Family on board

After living alone on board most of the summer I was really looking forward to having children and grandchildren on board for a while . First to arrive by ferry from Athens was my oldest son, Philip, his wife Henriette and daughter Olivia.
Aquarella is moored a few hundred yards from the shore opposite Poros. There wasn't room in my little dinghy for all of us plus baggage so I thought it safer to park the dinghy as near as possible to Aquarella's mooring and take them from the ferry quay by public waterbus across the sound, walk along to where I'd tied the dinghy then take separate trips with baggage and passengers over to the mooring.
Safety on public transport has much to be desired in Greece though and the water buses are clearly no exception. The wooden motor launch with a very powerful engine and 23 passengers on board was sailed across the densely trafficked sound at full speed by a 10 year old!
My 7 year old granddaughter commented dryly " Good that it wasn't a two year old"

After pottering around the sheltered waters of Poros bay for a few days we set out for the open sea and sailed to Vathi on the volcanic peninsular of Methani. I was nervous about taking the boat into harbour for the first time, until now I had only stayed at anchorages. Aquarella has a long keel which means she is very difficult to reverse with. My husband always took her to the quay bow first, after dropping the stern anchor 20 meters away. I had always stood on the foredeck with the mooring lines ready to jump ashore.
Now I sent Philip and Henriette up front with the lines, ready to fender off the other boats and jump ashore.
When we passed the breakwater into the tiny harbour I wished I had chosen a bigger space to practice my first harbour manoeuvre. There was very little room to turn the boat so when I was too slow to get into a slot between the other boats I turned round and went out again. I took a deep breath and made a new attempt. This time I reacted faster, checked the sea bottom for other anchors and chain, dropped the stern anchor in line with the slot and took Aquarella slowly to the quay. Apart from getting my foot tangled up with the fast running anchor line, all went well and I let out a sigh of relief.
It was a beautiful little harbour so we stayed a couple of days. When the harbour master came to see the ships papers he asked to speak to the captain. I said "thats me" and he said " congratulations!" and from then on only addressed me as "Lady"
Aquarella in Vathi after the other boats had left. 
Philip and I talked a lot about how I could take the boat into harbour single handed in the future and we agreed it really is a problem when you can't be in the cockpit to manoeuvre the boat, drop the anchor, let out the anchor line and be on the bow to throw lines ashore and tie up at the same time. In theory it should be possible to use the autopilot to keep the boat on course, let the anchor line run out by itself, put the engine into slow ahead and go to the bow to throw the lines ashore and hope there's someone there to catch them and help tie up. An alternative could be to land onto another boat, with fenders in between, and pull Aquarella alongside it towards the quay. In practice there would probably and suddenly be a strong cross wind to sabotage any attempt to make an elegant arrival. The thing is, you never can know.

We sailed from there around the Saronic Gulf stopping at anchor in Epidavros and Korfos then had exhilarating sailing with good wind over to Perdika on the island of Aegina. Perdika is a small, idyllic fishing harbour with little room for yachts but I thought I'd try my luck again at squeezing in. We arrived in the early afternoon before the usual rush hour of arriving yachts and there was plenty of space at the outer end of a jetty.
Again it took a second attempt before I got it right and the anchor line was rather diagonal to the jetty but I pretended it was my intention. Perdika is a beautiful harbour with colourful houses ( in fact about 25 restaurants) around the crystal clear waters of the small bay. We stayed a couple of days there before the return voyage to the mooring on Poros. On the way we ran into a pod of dolphins and took time to sail around them backwards and forwards to get a closer look and take some photographs. I was so happy to be able to share this wonderful experience with my family. It's far better than wide screen or flat screen.

The 2 week trip with my family was a great success, I gained a lot more experience, and in spite of all the cuts and bruises, lost items over the side, wasp stings, mosquito bites and sunburn we had a wonderful time together.

Sailing to Poros

I had anticipated sailing the 30 mile trip from Porto Heli to Poros alone but when a couple of good friends, Mike and Sam, offered to come along I readily accepted the kind offer. Not only are they very competent sailors but they had also sailed this particular route many times before, and apart from that they are very enjoyable company. The weather was perfect for the trip with calm seas and just enough wind to fill the sails. The ten waypoints I had programmed into the navigator turned up one after the other right on track. So it was a very relaxing trip. On arrival at Poros they helped me tie Aquarella on to a mooring buoy that some of their friends had kindly let me use while they are away sailing in the Ionian.
The mooring is quite a distance from Poros itself which lies on the other side of the sound. This means I'm dependant on my dinghy with the outboard engine to get backwards and forwards to the town.
The evening after my arrival I was invited to a get-together of British expats at a cafe there. It was late and very, very dark when I started off in the dinghy for the trip back. It's not easy to navigate diagonally across the sound in almost constant collision course with the countless caiques, car ferries, high speed craft and arriving flotillas of yachts and catamarans. The amount of traffic is only a little less at night. There is a speed limit of 4 knots here but the high speed ferries and hydrofoils charge all the way in to the harbour at 32 knots!
Half way across, the engine started coughing. In the light of my miners lamp I could see the cloud of black smoke surrounding me as I came to a standstill. Grabbing the oars before I started drifting backwards I put as much strength as I could into every stroke. Finally, completely exhausted I arrived back at the boat drenched to the skin in sweat and salt water.
Next morning I rowed a short distance to the nearest jetty in search of a mechanic. 
I had suspected the impeller (that takes cooling water in) was damaged. The mechanic I was recommended to had his workshop nearby in a house that looked like it had only just survived the last earthquake. 
I was right, not about the earthquake, but about the impeller. Of the 6 rubber paddle wings only 2.5 were left. The bits of rubber that had broken off were firmly lodged in the cooling system.
After a couple of hours the engine was repaired and assembled with new parts.
The guy asked me what oil mixture I had put in the tank and I had to admit I wasn't quite sure. I explained that it was always my husband who had looked after it, but he died. 
The guy then laughed! I don't know what was funny but I paid, took the engine and left.
My sense of humour doesn't stretch that far.
I was angry but thinking about the situation afterwards, I came to remember this quote:
Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.
- Bob Newhart

(Now I know the oil mixture is supposed to be 100/1 for the 2 stroke engine.)


Even though Aquarella is a sailboat she is quite dependant on her engine for getting in and out of harbours and to charge the batteries for all the electrical installations on board. The solar panels I have can keep them charged to a certain extent but as the outdoor temperature rises day by day, the fridge is demanding more and more electricity to keep the food cold. I buy 4 bottles of frozen water for 1€each, twice a week which helps but even so the batteries are struggling to keep pace. I use solar lamps in the cockpit and cabin after dark and a solar charger for my ipad but that only gives it about 25%, I have to top up the rest via the cig lighter contact from the boat' s own batteries.
So every third day I start the engine and let it run for an hour or two.
The other day when I turned the key - it just said "click". Tried again, " click" again. "What on earth is wrong now " I said ( no I didn't, I said something worse which can't be published here)
I checked the connection switches, they were all on. I opened the engine room hatch, looked down at all the wiring and closed it again because I hadn't a clue at what I was looking at. Then I opened "The boatowners illustrated electrical handbook" ( kindle version) which devotes a lot of time to Ohms law but says nothing about Sods law. Another ebook I have says " If you are in any doubt about what you are doing- don't do it" So I didn't.
I had just invested in 3 more 74 ah, maintenance free batteries. That meant that all 5 of the 8 year olds were now renewed this season so the problem couldn't be there.
I turned the key and pressed the starter again- " click".
I looked at the boats wiring diagram, which was all greek to me ( sorry about that)
The likelihood of me ever being competent and confident as a boat electrician is about the same chance as someone suddenly becoming a dot-com millionaire without even knowing where the dot is.
I have to admit I simply have no idea.
If you can imagine the car you normally drive having an electrical failure, so you screw off the whole dashboard to expose all the wiring behind it. Where would you begin ? Well you wouldn't, you'd just drive to the nearest garage. But on a boat, help is not always anywhere nearby so you are supposed to know what to do.
I don't.
Finally in desperation I wiggled all 3 red connection switches backwards and forwards (one called start, one called service and one called connect) I know the batteries are parallel connected so I presume they work together as a team.
Back to the key and the start button for one final try before ringing the boatyard.
YES!!! it started. THAT simple!
One of them, probably the one called start, had apparently been pushed a tiny wee bit out of place by all the junk I have in the space beside the switches.