Sailing: the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Idiosyncrasies of Living Aboard

We have just come through about 10 days of bad weather – high winds and rain – which, for most of that time, has kept us at anchor and confined to the boat for days at a time.  The confinement had me musing about the Live Aboard life and how it differs from land-based life.  It is certainly a life of contrast.
Dreary skies in Panagia
Living space:  I suppose the most obvious difference from life on land is that you and your partner are together 24/7 on a floating home that measures 12 by 3.5 metres.  That is about 30 square metres of living space (boats being pointy at one end).  The average house in the US or Australia is about 200 square metres.
Our living space
Surprisingly I do not find this claustrophobic.  There is plenty of wide open space to be had by just going out into the cockpit.  But it does mean that storage is limited so our wardrobes are modest, we don’t collect things and cull what we do have fairly ruthlessly when it is no longer of use. 
The 50 cm wide closet that Bob and I share
Power and Plumbing:  Our boat has 12, 24 and 240 volt electrical systems.  Our 240 volt equipment can only be used when we are plugged into power at a marina or run the generator.  So just like someone living in an all solar house, we get our power from batteries which need to be constantly monitored and kept charged.  Also being Australians on a British made boat sailing in the Med, we have power points for all three systems.   Sometimes the place overflows with adapters and chargers.
Every type of plug and adapter
Songster stores about 400 litres of freshwater.  An average house uses about 200 litres per person per day.  On Songster we use less than a tenth of that amount.  There are no long showers and laundry is done on shore.  To fill up the water tanks when at anchor we take jerry cans on shore, find a tap somewhere, full up the containers and lug them back to the dinghy then to the boat.  Essentially every time we go ashore we take the water containers and get 30 litres of water to replenish the tanks.  When every litre of water has to be carried, you quickly learn not to waste it.

Then of course there are the heads (toilets) with their holding tanks, pumping of waste and clogged pipes – enough said!
A bit more complicated than in a suburban home
Self-sufficiency, repairs and maintenance:  This aspect of Live Aboard life is perhaps the hardest.  Things on boats break and wear out much more so than things in a house.  Those things that have broken are frequently essential and must be fixed or replaced immediately.  Repair jobs can rarely wait for ‘the weekend’.  Also finding someone nearby to repair what is broken is often impossible.  

All this means one has to become quite self-sufficient.  Fortunately Bob has always been very handy but the scope of boat repairs and maintenance is significantly broader than those needed for suburban living.  The adage that ‘sailing is doing boat repairs in exotic locations’ is certainly true.

Maintenance is high intensity too.  In a house you might paint the walls once every 5 to 10 years.  Varnishing and anti-fouling on a boat is a yearly job.  You might check the oil and water in your car every month or so but on a boat the engine is checked thoroughly every time it is used.
Antifouling Songster's bottom
Social Life:  In our three years of sailing we have made more close friends than in the nearly 20 years living in Canberra.  I constantly marvel at how quickly strong friendships are made.  Living on a boat means we all go through the same trials and tribulations and joys and passion of sailing.  We help each other whenever we can and share stories and advice.  It is a strong community.  The down side is that being a community of travellers, we may never meet up again with those kindred spirits we have just found.  Fortunately in this electronic age we can keep in touch with Facebook, emails and HF radio.
Meeting up with fellow sailors
Then there are the times where you are the only boat in an anchorage and not a living soul around on shore.  It is so empty and desolate, we have sometimes wondered if we missed some apocalypse that had happened. 
Empty anchorages
Sailing and travelling:  Well this is the point of it all – those moments of perfect sailing, being carried along by the power of the wind through the water with dolphins playing along your bow and to then arrive at an anchorage of crystal clear water, swim off the boat and be surrounded by ancient ruins, beautiful scenery, delicious tavernas and then discover that friends have anchored nearby and an evening of great companionship awaits.

Of course there are many times when the sailing is far from perfect.  There are times when there is no wind and hours of boring motoring has to be endured.  Or the times when there is too much wind and you have a terrifying passage ending up shaken, bruised and the heart racing.  But truth be known, when the heart goes back to its normal rate and the shakes have worn off, there is a bit exhilaration of having survived a horrendous gale.  Those moments are never sought but when they happen, despite best planning, there is a sense of satisfaction knowing you have come through it all.

So it is not all drinks in the cockpit and beautiful sunsets but this does happen just enough to make it all worthwhile.
Beautiful sunsets.....
and moon rises

Friday, 29 September 2017

Sounion, Kea and Porto Rafti – Revisited with Friends

We made a point to suss out the places we were going to sail to with our friends Colin and Wendy prior to their arrival so we were familiar with the harbours and there would be no surprises.  So the next few destinations were happy revisits for us.  

After a great day in Hydra, the next morning was an early start as we weighed anchor in Poros and motored out the bay.  There was a good wind as we rounded the headland so we put up the Genoa and mizzen having a smooth sail across the Saronic Gulf.  Sadly after about an hour the winds died and we had to resort to the iron spinnaker (motor for you landlubbers).  Still we enjoyed the passage, having baklava for Elevens and lunch while under way.  
Morning tea while under way
This was the first and longest passage at sea on Songster for Colin and Wendy and all went smoothly.  We anchored at Sounion mid-afternoon in time to have a refreshing swim in crystal clear waters under the shadow of the Temple of Poseidon.  Then ashore to visit the Temple and have a great dinner of Greek specialties at Ο Ηιλιος while sipping Ouzo and watching the sunset.
The anchorage at Sounion
The Temple of Poseidon late afternoon
The next day we headed off for Kea after Colin and Wendy had their early morning swim.  Past the heads we had perfect winds for a direct rhum line course to Vourkari, Kea.  We had one of those rare, in the Mediterranean, near perfect sails.  On arrival another swim off the boat, Spritz sundowners and then entertained all evening by two weddings onshore.  It was lovely to watch the Greek tradition of family and friends accompanying the bride through the village to the church, clapping in a rhythmic beat – ta-ta-ta, taaa, but with a modern touch of a drone recording the whole procession.  Afterwards there were fireworks and music into the wee hours.
Enjoying Spritz sundowners
Another brilliant sunset
 The next morning we caught a taxi to the Chora for an explore, lunch and a visit to the Lion of Kea.
The Lion of Kea
Colin being adventurous
The beautiful blue and white of Greece
One of the residents of the Chora
That evening Louise and Gary from LuLu came to Songster for sundowners.  We had just met this nice American couple a few days previously, although we had been talking with them over the HF radio for months as part of the Med Net.  I was glad Colin and Wendy could meet other cruisers and hear their stories.  It was a very pleasant evening chatting amongst the six of us.

The next day we thought we would go to another anchorage in Kea about 8 nm south of Vourkari.  Rod the God (Rod Heikell, Greek Pilot Guide author and the bible for all cruisers in these waters) said Koundouros was a nice quiet bay.  When we arrived late morning we found a rather rolly anchorage with very poor holding – lots of rock shelves and scanty sand and drab, half-finished buildings onshore.  We finally managed to set the anchor but the holding was not good enough for an overnight stay.  So we had a lovely swim and lunch before making our way back to Vourkari and a great dinner on shore – Thank you Wendy.

Sadly the last full day on Songster for Colin and Wendy came and we had to head back to the mainland so they could go back to Athens and catch the long flight back to Australia.  The passage back across the Kea Channel into the Evia Channel started with a bit of wind and rocky-rolly seas but calmed down to a very nice sail.  We arrived at Porto Rafti early afternoon and after a swim, nap and game of Mexican Trains Dominos we went ashore of our last dinner.
Our last dinner together in Porto Rafti
The next morning Colin and Wendy caught a bus to Athens.  We had a great visit with them.  They slotted into the boat live wonderfully.  The morning after they left I woke up fully expecting them to still be there for another day of companionship.  It was very sad to realise they were on their way back to Australia.  

So to summarise a few statistics from those logs Colin and Wendy saw me scribbling in:  Colin and Wendy were with us for 8 days.  We did 4 passages on Songster and one ferry to Hydra visiting two Saronic Islands (Poros and Hydra), one Cycladic Island (Kea) and two anchorages on the Attica Peninsula (Sounion and Porto Rafti).  We sailed 84.2 nautical miles and had nearly 19 hours at sea.  So Colin and Wendy – you are on your way to being old salts now!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Hydra: In search of Leonard Cohen

With our wandering dinghy firmly attached to Songster with two lines, we went to bed excitedly anticipating the arrival the next day of our friends, Colin and Wendy.  It was so great to see them and I don’t think we stopped talking for the whole 8 days of their visit.
Approaching the harbour of Poros
Wendy getting off the ferry
After a delicious Greek lunch we went to the boat, up anchor and motored about a mile to Russian Bay for a cooling swim then back to the anchorage at Navy Bay near Poros port for sundowners – a luxurious prototype of how we would be spending the next week.
Another beautiful sunset
The next day we were up early to catch the ferry to Hydra (Υδρα).  We had been told that the harbour and anchorages on the island were too small and crowded for yachts and it was best to take the 30 minute ferry ride to the island.
Arriving in Hydra
What an idyllic Greek Island.  There are no cars or motorbikes.  Supplies and people are transported by foot, boat or donkey/mule. 
Transporting supplies by mule
After enjoying the busy waterfront we decided to walk south along the coast.  There we came across a German woman named Dagmar who was setting up paintings for sail.  The artists in Colin got to chatting with Dagmar and it turned out that she has a farm in Bellingen and many mutual acquaintances.  What a small world!  What are the chances of walking along a cobblestone path on a small Greek Island and meeting someone from your hometown!
Dagmar selling paintings
Beautiful views around every corner
We walked on and found a lovely beach where Wendy had a dip and the rest just got our feet wet and then all had a cold drink before walking back and finding a tavern for lunch.
Wendy having a dip
The beach from the cliff
Our mission in Hydra was to find Leonard Cohen’s house.  Cohen lived in Hydra in the 1960’s with his muse and lover, Marianne.  The house is still in the family and Cohen has become a favourite son of the island.   We asked directions to the house but still managed to get lost in the labyrinth of narrow streets above the harbour.  At one point we lost both Bob and Colin but finally regrouped and found the house near the Four Corner supermarket.  
The cobbled streets of Hydra
Bob and I sitting on the doorstep of Leonard Cohen's house
Humming Leonard Cohen songs, we made our way back to the port and headed north to the little village of Mandraki for a swim and beer.  The water was delightful and the setting superb.  On the way back to the town we came upon an art exhibit which had several paintings of the donkeys of Hydra.  This brought on many reminiscences of the Shamballa’s donkeys, Zack and Molasses.  Colin and Wendy struck up quite a rapport with the artist.
Art exhibit - Colin and Wendy with the artist

We watched the sunset over the island – a perfect end to a perfect day.