Libby, Penny and Rich go sailing………

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June 2010


June 12th – 27th

Well there have been a few intervening blogs from Rich since I last wrote but here goes the other highlights from the past couple of weeks. After Nidri we ventured into Little Vathy on Meganisi which has a wonderful taverna called the Rose Garden. Neither Rich or I used L.Vathy as a flot stop although I was often there catching up with Sion on free sailing day. In true Greek stylie Efi remembered me and we were yet again treated to incredible hospitality (and a play ground for Libby which is always a bonus!) It’s worth noting for anyone visiting the Ionian that the Rose Garden really does have the best food (try the Stifado and Taramasolata) around, and crackingly clean showers.

 After this we finally broke out of “old haunt” mode and started to visit some new islands and ports. The greatest new places were Kalamos and Kastos in the Dragonera group of islands. We met up with Claire and Nails in Kalamos town and spent an enchanting couple of days there. A short dinghy ride round the corner lead to a gorgeous, deserted beach with a dock to tie to and a rather ordinary looking beach bar. How wrong we were – we enjoyed a fantastic, great value lunch including the local speciality of fried courgette balls. We were joined by Claire and Vera & John who are long timer ex-pats who have actually integrated into Greek life. This particular week was boiling and so it was just so fantastic so just sit in the shallows and while the day away drinking and gassing whilst Libby collected shells. I fear the beer continued for me into the evening as Rich kindly put Libby to bed and allowed me to get steadily tipsy with Claire and Nails in Georges taverna. (Actually I put her to bed and played my guitar to the nearby yachts. Nobody complained – to my face at least!) A take away pizza sufficed for supper and I collapsed around 10 leaving Rich to play his guitar. After this we headed back to Sivota where allegedly the final bit of the new stern gland installation was due to take place. This sadly didn’t happen as the spare part we needed wasn’t in stock.... The fans however did turn up which was possibly the most exciting thing that has happened to date. Luckily the Sunsail base needed some electronic bits which Rich had and so a courier was despatched! Lucky us, being cool at night is absolute heaven!

It is really tough to persuade the people working on the boat to finish their jobs. We are still waiting for the rigging guy to finish 50% of the work he was instructed to do last Oct and there are various other jobs outstanding from months ago which basically mean we can’t move far away from the Vounaki area which is very frustrating, especially as we are due to leave for Corfu to pick up friends in a couple of weeks.

After a couple of weeks of heat wave, the weather was due to break so we sped off back down to Big Vathy on Ithaca for the weekend to see Dimitris. You will have seen the pics and blog Rich wrote about our wonderful beach bbq, so enough said there. Poor old Rich was dragged out of bed a 7am the following morning to make for Kastos before the wind and rain came in (I had been studying the weather on the internet and didn’t want to be caught out!) Thankfully the predictions were bang on and we tied up after a super sail (all 3 up again) about an hour before the wind really picked up and it started raining. Kastos has a very small population (only 30 in winter) and there isn’t much in the way of vehicles for Libby to avoid which is a blessing. There about three taverna’s to choose from in Kastos and we settled on the least attractive one to stop for beer and ice cream and watch all the poor folk who hadn’t seen the forecast having a right old time of it trying to moor up.

This particular establishment had been recommended to us for their showers (they have open windows overlooking the beach) alone but we had a bite to eat anyway and were pleasantly surprised. The lady in charge was a charming Greek/Canadian (Dina) who just couldn’t understand why her place was being studiously avoided by the yachties in favour of the pretty little places down the road, when it was clear that THEY had the best food. I tried to explain that people made their choices based on visuals alone but it didn’t seem to compute. When the weather is bad it’s extraordinary how quickly you get to know your neighbours and so I dropped into conversation a few times how much we had enjoyed our lunch. It was truly wonderful that evening when just about all the private boats I had spoken to (including us) enjoyed a great night at Dina’s (I think it’s actually called Bellos). The place was packed and everywhere else empty which was a great result, plus our wine and showers were a gift that night which was very kind. It seems I have to sell something, even when I’m not working!

It was still windy the following morning but we decided to make for Little Vathy on Meganisi anyway as this would afford us the best protection from the North Wester. Unfortunately everyone had either had the same idea or had been storm bound by their lead crews so we arrived to find 5 flotillas taking up every inch of quay space. Rather than go round in circles looking for a new spot we decided on a one boat anchorage just at the head of the bay, which offered great shelter. Once we got settled with an anchor, bow line and stern line tied to shore, it couldn’t have been a nicer spot, just so private and no neighbours which is brilliant. However the settling wasn’t much fun at all as I was despatched on a engineless dinghy to tie the stern line ashore whilst Rich kept the Bird off the beach– not fun in the least paddling against serious wind, scaling a bramble ridden cliff to find a likely tree to tie the line to. Let’s just say I was more than a tad grumpy and scratched when I returned to the boat! Enough said, it was great after that,

Back to Sivota the next morning and finally a result getting the engine bit fixed, hopefully we are on a roll now with the outstanding jobs. By this stage the laundry situation was getting dire and so we headed back to Nidri to get sorted – 7 loads in one day, 3 of them in the boat machine which has proved to be excellent! I have brought far too many clothes out here. We could manage for a couple of months without doing any washing at all but even after 2 weeks, the catch up was a mission! More good news arrived for the job list in that Tony and Nico agreed to come to Paleros to finish the rigging work and patch up the deck leaks so we called Pangiota in Vounaki and booked Libby into Kids club for the following week. I think all 3 of us are ready for a bit of a break from each other. It will be great to get the boat sorted whilst she is having the time of her life in Snappers. Thank you again Sunsail!

Just the weekend to plan before going to Vounaki and we decided upon Spartahouri and our favourite little anchorage again in Little Vathy for Sun. night. We took Libby to an inflatable playground in the sea en route but to be honest, she was a bit too small to enjoy it. Spartahouri was beautiful as usual and this time we made the pilgrimage up the hill to the town. It truly is the most stunning view in the Ionian and well worth the walk.


We visited Lakis in a taverna we used to use on flot and were again welcomed like old friends which never fails to give us the “feel good factor”.

Lakis’ mum donated a flower to Libby. She doesn’t dance with a table clenched between her teeth anymore, but she, and the rest of the family looked fine. Should have taken their pics too……….



Sadly I had a sea urchin encounter whilst trying to fish a fag packet out of the water and have spent the last couple of days pulling spikes out of my feet. Grrrr.

Back in Vounaki marina now and I have to say, it felt like coming home. The Clubbies have all gained blond hair and mega sun tans and are fully into the season and we have achieved more in the last 2 days than we have in weeks so it now looks likely that we will head up to Corfu will all the intended jobs done. Ahhhh, what a relief......





Sunday June 20th ……………………

It can sometimes be disconcerting to take a well established relationship and completely alter the context. We know Dimitri as our great friend … indeed we call each other “brother” … but the context is his fine  taverna. Well today we embarked for a BBQ on a beach in the gulf of Molos with Dimitri and three of his friends; Tina, Marco and Yiannis, (who insists on us calling him “John” – the English equivalent). Basically it was a HUGE success. The weather was great – not too hot with a nice breeze. The location – a beach I must have sailed past more than 50 times without noticing - was divine with enough driftwood for a fire, but not piles of rubbish. The company was great and the hours flew past far too quickly. As ever, Dimitri had generously provided the food and wine which included a (frozen) octopus. Well we didn’t need it because after snorkelling for a short while Dimitri hauled a fresh specimen straight out of the sea and Marco set to tenderising it. It doesn’t get any better than that! The meal began with sea urchins, again freshly acquired from nearby and the highlight was the octopus.


We returned to the dock to find it choked up with yet another blessed flotilla. They seem to be granted free reign these days on where they take their fleets. All very well, but it’s lousy for the poor taverna owner who’s planned a day off with some friends. Sebastian caught the lines from his Dad as we backed in to a tight spot. He was looking a bit stressed poor lad! However, a memorable day had been had by all – Marco kindly commented “the best day of summer so far”. Got a bit over-indulgent with the photographs – and a pity I only took the “old” camera ashore in the hitherto untested “dry bag”.



John and Marco finish the job.





The “Bird” looks just fantastic wouldn’t you say!





Saturday June 12th ………………….

What a slender line it is between joy and despair! The new fridge control box arrived, on time from Athens this morning. Vern brought it around to us here on the “Neilson” (SunWorld) dock and I popped it in. So, there we are folks, if the compressor isn’t running, it’s either the power supply or the control box. Compressors themselves very rarely fail. I write this for my benefit too, as I’m sure I knew it before and could possibly have saved the agro of involving a fridge engineer, pleasant as he turned out to be.


June 1st – 11th

OK , it’s a week later and we now have baby netting down the port side of the boat, the starboard side will follow in due course..... The good news is that Libby’s swimming is coming on a treat, mostly due to necessity!

After Vassiliki we sailed for Big Vathy on Ithaca and had all 3 sails up for the first time and all seems well. Vathy truly is our favourite spot in the Ionian and home to our good friend Dimitris. We found a fantastic parking spot, completely safe from the winds which rush down the mountain every afternoon and  with free electricity to boot which is very exciting for an all electric yacht which otherwise needs to run the generator for a couple of hours a day. Even our mooring up went fairly smoothly this time although the two 32ft boats we parked between looked more than a little unnerved as we sped towards them in our 16 ton yacht , but we didn’t even touch them.  It has really surprised us that thus far Wild Bird has tended to be the biggest boat in each harbour though that will certainly change as the season gets going. We spent several lovely days gassing with Dimitris, playing with his 5 rather sexually active tortoises (very difficult to explain to Libby) and generally hanging out. Vathy town has grown considerably over the years and can now supply just about anything a yachtie might want, including avocado’s and mango’s which were incredibly yummy. We entertained on board for the first time making an Italian lunch for Dimitris including beef carpaccio, avocado, bacon and spinach salad and Parma ham and melon which would have been an unheard of possibility 10 years ago.






 The weather last week was pretty changeable and so Libby and I did quite a lot of crafting, making a princess theatre and a rather natty egg shell mosaic of a tortoise which we gave to Dimitris as a small token in return for his continuous  generosity. He brought us fresh cakes and pastries every morning and insisted that we dine with him each evening. For those of you who know Dimitris, he is a changed man, no longer drinking or smoking. He is now looking younger every year, unlike the rest of us, and his English is also considerably easier to understand!

We were due to leave Vathy on the Friday in preparation for celebrating my birthday in Sivota with friends but unfortunately Rich fell ill with some horrid tummy bug and had to stay in bed all day. Dimitris came to the rescue again taking me on his motorbike to the chemist and offering all sorts of  boiled herb type recipes? Lucky for me and Libby, Dimitris was hosting a Greek wedding that night so we partied and danced whilst Rich slept off the bug. I am embarrassed to say this of our host nation but I am now totally convinced that Greek music is not my thing – cats being strangled would be easier on the ear!

We were still planning to make for Sivota on Saturday but awoke to torrential rain and a really rather leaky boat. It seems that the caulking in between the teak planks really does need replacing so we did a lot of tutting (and cleaning up) whilst thanking God that we probably won’t see rain again until September! It looks like a job for Turkey in the winter. The rain cleared by the afternoon and my Birthday started to improve. We had dinner (at Dimitris of course) with 2 new friends, Thea and Derek from a neighbouring Halberg-Rassey (Pilgrim IV) and a convivial evening was had by all.



We awoke on Sunday to glorious weather and set sail for Spartahouri on Meganisi which is again one of our favourite spots and home to Steve and Geri’s taverna. We particularly chose Sunday to visit as it was turnaround day and would hopefully be quiet. This was not the case, 2 flotillas and a host of private boats were there so we hunkered down and waited for the place to clear in the morning. We found several small people for Libby to play with, launched Lilo Lil for the first time and much fun was had by all spotting starfish, sea sausages (cucumbers) and spiny Norman’s.



We last filled up with water in Sivota a couple of weeks previously and by this time were pretty desperate for a fill up and some provisions so we made for the dreaded Nidri on Tuesday morning and found a prime spot on the Nielsen quay just outside the Athos hotel. Nidri is a peculiar place, it seems one arrives and then never leaves, falling into the dreaded routine of too much drinking, smoking and generally being an ex-pat complaining about the Greeks. It’s really not what we came to Greece for but a brilliant stop for essential provisioning etc. plus a pool next door to the dock awash with children for Libby to play with. We experienced our first kid exchange that night, finding ourselves by chance in the same Taverna as a family we had met by the pool earlier in the day. They too were older parents, (Gill and Alan) had a little girl (Kate), the same age as Libby, and within minutes she had joined their table. They were very nice relaxed folk and the entertained the girls whilst we dined a deux,  the first time since we arrived here – it was bliss! The girls’ then joined our table for ice creams  and the evening culminated with both tables joining for coffee and liqueurs, just brilliant. Libby has finally started to adopt the Mediterranean way of life and can now stay up reasonably happily until 10, providing she has had a nap in the afternoon. Nidri does not really provide a comfortable overnight stop as the mossies are brutal, the party goers wake you up coming home at 3am and the birds singing on the foredeck take over at about 4am – grrrr. After a rough night we decided to fit the Hella fans which we dug deep to buy and brought out from the UK. After several hours of drilling and some complicated wiring for poor Rich, we were devastated to find that 3 out of the 4 were unserviceable! These fans are almost indestructible in theory and so we have to assume that it was a bad batch – the disappointment was almost unbearable as we were so looking forward to being cool in our cabins that night. Still, I have stoically ordered 4 more and wait in anticipation for their delivery from the UK, at least all the holes are all drilled now.

We left Nidri on the Wednesday afternoon looking forward to joining Claire and Nails in Port Atheni for the evening. We sailed over gently under genoa only and despite a cross wind, completed our best mooring up to date. I am happy to say we are finally starting to look like we know what we are doing on board! We dined at Jimmy and Spiro’s and had a super night – great food and company. Sadly the following morning we discovered that the fridge had packed up which was our greatest disappointment to date. Jimmy and Spiro kindly housed all our frozen and fridge food whilst we packed the Eski with ice and headed back to Nidri and the mossies to look for spare parts. We are now here for 2 nights whilst a new fridge “brain” is couriered from Athens. Fingers and toes crossed that it fixes the problem....


Libby, Kate and Gill. (Now Gill doesn’t exactly LOOK like an “older parent” now does she?!

This was also Alan’s birthday, (check Kate’s badge).



Rich had met up with his old buddy mad Robbie earlier in the week and made plans to join his band in the Byblos bar tonight (Friday). Sadly L and I won’t be attending as they don’t start until 10pm by which time we will be tucked up pushing zzzzz’s, sad but true. More soon, hope my ramblings aren’t too boring!


I had a complete blast last night with Robbie and his band. Sadly it didn’t get going until gone 10.30pm by which time Libby was past it. Alan, Gill and Kate stayed to catch my first few numbers though, and Alan stayed some time beyond that. It was good to have such excellent company.


Great crowd, and we rocked on ‘till gone 2am. When Robbie fell foul of the ouzo, I stepped up to see the night out. Lucky, lucky me!!! Sore fingers this morning, but very, very contented!!


Aha…Alan had a camera & just kindly sent this through. Once again, I promise there was a good crowd…..

Anybody reading this who later sees me on stage…..please can you scramble on stage and take a shot over my shoulder too!!! Such vanity!