I was asked by Jackie Perry from Sistership magazine to participate in this podcast about facing fear at sea. It is the first time I've tried this but I think it turned out well. Thanks to Jackie for editing out all my bloopers and coughs

Listen here:  podcast about facing your fear

New season- new problems

This year I arrived back to the boat in Kilada over a month later than usual. My brother in law Uffe came with me to help get Aquarella ship shape and ready for launching. He could only be here for three days so it was a matter of working effectively all the daylight hours. The day before launching I tried to raise the anchor chain that had been lying under the boat on a pallet all winter. The remote control to the windlass responded when I pressed “down” but not “Up”. I tried my usual solution with contact spray, cleaning the plug and using fine sand paper to remove any corrosion. Nothing helped.
In the end Uffe pulled the 80 meters of chain and the anchor up by hand while I continued the work of painting the antifoul on the hull.
When Aquarella was launched we could tie up to a mooring buoy in the middle of the bay so fortunately there was no need to anchor.
However I had to find a solution to the windlass problem. Uffe had gone home and I was now alone on board. If I needed to anchor anywhere I could easily drop the anchor but there was no way I could pull up to 80 meters of chain and a heavy anchor up by hand.
I rang my ground crew/backup/support/ dearest friend, alias Rolf in Sweden.
He suggested he took me, step by step, through the procedure of rewiring the plug under deck instead of the vulnerable position it was in on the foredeck.
I had never undertaken a project like this before so it was outside my comfort zone. Rolf told me which tools I would need: contact spray, a pair of pliers, a wire cutter, a multimeter, a stripper, ( I thought they only had those in night clubs) a small screw driver, electric tape and cable ties.
He told me to find the place from below where the wires went up through the deck. That was the first problem as they were completely hidden and baked in the head lining.
I eventually found a place where they were exposed but I could only get to them by lying on one elbow under a shelf over the V berth. Add to this the fact that it was dark and the boat was heeling over and bouncing up and down in the strong wind and waves, it was not going to be easy. I was then told to carefully and precisely cut the red wire without touching any other metal bits, then the same with the blue and brown wires. I could only use one hand as I was leaning on the other elbow. As the sweat was running down my face in the afternoon heat I thought the situation reminded me of the classic cliff hanger in an old action movie where the hero has to choose the right wire to cut off and neutralise a dangerous time-bomb while the seconds ticked away! Rolf told me to turn the switch of the multimeter to Ohm. Wheres ohm? I asked, feeling stupid. The greek omega sign he said. Ah, that one.
After checking that the different wires were not broken and connecting the multimeter pins to the metal plates on the windlass’s control box I could actually get the chain to go up or down, fantastic!
Now it was a matter of making the new connections hold under strain.
Following Rolfs precise and patient instructions I connected the three wires to the remote again in a connection box and screwed them tightly in place. Up on deck I checked that everything worked and triumphantly announced that the mission had succeeded!
However when I had pulled the coiled wire of the remote as far as it could go towards the anchor well, it was dead again! I had to undo the electric tape, cut off the cable ties and start screwing again, this time I used all the strength of my fingers, hand and wrist. But this time it worked!
I could then embark on the seasons first voyage knowing that I could anchor up should it be necessary  along the way.
I did have another problem though.
The outboard engine for my dinghy didn't work. Black oil was pouring out of the cooling water intake. I rowed ashore and asked at the boatyard if they could fix the problem. Expensive they said. After receiving a second and third opinion I decided it wasn't worth repairing. The engine had worked well for 22 years in 9 different countries so it had had a good innings. After the 9 hour sail to Poros I arrived to the mooring buoy I usually use there. The owner of the buoy had told me I was too late this year and he'd let someone else have it. But on arrival he undid the ropes of the other boat and towed it away so I could have my buoy back, great service for a regular customer.

This was fortunate as its the only buoy near enough to be able to row ashore. So this is what I will do until I get a new engine.

rowing ashore in the dark with my headlight on
  photographed by Sarah Bridges


Through time my paintings have won several prizes and awards but for the first time in my life my writing has also received recognition. Firstly I was given an honorable mention in a writing contest organized by the international Sistership Magazine based in Australia. The contest was eligible for women only and the theme was Facing your fears. Not only was it a writing contest but Sistership also published a book called Facing Fear Head On. The book consists of an anthology of short stories about fear written by 46 women on the water, from all over the world.
I felt it a great privilege that my essay “ What If” was included in the book. It is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Facing-Fear-Head-Stories-Women-ebook/dp/B07HFTQ7JM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544103864&sr=8-1&keywords=facing+fear+head+on
 In November I also received an honorable mention for an article called “Report from a sailing widow” I had written for the Swedish sailing magazine Odysse. Their motivation was: “A well written story about the authors development from passive passenger to competent captain on her boat Aquarella.”

Then, in this months Odysse magazine there was yet another of my watercolours reproduced to illustrate an article about the recent "medicane" in Greece. 

Trailer for my new full length video

This post is more arty than boaty but I hope sailing enthusiasts might also like to see it.
I know I have promised this several times but here it is, actually finished at last!
This is the video I have been working on for months. Now called Sailing Through Watercolours the 71 minute film closely follows my work as I paint four different watercolours. Three of the paintings were done in the heat of the summer on board my boat in Greece and one in the middle of winter on a frozen beach in Sweden.
This is my fourth film produced for Pulsar Productions in Australia. They source the best art instruction DVDs and films from all over the world and it is a great honour to work with them. The full length video can be bought to watch online and download via Vimeo as VOD ( video on Demand) or as a DVD disc.

The trailer for the film can be seen here:
Sailing Through Watercolours
The cover for the DVD which is produced in both PAL and NTSC versions

New video

Sailing towards a new destination (scene from the video)
From the video "Sailing on Single Handed #5"
screenshot from the video footage
So here it is, finally.  I have edited a new video with scenes from this summer's short sailing expeditions and some footage of the work I did during the hours, days and weeks of painting watercolours on board my boat Aquarella.  This is all boiled down to a 4 minute video on YouTube but much of the remaining work involved is now edited and will shortly be released as a 70 minute art educational video on DVD and VOD. The working title is "Watercolour on the Water" but may be changed in the final stages of production.

I will post on this blog when it is available.

Until then just click here to see the video

sailing on single handed#5

It looks best if you have the resolution on HD

painting the sea

The sky's the limit

While Aquarella plodded along on autopilot I went forward to prepare the anchor. (Screen shot from the video I filmed.)
My GoPro camera screwed onto a Cullman clamp
with a Manfrotto 492 micro ball head.
I attached this to both ends of the spinnaker hallyard
to pull up the mast (and down again) for aerial footage.
To steady it I  pulled it tight under the spreader.
My ipad could be used as monitor and remote control.

I spent a lot of time this summer experimenting both with my drone and GoPro action-camera to get some aerial shots and videos. Some of the video footage will be included in my latest art educational video which will be released shortly. It's difficult to film situations in action when sailing alone but with some planning, a lot of practice and the right equipment it is possible. I realised I have to practise a lot more and there is always a certain degree of risk involved but I'm getting better at it.

I also spent some very valuable time with friends, some of whom came aboard for a while when we discussed, laughed, giggled, ate lunch, drank wine and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. So, for a while my life wasn't just painting, sailing, writing and filming. I allowed myself time to enjoy and be inspired by others and hopefully give something in return.

Celebrating a short trip with Charlotte and Jane from Denmark
Gaby and Josef from Austria came to say hello

David and Sarah from England
on their boat "Ruby" filmed from my drone.

Me taking the Genua down in a dead calm before the oncoming storm. ( screen shot from the video)

At the end of September there was a disturbing weather forecast of a very severe storm over most of Greece including the area I was in. I had to return to Kilada and the boatyard where I have Aquarella in winter so I decided to make a mad dash for it. Sailing alone it took me 10 hours to get there in moderate winds and I arrived in a dead calm.
The following day I rang the boatyard and asked if I could be lifted out as soon as possible. I was put on stand by as 25 other boats had the same idea that day. The following morning they called me on the VHF that it was now Aquarellas turn. The wind was quite strong by then but when I arrived at the lifting dock six strong Greeks helped by holding, pushing and pulling my boat in position under the crane. An hour after getting on dry land all hell broke loose and the storm was over us. I'm so glad I made it ashore in time. The storm, also called medicaine Zorba lasted 5 days and although Aquarella was secured on a very well constructed cradle it still felt scary rocking and vibrating all day and night in the howling wind. It was not safe to go out of the boat as parts from surrounding boats were flying through the air. In the torrential rain the boatyard was partially flooded by a fast flowing river of brown water.
Aquarella will stay where it is now parked for the winter next to a farmyard with chickens, goats and pomegranate trees. The next door neighbour came over before I left and gave me a whole bag of delicious pomegranates. He then calmly went back to slaughter a goat and hang it up in one of the trees.

The Basimakopoulu boatyard during a lull in the storm.

Drama again!

I had invited my Poros friends Catherine and Sarah for lunch on board Aquarella and we piled into my little dinghy to get across the 200 meters of water between my boat and the quayside. It was calm weather so I asked them if they would like a short sail across the bay before lunch. Sarah had not been on a boat before and Catherine was not used to it either but they bravely said that was a great idea. I thought I would show them the bay where the old shipwreck lies; the one I had been painting recently. Stopping about 150 meters from the wreck, I anchored in 10 meters of water and let 40 meters of chain out. Then we settled down for lunch.
Sarah, Catherine and myself eating lunch on board
before everything went pear shaped.

 Sarah wanted a swim and the water looked inviting until she saw the enormous (OK, about plate size) jellyfish. Catherine kept a look out while Sarah climbed down when the coast was clear. Suddenly she was surrounded by them and she shot out of the water like a flying fish. We reckoned they then regrouped under the dinghy waiting for any of us to dare climbing down into the water again. So we didn’t.

The wind was gradually increasing so I decided to return to the buoy in Poros. 
When the anchor was almost up I saw it had caught on something. It had fastened into a big and heavy ship’s ladder of rusty iron! I fetched my trusted slip-hook and line to hook onto the ladder and fasten it to a cleat on deck while I lowered the anchor to free it. However the following rung of the ladder prevented it from this. It was locked between the rungs.
Aquarellas anchor firmly attached to an old ships ladder.

I thought of taking my dinghy to get a line through the back of the anchor and try pulling it out the same way it came in but abandoned the idea as the sea was quite choppy by now and having no anchor down meant we were drifting fast towards shallow water. Catherine called out the depth to me every half meter: 9 meters, 8.5, 8, 7.5 and so on until it was 1.5 meters. Then I had to get back to the helm.
The only thing to do now was to sail slowly back to Poros with the ladder hanging from the bow. If I put on any speed it would go backwards and damage the hull. I reckoned if I could secure the boat to my buoy I could then find a way of getting the ladder off. If not there was a good chance of getting someone to help. We talked about the attention the sight of our catch might get and that people might think we didn’t even know what was hanging from the anchor. Sure enough the crew of the ferry shouted “ Hej! You’ve got something hanging from your anchor!”
It’s difficult to get hold of the buoy in any circumstances but even more so in any kind of wind. With Catherine and Sarah each brandishing a boat hook I thought we might succeed. Two hookers trying to pick up a buoy (excuse the pun!) However the wind was too strong and the ladder was in the way so even though Sarah had caught the buoy she couldn’t hold it long enough to secure it, it was wrenched from her hands and she had to let it go. I then asked the crew of a French boat nearby if they could help. The two men got down into their dinghy and came across. They had misunderstood in that I just wanted them to help us pick up the buoy but they started to try and unloosen the ladder. In the meantime we were drifting through the mooring field so I had to keep to the helm. They then understood it would be best to tie up to the buoy first. When we got near it the elderly gentleman in a life jacket who was still in their dinghy suddenly fell backwards into the sea! I thought he had had a heart attack and I was about to jump in to try and save him when I saw he was swimming with my mooring line. He attached it swiftly and swam back to Aquarella. The younger man was also in the water by now to try to attach a line to the bottom rung of the ladder but in spite of pulling and winching it didn’t budge. He borrowed snorkel and flippers to dive down while I slowly lowered the anchor and ladder. With the weight of the burden lifted off it was then possible to release the anchor from its locked position.
We were so grateful to this wonderful father and son duo for their patience and perseverance in helping us out of this predicament.
Merci beaucoup, messiers!
PS Sarah kissed the quay went I took them ashore in the dinghy.