blog Blog 2021

In the Frozen North

After the complexities of our journey north we then faced a week of bad weather. The forecasts were highly accurate. Howling winds kept us in the safe harbor. We kept warm during the day with a small electric heater, just 750 watts, with the addition of the diesel heater that pumps hot water through radiators. The boat is well insulated, which helps a lot. The windows are not double pane so they have to be wiped dry a few times a day as they fog up. As we absorbed the moisture off the panes we gazed out at snow flakes, hail, sleet and the occasional blue sky.

View from Viking
View from our window in April, 2121
first boat pizza
First pizza of the year

We took the time to deal with any issues that arose over the winter. People were skating on the canals this year, for the first time since 2012 or so. This used to happen every year but the climate has been warming so skates spend long lonely years in the closet. We expected issues and found a few. The shower faucet froze despite having been drained by normal means. I should have removed it completely, apparently. The shower pump failed. A window leak worsened. It needs to be removed and re-bedded. Not bad overall.


We arrived on the 4th and left on the 13th for our annual haul out. You need to check the anodes that protect the boat from electrolysis. Sometimes there is stray current in the water. This current causes weaker metals to migrate to stronger metals. Unchecked you can ruin a prop, rudder and other parts. You can install a galvanic isolater, which we will do. It prevents DC voltage from doing its worst. DC can cause problems when the boat is connected to shore power.

Monday the 12th April broke at O centigrade but sunny. We have outside steering only but stay warm and dry under the rainhood. There was some wind, a bit of hale and a snow shower or two, so staying dry and out of the wind helps greatly.

Along the way I monitored a leak at the prop shaft. There is a grease fitting around that shaft that has probably never been renewed. Before we left I made arrangements for it to be repaired at the haul out.

We made it to the tiny town of Zwartesluice in the large lovely marina. The next morning we being a few days living on the hard, as we say. The boat is put on a frame, they bring a set of stairs so we can easily get aboard, and we plug into electricity. The only disadvantage is the walk to the toilets, as we can not use the one we have aboard. The morning temperatures are still around freezing.

The next morning we make progress on the repairs. In spare moments we made an appoint for temporary residence, required if EU citizens plan to be in the country for more than three months. With the number they give you you can get the covid vaccine. We made the appointment for the number. They are vaccinating the people in our age group now. I’ll report on that as matters develop.

blog Blog 2021

Adventures in Covid Travel

April came about and we are off.  Off our rockers, according to some, and not without just cause, given that our destination is in the midst of a third wave of the corona virus.  But I mean ‘off’ as in we are on the way north to Netherlands, literally the low lands, and to Viking, our floating home, for the next several months.

But first a word from our obstacles.  There were many between us and our destination in Freisland, the northeast part of the country, where our boat spent the winter well under the freezing temperature of water.

Obstacle one, we had to get a PCR test with a negative result within the allowed time constraints.  The EU rule, which the Dutch follow, allows you to take a PCR test within 24 hours of boarding OR within 72 hours along with an antigen test within 24 hours of boarding (an improvement over the 4 hour limit that had been replaced only a few days earlier. Whichever option you choose, you must hope that results get to you within 24 hours.    

Unfortunately, Peg made flight reservations over Easter weekend, so most labs were going to be closed. I spent hours finding a 72-hour test a day before the flight and a four-hour test in Alicante (our flight was from there, not from Valencia) on Saturday, the day our flight was scheduled, at a lab that would be open one whole hour that morning.

Three days before the flight, when the requirements changed, we had lunch with our neighbors and their niece, whose twin brother works at a laboratory. Not only was he able to get us into the lab within the 24-hour window, but at a “friend discount” of 55 euros each, about half of what we would have ordinarily paid. The clinic opened on time after lunch on Good Friday, we told the receptionist we were here on the part of the twin, we were on her list and we got our swabs, with 20 minutes to make our train to Alicante. The taxi ride took 5 minutes, which gave us time to buy tickets, buy bottled water, and jump on. We could also cancel the previously scheduled 4-hour before departure test scheduled for the next morning.

Our lodgings were a room in what had been a private home, 5 minutes from the train station.  Check-in was completely person-free. We phoned the owner, who WhatsApped us the instructions to open the front door, go to the second floor and the code to a real estate lockbox. The code opened the lockbox, which had a key to the door of the flat. The key was chained to the lockbox, so we opened the door, returning the key to the lockbox. The door to our room was open and two sets of keys to the building door, front door and room door were in it. Amazing!

Our flight was at 3:00 pm on Saturday, so we checked our phones for the results every 10 minutes beginning at about 10:00 a.m. No negative test results, no flight.  We had plenty of time to come up with a Plan B for a short term let in Alicante, just in caseTesting positive would have seriously hampered our plans for work on the boat that is scheduled for April 8.

My negative test results arrived via email around 10 a.m.  At noon Peggy’s had not arrived so I called the special number the receptionist had kindly given me for any problems. Speaking when masked, to someone who is also masked and speaking 90 kilometers a minute in Valencian, Spanish and English and who is sitting in a row of five people, all of whom are scheduling testing appointments and completing testing paperwork for people standing in front of them, is not all that easy. With Peg’s test number, we got to the problem rapidly, which was Peggy’s email address, which was missing a “K”.

When the report arrived at Peg’s email two minutes later, we did a little jig in the nice little bar two blocks from the Alicante train station, where the express airport bus stops.

At the airport, the only hiccup was that the Easyjet app lost my reservation after an update.  The friendly guy at the gate got it sorted. Peg’s sewing scissors were confiscated by security – to which she said, “Duh.”

Then came the obstacles between the airport in Amsterdam and the boat in a country undergoing its 2nd or 3rd wave of quarantine restrictions – I’ve lost track of that number too.  I figure we will be fine. Last year we traversed Netherlands and a good portion of Germany by boat, all the way to Berlin and back without getting infected.  I know. I have tested now 5 times for covid, three of which were the antigen quick type, now a PCR, earlier an antibody test, all negative.  No antibodies means you are not a symptom free carrier.   

We spent Saturday night in a high tech shoe box room of the CitizenM Hotel staffed by competent and light-hearted staff. Peg loved it – each room has an IPad that allows you to control everything, including options for full-spectrum of colors for the room lighting. The next morning our good Dutch boating friends drove us 1 ½ hours to the boat in less time than a train journey. He helped us get the rain hood installed and she brought sandwiches, ‘brood’ (bread) as they are termed here. The rainhood is a canvas and isinglass item that stretches across stainless steel tube frames and insulates the outside steering station from the weather.  It will come in very handy for the cold and rain/snow expected over the next couple of days.  I proceeded to de-winterize the boat. 

There is no end to the possible number of obstacles one might find on a boat that has been sitting in cold water for six cold months. Boat engines in the type of boat we own use diesel fuel. Unlike a diesel road vehicle, they have no glow plugs and so can be hard to start when cold. We don’t have a sailboat, so in our case, no engine, no going anywhere.  

Art Hopper inspired People and portraits

Looking Out

Looking Out
Looking Out, acrylics on canvas, 73 x 54 cm, 23 x 30″

Another in my series of Hopper inspired paintings, a woman looks out over a golden field with a thick green forest at its edge. Figures walk in a line towards the dark woods.

Art Music related work People and portraits

Pianist and Singer

husan final sm
Pianist and Singer, acrylics on canvas, 73 x 54 cm, 23 x 30″

The pianist is our friend Husan, who is an opera voice couch. She has a sound proof room so in addition to seeing her on stage we also have sat in her small room while an opera singer flooded us with the fabulous voice of a trained singer.

“Nice perspective and contrast in that piece, they all look good, but that has “pop!””

“These works are truly astounding. I can appreciate, even though I am not creative on my own to depict dancers atop a violin or looking out the window of a purple house or project the feeling of actually being onstage with Husan.,,  Keep sharing your work.  It’s stunning.”

Art People and portraits

Mahjong Players

mahjong final sm
Mahjong Players, acrylics on canvas, 73 cm x 60 cm, SOLD

This painting is a combination of realism, in the walls, leaves and ocean with the expressionist figures whose bright colors combine with the lines of design to draw the eye to the game.  The muse displays along with the clock (similar to my grandfather’s) on the shelf.

Mahjong is game invented in the Qing dynasty (1635-1912) in China.  It is now played world wide.   There are usually four players.   It is similar to the Western card game rummy.  There are 144 tiles marked with Chinese characters and symbols.

Art Music related work People and portraits

Dance 3

Dance 3
Dance 3, acrylics on Canson 300 gram paper, 57 x 76 cm, 22.5 x 30”

For years we danced with various International Folk Dance groups in the US, France and Spain. Here they dance to the violin.

This one has a ton of movement.    I did the hands/fingers two ways. I think that adds interest, variety.  It looks great on our wall here.  Lots of color.  The violin shines, which you can not see in the photo.  the wooden part of the bow has three facets, hard to see in the photo.  

Art Nude People and portraits

Woman in Boudoir

Woman in Boudoir
Woman in Boudoir, acrylics 56 x 76 cm 22 x 30″

She prepares for the day.

Art People and portraits Valencia urban landscapes

Cafe Tortilla

La Cevezeria Alhambra in Valencia is famous in Spain for its tortillas. It’s a tiny place that at the time of this painting was run by a couple who had been there 37 years. After they retired their children took over. Looking through the window we see 3 people in conversation. We can almost hear the words passing between them.

At Cafe Tortilla
Cafe Tortilla, acrylics on canvas, 65 x 81 x 2 cm, painted edges 26 x 32 x 1″

There are two exposures of the painting. All images appear differently on devices. This one in particular is more diverse than most.

At Cafe Tortilla
Cafe Tortilla, acrylics on canvas, 65 x 81 x 2 cm, painted edges 26 x 32 x 1″

Cafe Tortilla is about a bar famous in Spain for its tortillas (Spanish omelets).  They make 5 or 6 varieties in their tiny kitchen.  After 37 years the couple retired.  He made the omelets and she served them with nary a smile.  She did not have time to smile.  The place was almost always packed.  You had to catch her eye to order- she would glance at you for a second as she sort of kept track of who was next.  You had to start talking right away or she was off.  

We were there when a newspaper photographer shot the photo I used to create the painting.  He stood outside as the three of us were talking.  

2021 blog

Spain’s Jan 2021 lock down

January, 2021

Here we are again, with extensive lock down measures in place. Following the holiday season which sees gatherings on December 25th (Navidad), 31st (Noche Vieja), January 1 and January 5-6 (Reyes), we found ourselves with a huge spike in covid 19 cases. Streets, department stores and some shops were crowded with shoppers on many other days, adding to the spread. Bars and restaurants took a huge share of the blame, despite distancing requirements that were largely observed and the outdoor seating so prevalent in most towns and cities year round, even when temperatures dip to near freezing.

Here in Valencia orders came down by the third week of January. Bars and restaurants can offer take out services only. Businesses must close by 6 pm, other than essential businesses such as pharmacies and grocery stores which can stay open.

The only people allowed in your residence are the people who live there. Unlike the first lock down, you can take walks and sit on a bench if you wish, but accompanied by no more than one person, who need not be in your household, a boon to those who live alone. Golf courses are rumored to be closed while cinemas are open, which does not make sense given one is outdoors and the other indoors. We received an invitation to an indoor concert at the Opera House to occur on January 29th from the Banda de Valencia, the city’s official band, noting that one person can enter at a time and seating is 50% of capacity of the 4400 seats. This is still too close for safety, in my reckoning, so I am unable to see the justification.

These measures are in effect until February 15. Today’s Las Provincias reports that new cases have dropped by 21% in the past 7 days. While hospitalizations are still up. that should change in the next week or two as this is a lagging factor.

In the meantime the vaccination campaign struggles for lack of product. The Ministerio de Salud reports that 191,000 have been vaccinated. Non-citizen residents covered by private insurance are entirely up in the air as to where they stand in the line. Our insurer told us that the vaccinations are entirely within the realm of the Ministerio de Salud. What documentation will they require from us when it comes time to receive the vaccination? Are we in the same line as citizens and go with our age and risk group? There has been no guidance, but we are not alone. The Ministerio de Salud has only issued a phase one guideline, which is vaccinations for nursing home residences and medical personnel.

In the midst of all this a post circulated via Facebook that people in this situation need a SIP in order to get a vaccine appointment. The link led to a page that invited people without a SIP to request one. However it also said to do so if you had symptoms and you would receive a call. Later a post came out from the British Embassy stating that this site was not a place to get an appointment for a vaccine, and in fact there is no such thing for anyone in Spain aside possibly from people who qualify to be in the first phase. The Embassy said they were passing along a message from the Ministerio de Salud.

By way of comparison with the US, Spain shows 59,000 case per 1M population, with the US showing 79,000. Spain’s deaths per 1M is 1236 versus 1336 in the US. In Italy, that suffered the first severe invasion in the EU, the results are better than both Spain and the US in numbers of cases per 1M at 41,640, while the death rate is higher at 1446, perhaps as a result of being first in line, suggesting that those who followed learned something from the Italian experience.

I’ll report more once these restrictions are eased.


Terrazza in Roma

Terrazza in Roma
Terraza in Roma, 51 x 61 cm / 20 x 24″ acrylics on canvas

On a cool night in a rack shambled section of Rome, on this oasis, we talked into the night.