Thursday, December 06, 2018

How I survived three days without Internet

I have a mobile phone contract with a provider in Greece which gives me 600 MB of data (Internet access) per month. That's definitely not enough for what I want, so a week ago I added 5GB for 5 Euros, good for about two weeks - a special offer. Yesterday, six days later my access was down to just over 1GB, so I decided to update my blog. When I was done, I checked again - 0 GB, 0 MB, 0 kb left. Nada, nothing, tipota.
When there is nothing left, the phone company charges huge amounts for anything above and beyond what you have paid for. Very dangerous. So, I decided to call the 24 hours help line to ask for more. They put me on hold! What will I do! After waiting what seemed like hours, I put the phone down and resolved to call again in the middle of the night when the lines would be less likely so busy. But, no luck, I slept through the night like a baby.
In the morning, I decided that this was a good time to see if I am an Internet addict. Could I live one day, 24 hours without it? Here is what I found.
At first, I longed to check my messages: email, Facebook, WhatsUp, Messenger. What have I been missing since last night? Who has messaged me? And what about the news and the weather report? I know I could look outside and see whether it's raining or sunny but I wanted to see it online! And news... What is Trump up to today?
The other side of the problem was - what will I do all day? With my leg still in a cast I couldn't move much to escape. Not easy if I tried - uneven surface covered with gravel all around - better to stay put than risk re-injuring myself. I had food and water - no excuses. And of course, I still had my mobile for any emergencies.
Next, I meditated and did my brain exercises: Klondike, Spider (two suits), FreeCell, Pyramid, and Trypeaks until I got all of them right. I gave up on Klondike after five tries. These were followed by Sudoku (Hard) and Block Dominoes (Hard Bot). I gave up on hard bot dominoes after four tries and settled on the medium one which I won on the first try. My brain well exercised, I returned to the problem at hand - what to do all day.
I could do some physical exercises, perhaps Yoga, but with a broken leg, now how smart is that - I get enough exercise just hopping on one leg to make coffee. I almost forgot about the Internet, or lack of it while I was busy with my exercises and meditation but an hour later I was done and the ache returned.
I decided to make breakfast and satisfy if not one ache than another. A salami, mushroom omelet did the job adequately and while I was cooking, I thought of an idea for an article I wanted to write. Creativity returning? A writer unblocked perhaps? I returned to Klondike to mull this over as I ate.
Someone should invent an addictive game that actually accomplishes something, such as a book. Must speak to my son, who writes games for a living about this once I have Internet again. Ah, perhaps that's too important an idea to delay until tomorrow? I resisted and returned to Sudoku. I had won the hard version, so next, I successfully completed the extra hard one. Just to exercise my brain a bit more, mind you.
It was 8:30 by the time I finished my brain exercises, an offline email to my son and breakfast - I still had most of the day ahead of me. I looked around and noticed the wool hat I had recently knit. It needed a pom-pom out of the leftover wool. With the scarf, I had another Christmas present completed.
But I was still anxious - most of my friends would be up. What were they doing? What news did they have? What photos did they post? I was getting desperate. And if they didn't see me online, would they begin to worry? Would they call? And what if they didn't notice? I could be dead!
Soon the sun came out and I crawled out of my lair to enjoy its warmth and to eat a bowl of reheated veal stew. I also took the opportunity to do a bit of light sanding and put a coat of varnish on some teak trim and my newly renovated cockpit table. So, I was getting things accomplished. For a brief moment, I considered hobbling on my crutches to the community room where I could access free WiFi, but couldn't think of anything important that awaited. Perhaps I'll go on Sunday if it's not raining. Whoa!! Really?? I'm not keen to see who is online? That was a surprise.
After putting on a second coat of varnish in the afternoon, I did my Greek lesson and made some orange scented tea. I still felt the ache of wanting to go on the Internet and do something, anything even if it meant reading the news. But I knew the ache would pass and in fact started to think about not buying the extra GBs. I would save about 30 Euros a month - a nice sum to add to my boat yard bill. I had overspent during my four week holiday on Ibiza and now regretted it badly.
And so, more than three days have passed and I haven't missed Internet all that much. I've been knitting (finished a scarf and a hat, started another scarf), sanding, varnishing, reading, sorting photos, cooking and writing. One friend even called to check up on me. I decided to catch up on Internet once a week. That should be enough although, I suspect I might start longing for it again. Like an alcoholic who thinks he has his addiction under control and has just one drink. Serious stuff!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Life in a boat yard with a broken leg

After hauling out my sailboat, Eidos at Aktio Marina for the winter, I decided to take a short  holiday on a one way ticket (because you never know what opportunities or lucky breaks await) and flew to the Balearic Islands, Spain for the Ibiza Tantra Festival. For those of you who don't know about Tantra, it's mostly Yoga, meditation, chanting, dancing, massage, extreme eating, swimming in the sea in the nude and lounging around the swimming pool at a luxury hotel. I had an amazing time! 
Then on the final day, while waiting for my ride to the Ibiza Yoga retreat to relax doing absolutely nothing for another week, I slipped on a sloping path to the beach and twisted my ankle. It swelled up and was very painful, but two lovely gentlemen carried me back inside and put me on the sofa in the lobby. Someone else brought me lunch and a Tantrika gave my ankle a healing session. 
At the Yoga retreat, I wrapped the ankle with a tenser bandage and waited for it to stop hurting. It didn't. So, after five days, I finally gave in and got a ride to the hospital for an x-ray.

"You have a fractured fibula," said the attending doctor. "Possibility of surgery." 
"No, surgery," I replied firmly.
"In that case we put on a cast and you will return in two weeks for a consultation with the specialist."
"Can you not just give me a walking boot so I can get on with my life?
"You must have a cast, and keep your weight off that leg or you might never walk properly again."
Sufficiently frightened, I submitted to the doctors' authority. 
"You must also inject yourself into your abdomen with an anticoagulant medication every day."
"No. I hate needles and I will never inject myself."
"You might get Deep Vein Thrombosis or Pulmonary Embolism if you don't. And if you get one of those, you might die." 
Once again defeated, I returned to the retreat, but first stopping at a pharmacy to fill the prescription.

Back at the retreat, I paid for half board, which was sufficient, given that I was not doing anything to expend the calories. It was great having company while immobilized on the lounge sofa. I had access to the kitchen to make a simple breakfast and my lunch was cooked and served, dishes carried away and washed. Often there was tea and snacks during the day and sometimes I was offered dinner. 
One of the residents played a guitar, I had people to chat with, there was a nearby patio to enjoy the sun and sometimes we had movies in the evenings. I was even offered more healing sessions and massage treatments. What a great way to recover! If only I was independently wealthy!
Two weeks later, back at the hospital, another x-ray revealed that the bone seemed to be healing and the doctor agreed that I could return to Greece. He cut open the cast lengthwise in the front to give my leg and the veins more room to prevent DVT while flying, then wrapped it all up with a tenser bandage.
Meanwhile, a couple of friends in Greece had offered me their homes for further recovery but instead, I decided to first return to Eidos in the boat yard, to check up on some work being done, and put another coat of varnish on the teak. The cast would come off in three or four weeks and then, with help, I would move Eidos to Lefkas Marina for the rest of the winter.
I booked my ride to the airport, my flights from Ibiza to Athens and a taxi to the boat yard. I then focused on my needs back on board. I needed some crutches (I had borrowed a pair at the hotel but had to return them upon leaving) and also groceries delivered. A couple of posts on social media and I was offered both and a quick phone call secured a delivery of the crutches for the following day. 
At the airport, I was taken care of door to door with wheel chair service and hopping up and down the airplane the rest of the time. On the way from Athens airport to Aktio, the taxi driver picked up two loaves of bread for me while getting a coffee at a bakery, some souvlaki at a road side stand, and then stopped at an ATM so that I could get cash. 
The biggest challenge still lay ahead: how to climb a ladder on one good leg so that I could board my boat. 
We arrived in Aktio Marina after dark, but the night watchmen brought a ladder and carried up my suitcase and hand bag. They also helped me hop from the taxi to the bottom of the ladder. I quickly realized that using my knee instead of the foot on the ladder rungs was quite simple. And so, with one good foot and the other knee, I carefully climbed up into the cockpit and then swung myself into the cabin. Easy, peasy... It was good to be back home and soon I was in my bunk, the electric heater purring in the middle of the cabin. I would deal with the challenge of living in a boat yard with a broken leg  - tomorrow.
Since this was the end of November, there were very few people around, mostly the boat yard crew and a few service contractors. The usual, spring to fall van shuttle that the boat yard provided for clients was no longer running and the local taverna was closed for the season. I was not allowed to drive - the cast was on my right leg. Furthermore, even with crutches, getting around the gravel surface of the yard would be risky if not outright dangerous especially with rain coming in a few days. 
So, the next morning on one knee and one foot, I managed to stretch and secure a waterproof tarp over the boom for extra shelter. Inside, I hoped and slid around to make hot drinks and sandwiches. A friend had also dropped off my new crutches.
In the afternoon, I rigged a line to lower the crutches off the boat as needed. I then climbed down and removed the aluminum foil plugs from the thru-hulls. Gray water would drain out to the gravel. For the toilet I had the holding tank. I spent the rest of the day making my space comfortable, knitting Christmas gifts and updating family and friends online.
On day two, I added 5GB of Internet access to my telephone contract - I would be depending on Internet for many things. There is free Internet access in the boat yard, but I would have needed to walk 100 meters to reach the community area where the signal was strong enough and at the moment that was beyond my ability. Very humbling.... 
I called the office and learned that the mechanic would be coming to replace the exhaust elbow for my engine early next week. And when the sun moved into the cockpit, I put on two coats of varnish on the companionway doors.
Later that day, I called my favourite supermarket and spoke to the manager who told me that the store didn't offer shopping service or delivery but that he would do it for me. I was grateful, but that's not exactly what I had in mind. A friend was too busy to help me and I was afraid of what it would cost me if done by the YachtFresh provisioning and catering service in Lefkas, since it involved half hour drive each way for the delivery. There had to be a better way. 
In the evening, I continued with my Greek lessons, added a few rows to the scarf I had been knitting and called my younger son, Justin for his birthday.
And then, in the middle of the night, it dawned on me that Costas, the shuttle driver in the boat yard, often went shopping to town to buy food and supplies for the boat yard staff and crew. I would ask tomorrow and then start working on the shopping list in Greek.
"Yes, we can do that for you," Ioanna from the office replied to my email the next morning. On Monday. Great! Another problem solved - I will have my groceries delivered.
Later that day, I noticed a large garbage bin in front of Eidos, so tossed my trash. I might never need to leave my boat!
So, with some planning and a lot of help from the yachting community, living in a boat yard with a broken leg is a snap!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Making Kefir

 To make kefir, you need some culture grains. The best way to get them is from someone who is already making kefir and has extra. Ask at a farmers' market or online. 

Place the grains in a jar and add milk. Leave the jar on your kitchen counter - kefir likes warm temperature for 24 hours. 

Strain the kefir through a plastic strainer using a wooden or plastic spoon - don't use metal, leaving the grains in the strainer. Then repeat the process with more milk.

 Use the kefir for  pancakes or to make a smoothie with mashed up fruit such as a banana, add honey and cinnamon. Use a blender if you have one for smoother consistency.

You can also strain kefir through a coffee filter for 24-48 hours to make cream cheese. Add herbs if you like and spread on bread or crackers for a party treat. Use the whey in cooking and baking.

Add shredded and drained cucumber, garlic, chopped dill weed and a squeeze of lemon for a Greek dip called tzatziki.

You can also put the cream cheese in a cheese cloth, hang it in the sun to make hard cheese suitable for shredding and adding it to soups, pasta and omelettes. Yumm!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

More work!

 After my crew carefully sanded the teak in July and August, I had the pleasure to do the varnishing. Three coats for now but soon, at least three more.
My new crew, Joanna is sanding more teak so soon Eidos will be beautiful once again.

The work never ends but the results are definitely worth it.

A friendly carpenter made this cockpit table for me using the old trim and replacing the rotten plywood with new, marine grade one. So there is another varnishing job.


Lefkas town quay

It's already September and I've been anchored in Lefkas town for about a month. The fuel shut off cable for the engine broke and in August everything is closed for holidays so the mechanic couldn't reach the parts department for Yanmar in Athens. 
Finally, towards the end of August he did manage to get through, only to learn that my engine is so old (1980) that some parts for it are no longer available. So, now a new one had to be made and of course it being middle of the busy season in the yachting world in Greece, I had to wait my turn. Finally after a month of waiting - the new cable was installed and I can now turn the engine off easily once again. Back to eating rice and beans though!
Shut off cable

So, meanwhile, while waiting, I decided to do something useful and finish the deck caulking job. Each day I did a bit and now am a proud owner of a sailboat that hopefully will not leak ever again - yeah, right...

First, all the grooves had to be cleaned out off the old caulking - my helper, Renee did that in August. Then they had to be taped very carefully.
 Next, I used a very expensive caulking and squeezed the goo into the groves between the tape. This goo is like tar and sticks to everything if you're not careful.
Here is the result before I smoothed it out with a gloved finger.
Next, very carefully I removed the tape, leaving a nice straight edge to the caulking being very careful not to get any of the goo on my hands. This is not so easy as you will see later.

 Here is the result - a nicely caulked section of teak deck, hopefully preventing any water from seeping into the boat.
Of course, I got some of the goo on my hands - otherwise how could I prove that I did all that work!
And finally, tie some string around the wet caulking so that I don't accidentally step on it. It takes good two to three days to dry.

 And finally...


Friday, June 01, 2018

Marina Vathi, Ithaka

As I sit in the cockpit watching the sun slowly clear the hill to the east, a light breeze stirs the sea around my boat and a bird chirps in the nearby eucaliptus tree. A short walk away from town, this harbour is quiet, safe in most winds and beautiful. Used by fishermen all year round there is nothing much here in winter but come spring, the two restaurants open and the harbour fills up with yachts. 

Sometimes up to 20 flotilla yachts raft up on the concrete quay and only a few individual boats can med-moor in between the fishing boats. There is also an anchorage further west and a swimming beach close by. 
There was an attempt made to add electricity and water on shore, but so far, it has failed. However, you can call for water and diesel to be delivered to your boat by a tanker truck and the grocery stores in town will also deliver. Come early if you want to be sure of a place to tie up.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Spring is here again!

Happy spring! It's time to get sailing again and soon I will be back on board. Where shall we go this summer? Come and join me.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Not ready for the senior's home yet!

Eleni is 70 years old and  rides her scooter to shop in town. No, not the mobility scooter that some people use, but a real motorcycle scooter. Many older men ride them here, but she is the first older woman I saw. You go, granny!



Sunday, October 29, 2017


Ok, so I have been in denial all of October but now it's becoming obvious that if I want to be comfortable this winter living on board, I need to decide on how to keep warm. It's still warm during the day (I have been swimming last week), but the early mornings are a bit chilly.
There is no electricity available in the fishing port where Eidos is moored, so using an electric heater is out of question. Of course, I could move to a marina and pay for moorage plus extra for electricity but in that case and for a similar price, I might as well rent a house.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Passion for the sea

I just published my book, Salt Water In My Veins to be listed on Amazon and while I wait, I've been cleaning up some files and found the following quotes:

As cruisers, "we possess an insatiable curiosity for what lies beyond the horizon. We're outcasts, unable to handle for long indoor jobs, 9-5 routines, malls, suburbia or urban life." Sitting Out a Gale by Leslie Nicholas. 

And in The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Ashore, in the May, 2000 issue of Cruising World, John Pollock describes his family feeling like "wolves in a cage at the zoo," after returning to their life ashore. He writes: "We pace. We're ready and eager for motion..., we continue to avoid big gatherings. We all suffer malaise in crowded rooms, and our restless eyes search for doors, windows and other avenues of escape." 

Both writers express exactly how I feel. I can't be away from the ocean; I feel I can't breathe. I can't live in a house; I feel trapped. If I can't be actively cruising, then at least I have to live not only on a boat, but on a mooring or at anchor preferably with a view of the open ocean.

My family doesn't understand my lifestyle. I'm losing touch with my land bound friends. I've given up trying to carry on a relationship with a man who doesn't have the same passion for the sea. Even if any of them come out sailing for a day or a weekend, it's not the same. I think it takes an ocean passage to develop the obsession.