The Race for Skiathos

The depression heading our way has forced an extended stay here in Voufalo, but there are worse places you could be, even if it is raining constantly.

After a productive day; me making new cockpit cushions and Ian doing boat jobs, we set off into the Evia Channel once more. This time the weather was much more like what I ordered and we soon arrived in Khalkis on the south side of the Old Bridge. After completing the paperwork (Ie: complete paperwork, pay the man in the office on the quay; walk round to the port police, show them your paperwork and receipt, which they check. They then issue instructions to be ready on Channel 12 from 2130hrs and to listen to be called individually to proceed through the gap. All noted, we set off back to the boat to eat and wait) and paying the $35 to pass through the narrow gap created by the retracting of the bridge we motored through with a good dozen other yachts at about 2230hrs at night. We anchored in a large bay on the north side and had a peaceful night’s sleep.

Next day, we hoped to make it to the northern tip of Evia and the day after we would be in Skiathos by late afternoon to meet Alice and Ian.

Naughty flag wants to sit on Ian’s head and keep him warm.

We left our anchorage early and arrived at Orei at midday in flat calm conditions, sun blazing down…now THIS is what I ordered!   We re-fuelled, bought a new gas bottle topped up provisions, got rid of rubbish and recycling and stretched our legs. After a brief chat with some Kiwis on Aphrodite we set off again as the breeze freshened – from the North – our precise direction of travel.

We tacked back and forth for hours as the wind really picked up and black clouds moved in. We made roughly five miles headway over the course of four hours in 30 odd knots of wind and big waves. Finally, the wind dropped sufficiently for us to be able to put the engine on. Even so we would still be a further four hours at least until we had covered the remaining 15 miles or so to Skiathos. (In fact it was more like six and a half!)

We motored on, Linea slicing through the waves. As we approached Skiathos the rain arrived – great fat blobs that actually hurt when they landed. By now, we both had our full wet weather gear on as lightning forked around us and thunder clapped away – a proper rousing welcome.

We lowered the dinghy off the back of the boat in preparation for stern-to berthing. Just as I was tidying up the lines I noticed the dinghy belligerently bobbing off its cleat and bouncing silently into the night! A neat abou- face and we managed to grab the escapee with a boat hook and soon had it tied up again, hearts pounding.

As we came into Skiathos harbour we heard a powerful shriek from the quay, despite the howling wind.

‘Saraaaaaaahhhhhh!’ It had to be Alice!

We identified the spot where we wanted to park. Alice and Ian were ready to receive our lines, bravely ignoring the lashing rain.
We rapidly put the boat to bed and Ian rigged the ridiculously short gangplank. I launched myself onto dry land almost kissing it before Alice in my relief to be tied up to something solid!!

It was so great to see our friends after such a traumatic and long journey (15 hours) Nothing that chat with old friends from the Shire, a few beers and a healthy chicken gyros couldn’t help us laugh about!!

Round the Athens peninsular and into the Gulf of Evia

 

Anchorage north of Lavrion. Not all anchorages are picturesque.

We left the rather industrial anchorage just north of Lavrion near Athens and headed north to Voufalo, Evia in pretty grim weather.  It is now Wednesday 17th May and a huge depression has swept down the Gulf of Evia from the north – precisely from the direction we want to go, so for now we are tucked into a tiny bay called Voufalo on the West coast of Evia waiting for the rain and wind to pass.

However, we arrived not without incident.  I am sure that in years to come I will see the funny side, but for now I am just so grateful that we are fine and the boat is safe.

We left the previous stop and bounced our way 10 miles up the coast into the oncoming winds.  We pottered into the bay, feeling confident about our anchoring skills.  We were just about to start circling round our chosen anchorage when Ian informed me that the engine had cut out and would not engage its gears.  This can only mean one thing – a rope around our propeller! Oh bugger!

Job done. Feeling happy.
Deep breathing so he can hold his breath long enough to cut the rope.

Through a combination of panic and mis-communication, we drifted back with the wind until the keel  settled in the shallow water of a small sandbank.  Luckily, with the assistance of a kind gentleman, on his yacht Voila Ela, we were pulled free so that we could anchor and cut the line off the propeller.  Ian jumped into the water in his wet suit and managed to cut the line free.

With fingers and toes crossed we started up the engine and put her into gear.  All good!  Phew!  On checking the bilges the keel bolts seem fine and we haven’t sprung any leaks.

So we have learnt –
*Always to check that all lines are stowed.
*Never to leave mooring lines attached to the boat.
*How to use the anchor windlass for pulling in a rope.
*How to use a kedge anchor to pull us forward.
*To be clear in communicating instructions.
*To drop the anchor fast if the engine stops when you are in shallow water.
*To be confident that the boat will not tip over when on sand.

Still, the glass of wine we had once everything was sorted and the boat secure was most welcome and well deserved.

 

Setting sail – the first two legs of Season Two.

Marina di Ragusa resort and harbour wall

The boxes finally arrived after having had their own personal  ‘Giro d’Italia’ – having being sent to a marina in Reggio Calabria on the mainland, by mistake.  So, with them safely stowed, it was time to set sail.  Ian handled the boat superbly as he maneuvered out of the marina with the marinero guiding us safely out. (There had been an incident recently where a boat went aground so everyone was being super cautious.)

Me and my crew!

Heading  300nm East.

En-route, the engine suddenly stopped spitting out water with the exhaust and the bilges filled with blue coolant.  This was not good. Luckily Bill has a mechanical know how and between them, he and Ian had the problem  sorted and the engine going again!  It could have been a lot worse.

On the way we had two visitors, a gold finch who slept on the book shelf all night and a baby owl, no less than 60 miles from land, who had a brief rest on our dinghy.

We arrived in Argostoli at 0300hrs, parked up in the pitch dark and crashed out.  In the morning, Bill left us and we picked up Lizzie and Ang.  By noon we had set off for Zante to meet up with Bryn and Jill on Fly the Coop for dinner.  After a slap up breakfast in the morning we bid them a fond farewell and we went our separate ways for the time being.

We began the next leg of our journey aiming to get the Heane family to Aigina.  Our first excitement was to sail under the Rion-Antirion suspension bridge – the longest suspension bridge in the world with a span of 2.252km.  We had to radio the bridge traffic personnel to ask permission to transit under the bridge.  We were given clear instructions to transit under the central arch.  ‘Keep two pillars to your starboard side and two pillars to your port side.’  We had air clearance of at least 20m where we sailed through.  The vehicles on the bridge looked like little dinky toys as they passed overhead.   It was quite spectacular running before the wind with the headsail only and achieving an impressive 8 knots of speed.

We had a pleasant stop in Galaxadhi, from where we were able to visit Delphi and then we only had one more overnight stop before going through the Corinth Canal.  (See earlier posting of Ian’s time-lapse video.)

The strong winds from earlier in the week had died down and we enjoyed a gentle potter down the canal taking a slice through the history, geography and geology of the area.  We paid €225 for the privilege.  €70 per mile.

We were able to squeeze into a berth on the town quay in Aigina and had a fabulous meal from a restaurant near the fish market.  Next day, it was time to bid farewell to the Heanes as we set off towards Skiathos to meet up without next visitors – The Daggetts!

Back On Board

Having survived, not only the ski season, but the return coach journey from Val d’Isere to London Victoria, and from there the train journey up to Preston we spent a happy few days with Ian’s mum.  After packing our boxes of essential purchases for the boat we posted them to ourselves as we ourselves set off for Manchester Airport at 0430hrs to catch a flight back to Catania, Sicilia.  Friends from Marina di Ragusa, Bryn and Jill on Fly the Coop) picked us up and we were whisked to Decathlon for Ian to buy his latest mode of transport; a push along scooter, on which he can bomb about the marina. (Much to the amusement of Keira and Erin!)

We passed a delightful lunchtime at Donnafuggata eating mussels baked in the oven with a pizza lid, washed down with beer and wine, as we whisked off our socks and shoes and basked in the spring sunshine – great company and a warm and welcome meal to mark our return to Linea.

We were delighted that the boat was fine and the bilges perfectly dry and clean.  Just a little dust and sand on deck but otherwise in great nick.

For the next few days we would be gradually reversing the winterising process: trying to remember where everything went and prepping the boat for the sail over to Greece.  This included food provisioning for the trip and visiting The Fratelli Mazza wine wholesalers.  We now have 50 litres of wine stashed in every available locker.

Soon our crew arrived for the sail across to Cephalonia.  David Heane on Friday afternoon and Bill Dear during evening happy hour.  A good few beers were consumed.

Today has been spent putting the sails back on and we are very pleased with our repaired Genoa which is now trimmed in a sand coloured UV strip to match the spray hood and new bimini, so we are looking very smart. (The sail bag is on next year’s expenditure list!) Also, we are delighted at our newly upholstered saloon cushions, which look clean and fresh and are super comfy.

So, we will set sail as soon as our parcels arrive.  The boxes we dispatched from home are now subject to a delay due to public holidays in Sicily.  A five day delay – In getting them from Milan to us! Hey ho!

Today, we are watching Optimists bob about the bay as they race to be the champions of Sicily; the monthly angling competition and large numbers of scouts milling about building tents and bridges and all manner of structures.  So, ‘Molti manifestioni’ as they say here.

We will be back in Sicily in October/November.  It has been wonderful to catch up with our new MdR fellow yachtie friends and we look forward to catching up and exchanging stories when we return.  In the meantime, there is plenty of sailing to be done.