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Terri and Iain come to visit

September 27, 2011

Welcome to a first for this blog we welcome a guest writer.  Terri and Iain came to stay with us for a week and I managed to persuade Iain to write the blog for the time they spent with us.  Thanks ever so much to Iain for his hard work and we’re glad that they enjoyed their time on board.  I’ll follow up this blog with a short one about what we’ve been doing since they left us in the next day or so.

Saturday 11th Sept. Linlithgow to Piraeus

I’ve been given the opportunity to pen a guest contribution to the blog that Julia and Duncan have been writing over the past years and months so let’s hope the standards don’t fall too far!

The background is that we were trying to figure out if we could meet up with J and D for a couple of days when we were on holiday but the result of the enquiry was that we were asked to join them for a week on the boat. This was a challenge on a number of levels. While Terri has known Julia almost all of her life, I’ve only met Duncan on one or two occasions. Add to that that neither Terri nor myself have done any real sailing and it felt like a bit of a gamble. But… nothing ventured, nothing gained and we booked the flights and said yes, we’ll go.

We arranged to meet up in Zea Marina in Piraeus. We arrived in Athens airport late and the first part of the day’s thrill ride was the express bus from the airport to the port; I don’t believe that I’ve ever gone that fast in a bendy bus before. That was followed by a taxi ride from where the bus stopped to the Zea marina with the taxi driver trying to do a Steve McQueen in Bullet (the hills between the two points are a bit like a squashed version of some of the roads in San Francisco).

Despite the thrills we met up with J and D safely and started our sojourn on the good ship Rampage.

I’d been on the boat once before and my memory had the guest sleeping berth as a bit on the compact side but it wasn’t quite as compact as I remembered, a little bit of contortionism required to get into the bed but once in, there was plenty space for both of us and after the day’s travel, we both slept well.

Monday 12th Sept. Piraeus to Vathi.

Woke to what was to become a repeating pattern: bright blue sky and sunshine. It’s tough putting up with the weather but someone’s got to do it! The first big decision was where were we going to go? We hadn’t made any plans as we had no real idea of how far we could cover in a day, or truth be told the distances between the islands.

The decision was made to head for Vathi which was around 5-6 hours motoring (there wasn’t enough wind) and after a stock up at the local supermarket, we headed off. As would be the case through the week, I wasn’t sure what to expect but envisaged some dodging of big ferries given how busy a port Piraeus was. However while there were ferries about it wasn’t as busy as I expected. What did come as a surprise was the size of the waves that the ferries produced. On a more personal level the surprise was that I could sit and just watch the world, or at any rate, the sea, go by for 6 hours without any sort of technology fix. Time seems to work differently under those circumstances.

Anyways, after a long but, for Terri and I at least, a completely relaxing day on board we berthed in Vathi, less than the proverbial stone’s throw from a taverna and once everything was safely tied up it was time for a cold beer. Vathi was a lovely little harbour and the area behind the breakwater probably didn’t have space for more than a dozen boats / yachts. Idyllic, and far from the maddening crowd. The end of the first day and already things were exceeding expectations

Vathi - from the taverna at sunset.

Tuesday 13th September – Vathi to Poros.

Another good start to a day. The idea of being able to get up and step out of the back door into the warm sea seems strange when I’m sitting back in the UK typing this up but seemed completely normal when we were there. It wasn’t quite a step off the back porch into the sea that day as we had to take the tender out of the harbour and round the corner into a bay that was next to it but it would be easy to fall into that way of living and at least a part of me asks ‘why not?’.

Time then for some serious thinking about what was and was not achievable in the time we had available. We had some discussion about making our way around the Peloponnese peninsula to Navplion and we’d get the train back to Athens from there. On reflection we decided this would require that we sailed for 5 or 6 hours every day which could turn out to be a bit of a slog and introduced too much pressure for what was supposed to be a holiday. Plan B was that we would head for Poros, do a few shorter sails from there and we’d get the ferry back to Piraeus from there at the end of the week.

The trip to Poros was fairly uneventful, barring D making some repairs to the cooling system when the engine wouldn’t start properly after a brief period under sail but we were soon underway. We had toyed with stopping off in Methana overnight rather than stopping in Poros itself but a quick trip into the harbour suggested otherwise so we came straight back out and headed for Poros which was only around an hour’s sail away.

It was interesting to see Poros again as it was the only Greek island that Terri and I had ever visited before. However as that was around 27 years ago our memories weren’t exactly crystal clear on what it was like. I seem to remember it as a quiet sleepy little place but it has certainly changed. It’s now a bustling port for the boats of all sizes and nationalities. It’s a pleasant enough place but the running of the gauntlet of taverna keepers who wanted you to eat at their place, reminded me more of Spain in the pre euro days that anything else.

It also brought home a little of how international the boating community in the Mediterranean is. It easy to forget this when most of your time is spent on board with people from your own country. Some of the accents I expected to hear but it’s the first time I’ve come across so many Russian or Eastern European ‘tourists’. It shouldn’t have been a surprise I guess but it wasn’t something I’d given any thought to before.

Wednesday 14th Sept Poros to Russian Bay

After a slightly bumpier night on board due to the bow waves from the ferries going back and forth from Poros it was time to stock up on provisions and head off to our next destination. Taking care of the domestic chores started to bring home that we weren’t just joining J and D for a holiday, we were actually staying in their home for the duration. Sure the ‘home’ doesn’t stay in one place for very long but it’s still where they live day in day out. This does bring out some interesting comparisons with living in a house in that when you go to bed at night you can be reasonably sure that the houses on either side of you won’t change while you are asleep. In a boat it’s a different kettle of fish, you can go to sleep with a massive motor yacht berthed next to you and wake up to find it’s gone and there is a small local fishing boat. It’s probably something you never thought to when you live that way every day but to me it was novel.

Back to where we were going. Russian Bay is, not surprisingly a bay a couple of miles outside of Poros. We had decided that it would be good to spend a couple of nights ‘parked’ away from mainstream harbours and this was to be our first stop.

This was to be our first taste of ‘camping out’ although it could hardly be described as ‘roughing it’. Anchoring in a secluded bay, having a swim in wonderfully warm water and then dining on barbequed fish (including baraccuda) which had been picked up in the fish market in Poros hardly counts as roughing it.

The Rampage at anchor in Russion Bay with Poros in the background.

Thursday 15th Russian Bay to Dhokos

Reading and writing about it is getting boring I know but another start to the day with a dip in the ocean and breakfast on deck, you might get used to it but I doubt that you could ever take it for granted.

We headed West, pausing to take on more water at Poros before heading through the narrow channel that separates Poros from the mainland and headed past Idrya to Dhokos, an island that as far as we can tell is uninhabited apart from goats.

It was fascinating to see the coastline from the sea and by this stage I was starting to see shapes in all of the rock formations and start to imagine how a lot of the Greek myths could have come about. Just having the time to sit and let your mind wander was a luxury.

Sea monster anyone?

The trip to Dhokos was uneventful and we tied up in a bay that as far as we knew didn’t have a name… yet. (Ed: for future reference of other cruising yachts, the cove is on the eastern side of Ormos Skindos, opposite Derrick Cove.) The water was crystal clear, the clearest water we had come across yet on our trip. I went ashore to get some pictures of the island and the bay while the others went for a swim. It was almost too perfect. By the time I returned to the boat there were swarms of flies everywhere which was bizarre as there wasn’t even any food out by this point. If there had been many more it would have been intolerable but as the sun went down the flies disappeared and we settled down to eat. We did however now have a name for the where we had stopped: Bluebottle Cove.

Rampage in Bluebottle Cove - before we found out about the bluebottles...

Friday 15th Sept Dhokos to Poros.

Our last full day with J and D and a change to the way we started the day for once. We had made the mistake of leaving a plate out on desk after the previous evening’s meal and awoke to find that this had attracted a lot of wasps. Flies we could deal with but wasps were a bit too much. There was a rapid weighing of anchor and we headed away from the island as quickly as we could. An idyllic spot but the wildlife definitely wasn’t friendly.

However as the saying goes, it’s an ill wind that blows no good and the ‘reward’ that we got for the early start was a good wind and an excellent day’s sailing. Up to that point, with a couple of short exceptions all our travel had used the engine but now we could actually sail. When I say ‘we’ here I mean that Terri and I could keep out of the way while J and D did the hard work.

While I’ve done some sailing in dinghies this is the first time I’d been under sail in a keeled boat and it was a lot of fun even if I did want to walk at an angle for some time afterward.

A well heeled keel boat - a great day's sailing.

So that was just about the end of our adventure. We docked in Poros and after a stroll ate in the taverna about 10 yards from where the Rampage was tied up, not that we had much choice: the taverna owners seem to consider that if you tie up in front of their place you eat there. Not in any sort of nasty sense but it just wouldn’t have seemed right to do anything else.

The next day Terri and I caught the ferry back to Pireaus and spent the remainder of Saturday and Sunday morning doing a very quick trip of the sites in Athens before flying home on Sunday afternoon.

It was a great trip full of little surprises. I had no idea if I’d be bored silly or if being cooped up in a small space with the same people for a week would be too challenging. It wasn’t. It was once of the most relaxing holidays I’ve ever had. I’m not sure I could live that life full time, not yet anyway as I still need to learn to relax and just go with the flow a lot more but it’s something to aspire to.

There isn’t anything else to be said other than thanks to Julia and Duncan for the chance to spend some time aboard with them and for all of their hospitality.

Just a quick note: we have a new netbook computer, so as yet have no photo editing programme.  Some of Iain’s photos couldn’t be moved on to the blog site.  Sorry about that.  Normal service will be resumed shortly, as well as an explanation for the new computer…..

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3 comments

  1. Love the sea monster!!


  2. Lovely to experience Iain learning to unwind – thanks for sharing. Sounds idyllic and very, very tempting!
    See you in Blighty, Patfields, when you come to visit your Geordie student son.


  3. ..and the Patfields loved it and will be back for more!



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