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Aisling I
Former Nova Scotia Yacht for Sale!

No, we're not selling Aisling (or at least, not yet). But we'd like to introduce you to Fairwyn, a lovely Sparkman and Stephens boat formerly owned by well-known Haligonian Charlie MacCulloch and winner of the Prince of Wales cup in 1959. We had the pleasure of meeting the current owners Nancy and Stephen when we anchored beside them in Syracuse harbour. We get pretty excited when we see a Canadian flag in a Mediterranean anchorage, let alone a boat that spent the first 25 years of its life in Halifax! Nancy and Stephen hail from Vancouver, but we're convinced they were Maritimers in another life. We benefited from their warm hospitality on two occasions (including an unforgettable party for eight in Fairwyn's cabin one stormy September night) and have had the chance to see firsthand what a lovely boat Fairwyn is.

Nancy and Stephen will be wintering in Malta on Fairwyn, but are ready for a change of pace. So, if you want to cruise the Med without the inconvenience of a making a transatlantic crossing, take a look at their listing!
Fairwyn Listing on Yacht World

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In Case You Thought We Were Having Fun!

It could be worse. We could be on the hard. But honestly, our living conditions get a bit trying when we're in the last stages of getting Aisling ready for the winter.

We sailed from Siracusa to Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa last Thursday, and since then we've spent an inordinate amount of time fixing all the leaks that we discovered during the storm in Vlicho. Rick thinks the weeks Aisling spent on the hard during the extreme summer heat in Kilada are to blame. Whatever the reason, we have to ensure that things are watertight before we leave. Getting the right supplies isn't easy either, especially since 90% of the Italian yachting world seems to be at the Genoa boat show. On Monday, I hiked along a lonely road on the outskirts of the town in search of a tire tube for the mast boot. Do you know how to say "tire tube" in Italian? Me neither. It all worked out and I got a nice-sized tire tube for a mere 12 euros, but just as Rick got the old seal off, another thunder and lightning storm arrived out of nowhere. Water was literally pouring down the much that we filled two buckets in the space of about half an hour.

Rick decided he might as well take a nap while we waited for the storm to blow over, then felt water dripping onto his hand from the window above our bed. Another new leak! We think we've got them all fixed now, but I've put all our books into plastic bags just in case.

To add to our tale of woes, Rick somehow twisted his knee a couple of days ago and can hardly walk up the dock. Fortunately most of the heavy-lifting jobs are already done, but we won't be going sightseeing as we had hoped. I've booked wheelchair assistance for him for the journey back to Halifax (and he didn't even argue, which must mean it is really sore) but it does seem better today.

In spite of this, we actually have been having fun. Marina di Ragusa is a nice little town with a beautiful sandy beach. In between thunder storms, the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny. Sicilian food and wine are even better than we'd remembered. I love the sound of Italian being spoken in the streets, and the way people keep on speaking to you in Italian even after you've clearly said "Non parlo Italiano". There's a great group of cruisers in the marina, and most nights we can be found sitting on one afterdeck or another, sipping wine and telling tall tales. I've been walking every morning with Krissy and Joanne, but any calories we burn are typically offset by the cappuccini and brioches we reward ourselves with at the end of the walk. In short, life is good. So good that we toyed with the idea of extending our stay. But it is time to go home. We have a Thanksgiving turkey to cook. Or at least, I hope we do. Has anyone done the shopping?

Hopefully the long flight back will give us time to finish our unfinished blogs about Ithaki, Lefkada, Victoria and Donald's visit, and our stop in Syracusa. In the meantime, ciao!

Sicily 2011-2014
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10/09/2011 | Sandra & Chris
Looks like we are going to miss you guys afterall! We hope to be over in Sicily this coming week. Have a good trip back to Halifax and we look forward to seeing you in Sicily before too long.
Hurricane Force Winds in Vlicho Bay!

September 20th was a nice day, with scattered clouds, light winds and temperatures in the low 30's. We were anchored in Vlicho Bay on the island of Lefkada, a place that has a reputation of being one of the most secure anchorages in the Ionian Sea. Well protected from all directions, its thick mud bottom makes it an ideal port in a storm. Some cruisers have left their boats anchored in Vlicho bay unattended for weeks or even months at a time. In fact, we'd left our own boat at the Vlicho dock under the care of Horatio Todd for several weeks in 2009. The forecast was calling for only Beaufort 5-6 (17-27 knots) so in spite of the unsettled weather we'd been having for the past 24 hours, we were feeling quite secure. Little did we know we were about to be hit by the most frightening storm we had ever experienced.

Thinking back, there had been some signs that trouble was on the horizon. The previous night, we'd woken to a violent thunder and lightning storm that brought howling winds, rain and even hail. It's warm here at night, with temps around 28 degrees C, which means fans are on all night and all hatches are open. It's just part of how we deal with the heat. When the thunder started, I had hopped up to close all the hatches and then went right back to sleep, feeling satisfied with our position in the anchorage, the anchor and scope.

The next day, Bon and I decided to take a dinghy run into Nidri (the tourist town about ½ mile away) for some supplies. As we sat having coffee with George in the café across from his chandlery, our friends Ni and Krissie came along and told us that some big gusts had come through the bay and several boats had dragged anchor. They assured us that Aisling hadn't budged, but we decided to head back to the boat anyway.

At around 6.30 in the evening, thunder rolled ominously in the distance and it began to rain. I closed the hatches and took our big Canadian flag off the stern. A charterer ahead of us rowed out and dropped a second anchor in about 40 knots of wind. As the wind picked up strength, Aisling heeled over as though we were under sail. All the papers and books from the nav station slid to the floor and were soon soaked in coffee from the pot that had fallen from the countertop. Bon was scrambling around below trying to stow the computers and other breakable items and I yelled for her to turn on the nav instruments and running lights, hoping this would help other boats see us as the visibility dwindled. I started the engine and grabbed the wheel, getting ready to dodge any boats that dragged towards us.
The wind howled so ferociously that it drowned out the thunder, and I watched the wind speed display climb to 72 knots . The visibility was so poor with rain and spray that I could not see the bow of our boat or any boats to windward. It was especially unsettling to realize that there was a flotilla of SunSail boats at anchor around us. Boats beside us were sailing back and forth on their anchors and heeling over with their spreaders almost in the water. The water had turned pale green and now 4' waves were rolling toward us from the head of the bay, the wind whipping their tops off. It was hard to believe the waves could reach this height with such limited fetch-the bay measures only about a mile long and half a mile wide.

There was no time to be studying the wind instrument but I did look down once more and saw 00. I assumed that the force of the wind had broken the instrument but no, it was still working and when the winds started to abate the numbers came back. Later, Ni told me he had seen 96 knots on his instrument so I think the 00 was actually 100 knots.

Bon said the view from the door of the companionway was unbelievable, with mayhem all around and me at the helm peering forward intensely. She apparently asked me if I thought we were going to die and I responded with "I can't hear you!" . On the VHF, Bonnie heard a panicked woman calling "Mayday!Mayday! Vlicho Bay, Vlicho Bay!". She said it was terrible to hear the fear in her voice and to realize it was unlikely that anyone could help her, especially as she was unable to give a more detailed description of her location.

Dressed only in running shorts, a t-shirt and bare feet with the temperature dropping and the rain pounding, I was feeling almost hypothermic. Bon rummaged through lockers trying to find my foul weather gear, but since it hadn't been used in years all she could find was my old Helly Hanson sweater and a Columbia rain shell. But it made all the difference when I pulled the Helly sweater on: I started to warm up immediately even though I still had my soaked T shirt on underneath. At that point Bon also realized that I was on deck in ferocious conditions without a lifejacket or tether, and passed me my inflatable vest.

With 130 feet of chain in a depth of about 19 feet, our 30kg Spade anchor was holding well. Although I had the engine on, I had it in gear only intermittently. I was hesitant because I could not see where I was going and was afraid I might dislodge the well-set anchor by driving over it. Other boats were dragging past us but fortunately none came down directly on us. On some of these boats, the jibs had unfurled. Remembering the sound of jibs flapping uncontrollably in the wind during Hurricane Juan, and knowing the toll this could take on a rig, I tightened the jib sheets immediately and checked the furling line.

As I watched for other boats I remembered the dinghy had been floating at the stern (with outboard attached) and turned around to see all two hundred-plus pounds of it flying in the wind. A few minutes later it was upside down in the waves, although still tied on. We watched as our dinghy seat, oars and the dinghy bag containing our pump and running lights floated away, but there wasn't a thing we could do. The bimini overhead was ripping away from the frame and flapping ferociously, but I could not hear it at the time since the sound was drowned out by the roar of the wind and rain.

None of us are sure how long this lasted. My sense was 30-45 minutes, Bon thought less than 30 minutes and Ni thought it might have been as much as an hour. It seemed like a lifetime. Eventually the wind abated and as the visibility improved, the toll in the anchorage became apparent. The sea was littered with flotsam. There were boats partially sunk with only the bow showing. In the boat yard on the other side of the bay, about two dozen boats had tumbled from their cradles like dominos.

The shoreline was littered with boats (I saw at least 8) many masts had come down and jibs were in shreds.

Numerous boats had their anchor chains tangled and were now tied together. We later heard that a man had been washed overboard and drowned; another report said he had not drowned but had fallen, hit his head and died . A woman had been trapped inside a catamaran that had flipped, but she was rescued by a diver. Unbelievably, the boats anchored in Tranquil Bay less than a mile away had not experienced the high winds at all.

After a few attempts, Bon and I managed to turn over the dingy. It was not easy. The motor was still attached and the cover had even stayed on, but I later found a loose spark plug had let water enter the cylinders. (On a positive note I flushed everything out with a can of WD40 the next morning and it started after a few pulls, although it's not running as smoothly as before.)

We watched in disbelief as a sailboat came through the anchorage, picked up all the SunSail charterers with their luggage and evacuated them ashore. I wondered what would happen if the wind hit us again with no one aboard the boats, so we decided to lift our anchor and move to a safer spot. On the way, we managed to pick up one of our oars, plus another oar that was not ours. We felt a bit better knowing that we could at least row to shore if the outboard wouldn't start.

When we finally got settled in a safer location, we both felt like we needed a stiff rum, but of course we didn't dare, in case the wind came up again. Instead, we consoled ourselves with big bowls of the quintessential Canadian comfort food- Kraft Dinner! We always keep a supply onboard for emergencies like these.

The next morning, the crew of the yacht Ethel mounted a lost and found effort in the anchorage and arranged to have all the found items placed on the dock of Demetrius' taverna. The rightful owner of the oar we had picked up was located, and in return we were given a bent oar that would do in a pinch. Later, Bonnie went out with Ni and Krissie in their dinghy, searching for our lost oar and other gear. They didn't find any of our things, but picked up a boatload of treasures, all of which were added to the pile on Demetrius' dock.

We know how lucky we were to have escaped with only minor losses. We learned a few lessons from the experience, not the least of which was that it doesn't pay to underestimate the danger a thunderstorm can present. Also, always have out lots of scope, get the life jackets on early and keep the dinghy gear tied securely to the dinghy. One upside of the event was that our lines are now sparkling clean. The force of the rain and winds was like a pressure-washer.

A U Tube Video at the following link shows footage taken from shore during the height of the storm and the aftermath. Vlicho storm video by Alex Kokkinis

We are now lying at anchor in the bay at Siracusa, Sicily with thunderstorms continually rolling through. We find we've become a bit hypersensitive to the thunder. We've heard that the ancient Romans had a rule of thumb that all their ships were to be back in port by the end of September. Now we think we know why. Pizza ashore tonight, Porto Marina di Ragusa tomorrow!

Greece Ionian & Gulf of Corinth
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09/29/2011 | wallace fraser
Thank God you are all fine, the sea is never to be underestimated and to be respected, I know you two do. The lessons you learned are valuable I hope I do not have to learn them the same way.
Much love W&M
10/01/2011 | Peter Nelson
Wow! Incredible! Glad you are safe. I can only imagine! Well, I guess if it doesn't kill ya, it will just make ya stronger!!! Keep the chin (and pointy end) up!!
10/02/2011 | Robyn
We heard about the storm and were wondering if you were all right. Thank goodness your anchor held and you both survived unharmed. What a way to wrap up a sailing season!
10/04/2011 | Judy and Steve
HI, we are gald you survived that wild storm...hard to imagine that it ca happen so fast
10/06/2011 | Rick Salsman
We love getting comments! Thanks for all the best wishes everyone!
06/27/2013 | Bill and Linda Anderson
I just read this today! Goodness what a nightmare. Hopefully calmer conditions will prevail in July when we will be there? Keeping fingers crossed. Cheers from Linda on Lati in Sicily
09/21/2015 | Elaine McKeith Grieveson
Reading this article today, 4 years on brought back the horrible memory of that day. We were on Mychi, you have a phot of us with out tattered Genoa. It was the worst storm we have experienced and so unexpected in the shelter of Vlicho bay.
A Visit from the Fraser-Allans!
09/25/2011, Posted from Halifax, but experienced in Lefkada, Greece!

Even by plane, it's a very long journey from Nova Scotia to the eastern Med. Consequently, we don't get many visitors from home. Our kids haven't even been onboard Aisling in over three years. So when we heard that our friends Donald and Victoria were travelling to Greece with their son Fraser and his girlfriend Elektra, we immediately mounted a campaign to have them meet us. Right up to the last minute, we weren't sure whether their travel plans would align with our sailing schedule, so it was pretty exciting when they emailed to say they were on the way to Lefkada!

"Isn't this a hoot?" said Victoria, when we met them on the dock in Nidri. I knew exactly what she meant. There's something incomparable about a rendezvous with friends in a foreign location, and we were in high spirits as we sat down to lunch in a waterfront restaurant. Since Elektra is Greek-Canadian, we weren't surprised to hear her converse with the waiter in fluent Greek, but it was a bigger surprise to hear Fraser chime in...what a luxury to have translators with us! We lingered at the table until mid-afternoon, then piled into Elektra's car and drove to Geni in search of a hotel, leaving Rick behind to meet Alex, who was coming to install our new stereo.

Rick and I had already had done some preliminary sleuthing and had short-listed two hotels on the Geni road. The Hotel Ilios won the day, and with the tourist season drawing to a close, two very nice double rooms were available for only 40 euros each/night. After getting the bags stowed, Fraser and Elektra drove off to the beach while Donald and Victoria and I walked down the road to Tranquil Bay, where Aisling was anchored. Our plan was to play a few hands of bridge in the cockpit until it was time to go to dinner.

Of course, things never go quite as planned. After yelling ourselves hoarse trying to get Rick's attention, he finally appeared, looking rather sheepish. "The boat is in a bit of a mess" he said. The task of installing the stereo had not gone quite as smoothly as he had anticipated, and we arrived onboard to find that the boat, which we had cleaned and tidied to an unusually high standard in preparation for Victoria and Donald's arrival, was now in complete disarray. The floorboards were up, the doors of the salon cabinets were thrown open, the content of the cabinets were strewn across the table and the new stereo was blasting out techno-rock music (but only on one speaker). Fortunately, the view from the afterdeck was a nice as ever, and we sat sipping cold white wine in the cockpit as we waited for Alex to find the corroded wire that was the source of the problem. Within half an hour everything was back to normal and we were able to enjoy some Van Morrison tunes as we played a rubber of bridge. (Never mind who won.)

In our search for hotels, we'd noticed that the restaurant at the Seaside hotel, just down the road from the Ilios, had been named the best restaurant in Lefkada by the Times. It seemed like a good choice for dinner, and with Ni and Krissy joining us we had a merry group of eight to celebrate Ni's birthday. The food may not have quite lived up to the "best restaurant" standard, but personally I am still dreaming of the warm feta cheese wrapped in filo, topped with sesame seeds and honey.

With not everyone feeling confident about their sea legs, we decided that Aristotle Onassis' private island, Scorpios, would be an ideal destination for a day-sail. Obviously we didn't expect to be invited in for a drink (setting foot beyond the high-water mark on the beach is not permitted) but it's a lovely place to anchor and swim. So the next day, we motored out and "circumnavigated" the island, taking note of the small beach house that was a favourite hideout of Jackie O's. Her wedding to Onassis took place here, presumably in the small chapel on the island that is now the final resting place of Aristotle and both of his children. The staff put fresh flowers on the tombs every day, but there is no one there to see them- a sad end to what was meant to be a dynasty. If Onasssis bought the island of Scorpios to find solitude, he certainly has it now. The only surviving Onassis is Athina, the daughter of Christina, who apparently never visits the island. Rumours abound that Athina plans to sell the island, which is said to be worth $200 million. The Emir of Qatar is high on the list of potential buyers (along with Ralph Lauren and Bill Gates) and perhaps this explains the Emir's recent visit to the area. In case you were wondering, here's what a billionaire's view looks like:

As we anchored the boat, there was no one else in sight, but within 15 minutes our peace and quiet was shattered by the arrival of a day-tripper boat. Another arrived a few minutes later. Music blasted from their loudspeakers and tourists streamed onto the beach. They weren't making enough noise to wake the dead though, because Ari did not appear.

Oh well. It was still a perfect day, in water so clear that we could stand on the deck and watch the fish swimming around the boat. Here are Victoria and Elektra, swimming with the fishes!

As we ate lunch, we waved away the wasps that seem endemic in this part of the Ionian, and pieced together the few bits of gossip that we remembered about the Onassis story. Was Jackie Kennedy really paid a large sum of money to marry him? Or did she see the marriage as an avenue to ensure the privacy and safety of her children? What about Maria Callas? My curiosity was piqued by our conversation, and later I was surprised to read that Onassis was born in Smyrna to a wealthy family that became refugees after the great fire, when Smyrna was taken by Turkey and renamed as Izimir. It's a riches to rags to riches story, but without a happy ending.

After lunch, we finally ventured to the beach. I'm saying "Jackie Kennedy stood here"! I wonder if Maria Callas did too? (Doesn't this photo look like it was taken by a paparazzo?)

On the way back to Tranquil Bay, we even managed to get the jib out for a while. There wasn't much wind, but at least we could really claim to have gone for a day-sail!

The next day, the Donald, Victoria, Fraser and Elektra went off to explore Lefkada, but we rejoined them in the evening for dinner at Demetrius' taverna.

Even after dark, we could see fish swimming in the water beside our dockside table.

There was no sign of the little girl who played at taking our order when we ate there two years ago, but her older sister was already working as a waitress. (The following week, Demetrius' dock became the repository for items salvaged after the storm and we finally saw the younger girl, now a sturdy five year old.)

Our time together was too short. The next day, they headed off to tour the Peloponnese. We wished we could go with them to see Olympia, but it was time for us to prepare for our passage to Sicily.

In spite of a taxi, bus and metro strike, Donald and Victoria managed to catch their flight out of Athens to Paris, taking off just minutes before the air traffic controller strike began! Travelling in Greece these days may require an "expect the unexpected" approach - but I think we all agree that it is worth the effort!

Greece Ionian & Gulf of Corinth
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