Bob's gap years

Vessel Name: Ben More
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29 December 2020
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Recent Blog Posts
19 January 2021 | Ben More

LAUNDRY TRAUMA

19/01/2021

13 January 2021 | BEN MORE

SNOW

12/01/2021

06 January 2021 | San Sebastián

WET AND WINDY

06/01/2021

29 December 2020

SHARKS & AMBULANCES

29/12/20

22 December 2020 | San Sebastian

CHRISTMAS CHEER

22/12/20

15 December 2020

INYERNATIONAL WEEK

15/12/20

LAUNDRY TRAUMA

19 January 2021 | Ben More
Robert Coates
19/01/2021

It seems the world changes every day. The UK seems to be getting some stability but with huge sacrifice. I worry if other countries are going to follow the same pattern. My new windvane cannot be delivered for a month due to European made parts not getting through to the UK. There is now a travel ban to Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. Plans for return still going ahead as before and still hopeful.
Had a great day with Maria Italy. She was anchored off Santiago beach so hired a car, picked her up off the beach at 8am, and drove into the mountains for a 13km walk like I’ve never done before. First it was straight up the mountain and very slow. The trails, however small, have been impressively well made. Often there is very little or no soil but because of the dangers of falling or slipping the rock base has been carefully checked so there is virtually nothing loose to cause an accident. Walking is the major attraction of the island and a huge source of income. Eventually we reached easier paths in the heavily wooded, higher parts but sadly the cloud had come in and when we reached the highest point of the island at 1,487 metres (about 5000 feet + we could see absolutely nothing of the views which extend to El Hierro and G Canaria. It was damp and cold. We took a shorter route back which I will never forget along the top of a spectacular deep valley. The path was about the width of a paving slab or less at the edge of as sheer a drop as I would not want to be as close to again. We both felt uneasy and took it very slow. It was not well used and spiky shrubs often covered the path. The picture today is where the path opened up to a virtual highway with a relieved Maria showing her first smile for a while. After a snack back in civilisation we went to see Caroline and Ali for cup of tea. Unfortunately when Maria set off in her dinghy back to her boat she fell out of it in the shallows for a complete dunking. Yes, I know how to give a woman a good time.
English lessons continue but it is clear that some immigrants can barely read or write. I met Emma, a French woman who with two others is responsible for their teaching of Spanish and other things and I was hugely relieved to find that my concerns were mirrored. Teaching has been adapted to suit. We are having a meeting with boss man shortly to point out our concerns and suggest a more coordinated approach. The immigrants, however, show progress despite my efforts! It is clear that politics play a part. Having taken on these guys the Red Cross has been left to their own devices without the necessary specific skills.
The only other dramas this week were loading the wash machine without the soap in and having a 40 minute expensive rinse and losing part of a tooth. But the weather is currently lovely and have had a good meal out (goat meat) and been for a couple of swims. (You are not alone Robin)
Stay safe everyone and let’s hope the small light at the end of the tunnel stays bright.
Robert

SNOW

13 January 2021 | BEN MORE
Robert Coates
12/01/2021

Straight to to today’s picture. For those of you who think it’s all sun, sangria and topless beaches think again. Yes, we’ve had snow and I don’t mean Madrid. It looks chilly but fortunately was some distance away. (About 30 miles and 3,000 meters up Mount Teide) .The picture was taken on a walk with Maria Italy over the hills to a lovely deserted beach between two prominent headlands. After the recent rains the countryside looks as green as it’s going to get. Tenerife always dominates the skyline walking in this part of the Island.
I love risotto and enjoyed probably the best ever when Maria came to the boat and cooked on board. I think the technique is to get precisely the correct texture. Better than my packet stuff.
English lessons continue with the migrants. Will have to work out new tactics as a couple of them are very slow with their writing and it’s difficult to pace the group as a whole. Am going to have a word with the girl teaching them Spanish to see how she manages.
Now the sharks have gone it’s back to swimming. I use goggles and usually can always see the seabed. Can’t help but look for big shadows in the water. (I’m not joking and quite capable of being a bit of a wimp at times) however, there are so many fish it’s quite lovely watching them.
The sport fishermen here, mostly English, are debating their futures with the new rules for non EU residents. Some may be packing it in due to the new qualifications, regulations and related costs. The island will lose out as most of their customers are from the UK and represent a large source of income for the island. Evidently before the Brits there was only a very small market for this from regular tourists.
The vaccine rollout in the UK seems pretty impressive and perhaps the quickest in the world. (I guess most of the blokes in the RCDW have been done now!!!) Not too soon.
Thanks Bill for offering me Irish citizenship. Your price would probably be too high though.
Take great care everyone
Robert

WET AND WINDY

06 January 2021 | San Sebastián
Robert Coates
06/01/2021

Bonjour mes Amis
Yes, you’ve guessed it. I took the first English lesson with the migrants who only speak French and don’t even know the days of the week in English. I have developed a world first for teaching when you don’t know what you are talking about! You may laugh, although I certainly wasn’t. I was concerned that if I said no to the Red Cross they would never ask me to do anything else. Well to all you doubters it went amazingly well. My limited French was far more useful than I had imagined but their Senegalese accent was more than I could understand. We achieved a lot despite their vocabulary being minimal. I did a lot of prep work, asked them to help each other until the next session and use the phrases with the RC staff, perhaps not such a good idea as I think the RC folk are fed up with being told what day of the week it is. Everyone seems pleased though. This is quite a challenge and I’m up for it. Yesterday I was back at the RC helping Maria (she is lovely) with food boxes. I was presented with a lovely (but rather small) box of chocolates as a thank you. A pity I had to eat them all in one day before they melted in the heat!
News back home is grim. I have cancelled my flights. I cannot get home with the boat if I can’t return here. I am making an application for temporary residence thanks to not being an EU resident and only having 90 days to stay. There are few services for yachts here and the only reliable marine electrician went to Wales for a family Christmas and can’t get back at present. Having a new wind generator fitted is a surprisingly complex job and I need one for the longer passages. I have, subject to restrictions, a crew for the Azores to Dartmouth at the end of April (1,400 miles, 10 days) I still have to get to the Azores and it is now incredibly difficult. No one is able to commit or even know if they will be able to travel. I want to leave La Gomera by the 14th Feb. Now looking for local help. The route, I hope, will be through the islands to Lanzarote then to Madeira (300 miles) then the Azores (700 miles). I still want to enjoy as much as poss having put so much effort over a long period into making it all happen. One possible alternative is direct to Madeira. Not so easy as more against the normal winds but doable.
I have not lost sight of today’s reality. So many people are struggling like never before.
I am fortunate being here. All bad things come to an end. Let’s hope that’s soon.
Cheers folks, take care of yourselves and each other.
Robaire

Picture at Cruz Roja offices having a managerial brainstorming session with Maria. My head hurts now.
Ps you may be pleased to know we have slashing rain here at the moment, high winds and the boats are rocking about.

SHARKS & AMBULANCES

29 December 2020
Robert Coates
29/12/20
Hi folks
Swimming’s been off for a while. A woman was injured and claimed it was from a shark attack. It produced a lot of excitement. I though it was more likely to be a giant tadpole bite but there were subsequent reports of a ‘family’ of 4 sharks in the bay. The beach is open again but I’m waiting before going back in until I see someone else swimming who makes it out alive. My macho image stays intact.
I’m now quite involved with the Cruz Roja (Red Cross). I’m assessing repairs needed in the immigrant centre and producing a list of what is necessary to fix by traders or myself with the inmates. Hardly anyone here speaks any French, which is the immigrants only language and have been asked to teach them basic English words/phrases. I was too modest to say this would be too difficult as I speak some but seldom understand the replies! I have my French course material with me and am looking back to the early lessons. This is going to be difficult but will possibly be with the help of an Italian lady who speaks (and understands) French and also English. She is a bit nervous of doing it herself. The R.C. vehicles are cleaned every week so tomorrow I am on the car wash team. All the RC worker’s are really lovely, dedicated people. Also there are regular small van deliveries throughout the island of food parcels, blankets etc to local reps and I may be doing this once I know the routes. A great way to see the island. But!!!! The only vehicles when I was there were 2 socking great ambulances. One was driven out of the garage and I was asked to go for a driving test round the town for half an hour with a rep. To be honest I found it pretty hair arising but no damage done and, with some luck, did a better parking job than sometimes in my car. I’m not sure what the survival rate would be if I actually had to drive injured people over the mountain roads. Anyway I’m sure there’s no way I would be asked.
I had a wonderful Christmas with Caroline, Ali and some of their friends in Santiago with a very traditional English menu. Double yum. Great hospitality and fun. Thank you so much to both of you. On return to San Sebastián at 0830 on the 27th a foreign yacht leaving to go to anchor of Santiago asked if I would like to join them. Hey ho off I went, eventually being taken ashore to catch the last bus back of the day, only catching it because it was 6 minutes late. Luck was with me, on arrival back another crew - Dutch boat - asked me to join them for a meal.

I hope you all had a good Christmas in the circumstances and will be able to toast in the new year with light at the end of the tunnel.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Robert
The photo is of the mountains behind P Santiago. There are amazing roads built through this landscape which covers much of the island.

CHRISTMAS CHEER

22 December 2020 | San Sebastian
Robert Coates
22/12/20

Wow. Christmas is here again, but not as we would like it.
I am fortunate here to have freedom of movement (although at present not allowed to leave the island!) and in the last 2 months have met many lovely people of many nationalities, all with a unique story to tell in the present circumstances.

To all I know I send to you my sincere and best wishes for Christmas and the new year with hope that we may soon be able to look forward to better times and be free to see our families without restriction.

My thoughts are with my friends, family, all at the RCDW, YHQ the DT’s and of course my personal hair stylist, Kate whose help I need as much as crew to get back home. Also to Tony who has now substantially recovered from his accident last July and continues to make good progress. Keep it up Tony.

I look forward so much to seeing you all again, and hope my new year flights for Jan & Feb still go ahead!

In an act of sheer vanity today’s picture is a selfie of me so you don’t forget who I am. (I don’t mind if you take hard copies to put over the fireplace.)

Stay well everyone, keep safe and have a great zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp Christmas.

Roberto, Rob, Bob





INYERNATIONAL WEEK

15 December 2020
Robert Coates | Pretty good
15/12/20

We had a grandstand view last Saturday from the pontoons watching the 21 rowing boats head off for Antigua at 5 minute intervals. 3000 miles in something not much bigger than a family bathtub!! The air was full of nervous excitement, many tears from some of the girls and nervous bravado and jokes from the guys. The sense of anticipation and highly charged emotions was palpable and I found a tear running down my cheek. I’m so macho. A safe passage to all of them. The trip will take from 40 to 100 days. Look at the photo and work out what life will be like when wet much of the time, a tiny area, probably damp in which to sleep, let alone the physical abuse to your hands and body and having to do meals with massive waves around and gale force winds. To share their hardship several people (German, S African, brits and Spanish) came back to my boat and we had two bottles of champagne and a bowl of tropical fruits.

I met a German charter group two nights ago. Crew of 7 with a lady skipper. Went on board for a mug of wine. They were full of fun and for many the experience was a new one. Wanting to see my boat they came on board and we had a great time, slightly boozy, until 3 am. They have left now - good sailing and safe passage to them. Thanks for your company.

Also met a German, Franck and S African, Zelda who had just got her Paddy diving qualification. Lovely people. Full of life. We enjoyed a meal out with others one evening and before their 8 am ferry to Tenerife they came on board for a 1 star hasty breakfast.
I feel lucky to have met you both.

Small pension booked for 3 nights over Christmas. Great value, spotlessly clean and
the room looking over the small harbour and beach. Good to have a small change from the boat.

I sense a plan change in the wind what with restrictions on people’s movements and regulations both existing and still to be clarified! All the news re Brexit is focused on trade talks. There is much small print still in the mixing pot that affects me.

Picture of Atlantic rowboats
Keep smiling
Robert
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