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Aannsha’s Blog #105 – On my own on A B Sea

Did you know that Baz used to be a well-known DJ in Tenerife, Canary Islands in the 80s and 90s? We met when I was 22 and he was a mere 19 years old and he was DJ-ing then at weddings, clubs and pubs. We set up home together in the UK after living and working in the south of France, but it didn’t work out as we were trying to settle down too soon, too young.

I went on my own adventures and Baz headed over to Tenerife, working as a club and radio DJ there for 10 years.

DJ Baz on the right

When he discovered through Facebook that there was going to be a 30 year Tenerife reunion in the UK in early October, I encouraged him to go as we were so close – in the Aegean Sea, Greece. Our sailing journey took us via the Greek islands and then on up to the mainland to Varkiza Bay which is close to Athens airport.

Putting on a brave face

While I was encouraging Baz to go and genuinely happy that he was going to catch up with his old Tenerife ‘family’ again, a part of me became increasingly nervous. I put on a brave face though because the last thing he needed was to worry about me or A B Sea while he was away. One of the reasons we were anchoring in Varkiza was because it has good protection from the prevailing north wind (Meltemi) and the sea bed was sand, making holding very good. It was easy to take the dinghy to shore as we could tie up in the little fishing harbour and we also had a good friend and follower, Nikos, who lived close enough in Porto Rafti that he offered to come over if I needed assistance.

Sudden change of plans

However, as Baz’s departure for the UK got closer, the weather prediction sites began to show a different picture to the normal northerly winds. Southerlies. If that was the case, A B Sea would be on a lee shore as Varkiza Bay is totally exposed to the south with a lot of fetch, meaning the wave height could become untenable at anchor. At short notice – literally the day before – as we’d had to hire a car and drive to Athens to buy and then install new house batteries which had suddenly died earlier that week – we upped anchor and headed further north to the only bay we could see that was protected from the south, which was still close enough to the airport. That bay was Kavouri and in the sun, it is a very pretty spot, which makes it popular to Athens residents at weekends and holidays.

Kavouri Bay, Greek mainland

The morning we made the trip to Kavouri, dark clouds were already gathering. We had to search for the perfect spot to anchor when we arrived. Tucked in behind the headland, but not too close to shore. What made it tricky was finding a large enough patch of sand in the thick weedy bottom for the anchor to dig in. It took us three attempts with me diving the anchor each time, before we were happy that the Mantus was dug in. I got Baz to check on the final time as the anchor was right on the edge of the sand and I was concerned that if the wind changed direction and the anchor reset itself, it may drag over the weed and not dig in enough. That would leave me at the mercy of the wind because on my own I wouldn’t be able to re-anchor.

The Universe sets me a challenge

The anchorage was nice and calm and despite my increasing nervousness about being left on my own, I actually slept fairly well. Checking the weather it looked as if we’d be in for storms that day, Thursday, and Friday with winds predicted for most of the weekend. Great, I thought. The Universe is setting up a challenge for me. We’ve had great, predictable weather for weeks and the weekend I’m in charge of A B Sea, it all gets a bit hairy!

As I watched the storm clouds rolling in, getting darker and thicker, we felt the wind racing in ahead of the front and then the lightening began to flash in the low dark clouds. We got the bimini folded away just as the rain came. And what a rain storm it was! It was a true squall with wind tearing around us at 40 knots, blinding white rain, so heavy we couldn’t see through it! But it was over as quickly as it arrived and within 10 or 15 minutes, we watched the clouds heading north to dump on someone else.

Bad weather coming

Wanting to be sure, I dived the anchor again and was glad to see that if anything, it was in deeper. That was one thing that I was happy about. The wind didn’t die down totally though and the waves were quite rough by the beach, so when I dropped Baz ashore early that evening I had my first challenge: backing out into pounding waves. During the first four attempts to back off the beach, big waves broke over the outboard and the engine cut out. Each time, with trembling hands, I managed to get it started again.

Baz, who was standing in just his underpants (as he’d taken his jeans off to get ashore) couldn’t help me at all. On the fifth attempt to start the engine, he shouted at me to “Just put it in full throttle and go for it!” Trusting that it would work if I did what he said, I gunned backwards, shouting “Come on!” – to myself or the engine, I don’t know – and thankfully, the dinghy cleared the breaking waves enough that I could turn it around and head to A B Sea. I couldn’t welly back fast though because there were swimmers in the water, but the engine kept going and I got back okay. Tying up to A B Sea was the next challenge as I had to struggle to line up with the cleat, hold the boat in position while getting the rope attached! The boat was bucking and the dinghy was bouncing, but eventually I managed. Outboard switched off, tilted out of the water, and I hauled myself onto A B Sea.

Wept with relief!

It may not seem much to a seasoned sailor, but that was quite scary for me. I don’t normally operate the dinghy and when I have it’s been in friendly conditions. Night was falling, the sea was rough and I had to overcome my fear of not being able to get back or tie up to our yacht on my own.

As I brought the dinghy round to the stern and tied the second line to the other cleat, I noticed my hands shaking. “Oh thank God,” sobbed out of me as I stood and turned to peer at the shore, wondering how long it would take Baz to get to Athens airport in the hire car. And I wondered if his weekend would seem short and whether mine would seem interminably long. And I saw in my mind’s eye that I’d be blown onto a lee shore with no way of relocating if the boat dragged.

Preserving the batteries and checking the wind

One of my concerns was that if there wasn’t much sun, that even despite having a new bank of batteries I’d not have enough power for my needs. Before Baz had left he’d suggested running the boat’s engine for a couple of hours each day to top the batteries up. While I knew that was an option, I wanted to test my ability to conserve power. So over the weekend I only used what I needed, turning off everything that drew power whenever I could. I was successful and, with the generosity of the sun each day, I was able to live totally on our solar power.

I was determined to keep an eye on the wind though, so even though we hadn’t topped up our internet data, I gave myself permission to go on line whenever I wanted to check weather predictions. As well as the usual ( and I also found a local weather forecast that gave lots of useful data.

Wind direction changes to west

After the squall that as predicted had come from the south, the wind changed direction and came at me from the west. Great. That did put me on a lee shore just as I’d feared. And of course, the wind strength increased as each night fell that weekend. There was no way I was going to sleep with limited options of protecting the boat if she did drag her anchor. Even if I could raise the anchor (which I couldn’t because we don’t have a wireless windlass switch at the helm), and even if I was competent enough to re-anchor, I wouldn’t be able to in this bay because as I’ve said, the sea bed is covered about 95% with weed. Finding a sandy patch on a sunny day, never mind at night or an overcast day would be impossible. So realistically, the only thing I could do if the anchor dragged, would be to turn on the engine and motor at a very low speed towards the anchor until the wind dropped.

Here it comes!

Movies and night watches on deck

To while away the hours, I watched movies on my laptop (with all the house lights off of course!), and when I got tired, I got dressed in my foul weather gear and took a pillow and blanket up on deck.

Getting as comfy as I could, I lay there with eyes closed listening to the wind and every now and then, I'd look at how close I was to shore. The boat bobbed, the dinghy bucked, the rocky shore seemed uncomfortably close, but each time I powered up the instruments, the depth remained fairly constant at 2.6-3 metres beneath the keel. Deep enough. The wind strength blew up to about 34 knots and I pulled my beanie further down on my head. I wasn’t going to let A B Sea come to any harm. Not on my watch.

As the dawn sun slid above the horizon, I slid downstairs for a couple of hours snooze on the saloon seat right near the companionway. Wearing my foulies and trainers. If anything happened I was ready to spring into action in a heartbeat.

My bed

As the sun came up, the wind dropped slightly and I was able to relax, make a decent breakfast and then indulge in a couple of hours sleep in my Princess Suite.

This is what I did each night of the weekend.

Dinghy rope chafing

A new line on the dinghy

One day as I checked the boat and the dinghy, I noticed the back line to the dinghy had chafed through with all the bouncing and bopping around. That would have to be changed. I got another line and after considering the best position and having a quick chat with Baz via text, I attached it to the front of the tender. That gave her a better position to bob around behind A B Sea in the wind. I felt quite proud that I’d seen and fixed that potential problem.

Challenges passed, the sun shines

On the day Baz returned home, the weather had a complete change around. The sun came out completely, the wind died down and the sea state calmed.

Sun's out

I actually enjoyed the last few hours as I reviewed my time alone on A B Sea.

In the overall scheme of things this hadn’t been a majorly challenging time. But for me on my first time solo on A B Sea it had been challenging enough that I’d felt tested. On the other side of the weekend, I had a feeling of increased confidence and self-esteem as I realised I had met every little test well. Not only that, but after I’d had my mini panic with the outboard engine on the first evening, I had actually been very calm, practical and positive the whole time I was alone. I felt quite proud of myself.

I also acknowledged the stress that Baz must feel on a more constant basis as the full time captain of the boat. After all, he’s the one who makes the difficult decisions and takes all the challenges fairly and squarely on his shoulders. I think sometimes he forgets he’s part of a two person team, but that’s his personality and he does captain exceptionally well.

Captain Baz returns

Sunday night came, the sun went down, I put the dinghy light into the tender in anticipation of collecting Baz from the beach in darkness. Fortunately the sea state was considerably calmer than when I’d dropped him off for his reunion long weekend and in no time at all, Baz was back on board. We shared a couple of wines while we briefly swapped highlights of our time apart.

Heading to Poros

A strong north west wind the following morning put us again on a lee shore. The sea state had got choppy and we upped anchor early, under looming grey clouds. But not before putting the dinghy up onto the davits, which was a bit of a challenge. Mainly for Baz who had to get into the dinghy that was bucking like a bronco, and grab each of the two davit lines and attach them to small rings in the dinghy. One line got stuck as it was caught over the pulley wheel so I had to stand up on the back of the helm seat and reach over to get it, but between us we hauled the dinghy up and secured it safely to the davits.

Dinghy up

We had a bracing sail in 27 knots of wind that saw A B Sea zipping along at speeds up to 8.1 knots which we were happy about! We crossed through the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) in Athens Bay but didn’t have too many tankers to worry about. You have to cross the TSS at right angles and go from one side to the other as quickly as possible. By the time we reached the southern side, there was only one ferry we had to contend with and we let that go in front of us.


What a difference a day makes

Home to charter yachts and a stopping off point for boats travelling to and from the Corinth Canal, as well as being a very well protected island, Poros was quite busy even though it was autumn. Our first anchorage which was closest to Poros Town was too deep and too close to mooring buoys for comfort. We were only able to let out 45 metres of chain (148 feet) despite being in 15 metres (49 feet) of water, which gave us a ratio of depth to chain of 3:1. The RYA minimum recommended ratio is 4:1 in good weather, so we really didn’t feel comfortable there.

So we headed to the next bay along but Baz didn’t like the depths there either. We settled on the western most bay by Russian Bay with a picturesque church on the tiniest island right next to us. The anchor dug in the sand and we were in 7 metres (23 feet) so were able to let out 5:1 ration of anchor chain with ease. The bay was protected from pretty much all sides, as even the mainland wasn’t too far to our south. What a difference a day makes!

All that was left to do was to have a beer and then a nanna nap (I was tired from sleep deprivation and Baz had been up partying until 3am the previous morning). Then we got stuck into some much needed editing which would leave us some free time to explore Poros town. But I’ll tell you all about that next week.

You can see all of this in the video that accompanies this blog. Just click here

Saturday's spectacular sunset

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