2020 Retired, The Virus, and great sailing
04 February 2021
I retired in March 2020 and 6 days later I was on my yacht in Greece. Two days after that Greece imposed a lockdown and even a curfew over some holiday weekends from then until June 15th when we could again go sailing. Luckily there were three couples on their yachts in the yard where I was. One with the same boat as mine, so we formed a Whatsapp group to chat and tried to meet for a social distance chat and beer most evenings. In the day I worked on the boat, 14 hour days. I reckon I saved about 10k and learned a lot from Pete, Theirry, and Stuard and their better halves Debs, Genereve, and Norma.
Tigger was lifted in on the 15th June, but by the time Way Point had set the rig, it was getting late. So I spent the night on Preveza town key, just to settle in. Then sailed for Sivota my favorite harbour, and spent two days there as the wind was in the 30s. Then left for Ithaca and Vathy arriving at dusk with a 30+cross wind along the key. Came in sideways balancing wind speed and chain. Stopped the boat 1m from the key got the windward line around a ring and back aboard, trimmed the chain. Very chuffed, as this was the first mooring on my own, without help, at night in 30 knots with this boat. A mate Nick of yacht DAMANIYAT, AKA Jason Statham, a Bootneck (Royal Marine), was there fixing a huge failure in their motor, poor lad.
Hung around for a couple of days waiting for a westerly wind. As the next place, I was heading for was Athens to have the standing rig replaced. Thierry, was keep in contact watching over my progress and telling me of good places to go. I set out about 09.30 heading to Patras. the wind soon was blowing 12kn from the west, so I decided to fly the chute/Code0 and see what she would do and also if I could fly it safely on my own. See the photos on 2nd June 2020. on just the chute the boat was easily doing 7kn in 12kn wind and as the wind built she got faster and faster. I had decided on Patras as against Missolonghi because of the mosquito. I had the Kite and the chute designed to fly in at least thirty knots of wind, so if you're doing 10kn that's 40kn of wind. As I was getting into the Gulf of Patas the wind went up from 25kns to eventually 38kn. The autopilot could not cope with more than 30kn, so I was steering with one hand or foot and sheeting with the other. In the end, I bottled it at 37.6 kt wind but the boat was surfing and doing 13.2nm and 10.6nm over the ground. One of the best sails I've had.
So about a mile out I pulled the sock down and go ready to moor up. Patras is in fact a dump and should be avoided. the marina is falling apart but is expensive for that. Loud to bars until 5am. The next day wind was intermittent and from all directions, so I motor-sailed to Galaxidi. This is one of the prettiest harbours I visited in Greece and the food in the taverna opposite the quay was excellent. I was had three days left to reach Athens to get my standing rigging replaced. Motor-sailed to Kiato and spent the night on the harbour wall, free but no facilities. Left early at first light to get through the Corinth canal only to find Tuesday is maintenance day, so went and waited in Corinth habour until they called me which was about 16.30. Before I went through at 18.00, we were circling around and just waiting when I heard a noise. I looked up and saw 130m away a large black body curving as it dived under the surface and a small fin on its back. Three minutes later it surfaced again. I estimate it was 16-18m (huge) and identified it as a Fin Whale, the second biggest animal in the world growing to 24m. As it happened it was filmed from a helicopter the next day and was on Athens TV. Wow, how lucky to see and smell that, a very rear sight these days. The canal was great to go through but at 225euro extortionate. I sailed and motor-sailed to Aegina, arriving about 1am. As I was mooring up a taverna guy started talking, had a beer in my hand as I finished and a ten oz steak s soon on the table. Four hours later I was leaving for Alimos marina. A bit run-down marina, electricity can be a problem. But got a new upgraded standing rig, new safety lines, and a new pole all for 4200 Euro from Meltemi-yachting Three days later I was off to Poros to meet up yacht Terus, Thierry, Genevieve, and family a few days later. It's their granddaughters Tigger in the beautiful photos of Tigger. We then sailed to Ermioni stopping there two days so we could visit Hydra.
The next day was very hot and the wind died, it was hot enough to get faint even under the bimini, so took the Chute down and motored on to Monemvasia and its medieval fortress. But had dolphins, 5 and a baby playing on my bow, wow!
Because of the heat, I decided to sail to Milos at night. I set off at about 20.00 and arrived at about 10.30 the next day. Had two close encounters with commercial coaster craft, but made a clear course change to show I was going astern of them, and another coming from the starboard quarter that did the same for me. Spent a day on the island exploring before setting off again to Ios. I had winds in excess of 40kn for a lot of the day. and the rest was light; but of course, the wind had to get up as I entered the bay to go to the harbour wall. I arrived in the evening, in the Aegean the wind usually gets up between 1500-1900. Ios has lassy lines, this was the first time I had does this on my own, no problem. Ios is a lovely place but I got sick of it as the wind was blowing over 40kns, so had to stay for 12 days. I got food poisoning while there and was in the med center for 4 hours. A little french 34' yacht next to me owned by a retired Doctor single-handed as well. We got on very well and drank too much wine and beer respectively.
The only thing with Ios is twice a day the huge cat ferry comes in and produces waves of at least 1m often more despite being fined twice a day by the harbour police. One day I took a trip to Santorini by ferry and told the captain that he was endangering life and limb in the habour. For the rest of my stay, the waves went down to 0.5m. I got a room on the cliffs with a hot tub for £40 inc breakfast. Normally over £200 a night, see photos. Back on Ios a nice Australian guy who lives there and repairs sails etc fixed my sacrificial strip on the foresail which had detached in the big winds. With a forecast of 15-20 winds, I left for Astypalea. On rounding Ios to the south I got knocked over twice, even though I had half and half sails set, spreaders all but touched, I nearly went over the first time. I got the motor started pointed to wind and reefed all the sails. For two hours the wind was way over 40kns gusting to in excess of 53+kn for many minutes, big waves, many 3m occasional 4m from several directions. Once passed Anydros it eased to the expected 15-20kn, died in Astypalea shadow only to be hit by 40-45kns in the large southern bay. Still blowing 30kns I moored up ok. This is a very friendly place, and I got stuck here for 4/5 days as the Meltemi raged outside. 4 yachts tried to come in and could not manage it so anchored outside. The greeks said this year's Meltemi was the biggest, strongest, longest for nearly 30 years.
I left and went to Kardamaina on the Island of Kos, a scruffy habour in places but got a great berth. But the town is great with many nice Taverna. Then to Kos city. On the south coast below the mountains, most days the wind accelerates down the mountains and blows 40-50kn; although the waves are small before rounding the headland. Kos habour is ok, they are just modernizing it. I was allowed to birth on the town side after all the commercial boats, although ten days later I was next to the castle which was much quieter. Got a car to see the island and walked up the highest mountain. After Kos had a great sail to Nisyros, an active volcano island, chute all the way. Great little harbor, be careful of the entrance. The Captains House is very helpful, but the best food is the Taverna Ellinis. Their rice pud is heavenly. Got a car and toured the island, great views, all for 17 inc. fuel. It must have been over 120F in the crater, there are many minor quakes. Tilos to the south, an odd place, seems to owe its existence to the Greek armed forces. The harbour is small and the lazy lines cant hold a yacht bigger than a matchbox. So drop your anchor as near to the boats along the key opposite, if your lucky you'll get 30m out.
Next day off to Symi, a lovely island, friendly, helpful, and beautiful scenery. On the way there the rudder failed and I was being blown onto a lee shore of rocks. I called for assistance but by the time the coast guard arrived Id found the emergency tiller and was making my way with considerable difficulty to Symi. I was told that the coast guard only listens to 12, not 16, barking. Anyway, after going alongside I was told that an engineer would have to certify I was safe to proceed, and then the UK embassy would have to approve my release. This happened on Saturday and I was released on Tuesday morning. A local engineer and I fix the steering in under an hour. The cables had come off the steering mechanism because some DH had not used locking nuts to hold the cables in place.
I left Symi for Rhodes, an ok harbour, got a car, and toured the island going up the mountains here too. My daughter Anastasia AKA Tiggy, after whom the boats named, arrived and we did a Symi, Kos, Nisyros, Tiloa and back to Rhodes over 9 days, had a lovely swim in St Georges Bay Symi with its 1000' cliffs, see photos. I recommend the Kontiki Next, it's not as posh as it appears and the food was good but not astronomical; also Steak grill place at Karpathou 29 Rhodes fantastic food.
After Tigs left I set off to Crete, Heraklion, a two hundred mile sail, few little islands/rocks to look out for on the way especially at night. The wind did everything but topped out at about 42kn, died overnight, so motored along. Beam wind of 30+ to moor up in with 75m chain out, harbor walls very high, luckily a nice guy took my lines could not have done this on my own, not stern to anyway. Two nights here then off to Chania, a beautiful ancient Greek habour. The boat was there for 18 nights as I went home for ten days by ferry and car to the UK. After my return, I visited the Samaria Gorge, about 16km and 3000feet decent and the Agia Irini Gorge, see photos.
I then set off to Pilos about 120nm. I got to about 10nm south of Laconia around 23.00, there was a huge amount of east-west traffic cutting through the gaps between islands. I could see them silhouetted against the lights onshore. Then I saw a vessel about 1nm distant without lights and without AIS, I call them but to no avail. Half an hour later another really quite big, getting on for 100m in length, went 0.5 of a mile in front of me, east to west. I called them on the VHF, then another vessel going west to east with lights called them, and finally, a second vessel called, having had to alter course to avoid this maverick ship. As far as I could see, I would be just on the northern side of the shipping lane but they were going in all directions. So I decided id have to stay awake all night keeping watch. By the time I got to Pilos, I'd been 32 hours without sleep, and as I reversed in to go alongside, without incident until the guy who took my line said ok stop the boat and pushed the throttle the wrong way so hit the concrete key a bit hard making a minor redesign of the aluminum casting at the back of the toe rail. This was the only damage I got apart from a small gell coat scratch, that the skipper of the offending boat gave me 350Euro and bought breakfast in Poros.
I was keen to get back to the Ionion Islands so left the next day, and arrived in Zakinthos Marina at dusk. The Polish HM met me, his assistant took my lines, and as I stepped ashore handed me a can of beer. Very hospitable! Too many tourists in this place, some very shady goings-on. On to Argostolion Kefalonia a very windy approach. But soon settled in, went for a nice meal with Brit couple, Chris and Valeria who have a Cat. Went to climb the big mountain, but the park was closed due to fire risk. This was when the first mention of a Medicane appeared in the forecasts. I sailed up to Vathy on Ithica and then to Sivota again and then Vasiliki where I met up with Terus again. Two days here I went to Nydri and get in motion getting a resident's permit. I was on the Athos pontoon, with access to the pool. I could have stayed there for weeks. This was my first swim because on my own it's just too dangerous as I have to take my legs off to swim. I then went to see George on Kalamos, as usual, some laughable antics from the dot coms, but great food as usual. Then to little Vathy, Theirry and I had kept in discussions about the hurricane. On Monday four forecasts agreed its track and one said over Preveza, overnight that changed to five saying the eye would pass anywhere from Zanti to Meganisi. So we both decided to go and shelter in Cleopatra Preveza, Thursday to Sunday. Chris and the Cat stayed in the bay near P Atheni on Meganisi and got hit by sustained 40kn+ winds gusting to around hurricane force.
On Monday I moved out to Preveza town key and promptly got my fourth bout of gastroenteritis. I soon came to the conclusion that I was getting too tired to sail anymore, as when your tired you make mistakes, and therefore the most sensible thing was to get hauled out and put the boat to bed. So I was out on the 24th of September and flew home on the 9th of October. Hopefully, Norma will have new cushion covers for me when I get back.
Well, quite a memorable year, 2500nm of sailing, 8 months away from home. But the most important thing is the friends one makes particularly the Ionion self Isolators, without which, being there for each other, we'd all have gone crazier than we did in Greek lockdown, particularly me as I was on my own. So a Big Thankyou
How to Book passage for Tigger's adventures
08 November 2018 | Greece
It's easy to book; Just email me or if my sat phone number is up here text or email that. I suggest a good sail for someone who has been sailing before would be 10/14 days or 7/8 days. But we can do whatever you, the guests want.
Cost: you pay for your flights and food.
If you can afford to make a contribution to the running costs (£265 per sailing week) of the boat that would be great too. So that's like £650 including fuel, marina fees for a couple with two children for 2 weeks. The contribution is up to you, you come as friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.
I am hoping to find sponsorship, I already have help from PredictWind, Whales Pumps, Precision Sails, Atlantic Towers and BLESMA.
(If any company would like to help, the mainsail is available for your graphic/Logo).
If you wish to help or contribute contact me at Tiggersyacht@gmail.com or follow the link on the main page.
Waiting for Tigger
10 October 2018 | Home
In 1986, when a soldier, a German truck collected me and my Gsx1100. I lost the bike and both legs below the knee.
At the first English amputee games, I won seven medals breaking several records. I was the first British double amputee to run a mile.
I climbed to E3, in 1993 climbed Mt Blanc and many others since.
I rediscovered sailing with BLESMA, the limbless veterans, and found I could compete on almost equal terms with able-bodied and completed an RYA YM course. I skipped a Sun Sail 36' in the Little Briton cup coming 1st in class.
After a second degree, I worked all over the world for some years. With BLESMA I sailed in the Ionian Islands for many years and did the end-of-season regatta; we generally finished in the top 10 in class 2. In 2018 we came 8 out of 82 in class 1.
In 2019 I acquired Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43 DS in Preveza Greece.
The yacht is available to all disabled people, NATO Veterans and their families, and anyone else that wants to come sailing for a holiday or adventure on Yacht Tigger.
Due to Covid, I have remained sailing around Greece for two years. This year, 2021, I had 4 guests for 2-3 weeks, 3 BLESMA members, and one civilian, all disabled, as well as my family.
BLESMA Greece 2018
08 October 2018
This year's BLESMA Greece sail is the first one we have managed ourselves. No Steve to babysit through the arts of sailing.
I had been to the Boat Show on the Friday to try and get sponsors interested in my Tigger's World Project. So after a night in a Holiday Inn, I met up with the others at Gatwick. I shared with Nigel, I thought I snored bad, so little sleep.
All twelve of us set off early for the south terminal, had time to grab some Starbucks Coffee and Croissant before boarding. We had a mix of new and seasoned sailors with Paul, Nigel and I skippering the yachts.
Paul and Nigel were spreading rumors that they beat me in last year's race. Anyway, I ended up with Mike, Tim and Rupert (AKA Simon) on my yacht. So we had 3 legs and 7 arms between us.
Only Simon had sailed big boats although Mike was a proficient dingy sailor. Tim had never sailed.
We eventually moved on to our boats, ours was a 34.3'. Then one from each boat set off down town to shop for drink and food. We got a lift to town. This year the supermarket was more than helpful. I think they had even been studying English. We soon had three mountains of food and drink and the shop arranged transport back for us and our goods for free. So we were soon stowed away. We had dinner at the resort and copious quantities of drink. Diet coke, in my case lol.
Next day, Monday, after several briefs and safety talks, we set off for the Islands, little Vathi. Not much in the way of wind unfortunately. Still a pleasant motor sail and great weather. I had decided that I would sail as little as possible, allowing the crew to sail the boat, teaching and encouraging them. So Mike I think took the boat in to harbour with minimum assistance from me.
After making the boat safe and putting stuff away, I went down for cold beers only to find the door falling off the fridge. Catastrophe. On returning to cockpit, I put the beers down and was handed a stiff gin by Mike. This set the pattern for the week.
On Tuesday, we went to big Vathy via Arkoudi Island for lunch. Again, little wind and motor sailing. We saw a beautiful 3 master on the way.
Wednesday, we had a short sail to Frikes, a motor sail again. A beautiful little harbour. We moored up next to a cat, chartered by and Australian couple and daughter, Sheryl Mike and Sienna, they have been doing a sailing feed on YouTube for some years. They were very kind and interviewed me for their show. See link on main page. A guy caught a 4 foot Mahi-mahi right next to our boat.
The next day, Thursday was the race, the southern Ionian Regatta. We left promptly and got the Meganisi channel for about 11am. Wonder of wonders we had wind so we did a few tacks, 5 in race preparation. Then went to have lunch, moored near Paul and exchanged the usual pleasantries lol. I don't know how astrophysics got into the conversation? No heavenly bodies but someone spotted a moon for several seconds.
Due to only having done 5 tacks before I held back from the medley on the line but starting at the starboard end of the line. We crossed 35 seconds late and immediately found that we had no yachts to starboard. The boats in front were getting in each other's way and slowing each other down. So we tacked to port tack and were making real progress on the fleet when out of nowhere the committee boat came across our bow forcing us to do a crash tack and endangering the boat and the crew. We had no option but to tack with the result we went from the top ten boats to the top twenty. We continued across the water having 3 close calls with people cutting us up on port, bellowing starboard at them.
Mike who only has one arm was helming and as I suspected was very good as dingy sailors usually are. No nerves. One crew yelled at us in appreciation as we went across them on next port tack, "that took balls of steel". I said actually it was legs of steel, they got very embarrassed, but as the race went on we chatted as we passed them again. As the race progressed, the 2 front boats pulled away we thought we were lying about 20th. Mike was overtaking many yachts, eating up anything less than 40 foot, take most 45's with easy and spent 20 minutes duelling with a 50 footer. Only too loose on the water but on handicap we were well in front. Someone came up on the VHF pretending to be the race committee saying our handicap was being changed as we were too fast. I was livid as this is not allowed under the rules. But it turned out to be a hoax in the end.
The wind got up to a good force 5, we were perhaps a bit over sailed and rounding up on occasion. I trimmed the sails, spilt wind from the main and kept a rapport with Mike. How he does this with one arm is frankly heroic. We rounded the island on to the last leg; we counted the yachts in front and guessed we were about 22nd. We kept the speed on and overhauled another couple of yachts. The crew were not unhappy with 22 of 80 odd yachts. Once we were moored up in Sivota and safe, Mike got the G&T out again. Later the Leg yacht came and found us and said they were 14 or 15th. But more importantly brought the Gins to congratulate us. Got to bed after 4am.
After a coffee next morning in a café the results were out; Electra our yacht was placed 10th out of 82. For me this is as good as an Olympic medal. Beating 88% of the field with 5 training tacks is amazing. We were more than 30 places in front of the other 2 BLESMA yachts. We really made a mark for disabled sailing and I'm sure all the crew grow 6 inches and had a swagger and confidence not there before.
The following morning we went to Foki Beach to have a swim. Before spending the night moored in Vasiliki, Mike had nearly 9 knots out of the boat on the way in.
The last days sailing we went the Papanikolis Cave as in previous years. The crew went swimming and I looked after the boat. Then through the Meganisi channel, via the Oligarch island, and back to Vounaki.
Mike insisted that we play we are the champions by Queen again and again until the Gin ran out.
We had a lovely buffet and retired about 2 am.
Next morning cleaned the yacht and had breakfast. Paul and I went sailing dinghy's before getting on the bus to return to UK.
As usual, a wonderful week - thank you BLESMA
Blesma the limbless Veterans 2017
02 October 2017 | Southern Ionian
Been sailing in Greece again, all around the southern Ionian islands. 12 of us with about 12 legs between us and 23 eyes.
We had 3 yachts from Nielson's, a Defo 324, a 38 and a 42. The last of which was very much the sail training boat, doing their competent crew RYA Certs.
The temperature was up to about 30c and down to 11c at night. Some amazing rainstorms, including a funnel cloud beginning to form. The wind ranged from zero to a 7 on race day, but more of that later. As usual, we sailed in a loose flotilla except for race day. It's amazing how fickle the winds are, nothing then westerly 4/5 then a hole with nothing and a 100m late a 6 easterly.
Two years ago Col. Steve, me and crew finished 2rd in class and I wanted more, a win. So I spent a lot of time trying to get some shape into the sails. How do they get that bad? But in the end as good as I could get the sails the main issue was with the port side shrouds which were very loose resulting in one tack is about 35 off the wind and about 45 on the other, port, tack. But at least the hull was relatively clear. Anyway, the 42 was even worse than us with nearly 15 difference in tacks as well as poor sail condition.
We sailed to Sivota, I think, I love this place great food and a clean toilet, separated by a wash haha. Apparently, the G&T was supposed to be a genteel event. Someone decided (me) that it was a 50/50 g&t in half pint glasses, apparently, I had 5 and a few beers. All I know is that 2 walks around the harbor and one to the top of the hill, a mile and half, only enabled me to stand and be able to see where I was going to throw up. This sorry state of affairs is entirely due to me not drinking normally and in this one night consuming more alcohol than I had previously drunk in 5 years. What made matters worse was that apparently despite my begging not one of the several hundred yachts had any Alka-Seltzer. The moral of this is don't pretend you can keep up with your crew who are 30 years younger.