Gladlee of Guernsey
July 1993 – August 1993
12th-15th July 1993
Decided in principle to leave early: though the 06.30 forecast failed to materialise we decided to get going (“Faréal” had already left) and were under way by 07.15. The NW wind was basically F2, but occasional gusts off the cloudy hills persuaded us to put a precautionary reef in the main. Julie went back to bed soon after 08.00 but soon had a clamber out up a considerable slope as we were hit by a 38 knot gust: Nigel was forced head to wind, and it took a little while to get things under control. In spite of the occasional squall the wind was still only F4 or so, so we pressed on towards Punta Stilo until “Faréal” came into view heading the other way. A somewhat bizarre exchange of signals followed, with Brian trying to suggest a VHF channel by hand waving (and eventually a number on a piece of paper), while we tried in vain to raise him on Ch 16! Eventually we managed to exchange news by radio, theirs being of a freshening wind and rough sea on the nose – no conditions for a cat, for sure, and we didn’t much fancy a hard slog across the ill-reputed Gulf of Squillace. We turned back at 09.45 and fairly flew downwind in what had become a F6 by the time we closed Roccella Ionica again. We moored in our previous spot to wait, eventually, until she turned up and took a vacant space on the opposite quay. We offered them a restorative Pimms and discovered the reason for their delay – “Faréal”’s forestay, complete with roller reefed genoa, had ripped clean out of the deck, and they’d been lucky not to lose it altogether (later joined them for a drink and inspected the damage). We took to Brian, ex-RN and Australian Navy, now based in Australia, and Julie (Australian, younger, lawyer) – laid back and amusing company over the next few days. We also met the Good Samaritan Swedes from Saline Joniche (Uno and Birgitte from “Mimi”) – the Belgians (he very loud) were also there, and in the course of the next very windy day a whole UN of yachts turned up (Italians, Spaniards, Austrians, Swiss, Germans, Dutch, Australians and Americans – even a South African flag on someone’s halyard!) A young German couple whom Nigel helped in had had a rough run down from Crotone, so we were glad not to be going the other way. We biked into town to get food and lugged 25 gallons of water in cans from a nearby campsite. The evening looked a lot quieter, and we decided on a dawn departure the following day.
“Faréal” beat us out by half an hour – we had the anchor up by 05.30 and motor-sailed gently up to Punta Stilo in a light northerly, tacking occasionally to keep wind in the sail. We could see “Faréal” taking an inshore course ahead, but we couldn’t raise them on VHF – various other masts emerged behind us – a slightly tiresome NE swell developed. We sailed for a hour and a half as the wind freshened and came off the nose a bit, but by 13.00 we couldn’t make a decent course and started the engine again. By 14.00 the wind was F4/5, right on the nose, and the going was quite uncomfortable over the last 5 miles to Cape Rizzuto on the other side of the Gulf of Squillace – we saw “Faréal” tack across our course and then back into the lee of the cape (where they holed up for the night). Ironically, that was the worst bit: the next ten miles up to Cape Colonne were much calmer, and the wind soon dropped to F3. No sooner had we started enjoying the relatively easy going than we sprung another leak in our patched-up cooling water pipe. It took the best part of an hour to fix (“Mimi” stopped by to offer help, giving us the opportunity to pull Uno’s leg about Volvo’s reliability!), but we still managed to get into Crotone in daylight and pick up a laid mooring on the rather expensive but convenient yacht quay. With the help of “Mimi” and the local coast radio station we checked that our radio seemed to be working OK (in the process we inadvertently eavesdropped on a hilarious exchange between Uno and Crotone Radio over the billing for a link call he’d made to his son in Sweden).
Crotone nothing much to write home about, but good shopping (if amazingly inefficient banks), and we stocked up on food, Nigel bought some new deck shoes and shorts, and we found one or two things for the boat. Comings and goings (including that of “Faréal” ) at the so-called “Yacht Club Kroten” were enlivened by a loud and (apparently) ill-tempered boatman, who spent his time shouting abuse and instructions to skippers, in between splicing lazy lines inevitably tangled round propellers, most of them being (a) too short and (b) floating. In the evening we met up with Brian, Julie and the Swedes on “Faréal”, over the other side of the harbour having her forestay refitted, and went out for an excellent and convivial dinner, finishing up with coffee and brandy back on “Faréal” afterwards. An excellent evening was rounded off when Nigel spoke to a jubilant James, who’d got his coveted 2:1 in his finals (Nigel had decided to offer James a flight out to join us in Greece if he got the 2:1, but issued the invitation anyway!)
16th – 18th July 1993
We needed a few more lire for final shopping and fuel, so Nigel tried a different bank with even worse results than on the previous day – it took 1¼ hours to change money (including a half-hour wait even to get into the bank!). We did a final trawl round the local supermarket, said goodbye to Brian and Julie and filled up the fuel tank (a relief after uncertain negotiations with the noisy boatman). The plan was to set off for Levkas just before dark and to cover the distance (170-odd miles) over two nights and a day, arriving at some stage in daylight on Day 2. In the end it took us 37 hours, of which almost 22 under power (though we had a pleasant run for 9½ hours with the genoa poled out from late afternoon to early morning, during the second half of the passage). The second night was certainly more lively: in the evening we spotted an aircraft carrier and escort vessel on the horizon to the north and were buzzed by a couple of its aircraft, and in the early hours of the morning Nigel found himself crossing a N-S shipping route, with four coasters courteously altering course to avoid us! The only other incident was our recovery, on the first afternoon, of a fully inflated child’s dinghy almost halfway between Italy and Greece – and soon after that, a swimming ring (we later donated both to a flotilla hostess at Fiskhardo on Cephalonia). We sighted Levkas soon after daybreak on a slightly hazy morning with a flat calm sea, and thanks to a last-minute charge we just made the 09.00 opening of the bridge at the northern entrance to the canal – once inside it was only a few minutes to Levkas town, where we found an excellent berth on the middle section of the quay (it turned out to be downwind of a dead dog in a drain, but we didn’t let that bother us too much). Nigel checked in with the port police, managing to persuade them that we didn’t require a transit log (saving £18 or so), and we wandered into the closed (Sunday) but promising pedestrian shopping street of the little town – then flopped for the afternoon with the previous day’s issue of “The Times”.
19th – 24th July 1993
We had allowed ourselves plenty of time to get over to the central Ionian (and hence missed out Corfu) to make sure of being able to meet Julie’s mother and friend Dorothy Priest, who were flying out to Cephalonia on 25th July. As it was we could make a leisurely reconnaissance of the cruising area between Levkas and Cephalonia before they arrived, and we got some useful tips on where to go from Joe Charlton, the local CA rep., the following morning. A trip to the bank got us a vast quantity of drachma (thanks to a bit of faulty mental arithmetic on Nigel’s part we drew the equivalent of about £600!), and we did a good bit of shopping before setting off down the canal on the genoa – slightly reminiscent of our same gentle progress between Middelburg and Veere two years earlier, though the scenery was rather different! We emerged into the lovely scenery of the so-called “inland sea”, with wooded green slopes and quite steep to the shore, mountains behind, and a backdrop of islands into the distance southwards. The famous Tranquil Bay, opposite Nidri, was predictably chock-full of anchored yachts, and the roadstead buzzing with traffic of all kinds, but we pressed on a little way into the relative calm of the virtually land-locked Vlikho Bay.
A very attractive anchorage off the tavernas on the east shore, and we went over for a couple of ouzos later (and a generous free fill of our two water-cans). Next day we motored across to Meganisi and squeezed ourselves into one of the pretty coves on the north side of the island, eventually sharing the little bay with four other yachts (by some miracle no anchor chains got entangled). We had a fairly strenuous walk over the island early next morning to buy bread at Port Vathi (no bread, so we bought tomatoes and cucumber instead – get what you can seems to be the rule in Greece), lost our bearings trying a different route back but had some lovely views over the maze of inlets below. Then across the open water to the channel between Ithaca and Cephalonia, picking up a bit of wind on the way, so that we ended close-hauled in a lively F4 up to the northern end of the strait, where we negotiated one way into the little harbour of Fiskhardo. Quite a picturesque waterfront, the village having been one of the very few in the area to have escaped virtually unscathed from the 1953 earthquake – consequently a very popular port of call for yachts of all shapes and sizes, and we decided not even to attempt the crowded quay.
Anchoring across the bay was no picnic either, and it took us four attempts in two different places before we got the anchor to set and stern securely attached to a rock on the shore: the harbour got very crowded later, with two or three (Italian) yachts moored perilously close to the ferry’s line into its section of quay (it avoided them very carefully and considerately early next morning!). We had a nice stroll round the village, beers on the waterfront, and a phone call to Nigel’s former colleague Paul Apostolides, who’d sent us a letter to Levkas inviting us to call in at their summer retreat on Spetsai. The evening light was very attractive on the old houses along the quay, with a beautiful view behind down the Ithaca channel, mountains on either side, and the odd sail still out on the water.
Found a pleasant anchorage – Kalo Limani – a few miles down the channel on the Cephalonia side for Julie’s birthday: a well sheltered bay with a few fisherman’s cottages on one side and only one other yacht in residence. For once we had a proper birthday dinner and retired to bed comfortably fed and wined, but it was an unquiet night, with quite strong gusts whistling down the bay from the hills behind us. The morning dawned still windy, with quite a lot of cloud about: Julie went ashore bird-watching while Nigel put another coat of oil on the woodwork, and in mid-morning we continued down the channel to Agia Eufimia (too short a distance to put the sails up, and we needed to charge the batteries, but it was quite a relief anyway not to have to get the sails down again in the 30+ knot gusts we encountered outside the harbour!) The main quay would have been tricky in the cross-wind (as it proved for a few later arrivals) but fortunately we spotted a space on the end of the short quay on the west side of the harbour, and drove straight in alongside a friendly English couple on a charter boat (“Smart Yachts”!). We had had the foresight to get the Bruce anchor out on to the stern and attach it to the spare chain and warp (this being our first bows-to moor, oddly enough), but thanks to a slight misjudgement of distance we ended up laying some 23m of chain and 35m of warp in about 6m depth – we retrieved the Bruce and laid the lightweight Fortress with a little less scope the following afternoon! Went ashore to find the few facilities (two general stores, two butchers, baker, and the usual assortment of tavernas) in the village, and a helpful English- speaking girl ordered us a taxi to go to the airport on Sunday morning – a relatively quiet and friendly sort of place. Interesting to watch arrivals coping with the fresh wind as they tried to back in to the N. quay – most (including a Sunsail flotilla) did remarkably well in the circumstances.
Fortunately Saturday saw a gradual easing of the conditions as we completed preparations for our visitors, donated our redundant Avon outboard bracket to a surprised and appreciative flotilla skipper, and acquired a rather tedious new neighbour (RN officer seconded to NATO) – and some pleasant enough Germans.
25th July – 1st August 1993
In calm weather we finished our cleaning and polishing and Julie went off with Elias the Taxi to pick up Molly and Dorothy from the airport, returning in mid-afternoon: Molly had gallantly toted a hefty bag containing (amongst other things) a new heat exchanger, water pipe, genoa cars, mail and a couple of bottles of gin! In the morning Nigel took the early bus into Argostoli in the hope of picking up some letters forwarded from Corfu (no joy – they eventually reached us via London) and did some food shopping as well – Julie and guests pottered around Ayia Eufimia until Nigel got back at midday. After lunch we motored up to Kalo Limani and had the anchorage all to ourselves on a lovely peaceful evening: did our well-tried lamb pirzola barbecue, followed by bananas and rum.
Next day saw us headed back north up the Ithaca channel and out on a course for Sivota Creek on the south coast of Levkas: we sailed across for 2½ hours in a comfortable F3/4, backing from NNW to W, and the ladies took turns at the wheel for a while. Difficulty identifying the entrance to Sivota (our GPS fixes didn’t seem to match the topography) eventually led us to the correct conclusion that there was an error of about 1½ miles in the lat/long positioning of the chart! Sivota had clearly been a much more attractive place before new quays were built (and tavernas established) to cater for several Sunsail flotillas based there, but in spite of a slightly dusty and scruffy air it was well sheltered, and there was plenty of room (for some reason most visiting yachts chose to moor offshore) to go stern-to. Molly and Dorothy went for a stroll along the water-front; we joined them for a beer a little later and eventually tracked down a phone for them to ring home. Our departure was not altogether as smooth as usual – we started by losing the end of one of the flag halyards (demonstration of hauling Julie up to the cross-trees), then hooked our neighbour’s anchor chain, and in the process of freeing it dropped the boat hook under the chain.
Fortunately our (Swiss) neighbours chose to leave immediately afterwards, our boathook appeared, floating just below the surface, and Julie (who else) dived in and retrieved it! We motored up the lovely Meganisi channel to Vlikho Bay, anchored in our previous spot, took the ladies to the beach for a paddle, then went ashore for an excellent taverna dinner. During the afternoon we demonstrated another facet of life afloat by taking the loo pump apart to unblock it – Dorothy (probably the culprit) was greatly relieved that we seemed to regard this as all part of the day’s work! Thursday morning saw us anchored off Nidri, opposite Tranquil Bay: Nigel stayed to look after the boat while Julie rowed the dinghy ashore with our guests, finding Nidri a pleasant enough place in spite of its tourist trap reputation. Touristy certainly, but helpful and friendly people – a pity they have spoiled the waterfront square by turning it into a car park….
Over to Meganisi in the afternoon, we found our previous anchorage in Kapali Bay already full, so we moved to the next bay (Abelike) and got close in to a cove off a small beach without too much litter on it – shared the space with two boats of a Sunsail flotilla (not very friendly, though we were amused to hear their speculation from the beach on what we were doing there!) Roast chicken on deck under the stars went down very well. In the morning we motored down the east side of Meganisi in flat calm (so flat that Julie spent an hour or two below putting together a moussaka), pause for lunch in a pretty, step-sided cove near the southern tip of the island, then pushed on to Fiskhardo in what would have been a nice wind (W F4) had we been going the other way!
At Fiskhardo we were early enough to find a shallow but manageable slot on the quay (a couple of Brits on the boat next door, living more or less permanently there, had a notice up warning of the depth, so many having run aground trying to get in!), but we couldn’t get close enough to rig the passerelle, so getting ashore involved scrambling across the dinghy – soon christened “Bloody Dinghy” by the ladies as they went off shopping. Rather snotty Italians on a power boat on our other side, but a friendly young bunch of Greek’s on a charter boat later nosed in between our respective bows. We donated our ‘flotsam’ child’s dinghy to a friendly flotilla lead crew who’d taken our lines (nice of them, since we pinched one of “their” berths!) Beers on the waterfront later, then an excellent dinner on board – we had to eject next door’s friendly “Micky” from our bed before we turned in.
Woke up to find the Greeks looking a bit woebegone, unable to turn their engine over and suspecting duff starter. Nigel volunteered to take a look and rapidly diagnosed two flat batteries – fortunately they managed to enlist the help of a local garage to get themselves going, but the consequent delay brought some ridiculously grumpy behaviour from our Italian neighbours (who couldn’t get out). We left in mid-morning and stopped at Kalo Limani for lunch, less peaceful this time with a tourist caique in the bay and music coming from somewhere ashore; then on down the strait on the genoa in a comfortable F4, a perfect final sail for our guests. We moored on the main quay at Ay Eufimia, which proved surprisingly lively (i.e. noisy) later on, and went for an excellent dinner at a taverna overlooking the bay some 15 minutes walk away – a lovely setting in the moon-light. On the way back we stopped off at the noisiest taverna on the quay for a nightcap, watching a little Greek dancing and the world in general enjoying itself. Not a good night’s sleep for everyone, though, with the noise going on till quite late and a bee invading the saloon to disturb Molly: come the morning Nigel went the rounds of the food shops while the rest of the party went for a final walk along the shore. Time dragged a little as we whiled away the final couple of hours before Elias arrived in his taxi to take Molly and Dorothy to the airport, and eventually we were all glad to get the good-byes over with. It hadn’t really been long enough, but otherwise it had been a very successful week – and we knew that Molly, at least, would come and see us again.