Delivering “42”: International!

Meeting up with a sailboat in the middle of a delivery is a tricky bit of timing to get right. The owners of “42”, John and Becca, had started out from Cyprus in mid November and were hoping for a fast passage to the other end of the Mediterranean. But as everyone knows, new-to-you boats take time to get used to sailing and they sometimes can hide a rather large amount of deferred maintenance. The miles they had hoped to make ended up falling rather short and so instead of a planned meetup in Madrid, I was headed eastward to Palermo, Sicily.

Despite my adventures back home, I had never been off the North American continent before! So, with backpack packed, passport in hand, and roller suitcase filled with tools and gear from back home for 42, I was headed for Europe.

Madrid, Spain

Madrid was a whirlwind, two night stop where I tried to immerse myself, feet (or head) first in my first taste of a foreign culture! Without a euro sim card I had to lug myself through the spiderweb of Madrid transit, with many a mispronounced “Hola” and “Perdon” in my wake. Eventually, I managed to end up in the city centre and after dumping my luggage at a hostel (another first, unless you count a tiny, run down single room hostel in Northern Ontario), I spent the next days engaged in sight seeing the narrow, winding streets, old cathedrals, and royal palaces on Madrid. There’s sights literally on every corner and one of my favorites was the massive green “jungle” inside the central transit station. Of course, airports wait for no man and soon I was off on another set of flights to Palermo, Sicily, the arranged meeting point for 42.

Palermo, Sicily

Palermo was another type of culture altogether. After bouncing down the runway with the elderly Italians aboard cheering that the wind hadn’t flung us off the runway, and realizing that the bag with all my clothes had been lost by Air Canada, I ended up exploring for 4 days the streets and hills of this city. The citizens of Palermo were an enigma in some ways, the streets were filled with trash, and outside of a few blocks of obviously tourist-centered restaurants, The narrow streets wound their way between a mix of tall, neglected apartments and the ever-present churches and cathedrals. But the people didn’t act like they saw the neglect apparent around them! Nearly everyone I saw was dressed with more care than the most fashion-conscious people back home. You would look around in wonder at the people, wondering if they were headed to a funeral, a wedding, a rave, or a bondage session. And how the streets came alive at night! The mid day closure of the shops might trick you into thinking that the city was quiet, but when the locals (and tourists!) came out to play at night, the streets would transform. Tables and chairs were set out, strings of (Christmas!) lights transformed the dusty streets, and more than once I wandered around a corner late at night to discover small squares filled with people dancing (once, improbably, to Johnny Cash strummed in a Spanish accent).

The first day in the city, at the hostel, I was lucky enough to make quick friends with Tobias, a Danish support worker on leave from his job. We were both looking for company and we had a lovely time hiking up a hill outside of town, past switch backs of cut stone and through cacti to a small shrine at the top of a hill. We toured the local nature gardens, with groves of bamboo, 20 varieties of massive aloe plants, rows on rows of cacti, and dozens of varieties of citrus fruit; most of which we sneakily sampled. But Tobias had a job to return too and so after a final, late night cup of coffee (You can get an espresso anytime in Sicily!) he said goodbye and I turned my eyes towards the horizon, waiting for the bows of 42 to appear over the horizon!

The Arrival

The local stray cats kept me company on the breakwater as 42 arrived at dusk to a slip arranged by me with some generous usage of Google Translate. The massive “42” lettering on the bows signaled the arrival of the boat at sunset; after we pushed apart the other boats on the dock and squeezed the boat into place, I met my magic carpet that would whisk me away to the rest of the Med!

Boat Work

But this magic carpet, much like the others in my life, needed some serious help. “42” hadn’t been seriously neglected, but returning to a life of active sailing and preparing for an Atlantic Crossing means you need to do quite a bit of work! It’s hard even now as I write this (halfway across the Atlantic) to remember when and where all the boat work happened, so I’m going to talk about it now, and leave the rest of these blog posts to the fun bits, like the islands we saw, the exploring we did, and the passages.

But a record of this trip wouldn’t be complete without the boat work! My time aboard the boat before the Atlantic crossing totaled 2 months, and aside from some time around Christmas and some passages, we were almost constantly working to get the boat ready for the big Atlantic passage (and keep her moving towards the western end of the Med before it got too deep into winter. We were already later than usual to be heading west). Some of the projects I helped with included:

-Line and Halyard splicing

-Engine belt tension modifications

-Black water tank repairs

-head plumbing repairs

-soft shackle creation

-Oil changes

-coolant flushes

-boat cleaning (of many kinds, of course)

-trips aloft the mast to replace halyards, remove old instruments, inspect the rigging, etc.

-electrical wire diagnosis and new wiring pulls

-solar panel mounts removal, reworking & testing

-and much, much more that I can’t remember.

It all eventually blurs together! I would estimate that with passages and the week at Christmas we took much slower, I put in close to 200 hours of full time work, with babysitting, meal making, and all the other daily life things that are a part of being on a boat on top of that. (There’s one additional crew member I haven’t mentioned yet, “Toonie”, just over 1 year old). Quite a bit of work for a Transatlantic! But in the end, I think the places I got to visit along the way made it all more than worth it. So, in upcoming posts I’m, going to gloss over the boat work and stick to the fun bits!