May 1, 2017, and after being home for 5 months, it is time to head back to Clio, our 'home-away-from-home' in Greece, for another season. The bags are packed, and even though each year we promise ourselves that this year we will travel light, the bags still manage to overfill and soon reach the Qantas weight limit of 30kg pp (no business class 45 kg pp for us, unfortunately). Over the years we've found ways to add another 15 kg in bum-bags, coats, carry-ons etc..
We are very lucky to have Kylie and James staying in the house (top-left photo) while we travel, it makes our departure so much easier with a few less things to organise and worry about. This year though we have arranged for a gardener to come in and maintain the yard, so that we do not have to do the major clean up that we have faced in previous years.
After packing and repacking several times (some start weeks before the departure date arrives), it is time for Kylie to deliver us to the airport. It is late afternoon and there are almost no queues before the security check and the now automated passport check, so we're past the red tape in minutes.
We're pleasantly surprised with our seat in an Airbus 380 (the European answer to the B747-400). That means a bit more leg and arm room, no stopover in Singapore and be bit shorter fly time than a B777.
After 13 hours (instead of the normal 16) to Dubai, we 'enjoy' a four hour stopover there. Chris decides that we'll have an airport Starbucks coffee, known to be up there with the most expensive cuppers on the planet. As the four hour stopovers in Dubai seem to get longer every time (economics-induced universal time inflation?), we also splurge out on a cheese croissant. The fat literally drips out of the box-carton-based, flat-as-a-pancake object, and we learned yet another valuable lesson of Dubai stopover management.
Back onto the plane after five of exactly the same checks of our papers. Another easy four hours before we're off-loaded into the Athens' 'Eleftherios Venizelos' (a very influential Greek pollie in the early 20th century) International airport. We stand in substantial line with a few hundred other travellers to once again successfully make our way through Greek customs after about an hour or so.
We grab our bags and head out to catch our bus to the port of Piraeus. After receiving three conflicting sets of directions to get to our nearby hotel we gave up on dragging our 60 kilos of luggage up and down the street and hailed a taxi to take us three streets to our hotel.
We did not take long to wash off the travel dust and settle onto the very comfortable bed to sleep through to the next morning, forgetting about dinner.
It's Wednesday 3 May and we'll have early start today to get to the bus station before 7a.m. The hotel receptionist was very helpful in ordering us a taxi and directing him to take us to the bus station. When we arrived there, we were greeted by a young Greek man and his dog offering to porterage our bags for €5.00. We happily loaded the 75 kilos worth onto his trolley and he took us straight to where our bus to Pr¬¬èveza will depart from. The station is quite large with lots of busses going to many destinations, and we were very grateful to our porter for his help. But not grateful enough to let him keep the €10 bill we pay him with, so we indicate that we would like to have €5 back, please. He smilingly ('who can blame me for trying') complies. We were still quite early so we indulged in croissants and coffee for breakfast and then Francis purchased our €40 pp tickets and we are ready for our six hour bus ride.
We arrived in Pr¬¬èveza at 2.00 and jumped into a taxi which took us via the AB-supermarket for a blitz-shopping spree for food and drink, to Aktio Marina and our waiting Clio.
The first thing we see when turning the corner to where Clio is resting over the winter period is her new clothes, a deck tent that covers her top parts (top-right photo). The deck tent looks quite well-made and will do a great job protecting her from rain and sun for 6 months of the year.
After finding a ladder we get on board and spent a couple of hours unpacking and sorting. It is after six before we're heading over to the marina restaurant next door for well-earned drinks and yummy dinner. Getting back we manage to clear enough space to make up our bed to get a good night's sleep.
Thursday 4 May, and the work begins. While Francis heads over to town to collect our transit log from customs and get it stamped by the Port Police (coast guard with policing tasks), Chris got on with sorting and washing all the main cabin bench covers and last season's leftover laundry. Because this year we have many meters of deck tent to store, it was a good time to seriously cull the accumulated stuff. Chris was ferocious and the boat yards store of pre-loved items suddenly doubled in size, as we disposed of excess life jackets, HFD housings, and other marinie things.
Out with the old, but of course there was in with the new. Clio now has a lovely new gang plank for the bargain price of €34, steps included.
Friday 5 May, and Francis is busy painting new markers on the anchor chain and restoring propellers, helm wheels, a new engine water pump impellor, and many other tasks needed to be done before we can launch on Monday. This is always a very expensive time of the year as we have to pay the balance of the marina winter fees, sanding and antifouling paint application, polishing, polyester repairs done to the rudder, various materials used etc.. So some help from a reasonable Australian dollar exchange rate would be very helpful. But as usual, it does not comply at all and keeps on falling against the Euro since we left Oz, losing about 10% over a couple of weeks, thus adding 10% to the already significant bills. The Greek capital controls limiting the amount of cash to €420/week and our bank daily ATM limits force us to daily visits to the town until we've amassed enough to make the locals happy.
We headed back into town today on the marina courtesy bus to grab some more groceries. Chris' watch battery died the minute we left home, and as it is a waterproof watch replacing it is better done when back in Oz, so we buy a cheap watch.
The main cabin is starting to show some unoccupied patches, so after lunch it is time for a break: we have a lazy afternoon.
Saturday 6 May and today Chris polishes all the metal work and Francis replaces the bow thruster propeller after removing antifoul from the anode. An anode is a piece of zinc that prevents electrolysis of shaft in contact with metal of another kind in the presence of seawater, but only works if it is exposed to seawater. The bow thruster sits in a relatively narrow pipe and it takes hours to remove the antifouling paint that took seconds to put on. Annoying, but what can you do. There is quite a bit of wind today, we delayed putting Clio in the water until Monday.
We've finished a lot of the work today (any reason will do) and treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the Greek restaurant down the road from the marina. Mmmm delicious Mousaka and cream chicken. Great place, very nice staff and great traditional food.
Sunday 7 May, only one major task today, haul in the anchor.. A range of small tasks to be finished, but otherwise relaxing day. We are ready to go in the water tomorrow.
Monday 8 May, after last minute preparations, it is our turn around midday to be loaded from the winter cradle onto the big track and hauled back to the water. After Clio is gently eased back into her natural habitat (bottom right) by a local looking like a direct descendant from the pirates that used to haunt this area (bottom left), Francis checks for leaks and gives the ok. However, when he fired up the engine he noticed that the cooling water was not flushing through, problem. We were in the slipway and many boats were being launched today, the marina staff towed us with many ropes around the end of the mole and tied us up outside, out of the way of the launches. As we now do not have shore power or engine to refill the batteries, the solar panels need to be put back on before we can solve the engine problem so that our lights work tonight. After some time crawling in and out of the engine compartment and checking and cleaning bits that could not possibly have caused the problem, at last the problem (air is sucked into the cooling water circuit through the seawater strainer lid) is solved. The wind has now picked up considerably and it is around 5PM, so we stay put alongside the mole, rather than attempt to cross over to the town quay or anchor off the Marina.
Links with more info:
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Where is Clio now? Follow this link.
Download the 2015 and 2016 Clio Diaries books here.
Please note that there is a medium photo quality (12 MB) and a high photo quality version (21 MB) of the 2016 book.