Yabadabba Doo Santorini
30 September 2017
Well we’ve had an exciting few months, what with anchorages, town quay’s and marina’s not to mention Jacqui flying home for her “grandma fix” leaving me with a list of several jobs to complete on the boat before she returned, I sound a bit under the thumb don’t I ?
I suppose there are two things that stand out the most over the last few months, the first is our several visits into Athens especially for the Classical Rock Concert held in the Odeon of Herodes at the foot of the Acropolis. The venue alone was stunning and the performance by the Prague and Athens Philharmonic Orchestra was outstanding especially as the guest artist was Steve Harley from the Cockney Rebels (still going strong at 65 years of age).
The second memorable event was the trip to Santorini. We decided to take the ferry from Piraeus for a three day mini-break. Jacqui booked an AirBnB room at a reasonable price and we organised a car hire from the port for the three days. Blue Star Ferries came a close second to North Sea Ferries and with the aircraft style seats the 8 hour crossing went without a hitch. We were one of the first off the ferry, much to the surprise of the guy from the car hire company that held up a card with our name on it. “I’ve upgraded your car” he stated “and if you pay cash I’ll give you full damaged waiver”. Well if this was the upgraded version of the car, god knows what our original one was like, Fred Flintstone would have been proud of it. The rear wiper fell off the rear windscreen when you shut the boot and there was lots of very loud rattles and clanging’s from the underside. That said, it had seats, a steering wheel and an engine, what more could you ask for. The road from the port climbs up an escarpment zig zagging up to a “T” junction at the top leading on to a very busy road. We joined the slow moving convoy of cars and lorries working the clutch as you couldn’t get out of first gear and I wasn’t totally convinced the handbrake would hold on this steep incline. About half way up we both smelt burning in the car. “this is bad” I said to Jacqui who is not comfortable with my driving, one in an unfamiliar car and second on the wrong side of the road (which I might add I sometimes forget which side I should be on). The smell increased together with an increase in the engine temperature and I decided that it was the clutch trying to burn itself out. Now this might be down to my driving style or the fact that this old banger had seen better days. Once off the escarpment the engine behaved itself, began to cool and the burning smell abated and after some tribulation and much cursing on my part we arrived at our destination. Jacqui did a quick reconnaissance and returned to the car stating the apartment was “Basic”. “How basic” I replied, “well it’s got a bed but that’s sat on wooden pallets”. Basic but functional is how I would have described it and it served its purpose for the three nights but what can you expect when it was €70 a night as opposed to an average of €200 a night and more.
Now Greek roads leave a little to be desired and I’ve stated already that Jacqui gets quite nervous about my driving and yes I agree that I might wander across the other side of the road but hey I’m a tourist in a strange country and car and I might be forgiven my little indiscretions. What I can’t forgive is Jacqui stomping on the floor trying to brake when there obviously isn’t a peddle there and those sharp intakes of breath which makes me think I’ve done something wrong, when obviously I haven’t as we are still on the same road and not in a ditch. That’s not counting going straight across a busy junction I should have given way at or attempting to go in a “no entry” petrol station only to realise and have to drive towards the oncoming traffic in their lane. At one point I threatened to chuck her out of the car on the way to the most spectacular meal we have ever eaten.
On our first full day we set off early to Oia (pronounced La) which is reputed to be the most photographed place in Greece. Once there you could clearly see why. We parked in an attended car park and Jacqui went off to pay the small fee, as she walked back with the attendant she shouted that he needed our registration number. I looked down at the rear of the car only to see no number plate. Jacqui and the attendant swiftly pointed out that as I had the tail gate up it was in the air, silly me! The attendant thought this was hilarious and mumbled something along the lines “its something to tell your grand children about”. We then went onto Thira, which is the capital of Santorini. Not quite as stunning but nevertheless views to die for.
That evening we went to a boutique hotel/spa and restaurant called East West Suites. We both experienced the meal of our lives, unbelievable food, views and very attentive staff who explained all the food in great detail including the bursts of flavours we were about to experience. Expensive, yes, worth it, certainly and Jacqui wrote a glowing report for trip advisor, which I might add the hotel replied to and thanked her.
Our last full day was filled with a short drive (yet more anxious moments for Jacqui) to the best beach on Santorini – The Red Beach. The precarious hike to get there could be described as somewhat dangerous and yes from a distance the beach against the stunning red volcanic cliffs was a picture postcard view. The beach itself was a complete let down with large ankle breaking boulders preventing access to the sea. The only interesting thing was a landslide which covered all those beneath it in white dust. We saw the funny side but it could have been quite a serious incident had any of the large boulders come down with it, fortunately no one was injured.
As I stated earlier the ferry trip to Santorini was uneventful, I cannot say that for the return journey as we ploughed into 3 metre seas “on the nose” with sea spay covering the whole vessel. As hardened sailors we quite enjoyed the comfort that a large ship gives you but some of the passengers felt quite queasy and a little unnerved especially at the safety presentation three hours into the eight hour voyage.
Basil Yes Dear.
12 August 2017
9th August 2017 Russian Bay
Today we left Poros town quay and explored the nearby anchorage options. strong wind warnings were in place so we needed somewhere to protect us from the North. Love Bay looked very nice with its blue parasols reflecting in the blue water but there was very little space for the boat to swing on anchor so we headed around the corner to Russian Bay which offered us a few options. We dropped the anchor in the middle of one of the bays below a lovely house with its steps coming down to the sea and a little sitting area. We were settled for the three days of winds or so we thought. As the sun began to set behind the hills the swarm of charter boats made their approach to take over the bay and disrupt our peace. One by one they dropped their anchors and reversed to the rocks before tying lines off to them. They were all very keen to be next to each other resulting the row of boats extending now into what had been our swinging area and not far off our anchor. Mike was becoming twitchy due to the potential for damage if we did swing onto them, the solution was straight forward we let another length of chain out allowing us to drop back and attach a stern line to a rock behind us.
As Mike climbed out the water with his mask and snorkel he declared "That's it, I'm happy now" , PLOP, as his snorkel dropped into the water in slow motion, like one of those Peter Kay moments. Knowing he could not grab it he also jumped as if in slow motion to catch it. Before he could enter the water the wind blew the paddle board across the stern of the boat on its line. As Mike resurfaced it was apparent he had caught his face on the line as he had entered the water, with blood trickling down from the cut which extended from his cheek across his nose and up over the eyebrow on the other side. Now I know I quite like the Captain Jack Sparrow/ Johnny Depp look but I really didn't expect him to replicate it for me. My little Captain Sparrow was not amused. This felt like it was now proceeding into an episode of Faulty Towers, Mike impersonating Basil Faulty, almost jumping up and down banging the snorkel on the boat step, breaking fragments off it to the point it wasn't worth the effort of having plucked it from the sea. I didn't feel it would go down well if I turned into Sybil, "now then Basil, I don't think that is helpful" . I just bit my lip and offered a dampened tissue to clean up the blood. "Bloody charter boats, tomorrow when this lot move we will go round the corner and tie up to those rocks. We sat in silence until in my most sympathetic tone I asked if he was ok, "I don't think it's a laughing matter", oh I don't know, Basil and Sybil did OK in their comedy of errors.
The following morning Mike sat on deck observing for the movement of boats, the only apparent movement was that of a huge motor boat that decided to moor alongside us, thrusting his engines into reverse to get up close to the rocks. With that, our boat began to drift round, towards the charter boats moored over our anchor, Mike pulled at our stern line thinking they had cut it on their propellers but no, he stood holding a perfectly intact line and a bowling. All that thrusting had blown our line off the rock. Time to get up front and start pulling the anchor up quick before the wind took serious hold of the boat and caused some damage. "She's up", that's my call to let Mike know the anchor is off the sea bed and making her way out the water, enabling him to steer the boat.
Just around the corner there was a vacant spot, the anchor was dropped on instruction and we began to drop back to the rocks. Mike took a line to the shore, using my snorkel so he could check for Sea Urchins underfoot. Despite his best efforts to pull the boat straight back the wind kept pulling it away, with the line secured to the rock it was time to winch the boat into a straight position in line with our anchor. And relax!!! To our port side and on the shore are the remnants of the Russian Naval Base that they blew up as they departed in the 1800s, hence the name.
Not many of you will know this but I am not a confident swimmer and despite all Mikes efforts to prove I am not going to drowned, and that I can swim, my confidence does not appear to be building. A second stern line needed attaching so with my heart beating fast I offered to take the line to the shore and secure it, this went without hitch and as I returned to the boat I could hear Mike saying "right turn left and swim to the shore" I chose to ignore this and climbed back on board. By 18:00 the wind had died and the sea was still so with the promise of a glass of cold wine at the Taverna I eventually plucked up the courage to swim to the beach, as long as Mike stayed close by. The swim back was much more relaxed, that will be the wine, and I did not feel the need to swim harder or faster as the water got deeper.
The following day my challenge was set, to jump in the water off the side of the boat, I would need to mentally prepare myself for this. Once again the wind died so it was ideal for me to swim back to the beach again but no wine today !! After a lot of mental preparation and jeers from Mike, "come on Jacqui it's not that bad, go on it's like the kids game, in, up, back on board and jump again till you get used to it". Three jumps, each one feeling like your falling through time, anxiously waiting and holding my breath for my body to come back up to the surface. "Right now, I want you to dive off the back of the boat".... 2 belly flops and one not bad dive, it was time to call it a day and have a glass of wine, on board though.
Today I had challenged myself to snorkel to the shore and release the stern lines as we departed our mooring. I have to admit I was anxious and assume that is why I was awake early, took the rubbish to the bins on the paddle board, and prepared the winch so as soon as I was back on board I could start lifting the anchor. On the plus side there was no breeze. As I slipped into the warm water Mike told me that when I released the second line I had to keep hold and he would pull me back to the boat, simple. I had already prepared myself to the fact that the tension on the anchor would result in the boat moving away from me when I removed the lines and I didn't want to panic myself. As I swam to the first one I could see the knot under the water, "I can't undo that under water" I could now feel my heart racing, "calm down, calm down" I kept telling myself. With the tension released off the winch I could hook the line with my feet and pull it up to the surface. Now for the second one which I tied and required me climbing up the rock to unwrap it. Feeling a bit of a prat with my snorkel in my mouth climbing up the rock I discarded it from my mouth, this was a mistake. I finally unhooked the bowling from the rock and holding on to the rope I stepped back down into the water. As Mike pulled the line I tried to swim whilst grasping the line but with the line pulling my head under I felt the only option was to let go. As I looked I could see the boat drifting away, I swam with all my might but seemed to be making little headway, I could feel I was getting tired so rotated onto my back till I could eventually grab the line that was now hanging over the side of the boat. Enough drama for one day I think......
36 knots, grab bag at the ready and thats on the mooring.
27 July 2017
26th July 2017 Astrous
This morning we awoke to another strong breeze warning in place so the decision was to stay on anchor or move to Astrous, a newly finished harbour with electric and water. Due to having being on anchor for a few days Mike was keen to fill the water tanks so we decided to set off early and beat the winds.
Astrous is described in the pilot book as "a pleasant place to be, with a visit to the castle or right into Astrous proper if you fancy a walk through agricultural lands and orchards. There is nothing you should see, but plenty of lazing around to be done" Sounds good to us.
As we made our approach into Astrous we saw the Venetian Castle stood in its splendour with the sun shining down on its walls. Once into the harbour we found there to be a couple of visiting yachts and lots of space. Due to the Katabatic Winds which can blow into the harbour we decided to drop our anchor off to port so as to minimise the risk of our anchor dragging if it were to blow up. Not long after our arrival the afternoon wind started to pick up but nothing to cause alarm. Whilst we were establishing ourselves I heard an anchor chain, looking out the window was a couple who it transpired were from Australia and were leading a charter group. We assisted them with their lines, once secure the gentleman came to thank us and told us they had come to assist their group of 12 charter boats who were arriving between 15:30 and 17:30. Given we had space on our sides we decided that we would go for a walk tomorrow, meaning we could sit and wait for their arrival and protect Dream Catcher from any mishaps.
The Port Police arrived and asked to check our papers. Mike asked about paying for our mooring and getting water and electric. The Police said all of this was dealt with by a separate company and after a quick telephone call said they would be down shortly to sort all this out. It's a good job we planned to stay two days. By now some of the charter boats were making their way in, the Australian couple co-ordinated their mooring by standing of the Quay wall shouting instructions of where to drop their anchor, how much throttle, which way to turn the wheel. I know Charter boats get a lot of criticism but they all did really well and at no point did we feel the need to jump up and fend them off our boat.
Everybody in and it was time for the crews on the flotilla's to exchange stories of how much speed they got, what sort of sail they had etc. The leaders went about their business in the typical cheery manner telling everybody where tonight's briefing would take place followed by cocktails. The wind was by now picking up in strength and credit to the leaders they checked every boats anchors and lines, making adjustments to ensure they were safe for the predicted force 6 and before they departed up the hill for the briefing.
Not everybody went to the briefing, with some staying on board which was fortunate. All of a sudden shouting could be heard and despite the wind one boat could be seen pulling off its mooring and lifting its anchor, it appeared their anchor had dragged. Fortunately despite the conditions they did really well and managed to re-set their anchor. Minutes after the boat next to them repeated the process only they seemed to struggle more getting back onto their berth. The harbour was by now pretty full but over the breakwater I could see a boat making its entrance, a Greek boat, I think due to the adverse weather he quickly identified a gap and started to manoeuvre into position dropping his anchor potentially over multiple others. The boat caught by the wind began to swing "side to" across the bows of the adjacent boats. With nothing else to do they started to pull off, lifting their anchor and another with it, which just happened to be the first charter boat that had earlier dragged its anchor. There was a heated exchange and eventually the Greek was free, this time he decided to go "side to" on part of the ferry jetty, this was not without trouble as he quickly began crushing the side of another boat.
The wind was true to its forecast and blew all through the night causing the usual water slapping on the hull resulting in Mike trying to sleep in the saloon, me I slept fine.
The charter boats were departing early and we knew we needed to be about because the Katabatic winds would blow them across onto us and this seemed to be one of the boats that needed more reassurance. Several other charter boats departed their mooring in the wind with a degree of ease and supportive instructions from the Australians on the quay. When it came to our neighbours the staff told the crew what to expect as they started to leave the mooring and what she wanted them to do when she shouted "thrust engines" because of the need to avoid our anchor chain which the wind would blow them onto if not careful. Dad was on the wheel, Mum and younger daughter on the anchor and older daughter on the stern line. The leader shouted to them "we need to get a move on, before that storm hits, start lifting the anchor, ease off that line" I was stood on our port side with a roving fender to prevent any damage. For some reason they stopped lifting the anchor, "Keep lifting the anchor" but it appeared it has stopped working as the boat swung into our side in the strong wind which was now blowing. Three of them were now up on the front with the anchor that wasn't working, "George get off that wheel, set the trip, George, quick" Mike was pushing them off us and I was holding the roving fender, by now I could our anchor chain going under their keel and you could hear the chain straining. Frantic screams "George" followed by instructions from the quay, George was following instinct and doing the wrong thing resulting in Mike telling him to stop accelerating with our chain scraping along his keel. Eventually they were free of us and the leaders were very apologetic. It was a blessing when with a little tension on our winch we were secured again.
The wind got steadily worse but now with all the charter boast having departed we were taking the full brunt of it on our port side, even with the newly rigged mid ship line we were being battered, healing over to starboard, it was time to get the grab bag ready just in case it got worst. Thunder lighting and 38 knot winds on our side made it a rough passage to nowhere, or I hope we go nowhere, strong winds are expected until tomorrow.....
Just another day in life on board in a stress free environment, I think not!
Two nights for the price of three !
18 July 2017
14th -17th July 2017 Aegina
This morning we planned to sail to Aegina and meet up with Anthony to pay our "cash" deposit for our winter storage. In Aegina the moorings are "stern to" with your anchor laid and there is limited space in a very popular town for tourists. The popularity of this place is probably secured by the amount of ferries which come into the port. As a result of the difficulty getting a berth we decided to depart our anchorage early in the hope we would arrive as boats in Aegina were departing for their days sail. Pulling into the harbour at about 11:00 it appeared the only space was reserved for trip boats, we hovered about observing for anybody who may be about to leave, very soon a yacht began to pull off its mooring , Mike positioned himself ready to reverse in but a large motor boat had different ideas. He had arrived after us but obviously felt the fact he was large and had crew gave him priority, shouting, "Captain, I go there", Mike backed off giving recognition to his superior size. Again' we were left sat waiting and watching. We had read that you are best mooring as far from the entrance as possible due to the swell caused by both the frequent ferries and if there is a southerly wind, with a lot of damage being done to boats. Very soon another boat began to depart its berth, right at the end opposite the entrance, between a 75ft motor boat, Arianna, and the pick up point for a small trip boat. As we began to position ourselves the crew on the Ariana shouted and indicated they wished us to drop our anchor more across to the starboard to be sure we were clear of their anchors, by doing this our space was limited by the small ribs and the result was that we did not have as much chain out as is really required, never the less we were in and safely tied up. Anthony duly arrived for his cash, a pleasing on the eye Greek, with a lovely smile but limited conversation, he kept smiling at Mike as if he was waiting for him to tell him a story, with neither Mike nor Anthony having the gift of the gab, Anthony decided to depart.
Shortly after, the trip boat moored next to our berth returned. On board was Michail the captain, a portly gentleman of 67 years who had been sailing all his life and his trusty young crew, who like all crew is the whipping boy and blamed for everything that goes wrong.
Michail was not happy at the fact that we were moored next to his spot or the angle of our anchor chain, as with all Greeks he began shouting and becoming very animated in his verbal exchange. "This boat is like a box, the wind gets the side and I struggle to get it in, your anchor is laid all wrong, I may pick it up when I leave". This conversation was repeated several times, word for word. We explained why our anchor was laid as it was and this was what we had been instructed to do. Mike said he would stay around and if there was a problem with our anchor he would jump in the water to release it. The Captain of Arianna and his crew heard all the noise and by now were stood on deck, a further heated exchange took place between both captains in Greek, one turned to Mike saying "you are fine, I will explain in a minute" The exchange continued until the point Michail shrugged his shoulders and hands up to the sky and toddled off. By this time another berth had become available on the other side of Arianna, Mike offered to move but the Captain said, "no, you stay, you are safe here, this is the best place to be, protected by my boat"
On the next outing of the trip boat we stood by watching and waiting, the departure was without a problem so we could now relax and enjoy people watching off the deck, there was certainly a lot to see. The following day we had planned to stay due to a strong wind warning, but this didn't halt the proceedings of the shed next to us and his regular trips to Moni Island. Despite Mikhail's objection to our presence he told us we needed to stay put for the next few days and maybe enjoy one of his trips, this was no weather for us to be sailing if we didn't have to. Mike and Michail were forming a beautiful relationship by now.
Later that day after a nice swim in the clear waters we returned to the boat and were down below when we heard shouts of "Captain, Captain", Mike stuck his head up to see the crew on Arianna summoning him to assist Michail who by now was stuck on our pulpit with his passerelle. Michail vigorously told us how his anchor had failed and despite getting the pickup buoy the wind had got his shed and carried him across onto us. Once hand manoeuvred into place Michail began shouting at the whipping boy about the problem and what he should have done to ensure it didn't happen, over and over again. We sat chuckling to ourselves. It was time for them to depart again and it was soon apparent that the wind was causing his shed a problem the lines came off and were quickly put back on before a second attempt with more power in an attempt to clear the berth before the boat swung too much onto the adjacent dinghy's, ribs etc. They were off but with trailing passerelle ropes disaster occurred in the form an outboard engine which was quickly snapped from its bracket and enjoying a trip in the water round the harbour. Mike began shouting but with all the revving of the engine could not be heard, one man just stood pointing as if in a trance at where the engine use to be in disbelief whilst the fuel man on the quay wall managed to attract Michail's attention to the engine bouncing along behind. The engine was hauled in and a heated argument commenced to the amusement of the trippers on the boat, like an episode of Faulty Towers with the whipping boy taking to role of Manuel. Oblivious and regardless of the wind pushing them across the harbour or the arrival of a fast cat Michail could be seen jumping up and down and heard shouting his head off. The crew off the motor boat were falling about in hysterics; Michail was obviously a frequent source of amusement to them. Shortly after they departed the harbour the Port police took a leisurely stroll to look at the damage, shrugged his shoulders and wandered off to deliver more containers of fuel finely balanced on his moped.
The following day we went out for a trip with Michail to Moni Island, clear waters, sun, wine, Peacocks and reportedly Deer but we didn't see those. Michail we think lived alone, he would sit on the back of the trip boat till late at night telling people about the trips. On the last night he moved from his usual seat onto an adjacent bench whistling at interested parties. One lady said "why don't you come to me, why whistle", "if I come to you the port police accuse me of assaulting you, you get my meaning". He was an interesting character and Mike and Michail found they had many things in common, born in the same year, having the same name and both being typical of their name "Angel Like", think this is the inflated ego of two Captains, blameless in all that occurs.
That night we knew bad weather was going to pass through, at about 04:00 we were woken by the winds, being conscious of our limited length of anchor chain Mike got up to see if all was ok. The crew off Arianna were also up tying additional lines to both the stern and across our bow and the trip boat to the quay wall; Mike tied a mid-ship line from Dream Catcher to the shed. He then decided we needed a line across the quay wall to provide additional stability to the shed. Getting onto the passerelle in the wind and swell was like watching Mike in "Ninja Warrior" making a run for it before ending up in the water. Eventually getting on board he secured a long line to the bow and threw it across to the adjacent ribs where he hoped to retrieve the line from. Once again he ran the plank and landed on dry land before making his way round the rib with its slightly deflated chambers, as the swell bounced the said boat around Mike managed again to jump on board and retrieve his long line. Getting off would not be easy with all this movement so he held onto the Bimini frame of the rib and had one foot on one rib and the other on another similar boat. It was at this point the boats began to go their separate ways with Mike in limbo doing the splits and washing his bum in the water at the same time, fortunately at which point they came back together much to the amusement of Arianna crew. 33 knots of wind whistled through the harbour that night.
Our plans for the following day (17th July) lay very much in the hands of Michail, if he was not going out we would have to remain due the anchor situation but if he did go we would be up and off before his return. Methina was to be our next port of call as it is reported to be a good safe shelter if you can tolerate smell of sulphur and further strong winds were forecast for the next few days. Mike had telephoned ahead to make sure there were berths available, which there were but they advised an arrival of 15:00 was necessary to secure one. We were poised and ready to depart, Michail had told us he was going at 12:30, but hey this is Greek time and there is talking to be done first. Once out of the harbour there was very little wind and despite Mikes attempt to sail the genoa had to be taken in. In the distance we could see some really dark clouds and rain, Mike laughed "ooh somebody has got some bad weather, let's hope we are moving faster than it is" As the sun shone down on us we watched a pod of Dolphins playing in the distance, at one point one of them flipped right up out the water, even from this distance he looked really big. Following us to our stern was another yacht obviously with very similar plans to us. By now we could see our destination so got the fenders and lines ready, as we clambered back into the cockpit Mike said "Oooh I felt a spot of rain". A spot of rain very quickly changed to torrential rain hitting us like constant buckets of water, winds blowing at 45 knots and a lack of visibility, our destination disappeared before our eyes. We were both soaked through with water passing through our clothes and running down our bodies. Whilst Mike tried to hold the boats position till the storm passed he struggled to see with his sun glasses on for protection from the vicious rain. I had the instruction of keeping an eye out for the other boat that was near us, I just hoped we were nowhere near each other. When in these situations what always feels like such a short period is an absolute eternity. The wind and rain did begin to settle and we were able to make our approach into the milky sulphur waters of Methina, by now we could see the other boat on our stern. There were very few spaces and despite the gap we spotted seeming a little tight Mike said I just want to get tied up, we lifted all our fenders and squeezed into the gap. The reports about this place tell you that you will not be provided with any help and will have to find your own spot but that at 18:00 somebody will come and take your money.
Tied up, wringing wet through and sun shining I went to offer some help to the other boat but they were stuck on their anchor, they had dropped it in a no anchoring area. I decided to leave them to it. Back on board we hung our clothes out and poured a glass of wine and chatted about our adventures, it was about 18:30 when we observed this small dark haired lady marching down the quay like a member of the Koreans People's Army, swinging her arms and shouting. "I have a problem with this boat, it is too big for this space, to tight, you have to go" with a shooing gesture as she turned heals and began to walk away with purpose. As with all Greeks it appears, she returned and repeated both the conversation and gestures, I sat in disbelief feeling the need to laugh. Mike apologised and said we would depart to the harbour across the way, at this point she said "How long are you staying?" Mike had already read about this lady, Marina (yes that's her name), had a problem with people who stayed for one night so declared we would wish to stay two nights "ok, I may have a berth for you, a bigger one follow me" as she moved us a couple of berths along. As we moved Mike declared he felt the need to give her a hug once we were in, I didn't quite see why but there you go. Once secured on our new mooring Mike went over and gave her a big hug, she appeared flustered by this but quickly composed herself and requested our ships papers. I handed Mike the wallet with all our documents in it and as he put his hand in she snatched the inner wallet, whipped out the Ships Registration document and with a turn of her heals said "I bring this back tomorrow, you stay two nights I charge you three", before marching off in her Korean fashion. We weren't brave enough to argue.
Passage through the Corinth canal
13 July 2017
12th July 2017 Sailing through the Corinth Canal.
Mike had told me it would be an early start the following day, with a 6 to 8 hour sail before we reach the Corinth Canal and then a rumoured maximum of 3 hours wait, there was no way we could afford to leave late. Knowing how I like my bed Mike said he would get up and set off leaving me to dream in the luxury of our double bed and all to myself. Getting up and off is not a quiet affair, engines started and size 9’s thudding centimetres above your head make sleeping even for the most proficient an impossibility. As I stuck my head up on deck daylight was barely breaking, it was 04:00, and all was quiet around us, we let the lines go and as quietly as possible made our exit from the harbour trying not to disturb others who were fast asleep. Despite it being early it was already warm and Mike was soon dropping his swimming trunks to get some air flow.
There was very little wind and a side swell made the journey a little uncomfortable, fortunately when we changed our direction at the headland the swell was more from the stern and made it a little better. As the auto pilot did its stuff we sat observing the activity around us, mmm, we are the only silly buggers up it would appear.
As I stared into the distance I saw something large jump out the water several times in a linear fashion. “Dolphins”, “where, are you sure ?” We both watched as they made their way along our starboard but at a distance. “It could be Tuna, if it is they won’t come to us” With that several Dolphins were making a B Line for the boat, I was instructed not to go on deck due to the swell but like every wife who promised to obey I did as I liked and clambered to the bow with my camera strapped to me. They put on another amazing display jumping out the water in pairs, swimming with the bow, flipping over so you could see their tummies and jumping out ahead of the boat. Well that was exciting. As we continued our journey this happened another twice but with different pods, how lucky are we.
The Corinth Canal does not operate to opening times and it is just pot luck how long you have to wait till it is your turn. The canal works on a one way system and road bridges have to be lowered into the water to allow passage of the 4.5K waterway carved through the rock. As we were getting near we could see some large boats hovering at the entrance, far behind us we could see the spray of a fast motor boat, Solaris, obviously in a rush to make the next passage through. Having no regard for us or the yacht on his other side he flew between us doing 29 knots, with no consideration for us or the discomfort his passage would be for us. Think “tosser” is the word.
We could see by the movement of the boats ahead we were not going to make this passage and just hoped and prayed it would be a quicker turn around than three hours. The protocol for the canal is quite strict and if you do not adhere to this you can end up with a substantial fine, overtaking in the canal is reported to attract a €700 fine on top of your passage charge. Mike radioed up and we were instructed to wait one mile off the entrance on the north side, the swell had picked up and we were merrily bouncing about in it in the company of Lulu V a large motor boat with its tender to its rear, the tender was longer in length than our boat. The control tower was communicating with boats at both the East and West entrances, with this and some confusion between names it was all quite amusing to listen to. We could hear one of the boats making its way through being instructed to go faster, you are expected to maintain 5 knots. After about an hour of hovering around it was our turn, Lulu V was instructed to make her way with the tender to her stern, followed by us and then a yacht called Seven. Out of the blue a yacht appeared and without any notification to the tower and pushed in front of Lulu V who was now shouting “There is a yacht in front of me” repeatedly and in panic, messages were shouted to the pilot boat to stop the yacht, the controllers ordered the yacht to stop but it carried on oblivious, hope he has his credit card with him !!
The idea of cutting a canal across the narrow waist connecting the Peloponnese to Attica was muted by the ancient Greeks and many who came after. The present canal was started by the French and completed by the Greeks in 1893. It is reputed to be the highest canal fee per mile in the world. The canal is 3.2 miles long and 25 meters wide. The water that leads you through is turquoise, and despite it being a choppy day in the entrance calm prevailed in the passage. Visitors stood on the bridges which towered up above our masts taking photographs, some apparently bungee jump. An hour to passage the canal and a charge of €177.
Once on the other side we needed to check the weather and decide where best to anchor, despite our desire for some sleep we agreed we needed to do another 4 hours sailing due the wind strength and lack of protection. We were both flagging and with the gentle bob of the boat I know my eyes were closing. Then all of a sudden the sound of the engine changed, dropping revs before increasing back up slightly. A vibration could be felt, all we could think was we had picked something up on our propeller. It was now 18:00 when we arrived at Korfos and dropped the anchor. Mike jumped in the water and retrieved an industrial type plastic bag from the propeller. As he swam to the back of the boat I saw a large brown shape moving around “Jellyfish” I shrieked, Mike moved quickly to get on board “oh no it’s a Turtle” panic over.
Sex and dogs and rock n roll, Bollywood doesn't sound right
05 July 2017
On the 14th May we departed the boat to fly home ready for the birth of my daughters first baby, something I definitely could not miss. Despite this being during the sailing season Mike was in agreement with the need for us to be at home. After seven weeks at home and the arrival of Maisie Grace it was once again time to head out back to Greece and the boat with promises of regular photo updates.
Much to our surprise she was relatively clean and needed just a quick hose down, a bit like us really, the temperature had certainly increased since our last time here. An average of 33 degrees and no escape makes it a bit like having a permanent hot sweat, I should know, but apparently Mike knows better than me about these things as he frequently reminds me he is on his third wife.
Our first stop was an anchorage we had visited prior to our departure, Ormos Varko, beautiful clear waters, goats on the beach, the jingle of the bells, tranquillity….. This time there was certainly more activity, the goats had been replaced with sunbathers, the three boats on anchor had become twenty plus and the nearest music to our ears was the Bollywood Music filling the bay from a couple of camper vans on the beach at night.
Once we had set our anchor and avoided the odd swimmer making their way out to sea, it was time for Mike to inspect the underside after her stationary period. “I have never seen her so bad in such a short space of time”, armed with his snorkel and an old Gym Membership card he went to set about scraping the growth of the bottom. Now I have previously had my knuckles duly wrapped when he has gone in the water and I have not kept an eye on him, not wishing to upset the Captain so early in our adventures I decided I would sit on the paddleboard and observe him from there, dangling my legs in the water was also very cooling. After about an hour both breath holding and using his dive tank the bottom was clean. “Have you been far ?” as he nodded at the paddle board, “no I have been keeping an eye on you”, “Me, I don’t need anybody to keep an eye on me, I can take care of myself in the water” They say women take some fathoming, men are no better. So no “thank you that’s nice of you darling”, but I did get something for my efforts, a sunburnt bloody back.
Later that evening a rib sailed into the bay with a blue light mounted, they approached a few boats before making their way to us. “can you move 50 meters out please” The wind had picked up and we did not relish the thought of having to reset the anchor. Whilst the police were about we all made movements to suggest we preparing to adjust our position but once they had departed we aborted our efforts and stayed in situ. Mike decided to dive in cut the anchor ball from the anchor so it would appear more convincing that we had moved if they returned, I didn’t quite get his logic but never mind he felt happier. Despite our plans to stay for a couple of days the forecast persuaded us to move to a safer mooring early the following morning.
Mike had read about a not so well known town quay we could go to called Astakos (Greek for Lobster, bit like my back) which provided free mooring, water and electric. We arrived early in the day so were fortunate to find a free berth we could use. Prior to our arrival we discussed the procedure for this “stern to” anchor mooring, something we still don’t feel we have mastered yet. I was instructed to not to free fall the anchor but to lay it using the remote until such a point we were a length away from the quay, I was to move to the stern to manage the lines whilst Mike using his £1 Chinese manufactured wireless remote to continue laying more chain out. At the due time I shouted over to you as I headed to the stern, “No go back, go back keep doing the chain”. Your thinking the cheap remote had failed, no just Mike changing his mind mid plan and making me look stupid, maybe that was his plan. On the plus side it all went quite well and a celebratory drink was had.
Astakos is a very pretty little place with traditional waterside Taverna’s, all of which were very busy on the evening. We ate our meal on board and sat and watched the Quay side entertainment, the local stray dogs seem to gather on an evening and put on a live sex show much to the disgust of young parents with children and the Taverna owners, looking very much like Manuel, chasing them off up the street clapping their hands and shooing them in-between serving Souvlaki to their patrons. No sooner was the plate on the table than the bedraggled Heinz 57’s re appeared to try to spread the love, grab any little titbit and improve on the 57 varieties. It may all be nature but someone really needs to teach them about size differentiation!!
After two nights of watching the live entertainment it was time to head off to Mesolongi, about a 6 hour sail. We made our way between the small islands and just as I was busy washing the smalls down below Mike shouted. “Dolphins…., or a bloody big fish, no Dolphins” I grabbed my camera and shot up onto deck to see two Dolphins swimming alongside the boat and jumping out the water. They swam ahead of us under us, were jumping out of the water just ahead of us, it was by far the best display we had seen.
Arriving in Mesolongi you have to head up a small canal, to the side you can see small houses on stilts called Pelades and looking like something out of SE Asia. There were no fisherman to be seen stood in water up to their knees raking for fish. Many have been sold as holiday homes and are now more fancy than the original.