We had enjoyed the town of Astros on our first visit and as we wanted a place to sit for a week whilst doing repairs and close down stuff, we headed back across the gulf. Again there was little wind so the motors did most of the work. On our previous visit we had secured side to the western quay as you enter the harbour (most yachts are moored stern to the opposite side). This has the advantages of a much shorter walk into the town, two power and water points between two boats, as opposed to one between about 12 boats and the security of 'side to' where others rely on their anchors. It costs 25% more per night but as a night with power and water is around 11 Euros it's not a huge stretch. We were lucky and the space was free, so we were set.
The following day was Chris's birthday and he opened his cards from home and presents over breakfast - many thanks to all whose planning was advanced enough to make that happen.
After this we gave ourselves the day off, dragged the bikes out of the 'port forward' cabin and set off to find the local nature reserve. Even with the Navmii map on the phone it was a bit confusing, so we had a chat to a local lady bringing two young girls home. Her English was good and she seemed pleased to practice, but one of the girls sounded like a native speaker, though with an American accent. We were going the right way but the next junction proved to be onto a major road with many trucks and cars, so we abandoned the nature reserve and turned off onto a very quiet local road.
AStros beach looking towards the harbour and the town on the hill
This was much more pleasant and we drifted down towards the beach through olive groves and tiny hamlets. The beach stretches for a few miles, gravel and stones rather than sand but nice enough and very quiet at this time of year. Following the coast brought us back to Astros and we stopped for coffee and croissant at a very nice cafe on the outskirts. It was a very pleasant way to get some exercise and see something of the area.
Birthday coffee time!
That evening we selected a taverna on the other side of the harbour and had a good meal of a grilled local fish they called 'Dentex'. It tasted much better than the name suggests! At the next table were a Swiss couple who looked like sailors and Carolyn got chatting to Anne and George from S/Y Cupidon. After a while we joined them at their table and more wine was added to the bill! We invited them aboard Splice the next evening for drinks and a few hours and bottles passed talking about nautical, cultural and political issues (mostly in French but somehow Chris finds this easier after a drink or two!)
Chris with his Birthday 'Dentex' fish
Our focus however was to make a start on the list of jobs and much of our time was spent on this. Over the course of the 8 days our main achievements were :
- Removed and re-fitted the starboard forward leaky window. This involves removing the internal decorative strip, removing multiple screws and then gradually prising the window from the frame of the boat where it has been stuck for 12 years. As you can't twist it for fear of breaking the glass or get any tool down three sides of the frame due to the shape of the structure it takes a while.... but we succeeded in the end. Then we had to clean up the old sealant on both surfaces, apply the new non hardening mastic strip (which will stay flexible) and then re-position the window back in and tighten up the screws. Sounds simple but as we hadn't done this before it took all day! The most difficult bit being that the structure inside the boat does not allow a normal screwdriver to access the bottom of the window, we have an 'L' shaped screwdriver but undoing 10 screws and then redoing them when you can only apply limited pressure was very frustrating. Our other learning curve was that we should have spent time presenting the window back to the frame without mastic to decide the best position. Of course the 'hole' is not exactly the same shape as the frame so you need to know where to position the frame before applying the mastic.......we did waste some. It has rained since and we have hose checked it so hopefully it will stay dry. We will be better at this next time......as we have another leak to sort out!
Cleaning the old mastic off the window
- Cleaned out the secondary fuel filter cases and replaced the primary and secondary filters. All engines have a main/primary fuel filter to stop muck and water from poor fuel getting into the engine. We have an additional filter on each engine and the generator with a plastic bowl at the bottom that lets you see water or particles in the fuel and drain them off through a tap. Over time this bowl gets grimy and some gunk sticks to its sides so it needs cleaning. To do this you need to close off the fuel and drain this part of the system before using a 'baby's bottle' style brush to clean out the bowls. Then the main filters need changing (messy job as its impossible not to spill some fuel) and the filters and fuel lines primed with fuel before checking everything will still start and run normally.......another day gone by the time its all cleaned up.
Amongst other smaller jobs we also:
- Fitted 'rub-rails' to our bows where the anchor bridle runs as there weren't any before
- Rubbed down, sealed and painted a few rusty areas in the engine rooms
- One quiet morning we unfurled both our gennaker and genoa sails and hosed them down to remove salt crystals and then dried them in the sun until the wind got up. We had to unfurl them again the next day for a few hours to ensure they were fully dry. Unfortunately the weather didn't give us the chance to do the same for the mainsail.
Our foresails hung out to dry
- Once dry we removed the larger forward sail, our gennaker, ready for the end of season as quite a bit or rain is forecast and handling big soggy sails is no fun
- Spent time washing out and treating our 'black water tanks' which were getting unpleasant
Our social activities is Astros were mostly in French as we had first one and then another boat from Brittany moor behind us. We chatted a lot to Bernard and Cathy who sail a Westerly called 'Glen Feeling' and spent an interesting evening on board with them consuming Cathy's delicious nibbles (and some alcohol!) Chris was very jealous as they had completed the 'Rallye des Iles du Soleil' which crosses the Atlantic and cruises Brazil and the Amazon River. This was his preferred option for an Atlantic crossing but it ceased around four years ago when the Brazilian Goverment changed the visa rules and it was no longer possible. (We think there is still a version running but it doesn't visit the Amazon)
We managed a few walks locally and sat out some strong winds in relative comfort as some of the boats on the other quay struggled to get their anchors to hold. We enjoyed a lovely swim from the beach on the other side of our quay in very clear water. We tried a couple of other tavernas, but our most interesting meal off the boat was in a cheap 'Gyros' place patronised only by the locals. Our very tasty chicken wrapped in a pitta with tomatoes, chips and Tzatziki sauce, together with 500ml of (rather poor) wine cost the huge sum of 8 Euros! It was fun, they were friendly and the food was good.
We like Astros, its relaxed, sensibly priced, and the people are pleasant. We may well come here again if we need preparation time next year. Mind you we would always want to be on the west quay, not on the main yacht quay.
Main Photo: Astros harbour looking towards the entrance. Splice to the centre right of the shot