Spring is here – the varnish brush is out again!
Spring is here – the varnish brush is out again!
We were enthralled with our first view of a fisherman’s hut! It was a modern sculpture of timber and stone, bound together with twine and wire and reachable from the land above by a long tree limb with crosswise treads nailed every half metre. A good-sized hemp line dangled helpfully alongside. We saw many more of these huts while sailing around the Balearic Islands. Ranging from a few bits of wood nailed to a crosspiece and wedged across the mouth of a cave to elaborate double-storied structures with terraces, many of the huts are only visible from seaward. Crammed between rocky outcrops, dug into an overhang or built into a sheer cliff, the huts are practical, secure boat shelters … once you get your boat in them! Using manpower alone to push a small but hefty fishing boat up a series of tree crooks set into stone or, sometimes, concrete and then to negotiate wet and slippery rocks to get to a scree-ridden track heading upwards to a dirt road where, hopefully, someone waits with transport home does not seem like any kind of fun at all. This vital necessity to protect the means that feeds the family isn’t about fun anyway but it is a precious cultural heritage that should be protected. There aren’t many fisherman’s huts left on the mainland: waterside property is far more precious. We can only hope that the Balearics don’t get sucked up by the EU’s health and safety rules, regulations and other requirements that are used to leach places and people of their individuality and their freedom to choose for themselves. Viva España!
The tonal study for the central figure in a watercolour called GOLDEN AGE was the start for this cartoon. It was something that developed over a few days and here’s the result – just a bit of fun!
Oil pastels are an interesting drawing medium with their strong colours and bold effect. It’s simple to make your own inexpensive oil pastels by placing ordinary classroom chalk (use colours rather than pastel shades) in a container of shallow olive oil, allowing the chalk to absorb the oil overnight. Wipe the sticks and put on newspaper to dry for a few days. They last indefinitely.
We are anchored in a favourite bay: a tiny, pristine indentation of sea in untouched tropical hillsides on St Lucia’s west coast, a marine reserve with no moorings, no beach bars and no fishing allowed. Day-trippers visit by local boat to snorkel the exquisite reef, swim in the crystal water and laze on the small, sandy shore but by late afternoon the bay is deserted, save for us.
As the sun hovers at the horizon, washing the west with fiery colours and preparing to leave us a flash of green as it sinks below the skyline, we hear the sound of an outboard motor and watch a small pirogue enter the bay. Four burly West Indians eye us as they pass, anchoring ahead of us near the reef. The day fades and we begin to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable: they are doing nothing but sitting in their boat watching us and we are alone in the anchorage. We know of stories of attacks on singular boats in remote anchorages but those are told of St Vincent and are not an occurrence in St Lucia … yet?
As we watch them watching us our young daughter has a bright idea. “Let’s do what Captain Slocum did and then they’ll think there are lots of us,” she says. So, following the words of that immortal sailor, the first man to sail alone around the world, writing of his encounters with local people in faraway lands, we go below, changing our clothes, finding headgear and coming out the different hatches to make it seem that there would be more than 2 adults and a child to contend with should they wish to board this vessel uninvited
Evening draws in to end our charade and a crescent moon lifts above the hillside. We hear the sweep of oars and make out the start of frenzied activity where before had been a tense waiting. The pirogue glides to the reef, powerful torches illuminate the water and a great net whirls through the air to settle with a splash into the sea. Twice more they throw the net and haul it back, releasing the catch to writhe and scrabble on the floorboards of the pirogue. Then the outboard roars, shocking to silence the droning cicadas and throaty tree frogs and the pirogue races away, the four men showing only their backs as they crouch over their illegal catch.
As the onshore tropical life reverts to its nightly habits we sit to supper at our cockpit table under the gentle glimmer of the moon and a paraffin lantern. We talk of traditional ways and essential feeding of families and of greed and lawlessness, and how impossible to tell them apart from an outsider’s perspective. But mostly we laugh at ourselves and at how funny we looked in our dressing up clothes.
We slumber to the rise and fall of the sea and the lapping of water on the hull, our ears tuned as always to quiet dips of an oar or the putter of an engine: sounds not akin to night time in a peaceful anchorage, sounds that would bring us to immediate consciousness, just as footsteps outside a door might do to a house dweller.
Portugal’s southern coast is subject to the tidal stream so passages need planning with this in mind. We wanted to visit the lagoon formed by the Rio Formosa and planned to be off the entrance just before high water in order to transit the bar with maximum depth and least tidal turbulence. Sometimes, nature takes no notice of the weather forecast and we had paid it too much attention … we were late off the entrance to the lagoon and the tide was turning. All the water that had entered the river during the previous hours was now hell-bent on leaving but it wasn’t running too fast just yet … what to do! We watched the seas for a few minutes; there was a big swell but the water was deep in the centre. We considered turning back to sail with the current westwards; we debated continuing eastwards punching against the running water. It was already late afternoon and either direction meant a further 7 hours to an alternative anchorage. There wasn’t much wind and we would be motor-sailing in the dark with the pitfall of fishing buoys, mostly invisible at night. A few hundred metres away was perfect shelter.
We agreed to give it a go, knowing that once committed there could be no turning back – shallow water lurked either side of the channel. Our bows were pointed between the red and green light towers, engine throttled up to maximum speed and racing like our hearts. Waves raised by the shallow sands crashed on the rocks and sent great plumes of spray arching over the starboard lighthouse. We hit the turbulence: it was like a washing machine tumble cycle and our boat was thrown on her beam-ends. We clung on, plunged down into a chasm and the propeller roared as the stern was raised above the sea. It was over in a minute; it felt like an hour. We entered the flat water of the lagoon and followed the channel buoys to our anchorage.
In the days before GPS and electronic charts it was essential to have navigation skills. We learned our position lines, fixes, transits and dead reckoning at evening classes where our teacher, Jim, fondly laced his lessons with memorable descriptives and mnemonics. Who could ever forget ‘Can Dead Men Vote Twice’ and ‘True Virgins Make Dull Companions’ to ensure the correct order in converting compass to true or the other way around? One cold and rainy November evening Jim said, “Being at sea on a night like tonight will mean zero visibility … you might as well stick your head up a cow’s backside!” He went on to teach us about lighthouses and their characteristics … no wonder we have such a fondness for these structures.
Cabo de Roca is the furthest point west of Portugal and of the European continent. Steep, rocky cliffs, 168m high form the perfect base for the lighthouse that warns and comforts mariners navigating the Iberian coast. We sailed by that lighthouse, high-tailing it before a storm to our north, rounded Cape Raso in heavy seas and headed for the protection of Cascais bay where we anchored in the lee of Cascais, relieved and grateful to sit out the Atlantic depression in safety and comfort.
Talk about making an entrance … with a nomination like this it’s unavoidable!
Of course, the ONE LOVELY BLOG award does not come cheap and certain conditions need to be fulfilled:
We must -1. Thank the person who honoured us and post their links. 2. Share 7 things about ourselves. 3. Nominate up to 15 other blogs for this honour. The first is easy - Thank you, Jen. You’re a very beautiful virtual friend and we feel greatly honoured to be chosen by you for this award. And to you, gentle readers, please head on over to Jennie’s spaces and enjoy the work of this talented artist and illustrator with a great blog here and a fabulous website here. Secondly, sharing 7 things about ourselves - 1. We spent our honeymoon in Gunter Sachs’ apartment in Gstaad. (And no, he wasn’t there too. We learned to work the coffee machine in the restaurant downstairs and were high on love and coffee the whole time.) 2. A gorilla paid for our boat.
3. We hit the millennium with $7 cash in our pocket and a zero balance to our bank account. (We’re still here so we didn’t starve to death and now we’ll definitely be ready for the next turn of the century!)
4. We can claim royal connections: Pippa met the Queen (not Barry Humphries but Her Actual British Majesty and it was some time ago when the palace gave small-talk practice for a queening career by supplying citizens of the colonies as they could be relied upon to stand open-mouthed in the royal presence and not try to talk back) and the first woman ever to kiss Miles was the Duchess of Kent although there’s a slight possibility that his mother might have kissed him once, earlier, but he definitely remembers the royal smooch and he’s sticking with that as there’s no proof that his mother got in first.)
5. Miles was part of the work force building a spy satellite at a secret location in the Nevada Desert. Everyone working on the project was sworn to secrecy and threatened with court action for any disclosures. Dropping by a local Starbucks for a take-away coffee, the waitress said to him, “You’re not from around here … you must be working on that spy satellite out in the desert then.” 6. Paul McCartney asked if he could join Miles’ band but Miles said no, they already had a singer. (Not a serious misjudgement like Decca made, just a bit of banter in a London street.)
7. Our first art exhibition was on the side of the road and it was a sell-out. (We’ve never matched that in a gallery … must be a lesson in there somewhere!) So, despite our Liz advising against name-dropping we’ve had a lovely time with it and we trust you’re really terribly impressed!
Finally, a difficult choice as there are so many lovely blogs out there, but we’ve chosen this baker’s dozen of our favourite lovelies to pass on the ONE LOVELY BLOG award to: http://100swallows.wordpress.com http://printandpattern.net http://quirkyartist.wordpress.com http://jhobson1987.wordpress.com http://marinakanavaki.wordpress.com http://jacobdegeling.com http://markarmstrongillustration.wordpress.com http://wightrabbit.wordpress.com http://almofate.wordpress.com http://roboticrhetoric.wordpress.com http://garybuie01.wordpress.com http://ridiculouslyinteresting.wordpress.com
Just finished and ready for the shop, these books have marbled covers, endpapers and fly leaves, good quality 110gsm laid paper pages and are bound in German long stitch. Check out the sea in the background of these pics .. nature marbling!