Archive | June, 2016

There’s Something About Port Atheni

28 Jun


I’m of the opinion that there is a magnet on the seabed of Port Atheni. It’s not just that we keep coming back here, although that’s true enough. We’ve spent many happy days tied the shore in Seren Mor, just the two of us and with friends. Now we’re back again but this time in Desert Dream along with several other boats in quiet companionship.

No, the magnet seems to be for anything on the boat it can suck to the bottom of the water. And it stays deep even quite close to shore, deep enough for it to be an issue when something goes over the side. Last time it was a towel. A comedy of errors ensued:

“Neil is a creature of habit and likes to do things in a certain order (OCD). He likes to go for a swim before his morning cup of tea then pass me his things to hang up. Well, it didn’t work out so well today. I’d hung up the swim shorts and sort of threw the towel over the guard rail ready to peg out. Except I sort of misjudged it and sort of threw it right over. We both sort of watched it sink slowly to the bottom.

Clearly visible on the seabed, it was about ten meters below us and totally out of reach of the boathook even with Neil trying to dive down in the water. Brilliant idea – let’s try to hook it with the dinghy anchor. There should be enough rope attached. So with Neil in the water and me wrapping the rope around the winch to be sure I didn’t let go I braced myself and chucked the small anchor well clear of the boat. I then watched it sink rapidly to the seabed as the rope dangled uselessly from the winch.
Conversation: Me “You didn’t tie that on very well!”
Neil “Didn’t you check it was attached before you threw it?”
Me “It looked attached or I wouldn’t have thrown it!”

So now we have a towel and a dinghy anchor out of reach. Another idea – if we threw in the kedge anchor maybe Neil would be able to go down the chain and reach the bottom with the boathook. It took a few attempts but he managed to reach the towel. The dinghy anchor, however, did what anchors are supposed to do and dug itself in. Many more attempts later using both the boathook and the fishing net he’d managed to drag it closer to the kedge but was having no success at hooking it.

I was sincerely questioning whether all this was worth it but Neil doesn’t like to give up on anything (OCD). With the anchors now close together he decided to go down the chain and try to reach the bottom with his bare hands. He got it on his first attempt.“


This time it was the rose end of the bathing shower. We’d been for a swim, you see, in the deep and salty water, cold enough to cool the blood but not so much to make you squeal (well, me – Neil, being all butch, just jumps in, of course). Like most AWB’s, Desi has a shower head at the back to rinse off the salt. You press a button and out comes fresh water until you release it. Except nothing.
I cautiously fiddled with the temperature control lever, not wanting to be deluged by water still hot from the engine running. I paddled into the saloon dripping as I went to check the power to the water pump was switched on. It was. Hmm. Thinking that maybe there was an air lock, I ran the water a bit in the galley. No problem there.


Back to the shower head and more fruitess button pressing. Nothing for it, it had to be blocked. Neil was busy on the bow and, feeling all competent, modern woman, I decided not to call him and chose to investigate myself. Off came the the metal rose head with a few simple turns and a bit of pointless blowing into it followed. It was as I went to replace it that the magnet took over. It disappeared with a rather sickening plop and Competent Modern Woman disappeared with it.

The yell for Neil was all shamefaced and contrite while his response was understandably annoyed and disbelieving (he hid it well, though, as you can imagine). Being the hero that he is, he dug out snorkel and mask and attempted to search the bottom, most of each lungful of air being used up getting down. We both saw the glint at the same instant and thankfully he returned with the wandering attachment. Phew!
But still the shower wasn’t working. Sucking on the hose and investing the the other end of the hose in the stern cabin produced not a dribble. Neil wiggled the temperature control. Fresh water sprang forth!

Turns out that switch is also an on/off one. How had I forgotten that? for the full page from 2011


And Relax

26 Jun

It was the chandlers that took us to Nidri next. Along with the adjoining Vlicho Bay, Nidri is popular with live-aboards, and we’ve certainly had some good times there, but it’s not a favourite stop of ours. We managed to get onto a pontoon, one that looked in a lot better condition than the last time we were here and the new owners had installed lazy lines (ropes fixed to the seabed that can be attached to the bow of a boat instead of using your own anchor).
It’s not a quiet spot, though. Attracting land-based holiday makers as well as the boating crowd, it has a lot to offer. Restaurants and bars line the water front, with the parallel back street containing a plentiful assortment of supermarkets, bakeries, souvenir shops and giros takeaways. Nestled among these is still the occasional hardware shop and a decent chandlers, all making it a good place to re-provision. We got a few things we hadn’t found in Levkas town and got a few more jobs done, making the stop worthwhile one and busy again.
People on holiday don’t tend to be at their quietest, though, and coupled with the party boats that like to have music blaring to attract the punters, doesn’t make for the most peaceful of nights. It is, however, usually well protected from most winds but an uncomfortable swell can get in. You’ve guessed it – in it came.
Thankfully, our sea legs had returned quickly, the lazy lines seemed up to the job and we didn’t have to worry about anybody’s anchor dragging. We slept like the proverbial logs.
All the same we were glad to be moving on again. The plan to spend a few nights at anchor in a quiet bay next was scuppered by the weather forecast, though.


Watching the rain approach

Thunderstorms were on the way. With this in mind, we chose instead to head the short distance to Sivota on the same island. This can be just as noisy, it’s true, and a flotilla company has made it it’s base but we have always been fond of the smaller scale resort. Picking the weekend with the flotilla crews change over could have been a mistake but wasn’t a problem as it turned out. At least not yet! We found a place in our “usual” spot and had lunch at a favourite cafe. The changes weren’t at first immediately apparent but then we realised things seem to have been smartened up a bit, gone a bit more up market, perhaps.
The rain and thunder rolled in as predicted but we almost welcomed them as the temperature and humidity dropped and it was all over by a surprisingly chilly night fall. We really must get some bedding sorted out!

Nervous Night

24 Jun


All calm and still at sunset. Who’d have thought?

It was lovely to be at anchor yesterday. The bay was relatively quiet, probably off the flotilla routes, and most of the crews seemed to be owners. This makes them, like us, more protective of the boat which can have it. s plus points and negatives. I remarked on the skipper who’d put 60 meters of chain out in my last post, feeling this was perhaps a bit overcautious, shall we say. Now we know he may have had a point.
Neil had obliged him by putting out more chain on Desi even though this brought us closer to him and no real wind had been forecast. But the bay wasn’t crowded and we do like to be a bit generous with the chain ourselves if possible. When a gust came whipping down the hillside just as we were getting ready for bed we had reason to be grateful.
At first the gusts were well spaced and just had us checking we were holding as we stretched out. We always make a point of digging the anchor well in but we’d never used this one before and it seemed like quite a baby compared to the one on Seren Mor. Satisfied, we went to bed.
We never got to sleep, though. It wasn’t long before the wind had all the boats spinning around in every direction in a constantly changing dance. We all seemed well spaced, however and everybody seemed to be holding. Everything seemed to peak at around 4am and we were both sitting watch in the cockpit, sleep being impossible. We’d managed to get the bimini in earlier and put another line on the dinghy, things that used to be part of our routine but had been neglected in all the other concerns of the day. So there was little more we could do but watch.
At first we weren’t sure. Was it just how we were all swinging every which way or was the boat with 60 meters out further away from us than before? Should we try to tell him and was that even possible above the noise? We needn’t have worried; they were on to it. We stood by ready to start our own engine if they got into difficulties as they raised the anchor and manoeuvred in the awkward conditions but they chose a spot further away and dropped it again very professionally.
By about 5:30 we were more confident and snatched a bit of sleep although Neil did keep checking regularly. Perhaps understandably, we weren’t too keen to linger the next morning and convinced ourselves the wind was less. We escaped without incident and even managed a Man Overboard drill for Neil’s hat as we left. All the same, we’re hoping for a quiet night tonight.

Launch Day

23 Jun


23rd June 2016

A significant date for the UK with the Brexit referendum taking place today (we voted a couple of weeks ago by post) but special for us for a completely different reason. Desert Dream was launched today.
This is always an anxiety inducing process and especially so this time. Not only were we in an unfamiliar boatyard but we’re still very much getting to know the boat and this was the first time for everything: the first time the engine was started properly, the first time using a different make of chart plotter, the first time dropping the anchor and so on and so forth. Even raising the bathing platform took time to work out.
We now know a little more about Desi, though. Being a smaller boat than we’re used to, we found her much more sensitive to steer, like a skittish horse (not that I know anytime about horses, you understand). We know we need to put some markers on the anchor chain to give us a better idea how much we’re putting out. We know to put the propeller of the fancy electric outboard on to the dinghy before assembling it. We know the comfort of the cockpit needs some serious attention. And that’s before we even get to the sails.


Some things remain the same, however: that sense of the boat coming alive as she gets into deep water, the blessed relief from the heat as she moves, the sheer thrill of being back on board, the delights of a marine toilet, banging your head on the spray hood, the guy with 60 meters of chain out in 6 meters of water, bobbing around at anchor as the afternoon breeze picks up, hoping that it doesn’t pick up anymore and checking the forecast for updates more often than is probably reasonable.
We’ll get there, where ever there is.

Fettling and Provisioning (Days 2 and 3)

23 Jun


Fettle: to prepare or arrange (a thing, oneself, etc), especially to put a finishing touch to.
Provision: the action of providing or supplying something for use; to supply with food, drink, or equipment, especially for a journey.

With temperatures in the mid thirties in the beautiful Ionian Islands of Greece, you wouldn’t normally choose to spend the day below deck on a sailing boat on dry land or traipsing round supermarkets and hardware shops. The owners of the apartment we are staying in can’t seem to get their heads around it at all. But time is ticking away so quickly.
The first day had felt very chaotic and almost destructive, taking everything out of lockers and cunningly devised storage holes, often resulting in piles of “stuff” making moving about difficult and frustrating. The following days, on the other hand were more about putting it all back together in some sort of order and getting rid of anything obviously superfluous. This is all easier said than done, mind, and hot, very sweaty work.
One thing we’ve decided to jettison is the huge anchor blocking the stern cabin. It’s a good anchor, never been used, and must be worth a bit even if only as scrap metal so it’s understandable why the previous owners kept it. But it’s over-sized for the boat and too heavy for the electric windless on the bow. We can’t use it so the owner of the boatyard has kindly agreed to let us leave it there. He’s not daft. It did take a fair bit of manoeuvering and ingenuity to get it to the ground, though.


Hours have also been spent in a determined effort to get some of the basic household equipment we needed. Plastic things like a washing-up bowl, bin, Tupperware-type boxes and so on, were relatively easy to find if at a much higher price than we’re used to. We had no trouble buying a decent frying pan but saucepans all seemed to be tiny or catering sized. Kitchen scissors were surprisingly difficult to find but we dropped on a little shop whose owner produced exactly what we were looking for and then directed us around the corner to another gem where we got mugs and glasses as well as an elusive tin opener.
The search for a slow cooker has been totally unsuccessful, though. Shops in which I would have thought it was a dead cert to buy one just had blank looks. It seemed like I was asking for something really weird and exotic. This means I’m going to have to rethink my whole onboard cooking strategy but I daresay I’ll cope. What’s a bit more sweat?
Other tasks included a visit to a phone shop to get internet access organised and sorting out the DEKPA, the documentation and tax demanded for sailing in Greece. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve got used to the slow and awkward way everything in Abu Dhabi works but these jobs seemed remarkably painless this time around.
Not everything has been straightforward, though. Desi still doesn’t have her name and number emblazoned for all (and the Port Police) to see. The the carefully chosen adhesive lettering we’d bought in the UK off the internet turned out to be completely useless, being undetachable from its backing paper. A frantic dash back into Levkas to order some new lettering before early closing was achieved with minutes to spare but we’d have to make do with Times New Roman. It’s supposed to be ready at 10am on launch day so cutting it a bit fine. Fingers crossed.

Getting Organised (Day 1)

20 Jun

It has to be said, our journey to Greece didn’t go quite as planned. It started with the take-off being aborted on the runway and went downhill from there, really. A change of plane and a three hour delay were nothing compared to crashing the luggage trolley into a bus. Then there were tears when I thought I’d left my tablet in Manchester and tantrums when it seemed like I hadn’t packed any adaptors along with not being able to find the hire car, the resort or the apartment. Quite frankly we just wanted the day to end.


This morning dawned hot and overcast but pleasant enough and we were treated to a fabulous traditional Greek breakfast. Things were definitely looking up. Miraculously we found the boat yard at our first attempt and Desi (yes, she’s already been nicknamed) was waiting for us. Newly rigged and antifouled she looked a treat from the outside if a little grubby, while on board was something of an adventure. This was not just because of the precarious ascent from ground to cockpit via an 8 foot ladder, more that we really weren’t sure what we would actually find on board. The previous owners had been to remove their belongings since we last saw her and we were rather uncertain what they would have left behind. Plates and crockery – good, a huge, fake Rocna anchor in the stern cabin – not so helpful, wet weather gear including size 9 boots – of doubtful use (did they really mean to leave these?) Eventually we found masses of ropes under the forecabin berth which seemed a rather strange place to store them.


Time to make some lists. What had we got and what did we need to buy before launch date? Unfortunately this is where our plans faltered again. It turns out that today is a very important religious day in this area and, you’ve guessed it, the shops are shut.
Ah well, we got most of the stuff we brought with us unpacked and some sort of order seems to be emerging from the chaos. Time for some R and R.


16 Jun


Neil’s exit from Abu Dhabi was achieved in end with a day to spare. Distracted only by hospital visits, the odd birthday and occasional episodes of Game of Thrones, packing and it’s required shopping is well underway. It feels like everything is starting to come together but it’s not an easy process, though.
Equipping a boat long distance is something of a challenge, particularly when limited by the weight restrictions of a budget airline. We’ve had to buy extra capacity to even begin to make it possible. There’s no way, however, that all the “stuff” we took off our old boat is going to make it on to Desert Dream. So what to take?
Really we’ve had to turn that question around and think in terms of what we’ll be able to buy in Levkas. We’re not talking major metropolis here. Seren Mor was fitted out in the UK mostly, with bits and pieces added throughout her journey around Europe. We’ll have to find everything in Greece this time around and that would have been tricky even before the ravages of austerity.
As well as the weight limit, everything we take has to fit into three large holdalls that are going to be thrown around by baggage handlers. So: nothing heavy, nothing bulky, nothing breakable. Obviously that rules out the slow cooker. Is this something we’re going to be able to get there? This is a vital piece of kit if you don’t want to live on salads and dips. Cooking down in the galley during a Greek summer, with no air con don’t forget, is no picnic. Realistically the oven is out and there’s no grill. It’s surprising what you can cook on just a couple of gas burners but being able to prepare a meal in the cockpit and just leave it to stew in a crock pot that isn’t belting out loads of extra heat makes the cook’s job a whole lot more pleasant.
Neil, of course, isn’t fretting about things like this. He’s packing oil filters and spanners. You know, the boring stuff. I’m thinking wine bottle stoppers and wondering if I can fit a feather pillow in.
Clothes can be pretty much whittled down to swimwear, t-shirts and shorts, shoes down to flip flops or crocs. Well, I’ll need sandals for the evening and a more substantial pair for walks if the the heat permits. Toiletries should be OK to buy once there. Except, that is, for my favourite brands. Oh and they only ever seem to have yucky roll on deodorant.
One thing I’ve decided to leave behind is my hair dryer and, drum roll, my hair straighteners. Yes, you heard right. I’m going au natural. Gulp.