This report on the 2017 Ionian cruise will give you an idea of what to expect in 2018.

Mick’s Report on the

Gwenilli Trust Mediterranean Cuise

Ionian Sea 24 September 2017 to 01 October 2017

The trip with the Gwenilli Trust began with us meeting at Gatwick Airport at 06:50, I hadn’t seen this time of the morning for many years! We all met up at the designated meeting point and introduced ourselves to each other as this was our first meeting. Some, like me, had travelled down the day before and the more local people had journeyed down that morning. The Skipper (John), First mate (Jane), Bosun (Rich) and our carer (Tatjana) were able bodied the rest of the crew all came with ailments or disabilities.

This photo was taken at the end of our week away. But, 7 days earlier at Gatwick I noticed that the check-in desks for our flight were getting busy so suggested we get all our baggage together and get booked in. I have to say I abused my position of being in a wheelchair and went straight to the VIP booking desk as this was vacant. I asked politely if as a group we could check in at this desk and the staff were more than happy to oblige.

We booked in and were soon on our way through passport control. Our flight took off on time and was only two and a half hours to our destination. I must admit at this point to having absolutely no idea of our destination except that it was in Greece and part of the Ionian Islands. We landed, gathered all our belongings together and headed to our private coach that was to take us to the harbour and our yacht. After a short delay at the marina we were aboard our yacht for the week, she was a 10-year-old 50’ Bavaria and still in very good condition inside. There were 5 cabins, 3 double berths and 2 bunk berths, the two ladies had one of the bunk rooms and I had the lower berth in the other berth due to my mobility issues. The rest of the crew matched themselves up to the other berths and John the Skipper had a private berth as is the skipper’s right and tradition. I have seldom been with a group of strangers that have gelled so well so quickly.

After taking over the yacht and sorting out accommodation the required jobs were allocated to individuals. Two were allocated to shopping and two others were sent to find a local restaurant for our evening meal. The rest of us unpacked to vacate the bunks for the others to unpack on their return. The shopping was delivered direct to the boat and by then we had all returned so formed a chain gang to load the supplies and pack them away. After that we all sat down and had a drink and reintroduced ourselves to each other. Over dinner that evening we talked about the week ahead and if anybody wanted to suggest places to visit or things that they wished to accomplish then they were discussed and agreed upon. Most of us just wanted to sail and where possible swim in the sea.

The next day was unhurried as after breakfast ashore we returned to the boat to be given a briefing on the important controls and procedures for handling the boat with a little emphasis on how to depart the marina. After this a briefing was given on the proposed route for the day which was to become the daily norm. Here in this photo Rich is giving the proposed route briefing for the day just after we have left harbour.

Each day followed pretty much the same routine with respect to the daily briefings. Once we had cleared the harbour and the canal heading south, on our first day, as we did for the next three days we began to get to know the boat by carrying out some drills such as tacking the boat across the wind to learn how to work as a team to change the sails from side to side, to reef them in and out as well as to furl them away. As well as this sail training we practiced the Man Overboard emergency routine using a bucket and a fender to represent the man over board. During this time, we all soon found our natural role within the team taking on our tasks to ensure the smooth running of the boat.

The Skipper and First Mate, John and Jane, soon picked up on our abilities and limitations and allocated tasks as appropriate. As the days went on they would provide individual training to allow us to progress at our own pace. Everyone took their turn at the helm as well as the very important task of making the cups of tea. Most days we had lunch on the move and if the weather was suitable we always aimed for a stop in one of the many secluded bays for a swim around mid-afternoon. Without realising it this daily routine was stretching our sailing knowledge and abilities as the various tasks required us to work as a team to achieve our objectives.

The end of our sailing day would end up with us mooring the boat in a different harbour and as every harbour was different and had different problems we had, as a team, to change and adapt our approach to the task. Most harbour masters, often colourful local characters, would show you were to moor and where the nearest taverna was to have dinner that evening.

After mooring and ensuring the boat was prepared for the night we would enjoy a social beverage and discuss our plans often split into smaller groups to explore as well as doing the required fresh food shopping prior to heading off for dinner which always seemed to include feta cheese in one form or another. We shared the evening food bills each evening none of which were excessive for the quantity of food and drink we consumed between us.

As the week drew to a close and we returned to the marina we had left just 6 days ago the team became reflective and a little quiet as we entered the marina. We moored and carried out the required tasks to return the boat to its owners, packed our bags ready for tomorrow's return flight. As usual we had our evening meal and threw caution to the wind with the leftover expenses and had a wonderful meal over a lot of excited conversation re living our week away.

I can say without contradiction every member of the crew had a fantastic time. To be able to swim in the sea in the last week of September was amazing and so relaxing. If there was a beach near to our mooring most of the crew would make their way there for an evening swim and some for a morning swim before the start of the day. Some of us had sailed on this type of boat before, some had sailing experience of dinghies, some had no experience of sailing before this week but by the end of this week we all wanted to experience this again. From motor sailing in the calms to sailing at nine and a half knots with 3 reefs in each sail this was an experience that left its mark on all of us in one way or another. Most of us would love to return to experience the same sailing experience again. Some of us will be looking to progress our knowledge of sailing. I have enrolled to complete my Day Skipper certificate and have started the theory element and commenced enquiries to complete the practical element with the Gwenilli Trust due to their experience with wheelchair bound sailors. My personal aim is to be able to introduce my family and friends to this exciting and wonderful experience.

If you are interested in joining our week in a yacht in Greece in September 2018 and you could climb the companionway steps on board, please email jpthornton@gwennili.org.uk for further details