Friday, 30 November 2012

Winter plans

It has been a whie since our last post which I feel bad about.

We left Orion safely tucked up in the boatyardwhilst we drove back early October. We had one or two issues with the van which John managed to fix at the eleventh hour. It was a new experience for John fixing brake pads on the Van at 10.30pm with me holding the torch to help him see what he was doing!! It was then a dash to Igoumenitsa to catch the ferry to Venice which left at 7.00 am. It certainly makes for interesting times!
Once we docked at Venice we drove through Northern Italy, Austria and Germany before arriving in Rotterdam two days later for the ferry to Hull. All went to plan there and we drove along the M62 to Warrington to put the van in for its MOT confident that our plans were spot on..... that is until we got to the centre of Warrington and I could smell burning...John having no sense of smell was oblivious...but once alerted he discovered that our alternator had siezed solid and the smell was one of the belts melting!! Just as well that we were close to the car hire depot and the MOT garage was close enough for us just to make it! The next few days were spent sourcing an alternator then John poor thing had to fit it in the rain. After a week or so the car was MOT'd and running better than it has ever done!
Our plan was to spend most of the winter months in the Southern Hemisphere and we booked flights to Malaysia... to see a good friend Bill, Australia... to spend some more time in Sydney with John's garndchildren and then onto New Zealand where we have hired a campervan to drive around both South and North Island. Whilst we are going to sail here we figured that it could be a few years before we get here and next year we plan to move slowly out of the Med and cross the Atlantic late 2013 early 2014 so might be a while before we see these guys again!

We are currently in Sydney and are flying down to Tasmania for a week or so to do some touring there. We had a good time in Kuala Lumpar which was very hot and humid. We got a good deal with a hotel which was close to the railway into the centre of KL and we were able to negotiate around the busy city in no time.

I will post some pics once I have got better access to the net.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Weather change

Over the past few weeks the weather has been slowly changing. It has still been very hot but their have been a couple of occasions when the wind has really got up. A couple of weeks ago having checked the weather a blow was forecast and John decided that it would be best for us to make for Sivota and get bedded down for the night. The spot we managed to get was perfect .... the wind would be pushing us off the pontoon and we put out over 50 metres of anchor chain and bedded the anchor in bolt tight. It was a Monday and this means in the Ionian it is the first day out for many flotillas and from our safe haven on the pontoon we witnessed the carnage as flotilla boat after flotilla boat tried to moor in 40 knots of wind. I felt every sympathy with them as some of these yachts had to wait for over an hour for the flotilla crews to get everything ready for them to moor and they would have to wait heeled right over in the wind. There was one guy who obviously had a problem with his headsail and after a struggle he managed to get it down and rather than strap it in some way on the deck he lay on top of it to prevent it opening up for over 40 minutes whilst his wife struggled at the wheel. This blow was well forecast and I wonder who makes the decisions to take the flots out in such conditions... for some it would have been their first sailing experience and enough to have put them off for life!

At present we have been storm bound in Vlicho for the last two day with strong force 7/8 Southerlies that have bought over 10cms of rain in 24hrs. Nearly sank our dinghy! We have swung around on anchor with no problems though we did put a kedge anchor out to help us. Again around us have been a couple of charter boats who have had to leave today to get their boats back to base as they leave tomorrow it would have been a very wet bumpy sail back to Vounaki! John is currently playing a chill out mp3 file trying to get it to influence the weather with limited success however it is all meant to blow through by tomorrow. Yippee!!

We had hoped to sail to Galaxhidi but the weather has not been kind to us all blowing strong and the wrong way for the last 10 days or so so we bit the bullet and drove there instead. An amazing place and here are some of the photos to prove it

The treasury for the Athenians ..... The biggest treasury there for all the rich Athenians.

A view over the valley that gives you an idea of how up it is some stunning views and just what a wonderful feat of engineering it is

The finish line at the athletics stadium every bit as impressive as the current Olympic stadium. The athletes took part in the pentathalon wearing nothing but a helmet, spear and greaves (shin pads).... would have created a stir in 2012!!


We have been disappointed that we have not seen any dolphins this year so far. We have seen other assorted wildlife particularly in the Gulf of Amvrakia. Here sea urchins like to attach themselves to the anchor chain which can make it a bit tricky when bringing up the anchor chain. There are fishermen here that park their boats in what can only be described as a fishing boat garage. They have forged an indentation into the coast which is specifically for their boat so that when they drive into it they are protected on three sides all that is missing really is a garage door! At Rouga Bay they also drive their boat straight onto the beach and sell what fish they have to big Yanni, the taverna owner. Yanni runs what can only be described as a Shirley Valentine type taverna with tables on the beach. The food can be good but it can also be questionable but Yanni is hospitable and enjoys trying to engage you in political debate about the state of the Greek economy.

As you sail to Rouga Bay you pass many fish farms and early one morning as we were sailing past them we spotted what we thought was a bouy on closer inspection it became obvious that it was a Pelican out for his breakfast at a nearby fish farm. We were able to get really close but unfortunately before we could get the camera out he flew closer to the farm and out of our view. Shame.

We were also witness to a large Swordfish coming into Vassiliki Harbour. This caused much consternation in the harbour with at least three fishermen chasing it in their boats. One of them managed to spear it  but this meant that everyone could see where he was and the three fishing boats cornered it. Both John and I felt sorry for the sword fish! It was finally bought onto one of the fishing boats but I should hasten to add not the fishing boat that first managed to spear it. A heated debate then ensued about who actually owned the fish. This was a big fish that would produce many swordfish steaks and obviously worth quite a bit of money. As we left we spoke to another of the local fishermen and said to him that he had missed out there. He replied that the sword fish had committed suicide in venturing into the harbour!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Sami Incident

We have had several friends out to sail with us over the last few weeks. Our friends and former crew from some of the long passages we have undertaken over the last few years, Claire and Michael arrived in Cephalonia and we met them in Sami. It was the first time that I have been to Sami and our stay was short but quite eventful! We met Claire and Michael in a bar ready for a much deserved beverage and as we were there an Italian yacht arrived in port. He appeared to be going much too fast but he lined himself up for his stern too mooring and then put the yacht into forward to in preparation for his manoeuvre. However disaster struck when the cable on his gear box stuck/broke and he found he had no reverse and ploughed into the quay at some speed. It sounded terrible. When John got to him the crowds had dispersed and the poor man was obviously in shock as the boat was still in forward and drilling itself into the quay! John being John hopped aboard and offered him some advice suggesting that from below he(John) could put the boat into reverse manually and this would enable him to go alongside the quay. John advised him that he would have to shout stop when he wanted him to put it in neutral and then he could gently drift onto the quay. Michael offered to help with the lines. As he passed us in reverse he suddenly put the throttle down and hurtled towards the quay with no shout to John just the crunch of the stern hitting the quay. 'I forgot to say stop' was all he could mutter to John. When asked for further advice John just suggested that he phone his charter company. What had started out a 44ft boat was now a 42ft boat!
There is an interesting underground lake at Sami that we got a local taxi driver to take us to. It was gloriously cool and we were taken around in a small boat that was paddled by a local. Lake Mellissani is well worth a visit.
Claire and Michael were very lucky as there was plenty of wind for their stay and we managed several good sails.

The weather continues to be really hot and even the Greeks can be heard to say that they cannot remember such a prolonged period of very hot weather. It has regularly been hovering around 39 degrees and on one occasion the thermometer registered 42degrees. The most productive times of the day are when the sun goes down and before it comes up!
With the weather so hot we often sail around to various bays drop the hook and jump in .... well I climb down the bathing ladder and John jumps in! We have a camera that takes underwater pics and as you can see the fish are not shy!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Rules of the Road

I have not been sailing that long..... around seven years.John on the othet hand has been sailing most his life and there is very little he has not done with a yacht! There are are two situations that I still find quite difficult:

1. Other vessels interpretations of the collisions regulations.
This can be particularly tricky when dealing with motor cruiser (stinkpots). For some reason when you have open sea for as far as the eye can see a motor cruisers more often than not feel the need to come virtually alongside you show off their bikini clad bimbos on the bow and then speed off leaving you having to manage an unnecessary swash or worse still shouting at them that as a vessel under sail they should not be passing inches before your bow. John and I now turn our backs on them if they feel the urge to pass so close to us... if they have no audience then perhaps they will eventually find the whole performance a waste of time! I cannot get myself enthused in any way by these machines that guzzle fuel and very often seem to think they have priority over all those around them. At this time in Greece many of them are Italian flagged and have sped across the Ionian for their holiday. Personally it would break my heart to put 2000 litres into my vessel and then have to refuel again hours later. Hardly environmentally friendly!!
We have had one near miss ... we were sailing and I was on the helm a motor cruiser was heading towards us in the distance as a yacht we are stand on vessel and it was reasonable to assume that given he could see us miles ahead he would alter course. John told me to stand on and not alter course he would do this as he got closer and closer my palms got sweatier and sweatier I thaen saw him run from the stern and blow his horn at us ... one blast this means I am turning to starboard but in fact he continued to hold his course and in the end I had no choice than to baer away to starboard my self and collapse the sail. John was like a slavering rotweiller by this time calling him on the VHF and asking him what he thought he was doing!! The reply I am 65 tonnes I just held my course and you must get out my way ... a man who does not know the rules of the road!! who obviously goes for the old addage might is right. Truth of the matter is more likely to be he was at the stern of the vessel fishing and had his auto pilot on so did not see us until he was nearly on top of us. As we passed him a woman on the stern was grappling with a fishing line trying to ensure that we did not get caught on that to add insult to injury.

2 Coming into Port

In the Med coming into port involves mooring stern to which can be a tricky manuoevre but we have had alot of practice now so it is getting easier for me but in a busy port often anchors can get crossed and tempers can get frayed!
Last week there were strong winds forecast. We decided to go int Kalamos an island that should provide us with shelter from the F7 winds. The harbour is effectively run by George one of the taverna owners who helps people with where to lay their anchor and to keep the port in some semblance of order.In strong winds it is best to lay as much anchor chain as possible which we did and as we came into moor we were greeted by two very stern Austrians who informed us that we had laid over their chain. George was insistant that we had not but John said 'what time are you leaving?' the reply 'nine o clock sharp' so says John calmly' we will leave at quarter to no problem'. Well for the rest of the day they continued to get their leiderhosen in a knot as flotilla after flotilla came in to shelter from the wind which was indeed about F7. The difficulty for them was that the flotillas were rafted up right over their anchor chains. They would not be leaving anywhere in a hurry!
On the other side of us were a British family for whom this had been their first stern to mooring he had not put out enough chain and the anchor had not taken so George was forced to take it out in the dinghy and lay it manually and where did he put it? You've guessed it over the Austrians chain if I did not know any better I might have thought that he had done it deliberately!
By morning the wind had gone and slowly people started to leave, our British neighbours took some instruction from John who told them that if their was a problem he would go out in the dinghy and give them a hand. As their anchor came up the Austrians anchor began to twitch he came to the bow and shouted ' you are over my anchor chain' ..... talk about stating the obvious! No offer of help just a lot of hot air... so John went out in the dinghy did indeed sort it for them and as expected no thank you from the Austrian just a stern teutonic glare with hands on hips!
As we prepared to lift our anchor I could feel the eyes boring into my back as I went to the bow ...the operation went like clockwork... anchor came up without touching either of the Austrians chains and we were away. I have met lots of very freindly people so far but I am sorry to say I found the arrogance of these two hard to swallow. Generally the cameraderie amongst fellow yachties is something I enjoy.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Poly zesty!!

The weather here in Greece has been really hot over the last three weeks hitting 38 degrees on several occasions with very little wind. It means coming into port can be a very sweaty affair! John and I went up to Corfu to collect Kaylem Johns grandson who was with us for two weeks. We stopped off at Giaos in Paxos a really nice little town and it looked so much better than when we had arrived in May and it was throing it down. The flights into Preveza are difficult to find now so many people are now using Easyjet into Corfu and generally there are far more flights in and out of Corfu than Preveza. For Kaylem it was his first flight unaccompanied. He is 15. John and I managed to moor in Benitses after a bit of a wrangle with the Greeks. Greece has an abundance of unfinished marinas I cannot quite work out why they have not been finished... but the fact remains they are not. The water and electric have not been hooked up and the places are generally allowed to just fall into disrepair. In reality what happens is that they become populated by people that just dump their boats for the majority of the year and the locals fill the place with small boats so what was intended to make towns money does not. However these are free ports no one should lay a mooring... which happens alot and in some cases the marinas get taken over by the locals who charge visitors and pocket the fees.
John and I managed to squeeze into a spot in Benitses only to have a local come along and tell us that this was his spot, it was his mooring and it was his country!!! Well he backed off very quickly when John told him ' ochi (no)' and if he didn't like it he would get the port police to sort the matter out.
The longer we are in Greece the more it is evident that this year there are more East Europeans sailing and also Greeks and Italians sailing under another countries flag in an effort to avoid paying boat tax in their respective countries. Just a couple of days ago in Sivota John went to help a 'French' boat who had not put down enough anchor chain only to be told that the boat was Italian but flying a French flag.The Italians have just introdced a punitive boat tax for Italian boat owners and registering uner adifferent flag is just one way to try to avoid this wether it will work I am not sure. However it is very difficult to work out who is who with Belgians not wishing to be mistaken for Germans and the Greeks and the Italians flying a variety of flags.... so much for the European community!

I think Kaylem has enjoyed himself. He particularly enjoyed the swimming and spent alot of time in the water. The water here is now really quite warm having had six weeks non stop sun. We also went para sailing which was quite an experience soaring over Skorpios and I have to say we made a perfect landing on the back of the boat as opposed to a lady who got out of the boat before us who was soaked and had obviously landed in the sea!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Our delivery adventure

We have a friend here Simon who runs Sivota Yacht Services. One of his clients wanted their yacht delivering to the Gulf of Volos. John and I volunteered and have spent five days this week sailing SY Nehallinia to Olympic Marine in Lavrion. This was a very different experience for me Nehallinia is a 28ft yacht with a 10 horse single cylinder engine. Orion is 46ft with 60 horse 4 cylinder engine so life on board was a little different.

We went under the Rio bridge at Patras one to Starboard three to Port. Rio bridge control have to be contacted 12 miles out and they then keep track of you telling you exactly where they want you to pass under the bridge. The bridge itself is pretty impressive and as we approached in the dark I was on watch and had to ask John what the laser show was in the distance .... his reply' that is not a disco that's the bridge at Patras!!' The wind was good to us on this part of the journey and whilst we had to motor most of the way to the bridge once we were through we had a good sail to Trizonia where we moored for the night.
It was the night that Greece were playing Germany in the European cup and the atmosphere was tense going from euphoria as Greece scored to equalize to dejection as the Germans scored a further three goals! The owners of Nehallinia are a Belgian couple who had given us a Belgian flag to fly that had a crown on it.... their rationale for this? ....'We don't want people to mistake us for Germans' John had a bit of a taste of the Greeks anomosity towards the Germans when he was coming over in the van. He was able to understand when Greeks on the ferry called him and his German parentage into question and was quickly able to reply I am not German ... I am English and get an apology.
We moved on from Trizonia to Corinth where John and I got up early to go through the canal. The Corinth canal can only be passed one way so you have to wait to be called up on the VHF and told to proceed once it is clear. We went through with a container vessel and a very flash yacht Roxanne going our way. Corinth control called us up once we were in the canal to ask if the speed we were doing was the fastest we could do but having said that I thought we kept up with the other boats well.! The canal is just over three miles long and it took us around 50 minutes to get to the other end and by 10 o clock we had completed all formalities at the other end.

We set course for Aegina and at this time there was no wind and it was really hot ..around 36 degrees
As we rounded the southern tip of Aegina the wind started to come up until we had 25 knots pushing us along. We decided to push for Sounion Bay to anchor there for the night and with two reefs in we made Sounion just before dark. You could see all the other yachts eyeing us suspiciously as we motored slowly in all of them wondering where we were going to anchor. Nehallinia has 1.1metre draught so we were able to go safely in front of the lot of them and put out the hook. However the wind was still howling and we effectively set up an anchor watch . At around 1.30 the yacht on our Port side started to drag anchor causing John to wake up the whole bay with a bellow ...' oih you're dragging!' The German yacht was already up and furiously turning on their engine and bringing up their anchor to re-lay it and I am glad to say they went over to another side of the bay and out of swinging distance of Nehalinnia. After very little sleep we awoke checked the weather and decided that with a Force 5/6 on the nose for some of the way our only option was to go around the end of the Bay to Olympic Marine. It was only just over 5 miles but the wind was such that it took us nearly four hours to get there. With that force of wind on our nose we could only maanage 1.5 knots for a lot of the time.
Once we were safely in the Marina we looked at the weather again.... we had a days respite from the wind which is a local wind called the Meltemi then it was back for 5/6 days at least we decided to ring up the owners to advise them of the situation and they agreed that it would be foolish to try to bash against it. They decided to take Nehallinia out the water and wait for the Meltemi to subside which is usually around August.
We spent all day Tuesday making our way back to levkas on the bus with a five hour bus ride frrom Athens but we are now back on Orion deciding where to go next. John's grandson Kaylem comes out on the 9th so it looks like its back up to Corfu to collect him. Never a dull moment here!!!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

settling down to life on board at last!

We are currently in Sivota and the weather is hot. It has been unbelivably hot of late but for the last couple of days it seems to have settled down at around 33 degrees. John and I have finally managed to get our internet sorted out and this means that we can now skype folks back in UK and more importantly get the weather!! I also have no excuse for not updating this blog on a more regular basis.

We have had friends out at the begining of the month so we sailed up to Corfu to pick them up. Flights into Preveza are not that easy to find and as it is a military airport... flights from UK only come in on Sunday. These are usually full of flotilla customers and as a consequence it is difficult to get what I would call a cheap flight. However Easyjet go into Corfu so you can pick up a bargain. Early this month the weather was decidely iffy with rain and our friends first experience of life on board was sailing into Gioas Paxos with limited visability and the rain hammering down. John and I were in full wets!! Summer sailing .... you can't beat it!

I am glad to say that the weather settled down for them and we were able to move around the islands and show them places that can only really be appreciated by boat. Abelike Bay in Meganisi is a particular favourite and for the first time we used the barbeque on the boat. This was a piece of kit that came with the boat and I have to say it produced some excellent souvlaki and pork chops!

I promised the kids back at school that I would put up the wonderful flags that they made for the boat and take a picture. When we got to Little Vathi John and I did just that. It was the day before the Jubilee celebrations back home and we had our own little celebration on board. Many people commented on them and when I explained that they were not following a royal theme but each flag was designed and produced by the children, everyone who has saw them was impressed..... far more impressive than Union Jacks in my opinion.

Everyone I meet always asks me if I miss the children .... of course I do but I am equally as happy on the boat and on the water you have plenty of time to reflect how fortunate I have been. However life moves on and despite me being happy with my lot it did not stop me worrying when I heard that school had OFSTED inspection the week before the half term holiday. I don't know why I was so worried Sam, the acting head, is as far as I can tell doing a great job and OFSTED confirmed this. Well done Sam and all the staff and wonderful children. In many ways this has helped me to draw a line under my time at Lisburne... what was once my baby has now moved on as indeed I have done.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Life really can be cruel

Having got to Vonitsa and been reunited with Orion both John and I were raring to go but the weather was foul. The Greeks say it has been the worst Easter weather wise for 10 years! So John and I set about stowing everything we had bought from England. A major task. Anyone who knows John will know that he does not like to throw away anything but I think even he has come to the realisation that some things have just got to go. Everyone around the boat yard is starting to wince when they see John walking towards them with item in hand telling them that they really cannot do without a brass key holder and other such like items! However I think we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
We ran the engine to check everything was ok and Eagle Eye Woods noticed that we had a slight leak ... John investigated further and discovered that a part of the radiator needed to be replaced. We managed to order a part on the net bt it meant we had to wait to go in the water. So John and I could could only watch and wave as one by one our neighbours went into the water.

Then came some very sad news, on Monday the 23rd April we heard from Manchester that John's father had died. He was 93 and his death had been quick he did not suffer for a long period but the news was very sad and knocked our enthusiasm and impetus for six. We set about arranging to come back and got back to the Manchester late on Friday. It is a sad time but Johns Dad was a determined man who knew what he wanted and John discovered that he had bequeathed his body to Manchester University so we are now having a celebration and memorial gathering of his life which is exactly what he wanted.
Whilst we have been back in the UK I also recieved some really sad news that one of my former pupils had died. This was such sad news. Sally was also a determined young lady who bought joy and happiness to all those around her.... pupils, teachers and adults alike. I shall never forget her for so many reasons and when we do get back on the boat in a few days time she will be in my thoughts. My heart goes out to her wonderful parents.
We are returning to Greece on 13th May.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

On the way

John is on his way. The van is full to the gunnels with boaty stuff and all our worldly goods and he boarded the ferry to Rotterdam from Hull and is now making his way through Germany. I am flying out to Greece after Easter so he really has the short straw. I am over here just mopping up and finalising our house rental. Once John gets to Vonitsa he then has to get all the 'stuff' up the ladder and onto the boat but we aim to be in the water by the 10th April. It has been a hectic four months and we are both tired but it has been worth it. The warm weather here in england I hope is just a taster of what is to come.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Nearly there!

We are now nearly ready to go to Greece. Life has been very hectic over the past four months and people keep asking me if I am finding retirement difficult. I have had very little time to even think about it! The house is sold and we have had three weeks out in Australia seeing Chris, John's son and his family which was great. We are now packing everything away again and loading the van. The kids at school made me some wonderful bunting which I will put up as soon as we get a good day in Greece and send them a picture. I hope that some of them will keep track of what we are up to via this blog.
Both John and I are a little apprehensive about what the situation is likely to be in Greece when we get there and I really hope that our friends will come out and join us for some sailing. Our friends in Port Sunlight have already booked their flight!
From now on I hope that I will be able to keep regular postings on the blog and that people will be able to follow and comment when the mood takes them !!