Approaching the bay of Kilada
After a wonderful summer of living on board Aquarella in Greece, it's time to start getting used to wearing shoes again for a while. 
Since I have contracts with galleries in Sweden and Finland for exhibitions in September and October I have to return home to prepare my work for the shows. During my time aboard this year I have been able to devote time to paint several watercolours and acrylics on canvas. In addition I have made many sketches and photographed numerous subjects for future projects, so I feel satisfied that it has really been worth while sailing around to find new inspiration. Not only that, but I have found new confidence in my ability to cope as a yachtswoman, and as a single, individual person without being handicapped by my new status as a widow. This, combined with some very enjoyable weeks with the family, convinces me even more that it was the right thing to do to keep the boat.
It felt sad to sail the last leg back to my departure point in Kilada where I started three months ago. This is where Basimakopouloi shipyard lifts the boat out and looks after it for the winter. It's nice to know I don't have to worry about Aquarella at all, she was hauled out of the water by a travellift that can take 100 ton (my boat only weighs 6 ) and is now kept safe on a custom made cradle in the area ashore, behind high fences and guarded by ferocious dogs. 

Aquarella looking very small

Aquarella crossing the road to the boatyard

My brother in law Uffe came again to help me the last week with all the practical chores involved in preparing the boat for the winter. 
The Mediterranean sun burns relentlessly down on everything that's exposed on the boat so I try to protect as much as possible when I leave it. I don't have a cover for the whole boat since a lightweight sheet blows to bits in the strong winds here and a heavy tarpaulin is impossible to store anywhere. So I use bits of old sails stretched and tied down over woodwork and instruments etc.
Redoing the seams of the bimini with UV resistant thread 
I have learnt a lot during these past months but I realise I still have even more to learn both at sea and on land. 
Amongst other things:
I have to learn to free-dive properly and "take my bottom with me"
I have to learn to anchor under sail without the help of the engine.
I have to learn more about electronics and mechanics.
I have to keep fit and strong both mentally and physically.
I have to realise my limitations and learn to ask for help when I need it.

Of course we all have our limits, but how can you possibly find your boundaries unless you explore as far and as wide as you possibly can? I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.
- A. E. Hotchner

Stay tuned here, I'll be updating this blog soon again with video footage (when I've had time to edit ) also more photos and paintings from my "floating studio".

Alone at sea

I had been studying the weather forecast intensely for about a week and after 10 days of strong Meltemi winds it seemed Saturday was the best time to embark on the 30 mile solo sail back southeast to Porto Heli.
Navigating round the islands

I left the anchorage of Neorion at 7 am, and after passing Poros town in the golden light of the morning I hoisted the mainsail. As there was hardly any wind it looked like it would be a motorsailing trip that day. Any normal sailor hoists full sails in moderate winds and reefs the sails in strong winds but I did the opposite. I didn't roll the whole mainsail out but left a few turns on the boom. This was only a reflection of my own uncertainty and lacking self confidence plus a little laziness and nothing to do with any advanced sailing technique. I just wanted to be prepared if any strong winds got up on the way.
I chugged along happily with the autopilot on and camera in hand. I ate breakfast, drank coffee and relaxed, enjoying the changing view. I checked, double checked and triple checked my waypoints on the chart and the ipad, all was well.
Eating breakfast while the autopilot steers.

About half way along I heard the dreaded sound of the engine going right down in revs.The boat came to a standstill ! Instinct told me there was something in the prop. I put the engine into neutral straight way and then eased he gear slowly astern hoping whatever it was would unravel and loosen. However when I tried to engage the gear forward again it was very sluggish and I was afraid of doing any damage to the shaft or the engine. I turned the engine off.
With no wind to speak of, my options were few. I nevertheless hoisted the rest of the mainsail and unfurled the genua in the hope I could get some sort of speed. 
1.8 knots was all the wind could give me. This would mean another 8 hours at least, but the worst thing was I could hardly steer and I was right in the middle of the fairway between the islands with high speed ferries charging past on both sides ! 
I tried to rig my Gopro camera to a boat hook in order to sink it down and inspect the prop. In theory it should be able to connect to my ipad by wifi so I could use the ipad as a monitor and see what was going on. But I couldn't get them to connect so I gave up that idea. I was unwilling to go overboard and dive under the boat in the middle of a shipping lane. With 104 meters under the keel, anchoring wasn't an option either. Fortunately the wind started picking up then and I was under way again. I didn't enjoy the rest of the trip though as I was worrying about how to anchor in a strong wind under sail. I'd never tried that, not even with Max.
Fortunately Porto Heli is a very big bay so there would be lots of room for mistakes.
When I turned into the bay I thought I would try my luck and start the engine and gingerly shift into forward gear. It responded, although still sluggish. It gave me just enough propulsion to turn Aquarella into the wind and get the sails down. Then I dropped the anchor and let out a sigh of relief. My next reaction was to triumphantly throw my arms in the air, YESSSSS - I made it!
After a short rest I donned snorkel and finns to get down to the work of freeing the prop. I'm fully aware I walk like a duck on deck but I do wish I could dive like a duck in water,- I can't. Even my 7 year old grand daughter Olivia laughed when she saw me trying a couple of weeks ago " You forgot to take your bottom with you" she said.
Well at least I could see under water with my snorkel. There was a large strong plastic sack entwined around the prop. I couldn't reach it with the knife in my hands so I used my feet and toes like a pair of clumsy pincers or plyers. Bit by bit I could loosen and remove the torn plastic and after an hour the prop was free. I had cramp in my feet and antifouling on my toes and in my nails but I was over yet another hurdle I didn't think I could manage.
The last bit of plastic finally out of the prop.

Not always single handed

My youngest son David, his wife Marie and two children Otto and Berta also came for a visit. I arranged accommodation at an hotel in a beautiful bay across the sound. The evening before their arrival I waited for wind to drop before leaving the mooring I had borrowed for the last month. (Many thanks to Pete and Sue) The sun was going down behind the mountains and I just managed to anchor in the bay in front of the hotel before it got dark. 
Aquarella and the ferry arriving from Athens with my family on board.

Davids family are not so used to sailing so we decided it would be best with a land based holiday for them. Every day I took the dinghy ashore and we spent time relaxing on the beach where I could still keep an eye on Aquarella. Eight year old Otto overcame his fear of the water and equipped with finns, wings and a small surfing board found great delight in this new element. After a few days he was able to swim with only his wings on for safety's sake.
Otto getting up speed
Berta had a life-vest and although she got afraid in the beginning of not being able to "reach the ground" she too became confident and was able to go through the motions of swimming so she could move forward in the water.
Even though the strong Meltemi winds were blowing every day we decided to take a short sail around the sheltered waters of Poros bay. We went as far as we could get and anchored for lunch nearby an old ship wreck. The wreck is now used as a platform for the water-boat Dimitri, a small tank ship which comes twice a day to fill up with fresh water from the river. The water is then transported to fill the dry reservoirs on nearby islands. 
On the way back we passed the narrow gap to the open sea where the wind howled through and the waves were breaking. It was only for a short while though so there wasn't enough time for the family to get seasick.
Grandson Otto, My son David, daughter- in -law Marie and grand-daughter Berta
I had promised Otto that he could stay overnight onboard Granny's boat at the anchorage and he was really excited about that. He thought it was so interesting with all the electronic equipment and gadgets and enjoyed the cosiness of the cabin. With inspiration from the day's sailing trip he made a few drawings of islands and pirate ships.  I think he'll be going in my footsteps as an artist in the future. Otto is looking so much forward to telling his school friends about Granny's boat in Greece.
Otto in the cabin drawing Greek islands and pirate ships

After a great week together it was time to say goodbye again, they had really enjoyed their holiday here and I was so happy to have them nearby. It was a great success so we hope to do it again next year.
In conclusion I can honestly say that these past weeks with the children and grandchildren have been the happiest for me for a long time. So I feel now that my decision to keep the boat and go on sailing was the right one. I don't after all always need to be alone on the boat and cope with it single handed. Needless to say it's great and very rewarding to have company too and to be able to share this priceless experience with children, grandchildren and friends.