Flying dinghy!

I have been very busy with my artwork the last couple of months and have had to let this blog rest for a while. Sorry about that! Now I'm back at my computer and have time to write about the remainder of the summer of 2016 on board the boat.
A great deal of time was spent sitting in the cockpit painting 9 hours a day while Aquarella was patiently waiting, tied to a mooring. I had a deadline to keep for an exhibition in Finland in October.

Me taking the dinghy back to Aquarella between Poros and Galatas

In the evenings I took the dinghy ashore to sit at Cafe Fresko under the stars in the company of my many wonderful new friends on Poros. 
The "Harbour master" on watch at Perdika on the island of Aegina
Jane, Charlotte and myself celebrating a successful trip

Then, in September two friends Jane and Charlotte from Denmark, also widows, came to visit. So we three merry widows went sailing, talking, laughing, dancing through the night and thoroughly enjoying ourselves for a week. 

After a few more days saying goodbye to people and studying the weather forecast it was time to make my way back to the shipyard where I keep Aquarella for the winter. 
Rolling the mainsail down
With no threat of any strong winds for the next few days I made a mad dash for the next anchorage. It took only 7 hours but I stayed the night there and continued the next day for three hours to anchor in the bay of Kilada near the shipyard.

The dinghy flew like a kite!
The following morning I prepared the boat for lifting out. I took the furling genua down in the early morning, thankfully before any wind got up. In the afternoon the sky blackened and a stiff breeze stretched the anchor chain out. I took the outboard engine off the dinghy but I still needed to lift the dinghy up onto the foredeck in order for the crane to lift it out with the boat. By attaching it to the spinnaker halyard I had enough strength to hoist it up using my body weight by jumping from the cabin roof onto the deck. But even though I lifted it I still couldn't pull it over the foredeck. It flew like a kite in the strong wind. I had to give up, lowered it again and tied it back onto the stern. I just hoped the boatyard would help me with it.
I couldn't do anything in the gale force wind, the boat was rocking and rolling and the wind was screaming in the rigging. Suddenly I heard a knocking sound, dashing up into the cockpit I saw a smiling face sticking up over the railing. It was my kind mechanic who does the winter maintenance of the engine. He had come over in his own dinghy to help me get onto a safe mooring. I was so grateful to be able to have a good nights sleep before lift out the following morning. 
At 8 am sharp the shipyard called over the VHF that I should be the first boat to be lifted. Which meant now...
The wind was still very, very strong so I had difficulty loosening the mooring ropes. I pulled with all my might and finally could lift them off the cleats. Immediately the boat shot backwards dangerously near the mud bank. I charged back to the engine controls in the cockpit and put the engine in full ahead while I steered out towards the outer end of the dredged channel to the shipyard. I'd forgotten to reattach the forward mooring ropes ready to tie the boat onto the quay. I was already in the channel and there was no room to turn around so I slowed down and put the autopilot on. Then I charged forward, attached the ropes to the cleats and hung their ends over the safety lines. By the time I got back to the cockpit the boat was about to bump into the channel marker buoy. Back on course I crossed my fingers and toes that someone would help me tie up alongside the quay because I wasn't sure I could stop Aquarella in this wind. 
Five strong men stood ready when I came and caught my mooring lines with boathooks and with a great relief I stopped the engine for this year. I didn't even see when they lifted the dinghy out and put it onto the boat trailer, it was suddenly there safe and sound.

Houston, we have a problem!

Last week I was joined by my son Philip, daughter in law Henriette and 10 year old granddaughter Olivia. They flew down from Denmark for a weeks sailing with me here in Greece. 
My home made winch handle
Before they came I had to fix the problem of a missing anchor windlass handle. The original fell and sank in the mud of the sea bed.  With no spare part to be bought anywhere I had to find a usable solution. At the local ironmongers I found a scrap of copper pipe of the right dimension but too long. Copper is of course too weak for the heavy job of winching up the anchor chain. But then I found a bit of a steel tube, too short and wide but the one could fit in the other and after an hour of sawing and filing I got a reasonable result.
The first destination we sailed to was to Vagionia bay where I never had been before. It was a beautiful place and we were completely alone there after the day trippers had gone. With no light pollution ashore the moonless sky unfolded an unbelievably clear view of the stars. I have never seen stars so bright before. With the app "Sky view free" it was possible to put names to the constellations and planets we were seeing so this was the evening entertainment.
During the night there was a very uncomfortable swell or surge even with no wind. The boat rocked violently for several hours making sleep only possible for Olivia who slept like a log. We heard the engines of fishing boats arriving in the dark with no lights on at all. I also became aware of my solar anchor light which went out at 4 in the morning.
Aquarella alone in the bay of Vagionia
Not good, another problem to be fixed.
Olivia's favourite expression is "Houston, we've got a problem" This was used several times on our trip. We had a nice sail to Vathi on the peninsular of Methana. Again we were the only yacht there in the beautiful tiny harbour. Sailing towards Epidavros the next day we told "Houston" there was another problem. The GPS on my ipad was not working so the Navionics chart plotter couldn't find out where we were. Fortunately we didn't have far to go and it was a matter of eyeball navigation. Apart from the fact that we landed in the wrong bay to start with it turned out fine in the end. I still have charts after all. We spent two days in Epidavros, swimming and enjoying the surroundings before it was time to return to the bay of Poros. On the way we had stronger winds and it was exhilarating ploughing through the waves with a considerably higher speed than my 40 year old boat is used too.
A selfie with the gopro camera attached to the boat hook
But then -
"Houston we have a problem" 
Aquarellas 20 year old Philips GPS instrument stopped working. We now had no position, no course, no log, no waypoint, no track for the autopilot. So back to using the compass, paper chart, dividers  and a sharp pencil.
Olivia retrieving the fishing net in Russian Bay
We found our destination Russian Bay easily as I had sailed past it many times. Although my slip hook had to be used to free the anchor from anpther chain (without calling Houston) we could settle down to a lovely evening listening to the crickets while Olivia demonstrated her amazing diving skills and tried her hand at fishing.
Henriette cooking in the cockpit, it was too hot in the cabin.

On return to my rented buoy at Poros the next problem emerged. The dinghy's outboard engine wouldn't start. We couldn't even pull the cord out.  With four people and many kilos of cumbersome luggage to get ashore this was quite a rowing challenge in a tiny dinghy.
Henriette rowed us safely out of the path of an oncoming ferry and afterwards Philip repeated the feat with all the luggage so they got to the ferry to Athens in time.
It was sad to see them go but we had a great week together.
Alone again I faced the problem of rowing against the 2 knot current and increasing wind to get back to my boat.
I thought I'd check the engine's propeller. I couldn't lift the engine up, something was locking it down. Bending precariously over the stern I saw a length of line waving in the water. There was the culprit!  I climbed ashore  to borrow a knife from a nearby restaurant and went about the task of cutting the line under the water. I could then lift the engine into the dinghy to unravel the rest of the line bit by bit. Now I will always carry a knife under the dinghy seat.
The engine then started and ran perfectly.
Back in the boat I screwed off the flush mounted navigator to change the back up battery. That helped, but I still don't know how to solve the problem with the lacking GPS reception in my Ipad.

Houston, sorry to bother you again...

Life on board

Filling  Aquarella's tank with water from jerry cans
When I'm on my boat I don't sail every day.  I often find inspiring surroundings to paint and stop up even for weeks at a time. However, living aboard a boat all summer without tying up to shore has it's own challenges.
 I choose not to go into a harbour, marina or quayside for several reasons. Firstly, being alone on board, an attempt at harbour manoeuvres involves a great risk of hitting something expensive.  It's obviously not the same as parking a car. My boat is long keeled which means it steers very badly in reverse. To counteract this I would have to go with the pointed end first ( opposite almost everyone else) Then the stern anchor has to be dropped about 3 or 4 boat lengths from the quay. At the same time I'd have to leave the steering wheel and engine controls to rush 10 meters forward to throw the mooring lines ashore with the hope someone will be there to catch them. In the meantime I would actually be needed at the stern (back, blunt end) holding and braking the anchor rope to avoid a hard collision with the wall/jetty/other expensive yacht.
Another advantage of keeping my distance is I have more privacy by staying away from harbours. No noisy neighbours, only a little loud music from the nearest bar and no tourists taking selfies in front of my boat.
No rats and cockroaches.
No uninvited visitors.
Much cooler and nearly always a breeze.
I can also jump in and swim whenever I want from the boat as the water is cleaner further out.

So I either stay away at anchor or tie up to a mooring buoy. Typically this would be about 100 m from shore, not too far to go by dinghy for provisions.
I fill up my jerrycans with fresh water from a local cafe and diesel and petrol from the nearest tank station. For this I use a little trolley as it's often a long walk from the jetty were the dinghy can be tied up.
Walking, climbing, balancing, lifting, pulling, pushing and carrying loads is all part of everyday life living on a boat. At first I had difficulty with this but now I'm stronger, healthier and slimmer ( yeah!) and don't think about it so much. 
It's cheaper too.  In a marina there is nearly always a considerable extra fee for electricity, water and wifi. But the free Greek sun bakes down on my 5 solar panels fully charging the batteries to run instruments, lighting, the fridge and computer. My wifi booster picks up signals from any cafe within 5 km. and the password for this can be disclosed for the price of a cup of coffee. 
5 canisters of water can be collected for the price of a glass of wine and all my washing done for the price of a Greek salad. 

So I have peace and quiet on board to sit all day and paint under the sunshade.

Solving problems

Out at sea between the islands

At the end of May I returned again to my beloved Aquarella in Kilada, Greece. As before, I had the help of my brother in law Uffe for the first week. He did a great job painting the anti-foul and helping me polishing the hull. He made sure everything was shipshape and in order before I took him by dinghy to the hydrofoil for the first leg of his trip home to Sweden. It was no sooner than I waved goodbye that the first problems emerged. The dinghy engine died on the way back to Aquarella lying at anchor a few hundred yards away. I rowed the rest of the way. The problem was fortunately only a lack of petrol. A small insignificant detail. Next problem was the head ( boat toilet). The pump was suddenly taking in air instead of water. After contemplating changing the pump ( a major operation) I thought that maybe some sort of marine life was trapped in the intake hose. I poured a kettle of fresh boiling water and added washing up liquid into the bowl. I then pumped and pumped until finally it answered back by burping, belching, spluttering and swallowing. Problem solved.
I had to wait a few days in the bay of Porto Heli while the UV strip on my headsail (Genoa) was replaced by the sailmaker there. The next problem was mounting it, single handed,onto the furler. The headsail halliard goes up to the mast, down through it, across the cabin roof, through the sprayhood to the cockpit where the winch is. The edge of the sail itself has to be fed into the aluminium profile on the forestay. So normally it takes two people: one to hoist the sail with the halliard from the cockpit while the other feeds the sail into the furler. I had to wait until there was a dead calm as any kind of wind would fill the sail and make life complicated. There was no room for playing around since a french yacht had kindly anchored 5 meters in front of me while another was 10 meters behind. I waited for the wind to drop all day, it didn't, but at 6 the following morning it was calm. By pulling the halliard out of all the fixtures except the mast, I could stand on the foredeck with it and hoist it with one hand while feeding the sail with the other. It went fine whilst half the weight of the sail was lying on deck, then it got too heavy to pull without the help of the winch in the cockpit. I had to then run backwards and forwards winching the sail half a meter a time until the top stopped at 12 meters above deck. Finally I could furl it in breathlessly around the forestay before the wind got up. 
After a cup of coffee I weighed anchor and inched myself out of the tightly packed anchorage to the freedom of the open sea.

The original UV strip on the headsail had lasted 20 years so, if this new one lasts that long, I don't have to change it before I'm 90!
The first voyage alone this year, from Porto Heli to Poros. The red arrow shows where I was when I took this image from my ipad which I use for navigation. The trip took 7 hours.