Libby, Penny and Rich go sailing………

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May 2010


Sunday May 30th…….


As a footnote to the previous ramble…yes, the anchor was wedged firmly in the underwater mess which “secures” Yanni’s lazy lines. I turned off the motor and calmly went about gathering swim shorts, mask & snorkel. Then I saw a Sunsail crew dinghy heading our way. Yanni had spotted our difficulty and despatched a couple of lingering staff. Seven and a half metres on a free dive would have presented me no difficulty 15 years ago, but I wasn’t relishing the prospect this time. However the lads were great. First dive and the chap bobbed up reporting the hook was bound up in “a load of rope and a great iron hoop”. Ah, that iron hoop is actually the top of our (Rocna) anchor. Duly informed, he had it freed on the second dive. It felt very odd indeed with the cold beers going the opposite way. I also got the distinct impression that he didn’t quite believe my history.


We have a beautiful boat. I know that because lying alongside here in Vassiliki every local, tourist, tramp and his dog have paused to comment on the fact. Last evening, Saturday I could hardly bear it as I looked up from the chart table to see people leering right into the cabin. Not amused. Therefore it was with a fairly ill temper this morning that I answered the enquirer (on his second attempt) that yes, she is indeed a “Van de Stadt” design.

“I was the designer” came the reply. Oh my, how upsetting. This gentle chap, touring the Med by Landrover (for goodness sake!) had stumbled upon one of his earlier creations and nearly had his head bitten off. We all recovered quickly enough to have a civil, if slightly fawning conversation (for my part), but he was catching a ferry and declined an invitation to come aboard. I’m still so ashamed.


Here are some words from Penny:


Well here goes, my first effort on the blog. We are still in Vassiliki having arrived on Wed. It’s so nice not rushing from Port to Port every day and actually have a chance to explore the village, Club Vass, shops etc!! It’s cloudy for the first time in ages today which would actually be quite a relief if the humidity wasn’t so high – I can feel a thunderstorm coming....

Vass has been really good fun, we haven’t visited in ages as it’s on the whole not the most kid friendly place, but our new friends at Club Vass have changed all that! We have enjoyed a couple of lovely afternoons at the Club frolicking in the pool and putting the world to rights over a few beers with Sam (West), Ollie (Scott) and Terry (Hunt). It’s been just great, a really friendly bunch, very much like Sunsail in the old days.

Our old friends Gary and Mary from the Penguin restaurant were just SO welcoming when we arrived. We haven’t seen then for around 8 years and yet we still left the restaurant with a tiny bill, 2 bottles of vino and a battle flag. It feels most bizarre having a whole string of flags up the mizzen – a “lead boat” full of Oldies and a toddler is a very odd look! If I’m honest they will come down tomorrow when we leave.

Vassiliki has also seen our first party on board – completely impromptu (as all the best ones are).  The guest list was small, me, Rich, Sam and Michelle (Trippier’s) brother Shaun. We started at 5pm, drained all the beer by 8, went onto wine and G & T’s, got the guitar out, then went shopping for more beer. It turns out that Shaun is quite the dancer but unfortunately Rich’s repertoire didn’t include Usher, Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake which was essential to make him move but luckily Sam’s Ipod saved the day. I have to say, that boy can dance, it was quite extraordinary and kept us all very amused until the early hours. Sadly neither Rich or I were up to attending the Vass BBQ the following night....Big nights for me can happen about once a month now!

Today has been a chore day, I have polished the cockpit and mopped the floors inside which has improved the look and smell of things whilst Rich has been battling the baby netting. I have discovered that fitting baby netting nicely is roughly akin to wall papering – bloody difficult to get right and highly likely to lead to divorce! Ho hum it’s got to be done if Libby is going to be allowed to leave the cockpit without me freaking out each time!



The first time the guitar has travelled with us since the Girl was born!








Monday May 24th


A gentle Monday morning in Sivota and charter crews around us are being briefed about their week ahead. Familiar enough for Penny and I, but not from this perspective. No briefings to deliver for us, no hunting around for that 8th teaspoon, the lack of which would entirely ruin the forthcoming holiday for the jet-lagged holidaymaker. (They usually chill-out after 3 days in the sunshine.)


We sailed away from the Sunsail base on Saturday, as they were hotting up for their turn-around day. It was a bit of a pickle to be honest. I’d turned my back the afternoon before, and a charter boat had slotted in next door laying his anchor across ours. With a lot on my mind (poor excuse) I’d failed to properly check, and so it wasn’t until we were out of our berth and committed to recovering our anchor that the unfortunate truth dawned on me. It takes more than one thing to make a pickle; there was also a carrier on the Sunsail VHF frequency, so they’d all probably turned down their radios and didn’t hear my call. Anxious shouts from nearby cleaners went unheeded too, so sadly the charter boat bumped against its neighbour as I finally disentangled our hook.


The day improved with a glorious sail across to Lefkas; Force 4 on the beam. The girls stayed below for much of it leaving Daddy to play with the ropes to his heart’s content. With just the genoa and mizzen sails set, we creamed along at 7.5 knots. Glorious! Down the Meganissi channel and the wind died as usual, so we finished the trip under engine. The sails came in fairly easily, but I do need to lubricate the luff slides and service the winches. In fact it’s pretty non-stop chores really, but it’s all stuff I enjoy. Of course with a very demanding 3 year old to tend to too, it’s not that straightforward.


Disaster struck today. Possibly the biggest crisis we’ve faced thus far. Not at all sure how we’re going to cope. After emptying the kettle, I accidentally put it back on it’s base with the button pushed. The element has burnt out. And we scrapped the hob kettle. I tried microwaving mugs of water but it was horrible. The coffee machine is independent of course, so we can struggle on, but it’ll be hard. Electric kettles are almost unheard-of outside of the UK, at least proper fast-boil ones anyway. Grrrrr.

On seeing my distress, our good friend Yannis from Taverna Delphinia offered me “an unwanted wedding present”. Off he went and returned with a filter-coffee maker. SUCH a kind gesture, and I’m sure he cannot fathom my disappointment.


We caught up with some old friends here on our arrival Saturday. They were all very polite, and only made passing reference to my hopeless attempts at parking. It must have taken us the best part of an hour. Now, the engineer who fitted the new engine has told me the prop is far too big. Indeed I thought it odd that we seemed to chug along at > 7 kts at just 1500 RPM. Great for fuel economy and noise etc, but not great for going backwards in tight spaces. The blades behave like a paddle wheel in reverse which has the effect of “walking” the stern around to starboard no matter WHAT you do with the helm. The problem is exacerbated with a breeze on the starboard beam, as the stern also seems to naturally “hunt” the wind.


So, we lined up for our berth, Penny was at the helm while I’d been setting fenders and lines. “Would you like to take her in?” I asked. She engaged reverse and round we went heading straight for the adjacent quay (where we didn’t want to be). Penny relinquished the helm, and I repeated the manoeuvre. “Must be the tender” I decided, and untied it from the starboard side and streamed it out the front. Somehow I got lined up for the approach, but the anchor was poised to drop no further than the floor of the dinghy. So I extended the painter. Now the anchor was stuck fast against the retaining pin, (which I now appreciate is obsolete with this particular anchor). Finally freed it, returned to the helm and drove amusingly around in circles for a bit. Still no response from the port helm. I then tried increasing the speed, and as luck would have it, I found that at around 4 kts in astern, the helm finally answers. And how! OK, lined up for the berth again, dropped, backed-in, lines ashore, hail fellow and well met to Yannis etc, back slaps and so on. Then Yannis pointed out that the rudder was aground. Better just slide along to the next berth where it’s deeper. Did that with the warps, but the news from the bow was disappointing. The anchor was clearly dragging. Out we went again, anchor up and oh my word, an entire marine project on the end of the chain where the anchor used to be. It was still there of course, I just couldn’t see it for all the weed and mud and stuff. More entertainment for the onlookers as we prodded it with the boat hook, lowered it, backed the boat around lifted it, lowered it……until finally we had just the anchor swinging on the end of the chain.


Just for good measure, I backed around in a few more comedy circles until I flattened the stick again and roared backwards towards Taverna Delphinia. In the intervening ages, Yannis had quite sensibly wandered off to serve some customers, read the paper, have a coffee etc. Down went the anchor, (hopefully clear of the ground chain. I’ll know in a day or two when we come to leave) but then for some reason the windlass stopped turning and there was a sickening bang as some chain leapt over the gipsy and the boat shuddered to a halt. We were about two boat-lengths short of the quay. I wasn’t going to give up now, especially as it was clear the anchor had a good hold on something now, and I waited for the wind to blow the stern down, paid out a little more chain and backed up a few more feet. An elderly gent with a great bushy grey beard and sailing cap appeared at the quayside to take our lines. I backed up a few more feet, waited, paid out cable, waited. Now the old sailor gent started to gesture, politely, ”come back some more”. Well I couldn’t. Every time I engaged reverse we simply pirouetted to starboard - towards the next boat’s anchor chain. Finally, some kind charter boater came to the bow of his boat and was able to get a line from Penny. After that, it all went OK. Now if I’d been a charter guest on a rental boat, then the proceedings would have been average sport for the onlookers. However, seeing as I’ve spent some 4 years as a charter skipper, 7 years as a private boat skipper, hold a master mariner ticket…….the pain goes deep.


Anyway, Simon from Sivota Yacht Services tells me a different prop will remove my problem, and hopefully most of my shame. A feathering prop would furthermore prevent the shaft from spinning whilst under sail – quite a problem actually since it’ll heat up the gearbox, and the stern gland won’t be lubricated. This is just one of those discoveries one should expect when buying an old boat. We were expecting to spend a grand on the windlass and I fixed that for £100. So we may just have to spend that cash on a new prop instead.


Time has passed while writing this, and I don’t suppose you’ll thank me for invading your lunch hour still further with the minutiae of our problems, so I’ll whack on some photos and leave you in peace for the time being.


Under sail at last – genoa and mizzen only.



Indulging Daddy. (Check the angle of the picture on the bulkhead)


Morning in Sivota.



Libby sings a cheerful shanty while Daddy tries again to start the wretched outboard!





Monday May 17th


We all moved aboard last evening having said goodbye so some lovely new friends. We’re still with our beloved “family” at Sunsail and good old Nails has STILL been helping out in no small way on his days off. We expect to finally cut the umbilical cord on Friday and make our first passage – all the way to Sivota. We then hope to spend a few weeks drifting around the Southern Ionian saying “hello” to all the local friends we have accumulated over the years. It’ll be amusing to check for the “smiles” as they realise that there’s a real danger we might hang around with them for more than a day or two this time!! No really, we hope we’ll read the signs properly and not out-stay our welcome anywhere.


So far it’s worked out well taking our mini steps from “normal” life to a life of adventure. It’s been absolutely fantastic to have the relationship we do with Sunsail. Penny and Libby have now been here for a fortnight and a day, and as the 2-week guests left yesterday there was a new mini dawn in the process.


At the weekend we were supposed to leave our nice safe berth at the marina and make room for returning charter boats. Unfortunately there was a forecast of F9 winds which made us very nervous about our proposed maiden  voyage en-famille. As it turned out the gale turned up much earlier than expected and we were simply unable to leave. So, to make it up to the establishment, Penn and I were temporarily signed onto the staff and as the boats – perhaps 40 or 50 of them arrived in the thick of the maelstrom, Penny stood shoulder to shoulder with the base manager and helped moor up. As for me, well I was given the keys to the 115HP RIB and spent most of the day ferrying staff out to arriving boats who in turn assisted with mooring; using the powerful RIB to drag other yachts out of one pickle or another, and acting as impromptu bow-thruster to those parking cross-wind. I had an absolute blast, just like the old days!


We’re now settled for the evening. Libby has an episode of Charlie and Lola to watch on the recently installed telly, and I need to stop doing this and provide Penny with better company!


In the mean time, here are some recent snaps:


The Greek girl in the marine shop asked if Nails and I “had relations”. After a moment of confusion I realised she was asking if we were related. I can see why she asked, bless her.


Chief engineer “Nails” offers to “help” install my WONDERFUL Raymarine HD Digital radar scanner……then he just went ahead and DID it for me!! What a guy!!!



Last drink at the club.


Piña Colada please Giles – THIS big!




Moving aboard.


Goodbye to new  friends: Hamish was one of Libby’s play-mates during the last fortnight.



At last – my “princess” cabin. (Well the beginnings of one anyway!)







Friday 8th May


Now “Wild Bird” is moored by the Sunsail “Vounaki” base near Paleros. The girls arrived on schedule the previous Sunday, and with Libby in kids club, Penny and I set about cleaning, stowing and fixing stuff. We met some extraordinarily agreeable people on holiday at the Club, and invited two couples to our first cocktail party aboard. Richard was still on the wagon, (please refer to photos below) but we served a rum punch and toasted the future with John and Linda, John and Vicky.


John, Penny, Vicky, Linda and John with the new Punch Barrel!!







Thursday 29th …….. a bit later on……



Chips was on hand with his camera. Caught me tuning up in the toilets and letting it rip with the other musos, but failed entirely to catch the MASSIVE audience!!

(No really, it was packed.)



Had a lovely meal at “Dionysostaverna and then got a call to say there was a live jam session happening in the “new” bar. I fetched the axe with all due haste and rushed over to join in. What a night. Some of the old hands went misty eyed at the memory standing before them, screaming out songs in an attempt to be heard (just like the Beatles of course). The new hands seemed to like it too, but as I crawled into bed at 03:30,  I was very grateful I didn’t have a 3 year old child to look after next day.

Now, must get on with fixing stuff………



I arrived safely at Paleros in the late afternoon. There was a welcoming committee. Bobby moved his boat “Splash” out to let me get alongside the quay, Carlo caught my lines and Larry helped with getting Splash alongside Wild Bird. Everyone has been and continues to be SO kind. We then had a celebratory drink and made plans to meet for a meal a little later. I admit that in all the fun of my first passage, I did knock back a couple of cold tins on the way over. This was topped up on my arrival and the net result was a ripped pair of jeans and a hurty knee after tumbling ashore in a most undignified manner with armfuls of gash scattering across the quay.





Thursday 29th April 2010

The launch went OK – a little scramble with the generator but Sion was on hand to help. I drove her round to the Lefkas Canal, pausing only to calibrate the autopilot and double check the charts. That’s quite a narrow and dog-legged channel out of Preveza. As I waited for the bridge to open, I practiced manoeuvring with varying degrees of success. The best part was NOT running over the dinghy painter as I hurriedly backed away from a fishing boat.





All squared away and ready for sea……… that was the boat NEXT to ours. This however was the view from the foredeck as the boat was trundled towards the launching “H”.





How we all rejoice don’t we, when yet another foolish freedom is taken away from us in the name of “’Elf ‘n’ Safety”. So as I rode the yacht in the slings towards the launch point I considered how happy I was to be in Greece where “Elven Safety” may just be some emporium where Frodo Baggins goes to buy a hard hat. Just as I was revelling in these thoughts and roaming about the deck with a camera, the whole rig lurched suddenly and it was all I could do to stay aboard. Hmm. There are lessons there.










Tuesday 27th April 2010


Firstly, big apologies to the legions of you who turn up day after day to see…….NOTHING! Internet has been proving tricky, and really requires half an hour or more to trek to the yard office, log on, etc etc, and this is time I can’t afford right now. There’s no 3G here, nor even GPRS, and the wifi is just beyond useful range. The toy I bought to help with this needs the missing vital cable – hopefully coming out with Penny.

I can’t believe I’ve been here nearly a week. Time has flown by and the time is nigh for going “splash”. This should happen tomorrow at 11am. It’ll be a nerve-wracking moment as there have been so many changes to the under-water works. Four new skin fittings, new generator plumbing, new stern seal and filling-in of various other apertures. Thankfully, top engineer Simon from Sivota Yacht Services has pledged to attend. I’m hoping he’ll help me get the main engine running (after two years or more) as well as the genset.


It’s a great atmosphere in the yard, (Preveza Marine). Many Brits, French, Hollanders and Italians. Everyone is so friendly and kind. Last night at the local taverna, a group which I knew to be from a nearby boat spotted me eating alone and invited me to their table. There were four of them and it was a 4-seater table. So the occupants of the next table volunteered to swap. The waitresses looked on in alarm, but didn’t complain. Everyone tends to visit the till at the end and list what they’ve had. Easy for me – usually some mince dish and a beer. Two sometimes.


Wild Bird now sports brand new decals, (thanks to Tony) which smarten up the transom considerably and declare our origin as “Emsworth” rather than “Aberdeen”. Apart from that the poor boat still looks a complete pickle. Today had been earmarked for tidy and stow, but that began at the sharp end with the anchor – and ended there too. The blessed windlass, a completely vital piece of equipment was playing up. Kept overheating and cutting out. I’d been briefed by the previous owner that it was weak, but he’d also said he’d taken it for service and it had been pronounced healthy.

I had to visit the chandlers anyway, and while I was there I spotted a windlass control box, (solenoids mainly) especially for Lofrans. And 24 volt. And 2000 Watt. It seemed like provenance so I bought it. Well, that started a long and hard day of throwing shiny spanners around, but at the end of it I had the old control box out and the new one in, and even fitted a trip switch, (as required in the survey). In the old box I found some of the wiring was burnt out, and most likely going HR after passing a few amps. Fantastic. What a result. We were just on the point of shelling out for a whole new windlass to the tune of a grand or more. So a good result.


The weather has been really hot recently. As you can see I’m just too tired to write anything terribly interesting right now. If this were a letter, you’d see how my pen kept falling off the page.


Last job tonight (11.30pm)  was sewing the Ensign onto the mizzen flagstaff. I’ve always wanted one of those!


So, launch tomorrow then all being well I’ll motor her around to Paleros where good old Bobby has been keeping a spot for me. Hopefully there will be wifi there. Even more hopefully the girls will be joining me Sunday. Night night.






Here’s the boat; a 30 year old Trintella 44 ketch designed, of course by Van De Stadt.


This is the “Aspiration” shot from the previous owner that helped us to make up our minds:


s/y Wild Bird




THIS however is the only view we’ve had since we bought her:

We just have to assume she still floats the right way up!