Engine Hours 319; Total nights at sea – 6 Nights anchored – 92; Nights on a town quay or in a marina – 72
Nights in the boat yard – 9
Number of guests – 21 – Bill, David, Ang, Lizzie, Alice, Ian, Sam, Rory, Bryn, Jill, Louis, (plus the rest of the family for dinner and drinks,) Jane, Alice, Ian, Erin, Josh, Keira, David, Michael, Alice, Ian
We sailed early from Rhinia and arrived in Siros to be hauled out. Since we have a winged keel
which measures 140cm across we need a trailer wide enough to motor onto with a bit of wriggle room.
Stavros from Atlas boat yard has just the right piece of kit and we were hauled out smoothly and professionally.
We trundled across the Lidl carpark and into his boat yard. It is safe to say that Stavros would be world champion caravan manoeuvrer should he be inclined to enter such a competition.
Stamatis and Georgios Gyparis, Volvo Penta engineers in Ermoupolis (father and sons team) quickly appeared and parts were ordered to arrive on Thursday
That gave us five unadulterated days for partial winterising of Linea, removing scruffy lettering and for cleaning her dirty bottom!
We booked into an Air B n B house high on the slopes of the Chora and experienced vertigo from being so far above sea level.
We spent a few very busy days scraping, polishing, sanding, cleaning and dusting. I even fabric-conditioned our lines to make them soft and pliable again – and they smell lovely.
We met Robert Brons in the yard. Robert owns Morning Cloud 4 (a sailing yacht previously owned by Sir Edward Heath who was a world class sailor, as well as being leader of the Tory Party during the 1970s.) Morning Cloud 4 has been stored on the hard in Siros for twenty years. Robert showed me round this amazing vessel: Built for speed and efficiency and able to sleep ten people in various cleverly designed bunks. It has lots of ingenious original features and various improvements, it would be wonderful to see it restored to its former racing glory.
Robert was currently living on his yacht Saquila which he had sailed from Italy. We spent a couple of evenings swapping stories with him and really enjoyed his company. We were so impressed that he still had the enthusiasm and vigour for sailing at his age – 78 years young. He cycled around town, sorted out his yacht and shinnied up and down the high ladder to Morning Cloud with the nimbleness of someone a lot younger. He is often on the look-out for crew to help him sail his new yacht, so if any of our sailor friends might be interested please get in touch for more information.
One of the best things about being somewhere for a few days is that you really get to explore and find out more about the place. During our stay Siros was hosting the All Greek volleyball championships and an international animated film exhibition and competition held in the beautiful Apollon Theatre that is modeled on La Scala.
We discovered a free shuttle bus that ran all day between the town centre and the sports centre, going right past the boat yards and Lidl – perfect! And we explored the two hills of Siros; one topped by an enormous Greek Orthodox church and one topped with a huge Catholic church. We wandered around the Choras and marvelled at the breath-taking scenes around every corner; the colours, the quaint doorways and the twisted bougainvillea blossoms like an umbrella of fluttering, bright butterflies.
We really enjoyed finding new routes to walk to and fro the boat yard and every day we were rewarded by some new and interesting sight. I particularly loved the completely intact old (but functioning) pharmacy on the main street, which still has all the original mahogany cabinets, shelving, canisters, jars and enamel labels from when it first opened in 1837. (The first pharmacy in Greece.)
We also enjoyed the Industrial Museum which houses an interesting collection of items that reflect Siros’ manufacturing, glass-making, lace-making, printing and shipping past.
After strong winds had passed it was time to be put back into the water. We said thanks and farewell to Stavros, and the Gyparis family who have done such a great job on our sail drive, stainless steel and helm repairs.
Stamatis joined us for the ride across the bay to check that all was well with the engine and the gears. It was all good. We were making 7.5k across the bay because of our gleaming hull, so that made Ian very happy. We parked on the town quay again and were, once again, warmly greeted by the lovely Thanasis.
The day after Josh and Erin left us the wind was finally at more acceptable levels so we sailed off back to Rhinia, our favourite of the islands round here. We had a good sail round to the west side and anchored in a beautiful cove – Ormos Miso.
We had a lovely couple of days here exploring the island and dodging flying shot gun bullets, as the farmers were constantly out hunting birds.
We managed another impressive beach clean-up here: Collecting something like 200lts of plastic debris. The most unusual finds were, curtain hooks, tile spacers, an intact huge electric light bulb.
Most prolific finds; plastic straws, glow bands, balloons, plastic bottle lids, fisherman’s twine and netting.
Good job done; we sailed across to Syros in yet more fruity winds and parked on the quay with the help of Thannasis, the lovely, stylish, colour-coordinated and helpful harbourmaster.
Further exploration inland revealed a beautiful town, marbled paved square and streets, Venetian style Neo-Classical buildings, bulging wrought iron balconies, tall shuttered windows and a charming elegance we have not seen elsewhere. The bay is huge. At its heart is the newly bankrupt shipyard and dry docks. Once providing employment for 2500 people it has just stopped operating some 5 months ago.
In the south part of the bay is a newish mariner which is not properly managed or maintained since it seems no one can agree who should have the contract. So, it is left un-cared for and defunct before it has even been completed. Boat owners use it regardless…for free but it is a shambles.
Ian carried out his daily engine check and discovered that seawater was getting into the saildrive: Another potentially costly repair.
We organised for an engineer, Stamatis and his son Georgios, to check it and he confirmed what we suspected. We would have to be hauled out for the repairs to the saildrive. We agreed to come back in on Friday morning after having dropped Keira in Mykonos.
We had a lovely few days in Ermoupolis, and had the added bonus of meeting up with a Clipper chum of Ian’s called Mike Stephenson who was out on a charter yacht with his wife Amanda and friends. We had a pleasant evening with them and waved them off in the morning.
We headed back to our favourite place on Rhinia, shocked to see a HUGE rock across the entrance to the cove that we had not spotted on our first stay. We took a bearing on the GPS so that we could add it to our chart.
We enjoyed sunbathing, swimming, back gammoning, eating and watching a couple of films. (A fish called Wanda – helping to complete Keira’s film education) and then, all too soon, it was time to head back to Mykonos to say goodbye to Keira as she heads back to the UK after her year abroad.
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!