This month's Raft Up is about relationships and how we manage to live so close together.
Andy and I have been together 10 years in May and have spent 6 of those years living on Norna. We liken it to living in a baked bean tin, but with less space! We spend almost every waking moment together so we have to get on. Once we left work and started our cruising life it took a while to get used to being around each other all the time, however, after 5 years of practice we think we've got there! If we feel that we need time away from each other we call it our 'fifteen metres' - we can't get any further than that away from each other when we're on board!
We meet lots of other cruisers who generally fall into two camps - they either appear to get on incredibly well (we like to think that's where we fit) or they seem to completely dislike each other, never having a nice word to say about each other. The latter group are very tiring to be around and can have an effect on our own relationship if we spend too long with them. Hence, we try to avoid those people if we can.
Relationships with other cruisers are formed very quickly. Often we won't have had outside company for a while so the prospect of a drink and chat with others is usually very appealing. The similarities in lifestyle and outlook mean that 'best friends' are quickly made. However, these relationships are often quite short-lived as we all sail off on our own routes. Often though we meet up with people we've met before and it is great to be able to catch up again.
We keep in touch with other cruisers via e-mail/blogs/facebook and the list of friends grows almost daily. The contact and relationships are mutually beneficial as we are able to swap stories and tips about places to visit and local legislation etc.
Maintaining the relationships we have in the UK requires time and effort. We use skype to call our families and that helps to remove the distance, especially if we're able to have a video chat. Luckily, here in Greece, we have good internet access on board which helps us to keep our relationships floating.
This month's Raft Up is about how we divide labour on Norna.
Dividing the 'jobs' on Norna has never presented a problem to Andy and I although we have probably put women's causes back a few years! Andy does all the traditionally 'male' jobs and I do all the traditionally 'female' jobs. Don't get me wrong, we're both happy to have a go at everything but we're also clever enough to recognise our strengths and weaknesses and work around them.
I have absolutely no interest in engineering type jobs, I'm c**p at decorating/painting, I don't have the patience for sail making/repairs. So Andy does all of those things - he's very good at them and loves learning new skills related to the boat. On the other hand, I love cooking (and guests say that I'm very good at it), I'm happy to sit online and research the latest purchase for days at a time and I'm good at keeping the boat and our extensive stores organised.
Andy is very busy this winter, making a new mainsail and a bimini frame and cover. Each day he heads off to the local taverna that we've rearranged into a sail-loft and spends the day sitting at his machine sewing away. Unless he needs a labourer, I stay on board, do some online research, prepare our meals, do the laundry and make the chutneys and jams that we will store for the summer.
The three yearly lift and paint job means that whilst Andy is busy scraping, prepping and painting, I am learning the best places to buy masking tape, grinding discs, anti-foul, primer etc and how to get to those places. The local bus timetable gets imprinted on my brain. I often arrive home after another day hunting for stores to find Andy covered in old paint. I sometimes feel that maybe I'm not pulling my weight but because I can go and do the searching out, it leaves Andy to get on with the manual stuff. Besides, he's seen my efforts at decorating in the house and doesn't trust me with a paintbrush!
When we were planning to buy new batteries we spent a long time looking at what was available and what was best for our needs as well as most cost-effective. I read so much information and became quite well-versed in how batteries work and how they should be charged. Now when talk with other boaters get round to batteries Andy passes the conversation to me as he says that I'm the battery expert on Norna!
As far as sailing the boat is concerned we are both capable of sailing her single handed. We feel that as a couple it is important for us both to be able to handle the boat and carry out emergency procedures in case one or other of us is incapacitated in some way (yes, I can change a fuel filter and bleed the system). When we're passage making we divide the day into watches and both take our share of the night hours so that we get adequate sleep.
The crew (Puss and Fluff) spend most of their days sleeping, however they do contribute lots of love and cuddles, especially during the long night hours on watch!
Working to our strengths makes for a peaceful life. Andy maintains the boat and I maintain him!
Jan 1st - Dana - svnorthfork.blogspot.com
Jan 4th - Stacey - sv-bellavita.blogspot.com
Jan 5th - me - oops I was late!
Jan 7th - Behan - sv-totem.blogspot.com
Jan 8th - Diane - http://maiaaboard.blogspot.com
Jan 9th - Jessica - mvfelicity.blogspot.com
Jan 10th - Lynn - www.sailcelebration.blogspot.com
Jan 11th - Verena - pacificsailors.com
Jan 12th - Toast - http://blog.toastfloats.com
Jan 14th - Ean - morejoyeverywhere.blogspot.com
Jan 15th - Dana - svnorthfork.blogspot.com
This month's Raft Up questions what we brought with us and what we left behind when we left the UK. Other blogs exploring the same topic are listed at the end.
When Andy moved on board Norna in December 2006 he hired a skip and in went anything that he hadn't used for at least six months, including the desk top computer, printer, microwave, countless clothes and other 'junk'. I was still living alone in my house so my belongings were protected from this carnage! I had a completely different attitude when I moved on six months later, I looked at the space available and crammed as much in as I could! I still had to leave a lot of stuff in storage but even some of that has gradually made its way on board. Luckily Norna was built with a huge amount of storage space and we've taken full advantage of that. The waterline is probably much higher now than when previous owners had her.
As we lived on board for a further year after I moved on in the UK and continued working we needed things that we might otherwise have left ashore. However, when we left the UK to start our cruising life, we didn't really empty anything off, just added more stuff! We had three deck boxes built, one houses the black water tank, one is the laundry and the other, bigger one, hold tools, storm anchor, bbq and tools, toys, gas bottles, diving gear etc etc. The boxes take up some of our valuable deck space but are a godsend for storing all those extra things that take up so much room.
Our first winter in Preveza, spent with Tony and Gill of Nimbus and Albert and Sheena of Miyagi Moon, made us realise that although we'd brought a lot of stuff with us we'd also left behind (or thrown away) other belongings that would have been very useful. We were lucky enough to be in contact with Vyv, who was driving out to Preveza in his camper van the following spring and agreed to bring some things out for us. A few phone calls later and the sewing machine, food processor and some other bits and pieces were dragged out of storage and given to Vyv for delivery. We had to buy some items when we discovered that life would be easier if we had them on board, the printer for example. It is much easier to be able to print off our own flight tickets than to find someone who is willing to do it for us, although we've recently discovered that the ink doesn't last very long in the Mediterranean heat, it dries up very quickly.
We have several big space splurgers on board - the galley being the main culprit. I have gradually brought more dishes and other items over from the UK and crammed them into the space available, I do use them all and they can be difficult to replace if they get broken. Books are another space taker. We have seven shelves of paperbacks waiting to be read. We have considered getting e-readers but we're not desperate for the space....yet! We have five boxes of DVDs that we'd love to put onto a terrabyte drive but don't have the software to do so (any ideas anyone?). We have my old surround sound stereo system on board to provide sound for movies, it does take up quite a bit of space with the woofer, five mini speakers and the main unit but it was too good to throw away, wasn't worth anything second hand and would be wasted in storage so it came with us. When it breaks down it won't be replaced. My clothes take up two hanging lockers and two deep drawers. Every now and then I move them all around and wonder if I should throw some things away but, once again, we're not desperate for the space so they can stay there for now.
When we're invited on board other boats sometimes I look around and see their uncluttered spaces (we have framed photos and books on almost every flat surface) and wonder if we should do more to get rid of some of our 'stuff'. But then I decide that we're managing fine at the moment and we like having our things around us. Maybe when we're ocean travelling we'll have to make more of an effort to clear spaces so that our belongings don't become 'missiles' in rough seas but until then things are fine the way they are.
Dec 1 - Dana - svnorthfork.blogspot.com
Dec 2 - Jane - morejoyeverywhere.blogspot.com
Dec 3 - Behan - sv-totem.blogspot.com
Dec 4 - Jaye - lifeafloat.blogspot.com
Dec 5 - me
Dec 6 - Tammy - ploddingIN paradise.blogspot.com
Dec 7 - Jessica - mvfelicity.blogspot.com
Dec 8 - Stacey - sv-bellavita.blogspot.com
Dec 9 - Diane - maiaaboard.blogspot.com
Dec 11 - Lynn - sailcelebration.blogspot.com
Dec 12 - Toast - blog.toastfloats.dom
Dec 14 - Verena - pacificsailors.com
Dec 15 - Dana - svnorthfork.blogspot.com
This month's Raft Up is all about provisioning. To see how others deal with stocking their boats click on the links below.
When we first left the UK I had several shopping trips to Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury and stocked up on things that I thought we'd need for our trip to the Mediterranean. I wasn't really thinking very straight, I don't know where I thought we were going to go but I pretty much stocked the boat for two months of never seeing a shop! As I soon found out, they do sell tinned tomatoes in other countries!
Anyway, with hundreds of bags of stores to stow away I needed a system so that I would be able to find things and know what was left. I decided to make a stock list and keep track in a notebook which is still going strong today. Initially I had two areas, behind and under one of the saloon sofas, to keep stores and managed to pack them pretty well. My initial list included such goodies as Fray Bentos meat pies (disgusting but Andy likes them), spam (yuck), tinned mince and steak (slightly better) and tins of corned beef. There were lots of other things too but the meat products tended to be the worst. They were all used up quite quickly in one pot stews when the weather was rough so I suppose they do have their place if you're prepared to ignore the taste and texture!
Over the four years we've been cruising I think I've managed to refine my provisioning skills and we now carry enough stores for us to survive quite happily for three months. We've discovered the joys (yes, I do mean that) of dried beans, chickpeas and lentils. They take up little space, are very versatile, cook easily in the pressure cooker and are cheap. Rice, pasta, couscous and quinoa are easy to store and last for years as long as they are kept dry and as long as we have the ubiquitous tinned tomatoes and an onion, we can make a meal out of pretty much anything.
My storage space has expanded so that I now have two extra areas for stuffing food and I have no trouble filling them! Teabags have an area all of their own, you can't beat British tea bags, the local ones are so wishy washy it's unreal, three Lipton's bags per cup isn't enough for a decent cup of tea!
There are a few foods that we miss, proper strong English cheddar, stilton, proper bacon, Indian curries and Chinese food. We can't do much about the cheese and bacon but a little research online has provided us with recipes to make very good curries and Chinese dishes - assuming you can get the ingredients of course. One storage area on the boat is devoted to spices and herbs. When we visit the UK I make an online order of spices that are needed so that we can bring them back with us. That way we are able to indulge our tastebuds with dopiazas, baltis and dhansaks. All visitors are required to hand over cheddar, stilton and bacon before they are allowed on board when they come to visit. We then have a bacon buttyfest! The cheese lasts for ages though as Andy's happier with the varieties we can buy here - so the cheddar and stilton are all mine! I grow mung bean sprouts to add to Chinese dishes, they seem to make it more authentic.
We've been asked what are the top five things to have in the galley and it's difficult to whittle everything down but my most used gadgets are:
pressure cooker - used almost daily for stock, soup, beans and pulses
food processor - used at least twice a week for bread making as an old elbow injury means that I struggle to knead for any length of time
stick blender - used at least once a week to make breadcrumbs, puree soup etc
grinder - used occasionally to grind whole spices for curry, the spices last longer bought whole
measuring cups and spoons - much easier to use than scales when the boat is rolling around
and the top five foodstuffs:
onions - I cook very few meals that do not have onions in them
garlic - as above!
tinned tomatoes - a great base for so many meals
dried beans/lentils/chickpeas - used four five times a week in curry, burgers, pasta dishes etc etc
herbs and spices - speak for themselves
My cooking repertoire has increased massively since we left the UK, I now have the time to research, plan and prepare. The downside of this is that we now have to carry so much more stock in order for me to be able to knock up whatever we fancy for dinner. We shop in large supermarkets if we can find them, such as Lidl and Carrefour, and restock once a month. This means that we can then go exploring the smaller islands and only need to buy fresh fruit and vegetables as they are available.
We could easily manage with far fewer stores, however, we are always mindful of the fact that Greece is in a pretty unstable state at the moment and we may need to leave at short notice. Being well stocked means that we don't have to worry about finding a shop every few days (or even every week).
During the winter I make batches of chutney, jam and marmalade, enough to get us through the summer. Our current favourites are courgette chutney, grapefruit marmalade and mango chutney for curries. Occasionally we wander through a market as it is closing down and are handed a bag of rapidly deteriorating tomatoes. These are skinned, put in the pressure cooker with some onion and garlic and then pureed and stored in jars to make a base for pasta sauces to be used over the coming weeks.
Eggs are the bane of my life. Within the EU it should be easy to buy eggs that will last for months. A bit of research has told me that when eggs are laid they have a protective membrane over them and as long as they are not exposed to moisture (washed or kept in the fridge so that they condensate when taken out) that membrane remains intact. We don't have space in our fridge to keep eggs so if we want them to last more than a few days then I have to buy them from a shop that sells them from a shelf not a fridge - easier said than done in Greece, they seem to be outside the EU on so many regulations!
Meeting other cruisers has given me lots of ideas for provisioning and preserving over the last four years. I am much more adventurous with my cooking now. If there is something that we miss then we find a recipe online, collect the ingredients and give it a go, usually with great success.
1st Nov - Dana - http://svnorthfork.blogspot.com
2nd - me
3rd - Stacey - http://sv-bellavita.blogspot.com
4th - Jaye - http://lifeafloatarchives.blogspot.com
5th - Behan - http://svtotem.blogspot.com
6th - Ean - http://morejoyeverywhere.blogspot.com
7th - Lynn - http://sailcelebration.blogspot.com
8th - Diane - http://maiaaboard.blogspot.com
9th - Jesssica - http://mvfelicity.blogspot.com
11th - Verena - http://pacificsailors.com
12th - Toast - http://blog.toastfloats.com
15th Dana - http://svnorthfork.blogspot.com
Since I last wrote we've been quite busy. We had a day out to Mycaenae to see the site of the Mycaenian Citadel and grave of Agamemnon where the gold death masks that we saw in the National Archeological Museum in Athens were discovered. Mycaenae was an important area from 1550 to 1200 BC, when it was occupied by the Myceanians. At the entrance is the 'Lion Gate' which is still standing today, minus the lions' heads! The site museum was interesting, but I think that we've been spoilt by our previous visits to Olympia and the main museum in Athens.
Shelley and Tim came to visit and we had a good week with them, travelling from Navplion to Epidavros. Tim spent quite a bit of time fishing and managed to catch a tuna, just a baby though so he left it on the hook as bait and then lost it! There were several attempts at spear-fishing by both Tim and Andy but Shelley and I had to go without fresh fish. Just as well we'd been shopping and were stocked up with meat for the week! We had some lovely evenings out with good food and too much wine, as usual when we have visitors! Shelley and Tim's last night, Sunday, was spent in Epidavros. We'd planned a quiet night as we were cleaning the next day and Shelley and Tim had to travel back to Athens for their flight. As plans go it didn't really work out! We went for a walk to the small theatre in Epidavros and then went for a drink at our favourite bar, Koilon, where we sat with Evie and Theo (the owner and his girlfriend) all night chatting and drinking until 2am. Then we went home and had dinner before going to bed. Work the next day wasn't much fun!
Andy spent the rest of the week repairing Theo's umbrellas and in return we were fed by the restaurant for the best part of a fortnight, I think we've eaten most things on the menu now. We also picked up a job to tow a small yacht from Korfos to Poros which we did the following week. Once we'd been paid for that we decided to treat ourselves and book into the local spa hotel for a night. The price for a suite with breakfast and use of the spa was very reasonable and we could anchor right outside. We checked in at 1230 and checked out again at 1300! We were told that the spa could not be used between 1400 and 1800 (siesta time) so we rushed to get ready to use the pool, hot tub, steam room and sauna before it closed at 2. When we dipped our toes in the pool it was freezing, so was the hot tub! The sauna and steam room weren't even switched on. When we complained the manager said that we hadn't asked for it to be switched on (why would we think that we had to do that?) and she'd never told us that the pool and hot tub were heated! She didn't seem too surprised when we checked out within half an hour of checking in. It was a shame as we were looking forward to swimming in a pool for a change and sleeping on a king sized bed (the mattresses were terrible, Andy would have woken with back problems again). We've come to expect the lack of attention to detail here in Greece, I don't really know why we thought it would be any different from usual!
We spent the rest of that week in Russian Bay on Poros and then headed back to Epidavros to wait for our wind generator to return from its third repair. We had a couple of days out with Theo and Evie, one to Nafplion and one around Epidavros seeing all the land owned by Theo's family and hearing about his plans for it. We returned the favour with a Chinese evening aboard Norna.
Our wind generator returned on the 16th October. Andy fitted it straight away and it has been working well since, let's hope it continues that way, it would be nice to get through a whole winter without it breaking.
Once the generator was back we were free to leave the Saronic Gulf and start on our cruise back down to Crete. We left Epidavros on the 17th October and spent one night anchored on Angistri before sailing to Kea the next day. Initially there was very little wind so we were motoring for a few hours. Once the wind started to pick up we had a good sail although as we crossed the channel between the mainland and Kea it did get a bit too windy! We had two reefs in the main and just the staysail out and were making 6 knots in 3 metre seas. A very uncomfortable and salty journey. We anchored in the same place as last year on Kea and spent a week there waiting for bad weather to go through. We had several days out walking around the headland and inland a bit. On one walk we discovered loads of almond trees dripping with nuts so we scrumped a couple of kilos and took them home. We discovered, once we started eating them, that some of the nuts were very bitter and on further investigation found that they were likely to contain hydrogen cyanide. They all went in the bin pretty sharpish and we won't scrump almonds any more!
On Tuesday we sailed from Kea to Ermopouli on Syros. Ermopouli is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are two hills in the town, one is topped with an Orthodox cathedral and the other with a Roman Catholic cathedral. Today was 'Ochi Day'. To commemmorate the day that Metaxa said 'NO' to Mussolini's invasion of Greece on 28th October 1940 each town all over Greece has parades of school children and clubs. We'd seen the parade in Preveza back in 2008 but not since. Ermopouli's parade was very good with a brass band playing and adults and children in national dress along with the normal elements. A bit more interesting than the one in Preveza.
We'll be here in Ermopouli until Thursday as we're waiting for Steph's brother to join us for a holiday. Once he arrives we'll be heading to Dhelos and then across to the Dodecanese islands for an island hopping cruise to Crete.
This month's Raft Up is about fear - is there anything that we fear about our lifestyle and how do we address those problems.
When I first met Andy he informed me that he wanted to buy a yacht and sail it around the world one day. That sounded like a pretty good proposition to me and one that I was readily prepared to go along with. In time we bought the boat, kitted her out, retired and got our finances in order. My ignorance at this time meant that I didn't really have any fears: I was used to leaving my family and only seeing them once or twice per year and I'd always been fairly self-reliant. My trust in Andy was (and still is) complete, he wouldn't ever put me in a dangerous position so what was there to be scared of?
I soon discovered that I got a bit apprehensive when the boat heels over to one side or if the sails start to flog violently but that's all manageable and not really a problem.
Our scariest time came when travelling up the west coast of the Peloponnese in Greece in August 2010. We were about five miles offshore sailing along on a beautiful sunny day, making about 4 knots and enjoying the cooling breeze. There was a thunderstorm over the land that we watched track up the coastline. We were heading to Katakolon which is situated on a hook of land. As we got nearer to Katakolon Andy noticed a squall heading our way and managed to furl the headsail in. Before we had a chance to tackle the main we were engulfed in the storm. Luckily Andy had managed to let the mainsheet go so we were depowered. The storm seemed relentless with hail stones the size of golf balls raining down on us and blocking our cockpit drains (they're big - almost 2" across). The wind was coming from all around us, when the lightening hit the water about 10 metres from us I shouted '**** this' and retreated below decks leaving Andy to keep us safe - what a coward! Suddenly all was calm and we jumped up to drop the main and assess any damage. Before we turned head to wind the whole thing started up again and we both retreated under the spray hood for protection from the ice. Eventually it all quietened down and we were able to get the main sail down and clear the cockpit of ice. Amazingly the only damage was a slight rip to the sail bag which was easily repaired. Our nerves in tatters we motored the rest of the way to Katakolon, anchored in 2.5 metres (we draw 2.7 metres) in a nice muddy bottom and dropped about 50 metres of chain - we didn't want to go anywhere for a while! Once we calmed down we chatted to others that were in the anchorage and saw photographs of the storm start to twist as it hit the hook of land at Katakolon, it then headed straight out to sea and us.
Since then we've had very few scary episodes. We've learnt that Norna can put up with a lot at sea and will keep us safe as long as we look after her, very reassuring. Maybe we're a bit naive but we consider that we're probably safer here at sea than we would be on the roads of the UK doing the daily commute.
Neither of us are natural worriers so our worries about our families are tempered by the fact that we both know that they are pleased that we are doing what we want to do whilst we are young and healthy enough to enjoy it. Whilst we are in Europe the UK is only a maximum of a four hour flight away. That will change once we go further afield and we will lose the security of knowing that we can always get home within a few hours if necessary. However, we consider that we should live our lives for us and not for others and luckily for us our families think the same way.
To see others' takes on 'fear' click on the links below:
1st October - Dana: svnorthfork.blogspot.com
2nd Behan: sv-totem.blogspot.com
4th Stacey: http://sv-bellavita.blogspot.com
5th Tammy: ploddingINparadise.blogspot.com
6th Ean; morejoyeverwhere.com
7th Lynn; sailcelebration.blogspot.com
8th Diane: www.maiaaboard.blogspot.com
10th Jaye; lifeafloatarchives.blogspot.com
11th Verena; pacificsailors.com
12th Toast; http://toastsfloats.com
15th Dana; svnorthfork.blogspot.com