We 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.The 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.Tuesday 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.As 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.It 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.We 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.