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The New Season Begins …

April 17, 2012

In the immortal phrase of the drill sergeant, “I left you in this position” at the end of the last blog; we’d just been returned to the water and J had made a start on the business of making covers for the new foam we’d bought for the saloon seating. There was a picture of her surrounded by blocks of foam and material, working away at the sewing machine.  The idea behind staying for an extra week in the marina was so that we would have mains electricity and a stable boat whilst we finished what turned out to be a fairly major project.

The "New Look" saloon!

First off, we’d made a decision before the foam was ordered that we would simplify the shape of the cushions into a series of rectangular blocks rather than the somewhat complicated curves that the makers had used. We also went for a single piece of foam for each cushion rather than the 2 pieces used by Bavaria, all aimed at making things easier. Just as well that we did as it turned out, as the business if getting the tension of the covers right was not an easy thing to do.

In addition we had to shape some of the cushions to take account of curved front corners to seat bases and peculiar shapes round various fittings (chain plates to hold the mast up for example!). In the end, J found that it took her about 2 ½ hours to make a ‘simple’ cushion and up to a full day to make a ‘complicated’ one.

The completed cushions, (looking aft!)

There were a total 9 cushions to be made before we could leave the marina (there are a total of 11 cushions overall, but J had already made 2 using the original foam before we were lifted out). Most days J made one cushion but on the last day of working on the project, she managed to do three in one day! We’ve now used upholstery wadding (recycled from the old cushions) to round out the base cushions and the whole project is finished. After a couple of confidence wobbles early in the project, the whole thing went very well and the finished result is just amazing. Many thanks to Gillian Phillips of Cushy Number who supplied the foam, zips and advice.

Having finished the job on Thursday, we then dashed about like mad things, getting all sorts of last minute admin done; paying bills, doing shopping, getting diesel and petrol (we now need 4 stroke and 2 stroke petrol since we have a generator as well the outboard) and all of that sort of stuff.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that a boat further down the pontoon fitted new solar panels. So what, I hear the assembled multitude cry? Well, he threw out the old, perfectly serviceable panels and I managed to get hold of them before anyone else did! We now have not one but three panels clustered round the base of the mast supplying power to the batteries. Based on our experience so far, I think that we may well have become more or less self sufficient in energy by a bit of inspired dumpster diving!

Messolonghi commemorates it's history: 1. Preparing for the off!

Now, I also need to explain a little about the city of Messolonghi and its place in the history of modern, independent Greece. In the 1820s, Greece was a province of the Ottoman Empire, ruled from Istanbul (or Constantinople as it was then.) The Greeks were a little peeved about the situation and had been trying to gain their independence for some years. Cities were often to be found declaring their independence from Istanbul and then having their rebellion crushed by the Turks. In 1824, Messolongi joined in with this trend; however, they were somewhat better prepared and organised than other cities and, although the Turks besieged the city, they held out for a long time against them.

2. People from all over Greece gather in Messolonghi to take part in the parades in hundreds of different traditional costumes.

Eventually, some 18 months later, the Turks had finally sent a competent general along to take charge of the siege and the Greeks were on their last legs. It was decided that a break out would be made by the non combatants who would be led to safety in the hills to the north of the city. In the event, it all went horribly wrong and Turks cut off the escape and finally entered the city. The last act of the whole siege was an explosion and fire in the main mill, which was sheltering a large number of women and children (as well as the reserves of gunpowder…), which led to most of the people in the mill being killed. The sacrifice of the people of Messolonghi gave a shock to the Greek people, who gathered together in a way that had not previously seemed possible and, with pressure from northern European nations, led to Greek independence a few years later. In recognition of the city’s central role in the emergence of the modern Greek nation, it was awarded the title of ‘Sacred’, giving the town its official name of the Sacred City of Messolonghi; it is also commonly referred to as the ‘Heart of Greece’; nothing to do with its location but to do with being at the very heart of modern Greece.

3. There was an eclectic collection of weapons of all shapes, sizes and ages!

OK. End of history lesson. Why do I bother going on about it? Well, the mill went up in flames at the beginning of April 1826 and the event is commemorated each year by a procession from the cathedral to the main burial place at the Heroes Garden, near to the walls of the city. People gather from all over Greece, dress up in their local costumes and process from the cathedral to the Gardens, starting at 8 o’clock in the evening.

It was for this reason that we had decided to stay over the weekend of 7 – 8 April (Easter in UK) so that we could watch the procession. As our time in the marina was finished, we moved out to the anchorage, only to be moved on by the port police and told to use the town quay.

4. Even the children were suitably solemn as they paraded through the town.

That evening, in company with Joan and Lee from Wishbone, we walked to the cathedral through crowds of excited Greeks in their local versions of the national costume and found ourselves a place to watch the procession. Most unusually for Greece, bang on 8 pm the head of the procession left the cathedral and started their slow march to the Gardens. Every few minutes, another marching band would appear in between the very solemn marchers. Apart from a few blank rounds fired from an amazing variety of firearms and the solemn music of the bands, the whole thing was conducted in silence and all the participants were grim faced and solemn. Quite amazing, as even in Corfu last year for the Easter events, there were hints of humour and shenanigans to come; not a bit of it in Messolonghi. This was a solemn event and there was no chance to forget it.

5. The fearsome brigands seemed much more friendly on closer acquaintance!

Joan and Lee with "Wishbone" on the town quay before the winds arrived, ("Rampage" in the background behind.)

We’d decided not to leave the following day as there were strong winds forecast. They duly arrived but not from the forecast direction of north west but from the south west, pinning us to the quay wall instead of pushing us off it. In addition, the wind was a good deal stronger than forecast – about force 8 instead of 6. Add to that mix a nasty chop blown across the lagoon and you can see it was not a comfortable place to be! “Rampage” is a fairly heavy boat in comparison to some and we also seemed to have chosen a sweet spot on the quay, where the wave motion was not too bad. “Wishbone”, forward of us and Jean-Luc’s boat “La Tranquila” are both a good deal lighter than us and were bouncing round in most alarming fashion.

All three crews wound up standing on the quay side, dressed in full wet weather gear and doing our best to make sure that the fenders stayed in pace between the boats and the quay. Help appeared from the marina in the form of friends with extra fenders and muscle power to help put additional lines on the boats. J and Joan adjourned to “Tic Tac” safe in the marina and the rest of us bided our time until the wind abated enough to get the boats off the quay and back into the marina.

There was not much damage done to the boats, but nerves had been shredded and confidence knocked. We stayed for a couple of nights in the marina whilst Joan and Lee spent an extra night there and Jean-Luc had decided to stay for a week, as he had injured his knee before even getting as far as the quay!

The Skipper, content to be back at sea again, albeit in a flat calm!

We left the marina on Tuesday 10 April and made our way to Petalis Bay, as lovely anchorage about 20 miles north west of Messolonghi. We got a great sail on the way there, blowing away all the winter cobwebs and restoring our confidence somewhat. After a night there, we sailed with the lark to Kastos, where we were the only visiting boat in what is normally a crowded little harbour. Everything was closed but we had a great night there before leaving the next day for Nidri.

"Rampage" the only yacht in Kastos harbour

Again, the wind gods had deserted us and we motored all the way there through an almost deserted sea. We’d thought that Tranquil Bay in Nidri would be empty but we found it nearly as full as mid summer with Nielson flotilla boats being readied for the coming season.

Joan and Lee come for tea!

Joan and Lee appeared late that afternoon and brought cake for tea! We looked at the weather forecasts and decided that Spartachori on Meganissi would be a good place to sit out the next few days of high winds. So here we are, alongside in an almost deserted little port which is usually crammed to bursting with boats. I’m writing this blog whilst J works at making canvas covers for the gas bottles, to stop them leaving rust marks on everything. The ferry to Nidri has just provided us with a little excitement and I’m due to make scones for tea in an hour or two’s time. I don’t know when this will be posted, as the internet connection is pretty iffy here! Ah well, can’t have it all I suppose.

Lookng down onto Spartachori harbour from the village on the cliffs above. Even on an overcast day, the view is spectacular!

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6 comments

  1. Great to see you back at sea – Happy Sailing! And well done on the cushions – sounds like a Herculean task.
    Lots of Love
    XXXXXXXXXXX


  2. The cushions look amazing, i think I would have given up well before i finished. Days of views and exploring to come, can’t wait to come out and see you at some point, have no time plan at the moment but I am going to come. If you will have me Lots love


  3. Nice to have some news, good season.
    Jean-Luc / Tranquila


  4. Nice to have some news.
    Have a good season.
    Jean-Luc


  5. enjoy your sailing!


  6. Hi, just found your blog! You have such exciting times makes our cruising sound so boring. We are off through the Strait of Messina on Saturday. Hope we have a boring old time!
    Happy Sailing,
    Clive and Jane
    S/Y Jane-G
    PS Clive’s finger has almost grown back.



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