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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!

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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.

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Friendships

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.

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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!

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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!

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Monemvasia and beyond.

September 9, 2018

Leaving Monemvasia yesterday morning

We stayed a week in Monemvasia – not the first time we have done this, as the winds in this area can be unpredictable. The usual weather pattern each day was calm in the morning but increasingly strong winds building through the afternoon and evening. Land heats faster than water, the warm air rises and draws in cooler air behind it, resulting in on-shore breeze. As the sun goes down, the reverse process takes place, the land cooling more quickly than the water so the winds blow off-shore. Simple physics. We were unfazed by this as we were secure and well protected, though we did tie down the bimini sides to stop them flapping and driving us insane.

En route to Cape Maleas

However it was not this that kept us put for so many days but the weather on the western side of the Peloponnese, which has been quite unfriendly and we had no desire to run into it and get stuck somewhere remote. We finally departed early yesterday morning and initially all went well. In fact we had to motor through flat calm seas as far as Cape Maleas, the most southerly point on the mainland. However almost as soon as we rounded the cape we ran into F4 winds right on the nose. We were heading for Porto Kayio near the southern tip of the middle finger of the Peloponnese and calculated that tacking into the wind meant that we would not arrive until after 9p.m. by which time it would be very dark. So, as is often the way, we had a rethink and change of plan. Once round the island of Elafanisos, we headed north to the huge bay at Plitra. This proved a good move because the swell was building all the time and after several hours we were both quite weary and relieved to reach the relatively calm waters of the bay. Even so, the swell crept in and promised us a very rock ‘n rolly night so we tucked up as close inshore as possible, failing to take note of the party preparations going on ashore. So instead we had rock ‘n roll of another sort until some time in the early hours. We seem to be fated this year.

Sunrise this morning leaving Plitra

We had a fairly quiet time in Monemvasia, as the temperatures were well over 30c every day so we weren’t inclined to do much, other than swim. We did invite the guy from the next boat round for a drink one evening, quite forgetting that Americans eat a lot earlier than we do. He came round at about 7:30p.m. and stayed for three hours of so. He was a lovely guy, sailing alone for the first time and very interesting, so we had a great evening. However, after he’d gone, neither of us could be bothered to cook an evening meal. We had yogurts and went to bed!

The old walled town of Monemvasia

Another evening we strolled up to the old walled town and another day we walked up there in the early morning to take photos and treated ourselves to breakfast amid the delightful surroundings of a charming little square.

The walled town is an irresistible mix of some ruined and many sensitively-restored buildings. The mellow stone, red-tiled roofs and white churches are linked by narrow cobbled streets that meander up and around the hillside in a bewildering maze. Flowers sprawl over walls or grow in huge earthenware pots and everywhere there is the smell of cooking from the many restaurants and tavernas. There are also a huge number of cats, living a contented, safe life away from any traffic and amid an abundance of titbits from the diners.

Cats …

Monemvasia has much to recommend it. Not only are there some reasonable shops and restaurants, but there is no charge to stay on the southern quay and there is also free water available, though not mains electricity. There is also free Wi-fi, albeit, not a terrifically strong signal. Finally, and perhaps best of all, there are large turtles living in the harbour, presumably attracted by the regular comings and goings of the fishing boats. One day as I stood in the cockpit, one swam right past the boat – a wonderful photo opportunity. Another time I met one as I was snorkelling the other side of the sea wall. Close enough to touch, she/he was completely uninterested in me and allowed me to marvel at its fluid movements and grace as it gently drifted through the water.

Hanging round the fishing boats

Photo call past Rampage

Now we are in Porto Kayio – only a day later than scheduled. We rose early this morning and made the trip from Plitra in less than four hours. It is much quieter than last time we were here – just three other boats. Tonight we will investigate the possibilities of dining ashore and maybe take a walk before it gets dark. I have yet to investigate whether there are any geocaches in the area.

The entrance to Porto Kayio anchorage

A cave just begging to be explored

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Where the Wind (or Cruise Ships) Send Us…

September 4, 2018

One of the delights of this life is that there are few rules. When we first set off we quite deliberately had no fixed plans and we try to stick to this philosophy. There are very few ‘ought to’ s beyond basic life support and safety, other than certain constraints if we have made arrangements to meet people.

However, often circumstances dictate our decisions. We may be heading somewhere and the weather deteriorates so we run for cover to the nearest available safe haven. Alternatively the wind may change direction so that rather than battling into a head wind we decide to go somewhere else. Or we find somewhere really lovely and decide to stay longer. Equally we have raised anchor and fled ahead of time, usually because of obnoxious neighbours, but also quite often because the wind has changed and we find ourselves close to a lee shore.

En route to Dokos. Strong winds forced us to haul the dinghy out of the water and don lifejackets.

The past week or so has been an example of this kind of thing. Having stayed longer than originally intended on the island of Salamina, simply because it was so lovely there, (see earlier post) we also wound up staying longer in Poros than we had originally intended. There was a threat of thunderstorms and their associated potential high winds about, so we stayed put for an extra day or two.

We then set off for Dokos, and a bay on the north coast that we have always referred to as Bluebottle Bay. The reason for this is that when we last visited (several years ago now) with our friends Iain and Terri, we were plagued by flies. We managed to tolerate them the first evening by dint of mosquito screens and chemical warfare. However when they were replaced the next morning by hundreds of wasps, we left in haste. You begin to get the picture, I hope?

The western anchorage on Dokos

Anyway this time there were no unpleasant insects but we found the eastern side of the bay to be very crowded so we went about a mile further on to the western end and took long lines ashore. Next morning however, the wind was blowing straight in and we were only a few metres from some very unfriendly-looking rocks. Our anchor is pretty reliable but there is no point in tempting fate. The flotilla that had been in the eastern end had departed, so off we went. I’m very glad that we did because the snorkelling was spectacular at the new location – thousands upon thousands of tiny fish in vast shoals that swirled and moved in the water as a single body. The shoreline plunging into the water was steep, rapidly dropping to a depth of 20 metres or so and the visibility was wonderful. As well as the small fry, there were shoals of larger fish and yet more pipefish, such as we had seen on Salamina.

Sunrise on Dokos, taken from the eastern end. (Boat in photo is not Rampage.)

I should have liked to stay longer but we are aware that we have quite a long way to go to get back to the yard for lift-out in October and the weather becomes more unpredictable as we head into autumn: also, we’d completely run out of fresh food. We therefore set off the next day, planning to go to a place called Astros on the Peloponnese.

Halfway there, Duncan suddenly demanded the binoculars and peered through them at a ketch coming the other way. It was a Halberg Rassey flying a Swiss flag and when we hailed her over the radio, the crew confirmed that it was indeed our friends Claudio and Corinne aboard Levethia, whom we’ve not seen for a couple of years. We drew alongside and briefly exchanged news across the water before they continued on to Milos and we set off once more for Astros. We hope to see them again, when we are all back in the Ionian.

After that wonderful and totally unexpected encounter, the wind picked up and we had a fantastic sail. However, as it was a north-westerly, making any progress north was going to be a long slow battle so instead we opted to go to another anchorage rejoicing in the name of Fokianos. We are delighted that we made this decision because Fokianos turned out to be lovely. We anchored off the beach and then paddled ashore in the kayak to check out the possibilities for supper. There were no shops but there were two little tavernas so, having eaten ice creams we returned to Rampage, fully intending to have supper ashore.

The beach at Fokianos, Rampage is the boat on the left.

However, at about 7pm we found once again that the wind had changed and was steadily building, so D went off in the dinghy to investigate a small inlet on the northern shore of the bay. This looked much more sheltered so we moved across. There was less space to swing so again it was lines ashore and we also deployed the kedge anchor this time, as added insurance. We clearly alarmed the other boat that had been anchoring near us, who then followed suit. By now it was getting quite dark and I was amused to see she had her navigation lights and also her anchor light showing, when generally you have one or the other. I am told however, that this was conceivably legitimate if her steaming light was out of commission. Who knows? Another boat that came in after dark was showing a white stern light but no other lights. People often seem to have problems with their lights and it is not uncommon to see either navigation lights or an anchor light displayed on boats that are safely tucked up in a marina – but I digress. We didn’t get our supper ashore but to compensate, our new location was even more lovely and next morning I discovered that the snorkelling was as good as it had been on Dokos. I even saw a small moray eel – a rare sight indeed. After my swim it was time to move on but we shall definitely try to return.

Taken from the inlet where we finally settled in Fokianos. My phone calls it Arcadia – it could be right!

We are now in Monemvasia, a very attractive little place that we have visited before. The old walled town on a rock, linked by a causeway to the mainland, has been sensitively restored and is a maze of bars and restaurants full of beautiful people. In the modern town we can restock the larder, refuel and take on water before we head round Cape Maleas into the most remote part of the Peloponnese. Even here in Monemvasia though, we have not been permitted to settle.

The walled old town on the rock at Monemvasia

We came in alongside the northern quay as we have done on previous occasions but had barely got settled when a charming and very talkative gentleman appeared and explained that we would need to re-berth (or birth, as the sign says!) because the big yachts now use the north quay and we were taking up too much space if one happened to come in.

‘Where would you like us to go?’ we asked, and were assured that we were fine where we were, but we just needed to be stern-to rather than alongside.

Stern-to on the northern quay at Monemvasia

We duly re-berthed as requested. The next morning however, D rushed back from the bakery to say there was a cruise ship approaching and we’d probably need to move. Next moment the port police and our delightful friend from the domus were telling we needed to move now, now, now! So with fascinated cruise passengers peering down at us from their lofty heights, we scurried away round to the southern harbour. So far we’ve been here just over 24 hours and no-one has asked us to move again – or indeed charged us anything to stay here, so moving is not all bad!

The cruise ship that ousted us