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.


  1. Late in reading this but you are amazing, a true inspiration!

  2. Do you sport a divers weight belt and small oxygen tank on board? How about a SPURS cutter on the shaft?

  3. Just found you Ms. Tyler. As charmed by your paintings as I am by your courage and joy in adventuring!

  4. Elizabeth, our ropecutter, mounted on the shaft close to the propeller, saved us in the Black Sea. You should get one. ❤️❤️