It was at the end of September that 'Salara' had arrived back in the Ionion and with a month to go before she was due to be hauled out for her winter
lay up I spent the time visiting some of my favourite anchorages among the islands. I had no fixed schedule and just sailed and anchored where the breeze and my fancy took me.
As the weather cooled down so the amount of tourists diminished and other yacht owners were putting their boats ashore. The end of another season's sailing was in sight and I had started to plan the work that I had to do on 'Salara' once she was ashore. The jobs list that I try so hard to minimise during the summer was once more growing in length. I was also beginning to purchase materials to use on these tasks once the time came.
A feature of this time of year in The Ionion are the frequent thunderstorms that occur, they are mostly short lived and cause little trouble but there are exceptions, one of which is worth relating.
In the middle of October I was sailing 'Salara' from Nisos Kalamos to Nidri on Nisos Levkas it was a lovely afternoon and I was having a pleasant sail but I could see clouds developing over the mountains of Levkas and hear the faint rumble of thunder in the distance. 'Nothing really to worry about' I thought as I prepared to anchor 'Salara' in Vlikho Bay that evening. However, I did take extra care to make sure the anchor was well dug in and I veered 50 metres of chain in the 7 metres of depth. I also put extra ties around the sail covers as a precaution because I knew that this anchorage was prone to gusts from the mountains in these conditions. I then settled down for the night feeling very self righteous.
The following morning at 0800hrs I made my routine entry in the Ships Logbook stating that wind conditions were 'still' but I continued to hear thunder in the mountains. At 0830hrs I was just about to prepare my breakfast while muttering darkly about a thunderstorm that had just started when suddenly I heard wind noise and went into the cockpit just in time to see 'Salara' engulfed by a solid wall of wind and rain and the visibility was reduced to nothing. 'Salara' heeled over until her side deck was almost in the water and as she fell back I waited for the anchor to pull her head around into the tempest but this did not happen and I realised that the anchor was dragging. Luckily I had the engine running to charge the batteries so I was able to power her head to wind to relieve the strain on the anchor but it continued to drag which I could tell by watching the GPS otherwise I could see very little. I knew that there was room downwind as we were dragging parallel to the shore but there were some other yachts at anchor or on moorings. 'Salara' came very close to one or two but I saw them at the last moment and managed to steer her clear. After the initial blast the visibility was slowly improving and I was aware that the inflatable dinghy was airborne and doing an impression of a headless chicken with its captive oars flapping like wings. My main concern was of fouling another yacht's anchor as in those conditions that would have been a nightmare.
The squall only lasted about ten minutes but in that time 'Salara' had dragged over 300 metres and when the wind had eased and the visibility had improved I was able to retrieve the anchor which had a huge ball of mud on its fluke, it had obviously been ripped out of the seabed at the first gust. I then motored over to the other side of the bay and dropped anchor again this time veering the maximum amount of chain available. I checked around on deck and no damage had been done and I still had a dinghy. Other yachts in the anchorage were not so lucky as I could see many a tattered genoa and ripped canvas cover. Later I learnt that wind speeds had been between 50 and 60 knots although I had only seen speeds in the upper 40's on 'Salara's' instruments, it was certainly strong enough for me. A short time later I was eating a late breakfast and the sun was shining.
In the midst of this mayhem I had managed to grab the camcorder and take some video, a frame of which you see above.
The rest of October passed without any undue excitement and I enjoyed some easy and relaxing sailing until it was time to head north through the Levkas Canal to Preveza and onward to Vonitsa in the Gulf of Amvrikakis.
In Vonitsa I removed the sails and packed them away as well as doing as much as possible in the way of maintenance. All that remained was to motor 'Salara' the short distance to Cleopatra Marina on the appropriate date for haul out and winter storage ashore.
After her arrival at Poros 'Salara' spent the first night at anchor but the following morning I moved her to moor bows to on the town quay and then cleared in with the Greek Coastguards. It was time to carry out an oil and filter change on the engine and to renew the heat exchanger anode. I also wanted to top up with diesel fuel and fresh water for the forthcoming trip through the Corinth Canal and onward into the Ionion Sea.
It was a weekend and the quayside was busy with yachts both large and small that arrive from the marinas close to Athens on the north side of The Saronic Gulf. No sign of the current austerity measures amongst these owners.
Poros is a pleasant town and the harbour is bustling with ferries and water taxis. I like it here and I am always tempted to stay longer than I planned.
However once all the jobs on 'Salara' had been done I cleared out with the Coastguard, they charged me 12.66 Euros in harbour dues, I was then on my way to the next stop at Epidavrus a small town further along the coast where I anchored 'Salara' for the night.
The following day I left early and headed directly for the Corinth Canal with the idea of anchoring outside for the night and then to transit the canal early in the morning. On the way I heard on the radio that there was going to be a general strike in Greece on the morrow so my plans were thrown into confusion. I decided to continue and hopefully get through late in the day. I was successful and after rushing through the official paperwork and paying the 130Euro fee 'Salara' was following a cargo ship westwards into the canal. I found that I had to keep 'Salara' a good 150 metres behind this ship because of the turbulence it produced in the narrow confines of the waterway.
At just after 1600 hours 'Salara' left the canal and entered the Gulf of Corinth. The breeze was from the west at 12 knots and 'Salara' motored into the choppy seas. I had anticipated this and had made up my mind to carry on into the night and get as far west as possible. I had also reasoned that the breeze would probably die down during the evening and for a short while it did and I began to think that 'Salara' would be able to make it as far as Trezonia by the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately the wind freshened again and progress became slow. I studied the chart and the pilot book and decided that 'Salara' could make it to Vidhavis just 12 miles short of Trezonia. Vidhavis is well sheltered from westerlies, it is easy to enter at night and the holding is good. At just after midnight 'Salara' was safely at anchor after motoring against the breeze and the choppy seas for 45 miles from the Corinth Canal.
Next day I awoke well rested and keen to leave and cover the remaining 12 miles to Trezonia but once 'Salara' was out into the gulf I knew that it was going to be a wet and wild slog to windward. The wind was still from the west but had increased in strength to between force 5 and 6. I pushed on but after tacking back and forth for some time for very little gain I was wishing that I had returned to Vidhavis. Finally I had to help 'Salara' out with the engine and she clawed her way into Trezonia to drop her anchor near the unfinished marina at 1500 hours. As I tidied up I reflected that today's trip had not been one of my better decisions.
The following morning I was wondering whether to continue westwards to Mesolongion in the Gulf of Patras but I was in a quandary as I had received no weather forecasts. The result of the general strike yesterday probably. The conditions seemed good to me and when two other yachts left and headed west I decided to go. My reasoning being that they no doubt had internet access for weather forecasts and all was OK.
So without any more hesitation I turned the key to start the engine. Nothing happened, it was totally dead. On investigation I discovered that the main engine fuse had blown. I replaced it with a spare and everything came back to life. Why it had blown I could not determine but 'Salara' was on her way with the minimum of delay.
There was only a very light westerly breeze, the sea was flat and I could see the massive structure of the Rion Bridge spanning the gulf fifteen miles away. 'Salara' made good time and I checked in with the bridge control by radio for permission to proceed. After passing under the bridge I set course for the entrance to Mesolongion a further twenty miles away. The breeze stayed very light and the sea flat and I enjoyed a lazy trip just sitting in the sun and keeping an eye on things. By mid afternoon I was steering 'Salara' up the long channel through the marshes to the basin at Mesolongion and soon afterwards she was safely at anchor.
That evening at dusk I barricaded myself below deck to escape the attentions of swarms of mosquitos and ruminated on the fact that the poet Lord Byron died of a fever in this place. No wonder!
In the morning I quickly weighed anchor and headed down the channel into the mosquito free open sea. I set a course for Vathi, Ithaca and once more I was blessed with a light breeze and flat seas. I considered myself lucky as the prevailing wind is normally westerly in this area, so in my view, the lighter it is the better. 'Salara' had used a lot of fuel but in the light of previous experience I was prepared for this and I had treated the whole trip from Poros as a push to return to The Ionion. So when 'Salara' dropped anchor in Vathi that evening she was well and truly back in The Ionion Sea after a round trip of the Peloponnese and the southern Aegean.
I left the island of Kos, where 'Salara' had been anchored off the town, early one morning and spent some pleasant hours tacking against the light northerly breeze to arrive at Ormos Zerokambos on the island of Leros.
I was lucky enough to find a vacant mooring close inshore and settled down to spend the rest of the day in glorious idleness. As the mooring belonged to one of the tavernas ashore I had an excuse to eat out for a change.
I stayed at Zerokambos for three very pleasant days, I had visited it before and like the place but all things come to an end and so I finally left for the town of Lakki just a short distance away on the west coast of Leros. There were two yachts anchored off the town, a lot less than when I was last there, so there was no problem finding sufficient swinging room for 'Salara'. While I was there I took the opportunity to top Salara up with diesel fuel as I do not like the level in the tank to get too low. I also got to know a couple of English yachties sailing a yacht called 'Spur' which turned into a good excuse for beer drinking and outrageous story telling.
Patmos was 'Salara's next destination and after a boisterous beat against the Meltemi she anchored in Ormos Agriolivadhion for two nights. I stayed on board during that time and caught up on some outstanding maintenance jobs. The 'jobs to do list' never seems to get any shorter.
I then sailed 'Salara' eastwards to the small island of Nisos Marathos which is part of a cluster of islands the largest being Nisos Arki. Again I picked up a taverna mooring so I was obliged to eat there and partake of a plate of their local goat chops. A bit chewy but quite tasty.
Pithagorion on Samos was the next stop and as far north as I intended to go. I moored 'Salara' bows to the town quay in the inner harbour after enjoying a good sail from Nisos Marathos. Once more I needed to buy provisions and top up with freshwater as I shall now be heading back across the Aegean to transit the Corinth Canal and return to the Ionion.
I spent a few days at Pithagorion chatting with other yachies and being entertained by the early morning dramas of crossed and tangled anchor cables as yachts tried to leave amid much shouting and arm waving.
The morning 'Salara' left I managed to get her away easily and then anchored again in the outer harbour to tidy up and have breakfast before setting sail for the Fournoi islands which I intended as my first stop on my way across the Aegean. Unfortunately the wind suddenly increased to force 6 from the northwest when 'Salara' was only five miles off so I decided to bear away and 'Salara' raced off heading for Patmos and our previous anchorage.
In the morning, well refreshed and encouraged by a favourable weather forecast on the Navtex, 'Salara' left Patmos for Nisos Naxos in The Cyclades fifty miles to the west, if 'Salara' could make Naxos port in the north of the island great, if it had to be the anchorage of Ormos Panormos in the south well that would also be OK. For the first few hours we made good progress for the north of the island but once more the wind increased from the northwest. So 'Salara' eventually ended up reaching towards the south of Naxos in 25 to 30 knots of wind and rough seas with one reef in the mainsail and several rolls in the No2 genoa. I must do something to stop those windows leaking!
After a safe arrival at Ormos Panormos I tidied up and mopped up down below then thankfully cooked my evening meal as I had not been able to make lunch, it had been a snacks only day.
The following day was gentler and I motored 'Salara' over flat seas to Naousa on the north of Nisos Paros. The forecast was for strong southerlies the next day so I headed for the SW corner of the large bay. As I motored in watching the depth readings and alternately checking for other vessels I suddenly saw the depth reduce drastically, I swung hard to port but bump, bump, bump, 'Salara' had just clipped an off lying rock. The sound was awful and as I looked overboard the bottom seemed very close in the clear water. She was in deep water again in seconds and I continued into the anchorage and dropped anchor. Once I was sure the anchor was holding I put on my mask and snorkel and dived under 'Salara' to check for damage but luckily none was apparent. I confess that the grounding was my fault entirely, that reef was clearly marked if only I had studied the harbour plan sufficiently. It was the old mistake of 'I have been here before'.
The strong southerlies came and went to be replaced immediately by a short blast from the north which encouraged all the anchored yachts to charge up to the north of the bay and re-anchor.
'Salara' left Naousa as soon as the conditions had settled down calling at Livadhion on Serifos and Loutra on Kithnos. She then made a very enjoyable and trouble free crossing from Kithnos to Poros in the Saronic Gulf and dropped her anchor on the Galata side of the harbour. 'Salara' had once again successfully crossed the Aegean.
Due to the shambolic way that the UK Ship Registry operate 'Salara' was confined to port for almost two months. She had become a 'captive of officialdom' and could not 'clear out' until the new Ship Registration Certificate was to hand. How can that be in these days of computer systems? It was only the renewal of an existing certificate.
Meanwhile the Meltemi wind roared across the marina most days so maybe Aghios Nikolaos was the best place to be under the circumstances. The town was very pleasant to walk around but seemed to be suffering, like everywhere else, from a lack of tourists. The marina is adequate and reasonably priced with helpful staff and a good swimming beach adjoining it. I could have been delayed in far worse places. Never the less I was becoming more and more disgruntled as opportunities to leave passed us by.
Eventually with the help of my friend Wendy in UK I received the new certificate. It had been posted to the wrong address. The Ship Registry insisted that it had been posted to Greece of course!
Now I had the document to hand I immediately 'cleared out' and left early the following morning for the island of Astipalaia ninety miles to the NNE.
The forecast was the best that I could hope for during the Meltemi season and I was prepared for a long and arduous slog to windward. I was proved correct and in the later stages I had to motorsail to maintain the course line. The wind was NNW Force 5/6 on occasions. I hung on and let 'Salara' take the strain which is something she does very well. At 0200 hours she motored slowly into the Livadhi Bay anchorage beneath the castle at Skala and I anchored in eight metres of water.
After tidying up on deck I went thankfully to my bed. An eighteen hour single handed slog to windward tends to tire me these days.
The following morning I launched the dinghy and went ashore. I walked up the steep hill to the 'chora' and did some shopping. I had not been here for a couple of years but nothing had changed, the same old guys were still chatting over coffee as if time had stood still.
The next day I moved 'Salara' a few miles to the anchorage at Maltezana also on Astipalaia which is one of my favourite places. It is well protected from the Meltemi and has clear water, there are a couple of tavernas ashore as well as a minimarket and a bakery. A bus also runs into the main town.
After 'Salara' had been anchored there for a week and I had watched a succession of yachts pass through going either east or west across the Aegean, I felt that I should at least think about moving on. However the Meltemi had other plans and increased its strength to gale force for the next four days. Needless to say, 'Salara' stayed in the anchorage swinging comfortably to her 20kg CQR anchor and 50 metres of 10mm chain.
Early one morning, when the wind had eased and the forecast was for northerly force 5 to 6 over open waters, I prepared 'Salara' for sea. Several of the other yachts that had been sheltering in the anchorage were also leaving.
When I tried to lift the anchor I discovered that circumstances had once more conspired to keep 'Salara' port. Her anchor had fouled a large old ground chain on the bottom of the bay. The remedy was for me to don a mask and snorkel and dive down to fix a trip line to the anchor. After which it came free easily and 'Salara was on her way, bound for the island of Kos. The passage was uneventful apart from the fact that the wind fell very light for the last few hours despite the forecast and I anchored 'Salara' in Kamari Bay on the southern tip of Kos.
The following day I had a good sail along the south coast and then a boisterous beat around the headland to anchor off the town of Kos. I did not go ashore and after my evening meal I was visited by a Coastguard patrol boat. The crew were fully armed and grimly courteous. It was a ships document check which is not surprising as the coast of Turkey is only two or three miles away and the European Union ends here.
I found the ancient city of Hania very interesting. It was pleasant to walk around the narrow streets and alleys of the old town looking at the tourist shops which seem always to be stocked with items that I, for one, would never buy. I would always end up sitting in a quayside bar sipping a cold beer and watching the activity in the harbour.
'Salara' was moored bow-to the quay with her stern held off by a lazy line provided by the port authority. She was immediately in front of two bars which at night were full of young people and their music and laughter went on until well after midnight much to the annoyance of some of the other yachties.
After a week of almost a holiday feeling I decided to move on to the port of Rethimno further along the coast, so early one morning after clearing out with the Coastguard and paying the harbour dues I headed 'Salara' for the open sea once more.
There was very little breeze until 'Salara' had rounded the peninsular of Akrotiri but then she was able to sail the remainder of the distance to Rethimno where I moored her again bow-to at a pontoon in the 'yacht harbour'. No body seems to be in charge but even so I walked around to the Coastguard office to clear in.
Rethimno is another very old city similar to Hania with a castle and old Venetian harbour. I again went into holiday mode and stayed there for a week before clearing out and heading for Heraklia.
The large commercial harbour is not really geared to visiting yachts and although there is a yacht harbour there it is packed with local boats. Yachts in transit have to tie up at the quay in front of the Coastguard offices. This quay is not ideal for yachts and there is a constant surge from harbour traffic, it is also not the place to be if the breeze goes into the east. However I stayed there for two nights while I visited the Minoan Palace at Knossos. After that I was glad to go.
I headed 'Salara' further east to the large lagoon of Spinalonga an easy daysail away. The sea was flat calm and I motored all the way. The only breeze was encountered just as 'Salara' entered Spinalonga. She passed the fort and the old leper colony on the small island at the entrance then crossed the shallows over the sand bar and into the lagoon. I anchored her in a small bay on the east side where she stayed for three nights while I swam, relaxed and made inroads into the food stocks.
As the weather was forecast to become somewhat windy I left Spinalonga for the marina at Aghios Nikolaos a short distance away and that is were I have been for the past week while the wind blasts across the marina.
I also need to renew 'Salara's Ship Registration Certificate so I need a postal address for the UK Maritime Agency to post it to. Until I have the document to hand 'Salara' cannot move on. I am bored already!
I did decide where to head 'Salara' this summer over a beer. Several beers in fact. We shall go to Crete. Easy, turn right out of Vlikho Bay and keep going, that's settled then.
Without wasting any more time I did a final supermarket run and set off on the first leg of the journey with a day sail from Vlikho and Nidri to Vathi on the island of Ithaca. For the first part of the passage there was no wind and I steered 'Salara' under power until, getting bored, I allowed her to drift on the flat calm sea while I relaxed in the sun and ate lunch. Eventually the afternoon breeze arrived and so 'Salara' was able to sail the rest of the way in fine style until losing the wind just on the approach to Vathi harbour. Normally I anchor just off the town when in Vathi but this time I decided to go alongside the quay near the ferry berth.
'Salara' had not been there long before the coastguard arrived and requested me to report to their office with the ships papers. This is in fact normal practice in Greece and this year they must be playing it by the book, so I duly complied and was charged just over eight euros for the two nights that I intended to stay.
I always enjoy being in Vathi, it is a pleasant little town with a good selection of shops and restaurants. The walk around the inlet past the small dock in the northeast corner to a small swimming beach is very pleasing.
I left Vathi bound for the ferry port of Killini on the Peloponnese. I had to motor until 'Salara' picked up the breeze as she cleared the southern tip of the island and that then pushed her onward to her destination. I anchored her under the protection of the breakwater but I did not bother to go ashore. The coast here is quite green and fertile, it sports fields, hedgerows and trees and could almost be mistaken for England.
The following morning I left Killini, cleared the headland of Ak Glarentza and the island of Kavkalidha and set course for Port Zante on Nisos Zakinthos. I entered the harbour at just after lunchtime and moored 'Salara' bows to in the north corner of the main port, a location which is very handy for access to the town centre. Once again I was greeted by an agent of the Port Authority and told that it would cost me 15 euros per night. The price had not increased since I passed this way a couple of years ago so I was well content.
During my two day stay I paid the outrageous price of 14 euros to exchange a camping gas type butane cylinder, almost twice the price I normally pay. On my second afternoon I walked up the steep hill behind the town, drank an expensive beer on the top and admired the superb view across the harbour and the south of the island.
'Salara' left the next morning and motored towards her next stop at Katakolon again on the coast of the Peloponnes. She caught the breeze after sometime and sailed in grand style for the rest of the way, rounding up and dropping anchor on sand in 4 metres depth just off the port and cruise ship dock. Cruise ships arrive so their passengers can visit the original site of the Olympic Games and, unknown to me, that day the 'flame' was lit for the 2012 games in London. There is a marina here but as I wanted to get an early start the next morning it was far more convenient to anchor.
At 07.00 hours next morning 'Salara' motored out of the anchorage heading south towards her next destination of Pilos in the Bay of Navarino. As anticipated the breeze helped her during the afternoon and had I not been such a lazy sailor I could have made far more use of it. As I sailed 'Salara' into the Bay of Navarino I gave thought to how the British admiral Codrington sailed his fleet up this same stretch of water to destroy the combined Turkish/Egyptian fleets. No political interference from London in those days!
I entered the marina at Pilos and was lucky enough to get into the last space alongside the harbour wall. It was subject to some slight surge but with plenty of fenders deployed it was not a problem. I obeyed the large notice on the harbour wall and visited the Port Authority office to clear in. The coastguard officers were welcoming and courteous and there was no charge.
That evening I ate in a small restaurant in the pleasant little town before heading carefully in the darkness along the harbour wall back to 'Salara'.
Next day I left Pilos and made the short hop along the coast to anchor in The bay off the town of Methoni and it's castle. This is my favourite anchorage down this side of the Peloponnese and I intended to stay for a few days. In fact I stayed for almost a week having met up with some friends who I last saw in Marmaris, Turkey, Deiter and his daughter Fleur aboard their yacht 'Anny'. They told me they are going to the Canary Islands as they are booked on this years ARC.
'Salara' left Methoni early one morning and sailed in brisk winds with one reef in the mainsail and number two genoa south to Ak Taenan and
the anchorage at Porto Kayio. While at anchor we experienced very strong gusts some topping 30 knots. As there were gales forecast I decided to head to Yithion in the northwest corner of Lakonikos Kolpos to wait for the weather to improve in more congenial surroundings. I moved 'Salara' to Yithion during the calm of the early morning and moored her alongside the harbour mole along with a couple of other visiting yachts. There is a fair chop here during the normal afternoon breeze but 'Salara' was well fendered to deal with it.
After a few days in Yithion the weather seemed to be settling down so I cleared out with the port authority and paid 'Salara's mooring fees, 49 euros for five nights, I then sailed her on a return trip to Porto Kayio were again she was greeted by 30 knot winds in the approach but once inside all was quiet. No other yachts were in the anchorage so I was able to pick 'pole position'. In the morning 'Salara' left early bound for Nisos Kithera and the small port of Dhiakofti. The wind fluctuated during the morning and we were attacked by a thunderstorm. Later the wind filled in nicely from the west as I crossed the shipping north of Kithera, 'Salara' then sailed sedately down the east coast of the island towards Dhiakofti. I did not like the fact that clouds were hovering over the mountain tops though.
I had just anchored in Dhiakofti when the wind started blowing quite hard from the west northwest so I immediately lifted the anchor and motored around to the other side of Makronisos were the shelter was better. At least if 'Salara' dragged anchor there it would be into deep water not onto the shore. As the sky darkened and the wind increased heavy gusts of over 40 knots blasted the anchorage and I was on anchor watch most of the night with only the stark shape of the bows of the wrecked cargo ship 'Nordlander' for company.
I lifted the anchor at first light when thankfully the wind had eased and headed 'Salara' towards Crete and the historic port of Hania. To make up for it's unruly behaviour the previous night the wind gave 'Salara' a cracking good sail over the next 65 miles and she entered the port only to find that there was no vacant berth for her.
However I put her into the only place possible which was the tugboat berth all big tyres, chains and hawsers. I was told that 'Salara' could stay there until the tugboat arrived at midnight and then go alongside the tugboat. Yet another late night for me. I cleared in with the port authority and then went out for a well deserved meal amongst the tourists in a quayside restaurant.
The tugboat arrived on time and one of the crew came aboard to help me so everything went like clockwork and soon I was sound asleep.
When I awoke the first thing I saw was a yacht leaving so I cast off from my tugboat and eased 'Salara' into the vacant berth. Relax Pete, you have arrived in Crete.