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Preparing for the Summer

April 27, 2014
Easter Sunday lunch at Jonno and Lucy's new house in Farnham.

Easter Sunday lunch at Jonno and Lucy’s new house in Farnham.

 

We started writing this post just as we were preparing for the final trip back to UK before we set off for the sailing season. However, we never got round to publishing it before our departure so we will now try to bring you up to date.  In our last post we told you about the trip we made round the western part of the island, staying in Chania and the places we visited on that little trip. Following that, we were mostly kept busy working our way through the list of things we needed to do on board before setting out for the summer cruising season.

 

However, before we talk about the various jobs we’ve been tackling, let’s just pause a moment and think about the community based here in Agios Nikolaos. The marina is not very large, only about 200 berths and a fair number of those are filled by small local boats. Of the remainder, there are really three pontoons of medium sized boats – about 90 berths in total. Of these, I think somewhere in the region of 25 or so are occupied on more or less permanent basis. There is a fair mix of nationalities; predominantly British but with a good representation of other Europeans.

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Agios Nikolaos marina with the town behind

Why do folks come here as opposed to other places? Well, the community is one plus point; as we learned to our cost in Gouvia, (Corfu) it can make for a pretty miserable winter if there are no like-minded folks with whom to socialise. The cost here is also very reasonable – about half what we paid last year in Spain. The town is attractive plus it offers most of the facilities we need. Whilst it is a tourist town in summer, it is also the main town in the area and things continue to work as normal right through the year. Communications are good too, with several flights a day to Athens and beyond, with a reliable bus service to the airport at Heraklion. Last but not least, Crete itself is a wonderful island to explore.

The view looking down onto the lake in Agios Nikolaos town, after an abortive hunt for the geocache "Natalie"!

The view looking down onto the lake in Agios Nikolaos town, after an abortive hunt for the geocache “Natalie”!

Yet most people here are planning on not returning next year, despite some folks having been here every winter for years. Why is this? Well, it’s down to the Greek government’s need to get in a bit more revenue to their depleted coffers in order to pay off the various loans. They plan to introduce a tax on all vessels in Greek waters. In our case the tax would work out at €400 per year, a not unreasonable sum given the problems the Greek economy is having. However, Rampage measures less than 12 metres overall and is therefore subject to a lower, flat rate of tax. Once the boat length is over 12 metres, the charge is €100 per metre per year. This would mean if we measured just 10 cm more, we would be paying over €1,200 per year, which is a big enough sum to discourage people from staying. Hence the planned exodus from here, with a fair number of people heading to the marinas on Sicily instead. All that said, the Greek tax was meant to have been in place from 1 January 2014 but there is still no sign of it actually being implemented; it would not surprise me greatly if it was never actually brought in. The Greeks have tried to do this twice before and neither time has it ever actually made it to implementation.

The coastline just outside town.

The coastline just outside town.

So, back to the jobs list which is a spreadsheet that we put together through the year. It has a description of the job, a priority rating and estimated cost, whether we need to arrange purchase of bits in the UK, who will be responsible for doing the work and so on. Quite a management plan in fact – can’t believe I just wrote that! We’ve found it to be a good tool to keep track of what we’d like to do, as well as what must be done to keep Rampage functional.

The new battery wiring board

The new battery wiring board

Anyhow, the plan for this winter called for a total of 25 separate jobs although it has to be said that most were not very onerous but this was just as well, since we have spent most of the winter in the UK! Jobs completed include such delights as making and fitting a new 12v battery distribution panel, new canvas ‘buckets’ for our growing collection of gas bottles and a new and improved mosquito net for the companionway. The biggest job, however, has been renewing the caulking on the cockpit deck. This is a foul and back-breaking job and is therefore quite firmly a “blue” job although J did put on much of the masking tape which requires patience and precision but not much skill (if this sounds a touch disparaging, J wrote it not me!). When we departed for our final trip of the season back to UK, the new caulking had been applied but needed to “cure” before it could all be sanded back and then scrubbed. Since our return, D has now done this but we had to go off leaving Rampage looking less than beautiful!

New mosquito net for the companionway

New mosquito net for the companionway

Duncan now has just one outstanding task; to devise some method for rigging some new solar panels. We’ve bought four x 20 watt semi flexible panels which he stuck to two pieces of varnished ply. The original intention was to put them above the bimini but he misremembered the dimensions when he put them together so he is now scratching round for another solution. Ultimately we would like to have a stainless steel gantry (frame) built across the stern to support several rigid panels. However, (lack of) funds precludes this just at the moment.

Driving over the hills

Driving over the hills

It’s not all been work while we’ve been here. We took a day off to go and look at the eastern end of the island. We joined a car share scheme for the three weeks that we were here in March and early April and drove down to the town of Sitia and then over the mountains to the southern coast before making our way back home through the mountains. Truly spectacular scenery along with the odd geocache made for a great day out. Lunch was had at a small waterfront taverna in the village of Mochlos about a third of the way round, where we ate far too much but it did mean we didn’t need to cook when we got back to the boat that evening! Another time we went to Elounda, Plaka and then up into the hills to the north and west, taking a circular route and once again bagging some caches en route. The following link will give you a flavour of the spectacular scenery we have enjoyed here: http://www.360pano.eu/show/?id=211 One mistake we made was to go off on a Monday when most of the places of interest are closed. Indeed it is quite challenging trying to visit museums, ancient sites etc. as many are closed through the winter and those that remain open are generally closed by 2pm (siesta time!)

Fishing boats in Elounda

Fishing boats in Elounda

The social scene here has also been quite busy and varied. There was a wine-tasting one evening (over which we will draw a veil!) as well as a quiz night and the regular Sunday BBQ plus several meals out. A couple of these were riotous affairs when a large group from the marina went and took over a small restaurant for the evening. Others have been less boisterous events with our friends Nicky and Paul from “Carmel” who have introduced us to several of their favourite eateries in town. Nonetheless, copious quantities of food and wine were consumed and little else achieved on those particular days…

The Stunning Ruins among the daffodils in Peebles!

The Stunning Ruins among the daffodils in Peebles!

Our most recent trip back to the UK was primarily to meet our newest grandchild: Darcey Madeleine Byrne who was born on 1st April – an auspicious date! We had several lovely days with Jonno and Lucy in their new house in Farnham, into which they moved just two weeks before the arrival of Miss Darcey! J also had one of her “Stunning Ruins” weekends; this one took place at a spa hotel in Peebles and the usual good time was had by all.

Polly and her dad out for a walk near the Helston River

Polly and her dad out for a walk near the Helston River

D, meantime, made his way down to stay with Polly and Tommy near Falmouth, where J later joined him. While we were in Cornwall, we also managed to arrange a day with our good friends, Richard and Sam and family whom we’d not seen for about 7 years. We had a wonderful day with them on a beach near Padstow, building sand castles and looking for crabs in rock pools. We then fitted in visits to J’s brother and family in Cardiff and other good friends near Bristol before returning to Farnham for the last few days. Incidentally, we stayed at a hotel near Gatwick the final night because we were flying out at Oh My God, It’s Early. We can thoroughly recommend the Russ Hill hotel for this purpose; it’s clean, cheap and surprisingly comfortable (book through booking.com for £34 a night). What’s more, we fitted in a fabulous walk through nearby woods on our final evening, where the bluebells were the most spectacular I have ever seen!

Bluebells in the woods near Russ Hill Hotel.

Bluebells in the woods near Russ Hill Hotel.

Our summer plans are now firming up: we plan to leave here on or about 30 April, weather permitting. We will go initially to Spinalonga anchorage where we can dive in order to clean the hull, the prop and fit a new anode, since we have not had Rampage lifted this year. Having done that, we will then gradually make our way to the Ionian to meet up with our first visitor, Jinny, who we believe will be coming to join us in the first week of June. We intend to go via the island of Ios, where some people we met this winter in Ag Nik run a dive operation; they’ve promised us some nice diving at reasonable rates so it would be madness not to take them up on their generous offer! A week or so later, we hope to meet up with old friends, Steve and Linda Jeckells before we head on through the Corinth Canal to the Ionian where we will spend the summer, dodging the crowds by heading south or east as required. If you’d like to visit, you are really most welcome. Our preferred airport of arrival is Kephalonia but we’re prepared to come south to Zakinthos if required. Preveza is also a possibility but Corfu is out as it will be outside our cruising area, unless you want to make your own way south to join us.

 

Well that’s about it for now, folks! We have yet to put the sails back but the wind has ruled that out for today! Once that is done, we are just on ready for departure.

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One comment

  1. I didn’t find Natalie either despite several attempts. Did you get Asomatos Tree? Ancient Lato? We got about 15 while we were in the Ag Nik Marina. Hoges in WA



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