The skipper in charge of a delivery from France to Greece during the pandemic
He is one of the rare breeds of sailors who tread the fine line between professional skippering and social skills. We’re excited to introduce Panos, our true Romanian friend from Greece who actively helps our Capetan community as an instructor and mentor. He’s fierce and strict, but if you want to get under his skin be sure to bring some “Salam de Sibiu” or some pickled cucumbers. Enjoy
What’s your brief sailing history? Why sailing?
Ahoy sailors. First of clan, and hopefully not the last, started sailing totally by accident 11 years ago when I participated in a weekend trip organized by my university. Then, slowly but surely, the virus got me. In the beginning, there were the regattas, then it was The Yacht Week and now I split my time between charters and instructing. Sailing is not just a simple activity, it’s a way of life. The thrill of discovering new remote anchorages, and the exhilaration of taming mother nature with your sails, but above all is the fact that you become a part of a strong brotherhood, a sailors tribe where the bonds grow stronger day by day, and it’s not so usual in the normal life.
Why are you doing deliveries?
Deliveries, and particularly the ones which include multi-day passages, are a very good way to expand your skillset and be prepared for the next phase which is liveaboard, another stepstone to become a more complete sailor. Other than that, it’s pure fun getting to spend time with people that are fun, likeminded, and seeing them develop so much in a short amount of time.
What’s the difference between deliveries and classic weekly charters?
A delivery and a weekly charter are two completely different things. In a delivery, the boat is like a factory that works non-stop for multiple days if not weeks, especially on a trip like the one from the North of France, so you have to take that into serious consideration in every decision you make. As I say, it’s a marathon and not a sprint, meaning it’s highly important to delegate your stamina and also give a rest to the boat whenever this is feasible. On a weekly charter, where distances are short and potential help is nearby, you get to focus more on offering a great experience to the people aboard. On the other hand, during a delivery you are focused on making a safe passage, respecting the boat and keeping the crew in good spirits while managing budgets and a ton more things. As a consequence, the weather plays an even more significant reason since you must constantly keep the bigger picture in mind; some legs, like the Biscay one, don`t offer shelter for multiple days so proper planning is necessary. Being underpowered but well-rested is a safe recipe.
How do you manage high morale on the boat during a delivery?
The other important pillar of a successful delivery is crew morale. For some people it isn’t their first time spending multiple days aboard, and I always try to have a mixed crew, formed of experienced and less, so they get to integrate easier. Providing hot, quality meals, and also free time for other activities like card or board games are tricks of the trade to keep the spirits high.
Which part do you find to be the hardest?
In all my deliveries so far, the hardest part proved to be getting the boat from the factory. Multiple parties are engaged, and sometimes deadlines are not met, leaving you waiting for proper documentation or dealing with other technicalities which sometimes aren’t even your responsibility. The moment you cast off and you distance yourself from the port, your concerns become much more profound and manageable.
How about the nicest?
Getting to do what I love with existing or new friends.
Do you take decisions by yourself or together with the crew?
Since I`ve handpicked my crew, and I`m lucky to be surrounded by sailors who are also skippers themselves, their opinion matters a lot to me. On principle, I`m always gonna layout our daily plan and our sailing strategy, discuss it together and take the necessary actions. Though, in order for a boat to work efficiently, the hierarchy must be clear and complete trust in the skipper is mandatory.
How well do you sleep?
Sleeping is extremely important since the lack of it affects your critical ability to make the right decisions. Some might believe that it only depends on the state of the sea, but I have to admit that you always sleep better if you trust your crew. It gets better day after day once you adjust to a different schedule.
How does the pandemic impact the delivery?
In a tremendous way, I must admit. Starting with the fact that many countries are under lockdown, leaving zero or limited options for safe anchorage or replenishing our supplies and water. Rigorous planning had to be set in motion in order to make it as smooth and safe as possible.
What are the changes that you had to make to this delivery because of the pandemic?
Our first priority was to increase our stock of supplies, even though countries started to lockdown while we were underway, but luckily, we foresaw the pattern. Studying the situation and even asking for advice from the Capetan HQ on the possible anchorages empowered us more.
To offer a specific example, every new engine needs service after the first 50 hours, which we had to do ourselves due to the fact that everything was closed; getting all the necessary spare parts was another small odyssey. In the end, all went well with the help of the sailing community in marina Alcaidesa which, in times like this, proves to be united and have strong solidarity.
How do you think that this pandemic will affect Capetan and the charter industry?
It certainly is gonna be affected and we can already feel the first impact. The months of April and May are practically frozen, and hopes are to start again slowly beginning of June. Being optimistic by nature, I think the end of this will find us stronger, and the sailing industry will be one of the sectors which will revive the fastest. Sailing, by definition, offers the isolation and intimacy which are gonna be a high priority on everyone’s list for the years to come.
Describe to us the daily boat routine
Our daily routine includes a short briefing each morning about our sailing strategy, and then we prepare a gracious breakfast. Food and cooking are of high importance since they boost crew morale, and a good meal is one of the few pleasures even on a rough sailing day. Then it’s all about sticking to the plan `till dinner time when we all gather around the table to discuss the day and have fun. Afterward, the 3-hour night shifts begin and people split between the deck and beds.
What are your plans when you get back home?
Home is where you drop your anchor, that’s what they say… Joking aside, I`m eager to spend some quality time with my parents, and hopefully make it back to Barcelona, to my girlfriend, before the season starts, a mission which might prove more difficult than crossing Cape Horn.
Send a few words to everyone who follows you back home
What doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger. There is always a silver lining, even in this pandemic, and it’s the fact that we are learning to be less materialistic, and appreciate the small things which have now been taken away from us, hopefully only for a short time.