The week of living dangerously

I returned from Madrid to Almerimar with a new friend, J.  J is a friend of Marian’s who is also a California native and Cal grad. As luck would have it, she was free of obligations for the week.  So, she came down south with me.  What a relief it was to have company for the drive down and for the next week.  Andrew had flown back to the U.S. for a short family visit.  He’s only been home a few times in the last three years, and this was one of the only times he would be able to get away.  


I spent the week chasing around the various contractors in the boatyard, making sure that things were progressing.  The boatyard i run by an Italian man named Paolo.  He has grey hair, jowls and a bit of a stomach although he still does some of the boat work himself.  He seemed to be very knowledgeable and pleasant at first.  


The things we had done to the boat included; having the standing rigging replaced, fixing a leak in the stern, fixing up various scratches along the hull, repairing a section of our rolling furler and repairing some damaged electronic components.


To replace the rigging, they took down the mast.  Strictly speaking it is not necessary to do so, but that’s the way Paolo wanted to do it.  I was there to supervise as they detached all the cables, including the forestay, and lifted the mast into the air with a crane.  For the next week it would sit beside the boat on a couple of oil drums.  Our mast is deck-stepped, which means that the end of it sits on the deck as opposed to sitting on the keel itself.  There is a pole inside the main salon that we had always assumed was part of the mast.  It turns out this is what is called a compression post.  The compression post transfers the pressure from the mast downward to the keel.  The oddest thing I learned when they lifted the mast is that the thing is really held in place by the rigging.  At the bottom of the mast, where it sits on the fitting on the deck, it is only held in by a pin sitting in a groove.  Not a pin through an eyelet or hole, just a semicircular groove.  The cables of the rigging hold the mast into place by forcing it down and balancing it forward to back and sideways.  


The standing rigging is the set of the cables that hold the mast in place.  Running rigging refers to things like lines that also go up the mast and put tension on it, but can be changed or removed when not sailing.  The standing rigging is supposed to be replaced every seven years according to the insurance companies.  Most people say that one can wait a little longer to do so, but we’re going to be crossing an ocean soon.  


Paolo had to fabricate new cables for our shrouds and stays, complete with new end fasteners.  I got to see Paolo using the machine that swages (<- today’s vocab word) the ends onto the cables.  It’s a hydraulic machine that pulls the cable through an opening.  In passing through that same opening, it squeezes the endpiece together onto the cable.


Meanwhile, a rotund, balding man with thick glasses is hard at work repairing the leak we had in the stern.  The boat is manufactured with two pieces of fiberglass sealed together at a sam that runs all the way around the edge.  The top piece of fiberglass is the deck and the bottom is the hull.  At the stern they dip below the waterline.  I guess thsi was done to have a nice shape and make entry from the water, i.e. after swimming, easier.  However, it means that a seam is below the waterline and hence a possible source of leaks.  We have been dealing with the leak and the periodic piercing klaxon of the bilge pump that it causes for some time  We thought that it was a failure on the part of the sealant in the seam.  It turns out there was an actual crack through the fiberglass where the hull makes a sharp corner.  


Our portly friend sanded back the area of the crack and started building it up again with fiberglass.  After that he layered on gelcoat – the shiny outer surface.  Finally the whole thing was painted with anti-fouling and the cover over the seam was screwed back into place.  He also went over the seam with some gelcoat from the outside.  (I had gotten into the transom locker at one point with a gun of silicone sealant to try to fix the leak.  He had it easier on land, methinks.)  He then went on to fill in the various small scratches around the hull.


At the same time we were also having our sails repaired.  The broken part of the rolling furler had pinched the jib and our battens in the mainsail had shattered and poked through the sail.  We took them both over to the sail loft, An’C, run by a nice South African guy named Colin and his wife.  


He was a great help in getting the sails off – something I had never done before.  He was quite busy in the loft and shorthanded, but he promised to get our sails back to us by the next Wednesday, our scheduled departure date.  


Colin is a wiry gu with shaggy blond hair, a suntanned face marked by deep laugh lines and surprising blue eyes.  We got to kno him quite well.  He told us of his time traveling in the U.S., hitchhiking back and forth, and the sailing he had done on the North Star, a restored classic wooden boat.  He had been a wooden boat builder before he met his second wife, and current partner in the sail loft, in Mallorca.   


The week in Almerimar could have ben torturous, but with J there, it was pretty nice.  We explored what the place had to offer within walking distance – the beach, the plazas and, uh, the supermarket.  We fell in love with the sweet old man who runs the bar called El Bucanero.  It quickly became our favorite breakfast place (cafe con leche y tostadas de tomate y atun) and a frequent cana y tapa stop, too. 


I met the somewhat nutty guy who sells “acorns” that he whittles himself.  He’s a older gentleman who has also written a few books of poetry.  He gave me one of the books for free after I bought an acorn for a euro.  He insisted that i don’t say “gracias” but rather “salud”.  He also asked me to tell whoever I met that I had received his poetry for free.  So, world, I got a free book of poems by Antonio Torres Montes.  


I decided to make the trip up to Granada for the last weekend I had in Almerimar with J and without Andrew.  Almerimar gets pretty quiet on the weekends anyway and no work was going to be done to Tocayo.  So, J and I left on Saturday to take the bus up.


The first stop on the way to Granada is El Ejido, the nearest big town to Almerimar.  Described by some as “el pueblo mas feo de Andalucia”, El Ejido has nothing much to go for it besides big shopping outlets and the tallest skyscraper in the region.  J and I took the local bus from the marina to the bus station in the E-dub.  We had to wait for a few hours until the next bus to Granada, so we walked off to a nearby park.  We came back to the station and saw that the bus was supposed to leave at 4pm, according to the sign on the wall.  We waited for a while so that the line at the ticket counter would go down and then we went up to get our tickets.  The lady at the counter told us that the bus had just left – at 3:45!  The ticket office didn’t even open until 3:30.  We couldn’t believe we had missed the bus while sitting in the station.  So, we had to wait another couple of hours for the next bus.  That’s a little too much tim to spend in El E, in my opinion.


Fially we got on the bus and up to Granada.  It was already dark by the time we found our hotel.  We freshened up and headed out for tapas.  Granada still keeps  the tradition of serving a tapa with every beer.  So, you can go out drinking and have dinner at the same time.  The first place we went to was called La Bella y La Bestia.  It was crowded and the tapas they offered were more like a burger joint than a Spanish bar.  They have a system where you get better tapas with each round, but after the first round of ham sandwiches and fris, we didn’t feel like staying.  The next place was also similar, but then we found some more authentic places.  At the last bar which was the most tourist-oriented, we actually ordered a tapa and sat down at a table outside.  We asked for the check three different times from three different waiters who each ignored us in turn.  Finally, we gave up trying to pay and just left.  In Spanish this is called a “sinpa”, short for sin pagar.  It’s the first time I’ve ever done it in Spain – or elsewhere if memory serves.  


On Sunday, J and I walked around town and had a few more beers and tapas.  Then, sadly, I had to get back on the bus to El Ejido and she had to wait for hers to Madrid.  I would have two days in Almerimar to tie up loose ends before Andrew returned.


They went quickly because everything seemed to be coming to a head at once.  The mast went back on in an unexpected change of plans.  The carpenter came on board to say there was nothing he could do about our groaning bulkheads.  The work on the sails went along apace, in time for that deadline.  I retreated when I could from the dust and desolation of the boatyard to the air-conditioned comfort of the cybercafe, missing J and awaiting Andrew’s return.