A Good Question
I’ve started strong this week.
It’s easy to do when something is new, when you’re full of enthusiasm, fired up.
There will have been lots of folks who’ve started this New Year with firm intention. New Years resolutions are engrained in tradition but in many respects they set people up for failure.
In a few weeks the majority will have given up.
My No15 plan is not a New Years resolution. I’ve talked about No15 having goals but in truth there are none. To score a goal the ball has to go in the net, a miss means nothing, win or lose.
No15 is about growth. Working steadily on the areas I’ve identified as important to me. If I do that I can’t lose.
So how have I grown this week?
I’ll tell you shortly, but first I want to answer the question Jon K asked after reading my ‘About Writing’ post.
Here’s what he said;
Why are you in a marina? Is it a necessary evil to make life bearable, or to facilitate your writing. I imagine (I have to imagine, you know that I’ve not experienced any of this yet) that marina-life is a double edged sword – good company and plenty of activity, relative ease of living, versus close neighbours, no privacy and it’s expensive.
It just seems an obvious option to me to make money last longer is to anchor out. I’m sure I’m being naive and simplistic, or just plain rude, but maybe I’m missing one of the fundamental attractions or necessities of marina living.
A good question Jon. Let’s see if I can give you an answer that makes sense.
I’ll cover some generalities first.
There are more than a few experienced cruisers who have written about the ‘evilness’ of marinas. They claim to avoid them completely, they blame them for monopolising harbours, for killing the art of anchoring.
That’s a bit like saying all houses are ‘evil’ for providing shelter by taking up land and stopping people sleeping on the street.
Yes, some marinas have a monopoly, some marinas charge ridiculous prices for uncomfortable berths, rude staff and poor facilities. Some marinas are like prison camps in the middle of nowhere.
There’s no law that says you have to use them.
When cruising folk get together and someone mentions a marina the floodgates open. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a horror story, many of found good ones but you’re less likely to hear about them.
There are good marinas and bad marinas and which side of the fence they fall will probably change with location, weather and what time of year it is. There are many here in the Med that are to be avoided like the plague in Summer but that provide a fantastic place to Winter.
You pays yer money and you takes yer choice as they say.
So why choose a marina at all?
Well in the two years we’ve been out here we’ve met very few cruisers who winter at anchor. That may be down to geography. Europe, even Mediterranean Europe still gets winter gales and low temperatures. The Eastern Med in particular. Take a look at todays temperature map below.
We’re in that yellow area of SW Spain, the warmest part of Europe. It was still only 6’C (48’F) first thing this morning. On ‘Gleda’ we need shore power to run the little fan heaters to take the chill off.
Yes, with the right ground tackle, good insulation and on board heating it would be possible to stay on the hook somewhere. But it’s hard work. Much harder than in the summer months. No matter what your experience you can never completely relax at anchor. The boat has to be kept in a constant state of readiness, you have to be able to move quickly if the weather goes nasty.
That’s tough to do month after month. Tougher when nights are so long.
We’re out here to enjoy life not just survive.
Maybe there are places in the world where winter anchoring is easy. We’re just not there yet.
The decision to winter in a marina is made easier in other ways as well.
Most offer hefty discounts on berths October-April.
It’s the perfect opportunity to service the engines, carry out routine maintenance and to make repairs.
Pick a marina with a good liveaboard community and you won’t be short of things to keep you entertained.
Here in Cartagena we have a BBQ every Sunday, walks, a tapas night, a happy hour night and yoga.
Christmas Day saw 30 of us sitting down to a lunch of suckling pig cooked on the BBQ.
New Years Eve we had another BBQ get together.
If you need help or advice someone nearby will give it.
Living life as a sea-gypsy is all well and good but sometimes you just need to stay put somewhere near civilisation.
We have an airport 30 minutes away here. Gail has been back to UK, we’ve had three visits from friends and family. It’s hard to book flights when you don’t know where you’re going to be next week.
Oh and you can get stuff delivered by post. Hopefully my new bluetooth speakers will be here Wednesday 😛
Downsides? I can really only think of one and I mentioned it last year. It is a bit like living in a row of terraced houses. That said it’s the same for everyone and for the most part people respect each others privacy. We actually only have one set of neighbours, a lovely Swiss couple. We’ve been out for a meal with them, made friends. The catamarans the other side of us have all been abandoned by owners who’ve headed home for the winter. That happens a lot, there are many summer only liveaboards.
So that’s the way things are for winter but why would we chose to stay here during the summer as well?
The answer is simple really. Because we can and it suit us.
Actually the only reason we can even consider the option of keeping a summer berth here is that Yacht Port Cartagena has a flat 3 month rate year round. As mentioned above most marinas double or treble their rates in summer. If they did that here we couldn’t stay.
It’s not a done deal yet but once I have confirmation of the 2017 rates I’ll let you know what it’s going to cost us.
But why spend that money at all?
When we left Lagos last spring I was certain that I’d be able to write all through the summer. I was wrong. I know I’m easily distracted but even at anchor in the Guadiana river I found it impossible to concentrate. As I said just now, at anchor you have to stay alert, you have to be aware of weather, other boats, your own situation. If you move then all the necessity of passage planning and making crowd in. I’m not complaining, these are all good things to have to think about. But for me the environment of an active sailboat stops me thinking about anything else. Most of the time that’s a good thing but not when I need to work.
If the boat is tied to the dock I have no excuse not to do the work.
From a practical work point of view we have permanent good internet onboard here. It’s easy to take it for granted until you haven’t got it.
Although the winter climate here is mild it still not ideal for maintenance jobs like painting and deck work. Being here in the summer months with shore power for power tools and nearby chandleries and DIY stores for supplies will make those jobs so much easier.
Of course it’s not just about the marina. To a great extent it’s Cartagena itself which has cast its spell. In the four months we’ve been here it’s lost none of its appeal.
Our berth is safe and quiet and yet we’re minutes from the centre of a vibrant, beautiful and historic city.
The photo below was taken a few years back but not much has changed. Gleda is moored just by that dock second from left. The big long grey building close by is the National Underwater Archeology Museum. you can see the Roman Theatre, Conception Castle, the gardens, the town centre, all within a stones throw. It really is quite amazing.
There are regular free concerts, plays and events. We still haven’t come close to seeing all there is to see.
There’s a gorgeous beach a short bike ride away.
Cartagena is a shipspotters paradise. Superyachts, aircraft carriers, cruise ships, submarines, you name it.
Staying here gives us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in Spanish culture and to learn the language.
I’m sure Gail could come up with some reasons of her own but I’ll take a stab at a few.
She’s more than happy to sit on the boat in the sunshine crafting and reading but there are limits.
She’s not yet fully confident with dinghy handling so she relies on me to ferry her ashore. Here she can come and go as she pleases.
She needs more social interaction than I do, here she can easily chat with other ladies about lady stuff.
There are shops.
So there you are Jon. I hope I’ve helped you and others understand our decision better. Let me know if I haven’t.
So, No15 week one. What have I been doing?
2 Blog Posts.
1st draft of ‘Another Foolish Voyage’ opening chapter nearly completed. I’ll be telling you more about this. It’s been hard. Once again I’ve had to time travel back to dark times and dark places. Eyes have watered.
Good progress with an outline for the Composting Toilet book. It’s time consuming doing the research but having a good outline will make the writing quicker and easier.
I’ve started an (almost)daily mindfulness and exercise practice.
These two practices are not new to me and certainly not new to the world. They’ve been around a couple of thousand years or more. They work. I feel better already.
Finished module 2 of the Fluenz Spanish course. I’ve actually been doing this course for a couple of months now and it’s great. Really motivated to continue with this.
Nothing this week.
It feels good to be back to doing some purposeful work. Long may that feeling continue.