Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How Bureaucrats Solve Problems or Why We Should Shoot All the Deputy Ministers Long Before We Shoot All the Lawyers

2012 0124

Italy, racked by economic turmoil, recession and unrelenting overspending by government has decided that one way to solve its budget problems is to TAX SAILBOATS.

 Here is a report from Noonsite:

The newly appointed Italian government has presented parliament with a set of austerity measures to save the Italian economy. As it stands, boat owners / users (including foreign visiting yachts) will be subjected to a daily tax for the duration of their stay within italian waters. This will come into effect on the 1st May 2012 and the proposed tax per day is as follows:
a) euro 5 - from 10,01m to 12m;
b) euro 8 - 12,01m to 14m;
c) euro 10 - 14,01m to 17m;
d) euro 30 - 17,01m to 24m;
e) euro 90 - 24,01 to 34m;
f) euro 207 - 34,01m to 44m;
g) euro 372 - 44,01m to 54m;
h) euro 521 - 54,01m to 64m;
I) euro 703 - above 64m.

The above measurements are intended as overall length in accordance with EN/ISO/DIS 8666 Small Craft Principal Data.

The above daily tax rates will be reduced by 50% for all sailing yachts with an auxiliary engine. It is however still unclear whether this reduction will be restricted to sailing yachts between 10 and 12m or whether the 50% reduction will apply to any sailing yacht of any length..

Further reductions of the above rates will be applied to all yachts in accordance with the age of the yacht calculated with effect from the 1st january subsequent to the year of manufacture. The reductions are as follows:
  • 5 years and over - 15%;
    - 10 years and over - 30%;
    - 15 years and over - 40%.
All yachts undergoing yard maintenance will not be liable to pay tax for the duration of works.
The penalty for late, partial or non payment of the tax will be a charge between 200 and 300% over and above the amount of tax evaded.

Now there two certain outcomes:  
  • It will cost Italy more to collect this nightmare of a tax that it will collect.  Think of all the new bureaucrats and enforcement personnel that will have to be hired.
  • Once imposed it will never be removed.
and several possible additional outcomes:  
  • All foreign boats will leave Italy driving up the cost of wintering in Spain.  
  • Spain and all the other Med countries will follow suit and tax pleasure boats.
  • Every country with a metre of shoreline anywhere in the world will impose a tax for boats transiting their territorial waters.
For Meredith the tax will be €5 less 40% because we are more than 15 years old which leaves us at €3.  The €3 is reduced by 50% because we are a sailboat so our net tax will be €1.50 per day.  

 €1.50 is a not a lot of money.  But now we will have to carry proof of payment of tax at all times while in the country and produce it probably at every marina and to every cop and interfering government sob who demands it.  

We can enter Italy in a $100,000 motor home for free.  Somehow because I sail I must pay a tax.

If the tax holds it is unlikely we will go to Italy at all, not even by car.  This crap just pisses me off.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Closed Because the Pig is Late

2012 01 23
Almerimar, Spain

All Hail His Majesty
King Cerdo seen here among his subjects
at the butcher counter at the Supercor in El Ejido
Tragedy struck this sleepy oceanside town this week when the local carniceria was forced to close early due to a lack of pork.

A terse hand sign drawn in stark black hung in the door of the popular butcher shop and marisco outlet informing the pig eating public of the town's new meatless diet:

 "Cerrado. El Cerdo es tarde."
[closed.  The pig is late]

In only a few hours the consequences of the tragedy began to make themselves known.  With the cerdo being late the butcher saw no purpose in being open.  No cerdo  meant no carniceria and that meant no pescado (fish) and worse, no mariscos (shrimp).

Around here people do not keep freezers full of meat.  Meat is something you buy today to eat today.

In our little community life as we knew it changed.  Having no cerdo was inconceivable.  We became the village of the damned, crowds of walking dead,  staggering about the streets zombie like seeking mindlessly to find and eat fresh flesh.  Flesh of Cerdo.  Cerdo.  Cerdo.

Jamon Iberico on the Wall at Mercadona
our Favourite Grocery in Almerimar
In the foreground you see the intricate rig
they use to shave the ham properly
Spain runs on the pig you see.  Pork is king and there are no pretenders to the throne.    Fish and shrimp are much ballyhooed but more in the sense that we fete gold medalists at a handicapped olympics: we applaud the effort not the result.

There is no beef in this country worth calling beef.  There is not even cow good enough to grind up for ground beef.  Stores here stock something called "Burger Meat"" so housewives can make meatloaf and such without having to grind their own protein.  (Despite the astounding growth of McDonalds outlets and Burger King facades in the territory burgers have not made much of an impact in local kitchens.)

Steaks, when you can find them which is never, are 1/3 inch thick (for metronomes that would be on the order of 8 mm) so there is no such thing as rare.  The instant that piece of meet touches the grill it is flame broiled to a nice well done leather.  Such organization of gastronomic society is inconceivable to a Norte or Sudamericano.  Our entire existence is dependent on consumption of some part or other of a cow.  

Local grocery stores devote as much shelf space to beef products as a Piggly Wiggly allows for goat.  That is to say virtually none.  Piggly Wiggly, a big American food chain, by the way knows nothing about pigglies.

Counter at the Carnaceria, Supercor, El Ejido
The action centres on the jamon or ham.  Local ham is dry cured and made from distinctive black pigs found only around here.  You have simple Jamon Iberico, exquisite Iberico Pata Negro, unbelievably expensive de Bellota and then de Recebo, de Campo, de Cebo.  In the interests of racial harmony, Jamon Serrano, usually made from white pigs (which taste pretty darn good too I must say) is sold as a less expensive alternative.

Hams are sold whole, everything from the toe to the thigh, and every butcher shop has its walls lined with cured hams, hundreds of them, hanging from the hoof along one or two walls.   A ride on the local bus is guaranteed to introduce you to one or two senior citizens returning from their morning shopping with a hoof emerging from the top of their grocery carts.

It is only disconcerting the first couple of times.

When you taste the ham you get it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Soothing Over Comments for Upset Euroweenies

The EU does have stuff.  Food and booze and tobacco are available in abundance.  Life in the cafes is unequalled.  You may wonder what more could ever be needed.

For a geek the EU, at least the southern EU, does not have good discount computerware or marine ware.

So I am not upset with Europe, well no more than normal, but Europe just does not have good computer discount stores.  Or chandlers.  Or Walmart.  Or Amazon.  Or UPS.  (EU shipping sucks totally by the way).

So Europe is a nice place but honestly I am too North American for this ever to be home.

It is so darn foreign :)

Returning to the Land of Not Enough Stuff

2012 01 12
London, ON

"Every time I come to Ontario I make sure there is room in my suitcase"

These words from my daughter Erin who lives close to the Naval base in Esquimault BC promulgate the beginning of an unfortunate situation for the crew of Meredith.

Not only do we lack the room to carry everything we need back to Europe but we are unsure how to smuggle 8 litres of maple syrup and 4 kilos of peanut butter into Spain.

It's only two voices in the choir, I know, but Spain does not have Peanut Butter and does not have Maple syrup.  What else does Spain not have? I am not even going to start on the mass of computerware that just does not exist in the EU (as in Tigerdirect real) :
  • Goldsource 3000 watt transformer/voltage converter to transform EU 220 volt shore power to 120 volt power usable on our very north american sailboat.  It will also isolate the ground wire and this makes us very happy.  We tried using a German made battery charger to keep our 12 volt batteries topped up but it was a half measure and half measures rarely work.  The transformers available in the EU cost upwards of €400 plus VAT of 18% in Spain (24% in Portugal scheduled to go up). In USA price was $104.
  • Logitech USB microphone so I can practice my Spanish in the Rosetta program. In Spain the mike was €40.  In Canada $18.
  • Toshiba Thrive and Blackberry Playbook with an Otterbox.  A separate blog will be forthcoming on the astonishing change in onbaord computing in the last 6 months.
  • Skullcandy earbuds for $10 CDN, not available in EU
  • new CISCO router for sharing wireless.  $15 CDN at Tigerdirect, no idea how dear in EU
  • Fuji camera to replace the old Olympus now lying at the bottom of the Atlantic in Almerimar 
  • GoPro Xtreme videocam with headband and assorted mounts for various boat mounting options.  $100 US in North American, selling for just over €200 in the EU. Plus VAT of course.
  • 2 tubs of peanut butter, one for a friend
  • 8 litres of maple syrup
  • two new fittings for the staysail track.  Custom made for us by Garhauer for $20 each.  The marine metal specialist in Almerimar told us it was impossible and could not be done.  Of course the chandler in Almerimar told us that Cetol had been banned and was not being made any longer.  He then told us we could buy it at the shipyard only 200 feet away.
So we leave home with a heavy heart and a heavier bag.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Elliott Gould on Blogs

I have little respect or use for Elliott Gould as an actor but the writers for the movie Contagion provided his character with a righteous quote:

"Blogs aren't writing.  Blogs are graffiti with punctuation"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Come with Me Where Dreams Are Born and Time is Never Planned

2012 01 03
London, ON

J.M. Barrie was not referring to London Ontario when he put pen to paper and crafted that line.  (the line is from Barrie's Peter Pan).  Cruising sailors know: we inhabit a world unknown to those imprisoned on land.

The crew of Meredith, with only ten days left until return to Spain, has begun preparing.

For those of you who have not cyphered it out Spain is one of our most favoured places to live.  Were it not for the Schengen Zone Immigration Rules we would stay a while longer but it looks as though we must leave Europe only days after our arrival.

Having to sail to Africa with visits to Morocco and Tunisia and Egypt is hardly a burden.

We go with only the vaguest of images of what we will see, who we will meet and how long we will spend anywhere.  Our plane cannot leave too soon.