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Category: 2017 sailing

Final Stop Sivota 22nd – 27th September 2017

Final Stop Sivota 22nd – 27th September 2017

043 - 2017 - Sivota - 00We spent our last few days for this summer in Sivota, can’t think of a better place to be. The temperatures have cooled a little and there is more cloud around. Although the days are still in the mid-20’s, a jumper now accompanies us when we go out in the evenings. Don’t get me wrong, we are still in shorts during the day and I have my daily pilgrimage to the little pebbly beach for a sunbathe, but the swims are more of a paddle than a plunge.

Tim and Tina were with us for the first few days, but have now left for their winter moorings next to Alice up in Lefkas Marina. So that has left Mark and I to do our final chores on Hapatoni and enjoy the last few days of sunshine in our apartment.043 - 2017 - Sivota - 01On our final evening in Sivota, we chilled on the balcony of our apartment overlooking the bay, with a glass of red wine in hand, the sun starting to set, reflecting on this year’s adventures and watching the final few yachts arriving in the vain hope of finding a mooring on the town quay. It certainly feels like a story of two halves, our departure from Crete back in late April seems a long time ago.

We covered a mere 880 miles this year, less than half of what we did last year, with only one overnight sail, making me a happy girl (I am sure Mark will make up for it next year). Our adventures were confined to Greece and although our season was cut short, we still managed to visit 21 different islands, mostly in the Aegean, as well as several parts of the Greek mainland. Despite this, we have not even scratched the surface, Greece has over 6,000 islands/islets mostly in the Aegean. 227 of these are inhabited, although only 53 have more than 1,000 residents and 95 have less than 100 inhabitants.

Of the many Islands we did visit this year, we have had several favourites which we will definitely revisit. The untouched Island of Arki with a human population of 38 and a goat population of several thousand, all living within walking distance of the harbour with its two tavernas. The island of Amorgos, with its uncompromising mountain ranges, the welcoming village of Katapola a short drive from the amazing monastery of Panayia suspended three quarters the way up a vertical cliff. The anchorage at Sandy Bay Kolona on Kithnos was beautiful, but our favourite anchorage was Wreck Cove, which you will all remember for Mark’s very “white shorts”, such an incredibly tranquil spot and remarkedly we didn’t have to share it with anyone else. Finally, one of the most amazing but eerie experiences was to be the only two people standing in the middle of a smoking volcanic crater on the Island of Nisyros …. and of course not forgetting our Ionian favourites, Sivota and Giaos.

When we return to the Aegean, I think we will confine our travels to the “less than 100 inhabitants” islands, these are the places we have adored, whereas the larger ones have, in typical Mediterranean fashion, been commercialised and although they haven’t suffered the “high-rise” disfigurement of Mediterranean Spain, they can be a little too “kiss me quick” for Mark and I.044 - 2017 - Lefkas - 02Getting Hudson home is always complicated because of the distance from our cruising grounds in the Ionian to Athens, which is the only place in Greece with facilities to fly pets to the UK. Hire car companies charge extortionate amounts to pick up and drop off in different locations, there are no trains to the Ionian and Hudson is not allowed on long-distance buses, unless he goes below with the baggage. So this year Mark had to return our local hire car to Lefkas, then fly from Preveza to Athens Airport to pick up another hire car, then drive the 5 hours back to Sivota in preparation for our five hour return to Athens on the 27th Sep – I know it sounds complicated but it is by far the cheapest way to get Hudson back home stress free ‘ish. Our return to the UK was uneventful, although I think Hudson knows what is coming when we drop him off in cargo at Athens Airport, he always lets the whole airport know his thoughts on being separated from us for the flight back.045 - 2017 - Athens - 01We arrived back in Hamble at 12:30 am, Mark is talking about lighting a fire.

Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 18th to 22nd September 2017

Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 18th to 22nd September 2017

042 - 2017 - Paxos - 00We were keen to visit Paxos, another one of our favourite Islands in the Ionian. So, with a few strong coffee’s inside us, we left Sivota in the dark at 6:45 am on Monday, driving the 150km north to catch the car ferry from Igoumenitsa to the port at Gaios.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 01Paxos is the smallest of the Ionian Islands, just eight miles long by two wide, a place where most things can be left until tomorrow and where visitors, mainly Italians, English and Athenians, return year after year to do not much at all. Our studio apartment was a few minutes’ walk from the town quay in Gaios, unfortunately no sea view this time and not quite as spacious as our apartment in Sivota, but pleasant enough. As the car ferries don’t run every day, we decided to stay till Friday.

We quickly unpacked, keen to revisit some of our old haunts and check out the restaurants again …. most importantly, was there a spit roast on the bbq ready for tonight, in our favourite restaurant? We headed for the top of town to Taverna Taka Taka and joy upon joy, there they were slowly turning on the spit, a choice of lamb or chicken calling to us to “come and get some”. The only downside is the restaurant is also home to the largest herd of cats we have ever seen, so we would need to be on our guard with Hudson as they can be pretty vicious with dogs. Despite the glorious appearance of the pork and the vast quantities served up, the flavours were not as intense as they have been in the past, so we left a little disappointed at the end of the meal – can’t say the same for Hudson, who was salivating at the thought of getting the leftovers for breakfast the next morning.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 04Over the next few days we settled into a daily routine, with a leisurely start in the morning lounging around the apartment, followed by an excursion in the hire car in the afternoon and ending the day with the obligatory taverna visit for beer and cards.

The first day’s excursion was to the north of the island, to Lakka. We have been there several times and never tire of visiting this gorgeous horseshoe-shaped bay, its translucent waters crammed with fishing boats and yachts. We did our customary walk around the bay, dodging the many cats who hang out around the tavernas and in any shady spot they can find, waiting to be fed or petted by cooing tourists. One of the more mangy of these creatures tried to attack Hudson, I did a blocking action with my leg which resulted in some more scratches to add to my collection of bruises and mosquito bites. We stopped for lunch at our usual place, the restaurant Arriva on the end of the town quay and had our usual selection of yummy dishes, calamari, stuffed aubergine, Greek salad, etc, all washed down with a glass of wine/beer.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 03The clouds started to mass in a dark and threatening way towards evening so after an early dinner, we arrived back in the apartment just as the heavens opened, monsoon style, with a bit of thunder thrown in for luck.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 02Day two of our sightseeing, found us heading to Mongonissi, a small bay on the south coast which will definitely go on our “must visit by yacht” list. It had a lovely anchorage, several tavernas and a beautiful sandy beach, quite unusual for this part of the world where pebbles are the norm.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 05This was followed by the spectacular Tripitos Arch, later in the afternoon, which in typical Greek fashion took someone with SAS navigational skills to find. It is the remains of a collapsed sea cave, over 20 meters at its highest point. Approaching from above it is very imposing, the arch itself appears scarily narrow but is apparently wider than it looks, nonetheless Mr & Mrs (I hate Heights) Clark both wimped out and decided on a photograph as our memory of the visit.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 07The day finished with a late lunch at Longos, a small fishing village on the northeast coast of the island and also a must see, it is very pretty. Only room for one or two cruising yachts on the mole though, so you are likely to have to visit this one by road.

The last couple of days passed in much the same way as the first few, we revisited a few of the sights and spend leisurely evenings on the town quay playing cards and watching the antics of the charter yachts and hordes of tourists disgorging from their tripper boats out of Corfu.

On the Friday 22nd, we caught the 2:00pm ferry back to Igoumenitsa, before returning to Sivota for our final 5 days in Greece.

Sivota – 15th to 18th September 2017

Sivota – 15th to 18th September 2017

041 - 2017 - Sivota - 00Sivota is just a gem, we say that each time we go there, so our decision to spend three days to try to relax and at least have a small holiday before going home was brilliant. With our hire car loaded to the gunnels, apartment booked and the rest of the gang heading down on board Shiraz, we set off. Our plans didn’t however go entirely smoothly, as the apartment I had booked was in Syvota with a “Y” (Not Sivota with an “I”) which was 150 km in the wrong direction – easy mistake to make I told Mark, who had that highly unimpressed expression that he sometimes gets. Fortunately, we had an option 2, the Galini Studios which turned out to be just wonderful, a 2-bed spacious apartment in a great location a street back from the town quay, but high enough so we could keep an eye on the activity in the bay as yachts crossed anchors and jockeyed for a place to park – the bay was pretty full in advance of the Ionian Regatta later this week.

041 - 2017 - Sivota - 11The first evening (Friday 15th) we joined our friends Tina, Tim, Alice and Aunia for a game of boules and bbq on the beach, this is always a noisy, riotous affair. The boules teams were decided by picking a short or long twig and overseen by Mark, I am sure he cheated so as to not to get stuck with me on his team. The challenge with boules on the pebbly Sivota beach is that the jack is pretty impossible to see, so we had to mark it with a pink ice cream spoon. My team, which included Tina and Tim were on form and despite trailing in the early stages, managed to get ahead and steal an overall victory in the last game. Mark, through gritted teeth, congratulated his victorious wife, blaming his team for more focus on the beer than the game – to say he is competitive is an understatement.041 - 2017 - Sivota - 06

041 - 2017 - Sivota - 04

041 - 2017 - Sivota - 03Saturday 16th (Day 2) began with Hudson and I jogging around the bay, followed by a couple of hours sun bathing/swimming and finishing up with Mark and I, together with Keith and Tracy enjoying a massive grilled Red Snapper with oven roasted vegetables, absolutely deliciously cooked by the Twelve Gods Restaurant. Another item on my tick list of things to do this Autumn … shame we didn’t have Hapatoni. It’s not the same without the yacht, but it comes a close second.041 - 2017 - Sivota - 07Our group of 8 started to expand as other boaties who we had met on our travels, pulled up on the town quay, Greece is quite a small place really, and boaty people are a very friendly lot. We chose “The Family Restaurant” or “Mama’s” as we call it for our final night in Sivota and ended up taking over half the restaurant. Nicos is the young waiter who has a really welcoming disposition and always remembers us from previous years, particularly that Mark likes his food spicy. So, every meal results in weight loss as he tries to increase the spicy heat on everything he serves – this bizarrely also includes the salt and vinegar crisps.041 - 2017 - Sivota - 09Mama is the matriarch, spending much of her time in the kitchen, but venturing out to give her favoured guests a hug and over indulge Hudson with a sneaky sausage snack. She is truly wonderful, the type of woman that everyone would love to have as their mum. As the evening passed the volume increased along with the number of empty glasses, we even persuaded Mark and Justine to play a tune on the guitar, although I ‘m not sure anyone was in a fit condition to “name that tune”. With an early start planned for the next day we headed home after a night cap at the Pirates bar.
041a - 2017 - Sivota - 01

Lefkas on the Island of Lefkada – 11th to 15th September 2017

Lefkas on the Island of Lefkada – 11th to 15th September 2017

040 - 2017 - Lefkas - 00The insurance company (Navigators & General) was very efficient, a surveyor was organised who arrived promptly the next day and gave us our first really good bit of news … that amazingly, Hapatoni was fixable. Engineers arrived in droves to scratch their heads, sucking on their teeth and shaking their heads in that way that they do to signify, “this is going to cost loads of money”. The net result was that the boat had to be cleared, the interior woodwork would all have to come out in order to assess the extent of the damage and get a quote for the final repair. So over the next few days 45 cardboard boxes arrived and were filled with “stuff” from the main cabin – we soon realised we definitely have too much STUFF!!039 - 2017 - The Rock - 04We stayed at the hotel Ianos in Lefkas marina while we packed up the boat, the weather is still in the 30’s during the day, so the swimming pool is a welcome break to the somewhat soul-destroying hours spent on our damaged Hapatoni. It’s hard to describe the feelings you have when your boat sustains such damage, it is such a part of our lives for five months every year, and we spend many hours in maintenance and a lot of cash keeping her in tip top condition.

040 - 2017 - Lefkas - 01Tina and Tim on Shiraz and Alice on Spirit III have been brilliant, offering loads of support, making lunches and cooking evening meals. We have also met up with Keith and Tracy whose Beneteau 50 unfortunately also sustained damage in a 60-knot blow which arrived unexpectedly at their marina in Preveza, accompanied by a big surge which ripped out their stern cleats and pushed Amonite sideways onto the bows of the facing boats. The damage to their port side was extensive, anchors punctured large holes, the guard rails and toe rails were ripped off. Not a great week for boats.

Our last night in Lefkas was a boisterous meal on the front with the 8 of us as well as a couple of Americans that Keith had met during his travels. Unfortunately, Mark had chipped his tooth, so half way through the meal had to disappear to the local dentist to try to get it fixed. He arrived back after an hour and a half, apparently the dentist had been unable to find the right nerves so it took four sets of injections and an hour waiting for numbness to arrive before Mark finally managed to get his filling – I don’t think he will be going back there in a hurry.

We have completed packing and now it’s time to decide … do we go home to the glorious English (drizzly) autumn or do we stay for a little while and enjoy the 30 degree sunshine of Greece … difficult decision!!!

We decided to take a week or so to explore some of those places that we had been cheated out of by the accident. We booked to stay a few days in Sivota, then up to Gaios on the Island of Paxos and finally back to our lovely Sivota to finish off, before we headed for home on the 27th September.

The Trip to Lefkas & The Rock – 11th September 2017

The Trip to Lefkas & The Rock – 11th September 2017

We had originally intended to go to the town quay at Kioni on the Island of Ithaca, the mythical home of the legends of Homer’s Odyssey. It is one of our favourite spots in the Ionian, we just wanted to relax and do nothing for 3 or 4 days …. except for maybe the occasional beer, enjoying a mouth-watering spit roast and awarding marks for the inept parking of the flotilla fleets as they swarm in. However, because of some strong southerlies due to arrive over the next couple of days, we decided to head for the safer moorings on the north of the island of Meganisi.

So, after a swift change of course we left the Gulf of Patras and rounded the south side of Nisis Oxia, to head north. This corner leading into the Ionian has always seemed to be an area teaming with fish and this was where we were to land our second catch since leaving the UK back in 2014. Mark was dozing below when I noticed a tugging on his brand new, all-singing fishing reel. Expecting to find the usual bit of seaweed, I pulled in the line to be confronted by an eminently eatable mackerel, which in my shocked haste, I left dangling on the hook and shouted for Mark to come and assist. He immediately came up top and despite his surprise that I had actual managed to reel in a fish, quickly despatched the fish and placed it in the fridge for later consumption.

Looking for shelter, we continued on our way to Spartakhori (on the Island of Meganisi) to be told by Babis, the Taverna owner, that there was no room on his pontoons. There was a similar story at Vathi in the next bay, everyone was heading for cover to hide from the approaching high winds. With options running out, we phoned the marina at Lefkas at the top of the Island of Lefkada, a further two hours away (and one of the most expensive in the Ionian). Lefkas however, did have the bonus that our friends on Shiraz and Spirit 3 were also there and fortunately the marina had spaces, so of we set.

And this is when our world literally came tumbling around our ears.

THE ROCK

039 - 2017 - The Rock - 00A few minutes into the journey, with me below preparing lunch, Hudson at my feet hoping for a few stray scraps, and Hapatoni making 6 knots, we came to an abrupt halt as we hit a submerged rock. The keel took the full force, lifted and flexed the hull which moved a few centimetres upwards, this was enough to cause incredible damage in the main salon. The dining table broke away from the floor and lay in a twisted heap. The fitted kitchen cupboards and chart desk had come lose from there secure mountings, cracking panels and snapping the worktop. The worst damage was revealed when we lifted the floorboards, there were many large cracks in the inner floor laminate, stretching from side to side. We were also taking on water, fortunately not a large amount and the bilge pump was able to cope. We both stared in disbelief at the unbelievable carnage caused and both voiced similar thoughts, that this looked like the end for Hapatoni.

039 - 2017 - The Rock - 01 (1)

039 - 2017 - The Rock - 03

039 - 2017 - The Rock - 02None the less, we decided to try to get Hapatoni to Lefkas which was the nearest marina where we could get her lifted out of the water, but was still an hour and a half away. We both went into auto pilot, deciding to minimise any trips down below, not knowing how attached the keel was, the loss of which would have proved catastrophic. With the passports, money, phones, home keys, etc, secured in our water proof bag and life jackets on, we launched the dinghy and tied it to the transom … just in case. We phoned Lefkas Marina and requested an immediate lift-out also informing the Port Police, who asked us to activate the DSC alarm so they could locate us – not sure that was necessary, as at that point we were not in any life-threatening danger, but we did as we were told. The port police eventually arrived in a rib and escorted up the canal to Lefkas where we were immediately lifted onto the hard.

With Hapatoni out of danger and the knowledge that our possessions were safe, we headed to our friends Tina and Tim’s boat, for a tidy up and very sweet cup of tea to calm the nerves. It was time to relax a little from the stress of the last couple of hours, the impact of what had happened, just starting to sink in.

 

Messolonghi – 10th September 2017

Messolonghi – 10th September 2017

038 - 2017 - Messalongi - 00We did not hurry to leave Galaxidi even though the passage was 48 miles and about 8 hours, as we had intended to anchor in the basin outside the now closed marina at Messolonghi and there was never an issue with finding a vacant spot there. We left at around 8:30am motoring across the windless, mirror flat calm of the Gulf of Corinth towards the distant Rion-Antirion Bridge, settling into our now familiar shift system, two hours on and two hours off, taking turns to nap or read or just chill during our off-shift periods.  The Bridge was 34 miles away, but due to its impressive size, became visible quite quickly into our passage. The bridge is considered to be a creation of extraordinary engineering, built in an area with high seismic activity, it spans a 3 km wide straight, linking the town of Rion with the town of Antirion and is the longest cable-stayed suspension bridge in the world.038 - 2017 - Messalongi - 01After the bridge, the final 20-mile passage to Messolonghi was entirely uneventful, arriving at about 5:30pm at the 2 km long channel leading up to the Lagoon, our anchorage for the night, just outside the town.038 - 2017 - Messalongi - 02And now the inevitable history lesson. In 1822 the Turks tried to unsuccessfully take Messolonghi from the Greeks who managed to resist for four years before deciding on a mass evacuation of the town. Tragically, as a result of a betrayal, this led to the massacre of most of the inhabitants.  The famous British poet and philhellene Lord Byron, who supported the Greek struggle for independence, died in Messolonghi in 1824. He is commemorated by a cenotaph containing his heart and a statue located in the town. In 1829 Messolonghi was liberated and started again to flourish and in 1937 the government decided to name it the SACRED TOWN OF GREECE. In the ensuing years, the town produced 5 famous Prime Ministers, many people of history, many poets, artists and scientists, architects and literately men.038 - 2017 - Messalongi - 03We left Messolonghi before daybreak on the following day with high anticipation. This was to be the day we returned to the Ionion.

The Corinth Canal and Galaxidhi – 7th – 9th September 2017

The Corinth Canal and Galaxidhi – 7th – 9th September 2017

037 - 2017 - Galaxidhi - 00We set off bright and early at 7.15am, keen to be on the move, with the Corinth Canal a good 21 miles away. The sun was shining, although it was still cool at this hour, the sea was flat and there was a very gently breeze, only 7 knots of wind.We motored to the canal arriving at 11am and lined up alongside three other boats waiting to transit, one was registered in Portsmouth – lots of Brits in this part of the world.
036 - 2017 - Corinth - 02There was a group of stray dogs here last time and they seemed to be the same ones here again, but sadly looking a little bit more worse for wear. The paperwork took a record 5 minutes as we had crossed before but the costs had not changed from the eye watering amount of 234 euros. We were lucky as we only had to wait 20 minutes before we had the green light to go, Mark made sure he was the first boat through, keen not to get caught behind any stragglers.036 - 2017 - Corinth - 04Some facts about the canal – It is 3.2 miles long and 25 metres wide, the maximum permitted draft is 6.5m. The limestone from which it is cut rises to 79m above sea level and as you enter the canal at each end there are two very unusual hydraulic bridges across the canal, the bridges are lowered DOWN into the sea water to allow the boats to pass over the top of them.036 - 2017 - Corinth - 03In ancient times before the canal, they used to drag ships across the Isthmus on a paved road (the dhiolkos), for the history buffs, Octavian in pursuit of Antony after the battle of Actium had his ships dragged across here. Digging finally started by the Roman ruler Nero, using 6,000 Jews, but he got distracted and the canal was finally built by a French company and finished by the Greeks in 1893.036 - 2017 - Corinth - 05Our original plan was to stop the night in Kiato about an hour and a half from the canal, (we did not like this place when we stopped here last year, too many dodgy itinerants around), so as the conditions were good and it was only mid-day, we continued on to Galaxidhi on the Greece mainland a further 6 hours along the Gulf. We arrived at 6pm, ready to unwind, Hudson was keen to stretch his legs, so following a walk around the bay, a short beer we retired back to the boat for dinner – more yummy king prawns.036 - 2017 - Corinth - 01Galaxidhi was a lovely surprise, it is one of the prettiest towns in the Gulf of Corinth, the narrow harbour is from a distance, hidden by the rocky islets and stony hills. The bay is hemmed in by a pine studded peninsula on the east, with the town hunched on a rocky mound to the west. Back in the 18th and early 19th Centuries it was a prosperous, busy port until the Turks captured the area. Now it is a much more quiet and tranquil spot, offering shelter to yachts with very little other tourism, but surprisingly has many more bars and restaurants than would seem to be required for the number of visitors. The village is clean and well maintained and offers a great dog walk or morning run (to be decided) around the bay under the cover of the pine trees.  We liked the setting so much we decided to stay an extra day and explore the village.037 - 2017 - Galaxidhi - 03Friday 8th September, it is so nice to wake up to sunshine, we had a lazy start catching up on our sleep before we took Hudson for a well-earned long walk around the bay. The road ended at a lovely secluded beach which was occupied by masses of tiny jelly fish who were sunbathing on the shore line (or dying, not sure which!) …. Shame, it would have been a beautiful spot for a dip.037 - 2017 - Galaxidhi - 01Marks next task was to sort out his storage areas, hoping to make more space. From what I could see, it involved emptying out all his stored items onto the main cabin floor (mess mess mess), jiggling them around a little bit and then putting them back in a slightly different order, resulting in a large bag full of rubbish, but oddly, less space than when he started. However, it is tiring work so he finished his jobs off with an afternoon siesta – bless him.

The next day’s plan was to get through the Gulf of Corinth under the always impressive Rion-Antirion bridge and anchor outside the Messolonghi Marina in the Gulf of Patras.

The Return to Greece – The Journey back to Aegina 4th – 6th September 2017

The Return to Greece – The Journey back to Aegina 4th – 6th September 2017

035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 00We left Hamble by taxi on a damp drizzly Monday morning, our travel to the boat was split over two days, with the expectation that we would arrive at 10am on the 5th September, which we did. However, the journey to get there was far from straight forward. As you all know Hudson is not a keen flyer, so Heathrow to Athens works well, it is only a three-hour flight and we are able to drop Hudson off 2 hours before the flight in the same terminal that we fly from, at the “oversized luggage” – fear not, he does not go down the luggage belt, but is noisily wheeled off into the terminal on the back of a trolley. To try to aid this process and minimise Hudson’s trauma, I had some new “stress relief” pills from the vet for Hudson to try this time.00a - 2016 Apr - Preveza - 01The flight was an hour late in taking off and after a further hour into the flight, (you will be shocked to hear, no drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, had even been served at this time) the captain announced we are having to divert to Dusseldorf as we are leaking water through the plane. Mark and I naively think ok, not the end of the world, we can land, stick the plug back in the hole, fill up with water and leave, but no that would be far too simple. After sitting in the plane on the runway at Dusseldorf for an hour, we are told that this plane was going no further and to get off. There followed major confusion as the Captain, flight crew and airport staff were uncommunicative as to what to do next. Finally, we were informed that a new plane was to be sent from Athens, arriving at 8pm and that our luggage will transfer automatically. So, I hear you ask, what about Hudson? It took two traumatic hours to get him off the plane and with us, I have to admit I finally lost the plot and a few expletives were heard by the ground staff, but finally he announced his arrival with his non-stop, machine gun barking, at the customs gate. Following this noisy re-union, a pee and poo (outside of course), we all went for some dinner, we found an excellent Thai/Chinese takeaway in the airport which is the only good thing I have to say about Dusseldorf airport. Unfortunately, to Hudson’s horror, shortly after we had to hand him back to the ground staff ready for flight number two, again lots more barking and a very unhappy dog. We finally took off at 10:30pm and reached our hotel for the night at the port of Piraeus around 3am, three very exhausted bodies collapsed into bed.035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 02Tuesday started early after a disturbed 4 hours sleep, with a passage on the 8:50am Flying Dolphin ferry to Aegina. Other than the tiredness, plans went to schedule on Tuesday and three happy faces arrived at Hapatoni in the boatyard at 10am, ready to unpack and start work preparing the boat. We worked non-stop until 3pm and then headed for our charming boutique hotel Rastoni, which we had stayed in back in July just before we left to go home.035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 01As we have said before the hotel is in a great location, hidden behind a high mature hedge concealing a row of tall shady pistachio nut trees around the front of the building and the garden to the rear is amazing, full of scented fragrant herbs, fruit growing on the trees, pomegranates, lemons and figs with rows of colourful flowering shrubs and hidden seating areas carefully installed to take full advantage of the shade. Following a desperately needed nap and shower we headed into town, enjoying a stroll around the narrow streets as the shops started to open after the afternoon siesta and restaurants prepared their tables for the evening rush. Legs stretched we headed to a bar on the quay front overlooking the parked yachts for a quick glass before dinner. Later, we enjoyed a very pleasant meal at the local fish restaurant adjacent to the fish market, feasting on Calamari, Stuffed peppers, Mackerel and of course a delicious Greek salad.035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 04It is great to be back in Greece in late summer, enjoying the enduring charm and friendliness of the Greek people and the wall to wall sunshine, with a cooler day time temperate currently around 30 degrees. The evenings are also pleasantly cooler now, so you don’t need six fans on to get enough air movement through the boat to allow you to sleep.
With 3 months at the start of the year travelling from Crete up through the Aegean to Aegina, just south of Athens, we discovered many memorable places. Our personal favourites have been (1) standing in the centre of a volcano on Nisyros (2) Port Augusta on the Island of Arki, which was a tiny island mostly inhabited by goats and where Mark learned to make rope mats (3) Amorgos with its monastery, impossibly perched up the side of a cliff and (4) the splendid isolation of Wreck Cove, who can ever forget Mark flashing his extremely white bum cheeks in the oh to transparent waters of the cove.

In hindsight, our July/Aug gap at home was a great success, we missed the extreme heat of high summer in the 40’s and the hordes of Italians invading Greece, a few of whom are comical, but mostly are rude, impolite and extremely annoying – a lovely nation, but they should not be allowed on any form of boat….EVER. Even though the weather at home was mostly damp, it was nice to see busy Hamble filled with boaty activity. For the first time, we got to enjoy our garden with all the beautiful flowers in bloom (but also had to maintain it…can’t have it both ways I guess). Mark went racing in Cowes week and loved it, we took the rib out for lunch to Cowes and Yarmouth and we enjoyed many an evening at the Royal Southern Yacht Club, especially at Happy Hour on a Friday and in the village with family and friends. Even though the weather was pretty poor, we didn’t mind at all because we still had a couple months of Greek sunshine to look forward to – sorry to rub the weather thing in, but it is what it is.035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 03We now have two-months remaining this season to enjoy the Ionian, discovering a few new places and re-visiting a lot of our old favourite haunts with their familiar restaurants serving our favourite dishes of red snapper and spit roast. Since we began our travels in 2014, the Ionian is the region we love the most.
Our last day in Aegina was a day of tasks for Mark, and shopping for supplies for me. Another busy day but we are keen to get the boat stocked and ready so we can leave on Thursday heading to the Corinth Canal and onto into the Ionian. It will take us a few days to reach the Ionian and we are both keen to get sailing and exploring.

Aegina – 2nd to 6th July 2017

Aegina – 2nd to 6th July 2017

029 - 2017 - Aegina - 00Aegina is only two hours away and our final Island for this half of the summer, so we enjoyed the cool early morning on Vathi, starting with a run along the beach road followed by a compulsory cooling off swim. We sailed at 10am and with the weather looking settled for Sunday, the plan was to anchor outside Aegina town for the night, then head round to the boatyard to be lifted out on Monday morning.

Unfortunately the swell was too much at our planned anchorage outside Aegina town, so we headed a mile south to a protected spot around the headland, we dropped the hook, had a swim and relaxed for an hour … but after a while that damn swell started to pick up again as the wind increased, so once more we were on the move. We went back to Aegina Town and tried the quay itself, but this was full and so after much deliberation, headed across the shallows to an unmarked anchorage on the south side of a low lying island between Aegina and Agistri. Once more we had a swim and relaxed for an hour … there is a theme developing here, isn’t there? It was a busy spot with a Dutch Flotilla anchored in a circle (Like the cowboy wagon train defending itself from the marauding Apaches) with their sterns all facing inwards, there was also quite a few private yachts and power boats at anchor. But Mark was unsure about staying the night as there was no information in the pilot book about this spot, so when most of the other yachts left and the wind started increasing we headed back once more to the town quay in Aegina …unfortunately there was still no room, or so we thought!!029 - 2017 - Aegina - 01The weather had really deteriorated now, so the prospect of anchoring was not exciting us at all, it was time to think like an Italian. We spotted a small gap which would mean anchoring at a 45 deg angle and overlapping the ferry boat spot, so we went for it, dropped the anchor, secured ourselves to the town quay and gave a heavy sigh. However, just as we had lulled ourselves into a false sense of security, the harbour police decided to interrupt our new state of calm and told us we had to get clear of the ferry boat spot or move completely … it was complicated. Our neighbour was a little Polish 28 foot yacht (with one man on board who spoke very little English) who was badly parked and also told to reorganise. With some joint jiggling and manoeuvring, it looked like we could both manage to keep the police happy. Things got interesting when our Polish neighbour had his four largish passengers together with their suitcases roll up … it didn’t look like their boat had enough room for the suitcases let alone the people, but it all eventually disappeared below. The comedy of errors now really gathered momentum, the Polish boat re-anchored, dropping their hook 10 metres out (no where near far enough) and right over ours, we then moved ourselves across enough to keep the police happy but still not enough to clear the ferry mooring completely. So we would have to be up early and gone by 8am before the ferry arrived … we told our Polish neighbour that he would also have to be up as we couldn’t move until he uncrossed our  anchor.  Settled for the night, or so we thought, off we went for a well deserved beer.029 - 2017 - Aegina - 05The wind started to gather pace from the forecasted 20 knots to a 34 knot howling gale hitting us hard on the beam at 2am. We were awoken by our Polish neighbour and his passengers, desperately trying to keep his boat from smashing into the quay and also into Hapatoni, as his badly planted anchor did nothing to keep him from jigging backwards and forwards and side to side. He was in for a very busy, sleepless night … and unfortunately all his activity meant we had very little sleep either, even though we were very securely parked. At 6:00 am things resolved themselves as our Polish friend motored off but not without a series of calamities, bumping into our boat, getting his rudder stuck on our anchor chain and struggling to release their anchor which was firmly hooked over ours. Finally they disappeared of into the harbour allowing us to move further sideways, clearing the ferry berth … hooraaaah, we could now stay as long as we liked.029 - 2017 - Aegina - 02Our plan was to get lifted on Monday and then stay in a hotel in Aegina town for our last three days, relaxing and enjoying the air-conditioning, but with the current 30 knot winds creating a large swell, the boatyard was not willing to lift any boats. Monday dragged and I was worrying about our options as it looked like Hudson and I could be flying home alone on Thursday and Mark would have to follow with the luggage, when the winds calmed down next week. But by mid-afternoon the sea had been merciful and following a visit to the boatyard, Mark persuaded them to lift us out. We hurriedly returned to the boat not wishing to miss the window of opportunity and motored the short distance around the coast. As Hapatoni was lifted, I let out a deep sigh of relief, we were back on track. With Hapatoni securely braced and put to bed for 2 months, we headed over to our hotel.029 - 2017 - Aegina - 07Hotel Rastoni is a small boutique hotel with 14 rooms, just a short walk from the centre of the town. The grounds lie hidden behind a high mature hedge concealing a row of tall shady pistachio nut trees around the front of the building. The garden to the rear is amazing, full of scented fragrant herbs, rows of colourful flowering shrubs and hidden seating areas carefully installed to take full advantage of the shade. The rooms are simple with an Indian’ish theme, tasteful done and complete with a lovely cooling breeze blowing through the room from the balcony. There is of course the mandatory air-conditioning to ensure a sweat free slumber for Hudson and Mark. This place is a real gem.029 - 2017 - Aegina - 10As the temperature cooled in the evening we headed into town, the southern quay is lined with busy bars and restaurants – Aegina is very popular with the Athenians who can quickly get here on the many ferries that stop daily.  At the far end of the quay are “fruit boats”, ancient wooden fishing boats that are past their sell by date, permanently moored up and now adapted for use as fruit and veg stalls – very ingenious.029 - 2017 - Aegina - 09Further back from the quay are narrow pebble streets lined with shops selling everything …. it feels like an authentic Greek town, which would continue to stay alive even when the invasion of tourists leave at the end of summer. As we stroll about looking for a place for dinner we came upon the fish market with a restaurant outside specialising in “fresh fish”, surprise surprise. An English couple seated in the restaurant (who are now permanent residents of Aegina), highly recommend the food, so sold on the setting we find a table and order stuffed Calamari, fresh tuna with the compulsory Greek salad and the local pine wine.029 - 2017 - Aegina - 11The couple attempted to explain the curious 20 year old (the son of one of the local fishermen) who rides up and down the quay ALL night on his bicycle, with flashing multi-coloured lights on the front and a speaker strapped to the back, softly piping out traditional Greek music – I’ll let you make your own conclusions. The setting and company were charming, but surprisingly we were a little disappointed by the food, none the less, still a very pleasant evening.029 - 2017 - Aegina - 06We woke on Tuesday morning chilly as Mark had set the air-conditioning a bit too low, but what a novelty that was. The last few days slipped lazily by, walking Hudson around the town and enjoying the cooler temperatures, it is now low to mid 30’s. On our last day, Roger and Sisca from Waterval, who are also heading home for a couple of months, came to stay in our hotel, so we met up for drinks and dinner. Following a very chatty and pleasant evening we say our good bye’s, ready for the early start on Thursday morning, to catch the Flying Dolphin ferry to Athens at 8am and our 1.30pm flight home to sunny Hamble. We are both looking forward to going home and catching up with family and friends and enjoying a summer in Hamble.029 - 2017 - Aegina - 03

Vathi on the Methana Peninsular – 28th to 2nd July 2017

Vathi on the Methana Peninsular – 28th to 2nd July 2017

028 - 2017 - Vathi - 00Vathi is a small fishing harbour on the northwest side of the Methana Peninula. The peninsula is 25 miles SW of Athens, jutting out from the coast of the Peloponnese and connected by only a very small isthmus at Taktikoupolis (try saying that with a mouthful of olives). It was originally volcanic, as many places in the Aegean were, with the volcano crater in the northwest of the island near Kaimeni (which translates into the “burnt village” … I wonder why).028 - 2017 - Vathi - 08You enter the small harbour between submerged rocks extending towards you, on either side of a very narrow channel – you would definitely think twice about entering if the Meltemi was blowing. None the less Vathi was an instant success. You are welcomed into the cutest of harbours, with its fleet of small fishing boats lining the north side ready to provide their fresh catch direct to the tavernas. There is room for about 15 yachts on the southern quay, electricity and water is available, there are three delightful quayside tavernas, all of this is surrounded by steep protective pine covered hills with only a few red tiled houses for the resident families AND A PLACE TO SWIM a few metres from the boat, we were in heaven.  It reminded us so much of a Sivota in the Ionian, which is one of our favourite places in the Med, just a much smaller version.028 - 2017 - Vathi - 02This is getting a little bit like a stuck record … but the temperature is now a cloudless, windless, very hot 38 deg C. Everything is done extremely slowly, any quick movement requires a change of clothes as the perspiration pours off – bit like being in a 24 hour sauna, fortunately the swimming opportunity is only 20 metres away and we do take frequent advantage of that. Even Hudson gets a daily dip and not surprisingly there are no complaints, he appreciated the opportunity to cooool down.

We planned to go to Jimmy’s Fish Restaurant for our first evening meal out, but on climbing the steps we were greeted by the largest herd of cats we have seen, they definitely owned the place and Hudson was going to be an unwelcome intruder, which was a shame as the fresh tuna steaks looked really good. Plan 2 was our local called “Taverna to Vathi” (Must have spent ages thinking that name up), five metres from the back door, which was a pleasant place for a beer, particularly as we sat right under the biggest of fans, but unfortunately the food was decidedly “average”, we won’t be back for food.028 - 2017 - Vathi - 03The next day (Wednesday 29th) started with a walk for Hudson to the next bay which is home to several guest houses and apartments next to the “beach” and is what would be describe as a “budget” holiday destination. As you can see from the photos, it is has a highly questionable “beach”, but a stunning view over the Peloponnese mountain range.028 - 2017 - Vathi - 04The afternoon alternated between chilling out and swimming and Hudson takes his second uncomplaining dip, he is a bit reluctant at first, but as soon as he is clamped securely in Mark’s arms, he relaxes and checks out his surroundings … for food no doubt – what else would go through Hudson’s brain??

028 - 2017 - Vathi - 07

Mark had requested his favourite Greek pork dish with roasted vegetables and feta for tonight (obviously with a Debera twist) and like the locals I did all the preparations and pre-cooking in the morning. By 14:00 the sun is at its strongest and it does not cool down till at least 20:00, too hot to stand in front of an oven in the confines of the boat. In fact, after eating on deck at 20:00, we still had to wait a few hours for the oven and the main cabin to cool to a reasonable temperature, before we could go below decks. Sorry Mark, but I think the oven door is now firmly closed until the outside temperature starts to cool in September.

Friday started with a 7:30 am run along the mostly flat road to the next village, only one small hill separating the two bays, by the time we get back it is starting to heat up and Mark and I have lost several pints of fluid – I think the runs will have to be even earlier. On Friday, the temperature climbed to new highs, achieving 40 deg C, with NO WIND till the evening and when it did come from the west, it felt like it had come straight from a furnace. The rest of the day and Saturday alternated between swimming every hour or so and melting.028 - 2017 - Vathi - 06You know how we said we wouldn’t eat in the Taverna to Vathi again, well on Saturday we were there having a beer and playing cards when our neighbours ordered some calamari which looked good, so Mark, without thinking ordered some as well. That was probably the tastiest calamari we have ever had, so we ordered a second plate together with a Greek salad … I know they have other uninvited house guests and there was another one scurrying around the floor, trying to climb as high as it could up one of the pillars, but this is Greece, and its just not the same as in the UK, so you just have to accept it !!!!!028 - 2017 - Vathi - 01The Taverna to Vathi is a typical family run restaurant, with brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts all doing there bit. One of the key tasks of all the family is to assist any visiting boats to moor and encourage them into their restaurant to dine, they are also very active in providing fresh seafood for the diners. As well as owning a fishing boat, one of the sons went out in their dinghy to collect sea urchins to be served up 100% fresh to one of the flotilla captains. Another in his wetsuit and clutching a harpoon gun, waited for an hour at the harbour entrance for an unsuspecting octopus to come into his crosshairs. Very enterprising.

Sunday morning we move on to our final island for the first half of this seasons sailing, the Island of Aegina where Hapatoni will be lifted, have her bum cleaned and await our return in September. We have also copped out, the temperatures have got so high that we have booked an air-conditioned hotel in Egina Town for the last three days before we fly home on Thursday … can’t wait to get a good nights sleep.