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The Odyssey ends or does it now begin?

August 30, 2010

Well, ‘Rampage’ is now safely tucked up in Gouvia Marina, Corfu just on 2 weeks after we left Rome.  It’s taken us a lot less time than Odysseus took to make the trip, even though he never went quite as far north as Rome – it took him years.  On the other hand, we didn’t see the Sirens nor did we encounter Cyclops on our travels but we did brave the race between Scylla and Charibdis as we made our way down the Straits of Messina.  If you’re really interested in ancient mythology, then you should brush up your Greek and read the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer’s epic account of the Trojan war and Odysseus’ journey home afterwards.  That’ll a) keep you occupied for a fair while and b) tell you all about the obscure references above.

J took this picture of a large naked fella - not too sure why. It was in Messina!

After our last post from Messina, we made our way down the straits on an overnight trip to Crotone, which is just on the western side of the instep on the boot which is Italy.  We’d decided to do this because the pilot book warned us not to visit the closest port to Messina, as ‘aggravated robberies’ had been reported there.  This meant that we’d have needed to leave very early in the morning to get to the next port in daylight as it was 70 miles away and, again, the pilot book warned against attempting to make an entry into the port at night.  So it was to Crotone, which is in fact about the 4th port round the coast that we decided to make for at about 110 miles.  That meant sailing overnight to get there for about midday the following day.

Crotone has nothing to recommend it except for some friendly people in the port and in town.  For the most part it was somewhat scruffy and down at heel, although it was obvious that the locals were making some efforts to up their game and turn it into something of a holiday destination.  (I didn’t think it was too bad myself, certainly not when compared to Messina which really is a hole! J) From what we saw, I wouldn’t bother changing your holiday plans to include the place next year, despite a quite nice (if confusing) old town (roughly translates as D got lost there looking for an ATM! J) and an impressive old set of fortifications.

Having made the overnight trip, we took a day off to recover and look at the charts before deciding on our next leg.  Our original plan had been to make for the ‘heel’ of Italy at Otranto and then make another hop over to Corfu, 2 days of about 75 – 80 miles a time, if not a touch further.  The alternative was to make a single 30 hour hop straight from Crotone with a journey of about 150 miles.  After careful consideration we opted to go for a single hop straight from Crotone to Corfu and we set out at about 9am after refueling ‘Rampage’.

It turned out just as well that we topped of ‘Rampage’s’ fuel tank, as we had to motor most of the way across to Corfu, albeit with some assistance from the wind on occasion.  The wind was mainly from the south, which would have been great had it been a bit stronger than the measly Force 1 that it was for most of the way across.  Typically for the Med, it did get stronger as we got closer to Corfu but it perversely changed direction so that we were headed more or less straight into it!

Our trip from Rome to Corfu. Click on the image to view full size. 635 miles, if you're interested.

There’s something really special about doing night watches, even when you’re motoring along.  For a start, there’s no light pollution, so you can really see all the stars, including the great splash of opalescent whiteness that is the Milky Way.  You also get a sense of isolation – is there anyone else out there or are you all alone in the middle of this moving circle of starlit darkness?  This feeling of being alone is only broken when you see the lights of another vessel on the edge of darkness and then you spend a  few minutes working out what sort of vessel it is, is it heading towards you and do you need to change course to avoid it.  That done, you can then relax and watch the lights change as it gets closer to you and then passes away into the distance, leaving you once again in your own little world.

At times, the biggest problem you’ll have is staying awake for the 2 hours of your watch, as you sail along with nothing to disturb your speculations on whatever floats into your mind.  Other times, there’ll be so much going on in terms of navigation, sail trimming and dodging other boats that you’ll suddenly realise that it’s time to wake up your relief and get you own head down.  J and I both listen to our iPods as we keep watch.  The only problem is that is you can’t hear the VHF ship to ship radio, should someone feel like a chat as they go past you.  Then again, I tend to keep the volume of the VHF well up and so the chances are if we did get a call it would wake J up from her slumbers.  Once off watch, for the most part the important thing is to grab a couple of hours sleep before it’s your turn again.  Eating and drinking tend to take place during your watch so as not to waste precious sleep time.

After our night crossing of the northern Ionian Sea, Corfu loomed up out of the mist by about 6am.  It took another 6 hours or so to round the northern coast, come down the channel between the island and Albania and so into the marina.  We had to lurk just outside for about ¼ of an hour whilst the harbour hands moored a largish motor yacht before they guided us into our berth. 

The first thing off the boat once we’d moored up were the push bikes, so that we could explore the place and find something to go with the pasta for supper.  On our return trip to the boat, we met a couple from a boat called ‘Curly Sue’ who we’d met in Crotone.  They had made the longer trip via the heel and had in fact made the trip from Italy in 2 stages, anchoring overnight off a little island just north of Corfu itself.  They came back to ‘Rampage’ for a drink and a chat after we’d both booked into the marina office.

Looking down the marina towards 'superyacht row'. Rampage is somewhere in on the right.

Today, we’ve been busy with Greek bureaucracy, getting our ‘cruising permit’ or DEPKA sorted out.  I’d taken one look at the long queues in both marina office (where you pay) and the Coastguard (where the form is issued) and decided to wait until a bit later before entering the fray.  This paid off, as when I went back at about 11am, there wasn’t a queue in the marina office, nor was there one with the Coastguard!  We now have a very impressive stiff card book, slightly larger than A5, with lots of boxes to be filled in by port authorities as we cruise round Greek waters.  The number of people employed in this useless activity may help to explain the state the Geek economy is in!

The land is in fact a little island which protects the marina from the sea.

Anyhow, that’s where we are and how we got here.  We’ve paid for our berth here in Gouvia until the end of April next year, so if you’d like to visit, please book early so that your choice of dates can be confirmed……  Our plans are simple in that we will be using Gouvia as a base for exploring the Ionian area but will be coming back here between trips away throughout the autumn (that’s Fall for our North American readers), winter and early spring.  If you book a visit to us, we will either be here or, if you’d like to meet us further afield, you could look at Lefkas, Cephalonia, or Zakinthos as alternatives where we could meet you (weather permitting – we might be a bit late arriving if the weather’s bad).  The real advantage of Corfu over Barcelona is that there are stacks of places to sail to, either for a day out or for an overnight stay away from the marina.

The swimming pool - so J can cool of when it gets too hot instead of being horrid to me.

Finally, we now have a snail mail address!  It is: Yacht ‘Rampage’, Gouvia Marina, PO Box 60, 49083 Tzavros, Corfu.  If you’re sending a parcel of any sort, please endorse the outside with ‘yacht in transit’ as this apparently stops the Greek customs people from slowing down the delivery!

One last thing.  Our preferred mobile did not work whilst we were in Italy but it is up and running again now we are logged onto a Greek network.  This is good news for all calling us from the UK as you only pay the cost of calling a UK mobile in the UK and we are not charged at all.  The number, in case you have mislaid it, is 0044 7872225781.

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