Valencia Part 3: Moving aboard & Settling in with liveaboard life far from “home”

On Saturday May 24th, we officially checked out of our quaint little AirBnB in Russafa and moved fully aboard. Having run through all the live-aboard systems, we were confident it was time! At this point, we still only had what we were able to carry on the plane with us 2 weeks prior, four 49lb Suitcases, which consisted of clothes, some kitchen items & some sailing gear.  Suffice it to say unpacking did not take long!

All our current belongings!

Getting Our Spanish Visas

We got word shortly there after that our 1-year Non-lucrative Spanish Visas had been approved, and that meant we had to return to Miami to get them.  (Which makes total sense!) The whole Visa application process was convoluted & expensive. Convoluted because you have to go through your nearest embassy to your residential address (Miami for us) and of course we can’t just stop in there since we were traveling and no one embassy asks for the same information in the application packages. Even finding the info from the particular embassy on what is required is a needle in a haystack search process and they don’t answer phones or emails. Expensive mostly b/c we had to hire a lawyer to get through the process, we had to get state and federal criminal records (zero for both us…for the record!) and fingerprints, copies of everything from IDs to a year’s worth of bank statements and “pay stubs”….then, everything had to be printed, translated, notarized and/or certified by an apostille. Each of our packages ended up being almost 2 inches thick in paperwork by the time it was FedEx’d to the embassy.  You then wait until you get an email, which occurred about 4 months later, after we had already left.  

This did give us an opportunity to visit our home away from home now with Kevin’s Aunt and Uncle. While we were “home “, we had the opportunity to get out on the water for a fun very early morning fishing adventure with Kevin’s Uncle Pat. We get so few chances, we try never to pass up the chance! It was a beautiful day, though a bit choppy.

Great day on the water!

So, after a lot of $$ and hours spent gathering/sending the paperwork, 20 hours of air travel time, and 8+ Hours of car travel time to the Spanish consulate, it took less than 20 min to add the Spanish non-lucrative VISA stamp to our passports. The very next day, it was back to Spain…Long day ahead. Kevin and I were on separate flights, me on an early flight that went through Minneapolis and later in the day direct to Amsterdam where we would meet again with a super short layover. That did not turn out, however. Since the world of travel was still figuring it self out and there was some major airline system outages,  Kevin’s flights got changed and he was heading through Madrid to Valencia, much later. We would now be arriving in Spain at different time, him HOURS after me if he arrived that day at all. Joke was on me though…he had the keys to the boat! So on arrival around dinnertime, I ended up learning how to break into our boat for the first time. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m small! Kevin did manage to arrive shortly before midnight very travel worn. 

Visas in hand…let’s go “home”!
Or maybe not… ooph.

Making the boat our Liveaboard home

Shortly after coming back we were ready to take the boat out again, this time with just the two of us. On June 2, we set sail on a beautiful day with about 12 kts of wind. We stayed out longer than the first day, for about 4 hours in total, working the mainsail and jib and learning the nuances of the OceanVolt power requirements and regeneration capabilities. A few days later, we sailed again on a light wind day and put the spinnaker up to see how she faired.  Slowly we were figuring out the sails and performance characteristics of the boat sailing up and down the coast taking in the world renowned beautiful Valencia beaches. 

Shortly after coming back we were ready to take the boat out again, this time with just the two of us. On June 2, we set sail on a beautiful day with about 12 kts of wind. We stayed out longer than the first day, for about 4 hours in total, working the mainsail and jib and learning the nuances of the OceanVolt power requirements and regeneration capabilities. A few days later, we sailed again on a light wind day and put the spinnaker up to see how she faired.  Slowly we were figuring out the sails and performance characteristics of the boat sailing up and down the coast taking in the world renowned beautiful Valencia beaches. 

Around the same time, my “find my phone” app pinged with an updated location on our household goods shipment. One of the genius hacks that we learned along the way moving so much with the military was to put AirTags in the shipments.  That way, you can actually see where you stuff is. Military hired movers aren’t always the most top notch as you can imagine when your move goes to the lowest bidder! On that note, the US military will move you one last time when you separate or retire. While the shear distance and overseas nature of our final move is a bit more costly than the average retiree’s move, we figured it wouldn’t be fully covered, but we hoped it would at least defray some of the cost.  B/c we shipped so little compared to most family’s 20+ years of lifetime accumulation, it ended up covering the total cost. WIN!  (At least so far as we know, I have yet to see a bill LOL). 

Anyway, boom the 1300 lb shipment arrived. And getting it to us at the pier, actually went way smoother than expected. We had heard nightmares about shipments getting caught in customs and extra time (months) and “costs” to find it and get it released. I got a phone call asking if we were ready to receive it, confirm the location and then a day later, it just showed up.  Also, again, AirTags…GENIUS. We were able to watch it drive from Naval Base Rota to the Valencia Marina! And even more shocking, if you have ever had the government set up a move for you the lowest bidders, everything was in one piece!!  Crazy how simple and stress free the last and probably most complicated move I’d set up was compared to every other move we have made.

Our goods being packed up in Virginia
Shipment lands in Cadiz
Watching the shipment drive to us!

Things we learned quickly as we began trying to find homes for everything that just showed up…If you move aboard…It’s 1. Helpful to know actual storage compartment sizes before packing the ship out and having a better idea of what is actually needed on a boat and 2. Do it near where you live, at least the same country so you can get rid of or put in storage all the stuff you don’t need! We won’t be back near our storage unit for almost 18 months…in the mean time, the stuff we want to keep and put back in there now takes up valuable space onboard until then!

We didn’t really know what we would need living on the boat. We had to guess. We mostly got it right, but the amount of tools we brought, specifically imperial measurement based tools…were completely useless on a boat built metrically!!  My bike trainer was also a bit of an overreach. It would work eventually with better planning, but it was just too overwhelming to figure out off the bat. ALL of our 110v items had to be replaced, including our Ninja blender & Instapot for instance.  Not going to work on a 230v Boat! This did force me to navigate my way through a very confusing process to sign up for a Spain/UK Amazon prime account (all done in complete Spanish of course) and try to figure out how to get a delivery to the boat…which I did just in time for Amazon Prime days! It’s all in Spanish of course. Success! And learned that…Amazon shipping In Spain is a very personal service! I received a call from the service center then WhatsApp’d with the driver and tracked him all the way to boat. Communicating was painful at times, but it always worked. Hard work paid off, I got a really good deal on a fancy new Instapot Duo Crisp & Airfryer!

Old (US) Vs New (EUR)!

The rhythm of summer: Trying to stay cool, Learning & Fixing

In mid-June, we had the Advanced Wing System (AWS) designer and rigger, Greg, from New Zealand and his good friend, Mike, another experienced sailor, out to the boat. Greg was able to give us a run through of his AWS Semi-Rigid Wing sails, so we would know how to properly trim them for the best performance! It turned out to be a great day on the water. The system really showed it’s true potential. In 10 kts of breeze, we were holding above 5 kts at 20° AWA / 45° TWA. Not bad for a cruising catamaran! We would find a lot of limitations over time, but these sails do love a good reach! 

Learning the AWS SRW System

Come summer, we were really starting to settle in and fall into a comfortable albeit foreign rhythm. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months filled with boat repair, research and maintenance, touring the city, trying new food and amazing sunsets.  And the summers here are HOT in Spain, the temps just kept climbing shattering records across Europe. Not to bad if you are sitting off-shore in a comfortable breeze, but sitting at the marina, we were just baking!  At night, b/c we were on shore power we were able to get some relief by closing up the boat and turning on the air conditioners. This also led to one of our major lessons learned in energy management. We actually almost ran our of power…down to 2% remaining when Kevin woke up and caught it. Oops! 

It was also around this time we realized we had to institute a work “break” point policy. We were just constantly going from wake up until we were exhausted and crashed into bed.  We decided that by 5:30 pm we had finish up whatever we working on and just relax.  Also we made Thursdays our “Tourist” days where we would pick fun places are the city to bike to and visit!  (Vice trying to fit tourist info into this already long post, I’m going to make our city adventures an entirely different post coming soon). 

We were also introduced to a fun little Spanish pest, the Tiger Mosquito, we had been getting bit here and there and these little things you can barely see pack a MEAN punch whose tiny welts itch LIKE CRAZY for DAYS.  They had taken up infiltrated and taken up residence on the boat so much so that we were starting to contemplate a hotel room so we could just get some relief…sleeping was impossible. We tried everything, from all the gimmicky light & smell zappers to garlic supplements (yes it was that bad) to netting everywhere, especially over the bed…but even then, by morning, they would be all sitting on the INSIDE of the bedding net… fat, dumb and happy.  It really was truly an awful experience.  We worked hard to make sure there was no way they could breed on the boat in the toilets or in any random standing water and in the end, it was actually the air conditioning, turning that on at night while we slept and cooling it down that finally gave us sweet sweet relief.  Just DO NOT sit out side at sunset or near any sort of water or greenery!  Yikes. 

This was a minor help. The buzzing was coming from INSIDE the net!
The very satisfying electric racket

Unexpected Downtime: When bigger things break

We also continued to take the boat out on short day trips. Learning things, finding things…and breaking things! We would anchor off the beach and have lunch and just zig zag up and down the beaches enjoying the new boat, and even fishing a bit while getting a feel for everything. We’d experience calm nice days and often heavy chop and weird wind patterns while we worked out the sails and motors. One particularly concerning find was water on the floor of the port hull when we were on port tacks for significant period. Chasing down the leak, we found a whole lot of salt water accumulating in a cupboard no where near a through hull, which remains a mystery to this day, but may have been addressed in our first haul out later in the summer. Then, on a particularly windy day, we put a reef into the main for the first time. About an hour later the reefing line parted and the clew of the mainsail was no longer attached. The entire reefed portion of the sail paid out and wrapped around the shroud breaking over half of the full length battens in our high performance sails. Not a good day to say the least.

Fixing broken battens…this will be a running theme for the next few months

We also had been battling a (no)friction problem on the starboard motor throttle control lever. There was little to no resistance to the lever, so the slightest touch would bump the throttles out of sync.  It was also just sort of annoying to operate since the two levers had such drastically difference friction. Knowing we would be waiting for new batten parts to be shipped from halfway around the world and clear customs before we could sail again, we decided to send the throttles back to Oceanvolt in Finland to be adjusted (thankfully, under warranty). This unexpected downtime, did give us some time to work on a lot of smaller projects and to start researching places we might be able to go on a longer overnight trip and start stretching our sea legs. 

Some of the work we did during this time period included: 

  • Developing an efficient, safer way to hang the dinghy off the davits
  • Cleaned and sanitized our water maker
  • Fixed the windlass counter, installed a hold back & laid out the chain and rode to check and mark it at 10m intervals
  • Replaced the original toilet fittings that were continuously leaking
  • Replaced the Generator Raw Water Pump, an O-ring was completely corroded after having sat in salt water due to a filter leak (under warranty)
  • Had all the fire extinguishers inspected and certified up to date
  • Reorganized all the deck and sail lines so they would not be overlapping and cause chafe
  • Fixing the sliding door locking mechanism which involved taking the WHOLE door apart, the WHOLE DOOR.
  • Replaced the Refrigerator circuit breaker control unit (a self-induced error due to a spike in voltage while we were testing out some “theories”. 
  • Started the process of fixing the battens 

Once we can get the sail back in once piece and throttles return readjusted the fun will really begin as we start setting off for more distant anchorages and see if we really live “on the hook” and took a little trip down the coast! Stay Tuned 🙂