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My most memorable day at sea (John‘s story)

(This article won a writing competition organised by Saga and PBO, and we won a holiday in Egypt, courtesy of Saga holidays).

LEARNING TO LOVE SAILING

It is a sad fact that many men sail alone. Their wives and girlfriends preferring the comforts of home to life spent at a crazy angle in a boat. That had been my experience. So when, in later life, I had a second chance with a new lady-friend who had never sailed before I was determined to make her first day out in my Elizabethan 29, Rally, a truly memorable occasion. I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

The story continues...
France to Greece, 2001

We had left Chefren out of the water in Port Napoleon marina at Port-St-Louis-du-Rhône.

We returned in May to have a new forestay fitted and prepare her for the big adventure, our passage to Greece. When the work was finished we delayed going into the water as there were gales blowing.

Whilst we were waiting I painted a new white strip around the hull and touched up the paintwork on the davits. The other men on boats here have told John he is very lucky to have a wife who will paint and do dirty jobs, not to mention someone who enjoys sailing.

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Greece, 2001

Port Spiglia on Meganissi Island, Ionian.

The village of Spartahori is at the top of the cliff. The villages used to be built on the tops of the hills for defensive purposes, but now, with so much holiday and other waterborne traffic, not to mention EU grants, many tavernas have popped up along the shores.

It is worth the effort to go up and look around the village and remember to take your camera as the view from the top is incredible. The streets are narrow, not built for motorcars, and an ancient church nestles amongst the whitewashed cottages.

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Pelopponese

Monemvasia, The Gibraltar of Greece

Monemvasia is located in the southeastern Peloponnese 400 meters from land having been separated from the mainland by an earthquake in 375 A.D. It was founded by the Byzantines in the sixth century.

Today a causeway links the mainland town of Yefira/New Monemvasia to Monemvasia or Kastro (castle). The Kastro is divided into a lower and an upper town. Many ruins of the original 800 houses and only four out of the original forty churches can be found in the lower town.

High above, castle walls protect the upper town on the summit. There one can see the remains of Byzantine houses and public buildings and a vast cistern that ensured a water supply at times of siege. A fortified zigzag path from the upper town leads to the Fortress of Goulas on the summit overlooking the town. It is entered by a tunnel that still retains its ironbound gates. Among the ruins of houses and cisterns of the acropolis of the upper town stands St. Sophia, a Byzantine church founded by Andronikos II Paleologos on a plan similar to that of Daphni in Athens.

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Greece to France via Italy

Charybdis.

The famous whirlpool in the Straits of Messina. It is important to understand the tides when passing through this strait in order to avoid the clutches of the whirlpool. in Greek mythology Cylla and Charybdis were believed to be two immortal and irresistible monsters who beset the narrow waters traversed by the hero Odysseus in his wanderings described in Homer's Odyssey. They were later localized in the Strait of Messina. Scylla was a supernatural female creature, with 12 feet and 6 heads on long, snaky necks, each head having a triple row of sharklike teeth, while her loins were girdled by the heads of baying dogs. From her lair in a cave she devoured whatever ventured within reach. In recent years the whirlpool created by Cylla has disappeared due to the alteration in the seabed following an earthquake.

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French canals 2008

Ardennes to Auxerre

2008 was the year that we decided to take the boat from the Ardennes where we had kept her for the last four years towards the centre of France. The idea was that we had explored the Meuse and the Aisne and now we wanted to venture further afield. We arrived on Friday, 18th April at Pont à Bar close to Sedan where Liberty had spent the winter. We had emailed ahead and asked for electricity to be connected and a gangplank provided as the boat was in the water and not easily accessible. This had not been done so we searched the yard and found a suitable plank, and connected the electricity ourselves. We were then able to make the famous English cup of tea to eat with the home-made cake we had brought with us.

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French Canals 2009

Yonne, Canal du Loing, Canal de Briare, Canal Lateral à la Loire, Canal du Nivernais - a round trip.

We arrived in France on Tuesday, 19th May, staying overnight in our favourite little town of Bergues. This is the third time we have stayed in this lovely old walled town, fortified by Vauban, and it will not be the last. We stay with Madame Wolnik in a charming old Flemish house overlooking the canal where it enters the town. She does not have a car park but there is plenty of room outside and our room overlooks where the car is parked which is just as well as it is loaded to the roof with all our worldly goods including an inflatable dinghy, outboard motor, 2 folding bikes, bedding, curtains etc. Bergues has probably grown up around St. Winoc abbey, founded in 1022. Most of the buildings are 17th century. The town square is dominated by a lovely belfry which was dynamited in 1944 and re-built in the original style. The carillon of 50 (incredible) bells rings a very melodious chime every fifteen minutes.

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