Monday, 23 January 2017

Sunshine Blogging

Viki from Astrolabe Sailing nominated us for the Sunshine Blogger Award, given from one blogger to another for positive, creative and inspiring blog posts.  Thank you very much, Viki!  Coming from you (how many magazine articles have you published now?) this is indeed a great honor.

Alas, we feel inadequate to respond as we should.  We always feel awkward giving people advice about how to undertake and fund a life afloat, for example.  Who wants to hear “work hard, save every penny, and wait for retirement”?  That’s not our advice to anyone, it’s just the way we did it, more or less.  We are also not very good candidates for the award since we can’t really pass on the blog love.  I’ve curtailed my blog reading this year since we only have decent internet during the winter months, and I noticed that all of the blogs I do follow have already been nominated! (…and with good reason.)

So instead of making an attempt to participate fully, I’ve tried to answer Viki’s questions using some of my favourite quotes that I’ve been saving up for a rainy day. Even if it doesn’t always make much sense, I hope you enjoy it!

What do you enjoy most about traveling and or sailing?

Voyage, travel, and change of place impart vigor. - Seneca

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -Dorothy Parker

For the born traveller, travelling is a besetting vice. Like other vices, it is imperious, demanding its victim's time, money, energy and the sacrifice of comfort. -Aldous Huxley

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. You have no idea of what is in store for you, but you will, if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes in the spirit in which the gods may offer it”  -Freya Stark

The sail, the play of its pulse so like our own lives: so thin and yet so full of life, so noiseless when it labors hardest, so noisy and impatient when least effective.  - Henry David Thoreau

What are the most challenging aspects of your adventurous lifestyle?

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. – John Steinbeck

Security is mostly a superstition.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.  –Hellen Keller.

What evil luck so ever
For me remains in store,
’Tis sure much finer fellows
Have fared much worse before.  - A. E. Houseman

We accomplish more by prudence than by force. -Tacitus

How do you fund your sailing and travels, and what advice can you give to others wanting to do the same?

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
A thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.
— Jalal ad-Din Mohammed Balkhi (Rumi)

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  -uncertain (usually attributed to Twain).

Too many people spend money they earn to buy things they don’t want to impress people that they don’t like.  -Will Rogers

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your back pocket.  -Will Rogers

The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.  -Bruce Lee

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.  -Thomas Jefferson

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
-Thomas Edison

What is one off-the-beaten path location you’d recommend that we visit?
(replace train references with boat ones!)

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

If you have a book you re-read often, what is it? If not, what’s your favorite book?

Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing-about--in--boats; messing-about in boats--or WITH boats,” the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. “In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not.”  -The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graham

What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten or drunk while traveling?

Okay – no quotes for this one:
Sea urchins.  Despite how much butter and garlic you add, and no matter how much wine you drink to wash it down, it’s still just gross.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

The word that is heard perishes, but the letter that is written remains.  -Anonymous

Or don’t you like to write letters?  I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.  -Ernest Hemingway

When did your passion for sailing/traveling start and how did you make your dream a reality?

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.   -Antoine de Saint Exupery

What is one item you can’t live without when you are sailing/traveling.

It’s hard to find a good quote about sun screen!  SPF 50 every 2 hours (recommended; we usually do well to apply it 3 times / day). 

Where are you from, and what are some fantastic things to see in that part of the world?

The south coast of Brittany in France is rimmed with islands and archipelagos, where isolated sand beaches and shallow turquoise waters can resemble the Caribbean. One tourist brochure is marketing the southern coastal islands of Brittany as the “Breton Caribbean”.  The comparison is a pretty good one until you dive into the 18° C / 64° F water!  The main islands off the coast that are “musts”:  The Glenans archipelago, Groix, Belle Isle, Houat and Hoedic:  all with idyllic anchorages, gorgeous beaches, beautiful islands to discover on foot (Glenans, Hoaut, Hoedic) or on bike / scooter (Groix, Belle Isle).   

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your travels?

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.  -Maya Angelou

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Uninteresting Places

In French, there is a sailing quote that says (roughly): “sailing is the most expensive, slowest, and uncomfortable way to go from one place you have no reason to be to another place you have no reason to be.”  When I told this as a joke to a friend recently, she asked why we didn’t simply travel fast (e.g., not by boat) to spend more time in the interesting places rather than spending so much time and effort to land on the edge of nowhere. 

Widow selling dried fish in Nazare, Portugal.

Shady lanes of the old town, Muros, Spain.

I don’t remember what my answer was; some blundering stale version of the voyage being half the fun, I suppose.  But this week, while reading Alexander’s Path by veteran traveler, explorer, and spy Freya Stark, I found the answer I wish I’d given:

A good traveller does not, I think, much mind the uninteresting places.  He is there to be inside them, as a thread is inside the necklace it strings.  The world, with unknown and unexpected variety, is a part of his own leisure; and this living participation is, I think, what separates the traveller and the tourist, who remains separate, as if he were at a theatre, and not himself a part of whatever the show may be.”

Cathedral entrance, Porto, Portugal.
One of our favorite things about traveling by boat is meeting people, both fellow sailors and locals who don’t live in an area inundated by tourists.  As globalisation slowly erases our cultural differences (or accentuates and polishes them in an artificial Disneyland-type attraction for tourists), traveling slowly to the uninteresting places provides a last chance to experience a rapidly disappearing world.

Repairing fishing nets, Galicia, Spain

That said, next season’s cruise to the Balearic Islands and Sardinia will hardly be saturated with uninteresting places.  I am, however, searching for what appears to be an extinct cultural experience:  a nice nightclub in Ibiza for timid old farts on a budget!  How uninteresting! 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Season Kick-off 2017

The temperatures hover around freezing, a thin layer of ice fringes the port, and our thoughts turn south towards sun and warmth as we begin planning our 2017 sailing season.  (And having just gorged our way through the holidays, the photo theme is “the things we ate” from our 2016 cruise.)

They try to tell you that these are very light...
Our current tasks:

1.  Buying / borrowing the necessary nautical guides and charts.  I’ve begun our route planning and have been scouring others’ blogs for tips on anchorages and ports (mostly about ports to avoid…).  We will probably spend the month of May along the Spanish coast between Gibraltar and Alicante, then June-August in the Balearic Islands, moving on in September and October to our wintering ground.  I’ll plan two options:  an ambitious one that will take us to Sardinia for the winter, or a more tranquil cruise towards the Spanish / French border.  No, we aren’t making much “east” in our Med cruise, but we’re taking time to enjoy the trip.  We won’t be coming back a second time later in life.

Octopus, beaten soft and sauteed in olive oil, salt, and mild red pepper.
2.  Making visiting cards.  This is something we always thought was a little silly until we ended up scribbling our names and contact information on scraps of paper all summer while others passed out fancy cards.  We’ve met so many great cruisers out there and enjoy staying in touch as we cruise along the same waters.

Spain has the biggest and best razor clams on the Atlantic seaboard; sauteed in a little butter, garlic, salt, and parsley.    
3.  Buying a laser rangefinder.  At first, I was against this, seeing it as a potential source of conflict.  Patrick: “The rangefinder says we’re 30 meters from the nearest rock.  We can anchor here with NO PROBLEM!” Me: “And does your magic rangefinder tell you if there are rocks UNDER the water next to that jagged coastline?  Huh?!  We’re moving!”  Then a friend told us how useful rangefinders are for those famous “Med Moorings” where you need to start dropping your anchor 3 boat-lengths away from the dock as you back into a spot.  So far in my planning, most of the med-style moorings in ports have lazylines or buoys so we won’t need to use our own anchor, but I’ve now decided that a rangefinder is a nice gadget to have on board.

An electric wok cuts cooking gas use by half or more !
4.  Thinking about flopper stoppers.  We plan to do a lot of anchoring this year and fully expect that many of the anchorages will be rolly and lumpy because of swell.  I have my trusty riding sail, but that’s only useful when there’s wind.  There are lots of swell stoppers on the market and many people simply use a sort of large weighted bucket poled out perpendicularly on the spinnaker pole or boom.  I suspect we’ll try this homemade system first before investing in a more costly one.  As they say, “one experiment is worth a thousand expert opinions.”   

When you order a glass of wine in Spain, you often get some sort of tapas served with it, like this potato and cheese omelette. Who needs to eat lunch after this? 

5.  Learning Spanish.  This is an ongoing battle; essential but not very effective since it requires discipline to sit down and do the work.  We use a combination of on-line video tutorials, tv news in Spanish, and exercise books, but we’re having a motivation meltdown as we begin 2017.  I have an additional barrier in that Patrick already speaks much better Spanish than I do, so I tend to place this in the “Patrick will manage this” category.  Mas facil !    

Ham, cheese, empanadas, olives, excellent wines.... heaven !