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. 

Article in the Norwegian magazine "Vi over 60"

The Norwegian magazine "Vi over 60" (Us over 60's) has just published an article about me entitled "Seilte fra sorgen" (Sailed away from sorrow), written by the journalist Karin Mogård. She tells the readers at first about how the interview took place amongst stacks of paintings in the middle of my preparations for the annual open studio event.

She then went on to write about my background and my difficult period as newly widowed and how important I felt it was to look forward instead of backwards and to plan and take on new challenges for the future.
The article also mentions this blog and how writing it has been a kind of therapy for me after the trauma of losing my husband. Karin also visited me on my boat in Greece this summer so she could describe how my life on board the boat is and some of the experiences I have had. I am glad she also tells about how I now try to inspire others by traveling around holding talks and lectures about my life as a 70 year old, widowed and solo-sailing artist. 
(When I was asked to hold my first talk in front of a large audience I didn't think it was anything special and I was terribly embarrassed. Now I'm getting requests all the time so it apparently is something worth doing.) I have a new purpose in life!

Talk show

Talking to Ceclia Nebel at the talk show Late Night Helsingborg
On the 1. Dec. I was invited to be one of the guests in a talk show " Late night HBG" arranged by the swedish newspaper HD-Sydsvenskan.
The interview (unfortunately only in Swedish for the time being) can be seen here:  talkshow on YouTube
The show, which was broadcasted live, was hosted by Cecilia Nebel who interviewed me about my escapades as a solosailing artist. The other participants were the voluntary refugee helpers Valon Cakolli and Marie Osberg, the film director and author Osmond Karim and the 3 x world record holder in precision shooting Christina Bengtsson. So I was in really very interesting company and it was quite an experience. Despite my nervousness at first the host Cecilia made me relax and I then enjoyed it tremendously.

4 months of sailing and painting in a 5 minute video

This video entitled "Sommer of a solo sailing artist in Greece" I made during the course of four months. The whole summer I sailed, stayed at anchor in sheltered bays, painted and filmed sequences for a new DVD about watercolour painting.

 ( For HD quality or if the video shown on the left doesn't start try this link instead)

Because I wanted to share some of these very special moments and experiences with others I continually filmed what I was doing. For this I rigged up four different cameras on the boat or ashore. Firstly my Canon 5Dlll either with a 100-400mm zoom or a 17-40mm lens. Shown here with also a Hahnel mk 100 microphone with a windshield of synthetic fur to eliminate wind noise.

For detailed work a Sony pocket camera DSC RX100 with zeiss lens came in handy.

Then I used a Gopro mounted on a Phantom DJ 2 drone for areal footage
and not to forget the iphone which has quite a good camera.  Here mounted on a selfie stick

To keep the cameras steady in different situations I used a Gorilla tripod, a mini tripod, the selfie stick and several different clamps combined and attached to anything on board.
Every painting I made took a lot of extra time because the different cameras had to be rigged securely to whatever they were attached to, at the right distance and angle and put on self timer, shooting over and over again.

Back to Kilada

On my way with "George" the autopilot steering. Spetses island in the background.

The lighthouse on the island of Dokus
After 4 wonderful months of sailing, anchoring, filming, photographing, painting and meeting fantastic people it was time to go home. I gradually made my way back to the Basimakopolou boatyard in Kilada where Aquarella is kept safely ashore for the winter.  The two day trip was mostly motorsailing into a light headwind. OK, I must admit, I chose the weather and waited until the forecast predicted light winds. Being alone onboard and a coward, I didn't want to fight with the elements all the way but just have a relaxing trip. However there were some great hours of real sailing when I could stop the engine and enjoy the sound of the sea. Here are some glimpses from the voyage back.
I ran into a pod of dolphins on the way 

The island of Hydra

I was keeping out of the way of this Hydrofoil doing 33 knots compared with my 4.

This is how I keep track on my ipad of the commercial traffic which use AIS.   It's a cheap app called Boat Beacon which updates about every minute. I can click on the boat name to see details such as speed, type of boat etc. Unfortunately they can't see me because I don't have a transmitter but I should show up on the radar or old fashioned line of sight .  I  just make sure to keep out of their way.