Perfect Birthday Perfect Birthday « The Joys and Sorrows Of a Life At Sea

Perfect Birthday

“You go on reading! After all you deserve a proper rest after yesterday!” commented Petr on my slightly lethargic mood, when after breakfast I quietly disappeared to my favorite cockpit seat with my Kindle. I didn’t so much suffer from a post-celebratory hang-over as one might suspect given that the previous day was my birthday. Truth is, I was just plain tired. Janna, however, was almost spotless and our sewing machine saw the daylight again after quite a while. Not everyone would agree but for me this was a perfect B-day! Except perhaps for the evening downpour, that thwarted our plans of taking a stroll to town before dinner. On the other hand, nothing is ever perfect so there’s no point complaining. Instead of walking, we took a tricycle and contributed, in our own modest way, to the local economy.


Back in Taiwan when we were still repairing and upgrading Janna – by the way it’s not that long ago since most of our days were spent sawing, drilling, fiberglassing, mounting and assembling – in other words during those days that we were still repairing fulltime, I used to dream about the day we’ll finally be finished and will be just enjoying ourselves and the boat. Reading the whole day or going for an afternoon sail without first putting away boxes of tools and spare parts. Will it ever come? Sometimes I almost started to doubt that it ever will. Don’t take me wrong, I am not complaining here retrospectively. In fact, it’s the other way round! Both of us agree that there are not many things that give you such strong sense of accomplishment like a job well done. But beware, it’s actually highly addictive!

Janna is far from perfect. There’s still plenty of items on the future to-do list, always something to repair or upgrade, like when you suddenly discover a new leak, especially when it blows hard and the rigging chainplates, porthole gaskets, etc. start to “move”.  In other words there’s still a lot to be done, as it always is on a sailboat (or a house, an apartment, etc.), but luckily we already got to the point, when we can take a day off, just read or explore the surroundings of a new anchorage. We can even take two or three or even more when we are not currently translating of writing. A few days back, fastening some odd screw, Petr asked me astonished: “When was the last time we fastened something with a screwdriver?”

On the other hand, now that the amount of physical work on the boat has significantly decreased and we spent more time by the computer translating and writing, I’ve begun – believe it or not – to really miss all the mounting, drilling, sending, simply all the hard work! Every couple of days I suffer from a serious fit of restlessness and try to come up with something that could be done.

Last time it was our engine who became the victim of my maintenance mania. Fully armed with WD-40 and a bronze wire brush, I descended into our engine room and minutes later the rust was flying everywhere. Since the unfortunate day some five years ago, when mechanics in Lumut drilled a hole through our hull during the engine mounts installation, whereby giving them a saltwater bath in the process, we have to occasionally spray all four of them with generous amounts of WD-40 and clean the new layer of rust that tends to develop there no matter what. Next item on the restless day to-do list were the cleats and some other stainless steel fittings that needed polishing. Finally, I scrubbed the nonskind and scraped off all the algae that previously decorated our waterline. The next day, pleasantly tired we contentedly sat down to the computers again and resumed the intellectual work.

On my birthday, my hands were itching once again, and it was more than obvious that I was suffering from yet another of my I-can’t-just-sit-there-and-do-nothing fidgety moods. The first symptoms manifested themselves right after breakfast, when I started pulling out buckets and made odd noises rummaging through the cockpit lockers.

“It’s got into you again, hasn’t it?” said Petr, who was already sitting by the computer dutifully punching the keyboard. What could I say? I gave him an innocent smile and disappeared on deck with a bucket and scrubbing brush. After Janna was all clean and shiny on the outside, I grabbed my cleaning gear and proceeded inside in the following order: closet area, main cabin, our Force10 stove and finally our SS teapot and pressure cooker. In the afternoon I took out our Singer sewing machine and sewed new curtains for the portholes above stove and navigation table – another one of those “cosmetic” to-do items for which there’s never enough time.


At around 4 p.m. we had a coffee and were about to set for our little walking trip to KaLui restaurant, where we celebrated my birthday four years ago, when we sailed through Puerto Princesa on our way to Hong Kong. Since then the city changed almost beyond recognition but KaLui is still here and still retains the reputation of one of the best restaurants in town. We had a reservation there for 6. Since we ride our bicycles all the time, we decided that this time will walk for a change and take a tricycle on our way back. We assumed it’ll take us about an hour or so to get there.

The minute we got into our dinghy and started to row towards the yachtclub, the previously bright skies suddenly turned black and when we approached the club’s pontoon, I was already pulling out our raincoats. We literally ran to the club and just when we were safe under the roof, the tropical downpour began. Usually they don’t last long so we joined a few friends who were already there for a beer.

We were quite thirsty and quickly finished our bottles, but it didn’t seem the rain’s going to stop any soon. The club house is open on all sides except one and though the bamboo blinds and later also the exterior canvas awning were all put up, sheets of rain were still pouring inside. Everybody started to shift towards the rear of the room. It was clear that we won’t be able to make it to KaLui on time, even if we had a tricycle to pick us up in the club, because we would be soaking wet before we even got in, not to mention that the tricycles are also open from the sides. Luckily we were able to find KaLui’s number on the internet and changed the reservation to 7 p.m.

At about 1830, after hour and a half, the rain finally abated, so we put on our raincoats and set off for the main road to catch a ride downtown. After the second turning, already partially wet, we managed to stop Roland, whose high spirits obviously couldn’t be ruined by some minor rain.

“It’s raining, in Palawan always rain, Luzon, Mindoro, they don’t have, but here always raining!” said Roland, broad smile on his face, his eyes nearly glued to the front window as he was trying to pierce through the falling rain. Suddenly he lifted his legs, knees almost touching his chin. We were just driving through a huge puddle and the water was flying everywhere. The wild ride was further livened up as he sang “Happy Birthday to You” for me.

The dinner in KaLui was a success, though the style of the cuisine seems to have moved more towards “Chinese” since our last visit. When we finally cleaned all the plates and looked around, we were surprised to notice that we were having dinner with quite a few Taiwanese tourists! No wonder, the fried cuttlefish and the vegetable stir-fry looked and tasted so familiar!

Yesterday was another B-day. This time it was John, one of the yachtclub owners, who had birthday. It has been a couple of days since my last fit of restlessness and already in the morning I started to experience some of the familiar symptoms. Desperate for something to do, I took out the sailing kit for our dinghy and decided to go for a sail. Of course, the minute the dinghy was all set up, the little wind there was before, completely died. Luckily, after the big buffet-style lunch in the club, the wind picked up a bit, so I was able to burn some of my restless energy on the water. Withdrawal syndromes temporarily overcome, but for how long…? Probably it’s really high time to heave the anchor soon and move to another anchorage!

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