It’s a Hard Life

June 16, 2019

D drills a hole for the holding tank air vent

I have a vague memory from childhood of attending a swimming regatta at my brother’s school. I can’t think why I should have done as my dear bro has never been a keen swimmer, but the point is that for me it was an unusual and exquisite form of torture. To have to spend some considerable time in close proximity to a glorious swimming pool and yet not be allowed to get in and swim was simply agonising and the memory has endured for 50+ years.

The past 12 days have, for me at least, been a similar form of endurance. Since arriving at Ionion Yard where we store Rampage through the winter, we have been only a very short walk from the sea and the weather has been hot. Very hot. Maybe, on reflection, occasionally I should simply have said ‘Hang the work!’ and taken myself off for a swim. There was much to be done in a limited time and swanning off was not really an option.

There is always maintenance work to be carried out on Rampage when we return to her; it’s expected and understood. Indeed we compile great lists of jobs to be done – the clever and technical stuff being mostly in Duncan’s list and the mindless-but-necessary is mostly on mine.

Keel patch-painted with epoxy after removing the rust spots

This is not to say that D’s jobs are any more enjoyable than mine but they tend to require skills and know-how that I don’t have. As a result, while I sanded the hull to key the copper coat, painted the keel and scrubbed the teak, D fitted a new water pump seal, replaced the stern light and joy of joys – fitted a new holding tank and related pipe work! This last was a major operation which required two new through-hull fittings, one of which was two inches in diameter. It takes nerves of steel to make a hole that large in the bottom of your boat!

A scarily huge hole in the Hull

Although we had measured and re-measured the space before ordering the new tank, it was still a concern at the back of both our minds as to whether it would actually fit. It looked very large when we took delivery of it – and took up a lot of space in the car. Thankfully it did fit but there were still all sorts of headaches about the angles of pipes and joints. One afternoon he had to rush off to Levkas to buy a completely new brass fitting to replace the lovely plastic one he had bought that just wouldn’t work in the space available. It was a considerable relief, (sorry) eventually to have the new poo tank successfully installed!

New poo tank installed

There were few excitements or alarms this year – no puppies gambolling about the yard to provide a welcome distraction and no cascades of water pouring from the stern as we had last year. The only minor drama was when I managed to get a huge globule of blue anti-foul paint in my hair. D managed to get it all out in the end, using some vicious chemical solvent that made us cough and stung my skin. I was afraid my hair might drop out but thankfully I got away with it.

I always seem to get in an infernal mess doing the anti-foul and then have to spend ages cleaning myself up afterwards. I do have a splendid set of heavy cotton, navy overalls but resist wearing them because the weather is so hot. However, after the hair incident, I decided to take no further risks and sweated it out in my aptly-named boiler suit and a cap. Sorry – no pics of this amazing fashion statement!

Chaos down below while we worked

I also had the dubious privilege of sorting out the new Greek cruising tax payment last week. The day after we got out here, I went along to the port police office in Preveza to find out what admin needed to be done this year. I waited some considerable time in the crowded, stuffy little office while several people without the Brit queuing principle jumped in ahead of me. When it was finally my turn, the over-worked port policeman told me I had to go to the bank first and pay the tax. He then lost interest in me but luckily another person waiting was more forthcoming and told me I could apply online, then take the completed application to the Alpha Bank to pay the tax.

The form was in English as well as Greek, so that part was easy. I then emailed the form to the office at Ionion and asked them to print it off for me but when I enquired, they claimed not to have received my email. Sigh. Re-sent the form and this time they magically received it okay. Back to town only to discover that the Alpha Bank wasn’t on the waterfront where I’d been told, but several streets back. Found it eventually, worked how to get in through the airlock security doors, queued again, parted with €134 = four months cruising in Greek waters, escaped through the scary doors, then back to the port police office to complete the annual admin formalities.

This time however, there was a delightful, friendly policeman on duty who pointed out that my Depka form was due to expire within a week and did I want to replace it now or come back next week? ‘Oh let’s get it sorted now,’ I pleaded. So we did. He was even able to provide the information I lacked about when we’d first brought Rampage into Greece. I steeled myself for another demand for money, but nothing so unfriendly occurred. I was given a beaming smile, my shiny new Depka form and sent on my way. (Incidentally we are very grateful that on her official registration document, Rampage’s length is quoted as 11.95m. Had she been 12m or more, our cruising tax bill would have been significantly more – about 3 times as much!)

En route to launch

So yesterday, we were just about ready for relaunch. The new solar panel has yet to be installed and we may or may not get around to servicing the winches but she’s back in the water, anchored just off Ionion Yard and this morning we bent the sails on. This is never something to which I look forward but in fact it all went very smoothly. In truth it should. After all, we’ve done it often enough but we still have discussions about the reefing lines and getting the lazy jacks set up properly. However, maybe we’re finally getting the hang of this?

Afloat once more!

Anyway I rather thought I might finally get a swim yesterday afternoon after we’d launched. Instead, I spent a fevered time cleaning the inside of Rampage in anticipation of friends coming over in the evening. After eight months of accumulated dust in the yard followed by 10 days of dirt and chaos as we worked on her, this was much needed. Still, I had sort of thought it might wait another day, but not if someone was coming on board her for the first time!

Duncan and Eelco aboard Rampage …

Then today, after we’d done the sails, I rowed ashore, (the outboard needed fettling) and took the car to do a last big shop. I got back at about 3pm by which time there was quite a current running through the anchorage so I had to battle to get the dinghy to the stern of Rampage. It was too strong to try and go swimming. Tomorrow perhaps? But tomorrow we shall move on…


The Grand (De) Tour

June 3, 2019

Or perhaps this should be entitled The Grandee Tour? Duncan, at least, might conceivably be called a Grandee since we are now the senior generation and he is the oldest of the four Byrne siblings. This is quite aside from the fact that he now qualifies for his bus pass…

However, regardless of the title of this blog post, the fact is that our annual journey back to Greece has, this year, been by way of North Wales, Lancashire and Edinburgh so scarcely the most direct route from Falmouth to Preveza. There were, I need hardly point out, strong logistical reasons for our circuitous route, not least of which was a long-standing arrangement for a partial Stunning Ruins gathering in Edinburgh. It must be called partial since Mags was only with us via the wonders of the internet, being engaged in a tour of her own out in Kenya. Nonetheless and to paraphrase Meatloaf, three out of four ain’t bad.

The timing of our trip to Edinburgh was dictated by the conflicting demands of our various schedules, so that was immutable. The debate for D & I was whether to travel up to Scotland and then return to Falmouth, before we departed to Greece or whether to drive up and carry straight on afterwards. There was much discussion and perusal of road maps as well as train, flight and ferry timetables before we eventually decided to travel by car and continue thence to Europe. Our decision was reached partly because we wanted to see both his sisters who live in the North West and another friend who has been very ill and whom we had not seen for some time.

And so we set off, the car laden with bulky items such as the dinghy (albeit deflated,) our dive gear, a solar panel plus a new holding tank and related valves etc. We even had an outboard engine with us for the first part of the journey!

We had a wonderful welcome from Richard and Sam and I can only apologise to them for the hassle my abandoned sunglasses have since caused them 🕶. We caught up briefly with Jinny as we came through Chester and then pressed on north to stay the weekend with Susie. While with her, we managed to see family friends who live in Lancaster, visit Clearbeck Gardens which were glorious, even on a rather overcast afternoon, and almost inevitably were inveigled into helping with various ‘little jobs’. D replaced some rendering on the supporting walls in her garden, fixed draft excluder to her back door & hung some book shelves. I confined myself to sieving soil in attempt to remove some of the pebbles with which some previous occupant had seen fit to fill all the flowerbeds!

And so on to Bonnie Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿. The Ruins’ last gathering was nearly a year ago in Kenya so it was good to catch up. Kath has spent the past year rushing between book festivals, conferences and signings both in the U.K. and abroad at the dictates of her publishers. Terri too, has been tearing up and down the country examining people on their ability to manage processes, (at least, I think that’s what she does!) There was a great news exchange regarding our various offspring, their partners and, in my case, grandchildren. In addition Terri’s husband, Iain, has been busy preparing for the adventure of a lifetime. In September he sets off on the first part of the Round the World Clipper Race. Terri will be meeting up with him at various points along the route to Australia where he will leave the boat and the two of them will go on together to New Zealand. In between all the chat we managed to fit in some serious eating, a gym session (much needed after all that food) and a bit of sightseeing. We had a walk around Leith and also took the bus into the centre of Edinburgh where we visited St Giles’ Cathedral and the Scottish Parliament building. After Kath’s departure, the four of us remaining attempted to remember the rules of Mahjong but found the computer-translated instructions were more confusing than enlightening! (N.B. Duncan subsequently discovered that there is a very reasonable set of instructions on Wikipedia!)

The following morning we bade farewell to our hosts, having successfully bullied them into booking their flights out to Greece to join us aboard Rampage in July. The Hull/Rotterdam ferry ⛴ was reasonable though it has to be said that the food cannot compare with that on board the Roscoff/Plymouth ferry.

We had intended to drive as far as Strasbourg the next day but booking.com assured me that there were no rooms available. Duncan, doubting my competence, insisted on checking himself but with the same result. We therefore decided to press on as far as Basel. It was a long day in the car with roadworks and slow-moving traffic on several sections of the route so we were thankful to reach our rabbit hutch of a hotel room and then find somewhere for an evening meal. The temperature had been steadily rising as we made our way south across Europe so we were delighted to find a restaurant just round the corner that had tables outside. The cuisine turned out to be Greek which struck me as somewhat mad since we are about to spend the entire summer in Greece. However, it turned out to be very good – indeed better than many Greek restaurants at which we have eaten!

The next day was the most spectacular section of the trip as we drove over the St Gottard Pass and down into Italy. Our destination that evening was the Abbey near Parma where we broke our journey last year, almost to the day. It was as beautiful and as peaceful as we remembered, though as we sat enjoying our evening meal in the cool of the evening, the local mosquitoes 🦟 set to and had a feast of their own.

Abbazia di Valserena near Parma, Italy

We had two days driving along the Italian autostradas and during that time I came to the conclusion that the Italians regard their motorways as something akin to the black run on a ski slope and employ very similar techniques and skills. As if by prearrangement, a certain number of drivers are quite clearly paid up members of CLaRA, (the Centre Lane Residents Association). This enables their compatriots to slalom gracefully round them, making full use of all three lanes with verve, panache and no apparent concern for their own safety or that of other road users. The motorcyclists, of course, exhibit the greatest grace and skill, clearly regarding the use of brakes as an affront to their manhood as they slide between other moving vehicles, none of them travelling at less than 130k per hour. They also make full use of the hard shoulder and think nothing of passing between the cars in the outside lane and the central reservation. It was mesmerising stuff so that at one stage my beloved felt impelled to point out to me that I myself was doing about 150k and that possibly even the Italian police might feel moved to take exception. I laughed out loud at this ridiculous idea as at least half the other road users roared past me, but you will doubtless be relieved to hear that I did moderate my own speed. The significance of a long delay as a result of an RTA was not lost on me.

So now we are on the final leg of our journey. We passed an unremarkable night on board the ferry from Ancona to Igoumenitsa and as I write this we are driving south along the very familiar road to Preveza. We left Italy in glorious sunshine last night but here it is cloudy and the temperature is a mere 21 degrees centigrade. If this continues it will be ideal conditions for all the work we have to do aboard Rampage, though I fear this is a temporary lull in the blazing heat that is usual at this time of year.


Heading for Home

October 10, 2018

As we sped across Northern Italy, there were no sharp silhouettes against the sky. The flat fields between Milan and Turin, the farmhouses, trees and telegraph posts either side of the autostrada all faded into the morning mists. Occasionally there was a brief glimpse of sun but by the time we reached the mountains the mist was back in earnest. A castle perched atop a pinnacle peered down as if through a veil of grey muslin and the mountains ahead were completely obscured. It made little odds however, because we were now into the territory of increasingly long tunnels. As I write this we are making our way through our ninth so far and the longest: the Frejus Tunnel between France and Italy. It is much cooler here and I have made a mental note to wear socks and shoes tomorrow as I’m suffering a mild case of chillitoesis in my Greek leather sandals! Yesterday I solemnly zipped on the leg pieces that convert the shorts I wore leaving Preveza on Monday night into full length trousers. Temperatures are dropping rapidly and we are heading for the U.K.

A cool and rather misty morning as we left Centro Turistico Città di Bologna at 07:30 today

Mind you, this is not our first taste of cooler weather. In the wake of Zorba we had wind and rain and it suddenly became distinctly chilly at night so we were obliged to dig out our red fleece blankets. Being at anchor has less appeal when it’s no longer swimming and barbecue weather and going anywhere in the dinghy leaves you very damp round the edges as the chop does it’s best to soak you. We decided to cut our losses and run. We arranged for Rampage to be lifted out a week ahead of schedule, changed the date of our ferry booking to Ancona and headed for Preveza.

Of course the weather immediately perked up and we prepared Rampage for winter in temperatures back up in the high 20s with more fine weather forecast for the next week or so. But we are ready to come home. We’ve had a great summer but now it’s time for autumn colours, hallowe’en and fireworks, family, friends and serious gig training.

For those of you who don’t have a boat, there is always quite a bit to do to prepare a boat for a winter on the hard. The sails have to come off, and this year ours have gone to the sailmakers for minor repairs and cleaning. In addition, all the other canvas work must be removed, (spray hood, dodgers, bimini etc.,) to prevent damage from winter winds and protect them from all the red dust that is liberally deposited over Rampage during the winter. There are final bits of laundry to be done, the fridge to be cleaned out plus every available aperture or opening needs to be plugged in an attempt to prevent wasps from making nests everywhere. After various experiments, we find pieces of sponge work very well for this purpose but we are never 100% successful – we always find a few nests in the spring.

Preparing Rampage for lift-out

On top of all these routine tasks, this year we also undertook Operation Poo Pipes. This involved removing the old holding tank and associated pipe work which have been in place since we first set off in 2009. I will not distress you with the details but suffice to say it was a long, difficult and extremely revolting job. We don’t usually bother to clean the outside of Rampage before the winter because it seems futile; she is always filthy when we return in the spring. However this year, Operation Poo Pipes was immediately followed by Operation Clean Up, involving large quantities of bleach and disinfectant. We then both took a long, restorative shower and D was moved to throw away his work clothes – strong measures indeed.

This delightful activity was postponed until after Rampage had been lifted out of the water, not only to spare our neighbours in Preveza marina the inevitable stench, but also because it is not a great idea to start messing about with through-hull fittings, whilst still in the water, for obvious reasons. There were also innumerable other tasks to be done such as taking measurements for all the various winter sewing projects, and compiling a long list of things to be brought out from the U.K. next spring. This ranges from new flares to antiseptic ointment to ground coriander – the latter being surprisingly hard to find in Greece.

When the car was packed and the hatches shut and we were almost ready for departure we had a final panic. Where was the bimini (sun shade that goes over the cockpit)? We planned to take it home as it needs some minor repairs but we couldn’t find it anywhere. Everything had to come out of both aft cabins again where bedding and barbecue, tools and canvas work had all been carefully stowed – but to no avail. Thinking we had somehow inadvertently packed it, we unloaded the car again, even checked in the dinghy bag but nothing, no sign, nada.

A piece of heavy fabric measuring approximately 2m x 3m can’t just vanish into thin air but that’s what seemed to have happened. Bewildered but defeated we decided we would simply have to make a new one, took the measurements and added them to all the others and then set off.

Boarding the ferry at Igoumenitsa turned out to be another trauma. We’ve been through the port quite a number of times but they have changed the rules – possibly Greece has been told to tighten up her port controls. Anyway only the driver can stay with the car. I had to go through the departure hall after which there were no signs, guidance nor anyone to ask where I was supposed to go. I trailed round the port lugging my travel case, unable to even see the ships for the hundreds of big trucks parked up waiting to board. When I asked someone where the Superfast ferry would be he had no clue & said I should have asked at the office. What office? Shrug. D didn’t answer his phone and then my mobile battery died. It was nearly departure time, I was weary and getting close to tears when I eventually found the right ship and staggered aboard. Even then, it was fun and games to find the cabin. I regret I broke my Sober October vow because by the time D & I eventually met up, the ship was pulling out of the port and I really needed a glass of wine to soothe my nerves!

Sunshine and blue skies as we come through the mountains into France

While I have been writing this, we have emerged into France and sunshine. It’s time to stop for lunch and then it will be my turn to drive. It’s been a wonderful summer but now I’m really looking forward to getting home.

P.S. By the way – I remembered where I put the bimini. It’s carefully folded in a bag in the forward head where I put it to be out of the way while we were packing. Ah well, at least I don’t have to make another!


Medicane Zorba

October 2, 2018

Autumn is fast approaching here in Greece. We have spent the past week in Vliho Bay, having come here to shelter from high winds that were forecast. Many other people had taken similar action and we watched this huge bay gradually fill with boats. When the forecasts grew more severe, the coming storm became the main topic of conversation among the boaties, and more and more different weather-forecasting websites were consulted. This is an interesting phenomenon because most forecasting websites get their data from the same sources. By consulting multiple sites, did we hope to somehow avert the impending storm?

Our friends Corinne and Claudio, also here in the bay, texted regularly talking of more and more gloomy weather predictions. The centre of the storm formed in the middle of the sea between Italy, Greece and North Africa and much of the discussions between us was about where it would move to. If it came north, we would lie in its path: if it went east then we would only get the fringes of the worst winds. In the event, it tracked east over the Peloponnese then north into the Aegean, where it had some severe effects. The storm was formally classified as a cyclone (or Medicane) and given the name Zorba as it swept round the Peloponnese. Sailing Holidays, a yacht charter company out here, lost four boats in Epidavros, though thankfully there was no loss of life. It effects arrived in this part of the world last Wednesday night.

Here in Vliho it wasn’t actually too bad, although people recorded gusts of 40mph (Force 9 severe gale on the Beaufort scale) and more. We ourselves were fine, our anchor was well dug in and there was a reasonable amount of space all round us. Corinne and Claudio, on the other hand, had a more difficult time. They had moved Levitha across to the eastern side of the bay to get shelter from the hills on that side. We followed their example some hours later but by then many others had come up with the same idea. As a result Levitha was entirely surrounded by other boats and we were not able to get as close inshore as we had hoped.

In the event this proved our salvation, because we were unaffected by other boats with dragging anchors, although we did get up to investigate at about 03:30 when Duncan heard shouting close at hand. He had opted to spend the night on anchor watch, sleeping in the passage berth fully dressed, the anchor alarm beside him. Two boats had their anchor chains entwined, one clearly having dragged and taken another with it. Neither skipper seemed to be doing much other than yelling as they performed a curious dance together in the dark, thankfully downwind of us. Under other circumstances, D would have gone to assist as he usually does, but on this particular occasion our priority was Rampage.

Levitha, on the other hand, had a much more uncomfortable time, affected not only by Zorba but also by katabatic winds swooping down off the hills. In addition, there were all sorts of excitements going on around them. At 4am they realised that another boat was leaning heavily against Levitha, the occupants completely unaware. Thankfully Claudio had put out fenders and their dinghy was lying between the two boats so they had no damage but they had to rouse the other people and then had to reset their own anchor which had been tripped because of the additional strain on it. North of us in Levkas things were much worse and one unfortunate yacht sank in the entrance to the canal. The owner was a liveaboard who has lost everything so a crowd funding page has been set up to help him out: https://www.gofundme.com/propero-paul-help-fund

The sunken yacht at the northern end of the Levkas canal, still there when we went past today.

By morning the worst was over, although wind continued to blow, albeit less ferociously. The sea remained quite choppy, making trips ashore wet and chilly. Also temperatures have dropped significantly in the past week and the change is a shock to the system. I could do with slippers or cosy socks as the floor feels very chilly. In addition it has been cloudy and grey and we have had quite a lot of rain. It’s not much fun on a boat in these circumstances and you begin to get a bit stir-crazy after a while, although we have had a couple of pleasant interludes.

The first was when we finally met up with Paul Watson. Paul originally made contact about seven years ago when he started reading our blog. He then asked Duncan’s advice before buying a boat himself and has kept in touch ever since, via Facebook. However, until now, we have never actually managed to meet but on Saturday we were able to rendezvous with Paul and his friend, Hugh, at Vliho Yacht Club for a couple of hours which was really great. The following evening we were invited on board Levitha for supper and as always, had a brilliant evening with Claudio and Corinne. Yesterday we had a brief respite in the weather. It was warm and sunny so we took the dinghy down to Nidri for shopping and laundry, and went to a shore-front taverna for lunch where we took advantage of their free Wi-fi to do updates on our phones and iPads.

Today, depressingly, it is once again chilly and grey and more bad weather and high winds are forecast so we plan to collect our laundry and head up to Preveza where we can have use of the car and we will be in the right part of the world for lift-out next week.



September 25, 2018

I said in my previous post that being on a quayside was generally more sociable – it’s just easier to get chatting with people. Indeed, one lady I met this summer said she found being at anchor isolating and lonely. Well I think Duncan and I are quite content with our own company, (particularly if we have a Wi-fi signal,) but it is nice to get together with people and over the years we have made some very good friends in the boating community. We have caught up with several of these over the past week.

Mike and Sandy Wannell on the Sail Ionian quay at Vliho

We were expecting to meet up with Sandy and Mike when we reached Vliho because we had been texting one another. We met up earlier in the summer in Lakka on Paxos and had spent a couple of days together, and then later in Vliho before we set off around the Peloponnese. We originally met in Lakka several years ago, when Mike spotted the Cornish flag we fly and rowed over to check our credentials as Cornish people. Of course we failed the test dismally but they have generously overlooked our lack of authenticity and remained friends ever since. They live only a few miles from us in Cornwall and yet we seem to meet up more regularly in the summer in Greece! This time, once again, we went to Sami’s taverna, The Office, for a meal and we were looked after most magnificently by the delightful Tomas, who even provided anti-mosquito spray as we had failed to put any on before we left the boat!

Doug and Josie with Duncan

Last time we were in Vliho (D calls it Velcro Bay because we seem to be stuck with always coming back here,) we spotted another boat we recognised: Windsong. We spent our first winter living ‘next door’ to Windsong when we were in Barcelona. Josie was living alone on board most of the time because Doug was still working, and we became firm friends. Since then Doug has retired and they both live on board full time. We have met up several times over the years but we were disappointed in August that there never seemed to be anyone on board. We were therefore delighted to see Windsong here again when we returned and this time we managed to make contact and get together. It was really great to see them both and catch up on all the news.

We met Corinne and Claudio a year later when we spent a winter in Gouvia marina on Corfu, (not recommended – far too big and impersonal). Stupidly, we remained on ‘Good morning’ terms for weeks but finally I suggested that they might like to come for a drink and we promptly became firm friends. I mentioned in a previous post that we passed each other, going in opposite directions in the Saronic last month and we agreed then to try and get together in the Ionian. (They return to Corfu every winter, where they now have an apartment). We therefore stayed on an extra day in Vliho when we heard that they would arrive the next evening. They came and had a meal aboard Rampage and the following morning, (still feeling a little jaded) we went for a coffee aboard Levitha.

Corinne and Claudio aboard Levitha

We then headed off to our old favourite, Abelike Bay on Meganisi, because it is stunningly beautiful and the water is clean enough to swim safely. As we entered the bay, D said he thought he spotted another boat we recognised on the other side of the headland. Accordingly, I emailed Mr Whiskers and sure enough, they were only a few hundred metres away. What a great reunion! We went round later that day and had a great time, as full of laughter and funny stories as always when we get together. We first met Clive and Ruth several years ago on Kastos, invited them for a drink and had the most riotous evening! Rarely have I laughed so much. It’s extraordinary how with some people, you just hit it off immediately whilst other friendships grow and mature gradually.

Duncan towing Clive and Ruth back to Mr Whiskers

We are now back in Vliho yet again, after our brief sojourn in Abelike, because strong winds are forecast and this bay is usually well protected with good holding and plenty of space. In fact it’s an ideal bolt hole most of the time except when a freak tornado hits, as happened in 2009. (You can see video footage of the devastation on YouTube.) Anyway, I noticed last night that Windsong had gone but Levitha, to our surprise was still at anchor here. This morning however she too has left. Mike and Sandy’s boat, Eos is back on the Sail Ionian quay but they leave today as well. Ruth and Clive left us to go straight to Levkas marina so clearly there is only so much of the Byrnes that any of them can cope with!

But seriously, I have been wondering what it is about these friendships that makes them so special and enduring and I think it is a shared passion. Many friends we make simply through circumstance – we work together or we are neighbours, or our children are friends. Some of these friendships survive when we move on, but many fade because we have little else in common. Those of us who sail have shared experiences, problems and concerns. Put two boaty people together and inevitably the conversation will come round to the weather, water and power supplies, and where we have been. You have to be flexible as plans often have to be revised and you have to be resilient as things continually go wrong or break. You also also have been content to live a much simpler life without many of the luxuries that many people take for granted such as dishwashers and super-fast broadband. Most of us don’t even have a washing machine on board. What we do have is adventure, and an escape from the stresses and constraints of land-based living because life aboard is lived at a gentler pace. There is time to admire the sunset or read a book or enjoy spending time with friends. You start to value this beautiful world and there is time to think about what matters to you, what is truly important.


On the Quay

September 23, 2018

Rampage all alone on the quay in Monemvasia – a rare sight!

Please note: you will have seen most of these blog photos before, for which I apologise!

Recently we have spent far more time than I would like moored to a quayside. Now many people would rather do this than anchor and they have some very valid reasons.

Firstly, a lot of people feel more secure tied to a quay, whether they have dropped an anchor or picked up lazy lines to hold them in position. Secondly, there is often water available on a pontoon or quayside. This gives you the luxury of being able to wash up in more than half an inch of water and being able to use hair conditioner, not just shampoo! (Many people will also do laundry if there is water available but I make it a policy to avoid washing by hand if I possibly can; I’d much rather pay to use a machine.) Sometimes there is mains electricity on the quay too, which gives the batteries a good charge and allows the use of the immersion, electric kettle etc etc. Of course shopping and eating out are simpler if you are on a quay as you don’t have to scramble in and out of a dinghy. Finally, it is more sociable as you are far more inclined to get chatting to other people on the quayside.

So why do we prefer to anchor? Well firstly, it is much simpler. There is no rushing round putting out fenders and getting shorelines set up as you approach. You don’t have to worry about whether anyone will offer to take your lines for you or whether one or other of you will have to scramble ashore. This is particularly difficult when you have never been into a particular harbour or quay before. Will we have to jump down onto the quay? Worse still, perhaps we’ll have to try to climb up onto a high wall, and at the same time avoid bringing Rampage in too close and damaging her?

Climbing off over the bow is always more tricky, but especially when you first come in.

If you’re anchoring, all you have to do is position the boat correctly, let out sufficient chain for the depth and make sure it is holding. On that score, our Rocna anchor is particularly reliable as it nearly always digs straight in and the roll bar across the top means that if it should come out it will almost invariably reset itself.

Once in, your worries are not over, however. Anyone who has moored out here will tell you about the fun and games of crossed anchor chains and boats pulling other people’s anchors out. If this happens, most people seem to stand and shout and gesticulate wildly, but have no clue how to resolve the muddle. D has gone out in the dinghy countless times to show people what to do. It’s tedious. Another worry is that boats will try to squeeze in beside you, into a space that is far too small, gouging great scratches in Rampage’s gel coat in the process, despite her fenders. If your neighbour is a large motor cruiser there also is a fair chance that they will want to run their generator all night and blast noxious fumes in your direction.

Another important benefit of anchoring as far as I am concerned, is that it avoids the risk of rodents, feral cats or any other unwanted visitors coming aboard. Having had a rat on Rampage on one occasion, I have no desire to repeat the experience.

Being at anchor also provides far more privacy. When we have to moor, we nearly always come in stern-to because it’s easier to get on and off over the stern. However our cockpit is in the stern so we cannot eat a meal or even read a book without being stared at by passers-by. Some people must think we are blind and deaf as they stand at the back of the boat openly discussing her merits as if we were invisible. It is very tempting to scratch our armpits (or worse) as though we were chimps in the zoo. Of course sometimes people are very pleasant and you can have a really nice chat but usually people just stare.

In a marina there is really very little privacy

Another factor is that being able to anchor vastly increases the number of places that you can go and an anchorage is far more likely to be (though not invariably) quieter at night and more peaceful by day.

Finally, and very importantly in this part of the world, being at anchor tends to be cooler. The boat will always swing to face into the wind so any available breeze will come in through the front hatches and down the length of the boat. Often on a quayside there is a wide expanse of concrete which reflects the heat and makes it feel even hotter. More significantly you cannot simply jump in the water to cool down as it is dangerous and the water is almost always polluted. Being able to swim off the back of the boat is the biggest factor for me, in favour of anchoring.

Rampage at anchor in Navarino Bay

So why have we been on quaysides recently? Well, as we made our way north from the Peloponnese we had little option. There are few bolt holes on the west coast of the Peloponnese once you leave Navarino so from Kyparassia harbour we went to Katakolon and then on to Poros, near the southern end of Kefalonia. It is possible to anchor off the beach at Poros but it is very exposed so we went into the harbour and sweltered. We took the opportunity while we were there to empty, flush out and refill our water tanks. Our previous fill was perfectly potable but had a really horrid taste so we had been obliged to use bottled water even for tea and coffee. It has made us think very seriously about fitting a water filter.

En route to Poros we became aware of a foul smell down below. Now I am fairly paranoid about smells on the boat and immediately feared that sewage had somehow leaked into the bilges – but no, they were fine. D eventually had a brainwave and lifted the locker lid to our battery bank. Two of our lead acid batteries had fried, were leaking acid and threatening to explode! We had a pause, mid-sea, while he disconnected them and sorted out the electrics so we could continue to Poros. Unfortunately there was no possibility of replacing them in Poros and our only option was to go from there to Nidri.

There we met up with our friends, Mike and Sandy Wannell, who were moored on the Sail Ionian quay in Vliho bay. They keep their car at Vliho when they are cruising and when they heard we were about to buy new batteries, Mike offered to collect them for us. This was fantastic as it avoided putting the enormously heavy batteries in our dinghy, so once again we put out fenders and went in next to them on the quay.

Now, finally, we are back at anchor in Abelike bay, and since our time out here in Greece is rapidly coming to an end, I shall make the most of it, leave you now and go for a swim!


Following in Frodo’s Footsteps

September 14, 2018

At the gates to Moria

As we walked along the shores of the lagoon, there was an occasional plopping noise followed by a widening circle of ripples across the oily-smooth surface of the water. There were unseen creatures in the depths! The shallows at our feet were brownish-green and full of weed and on our other side the tall cliffs, topped by a ruined fortress, loomed over us in the grey of the early morning.

Footpath along the shoreline of the lagoon

Elaborate spiders’ webs threaded between the reeds, and despite the tiny mayflies that danced in the undergrowth, there was a profound stillness. As the sun rose behind the eastern hills, there was an eyrie beauty; it felt like the approach to Mines of Moria. When an egret suddenly emerged from the reeds in a great fluster, I instinctively jumped.

A fortress at the summit of the ridge line.

We were not however, seeking to hurl a magical ring into fiery depths but, rather more prosaically, to look for a geocache hidden in the dunes of the next bay. The bay turned out to be a picture-book-perfect semicircle, bordered by fine sand.

A near-perfect bay with the lagoon behind

Two yachts lay at anchor, rolling slightly as the surge made its way in through the narrow entrance, so we were glad that we ourselves had chosen to stay in Navarino Bay. It was an easy walk as temperatures have started to drop here now, especially early morning and at night. We had also opted for the path at the base of the cliffs rather than the one that ran along the ridge line although had we done this, the views would undoubtedly have been very fine. This was a walk with a purpose however, and we couldn’t afford to take too long because we needed to move on north to Kyparissia as soon as we got back.

Going down was a lot easier than climbing the dunes

Having struggled up the dunes, we found the cache without any trouble and duly signed the logbook. By now we had left Moria in the mists of early morning. The sun was up and there were other walkers about. I was much struck by the sign that confronted us about two thirds of the way back along the

We decided to take our chance and press on, despite this dire warning since the only alternatives would have taken hours. We disturbed the egret again as we made our way back to the dinghy. Clearly he had found a prime spot where fish gather to feed.

The memorial to the RN sailors who died at the Battle of Navarino

This was our third cache in three days – not bad for Greece where they are much thinner on the ground than in the U.K. and Northern Europe. We like geocaching in Greece because they are generally located at beauty spots or places of interest that we might otherwise not discover. In addition they are much more likely to be dry, unmolested and remote, so the risk of being overlooked is generally negligible. This was the case the morning before, when our hunt for a cache led us to the islet in the middle of Navarino Bay. Here there is a memorial to the Royal Navy sailors who died during the great sea battle in 1827, assisting the Greeks in their struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire. The island also proved to be a favoured roosting spot for sea birds – not something I’ve seen much in Greece. We disturbed them too.

Rampage at anchor at the northern end of Navarino Bay

The third cache we found is hidden on the shores of the bay and I suddenly decided to go off in the dinghy just before the light went on our second evening. Again, I found it easily enough but was ferociously bitten by mosquitoes for my pains. They were particularly bad at the northern end of the bay where we were anchored, presumably because of the lagoon the other side of the sandbar. We also had trouble with the mayflies that descended in vast hordes on Rampage after dark on our first evening, attracted by the glow from our cockpit lights. Next morning I had to wash the whole of the cockpit and sugar-scoop that were littered with dead bodies. For this reason, we decided not to sit out in the cockpit after dark but retreated below, protected by our mosquito nets.

Lots of dead bodies on the sugar-scoop in the morning

We are now en route for Katakolon, having spent last night in Kyparissia. There was some sort of celebration going on in the town last night but we couldn’t establish what it was all about. The town is quite attractive, as is the castle above, but we’ve been there before and we were quite tired yesterday evening, having had a full day sailing from Navarino. Since there was a taverna in the harbour, we didn’t bother to flog up the hill to investigate further. Frankly the harbour is fairly unremarkable and didn’t really warrant a photo.

More fun is the loaf of bread that D has baked while I have been writing this blog. This was necessary because the shop in the harbour was closed this morning, so possibly last night’s shenanigans were a prelude to some sort of local holiday. Anyway today, as you may have guessed, we are not sailing but motoring in a dead straight line across a flat calm sea, but fear not, we have been taking turns on watch!

Bread making on the move!