In the Guns N’ Roses song Patience, Axl sings that “all you need is just a little patience”. He sings about a romance, but it’s a good trait to have to ease life along in general.
Patience is a particularly good quality to have for living and traveling by sail boat. Most often it’s the weather that regularly tests us. Or maybe it’s being stuck in a boatyard waiting for parts to arrive, like we’ve experienced this year. Perhaps you’re waiting for a space in a popular harbour, or for a service person to tend to your boat. Most likely they’re all things that are completely out of our control. The waiting is frustrating, but a good dose of patience can help the time pass more smoothly.
At the Mercy of Mother Nature
The weather is a fickle beast. Even with the development of good weather forecasts, we can never be 100% sure of what will actually happen when the time comes. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to control or change it.
We’ve had several occasions over the years where our comfort has been at the whim of the weather. Sometimes we’ve thought we were in a sheltered bay, but then swell has unexpectedly swept in. Usually at night, when navigating an escape is difficult. The worst times have been when waves have rolled in, reflected off of the sides of the bay, and created a washing machine effect. Emerald heaved and bucked uncomfortably and sleep was impossible. All we could do was hang on whilst patiently (or not) counting down the hours to morning or a change in the wind.
Agathonisi to Samos
It turned out that we didn’t have much patience when it came to leaving Agathonisi in the Greek Aegean. In that part of the world, the prevailing winds blow strongly from the north. However, we’d been tracking the development of a brief window of southerly winds. It was so brief that if we took it, we’d have to go straight on past Samos. But we really wanted to visit the former home of Pythagoras. So, when we saw a forecast that reduced the north winds from a F6 to a F4 a few days before the southerly winds arrived, we jumped at it, despite it still being on the nose.
It wasn’t a F4.
What it was, was a wet and wild, big dipper roller coaster ride that you couldn’t get off when you’d had enough. Could we have turned back? Of course, but then we’d have missed Samos. A few hours of discomfort was the price we had to pay.
We bashed on for hours into a 30kt wind, twice what had been forecast. Emerald slowed to under 2 knots of speed making the passage twice as long as it should have been. But was it our patience that was tested that day, or our endurance?
Choosing to be Reluctantly Confined
Then there are the times when we’ve chosen to allow bad weather to keep us confined aboard for days. In some places, harbours are so expensive or full, that we decide to anchor instead. There are plenty of anchorages with good holding in strong winds, and we’ve invested in a good anchor. So the boat holds firm, but usually when the wind blows strong, it’s not safe to get off the boat.
Three days in the bay at Sant Carles de la Rapita has been the longest test for me so far. I have plenty of hobbies that I can do in a small space, such as reading, baking, crochet, or writing. However, in those moments of confinement, it seems that my usual urge to explore ashore becomes even stronger. Every day I stared longingly at the shore, envious of the people that I could see walking about. Patience had abandoned me in those moments.
This might make you think that I’m not cut out for this life… But these occasional moments of forced inactivity are more than made up for by the good times.
The Seacocks Delay
Even when not sailing, the weather continues to have an effect on our plans.
In the last blog we’d thought we had one last one job to do: to repair some small areas of damage to Emerald’s Coppercoat. Then we’d discovered a problem with a seacock, and we’d decided to order replacements. Tick tock went the clock, and three weeks passed before the delivery arrived. More time passed while we removed the old seacocks and installed the new. But then the fourth and final seacock threw a spanner in the works by leaking through the hosetail join when we tested it. We contacted various companies for advice on how to fix it, but almost another week passed before we had a reply. In the meantime we wondered if we should just try gluing it in again. But if it still leaked we’d have had to remove it again and every time we did that we put force on the other joins of the seacock.
In the end patience won, and the advice we received guided us to fixing the leak.
While we worked on the seacocks, a period of unseasonable heat and humidity had lingered overhead. At the time, the delay didn’t bother us too much because doing the Coppercoat in those conditions would have been doable, but uncomfortable. When the heatwave broke, we expected the weather to return to its usual pattern of north winds and mid-twenties temperatures.
Low Pressure After Low Pressure
With the seacock replacement at last complete, we could return to the Coppercoat. We only had a half pack of product, bought for repairing the damaged spots. But now it was going to have to stretch to paint around the new through hulls. There was no wiggle room for mistakes, so we really needed perfect conditions. If it rains before it’s fully dry, it could wash the Coppercoat off. If it’s windy, it could blow everywhere except where we wanted it to go.
The manufacturers of Coppercoat recommend 48 hours of dry weather after application. We would have easily had this with the typical weather patterns, but during the last week, the weather has gone skew wiff. Normally the Azores high sits to the north of Porto Santo, keeping low pressure systems away. But now it has wandered off allowing low pressure after low pressure to travel much further south.
Also, the weather forecasts have been changing daily. We keep looking ahead for a 48 hour window of dry weather, think we see one, and then in the next update, it slams shut. At the opposite extreme, the forecast is for rain which then doesn’t materialise. It’s very frustrating, but if we mess up the application, we have to wait for more Coppercoat. And so we work on our patience some more.
Waiting for the Post
During our time on the island, the postal network has also tried to teach us the art of patience.
One of the reasons we try to do as many of our repairs ourselves, is so that we aren’t at the mercy of busy trades people. But, we do still need parts and equipment. There are few specialist shops in Porto Santo, so we have had to reply on deliveries.
Some deliveries took just a week to arrive, but usually it’s two to three. Then there were the ones that took 6 weeks. There has been a lot of stop-start to progress because of this. More lessons in patience.
There Is Always Another Boat Job
While we wait for the weather to sort itself out, there is always another job that we can do. Some of which, such as storing and tidying, need doing before we sail off anywhere. Over the last year, the forepeak and chart table has become a dumping ground for tools and parts, which all need to find a home. Plus, our dinghy is finally getting the wheels that we’ve been carrying around for the past 6 years! If all goes well, we’re expecting more beach landings in the future and a set of wheels will make dragging it out much easier.
Does Practice Make Perfect?
I’m still not sure that I’m very good at patience, despite all the situations where I’ve been forced to practise it. Every time there’s another delay or the weather forecast changes for the worst, I still feel a niggle of frustration being to build. So when I feel the annoyance build, I’ll just have to turn on the music and listen to Slash’s sweet chords, while Axl reassures me that all you need is just a little patience.
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Thank you from Nichola & Colin