We subscribe to a website called Noonsite, a very useful resource for people doing what we’re doing, and every month they do a ‘Portrait of a Cruiser’. Well, November must have been a slack month as they asked us to contribute. Follow the link for a giggle.
Now that we are back in the UK visiting friends and relatives there has been a certain amount of lantern swinging and the odd ‘one that got away’ story, so I decided to do a more formal recap of 2017; and it has been a busy year. I estimate we covered over 2500 nautical miles between leaving Olbia and reaching Roccella. We have visited some fantastic places and spent time with our friends, old and new.
We started the season in Sardinia and my only real plan was to get to Thassos by June to see my friend Dave and his wife Jane once they’d settled into retired life on the island. We also had to attend Tabatha and Raffa’s wedding in Malaga in August. Other than that we had no fixed plans but as the year progressed we made arrangements to meet friends at various points on our travels; Charlie and Anna in Sardinia, Ivan and Lu in Cephalonia, Zeinep and Steve for a trip from Athens to Thassos, Solange in Sounion, Marco and Lu in Crete and Keith in Cephalonia. These meetings ‘filled in the blanks’ between Olbia, Thassos and Malaga and dictated our route.
Our first job in Olbia was getting the anti fouling renewed. We spent the week touring the island while it was being done, discovering the unique history of the island along the way. Once back in the water we said goodbyes to our new friends and neighbours, setting off antilockwise around the island, taking a short detour to Bonifacio in Corsica as we were passing.
Our next destination was Alghero where Charlie and Ana finally came to see us, along with Ana’s nephew Mateus. We had a fantastic few days with them before they returned home and we carried on round the island to Cagliari before making for mainland Italy. We stayed in Salerno for a week and toured the beautiful Amalfi Coast by bus, visiting Capri by ferry.
From there we headed south for Messina. We timed our voyage south to pass Stromboli at night to see the volcano erupting; it is known as the biggest lighthouse in the Med and didn’t disappoint.
We called at Messina and stayed in the small marina there taking the opportunity of a weekend in Palermo; that was a really pleasant surprise. Then, waiting for some decent weather, we headed off towards our first port of call in Greece, Argostoli on the island of Cephalonia. John and Isabel were coming in the opposite direction and we passed them, literally ‘ships in the night’, off the south coast of Italy.
Once in Argostoli on Cephalonia we contacted John’s friend Keith who lives on the island. And what a fantastic guy! He seemed to drop everything and become our personal tour guide giving us an island tour, taking us out and driving us to the supermarkets for a supply run!
Mid way through our stay on Cephalonia we moved to anchor in a small bay on the south west corner of the island to meet Ivan, Lu, Bianca and Rebecca who had chosen their holiday to coincide with our arrival! We anchored and picked them up from the beach by their hotel, took them for a sail around Rabbit Island, then back to Argostoli for an afternoon.
From Cephalonia we continued east through the Gulfs of Patras and Corinth stopping for a couple of days at the quaint harbour of Galaxidi. We stayed a couple of days allowing us to visit the ruins at Delphi.
Then it was on to and through the Corinth Canal heading towards our next ‘crew change’. We arranged to meet Zeynep and Steve in Palaia Fokaia, a port about an hour south of Athens in the Ormos Anavisou. Again, I met them on the beach for a clandestine night time pick up.
They sailed with us from there to Thassos, a trip of about 10 days. Our route took us passed Sounion, Lavrio and between the islands of Evia and Andros where we anchored in the ultra secluded bay of Kastri. Then we continued north to the delightful island of Skyros where we loitered for a few days before making for Thassos. That was not ‘plain sailing’ as we got caught out in some thundery squalls over night and had to run for cover in the harbour of Mirina on Limnos, before resuming our voyage. The winds reached Beaufort Force 6, Valeria Force 10.
We made landfall on Thassos in a delightful bay called Aliki before moving on to the port of Limenas on the north of the island. Dave and Jane drove up to meet us and it was then I found that they lived about a mile from the port of Linaria on the south end of the island. Limena / Linaria, so confusing! So we actually ended up doing a complete circumnavigation of the island but it did allow us to complete Zeynep and Steve’s trip in the manner it started, dropping them off by tender on the beach in Poros, right beside the ferry terminal for their journey on to Thessaloniki and then home.
So having circled Thassos we stayed in Linaria for a week visiting with Dave and Jane. They made us so amazingly welcome, showing us around and introducing us to island life. We took them sailing and then hired a car to drive around the island to see it from the dry side. It was really good to see an ex colleague who is living his dream as well!
From Thassos we sailed west across the peninsulas of Khalkhidiki on our way towards, then through, the rest of the Northern Sporades enjoying more delightful anchorages and quiet town quays. We’d planned to explore a little of the Gulf of Volos but toilet troubles diverted us to Oreoi in Evia.
From Oreoi we sailed, actually sailed, a lot of the way down the North Evia Channel to the bridge at Khalkis. Once through the bridge we headed for Olympic Marina south of Lavrion where we planned to leave the boat and go to Malaga. On the passage from Oreoi on the north end of Evia to Olympic we had virtually every combination of wind and weather, light airs to Near Gales, and from every point on the compass, all crammed into about 4 days, finally forcing us to shelter in Ormos Marcopoulo off Port Rafti for a few days.
But a week or so later normal service resumed on the weather front and we anchored in Sounion Bay, just off the beach in front of the hotel Solange and the girls were staying in. I ferried them to and from the beach each day in the tender and we spent a wonderful few days with them on the boat swimming and sailing and by their hotel pool before retracing our route to Olympic Marina where we said farewell to Solange, Luna and Mayara.
With the boat secure in Olympic Marina we set off for Malaga by plane, via Istanbul, and spent almost a week in and around Malaga and Nerja celebrating Tabatha and Rafael’s marriage.
Back at Olympic we had the water maker serviced, badly, then set off south for Crete, aiming for Spinalonga Lagoon and then Agios Nikolaos where we were to meet Marco and Lu. With almost perfect timing this was also Valeria’s birthday weekend!
Leaving Crete we sailed north west for the Peloponese and spent our wedding anniversary in Porto Kayio before continuing on our way to Zakynthos and Cephalonia again. We met up with Keith and Tracy in Sami, one of the stops on his Guided Tour from our previous visit! We had a great day with them before setting off north towards Lefkas where we had arranged to rendezvous with Graeme, Jayne and Isabela in Scarlett, our friends from Olbia. We spent the best part of a week with them in and around Sivota then continued on north to Paxos and Corfu, salvaging an abandoned tender en route.
By now we had firmly arranged our winter berth in Roccella Ionica and so spent our last few days in Corfu in Port Mandraki, courtesy of my salvage fee, waiting for a settled period of weather for our crossing from Greece back to Italy. Once in Roccella we found ourselves surrounded by another set of fantastic, friendly people, all doing roughly the same as ourselves!
A busy year!
Next year we plan to take things slower. We’ll confine our travels to the Ionian on our way to the Cyclades and Dodecanese Islands where I plan to do a vaguely anti-clockwise trip around the islands. This means we’ll be fairly easy to track down and generally will be within easy reach of somewhere with an airport or ferry port where we can meet friends who wish to come and visit us.
Whilst in Olympic Marine I took the opportunity to service the watermaker. It has been working perfectly and I wanted to keep it that way. Every 2 years the filters need renewing and the membranes need to be flushed through with a chemical agent so I made arrangements, via the Searecovery agents in Athens, for an engineer to do the necessary.
Big mistake. The recommended engineer came, flushed the system through and replaced the filters and we happily left Olympic Marine as planned on Tuesday, the 8th. We turned on the watermaker only to find that instead of making water it was draining the fresh water tank. In 2 hours it had dumped over 200 litres. We anchored in Sounion and I tried to figure out what was wrong, without success. We rang the engineer who agreed to return to look at the problem so we went back to Olympic Marine.
The engineer returned, waffled and faffed and said it must be a problem with the PCB in the watermaker and nothing he’d done could affect that. Thanks for nothing and good bye.
Long story short, tracing pipes and the fresh water route out of the tank I found he’d fitted a filter with only one of the two required seals, hence the water draining out of the system. But when I eplaced the seal and tried testing the Watermaker it wouldn’t run at all. I called the boat yard here and they provided a couple of technicians who finally isolated the problem to a pump within the unit. This required removing the entire thing and taking it away.
So after an additiona 4 days languishing in Olympic Marine, we left on Saturday afternoon, minus a watermaker, and went back to Sounion to wait until Wednesday while they diagnose the problem. If the pump is just stuck, they can repair and refit the watermaker on Thursday, if it requires new parts it could take a month or more to get them.
I am not taking bets on the diagnosis, but have bought a pair of 20 litre water containers!
So far in Olympic we have lost a sail and a watermaker. On the plus side we went to Malaga and saw a partial lunar eclipse as we waited for the watermaker technicians.
Sitting in Cagliari in the evenings, before binge watching the first series of Game of Thrones, we have been turning our attention to ‘where next’. So I have been scouring our Pilot Books and charts ‘planning’ our route up until August.
With our eye on the weather Saturday, the 29th, seems to be our best day to depart for Salerno. That will be 56 hours across the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea and will be our longest single passage yet; it will be a practice run for our crossing from Italy to Cephalonia at the end of May.
We will then have 2 weeks in Salerno, returning to the UK for the first weekend in May before returning to explore a bit of Italy around Naples before setting off again on the 14th for Messina. My plan is to sail passed Stromboli at night, it is sometimes known as the largest lighthouse in the Med and is supposed to be spectacular.
We plan to spend a week in Messina visiting bits of Sicily by train then we’ll set off for Cephalonia aiming to arrive on or before the 29 May. Our plan is to meet Ivan, Lu and the kids on the island and spend a couple of days there with them before we push on towards the Agean via the Corinth Canal. John and Isabel are likely to be leaving Cephalonia as we leave Messina and so we will be passing literally like ships in the night, us east bound, them heading west.
We plan to take a few days travelling through the Gulf of Corinth, may be visiting Delphi, and will then go through the Corinth Canal. From there we’ll sail passed Athens before we heading north through the Agean towards Thassos stopping off on the southern tip of Evia, then Skyros, Limnos and finally Thassos.
We hope to be there by mid June but don’t intend to rush too much and plan to spend a while visiting Dave before returning south, hopefully with the wind behind a us all the way.
My idea is to sail through the Northern Sporades islands, then down the Gulf of Evia, the waterway between Evia and mainland Greece. It should be early July by then and we’ll potter around Cyclades Islands (south east of Athens) before returning to the south tip of the mainland near Athens to meet up with Solange and the kids before leaving the boat in the Olympic Marina while we go to Malaga for Tabatha’s and Rafael’s wedding.
And that is as far as we have got at the moment!
We returned to Sardinia on Tuesday, arriving in Alghero that evening, picked up a hire car and drove across the island to Olbia. We got back on board Windependent at about 2 in the morning on Wednesday and happily everything was exactly as we had left it. After a quick run around to open sea cocks and connect power we went to bed. Wednesday afternoon was spent unpacking, washing clothes and doing a little shopping to see us through to Friday.
We also made some new friends. Wintering in Olbia are two other British boats, Red Rooster and Scarlett. Both arrived after we’d left for Brazil but we got chatting and invited both couples, Derek and Claire from Red Rooster and Graeme and Jayne from Scarlett for a drink on Wednesday evening.
It transpires that they all retired to their boats in 2015 as well. They followed a similar route to ours arriving in Olbia. Both have kept bumping into each other, figuratively speaking, as they have travelled along the coast although each have tales of trying to sneak away in the dead of night to loose the other but have found it difficult to hide when you have AIS! We had a very pleasant evening over wine and nibbles and Derek and Clare invited us for lunch on Friday after we had deposited Windependent in the boat yard and were ‘homeless’ for the week.
Thursday we spent doing washing and emptying the sail locker as I am having some more shelves fitted next week. We also planned our week exploring Sardinia went the boat is out of the water, booking hotels and packing our bags again. Happily we’d left this to the last minute and so could make those arrangements around an invitation to dinner in Olbia on Saturday.
On Friday we were up early to get everything ready to leave the marina to go across to the other side of the bay to the Cantiere Nautico Gottardi boat yard. We slipped at 9 and by 10 were watching Windependent being lifted and jet washed before being put on blocks for the week.
It was then back to Olbia Marina for lunch on Red Rooster before setting off to our hotel in Olbia. We’re here until Monday.
On Tuesday 7th March our stay in Brasil came to an end and we returned to the UK for just 2 weeks before setting off to Olbia and Windependent.
We spent 3 months living in Santos with Dona Ermida and had the most wonderful time visiting some amazing places and spending time with fabulous friends who made our stay so fantastic. Although we now have an idea to return to Brazil next winter it is now time to look forward to the rest of the year afloat in the Med.
We return to Sardinia on 21 April. The dockyard is all booked for the last week of March to get the hull cleaned and anti fouling renewed. We’ll be back in the water on Friday 31st and will be setting off in the first week in April.
We plan to spend the rest of April sailing around Sardinia then making for the Italian mainland, either Rome or Naples, before sailing down towards Messina during May.
Next stop will be Greece. As our friends John and Isabel will be heading west towards Italy as we sail east towards Greece we plan to try to meet up with them, possibly in Cephalonia, towards the end of May. We will then head for Thassos for the middle of June to visit my ex-colleague Dave on the island before we head back south.
We’ll spend July in the Agean and leave Windependent in a marina for the first week or so in August as we attend a wedding in Malaga. From there we hope to head for Croatia and the east coast of Italy.
It’s not all Pimms and beautiful sunsets.
So, our toilet stopped working, wouldn’t pump out. A check on Google and the symptoms indicated either a full or blocked Black Water tank, a blocked discharge pipe or a collapsed Joker Valve …… yes, a Joker Valve. It was easy to discount the Black Water Tank and the discharge pipe couldn’t be blocked, we are very careful with the toilet and it is only just over a year old, so it could only be the Joker Valve – Ha bloody Ha. So I went and ordered a pair, one for each toilet and picked them up on Saturday morning.
And here’s where fate, or Lady Luck stepped in. While I was at the chandler, a 40 minute walk away, Valeria was sitting in the cockpit, reading, when a jovial French guy introduced himself as working with Lagoon and asked if everything was OK. Valeria just happened to mention the toilet and within 5 minutes he was plunging his hand into the bowl and dismantling the pipe work. By the time I got back he had identified that the discharge pipe was blocked with Lime Scale and paper, or worse ……. Apparently salt water = lime scale! His solution was Hydrochloric Acid and a Karcher. He promised to return on Sunday morning with both. When asked how much this would cost he shrugged and said ‘A kiss’ and proffered a cheek, to Valeria I hasten to add.
Sure enough, Baptiste reappeared on Sunday and he and I spent the morning in shit basically, dismantling the bathroom and shower to get to both ends of the offending pipe. By lunch time Baptiste had to go home to his wife but promised he’d be back on Monday to continue, but left the acid and the Karcher for me to carry on trying. Being a Sunday he was on double time and so it cost two kisses.
Valeria and I took a walk around Port Grimaud for a breath of fresh air and then I returned to the task and after a couple more hours of work I cleared the blockage – and it was all lime scale, no paper or unmentionables, unbelievable! The pipe is about 35 mm diameter and was blocked solid with scale! I rang Baptiste and told him of my success and he seemed disappointed as he liked to finish jobs he started !!!!!
Anyway, he collected his gear on Monday and even tried to decline payment! Unsuccessfully I hasten to add. We then went to the local supermarket in search of Hydrochloric Acid and White Vinegar. I put two litres of acid into the other toilet and have 5 litres spare and we will be using White Vinegar as a regular treatment from now on.
And the Joker Valves. Laughing like bloody drains. Now I know why they are called Joker Valves – either way they have the last laugh.
(I decided not to photograph these events – normal sunset photos will return forthwith)
We arranged to have the hull cleaned in Palma by a company called STP. We set off from Las Isletas at 7 and were waiting for the shipyard to open at 8 for our allotted lift out time. Once out of the water she was set down in the shipyard to be scraped and jet washed. The cleaning only took the morning but we couldn’t be put back in the water because the lift wad booked solid until Friday morning; so we had a day and a half in Palma.
As you can see the boat needed cleaning. She had been given anti fouling when built and I can only think that long stays in Faro and Valence defeated it! Hopefully for the next few months we’ll be moving and the marine growth won’t get too much of a grip; we’ll get clean and the anti fouling done for next year.
Whilst in Lisbon we are having a High Frequency / Single Side Band radio fitted and to operate such equipment you need to have a qualification. So on the 16th and 17th I went off to Southampton to do my ‘Long Range Certificate’ training and then sit the exam.
There were 6 of us on the course which was run by a company called Yachtcom in Bursledon, and it was a varied group to say the least. Two service men engaged in Service yachts, a guy working on the Challenger schooners, a soft wear programmer on a sabbatical who’d just bought his yacht and was off around the world, a professional schooner skipper living in Cabo Verde and me.
Following the 10 hour distance learning computer based training package we had a day of recapping, some group radio exercises and got to grips with the VHF, HF and Inmarsat equipment we were to be tested on.
The main thrust of the training was use of the radios in distress situations and which frequencies to call on and how to get the radios tuned to those frequencies. This was the primary reason for having the HF/SSB radio installed so that once properly offshore we will still have contact with the outside world and can pick up weather reports and even receive email via the radio! This won’t come into its own until we look at crossing the Atlantic, probably in 2017, but it gives me time to practice!
The second day taken up with some last minute revision and then the examination; written papers on VHF and HF Radios and Digital Selective Calling and Satellite Communications, a practical Voice Procedures exam followed by an Oral exam using the actual equipment.
Happily I will be able to practice as I passed but I had a moment when I did wonder, suffering a complete mental block! I can guarantee I will never again forget how to adjust the RF Gain on my HF radio!
I can now say with conviction ‘Stay tuned for more riveting updates !!!’
Spent the the 24th waiting for a toilet roll holder, yes, a toilet roll holder, and practicing ‘parking’. This a real team effort with Valeria running around the deck with ropes and fenders while I try not to crash into the pontoons before she’s secured a line.
Manoeuvering a catamaran, with the rudder ahead of the propellor is like nothing I’ve ever driven before, and I have knocked about in a variety of power boats.
So today, Thursday I think, we had one of the Lagoon Staff give me some one to one tuition on Close Quarters Boat Handling. The only daft question is the one you don’t ask!
That was a lunch time. After lunch we went out for a sail, well the wind was so light it was more like ‘drifting with style’. She is very easy to handle with everything in reach of the helm. The auto pilot is a novelty but with the sails up, Otto on the helm and Valeria supervising him I had time to check the Water Maker …… And, yes, turning on the taps worked. Ran for an hour and made 1/4 tank of water. Even tastes like water!!!!
Tomorrow will be our shake down cruise, Lês Sable to La Rochelle.