|Date: Tuesday, July 4, 2017. 1319Z
|Location: 53.3498° N, 6.2603° W — Dublin
This year, we flew to Greece on Saturday, June 17th. Due to Aer Lingus schedule changes, the flight to Corfu now arrives at 23:20 (Local). In other words, too late to make it to Igoumenitsa. We spent Saturday night in the Hotel Atlantis, and Sunday morning, took a ferry to Iggy. Picked up our Avis rent-a-car which we had for the duration of the two weeks, and drove to Vliho to board Nikea.
When we passed through Lefkas, the usual supermarket was closed, so we decided to stay Sunday night in Vliho. I’ll insert a strong recommendation here for “The Office” restaurant in Vliho for both the cheapest food in Greece, but also some of the nicest. We generally try to get to visit at least once. The boat had been left on the launching dock for the yard, which was nice. Saved us having to search for the dinghy and row out to her. That is, apart from being woken at around 8:30 on Monday morning to tell us we had to get off there by 9AM. Our local guy said we should stern-to on his pontoon. As we’re backing up to the dock, Ruth took the lazy line and pulled on the end tied to the quay. I said “no, the other end….” To which she replied, “you mean this end?” as she lifted the working-end of the lazy line and the “weight” up off the bottom. The lazy line was attached to a 10kg paint can - not exactly going to keep the bow out to sea. We used the anchor instead!
After provisioning, we headed for Spartachori and a couple of relaxing days there. It is definitely our favourite spot. From there, we went to Kastos, but by the time we arrived, there was a strong cross wind and even the anchorage at the N end of the village was full. We tried to anchor with a line ashore, but it was just too densely-packed. We went outside the harbour to the little beach on the N, anchored in about 5m of water and then took the kedge ashore. Even that anchorage was busy, and most didn’t bother with a second anchor so they swung around in the breeze. We, on the other hand, were snugly off the beach, alongside a trimaran in a similar configuration. We decided to try our luck with Fiscardo after that. We had to motor as the route from the bottom-end of Kastos to Cephalonia had the wind on the nose and I was concerned about spending a lot of time beating and arriving late. Fiscardo has a reputation (deserved) as a busy spot, so arriving late is not an option. The last time I was there (with Tim), we managed to find a stern-to berth, but no such luck this time. We anchored off the NE side of the harbour, along with a lot of other boats, and took lines ashore. There are rings fitted to the shore, but it’s rocky so we stood off quite a bit. I used the dinghy to re-lay the anchor twice, as I wasn’t happy with the amount of chain we had out as it’s quite deep and shoals quickly. That’s hard work, but there are worse ways of spending your time. We ended up putting out all the chain and rope, dropping that, and then pulling in the slack until there was chain on the gypsy again. We stayed an extra day, but Fiscardo while very quaint, is particularly expensive. We decided to get some washing done, and the woman told us she thought it might be two loads rather than one. It seemed like one to me, but what do I know? Indeed it was two loads, at a cost of 25 Euro each. Showers were very nice, but 5 euro each. It’s a nice place to visit, but it’s twice the price of the less-popular places.
Before we arrived on the boat, I had been warned that the heads were quite stiff. The “heads” being the primitive toilet facilities on a boat. So much so that the pump plunger unscrewed itself from the shaft. I had the unenviable job of disassembling the unit in Fiscardo (where the local chandler actually stocks a lot of Jabsco spares). No replacement parts were needed. The plunger is attached to the shaft with a Nyloc nut which had somehow managed to unscrew itself. My approach to heads maintenance was to leave Ruth and Ben on the shore, reading books and sheltering from the sun. I stocked up on supplies, including cleaning products and rubber gloves, and headed back to the boat. Not a particularly pleasant experience! Luckily, I had used the heads last, so if there was any “human detritus” still in the plumbing, it was my own. Scant consolation, I know. As with most of these kinds of jobs, preparation is key. I removed as much from the heads compartment as I could, which made access easier. After that, there was nothing to do but get stuck in. On completion, I bagged up the used paper towels and other by-products of the Jabsco maintenance, and put them in the dinghy. Then, it was time for yet another swim! I changed, returned to shore, dumped the rubbish and returned to the other two, who scarcely looked up from their books. My coffee was well-deserved, I thought. Hopefully that won’t be a regular maintenance task.
From Fiscardo we had a lovely sail up and around to Kioni, which was also busy. There is a new stern-to quay opposite the main quay, but there is a lot of ballasting. We dropped anchor and again took lines ashore. As we were tying up, boats slid in either side of us. One of which decided to drop their anchor close to ours, and made our fenders (and theirs) work particularly hard. In fact, as the breeze came up, they were quite tight in beside us, and putting extra strain on our anchor. I did think about asking them to tighten their windward stern line, but decided against it, as there were large rocks near their rudder. Anyway, they left early the next day. Again we decided to stay for a second day. That evening, we watched the pandemonium of large numbers of boats arriving in the late afternoon and trying to squeeze into tiny slots on the main quay. One large charter boat tried to tie up alongside the end of the quay (where the water hose is). In the process, they rammed into a local sailboat to that soul-crushing sound of crunching fibreglass. After being told they couldn’t stay there, they went for a small slot in much shallower water on the other end of the quay. They managed to pull up the anchor of one of the boats, before abandoning. At this point, I was zealously guarding the empty slot beside us. On cue, they came over and I (accurately) pointed out the large amount of ballast beside us, which would have made a mess of their rudder. Thankfully, they went further out the bay and anchored on top of a French boat, pulling out that anchor in the process, and dropping down on top of them. However, we weren’t to be spared. A large motorboat crewed by two gentlemen who may have been at their drinks locker a little early, decided they could fit in beside us. Despite our protestations, they anchored over us, and parked in on top of us, once again straining our anchor. They wandered ashore almost immediately, to continue their refreshments. This time, enough was enough and I went snorkelling to see what the anchor situation looked like. A mess, as you can imagine. They were on our port side, but their anchor was a good 20 metres over on our s’board side, and running on top of ours. On our way to dinner, we searched for them in the little village. We found them, told them they were too close to us, their anchor was over ours, and they would have to move it. We volunteered to help, but they insisted they didn’t need it. We went to dinner, at a restaurant conveniently chosen to see the boat. It took a bit before our intrepid sailors appeared back - presumably after they had finished their beers. As expected, rather than drop their lines, and use their twin engines and bow thruster to reposition themselves, they loosened their lines and reeled in their anchor, pulling themselves forward and lifted our anchor out of the bay while they were at it. From our vantage point, we could see their anchor coming up with ours in tow. We sprinted back to the boat, fired up the engine, and re-laid the anchor while they motored around the harbour to shouts of “not here!” from the other spectators, as they attempted to drop their anchor again, but this time over other boats in the bay. When they did drop, they were well clear of us, and we could return to our (cold) meal. They left early the next morning. We left a bit later on, deciding it was just a bit too crowded. Everyone screws up when anchoring stern-to, and I’m certainly no expert. But a little humility on their part would have gone a long way. Rather than blast into a crowded anchorage and cause mayhem while asserting their authority, they could have accepted our offer to help. I would have been happy to throw their anchor in the dinghy and re-set it for them, but no.
Our next destination was Port Atheni as we had booked a scuba dive and we needed to work our way back to Vliho and the rental car. I particularly like Port Atheni, even though the amenities are pretty slim. We generally anchor on the NW side of the bay, tucked in W of the shallow part, with a couple of lines ashore. Like in other places, someone has been improving the shore facilities, and we found a few rocks with rope tied around them, making the stern line job a bit easier. Unfortunately at this point, I developed an infection so Ruth had to take a lift in an “air conditioned taxi” (which turned out to be the back of a moped) into the village, for antibiotics dispensed by the pharmacist. According to the locals, the island doctor is a bit “strange” so the pharmacist handles the workload. She said he was quite odd, so she was glad not to have met the doctor! We took a relaxing day of swimming and snorkelling in the clear and warm waters of Port Atheni, before moving on. The only down-side to Port Atheni is the large numbers of wasps which inhabit the island. Ruth showed us that she too has engineering skills, and fashioned a very effective wasp trap from an old water bottle. After Port Atheni, we returned to a very warm Vliho. We stayed a couple of nights in a nice hotel on the E side of the bay while I recovered in the air-conditioned room. The other two went diving without me, while I caught up on my reading in the cool air. Friday morning, we cleaned up the boat, brought the laundry ashore, and headed for Corfu.
I re-affirmed my desire to spend far more time on the hook and less time wedged in like sardines. It’s not that I don’t love the charm of those harbours, but they generally fill up at around 3PM or in some cases, even earlier. My problem is that I’m not fond of schedules when I’m sailing, so there is a simple rule on the boat - we don’t leave until everyone is ready. I can’t imagine it’s much fun on those boats where they’re slipping their lines before 8AM and heading off to the next location. I prefer a leisurely breakfast in the cockpit, and maybe I’ll have that second cup of coffee! Usually someone will decide we can’t leave until they’ve had a morning swim. Also, I use that time to nip in to the nearest taverna for a Greek coffee and a chance to download the weather. The down side of all of that is it makes for a late departure. Which in turn makes for a late arrival at our next port of call. If that turns out to be busy, we have less sailing time, particularly if the wind is on the nose. Anchorages suit this perfectly, because you can arrive at a quiet anchorage at 4 or 5 in the afternoon or evening, and have a refreshing swim as soon as the boat is settled. Another advantage of an anchorage is the ability to go for an early morning swim straight off the back of the boat. One minute you’re snug in your berth, and seconds later, you’re in mid-air, about to splash into the not-yet-warm water!
Strangely, we didn’t use the gangplank once over the whole two weeks and we flew back to Dublin on July 1st. Until next year!