Roger the Dodger.

What a start to the day. Coffee on the beach.

8th February 2021

Portimão Marina, Portugal

Roger the Dodger of Beano fame was an expert as dodging chores, dodging responsibility and dodging those in authority. Inevitably this ‘dodging’ would involve hairbrained schemes with outlandish technology all deployed under the noses of those foolish people in authority. On Ruffian we know that those in authority are not foolish, we know that Iain is not clever and chores on Ruffian are keeping us out of trouble, so our success in ‘dodging’ has been somewhat limited.

As we started on the chores, time and time again we were forced to dodge the rain. Out would come the tools and everything to get the job done; then clouds would gather, threaten rain and everything would get packed away. As soon as the rain passed the process was reversed and we’d be back to square 1, but now everything was wet and needed drying.

With this process of starting, stopping and restarting; outboards were flushed, oiled and cleaned; windlasses were stripped, degreased, fettled, and regreased; Ruffian was dried, waxed, and polished and all while the sewing machine whirred away under Fiona’s expert eye, creating cushions, curtains, and still more covers.

One situation that we’ve not been able to dodge is the ridiculous fallout of Brexit. One of those fallouts is the VAT situation that British registered boats find themselves in. Without the proper documentation we could end up having to paying VAT on Ruffian if we’re either in Europe too long or when we re-enter the UK. This could be a £20k bill so getting something sorted to dodge this bullet is critical.

While Iain stuck his head in the sand Fiona tackled the issue head on. After a couple of conversations all wrapped with her classic English charm, she emerged from the authorities, (ahem Marina Office), with an official letter complete with embossed stamps and flourishing signatures. This letter could be gold plated, enabling us to dodge an unfair tax, levied on unsuspecting sailors, by unscrupulous authorities.*

The weather was finally turning and we thought a good way of dodging chores would be to have some fun. A bicycle ride, to a beach, along clifftops overlooking beaches beckoned. We just had to dodge the GNR, dodge any signs blocking our way and dodge the Covid-19 restrictions that seemed to ban anything that could be construed as fun.

The steeds rolled along roads that were eerily quiet, devoid of cars and traffic of any kind. These roads led to hotel complexes where car parks were empty and windows dark. The cafes we passed were closed, restaurants were devoid of life and every shop was barren and unwelcoming, In these tourist central locations it felt as if we’d stumbled into Armageddon and were the last people on earth. As we turned down the beach road we were very much not alone, in front of us complete with guns, sirens and most importantly authority sat our primary adversary, the GNR.

We hoped that by fixing our innocent faces in place and having the excuse of ‘exercise’ would be enough for us to dodge their inquisitive minds, dodge any form if interest and dodge any regulations they may be enforcing. As we closed in, they took no heed of us, we were inconsequential, we were ignored. We’d executed a perfect dodge and so the beach with its crashing waves, soft sand, and inquisitive birds made a perfect stop for a (mid exercise) perfectly executed morning flask of coffee.

Our dodging couldn’t have been any more successful. Undodged chores have kept us out of trouble, authority has been dodged in the short term and we’ve put plans in place to dodge it in the long term. All we have to do now is dodge Covid-19 so the next part of our journey can begin.

* We may still have to pay VAT again in the UK when we return. This feels incredibly unjust and unfair and in post Covid times the wider sailing community could get caught out by cash strapped governments ‘reinterpreting’ legislation.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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