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Month: September 2016

Ayios Nikolaos (Week 1) – 31st August to 6th Sept 2016

Ayios Nikolaos (Week 1) – 31st August to 6th Sept 2016

THE FINAL STOP – Week 1 

Arrival day was a quiet affair, with all of us spending the afternoon catching up on our sleep and relaxing. Tim didn’t get any sleep the night before and even with our few stolen hours we were still exhausted. In the evening Mark and I explored the immediate area, walking Hudson around the town and then met up with Tim and Tina for a Pizza and drink, followed by a phone call home and bed.1The first week has passed quickly, with all of us trying to adjust to a new routine, Hapatoni and Shiraz are settled in their berths facing each other on either side of the pontoon for the next 7 months. When we surface in the mornings it’s a bit like an episode of “The Waltons” (if you remember that tv program) with “good morning Tina”, “ good morning Mark”, “good morning Debera”, “good morning Tim” echoing across the marina – just need John-boy on the boat next door to complete the story.

Winterizing Hapatoni has been hindered a bit by a very strong wind called the Meltemi which blows from the north up to a force 8 and is a feature of this part of Greece during July and August.  The boat is absolutely safe but it can be a little uncomfortable as the winds are right on the beam ….. we are told the Meltemi stops in September, so not much longer to go. Some of the boat tasks, like sails being washed and removed have had to be put on hold because of this. Last Friday had the strongest winds reaching up to 38 knots, but most of the time it has been a steady 25-30 knots. On the plus side though, with these winds the temperature has dropped to just under 30 degrees, making sleeping at night much easier. I was starting to wonder if Crete is just a windy place, It is only with the arrival of a calm day today that I am reassured this is not the case.

We have also secured the boat with multiple steel  springs attached to our mooring lines, as it seems in the winter here, the marina can suffer from a very strong swell, which sneaks through the outer wall vent holes and turns all the boats into bucking broncos, so much so that every boat wintering here has two or even three sets of these springs. Fortunately this doesn’t happen every year and if it does is only once or twice.2The marina in Ayios Nikolaos is a modern, well managed and maintained marina, with everything you need close at hand. All the staff are friendly and really helpful, we learned that they all have a disability of some sort, as the marina is publicly owned and there is a ban on hiring workers for public facilities in Greece …. unless they have a disability. One of the marinara’s had a particularly bad motor bike accident with some vicious scars on the back of his head to prove it.

We are on pontoon B with Shiraz, and Alice on Spirit 3 and a few other friends on pontoon C. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants just outside the marina and we are within 10 minutes of the main centre with “the Lake” and harbour area, close but not too close as the Lake is the main touristy area for bars and restaurants. The main shopping is set around two streets with their mid-section being the top of the hill, and their ends being either side at the bottom …. so plenty of exercise for us and Hudson on our evening strolls to watch the natives at play. Another bonus is just outside the marina, a sandy beach, the perfect spot for us to sunbath and cool off with a swim.3Last Thursday the marina hosted a “welcome” BBQ for all the marina guests in there excellently appointed, covered BBQ area. The Greek “delicacies” of kebabs, chips and Greek salad were served up, all washed down with complimentary beer and/or wine. The management and staff of the marina attended as did the mayor,  thank-you speeches were made and everyone had a chance to meet or renew old acquaintances, a lot of the boats wintering here seem to know each other as they have been coming here for years.4With having a windy week, we have been poor at our running, but making up for it with plenty of dog walks, as it is nice to get off the boat and away from the wind. Tina has introduced Friday nights as Gyros night instead of the traditional English Fish and Chips, and here they do standard size and large, so Mark and Tim were spoilt. Mark and I have found our customary bar for cards and a beer at 6pm following Hudson’s evening walk, it is right next to the beach and sea, with stunning views out to the mountains. I have discovered they do a good Mojito, but not as good as those in Monemvasia.  5Last night being Monday 5th, was our seventh Wedding Anniversary, Mark and I went out for dinner, we fancied something different and discovered a fusion French Indian restaurant, (well that’s what they advertised). Excited about what the fusion would bring we ventured into the unknown, unfortunately the fusion was a disappointment, the chef was not even Indian, but from Kenya with a half Indian mother. We had a few starters, which were average, followed by Dorado fish in a Mai Mai sauce for Mark, which overpowered the fish flavour and I had a spicy lamb curry, which was nice. So the food was “ok”, but we hoped for more, but never mind we still had a lovely evening.  6Tuesday 6th was the first really calm day so our first task was to wash and pack away the sails, a heavy job but now its all done, a major job off Mark’s task list. I have been food shopping and cooking as this evening we are having another BBQ, with a game or two of boules to celebrate the return of Alice and her friend on Spirit 3 back after a week in England at her brothers wedding. It will just be the eight of us, the usual crowd – Tina, Tim, Alice and her friend, two Swedish friends of Tina’s and us. With all the work now done, I am now off to the beach for a swim.

Week 2 to follow ….

The Sail to Crete 29th & 30th August 2016

The Sail to Crete 29th & 30th August 2016

Our decision where to land on Crete has changed a few times over the last few days, starting with option one, a 15 hour trip from Monemvasia to Khania, the shortest distance. Option 2 was to go further east to Iraklion, but finally after making good time during the passage; we decided to go all the way to our winter marina, Ayios Nikolaos, a 26 hour trip.

So at 11am with Shiraz following and the sun shinning (isn’t it always), we set off with anticipation and excitement on our final leg of the summer, we were ready to move on and keen to reach our final destination.
62 - 2016 Aug - To Crete- 05aHapatoni on-route

As soon as we left the protection of Monemvasia harbour and cleared the Rock, the wind blew 15-18 knots so up went the sails and for the first few hours and we made the respectable speed off 7 knots. Predictably, the wind died mid afternoon forcing us to motor sail (you should call it Med-sailing really) the remainder of the daylight hours. Our evening meal of chicken curry was perfect even if I say so myself, just what the doctor ordered.62 - 2016 Aug - To Crete- 02

Our friends Tim and Tina on Shiraz

The big disaster came just before sunset, the fishing line screeched as the line tore off the reel, dinner for the next few days was itching to be pulled in and landed. We stopped Hapatoni and Mark rose to the challenge, reeling in his catch, which to our delight we saw was a yellow fined tuna. It was next to the boat, all I had to do was scoop it up with the net and dinner was secured. But disaster struck and I did not scoop low enough under the tuna, so instead of dinner I caught the hook in the net, dislodged it from the mouth of the fish and set it free. The fish was happy, but to say Mark was upset and disappointed was an understatement, not that I blame him. He did rant on for quite a time though!!!62 - 2016 Aug - To Crete- 03Another beautiful Sunset captured by Mark

The night shift was very damp with condensation and surprisingly, a little chilly too. We had to dig out our waterproof trousers and a fleece from the bottom of the cupboard; we hadn’t thought that we would need those again till we were back in the UK that will teach us. Mark took most of the early night shift as we were able to sail again and a couple of reefs were inserted as the wind increased, Mark was enjoying his final sight of the white flappy things. However, the seas were bumpy, making sleeping a challenge, but as the sun rose on Tuesday 29th, we could see Crete our final stop. We had a moment of panic as we approached the marina as they said they were full, but luck was on our side, and a space was found.