Cautionary Tales around The Ionian - in which we park the boat neatly upon a rock, loose the anchor ball and generally give Mary an exciting week ........ entertain three girls for the bank holiday weekend ....... run out of food by which I mean interesting snacks ...... and anchor in unfair conditions.
Entertaining Mary around Zakynthos.
Parking the boat on a rock
Enter an unknown bay very cautiously having looked at the chart and pilot book carefully. Note where we think the foul areas are. Put a lookout on the bow. Listen for the clunk and grating noise and hey presto – you’ve done it!!! Good, now how do we get off? First, distribute vallium to the crew.
Second, dispatch a swimmer to look at conditions below. The report confirmed that the keel was indeed firmly upon a flat topped rock but that all around, although alarmingly rocky was deep enough to get away from.
Third, have a big think!
Attempt number one ............... gather available crew to jump up and down on the bow.
Attempt number two, put up the mainsail and hope that the wind will tip the boat enough for us to drive off. Attempt number three, and the successful solution, launch the dinghy with two crew, the outboard, and the spinnaker halyard (a long line from the top of the mast) motor out and, with all the power available, pull so that the boat cants far enough for the helmswoman to bow thrust and steer her way off. Exhale ..... then ignore wild waving from the crew in the dinghy, still hanging on to the line from the boat, and, high on adrenaline, reverse the route, do not stop until quite certain that there are NO MORE ROCKS!!
Lunching mid channel between Cephalonia and Zakynthos
Yes, what a good idea! After all that excitement on the rock why not wait until just before the seas get up and after it the wind to decide to put the table up in the cockpit and have an elegant lunch. You will need, non slip mats, gimbling drink holders, self righting bottles and five arms each. Needless to say this attempt was abandoned quite quickly. The next few days were stuck in Ay Niklaaos where we eventually found a safe spot after being shooed away by a ferry who was heading straight at us and having our anchor ball whip off its line in a gust.
We did spend two lovely peaceful days at anchor in the south and saw some dolphins – momentarily and, most exciting of all a selkie, a Mediterranean species called a monk seal and very rare. It came out specially to see us. We went to ‘wreck bay’ where the sea was unbelievably blue and where we sang along to Simon and Garfunkel so after all these adventures you can understand our guest’s most memorable words being “ I don’t know why you’re putting the cork back in the bottle!!”
Three girls and a bank holiday weekend.
We were joined for the Bank Holiday Weekend by Sophia (Mac’s fiancée), Anna (Semi son’s girlfriend) and Lucy (the bridesmaid). Anna’s attendance on the weekend had been put in some doubt by a motor boat accident, a broken collar bone and a recent operation, but not deterred she came out anyway and we were very careful of her and nagged her every step of the way – she now has a neat little white patch on her shoulder where the sun didn’t shine and will be a dead giveaway when she next sees the doctor who advised against a sailing weekend! We gave Anna our cabin because of her injury and for the first time we both slept in the cockpit underneath the boom tent and bimini – it was fantastic. starry nights, a fresh breeze and surprisingly comfortable. The girls all admit to being ‘geographically challenged’ and made us question our navigation when we were asked if we off the Algerian coast – no not Algeria, another A – Albania!! The visit made Andy and I wonder how our lives would have been different had we had three girls and not three boys. It was great for me to have a shift in the balance of power! They were lovely; happy to sun and chat and swim and people watch – especially the big naked Italian stallion on a nearby boat; they forced us to drink cocktails and took us out for meals – how difficult was that. We finished off the weekend on the rooftop of the Hotel Cavalieri in Corfu town, looking down on Selkie Dancer at anchor in the bay, drinking Prosecco and eating seafood pasta yummy! It’s very quiet now on the boat and all that remains of the visit are left over sun and after sun creams (much superior to any I have), a waste bin full of makeup removal pads, cotton buds and a shower filter full of hair!!
Ayios Stefanos is a charming collection of tavernas, shops and villas clustering at the head of an inlet surrounded by tree covered slopes. This is a popular anchorage and it was here, in the supermarket that I was given some Greek tuition. Mix a Scottish Chef, Gary (fluent Greek speaker) with Christina, the bubbly golden toothed Greek matriarch and you must beware the potent and compatible mix of humour. With much friendliness, screams of hilarity and hand clapping I was taught and encouraged to mimic some essential Greek. I can now confidently tell “a w****r to go to the devil!” in greek!
August’s hot sea temperatures and sailable winds gave way to cloud, plummeting water temperatures and winds of force seven. We left Corfu for one of our favourite spots, Lakka on Paxos. We were expecting wind in the channel between the two islands but not as much as we got. We were soon into three reefs in the main with the genoa furled as we careered into what was meant to be a haven of peace and tranquillity.
Sadly the winds had more north than west in them and we had an anxious, rolly night followed by a day trapped on the boat watching the antics of others particularly one we nicknamed ‘menace’ as he careered in sails flapping, swirling around other boats at top speed, looking totally out of control. He anchored no fewer than five times then in the morning went round and around with his motor running like the Flying Dutchman, then he took off - we couldn’t make out what he had been up to.
Two boats came in and we guessed, by the way they operated, that they were UK military. When they came to leave Andy did a secret sign for ‘come to me’ and they did! So we were right well partially anyway, elements of their crew were military, as they said responding to the signal was a bit of a give away!
Another interest that day was the frantic activity of the little water taxis belting to and fro. We didn’t know what was going on until one appeared towing a yacht. The yacht seemed to have no steering as every so often it veered alarmingly broad side to the waves. It came into the bay, weaving through other boats at anchor - I would have been worried had our boat been nearby – they succeeded in bringing it alongside fairly skilfully and the story is that it was found on a nearby beach, the keel damaged and the rudder missing. They now have salvage, apparently the crew turned up later and negotiations will be taking place!
The waters on the day of the storm were amazing, layers of colours, really defined; deep, dark blue flecked with white, mint green, greeny brown and then the white of the surf crashing on the shore. It looked like a cocktail so we have created a new one – the Lakka Lash – it has crème de menthe, baileys, Curacao, coconut and cream – yuk!
Because we were stuck we couldn’t get ashore for food and were forced to fall back on emergency supplies in the form of a Fray Bentos mince and onion pie (last resort). However this time I cooked it and removed the lid so the pastry could rise! It was still pretty disgusting.
We have been well served by Preveza, this is the fourth time here and it’s always been so busy until last night when the rain proved a merciful relief. The doughnut seller, the candy floss seller and their accompanying generators along with the many corn on the cob sellers, particularly the old white haired lady we always moor up by all packed up and left early. But she is there now, waiting to launch her selling rhymes in her corn crake voice that is like the volley and rattle of machine gun fire. They are usually there from five in the evening until four in the morning – unbelievable! We also have a great cafe near us and can forgive it it’s ‘doomph doomph’ music as during the day we can use their internet and with your beer you get little tapas, really enough for supper and all at a very reasonable price and they don’t seem to mind how long you nurse the beer.
We are leaving Selkie Dancer here for three weeks while we go home for some important events on which I shall report later!!