A new book


After sailing to my favourite island Poros, I tied up to the mooring I have hired before in the middle of the channel betwwen Poros and Galatas.
Here I can relax and take it easy for a while, knowing that the boat is safely secured.
After months of hard work with paintings and exhibitions in Finland, Sweden and Denmark it was time to take a break and do something else. Something I have wanted to do for quite some time.
So I am now sitting here in my cockpit writing a book. This time the book will printed on real paper and not an ebook.
A few of the pages

Actually “writing” is not really a description of the work I’m doing as the book will mostly be comprised of photographs of my artwork. There will be short descriptions of each piece and small anecdotes about the work. The theme of the book is the sea, so as I sit here surrounded and inspired by the sea, the book is gradually taking shape.
Bit by bit, page after page the layout is created on my computer with the over one hundred photographs of watercolours and acrylic paintings. 
I know I can’t keep away from painting and sailing for very long so I willl get back to that in due course. Until then I spend every day in front of the computer while rocking gently in the breeze.
In the cockpit, working on the book.

The fresh air of freedom

I'd forgotten it was the Whitsun holidays so I had to manage without my dinghy being repaired for 5 days. In the mean time, with help, I was able to squeeze Aquarella into the local fishing harbour so I could come ashore. The four year old dinghy was in worse shape than I'd feared and came back with two big patches and two new valves. 
My dinghy with the patches concealed under it's new cover
 which doesn't quite fit yet 
The next day I started off by taking up my stern anchor for the first time alone. I only have an electric anchor windlass on the bow and Aquarella with her long keel was not made for steering backwards. It took me 45 minutes to pull the boat by hand towards the anchor and raise it from the sticky mud.
The first sail of the season was just over 2 hours to Porto Heli. I'd looked forward to having the full use of the navigation app Navionics on my new Ipad air. 
That wasn't a great success, It stopped getting a fix as soon as I left the harbour! It turned out the ipad air version I had bought only has the option of a wifi connection and no cellular data. I could use the chart function but without the red marker updating my position. I found my way easily though using the boat's built-in, 20 year old AP navigator.
Arrived at Porto Heli
Greece has introduced a new cruising permit this year which is obligatory for all boats over 7 meters. The paperwork for this is not made easy however. The skipper must apply at the nearest port police/coastguard after paying the amount of 50 € to a bank, not over the internet. (the police are apparently not entrusted with handling money) There's no bank in Kilada nor Porto Heli. The nearest is a 20€ taxi ride away inland to the town of Kranidi. 
With bank receipt in hand I knocked on the door of the Port Police office and presented all the other necessary papers: passport, certificate of competence, old cruising permit, boat license, insurance. The officer in charge did not ask me to sit down, he yawned, sipped his cold coffee and leafed through the documents. The proof of paid insurance was translated into English, German, French and Spanish but not Greek. He struck the paper with the back of his fingers in disgust and declared his outrage in no uncertain terms! " Greek law demands this document should state in Greek that it is valid according to Greek requirements and the insurance sum must be written in Euro. This must be officially verified by your insurance company" He told me to contact them and demand they immediately send the Greek translation to them by email. I obediently phoned the office in Mariehamn on the Åland islands. The lady in charge of the Mediterranean boat section was at lunch and would call back after an hour. I asked the officer if it was okey to come back when I had talked to her. "You are not going anywhere" he said while closing the door. 
He then asked who the captain of the boat was.
That's me
The names of crew members?
There's just me
Then with loud bangs he proceeded to stamp all the papers and hand them over.
"Give me 2 euros for the photocopies and you may go."
He got them
I got the papers
Wow, what a feeling! Out into the fresh air of freedom!



That sinking, deflated feeling ...


I'm back at the Basimakopulos boatyard in Kilada, Greece after a long busy winter in Sweden.
For months I had been looking forward to completely relaxing on my boat and just looking at the horizon in the warm Greek sun. 
It didn't turn out that way at all.
climbing up and down the ladder every time I'd forgotten something
Firstly my brother in law Uffe who usually helps me for the first week couldn't join me this time as his wife Kerstin was ill. We had to cancel his tickets at the last moment. Really sad, especially for Kerstin who was so sick but also sad for him as he'd been counting the days to the trip. My thoughts were with them both but the prospect of being alone with all the work of making the boat seaworthy before launching was nevertheless daunting. 
With only 3 days to the launching date,  I had to work non stop 12 hours a day. 
And where was the warm Greek sun? It was pouring with rain and 15 degrees!
I quickly realized I could only manage to do the absolute necessary. That was: cleaning the hull and painting the antifouling on the bottom, polishing and waxing the waterline, changing the zinc anode on the propeller shaft and replacing the bottom plug. Everything else had to wait.
Aquarella about to be launched (notice the fully inflated dinghy on deck) 
The sun came out at last, Aquarella was launched on schedule and I could tie up to a mooring buoy in the middle of the bay.
I'd inflated my rubber dinghy, the only life line I now have to civilization ashore. The first trip with it went fine and the engine started on the first pull. It must have looked very entertaining though when I collided with the quayside at full speed without being able to slow down or stop the engine. I had to use the choke to stop it. This problem resolved itself without my intervention on the way back. 
I noticed in the evening a little air had gone out of the dinghy but I thought it might be owing to the cooler temperature. The following morning I realized there must be a leak somewhere. I climbed down to attach the air pump and the next thing I knew the dinghy was rapidly on its way down! 
Nearly all the air had gone and the engine was sinking fast. I quickly took a line and secured it, then took the first dip of the year, albeit unintentional. I had to unscrew the engine mount from the transom in order to pull it aboard. Wearing my life-jacket as an extra precaution I swam around taking oars, the pump, the seat etc before I could climb aboard again to hoist the dinghy on deck.
I still don't know what the problem is but I suspect it must be the valves. I won't be able to get help or get ashore before Monday so I'm stuck for the time being.
The deflated dinghy just after I had secured the engine with a line
To be continued...


New video (sailing and painting)

I have finally finished editing this video with clips of my solo sail around the Sardonic Gulf in Greece, in the summer of 2016. There is also footage of me working on one of my paintings. That was the view of Poros I had as seen from my mooring there.
Hope you like it. Click here:   Sailing on single handed#3
From the video



Flying dinghy!

I have been very busy with my artwork the last couple of months and have had to let this blog rest for a while. Sorry about that! Now I'm back at my computer and have time to write about the remainder of the summer of 2016 on board the boat.
A great deal of time was spent sitting in the cockpit painting 9 hours a day while Aquarella was patiently waiting, tied to a mooring. I had a deadline to keep for an exhibition in Finland in October.

Me taking the dinghy back to Aquarella between Poros and Galatas
 


In the evenings I took the dinghy ashore to sit at Cafe Fresko under the stars in the company of my many wonderful new friends on Poros. 
The "Harbour master" on watch at Perdika on the island of Aegina
Jane, Charlotte and myself celebrating a successful trip




Then, in September two friends Jane and Charlotte from Denmark, also widows, came to visit. So we three merry widows went sailing, talking, laughing, dancing through the night and thoroughly enjoying ourselves for a week. 








After a few more days saying goodbye to people and studying the weather forecast it was time to make my way back to the shipyard where I keep Aquarella for the winter. 
Rolling the mainsail down
With no threat of any strong winds for the next few days I made a mad dash for the next anchorage. It took only 7 hours but I stayed the night there and continued the next day for three hours to anchor in the bay of Kilada near the shipyard.



The dinghy flew like a kite!
The following morning I prepared the boat for lifting out. I took the furling genua down in the early morning, thankfully before any wind got up. In the afternoon the sky blackened and a stiff breeze stretched the anchor chain out. I took the outboard engine off the dinghy but I still needed to lift the dinghy up onto the foredeck in order for the crane to lift it out with the boat. By attaching it to the spinnaker halyard I had enough strength to hoist it up using my body weight by jumping from the cabin roof onto the deck. But even though I lifted it I still couldn't pull it over the foredeck. It flew like a kite in the strong wind. I had to give up, lowered it again and tied it back onto the stern. I just hoped the boatyard would help me with it.
I couldn't do anything in the gale force wind, the boat was rocking and rolling and the wind was screaming in the rigging. Suddenly I heard a knocking sound, dashing up into the cockpit I saw a smiling face sticking up over the railing. It was my kind mechanic who does the winter maintenance of the engine. He had come over in his own dinghy to help me get onto a safe mooring. I was so grateful to be able to have a good nights sleep before lift out the following morning. 
At 8 am sharp the shipyard called over the VHF that I should be the first boat to be lifted. Which meant now...
The wind was still very, very strong so I had difficulty loosening the mooring ropes. I pulled with all my might and finally could lift them off the cleats. Immediately the boat shot backwards dangerously near the mud bank. I charged back to the engine controls in the cockpit and put the engine in full ahead while I steered out towards the outer end of the dredged channel to the shipyard. I'd forgotten to reattach the forward mooring ropes ready to tie the boat onto the quay. I was already in the channel and there was no room to turn around so I slowed down and put the autopilot on. Then I charged forward, attached the ropes to the cleats and hung their ends over the safety lines. By the time I got back to the cockpit the boat was about to bump into the channel marker buoy. Back on course I crossed my fingers and toes that someone would help me tie up alongside the quay because I wasn't sure I could stop Aquarella in this wind. 
Five strong men stood ready when I came and caught my mooring lines with boathooks and with a great relief I stopped the engine for this year. I didn't even see when they lifted the dinghy out and put it onto the boat trailer, it was suddenly there safe and sound.

Houston, we have a problem!


Last week I was joined by my son Philip, daughter in law Henriette and 10 year old granddaughter Olivia. They flew down from Denmark for a weeks sailing with me here in Greece. 
My home made winch handle
Before they came I had to fix the problem of a missing anchor windlass handle. The original fell and sank in the mud of the sea bed.  With no spare part to be bought anywhere I had to find a usable solution. At the local ironmongers I found a scrap of copper pipe of the right dimension but too long. Copper is of course too weak for the heavy job of winching up the anchor chain. But then I found a bit of a steel tube, too short and wide but the one could fit in the other and after an hour of sawing and filing I got a reasonable result.
The first destination we sailed to was to Vagionia bay where I never had been before. It was a beautiful place and we were completely alone there after the day trippers had gone. With no light pollution ashore the moonless sky unfolded an unbelievably clear view of the stars. I have never seen stars so bright before. With the app "Sky view free" it was possible to put names to the constellations and planets we were seeing so this was the evening entertainment.
During the night there was a very uncomfortable swell or surge even with no wind. The boat rocked violently for several hours making sleep only possible for Olivia who slept like a log. We heard the engines of fishing boats arriving in the dark with no lights on at all. I also became aware of my solar anchor light which went out at 4 in the morning.
Aquarella alone in the bay of Vagionia
Not good, another problem to be fixed.
Olivia's favourite expression is "Houston, we've got a problem" This was used several times on our trip. We had a nice sail to Vathi on the peninsular of Methana. Again we were the only yacht there in the beautiful tiny harbour. Sailing towards Epidavros the next day we told "Houston" there was another problem. The GPS on my ipad was not working so the Navionics chart plotter couldn't find out where we were. Fortunately we didn't have far to go and it was a matter of eyeball navigation. Apart from the fact that we landed in the wrong bay to start with it turned out fine in the end. I still have charts after all. We spent two days in Epidavros, swimming and enjoying the surroundings before it was time to return to the bay of Poros. On the way we had stronger winds and it was exhilarating ploughing through the waves with a considerably higher speed than my 40 year old boat is used too.
A selfie with the gopro camera attached to the boat hook
But then -
"Houston we have a problem" 
Aquarellas 20 year old Philips GPS instrument stopped working. We now had no position, no course, no log, no waypoint, no track for the autopilot. So back to using the compass, paper chart, dividers  and a sharp pencil.
Olivia retrieving the fishing net in Russian Bay
We found our destination Russian Bay easily as I had sailed past it many times. Although my slip hook had to be used to free the anchor from anpther chain (without calling Houston) we could settle down to a lovely evening listening to the crickets while Olivia demonstrated her amazing diving skills and tried her hand at fishing.
Henriette cooking in the cockpit, it was too hot in the cabin.

On return to my rented buoy at Poros the next problem emerged. The dinghy's outboard engine wouldn't start. We couldn't even pull the cord out.  With four people and many kilos of cumbersome luggage to get ashore this was quite a rowing challenge in a tiny dinghy.
Henriette rowed us safely out of the path of an oncoming ferry and afterwards Philip repeated the feat with all the luggage so they got to the ferry to Athens in time.
It was sad to see them go but we had a great week together.
Alone again I faced the problem of rowing against the 2 knot current and increasing wind to get back to my boat.
I thought I'd check the engine's propeller. I couldn't lift the engine up, something was locking it down. Bending precariously over the stern I saw a length of line waving in the water. There was the culprit!  I climbed ashore  to borrow a knife from a nearby restaurant and went about the task of cutting the line under the water. I could then lift the engine into the dinghy to unravel the rest of the line bit by bit. Now I will always carry a knife under the dinghy seat.
The engine then started and ran perfectly.
Back in the boat I screwed off the flush mounted navigator to change the back up battery. That helped, but I still don't know how to solve the problem with the lacking GPS reception in my Ipad.

Houston, sorry to bother you again...

Life on board


Filling  Aquarella's tank with water from jerry cans
When I'm on my boat I don't sail every day.  I often find inspiring surroundings to paint and stop up even for weeks at a time. However, living aboard a boat all summer without tying up to shore has it's own challenges.
 I choose not to go into a harbour, marina or quayside for several reasons. Firstly, being alone on board, an attempt at harbour manoeuvres involves a great risk of hitting something expensive.  It's obviously not the same as parking a car. My boat is long keeled which means it steers very badly in reverse. To counteract this I would have to go with the pointed end first ( opposite almost everyone else) Then the stern anchor has to be dropped about 3 or 4 boat lengths from the quay. At the same time I'd have to leave the steering wheel and engine controls to rush 10 meters forward to throw the mooring lines ashore with the hope someone will be there to catch them. In the meantime I would actually be needed at the stern (back, blunt end) holding and braking the anchor rope to avoid a hard collision with the wall/jetty/other expensive yacht.
Another advantage of keeping my distance is I have more privacy by staying away from harbours. No noisy neighbours, only a little loud music from the nearest bar and no tourists taking selfies in front of my boat.
No rats and cockroaches.
No uninvited visitors.
Much cooler and nearly always a breeze.
I can also jump in and swim whenever I want from the boat as the water is cleaner further out.

So I either stay away at anchor or tie up to a mooring buoy. Typically this would be about 100 m from shore, not too far to go by dinghy for provisions.
I fill up my jerrycans with fresh water from a local cafe and diesel and petrol from the nearest tank station. For this I use a little trolley as it's often a long walk from the jetty were the dinghy can be tied up.
Walking, climbing, balancing, lifting, pulling, pushing and carrying loads is all part of everyday life living on a boat. At first I had difficulty with this but now I'm stronger, healthier and slimmer ( yeah!) and don't think about it so much. 
It's cheaper too.  In a marina there is nearly always a considerable extra fee for electricity, water and wifi. But the free Greek sun bakes down on my 5 solar panels fully charging the batteries to run instruments, lighting, the fridge and computer. My wifi booster picks up signals from any cafe within 5 km. and the password for this can be disclosed for the price of a cup of coffee. 
5 canisters of water can be collected for the price of a glass of wine and all my washing done for the price of a Greek salad. 

So I have peace and quiet on board to sit all day and paint under the sunshade.