We've decided to stay on. Well, who wouldn't if they could? We spend our days in swimsuits and Crocs, walking from studio to pool to beach. We read the novels we've long promised ourselves, swim in the sun-warmed pool and doze in the shade. We get to know each other a little better.
Theo the owner teaches us Greek and shares gossip and lemons from his trees with us - small, hard yellow ones which are juicier and large green ones "best for drinks". He speaks seven languages from his time as a sailor and seems to know the all the UK ports. His daughter Vivi also has excellent English and is the one making sure we have access to the internet, maps to explore the island and a cupboard full of books. The family obviously love the island and are proud to tell us about its history and traditions. We listen enthralled. Fresh eggs and homemade cakes appear in our kitchen, small posies of flowers by the bed.
There seems to be all nationalities here and all ages - the bars and restaurants don't seem to be aimed at any one particular age group. The bars are open all day but the lone nightclub opens at midnight. It's a Pied Piper enticing the scantily clad younger visitors at midnight like an enchantment. We watch the bewitched procession and find it hard to believe we were ever that young. And yet it still seems to be a pleasant, safe resort without the excesses of the larger 18-30 developments. I've been trying to persuade Alex to spend some of his holiday out here. Even though he's not a fan of hot weather I'm still sure he'd enjoy it. And the lad deserves a holiday.
We watch the antics in the harbour during the evenings from a shaded bar. Poseurs in G strings and Speedos lose their cool as the gap they'd been posturing for is nabbed by the amateur in a chartered boat. Others drop their anchor far too early only to be pulled up short at they run out of chain. They know everyone is watching and creep out of the harbour determinedly not looking at anyone - they didn't want to moor here anyway.
After the disappointing weather in Brittany and a week of the wet July in the UK it's just so great to be in the sun again. Not that I'm lying out in it you understand - factor 50 and the shade for me. It feels like the beginning of the long summer holiday when we were at school, the time "off" seems to be stretching out in front of us.
We've really dropped on with both the studio and the resort. The Theofilos Apartments are a small, family run development overlooking the beach of a beautiful little bay just round the headland from Kassiopi harbour. Look them up on the internet if anyone is thinking of coming to Corfu - you won't find them in the brochures. Everybody you speak to has been coming back here year after year and I can understand why.
Kassiopi is also just what we were looking for, not overdeveloped (no high rise hotels) but plenty of bars and restaurants to keep us going for as long as we want to stay here. There's also the beautiful harbour with its yachts, including a 'Sailing Holidays' flotilla moored up last night. Anchored in the bay opposite the apartments was a Bavaria 36. I'm finding it difficult to analyse how I feel about seeing these boats. I'm loving the luxury of being on dry land and yet I also want to be on Seren Mor in that harbour or, even more, anchored in the bay. This is why we bought the boat in the first place. This is undoubtedly what she was built for and we haven't seen anything here to hold a candle to her.
In the meantime we cast our own, now expert, eye on the other boats and find fault or praise. In that much we're still part of the sailing community!
Benodet is a busy holiday resort including hotels and campsites and even a casino. It has a long stretch of beach filled with an inflatable, Disney-themed children's playground. We explored a bit yesterday and stocked up the fridge in a large supermarket. But its appeal is rather limited and
Bastille Day here doesn't actually seem to be any different to other days. We'd planned to be on our way but the weather forecast was again predicting gale force winds even though the river was calm and the sky blue.
So with an extra day here we decided to explore the other side of the river - Sainte Marine. This is a quieter holiday village with a few shops and restaurants and a walk recommended in the pilot guide. Walking up the road towards the coast our path was blocked by a large, black dog. I found him quite intimidating but Neil made a fuss of him and had a friend for life.
This dog was waiting for someone like Neil. He immediately realised we were going for a walk and he was going too. We had no idea of the route but the dog did, waiting for us at every junction and checking we were following, never going too far ahead or getting too far behind. This dog wanted company. It was only when we met another dog that we realised why - he was a scaredy cat!
We'd planned to have just the two nights in Camaret but the weather had other ideas. Storm force winds were again forecast for Biscay so we stayed on an extra night. We woke this morning to lots of swell. The boat was bouncing around and it looked like we'd be stuck again.
It had been gradually dawning on us that to make it down to the Med before the bad weather we would have to get round the Bay of Biscay a lot quicker than we would actually like. Short hops and staying in each place long enough to get to see a bit of the area would be the ideal but it's just not realistic. So it looks like we're going to have to have either a lot of long travelling days or short jumps without any time to actually see where we stop.
We've decided to try the long travelling days, at least at first, as there are limited places suitable for Seren Mor in the area. So the next stopover point would be Benodet, some nine hours away.
When the forecast came in it was for improving conditions. We'd exhausted the delights of Camaret and were ready to move on but it is a very sheltered harbour and if conditions are rough in there, what would it be like out at sea? We were also on a precisely timed schedule as this stretch of the journey involved going through the infamous Raz de Sein. To get through safely we needed that brief period around high or low tide known as slack water or the currents can be severe. When Carol had gone through on Wildbird she'd described it in her blog as being like an old fashioned twin tub washing machine.
So this was our dilemma. Do we trust the weather forecast (which has been known to be wrong) and make a run for it or wait for conditions to improve and miss the slot? In the end we compromised and decided to leave it as long as we could then go out and have a look. If we didn't like it we'd come back.
The wind was on the nose and, as timing was critical, we motored as far as the Raz but the weather did seem to be improving. By the time we reached the Raz there were half a dozen boats biding their time to go through. Then it was like 'follow the leader' and we went for it.
I don't want to say it was an anticlimax because I'd had quite enough adventure for one day. Certainly we'd timed it just right and we went through like a dream. Then, like we'd gone through some sort of portal, the sun came out.
Tired as we were, after arriving in France yesterday we felt too het up to sleep so launched the dinghy and headed into town. There was no where obvious to moor and no sign of other dinghies so we took a chance and tied onto a shaky finger pontoon next to a small boat that didn't look like it was going anywhere fast and hoped for the best.
It was lunchtime by now and the harbour side was lined with customers enjoying a glass or two in the restaurants. Whilst tempting we didn't think we'd appreciate joining them particularly as we realised we weren't exactly looking (or smelling!) our best. After about 30 hours without sleep mentally we weren't exactly alert either and that combined with the loss of our land legs meant we were staggering, tripping and falling off kerbs. I think we would not have enhanced the reputation of us "water gypsies".
We thought we'd be better cutting our visit short and settled for a baguette, a pizza slice and a chocolate éclair which we ate sitting on the harbour wall. We headed back to the boat to crash out for a couple of hours and decided an early night was called for after cooking a curry and celebrating our journey with a bottle of cava.
The weather had changed this morning but we still felt we needed to get out and took a walk on the cliffs above Camaret. Although the rain didn't make the pavement restaurants as tempting we still decided to have lunch out. This is where my French really let me down. Most of the menus were a mystery to both of us. So we had pizza. I know, I know. It was just easier and anyway it was pizza "but not as we know it"! I did get to try some French out though - I bought stamps at the post office and asked where I could find an internet cafe at the tourist information office. Actually, I'm sure their English was better than my French but they humoured me. I have to start somewhere.
The internet cafe wasn't open until 3.30pm and as we have to go back I should be able to download these last two entries later today. You never know there might still be someone out there reading this!
O.K. Corny title I know but very appropriate. We'd effectively been storm bound in Plymouth since our aborted attempt to cross the channel on Sunday but we'd been avidly studying the marine weather forecasts with every new bulletin that came out. Wednesday and Thursday looked good. Neil plotted the course and studied the tides coming up with a plan to leave on Wednesday at around 9am aiming to reach Camaret by 1pm the following day.
So we made our ham rolls (again) and battened down the hatches, slipped our lines and we were off.
The wind was perfect - about a force 5 and on a beam reach headed for France. We left the clouds of Plymouth behind and literally headed into the blue.
It seemed ages before we lost sight of land but, as we passed the Eddystone Lighthouse, Neil commented that would be the last land we'd see until France.
The wind was quite well set and after a short period of dodging fishing vessels we were able to set the auto pilot who we nicknamed 'Archie' for some reason. Archie became our third crew member and was absolutely brilliant, really taking the pressure off. We had to keep an eye on the helm, of course, and set the sails, reefing in when it got a bit gusty but it made for a much more relaxing experience. It was striking that we were in the middle of the sea just being blown from one point to the next by the wind. It felt like Seren Mor was in control and doing a great job.
We crossed the shipping lane just before nightfall. It was a bit alarming to see these huge tankers and us crossing them at right angles. But actually it was very uneventful. Neil was really calm pointing out how they were going to miss us which stopped me panicking!
After that the tedium set it in. It was dark and incredibly damp but thankfully the rain held off. We were motoring overnight so we could recharge the batteries and keep the auto helm working.
We both piled on extra layers to keep warm and took turns to grab some sleep whenever we could. That didn't amount to much, though, as the motion of the boat threw us about and everything in it was rattling and banging despite our best efforts to secure it all. The hardest bit was using the toilet. Now I don't want to go into too much detail here. All I will say is I had to allow about half an hour to get through the layers whilst being thrown from one end of the boat to the other!
I managed to get some sleep just before dawn and when I went back up into the cockpit it was a glorious morning with blue sky, light breezes and a calm sea. Neil had the sails up again. A lighthouse was behind us and the French coast clearly visible, scattered with windmills.
About three hours later we made our way into Camaret-sur-Mer and immediately found a buoy to moor to. We were anxious that it wasn't a visitors buoy so, using my school girl French, I called the port authorities to see if we were ok. Having asked "Parlez vous Anglais" and got a positive answer we are now booked in here for two nights.
We had an uneventful crossing. That is the best that anyone can hope for. Thank you Journeying God.