PelopponeseApril - July 2003
Brenda and John Davison in Chefren
Sailing round the Peloponnese from Preveza and return via the Corinth Canal
Preveza to Missolongi and back
Wednesday, 23rd April 03
We are finally back at the boat for another season's cruising. Chefren has been left in Cleopatra Boatyard for the winter, and as the local airport at Action has not yet been opened to charter flights we arranged to fly via Athens and spend a few days there, then catch a local flight to Action. John has never visited Athens and I was looking forward to showing him some of my favourite places.
We arrived very early on Thursday morning (05.00 hrs), and booked 2 large suitcases into left luggage to be collected when we departed for Preveza. It cost us €40 for a large and small suitcase for 5 days which we though rather dear. We then had a rather disastrous visit to the toilets which was enough to ruin our carefully laid plans. We arrived at the bus stop in time to see the 06h05 bus leave at 05h55.. Nuisance enough but buses were scheduled every 25-30 minutes so we were not too worried until we had been waiting 45 minutes with no sign of another bus. We enquired and were told there would be no more buses into Athens that day. No reason was given but later we learned that Tony Blair and other heads of state were attending a meeting in the city and it was grid-locked.
Our alternatives now were 1) a taxi into Athens, 2) a bus to the terminus of the underground railway, and on by metro or 3) bus to Piraeus and then underground into Athens. We opted for option number two. The journey took an hour through roads choked with traffic, belching exhaust fumes into the polluted air. We then took the underground to Syntagma Square where we changed to another train for the two stops to Omonia square and our hotel. Thankfully the journey was short because the second train was not just packed; it was bursting at the seams. We had heard about trains like this in Japan where employees push people into an already crowded train, but here there was no one to push us in. If John had not held determinedly onto me I would have been left behind. It was every man (and woman) for themselves. I overbalanced as they train started to move and was unable to stand upright again. I completed the journey leaning on the person next to me with my feet twelve inches away to my right. Thank goodness we had not tried to bring our big suitcases with us.
Later, after booking into our hotel we showered and changed then feeling refreshed we went out to walk through the Plaka and on to the Acropolis. At the Acropolis we found all entrances save one were closed, in order to collect payment. I seem to remember it used to be free but perhaps my memory is playing tricks. Despite home-made signs the entrance was hard to find and we wandered via quaint donkey paths through an area of white-washed sugar-cube houses which had been built by workers from the island of Santorini who had been brought to Athens to build a palace for King Otto at some point in history were built in the typical island style. We could have been on the island itself as we threaded our way through the charming jumble of houses festooned with flowering plants. We eventually found an entrance and the helpful attendant asked tactfully if we were over 60 and sold us a concessionary ticket.
It was a stiff climb up to a level above the amphitheatre where tourists were swapping cameras for mutual photographs. We swapped cameras for a photograph with a French family who in passing mentioned that the National Museum of Archaeology was closed. I was disappointed as this was one of the things I wanted to show John, in particular the so-called mask of Agamemnon found by Schlieman at Mykinae. As it turned out this was very much a sign of things to come as the whole of Athens were preparing for next year's Olympic Games.
The Acropolis was, as always, fascinating but there was lots of scaffolding over everything and inevitably the little museum was closed. Next door to our hotel was a sex cinema; there was a sex shop opposite and other neighbouring shops were Chinese import/export, a bottle shop, a pharmacy and a Lebanese supermarket. On the corner of the street was a shop selling animals. There were cages of cute puppies, fussy hens, bewildered pigeons, and some colourful mandarin ducks.
The next day we set off on foot to the War Museum. To get there we walked via the main shopping area to Syntagma Square which was very crowded with shoppers. There were many beggars, some very tragic with limbs missing. There were also some actors dressed as statues, Charlie Chaplin, a scarecrow, and a tin man. They were excellent. Crossing Syntagma square was an adventure in itself. Illegal and irresponsible parking made life difficult for the buses and other traffic.
It was just before noon when we reached the tomb of the Unknown Soldier guarded by two ermiones in front of the parliament building. We were just in time to see the changing of these guards in their white pleated short skirts and boots bedecked with red pompoms. On the dot of twelve a command rang out and each of the two soldiers left his post and with much scraping of his boots flexed his knees and stretched one arm in the air before him. At the same time the red berets of the replacement guard could be seen approaching behind the crowd. They soon appeared on the plateau behind the guards and a ritualistic dance/march ensued with much leg raising and arm lifting. After a few moments the new guard were in place and the old one marched away.
When all was quiet again we resumed our walk to the museum past where elaborate displays of Easter flowers were set out.
This was the more prosperous part of Athens in contrast to the older commercial district where we were staying. The National Gardens were on one side and large private residences on the other. At least two of these houses were now museums.
The War Museum was identified by an ancient aircraft outside a modern building. We began by taking a lift to the top, intending to work our way down. But by the time we had made our way round just one floor an hour had passed. We had been fascinated by working models of siege engines, trebuchets, fire pumps, and fire throwers. Photographs and paintings of the last two wars, the civil war, and the Greek war of independence hung on the walls. There were pictures depicting Turkish brutality as they massacred or took as slaves the entire population of the island of Chios, and hung the Archbishop. We saw pictures of women carrying ammunition on donkeys to fighters in the hills.
We began to flag and returned to the hotel, stopping for coffee and sandwiches in Monastiraki Square which has changed beyond recognition since I was last there. They are building a Metro station in the centre of the square and dust was blowing everywhere. Street traders were numerous. There was a black man trying to sell CDs and a child selling packets of tissues as well as an accordionist who came round the tables. There were stalls selling bananas, and strawberries as big as tomatoes, as well as coins and mobile phone covers.
Next day we went out to visit the flea market as well as the ancient cemetery and archaeological site. Guess what? The cemetery was closed. The flea market was over rated but there were some interesting antiques including a child's toy aeroplane big enough to sit in.
On Monday we were booked to visit the ancient site of Corinth, by coach. We were picked up at the hotel at 07h15 for the inevitable tour of Athens picking up people from the other hotels. In Syntagma square we were decanted into another bus and joined nose to tail traffic out of Athens. We had an excellent guide who pointed out the interesting sites, e.g. Daphni, in English, French and Greek.
We stopped for a quick look at the Corinth Canal and then on to ancient Corinth. There is little left of the Greek city except a fountain. The Romans destroyed it and the ruins we now see are the remains of the Roman city. I was impressed by the big square surrounded by temples and shops approached by a wide road with a fountain to one side. At the fountain water was channelled through several arches to a pool where people came for their drinking water, which then flowed on through open conduits to a public toilet where seats were cut into the stone slabs. There was no privacy but it had a continuous flush. It reminded me of the open toilets we had in the playground of my first school back in the 'forties.
The Corinthians were charged for use of the toilet, a charge which was imposed by the Emperor Tiberius who is reported to have said, "Money has no smell".
We stayed longer than intended at Corinth and had a quick look at the new port before joining stop-start nose to tail traffic back into Athens.
We were due to fly on to Action that evening and fortunately we had taken our small suitcases with us, as we were an hour late and the delay meant that we had to go straight for the airport bus. Collecting our large suitcases from the left luggage we checked in and then had the inevitable wait. We used the time to investigate the Sofitel Hotel across the way with a view to spending a night there on the way home. We discovered that a double room for one night would cost €240 (£160). I don't think we will.
Our flight was delayed for two and a half hours because of a problem with a door and it was interesting to see how the Greeks reacted in this sort of situation. One woman who had two small children, and a man on his own, together with an Italian man were shouting and complaining in true Mediterranean style. We learned that they were demanding another plane. The woman particularly did not want to risk her children on a plane which had been repaired. However another plane was not forthcoming and they were happy enough to board the little old-fashioned 74 seater when it was ready.
We cultivated the acquaintance of a German who was obviously travelling to a boat as he carried a roll of charts. We invited him to share a taxi with us to the boatyard from the airport, but in the event this did not save much as the cost was €15. Last year it was only eight. Perhaps the driver charged per passenger.
Thursday, 25th April, 03, Preveza.
We have been on the boat since late Monday night. The first 24 hours were chaos and hard work as we unpacked the stuff we had left in the lockers and the watertight bags, as well as the things we had brought with us. Our huge suitcase occupied the dining area whilst we found homes for its contents. Once that was done I was able to clean the accumulation of dust from the inside of the boat and put curtains up, whilst John checked the engine and batteries, filled the water tanks and inflated the dinghy. We discovered that one of the davits is rusted through, and tried to price a replacement at the chandlery in the boatyard but they had nothing in stock, and could offer nothing from the catalogue. The young lady in there said that Mr. Yannis, the manager, might know where we could get them but he had not taken his mobile phone and could not be contacted. She said she would ask Paulo to come and see if the davits could be repaired but it is Good Friday tomorrow. To the Greeks Easter is like our Christmas and no one is working.
Our friends Don and Maggie are here. They come out by car and ferry so that they can bring their dog. Yesterday we went across to Preveza with them and visited the port police to pay our cruising tax and get permission to launch. The cost was about £90 for three years cruising. This is an illegal tax according to the European commission but so far no one has persuaded the Greeks to stop charging it. They also insist that we check in to the port police in every port we visit, have our papers stamped and notify them where we are going next. We find this very restricting and try to avoid ports where there is a port police presence if we can. Whoever designed this law is obviously not a sailor. Our life in Greece is a very free and easy life. We often just go out to sea and decide where to go on the basis of where the wind is blowing from, or not go at all when the weather is bad. We have even been known to tell lies (Sssh)..
Don and Maggie are having their boat re-varnished inside and left their dog, Floyd, a Staffordshire bull terrier, in our boat whilst we went to Preveza. He is a nice natured dog who hardly ever barks but communicates well with a series of whimpers and whines. On our return we all made sandwiches in our galley.
Whilst Don and Maggie have been good friends we find that Don is very rude and was disparaging about John to me. He said that John was getting 'het up' in the police station where they went to sign the forms. He made it sound as though John was hen-pecked, but in fact he always gets flustered when he has to fill in forms as he is mildly dyslexic.
I know I can be appear to be very bossy at times often when I don't intend to be. So Don and I are only polite to each other on the surface. I hate the way he talks to Maggie, and about her.
Friday, 26th April, 03.
It is surprising how much we have achieved since Tuesday. The boat is clean inside and our clothes etc. are stowed away. John has been working hard making us an anchor chain run-out for the stern anchor, and he finished off some mechanical work on the outdrive leg.
In the afternoon we worked together to clean the decks and cockpit, and I cleaned the windows. I even found time for a short walk with Maggie and Floyd.
The beaches here are a foot deep in seaweed so they are not easy to walk on. We always tried to find somewhere where Floyd could have a swiml. Staffordshire bull terriers are not supposed to like water but no one has told Floyd, he feels deprived if he does not have his daily swim, and positively grins as he splashes around after the sticks that Maggie throws for him.
The beaches and the roadsides are littered with plastic bags, bottles, polystyrene cups, fishing floats, and even a tyre and a fender. I rescued the fender and it has cleaned up nicely.
Last night we watched a yacht go aground just opposite where we are. They were coming in rather fast and very close inshore. As they approached they joked with the fishermen on the end of the ferry ramp, stretching their arms wide to indicate a fish, and then suddenly they were no longer moving. They got themselves off by taking a rope by dinghy to one of the mooring buoys and winching themselves off.
Having broken the back of the jobs it has been pleasant to sit looking across the straits to the town of Preveza, and listening to soothing Greek music on the radio. We watch the sun going down, and the hills opposite are like cardboard cut-outs suffused in a pink opalescent light. In the foreground a freighter waits at the quay attended by two cranes, close to a jumble of red-roofed buildings.
Monday, 28th April, 03
The weather continues to be pleasant, sunny and warm with the usual stiff breeze in the afternoon and early evening, perfect for sailing. More people are arriving and there is general consternation because the ferries which connected this side of the straits with Preveza are no longer running. A new tunnel is open but as pedestrians and bicycles cannot use this and we have no other transport, it is impossible to get supplies. Our only sustenance is the small taverna which will sell bread in the mornings, and bottles of soft drinks, and beer. There used to be two caravans which sold sandwiches and soft drinks to the ferry passengers. This was a useful emergency source but they too are closed down
Realising the difficulties Mr. Yannis has laid on transport which goes over to Preveza via the tunnel four times a day.
We have been fortunate in having Don and Maggie here with their car and they have been very generous. We all went to Levkas and stocked up with most things we need. Don also ran me to the local fuel station where I was able to fill our spare can with diesel.
Today John went up the mast to fix the wind instrument which had stopped working. He fixed it and after two hours it stopped again. He has a mast-climbing gadget which enables him to work his way up a halyard and all I have to do is tail the rope. Even that is very hard on my hands. There are a lot of obstacles on the mast such as the radar reflector, and various cleats, not to mention the cross-trees. He came down badly bruised, I think the wind instrument will stay broken for the moment.
Tonight we went with Don and Maggie to the taverna for a farewell meal as their boat is being lifted into the water tomorrow. There was quite a crowd in there.
Unable to get help from the boatyard to repair our davits we had arranged for Simon of Sivota Yacht services, and known to Don and Maggie, to weld the rusty one. He brought it back earlier today. It should last the season and we can arrange to have new ones made. The repair cost €50 (£34). Simon has previously been an engineer with Sunsail Yachts and now has an apartment in Sivota with his wife, and his parents. The parents came out 3 years ago, on retirement, and Simon set up his business two years later. He repairs boats, mainly the engineering side, but also does boat deliveries and anything else which earns him a living. His wife, Michelle, has been varnishing the interior of Don and Maggie's boat, and Don and Maggie have been staying with Simon's parents whilst the work was being done. The boatyard here also have rooms to let and Don and Maggie moved into one of these on Friday to begin their washing down and anti-fouling.
Today Maggie and I walked on the old road behind the marina and found a small mere where we saw a heron. Every night we can hear the frogs and we found one in the dinghy, and another on deck when we were washing down. It was hiding under the handrail. I don't mind frogs, they do no damage. Not like the rat we had on board in Mongonissi last year.
Tuesday, 29th April, 03
Maggie and Don's boat, Kalypso, has been lifted in this morning.
I tried out the new 'bus' service to Preveza. Mr. Yannis collected us in the staff car which is a four door saloon with a wonky back wheel, and number plates so faint as to be indistinguishable. Mr. Yannis did not wear a seat belt (did the car have any?) and drove with one hand on the wheel and the other holding his mobile phone to his right ear. As it was left hand drive, when he needed to change gear he took his left hand off the wheel and reached across his body to the gear stick. I was glad to reach Preveza without mishap.
We were dropped outside the smaller Atlantik supermarket on the main street with instructions to return at noon. This gave me, and the French couple who travelled with me, ample opportunity to get money from the bank on the promenade, buy a couple of phone cards for the mobile phone, and go to the Internet café as well as do the food shopping. I was finished in good time and used my spare time to visit the church behind the supermarket. A central dome is supported on four pillars and the inside of the dome is painted with pictures of saints. An electric chandelier hangs down from the dome and that too is decorated with pictures of saints, as are the walls. I wonder how they choose which saints to paint, and aren't they afraid of offending some of them by missing them off?
At the door are two pedestals holding a deep tray filled with sand where lighted candles may be placed. The chairs for the congregation looked new. Each one had a pocket containing a prayer book, and each had a carved, double headed eagle on its wooden back, symbolising the split of the Greek Orthodox Church from the Church of Rome. I chatted to Mr. Yannis on the way back. I had wondered what had happened to the gas and petrol wagons now that the ferries had stopped. He told me that twice a day all other traffic in the tunnel is stopped, and the gas wagons are allowed through.
Wednesday, 30th April, 03
Chefren is due to be lifted in on Friday - it is drawing close. We have had stainless steel shields made for our bows, to protect them from damage against the quay. The quote was €420 but the finished job cost €650. We negotiated a final figure, wanting to split the difference but Mr. Yannis held out for €580.
John put on the antifouling this morning whilst I polished the cockpit and sanded and re-stained the locker tops. I also washed our bedding and towels whilst we have electricity. I am experimenting with an ecological 'washing ball' which is ideal because I don't have to rinse the clothes afterwards and although there is a washing machine here I have been using my little on-board machine.
Late this afternoon a freighter arrived at Preveza harbour, with a deck cargo of yachts, most of which looked brand new, and many were catamarans. Her name was Marietta Green, registered in Rotterdam, but under a Greek flag. It did not go against the harbour wall but turned round against the town quay and passed lines ashore. I am not sure that it was right against the quay, surely it would be too shallow there, and there were one or two yachts and fishing boats tied up. The freighter proceeded to unload the boats into the water on our side, from where they were motored into Preveza marina. The boats looked ready to sail away with masts up and rigging intact. We understand that they had been in the Caribbean for the winter.
Our hard work is gradually coming to an end. Our three months in Greece is not all sunbathing, swimming and eating in tavernas. We have just spent ten days of hard slog and there will be further hard work at the end of the season whilst we winterise the boat. That's not to mention any work we do whilst we are afloat; running repairs and equipment failure such as happened two years ago when we developed an oil leak and had to have the engine lifted out.
Thursday, 1st May, 03
Today is May Day and the yard is closed. There is no transport to Prevexa. There has been some kind of rally (presumably workers). We could hear the speeches but as it was misty we could not see anything.
Stuart and Anne of Bright Star (another catamaran which Stuart built himself) came aboard for drinks, and we ate with them at the taverna. John was showing them his solar powered garden light which he is planning to use as an anchor light at the masthead. He had attached it to a broom handle and hoisted it up the mast to try it out. Sure enough it came on when it became dark and was shining brightly when we returned from the taverna. Stuart was very impressed. He was less impressed when John tried to retrieve it and only the broom handle came down. The lamp was still at the masthead, wedged between the masthead light and a halyard.
It may get dislodged when the boat is moving or we may have a permanent anchor light until John can go up and retrieve it.
Friday, 2nd May, 03
Problem solved! The lamp came crashing down just as we were finishing breakfast. It hit the side deck and bounced to the ground. It came to pieces and the Perspex cover was broken but otherwise it is still working. We have another one so we can use it for spare parts
The crane came for our boat at 10h00. Paulo, who drives the crane, was also the one who made the stainless steel guards, and was admiring his handiwork.
The lift-in went smoothly, we were dropped into the water, all sea cocks were tight, engine started and we were away. There was scarcely any wind, and no mist, so we headed straight for Levkas and were able to pass through the bridge spanning the canal at 12h00. By 12h30 we were tied up in the marina, but not without mishap. A member of staff came to take our lines and whilst we were making them fast John left the helm and came forward to haul on the lazy lines. These are lines from the pontoon to a heavy duty anchor on the sea bed behind the boat which we pick up by the pontoon and take astern to fasten onto our boat. Unfortunately John had not put the engine into neutral. We kept going forward and put a dent into the electricity box on the pontoon. Oh dear.
The marina is a lot further developed than last time we were here. In two years they have completed several buildings and are developing a garden. They have put up a security fence, but without a lockable gate and people can, and do, come in and wander round unchallenged. Among the buildings are a restaurant, and an 'ouzerie'. Perhaps the public are allowed in to use them? There is car parking with shade, a supermarket, offices for the various charter companies, a fuel berth, a laundry (not laundrette), and showers. There are at least three charter companies based here - Greek, Dutch and German. They have also tried to establish a chandlery but no one wants to take this on as the marina is asking, as I understandit, 7% profits and €14 per square foot.
Saturday, 3rd May, 03
We are on a pontoon with several charter boats and many boats which look as though they have been laid up for the winter. I chatted to a live-aboard couple, Peter and Leslie, on a 1974 gaff-rigged ketch who have been living aboard for a year whilst they re-fit.
They had more news of the Cruising Tax. Because the EU has declared it illegal they have fined the Greek government. But the government are making so much money from the tax that they can afford to pay the fine and carry on. Peter also talked about the ferries (or lack of) at Action and the difficulties of getting across. He had heard that the port police had stopped the small boat that Action and Preveza yards had been running and that it was now running again. The reason is apparently that the port police in Preveza had refused a licence for the boat declaring it an illegal charter. So Mr. Yannis got his cousin in Athens to get a permit for him. This is the way it happens in Greece - not what you know but who you know. Similarly the girl in Joe Charltons', when we went to enquire about summer guardiennage, told us that not only have they had to remove their moorings from alongside the road because "they look unsightly", but are required to have 24 hour guardiennage of one man per boat for their other boats on the mole. This is an ancient Greek law which has been dredged up but sounds to me like pressure from the owners of the marina to get a monopoly. For "they look unsightly" read "we have a new marina and you must use it".
Tourism in Greece is down 30% this year as prices rise. Boats in particular are going elsewhere, mainly Croatia. People want more than sunshine and high prices and the infrastructure such as plumbing and sewers are lacking. The Greek solution to fewer customers is to raise their prices and the Corinth canal where we hope to go this year is a prime example of this. Every year the prices go up and the number of boats goes down.
We have realised we have a problem with your small ship's registration certificate for the boat. When I went to book in at the marina I noticed that it is out of date. Fortunately the marina staff had not noticed and neither had the port police when we applied for our permit. We will have to see if it is possible to renew it by telephone or fax from Greece as the Corinth canal police may be more on the ball and prevent us from transiting the canal.
Sunday, 4th May, 03
It was a lovely sunny day with a cooling breeze which increased to force 4/5 by lunchtime. We decided to stay yet another day and when I went to the marina office to book in I took the opportunity to ask about an English speaking doctor as I have been troubled with a urine infection. They have a doctor on call for the marina and the girl in the office immediately phoned him to make an appointment for tomorrow. But he said he could come that day and by the time I was back he was knocking on the boat, did a consultation in the cockpit, took a sample and wrote a prescription. He then took me on the back of his motorbike, via a tour of the picturesque parts of Levkas, to find a chemist which was open. He also showed me where the laboratory was, where I am to take another sample tomorrow.
He drove his motorbike up and down kerbs, the wrong way down one-way streets and into the pedestrianised main street. He wore no crash helmet but was very kind and helpful.
Late in the afternoon two boats came in and moored alongside us. The first contained three Frenchmen. I had to scramble to put out fenders as the wind was very strong and blew them down on us. They told us they had sailed from France in five days - some going. They must have sailed continuously, day and night.
The second boat had some English people on it and at first I did not look too closely as they were in danger of doing what we did and wiping out one of the fittings on the pontoon. Later, as I was going ashore for a shower, I discovered it was Amber Witch belonging to Peggy and Michael Manton of the Cruising Association whom I have corresponded with by email. They run the Mediterranean section. I invited them aboard for drinks together with their crew, Richard and John. They have been sailing in this area for many years and were full of gossip. They told us that Joe Charlton had begun as a flotilla engineer and once employed Barry Neilson who is quite a big cheese in the flotilla market and owns Sailing Holidays, and whose boats winter in Gouvia marina.
Monday, 5th May, 03
We were now in Tranquil Bay and it was living up to its name. There were lots of boats which looked as though they had wintered here, with lines ashore. In the middle of the bay there were three or four boats anchored and we joined them.
In the evening, the water was dark and still, a strong scent of pine drifted down from the trees on the surrounding hillsides. For the first time we were able to eat in the cockpit watching the sun go down behind Nidri. The temperature reached 320, inside the boat.
We left Levkas at 11h00 after I had taken my sample to the lab. We were glad of the breeze created by the movement of the boat. In the canal we passed the Dutch barge, Hosanna,apparently pulled into the side. It is owned by Bill and Laurel Cooper, who write books about their sailing experiences. They will have something to write about now as they had gone aground on the edge of the canal. We learned later that they were there for several days waiting for a boat large enough to pull them off. How embarrassing.
In the afternoon we went in search of "Phil the Steel", an Englishman who does very good stainless steel work. After a hot walk down a dusty road between Nidri and Vligho we found his workshop but he was out and we took down his phone number and left a message.
Tuesday, 6th May, 03
We awoke to a sunny, calm morning. As the tavernas in the town began to open and the trip boats prepare themselves for the day we could hear the sounds of Greek music drifting across the mile or so of water between us and the town. I phoned "Phil the Steel" and arranged to pick him up from the Neilson Quay at 10h00. He was there punctually and we found him to be a young man about 5’7" with long dark hair, tinted glasses and friendly smile. He was wearing a clean maroon T-shirt, ripped jeans (fashionable or scruffy?) and heavy boots which he removed when he came aboard.
He quickly assessed what we need, and invited us to go over and have a look at some samples in his workshop. We arranged to do this in the late afternoon. In the meantime we had a few more jobs to do. John was fixing the boarding ladder whilst I scrubbed the cockpit floor. I moved his toolbox onto the top of the engine cover out of my way. John stepped onto the after-platform to draw me a bucket of clean rinsing water and kicked the tool box, dropping a pair of mole grips into the sea. The water is about 8 metres deep here and murky. I rushed to get our powerful sea magnet before the boat changed position. The cord was too short and I hastily attached another length of cord using a fisherman's knot. The fisherman's knot was not what was needed and came undone. Our sea anchor joined the mole grips on the sea bed. For a time we tried a 'magnet in reverse', dangling a pair of heavy metal pliers into the murky depths but with no success. Probably someone will haul it up with their anchor one day.
Phil's workshop was a ten minute walk from the Athos Hotel car park which would be nothing in a temperate climate. In this heat it wass difficult. We trudged down the road but when we arrived the workshop it was locked up and no sign of Phil. We rang his number and could hear it ringing in the workshop so we walked back up the dusty road and found a taverna where I had my favourite frappé with ice-cream, and John had a beer. When he had a beer yesterday it was brought in a glass frosted with ice. No such touch today but a dish of peanuts.
After 20-30 minutes we called Phil again and he answered. He had been in his flat above doing paperwork and had been there all along.
We made the hot, dusty trek back, viewed the sample davits and learned that a similar pair in Cruisermart would cost £650 without a crossbar. We obviously will have to revise our estimate of cost. We had been hoping to pay about £300. Phil promised to ring the next day with a price and if we agree he will come and measure up.
Wednesday, 7th May, 03
Woke this morning to flat calm but the water is covered with a dusty scum which does not invite bathing. It is my guess that the shopkeepers and taverna owners wash down their floors first thing. The water will wash into the drains and eventually find its way into the bay, depending on the direction of the wind. By lunchtime the wind has washed it all to the shore.
The price for the davits is €600 with a €200 deposit. John brought Phil aboard to measure up and they will hopefully be ready by the end of the month.
There was a pleasant breeze in the afternoon and we had a lazy day enjoying the cooler temperature. Maggie and Don, are in Sivota at the southern tip of Levkas island, and we plan to go down there to join them tomorrow, on our way to the Peloponnese, but first I must get the results of my lab test and discover whether I need to return to Levkas for more medicine.
Thursday, 8th May, 03
We went into Nidri for shopping and to find a cash machine. The cash machine was at the far end of the main street and to reach it we had to keep hopping on and off the pavement avoiding café tables, souvenir displays and post card stands.
We saw an old man cycling in on a tricycle with a basket of fish on his handlebars which he took to the fish shop. So that is why so many of them spend their time fishing, it is a source of income. There were about twelve fish in his basket.
On the way back I noticed a café/bar which advertised the Internet, so I went in and collected my emails. It is good to keep in touch. The bar owner is a Greek, married to an English lady from Bolton.
On the way back to the boat by dinghy I tried my hand at using the outboard motor. Not a problem. It started first time and I controlled it well. We had left the dinghy at the Neilson Quay, where the Neilson boats begin and end their flotilla holidays. We talked to the manager who says their business is increasing. June is fully booked and their flights are packed.
When I phoned the doctor he confirmed the presence of microbes and told me to continue taking the medicine that I have for seven days and I should be OK.
We were able to set off immediately for Sivota.
There was a space alongside Kalypso, in fact there was plenty of room but it soon filled up with a couple of flotillas and some private boats.
Whilst we were eating lunch on the way I had a small disaster, one of my crowns fell out. We have a dental first aid kit on board and were able to glue it back in place but I shall have to find a dentist soon to make a permanent repair.
There had been great excitement in Sivota as an egret had been spotted at the edge of the water, by the beach, and there was a huge dead lamprey floating in the water.
Maggie and I chatted to Babs, the mother of Simon the engineer who had done a temporary repair on our davits. They live here in Sivota and she told me she is going into Levkas shopping tomorrow and offered to take me to her own dentist.
Maggie and I went for a swim. I am not a very brave swimmer but Maggie encouraged me to swim out to a mooring buoy in deeper water, and back again - twice, and also taught me some aquarobics. Afterwards I tried out some salt-water shampoo to wash my hair. It was very successful I just needed to rinse with clean water when I got back to the boat. As I got ready for bed and cleaned my teeth, my crown dropped out again. It is a good job I am going to the dentist tomorrow.
Friday, 9th May, 03
The regulars visitors here at Sivota are in the habit of taking a walk up the hill behind the church and across to the other end of the bay. I joined them this morning and after much debate Maggie decided to take Floyd. The poor boy is getting very old and not walking much. By the time we had climbed the hill he was starting to flag, trotting ahead of us and flopping down in a patch of shade until we caught up, which I though was very intelligent of him. The wild flowers were beautiful; gladioli, honeysuckle, and lots of others that I did not know.
Eventually poor Floyd looked as though he could go no further, his tongue was hanging out and turning blue, so we hoisted him into Maggie's arms and she carried him down the hill whilst I supported his bottom. He is a very solid old boy. When we reached the outskirts of the village we saw a wheelbarrow left by some workmen outside the Sunsail office. I hurried ahead and lined it with newspaper and Floyd was deposited in it and wheeled back along the quay, much to the amusement of the fishermen and taverna owners. He looked so cute sitting up in his wheelbarrow 'pram' and seemed to be grinning.
About 15 minutes after we got back Babs called for us in their 30 year old Triumph Stag convertible which is her pride and joy. When they moved here she had it shipped out from England. Babs's husband, Bob, and Maggie, came too. It was a wonderful to drive in an open topped sports car along the edge of the island, through Vliho and Nidri with lovely views of the Meganissi channel.
Babs dropped me off at the dentist on the outskirts of town in a lovely modern building. The lady dentist was in her thirties and spoke good English. I had a 45 minute wait and my treatment took about 10 minutes after which I made my way via the pedestrianised main street to the square where I had arranged to meet Maggie. She was already there with a frappé in front of her. I ordered the same and afterwards we threaded our way through the donkey-narrow streets of the old town, where many of the buildings are still clad in corrugated iron as proof against earthquakes.
Emerging onto the quay we bought vegetables and fruit before joining Bob and Babs in the car park. Walking along the quay I bumped into some old acquaintances, Peter and Sylvia from Seacrest, who are a Canadian woman and a Dutch man whom we had met last year, and Igor who is the German who had shared a taxi with us from the airport. We chatted like long lost friends. I enjoy the camaraderie which develops amongst the sailors.
With Bob and Babs we went to the supermarket. Babs was doing her usual monthly shop which completely filled the boot of the Stag. Maggie and I had to sit with our purchases on our knees and around our feet, it was quite a squash and I expect the suspension of the Stag was groaning.
That evening, over G & Ts. we discussed with Maggie and Don the possibility of their joining us to sail round the Peloponnese. Maggie is nervous about it as she is not really a sailor, but is willing to give it a try in our company. That evening I drifted off to sleep to the sound of an owl hooting in the woods above the village.
Sunday, 11th May 03
Don and Maggie left yesterday and we are to meet them on Monday in Agia Euphemia Warm again but there is a cooling breeze.
After lunch a yellow scum which we had first seen on the water in the Meganissi channel began to blow into the bay, at the same time as a flotilla of yachts, several charters and one or two private boats.
Some of the flotilla boats had defunct radios and the poor girl guiding them in had to shout instructions so that the entire bay could hear. One boat narrowly missed getting his propeller caught in our anchor warp but reacted well and took his engine out of gear at the crucial moment.
Another boat laid too much anchor chain because they dropped the anchor too far out as they were approaching the quay and when they ran out of rope discovered that it was not fastened on. Oops!
In a third boat the skipper called to his partner 'Drop the anchor' and as soon as she let it go shouted, 'No, not yet' as if she could get it back. What fun.
Monday, 12th May 03
Today the week-end is over and we can begin take action about our boat registration. We are two hours ahead of Britain and I had to wait until 11h00 before I could phone anybody. I went ashore with my phone card to use the public phone on a shelf outside the small supermarket belonging to Yanni who also owns the restaurant.
I got through to the Ships's Registry in Cardiff and got the inevitable recorded message telling me to press a number for this, and another number for that. After going through three different numbers I received the message that, "All our operators are busy, please hold the line, or press 9 to leave a message". I decided to hold as I must do something about the registration. When several euros had ticked away on my card I finally got through to discover that I was at the wrong department - Part 3 (SSR) instead of Part 1. I was transferred quickly and explained our predicament.
I spent the rest of the morning trying to sort out what needed to happen. The clerk would not or could not accept registration without a signature on the official form. She agreed that someone else could sign on our behalf if they had a letter of authorisation. I then phoned John's son in England and after much difficulty got through and explained what was needed. I was able to send him a fax at work authorising his signature and left it with him to sort it out. Here's hoping that everything is sorted at last.
By this time it was 13h00 and too late to set off for Agios Euphemia and phoned Don and Maggie to explain the delay. The horrid yellow scum is on the water again and looks very unpleasant. We are told that it is pollen from the pine trees which has not dispersed because of the calm waters.
That evening we ate at Yannis'. It is interesting to see the Greek family at work. Yannis was the main man in the restaurant and taking the money. His nephew, and Peter, an Englishman who lives in Spain (yes), were also taking orders. Yannis's brother and Yannis's wife brought the orders from the kitchen across the street behind the dining area. A little girl of about four years of age was running about freely in the restaurant and an older girl appeared from time to time. These are Yannis's daughters.
In the kitchen an older lady dressed entirely in black (known in Greece as a 'black widow') could be seen taking things off the grill but I could not see who was cooking.
Tuesday, 13th May 03
We were ready to leave by 09h00. I slipped the lines whilst John hauled on the anchor but we hit a snag as the anchor would not come up. We came very close to another boat which was anchored off. So close that I called out, "Get the kettle on, I think we are coming aboard". They offered to help and the skipper came across in his dinghy. We put extra lines on, used the winch, and all three of us hauled without success. It was becoming evident that someone had laid their anchor over ours, and it was well dug in.
John decided to transfer our anchor line to the front of the boat and use the windlass. This was successful and we brought up two anchors. I signalled to the other boat, Skystar, what was happening and he came on the radio to say that he had slackened off his chain to make it easier for us. He will now need to re-set his anchor. Well, the tables were turned this morning. Instead of us watching the flotilla come in and chuckling at their mishaps they would have been watching us and being well entertained.
Under way the sea was a deep mauve blue, quite calm with occasional swell. We have the sea almost to ourselves. Behind us is Levkas Island, ahead of us Ithaca and Cephalonia. The shores of these islands are very steep and their sides covered with maquis. Nearly every hilltop sprouts a new villa, hotel or apartment block. On Ithaca a new road scars the mountainside and snakes down into the bay on the north side. Soon land based tourists will be able to reach coves which were previously only accessible by boat. But in a lot of places the shore is so steep that even boats cannot find a place to anchor. Advantage has been taken of every strip of shingle, to erect a jetty for fishing boats or tiny buildings which may be holiday cottages or permanent dwellings. We reached Agios Euphemia in the early afternoon when the quay was fairly quiet and we were able to tie alongside Kalypso. John thought he had the gear in neutral but it was still going ahead and we rammed the quay and damaged one of the lovely stainless steel guards.
Agios Euphemia is an attractive harbour with a quay for boats and a mole for shelter. At the head of the bay is a shingle beach where I swam with Maggie later in the afternoon.
Tourist coaches arrived from other parts of the island and sightseers were wandering along the quay all afternoon. There were lots of new buildings in progress, the quay resounding to the sound of generators and cement mixers.
Thursday,15th May, 03.
Yesterday, after an early-ish lunch Maggie and I walked up to the Romantz Hotel where there is an open-air swimming pool. All hotel pools in Greece are open to the public free of charge. Usually there is a bar and one feels obliged to buy a drink, or there may be a charge for the sun-loungers.
Our menfolk were in Captain Corelli's bar when we got back and we joined them. This morning there was lots of noise again from the building work but we are leaving so it will soon be behind us.
Before departure I did some shopping. I walked out of the butcher in disgust as there were four Greek men in there talking to the proprietor who totally ignored me whilst I stood waiting to make my purchases. But the baker made up for it when he chucked me on the cheek as if I was 20 years old and taught me how to ask for a small brown loaf in Greek, "Enna avio micro".
We left at 10h00. There was a NW wind forecast and if it arrived we planned to take advantage of it and head for Zakinthos. Otherwise we will just go as far as Poros.
By lunchtime there was no sign of the NW wind, instead it was blowing from the south - on the nose. The sea is a deep, marine blue the same colour as our hull. Most of the island is covered with maquis but we also saw a patch under cultivation. There were five or six fields with a long red roofed farmhouse in the midst of them. As we travelled further south more fields became apparent, close to the water's edge.
Eventually we were beyond the shelter of the land and the wind which had been on the nose until then, moved onto our beam. Its strength was 16-20 knots, force 4-5. We were able to put up all our sails and switch off the engine. Don had been forging ahead under engine but we soon caught up and passed them as we were doing 7-8 knots. We sailed for four hours right into the bay of Zakinthos, it was one of the best sails we have had since coming to Greece. Zakinthos was very crowded and as we made our way to the harbour at the far end of the bay we had to dodge the ferry boats and watch out for a submerged mole. Eventually we found a space close to the ferry dock and we were grateful that someone came to help with our lines as the wind was still strong.
Walking round the town in the cool of the evening we found a large, clean town of attractive buildings and leafy squares which has been rebuilt since the earthquake.
Unfortunately the quay where we were moored is also the road to the ferry and it was busy with wagons provisioning the ferry, motor bikes and taxis, all throwing dust over the boats. Later the quay was used as a meeting place for the young people until quite late. Altogether with the ferries coming and going it is not a pleasant mooring and we have decided to move off tomorrow.
Friday, 16th May, 03
We were awake early but delayed our start to purchase bread, and because we believed Kalypso's anchor was across ours and they would need to leave first. Sure enough when Kalypso reversed out he picked up his own anchor and ours as well. I think someone had given him a patent chain hook for Christmas because we watched as he unearthed this from a cockpit locker and proceeded to grapple with our chain to unhook it. It is a tricky thing to use and he did not meet with any success. We could tell from his body language that he was becoming more and more exasperated. Eventually he reverted to the old method of using a boat hook and was finally successful
The wind was too light for sailing and we had a long hot journey under engine for four hours. Kalypso reached Katacolon first and Maggie came to take our lines. Whilst they had been waiting for us they had been chatting to various people and discovered that a party of EU politicians were expected to arrive by cruise ship that day and were going to be taken to Olympia by coach. We could see a stage and rows of chairs set out on the jetty ready for their arrival.
Don had negotiated with a taxi driver to take us to Olympia in the late afternoon and the price of €40 did not seem too bad. I would have liked more time to recuperate after the journey but there was only time to put the sun canopy up, put out the gangplank and have a quick cool shower.
The journey to Olympia took just over 30 minutes and when we arrived Olympia was a pleasant surprise. Because the Olympic games are to be held in Athens next year they are obviously preparing for a rush of tourists and working hard on the site. It is shaded by silver olive trees and pleasant to stroll around. Piles of stones which had once been columns lay on the ground as if they had been pushed over by a giant hand.
The Temple of Zeus was once here and the games were held every four years when warring nations forgot their differences and came together to compete, (a mixture of Canterbury Cathedral and Wembley Stadium?). They were eventually demolished at the time when pagan worship was being stamped out. There was evidence of Roman occupation of the site and some Christian symbols where a building may have been converted for Christian worship.
After walking round the site we were disappointed to find that the museum was closed, perhaps because of preparations for the visiting dignitaries. John and I found a seat in the shade and waited for Don & Maggie. We watched a man hosing down the entrance area to keep down the dust. Several police cars were parked in the car park and police motorcycles were buzzing backwards and forwards on the road.
As we were driven back to the boats we saw police stationed at every junction. We reckoned that the best situation for a policeman would be where there was a taverna on the corner and he was able to sit in the shade until his radio alerted him to the approaching visitors.
Back at the boat we saw the cruise ship Venezelas tied up alongside the jetty and the politicians were beginning to disembark into the waiting coaches.
Later that evening Greek musicians in traditional dress began to arrive and set up microphones on the quay. They were followed by Greek dancers and I began to look forward to an evening of entertainment.
The musicians were all male and dressed in white shirts and trousers with decorated waistcoats and black, brimless, flat hats.
The male dancers wore the traditional frilly white skirt over white stockings with a decorated waistcoat. The girls had long red and black skirts and headscarves.
When the politicians arrived back they took their seats and were welcomed by a Greek politician whose speech was translated into English. He welcomed them to Katacolon which he described as a major tourist town, and went on to talk about working together with faith and courage.
The speech was mercifully quite short and the musicians and dancers performed four dances. We had a grandstand view from the boat, except that it was a rear view. One of the men performed a very energetic solo dance which involved much high kicking and leaping, almost Russian in style.
Saturday, 17th May, 03
Our busy day and late night had left us exhausted. Don and Maggie wanted to move on and they left, but we wanted to stay another day. I wonder if this is the beginning of an incompatibility regarding our plans. It was very hot again but there was a cooling breeze. A young man, Yannis Tsoukalas, came down to the boats advertising his home grown produce of wine, olive oil, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit etc. He told us he had rooms to let with showers. We decided to investigate and walked along the main street to the end of town and then began a very steep and very long climb up a twisting set of steps set in the side of the hill which rises immediately behind the little town. We went up through a riotous garden of flowers, beautiful roses, and vegetables - healthy onions, beneath trees giving welcome shade. I felt I was climbing Mounty Olympus. I needed to rest at the next turn of the steps before beginning the final ascent to a terrace in front of a single storey building painted in white like something from a Greek post card. Butterflies and birds flitted among the trees and an older man working in the garden shouted for Yannis as soon as we approached.
Yannis gave us two chairs in the shade. I could have sat and looked at the view for the rest of the day. A a curve of golden sand stretching away from the harbour and round the bay. One of the reasons Don and Maggie gave for leaving today was that they could not find anywhere for Floyd to swim. This beach would have been wonderful. We bought olive oil, wine, baby beetroots and olives, and discovered that the price of his rooms is €20 for a double room with breakfast. It would be a lovely place to stay. Maybe we will come back one day.
Back at the boat we got the charts out and planned a possible route for the rest of the trip round the Peloponnese. I am greatly looking forward to it. I am at last seeing the side of Greece that I first fell in love with rather than the dusty, neglected places we have visited further north.
Sunday, 18th May, 03
We left at 07h10 when the sun was only just up. There was a cool breeze but it was not strong enough for sailing. Our destination is Pylos (Pilos). We had a long hot boring day and arrived at about 15h30. We found Kalypso moored in an unfinished marina deep in the bay of Navarino.
The mooring was alongside a quay which is unusual as most Mediterranean moorings are bows-to. We made a perfect approach as this is what Chefren is designed for. Don came to take our lines but we scarcely needed his assistance. I was very pleased that we had not given Don anything to criticise. Everything he has or does must be the right. If he has a different mileage to us on his log - his must be the right one; if he has a different weather forecast - there must be something wrong with our Navtex. On this occasion he had worked out the distance from our last stop, on the chart using dividers which he asserted was superior to our computer charts and computer calculated distance. He is very wearing to be with and we were not too disappointed to learn, over drinks that night that they have decided to turn round and go back. They had had a very lumpy trip yesterday and Floyd had been very unhappy. Maggie did not like the length of the trip and there will be many similar long trips on this journey.
Because of Don's need to be top dog all the time he was justifying their decision, and almost blaming us for tempting them down to this part of Greece. I felt quite guilty. It does not help that a couple we have met in Preveza are also here and were also turning back after intending to sail round the Peloponnese. They had been as far as Methoni, one day further on but heard that a storm was forecast. The husband of the couple is a very lugubrious fellow with an extremely mournful face and a habit of saying "Oooh" like Mrs. Mop in ITMA an old comedy programme from days gone by. We say of him that it is "being so cheerful that keeps him going" which was one of her catch phrases. He told us all about his engine troubles at the beginning of the season and the difficulties that various engineers have had in diagnosing and fixing the problem. So they will accompany Don and Maggie back to the Ionian.
It must be said that this trip is for 'real' sailors. There are no flotillas here and few charter boats. There is a long distance between harbours and anchorages.
Pylos is a stopping off place for boats coming to and from Turkey and points further afield, and one of our neighbours is a citizen of the world. He was born in Liverpool, lived and worked in Canada and Florida before, with his German wife and baby daughter, setting off to sail round the world. They have come through Suez from Australia and are heading for Majorca where they hope to find work and enter their daughter, now 4 and a half years old, into school. The marina here is another one that has been started and not finished. Finger pontoons have been put down; electricity cables are here, and water points but none of them are connected. There is a toilet and shower block but it has not been cleaned in years - enough said.
When approaching the marina from the bay it seemed as though we were heading straight for the cliffs which rise sheer from the water. The marina opens out at the last minute. The cliffs are covered with every shade of green, highlighted here and there with golden yellow and muted red foliage. At the top of the cliff a mixture of new and old housing borders the road leading to the castle each with its own view of the splendid bay, and Pylos Island, which forms an effective breakwater at the entrance.
It is an enormous land-locked bay and it was here that the Turkish and Egyptian ships were anchored at the conclusion of the Greek war of independence in 1827 when Admiral Codrington sailed in with the British fleet to finalise arrangements for a truce after which Turkey was to have had continued occupancy of Greece. However someone from an Egyptian ship fired at the British, whereupon Admiral Codrington, contrary to orders, fired back. The British ships were greatly outnumbered but nevertheless won the day because of their superior fire power. The Greeks got their freedom and Codlington got a knighthood. This was the last significant battle between sailing ships.
Monday, 19th May, 03
Don and Maggie left at 06h30. We heard them go but were not up to say, “good-bye”. We have mixed feelings about their departure. Maggie has been a good friend, and good company, but I am afraid being around Don for any length of time is very wearing and we both of us find ourselves on the defensive.
We thought our registration problems had been sorted. But the registry will not accept our faxed authorisation to Christopher to enable him to sign. I had to go to the post office here and mail the original document. Another week wasted, we could have already have had it in the post if we had known.
This is quite a nice town which was built by the French, but the pavements are still unfinished and the roads full of potholes.
We found a chandlery with internet access and whilst I sent off my emails John chatted to the proprietor. He learned that a lot of the boats which are lying neglected in the marina have actually been impounded by customs for smuggling drugs and/or tobacco.
The port police visited us this afternoon. They looked at the ship's papers and asked us to report to their office later. John and I decided that I should go, posing as the ‘little woman’ who did not understand Greek and bearing our out of date papers. The office was a 10 minute cycle ride from the harbour and inside I found five officials and I was dealt with by a young woman. She took a photocopy of our documents but the only other interest she took was to ask me to transfer our details to a form which she then kept. She stamped our transit log (the official Greek document) and asked me to return again to get it stamped when we were leaving. What complete nonsense. I asked her if I told her now when we were leaving could she not stamp us out now? She agreed and stamped the log appropriately. Another official came along, saw that she had stamped it, but was so stamp happy that he stamped it again, rendering the first stamp unreadable. It seemed as if the whole process was just a game to them, but for us it is inconvenient and we cannot see the point of it all except to extract money from the cruising boats. I had been told that the Greeks has recruited lots of new port police to administer this tax. That sounds like a job creation scheme. I then went to another counter to pay. I was charged by the length of the boat which came to just short of €9 for three nights.
I had cycled to the port police station on John's bike. Cycling for me is always somewhat hazardous. I have had several falls. When I set off one of the folding pedals kept folding itself up, and when I had got that under control the chain came off. I turned it upside down and managed to get the chain on again, after a struggle which left me covered in oil. I was watched by several men outside the next-door Ouzerie but no one offered to help. In the late afternoon and evening we watched the local fishing boats go out. A typical fishing boat is a heavy wooden caique - high at the bow. It has open decks with a ‘sentry box’ in the centre of the boat, not a wheel house because they are steered by a long wooden tiller. There is usually a canopy constructed of striped canvas slung over metal tubing to protect the helmsman from the sun. The decks are piled with fishing nets and there is winding gear at the bow and alongside the sentry box for bringing in the nets.
The fishermen do not need oilskins, not in the summer anyway. Their usual garb is a scruffy T-shirt, ragged jeans and a base-ball cap, plus the ubiquitous cigarette.
Tuesday, 20th May, 03
We had a sight-seeing day, beginning with the castle which overlooks the bay. We reached it via a gentle climb through the town and enjoyed the views across the water. The castle has been, and is still being, restored. The most complete part was the citadel. Rooms are being used as a base for the work on Olympia, and rooms in the citadel are fitted out as offices and store rooms. There was a museum, mostly of photographs collected by a French journalist featuring the Greek struggle for independence.
We walked all around the battlements of the citadel. There was some interesting graffiti from the various epochs of Greek history - the struggle for independence and two world wars. The citadel was used as a prison after the battle of Navarino.
Leaving the castle we walked on to the two-room museum of archaeology. There was some interesting stuff but the finds were badly notated. For example there was a case just marked ‘Finds from xyz tomb’. A complete Greek vase in black with ochre designs, and some gold leaf jewellery were for me the most interesting exhibits.
Wednesday, 21st May, o3
We left for Methone today. We motored for about 1.5 hours. The forecast was uncertain with thunder further north and cloud. John was a bit reluctant to make the journey but yielded to persuasion.
There is a Venetian fort, and a Turkish look-out tower on a small islet at the tip of a peninsula. This is one of three capes at the bottom of the Peloponnese and the Venetians kept look out over the shipping from here. A breakwater shelters a beautiful little bay. Fishing boats and one or two small yachts are sheltered behind it, whilst larger yachts are anchored off. There was a Swedish boat and an American already here.
On the beach are two tavernas and a children's playground, and there is a small stub of jetty to where we can take the dinghy when we go ashore. There is quite a bit of housing fronting the beach, probably holiday homes and apartments and a camp site further along. The town is set back from the beach.
It looks an idyllic spot and I was almost purring with delight as I sat in the cockpit with a cool breeze bathing my over-heated limbs, contemplating the view of some off shore islands and listening to the distant sounds of civilisation such as cars and aeroplanes. The cloud had kept the temperature down and I felt I could have sat there for ever enjoying the view, the sunshine and the breeze.
We took the dinghy ashore to explore the beach which curves in a gentle semi-circle beneath the walls of the castle to the Turkish tower.
We searched for a water tap which is supposed to be at the shore end of the jetty, and the owner of a taverna called us over and filled our cans from his own tap in a yard filled with overblown roses. Someone here has a penchant for model making. In the centre of the yard was a plaster model of a church, whilst inside the taverna was another together with several model boats.
The tap on the shore had been hi-jacked to construct a beach shower. Neither the tap nor the shower worked. Nearby two beach cubicles provide privacy for changing. Street lights have been erected all along the shore but close by the jetty one of them has toppled over into the water and a second tilts at an alarming angle, undermined by the winter storms. The jetty, too, had been undermined. It was broken in half and the seaward end tilted alarmingly towards the water.
The Venetian castle is enormous and we strolled under its walls where a young Greek family were enjoying the sand, sea and sunshine. A toddler in a romper suit and white hat crawled excitedly to the water's edge whilst his cherubic naked sister splashed in the water.
Attempts had been made to floodlight the castle but some of the lamps had fallen down and wires had been cut. One wonders if anything in Greece is ever completely finished and working. Retracing our steps we stopped for a drink at the taverna where we had obtained our water, and promised to return for our evening meal when we discovered that lamb chops are on the menu.
We were the only customers that evening, save for an old man who was probably 'granddad'. He sat at a table by the entrance (everything is in the open air except for the roof and polythene screens which can be pulled down) with a glass of ouzo at his elbow, a cigarette in his hand, gazing with unseeing eyes at the distant islands. A walking stick is propped nearby. Occasionally he coughs a phlegmy, smoker's cough which racks his lean frame. Our waiter was something of a curiosity. He had the stature of a young boy of sixteen or so, but the dried up wizened face of an old man. He was very dark skinned with a pronounced spinal curvature which gave him a very prominent 'bum'. He spoke excellent English.
Friday 23rd May, 03
Yesterday was a bit of a non-event in our calendar. We had planned to leave but a strong wind sprang up creating huge swells rolling into the bay and surf was crashing onto the shore. We did not want to go ashore for two reasons. One was that the anchor might drag whilst we were away, and the other was that having got ashore it would have been well-nigh impossible to launch the dinghy in the surf to return.
It rained torrentially during the night but we were dry and snug. In the morning we had thunder and lightning which quickly passed over and by afternoon it had settled slightly. We finally got ashore by pulling the dinghy alongside the jetty, climbing onto the jetty and hauling the dinghy up after us. We went in search of bread and fresh food. We walked down the main street and gained the impression that there had been an earthquake fairly recently. Pavements and roads were cracked and there were half finished monuments in open spaces. We found a Dia supermarket which looked like a converted industrial unit and was no bigger than the average Spar supermarket in Britain, but it contained all the essentials we needed.
Sunday, 25th May, 03
We had more heavy rain in the night with some lightning in the distance but no thunder. A fairly strong wind from the east began to die down by mid-afternoon but it was never comfortable enough to go ashore again.
It felt quite cold when we got up but the rain had stopped and there was no appreciable wind. It seemed like a good opportunity to continue our journey and we decided to make a run north for Kalamata. If the weather turns bad on the way there is another harbour at Korone.
We weighed anchor amidst heavy cloud just after 09h00 and headed out into the bay. We got a closer look at the offshore islands, one of which is used as target practice by the Greek air force and we kept well clear but no sign of aircraft.
As we neared the cape we encountered a strange optical illusion which often happens at sea when distances are foreshortened. There appeared to be a line of rocks jutting across to a small island from which another line of rocks came across to meet them barring our way. When we got closer the way opened up. We saw that the rocks were in fact scattered at the base of the cliffs and the straits were very wide.
We reached Korone about noon. The sea state was good and there was no wind, although it was cloudy and cold with occasional spatters of rain. We decided to carry on.
Korone shelters behind a rocky promontory where the Venetians used the natural cliffs, and gave nature a helping hand, to construct a castle. More modern buildings have been constructed since then. We could see the dome of a church and a tall tower. Lots of fishing boats and small yachts sheltered behind the breakwater whilst a larger yacht rode at anchor in the bay.
As we approached Kalamata we had to deviate from our course to avoid some markers for fishing nets, where dolphins were feeding. Some of them broke away to come and play with the boat for a few minutes but the food was a bigger attraction.
We became aware of low cloud over the land and visibility decreased. A yacht approached from the opposite direction and we were surprised to note that the skipper was fully kitted out in his oilskins. We soon discovered why. About 5 km. out from Kalamata we drove into a curtain of rain, and the wind increased to Force 4.
Closer to the marina I called them on the radio to ask for a berth. I was told, "Yes, yes" and we headed in closer trying to discover the entrance against the background of mills and a grain silo.
Thanks to our computer chart we knew we were spot on but it looked as though we were heading for a wall. We were only 100 yards off when we saw the light which marks the entrance. Being daylight the light was not on but the post was identifiable.
By this time we were in full oilskins ourselves and our movements were restricted by these stiff and inflexible garments. I felt like the tin man. We were waved to a pontoon with lazy lines but the mooring line was so thick John could not get it aboard and had to tie a thinner line to it. He was hampered by his oilskins and eventually discarded them, to sit outside the guard rails on top of the port sponson and tie on the line whilst getting soaking wet. Once tied up the attendant insisted on connecting us up to water and electricity, and at the same time someone came from the office with soggy paperwork for us to complete.
I put up the cockpit canopy to keep off some of the rain. It did quite a good job but pools of water collected in the 'dips' like on a badly pitched tent and every so often we would hear the swoosh of water as it poured onto the side decks. I put out a bucket to collect some of it for use in the washing machine and within half an hour it was full. We have a very roomy 'Heads' and we were able to hang all our wet gear in there, before putting the kettle on for the British cure for all ills - a cup of tea.
By evening the rain had stopped and we went ashore to take stock of the marina and stretch our legs. We found a magnificent toilet block next door to the office to which we were given our own set of keys. As well as showers and laundry there are toilets down which you can dispose of toilet paper. This is our first in Greece as the plumbing system throughout the whole country is so bad, (narrow sewer pipes) that you are requested to put the used toilet paper in a basket alongside - ugh!
There is also a café/bar and a small shop, rent-a-car, and offices for the coast guard and port police. There is a security office opposite the vehicle entrance but no visible security activity. At the east end of the marina we found hard standing where several boats were laid up. In the water there were various hire boats, some private yachts and a lot of motor boats.
Having completed our tour we headed back to our berth with the hope that the sun might return tomorrow, and we will explore the town.
Monday, 26th May, 03
The sun did come out as the morning advanced and the temperature began to rise. We made use of the laundry facilities in the marina, and whilst we were putting away all yesterday's wet things (now dry) someone from the port police came and requested our attendance at their office with the ship's papers.
When that was done I went in search of bread. I had seen people disappearing out of the gates and returning with bags of bread on the handlebars of their bikes so I did the same. I put a shirt over my sun top and shorts for my ride into the town, but even so I received smiles and waves from a group of men sitting outside an Ouzerie. I know Greek men are quite predatory but it did my 65 yr. old heart good to feel I am still worth waving at. I found a little bread shop on a street running parallel to the harbour, bought my loaf and returned to make our lunch.
Now the rain has gone it is easier to appreciate the location of the marina and the town. Kalamata is at the head of a very deep inlet. The surrounding countryside is flat, surrounded on either side by mountains. The valley extends deep into the countryside and it is here that Kalamata airport is situated.
The marina is fronted by tavernas with apartments above and dried-up gardens between them and the quay. After lunch we walked into the town looking for a park mentioned in our cruising guide. But we took the wrong road and found ourselves skirting the town, walking alongside a park full of basket-ball courts, and tennis courts and a small river. There was a general air of neglect. The river had been turned into a culvert with concrete sides and hardly any water despite yesterday's rain. This was not the park.
We eventually found the Atlantik supermarket and borrowed a trolley so that we could stock up on bottled water, and beer. The supermarket trolleys are not designed for rough surfaces as I discovered the next day when I wheeled it back. But John did a great job.
Tuesday, 27th May, 03
Yesterday the electricity went off sometime in the mid-afternoon. Today it is still not on. The whole marina, and possibly some of the town, is out. I now have no fridge. I expect it is the result of the rain. After taking the trolley back we walked into the town and had a wander round. In the process we discovered the railway station, the first one we have seen on Greek soil. A branch line once ran from here down to the docks and the land on which it once ran has been used to create the park we were looking for. It is a linear park and the old engines and rolling stock have been displayed.
It must have been beautiful when it was first created but now we found it sadly neglected. There is a stream bed, dried up waterfalls, and an empty pond. The paths are overgrown and everywhere is trampled and neglected. The old rolling stock which is such a feature of the park is sadly covered with graffiti. Around the town care has been taken to place interesting sculptures in odd corners, but then left for the graffiti artists to deface.
I get the impression that at one time a lot of money was spent on the town, probably following a not too long ago earthquake, but nothing has been maintained since then.
Wednesday, 28th May, 03
Still no electricity, the marina office is off too and the boss says it is the fault of the town. I cycled into town along the water front to where I had been told there was an internet café. I found it eventually. The assistant was a Serbian girl who spoke excellent English. She told me she had come to Greece because her sister has married a Greek. They had electricity for the computers and I was able to send my mail.
I made my way back via the 'railway park' and bought bread in a street behind the marina. In anticipation that we will leave tomorrow I also bought some rolls for sandwiches.
At 15h30 the electricity came back on. From then on it was a flurry of activity to do all the jobs that needed electricity. I got out my portable sewing machine and made a repair to the sun canopy. I then put my little washing machine on and whilst it was working I did some ironing. I have made a matinee jacket for my expected granddaughter and pressed the pieces prior to sewing them together. A little project like knitting keeps me from getting bored when we are storm-bound.
Thursday, 29th May, 03
It began to rain some time during the night and by the time we awoke at 07h00 it was raining as heavily as on the day we arrived. We went back to bed, deciding to stay another day but when we opened our eyes again at 09h00 the rain had stopped and other boats were leaving.
We filled up with fuel at the fuel berth where we were served by an Australian Greek who had lived in Melbourne until he was 11 yrs. old.
The weather was appalling. We had a little rain at first, and then it cleared but was still very cold. We could see low lying cloud on the hills all around us, with snow still on the slopes of the higher mountains. We motored all the way down to a bay named Lemani. We had hoped to anchor here and perhaps visit the caves at Diros which had been discovered in 1958 and are said to be very beautiful.
We arrived at 15h00. There was a little watery sun but still cloudy and very dark to the south. An anchorage is marked here, but the shallower part of the bay where we might have anchored was totally occupied by fishing boats on mooring buoys, and everywhere else was very deep. Too deep to anchor until we were almost within swinging distance of the shore, where it was very rocky. We dropped the anchor and took a line ashore. We also laid a second anchor but were unsure whether either anchor had held. Once the boat seemed to settle we went ashore by dinghy, keeping a close eye on the boat all the time. We found a lovely fish taverna with its own quay where we disembarked. Some customers were eating huge shrimps which looked very tempting. We stopped for a drink and I wanted to return to try the shrimps that evening but a swell started, throwing surf onto the rocks astern of us. If the swell had increased and the anchor dragged we could find ourselves on the rocks. So we stayed on the boat.
Whilst ashore we had found an interesting village stretching along the water front. Seventy-five percent of the buildings were ruins, including a fortification known as the Petrobey fort. The ruins of the fort were perched on the edge of the cliff looking as if a puff of wind would blow them into the harbour. Large notices in Greek were fastened to them. They needed no translation.
Reluctantly we ate aboard and decided to set an anchor watch. I had the first turn until 02h00 by which time the sea was much calmer and we both got some sleep.
Friday, 30th May 03
We were awake by 06h00 and whilst we wanted to stay and visit the caves the anchorage was too insecure to leave the boat unattended. We wrapped up warmly against the continuing cold, put our oilskins ready and headed south to Capo Grosso, a huge mass of cliff, honeycombed with holes, rising steeply from the sea. Another rocky headland close by had been named Tigane which means frying pan, because of its shape.
The sea was calm with little wind. I caught up on my sleep as we passed round Cape Matapan, the second of the three capes, without my being aware of it.
Our plan had been to go to Porto Kaiyo just round the cape but as the sea was smooth we decided to go a little further across the inlet so as to be on the shores of the next cape for an early passage around it.
We had a little wind which helped our progress and we were tempted to attempt the cape then, but it would have meant arriving at our next stopping place, Monemvasia, in the dark. It is never wise to enter an unfamiliar harbour in the dark.
Instead we found an anchorage at Paleocastro where there is a quay sheltering a small harbour and evidence of an old boat landing. We were able to tie to the quay and were later joined by some Germans in a charter boat. There is an old quarry here, which would explain the harbour, and a ruined chapel - part of which had been reclaimed as an apartment.
On the other side of the headland was a motor caravan park, and there is a little town way up on the hillside. It feels like the back of beyond.
It was sheltered in the harbour and the sun came out allowing us to eat our evening meal in the cockpit. The Germans were going in the opposite direction and had just come from Monemvasia.
Saturday, 31st May, 03
We woke to a fine morning, not too hot but sunny. There was a good breeze as we sailed south and we anticipated sailing around this cape as easily as we had the previous two. Even when the breeze freshened we were not worried. We put the sails up with a sense of anticipation and were quite unprepared for the fierce wind which developed. We fairly bowled along. At times it registered 35 knots. I wanted to turn back as I did not feel we had prepared ourselves sufficiently for a rough trip. But John pressed on saying it would be unsafe to try to turn and I expect he was right.
The sea was very rough and we began to slam into the waves. I had not fastened the window in the saloon firmly enough and we took in some water. We also took in some water from the tip of the starboard hull.
As we lurched along one of the supports holding the wind generator came undone. There was nothing to be done, just to hope that the other would hold. It was too dangerous to move from the cockpit.
The dinghy had not been lashed down and was threatening to tip at right angles and dump its contents into the sea. At one stage the looped side ropes of the dinghy caught on the top of the rudder bar and I had to crawl along the after platform with my heart in my mouth to free the line, and to lash it to the guardrail together with the portable boarding ladder which had only been loosely clipped on.
We had a bucket on the platform into which the spare anchor chain was coiled. The bucket tipped over and all the chain ran out between the slats of the after platform. Again I had to crawl onto the after platform and haul it in and re-stow it. In the process I lost the bucket overboard. Fortunately the anchor was tied on but our spare anchor on the opposite guard rail was not. I had to lash that before we lost it overboard. During this time John was glued to the wheel trying to keep us on course.
All in all we had been very careless and unprepared for the rough weather.. I shall make sure this does not happen again.
We could not come up into the wind to round the cape and had to tack out to sea for several miles before we could turn north.
The journey seemed to go on for ever; in fact it was 6 - 7 hrs. There was no shelter from the wind, or the rain which had now begun to fall, until we were within the lee of Monemvasia, an isthmus of rock, linked to the mainland by a causeway. As soon as we were in the shelter of the causeway and the isthmus the sea became calm and we were able to lower sail. We anchored in the bay although we could see a small harbour on shore. It looked rather crowded.
My first job was to dry everything off. Even the carpet in the main cabin was wet. This has never happened before. We took it up and spread it in the cockpit to dry.
The surroundings were beautiful. On the mainland the usual barren slopes rise up behind the little town, and further north a series of mountains looked like a green, lumpy quilt.
The town of Monemvasia perches at the very tip of the rocky isthmus, surrounded by a wall, outside of which is the cemetery. I hope we can go and explore tomorrow.
Sunday, 1st June, 03
A warm day; we are still drying things out from our wetting yesterday and we are both very tired. After lunch a huge cruise liner came into the bay and ferried boatloads of people across to the causeway, where crew waited to help them ashore. They made their way up to Monemvasia.
We could see a little white minibus shuttling backwards and forwards across the causeway and thought we would be able to get a ride in this up to the town.
We waited until 17h30 when it was cooler and the cruise ship had gone and then took the dinghy across to the start of the causeway. We waited for the bus but it did not appear. The bus stop was opposite a small petrol station and café bar. We asked the café proprietor, Spiros, if the bus was still running. He said that it was but that perhaps the driver had 'gone to eat'. In the end we walked and it took us no more than 15 mins but it was still very hot.
On the way we halted to view an exhibition of local art being held in a stone hut between the road and the sea. The work was beautiful, consisting of Greek scenes - villages and seascapes pained on sheer fabric making scarves, wall hangings and even a dress.
Close by the hut was a tiny harbour created amongst the rocks, with a quay and steps. It was a place to which we could have brought the dinghy.
Walking on up the road we came to an archway in a wall which climbed up the face of the rock. Cars had been parked along the road for the last 100 yards as no cars are allowed in the town. A cemetery nestled in a fold of land outside the town.
We passed under the arch, past a gatehouse, and were faced with a cobbled street, no more than 15 ft. wide, lined with houses and shops climbing gradually up the hill ahead of us.
The shops contained the usual souvenirs; and were interspersed with café/bars. The souvenirs were of good quality and I bought some olive wood salad servers to take home.
We climbed on up, exploring stone staircases and open squares, occasionally getting a glimpse of the sea below. There were many ruined buildings but evidence of rebuilding in progress.
It was a magic place. I could have wandered round for hours. We toyed with the idea of walking up to the castle at the top of the rocky peninsula, but by this time we were hungry and delicious smells were wafting out from a taverna overlooking the square in front of a large church. We were shown to a table by an Australian Greek who had played rugby for Sidney when he was 15 years old, and done a world tour with the team. We had a lovely meal and afterwards the patron and another waiter came to chat to us. They were very interested in details of our trip.
We walked back to the boat in the gathering dusk, looking for the anchor light on our stern, which was shining to greet us.
Back at the boat we were greeted by a nasty smell. It smelled as if something had died. We traced it to the saloon carpet. Something must have been spilled on it and the sea water had reacted with it. We put it outside in the cockpit until we could deal with it.
Monday, 2nd June 03
We are leaving today. John went by dinghy to the petrol station by the causeway where there is also a water point. The petrol station was closed but he filled our fresh water container and then returned to run me to the shore for last minute shopping.
This is a lovely little town. There are lots of souvenir shops but also two butchers, a bread shop, a pharmacy and greengrocers. I was able to get the essentials for our trip. John went off to try again at the petrol station and afterwards picked me up from the shore. As we sailed past the rock on which Monemvasia had been built we were able to get another perspective on this fascinating place.
It was an uneventful trip to Spetses. We put the sails up but the wind was light so we kept the motor on. The harbour at Spetses was full and we carried on to a bay recommended in the cruising guide, O. Zogiorvia on the north tip of the island.
Once we had anchored our first job was to tackle the carpet and its nasty smell. I set to work with carpet shampoo and lots of water.
The bay was blissful. We were the only boat in there surrounded by wooded slopes and terraces with well-maintained low walls. The scent of pine trees drifted over the bay.
On shore is a pretty beach where two people came down for an evening swim. Behind the beach is a taverna which is not yet open, and moorings for fishing boats close in shore.
Thursday, 3rd June, 03
We passed a peaceful night and woke to cloud which soon dispersed once the sun showed its warmth. The smell still had not gone from the carpet so we put it to soak in a bucket of water.
Our peace was disturbed by a flotilla of small dinghies and catamarans having sailing lessons. They came in for lunch on the beach. When they were on their boats, an instructor buzzed around them in an inflatable dinghy shouting instructions.
Two small trip boats also came in bringing people for a day on the beach, and several yachts followed them. A few of the yachts were just here for a swim, one or two anchored for the night. It is a great contrast to yesterday, four gin palaces, four yachts and two catamarans.
Once the dinghies had left we had a pleasant cooling swim and then went ashore for a walk through the pine woods. Someone has been working at the taverna, raking the garden and placing tubs of flowers on the veranda. It looks as though it will open any day.
Wednesday, 4th June, 03
We left about 09h00 for a windless journey to Hydra. As we skirted the mainland we could see more vegetation on the shores, some cacti and succulents as well as pine trees.
We passed the island of Dhokos which seemed quite forbidding with sheer cliffs down to the sea. Several large trip boats and hydrofoils passed us on their way to Hydra which is a popular island with tourists. Our eye was caught by a man in a kayak who stopped to have a smoke in mid-channel, miles from anywhere. We arrived in the harbour of Hyrdra at lunchtime. This was quite good timing as boats had started to leave and we found a place inside the outer mole.
Two British people took our lines, an Englishman from 'Whisper' whom we had encountered in Port Napoleon and also Preveza, and an Irishman who was in a charter boat. Both were on the point of leaving. After they had gone we took the lines for a French boat, Txakoli-Bl, which is the name of a fishing harbour in the Basque area.
Today is John's birthday and I had made him a fruit cake. We went ashore for a look around and to contemplate eating ashore but we were astonished by the prices. We had a drink at a taverna and were charged double what we had paid elsewhere. The food prices in the supermarket are also expensive.
These prices may reflect the fact that everything has to be brought in from the mainland, even the island's water, but also is due to the fact that the island is popular with the Athenian 'jet set' as we discovered later. We walked up to the north headland from where there were superb views, and on the way back called in at the 'Yacht Centre' which advertised showers, laundry, weather forecast, internet and fax. It is run by a lovely Swedish woman who told us she had bought an old windmill on the island fifteen years ago but only came to live in it last year. I think she has been renting it out.
The price for laundry was 12€ (£8). That is very dear. I did not think I would be using it. John was encouraging me to use the laundry and save myself work, but I would rather have the money towards a meal.
The email was 3€ for 15 minutes, again very expensive. We had a good chat about the island. Apparently the water supplies which are brought in by tanker are barely adequate in the summer. It is pumped up to a cistern on the highest point of the island.
This is a really busy harbour. I am glad we were able to get a place when we did. Boats were coming in all afternoon and by the end of the day they needed to raft out from each other.
The hydrofoils are in and out repeatedly, together with trip boats of all sizes, eight small water taxis, cargo boats, fishing boats and the water tanker. The quay is lined with patient donkeys which wait to be loaded with cargo. They then take their loads up into the town. One of the donkeys had a table on its back, the four table legs pointing into the air. Two more donkeys were dragging a bale of insulating cable. The donkeys also carry people and their luggage to their apartments. They wait in the hot sun, and appear to have a rota system so that no one donkey is standing there all day.
I do feel sorry for them as the Greeks do not seem to be great animal lovers although I saw no evidence of actual ill treatment.
Our walk through the back streets was interesting. The houses and shops are built higgledy-piggledy up this side of the island, over the crest and down the other side. All the streets are very narrow and I would think it would be impossible to find a specific address, as there are few actual streets.
Tourism has taken over in a big way and there are more souvenir shops than food shops. There were several text messages from family members that evening, wishing John a happy birthday.
Thursday, 5th June 03
We stayed another day. We put the carpet back down and the smell is diminishing. It is interesting to sit in the cockpit and watch all the boats coming in and going out. There were a few snagged anchors but not many.
There is a harbour master here who mainly seems to be in charge of selling the water but when he sees some of the bigger boats (gin palaces) arriving he rows out and helps them in. He probably gets a tip for this. He is about 5’ 8” tall, weighs around 13 stone, with tattoos on muscular arms protruding from a sleeveless vest which is stretched across his huge girth and hangs over shapeless shorts. But his most distinguishing feature is a white beard, reaching to his chest in a frizzy bush. His hair is caught at the back in a pony-tail, and topped by a grubby baseball cap. He wears sun glasses and carries a money bag like a bandolier across his chest. He has been nicknamed Methuselah.
Later in the day more boats started to come in. Our mole quickly filled up with a Belgian gin palace and several charter yachts. A yacht sporting a Welsh flag came in. There was a family aboard and they wanted to squeeze in on the mole which would not be possible unless some of the boats moved over. Some were reluctant and others did not understand what he was asking. The skipper started shouting and being very aggressive. He eventually squeezed in and then mollified the boat alongside by loaning them a gangplank.
That evening the crew of another boat which had rafted out from them came back at 01h30 and of course had to traverse his boat to reach their own. His booming voice, complaining of the noise, could be heard all around the harbour. That, and the noise of a squeaking fender trapped between the boats kept me awake most of the night.
Friday, 6th June, 03
I was reluctant to come-to this morning after my bad night. I eventually stirred myself and went ashore to find a phone and contact the Shipping Registry and ask we were going on with our registration. I bought a phone card at the supermarket and then went to the Yacht Centre in the hopes that they would have a phone. Sadly, no, but the Swedish girl did offer me a glass of water because she said I looked so hot. I was, sweat was dripping off the end of my nose. She made an interesting comment, the significance of which did not dawn upon me until much later. She said, “Oh, it is Friday, all the big boats will be coming in from Athens”.
I found the telephones and amazingly got straight through to the registry and was told that our certificate had been posted yesterday. So now we are legal again, and if it reaches Christopher before we leave he can fax it through to us.
By the time we had had lunch the centre of the harbour had emptied and all was peaceful, but the fun was yet to begin. The wind was getting up and gusting quite fiercely. We have all had to make sure our anchors are well dug in. A crew member from the boat alongside us was getting quite anxious because a big gin palace on the end of the mole was dragging its anchor and its stern was catching the mole. There was no one aboard, even though the engine was still running. John attempted to help but as the owner was not there he did not want to go aboard. He helped the chap to tie a 'spring' to the shore and put out some rear fenders. When the owners returned they went out and re-anchored. Then the fun began. I now learned that the 'big boats from Athens' were yet more gin palaces. Big ones, small ones, short ones, fat ones, all owned by beautiful people, here to be seen, accompanied by boat's crews and Philippino nannies. They all appeared to know each other. Interestingly they were most of them flying English red ensigns and yet I doubt if there was an English boat amongst them. They register in England for convenience. I was beginning to get an idea why everything on the island was so expensive.
Eventually there were twenty or thirty of them filling the harbour, and some of the larger ones anchored off the mole outside the harbour. In the midst of this a couple of small yachts tried to find a place, and eventually went elsewhere. These huge motor boats are tied to each other forming a raft across the harbour and we are pinned in against the mole. I wonder if we will be able to get out tomorrow.
Saturday, 7th June, 03
We were awake at 07h00 but there was no sign of any movement on any of the other boats. The wind had dropped and we would like to go, but how could we extricate ourselves? The small gin palace alongside us has almost certainly laid his anchor over ours, and there are three huge boats, 20 metres at least, astern of us where we will need to go to pick up our anchor.
I alerted Methuselah to the fact that we would like water but of course he is filling up the gin palaces as well and we are low down his list of priorities. I went ashore for bread and when I came back the water hose was still on the same boat as when I went.
It was then 09h00 and the owner was stirring on the gin palace immediately astern of us, called Lay Back. I caught his eye and said very clearly and firmly, “Excuse me. We need to leave this morning”. I refused to grovel and adopted what I hoped was assertive body language.
“Now?” he asked. “Oh, no,” I said, “about ten-ish”.
I then saw and heard him muttering to the boats on either side of him because they would have to move too. John seemed to think that they gin palace alongside us, the one that was over our anchor, was leaving at 11h00. Maybe he would not mind leaving a little earlier to get his anchor off ours, but he showed no evidence of it.
To give them credit, all the gin palaces untied their lines promptly at 10h00 and moved out of the way, all except one called Minerva whose dinghy was still in our path. I gave them the same no-nonsense treatment. "You may like to move your dinghy" I said. They took no notice until it was evident that we were about to hit it. Then there was great consternation and extra fenders were also provided as we backed out.
Just as we feared, as we backed out we found the anchor chain was completely pinned. We went back into our space and passed our anchor line to the crew on the offending gin palace, who passed it under their anchor line in case it was just twisted, and they passed it back to us. We tried again with no more success.
Sitting in the middle of the harbour we took our anchor line to the foredeck, attached it to the windlass and tried to haul it in. We got a little more in and then came to a halt again and the bows of the boat dipped alarmingly towards the sea.
Of course Methuselah was conspicuous by his absence. If we had been a gin palace he would have been there offering assistance. The offending boat was making no attempt to help. So I suggested to John that we did nothing also, we just sat in the cockpit and made it obvious that we had done all we could. We were stuck in the middle of the harbour, it was not our fault. The gin palaces were all watching interestedly. We were holding everybody up. The offending boat knew that it was his anchor that was the problem and he would just have to move which, eventually, he did. He had to come right to the end of his anchor and sure enough there was our chain wrapped around it.
Once unhooked we were able to be on our way I almost expected to get a round of applause, but no, everyone was pretending not to notice.
The sea was a bit lumpy once outside the harbour and the wind was on the nose. We motored across to the mainland and between some islands and set a course for the island of Poros. On the way we passed more gin palaces, presumably also on their way to Hydra. Good luck to them. None of them slowed down when passing us, and one of them came so close, and his wash caused such a swell that our kettle bounced off the stove and spilled water all over the galley floor. It takes a lot to spill things in our very stable catamaran.
I decided that I had had enough of harbours and gin palaces and we decided to try to find a quiet anchorage on Poros. This decision was reinforced when we saw the gin palaces lined up along the quay there. There are under water chains at various points along the harbour front which are the remains of tailed moorings which had been fitted a few years previously. The moorings had been removed by the local diver who feared loss of the income which he got from retrieving fouled anchors. This is Greece!
We motored on to Russian bay, where a small chapel sits on a tiny islet, sheltering an attractive bay just off the main channel between Poros and the mainland.
It had been very hot and we were grateful to put up the sun canopy and wind scoop. The heat was making me feel decidedly light headed, and the stress of trying to get the anchor up in Hydra had not helped. John provided me with a glass of iced tea and then together we lowered our over-heated bodies into the cool, clear water. This is far preferable to being in a crowded harbour. There are only two small motor boats and one yacht here. A pleasant breeze sprang up, the birds were singing and the water is so clear we can see the sandy bottom.
We decided to take the dinghy into Poros town about 19h00. The wind had been gusting from all directions and there were some huge swells from time to time. Poros is very close to the mainland and although the ferries and the hydrofoils did not usually create much wash there were still some big gin palaces speeding down the channel. It was not a bad journey except whenever a gin palace went past we bounced around alarmingly and at one point I thought my final hour had come as we were lifted vertically by a huge wave. But we survived and on our return we ate our evening meal in the cockpit watching the moon rise.
Sunday, 8th June, 03
At first we decided to stay on this idyllic mooring at least for the morning, and head for Aegina later in the day when, hopefully, the gin palaces had begun to leave. But swells started to roll in from passing boats and the mooring became untenable by 09h00.
Once we had rounded the tip of the island we met a strong wind on the nose, and the sea began to pick up. It is sod's law that you always meet ferries on corners. I was on the helm, trying to keep off the headland, when we met a huge ferry with, of course, a gigantic swell in his wake, made worse by the confines of the channel. More bouncing around. We had an uncomfortable journey slamming against the waves for two to three hours and began to look for an alternative mooring. But whenever we found somewhere that might have been suitable it was never quite right - too shallow, too rocky, too deep etc. and we decided to 'go on to the next one'. The wind and sea never got really bad. Eventually about 12h30 we were approaching Aegina. Through the binoculars we could see that it was very busy. We feared another Hydra situation.
The sea was calmer and there was a good wind which we would be able to use to sail to the east and we decided to head for Korfos on the mainland opposite. We are close to civilisation here, evidenced by the rubbish floating in the sea; fishing nets, polythene boxes and bags, cardboard boxes, bits of wood and beer cans. We had a fine sail for an hour, after which the wind died.
Korfos was very difficult to identify but with the aid of our computerised charts and the GPS we found it a little after 15h00. It was a large, deep bay with a small town along one side, and two small moles. A dozen or so boats were anchored in the middle of the bay and we decided to join them.
We had just settled down, having put up the sun canopy, when the anchor started to drag. The wind was gusting from all points of the compass and it was difficult to get the boat straight into the wind to relay the anchor. We managed it eventually and settled down again. We were half aware of a Dutch boat backing off from one of the moles and heading into the bay. They seemed to be looking at us and I wondered if they had wanted to anchor in our spot. Once we were sure the anchor had held I went off the boat for a swim, and when I returned I slipped out of my wet bathing suit and went down into the galley 'au naturel'. Fortunately John was in the cockpit and I heard him say, "I think we've got visitors. There is a dinghy coming this way."
Hastily donning my bikini I went into the cockpit to greet Peter and Sylvia from Seacrest, whom we had last seen in Levkas. They had brought us a bottle of white wine which we demolished in the shade of our sun canopy. It was lovely to see them again, but disappointing that they are going round the Peloponnese in the opposite direction. They warned us about using the Corinth canal at the week-end as charges are higher. That was useful information.
We sat in the cockpit with a late salad after they had left and watched the sunset turn the sky to peach, and a brilliant white half-moon rose over the bay.
Monday, 9th June, 03
When we awoke there was no wind and it was a fine sunny day. There was no sign of life on Seacrest when we left about 08h30. Out in the bay it was quite windy, but as usual - on the nose. We slammed a little as the sea kicked up, but it was not too bad. It was very, very hot but the wind made it bearable whilst we were moving. We were not planning to stop until we reached the Corinth canal.
We had to dodge lots of fish farms around small islands off shore here.
Reaching the entrance to the canal at 11h00 we called the control on the radio. They advised us to stay outside the mouth of the canal and call again in twenty minutes. The wind became really strong and was gusting to 20 knots. but when I called again they still advised us to stay outside. I called them again twice more, and on the second occasion I said, "My skipper wants to come in and tie up because we have 20 knots of wind out here". We were then allowed in. We tied alongside a high quay where several boats were already tied up. One of these was Nelliebelle, another Dutch boat that we had seen in Hydra when they too had a fouled anchor. This is the administrative end of the canal where boats must tie up no matter in which direction they are travelling. I took our papers to the office, filled in a form and paid 100€. Our out of date papers were accepted without a second glance. We need not have worried after all. I bought John a Corinth canal T-shirt, and chatted to one or two people coming and going. A small trimaran tried to tie up to the quay but the skipper was single handed and the quay too high. I tried to take his lines but he was blown off. An official came down and advised him, and another boat that was not yet tied up, to go outside the canal and return in five minutes. The reason for this was that a tanker was being towed through and was just entering at our end. That was probably the reason that we had been advised to wait outside.
Our Heikell guide book mentions black tyres on the quay here which mark the boats and advised using 'every available fender' which we had done. This turned out to be unnecessary as they had replaced the tyres with plasticised rubbing strake.
We waited about twenty minutes until the tanker had passed and then were advised to go quickly. Everyone hastily cast off their lines and fell into single file behind the tanker. It was very windy in the canal and there was a strong current but John coped well. In the canal itself there is a strange sensation of travelling up-hill as the striations on the rocky walls, towering above us, were at an angle to the water.
The Corinth canal took eleven years to build and was built by a French company, the same people who had built the Suez Canal. It is four miles long, four metres wide at the entrance and eight metres deep. Once out of the canal we turned to port and followed Nelliebelle across to Corinth where we found a berth in the yacht harbour. New pontoons have been laid, with tailed moorings but these are filled with small boats. Nelliebelle managed to get on the T-shaped end of one of these, but we had to go alongside the harbour wall, between two pontoons. We were right alongside a water tap - great. I put our washing to soak right away.
When the locals came out for their promenade along the sea wall later they were amused to see our lines of washing, but I can't afford to let that bother me.
The wind became stronger and we were glad we were tied up. White capped waves threw themselves upon the harbour wall, tossing spray high into the air and over the wall, and onto pedestrians and boats. The harbour was 'foaming at the mouth'.
Two small girls were running barefoot over the rocks at the top of the harbour wall. One wore an elasticated top and brief skirt and the other wore a long red dress with a white lace apron. They looked like gypsy children but turned out to be from a well-travelled black boat with a tattered German flag which is at the end of the next pontoon. It is called Eos and carries two dinghies, one of them a hard dinghy which is white with coloured spots and the other an inflatable. They also have a life raft. We later found out that they had sailed round the world. I expect the dinghies were their belt and braces.
Tuesday, 10th June, 03
It was a little cooler this morning. Yesterday the temperature had reached 400C today it was only 320. Whilst we were shopping in the town John pulled a muscle in his leg walking on the uneven pavement, this proved a problem later on.
On a boat there is always work to do. Today I cleaned all the floors (just like housekeeping at home), cleaned the Heads, and washed salt off the cockpit. John mended the boat hook and fixed the catch on a locker door which kept swinging open when we slammed into a wave.
Norbert, from the German boat, came for a chat. They asked if they could borrow our hose, and also want us to keep an eye on their boat for them when they take the train to Athens tomorrow. He and his wife and the two small girls are now reaching the end of their world tour and will go back to Germany so that the girls can go to school, leaving the boat in Greece.
The wind picked up again and spray is hurling itself over the wall again. Rough weather seems to be quite usual here at this end of the Gulf of Corinth. We will have to seize our opportunity to leave, probably early one morning. In the meantime we are enjoying this modern Greek town which appears to be better cared for than Kalamata, although both were damaged in the earthquake.
Thursday, 12th June, 03
We have finally 'escaped' from Corinth. We had drinks with Norbert and his wife Zuker, and Henrietta (9) and Charlotte (7). The girls are charming. They get on well with each other and relate well to adults. Yesterday they went off to Athens and we kept an eye on their boat which was easy because we were on the look-out for the diesel truck which was supposed to come to the harbour every Tuesday. It did not arrive and when we rang the number advertised on a hoarding they promised a delivery, but it did not materialise. Just before noon some teenagers came onto the pontoons and were jumping off the pontoon into one of the motorboats. I stood up onto our rear deck so that they could see me watching them and they moved off. Later another group came down but their intention was to have a swim and they were more interested in showing off to each other than in the boats.
Once the day got cooler we did leave the boat and went in search of a petrol station where we filled our spare can. I stayed in town to get fresh food and bread for our journey tomorrow whilst John went straight back to the boat. By this time his leg was aching badly.
When I got back Norbert and his family had just returned from Athens and were talking to John. They made their way to their boat and one of the children came running back to say that their boat had been broken into. We could not believe it and went to investigate. Sure enough the boat had been opened and their hand held GPS had been stolen. We could not understand how this could have happened as we had been watching the boat all day except for that brief period when we had gone for fuel. But Zuker said that when they went off at 06h00 there was a man asleep on the pontoon. We were not about until 07h00 so he would have had the opportunity then, and he would also have seen them going off with their knapsacks. Nothing else had been taken although they had left money and a laptop behind. We left them to fully investigate and later saw police aboard. They had little hope of recovering their property but said they would report it so that the police would be vigilant.
It seems the harbour might be a security risk as lots of people come down here, day and night. People fish off the quay, teenagers use it as a playground and the promenade (volta) of townspeople goes on until 22h30 or later. Several boats came in last night including a 30 metre gin palace. One of them tried to tie bows-to close to us but his anchor dragged and we helped him turn the boat round to go elsewhere. This is not a good harbour for yachts since they put the pontoons down. The little tailed moorings off the pontoons are a hazard and could catch one's propeller, or keel, or catch on the anchor. The pontoons and small boats take up most of the harbour and all the yachts can do is go alongside the quay in maybe half a dozen spots, or on the end of the two pontoons.
We are now in Galaxhidi having had a good sail here although we had to keep the engine on because the winds were fairly light. But there were times when our speed reached seven knots. Galaxhidi was reached by a slightly complicated passage between some islands and reefs but we arrived safely and tied up to the quay. A Frenchman, Geri, from a boat next to us helped us to tie up.
We had only time to eat lunch before a strong wind came gusting into the harbour. We took the sun canopy and wind scoop down to lessen our windage but it did not help a lot. Soon whitecaps were rolling in to the harbour and the boat began to be blown down against the quay. With the help of Geri and an American crew member from a very large yacht alongside Geri's boat we put out an extra anchor and attached some springs. We also slewed Chefren slightly so that she was not bounced against the quay.
We were beam on to the wind and were the very first boat at the harbour mouth. The harbour was a deep inlet with a quay along one side and a road on the other. The harbour widened out at the mouth where we were tied up. Poor old Chefren, by now she was rolling and pitching as if she was in a washing machine. The wind was catching us beam on. The suggestion was made that we should move further down the harbour, and there was a space, sheltered by the short mole to which we were tied. We would have been alongside Nelliebelle, but Nelliebelle had put a spring across the gap and there was no one aboard. We were also reluctant to move whilst the wind was blowing as manoeuvring would have been very difficult. We might have damaged ourselves or other boats and we now had two anchors to retrieve. The surge continued until after 08h00 and by this time we could not move as another boat had come in and taken up the vacant space. But we did turn Chefren so that she was alongside the quay instead of bows to, with the two anchors holding her off. We put every fender we possessed on the port side between us and the quay.
The heat has been intense. It was 370 in the shade. When it was cooler in the evening we went in search of a restaurant but it was still too hot to eat, or to walk far. We settled for a snack at a crêperie just along the quay where we had ham and cheese crêpes with wine.
Friday, 13th June, 03
Galaxhidi is on a promontory which rises to a small hill on which sits a cathedral with an attractive red roof and grey cupola. The harbour is on one side of the promontory and is lined with tavernas and provides shelter for visiting boats and local fishing boats. On the other side there is a wider shallower inlet around which the town sprawls. This morning we set out to explore the town but it quickly got so hot that we just bought some bread and more bottled water (we are drinking gallons) and headed back to the boat and the shade of the sun canopy.
Bare, bleak mountains surround the town and the ruins of Delphi can be seen half way up a distant mountain. Above Delphi there are still pockets of snow in crevices on the mountain side and I long to be up there. Heat pins me to the boat, sweat pours down my face and drips off the end of my nose. The water around the boat is too dirty for swimming but I was desperate for a dip. I walked around the harbour to a small beach opposite our boat where steps have been cut into the slope from the road. On the far side of the road are various imaginative notices in Greek and English saying things like, "Your ancestors took care of this forest, you continue to do so." and "Look after the forest and it will care for you."
I felt very embarrassed walking along the harbour front in my swimming costume with a sarong thrown over it. But my lovely cool swim was worth it.
The port police came round later and John took our papers to their little kiosk on the front. The policeman also wanted to know when we were leaving as a trip boat is due and we are moored on their section of the quay. We are planning to leave in the morning anyway.
Saturday, 14th June, 03
We left before the other boats were astir. John was a bit concerned about how we would be able to pull in two anchors as they were not parallel. He need not have worried. He straightened the boat on one anchor so that she was bows-to again and then retrieved the other in the normal way. Apart from the fact that they were both well dug in there were no problems.
The plan was to go to Trizonia today but the heat was so intense, and it was cooler motoring with the cover up so that when we were off Trizonia we decided to keep on going. I think the Gulf of Corinth must be trapping the heat. We are finding it very difficult.
The next possible stop is Navpaktos. This is the Lepanto of old, where a famous battle left the Turks defeated. Reading about it in the pilot book it seemed interesting, but very small, and we are a large boat. We were worried we might not find room.
We also wanted to make as much progress as possible and get back to the Ionian where we hope it might be cooler, and it will be possible to find anchorages where we can lie to the breeze, and swim off the boat. We next headed for Patras, through the Rio-Antirhio strait where a new bridge is being built. (European money?) We knew we had to call them in advance for information about which arch to use. But they did not reply to the radio. After several attempts I used the mobile phone which was answered and we were given clear instructions where to pass, through the passageway on the south side, between the two pillars closest to the shore. Whilst we were carefully negotiating this a British registered gin palace overtook us and went straight through the middle arch. These gin palaces are a law unto themselves and whilst it was probably not a British boat it nevertheless was flying the British flag.
Once through the bridge we picked up some wind and were able to carry the foresail. By this time it was mid-afternoon and we decided that the wind would be in the right quarter to carry us to Missalonghi. In one day we would have travelled the distance we had planned to cover in three. It means we have missed out on sight-seeing but it has been too hot to do that anyway.
John went for a nap whilst I motor sailed to the mouth of the canal at Missalonghi. The canal leading to the town passes through salt marshes, not unlike Levkas. At the entrance to the canal is a small harbour which I think is the beginning of a planned marina. Children were swimming in there and there were no boats. It was surrounded by parked cars.
On each side of the canal were interesting fishermen's houses, built on stilts over the marsh. Most of the houses were very attractive and well cared for. Bougainvillea draped the fronts of many of them, and wooden jetties led down to the canal where boats were tied. The fishermen had laid nets into the marsh, and they also rake for mussels in front of their houses.
The canal stretched for three and a half miles to the town and then opened out to a wide harbour where two cargo boats were tied up. We had an option to anchor off, or to go alongside a quay. There was plenty of room on the quay, and it looked like an attractive spot so we decided on the latter.
Children were swimming on the edge of a wooded park to our right, where Greek flags were flying outside a stone building which I think was the coastguard station. Set back from the park were a couple of hotels and along the harbour front some tavernas and snack bars. As we drew closer to tie up at a point bordered by another park we began to regret our decision to tie to the quay. Not only was the harbour filthy here but several gypsy wagons were parked on the grass verge across the road and 20 or so gypsies were wandering along the quay.
No sooner had we tied up than two young gypsy girls came to the boat. I could not understand what they said, but I presume they were begging. We feigned ignorance. We assumed there was some kind of gypsy festival taking place. It was too hot to cook, and I was very tired so decided to go ashore and get a pizza from one of the snack bars. When I did so I found more gypsy wagons, and a family were lighting a barbecue. Children called to me as I passed, "Hello, hello!" I felt quite threatened.
There was a huge closed wagon, of a type we had seen in Levkas which has a compartment inside where the family sleep. Behind it was an open lorry with mattresses in the back, and behind that a small van. As night finally closed in some of the gypsies just curled up in blankets on the grass verge. It was a very hot night. The temperature probably did not drop below 300 but there were a lot of mosquitoes about. When I returned to the boat with the pizza John informed me that the port police had been and wanted him to report with the ship's papers. It took him 45 minutes. because it was probably a half mile walk, and the whole procedure was slow because the young policeman acted as though he had never done this before, and did not speak English.
John got his pizza eventually and we sat in the cockpit until quite late but it was anything but tranquil. Cars, bikes, motor bikes and pedestrians were all doing the volta. A horse and rider went past and back again. The man had on a bright red shirt, and the horse was decorated with ribbons. People continued to walk and drive past (with much squealing of tyres on the corner of the quay) until very late, even with quite small children in pushchairs.
But the final and utter straw came when an open air disco started up about 23h00. I had already had two cold showers in an attempt to get cool so that I could sleep, now there was no chance. It might have been bearable if the music had been the usual Spice Girls or Tom Jones etc. But this was rock music with a very strong repetitive base drum. We could tell the words were in English but otherwise did not recognise it. All we could hear was the thump, thump, thump of drums with the occasional clash of cymbals.
People in the boat alongside had told us that in Navpaktos the previous night a disco had gone on until 03h00, so we prepared ourselves for a long night. Just how long we did not realise. Yes, the band stopped at 03h00, only to be replaced by equally loud wailing Greek music. We enjoy some kinds of Greek music but this mournful wailing was not our cup of tea, especially at that time of the morning. We could not wait for it to finish. In fact we did not wait. When it was still going on at 05h00 and we were still awake, we cast off our ropes and left. The music was still going on as we headed back down the canal at 05h45. There were still lots of people about as if it was late afternoon, not early morning.
Sunday, June 15th, 03
As we emerged into the Gulf a full moon was suspended above the horizon and dawn was tingeing the tops of the mountains with a pearly pink glow, whilst the mountains themselves were dim grey shapes. We set a course to avoid the many sand banks hereabouts, and John went down below to get some sleep at last whilst I watched the day become full light and the shapes of the mountains materialise into the familiar barren hillsides.
There was no magic moment when I realised we were leaving the Gulf of Patras, outside the Gulf of Corinth, but as the shape of Xylos. an uninhabited island outside the gulf came into view I began to feel that I was back on home territory.
Our first plan had been to go to the island of Kastos which was slightly to the north. But we had some wind on which we would be able to sail in a more southerly direction to Kioni on Ithaca. Reaching Kioni we put down our anchor in the small cove at the entrance to the harbour, known as Cemetery Bay because of its close proximity to the town's walled cemetery. It was very deep here and the anchor was not well held, it was not a good place to spend the night. But before we moved on we had a late lunch and a swim.
We decided to press on to Sivota on the tip of Levkas Island. The wind was in our favour and we had a lovely sail all the way there and were able to anchor just off the beach, and have a few more swims. There is another English boat close by. The crew, Alan and Sylvia, have just come from Turkey in the boat, Catavento.
Monday, 16th June, 03
After our long sail yesterday we had a lazy start to the day and I had just started to air the bedding when we were hailed by Alan and Sylvia who had rowed over to swap some books. We invited them aboard and they chatted until lunchtime. Alan comes from London, and Sylvia from Ashton in Makerfield, Lancashire. She showed me a very nasty scar on her leg which she had obtained when mooring up and had caught the rope around her leg. She was lucky to still have a leg.
After lunch we had a lazy afternoon, swam a little, and read a little, then somehow it was time for the evening meal, Sailing Holidays have a flotilla base here now and we watched all the boats leave during the middle of the day. Later in the day a Neilson flotilla took their place.
There are several small gin palaces in here. They are not very popular because of the wash they create. Most of them completely disregard other boats.
Thursday, 19th June, 03
On Tuesday we left for Port Spiglia on Meganissi Island. The taverna there has tailed moorings and electricity for boats and John wants to charge the batteries before we spent the next two or three days anchored off Nidri having our new davits fitted.
We were able to raise the sails and arrived at lunchtime. Sadly the voltage of the electricity turned out to be so low that our batteries were getting very little charge.
We tied alongside an Irish boat whose skipper was an 84 year old German who has lived 45 years in Ireland. He was sitting in his cockpit reading about the fall of Berlin.
We are at Panos and Babis' taverna. All of them, including the witch like mother with a glass eye, greeted us like old friends, which is nice. But they are not always as nice to boats who use their pontoons and then go on up into the town for their meal. Once, when we did this the old woman shook her fist at me. Nice. I had giant shrimps which were mouth wateringly delicious, John had his favourite lamb chops grilled to a crisp the way he likes them. I used their washing machine, for which I paid a modest sum, but the machine is getting old now and the control knob has come off and had to be operated by hand.
We were going to leave yesterday but when John checked the electricity voltage it had increased and we decided to stay another night.
It is still very hot. I have had three swims during the day. There is a pair of kingfishers in the bank close by the boat. We frequently see the flash of their plumage as they dive for fish.
This morning we left at 08h00 after paying for the electricity and buying some bread. It took us an hour to reach Nidri where we anchored off the shore close by the Athos Hotel. John took me ashore by dinghy to shop, get my hair cut and pick up emails. He went back to the boat to wait for a phone call from Phil the Steel and when I returned the new davits were in place and looking very smart. Unfortunately they had to be removed and taken back to have the crossbar fitted, but we should have them back before the end of the day.
When we are tied up we usually follow the Greek custom of afternoon siesta, particularly when it has been as hot as this. Today, just as siesta time was ending the lovely cooling breeze turned into a gale force wind. We had to remove our sun canopy and wind scoop. Soon we had thunder and lightning. Several boats dragged their anchors and went off to re-anchor in Tranquil Bay. A 40 ft. Dutch ketch named Modesty had laid their anchor quite close to us and the owner was busy taking photos of all the smaller boats being blown all over the place, and scurrying for the shelter of Vliho, when he became aware that his own anchor was dragging. A similar sized Maltese boat, Cinderella, also dragged their anchor.
We have remained secure.
Tuesday, 24th June, 03
I should not have been so smug about our security. The anchor held all right but we were close to a large buoy which was either a mooring for a large boat or a buoyed anchor. I had warned John that it was not a good place to anchor but was ignored. Now we found that we had been blown around this buoy and its chain had become hopelessly entangled with our own. We discovered later that is an abandoned mooring for the Nidri Star, a trip boat, which now operates from Nidri harbour.
The water was too murky to see what had happened and it was obvious we would need a driver to disentangle it, or else we would need to cut our own anchor loose and buy another one. We preferred the first option so on Friday morning we went to the Neilson office to see if they knew a diver. The office was closed so we walked on to a nearby chandlery where we found the assistant was Fanni who used to work in the chandlery at Cleopatra. She greeted us like long lost friends and said that, yes, she knew a diver, a friend of her fiancé. She called her fiancé who promised to get the number and call back.
We were rather relieved and returned to the boat and soon had a call from Fanni saying the diver could come immediately and would charge 150€. We agreed the price and sat back to wait for his arrival. Who was it said that a boat was a hole in the water into which you poured money?
Our friends Maureen and Steve, on Dolma, had been anchored in Tranquil Bay when the wind blew up. They were OK but a Swiss boat nearby had dragged his anchor and in the process dragged theirs'. We waved to them as they headed down to Vliho. This morning they came back by dinghy to go shopping in Nidri and called for coffee whilst we were waiting for the diver. They left just before lunch and the diver still had not come so we went ashore again to find Fanni. When we found her she said the diver had not had enough air in his bottles and was attending to that, he would come this afternoon. We are in Greece after all.
We waited all afternoon and during that time my friend Maggie rang to say that there was going to be a barbecue in One Tree Bay on Sunday night and would we like to go? It sounded like a good idea. One Tree Bay is just north of here. The diver did not come that afternoon and at 17h00 we had a call from Fanni to say that the diver was still having problems with his bottles. She was apologetic and said she had asked him whether he really wanted to do the job or not. The answer seemed to be 'no' and she suggested we find someone else.
Her boss, Danny, is a diver too, but at the moment he has an ear infection and cannot accept diving jobs. His wife suggested a dive boat on the quay called Lucky Divers. We took the dinghy across to the town quay where we immediately found this boat. We spoke to the boss who was agreeable, and asked us to come back at 09h30 the following morning.
We duly turned up at the appointed time, but realising that Greek time is very flexible were not surprised that there was no one on the boat. We ensconced ourselves in the taverna opposite and prepared to wait. The boss turned up at 10h00 and said that he would wait for his assistant and arrive.
The dive boat is an eight metre motor boat which waits on the quay for customers who want to go diving. Three nubile ladies decorate the cockpit and I presume their function is to attract male customers and take bookings. Back at the boat about half an hour later a RIB pulled alongside and young diver named, Vassili, surveyed the situation. He put on his diving gear and went down to have a look. We followed his progress through the path of the bubbles rising to the surface. We saw him go round the mooring rope and eventually come to the surface to explain that there was a huge anchor down there with lots of bits of old rope attached. He had freed our anchor which we now pulled in, and attached ourselves to the fender buoy. The diver charged us 70€. It had been worth the wait. Phil had been the previous evening to try the new davits in position and take them away to fit the cross bar. He returned Saturday night to finish the job. We are very pleased with the workmanship and the thoughtful extra touches such as putting the flag holder at an angle so that our flag now drapes over the stern rather than fluttering around the GPS aerial.
Just as the diver was finishing we saw Eos come into Tranquil Bay. They went ashore to do their washing at the Athos Hotel and called on the way back. If only they had arrived sooner. Nobert is a diver and he would have charged less than 70€.
On Saturday evening we went ashore to dump the old davits on the tip (there is the remains of a helicopter there), and to take our rubbish. John climbed down into the dinghy; I threw the rubbish sack down to him and turned to descend the ladder. I heard a startled cry from John and turned to see something land in the water and swim away. There had been a rat in our rubbish bag which jumped out when the bag landed in the dinghy, scrabbled up John's bare leg, and leapt over the side. We cannot imagine how it got there as we had emptied the rubbish before leaving Port Spiglia and have not been tied to the shore since. Perhaps it had been hiding in the cockpit drain (a nice dark hole), and then found its way into the rubbish sack. But there is no evidence that it had been on the boat. Perhaps it swam out and came up the anchor chain. We put rat poison down just in case.
We spent Saturday night in Vliho with Maureen and Steve and had a meal at the Hippocampus taverna on the north shore. This taverna has its own small dock where we tied the dinghy. There is a pleasing ambience there. Tables with real fabric tablecloths are spread out on a vine shaded terrace from where one can watch the sun go down over the hills opposite. But when you look a little closer everything is rather shabby. The cloths are frayed at the edges, the glass tables by the bar are covered with bits of vine and in need of a good polish. There is a cracked cistern in the toilets and the attractive wall tiles were cracked too. Perhaps they have had an earth tremor. But the food was excellent.
The next day (Sunday) we left for the barbecue in One Tree Bay. There were several boats already in there, including Kanopus with Paul and Mel. The anchorage was idyllic - a wide sandy bay with a small island offshore, looking like a green pan scrub. The beach was shingle.
About eight boats attended the BBQ and Ian, of Mabdler, rowed round the anchorage inviting all the boats in there to join us.
We were able to swim off the boat in crystal clear waters and it was like immersing oneself in a warm bath. Ian and his friends built the BBQ, being careful not to use stones that had been in the sea (they explode). A small herd of cows came down into a gulley at the back of the beach to see what was happening, but did not come near the BBQ. The heat from the sun was intense, even until sunset. Once the sun was setting, the little offshore island was bathed in an orange glow, and the hills behind Plataria Mountain took on an apricot hue. Plataria is one of the healthiest places to live in the world; apparently its inhabitants live to a ripe old age. After dark we sat round the fire swapping stories and singing songs until late.
I would have liked to have stayed another night, or even to have stayed most of the day to swim but John realised that he had left a good sweater at the Hippocampus and we would need to collect it.
Back in Vliho we anchored close to Maureen and Steve, who are still in the middle of headlining their forward cabin. They have had two trips into Nidri to buy glue from George's chandlery and have managed to get the vinyl up but still need to put up the trim. Steve appeared on desk in his breathing mask looking like someone from outer space.
After filling the fridge with the frozen water and fresh food from the small supermarket we went across to the Hippocampus for John's sweater. We found the taverna closed but the door to the kitchens was open and the proprietor came out to welcome us. We stayed for drink for which he refused payment.
That night we had drinks with Maureen and Steve and the next morning (Tuesday) set off to meet Maggie and Don in Kastos.
Wednesday, 25th June, 03
Kastos is the most easterly of the Ionian islands, very close to the mainland. It is only 7km long and 800m wide with a permanent population of aroun 80 people. There has been a change of mayor who does not want tourism. He and the owners of the holiday homes on the island want to keep the tourists out and they have closed the toilets on the quay and turned off the water. However the rubbish has been removed. The last time we were here there was a huge stinking pile of it on the quay, underneath a notice asking people to take their rubbish away with them. However there were children's toys and the sort of rubbish that boat people do not leave behind, giving us the suspicion that the rubbish had been planted to discourage the boats.
It is possible to swim from here, on the other side of the harbour wall, and from several coves. Maggie and I have spent a lot of time in the water, and even Don and John joined us for a while.
Despite the mayor's attitude we had two flotillas in here last night, plus Serena (Steve and Di), and the crews of Mahdler and Mahdling, who all came aboard for drinks, and nibbles.
Thursday, 26th June, 03
We had a meal at Belo's taverna last night with Maggie and Don. The owners are Canadian Greeks. They are descendants of the original inhabitants of the island who had to leave a generation ago after a typhoid outbreak which was traced to the well-water. Most emigrated but kept their homes on the island.
Today we sailed down to Kioni in company with Don and Maggie and will be meeting up with Mel and Paul. There was plenty of room in the harbour and we were able to tie to the quay. We filled up with water and dumped our rubbish which we had dutifully taken away from Kastos.
That night we all met for drinks on Kalypso, and as it was such a lovely evening we decided to walk to Frikes for a meal, and to come back by taxi. The walk was around six kilometers, and as we walked around several headlands we enjoyed beautiful views as the sun set over the sea. On the way John's leg became very painful again. He was glad when we arrived in Frikes, and grateful that he would not have to walk home.
Friday, 27th June, 03
We have stayed on another day. Paul was having trouble starting his outboard motor and John went aboard to give him a hand. Maggie, Mel and I took the dinghy across to Cemetery Bay and had a wonderful swim. When John had successfully fixed the outboard he and Paul came to join us, but Don remained on Kalypso. There was a little snack bar on the beach, in a caravan, and we decided to stay for lunch. No one had brought any money so Paul went back for some and to bring Don to join us. Don refused. He is apparently having a 'sulk'. Perhaps he was jealous that John was fixing Paul's motor, because Paul is Don's friend, I don't know.
Paul treated us to lunch as thanks for fixing the outboard. The snack bar also had a few handicrafts for sale; tie-dye or batik pictures and goat bells on traditional style collars. Maggie and Mel both bought goat bells but when we got back to the boat Maggie discovered that there was a piece missing from hers. She came to ask if I would run her across to the bay so that she could change it. I did wonder why Don did not put their dinghy in the water and take her across, but it would be a good excuse for another dip to cool off so I agreed to take her later in the day. When the time came I tried to persuade John to come with us and also invited Don again. He was just sitting in the cockpit of his boat 'No' he said, and his whole body language said. 'I'm sulking'. So I did not ask why.
Maggie told me later that he had been rude to the skipper of a boat that came alongside them that morning. Maggie had gone to take their lines and he had asked her to tie it to a bollard further along. Don had said to him, "Can I give you a piece of advice? When you ask my wife to do something, would you say 'please'?" Maggie was mortified. We have been within earshot when Don has decided to tell other boat people what to do, and he does not mince words. He also lacks a sense of humour. He was extremely rude to a young man who was filling his water tanks in Sivota, quite unaware that there was a hole in the hose which was spraying Don as he sat in their cockpit having breakfast. Anyone else might have shouted and made a funny comment, but not Don. I heard him saying, "Look what you are doing, and think! "
John declined to come. He said he wanted to give Maggie and I time for a 'girl's chat'. Maggie certainly has a lot she needs to get off her chest. We had another swim and a drink at the snack bar and Maggie changed her collar. Later that day Maggie accompanied me up the hill to retrace part of the walk we had done last night so that I could take some photographs of the boats in the bay.
Saturday, 28th June, 03
John wanted us to go on down to Vliho but I was not keen. I do not swim in Vliho because of the dirty water. In Nidri my chances of a swim were higher, and I would be able to take some washing to the Athos hotel. I might even use the pool there whilst it was doing. In the end it was so hot that I did neither of those things, I just panted under the shade of the awning, and whilst there Ian from Mahdler came over and invited us to join a group who were eating out that night. They were planning to walk up to Dimitris', a taverna in the hills above the town. Because of John's leg, and because it would still be quite hot, we chose to take a taxi and shared it with Vivienne and John from Charisma.
The taverna is set on the hillside above Nidri and gives a wonderful view of the bay and the boats. We were the first to arrive and organised Dimitri to set out a table for the fourteen people expected, in the open on his terrace. Being the first there we were able to choose the best seats with an uninterrupted view. As we were a large party we ordered a variety of Mezes which was an excellent choice. During the meal we got talking to Viv and John about solar panels. They have just had new, larger ones, fitted. We jokingly asked if they wanted to sell the old ones. They also mentioned that they had a battery charger which they did not know how to fit, and so an exchange was arranged. Our John would fit their battery charger in exchange for their old solar panels.
Sunday, 29th June, 03
We went over to Charisma in mid-morning and John set to work on the battery charger. By lunchtime he was still hard at work and I had been chatting to Viv all morning, but I decided I had better get the washing done. I am feeling quite confident with the outboard motor now so I took myself over to Chefren, collected the laundry and took it to the Athos where I filled two machines. Whilst it was washing I went back to Chefren and made some lunch. When John had still not returned I went back to the Athos for the laundry. I put it into the dryer and whilst it was drying did some shopping. One of my purchases was an ice-cream which I ate in the laundry room, still trying to keep cool. When I got back at 17h00 John had just returned. He needed a cold shower as the engine room on Charisma had been very hot, and he had been struggling to free something on the engine which had frozen solid.
Monday, 30th June, 03
We are planning to go home soon. The heat is unbearable. We will go home and return when it is cooler in September. I phoned some of the charter companies and discovered that there are no flights left next Saturday. There might be room on Sunday, but there is definitely room on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow, in the evening. We decided to take those flights. We will need to set off for Levkas tonight and be in Preveza for lifting out on Tuesday.
On the way up through the Levkas canal we pulled to the side to avoid an oncoming motor boat. We were still within what should have been the channel when Chefren stopped dead in the water with a dreadful judder and the engine stopped. We had hit something very solid. I looked over the bow and saw what appeared to be a pile of rocks. Strangely enough it was our port hull which was stuck fast and we were on the starboard side of the channel. The motor boat had seen our difficulty and stood by to give assistance if necessary. But John managed to reverse off. We won't know if any damage has been done until we are lifted out.
We tied up in Levkas marina and began preparations for leaving the boat by giving her a good wash. I began to sort out the galley, cleaning the fridge, and various shelves and lockers. A stiff breeze kept us quite cool and we had a better night.
Tuesday, 1st July, 03
Sailed up to the boatyard at Cleopatra today. We had phoned and arranged to be lifted out and everything went very smoothly. Once we were on dry ground we were able to examine the hull where a piece as large as a man's fist has been gouged out by our encounter with the rocks in the Levkas canal. I phoned Joe Charlton who is the HLR (honorary local representative) for the Cruising Association, and who also runs the chandlery and boat repair service in Levkas. I asked him who was responsible for dredging the canal and suggested he warn other CA members about the obstacle. He suggested I notify the port police. I did so but they were not interested in identifying or removing the obstacle, only in offering me a certificate for the insurance company. We will not be taking any action as far as insurance is concerned because the estimate for repair is £250 and we have an excess of that amount on our policy. We asked the Cleopatra yard to carry out the repair whilst we are away, and I will contact members of the Cruising Association who are on the email network to warn them to keep well into the channel.
The heat continues. Once the sun is up it quickly becomes hot and the temperature rises usually to around 40 deg. centigrade and the day does not cool until after the sun goes down. I will be glad to be home.