Archive for May, 2011

Panoramarama part 1

Posted in French canals and rivers, Photographs, the Mediterranean Sea, Walking with tags , , , , on May 30, 2011 by maidofmettle

Maid of Mettle is at sea, or possibly stopped somewhere without internet. Yes, this does occasionally happen.

While I will try and post occasional updates via satellite phone, they will not contain the number of photos you have become used to.

So should you miss them, please enjoy this brief pictorial interlude. Otherwise described as: I finally got around to finding a program to stitch series of panoramic photos together. Just left-click on the thumbnails to open a larger image in a new tab.

This is Valence, on the River Saone in southern France. We didn’t actually stop here, but the view passing through was quite impressive, especially the castle-topped hills overlooking the town on the left bank.

Next up is Lyon, on the River Rhone. We did spend quite a few days here – it’s not only a beautiful city, but also home to my friend (and former housemate / colleague) Caroline. The view is from the La Croix-Rousse quarter, once Europe’s silk factory. You can just see the basilica at Fourvieres on the skyline on the right- it was built in thanks after a medieval plague passed the city by.

The next couple are both from the top of the city walls in Avignon. The first looking north…

and the second looks east  across the edge of the town to the beginnings of the Alps in the distance. The most famous ~1/4 of a bridge in the world is unfortunately hidden behind a tree somewhere.

To continue the mountain theme we’re going to dash to the bottom of France, and then across the Golfe de Lion to L’Escala, just over the Spanish border. This time it’s the snow-capped Pyrenees you can glimpse on the skyline in the far-right.

Part of this walk was a bit creepy – I was going through some woodland when I saw a cat sunning itself in a spot of shade. So far, so good. But then there was another. And another. And another. The overall effect was rather disturbing..

Still, it was well worth it for the views of this tiny hilltop suburb and a beautifully blue Mediterranean.

And the mysterious phantom island on the horizon on the left. It really doesn’t look like a cloud, but I’m sure there shouldn’t be land in that direction within several hundred miles. Strange.

The next leap is to Barcelona, and the view over the city from Park Guell.

Next is a view of the west coast of Ibiza and offlying islands. San Antonio is visible on the right, but you can’t see the nightclubs from up here.

Still on the same island, here’s a long-distance view of Ibiza town itself, from the dunes by the Playa Las Salinas, named after the numerous salt-pans nearby. Apparently Jade Jagger and Kate Moss frequent this beach, but unsurprisingly not in February.

Finally (for now) a return to the Spanish mainland in Cartagena – the harbour and some of the city from a fort high above the eastern side of the entrance.

When there’s a wind there’s a will

Posted in Sailing on May 27, 2011 by maidofmettle

29 degrees 25.8 minutes North

15 degrees 9.3 minutes West

Not leaving Las Palmas was getting a bit tricky – I’d been ready for about a week and prepared to go the next morning a couple of times only to be put off by either the forecast or local conditions, or the wind just not settling down till the evening when I wanted to go to bed. I had the distinct feeling I should have been leaving the evening before last, but I was rather tired and it looked like the wind might die in the middle of the night, leading to uncomfortable helpless rolling. So I didn’t…again.

Happily, yesterday morning everything still seemed very favourable, and I’m now around 80 nautical miles north of Gran Canaria. Conditions have been excellent so far and I’m feeling very well. It’s not been quick, but steady and comfortable, bar one very light spell where we nearly got overtaken by a turtle.

Destination – somewhat unknown. My waypoints list reads:

Selvagem Grande (National Park, tiny island some way south of Madeira) 57.5 miles

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 80m (the WRONG WAY!)

Funchal (Madeira) 213m

Santa Maria (Azores) 675m

Horta (Faial, Azores) 864m

Lajes (Flores, Azores) 992m

This passage is generally expected to be against the wind, and quite possibly with big waves, so while conditions are good I’m inclined to keep going.

Dressing to kill and boat work to thrill (?)

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Music, the Canary Islands with tags on May 19, 2011 by maidofmettle

I failed to put up some photos of a dinghy sailing session with Paul and Hilary’s newly refurbished tender a couple of weeks ago.

We started off with Paul steering, Eddie on the sheets, and me dealing with the spinnaker…

..and then switched round for a second outing with Hilary and I taking shifts on the helm and with the spinnaker, and Beth and Bryn on the sheets.

As you can see the wind was very light but the dinghy sailed beautifully, especially with the spinnaker, making for a lovely afternoon.

At that time they hadn’t named her – it wasn’t till last Saturday that she was officially christened.

A while after that we all had to get into our costumes. They’d also decided to host  a final musical extravaganza before boats start dispersing, and not content with that, to make it fancy dress. The theme of ‘dressing to kill’ inspired quite a range of outfits..

I was quite impressed with how little papier mache was required to set a cereal packet bent into a mask shape:

though I really needed a clock to complete the Grim Reaper  (someone’s got to clean up afterwards, right?) effect. Big Dave’s costume, on the other hand, definitely didn’t need any further embellishments..

The ensuing music session was quite entertaining, with issues like people’s wigs trailing in your face, and the flame of Paul’s cigarette flying away (we’ve gone from fundraising to health awareness)..

Back home,I’ve been looking at weather forecasts regularly, as well as a fair bit of other stuff..

There’s a recently arrived boat on our pontoon which everyone agrees is very aptly named (for boats in general, that one in particular does look very nice).

Nonetheless, I have checked all the fastenings securing the floor in place, and fixed quite a lot of them..

..finished a painting as a gift to Paul and Hilary to thank them for all their hospitality, encouragement and advice at our music sessions over the last few months. Early stages (acrylic on hardboard):

and the finished article, with another circle of hardboard stuck on to help give the porthole framing effect…

..checked the navigation lights are working (okay, this isn’t the most exciting photo. Nor does it make them look like they’re working – colours not showing up!) ..

..used some perspex someone had discarded to make fronts to ensure everything in the galley shelves is secure. I wasn’t sure how I was going to secure them for quite a while, but ended up being very pleased with my elastic solution – they’ll quite happily stay in position either open or shut .

Of course, once I’d used the hinges that seemed overkill but we hadn’t found any other use for in 18 months so might as well put them to work somehow, I promptly did decide to do something else- hinging the panels under the bunks in the main cabin that give access to the tins underneath.

Previously this was a single panel you had to pull out a little bit but not too much and then tilt up, at which point something would get stuck and the whole panel would slip and fall on the tins….

I think I did it that way before to make sure that the weight of people lying/sitting on the bunk went onto the supporting beam directly rather than onto hinges, but now I figured out a way to achieve that with hinges. It’s definitely much easier to use.

And I made a thingit. Previously we’ve had a reflective foil sheet keeping the petrol cans from getting too hot, an old plastic box lid to keep that from getting damaged (which seems like it might trap a fair bit of the reflected heat..), and nowhere handy to put a mug down in the cockpit. So the thingit covers the back end of the cockpit, tying down to existing fittings, and includes a mug and bowl holder on each side.

It doesn’t look too bad considering the terrible quality of the plywood I found to make it from, and hopefully it’ll be useful. Note also the cockpit cushions Dave and Taryna very kindly gave me after commissioning Hilary to make them some lovely new ones.

Continuing down the cushion-related aside, I finally succeeded in my persistent if occasional quest to find cushion covers / pillowcases at less than 7 Euros each for some inside ones I acquired a few weeks ago.

..and, back on-topic again, cleaned and rinsed through both water tanks before putting the new filter in and putting everything back in the big galley cupboard, with all it’s handy new securing arrangements.

..borrowed Dave’s cunning mast-ascending device to inspect the rigging and fittings…

This has foot straps as well as a seat, so you stand up, slide the rope-gripping thing for the seat up while the weight’s off it, and then sit down and do the same for the foot-strap one.

And then you keep doing that, with awkward pauses to get around some of the rigging, and regularly tightening the safety line, till you get to the top. You’re not really pulling yourself up, basically pushing up with your legs.

Although I’m not really that keen on heights it felt surprisingly fine, even looking down

or across to the beach.

Very tempting… Still, I did check over all the fittings for the wire stays supporting the mast and all seemed fine, so I started coming back down again, which is quite fiddly. Dave kindly lowered me down most of the way.

Safely back down! Though I do seem to be holding on to things..

…and cleaned the dinghy and put it away.

And then I wrote a to-do list in about 5 minutes which covered an A4 sheet. Which doesn’t even include refilling the empty flour pot in that photo. Oops.

Good news, and the gig for Gambian schools

Posted in Cancer, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Music, Photographs, Skin cancer with tags , on May 15, 2011 by maidofmettle

Oops. I wasn’t meaning to build any suspense about the last scan I had, I’d just forgotten about it with the excitement of the gig etc.

I’d wondered if everyone else had forgotten about it on the day itself, because the whole floor of the hospital my appointment was on seemed to be deserted. I found the department I was meant to be going to, but the doors were shut and it was dark.

Fortunately a nurse was passing a few minutes later and ushered me though the neighbouring door marked ’emergencies only’, behind which lurked another whole maze of corridors and the Hidden Waiting Room. I’d put some photos in here to break up the text but I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to reveal its existence.

The scan itself was fairly straightforward. Apparently my internal organs are all the normal size etc – I guess this is a backup check to the sentinel lymph node biopsy to be very sure that the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else.

I have a final discharge note now so everything is sorted here on the hospital front, I just need to have regular check-ups with a dermatologist in the future, at least for a year or two. I’ll have to find one in the Azores, and then another when I’m back in the UK.

Speaking of long-running sagas, I have finally got my a working hotplate again and restored pumped water to the boat.

Having the hotplate fixed involved going to two different service centres, as the shop I bought it from sent me to the wrong one the first time, and unfortunately went over the Easter weekend, causing further delay. At least going to the place that did try and fix it (I think they replaced it in the end) gave an opportunity for a nice detour through the Parque Doramas.

When Jon and I visited the fountains had largely been turned off, but they seem to be working again now.

The issue with the water pump was solved surprisingly simply. The pump still hadn’t exploded, and I thought I’d better check out any other issues before taking it to pieces.

The new water filter seemed another prime suspect, and proved very definitely guilty. I can only presume that the little water that made it through was very clean indeed..

Happily the shop was very happy to accept a return in part-exchange for a different make of filter. That works fine, so now I’ve been putting vinegar solution in both tanks and rinsing them through in the hope that the water will taste reasonable.

Now, on to more exciting matters.. The Saturday after the scan was a fairly relaxing day until it was time to go and set up for the gig, although the horizon to the north was looking ominously dark, especially knowing there was a big low pressure system somewhere north-west of here.

Still, we got everything set up fine at one end of the canvas awning outside the Sailor Bar, and the soundcheck sounded good.

You can guess what happened next, can’t you?

We’d planned to open with Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, but it was flung wide open before we began, releasing a deluge. Within a few minutes water was coming through the fabric above our heads, and we had to clear all the electrical equipment away again. While this probably made quite a spectacle, we all seem to have been too busy to photograph it.

We debated playing some songs unplugged, but it would have been hard to hear over the rain so we decided it was best to postpone and hope it was better the next day.

Sunday did dawn beautifully, and unusually remained clear all afternoon as well. It was a short trip to move all the gear from where Janice had let us keep it on Ladycat, moored near the bar.

There had been quite a few people there the previous night, but this time all the tables outside were packed. It was handy that this time we could move back to outside the cover of the awning, though the arrangements for the loudspeakers got a little more unconventional.

Paul had to fiddle with the settings a bit more this time round but it didn’t take too long to get everything sounding good again.

We even managed a relaxing drink before getting going without attracting a downpour…

..and so off we went. The stage wasn’t usually quite this crowded, but the bar stayed very full, though the wind probably carried the sound a long way down the seafront!

After the first set we had a break while Neil (who’d come along to the last couple of rehearsals) played Jailhouse Rock and accompanied the owner of the bar singing Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay to great applause.

It was particularly impressive since Pepe had a cigarette in one hand and the lyrics in the other- possibly fortunate they didn’t catch fire half way through!

Dangerous Dave kindly acted as cameraman for the night as well as being a part-time roadie.  Here’s a clip of Sloop John B, with it’s famous harmonica duet introduction.

The final count showed we’d raised over 16o Euros, which I’m told will fund about 2/3 of the cost of a primary school in the Gambia. Support for primary schools there can make a huge difference to people’s lives as only secondary schools are state-funded, and kids need to have primary schooling to take advantage of it.

And we had a very good time as well.

Besides that, and with the intensive rehearsals period out of the way, I’ve been doing a lot of other stuff on the boat, but having finally got the stage of putting all the tools away I need to get the hot melt glue gun back out to fix the memory card of my camera. So that will have to wait, since it would be exceedingly dull without any pictures.

I’ve been able to pinch some off other people from last weekend, when a group of us went on an outing to a Chinese restaurant on Las Canteras beach.

The setting is very nice and 6.50 Euros for all you can eat with an excellent selection of food, including dessert, is very good indeed, contributing to a lovely evening.

Surfing photos and preparations part 2: water tanks

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, Surfing with tags on May 5, 2011 by maidofmettle

Gig report to come when I have photos and possibly video. We had fun.

I did manage to get hold of these pictures of me surfing from way back in February, courtesy of http://www.grancanaraiasurf.es:

It’s not my favourite bit of beach – there’s a part further along with generally larger, less steep waves, but it was a pretty good morning, and the photographer was a nice surprise.

More recently, I’ve spent a lot of the last couple of days pumping water.

At least it’s fresh… (salt would be a bad sign).

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I decided to install another flexible tank in an awkward space at the back of the boat. There’s a fair amount of room, but the ceiling is low and there’s generally a lot of things on top, including the dinghy.

The plumbing system was still there so it would be relatively easy to connect it up, and significantly easier to pump water out than removing all the stuff from the top to get bottles out (the other option for storing water in it).

Inevitably, this turned into a bit of a saga occupying several days..

The first significant issue was realising that though I had the old fitting for the inlet to the tank I couldn’t find the outlet one anywhere. I asked in the shop where I bought it, and they said they didn’t have any, and didn’t know when they’d get any more – they only get shipments from the manufacturer every couple of months or more. I did question how they expected to sell the tanks without the fittings, but given that I’d just bought one I didn’t really want to dwell on that point very much.

So, I went hunting all through the boat looking for the remaining fitting, rapidly exhausting all the likely places and turning to the distinctly less probable ones (was it with the Madeira behind the vegetable boxes? No. Was it right in the bow in a bucket with sealants? No..).

Then on Monday I had a quick look to see if I could order it from the UK. And then as I looked at the price, two things occured to me:

1. about £19, plus P&P, seemed an awful lot for two plastic hose fitting adaptors with rubber gaskets

2. hang on, surely you shouldn’t have to buy these separately?

I shot back round to the shop, which of course was closed for lunch.

Later that afternoon, I explained that my tank had come without any fittings, and the man went and got some from one of the other boxes. I hope they don’t just sell that one to someone else…

So, I came up with a cunning multi-layered padding system to try and protect the tank, and put it in place.

Lots of layers..

While I was looking for a jubilee clip I dislodged the missing old tank fitting from it’s hiding place in one of the toolbox lids. Oh well, I needed another rubber gasket for the inlet anyway, so on with connecting it up.

Then I tried filling the tank, stopping and checking it wasn’t leaking occasionally.

But not often enough..

It was especially frustrating that lax checking meant I didn’t actually know why it was leaking significantly. At least it was a relatively simple explanation, if irritatingly avoidable – once I’d got most of the water out I found the tank outlet was screwed on cross-threaded.

So I finished getting everything out, took all the layers apart and hung everything up to dry. Then I went for a swim. The water feels pretty warm now – no cold shock as I wade in, and even at getting on for 7 in the evening it’s not cold getting out if the sun’s still out. Lovely and refreshing in the less chilly sense of the word though.

Then I had another go with the tank, which seems to have been more successful. So today I’ve been pumping water in and out of it to rinse it out ready to hold drinking water.

Tank outlet with additional padding. And no water outside it!

I’ve also been giving the other tank a clean with a vinegar/water solution and then a rinse, hopefully that and changing the water filter will make it tastes rather better.

Pumping water might not be quite like pumping iron, but it is proving quite an endurance workout. I’m wondering if the new water filter provides more resistance than the old one, though I’m darkly suspicious that my foot pump will explode in a shower of parts, making the new water tank rather less convenient to use.