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Last Days

September 29, 2019

I am writing this on the ferry en route to Ancona. Yesterday we drained the water tanks, unplugged the mains electricity and filled every through-hull fitting with pieces of sponge in an effort to thwart the wasps from building nests in every nook and cranny during our absence. It’s the same ritual every year and a time for mixed feelings. It is always sad to leave the sunshine and beauty of Greece and the Greek people though we always look forward to seeing friends and family again.

Rampage being lifted, sails already removed

The pace of life aboard Rampage through the summer is inevitably slow. Most of the time it’s far too hot for anything else. My good intentions to maintain the hard-earned fitness I’d achieved over the winter and spring evaporated in the heat haze. My weights and Pilates bands languished in bottom of my wardrobe and the few walks we did were rarely more than a leisurely stroll. Okay, I swam most days and when we were alone (I.e. no visitors on board,) I swam hard. We also messed about in the kayak. But that’s it. So I know when I start rowing again my abs will protest horribly, but I do relish the slower pace of life through the summer.

One thing I have achieved while we’ve been on board has been quite a lot of writing. It was quantity rather than quality at this stage – a case of just get the words down – refining and editing come later. Still it feels like an achievement and I hope I don’t lose the momentum when we get home in the way I’ve let my fitness levels slip while we’ve been away.

Since waving farewell to Bill and Sara in Agia Efimia, we have gradually made our way north. The day after they left, I went over to accost the owner of a small trawler-type boat that was anchored nearby. We had seen it a few days earlier in Sivota and had been intrigued by the poles/arms either side and had been trying to work out their purpose. D wondered if they were something to do with big game fishing but it turned out that they were a stabilising device. Anyway, we wound up having a drink on board Envoy that evening and now have an offer to visit Laurie and Diane in Auckland if we ever go to New Zealand.

At about 03:00 the next morning, we were woken by the wind. It was eerie. I had already woken for some reason and could hear a sort of whooshing noise getting louder and louder as it approached. It was positively menacing. The ferocity as it arrived was extraordinary. Rampage tossed at the end of her anchor chain and the dinghy skittered about madly on the stern. Then the rain arrived. We were both up and hastily went to check outside. Having established that all was well, we retired below to sit it out. It was over as quickly as it had begun and no damage done; we possibly dragged half a boat length. With some considerable relief, we retired to bed again.

Ice-cold ciders on our final evening at George’s

We had one last night in Big Vathi on Ithaca so I could by some little gifts for people, a night back at George’s (aka Karnagio’s) on Meganisi and one night in Abelike. In other words, a final visit to some favourite haunts to say adieu.

One small incident occurred while we were in anchor. This year, as mentioned in a previous post, I skippered the boat single-handed for the first time. In Abelike I had another first: I earned myself a bottle of wine. Previously, it has always been Duncan who has done the noble deeds and gone to rescue those in difficulties but on this occasion it was my turn, although it was a joint effort when we boarded the unattended yacht that was adrift earlier this summer.

Me and my prize!

Anyway, there I was, minding my own business that final evening in Abelike and thinking the sun was probably over the yardarm (😉) when I realised that there was a small dinghy full of five large Germans drifting past our boat. To my interested enquiry, they confirmed that they did indeed ‘have a problem’. They had run out of fuel and had not taken the precaution of bringing along any paddles.

It took several minutes to drop the outboard onto our dinghy by which time they drifted some distance away – there was quite a breeze blowing that evening, though fortunately it was onshore. Anyway, I gave chase, caught up with them and took their painter. I could not simply give them some of our spare fuel because they had a four-stroke and we have a two-stroke outboard. Instead I tried to tow them back. I then discovered that our little 2.5 hp engine was no match for their combined body weight. I went solemnly round and round in circles getting nowhere! We finally resolved the problem when one of their party climbed into my dinghy and we left the others to their fate while he and I battled back to their boat against a building sea. I kept trying to persuade him to sit further towards the stern but he seemed reluctant and so was thoroughly soaked by the time we reached their boat. He then clambered aboard to grab their fuel can and a bottle for me. Our journey back was easier as we were going with the wind and by the time we reached the shore, his companions had just arrived, blown there by the wind!

His parting comment to me as I departed, leaving them to their evening meal ashore was, ‘Thank goodness this happened before Brexit!’

Later as I sat in the cockpit, I heard them returning to their boat, full of wine, food and bonhomie, their outboard chugging happily. It was only a day or two later that I realised my reward had not just been a bottle of fizz but the real McCoy – albeit a brand I don’t know! Not bad for 30 minutes work – if that.

We’d planned to spend two nights in Abelike before heading up to anchor off Preveza on Tuesday. However on Monday morning D announced that there was a strong possibility of rain on Tuesday and he would like to set off that morning as he didn’t fancy travelling through a rainstorm. I then said in that case we should drop and stow the sails while they were dry.

Rain clouds overhead after we had left the Levkas canal.

It was a still morning so we leapt out of bed and the job was done by just after 10:00. It’s not easy to flake a sail on board as there is so little space on deck. There was nowhere ashore to go to fold it so we did our best with the genoa. However we slid the main off the boom while still in its stack pack and manoeuvred it like some giant slug, down the companionway and into the starboard cabin. As we wrestled it in through the cabin door it felt was though we were struggling to subdue some giant sea monster! Later, once we were on the hard, we had to reverse the process, lower it to the ground and fold it properly before winching it back on board with the aid of the halyard.

Still, everything has really gone remarkably smoothly, and as far as I am aware, we have left nothing behind. (Last year we left the bimini behind by mistake.) We have tried to keep to a minimum this time, bringing home things we shall have to take back next spring. The main thing we have brought are the mosquito screens as the netting all needs replacement due to UV damage. The reason for taking home as little as possible is that we hope to fly out next year. We quite enjoy the drive but it works out very much more expensive and the car then just sits in the yard all summer, quite literally, gathering dust.

Incidentally, one minor drama we had after lift-out was the discovery of a flat tyre. This was compounded when the electric tyre inflator drained the last remnants of life from the car battery. Oops! However, all this was swiftly resolved, so no crisis.

We plan to plan to make the most of our trip home. I will spend the next few days in Florence before making our way up through Switzerland to Haarlem near Amsterdam to see our son, Jonno and his family. We expect to be back in Cornwall in just over a week.

A last glorious sunset on our final night

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Last Visitors – Summer Draws to a Close

September 20, 2019

Sara, Bill and Duncan at the Windmill bar, Kastos

Since we went diving with Maggie (3 weeks or so ago), I’ve been struggling with a trapped nerve in my back. It’s not been pleasant for me nor, at times, for those round about me. So Bill and Sara’s arrival was doubly welcome as they brought a new prescription for me….. Whilst the trouble hasn’t completely gone, it’s down to manageable proportions again and I feel that I’ve rejoined the human race!

Bill and Sara’s visit didn’t have an auspicious start though. When they booked their flights, their plane into Kefalonia was due to arrive at 2300 so we left Sami at 2200, giving us plenty of time to drive over the mountains. About 1/3 of the way there however, we got a text message from Sara announcing their arrival… Apparently, their flight timing had changed and somehow none of us had realised. To compound the error, I told them to go to the Icarus cafe to wait for us. On arrival, we found Sara doing a Gracie, dabbling her toes in the swimming pool but in the dark of an otherwise completely closed cafe….

The following morning, after a decent lie in, we got the hire car handed back, did a big shop for a couple of day’s provisions and set sail for Kastos. One of the things that has struck me this year is how busy things still are in the third week of September. Gone are the boats full of parents and kids: instead the boats are full of groups of friends, families with grown up kids and others taking advantage of cheaper prices whilst the weather remains kind. It therefore wasn’t much of a surprise to arrive in Kastos to discover it pretty full: luckily Mike and Sandy aboard Eos were there and had kept a space next to them for us to anchor with long lines ashore.

Sunset on Kastos

We had a great evening there, catching up with Mike and Sandy before going ashore for sundowners at the Windmill Bar. After watching the colours change in the mountains on the mainland, we went back aboard Rampage for supper and a reasonably early bed.

J and I had debated long and hard about where to take Bill and Sara, who had said they’d like to see as much as possible and therefore we wanted to move every day. In the end we decided to go from Kastos to Patala Bay and then on to George’s taverna near Little Vathi on Meganisi for Saturday night.

Not much star gazing, but beautiful moonlight in Petala Bay

Petala is a spectacular, open bay on the tip of the mainland before it turns eastward into the northern shore of the Gulf of Patras. There’s nothing there, just a large open anchorage and a few fish farms. We got a good sail down there and anchored with a few other boats. Perfect peace after the crowded harbour at Kastos and an amazing harvest moon that night.

Our departure the following morning was a bit delayed by Julia and Sara undertaking a fairly long kayak trip so that Sara could give her some basic skills and drills instruction. Bill and I kept watch on them as they took the kayak up to the northern end of the bay; we kept losing sight of them as they faded into the background of the hills rising up round the bay.

Setting off on a kayaking expedition

There had been a fair wind blowing whilst they were paddling their way round the head of the bay but it had largely died away by the time we weighed anchor and set off for Meganisi. The calm didn’t last for long though before we picked up a force 4-5 from the north east. Before long we had three reefs in the main and two in the genoa and were still doing 6-7 knots. But not in the direction of Meganisi. Nowhere near. By the time we’d got level with Kastos, it was late afternoon and it had become clear we weren’t going to get much further north that evening. So we phoned Alex at George’s and cancelled our reservation (always good to keep in her good books) and changed destination to the other Vathi on Ithaca.

Even then, it still took us until 6:30pm to get there. We travelled 33 miles that day; the straight line distance from Petala to Vathi is only 22 miles: the extra miles were down to tacking trying to make ground to the north and west.

We were all quite tired by the time we arrived so it was not good that at this particular juncture the fresh water pump decided to go on strike whilst we were having showers……. Earlier in the summer, I’d lent our spare to Mike as his pump had died so I couldn’t simply swap it out. I had to remove it, strip it down and rebuild it: couldn’t see much wrong with it bar some gunge in the pump mechanism and lots of carbon dust from the motor bushes. But it ran OK when I reinstalled it, so eventually everyone was able to have showers!

Dinner in Vathi, Ithaca

When we finally got ashore that evening we had supper at Stines restaurant, one of the more imaginative restaurants in the Ionian. Along with the “no menu” restaurant in Nidri, Stines doesn’t follow the usual standard Greek menu options. They clearly take their inspiration from the local dishes but there’s flair and imagination in their menu. We had a great meal there and will be visiting again soon.

En route to Sivota

From Vathi we motored to Sivota on Lefkas: we might have been able to sail a bit but the batteries needed a good charge so motoring was the order of the day. We anchored in the bay and enjoyed a great ice cream when we went ashore to shop for supper.

Sara in Sivota, relaxing in the rubber ring & quaffing G&T!

The water pump still seemed to be working OK but we needed to go to Nidri so I could buy a new pump as J and I both thought that it might decide to go on strike again. As a result, Bill and Sara got to see the mass tourism side of Greece, albeit briefly. We only stopped there long enough to shop for supper and for me to visit the chandlers, where I bought a new pump and a new fender to replace the one which went walkabout during our exciting sail from Petala on Saturday. We eventually anchored in Abelike that afternoon. J led Bill and Sara on a walk over the hill to Little Vathi whilst I initially took things easy and then motivated myself and fitted the new pump.

The anchorage at Abelike, Rampage centre with large orange fenders on the stern

Our final night with Bill and Sara was spent in Kioni on Ithaca. J likes the place: it’s a charming little village with a reasonable shop, excellent bakery and some nice tavernas. I’m less keen as there’s always a cross wind blowing, it’s too deep to free anchor easily which necessitates taking lines ashore….. Ho hum, we had a bit of a struggle getting the lines ashore sorted but managed it in the end. There’s a bonus in the place as an enterprising young man has set up long hoses to a water supply and will sell you water at a not-too-outrageous price via these hoses. We has a great night there with the reassurance of full water tanks as a bonus.

Kioni

A wall in Kioni, draped in strings of garlic

The following morning was entertaining, watching as everyone suddenly decided it was time to leave. The boat next door to us has been awarded this year’s prize in the anchor knitting competition for their outstanding incompetence in retrieving their kedge anchor. I mean, heavy plus points for deploying a kedge in view of the cross wind the evening before, but minus several hundred points for failing to retrieve it by pulling it vertically up from the bottom. Instead, they motored ahead, dragged it so it caught someone else’s chain, then struggled to lift it and so on. It took them 45 minutes to finally listen to advice, use one of the winches to pull it up and then get a loop of rope under the chain. The chap who’s chain they’d snagged was to be heard muttering “bloody incompetents, shouldn’t be allowed to be in charge of a toy boat in a bath tub”…

After all this excitement, I decided to minimise the chances of mishaps, used the dinghy and muscle power to retrieve our kedge. Our departure from Kioni went a lot more smoothly than our arrival and we set off for Agio Efimia from where Bill and Sara were able to take a taxi to the airport. We did try to sail during the trip but the wind was fluky and wouldn’t co-operate, so we motored for much of the journey.

Eating ice-cream in Ag Efimia

We had an early supper ashore as a final meal before we waved Bill and Sara off to the airport. J and I then retired to Rampage and dozed before waking up at about 11pm and going to bed! We even missed Sara’s message from the airport saying they’d arrived safely…..

The anchorage at Agia Efimia

J and Sara spent a good deal of the week swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. Our little inflatable kayak is undeniably a toy and Sara found the adjustment tricky at first but J was hugely grateful for her time and guidance as she showed some of the basics. In turn, Sara grew progressively more confident with a snorkel and mask and has resolved to buy herself one when she gets home.

Bill cooked us some delicious meals while they were with us and both proved to be delightful guests, relaxed and very willing to join in and help. We hope they will come again.

Bill making a delicious pasta carbonara

Today has been spent catching up with admin tasks: I think I’ve sorted the intermittent charging alarm on the engine control panel (I found a lose connection and sorted it) and we’ve done several loads of washing. We’re going to Vathi tomorrow for a change of scene and will no doubt do more washing there. There’s 10 days left before we leave Greece and we’re going home via Harlem to see Jonno and his children.

Our route last week: Sami, Kastos, Petala Bay, Big Vathi, Sivota, Nidri, Abelike, Kioni, Ag Efimia

We will write a final blog for this season once we’ve lifted out next week.

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Goodness Gracie!

September 11, 2019

Our youngest granddaughter, Gracie has been out to join us, together with her lovely mummy. Growing up as she does, within a mile of the Cornish coast, Gracie is no stranger to boats or the sea. Indeed, on one trip earlier this year, she was sufficiently relaxed to take her normal afternoon snooze aboard Lady J, the little Hurley 18 that we keep in the U.K. However this was her first visit to Rampage and we wondered how well she would adapt. The answer is that she embraced the experience from the moment she and Polly arrived at Argostoli airport.

There is a small cafe/bar by the airport that will be familiar to previous visitors, as we often pause there because it’s so convenient. Before we had even climbed up the steps, Gracie seemed to know by some sixth sense that there was a small pool and was asking to swim. Very little lunch was consumed by the smallest member of our party but her introduction to Greece was a resounding success.

In the water within 10 minutes of arrival!

As we have done many times before, we had left Rampage in Sami, over on the eastern side if Kefalonia, and had driven across the mountains to meet the flight. The plan was to set off for Kastos early the next morning while Gracie and Polly were still asleep as we were concerned that Gracie might get restive and bored on a three to four hour trip. As with so many of our best laid plans, this one didn’t work out as we’d expected. For starters, they were sleeping in the aft ‘guest’ cabin and were woken the moment we turned on the engine. Gracie reportedly put her hands over her ears and demanded that Polly should make the noise stop! Unable to comply with this request, Polly took her to our cabin in the bow, away from the engine noise. Unaware of this, we promptly started to raise the anchor, which if anything is even noisier, the chain locker being right in front of our cabin. By this time they were both thoroughly wide awake so they came up to the cockpit to investigate.

Pol & Gracie watching the sunrise.

It was just daylight as we set off in the flat calm of early morning. Having donned her life jacket, she and Polly went up to the bow to watch the sun rise and to admire the scenery. Familiar though it is, I am still awed by the beauty of the Ionian islands and the steep-sided hills that plunge straight into the depths, the unexpectedly green vegetation giving way in places to near-vertical sand-coloured cliffs and tiny, shallow scoops of beach. At this time of year and at that time of day, not many craft are moving and Gracie was intrigued by the idea of people still asleep aboard the boats we saw at anchor in the various little coves we passed. Breakfast on the move was also a novelty and as the temperature started to rise, there was the delightful discovery that Papa and Granny have a salt water hose on the bow. The journey was simply not an issue and by 10 a.m. we were anchored with ling lines ashore in Kastos harbour, right next door to our friends, Mike and Sandy, aboard Eos.

Feeding fishes

Kastos proved to be almost perfect for Gracie. The little beaches were an irresistible draw once she realised how wonderfully warm the water was, (about 30 degrees in the shallows.) The afternoons were uncharacteristically still for most of the time that Polly and Gracie were with us, so we had ideal swimming and boating conditions for a three-year-old. The calm, clear water was full of little fish that fascinated our own little fish as she progressed from wearing her life jacket to armbands to swimming unaided. Gracie long ago mastered the use of goggles and swimming with her face in the water but never before had she encountered damsel fish or pipefish and it was magical watching her delight and excitement.

Unable to stay out of the water, even after showering and dressing for the evening meal!

When she wasn’t actually swimming, she was playing with the giant rubber ring and the pool noodle, or going for trips in the kayak with Polly. We spent long periods pottering on the shore, finding shells and interesting stones and sea treasure (sea glass). She was soon climbing in and out of the dinghy with ease and equally comfortable on deck or down below. We had made a rule that she must not leave the cockpit without an adult and when we were on the move she always wore her life jacket but it was fascinating to watch her growing confidence. One evening when we were at anchor off Ag Efimia, Gracie danced up on the foredeck for half an hour or more to some music that drifted across the water from a nearby taverna.

Kayaking with Mummy, Papa swimming

After a couple of days on Kastos, we moved on to George’s pontoon and taverna just outside Little Vathi on Meganisi. Our main motive for booking in there was to refill water tanks though in fact we never had any worries about running out of water. Polly has been out to stay on Rampage before, albeit some years ago, but she proved every bit as careful with water as we could possibly have wished.

Relaxing on the journey to Meganisi

On our first, early morning trip from Kefalonia to to Kastos, there was little or no wind so we motored the whole way. We left Kastos much later in the morning however, so as the afternoon breeze picked up we were able sail. Unfazed by the concept of the boat heeling, Gracie discovered a great new game rolling from one side of the boat to the other across the large bed in the front cabin! This time we had lunch en route and our little sailor started to remark knowledgeably on the effects of the wake from passing motor boats.

Taking the helm (note the solemn concentration)

George’s taverna proved every bit as successful as Kastos so we decided to stay a second night. Soon Gracie was crossing the gangplank as if she had been doing it all her life, chatting to people on other boats and playing complicated games of make believe around the shop and restaurant area. Often she would serenade us all as she slipped into her own little world and sang improvised tunes at the top of her voice, to the amusement of those around us.

The first of several ice creams!

Polly, of course, was unsurprised by her daughter’s activities and was wonderfully calm, relaxed and pragmatic as she made sure Gracie had plenty of sun protection and limited ice cream consumption to one per day.

Polly off ashore for a run. She swam back towing the kayak!

Occasionally she took herself off for long, energetic swims or early morning runs while Gracie slept. One interesting thing was how, completely of her own volition, Gracie tended to stay down below during the hottest part of the day, either playing or snoozing. She had a doll and a couple of soft toys and I have coloured pencils on board but most of the time she played quite happily with improvised toys like a spectacle case which became a baby’s bottle! When she was very tired, the little games and activities on the iPad were useful and often she would fall asleep after a few minutes.

Just chillin’

When we left Meganisi, we spent one night at anchor in Ag Efimia and it was on the beach there that we found all the sea glass. The following afternoon we returned to Sami and that was the only day when Gracie was reluctant to swim. It was completely understandable as the wind funnelled down the straits between Ithaca and Kefalonia, transforming the mirror-like sea with white caps and crashing waves. Pol, Gracie and I still managed to have a nice potter along the shore and yesterday morning, before heading back to the airport, they managed one last swim in the morning calm.

Playing on the shallows on the last morning

It was a joyous visit from our beloved girls and the boat seems very quiet without them. However this evening we head back to the airport to welcome our final guests this summer: Bill and Sara Withall. I suspect there will be marginally less singing and dancing this coming week but we hope they will enjoy their stay aboard Rampage as much as Gracie and Pol did.

Tickles and laughter as we wait for our meal to be served

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Mags, Me and the Sea

September 2, 2019

Yesterday evening we waved a sad farewell to Maggie. We were so pleased that she managed to fit us into her packed summer itinerary and have thoroughly enjoyed her visit.

Mags in the water at Kastos

Mind you, it was a bit of a shaky start…

One of the things Mags and I wanted to do was dive together while she was out here. There are three dive centres that I know of and Duncan and I decided that the easiest to get to logistically was at Agia Efimia.

We stopped going into Agia Efimia a few years ago because there is an extremely officious harbour master there who shouts all the time and makes coming onto the quay quite unnecessarily stressful. However, we thought we could anchor off for a day or two and go onto the quay just before Maggie arrived. Anchoring was fine but we didn’t ever get onto the quay because the harbour is now largely given over to flotilla boats and Mr Unhelpful was very obstructive when we radioed requesting to come in. Accordingly, we remained at anchor and Mags had to run the gauntlet of the dinghy as soon as she arrived – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

On arrival we successfully booked the diving and also arranged to rent a car in order to meet Mags in Argostoli. (Incidentally, we also discovered that Agia Efimia now has a very fine laundrette similar to the one in Big Vathi albeit rather more expensive.) On Sunday morning I went to pick up the car at the appointed hour only to discover a little old lady had been left in charge of the rental shop and she spoke no English. My Greek isn’t brilliant but I managed to establish that her son and daughter were out collecting cars from Assos on the far side of the island. This made me a bit anxious but thankfully they appeared about an hour later and I set off for Argostoli, leaving D aboard Rampage.

Obligatory pic of guest at the helm! Mags however, always manages to be different from the crowd!

One reason for renting a car was that I wanted to go to Lidl and stock up on wine as the Greek wine is pretty foul on the whole. Having done this, I carried on to the Alpha Beta supermarket at which point one of my sandals decided to fall apart. This necessitated buying a revolting pair of black plastic shoes from AB which rubbed horribly in the ferocious heat. Nevertheless I completed the shopping and arrived at the airport in good time only to find that there is significant building work taking place and the airport is in chaos.

Having found somewhere to park, I went to the temporary arrivals building and peered though a glass panel where there was absolutely no sign of Margaret. However, I could see an arrivals board which told me there was no flight due in from the UK until 8pm but Mags had told me she was arriving at 4:30pm. It occurred to me that I had no flight details for her and for first time since losing my phone, I felt really very bereft without it. Thankfully I found Maggie lurking outside when I set off to try and find a payphone. Somehow, we had missed each other and she then revealed that she had flown in from Edinburgh via Venice. This explained why there was no flight listed from U.K.! The entire day had been fairly traumatic for me and the dinghy ride out to Rampage was probably rather traumatic for Mags since the wind had got up and she got fairly soaked.

The diving the following morning made up for it all. Mags started diving well before I did. However, she had not done any for years until she qualified with PADI 18 months ago while living and working out in Africa. We then both really wanted to dive together and we have finally maxed this. It turned out that she, Duncan and I were the only people diving on Monday so we had the boat to ourselves and the dives were specifically geared to us. There were lots of fish, good visibility and we had a glorious time. Amount other things, we saw several scorpion fish, an octopus and a vast unexploded mine (thankfully disarmed!)

Ormos Aetou, Ithaca

Next day we went back to Big Vathi. D was having quite a lot of pain in his hip so, for the first time ever, I did everything single handed: I weighed anchor in Efimia, took Rampage round to Big Vathi and anchored just off the fuel berth. I then rowed ashore to get petrol for the outboard, rowed back, weighed anchor again and took Rampage round to the anchorage at Ormos Aetou, away from the town and the crowds. Later we had to move into the main bay as the anchor was dragging, but not before Mags and I had had a wonderful snorkelling expedition.

The pontoon & beach at George’s taverna, Little Vathi, Meganisi

From Big Vathi on Ithaca we went to Little Vathi on Meganisi where we stayed at George’s taverna, filled up with water, (since we’d been unable to do so in Efimia,) and plugged into shore power overnight. It’s pleasant there but the snorkelling isn’t up to a lot so it was a delight to get to Kastos with its extraordinary rock formations and crystal clear water. Mags and I spent ages in the water, marvelling at all the little fish which we did our best to identify later. I still maintain that the little red cardinal fish are shy, not sulky and I’m unconvinced that the saupes have yellow armpits! The first day we swam round the island east of the anchorage, me towing my giant blue rubber ring as an improvised surface marker buoy because there were quite a few boats moving round. The second day we went round to the next cove in the kayak and then swam round to the cove beyond that.

Setting off in the kayak for another snorkelling expedition

Yesterday morning we returned to Ag. Efimia and Mags & I went for one last snorkelling exped, taking the dinghy to the northern shore, outside the harbour, very close to where we had been diving at the beginning if the week.

So did we spend the entire week in the water? Well, pretty much but in between there were some marathon games of Mexican Train and Canasta and we managed to eat a couple of ice creams!

Our next visitors are Polly and Gracie, who arrive on Tuesday. Since Gracie thinks the seaside and ice cream are synonymous, I suspect we’ll be eating one or two more in the coming week. Watch this space!

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Two Weeks In August

August 17, 2019

I know we posted our 10 Year After blog about a week or so ago but it’s now about 2 weeks since we posted on what we’re up to this year. So, before memory fades and becomes confused, I thought I’d better sit and put something together. Or should I be truthful? Best that way perhaps. So why am I writing this: it’s because J has been captured by her muse and busy is writing for herself but has pointed out that we need a blog, so I’d better get on a write it hadn’t I? All of that was delivered as we strolled round Kastos harbour this morning after being good eco folks and placing our carefully sorted recycling into the bins provided.

Eos and Rampage with long lines ashore in Kastos

So, there you have it. We’re moored/anchored with long lines ashore in Kastos harbour and have been here for the past 3 nights. Next door to us, about a metre away, is the good ship Eos with Mike and Sandy Wannell on board. How we came to be here and not elsewhere is down to the usual “spit, something’s broken” routine.

Our last blog saw us anchored off the southern tip of the Peloponnese at Methoni, where we’d done a shop, stocking up for a week or so which we intended to spend in Navarino Bay. The forecast wasn’t brilliant with strong winds meant to be heading our way from the north. This meant trying to get to Kyparissia and points north wasn’t going to happen until the winds moderated.

En route from Methoni to Navarino Bay.

In the event, as so often this year, the winds did appear but in nowhere near the forecast strength or duration. This meant that we watched the waves breaking over the southern coast of the gap between the islands at the northern end of the bay, feeling thankful that we weren’t out in them but we weren’t too badly tossed about at anchor. Instead of the expected week or so, we decided that we could make our way north after only 4 days. It was kind of sad saying farewell to the bay as we knew we wouldn’t be back that way this year but nice to be making ground in the direction we wanted to go.

Even though the winds weren’t that bad, it was still worth rigging the wind turbine.

We left early aiming to make the best of the morning calm in case the wind got up later; in the event we motored the entire 27 miles to Kyparissia. In contrast to our last visit, there were only 2 or 3 boats in there besides the usual abandoned boats and local fishing smacks. This meant we could comfortably go alongside on the northern quay. We had supper at a taverna and stood heavily at ease, having decided to spend 2 nights in the port before heading on to Katakolon.

One thing about the Peloponnese is the paucity of decent shops within walking distance of the boat. Kyparissia is something of a curates egg in this respect in that there are plenty of shops, some quite good ones; the downside is that the town sits on a hillside and everywhere is up from the port…. Nevertheless we did an early morning hike for food and basics which were running low and then did a second hike for meat, bread and veggies, as trying to carry everything was just too much.

Everywhere’s up from the quayside at Kyparissia!

You see, we knew we had to do this because Katakolon has many, many shops but only one selling food, so we had to stock up before we moved, hence the exhausting double climb. Not all plain sailing this cruising lark.

Once again, the weather was filling our thoughts and shaping our plans. Our intention was to go to Katakolon, stay for a few days for a northerly to blow through and then, as the wind swung round to the east, head north for Poros and then Petalia Bay, another anchorage of the Navarino Bay type and size, spend a few days there before the need for fresh food drove us north again to Kastos.

Alas, like so many plans, it didn’t work. We got to Katakolon easily, having a great day’s sailing with the winds arriving on time and from the forecast direction. We anchored off, enjoying the cooling breeze and went to bed expecting a good night’s sleep courtesy of a long day’s sailing. It was not to be. By midnight the local night club had started work; this time of year, they’re outside and the din was loud. Very loud. And it went on until 4 am. Which is when we managed to get to sleep.

Jammed mainsheet block: I had to cut it in 2 to extract the sheet and replace it!

The following day, we were sitting below doing not a lot when someone rapped on the hull; it was our neighbours telling us our anchor had come out and we were drifting. Cue an hour or so’s activity trying to get the thing to reset. We failed, first time ever that the reliable Rocna has not played the game. It was all down to a mix of relatively thin, watery mud and weed, lots of weed. In disgust, we entered the harbour and moored up.

Rubber smoke drifts over the quayside to accompaniment of raucous engine noise. Why?

The following morning, I emerged from below to discover steel barriers dividing the immense tarmac car park in two, various exotic cars lurking about under gaily coloured gazebos and a significant sound system being put together. Oh, deep joy. A custom car show. It turned out as bad as it sounded. Much loud crappy music, announcements and engine noise. But the crowning glory was the doughnut competition, where cars were spun round and round to revving engines and clouds of rubber smoke. I can imagine no more pointless activity. At least it stopped at 9pm, possibly because they’d run out of tyres to ruin for the day….

That night also proved sleepless but for different reason. We were woken at about 3 am by the Carbon Monoxide alarm. Now, given that the cooker wasn’t running, it could only mean one thing: another battery had died. Turned out that the last of our 4

year old batteries had indeed cooked itself. We turned everything off and went back to bed. The following morning I removed the dead battery and we reassessed our plans in the light of needing yet another new battery.

Smart new mugs with non slip bases and matching lids!

We decided to head for Poros on Kefalonia and then to Nidri, where we knew we could get a new battery. Luckily, we’d been intending to head off that morning so we had an early start and made Poros by late afternoon after a cracking day sailing with north easterly winds.

The next day saw us back in Tranquil Bay by late afternoon after an extend lunch stop in Desimo Cove. A new battery courtesy of Nidri Marine, along with a couple of other spares (it is impossible to enter a chandlery without buying more than you originally came in for…..) and we then carried on to spend the night in Vliho.

In the meantime, Mike and Sandy had let us know that they were aiming to spend a night at George’s Taverna quay on Meganisi, so we agreed to meet them there. We spent a slightly drunken evening catching up and talking though where to go next, which is how we come to be here just now.

A forest of masts in Kastos. Never again on a Wednesday.

It has to be said, we will be avoiding Kastos on Wendesdays in August. We anchored off that evening, as the place was already bung full. We counted 80 boats in and around the harbour but someone later told us that the total was 120, as we stopped counting at about 7.30pm. It’s much quieter now, with perhaps 30 or 40 boats.

Praying mantis who joined us to escape the madding crowds.

A final note from Kastos before I close: Maggie has declared a wish to go diving, so Julia and I took the opportunity of being somewhere safe with Mike and Sandy to keep an eye on things and went diving. It has to be said, it was not the best of dive sites, shallow and weedy but it did us both good to check out skills and drills and make sure the new regulators worked.

Our next visitor this year is Maggie, who arrives in about a week. We have to think through where we will go to meet her and when we will move but for the moment, there’s enough food for a few days, the mini market can sell us the basics and Rampage is moored safely. So, we will let tomorrow take care of itself and see how things pan out.

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Ten Years After …

August 9, 2019

Part 1

We were sat chatting in a taverna a few nights ago night, when J pointed out that we’d missed commemorating ten years since we set off from Falmouth. We decided it might be interesting for each of us to write a blog post to mark the event and so this post is in two parts: his ‘n hers! Of course inevitably there’s a certain amount of repetition but we come at things from different perspectives.

I’ve come up with ten things which we’ve learnt along the way:

1. I think the most important thing we’ve learnt is to seize the day. Take opportunity by the throat, shake it, grab it, and make the most of it. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to live when we did, with all the opportunities that life has given us. However without the willingness to act on them, see what’s going on round the headland, we wouldn’t have made much use of those opportunities. We’ve seen all too often, especially as we’ve grown older, people missing those same opportunities, putting off doing things – because the time isn’t right, there isn’t enough money, it’s a bit risky….. And then suddenly it’s too late and dreams remain just that. So, take a risk. Just try it. It may not work brilliantly but you can almost certainly sort things out later. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know whether it would have worked or not. I’m not suggesting risking life and limb by ignoring dangers but take a few chances and enjoy life. That’s been what the last 10 years have been about for both of us.

2. Never be afraid to learn from others. I suspect if we knew 10 years ago what we know now, we’d might never have waved farewell to Polly and Tommy in Falmouth. We were neophytes in this sailing business but we’ve listened to other, more experienced sailors, learned things as we went along and taken advice as we needed it. Communities of like-minded folk doing similar things are incredibly supportive and we’ve learned so much just chatting in the bar. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there about how to do things (and how not to do things!), listen to it, superimpose it onto your own knowledge and use it! This blog is, and always has been, a part of that knowledge base: our attempt to put back into our community some of the support we’ve received over the years. It’s only when we’ve ignored sage advice that we’ve come unstuck. Like Roccella Ionica and a lesson on getting off a sandbank. If we’d listened to what the Pilot Book said about the place, we wouldn’t have been there in the dark. It quite clearly says, DO NOT ATTEMPT AN ENTRY IN DARKNESS, we ignored this direction and got stuck. Ho hum…

3. Wait for the wind. A cliche perhaps but we learnt the lesson in Barbate, heading for Gibraltar and again later in Villajoyosa. Both times we headed out into a strong headwind and wound up back where we started. I suppose what I’m trying to say is learn to be patient. Yes, I know that this sounds like a conflict with the sieze the day bit but it’s not. When you move at 5 mph you aren’t going anywhere fast, so relax, take it easy. The afternoon sun is simply too hot to do much in the way of physical activity, so don’t. Have a nap, read a book, wait for the wind to go round to the right direction. Your destination won’t move just because you’re not there: leave it until tomorrow. In the words of the song “slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the moment last….”

4. Do your best to avoid external pressures in your life. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you should cut yourselves off from other people, but it’s a balancing act. Be patient (see above) and make sure that the demands of friendships and family don’t stop you from following your star. Be sure you’re happy with the compromises you make to maintain those relationships but do maintain them: life’s a bit pointless and empty without them.

5. The next one sounds contradictory. Plan ahead but be flexible. One thing this sailing business has taught us is that things go wrong: something breaks, the weather’s unkind, there’s no room on the quayside. You know, all those sort of lumps and bumps in the way of a serene, swan-like progress. So have a plan B, a contingency plan: move slightly earlier than you wanted to, have a diversion port in mind if things go wrong, have a few emergency meals on board in case you discover it’s too rough to go ashore – or there are no shops within walking distance!

6. This leads me straight to the next lesson in today’s sermon. As Douglas Adams so wisely put it: Don’t Panic. It achieves little other than stopping rational thought. If you find you need to come in alongside when you’re all set up for bows-to, then relax. Go back out of the harbour, change the configuration of mooring lines or whatever and come back in when you’re ready. Try not to raise your voices as that immediately increases tension and suggests irritation or anger, even when that is not the case. This has been a tough lesson for J and me, particularly as I’m a deaf bugger. Over the years we have devised a system of hand signals to enable us to communicate when one is at the helm and the other is up at the bow. Hands-free radios can be helpful too, although we are still working out a few teething problems with ours.

7. Have confidence in your boat and skills as a sailor. Rampage has proved time and again that she can cope with nasty weather and rough seas with little or no trouble, so you don’t have to fall to pieces when the forecast isn’t right and you’re suddenly dealing with near gale force winds and a lee shore. Stop and think, make a plan and do it. Again too, be prepared. What if the wind changes overnight? What if the chart plotter dies? Practicing drills on occasions is a good idea, reminds both of us what to do and how to cope. Equally, the odd incident helps build confidence, like the time we lost the dinghy off southern Kefalonia: turned into a near-perfect man overboard drill, dropped sail and all.

8. Look carefully at the kit you have on board. Now, this is could be a whole blog by itself but what I mean is look at what you need to live and sail safely and comfortably. Have decent safety equipment and plenty of spare parts on board. We rescued a boat in distress in the southern and most remote part of the Peloponnese on one occasion. There was no wind and their engine had died. We towed them into an anchorage but we’re stunned to learn that they had no life raft, no dinghy, and no engine spares! When we set off, we’d read all the “how to” books we could find and based much of our fitting out on their advice. They were a good starting point but we’ve revised a few things: little things make a difference. If you’re going to live aboard or even just do extended cruising as we do now, think a bit about your creature comforts. So have proper crockery not melamine, make sure the battery bank and charging system is up to running a fridge and forget about hosting more than 2 people at a time (because you’ll need the second guest cabin as a store room).

9. Lend practical assistance to others if they look as though they are struggling. Don’t just stand on the quayside shouting or looking smug. We all get it wrong sometimes so help when you can. There will inevitability be occasions when you find yourself in need of help, so pay it forward when you can.

10. Have fun and enjoy life!

Part 2

10 Years After – there was a band of that name once. They played at Woodstock. I’ve just googled them and they are still touring, God help us all!

More significantly for us, we are still sailing Rampage round the Med and it was ten years ago this week that we first set out from Falmouth across the Bay of Biscay.

We had bought Rampage earlier that year and sailed her up from the Hamble to the Menai with the help of a delivery crew at Easter. We then had a frantic few weeks, adding various modifications such as jackstays and a holding tank and packing her with everything we thought we’d need for life on board. At the same time we were busy emptying the house, putting into storage those things we thought we couldn’t bear to part with and then selling or giving away the rest. I finished work at the end of May, but Duncan soldiered on until mid-July. After a crazy farewell party at JSMTC Indefatigable, we set off down the U.K. coast, accompanied by the excellent, ever-patient David Cosgrave.

The story of all our early adventures is to be found on other blog posts so I won’t rehash them now. More interesting is to think about a few of the highlights, what we got wrong (lots) and maybe a few things we’ve learned in the intervening years.

We had no specific plans; the plan was that there was no plan. We would head south ‘til the butter melted and then hang a left. Which we did. Of course in reality, it’s impossible to live without plans, particularly when you live on a boat and have to watch the weather constantly. Also we’ve had lots of visitors over the years which has been brilliant as we love having the chance to share in this crazy life with friends, but inevitably having guests requires a certain amount of forward planning. The big thing, as I mentioned very recently in another post, is being flexible and prepared to change plans if things don’t go, well, according to plan!

And trust me, they don’t. Mostly the upsets are minor: something fails to function so you need a workaround or the weather (always the weather,) doesn’t behave as expected. However on a few occasions we have got things spectacularly wrong. The most notable occasion was in Roccella Ionica in Southern Italy where we ran aground. In the harbour entrance. In the dark, with the wind blowing a hooley! Again, the full story is told elsewhere and need not be repeated now. Sufficient to say we learned a lot that night: about taking heed of the pilot book, about avoiding entering an unfamiliar harbour in the dark, about being prepared for swell after days and days of strong winds…

Mostly though, life aboard Rampage has been brilliant and confirmed our belief in the idea of carpe diem. If Roccella Ionica was the low point, it’s much harder to pick out one or two incidents that have been particularly amazing. Often it is only with the benefit of hindsight that it is possible to say ‘that was a special moment.’ Our meetings with various people who have since become brilliant friends must stand out however. Inevitably we made friends when we stayed for several months in the marinas where we over-wintered: Barcelona and Sant Carles in Spain, Corfu and Messolonghi in Greece. We’ve also made some super friends while cruising. You all know who you are but I’d just like to mention, in particular Andy and Sue Mills. We have so many very happy yet poignant memories of our times together, quaffing extortionately expensive drinks in Fiskardo, forming the Kastos Ramblers Club, visiting Olympia together and lying on the deck of Curly Sue looking up at the stars in Petalia Bay, to name just a few. We will always miss Susan but are truly delighted that Andy has found happiness again with Linda and felt truly honoured to attend their wedding. ❤️

What else has been special? Well, number 1 must be the times when we’ve had a really great sail – because it doesn’t happen nearly as often as we would like! Also dolphins playing in the bow wave and starry nights in quiet anchorages, snorkelling in clear warm water and seeing clouds of little fish, sitting in the cockpit sharing drinks with friends and watching the sun go down. So not isolated incidents but many happy moments, that tend to blend into an overwhelming sense that have been very blessed to be able to live this life.

So what else have we learned? That things always go much better if you can stay calm, that shouting raises tension and is usually makes a bad situation worse. Also, if the weather is against you, there’s no point in fighting it. Oh, and lots of minor things such as don’t bother with expensive, boat-shaped duvets, wine is much nicer out of glass than plastic and don’t start washing the decks until you have checked – and then double-checked – and then have someone else check the double check – that all the hatches are shut!

We don’t know what the future holds. If Britain crashes out of Europe without a deal, we may have to bring Rampage home. If this happens, we’ll take the opportunity to do some summer cruising around Britain and Ireland and possibly up to Scandinavia. It might be pleasant to spend some of the summer months in the U.K., so who knows? But we would miss the sunshine and the warm, blue waters of the Med, the relaxed lifestyle and attitude to life, the friendly people. It won’t be an easy decision.

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Escape from Kalamata!

August 1, 2019

Rampage in Kalamata marina

Yes, we’ve finally managed to get away after a week stuck in Kalamata marina and it’s a great relief.

Kalamata has very little to recommend it, apart from the olives, as far as we could see. The area around the marina, at any rate, is singularly uninspiring and comprised largely of long-abandoned, decaying warehouses and graffiti-covered buildings. Weeds push up through broken paving slabs and empty shop premises add to the general feeling of poverty and neglect.

Kalamata marina

The marina itself isn’t a lot better. The shower block is particularly hopeless. In the ladies, of the five toilet cubicles, not one is fully functional. One is completely out of operation, in two of the others the door refuses to shut, let alone lock, one has a broken loo seat and the last has no loo seat at all! Even the hairdryer falls apart in your hand if you try to use it, as my sister, Liz, discovered. There is a washing machine and dryer in both the ladies’ and the men’s washroom but the dryer in the men’s side is defunct. Fortunately, with temperatures of well over 30 C and plenty of wind, the lack of dryers didn’t really matter much.

Both washrooms are supposedly kept locked and we paid a €5 deposit for an access key. However the door into the ladies’ didn’t seem to lock and was open at all hours of the day and night. On our final morning I walked in to discover a man having a very thorough wash at the sinks. Presumably he’d forgotten his key to get into the men’s and couldn’t be bothered to go back to his boat for it. Or possibly he was some random guy making use of free facilities. I didn’t bother to enquire.

So why did we spend a week in such a charmless place? One word: Wind!

No, no, not us but the threat of very unfriendly northerlies! As I said in my last post, we had already abandoned our original plans to head east but for a while it seemed that we would struggle to make it round the point to the south of Koroni and go west either.

Instead, we used the time to catch up on cleaning, laundry and various admin jobs. One good thing about Kalamata is the excellent Alpha Beta supermarket which is happy to deliver to the marina for no additional charge. We therefore also seized the opportunity to stock up on heavy goods like tinned food and cider!

Nick and Phoung aboard Rampage

On Tuesday we received a visit from my nephew, Nick and his wife, Phoung. Although the winds prevented us from getting into the Ionian, we were able to sail across to Petalidi and anchor off for a few hours. We managed a swim in rather choppy water and had some lunch on board.

Lunchtime, Petalidi in the background

We didn’t attempt to go ashore because the wind continued to build and we decided we had better get back before it got any worse. Nick was in his element and took the helm for much of the trip but poor Phoung had never been aboard a sailing boat before and didn’t much enjoy the motion. On our outward trip we had reefs in both the main and the genoa. On the return trip we just used a reefed foresail but we were still doing speeds of over six knots.

Nick at the helm!

Once back in the safety of the marina, Nick took Phoung for a drive up into the mountains to see some of the scenery and spectacular views we saw with Liz last week. When they rejoined us, we all went for a very good meal at an Italian restaurant overlooking the marina. We had not met Phoung before and it’s been years since we last saw Nick, who now lives in Vietnam, so it was really great to see them both and we were so pleased that they took the time out of their trip to come and join us.

Saying farewell

Yesterday morning our guests had a slight panic over a missing bank card just as they were on the point of departure, but thankfully, having unpacked all their bags over the pontoon, the card was found and they set off to visit Kefalonia and Ithaka. Twenty minutes later we slipped our lines and also set off for the Ionian. We are now at anchor again, off Methoni and intend to head back into Navarino Bay tomorrow ahead of yet more strong winds. We went ashore this evening for food to see us though for several days so we can simply hunker down and sit out the high winds, if necessary.