success, progress again in the right direction until we reached the headland at Tarifa,“the windy city”. Here we always expect the wind and the waves to be at their liveliest and this trip was no exception.  Once you reach Tarifa it’s not that far  up the Straits to Gibraltar and we thought we’d be there in time for breakfast, or brunch at the latest.  No such luck filters clog again and we arrived at La Linea at tea time having spent the entire day tacking up the Strait against 30knots of  wind and the current.  We thought by 5pm it must surely be “Beer O’clock” only to find the fridge that has been keeping our drinks delightfully cold in the boatyard all summer  long, has also decided not to play nice.  I can drink most things, but not warm beer!  And when I said go south till the butter melts, that’s not quite what I had in mind!!

We Spent what should have been our down time in Gibraltar, chasing round after a sheet of Aluminium so we could make a big inspection hatch in the fuel tank and give it a really good clean and for some fridge gas so we can get the beers chillin’.  Before we knew it our sleeping cabin was filled with the pungent odour of diesel and metal shavings everywhere.   Don’t you just love boat living?

Then came all the jobs we had actually planned, tuning up the rigging, that had now had its first good stretch; making a few repairs to our Bimini; realigning the frame of our solar panels, which seemed to have suffered a bit of abuse and was looking a bit Squiffy; filling up with provisions and catching up on a bit of blogging and editing. 

Now It’s all up to Hurricane Ophelia to stop messing with the wind  and then we can make tracks.  Next stop Arrecife Lanzarote and I’m sure there will be more jobs on the list by then.

 

How to go about provisioning for a boat trip   (with difficulty!) 

For a few weeks of cruising for the holidays provisioning for the trip is no big deal. The easiest way is to plan the menu for each meal on each day plus a few snacks and shop for that, job done. You don’t have to actually cook the things in the order on the plan but you will have the ingredients for all of those meals.  

When you are off on your travels for a couple of years or more the simple truth is you can never take enough stuff.  For me as an all-out foodie neither do I really want to.  For me going to markets, supermarkets and small shops in foreign places and seeing what different things are available there, things I may never have seen or heard of before and learning how to prepare them is an adventure all of its own. I can’t wait to get stuck into all the tropical fruits and vegetables Brazil has to offer, to learn their names and delight in their flavours.  I’m sure plenty of them I already know from the time I spent living in Malaysia, though they may come by different names in  Brazil,  I’m sure I’ll manage to find a plethora of things I’ve never eaten  before and I’ll enjoy the chance to try new recipes with them.

The adventure of newness aside, I’m still going to provision our boat with of all the things we like and as many of the things that I know will be difficult to find as we travel Including ingredients for my gluten free diet.

Tea, coffee, sugar, bread, some form of milk and chicken these things you can find everywhere.  Flour and Rice are also readily available though I know from experience that in most countries outside Western Europe they come complete with their resident beasties and that’s just a fact of life you have to learn to deal with. You can sift them out or float them off in most cases, or just get used to a little extra protein in your diet.  I remember reading Annie Hill’s account of life aboard where they toasted their Ryvita’s to re-crisp them and then flicked off the weevils that came crawling out of the holes with the heat before they ate them.  I remember thinking right then that if anything on my boat ever got infested with beasties like that it would be straight over the side!  But having spent some time in the tropics where much of the food available for sale is contaminated you just have to learn to get on with it and add the extra rinse or sift into your cooking routine. 

Other things even things we consider staples like eggs are not so plentiful in some of the places we have been.  I’ve been experimenting with some recipes that use Aquafaba, usually a waste product on lots of boats to see what recipes are possible with it as a substitute for eggs.  If you don’t know what Aquafaba is, it’s the gloopy liquid that comes in cans of beans and peas such as chickpeas that most people throw away when they open a can of beans.  I have tried it as a binding agent in baking, for pancakes and to make mayonnaise so far and the recipes have come out perfect.  As fridges are generally small on boats, if they have them at all, and tins are a large part of any boats long term supplies  I’ll be planning my cooking to include the gloop from the tins as well as the normal contents. 

I’ll also be squeezing in some of the things that I know are expensive over-seas like good wine which is ubiquitous and cheap here in Portugal, good olive oil and  good honey a must have in my cupboard as I come from a beekeeping  family. Good honey is the cure for so many things I don’t know how to live without it.  (An in-depth topic for another blog maybe?)  Olive oil in Portugal and Spain is often eaten as a substitute for butter which is difficult to store on boats unless you can find it in tins as it takes up valuable fridge space.

The other thing going in our bilges are a few special ingredients that make the holidays without old friends and family feel festive.  For me Christmas is not quite Christmas without mince pies and for Steve its Christmas Cake and sausage rolls so to make the party happen I’ll be stashing some dark brown sugar, treacle, suet, dried fruit, mixed spice and some decent port and brandy.  I think it’s important to think ahead to things like festival times and bring the ingredients to make it a moment to remember. The devil is in the details. Without those small reminders of Christmases gone by, our next one could just be another bbq at the beach with a load of boat-bums. What will make that one any more festive than any other beach  bbq  we are likely to enjoy?   A few dodgy carols playing on a beat box in the background?  No way! Let’s feast and be merry!!

 

SV Fatpadds Catamaran in Olhao Bay at sunrise with orange sky
SV Fattpadds in Olhao Bay

 

Thankyou Mareijke Van Ekeren for the fantastic photo of Fatpadds in the bay at Olhao

Boatyard Friends

Some of the most long lasting sailing friendships are the friends made in boatyards rather than in a little anchorage or a port somewhere.  So often in the cruising life you only pass through each place and that’s not enough time to build true friendships. It always takes more time than anticipated for the new parts for your vessel to arrive so in the boatyard you get the chance to actually get to know your fellow sailors.

Assembled boat friends Drinking coffee under the boats
Coffee time in the Boatyard

Now back in the boatyard almost exactly 6 years since my late partner Chris and I spent a few weeks in this very yard  building a new dinghy together. It drags back so many memories, actually of good times we spent together and lifelong friends we made right here.  There is just a big taint of sadness that he’s no longer here to share the next adventures with us.

Building that dinghy turned out to be the last big project we did together and repairing it was the first big project Steve and I tackled together when we first met. 

rear View of Dinghy just completed with Chris and I beside
Mieow dinghy Just Completed with Chris and I
Front view of Completed Dinghy
Mieow Dinghy front view


 

Poor ‘Mieow’ suffered a bit of damage when she got wedged under someone’s jetty while I attended a ‘singlehanders’ party one night.  Big tip! If you are going to a party where everyone will be arriving by dinghy be fashionably late so your dinghy is on the outside, not wedged in a compromising position by all the other boats. Another big tip! When they say its marine ply in this part of the world, don’t believe them, it never is.

 The upshot of the altercation with the jetty – she needed a whole new floor. 

Self built colourful plywood dinghy
Mieow Dinghy

The bonus is she got a lovely new paint job making her look much more at home with the local boats.

So just being back here in the height of summer is dragging up a lot of stuff for me. Grief changes you. The person that was here with Chris went with him. The life I had back then, all the plans we had, all had to change the moment he got sick.  I guess  in actual fact you find yourself grieving for your own life, the one that you planned, that has been taken from you as much as the loss of the person you love.  You then have to reinvent yourself in a new world without  the  soulmate that made you feel complete and try not to let the brutality that life throws at you sometimes  make you bitter and hard. 

“When life gives you lemons” 

I know I know, make lemonade, but you need water and sugar to make lemonade.  Chris always used to say “I want to complain to the management” when things didn’t turn out quite the way we anticipated and by management he usually meant me, though sometimes it was just out there for whoever is in charge of bad luck.

It’s taken me 5 years to get all my ducks back in a row. We left England all those years ago, on a mission to see as much of the world as we could. Then life gave me lemons and the dream was on hold for a while.  But it’s still there it was my dream and it’s still strong. Life is not a rehearsal and time and tide will not wait for you. Few people end up regretting the things they did.  At the final hour they regret the things they didn’t do. So here’s to lemonade, cheers!

Well now I’ve got sugar, well a ‘sweet thang’ back in my life, Steve, and a whole lot of water coming up! But I’m not sure about lemonade – I think mines a Caipirinha.

Brazil here  we come!                                                                                                                                                      

 

 

Culatra the perfect chill-out zone for dreamers and doers.

 So we are sitting in this lovely anchorage surrounded by boats many of which we know waiting for the high spring tide on Friday so we can be lifted out of the water.  We came a little early because with “Squeak” on board we didn’t want to risk an awfully lumpy passage if the weather wouldn’t play but while we need  a decent high tide to be lifted out we also need a nice and low tide to make it under the low bridge at Vila Real de Santo Antonio with our 23M mast. So we have a few days or R&R and pottering, before the work begins and what better place to do it, than Culatra.

 Culatra  a unique place seen  by many  sailors as the “chillout zone”. A place to spend your summer, away from the ferocious inland heat with the sea breeze to keep you cool, clear water  to swim in and long sandy beaches to stroll along and collect seashells.  Then retire to one of the islands bars for a sun-downer, where if you speak just a little of the lingo you’ll be made to feel like one of the locals who has lived there all their lives.  It’s the perfect place to kick back and do nothing all summer long.  

To many this is the perfect life that everyone dreams of, especially those on the 9-5 daily grind working for the ‘man’ with no end in sight.   But how do they do it without going out of their tiny minds?   To spend my summers with so little to do seems like both a torture and a waste.  Sure I dream of moments, like the night-watches  on passage when I am all alone in the darkness with nothing for miles around me but water and starry skies. Then I have time and space to plough through all the books on my reading list that I never seem to find time for in our everyday full tilt life or simply to  sit and contemplate things .  Just passing time doesn’t do it for me though, and fortunately not ‘him’ either. In that regard we are the perfect match.

I believe there are two kinds of people in life; ‘doers’ and ‘thinkers’.   We are doers.  I don’t wish to downgrade thinkers. Some of them, are the  creators  or inventors of new ideas, and the world would not be evolving without them.  Some are just the dreamers of dreams however, and their life’s ambitions, sadly will only ever be, lost dreams.  We are busy turning our dreams into reality.  I have often said I would be happy to die anytime.  I don’t mean that in a morbid fatalistic sense, I don’t want to die, at least not yet.  It’s simply that if I had tried to cram any more into the life I have already had, there wasn’t time.  And I’m going to keep living my life that way!

Yesterday this popped up on my facebook feed and I reposted it on my timeline.  Sure I still have a pretty big bucket list and I hope I manage to do most of it but if not, I’m more than happy with what I’ve achieved.  There is so much out there though, so many possibilities that I find I am now picky and  hard to please.  One white sandy sunkissed beach with palm trees and crystal clear water is a lot like another to me.  There needs to be more to keep interested, thinking  and  building those knowledge banks. I don’t want to be the ‘doer’ that rushes impulsively from one thing to the next without thinking . I want to be the best of both, the intelligent doer who can      apply what they have learned  to making their dreams come true.  

In the meantime – more doing and less dreaming as off to the boatyard we go.

 

And then there’s the cat!  

Cat's Garden
My Garden

Is it fair to take her with  us knowing all the challenges she’ll have to face? Or is there some kind soul out there willing to look after her till we get back?

the big trip

Getting ready for the big trip, there are so many things to do its difficult to get your brain in gear. There are so many things competing with each other for your time.

Obviously there is a ton of work to do to the boat to get her ‘Ship Shape’ for the trip. All the systems need to be serviced;  engine, generator, self- steering, water maker, winches, pumps  etc.  Our SSB has to be set up and reconfigured to talk to a new computer, as the old one blew up. The Dinghy needs to be patched and a new cover made, and the list goes on….

In a few days’ time we are off to the boatyard to scrape back the hull to zero and apply Copper Coat. We know that won’t stop the dreaded beasties altogether but it will mean that we can at least clean the hull without rubbing off all the antifoul. We need  to take the mast down and replace some of the 12 year old rigging.  Our boat has very sophisticated B&R rigging with no backstay so those wires have been under a lot of tension for a long time and have probably earned their retirement, but we will see when we get the mast down.

We are in the fortunate position that we have been here many times before, we know what we are up against and we have a few t-shirts in the bag for getting ready for the off. We are not first timers, sailing out into the complete unknown. This may prove to be a ‘swan song’ trip for us as the boat now has to compete with a Motor Cycle tours business and a rural property.

Yet in spite of knowing what we are up against, the list is long and daunting and at times confusing. Not only is there the boat to get ready, but the house needs to be put in a state that we can leave it; or we need to find someone to rent it. We have had to find someone to keep the garden under control when we are gone so we don’t get a massive fine from the fire department.  Wild fires are a huge issue here in Portugal and letting your plot go, puts all your neighbours at risk.

Then there is all the paperwork to sort before heading off the grid again.  Everything needs to be sorted while we still have a proper address that people can reach us at. Here in Portugal all your bills have to be set up to be paid by direct debit or in person by a friend as its impossible to pay when the ‘system’ knows you are outside the country.  Everything has a built in GPS these days and ‘Big Brother’ knows your if you are not home.

Then there are all the Visas which need to be applied for, while you are still  in your home country, inoculations to get up to date and health and dental checks to take care of. A big stash of your usual medication needs to be ordered and the emergency drugs you might need if something bad happens on the trip, far from any doctor.  The checks are not just for you though, what about the cat?

We never wanted to have a pet because we knew that sooner or later we would want to get wet feet again. But two years ago this little scraggly bag of skin and bones appeared on our doorstep looking for food. She was so weak and thin she could barely stand up.  We felt so sorry for her we gave her some food, and the rest as they say, is history.  Now we have the choice to either find some nice person to look after her while we are gone or turn her into a boat cat, but for that she needs to be got ready too.

 She also needs the once over from the vet, the inoculations, the chip and the pet passport before we can go.   It would be a big wrench for us to leave her, as she has got very attached to us, and we to her, but she’s a campo/country cat used to running about, chasing crickets and climbing trees. We’re worried she will find life aboard too sedentary and will miss her local feline friends.  Also we took her on a little trial trip for a month last summer, she did very well adjusting to a different life.  Although she wasn’t actually seasick though, she got so wobbly her legs wouldn’t hold her up and looked awful green about the gills when the weather got a bit lively. 

We are running out of time now to find another good  home for her and she and the ever lengthening list of jobs are starting to keep me awake at night.  Ever notice how the lists only get longer? At least two jobs go on before one comes off.  But…

If you wait until everything is done, you will never leave.

Cat Nap
Cat Nap

So we have checked the tides, which for our deep draft boat, is crucial and set the date.  Hell and high water, ready or not, first week in September if the weather will play we are off! 

 

                                                                      Cat or no Cat?

 

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Actually we don’t know what State we are in. Currently we are in Portugal and have ourselves, what we believe to be, a little slice of paradise to call our home. Neither Steve nor I want to return to the UK/frozen north to live full time. We both feel we are much better suited to warmer climes.

Having already voted with our feet to leave the UK it was in our best interest that the UK remains in Europe which allows us the freedom to live, work and travel anywhere in the Union.   On the eve of the referendum, we sat glued to the television and eventually went to bed feeling relieved that it seemed like the status quo would prevail. We awoke to find shock horror that Britain was leaving. Don’t get me wrong, we agree the European parliament has become an enormous, self-serving unwieldy beast that needs taming and massive reform, but for us leaving may turn out to be a catastrophe.

The problem is we just don’t know, nobody knows and when you are trying to launch a business, the wait is both agonising and financially crippling. Our grand plan for our little slice of paradise is to build a small holiday complex from which we provide motorbike tours in this stunning countryside. With beautiful scenery, empty roads and warm sunshine what’s not to love?

We had just about put the finishing touches to our first cabin and were getting the plans finalised to start the next one when the folks back home upset the apple cart. Well the upshot is all our plans are on hold. If we take the most pessimistic view and prepare for the worst, then we can only be pleasantly surprised. In the meantime we have a sadly neglected boat, which has had to play second fiddle to our building projects for some time now. So while all the politicians scrap and knock heads we are off sailing until they sort it all out. Knowing how they operate, we could be gone for some time!

So Brazil here we come!!

We both fancy a new cruising ground that neither of us has visited before. When we have seen enough of Brazil, we will venture slowly northwards. Cuba has been on my bucket list for many years now so it’s on the itinerary too

First though, there is a ton of work to get through to prepare for another epic adventure. Its exciting times and we can hardly wait. Already we have reached the dichotomy where the lists get longer and longer but time speeds up. So much to do and so little time …

Hi folks

We are just about to embark on a brandnew adventure.  

This is where we will keep you up to date with our progress and setbacks. 

For the next few weeks we will be posting updates on our preparations for the trip. Once we set sail you will be able to follow us to many exciting new locations on distant shores.

You can also check out our progress on our You Tube Channel, Bella Vista. Click the video link on the home page of this web site, to take you straight there.