E from Aboard 2010 - 10

Pictures with this "E"

Over a quiet evening meal in one of Killini’s limited selection of tavernas the next move was decided upon; we were to make for our favourite haunts in the Ionian as soon as possible; if the weather allowed, Kioni, if not Poros on Cephalonia first, the mileage to either being manageable for Charlie.  The forecast suggested Kioni would be fine and possibly a nice sail.

Rising at a sociable hour the next morning, tea was taken as usual in the warmth of the early morning sun.  Kioni was to be the target.  After a leisurely breakfast departure was achieved without hassle but as we steamed slowly out of the inner harbour it became apparent all was not well with the engine; it sounded like a car with a blown exhaust. We turned round and headed for the beach, taking care to avoid the troublesome shallows and dropped the hook whilst Richard investigated the probable causes; the first thought was a blocked seawater inlet as a result of the previous day’s excursion into the mud.  A quick blow back through the disconnected inlet pipe soon dispelled that possibility as bubbles happily rose to the surface around the hull.  It was the impeller then and that meant removing the companionway steps to access the pump housing that contained it.  With a new impeller fitted, the water system primed with seawater, all was well.

We settled into a perfect sail in a gentle breeze under a clear blue sky and on a calm sea.  The tree-lined mountainsides of Cephalonia to port, the dark outlines of Ithaki and Atokos ahead and the distant islands off the mainland to starboard seemed to be wrapped round CGIV bringing feelings of comfort and home-coming, particularly for Charlie.

On arrival in Kioni three sets of hands were waiting on the quay to take the lines.  Each of the three greeted us with a cheery “hello Charlie Girl”.  They were from boats already moored up that had seen us coming and who knew us of old; embarrassingly their faces were familiar but it took further exchanges to place them in context. It was the most unexpected but warmest of welcomes.

The intention was to stay for a few days but over night the wind turned east and south bringing an albeit minor chop and roll into the harbour that caused Richard to seek the Internet over breakfast for a weather update.  Clearly they had not finished expressing their displeasure.  The forecast was for southerly winds of increasing strength, and, rain!  The former makes Kioni untenable, the latter is undesirable anywhere.  It was time to leave and enjoy a further gentle sail north past the island of Arkoudhi and on up the beautiful Meganissi channel between that island and Levkada.  Soon Little Vathi was reached and a mooring taken in the new marina.  It not being so much of a surprise a similar welcome awaited us there, this time from recognised and remembered friends Rod & Pat, our Bovey neighbours, and Tony & Tessa, adjoining berth holders in Aghos Nikolaos, who we knew were there though we had not expected Steve Miler or one chap who, upon seeing the Devon flag flying, approached and asked from where we hailed.  Imagine the surprise when it turned out he had bought a house in Higher Brimley just a mile up the road from our home and had left his dog with our neighbours for his two-week sailing holiday.  They might not be happy with our return to the Ionian but we certainly were.

The Rain PartyThree happy days were spent in Little Vathi, renewing old friendships, making some new ones and partying in defiance of the deteriorating weather!  (See rain-spotted photo).  The rain even made it on to the camera lens, hence the light spots.

From there we wandered up to Levkas marina for a night and supper with Nigel & Alison from Exmouth at Romas in the town square after which we headed further north, through ‘the gate’ (lifting bridge over the Levkas canal) for what promised to be the only time in thirty years we have managed to sail the thirty odd miles up to Gaios on Paxoi. The wind was in the east, unusual in itself, with a bit of south in it that steadily moved round to a bit of north.  It was strong, 16-25 knots, but largely behind the mast and with full sail engaged, speed was terrific for, as the wind was off the land, the sea was pretty flat.  Perhaps they were relenting?

We nearly made it but just five miles off Gaios the wind was dropping so low progress was unacceptably slow.  With the risk of a late arrival meaning no space to moor-up; the donkey finished the job and we found a spot on the town quay.  Rod & Pat on Genevieve, who had got half-an-hour ahead of us with their clean bottom and two new sails (our bottom needs a good scrub!) took the north entrance to the harbour and that made all the difference; by the time they reached us there were no spaces left but we managed to persuade the yachts around us to bunch up a bit and we called them back (by radio) to moor alongside us.

Gaios has changed little since our last visit some 18 months ago. The beautiful newly paved square that fronts on to the harbour still floods in what little tide there is in the Med and prices are steep compared with elsewhere in the Ionian. Despite all that it is still heaving with yachts night after night.  Two nights were happily spent there before a hankering for ‘Chicken Blue Coast’ and their potato wedges beckoned Richard like the sirens to Odysseus and his crew.  That meant moving the 14nms to Sivota Mourtos on the mainland.

The wind was fickle but five miles of the short journey were sailed and by mid-afternoon we were moored up outside The Bamboo Place where we nipped ashore for a refreshing beer after our limited exertions.  Andreas who owns and runs the quayside bar is a real worker and knows every trick in the book to bring customers in and keep them there once he’s got them.  You order a drink, and that turns up with generous bowl of nibbles.  Before you can finish that drink a freebie arrives and after you have consumed those two you feel obliged to order a third.  When the third drink is delivered it is quickly followed by a plate of tasty toasted sandwiches full of cheese and ham so of course you feel obliged to order yet another drink.  And then Andreas ............... Hotel California! If you know the song?

Despite his best attempts we managed to escape, shower and slip past him to reach ‘The Blue Coast’ taverna; a spot for which we have fond memories that go back to our early flotilla days.  It has a homely atmosphere that has been retained by the daughter Angie and her Turkish chef husband who have taken over the business from Angie’s Canadian mother and Greek father.  Charlie ravenously consumed a perfectly cooked Sea Bream whilst Richard tucked into his siren dish.  The only missing ingredient was the swallows and martins that have long departed but make a meal there an absolute delight for guests in the Spring and early summer but hell for Angie and the staff who have to clean up after them.  Special boards are positioned around the covered veranda upon which they happily nest.

Romantic dinner at Blue CoastWhat was sad was to hear that Angie had had a distressing season with some upsetting customers, something she had not previously experienced in 22 years in the business.  To top that was her realisation that they had taken insufficient money during the season to see them comfortably through the winter and she is, quite rightly in Richard’s view, fearful of a weaker season next year as a large proportion of their shoulder months’ business relies upon Brits.  But equally Richard is confident they will survive as all the moves she was talking about are good and will see them through.  It was another distressing example of how the Greek economy is creaking and how UK cut backs will amplify that next year.  Nonetheless we managed to have three most enjoyable and romantic meals there (see photo).

Next came another short trip up to a new port we had been trying to fit in for many years; Benitses on Corfu.  In itself it not exciting and probably only tenable in reasonable weather but it is free, quiet and within an easy bus or taxi ride of Corfu Old Town.  Rod & Pat were already there with their guests Sue & Richard who were to fly home the following day.  We all traipsed of to the Liston in the Old Town on the early evening bus and had a most enjoyable evening in its hustle and bustle busy atmosphere; we were even entertained by a passing wedding party and their accompanying band.

After a return visit to Sivota Mourtos it was time to head back south as the long range forecasts were suggesting southerly winds were again on their way.  It was a longish day but somehow it passed quickly and smoothly albeit it was totally motored; with a stop at Levkas for fuel (another €220.00) and water we moored up at Porto Spilia, dramatically set as it is under an over-hanging cliff topped by the village of Spartahori.  The welcome we received from Babis as he took our lines was warm and from the heart and Charlie was much moved by it.

After two days there a huge washing trip was needed to the best washing machine in the area, Teo’s in Sivota Levkas.  Thus two days were spent washing and drying in the autumnal sunshine before the 14-day forecast encouraged us to trundle back up to Little Vathi to take shelter from the expected strong southerly winds to be accompanied by almost continuous rain and thunderstorms.  We have often said that when the weather in the UK is unusually good it is unusually bad in the Med.  The weather in the UK was unusually good.

After a couple of days spent there in the company of Rod and Pat who had also run there for cover, Charlie suddenly developed breathing difficulties and panic attacks as a result.  Plans always allow for the possibility that Charlie’s condition will take a dive; unfortunately, that having happened, it was time to implement them.   The return home flight from Herakleon had already been moved to be from Corfu but on the 26th of October to Gatwick.  A quick visit to the Internet discovered there were plenty of seats available on an alternative Easyjet flight from Corfu to Bristol on Friday the 15th; the transfer was made for just €104.00.  That was on Tuesday the 12th giving us just three days to prepare CGIV for bed and move her to her new resting place, Cleopatra yard near Preveza. With the prevailing weather this was a near impossible task but it had to be done as we suspected that fluid may again be collecting around Charlie’s lung, this time on the left side.  With Charlie’s specialist nurse’s help appointments for an x-ray and to see Charlie’s consultant Liz Toy were made for Monday the 18th, with us flying home over night on the 15th; such excellent service is almost impossible to believe but it would seem is a regular occurrence for us.

The weather remained appalling with almost continuous rain and very high humidity when it wasn’t raining; absolutely the last thing you want when sails and rig have to be dried out for winter storage.  Fortunately, the sails had been thoroughly rain washed after the trip up from Crete and just needed drying.  Lady Luck kicked in with just one sunny morning with no wind and Richard took that opportunity to check the genoa was dry, drop it and bag it with Rod & Pat’s assistance.  Minutes after that was completed the wind came in on the stern which would have made dropping the sail physically impossible.  Battling with 60m² of sail cloth weighing more than 25kgs with the wind in it, on the foredeck is just not possible even in 3 knots of wind.  The mainsail, being furled ‘in mast’ was left where it was for the winter with a mental note to see if CGIV could be parked on the hard facing south thereby keeping the sun off what little of the sail would still be exposed to its damaging ultra-violet light.  All the loose rigging, ropes, blocks and sheets were removed and by the time we reached Cleopatra marina, more or less dry.  That in itself was a miracle as on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning a thunder storm of immense proportions sat over Meganissi and dropped so many tonnes of water even the sprayhood, bimini and the awning atop them could not keep the water out and off the bundles left there to dry.  A similar squall with winds up to 50knots (58mph) struck suddenly in the marina but fortunately was seen coming and the freshly scrubbed awning was retrieved from the pontoon in time; just.

Charlie Girls clean bottomLift-out had been arranged for Friday morning at 09.00 and at 08.30 a marinero whizzed down the pontoon on his bike to see if we were ready; this was impressive!  We were and CGIV was soon in the dock, lifted and her bottom being power-washed (see photo).

Getting from Cleopatra to Corfu airport is a bit of a drag.  The most economic way is using the marina’s courtesy bus to Preveza, a bus from there to Igonemitsa, a ferry to Corfu and a taxi to the airport at all-up cost of around €50.00.  To achieve that means leaving on the 10.00 courtesy bus to catch the only winter schedule Igonemitsa bus of the day at 11.15.  That we could not do this time as we needed to see Our Girl lifted, washed, propped, power connected, warps and fenders put away, dehumidifier enabled, anchor and chain dropped onto a pallet (saves it rusting in its locker which always has seawater in it), all of which took a little over two hours.  So we took a taxi to Igonemitsa for €110.00!

Listons in Old CorfuThe journey was smooth and easy with Charlie sleeping most of the way.  Our arrival on Corfu was far too early to go to the airport particularly as we had checked in on line and only had hand luggage, a good excuse to return to one of our favourite spots to soak up more of its wonderful atmosphere and watch the numerous characters it attracts; the Liston in the Old Town (see photo).

And there we happily sat for around three hours supping orange juice, coffee and an early evening vodka before going to the airport and flying home, albeit an hour and a half late due to a bird strike on the incoming aircraft.  Stuart very kindly picked us up from the airport and drove us home where after a few chores we climbed gratefully into bed at 4am or to us, 6am Greek time.  We slept well.

Monday’s consultation with Liz was reassuring with the prior x-ray indicating little change in the fluid level around the lung; certainly not enough to justify attempts at its removal though that was to change.  With Charlie obviously below par Liz suggested a full MOT starting with blood tests and ending up with a further CT scan, all of which would be discussed at the extant appointment on November 1st.  Tuesday morning brought a phone call from Sandra (Charlie’s Specialist Nurse) “you’re anaemic and need a blood transfusion asap”.  09.00 Wednesday found us back in Cherry Brook ward for cross-matching and a boring four hour wait whilst two units of fresh blood were slowly drizzled into Charlie’s bloodstream.

Charlie’s pain control drugs had been slowly reduced over the last few weeks in an attempt to reduce her doziness and it appeared as if a plateau had been reached as some signs of discomfort were beginning to show themselves.  A consultation with Sarah Human, Charlie’s palliative care consultant on the following Tuesday supported what we had been trying and suggested we level off the drugs and wait a week to see how it goes.  An appointment was also to be made with her husband who is a pain consultant and who had suggested an alternative treatment to the taking of copious quantities of drugs.  It involves an injection of nerve deadening stuff that could switch off the two affected nerves where they exit from Charlie’s 8th and 9th thoracic vertebrae, thought to be the root of her discomfort as there are two 2cm tumours sitting right there and probably pressing on the nerves.  If that worked then Charlie could be weaned off all the opiates she currently has to take and would very much be closer to a normal life; driving may again become an option and thereby her freedom returned to her.  A subsequent appointment with David Human’s colleague ran though the procedure which Charlie was not too keen to try.  After an hour of discussion she decided to go ahead despite her fears.

During this three week period of tests and appointments Charlie’s breathlessness got worse so it was decided to attempt some removal of the fluid.  Neither that nor the nerve deadening injection are particularly pleasant procedures but with the cancer’s progress confirmed as still being thankfully slow, the benefits that could be gained tip the balance in their favour.  More tests and scans are planned for the end of November just prior to our departure on a rail and river cruise down the Rhine and Moselle to visit some more European Christmas markets.

Love or ChocolateCharlie is such a brave lady; I adore, love and admire her beyond belief: even more than chocolate (see photo).


Well, you have to keep smiling don’t you?