I think I mentioned previously that Joan and I had moved to Puglia, which is great and we have nearly completed the first phase of our house here. But of course Lothian Sky is sitting quietly in St Raphael in Cyprus. So the next adventure is to get her back to Italy.
COVID – 19
Everybody has their own stories about the virus. I don’t think ours were very exceptional. We got back to Italy in the first week in January both nursing coughs which we put down to our annual Christmas visit to the UK. Our neighbours were also coughing and we don’t know if that was the virus or not. Anyway within a month Italy was in total lockdown and we were stuck in our apartment. We could only get out for the pharmacist or food. Strange times.
Fortunately, the perimeter of our balcony measures about 50 meters so we were able to have a 2k run twice a week which at least kept us a bit active. We also bought some jigsaws and that shows you just how desperate we were!
“But what about the lonely Lothian Sky?” I hear you ask. The plan was to move here in May and I had a crew all lined up but then came lockdown. I have not even seen the boat since October last year. The Lord only knows what condition she will be in when we eventually meet up again. The plan now is to try to make the trip starting 1st September, COVID permitting.
My usual first Mate, Ruth, will not be able to join us. Her excuse is that she is having a baby in October! Is that reasonable I ask myself? And of course to compound it all Nick, her husband, will also not be able to make it.
Good luck to both of you. I’ll be thinking of you both as we pass through the Corinth Canal!
However, it looks like I will have a crew of at least four for the whole trip. Alistair Cameron, stalwart of previous voyages mentioned in this blog, navigator extraordinaire for the Regatta, and all round great sailor, will be with us for the whole trip. Our good friends Jan and Ben Cooper in Cyprus mentioned it to Jan’s brother John Dixon and it looks like he and his friend will also be able to join us for the whole trip. John is a trans-Atlantic sailor so he would be a great addition to the crew.
I have put the word out for anybody else who might be interested in a cheap Aegean adventure post-COVID. All are welcome and we can arrange for people to join the boat at various points along the route.
So that’s sorted inshallah ………. but there are a couple of little problems yet to be overcome.
Getting into Cyprus from Italy. Cyprus has done really well in controlling the pandemic and obviously they did not relish the thought of people coming from Italy to infest their island. So up until 1st July we in Italy were persona non grata. Now we are in Category B which allows us to go in provided we go through screening on entry So Joan and I can get into Cyprus and we will arrive there on 3rd August.
Getting into Cyprus from the UK. That is altogether a different kettle of fish. The UK is in Category C which, at the time of writing, means that people travelling from the UK will not be able to enter Cyprus unless they go into 14 days of quarantine. Clearly, for our purposes that is a big problem. I am hoping this will change when the situation is reviewed once again in August.
Getting into Greece from Cyprus. The Greeks also have done a great job containing the virus and have very clear rules regarding entry. If we all manage to get into Cyprus my understanding is that there should not be a problem getting into Rhodes. As always when sailing between countries, the trick is to make sure that you have all of the documents you might need and any that you think you might not. You just never know!
I expect the trip to take about 14/15 days subject to weather. The Meltemi starts to subside in the Aegean during September so I am hoping for a fair passage. With a bit of luck we might even have some easterlies to help us on our way.
Following in the path of Odysseus. Or at least from Rhodes onwards and we go through the Corinth Canal which in his days had not been built. It took him ten years to get home to Ithaca. I’m hoping to make better progress! I don’t know if the following link will work, but if it does you can get a visual impression of the journey. You should be able to zoom in and out and you can cross-reference with the chart above.
As always the most important player in the piece is the Lothian Sky. She has been sleeping in her berth for nearly a year and we will have to make sure she is up and ready for the next adventure. I think she could probably sail this passage on her own, certainly Cyprus to Rhodes as she has already done that four times. That leg is the most testing, involving 48 hours of straight sailing.
When I get to Cyprus we need to haul her out, clean off her bottom and make any obvious repairs. Henry, the Regatta skipper (see previous posts), thought he noticed a split in her rudder the last time he was under the keel. So that needs attention. Then we need the usual servicing of the engine and the outboard, have a look at the rigging and the condition of the sails, sheets, ropes and lines. Probably take her out for a test run to check out the navigation instruments. Then we are off!
More to follow when we get to Limassol…………
I promised to add some pictures of the 2018 trip in the Aegean. It turned out to be quite an adventure. We lost the battens in the jib, which had to be replaced. Then we lost the jib altogether when the upper swivel on the furler failed. But all in all it was a month we will never forget. Congratulations and thanks to all crew. Click on the images for larger view and to scroll.
Better late than never. Some thoughts on the Aegean Tour 2018. And, to follow, a picture gallery.
Paul was not an experienced sailor so I decided that he could not take one of the watches on his own. Also David had injured his knee (or at least he said he had!) so I judged it wise not to have him on watch on his own. That meant that there would be two watches – Ruth, Paul and me, and David and Jon. We decided on three hours on three hours off, which we would come to regret later.
Of Stars and Stripes
There is not much to say about the passage to Rhodes. It was long, at times boring and at the end extremely exhausting. There was a good breeze throughout – varied from 6 to 12 knots but gusting up to 20 at times – but always head on. We decided to go on the engine all the way as beating to windward for 48 hours did not seem too tempting and also we needed to ensure good steady progress – no sense in making the passage any longer than it needed to be. I sensed some disappointment amongst the crew.
We rounded the headland of Akrotiri at 1400. Two hours later we cleared Episcope Bay. At 1800 Aphrodite’s Rock was off the Starboard beam. We had been sailing six hours and we still had not left the Cyprus coast!
At 2100 our navigation lights were on and we were on a heading of 292 for Rhodes. I checked the keel bolts again before we started moving away from Pafos. All dry, all fine. Rhodes by Independence Day!
The boat is equipped with a really cool navigation aid which comes into its own at night. The AIS system is an international GPS tracking platform that is installed in all large ships and now in many pleasure boats. It enables us to spot ships/boats/yachts on the electronic chart and to know their speed, heading, closing speed and, very important as far as I’m concerned, the likelihood of them hitting us!
So as we watched Pafos slowly recede behind us we spotted what appeared to be small fishing vessels on the AIS dead ahead, but they had no lights and would not respond to VHF hailing calls. We proceeded with caution, keeping an eye out in case we ran into trailing lines or fishing nets. But no sign of the invisible fishing boats.
Pafos put on a firework display just as we were passing by which I thought was very thoughtful of them. We enjoyed the spectacle and later, glancing back, Ruth said she saw what she thought was a gigantic atomic explosion over Pafos. It turned out to be the moon rising, but it was an easy mistake to make … hmmmm. As far as I am aware the good holidaymakers of Pafos have not suffered any kind of catastrophic nuclear holocaust – more’s the pity!
So we settled down to gaze at the stars, with the aid of the Sky Guide app. Truly amazing. It is free to download and is well worth it. As the lights of Pafos disappeared we had a full and spectacular view of the Milky Way.
If we can help somebody ………
From about 1800 on 2nd July we had been receiving security messages on the VHF about NATO activity in the area and advising us that if we spotted anything suspicious we should ‘phone it in to a special number. An odd thing to request really, I thought. Presumably NATO knew where their own ships were, and surely the point of the exercise would have been to spot any hostile vessels through their own tracking systems, rather than relying on the observational skills of passing pleasure cruisers and gin palaces. The problem was that we never had a pencil and paper handy to take down the number, so we were of no use to them! BUT …
Some time during the first night, during the 0300 watch handover we encountered an unidentified floating object (UFO). We were busy trying to work out where all of these invisible fishing boats were when suddenly on our starboard side, about 20 meters off a white pole appeared. About two meters high and steady in the water. At first we thought it must be a marker laid by one of the fishing boats but on reflection we decided that was unlikely as the water depth was something in the region of 1000 meters.
Now I have no basis for this theory but I think what we saw was a submarine periscope. NATO exercise, nobody knowing where anybody is, put the periscope up to see what’s going on. Ahh Lothian Sky, “It’s OK boys, the SKY is out there looking out for us. No need to worry. Carry on.”
What? It’s possible.
Anyway, we reached Rhodes almost exactly 48 hours after we left St Raphael. All crew were exhausted. The three hours on three hours off was a bad idea as it did not give time to rest between watches. A lesson learned which would be remembered on the way back from Crete.
Wind speed 12 – 14 knots, good visibility and at 1200 on 4th July Ruth parked the boat in the new Rhodes Marina, almost without incident, and we were home and dry. Beer!! Happy American Independence Day!
I promised Ian and Joan that we would visit them in Cyprus as don’t see that much of each other and we’ve spoken about this for the last three years. However the real reason for going was to see the ‘boat’.
I had no idea of the size, weight, cabin capacity etc. so imagine my surprise and delight when we arrived at the marina and finally saw ‘Lothian Sky’ and could take in its length, its towering mast height, its broad beam, the wooden decks; this wasn’t a boat this was a yacht no matter how Ian played it down. Once on board I mentally donned my cap with the words’ Captain’ in gold letters and tried to assume command until I realised I didn’t have a clue what to do so I let Ian take me on a tour. As he showed me the owners cabin he nonchalantly said it sleeps eight, I said “What the owner cabin” he said “no the Boat.” First gaff to me! Toilets, showers double beds I began to realise this was better appointed than my house in England.
As Ian did some work on board I was able to walk around, climb over the decks, hang on to the rigging and bang my head on the main spar (twice) but I began to get a feel of the size and power of ‘Lothian Sky’ and image myself at sea with all sails set and mountainous seas all around; a bit of a dream has I’m not sure if I suffer from sea sickness or not. All too soon Ian had completed his work, shown me around and we left the mooring with a promise we would come back and take her for a sail.
It’s a bit late but I promised some pics from last year’s regatta.
Well perhaps “the slightly adventurous sail around some of the Greek islands” might be more accurate. We will see!
The plan is to do a circle of the Dodecanes and the Cyclades Islands of the Aegean throughout July, returning to Cyprus via Crete. We left Limassol on 2 July at 1200, heading for Rhodes, a passage that I estimated to be around 48 hours. Our initial crew consisted of daughter Ruth, brother-in-law Jon Over and his big buddy David Nicholas, and my friend Paul Leach who agreed to join us at the last minute.
This and the return passage from Crete are the longest and most demanding legs of the tour. The problem with Cyprus is that it is in a relatively isolated location. The nearest country is Turkey and even that is a good 24 hours sailing from Limassol.
Lothian Sky had a full makeover for the tour. My good Cypriot friend Efti and I arranged for the Marina to haul her out, cleaned her bottom and give her a good waxing (top and bottom!).
Thanks to Stuart Mathieson (our cousin) who helped with the burnishing of the Coppercoat – I told him that this was part of the process of learning the sail – you can see below that he learned quickly!
Full service of the engine and repairs to the electric toilet and the cams on the Spinlock clutch housing and we were all set to go. Joan had made sure we were all spick and span inside, bed sheets, quilts, towels were provided in abundance and we were provisioned for the first 48 hours (including a full supply of Haribos – essential for sailing The Sky).
So we were off! ………. well nearly. Readers of this blog will know that my attention to the detail of getting in and out of ports is not an example to show to young or sensitive people. The last task was to fill up on diesel – 201 litres plus two jerry cans of 20L each – which should be enough to get to Rhodes, subject to sea state, wind etc. Anyway, in trying to spring off from the filling station quay I managed to get the Sky stuck on the entrance slipway to the boat lifting area – it’s complicated! Nearly the whole staffing complement of the St Raphael marina, and a few gloating yacht owners, turned out to free us and they did a terrific job. So with a word of caution from the marina manager to check the keel bolts for leaks we were on our way ……. well nearly.
Outside of the marina the crew had a conference about the state of the keel which had touched the bottom. I had checked the keel bolts and all was dry so I was ready to go – we had only touched the bottom and at a very low speed. Others were not so confident. Ruth’s wise counsel was that we should check under the boat – which meant that I would have to dive down!!!!! – a prospect that I was not looking forward to. Paul also had concerns, Jon and David were more optimistic but it was looking like the skipper was about to get wet.
Our dilemma was solved when Paul received a call from his wife. The port police were jumping up and down on the quay because I had not completed the exiting formalities for leaving Cyprus. Look it was an honest mistake. And it gave us the chance to inspect the keel back in the berth. All was well and after completion of port police and customs formalities, we were on our way. Yes, really!
So we came 1st in our class, which was Cruising Class A and we came 11th overall out of a total field of 50+ boats. See the full divisional results below:
and the overall result is here Ioannideia_RESULTS_Offshore_Overall_2017.
For me this is as good as it gets. Before we started I said to the team that I would be happy with an overall finish in the top third. In fact we ended up in the top 20% and finishing first in class was just an unexpected but brilliant bonus.
First of all congratulations to the team. We had a few new faces this year as, sadly, Paul and Hanna could not join us. Looking from the left, standing – Kay Melville (new), Alistair Cameron, Jon Over, Mike Melville (new), Nick Geary (new), Henry Castledine and his fiancé Phoebe Griffin-Beale (new). Kneeling are my daughter Ruth and yours truly. The furry interloper at the bottom right is Cat. We don’t know him by any other name, but he is now our official mascot!
Unfortunately, Ann Cameron – a stalwart of last year’s race – was left on the physio’s table with a bad back. She did however enrol as one of the back-room crew (no pun intended) together with my wife Joan and her sister Isabel Over, without whom nothing would have been achieved. For reasons not entirely clear to me we do not have a photo at the moment of the girls in the back room. I’ll put that right later. Sailing in an average of 35°C, working hard on deck for up to three hours at a time takes a heavy toll, and I cannot tell you how grateful we were for the rolls, water, coke, fruit, crisps, Harobos, whatever supplied on a daily basis by the backroom. And of course when we got home in the evening dinner was served. Champion!
So my personal thanks to all of my team mates and everyone involved who made this Regatta a very special time. We worked hard and had great fun and hardly anybody complained! My special gratitude once again to Henry, whose exceptional seamanship, extraordinary leadership and all round racing brilliance delivered one of the best weeks of my sailing life.
Finally, a word for the beautiful Lothian Sky. Once again she did all she was asked, and once again surprised me with her versatility and style. I am now “cock of the walk” in the marina …… well at least for the next week!
In later posts I will touch on some of the lighter moments of our regatta week and some of the preparations, inspired moments and ‘I wish we could have that one over again’ moments!
It was almost exactly a year ago and I suppose I should have posted something before now, but you know how it goes, places to go people to see. Anyway we entered the Regatta last year and came in (in my humble opinion) a respectable middle of the table. I think the ORC (Offshore Racing Congress) were not kind to me with the handicap, but I hear that everyone says that! The problem was the ginnaker – too big, and the jib was a bit small for the light winds that we enjoyed during the three days of racing. Look I know I am making excuses but I don’t blame me!
First the crew (from the left standing):
Henry Castledine, Race Skipper – sailing since a young whippersnapper in the Channel Islands. I hard task master but a great sailor. He taught me to sail so he must have something about him.
Ann and Alistair Cameron, Crew – Alistair was part of the intrepid maiden voyage from Slovenia described elsewhere in this blog. Alistair did a lot of standing around and technical stuff, Anne perfected the art of stowing the gennaker, which at 160 sq meters was no laughing matter I can tell you. Although their work was as nothing compared to the foredeckers – me with the hat on and next to me Jon Over my brother-in-law.
Jon and Me, Foredeckers – Duties included setting up and then striking the gennaker, gybing the gennaker, cursing the gennaker ….., hauling out the jib, retracting the jib and lying on our backs exhausted. Foredeckers ( I am told) are immediately recognisable amongst the crew as they are generally carrying an excess amount of muscle, their arms are normally dragging on the ground, they grunt a lot as opposed to actually articulating words, and they have very large foreheads. They are usually very fit and strong, which is I suppose why Jon and I, the two oldest members of the crew, got lumbered with the job! All attempts at protest fell on the skippers deaf ears.
Kneeling are Ruth (introduced in other parts of this blog) and Paul Casterton a mate from our days in Doha. Paul’s wife Hanna was also with us but we did not have enough space for an additional crew member. In effect Ruth and Paul substituted for each other as Ruth had to leave the boat on the Sunday before the final race. Amongst many arduous tasks they had to gather in the gennaker and also operate the main and gennaker sheets.
From a catering point of view everybody piled into our place in Parekklisia and Joan (my wife) and Isabel Over (her sister) handled the catering side. We also had a few evenings at the bar and dined out at the culinary hotspots of Limassol. A great crowd of folks and we all had a good old time.
The Famagusta Sailing Club organise the race. They were originally located at Famagusta ( the clue is in the name!) but they had to decamp (temporarily according to their web site ) to Limassol after the war of 1974. 2016 was the first year for them to hold an ORC accredited regatta, although they had been organising races for years in the past. The races took place over three days – Friday (practice), Saturday and Sunday. We all gathered on the Monday before the race to get in a bit of training and for Henry to whip us into shape. It took some whipping! As I said earlier we came in a credible mid-table position and I was proud of that. Lothian Sky did not let us down and next year with a more experienced crew, who knows?, we may just surprise ourselves.
I can’t really go into the details of the race as Jon and I did not see very much of it, up to our ears in gennaker, grappling with the sail bag etc, but we did get some good photographs and I have added a few below to give you a flavour – and also a short video.
So that was last year. The 2017 regatta starts on 8th September.
Come back later to find out how we get on.
No, The Lothian Sky has not been taken over by MI6. A Code 0 is a particular type of sail that is officially designated as a downwind sail but performs really well between 40 and 70 degrees off the wind in light winds. It was developed initially in the Volvo Ocean Race and has now been adopted as a standard for even casual sailors. In theory it should work well with the gennaker which is a downwind sail that can be deployed effectively between 80 and 150 degrees off the wind. In heavier winds the self-tacking jib should come into its own.
The ideal solution would have been to have a 130% genoa but the maximum that Hanse will do is 105% and, as Henry said, that would make little difference to the performance. Its all to do with the rigging. The shrouds are attached amidships at the gunnels which means that any upwind sail that passes the shrouds could not be fully sheeted in. Hanse don’t point that out when they market the yacht.
You might recall my complaining about the handicap in last year’s race. I was penalised for the gennaker and the self-tacking jib was not powerful enough in the lighter winds that we experienced. So bringing a Code 0 on board might help with that problem …. in theory, which by the way I do not understand! It will be deliver on 5th September, so we are cutting it fine. Training starts on 4th September.
The other modification that I have added is a top down furler for the gennaker. You may recall my moaning about the effort of hoisting and gybing the gennaker in the last post. I am hoping the furler will reduce the effort and make gybing smoother. Ann will be happy about that. No doubt Henry will want to take the purist position and stick to the old format. We will see!
Anyway see below the design of the new sail. I have tried to create a stylised representation of the Scottish Saltire. It sort of works …
If you would like to see the furler in action go here.