The Portuguese job

They say it brings good fortune to the sailors who paint their logo on the inside of a breakwater. Ok, nothing simpler than that, we thought, and fun for the kids as well. To say it right away, it came quite differently, and sadly, it wasn’t kids friendly at all.

Before arriving in Porto Santo we haven’t seen harbor walls as richly decorated with paintings by hundreds of sailing crews from all around the world. That wall is very, very long and whenever we pass on the way to the beach, we spot a piece of which we didn’t take notice before. We find paintings of other sailors whose blogs we were following for long. And not very surprising, many other yachts under Swiss flag have stayed here before us.

Whoever once created their own tour logo would now paint it on the wall. Others just invent their logo as they paint, or leave a fantasy picture with a sunset and a dolphin, which is actually not a fantasy to sailors. Many paintings show one or two sails, some show a more or less pretty mermaid. Some show an anchor, others a lovely customized beer can. Many paintings are tiny, whereas other ones claim large patches of that wall. Almost all pictures have in common that they display the name of a yacht, the flag of the home country, the year of visit and perhaps the names of the crew. The oldest (still visible) painting we found has been on that wall for almost 20 years!

Quite obviously, our painting contribution should include the logo from our web site. It wasn’t too hard to find a free patch, and soon we knew why: our spot wasn’t the best one because the wall was terribly uneven there. It would be difficult to nicely apply the paint. Anyway, this was where we started and where we wanted to finish our job. So we printed our logo on a couple of papers and used the scissors to produce a template. Kids job? Possibly yes, but they just wanted to paint and so I was using the scissors by myself.

Soon after we taped the template to the wall and were ready for painting. Kids job? Unfortunately not! The paper template got wet from the paint and was destroyed within minutes only. I could just do a couple of blue dots which should give a fair idea of the outlines of our logo.

Now began an epic long time of crafting, surely with no kid arts involved. I was applying the color dot by dot across the mountains and valleys in that uneven wall. That seemed to become an endless job. I accepted to trust the fishermen who were racing their old cars up and down the lane just behind my back. Since I had no brush, I dotted the sticky paint to the wall with cable ties. Wasn’t Van Gogh using that method for his beautiful arts, with a proper brush at hand of course?

More than one hour later and being half through my job I started to feel the good vibes that concentrated painting can do to the body and soul. It was such a satisfying and mind clearing activity, standing at the wall, trying not to mess up my patch with dropping color, no longer caring for the racing cars behind my heels.

Some other sailors said that they like my arts, whereas that level of satisfaction of the rest of the family wasn’t really peaking up. I missed the rest of the afternoon, dinner, and a good part of the evening. At least the job was then finished. At some time the first and then the second one of my kids showed up, being sent on a search and rescue mission by mom. They surely wanted to know when they can start with their part of painting?

“Oops, there are some other free patches along the wall, more even ones, not that elevated, and yes, they could perhaps do something very artistic which requires neither a template nor cable ties”.

“It’s cool to paint with cable ties, I wanna do that as well!”

There is even more hope for the kids: we hear that more of such decorated walls are around, for example in Funchal (Madeira) or in Horta (Azores), all of them on Portuguese territories.

Fisch, Fisch!

Endlich ist es soweit, wir haben die ersten Fische im Kühlschrank! Den allerersten Fisch hatten wir sogar gestern schon am Haken. Dank Jööö-Effekt haben wir ihn wieder gehen lassen. Ein einzelner Fisch hätte auch keine Mahlzeit gegeben. Höchst vorsichtig wurde der Haken mit einer Rohrzange abmontiert (die Zange hat natürlich den Haken gefasst und nicht etwa den Fisch). Vielleicht möchtest du nun nicht mehr weiterlesen, denn ich schreibe ehrfürchtig und wahrhaft, wie es den Kollegen erging.

Heute Abend schwimmen plötzlich wieder viele Fische um unser Schiff. Da kann man gar nicht die Angel unbenützt lassen. Schon bald ist einer am Haken. Wieder ist die Rohrzange im Spiel, denn es könnte ja sein, dass er sich wehrt und plötzlich beisst! Schwupps ist der Fisch in einem Eimer voller Salzwasser. Das ist sozusagen die Zwischenstation, denn schliesslich soll auch er überleben, falls uns keine weiteren Fische an die Angel gehen sollten. Es braucht jedoch keine drei Minuten bis zum nächsten Biss.

Nun kommt ein besonderes Schauspiel: der Fisch schwimmt wie verrückt hin und her. Dabei zieht er die Angelschnur mit sich, und weil insgesamt sechs Köder und Haken an der Schnur hängen, machen die anderen Köder die gleiche Fahrt. Das wiederum weckt den Räuberinstinkt anderer Fische, und so hängen plötzlich drei an derselben Schnur! Seither wissen wir, dass sich diese Fische offenbar auch gegenseitig fangen.

Jetzt ist das Schicksal des Fisches im Eimer klar. Auch ich kann nicht mehr zurück, denn einmal ist nun einfach das erste mal. Der Fisch muss zweimal die schwere Winschkurbel über sich ergehen lassen, und dann noch den Kiemenschnitt eines scharfen japanischen Damastmessers. Im Gegensatz zu mir hat er jetzt keine Probleme mehr. Für Junior ist alles höchst interessant. Gerne hätte er alle Aktionen durchgeführt. Ich lasse ihn nicht, denn ich will die Transition vom lebendigen Fisch zum Filet erst mal selber beherrschen, damit ich ihn hernach gut anleiten kann.

Während die ersten beiden Fische noch Widerstand geleistet haben, ergeben sich der dritte und vierte sang- und klanglos. Entweder mussten sie einfach zu lange im Wasser am Haken warten, oder sie wurden dadurch entmutigt, dass von ihren Kameraden nur noch die Köpfe ins Wasser zurück sprangen.

Nachdem drei der vier Fische tot sind fragt Manuela aus der Küche, was denn das überhaupt für Fische seien. “Gute Frage!”, ich weiss es nicht. Sie sehen schön und lecker aus, möglicherweise auch etwas unglücklich, aber das ist bei Fischen ja normal. Nach einer Internetrecherche beschliessen wir, dass es sich um Makrelen handelt, und ein Freund bestätigt das per WhatsApp.

Junior singt freundlicherweise ein spontanes Lied für die toten Fische, und die Tochter erklärt, dass sie nie wieder Fisch essen wird. So geht das also.

She made my day!

It seemed to become a nice day yesterday. Our trip from the Spanish village Portosin to an anchorage bay around Cabo de Cruz offered some wildlife experience which was new to us. Motoring down beautiful Galician coast lines we spotted an area with hundreds of seagulls quietly resting on the sea surface, kind of unusual. We changed course right into the seagull’s place to find the cause for that gathering. It didn’t take long to find the reason: Thousands over thousands of crabs were floating there, just below water surface and the birds apparently enjoyed a big eating party.

Somewhat later and after steering around stunning rock formations into Ria Arousa, our traveling direction had changed so that the little bit of half wind just seemed to be enough to sail for the last hour of the day. Out came the furling mainsail. A furling main sail is a main that rolls into the mast for stowing it away. Due to the easy conditions I was a bit too relaxed with controlling the tension of the outhaul line. In short words, the upper part of the sail got jammed inside the mast. From below we couldn’t see what exactly was wrong. The sail just wouldn’t roll neither in nor out, at least not much. A jammed main can easily become a serious problem, for example in a storm or on a gusty day with the shore on the ‘wrong’ side.

As low winds were forecasted for the next 48 hours, we proceeded to our anchorage bay under engine again. Bumping into a heard of eating dolphins was a pleasure but it didn’t solve the problem with our main. Having the anchor dropped, we decided to cook our dinner and wait for ‘manjana’ to fix the sail. The night was calm, with the main sail up.

Now comes the new day, and what made this day. Fixing the jammed sail is another job which requires one person to be hoisted up the mast. Manuela volunteered, in fact that was the better solution because hoisting myself up would require a body builder. So up she went, armed with our two biggest screw drivers and a Swiss Army knife for the case of further emergencies, for example if one finger would got jammed as well. That wasn’t going to be an easy job, that was for sure. Manuela is anyway better with undoing crazy tough knots and the like, and an extra portion of patience would certainly also be helpful. I’m better with pressing the buttons which would turn the motor to drive the main a bit in and then two mills out again. In fact, I got dozens of in-and-out commands and executed each one without any comment. Down came some funny noises, like on a women tennis court, quite an appealing sail problem.

Sitting in the cockpit next to my buttons I was already thinking who to call in case we couldn’t solve the issue by ourselves. Perhaps Carmela, Office Manager in the Club Nautic Portosin could recommend someone around Cabo Cruz who was good in fixing jammed sails. Just yesterday when checking out, she offered that we could call her, should we run into troubles. That was the friendliest of the friendly marina staff I have ever seen.

At my next glimpse up the mast I realized the the main now looked considerably better. Apparently, Manuela managed the worst part of it, and soon the command came to fully roll in and then haul out the sail for checking the full functionality. It worked, and my heart was – once more – jumping with joy.

My estimation was that it could take beyond three hours and a couple of new words for the kids to get this item solved. Instead, Manuela made it within one hour only and in silence (apart from the tennis, you know…). Moreover it should be mentioned here that she had fear of heights for the last decades, and working 18 meters above sea level, held and secured by two steel wires is definitely something which is well included in such fears. That even elevates her achievement of the day.

So Manuela received warm congratulations from the entire crew and enjoyed the second half of the day without any further house keeping or cooking or any other duties ;-). I gladly noted that my relaxed sail setting didn’t end up in one or two days of trouble, perhaps with many bucks gone.

Here I have to state that I would never trade in our fully electric driven furling main sail, also not after this nasty experience which, yes, left a couple of red drops on our main, nothing bad. Too many are the advantages. A yet unsolved issue however is that the bimini (cockpit shadow cloth) prevents direct sight to the main. That means that the one operating the main cannot really see what he is doing. This remains an open point for the time being.

Wie schön unvorhersehbar das Leben ist…

Seit 19 Jahren sind Manuela und Markus zusammen. Unmöglich hätten wir an diesem Tag im Jahre 1998 ahnen können, dass Markus genau 19 Jahre später seine zweite Stelle kündigen würde, um mit seiner 4-köpfige Familie auf eine Segelyacht zu ziehen. Meine Güte, wie herrlich unvorhersehbar das Leben auch heute noch ist…! Man wage nicht, die Zukunft zu erahnen, denn sie hat wohl noch ein paar weitere Überraschungen parat!

Callings

My journey thus far

Christmas 2013 gave me book about a family voyage to the Caribbean. This was when I became aware that such voyage together with my own family could become my next big thing in life. I’ve already had some small and big objectives in life, and that’s what this post is all about. If I were to categorize my true callings in life, then I would perhaps group them into educational, business and private ones.

Educational objectives: Part of it was just luck, as many other things in my life. The Swiss school system was pretty much straight forward anyway, same chances for everyone. A four-year apprenticeship was followed by a Bachelor’s in Engineering. Later, a Master in Business Administration just seemed to be the logical necessity.

Professional life included two jobs related to industrial plant building business, four years in the first and 15 years in the second. Both jobs allowed me traveling to some beautiful, some vibrant, some exotic and some tough places of this world. Travelling the world sharpened my consciousness for how privileged we are. Job rotations enriched my professional life. I tried always to deliver honest and high quality work and good results. Professional life was great, but it went not without some tough periods. I do appreciate everything because the hardship helped greatly to shape, making me ready to start jumping into future.

Private callings included extensive tour biking from in my youth times, followed by month long car tours to many corners of Europe, North America and Australia. The right woman came into my life and we celebrated an outstandingly nice marriage in our early 30ies. We built a nice nest for ourselves and two wonderful kids. Learning to sail with my wife in my late 30ies somehow evolved in buying an old but fantastic sailing yacht in 2015. To set sails with the family in 2017 obviously is the latest calling.

What did my various callings have in common? A lot! There was always high passion and at same time an urge that kept me in motion. To achieve goals made me happy whilst coming to a stop had something dangerous about it. At times, my mind dictated crazy high standards for me to fulfill, to feel personally responsible for some given situations in business, not to tolerate mistakes, to succeed in meetings where the chances of success were almost nil. Sometimes, this generated a lot of pressure. The good side of this struggles is that they also strengthened me. But while succeeding in the process made me happy, it rarely really satisfied. That fueled me to go further, to improve.

Looking back now, half way through life, many callings have turned into achievements. Putting them in a row makes them looking very focused and straight forward but it wasn’t always like that. The process sometimes felt dead slow. Sometime I felt like an unsuccessful seeker. The sailing trip ahead has changed that completely. All previous doubts have resolved, and I know that they were an important part of the game.

Did I ever plan this sequence of callings? I have to state that it has been a totally unpredictable story. A part of it was blueprinted by how I was brought up. Later on it often happened that one achievement lead to a new target. Some of my best journeys have silently emerged on the basis of what was there, just waiting to be jump-started by minor remark from someone, for example.

My newest calling – to bring myself and my family out and into the world on a sailing yacht – is for sure my most passionate one ever. I deeply feel that we really should do this. It will be the gate to our common future. There is a tremendous respect for the sea and the physical and psychological demands a long sea voyage can make. We will be sailing off extreme areas. However, the potential for hairy sea states is there, that’s for sure. Things could go wrong, as always in life. But I’m as confident to return back home safely, same as one could be for an extended road trip.