Libby, Penny and Rich go sailing………
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Vassiliki, July 30th
Back in Vassiliki, now with the “Eggs” family aboard. Henri, Simon and Phoebe joined us last Friday in Corfu. Actually we were nearly caught out as we had the date pegged at Saturday for their arrival. Luckily we’d got to Corfu marina a couple of days early to wash-down (finally) and do some maintenance and provisioning. All was well therefore.
Wild Bird has swallowed up the Eggs quite easily, and life aboard has naturally altered in pace. Apart from the warm pleasure of being with old friends, it’s been really great having extra hands not only for sailing the boat but for the chores too. Best of all Libby has one of her favourite friends all to herself for a fortnight.
We didn’t see any wind on the Saturday, so we motored down to Petriti at the southern end of the island. On Sunday however, we were treated to a 35kt nor-wester for our passage down to Paxos. Ill advisedly I shook out the second reef before we cleared the tail of the island, having already predicted that it was likely to get more hectic when we hit the gap between the islands. Goodness only knows why. I knew it was wrong, but part of it was that I hadn’t actually tried reefing/un-reefing the mainsail before, and wanted to try it out. I have to say it’s wonderfully easy. Why then didn’t I bend another one back in when it got really blowy? Again, I just don’t know. Sometimes I make poor decisions and then stubbornly refuse to reconsider. I did strike the mizzen though. And anyway, there was plenty of room to run off the wind if we’d have had to. In the mean time, we were getting in excess of 9 knots of boat speed, with a recorded max of 10.1. Simon was at the helm for all of the exciting stuff, and acquitted himself in fine style, the smile never leaving his face. For Penny and I, it was the first acid-test of the seaworthiness of our chosen vessel. We never had cause for real concern, (other than the need to pay more careful attention to stowage!) and she only dipped her toe-rail into the sea a few times – not because of tenderness per se, but because we were subjected to some 100 miles of fetch. I’m afraid nobody had a mind to find a camera, so for visual support to this piece, please take a moment to sit in front of your washing machine and imagine a little boat in there.
My birthday was celebrated in Paleros and then later in Porto Spiglia.
Steve the taverna-owner gave me a bottle of Metaxa; Penny gave me an iPod. Both are excellent gifts. My old 1st gen iPod had been proving unreliable of late and had finally (I thought) given up the ghost. Actually it seems to have revived itself, but let’s face it; the iPod “touch” is a simply gorgeous machine. I’m delighted now to be back in the 21st century with the best of both worlds – an Android phone and an iPod player. (Neither of them however can assist me in uploading this blog page. Anyone who knows different – please advise!)
Poor Libby suffered a big “ow” today. We were resting by the pool (after she’d been swimming like a veritable dolphin) when her big toe found it’s way under the foot of a sun-bed. Then Penny sat on it. Miraculously it appears un-broken, but what an ordeal poor thing.
The day before our guests arrived, we were invited to a BBQ at the home of Mick and Jules Turner. We’d had a fabulous lunch the previous day and Libby and the boys Joe and Ben had got on very well together. Mick now runs the Sailing Holidays operation in Corfu having been a flotilla skipper back in “my days”. I don’t really know what I’d expected, but their house is simply magnificent. It’s a mature property up in the hills with stunning views towards Albania and a great big pool at the end of the gardens. Think “Gerald Durrell” and you’re there. Needless to say they treated us to a brilliant evening, and Libby was unable to believe life could be that good. Jules has invited her to a “sleepover” when we return – news which for Libby couldn’t be bettered.
Sivota Mourtos July 19th
We’re fully out of our comfort zone now, and can be considered as “cruisers”. Up until last week or so we’d not ventured beyond our “home turf”, that is where Penny and I worked on charter boats, albeit not in the same years. Now we’re visiting places and mooring up or anchoring in hitherto unknown harbours. Like many things, the thought was worse than reality and from a practical point of view there have been no issues. Well, with all my lovely Raymarine gear aboard, what could possibly go wrong…..?
The Italians have arrived. Somewhat early this year it seems. In fact I believe we’ve remarked upon the phenomenon some weeks ago. “Italian season”, like typhoon season in distant parts, used to be perfectly predictable. And indeed they can bring a similar amount of chaos. A 41ft Italian motor cruiser backed up to the dock on our port side this afternoon. A pleasant family – smiles and happy disposition. They laid their anchor so far across our own that they nearly got the cable on the boat on our starboard side too. Never mind, the son and his father eventually got into their dinghy and started trying to pluck the anchor from the sea bed with their flimsy boathook. (Let’s face it, ALL boathooks are flimsy these days.) Not a chance. He signalled to his Mum – fetch a mask. “Goodness!” I exclaimed from our bows, my attention momentarily drawn away from my ice-cold glorious beer “it’s jolly dirty in here. Don’t go swimming. Just pull it up from the dinghy.”
“It’s too heavy” he claimed. I made what I hope wasn’t a rude gesture by slapping my biceps and saying something to the effect that “I’ve seen it, it’s only about 15kg plus a bit of chain. Haul it into the dinghy and re-lay it.”
A chorus of Italian voices from nearby boats distracted the lad from this offer of wisdom, and he didn’t look back in my direction after that. So I watched, painfully, as the two chaps scrambled around for half an hour, finally managing to get the anchor the right side of our chain, albeit just a few meters off their bow. I bit my tongue and drained my beer. If I hadn’t just had my first shower in nearly a week, I’d have showed him how a BRITISH yachtsman would have done it!
Meanwhile, Penny had been attempting to shop. Being the mainland we’d reasoned, things should be cheaper. We should stock-up. However, not only is this NOT the case, but Penny could barely find anyone who spoke Greek, let alone English. It’s Italian or nothing it seems. Ah well, we plan to head for Corfu tomorrow where everyone speaks English………
The sun’s now set over the harbour, and the village front has come alive. The tavernas are buzzing, dozens of folk are promenading past the gang-plank and we’re….sitting in the cockpit glued to our laptops. Well there’s free WiFi, shore power and fresh water (we’ve run two loads of laundry), and a small-kids funfare. Pity Libby’s crashed out after a hectic day on the water-slides! We’ve decided the place is quite nice after-all.
I’ve been thinking for a while on remarking how everyone we seem to meet is so agreeable and generally good company. Sadly, I’ve missed the moment. Now the summer is upon us, we’re finding this to be less true. A couple of nights ago we were anchored in a tight anchorage on Paxos. An old, battle-scared world cruising steel yacht with a Serbian flag slipped in behind us. Then an ugly great Italian catamaran parked beside him. At first I was amused as they tried and tried again to get their hook in the right place. “Oh dear” I remarked to Penny, “that’ll never work. They’re going to end up alongside the Serbian boat – and not in a good way”. Then there was a lengthy commotion, and it turned out the Italians were furious with the Serbian for being “in their way”. As the steel boat swung in the fluky breeze, threatening to graunch the side of the Cat, the Italian party lined up on the rail, shouting and threatening and thumping the blazes out of the radar arch on the other boat. The elderly couple retired below. They were clearly rattled, but were not planning to budge. This infuriated the Italians and they continued to rage, as the boats danced ever more threateningly together. Rather than deploy fenders, they just became more and more aggressive. Finally one of them went ashore to fetch a policeman. The policeman came and, as it turned out, must have explained the rules to the Italian party who eventually were forced to move. This was a really sad event, and from our viewpoint was just ugly bullying from the larger party. Even the young kids were shouting insults and “nautical advice” which would have been laughable had it not been so sad.
So we’re planning to head for Corfu tomorrow. Irish Mick ran a flotilla in the 90s alongside mine, and we’ve been great pals ever since. He now has a family too, and runs a huge charter operation out of Corfu. It’s his day off Wednesday, and we’re hoping to meet-up. No more drinking punch etc until we can barely stand mind you. Now the priorities are centred around our kids; have they enough to eat, enough suncream, are they playing nicely…..in short we’ve grown up. That’s what happens I guess, but I have no regrets.
Apart from being away from our home turf, new challenges are imminent – we are looking forward to entertaining our first guests aboard for a fortnight – a young playmate for Libby and familiar adult company for Penny and I. However, no more roaming around in the all-together, no more pleasing just ourselves. After that we’ll have a week alone, and then the Laver family join us for “delivery” to Athens. Then it’ll be onwards to Turkey. It’s no longer an extended holiday with little thought needed for passage planning or where to find the best provisions – it’s going to become, at last, real adventuring!
Vonitsa – Aktio – July 12th.
Last night I watched much of the football world-cup final from the cockpit, through binoculars. As a non-cognoscenti I was vaguely hoping Spain would win, mainly for our friend Bob. At half time I made an effort to get a signal on our own TV with reasonable success. (My arms were getting a bit tired from the weighty Steiners, and the waiter in the taverna opposite kept inadvertently blocking my field of vision.)
So, we got a snowy but watchable picture from a stubby antenna which amusingly gave the best results when it fell down behind the bookcase.
Now, having earlier seen Bob wearing a faded red-ish-could-possibly-be-orange football shirt, I assumed that it was the orange side for whom I should be cheering. Indeed I was quite pleased with the first-half performance. However in the second half the black-clad team seemed to be so much better, and I was a tad disappointed when one of them eventually found the back of the net. (“Offside” I silently cried.) One of the orange team members was replaced by someone called “Van Something”. “An unusual name for a Spaniard” I mused. “Bet he gets a right ribbing in the dressing-room” Finally the obviously useless Greek TV network had the score all wrong. They printed up “NED – 0 ESP – 1” “Oh dear” I thought, “some editor’s been on the Ouzo again”!
If you like football, then I hope you had a more successful and fulfilling evening than I did! Lack of commentary apart, it must surely help if you already recognise some of the participants?
Penny had had a rotten night’s sleep, so this morning I took the Girl around the shops here in Vonitsa to stock up on basic provisions. Libby wrote out the shopping list. She was very happy and chatty and charmed her way around the shops. There’s no telling who she’ll deign to grace with a cheery “Yassoo”, but when she pays for something and says “Eferestoe”, she all but gets spontaneous applause! She knows quite a few words now but in classic 3-year-old style there’s no telling whether she’s going to speak up or hide in her hat. Everyone’s favourite is when she meets another child and says “Posso laini?” (what’s your name?) (Greek speakers please forgive the transliteration here!) It usually leads to temporary acquisition of a playmate.
We went from the shops to the beach where the Girl and I swam for a while. She can certainly sustain herself now, especially in saltwater, but there’s still lots of work to do before she can be considered a swimmer. Unfortunately I’ve discovered very early that she won’t listen to Daddy when she’s trying to learn things. I’m appalled, but I suppose it does get me out of teaching her to drive in coming years. Penny arrived with cold drinks and a lovely time was had by all.
After a snack lunch, and because we’d spent some time talking about it, Libby insisted on going to visit the nearby ruined castle. She wouldn’t accept any of Daddy’s wisdom as to WHY it was ruined, but declared that it was because “the Greeks had used saltwater instead of fresh water in the
concrete”! (This is because to my certain knowledge there’s a particularly crumbling quay we’ve visited several times where this is indeed the case.) Libby refused to believe there was any other explanation for the state of the castle until we got right up close, whereupon she proclaimed “Oh Daddy, it IS built out of stone”. Sadly, after both of us had invested a considerable amount of energy and sweat climbing the steep winding path to the blessed place, we couldn’t get in. There was a sign declaring that in excess of two point five million Euro had recently been spent in (I suppose) renovations, but sweet bloomin’ tippota about what time they let people in to appreciate it. Presumably having bought the big shiny padlock there was nothing left to provide a notice with any USEFUL information for tourists.
Initially Libby was a bit relieved. She’d been starting to fret as we’d got closer about the possibility that there may still be a band of pirates lurking; locked away in dungeons, and who might at any time break out and savagely do away with curious passing yachtsmen. Then she decided that the princesses might just be having an afternoon nap, and maybe we should come back later. There followed quite a lengthy analysis of the situation which incorporated, but not exclusively so; Pirates, Princesses, Greek authorities, Princesses’ Mummy’s and Daddy’s and so on. It was a real pleasure actually. Penny had thoughtfully equipped Libby with a bottle of water, and on the way down we stopped, sat on a wall in the shade and passed it back and forth like teenagers with a bottle of beer. This, again, is what I signed-up for!
8th July - Paleros
As I write this at the bar of the Thalasa Hotel along the road from Vounaki, there’s a feint but discernable odour about my person. I scrubbed and scrubbed, especially my hands, but there’s nothing known to man that can completely remove the delicate fragrance of “toilet pump”. If Channel were to get their products to last this long they might well go out of business. I’m really hoping that’s the end of toilet maintenance now until the end of the season.
Oh, yum, bar snacks, thanks very much!
So much for plans for a day of abstinence. The best way to get online we’ve discovered is to sit at a bar, order a beer and get going. No, there’s no way I could order a coffee. That just wouldn’t be right.
So it’s MY turn to be here – a privilege won by attending to the afore mentioned maintenance issue. It’s very very hot again.
We hope to leave Vounaki marina Friday morning with limited deck caulking work completed. Tony Tuck is a perfectionist and he knows it! We tried to talk him into a quick bodge to last until the end of the year and we NEARLY succeeded. However, I think the work he’s doing will keep a lot of water out that would otherwise come in.
Our great friend Bobby Ramero has just done a photo-shoot for us. He needs to know which picture we’d like printed on his high-tec whatnot. So far we’ve whittled it down to a choice between just 94 awesome photos. At the risk of indulgence, here are a tiny few:
And finally, at rest after an exhausting (!) morning….
Sorry for the indulgence. Penny has some text which is ALMOST ready for upload. Hey, another trip to the bar tomorrow perhaps!
And..here it is…….
June 28th – July 9th
The 28th was our wedding anniversary, 7 years and not a bit itchy! We were moored in Vounaki for a few days and so Libby went into video club from 7-10pm and we joined the “Punch” of Punch party at the Club followed by a Gyros sitting on the beach watching the sun set. Bloody marvellous!
Last week was series of exciting developments on the boat. For those of you who are into boats, we have finally achieved some cosmetic improvements which definitely make the old Bird prettier. We now have new life line covers, new dorade vent cowlings, a new mizzen lazy bag, a fixed mainsail lazy bag, aluminium covers for the bottle-screws and a cover for the bbq! Also, we have cleaned the hull and the dinghy and generally had a good clean up. It’s just SO much easier and quicker when Libby is being looked after. Tony Tuck has repaired a small patch of the deck but all the caulking and teak plugs will need to be replaced in Turkey over winter. Hopefully our old buddy Jes Holman will be able to be able to point us in the right direction and at least the teak itself doesn’t need replacing.... Still, it’s a big, fairly expensive job to deal with in the fairly near future but nevertheless, we have made massive progress this week, until the next thing!
Paleros has changed hugely over the years, there is now a very swish beach club down on the front (think Thailand/Cafe del Mar/Cocktails) which has everything one could possibly ask for including excellent grub and wi-fi. The other bars and tavernas which have been here forever don’t stand a chance if this place is anything to go by.
Libby has had a ball in kids club and well and truly integrated with the staff. She will miss Katie and Lisa terribly when we move on this week. We had a couple of very convivial evenings with our Sunsail friends and have generally had pretty relaxed week even including watching poor old Andy Murray go down to Nadal AGAIN!
Having not really been cruising this week, I thought I might write a little about life on board. When you tell everyone what you are doing, they never fail to exclaim “oh you lucky things, it must be fantastic” Of course it is fantastic, it is an incredible experience which we all enjoy tremendously but it definitely has its challenges! The mundane chores of real life carry on, but in a much more complicated manner. Laundry has become almost an obsession and I won’t bore you with the usual toilet stories with a 3 year old on board! The other issue is power; we have plenty of it but it has to be managed very carefully. It’s hard to explain but imagine having to go through several thought processes to achieve even the simplest of tasks. For example – a cup of tea. Have we got fresh water for the kettle? Are there any other electrical appliances on? (the kettle is energy hungry and cannot be used at the same time as other things) Do we have milk? A replacement could be a dinghy ride or 10 mins walk away. Anyway, hopefully you get what I’m on about....
Persuading Libby to be quiet and keep out of the way whilst we moor up is possibly the biggest challenge to date. You will have read from my prior notes that we have to work bloody hard to get “stern to” right in this boat and let’s just say that tempers fray fairly regularly on this topic.... Also you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to put sun cream and mosi repellent on Libby each day. It almost always ends up in a screaming match (which I inevitably lose). Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to let her to get burnt and bitten but I suppose this would probably be worse although I do wonder if she might finally understand why I put her through the ordeal each day!
On a more cheerful note, the beds are bloody comfortable (the memory-foam is wonderful) and I have every mod con I could desire. We are hopefully heading North towards Corfu tomorrow, another week has passed and the work on the boat still isn’t finished. Hmmmm, I did start this blog rather optimistically.
One of the pleasures of being at the Sunsail base for
Penny is bumping into people to whom she’s sold a boat! Here she is with
two complete favourites: Dr and Mrs Kaftan. They
joined us aboard for cocktails. Most enjoyable.
One of the pleasures of being at the Sunsail base for Penny is bumping into people to whom she’s sold a boat! Here she is with two complete favourites: Dr and Mrs Kaftan. They joined us aboard for cocktails. Most enjoyable.