Marina Life – an everyday story of yachtie folk

January 29, 2010

Today (like a week and a half ago now) we had an email from one of our American friends from our time in Turkey, covering their Christmas newsletter (well done Carolyn for keeping it to one side of paper and nice photos!) but saying how they had noticed we hadn’t updated the blog for a couple of weeks.  What can I say?  That there hasn’t been much going on?  That, frankly, I thought you’d be bored with reading about the minutiae of marina life in winter?  That, equally, I couldn’t be bothered sitting down and writing something to keep you all amused?  I mean, what is my function in life these days?  Am I now reduced to the status of the silly old fool who’ll do anything to keep his audience happy and returning to his blog, hanging on his every word or is there more to life than that?

OK.  OK.  I get the idea, you want to be uplifted as you read the everyday stories of marina folk and catch up on the soap opera that life on board the good ship Rampage has become.  Far be it from me to deny you entry to this wonderful world, so I’d better settle down and tell you what we’ve been up to over the past couple of weeks, along with comments on events as I see fit!

The period has been spent in what the Navy would term as an ‘alongside maintenance period’.  In other words we’ve been doing all those odd jobs that accumulate on a boat as you cruise that don’t need sorting right away but can be put off until you find that you’ve got the time to do them.  Now is that time, with the weather also getting a little better to help things along.

The first job we undertook was to get the foresail down and take it off to the sail loft so that it could have a new sacrificial strip fitted.  You might have noticed that when the foresail is furled, it is nice and blue; this is because there is a thin strip of materiel along the outside edges of the sail which is designed to absorb the UV rays in sunlight; over time it decays due to the action of the UV light and it needed replacing this year.  It’s quite a big job, not for us but the sail makers.  The big job for us was getting the thing across town to the loft on the Metro; in it’s bag the sail is about twice the size of a sensible suitcase and weighs in at about 30 kg.  We strapped it to a little wheel along trolley and manhandled down into the Metro and along crowded city streets to the sail makers.  Once there, we discovered that they spoke no English and our Spanish is limited but I think we got the message across and that we’ll get the thing back next week with a nice new blue strip.  We’ll probably replace the ropes that control the sail (sheets as they’re called) when we get it back on board, as they’re getting a little frayed.

Then the strip light above the galley stopped working.  I checked the tube and that was OK, so I tested the circuit to make sure electricity was getting through and that was OK.  Diagnosis – dead light.  Cure – new light!  Simple hey?  Well, we needed to replace the light in our cabin as well, so armed with some measurements we set off to check out what was on offer at the various chandleries about the locality.  The first place we went to didn’t have any lights and the second place had a note on the door saying ‘back in 5 minutes’ so we were about to go to the Ramblas to pass the time until they reopened when we came across a neighbour who told us that the best place for boats lights was yet another chandlers, so off we set to have a look at what was available.

Brand new LED light in our cabin

We found the place easily enough (we’d seen it before but had never been inside) and found that they had a pretty good selections of 12 volt lighting.  We wound up buying a slightly more up market strip light then planned and a new LED cabin light for our cabin.  Once back on board, I began what I thought would be the simple business of taking out one strip light and replacing it with the new one.  Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that.  I couldn’t be could it?  No, light attached to the wires – no light come on.  Test the light with the supply in our cabin, brilliant light results.  So out comes the multimeter to test the supply; there was 12 volts across the wires in our cabin, about 9.5 above the galley.  Diagnosis: something wrong with the wires supplying the galley light.  The cure: remove various bits of wood and fittings to expose the wires in their journey to the junction box somewhere in the forward cabin.  Result: much cursing, skinned knuckles and bits of wood all over the place but eventually revealing a badly made connection behind one of the galley lockers, which was where the voltage drop was happening.  There then followed an entertaining 30 minutes pulling replacement wires through the hidden bits and connecting them all up, trying to remember which one was positive and which negative (strip lights need to be properly connected you see); eventually, all was finished and the light working properly.  Result!  It then took about 10 minutes to fit the new light in our cabin and a 30 minutes job was finished, having taken most of the day (if you include the time taken to buy the things in the first place).  As I write this on 25 January, J has suddenly decided that we need to replace the light in the aft head, as the old one looks grotty, so I’m now going to stop writing and toddle off into the rain and get another LED light.  I’ll be back later to tell you all about the joys of paint stripping and varnishing.

New galley strip light

The cockpit table, a folding affair which is fixed to the front of the steering column, was in need of attention.  J had put a coat of varnish on before we left UK last summer but it was looking a little tatty so a decision was reached (=J decided) that it needed doing properly.  J had taken this decision some time round about when we arrived in Barcelona, so you can tell it wasn’t near the top of the priority list.  However, about 10 days ago, I thought that I’d up the pace a little by taking the table to bits so that J could strip the old varnish off and get the wood sanded down ready for varnishing.

This led to a collection of bits of wood and a bag full of hinges and screws.  Not much action, as J felt that good weather was required before embarking upon the business of stripping the old varnish off.  Eventually we got a couple of days of good weather and the stripping began.  This was followed by a comprehensive sanding down of the wood to remove all traces of the old varnish.  Hard work and not much fun – this isn’t what I signed up for.  Eventually, the wood was ready for the first coat of varnish, after which it sanded smooth again before having further coats applied.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Well, in some ways it is, in other ways anything but.  You see, the varnish takes about 24 hours to dry properly before another coat can be applied and each bit of the table has a top and a bottom, so to put one coat on each bit takes 2 days, so 2 coats takes 4 days, so three coats take 6 days and we’ll probably need a 4th coat as well, taking 8 days in total.  All this time, the various bits of the table are neatly arranged round the cockpit over newspaper raised up on bits of wood stop them sticking to the paper.  We have therefore managed to invent a new sport; dodge the wet varnish!  Only another 4 days of this performance to go……

Cockpit table in bits waiting for the next coat of varnish

Now on to more entertaining news than hearing about hard work.  Today, 27 January, we’ve moved!  All of a couple of hundred metres to a new berth on D pontoon.  We’ve been chasing a new berth ever since we arrived in October, as we were on a 15 metre berth (and paying for it) rather than a 12 metre one.  A couple of days ago Ingrid, the berthing manager, got in touch with us and offered us this place.  Once we’d had a short negotiation, she gave us a reasonable refund on our money and we started thinking about moving.

Rampage on her new berth - note step to help with boarding

Now, old naval types will tell you tales of depot ships that had been on the same mooring for some time which couldn’t move because of the rubbish that had been tipped over the side prevented them from moving.  Nothing like this in our case but we did have to do a fair bit of packing things away, refitting the steering wheel and making sure that the engine was prepared to work again after a winter skulking round doing nothing.

We moved early morning, going down first to the fuel berth where we filled up the tank with diesel – first time we’d done that since Valencia last year.  We then shoe horned ourselves into our new berth, which has finger pontoons so that it’s much easier getting on and off the boat.

Looking down the pontoon to shore

We’re now firmly established in D56, so you can amend your address books to show this change of location.  Electricity all hooked up, water topped off and the TV’s working fine.  Did I mention that we’ve got a TV?  Don’t think I did.  We’ve been lent one by a neighbour, it works off the 12v system and there’s cable TV provided at the pontoon, so we can watch BBC, ITV and Channel 4.  It’s been great to keep in touch with what’s going on at home and in the world. 

In fact, we got the thing set up just as the earthquake in Haiti was being reported, so we were able to watch things develop.  From our point of view, what was interesting for us was the fact that Shelterbox ( http://www.shelterbox.org ) was featured quite heavily in the initial stages of the reporting.  Shelterbox is a charity based in Cornwall and Tommy, Polly’s partner, is their publicity officer.  They provide boxes, packed with a tailored mix of tents and other equipment to disaster zones from pools held world wide.  Not unexpectedly, he has been working all hours since the disaster and has been providing ‘media facilities’ for all the major UK channels as well as global sets ups like CNN.  Do visit their site, using the link above so you can see what they’re up to and, perhaps, make a donation to help with their work.

The last job of the day was to go across town to the sail loft to pick up the foresail, complete with its new sacrificial strip (of band azul as the sail maker called it).  We took our old next door neighbour, Jossie, along to show her where the loft is and found that they’d done an excellent job on the sail, not only replacing the strip but reinforcing all the stitching where they had removed the old strip, making good a couple of repairs and redoing some of the work we’d had done in Barbate in the summer.  The trip back wasn’t too arduous, although we did nearly get on the wrong train at one point…..

Anyhow, we’re just off out now for a meal with some friends, so I’ll finish this off tomorrow with a couple of photos and the tale of Graham’s visit over the weekend.

Its now 2 days later, as we didn’t get much done yesterday in the writing things line.  The weather was great, sunny and warm with no wind.  J went shopping for the day with Jossie and Linda whilst I put yet another coat of varnish on the table and did some other bits around the boat.  We were going to have an early night but ‘Silent Witness’ on the telly got in the way and we had a short lie in to compensate for that!

My cousin’s husband Graham came to visit over the weekend.  His primary purpose in visiting was to see his son Dan who’s been here for just a bit longer than we have, but he and Dan came over on Saturday evening.  We fed them curry and beer and sent them on their way home sometime early on Sunday.  The plan was to watch Espanya (the other Barcelona football team) play on Sunday but the tickets were a ridiculous price so the idea was quietly dropped.  Graham came over again on Monday evening and we went out to supper at a local restaurant before he left fairly early to meet up with Dan as he finished work (he teaches English over here).

On Wednesday evening, we went out with a few friends for a meal and then came back on board to have a few drinks.  Linda, who’s over for a couple of weeks, stated that she wanted Irish coffee, so cream had been bought on the way back home and I made it to the best of my ability, given the fact that the cream was only single and therefore wouldn’t float on top of the coffee….  Linda downed hers pretty rapidly then stated she’d show me how to do it properly.  After much whisking of cream and a fair number of expletives, she admitted that she couldn’t get the cream to float either – oh and she forgot to put the whiskey in as well!  I suppose you had to be there to fully appreciate the moment but it seemed very funny at the time.

A final thing to tell you about.  J went to Ikea last week and returned with many little bits and a new mirror for the forward head.  By some fluke (‘cos she hadn’t measured it) it fitted quite nicely without any major trauma on my part.  Big improvement over the rather tatty item that was there before.

New Ikea mirror in the front heads

Right, that’s up to date and I must get this lot onto the site before it gets any later and I have to write about something else.  As we’re off out to lunch shortly, I’ll end here and get this posted.


One comment

  1. Great to have an update on your harbour antics although I did a spot of speedreading over the light-fitting and paint varnishing descriptions – very much like watching paint dry but hey, that’s life – anyone interested in hearing about my fascinating morning spent kettle descaling and and cleaning the catlitter tray? Glad you’ve got a new, cheaper berth. Eek! We’ve had more snow here although also brilliant sunshine. So better get on out there and live life to the full!

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