14 June 2021 | Greece
Peter & Colleen Kolf
Last night we had a delightful dinner with a one eyed, one ear, balding in patches, guy with a limp. Every Taverna has Taverna cats. They tend to be a little smaller and more alert than the cats we are used to. Like a menu they are an integral part of the taverna, not tolerated but accepted. We often see piles of friskies left in the corner for them to eat. They are missing ears or limp, they come in many different colors. The most common colors are gold and white or black and white. When your table is attended by more than one cat there is a hierarchy that quickly becomes apparent, by the hissing and howling at your feet. We were at a lovely Italian taverna on the water and I made the mistake of passing a grilled mushroom to the cat near me without signaling Colleen who was being hosted by the alpha cat. I should have told Colleen to drop something simultaneously. Brielle was unfortunately in the middle battle ground area and the alpha cat shot across Brielle's feet and grabbed the mushroom before it hit the ground. Needless to say no one was happy with me, lesson learned. One morning we woke to a white and gold taverna cat asleep in the back cockpit, she stretched and came in for breakfast which of course we obliged. Our hospitality stopped, when she started exploring the rest of the inside of the boat. After that we brought up our gangplank, and somehow ended up with two cats curled up on the back benches the flowing morning
Everyone has a gangplank that they run off the back off the boat to reach shore when med mooring. Some are simple 2x8 boards, others are bottom lit and extend with the push of a button. Ours folds neatly in the locker. After backing in and tying up, but before you can drink a beer, you pull it out and fight it into position, the two pieces trapping any errant skin like a crabs pincer. Our gangplank, or passerele as the french call it, is woefully short in all but the best circumstances. Which leaves you the choice of leaping across to the concrete wall and risking a broken something, or pulling the boat closer to the wall, and risking a broken boat. You then must scurry across before the passerelle is no longer touching the wall. This challenge is compounded exponentially after a few drinks. The really long 2x8 board is looking better and better.
We have been biting the bullet and med mooring more, the key for us is to arrive early, and aim for a large space. It's still a crazy way to do things, a few nights ago we backed up into a large space, then a sailboat filled the space next to us, fair enough. When we got back from walking the town some how a large catamaran had shoe horned between our boats. The next morning when we left, we shot out like a watermelon seed. The people in the boat that had crammed in, didn't look us in the eye or even come on deck. Colleen was giving them the stinkeye over her coffee, I'm certain that shut them right down.
We even jumped to the next level of med mooring, and backed up in town next to the square, instead of on the road at the edge of the town. There was a ready made audience of old men, that gave us a lot of advice on tying up, and how to hook up to water and electric. It was well worth it, in the square we have front seats to the stroll. The evening stroll starts about 7pm. We went for a walk at 5pm and the town was shuttered and empty, when we went back through at 8pm, the cafes had filled up and the stroll was at its height. After studying it for a few nights I found that the stroll is carefully choreographed by an unseen hand, probably the mothers preparing dinner. The strolls warm up act is squads of boys, in groups of four, on bikes. They ride too fast, and pop wheelies, while checking out the girls strolling to the gelato place. This is followed by mothers with carriages and little kids in tow. The little kids are deposited at the square and play games and chase taverna cats, while the mothers line up the baby carriages at the cafe. The next act are couples dressed up going to dinner, some on vacation staying at the hotel down the way, they are pale white and jump out of the way when the boys are popping wheelies. The local couples are slower and say hello (yasass in Greek) to everyone, the boys and kids underfoot have no impact on them. The last group are old men with hands behind their backs who have been sitting at the cafes all day and are probably heading home. They are followed up by young hip teens in groups heading to the coffee shop.
I think the places we have visited in Greece have tolerated, and accepted the visiting boat, our visiting boat, into their world. I think its probably because they accept, the fast bikes, the kids running crazy underfoot, they give way to the baby carriage, they look out for the old man walking by, but most importantly they make sure the Taverna cat is well fed, and of course has a place to rest its head, on our boat!
Books new and old
01 June 2021 | Kefallinia Greece
Peter & Colleen Kolf
Greek waters Pilot by Rod and Lucinda Heikell (aka "the Book")is a travel guide that we use to figure out where to go with the boat. It shows us where to anchor or tie up and a few notes about what the port is like. We also use some programs and websites that have notes from people that travelled through before. The book gives a paragraph, a drawing and maybe a picture of each port. Methoni was a port that didn't fit into the itinerary, but we ended up making good time and decided to go a little further. We had a cursory look at where to anchor and none of the details, so we were surprised when a large Venetian fort came into view. Colleen said it was straight out of her romance novels. It was no Diagon alley and had closed for the night so we did a walk around the perimeter and enjoyed a sunset over the ramparts.
Katakolo only served to cement Colleen's deep abiding hatred and mistrust in med mooring. We managed to drop anchor, backup successfully, the helpful Greek guy patiently took the lines from Colleen, and we med moored. We were backed up to a large parking lot that pre covid served as a an area for buses that were taking passengers from the cruise ships on tour. Unbeknownst to us, the large parking lot also serves as a gathering spot for local hoodlums with souped up cars. Picture Fast & Furious with Tokyo drift maneuvers going on. We were basking in the glory of a successful med moor and eying the local tavernas for dinner when the first group of little cars pulled up a few feet from the stern of our boat and started revving their engines and backfiring. They quickly multiplied into a large group, revving, smoking, drinking, and backfiring. Once they reached a critical mass they all hopped in their cars and thankfully roared to the other side of the parking lot. From a distance it was a lot less stressful and actually good fun to see them doing donuts, drag racing, lighting flares, and cheering each other on.
"The book" describes Killini as a dusty little place. For us it was the best best place to meet up with Brielle our daughter. One of the guides recommended a taverna with Home cooking and it was great, they served greens like Tennessee greens and roast beef that melts in your mouth. Brielle ended up coming in at 2 am and found us tied amongst the fishing and work boats. While we waited for her the local dock cats kept hopping on the boat and exploring around the deck, you can definitely see how you could get a stowaway. It was great to see Brielle, she brought us some extra gear and parts that we had ordered from Amazon that we could not get here, so it was a lot like Christmas. She had come from Los Angeles through Munich and Corfu to Athens, then a 4 hour drive.
The next morning when we cast off and we let Brielle sleep in. She ended up waking up in the island of Zakinthos later that afternoon. She popped out of her bunk and led us on a forced march straight up the cliff that surrounded the city. That night we sat in a a cafe that straddled the sidewalk, half the tables were near the building the other half near the road. The sidewalk cut through the middle and the waiters carried trays around strollers and groups of people passing through, there was a constant stream of people going by. After being in the relative backwaters of Greece, Zakinthos was very cosmopolitan. The people were all dressed like they were going clubbing with short dresses, strapped high heels, white shirts and gold chains. Our waiter was like sugar water to bees, the girls would all saunter by and give him a hug, a knowing caress on the arm, making plans to meet up later. Peter and I faced the parade, and Brielle would laugh as our faces betrayed what was going on behind her. Oh yeah, the lamb in the oven I had was delicious, with roasted potatoes. We rented a car and drove around the island, Brielle made a route that had us see every beach. We stopped at one that had sulfur in it, and Peter of course had to wear out the fart jokes as we descended from the cliff down to the beach. The water felt great and we all smelled like egg salad, but were invigorated by its restorative powers. We sped past a winery in the middle of the island, and ended up backing up, as Brielle who has a well trained eye for wineries, declared this one as good. The powers of winery divination are powerful with this one. The olive tree in the courtyard was over 500 years old. Later I saw other trees that were even wider. You realize that the trees were not really owned just tended to by different farmers over the centuries. The winery "Ktima Gouma" was delicious, except for a smoked rose that tasted like a camp out.
The top of Zakinthos has a harbor that is the poster child for Greek tourism. A rusty old ship wreck on a white beach with cliff walls that are so vertical they seem to tilt in a bit. It was beautiful, but once checked off the list not a redo, I would much rather spend a day in the sulfur beach.
We find ourselves now on the Island of Kefalonia awaiting the arrival of Andrew, Brielle's boyfriend. We are in the little harbor of Agi Evfimia having pounded against a heavy wind that ran directly at us the whole way. We rented a car & with Brielle's navigational skills I (Colleen) managed to handle the hair pin turns, vertical inclines & drops in a manual car & feeling quite proud that maybe next time I could join the group of young fast & furious driver's and show them my skills.
Next stop Ithaca, probably, which is just across the strait. It is supposedly the Island described in Homer's book the Odyssey. I have been reading up on all of it, and there is much debate by the experts. The debate is interesting either way. I am excited, but I am sure Peter and Brielle are getting tired of me talking about Homers book.
The long and the short of it
27 May 2021 | Katakalo
Every trip has a beginning. You book the flights, plan the itinerary, and then you go. Maybe its just us, but we plan, and do the research and upon arrival the main attraction is closed for renovation or the wind is blowing the wrong way, or that town isn’t safe. Homecoming was in a shipyard adjacent to the Corinth cut. The Corinth cut has been in existence for over 100 years, a deep, relatively narrow cut (82ft wide) that goes through the isthmus and saves ships from going around the Peloponnesus peninsula. Shaving roughly 150 miles off a trip. I sketched out a rough idea of our voyage and didn’t flesh it all out, as I knew it might not all work out. In the end the cut had a landslide and is closed! In December the news had said it would be open in weeks, now the Greek president is saying that it is a testament to how well it was built that it had lasted that long, no mention of when it would open. We went by to see it and the depth and narrowness of it are crazy. We even saw the pile of dirt blocking the middle. In the end it means an extra 150 miles to our trip, as we have to go around. 150miles divided by our cruising speed of 6miles an hour = 25 additional hours of cruising = 3 days additional cruising time.
So we found ourselves going south from Athens instead of North through the cut. We woke in Athens to a dark scary sky that was not on any forecast. As we cast off from the large concrete wall we had been tied to we noted black dust on the deck, we assumed it was bits of the mooring bumper coverings that had kept us off the wall that night. After the second cup of coffee and clearing out of the harbor, we realized that the black stuff was all over not just near the fenders. We also started to smell smoke. A quick google and we found that poor Corinth, the canal fell in and now they had a big fire. The ash continued to fall on Homecoming as we headed south, replacing the yard dust we had just managed to clear off. We sailed along at a good pace, anchored in a beautiful little harbor, had a snorkel and cleaned off the ash.
Med mooring = backing into a parking space. The learning curve on this one is steep, but we jumped in and tried it. Heading into the little harbor of Spetsai we checked the Greek cruising book and a couple of programs that we always use for cruising. The books and software are always full of warnings with dire descriptions like this gem “BEWARE THE LARGEST TYPE OF OIL REFUELING BARREL FELL INTO THE SEA EXACTLY IN FRONT OF THE POINT AT WHICH YOU GO STERN TO”, mind you it was in bold type. Spetsai had no dire warnings except it could be crowded in the summer. So we eased into the harbor and found the hard concrete wall that we were meant to back our fiberglass shell into. We readied the lines and bumpers on both sides. The idea is that you simultaneously back up at a 90 degree angle to a concrete wall from as far out as you can, but at least three boat lengths, whilst laying out your anchor at the same 90 degrees. Then you stop laying out the anchor and the boat magically stops a meter from the wall and Colleen hands the helpful Greek guy the line, who ties it off, and life is good. The reality is that there is a derelict tanker at about three boat lengths out, the wind is pushing us into the boat adjacent and Colleen is petrified. In the end, we tied up without needing any fiberglass work, went for a walk then dinner. We were the first first ones to go to the restaurant since it covid reopened, so the owner treated us to a yummy gingerbread soaked in honey. We had mousaka, so good. As we walked back, we did a double take, we couldn’t see the boat. A large stink pot (motor yacht) had med moored in front of our boat. Pinning us between two boats leaving a large white fiberglass wall next to us. Between moving us over to make stinkpot room and the large derelict boat out front, our anchor line was not 90 degrees out from the wall, so the stink pot had laid their anchor partially over ours. This made for a Colleen petrified X2 the next morning as all the guys on the dock and adjacent boats discussed with Colleen in excruciating detail the different scenarios of anchor entanglements and disentanglements. In the end Colleen wore down the stinkpot captain, who leant us a deckhand to untangle the anchor, if it did not clear. After extricating ourselves from the flanking boats and the wall behind us and simultaneously bringing up the anchor, the anchor cleared from under the stinkpot anchor and we went on our way. I had to promise to never med moor again, which I did, but competitive Colleen has come out and is ready to try again, preferably on an empty concrete wall.
Monemavasi was magical. After a long 8 hour run we rounded the cliff and the castle-city slowly revealed itself, Game of Thrones like arrayed across the steep hillside. After anchoring (see time warp video thing of this) we walked up. We entered the fort through a dark tunnel in the wall expecting a ticket taker or period dressed docent at the end. It was more like entering Harry Potters Diagon alley, inside there was a narrow road full of shops, bars and restaurants. I think Greece is so full of old ruins they have to put them to use. We worked our way up to the top, to the upper town, which was way up, and was just ruins and flowers and bees. The fortified castle-city was founded in 583, needless to say the parts got jumbled up and layered upon, in the end no one can claim they built this, as it was built by so many, for so long.
Porto Kagio. Picture a sleepy western town, worlds end, nothing around. The intention was to stay in, nothing here move along. Kagio has one road that doubles as the top of the beach. From Homecoming we spied one taverna on the beach that was weirdly full in the afternoon. Tavernas don’t fill till 8pm or later. This wore on us, what if we had made it to Porto Kagio and had missed out. In the end the dinghy went down and we went in. We arrived at the dock and the restaurant owner an older lady rushed out to tie us up. As we headed across the beach/road I realized with horror that there were two tavernas adjacent to each other, we had picked the other one. The full one was now empty, and the one we hadn’t seen, which we were going to, was busy. The owner showed us the fresh catch, I have no idea what it was we ate. It had little piranha razor teeth and was delicious. It ended up she was a beekeeper and I tried to tell her about the bees I had kept. This unleashed a torrent of Greek and hand gestures. Our takeaway, the honey from earlier in the season is from oregano, the honey now is made from tea flowers. We brought a jar back and look forward to trying it.
Doing the long way around we spent the extra time traveling, cleaning, polishing, fixing, and learning. The weather ended up very calm and smooth. We have visited gems of places we never would have seen & should be seen. They are wonderful off the beaten track places that even by car most people don’t seem to go to as they are hard to get to and several hours away from Athens. in the end, the long and short of it, it worked out just fine.
A helping hand!
19 May 2021 | Agio Theodoroi to Athens
Literally & figuratively Homecoming would not be in the water without help. We are thankful for all the assistance.
Everything went to plan (as we adjusted our expectations).
The port police asked for more documents, then stamped our paperwork. The shipyard asked for cash, but took credit cards. The shipyard's maintenance guy, which is a different entity, asked what I wanted to pay as they had no invoice.
We bought a restaurant gift card for what became our shipyard workers "group" for lunch as a Thank-You. We found out that this is not a normal thing but after some back and forth & explaining, the Pizza guy was happy to take our money on a slow Sunday, we hope everyone is happy & enjoys it.
Funny stressful story here - The crazy thing is we had shipped three packages from home a month before we left & one arrived in seven days, one in 14 days, and the last took an eternal tour of Europe, visiting France & Germany & then Greece. It was given to a local delivery guy on Friday am (we were scheduled to launch on Monday). We continually checked the status & kept a look out of the cars coming in and out of the yard & asked the security guard to let us know if anything for Homecoming came to let us know. Nothing came & knowing that Sunday everything is closed we were giving up hope. Monday morning arrives, controlled chaos begins to happen. The car rental gets picked up. We hired a captain (friend of one of our new friends here in the shipyard) to be with us for the day. He was coming from Athens which is 1 1/2 hours away & had not arrived yet when the yard crew was saying they were ready to put Homecoming in the water. Makas the captain arrived & jumped out of the car & much discussion between him and the crew ensued at which machinery started jumping into action again. The status of the package was checked one more time & low and behold it said it was delivered! Colleen frantically climbed down the ladder and sprinted to the office. As we backed into the ramp she came back hauling this package & one of her yard friends threw the package up. The launch driver was laying on the horn. She is trying to get on the boat now that it is on the lift so we dropped the ladder & she puts one foot into the guys hands & pulls herself up to the ladder & climbs on! The whole scene was just comical (now).
The launch itself was a lot like putting the pontoon boat in the water in Rhode Island. A bunch of guys standing around talking, you push the buttons for the engines and pray they start, the guy on the machine gives you the go signal, throttle in reverse, and you slowly break free, trying to keep it straight so as to not bump the machinery.
Makas helped us with the systems & overall running of the boat. The boat is a web of distinct yet intertwined systems, most of them rely on seawater, so we could not start them in the yard. The generator had a hidden fuel pump switch, which we ended up texting the old owner to discover. Once we got enough electricity we tackled the water maker. The water maker takes the sea water and pushes it at high pressure through a super tight mesh, that only water can get by. The water maker had a chunk of chlorine in the intake to keep it ready when in storage, so the sensors thought the water had too much salt. Once that was discovered, it was a real thrill to see the water gauge slowly go up. The inverter takes the 12 volt electric that we get from the solar panels and is stored in a bank of batteries and makes it work in normal plugs. Chargers, printers, ice maker. The inverter is housed in the back of a cabinet that can only be reached by laying in the cabinet and wiggling forward into the back recesses. After climbing in and out a few times, we discovered the sequence and now have a working inverter.
We had a great sail to Athens and tied up to a wall with an inordinate amount of exercisers. After the olympics in Athens they turned this area into a running fitness park. Like a trail of ants they would run, bike, and walk along the harbor. After the eventful day Colleen was ready for a fancy drink. So we got in the stream of exercisers and headed to the bar. Colleen did slow down markedly while passing the chin-up bar station with its strapping young men.
We are so glad that we were able to get here before May 15th when the regulations changed for Greece. We got to know the cute little town of Agioi Theodoroi all to ourselves.
Good to be on the water, good to be going.
Good to not hear Colleen asking, when that third package will arrive & Colleen (who has been co-writing,says so glad to not hear Peter keep asking "when will we get this boat in the water".
Picts/Videos are posted. The one long video is the complete launch real time 9:17 minutes even with the package holding up the train at 2:25 minutes when Colleen “leapt aboard”. The other one is a GoPro fixed to the front on time warp, taking pics every few minutes :57 seconds long.
To end this one, we are very thankful to have gotten this far & we are thankful for all of the help, love and support here and at home!
Bobo be mine
12 May 2021
I jerked the manual drive car a couple of times after 20 years of not driving manual, and Colleen has declared herself a better driver and won’t acceed the helm. Needless to say she has her share of grinding and ten point turns over the curb at the dead end, but she is not easy to sway. (Colleen here & adds “He exaggerates - I drive way better while he is better at navigation haha)
We stayed in a efficiency, it was in suburban Agioi Theodore, which is to say the last row of houses before the olive trees. We shared the common “courtyard” with a grandma and cute dog named Bobo which means little baby. He would here us moving around in the morning and be at the door ready to say good morning. It would be nice to have Bobo along for the ride.
We are living on the boat now, in Almira Shipyard. Almira is a true shipyard. There are no pools or clubhouses or socials, not even a marina, or even a dock! The boats are lowered or backed into the water and then they just go. The catamarans like ours are picked up from the middle and backed in by an old Russian looking truck, when they get near the incline into the water they run a tow rope to another truck with a huge chunk of concrete in the bed. I can only imagine what led to the two trucks, maybe there was another truck before these that couldn’t cut it and just kept going?
We passed the first Greek test for puttin the boat in the water and got a Greek transit log. You first need to obtain a transit log for your boat through customs then you need to go to port police to get a stamp in your transit log. The transit log requirements were long and varied. We even had to send a copy of our boarding passes which were luckily stuffed in a side pocket. The port police are rumoured to be allowing cruisers on Monday, which is coincidentally when we are scheduled to launch.
We have been working hard on the boat. Colleen traded Bikram yoga for deep cleaning and sail wrangling. It is hard to say where the day goes. In order to get a battery replaced under warranty, it took meeting and talking with multiple people multiple times. In the end a guy appeared this morning with a new battery and we are all set with that.
And I (Colleen) will add that Peter’s knowledge & his ability of figuring things out have saved us time & frustration but even with that there are problems that just need that extra “expertise”. One of those issues was a screw that was stuck in the main sail car on the mast from when we think they did the inspection for us when we were buying her. After trying the old WD 40 & banging it we had to wait a few days until the “technician” showed up to try & fix it. We could not put the main sail on until we were able to connect it to the car that is attached to the mast. So picture this scene... 1 guy shows up at 7 ish after working in the yard all day and he basically does what Peter already tried. 1 guy turns eventually into three with banging the crap out of it with a hammer, to getting a welder to try and heat it up, to drilling it out & then hitting the crap out of it again with a hammer. It finally worked, not pretty but then about 10pm at night Peter & I managed to get the main sail connected to the mast, on the boom & nicely wrapped up in the cover. Besides the welding part we laughed because Peter was like I could have done that but thought they would have some piece of machinery that would work better. Everyone here has been very nice in the shipyard & it’s rush rush rush all day with them.
As Peter mentioned above it is definitely a shipyard and not a marina. I line up with the guys to use the bathroom in the morning, I feel like I should bum a smoke from one of them. (Actually I should mention that I have seen my fair share of guys who chose to make their bathroom under various boats but at this point I would if I could too) ;-)
We saw the Corinth cut which is straight and deep and built in 1893. Unfortunately the cut had a landslide so we cannot go through as planned. They have been fixing it since December, the president said it is over 100 years old and it has lasted this long is impressive. It would be impressive if they could shore up the walls and open it back up.
The food has been great, tonight we had fried squid. It looked a lot like the bait we use in Rhode Island to catch flounders, but once past that it tasted great. We also had a salad of shredded up vegetables like a coleslaw. Overlooking the water with good people to watch made it interesting. The weather is shorts mid day, and light sweaters in the evening.
We added a link on the right to a google drive that we can put post pictures to.
Got a new garage
08 May 2021 | Agioi theodoroi Left of Athens
An auspicious beginning at JFK, like winning bingo 4 times in a row, our bags weighed in at 49 or 50 with the last tipping the scale at 51, to settle at 50.
We arrived in Greece, I was well rested having slept every possible moment, Colleen caught up up on movies. So, well rested we went immediately to the boat, the night watchman let us in, and as the sun set over the sea we wandered aimlessly around, realizing that the empty yard seen in google earth was not reality. The yard was packed with Lagoon catamarans of all sizes. As we gave up hope till tomorrow, Colleen finally saw her peeking through a few other boats. We're happy to say she is everything we dreamed of, sans a thick layer of yard dust.
We have been getting her ready. Which basically entails finding the various parts or tools in the various holds then wondering what is missing and looking it up and looking at other boats to see if you did it right.
Colleen felt bad I haven't seen the Acropolis, give me a boat and a cold beer in the cafe after a long day of rigging and cleaning any day.
The big cultural epiphany we had today is that the Greeks call Greek salad.....Greek salad! Which begs the question do the French call French fries French fries? What about Hungarian goulash?
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