Nicky, Paul, Jonno and the Canal

September 29, 2011

Well, having taken a break from writing blogs and letting Iain take the reins I suppose I must get back into harness and let you know what’s been going on over the past couple of weeks.  I’m writing this from the port of Galaxidi on the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth, where we stayed for a few days back in the summer to visit Delphi.  We’ve been stuck here since Monday due to high winds.


The harbour at Aigina


I need to take you back almost a fortnight, to when we said farewell to Terri and Iain in Poros.  Whilst we were there with them, we’d had a message from our friends Nicky and Paul who we had last seen in Corsica last July.  They had been making steady progress across the Med from Barcelona and were now in the harbour in Aigina, about 15 miles north of Poros on the way to Athens.  They had told us that the place was packed on Friday so we reasoned that it would remain so until Sunday, when the Athens mob returned to home port, so we decided to wait until then to go across and meet them.

On Sunday, we left mid morning and made good progress out of the confined water by Poros and into the open Saronic Gulf, where we picked up a spanking wind.  Under sail we made good progress for a time but the winds kept shifting, dying away and returning from the opposite direction.  To try and cope, we decided to shake out all the reefs and succeeded in getting a line caught in the sail and ripped the thing!  At that point, we dropped the sails and motored into Aigina to join up with Nicky and Paul.  We had a great reunion, catching up on all our doings over the past year over a fair few beers.


Flags out! Rampage dressed overall for Jonno's arrival.


We were then faced with a decision as to what to do about meeting Jonno, who was due to arrive in Athens on 23 September.  Our original plan had been to leave the boat in Poros, hire a car and drive to the airport to meet him, rather than taking the boat over to Athens again.  However, Aigina is served by frequent, fast ferries to Piraeus and then the Metro to the airport, so we decided to stay in Aigina and meet him that way.

We spent the next few days getting the mainsail repaired, doing some other chores and spending time with Nicky and Paul.  They are on their way to spend the winter in Turkey, so they’re waiting for a weather window to complete the crossing of the Aegean Sea.  Not always easy at this time of year; as I write this, they are still waiting in Aigina.  As they said in an email ‘a nice enough place but we don’t want to spend the winter here’!

Thankfully, we were largely unaffected by the storms on the evening of Tuesday 20th; several anchors popped but the Neilson flotilla staff were on hand to help and no-one was injured or boats damaged.  In the Ionian the story was very different and we learned the next morning from our friends Claudio and Corinne who were there of the devastation that had taken place in Vliho Bay, Levkas.  We were all hugely sobered to hear the news and send our heartfelt sympathy to everyone affected.

Thursday started well, with J deciding to clean the decks whilst I did some work on bits in the cockpit.  You may remember a similar pattern back in June/July time, when she was happily splashing water all over the decks until I went below and found it pouring in thorough unclosed hatches?  We had a repeat of this, except that this time the laptop, our link to the world outside ‘Rampage’ got soaked.  I’m writing this on our new netbook pc, which Jonno bought out for us from the UK at next to no notice.  Many thanks to him and sorry about disturbing your well earned rest.


Double moored charter boats at Aigina,


Thursday must also be changeover day for the Athens-based charter fleets, as that evening (22nd September) the world and his wife descended on Aigina, squeezing in anywhere there was a bit of space.  We wound up with 4 boats moored in front of us, taking lines from our bows to hold them steady.  I didn’t have too much of a problem with this, as their anchors were taking much of the strain for both boats, easing my worries about ours being tripped.  They were all much disturbed the following morning, as one of our neighbours made good on his requirement to leave at 0730, leading to much shouting by charter skippers trying to rouse their hungover crews…..

Jonno’s flight was delayed by about 2 1/2 hours, due to knock on effects from the previous day’s Greek Air Traffic Controllers strike.  After the previous day’s fun and games, we decided I would stay with the boat in case anyone tripped our anchor trying to squeeze into the harbour, so J set off for Athens at about 2pm to met Jonno.  When she got to Piraeus, she found that the Metro was still on strike but the bus service (express to Piraeus) was up and running.  She made it in good time to meet our Jonno and accompany him back to Aigina on the next to last ferry of the day.  I had dressed ‘Rampage’ overall to welcome him and we had a great evening, even if we did end it a little early as he had been on duty the night before and had not had any sleep for more than 24 hours.


Jonno on the ferry from Piraeus to Aigina


You will recall Iain mentioning my having to fix the engine at short notice.  The root cause of this problem lay in the sea water pump, which had a damaged plate in it.  I had ordered an improved version from a company called Speed Seal in UK, which had been delivered to Jonno so he could bring it out.  I fitted this whilst Jonno and J did the shopping, returning with a large quantity of fresh fish.  The bit seems to have done the trick and will make changing the impeller much easier.  The company is on this link http://www.speedseal.com/saferboatindex.html .  I had such good service from them that I think it’s worth endorsing their product – another first for the blog!

We had earlier reviewed the emerging weather patterns and decided to head north to the Corinth Canal rather than pottering about in the Saronic Gulf as we had originally planned, as there seemed to be a fit of strong northerly winds due through the area.  Instead of Vathi and then Epidavros, we made our way straight to Korfos, about 16 miles due east of Aigina and a short hop south from the eastern entrance to the Corinth Canal.  It is a nice little place, with space for about a dozen yachts on laid moorings directly in front of the local tavernas.  We were made very welcome at the place we selected and were given free electricity and water.  The clear but unstated quid pro quo is that you eat or drink in the taverna.  As we had all that fresh fish to eat that night, we settled for having a few drinks with them before cooking the fish and falling into a fairly early bed.


Paying the mooring fee at Korfos.....



Best free berth in the Saronic - lazy lines, electricity, water and the bar is just where you want it!


The next morning, we were up pretty early, as we had about 40 miles to cover including the canal transit.  We were lucky and picked up a good wind as we reached up towards Isthmia, the eastern entrance to the canal.  We had been warned that the waiting quay, where we would moor whilst completing the canal paperwork, was high and not yacht friendly, so we were well prepared with loads of fenders and long lines.  In the event, the quay is not all that high and OK for yachts provided you have fendered up well.  It took us about 15 minutes to complete the paperwork and pay the transit fee.  We were then told we would be called forward to transit the canal sometime after 12 noon by radio on channel 11, so we returned to the boat and had a bite of lunch whilst waiting for the radio call. 


Waiting quay at the Corinth Canal - not as bad as the book made it out.


In the event, we watched the sinking bridge drop away, had a trip boat come out east bound and then the control tower window opened and a woman shouted to us to leave now and use full speed.  In a flurry of ropes and fenders, we left the quay and proceeded down the canal at just about our full speed on the motor of 7.5 knots.  We were closely followed by 2 tripper boats, both I think on tight schedules, as they kept very close behind us right through the canal.  The canal itself is spectacular, in a tight cutting with the sides rising about 50 metres up on either side,  It is a little intimidating in a small boat and the end, whilst in view as soon as you enter, does not seem to get any closer!


Corinth Canal transit - at full throttle and still the trip boat is gaining on us!


Once through the canal, we made sail again and had a great close hauled reach up to the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth.  We were heading for yet another Vathi; this time a small bay promising a good anchorage in the deeply indented northern coast.  When we got there, we found that it was indeed a good anchorage but the new quay built there for handling steel from a nearby mill has led to the closure of the anchorage.  Instead we retraced our steps round the headland and found a lovely little cove with a tiny hamlet at its head where we anchored overnight.  Jonno went ashore for a run and we had a very pleasant evening watching the sun go down.

The next day we intended to go along the coast about 30 miles to a town called Andikiron, where there is a small harbour.  In the event, the winds kicked off as forecast and we were reduced to sailing under a heavily reefed foresail, trying to beat up against the wind into the port.  The large headland south of the port was acting as a funnel, increasing the force of the wind so in the end we decided to head for Galaxidi, the next port around the coast, where we knew that the wind would let us complete our approach.  It was another 15 miles but such was the wind that it only took us just over 2 hours to make the trip.


Jonno sets out on his long run.


Having looked at the forecasts for the next few days, it was obvious that we would have to stay put, as there was a good chance that if we continued westwards, we could get stuck somewhere and be unable to get Jonno to Athens for his return flight.  Jonno is in training for various long distance running events, so he took the opportunity to plan a route up into the local hills and disappeared off for a 3 hour run.  I have to confess to feeling in awe of him, his level of fitness and commitment to his sport.  I would have taken the better part of a day to complete the distance he covered and would have been good for nothing having done so!

On Wednesday, we hired a car for 2 days and headed off to Delphi, taking great pleasure in showing the sanctuary off to Jonno and having a great lunch in a restaurant overlooking the valley.  Once back in Galaxidhi, J and Jonno went for a walk, leaving me to write this and to sound the ship’s horn to join the merry cacophony from all the car horns in town as everyone celebrated a wedding here!


Jonno in the theatre at Delphi


There have been no less than 6 water bomber planes circling over the village most of the afternoon; they are fighting a fire somewhere to the west although there is no sign of smoke from here.  Their approach path to the fire lies over the village, as they have been scooping up water to the south of here.  J and Jonno took some photos of them landing to scoop up water.


Water bomber scooping water before flying over Galaxidi to drop its load on a fire. Click image to see at full size.


This morning, after a disturbed night due to renewed wind, I took Jonno to the airport, a 3 hour drive away.  J stayed on the boat as there is a local ’character’ here who drinks a little too much.  He tries to collect €5 from you if you use the electricity: if you pay him, you’ll wind up paying twice when the official lady comes round!  Anyhow, we’d turned him down yesterday and he’d promptly unplugged our cable from the pillar.  As he usually spends the winter in jail having committed some minor crime against one or other of the boats staying here, we decided that J should stay on board to prevent him using our boat as this year’s jail ticket for his winter lodgings…..

It’s been great to have Jonno with us for a few days and we’ll be sorry to see him leave tomorrow.  Our love to Lucy and we hope she has not been too lonely without him.


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