Tenacity in front of Ferragudo.
When Americans travel to Europe, they often go right for the jugular and hit the hot spots with famous names and landmarks. When sailors sail to Europe, they go right for the sheltered harbors, anchorages with good holding, or the safest marinas, often to places that are not famous among tourists. Towns like Oearis, Olhao, San Lucar, and Ferragudo, Portugal, are wonderful places for sailors, but you may not see these names on travel pages, in tourist guides, or gracing the fronts of tee shirts and beach bags.
Airline travelers most likely will look for hotels, often in advance. Once there, they seek out restaurants, historical sights, souvenir shops, and other points of interest. Sailors immediately look for the grocery store, the hardware store, a fresh water source, and a washing machine. Europe by boat is quite different than Europe by air.
The time frame alone is huge. If you spend years prepping and many weeks getting there by boat, you aren’t going to turn around and go home in 10 days. But 10 days in Paris, for example, is considered a decent amount of time for a vacation. You get there, you check into your hotel, maybe nap to adjust for jet lag, and then go hit the town. You’ve got 10 days! Plenty of time to see the Eiffel Tower, shop along the Champs-Elysees, visit the Louvre, and more. A sailor may pull into a marina and discover it offers half the daily rate if you buy a month. With much of Europe’s Atlantic coast not conducive to anchoring, this is a great deal. So a month it is. Then it’s off to find the hardware store. No nap. No jet lag. The walks to the store will often be through winding ancient cobble stone streets, past castles and churches with sounding bells, and locals who greet you because they’ve seen you every day for several weeks. They may even offer you a ride or a drink. It doesn’t get much better than this! [caption id="attachment_12204" align="alignright" width="350"]
The Arricife grocery walk.
Travelers in, say Florence, Italy, will most likely be seated in a restaurant by late evening, drinking wine and enjoying pasta and seafood while soaking in the sounds and sights of the old Italian city. Sailors in Europe can often be found in their boats in the evening, also drinking wine and eating pasta and seafood but also watching reruns of American television shows, trying not to spend the cruising budget in restaurants.
When travelers sign up for an “All Inclusive” vacation, let’s say in southern Spain for example, they’ll get a luxurious room, with a view of some ancient castle, hammocks by a pool on the beach, surrounded by swaying palm trees and all the drinks and food they can eat. Sailors in Europe are already on an “All Inclusive” trip. They have all the food their budget can buy, plenty of cheap wine, their whole home, laundry to clean, and all that near a beach with swaying palm trees and the same view of the ancient castle. Only the sailors will make several walks to the market to buy the wine that only costs $2 per bottle and fish that was caught moments earlier, all the while getting to know the back alleys and colorful people of the town.
Shopping for gifts and souvenirs can be vastly different. In Paris, it’s easy, you get a little Eiffel Tower paper weight, or black and white photos of old Paris from a street vendor, or a little fresh oil painting from Montmartre, and you’re done. On a two-year sailing adventure, it gets more complicated. In the beginning of our trip, I splurged and purchased a few nice gifts, such as a shirt from Peter’s Café in the Azores and cork jewelry from Lisbon. We wanted to buy some fun gifts for folks at home, but few things changed our shopping attitudes. One thing was that time continued to march on, but our income had stopped. Another was that the cost of postage to send stuff from Europe to the United States was astronomical. It was always more than the actual gift. This meant we looked for inexpensive things as well as lightweight things. My favorite souvenir that we sent to folks at home was a little toy 18-wheeler truck, with the logo “Pingo Doce” along the side. Pingo Doce is the name of what had become our favorite grocery chain in Portugal, and this little truck was a must-have item in my book! Plus it hardly weighed anything. [caption id="attachment_12203" align="alignleft" width="350"]
Souvenirs for us were not a high priority. Finding an adjustable end wrench big enough to tighten the stuffing box on the rudder post was a priority. We did break down and get a few official souvenirs, like a scarf with “Portugal” along the length, little camel key chains from the island of Fuerteventura in the Canaries, Portuguese shoes, and West African beads. But our favorites things were the utilitarian items: a small colorful squared can of olive oil, with “bom dia” (Portuguese for “good morning”) printed on its metallic sides that we bought in Cape Verde, or tinned butter that we bought in Spain. I cleaned and saved both of these containers. Another favorite is our Spanish flip phone.
We cherish the courtesy flags that we bought to fly as we were visiting each country. In Spain, we were given official Pet Passports for our cats! We also scored a bright café table sized “OLA” umbrella (OLA is a European ice cream, and the logo is bright white on the pink and red fabric). We got this beauty from a friendly restaurant owner in Madeira in trade for a framed color drawing that I did of his building. We also love each little map, bag, train ticket, magazine, and even notes written for us by new friends with words and phrases as we tried to learn their languages.
We know we could have gone to many more places in the two years we had allowed. Instead, we chose to hang in places for longer than a day or two or three. I know we did it right, because now we have new friends for life, memories of the back road walks, and new languages to speak. We became “locals.” We loved being in Europe and still being home for dinner each night! We never did find the big adjustable end wrench for the stuffing box; although we covered miles of cobblestone alleys, dirt roads, and big city boulevards looking for one. In the end we made one, and this is a topic for another story!