Tuesday, December 28, 2010

closing of this blog, go visit Nanna's blog, where the Nomad is....(click down below)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

a pleasant pandemonium

a pleasant pandemonium...

Going shopping in Guaymas is all a discovery adventure in itself. The 20 minutes ride in a jolty city bus with its derelict gear box is a nice start to get us out of the more ”refine” and quite boring San Carlos. Guaymas is not an attractive town, not touristic at all, although certain efforts have been made on the waterfront to attract the guests of some lost cruise ships which venture once in a while in the Sea, on their way down from Alaska.
It was a big fishing harbor, still is and some factories and plants make it now an industrial city. Nothing historically important, but the city is set in a splendid bay.  Sonora with its desertic wild ranges has never been a big Spanish settlement to start with.

But precisely it is this chaotic feeling that appeals to us. The shops with their outrageous signboards, the sreaming loudspeakers playing popular local music on the pavement, the medical offices and lab side by side with tire shops, and tacos stands, the young and indolent crowd huddling on the side walks on this Christmas Eve, even the screech of the klaxons and the broken exhaust pipe of the derelict cars make all this mess likeable.. It is a view of Mexico, not disguised as the gringo colonized San Carlos is with its outrageous over bidding estates for wealthy retired americanos.

One has to forget the organized world, the over stocked department stores. Here, you have to know where and how to do your shopping. Of course, one can always go to the new Wal-Mart or Sam's Club with their outrageous prices and poor stocks (those two are the closest to San Carlos...for a reason).
We finally found the very well stocked and price wise very economical supermarket in the center of Guaymas after trying two others the previous weeks. And this a regal full of local products that I love to try out.

It is not the lack of shops, but it is impossible to find some electrical tools. Not willing to search for ever, we found what we needed (a battery powered drill) in a cash and go shop, a pawn shop. Those shops are quite numerous in town, all with no less than 3 employees plus a security guard for just a few items... Anyway it is a good buy.
We needed no more than three other different shops to find some thread, a little broom et some rugs... But now we know where things are.

We spent a full day to go shopping for a few items, not forgetting some food for our quiet Christmas dinner, but we came back happy from our little raid downtown. Despite the chaos, the native crowd is congenial, non agressive and cordial. No bawling and shouting at each other, no bad mood or rude gestures toward us the gringos, on the contrary.
The wind blew today and dusty Guaymas stick to our skin as we return to the yard where we unpack our goodies so hardly gathered...
If the drill was a good buy, the sewing machine bought from our host does not work, it a heavy duty old Paaf and so far Magnus has spent a day working on it. I have tons of sewing to do, pockets, leeclothes etc.. all prepared and cut to be sewn... It is a not only a disapointement but a great inconvenience to say the least....


Monday, December 6, 2010

A water hole

Nacapule Canyon 

Where there is water, there is life and that makes this North American desert wonderful. Water is flowing trapped under rocks and comes to the surface clear and cold. When summer rains and thunderstorms struck the water becomes furious and rushes down with tremendous forces forming through the ages deep canyons. It is where we can find some astonishing oasis like the one in Nacapule, just 5 miles from us. How many of those little oasis are hidden in the rugged mountains range ? Nobody knows but the wild life and some natives. Nacapule was discovered some 3000 years ago by a nomadic tribe of sonora. It is very accessible for a wonderful and energizing hike deep inside the red mountains.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The tribulation of buying a boat unseen...

Nanna's sister ship Southern Cross 35

If everything went well from the sale of Röde Orm to the long and tiring trip with its two border crossings, and the wonderful welcome of my friend, the rest had more or less a cold water shower feeling.. And without the hospitality of friends, the beautiful scenery and warm weather, we would have felt slightly taken aback.
Our expectations were perhaps too high, our excitement over powering the reality. The really simple lesson is to see before you act !!
The Union Polaris showed well from distance, but as soon as you look closely behind the glossy of the varnish we just realized that this boat has not been at sea for quite a long time, and revealed more problematic issues as the engine, the compatibility of a worm gear stirring with a windvane, some rotten spots that cleary states some leaks and some flimsy set up that could be a nonsense at sea. In short, we were disapointed. This boat is not quite ready to go to sea, and if the old Volvo is dying, what next ?
Did we make a big mistake ? Our enthusiasm suddendly dropped. A week had passed, we were technically homeless, boatless, boxless (this one sailing between Portugal and Vera Cruz...hopefully ) and in Mexico..
Nanna on the hard
We just went on to see more boats and... the first one we saw caught our eyes and our heart. Nothing flashy about it, a strong built 35 footer, sturdy and fully equipped. A Southern Cross (becoming soon Southern Comfort for Magnus !)35, built as Röde Orm is. price wise... well not a bargain as the other one, but the assurance of a sea worthy boat as soon as it is in the water. Nothing to add. So Nanna is a Southern Cross 35, nicknamed Southern Comfort by the Viking !!

Thanksgiving today and we are invited for a party ! By the way, I had the great pleasure to see some friends I left behind three years ago. It was almost like coming back home. But how many homes do I have ? !!
Oh and did I mention Magnus first encounter with a tarentula (young one) and a scorpion, in the room ? and the nightly howls of coyotes ? Pretty exotic for a Viking !

Friday, October 29, 2010

hasta luego misty river, good bye Röde Orm

We left the secure cocoon of the river, leaving behind good friends, and knowing it is a place we can always come back and find peace and beauty. It was also our last ride with Röde Orm, and soon we will have to say our good byes to the good friend and safe home she has been. 
Double nostalgia, but also the thrill of discovering something new, for me it will be the new Nanna, for Magnus, he will discover the Sea of Cortez.  But before, we have one week to deal with all the logistics.... And that, it is not fun !!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

getting ready for the big move... or backtracking...


Moving from house to boat, done it. Moving from house to house done it. Moving from house to storage done it too. Moving from boat to boat, about to do it and to make the game more thrilling, from one continent to the other some 12 thousand kms apart, and all of those above in less than 3 years. Though considering my former experiences the last 25 years, nothing abnormal. Though this time it is quite unsettling when we have to rely on a ship freight to send our personnal stuff. We will be in our next home that we will discover too... before anything we sent by ship arrive and who knows when and in which shape will it arrive ?
Anyway, Röde Orm will change hand as we leave to take over Nanna. Everything went swithly and smootly so far and not one month after we came back from North, everything with Röde Orm was concluded.
But most unsettling for me is that I am crossing back my own tracks to the place where I decided to start over a new phase of my agited life. Because of all places, Nanna is in San Carlos, Mexico. Having friends there helped and was also a deciding factor when the newly named Nanna was chosen as the one to replace Röde Orm. Now that we do not have land base, Röde Orm feels a little bit too narrow and crowded for long term cruising. Nanna with its 36 ft will seem a very big boat to us.

It was a perfect sail today as we went back to the river from Faro to prepare our stuff to be sent via ship freight, meaning building a big box. A warm summery breeze shoved us downwind on a beautiful flat sea. 4.5 knots was the perfect speed just enough to arrive before dusk in the mouth of the river. We realized that was one of the very last sail with Röde Orm and that surely brought a lot of nostalgia.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

return to the beautiful river

Some sailors at the end of their wandering life or the dreamers still dreaming the faraway edens end up here on the shores of the Guadiana. The charm of this river winding between virgin lands and beautiful hills at the back doors of Portugal and Andalucia is such that some anchors get sucked in the mud for ever: Lot of boats sailed their last miles here to the point of no return, still pulling on their chain as dogs on their leash turning their nose to the upcoming tides still hoping to go for a last ride. And after all, they still could do it, the Ocean is so close, just one tide away !
Abandonned patches of land let to grow back to the wild lost on the river shore far from anything are as much mirages for those ready to bury their anchors. They attrack them as lost atolls in the Pacific do for intrepid sailors. Everyone who experienced this river let one self dream about little acres of land on the shore of the Guadiana, far from the noisy crowd of the resort cities of the coast but close enough to enjoy certain advantages they offer.
Some succeed in buying a few acres of wild land, no longer proper for the local meagre agriculture. There is not, and there will not be any electricity or sewage, it is at the mercy of the floods which are still highly possible despite dams up river. But nothing stop them, not even the prohibition to build anything permanent or the lack of proper close by roads, or even good trails. Used to the minimalistic way of life on boats, they see themselves as new robinsons, happy to live under the shed of thousand year old olive trees, prolific fig trees and generous grenade trees, hidden from anyone. Their solitude and tranquility are guaranteed as Portugal and Spain are declaring the Guadiana shores as a natural preserve. Even if that means to many the impossibility to ever built anything else than shelters (there is no lack of bamboos !).

helping land friends to little project, some cement job to  make a permanent mooring for their boat.
So to not intrude on them and respect this place that harbored safely Röde Orm for 3 months, I will say no more and I will leave the bells of the 3 churches between San Lucar and Alcoutim respond to each other across the always lively water of the beautiful river

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time to migrate south

a visit to Mont St Michel, even more mysterious under the drizzle normand

It is time to go back to Röde Orm and time for sailing and enjoying new places. So back on our track again after this long break north.
we do not want to find a tree in Röde Orm cockpit !

and St Malo, the proud city of our "corsaires", standing proud across the centuries

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

a little tour in South Brittany

The past all around us, Clisson medieval city
The rocky coast of St Gildas, South of the Loire estuary
Guérande, a medieval walled city
and the famous salt ponds of Guérande,

Le Croisic, active fishing harbor on a beautiful coast
old mills of the 15 century, back to activity

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ouch ....!

France is a country to visit, to enjoy  food, wine and savoir vivre, but for me none of that, or well... some anyway before I submit myself to the knife of a surgeon.....Nothing dramatic.... but it will be a big relief to have it done before going to remote places. I do not feel confortable at all to rely on a local shaman !

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A rare breed of elephant...(click on title for more pictures)

Yes, in Nantes, my home city, there is some strange animals called : les machines de l'île (de Nantes). They were born in the former big shipyard which was the heart of Nantes before it closed its doors 20 years ago. After been laid off some formers craftmen working in the yard decided to create strange creatures in wood, animated by hydraulic movements. They started with the Giant and the Little Giant which now tour the world big cities, and of course the famous Elephant. Now more than 30 creatures are created, a mixture of the world of Jules Verne, native of Nantes, and the wild and poetic imagination of artist craftmen.  A team of young craftmen and women work continuously on new projects, the goal is to create a giant carroussel where all these machines will be used for the fun of people. Meanwhile, everyone is invited to climb on a firing sea dragon, or a cute turtle or a roaring strange flying fish and can participate to make it lively by using some pedals, levers to move feet, eyes etc..

The little giant
It was a very good initiative that the people of Nantes apreciated.  The closing of the shipyard was a dramatic shock for Nantes which has always been an important harbor  since the Roman invasion .Now the deserted yard is lively again and instead of launching huge ships, some very strange beasts emerge from the big warehouses, and a giant and his little niece can come back after their vacations around the world.

The sea dragon

and the sultan's elephant

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

nordic summer


We left Röde Orm at anchor in the river, and flew to Sweden for a few weeks, to take care of a few land related matters.

Sweden is at its best during this so longed for mid summer that 9 millions of Swedish wait for during 10 months of the year. Luck is on their side, and ours, as the sun shines brightly over the country, and a very warm and hot weather swarms over the nordic lands. It is a bonanza of nature, as vegetation, humans and animals are united in a frenesy of life, knowing this break is short. The days seem to never end and the sun takes only a short break to disapear still not to far from the horizon before showing up again.
We are busy removing the last chains that tie Magnus to land but we  would rather enjoy sailing during this beautiful period in the archipelago. Instead, we drive back and forth betwen Malmö, Gamleby, Gälve giving me the oportunity to discover more, even Stokholm, so I enjoy it this way too, between packing stuff in boxes !!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A road trip

Mértola, 38 km north of Alcoiutim on the Guadiana is in the province of Alentejo (a well known good wine production area). It is hazardeous to reach it with our boats, so thanks to Mo, our new friend resident on the Guadiana shores, we drove through the steep hills and deserted landscape. We all got in his van for a little discovery trip. with Andreas, Swedish first met in Falsterbo who just came with his boat to Alcoutim. Since Antiquity, the area was already well known for minerals and for its prime location along the river. The Romans had established a good base at Mértola as show important ruins close to the Moorish forteress. The little village has been a very impressive settlement dominating the narrow valley since the pre Roman era. The Moors took over and the islamic culture left its trace even nowdays, some islamic holidays are still celebrated. Farther in the Alantejo where a torrid and dry wind sweeps the smoother hills, we go see the Minas Santo Domingo. The mines were closed in 1943. Exploited since the Romans, it is now a open wound in the landscape. The region is ruined by the acidic mineral deposit. The little village where the miners lived is still surviving among the remains of the mine and the acidic small artificial lakes with their bare and unhealthy shores. Far from the coast and its often clashy tourist traps, there is a lot to discover if what you want to see is the Portugal which still belongs to the Portugueses. Few tourists go deep in the country, and even fewer cruisers who prefer the security of the English speaking costal towns and marinas.  Well they miss a lot, but we surely do not miss them around us !!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Aromatic trekking

(click on title of post to see photo albums)
                                                                                      the fountain in alcoutim

We took off on a two days hike in the country of olive, almond and fig trees groves along the trails winding among lavender and rosmary bushes, sage and other flowers in full bloom. The labyrinth of smooth but steep hills show very few habitations, the villages are far apart and very small on both sides of the Guadiana. It is a heaven for the senses. We set our tent at the base of an almond tree among the thick bed of flowers and herbs and just enjoyed the spicy air at the top of the hill, dominating the surroundings and the river. The Algarve is not only the splendid beaches and ocre cliffs that the tourists love so much. It is also this rugged and rustic isolated back country, genuine, full of charm and hospitality and most of all pristine and beautiful along the Guadiana.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Border life (click on title for more pictures)

10 o'clock rings from the bell of the Spanish church echoed by 9 o'clock from the Portuguese church bell.
Hard not to know the time of the day here... but what time ? We go grocery shopping at 10 in San Lucas but managed also by 10 to be at the library in Alcoutim !! That is life on the Guadiana river, between spanish and portugues time, between two little towns, or just villages competing for the loveliest award.
With no doubt, San Lucas wins. It is the perfect little Andalucian village, white, flowery, standing proud on its hill like a little forteress around its church. A mighty fort oversees the river from the top of the other hill. It is a sleepy little place where no one can be seen between 2 and 5 o'clock...
Alcoutim is not so attractive, though seems more lively, probably because of a main road going by. Its fort is at the village level and does not appear as mighty and grandiose as its Spanish conterpart. Both villages have a long history behind them, and the river has been an importan for the Phoenicians to the Romans Visigoths, Moors.. etc..
it is a unique place on a beautiful river easy to navigate, with absolutely no commercial traffic at all,  welcoming to cruisers with no restrictions at all. It is unspoiled and isolated

A change of pace, Guadiana river

Though it is not a slow pace up river, because the tidal current is strong. Too bad, we did not sail because it is deep and wide enough but we had a head wind. The river is not busy, no commercial boats, a few sail boats taking advantage of the tides go down, or up. We do not even see some local boats fishing. We decided to stop at he first little village on the Portuguese shore, though anchored more on the spanish side. There is not even a store. As soon as we passed the bridge after Ayamonte, we entered a totally different country. A country of olive trees, figue trees, almond trees, grape and of green emptiness. There are not many houses in view, just hills after hills of green trees and a multitude of flowers which are in full bloom after the rainy winter. It is peaceful, out of time compare to the coast. We took our first hike in the heat of midday, enjoying the smell of the pungent flowers and bushes, following trails which led to the almond and olive trees grooves. A beautiful first day on the Guadiana.

Monday, April 26, 2010

One foot in Portual, the other in Andalusia

We chose the spanish side of the river Guadiana and anchored on the North side of Ayamonte 2 miles after the entrance of the Guadiana. The tidal current here is powerful !
We were eager to be in Spain after a so long stay in a rather dull and subdued Portugal and choose to visit Ayamonte, on the Andalusian side of the river.
Here there is a spark that makes everything livelier, more energetic. The nice plazas, the better kept old buildings and houses, better food and cheaper. But most of all people who aknowledge you, and it is a nice change.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Tavira island perspective.... 

As we go east toward Spain, it seems that we are finding the true Algarve where people do not adress you in English, where the cities still belong to Portugueses rather than foreign citizens. There are still long beautiful beaches on the islands that the lagunas created, there are no spectacular cliffs and caves anymore, but long lagunas formed by little rios where tides rule. it is the salt marshes and a bird heaven.
Tavira is well worth a stop, though it is not a yatchmen paradise in search of marinas and comodities. And it is why we like it.... The entrance is narrow, the tidal current playing around this funnel. The channel easy enough but the anchorage space in the little rio very scarse as we have to stay clear of the chenal, well marked and lit as it is a very busy little fishing harbor. Tavira island on one side is a natural reserve so preserved from any building and tourists resorts, apart from a few beach restaurants and a campground. at the ferry landing. It is only accessible by a little ferry, It is a surprise to see that the island is kept pristine, contrary to Culatra, here the trash and flotjams are removed. The season has not started yet and the long beach of several kilometers is totally deserted.
The town of Tavira is 2 miles walking along the salt marshes- And it is a very nice, extremely pleasant town on a even higher scale than Siles. Beautiful old buildings and old houses surprisingly well kept, The ruins of the castle harbor a pleasant botanic garden. Tavira was in the 13th century a rich garrison city during the conquest of North Africa, then another golden era in the 19 th century up to the mid 1960 with tuna fishing and its canneries. Nowdays, the city takes pride to revive her past by restoring some very old buildings and even doing some archeological escavations. Some more modern addition keep the city young, open and very hospitable.The European fund is used for this purpose, and hopefully there is still enough to finish the job !!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

a walk in the sand

The Levante blew strong last night and finally came down after noon to allow us to go ashore to explore.
Culatra is a flat sandy island smelling thym and rosemary. It is a little paradise, with no road, a grandiose beach and no cars allowed. A small fishing village at the origin with fishermen shacks became a little low key resorts for their family and locals from Olhao or Faro, who come with the little ferry. Two little villages are separated by marshes and sand dunes. Some boats, camarans ended up here to bury their hulls in the marsh, creating a little village on their own, or a boat shanty town rather !! It is serene, unique, beautiful, but again, Portuguese do not respect their nature and it is too bad to see so many trash along the shore, in a natural reserve....

click on the title for more pictures

Friday, April 9, 2010

On the road again...

on of the little project, a cockpit table...

We remained two days on board in front of Culatra and its little fishing harbour before going ashore..The vast bay created by the laguna is calm, serene. Faro, the biggest city in Algarve is visible on the West side, Ohlao, all white, to the North and the flat sandy Culatra island and its little village on our beam, a few yards away, on our bow, East is the infinity of the immense sand bar and laguna and the beginning of the natural reserve.
The bay can be deceiving though, it is large but not navigable for us outside its chenals, marsh lands and sand bars. The anchorage seems so wide that the only 5 boats anchored  are los in it.
Our sailing here was perfect if not for the 2 or 3 hours motoring before a steady 10 to 12 knots wind on the beam pushed us at almost 7 knots on a flatten sea. The sun was warm and this sweet open ocean breeze carried promesses of our futures voyages. That gave us courage to complete some unfinished little projects bathing in the sun in between. Since the Levante, this annoying East wind coming from Gilbraltar is ruling the sky for a few days, we wait here enjoying these open but protected waters.
Tomorrow, it will be time to explore our new land...

picture from internet... laguna de Faro

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Enough stories to write a book....

Alvor anchorage...
What remains the same in the last 30 years is the experience of meeting remarkable characters. We are the “citizens of the sea”, extremely individualists. I am not talking about the “tourists” (as says Jacques our Belgium friend), the summer yachting crowd, the week-end cruiser or even the sabbatical cruiser young or older. No I mean the ones who chose this life style for what it is and for most of them with the point of non return.
There is always in every anchorage the percentage of bums who drown their sorrow in alcohol too scared to face the unknown of another shore. They cannot lift anchor anymore, tangled in the cheap life, cheap booze. Behind their ravage face are hidden some dramatic stories of sad destroyed dreams. They are those who without really any love or dream about seafaring left to escape society, problems. There too, are a lot of dramas, dissatisfaction, bitterness and even negativity. And then, the ones who are trapped in their own boat too big, too heavy too expensive to maintain. The single older guys who have lost the spark of adventure and discovery, a little jealous of the ones who keep going, of the couples who can rely on each other and share the joy and the hardship of sailing. They are too individualists to share their life, to find a crew, a companion. They rather settle in their routine, stay where it is safe where they have their habits, but keep dreaming of farther anchorages. Then there is the back lashed of lost fortunes where the boat becomes the last refuge and it is a self rediscovery in this more simple life where a business card is incongruous.
There are some strong moment where everyone lower their guard and reveal themselves without shame, hypocrisy around a table garnished with a good meal. Without doubts those confessions are easier to make knowing that we will part to probably never meet again... Social barriers, ages, nationalities are then non existent.
It is rare though, those moments. Some will always stay landlubbers simply transferring from land to boat their problems, inhibitions, tensions they thought they left behind. Those will be multiply by 10 in a small damp universe
30 years ago everything was simpler. We were fewer and had more or less the same background. We were before everything adventurers in our approach of sailing and life on a boat. Not much income, or none, we were jack of all trades. Our stories were often the same and we immediately connected. It was a seafarer community that is about to disappear. Now there is social classes in marinas, even anchorages, nationality barriers sometimes. And it is a shame.
Though once in a while we meet people we connect immediately with.Their stories are different but we feel that the same motivation drives us to where we all are now. We still all believe in our dreams, we realize them and are taking them a step farther without loosing our enthusiasm. We do not talk about the last electronic devices or boat gadget or the marinas and commodities our the latest sailing rally. We all try our best to avoid the main stream, and tend to leave the crowd behind.

Today we left our little floatting village, leaving some good friends. Some we will see again, some probably not, but we won't forget them. It is good to feel free again, and be able to choose when and where to go. It is a wonderful privilege.
But before we were able to leave, Magnus and friends had to untangle the chain from the mooring line. (I had secure the boat with the anchor during the storm, and with the tides, the chain made a few turn around the mooring line..)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

a very special book

We do not trade this one, it has its place of honor on board beside the log book. It is the mirror of our social life, us, the sea vagabonds. It is our memory log. At a time where internet, blogs, emails are overtaking our social lifes, this book is for me irreplaceable. I love to go through its pages which I hope will be soon rich of names, little notes of friendship, pictures and sometimes lovely little art pieces from aquarelles to poesie. It is an habit started 25 years ago during my first cruisings. At this time it was not inusual among cruisers, now days, I hardly see any of those on boats. It is too bad, and some may think I am old fashion, but I will carry on the old tradition and present my book to my guests, our friends we do not want to forget among an impersonnal email contact lists.
A new page, a new friend....

Röde Orm memory log.....

Friday, March 26, 2010

New sprayhood has arrived...

Our coming and staying in alvor was entirely the consequences of the making of the sprayhood (dodger). No more than 3 weeks maximum should have been necessary to get it done and installed.
But it took 4 months mostly because of the lack of organisation and business manner of the craftman and also a certain bad luck when he raptured his Achilles tendon jogging a little too heartily. But now the nice well done spayhood is here and even the captain almost reluctant at the beginning seem to apreciate it. A second hand dinghy, nice and more sea worthy than the old one had been added, with a smal 2 hp power outboard. Then engine will be a good thing for security when the wind is blowing or when we are far from shore. But, we will keep rowing as much as we can...

(click on article title to access photo album)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring fever and itchy feet

These last three months of winter have been a little boring and deceptive here in Alvor. In restrospect, may be it was not the perfect place to spend the winter on the boat, considering my own personal taste, even if the anchorage is very protected. Though, Algarve and Alvor were the obvious places logistically speaking..The natives are wary even some seem a little hostile of us foreigners. Alvor has really been sold, probably given away the last 30 years to the British mostly. The 2 main streets are ligned up with so many restaurants and bars that it is quite ridiculous. Everything is targeted for British often run by British who are masters in segregation, cultural, racial and social....
With this particularly harsh winter, there were not much to do or go, no way to work on the boat except for small inside projects. No really any hiking to do beside the beautiful beach and the little hill behind the village. I missed hiking a lot.
In short, that is not the Portugal we had started to like and apreciated on our way down the West coast.
But as the sun is shinning everything is looking brighter.... 

Monday, March 15, 2010

winter attack

I am glad RödeOrm is not among them....

The day after my return, Magnus took off on his own mission leaving me in charge during 5 weeks. February has been the worst month of this worst winter in Europe since ages and we were not forgotten down here.  We had near gales, and even gales right after another.
Rödeorm dragged anchor during the first blow though the wind was blowing no more than 35 knots, 40 knots. It was unexpected since we had stayed put on this anchor during 3 months even during a strong blow at Christmas. The holding is good in this deep muddy bottom, but tides and currents can shift the anchor and even make mud banks slid and shift also. Not wishing to reanchor at the same place, I took a mooring with the help of our Belgium friend. Seemingly strong and well maintained, I could not trust this mooring entirerly and I secured the boat on its anchor too. We had strong winds and rain every two days to the final gale of the season, a named one blowing 45 to 50 steady winds and gusts up to 60 knots during four five hours. I kept the engine on from the cockpit  watch three unattended boats wash ashore on sand and rocks. The same gale pursued its way up the coast to severly hammered Vendée in France causing a lot of damage and death of more than 50 people. Combine with spring tides, flooding happened here too. Magnus came back when the game was over, just in time to finally enjoy the arrival of Spring with warmer and dryer weather. I am relieved and happy that February and its train of gales is behind us and that ahead of us, the so desired sprayhood is becoming a reality as our British sail maker has decided to put some energy into it !! But was this thing missed during those downpours !!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Enjoying a very old Gallic tradition


A short stay in France was the perfect occasion to indulge in one of a very old culinary tradition the very French Galette des Rois.

A celebration of Christ being visited by the Magi, the epiphany was set to January the 6th by Pope Julius II. Also known as le jour des Rois, this is the day when the three kings are traditionally added next to the crib. Over the years, this religious festival overlapped with pagan traditions that went back to the Roman Saturnalia.

From the Middle Ages, the epiphany has been celebrated with a special Twelfth Night cake: la galette des rois, literally the King's cake. The galette differed according to the regions: for example it was made of puff pastry in Paris, but made of brioche and shaped as a crown in Provence. Under Louis XIV, the Church considered this festival as a pagan celebration and as an excuse for indulgence, and it was subsequently banned. To get around this ban, it became la fête du bon voisinage (literally, 'neighbourly relations day'). This culinary tradition even survived the French Revolution when it became the ‘Gâteau de l’Êgalité (the equality cake), as Kings were not very popular in those years!
The cake contains a lucky charm (une fève) which originally was a bean, a symbol of fertility. Whoever found the charm in their slice of cake, became King or Queen and had to buy a round of drinks for all their companions. This sometimes resulted in stingy behaviour and to avoid buying a round of drinks, the potential King or Queen very often swallowed the bean! This is why towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the lucky charm started being made of china. The charm can take any shape or form and can either be very plain or more sophisticated (glazed or handpainted). It sometimes represents a religious figure such as the baby Jesus, but it can be virtually anything. Little horseshoe shapes are popular as they are thought to bring luck. Although nowadays very often made of plastic, old-fashioned china charms are still used and they have become a collectable item.
The modern Galette des Rois is made of puff pastry and can be plain or filled with frangipane, an almond-flavoured paste or the lighter  brioche. It is sold in all French bakeries and eating the galette at the beginning of January is still a very popular tradition and an opportunity for families and friends to gather around the table. Now day, the tradition is extended to the entire month of January.Tradionally, the youngest person in the room (usually a child) hides under the table and shouts out which guest each slice of cake should be given to. The person who finds the fève in their slice of galette becomes the King or Queen and is given a golden paper crown. The King or Queen then has to choose his Queen or her King, by dropping the lucky charm in their glass.

Friday, January 15, 2010

it is winter here too...

Since three weeks, we had fronts after fronts bringing a lot of rain and strong winds up to 45/50 knots in gust just before Christmas. Tremendous amount of rain provided us with plenty water for the tank and we could spare some to wash sheets and clothes. The only problem was to dry them. Fortunately one day out three was sunny and dry. It is quite unusual to have this kind of weather for so long here, but the rest of Europe is far more in trouble than us. Temperature can be as low at 35°F at night. But the wind can be a nonsense when we want to go ashore with the dinghy. Sometimes we just have to wait 2 or 3 days before being able to row ashore.
No luck with British sail makers.... After waiting for 3 weeks here in Alvor, mostly delayed by bad weather,(that was the excuse..) the guy just told us he partly broke in Achilles tendon and has to go back to UK. would he be able to resume the work in three weeks? Can we believe that ?
Having given him a deposit, we decided to wait since the weather is not settled anyway and Alvor is the best shelter we could find. So we are part of the little floating village of Alvor, 2 french boats, 1 Belgium, two or three British, one german.
Needless to say that we socialize easier with the French speaking crowd...

Today is our one year anniversary of moving on Röde Orm. A very big step for Magnus.

the picture above has been borrowed