11 to 23 July 2020
We got back!
On a slightly stressful and masked flight to Almeria we were crowded into the smallest space with the most people we have experienced in a long time but before too long we were whizzing through the dry, poly tunnel filled landscape of southern Spain for our reunion with Pintail.
And it was brilliant to see her although she looked very forlorn, not to mention filthy after just over a year in the boat yard. I nearly wept when I saw the tender all deflated and yellowing from the sun.
But we quickly set about getting the underwater repairs done. Stefan had done an amazing job on the rudder repair on his previous visit before lockdown. It looked so pretty it was almost a shame to cover it in coppercoat again.
The keel got some attention to its rust spots and new coats of primer and coppercoat and whilst we waited for that to dry I could finish the painting of the bootstripe I started back in June 2019 and Stefan got his head stuck in the engine to make sure it would start up again.
After 4 long, hot, dirty and sweaty days in the boat yard Pintail was ready to get back in the water and on Thursday at 7.30am prompt the travel lift came to return her to where she belongs.
After a short motor across the marina she was in her berth and reunited with SV Momentum of Fal for the first time since we were in the Dodecanese in 2018. We wasted no time catching up with Babs and Rene over a cup of tea – socially distanced, of course!
This was not our only reunion. Our wonderful pontoon neighbours from our winter in Gibraltar, Annemieke and Steve, are also here and we soon caught up on how the last three years had been for them over drinks on the stern of SV Spirit of Delft. And to complete our Pontoon A reunion, another former Gibraltar liveaboard, Chris was also working hard in the yard ready to launch SV Valiant M for a solo sail to Malta. Helping him with his launch in exchange for a lift to the big supermarket for provisioning reminded us just why we love the sailing community and its friendships and solidarity.
Back in the water the jobs on Pintail were no less relentless as we polished, cleaned and tidied a year’s worth of mess and grime inside and out and sought to create a home again from the abandoned workshop she had become.
Amongst the most satisfying jobs was removing a year’s worth of rust from the stainless with a new (to us) wonder product that used half the effort of polish.
After a year we had to reacquaint ourselves with where everything was and how everything worked but slowly and surely our home reemerged, thanks in no small part to our new personalised coasters from Lavinia and Richard.
Spain is still emerging itself from tough coronavirus lockdown measures. Masks are compulsory in all public spaces and shops and compliance is good. The restaurants and bars are making a cautious return as are the mostly local tourist coming to Almerimar. Shops and businesses are up and running and it has become completely normal to converse with marina staff and shopkeepers through our masks after rubbing sanitizer into our hands. The virus is still lurking as it is everywhere and there are outbreaks in some of Spain’s bigger and party towns but living on the boat again we feel as safe as we can be.
“What’s the plan?” you may well ask. It is indeed a very good question and one to which we have no immediate answer.
Any plans for a 2020 trans Atlantic crossing were long put aside whilst the Caribbean is closed down and the virus continues to rage in the US. With our application for an extended US visa on hold and with nothing completely back to normal across Europe we need to think about what to do. A second wave of the virus in the UK and in Europe is a definite possibility and there is another looming deadline that seeks to disrupt our sailing plans.
Our ability to live the life we have, travelling unimpeded through Europe is soon to come to an abrupt end thanks to those who thought Brexit was a good idea.
From 1 January 2021 we will no longer have the same freedom of movement that has enabled us to live and travel full time in the EU. As negotiations are currently going we will only be able to spend 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen zone. We will join the Australians and Americans we have met who have needed to do the Schengen dance – finding spots outside the EU, like Turkey, Tunisia, Gibraltar and Morocco to sit out the required 3 months before being able to re-enter.
With Brexit we also lose our right to reciprocal health care in the EU and with a global pandemic still lurking, if not raging in some places, being without access to doctors and hospitals doesn’t seem like a good idea.
It was a weird kind of omen that we returned to discover our EU flag almost entirely eaten away over the past year. We hastily replaced it with a brand new Essex Marina Yacht Club burgee and put up a nice new Spanish courtesy flag ready to take to its waters again.
As it stands today we have until 31 March 2021 to work out a plan B for this peripatetic life of ours. Until then we are revisiting the charts and making plan As, Bs and Cs and trying to stay healthy and safe.