Spalax 2 is like a fine wine: It improves with age. Still, a lot of TLC is needed to achieve that refined patina and mellowness of a world-travelled, never-failing sailing vessel – the eternal vagabond of the seven oceans.
Its two Yanmar Diesel engines had taken a beating during the long days of voyaging across the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, so they had to be completely overhauled, including the replacement of the two heat exchangers. It’ll cost me an arm and a leg and my left kidney, but hey, a passion for the sea is priceless.
Also, the solar panels are ten years old and their efficiency has dwindled drastically. So, out go the old panels and in come the state-of-the-art monocrystlline array of photovoltaic solar panels to power that brand-new fridge I’d installed recently. And the panels are assisted by the super-efficient and environmentally totally friendly Epever solar charger controller.
So, hopefully, by the time this pandemic is over and I am allowed to return to New Caledonia, Spalax 2 will be rough and ready to take on the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
“Are you the owner of Spalax 2?” wanted to know the official-sounding voice on my iphone at three o´clock in the morning, as I was trying to get a good night´s sleep in my bed somewhere in Germany.
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
“This is Sgt. Major Yablonsky of the US Coast Guard Joint Response Coordination Center in Honolulu. Your distress beacon is transmitting a signal from New Caledonia. Are you in distress?” wanted to know the Sgt. Major.
I explained to the Sgt. Major that I was safely tucked in my bed in Germany and that my boat was on the hard in New Caledonia, so no stress and no distress.
Just to make sure, I called Raoul, who takes care of my boat in New Caledonia, and asked him to see what was wrong with the EPIRB on my boat. He reported back that he had reset the EPIRB but the damn thing kept triggering, so he had to remove the batteries to completely deactivate the device.
Then I called the Sgt. Major of the US Coast Guard to confirm that Spalax 2 was safe and sound on the hard and that it had been a false alarm. I also asked the Sgt. Major why, in his opinion, the device had triggered and his replay was unambiguous: Either someone manually activated the EPIRB or it came into contact with water.
Both possibilities were ruled out, as the device was kept in the driest spot on the boat, inside the stool at the navigation station, and Raoul assured me that the EPIRB had not been activated manually.
The only explanation was that the device malfunctioned. What is even more intriguing is that the Honolulu Coast Guard received a fix of the vessel, even though the EPIRB was completely hidden from “a clear view of the sky” when it triggered the emergency signal.
Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that he American maritime distress response service is on its toes day and night.
Here is a novel look at transiting the Panama Canal in a small boat. Small motor or sailing yachts normally raft up two or three abreast and proceed together from one lock to another. Once in the Gatun Lake, they break up and continue to the locks on the other end of the Canal independently, where they raft up again to negotiate the second set of locks before entering the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea.
I’ve been waxing nostalgic for the past few days, reminiscing about all the mahi-mahis and yellowfin tunas I’ve hooked, sailing across the South Pacific. Maybe I can bring back those memories, using my culinary skills.
So I went out and bought an oven-sized fresh trout from a local fish farm; all other ingredients I had at home. I wasn’t sure a ceviche of a fresh-water fish like trout would live up to the zesty, tangy flavour of a yellowfin tuna ceviche. It did. How shall I describe the gastronomic experience? My taste buds broke into a line dance and …. but you get the picture.
Here’s the recipe:
Filet and de-bone a large fresh trout. Dice the fish and mince four sprigs of coriander, two shallots, one medium-sized tomato and two mild chilly peppers. Combine all the ingredients with four tablespoons of olive oil, four tablespoons of lime juice, four pinches of salt and four pinces of pepper. Mix well.
Let the ceviche sit in the fridge for at least half an hour. Serve with buttered toast and a properly chilled bottle of Terlan Quarz Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Chateau La Pompe, Clos Bergerag-Aquilin.
Okay. This is it. I’ve had it. My patience has been stretched to the limits of the known Universe. My boat, Spalax 2, has been cooped up for the past year in New Caledonia because of the virus and I can’t continue my global circumnavigation. What’s worse, a few days ago New Caledonia has yet again gone into total lockdown.
Here is my ultimatum: Corona, either you go away PDQ, or I will. I’m going on a hunger strike!
But seriously, folks. I’m not on a hunger strike. I’ve just been fasting for the past five days and I feel terrific. My mind is like a razor, my eye is like an eagle’s and my senses are stripped bare.
Fasting is just another way of combating lockdown boredom. I’ve done it before, so I knew what to expect. The first day is tough. The second day is even tougher. But if you make it to the end of the third day, you’re home free: The sensation of hunger disappears; the feeling of wellbeing returns.
And how do you do it? Just replace all your meals with beverages such as artificially sweetened Assam tea, salt-and-pepper tomato juice, clear bullion soup, orange juice and multivitamin juice; take long walks in the park and short bicycle trips in the forest, do Pranayama exercises and in the process loose a couple of kilos of excess body weight.