TIME TO GET MY HANDS DIRTY
The Covid-19 virus hit Spain pretty hard and the country went into lockdown. I got some boat work done, had to self-isolate, and did some weekend sailing before getting ready to finally set off for the season.
Ellidah was pretty well kitted out for long-distance sailing when I bought her. But after putting some miles under her keel, there were some things that I wanted to improve.
Spain was starting to lock down the country in mid-March 2020 and travel restrictions were put in place all over Europe.
I was temporarily laid off from work because of this, but at least it gave me plenty of time to get a lot of boat work done.
NEW BATTERIES AND SOLAR PANELS
The battery bank died on a weekend cruise shortly after we came back from Morocco. The old Flooded Lead Acid batteries are ancient technology and Lithium is the way to go without a doubt.
My little solar panels weren’t giving a whole lot of power either and I missed having a 230V inverter on board while on the hook. I wanted to add bigger solar panels on the arch and move the radar out of the way up in the mast.
The combination of Lithium batteries and big solar panels is extremely beneficial in many ways and I am going to make a “How To” article about this project. I haven’t had the need to plug into shore power after this upgrade. Now I run a coffee machine through a 2kW inverter and hot water onboard while on the hook.
Now, that’s super convenient!
It was a big and costly project and it took a lot of planning and time to complete. A big part of the electrical system had to be rewired and renewed as well, but it was worth every penny.
FIXING DECK GEAR
My windlass (anchor winch) was loose from its base plate which was rotten. Cutting it out and glassing in a new to make a new base was a fair job and it came out pretty good.
The sprayhood windows were cracked and the stitching in the Bimini was getting rotten. I sent the whole shebang into service and it came back really nicely done.
All winches were serviced and re-greased, fuel filters were changed and the engine got fresh oil and fresh filters.
Arvid, a Norwegian friend from S/Y Karayato did a full rig inspection and re-set the mast with the proper tension, and added a bit of extra bend to increase upwind sailing performance.
UPGRADING THE COMFORT ONBOARD
The toilet had been smelling like rotten fish for a while. Having to play plumber after a good morning job on the frame gave notice that it was due for a service. Pump, hoses, and valves were changed and the problem was sorted. Not my favorite job.
The sink in the galley was leaking into the bilge so all the plumbing was changed.
The diesel heater exhaust was leaking into the cabin and the salon which is extremely dangerous. I managed to swap it for a new one and after some serious venting, everything stopped smelling like diesel exhaust.
The bed mattresses were about the same age as Ellidah and were as comfortable to sleep in as a dentist’s chair.
Oscar and I went in his car to IKEA where I bought some memory foam mattresses that I cut to shape in the head cabin and the port aft cabin. A very welcomed upgrade for my back and my crew.
The onboard stereo was changed out for one with Bluetooth and a subwoofer was installed. Great success for my parties, not so much for my neighbors.
The onboard instrumentation system was upgraded with a WIFI interface which made me able to receive AIS signal to Navionics on my tablet which again is used for navigation.
I also installed more LED lighting in the cabins, bathrooms, and the salon to make it a bit cozy. As a side effect, I’m now able to see my own morning face in the mirror every morning so it might be a bit of a downgrade.
I’m pretty sure there were plenty more small projects, but I guess you get the idea. Lots of boat work and maintenance were done!
SOCIAL LIFE IN SPAIN DURING LOCKDOWN
At the beginning, everyone was really scared since Spain got hit pretty hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leaving the Marina was only allowed for necessary reasons like grocery shopping, going to the doctor, etc.
As we were isolated in the marina, we found it to be alright to socialize internally while keeping distance and taking hygienic measurements.
I was in the phase of planning the solar panel install and wanted to get a frame welded for the arch.
One of the guys in the Marina was a welder, so I went to his boat to ask if it was something he could fix. He was however feeling ill and warned me to not come on board the boat.
The day after, I got a phone call from my friend Marky. He told me that the welder had been picked up by ambulance that night and it turned out that he had gotten Covid-19 and wanted to warn me.
I was sitting in David’s boat helping him out with his lithium battery install when I got the call.
David’s eyes went to about 2 times the normal size when I told him that I just talked with a guy yesterday who now had been infected with Covid-19.
Since I was a potential close contact, even though I was standing pretty far away from the guy, I had to self-isolate for 14 days and since I had been in contact with David, he had to do the same thing.
SELF – ISOLATION ONBOARD
That was two challenging weeks. I only went off the boat to get groceries. It was a 10-minute walk from the boat to the nearest grocery shop, and I would typically get stopped by the Polizia both on the way there and on the way back.
The Polizia asked for the reason for walking outside and for a receipt that I actually was on a necessary errand.
The weather was nice and I had plenty to do on the boat, that part was alright. It was the mental part that was hard for me, knowing that I couldn’t interact with people and it got quite lonely pretty quickly.
I will admit that I hit a few walls mentally at that time and I think a lot of people probably felt the same way. Not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After I was finished with the self-isolation without showing any symptoms, I could finally get out of the boat.
David didn’t get any symptoms either so we ended up arranging movie nights on his boat.
He had a nifty little projector and a screen that could be set up in the cockpit and that way we could socialize and keep the distance on each side of the boat at the same time.
I also spent a lot of time with Marky during this period. We would make awesome BBQ food, drink beer and solve world problems while talking about our sailing dreams ahead.
It’s incredible how you can come across people with a mindset so close to your own when you hang out in a small environment like this.
The restrictions eased after a while and we were allowed out in public to do exercise a few hours a day. This meant that I could finally catch up with my Spanish friends, Gloria and Oscar again!
Things were looking much better with the pandemic and as we approached June, the government lifted a lot of the restrictions allowing for more socializing.
Most importantly, boats were allowed to go sailing again within the regions.
FINALLY SETTING SAIL
Me, Oscar, and a friend of his, Paloma, were quick to set off on a weekend trip to a nice little Cala a couple of hours south of Cartagena which we had visited a few times before the pandemic.
As we sat there around the campfire on the beach with good drinks together, we all agreed upon the fact that we have been taking the possibility to socialize for granted before the Covid-19 lockdown started.
It was like a euphoria to finally be in a moment that felt like normal, and we all had a freaking good weekend together.
The day after, David joined the anchorage as well as some other boats from Yacht Port Cartagena. It felt like the cruising season was about to start finally.
As soon as we came back to the Marina, we threw a big boat party. It was one of those parties that you need a couple of days to recover after and was well worth it!
SHAKEDOWN SAIL AND FLYBOARDING
I extended my marina contract until the end of June but hoped to set off a bit earlier.
There were some minor things left to do on the boat and I had ordered a new dinghy that I had to wait for before I left too.
David didn’t have any exact plans for the season other than that he wanted to cross the Atlantic Ocean sometime by the end of the year to the Caribbean.
We decided to team up and sail to the Balearic Islands together. We both planned on getting a crew on each of our boats and that we would start to look for a decent weather window as soon as my new dinghy arrived.
Then we did a final shakedown sail back to our nice little Cala Salitrona that I had now visited several times and spent a few days at anchorage.
This was actually the first time I set off sailing single-handed and even though it wasn’t a long trip, I really enjoyed being alone with Ellidah on the ocean.
Back in Cartagena, Oscar had a surprise for me. Since we didn’t get to celebrate my birthday in April due to the lockdown, he had arranged with some friends in La Manga to give me some Flyboarding lessons as a birthday gift.
Off we went, and that was seriously freaking awesome. I felt like Iron Man hovering above the water after failing miserably for the first 30 minutes. Highly appreciated gift and a glorious day.
If you ever get the chance, try flyboarding!
THE LAST PREPARATIONS BEFORE THE FINAL DEPARTURE
It was Friday, June 26th. I expected the dinghy to arrive the coming Monday and me and David were pretty much ready to leave.
There is a group on Facebook called Sailboat Hitchhikers and Crew Connection and I got in contact with a girl that wanted to join as crew for the trip from Cartagena to Formentera.
David and I discussed the weather, and it looked really good to set off on Saturday. Monday didn’t really look good with little wind and not from an ideal direction.
As we sat there, my phone rang and I got told that my dinghy just arrived!
Only hours later, Ellidah had her little sister Ellie onboard.
Ellie is a sweet Highfield Ultralight RIB that now serves as my daily driver and I couldn’t be happier with her.
This also meant we could leave the day after and take advantage of the nice sailing weather which was absolutely perfect.
Oscar, Lily, Marky and I had a little farewell party that last night in Cartagena. It felt sad to leave behind good friends but at the same time, I was excited to start the cruising season and to experience new adventures.
The following days we dropped the lines and set off from Yacht Port Cartagena along with David on Bobbie G.
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