A Timeless Odyssey

Allures 45 (a thing of great practical beauty)

Peloponnese Blog 1

Tweeter and the Spanner Monkey arrived in Preveza late on Monday 17 June and after the 1.2 km, €15, taxi ride, dropped our luggage in the room in the Marina Building and made for the restaurant. Nothing had changed... same faces, same smiles. We were famished, so finding the kitchen open at 22:45 Greek time was a relief. The room was basic but clean and air-conditioned, something we were very grateful for over the next few days when the heat of the summer and the dusty yard made it a most welcome respite at the end of the day. It had a very odd shower, with absolutely no curtains or way to keep the water in the shower base.

I will spare the detail but rig up of the boat mostly went smoothly with the normal sort of challenges when the spanner monkey's patience would run thin. I do wish spanner monkeys would pay more attention to the job description! For example, when you are straddling the boom, balancing such that care needs to be taken of the family jewels or not plummeting indignantly deckwards, whilst trying to clip in the main sail sliders and the spanner monkey starts chirping things like, "How much longer do I need to stand here waiting for you to ask for the pliers or another cable tie, when I could be getting on with something else?" Clearly the job description was not understood, but then again, perhaps I should be more understanding as, I never did read the clothes ironing job description very well either! [at all would be more accurate!]

We managed to move the launch date forward by a day to Friday. We had sorted the new Greek cruising tax online in London, which proved a godsend because you needed it for the DEKPA we needed to renew. We spent 4 hours of Thursday going between various offices and banks to pay, standing in sweaty queues with frustrated people. Mostly, there were a lot who had not sorted their cruising tax out online at home and now the website was down, so they had to employ an agent. If I were more cynical I would smell a rat but luckily I am not at all cynical. We are now fully legal to cruise in Greece and will hopefully have enough paperwork to avoid the €1000 fines that are threatened.

We were in the water by 14:30 0n Friday and tied up to the town quay across the Preveza channel less than an hour later. The old tender was decommissioned, last year we had been chasing flailing bits as the glue failed and we had to clean and re-glue numerous times. When I rolled the tender out on deck this year for the first time and the transom fell off, so it was time to use the money I had put aside for a new one, this time a hard-bottomed.

One thing that surprised me was that I saw a head the size of a human head pop up in front to the town quay and realised it was a turtle, one that size up this far north and in between the business that is Preveza channel? I did a double take but the hard talking Greek but New York accented blonde women (collector of quay dues), gave me a bit of a dressing down, "Of course we get them here, Caretta Caretta (the species name) and that one is named George". How strange, a Greek turtle named George?

In the morning we headed through the Lefkas canal, sailing on the Solent (fore sail) only. We made the 1pm bridge opening and Spanner Monkey did a fine job of manoeuvring the boat between the others in the queue and treading water without getting blown onto anything, until the start gun went off and the long stream of boats bulleted it through the narrow bridge opening from both sides of the channel. The bridge master had changed nought, he is still gesticulating, wind milling arms and shouting for everyone to hurry up and close the following distances. I suspect it has no effect but perhaps it is in the job description?

After the last channel buoy, we hung a left and went to a rather wonderful anchorage with a great beach and lively beach bar and little else. The holding was over sand and excellent. The Blou Bliksem Braai was put into action and we had a scrumptious fresh fish casserole. It was dead calm at braai time but in the middle of the night I awoke to the boat sailing around the anchor a bit in a 20-30 knot offshore wind. It was spoken about in the pilot guide, the anchorage described as being, occasionally subject to strong katabatic breezes rushing down from the high ground. The anchor was well dug in and all was fine.

In the morning it was still and hot and sweltering. The spanner monkey was complaining about a stiff handle and leaking toilet (heads) pump. We had a Jabasco service kit on board so we did the deed. The spanner monkey assuming a usual stance peering over my shoulder, passing tools and o-rings and making useful comments like, those aren't fragments of pooh are they? Well I guess they could be spanner monkey shit, you do realize this is the heads pump, right? All sorted, a few new pump rubbers and O-rings to enhance your heads experience, aaaah, the sailing life. Meantime outside the water is gin clear and the sky is azure.

The next day we actually had a sail, all 7 Nm to Meganisi to Karnagio, so excellently run by Zeus and Alex. The deal is eat in the restaurant and moor to their quay for free. It has everything a sailor girl could want, including a deeply shaded garden and a beach with beach loungers. As before, this place is highly recommended but booking essential for good reason. We stayed two nights in the company of the two Surf African brothers and their partners, who seem to be part of the furniture here, we have been here 3 times and every time had the pleasant and friendly encounter.

It has been hot, so at 30 degrees C plus, the surplus to requirements list is long. Jeans, duvets, shoes and socks (but not slip-slops) definitely make the list. The solar is only just coping with the demand and the fridge is running hard. The evening breeze is a savoured occurrence but often not in full supply. This is Greece, the yogurt and feta is still the best, the tomatoes are juicy and large and the people are friendly... we can deal with the heat. Actually, on a related topic most of the fresh veg comes in brown paper packets, so no plastic bags is refreshing in itself.

We spent a night in Fiskardo, it is a trendy place and it was rammed with boats. We squeezed in between the Aussies from Dartmouth and the Lake District couple, both friendly and accommodating. We ate on the boat, SUP'd around the bay and made only a brief visit ashore, eating on the boat and watching the world go by. We were concerned we had crossed anchors but got away without incident, sailing south for all of 5Nm before the wind died and we had to motor the rest of the way down the channel between Ithaki and Kephelonia to Goat Bay at the bottom of Ithaki.

Goat Bay is a deep cleft with stony ruins long abandoned. The water is gin clear and there are fresh water springs upwelling, which make snorkelling a multi-temperature experience. It is one of our favourite isolated anchorages, harsh limestone with limited depth of soil, yet lush green adapted vegetation. The lack of soil is an ancient problem that I only really understood last year. The amount of manual labour and effort to build the terrace walls in the olive groves is all driven by this problem. The terrace walls provide opportunity to sweep (dig) down the soil into the terrace and this depth of soil is necessary to allow the olive trees to grow bigger. That effort for an olive tree is incredible to me and has to somehow hold a lesson for our "instant gratification" generation.

To set the record right, Tweeter does love the Spanner Monkey and is very privileged to have her as First Mate.

Time to end the Blog and head for a snorkel.