Sail away with Paul Chopin.
A blog highlighting the steps taken to purchase a yacht, getting out to sail her and the adventures, not to mention the cost(!) in putting her to sea.
2018. Leaving Greece for Gibraltar.
Flights to Preveza from Gatwick leave 06:05 tomorrow so we had Daniel kindly take us to the airport today and we spent the night at the Premier Inn. Room good but there was a strong smell of 'paint' wafting through the corridors.
Up at 03:15. Showered and ready to leave by 04:00. The other good point about this particular hotel was the closeness to the departure gates. It was a case of crossing the road! Flight left Gatwick slightly later than it should have but made up the time in the air. A smooth landing, a bit of a wait for the luggage to arrive and then a visit to Avis to hire a car for a few days. The Marina is less than five minutes drive from the airport so it wasn't long before the shock hit me. I put the ladder up to the side of the yacht and climbed into the cockpit. The top deck was awash with Sahara sand, cut pieces of cable ties, the odd coffee cup and all of the tarpaulins that had been used to cover the hatches were no longer doing their job. The cockpit doors were open so I went inside. Every single cabin, saloon, galley and heads were just cluttered with the items we had stored so carefully at the end of last season. I appreciate that I had asked for work to be done to the yacht but I expected all of it to be completed before our return, with everything put back in its place. Some of the work I had asked to be done wasn't finished, other work had been wrongly completed, and one job I don't think will ever be completed! A trip to the technical office to ask what's going on, to find out when I can take ownership of the boat and to get a room for the night, at their expense. Thankfully the Technical manager sorted out a room for us and said the work would begin tomorrow at 07:00 and shouldn't take more than a couple of hours.
Showered by 07:00 (05:00 UK time!) and it was a case of waiting for Helen to wake up and get ready. We had to register with the port police before getting the yacht in the water but I thought we'd stop by the yacht to see how the work was progressing. Nothing doing, there were work bags in the cockpit but no workmen. And this was at 10:30! A drive through the tunnel and into Preveza to do a bit more shopping, register with the port police and a stroll along the town quay. Back in the marina and more discussions to find out when the work would be finished. Come back at 14:30 I was told. I did, only to be told by the engineer that it's going to be at least another 2.5hrs. A return trip to the main office and the technical office to inform them that I would retain the room key in case I needed to stay there another night, at their expense. However, I was told that the technical manager would meet me again, by the boat to review the situation. By this time it was gone 17:00, but the good news was the boat was now 'back to useable'. They would return tomorrow, around 10:30 (Greek time) and calibrate the radar and run through all the functions of this and the AIS. Hooray.
Yesterday's bill was still playing on my mind so I went through it again. I noticed that I had been charged over 100€ for a rope clutch. As I hadn't purchased one or had one fitted I phoned up the marina. After several phone conversations they informed me they had "inadvertently" charged it to my account. Whilst at it, I asked for the remaining sand paper and insulation tape that had also been added to the account. Unfortunately I have to return to the marina to pick up the refund! Another walk around town, this time for provisions and then attended to a few small tasks on the boat. Weather has got worse, raining for most of the afternoon, restricting what could actually be achieved. Tomorrow we return to the marina and then set off across the bay to Preveza.
It had been raining half the night, but thankfully the first half. A bit of a lie in, getting up around 09:00. The trip back to the marina was less than 2 hours duration so there was no point rushing to leave. A leisurely tidy up, emptying of the bins and Au revoir to Kevin and Mandy before casting off. The anchor was raised but I was told by Helen to go back as the anchor chain was going under the hull. Slowly the boat began to go in reverse but too quickly we were nearly over the chain of Kevin's yacht. Now that would have been embarrassing! Once out of the harbour it gave me the chance to raise the main sail (although very little wind) and sort out the reefing points. Once done we were underway but it wasn't too long before the main was dropped and engine power took over. Just outside Cleopatra marina I radioed ahead to get instructions as to where they wanted me to moor. One of the assistants came out and directed me to a spot on the outer wall, and once moored up I trotted off to the Chandlers to claim my refund. 122.46€ for a rope clutch that they had 'inadvertently' added to my bill. Whilst there I asked for the remains of the 1m roll of sand paper and 25m of insulating tape that I had been charged for but not given. I wasn't going to allow them to use it on another clients boat then charge them the same amount! Back to the boat it was a quick clean up of the seagull mess that had been deposited in my absence before heading across the bay to Preveza town quay. Spot located we were in reverse anchor dropped in stern to the wall in minutes. Not quite the same story of a catamaran that tried to initiate the same move. Three men in a boat (without a clue) were back and forward many times, and when they finally did drop their anchor it was too close to the wall. Up anchor and several more attempts, (although they did a very fine job of nearly fouling their prop with one of their mooring lines left dangling over the side of the cat) before they finally came in.
Rain again during the night but this time heavier and for longer. Wind had also picked up and there was a bit of a swell. Helen got up around 04:30, and woke me up to tell me she was adjusting the passerelle. That was kind of her! By the time we had got up the rain had abated and there was a break in the clouds. We're we in for a sunny day? We had decided to leave Preveza town quay and head for Meganisi. Initial thoughts were to go to Spartakhori but Helen wanted to find a bay to anchor in. I thought we could get to Levkas swing bridge within the hour but the passage was to take around 90 minutes, so instead of getting through at 11:00 we slowed down and went through at 12:00. Coming the other way we were greeted by Kevin and Mandy who obviously had stay on the Levkas town quay. Very light winds along the channel and once through was no better so we motored all the way, passing some acquaintances we meet in Vonitsa. We went to the north east corner of Meganisi and found a bay all to ourselves. Having dropped the anchor I was concerned that we might swing to much and said we'd find another bay to stay in. The next one had a couple of yachts already at anchor, was wider than the previous one and looked more promising. As we passed the first yacht I asked how much chain he had down. 90 came the response. My goodness me, that's an awful lot of chain, more than I've got. He then added, "feet, not metres". Phew, that's a lot better. I manoeuvred myself between the two yachts and we dropped the anchor, and laid 30 metres of chain ourselves. That should be plenty unless it blows a gale! The Greek waters pilot recommends that a long line is taken ashore. Somewhere in the depths of the yacht I have one and, having turned the boat upside down looking for it, I eventually found it in the last place to search. We now have a long line reel attached to the side of the yacht but it hasn't been put to use yet!
By the time we had got up this morning the cat had left and the Canadians were somewhat quieter. All of the rain over the last few days had brought with it sand so the deck required a good clean, and to get rid of the mess left behind by the birds! All the cleaning completed by 11:00 we set course for Sivota, and hopefully will find a spot moored to the wall where we were last year. We arrived and hour and a half later and, thankfully, there was one remaining spot left, between an old ketch and a small fishing boat. The anchor was dropped and we went straight in, with the good fortune that the anchor held, despite all of the weed it had to cut through. Another late breakfast and it was a case of chilling out for the rest of the day. Three more yachts came in after us. The first with three Brits on board, the new owner of the boat, the old owner of the boat and a friend of theirs. I went to help them with their lines. Once tied up they tested to see if the anchor held. It didn't, so they went out again and repeated this another three times. In the end they gave up and went off to look for a different spot to moor. The second yacht came in next to the one I was helping and whilst the first yacht was going out again I took the lines of the second yacht. They had no problem with their anchor. Nor did the third boat that took the same spot vacated by the first! Later on this evening we shall have a meal at the Family Cafe to pick up the wifi and to use their electric. This way Helen will be able to view some wedding that's apparently taking place tomorrow. At the same time the FA cup final is being played! Still, I'm quite content to give both a miss. (Any golf or motorcycling on at the same time?)
An easy day today but up very early, 04:30! Trying to sort out the wifi booster aerial and the wifi connection together with installing a VPN, just so that Helen could watch the wedding from the boat. Little/no success, connections made but didn't last long, so back to bed for a couple hours more. Up again and further (futile) attempts all the way up to 11:30 (UK time) when I managed to get a weak connection with intermittent buffering, by which time Helen had decided to go to the bar to view it. Whilst this was on it gave me the chance to do a spot of washing, so everything is clean and fresh once again. All jobs out of the way the remainder of the day was put to good use - resting!
We are leaving Sivota and will be heading for Fiskardho, on Kefalonia in the north east corner. A short journey, less than 10 nm, so there's no rush. It's very likely that we will be anchoring again, a chance to test out the 'long line' that I fitted to the yacht a few days back. Left Sivota just after 11:00 and set off for Kefalonia. Hardly any wind, between 2 and 5 knots so motor on all the way. Main sail did come out for a short time but really not much use. Once inside the bay for Fiskardho it was eyes peeled as to where we could drop the anchor and run the long line ashore. A suitable place had been spotted and the anchor dropped and the yacht manoeuvred into position. The kayak was then put over the side, brought to the stern, and off I went with the long line trailing behind me. Once attached to a ring on the wall I returned to the boat to tighten up both the anchor and long line. The anchor didn't hold and I had to ask someone walking along the shore to release the long line so I could reset it. However, the delay in releasing the line meant that we were getting closer and closer to shallow water and rocks, to the point where the bottom of the rudder just caught a rock. Thankfully no damage has been caused. It was time to leave Fiskardho and look for another spot. Two bays further south we came into a lovely tranquil place to anchor. The first attempt got the anchor set but with the wind shifting we were moving closer to the rocks again. The second attempt had much more anchor chain down, we were further away from the shore and the long line moved to the other side of the boat to reduce the risk of swinging towards shallow water. Bearings taken, checked several times and all seems good. Fingers crossed for a peaceful (wind free) night.
A very relaxing day today. Up just after 08:00 as I had gone to bed the night before at 21:00! My son's birthday today so a text message sent to him. A quick response, somewhat unusual, but as he's no longer in gainful employment I suppose he has a bit of spare time on his hands. He's currently in Las Vegas, his favourite holiday destination and when he received my text message he was just off to see a show! It was a perfect night last night at anchor, extremely peaceful so we have decided to spend another night here. Just a couple of tasks to do before the day is my own; wash the boat of all the Sahara sand that descends with the rain, and set out a second long line to the shore. Once those have been taken care of it was a case of swimming, kayaking and cave exploration. At the head of the bay there is an entrance to a cave. Could easily be overlooked but once inside it opens out into a vast underground maze of tunnels and storage areas. During the Second World War it was used as an ammunition store. Tonight there are an extra three yachts at anchor, five of us for at least the second night, so it shows that this is a popular place to anchor.
Well, who could resist it, we've decided to spend another night here. The only sounds are the waves lapping against the shore, and the occasional motor - car, scooter or waterborne craft passing by. The temperature is in the high 20's and the winds (apart from the odd gust now and then) not sufficient to move a tissue. Time spent today; cleaning and sorting out the two aft cabins in preparation for the crew joining me in late June, and plenty of swimming / kayaking. Oh what a life we lead! Late afternoon we had a visit from the Port Police, new regs, all yachts have to moor at least 200m from a shore (swimming area he meant otherwise we would all need very long anchor chains!) This meant that the three yachts closest to the beach had to move. We were the third. Long lines taken in, up anchor and off we set, another 100m or so further away from the beach. The first yacht decided to find new grounds, the second yacht is still on our port side, and we have new neighbours on our starboard side, from Worthing, funnily enough, they live at the top of Hayling Rise, the road mum use to live along. Small world. We had to set the anchor three times as we were now dropping it in over 15m of water. The second time it was set I swam out to see if it was holding, it was but only about 10 - 15m ahead of the boat. Not safe enough! As we had vacated our spot another catamaran came in to anchor, right where we were! I wonder whether the Police will return? Have been told to include, Helen got stung (twice) by a wasp.
Looking at the weather forecast and the white horses racing along the channel outside of the bay, we have decided to stay here for yet another night. The forecast was predicting gusts up to 30kts, and as we were securely anchored in, and at least 200m from the swim area, it made sense to stay put. Having stayed out of harbours / marinas for over three days supplies were running short. We decided to take the kayak to the other side of the bay, lock it securely to a tree and walk into Fiskardho. Twenty minutes later we were outside one of the restaurants we visited last year and managed to get their connection to the Internet. Emails checked and sent it was time for a quick drink before shopping and heading back to the boat. On our return to the bay, anchored in the middle of it was a yacht that looked very familiar. It turns out to be the one that rammed me in Kioni, Ithaca, last year. Fortunately the Spanish lawyer is not in charge of the yacht so I can stop worrying! It is now 15:26 and the winds have yet to materialise, still better to be safe than sorry. However, the winds are predicted to be even stronger tomorrow. Decisions, decisions,decisions!!!
Having spent four nights in the delightful bay we thought it a good idea to move on, if only to re-provision the vessel. We had in mind going on to Efimia, so just after 10:30 the two long lines were brought in and the anchor raised. As we were going down the east side of Kefalonia we kept venturing into the bay's to see whether there was a suitable anchorage, either for now or later. We did come across one, occupied by a large cat, but as the wind was getting decidedly stronger we thought it best to continue to Efimia. Just outside the harbour the winds were gusting to 24+it's so, if a space along the quay was available we would take it. The harbour master met us on our approach and directed us to our spot. Very helpful, he even took in our mooring lines. Once sorted out, our neighbours on our port side, (the ones who left the bay the day the Port Police told us to 'move along there now'), allowed us to fill up the water tank using his pipe and water. Shopping done, I thought that it would be nice to have a meal out for a change. The local was across the other side of the road. A very nice meal was had together with a free dessert. Excellent.
We had only intended staying one night so once the (high) mooring fees were paid, the boat was prepared for setting off. We planned the passage for Vathi, on Ithaca, but Helen had different ideas. She had looked at the Pilot Guide and had found an anchorage on the south east corner of Ithaca, Ormos Pera Pighadi. The steep slope above is called 'Koraka' corresponding to the Korax in the Odyssey. On arrival there were already a couple of yachts at anchor but there was plenty of space for a third. Anchor dropped with plenty of chain, a long line taken ashore it was time for a swim, a kayak and a read to finish my book, another Russian classic, Virgin soil by Ivan Turgenev. Later that evening the two yachts here before our arrival went off but a large catamaran came to join us. A bit of rocking and rolling but this subsided after a short period and a restful night’s sleep was had.
Up at 08:00, first things first, a refreshing swim. The catamaran were preparing to leave just as a super yacht, the Orion, flying a Finnish flag was approaching. The cat left, the Orion dropped both of its anchors and reversed towards the bay, spoiling our view of it. Nothing else more to do, other than have another cup of tea, and then off. We set off for Kioni, on Ithaca, a lovely little harbour with three windmills at the entrance to the channel. It gets very busy here and already yachts are charging in, past us, to see if they can get on the quay. We have already decided to anchor and take a long line ashore. Once at the anchorage we found our place and set about dropping the anchor and going astern. The anchor appeared to be holding so I took the two lines ashore and set them in place. However, once back on the boat, it seemed as though the anchor wasn't holding and we set it a further three times before I was happy with it. It was a baking afternoon so another swim was called for. A spot of reading, Quo Vardis - a narrative of the time of Nero by Henryk Sienkiewicz, some more time spent on the water in the kayak and then rest. Life is bliss but short on Mythos!
Such a pretty island who could leave it, so we are staying for another night. As such it was time to clean the yacht once again. The blessed sand brought with the rain discolours the deck, turning it a light orange colour. Not what I want so buckets and buckets of sea water, a mop and plenty of toil to get it respectable again. However, using sea water means that as it dries out it leaves salt crystals on the Windows, so Helen is there with the window cleaner. Next, all of the chrome work needs to be done, so another couple of hours of toil. After that it was time for a swim, to cool down. A kayak trip to the beach to get a few provisions and then back to reading. Later that evening a fistful of yachts arrived, hoping to get on the quay. Little chance, you have to get here before 12:00 in order to guarantee a spot. So it was entertaining to see some do it really professionally, and a couple struggle and take ages over it. One in particular, with at least eight Austrians on board (no offence Thomas) took well over an hour to get there!
We had discussed last night that we would stay here another night, but this time, once the quay had cleared of some of the yachts, to go over to the other side. This was the initial plan, but my mind was changed when Helen said to go to Kastos. Off I went to bring in the 'lazy' long line, in the kayak and on returning I suggested to Helen that she bring the other in as she might not be able to release the other line off the cleat. There was no need to take a paddle, or so we thought, as she could be pulled back to the boat by holding the line. At the shore I release some of the line so she could unclip it, which she did. Then she was going to throw it in the water for me to haul in, but realised that she needed to hold on to it in order to get herself back to the boat. By this time it was too late, the inevitable happened. The wind was pushing the boat to one side, and, despite being in reverse and releasing more and more line, she was dispatched into the water! Thankfully she was still holding on to the end of the line, managed to get back on the kayak and was pulled back to the boat. Once out of her wet clothes we set course for Kastos, some 14nm away. Hardly any wind, less than 5kts, it was motoring there. As we approached the island I saw a large ball fender in the water. Thinking it couldn't be a fishing pot, in over 100m of water, I thought it a good idea to practice our MOB (man over board) recovery. On our first attempt we retrieved the fender only to find it attached to a much longer line, it was a fishing pot! However the MOB recovery was successful. Within half an hour we were at Kastos, saw a space between the first and second moored yachts and were in and all sorted out within five minutes. There were several persons on the quay willing to assist with our lines, but even so, an excellent manoeuvre. I thought that would be it for today but no, there was more to come. A Bavaria 46 Cruiser tried to find a place to moor between two yachts, the gap not wide enough for it to get in, and got tangled up in one of the anchor chains. Once free of the chain it decided to leave the bay, not to return. A little bit later another Bavaria, this time a 56 Cruiser came in and was looking to find a place to moor. Unfortunately it came too close to a number of chains already set out and, with the wind pushing the yacht sideways, got caught up on at least four of them and was broadside to them, resting on either their bows or stern, and squeezing them back against the quay. It took a lot of effort to get the yacht off the chains and without damage to his or the other boats, but everyone rallied round and managed it. The bow anchor was taken out by tender and dropped at a point to pivot the yacht when the stern was pushed and pulled by two other tenders. Needless to say, the skipper was very apologetic and bought beers for those affected before heading out of the bay. Leaving three of the four yachts to re-set their anchors. What's with owners of Bavaria Cruisers! (Oops, I own one). All in a day's sailing!
After the excitement of yesterday we decided that we would stay here another night and see if there was a repeat of the 'carnage' caused. I can report that there was no repeat of yachts ripping up chains of those boats anchored, which, in view of those that had to re-set them was a good thing. We did have a couple of yachts moored close to us that struggled with the 'Med mooring' system, and one in particular, helmed by a person with 'yacht master' qualification, panicked somewhat on reversing, and caught the edge of his bathing platform on the quay as he approached it. He left the wheel to see what was going on up at the bow and failed to realise that the boat was still in reverse! Absolutely no need to do this as there were three on board!
The rest of the day was spent reading, swimming and uncrossing anchor chains, and trying to drill holes in my sea- cock plugs with an electric drill that had a flat battery and no shore power to charge it.
It was moving day today. An early swim before the other boats started moving off the quay. We were off to find a nice quiet anchorage at the top of Meganisi, about 15nm away, and headed for Ormos Abelaki. Half way there I managed to get my washing done by hand, as we need shore power to use the washing machine. On entry to the bay there were plenty of coves along the way but we wanted to get as close in as possible to enable us to walk in to Vathi. We found a perfect spot in about 5m of water, dropped the anchor and reversed towards the shore. Some 25m away we stopped and I swam to the shore with one of the long lines to get it attached. The second one, heavier than the first, required the use of the kayak, so this was put in the water, and the lines taken to the shore. All in all, it took less than 20 minutes to get everything done, commented Helen. Some more reading, Quo Vardis is now finished, and later on a trip to the shops. (The walk to the shops has been put on hold until tomorrow, too hot!). Later that evening the winds picked up. Good for charging the batteries but, as it's coming from the north, and we're facing north, a bit of pitching up and down.
The winds have died down and the sun is already setting the tone for the day. The usual swim before further activity, which is more swimming, kayaking, lazing around and that walk into Vathi. Before it got too hot we made it into town and bought the provisions, rather expensive, but they do have to come in to the island by ferry. Once back at the boat it was more swimming to cool down, in every hour or so. In the afternoon we were joined by another yacht, with a name that sounded rather familiar, Skylax from Cowes. I mentioned this to Helen and she immediately got the Pilot guide out. The yacht belongs to Rod and Lou Heikell, the authors and authorities of many Pilot guides around the globe she said. Can't be, I must enquire, so off I went in the kayak to check it out. Sure enough, they were the owners. A short conversation was had before returning back to my boat. The neighbours on the other side of us asked Helen if she would like a go on their paddle board and she jumped at the opportunity. After she had her go I then had my play on the board. Nice calm flat water and it was a breeze. Not sure how I'd be if the water was choppy?
Not much to report today, other than we're staying put for another night, our esteemed yachting neighbours have moved on, and I've started another book, 'The ragged trousered philanthropists' by Robert Tressell.
Time to move on to our next 'port of call', we're heading northwest for Nidri, on the eastern side of Lefkada about 6nm from our current position. We intended to anchor in Tranquil Bay, but a couple of attempts at setting the anchor failed so I decided that we would go further into the bay and anchor in Vhliko Bay. We stayed here last October and knew that the anchor would take. However, it took three attempts before the hook cut through the weed and bit. The water is the same colour, pea green and no chance of looking at the bottom, but there appears to be no jelly fish here. It was swarming with them last year. Not going to go swimming though just in case! More's the pity because the temperature is in excess of 30*C.
A very peaceful night in the bay but as it's not the prettiest of bays warrants only staying the one night so time to move on. We need to do some shopping so we shall drop anchor at Nidri and take the kayak ashore to get the provisions. We left Vlikho just after 10:30 and minutes later we had anchored in Nidri. On the times that we had driven through Nidri I thought I had seen an AB supermarket up on the main road but after walking to the road not one was in sight. On returning to the heart of the town we found a couple of small supermarkets which had all the items we were looking for. Back to the kayak, back to the boat and by midday we were off again, this time heading for Port Atheini to meet up with Roger of the 'Black Rose' sailing yacht. Port Atheni is not as pretty as the other anchorages on Meganisi so maybe just a single night here.
A bit of a noisy night last night. The Greek taverna had its karaoke night along with Zorba the Greek, and a neighbouring yacht was quite chatty until all hours. By the time I had got up, 08:00, several yachts had already departed, and we intended leaving around 11:00. My swim could wait a bit as I would need to get in the water to take the long lines ashore at our next stopping point, back to Ormos Abelaki. And as this was only a few (nautical) miles there was no rush. On arrival we found that the same spot where we were last time was still available, and the Spanish yacht was still there, but just about to leave for Sami. All done, from picking up our anchor in Port Atheni to dropping the anchor and taking the lines ashore was concluded within the hour. It's just gone midday and too hot to do anything other than read or swim!
Oh what a night! (There's a song in there somewhere). Once all the crew on the Neilsons yachts had surfaced all they began to talk about was the 'wind' during the night. What had they eaten? I knew that our yacht was pitching up and down at some point but I didn't think it was all that bad, especially if Helen slept through it. Anyway, it was the story of the morning. After my swim Helen and I decided that we'd go for a walk. I thought to Vathi, but when we got to the shore we walked in the opposite direction. A pleasant walk along the coastline, heading out of the bay and towards Port Atheni. The temperature was rising so when we got to the point we could see where we had anchored a couple of nights ago, it was time to turn round and head back for the boat. A bit more swimming and reading - until the Kindle ran out of charge, so then I was left with no choice but to do some washing. Later in the afternoon our Belgian neighbours returned. They had intended to sail to Sami but experienced high winds, 29kts+, so decided to shelter in Vathi, on Ithaca, in the bay. During the night they claimed that the winds had got to such a strength that they thought their anchor was dragging, along with those yachts around them! Not wanting to spend any more time than was necessary in these conditions, once the winds subsided, they headed for their safety net, this delightful bay in Ormos Abelaki.
Up at 07:00, the sky was not as clear as it had been for the last few day, but I suppose one can't have everything. Despite this morning swim was taken and so refreshing. The Brits on our starboard side were leaving this morning, heading for Kastos. They needed to get there early to guarantee getting a mooring spot on the quay. Once they were ready for the off I helped them with their mooring lines and they needed an extra pair of hands, they did not have an anchor windlass and needed to pull it up by hand. A walk into Vathi was next on the list, just to get a small amount of provisions, but also, just for something to do! A quick walk around the village and then shopping. On the return journey we took a different route, slightly longer with a series of steps to climb but avoided the steep hill. Somewhat easier I think, especially in the heat. During the afternoon the book was completed, I don't think I'll be recommending it, but once started I feel compelled to finish it. Later our Belgians friends on our port side decided that they would be heading for Nidri. The forecast is for stronger winds and they wanted the security of being attached to a pontoon. Reading the forecasts, by Friday mid afternoon we are going to have winds gusting over 30 knots, so either we need to find shelter somewhere before Friday, or make sure we are prepared for the winds when they arrive here. It might mean taking a trip out of the bay to attend to our holding tank!
Up very early this morning, 06:30. The heat had started to build and so the daily ritual commenced, a swim in the crystal clear waters, even clearer than usual. Whilst swimming around I came across two items of interest. The first, a pair of glasses - so I'm not the only one that loses them over the side of the boat! the second, a large plastic wine goblet. The goblet was extracted from the depths and put on the pontoon, the glasses brought back to show Helen that others are just as clumsy as me. The bins had been emptied and the waste disposed of, the first long line brought back to the boat and the second was left until Helen got up. By 08:30 we were in a position to begin the off, the passage was plotted on the chart plotter, the second long line brought back to the boat and Helen got to the bow in readiness to start taking up the anchor. By 09:00 we were moving out of the bay and heading for Kioni, on Ithaca, a passage of about 16nm. As we headed round the rocks / (very) small islands at the entrance to the bay I could still make out the bottom of the water at a depth of 12m. As we passed along the east side of Meganisi the wind was less than 3kts, but once clear of the island the winds built up to 10+knots so the sails were out and, as the kayak was bouncing about in the water behind the yacht, this was also brought on board. By 12ish we were in the channel leading up to Kioni and within 15 or so minutes we were moored up on the quay. By mid afternoon most of the places on the quay were taken but that didn't stop one Capt. trying to squeeze his yacht in between me and the yacht on my starboard side. Once he had got back to just before the beam of my yacht it became obvious to him that it was not going to be possible!!! He did, however, manage to go alongside the end quay, usually reserved for tourist boats, but as the time had passed 15:00, it was now available to use. Other yachts that were coming in were going on the other side of the bay and taking long lines ashore. The maximum temperature was supposed to be in the region of 24'C but it was certainly much higher than this, and with the lack of wind now, it was necessary for more swimming. We are expecting the winds to start building early tomorrow and by the weekend to be gusting in excess of 30kts, so we will be here for a few days I feel.
A bit of a lie in this morning, not getting up until 08:00. Such a peaceful night despite being moored on the quay. One expects to hear music from the restaurants but nothing of the sort. The only thing that woke me up was the yacht two berths down raising its anchor chain and making a move before the heavy winds set in. The next one to go was a motor yacht, which sounded as though it had an American muscle car engine fitted, it was that noisy. It also had problems with its anchor windlass and struggled for over an hour to raise its chain, doing so by hand in the end. During the course of the day one or two more moved off and their places were taken by two yachts late in he afternoon, finding it a struggle to compete against the wind as they were reversing to the quay. The wind by now gusting in excess of 30kts, as recorded on my chart plotter. This weather is forecast for the next few days so we shall remain here until probably Monday. Not a bad place to hole up in a 'Storm'. With the kindle recharged it was back to book reading, I've taken to Oscar Wilde and 'The picture of Dorian Gray'.
This is the life, another 08:00 start to the day. A few yachts have already left, trying to make an early start to avoid the winds that are building up later today and tomorrow. As it's going to be hot and windy, an ideal opportunity for me to do the laundry washing again. It shouldn't take too long to dry. On the occasions we have been here we have yet to walk into Frikes, the next village the other side off the bay, so today we are going to go there. Little did we know what lay ahead off us. The first part, the easy part, was to walk to the other side of Kioni. Then it began to increase in difficulty. The road began to rise, quite steeply, before we came across a series of steps to ascend. The degree of steepness increase the further we progressed. The route into Frikes did not follow the coast path but took us up and over the top of the 'hill' that separates the bay's. Once at the top, in Kato Mylos, we could see the road winding ahead of us towards Frikes. In the heat, it was decided that we would give Frikes a miss, and just look around the churchyard in Kato Mylos before heading back to Kioni. As we were walking out of this village I spied a sign indicating the distance to Frikes as 3.5km. A wise decision methinks. Back to the yacht the remainder of the day was taken up by reading, checking the sports and general news and chilling out. (A disappointing result against South Africa in the rugby).
This rising at 08:00 is habit forming, third day in a row for getting up at this time. The Italians next to us are preparing for the off. They are heading for Mesolongion, just at the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth, and where Lord Byron died. Not long after they had departed an Australian yacht came and took its place. Unfortunately, for us, they appear to have dropped their anchor chain over mine. Despite my indicating where my chain lay they ignored me and continued to the berth. They did say that they would be leaving early tomorrow. We shall see! Later in the afternoon I went for a swim to see if indeed the anchor chains were crossed. I could see my chain quite clearly and the other running very close to mine. However, I could not see were his anchor lay so I'm still not any the wiser! The rest of the day was spent trying to finish the book, which I'm sure I have read some time before.
Leaving day today so up early. In fact much earlier than normal, 06:20. Can't get used to this! All the rubbish collected on board and the bag taken to the bins. Back on the boat the springs were taken off the stern and stored in the cockpit locker and likewise the anchor 'snubber'. It was a case now of raising the passerelle and tying that firmly, plotting the passage to our next port of call, Poros, and finishing our morning cup of tea. We left the quay at just after 08:30 and as the anchor chain was being lifted it soon became apparent to Helen that she was not only lifting ours! It wasn't the Australians in the yacht next to us, it was actually dropped there by a French boat the previous day as he was trying to extricate himself from another chain! Having dropped it where he had freed himself, (I say he but it could easily have been her) it now lay over ours and had formed a 'V', thus preventing us from even attempting to free it. Several people came to our assistance, I went in and tried tying a line to the other chain, thinking that we might move ours from underneath in stages, but to no avail. And there was no way I was able to go down 8+ metres to tie the line to their anchor without putting on my dive gear. However, a very kind man offered to do the same, but this time to my anchor and had managed to get a line tied to it, free it from the seabed, and another chap in the tender, raised it from the sea floor. By now I was able to use the windlass to shorten the amount of chain, eventually allowing my anchor and chain to be passed over the offending one. Fantastic, job done. What brilliant people sailors can be when they see a fellow sailor in a predicament. Everything stored back on board it was now 09:15 and time to make way for Poros. I was expecting some good sailing winds today so the main and head were raised. They lasted less than an hour. Westerlies gave way to southerlies and the wind speed dropped to non existent. So much for sailing. After four hours we were in Poros, a 'port of entry' and ferry port. Not much to look at, but a stepping stone en route to Argostoli where we are meeting with some old school colleagues. (Past and age!!!)
Today we are off to Argostoli, some 30nm around the south side of Kefalonia. As the yacht required the water tank filling up I decided that she also needed to be cleaned. The dock hose pipe was not quite long enough to reach where we were moored so I extended it by joining one of my hosepipes to it. When the water was turned on my pipe had sprung a leak so this had to be fixed. Water back on, tank filled, I began the process of cleaning. However, every now and again, the connector that I used to join the two hoses together would come apart. What should have been a 10 minute task turned into one lasting nearly an hour, completed just as Helen was getting up! The course had been plotted the night before so it was a case of lifting the passerelle, slipping the mooring lines and raising the anchor chain. Thankfully this time nobody had crossed it. Little or no wind to talk about, or what there was was blowing in the wrong direction, it was a case of motoring all the way. En route it gave me the chance to do a bit more washing. The passage required us to sail some distance away from land, nearly a mile, as the depth of the water below the keel was just metres. Also there was a 'shoal' ground area, indicated on the chart that we had to pass by. Studying the chart and the depth gauge as we approached this area, my chart indicated that I was outside the area, but the depth gauge alarm sounded, and looking down the side of the yacht I could see the rocks getting closer and closer. The yacht was quickly turned to head further out to sea, averting any collision. That was a close one! The rest of the passage in to Argostoli went without further ado and we were moored up just before 15:00. A (rather long) walk to the supermarket to buy more provisions and on the way back we came across a shop that sold fuses and solder wire. The wires for the LED light that we keep in the cockpit had come adrift and I thought I could repair it - without a soldering iron! Back on the boat I checked that the light still works, having replaced the fuse. They do, so now it was a case of heating a sailors needle up on the cooker to melt the solder to attach the wires. Unfortunately the needle cooled down too quickly for it to be effective, so a job to do at a later date. That evening we returned to our regular eatery, La Gondola. I say regular as we ate there last season. Helen had the mushroom risotto and I the lamb kelftiko. The risotto was too dry for Helen and the portion too small for me. The red wine was good though. First glass for six weeks!
First task this morning, hire a scooter. We had arranged to meet up with friends and they were some 40 km away. €25 later I had a white 'vespa' type scooter. The crash helmets that they had to offer me were all XL size and were not going to fit Helen's head. I asked if they had anything smaller and all they could offer were a couple of child's bicycle helmets. My discussion with the proprietor as to how useless the helmets he had fell on deaf ears. The clients just adjust the chin strap he retorted. An ill fitting crash helmet was not worth wearing as it gave no protection I responded. I was getting nowhere so I took the child's bike helmet and that was that. By 11:00 we set off for Vlachata and arrived by 11:30. The only instructions I had to go on was 'head for the beach and turn right'. At this point it was necessary to give Duffy a ring to say we had arrived, what next. We'll meet you at the beach bar in 10 minutes, as this was really the only place they had any knowledge of - speaks volumes? A long chat in the bar followed by an even longer chat over lunch back at their apartment. Photos taken it was time to return to Argostoli. I had fuelled the scooter up €4) and returned it to the shop. However, it was closed until 17:30 so the scooter was left outside the shop and I would return with the key when it reopened. Helen then began to look for her phone and, would you believe it, she had left it back in the apartment. Just as well the scooter shop was closed as I had to get back on the bike and return to Vlachata to collect her phone. Once again I had to refill the scooter, but this time it only took €2.5 worth. Either the tank was not full when I picked it up or one passenger light made all the difference.....
We are to return to Poros today and begin our journey back to Preveza, as Helen flies home on the 22.06.18. Hardly a breath of wind, leaving the quay was much easier than our arrival a couple of days earlier. Once out of the inner bay and in the channel leading to the bottom of Kefalonia, the winds started to build along with the swell. With the wind from the aft the headsail was unfurled and we began to make good progress. But the swell was kicking in from the side and slowing the boat down as it was buffeted from side to side. Once round the east of the island the winds abated, as did the swell, so the speed dropped to less than 5kts. Still we had made good progress up to that point and we would be in Poros within six hours. The harbour master directed us to where he wanted the boat to be moored, took our lines as we approached the quay and we were all done within five minutes. Excellent.
Last words spoken by Helen last night. That little dark cloud sitting up there won't be a problem, there won't be any rain during the night. Well, would you believe it, it threw it down, with thunder and lightning to boot. All of the windows were closed except our cabin, but as soon as I felt the first drops it also was closed but the 'heads' remained partially open, so the floor got flooded. The downpour was amazing, it came in fits and starts most of the night and the best part of the morning. I had intended putting the covers over the wheels but a senior moment meant that I forgot. By 10:00 boats were already setting off, as both the rain and lightning had abated. A chap a couple of boats away fell off his boarding plank, it was so slippery and landed in the water. He was uninsured but lost his glasses which he said were €1000! I did offer to go in with my dive gear and was getting it all prepared on deck when, presumably his wife, located them on the seabed. That could have been my swim for the day, although the water was not particularly clean. We had decided to also make a move, back to Kioni, before the poor weather returned. In fact we had got all the way there with hardly any further rain, just the odd drop now and again. On arrival there were places still available on the quay, surprisingly, but we had already decided to take long lines ashore. Kayak placed in the water, everything prepared, in position, anchor dropped and minutes later both lines were back on board. Well executed. It is now 18:45 and the rain has returned, and will be with us for the best part of the next day or so.
The storms, or more correctly, the lightning, had affected the settings on some of my displays. The wind sensor was showing the apparent and true wind speed to be identical and the autopilot was playing up. I needed to download the Garmin manual so it was a case of getting in the kayak and paddling to the nearest wifi spot for a connection. Once downloaded it was back to the boat, take the long lines in and set off for Meganisi. The displays were still playing up so I decided to re-calibrate the autopilot. This meant turning the yacht in a circle, three times at a certain speed, so that the sensors could check and calibrate the unit. Having completed this I then went to the sea wizard to carry out the rest of the set up - which meant going round in a circle ......... AGAIN. Anyway, calibration effected, the autopilot was turned on again to see if it was functioning properly, and the answer was no. There is still a bug in the system and I haven't got to the bottom of the wind sensor yet. The alarm message tells me that there was an 'abnormal power down' at exactly the time we started the engine yesterday and lasted until the engine was turned off. I have checked on google for information but nothing found yet. We arrived in Abelaki Bay and found that we could anchor very close to our previous visits here. The wind was blowing on our starboard side so we needed to get that long line attached first. By the time I was in the water we were drifting towards a yacht already moored up. Thankfully the skipper was not on board so we had time to make the lines good. Whilst taking the port long line to the shore I was greeted with a 'hello' from another yacht. These were the people we met the first time we moored here and borrowed their paddle board to play with. Sailing is a small world! Later that afternoon I was asked by the owner of the yacht next to us if we were staying the night. The reason being that winds 15 - 20kts, from the north were expected and we might be too close. I did offer to move but he said he would attach a further long line, from his mid ships cleat, which should stop him from swinging towards me. For this I said I would do the honours of taking it to shore for him, and set it up. I thought it only fair as he had arrived before us. We shall now wait and see if the winds turn up.
Rain and the odd crack of thunder and lightning greeted us this morning. The thunder and lightning was some distance away but by 06:00 the rain was coming down with no sign of let up. Pity, because I was looking forward to my swim this morning. It is now 09:48 and the rain has finally stopped, the sun is on its way and here's hoping for a lovely day. We need to go into Little Vathi for some provisions and the walk there will do us good. I hadn't noticed when I had moored up yesterday, as a couple of yachts were obscuring my view, but one of my long lines might prevent the fishermans boat from leaving the jetty. As this could be the case Helen was left on board as I took the walk into Little Vathi. On my return the boat was still in the same spot so I think we haven't caused any problems. However, tomorrow might be a different matter! The sun has made a lovely appearance and several swims are on the cards. One to run a scouring pad along the hull to remove some of the build up of marine growth, the other for pleasure. Later in the afternoon I decided to attach a third long line to the shore, just in case the one preventing the fishing boat from getting out needs to be removed.
Writing this in advance as we are heading for Nidri, possibly Tranquil Bay, and there will not be any internet connection to send this today. The passage is around 6nm and should take just over an hour.
What a noisy bunch we had leaving the restaurant last night, and elderly by the sound of them! Not sure which was the noisiest, them or the thunderstorm that was chasing round the island. This morning I carried out my good deed of the day. Yesterday evening a charter yacht was attempting to moor up and take their long lines ashore. First, one of them dropped the top part of an oar in the water, then their outboard motor would not start. So when they tried 'rowing' ashore they were going in ever increasing circles, especially as they were also being blown offshore! Eventually they did manage to get at least one line attached and I think this is how they left it. Well this morning for my swim I thought I would look for the oar and return it. Following their anchor chain did not reveal it so I then started my search pattern, swimming so many strokes, turning 90* and so on, to complete increasing squares. I found it in about 8 - 10m of water! There was only going to be one shot at it, but I did retrieve it and returned it to the boat. The chap sitting in the cockpit thanked me for it, said it saved him quite a bit of money and admitted that the attempt to moor up last night was a bit of a cockup! Had to agree.
Waiting for new crew to arrive the shopping that should have been done yesterday was bought early this morning. Back on the boat the first hot meal was prepared, a casserole of veg and meal balls. If nothing else there was going to be plenty. Francisco and Gosia arrived around 09:30 and introductions and briefings about the boat and passage were carried out. When they claimed they had experience of sailing, it was 1.5 days on a yacht in Ibiza and Francisco's dingy sailing was actually a motorised tender. This was going to be eventful! We left Preveza at 10:40 as the weather was changing late Tuesday, for the worse, and I wanted to be as far away from it as possible. Wind and waves for the majority of the passage to Reggio di Calabria was in our favour and we made good progress. As the other pair had little sleep I said I would continue on watch until 04:00 Tuesday morning and they would swop over with me. During the night the weather broke and we were getting plenty of rain and an electrical storm. At one point the lightning was too close for comfort so all the electronic equipment was turned off and it was steering by compass. Just before 04:00 the engine started playing up, stalling. I didn't want to be trying to fix the problem as I really wanted some sleep myself, the winds were building up and it wasn't the time to be stuck out in the middle of the Ionian with 'inexperienced' crew. I got my tools out to sort out the problem only to find that 'someone' had switched the diesel fuel tap off!!!! Not something that is easily done.
Too much heavy rain, and as I was the only one with waterproof gear I was standing watch again for another 18 hour shift. Not only rain but the winds were gusting regularly over 30kts, and at one time I saw 37.5 kts. I had hoped by this time I would be the other side of this weather but it wasn't to be. Only thing in our favour, wind and waves in same direction and helping. My IPhone became soaked in water and is now encased in rice, hoping that I might get it to work again. Somehow I doubt it.
When I got up at 06:00 (05:00 Italian time) everything had ceased and the sun was beginning to appear. Lovely, and the sole of Italy was within a few miles. We had probably less than 50nm to go but this was going to take the longest. After over two hundred miles of sailing the waves were now against us, as was the current and the helpful wind. We had to tack back and forth, making very little headway, on top of this I had problems getting the headsail out, which needs to be sorted once in Calabria. The main sail had a reef in, then two as once again the winds were building up over 30kts. Mainsail down and motor directly there was an option we tried but this was even slower, if that were possible! VTS, Messina contacted me over VHF and wanted to know my boat details, crew, port of exit and intentions in the strait. Informed them of mooring for two nights in Reggio di Calabria and permission granted. Several calls to the marina and we were given clearance to enter after several ferries had exited. There are laid mooring lines in the harbour and clear instructions (or so I thought) as to what each person should do when we get to our place of mooring. We were guided to our berth, reversed in, at the quay Francisco was handed the wrong laid mooring line that meant we were being blown on to the boat on our starboard side. Gosia threw the correct mooring line but thought that she didn't need to do anything else. In the end I had to sort out both mooring lines attached to the stern, as for the port laid mooring line and attach that, and finally show Francisco how to cleat off the line, which was not easy as it was so bulky. Worse was to come, there was a further laid mooring line under the centre of the yacht, which had now got caught and twisted round the prop. Discussions with the harbour master meant that I had to go in the water and sort it. First attempt with snorkel made no impression to freeing the bit caught in the prop. Second attempt, with my dive gear, I managed to lose my knife, find it again, cut the rope behind the prop, leaving a few fibres that were difficult to extract, badly cut my finger in the process and run out of oxygen. Back on the yacht I checked that we were able to move forward and reverse, which we could, so let's hope all is good.
Waiting for Alf, my experienced crew member to arrive, we had to get the headsail sorted. I do need help but the other two crew are still asleep and it's 09:40! As my phones had died I decided to walk into town to buy a replacement. Managed to get one that accepted my old chip, and once set up headed off to a bar to access some free wifi. Having dealt with all the emails accumulated over the past three days, I had to return back to the boat to get my passport and pin machine to sort out some payments. I didn't fancy walking back to town so tried to find a wifi point closer. The only place I could find was the Hotel Calabria, that served a particularly nice local beer! The Windvane has now been paid for and tickets from St. Lucia nearly sorted. Back to the yacht once more and finally got a helping hand to take down the headsail. Too windy to put it back up so will leave it until tomorrow. Alf, my new crew arrived around 20:00, so introductions and briefed about the boat it was decided to head out to have an evening meal. Back on the boat a couple of bottles of 'very cheap' red wine were consumed.
Leaving day so up early, or at least I was! Once the others stirred from their cabins tasks were assigned. Francisco and Gosia would do the shopping, Alf would help me put the headsail back up and I would cook a pasta dish for the second day of the passage. We left the mooring at 12:30 and went to the fuel dock. We had pre-booked for fuel but they turned up at 13:15. 108 litres of diesel on board I tried contacting the authorities for permission to leave. As no one responded I decided to go. Just as we were going out of the harbour an inbound ferry approached, however not a problem, we just held ground for a few minutes and then left. Once in the Messina straits the channel became extremely busy, and then I was contacted by VTS yet again,and wanted to know what my plans were, etc, etc. All okay, we took advantage of the currents and were soon ploughing along at 6kts on tick over. Out of the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) we raised the sails. No problem with the headsail, that time but the next time we tried to raise it, it became stuck once more. It appeared as though the headsail halyard was twisting around the top furling mechanism. Not something that could easily be sorted out in freshening winds and failing light. The headsail would have to stay as it is until the morning. Just as darkness was falling we were passing close to both Stromboli and Vulcano. No light display from either but a lovely clear night with plenty of stars to identify with my star guide that Helen bought me.
Nothing of note during the night to comment on. In the morning, with the 'non existent' winds we dropped the headsail. Couldn't fathom out why the halyard was twisting round the furling section, but have lubricated it, just in case it needed it! Tried to calibrate the autopilot as it is not functioning. Went through the first two procedures without problems, but was not able to carry out the 'zigzag' part. Another message for Garmin to respond to! A large number of small turtles seen over the course of the passage so far and a couple of very large fish jumping out of the water. No dolphins seen though. It's 12:49, Italian time, and we are just seeing the north west corner of Sicily. Ahead of us is the island of Ustica, some 30 miles away. We shall soon be stopping to have a swim in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea, a spot of lunch and then another 203nm before reaching Sardinia.
Another uneventful night. No shipping seen either from their navigation lights or on the AIS. The winds forecast to come from the stern at 20:00 did arrive but not until closer to midnight. I had set up all the blocks and sheets in preparation for using my parasailor, a downwind sail, but by the time the wind had changed to where I wanted it to be it was too dark to consider using it. A preventer was attached to the boom and we continued to use just the main. By morning the wind had shifted and increased so both main and head sail were in operation. Unfortunately it did mean that we were sailing higher than the intended route but at least it meant that we might get there earlier than planned, around 04:00 in the morning!!! A couple of sailing vessels were seen to pass in the opposite direction and a few larger ships seen on AIS. However, for the rest of the day and night no other vessels were seen. A day of us alone in this expanse of water. As night approached the winds started shifting, increasing in strength and then dying back down again. Both the head and main sail were reefed and eventually the head sail brought in.
The lights of Sardinia were now visible (just after midnight) but it was not going to be until 06:15 that we finally moored up (on the fuel quay) at Marina di Capitana, in Sardinia. I had intended to go to Villasimius, but, with my crew lacking in experience, I thought it more prudent to arrive in daylight. We shall stay here one day, re-provision, (as the crew consume food as though it was going out of fashion, and then decide to have a siesta) fuel up and tomorrow head for Menorca. The weather looks set to be in our favour for the first day and a half but could be a bit bumpy as we approach the island.
A delayed departure today. The crew, when they went shopping yesterday failed to buy any bottled water. With the marina water not potable (drinkable) and the aft tank being drained(!), we needed to buy some just in case the forward tank runs dry. The aft tank holds 210 litres and was topped up just before we left Reggio di Calabria. Four on board and three days at sea, that's an awful lot of water to have got through. Not sure how my Atlantic crossing is going to fare with the same number of crew but at least 17 - 20 days at sea. Just as well I've bought a water maker! The hot meals that also should have been prepared yesterday were not, which could be interesting if we have a choppy passage. Sardinia is quite a busy place. Ships were at anchor waiting to enter Cagliari, and there is a lot more passing traffic, both visible by eye or on my AIS monitor, heading ins all directions to countries close and far off. A cruise ship came by late in the evening, with a destination of Majorca. They will arrive there considerably quicker than me and my destination of Menorca. We did have that choppy passage during the making of lunch, Carbonara involving not one but two packs of spaghetti. I didn't think it possible to get some much spaghetti into my saucepan and to cook it all thoroughly. I leave my comments to your imagination. With the wind changing during the course of the day we have had to stray off our intended heading just to make use of the wind. Hopefully we will get back on course tomorrow.
Not sure if England are still in the World Cup, too far off land to get a phone signal. But for some reason a 2 - 0 win for Colombia is in my mind. As I type this we are 2.8nm off our passage heading. Not too bad after nearly 24 hours at sea. Still quite a lot of traffic around, not all visible to the eye, but it's great having that extra pair of eyes with the AIS (Automatic Identification System) which informs the user of heading, speed, destination and closest point of approach of all commercial vessels (plus quite a few pleasure craft) and when it will get to that point. Other than that the day has had few periods of excitement. The parasailor was set up, raised, flown for a few seconds and then got in an awful tangle. It is evident that I along with my crew need more time and practice in flying this sail. Will give it another go tomorrow, wind permitting. Other than seeing a solitary turtle, these have been the highlights today. Oh, and repairing (temporarily) the toilet seat hinge which had broken.
As forecast, the winds and waves have changed direction, making the last 75nm very slow and bumpy. Sleeping through this is not easy but when tiredness sets in, anything is possible. The morning was pretty much as expected, uneventful. Passing traffic of all shapes and sizes and nothing else. However, within 30 miles of our destination, all hell broke lose. The wind all of a sudden decided to increase, not a few knots at a time but went from low teens to high twenties. I was just in the middle of reefing the head sail with Gosia at the helm when the yacht lurched to port and heeling at an angle that made it quite 'interesting'. As quickly as it was over on its port side, it was then heeling on its starboard side, with the prospect of doing a 180 turn and accidentally gybing. A loud call to Alf to get up on deck to assist with reefing both head and main sails and the boat was back under control after a frantic few minutes. With two reefs in the main and a small head sail we were sailing at 7 to 8 knots, unseen in previous sailing trips in the Aegean and Ionian waters. All the way to the entrance to the marina, a distance of some 20 nm, we were crashing through the waves or getting soaked by them. The entrance to the marina was guarded by some serious above water rocks and, with the seas in a sorry state, it was going to be a challenge to tackle the route in. Both sails were taken down, motor switched on, we bumped our way into the bay. Once inside, it was a completely different proposition, very calm waters with no sign of that tormenting winds outside. A VHF call to the marina and preparation to sort out all the fenders and mooring lines before being guided to our berth. A bit of a tight squeeze to get my yacht snugly fitted between two others, and the third leg had come to an end. A distance of 269nm that started off with a whimper and ended with a bang!
All the crew go off tomorrow. Francisco and Gosia as planned, but Alf has to go home, personal matters. There have been some entertaining moments with Francisco. He's Spanish and I'd like to think he's from Barcelona but isn't. I asked him to get me an adjustable spanner from a locker. He came back with it and a mole wrench, a screw driver and a fog horn (without the air canister). Whenever I ask him to release a line he pulls it in! He's the one that turned off the fuel at 04:00 in the first morning. Alf is Swedish and a competent sailor, but there have been times when I've asked him to do one thing and he does something completely different. In Marina di Capitana I told the crew that we would be 'springing' off the quay. (Driving the yacht forward against the bow mooring line to bring the stern off the yacht out - as we had an onshore wind). Did everyone understand? No. Alf decided that as I was driving the yacht forward he released the mooring line leaving me in a predicament as to get off the quay without damaging the yacht. We managed it, but this is only one example (of many).
Up early as lots to do before departure. However, the crew have second thoughts about rising and leave it until the last minute. Not very happy about that as the boat has not been cleaned, apart from the wash that I gave it yesterday. A quick visit to the supermarket to buy provisions for my passage and some eggs for breakfast. It's now gone 10:00 and the crew are only just stirring. I tell them that I'm leaving at 12:00 so all their packing and cleaning needs to be done by then. Just after 12:00 I find that I'm in a position to drop the mooring line and move out. We say our goodbyes and I head off for Valencia, a two day passage. What I need to do is take in all of the fenders but without autopilot and I'm the only 'crew', it's just not possible in this very tight but beautiful marina. No other option but to go out into the breaking seas and pull them on board! Not the easiest of tasks but all stored in the cockpit until they dry off. The passage is planned taking me north along the top of Menorca and continuing pass Majorca on a bearing of 260' straight for the marina in Valencia, some 215nm away. After the rough seas getting out of the inlet from the marina, the seas quiet ended down somewhat and the going was easier. By about 03:00 in the morning I decided that I would 'lay a hull' (just lash the wheel in the centre and drift with the current) so that I could get some sleep. It was enough to refresh myself from constantly looking at the same star to keep my course.
Well that one hour went so quickly but at least I can continue again, and if needs be, can close my eyes for a few minutes at a time as I work my way towards Valencia. It was also an ideal opportunity to have a shower off the stern of the boat, but that would be left until the sun warmed up the day. I continued along the route and was joined by a pod of dolphins at 05:30, with another pod coming along at 09:30! The shower was taken, breakfast was had and progress towards Valencia in hand. My autopilot had stopped some days ago and I needed to rig a system of having the yacht keep a steady course without me having to permanently steer. The emergency tiller, a couple of blocks and lines I managed to have something that, although not perfect, meant that I could leave the wheel for 'several' minutes at a time. Just another job that needs rectifying when I get to Valencia. In the vast expanse of water I rarely see another boat but can see many on my chart plotter using their AIS. A smart piece of electronic wizardry. I'm not going to arrive in Valencia until tomorrow morning so I'm putting in another pit stop, of a couple of hours, to recharge my batteries. Well, that pit stop lasted 30 minutes. As I had stopped the engine and the boat was just bobbing about in the water, the elements of the waves crashing into the side was just too noisy and jerky to sleep for any duration of time. So onwards to Valencia.
It's 05:30(ish), Valencia is some 30nm away and the dolphins have come out to play. Haven't seen this many around the boat for at least a couple of years. One other thing of note, they are particularly smaller than the ones I'm use to seeing in Greece. Without the autopilot functioning, every time I drift off to sleep at the wheel, the boat decides to take a different course to the one I'm on so, after a few minutes of sleep I have to steer back on the intended heading. This happens quite a few times on my approach to the marina, and is quite frustrating. However, I eventually reach Marina Real Juan Carlos 1 around 11:00. I stayed here two years ago when I brought the yacht out from England with Wally and Steve, my crew members at the time. Wally, not put off by my company(!) will be part of my team when I cross the Atlantic in November, later this year. The yacht has been fuelled up, a full tank plus a further 64litres in reserve, should be sufficient to get to Gibraltar without the need to stop - if the autopilot is repaired. A few phone calls to family, friends and Chris (the chap I'm buying another passerelle from in Denia). It was Chris who suggested that he might be able to sort out the autopilot when I called him from Menorca. Unfortunately he isn't familiar with Jefa systems (my make of autopilot) and isn't able to advise. A check on www.Jefa.com brought up their FAQ's so I ran through the read through the pages on rudder sensors etc.... It was the rudder sensor fault that came up on my display unit and telling me that it had reached its limit. I then went to look at the system again, crawling through the aft cabin to get to the stern of the boat to the steering mechanism. I couldn't see any rudder stops in place, although I may have been looking in the wrong place completely, but I did check the fuse again. Blown!!! I did check this earlier, in Sardinia I think, and it was fine there, and the autopilot was faulty all the way from Just outside Preveza, Greece. Fuse replaced, the dockside trial completed, and it appears to be working. Fingers cross, when Helen comes out later this week, I'll take the boat out for a sea trial and go through the wizard setup. If it works, great, I do Gibraltar without stopping, a three day, 369nm passage. If it isn't fixed then I'm going to make several stops, probably four, so I won't get too tired at the wheel and stray off course. In the afternoon I walked for miles trying to find a bar with a TV showing the F1 race. Found one eventually and saw the last 26 laps of the race and enjoyed two glasses of delightfully cold draugh beer. My feet are blistered from all the walking and wearing the wrong type of shoes so for the next few days walking will be restricted to the essentials.
Did I say yesterday limited walking! Not to be unfortunately. First job, visit the chandlers to buy a replacement hinge for the toilet seat, plus cleaners for the yacht and replacement fuses. Next to the supermarket. Having been to two a couple of years back I had a rough idea where both were. Or at least I thought I had. Up and down different streets, although they look identical, got me close but not close enough. I asked a young couple who fortunately spoke English, and told me to take the next left. The Mercardo supermarket was some 200 metres from where I was! Essentials bought, back to the boat with a heavy load. On board, the fridge was cleaned, the toilet seat repaired, all the dirty laundry collected together to take to the laundrette. Too much to do in our small twin tub. By now it was mid afternoon and the wind had picked up - just as a rather large yacht was manoeuvring into place next to me. The wind had caught its beam and came into me. This slew my boat sideways and caused some 'nominal' damage to my bathing platform as it had twisted the boat from being perpendicular to the pontoon and was pushed astern. No apologies, it's only a small amount of damage, the French being French shrugged his shoulders and passed it off as nothing. As Tony Hancock said, for those that can remember him that far back in the 'Blood Donor' sketch, it may only be a pint of blood to you but it's a whole armful to me! He didn't want to provide details but eventually gave in, having taken a series of photos. If only they apologise when they have an accident!
Anyway, for the next 11 nights, as I'm going to be here in Valencia, there will be no daily updates until I leave for Gibraltar. I know some of you will be saying, thank God for that, others will be crying out 'how am I to get to sleep without this drivel to get me comatose. Well you'll just have to get by or read a newspaper. Just as interesting, and quite often they have pictures too.
Week 11 (and a bit)
Having stayed in Valencia (doing very little) it was time to move on. My new crew member, Dr. Zouhair, an aeronautical engineer by profession, has joined me on the last few legs to get to Gibraltar. So, at around 10:30 we dropped the mooring lines and set off from the Marina Real Juan Carlos 1 and headed for Denia, a distance of some 40nm south from Valencia. The weather was fine, favourable winds and waves assisting with the passage, and progress was good. I had made enquirers early regarding costs of staying in the marina and was told that it would be around €30. By the time I had moored up and had gone to the reception to pay the bill this had risen to €53.31, quite a substantial increase on what had been quoted! Still, hopefully it will be just for one night and then we shall move on to Cartagena. After our arrival it was time for supper, a glass of red and then off to meet up with an old school friend who runs a bar just outside the marina.
Well the weather has turned for the worse. Wind has picked up, not very strong, but with it has come the rain. The marina staff have indicated that the seas are quite lumpy and maybe we ought to consider staying another night. Looking at the weather conditions on Windy.com we are in for rain until 21:00 tonight but the winds will be around F4 and the waves going in our direction of travel, so should help with our passage to Cartagena. Decision has been made to head for Cartagena, a passage of 109.8nm. If we run into heavy weather this could be a 24 hour passage. As we leave the quay we already have the mainsail up but with a second reef in. We can see the seas which are bang on our nose and the yacht is like a bucking bronco. Speed is down to just over 2kts, so make that a two day passage. Once clear of the headland we change course to head along the coast, and the change of direction has given us the winds and waves working together for us. Pretty soon we are seeing over 7kts and we are back on course for getting to Cartagena by midday. The rain forecast has not appeared and as we get into the evening the winds are now dropping and coming on our stern. If the autopilot was working or I had an extra pair of hands, it would have been perfect for trying the parasailor again. As it was, we stuck at it with just the main and head sail, until the wind dropped completely and the head sail was taken in.
Quite a few ships around us during the night, but all kept well clear. The wind strength and direction have slightly improved, but not giving us the speed we achieved yesterday. We still have an ETA of arriving in Cartagena around 11:00. The marina, Yacht Port Cartagena was called up on the radio and I requested a berth for one night. Instructions given, not very clear (or clearly understood), I proceeded to moor up alongside a wall, when a voice at the other end of the radio said, ABORT, ABORT, Corryvreckan. Thinking something was catastrophic, I quickly followed his instructions, only to find out that he wanted me now to proceed on to a pontoon and moor up directly. Not the easiest of places to get in to, but I must say, my reversing is coming along beautifully. By 11:10 we were all moored up and ready to go to the office to pay for the berth. Prices are increasing in Spain. For the one night €42. Still cheaper than Italy and Sardinia and a lot cheaper than Menorca. However, having now looked at tomorrow's weather forecast, we could be spending two nights here. The wind and waves are building again for tomorrow and will be against us. A slow passage if we do leave for Almeria.
An early departure today. Yesterday we agreed that as the weather was not going to be favourable from midday onwards, we would consider making a bolt for Garrucha if necessary. So up at 05:00, showered, and prepared for leaving for 06:00. All lines slipped, we quietly left our mooring dead on 06:00, and in darkness. Thankfully there wasn't a breath of wind, so avoiding all the lazy lines crisis crossing the channel wasn't too difficult. Out of the marina the fenders were brought inside the yacht rather than leaving them attached to the guard rails. If the seas were going to be choppy at least they wouldn't be rolling all over the place and possibly dangling in the water! A couple of the large freighter ships were on manoeuvres, but other than that, there was very little else around at this time of the morning. Around 11:00 we were meet by a playful pod of dolphins, who stayed with us for a short period of time before heading off for new feeding grounds. It's now midday and the expected high winds and waves haven't materialised. Let's hope it remains that way for the rest of the passage. Okay, it was short lived. Just after midday the winds and waves developed as forecast. Waves against and winds picking up to over 20kts. We were able to use the wind but our destination was changed. Instead of Almeria we routed for Garrucha. Reefs put in on both sails, but for the choppy seas it would have been a lovely sail. Once in Garrucha we met a number of other yachts that had also left Cartagena and had made the same call. I remember calling at this port in 2015 when taking my old yacht back to the UK. We arrived very early that morning just to fuel up, but had to wait a few hours for the staff to get here!
Another 06:00 start. Instead of Almeria being our next port of call I've moved it further west and will stop over in Almerimar, making the passage some 14nm longer, but we shall use Almeria as a back up. The weather forecast for the day is of very light winds, so it will be motor sailing all the way. Also, choosing Almerimar will make the following days leg shorter, which will be a good decision. Have seen a single dolphin and very little else so far after three hours. Winds non existent and speed once again down, it looks like we won't make Almerimar tonight so am looking at heading for Roquetas del Mar. This is 14nm closer and means that we should arrive in daylight. Whilst on the passage Zouhair wanted to look at the autopilot again. When we tried using it yesterday after playing with the unit itself and re-calibrating it, it was still making an awful grinding noise as the pump reacted to a change in direction. So, having looked at all the websites and forums regarding this particular model, he suggested we alter the sensitivity of the rudder gain, reducing it from its current setting of 63% to 40%. This did reduce the grinding noise to a point where it was now possible to use the autopilot without further worries(!?!). Roquetas del Mar is a very small marina, some space taken up by the many fishing boats that we had seen earlier in the day, but there was still plenty of space for me. After mooring up and cleaning the outside of the yacht it was time to look around the town. Little did we know that 'carnival time' had come to Roquetas del Mar. Music and 'noise' was filling the air and parades of dancers and floats passing along the main streets. A meal and a beer was taken before heading back to the yacht. We are leaving at 06:00 the following morning so an early night is planned.
Well, that carnival atmosphere was still going loud and strongly when I awoke. The music was still blaring out at 06:00 as we left the quay in darkness. Light winds again today so the thought of getting to Malaga is looking less likely. I have a couple of other marinas in mind so will make any decision later in the day. The winds have consistently been around the 8 - 10kts mark and from the aft. Time to play again with the parasailor. The main sail this time has been lowered, all the sheets and guys have been set out, the parasailor brought up on deck and all lines and halyards attached. Slowly the sock of the parasailor was raised and as the sail started to billow the sheets were adjusted to set it. Success. For the first time since purchasing the parasailor (over 18 months ago) it has been flown, and flown to my satisfaction. All of the 'Heath Robinson' setup has worked and the sail has been gybed and doused. An excellent day. Pity the wind began to fall and change direction, as flying the parasailor is certainly more advantageous than my other sails for sailing downwind. We arrived at the entrance to Marina del Este around 18:30 and could see a number of yachts at anchor so decided that we would do the same. A spot was found, but I needed to begin dropping the anchor in 12m of water. Not a problem as I have plenty of chain, but it didn't give me much wiggle room with other yachts close by. The chain was dropped and I checked that it was holding. It certainly was but only 25m of chain had been laid. Not a very good sign. Too late to do anything about it now, so will leave until tomorrow morning. Bearings were taken to check that we weren't dragging and all was fine.
Friday 27.07.18. and Saturday 28.07.18
I had got up a couple of times during the night to see if the anchor was still good, and it was. So at 08:00 it was time to properly get up and set the passage for the final leg to Gibraltar. Just over 90nm so this will be a night sail, perfect to watch the eclipse later tonight. Cooked breakfast was made and everything cleared away ready for the off. By 11:00 we started to lift the anchor. Oh dear, not a good start, the anchor was caught on something and, try as I might, it was not possible to free. I went to my dive gear and prepared to go down to free it myself. Unfortunately both tanks we either empty or had less than 10 bar of oxygen. Not sufficient for a safety margin to go down myself. Thankfully a group of divers were in the bay and, with my perfect Spanish (read that as English with a mix of Spanish and hand signals) I asked if they would do the honours. Could I wait 45 minutes was the response. I had no option so said yes. It was less than 45 minutes and two divers came to the boat, one freed the chain by 'unwrapping it from around a rock' while the other gave me instructions to allow both to clear the vessel before I moved off. Very grateful with their help, we then made our way towards Gibraltar at 11:50. Sails up, autopilot turned on and time to sit back on our 20 hour passage. Second problem for the day, the temporary fix on the autopilot was no longer a solution. This too was playing up and therefore the final leg was going to be hand steering all the way. Once in Gibraltar I will have to get the autopilot repaired, but I'm also getting a wind vane added to the yacht to make the autopilot redundant for the next long passage. The winds were light, as expected, so progress was slow, but when it did pick, oh boy, were we in for a bumpy ride. Initially we were happy with the 10 - 15 kts that gave us good speed when going across the waves, but when we tacked, it was like a roller coaster ride at a fair ground, but this time being hit by buckets of water as we crashed through the waves. It was manageable but soon it has risen to over 20kts +, and with it the waves were increasing in size and our speed significantly slowing down. When it came to my turn to take the helm at 04:00 we had put in a second reef and reduced the headsail even further. By 06:00, at the end of my shift I was soaked in sea water, and unlike the water that covered me in Greece, this was not warm. For the first time in months, when I got to lie down I actually covered myself up in a blanket, I was feeling that cold. 08:00 had come around too quickly and it was my turn to take the helm again. The winds had dropped, the waves flattened out and it was suggested we shake out the reefs on the main sail and take out the rest of the head sail. The Rock of Gibraltar was in sight, still a number of hours away, but I agreed to having full sails again. A bad decision, a very bad decision. Quicker than you can shake out the reefs in the main sail the winds were into the mid 20's. The waves had increased in size an before long it was a struggle to hold course, any course! The dolphins were enjoying themselves, surfing down the front of the waves without a care in the world. Me, I was struggling to keep the boat out of the 'car park' of tankers and commercial ships at anchor, waiting to call in at Algeciras. Just as we headed into the channel for the Gibraltar marinas we managed to reduce both sails and set them further out to reduce the 'weather helm' (the point where steering becomes extremely difficult). Sod's Law, just as we had overcome that problem the wind and waves died and we approached the marina in calm conditions. First port of call, fill up with fuel in Gibraltar, 157 litres at a cost of €87.50. Next, contact Ocean Village marina and see if they had a berth. I had earlier in the year tried to make a booking but they were not in a position at that time to make an offer. This time it was a clear no. There was a regatta this weekend and I could find out on Monday, but nothing long term as they are redeveloping the site. My back up was La Linea, Alcadeisa, in Spain. My three months here will cost over €1500 if I pay up front, even more if I don't. I don't think my pension will stre that far in one go, but I'm now here, and will stay here until the 27th. October when the really big trip begins.
Over the last three and a half months I have visited 6 different countries and 9 different islands. We have stopped off at 12 new places on our travels and have spent many delightful days and nights at anchor in 8 newly found bays. A lovely summer.