Preparing to move on

With only six weeks until our planned departure from Aguadulce and the start of our 2015 cruising season, we have been taking advantage of my father-in-law’s car to get some much needed jobs underway.

Last week Julian took the sails and the spray hood to a sail maker in Almería for repairs. The sails have some small tears and rips – on the canvas and along the seams – that will turn into big rips if not dealt with soon. The spray hood shelters the cockpit from head wind and spray. I have never been able to sail with it in position, as the plastic windows are so weather beaten they have lost all transparency. Julian is tall enough to see over the top of the spray hood when at the helm but, being a short-ass, I have to helm with the elements in my face! When we removed the spray hood for storage before Christmas, one of the window panels cracked from old age. New transparent plastic should make for more pleasant motoring and sailing for all from now on.

Another day last week Julian drove to the chandler in Almerimar to stock up on items he will need when the boat comes out of the water in March. During that week he will thoroughly clean all those parts of Carina that sit below the water line – hull, keel, propeller and rudder. He bought five litres of anti-foul – enough for two coats of paint that will protect the underwater parts from sea-critters. He will also replace the old sacrificial anode with the new 2.5kg one he bought. Gradually, the anode dissolves away into the water, thus protecting the metal parts of the propeller and the engine from corrosion.

The next big purchase – both in terms of size and cost – is new anchor chain. We currently use half chain-half warp, and the chain is old and rusting. We want to move to 100% anchor chain and this week Julian plans to look at some chain for sale in Roquetas de Mar.

All of these jobs would be much more difficult and more expensive to carry out without having access to a car. Although we find living without a car in general very easy – we don’t even think about it – there are times such as now when having a car comes in handy! So, thank you to my father-in-law for letting us use his while he’s visiting.

And where do we plan to sail in six weeks’ time? Well, we’ve narrowed it down to east, west or south!!

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Shifting focus

Though the sun beats down and the temperatures still hit the mid to high 20s every day, there is a change in the air. The days grow a little shorter (though not as dramatically as we are used to at higher latitudes), it’s now cooler in the evenings, and when we wake each morning there is condensation on Carina’s hatches. Autumn is here and winter isn’t far behind.

I never shared our full sailing plans on my blog, in case they didn’t happen, or in case we decided to follow a completely different tack. But now that we have almost completed what we set out to achieve for the summer of 2014, I can tell you that our plan from the beginning was to sail from Plymouth to the Mediterranean. We are now 215 cruising miles from the Straits of Gibraltar, the entrance to the Mediterranean.

We still might not get there. Along the way we have considered other options. Spending the winter up the Vilaine River in Brittany was a possibility we toyed with. It had its advantages, but our desire to sail more was too strong. Even after crossing Biscay, we thought we might go back to the Vilaine. But the prospect of a cold wet French winter, not unlike the winter in the south-west of England, ruled Brittany out for us in the end.

The Galician Rias were tempting, but they are exposed to the Atlantic, which can turn angry in winter, and which drops a lot of rain on north-west Spain. As we sailed down the Portuguese coast, we considered the marinas at Albufeira and Vilamoura and were excited to see what they would be like. But we were disappointed by Albufeira, as the marina lacks a washing machine (and the nearest launderette is 2km away) and the cost of Wifi is extortionate. We found the marina and town itself soulless, and I couldn’t imagine being there for a week, let alone six months. We didn’t stop at Vilamoura, as an Internet search revealed that the winter rates at the marina are beyond our budget. We may sail to the Rio Guadiana, which marks the border between Portugal and Spain, and consider the possibilities of spending the winter there.

As August dissolved into September our focus shifted. We are no longer in cruising mode, and instead are looking at each destination as a potential winter base. We have had a couple of places in the Mediterranean in mind almost since the moment we left the UK, but anywhere between here and there could potentially be the place where we rest and regroup for the next six to nine months. Carina will soon be in need of more concerted maintenance. Her sails are in need of repair, her hull needs to be anti-fouled, and we have a long list of smaller jobs besides.

I have a winter of writing ahead, with a couple of projects I hope to complete and a great number of ideas swirling around my head that long to be committed to the page.

One or other of us may look for a temporary job, to refill the coffers, but whether we do or not depends on a variety of factors.

And then there is the planning ahead. Already we have begun to toss ideas around, dreaming of future sailing possibilities. Those plans are very much in the fantasy stage at the moment, but we both look forward to having the time over winter to research and plan, taking into consideration our finances, our sailing abilities and Carina’s capabilities.

I wouldn’t have been surprised, come August, to have found ourselves still in Devon or Cornwall. Despite our plans, things could have taken a different turn. All too often I’ve met sailors with big plans who are stuck for weeks or months at a time due to engine failure, broken masts, or a host of other unexpected problems. So to find ourselves in the Algarve, on Portugal’s southern coast, at the time of year when we had originally planned to be here, is remarkable and wonderful. We are delighted to have made it so far. Gibraltar and the Mediterranean lie ahead, if we choose to go that far.

The Infinite To-Do List

Julian solving a rigging problem

Julian solving a rigging problem

Julian makes lists. Jobs to do, repairs to be made, replacement parts to be purchased. I wish we kept all those lists. That way we’d have a better sense of what we’ve accomplished in the past nineteen months. But new lists always replace the old, growing longer and longer until he runs out of space. Julian’s lists are palimpsests, living archives of his endless battle to get the job done.

Recently, we had to renew our boat insurance. The insurer wanted a copy of Carina’s most recent survey and comments on the actions we had taken in response to the surveyor’s recommendations. That proved a worthwhile exercise. I remember when we received the survey report, shortly before we bought Carina in November 2011. That list of repairs seemed insurmountable. When we went through the list a few weeks ago we discovered that we – and by ‘we’ I mean Julian – had set right all but one of the surveyor’s recommendations. And that final recommendation – to repair the heater – will be seen to in July when we have a new heater installed.

Our hero

Our hero

We have now moved well beyond the survey recommendations and there are always new things to do. On July 1st, Carina will come out of the water for one week. Julian will clean the hull and paint on a new coating of anti-foul. The riggers are coming on board to replace all the rigging, which is now twelve years old and has seen a lot of action. The rudder bearings will be checked, the mizen and genoa sails will be sent to the sail maker for repair, and a new mainsail will be made. And the new heating system will be installed.

Besides these very big jobs, Julian spends much of his time making ongoing minor repairs and keeping things in running order – servicing the engine, keeping the sea cocks in working order, ensuring the bilges are dry, repairing ropes, servicing winches, varnishing, oiling, cleaning, checking for wear and tear, for rips, leaks, breaks, frays.

A couple of months ago we bought a new life raft, and on Saturday Julian attached the life raft cradle to the stern. The dinghy had a slow puncture which he located and repaired a few days before. Currently the solar panel works, but the connection to the battery is dodgy and needs his attention. A port-side stanchion is bent – we have no idea how – and will need to be replaced.

Sunset at Baltimore

Sunset at Baltimore

I can almost see the cogs in his brain turning and clicking into place as he prioritises jobs, thinks about what he needs to buy and what he has in stock, factors in weather windows and other time constraints for completing tasks. We couldn’t live on board Carina or sail her if it wasn’t for Julian’s ability to work through problems, devise solutions, and teach himself new skills. In a very practice sense, he makes our life aboard Carina work.

And he manages to do it all at the same time as being full-time stay-at-home parent to Lily and Katie, while I go out to work. He puts all our meals on the table, he educates the girls, and he takes care of all the day to day aspects of life. He’s my hero.