04/27/2013, Gulf of aqaba
March arrived and with it the winds and strong temperature fluctuations that characterize spring in this area of the world. It seemed that only yesterday we hauled out our winter blankets and warm clothes and now here we were looking for short sleeves and shade again.
And then before we knew it, winter returned. April ushered in cold weather again and now we were scrambling for long sleeves and warmer blankets. Last week there was snow on the peaks in the north of Israel! Here on the Gulf of Aqaba, days of serene calm have been followed by strong winter winds with westerly williwaws charging down the mountain slopes. It's been an interesting and challenging spring for local sailors.
We've been busy this winter and if my lack of posts shows nothing else, it goes to prove just how little time I've had for writing. Our travels to Croatia only served to heighten our enthusiasm for sailing Yofy up to the Med and so, much of this winter has been spent working extra hard to build up our cruising kitty. Manny's taken on several new projects building custom AC and refrigeration units for neighbouring boats. One of these projects was for Uri and Racheli who have been building a boat in the backyard of their kibbutz home.
My yoga teaching took on new energy and I found myself busier than ever with workshops and new groups. On Yofy, I began to add several coats of Cetol to our brightwork. Last year, this standard routine was thrown when our local supplier of Cetol went dry. We waited month after month for a new supply to arrive and I squirmed as I watched the sun eat away at the underlying coats. In the end the Cetol never arrived and we learned that the product had changed hands and was now being sold by International as "Woodskin". So this winter I was faced by the grim job of sanding everything down to wood and laying on five to seven new coats of finish.
Between coats we were contacted by a couple of sailors interested in improving their skills while on holiday in Eilat. Would we agree to take them out and teach them some sailing? We met and chatted about their expectations and on a windy Saturday at the end of December we took them out. We were happy to hear that they had a grand time and learned so many things in just a few hours.
Another Saturday about half an hour before we went out sailing, Manny got a call from someone he hadn't seen in 40 years. Uri and Manny served in the army together many years ago. We instantly invited Uri to come sailing with us and an emotional reunion followed. Afterwards we both marveled over how they had recognized each other. If it had been twenty years earlier when they had long hair, I think it would have been more difficult. As it was, they had a terrific day sailing, reliving old stories and catching up.
Mid winter in the wee hours of the morning, there was a fire just down the dock from us. It was a cold night and we had all our hatches and ports closed. Neither of us heard the shouts of "fire!" or the sirens as the fire trucks approached. We didn't even hear the propane tanks exploding, but early the next morning while taking out the garbage Manny saw the last of the firemen leaving and went to inspect the damage.
Four boats were lost in the fire. Luckily no one was injured. It was quite a sobering sight but I think one of the most frightening aspects of this fire was that none of the liveaboards woke up.
As winter came to a close and evenings became warmer we decided to take a break and celebrate with the first BBQ of the season. Manny fired up his dockside smoker and put some charcoal on the grill. We invited our neighbours and before we knew it there was a spontaneous dockside party. For one evening we all let go of maintenance projects, the need to earn some cash and summer plans and had a few beers and some good BBQ.
Do you sometimes look back and wonder where all the time has gone? My father used to tell me that as you get older time seems to fly by faster and faster. Or as Dr Seuss said "How did it get so late so soon?" And here we are at the end of April scrambling to get a long list of projects done on Yofy so that we can do some serious sailing this summer. But that is another blog.
01/07/2013, Gulf of Aqaba
The June night was warm with a mild breeze playing over the water. Four of us lay dozing on the cat's trampoline while we swung on a mooring. We were three adults and one very excited boy. This would be the first time that Daniel had slept on the deck of a boat.
That weekend was full of many new experiences for Daniel. Yet it almost didn't happen. When we originally invited our friend Pedro, his partner Julia and her son Daniel to come sailing with us, Pedro turned the offer down. "I'd love to come" he said, "but Daniel will get bored and drive us all nuts". Julia agreed. We persisted and finally convinced them, when we told them that we'd be sailing on Ellen, the Lagoon 50 that Manny skippers, and that there would be lots of space and amenities.
We've often heard people complain that they can't take their kids sailing because they get bored. Neither Manny nor I have children, so we normally stay out of the discussion. When we were living aboard in Canada and during the time we spent cruising in the Bahamas, we rarely bumped into families with kids, leave alone went sailing with them. Even so, we found it hard to believe that children wouldn't enjoy sailing. Since coming to this part of the world, that's all changed. We often find ourselves with one or more kids onboard and we're happy to say, that in our experience it doesn't take much to keep them interested.
For example meet Rotem, Nitsan and Ziv.
These three little guys, all under the age of ten, come to Eilat with their parents once or twice a year. When they visit us on the boat, they are delighted by so many things we take for granted - the ropes, the opening hatches, the wheel...and of course the head. When we are out on the water, Nitsan carefully watches Manny, eager to learn a new job like stowing the fenders or flaking a line. They leave full of stories about the opening bridge in the marina, our storage lockers UNDER the floor and all sorts of other mysteries.
Often the families who join us have never been on a boat before. This takes a little extra preparation, an eye on the weather and some clear instructions before we head out. Apart from my usual "how to use a marine head" speech, I let the parents and small kids know that nobody leaves the cockpit underway. I show the children where to sit, get them life jackets if needed, and gently explain that they will have to stay seated until we anchor. I try to sweeten this hard rule with a promise of swimming once the anchors down, swinging in our hammock or something fun to look forward to. Once under way, there are normally enough things to keep them entertained and we keep the sailing part short. This can be a little frustrating for the adults, especially if there's a nice breeze blowing, but kids will get downright cranky if you make them sit still for too long. Soon enough the old refrain of "When will we get there" or "I want to go home" will start up.
One exception to this rule was Fedor.
Not yet two, this little guy was entertained by most everything on board and even took a turn at the wheel. Later his father told us that Fedor loved to start the engine, so we gave him the chance to turn the key. It's the little things that keep kids interested.
Our neighbour Amir sails an Aloha 27. He had his first child, Ronny, out on the water within weeks of being born. I give full credit to his wife for being up to the challenge, but the result is a little girl who feels at home on the water and is completely relaxed on a sailboat. Now Ronny has a younger brother, Yuval, who goes sailing too. Amir tows a kayak along and once they are tied to a mooring, he often entertains them with a tour of the anchorage. This summer we captured the fun in this great picture.
Many people tell us that the secret to teaching kids to enjoy sailing is to start young. Older children can be a whole different ball game. We've certainly seen this when a guest shows up with a young teen. More than once we've winced at the site of an Ipad, or headphones that dash any hopes of teaching them how to sail. And that's why we consider Daniel to be such a special story.
The first time Daniel arrived at our boat with his mother and Pedro, he was about nine years old and terrified. It took many minutes of convincing to get him to step on board and the whole time we were on the water Daniel, sat white knuckled, seeing disaster at every turn - the boat was going to tip over, we would sink, a shark would attack us, a whale would attack us... we would all die! He was most relieved when we finally returned to the dock and he could step off the boat.
Over the next months, Pedro enrolled Daniel in swimming lessons and a year later when he joined us on Yofy, he was a little less afraid. Now he could step on the boat and with his life jacket, he felt secure enough to lower himself into the water from the stern ladder. But he still wasn't very interested in sailing.
During this time, we had gotten to know Daniel a little and over dinners on shore, Manny talked to him about boat design. A sharp boy, Daniel soon began to ask a million and one questions about steering systems, hull design and how the sails move a boat forward. The next time he came out sailing with us, Manny showed him the engine and the instruments. When we anchored, I gave Daniel the job of watching the depth meter which he did by gleefully shouting out every meter all the way from 30 meters down to 10. He was getting hooked. Boats could be interesting.
And then he saw the kids from the local sailing club whizzing by in their Optimists. We explained to him that these were kids just his age and - "Look! They were sailing their very own boats!"
Now his mother showed some resistance - Daniel sail his own boat?! Another year went by and each time he joined us Daniel ogled the Optimist sailors. He began to take the wheel sometimes, to walk forward on deck and to point out landmarks along the way. He could now swim without a life jacket. Although, he was growing into a worrier and still had his moments of entertaining disaster at every turn, he was much more relaxed.
The start of the next year, Julia relented and enrolled Daniel in the sailing club. By the end of the year, he had learned to sail his own Optimist. Today when we remind him how of far he has come, Daniel laughs.
It was hard to recognize Daniel, now 12, that weekend last June when he joined us for an overnight on Ellen. It was in celebration of the end of the school year and he was in fine form. He confidently walked the decks, took the helm, and kept an eye on the chart plotter. As soon as the anchor was down he was in his bathing suit ready to swim. And was he bored? After a wonderful night sleeping out under the stars, Daniel entertained himself by jumping into the water from ever higher parts of the boat for next eight hours barely stopping to eat. When it was time to sail home, he was terribly sad. "Can't we stay one more night?" he pleaded.
Daniel may never become a sailing enthusiast, yet over the years while sailing with us and at the local sailing club, he has gained confidence and pride at learning a new skill. Sailing with kids certainly does take patience and some adjustments to normal routines. In spite of this, in my opinion, the rewards far outweigh any extra effort taken.
10/11/2012, Red Sea
If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's to be aware of people who tell you that they want to be just like you. You know - the ones who tell you that they want to do exactly what you are doing. Over several months we've had not one, but three different people tell us that they admire, and want to duplicate our lifestyle. Now it can be quite a compliment to be told that you are someone's role model. I should know I have a few myself. However, since these people have approached us, I've learned a thing or two about role models and how we perceive them.
Let's be honest. When you blog, you only tell the good stuff. When guests come to visit, you stuff your dirty laundry under the V berth along with your unpaid bills, and you show them the best time you can. So, it shouldn't be such a surprise when they sigh and say that this is how they want to live too. Quiet nights at anchor, delicious meals, and a devil may care attitude may be alluring but the flip side of the coin might not be so pretty.
We discovered just that in August when we escorted a friend around Croatia while he searched for boats. We've been hearing about Croatia since the late eighties. Manny's interest perked when he heard about the wonderful cruising grounds and the flourishing marine trade. So, this year when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance to visit Croatia and do a little business as well.
Flying into Zagreb, we rented a car and spent two weeks driving through the mountains and down to the coast to Dubrovnik. We took our time hiking through nature reserves, exploring old towns and visiting every marina along the coast.
Manny poked his nose into various mechanics's sheds, explored the aisles of yacht chandleries and chatted with brokers. While he searched out a new transmission for Yofy, Manny was directed to the ZF dealer in Croatia and to a fabricator of local gears. We didn't find the local fabricator but after a long search, in the residential neighbourhood of a tiny village, we did find the ZF dealer.
The mechanic's shop was in the garage behind his home. The tidy building was surrounded by pots of colourful flowers and trim hedges. When Manny walked in the door he was greeted by the workshop of his dreams. Long, orderly tables displayed engines and transmissions in various stages of repair. Mechanics wearing clean aprons quietly went about their work. In the end we didn't buy our gearbox because they didn't have one on hand and we couldn't wait for an order to be delivered, but if your looking for a repair to your transmission in Croatia, then go to Sukosan village near Zadar. Walk along the waterfront till you come to the yellow house, knock on the door and ask for Dado.
We stopped for a night in the quiet village of Stari Castle. The next morning we walked along the seaside to the old castle, perched on a rocky ledge in the sea.
Spying a group of masts in the distance, Manny and I continued to walk until we came upon the marina. Here it was changeover day for the bustling charter businesses. The long line of docks was chock-a-block with spanking new charter fleets. We stood amazed at the contrast to the sleepy little town as we watched shuttle after shuttle unload new groups of customers in front of the marina office.
We swam in the crystal clear water along the many beaches, explored old towns, ate some of the best seafood meals we've known and slept in lovely rooms with balconies overlooking the Adriatic. Everywhere we went people were helpful, marinas were top notch (although very expensive) and the beer was cheap.
And what about our friend? In one moment of pure synchronicity our friend found the boat he was looking for. Within minutes of spotting a Bavaria 37 that was for sale, he declared that this was the boat for him. We cautioned love at first sight, but nothing we could say could dampen his enthusiasm. He found the broker, looked at the boat, talked about the price and returned to our accommodation set on the purchase.
The next day Manny went along to check the boat out. Despite his wariness, Manny could find nothing wrong. The boat had been kept by a fastidious owner. Everything looked ship shape. Moreover, the boat had a stainless steel anchor, 70 meters of stainless anchor chain and a stainless anchor winch. The sails were in new condition, there was a new dingy and outboard, there were spare parts for
nearly everything on board, and the spotless engine ran well. Every locker turned up a new delight. Even the price was right. Gradually Manny's caution turned to enthusiasm. Our friend made an appointment to close the deal and we all went out for a celebratory dinner. This boat certainly was a dream come true!
Over the last days of our trip, we congratulated our friend on a spectacular deal and talked about delivering the boat next spring. Then we flew home.
In the airport, our friend began to backtrack. Maybe it wasn't the right boat after all. Maybe the owner was hiding something. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to buy a boat here. Maybe.... We watched in astonishment while he convinced himself to back out of the deal. Nothing we could say could convince him otherwise. Within forty eight-hours of arriving home, he had reneged on the deal and dropped all thoughts of buying a boat.
As astounded as we were at this person's behaviour, I found myself thinking a lot about why this happened. Everything had gone well till our friend began to look at marina fees, insurance, cruising permits, change of ownership and boat registration. It wasn't just money, because in the end with all the costs the boat still was a great deal, it was the bureaucracy - the lawyers, the paperwork, the hassle. The delivery which back home had looked like a romantic sail through the Med, became a difficult passage once we were in Croatia. In reality it all seemed a little too much work.
Role models are people who help us strive to outgrow our current limitations. We see in them something that urges us to do better. The problem begins when we romanticize their lives and ignore the hard work it took them to get there.
Living aboard a sailboat can be a dream for many people. They see a carefree lifestyle far from the drudgery of everyday problems. In reality it often is hard work. Uncomfortable conditions, cruising regulations, weather, politics and up scaling marina fees make it hard for us all. For many people the answer is to charter a boat and share the dream for a week or two every year. Some dreams are just that - fantasies that provide a little rest from what we perceive as our boring day to day routine. For the few that have a lot of determination and who are willing to make the effort, a dream can become a reality.
As for us, the next time someone looks at us with dreamy eyes and declares that they want to be just like us - to do exactly what we're doing - we're going to sart off by letting them change the pump on a clogged head.