Voyage of Traveler / Blog

September 27, 2009

Traveler Postcard from 0 Longitude

Buenos dias,

We finally departed Bar-the-lona, with Traveler’s refit completed, on September 23, and enjoyed sailing a hundred miles through the night to Palma, Majorca, where we celebrated my 56th birthday with a Captain’s Dinner.  That’s when I set the table with the Waterford crystal and china and we fix a special meal.  Brain barbecued the salmon, Jake made the ravioli and salad with blue cheese dressing, and I poured the sangria.

The following day we cruised over to Ibiza, the No. 1 party town in the Med.  Jake and Brian went out to a night club that didn’t even open until midnight, and really got into the full swing of things at about 2:30 or 3, until dawn.  I flamed out at midnight, after three beers.  Just can’t stay up late like I used to when I was 20.

We are sailing through the night again, this time between Ibiza and Cartegena. It is 0300 and the wind and seas are building.

Here is our weather report:
“Easterly 5 to 7, becoming cyclonic in west later. Severe gusts.  Moderate or rough.  Thundery rain.”

The “5 to 7″ part is the wind speed on the Beaufort scale; a Force 7 means winds up to 33 knots, which is classified as a moderate gale. The “moderate or rough” part refers to the sea state.  Should be a fun ride.

We just put a double reef in the main and completely furled the jib to slow the boat down, and we are still doing over 7 knots.

And it is very dark.  The moon set hours ago, and the clouds block out all the stars.  You look outside and it is like being in a cave when you turn off the flashlight.  From the cockpit, you can hear the waves breaking all around you, but can’t see them. Wouldn’t want to fall overboard.

Also, we just crossed the Prime Meridian, which is 0 degrees longitude, and in so doing re-entered the Western Hemisphere.  Interesting about the placement of the Prime Meridian.  It is completely arbitrary (not like 0 degrees latitude, which is of course the equator), but it has to be put somewhere on the globe.  For the 15th through 18th centuries map makers placed the Prime Meridian through the capital of their home country.  For example, the French maps had 0 degrees longitude running through Paris, which Dan Brown managed to work into the plot for the DaVinci Code, with the dividing line running through the center aisle of a church.  Spain was an exception.  For their maps the Spanish placed the Prime Meridian at Isla Hierro, the western most of the seven Canary Islands because, they believed, that was the end of the known world. It stayed that way until, by treaty among the world powers of western Europe, the Prime Meridian was awarded to England, then the most powerful country in the world.  The Brits placed it in the London suburb of Greenwich at the Naval Observatory, home of the Admiralty’s Charts.

Viviendo el Sueno,

September 20, 2009

Traveler’s 2nd Postcard From Barcelona

Sunday, September 20

Buenos tardes,
Brian, Jake and I are still here in Barcelona (pronounced “Bar-the-lona” like with a lisp). It is Day 25 and we’re still in the North Wind Yard, on the hard.  Yes, the holding tank is full, and it is a 200+ meter walk to los banos.

We’ve been here so long that my high school Spanish is starting to come back to me. Sort of. “Estoy abogado Americano y aqui de vacaciones por cuatro semanas. Yo vela mi barco a traves el mundo todo, en tres annos.”  I’ve found that people of Spanish speaking countries really like it if you try to speak their language and are very tolerant with you if you just get close. And, as anywhere in the world, compliments are greatly appreciated. “Yo soy muy contento con usted y el trabajo es perfecto. Muchas, muchas gracias por todo.”

We’ve been here so long… that, I’m guessing, the yard bill will be well over $10,000.  And that is with much of the work being done by Brian, Jake and me.  Together the three of us power buffed the top sides, varnished the teak grab rails and cockpit combing, and painted the bottom. The boatyard, among many other things, has inspected and serviced all the rigging, including installed new bolts and nuts for the chain plates and new spinnaker and main halyards; serviced the hydraulic steering system; restored the teak decks with new Sikaflex caulking and sanding after replacing a few split planks; ran new cable from the circuit breaker panel to the anchor windlass (the old cable was corroded from salt water from our near sinking in the Red Sea); and ran new wiring for the propane solenoid switch (a mouse somehow got onboard and ate through the wire, causing a short.) One of the workers from the yard has been with North Wind for 30 years and was part of the team that built Traveler back in 1985.  You could see the pride on his face when I told him I am very happy with the boat and that, by returning to Barcelona, Traveler now has completed her circumnavigation.  (I, however, have nine more time zones to go to complete mine.)

We’ve been here so long… that we now have seen a change in seasons.  It was summer when we arrived, with the air temperatures in the low 90s and the water temps in the mid 70s, and being late August everyone was on holiday.  Now we walk around with a jacket on, even in the day time, with the temps in the low 60s and a cold wind blowing down from the Pyrenees.  For the past two years while sailing in the tropics Barbara and I slept in only a sheet, if even that.  Now I need a blanket, or two.  You think of Barcelona as being south, relative to the rest of Europe, and it is.  We are only a couple of hundred miles away from North Africa, and ferry boats arrive and depart daily from here to Algiers.  But Barcelona is at 41-21 North latitude, the same as Salt Lake City, and it gets cold.

We’ve been here so long… that Brian has a semi-serious girlfriend.  Frankie is from Sheffield, England and has been here for four years, teaching English.  We had her onboard for a Captain’s Dinner, and Brian has spent much time at her place.  The other day Brian told me, “I am having the time of my life, and I owe it all to you.  Thanks, Dad.”  That made me feel pretty good.

We’ve been here so long… that we are running out of fun things to do.  For those of you who have been here, you’ll remember some of the sights we’ve seen: the bizarre La Sagrada Familia cathedral, still under construction after 120 years, with maybe another 10 years to go; Antonio Gaudi’s enchanting and popular Parc Guell; the famous Museu Maritim (possibly the finest in the world), L’Aquarium (the best in Europe), the topless beaches and countless walks up and down La Rambla.  We also saw a FC Barcelona professional soccer match, and of course bought souvenir hats and shirts at the stadium.

One of our highlights is we rented a car and took a day trip to the Principat d’Andorra, tucked away high in the Pyranees between France and Spain.  Andorra, at just 453 square kilometers, is the fifth smallest European country, behind the Vatican (0.4 sq km), Monaco (1.9 sq km), San Marino (61 sq km), and Liechtenstein (160 sq km). It is not part of the European Union, so it does not have the 16% value-added tax of all other EU countries.  So most of its 10 million annual visitors are there to shop, and most of them just for the day, driving in from Spain or France–it has no airport or train.  We went there to mountain bike.  The ski resorts keep busy in the summer months by hauling bikers up the slopes in chair lifts, and then they ride down the dirt and rock trails.  While we were near the top, the management closed the mountain for an hour due to a spectacular lightning storm, which brought, of course, much rain, making the trails muddy and slippery.  Even more fun for us.  While high up on an expert run, my rear brake failed, so I had to go downhill much faster than I wanted to, which was a huge adrenalin rush, trying hard to keep the bike from going totally out of control.  I crashed a few times, flying over the handlebars onto the rocks, tree roots and mud puddles, but nothing serious. That’s just part of mountain biking.

So it is time to move on.  I hope to finish things up here in the yard and launch Traveler tomorrow afternoon.  Then we sail for the Balearic Islands of Menorca, Mallorca and Ibiza.  Missing Barbara mucho.

Hasta luego,
Estoy vivir la sonar,

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