Sail away with Paul Chopin.
A blog highlighting the steps taken to purchase a yacht, getting out to sail her and the adventures, not to mention the cost(!) in putting her to sea.
Greece October 2013.
22nd. October. 2013
Well the start of the second trip began with a much more leisurely flight from London Heathrow airport to Athens. An early flight meant that all (Helen, Daniel and I) had to be up at 04:00 in order to be at Heathrow two hours before departure. Arrived at Athens and picked up the hire car from Avis, a nice new BMW 1.6. All bags stowed away we headed off again to the boatyard at Kilada, a 2.5 hour trip, stopping off at the viewing point of the Corinth canal for a bite to eat and to see the canal. As it was a Tuesday nothing was going through her. On arrival at the boatyard I picked up the key for Electron from the office and the all-important key card for the ablutions! On board we started to get all of our gear stored away – in the limited space available whilst getting the boat ready for putting into the water for Thursday. As it was late afternoon there was little that we could do that evening so shore power connected, water put into one of the tanks we headed off to the supermarket three miles down the road for provisions. We had been to this supermarket before so we ventured further afield and found another, just a few more miles down the road. A set of cutlery (as Helen was not keen on the set left by the previous owner!), a cooked chicken for Daniel, we headed back to the boat. Back by the first supermarket there was a store that appeared to sell everything so we stopped and bought some pillows and cases – as this was something that wasn’t left. Supper, a few beers and an early night was in order as there was still a lot to be done the following day.
Wednesday 23rd October. 2013.
I had arranged to go to the office at 09:00 to pay my fees for the previous lift-out and the storage of Electron for September and October. Enroute I met Dimitris, the engineer who had replaced the water pump and Andreas, the electrician who had checked the electrics due to my concerns that I had on my previous trip out. We agreed to meet up at Electron an hour later so they could inform me of the work carried out and any necessary changes to be carried out. The engine had been run for 30 minutes on the dry with no sign of any overheating. The electrics were fine but the automatic battery charger, when connected to shore power was not suitable and ought to be changed, as too some of the batteries as they were no ‘deep cycle’ ones. Both said they would do a sea check when Electron was put into the water the next day.
I had bought out some new navigation lights so these needed fitting. In the survey the report stated they required changing as the lenses had discoloured. In order to save on power consumption I had purchased LED lights, more expensive, but I needed to ensure that power usage was minimised when at sea. These fitted I then changed all of the bulbs in the galley / saloon with LED bulbs (bought very cheaply off Ebay). I removed one of the 100w solar panels and put it into the spare cabin as it was cluttering up the deck. The usual routine of carrying out the necessary checks prior to the boat being put into the water were completed, especially that all of the seacocks opened properly, a lesson learnt from last time! As the daylight was beginning to go it was time to think of an evening meal - which generally was a healthy salad with meats and cheeses and some more cold beers, courtesy of the fridge which was working well with shore power connected.
Helen, Daniel (Helen's son) and myself out on the boat, under motor - for the time being. The sails will come out at some point during this break!
Currently the solar panel, or at least one of them, is being stored on top of the life raft. Not the ideal place for it and this will be changed next time I get out to the boat. I'm hoping that I can make up a stainless steel frame and either hang it from the Bimini frame over the transom or support it above the Bimini frame. (Still in the planning stage).
24th. October. 2013.
Electron was going to go back into the water today so one of the first tasks to be completed was a visit to the harbour master to let him know the area the boat would be sailing in and to pay the obligatory 5€. That done, it was back to the boatyard to wait for the boat cradle to be picked up and escorted to the water, some 100m away. Daniel stayed on board and was there to pass the warps over the side of the boat to moor it up to the pontoon. Once in the water it was a case of waiting for Dimitris and Andreas to arrive so that the checks to the engine and electrics could be carried out at sea. It wasn’t long before we were heading, under power, past the island that marked the exit of the bay into the open water. Dimitris monitored the engine temperature, readings of between 80 to 83 degrees, once the engine had warmed up, indicated that all was fine. A quick check of the tap water also showed that the calorifier was heating up the water too. Andreas was concerned that the rev counter was not working but this was not the case. What wasn’t working though was the engine hour counter, and suggested this be changed. So, all was well, it was time to take them back to the pontoon. This should be fun, as the route in is narrow and either side of the channel the water depth is insufficient! Rather than go back to the pontoon Dimitris suggested I drop them both off by the wall where the fishing boats moor up. They would step off as I closed in on the wall and there would be no need to moor up. Interesting! Daniel was at the wheel all until the final 50 m when I took over. Trying to remember what Les, my Day Skipper instructor told me back in Gibraltar last February was coming back. Probably not all of it, but sufficient to say that the boat glided in, a bit of burst in reverse, brought me parallel to the wall, and they stepped off. Now to move away from the wall without the stern of Electron hitting it. Well, fortunately a bit of a push by Andreas took me sufficiently away from the wall so I could take a shallow angled drive away from it, and we were off. Where to go, what to do, a quick decision and we headed off towards N. Ipsili, that same island that on our first venture on the water we were unable to make back in September. Still under power, we took Electron round the uninhabited island and headed back to Kilada bay. Once back in the bay we decided to do some anchoring practice and dropped the bow anchor, took three bearings and sat, waiting to see if our position changed. It didn’t, it held and we were successful first time out. Next task, blow up the tender, drop the outboard engine on the transom and then do some snorkelling. Weather was in the mid to high 20’s so it was perfect time to go for a swim. A bit later we decided to raise the anchor and then attempt our first tie up at a swinging mooring. I think I was at the wheel for the first one with Helen ready to pick up the mooring buoy. Maybe my instructions weren’t clear enough. Although Helen had cleanly picked up the buoy the speed of attaching the rope to it was a bit slow so we began to drift past it. Thinking I needed to assist, I ran to the bow to help, which was all very well, but, in running back, bare footed, to the helm I kicked one of the cars and landed headfirst in the cockpit. Ouch, that hurt. Another lesson learnt; don’t run about the boat, especially without shoes on! Anyway, at least we had completed our first swinging mooring which meant no need for bearings to be taken and no night watch. Time for a beer, and then back to shore in order to use the shower facilities at the boatyard.
25th. October 2013.
I had been reminded by Dimitris the day before to check the water level in the header tank when the engine had cooled. I didn’t do it yesterday so I thought I’d check it before breakfast. With the companion stairs removed to gain access to the engine I could see quite a lot of water sitting in the bottom of the engine bay. Problems. I dipped my finger into the top of the header tank and felt that there was water, but topped it up with a small amount of anti-freeze. What was leaking then if it wasn’t the water system for the engine? Turning on the sink taps no water was coming out. Despite putting in 150 litres in the rear tank a couple of days ago this was now empty, as indicated by the gauge on the panel. Lifting up the sole plates to gain access to the bilge these were flooded to a depth of between one to two inches (2.5cm – 5cm for those of you that work in metric!) Switching on the bilge pump to disperse the water made no difference – it wasn’t working. Bucket to hand with a sponge and plastic bottle with the bottom cut off to use as a bailer, I got to work to empty the bilge of all of the water. Several bucket loads later, but by no means anywhere near 150 litres, the bilge was finally clear of all of the water. I was to check this a couple of more time during the day and then daily for the rest of the trip. The amount of water lying in the bilge was reducing quite significantly, so mopping out was not the big problem that it had been this morning. Having tasted the water it was slightly salty but not sea water salty, which suggests that it may have come from the water tank. But where then was the remainder of the water if it had come from the tank. A mystery that has still not been solved but will need to be checked next time I’m out on the boat at Easter in 2014. The other two had risen from their beds and, after breakfast, we decided to go to shore for a shower before making plans for the day. Daniel was at the controls of the outboard so he took us back to shore. Unfortunately he had taken the most direct route back which took us over an extremely shallow piece of water! The bottom of the tender began to scrape on the sea bed and then, all of a sudden, the engine began to race with no forward propulsion. The outboard had been broken. We were only 20 or so metres from the shore (or 22 yards for those still in imperial mode), so rowing to the shore was not a problem. However, rowing back was as we were over 200 m back to the boat. All of the three S’s completed the three of us got back into the tender and I rowed the tender back to Electron. We planned a passage to sail around the island, N. Ipsili, just under main sail to begin with. The mooring buoy was dropped back into the water and we exited the bay under power. Once outside the bay the bow of the yacht was pointed into the wind, the main sail unfurled, and with a slight change of direction on the wheel, we were off sailing. It had taken over 10 days on the water to get to this point but it was well worth it. All of the dreams and plans had finally come to fruition and, even though it was only the main sail and not venturing very far, it was a significant step in the right direction, and a very nice feeling. Around the back of the island we headed back to Kilada to end a good days sailing. Just before we got to the entrance to the bay we needed to haul in the main sail. Just which sheet / rope do we pull on? Having tried them all I realise that the winch on the mast was probably where we had to try next. Removing the winch handle, releasing the outhaul cleat I began to turn the winch to see if there was any joy here. Well, would you believe it, the sail started to furl back in. [This is another item that ought to be taught on the sailing course – or did I miss it?] We had decided to return to the swinging mooring buoy and, with Helen at the helm, we made the perfect stop; picking up of the buoy, and tying off, all in one move. Well done to all and worth another beer. (I should be saying that where beer is mentioned not all take to the liquid so read ‘Earl Grey’ tea for some). A bit more snorkelling, evening meal, and then to bed. The engine was run for a few hours each evening to keep the batteries topped up as we were still using the fridge which was drawing a lot of power from them.
26th. October 2013.
With the outboard engine not working the shower was taken, courtesy of the salt water in the bay. Breakfast had, we planned to sail off to Porto Helio, a trip of about 15nm. With charts to hand, a parallel rule, dividers and HB pencil, I set out to plan my passage between Kilada and Porto Helio. One thing I must admit not doing was taking into account in my passage plan the difference between true and magnetic north. Sorry but with such a short passage and sailing close to the coast line I did not think it necessary but will need to do it correctly next time out. Checked the bilges and bailed them out. Less water than before. Engine checks and we’re ready to go. Engine on, swinging mooring dropped and we leave the bay. Once out in the open we unfurl the main sail and set out on the course that had been planned. Every half hour we check and record our position, noting any points of interest. When checked against the chart our position is pretty much in agreement with the GPS reading. Everything is going to ‘plan’ and eventually we see our entrance to take us to Porto Helio. Sail away and under power we made our way towards the harbour. Daniel was at the helm so after making a couple of circles of the yachts moored up I asked him to position Electron at a given point in order to drop the anchor. Depth given, I laid out sufficient chain and then told him to go in reverse so more chain could be laid out. A quick blast in reverse to get the anchor to bite, and hopefully all was done. Bearings taken to record our position and checked every 10 minutes for the next half hour confirmed that we had held securely. Looking around, we were the only boat at anchor, all the others were on swinging mooring. I decided that as there were free mooring buoys available we should raise the anchor and hook up to one of them. This we did. As we had time on our hands Daniel was given the task of trying to repair the outboard. One thing the previous owners ought to be praised for is that they did leave a comprehensive documentation of all booklets and paperwork relating to Electron and her equipment. In the folder was the manual for outboard, how to repair the damaged prop and, more importantly, the spares to carry out the job. Daniel got to work and was doing splendidly, until he dropped one of the tools into the water. Nothing else for it, don the scuba diving gear and look for that needle in the haystack. It was only 5 metres of water, pretty clear, but on a swinging mooring the stern of the boat had swung around in an arc of radius 12m. First dive, no joy. I came up and suggested dropping the kedge anchor to give me a reference point to swim around. Down for the second time, this time using my dive compass and trying to swim a certain distance before turning still didn’t bring any joy. I came up for a second time and was about to give up when Daniel suggested looking in a new position. Third time lucky, no sooner had I got to the sea bed I saw the tool that had been dropped. There we are, you can find a needle in the haystack, provided you know where to look. No, I didn’t put out the dive flag even though my brother, Michael had bought one for me. Back on board with the correct tools to hand it wasn’t long before the outboard was back in fully operational order. It was noticed that our boat was not always swinging in the same direction as a catamaran close to us, and we were getting closer and closer to it. I decided to shorten the length of our mooring and to put down the kedge anchor that we had used earlier to stop Electron from swinging, thus, hopefully not getting any closer to the cat. This seemed to work. More beers, meal and bed.
27th. October 2013.
We were informed by the people at the boatyard that shops would be closed on the Monday due to their celebrations of the end of the 2nd World War. This meant that we needed to get some provisions before heading off on our next port, wherever that might be. Tender dropped over the side and outboard attached to it, Helen and I made our way to the shore to buy food and beer. Well there was little on offer in the ‘town’. A couple of very small supermarkets that had some drink but not bottled beer, and a lovely bakery shop where two loaves were bought. With food in hand we made our way back to Electron to plot our next course. We decided to head for Spetses and another passage plan was made. Bilge checked – very little water to remove, kedge anchor lifted, engine started and swinging mooring released, we headed out of the bay towards Spetses. There was very little wind so putting out the sails was not an option. Enroute, we looked at the charts and noticed a nice quite bay at one end of Spetses. This looked interesting so we decided to make a detour and head for this. An excellent choice. There was only one other yacht in the bay so we decided to drop both bow and stern anchors and go snorkelling. Water crystal clear and relatively warm, we spent a couple of hours swimming, exploring and then had lunch. Anchors lifted we continued on our course for Spetses old harbour. Looking at the chart it seemed quite difficult to determine the correct entrance so we inevitably went past it. A quick turn around and we headed into bay to look for a place to anchor up. Very little information on the charts and I had left the Greek pilot guide at home, I had no idea where to go so I went round the area a few times before someone on a moored boat saw my predicament and shouted over a place that I could moor up to. Not what I was looking for but it had to be done. Mediterranean mooring! I had read up about it but had never tackled it. Electron positioned where I thought she needed to be, anchor dropped to the depth of the water, I began to reverse while Helen laid out more chain. The yacht was not going astern in a straight line so we started again. Second attempt and insufficient chain was laid out and the boat came to a halt about 10m from the wall. Third attempt and we got closer but at an angle to the other nicely moored up boats that I was going aside of. People on these boats came out to help, catching the warps and pulling on them to tie the boat securely to the wall. However, my passarelle wasn’t long enough to reach the dock from its current position! I decided to move it and secure it to the bathing platform, which meant that this gave me just enough length to use it to get to the shore. The depth of water was quite shallow and, although I could move the boat back about a foot, I was concerned that the rudder would touch the seabed. Swimming trunks on I jumped into the water to check and moved a few concrete blocks to give me more leeway. We did manage to move Electron back but never succeeded in getting the boat at right angles to the wall. Never mind, at least we were there. Beers were running out so we went ashore for some liquid refreshment and a bite to eat. It made a change from our usual salad, meats and cheeses, and it gave us an opportunity to have a look around the island. Very pretty, well worth the stop and we decided to spend another day.
28th. October 2013.
After a quick check of the bilges followed by breakfast we decided to go and explore the island in day light. Also we knew that there would be some celebrations around 11:00 so we decided to stick around to see what they were like. A coffee at one of the local bars (which had wifi) we were entertained by all sorts of marching by schoolchildren of all ages accompanied by a band, around the town square. It was very good to see that the pomp and ceremony was not dictated by the dignitaries, unlike the UK, but the children took centre stage. By the time we got back to the yacht the other boats around us had left. We spent a leisurely afternoon on board until we were joined by two yachts from the same sailing school. As we were assisted when we reversed on to the wall we thought it the right thing and offer a hand to the two crews. The skipper of the Beneteau that moored up next to my boat made Med mooring look ever so easy! Later we were joined by a Catamaran on my starboard side. The crew of eight, from Denmark, certainly liked to party, with singing and talking loudly until the early hours of the morning. Surprisingly, they actually left before us the following day!
Back on Land.
Everyone had to be up early as the boat was going to be hauled out by 08:30. Daniel stayed on board so he could ‘oversee’ everything while Helen and I stayed on the shore. Back in the boatyard, shore power connected we set about getting the boat prepared for the winter. A good scrub of the hull and deck, a good soaking of all the seacocks in oil and then sealed up. The anchor and chain laid out on a pallet. All the bright work immersed in Mer and finally all of the inside and cockpit given a hovering. The spare cabin was de-cluttered and space found elsewhere for most of the equipment that was in there. At least this cabin is now back in use. We even managed to take down the headsail, fold this up neatly in its sail bag and store it, yep, in the spare cabin as we had plenty of space available in it now! Most of the sheets and halyards were put under cover and, with limited time, there was little else that could be done.
I did want to remove the bilge pump to test it back home but couldn’t release it, the water tank needs to be checked out. Measurements were taken to see if a folding passarelle could be bought cheaply, as to a swim ladder with four rungs instead of three. Also in the spring I want to bring out some tarpaulins so more of the deck can be covered up for protection over winter. I need to consider how best to gain more stored power so either an additional domestic battery to add to the two already on board and / or a wind generator. It was suggested another battery charger is required, as too a switch to work one, some or all of the batteries. I have instructed the yard to give me a quote for items which came under insurance needs; standing rigging and gas locker / bulkhead fitting, personal needs; two holding tanks installed, stern damage and stern rubber strake repaired / replaced. Hull antifouled with copper-coated.
First attempt at 'med' mooring, [photo on the left] and we had it sorted by the third time. (I will need to replace the two bladed prop for a three bladed prop to give me more control in reverse). On the right, the celebrations that we were informed would be taking place on this day. Well worth the visit and we will be coming back to Spetsei at a later date.
Electron being taken out of the water for the end of the season to be put back on its cradle in the 'Basimakopouloi Shipyard. I can fully recommend this yard to anyone that wishes to sail to the Argolic region. Extremely friendly and helpful. Excellent engineers and favouable prices.