A common question from our friends who are curious about living on board a small sailing boat is what do we get up to all day long ?
As our living space is apparently quite contained, it may be thought that there is no space to do anything other than reading the newspaper, watching TV and/or enjoying gin and tonic sunsets. Once the boat is good enough to set sail, there is not much left to do…. right ? Yeah, right…
Our level of activity can be broken down into the normal routine things which are the same for everyone, whether you live in a big house, bedsit or a sailing yacht:
· Shopping for food, cooking, cleaning & laundry
Slightly more challenging and more time consuming than expected as we don’t have a car and finding the right shops is not always straight forward. Not having a washing machine means doing the laundry the “old fashioned way”: i.e. walking up to the laundrette and bringing a book along to help pass the time.
Inside boat cleaning is a breeze, but the outside cleaning is a never-ending job with stainless steel polishing, deck scrubbing and the removal of either red Sahara or black Etna dust – depending on the wind direction.
· Entertaining or being entertained by neighbours and enjoying G&T Sunsets
Exhausting for us oldies but we would not miss it for anything, especially the appreciation of my chocolate mousse.
· Making and changing travel plans
Well, if you have read our latest update on “The Plan” you know exactly what I mean. Our plans change almost continually, but our near term goals have been chosen.
· Legal paperwork, bills, tax, residence and health
A lot of our administration time is taken up by our “nomadic” lifestyle. Getting insurances, banking etc. depends on an address and a tax registration. Getting tax registration and residency depends on the type of passport you have and the rules for British passport holders after Brexit can be a nightmare. There are always solutions, of which we have become experts in finding them, but these take time and energy to bring to a reality. Moving from European country to country is also complex due to the 90-day rule for residing with some countries enforcing this more strongly than others.
Not to mention the 183-day rule, after which you become a tax resident whether you like it or not. Consequently, each and every government tries to put a claim on us and likes to have our tax money (based on passport, owning a property or residing). As we were Spanish tax residents, we sort of had to sell our house in Spain to get away from the Spanish tax system and avoid the risk of paying a 12% boat luxury tax, should we ever stop in a Spanish port.
Banks keep nagging us about our latest residency or else they threaten to close our bank account. Residency application within the EU has been a nightmare since Brexit, but we did have a good plan for this and now my Hungarian i.e. EU passport is in my hands. It only took a year and a half from the start of the process that included getting the necessary legal documentation and brushing up on my language skills for the interview at the consulate (many thanks to Péter, Zsani and Eva from the consulate who were instrumental in this process).
Our successful achievement of becoming “European” again should make our life around the Mediterranean and the European overseas territories significantly easier for our future travels – this is a great relief to us.
Money management such as work, pensions, monthly outgoings, boat expenses, etc.
Balancing the books on a monthly basis is a bit of work, but extremely important to know what your financial position is at any day - especially with what seems like the never ending outgoings for the boat itself.
A recent trip to Dubai was a great excuse to use my new passport, to do some work for an additional supplement to our income, see some friends and enjoy the glitz of the desert nation.
· Phones/computers and WIFI connections
Three years ago, we managed to get Dutch mobile phone numbers. These give us unlimited phone calls and internet within Europe. Of course, unlimited internet within the EU but outside The Netherlands doesn’t really mean unlimited… Somehow, we manage to live with 75GB a month (for the two of us) and if we need to update software or download big files and stream films/series we have to find a WIFI access to do so.
The generally poor WIFI in the marinas adds significantly to the time required to do anything on line – which is most things and can create a great deal of frustration. We are so used to broadband and high data rates that when we can only get 3 or 4G, hence the time to do anything is quickly increased.
Luckily in our winter marina there is a meeting room with very good WIFI, but we do need to leave the comfort of our boat.
Other than holding down the day job to help fund the above, this takes up the lion’s share of our spare time.
When we are not working on these issues, our never-ending boat maintenance and preparation for the year’s plans ahead take an important position. We have decided that either December 2022 or January 2023 will be the moment that we will cross the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean (Barbados, Grenada, South and Central America).
Our decision to move forwards with this objective is many faceted, as we are both excited and apprehensive each time we think about it. We feel that we will never be really ready until we have finally done it, so we plan and prepare as best as we can, taking advice from others who have done this before. In addition, we have Captain Jeff, who has made crossings to Hawaii in the past and is keen to sail with us for this trip. Jonathan and Joanna (son and daughter) are also planning to join us to make this into a real International Family Gabris Adventure.
Consequently, all of our purchasing for spares, upgrades to the boat and maintenance schedule need to be adapted to this choice.
Everything needs to be at 100%, with backups in place to make sure that everybody onboard is safe, comfortable and happy as possible.
Due to Covid, equipment and spare parts are not always readily available, hence we need to plan months ahead for where we expect to be and where a delivery can be made. Lead times for major items can be 6 months.
To avoid such problems, we are planning ahead for our visit to Gibraltar in the summer with a long list of expensive items that are needed as spares and for boat improvements. Buying in Gibraltar, as a “ship in transit” has some tax benefits that are too good to miss. So far, we have ordered Lithium batteries to replace our current bank of lead acid ones and a spare autopilot, just in case.
We have recently purchased a new anchor with a modern design. The idea is that it digs in quickly and holds more firmly than the older style anchors. We noticed last year that with a shift in wind direction, the anchor moves and takes time to re-set. This is a problem in small and crowded anchorages where contact with other boats and damage could occur. This has also resulted in many sleepless nights of stress and discomfort. We hope and expect our new Ultramarine Anchor to give us better sleep – we don’t need to worry about ourselves only about our less well anchored neighbours !
Unfortunately, it is a little bigger than our last anchor and so the anchor holder needs some modification to hold it tight while sailing. This is a new challenge and a solution is still to be determined. Solutions range from hundreds to thousands of euro’s, so we need to think, plan and buy carefully, but I think that a reasonably priced fix is possible.
The light and unpredictable winds in the Mediterranean Sea have pushed us towards the purchase of a new sail that is designed for such winds. Spinnakers are commonly used, but they can be difficult to manage and handle, especially at night with changing winds and only 2 people onboard. We have therefore opted for a sail that is called an FFR (Flat Furling Reacher), it is similar to a Code Zero sail and it is “simple” to operate and manage (so we were told).
It is designed for sailing from 50 deg. to 140 deg. wind direction in light winds from 4 knots up to 20 knots. The light and very strong fabric will give us a good boat speed, so that we can use the engine less and enjoy more the pleasure of sailing – at least this is the objective.
The sail colour choice is limited to black, white red, blue and grey as these colours make a stronger fabric than others. Due to the dyes to create other colours, the sail strength is weakened. Within the available colours, we can “design” our own sail.
A later blog will let you know our success or otherwise with this sail.
Ingrid has been very active and creative with our new sewing machine – manufactured by “Sailrite” - as it is designed forsewing canvas and heavy fabrics that are very common on a sailing boat.
Starting with simple covers to get the hang of the machine, Ingrid has progressed nicely through many challenging projects that include:
· Cushions on the railings to make a more comfortable seat back
· Sun shades on the hatches to limit the effect on the summer sun on our plexi-glass windows
· Windows in the bimini – 4 large panels of heat reflective mesh that allows me to see the sails whilst having shade on hot sunny days – something we are looking forwards to. The navy blue bimini also acted like a radiator when the summer sun shone onto it, cancelling out the effect of the shade that it gave. The panels are a great solution and I cannot wait to feel their effect. The only draw back of a mesh window is that if it rains, there is no protection. To solve this problem, Ingrid designed a nice Pepper Red cover to protect us on the off-chance of rain.
Next up are seat cushions in the cockpit. Not as simple as you may think when each one is custom designed with handmade piping to finish it off in a professional manner. To be continued……..
There has also been the routine maintenance and boat improvements:
· Winch maintenance, cleaning, re-greasing, oiling and broken parts replacement.
· Prop shaft stuffing box leak repair - just needed to inject a tube of grease
· Replacement of the original line stoppers with stronger new ones for the genoa sheets.
· Re-positioning the back, white navigation light that was blocked by the newly installed Wind Vane.
· Taking down, washing, repairing and re-installing of all the sails. They are now beautifully clean and in excellent condition for sailing.
· Cleaning and re-greasing the roller chain of the steering system; this requires getting into and out of some really small and awkwardly positioned spaces !
· Diesel Engine maintenance – 500-hour service
· Aqua Drive replacement and engine re-alignment
· Generator maintenance – we have some issues here that are still being worked on after large quantities of smoke came out of the control box.
The Wind Vane (wind based mechanical steering system) itself needed to be correctly set up and re-aligned as it has not yet worked for us successfully since its installation – until now this has been an expensive disappointment. I have re-aligned it as accurately as possible and I am very hopeful for a good working system for the season ahead.
Meanwhile, we continue our research into projects such as solar power optimisation for our power needs, electricity generation from water power (Hydro Generator) and electricity generation from wind power.
All of these work in different conditions and all have various degrees of cost; from expensive to very expensive – so we need to find the optimum economic route.
So, these are some of the things we get up to, not to mention Ingrid’s English teaching here in the Marina and her fitness class “The Babes of Baywatch” on the jetty beside the boat. The number of students are growing and their waistlines are decreasing – a perfect success and good entertainment for the less sporty.