Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Does anyone want my car?

I've got to get rid of my car. Does anyone fancy coming over to Greece to get it? I can only keep it in Greece until February and I want it to go to a worthy home - it's a great car, only has 60K on the clock and has never gone wrong.

I'm putting up some posters in Nidri to see if anyone returning to the UK wants it but I'd rather it go to one of my mates if possible.

Friday, 12 October 2007

It's not for everyone

Every day we remind ourselves how lucky we are. But it is our dream way of life – it wouldn’t necessarily be someone elses. Do you want to know why?

  • It is unpredictable. Most days we have a plan of what we are going to do. Most days it doesn’t happen – and not necessarily because we have hangovers or have spent the day playing with the dogs – but because something else happens which usually is out of our control. This is particularly true at the moment when learning about Monty B’s little quirks (why oh why would anyone stuff a hole in the fuel tank with tissue paper?)
  • Pace of life – the days fly by faster than ever before – it really is so true that time flies when you’re having fun. I don’t want my life to go this quickly.
  • Pace of life – we have turned dithering/faffing into an art form over here. Even the dogs don’t bother getting up when we look like we are leaving the boat – they know it’ll be at least another half an hour before we actually do. Though I think we can class it as pottering rather than faffing now we are on a boat.
  • Lack of contact with other people. So far we just annoy each other – not bore each other – so it’s fine. But you are, in effect, on a tiny island with your loved ones and no one else 24/7. It's like living in the sticks.
  • Constant injuries. There are a million things aboard to stub toes/hit shins/knees/lips/elbows on, two booms to hit heads on (which strangely, seems to be increasing exponentially week by week to the point that if it continues, I will be spending more time crouched on the deck, holding my head in my hands, than sleeping) and a never ending number of sharp edges to cut fingers and toes on. You must enjoy the sight of your own blood, daily pain and having blue/black skin.
  • You cannot be a control freak – it just won’t work. You can’t control this kind of life which is part of the fun. You can try to limit fuck ups but that’s about it.
  • There is always something which needs doing. If you find it hard to relax when there is an outstanding job to do, you would struggle (thankfully, I’ve never found this a problem).
  • You must enjoy being scruffy and not be that arsed about having a shower every day.
  • Not having a job. I know, I know – most people wouldn’t work unless they had to, blah blah blahh. But some people do seem to think they couldn't live without it.
  • Broken sleep. You never get a full night's sleep unless you are so drunk an earthquake wouldn't disturb you. This has got better - the first few weeks were akin to having a new born baby - I don't think either of us slept for more than 2 hours at a time. We are now used to the creaks and the constant movement (though earplugs help).

Progress - there has been lots

Well, enough of this navel gazing and bragging - I need to record what we've done since we've been here so these pages can become a diary rather than a monthly blether.

  • our first job was cleaning the filth from Monty B (or Perky Puffin as she was then) which took around a week, below decks all day and night, in 32 degrees and marigolds. I reckon we filled around 15 sacks with rubbish, no lie.
  • day 2 - decided to go for a swim whilst filling water tanks. got back on boat to see inside under several inches of water. water tank lid had no seal and had come off, flooding boat. Learnt how bilge pumps worked and what it feels like to see your boat full of water.
  • within a week, Tim learnt how to unblock and service the heads which involved removing poo sludge which had been stuck in the pipes since the winter.
  • within 2 weeks Tim learnt how to bleed the fuel system when we broke down with less than an hour of daylight left and no clue as to why the engine wouldn't work. What a hero! We still ended up anchoring in the dark though (twice) which was quite scary.
  • discovered that most hatches and the windshield leaked really badly during storms on our second week. Learnt the joys of removing old sealant (incredibly messy), the wonder of white spirit and how to use a Sikaflex gun. Took a whole week to complete. Windshield and hatches now almost leak free - but not quite.
  • De-Puffined Perky Puffin on our first weekend away - removed the Puffin name and cartoon pictures from the hull.
  • Took us 2 weeks to get the place into a fit state to move all our stuff on board.
  • Had a renaming ceremony, anchored off in Tranquil Bay. In attendance were Sarah from IBA, Scottish John, Danny the Chandler, Martin, Maggie and Martin's son who were our new neighbours. After Poseidon and the winds had their share, we downed 4 bottles of Moet, 4 bottles of Friexenet, wine, beer then into town for dinner, more wine, then the Byblos where I was last seen dancing to Status Quo covers with the dogs. Next day clothes were filthy and wet and I was covered in bruises. Some things never change. Tim did us proud as Master of Ceremonies - a top job done and Monty B was born. See http://picasaweb.google.com/beormakate/RenamingCeremony
  • Lesson learnt from the above - dogs do not come with us on nights out which involve alcohol and getting back to the boat.
  • Discovered we had a rat on board (after a few days of things mysteriously disappearing). finally managed to trap it and to everyone's amusement/horror, took it in the car to the mountains to be freed. discovered it had chewed through the transducer cable (depth meter) which happens to be the only instrument on the boat that works. After over a week with no depth meter (not good), K found chewed wires and mended them. Also found the empty packet of her Agnus Castus (madness pills) which the rat had legged off with and eaten.
  • Getting to grips with the art of anchoring - we now have faith and understand how it all works.
  • Learning to manouvere astern and handle the boat under power - it's a big boat. K does all the close quarters helming as T has to operate crappy old and dangerous windlass.
  • Getting to grips with the crappy old windlass (nearly took Tim under on week one).
  • Witnessed a storm pass, literally, overhead while at anchor (a few nights ago). Have video. will load up soon. Unbelievable. By far the worst storm either of us have ever seen.
  • Learning what happens when you pull a bit of tissue paper out of a hole - litres of diesel pour out into the bilges.
  • We have been doing a bit of work for Neilsons, cleaning charter boats - work together, takes 4-5 hours and we get 100 euros. Only one day a week. ha ha!
  • Discovering that even when up to armpits in diesel and filth, it's still more enjoyable than sitting at a desk all day.
  • We haven't sailed anything like enough as we spend too much time working on the boat - but we are finally getting there and can now sail in light winds. Need to get more experience behind us before winter kicks in though.
  • Made some friends.
  • Made a few contacts for possible work over the winter. We need to start making a bit of money.
  • Have decided we are going to stay in this area (Lefkas) for the winter as it's a great sailing area and we haven't done enough sailing to confidently go that far afield at the mo. Anyway, it's a beautiful place and there's a good balance here for the winter so it's a good decision.
  • Discovered that our outgoings are even lower than we had dared hoped. We only need 200 euros a week to live happily. I thought we were being a tad unrealistic before we got here - far from it. This means we only need to work a couple of days a week.
  • I have learnt to ask for brown bread in Greek.
  • Tim has serviced engine and cooked tea once.

Next priorities are to service the engine coolant system, somehow drain the forecabin fuel tank and isolate it so hole can be repaired, remove rust from toe rails, stantions, pushpit, pulpit and guardrails, put up safety netting to stop dogs falling overboard, recommision Billy the tender so he can be rowed and has a rope to hold onto if we fall overboard. That's next week's jobs.

See photos at http://picasaweb.google.com/beormakate/SailingAndWorking

Life at anchor 1 - Our first storm

I had a great little piece to put in here which I wrote on day 8 when we (rather prematurely) experienced our first storm while we were at anchor. It described at first hand what it felt like to be spinning around in a creaking, 19 ton boat, pinned to the seabed by an anchor which we suspected may not be holding us. As our perspective on the shore continually changed as we spun, I tried to take bearings to satisfy myself that we were not actually dragging anchor, simply spinning on a pin. The continual butterflies in the stomach, then occasional lurch as an unexplained thud or huge creak emanated from above or below, was only relieved by the amusement of watching Tim spending the day attempting to unblock the heads for the second time in a week (a blockage due to stupidly flushing dog poo wrapped in kitchen paper down them – one of Louis’s nocturnal offerings – it was Tim’s idea so he had to unblock it – fair enough I reckon). The only other relief was found in comforting the terrified dogs everytime the thunder split open the sky.

However, I lost everything I wrote due to f**king Vista ballsing up my laptop to the point I had to reinstall the operating system and wiped it all clean. So the above synopsis is all you get.

With hindsight, it was actually all quite exciting and we were completely safe – it was just quite unnerving at that point in the learning process. This is only the beginning.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

A month on Monty B

The adaptability of human beings never fails to amaze me. It is our primary coping mechanism, enabling us to deal with whatever life chucks up by somehow convincing our brains that this is normality. Life on Monty B is dramatically different to anything we have done before and yet it seems so normal. All four of us have adapted to living in a 40 x 10 foot floating, bobbing, swaying box surrounded by green water with our only means of escape being a rotting, elderly tender with no seat, no engine and no oars.

Our days and nights are dictated by the weather. The wind determines where and how we lie – if it changes, do we have enough shelter? Is our anchor going to hold? Will we hit another boat? Will another boat hit us? What will the sea state be? Is that storm heading in our direction? A drop of rain hitting home or a distant flash of lightening is enough to rouse us from slumber at 3am to close hatches and check all is secure on deck. And this is before we have even thought about sailing.

The sunshine that floods our cabin upon waking most mornings puts a smile on my face and ensures that our world glitters – but it also has a more practical function. Our power is provided, predominantly, by the five solar panels strung along the gantry at Monty’s stern. So if, like today, the sun is hiding away, we hand pump our water and think nothing of it. It’ll be a cold shower tonight too as we have a solar shower (simply a black plastic pouch, with a shower attachment, that sits on the deck in the sun all day - or not as the case may be).

As a matter of course, we only turn lights on that we are using – literally, the ones we are using in order to see something in the dark. Our solar churns out around 6 amps per hour on average (when the sun is shining) so our power is precious. We use every drop of water that comes out of our tanks. All loo roll goes in the bin so you use it sparingly (I’m sure I don’t need to explain why). Every drop of water that goes through our pipes ends up in the sea (much like at home – but you don’t watch the Fairy liquid spewing out into the sea) – so you think carefully about the crap you put in it or if possible, don’t put any crap in it at all (except actual crap – which we haven’t, as yet, worked out how to stop us producing it, bar starvation – and as a point of interest, the fish love it – particularly dog poo).

A month on and this is all second nature – and it’s great. Sorry if it sounds like cringe-inducing worthy nonsense and I sound like a massive sanctimonious arse – I can’t help it - ha!

p.s we can get hot water by running our engine if we are desperate, ditto power for our batteries. We have had to chuck waste diesel in public dustbins as there is nowhere to dispose of it - so you can rest assured that we are still doing our bit to pollute the planet.

Everything centres around our boat. Whether it be sleeping, eating, seeking comfort, washing, cleaning, repairing, travelling around, swimming, diving, lazing – it all happens here. We watch the mountains turn pink at sundown, lying on our backs in the cockpit with a beer in hand and have our own star-studded, candle-lit table for two every night. Other nights it isn’t so rosy when the galley turns into a rocking, bumping, jolting box, while I’m trying to cook dinner then I feel too sick to eat it. Sleep is always broken. Monty B is our new world and we love it.

I have finally managed to play out my childhood fantasies of living a simple life with the elements – and multiplied it by 100. I’ve always wanted to have a home with a sea view. I’ve always wanted to live near the sea. I’ve spent 36 years of my life in the industrialised Midlands – it was a great laugh but pretty it wasn’t – now I’ve finally got my wish – and multiplied it by 100.