England to Greece 2016.
Having brought 'Electron' back to the UK last September I had now (15.03.16) taken ownership of my new sailing yacht. I named her 'Corryvreckan' - either after the famous whirlpool off the isle of Jura or the delightful single malt whiskey.
I had decided that I would have the yacht shipped out to Brcelona and, once out there, would sail her on to Kilada, Greece, where Electron was kept. I had hired a company fronted by a person going by the name of PAUL GILLETT back in November. I would email him and ask for times etc so I could plan with my partner, the boat yard and the marina in Barcelona time of arrival etc. I also needed to have the mast taken down and once in Barcelona replaced. All I got from him was' nearer the date I'll let you know'. Well the days got closer and I became more concerned. Let's just say he owes me a lot of money for failing to carry out the contract as agreed.
Helen and I had been coming down to Port Solent for the last three weekends and this was to be the last before 'Corrvreckan' is lifted out of the water, put on the back of a trailer and transported to Barcelona. Most of the items removed from Electron had been stored on board Corryvreckan, some had been left at home awaiting further fittings to be added and some had mysteriously vanished! A number of new items for the cabins and the galley had been bought and Helen has been working hard making fitted sheets, companionway curtains, etc, etc. A text to the haulier to enquire what time the truck would be arriving this evening and a quick response, it wouldn't be, it's still in Stuttgart due to delays at Dover yesterday. So the boat isn't going to be hauled out tomorrow but hopefully first thing Tuesday. All relevant persons informed regarding the delayed departure. Will have to find things to keep me busy tomorrow now!
A bit chilly last night but hopefully will soon be in warmer climes. Lovely hot shower took the edge away. A trip to Tesco to buy some more food for the delayed departure and back to the boat to tinker around. Sent PG transport a text as I hadn't heard anything by 12:00 noon. Latest is that the driver should be with me by 11:00 tomorrow and re-routed Portsmouth to Caen through France to Barcelona. He should be calling me about 19:00 tonight. Fingers crossed. Probably going to add at least one further day on to the journey. All parties updated on developments. Bimini lowered and strapped down, packamain used to wrap around the boom to prevent any (further) scratches and lashed down. A few classical CD's added to my USB and that's about it for the day.
Slightly warmer last night or was it because I slept in the saloon rather than one of the cabins. Got a call at 0840, thought it was the driver to say all was on schedule. It was the marina wanting payment for the lift-out. However, I did get a text at 09:00 saying that the lorry was still loaded with a Sunseeker and not due to be unloaded until 15:30. A further 4 hours to get to me so it looks like lift out will be tomorrow. Removed the transducer and fitted the blank in its place. Bought the engine service kit and stored them away.A general clean up and that's it so far. Told that I would get a call from the boss of the transport company this evening. Decided to call as nothing received by 20:30. Left voicemail and then received a text a few minutes later. He'll call at 10:00 tomorrow. Can't wait!
Up early and waiting for that phone call. Received a text at 09:30. Plan now is to collect the yacht on Friday to depart on Saturday at 08:45. Told he'll call later. I bet he doesn't. Phoned Helen and asked her to come and take me home as there's little I can do here.
Having been let down by the transport company (Paul Gillett Translogistics) that was supposed to deliver my yacht to Barcelona on the 7th. April, I finally departed Port Solent on the 18th. April, intending to sail her there. I had quickly put together a crew to assist me in the passage; Matt, Wally, both yacht master level, and Steve, day skipper level. I had to get the mast restepped and this was completed on the morning of departure. A new radar reflector added as I could not get a suitable radar fitted in time. Steve was the last to arrive on the Monday, at 14:00 and no sooner had he come on board we slipped the mooring lines and headed for the lock to exit the marina. Whilst waiting for the gates to open our passage plan was entered on to the chartplotter. We then had to call in at Gosport marina to pick up a couple of gas canisters. The price I was charged I thought I was getting shares in the company - much more expensive than Greece! A bit further in the channel we had to recalibrate the chartplotter as the boat was showing 180 degrees in the opposite direction of travel. Initially the wind and waves were quite docile but later the following night both began to build up and we were experiencing gusts up to 40+ knots and 3+ metre waves. We needed to fuel up and buy a new fresh water pump (didn't expect this to break so quickly!)so called in to Brest. A bit of shopping, showered, fed and fitted the new pump, we left Brest at 06:40 to catch the tides as we made our way up the channel. Around midday we were greeted by our first sight of dolphins and around 19:00 a new crew member arrived. Curly, the curlew (?) flew on to the boat and landed in the cockpit. We thought it just wanted to rest but having put it off the stern of the yacht it twice more flew back on board. We gave it some water but all food offered was rejected. It has been with us for three days now and appears to be very weak. We are about 50nm off the Spanish coast so hopefully it will survive until we get to land. I'm afraid it didn't. Arrived in La Coruna around 17:30, just in time to fuel up, purchase more provisions, have a shower and meal before setting off again at 19:30 (UTC) on Saturday 23.04.16. Matt had left us as he needed to return to the UK as he was booked for an Irish Sea crossing. Kept a reasonable pace, averaging 5 knots with what little wind there was.
Managed to make contact with home as we were close to land. Updates on weather reports gave conflicting messages. We were told to expect F7+ in one report whereas another gave F2/3. This one was accurate. Other than that nothing to report.
Awoken to assist Wally as fog had descended. Visibility down to <100m. Thank goodness for AIS and equipping the yacht with a radar deflector. At one point we were on a collision course with Jorge Santos, less that 500m apart. I tried to contact him by radio but he ignored it. The fog came, went, returned and went again several more times. We are now heading for Lagos, about 180nm away.
A rather uneventful day although we were checked out in the early hours of the morning by a fisheries vessel just after we had passed between the island and land just off Quinta dos Salgados. Other than that and deviating off our course to avoid a tanker 'parked up' in the middle of the Atlantic, the only memorable note was passing the 1000nm mark in our eighth day at sea.
On watch at 03:00 for the next three hours. As we had made good speed and distance during the night I made the executive decision not to head for Lagos but to go direct to Gibraltar, we should have plenty of fuel (?) During the course of the day the wind dropped to between 5 and 8 kts so motor sailing. Should still have sufficient fuel (!) Late afternoon I noticed that the starboard main sheet shackle had come adrift and the block was no longer in place. I had spoken about wiring up all the shackles and their pins but, time pressing, had failed to do this. I didn't have a spare shackle of the same size so a smaller one replaced the rod kicker one and this one out back on the main sheet block. Just need to keep an eye on it for future reference. Little else of interest, we are less than 40nm to the start of the Straits of Gibraltar and entry into the Mediterranean.
Caught the tide times bang on. Just passing Tarifa Point lighthouse at 07:40. Speeds as we enter the straits pushing us along at over 9kts at times but a good 8+ most of the way. Very busy area with commercial ships and ferries buzzing all around. Dropped the mainsail in Gibraltar Bay, called in on the VHF radio and headed for the fuel pontoon. Excellent price at £0.29 per litre! Next port of call, Marina Bay marina. Moored up bow to, cleared the decks and a lovely hot shower. Called in at Morrison's for Helen's shopping list and then into town for fish, chips and beer, (several!) A very large bottle of JD purchased, back to Morrison's for provisions and returned to the boat for our version of tapas and wine. Suitably wined and dined it was off to the bar to see Liverpool lose against Villareal 0-1.
Up at 06.00 and a nice shower. Unable to pay marina fees until 08:15 so could have had an extra hours sleep! Called in at chandler to buy spare shackles, just in case. Slipped the mooring lines at 10:00 (local time) and set off towards Valencia. Once out of Gibraltar Bay the wind was dead on the nose and rolling waves against, both contributing to a slow bumpy passage. About two hours into our journey we picked up a mayday distress call. A sailing yacht had lost its mast. It was over 40 miles away, just off the coast of Malaga so there was very little we could assist with. Only other 'boring' fact, the Norient Solar merchant ship decided to turn across our heading and drop anchor. We had to deviate off our course!
Genoa out as the wind had veered sufficiently. Now making 5kts per hour consistently, a slight improvement. No sooner said and the wind drops to under 5kts. Seas flatter so engine revs upped to 2.4k to give us 6kts. Dolphins appeared around midday and then sighted a whale. First seen on all my sailing travels. Another all ships message received. To keep a look out for a boat carrying 21 immigrants. Not within this vicinity. Finally wind picks up to get both sails out, at least for an hour. When the Genoa was furled in the furling line jammed in the furled and had to be freed. Hopefully no damage done but need to check next time it's used.
Good progress made during the night despite it being quite bumpy! Wind kept on shifting so difficult to keep a steady course. Also wind gusting over 24kts so 1st reef put in. For the last few hours the boat has been heeled well on to its port side. Not possible to sleep in the saloon on the couch seats so a quick snooze in It's now 16:10 local time and we have just over 100 miles left to Valencia. 2nd reef put in a gusting in to high 20's with confused seas.
Back on the helm at midnight. Seas have quietened down but so has the wind. Still managing to get over 5kts so happy with progress. Had to take in the head sail as wind direction changed yet again and tacking would have taken us way off course. Off at 03:00 and back on at 09:00. Valencia in sight so should be there shortly. Busy port with lots of commercial traffic entering the harbour. Arrived at Marina Real Juan Carlos 1 at 11:05. Fuelled up, paid for moorings until 24.05.16 and now on pontoon D7. Drinking a well earned bottle of San Miguel. In the evening we went out to the old town for some tapas and to find a bar with live football. Spurs were playing Chelsea and we found the one bar with a foul mouthed Iranian Chelsea supporter! It didn't get any better as Spurs drew the match having been 2 - 0 up.
A day of cleaning the boat. Stainless steel polish and a cleaning cloth, the complete boat was given the works. Internally the starboard aft cabin was stripped of bedding and hovered, along with the saloon, galley and heads. Lunch was taken along the beach front in a great value restaurant. Valencia, being the home of paella, had to be ordered. We weren't let down. Back on the boat and supper was home made tapas, cheeses, meats, olives, artichokes, washed down with beer, rum, wine, both red and white with a JD nightcap. Just as well Wally and Steve we're leaving tomorrow. Cant keep doing this!
Goodbyes said to Wally and Steve, a quiet day (after last night) spent doing the laundry, a bit more internal cleaning and that's about it.
I stayed in Valencia for the next three weeks. Helen, her sister and partner came out for a long weekend and then later in the month my daughter and her friends came out for a sail. By the 23rd. I was itching to move on. I had recruited a new crew; Thomas, an experienced and qualified to coastal skipper sailor from Germany and Lourenco and Nuno, both inexperienced but willing to give it a go. We set off heading for Majorca and had a leisurely motorsail there, arriving late afternoon the following day. A pleasant marina, quite expensive but it had all the necessary facilities. A swim was had before settling down for supper and a good sleep.
The next day we set off for Sardinia, a journey of about 2.5 days. I had intended heading for one port but then remembered that fuel could only be got by taking a taxi into town, so decided to head for another one. This marina was quite basic but relatively cheap in comparison to the rest of Italy. Food, beer and sleep before setting off for Sicily.
Another journey of nearly two days. Not soon after we had left our moorings and tried to raise the mainsail we noticed that it would not go to the top. We called in to the next marina along the coast to sort out a repair. I went up the mast and realised that the topping lift and mainsail halyards were twisted and untwisted them. However, when we were in the marina a rope got caught up in the bow thruster and we no longer have one. Again, instead of heading for our intended port we decided to call in on one of the small islands off the NW coast of Sicily as the time was getting late. As it turned out the town was beautiful and the meal out was excellent. However, the boarding plank that we had attached to the boat to get on to the shore had been rubbing all night long and had damaged the top of the stern. First repair job to be done to the plastic. (I'm sure there will be many more). Thomas had received some bad news and decided that he would have to return home once we made Malta, our next destination. A quick learning curve for Lourenco and Nuno.
We stayed in Malta for a week. My son was living there so I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet up with him and spend some time together. Lots of exploring was done by Lourenco and Nuno, whilst I made my way in to Valetta and spent the day reading. I also called into a chandlers to see if I could get replacement parts to fix the bow thruster. They had them but not in stock. Just as well we had several days here.
After a week in Malta it was time to head for Greece. This was going to take at least three days so I decided that Lourenco and Nuno would take one watch and I would do another. Very busy moving away from Malta with all the merchant ships anchored offshore. The three days went off without incident although I was woken on our approach to mainland Greece as we were crossing a 'shipping' lane and had to weave our way through lots of them. We arrived in Kalamata mid day, anchored up and went off to do a bit of provisioning and to find a bar with alive TV to see the England football match later that evening. (Waste of time!!!) Returning to the yacht I saw a familiar face, Ross Ireland, the co-skipper who had abandoned me in Le Guilvinec sitting in the cockpit of his yacht. A polite conversation was had. I bet he thought I'd be the last person he would bump in to.
We left Kalamata Sunday morning heading for Porto Kayo, a lovely anchorage further along the coast in an easterly direction. The winds began to build up so we reefed both main and head sails. With the winds now blowing in excess of 30+ knots we were keen to get into the bay which was about an hour away. Just outside the bay both sails were taken in and we motored into the bay. Winds still whipping up the sea we found a place to drop the anchor but it wasn't holding. More problems, we couldn't retrieve the anchor, having let out over 50m of chain!!! I decided that the safest thing to do was to reverse out of the bay dragging the anchor behind us. Once out in open sea we could see what the problem was and try to retrieve the anchor and chain. A trawl through the Quick Anchor windlass manual told me that I needed to tighten up the clutch plate as this was slipping, hence not lifting the chain. I would have though this would have been done when they removed the new chain and anchor that was to be sold with the boat and installed my old one taken off Electron. As we couldn't anchor in Porto Kayo we headed off for Leonidhion, tried the anchor outside the bay before heading in. Although the anchor was fine the wind was blowing us on to another yacht, and without the bow thruster I wasn't going to risk it. So we set off to anchor in a bay in NE Spetses. A beautiful bay, we stayed here two nights.
Next we headed off for Hydra, another lovely island. When we got there we were in a race with one other yacht and there was only one space available. In our haste to get into the mooring insufficient chain was laid and we were getting pushed on to the catamaran next to us. Despite adding further lines to stop the boat from twisting I wasn't happy with the set up. Lift whatever anchor was laid, 15m, and head for the south side of Ermioni. Plenty of space, plenty of anchor laid and all was good for the night.
Porto Kheili was our next port of call. We stayed for the night and the following morning headed for Kilada. Thought that we could pick up a mooring buoy we were quickly told off. With space along the wall we spent the night med moored at the end of the town where the wall was available. A call to Evangelos the following morning and we were given a time when the yacht was to be lifted out of the water. When the time came we motored into the box and the yacht was lifted out. A good clean inside and out over the next couple of days before putting her to bed until the next time. We had hired a car from Pop's car rental and set off very early so that Lourenco and Nuno could have a look round Athens before flying home.