We've been back in Spain for a week and a half now and are finally settling in to life aboard again. Its been so sunny and nice. And the food and wine is awesome!!!! Everything was going really well with the return trip until we arrived in Lisbon, along with another plane, and the immigration staff were so shorthanded that they couldn't get everyone stamped in a timely manner so we missed our connecting flight to Valencia. The next plane didn't leave for 14 hours so we enjoyed all that time sitting around in various chairs in the airport because there was no safe place to leave our carry-ons to go into the city for the day. We were well fed during that time though because the airline gave us 54 Euros worth of food coupons to use! If they'd have known how little we paid for our tickets, they might've been a little stingier. But we did finally get in and rented a car so we could easily get all of our luggage down to the boat. After 36 hours of wakefulness, we slept like the dead for the rest of the night and into the next day.
When we were preparing Evergreen to leave it for 3 months, we had the usual concerns for secure lines, removing sails, putting out rat poison, guarding against moisture and mold, etc and then locking everything up tight like lockers and the interior. But upon starting to wash the boat off the following day, Jon noticed that the head to our radar unit was gone & wires cut (even though they easily unscrew from the back of the unit) and the wires that run through the arch to the scanner up above had been pulled up through the tubing but not cut. Then one of the cockpit lockers had been broken into, and it was clear that the kind person who was stealing our radar was looking to follow the wire run so he could get the dome with the head. In busting off the lock, he'd broken the latch and chipped the fiberglass but was otherwise neat & tidy. We felt so uneasy knowing someone had been aboard our boat & in our cockpit. It ruined our mood. The next day, I was out there washing down the boom & mast (a lot of fallout here from the very busy port) and I noticed some open spots on the mast where we'd once had mast steps. Upon looking upward, wow, all the mast steps going up to the spreaders had been carefully removed! Who in the world steals mast steps? And why are they ballsy enough to climb onto our boat to do it but too wimpy to climb above the spreaders to get the second half? For 10 steps that is 40 screws they had to undo and then carefully pocket and move down the mast to the next one. It would have taken well over an hour, probably more. Why not just work to earn the money to buy them like we did. Instead of Evergreen, our boat should be named "Insteada House & Kids!" You give up one to have the other. So, that narrows it down to a cruiser wanna be who is fitting out their boat using other people's stuff. That's lame. And yes, this marina has security. But in general, security keeps honest people out.
To make a long story short, our marina, Club Nautico Valencia, is very sympathetic and said that over Christmas, there was a rash of 3 thefts or more, mostly of electronics and even a sail and that the suspect who was on a dreg boat from a neighboring country, had been confronted by the coast guard already and has since split. Undoubtedly with a bunch of new stuff- if he was indeed the robber. We can only hope he was because it is quite a bad situation when you don't know if the robber is done swiping things off your boat or just getting going. And while we do know enough Spanish to get our needs met, it is something else to try to file a police report and incident reports and get estimates for an insurance claim (our first ever in 22 years of sailing) in Spanish. We spent the first few days back here in a dark frame of mind trying to figure out what to do- should we stay or go- and dealing with this, that we had no interest in dealing with. We were also just plain creeped out. But we've talked to others here and to the marina and we made a decision to stay put in hopes that it was an isolated event because we have no other place we really want to go at this point anyway. We'll suck it up and move on and the marina will look at their CCTV tapes for the period we were gone but what does it matter anyway? Upon looking back at photos a friend of ours sent of our boat sitting pretty on Dec 9th, the mast steps were still on then!
We'd rented a car for a week to do some touring around in Spain but we only managed (dared) to leave for one night to go to Barcelona. I'd been wanting to visit that city for the last dozen years and finally we got there. We did a couple of history museums, toured the old Gothic part of the city and walked all over, got our favorite 3 course menu del dia and scoped out whether we wanted to take the boat there. We enjoyed the city but decided we still like Valencia better because it is smaller but still has a great old town and more centralized parks not to mention 3 great bike paths. We're glad we went though because it was a great city and getting away helped improve our mood & our attitude. On the way back down the coast we took the toll free roads and passed through a major wine growing area before getting back to Valencia where there are huge citrus orchards. We returned the car the next day and then biked back from the airport. It was a nice ride.
We continue to work on getting the last of the estimates and on catching up with boat projects but we're taking a few hours each day to get some exercise and just be outside. We're back to feeding the hungry cats and they seem appreciative. Its good for the mind. Jon has been installing some of the small items we brought back like a new bilge pump and I think he might have fixed our oven which was acting up. Fingers crossed.
The time we spent back in the US was great fun. Since the last time I updated the blog, we were in Vero Beach, FL for Christmas with Jon's parents, then right afterward his brother Brad and family came to visit which made it a party and it had been so long since we'd been all together. Too bad we never bothered to get any pictures of it! I did get a picture of the pretty counted cross stitch Jon's mom made for each daughter in law that has all of our names on it. Mine is even in my favorite color green!
Then Jon & I headed to west coast Florida to spend New Years with old Boston marina friends Tom & Barbara who we hadn't seen in years. We ate like kings, did some metal detecting (Tom has 4 of these!), took a bike ride and jabbered a lot to catch up. Way back when on the docks at Shipyard Quarters, Barbara gave us a jar of homemade hot fudge for Christmas and the label had a picture of their boat, aptly named "Perspective", and it was on its side because it had floated over a shoal at anchor and the tide had gone out. It made it through fine and floated up as the water rose again. I still have the label somewhere. And now I also have the recipe for the hot fudge...
Then it was off to Punta Gorda to see old cruising friends Bob & Maggie and John & Cindy. We talked & laughed the days away as usual and managed to get up again the next morning without big hangovers which is progress! We designed a few versions of "dirty pizza", since dirty rice & dirty martinis are in but it is kind of X-rated. We also went to a place called Babcock Ranch, an old Florida ranch that is now part of the state park system in Punta Gorda. You pay $25 and get an awesome tour on a converted school bus turned safari vehicle all through the park seeing cracker cattle, alligators, a tiny fawn, deer, armadillos, turkeys, loads of birds and a Florida panther. The lady doing the tour holds the license for the panther and is its caregiver. It was purring when we visited it. Beautiful cat.
On the way back from Indiantown we stopped to see Frank & Deb from our very first cruise to the Bahamas in 1997. Frank basically taught Jon how to spearfish and we got ciguatera food poisoning for the first time with Frank too! But this visit we stuck to beer & wings topped off with a piece of chocolate cake.
It was nice to have an extended amount of time to hang out with Jon's parents. We took long walks with our favorite dog, made some good grub together and did some shopping. Jon & I got into a routine taking bike rides and working out at the gym. Sometimes we'd nip off for the evening to catch up with other couples we know from the area. Its funny how many people are retiring to Florida!
Then it was time to head back up to Vermont. We broke up the drive to get some exercise each day to save my back. We walked the beach in St Augustine, did a bike ride on an old tow path in North Carolina and stopped in Gettysburg to see the battlefield and Eisenhower's old farm. The park ranger who led the tour of Eisenhower's house said that he was a very typical American of the time. He & his wife Mamie often had TV dinners on a TV table in the TV room of their house. Nice! Then we drove through a snowstorm on the last day to get across New York & Vermont. Just to make sure we still knew how to drive in snow...
The weather didn't cooperate to give us any decent snow to play in with my parents, but we still found plenty to do and it was good to be together again. Ann came up, we celebrated my mom's birthday along with an early one for me (yippee!) and we made paella way better than any we've had here in Valencia.
When we first arrived in the US, it felt like we had all this time ahead of us, 3 months in fact, but in the end, the time flew. We couldn't fit in all we wanted to do or all of the people we had wanted to see. But we had a lot of fun. It felt so sad putting our car away and losing the freedom of having our own wheels. And then it was time to say goodbye to my parents and head back to Europe.
When I think about it, the only negative part about our trip back was the state of our country at the moment. The nauseating campaign, the mindbending election, the bad politics, the media coverage and the general vibe that's going. It feels like the USA is a simmering pot of anger about to boil over. And for whatever reason or no reason, it seems unwarranted. What an embarrassment. We're not flying our flag here!
The singlemost important thing world cruising has taught us is perspective. Seeing how the rest of the world lives gives you perspective. We sometimes get caught up in the nitty gritty of our individual lives and stumbling blocks but we know these are nothing compared to what others have to endure. Or that some other countries are doing things better than we are. If we hadn't gotten out to see how the rest of the world lives we wouldn't truly know this. I wish America would get some perspective and toss in some respect too. I saw this on a sign: "Be humbly grateful, not grumbly hateful!" America was already great, but other countries are great too. One of Eisenhower's quotes was: A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.