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Reaching out

by John Curnow, Global Editor 1 Aug 2020 07:00 UTC
The crew of the S/V Vilja celebrate their U.S. arrival © Image courtesy of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association

Nothing's as good as the eased sheets, a nice canter, and the nautical miles it destroys. Alas, and ever so sadly, this missive is not about that, but it is just as positive. Over the last little while we have had quite a number of readers email in, and this is something that the entire team really enjoys, so thank you.

The first to be featured here is utterly marvellous. Ingrid Myklebust from Norway had read an article prepared by our terrific and very knowledgeable USA Editor, David Schmidt, about the Salty Dawg's homeward run. She and her daughter are the people in the image above, of which she commented, "We are the ones opening the Champagne bottle on our sailboat S/Y Vilja upon arrival New Jersey/ New York."

Ingrid enquired as to whether there was a printed version of the 'magazine', and was very keen to get a copy of such, and even more willing to pay for it to be shipped to Norway to await her return. Alas I explained that since its inception over 20 years ago now, the group's sites have always been digital.

I did take the liberty of using a converter to take the HTML and make it into a PDF for Ingrid, with which she was thrilled. "Thanks for your friendly reply, and for converting the article. Much appreciated!" They have been quite the media sensation, with this article for ex-pat Norwegians also being written after their arrival.

"Our experience with the Salty Dawg Flotilla was 100% positive. We got all the assistance we needed in keeping up to date with the changing regulations in these COVID times, and then also great weather updates and routing advice from Chris Parker", said Myklebust.

"We're on our way home to Norway after a three-year circumnavigation. We will set sail from Newfoundland, heading for Greenland as a first stop, on our way Eastwards."

So what's in a name? Heaps!!!

When somebody comes to you with project called 'Sundowner', you've immediately got my attention. Such was the case with the most delightful man, named Robin Lamb. His book called Sundowner comes out today, and it deals with an 11-year trek around the Ionian Sea that he and wife Helen undertook. I'm working my way through the book presently, and it is as interesting as the contact I have had with Robin over the last couple of weeks.

A life long sailor (and avid reader of our sister site, with dinghies his choice in earlier years, the Essex born Lamb recalls, "My first sailing experience was in 1953 at the age of 10, and I remember it as wet, cold, and miserable! However, my father had come across a sailing dinghy that was up for grabs. It was called Landgirl because the chap who built it had fallen in love with a 'landgirl' (one of the girls who worked the land in the war), and he built the boat for her. She later rejected both the boat and him and he, mightily miffed, sold the boat for a song. My father sang the song so to speak and started a sailing school."

"I suppose we were just emerging from the post-war austerity years, and certainly the sailing school was done on a budget. Besides Landgirl, which was a clinker-built gaff-rigged fourteen footer with little freeboard so the water could come in green if you heeled it too much, there was a motley mix of mainly traditionally built dinghies."

"One had seen service in the local oyster fisheries, was about twenty feet long and had pig iron ballast. A bit of a contrast today's craft. Sailing was seen as a rich man's sport, but he ran the school on a budget, and some courses were also run for underprivileged kids."

"He must have been doing something right, because he found himself on the New Year's Honours List in the early sixties. An aunt, who was part of the Sports Council or some such government body, and who years later went around awarding grants to various organisations in the equestrian and sailing fields, says the Maldon Sailing Centre is remembered with some affection in some of the prestigious sailing establishments she was called upon to visit many years after my father had passed away."

Despite his uncomfortable early introduction, Lamb went on to love and teach sailing throughout his teens and early twenties. Later, when it came to retirement he wasn't too sure that he and Helen could afford to run a boat in the Mediterranean, but she said they could, so they did!

"Part of the argument was that the pound was pretty strong against the Euro, and we could probably pick up a suitable boat much cheaper in Greece than in the UK. Certainly the day-to-day costs of the food and beer variety were also much lower. The first thing that happened was that the pound took a nosedive! I love it when a well thought out plan comes together."

They had developed a love of Greece over the years, and since the early 80s had visited the country at least once a year to backpack around the islands of the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Robin retired in 2008 and they set off that year to look for a suitable boat.

"We eventually bought Sundowner from Sail Ionian (a Yacht charter company operating in Greece, and nowadays in the Caribbean too) and it became our summer residence for the next eleven years."

The book Sundowner starts with the idea of buying a boat in Greece being mooted in a sleepy little Greek taverna. Their retirement adventure was hatched over an ice-cold beer, anticipating living the dream. Actually, Robin thinks that maybe the cold beer influenced their thinking. The book goes on to recount some of their experiences of the next ten years - the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, and yet the sheer joy that a new journey in life can bring.

Sundowner the boat is a Bavaria 38 Cruiser, which was easy for the two of them to manage, moor and sail. Robin even single-handed occasionally. "With three double cabins it accommodated a number of visitors with ease, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. We lived aboard it for about six months each year from 2008 to 2019. Cruising the Ionian is charming. I was intending to sell Sundowner at the tenth year, but my family rose up in it's wrath at the idea (very frightening), and told me to hold off while everyone came out for a last trip."

The Ionian Sea where most of the book takes place is to the west of mainland Greece, reaching from the Albanian border down to the southern extremity of the Peloponnese on the Greek mainland. The climate gives rise to an environment that is green and lush, compared to the islands of the Aegean Sea to the south and east of mainland Greece.

"Dolphins and turtles can be seen, but it has to be said, with less frequency than they once were. However, projects such as the Ionian Dolphin Project and various re-wilding projects are bringing hope for a better future for these charming creatures. We had the luck to see the rare monk seal twice, once wrestling with an octopus that it had in mind for its supper. The octopus was quite naturally opposed to the idea. The Mediterranean monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world", commented Lamb.

"We did not see a fin whale (similarly endangered), but the tiny and charming island of Kastos (population less than 100 in the summer, and little more than a few goats and sheep in the winter) actually has a museum devoted to that mammal."

"Bird life includes pelicans, storks, and flamingos. It is a wildlife enthusiasts dream, and a beautiful place to sail. Beautiful bays abound, as well as villages steeped in history, mythology and tradition."

"We thoroughly enjoyed our eleven year stint out there, and if the book encourages a reader to attempt the same sort of thing then (without wanting to sound too saintly), then I will most certainly derive some satisfaction from that. We have already had some interest from Australia, which prompted me to ask the publishers how available the book was out there. She replied, yes. Sundowner will be available online at Amazon, booktopia, and also via the book depository. It will be on Barnes and Noble website to get it into the US. If everyone can follow that then they're better than I, Gunga Din, but I'm told it means, absolutely!"

"I think Australia must have some affinity with Greece, and I know there is a large ex-pat community there, for we saw many of them each year in the Ionian. It would be nice if the book re-establishes contact with one or two Australian friends that I have lost touch with." Well Robin, so do we, and everyone is welcome to reach out to us.

Short Tacks

COVID-19 has made sailing a go to adventure, with boat enquiries and sales going off. Many are new to boating, so do look at the piece on Ocean Passages if you want to hear about that from Nathan and Vivian, who are right on the pulse with deliveries and passages.

New vessels of note are the Fountaine Pajot Isla 40, and the all-alloy Explocat 52 for those really heading off into the big blue. In terms of monohulls, especially large ones, Groupé Beneteau's Deputy Chief Executive Officer in charge of Product Strategy and Brands, Gianguido Girotti, very much put our mind to ease, commenting after new four-year plan was revealed. "Our new Oceanis Yacht 54 is coming out this September. This is very important to us, and together with the 62 they are a range that will remain within our offer."

Groupé Beneteau also aim to find "...either a new partner, or make a joint venture for the four brands that we have within CNB. We will keep working on CNB and prepare for the future. We already have a few boats sold for next season, and we will keep our commitment leading in to 2025."

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please use the search window at the top of the home page if you are after something specific, as only the latest news appears on the site as you scroll down. We enjoy bringing you the best stories from all over the globe.

If you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top of the Sail-WorldCruising home page and the drag down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

In the meantime, do you love being on the ocean? Well remember to love them back too. They need our help. Now more than ever! Until next time...

John Curnow
Global Editor

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