A NEW YEAR 2011
2010 has now gone and 2011 has arrived, we have settled into the marina life here at Messolonghi and keeping ourselves very busy with our winter jobs and socialising. We are finding it very different from last year, although we have less winter jobs to do this year we still seem to be kept busy, mostly by social events in or out of the marina. Messolonghi is a lovely place and we love the town as it is very traditional and not touristy, we have also made some good friends here especially with a certain family who run one of the Tavernas in town called Filoxenos, the only downside is that we have not taken Ashby Girl out since our arrival here in mid October and now we both feel ready for a sail. One of the reasons we have not been out sailing is due to the fact that there are no nice anchorages close by for a short day sail, also it would take us about an hour just to get out the buoyed channel into the open sea.
Messolonghi marina is still being developed and there should be a few shops here by the summer which will be quite handy, but the more developed it becomes this could also put the mooring prices up. The staff here are very friendly but not well organised and its quite entertaining watching the boats being hauled out. We have made friends with many cruisers here and regularly join them for some of there many get togethers that they have here in Messolonghi which includes the weekly BBQ, the get together on a Tuesday night at a local Greek Taverna where a few of the cruisers will take their guitars along and a good old sing-along is had by all. We visit this Taverna quite regularly and have not managed to leave before about 2am and some days it's a lot later. Friday night is Greek music night, also there is a coffee morning on Saturday after the market and there are also various other activities going on here in the marina throughout the week, so overall quite busy. We had a really great time here at Christmas. We all got together for drinks and nibbles on Christmas day at lunch time and on New Years Eve celebrated at our local Taverna where we experienced a Greek New Year, very different. We have had such a great time here and everyone has been so friendly, we could go on and on about the generosity we have experienced from everyone and also the great times we have had.
A bit of new for this summer, we will both be working; yes working I'm afraid; we will be doing a summer season in Turkey as a lead crew on Flotilla for Sunsail. We will be based at Orhaniye in Turkey and it is meant to be a really nice area, so we are quite looking forward to it, mind you there be one other on board with us so we wont quite have the freedom that we are used to, but we are sure things will be good. We will be leaving Ashby Girl on the hard here at Messolonghi until we return next winter, so no posts for a while until we are back and then we will give you an update on our working summer season.
SUMMER IN GREECE
Well we are both feeling a bit sad at the moment as a few days ago we arrived at our winter marina in Messolonghi, which now means that this is our home for the next 6 months and our summer has come to an end. We arrived here in Messolonghi a bit earlier than expected due to some bad weather affecting our area and also we were not sure if we would like it here, so there was always a chance if we were not satisfied with the marina we would then have time to move on and find an alternative winter marina, but after a few days of looking around the area we have decided that this will be the place for us this winter.
We first arrived in Greece on 11th June at a small island called Erikoussa, which is situated north of Corfu, then very slowly we worked our way south zig zagging between the small islands and mainland Greece. Come August we reached Nidri on the island of Lefkas where we have enjoyed many a good time and we know the area very well. On the way down we have met lots of people who have been cruising this area a lot longer than us and obviously know a lot of lovely bays which are not on the charts or in the pilot book. So after some tips we decided to head north again and revisit some of our favourite places that we have been to before and also visit some new bays that have been recommended to us. Around the beginning of October we then started heading south again gradually working our way towards Messolonghi. We were on the island of Kefalonia in the very popular town of Fiscardo where we decided that due to the bad weather approaching that now would be the best time to investigate our winter berth at Messolonghi, so from Fiscaredo we had a couple of days in Sami and then headed to Messolonghi. It would probably have been a good idea to have left a day earlier as our trip from Sami to Messolonghi was very rough and due to the conditions of the sea it seemed to take forever. We do love it here in Greece, but since our last visit 5 years ago we are really noticing the changes. All prices have increased which is understandable, but to the extent that a lot of the cruisers we have met that have been here for many years are now moving on to Turkey. Also they are enforcing the charges in harbours more vigorously, mind you this is still the luck of the draw if you are not onboard most of the collectors don't worry, weekends you may not see anyone, if its raining you definitely wont see anyone and it appears if they can collect a small a amount of revenue each day that keeps everyone happy. We have been in a harbour where the authorities have not worried about our friends on the boat next door who were just sitting on the back talking to us at the time, but have collected the fees from us and the people the other side of us, it is a very strange system they have here but we can visualise it is only going to get worse.
When the weather finally improves we can then start some of the many winter jobs that need addressing and also to get to know some of other liveaboards that our here in Messolonghi. Throughout the summer with the harbours here in Greece being very busy there have been a number of times that we have returned to the boat to find yet another mark, lose pulpit or a bent stanchion, we now have 3 bent stanchions that need replacing as well as a number of other jobs, lets hope we can get most of our jobs completed this winter.
We will update around Christmas time to let you know how our winter jobs are going and also how we are settling in at the marina, last winter we made many good friends let's hope that this year is the same. Have a look at the photos titled (l) PHOTOS Greece Summer 2010.
OUR TIME IN GREECE SO FAR
Since arriving in Greece we have really been taking our time visiting lots of different harbours and anchorages and the ones we really like returning a number of times. When we do move on about 10 miles seems to be the distance we cover, as there are so many lovely anchorages and harbours to see along the way. We are still meeting up with our fellow cruisers from our winter spot in Olbia and also making more new friends along the way, we don't seem to go more than a couple of days before we bump into someone we know, which is great, lots of partying.
Since our trip started we have never been over confident on our anchor, it has been absolutely brilliant in sand where it has held us in a number of very very strong winds, but in weed with the amount of swinging the yacht does the anchor undigs itself and then you just end up dragging. We have also been in a number of bays where boats with similar anchors to ours have had their anchor drag and a lot of the time this is when no one is on board or even in the middle of the night which can be a big problem. Just recently our friends Mike and Corrine were sitting on our boat one evening having a drink and playing cards when all of a sudden their boat went past ours dragging its anchor. This time everything was fine as we were close by but normally we would have been in a taverna quite some distance away with the boats out of our view. Even though they were ok they still had to leave the bay late at night and find shelter in a marina at a cost of 40 euros per night. So after much debate and great expense we are now the proud owners of a shiny new rocna anchor. We have literally just purchased this anchor so we have not actually fitted it and put it to the test yet.
We had a bit of a disaster one day when in a harbour, a very large catamaran tried to squeeze into a space next to us in quite high winds. He completely got it wrong nearly crushing a small power boat when trying to get in and once nearly in he then come to his senses and decided the space was too small for him, so tried to leave, but the wind pushed him onto our boat, which in turn pushed about 5 other boats into the quay wall. We were like this for the next hour and a half and in this time the other yachts by us were taking damage as they were constantly banging against the wall, we were desperately fending off. Eventually with the help of some others we managed to free him from our boat, he then dragged everyone's anchor in the facility and proceeded to leave. The harbour master tried to call him back but he was not interested at all, he just stuck his finger up and left. The harbour master then called the port police and they caught up with him and he retuned later that evening in the back of a police car. Luckily for us the damage was minimal.
Like most nations we do find the Greek people very friendly, on our return to Nidri where we were about 4 or 5 years ago, we were recognised instantly at the bar we used regularly and it was exactly the same at our favourite restaurant. Quite a coincidence happened when we were there as well, unbeknown to us our friend Jon was working in Athens with one of the owners of the bar, as he knew we were in the area he suggested that we should pop into the bar and say hello, but we text him back saying we use the bar and we know the people very well. The person our friend Jon was working with was returning back to Nidri within a couple of days and Jon gave him 20 euros to give to us to spend behind the bar. Unfortunately we left soon after and knew nothing about this great gesture, but as luck would have it we returned to meet some friends quite near Nidri and happened to pop into the bar, where we were then told to splendid news that we had some money to spend and what a great night we had so thanks very much Jonboy.
We have had so much happen since we have been here and also been very busy. Some of the places we have visited have been magnificent and some of the things we have seen have been outstanding. We could never write about all the things that have happened to us and the great times we have had there have just been far too many. Even while we write this there is a very large mountain fire close by and the sea planes have been constantly going over for the last 4 days to control this fire. They pick up water from the sea close by where you're sailing, it's quite a sight. Also this morning we had a film crew that came to our boat and we took part in a documentary about cruising the Greek Islands and this will be shown on Greek TV, famous at last! Another thing within the last 2 hours Mike had a very embarrassing and sore moment, we have been in this harbour for the last 4 days restocking the boat and waiting for the winds to die down, and so we can return to a bay and anchor. The port police come always come around in the morning between 9 and 10 am to check the boat papers and collect the harbour fees that we have to pay. It just so happens that we always seem to be out when they come, but today they decided to come twice, the usual time in the morning and just a couple of hours ago in the evening, so we were caught on the boat whilst drinking our Gin and Tonics. Once we had paid the authorities I was just getting back onto the boat where upon I slipped on the boarding ladder and ended up in the water. I surfaced from the water with a fat lip, a bruised arm but most of all very embarrassed. One thing about getting old is that when you have a fall like this it is never very graceful.
What a lovely world we live in, we wake up most mornings to unbelievable breathtaking sites even after all this time watching the sunsets in the evening and the sunrise in the mornings still amaze us. The lovely anchorages that we visit just makes us feel so lucky to be here, but there is one thing that spoils all of this and that's the human race. We used to think that all yachties no matter what nationality would bend over backwards to help each other, but now sadly we know different. We will give just one example although we could now mention many. We do realise that one nationality is as bad as another and it is the few individuals and in some cases the many individuals that can spoil it for the others. We had a bit of bad weather coming in and we knew it was going to last for a few days, so we decided to go to a harbour that we knew part of it was safe for the forthcoming storm, but as I say only part of this was safe the rest of it can be very dangerous in a storm. We arrived there a couple of days before the storm was due and it was actually great one side of us was a lovely German couple whom we used to go to watch the World Cup football with and the other side was an English couple who we also became very friendly with and they were very experienced sailors. When the storm arrived obviously where we were was full up, we were constantly trying to get extra boats into spaces but this never stopped other people trying to force their way into spaces that were just not there and all they were doing was disturbing our lines and making it unsafe for the people already there. This went on for a number of days and it caused such a rift on this harbour quay that it divided a few of the nations. I was there trying to help everyone but in the end I just left it to them to get on with it, at one time we really thought that world war 3 was going to break out and in the end even our German neighbour was quite upset about how some people were behaving and decided to leave.
Since we arrived in Greece we have stayed in the Northern part of the Northern Ionian hopping from one bay to another and it's absolutely fantastic. We have visited some really lovely places, most have been very picturesque and quiet but a few have been very noisy, but this is what makes our trip. When in Preveza we were right outside a disco bar which played really loud music to about 4am and the disco balls used to light up the inside of the boat, the good thing is that we had free Wi-Fi 24\7. We really like this part of Greece as there is always the option to anchor in a lovely bay or if need be go into a harbour; it seems we have the best of both worlds. We keep meeting up with our friends from Olbia, which is always a nice surprise, it amazes us how often we bump into other cruisers that we have become friends with, life is really good at the moment and we are trying to make the most of it. We are currently anchored in a lovely bay in Vonitsa which is situated in the Gulf of Amvrakia, previously to this we were in the harbour. This is such a lovely spot that we will probably stay at anchor for another week, then move on to Preveza to catch up with our chores before heading to the Lefkas canal to start exploring the Southern part of the Northern Ionian.
OUR STAY IN ITALY
We have spent 9 months here in Italy, although most of that time has been spent in Sardinia, we have also seen a good part of Sicily and some of mainland Italy, this mostly in the Ionian. The Italians are some of the friendliest people you would ever come across, but you can also find it very hard to appreciate them. They will scream shout and argue and then turn and murmur an apology, they will point out a beautiful stretch of coastline and then in the same breath tell you how wonderful a new development is that will ruin the same stretch of coastline. They will tell you about the beauty of their country yet whilst telling you this, they will be throwing rubbish into the sea or out of their car window, this we have found this to be one of the most annoying things about them. The men are vain and flashy, the children are spoilt, the women are temperamental, but beautiful, but now we are leaving Italy we leave with regret and very happy memories.
On our trip from Sardinia to Greece there have been many highlights but we would just like to mention a few. Firstly anchorages, there are beautiful anchorages in Sardinia but not so many between Sardinia and Greece. One of the best anchorages that we visited on the trip was is Sicily called Tindari, this was a large sandbank which is now a nature reserve, and it was so safe and peaceful here. The bars, restaurants and supermarkets were very reasonably priced and again we found the locals very friendly we spent 3 great days there. The worst anchorage for us was at Cefalu where again we spent 3 days, but here we got hardly any sleep. We were rolling from side to side 3 nights on the run and the last night Debbie was so afraid that the boat was going to turn over that she actually stood up all night long in the gangway, we were so pleased to pull up anchor and leave at first light the following morning.
Just to mention a few bad experiences that we had on the way. Firstly we were on the quay at Rocella Jonica in mainland Italy and was told about a secluded beach that may be worth visiting. On the way to the beach there was a vast area where the sea had obviously dried up with deep crevices, I was ahead of Debbie when all of a sudden my leg sunk into this quicksand, I called to Debbie for help, she come running towards me and passed me when all of a sudden she was up to her waist in quicksand. It was a very frightening experience and it took quite a while for us to free ourselves from this gooey mess. Another time we were anchored off and decided to go into town in our tender for a few beers, whilst we were there the weather got up a bit and on the way back to the boat a large wave flooded the tender which also flooded our mobile phone and camera, hence no pictures. Another time we were coming past a headland when all of a sudden something had obviously wrapped itself around our prop and we were going nowhere except into the rocks which were very close by. We tried the engine several times in forward and reverse but to no avail, we put out a call on the radio for assistance, hoisted the sails to see if we could sail away, but with very little wind we were going nowhere. After looking at all options it was a case of me having to dive in to quite a choppy sea to see what was tangled in the prop. It appeared that whatever it was that was causing the problem had freed itself from the prop and what could have been a very dangerous situation was resolved by itself and to this day we still don't know what it was.
One of the highlights of our trip from Sardinia was when crossing the Ionian Sea we had a whale come alongside and spend some time with us. It was so graceful to watch, they move so slowly through the water, we did not want it to leave. It was such a shame that we did not have a camera at the time. This really made our trip. Since leaving the UK we have seen hundreds and hundreds of dolphins and we have actually played with the dolphins on the way, we have seen turtles, hundreds of unusual jelly fish swordfish, flying fish and great shoals of fish, but the whale really made the trip that extra bit special.
Since arriving in Greece we can tell that we are really going to enjoy ourselves here. We have already found some beautiful bays and met some great people. We will update when we can to let you know how things are going in Greece.
TIME TO MOVE ON
What a great place this has been and what great people we have met. Our stay here has flown by, when we first arrived back in September we were wondering how we were going to fill our time, well like always we had a list of winter jobs to do and like always we never got to complete our list of jobs. The Sardinians have been so friendly, we have been invited to their homes for dinner and drinks and also we have been invited to their tables when in restaurants and bars, they will go out of their way to help you and in return they expect nothing. We have been so lucky here at the marina, the staff here have been brilliant, but most of all the other cruisers have all been great, it has been like a small community here, we have all got on so well and we will miss them all, mind you this will not be the last that we will see of them, some will be wintering in the same marina as us next winter and the rest we hope that we can keep in touch with and meet up some time in the future when hopefully our paths will once again meet. We have done so much since we first arrived here in Sardinia, it would be impossible to mention all the places that we have visited or all the parties that we have attended or arranged, there are not many days that pass by without attending some sort of social event.
So now we are just waiting for a good weather window so that our onward journey to Greece can continue, it looks like this weekend will be good, so its back down the coast of Sardinia, over to Sicily, through the Messina Channel, up mainland Italy then over to Greece. See the side link titled PHOTOS SARDINIA 2010 for photos from our winter stay as well as some of the cruisers that we have met here in Olbia.