Life Abroad Charlie Girl IV 2017
A renewed life for CGIV?

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Wednesday May 3rd to Tuesday May 16th

My flight out from Bristol to Herakleon was uneventful and broadly on time. EasyJet were their usual quietly efficient selves. I however, was full of excitement and expectation. For two years in a row, CGIV had spent the winter being rebuilt, repaired or refurbished having been struck by lightning and set on fire in 2015 and last October nigh on totally wrecked whilst moored in Poros as a result of a hurricane force squall. The nett result of all that trauma is a completely updated navigation system that is so complex I need a Grandchild on tap to work out how it works as these days they’re born with built in smart phone and in-depth computer knowledge, or so it seems to me. The kit is so sophisticated that one could fly a 747 with it, let alone sail a yacht. Perhaps more importantly, all the teak and stainless steel work having been replaced with new and the rear half of the yacht’s fibreglass hull rebuilt or refurbished; even the passerelle, bimini and sprayhood had to be replaced. I had been fairly pleased with the work done by the Spring of 2016 when combined with a new mainsail and electric furling gear for the Genoa that I provided. But this past winter’s work had the potential to put the icing on the cake. Will it have, I wondered.

As usual, Tony Cross picked me up from the airport, which is very generous and kind of him as he no longer lives on his yacht with wife Tessa, having retrieved their shore legs from storage and rented an apartment in town. The standard arrangement is that the passenger pays for the hire car and fuel in cash and for the driver by transporting copious quantities of Vegemite out from the UK. Thus my hold bag not only contained necessary parts for the yacht but their Vegemite and for yacht stocks, Marmite, coffee, marmalade, sweetners, toothbrush heads and heaven knows what else that is too difficult or expensive to buy in Greece.

And so I arrived on board at 23.30 to find the bed made up, music playing and a bottle of wine standing on the table to greet me, all courtesy of Udo who has always looked after CGIV when she is in Aghios Nikolaos and had been charged with this winter’s refurbishments and returning Her to the water in time for my arrival.

Next morning I arose at the first signs of the coming dawn to witness through the myriad of aluminium masts in the marina, the sun as it peeked above the stark black mountains the other side of Mirambellou bay. On walking the decks to inspect Her, I was delighted, euphoric even; Udo and his team had done an absolutely superb job (see photos).It is no exaggeration to say She looked like a brand new yacht. The comparison between before and after gives some idea of the extent of the work but does not do justice to the standard of workmanship which is exemplary. I will be putting a post on Facebook so he can copy it for the benefit of the Marina authorities and other boat owners. It is good that they know there is someone living and working on their marina who can do that complexity of work to such a high standard; it will be good if it attracts further business for them both.

Photos of the damage done to Charlie Girl IV

    How she looks now, including centre picture on front page

The next few days were happily spent catching up with old friends, attending the traditional Sunday BBQ and joining other of Peter Stephen’s friends in a memorial supper, him having died on Good Friday and his dear wife Henri wishing such an event to take place at her expense. Peter was known for his continuous stream of (awful) jokes; he must have known thousands and you never knew whether a conversation with him was serious or leading to yet another unforeseen punch line. Thus we were all charged with bringing along a couple of jokes to make the evening as jovial as possible. It was and Manoli, the owner and chef at Portes, did us proud with his usual Greek style mezze of many courses and dishes to delight the pallet; by ten we were begging him for mercy, with folk holding their over-full bellies and shouting in unison “no more, no more, please no more”.

The mid-range forecast for the weekend of May 12/13th had been perfect for an escape from the clutches of Crete ever since my arrival. Plans were made to ensure all was ready for a departure on the Saturday on a relatively short 23nm trip round to Sitea, mainly to shorten the trip up to the southern end of the Dodecananisos (Dodecanese islands) and Khalki in particular, a trip of some 110nms from Sitea and partly to check all was well with all systems aboard. Generally just one night is spent in Khalki before pushing on 20nms north to Tilos, one of our all-time favourites where one can happily hole up for a few days in its peaceful, tranquil and quite beautiful surroundings. It also has power and water on tap; an added bonus as one has to keep the toothbrush charged up. But Aeolus had other ideas.

I arose early, around 06.00, on the Saturday just to make sure all was in order and to buy enough delicious ciabatta rolls from my favourite bakery to last me the trip. That and a little final shopping done, I settled down in KingEight for my usual morning coffee and fresh orange juice and to check the weather forecasts. Shock! Sunday’s forecast now suggested a change later in the day from the perfect WNW’ly F4-5 to a NNW’ly of similar strength; that was likely to make the last quarter of the journey up to Khalaki untenable for a gentleman sailor (Gentleman do not sail to windward! Particularly 74 year old ones). What to do?

Realising that I would be lucky to leave the marina by 11.00 limited my options somewhat but I decided that an 85nm trip North East up to a land-locked bay called Tristoma near the northwest tip of Karpathos was worth a shot as long as I had moonlight to identify its entrance, set as it is amongst the reefs, rocks and little islands protecting the anchorage; a quick check suggested it would rise at around 22.30. Perfect. The wind was forecast as southerly F4-5, going steadily westerly, again, perfect. With a short rest until dawn, Sunday’s forecast wind should see me nicely tucked up in Livadhia on Tilos by around lunchtime and before the wind veered. It was worth a try.

Thus all lines were slipped at around 11.30 and in a flat calm I gently eased CGIV out of her berth and into the open sea. The new folding prop, my latest boy’s toy, performed as expected which is more than can be said for the new nav kit. The multi-function display (like a laptop displaying the chart, the yacht, its direction of movement, drift speed, wind speed and direction, both true and apparent, its last meal and just about anything else you can programme it to show) indicated I was heading on a course of 055°, broadly agreeing with the two old fashioned compasses in the cockpit. However, the separate autopilot and log displays insist the heading was 110°. So I went through what is loosely described as the calibration routine which involves driving round in a large circle at a sensible speed; twice: giving any landlubbers watching the impression I had lost my marbles. The deviation persisted but I engaged the autopilot anyway to check She will steer the course set and not deviate from it.

And so I motored on for 25nms where I expected to pick up the southerly wind as it whistled round the eastern end of Crete. Nothing. Not a breath. All afternoon and on into the evening until, as the sun faded slowly over the western horizon and darkness fell, a faint southerly whisper did appear but insufficient to sail by. As I approached the near invisible coast of Karpathos in the shear darkness of the now cloud-filled sky, I searched in vain for some sign of the moon to enlighten the entrance; it was not to be. As I knew from previous visits there is a small red warning light mounted on the rocky promontory to the left of the entrance; that enabled me to get within a few metres of the entrance whilst carefully watching the depth. Still I could not see a break in the rock face but knowing it must be there somewhere, I continued to ease forward at less than 1 knot. To make things more difficult, an F6 wind got up which, when added to the continuing swell, had me close to giving up. Then I spotted a lighter grey patch against the dark grey rock and realised that was the entrance. It is a dogleg but with continuing care I squeezed through the 20m gap and out into the wide anchorage beyond. Phew!

After a few minutes cruising around to pick my spot in the now F6 westerly wind, I dropped the hook and prepared for bed. But it was not to be; the anchor was dragging and CG’s anchor does not drag; it just wasn’t in, suggesting a weed bed. Up it comes and three attempts later, it held. Then the wind veered through 180° to an easterly of similar strength. Up comes the anchor as that put me too close to the little island and reefs that protect the anchorage. I shall not go on, suffice to say it was 01.00 before I was confident enough to go to bed with the anchor alarm set, of course. But the wind continued to swing back and forth from east to west and back again, each time setting off the alarm and waking me to check all was well. But I did sleep and was up again around 05.30 and away by 06.00, motoring out due west into a SSW’ly until I was clear of Karpathos. Then I hung a right, set a NNE’ly course for Tilos and set the sails. Off we went at 7 knots on a spanking downwind sail for the next five hours by which time the wind had swung round the WNW and died as we found the lee under Tilos’s mountainous coast; the sheer cliffs there are over 450 metres high and often host nesting birds of prey. A stunning and awe inspiring sight.

By 12.30 I was tucked up alongside in my favourite corner of the harbour at Livadhi a yacht having left the spot just as I approached. Smiff’s luck strikes again.

And here I shall sit for a few days whilst the Meltemi blows its furious heart out. Then, perhaps, up to Nisiros, a charming volcano with a good, safe, little harbour, or perhaps on to Kos old town quay where on the 23rd I am being joined by …... Ah, but that would be telling.


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