To those who did not go (Day 0 of the 12 Days of Christmas in Portugal)

I’ve begun a great many books and not finished all of them. One of my favorite beginnings (from a book I keep meaning to finish) is from The Sea and the Jungle, published in 1912 by H.M. Tomlinson. His description of London before he sets off on his Big Adventure sounds just like Seattle:

[It was} a winter morning after rain. There was more rain to come. The sky was waterlogged and the grey ceiling, overstrained, had sagged and dropped to the level of the chimneys. If one of them had pierced it! The danger was imminent.

That day was but a thin solution of night. You know those November mornings with a low, corpse-white east where the sunrise should be, as though the day were still-born. Looking to the dayspring, there is what we have waited for, there the end of our hope, prone and shrouded. This morning of mine was such a morning. The world was very quiet, as though it were exhausted after tears.

Tomlinson started out as just an average guy with a desk job and a bunch of commitments. He dumped it all to be an Adventurer, and he went on to write many books and short stories throughout his life. He’s kind of a role model for me.

Barry and I are leaving on Monday for our next adventure, a short trip, but an important one. It’s our first trip to Europe, where we’ll be spending the Twelve Days of Christmas seeing Portugal. Why Portugal? Well, it started with a boat…

Back in March, I discovered a very unique sailboat for sale in Portimão, on the south coast of Portugal. It’s a junk-rigged Sunbird 32, and it has a few things in common with the 34-foot Badger we were planning to build. It’s about the same size, has the same rig, and it’s outfitted very simply.

But it was thousands of miles away, and in another country. We weren’t ready to consider boats in California, let alone Europe.

As we began our search to buy an interim boat, people asked if we’d seen anything we liked. “Just one, we said, “but it’s in Portugal, ha ha.”

The time came to make Christmas plans, and as usual, Meps has itchy feet and needs to go someplace exotic. Mexico? Peru? How about Portugal?

For, after all these months, Matanie is still for sale, and what better excuse for our first trip to Europe? A few days after we began considering it, stopped in to see Jacqui. Life’s little coincidences are strange — Jacqui is the person who bought Brian’s old Freedom 38, and got Meps and Barry as new friends in the deal. Her doorbell was answered by a young man with a Portuguese accent, which is how we met Nelson.

Nelson was studying in the U.S., but planning to be home in Coimbra by December. So we would have a friend in Portugal to visit! We bought the tickets.

Excited with our purchase, we mentioned our plans to Janine. “You should look up my friend Carlos in Lisbon!” she said, and introduced us via e-mail. Carlos is an architect (with a really cool website), and he’s putting together a New Year’s celebration for friends coming from all over the world.

Now we have two people to visit, plus a boat and a party!

We picked up a map and one guidebook, but we are taking very little else. We plan to just spend the time immersing ourselves in the place, enjoying the architecture and people and food.

And if we buy the boat? Then we’ll figure out the rest. But every time we tell someone about the boat, they ask the silliest question. “If you buy the boat, how will you get it back?” As Barry says, “Very slowly.” Or, as I say, “Back where?”

And so, on the eve of my next Big Adventure, I will simply copy the dedication from H.M. Tomlinson’s book:


Best wishes to you all, and a Happy New Year.