All sailing is an adventure of sorts. You may be in unfamiliar waters and on an unfamiliar boat sailing from the Greek mainland to the islands in the Aegean or you may simply be blasting up the coast in a small dinghy. Both can kill the unprepared even in a flat calm, and both will throw up a few challenges that are ultimately down to you to sort out.

Merely by setting off the dock to sea you are stepping into the unknown – will a drunk idiot in a powerboat run you over as soon as you leave the harbour? Will you misread the weather forecast and end up in the teeth of a screaming gale? You don’t need to blast out of Les Sables d’Olonne on a 60ft sailing rocket to circumnavigate the globe on your own to see very real challenges at sea – you will almost certainly find them on a well maintained Kavas charter yacht on Greek waters as you might on a dinghy sailing around your local reservoir at home.

Race to Scotland

Air traffic controller Ken Fowler is sailing 900 miles from the north coast of Cornwall to John O’Groats at the NE point of the UK mainland in May on a 4 metre long RS Aero in May. Landing every night to eat and sleep, he is planning on spending 10 hours a day at the helm of his 30kg sailing dinghy with only a supply of water, energy gels, a GPS, VHF and mobile phone to ensure the journey goes well. Now, that is pushing your limits! He will have some company – two close friends are driving his camper van parallel to his route for him to rest and in case of problems, for them to get help to him quick.c

Ken Fowler, solo race

Unlike a keelboat, Fowler is going to have to hike out to maintain balance and speed for the adventure. Dinghy sailing is almost always an all over body exercise, with your arms, chest and legs constantly making adjustments for balance while your brain is assessing the next 100 metres and the route itself. Speaking to Yachting and Boating World, he said, “It is a full on 100% effort for 100% of the time with your body constantly moving around the boat and hanging out of it!

The water and weather aren’t always kind in that part of the world either. The Bristol Channel is renowned for its tides, and there several tidal races along the route – think ‘sea water rapids’ where the water roils and boils over underwater cliffs and rocks. Further north around the Scottish Islands there are even whirlpools that he has to hit at just the right time of day to avoid any issues with his tiny boat in the mighty sea. Even so, Fowler is making three quite arduous sea crossings – he’s sailing north across from Cornwall to Wales on his first day at sea and then from Anglesey to the Isle of Man, and from there to Scotland on another passage. Cape Wrath on the NW tip of the Scottish mainland is named for its fearsome currents, and then when he gets round there the tidal currents can do well over 10 knots. As to the weather? There are fewer gales at that time of the year but hardly ever none in a month…

Proper preparation…

As with every passage you do, whether on a Greek charter yacht or even on a tiny dinghy, proper preparation prevents problems at sea. Fowler has been sailing every day recently, even in a Force 9 gale, and has been doing aerobics training so his body is fit enough for the job. The cold and wet can suck the life out of you and exhaustion will kick in after the first few days.

He’s planning on doing the trip within the benchmark time of 64 days set by Ron Pattenden who circumnavigated the UK in a Laser dinghy some years ago. While he is after a record he puts it down to not having enough time in his life to take much more time out: “I’ll be taking a few longer open water crossings than Ron – because I have time constraints that Ron didn’t…”

While he is planning to do this in a series of short hops, it is a very difficult challenge indeed. We wish him well!

Sailing on unfamiliar waters

Fowler hasn’t loads of sailing experience and he doesn’t believe himself an instinctive sailor. Most people who charter on Greek waters don’t have thousands of miles of sailing experience but choose to have an adventure of a lifetime cruising our waters. While there are risks involved, it is a case of risk management as Fowler said to the magazine: “As an air traffic controller the thing foremost in your mind at all times is safety and I think having that kind of mentality is a great advantage when planning and undertaking a challenge like this”.

While it can be fun to push your limits at sea, caution should always be at the back of your mind. You should be thinking of ‘bail out routes’ as you sail to your destination – you never know when something could happen and have to remember that Neptune could have plans for you that you certainly didn’t put on your itinerary! In doing so you will always avert risks that could otherwise leap out and grab you.

This is not to say that yacht charter in Greece is particularly dangerous – all adventures have an element of danger and that is one of the many reasons we go to sea. If you want a completely risk free, relaxed holiday at sea you could always go on a cruise liner (though again when someone gets Norovirus it spreads like wildfire through the air con system and no one is safe!).

Richard Shrubb

See also ↠ Meet the extreme endurance adventurer Sean Conway, Sailing solo around the Southern Ocean