Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Rain in Spain thankfully stayed on the plain!

Last Thursday I took flight and when I landed I found myself in a city of surprise. Valencia, my destination, is a truly fantastic place, and I mean that in its literal sense. Never have I seen such decorative buildings anywhere in a European urban centre. Nor have I ever seen such ornate fishermen's cottages as there are in the charming CabanĂ¡le district behind Valencia's long stretch of sandy beach.

The city is large - much larger than I imagined - with a population of more than a million. It combines ancient medieval edifices with elaborate renaissance sculptures, gothic monuments and charming art nouveau and decorative work from the arts and crafts movement. It is rich beyond description and vivid with colour and life. I was totally charmed.

My main intention was to visit my friend Marion. True to her long stated ambition, she upped and left Rotterdam almost two years ago to follow her dream of living and working in Spain. We spent a good deal of time just talking and I appreciated more than ever just what guts and determination it took for her to make a life there on her own. Her story is hers and not mine to tell, but I came away mentally doffing my hat to her with immense respect for what she has achieved so far.

During our chats, however, I learned things I have never known about the Spaniards, although maybe this is more about the Valencians in particular than Spaniards in general. They are absorbed in their own world to the point of tunnel vision, even to the brink of blindness, and it seems they barely appreciate anything that is not Valencian first and Spanish second. The shops only sell Spanish wines; the radio plays mostly Spanish music and everything that is good in their world comes first from their own country - although I have to admit that in Valencia they have a lot to be proud of! As for languages, Spanish is the only one that exists for the majority of their people, and even French is not an optional extra.

Nevertheless, I had a great weekend and totally fell in love with Valencia. I have posted a few of my favourite photos here, these being mostly of the CabanĂ¡le district I was so drawn to. My next post is going to centre on the hike we did in the mountains a mere hour's drive from the city. As a lesson in both endurance and confusion, it deserves its own piece, so in the meantime, you can click here for more photos of this incredible city.

Oh, and by the way, the rain really did stay away...I had the most wonderful weather. Lucky me.

The newly built harbour for expensive yachts next to the commercial port

My favourite photo of all. An old gentleman uses his Vespa scooter (just like mine) to power a grinding stone for sharpening tools!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back in the water again

Yesterday, the Luxor slipped smoothly down the ramps and back where it belongs - in the water. After a quick check to make sure there were no pin prick leaks after all the welding, Koos manoeuvred neatly round the harbour and back into position. We are all rather pleased with the week's efforts..after being the ugly duckling of the harbour and largely ignored by visitors, the tourists were busily snapping as the Luxor sported a newly shining and blackened hull, a beautiful red strip and a gleaming engine room (thanks to Mo, Craig and a crew of press-ganged friends for this last contribution!) There's still lots to do, but it's been in need of a major makeover for quite a while. In two weeks time, it's the Vereeniging's turn. On Thursday, however, I am off to Spain for five days, so will be out of touch for a week, so keep well one and all. Lots of love from a wonderfully sunny and warm Rotterdam.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Update on our 'Helling Beurt'

It's Thursday already, and the time is flying by. We are working very hard, but not to the extent that we are spending all evening on the Luxor. Frits, who has been helping Koos, has been doing a fantastic job of welding patches where required. The photo above shows him and Koos preparing a template for the piece of steel that needed to be cut. They are using cardboard as it is nicely flexible. You can see more by clicking on the image. There's still some water in the bottom of the ship, and this seems to have been coming from some leaking rivets. They are quite bad, so instead of just welding them up (which is normal practice), Frits is putting steel 'sticking plasters' over pairs of them.

For my part, I have been official water pumper outer, painter of bottoms, and boeisel renovator. 'Boeisel' is one of those words I don't know in English, but it is the part that is painted red around the top of the hull. I've been using a steel brush attached to an angle grinder to remove the rust and old paint, and have a war wound to show for it...well, a tiny one. A piece of rust flew up and hit me hard on my nose today, making it bleed with a profusion out of proportion with the minute cut that it was. Luckily I've been wearing goggles or it might have been my eye instead, which wouldn't have been pleasant!

In between jobs I've also been taking photos for the record. The one above is nothing to do with the harbour, I know, but it's a brand new block of flats that has just been completed in our neighbouring Wijnhaven. I thought it looked quite impressive, so I took a photo of it from the slipway. I've also taken a number of photos of the Luxor from various angles, and also of the harbour from the decks of the Luxor, so if you'd like to see the ones I've put here in more detail, you know you're just a click away!

Tomorrow there will be more painting to do, and then I hope we can nip down to the little house over the weekend. We will then be ready to go back in the water on Monday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Luxor gets its Bottom scraped - at last

After the aborted helling beurt in December, we weren't sure when the Luxor would get another chance to have its bottom attended to. This as many of you know is required every six years by the insurance inspectors, but we like to do it every two years for the zekerheid or peace of mind.

Well, this week, we got the go ahead for the second attempt, and thank goodness it's a good deal warmer than it was in December. About 25 degrees warmer in fact, as today was sunny and about a delicious 18 to 20 degrees at the yard.

We started out at 7a.m, and after separating the Vereeniging off, Koos steered as Mo and I manned the bows with fenders to protect others from any possible grazes. Koos is a master of his art though, and no such protection was really needed. We had to wait a while for the former occupants to leave, as once they were in the water, they discovered a leak and had to be quickly lifted out again to effect a quick fix repair. Once the slipway was free, though, we pirouetted round the harbour in harmony with the wind and the currents and finally arrived at the designated poles where we tied up, ready to be hauled up on the cable driven trolleys.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. We scraped more than a hundred kilos of stinking mussels off the bottom, shovelled them into bags and humped them to the skip. Then we hauled some redundant items out of the Luxor while Koos used the high pressure hose to clean the bottom off thoroughly. After a quick lunch, Mo and a gallant friend started blacking the bottom with the thick tar like paint that we use. I got to work cleaning rust off the boiesel, and Koos inspected spots that need welding, a job that will begin tomorrow.

We expect to be finished before the weekend, but you never know what will come up, so wish us luck!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Water 'n sports

Today was the Rotterdam Marathon, and when I see it, I always think of my friend Marion, whose prowess at running always left me gasping. I'm going to Spain to see her at the end of this month and am really looking forward to it, but today, I took these photos with her in mind. It was great to see the runners in amongt the world I know so well.

And after watching all this frantic activity, we took a walk up the river. I rather like the image of this seagull sitting so still on the pole. Such a sense of peace.

If you want to see the photos full size, just click on them. There's a lot to see...