The Apprentice – Episode Four – Marinera

‘24 degrees, sunny, negligible wind.’  This was the forecast when I fired up my smartphone on the morning of my apprenticeship as a marinera. 

I indulged in a spot of roof-down “sun in the sky you know how I feel… it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day” in the car on the way to Port Olimpic Calanova and was definitely “feeling good”.  What better way to spend a Tuesday than messing about with boats?


Tucked in between swanky five-star Hotel Hospes Maricel and Marivent, the official summer residence of the Spanish royal family, this Palma-based marina is a little gem.  Inaugurated by the King and Queen in 1976, it was a Government-run entity until last year when Port Olimpic Calanova SL won the right to manage, remodel and upgrade it. 


When I arrived it was a hive of activity, heavy plant bashing out an extension to the marina wall, Agora school children being educated in the art of sailing and a seven-strong marinero team getting all manner of vessels ready for a summer season afloat. 


Calanova polo shirt and sensible shoes donned, I was introduced to my new jefe Alberto who was midway lifting out and propping up a substantial Sunseeker with a 30 tonne travel lift.  My mind creatively drifted to the idea of ‘boat Jenga’, removing a prop one at a time until the vessel toppled over.  I decided to keep this idea to myself, probably not the best way to inspire confidence from my new boss.


Sunseeker in place, Alberto escorted me to a 58ft Beneteau Oceanis sailing boat in need of a good scrubdown and polish.  Alarmingly, I had been earmarked for this task.  After a briefing from a charming 16-year-old (who was fortunate enough to find himself on a Government-backed scheme that allowed him to do school work some days and practical work others) I was left with a brush, bucket, hose, a gallon of Green Genie boat bottom cleaner and a portable scaffold tower – what could possibly go wrong?


Firstly, let me tell you that a 58ft boat is a hulking great thing when it’s out of the water and propped up on a few blocks.  I gazed up at it in awe and realised the magnitude of the task and the need for a scaffold tower.  Secondly, allow me to inform you that scaffold towers have a little too much ‘play’ and movement for my liking.  Wielding a brush from a great height on a swaying bit of metal didn’t feel so comfortable at first.  And, thirdly, I must declare that I have never got to grips with those twist-to-use hose nozzles.  Turn the tap a bit and you get a pathetic non-directional misty squirt, turn the tap a lot and the nozzle takes off at 60mph.  For the ‘rinse’ phase I did away with the nozzle and used my thumb – old school. 


Happily, I made friends with my scaffold tower, scaling the metal rungs like a little monkey, and soon(ish) had the Oceanis salt free and sparkly clean.  I was proud of my work, declaring it to be the “cleanest boat in Spain” to Alberto.  Instead of rewarding me with a tea break, he presented me with a variable-speed Bosch polisher, an extension cable, two types of polish (a sort of ‘on’ one and an ‘off’ one), two types of buffers (a Bosch pad and a t-shirt-material rag) and a crash course in gel coat polishing. 


If maintaining balance with a cleaning brush was hard, imagine a Bosch polisher on speed setting three.  Literally the first time I had touched one in my life, I discovered this particular power tool had a personality of its own.
Pop it onto the surface of the hull and it goes wandering off in whatever direction it fancies, spraying specks of polish as it travels.  I did my best to style it out, pretending I wanted to polish the particular part of the boat it decided to wander off to, but really it was Bosch 1 – Drane 0.  Just one square metre of polishing and buffing left me physically drained, and I was beginning to rue the 24 degree sun.  How did these guys cope in the summer?  Mercifully lunch ‘o’ clock arrived and I downed tools for a professional to complete the 30-hour task (which would have been 300 if it was left to me).


Do I fancy being an apprentice marinera?  Yes.  I do.  I loved the teamwork, the camaraderie, the humour, the outdoorsiness, the constant buzz of activity and job satisfaction of seeing a dull hull shine again.  A few more gym sessions to improve my Bosch biceps and maybe I’ll pop my CV in to Alberto…     




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