Revised: 28 March 2012

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"Spearhead" News - Part V

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Valletta to Mġarr, Gozo - Tuesday, 20th April 2010 - Data
(Helpful note: the dot over the "g" in Mġarr is to show that it is pronounced "j" as in jam-jar. This seems to be a peculiarly Maltese trick and happens with other letters too.) This short test run was made with the wind blowing contrariwise at about Force 4-5. We unberthed with difficulty, having caught the neighbouring boat's bow rope around the rudder but it was successfully pushed under with the boathook. Then she wouldn't steer astern, due to the Hydrovane rudder being locked amidships, so we passed too close to the boats of our erstwhile other neighbours and got a further chance to say farewell! After this inglorious start things went rather better and we successfully docked and undocked at the fuelling barge, filling up both tank and spare can, before finally heading for the harbour mouth, stowing ropes and fenders as we went, then unfurling the genoa.
The intention was to get "on the wind" then hoist the main, but I soon found that we were very well heeled (on port tack) without the extra sail area and indeed, had I hoisted the main, then both sails would need to be reefed. So we just plugged on, with Cap'n Vane doing the donkey work, and waited for things to change. But they didn't. We couldn't make the course parallel to the general trend of the "mainland" shore, so slowly edged out until we were about 2 miles off, while I sat and tried vainly to dodge the frequent spray showers (had to put on the big ocean jacket!) and set about re-calibrating the log, etc. Eventually we passed Comino and came nearer the corner of Gozo, so we tacked and went through the North Channel, close to the Blue Lagoon, where 3 yachts were already anchored, and after a couple more tacks - hard work without the mainsail - put on the engine for the last 100 yards to Mġarr harbour entrance. The berths where we stayed last year were vacant, so we just went straight in there, and were nicely secured for sunset.

Gozo to Pilos - Thursday to Tuesday, 22nd - 27th April 2010 - Data
The weather forecast seemed workable, if a bit less than perfect, so, our tanks having been given a modicum of good Gozo water, I decided to get on with things - much needed after a long spell of doing comparatively little. After buying a couple of loaves and settling our berthing bill, I cast off and we were all clear (this time) at 1244. After about 10 minutes of stowing ropes and gear, we sallied forth into a SE4 with almost overcast conditions and set a modestly reefed mainsail. Once we were out of the Comino channel, we headed 081° for the Peloponnese with a slightly-rolled genoa as well and were on our way for this summer's adventures at last!
Initial progress was good, if not comfortable, due to the angle of heel, bigger splashes as we got away from land, and increasingly murky conditions. Although there was no evidence on this course of the Hurd Bank "ship park", there was always shipping about, often two or three vessels simultaneously, and it was necessary to spend the whole night on deck - as had been much expected, reefing further then unreefing again as the conditions slightly improved. Less expected was how cold it felt, particularly as the waterproofs were admitting general dampness all over, and by Friday morning a complete change was necessary... This is not easy, well-heeled and bouncing up and down! Fortunately, by then the shipping had fanned out a bit, so I was able to cower below and con the ship from there, not fancying the wet "waterproofs" unless and until essential. That happened, just after my first 20 winks, at 1342 when it rained and the wind backed and stepped up again to Force 6 plus. Thereafter we pottered along very well reefed and not in the least minding that we were only making 3 knots - any faster and we would have been flying off the wavetops. So we made as easy a night of it as possible and hoped for better things (as forecast) on Saturday. When it came, the waves were very confused, so I did not go out to set more sail until 0955, when the full genoa was set and the main with 5 rolls.
I was just tidying up after this when a swallow arrived, made the usual circuits and failed landings, and finally fell into position underneath the tiller at the aft end of the cockpit. Anyone thinking that the swallow is a master of the air, soon gets to think again in these circumstances! So I worked politely around him until it was time to take the "noon" position, in this case at 1300 because that was nearer our starting time and we would shortly be changing to Greek time anyway. By the time I had written it all down, our guest had disappeared, only to return at 1415 with three friends! They seemed surprisingly tame, or perhaps it was just that they really needed the rest, because they would step onto a finger if it was offered in the right place and allow themselves to be thus transferred to a better spot. An hour or so later, a fifth appeared and, after some explorations, they clearly decided that the cabin was the place to be, on one of the netting hammocks used for fruit and veg on the starboard side. Now I hope I'm a kind and considerate host, but this concerned me a bit because that is directly over my berth and the Welsh cloth is very open in texture to whatever might be dropped upon it. For a surprisingly long time nothing was and my guests chattered and bickered away amongst themselves. When the inevitable happened it was easily-enough coped with but then, about 1800 and when I was beginning to think they had had a good rest and should really be moving on if they were to make landfall before dark, they instead shuffled all together at the forward end of the net and started putting their heads under their wings! "Oh No!" says I, "You're not spending the night here too" and taking both hands I scooped them off in a lump, took them out to the cockpit and carefully threw them into the air. All five birds could have fitted on the one hand, but I was being very considerate! One bird apparently took the hint, but the other four all fluttered back to crash landings on deck and further individual "launchings" did no good either. So a compromise had to be found for the night and I put the remaining four in the starboard cubbyhole which they shared with the engine control panel, cleaning materials and a selection of rags, and there they huddled together with their heads in one corner. One of them, while the sun was yet up, decided to go, quite unprompted, and then there were three.....
While all this was going on, the wind had stopped, but the seas from several directions hadn't and the boat was going round in circles, so I had put the engine on (for the first time) to maintain control, charge up the battery for the third night and cool down the fridgeful of beer. It took five hours before there was enough wind to be able to resume sailing, very slowly under genoa only but at least back on a proper course. For illumination we had a good lump of a moon, but few stars, so it was obviously hazy. There was little shipping about according to the Sea-Me, although two ships did pass relatively close in the early hours of Sunday morning. With the second, swallow number one woke up and did his morning toilet, then took off and had a fly-around. Presumably there were enough insects in the air, even here in the middle of the South Ionian Sea, to afford some breakfast. I found out, at the same sort of time last year, that it was no use to offer a swallow any of our breakfast stuffs - they simply don't recognise it as food unless it has six legs and a set of wings. Concerned at the lack of activity from the other two, I took a look and it was obvious that neither was going to wake up again - ever. They were both slighter birds than Number One - I quietly slipped them overboard when he was well away on the other side of the boat and this seemed to have the desired effect. Although he came back shortly and again after a couple of hours, each time scanning the cubby-hole, he seemed satisfied with the outcome (although what to expect otherwise, if anything, is open to question). Noticeably though he did not seem to feel any need to be gone elsewhere, which led to speculation as to whether there is a large "resident" population of swallows in the middle of the Mediterranean, possibly "lost" on their way north from Africa, which just fly about feeding by day and doss at night on any convenient vessel, be it container ship or yacht. I must have a talk to a big ship man about it, when I come across one. It could well be a seasonal thing.
That day passed pleasantly enough, except that a backing of the wind set us north again. Having checked with the Pilot, I decided to make for Pilos rather than Methoni, as it is an official Port of Entry. The difference is only 5 miles anyway. At 1915 we were inspected and boarded by some sort of yellow flycatcher but, with a ship in sight, he disappeared. I remembered that there was a smaller polystyrene box in the lazarette, that I had found washed ashore in Meganisi last year, and got it out and prepared in case of further visitors. It should feel warmer than the cockpit cubby anyhow. Then, just when I should be getting on with cooking dinner, a swallow appeared, and the wind backed right round so that we were heading north. So I tacked, but still couldn't make better than SE. It probably scared off the swallow, anyway. With the service battery showing 12.56 Volts, the engine could be dispensed with tonight, or so I thought until the wind again failed at 0430, and thus we motored for 3 hours into the dawn.
Monday morning, I decided, was the right time to change to Greek Summer time (3 hours ahead of GMT) so 0600 suddenly became 0700. When a slight northerly air became apparent we resumed sailing at 0830 and the skipper occupied himself with polishing the dirtier stanchions and lifelines - yes, the boat often arrives in port looking much cleaner and smarter than she did when she put to sea - it's the land that makes things grubby! 48.6 Miles to go at noon, so a lot of the afternoon was spent looking for Greek mountains, but nothing could be distinguished in the haze so various bits of glassfibre got the polish treatment in some pleasant sunshine. At last, at 1909, some hill shapes could just be distinguished, if not identified, at 19 miles range, but the wind petred out within the hour. So I went and cooked with the engine on and Cap'n Vane superseded by the Simrad and all the lights (and the fridge) on. Having eaten, up went the revs and in we headed on a compass course. Then a wind sprung up, from dead ahead of course, but by then the sails were both furled and the main even had its cover on, so we just plugged on at reduced speed until closing the coast brought calm again. And so we arrived at Pilos marina on Tuesday, all safely secured in a berth that just fitted the boat and no more at 0156. Thankfully I turned in almost immediately - and found a very-much alive (and slightly annoyed) swallow in my sleeping bag! How long had he been there? or was he one of the previous ones that had been stealthily shadowing me ever since? No idea. I put him in the box, on the galley shelf, for the night and he was wise enough not to argue! When he woke me at 0910, wanting out, I obliged and hope he likes Greece too.

Pilos to Methoni - Tuesday, 4th May 2010 - Data
After a most enjoyable week in Pilos, the time really had come to move on again and the only problem was the wind, which was contrary as usual. However, since we weren't going far, I decided to disregard that, and just waited (and computed) until it fell to a more enjoyable level. The great thing was to make a start and ultimately we did so by casting off at 1718, motoring out and setting full mainsail. When we were ready I thought that the next stage, unfurling the genoa, was just a formality but not so - it took 35 minutes to persuade it, and did my sailing cred no good at all, happening right in front of the town. Eventually it succumbed to a combination of tightening the halliard and backstay, twisting a bit here and tweaking there, and then some brute force! At least I didn't have to ascend the mast. We then sailed across to the other side of the bay on our first tack and there got becalmed...! So at 1840, not wanting to return ignominiously to my berth (even though it was free of charge), it was on with the engine again and away with the genoa, after all that hoo-ha. I tried to take a photo of the enormous natural rock arch that goes right through Nisos Pilos on our way past, only to find that the camera's battery was flat - and it needs the mains to recharge it. Not doing very well at all then - by now we should have been there and here we were just entering the open sea at last. And I didn't want to arrive in the dark, a quick reckon showed we might well be arriving at or after sunset (2030), so we kept right on motoring - Oh! the shame of it! When we did get there, I tried to manoeuvre onto the old, very derelict, fuelling berth, with the bows to and the anchor out astern. Obviously I'm out of practice because on the third attempt I got the anchor warp wrapped round the propeller, which brought a very rapid termination to this thoroughly inauspicious voyage! Fortunately I had laid the anchor in a good position, equidistant from moored caiques and on a sandy patch, so it held even though there wasn't much rope left by the time I'd taken it back to the bow. I put on the anchor light and quickly hid below!
Next day was dull and the wind was in the SE and not very warm either. The anchor was holding OK, but the edge of the waves (we were only just inside the end of the breakwater) made life aboard somewhat uncomfortable. I tried the water for swimming at 1400 and soon formed the opinion that it was too cold altogether for my skinny frame. So the dinghy was inflated and I went ashore in search of assistance.
The first people I came to were some local lads playing football on the nice, firm, level beach. Despite some head-scratching, they couldn't think of anyone in the town (it looks like a small village from seaward, but there are several long streets of it inland, much more in keeping with the several acres of castle next the harbour) who did watersports or diving or even had a wet-suit. And so it proved everywhere else - "Go to Pilos - you'll get someone there" was the general advice. Now, true enough, there is exactly the man, Nikos of Pilos Marine, who is a spear-fishing expert and I had already met, but he would have to be the last resort, having to travel from a distance. So I returned aboard with a little shopping but no forrarder on the main problem. Thursday started similarly but with hints of an amelioration coming later and by afternoon the wind was easing and the sun was getting slowly through the overcast. By 1900 it was well-nigh perfect and I took the plunge - the rope was easily unwrapped with the slack it had been given from above - and by 1910 I was back aboard, dried and feeling very virtuous! From now on, surely, the water can only get warmer....

Methoni to Finikounda - Friday, 7th May 2010 - Data
Today the wind had gone to what is said to be the prevailing direction, NW 3 to 4, with sun, so as soon as it had dried the dew off the decks, I started the engine, dragged the anchor and dinghy onto the foredeck and set off eastward at 1045 under genoa only. By 1220 we were anchored just outside Finikounda harbour, in the lee - the harbour is just too shallow for Spearhead - having covered a whole 5.6 miles very pleasantly. Later went ashore and found that they have a supermarket, relatively large for the size of the place and stocked up in stages. The port rowlock on the dinghy, which has been giving problems, came off yet again and had to be re-glued - let's hope it lasts better this time.

Finikounda to Koroni - Saturday, 8th May 2010 - Data
Koroni has another castle to match Methoni's, one on either side of this head of Greece. Together they used to be known as "The eyes of the Republic" - the republic referred to being the Venetian one. So it seemed a good idea to collect the pair. The wind had obviously other ideas, it was blowing from the South, admittedly not at an unpleasant force, so no problem, thought I. It's only 7 miles to windward and then we can run back up the other side. So we left at a leisurely 1429, setting full sail except that the genoa still lodged itself stubbornly stuck with 4 rolls remaining, which suited not badly anyway. I thought 4 big tacks should get us there nicely and for 3½ it worked well. Then the wind headed us so that a short 5th tack became necessary to get us to the headland (Ak Akritas) and when we got there, you've guessed it, we'd to tack again to get through and scrape our way up the other side... until the **** wind stopped altogether! I should be used to it. On with the Yanmar and the fridge and we anchored with a running moor and cold beer (etc) at 1912. A light air came in from SSW. Slaving away over a hot computer (there's lots of free WiFi from the waterfront tavernas) I failed to notice when it switched to NNW and gave us a very joggly night. Next morning it got worse and we shifted back round the other side of the castle to get smoother waters off Zaga beach; a good move for once. When matters improved, we returned to the harbour on Monday afternoon.

Koroni to Trahila - Wednesday, 12th May 2010 - Data
The wind, which had been lacking on Tuesday, turned up about its proper time on Wednesday so we set off at a venture, leaving the harbour at 1221 with a southerly air and, for once, without using the engine. The battery had already been brought up to a good working level photoelectrically (to show how well I am getting along with Greek!). With all plain sail set and the wind just a bit forward of the beam, we swept along nicely, with a noisy gurgling sound from the dinghy, which was strung up astern. Eventually I got fed-up with the noise and the retardation to our progress that it implied and took the bouncy beast onto the foredeck at 1330. Less than an hour later we were visited by a group of 7 or 8 dolphins, who played around in the usual manner for about 10 minutes and then went off astern, apparently to round up some lunch for themselves. I had now settled on going to Trahila, because I had found a web reference to it which asked more questions than it answered, and then I found it on the chart and it had an interesting headland jutting out, so offered some prospect of shelter whether the wind blew up the Gulf of Messinia or down it. Right now it was easing off altogether, so ultimately (at 1640) we were back to the iron topsail which took us the last bit. Before going in to the village, I took a turn round the north side of the peninsula to check the best spot to anchor, should it become necessary, then went back round to the village itself, where we anchored outside a very knobbly bit of rock in the middle of the "entrance". Beyond that point the harbour was clearly for very small boats only and apparently in bad weather they drew all boats up out of the water altogether. However for us it was being calm and we lay quite comfortably with the anchor on a patch of nice, ribbed sand. It being still relatively early, I took a walk ashore and went south, where I found that the track ended at the Lagada Gorge and there was a car parked rather perilously, I thought, above the overhanging cliff. In case they spoke English, I went looking for the owners and found they were fully attired in beekeepers' headgear and working on a lot of hives, taking out honey. Not being worried by bees, I wandered in to speak to them and declined the offer of headgear - I was wearing shorts anyway, so there seemed little point. No, they didn't speak English but, whether it was because they were impressed by my temerity in being there or simply because they were naturally very generous people, I found myself being given a full frame of honeycomb and they wouldn't take No for an answer. It weighed about 2 kilos and seemed even heavier by the time I had carried it back to the boat! Fortunately remarkably little honey strayed from it en route.

Trahila to Karavostasi - Thursday, 13th May 2010 - Data

The first job of the day was to convert my honeycomb into a more convenient, packaged form and, having found sufficient boxes, this went very much better than might have been expected. I took the frame ashore to the taverna where I had eaten the previous evening (Trahila acually has two tavernas but no shop) but was told, over a coffee, that the beekeepers didn't live in the village but passed through several times a week. So the waiter took the frame to return to them on my behalf. Then I went to explore some caves above the village, which took until lunchtime, so the taverna did quite well out of me. After a further short exploration to the north, it wasn't until 1515 that I got back aboard. A bit of a chop had appeared and there was some signs of a westerly wind appearing, so by half past we were well on the way to departing. It being a case of more sea than wind and both of them on the nose, we just had to keep motoring and pulled in here, in the next bay down, after less than 7 miles. Very impressive scenery and a phenomenonal number of caves between sea level and about 300 feet elevation. No trace of WiFi found in Trahila, but the only taverna open in this place seems to be obliging and I guess I will have to favour them with some of my custom in the morning....

At Karavostasi - Friday to Saturday, 14th-22nd May 2010 - Data
Actually, the taverna didn't know anything about the WiFi - it transpires that it is a private system in a house way up the hillside above the "port" here, and it isn't always On. Many thanks, Petra & Fos, anyway! This is by way of an explanation as to why we are still here on what was meant to be a short stop. There are many things that delay cruises - this time it was the weather. I chose to come in here, rather than the next bay down, because as the Greek Waters Pilot says "Shelter here is good although it can get a bit bumpy if it gusts from the NE down the ravine". Everywhere else it says something along the lines of "If there is a hint of strong winds from any direction then you should leave and seek shelter elsewhere"! So when we arrived, the forecast was for strong easterlies later, and since the bay faces west I thought "Fair enough".
I caught up with things on the computer on Friday night and was about to turn in at 2330 when the wind swung 180º, leaving us lying close in to the local fishing boat on the mole. Initially it was only about Force 5 and the anchor was holding satisfactorily, so I just contented myself with taking the oars off the dinghy, bringing up more fenders for possible use and putting the spare diesel into the tank. I then turned in, or rather, on and slept until 0330, when there was a slight bump. On investigation we were still there, but had swung so that the Hydrovane's rudder had caught the painter of another dinghy, lying on a mooring slightly offshore of our position. It proved easiest to take off the rudder, rather than push the painter down under it. By 0615 it was blowing a good E6 and our dinghy was flying on its painter, at times as high as it could go. (Bear in mind that this was only about 200m from a weather shore.) The seat, basically a balloon for sitting on, had gone. I was sitting in the cockpit checking for drag still at 0645, when the fishing boat wanted out, so I started the engine and moved forward a bit to allow this. Their departure revealed the dinghy seat next the mole but, freed of the fishing boat's restraint, it soon nipped round the end and set off seaward after them. At 0815 we were still holding with the forecast E6-8, later W or NW. I reckoned we had a good F7. At 0840 we were definitely dragging, in rain with red dust in it, and the time had come to depart! The problem was doing so. Dragging or not, the anchor warp still had a fearsome tension in it and I couldn't get an inch in it. The engine had to be used to keep us to weather of the mole, of which we would otherwise have collided with the end, and of course there were the other small craft on their moorings to avoid. So I tied one of the fenders to the end of the warp and with considerable difficulty (because the knots jammmed in the cleat) cast the entire anchor and warp free, for recovery later. Then we reversed out away from the mole and had a chance to draw breath!
On Spearhead when motoring to windward (to hoist the mainsail for example or to gain shelter in this case) we usually use the Hydrovane to hold the boat on course, but of course this time Cap'n Vane's rudder had been taken off, so that was not an option. After deflating and stowing the dinghy as well as the conditions permitted, I thought it would be better to have the vane safely inside too, rather than vibrating around and unable to do anything useful... The wind twisted every way and tore him from my grasp.... Initially he floated quite well in his new suit and, as one would expect, the weight of the casting took the bottom end down and trapped plenty of air inside. However, in the nasty short waves we were getting, he was constantly knocked flat and came up again with less and less air each time. Meanwhile I had a boat to manoeuvre, as well as keep tabs on him, and by the time he was alongside the quarter where I could grab him, he was at the last gasp! One touch and he was gone. Grrrrr! after all the work that has gone into that thing recently, too. And all really quite unnecessarily. The Simrad Autopilot soon proved to be quite incapable of handling this job - it just can't move fast enough - so for the time being helming had to be done by me.
Normally one might just drift out to sea, then head for somewhere else but, given that we were already in the best shelter in 50 miles and had an anchor to recover, and the forecast was for another wind switch soon, I opted to stay in the bay (Ormos Limeniou). Initially that meant motoring up to the "calmest" part, which I did and then, other matters needing attention, I lay a-hull and let the boat drift back down to rougher waters. After a couple of repetitions of this, I tired of using diesel fruitlessly and decided that the time had come for the Emergency Anchor to fulfil its function. The snag here was that due to its weight (anchor and chain come to 99 kg!) it has more recently been stowed under the back end of the cockpit and we needed to deploy it from the bow. At least it was possible to identify the bitter end of the chain by its lashing around the rudder post, so I dragged a boatlength out while we lay a-hull and took it to the bow outside everything. That took two trips up and down the bay, because my initial estimate of the boatlength did not give enough for getting it back to the cleat and fastened properly. Anyway, preparations were finally completed and I lowered the new anchor from the stern in suitably shallow water, put all the chain after it and then the boat dropped back on the full length of the chain. All I had to do was to turn off the engine and pull a good part of the chain back aboard into the bow locker! After that I felt a little relaxation was in order...
The Greek forecasters must be given full credit for their unenviable job in the next bit - by 1430 the wind was much eased and, just in case, I took the opportunity to exchange the genoa for the working jib on the furler. As I was nearing the end of the job, the new West wind could be seen approaching from seaward, so I hoisted the anchor and went straight back to the fender on the end of the normal working anchor and took that rope aboard. But I couldn't get it all up - with about 7 fathoms to go the thing jammed on something on the bottom. So I had to re-tie the fender and leave it again for future reference - right now the priority was to get the boat secure for the anticipated blow from the opposite direction. The mole was empty, so I headed in there and made all as secure as possible (except that I didn't have the anchor rope available) at the inshore end, where fortunately there is sufficient depth and the boat still lies alongside as I type this. All secure at 1700 and at least I didn't have to rely on the dinghy to get ashore, although there is no shop in Karavostasi from which to replenish stores. That night and next day (Sunday) it blew about F6, building up a swell which surged round the end of the mole and threw us back and forth on the ropes, on which I had left a little slack in the hope that we would lie off the concrete and so save the fenders. No such luck - the fenders' woolly jackets were soon in tatters and I now have 5 lines to hold against the surge and 2 the other way, all pretty much tight, so the boat only moves a few inches. In finding this out, however, most of the day was spent replacing and splicing ropes and saving them from rusty bollards. We are at least still here! The anchor recovery problem persisted, too - first thing on Sunday was the observation that the fender on the end of the cable had disappeared, then it was spotted on its way ashore, whence it was later retrieved. So now it was all on the bottom. To get it, I needed firstly the wind to stop and then a calmer period in which the visibility in the water could improve. The wind did begin to ease on Tuesday afternoon and on Wednesday morning I thought it worth re-inflating the dinghy and going out with a 6 kg folding anchor on a line to try dragging for the rope. The bottom could not be seen there (it's about 6-7 metres deep) and in half an hour I was back ashore with that anchor too stuck! It was near the fishing boat's mooring so, rather than buoy it independently and risk it tying itself around the mooring, I coiled the line up neatly and tied it to the pick-up. Meanwhile it was clear that I was going to need a scuba diver or similar, so I referred to the taverna owner, who has the best English found in the village. He rapidly 'phoned someone who said he would come when the water had cleared but no date fixed. The wind then increased for the rest of the day. On Thursday evening, the fishing boat skipper complained to me (through his brother, the taverna owner) that the line from the wee anchor was, or would be, giving him problems, so the diver was accelerated to come at 0900 on Friday. Unfortunately he didn't appear and when the fishing boat came home that evening, the crew made grand Greek gestures and cut the line! Now I had two anchors on the bottom...... Chase up aforementioned diver (per taverna) and get promise to come on Saturday morning instead. Only he didn't. Saturday morning was the best of the week, so I went in further search and was directed by devious means that I still don't quite understand to a lad called Nikos Gianareas, who lives right across the road and free dives. He initially said he would come at 1700 but then changed that to "right away" and in remarkably short course we had located all the missing bits and got them into the dinghy. The lad's a true Greek Hero in my book - he had to change his suit for a thicker one part way through because the water was so cold,and when we had finished he insisted on towing the dinghy over to Spearhead, with me in it quite happy to row!
So now I am free to go whenever the whim and the weather agree. A replacement vane is being sent to Kalamata, so that's the next stop (I hope).

Karavostasi to Kalamata - Monday, 24th May 2010 - Data
Having spent all my Euros in Karavostasi, and therefore badly in need of a bank or at least an ATM, we made a very organised departure from the breakwater/mole at 1212 and motored out towards the mouth of the bay, setting sails as we went. It wasn't until 1313 that I noticed that my beloved, if slightly delapidated, pair of Crocs were no longer with us, having been left behind a bollard! I expect they will still be there when we return on the way south again... Anyway, we had a nice reach, with the usual sort of interruptions for a little engine interlude now and again, and a splendid reach in from just after Akro Kitries all the way up to the marina mouth. The marina here is separate from the main harbour, with its own breakwater and entrance at the west side of the town. I thought I should do the proper thing and give the management advance notice of my imminent arrival by VHF but got no response. When we got in about 8 o'clock, I was directed to the Security Man's little box, but he wasn't in it, so I was just heading for the most-sheltered end to find myself a berth when he did appear and directed me elsewhere. However, at least he did seem to have a few tricks up his sleeve (not normally found in such staff) when it came to berthing and handling ropes, so I forgave him. By half-past we were fully secured and within another 30 minutes, armed with his directions, I had got the necessary cash and could buy myself a pizza and beer!

Kalamata to Karavostasi - Thursday, 3rd June 2010 - Data
The new vane did finally turn up on Tuesday the 1st June, while I was doing my best to rebuild the top-end bearings in order to take its extra leverage - it turned out to be 6 inches taller than the old one, so will henceforth be referred to as Big Vane! Wednesday was spent on necessary domestic affairs, such as laundry and tracking down replacement drill bits to replace accumulated breakages, so it was Thursday when we got to resume our cruise, with a return leg to the start of all the diversions in Karavostasi. With a bit more shopping, and a vain check to see if I could get the council's Hot-Spot to work (which it did well initially, but not at all thereafter) it was 1240 by the time we were leaving the Marina entrance, with a Force 4 southerly to test things out - we were of course going south. Taking reasonably long tacks down the west side of the Gulf, we had knocked off some 10 miles in the desired direction by the time the wind was giving up for the rest of the day at 5 o'clock, although registering much further than that through the water. So thereafter, we motor-sailed with the trusty Yanmar doing the donkeywork while I adjusted things, and so arrived without incident at our old berth alongside at 2045.

Karavostasi to Porto Kayio - Friday, 4th June 2010 - Data
Enquiries the night before having failed to elicit any information on the fate of my ancient pair of Crocs and the mole being entirely free of the usual fishing boats so that I couldn't refer to my previous constant neighbours the fishermen, I tried a little deduction as to what might have become of them. Lo! there they were, tossed over the back of the sheltering wall, amongst the rock armouring. Problem - not a problem! I had a shave at the Pharos Taverna's washroom to celebrate and we left soon after noon.
The bay seems to be one of those places where the local wind blows either one way, or the opposite: today it was the usual westerly, force 3. We motored gently for the mile or so to the mouth, stowing gear and then hoisting the main, but found that there was less wind outside, perhaps due to the high land that faces it all along here. So it was the iron topsail to the fore again today - we passed lots of empty bays and spectacular scenery, particularly in rounding Capo Grosso, which rises sheer (or even overhanging) for more than 800 feet for much of its length. Approaching the southern end, we met a Dutch yacht, not much bigger than ourselves, going the opposite way - still a rare encounter at this time of the season. Not long after, and presumably in recognition of the massive blockage that this headland makes, the wind at last veered and strengthened, allowing us a brisk reach at 6 knots at last, all the last hour to Ak Tainaron, which we gybed around at 1715, and the other back up the other side to Porto Kayio, where the anchor was dropped in the well-remembered relative calm at 1810. The only problem with the place is that there are no facilities for getting ashore and for a very short visit, such as this is intended to be, inflating and (worse) deflating and repacking the dinghy are a real disincentive.

Porto Kayio to Ormos Ay Nikolaos, Kithera - Sunday, 6th June 2010 - Data
For the second time in two visits here, my stay was longer than intended... This time it was the arrival of a small fleet of previous acquaintances from Pier E at Kalamata! So I got my walk ashore, courtesy of ex-neighbour Derek, visited the MiniMarket and ate someone else's cooking. So it was soon too late to be thinking of leaving at all that day. Next day I woke up and all the fleet had vanished and, within the hour, we did likewise. Outside we found a perfect day, with a tail wind, and headed East for the north end of Kithera, which was reached without incident at 1700. From there, we went down the east coast but, having been there already, passed Ay Pelagia and Dhiakofti to see the coast further south. The wind soon petred out in the lee of the island, so we continued under engine, clocking up our 500 hours further down. Having passed the wreck of the Nordland and the two small Dragonera Islands, we turned right into this bay in the gloaming. There is a small village called Avelomonas, which has a small harbour (usually full), but I didn't fancy going in there for the first time in the dark, so we just carried across to the other side of the bay and anchored well offshore by a bluff at the east end of what seemed to be the main beach. Put on the anchor light, just in case, and passed a comfortable night.

O Ay Nikolaos to Adhamas, Milos - Monday to Wednesday, 7th to 9th June 2010 - Data
Monday was mainly expended on Kaladi beach, which is very picturesque with old collapsed rock arches and a tunnel, but not greatly favoured with sand, being pebbly. In the late afternoon we went across to Avelomonas (with the Simrad behaving very strangely indeed when set to work) and insinuated ourselves temporarily between two cruisers without using a stern anchor, while I had dinner ashore. It would have been more, but the Greek salad for starters was of such solidity and dimensions that I couldn't face the thought of another dish! So I did a little shopping, mainly for Cola, and cast off again at 2140. The wind promptly took us astern and we turned round under engine and headed out into a nicely freshening westerly, setting a lightly reefed mainsail as soon as there was space to do so. Then we reached and ran, stopping the engine as we went, past the nearer Dragonera, which is unlit and well supplied with rocks (so needing some respect from strangers), before unfurling most of the genoa. Until we were well clear of the influence of Kithera, the wind played about with us awhile, but after 2330 it behaved well and we made good speed in almost a straight line courtesy of Big Vane. About 0500 there came a veer, which gave problems laying the course, With early dawn both sails were unreefed in the search for a bit more speed and porridge was indulged in. There were now light swells from 2 directions astern and waves with the wind itself, but not a splash came aboard and we really had a very smooth night at decent speed. I had several "20 winks" and arose after one at 0939 to espy Milos ahead at a range of some 27 miles. Then came a slow deceleration and it began to get hot... At 1118 I turned the Yanmar and the fridge on, but when I engaged gear, no motion resulted. Engaged reverse, then ahead again - still nothing! Wriggled under the chart-table to look at the shaft and gearbox - all quite normal. So the problem seemed to be with the propeller... No sign of any plastic fouling the blades - hope it hasn't fallen off! Meanwhile, switch off fridge and engine again, and continue sailing. It was a good opportunity to get out the cruising 'chute and try it in all its modes and over the next 12 hours or so, it climbed considerably in my estimation (for a pic see Part 1 of this log), both running and reaching despite its strange layout and (Italian?) colour scheme. It helped our progress much more than did the loss of the drag from the prop! In the end, we arrived at the north end of Milos at approaching midnight and finally found a breath of air to get us into port at Adhamas, which is in the middle of the island. Having no power meant that I had to choose the best place and way to park so that we can sail out again, so I anchored beside but well clear of the head of the ferry pier at 0258 and then had time for dinner!
Communications have started to get another prop - needless to say! Unfortunately there seems to be no yacht yard here, but I've had a look and the prop has definitely gone, Alas!

At Adhamas - Wednesdays, 9th June to 21st July 2010 - Data
This could turn into a very long and boring account, blow by blow, of a lot of wasted time, so I will try to keep the saga short and essential. When I got ashore by dinghy, I found the Harbourmaster's secretary very helpful and speaking good English. She put me on to the Coastguard and Port Police, whose news was not so welcome. They wanted me to telephone the British Embassy in Athens and get them to send an engineer to certify that my replacement prop was properly installed in accordance with Greek laws! Until then I could not leave Milos.... I made the call from my mobile in their office and then put the officer on the line, which resulted in me having to find the engineer with the proper Greek qualifications (although those were never defined). Also wanted the boat moved, which I was quite willing to do, so long as it remained possible to sail out. Had to do this without any official assistance under reefed sail in the strongest wind of the day and later warp the boat round to face outwards. Meanwhile the new prop was priced and ordered - obviously an insurance job! The makers wanted 3-4 days then sent it off per TNT, who took 3 weeks and 3 days to get it to Milos, despite all their computerised tracking systems and premium prompt delivery being ordered. Meanwhile no arrangements could be made regarding haul-out or certification! I had discovered that there was a boatyard (obviously there has to be something of the sort on an island) who were willing to take us out of the water.
On 20th June, at 0300, the wind changed and blew from the SW, which is entirely the wrong direction in Adhamas. Later it increased in strength and forced an evacuation of all yachts from the outer side of the mole. I got off with a helpful shove and anchored on the other side of the bay in the place used on last autumn's visit. Later on, with the wind not behaving as forecast, I thought I would move to the next little bay south but, in getting the anchor, we paid off on the wrong tack and ran slowly aground amongst boulders along the shore. After a vain struggle to get out, I felt a Mayday call was justified, and made it (my first ever) before matters got any worse. We were pulled off within an hour by a fishing caique, with mercifully little damage except paint rubbed off the sides (but not, it subsequently transpired, the bottom!) of the keel, and were escorted willy-nilly back to Adhamas, where we re-anchored east of the harbour in shallow water amongst moorings. It was still blowing F6. I then had to go ashore and explain to the Coastguard, who issued me with a document requiring me to take all appropriate measures to prevent marine pollution including my plan to refloat the boat and empty my bunkers.... I was allowed to make written reply overnight! Meanwhile Spearhead took it into her head to drag the anchor through the moorings, with no-one aboard of course. I raised the alarm on another boat's VHF then dinghied back aboard and veered as much chain as I dared and we stopped. A snorkeller appeared and tied us onto a vacant mooring as well, and there we gratefully remained until the prop arrived and it was time to take the boat out.
By then it was 9th July and subsequent progress has been fairly steady. A naval architect was summoned from Piraeus to certify the prop but couldn't get a flight, so in the end the boatyard owner provided photographs and the certificate was issued by "remote control" with the Coastguard's agreement - a Greek solution! I made repairs to the scraped paintwork on the keel and we can now legally leave Milos, albeit somewhat the poorer. Hopefully the Greek economy will now be found to have miraculously recovered with all Spearhead's assistance! A big thank-you is due to several people, but especially Tziona Jones for chasing up the prop, night and day.

Adhamas to Vathi, Sifnos - Thursday, 22nd July 2010 - Data
All this had set my programme back by the best part of six weeks and the "routine visit home to mow the lawn" was seriously overdue. So I tarried long enough only to replenish the diesel, water and some stores and we set off for the nearest island with a "safe" harbour and an airport with connections to the UK, i.e. Mykonos. The wind was a moderate Meltemi forecast to get heavy the following day, so the first step was necessarily short and needed to be to somewhere with good shelter - I didn't know where; it depended on the best heading we could make to the northeast. Set reefed mainsail and genoa and beat out of Ormos Milos, after which the wind eased and full sail became progressively necessary. Edged our way round the windward side of the off-lying Nisidhes Akradhia then, still on the same tack and with a better margin of safety, round the north end of Nisos Kimolos too. It was by now obvious that the best place for a stop was going to be Vathi on Sifnos, which the GPS indicated we could lay comfortably if the wind held and, with minor variations in strength, it did. We were able to ease sheets and sail right in the entrance between cliffs, with a large white Feadship (motor superyacht) anchored inside to aim for, furl the sails and anchor with minimal use of the engine in the circular pool inside. There is a quay but it was already well occupied and there must have been about 15 visiting yachts already parked. The main impression of the day's sail were of the heat-haze (could only just make out the outline of the alternative destination island of Serifos further north) and the amount of assorted liquids it was necessary to consume!
See this place on Google Maps

Sifnos to Varis, Siros - Saturday, 24th July 2010 - Data
After the day's wait for heavier winds to pass over, we resumed our journey just after 10 a.m. with a more definite destination in mind. The anchor was well stuck in, with all the tugging it had endured, and it took a sharp burst from the engine to break it out. Outside, the wind was a comfortable Force 3 to 4, and we motor-sailed to windward for two hours to allow the fridge to get cooled down. We had left Milos with 2 bottles of hard-frozen drinking water in the fridge, but by now their spines of ice were turned to water again, so a contribution from the fridge itself was very much due. By the end of this period we had reached the mouth of Kamares Bay - the ferry port for Sifnos, bit of a bleak spot I thought - but after a further 2½ hours the wind ceased and the diesel had to be recalled, as there remained 25 miles to go to a still-invisible island. The Simrad was still non compos mentis when set to steer a course, but I used it to hold the tiller and made minor changes with the control buttons so that we went reasonably straight until something would happen to change the boat's trim, such as me nipping below for a moment or a puff of wind. The other thing that wasn't working was the log, which registered very little since leaving Milos - I had checked that the paddle wheel was revolving freely before the boat was relaunched, so it was a bit of a mystery - and remains so. Fortunately there are other ways of finding out how far or fast we are going! Without incident, we arrived at the little bay of Varis, motored in, looked to see if there was any chance of a berth on the jetty in the left cove - none at all - and so anchored in the middle of the head of the inlet. Having stowed the dinghy before leaving Milos in the interests of better boat speed and balance, I had perforce to eat aboard again.
Here's Varis on Google Maps

Siros to Mykonos - Sunday, 25th July 2010 - Data
Set off again about 1000 after a comfortable and surprisingly quiet night and clearly the wind had decided to be a spectator today too. Since we needed to ensure our arrival in Mykonos as soon as possible in order to get an early ticket home, I made no bones about letting the Yanmar take the strain, set the revs to 2250 and pointed to the new harbour. This took us close past an islet called Aspronisi, shaped like a wedge of Edam or a gigantic water-ski jump, then some 10 miles later scraped round the north end of the isle of Renia. Here the wind came to life and blew, fortunately only up to Force 4, from the port bow but by now we were close enough to Mykonos to pick out the individual houses as well as the cruise ships on the outside of the new harbour, so the sails remained stowed. By 3 p.m. we were in and moored on the second jetty on the landward side (not shown on the current Google Map) where a nearby "old friend" was the Nicholson 55 Chaser. They were just heading out and had laid their anchor unawares amongst the mooring ropes and blocks, unusually (for Greece) provided by the authorities. Guess what? they had hooked the mooring rope we were lying on, but it wasn't long before their large crew had sorted that out. I started stowing Spearhead's deck gear for a lengthy stay and then set about booking my return flights home. Oddly enough, there were some!
Here's Mykonos new harbour on Google Maps

Mykonos to Naoussa, Paros - Saturday, 28th August 2010 - Data
At last the wind dropped enough today to allow the genoa to be hoisted and furled before it had flogged itself to ribbons, so I did that after stowing the boat and set off at 1320 in the hope of catching whatever North wind remained. We motored gently out of the harbour and unfurled the genoa and stayed thus all the way down the west coast of Mykonos, making about 3 knots, which had to be mostly down to the idling engine. Then, just past the Prasonisia islets at the south end of the sound, there was no longer enough wind to hold out the genoa and its direction swithered. So I rolled up the genoa and increased the revs to 2500, which gave an easy 5.5 knots, and in rather less than 3 hours we were entering Ormos Naoussa. Very decadent! The only thing that saved me from complete stupefaction in the heat was that I had to steer, due to the Simrad tillerpilot not having returned from the manufacturers in time for my return to Mykonos. So we arrived in harbour at 1755, where we were hospitably guided into the berth that I had been hoping for. As I think I have said before, this is a much handier place than Mykonos when it comes to getting the shopping in or money from an ATM, although it does also have an extensive Cycladean "rabbit warren" to get lost in on the other side of the river. And there's mains electricity to run refrigerators and computers from too.
See this place on Google Maps

Naoussa to Parikia, Paros - Thursday, 2nd September 2010 - Data
Left at 1358, motored until I had all plain sail set, then cut the engine for the rest of the day. Apart from Spearhead showing some reluctance to leave Naoussa, by making nearly all tacks fail for a while (so we just went round in circles), the voyage was quite without incident. I found a screw loose in Cap'n Vane and tightening it up improved his performance no end. Now all we need to do is get the bottom bearing to free-up a bit more.... Anchored at 1740 in the north corner of Parikia Bay. I had bought a stainless chain hook whilst at home - this is used to grip the anchor chain so that the actual chain doesn't carry any load (apart from its own weight) where it goes over the bow roller - that is taken by the line on one end of which the hook is spliced. When the boat swings about at anchor the chain no longer graunches back and forth over the roller, resulting hopefully in a much quieter night for those sleeping aboard. So far I'm glad to report that it seems to work a treat, but a rough night will really tell the difference. The evenings are getting much cooler now, with autumn a-coming on. Great relief!
See this place on Google Maps

Parikia to Ormos Dhespotico, Antiparos - Friday, 3rd September 2010 - Data
Up and ready to go for 0900 but then think I'd better try the computer, in case I'm out of touch awhile. Not only can I get a good signal well offshore here but there is a small avalanche of things to deal with/ get caught up on. Clearing the decks of the computer takes me until well after lunchtime - but all in a good cause - I hope! Eventually set off with the intention of going probably just to the port and island of Antiparos about 5 miles away, if I can squeeze in. When we get there, it is clearly well patronised, so carry on past the flock of kite-surfers in the sound, and when Antiparos runs out turn up to the right. What had been a pleasant tailwind now was not far off the nose, so motor-sailed our way up to the bay at the next corner of the island, which having sundry islands scattered about is very sheltered from the meltemi, with shallow and sandy waters into which we plunged the hook again after 3 hours and 24 minutes. The developers obviously have it in for Ormos Dhespotico; there are extensive networks of new roads running all over the hill behind, but so far the houses haven't exactly mushroomed, and long may it remain so. There is one waterside taverna and 2 minor jetties, a bus service, and that's it.
See this place on Google Maps

O Dhespotico to Ios - Saturday, 4th September 2010 - Data
Stores getting to a low level, decide the best course of action is to cut direct to the isle of Ios, where the port has a supermaket all of 10 metres from the corner of the dock. Didn't really get to grips with the place on our last visit. Can still go back a little to the Little Cyclades, just north of it, weather permitting. So sail out of O Dhespotico and back down the Antiparos coast to Ak Petalidha, then make direct for Port Ios. Wind failed about halfway there so ended up under Yanmar power, and got the fridge cooled in preparation for all the drinks to go into it! Arrived at 1800 to find a solid phalanx of 40 to 50 foot cruisers lined up right across the main quay --- but on closer inspection there was a gap in the corner next the supermarket, so inserted ourselves in there and made fast with assistance from the Russians in the Oceanis 473 to port, who allowed us to hang off their bow instead of a (non-existent) mooring line. Much chuffed at thus getting "pole position". Afraid the island no longer lives up to its erstwhile reputation for being covered in naked women - but will probably be a few days here yet.
See Ios on Google Maps

Ios to Mirsini, Skhinousa - Thursday, 16th September 2010 - Data
Tiring slightly of what have now become remarkably empty beaches at the end of the season, I chose a day when the meltemi was forecast to back slightly to the NW to make a short passage to the Little Cyclades, which lie between Ios and Naxos to the north. The plan worked quite well and we were able to make most of the 20-odd mile passage at a good speed under all plain sail, although we did start with a few rolls in the genoa for the initial beat up the Ios coast. Met 4 yachts en route close enough to wave to, which must be regarded as unusual now that the number of charter boats has started to drop significantly. Days are getting somewhat cooler too. Initial impression of Skhinousa is very favourable - not so high and rocky, a bit more greenery, and the harbour at Mirsini seems very well sheltered. Will probably have to return to Ios for the shopping before heading back towards Milos on the way west.
See Mirsini on Google Maps

Mirsini to Ios again - Monday, 20th September 2010 - Data
Light winds today - set off at noon and anchored for lunch in a bay in one of the off-lying islands. Before resuming, thought I might as well check the propeller and clean it and the Hydrovane rudder as necessary, so had a little snorkel. Prop not very dirty yet but shone it up nevertheless. A little breeze offered when we came to continue, but soon turned to catspaws, so nearly all the passage had to be done courtesy of Mr Yanmar. Arrived in harbour entrance here at 1915 and then had the usual problem to find a space to squeeze into. Anchored by the stern and motored into very much the same spot as we were in previously. Could have done with the Simrad tillerpilot, but managed....

Port Ios to Manganari, Ios - Thursday, 23rd September 2010 - Data
The rest of the underside of the hull was also in need of a bit of a scrub, and the Ios port was not the place to be doing it, so a move to a nice, sandy and reasonably shallow beach was indicated and I had seen just such a place at Manganari at the south end of the island. So we translocated in a brisk Force 4 northerly, using just the reefed genoa once we were out into it, until we had rounded the southmost point of the island and used the trusty Yanmar to get the mile back up the other side to the intended anchorage. Then I got overside with my mask, glass-lifter and scrubbing pad and did one side of the hull then and there - and the other one the following morning. The glass-lifter is a great help, but it's still quite hard work, and I have to report that the season has obviously changed because it wasn't very sunny, either day. Friday was pretty calm, too.
See Manganari on Google Maps

Manganari to Adhamas, Milos - Saturday, 25th September 2010 - Data
The forecast was for SE veering S4 today and this would suit well for heading West, but beyond that it did not look so helpful, so the obvious thing was to make for Milos and check again there. The ever-helpful GPS told me it was over 55 miles, exit to port entry point, and if I was going to make it in the day we would have to leave immediately and keep the speed over 5 knots. So we made a hasty departure (bedding stowage and breakfast after we were under way) and did just that. Even though the bottom was clean, the wind varied considerably as we crossed open channels or coasted along the windward side of Sikinos and Folegandros and the islets between, and when we headed more to the northwest the apparent wind fell so much that the engine had to be used here too, albeit at minimum revs necessary. So it was very much to Yanmar's credit that our average was indeed in excess of 5 knots. On arriving at Adhamas in the dark, Miltos the harbourmaster was still at work and ready to assist me with berthing, but it seemed like being a noisy and joggly night on the mole, so I declined and went off in search of the convenient mooring used in (was it?) July. It proved to be now occupied by its rightful owner, so I anchored a little further out - but then had to shift again at 0400, when a mooring float not previously spotted in the dark started tapping insistently on the side of the hull right beside my head. Such is the yachting life!

Adhamas to Valletta, Malta - Thursday to Tuesday, 30th September to 5th October 2010 - Data
Despite a disturbed night and morning beforehand, the auguries were quite clear that Thursday was the day to go, so we did - after topping up on fuel, stowing the dinghy and setting up the Hydrovane, etc. The anchor came up at 1405 and we motored gently out in a Force 2 northerly, setting the mainsail soon and the genoa after a couple of miles but keeping the engine on until we had rounded Akra Vani and were rolling along on a heading for the south end of Kithera. Having thus got briskly to sea, I tried without it and found that we slowed down to less than 2½ knots but, by diligent personal application to the tiller and poling out the genoa, we got a little more speed up and stuck with it. At sunset (1908) the pole was taken off. After dinner the wind improved and swung SE so our speed doubled and the boat could be trusted to the Hydrovane, with periodic adjustments.
On Friday morning we were headed as the wind dropped. Things looked rather ominous at Ak Maleas to starboard. Then we had to tack and the wind went WNW4, so we could still lay the course to the southmost point of Kithera but, having got there, it meant a beat up the south coast while the wind if anything got stronger. After this our course was pretty much due West for more than 400 miles, so it seemed wise to take advantage of the last bit of shelter and we sailed into Kapsali Bay, which has a long finger of land to the West to shelter it, and hove-to under close-sheeted main to grab a meal. It was rather tempting to go into the quay, well concealed around a corner, and explore this spectacular location with an ancient castle/fort above it and the Chora adjacent peering over the cliffs, but I was keen to get on in case NW winds forecast in the Malta area for a few days' time arrived early, so this was a pleasure forgone. After an hour or so I eased out the main and unrolled most of the genoa and we continued on our way. Initially the wind didn't allow us to make better than 240º but after a few hours it started to veer very gently and ease and at sunset (1913) I ran the Yanmar for 2 hours to charge the battery, cool the fridge and keep the speed up as well. When it was stopped, it wasn't a nice night but we could at last lay the course with a freshening breeze that encouraged me to reef the main at 2255.
Saturday dawned with no ships in sight and half of our earlier leeway recovered because the wind had continued its veer to NNW3. Set full sail for sunrise and made porridge. Battery holding up well - still had more volts than before charging last night. (LED lights help enormously in this.) By 0900 we were back on the rhumb line and I could ease sheets a bit and head directly for Malta, which got us back to 5 knots. Clouds dispersed and some winch maintenance was done, mainly to ease use of the genoa furling line. Charge on until wind backed about 15º at 1700 (and it was getting cooler too). Sheeted in and held on course - same again an hour later. Take down the Greek courtesy ensign. Sunset tonight is at 1920 even though the days are getting shorter. Run the engine for another 2 hours but at lower revs and out of gear this time. After dinner go on deck and find that the masthead tricolour has faded out - again; it did this in the autumn of 2008 and has been repaired once already. Put on the LED anchor light instead.
On Sunday things went rather slower - had to put the Yanmar on from 0416 to 0730, steering by hand, then again from 1050. At noon put time back an hour. Completely calm; in some directions the smoothness of the water meant that I couldn't even make out where the horizon was. Determined that I would continue with the engine until the tank was nearly empty, which would still leave half a tankful in the spare can to ensure safe arrival. Some dolphins seen crossing heading north, but they didn't divert to investigate me. This seems to be a particularly empty bit of the Mediterranean (192 nm E of Malta) - for the only time on this voyage the Sea-Me cannot detect any radar pulses to reply to. Sunset now 1827 and tank still about one-third full. Carry on motoring. 2012: heart-stopping moment! The prop hit something, followed by noise of tortured geartrain - hastily disengage gear and think... have I unscrewed the propeller? Let the boat slow, cautiously engage reverse gear and we stop. Good! Try ahead again and no noise and we do go forwards - speed up, nothing in the wake, we accelerate back to original speed at the same revs. Phew!! 2139: stop the engine, leave main up and anchor light on and turn in for an unalarmed rest.
Monday: Four hours later, come to - we have, according to the GPS, drifted north 1.85 miles. Feeling quite perky, I decide to try sailing, but it takes a long time to get the boat moving at 3 knots in the right direction as the southerly air fills in. About 0400 there's a puzzling time as I try to spot the navigation lights on a liner astern but it turned out to be crossing diagonally and no threat. At least by now the Hydrovane was doing the steering. Wind settled at SSE2 at dawn, gradually rising during the morning to Force 4 and easing in the later afternoon. Put the spare diesel into the tank while the going is good. Sunset tonight is at 1831 - we've only gained 4 minutes' today and must have lost quite a bit of impetus. 1855 - three swallows in the gloaming fly around the stern chattering to encourage each other. Now that I have a warm nestle-box for them, I don't mind if they do land for the night, but none of them can work out where to touch down and in the end they go elsewhere. Battery volts 12.47, so may be able to get through the night without charging further. At 2200 we have exactly 100 nm to go and are going well with eased sheets and 6 rolls in the genoa (mainly for visibility) still giving 6 knots if not more. With a bit of luck we could make Malta tomorrow.
Tuesday didn't start well, with a substantial splash of Mediterranean coming through the hatch at 0149 and soaking the navigatorium. Don't know when that last happened. When that had been mopped up, I furled a hunk more of the genoa, eased out the main and the Hydrovane took us more downwind without having to be adjusted. Still doing better than 6 knots; we had been making up to windward to an unnecessary degree, mostly due to having too much sail working. 0709 visit from some little dolphins, swimming alongside in pairs. 0730 - now 50 miles to go and the battery still has 12.17 volts. GPS thinks we may arrive in the harbour entrance about 1730... Progressively unfurl genoa through the morning. 1240 enter the Hurd Bank marine parking lot - about 20 mostly big ships and a drilling rig; Malta still out of sight of course initially, but appeared faintly when we were half way through. The Hydrovane contrived somehow to sail us past everything without getting too close and we were past the last ship at 1440, so that made 12 miles of them. Had a delayed lunch! A big swell appeared inconveniently from somewhere but we ploughed on and were actually at the harbour entrance waypoint at 1712, Maltese maritime courtesy flag flying at the starboard crosstree. Half an hour later we were hospitably secured alongside a 55' British yacht "Shearwater" on the visitors' berths inside the breakwater at Msida Marina.
All in all that was a very good passage - the winds worked well, pretty close to forecast, and I still had half a tank of diesel!

Valletta to Pantellería - Thursday to Saturday, 2nd to 4th December 2010 - Data
After a morning stocking-up on groceries - to the extent that I had to get the supermarket to deliver my purchases by van and then had some difficulty in finding places to stow it all - checking on the weather and paying my dues, we finally got around to actually departing at 1714, just after sunset. This is to ensure that I'm relatively fresh for the first night and just as well as the Maltese coast was full of little run-abouts out doing a bit of night fishing. I'm glad to report that they did seem to be well lit and paying attention to passing traffic such as myself, often moving a little way off my course even though they didn't have to. By Comino and Gozo there were no more of them and I had solely to concern myself with not banging into the land, due to the variability of the light airs with which we were provided. Eventually they failed altogether and so it was on with the Yanmar and the Tillerpilot for a couple of hours' charging, after which we had a useful air just filling in from the port beam, which lasted until dawn (about 0615) when it veered. Then the new genoa got its first real work to do as we came onto a stiffening beat, soon needing reefs and fullest weather protection gear. It wasn't particularly enjoyable - cold and grey, but after 24 hours we had clocked up 74 miles, nearly all of it in the right direction, which seemed not too bad considering the slow start. Later on, serious reefing was required to keep the boat reasonably upright and so it continued for all of Friday night and Saturday, alternating tacks according to the blackness of the clouds ahead. Living aboard was not easy but at least Saturday was a bit brighter, albeit blowing NW Force 6. In the course of the afternoon it became apparent that we were going to be passing close to the NW corner of Pantellería, which is where the island's main harbour is located. "Good shelter" said the almanac - very tempting... Decided that a) I wasn't much enjoying it and we were supposed to be out here for pleasure, b) it made good sense to rest up and return to sea in conditions less likely to cause damage, and c) our weather window would stand an overnight stop. So I succumbed to the temptation and, about a quarter mile off the harbour mouth, ran downwind to enter it. When I gybed to turn right at the entrance, the mainsail tore along the top of the bottom batten, which was lying along the underside of the boom, due to the size of the reef we had in. I immediately regretted my decision to pull in there, but there was nothing for it but to see what repairs could be done now, as to continue would only write the sail off altogether. So I found a nice alongside berth astern of a yacht on a pontoon and made fast at 1630.
There was no-one about the place to refer to, so I looked for port offices in the town but only found the Garda Costieri. Mindful of earlier experiences with the Greek CG, I was a little chary of consulting with them but had to do so... "No, we have no sailmaker" changed to "Yes, we do have a sailmaker" then followed by "You will have to take it to Trapani on the ferry" and ultimately "We are sure there's a sailmaker in Palermo"! But that took a couple of hours and it was clear long before then that I would have to sew-it-myself. Then a committee of inspection took me back to the boat and hung around for a while, and in the end I was back to eating my own dinner aboard. Sunday dawned calm and cloudless and I was out early with my bosunry box and started sewing with the sail in situ on the boom. Later on, when the wind tried to blow it overboard, I had to take it off and continue the good works inside. Once it was all stitched back in place using the original holes as much as possible, then I beefed up the leech with a couple of lengths of nylon webbing off a sail-tie. That just left me with the batten pocket end to return to its rightful condition on Monday morning. That has got us now safely back to Almerimar but, nearly a fortnight later, my finger tips are still sore!
See Pantellería on Google Maps

Pantellería to Almerimar - Tuesday to Thursday, 7th to 16th December 2010 - Data
After a 3-night stop instead of the intended single one, we resumed on our way at 1115 on Tuesday with a cloudless sky and very little evidence of wind. Once outside the harbour I tried sailing in a gentle, quartering air, but it was soon back to the Yanmar for a short while before we finally got something more durable. For the next few days we coped with shifty and generally light airs and laid down a trail of loops and zig-zags on the plotter. There was quite a lot of shipping about, but they mostly kept their distance. The high-light of this section was passing south of the Ile de la Galite (which belongs to Tunisia, so we have now sailed in Africa!) between it and its off-lying lighthouse rock - plenty of gusty wind there, even if nowhere else nearby. That was on Thursday. Thereafter we were able to head West with clear water between us and our ultimate destination, and it was just a question of which tack lay nearer to that and reefing and unreefing as necessary. Then on Friday night we had some fun-and-games to get round Cap Bougarouni in rather more wind, having got a little inset into the bay before it. This is a mountain mass that sticks several miles out beyond the general line of the Algerian coast - a bit like the Mull of Kintyre in proportions but, of course, shorter - with hamlets around the shore and whole villages on top that one only gets to see as one draws further away. There is too a powerful light and it took the next two days to get beyond its range... We finally came into some decent wind late on Monday morning. I was cleaning something up on the foredeck and looking at the glossy water alongside, going past only because of the efforts of the Yanmar, when a little catspaw of ripples 20 metres across suddenly errupted right beside us. It stayed about 20m away but expanded fore and aft, so that we never got to the far end of it! After a while we got into it and found it to be NE2, just what we had been promised and hoping for for some time now and it duly strengthened and propelled us on our way with much less finangling eventually. We even got to run with poled-out genoa on its own at times, although there were still times when the Yanmar was called upon. By now we were peeling away from the Algerian coast. Then I got caught with a sudden increase in wind on Tuesday night as we were motoring along under TillerPilot. Switched off the engine and found something seeming like Force 7 from almost directly astern and full mainsail still up and the outhaul had somehow become free of its cleat. The TP coped remarkably well as we surged along at over 7 knots but something clearly had to be done, and it took a long time to get the main reefed down and some genoa set to balance it better as the Hydrovane was brought back into action. Just as well we weren't racing - as the saying goes! A very similar situation arose at the following dawn, too, but at least these events were all propelling us further in the right direction. This time we ended up with main entirely furled and the genoa set reefed to propel us at still some 5 knots. At noon on Wednesday we had covered 654.8 nm from Pantellería, the wind was in the North, it was grey and chilly and rough and I had both hatchboards in to leave some shelter in the cabin. I looked across, out the window to port, and there was a dolphin jumping well clear of the water as if to look in and see what I was up to! Irrepressible creatures: fortunately there were quite a lot of them about on this voyage and it was common to come on deck in the dark and see their shapes outlined by phosphorescence weaving sinuous patterns alongside. Don't they ever stop for a sleep?
We crossed the Greenwich meridian at 1604 that afternoon. The hills of Spain, from near Cabo de Gata northwards, were in view at sunrise on Thursday (0810) after a night in which I had somehow managed to switch off the instruments, including the log, with my back! Never mind, we had a soldier's wind now and were travelling in pretty much a straight line. We didn't even need to turn when we did finally get to Cabo de Gata - the rhumb line went straight past about a mile offshore. We then crossed the mouth of the Gulf of Almeria, which is about 25 miles wide, and here I guess I made a bit of a mistake. There's always the chance of a ferry coming or going, it was a nicer day, the end was virtually in sight and morale was consequently high, and there were little things of interest all the time, so I did not take the chance to have 20 winks. Somewhere abeam of the Punta del Sabinal lighthouse, while I still had not visually located the final mark, a buoy, some 3 miles ahead, to make the final course correction towards it, I quite simply fell asleep! Must have sat down, in the navigatorium instead of keeping moving... I awoke suddenly for no good reason, unless it was the sense that there was still a job unfinished, to find it was now properly dark and a mass of the lights of civilisation lay not far to starboard! A quick check with the plotter showed us to have gone just past the marina entrance and to be headed for the rocks of Pta Baños. I gratefully applied full right lock and in 5 minutes was in the Marina. We were secured alongside the control tower at 2337 for the rest of the night. When I checked further with the plotter to see where we had been before awakening time, it just didn't seem possible! Admittedly Spain does not extend as far south as the charts indicate, to the tune hereabouts of about 110 metres, but we had been through waters that I have previously observed to contain two or three shoals parallel to the coast, and then snipped the tip of a headland clean off! All without touching anything! So far, my offers to show anyone interested the new Spearhead Channel have been strangely declined...

On which fortunate note I am pleased to declare the 2010 season's sailing well and truly closed. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers!