February 23, 2014

It's a dog's life

The Free Dictionary says to "It's a dog's life": Something that you say which means that life is hard and unpleasant.

I don't think our lifestyle complies, even though we are living in a cramped space and sailing can be unpleasant at times. Nooooo, life is good on a boat. 

There are some sailors here in the marina with dogs. Quite a lot actually. The most famous example would be Sven and Ulrike with dog Frida. Frida sailed all the way from Germany to Portugal and probably is one of the happiest dogs on earth. Now this is not only because she lives on a boat (a sad dog's life ;-)), but has a lot to do how Sven and Ulrike treat her Frida. The definition from the dictionary definitely doesn't fit with Frida's life. 

The definition fits better to those thousands of dogs here in Portugal that live on chains, stray around or languish in shelters. Some of the sailors here help out in the shelter. They clean, go with the dogs, feed them and generally try to be there for them once or twice in a week.

Last Friday we went with them. I tried to avoid shelters all of my life, because the word alone makes me sad. We were a bit excited, not only because we would see a shelter for the first time in our life, but we had a reason to go there :-). 

It wasn't that bad a all. In fact the contrary... Here is a little video clip Stefanie took with some uber-sweet puppies that the shelter received recently. 

If you want a dog, please let us know. We can put you in contact with the right people. 

WELLLLLL, the reason we went to the shelter in the first place is this little dog. 

What do you think? Would he be a good boat dog and companion? to be continued :-) ....

February 15, 2014

The gasman who wasn't here officially

Gas is something on a boat that seems to cause troubles all the time. At least on Ikoko. We need gas for cooking, that's it. However, every time our big bottle is empty we have a serious problem to fill her up again.

Slowly springn is coming. You asked yourself what this has to do with gas? Nothing. We just wanted to post one nice picture.

Some of you might remember our odyssey of getting a re-fill for our German/Dutch bottle along our trip down here from the Netherlands to Portugal. We weren't really lucky in all ports we visited. In the meantime we have another big bottle on the boat - a French-one. This particular one doesn't fit either. Our friend Michael A. bought a Euro-Adapter Set for gas bottles and sent it to us last year. Even with this set of adapters we weren't able to hook-up the French bottle. The whole gas experience culminated in a row of unbelievable events during our stay in Porto, Portugal last year. Only because we wanted to have gas, NOW. 

We found ourselves standing in front of a refinery, because somebody told us they would fill up gas bottles... well... yes, sure... in a huge refinery. We were standing in small gas bottle shops, trying to communicate with arms, hands and legs, drawing things on paper, tugging our bottle from gas station to gas station in 90 degrees F. ... only because we really wanted to happen this exactly now. No waiting anymore. There must be a solution to this. The whole thing found its almost end in an accident we had in a Taxi on a crossroads including a crowd of people discussing the accident. The cars were a constructive total loss. Our gas bottle survived the accident - we too. ... and because this whole story is too good to believe and cries for Stefanie's hilarious, honest and emotional style of writing, we will post this story in two days... stay tuned. I just need to translate all this into English.

Wellllllll. And now here is the second round of the never ending gas bottle story. 5 month of gas are coming to an end. 

The day before yesterday it was about time again. I (Kosta) celebrated my first coffee - traditionally in my Bialetti and Co. set-up. 7:30 AM is my time to wake up. I sit there with my coffee reading the first Emails and slowly start working on my project (filling up the cruising kitty). Around 9:30 AM I hear the chirping sound of Stefanie's voice through the two doors that separate the salon from our "bed-chamber". I close them in the morning so Stefanie won't hear me doing phone calls. "Hellllloooooo" it chirps. This is the signal for tea-time. I open the doors and usually storm to Stefanie: "Good morning my darling....". It always makes me happy to see her waking up. Never get tired of it. Back in the salon boiling water for tea followed by tea service in bed.... JUST NOT TODAY... bummer, the gas quit on me this very moment. Bad timing. Stefanie without tea in the morning... no good. 

At least we had our new French gas bottle. Easy project - we thought. We eventually found the European gas adapters, changed the bottles and.... nothing. Not fit... nothing. It just didn't fit. The European Union is putting standards on everything... from the size of apples to the amount of seeds that would grow on trees (just kidding with the last one), but there is no standard with gas bottles?!?!? I just don't get it.

The French bottle that doesn't fit. 

The German/Dutch bottle that fits, but can't be re-filled without huge problems.

Next thought. We go over to Lou-Lou. Lou-Lou is French and lives on a catamaran across with his wife Francoise and dog Marissa. Who better to ask than a French, when dealing with French gas bottles. 5 minutes later Lou-Lou was on Ikoko. As a French he knows about the importance of not being able to cook. If it is about "gourmet" there must be something done - immediately. But also Lou-Lou didn't know what to do. Even after scratching his head a couple of times.. no solution. 

Since I had to work, Stefanie was going downtown to a gas shop. They weren't able to fill-up the bottle, but said she should go to another place. That would be a company called "Galp". They basically do all the gas stuff in Portugal. The refinery we went to in Porto was Galp as well. Nice story on the side. The guy in the little gas shop used to live in Austria for 4 years and speaks German. David is his name and his girlfriend's father owns the shop. A young adorable couple. We stopped by there today again on our way to grocery shopping and had a little chat. Next weekend they are going to visit us on Ikoko for a coffee with hopefully new gas.

Galp finally could help Stefanie. A technician would stop by our boat at 5:30 pm sharp. Sharp? In Portugal? Usually this means "in a couple of days". 

5:30 pm, Daniele was standing there in front of our boat, prepared to have a well-informed look at our gas situation. Pressure here, Portuguese, French and German systems. Why are the fittings left-turning? Nobody does that anymore (except the Germans obviously)... mmmhhh. He mulled over things again and again. Finally the solution. We need to change to Camping gas. This wouldn't cause us any troubles at all along our future travels. He could do this for us. If he only had time. Mulling... again. Eventually he took our German bottle and drove off, promising that he would return the next day with a full bottle. ...because... no cooking.... not possible. This is an emergency.

Two of the many adapters that won't fit.

Fast foward. Two hours ago Daniele was here with a full gas bottle - at 5:30 PM sharp. I think it was never that full. We exchanged 30 Euros and tipped him 5 Euros. What we didn't know until then? He did that after his work hours and brought the bottle to a different shop than Galp. The Galp office supported all this though. Since he didn't get our mobile number right, the office called us and coordinated the whole project. So the whole thing wasn't all that official and he just meant that he was never here.. on our boat.

We WILL change to camping gas now. Even though this produces stories to remember, we don't really see us hunting for gas all over the world. Daniele will handle this for us in a couple of months. 

The first tea with our new gas tastes pretty good right now. All is well on Ikoko otherwise. Slowly we are starting to work and plan on boat projects again. More on that next week. ... because we made a plan and already started to execute it over the last weeks. 

February 5, 2014

The Bluewater Magazine is online!

We get this question a lot: What are you doing on the boat? Isn't it boring to just sit on the boat? 

Well, apart from sitting around on the boat we are doing plenty of stuff off the boat. Meeting people, sport, walking, going places, shopping (for food mostly)... there is always something to do. And then there is this working situation now. We need to fill up our cruising kitty again and started to take on some projects a couple of weeks ago. This keeps us busy from early in the morning till late in the afternoon. Right now we are back to the good old routine. Working from Monday through Friday with the weekends off. 

Colorful Stories

However... before January we had plenty of time to work on some creative stuff. One result is "The Bluewater Magazine", which is an online magazine all about awesome stories from cruisers around the world. Its aim is to be your one-stop source for inspirational stories from and about our oceans. 

Next to the colorful reports from our cruising friends we also mixed in some cause-related stuff. You see, when we sailed down the Western European coastline we could see that there is a lot of bad stuff going on. 

Plastic Pollution

Industrial plants, who let all their bad smelly waste directly into the ocean, waste all over the place. Especially plastic in all forms on the water and on the beaches. Fishing trawlers with nets that clean the whole ocean from top to bottom with hundreds of meters of nets hanging out. Eliminating every life that comes in their way. 

Creating Awareness

This made us think about our own waste situation and why we have so much plastic rubbish on the boat all the time. And then it was clear to us. We wanted to create awareness and get the message out there first hand. Who else can better report on what is going on in our oceans than those who live and sail on them? Travelers of the oceans. Cruisers. 

We spent November and December to get in contact with some interesting cruising folks around the world. Most of them were enthused to contribute to The Bluewater Magazine. But we did more than that. We also contacted some bigger organisations, which write about environmental issues in general, but also a lot about ocean related things. We are pretty happy to have MNN.com and treehugger.com as strong partners. 

The result of all this is The Bluewater Magazine. It is published every Friday and is giving you some interesting insights of people who live on and with the ocean as well as plenty of insightful stories around environmental issues around our oceans and this (our) blue marble. 


We put a lot of energy in this project and try our best to curate the best content out there for you to have an easy and diverting but meaningful read over the weekend. The Bluewater Magazine is available for free on your computer and any other device like your tablet or smartphone. 

I want to be part of it, what can I do?

  1. Please spread the word on your social sites with your friends (or those form whom you know they would be interested). Facebook, Google+, Twitter or what have you. 

  2. Subsribe to The Bluewater Magazine. You will get one Email every week on Friday with a link to our latest edition. There is a link on the top right of the magazine for you to subscribe.

  3. Be part of the discussion on our Facebook site. Like us and again.... spread the word. 

And now... happy reading and thank you for taking the time to read all this. 

All the best from Ikoko, Kosta & Stefanie

February 1, 2014

A squirmy island of guts?

Just before we had the big swell coming in here in Portimao Marina, this little squirmy island of guts floated around in the marina basin. 

No one knew what it was, no one wanted to take care of this smelly thing. It just swam around here in the marina for days, changing positions between boats pushed around by the tide every six hours.

I took some pictures and asked the marina stuff. One of the Marineros eventually moved it out of the basin. Even he didn't know what it was and never saw something like it before. It was kind of strange because it was rectangular, but no strings kept it together. Well, he meant it was sort of a stomach of a big ocean animal. ?!?!? Said it and zoomed away with his big dinghy to again take position in front of his office to continue chatting with friends.

Strange thing indeed. To me it looks like guts from many animals, but why is it so almost perfectly rectangular? And why does it float? And why do the sea gulls and fish don't touch it?

Does anyone of you have an idea what this should be?

All the best from Stefanie. 

January 12, 2014

The Big Swell - Are we save in the marina?

Monday, January 6th 2014, beautiful weather to start the day, but a lot of swell in the second basin in Marina Portimao. As the day continues more and more heavy clouds cover the sky and the swell builds even more. Ikoko is rocking back and forth, from side to side and is heeling from one side to the other as if she was sailing - pulling on the moorings very badly. Very strange all this. No wind at all. We had to secure all loose things in the boat. Even the laptops lids close themselves in the heavy rocking. We were standing on the pontoons for quite some time with extra lines, waiting for something to break. If our portholes are nearly under water in a marina... well then this is a serious condition. 

Everybody was terribly busy, bringing out more fenders and lines, securing other boats. It was frightening. A neighbour told us about huge breaking waves at the beachfront. Apparently all is under water and the sea was slowly seeking its way to the restaurants behind the beach. The huge breakwater at the entrance of Portimao harbor was nowhere to be seen anymore. Huge breaking waves came through the entrance, the cliff next to the harbor, which is probably 30 meters high was totally covered in spray and solid water.

I HAD to see this. Got my camera and ran towards the ocean. Unfortunately it was dawn already and the light wasn't that good anymore. I am an idiot, only thinking of taking pictures now. I had plenty of time during the afternoon. 

Some impressions here. Sorry for the quality of the pictures. Night shots without a stand are not my strength.

One of those huge waves approaching the shoreline.

Crane and divers worked hard the whole night

That is a car park usually

The sea-bound breakwater is 400 meters long. It was "under water" most of the time.
The sand was washed right into the beach development (restaurants, shops, Hotel)
During the evening and night three or four pontoon fingers broke with larger boats on them. The marina staff had to bring four of them to the other basin. What an effort in those conditions. Boats got caught in each other, motoring away with one meter swell in the basin isn't really that easy. It just hurts if you see beautiful sailing (and power boats) banging into each other on loose pontoons that start to float away from the main pontoon. Again and again. 

Whole fingers broke off. Imagine 20- 30 ton boats hanging on each side, which then start to bang into
each other. 

The visitors pontoon broke as well. It also serves as the fuel pontoon. Luckily the fuel lines didn't break. But very close. Huge tug boats tried to secure the pontoon and preventing it from floating into the marina towards the other boats. The Marineros worked until late that night. Divers were bringing out chains and ropes. A crane was ordered to lift the broken "bridge" from the pontoon to the land. A total chaos. 

At least the fuel pontoon is secured now

The pontoon across broke as well and so did the sea anchors holding this structure. At least some of them, as the pontoon drifted towards the basin.

Forces of nature

Apart from some frightening moments everything went well on our boat. The only thing that broke was a little wood on one of the cleats. Nothing major really and we can 
repair that on our own. Well, at least now we know how these things are constructed. 

We had a major loss in the pantry and cooking section, though. Two of our pots with herbs, which I brought all the way from The Netherlands and Guernsey to Portugal, across Bay of Biscay went over board. Arggggh. I could have brought them inside or put them in the cockpit. Nooooo, I just left them on the side... and of course they had to slip over board. I will buy new herbs tomorrow and will nail them down on the deck!!! :-) Not really, Kosta wouldn't agree with it. 

Even Kooki (our dinghy) coudn't catch my herbs. 

The next day it looked like this: 

A lot of sand, where you usually have streets

Whole buildings were destroyed. 

That is where you usually stroll along in the evening to get some
dinner in one of the restaurants. 

No a whole lot left from the beach bar. 
And a day later it looked like this:

Almost clean of sand

They cleaned the whole thing up over night. Looking much better

They even worked on the beach. Still.. a lot of sand is missing

Even the palm trees were ripped out. They put them back first thing in the morning

Hard working... the 
Portuguese. Very, very diligent. 

And the surfers are in the water again. Hidden under the waves sometimes... but at least they are coming up again. 

This isn't the case in Spain. As we heard in the news, some people went for a walk at the beach after lunch and didn't make it back. 

It is so strange. "Mama, we go for a quick walk on the beach..." and they never have been seen again... what a traumatic experience for this family. The waves just took them. I must say that I find it pretty risky (or naive?) if you go to the beach in such conditions, despite a red warning all along the coast from France down to Portugal. My thoughts are with this family. 

When I walked to the beach that evening - and I was away from the sea big time, the water came towards me, very quiet. I didn't hear it. I had a save stand, but was so distracted with taking pictures that I didn't recognize the water flushing into my boots. Very treacherous. I went back to the boat, as it showed me that you don't want to fool around with the sea. Better safe than sorry. 

The next day the beach was full of shells and all sorts of stuff. I saw a larger shell for the first time on this beach. Usually you only have the small and broken ones. Well, that made me happy. :-). Then I start thinking of the Bahamas and all the other tropic destinations.... and the beautiful shells I might find there. Did I mention that I love shells? ;-)

And some other heavenly bodies :-)

Enjoy your time, wherever you are. 

stefanie. & Kosta

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