It’s Friday, we have been back on the sea for a week, hardly stopped. The ‘busyness’ of a last week in the UK, visits with friends, semi son Tom and Kate’s wedding, flights, taxi rides with a Greek driver who didn’t recognise our destination and the confusion created by our limited Greek responses, plus two Sat Navs vying for supremacy, uncertainty over launch day, then splash! We’re off and to Chalkis where at 0300 bleary voices responded to the request to move to the start line, on to the chocks,and like a grand prix rally shoot through the briefly open bridge.
A few days later having sat through near gale 7 with our anchor dragging and with a few days provisions in hand we found a beautiful bay north of Achilleon in the Gulf of Volos patrolled by Leda the swan. There was an abandoned, rose pink hull on the shore and a few small low buildings almost hidden behind the rushes to which Leda limped and waddled her way at sundown to be fed by the nut brown man who lived there. The next day we set to, to clean and reorganise, to catch up with ourselves and anchor ourselves back into sea life. After a lazy lunch, bliss is disturbed by a text “flight delayed by 2 hours”. I’m very puzzled by this, aren’t they arriving tomorrow, Saturday? Mac, Sophia and Tom are flying into Skiathos and when they arrive at their hotel we are going to be anchored serenely in the bay in front. I have visualised and planned it. The awful truth dawns as the text comes back, yes we are en route. We have five hours to realise my plan. To add to this Tam and Louise’s baby is arriving any moment. I know she is in hospital, know labour started last night and now no news. I feel frantic! We set off and have a very good sail, the wind was challenging and remained so as we struggled to find a suitable place to anchor. We were just about to give up when we had one last ditch attempt and the anchor held and then we waited..................The sea was jouncy and disturbed so it was not at all comfortable, we were too near to moorings and to cliffs for Andy’s comfort.
Then a series of text messages as follows
Mac - ‘Locstat? x’ What the hell does that mean?
Jinti - ‘don’t know what you mean, think we are anchored in bay of your hotel on east side v un-comfy! Where ate you? x’ thumb slipped.
Mac - ‘look off bow for torch on beach! x’
Jinti - ‘yes we see you x’
Mac - ‘we’re hungry. Are you joining us for food or RVing tomorrow?X’ the boy has no idea of the conditions with us
Jinti - long and involved female message declining and saying we may move in night but concluding with ‘I’m really worried re Tam Louise – what’s happening ? xxx’
Mac - ‘ We have link to picture, so think good news x’
Jinti - ‘What does it mean you have a link? Send it immediately! X’ increasing panic on Grandma’s part.
Mac - ‘George W-B is here, have pic x’
Jinti - ‘can’t get the kink’ finger slipped again.
Jinti - having finally received picture of newest little W-B ‘Oh thank you soooo much, been very worried am now drinking neat gin x’
So I sank into a gin induced slumber dreaming of little George who looks adorable and Andy dozed fitfully in the saloon in constant worry about our safety. (One of our ideas when renaming Oyster Pet, as Selkie Dancer was when we bought her, had been ‘Constant Stream of Worry’ quite an accurate description of how we feel some of the time). We left at first light for the safety of Skiathos harbour. Very pleased to be there I wandered into a cafe to get a croissant when I was hailed by a couple sitting at one of the tables. Amazing! It was Emma and Keith with whom I’d stayed while doing my Nia Blue Belt in Tattenhall last year. I had had a very relaxed and comfortable stay with them and we had found so many shared circumstances it was lovely to see them again and to see their boat Jason – who will soon be magnificent!
With Mac, Sophia and Tom we based ourselves in Skiathos harbour, took three trips out on the boat to swim and picnic and to give Tom an early taste of the sea life – he is working towards his Competent Crew certificate and has completed the “ability to sleep while at sea” section. We visited the old Kastro in the 4x4 that Mac had hired with the girls squealing safety from the back seat as we rocked over bumps and potholes and reared up and bucked down steep narrow sandy tracks and Tom met Ariadne, who rather fancied him. We had some time at their hotel and generally had a very happy week. Alistair and Lis, my cousins, arrived on the Friday (by this time I had realised that flights into Skiathos were generally on a Friday!) Mac, Sophia and Tom left the same day but not before we all had lunch together.
With Lis and Alistair we set off for Skopelos and anchored for the night in the harbour of Loutraki, under the picturesque village of Glossa where we promised ourselves a meal in the restaurant everyone keeps recommending. We are given a gift of lemons by a Loutraki waitress, just another example of many kind gestures the Greeks are prone to. Searching for a knife sharpener a few weeks ago, one was pulled out of a drawer, was this what I wanted? Yes, OK the boy will go and get one from the ironmonger. They would not be deterred and five minutes later I had just what I wanted and they would take nothing towards the petrol. A different ‘supermarket’ and I’d bought a lot of heavy stuff (beer!) it was whisked away by the owner to be delivered to the boat ahead of us and then as I was stowing my purchases the bike appeared at the back of the boat, this time with the lady astride it bearing two fresh eggs, some olives and my receipt! Later we were given a packet of chewing gum and two sun hats and ALWAYS in the shops they round down the change – where could you get away with not paying EXACTLY what you owe in UK!! Lots of kind people here, or canny marketers!
Andy spots the cherry picker and the weather makes itself known
As we enter Skopelos harbour, the eyes of a reconnaissance pilot, spot, on the far side of the harbour, a cherry picker (CP) parked by a yacht and someone in the basket busy at the top of his mast. Just the solution! No sooner had our lines been tied than Andy (the reconnaissance pilot, if you hadn’t already twigged) was off like a rocket to negotiate a date when we could share cost and get our lopolight tricolour and anchor light attached to the top of the mast. The date was set and with the weather turning dark, cloudy and rainy. We decided to stay put and hire a car to see more of the island. It has a beautiful interior, greens of every hue and trees of all shapes and sizes hug the valleys and hills of this densely wooded island. We succeeded in lunching in Agnanti in Glossa, a restaurant where Meryl Streep and Colin Firth had eaten when they were filming Mama Mia. My friends Cath and John from Greek class in Edinburgh, lucky owners of a flat in Skopelos town had actually been sitting at the next table that day! Of course we had to take Alistair and Lis to see the chapel featured in the film though I’m not convinced either of them had seen it! It was quite different from our last visit when we had anchored in the bay. This time the waves were lashing on the rocks at the bottom of the steps. The road to it was another challenging one for the back seat drivers.
A week later and we were back in Skopelos. Our arrival not without incident as, coming alongside, everything going according to plan, helpful people to take our lines, I suddenly heard an almighty splash and saw that one of our helpers was now in need of help himself having tumbled in along with the line. Luckily there were steps nearby and lots of hands to help him out with only a few scratches, only then he did admit he had spent the afternoon drinking ouzo. There may be a lesson there, or there may not! Anyway on with the cherry picker story. It arrived late, not unexpected and in that waiting time we had attracted another boat from across the other side of the harbour who hearing what was afoot had motored over to take advantage. It turned out to belong to Christo, a friend of Michael who had arranged the CP. Christo and his son were getting increasingly excited that Michael was not succeeding in the task of re threading his halyard in the mast. There were many shouts of advice and gesticulations and big sighs, most not heard or understood by Michael high up in the basket. Eventually Michael comes down and Christo goes up. There’s a clatter on the deck and a splash with expletives from above as his glasses are added to the flotsam at the bottom of the harbour. Anyway he knows what he’s doing and soon the task is completed successfully and it is our turn. Andy has been planning this exercise down to the last nut, bolt and inevitable cable tie and rather like a surgeon has all his tools assembled in buckets and a line ready for me to send him up anything he’s forgotten. Unlikely as he’d spent a sleepless night rehearsing the whole operation. No one should be in the least surprised to hear that it all went flawlessly and now occasionally we add a glittering red green and white star to the night sky.
Leaving for a new sea area – is it Thermaikos, Thrakikos or NE Aegean?
Standing on the deck looking north through the hour glass entrance to this magical bay on Kira Panayia. The mulberry red stain of dawn slowly giving way as the brash sun arises. The air is still and warm. The water is calm. I am aware of the smell of the herbs and warmth from the previous day and now sense the intensity that will build during the heat of the day to come. The sounds of the dawn, birds wakening, the gradual stir of the cicadas, a low clicking that will become a high frantic castanet rattle before the day’s end, an occasional goat bleat,it is fabulous. Our anchor comes up and we glide peacefully out of the bay.
Two hours after leaving Kira Panayia we dropped anchor off an ancient beach of the low lying island of Psathoura for breakfast and a swim. One, what I thought, abandoned boat lay peacefully at anchor. We swam ashore, water clear as glass. Having seen the rare sea daffodil and looked at the black, black rock and wondered about the now submerged city of Circa (??) we swam back to see that we had been joined by two little fishing boats, sorting their nets after a night’s fishing and the abandoned boat had conjured up a dog and two tousled looking young spear fishermen. These are really blissful islands - the Eremonisia – the deserted islands – they have become a great favourite of ours and I’m sure we’ll be back.
…patrolled by Leda the swan ….
Andy adding a glittering red, green and white star to the night sky
A naked bulb ! Missing it sheath of red, green and white.
Dining at Glossa - Competing to be Meryl Streep and Colin Firth.
.. waves lashing at the bottom of the steps ..
Bad weather program - by car to the Mama Mia Chapel
At last - some 2013 Photos
Standing on the deck
Mulberry red stain of dawn