Sarah has been away for ten days so I am taking up the blog writing baton.
I am moored up on Zakinthos town quay awaiting the arrival of Sarah and Keira. It’s a lovely place and as I sat watching the sun set this evening with a glass of wine in hand I contemplated my surroundings.
On my port side there is a beautiful looking yacht, it’s about 18m long and well equipped. On-board are a delightful couple, I am guessing they are late 60’s and obviously enjoying the rewards of their working life. They have just gone ashore to eat. They have unpronounceable Dutch names so let’s call them the Port Siders.
On my starboard side is a much smaller boat, about 9m in length, she looks very sea worthy and is probably quite exciting to sail, but she is a mature lady. On-board are a young family with two little girls, maybe 6 and 4. They are in Greece for the whole summer. At the moment dad and daughters are fishing off the back of the boat (a pointless exercise), all are obviously having fun. I can hear food being prepared, I hope they aren’t depending on the fish. Let’s call them the Starboard siders.
To buy and more importantly run an 18m yacht requires a lot of Euro’s. The winches on this boat will have cost more than we paid for Linea. I am making some assumptions but the Port Siders must have worked extremely hard and been successful at accumulating cash. In my experience this requires a few sacrifices along the way, perhaps risking the family house to invest in the business, being a grumpy, tired git, long working days, business trips eating into week-ends, and, as I see often, a lengthy conference call or two whilst on holiday with the family.
Again making a few assumptions but I am guessing the Starboard siders have made a life choice to live for now. Taking the summer off to sail your old boat around Greece having fun with your kids doesn’t tend to go hand in hand with climbing the corporate ladder or accumulating lots of cash.
What nobody tells you when your children are 6 and 4 is how brief their childhood will be, how quickly they will become young adults and not be too enthusiastic to spend the entire summer with their parents.
I am wondering is a turn to port or starboard the better life?
Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, without a hitch and were pleased to see friends and neighbours from last year. Our arrival coincided with one of the twice weekly happy hours at the Stella Marina Bar so we met old and new friends that night.
Some days later, the Porto Turistico hosted the All-Italy Laser Championships. The first challenge was negotiating out from between the pontoons, heading for open sea.
Since arriving back, we have been full-on busy with boat jobs; fixing, replacing, renewing, cleaning, servicing, removing, repairing and storing.
We have had visits from Alice, Ian and Jon. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to sail anywhere (even if the weather had been suitable) because the sails had already gone off to be repaired.
However, we were able to explore more of Sicily. Touring around to Syracuse, Modica, Scicli, Palazzallo Acredie and Ragusa Ibla – beautiful cities with stunning baroque churches and buildings.
We also drove out to Agrigento to the Valley of Temples and were suitably impressed by the stunning Greek Temples there, which are some of the best preserved in the Med.
We joined a walking group and enjoyed a couple of noisy walks in the surrounding area with forty chattering Sicilians.
I also went olive picking again and have my own bottle of freshly pressed oil from my olives, ready to open in the spring.
Ian welcomed back his road bike with open arms (thanks once again to Nick and Paul) and has been out on it a few times. He reports that it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier each time.
We also enjoyed a few days in Rome, with my old friend Sheena and her family. We walked all round Rome and saw all the main sights and some little hidden gems with our super guide Sheena, who has lived in Rome for 30 years.
Then, it was back to the boat for a few last minute preparations before heading back to the UK for a couple of months where, for the first time in a while, all four of us Mouldings are to be in the same country at Christmas.
So, yes, we are going to be living back in Yorkshire. Staying in a cottage – 26 Linton Falls until the 12th February 2018.
We hope to catch up with as many friends and family as we can. Do pop in if you’re passing.
In the meantime, we wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy new year.
We finally waved goodbye to harbourmaster father and son team Nikos and Makos in Naxos. They wryly commented that we should have asked for the monthly mooring fee. We returned to Paros. We anchored in the south west part of the bay of Naoussa and enjoyed a fine afternoon swimming and snorkeling. Erin spotted a beautiful starfish for us all to admire.
After a super calm night, we headed north in great winds to Finikas. Arriving with a flurry of charter yachts, we were hoodwinked into thinking that the quay would be a good place to be overnight, despite forecasts of strong southerly winds in the night. Foolish error!
We were awoken from fitful sleep by the grating noise of the spreaders and stays clashing with those of the neighbouring boat. We managed to pull forward so that the rocking would be safer and went back to bed. Ten minutes later, Erin shouted out, ‘Boat!’ in a tone of great alarm. She had popped her head out of the forward hatch and to her amazement saw a charter yacht pinned across our bow at 0400h in the morning, in the dark!
We all dashed on deck to fend off this yacht. Another departing yacht had tripped its anchor and so they were forced to leave in some haste. On motoring out, they wrapped a rope round the propeller so they had no power. Left to the devices of the strengthening wind, they were blown along the bows of the boats on the quay, stopping at us because they fouled their keel on our anchor chain.
After hours of fending, our anchor finally gave up and their keel was free. They continued to bounce along every single bow along the quay finally stopping about 2 metres from some rocks. Ian helped them to get their anchor down and then they waited for the coastguard to arrive to tow them to safety.
In the meantime, we were all busy on Linea. First, we pulled the anchor as tight as it would go. Then, we kept the engine on in case we need to motor forwards at all. We tried to limit the damage as much as possible whilst this boat was pressing us back against the quay. Tthe swell was lifting us higher than the quay and it is a miracle that the rudder didn’t get damaged. Josh was doing sterling fending off with the popped fender.
Ian eventually came back to the boat and we decided that since it was almost dawn and we were not happy with our anchor we would leave. The boat on our starboard side had to leave first since their anchor chain was lying right over ours. We motored to the anchorage on the other side of the bay.
After a few hours nap we were beginning to see the humorous side of the story. We still couldn’t quite believe all that had happened during the night. We were mightily relieved not to have incurred more damage. The boat next to us had not been nearly so lucky; having its stern constantly smashed into the quay.
We moved on to the practically deserted island west of Mykonos and had a wonderful night in a perfect cove with Delos in the distance. A beautiful place to calm the nerves.
On Wednesday we set off to Mykonos, as Josh and Erin had bought fantastically cheap flights back to Manchester from there. (£38 each) We anchored in the bay south of town and sat out the evening’s strong winds.
There was time for some last minute hair braiding and back gammon championships.
Next day, we caught a bus to explore the lanes, whitewashed churches and bijoux shops in town. We walked round to meet up with Stephen and Gilly for a swift beer and to catch up on their island-hopping adventures.
It was a pleasant wander round Little Venice, past the windmills and up and down the steps on the hill. The town was thronged with doddering cruise ship passengers.
During the very wet journey back to the boat to collect bags, we saw yet another inflatable toy somersaulting across the bay. We managed to catch it and the girls were very happy with their swan (Susan). All too soon, it was time to bid a fond farewell to Erin and Josh. They headed to the airport and we went back for another windy night in Ormos Ornos.
During the last few days, we have switched the engine on and off a total of eight times and all seems to be well. We are gradually gaining more confidence that the fuel is clean and the pipes are clear. Phew!
Being rescued last week spurred thoughts of Thunderbird style rescues that we have been involved with since embarking on our adventures; those in which we have been on the giving rather than the receiving end!
The first occasion was in Mallorca in Cala Portal Vells when, in the middle of the night, there was an urgent knocking on Linea’s hull. We were roused from a deep sleep and adrenaline ensured that we were rapidly on deck. We leaned over the side to see a very frightened man in the water. He kept saying, ‘Boat tip!’ and in the dim light from the moon we could just about make out the silhouette of a small yacht far to close to the beach and leaning over at an alarming angle.
Ian deployed the dinghy whilst the man swam back to the boat to his friend. Initially, Ian tried pulling the boat forward off the sand but that didn’t work. Next, they pulled the boat over with a halyard to an even greater angle in an attempt to lift the keel out of the sand. This together with their engine and the dinghy eventually allowed the boat to move out of the shallow water.
They anchored again and kept a watch and left early the next morning to head back to Palma. It was their first trip out in the boat and we hope that they weren’t put off and that they have invested in a more substantial anchor. Thunderbirds were, ‘go’!
In Sardinia, we had gone ashore in the dinghy to do some shopping and came back to the beach just as another family of six was climbing into their dinghy. Unfortunately, they started their engine in a froth of seaweed and the engine gave up. In my faltering Italian, I asked them to jump in our dinghy so that we could take them back to their yacht. We towed theirs behind us. It was fairly slow progress with eight of us in the dinghy but we made it safely back and they were most grateful. Eat your heart out Virgil.
In Ormos Panormou on Skopelos, Ian whizzed off in the dinghy to help a crew member from another yacht secure the long lines to the shore. They were really struggling to attach the heavy lines and then bring them back to the boat. Puppets on a string!
In Porto Koufo this year, we were watching the rapid approach of a thunder-storm one evening when ahead of us across the huge bay I saw two people on a lilo kicking their way across to the opposite headland; snorkels poking up and face masks clamped to their heads. As the rain began to bounce down on us like bullets and the wind whipped up the water, I was concerned about the safety of these snorkelers.
Ian shot off in the dinghy and reached them whilst they were still in the sunshine. He asked if they were ok and they assured him that they were. He pointed out the looming storm and they shrugged nonchalantly. They refused a lift back to the shore and again said that they were fine. What more could he do? We watched them anxiously as they paddled back soon after; clearly they had realised their folly and were heading back to the safety of the shore. Safely back to Tracy Island.
In Limnos this year Ian disappeared off the front of the boat to help a couple whose anchor was fouled on another boat’s chain. He helped them disentangle the knitting and reset the anchor. Lady Penelope would be proud.
Recently, when we were anchored in Aggias Annas trying to fix our own engine, we realised that we needed more diesel and a full tank of petrol for the outboard. Just about at dusk, Ian set off across the bay towards the quay. He walked up to the petrol station and replenished our dwindling supplies. On the way back in the dark he was approached by another yachtie on the quay, asking if he could help him. He had run out of petrol for his outboard, too. Could he use some of ours to get him back to his boat? Ian obliged and Dimitri and his crew were very happy that he had turned up just when he did. International Rescue whilst rescuing us! A chip off the Gordon Tracy block!
The other day a couple came down the pontoon looking very tense and anxious. They had anchored in the bay and brought people ashore but now their dinghy had died on them and they couldn’t paddle all the way back. I offered them the use of ours.
Just yesterday, we were watching as a huge motor yacht pull out of the town quay here in Naxos. Their anchor was fouled on the bottom and then the port propeller was fouled on a mooring line. They were pinned in. Ian attended in the dinghy and with the assistance of other yachts nearby managed to secure the boat before it bashed into others boats moored on the wall. He freed the anchor and the harbourmaster dived into the water to free the mooring line. Job done!
This morning a yacht beside us that was pulling out and had his anchor trapped under the chain of a boat that arrived after him. With help from Thunderbird 2 and the harbourmaster’s Dad, (AKA Jeff Tracy!) Ian managed to free the anchor and the yacht was soon on its way. Another rescue completed.
After the core plug incident, which was fixed up in Thassos, the next blip in the engine department came as we left Paros after a lovely few days with my brother and his family. We had a fantastic sail back across to Naxos. Just as we were entering the bay at Agia Annas we put the engine on in preparation to drop the mainsail and anchor in our preferred spot. As I was going forward to sort out the anchor Ian announced that we had no power. The engine was on but would not deliver any revs.
We put the anchor down in 12m of water and were holding well. The forecast for the next few days was for stronger and stronger winds up to 40knts some days. We put more chain out and tried to fix the problem until the small hours of the morning.
Ian changed the fuel filters and consulted our Cruising Association friends online. Having primed the engine and tried to eradicate the air inside he was still having no luck getting it going. I had to go ashore the next day to drop my friend Jane so that she could return to France. I also needed to buy some Calor gas. I returned to the quay and intending to give the engineers a lift to the boat but the wind was too strong for it to be safe for me to return across the bay and the engineers didn’t fancy it either.
Ian, meanwhile was sitting on the boat on his own and listening to the wind whistle in the rigging and the sea slap the sides of the boat. He was staring at the rocks behind, all the time growing more and more anxious about what might happen if the anchor slipped in the ever increasing winds. He decided that the best thing was to call the coastguard rather than suffer another 48 hours of strong winds at anchor.
This he duly did and within minutes the coast guard had despatched a small ferry (Kerras Cruises) to come to our rescue. They brought him in at 6kts strapped to the side of their boat, having patiently assisted Ian to lift 100m of anchor chain. They deposited Linea on the rough concrete jetty at Agia Annas and we were all mightily relieved. It took us a further six hours to sort out fenders, lines, springs, fender boards and anchors ‘til we were happy that we were secure and safe on this, the windward side of the quay.
We slept very well that night despite the squeaking up and down against the tyre on the quay.
Next day, the engineers came and were gasping at how much we were being charged by the ferry company for the rescue. (As were we; but we just glad that we and Linea were safe! – Euros 1500 – ouch!) They had a look at the engine and got it going quite quickly, saying it was air trapped in the engine, ‘like in jail!’
We had to be signed off by a port police surveyor, who arrived in the afternoon two days later, before Ian could claim his papers back. We were up early on Saturday 19th August in the calm of dawn and cast off from the quay without incident, even though we had the tricky manoeuvres of removing two anchors at 90 degrees to the boat. We drove across the bay to anchor again and tidy up. After a quick engine check we smelt diesel again and rang the engineers to ask them to come back to look once more.
They rapidly arrived and came out in the tender. After a quick look they tightened a few nuts and headed off again. We motored all the way to Naxos Town with no problems.
That afternoon, Alice and Ian arrived. We had a lovely evening wandering the alleyways of old town Naxos and ate at Onino restaurant, which was very nice.
Next morning, we prepared for a trip across to Siros in favourable winds. After an hours’ motoring, the engine conked out and so we turned around and sailed back to Naxos Town.
The engineers made their third visit but couldn’t diagnose any problems because, perversely, the engine started and was running ok!
So, what to do, now????
We all felt that a day on the island was a good distraction from these disturbing engine issues.
We hired a car and set off for an adventure across Naxos. We stopped in the mountain village of Koronos and had a late lunch of home-cooked traditional fare at Dalas Taverna, which was delicious.
On arriving back at the car, we saw a stream of oil pouring across the road coming from the sump. We called the car hire company and the owner arrived in another car after an hour.
We had travelled just about half way back when the second car gave up the ghost. The fuel pump had gone!
The hire car owner came to fetch us and we all squashed into the car with the damaged sump and drove back to Naxos. (Cost – Euros 180 since damage to the underside of the car is not covered by insurance – obviously!)
This morning, back on Linea, we were just about to set off again when Ian did his routine engine checks to find coolant all over the engine and in the bilges.
NOT GOOD! The two Ian’s sussed the problem and then walked all over Naxos town trying to find a radiator cap.
All these problems in quick succession have led to a loss in faith and confidence in the engine. Even sailing boats need reliable engines. My strong feeling was that we needed to find someone who could look at all parts of the engine and do a proper service – investigating, thoroughly, the cause of the engine stalling.
We rang the surveyor and he recommended Stratos Karoulis. For Stratos to come to us we needed to be in the marina so I made nineteen calls to the harbour master and finally we decided to just motor in. Sails at the ready, we drove into the marina. We were allocated a place and within half an hour Stratos had arrived and was stripping down the engine.
He removed the high pressure fuel pump and sent it off to Athens to be diagnosed.
So, here we are, in Naxos marina in a meltemi wind.
Today, Alice and Ian left us, having sailed all of 9 miles! We have been so glad of their support during the last few days.
With all these engine issues in both car and boat we just hope we are not jinxed!!
Post script; A week later, Stratos returned with the reconditioned Fuel Pump and replaced it. He checked all the other pipes and tubes and declared that as far as he could see all was well. We need to check the engine under load and for that we will have to motor out for at least an hour to just wait and see how it performs. So we will head south to an anchorage still on Naxos in case we need the services of Stratos again!