Tag Archives: Greece

Outboards

17 Sep

Are outboards ​the bain of every liveaboard’s lifestyle? Certainly, I’ve read several blog posts bemoaning them and they all too frequently become the subject of cockpit discussions​. The dinghy is such an essential part of our boating existence, the car of the dirt dweller but with a far less reliable engine. Not only that, the engine has to be heaved on and off the boat, a task that is either back breaking or involves some sort of, often precarious, pulley system.

We thought we’d cracked it though. When we bought Desi a lovely little dinghy was included along with its outboard which happened to be electric. We’d never actually seen an electric outboard before and had certainly not considered buying one. A little wary at first, we were rapidly converted. Light to handle and with more than enough power, it also had the advantage of being rechargeable via either the mains electricity in the marinar or using the solar panels – free power! No more reliance on smelly petrol or carrying/storing noxious containers. Win, win. Until now.

Our little beauty has developed an aversion to water. You might well say that, of course, electricity and water don’t mix. But this is an outboard motor, engineered by those clever Germans, and designed to be in water as the basic function of its being. Now ours doesn’t like a bit of dew. Connections have duly been cleaned and sprayed with the German equivalent of WD-40. But a few days at anchor and we’ve had to resort to rowing ashore. And back.

Damingly, it always seems to start on testing, even happily taking us for a night out. Sorted, we thought. But no. Ironically, just as we were returning to the dinghy we got chatting to another owner, only the second we’d met, singing the praises of the motor. As we both inserted the magnetic key his started immediately. Ours – nothing. The other guy, who happened to be German himself, volunteered​ to give us a tow, saying that he felt a responsibility for his country’s engineering. We were very happy to take him up on the offer, our rowing not being the most efficient at the best of times let alone after a big meal and several drinks.

At the time of writing, cleaned and sprayed yet again, it seems to be working. Until we come to use it again?

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Up North 

2 Jul

With the Ionian getting into full swing for the peak holiday season it seemed time to head north through the Lefkas Canal again. The wind gods were kind enough not to throw anything unpleasant at us on our return journey and we chose to break up the trip, anchoring in a quiet bay for a night to brace ourselves for manic Parga the next day.
Despite the noise and constant bashing from the wake of speedboats dragging assorted inflatables and anything else they can think of around any boat willing to anchor and thus provide the required obstacle course, Parga has its attractions. It must have been absolutely stunning before mass tourism took off but enough remains of the original harbour with its narrow streets leading up to the castle to preserve a bit of character. One night is enough, though.

Lakka, on the other hand, called for a bit of lingering and redeemed itself after the “unpleasantness” in May. However, after some eight weeks of beetling about, the lure of a few days in our marina berth on Corfu complete with shore power and the civilising influence of showers with unlimited hot water, was inevitable.

Not so good, though, is that our visit coincided with the first of the stupidly hot weather. Life on board trying to cope with 40 degrees in the shade is no picnic when even what breeze there is almost makes it worse. You know it’s hot when you’re just as sweaty after a shower as before. I tried cooking a quick pasta dish yesterday. Mistake! It put up the temperature of the interior to literally unbearable levels and it was 3am before venturing to sleep below deck became feasible.

So here I sit in the nearest bar making a soft drink last as long as possible. Thankfully the direction of the wind is slowly changing. The downside is that it’s also increasing, enough to keep us in the marina for a few more days. Even I can get a bit bored of it. I know – there’s just no pleasing some people.

A Tale of Three Harbours 

21 Jun

Vasiliki quay has space – at the moment

It is undoubtedly true that the Ionian is becoming more crowded. I understand that a lot of foreign boats have left Turkish waters due to the uncertainty of the political situation there, some some 1,000 I’ve been told heading for Greece many to the Ionian. There are far more charter and flotilla companies than a few years ago, all with bigger boats – many catamarans – and each individual flotilla seems bigger than I remember it.

Add to this the increase in independent land-based tourism, particularly to some areas that had previously not caught the eye of the big companies and it is not surprising the whole experience is changing. These once small fishing harbours that only developed to cater for their boating visitors have had a rethink.

Fiskardo on Kefalonia now seems to give boats a very low priority. A pontoon that was damaged in a storm has not been repaired or replaced and the quay is crowded and full very quickly. Even taking long lines to the rocky shore, once a favourite of ours, will find you as close to neighbouring boats as on the quay as Fiskardo’s reputation means every charter and​ flotilla crew wants to go there. That’s not to say that you won’t receive a welcome from the shop keepers and taverna owners who will still happily take your lines when your stern is nosing its way amongst their tables. Business is obviously booming.

Until very recently it was rare to see a land based tourist in Sivota on Lefkas but apartments and villas are rapidly being built in the hills around the harbour. Additionally, a flotilla company has made it their base and the quay has changed accordingly. There are several pontoons attached to restaurants who let you moor free of charge if you eat in their taverna. Some of these have been there for a while but the difference now is that there are more than enough boats wanting to take up the offer so the owners only want those with large crews staying one night.

With the lazy lines of the pontoons preventing access to a significant amount of the quay ever more deep water berths are being swallowed up by small motor boats. These either belong to regular land based visitors or are the little self drive boats hired out for a few hours at a time. The owners of these lay bouys and lazy lines blocking off the spaces for when the boats are out.
The remaining spaces seem to be taken by liveaboards who, having got a place, are reluctant to move. On our last recent visit we managed to nab a space between the latest pontoon and the rapidly spreading rental boats. For the first time ever in Sivota there was no one to take our lines. Neil had to call over a passing tourist who was willing enough to help but had obviously no idea what to do.

Neighbouring Vasiliki has taken a different course. Renowned for its strong winds, the resort has long been popular with younger visitors wanting all the water sports the guaranteed breezy conditions​ allow. The hotels, apartments, bars and cafes are well established. Now, though, a new breakwater is being built with a privately owned marina due to open in three months time and the old inner harbour, that was alarmingly shallow, has been dredged to a more comfortable 2.5ish meters.

The new breakwater in Vasaliki

This is all no doubt welcome to the struggling Greek economy and the port authorities are, rather belatedly catching on. Sivota, with no Port Police presence (we did see police cars patrolling for the first time, though) continues to remain free to tie up to the quay. Fiskardo will take a hefty mooring fee from private boats, certainly enough to make you think twice, while offering a reduced fee to charters.

Vasiliki seems to have taken a middle way. Earlier in the season we heard reports that the quay was taken up by non-moving boats but, with settled winds forecast, we still decided to check it out. We arrived to find an almost empty quay that gradually filled up around us. That evening the port authorities visited each boat, checking paperwork and charging a modest nightly fee, not enough to put most short term visitors off whilst dissuading those that have taken root.

I do wonder how long it will last, though. Today a flotilla​ from one of the smaller companies came in – for the first time according to the lead crew. The skipper had to bring each boat in himself as the afternoon wind is strong enough to be a worry. But when the new breakwater is complete maybe that won’t be such an issue. It remains to be seen.

View From the Bridge (OK, Cockpit)

11 Jun

I thought I’d share a few photos just to show the variety of places we go to. All have their charms. 

First, a recent favourite: Bungalow Bay. That’s not the name on the map, of course. It doesn’t tend to be high on the list for those who only come out here for a week or so and I wouldn’t like to be one to advertise it! 

Not every stop has quite such a pretty view. This is what we looked out on when we tied to the quay in “Little” Vathy on Meganissi. 

Don’t let this put you off, though; the view from Ian and Bobbie Streten’s “Sundowner” deck was very different – thanks for letting me use the picture, Ian. 

Sometimes you are the subject of boundless fascination or even the main source of entertainment. This was on the beautiful Assos, Kefalonia​, which is more of a land-based tourist destination as it is only suitable for boats in very settled weather so most people aren’t used to being around boats. 

Finally, early morning at anchor in Vlicho, a spot well known to the live-aboard community but rarely visited by those holidaying in nearby Nidre. 

What Desi Did Next 

27 May

With some blowy weather forecast we headed for our ‘go to’ place in the the Southern Ionian, Sivota on Lefkas. As it turned out, the worst of the weather didn’t materialise, although there was obviously more wind outside the harbour, but we never mind spending time in there.

Eventually, though, the pretty little resort of Fiscardo called to us. We usually choose to tie to the rocks and dinghy ashore, preferring what tends to be a quieter spot with easy swimming access to the noise of the quay. This time, however, with the weather still decidedly changeable and the sea definitely failing my big toe test, the quay seemed a better option. The pontoon which only a couple of years ago provided extra space has now disappeared and the better spots were already taken up so we had no choice but to tie outside a taverna, the passarelle touching down amongst the tables.

Despite this and the incessant Zorba music, Fiscardo didn’t disappoint. It is probably my favourite stop in the Ionian, rather gentrified and with prices to match, but still worth the harbour dues. It even has a better class of tourist tat. This is the place to buy your chic summer dresses and thick Turkish towels if you don’t mind forking out the readies. I’m always tempted but compromised with a rather pretty fridge magnet. Now all we need is a fridge to put it on. Oh, and a kitchen, of course.

Next stop was Kalamos and the bay of the deserted Port Leone. Abandoned after an earthquake wrought havoc, it is now given over to boats and fishermen who have a habit of laying nets and almost blocking access, a real propeller hazard for the unwary or those arriving in the dark. Again it was a bit on the chilly side and the katabatic wind not particularly pleasant so one night was enough. The following morning we tootled the couple of miles to Port Kalamos itself.
There was a fair bit of wind as well as rain forecast for the Ionian with just a small patch of blue (indicating light winds) over Kalamos and neighbouring Kastos. This probably played its part in the frenzy that developed that evening. We’ve been here several times, often in peak season, and have never seen it so busy. Two flotillas, one of them unexpected, along with numerous charter boats and all arriving relatively late in the day (the owner occupied crews made sure to get in early) created, what turned out to be, very well organised chaos. This is all thanks to an amazing taverna owner who skillfully made sure every boat dropped enough chain and had a place to go to. How he managed it is something to behold. Inevitably there was anchor chain spaghetti the next morning but again George was there to make sure no anchor was uprooted. We’re not in any hurry to move off.

All quiet at the weekend – pretty Kalamos

Not All Plain Sailing

19 May

 

As I said in the previous post, the journey down to Lakka was fine, just boring which I never complain about when it comes to sailing. And the first night was lovely, free swinging in the bay. The following night, though, the swell rolled in making for a very bouncy bed but nothing to worry about and no sign of the promised thunderstorms, just a rather wet and chilly afternoon cooped up below.

It was the following night that proved to be particularly unpleasant. The day had been a perfect temperature with a pleasant enough breeze lulling us in to a false sense of security. Neil had even gone for a swim – for all of 30 seconds! We’d been for a walk, done a bit of shopping in the small village and lingered over a couple of cokes chatting to another crew who also have a berth in the same marina. The afternoon was spent lounging around reading and watching the comings and goings. This is what it’s all supposed to be about. There had been a bit of thunder and a short burst of rain but that was actually quite reassuring in that it was not an issue at all.

We’d turned in for an early night when a sudden squall hit. The first I knew about it was a howling wind giving the boat what felt like a big shove and the sudden jerk of the anchor chain as it was stretched to its fullest. All I could do was lie there rigid in bed for a few seconds, stunned and disoriented. In the meantime, Neil was up with coat on, heading up top. That finally broke the spell.

Thankfully our anchor had held but others weren’t so lucky. Everybody around us was letting out more chain which allowed us to do the same. Dinghies were somehow returning to their boats from the shore, something I really wouldn’t have relished in those conditions. That was all we could do, to be honest, but sleep was out of the question for a while as we kept watch to make sure we weren’t going to drag and nobody was going to drag into us. The wind eventually dropped as quickly as it had arrived but leaving a very churned up sea. Not a pleasant night.

So leaving the following morning, despite a bouncy sea, seemed like a good idea even to me. I’d had enough of the Northern Ionian in May but it had to have one more pop at us. Just as I was starting to enjoy the long journey down to the Lefkas Canal, flat seas and only just enough wind for the mainsail to help us along, out of nowhere we were hit on the nose by almost 30 knots of wind. With nowhere nearer to run to, we made as much headway as we could against the wind and rolling white seas. Neil gave the sail its head, heeling us over to the water line.

Five minutes before we had been lounging on the cushions eating grapes in true Bacchanalian fashion. Now we were soaked to the skin, the floor was far from horizontal and Desi was crashing down the waves in a truly sickening fashion. For three hours. Perhaps you will appreciate the relief we felt on making it into the canal close to bridge opening time. And the wind was gone. 

Let Loose

16 May

We’ve finally let go of the lazy line. Yes, the Lamputts have left the marina. Neil must have started to think that he’d have to drag me kicking and screaming from the pontoon even as I still clung onto the shore power cable. But, this time at least, my reluctance genuinely wasn’t due to losing the comforts of home.

It was still a bit blowy. Well, it was the day before to be precise and it all still looked a bit unsettled in the forecast. I know, I know, I sound pathetic but it’s experience that’s made be this way. Apart from anything else the last time we’d done this journey was the one and only time I’ve been physically sea sick. In the entire time we’ve been sailing, in all the big seas and high winds we’ve been in from Plymouth to Greece, the only time I’ve had my head in a bucket is during that short distance between the two islands of Corfu and Paxos.

We were both awake early. Truth be told, I’d been awake most of the night. Eventually, though, with every forecast known to man checked, a pile of ham rolls in the fridge, water tank refilled and a couple of Stugeron swallowed, we left the marina behind us. Once out of the bay, the sea was still a bit churned up and it was decidedly on the chilly side but I started to relax.

If you wait for the wind to drop before leaving harbour you can’t expect to sail all the way. Well, so be it. A steady 6 knots on engine and main sail would get us into Lakka just fine. OK, it’s a bit boring but at least the floor stays mostly horizontal and there’s an awful lot to be said for that. I know Neil wouldn’t entirely agree with me.

When the cork-screw motion approaching Paxos set in the meds did their work. We could see the boats at anchor in Lakka, their hulls appearing pale blue in the distance, reflection from the turquoise water of the bay. It is worth letting loose.