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Month: April 2017

Ayios Nikolaos – 19th to 28th April 2017

Ayios Nikolaos – 19th to 28th April 2017

Following a busy Easter weekend and taking advantage of our very sensible evening with minimal  alcohol consumption, we finally started running again. We (i.e. Mark) decided on a gradual build-up, so our first run was 3 miles to a lovely sandy beach in the next bay. Hudson was happy as no more fireworks and he runs well on the lead now – he has to stay on the lead because there are food droppings everywhere, and we all know Hudson!!001 - 2017 - Crete - 18

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001 - 2017 - Crete - 19Following our energetic start, today is shopping day as we have hired a car. Elounda is our first stop, about 8 kilometres away. Elounda began life as a fishing village and still clings to some remnants of this past, but with its fine sandy beaches, tourism with the usual tavernas and bars, is obviously now the main preoccupation. It is also a major anchorage for those boats with no marina to go to, wanting to shelter from any nasty winds which can be quite prevalent in this area, especially the dreaded Meltemi in July and August. It is also home to the best chandler (come DIY, paint shop, and dog food store) in the area, the primary reason for our trek to this part of the coastline – I think Mark was getting withdrawal symptoms, not having bought anything for the boat in the last week!!

And finally off to A&B, our local supermarket for the final food and water supplies. As always, I am not sure I will find a home for all the new stuff on our very full Hapatoni, but as usual space magically appears and everything eventually stows away somewhere – the real trick is remembering where you put it.

In the afternoon, we helped Spirit 3 and Shiraz move from their winter home on pontoon C. The gap between the facing rows of bows is a ridiculous 10 metres, so getting in and out of this alleyway lined with pointy anchors is precarious and painfully slow…. and impossible if there is any sort of wind, which fortunately there was not a lot off at the time. They moved to the outside fuel pontoon to wait for their window to leave, they are doing an over-night to Astipalea which is about 14 hours and don’t want to arrive in the dark. The wind has also started to misbehave, coming from the north rather than the south where it was predicted to be from. There are a few nerves as this is the first outing of the season and the weather is not being entirely cooperative but at 5pm all seems as good as it is going to get, so with goodbyes and hugs, Shiraz and Spirit 3 head off.

The three of us then go in search of a cafe with good internet and a cold beer before we retire for supper on the boat.

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The focus now is to complete preparations on the boat and hopefully find time to do a bit of sight seeing, we want to visit Santorini (or as the Greeks call it Thira) for a day or two and do an afternoon trip to Spinalonga the old leper colony island about an hour away. Our tasks are slowly ticked off …  well I say ours, it is like the royal “we”, unfortunately for Mark the majority are on his to do list. On Wednesday, I washed all the boat mats, however I stupidly left them to dry on the pontoon, and it was windy …. so two of the four mats got a permanent wash and a nice new home 5 metres down. I was so annoyed at myself as you can not get these non-slip mats here.

The rest of the week passed in a busy blur, with everything going to schedule, planning our departure for after the weekend, on the Tuesday or Wednesday. But it was not to be, we have obviously not spent enough money on the boat this winter, as we found a small leak around the stuffing box – (for non-boatys – this is the seal around the propshaft that stops you from sinking). We had originally planned to do a quick lift to power wash off the winters growth of plant life on Hapatoni’s bottom, costing  360 Euros, but  now would have to do an extended stay on shore costing 680 Euros plus parts and labour, etc, etc …. that is why they say when you own a boat, its like filling a very big bucket full of cash and constantly chucking it over the side into the water.4

Luckily the part came quickly from Athens, but the challenge was to get the local engineer to commit to a time and day to fix it as he works on “Greek time”. So we sat on the hard on Wednesday waiting for him to arrive, originally expected at 9am, which then moved to between 1 and 2pm which then moved to between 5 and 6pm …. or maybe tomorrow. We could not get a time out of him, he just shrugged his shoulders, and belligerently says he is doing us a favour, not a good response to Mark who by now was fuming and decided to do the job himself…. and remarkably didn’t tell the engineer his thoughts of him **@!*@??.  I am very impressed with my husband, how he puts his hand to all tasks. This was not an easy job as the space he has to work in was tiny.3

So with the change in plans, we had to cancel our sight seeing trips. We finished Wednesday night with a lovely meal in Basilico, our favourite Italian restaurant on the beach overlooking the marina. We invited Ralph the Belgium to join us and a pleasant and chatty evening was had by all with fantastic food. Thursday began with a long walk around Ayios Nikolaos in search of a hardware store that stocked a specific tool needed to remove the stuffing box. Finally an hour and a half and quite a few miles later, the tool was found. So, with the stuffing box replaced, well done Mark (or so we thought at the time), we decided to have a Gyros platter for our final night in Ayios Nikaloas, a quiet night in preparation for our big sail tomorrow evening.

We were lifted back into the water about mid-day and after checking we had no leaks … YEEHAH… we moored up on the petrol pontoon for the afternoon ready to set sail at 5pm, following in the footsteps of Spirit III and Shiraz, 90 miles north to Astipalea.  We left on time, pleased to have finally completed the boat preparation and be on our way for 2017. We had selected a calm night; the sea was a pancake and the wind minimal, although Mark did try a few times to get the sails up, but just not enough wind.2The evening went well until we noticed an uncomfortable vibration coming from the prop shaft – so maybe not as successful a stuffing box replacement as we thought. I took the first night shift at 10.30pm till 2pm, with Mark taking over until 6am, I think he got the worst end of the deal as his shift was cold and very damp. We arrived at Astipalea at 8.30am to find we were the only visiting yacht, secured ourselves and then had a few hours shut eye, as night sails do make you weary. Exploration of Astipalea to follow.1

Easter Weekend in Ayios Nikolaos – 14th to 18th April 2017

Easter Weekend in Ayios Nikolaos – 14th to 18th April 2017

Good Friday was a blur of activity, unpacking, walking Hudson, food shopping before the shops closed for Easter and finally catching up with our old friends Tina and Tim on Shiraz and Alice from Spirit 3. It is three years now since the five of us first met on ARC Portugal and have followed each other like itinerant gypsies, from the UK and across the length of the Med. Alice has to find crew each year or face the prospect of solo sailing, so this year she has recruited Robin for the whole summer. She found him on the Cruising Association web site, he has a lot of experience sailing in English waters and racing smaller yachts off the coast of Ireland. He is a little reserved in company, but then the five of us can be a little loud when we get together, I have a feeling that he’ll settle in ok though.

So the first night had to be Gyros night, how else would you celebrate your return to Greece. The six of us were joined by Ralph from Belgium who annoyingly speaks four languages perfectly and sold up his stainless steel brokerage a few years ago to join the rest of us gypsies wandering the shores of the Med and beyond. He is on his own for the moment, as his wife has returned to Belgium to become a Grandmother for the second time – although he does seem to know everyone and keeps appearing, beer in hand, on different neighbouring boats.

Unfortunately the fireworks started this evening frightening the hell out of Hudson, the poor thing was shaking so much I had to cuddle him tightly to make him stop. Then he just sat at my feet, with an uneaten bone between his paws – anyone who knows Hudson will realise the scale of the fear required for him to ignore food.001 - 2017 - Crete - 06Easter is the most important holiday in the Greek Orthodox Church, it is not commercialised by chocolate eggs like us, but rather a traditional festival focused around the church, families, lamb on the spit and red dyed hard boiled eggs (I believe you knock your egg against another and the one which does not crack gets all the luck for the forthcoming year).EASTER EGGThe saltwater lake in Agios Nikolaos is fed by a short channel from the sea and is framed by red brick cliffs on two sides, and situated in the centre of the town. It is the focus for a lot of the towns activities, including some spectacular cliff diving during the summer.

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On the Saturday evening (15th April), following the evening Easter service at church, the priest leads the congregation to the lake from the nearby church at around 11:30pm and the service of the Resurrection is held on a special platform. At midnight the chant “Christos Anesti” (Christ is Risen) is heard, and then the night explodes into light as all thoughts of health and safety are ignored and thousands of fireworks are let off. Unbelievably, and to the delight of the crowd, dynamite is thrown into the lake and huge bangers explode in amongst the packed onlookers. At the same time an effigy of Judas, hanging on a raft in the middle of the lake, is set aflame with a flaming arrow from the cliff top – very dramatic.It is a spectacle worth seeing, although Hudson has been hiding below decks all weekend with residual fireworks going off at all times of the day and night.

anas0Easter Sunday was a day for boat tasks, with Mark replacing all the running rigging, the foresail is in place and the replacement washboard (that’s a door to you non-boaty types) Mark made has been resurrected after a staining cock-up. He once more sits lovingly stroking his handiwork, I have to say the woodwork is excellent but I do worry about him sometimes.

The evening concluded with the marina’s annual Easter BBQ of traditional lamb on the spit organised by the live-aboards. We joined the party at 5pm to find the two spit roasts still cooking and much to Marks disgust, I volunteered to take a shift turning one of the spits, so he felt honour bound to volunteer to turn the other – not a job you would want full-time, well Hudson would, but with a glass of wine or two…. the time passed quickly. It was a pleasant evening although the lamb was a bit disappointing, skinny little suckers, but tasty; and all the side dishes (so many) were delicious.001 - 2017 - Crete - 04Easter Monday continued in the same vain, with boat tasks filling the day. Again we had another lovely sunny day at about 23 degrees. I found a lovely new walk for Hudson, along the coast away from the town, so no food scraps on the floor to distract him and he can come off the lead for a while and finish with a run on the lovely sandy beach.

Our friends on Shiraz and Spirit 3 have completed their final preparations and are leaving to sail the 90 miles north to Astipalaia late on Tuesday afternoon, it will take them about 18 hours. All are a little nervous as the first journey of the new season is an overnight sail. We met up for a farewell supper at the “Coloured Chairs” restaurant (bet you can’t guess why it’s called that), a very popular restaurant for locals by the lake, being very sensible (for a change), we planned an early supper, so the sailors could get a good nights sleep. Hudson stayed home as there were still some random fireworks going off. The food portions here are large, Mark and I had the moussaka with a Greek salad as it was highly recommended and it was one of the best I have ever had, although Mark did have food envy fancying Alice and Tim’s Chicken a la crème – I think we will be back at the weekend for Mark to try it. The restaurant then brings you a free desert platter, not than you need it, with chocolate brownies, panna cotta and the local Greek baklava for each person, all delicious.  I always order a 500ml of home made red wine here as it is so much cheaper than by the glass, only 4 euros, same price as most bars charge for a large beer. Mark and I do question how this restaurant makes it all pay as their prices are very good. We were all well behaved and headed back to our respective yachts for an early night.001 - 2017 - Crete - 03 - Copy

The 2017 Sailing Season Begins in Crete

The 2017 Sailing Season Begins in Crete

The Journey to Crete 13th & 14th April 2017

001 - 2017 - Crete - 00With the first days of spring knocking at our door in Hamble, we finally left for the sunny (hopefully) island of Crete, to begin our fourth season in the Mediterranean.

During the winter Mark continued to buy “stuff” for the boat, which included the replacement of all the running rigging and in so doing, propping up the Greek economy and Aegean Airlines by transporting it all as hold luggage. I also made a small contribution to buying “stuff” of a more domestic nature, things you can’t get in the Greek supermarkets such as English tea bags, chorizo (I will need to find a good hiding place as Mark is prone to snaffle it when my back is turned) and some toiletries.

We visited the boat twice during the winter, in January and March, to catch up with friends and deposit the three 23 kilo bags of luggage which accompanied each trip. Enough you would have thought to ensure a lighter trip at the start of our 2017 season, but no ….. when we finally set off on the 13th April, we still had once more, the mandatory three 23 kilo bags as well as a dog cage and Hudson. We certainly never travel light.

Our trip to Ayios Nikolaos began with a 3.5 hour flight to Athens. It is always easier on the way out to Greece as Hudson comes into Terminal 2 at Heathrow with us, so minimising his separation. Although, as the Aegean Airline cargo handlers disappear into the bowels of the terminal towing a nervous Hudson and cage behind them, I am sure he can tell something is not quite right. The price for his transport out is a coronary calming 65 euros which contrasts with an eye watering 700 Euros on the return, thanks to UK immigration rules.

At the luggage reclaim in Athens we awaited Hudson’s arrival and as always you could hear him before you saw him. He was barking loudly with anticipation and desperate to escape his travel cage, but we have to leave him behind bars until we get outside to ensure we have no embarrassing accidents inside the airport – so he barks with machine gun intensity all the way through the airport. At least everyone moves out of my way, including airport security.

With Hudson sorted and calm, we headed off to the port for phase 2 of our travels, the overnight ferry to Crete. As it was Easter weekend the ferry was full with Greeks heading of for a long weekend of religion and party – they certainly know how to do both. One advantage of having Hudson is that they send dogs onto the ship via a different route, so we jumped the queues and headed in the back door following the yellow line through the maze of the ship, eventually finding reception. With our bags dropped in our “petite” cabin, definitely functional rather than luxurious, we headed for the top deck (the only dog friendly area) to find a seat out of the wind where we could spend a few hours outside the cabin with Hudson. It seems every other dog owner and smoker had the same idea and there were a lot of both. Our fellow travellers who hadn’t booked cabins were claiming every square inch of floor space and seating for the coming night, setting up sleeping bags and erecting camp beds to stake their claim. We set sail at 9pm and retired to our cabin shortly after, ready to sleep away the 9 hour journey. However the only one who slept well that night was Hudson, cuddled up at my feet. The beds were tiny and not the most comfortable, so with weary eyes, we arrived in Crete at 6.30am, ready to hop into our hire car and drive to Hapatoni in Ayios Nikolaos marina. The journey concluded with our arrival at the boat at 9am, both desperate for a cup of tea/coffee and a good sleep.

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