Small oil studies like the ones below played an important role in the formulation of this trip. A visit to Ibiza and Formentera sparked a stream of these paintings, making up part of an exhibition at The Rountree Tryon Gallery in London. Since then I've been keen to get back out and explore the islands further.
The plan is to travel with my portable pochade box that neatly holds 10x14" boards and all the basic essentials for oil painting. I expect most work will be done firmly on dry land but working on the boat might be possible in calm anchorages. The hardest part will be keeping paint off the polished gelcoat and upholstery.
I've read that a lot of sailors have boat cards as an easy way to keep in touch with people they meet along the way. I've designed one for us with our boat name, a picture of us and all the other useful details including this bog's address and my own website. I hope to have them printed and delivered within a week or so.
The boat is currently on the hard in Preveza, Greece. This makes our starting point a fairly easy decision. Where to go from there is the next question..
We are lucky that the right boat was in the right place -Greece is a great place to learn to sail and this is why it's so popular with charter companies. There are hundreds of islands and sheltered coves to explore. From Preveza we will probably visit Lefkas Marina as we start to find our feet. Then we may venture through the Lafkas Canal to explore the Inland Ionian and on towards Athens.
Over the season we have ambitions of visiting many places including Sicily, Sardinia and the Balearics. We originally thought we could cover enough water to eventually reach The Algarve but those more knowledgeable than us advised we reign in our ambitions and focus on the tasks in hand: learning to sail, painting and exploring.
It was reassuring to find quite a few 393's dotted around Lefkas harbour the day I went to inspect our boat back in February:
Being a common sight in the Med and one of the most popular charter boats should mean that any hired help along the way will be familiar with our vessel. With any luck this means knowledge, advice and spare parts will not be hard to find.
I'm in the process of planning the jobs that need doing before our boat can be launched. Number one on the list is the backbreaking job of scraping back the layers of old antifoul. This is a copper based biocide paint that needs to be applied to the hull below the waterline each year to impede the growth of barnacles, algae, and marine organisms. It's really nasty stuff so full protection must be worn. I've tracked down a tool that should make the job a bit easier:
As you can see in Mistroma's video below it's going to be a tedious job but needs to be done. I finally got hold of our survey report and some of the good news is that the epoxy coat underneath is in good condition. The antifoul is coming away from this base coat because primer was not used -I'm hoping this will make my job a bit easier.
Once that's done I need to abrade the epoxy, lay down a coat of primer and then two or three coats of antifoul. While this is going on I want to polish and wax the topsides -for this I bought a cheap 1500w sander/polisher. In the interest of saving time I'm having it delivered to the Lefkas post office which I will be passing on my first morning in Greece.
It's a big job for one person but I'm actually looking forward to it.
On top of learning to sail from scratch the purpose of this trip is to gather new material in the form of sketches and small oil studies. Working in the elements with just the bare essentials is very different to studio based work, the focus for me is to record everything as quickly and precisely as possible, gathering information that may be useful in the planning of larger pieces once back in the studio.
There are a huge number of second hand boats for sale so how did we end up choosing a Beneteau Oceanis 393?
We had a basic search criteria that included:
Must be forgiving for novices to sail.
Less than 12 metres to keep marina fees down.
Of roughly 2000 vintage when build quality and materials were generally of a higher standard.
Depreciation for the most part has already bottomed out.
We wanted an owners model, meaning two decent sized cabins rather than three.
Never chartered would be a bonus as long as it was in regular use.
I did my day skipper course on a 2000 Sun Odyssey 40 which gave me a good idea of what I wanted. Of all the online research I did the 393 kept popping up with good reviews. This is a production boat built to a tight budget carrying all the compromises that that entails but those who own them seem very attached. The interior is very spacious and has been compared to vessels three feet longer, this includes the headroom which is roughly 7' in the saloon.
With roughly 600 393's built there were a lot to choose from. It also meant a huge wealth of online resources for dealing with any maintenance, repairs and other issues -not to mention how to sail one. We decided that if we were going to do this we should do it properly and if we wanted friends to join us on the trip it would have to be comfortable for us and them. So the 393 was the boat for us. We found a 2002 model with two careful owners, British registered and for sale through a British broker in Greece.
I'm giving myself ten days on the boat to get her ready to launch. I know the antifoul paint is in need of scraping back and according to the surveyor there are potentially two or three sea cocks that need to be repaired or replaced. I would have more information about the work required had my surveyor not had a run of extremely bad luck. It seems just after completing our survey he suffered an online hack resulting in him unable to access his computer, email and other accounts. Somebody then assigned themselves his power of attorney and to top things off he was registered as an in-patient at a mental health clinic! I was wondering why we'd not heard from him in ages, all sorts of scenarios ran through my head but truth turned out to be far stranger than fiction!
To this day we are still waiting for the survey report one month later. He was able to access it on his screen at one point and described over the phone the main issues. Luckily there turned out to be nothing more than the usual maintenance expected of a boat her age and we went ahead with the sale.
In the last few days our funds have cleared into the brokers account and we are officially the owners of a fifteen year old yacht!
This plan is now very real. Until now I've kept fairly quiet about the whole idea. It's not a good idea to announce you are buying a boat and going sailing for six months when there are so many factors that could wreck the plan and leave you to crawl back with your tail between your legs.
The first active step towards this plan was taking my RYA day skipper course on the Solent back in November 15. We had fairly extreme weather the whole week but I loved every minute of it. I appeared to be the only one not to suffer from sea sickness, which until proved wrong I will optimistically believe I am immune to. I had prepared for this week by taking the theory course and reading every book and magazine I could get my hands on for months before. In my head I knew it all but in practice I knew nothing! I can recommend Sea Jays Sailing School in Lymmington and our instructor Rupert was great.
Prior to this I worked hard to get my day skipper theory exam. I used an online course from Splasheasschool.com that allowed me to choose when to study instead of spending 5 solid days in a classroom. I had to get these qualifications without Julia as she was busy with work but I'm sure she will pick it up pretty quickly once we're out there. It is only necessary for one of us to actually have the paperwork.
Next up was the SRC VHF course and exam. It is a legal requirement for one person onboard to have a license to operate the radio but we both had fun learning the Phonetic alphabet an concocting far fetched mayday practice calls.
I'm not really sure where to start -Who are we? What are we doing? Who cares?
I think I will approach this blog as an aide-memoire for looking back on the plan we are about to embark on. I will go into more depth at some point but the gist of it is we are a couple in our early thirties, we've bought a boat and we're completely out of our depth. Julia works in renewable energy and I am an artist.
So couple with no sailing experience have poured their life savings into a 38 foot sailing boat, let's see what happens..
She's called Bumblebee:
Perhaps a little bit more explanation is required.