“Do you think he’s expecting a tip?” is the question I was about to ask Pierrick. The marinero who helped us dock seemed to be just standing there, watching us adjust our mooring. He had changed the dangles (les pendilles, a mooring technique specific to the Mediterranean) to fit our catamaran in the space of a single hull boat, had suggested the distance we should be from the dock and had tried to tell us in broken French where the captaincy is located. His job was done, but instead of rushing off as most do, he was just standing there, watching us with a smile. Like a porter in a hotel, except we aren’t in a hotel and I have never seen − or heard of – marina crew receiving tips. Just as I was about to voice my question, the man rambled off to greet the inhabitants of the boat next to ours.
After 6 years in Paris, I have become more cynical and stand-off-ish than the French. “What does he want?” is a common question that traverses my mind. I have become more reserved. “Am I really to shout ‘Ola!’ to every person who walks past our boat?”
Well, yes. At least here in Tarragona. We were not meant to stop here but an accumulation of boat troubles had us change our plans. Tarragona is much closer to France than our next stop is. Our batteries are dead. They are guaranteed, so the replacement shouldn’t cost us anything but shipping from France to Spain can become costly, hence our wanting to remain as close as possible to the border. We are docked in the small sports marina. In Spain, marinas belong to sports clubs. They are sponsored by their members, not by the state as in France. This means that Spanish marinas often have sports facilities, such as a pool, tennis courts and aerobics classes. In a small marina like this one, everybody along the pontoon knows each other, says hello and stops to chat. Still, this congeniality was much surpassed by Cesar.
A couple docked their boat opposite ours on the pontoon a little after our arrival. As I am the multi-lingual on our boat, Pierrick asked me to approach them and ask about a mechanic in the area who knows about solar panels and a sails maker. We couldn’t have asked a better person! Cesar, Pierrick and I held a three-way, two-language discussion by the end of which Cesar told us that after lunch (read 2 hours because lunch includes a siesta) he would bring us around to some experts in town who could help us out. Not nautical companies because they tend to be more expensive, confirming Pierrick’s conviction that if you need to buy anything nautical, the minimum price tag is 500 EUR. That’s how we ended up in Cesar’s car, driving around Tarragona to look for a solar panel expert. On the way he showed us which stores along the port to consult and gave us advice on how to test, inexpensively, our batteries. At the end of our escapade I invited him over for a beer, which he refused. His kindness was large, unexpected and frankly surprising.
Below is a photo that shows the discussion we had with the solar panel expert. It impresses me how people can understand each other across languages when talking about stuff that interests them, in this case volts and wattage.
As we arrived Friday and most commerce is closed over the weekend, we are stuck in Tarragona for several days until we succeed in fixing our numerous problems. There are worst places in which to be stuck. The city is vast and beautiful with history spanning back to Roman civilisation. Last night we went for a walk in the old city and had a drink in a plaza constructed around a roman ruin. I asked our waitress for a typical Tarragona drink and she recommended a “chartreusito”, essentially a mojito made with chartreuse, a French herb-based liquor that comes from Grenade. “But chartreuse is French,” I say to our waitress. “Yes, but we drink a lot of it here. We love it!” As did I my chartreuse-mojito! We then had dinner in the most beautiful vegan restaurant I have ever seen (El Vergel) before making our way back to the boat where I collapsed in the cockpit and (apparently) snored like a sailor.