Life Abroad Charlie Girl IV 2017
An expectant trip?

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Wednesday 16th May to Tuesday 23rd May

Sailing is a sport, a leisure pursuit, potentially dangerous, considerable fun and good for one’s physical and mental fitness but it is also a very social pastime, one where new friends are frequently made and old ones re-found. Such meetings may be planned or just occur; on this trip it would seem there are going to be plenty of the latter.

Whilst in Livadhia two invites to early evening drinks were kindly extended to this lone male; that in itself being an unusual event as us lone sailors are often seen as pariahs who are inclined to latch on like leaches to anyone who extends a welcome. First it was Paul & Helen on Corryvreckan and then the following evening by Ray & Val on Noss of Dart, both of whom expanded the usual offering of crisps, nuts and olives to include Tzatziki, salami, dressed potato, aubergine salad, tomatoes, peppers et al; generous indeed. I hope to meet up with them again sometime and return the compliment.

By Thursday Aeolus had decided to abate the Meltemi, for now at least, and which, incidentally, seems to be blowing very strongly and very early this year. Whilst having enjoyed my stay in the sleepy backwater that Livadhia is, it was time to move on before the next bout of strong winds blew in from the North West making a 35nm due North approach to Kos a daunting prospect and not one I would tackle with gusts of up to 45 knots forecast. However, Nisiros lies South West of Kos town making a NNE’ly approach to Kos a sailing option at a reduced mileage of 25nms.

Thus I left Livadhia at around 10.00 on Thursday morning, the weather being bright, warm and next to wind less. The word ‘left’ is used loosely as the first hour or so was spent poodling around in circles, running off in a straight line and then making sharp turns, all whilst for the 400th time studying the 400 page manual for the nav kit CGIV now has, in a further attempt to correct the disparity between the compass readings shown on the three principle instruments. Not only is it disconcerting when the autopilot tells you it is steering 110° degrees when in fact your yacht’s heading is 055°, but it also effectively stops you from taking advantage of all the wind, speed and directional information the kit is capable of giving you. Eventually some progress seemed to being made as the readings were within 10° of each other so the autopilot was engaged and I sat back to see what happened. In the light swell CGIV quite naturally drifted slightly right of the set course and the autopilot responded to that seeking to bring her back on course by moving the rudder to the right, just a degree or two, but thereby making the error worse. So it applied more right rudder, incrementally until it was full over. All highly amusing as you go round in an ever decreasing circle; fortunately that is an error I knew how to correct. Five minutes later, having engaged the commissioning procedure for the rudder, we tried again and CGIV stayed comfortably on the set course with occasional gentle alterations in the rudder angle. On watching the three displays I was pleased to see that this oh so clever kit was working as it should be, gradually synchronising all three units so the displayed numbers got closer and closer to the same reading. Suddenly, a message flashes up on the main display “I’ve synchronised the compass with the GPS info…etc, etc” That message had not seen that since the kit was fitted a year ago. Success!

Is the problem solved? Perhaps but let’s wait and see how things go for the next week or so and if still OK I shall notify insurers there was no damage to the kit arising from last October’s incident. It would seem that the setting of the autopilot and thus its compass reading, can be different from the COG (course over the ground) compass reading by up to 10° as one of the facets of the kit yet to properly explored, constantly measures the drift or leeway and thus steers the yacht up a bit against that drift. We shall see.

And so we motored gently the 20nms up to Palon (or Paloi or Palos) on Nisiros, taking in the beauty of the mountainous surroundings and then preparing CGIV for mooring up well in advance of entering the relatively tight and shallow little harbour, taking care not to drift into the areas of less depth than our keel. Mooring is invited on both the north, seaward, quay and the south, landward, quay. Normally I opt for the north quay as that puts your stern into the prevailing wind when it blows whereas the south quay leaves your bows exposed with the likelihood of a strong NW’ly pushing you sideways. But there was only one relatively difficult spot and, single-handed, I didn’t fancy it so I swung round to see what was available on the south quay and there I spot a well-known yacht, Ostrea, owned for more than twenty years by Ray & Carol Clarke who live in Cyprus but keep Her on Leros in the Dodecanese.

Slight consternation was felt when, at first sight, they were nowhere to be seen but with the able assistance of a taverna owner I was soon attached to the shore and the anchor firmly set. Then the heavens opened and it rained torrentially for the next half an hour during which time Ray & Carol were spotted tucking into their lunch in Captain’s House, a nearby taverna. What a relief that was as Carol had been diagnosed with leukaemia some years ago and obvious concern had been in my mind.

When the rain finally abated the passerelle was swiftly deployed and, on joining them, they were both found fit and very well. An hour or so was happily spent quaffing local wine and catching up on our respective news including that Carol’s treatment continues to keep the disease at bay. Long may that remain the case.

(Photo of Palon harbour)

Palon is not quite as sleepy as Livadhia though close to it. It is un-busy, if there is such a word. The locals seem to have an unhurried air of expectancy about them which I often wonder if that flows from living on a huge volcano (see photo of crater); probably it is just the hope that even more yachts stuffed full with peeps will appear and fill their tavernas and rent their cars, mopeds and buggies. If the harbour was full of yachts and every occupant hired one, it would still leave at least half their number standing, lost and gleaming from their daily polishing. This tiny little place has four such outlets all vying for the same business. Sadly, two of the tavernas have closed down but there are still three active ones though hardly what I would describe as busy. The two minimarkets have even less stock than before and looked doomed to closure before long just like the local school that now stands derelict and empty, no longer to hear the screaming and laughter of kids at play.

Thus, increasingly, everyone, local and visitors alike, trek the 4kms around the coast to the main harbour and town, Mandraki with its far from safe harbour pointing due east, which, when the wind comes in from there you can be in serious trouble as we found out on our first visit back in 2001 which was before Palon was developed into the near perfect little harbour it now is. Another wonder has always been why they spent the money on Palon harbour and not Mandraki where most of the island’s population live, the facilities are quite good for a small island and the thousands of day trippers arrive from Kos on a daily basis.

That little trip is fine on the twice daily bus or in a hire car or on a moped but on the bikes kept on board, is a pretty tough assignment as the road rises quickly and steeply several hundred feet to top one of the many ancient lava flows that make the island’s promontories where they flowed out into the sea to be rapidly cooled and solidified. The road then undulates up and down several times over smaller flows before reaching Mandraki. I used to be able to ride the whole way on our little wheeled bikes but I certainly could not manage that at the moment, be that a lack of fitness, being overweight, increasing age or perhaps a product of all three. But ride most of it I did with a fair bit of walking, two days in a row, first to top up my Greek mobile phone and the second to shop for chicken, celery, mushrooms and the like. Of course I needed intensive care after my 35 minute exertions and dropped in, gasping for air, to the local ICU for treatment. In Mandraki they masquerade as hostelries and administer beer and coffee in treatment which must have been successful as I was able to ride back to Palon.

Ray & Carole are in Palon to attend a wedding as are Christina & Simon and Anne & Nigel who I met as a result. We all gathered together for what was a very boozy evening in Afrodite, a taverna where I am fondly remembered, having once taken a photo from inside their taverna on a cool April evening, after dark, using their doorway as a frame and with CGIV the other side of the harbour pointing right at us with what appeared to be the moon throwing light through her rigging and across the water.  It wasn't the moon actually but a street light on the breakwater. Anyway, a copy was framed at home and taken out the following year which they cheerily hung in the taverna for quite a few years.  I didn't check this time to see if it was still there.

The food for some of the others was disappointing, unusual for Afrodite, but mine was superb.  Fried zucchini balls to start with and then ‘goat in red sauce’, as the menu described it, being basically red wine and tomato with some herbs; the goat was just two chunks of thigh but boy was it tender and full of flavour; that was complimented by 'potatoes in the oven' which were also in a similar sauce, not roasted.

And now today, Sunday, this sleepy and friendly little place is to be left to doze on, me having said a sad farewell to Carole & Ray.

Kos Old Town was the destination and boy what a sail was had. The forecast was for a light westerly going steadily into an even lighter southerly. What was met was a steady westerly, F4 (11-16 knots), perfect for the required course, generally coming in on the port quarter; to be precise it was sometimes as little as 8 knots and on rounding the headland at the easterly end of Kos, a good F5, topping 20 knots. It was all downwind or on the beam until the last mile or so where it was necessary to head up into the wind to make the fuelling dock outside the marina. After refuelling even the last mile or so to the entrance to Kos Old Town harbour was also sailed. It was undoubtedly the best sail yet this year.

Mooring up with the wind blowing 15 knots on the beam is a challenge which makes it difficult to maintain station to drop your anchor in the right spot and back straight towards a space between two yachts on the quay without fouling their anchors. My new ‘boy’s toy’, my folding prop, seems to have helped this previously always difficult manoeuvre as CG responded immediately in reverse and straight in we went. Manos, the marina marinero, took my stern lines in turn, looped them swiftly round the bollards and passed the ends back to me. In just a few more minutes I had shuffled us back and forth to get the distance from the quay just right for the length of the passerelle and had that deployed too. It was time for a celebratory beer after a most enjoyable and totally successful trip.

One of those successes was the emptying of the holding tank and its collection of “No. 2’s”. Why was that such a success, because on previous attempts at discharge, the sea cock had refused to budge and no amount of effort on my part could open it. Rod and Pat Day will appreciate the drama, trauma even, that could have been as they suffered progressive and regular blockages and problems with their holding tank. Neither they nor I could ever figure out why they had so much trouble. It was a serious worry as sea cocks, particularly that one which is the largest, are connected through the hull and that is always a weak point on a yacht. The thought of applying extreme force through some sort of contrived leverage device filled me with dread; the risk of snapping the mechanism or, worse still, smashing the skin fitting and thus sinking the yacht, was high in my mind. Almost in desperation I sprayed one of these oh so clever modern penetrating oils on the end of the shaft and left it for a few days in the vane hope it would penetrate passed the lever shaft and into the pipe where no doubt dried ‘you know what’ and seawater had combined to make concrete. Failure would almost inevitably involve the lifting of the yacht and an engineer’s assistance; a costly experience at around €500.00! Anyway, one good wrench with one hand and it moved! A few minutes of working it back and forth eventually allowed the sea cock to fully open and discharge the contents for the fishes to eat. Oh what childish joy that gave me!

The next three days were happily spent carrying out small maintenance jobs on the yacht and indulging in the favourite pastime of people watching in the nearby square which has one quaint reminder of Kos’s history, its occupation by the Turks in 1522 after the fiercest of battles between the Knights of St. John and Suleiman I in Rhodes; the Knights were outnumbered by nearly one hundred to one but stubbornly held out for five months before honourably capitulating and being allowed to leave. It is said, perhaps metaphorically, that they walked across the moat filled as it was with thousands of the Turk dead. Anyway, the quaint reminder here in Kos is a mosque (see photo) which is a bar today but one that sells no alcohol; a gesture that says much for Greek tolerance and understanding of other religions and their people. And now, on Tuesday evening I’m off to the airport to ………..?


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