The 7 P’s.

The art inspires us to go walking.

6th November 2020

Alcoutim, Spain – Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Spain

The start to every successful activity is planning. In the world of work we have lived by the 7 P’s. ‘Proper Planning and Prep Prevents P*ss Poor Performance’, and typically they’ve held us in good stead. There is no difference in the world of cruising and exploring where everything needs to be planned and then you simply execute on the plan.

Planning in the time of Covid-19 has been tricky. Initially we planned to go to the Baltic, we then planned to go to Scotland. Instead we locked down in the River Fal.  When the French border finally opened we planned on heading south and finding somewhere warm to spend the winter. With that plan just about executed it was time to make another.

As we waved goodbye to friends heading south and then west to the Caribbean we toyed with the idea of nipping across this year, but we were worried about the eastern Caribbean Covid-19 bubble bursting. We’ve watched friends pack up their boats and put all plans on hold returning to their brick houses, but that doesn’t appeal to us. We’ve also heard of people simply not making a plan, but to Iain and his planning OCD, this is simply unthinkable. (In fact he’s shaking just at the thought of having no plan writing this!).

Sitting down with pilot books, charts and a positivity that Covid-19 will not shut borders, make countries inaccessible or too painful to enter we formed a plan. We envisioned ourselves in deserted anchorages in the Balearics before exploring the ancient history of Africa and then heading to the warmer climes of the Canaries and finally into the big ocean blue. Like all plans however it’s only ever as valid as it’s first contact with the enemy.

In the shorter term we also had to form a plan for replenishing Ruffian. We were down to our last litre of petrol for Brock, our last carton of wine for Fiona and the last of our vegetables were looking decidedly green, and not in a good way. However, before we could replenish, we were due to attend a presentation from an OCC boat, called Copepod, about why we’re at last chance saloon to avert a climate catastrophe .

Howard and Diana on ‘Copepod’ are world renowned marine biologists and are on a mission focussed around Copepod’s. They educated us that Copepods form the basis of all ocean life and without them, the oceans ecosystem will collapse, global warming will run out of control and all human life on earth will simply cease to exist. Their message was simple, global warming and global pollution go hand in hand, but it wasn’t without hope. We can all help stem the tide of global catastrophe by educating ourselves, being less wasteful of the world’s resources and more cognisant of our purchasing power enabling us to send messages to corporations and governments.

In Vila Real we executed the ‘replenish’ Ruffian plan to exceptionally high standards and then the ‘fun’ could begin with less of an eye to detailed planning. We’d spied 2 huge forts that needed exploring and some enormous salt pans that were just asking to be hiked. Our planning simply extended to ‘That looks cool’.

Out came the Brompton bicycles and our first planning failure became apparent. The air inside the wheels had magically disappeared, but this was soon rectified with some big spanners, a couple of screwdrivers and Iain getting a liberal covering of grease. We were then off in the company of the much more prepared crew from “Pincoya”.

Iain’s excellent route planning had the Bromptons bumping their way along the cobbled streets, along a pretty road named the A22, and finally up an unmade track to the castle. As we approached the castle with its ancient walls pointing towards the dark a huge door loomed that was impenetrable, the castle was shut for lunch. We really should have done some detailed planning.

With the lunch hour over those threatening dark clouds started emptying their content on us. Prepared “Pincoya” donned their waterproof coats while we simply started to get wet, at least however the castle doors were now open.

Inside the castle we found views that were only interrupted by the sheets of rain that were cascading down, turning the paths into rivers and the walls into waterfalls. Far below us stood mountains of salt that had been harvested from the salt pans and these seemed to be dissolving by the minute.

Cutting our losses thinking that things couldn’t get any damper we once again took to the Bromptons. With each pedal stoke the rain got heavier and the puddles deeper. Pincoya sheltered inside their jackets with hoods pulled tight and protected from the spray by their mudguards, we however got wetter and wetter thankful that with everything soaked through we couldn’t get any damper. Maybe our planning for this bike trip should have involved a weather forecast check.

So, excelling in our long-term scheduling and clearly failing in our shorter term forecasting, we hope that we’ll reach a nice middle ground with our medium term planning as we await what happens with Spain’s borders in the coming days.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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