Thursday, 27 April 2017

Four Days To Go and a Change of Plans

I think I mentioned in the last blog that sailing plans are written in sand at low tide. Even though the tides are very small in the Med, it didn’t take much for us to wipe out our winter plans. It was probably that full moon last night that did the trick.

Instead of wintering over in Sardinia, we’ve decided to head up the east coast of Corsica for the winter. For reasons I can’t remember, I assumed that Corsica would be more expensive than Sardinia and I didn’t even bother looking at possible winter spots.

Patrick snorkeling in the Lavezzi Islands in southern Corsica a few years ago. Sardinia is in the background only 10 nautical miles away.

I recently realized that we will have 2 full months of sailing time once we reach the Sardinian coast and that this was more than enough to enjoy the north coast and still head over to Corsica. After studying the pilot books and scouring blogs and forums, the port of Taverna / Campoloro jumped out at us as a possibility for on-ground winter storage. It’s cheaper than the port we were eyeing in Sardinia (Nautica Pinna in Bosa), has slightly easier travel connections to get back home, and, if ever we have problems, we’d rather fight our battles in French than in Italian (I know, not very sporting of us...)

The east coast of Corsica is much less exposed to winter winds than the west coast of Sardinia, and as an added bonus, Taverna lines us up nicely for a 2018 cruise across to Elbe island and down the Italian coast on our way to Greece.

We generally avoid making fixed plans, but finding a spot to leave your boat for the winter deserves a bit of forethought and planning, especially if you’re far away from home. Although having plans may kill the romance of long-distance cruising, I’m happy to not have to spend our last month on board stressed-out with trying to find a suitable and affordable wintering option. I don’t know about you, but I don’t do romance under stress very well. My inner sea turtle is at peace with this option.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bits n Bobs: One week to go !

We had a flopper-stopper party last week, with curious sailing friends in attendance to check out our new parahoule (at-anchor roll stabilizer). Everyone agreed that it is a very clever design and has several big advantages over other commercial systems out there. We’ll surely put it to the test in the near future. After they all left, the neighbours called over: “what’s that weird thing dangling from your upstairs window?” so we told them to come over and check it out and help us finish off the last of the rosé wine. Another bottle later, they waddled home and we proved that we could disassemble the parahoule with some roll of our own.

Our previous arrival in Gibraltar.

We installed Anchor Watch Pro on the smartphone, which sets off an alarm if your anchor starts to drag. (I really wanted the app called “drag queen” - such a great name! - but it just wasn’t as fancy.) It’s less energy hungry than our vhf / on-board gps system (I think?) so we can leave it on overnight. It also has the advantage that you can click on “anchor down” just as you start letting out the chain, marking the location of your anchor so that you always have a bearing and distance to let you know if your anchor is underneath the neighbour's boat before you plan to leave. If you have a 2nd phone with a local sim card (which we don’t), you can leave the alarm phone on the boat when you go ashore and it will send you a text message alarm if the boat moves while you’re away.

Patrick is a marvel. Last week, we were chatting with some friends who suggested that a new boat is like a new car – it loses significant value after the first year. With this in mind, he called up our insurance agent and asked if we could re-evaluate our insurance policy for the boat. He came back from the meeting with a huge grin: fees reduced by 54% saving us over 900 Euros !!!! What a man ! (and thanks, friends, for the idea.)

We’ve started packing. This is a particularly difficult exercise for me because I like things to be orderly and logical. But order and logic often take up more space than chaos does. Around the parahoule sack, I’ve got little air pockets just perfect for a pair of socks, or a small bottle, or one sandal. I’m using this as a warm-up exercise for going-with-the-flow that is so important in boat life.

We’ve printed out our boarding passes. We’ve organized our car-pool service (called blah blah car) to get to the airport, we’ve called the hotel to let them know we’ll arrive late, we’ve checked out the bus schedules to get to La Linea, and we’ve contacted the marina to have them activate our pontoon pass for the morning of our arrival (love modern marinas !).

Marina Alcaidesa, La Linea de la Concepcion, Spain.
Yesterday, I spent the day taking written and oral French language tests for my application for French citizenship. I’m very glad it’s over. I won’t get the results for another 3 weeks. Our neighbours will receive my results in the mail and let me know by email. (Note to future commuter-cruisers: always have good neighbours.)

Note to self for next year: always have lots of aperitif drinks and snacks on hand for the month before departure. The number of “bon voyage” soirées seems to get bigger every year.

The way we left her.
To relax between study sessions for my French test, I took the Meyers-Briggs personality test (thanks to a blog post by Human Resources guru Ellen at the Cynical Sailor) and discovered my spirit animal, which is very important for deciding on the tattoo I plan to get for my 50th birthday. The results: I am an ENFJ sea turtle ! What does that mean? Endless hours of fun pondering past, present, and future actions, of course. One concrete example: Meyers-Briggs defines ENFJs as “idealist organizers” and the sea turtle serenely carries his home on his back, which allows him to feel at home anywhere. Now, pray tell, how is an ENFJ sea turtle supposed to pack? There is NO ideal way to organize your home on your back (or boat) ! I’ve tried! Oh how I’ve tried! I haven’t solved my problem, but at least I now know the root of my dilemma. See? How fun was that?

Between now and take-off time: 2 doctor’s appointments; hosting one (planned) bon voyage soirée; moving the plants outside, slapping them on the backside and wishing them good luck; loading up on fresh mothballs; finishing the last bits of food in fridge, freezer and pantry (always makes for interesting meals…); printing out boarding passes, hotel reservations, bus schedules, and proof of insurance in 3 languages; charging all the cameras (2), e-readers (2) and computers (3) for an eventual inspection at the airport; and most importantly, embracing my inner sea turtle to find peace in the stress.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Doomsday Update

In 15 days, we migrate to boat life for 6 months. Hotels and airlines have been booked, haul-out and repairs have been arranged, charts have been loaded, ports and anchorages explored, the lawn mowed and hedges trimmed, house-sitters arranged, and various new boat tools and toys bought. 

But leaving home is not “doomsday”. One of our final-countdown activities – probably our least favorite but most important – is updating our doomsday book.

As long as we're talking about doom... Med moorings await us !

This is a file (black cover, of course) that contains all the information we need to transmit to those left behind in the event of our demise or incapacity to act. It contains contact information for extended family, insurance information, where to find wills and testaments, bank information and deeds. We send a short summary for first-response information to Patrick’s kids, and print out the rest for later reference.

No, we aren’t paranoid, but you never know and we certainly don’t want to leave a mess behind. Our insurance covers repatriation and some funeral costs, as well as professional assistance for jumping through all the administrative hoops involved in sudden accidental death in a foreign county. There’s no way the kids could know what assistance is available through our existing insurance unless we tell them, and it’s not in the flurry of shock that such discoveries could be made in a timely fashion.

It seems appropriate to finish this task at Easter, a holiday commemorating rebirth or triumph over death. And now for some chocolate !!!