Rest, Work, Hurricane Prep & Road Trip (Oct. 6-15, 2018)

This week it was just the pups and me. Maik needed to travel to Germany for a week to work and to spend time with his daughter. I really missed him, but I accomplished a lot of work. In addition, I did my normal in-port chores, like laundry and minor boat maintenance. I also had to deal with an unexpected repair for Seefalke. 

Cap’n Jack chewed up one of the cables on the solar panels, so I had to find an electrician to help me repair it. As I was walking toward the marina office to see if they had any recommendations, a white van with the word “electricista” emblazoned on the side just happened to pass by. I couldn’t believe my luck. I flagged the guy down and told him in very broken, very rusty Spanish about my problem. Maik always makes fun of me when I try to “speak Europe” with my heavy Southern accent. But hey, sometimes I’m able to get the message across.

My high school and college Spanish is slowly coming back to me as I try to communicate with the locals. David, the electricista, said he would return mañana to take a look at the chewed up cables. Of course, he never returned. So much for my southern-charm-mixed-with-a-little-rusty-Spanish approach.

The next day I was able to find the marina electrician, Rafa, and he repaired the cable in about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the pups and I ventured out to explore Vigo a little.

Vigo sits on Spain’s northwest coast. The mouth of the nearby Vigo Estuary is sheltered by the Cíes Islands, which form part of the Atlantic islands National Park. The Cíes are known for their rich birdlife and the crescent-shaped Playa de Rodas, which has been considered one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The city’s old quarter is home to the neoclassical Church of Santa María.

I’m still on the so-far-unsuccessful hunt for paella, but otherwise have enjoyed exploring Vigo.

The pups and I walked around all day (logging about six miles) on Monday, which happened to be Columbus Day. This made me think about Christopher Columbus and how we are on the exact same route that he took to America. How cool is that?

Columbus led his three ships—the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria—out of the Spanish port of Palos on August 3, 1492. His objective was to sail west until he reached Asia (the Indies) where the riches of gold, pearls, and spice awaited. His first stop was the Canary Islands where the lack of wind left his expedition becalmed until September 6.

Once underway, Columbus benefited from calm seas and steady winds that pushed him steadily westward. Columbus had discovered the southern "Trades" that, in the future would fuel the sailing ships carrying goods to the New World. However, the trip was long—much longer than anticipated by either Columbus or his crew. In order to mollify his crew's apprehensions, Columbus kept two sets of logs—one showing the true distance traveled each day and one showing a lesser distance. The first log was kept secret. The latter log quieted the crew's anxiety by under-reporting the true distance they had traveled from their homeland.

This deception had only a temporary effect. By October 10 the crew's apprehension had increased to the point of near mutiny. Columbus headed off disaster by promising his crew that if land was not sighted in two days, they would return home. The next day land was discovered.

We have timed our route so that we can hopefully benefit from the same trade winds that Columbus experienced. These should push us from the Canaries all the way to the Caribbean. We hope to be able to make that 20-to-40-day crossing beginning in December.

The rest of the week I stayed busy with real work for my clients. While busy, it was still a lonely week without Maik. But work must go on for us. And soon, we were expecting company—Hurricane Leslie.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

This was a long night. Heavy wind and rain had already made an appearance on the western Spanish coastline. Maik was in Germany and the boat was rocking and rolling as if we were at sea. I think I checked on the lines and the fenders about 15 times during the night—each time getting drenched from the soaking rain.

The little sleep I did get was tainted with nightmares about the boat coming untied, or a line snapping. I was worried that if Seefalke came loose, I would not be able to maneuver her back into the slip by myself. So I kept tying more lines until Seefalke looked like she had been captured in some sort of nautical spider web.

I was also worried about my friends and family back in the United States—especially those in the path of Hurricane Michael. It was devastating the next morning to wake up to see all the damage this powerful storm had caused, especially in the Florida panhandle where I have many friends.

We were so lucky that our home in Gulf Shores was not hit and that our neighbors and family were all just fine. However, others in the area were not so lucky. As of the writing of this blog (Oct. 17), almost a week later, it has been reported that more than 26 people died from the storm that hit Florida with 155mph winds, with most of the destruction in Panama City and Mexico Beach.

The combination of Maik being so far away and not knowing how my friends and family were doing in the midst of the storm, I really began to get homesick. I get this way sometimes. I think it wouldn’t be normal if I didn’t. It’s been almost two months since we departed from Stralsund, Germany on Aug. 19, 2018 and almost three months since I’ve set foot on U.S. soil.

Friday-Saturday, 12-13 October 2018

Friday was more of the same as Leslie was fast approaching the coast of Spain and Portugal from the Atlantic. We were in a safe harbor, but exposed somewhat to the Atlantic, and harsh winds were rocking Seefalke all day and all night. The pups and I stayed hunkered down in the safety of our orange, steel cocoon. Before sundown, I double checked all the sails to make sure they were secured and could not be hoisted by the heavy wind.

I also provided extra protection for the booms to be sure they were stable. The main sail was full of gallons of rain water, so I felt like it had enough weight to keep even forceful winds from blowing it open.

The spider web protecting Seefalke was continuing to expand.

After another sleepless night, Maik informed me the next morning that he would return to Vigo on that day (Saturday) rather than waiting until Monday. He was scheduled to fly into Porto, and he didn’t want to take a chance of getting caught in the Leslie’s path, which was threatening to give the coast of Portugal a direct hit.

I was so relieved that he was coming home. His flight landed in Porto around 18:00, but it was slightly delayed so he missed the connecting train to Vigo. He booked a rental car and drove the 1.5 hours to be with us in Vigo. He made it around 22:00 and spent a little time reorganizing the spider web I had created around Seefalke. Now I felt safe and sound.

Sunday-Monday, 14-15 October 2018

On Saturday night we experienced much less motion that the previous two nights. The spider web kept us protected, but I also felt more protected since Maik was there with us. We awoke Sunday morning to news about Leslie’s landfall.

Leslie was the strongest cyclone to strike the Iberian Peninsula since 1842. She swept across the coastal areas packing winds more than 170 km per hour. The strong winds brought down trees, cutting power to more than 15,000 homes, and more than 30 flights were canceled. It could have been much worse, and we were certainly lucky to miss all the serious action.

Monday, we got up early. Since we still had the rental car we decided to do some provisioning. We drove into Vigo’s city center and loaded the car with groceries and supplies. Later that afternoon, we took a little road trip to return the rental car.

We drove along the coast of Spain into Porto. It was so bizarre to be traveling by car rather than by boat. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a car, which seems absolutely strange. We enjoyed the scenery with miles and miles of vineyards lining the back road along the coast of Portugal.

The pups were in the back of the car, and at one point tried to frantically climb into the front with us. We stopped on the side of the road and pushed them back into the rear. Maik remarked that Cap’n Jack reeked of nasty-smelling shellfish. This didn’t surprise me because I had been fighting to keep the pups away from all the clams and mussel shells along Vigo’s pier all week. More than a few of those shells made it into the Beagles’ bellies. These crazy pups will eat anything.

We stopped again, about five minutes later, to fill the rental car with gas. The pups escaped into the front again and this is when we discovered the vomit all over the back that was mostly a mixture of broken shells and major stinkiness. While Maik pumped up the tank, I went into the gas station to get some cleaning supplies.

I found paper towels in the washroom and some baby wipes and one of those pine tree-shaped car fresheners. I did the best I could to clean up the mess, but I couldn’t do much about the smell.

We believe the puppies were car sick, which we also found to be bizarre. They survived The Baltic Sea, The North Sea, The English Channel, The Atlantic Ocean, and the Bay of Biscay without getting seasick. We get them back into a regular car, and they puke their guts out.

We got to the rental car place where the smell did not go unnoticed. Fortunately, the ladies there responded to Maik’s charm combined with the two sweet Beagle faces and gave us a break on the cleaning fee.

We took the shuttle to the airport where we caught a train to the main station. It was there that we boarded the train back to Vigo. On the train, the motion sickness continued for poor Cap’n Jack and Scout. Again, we marveled that these pups have truly developed sea legs.

We made it back to Vigo around 22:00 and began preparing for departure to Porto the next morning . . .