blog Blog 2020

Back on the boat in Netherlands

May 18, 2020

From a masked airplane ride from Madrid we proceeded to the masked train ride but not before a perfunctory interview upon debarking the KLM flight from Madrid. They did not keep the virus questionnaire at the end of the 30 second interview. That saved time helped us make a perfect connection to the train. Train schedules are much reduced here probably due to reduced ridership. We appreciated the fortuity, not just of the timing for the train but for how well the journey had gone given the uncertainty we faced. Our good forture continued even to the gate at the marina. We’d been give the wrong gate code although I’d asked a few days before. The resident harbor master saw us from his boat and opened it for us with his remote control. We could not know if anyone would be there to greet us aside from the 90+ year old who is, or was until now, the only one allowed to live aboard.

Once off the train we removed our masks. There were few people about and none masked and none close so we posed no mutual risk the entire 1.8 kilometer walk from the train station. During the next few days we had no need to get close to anyone other than chance encounters in the supermarket aisles. The public facilities at the marina are closed. No showers, toilets or laundry facilities. Their little restaurant remains shuttered.

For a few days we went about cleaning the boat deck and other exterior elements. It was a wet winter so the deck was green with algae. Then it was getting the heater to work. Nighttime temperatures were close to freezing so having a bit of heat in the morning is helpful. We do not run it at night as the heater runs off of diesel fuel so if fumes enter the living area you can suffer CO poisoning. One of the bikes would not shift gears so I had to mess with it. Then there was trying to remember where things were stored and how we did things last year. It took a few days before we left on Saturday.

By 0930 on Saturday the skies were sunny with a slight breeze. We turned the boat around to make departure easier from the narrow space and headed down the canal from Dronten towards Almere, about 40 km. Everything checked out ok as we went but then about 20 minutes later I noticed that the engine was running hot. I checked below and things were steamy so we floated in the canal while I figured out what had gone wrong.The hoses were all intact, the water pump belt was still entact, and the pump that circulates canal water through the engine’s heat exchanger was working- that’s the first thing you check before you depart. I decided to restart the engine and add coolant. The temperature came down and remained at the proper level for the rest of our journey. I concluded that the thermostat must have been stuck in the closed position. We ordered a new one and a spare belt.

Otherwise we had no issues along the way and after two days of sunshine our solar panels have kept our batteries almost fully charged the entire time. After a few days more these stopped working. I exhausted my diagnostic skills trying to find out what happened.

In Almere we had our first visitors. Our long time friends Kees and Ada, whom we met on the Eem in the village of Eemdijk in 2000, have two daughters. Marcella and Bart in turn have two daughters. They came by for drinks and snacks at 1700. It was just our second visit with anyone since March 9. On the deck we can keep a good distance. Inside it’s another matter so no one was allowed in. We joked and recounted stories for a few hours and even then, the sun showed no sign of tiring out.

Bart, Jessica and Charlotte on the deck of Viking. I gather Bart does not like photos! He’s so easy going though.

After a week in Almere and a complete change of plans, we headed back to Dronten before a stop in Hasselt and then Zwartesluis (Black Lock) to try to find help with the solar panels. After that we hope to cross into Germany to start the 600 km voyage to Berlin via canal. It’s a beautiful route that takes a few weeks if you push hard. The borders with the Netherlands are still closed in both directions.

blog Blog 2020

Traveling Through The Tomb Called Madrid

We’d been trying to catch a flight to the Netherlands from Valencia since April 21 after our Egypt plans fell victim to the Unwanted Visitor. At the end it became clear that even when flight offers resumed Ryan Air, the only one offering a flight, could not attract sufficient passengers. Too few Valencianos want to go to Amsterdam or anywhere else in Europe as long as the tourist attractions are closed, and few would want to or be able to go even if they were open. After 5 cancellations we learned that KLM was flying daily from Madrid. So could we get to Madrid?

The regulations stated that motivation for travel between provinces in Spain had to be “urgent necessities.” One of those is to return home. We were returning home for almost half the year so thought that would be sufficient reason but who do you ask for confirmation? There are no travel permits so you are subject to the discretion or whim of the enforcing agent. That made it difficult to evaluate the risks.

We went to the train station twice, the first time without finding a Policia Nacional, the police agency responsible for enforcement. We’d learned who to ask by an employee at the immigration where foreigners go to petition for residence. He just happened to be standing there when people came by for information. The agency is closed however. On our second effort we found two Policia Nacional. Peg explained our story. Both policeman said that with a ticket out of the country in hand we should not have any difficulties. They were right. Our trip to Madrid was uneventful. No one even asked why we were traveling.

We left a few days later and were not challenged by anyone until Barajas airport. There we were simply asked for our tickets and allowed to proceed. The airport was practically empty. There were perhaps 100 people on our nearly full flight, masks obligatory. I doubt we saw more than 20 people not on that flight on the way to the gate and all wore masks except one employee. It was so empty the security personnel found a way to take my backpack apart.

Check in area at Barajas. All that was missing was the flowers, 10:30, May 2020

In Madrid nearly everyone wore masks. There were gloves and antiseptic at the entrances to supermarkets just like in Valencia. Few people were out — it was an eerie quiet. It was also eerie not finding any hotels open. We learned this after we’d already booked our flights. We expected a few places. Were it not for Airbnb we would have been sleeping on the street. Madrid city government said a few hotels that were open for travelers but did not give their names and none of the sites we tried had any on offer.

Our small two bedroom place was at street level. In ordinary times we might have found it a bit noisy as the Spanish are out at all hours. Not this time.

As we sat at the gate when the plane arrived, immigration agents and Policia Nacional were there and each passenger had to produce documents. One person was detained, however we are not certain if he was deported. We heard the agent say you could not come to Spain for tourism.

Our flight was perfectly normal other than we had to sign a document listing symptoms of the Corvid19. If you had any marked ‘yes’ you could not board the plane. It said so right on the document. It asked for your last name and, I think, date of birth. Agents checked the document at arrival and told us we had to self-quarantine for 14 days. It took about 30 seconds. That’s it.

As we proceeded, we noticed few people wearing masks other than on the trains. Restaurants are not open unless they offer takeaway. No gloves are provided at the entrance to supermarkets. If you use a basket employees wipe them at the cash register. In grocery stores each person is required to have a cart even if you are together. People are keeping a safe distance. These are not southern Europeans so they probably keep a safe distance naturally a good deal of the time, being more careful to wait or go around groups. There are far fewer people going about. All stores are open but restaurants remain closed unless they offer takeaway.

  Next:  at the marina

Art People and portraits

Portrait of a Teenage Girl

I did this portrait following as closely as I could Rembrandt’s approach to portrait painting.   However he used oil paints and I use acrylics.  Blending with acrylics is problematic as they dry so quickly so you have to paint afresh where planes join, although retarders help.  His models were in person whereas I use photos, as do most of us given the hours and hours it takes to paint a portrait.  Some do a combination of a sitting during which they take photos and work from them later.  In the British national portrait competition they had a model  and all the artists worked from photos while the sitter could move around freely and talk to the interviewer.  Not all photos are professionally done so the lighting is not easy to deal with, as was the case with the photo I used here.  The subject was in a snow scene, cheeks red here and there from the cold and hardly any shadows from the diffuse lighting.   

Art People and portraits

Portrait of a Teenager

Portrait of a Teen, acylics

This portrait was done in acrylics. There is no under painting. Multiple light sources add complexity. Blonde hair is the most challenging sort. She is entirely in possession of her youth, just now becoming aware of her beauty.


Paintings and drawings of ships and boats of the Netherlands

During our many travels to the Netherlands we have seen many boats and owned two ourselves. Viking is our current boat. We have seen two Tall Ships parades that terminated in Amsterdam, one in 2000 and another in 2015. These are magnificent sailing ships with three to fives masts. Here are my paintings and drawings.

Tall Ships Parade to Amsterdam, water color and ink, post card stock
Tall Ships 2, , water color and ink, post card stock
Tall Ships Sketch 1, , pen and ink
Viking in Dokkum 2, water color, 8 x 8″, 20 cm x 20 cm on Arches paper
Viking in Dokkum
The Batavia, the flag ship of the Dutch East India Company. You can climb aboard still!

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blog Blog 2020

Days out in Valencia: the lock down lifts a bit

The Spanish government began allowing some outdoor activity as of May 2.   It is divided by age group and you can still only get close to people you live with.  Necessary activities are still subject to physical distances.  You must stay withing one kilometer of your house. We will still have to rely on the internet to “share” drinks and meals.

Spain is still showing an increase in cases, just above 1% so they will be checking the statistics before further relaxation.

On our 5th floor terrace, Peg reads. On the other hand, I must work!

Valencia is not in a danger zone so air travel is permitted within the EU without any health certificate (which I believe is just a questionnaire anyway).  But try to get a flight and see how that goes.  We have had 5 to the Netherlands canceled.    You can not get a train or bus ticket out of the country.  We might be able to fly from Madrid but are not 100% certain we will be allowed to board the train out of Valencia.  We normally give up our apartment to live on the boat in summer, probably not an urgent matter, as is required.  On the other hand, they would be getting rid of us so why not let us cease to be potential patients and just let us through? We do not know where to turn for advice on the matter.

Food supplies and essential services have been well managed in general, as near as one can tell, for which we are thankful.

blog Blog 2020

Frankenstein: The National Theater

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate as the Creature and Victor Frankenstein in the UK’s National Theater production of Frankenstein. It’s available on YouTube for a limited period so do not waste time waiting to see it.

It’s hard to believe that I have never sn Frankenstein produced, neither on film nor on stage, and never read the book, despite having watched thousands of films and dozens of plays. and read lawd knows how many books. I am glad to have had this opportunity to see this skillful production.

The beginning was not auspicious. The Creature (Cumberbatch in the version I saw) tumbles from a womb like structure, tries to stand then walk, going through a recapitulation of childhood. There are some things that by being hit over the head one would benefit, but this is sequence is not one of them. I was beginning to think about doig something else until the play went to his struggle for acceptance, given Creature’s hideous difference from the rest of us.

I did wonder why someone who reads Milton could not somehow come up with a better outfit or run over to the Phantom stage and steal a mask. Adapting to one’s shortcoming were obviously not Shelley’s chief concern but Creature was smart enough to have done more, I should think. But those double crossing normal people! And I also wondered why, if the Dr. could figure out how to produce a Creature and nearly a second before breaking his word to deliver her, couldn’t he come up with some plastic surgery and perhaps a speech therapist? Oh well, such practicalities weren’t the thing at the time I guess.

But the point is in good measure the struggle between society and the individual in the determination of identity and society’s failure to nurture the disadvantaged in the process, helping turn them into criminals. It was not just the Creature who murdered the newly wed — society also grasped the knife, guided by fear and not understanding. Notch off a “victory” for those who think government should do the least possible and leave it up to the mobs to deal with such issues.

The theater craft is exemplary. You’ll enjoy the staging and lighting in addition to the fine acting. Perhaps they should consider ole Cumby for other roles, given his rolls in this one. Perhaps a bit of Sherlock? Nah. Gotta stand upright and you do not get to scare the wits out of the public.

We watched National Theater’s production of Hamlet. A woman was cast as Hamlet and neither of us thought that worked. Romeo and Juliet was very well done in a set from the times. But with all this Shakespeare I am ready for Something Rotten.

Other things worth watching:

What have you been watching and doing?

Art People and portraits


Patrick Stewart has aged, making for interesting challenges for an artist, so I took it on.


Patrick Stewart b. 1940  an English actor, director and producer. He started as a Shakespearean actor before going to television and film. He has been nominated for multiple awards. He is one of my favorite actors. I watched some episodes of Picard just to see him do the part. It was otherwise a not series I found particularly interesting. The popup control panels were astonishing.

Jean Luc Picard, Conte Crayon
blog Blog 2020

Loosening of restrictions

Crowd at Plaza de la Virgin, watercolor (held by a private collector)

Happier days in Spain may not be far off. Here in Valencia saw the first loosening of restrictions. Construction workers were most noticeably back to work starting yesterday, April 14. Traffic was also up, with more people were using public transport, where each passenger is provided with a mask. On buses you have to use the side entry to maintain more distance from the bus drivers.

Above our roof we have had a police helicopter looking down upon us. They said something over a loud speaker. People have been using the roof for exercise. We have heard conflicting things about roofs. There are children in our building and they play up there at times. I assume it is just one family at a time. The kids need to run around a bit. It’s awfully rough on children and their parents to be so confined. We have been doing jazzercize. Yesterday we did 40 minutes. It gets you moving.

After our plans to visit Egypt were cancelled, followed by days of efforts to arrange the refunds for air and accommodation, we booked flights to Nederlands so we can get back on the boat. Once there our rent payments in Valencia end so it is not only an enriching experience it is more economical for us. Our first three flights were cancelled. The EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) maintains a list of airports with a high risk of transmission. Valencia is not on the list. Madrid, Barcelona (Catalonia), Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Castilla-La Mancha are. The Nederlands decided to use this list to determine who to allow in. We should be able to board our next flight. I am not sure if they will check passports or other documentation. Non-EU residents are prohibited from traveling within the EU. We are EU residents.

Amor - Love Art

Study of Couple

Study of Couple, Conte Crayon

From a scene in The Crown, Anne with her photographer boyfriend