Penny’s Birthday, and back in the “home” waters of the Ionian.
Libby's Cousin Dominic visits too.
Anyway, some pictures....here we are setting off for the canal, and transiting it.
We spent a night in Corinthos town which wasn't QUITE as horrendous as I remember it from 1993, but nearly. Cheap supermarket though, and free water on the dock. Then we made for Galexhidi. This was a marginal decision. I'd been there before in 1995 and remembered liking the place, but I've heard bad reports in recent years. However, we found it to be perfectly delightful. The quay side has been dredged so there was plenty of room for quite a fleet.
We'd have been perfectly happy to anchor off, but we sighted the power / water pedestals and decided to dock. An excellent decision as it turned out. Power and water were included in the modest port fees, administered for a change by the proper authorities and so Penny went into overdrive with the washing machine and did about 7 loads.
It's a picturesque town with a church on the hill and pretty views towards the mountains which cradle Delphi, and some modest ski slopes. (I regret to say I've frequented the latter but never the former, being a not-quite-fully-converted philistine!) However, since "Wave Dancer" currently has among her crew a classics scholar, they did despatch a party to the keeper of the Oracle. Here's part of their photographic record for your interest!
The dockside at Galexhidi has a pleasant low-key buzz to it in the evening provided by the fashionable and expensive cafe bars that line the port. Apart from a swift beer in the bar opposite the boat in order to snaffle the wifi code, we actually did our feeding in an out-of-the-way place next to the kiddies playground. The food was excellent and, as they do around here the kids all emerged around 6pm and Libby was in clover. She found several kids of the right size to run around with and Penny and I could relax with a beer. (There's a first time for everything!)
So, we celebrated Penny's birthday several times - on Wave Dancer, on Wild Bird, in our nice but cheap taverna and in a yet-to-open bar/pool/beach complex. More and more we realise how much the locals appreciate it when we have a crack at the local lingo. It's opened many doors for us, and in this last case, we were welcomed to use the pool area even though the place wasn't due to open for another week. What a laugh! Shame we didn't have a decent camera at the time.
Here we are just leaving the taverna. The heavens opened and they kindly lent us a brolly. Libby however had made her own provision and was convinced her "leaf umbrella" would suffice!
And the pool party......
Eventually we had to get going, and after Penny's birthday had been well and truly marked, we set off the following morning towards Trizonia. There, Libby and I snorkeled on the wreck of a large ketch which has been sunk some two years, right inside the marina, it's masts poking out of the water at around 45 degrees. I swam down to the deck a few times, just to spook myself really; I didn't dare go inside. However I could see that she had been well equipped with a decent windlass, anchor and chain all still in place and electric primary winches. I toyed with the idea of digging out the dive bottles, but luckily sense prevailed. Our dive kit was stowed with the idea that we'd use it when we got to the Caribbean. Consequently it's not been recently serviced and the air is over a year old. And in truth I couldn't see myself digging through two years of slime with a set of spanners and actually coming out with anything useful, let alone the completely unknown factor of who owns the unfortunate wreck. At least it provided Libby and I with a little adventure, and after our first visit with a couple of nervous "Wave Dancers", Libby insisted on a longer second visit with just the two of us. Andrews women do tend to get what they want, and acquiescence is the better form of valour!
We set out the following morning into a freshening breeze. As we roared under the new Patras bridge it picked up even more and we were recording speeds of over 8.5 kts with just the Genoa.
Now I know there's plenty of room under the bridge, and I called the control room with our dimensions just to make sure. However it really was a heart-stopping moment as we slid under and I actually involuntarily ducked my head. Crazy!
With the wind speed alarm (set at 28 kts) sounding almost the whole time as we headed for the shoal waters at the entrance to Mesolongnon, the depth sounder chose that moment to stop working! In addition to that, the electronic charts for the area had previously proved to be unreliable. So again it was with my heart in my mouth that we closed the shallows around the entrance to the canal leading to the Mesolongnon basin. However, after a couple of power-cycles, the instruments recovered their composure and confidence was restored. That's what you get for kitting the boat out with old crap from the bottom of the Raymarine skip!
Mesolongnon was HOT. Much of the local economy historically comes from salt pans, and it's easy to see how they thought of that! You can just feel the sea evaporating all around you. We swung on the hook to maximise air flow, but the whole place is suffocating. The town turned out to be lovely if you're prepared to slog in there; Penny just grabbed some basic provisions while I dragged the Girl to a playground to work off some energy as the sun set.
In the morning we set out into the same fresh breeze as the previous day. In addition to this, the waves had had all night to build. The wind was blowing exactly in the direction we wanted to go. This would have been marvelous for Odysseus or sailing ships of old, but for us it represents a challenging point of sail - especially with a big sea. So, we gybed down onto a west-south-westerly tack, braving it out with the fast moving shipping coming east, and then gybed back to a course of WNW. Finally we rounded the cape and roared into the area we know as the South Ionian sea. Next stop "Dimitri's". More accurately next stop "Vathi on Ithaka", but the personality of our great friend makes us dispense with more formal appellations.
Dimitri has always looked after us, ever since I first met him in 1993. He's very funny and generous and treats us like family. He called me "brother" one time during a tearful greeting, and I'm very proud to be thought of as such. Best of all, he spoils Libby rotten - just as favourite uncles tend to. Every morning he drops fresh pastries off at the back of the boat plus a special treat of some kind for the Girl. To the latter's great delight he even took her into town on his bike, although Penny rightly insisted on coming too.
Life is all about managing risks. Dimitri has never driven a car, but in common with many fellow compatriots he has totted up many thousands of miles on his bike over the years, often with one of his own children perched on the tank. He was very very careful, and Libby was absolutely thrilled!
We've been here three nights now - an average stay for us here, but the weather conspires to keep us here a bit longer. Also the "Wave Dancers" are due to arrive this afternoon, and Penny has devised a new cocktail with which to greet them.......
Another conspirator keeping us in Vathi - Captain Yiannis "Hotel" pool. Although she can really swim already, it's taken Libby a little while (and some warm water) to return to last years confidence levels. This fine sea-water pool has helped a lot.
Back in Palairos, and we met up with the Jones - Simon, Mandi, Zoe and Georgia. I first met Simon and Mandi working out here in '93, and Penny has worked alongside Mandi at Sunsail head office for several years. Here's Libby, chilling at the beach bar with the latest Jones family member.
STOP PRESS..... just received some pictures taken at the beach club by Zoe, Georgia's elder sister. I think they're fab.......
A few days later it was time for another beach bonanza.....
The crew of Christina joined up with us and the Wave Dancers for a beach barbie in Port Atheni. Truly original "Lead Crew" from the 1970s, these Kiwis paved the way for decades of flotillas which were to follow in their wake. This snapshot shows Rod and Pippa, Brooke and Nicky coming ashore in the serious manner for which they clearly became known!
Ant tended the fire, but still found himself tending to Libby too
"Would madam like her burger medium, or incinerated?"
Apart from being a flotilla pioneer along with his lovely Pippa in the 1970s, Rod has a fascinating claim to fame in that he invented astral plotting charts, simplifying position fixing for users of the sextant. It was with one of his charts that I earned my Ocean Yachtmaster all those years ago.
One thing led to another and before long we were all gazing at the most brilliant star-scape, completely under the influence....
..of Rod's expertise.
Mindful of Dominic's impending visit, we added a "Boogie Board" the the ship's inventory. It was to prove a big hit with both Dominic and Libby - especially being towed behind the tender. More about that later.
In good old Porto Spiglia, we did the epic slog up to the look-out point in the village of Sparta Khori. This must be one of the most photographed views in the area, and still we had to have more........
Back in the Taverna by the water's edge, Libby generously shared her longed-for ice cream with Penny. Even in this cut-down resolution, you can clearly see what she's thinking!
On our last morning with Dom in a quiet bay, we all had a go at the "dream" dive.
"It's been a while since I did any diving" said Dom.
"All I can think about is my costume coming off" said Penny
Suck in that tummy....... !
I didn't have quite enough power to get Dom up on the plane with the 15hp outboard, but discovered that I could get the tender planing in an arc with the tow-line slack, then straighten out and whoompf, Dom accelerated from 4 to around 16kts in zero seconds and with an iron grip on the improvised broom handle he too was up on the plane. Despite stinging spray and difficulty breathing without inhaling salt water, Dom became quite adept at power-sliding the cheap polystyrene board through the wake and much fun was had.
Libby enjoyed it too, and the little boat gets her up on the plane without difficulty. However we've discovered we need mirror-calm conditions for her to enjoy it. We've also discovered we need to keep her sessions restricted to a few short minutes. After the first, rather-too-long session, she came back aboard in minor shock, and that night slept like never before.
Dom's last afternoon was spent chilling around the pool and complex of Vounaki. He was very taken with the place, and has decided to try and acquire a skill over the next two years that could earn him a job on the Sunsail beach team. I well remember that feeling, and I'm fairly sure that many of the staff had their first experience of Sunsail as a customer.
Farewell picture, hurriedly taken, should have got going 10 minutes ago but Dom had his first shore-side shower in a week and forgot all sense of time!
Bags packed and loaded into the dinghy for fast transfer to Palairos where Bobby's car awaited for the drive to the airport.
It was a false start in the end; at the airport we learned that the 12:30 flight was delayed until midnight. Ah well, back to the yacht then, and thank goodness for Bob's kindness in lending his car to us and thus saving a fortune in taxis. So, if you find yourself in Palairos - do look up his "Driftwood Shop" where you'll find the coolest gifts and trinkets, the funniest and most stylish beach wear and, oh yes he takes a cracking picture too......