Winter storage

Firday, September 16th, 2016. – Berrrrlinn, Tschörmenie

I am stranded at the airport Schönefeld in Berlin. Delayed on my way home. And in Lagos, Portugal, mala moja is sitting in her winter storage. So we’re both in a similar situation, although at a different scale: we don’t know when our journey will continue. Mine might in a few hours. But i’m pretty sure that tomorrow i will be at home. Mala moja has to wait much longer. Maybe she will continue next June? And maybe not.
But one is for sure. For now our journey is over. Time to look back?

Looking back is often more comforting than the actual experience was. One does tend to forget the hardships and remember the good parts. A simple self-protection mechanism. Them good old days, ey?! So what do i see when i look back at the past months, trying to be objective?

Great sunrise when entering Lisbon after a night’s sailing from Peniche
Great sunrise when entering Lisbon after a night’s sailing from Peniche

First: i did already feel quite an urge to go home again. I would not consider myself being a person prone to homesickness, but this journey was different from my previous “adventures” (in my opionien “adventure” is quite a big word). The biggest difference: i was all by myself. And that is and was also the biggest challenge for me. Not that i did not frequently receive help from other people! Be it mentally and emotionally during preparation (before i even left) or when i was feeling low along the jourey, or people i met and who gave me a hand or just spent some time with me. But at the end, i was alone on mala moja. And that was all but easy for me.

Fisher in Lisbon’s harbor area
Fisher in Lisbon’s harbor area

So one one of the things i’ve “learned” is, that i really don’t know if i’m a sailor. And if somebody wants to call me one, i most definitely am not a single-handed one (navigateur solitaire, as the French call it – great song though ;). Sailing to me is a team-thing. And people that want to really go sailing have to have patience, time and devotion for it. And it was beautiful for me to experiece and thus realize that too.

In general this trip probably gave me a different perspective on things. Although i assume it’s yet too early to say – or write – something like that. But i did struggle with my “slow” progress very much until i came to Fécamp and had my (home-visiting) break there. Not that i was all that happy about still being in the Channel when my initial plan was to sail the Mediterranean by then (beginning of July). But i embraced it. And tried to enjoy as much of it as i could.

(Almost) last night in Lisbon
(Almost) last night in Lisbon

Also, this “attempt to embrace” is not something that i learned at once – i don’t even think that i “really learned” it. Just 3 days ago i was realizing that i way too seldom just sat on mala moja at anchor or in harbour and watched at the horizon… doing nothing. Often it was a bad conscience that made me itchy. For no reason. It actually is the same as at home, when i feel like i am wasting time. And i don’t have a solution for that yet. But i think that i may have gotten the idea that it is necessary to be content with the “wasting” of time. Or in other words: consciously appreciate the luxury of having time to do nothing. And most important: THEN also DO NOTHING. Not surf the internet or distract oneself from doing nothing.

So another thing is: doing nothing can be sweet. If done properly. And doing nothing can be agony if it is getting too much. But this, again, is closely related to solitude. Sailing longer trips alone gives you time that you cannot fill with “distracting” chores. So it’s reading, or – if you’re capable of doing that at sea – maintenance, little naps and the like. And sitting around letting your mind circle.

Departure from Lisbon for the last leg of the journey
Departure from Lisbon for the last leg of the journey

Another thing i learned: fog is not a British thing at all. Apparently at least. The fog i experienced was once in the North Sea and then a lot in Spain and along the Portuguese coast. And fog is not funny. Although the chances of meeting (i.e. hitting) another boat are fairly small – especially since all big commercial boats have to have AIS and thus show up on my screen – it still leaves those “small”, invisible vessels that could win the lottery.

I guess the ultimate take-away is that life on a boat makes you a bit more conscious and sensitive. The lows feel lower, the highs are higher. Maybe it’s because you live more intense. Even though your life is not directly in danger if you do things cautiously, you are still at the mercy of the elements. And you are alone – even more if sailing alone. So when you enter a new harbour, they are all beautiful. When you get to meet new people they are all interresting. A sunset, a sunrise or the milky way in all it’s glory, some hundreds of miles away from any other soul are just… humbling.

My last sunset at sea... beautyful silence, yet sometimes painful when in solitude
My last sunset at sea… beautyful silence, yet sometimes painful when enjoyed in solitude

Sure, things can easily wear off. Camariñas, the harbour that was smelling like pine when we entered it, did smell like a waste-fish-place the next morning. Some people i met turned out to be quite dull after a first meeting. But then again… Camariñas will remain for me as being that nightly bay that had this irresistable pine-smell to it. And a lovely village – dispite the smell – in the morning. And i am looking forward very much to see Martin and Eva from SY Emil again – maybe next year in the Mediterranean, at an anchorage in Greece? – and Kathi, who i did get to know and like quite a bit along the way.

And then there is mala moja. The boat that i bought “blue eyed”, as the german saying goes. Not having had a clue about the sea, boats or sailing. There is definitely a lot of things that i would have done differently if i knew then what i know now. But then again: nothing that is really worth too much discussion. Though, yes, it would be quite nice to be able to stand upright inside the boat, especially if on (and in) it for months 🙂

Marina de Lagos, mala moja’s last harbour on this trip. At the south tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
Marina de Lagos, mala moja’s last harbour on this trip. At the south tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
Taking in the beach in Lagos.
Taking in the beach in Lagos.

And there is, another thing i’ve learned, constantly something to be done and fixed on a boat. Mala moja does in any case need some care taking. The engine needs to be fixed – or actually the engine’s electrical circuit. There are three “leaking” hatches (not bad, but annoying), the underwater ship needs another layer of anti-fouling, the winches maintenance, the wind vane fine-tuning, the sink should be newly sealed, some lines need to be exchanged, the broken (old) autopilot would be nice if i could fix (and have as a backup), …

After all, i would say it was good that i did this trip. Although some find it extremely brave to do, i don’t see it as such an act of bravery. To me the conscious decission to have a kid is much more brave. But i got to know “the hard way” that it takes quite some energy to do it. And i often thought about how much easier it would be if i were not doing this trip. But then again… there were these moments that were just good.

And i hope that next year mala moja is going to go through the Strait of Gibraltar, up to Barcelona and then east, east, east into the Mediterranean. With me and a (small but good) crew.

But, that is just a whish, an idea i have…

Mala moja’s last journey - out of the water and onto a concrete parking place. Sad.
Mala moja’s last journey – out of the water and onto a concrete parking place. Sad.

(Cover photo: Mala moja’s and her skipper’s last night together. Time will tell what is to come…)

South, south, Portugal

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016. – Peniche, Portugal, part II

In A Coruña we moored just next to SY Emil who’s crew (Eva and Martin) welcomed us in España. In A Coruña we stayed for almost a week. I had some work to do, the city needed exploring, the Tapas bars a visit and the engine a check. I bought a new alternator, but that was money spent on learning the hard way. Apparently the alterantor is/was not the problem. And i still did not figure it out.
And the weather (and the skippers stomach 😉 ) threw us back once we tried to leave A Coruña. Apparently (way) too much Paella… rumor has it that there was a bit of partying involved too.

Street view from a Jamoneria in A Coruña’s city center
Street view from a Jamoneria in A Coruña’s city center

Kathi had the luxury of being temporally unconfied. And, to my pleasure, decided to stay a bit longer on board of mala moja. So we headed out to go around Cabo Finisterre, also known as Cabo muerte. Fortunatelly no humans died on the trip. Unfortunatelly the auto-pilot did. So we broke off the trip and headed for the first harbour (Camariñas) instead. We reached it just before midnight and were greated with such an intense and beautiful smell of pine tree when we entered the dark bay… it was wonderful.

A man walking his dogs while we were exiting A Coruña on the way to Cabo Finisterre
A man walking his dogs while we were exiting A Coruña on the way to Cabo Finisterre

Without being able to fix the autopilot we continued south taking turns on the rudder. The next stop was Muros, where the autopilot could not be fixed either. From there we headed for Vigo, which has several authorised Raymarine-dealers. One of them ordered the complete pilot for me (urgent delivery) as spare parts for a repair were all but (economically) feasible to try to get a hold of.

Kathi on mala moja on the way southwest...
Kathi on mala moja on our way southwest…
Sunset with a broken autopilot - but good spirits ;)
Sunset with a broken autopilot – but good spirits 😉
Home made tapas - can’t be that hard to make them, right?!
Home made tapas on board of mala moja – can’t be that hard to make them?! … thanks Kathi 😉

We stayed two nights in Cangas and waited for the delivery of the autopilot. I had office work to be done, Kathi used the time to explre and then we also had some wine and tapas to be tasted. Vigo we just wanted to visit briefly to pick up the autopilot. But i got mala moja in the wrong marina (they have 4 or more and my Vigo-map was lacking detail) and so we had to walk over an hour until we reached the city center itself. But we got a) to walk through the industrial harbor and b) the auto pilot! With that little precious we headed for Bayona where Eva and Martin from SY Emil were anchoring.

We reached them just before midnight and they were kind enough to let us go alongside, so we did not have the hassle of dropping the anchor at night. The next day we had breakfast together, i put in another office-day and at night we headed out for an overnight sail to Porto with SY Emil.

Morning at anchor - with stand-up paddlers swarming into the bay
Morning at anchor – with stand-up paddlers swarming into the bay

Eva and Kathi both got sick with a twisted stomach (no, no parties this time!) and again we had strong fog on the trip. It was really good to have SY Emil with their radar in front of us. So we followed them to Porto with about half a mile distance through the foggy night – without physically seeing them.

Sailing into the sunset and south with SY Emil
Sailing into the sunset and south with SY Emil

Around noon there it was. Laying before us was Porto! The first goal i wanted to reach. At the end of August instead the end of June – but well, one never knows when sailing 🙂
The city still is a marvel. But the Tawny Port did not really hit my taste as it did the last time i was there. To me it seemd, that it had gotten much more “liquory”. Maybe just a perception twist? Well, we needed to investigate that and did a thorough tasting.

Tiled houses in Porto
Tiled houses in Porto
Porto’s iron bridge spanning over the river Duoro
Porto’s iron bridge spanning over the river Duoro

Slowly routine was building up. Kathi explored the surroundings, i had office work to take care of and the engine remained unsettled. But all good things have to come to an end. Kathi had to return home for a job interview and so it was just mala moja and me again.

 

Taking the ferry over Duoro river for a last supper on mala moja
Taking the ferry over Duoro river for a last supper on mala moja

The next day Eva and Martin headed out for Lisboa with Emil and i followed – a few hours later – with Peniche in mind. Unfortunatelly the wind died off at night and so i had to turn on the engine. As this was the second time to have it running -after the brief starting phase- it meant to have it running all the way. But with the wind hiding somewhere there was no other option anyhow.

It was my first solo sail over night and i was hoping for more sleep. But the traffic was heavy. The fishing boats along the coast, several without AIS, did not let me go to sleep for more than 10 or 15 minute stretches. And in the second half of the night fog settled upon the sea. Not so funny.

With the fuel running low -and no desire to fill the tank with the 25 liter canister in the waves- i decided to make a stop in Figuera da Foz and wait for less fog. The fog did not go. So neither did i. Instead i was invited for supper on board of Ho’okipa, a katamaran sailed by a russian couple who we first met in A Coruña.

Yersterday the forecast said that the fog will go away and thus i headed south when it started to get thinner. But it came back. Under engine (too little wind again) i chuged south, reading Bukowksi (recommended to me by Kathi). Dolphins cheered me up. A fishing vessel that came out of the fog just some 100-200 meters away frightened me. It did not have active AIS. And had it come not from behind but approaching from front there would have been quite little time to react. So i started to really look forward to reach harbour. I did so at shortly past 2200. Despite the wind blowing with gusts of 15 knots the fog persisted. Spooky to go around a cape with the lighthouse invisible and hence just the fog signal crying.

Close encounter in the fog - the ship had no active AIS.
Close encounter in the fog – the ship had no active AIS.

Inside the harbour the wind still blew with gusts of 15 knots. The “marina” in Peniche is tiny. In this conditions maneuvering is all but funny – and definitely not easy for me. Add more than poor visibility and no free berth. I was extremely glad when i saw a guy moving aboard a moored vessel. So i shouted if i could come alongside, he helped me to tie mala moja to his boat and after a glass of Port i went to bed with my second (Factotum) book of Bukowski (i finished my first -Post Office- along the way).

So here i am. In Peniche. In earyl post-season and in the fog.
By the beginning of September i saw myself somewhere in the Adriatic or in Greece, cruising between picturesque bays. But that was 5 months ago. And several hundred miles of experience.
By now i do have a return date (Sept. 22nd) and subsequently my time aboard mala moja is less than three weeks. My icehockey team’s season is starting this weekend in Vienna. Without me.
Mala moja and i will not reach the Mediterranean.

People fishing in the fog on the cliffs of Peniche
People fishing in the fog on the cliffs of Peniche

I have a few more days left and quite some stuff to do. Meeting “the Emils” in Lisboa before they head for the Carribean is a must, office work does not stop, and then it is sailing further down south towards the Algarve where i want to find a place for mala moja to stay there over winter.
Mala moja and i will not reach the Mediterranean; this year…

(Cover Photo: A simple restaurant in the fishing village Afurada, on river Duoro just west of Porto)

Transbiscay

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016. – Peniche, Portugal, part I

Damn. Time really flew by.
Over a month since my last post and sooo much has happened. To pack all this in one single post is (more than) challenging.

It’s a Saturday and i am in the middle of Portugal, as the beginning already gives away. As my last post came from Roscoff, which still lies inside -albeit at the edge of- of the English Channel, i apparently did make a bit of a geaographic progress.

Currently i am “struggling” with engine problems. The motor battery’s juice is being drained when the engine is running. This…
a) should not be the case, as the alternator should be charging,
b) means that after i let the engine run for several hours i cannot turn it off and on again (whithout charging it in between), which,
c) in theory, is not soo bad as I) the boat is a sailing boat and II) there are work-arounds to it, but
d) sucks.

Getting ready for Biscay - securing the spare diesel canisters. Enough to cross it all on engine - if really necessary (i mean: it’s a SAILING boat)
Getting ready for Biscay – securing the spare diesel canisters. Enough diesel to cross it all by engine – if really necessary (i mean: it’s a SAILING boat) and the engine works.

This problem first occcured in the middle of Biscay. After the first day the wind died down and so we – next story – had to switch on the engine and motored through the first night. In the morning of the second day the wind picked up and we turned the engine off again. Until in the second night the wind grew strong enough to shorten sails. I decided it be easier to do with engine support and wanted to turn it on. But instead of a sound there was nothing. Silence. Well, it’s a sailing boat and wind there was plenty. So we reefed without the engine. The next day i checked on the problem and found the battery completely empty. The volt-meter read 12.1V and with less wind i could hear the engine fan turn on and the starter making a few revolutions. But it was far from starting. So the question was: take care of it now or tomorrow before we reach the spanish coast?

Sunset over Biscay... miles and miles and miles away from any soul. Pure quiet :)
Sunset over Biscay… miles and miles and miles away from any soul. Pure quiet 🙂

Fortunately enough we decided take care of it now. So i got the engine-battery out of the compartment, fixed some spare wires, rewired the solar-charger and gave the engine-battery 2 hours worth of (almost) southerly sun. Battery in place i skipped pre-heating of the engine and there it was, the ship’s diesel running like a charm again. A bit later the wind died off (completely) and we were happy to have the engine running – even though it meant that it will run through the night -no matter what- to reach Spain with a working engine.
The alternative (turning it off and eventually having to be towed into harbour) was not even close as the wind just kept too low for sailing all through the third night and beginning of the fourth day. In addition a thick fog settled in. With a flat sea and drastically impaired visibility we approached A Coruña.

As i did not want to make the trip accross Biscay myself (primarily due to sleeping breaks, but also for moral backup and a better time) i did try to find somebody spontaneous enough to do it with me. I was already preparing to do it on my own when Kathi, who i had gotten to know a while ago in Vienna, spontaneously decided to come along.

A whale blowing in the Bay of Biscay...
A whale blowing in the Bay of Biscay…

For her it was the first time sailing (total respect for that!), so everyhting was new to her. But for me quite a bit along the trip was new as well… Dolphins swimming along with mala moja not (for me). But being there, several hundred of kilometers away from any artifical light (spare the boat’s position light), made the Perseids meteor shower even more intense. Just after we sailed over the continental reef we had whales blowing some 200 or 300 meters away. Then the fog-approach of A Coruña. Somehow a pitty not have a “landfall” in Spain. But we lucked out: as we approached the harbour the “Tall Ship Race 2016” just left it… and we found ourselves swimming against hundreds of ships. The dozens of “Tall Ships” from the race were accompanied by hundreds of little boats who accompanied their running out. And all in this fog setting… awesome!

The first of the "Tall Ship Race" flotilla exiting A Coruña on our way in.
The first of the “Tall Ship Race” flotilla exiting A Coruña on our way in.

And hence, there we were: Spain! The south! Biscay left behind. In reach of Porto – which i had envisioned as my first “goal” of the trip. How things changed.

Celebrating landfall after 3 days at sea. In the sun of the south :)
Celebrating landfall after 3 days at sea. In the sun of the south 🙂
The south. Finally. After months i’m there... (unknown guy in the sea)
The south. Finally. After months i’m there… (unknown guy in the sea)

(Cover photo: Spain’s coast before A Coruña covered in fog… a “silent” landfall)