A Hard-Knock Life

Live well. It is the greatest revenge.
The Talmud

Many moons have passed since the last update, I hear some people were even wondering if we were still going. Well, reports of my death are an exaggeration, as Mark Twain said - I was simply too involved with the project.

But let's start from the beginning. The last crew of Walde, Elin, and finally Kenny departed from Figueira da Foz, leaving me to my own devices. I crammed all the gymming and relaxing into the first week of my stay until Marco "el subcommandante" G turned up, who very kindly lent me a few days of his time to install a few beds on the boat. He brought with him Italian cuisine, taught me a few phrases in his native language, and generally turned out to be excellent company. Thanks Marco!

Later that week, we were joined by charming Jo G. I bought a moribund outboard off my Frenchie neighbour, whom I had met in Camarinas before, tried to calibrate it for a day, and stuffed it into big hole (port side locker for you nautical geeks) for future reference. Following a bit of fiddling of the anchor and a few other maintenance chores, we were ready to go to Nazaré, which entailed motoring about in lots of swell and very little wind.

The classic Portuguese Nordeiro wasn't really working for us in that it either wasn't present or a bit too strong, a sign of impending climate collapse no doubt. The marina in Nazaré is run by a retired master mariner from England, a real character, who doesn't want anyone to leave, wildly embellishing the weather reports and talking about gales and monster swell. With some success, forcing us to have a prolonged stay on the fishing dock since the marina was overflowing with other boats waiting for a break in the 6-7 bf onshore with 3+ metres of swell.

Nazaré is a pretty if somewhat touristy place, and we all soon had a nice sunburn to show for our beach visiting efforts. Eventually my old friend (and master mariner) Nils and his partner Sybill arrived, and we decided to depart for Peniche in spite of the adverse conditions.

Survive to tell the tale we did, although just about everybody felt a bit nauseous from the swell-induced tumble dryer action. In Peniche, we befriended a crazy local fishing boat captain, Fernando, and a couple of tourist boat captains he had dragged along to our BBQ, who turned out to be great company.

They took us to the local tourist attraction, an offshore rock called Ilha Berlenga for lunch (I had never eaten Ray before), and we all got fed well and hilariously trashed on Fernando's massive fishing boat. One day I woke up and realised I had a flight to catch: It was time for a week-long holiday from my holiday to Austria for a family event.

Following my break, I was joined by Victor the Bavarian, an experienced sailor. I also had a couple of other people lined up, but while people love to chat for a bit (not a big deal), some like to flirt it all the way up and announce their arrival dates and everything - they just don't bother with the actual showing up bit (much to my annoyance).

We spent a couple of days in Peniche, attended a Sardineira (free sardines giveaway), had more sardines and choco BBQ on the boat, and attended a festival in a nearby village (name of both escapes me at the moment). We then went on an overnight leg to Cascais.

Fernando had kindly given me the coordinates for his private buoy there, since the marina is famously overpriced, but the waterborne cops turned up to inform me that the buoy is registered for fishing boats only, blabla, while he was - perhaps involuntarily - doing his best to make me laugh with his broad rambo stance and evil sunglasses. Just for the record: The police are NOT my friend.

Especially when they force me to anchor and use my tiny dingy to serve a crew of 4: In Cascais, we were joined for a very brief stint by Swiss friends Eric and Saskia. The wind adhered to the forecast 6-7 NW for a change, and, having anchored quite a ways off the beach, we were unable to collect Victor and Saskia in the dark for health and safety reasons. This meant a better share of the previously purchased food and lager for myself and Eric and a night in a hotel lobby for the landlubber portion of our crew.

The next day, we set off for Sesimbra. After a few hours of motoring, the journey turned out nicely and we had a brisk sail past Lisboa, and ended up drifting towards the village on the lee side of the cape in scorching heat.

Sesimbra turned out to be a touristy but surprisingly pretty place. We spent a night in the overpriced marina (EUR 40!), which was right next to the sewage facility. It took us a fair while to work out where that stench was coming from. Another sardine bbq later, Eric and Saskia sadly had to leave on other holiday engagements (its a hard knock life, as Jay Z sang in his more savoury days prior to his merger with post-modern pop music).

We then anchored off the beach for a day or two, before travelling to the Algarve - we stopped over at Sines, an industrial port, which turned out to be not nearly as ugly as promised - something I cannot say of Lagos sadly.

Even though I enjoyed partying this Britaineer-dominated place on an interrail trip a couple of semestres ago, my comeback tour was more than upsetting. I'm not sure if it was the marina fee (EUR 60!!), the overnight trip there (motoring in heavy swell all night long) or the Australian flyer dude (who nearly annoyed anyone for the last time ever when he jumped into my face that night).

Be that as it may, we departed uggers Lagos the next day and spent a day at anchor and snorkelling the delightful rocky coast of the Algarve, followed by an overnight trip to Tavira, where I met some friends of the family.

Victor departed to see his missus, leaving me to relax and enjoy the beauty of Tavira - touristy in a low-scale, camp site and tiny town way - and its many young Portuguese and Spanish visitors. We did get rather confused on several occasions and even considered spending the winter at anchor here.

After a week at anchor (EUR 0.00 :) I was joined by Reinhard, a well-travelled mechanic from Germany, who has actually motorcycled around the world before. He immediately attacked the outboard issues I'd been attempting to bodge in Figueira (calibration of carb, cleaning of a tiny valve), making little boaty much faster - and life at anchor much more pleasant. Thanks Reinhard!

We caught a rope in the prop in town, so we were back to rowing speed for a day whilst we were searching for the correct type of pin. (You can still see me carrying around the Yamaha prop in the next pic hehe). Sigh.. Around this time, we were joined by the two couchsurfers Timo and Anthony. Timo has his own blog [German] by the way.

We were just hanging out doing some touristy prancing about town, something I'm usually not too prone to do, but we were waiting and waiting for the Portuguese postal service to deliver a package from home to our friends house. Even though I might add that hanging out in one of the more tasteful tourist resorts in the Algarve in August isn't all that bad.

We did a lot of ferrying back and forth on the dingy, which was great fun, especially when the fast tourist watertaxis razzed by and swamped little boat. For you nautical types, the freeboard was just absurdly low, even for a protected anchorage like Tavira. Inflatable dingy has moved a few notches up the wishlist ;)

Naturally, we had another sardine and choco BBQ in true Portuguese style - i.e. get covered in squid ink, olive oil and lager, the jump overboard for a quick rinse - before we departed for Ayamonte in the Guadiana river, which separates Spain and Portugal at the southern end.

We actually went to the more touristy Ilha Cristina first, but were refused entry to the marina because monster is just too monstrous. The woman at reception claimed that she had told me so in our radio exchange upon approach - but obviously not waited for me to confirm this. Grrr. So back out and around to Guadiana it was.

Ayamonte is a lovely and relaxed place a few miles up the Guadiana. My packages have finally arrived, and time to move on it is.

In defense of the glorious amateur

The white men are landing. Cannons! Now we must be baptized, get dressed, and go to work.

Having received some fanmail, I decided to make up a quick response. Find the full message below.

"couple of young tourist guys jerking off along the sunny coasts of europe,drinking beers partying and blaring of with such confidence, trying to finance a cruise with others money and help.Spontanious decision making and comfortable ports to repair,(an excuse to drink and show off),thank goodness for the trades.Think you that you are the first to do this trip?When you wake up and require help seriously get a pro on board and pay.In the mean time have a good one while it lasts."

Dedicated to fanmail dude for inspiring me :)

Land of milk and honey

But I forsee that if my wants should be much increased, the labor required to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my forenoons & afternoons to society, neglecting my peculiar calling, there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I shall never thus sell my birth-right for a mess of pottage.
Henry David Thoreau

We successfully escaped pretty A Coruña following 3 weeks of partying while waiting for the hydraulics and autopilot to be fixed. Tobi departed around this time, so we were down to two crew. We had hugely ambitious plans of sailing around Fistera into one of the Rias, but soon realised that we were actually far too knackered from all the goodbyeing. We pulled into a tiny fishing village. The single pontoon marina indicated by my otherwise fabulous Reeds guide turned out to be mere fantasy so we anchored out in the harbour on a perfectly calm night, rowed ashore for some tapas and the obligatory docking lager, and slept until late the next day. We entered our intended destination of Camariñas in good form as the Frenchies say - albeit a day late. We stayed in this lovely fishing port waiting for fresh crew to arrive. The locals, super charming people, either catch fish or put them in tins. One rather attractive girl explained her job is to rip the heads of pulpo. This was accompanied by a vicious looking illustrative gesture. Needless to say I was deeply impressed.

After a few days, Elin and Walde from Sweden, and Jan from Austria arrived. We went out on a traditional killer pool getting to know each other outing in the local bar.

We motored around Fistera on a near-calm day and entered the Ria Arousa. The Friday night wasn't particularly special so we moved onto Vigo the next day.

We did a beautiful 8-hour daysail, sailing down the sizeable Ria Arousa, cutting across Ria Pontevedra, and all the way to Real Club Náutico de Vigo. My GPS went down two hours prior to arrival, so we were left guessing for the correct marina entrance (there are a couple in Vigo), and after docking I actually approached some locals to ask if we were in the right place, Captain Ron style.

The marina turned out to have lovely facilities - sauna, gym, and pool all included in the price. We were all rather pleased with this. The boat was packed, we had fish bbq with snails and mackerel sashimi, as well as some legendary goodbye nights with Fraser. He achieved this by pretending his flight was the next day for three consecutive days. The stupidity climaxed with a joint topless dance around a pole that some genius had planted on the bar in one of Vigo's more popular gay clubs. Some friends from A Coruña came to visit around this time, and an old friend whom I had dived Honduras with for a month back in the backpacking days came in from Sweden on a two-week holiday.

We motored out to the beautiful Isla Cies on a perfectly calm day. This is actually a nature reserve, and, having been told by marina dude that obtaining it would take 8 days, we decided to have it anyway by mutual consent.

We dropped anchor off the main beach in a delightful setting..

.. had some Oysters

.. a little snorkelling session

.. and did some self-important shit-talking.

Sadly that's when my lovely friends, the Guardia Civil, came razzing around the corner at full speed. We all scrambled in a particularly obvious fashion to get the anchor in, the chain got stuck in the top of the chain locker, and the whole scene was actually quite comical. The police didn't actually bother us any further which was nice.

We sailed down to Bayona and tied up stern to in the tasteful Monte Real Club de Yates. It's right under the old castle, which has now been converted into a luxury hotel.

Its always something, and if it isn't one thing, its the other.. Luckily Walde worked out a simple fix for the genoa furling system. We celebrated San Juan, a huge beach party that coincides with Corpus Christi, some absurd Catholic spectaculum, while it actually demarcates midsummer - a perfectly legitimate excuse for any serious atheist and pagan sympathist to join the locals.. It also sort of coincides with Swedish midsummer, which we celebrated in proper Swedish style with a dinner made by Elin. Thanks Elin!