Archive | July, 2016

Day Break on the Levkas Canal

29 Jul

Making our way along the Levkas Canal to catch the first opening of the bridge we also caught the sun rise.

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The pre dawn light at the entrance

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The fishermen were already out and about

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But the dredgers had yet to get started

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And the tug boats waited in the early morning light

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As did the seagulls, sitting on the wall at the marina entrance.

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And the old fortifications continue their long watch

Water Maker

28 Jul

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After what turned out to be a better than expected stay in Levkas we were back in Sivota. Again. Now, we both quite like the place. One of our favourite restaurants is there as well as a family run taverna, popular with live-aboards, that has become in effect our local watering hole. However, we’d spent longer there than we’d normally choose as the local engineer has been trying to sort out our non functioning water maker.

It was the engineer who had summoned us this time as the parts he’d ordered had come in. He duly arrived on Friday afternoon with his new apprentice in tow, identified all the necessary piping, surmised that the previous owner had fitted it himself in a rather unorthodox fashion and opened his box of parts. You’ve guessed it, wrong parts. Could we hang about until Monday?

We hung about, the new pump was fitted, fresh(ish) water came out of the tap and fresher water went into the tank. That’s where the unorthodox fitting bit is not so good. The sea water only goes through the final filter after the tap. Neil, with a stronger stomach than me, has happily drunk the tap water, so far with no ill effects but we’ve both decided to stick with the bottled.

So this begs the question ”Is it worth it?”
Well, that really remains to be seen but it is an awful lot of faff. It will have to be run every couple of days at least or the filters will need changing and the whole point for us was that we’d be able to stay longer at anchor. Do we want to do that?

Having said that we’ve already noticed that it has taken some of the pressure off minimising our water usage. It’s quite liberating not having to worry about how much we’re using when we shower, for instance. Each time Neil sets the pump running (I leave all that to him) the time it takes is reduced. It’s early days yet so we’ll see.

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T’Internet

23 Jul

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I confess. The internet is now something I would struggle to live without. True, it is the most reliable way to get an up to date weather forecast which is essential as is being able to pay bills etc. But let’s face it, access to the web is so much more than that. I get to see my lovely nephew’s prom photos and catch up with the news in Abu Dhabi, for example, things that would be almost impossible without it. And, of course, I post this blog.

I don’t consider it a luxury. It’s up there with being able to shower – you could live without it but really wouldn’t want to and you’d be pretty anti-social. So it was one of our priorities when we moved on board. Somehow, though, it is never easy and always ends up costing more than you expect.

You’ve probably had a moan about internet providers and we’ve certainly had our issues in both the UK and UAE but we’ve sworn never to have a contract in Greece ever again. So we knew what we wanted, a MiFi on pay-as-you-go. First problem: no MiFi in one of the few specialist provider shops in the Ionian. We settle for a dongle that has to be plugged into a PC but we can cope with that and, hey presto, trouble free internet for a month.

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Now it’s time to renew which should be possible on line except our tablet is incompatible with the app. No problem, we have the PC. Neil types in the number on the log in page and presses submit. A temporary password will be sent to the phone, apparently, except we’re not on a phone we’re on a PC and going around in circles. We ask advice at a small phone shop in Mitika where an incredibly helpful owner rings the provider up himself. All we have to do is buy a ticket at a nearby kiosk, he’s told.

Our Greek is pretty much limited to please and thank you and the kiosk owner doesn’t have a word of English but his pal is passing who he yells over. Via this translator we’re able to communicate what we’re after having been given specific instructions what to ask for and return to the shop clutching the fragile slip of paper worth 30 Euros. The owner uses his own computer to try to add the money to our dongle but to no avail.

Another phone call to the provider to discover that, yes, we have the right bit of paper but the number of the sim card is for a phone not a dongle and there’s absolutely nothing the provider can do about it. We need another sim only available at their own shop. In Levkas.

Three days later and we’re back in Levkas this time tied to the quay and paying the necessary to the Port Police. While I indulge in a little retail therapy (so not all bad) Neil heads to the shop. No problem, you can buy a new sim and there is this new deal that will give you internet for 3 months and you can use the money paid at the kiosk to top up. Except we’re leaving Greece in less than 3 months and the paper slip will expire in 6 months. Before we get back. Aghhhh!

Holed Up

18 Jul

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Neil is the perennial optimist whilst I definitely have a pessimistic tendency. He has faith in the accuracy of weather forecasts, trusting in the appliance of science. Me, I tend to favour Murphy’s Law. If there is bad weather out there it will head our way and the wind will always be stronger than suggested in any one of the multitude of forecasts we consult. I want to be holed up somewhere safe days in advance and don’t want to budge until the sea looks like glass.

We try for a compromise. So we didn’t run for cover at the first blip of orange on the weather chart. We agreed to have at least one night at anchor first and watch what happens. Picking a bay on the mainland close to our chosen bolt hole of Astakos all looked promising at first. Except the anchor wouldn’t hold. I’d have given up much sooner but the optimist kept trying convinced we only had to make the anchor dig in through the weed. It was not to be.

By this time, though, the afternoon wind had got up, one that was definitely a bit more vigorous than I was comfortable with! Thus, I got my way and we were holed up somewhere safe much sooner than was necessary. The expected wind is, of course, stronger than forecast but not by much. At least so far. That doesn’t mean I’ll be wanting to leave tomorrow, mind. Let’s not rush things.

Update
We got about 30 knots in the end so we were both happy to be well dug in and being blown off as Neil predicted. Thankfully, the peaceful but decidedly chilly night which followed only raised the issue of not having any warm clothes on board. Note to self: it isn’t always warm in Greece so pack socks!
I reckon there’s still a bit of wind out there although Neil disputes this, so another day here in Astakos has been agreed with the skipper. That will do nicely.

Stripped Back?

17 Jul

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A non-sailing friend asked me recently about the basic aspects of life on a boat. She had been struck by how “stripped back” it was in terms of luxury and “stuff”. She got me thinking. We’ve always described living on board as somewhere between camping and caravanning with the added attraction of your table, bed and loo bouncing up and down.

An additional difficulty compared to being land based is that a boat, on the whole, needs to be self contained for basic requirements. Unless you’re going to spend the majority of your time in a marina, which, speaking as a very fair weather sailor, I am not knocking at all, by the way, you’re going to have to plan for everything from drinking water to internet access and how you go about it will vary enormously from boat to boat.

Fresh water is carried in tanks on board and these have to be filled at regular intervals. Desi can carry 150 litres which, with just the two of us, we can comfortably make last for three days without being excessive but about six days if we have to by being very frugal.

You soon learn not to waste water. It’s amazing how you can make a little go a long way but of course there’s a definite risk that you might whiff a bit! However, if you’re faced with the prospect of carrying it in 40 litre plastic jerry cans from a tap that may be some distance away that seems like a small price to pay. Fortunately, where we’re based now in the Ionian, there is often water available on the quays either in standpipes which you can attach a hose to or delivered in small tankers who will fill you up at set times. Sometimes taverna owners will supply water as an inducement to eat in their restaurant.

Whether you use this water to drink is a personal preference. It can be of very poor quality and even if it is drinkable it never seems like a good idea to me after it’s been sitting around in the tank, so we choose not to. This means at the moment we’re having to carry an awful lot of bottled water as well which takes up a good proportion of our limited storage space. On the previous boat we had a filter giving us potable water on a separate tap. On Desi we have a non-functioning water maker. Watch this space!

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Sea water is used to flush the toilet which I won’t go into again (see The One About Poo https://lamputtsonland.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/the-one-about-poo/ ) other than to say the delights of a marine toilet know no bounds.

Some way of generating power and a means of storing it is the next requirement if you’re going to have a reasonable standard of modern living. As well as the starter battery, which is the same as for a car, we have a couple of heavy duty big boys for “domestic” use. Running the engine will charge these as well as providing a small tank of hot water but who wants to run an engine all day? Doing that will certainly make you unpopular in anchorages and in the close quarters of quaysides.

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Here in the Ionian the obvious answer is to have solar panels. Ours keeps the batteries full, running the fridge and lights without difficulty. For anything that requires plugging in, though, it either has to be run on a 12 volt cigarette lighter style socket or through a fitted inverter. We have a non-functioning inverter. Currently everything is going through a small 12 volt inverter which is great for keeping various devices charged or to run a small fan but won’t cope with hair straighteners (suppresses sob).

Internet access has become a crucial part of sailing life being the most reliable method of getting a weather forecast and staying in touch with the outside world. It is never straightforward in Greece, though, and deserves a blog post all to itself. One will definitely follow in the not too distant future.

When I mentioned the fridge I bet you had an image of your own at home. If pushed you’d probably scale it down in your mind’s eye. Think again. It is, in fact, something nearer to a cool box. This means that you are constantly having to juggle the contents around just to get at the milk for a cup of tea, for instance. We seem to have got it reasonably organised using big plastic boxes but it always seems that what you want is at the bottom or the tomatoes are getting crushed by the water bottle.

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Cooking, in the absence of a slow cooker and a grill, is done on a two ring gas hob supplied with gas from camping style bottles. There is also an oven but I find it unusable in the heat of a Greek summer when it further heats the interior. The whole thing gimbals i.e. swings with the motion of the boat or you can lock it steady. I never cease to be amazed at the assortment of meals that some people can create on two hobs even with the limited range of foodstuffs available in most small Greek shops. I am not one of those people.

So, stripped back? You decide.

Father: “The secret of happy sailing is preparation.”
Daughter: “No Dad, the secret of happy sailing is shore power!”

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Mitika

14 Jul

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The pilot guide is, perhaps, a little dismissive of Mitika calling it “dusty” and “workaday” although, to be fair, it also says it is all the better for the minimal tourism. With not having been here before we were a bit uncertain what to expect.

A short hop from the island of Kalamos and on the Greek mainland, the port is soon visible but the small entrance less so and the adjacent sunken harbour only spotted as you get very close. As Rod ‘The God’ Heikell says there is not a lot of room to manoeuvre once inside so we chose to circle in the bay while waiting for a space. We managed to get onto the very end of the breakwater near the entrance – not ideal but there were few spaces further in likely to become available and the forecast was good. It did mean that we were the first to be hit by the wakes of the mobos coming in far too fast and especially the small ferry who makes every boat in the harbour swing alarmingly.

All that said, we like Mitika. There’s a great communal feel on the quay, those who have obviously been here sometime being helpful, chatty and welcoming. Water is available and is a draw for all sorts of boats to fill up. While the small town functions for the the residents and doesn’t have the prettified appearance of the island resorts of, say, Fiscardo or Kioni that is not to say it isn’t attractive and waterside tavernas and bars are appealing. It’s very functionality means we were able to get hold of items we needed that had looked a forlorn hope.

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Perhaps the real beauty of the place is revealed in the cool of the evening. As fishermen gather on the quay and the boats, large and small lay their nets, swallows swirl in a sky filled with the glorious colours of sunset. Beautiful.

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Port Leone

9 Jul

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We’re definitely getting into the swing of things now. We find we go where the whim takes us, stay another day if we feel like it and generally change our mind at the last minute. After deciding to have an extra night in Sivota to visit a favourite taverna we altered our original plans again and headed for Port Leone on the small island of Kalamos.

After a gloriously lazy day tied to the shore we quickly calculated we easily had enough provisions on board to see out a second day. We’d filled the water tank before setting off so this was the only thing that might have proved a problem. So it was a simple decision to stay put. The water in the bay is crystal clear and wonderful to swim in while, touch wood, there’s just enough breeze to keep us cool. After the sweltering and crowded previous days this is such a blessed relief.

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There are other boats here, of course – this is the Ionian, after all, but the little village that was once here was abandoned back in 1953 after an earthquake. It has changed little since we were last here although now the church appears fully restored. They were fitting a new floor during our last visit and proudly showed off the progress. During our early morning visit today it was locked but services are held here and, if I remember rightly, the bell tower still carries the original bell.

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The views over the bay are amongst the best and a short walk reveals the two ruined windmills at the port entrance. We got chatting, although we didn’t realise it at the time, to writer Georgie Moon whose blog is definitely worth a follow:
https://georgiemoon2016.wordpress.com
She gave us a few tips for ports we could well try out over the next few days. When the mood takes us.