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.
Having decided on the perfect weather window to get us across to Sicily, a further problem with the alternator meant that we missed the chance to leave when we wanted to. We then had to wait for a few more days to be sure of a three day window. Regrettably, this meant that we were not going to be back in MdR in time to see Gaye and Chris. Bloody boat and weather!
On the plus side though, it did mean that we could ask if Kim wanted to help with the crossing. She said, ‘Yes’, and within 36 hours was travelling to Athens and on to Pilos. We also met Carol and Paul on Swallow and Claire and Pete on Blue Vigil and had good times with them.
We were surrounded by ‘dead’ yachts that had been abandoned in Pilos. What a waste!
Ian was taken off by the port police because they thought he had been trying to remove some of the equipment on board one of the abandoned boats – as if!
On Monday 29th October, we explored a little more of the town with Kim and had our last ever gyros.
We provisioned up for the trip across to Sicily and then spent the afternoon cooking and getting ready to go.
We did not fancy these though!
The next morning we were up at 0530hrs and preparing to drop the lines. Ian started the engine as he had every morning since we had the alternator fixed. It wasn’t working properly AGAIN!
We rang Kostas who came out for a third time, to have another look and try to fix the problem once and for all.
He took the offending alternator away to repair it in Kalamata. Kindly, he offered Ian a lift to Messini as we decided to purchase a generator in case the alternator should pack up during our return to Sicily. This was our back up plan.
Kostas soon had the alternator repaired and was happy with everything. He is going to Sicily on holiday next week so we have arranged to meet up.
When the pilot guide states that the second most southerly cape on mainland Europe has ‘a fearsome reputation’, there is nothing more guaranteed to put the wind up two recreational sailors!
To add to the angst, there are no weather buoys in the vicinity so we had no guide to potential weather or wind on the cape.
Rod Heikell, the writer of the guides, tells of various scenarios on leaving his safe anchorage on Nisos Elafonisos. On one occasion he had left in no wind and then was met by 40kt gusts off the cape. So bad was it that he returned to the island. On another occasion, he had left in strong winds, with two reefs in his main sail and a pocket handkerchief of a jib, and then had to motor round the cape.
Our experience this morning was mixed.
We set off with light winds. We put up the main for stability in the swell. We began to turn more to the east and the wind freshened behind us. We put out the head sail too. We approached a steep bluff towards the tip of the peninsula and the wind picked up to 25kts in the blink of an eye.
We eased the main to spill the wind, rounded up a little and reeled in the headsail in. Being stuck between the busy shipping lane and the coast we had little room to manoeuvre.
The AIS alarm alerted us to a ship approaching from around the corner which as yet we could not see. We were on a collision course in approx 19 minutes, when it would be precisely 89m away.
But, we needed to keep our course!
As we gained some distance from the peninsula the wind calmed a little and we were able to put a reef in. The cargo ship sidled past steering well clear. Then the wind died completely…so I decided it was time for a coffee.
I heard the engine start. All was calm. Coffee making was almost complete and then I heard a shout.
‘We need to put another reef in!’
I brought the coffee up on deck and set it down so that if it did spill it wouldn’t be a disaster.
We set about bringing the sail down a bit. Just as we were pulling in the reefing line when the block holding the line on to the sail broke with a dull but meaningful thud. Ian replaced it whilst I held the boat to wind.
All was fine, and so we decided some headsail was appropriate but not all of it. However, the wind had other ideas and whipped out all the sail and we were flying along in 18kts of wind.
We were leaning over at such an angle that my cushion was sliding off the seat in the cockpit and was glad that I had shut the seacocks in our bathroom. (We were subsequently to discover that the solar shower bag had silently slid off deck and into a watery death at this time, too.)
Within minutes there was a bang, followed by disconcerting flapping at the front of the boat. The shackle holding the headsail up had sheared in half and the halyard was no longer holding the sail in place. Ian went to the front to haul down the sail and lash it to the deck.
Whilst he was doing this he noticed that the anchor had bounced off its place on the bow. He pulled it back and tied it securely to the roller.
After all this we looked down to see that half our coffee had slopped out over the floor and it was less than hot. On top of that, Ian had somehow found time to scoff all the remaining biscuits.
We had an interesting day…and it was still only 1230h!
We had a few very unsettled days of weather in Kalamata with torrential downpours in the afternoon so we got cracking early one morning to set off on a drive.
On the advice of a fellow yachtie and Marina di Ragusa winter live-a-board, we decided that whilst Linea was in Kalamata marina we could do the spectacular drive from there to Sparta. Apparently, this road twists through limestone gorges and is one of the Top 10 drives in Europe.
It did not disappoint.
Seeing the rugged mountains, verdant vegetation, brightly coloured flowers, birds and views was a great tonic when you live life at sea level with water all around. (I am NOT complaining!)
See for yourselves…
Oh, and the scents wafting in through the windows….
I am approaching my 8000th nautical mile and I am finally beginning to feel a little more relaxed on the boat. (Some of the time!)
Recently, we met some new friends, Bridget and Steve on Waxwing of Dartmouth, and inevitably the talk turned to traumatic times we have had to suffer. It was then that Steve posed a taxing question.
‘Given the stresses and traumas experienced when sailing in the Mediterranean, what is it that we enjoy and what makes us want to continue with this adventure?’ he asked.
Hmmmm, I had to confess that I do sometimes wonder.
First and foremost, we have enjoyed learning massive amount along the way.
We have learnt:
To shut the seacocks in the bathrooms if we are sailing on a close haul or beam reach. (Otherwise the water siphons up and floods the bathroom!)
That the wind is either blowing too hard, not at all or on the nose!
To wear shoes on board so that we don’t stub our toes.
To keep everything stowed properly whatever the weather.
To invest in head phones so we can communicate without yelling at each other, especially in stressful situations.
To put up the sun awning up when anchored or moored to try to keep cool.
To tie the anchor firmly to the bow when not in use.
To remember that the rising crescent moon looks very like a fast approaching sailing vessel.
To continue to be stunned by the awe-inspiring sight of the star filled sky.
To keep checking the weather forecasts.
To practise anchoring technique.
To investigate strange noises immediately To check the engine daily according to the RYA ‘wobble’ mnemonic.
To fill up with water, gas and diesel whenever possible.
To use technology, (AIS – Automatic Identification of Ships, Radar or electronic charts) as an aid to navigation and sailing, but not the be all and end all!
To trust our instincts.
That sighting dolphins, turtles and starfish always lifts our mood.
Since there is mostly just the two of us; and not to get schmaltzy; we have had to rely on each other when things get tough. We have had to ‘man-up’ on occasions and are improving at staying calm under pressure. We have had to think in different ways to solve numerous boat problems.
We have had to cook when leaning at a rakish angle. We are constantly having to fix stuff. Especially toilets – often! Generally something breaks every day.
Sometimes it is a simple fix, sometimes it is much more involved. (As in; the Starboard shroud started to twist and break the other day so I had to carry 19.7kg of new ones back to the boat. ) We have had to use our initiative and think quickly or change plans rapidly to fit a new situation and make things safer. For the most part, we have succeeded and that, in itself, brings a certain satisfaction.
It’s true, that you really don’t know what the day is going to throw at you when you wake up (Thanks are due to Sue and Malcolm on Sukama for their insight, which I think is bob on. ) and we are better at reacting and adapting our plans accordingly. We have experienced violent peaks and troughs of adrenaline during the course of our travels which is oddly addictive. Even if the peaks do make me awfully thirsty!
I am pleased to have had time to read, to practise my Italian learning, and to play endless games of calming Scrabble.
I have been gratified to notice that people are making increasing efforts to limit plastic pollution in the seas (although still more can be done everywhere to reduce the amount of single use plastic being produced, used, bought and, ultimately, making its way to the sea).
We have been lucky enough to meet some really interesting and fun people. The other day we were with a group of Greek, French, Brit and Lebanese nationals which was really special.
We appreciate being part of a community of wonderful fellow sailors and live-a-boards who are always happy to share their spare parts, their experience, their assistance and useful advice on all sorts of boaty things.
We have met friendly, kind and accommodating local people almost everywhere. We have eaten some amazing food and cheeses from local producers. We have drunk some world-class wines, some mediocre wines and, occasionally, the truly awful – but it has all been fun!
We have visited some interesting places and seen lots of piles of old stones and enough amphora to sink a ship!
We have had great times making memories with new friends, visiting old friends and faaaaamily.
All of these factors combined have helped to make life enjoyable and to make the stressful times worth coping with.