More Licences & Studying

I’ve now started my “Capitán de Yate” (CY) licence (UK Ocean Master equivalent) with the school, “Blas de Lezo” – named after a Historical Sailor from the time of the Spanish Armada. Once I am qualified as a CY, this will allow me to sail without geographical limits. The hardest part so far in the course is remembering the trigonometry from high school and the mathematics associated with Astronomical Navigation.


The exams are expected to be in March or April for where I live, so I should have enough time to study along with the preparations for the HSK exams. This is associated with the learning of the Mandarin Chinese language and reading is the hardest part here so far.

Education and qualifications form part of my 10 year plan. I need the licence to be able to cross oceans and the experience the course provides with more experienced sailors than I do learn from others instead of making my own mistakes and learning that way. I’m bound to make some mistakes, but hopefully these will be trivial.


Licences & Navigation zones

At the end of July 2016, it was confirmed that I passed my “Patron de Yate” (PY) exam and after doing my practicals between Cádiz, Gibralter & Ceuta on the north of Africa, I received my PY Licence in August. I can now legally sail 150 nautical miles, some 278 km, from a coast.

The catch with the navigation limits on my licence? Pandora is registered to Zone 4 which is 12 nautical miles (some 22km) from the coast.

It turns out that, despite my Oceanis 350 having a design category A, Oceanic, I need to get a CE certificate which would cost me some four or five thousand Euros – without guarantees she would be upgraded in Navigational Zone by the Spanish Authorities (DGMM).  This despite other boats of the same make & model being in superior categories to mine on the Spanish Registry. To this, I’d need to have an official inspection done (ITB) with it’s cost, purchase a new life raft (current one isn’t approved by DGMM), get an approved EPIRB, upgrade my first aid kit and medicines, get a second approved compass, and a long etc. More or less, some €11000 or more.

I’d rather spend the money on bringing the boat up to speed and making her more seaworthy, safe and reliable, which is what, in theory, the inspection is all about, right?

After a lot of frustration, I’ve decided to follow the growing trend of registering my boat on the Belgium registry. This is legal for residence of Spain as long as you pay your taxes, which I’ve already done when I purchased the boat. The Belgium registry will cost me some €57 every five years or so for being a vessel older than 10 years old and for the Belgium registry, you can manage my MMSI directly with the International Beacon Registration Database (IBRD) which manage the information for COSPAS& SARSAT. I’ll also have to reprogram electronics with the new MMSI when I do this.

I plan to commence this change in December 2016. Using an agency, it should cost me some €350. It’s going to be a sad day when I remove the Spanish flag but it’s going to be a lot cheaper and more hassle free.

With this now decided on, it’s time to enjoy the summer with friends and family aboard Pandora then get into the rebuild & paperwork in the low season.

But more about that shortly.

Pandora´s first visit for some love & care

After receiving the quote and agreeing what was needed, Ricardo & I returned to Pandora to spend a couple days working from the boat before heading back to our regular routine. We arrived on a Sunday and worked from on board after taking advantage of the shower facilities at the port. W2016-07-14-12-51-32hile showering on board is fine, using the port means you don’t have to clean up and dry off the bathroom on board. And while Ricardo is like a brother to me, I don’t fancy seeing him naked as he walks to his cabin to get dressed from the shower.

We didn’t sail Monday. Work drained us both a bit and Monday’s are always the hardest day of the week I feel.

We worked Tuesday the 12th of July until lunch time, and after checks,
we motored over to Yatesport at Punta Lagoa where we agreed to have lunch before delivering the boat for the wor
ks. To our surprise, they now tell us they couldn’t start work on the boat until the following week. This frustrated me as we had agreed start and end dates and I had my holidays with my kids planned to start in a few weeks. I wanted the boat reviewed before then.

We agreed to deliver the boat Friday and enjoyed the rest of the week working during the day from the boat, and going sailing and fishing in the afternoons. Night falls way past 10pm this time of year in Vigo, so we could make the most of it.


Fishing was without any luck but we did do some great cross wind and downwind sailing around the Atlantic and Islas Cíes. Ricardo was starting to get the hang of sailing and started to truly enjoy it, despite him doing most of the work on the ropes

For me the fishing part is not so much about trying to catch fish, but more about being with friends, enjoying a cold beer on a
hot summer afternoon, and conversing about all kinds and weird and wonderful 2016-07-13-22-07-44things.

We ended up sailing back to Punta Lagoa on Thursday afternoon to be able to work from that port on Friday without interruption and speak with the guys to ensure the work would get done in time.

Pandora was pulled out and she was to receive a “check up”, repair of the navigation lights (which didn’t work), polishing of the hull, a coat of anti-foul, new anodes, service of the engine, servicing of the auxiliary boat outboard, check the pulleys and rigging, and an inspection to be able to quote new keel bolts and through hulls with taps.

I was to return in a few weeks.


Working aboard & mechanical incidents

One of the reasons that I opted for a boat like the Oceanis 350 was the habitability she offers. She’s like a second home but on the water; albeit just with less room than my land home. She has a full kitchen, bathroom with shower, two cabins, dining area with sea bunks and a chart double which can double as an office.

It was Mid-June and I needed to have get quotes for some repairs I needed done on the boat. Some locals indicated that a company at Punto Lagoa in the Ría de Vigo work well so I called them up and organized to leave them the boat on a weekend. I left home on a Thursday night after work, picked up my friend visiting from Australia, Ricardo from his place in León and we drove to the boat.

After a few beers and a meal, we went to sleep aboard Pandora. Friday I woke up early to work while my mate Ricardo slept in. The Wi-Fi at ports is generally bad so you need to use your mobile for data. It’s good enough for mail and skype but chews up your data plan in a few days. Ricardo worked on his business plan for his establishment in Sydney.

That afternoon after work, I learnt a lot about Pandora as we decided to set sail. Check the oil, started the engine, disconnected shore power, release the moorings and push off. As the breeze started pushing us across, I applied engine power/throttle and she didn’t respond. The dock was too far away to reach as we were being pushed by the current and wind towards another boat. A neighbor saw our struggle and rapidly ran to the end of the finger and grabbed onto Pandora.

We made it back to our mooring after recovering our breath and thanking José Lorenzo for intervening and saving us from an embarrassing incident with other vessels in the port. It was time to investigate what happened.

Not being familiar with the engine back then, I started looking for reasons the throttle wouldn’t respond and concluded that the throttle or throttle cable mas have an issue. I pulled apart lots of bits but at the end found that the cable was disconnected from the engine because of a screw which must have fallen off with the vibrations. I was only able to confirm this because I found a spring on the floor in front of the engine but not the screw. Using a screw in the box of “spares” on board, I could “patch” it up and make it work again.

Fingers crossed, we set sail for the 30 minute passage to Punta Lagoa to meet up with the guys at Yate Sport. We let them see the boat, discussed what was needed and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon out fishing. This time, with a bigger fright.

After testing the throttle while still tied to the dock, we decided she was working properly and decided to cast off. We cast off the stern lines, the forward sprint and with the bow line only still on, I started to reverse the engine to compensate the current and wind as we had rocks on the other side this time. She must have come loose again and we were swinging around with the wind and current but at least this time still connected to the mooring.  Knowing where the issue was, Ricardo and I solved it reasonably quickly and we enjoyed the afternoon on the water (without and fishing catches).

The rest of the weekend evolved without further incidents but with a list of repairs which seemed to grow and grow.

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Romance on the Sea

On the weekend of the 1st of May, 2016, Aurora & I departed Madrid for an eight hour drive to Pandora in the Ría de Vigo in Galicia, Spain. We left after work but arrived in time for a wonderful seafood dinner at the “Restaurante Mauro” . A great place for a romantic dinner, lunch with friends or a Gin & Tonic sundowner under the sun after a day sailing.

After having a nice commission claim released by my CEO, I decided to treat Aurora to this meal as a small celebration, and also to help her see the great side of the world around boating. Aurora is new to boating, not that I have lots of experience but I’m already in love with it. I’m yet to help her create a romance with the idea of spending years circumnavigating to world and discovering new places and people.

A very pleasant meal & some wine later, we went back to Pandora, rolled out the sleeping bags and had a great nights sleep with the very gentle rocking motion of the boat tied up at the mooring.

Morning came and we had a quick breakfast at a café near by. We have a Nespresso on board, a Microwave and a gas stove but I still need to change the gas hoses before using that. I’m sure they’ll be fine but they do look old and it’s really not worth taking the risk of suffering a gas leak with what that may bring.

We confirmed the pleasant weather on the iPhone and prepared the boat. Starting the engine on Pandora when she hasn’t been used for a while is a task in itself. She takes ages until the fuel line has fuel again but needing to be careful not to burn out the starter motor or flatten the battery, I hit the start button for 15 to 20 second hits. Let her rest for another 15 or 20 seconds and go again. It takes four or five of these before she actually starts but once started, she runs beautifully and we let her warm up while we prepare everything else.

The GPS wouldn’t boot up properly this Saturday morning and after a few resets later, I decided to remove the SD card holding the Maps and clean the contacts. This solved the issue and it just reminded me how harsh the salt air environment really can be. Even though the card was within its watertight sealed compartment, it was still affected.

The bilge had its usually considerable amount of water in it which promptly solved by manually activating the automatic bilge bump. It’s always good to test the main bilge pump before heading out. While Aurora prepared the galley and cleaned the dishes, and threw away old cans of food and old drinks from the fridge. I got below the floor and cleaned with paper towels the bilge area. Man is that messy. It’s as if they’ve never cleaned it. Brave Aurora also did the bathroom (along with the rest of the interior) while I did the fridge. You can really tell that a “guys” boat is looked after in some areas but neglected in others.

At 11am, we finally left the dock and motored away and under the bridge towards the Atlantic. We’re right at the end of the bay and it takes us a good hour at 5 to 6 knots. We crossed other sailing vessels we could tell were from schools and had to maneuver to avoid one of them as we passed the city of Vigo on our left. We wanted to sail also but had the breeze coming in from our bow so decided to avoid having to tack in the bay and motored out towards Islas Cies agreeing that as we turned north after the Islands, we would be able to broad reach towards the Ría de Arosa and towards our destination, Sanxenxo.

It was about the noon and time for an appetitive as we approached the Islands when we realized we forgot to bring some lunch. All we had was a can of anchovies, some crisp and beer to enjoy while cruising under the sun. Good enough for now, we thought.

With the sails raised and a nice breeze, we gently cruised north and Aurora seemed to truly enjoy the silent sailing experience. So much so, that she wrote a blog post about how well she disconnected from work and worries and just enjoyed life for a while. You can read her post in Spanish here. and our facebook page we started here:

We reached Sanxenxo, called them on channel 9 asking for a visitors spot for the night to which they were more than obliging. We moored, plugged in to shore power, fixed up our paperwork and to our surprise, the town was in “fiestas” with live music, loads of people on the beach and terraces and enjoying the great and company. We had a great afternoon shopping, eating and we even danced a bit.

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The mooring cost us a little over €11 plus a €10 deposit on the card to be able to access the port as we please. The port is also at the most interesting and lively part of town so a great place to stop and well worth the visit. You also have the Real Club Nautico next to it, which I understand is more expensive and exclusive but we didn’t enquire by how much.

We had a wonderfully romantic night aboard Pandora and leaving port the next morning to return to base, we were greeted by a pod of dolphins which we tried to record (man they’re fast). That was an added bonus to what proved to be a great weekend.

First outings on Pandora

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Since the acquisition of Pandora in March of 2016, I’ve enjoyed a couple nice outings to start to learn how Pandora handles herself. The first of these was during Easter 2016 with five kids and three adults where we enjoyed several day outings returning to a warm and dry home every night, the other, a long weekend with only Aurora and I sleeping on Pandora.

During Easter, we arrived late in the afternoon in the city of Vigo and settled into our Airbnb accommodation in the city. Although still chilly in March, we were lucky to have great sunny weather the next day and all went to the mooring where Pandora sleeps. After a short briefing on safety and handling and fitting everyone with life jackets, we head out to Islas Cíes, some 12 nautical miles or 20 kilometers away.

While in the Ría (Bay), the wind was very light and being the first trip, we motored. I didn’t feel it appropriate to put up the sails and heal the boat over with so many kids. The kids loved it, spending most of their time on the bow and having turns at the helm driving the boat. The dolphin watch turned up negative but they still very much enjoyed being on the water.

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As we approached the heads, the wind picked up and as everyone was relaxed, I decided to hoist the main sail. She healed over a hell of a lot and with a couple kids still on the bow as we entered the waves, a nice big splash soaked two of them. I had to laugh as they screamed from the shock. They obviously didn’t expect it.

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The healing over and the waves proved to be a bit too much for the first outing for some of the crew so we faced her into the wind and lowered the main sail and went back to motoring. After that, we then proceeded to get close to the Island, have a nice look around and head back to base.

The next day, I met with the previous owner to pick up a few items that were still due. The dingy, outboard, man overboard ring, and a small etc. I worked on a couple of minor details and we then spent the rest of the day enjoying the city.

The next outing, my younger brother and his daughter decided they’d rather visit other parts of the city. So Aurora, the 4 kids and I headed back out to the Island this time with a permit to anchor and the dingy. The kids enjoy the trip out and even did really well at the helm as they started getting the hang of Pandora.

My depth sounder doesn’t work, something the previous owner still has to fix, so I anchor what I considered to be a reasonable distance from shore and used other another anchored sail boat as a reference before dropping the anchor. After a while I was confident she was firmly set and we worked on getting the outboard on the dingy.

Once in the water, I boarded the dingy “Loreto” and tried starting the engine. And tried, and tried, and tried. Not even close. Yep, remounted the dingy engine on board and rowed everyone to shore. First 2 kids, then another 2 and Aurora. No need to visit the gym that day… I forgot I’d have to jump out at shore so I left my shoes on – yep they got soaked along with the bottom part of my trousers. A good thing it was still sunny.

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The beach was beautiful with it’s white sand and mountain behind us. We then walked to the end of the beach where they have a bar where all the tourist wait for their ferry ride back to the city. Aurora and I enjoyed a beer while the kids explored the marine life on the rocks. What a great day.

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Pretty soon it was time to head back. Sunset was still pretty early this time of year so we wanted to at least be back in the bay before night sets in. We enjoyed an extremely beautiful sunset between the Islands as we motored back and as it became dark, it started getting pretty cold so the kids went inside to play.

As we crossed Vigo at night, a pilot boat which seems to have been working with a large commercial ship later crossed our path and flashed aggressively us before passing us. I later found out that the only nav lights I had working were the green & red at the bow so they obviously didn’t see us until pretty close. Another project for Pandora – fix the lighting.

Needless to say, we all very much enjoyed the outing and the kids slept like rocks. The only other visits to Pandora during that week was with my younger brother Robert to resolve a few task such as a new shoreline power cord, fixing the man overboard ring properly, repairing the rear light and trying to evaluate the outboard which we could fix. This is now added to the growing project list.

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A quick catch up after a slow start


OK, it’s been a while since I have written a post and I’m now 44. Yep, time is flying. So let me tell you what’s evolved since my last post besides Christmas and my birthday.

The biggest step towards the dream I’ve taken to date is the acquisition of an intermediate vessel, a sailing vessel to get some more experience and get my companion of my life adventure, Aurora, motivated in the world of sailing.

“Pandora Hormiga” is a 1989 Beneteau Oceanis 350 now based in the Ría de Vigo, Galicia, Spain. She comes with only one set of sails, a Genoa and a Main, an Autopilot, VHF with SOS button, a house battery and an engine battery, GPS, fridge, although the Clipper Marine wind indicator and depth sounder have issues still. Her 28 horse power diesel engine works and the clean hull puts her at up to 6.5 knots. Very good speed for this size and category of sail boat. With the sails, we managed a max of some 7.6 knots. I can only imagine, apart from a clean hull, that the recently replaced shaft and propeller may be slightly oversized so I’m careful on the engine.


So during the Easter school holidays, Aurora and I rented a place for a week near the mooring with our four kids, my younger brother Robert visiting from Australia with his eldest daughter Amalie. This first full day trip outing was quite an adventure, but more about the outings in an upcoming post.

So in line with my targets, I’m getting more experience and I’ve also been studying my next boat licence up in Spain – Patrón de Yate – which basically will allow me to navigate Zone 2, 150 miles form a coast or protected waters. Here I’m a little frustrated. After letting go of some good hard earned money for an online course with email support and being promised up to date content & information, I didn’t get what I paid for.

The prestigious school, Cenautica, left me high and dry. Nearly one thousand euros for online material from the 80’s and a self printed book, which is NOT updated to the current legislation. Worse yet, my emails and online messages were ignored. I sat the exams in April and needless to say I’ll have to redo the Navigation exam although I did well on meteorology, legislation, safety, etc, with little thanks to the school but more on my own research and experience as a pilot and previous boating studies. In June, I’ll be sitting the Navigation exam and that should be this licence complete. I definitely won’t be doing the “Capitan de Yate” studies with this school.

I’m yet to decide on options, if look for a good online school (I travel a lot for work so online is my best option) or I find some good books and self study and go on my own. I’m open to ideas here if you have experience.