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Coming Home

11 December 2022
Jane Paulson

From Lipsi to Leros we finished on a real high - thank goodness. We sailed the entire 12 miles downwind on our genoa, into the huge bay and right to the marina entrance. We were positively orgasmic!!

We had a week before Stiletto was due to be lifted and a lot to fit in. First we needed to go get the car which had been sat under cover for almost 7 months just outside the marina entrance. We were a bit nervous of what we would find but had absolutely no idea that we were in for a very emotional and very frustrating time.

As we got to the car, there was a mother cat and several kittens sitting beside it, basking in the sunshine. As soon as we started to take the cover off, mother ran away and the kittens darted under the car. We got the cover off and folded, reconnected the battery, the car started first time and we drove into the boatyard assuming that the kittens had moved once the engine had started.
We parked up the car and spent the next couple of hours attempting to ‘sort ourselves out'.

Later that evening, after I had cooked supper, we both decided that a ‘chocolate fix' was the order of a long day. Andreas left the boat, got into the car, drove into town, picked up a slab of our most favourite chocolate, drove back to the marina, parked up, got back on board and we devoured the lot! That was the first chocolate for several months.
Next morning, he went off to the shower block for a long, hot shower. His exact words to me, on his return to the boat were.......... ‘ you are never going to believe this, but the kittens are sat in the sunshine under the back of the car” !!!!
Too right, I was not going to believe it. He had driven into town , how could they possibly be there?
But believe it I had to . For sure, the three kittens were all under our car. We thought that we could just grab them and carry them back to mum. No. As soon as we got close, they disappeared - up into the engine !!! We then realised, in total shock, horror and surprise that these kittens had not darted off as we had initially thought, but had found safety (?) in the engine, and, had remained there, unscathed while Andreas drove into town and back. Holy Moly!!!

So, we needed to get these little sweeties out of our engine and reunited with mum asap. Not only because she was still feeding them but we needed to use the car and no way would we drive anywhere now knowing that they were hiding in the engine.
To cut a long-winded story short, it took 2 days to capture these little minxes. And on day two, we discovered that there were not three, but FOUR kittens !!!

It took 3 of us, a landing net, and some soft cat food to capture them. By day 2, (which was actually day 3 if you include the day we discovered them), they were very hungry and thirsty and when we slid the landing net under the car, put some food down and they dropped down, I scooped up the net and we captured first one, then another and then finally the remaining two. They put up a fight. One bit my finger, but we disentangled them from the net, carried them back down to the marina entrance where mum was living, and there she was. Waiting. We put them on the ground, mum immediately went up to them and within a few seconds they were all latched on and feeding.

What a fiasco, and despite the inconvenience and the worry that they may die, we were thrilled that after 3 days, it all ended well.

So, getting back to Stiletto, we spent the next week preparing her for the winter. I laundered all the bedding, throws, cushion covers. We stowed the dinghy. Washed the sails. Took down and stored the genoa. I cleaned the oven and the fridge . We had to re-pack the car several times in order to get all that we were taking back to the UK into the boot. On 16th November we were lifted out of the water and Stiletto was put on sticks in the boatyard for the winter. The plan being that when we return to the marina, we spend a couple of weeks getting her ready for the re-launch on May 31st.

Our ferry from Leros to Piraeus was at 00.05 on 17th November. We had booked a cabin and once boarded went straight to bed arriving refreshed at 9am the next morning. A half hour drive got us to Athens were we spent 5 days visiting Aunt Koula, cousin Joyce and her husband Kosmas, and being tourists. We also caught up with Steve who we had originally met during our time wintering in Sicily, and had a lovely couple of hours over lunch catching up.

The ferry departure time from Patras to Venice had been brought forward some weeks ago by 4 hours. We couldn't understand at the time why, but all would be revealed later.

It's a 32 hour ‘mini cruise'. We had a lovely big cabin, right at the front overlooking the bow, and we basically spent the time chilling, reading, playing cards and eating. The second night was horrible. Big winds, big sea and in the very early hours I made the mistake of lifting the blinds to see huge waves breaking over the bow. At one point I felt quite scared. Our original ETA was 6am but after speaking with reception the night before, she showed us the weather site (Windy – which is what we use) and the screen was purple so we knew that we were in for a bumpy ride.

It was a sleepless night and we were up and ready by 6am. At 7.30, to our surprise the anchor was dropped outside of the huge lagoon that Venice sits in. . An announcement was made that we were anchored because of the weather. By now, the sea state was calm and the winds had subsided so we were not sure quite what was happening. The next announcement was requesting that if a doctor was on board, would they make themselves known to reception. And here we sat until 2pm when we were told that the Port Authority had said we could proceed. We docked at 3.30pm and were off by 4pm. No further announcements, explanations or apology. As a sailor, I assumed that the bad weather had slowed us down to the point where we had missed the tide to get into Venice. There were several large tankers also anchored who were also given clearance to move as they followed us into the long and shallow channel. A very frustrating day, made worse by the fact we had an 8 hour drive to the hotel in Lyon in the dark.

Next day, a much better day for the drive to Caen, a good sleep and we didn't have to checkout till midday for a 3pm departure, arriving Portsmouth at 7.30pm. Home.

And this is where we shall be for the next 5 months, in our bijoux apartment in Gosport. But boy, its COLD !!!!

Muse for this post: We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
Vessel Name: Stiletto
Vessel Make/Model: Bavaria 33 Cruiser
Hailing Port: Gosport, UK
Crew: Andreas Giles & Jane Paulson
We have been sailing together for 18 years and have owned Stiletto for 16 of them. We have exhausted the Solent and the UK South Coast and all the other usual passages: West Country, France, Channel Islands etc. that are available from our home port of Gosport. [...]