Revised: 28 March 2012
"Spearhead" News - Part IV
|From - to logs (year 2009)||Latest|
|Almerimar - Gozo||Gozo - Valletta||Valletta - Valletta||Valletta - Crotone|
|Crotone - Gouvia, Corfu||Gouvia - Petriti||Petriti - Lakka||Lakka - Gaios/Mongonissi|
|Mongonissi - Lefkas||Lefkas - Meganisi||Back to Lefkas||Lefkas - Meganisi again|
|Meganisi - Arkoudhion||Arkoudhion - Vathi, Ithaca||Coasting around Ithaca||Ithaca - Cephalonia|
|Coasting around Cephalonia||Cephalonia - mainland||Gulf of Patras||Patras - Trizonia|
|Trizonia - Akra Pangalos||Akra Pangalos - Corinth||Corinth - Aigina||Aigina - Akra Sounio|
|Ak Sounio - Nisos Kea||Ormos Kavia - Nisos Siros||Ermoupolis - (Nisos) Mikonos||Mikonos circumnavigation|
|Mikonos - Nisos Paros||Naousa - (Nisos) Naxos||Naxos - (Nisos) Ios||Ios - Nisos Poliagos|
|Poliagos - Nisos Milos||Milos - Nisos Kithera||Kithera - Kayio||Kayio - Malta|
Almerimar to Mgarr, Gozo - Monday to Wednesday, 13th to 22nd April 2009 - Data|
Having unintentionally over-wintered in the Costa del Sol, I've resolved to take advantage of this to go somewhere new and head East seriously for the summer, so have bought a pilot book for Greek waters.
We didn't leave as intended (the weather contrived with some crafty gusts to put off the start until Easter Monday) but finally got out of the harbour at 1555 after an earlier abortive start and return to free off the top swivel on the genoa roller. The auguries were good, and I've found out how to make one into a "movie", which shows the forecast situation in hourly steps for 7½ days. Unfortunately the resulting file is too big to be acceptable to my web server, so I can't get it online for you to see here.
At over 850 (nautical) miles, this is the longest hop I have attempted by a considerable margin, although I hoped to do it in rather less than the 12-day record that it took to get to Lanzarote at the last time of trying. However, we were set up for it if need be, because a large part of the route is along the Algerian coast where, according to the almanac, unscheduled visits by yachts without visas are not welcome. So, with ample food stocks including a 'fridge with cans of beer to keep the temperature down, fully charged batteries and all the diesel we could carry (35 litres!), off we set. The highlights were as follows:-
Tuesday: service battery very flat after only one night. Running briskly with only genoa set. Solar panel recharges during day but volts go right down again as soon as lights are needed.
Wednesday: navigate on handheld GPS to save current, heavy clouds. 1811 - visited by large pod of dolphins for just over half-hour. Later lightning and hail.
Thursday: porridge for breakfast! Try the big solar panel (as well as short charging sessions with the engine) but the battery just doesn't seem to take it.
Friday: more porridge. Strawberries have to be eaten. Make most miles running goosewinged.
Saturday: dawns to solid cloud and light rain - not Med! Pair of wee brown birds like butterflies but 40 miles offshore. Ships all over the place - no lanes hereabouts it seems. Thunderstorm spoils things just when all set up with poled-out genoa and full main.... Cross centrefold line on chart (more than half-way).
Sunday: arrive off Isle de la Galite in failing winds (northmost bit of Africa, think it belongs to Tunisia).
Monday: after sailing as hard as we can all night and some lengthy battery-charging in gear, Galite is still prominently in view! During breakfast encounter a small pod of dolphins, then a big whale (or maybe two) overtakes us to port. Awake from 20 winks to find unflagged patrol boat lying across our becalmed bows. They move off, then send across a RIB and take photos and notes. Officer says storm coming in 2 hours from the South. I say "That'll be interesting" and hold our course to the East. Threatening clouds appear and I put the spare diesel into the main tank, just in case. Various strange windshifts but no rain transpires. Battle on to the area where a Traffic Separation Scheme is expected. Unfortunately it is not as per chart, so just head along an unoccupied bit and hope it is one of the central reservations. A swallow flies around inspecting the boat, then gets bolder and flips in and out of the cabin twice. I tell him No and land's thataway but he takes no notice and disappears on the forward side of the mainsail somewhere. Things then get rather hairy and bumpy, strike main and end up charging along on less than half of the genoa. Breaking waves by midnight.
Tuesday: Dense traffic includes something like a superyacht that launches a helicopter in the direction of Sardinia - an astonishing sight in the middle of the night with a definite touch of the "Beam me up, Scotty" about it... Arrive at the Strait of Sicily waypoint 0227. Rough but OK. Find swallow in cabin pretending he's a tomato in the hanging netting! Shows no sign of leaving until 1132, although I'm in and out several times for porridge, etc. and try to move him as little as possible. Hope he knew which way to go! Busy steering in more traffic all afternoon. Make good miles out of very little sail.
Wednesday: more dolphins in the morning and a little rain. Too rough to stay in berth for 20 winks. Later eases and get all plain sail up. Gozo gradually materialises during the afternoon. Just to keep things interesting, Cap'n Vane's vane develops a fatigue crack where the vertical tube emerges from the casting, so have to take it off, followed by his rudder - not easy at speed. However, it is nice to get back to unencumbered tiller steering and a possible haven is in view. With darkness rapidly approaching (and now more than half an hour earlier than it was when we left Spain) decided to see if there was space in Mgarr Marina for a comfortable night - and there were plenty of spare berths to choose from.
Thursday: Asleep until 1130, then wander ashore where most hospitably received by the marina management and also able to clear Maltese Customs. After some lunch, siesta!
Gozo to Valletta - Wednesday, 29th April 2009 - Data|
A pleasant little sail with a tail wind and a clear sky, but not quite without incident. I fired up the the Yanmar at 1340, cast off the bow ropes and we moved aft because the stern was still moored. I cast off that rope too, together with two small ropes that the owner had his own uses for presumably and which I was concerned might get entangled with the prop. Did they? - No --- but the main rope did instead! That's the first time I've done that with Spearhead. Fortunately, there was a diver working on the moorings on the opposite side of the pontoon, and it was a matter of moments for him to cast us off, the rope not being tightly caught. We then headed out the harbour entrance and motored straight downwind while I stowed the warps and fenders. By that time we were almost arrived at the Blue Lagoon on Comino, so in we motored and took a quick look at it. Blue, certainly - the water over white sand, but it was well filled with tripper boats of all sizes from all over the Maltese archipelago, some landing passengers for the afternoon and others on moorings. I didn't fancy anchoring, so took a quick turn round and out, hoisting the main, and later the full genoa, and so we sailed the rest of the way to the entrance to Marsamxett Harbour, on the north side of Valletta. There I dropped sail and motored in. Although it was not yet 1730 there was no reply to the VHF (I later found that the marina office shuts at 1700), so I trickled in slowly and looked for a berth. Some live-aboards suggested that we just put ourselves in a vacant space on their pontoon, and we did so for the night, being put on the visitors' wall on the inside of the breakwater (the only unallocated space) the following morning.
Valletta to Valletta - Tuesday, 2nd June 2009 - Data|
Set off at 1045 all stored up for a longish passage to Corfu, with more charts, a bigger service battery installed and the vane frame renewed, and top up the diesel tankage at the fuel ship. Nice day, some clouds, warm, with a spanking breeze from somewhere North of West. Hoist reefed sails in the harbour and head off on a reach on 045° for my first Greek isle, 340 odd miles away. Pass a decent-sized turtle within the first half-hour. Obviously I've been too long in harbour - mal de mer insinuates itself, but otherwise all goes well until we have covered 19 nm, when there's a loud "snap!" from the back, and when I look, there's the Hydrovane rudder trailing behind on its safety lines. The stainless-steel shaft had broken clean across, apparently from metal fatigue, it having already been straightened out twice in this area... Although we continue well enough on course while I wrestle the thing aboard, there's no question of continuing with the variable winds forecast for later, and Malta's the place to be for English-speaking engineers if needed, so we tack about and head back again, self feeling doubly sick and getting soused by generous waves intermittently! Fortunately we were just about able to hold the reciprocal course home closehauled, although we lost a little ground with reefing and later unreefing as the wind eased towards evening, so we only had to put a short hitch in from the entrance of Grand Harbour to "our" harbour. Even more fortunately there was still a vacant berth beside the one left earlier in the day, so we were secured by 2020.
Now I'm trying to establish if there's a spare shaft in the Hydrovane workshop, or it may be easier to get one made to match here.
Valletta to Crotone - Friday to Thursday, 12-18th June 2009 - Data|
It was easier to get one locally - in fact the owner of the berth (in which I was illicitly lying) proved to be an engineer dealing in shafts, so instant solution! Once that was fixed, my digestion went a bit a-wry (most unusual) and/or it was flat calm, so we didn't actually get away until 1820, ten days later. There was a little breeze to set off with on the port beam, but by midnight it had left only just enough to ghost with and we were entering a fleet of anchored merchantmen, parked on the relatively shallow Hurd Bank over the horizon from Malta itself. There was at least two dozen of them, presumably awaiting a berth in port or orders, mostly about a mile apart. Don't expect an empty sea in this part of the Med!
A little snag had reared its head while I was tidying things up in preparation for this next leg of the cruise - for no apparent reason the Geonav handheld GPS plotter suddenly ceased to give any position: everything else worked fine but no way did it seem able to connect up with the satellites. I suspected initially that the military had got at it, because there were exercises going on, and on one of the reserve handhelds there was also a distinct shortage of satellites, although still enough to get a poor fix. But by the time we came to leave there was still no improvement in the Geonav so, bearing in mind that it is designed and made in Italy, I thought the best chance of getting it cured would be to call in there somewhere and find someone knowledgeable, or at least with a telephone contact with the manufacturers.
Saturday - After a whole night, the new, bigger battery still had 12.65 Volts left in it, so that was a considerable improvement. For most of the day I hid from the sun, which was HOT, either in the shade of the mainsail or inside. I had invented a crafty course, after study of the wind Grib, to keep well clear of extensive calms off Sicily before heading NE, but what wind there was was now heading me SE, so we tacked in the early evening and were entertained by 3 dolphins at sunset (2014 CEST) before being becalmed. A little battery-charging exercise for the engine seemed appropriate, for 2 hours, after which we were able to set full sail and resume with a nice air on the port beam.
Sunday - A calm and steady, and very dewy, nght allowed lots of 20-winks. In the morning, while I was taking advantage of the softened dirt to scrub and swill the cockpit, it was nice to see a big ship alter course to pass astern of us. The reserve handheld showed a lot more active satellites in the sky today, but still no change in the Geonav, so transferred the waypoints to the lesser machine. At 0900 a pigeon made circuits and settled on the cabin roof, in shade of the mainsail - no idiot he, it was obviously going to be too hot for flying! At 1115 I got out the Big solar Panel and set it to make electricity in the cockpit... we had a green light on the regulator in 2 minutes! Offer the pigeon some breakfast cereal but he was properly suspicious: no ring on his legs. Didn't stop the inevitable though.... Wind becomes variable then ceases. 1630 Passenger Pigeon (?) becomes fed-up with flip-flap of sails and my efforts to get them to draw and departs. Later, with a little breeze, we manage to overtake a couple of turtles. At sunset (2013 tonight) we are almost totally becalmed on a slightly swirly mirror. A little wind later allows Cap'n Vane a go, but not for long.
Monday - Continuing battle with light and variable motive power = not much time off. At least, few ships visible hereabouts. Tonight's sunset showed a definite hill-top, broadly pyramidal with a slight dip in the middle, so took our position and a compass bearing. Result = Mount Etna bang-on, distance 97 nautical miles! That's definitely a record for me. 2 hours engine charging in gear - gotta get away from Sicily somehow after 3 days sailing!
Tuesday - Wind slightly more co-operative in that it allows gentle progress. Experiment with using the Big Panel and Simrad autopilot with bursts of refrigeration and this works - we stay on course and the Voltage goes up too. Cap'n Vane mortified but incapable in these very light conditions (< Force 1). Geonav still the same so research Italian ports available and decide might as well try the nearest - Crotone, on the ball of Italy's foot. Particularly enjoy a COOL beer. Very quiet afternoon - the noisiest things are the electrics and I'm tempted to put up the parasol. The Atlantic was never like this. Actually have dinner in the cockpit. Sunset looks exactly like the dawn did this morning, except it's in the wrong direction!
Wednesday - 0500 comprehensively becalmed; put on engine and fridge. Amuse myself by putting up the cone and later the Italian courtesy flag. When I stop the engine at 0700, so does the boat... Engine on again until wind arrives at 0820. On the nose, but at least it's wind for a while. At noon try motor-sailing, initially with genoa still set. 2000 rpm only gives us 2.2 knots - something not right, must be the dirty propeller. 1915: a yacht crossed my bows, motor-sailing too, headed E. Put spare diesel into tank. 2200 rpm = 3 kn. Sunset behind hills at 2017, no wind. Motor on and eventually find street lights. Head for Capo Colonna light. Something "flashes" me, perhaps a fishing boat, so have to go warily.
Thursday - Arriving off Capo Colonna, and with Crotone harbour only some 3 miles beyond, wind suddenly arises - N 5/6 with nasty waves off the point - obviously we have come to some local equivalent of Ardnamurchan Point! Nothing to be done but furl main and batter through it with the engine and hope it ceases as suddenly as it has started. To avoid gas installations, the Sailing Directions say, we should go 2 miles due N then turn left for Crotone. With a mass of shore lights, there is no distinguishing the harbour, let alone gas installations (whatever they are) and meanwhile we are making very little ground at full throttle and have some difficulty holding course due to weight of wind and strong propeller "twist". 0300: check on fuel - at first glance by torchlight nothing can be seen in the tank at all (we are heeled away from the more-visible bit) then a few splashes across the bottom. Decision made - engine off as soon as reefed main can be set, and reach off seawards and back until daylight....
At least it's quieter like this! Wind soon reduces to 4/5 and even manage to have 20 winks on way out and then on way back in again. By dawn wind has gone NW 2/3 and we even need full sail to get us to the harbour today! Sail right up to the harbour entrance, setting warps and fenders in readiness, then furl sails smartly, start engine and berth at the fuel dock just inside at 0808. Only problem is (of course) that it doesn't open until 0900, but that's a minor detail! When the time comes to move off - 33 litres richer and €40 poorer - we are pinned on by a fresh burst of NW wind and have to spring off with the aid of a very large fender and a hefty shove from shore with a boat-hook. Then the Italian flair for opera comes into play when we have to dock alongside a pontoon to windward, with a character with a whistle and no less than 3 "assistants" to string it out to about 10 minutes. We had arrived!
After a short sleep, I went looking for a Geonav agent in the afternoon, and lo! there was one. And he took the device and furrowed his brow over it, and muttered, and after 5 minutes' of button-pushing, says "Ah-ha! There's no HOME marker!". So he inserted one and the Geonav has been as good as new ever since. He also said I should read the handbook about the HOME marker - only problem is that it doesn't mention it, in common with several other topics that I think some guidance would be helpful for.....
Ohh! and the gas installations - 4 widely-separated, unmanned production platforms complete with helipad, not much lit. If you do manage to hit one, expect to need to be rescued urgently!
Crotone to Gouvia, Corfu - Saturday to Monday, 19th to 21st June 2009 - Data|
Much of Saturday was expended in the complications that seem to arise whenever a computer tries to link in with the internet system in a new country. Suffice it to say that I found an outfit called REM that was still open and had someone who knew the answers (and by heart) and allowed me to borrow his LAN cable. By mid-afternoon we were ready to go but pinned in our berth on the pontoon by the wind, which had providentially switched direction since Thursday. I got the lines singled down in readiness and waited for a lull. The whistle-toter was quite sure I wasn't going, but took €60 off me for my 2 nights nonetheless and I had the pleasure of surprising him eventually at 1940 by springing Spearhead off without any assistance whatsoever. Once outside we set the "night rig" of a slightly reefed genoa only and set off ENE at over 4 knots. Later sheet lightning was seen ahead, then the wind started playing up and I had to hoist full main shortly before midnight.
Sunday - Started with a calm that had me furling all sail to save the slatting, then a gentle sail under genoa only towards the lightning, which we never seemed to reach. Shortly after dawn the main went up too, then the wind backed about 60° so we were close-hauled. At 0900, just when I was thinking we had the place to ourselves, a Super Feadship passed us 1.5 miles to port and a bulk carrier about 3 miles to starboard. Dolphins too. A cloudy morning gave way to sun as usual, so out came the BP to make electricity. An early afternoon calm resulted in the wind returning through the S entrance and thereafter we enjoyed a mile-eating spell which lasted until well after sunset (2015 CEST). Towards midnight we actually caught up with a thunderstorm, necessitating some quick reductions in sail!
Monday - Made to work for our arrival on the other side of the Ionian Sea in Greece: by 0330 I was struggling into full oilies as we had to bash to windward and it was raining - a rare Mediterranean treat. Swapped the courtesy flags although no land had been spotted yet. It then started to slowly fair up, and the waters to calm. We passed the minor island of Othonoi with early light and porridge was made and consumed and photographs taken. We were now off the N end of Corfu and trickled along with intermittent wind admiring this, the higher end with hills reaching unto the clouds. Later on we enjoyed a brisk shower or two in the narrows between Corfu and Albania, which helped clear the decks before more sun helpfully dried them out for our arrival at Gouvia. Here we had to queue to get in, while a RIB showed each arrival where it should park. Still we were in at 1955 Greek time (another hour ahead) and just in time to get booked in at the office. Notwithstanding the porridge, I was hungry and bought a large pizza at the Blue Bar - and then had to ask for a "doggie-bag" when I couldn't manage it all!
Not a lot seen of Albania - it just goes up from the shore to the clouds - and (from subsequent experience) much the same can be said for a lot of the adjacent Greek mainland, although a few impressive tops can very occasionally be seen.
Gouvia to Petriti - Wednesday, 24th June 2009 - Data|
With all due respect, Gouvia is not really what one comes to Greek waters to enjoy, so after a day of push-bike travel around some parts of the N end of Corfu and a morning of shopping for stores, we set off at a venture. The 2 nights there had come to €73.78 for just the under-occupied boat, so definitely time to move on, which we did at 1400. Not a lot to be said of the sailing except that the wind blew fairly steadily and warmly and we arrived at anchor in the village harbour of Petriti at 1824. The combination of Greek and Italian charting in the Geonav had us sailing over the breakwater on our way to anchor on the fishing boat wharf, but I can assure you that that is not what happened! Later advice that the weather was particularly incalculable and the fishing fleet were expecting a possibly rough night, led me to up anchor and move into the last available space inside the breakwater itself - and there we remained for quite a long time in holiday cottage mode.....
Petriti to Lakka, Paxos - Monday, 29th June 2009 - Data|
The beard grown initially on the way from Spain to Malta had now grown too hot and bristly altogether, so on this morning off it came! Cast off at 1210 and it took quite some time to get all the anchor gear and warps and fenders stowed - this Greek method is definitely the worst of all from this point of view, so one can understand why so many local and charter boats sail around all the time with fenders still in place - their anchor is of course stowed by power windlass! No point in going any sooner as the wind was only just starting for the day, so we were just in time to catch a WNW1. In the bay we were met and escorted by a dozen or so dolphins, including one with its dorsal fin bent at 45° and the wind slowly increased to Force 3, although it took time for us to speed up. Off Kavos Port either it failed, or we got too close to shore rubber-necking, but there was a slight intermission in the otherwise idyllic conditions. Then it increased to Force 4, which gave us a 6-knot reach all the way across to Paxos. Lakka is at the near end, open to Corfu, so I could distinguish a collection of masts from a long way out. Inside, it was rather like Tobermory Bay used to be in West Highland Week, except shallower, bluer and warmer, so I drew in full on my experience in such matters, selected a spot and dropped anchor in it. No problem. The serious mistake that I did make next morning, was to buy a walking map of the island.....!
Lakka to Gaios and Mongonissi (Paxos) - Friday and Saturday, 10/11th July 2009 - Data
Swimming around the boat in Lakka, I made a not-unexpected discovery. The bottom was dirty with green slime and the prop and shaft were so thick with barnacles and other marine growth that it was surprising that it propelled the boat at all. So I resolved to deal with the matter right there and, after a two-hour battle with propeller and scraper, decided that one hour a day would be quite sufficient in future. It's hard work with only goggles for assistance... So it was finished on Thursday. Also, it proved, finished on Thursday was my watch, which developed a fog inside and then faded out the digits! Enquiry in Lakka revealed no local supplier of a replacement - I would have to look in the capital, Gaios. Since my intention had been to sail through Gaios harbour on our way to Mongonissi, at the opposite extreme of Paxos, this posed no apparent problem; Paxos is after all only 5 miles long. So we motored out of Lakka at 1320 in a flat calm and turned right, dodged such rocks as there were, and arrived (anchor, warps, fenders 'n all) in Gaios in 80 minutes including berthing. Suffice it to say that the "watch shop" I was originally directed to proved to be a complete dead-end and it took until the following morning before I had what I needed from elsewhere. Then it was out the other entrance and a mile and a bit down to Mongonissi, a much more peaceful and helpful place, where I have been able to get caught-up with the computer at the expense (and convenience) of eating and drinking in their bar all day. Here's to you, my readers - hic!
Mongonissi to Lefkas - Tuesday, 14th July 2009 - Data
Having used the Mongonissi Taverna's excellent free WiFi (at the expense of eating and drinking there the whole day - not a great imposition) the time came to move on. I got the anchor aboard at 1326 and we motored out of this scenic cove. The little breeze from the W inside didn't extend to outside, so we carried on motoring (with the fridge running to cool the beers, etc.) until a little air appeared in the channel separating Paxos from Antipaxos, rising to Force 2. Put up the mainsail hopefully, but it added little to our speed and we had to make at least 4.5 knots. Lefkas town is served by a canal, which separates it (and the island) from the mainland, and a floating road bridge which opens every hour on the hour for boat traffic in the hours of daylight. Sunset being about 2030 meant that the last opening would probably be at 2000 and taking a slight chance at that. Reference to the GPS showed that we would probably be arriving just after that, so friend Yanmar it was unless/until sail was faster.
So we motored on and enjoyed the scenery, and the wind never got above the lower end of Force 3, say, 7 knots. There were a liner and a few other yachts going the same way and one, bigger one did try sailing, to the extent of setting a spinnaker, but still fell behind until he had to revert to diesel to catch up again. We didn't have the luxury of that much greater speed, so maintained revs at a level that didn't trouble the Simrad as much and would nearly get us there in time. Meanwhile I had a shave, having forgotten to do so in the excitements of leaving earlier! When there was no improvement in the wind, rather the reverse, later on, I edged the revs up a little and so we made the last opening nicely, without having to kedge and wait, as 3 boats ahead did. Then I parked on the town quay, where I have just been charged €7.13 for an anticipated 2 nights, not without difficulty, due to lack of space and the various little snags that can arise when using the bower anchor to kedge from the stern. However, berthing was achieved without ramming anything, or running aground, or wrapping the rope round the propeller, and it remains to be seen whether I managed to avoid getting the anchor crossed with anyone else's. Such is typical Greek cruising...... I suspect! At least the fridge was cold and the main battery fully charged for the evening's use.
Lefkas to Meganisi - Thursday, 16th July 2009 - Data|
Not a lot to be said about this - with no wind at all or Force 1 from astern we motored gently South down the canal for about an hour, then continued down the coast of the island of Lefkas for another, which took us to the Isle of Skorpios, famous as the Onassis retreat. It seems rather more hilly and wooded than implied by descriptions I had read. Decided that we could go another hour to Meganisi, so headed for the NE corner, viewing the approaches to the villages of Spartakhori and Vathi en route - both were well filled with masts. Went into the first bay at the corner, Ormos Kapali, on seeing that the entrance to the next one down had a flotilla anchored in it (implying that they couldn't get further in to where the tavernas are), and found about eight yachts anchored in each of the two lobes that it divides into. Took the longer lobe to port and had an enjoyable time anchoring,and taking a long stern line ashore in the dinghy. There are no tavernas in this bay and only about 3 houses to be seen amongst the olive trees, but there's an ominous excavation at the head and a tarmac road on the western side, so I doubt if this presently quiet and idyllic spot will be remaining so for very much longer.
Meganisi to Lefkas Town again - Thursday, 23rd July 2009 - Data|
I deflated and stowed the dinghy this morning because we were going back to Lefkas so that I could get the 'plane home from Corfu, that being the only flight available from an accessible airport at a reasonable cost in this, the high season. Also had a final swim round the boat with a scrubber to clean off some light slime. Anchor stowed at 1320. There's some wind "outside" in the Inland Sea today and, of course, it's from the NNW so pretty well right on the nose, Force 3 soon getting to 4. Decide to experiment a bit, so just unfurl the genoa and let the Simrad continue with the steering while the engine continues too, at low revs, to power it and the refrigerator. Head towards the mainland side for a closer look. We plug along at just under 5 knots, according to the GPS, and the Simrad copes quite well for a while, then the wind veers a little and the genoa goes aback. Rather than gybe round, just use the engine to get us back on course, then find that the sacrificial strip on the leach has been damaged on the spreader end. After about an hour we tack off the shore and head for Akro Kefali, where the genoa suffers in a similar manner but on the other side of the material, holing the sailcloth and forcing me to furl it up prematurely at 1500. So that's a job for a sailmaker, when we get to Lefkas.... Increase revs to 2400, because the wind is funnelling through here, and batter at 4.2 kn up to the canal entrance, then up to Lefkas, arriving at 1630. Having 'phoned ahead to warn them, there's someone (Ian!) from Contract Yacht Services to tell me where to berth and help with the operation. End of sailing for a (little) while.
Set off homewards at lunchtime on Friday and made it in 24 hours exactly despite some annoying and lengthy delays and consequent skin-of-the-teeth connections.
Lefkas to Meganisi (2) - Tuesday, 25th August 2009 - Data|
Bearing in mind Rod Heikell's advice that one should always fill up before leaving Lefkas (because it's the regional distribution centre anyway), I paid CYS their dues, sailmakers' charges and laundry bill, then spent a rather longer round getting diesel and water, a rucksack and a sack-full of stores from the supermarket (but couldn't locate a decent lettuce) and then finding stowage for that little lot. Anyway, flags hoisted and Geonav primed as to our likely course, we set off at 1750 and headed down the canal in no apparent wind under the management of the Simrad. The canal seemed remarkably empty of traffic compared with a month ago.... At the last pair of buoys after 43 minutes there was, surprise, surprise, nothing to hoist any sail to, so we just did the same as last time and headed for Ormos Kapali on Meganisi (why improve on perfection?) and duly got there and the anchor down at 2025. There was one other yacht in, also anchored rather than moored, in our arm, so we just went past her to near the head of the pool and there lowered the hook centrally into the nice grey mud. By 2100 it was dark!
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Meganisi to Nisos Arkoudhion - Tuesday, 1st September 2009 - Data|
It's always difficult to leave the perfect anchorage, and by today we'd already postponed it once in favour of trying somwhere slightly different, but still up the same creek, you understand. However, now needs must, because Meganisi today still lacks that essential of modern-day living - the hole-in-the-wall! Being down to €0.75, we now had to try somewhere more populous, probably with a bank. 1445 start letting lines go and are soon motoring merrily out to a wider horizon. Usual problem, what wind there is is on the nose, but once we have passed a couple of marks, there is a big bay offering scope for motor-sailing a bit off to one side or the other, so we do this and keep the beers cool. The South end of Meganisi is drawn out into a long, thin, curved spine reminiscent of a scorpion, over which the wind came, and I was surprised to find that there was an off-lying islet just to windward when we got there. Then our course continued for Ithaca lurking in the haze about a dozen miles on. Looking around at other islands that had also become apparent to the West, I spotted an uninhabited one, not even mentioned in the Cruising Pilot, that seemed to have a sheltered gut let into the cliffs and a skerry-anchorage at the SW corner. The attractions of an hole-in-the-wall in Ithaca somehow strangely dimmed in comparison with this errant lump of rock only 4 miles to windward, so I wound up the Yanmar a few revs, readjusted Cap'n Vane, and rolled up the main again to save it from flogging. And at 1916, out of sight of the sun, we anchored in this nice little cove for the night. It had a real feel of being away from all those charter boats for once. A quick trip ashore (the dinghy had been passage-making on the foredeck) showed a colossal lot of marine litter, no house or hut, a sheep or perhaps goat dip, and a very rough scramble up over ?vitrified stonework to a broad but over-grown "stalker's path" leading up the left side of the gully to the heights beyond. Sadly, daylight extended no further, but we had a comfortable-enough night down below.
Arkoudhion to Vathi, Ithaca- Wednesday, 2nd September 2009 - Data|
1055: anchor up just as the 2nd charter boat of the morning made its appearance, and we motored out to the end of the skerry to set main and full genoa, which gave us 4.7 knots, while the engine idled below to refrigerate. Without further complications, we arrived at about change-about time in Vathi, 1422, and rather than fiddle-about with mooring by stern-anchor, etc. just dropped the bower diagonally off the corner of the main quay in what I reckoned was probably no-man's-land. This proved an excellent berth - nobody put their anchor anywhere near mine (far less across it), there was all the fun of the fair to be watched, it was handy for going ashore to the shops (and banks - 2 within 100 m) with a sheltered corner for the dinghy, and finally and most importantly the holding was brilliant. I had a lovely afternoon sorting out other-people's mooring problems, while Spearhead sat smugly by!
Ithaca coasting - Thursday, 3rd September 2009 - Data|
I had put the contents of the spare can into the main tank, so the first job in the morning was to get it refilled. Normally I just tote the can around but in Vathi their fuelling jetty is on the opposite side to everything else, so it made more sense to lift the anchor and put out a couple of fenders and warps rather than walk. By the time we came to actually leave, business done, it was 1026 and the morning flotilla and charter fleets were well into making their exits too. However, there's plenty of room and we ambled along, letting all the Italians overtake, got all plain sail up when wind arrived and headed South down the West coast. Sarakiniko Bay was on the must-see list, and we had to motor to get into there, anchoring at 1306. Only about 6 people there, all textile; the "main" beach is entirely occupied by small craft, either hauled up or in use. At 1500 we resumed under engine and parasol in search of Kaminia. Several bays would be nice but are occupied by fish-farming. Found Kaminia tucked in a final corner and anchored there 1545 - again all textile (8) and apparently local rather than tourists. Again leave after 2 hours, this time because the steep hills had pinched the sun! Tempted to stop at the jetty at Pera Pighadi island a mile further down, despite relative openness and the reports of boarding rats, but found someone had already forestalled me. Nooks round the shores of the bay didn't look so good in reality either, so we eased onwards and rounded Akro Ayios Ioannis (she or he?) at 1831 and headed West. It seems general in Greece that all these points named after Saints still have their little chapel right there and it is better maintained and painted than most local houses! The South coast of Ithaca offers no anchorages until the extreme corner, where Ormos Ayios Andreas (no chapel this time, just to prove the rule, although there are a couple of ruins to investigate another time) has a beach at the foot of a valley. We couldn't get in to the beach, which was already well parcelled up by an Italian catamaran, but anchored in a rocky bight to the left at 1940 at the second attempt and were welcomed by many goats.
Ithaca to Cephalonia - Friday, 4th September 2009 - Data|
Clear water reveals the anchor to be sitting very prettily and symmetrically upright on a rock slab, so we made ready to depart instantly should the need arise. Meantime, I did various little jobs about the decks, such as re-marking faded numbers on the genoa tracks and anchor cable, halliards and control lines. No wind still forthcoming, I went below to make further study of my sources about Cephalonia, then emerged to find a veritable fleet of new arrivals seeking to moor themselves around the not-at-all-well-secured me! I stuck it out until after lunch, then fired up the Yanmar and made good our escape round the corner to the right, entering the Strait (Stenon) of Ithaca so's we could get to the other side somewhere! The wind here was from the South and not up to much strengthwise, so we kept Yanmar running gently while the parasol did its best to assist. That way we managed a creditable 4.2 knots. We then found ourselves crossing ahead of a ferry out of Sami and going to no discernible place on the Ithacan side; since I was constantly and wrongly expecting him to change course, this threatened to lead to a very close encounter, but he had the advantage of me because he knew where he was going, and so altered course a few degrees to starboard and gave both of us some comfort-space. Not comfortable for us for long, however, because a swell began to fill in from dead-ahead, the wind evaporated and then did exactly as the pilotbook warned and returned with greater force from the opposite direction. Even with the parasol down, our speed was now reduced to 1.5 knots if that, as the Simrad couldn't keep up with the resulting gyrations. This was cured by using Cap'n Vane instead and more engine revs and so we rather ingloriously punched our way up Stenon Ithaki, in the general direction of Fiskardho. It was knocking-off time before we got that far, however, so each successive bay on the Cephalonian side was scrutinised for berthing space and shelter until I spotted one hidden behind a moored ship, that looked attractive and in we went to see what the possibilities were. The ship Poseidon VI of London was small (say 150') and seemed to be unduly smart, like a research vessel or even, perhaps, now private pleasure boat; it was moored 6 ways at least beside a steel quay under construction. Allowing for the five smallcraft on running moorings along the opposite shore, I still reckoned we could squeeze in and did so. Dodging various cans and other things close beneath the surface, I had the anchor down at 1835, then found we had at least two subaqueous wrecks of caiques for company! Sat and watched awhile, but nothing moved, so neither did we. Both sides of the creek were densely clothed in the various species of columnar conifers for which Cephalonia is noted, and clearly the wind could only blow inland or out, never across. So we stayed and enjoyed it.
Fiskardho & local - Saturday to Tuesday, 5-8th September 2009 - Data
The following day I took advantage of the conditions to scrub off round the waterline from the dinghy and then did underneath on the starboard side using the new suction gripper, which halves the working time on such jobs. I had hardly returned aboard, dried off and re-oiled myself, before a tourist boat under very British command suddenly presented itself from beyond Poseidon VI in order to show off and snorkel upon the wrecks at my bow and stern! Apparently there is a third one, just under the bows of Poseidon VI, but I did not go to examine that! I stayed to 1650 then quietly motored round to Fiskardho, which turned out to be only 1.8 nm away - very handy. The town quay turned out to be well filled with a proportion of fleet/flotilla boats. However there were a couple of possible gaps and I selected one, carefully dropped the anchor from the bow exactly between the chains of those already in situ and, after suitable arrangements had been made for fenders and bow ropes, took the anchor cable with all the spare line down one side to the stern. Now the problematic bit - turning the boat head to land without catching the (slack) cable round the prop! Obviously the side down which you have already led all the spare rope has a bearing on this - or with luck, not... Further study of this stage of the manoeuvre is still needed but, on this occasion, I got away with it. We settled nicely into the desired spot and the bow lines were taken by the Head Waiter of the adjacent restaurant, clearly an adept in such matters, and that was my dinner table booked for the evening! Not a word needed. The assorted members of the "Pot Luck" charter boat now on my starboard side were an avid audience and later admitted to being very impressed. I felt quite tired - must be all the swimming, I thought - and later on my appetite deserted me, so the Head Waiter aforementioned had to come up with a Doggie Bag for my pasta dish. The town was somewhat noisy - last night out for a lot of the fleet crews - but a miraculous hush came at 0100 precisely!
The chandlery in Fiskardho is good - they came up with a tube of Hypalon glue and container of acetone, even on a Sunday morning. The rest of that time I spent enjoying the high speed evolutions of the flotilla under new crews as they left with a windy forecast (I don't think it actually happened) for Agios Eufimia. I'm glad I'm not a flotilla leader..... A Danish boat came in on my port side, using a craftily concealed windlass in the cockpit after coaming to control his stern anchor on chain; I was very envious and could even foresee a similar thing on the back of Spearhead until, that is, the electrical drain problem and how it would fit through and around our natty stern lettering put the kybosh on it. The chain stowage is no problem, at least. Dream on..... Most of the night was illuminated by a thundercloud, lying somewhere about the N end of Ithaca, which was hardly ever turned "off", so that you could read by its orange-yellow light continuously.
On Monday we left at noon and headed back to Ormos Evreti (name pinched from the village above) to complete the scrubbing on the port side. This time it was windier and difficult to get the hook in before our stern came back over the bigger wreck. Fortunately it didn't matter, because we still had a working clearance under our rudders but, after the job was done and some rest and food partaken, I thought it best to move on, so we transferred ourselves to a bay called Kalo Limani, another 5 miles down, and mostly under sail, to prove the clean bottom. There we were met by a pair of white duck, who got a slice of bread carefully divided between them, which seemed to leave all parties gratified.
Tuesday: Goats wear the bells here - in Meganisi it's the sheep. Look out at 1111 and spot a naked, plump, human couple have set up on the beach. Give them a wave but not reciprocated. Think it's a bit brave of them, as this is the only recent bay with any houses. But then, perhaps they have taken one of the houses themselves... Put the spare diesel into the main tank, which it doesn't quite fill, and presently set off on what I think must be my last Cephalonian leg to Andisamos Bay. (There's lots to see along the S coast but not the time right now, and a fair leg to go before one even gets to the S coast.) Arrived without wind assistance at 1606, off the extreme E end of the beach, and spent the night there.
Cephalonia to mainland - Wednesday, 9th September 2009 - Data|
Had another go at the dinghy rowlock with the new glue and boat well deflated, then crossed my fingers and packed it all away in the under-tiller stowage. Meanwhile the MV Ionian Princess anchors nearby and deploys tenders and staff. Presently some nobs come out and very decorously lower themselves into the briny; when they actually cast off from the yacht and swim, each is closely followed by an attendant in an individual tender ready for anything! I'd be afraid of being run-down from behind, so each to their own last.
All set up in readiness, we set off eastwards at 1455 and hope to find a night's shelter somewhere near Nisos Oxia. The wind gets co-operative and we get to sail awhile with the engine off! All went nice and quiet, and the boat heeled a little, and the GPS assured us that we were doing all of 5 knots in the right direction. It couldn't last, of course, but it was good while it did. Sunset found us rounding the N end of Oxia. The bay to the N had seemed likely but the left-over swell from the S seemed to be getting into it round both sides of Oxia, which itself is full of fish-farms. So I looked S along the mainland shore and selected a bay with two rocky outcrops to the South and some scrubbily forested hills to the North, while in between was probably marsh. Dropped the anchor into stiff, grey mud while yet in line with the rocks at 2015 - not a house in sight from deck level, and no swell at all.
Vrak Scrof to Patras - Friday, 11th September 2009 - Data
On Thursday the wind blew briskly from the NE (from which we were perfectly sheltered) until after lunch, while the sun failed to put in an appearance at all, so no electricity was made. The only sign of life was a large flock of goats with bells - they came over the hills, down onto the shore and traversed that, then exitted right towards a low shelter or farm that could just be seen over the reeds from a perch on the boom about a half mile further on. The goats lasted about 2 hours; otherwise I checked up on our location. The Geonav was not much help at all - each successive scale as one zoomed in showed something entirely different - but it did at least provide the name for the northern rock, Vrak Scrofopoula, and the "cape" formed by the tail end of the southern one, Akro Scrofa. Reference to Rod Heikell showed that this would almost certainly be the spot where Lord Byron's ship firstly put in to evade a Turkish brig-of-war and later struck rocks twice while missing stays in a squall - the crew mostly jumped off and had to be retrieved by an escort vessel! Unfortunately it didn't do Byron much good - Mesolongion, not far around the corner, was as far as he ever got.
On Friday the wind looked much more propitious for our course to the East and we set off soon after 1100. Off Ak Scrofa we turned left, added the genoa to the main already at work, and shot off at speed for Patras, doubtless aided by the bottom's recent scrub. After we had been going 2 hours, the wind stopped abruptly and I tried tacking along closer to shore. Looking at the record of our track, it is like the proverbial spaghetti, with the advance that nowhere does it actually cross itself - in the next two hours we gained just over a mile by sailing about 6! Finally the wind did settle down and give us a little more force, but it was of course due E. The question now was whether to keep as much as possible on starboard or on port tack depending on a veering or backing wind. My guess was that it would back as it fanned out from the Strait just N of Patras, so held port tack and screwed up Cap'n Vane as close as he would go. Little by little our heading advanced further up the southern shore - I'd got it right for once! At sunset (1947) we were almost heading into Patras and had five miles to go so, not wishing any close encounters with high-speed international ferries, I put on all the lights and the Yanmar at a good clip and the Sea-Me and furled the sails. Very relieved to find that someone was still on duty at 2105 to take my lines and pass a stern-mooring rope, an unexpected wee pleasure after all those anchors...
Patras to Nisos Trizonia - Tuesday, 29th September 2009 - Data|
I'm appalled to see that we were in Patras, an inconvenient place that I didn't much like, for 18 days. The reason was that I fell victim to some strange malaise (William suggests that it was swine 'flu) that took me right down to a very low level and left me needing considerable time to recover. I took my stock of 18 Amoxycillin anti-biotic pills over 6 days and did recover, anyway!
At 1400 precisely I fired up the Yanmar and we motored out into a light southwesterly, which improved once we were beyond the town itself to the point where all plain sail could be set and we could run towards and through the Rion Strait and its bridge, said to be the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world - each of the 3 main spans clears 560 metres. I had to report to Rion Traffic Control by VHF when we were 5 miles off (i.e. still off Patras) and then at 1 mile, and go through the designated span - "3 pillars to the left and 1 to the right".
I liked being asked what my mast height was... after we were through, a container ship came through the centre span (clearance 45 metres) and it was difficult from where we were to see how he didn't knock the satellite-communication ball off the top of his boat! There must have been some critical calculation going on. (Incidentally, unlike the Forth Road Bridge, now that the bridge is open the ferries are still running beneath it and there even seem to be competing companies.)
Thereafter we enjoyed a brisk run up the "loch" - there is a definite inland feel to the Gulf of Corinth, perhaps most like Lake Geneva - until we found the island of Trizonia, already earmarked as our stop for the night. The Gulf being over 60 miles long makes it impractical for a sailing yacht to traverse it in a single day. Since this skipper was uncertain of his fitness, my plan was to take it in three hops of 20-odd miles and hopefully be better at the end of it than I was when starting. So Trizonia fitted in in exactly the right place, and it has the advantage that the marina is free-of-charge too. Lots of yachts and liveaboards overwinter there accordingly. We arrived at 1845, using the wind and little touches of engine to drift ourselves alongside at the end of an inner jetty. The marina has been built for quite some time (by whom and why they aren't there charging us for it, I know not) and the concrete has been eroded to the point where the outer stones are projecting some way and even falling off the vertical faces, so I took great care to get the fenders right. The bollards are rusty but plentiful and still well-rooted. Once we were secure I checked with the GPS and found that it thought we were over the other side of the sheltering peninsula in the slightly more open Sound. Moving the cursor to where we actually were inside showed an error of 0.26 nm direction 212°, a record error so far. I spotted a boat "Rascal of Rhu", Dunstaffnage, parked inside the outer mole and found her crew in one of the tavernas, but it seems that it is some time since they were at Dunstaffnage and, having arrived in Greece, they have no intention of returning! I explained that I am delivering my new boat from the Hamble to Oban, but made a slight navigational error somewhere, The taverna could not provide much joy; they could only offer Greek salad and some little fishes done like whitebait (and beer). It being an island, I was very glad that there was even that!
Trizonia to Akra Pangalos - Wednesday, 30th September 2009 - Data|
Woken at 0715 by the sound of the hull scratching itself on the jetty, one of the fenders having been inched up to deck level. This marina is going to cost me after all! Think Corinth definitely a step too far, so the problem is to find a midway stopping point suitable to the conditions that obtain. Set off at 1107 and , according to the GPS, sail through a lot of land, including another island, before reaching more open water. Wind obligingly from the W, so run with genoa and Cap'n Vane - make about 4 knots. Later, when the wind eased, set the main too and goosewing until we were right down to 1½ knots, when the engine was brought in to ensure we were not benighted. 1730: narrow miss with big and apparently annoyed turtle. Arrived at Akra Pangalos and thought to look in a bay about a half mile up the other side but, observing that there was a slight indentation and suitable depths just around the corner, dropped anchor on a nice patch of sand at 1845. Later on I found that fishing caiques were sharing the bay too for various parts of the night, so I wasn't entirely out on a limb in choosing this undocumented spot but I put the anchor light on, just in case.
Ak Pangalos to Corinth - Thursday, 1st September 2009 - Data|
Set course at 1018 for Corinth in a flat calm and put the mainsail up to make us a bit more visible. Sunbathe. Pass about a dozen dolphins going the other way at 1315, but they didn't deviate to say Hello. At 1536 we passed the last headland on the N side of the Gulf, with Corinth plainly in sight and behold also wind appears on the water ahead and soon develops into a contrary Force 4-5. Just plugged on under engine, although not now making nearly so much speed, and arrived at Corinth Yacht Harbour at 1805, where we were directed onto the T-berth at the end of the first pontoon by two rather dubious characters who asked for, but didn't get, baksheesh. They couldn't even find the correct office for me to report in to the Harbourmaster/Coastguard, who when I did get him charged 9 for the one night and a lot of form filling. Then I was ripped off at a nearby restaurant for "fish soup" which turned out to be veg soup and a mackerel on a separate plate, so I got the impression that Corinth is (or soon will be) in desperate straits. Contacted the canal authority by VHF, as told to do so urgently by the Coastguard, to check if passage will be OK tomorrow and am told to call them back in the morning! Slept well, anyway.
Corinth to (Nisos) Aigina - Friday, 2nd October 2009 - Data|
Call the canal people at 0830:- they don't know when the next eastbound passage will be after the present one (various large yachts that spent the night outside at anchor can be seen manoeuvring near the canal entrance and eventually disappear inside). Put my spare can of diesel into the tank. 0940 VHF:- next passage will be about 1030... Experiment with Cap'n Vane to see if he can be used to offset the turn induced by the propeller as more power is used - that will make things much easier for the electronic autopilot. Find a possible trick with shockcord and fenders holding the reversed vane to the pole on the starboard quarter. 1044 VHF:- wait another 30 minutes, please. 1118 VHF:- go to the canal entrance as soon as possible! Do so at ever increasing speed, adjusting Cap'n Vane's lash-up as we go - it's over a mile to the canal. Instructed to go straight in when we get there and to use full power! Can just see a vessel ahead, already a good way through. The reason for the full power instruction is soon apparent - the canal is running strongly against us today; the wind is from the SE and piling up the water at the other end. The GPS shows that we are not making much more than 3 knots against the wind and current, whereas normally at the revs we are now using we would expect to see 5 or even 6 knots. Our revised steering system works remarkably well and it is only necessary after we are properly lined up to make the minimum 1° corrections at intervals. The canal being only some 24 metres wide, this is a great relief. In one place there must have been a recent rock fall and I doubt if there was the full 24 metres, but did not test it!
The vessel ahead drew further ahead and before we were halfway through had entirely disappeared. Meanwhile the sides got higher and higher and even the bright day was darkened: it was getting positively claustrophobic under the bridges. The rock obviously was varied in its hardness and there were places where you could see footholds cut in it like ice-climbers use on mountains; in others the layers were eroded by the wind at different rates; the best rock was still perfectly smooth and cut very nearly vertically, while the worst had apparently fallen over time to a shallower angle and let in a bit more light. There are low level lamps to allow the canal to be used at night and the cables for these are mostly just hung incongruously from the top. I wonder what they used all the excavated material for? It took us 61 minutes to get through to Isthmia, which seemed surprisingly green, with trees, but where the quay has fenders much too high up for small yachts. We had to use them, because this is the end where the offices are and there are dues to be paid. If you are lucky, as I was, there is also a diesel vendor with mini-tanker and you can get a proper fill-up at a competitive price. The canal wasn't as expensive as I had expected from the pilot book either.
After a lunch break, we set off again at 1500 in the direction of the island Aigina and its capital Aigina! This was quite a long leg, but with the brisk breeze there weren't many suitable anchorages before then. Set reefed sails and got stuck in, varying the size of the reefs according to wind strength. The bicolour lamp on the pulpit had got slightly graunched at Isthmia and when I came to put it on (in order to cheat a little by using the engine to get us round an inconveniently placed islet) it didn't work and then came apart at its mounting. It took some pulpit heroics to strap it together and in place with little cable ties daisy-chained together, but it got us there without further trouble. Once we were round the rock, the wind reduced and we completed the trip with further engine assistance, arriving about 2225. Aigina is the nearest sizeable island to Athens and consequently always very busy. Both the harbour and the marina were apparently full, but I had passed a departing yacht not long before we arrived, so there was hope and I eventually found "his" spot on the town quay, very handily placed for shops and eateries. All secure at 2300: go to nearest café for a beer and pizza, then turn in at 0020 well tired!
Aigina to Akra Sounio - Sunday, 4th October 2009 - Data|
The weather looked good for a long leg to the E, so fire up the engine at 0945 and am just taking off the second bow rope when I'm dunned for 11 dues by the Harbourmaster arriving suddenly on his motorbike! It was 1028 by the time I had everything stowed and could point the bows to the harbour mouth. Set the genoa to run S to the bottom end of the island in quite a brisk breeze but that didn't last half an hour, so we rounded the point and turned left under engine. Took photos of another British boat going the same way - he was motoring too, but with reefed mainsail and full yankee and staysail - obviously he didn't know what was going to happen next either! Rest of the day an on-off battle with wind switching directions and strength at irregular intervals in order to keep me amused. Mostly it was the engine, run at beer-cooling revs, which kept us moving while the sails did their bit from time to time and sometimes for a long time... I had a good, if a bit hazy, view of the Athens coast for most of the day, and tried to see where the Acropolis was, but in vain. With the sun about to set we were in sight of the temple on Cape Sounion, which has handy bays on either side, and parked in the nearer one, which had about 20 boats in it already, including the boat photographed earlier, so I was able to get his eMail address.
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Ak Sounio to Nisos Kea - Monday, 5th October 2009 - Data|
I had hoped to do this leg yesterday too. Wind very light in the morning, so just had to do jobs about the boat, principally cleaning up the Hydrovane's rudder. Left at 1349 under engine, set all plain sail and stopped the engine at 1401 - and that was it for the day. Close hauled on port tack, we could just lay the course to the S end of Nisos Makronisi, but thereafter the wind was not quite so obliging and we couldn't make it to Ayios Nikolaou, the main port, without tacking. There being no good reason to go there anyway, we just carried on until we had closed the coast, then ran down to the first well-sheltered bay, which was Ormos Kavia. There are good reports of this spot in the Greek Waters Pilot, so in we went and anchored at 1742, without needing to touch the engine starter key, beside the 4 other yachts already there. Unfortunately, when I inflated the dinghy to go ashore, it had suffered a small puncture (so I had to row quickly and take the pump) and worse, everything was closed! Not a drink to be had, nor indeed anyone seen, except in the rare passing car. No shops, either.
Kea to Ermoupolis, Nisos Siros - Wednesday, 7th October 2009 - Data|
The reason we didn't do this sail the previous day was that it was blowing stink all day - the famous weapons-grade meltemi at last! At least the anchor never budged, but it was decidedly uncomfortable. Apart from patching the dinghy, there was little to do and going ashore was out of the question. So by Wednesday, everyone in the anchorage seemed determined to move on if at all possible. The wind was still northerly and a tad less strong at F6, and we left at 1019 after a battle to get the anchor up in solid sunshine. Unfurled a modicum of genoa and set off. After rounding the S end of the island things eased for a while, so the mainsail went up with a good reef in, and we could easily lay the course, which was pretty well due E. Then things deteriorated and we took a pasting: I got soaked early on, the masthead windicator was blown clean up and off the VHF aerial and lost (second time that's happened) and, inside, the cooker was dislodged from its gimbals (first time ever) although I didn't see that until afterwards. All the other sailing craft seen were going the other way on a broad reach and 5 out of 6 of them were big catamarans with big reefs in. 'Nuff said: moral - when a meltemi is blowing only go downwind! N of Siros it suddenly stopped and we were becalmed in big seas (for the Med, that is), so started the engine to give us steerage and thereafter kept it on until arrival in Ermoupolis (which is the capital not only of the island but all the rest of the Cyclades). Upon our arrival, I must have looked rather the worse for wear, because the crew of a French boat adjacent insisted a) on aiding the final tie-up; b) inviting me aboard their boat for a coffee; and then c) giving me a share of their pasta dinner! Hero of the trip was, once again, Cap'n Vane.
Siros to (Nisos) Mikonos - Saturday, 10th October 2009 - Data|
Ermoupolis does not have a comfortable harbour - even though the town quay corner for yachts is well upwind of the entrance and under a hill, the swell reverberates off the S shore and shipyards, and ferries manoeuvre off the quay at what looks very like full power. One night one ferry kept its ventilation system fans going at full bore, even though there appeared to be no-one aboard. So it was not the attractiveness of the place that kept us there until Saturday afternoon, rather the meltemi still blowing on Thursday and Friday, coupled with the need to get the boat's insurance sorted out and properly documented (it had already been paid), and of course the usual shopping for stores.
That left us clear to sail at 1436, heading for Mikonos, which can clearly be seen only 19 or 20 miles away. The passage was pretty much routine sailing, the only notable event being the loss of my specs overboard as I was taking down the main outside the marina entrance. I have now lost both my varifocal pairs and am back to using the earlier (6 years old) reading-type glasses - VERY CAREFULLY! In case you are thinking that I could get another pair made up from the prescription, which I do have, I am due another eye test in December anyway, so there is not a lot of point in getting an effectively 2-year-old pair right now.
Circumnavigation - Sunday to Wednesday, 11-14th October 2009 - Data|
This was a Beach Preliminary Inspection trip, just to get some idea of the famous beaches. We went round anticlockwise. On Sunday motorsailed mainly downwind in light airs and saw most of the S Coast beaches. Went into a small bay called Ormos Ay Anna about ¾ of the way along and anchored there for the night. They have some lovely beaches right enough but, for me, they are being progressively spoiled by the sunbed/parasol businesses and by development of hotels, apartments, bars and villas all focussed on the beach. On Monday morning a check of the forecast on the Navtex showed probable S7's coming our way. The wind had already gone S and clearly it would be unwise to remain. Fortunately Ormos Panormos on the N coast is recommended as a good place to sit out a southerly blow, and in any case that matched closely what we would probably be doing anyway. So we motored out and continued along to the W corner of the island, then sailed N and motorsailed back NE once we were in shelter. Stopped for lunch in one "wild" cove, then moved on and took a look at all the other listed beaches in turn until we came to O Panormos, which has several within it. Mindful of the forecast, which was clearly becoming truer hourly, I selected the S end of Panormos Beach and anchored there at 1624. Launched the dinghy, which had been sitting on the foredeck, and went in search of shop and taverna, but they were closed for the season, so it was back aboard for home cooking again. On Tuesday it was rough - my breakfast cereal, fortunately still awaiting its milk, was skittled off the table by one wave and the dinghy was doing barrel rolls several feet in the air and lost its seat, which drifted ashore. I got it back before lunch, when there was a lull. Spent the afternoon doing cooker maintenance. The anchor held! Obedient to the forecast for once, the wind veered at 1900, and later eased. On Wednesday I made a trip ashore in the morning, getting soaked when it came to relaunching the dinghy. We set off back to the marina at 1258, and I have to admit that it was the engine that again did much of the work, although the sails were given every chance to make their contribution. Please note: contrary to what the tourist map infers, there are no sandy beaches after O Panormos until just before the marina at Ay Stefanos, where there is a good one, not yet overdeveloped.
Mikonos to Nisos Paros - Tuesday, 20th October 2009 - Data|
Cast off at 1325 and by 1400 we have finished with engine and are reaching S on port tack with all plain sail set. Pass Nisos Dilos keeping carefully at least 500 metres off as required. Paros, initially rather indistinct in the haze, gets steadily closer and clearer and we head for Naousa, which can be made out at the back of quite a deep bay. Sail close in to the harbour entrance, furl sails, and motor into marina, which is pretty full. Choose an alongside berth beside the access to the outer quay and drift the boat into it. It isn't until we are all secured at 1855 that I notice that there is a lot of ballasting beside the wall and we have only inches clearance under the keel ! However, we're there and it's a quiet night, so leave that for another time. A Swiss couple assist in the berthing operation, then take me off to the nearest taverna for a beer. From the way I am being pumped, I suspect that their thoughts are turning towards a charter on some future holiday.... After they have gone, I order a crepe as a first contribution to dinner.
Naousa to (Nisos) Naxos - Wednesday, 21st October 2009 - Data|
I like Naousa, which is small, has a convenient shopping centre close by the harbour, with at least 3 holes-in-the-wall, a bakery and supermarket all close to hand, WiFi too. In other circumstances I could well have stayed a good week and found out more about Parian marble and the island's history. There's a boatyard there, a stream through the town and many beaches. However, winter is getting nearer, temperatures are dropping steadily and I still have a few more islands to check out before heading back towards Malta. So I reluctantly decide, over an "English Breakfast" at Kiranos that we should put this island on the list of "possibles for later attention" and move on. Wind forecast NW4-5 is OK and it's only a few miles to the island of Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades, and its capital of the same name. Also, another owner with local knowledge advises me that Spearhead's present berth gets very rough if the wind blows up and any swell gets in. So, off we go - but there's a little difficulty already with the wind holding us in against the wall. Re-arrange ropes, start up the engine at 1250 and try springing the bow out using lots of fenders at the back and reverse gear. Bows, even with a hearty shove from the boathook, won't go round far enough to allow us to clear the boat parked crosswise ahead. Change of cunning plan - get the dinghy launched, put the anchor and chain into it, then row up the middle, pulling out the rope cable as we go. When we get to the end of the rope, let out the chain and finally drop the anchor. Back to the boat, still sitting there with the engine idling in reverse, and pull the bows round with the anchor warp, adjusting fenders and engine gear periodically, until finally we float free and unscratched! Then it's just a question of tidying it all up, getting the anchor and going on our way, which we finally did at 1340, very slowly. After that the passage to Naxos was no problem - we were made fast in their marina at 1654 with a nice cool fridge. And they have mains electricity laid on for each berth, free public WiFi (when you can work out how to get onto it - the directions are all in Greek) and a launderette within 10 minutes' walk.... Only problem is the time it takes to get caught up with this log!
Naxos to Nisos Ios - Tuesday, 27th October 2009 - Data|
The weather had not been all that one might wish for the last few days, and was rather on the dull side today too, but at least not wet. The Public Hot-Spot WiFi failed to communicate when I tried to upload an amended "Welcome" page to the web server, so that's one more minor gem lost to the ether, as of course it was out of date when I got somewhere else. Eventually set off, all stocked and watered, at 1224 with the dinghy on the foredeck and motored on a carefully planned zig-zag sort of course down the length of Naxos, with the intention of seeing the main beaches and dodging the intervening rocks and islets. We did have one shower, craftily avoided by having lunch inside, courtesy of the autopilot, and hove-to (if one can do that under engine) in one bay, which had a very nice beach but absolutely nobody on it. Very out-of-season! We then resumed our way under sail and were rewarded by a spot of sunshine at last with enough breeze to give us 5 knots initially, although it presently declined. So we finished as we had started under engine, berthing head-on to the quay in the dark in Ios Port at 1929. We were the only yacht there, for that night at least - on subsequent nights the number rose as high as three! And yes, they did have WiFi, both paid for and free with comestibles, and there was a Carrefour Supermarket (under a Greek name) within a minute's walk along the quay. The only fly in the ointment was apparent when the ferries come in - they don't come in to the quay we were on, but perch stern-on to the end of the one to the N side; a very speedy and impressive manoeuvre (including dropping an anchor) but a 15-knot bow wave comes in amongst the yachts, so one has to allow scope for this when mooring. I had hoped from the pilot book to find a sailmaker there, to repair some minor wind damage to the mainsail cover, but alas! he had gone home for the winter and wasn't expected back before March... Extremely out-of-season!
Ios to Manolonisi, Poliagos - Friday, 6th November 2009 - Data|
I shelved the idea of going to Thira (a.k.a. Santorini) before turning W due to the various, mostly weather-induced, delays that had accumulated recently. The new plan is to get to Malta, which seems to be the only place I can fly to Scotland from, and hopefully catch a flight to Edinburgh on the 24th. (That probably means that the boat will get her much-needed haul-out there in Malta and the Canaries will have to wait for another year.)
I had hoped to get an obliging wind to carry us to the next stepping stone, the Island of Milos, which is quite a long jump, and make the first and possibly only stop there at a place called Pollonia at the N end. There was a possible intermediate stop at the island of Folegandros, if I felt I needed it. The wind that Aeolus sent was a very obliging southeaster, but this direction had the effect of making all the above anchorages exposed and so probably unusable when we arrived. Oh dear! There was this other nice little uninhabited bay on the nearby island of Poliagos as a reserve, facing NW, so I thought it very likely that we should end up there. We left at 1147 and found plenty of wind outside - just unfurled some genoa and went with it. There was a flukey bit along the N side of Sikinos, which slowed us a bit and then blew twice as hard, but apart from that we just hammered along on the one sail at mostly 6 knots. As Poliagos appeared under a tablecloth, it blew if anything a bit more, and by the time a little bit of Milos could be distinguished it was obvious that Manolonisi would be the right place to go. The speed was welcome, if not the seas, because sunset was imminent and the wind threatened to drop, causing the genoa to be completely unrolled. The sun set as we rounded the base of the island, and we rolled up its W side a surprising distance in increasing darkness. The GPS took us to the right general area, but is unreliable for close-in work, as was proved when I stopped the boat while the GPS said we still had 0.1 miles to go. Had we done that, we would have banged right into the island that lies off the anchorage. There was then the little problem of deciding which of two possible gaps in the rocks was the right one, but I worked it out right. Anchor down at 1824. It proved to be in good holding, because it blew briskly all night. It blew briskly all the next day, too, which meant that Pollonia would still be untenable, although in other regards it was a very pleasant sunny day and quite suitable for sailing. I got the big solar panel out and made electricity and ran the computer off that for a while, and did other little jobs of bosunry.
Manolonisi to Pollonia and Ormos Milou - Sunday and Monday, 8 & 9th November 2009 - Data|
After raining for several hours in the earlier morning, there was not much distinguishable wind at all in the bay, but the Navtex forecast gave the prospect of it switching to SW or even W, and I made preparations and awaited evidence of the change actually happening. That came shortly after 1115 and we sailed across under genoa only and found a berth on the outside of the small mole. A fisherman very kindly took my lines and made them fast but with several feet of slack - the wind was holding the boat off the concrete - and he explained that a ferry was due soon. Right on cue, a NEL Lines fast ferry appeared round the corner and shot through the narrows between Milos and Kimolos, the 3rd main island in this archipelago, at considerable speed! It being Sunday and November, the shop was shut and all I could do was to take a walk around. There wasn't an "@" sign to be seen anywhere. Nevertheless I updated a couple of pages for this website and took the computer ashore to the only taverna that was still open, in the hope that they would have a link. The answer was 'No' - because the telephone line to Pollonia is an old, "slow" one, there is no internet in the village - I would have to go to Adhamas (the island's capital). So Pollonia, nice though it is, was a bit of a let-down.
On Monday we left under all plain sail at 0827 but soon thought it wise to put some rolls in the mainsail as the wind rose rapidly to Force 4. Later added full waterproofs and subtracted a few rolls from the genoa too. We wove a fairly serpentine course along the top of Milos, as the wind swung about, but only had to make one tack, near to the islets off the entrance to Ormos Milou. Having done that, the wind freed for the run into the bay, which is an old volcanic crater about 5 miles long and 2 miles across once inside - the entrance channel is about a mile wide. Adhamas is round the corner to the left and well sheltered from the meltemi without having much in the way of breakwaters, but the wind that I was arriving on was SE and consequently blowing straight onto the place, with the 2-mile fetch to allow a chop to make it uncomfortable. Accordingly I kept to the opposite, sheltered shore and anchored in one of the small bays closest to the town, so that I could go across, hopefully, when the wind dropped in the evening. That theory worked quite well, and I was able to get in some stores and find and make use of a "free WiFi" café before going back to the little bay for the night.
Tuesday was forecast to have considerable winds, but in fact we never experienced more than Force 4. I spent the morning fettling the Hydrovane and was working on the next stages of the route on the Geonav GPS that afternoon when its power supply plug from the boat's 12-volt system failed. This meant that it could only be used for another 7-8 hours before its internal battery would run out, and we still had about 500 miles to go.....!
Milos to Nisos Kithera - Thursday/Friday & Saturday, 12-14th November 2009 - Data|
Attempts to find someone who could repair the GPS plug having proved abortive, we left at 1244 as a NW wind eased to Force 4. The later start was chosen so that we would arrive in daylight on this 75 mile leg. Once out in the open, I added the full genoa to the reefed main and turned the helming over to Cap'n Vane. The reef was taken out at 1610. The visibility was the best so far encountered in Greece; the upper slopes of Kithera and the mountains leading down to Cape Malea were soon identified to the W, Nisos Idhra and the mainland behind to the N as well as the uninhabited islets scattered about nearer to hand. Often enough the visible range is less than 5 miles (despite the blue skies above) but here it seemed to be more like 100 - if the land was high enough, you could see it. However the wind wasn't so obliging, and dinner was eaten becalmed before starting up the Yanmar at 2100. We motored until wind returned from the N at 0225, when we reverted to all plain sail, Cap'n Vane and sailboat lights. The wind was none too strong and gave the vane some problems, so I tried the effect of switching in the electronic tillerpilot as well. On this occasion the two worked well together and the course steadied down nicely. There were a few ships making for Cape Malea, but they kept well clear of us, so I had quite a restful night. Come sunrise and the wind ceased to propel us, so back to the engine awhile. Inside the cabin I was swatting flies that kept on appearing - when I went on deck everything was covered in them, apparently in a very exhausted condition, as many had crash-landed and got stuck in the damp. It took quite a while to clear them all off. We had been heading for the S end of Kithera, as the most direct route for Malta but, after running the engine so much overnight, it seemed wise to get more fuel on Kithera and the pilot book only mentioned fuel supply at Diakofti, about halfway up the island, so course was altered to there and, after further motoring, we arrived and tied up alongside the inside end of the ferry quay at 1615.
The harbour at Diakofti is relatively new and apparently built to take a bigger ferry than can get in anywhere else. It is inside an uninhabited islet and over a kilometre from the village, which itself has very little in the way of facilities. When I took the spare can and went looking for diesel, it soon became apparent that there was no filling station and I was told that the nearest one was over 20 km away at the island capital, Potamos. I did get a good meal at one of the two tavernas and, once back on the boat, turned in early. Next morning I returned to the village and got a map of the island, with fuel stations marked on it. The information I had already got was correct; I would have to go to Potamos. Decided that Diakofti was not the place to start from - Agios Pelagia further up the coast was much nearer and had an adequate harbour for the current weather. So we transferred there, mostly under sail, which took a couple of hours, and I hitched lifts both ways to Potamos with the can. Pelagia used to be the ferry terminal for the island and is a much more developed place than Diakofti so, there being litle or no wind, we stayed there overnight too.
Agios Pelagia to Kayio - Sunday, 15th November 2009 - Data|
We left at 0921 in calm conditions and with the intention of heading for Malta as soon as we had rounded the N end of Kithera. A fishing boat may have been trying to keep us in port a little longer - it laid a buoy off our port bow as we headed out, hoisting the mainsail, then it made off seaward, laying what proved to be a floating line behind it: I had to make use of the boathook to hold it down while the boat coasted over, and fortunately this worked. We rounded Akra Spathi and set course for Malta under all plain sail but with only Force 2 of rather variable direction. By 1125 this had failed so it was back to iron topsail and Simrad, even though the Navtex forecast said we were getting NW6 locally 7. Swell began to appear, indicating that the forecast might still come right. Reckoning that the genoa would not be much use closehauled in that weight of wind (our course was close to due W), I took the opportunity while conditions were still easy to substitute the Working Jib on the roller, a job that takes the best part of an hour, and had just got it ready to hoist when the new wind arrived. So we were quickly back to sailing and continued awhile on course, then the wind began to back so that we could no longer do so. Cap'n Vane, unprompted by me, put us about and headed us into the Gulf of Laconia, which at least offered a chance of more sheltered water. When it seemed right to tack back towards Akra Tanairon ( a.k.a. Cape Matapan) I did so, and Cap'n Vane very shortly did it again and took us N. Since the wind was, if anything, increasing and evening was approaching, I thought he maybe had a point and moved the cursor on the Go2 to the entrance to Kayio, which is well recommended for shelter in the Greek Waters Pilot. It was hard work getting there, and dark well before we did so. There were still breaking seas in the entrance, but within 50 yards it was miraculously calm while the wind whistled over the top of the hills. We went to the recommended SE corner of the bay, already holding another yacht, and after one failed attempt, finally were securely anchored there at 2255.
On Monday it continued to blow, so we stayed put. The Finnish couple in the other yacht (Ibis) visited and reported that the mini-market in the village was closed for the winter, so I couldn't buy more batteries for the handheld GPS's, but they very kindly gave me a selection from their own stock, which came in very useful later on, so I give tribute to them now.
Kayio to Valletta - Tuesday to Sunday, 17-22nd November 2009 - Data|
The problem with a place like Kayio is that there is no way of knowing what the weather is doing outside. The NW wind had clearly taken off, but I had to take a guess about the best time to depart. Ibis left early, but they were heading more inland. After doing a bit of a cook-up and changing back to the genoa, we left at 1016 and found a light E'ly blowing outside. Sailed down to Ak Tanairon and resumed our course for Malta goosewinged. The wind failed not long after, so at 1301 the Yanmar was fired up and we went on our way at 1500 rpm. The wind didn't return, so the conundrum arose as to how long to keep motoring. Decided that we would carry on until near the bottom of the tank if necessary - there was still a useful amount in the spare can for later - but we would have to make the wind do for the middle part of the passage.
Took advantage of the surplus electrical power to get out the computer for the small hours of Wednesday morning and brought some of these files up to date. Another invasion of flies to swat by the light of the screen and sweep off the deck in the morning. Just about enough wind to sail with at dawn, so stopped the engine at 0711, but continued with the Simrad TP10, as there wasn't enough to move Cap'n Vane. At 1000 the GPS said we were going slowly backwards, although we appeared to the Mark I eyeball to still be edging forwards, so there must be a bit of current thereabouts. Plenty of ships about but keeping well S of us. Asked one if there was any wind to the W (behind him) and he replied that they had been motoring through calm for the last 3 days! Polish the windows and re-bed a few of the looser screws. The wind settled on our starboard beam and slowly strengthened until by midnight we had Force 4 and were making 5.4 knots under the guidance of Cap'n Vane with 296 miles to go.
The early hours of Thursday were kept quite busy compensating for minor changes in the wind with the Hydrovane and a reef in the genoa. Speed improved further but it became cloudy although the barometer was high and there was some phosphorescence - I suspect these latter observations may be linked. At noon we had 231 miles to go. Spent some time in the afternoon investigating some stray seawater that had appeared on the moulding that supports the heads but couldn't trace its source, although I did find that there is a small quantity underneath the forepeak berths too. This has to be a continuing saga.... The wind did another little veer in the evening and at midnight we had reduced the miles to go to 170, so we had averaged 5¼ knots for the day, even with a none-too-clean bottom.
Some swell appeared in the morning of Friday but didn't develop into anything. There was no sunrise due to cloud and no sun during the day again with which to charge up the service battery, but conditions were otherwise quite pleasant. Got out an old bag of porridge oats for breakfast but it had apparently been found by some bug or other and I had to ditch it. Fortunately there was another, bigger, new one so I still got the belly warmed! The wind went even further aft, which slowed us slightly, but we still made good progress while I did cosmetic works about the deck. A septet of dolphins visited in the afternoon, perhaps to see what I was up to, and stayed for ages - this family seemed to particularly enjoy forming up in line abreast and "marching" with their tails just under the bow roller - they certainly brightened up a dull day. Swapped courtesy flag from Greece to Malta and set my watch back an hour to Central European Time. Towards midnight the wind became very fluky and I rolled up the genoa to keep it quiet and put on the TP10 in place of Cap'n Vane, with the engine generating to keep the battery up. We trickled on at 2.2 knots and at midnight had 73 miles to go - 97 miles/25 hours = 3.88 knots average.
This gave a reasonable expectation of arriving later on Saturday but that would need the wind to keep up. The barometer was still very high, so it looked as though we were coming into the centre of an anticyclone and could expect calms, but I still felt very lucky with conditions so far and hoped they would keep up. In the meantime, the wind stopped, so the engine was slipped into gear for an hour, after which we resumed sailing, with a few rolls in the genoa to preserve vision forwards, on a broad starboard reach that lasted well into the morning. At 0645 a flycatcher appeared and touched down on deck twice momentarily - 55 miles from the nearest land, so I guess it had good cause to be tired. Examined the Navtex for the weather forecast from Malta, but found instead one numbered IE51 which appeared to be from somewhere in the Baltic and a second (OE27) from St John's, Newfoundland! I've never noticed a transatlantic one before. The Maltese forecasts are prefixed OE too, but today they never did get through. Occupied myself with more good works about the boat - had a spare 12V cigar lighter socket so fitted it above the chart table and wired it in. When it was done I tried the Geonav's plug for size and behold! it lit up! Hastily stuck the Geonav itself on the other end of the cable - and the light went out.... Oh well. Then there was a little tinkle from on deck; I thought it sounded like a shackle coming undone and hastened up - quite right, the waving-around by the boom in the light airs had undone the shackle at the base of the vang, but the pin was still on deck and it was promptly replaced and tightened with pliers. The pull-out-to-disengage knob on the engine control lever tends to stick, so I battled with it and experimented with lubricating its shaft with Tef-Gel instead of conventional grease: the result of this experiment hopefully will not become known for a long time. Also darned my red woolly hat, since I was making good use of it in the present conditions, and went over the various deck and rope markings (mostly for sail settings) with the permanent marker. We trickled on at half speed or less until 2137, when we were glassily becalmed with less than 26 miles to go. Checked the tank and put the engine on again at 1500 rpm and motored into the night towards the first of the anchored ships, whose loom could just be made out, on the Hurd Bank. There was an incredible number of ships there, gathered apparently into groups of about 20, well apart. There would then be a bit of a gap, then another group, and so on. After a few hours, looking back, there was an array of groups extending over the horizon and still more abeam and ahead! Kept well clear and motored quietly on until at last we had to go through the tail of the fleet and the lights ahead were those of Valletta, still some 10 miles away.
Examined the tank again at 0130 Sunday and decided we wouldn't make it on the remainder, so stopped the engine and sailed very slowly until we were at least a mile clear of everything, when the wind stopped. Furled the genoa, freed the tiller from all restraints, sheeted the main amidships (so that the boat was effectively hove-to) and retired below at 0430 for an unalarmed sleep. Woke suddenly and for no apparent reason at 0736 to find that we had moved about 200 metres nearer Malta by the GPS and there was a very light air just coming in from ENE. Ease out the main and bear away downwind - set the spinnaker pole to hold the genoa out, but it takes until 0900 to get it all to work, so light is the air. Later on when I had to take the pole off, I took the opportunity to dismantle and relubricate the piston ends. Eventually at 1700 I decided that we now had enough fuel for the distance remaining, and it would be dark in half an hour, so we motored in to the visitors' berths off The Black Pearl. All the official places were taken already but I squeezed us into a gap between vessels, and we were secured by 1730 with the aid of the crew of Aurora. Not only did they assist with the mooring, they then followed up with a coffee and a bowl of beef stew and even gave me the day's password for the WiFi. With that I got straight onto the internet, and found that there were still seats on the Tuesday flight to Turnhouse, so that was promptly booked.
On Monday I went to the Manoel Island Yacht Yard and was able to arrange for an immediate lift out and pressure spray. When I return in January, Spearhead will get a good check over, keel fairing, antifouling, rigging check and all the other little jobs that accumulate over rather more than a year. We will then head back to Greece - I haven't seen it all yet!
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