So here we are, to para-phrase The Beatles, Back in the MddR!!!
We are loving the community feel and the gorgeous November weather.
On Saturday, Sheena, a great friend from uni, who lives in Rome, came for a quick weekend visit.
We had a wonderful time catching up with her and phoning Anne, Trish and Clare, our other Brudenell Avenue housemates from 2″1981-84!
Sheen had to leave on Monday and so we cracked on with some cleaning detail!
Laundry; in the new mini washing machine!
Polishing; all shackles, blocks and pulleys.
Oiling; anything that can move.
Taking down; all sails.
Removing lines and ropes; Running mousing lines instead of halyards and sheets.
Scrubbing; the bimini and sail bag.
De-barnacling: the dinghy.
Fixing; De-rusting and cleaning the bikes.
Bilges; cleaning and disinfecting.
Kim has been a model member of crew. She has cracked on with allocated jobs with gusto and been a great giggle to boot. In amongst, we have been to the beach, the market and to have a fabulous burger lunch at Burger Art!
On Wednesday 7th November Kostas and his friends came to pay a visit.
So far we have had happy hours, coffee mornings, rugby internationals, drinks next door, dinner with Di and John, trash Monday beach cleaning, a presentation about sailing in French Polynesia and much more. It’s a very active community here.
Now we have less than a week left to prep the boat for winter, socialise with all our MdR friends and get our heads ready for our winter season in the Sutski chalet.
As soon as Kostas had left, we slipped our lines and set off from Pilos for the 350 mile journey back to Marina di Ragusa. On reflection, perhaps not the best plan, but we were anxious to get on to ensure that we had good weather for the entire crossing. Unfortunately, it was really lumpy at sea and we hadn’t really had chance to get our sea legs; so we all felt a bit grim.
We had a fast sail for the first few hours then during mine and Kim’s watch, on a profoundly dark night, a squall blew in and hit the main sail hard pushing it across and breaking the preventer line on the boom. We managed to drop a reef in and stabalise the boat but it was a little scary for a while.
The next day brought really light winds so we were motoring for the entire day and night. Finally, we were able to sail again from about midnight on the third evening. During our watch on the third night a flock of birds appeared and showed off with a dazzling aerobatics display at the mast head. Two birds stowed away on board to rest up before setting off on their migratory flight again in the morning.
Whilst Ian was on watch, he called me up on deck at 0130h as we had snagged the keel on a thick line attached to some kind of fishing float. In a matter of minutes, the boat had slowed from a respectable 4.5kts down to 2.5kts.
Just as quickly, we began picking up speed again and were confident that the line had slipped away. It was a good thing it was so heavy and that we were sailing, not motoring. We did not want that size of rope around our propeller.
As daylight dawned, we could make out the coast of Sicily.
As we neared MdR, we decided to have a swim.
a) To wash off the accumulated grime from the last four days without showering, and,
b) To double check that there were no ropes around the keel, etc., before we made any strong turns into the marina.
We were soon showered, refreshed and dressed in clean clothes. We looked south and noticed some threatening clouds. Kim said that they looked like Dementors. Within minutes, the wind had whipped up to 35kts and the rain came lashing down. We had just called the marina to announce our arrival but called them back to say that we would stand off and come in once everything had calmed down. We waited for 45 minutes, staying head to wind and bouncing along the waves that had built up from virtually nothing.
A much-needed chocolate boost was distributed and gradually our heart rates and the weather began to calm down.
We made it into the marina and to our berth with no problems. Although, Ian later revealed, the alternator had a final, almost fatal, flurry to add to the frisson of the moment! It stopped working briefly but then rallied and seemed to recover itself!
There was a wonderful welcoming committee on the pontoon.
After pizza and a good night’s sleep we felt much brighter and on Saturday began to winterise the boat, as well as complete the huge list of jobs; cleaning, repairing, and, of course, socialising.
Having analysed the weather yet again, no amount of re-looking could make it show what we wanted to see. There was just no chance that we could set off for Cephalonia with the predicted low pressure system steaming in to give us a proper beating.
We decided to change the plan in the hope that the low would move out of our way.
So, we headed for Porto Palo on the south coast of Sicily. We had a fairly good sail north and arrived in good time. We anchored in the bay in among many of our friends from MdR who had recently left the marina, it being close to the end of the month and the start of May prices!
The next day we headed in the direction of Syracuse. At least if the weather forecast didn’t change Chris would be able to return home from Catania.
We had a very pleasant sail up the coast and arrived late afternoon. Despite their being heaps of space on Quay 11 – the Town Quay, we were not given permission to go there. We were told to anchor off.
David and Chris went ashore and Ian invited Gwen and Glen from Pardella over for drinks. It was good to catch up.
The next day the wind was due to really pick up from the South West in the afternoon. We decided to go ashore and have lunch near the market with the two Gees. It was such fun and ended up being quite lengthy! Needless to say, by the time we returned to the marina pontoon, the wind was whipping the waves across the bay and not only would it have been wet to go across the bay to the boat, it would have been dangerous.
Luckily, kind people on the pontoon offered to put us all up. We stayed on Pardella and David and Chris on on their neighbours’ (Diane and Fred) boat. It was a noisy night with waves smacking the bow and lines creaking as the pontoon bucked! We had to leave Linea all alone out there and just hope that the anchor was well dug in.
Next morning, the wind was still lashing the pontoon. All the boats that had been moored on the Town Quay had left in the night to anchor off. Linea was still out there.
It continued to be wild. Finally, at about 1800hrs we managed to get the dinghy engine started and Ian and Chris went back to the boat to retrieve Chris’ things so he could fly home the next day.
David, Ian and I made it back soon after saying goodbye to Chris, had a quick supper and retired to bed.
We decided on an early departure in the morning so that we would have some chance of arriving in Cephalonia before Angela and Lizzie had to go home!!
We put the sails up in Syracuse Harbour and sailed for 50 hours. The sea was unpleasantly swelly for the first 36 hours but gradually began to calm down as we approached Cephalonia.
Some miles off shore, we could smell Cephalonia’s unique flora. The heady combination of wild sage, juniper, pine and cypress trees and flowering jamine. It is the most fragrant isle.
We lowered the sails once we were inside the dog leg to Argostoli having made a record Ionian crossing time for Linea. (We had trawled a fishing line the entire way, however, and managed only to catch a bit of seaweed!)
We moored stern to the town quay and put the boat to bed.
By 1200hrs we were having a well earned chicken gyros and a Mythos beer in town with Angela and Lizzie.
Its mid-April and I am sitting here in the Porto Turistico di Marina Di Ragusa whilst the wind howls around us at about 50knots. The boat (A 1992 Bavaria Lagoon 430) is rocking in the wind so much that the cutlery drawer keeps flying open, as if it has been magically enchanted by Mary Poppins!
It’s best to keep busy and distracted so that I don’t find myself worrying about every squeak, creak and crunch.
The music of the marina is clanging halyards, windblown rigging singing and whistling, whipping sail covers and flapping flags that shred themselves sacrificially.
Tonight, there is a proper musical interlude in the Marina Lounge Bar. The music being provided by very talented musical sailors within the marina community together with some locals.
Tomorrow, the wind will have dropped back to more acceptable levels and a few of us are off to join the Kalura Walking group again for a walk in the Sicilian hills nearby.
For the last six weeks Ian has been working his way down his spreadsheet list of 180 boat jobs. He was able to complete some jobs despite recovering from his hernia operation and is now in a position to say that there are only three remaining pre-departure jobs to complete and they are all in hand!
Needless to say, fixing the heads (toilet) is a top priority – again. I had the dubious pleasure of cleaning the whole toilet pan. This involves chipping off the crystals that develop when wee mixes with the salt water that is used to flush the loo! Nice. The joys of sailing.
After arriving back at the boat in mid-March I immediately got on with the job of social secretary; catching up with marina friends and fellow sailors. We had an enormous lunch at the Azienda Magazze buffalo farm with a jolly group and waddled back to the marina full as eggs! Also managed a good few ‘Happy Hours’ at the Stella Marina Bar, a visit to the ricotta farm and a fiendish Bonus Whist session. Its been all go.
We had a lovely week back home with Ian’s mum in late March for the wedding of our eldest niece Sophie and her fiancé Adam. It was a wonderful day and so nice to spend time with all the family. Keira, Erin and Josh were all up north, so it was extra special to be them too.
Since arriving back at the boat, we have completed adjustments to the forepeak guest cabin to make it a little more spacious. (Well, there is room to just about swing a cat!) We have also come up with an improved storage solution for all the boat tools, spares and equipment. It means that it is easier to access everything and there is still room for the bunk room to accommodate one (small) person.
We now have comfortable and hardwearing cockpit cushions and a lovely new sail bag to protect the main sail. A new outboard motor cover, (From Krina on Spray, life raft cover, from Beatrice on Barracuda, and winch covers. I have made new covers for the guard rail pads and handy pockets for sun glasses etc. I also have made mattress covers for the forepeak and some storage solutions for the duvets.
I have covered everything that stood still long enough, in polka dot sticky-backed plastic to jazz u the galley.
I have also had my first attempt at making limoncello. (See the pages part of the blog for the recipe. It was very easy to make and tastes delicious.)
I have had a couple of journeys up to Ragusa with Helena (Amalia) and Aylin for the early morning market there. There’s all sorts available from; bags of ridiculously cheap vegetables; fish, meat, shoes, handbags, clothes, material, even woven palm frond ornaments for Palm Sunday.
I have continued to practise my Italian. Our neighbour Catherine has encouraged me to join her conversation group on a Thursday and I have made bad attempts to chat.
It has been a very pleasant time indeed, made even more so by the delivery of one hundred litres of Frattelli Mazza boxed wine. We have stowed it away. Now, we just have to try not to drink it all before we set sail!
After winterising Linea (Bavaria 430 Lagoon) and leaving her safely tucked up in the Porto Turistico di Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, for a second safe winter; we set off for Longridge and caught up with June, Ian’s mum, and the rest of his family, which was lovely.
We arrived back in Linton, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, a few days later, excited to see Keira freshly returned from a job in France; and already living and working at the Fountaine Inn, Linton. We were soon to see Erin, too, as she was to travel up from London the following week.
We hit the ground running with a spate of socials and sessions.
Soon, like everyone else, we were in full swing for Christmas. Inevitably this involved more trips to the Fountaine Inn, Linton; and eating lots of food.
We did manage to fit in a good few walks when the weather was bright (and sometimes when it wasn’t!) It was just lovely to be back in the Dale and experiencing village life again.
Erin had very little time off from her new job as Assistant Manager of the Miller and Carter Steakhouse in Worcester Park London, so she drove up north after her late shift had finished on Christmas Eve and arrived at 0200hrs in the morning! A flying visit as she had to head back down south on Boxing Day morning.
We had a wonderful day on Christmas day culminating in an evening of hilarity at the Vyvyan’s.
We enjoyed a hearty walk and refreshments with the Heanes, Hodgsons and Plumbs in between Christmas and New Year but I was unable to muster the strength (due to being proper poorly) to join them all for the annual Inn at Whitewell walk from Chipping.
As predicted, time was flying on and we still had so much to do and so many people to see.
Happily, we were able to do a little farm, dog and house sitting which made a nice change. Also, Ian was able to catch up and support his beloved Wharfedale Rugby Club.
I enjoyed going to the gym occasionally in a vague attempt to lose some of the weight I had piled on after a summer on the boat eating far too much feta cheese!
All in all, it was the most marvellous visit home, with added poignancy, since we haven’t been back for any length of time for almost two years. We miss ‘The Shire’, our family and friends very much.
Remember, we would LOVE to welcome you to the boat during the summer if you fancy a bit of camping on water! Please just ask and we will try to coordinate.