A Timeless Odyssey

Allures 45 (a thing of great practical beauty)

Greece Season 4 (Blog 1)

It was never my intention to stay in Greece for 4 sailing seasons, in fact I was hoping we would be scampering back over the Med to Gibraltar this season and then on to the Caribbean for Christmas via the Canaries. The first and second seasons here were somewhat curtailed by the fact that I was still looking at the possibility of working again and then the 2020 and 2021 by Covid restrictions. Still there are worst places to be restricted to in a sailing boat and right now despite the Covid restrictions here, things are fairly normal. So, maybe we head for the Canaries next season, hopefully getting an earlier season start around April/May. The problem is the First Mate is getting quite attached to Greece, so we need to leave before she grows roots.

We flew out of Bristol on 1st August, very quick and convenient regional airport to regional airport. We were greeted by 'a wall of' August Greek heat, that even the Greeks were complaining about. It is a feature of these first few weeks, with us often sleeping on deck. The rig up and launch was a challenge in the heat but we cracked on by getting up at first light and working until lunchtime. We splashed in on 4 August at 09h00, engine start first time and everything but Philemon (aka auto pilot) working.

We moved onto the boat after 3 nights in a studio apartment. WayPoint sails and rigging were fantastic, second downwind pole and fittings installed and the repaired sail cover delivered on time. The stainless-steel guy not so, did a runner with our deposit, did no work, despite having all winter and it turns out he has been skimming our account, albeit for quite small amounts. Now blocked and it is now obvious why Cleopatra Marina kicked him out of their yard.

We spent the first two nights on the water on Preveza town quay, the same old vibey place where we did the final touches to the rig up in 40 deg C heat and we both slept on the deck despite the boom boom music and the clatter of dustbins at the paling of the sky.
To make things interesting we had our first anchor tangle as we left for our maiden sail of the season. I had to swim and wrestle the anchor off our chain. The modern-day version of a seething battle with a writhing sea serpent. At 60 I might be getting a bit old for this? Someone had laid their anchor over ours....it happens. We did a near pass to try to tell the boats that it was an anchor with an orange trip line on it. Everybody is cool and waves us on our way. Our first sail goes well but the skipper and the First Mate are out of practice, we had forgotten to open the sail bag and prepare the mainsail. We say, stuff that, and sail on the Solent on a very lively broad reach to the entrance of the Lefkas canal, circa 7 Nm away. Our timing for the on the hour, every hour, bridge opening is awful, we drive around for a half an hour to mark time against a very lively 15 to 20 knot lee-shore. Mildly nail-biting but interesting because of the plethora of boats in the same situation, some decked with quite a lot of eye candy.

I think we had forgotten how crazy things can get in August. Chartering madness goes to another level and the heat is on. Added to that, it seems people have (or think they have) been released from their Covid cage and are charging like the Pamplona Bulls. Despite the chaos (remember he is, the main man at the top of the 12 Greek gods family tree), it is still a stunning experience and one we are very privileged to be able to do.

I have never seen the bridge opening and the Lefkas canal this busy. They are allowing 2- way flow which at its narrowest point (the unforgiving edges of the bridge) is barely enough for 2 catamarans to pass. The current canal was built by the Greek government around the turn of the 20th century but earlier canals were dug by the Corinthians in the 7th century BC and by the Romans during Augustus' reign.

Philemon is not working but we fixed him at the Vathi anchorage, a stunning place with excellent holding in sand, gin clear water and a beach bar that closes at night leaving nothing but ploughed fields (an Ionian rarity) and bleating and bell-clanging goats. Here is my little piece of creative writing about Philemon.

It is not all plain sailing. Philemon was having behavioural problems again. It is probably because he was left alone for 10 months and the naughty bugger had been drinking water again. We have spent six years trying to figure out where he gets it from and remarkably we are still not 100% sure. When we got back this year he was totally clutched out and even his normal shock therapy could not snap him out of it. Coaxing him out of his cave at the back of the boat is tricky and getting him back in, is an art. When you see inside him it is quite daunting how complex he is. Anyway, we got him onto the therapy bench and gave him a jolly good talking to. We unpacked him a bit and gave him a shock dose of the wonder drug WD40. On the bench test, he responded well to shock therapy and snapped out of his clutched out disposition. I also performed a rectal lobotomy on him by drilling two holes in his bottom in the hope that, if we can't stop him drinking water, it will just pass through. He put us through tedious contortions to get him back in his den. The spanner monkey only got mildly frustrated. To our relief, he is now taking orders from his commander and he is even taking feedback from his subordinate, the Rudder. We are chuffed because Philemon makes our life so much easier and we would have struggled without him for the next 7 weeks.

Worth mentioning that our other invisible 3rd crew member Hayi Juluka (No Sweat in Zulu/Xhosa), so called because he takes the sweat out of sailing, abbreviated to Juluka, only comes out of his box for long passages. He is less prone to behavioural problems. A.K.A the Hydrovane self-steering system. When he makes an appearance, Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu are remembered and honoured with some loud playing of Scatterlings of Africa and Africa Sky Blue.

After a fantastic two nights at Varko beach, we headed for Kastos. Unbeknown to us we pick up a fishing line on the prop. We don't know at the time but it goes down the crack between the sail drive and the prop and stops the prop feathering in the opposite direction. We engage reverse and nothing happens, 16 tonnes of boat heading straight for the quay, sans reverse. At the last minute at about 3000 RPM it engages with a scary clunk. The boat grinds to a stop, like a cliff hanger scene from a 007 movie. We don't risk any more gear changes and reverse gingery out to sea. Of course, we should have gone under the boat ASAP but we just wanted to find a place to drop an anchor to analyse the problem safely. At this stage we are thinking maybe it is the gearbox. It gets worse but we manage to get an anchor down warning the boats nearby of our disability. All goes well and the anchor holds first time. I spend an hour, maybe more, diving under the boat with a snorkel and mask using pliers and a knife. It is a birds-nest of note and the line keeps breaking as I pull it. The prop remains firmly jammed in the fully feathered position and my fear is that I will leave line in the gap or that the line has actually got sucked into the gear mechanism inside the prop. Miraculously, as the last remaining 1cm horse tail of line that I can barely get the pliers onto comes free, so does the prop free up. We dodge a bullet, I thought we were going to either have to haul out or get divers to take the prop off. I am wacked after about 50 head bumping dives under the hull. It least this time I knew to take my contact lenses out so I could have the close-up vision from inside the mask.

Later the wind is calm and the sun is setting, we have the Blou Bliksem Braai out roasting veggies, chicken and sausages. The 57ft boat next to us has a bunch of nubile gym bunny types on it. The boys take the dingy off into the village. The girls start a prolonged session of naked showering on the swim platform. Of course, when they start their boat is facing away but we all know that boats swing in circles and get closer at times. The First Mate asks if I think these girls are Italian, I reply that that had been my initial interpretation but now on closer inspection I was thinking they might be Brazilian. The First Mate is not very amused and in a deft chess move my dinner place is set so that my back is to the to the titillating frolicking that goes on for quite a while. Sigh, the G&T was still good.

From Kastos, it is on to Kioni .... a beautiful spot. With only two of us on board we struggle, but succeed with some long-line mooring. Later in the evening the wind comes up and jet streams down the valley with tree shaking ferocity. It is August, it is crowded and it is chaos. We witness one of the more entertaining and scary outplayings of mooring madness I have seen. Boy, can those Italian women scream when they get agitated. I captured a lot of it on video complete with commentary.

We are done with chaos, our own and that self-created by dubious choices of places to go. The First Mate wants security and luxury, so 12 Gods in Sivota it is. The wonderful Mario nudges us with his dingy into a secure berth and we spend two nights doing the obligatory restaurant eating to pay our dues for quay, the 240v power and 500l of water. It is a great deal. Until the next blog, adios!

BTW please check out the Gallery, which is now populated with selected pictures.