Things are going well at home, but we will need to be in Bristol for two or three more months at least. As we enter the summer season the marina fees in Italy become eye-wateringly expensive, so Freya had to move. I (Paul) flew out to Lueca and after a day recommissioning the boat, set off on a 125NM, 20 hour passage to Preveza in Greece, where 9 months was the same price as a 1 month stay in Italy.
This was my first ever solo passage and I was excited and apprehensive in equal measure. My biggest fear wasn't being at sea on my own, coping with the lack of sleep or even encountering heavy weather, it was leaving our Italian berth and parking the boat at the other end. Mooring a boat is easier with two people and it makes sense for the physically stronger of the two people to handle the mooring lines and for the other one to steer the boat. So generally Lorraine takes the helm and I've handled the ropes. It's been five years since I've parked Freya and to cap it all I had to do it on my own.
There was very little wind as I left Lueca and leaving the berth was undramatic, but as I motored out of the harbour I had to dodge a few fishing boats in the entrance that seemed to be doing their best to force me into the shallows by the harbour wall. Once in clear water, I hoisted the mainsail, but not the jib, as there was very little wind and set course to Preveza. The seas were calm, the wind almost non-existent and my next course change was 122 nautical miles ahead, it was going to be fine. Half an hour later I spotted a motor boat approaching me at speed. It was the coastguard in a heavily armed 20m patrol boat. There were two guys in the wheel house and another manning the large gun on the foredeck. They slowed to my speed and ran parallel to my course staying about 100m to starboard. I waved and they ignored me. I slowed slightly and waved again but they still didn't respond so I ignored them as well. They ran parallel to me for about 5 minutes and then waved and headed back to shore at great speed. I'm not sure what it was all about, I assume they read the name of the boat and were checking ashore that I wasn't too dodgy or something.
The next excitement was the sight of a lone dolphin playing in the water, and then all was quiet until the evening when the challenge was to nap for no more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time. If you can't see anything on the horizon, you have about that long before you need to check again for any passing boats or whatever else you might hit. Using an alarm clock, which I was constantly resetting to ensure I didn't oversleep, I managed OK. I love nighttime passages and the moon didn't come up until the early hours so I was treated to a wonderful star studded sky. At one point I turned off the navigation lights for a few minutes to enjoy Freya's phosphorescent wake and the sky in all its glory - truly magical.
I approached Preveza just after sunrise but the low sun made it difficult to see the buoys that mark the entrance channel into the bay, made even harder by the hordes of tiny fishing boats that were out at the time. I weaved my way through all these obstructions and just off the boatyard came to a halt to tie on the fenders and put on my mooring lines. Just as I wondering where exactly I should berth, the security guard came to the harbour wall and pointed to a slot. I managed to go alongside exactly where he wanted me and bought the boat to a stop. I stepped off the side, handed him the forward line which he secured while I did stern one. It was my lucky day, you would have thought I knew what I was doing.
The boat was lifted the next day and Arran, Lorraine's nephew, who lives and works nearby came and helped me put Freya to bed. I spent the following night with Arran who showed me around Nidri where he lives, before I returned to Bristol the following morning. An enjoyable few days away, (3 countries in 5 days) but it felt very strange being on the boat without Lorraine.
With fair winds we may be able to return to Freya for a month or so at the end of the season, but if not she is securely berthed for as long as is necessary.
Picture is of Arran in Nidri, not sure if he was desperate for the loo or something;-)
Click here for the interactive map of our travels