Ok, this time I’m really done with launching! I know what I want, where I go, on every aspect. Based in Portimão, my “surfing – work – DIY – sleep” rhythm is well established and I plan the future while finding a social life. That’s what I am talking about in this article.
It’s already two years since I left everything for this lifestyle project and it’s now that it all starts for real. The spring is mainly happening around a few exciting areas: a professional mission, upgrading the boat, the summer’s program to be planned and an extraordinary social life.
The professional mission
What a pleasure to work again, in this period of Covid-19 I measure the chance I have and I enjoy it to the fullest.
I’ve arranged the layout of Øya so I can work comfortably. It’s not really ideal but for now it’s enough. My client is French, with an hour’s lag it’s not a problem. Luckily the 4G is excellent here and I use Vodafone prepaid cards that amount to 1 euro a day for an excellent unlimited connection: it’s perfect.
For this mission I stay in the marina because it is the low season, so I have no problem with water and electricity. It is actually for this reason that my mission ends at the end of May, on June 1st the rates increase in high season. To give you an idea: in low season it is 360 euros per month against 900 euros in high. Excluding taxes of course, because in Portugal marina rates are shown as tax-free, one has to know! So from June, I will have to go sailing… shame!
But time passes quickly, and it’s already spring. The normal maintenance of Øya caught up with me: I see here and there small details that must be fixed, it is absolutely necessary that I do the maintenance.
Boat’s upgrade, much work!
For my first real trip, I had voluntarily changed as little as possible on Øya, so as to do only things that are relevant. In my opinion, it is essential not to rush and waste time, energy and especially money that I did not have anyway.
The main project of the season is the construction of the new freshwater tanks. Once, while filling up the old ones with water, the bilge pump started because one of them had started to leak, so I was actually filling the boat. That’s when I embarked on the redesign of the whole freshwater system.
I use plywood, epoxy resin and fiberglass. Carpentry is an exciting discipline, of course. The epoxy a bit less especially when you have to handle it on the chart table. Worse, cutting the fiberglass spreads small hairs that lodge everywhere. Working these materials in the boat between the kitchen, my bed and my work desk, without the floors since that’s where I have to do the tanks makes the task difficult and life tiring.
If I still had only that to do, I could go quickly but working the week and the days being always short enough I have no choice but to live in the middle of the construction site that lasts since February 18. As I write this article the tanks are laid but you still have to make the connections and other finishes. I see the light of the end of the tunnel but I’m still a long way from that.
To advance sufficiently I really optimised my use of time and worked in tense flow on all fronts and often weekend included at a pace of 12 hours a day or more. At one point, I clearly felt the need to slow down. It’s actually very difficult to find an optimal rhythm without overworking.
I have lots of other things to do, but one yard at a time. Fresh water first, then the rest will come.
Portimão vs Lagos
The reason why I moved to Portimão is mainly because of money. Portimão offers a good sheltered anchorage for any direction of the wind, which isn’t possible in Lagos, unless you pay the marina.
Portimão is not much of a fun city. You can surf and probably meet nice people during the high season but in this Covid time I did not managed to find a nice group of friends. The surfers I saw there on Praia da Rocha were mainly locals who were for most of them were barely answering to me when I was saying hi. If you really want to surf, you’ll have to drive toward east, and it is quite far. It is definitely doable since I do it, but still a bit boring to burn more gaz and 40 minutes driving. However, in Portimão you’ll find big shops like Decathlon, Leroy Merlin and some specialist like Esinox who can build you any part in stainless steel probably for a good price. The marina of Portimão is nice, expensive indeed but this is Algarve, and it remains less expensive than Lagos’ marina.
Lagos is completely different. This city is more touristic and you can easily make good friends. Even if you’re a shy person, just go in some bars and talk to people. It is a bit hard to meet locals, this is not the right place to learn Portuguese. If you need some specific equipment, then you’ll face the limits quite fast since Bricomarché is not the biggest one and Inova have good stuff but still very basic. Lagos is closer to the west coast, you can easily and in a reasonable time drive to Arrifana, Sagres or all the surf spots of the southern coast. From Lagos, you almost can find a good wave all the time. Portimão is actually not that further away, but the lagoon of Alvor implies a long detour.
To resume, if you want to have fun or surf go to Lagos. If you want to build something go to Lagos and rent a car when you need equipment. In case you want to stay for free in a mooring place chose Alvor’s lagune but you’ll probably beach on a sand bench, or you can go to Portimão’s river. Not everything is bad in Portimão though, I met Anne and Xavier onboard Mojito. They felt in love with this place and still have not lift the anchor to cross over toward the Azores!
In both cases, the ship handlers is the same company called Sopromar which have ridiculously expensive prices for the most common equipment, up to three times the regular price. The shop of Lagos is incredibly big, I heard it is the biggest of Europe. Finally, and maybe due to Covid, I had a very good discount on my new dinghy : 20% on the dinghy and 15% on the engine. Best price even on the net, so everything is possible.
Life, the real thing
Of course, I work for my customers and improve Øya. On the occasion of this project I rented a car to simplify my supply of tools, raw materials, and possibly visit a bit the area.
Since my arrival in October I have seen nothing of the Algarve. Thanks to my Fiat Panda I suddenly discovered green landscapes, I had only seen the coast’s red rocks and dark yellow sand. In a short time I was able to meet a dozen people through surfing and other dating apps. It changes from British pensioners, they are nice but I am normal: I need to hang out with people of my generation. Finally, all I needed was to be mobile!
An extraordinary unique bubble
The COVID-19 has destroyed the market for holiday rentals, so the owners have cut their rates drastically. Many foreigners mostly in their twenties and thirties take advantage of their telework to come here for a few months at an unthinkable price. I find it very clever!
The process is simple: I met a person on Tinder who was surfing. She introduced me to her friends in Salema. Then somebody else added me to a surfer WhatsApp group, from there I met three other persons who invited me to a barbecue in their villa with their friends. And that’s it, since then, the group keeps living as much as possible.
With a bit of distance, I think that these few months of lockdown on my pontoon with only my computer and epoxy brushes have severely affected me. The first evening was a mixture of guilt to meet people, the first kiss is a sledgehammer that made me understand how these lockdowns have made me completely empty of life. Time accelerates as the barbecues never end up following each other, in a villa, then another, on the beach and even in the Øya’s cockpit. What a change.
People are good… People are good.
They come and go, from Paris, Stuttgart, Milan, London, Brazil, California, Russia, South Africa, New Zealand and sometime from Portugal. Lagos is an unlikely bubble spared by COVID-19, no one of us has been declare positive so far. The future does not really go further than “two weeks ahead”. Even if this effervescence is certainly doomed to be ephemeral, I know the memories will remain.
In these moments I often feel the nostalgia of the present. It’s just a matter of enjoying the present and the chance we have. This adventure is a very good moment of life. It is really incredible to realise how apathetic and sensible I was. I was going through my projects according to the logical plan I defined. Going surfing was a nice way to make something cool in between. It was nice of course, but doing it alone is definitely not comparable than doing it with friends. Social interactions are way more important than I though, even for people who like to do things by their own. I think often about people who are locked down in 20m2 apartment, with much compassion.
The 5th rule “don’t become marginal” is fundamental.
If I enjoy as most as I can in this bubble, I never forget what’s next: the navigation program.
Now that the objectives set two years ago have been achieved, the natural question is: what to do? Of course, the answer is just as natural: sail, as many nautical miles as possible!
Departure scheduled around June the 1st depending on the weather.
Small tour in the Mediterranean Sea
On this point, I have a good margin of progress and I intend to set the bar high this year. In 2020 I made about 2000 nautical miles. This summer I would like to do more. The program is therefore:
- Portimão – Balearic Islands
- Balearic Islands – Marseille
- Marseille – Bastia via nice
- Bastia – Menorca via Bonifacio
- Menorca – Lagos
That’s a total of 4000Mn to 4500Mn. This is obviously a far too ambitious project! But never mind, I’d rather have a too busy program and reduce it than the opposite.
I will pass the Strait of Gibraltar with its reputation en enter the Mediterranean Sea where the weather is capricious and the sea short and chopped. In there, I don’t expect any nice long weather windows that would allow me to run a few hundred miles in one jump on several days and nights. I expect to be forced to move slowly in daytime navigation. Only have some local thermal breezes and constrained to use the engine during the great calm.
My apprehension is normal but even if I spend some exceptional moments here I will be happy when the day to drop the moorings will come. Leaving is always the most complicated: we must think and prepare everything. Once launched, all that needs to do is do with what we have.
During a long journey, we sometimes travel good paths, sometimes bad paths. If the charms of a pleasant landscape encouraged us to stop and enjoy it continuously, or if the difficulties of the wrong path made us give up moving forward, we would never reach our goal.Bokar Rimpoché
Ideally, I would go to the Canary Islands and maybe cross the Atlantic at the end of the year, change continent. If I hang out in the Mediterranean I’m afraid to enjoy it and get stuck there, which would be a shame.
In fact I don’t really want to go to the Mediterranean. I need to go to the Balearic Islands, where we used to go boating as a family when I was a kid. Once the link is found with these old forgotten memories of joy I could write all of these new blank pages waiting for it. I actually realized how this was important to me during my journey to Lagos.
In addition of that, I will welcome there my sister, my niece and nephew for a one week holiday onboard, I really look forward!
The Balearic Islands will therefore be the only real goal of the summer and the rest will have less priority. As for the Adriatic, the Cyclades and other Aegean seas I would visit them later in my life, taking the time correctly. Life is long!
The fear I feel is a good one, fear of the unknown, the one that makes that I’m still alive, more than ever. I really look forward to cast off!
It seems that my initial ambition is in place: alternating between periods of intense work and travel. My pace has become seasonal and it will change often. For now I find it really pleasant, this life will certainly suit me for a while.
I’m not sure where this is going to take me, I’d see. In any case, the more you focus on the objectives, the more disappointed you are. If my desires change then I would adapt my program.
That was that life I dreamed of, and I dream even more now than I live it.