B O A T Y A R D | S L A V E S

N e w Y e a r s E v e | Dec 31 | 2018

I can’t remember the last time I sat and did nothing. It’s been ages. It feels wrong. Against my will. I try to remember how. But I’m making lists in my head. I add “do nothing” to my list. I check it off immediately. I can’t help it. I move onto the next thing. My mind still works while my physical self just sits. 


It’s New Years Eve. A rare easterly blows through the channel into Lagos Marina. This is the first day, since November 10, that sitting in the cock-pit doing nothing, feels almost acceptable, even though I don’t remember how to do it. 

Forty eight days in the boat yard. Sunrise to sunset. Coffee. Walk the beach to clock the sunrise. Feed the local cats. Collect one bag full of plastic. Breakfast. Prioritize projects. Pull apart old rudder. Find propane. Track down Antonio, the canvas guy. Drop sails at sailmaker. Fill water tanks. Fix water tank vent.  Fix life lines. Fix stairs. Remount sliding companion way. Re-paint cabin top. Straighten stanchions. Re-bed stanchions. Sand and varnish boom, mizzen, bamboo shroud covers. Sand bottom. Paint bottom. Running lights. Re-wire and re-mount solar panels. Re-fit Hydrovane. Rig check. Verify good threads on all turn buckles. Beef up anchor. Rewire stereo. Find mahogany. Find marine plywood. Find router, planer, and jig saw. Order fiberglass, epoxy, bottom paint and varnish. Check seacocks. Replace mast headlight. Secure loose lead in bilge.  Cut wood for rudder. Plane wood for rudder. Shape wood for rudder. Glue. Epoxy. Fillers. Have stainless steel rudder post fabricated. Fit rudder to rudder post. Batons in sails. Stack pack back on. Sails back on. Oil change. Trans fluid. Alternator belt. Replace all filters. Check all hoses and clamps. Replace impeller. Order spares. Lift boat. Put rudder on boat. Packing gland. Connect Quadrant. Disconnect quadrant. Remove quadrant. Disconnect shift and throttle cables. Reconnect shift and throttle cables. Reconnect quadrant. Reconnect steering cables. Autopilot. Nuts. Bolts. In the bilge. Upside down. Swearing. Luke vs rudder. Jessie vs steering quadrant. The list goes on for infinity.

Splash. In the water. All is right in the world again. Now I sit, and do nothing. For only a moment because my child like instincts are skipping down the promenade, pointing towards Desiree tied to the visitor’s pontoon, “Look! Look! Everyone please stop what you are doing and have a look at our boat. Isn’t she lovely?!” And the strangers smile, and tell other strangers, and they give me high fives and tell me how proud they are of our hearty work. 

Portugal has stolen my heart. I’ve never thought about buying property or a home, or any thing for that matter that could make me feel in any way, shape, or form - stuck - tied down. But here, here I wouldn’t mind having like, just my big toe stuck in the Portuguese soil, or square knotted to an orange tree. Things move very slowly here. Contradicting its slow culture, the hours pass quickly. We are several weeks behind our predicted departure date. Neither of us mind. Every day we meet someone new. Be it a sailor, wood worker, farmer, or artist, we have and share a little community. We recognize new friends at the market, in town, on their boats, at the pub, walking the beach. Andy. Dik. Martin and Henny. Joelle. Rui. Ben and Shanti. Laurent and Cecile. Douwe and Jan. Nick, Ana, Noah and Santos. Hanno. Chris. The Frenchies. Bego and Mani. Andy and Mia. The crazy lady on the bridge. The parrots. The woman who plays the fiddle. The lady at the gas station who doesn’t like Luke. The stray cats to whom we have given each a name - Betsy, Momma, Free Willy, Catfish, Mittens, Kitten, Jafaar, Whitetip, Moses, Ginger bullocks, Peggy, Adele, Cancer, Ragu, Frankenstien, and Tato, like Potato, the one we chose to adopt. 

Yes, it’s felt like home. In a different way than Luke being at my home in Michigan, or me being at his home in England. It has felt like our home. Our boat work. Our jobs. Our friends. Our trials and our tribulations. Our arguments, and our celebrations. Everything has felt our own. I will be sad to sail away from here. But I am beginning to feel ready for the sea. Ready to test out our own work. Ready for complete self-reliance.

We have two crew joining us for our first leg. Although we are undecided what that leg may look like. Morocco or Madeira. Tato, the cat, has been sterilized, chipped, vaccinated, and pet-passported. Unsure if our other crew, Christian (one of my former fight instructors) has been sterilized, chipped, or vaccinated but we told him if he has a valid passport he should be fine. But it shouldn’t be a pet passport, it should be his. Christian, whom we are going to refer to as “Blondie”, an old nick name, is from Germany. Blondie trained me through my helicopter instrument rating (in Minden, Nevada) when my 21 year old self never believed I would be able pass such a thing. He believed I could, and because of him I did. Later, he went on to Louisiana to fly for the oil rigs. After 6 years he quit to go travel, and we have re-connected since he has been off adventuring. Originally an airline mechanic, turned helicopter pilot, turned world traveling adventure seeker, has sailing up next on his bucket list. We are really stoked to have a stray Portuguese cat, and a German chopper pilot join us “till the butter melts.”

I can’t say enough about our time here. I was reminded of how hard I will work for something. How many mistakes I made to learn what I have learned. How persistent I can be in problem solving and how discouraged I can become when I don’t have answers. How resilient we are in not hiring help. How many times we disagreed. How many times we cheers’d, took walks, and tried again. How many brilliant one-pot galley meals we had. How many incredible friends we have made. How many things we fixed. How many things we broke. How many things we dropped. How many problems solved. How many times we kicked each other down and picked each other back up again. How many bags of groceries we walked for. How many bottles of vino verde. How many tools we bought. How many tools we borrowed. How many tools we misplaced. I will never forget this place.

Things to walk away with :

-Do not start your engine using a pressurized hose connected to your intake.

-Do not pay a Portuguese man in August for a new Dodger and expect to have it by January. 

-Do not use fast-hardener for an epoxy job that must be done slowly. 

-Do not play devils-advocate with Luke when he is frustrated about his projects, be frustrated with him.

-Do not question Jessie on her ability to “jimmy-rig” something instead of fix it properly, just let her do it. 

-Do not put beef stock in your Spanish Omelet. 

-Do not think a stray cat wants to be held by you.

-Do not skimp on prepping for varnish work, prep it properly.

-Do not pretend to be an electrician, but pretend to be anything else in the world. 

Okay, that’s it for now. 

We are either heading south to Morrocco, or ESE to Madeira. With a brand new rudder, and 100 broken things fixed. Eventually we will make it to the Canaries, and then across to the Caribbean. All destinations are up for discussion. We anticipate 4 days to Morocco or Madiera, another 4 to the Canaries, and 22-25 days across the Atlantic. We have till May to get as close to Michigan as possible. Keep an eye out for the Ole Desiree, she is looking beautiful as ever at the moment. Trans-Atlantic round 2, here we go ! 

Big hugs to all these folks below… sure will miss you.

jessie zevalkink