Cape Clear in the Mist

Cape Clear Island, North Harbour by Gerard Lovett
Cape Clear Island, North Harbour by Gerard Lovett

It is early August in Ireland, and the sea area forecast says this: “Fair in the south and east. Patchy rain, drizzle and fog elsewhere. More organised rain developing in the northwest tomorrow morning.” In other words, a typical Irish summer day.

I can remember the first time I sailed into the North Harbour of Cape Clear Island, in West Cork. I was on board Finesse, and we were delivering her to Ford Cork Week. Niall Quinn, owner and skipper, pointed out that you could easily miss the harbour when you approach from the West. It looks pretty obvious in the picture, but the harbour can’t be seen from the sea, and it’s only when you’re due North of the entrance that it reveals itself.

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And on to Corfu…

We spent a few relaxing days enjoying the pool and the air conditioning in Nidri, before it came time to pick up the one-way rental car from Green Motion. The people in the Green Motion office in Nidri are always lovely, in contrast to the officious woman in the office in Igoumenitsa, who always seems to be trying to sell me additional insurance, or upsell something or other. We pick up a car in Nidri or Igoumenitsa, and drive it, one-way to the other location. We have the car for an average of three hours, and they charge us €70 for the privilege. It’s a great service, but I’m really starting to wonder if Avis might not be a better option, to avoid the hidden costs.

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Stern-to in Sivota

A lovely restaurant in Sivota, overlooking the marina.
A lovely restaurant in Sivota, overlooking the marina.

We arrived in Sivota on Thursday, only to find that Stavros’s pontoon was full. Well, technically it wasn’t full at all, but it was booked out. I didn’t realise you could book a slot on the pontoon. We anchored in the middle of the bay for a bit, but the water was about 12 or 14 metres deep, which meant we dumped out a lot of the anchor chain (Tim says there’s 70 metres), which then meant we had a wide swing radius, and I wasn’t happy about it, as it’s a busy harbour. Apparently someone on the shore was shouting at us as we dropped the anchor, but I’m a man so I don’t do multitasking. I suspect they were either pointing out to us that they had an anchor down about 50 metres from where we were, or around 80 metres from where our anchor was. Either that, or they were politely letting us know we could have fit alongside them.

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Vlicho Reprise

Vlicho Bay, Greece. Rabbit sent me a text on Tuesday morning. The dinghy guy wanted to talk turkey. So, we lifted anchor at Port Atheni and headed back to the boat harbour in Vlicho. We were somewhat sad to leave Atheni because we could jump off the boat and swim when it got too hot, and it’s certainly been hot. Vlicho offers no such remedies as the harbour is a working port and the water is murky. But we were looking forward to resolving the dinghy situation.

We had worked out a system for getting to the restaurant. We put towels, phones, money and a change of clothes into a gear bag. Then, Ruth and I would tow Ben on his large tyre, carrying the bag over his head. On the far shore, we would change out of our swimming gear into evening clothes, and walk the mile or so to the taverna. After dinner, we walked back amongst the cicadas, back to the boat. We repeated the procedure and climbed back on board.

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Port Atheni at last.

Port Atheni on the island of Meganisi in the Ionian Sea
Port Atheni on the island of Meganisi in the Ionian Sea

Port Atheni, Greece. The overall consensus on Kalamos wasn’t great. While it’s a favourite of mine, and Ruth was an instant fan of George’s Cafe, Ben didn’t like the heat or the lack of a beach. The nearest place to take a swim in Kalamos is the beach at the southern end of the village. It’s probably a 20 minute walk and the heat was intense. So, we decided to leave Kalamos this morning and head for the anchorage in Port Atheni. Actually as we left Kalamos, it was overcast and nowhere near as hot as yesterday, so we dould have tried the beach. The wind picked up as we headed down between Kalamos and Kastos so we unfurled the headsail and tried our luck at sailing. The wind was very squirrelly and hard to predict. Big gusts and squalls blew right past, changing the wind direction sometimes by as much as 180 degrees. Eventually it switched off and we had to motor.

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Hot in Kalamos

Kalamos, Greece. We took Tim’s advice. We decided to go to Kalamos. The advantage of Port Atheni is you can swim off the boat. The disadvantage is that without a dinghy, you’re a bit isolated. Kalamos is stern-to. Today is the hottest day so far. It’s approximately 38 degrees with no wind. I was up early for a provisioning run, which involved the steep climb to the village of Spartochori, which boasts beautiful views and a hard climb. Not the best thing to do in the midday sun, so I was up early. We developed a slight issue with the holding tank, and created a toxic aroma in the vicinity. Holding tanks are de rigeur in Greece and a good idea, besides. The heads (toilets for you land lubbers) pumps into the holding tank, and when you’re suitably offshore, you can pump out the tank. It’s all a bit icky, but a necessary evil if you want a toilet on the boat. We haven’t really been using the heads as all the tavernas have showers and toilet facilities so there’s no need. However, as Morgan once explained to me, sometimes sea creatures like algae or plankton will get trapped in the inlet pipe, and die. In the heat, it will go off pretty quickly and when you do use the heads, you’re pumping in methane-rich sea water. That’s probably what happened, and it helped us to get out of Spartochori pretty quickly, both to open all the hatchs, and also to avoid an embarrassing scene. While I was scaling Mount Spartochori, the other two ran for cover. They closed all the hatches and had breakfast at the Taverna. When I returned, we fired up the engine and made our hasty exit. Once offshore, we opened all the hatches, pumped out the holding tank and pumped in some treatment goo. The smell didn’t last very long, and it was nice to get away before 10AM.

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Plan “B”

Vlicho, Greece. We arrived in Vlicho safe and sound on Tuesday. We provisioned the boat, returned the rental car and went for dinner in Nidri. The next morning, we had to collect the laundry for the boat (which was supposed to have been delivered before we arrived, but no matter, we managed). We filled the water tanks and prepared to get under way when I noticed that the wooden transom on the inflatable dinghy had separated from the sponson (the inflatable tube). I checked with the local chandlery but they didn’t have the right adhesive. I knew Nidri Marine would stock it, but I’d need the dinghy to get there. Catch 22!

I set about glueing it myself using the tiny tube of adhesive they give you in the repair kit, but to no avail. I had no confidence that it would hold, particularly aa it supports the engine and tansmits the engine thrust into the hull. “Rabbit,” our boat minder in Vlicho, told me his dinghy guy would be arriving that day and he was an expert in all things PVC. I decided to leave the borked dinghy with him and to head off. I was sick of Vlicho and being tied up beside Rabbits barge, which is a sunken tanker of some sort. Getting from the boat to the shore is a bit like walking through a rusty mine field. We high-tailed it to Spartochori, which is a favourite gunkhole of mine. Hardly a hardship, to be honest.

Spartochori has a quay wall at the South end of the cove, beside the Taverna Spilia. It’s a bows-to quay with a lazy line. In other words, no dinghy required. We tied up, went for a swim, and I had a refreshing Mythos or two. As Rabbit had informed us that the PVC expert wouldn’t get to see the boat until Thursday, and he’d text us when the boat was ready, we hung around the next day. Around noon, we decided that even if the dinghy was ready, we weren’t that interested in a late departure, and anyway, Spartochori is lovely. Decision made. We’d head back to Vlicho to collect the dinghy on Friday morning (today). Another day of lazing around, swimming, eating and of course a Mythos or two.

This morning, having still not heard from Rabbit, or found out about the dinghy, I sent him another text. Only to discover that “the work is a bit more involved than they thought” and the dinghy won’t be ready until Monday.

We’ve already been here quite a while, but another three days would be too much. While we could nip across to Nidri and stern-to on that quay, it’s not that nice an area. It’s a bit too touristy for my taste. I don’t want to go too far, because we have to come back to Vlicho. My original (vague) plan was to go to Port Atheni around the corner, and stay on the hook for a day or two. But without a dinghy, that’s a bit of a hardship. I think we’ll stay today anyway, as Ben met some kids from a neighbouring Irish boat and has spent the morning in a prolonged water battle, to the mild annoyance of the Norwegian boat beside us.

So, another day in Spartochori. Tonight we will reprovision the boat and fill the water tanks. Tomorrow morning we will head to Port Atheni anyway, and if we want to go ashore, we will have to swim. Tis far from inflatable dinghys with outboard engines we were raised! Mind you, if it seems like hard work to swim ashore for dinner, we will eat on board.

We will review the situation on Sunday. If it turns out to be too challenging to stay at anchor in Port Atheni, we might nip in to Nidri for Sunday night, if we can find space on the quay. Then again we could tie up beside Rabbit’s barge again or see if we can borrow a dinghy and anchor in Vlicho bay. Given the choice, I’d prefer to stay on the hook in Atheni as Vlicho bay always seems a bit too murky for me, and I love being able to swim off the boat in the morning, while lying at anchor. Decisions, decisions.

Travel Day

Dublin, Ireland. I’m cheating. I admit it. Today (which is actually tomorrow), we’re travelling to Corfu and on to Nikea, who is in Vliho. As we’ll be travelling for most of the day, I’m cheating by writing this blog post the day before. Yes, it’s true, it’s actually still Monday evening as I write this.

We have a flight at 06:15 out of Dublin. Yes, that’s AM. From there we’re off to Corfu. It’ll be late before we get to Nydri and the boat, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

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