The planned route (Click to enlarge)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One 1930s fishing boat, six wandering souls and lots of semi useful frippery

Let me introduce you to Lista Light. She's a 55ft broad old girl with 7 magnificent red and white sails when fully clothed. The toll of 73 years means she is slightly faded and crumbling in places but nothing that isn't carried gracefully through wisdom and sturdiness. Having finished her days ploughing the North Sea for fish, Lista has spent her retirement more leisurely rolling and creaking around the world. You get the impression all this exploring is old news to Lista. She's seen it all before. However she remains loyal to those that have taken her in over the years, carrying them as best as she can on their adventures of a lifetime. We are fortunate enough to have jumped on board for one such adventure. Lista is now our home and vessel until we hit the warmer waters of the Caribbean for a sun drenched Christmas.

It initially felt like a large leap onto Lista. After cycling and walking for 6 weeks, living solely by our own agenda and desires, the thought of living by someone else's was rather daunting. Not only were we giving over our control of where we go when, but we were also being plunged into living with people we had only ever met for a couple of hours before. And this is not just house share living, this is boat living where you breath, eat, discuss, debate, sweat, vomit, sleep and the rest on top of each other all day and night. We can't deny that as we trundled out of Lisbon center to find our new home, the excitement at getting out onto the seas was slightly muffled by an edge of apprehension. A feeling not helped by the two and half hours it took us to find Lista, who was waiting for us 'a few' miles down river. How hard can it be to find a boat in the dark just outside a major shipping city and its many marinas? Quite hard. Enthusiasm for the next leg of the trip waned as darkness fell and we went back and forth on various trains, buses and trams, trekked through industrial fishing ports. boat yards, over motorways, down deserted railways and scrub land and still there was no mast or anchor light in sight. Whilst starring hopelessly out at sea on the edge of a motorway at 10pm last Monday night it felt like maybe it wasn't meant to be. But thank god it was! By 11pm we were tucked up in our new bed and sleep renewed excitable anticipation about what the next couple of months held in store.
10 days in and any worries we had about getting on board have been shrugged off. We can't believe our luck at having found such a perfect way to hop across the Atlantic. Lista and all her inhabitants offer the sailing equivalent a small commune in a rustic crumbling old farm cottage in the middle of Devon. A thankful far cry from a shiny plastic super yacht speeding across to the Caribbean more with the spirit of necessity than exploration. Any fears about the insular nature of living on board have been dashed by the joy of its simplicity. No dealings with money, time or communications as days and nights are dictated purely by the weather and the sea. Nor is boredom a worry with shared cooking, cleaning, lots of eating, a bookcase big enough to keep us entertained and educated for a year on board, a band of musical instruments, arts and crafts, fresh fish in the sea to be caught, dolphins, sea birds, stars, sheets and sails to be mended, stowed, put up, taken down and endless knots to be learned. We are also soon to start some evening skill exchange courses and baking sessions to keep brains and bellies equally well challenged.
There is no doubt that Lista's cottage like, self sufficient and adventure loving character is helped along by her latest carers and crew. At the moment there are 6 of us on board, all pursuing our own mini adventures, running to some things and away from others, but either way all doing exactly what we want to be doing right now. Dave and Kat bought Lista in February to pursue their own dream of an eco friendly, bird surveying and sailing adventure over to the Caribbean and South America where they might stop for a while if they fancy. Not a moment of time or a watt energy is wasted by these two who have rigged Lista up with every renewable energy source possible, use the engine only if essential, jump into every physical challenge going and write, fix, tinker and paint away the evenings. And then there's the crew. Claire, the surfer-motorcross-motorboat Cornish chick has been on Lista since July and is soon heading off. We were rather dramatically introduced to her tough shell on our first day sail when she hauled herself up the shrouds only to lose balance at the top and fall 20 feet onto an unsuspecting starboard light. Anyone else might run for shore at nearly having their leg ripped off. Claire laughed and lit up a fag. Dan, the Dorset and Dalston residing, stylised mustache wearing nurse was the next to join the merry band of explorers. He has brought his own chilled out faff loving tendencies to the boat through violin recitals, numerous failed fishing exploits, knot experiments, hammock constructing, star navigating and general enthusiasm for anything that can be tinkered with. Nick and I are the latest editions but who knows who else might turn up and jump on board before we head across the Atlantic. In true communal spirit you get the impression Lista could pull new vagabonds into her clutches at any time.
Yesterday we sailed around Cabo Sao Vincente, the South Westerly tip of Portugal and Europe. Quite a moment as we looked up at the fort and lighthouse and then out towards the Atlantic, contemplating leaving our continent for big seas and more foreign lands. Before we head West though we are set to continue South for a gradual supplying and stocking of the boat. In three days time we will be in Morocco to pick up some spices and dried fruit, then to the The Canaries for volcano trekking and finally Cape Verde to pick up a hopefully prolifically egg producing chicken before sailing due West for 2100 miles to Trinidad.

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