Thursday, 8 July 2010

In search of the giant prawns

Thirsty work this flying.

Thursday 10th. June

We wake to see the Oyster getting ready to leave. The ‘crew‘ is on the foredeck and is hosing down the anchor chain as it comes on board. Now that really is showing off.

We get under way soon after and head north towards a small fishing harbour called Petriti. There’s no wind. Not even the slightest zephyr and so we embark on a motorboat trip. The sea is like glass. We make 5.5 knots at less than 2000 revs.

We reach Petritis after 20miles and there, at anchor, is our friend the 57 foot Oyster. The harbour is full and so we anchor again. It’s a bit choppy but we hope that as evening arrives the seas will calm.

The plan is to go ashore this evening and select a taverna to grace with our presence. They’ve got a pretty fine corned beef hash to beat.

Friday 11th. June

Time to move on and this time we cross back to the Greek mainland in search of a taverna at Sayiadha which serves, we are told, the finest prawns to come out of the sea. These are monster prawns - more langoustine than prawn. Jo plots the course. We arrive at a tiny harbour. When I say tiny I mean tiny. Half a dozen boats fills it up and the depth...well, put it like this the echo sounded read 'ZERO' when we moored up and another boat which arrived swears he dug a groove in the mud with his keel on entering. Taking up pole position on the jetty is a Welshman who clearly 'lives' there and said he'd see us when we return in September. He's not going anywhere then.

Sayiadha is interesting. It's on a sliver of land no more than half a mile wide and ten miles long. It separates Albania from the sea - which must annoy the near-coastal Albanians a lot. There's a heavy police and army presence as the hills overlooking the area are Albania and in the past there have been reports of pirate activity and looting. All seems quiet now and such illegal activities seem a thing of the past however we did spot one tree adorned with bottles and a noose. We interpret this as meaning "steal my wine and you'll end up in the noose." Maybe we have a vivid imagination?

We spot a small bird, the twitchers among you will be able to identify it, 'drinking' from a dripping stand pipe while two Greek love-birds get all romantic on the jetty.

There's a small fishing fleet based here, hence the monster prawn speciality, and the local kids use the fishing boats as diving platforms.

We book ourselves in to the taverna and can report that the prawns are every bit as good as their reputation.

This is the end of our Ionian adventure. We've had a great time, seen some amazing places ranging from deserted villages ruined by an earthquake to other villages ruined by being grockle-infested. We've had some great sails, motored more than we'd have liked, had some character-building experiences with an anchor windlass and seen some of the clearest waters and skies ever.

We're back in September but now it's time to return this boat to Gouvia and we fly home tomorrrow.

Thanks for sharing our adventure with us.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Anchor fixed and we're off.

Wednesday 9th. June

Well, last night’s slap-up meal was more slapped-together than slap-up. We opted for the grilled special; pork, chicken and lamb on the spit. The meat was dry and looked as if it had been around for some time. The restaurant was recommended in the pilot book we use but that was written five years ago and things change. We’ll update the author for the next edition.

Today it’s hot – there’s not much wind and Dimitris, the electrician, and mate have turned up to fix the windlass. It’s a sod of a job. The windlass is in an awkward spot in the forward chain locker. It’s held on by four bolts, unscrewing the bolts and the motor drops. It’s heavy. There’s not much room to work and it’s at times like this I am thankful I am not a marine electrician. Dimitris is stoic. Once the cable and windlass are free he’ll have to take them away to remake the corroded connection and then the fun really starts as he tries to put it all back together again. Oh joy.

I did an early morning run to the bakery and bought two croissants for which I was awarded two stars. Sadly I forgot the bread for which I was awarded minus three stars. I am currently into negative equity.

The fishmonger next to the baker had five cats patiently waiting for a few scraps. Very Greek.

The Sailing Holidays flotilla is off to Two Rock Bay today and we are grateful we didn’t time our visit when the flotilla was in. Nice enough people but it’s a bit like turning up at a restaurant and discovering a Saga coach party has just arrived.

The flotilla boats are gradually moving on and a German boat has managed to foul one of the Sailing Holiday boat’s anchor. He lifted his and got one free. Much shouting and swearing in German. Apparently crossed and fouled anchors are a fact of life here.

A tripper boat with Merlin as the figurehead eases out of the anchorage and follows the sister ship. (see pic)

A super yacht, a ketch, moored off the island last night, too big to get in. Not that that stopped them coming ashore. The tansom opened up to reveal a tender garage. She looks very smart but needs a fair size crew to operate. Bet their anchor windlass works!

Dimitris has revealed that he hopes to fix it all here without the need to return to the workshop. That’s a blessing because we did wonder when he’d return once he’d vanished. So far we’ve heard no Greek swearing from the front end…which is more than can be said for us when the damn thing failed!

Good news. Dimistris has fixed it and all in situ. We now have a working windlass and can set off.

We decide to leave Gaios by the northern channel and see if we can spot the abandoned liveaboard yachts Colin mentioned as a possible place for us to moor if we had problems finding a mooring on the town quay. We pass various inter-island ferries, various tripper boats but there’s no sign of the liveaboards.

We head north to Lakka, (first pic) a small town and bay on the north of Paxos. It holds special memories for us because five years ago this is where Mrs. T agreed to become Mrs. T. They say villains always return to the scene of the crime.

We anchor next to a Lagoon 440 occupied by a large German and his equally vast wife who poses on the bow (see pics) . She also has some attributes which are obvious from the accompanying photograph. As you’ll see she has ample pot plants, probably herbs, which she has arranged on the after deck.

We are soon joined by a 57 foot Oyster and for the non-nautical types reading this I should point out this is not some mutant mollusc but a rather smart boat. The guy who we think must be crew hoses down the deck as if water is not an issue and so we assume this travelling palace probably has a water maker.

We dinghy ashore and take cocktails in the terrace bar overlooking the bay. Singapore slings have never tasted so good. We return to the boat for corned beef hash…and before you smirk, let me tell you that tastes pretty good too.

We are in collision in Gaios on Paxos

Tuesday 8th. June

We stirred at 8am, raised the anchor( by hand) and headed west towards Gaios on Paxos. We’ve not been there before although we have visited Lakka in the north and loved the island. There’s no wind and so the donkey provided the power which at least topped up batteries and kept the fridge cold.

We arrived at 11am and it’s a picture postcard place. Narrow streets, sheltered harbour, tavernas lining the quayside – if it didn’t exist you’d have to invent it. Hollywood could not construct a better, more typical Greek island village.

News from Colin is that a Greek electrician will visit at 5pm to look at the dodgy windlass. We tour the town, indulge in an ice cream and beer, top up with provisions from the supermarket and become tourists.

Several ice creams and beers later

The electrician has visited and found the fault – a corroded terminal. He shows me –there’s nothing left, eaten away by the corrosive effects of salt water and electricity. It’s a simple fault to cure but in a pig of a position. He will return tomorrow morning at 9.30ish to replace.

It’s surprisingly quiet here. We expected to have problems finding a slot on the town quay but there’s lots of space. It gradually starts to fill up. A German boat comes along our port side. A British crewed Sailing Holidays flotilla boat comes along our starboard side. I’m on the phone to Colin as it approaches when I hear Jo yell. I hang up on Colin and rush on deck. The boat, a 34 foot Bavaria, has just demolished our horseshoe lifebuoy and fitting. Bits of debris are all over the deck. The Australian who was talking them in says he’ll replace it. We inspect the damage. No damage to the hull or topsides but the buoy mounting is bust. Luckily it was held on with plastic cable ties which gave way when clouted and probably prevented any further damage.

An hour after the collision the Australian appears bearing a new lifebuoy mounting kit. Looks as if this may happen a lot.

We make friends with the Bavaria crew and he says he was grateful we were English and not Greek - the boat flies a Greek flag. He was expecting some animated histronics - we were very British and made sure the upper lip was very stiff.

We take a wander around the town - it is a grockle magnet - a sort of Padstow with sun. We were tempted by the Cats of Greece T-shirt but ended up simply taking a pic.

Tonight we are going to hit the town and treat ourselves to a slap-up meal as a consolation for a crappy time we’ve had with the anchorage and anchor.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The worst day of the trip

Preveza Marina above - Silia below

Monday 7th. June

Time to move on and we decide not to venture into the Gulf and do a spot of dolphin watching but head north again and explore the inland sea when we come back in September. We say farewell to Barry, Derek and Sue – who also return in September so maybe we’ll bump into them again then.

Our plans take us further north on the mainland coast to Two Rock Bay – and that’s also what it’s called on the Greek charts. Apparently it is a magic location. Once clear of the Preveza fairway buoy we head north, crack on some sail and have the best sail of the trip so far. Five plus knots on a close reach with, at times, a little more heel than Jo would have preferred but all perfectly under control. That one tack would take us almost 25 miles to Two Rock Bay. We only dropped the sails when the wind died and we motored the last 45 minutes which helped to top up the batteries and give the fridge a boost.

Two Rock Bay is badly named. There are four rocks in the bay which leads you to think you’ve found the wrong one but a GPS fix confirms we’ve got the right place. Sheer cliffs surround the bay which has the clearest water we have seen. The bay is around 2 metres deep and quite stunning. We pick our spot, we can choose anywhere we like as we have the bay to ourselves, and we drop the anchor. Well, to be more accurate we press the button to drop the anchor. Zilch. Dead as a doornail. We check the switches and all looks OK. Try again, still nothing. Is there a hidden trip we don’t know about? I call Colin who says there’s no hidden trip. Anyway, we drop the anchor manually, mercifully it’s shallow, and then we try to work out why the windlass is not working. After various phone calls and checking of wiring we are none the wiser. The boat’s tool kit is primitive and rusty. Actually it’s rubbish. There’s only one screwdriver and the ‘bits’ for a combination set are there but the holder is rusted solid. There’s no multimeter, no bits of wire and the spare fuses are rusty too. It’s not possible with the kit on board to check whether volts are reaching the motor but it’s starting to look very much as if the fault lies within the motor not the wiring or controller. It’s a bit of a mystery because the windlass worked fine when we lifted the anchor several days ago in Palerios and it’s not been used since and now it’s packed up. Anchors are critical out here because they are the prime means of mooring.

We abandon all hope or finding the fault, settle down for a meal of shrimps in a tomato sauce (Shrimps Provencal, very Greek), curse the windlass and decide to have an earlyish night. We are joined in the bay by another British yacht and I’m tempted to row over to see if he has a meter I can borrow but decide against it.

As I said the water in the bay is crystal clear, the sandy bottom is visible, we can see our anchor clearly. Lots of fish, quite large they are too, swim around the boat. I throw a piece of bread into the water and the sea boils as maybe fifty fish fight over the crust. We dig out the video camera and perform the trick again for the video. It did occur to me that a bit of bread with a hook embedded would be certain to land a fish every time, but I only catch a fish to eat and not knowing what they are and having feasted on prawn provencal I consign my angling activities to feeding the fish and not catching them. They had a feast on the remains of supper.

Two Rock Bay has the reputation of being calm and a stunning place to anchor for the night. It was not calm. We rocked and rolled all over the place and although there was no wind the swell made it very, very uncomfortable. I got about two hours sleep, Jo managed one. After such a great sail the end of the day with a faulty anchor and uncomfortable anchorage marks the low point of the trip.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Jo's Birthday

Sunday 6th.June – Jo’s Birthday

Somehow the postman had managed to find Jo and delivered three cards. Clever people the Greek posties. Various texts came in during the day and thanks to the Preveza free WiFi birthday greetings also land via the internet.

It was a slightly unusual birthday, none of the usual trappings but instead here we are in a foreign marina with people we’ve known only a day all coming by and wishing Jo a happy birthday. Convivial lot sailors.

We decide to spend the day in Preveza, the first time we have spent two days anywhere, So far we have visited a different port every day but it’s Sunday, Jo is a tad older now and so we opt for a slightly gentler day.

We also opt to return to The Mermaid for a birthday meal. It’s much quieter today, the tavernas are open but nothing like as busy. We assume it’s because it’s Sunday, but oh no. The Maitre D at the Mermaid explains that this evening is the final of the Greek basketball league and everyone is at home watching the game. It’s the Greek equivalent of the FA Cup Final and a Test Match rolled into one.

In chatting to the maitre D I mention that it’s Jo’s birthday and two minutes later he appears with a birthday cake. It’s a square of ginger and cinnamon sponge, three scoops of ice cream and a candle. ‘The faster Birthday cake ever’ he declares. He also offers us a birthday drink; I opt for a Mataxa while Jo has a Mataxa and lemonade.

We’ll have to pull this birthday gag more often.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Preveza and armed police on the jetty

Saturday 5th.June

An early rise was prompted by some minor traffic leaving the harbour and so we decided to make the most of the day by setting off early for Preveza via the Levkas canal. The canal links the Northern and Southern Ionian with the road bridge across the northern end opening on the hour. We arrived at the bridge about ten minutes to nine and were one of half a dozen boats heading north. Once through the canal there are really only a couple of places to go; Preveza on the mainland or the island of Paxos. We all fell into line with one flotilla heading to Paxos while our group pointed at Preveza.

The wind was on the nose and we all were under power line astern. The wind increased and towards the end of the trip it had become quite bumpy. We have memories of Preveza five years ago when we visited by road having travelled to look at a boat. We didn’t buy the boat and were equally unimpressed by Preveza however the town, one of the biggest in the area, is the gateway to a large gulf, an inland sea which is rarely visited by yachts and is home to dolphins and giant turtles. We had to see for ourselves. Also, during the time we’ve been here we have been in touch with Barry, the owner of a Moody 346, hoping to meet up as his boat is for sale and Colin, at the marina thinks it may suit us. Barry texts to say he’s in Preveza Marina – so a good opportunity to meet. The entrance to Preveza is well buoyed as it’s a port used by freight traffic and ferries. We follow the entrance channel and pass the town quay which is lined with boats and tavernas. There’s a fair in town with a large ferris wheel a useful landmark as it is sited just beyond the marina. We enter the marina and wonder where to report to get allocated a berth. There’s a conspicuous lack of a harbour office. We opt to take any vacant berth and then seek out the men who must be paid. As we pass one pontoon we notice a Moody 346 and shout ‘Barry?’ to those on board. They seem surprised we know their name. We introduce ourselves and ask what the berthing procedure is. ‘Take anything that’s vacant, it’s free, they haven’t got round to appointing a harbour master yet’. We moor two boats away from Barry on a brand new marina, apparently EU funded, and ours for free.

After sorting out our lines we join Barry with friends Derek and Sue on board the Moody. It’s a nice boat and clearly much loved by Barry. We invite them on board our boat for a 7 o’clock drink and then accept Barry’s invitation to join them for a meal at The Mermaid..a taverna they have discovered.

Preveza has more shops than most of the islands put together so we take the opportunity to re-stock. We were tempted by the fish (see pic above) but could not find a loaf big enough for the sandwiches.

From on board an Italian 'gin palace' moored opposite emerged a rather portly Italian skipper and a rather slim, not to say attractive, crew member. He passed her a package which, when opened up and assembled, turned into a satellite dish. IKEA would have been proud of the flat-pack ingenuity. For the next few hours they watched Italian TV and we were treated to the sound track.

Less than an hour later we hear raised voices and were amazed to see an armed policeman, a Greek coastguard, a fellow British sailor and a rather animated Greek in heated discussion. Actually they were all shouting at each other with arms waving like a semaphore station on speed. It transpires the Greek called the Coastguard who brought along the cop for support to tell our fellow sailor he had to move his mooring. Seemed a bit excessive force but when confronted by a cop with a gun, a coastguard with a walkie-talkie and a demented Greek with attitude it's pragmatic to move on. I helped with the lines and the re-mooring was achieved without a single shot being fired.

Spilia Bay and Palerios

Shopping for provisions consumes a surprising amount of time.

Thursday 3rd. June

Jo paid one last visit to the supermarket (just can’t keep her out of the shops) and we were off. After the trauma of Kioni we were rather pleased with our efforts to spring off the jetty.

A Force 3 SW wind had us making good progress to Meganisi and our favourite bay and taverna with Jerry and Steve in Spilia Bay. We got in around 2pm after a pretty good sail only having to stir the donkey for a brief spell when we lost the wind.

Jerry was there to take our lines and within ten minutes we were sitting on the water’s edge drinking a beer. There’s a table booked for tonight and I’m crossing my fingers that there’s WiFi.

Tomorrow we plan to sail to the Greek mainland, to Palarios, a run of around 12 miles. Oh dear, we are now heading back to base, the halfway point has been reached.

Friday 4th. June

After a quiet night at our favourite spot we emerged gradually into the sun having shared a glass or two more wine than is sensible with Sandra, Pete and Anthony last night – they are here from Manchester.

We slipped the mooring and headed off. The forecast is for SW winds F3, not ideal as we are headed NE, but what do the forecasters know? The winds were SE F3, giving us a nice reach. We trotted along at 5 knots and within two hours we were approaching Palerios.

It’s a small town, maybe village is a better description, with a small harbour. Sadly Palerios is full. There are two boats at anchor just outside the harbour and we make it three. I’m writing this still at anchor. The British boat ahead of us in the queue has now found a spot while the German has given up and moved on. If a slot becomes free we’ll grab it but what’s more likely is that we’ll lie to anchor tonight.

The big decision is whether to go into the town, by far the biggest we’ve seen in days. The boat looks safe enough so we may well venture ashore. If nothing else I may find a WiFi point and be once again united with the rest of the world.

Some time later.

We didn’t go ashore and instead cooked on board and so the delights of the Palarios tavernas remain a mystery.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Ghosts' bells in deserted village.

Wednesday 2nd. June

The village is deserted but we were woken by the ringing of dozens of bells. Had the villagers returned? Were ghosts sounding a warning? Had we consumed far too much Ouzo the night before? No, none of these. Goats, perhaps a hundred of them, had wandered down to the foreshore for a drink and just like Alpine cows they each had a bell round their neck. Did they really drink salt water? Oh yes, as the picture shows.

Anyway, before leaving ‘Earthquake Village’ we went ashore. It was quite spooky. The houses are still standing, albeit with no windows and few doors. The quake didn’t demolish the houses but did destroy the village’s water supply and that is what makes it untenable.

One of the saddest sights we saw on the entire trip was the beach at Port Leone. There was almost as much plastic debris as sand and pebbles.

We walked up to the church and passed a small graveyard on the way. The church was locked up but is clearly tended. The ‘pub’, a part-time taverna, is all but derelict but maybe it’s not sufficiently into the season to justify it opening. Jo peeked into a window of one of the houses and was met by a rat staring back. This precipitated a swift retreat. For some reason she didn’t want to stay.

We lifted the anchor, said a brief farewell to Leighton and Cathy and set course for Kioni on Ithaca, a distance of around 12 miles. There was a bit of wind so we sailed but the wind died and so the donkey kicked in.

We arrived in Kioni just after one o’clock. It’s small and was already quite busy. One of the ‘joys’ of Mediterranean cruising is mooring bows or stern to. We spotted a gap and headed for it stern to. Someone shouted something – we have no idea what he was trying to tell us, but assumed it was not “All’s OK, in you come”. We aborted that attempt and opted for another spot. Just as we got close to the quay mother duck, the girl looking after one of the flotilla, said the water by the quay was shallow. We had four metres on the depth sounder and we suspect she was trying to save the space for one of her ducklings but we decided not to risk the keel of the boat on any hidden rocks. We motored off and decided to go bows to. We got within 6 feet of the jetty when the kedge anchor fetched up. It was an omen, we gave Kioni a miss and went on to Frikes, about 2 miles to the north. It is fair to say that crew relations were under some strain at this point.

We moored up in Frikes alongside a jetty without a problem, one of the few places here where it is practice to moor alongside. There was a Lagoon 380 on the quay, it looked enormous and rather out of place. The Lagoon is one we have been considering but we are now having second thoughts because of their suitability out here. After the agro on Kioni we opted to eat ashore in one of the many tavernas. We also took the opportunity to stock up in the supermarket which also has showers. Not something you get at Waitrose I have to say.

Apart from the disco, which eventually packed-up at 3.30am, we had a quiet night.

Deserted - thanks to an earthquake

Tuesday 1st. June

We are now anchored in Port Leone, but don’t let the Port bit deceive you. It’s no more than a deserted bay which until 1953 supported a small but thriving village. An earthquake changed all that. The town is now deserted save for a church and a part-time pub…strange how these two establishments manage to survive no matter where in the world. Plus ca change!

Today is the first day we have had slightly iffy weather. The sky is overcast, we’ve had a light drizzle but with a wind out of the North West we had a good sail down here. The forecast is for NW 5-6 and with luck our little deserted bay will give us the protection we need overnight. We are anchored next to 'Makarma', a boat from Plymouth owned by Leighton and Cathy, also CA members. They have a solid boat, the sort of craft you want if caught out in bad weather. It’s all brass and teak but sadly neither Jo nor I can recall its make. They are living on board permanently and are now into year two of their cruising adventure. A few days ago we had two couples from the Cotswolds either side. You come all this way and meet the neighbours!

We hope to get ashore a bit later and explore the ruined village. It reminds me a bit of Imber on Salisbury Plain. The village was taken over by the MoD around 1914 and used for combat training. At the height of the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’ it doubled for Belfast! The church is all that remains and it too is tended. Luckily Wiltshire has escaped earthquakes but the army achieved the same result.

The wind was a bit brisk overnight and we kept waking up to check the anchor. It was fine and didn’t move at all but there’s always that nagging doubt when the wind whistles through the rigging and the boat shears around. Leighton and Cathy had to anchor five times before they found a good holding spot.

The Crew

The Crew
On board at Lymington