Tag Archives: blue water cruising

Mary Poppins!

Gosh, Greece is vast!  We’ve been sailing now for six weeks around Greek waters and have still only touched a minute fraction of its coasts which apparently stretch to some 14000km.

How pleasant an experience it has been, too.  Not just because we are more familiar with the boat and parking techniques but because the harbours, bays and town quays are set up for visiting yachties.  There is usually some welcoming person to help take your lines, to organise refilling water tanks, to arrange for a mini tanker to deliver diesel and camping gas and yer man, in his laden pickup, will generally call by in the morning, baskets overflowing with delicious produce; announcing loudly over the microphone mounted on the cab, ‘Pataatas!’ (I say, ‘Potatoes!’)

Which leads me to contemplate the food available here in Greece. In tavernas we have eaten well.  Chicken and tarragon, pork with plums, lamb with wine and vegetables, beef with baked whole onions, Greek salad, olives and olive oil, grilled squid and octopus, marinated sardines, fava bean dip, (‘Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh!’  as Hannibal Lector would say!!) cod’s roe and tomato dip, grilled courgettes and aubergines and all manner of fresh fish and seafood.

All washed down with reasonably priced wine which now comes in far more sophisticated vintages and blends than the rather ghastly retsina of old.  (We bought a bottle by accident and used it, rather effectively, I might add, to de-scale the kettle!!!)

The wealth of edible vegetation in the Northern Sporades is amazing.  Plums are a speciality around Skopelos but there is such a wide variety of vegetation.  From the conifer crowded alpine slopes of the high ground to the lush vegetation lower down.  We have seen walnut, hazelnut, chestnut, pistachio, vine, cherry, fig, plum, lemon and apricot trees.  Nearly every home has some kind of kitchen garden.  Recently, we have eaten a kind of samphire seaweed which looks a bit like lavender but is much more succulent.  It grows on the sea-waters’ edge and is vaguely salty in a perfumed kind of way.  An intriguing seaweed full of minerals and phosphorus, apparently.

Bakeries are another joy, with cheese pies, spinach pies, honey soaked sponges, mille feuilles filled with nuts and coiled rings of stuffed filo pastry that you just know are not going to change shape much when they land on your waistline!  As well as that, there is a fantastic variety of healthy brown, rye, spelt, oat and wholewheat breads.

But, Godliest of Greek goodies, Olympus of oral gratification, the Oracle of the olfactory, the pinnacle of provender, has got to be the humble gyros.  Simple, compact, substantial, tasty, balanced and healthy.

A comforting spongy pitta, (don’t think of those dry oval slippers from home)  cozily encasing grilled slices of chicken or pork, garlicky tzatziki yoghurt and cucumber dip, lettuce, succulent tomato and crunchy onions.  Hmmmm hmmmmm! (Most places now seem to add chips as an added extra but they are completely superfluous to requirement!)

At between €2.40 and €2.80 they are a meal in themselves and extremely good value.

Together with an Alpha, Fix or Mythos beer (€3.40/4) it is Mary Poppins!  –  Practically Perfect in Every Way!

 

Alone again- naturally

Looking at the weather and wind for the next few days we decided we would be able to have a great sail south back to the Gulf of Volos which we had by-passed earlier in the week.  Indeed, it was a gorgeous day and the wind was perfect.  We had been sailing for about twenty minutes when Ian went to check the charts.  I was on watch and had a good look around thinking how nice it is to be sailing and not to have the tractor engine interrupting the peace and quiet of the open seas.  Not even the slapping of the dinghy could be heard as it chased along behind us.

I turned to check the dinghy. GONE!

Shouting for Ian I explained that the dinghy had escaped again.

‘Dinghy’s gone!’  I said as directly and simply as I could.

‘Where?’ Ian responded, rather unnecessarily, I thought at the time.

‘Back there,’ I explained as precisely as I could, under the circumstances.

‘Right, go and set a course back along our track but slightly to the right and then get on those ‘knockers and see if you can spot it.’

Houdini, the naughty dinghy.

No sooner said than done!  I could see the miscreant dancing along the waves about a mile or so away.  If it had had arms, it would have been waving vees at us from each hand.  Two other yachts were already heading towards it.  Would they take it hostage?  Quick!  Gun the engine!

With only the loss of one particularly useless boat hook whose handle came right off in my hand when I grabbed the dinghy, we managed to get the beggar back and firmly tied on to the back cleat with a safety loop that even Houdini couldn’t have got out of. Without further incident or insubordination we anchored in a quiet bay in the south east corner of the Gulf of Volos. Now, we are on holiday!

Mamma Mia

The next morning, we set about delivering laundry and provisioning up.  We left at about midday for Skopelos, the island where some of Mamma Mia was filmed.  We arrived in a large bay on the west coast but after trying to anchor unsuccessfully decided to go in a secluded inlet off to the south and took a long line ashore.  Soon it was beer o’clock.  What a lovely quiet spot – oh, apart from a noisy bunch of Romanians larking about and having fun!  How very rude!!

The wind was good from the south the following day so we had a fantastic run to the northern tip of the island and then tacked down the eastern flank.  We were in strong winds so couldn’t stop to take pictures of the headland with the church at the top of hundreds of steps where the wedding scene was filmed but the whole thing put us in the mood for watching the film as we listed to the score and sang along with all the tunes.

‘Do you think that’s it?’ Alice asked me casually, as we approached the headland from afar and were trying to pick it out from its backdrop through the binoculars.

‘I do, I do, I do!  I replied.  Which set us off – hooting hysterically.

Ah, little things…

We had a great dinner out and a leisurely start in the morning -this time aiming to close the circle and set of up the west coast again.  We parked up in a little harbour called Nea Klima.  It looked like a nice place, however, the constant slop from the waves rolling right in the mouth of the harbour would make for a noisy and uncomfortable night so we returned to the same inlet from the other night.  There was a bit more of a performance this time getting parked up but it was all good practice and I am now more confident about using the dinghy and tying up lines and bringing them back to the boat as Ian reverses in.  I dare say that we could even manage to do it with just the two of us.  But for now it was luxury to have Ian and Alice’s help and support.

On the Thursday morning, we set off back to Skiathos and arrived early enough to find a place on the town quay.  All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Alice and Ian.  They headed off to the airport after kindly helping us with laundry collection and shopping, including the purchase of a huge new gang plank from a Greek version of Merrit and Fryers.

Massive jet coming in to land on the shortest runway in Europe.

Ian checked the recently occupied cabin and found Daggett items.  So, we wandered round to the bottom of the airport runway, a mere kilometre from the quay as they walked down from the airport and we met in the middle.  Just in time to witness a plane come in to land literally metres from our heads.

Watch out for flying stones!

As if that wasn’t excitement enough, there, minutes later, coming straight at us down the runway was a plane preparing to leave.   After a neat pirouette it faced away from us into the oncoming wind.  We, along with about forty other onlookers were standing there taking selfies and holding up cameras to record the take off.  I wimped out and walked back a few meters to hide in a drive way whilst the jet engines roared to life and the full force of their power could be felt as a blast of hot air, sand, dust and small stones shot back over the people and pebble-dashed every one of them.

Back at the boat,  we met David and Sarah on Rozinante as they came in to a space beside us and we soon struck up conversation over a couple of beers.  We had a further three nights here enjoying the town, harbour and company.  We had yet more boat jobs to do.  The bowsprit that holds the genaker down had come adrift recently so we needed to try and find something substantial to hold it back in place.  Our kind neighbour David Beanie dug around in his useful bits and bobs box and came up with something that might just do the job – a huge bolt, complete with nuts.  Perfect.  From now on, in memory of Bob Monkhouse and the Golden Shot, between us (and maybe to his face) he will for ever be referred to as, ‘Beanie – the Bolt’!!

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!!

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!