A look back at 2011

December 6, 2011

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It seems like no time has passed since we got the engine fixed in Gouvia and set out to explore Greek waters but it has and I thought that perhaps now was as good a time as any to pause and try and sum up the 2011 cruising season for “Rampage” and her crew. The summer, as they say, has been full of incident and excitement, we’ve made a lot of new friends and been to places visited by few other folks. And now we’re working at making sure “Rampage” is in good shape to tackle next season’s adventures.

"Rampage" with her new sails, earlier this year

We’ve sailed over 1600 nautical miles this year or 1830 land miles or 2925 kilometres for those of you unable to cope with them. In doing so, we have visited a host of places, anchored for much of the time and made use of little village quays when not at anchor. Occasionally, we’ve had the benefit of shore power but for most of the time we’ve been reliant on our own resources to make electricity, which has meant running the main engine to top up the batteries. We never did fit the gantry and solar power that we’d thought of before leaving UK and the little generator we have as an emergency backup is just that – too small to do anything other than keep pace with the lights and navigation instruments, not enough for the fridge!

Making new friends

So that’s the first thing we’ve changed this winter. We’ve bought and found room on board for a decent petrol generator so that we can keep pace with the demand for electricity. Yes, I know that it’s not very eco friendly but it is more so than running the main engine. Next winter may yet see the arrival of solar panels on “Rampage” but the budget is maxed out just now.

The new sails we bought earlier this year have proved their worth, we can sail much closer to the wind and it’s easier to balance the boat now that the size of the sails is better matched than the old set. However, we’ve relearnt old lessons about the need to reef early and often if we’re not to be suddenly overpowered by the wind. The old adage of Mediterranean sailors that there’s either no wind, too much wind or it’s straight on the nose still holds good in this part of the world; it’s magic when you get a wind that lets you go where you want to go and suddenly all the problems of the world fade away as the boat comes alive and charges over the sea reliant only on the skill of the helmsman and the wind!

Ken and Lily aboard "Rampage" in May

The northern Ionian was our cruising ground last autumn and early this year. It is dominated by the island of Corfu, which provides shelter from much of the northerly winds in that part of the world. We had a fabulous time there this spring with Naomi and her family and made a slow progress southwards from there once we had bidden them farewell. We may return there next summer to explore the inland sea from Preveza; we shall see how things pan out.

The amazing coastline of Levkas in the Ionian

The Sothern Ionian is a cruisers paradise. It has a bit of everything along with reasonably dependable winds which blow up most afternoons from the northwest, so you can get some sailing and then disappear in the evening so you can get a peaceful night at anchor. There are literally dozens of little places to anchor or moor; food and water are easy to come by and there are loads of tavernas selling food at reasonable prices. What more could you want?

Fiskardo, Northern Cephalonia


Kastos harbour

Well, in June and early July, you could want for little more than to be there, bimbling about the place and enjoying the people, the scenery and the weather. However, by mid July it has become a little less perfect, as other folks arrive to take advantage of what make it so nice. In a word, it becomes crowded. A place where a month earlier there was one or two other boats is suddenly full with 15 or 20, most of them crewed by people who aren’t, if truth be told, very good at boat handling (or Italian, same thing really). It’s all very well, and often amusing watching the antics, but can be more than a little worrying when you suddenly realise that the idiot skippering the approaching yacht has chosen your bow as his aiming point and isn’t going to change course because he doesn’t know how to…… Equally funny are the attempts made by folks trying to get their anchor to hold; we did see the wonderful sight last year of German skipper finally losing patience with a charter boat crew who were trying to anchor close to his boat. After they failed to take note of his shouted instructions, he leapt into his dinghy, went across and boarded their yacht and gave them an impromptu lesson in the noble art of anchoring!

Sailing with "Curly Sue"

We had had the vague aim of going round the Peloponnese as we left Corfu; the crowding in the Ionian made the decision easy. In the event, we had met up with Andy and Susan on “Curly Sue” (their tender is called “Andy Too”….) and we decided to cruise in company for a while. This was actually the best decision we’d made for some time! There’s nothing quite like being able to gossip knowledgeably about the mess the holiday makers are making of their boat handling whilst sharing a cold beer of an evening. We also got to play a lot of Scrabble and other games as well. In company, we explored the Gulf of Patras and Corinth, both of us deciding in passing to over-winter in Messolonghi before heading south.

Andy and Susan

Cruising in company is a great way of living this life. You get to talk through your plans with your cruising partners, reinforcing each other about difficult decisions and generally bolstering one another’s confidence about the next steps to be taken. We really missed Andy and Susan when we parted company in late August, as they headed north whilst we carried on round into the unknown.

The trip round the Peloponnese stretched us a little, as the area is the most remote we have cruised through so far. It is wonderfully uncrowded but there’s a reason for that – there isn’t much in the way of life support there, just mile after mile of deserted, rock coasts. There are some lovely bays and wonderful little sheltered anchorages but not much in the way of human habitation. This means that us cruising folks have to really plan ahead and make sure we have enough provisions to last out the trip; not something we’ve had to think about really since we did the Biscay crossing right at the start of this adventure. The other thing lacking in that part of the world is easy access to water and that has made us think quite hard about fitting a water maker to “Rampage”, so that we wouldn’t need to keep looking for a tap whenever we were ashore!

The castle of Methana, one of many Venetian castles in the Peleponnese

We also encountered our first real weather problems for a long time, as we waited for the “Meltimi” winds in the Aegean Sea to die down enough for us to round Cape Maleos. This wind, in combination with the lack of places to buy any fresh provisions, left us eating tinned food and wishing for a greengrocers! Ah well, we did find out that the local tinned meatballs are actually quite tasty. Next year we must remember to provision properly before setting off to isolated places. Indeed, one thing we are looking at doing over the winter is doing some bottling; veggies and meat to our own recipes. We were given a jar of ratatouille in the Peloponnese, which is what has set us thinking.

The eastern coast of the Peloponnese was spectacular and also a slightly more populated, making life easier for us in terms of getting stuff; food, water and fuel. We took our time making our way north and enjoyed visiting yet more Venetian castles – they got everywhere didn’t they?

Athens, when we arrived there (well, the port of Piraeus actually) was just about what we’d been led to expect. Noisy, dirty and very expensive. We won’t be returning there if we can avoid it! It is a good place to collect visitors but frankly not worth the effort.

The surrounding area, the Saronic Gulf, is, however, well worth spending time in. It is also a great place to pick up visitor and sail round for a week or two. Athens airport is the best place to fly into from northern Europe and there are frequent fast ferries from Piraeus to all of the islands in the southern part of the Gulf. These little ports are great to hang out in a yacht and what better way to start a visit to Greece than to get on the ferry and escape from the overcrowded city of Athens to a quiet seaside town? We will be suggesting this as an alternative to visitors instead of flying into the Ionian islands.

Waiting to go through the Corinth Canal

Our final cruise through the Corinth Canal and on to Messolonghi was interesting and slightly challenging. We coped well with the weather, which turned very windy, and had a great time with Jonno on board. The final leg into our winter home was quiet and a little subdued but I think we were both quite glad to be in a sheltered harbour as the winds continued to blow hard over the next couple of weeks.

Work is now well under way on the long list of winter jobs, although more do keep getting added as we find things that need improving, replacing or repairing or simply would make good additions to “Rampage’s” outfit.

Messolonghi Marina

Well, there you go. Our cruising season in a couple of pages. We’ve had a great time, seen some amazing sights and met some great people. We’re now making plans for 2012, so if you would like to come and visit and have a yen to see somewhere, now is the time to put in a berthing request and get your flights booked! We can cope with a pair of adults and a couple of small children to live on board; more than this and you’ll need to think about booking a hotel room where we’re going to meet up!

A fun time was had by all!


One comment

  1. Another fab year Rampaging – well done, Skipper and First Mate, and thanks for taking us all along via your blog.
    Merry Christmas!

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