An evening photo of the Anchorage near Arrecife with two moored sailboats

 

Its golden hour and we are sitting in the cockpit enjoying the tranquillity.  We sip a little sun-downer and wait for the sun to do its magic as it dips below the horizon.  I will never tire of the beautiful colours at dawn and dusk.  We have come out to anchor to escape the stress of the battery drama which despite our best efforts to avoid, was spoiling our trip.

To cut a long story short, the new batteries we had bought before leaving, transpired to have been sitting on a shelf for over two years before they were sent out to us. By the time we arrived in the Canaries the “new” batteries were not holding any charge.   Getting the mess sorted out, replacement batteries organised, freight forwarders and customs agents to clear in the replacements  with lots of added costs and complications then became our problem to deal with.

Knowing that batteries cost two or three times more in the places we are heading to, we replaced the whole bank of house batteries on the boat. They were still working perfectly.  In fact they are doing a sterling job keeping things running at the house in Portugal while we are away.  They are as old as the boat though, and could have caused us a problem further down the line. So we changed them out.  The new batteries arrived just before we were leaving, when our to-do list was as long as our arms. So we stuck our meter on them, they seemed fine and we put them in. Good to go!

I’m kicking myself now.  It so happens that they have a serial number on them and unusually a manufacture date printed on the top. Had I checked we’d have sent them back straight away.  Normally I am the t crosser, I dotter and small print reader in our house. Chris used to always accuse me of being a pedant, back in the day, though the words pot calling the kettle black, spring to mind when coming from him.

 Because we had so much to do before leaving, I didn’t check everybody else’s work. So we found ourselves, going through the dramas of replacing the batteries, in a far flung place. The very situation we were so keen to avoid. 

Getting out of the harbour and escaping to a calm anchorage the stress just fell away. We had stillness and freedom of the open sea around us. We took our first swim of the trip, in lovely clear water that didn’t feel cold, and started to feel right with the world again.

 As we sat sipping G&T’s in the cockpit we were treated to a great spectacle by the Arrecife Club Nautico as well.  A procession of little boats all manned by young kids came out past our boat. They sailed out beyond the sea wall into the bay to practice.  It was glorious to watch the next generation of sailors learning the art of mastering the wind and taking charge of their own piece of the planet for an hour or two. What freedom, to make their little craft go where they choose. It made me think that parents make so many decisions in their kids’ lives for them. How nice for kids to be in control  of their own self-contained world, that is a sailing dinghy, even for just a few hours each week.

 I do some of my best thinking when I have hours to spend messing about in boats. I Hope they’ll all turn out to be great thinkers one day.  Not too much dreaming though, as there is nowhere more punitive than a small sailing dinghy for making a bad decision. The next thing you know, you are swimming out from under a capsized boat.

Still, it’s not whether bad things happen to us or not, it’s how we recover that counts and sailing does teach you resilience at times.   Resilience is such an important attribute for life. In the words of Winston Churchill “it’s how we go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” It’s how we manage to enjoy this trip despite of all the things which keep going wrong.  Never mind, we were able to go back and collect the replacement batteries with renewed enthusiasm after our couple of days at anchor.

 I wish I’d have learned to sail at a young age.   It’s my one regret that we live so far away from our nieces, nephews and grandchildren and we aren’t able to teach them to sail.  At a young age children have no fear and they learn so quickly.  Maybe one day they’ll spend the holidays with us and we can get them messing about in boats

I remember back in the days in Plymouth with my ratbag ex-husband we often spent the weekends on our boat surrounded by his grand-children.  I remember the first time we got in a bit of a blow with all of them on-board. We were so worried about their safety and the fact that the experience might be scarring them for life but not so.

The boat healed over dramatically and the younger ones fell into a heap, in the bottom of the cockpit (best place for them) as their legs weren’t long enough to brace against the opposite side.  The older ones couldn’t wait to tell their friends at school how cool it all was.  After that day the lovely calm sunny days that we adults enjoy were considered slow and “boring” by them with constant calls of “make it go faster grandad, make it tip”

There is nothing like a stiff breeze and a quick sail, whats not to love?  But I’m hoping for a lot more calm boring sunny days, with no dramas from now on in.

 

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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!