Sunday, August 31, 2014

Travelling Light

By the time my next blog comes around in two weeks, I’ll be in the Eastern Mediterranean, crewing aboard a yacht belonging to some friends.

No, not this kind of yacht ...

Not a holiday by any means, though, because I have some ideas bubbling away for which sailing the waters of the Ionian will be very useful research. Plus, my role is foredeck gorilla. I will be hauling on things and jumping over the side to swim mooring lines ashore rather than lounging elegantly on deck in a designer bikini. (Erm, OK maybe not. After all, this is me we’re talking about)

Yeah, I know – it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

... this kind of yacht. In fact, this very yacht.
Much nicer.

So, with the trip less than a couple of weeks away my mind starts to turn vaguely towards packing. Only vaguely at this stage, because there seems to be a hell of a lot that needs doing before I can even begin to think about actually putting stuff in a bag.

The only carrier flying the route and schedule I need was Ryanair, and I’ve spent several weeks, off and on, wrestling with their website in order to book my flights. Each time, their system rejected payment and – surprise, surprise – the next time I tried it the prices had gone up. In the end, I had to bite the bullet and get the damn thing booked. Funny how it would let me leave the country with no problems, but didn’t want to get me home again. I wonder if this is a hint …?

 (For anyone who's never heard of the brilliantly talented Fascinating Aida, you need to watch their wonderful 'Cheap Flights'. I wonder why they sing this with Irish accents ...?)

I haven’t flown with Ryanair before but I’m hoping they have followed Southwest’s example of Cheap and Cheerful with the emphasis on Cheerful. I’ll let you know when/if I get back.

But, as I said, I’ve been starting to think generally about what I need to take with me, and how much space and weight that’s going to take up. Luggage allowances are down to about the eight-kilo mark – that’s just less than eighteen pounds including the weight of the bag.

I learned to travel very light fairly early in my career. When I was still working as a photographer and lugging film cameras all over the place, I had so many photographic bags that I ended up with hardly any allowance left for clothing.

Fortunately, I’ve always tended to buy clothes with the following questions in mind:

How easily does it wash?
How quickly will it dry if washed out and left overnight?
Does it look half-reasonable without needing to be ironed?

Because the Greek Islands have a very sunny image, you might be forgiven for packing a few lightweight T-shirts and a couple of pairs of shorts, but the evenings can get pretty chilly, so that means a fleece as well. Good because they are very warm without weighing much, but they can take up a lot of space in a small carry-on bag. My solution is to wear as much as possible on the plane and hope they don’t start weighing the passengers before boarding, or introduce a new rule that you’re only allowed two layers. And I remember the days when I could fly the Atlantic with two bags weighing seventy pounds each …

I get around the ‘no liquids’ rule by taking an empty bottle and then refilling it once I’m airside of Security.

These days I tend to take a stock of books on my smartphone rather than real paperbacks, although I’m likely to need a notebook more than reading material and for that nothing beats paper and pen.

I would usually take my own insect repellent, but with the restricted bottle size I may have to decant my usual concoction into old 35mm plastic film pots – that’s how I carry shampoo and conditioner.

Bearing in mind that it’s going to be hot, a pack of baby wipes which I can put in the fridge is always great. Lovely to be able to cool your face that way. Works well over here in a hot summer, too.

I take a couple of clothes pegs so I can wash stuff and not have it disappear over the side in a breeze. (Very useful for holding closed hotel curtains that don’t quite overlap in the middle, too.)
Clothes pegs

As this is a yachting trip I’m taking a pair of sacrificial gardening gloves – the ones with the stretchy cotton backs and rubber-coated palms. They’re great for grabbing hold of silted-up anchor chain and laying it neatly into the chain locker.

And just in case the worst should happen, I take a roll of Micropore surgical tape, which I can cut into DIY Steri-Strips to close a wound that really ought to be stitched. Can’t you tell I used to live a long way from the nearest hospital Emergency unit?

Off the top of my head, that’s all I can think of at the moment, apart from the obvious like clothes! So, folks, any travel tips you’d like to share? What do you never travel without?

This week’s Word of the Week is lethologica, meaning being unable to recall the precise word for something. And if you become obsessed with trying to recall it, this may lead to loganamnosis, which when you do finally remember it can become onomatomania, where you repeatedly use the word or where it intrudes into your consciousness, like getting a song stuck on constant replay inside your head. I’m sure there’s a word for that, but for the life of me I can’t think of it …


  1. Sounds amazing. Winter here in Australia. Any chance on an update on when Charlie Fox #11or Kelly Jacks #2 might be available?

    1. Hi Kristy. I really am going to have to make it to Australia one of these days! It sounds great and to have summer during our winter sounds even better.

      Personal things have got in the way of the next book, but there will be one, never fear! It may well be another standalone, like THE BLOOD WHISPERER, before I do the next Charlie Fox.

  2. You are indeed one mighty brave and inventive lady! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

    1. Hi Thelma. Thank you! I think I'm just very lucky to have a) found what I wanted to do and b) to be able to do it -- most of the time, anyway :)

  3. Remember: given the destination, the important part is getting there; if you don't make it back, there's worse places to be stuck! Sounds like a wonderful trip, Zoë, the nightmare of air travel aside. Have fun, and look out for that Fuzzy Navel!

    1. Hi Everett. I have now managed to book the return flights, so I will be coming back, but it was very annoying that the Ryanair website kept throwing up glitches, and asking me to sign in when I'd already done so and then not letting me complete my booking, and all the time the price of the flight I wanted was going up and up until by the time I'd finally managed to book it, it had practically doubled. If this is some kind of sales ploy, I'm not impressed!

      And yes, there are far worse places to be stranded!

      Fuzzy Navel?!?

    2. :-) Sorry for the obtuse reference. See Jeff's post from yesterday (Delphi being the 'navel' of the world) and my reply ("Drinking in Delphi: A Fuzzy Navel").

    3. Ah, at least it wasn't a Pierced Fuzzy Navel!

  4. Is that really Donald Duck's yacht at the top of your very envied post? I particularly like the packing tips, but if you came to Mykonos you could pack even lighter...ENJOY!!

    1. It's a Strand Craft 166, a 166-foot super yacht capable of 40 knots, apparently. Personally, I'd rather have the Grand Soleil in the pic below. Especially the first time you had to fill the tanks.

      And now you tell me ...

  5. I was lucky enough to see Fascinating Aïda in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago. Very funny! I have had similar experiences with Ryanair and won't fly with them again. Not worth the hassle of trying to deal with a website that not only is confusing, but gouges you at every key press. I'd rather pay a few bucks more. Have a great time and remember, when you get the winter blues, that South Africa also has a summer.

  6. Zoe, you should check out the Rohan ( line of lightweight clothing for travellers. Good stuff, well-designed and it washes and dries in a flash.