Life Abroad Charlie Girl IV 2017
A new and lasting relationship?

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Tuesday June 13th to Wednesday June 18th

The pangs of loneliness returned the moment Jan disappeared in the taxi and strengthened as I boarded the dinghy for the trip back to the yacht, alone. Two minutes later I laughed as the outboard engine spluttered to a halt; it had run out of fuel, reminding me that I had not refilled the petrol container which we could easily have taken with us on any of our car trips, filling it when we refuelled the cars. But still, rowing is good exercise Richard and you need that!

Being keen to fill my mind with activity, not morose thoughts, the dinghy was soon yanked aboard and deflated, or un-pumped as my dear Australian friend Harry describes it, packed away, not entirely neatly, in its bag and tied down on the deck. Then with the seat and safety lines put back on the stern, cushions arranged, anchor raised and stowed, off we went under motor until the bay was cleared and then up went both sails. Focusing on the rather large seas and wind outside the bay, the thought was “that’s better Richard”.

The forecast was for a NE’ly wind, F3-4, reducing later to F2. The seas suggested it was going to be a little more than that and sure enough it was, rising as it did to a good F6 with gusts up to 30 knots. With a roll-making 3-4 metre swell the lifejacket was donned and the harness clipped on. It’s quite difficult to be lonely whilst concentrating on staying upright, keeping the yacht on the right course as well as dodging all the cargo vessels that ply back and forth in this area.

To make the northern tip of Makroinisos required a tight reach with the aim being to sail on a broad reach down the channel between it and Kea, clipping its south western tip before heading east of south across one of the busiest channels in the Aegean to the north-west corner of Kithnos and a lovely, secluded anchorage, Ormos Apokriosis, known oh so well. Some 34 of the 37.5nms were sailed at an average speed of over 6 knots and with the wind dying off as forecast, anchoring at the head of the bay with eleven other yachts was simple and straightforward. A brilliant start to the sail back to Crete.

What is slightly amazing is the fact that every time this bay has been used, anchoring in exactly the same spot has been possible with no other yachts ever bothering us which is more than you can say for the others who seemed to be crossing each other’s chains et al for a pastime. Possibly it is the nearby vertical rock face on the port side of the bay that puts most others off whereas with its more than 5 metres depth right up to the face, it should attract them; most seem to prefer worrying about the shallows off the beach rather than have enough deep water around you should the wind shift in the night.

Thus an evening of people watching and personal reflection on the past three weeks was enjoyed with a little sustenance of course; a couple of glasses of wine and some of the chicken curry and rice I had previously prepared. It was slightly and shortly disturbed by the 50’ charter yacht, a ‘bloke boat’, with six noisy German’s aboard, that was a few but adequate metres away from CGIV, who insisted on prancing about in the nude as is their wont whilst raucously laughing, presumably on seeing each other’s willies, shrunken as they will be by the cool water. Despite their numerous beers, the quiet peace of everyone else eventually quietened them down though they did seem intrigued by this lone sailor on his arrival.

After a good night’s sleep and on the strength of a two day old forecast, the anchor was weighed at around 09.00 and the genoa deployed for a gentle sail out of the bay in the early morning offshore breeze; that lasted for about 200 metres as the wind then came round on the nose. Aeolus was teasing so the engine was engaged (it was running anyway to charge the batteries) until well out of the bay and the genoa deployed once more for a gentle 2-3 knot sail down the west coast of Kithnos. The 50’ ‘bloke boat’ was spotted heading in the same direction. They had left earlier but were somehow now a good mile astern albeit much further out to sea perhaps thinking the wind would be better out there. The wind was very light; at times the speed was 3 knots in 3 knots of wind but there was no need to hurry as the target of Livadhi on the south east tip of Serifos was a mere 24nms away.
On reaching the southern end of Kithnos the southerly course was adjusted to south easterly to cross the straight between the two islands and sail down the east coast of Serifos. The ‘bloke boat’ was gaining slightly so up went the mainsail to put a stop to that!

They were clearly racing and at first opted to head towards the west coast of Serifos, perhaps to go down the west side of the island and then along its south coast to the same port; in my view both longer in mileage and with a probable loss of the wind. A mental goodbye and ‘see you in port later’ was said.

On approaching the north east corner of Serifos, lo and behold, there they were again sailing along its north coast, losing the wind causing them to set out north, away from the coast and end up, a mile astern and on the same course exactly. An inward smile, smirk even.

On rounding the north east corner of the island and again heading south, the wind became fluky but adequate progress was being made. Then they put a spinnaker up and were gaining as a result. Now that is cheating! Time for some serious tactics! The main was gybed and the course changed to dead downwind and being goose-winged the speed increased. Once a mile out from the island the wind became cleaner and with a swift gybe back and turning south a swift broad reach was achieved. They tried to follow but their spinnaker kept collapsing. Now making a steady 5 knots they had fallen back to a mile and half astern. Was CG’s skipper smug? Well, perhaps a little.

And so the game continued, fifty foot versus forty-six, crew of six versus one until finally the wind died completely and engines engaged for the last few miles. What fun!

How the port of Livadhi has changed. It used to have a quay that maybe six yachts could moor up to outside and a similar number inside but with dodgy depths. The majority of visiting yachts anchored off in the picturesque bay with its iconic view of the gleaming white Chora built as it is around the mountain peak that tops the island. Now it is a complex double bay harbour with lazy lines but with the opposing quays far too close to each other for today’s generally larger yachts, particularly charter yachts. It was busy but I wriggled my way in to the inner bay with some trepidation and found the manoeuvring room even less than expected. But after laying her alongside briefly and with the help of a Belgian skipper we were soon moored up next to him with a Bavaria 42 just off our bows leaving hardly enough room for the Jenneau 54.5 to squeeze through, but he did as did a further 55’ some ten minutes later (see photo).

With one empty water tank it was good to find the supply on and that was soon filled. There was less luck with the brand new looking power outlets, they were not working and I desperately wanted shore power as not only had I had to disconnect the solar panel as it had developed a fault but it would seem the domestic batteries are coming to the end of their lives as they are just not holding a charge.

After shopping for ingredients for a chilli con carne the following morning, exit from this tightest of harbours was managed without problems, the genoa raised and a course set for Ormos Vathi on Sifnos, around 16nms due south, 12nms of which were sailed in a light but effective breeze. Vathi is a delightful, well-protected bay with a charming, slightly quirky community set around its sandy foreshore and supported by a quaint double chapel (two little churches, each with an altar, set side by side in the same building), a great attraction for weddings for couples from Greece and elsewhere in Europe which the adjacent tavernas and bars service well as does the hotel that is so cleverly hidden behind the beach; whomever designed and built it should be commended for their brilliance (see photo).

After anchoring, the dinghy was pumped up and a trip ashore made to soak up the atmosphere and to make Internet contact. Whilst so doing, a pre-wedding party took place that it later transpired was for a British couple, so deduced as on returning to the yacht and enjoying supper, the wedding breakfast speeches wafted softly across the water, in English.

With the long last leg back down to Crete in mind, the medium-term forecasts had been watched daily for the past week. A brisk northerly wind is needed if it is to be sailed but the area is renowned for its unpredictability, rough seas, gales or worse no wind and a residual rough sea. The pressure was set to drop, usually a portent of poorer weather and that added to the uncertainty. The preference was looking like a step down to Folengandros an island not visited for nearly 15 years, then either direct down the 75nms to Nisos Dhia, an uninhabited island set six miles north of Herakleon, Crete’s capital and a further day’s sail along the coast from there to Aghios Nikolaos, or sailing from Folegandros to Thira (Santorini) about 25nms ESE then on down the 70nms to Ag Nik or Spinalongha. The indications were not good at either end of the spectrum; forecast strong winds or flat calms but it did seem that Monday June 19th was the constant, albeit with a falling barometer, risky favourite.

Thus on Friday morning the dinghy was packed away neatly and properly this time, the anchor raised and just 9 of the 25nms to Karavostasi on Folegandros sailed in the fluky winds, certainly less than that forecast.

Having anchored off to avoid possibly having to vacate the quay anyway to allow the periodic water tanker to berth, the dinghy was unpacked, inflated and the shore explored. The most striking and amusing find was two car hire outlets. The island has about three miles of road and a perfectly good half hourly bus service up to the chora (main town on the hill). Why anyone would wish to hire a car is a mystery.

Folegandros is yet another quirky and strangely charming island albeit the anchorage is less than perfect as I was to find out. Hidden behind the tiny inner mole that protects the local fishing and tripper boats, is a gravel beach, backed by three beach tavernas, two with straw made parasols. What was most surprising was, on walking through the rickety lean-to kitchen construction of the one chosen for use, finding a super-loo; modern, flashily tiled, clean with every facility one would imagine in a 7-star hotel.

After two nights there I was awoken at around 05.00 on Saturday by the sound of wind and CG pitching up and down in a swell. The immediate thought was for the dinghy and outboard hanging as they were off the stern. They were fine but there would no further trips ashore in the swell and thought had to be given on how on earth the outboard was to be brought back aboard with the stern pitching up and down a metre or more. What was surprising and worthy of long-term note is that the wind was northerly and this anchorage is allegedly protected from that; it isn’t!

The outboard and dinghy were recovered and properly stowed and, as the main quay was almost devoid of yachts, CGIV moored up, stern-to, to enable a trip ashore for a good breakfast and one final check of the weather forecasts.

Nothing had changed except the pressure which was still dropping but set to recover slightly overnight. So moorings were slipped amongst screams from a young female Port Policeman who wanted me to stop as there was a ferry coming in; she should of thought of that before I had let go and raised half the anchor chain: it was too late and was no problem anyway. I was out of the harbour area with the genoa set and pulling nicely before the ferry arrived. A lifejacket was promptly donned and harnessed on as the sea was quite large and coming in on the port quarter with some force causing Tim some trouble (the autopilot was christened Tim many years ago; Tim Helm-man; awful I know).

It was a bumpy and challenging sail in a stronger than forecast wind that necessitated the reefing down of the genoa. Nonetheless, 26 of the 28nms to a large bay on the south coast of Thira were sailed and the anchor deployed by mid-afternoon. The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent watching the darkening and threatening skies, wondering on the wisdom of setting off for Crete early the following morning. As night crept across the sky, the alarm was set for 04.30 and bed taken to.

On awakening it was good to see the sky was clear and the pressure had risen a couple of bars. Whilst it was flat calm in the bay the life jacket was donned as that would not last, the anchor raised and stowed and a course of 165°set for Ak Ay Ioannis 65nms to the south with the spirit set on sailing the whole way, if the winds would so allow, regardless of speed.

For the first few hours both main and genoa were used but with the turbulent sea again upsetting Tim, Chinese gybes were occurring all too often so the main was stowed and progress continued under genoa alone. The forecast had been for a NNE’ly F5 dropping to F4; it came in NNW’ly but with the strength as forecast. Having motored the first hour and half, all the rest was sailed and the dreaded Cape rounded in unusually idyllic conditions in just under twelve hours with a huge feeling of achievement and satisfaction at an average speed in excess of 5.5 knots; the last 4nms were then motored down through Spinalongha to anchor off of Eloundha where the intention was to spend a day or two before making the final 12nms round to the marina at Aghios Nikolaos. After two hours of the katabatic winds screaming down off the mountains and remembering the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, that decision was scrapped!

Up again at 06.00 to motor the 3nms north into the morning breeze and out of Spinalongha before setting half the genoa and sailing due east in 30 knots of wind, whilst wondering whether mooring up in the marina was going to be possible single-handed. The sail was nonetheless enjoyed and continued the whole way down to the marina. The holding tank was emptied and flushed through on the way and station held outside the marina deploying fenders and warps whilst the marinero (over the radio) checked that there was a berth booked for CGIV. The answer was of course, ‘yes’, B12, apparently now Her permanent berth so in we went. CGIV was in an obliging mood and reversed in a blustery F4 wind in to the channel twixt A and B pontoons and then into B12 like a hand into a well-fitted glove.

Thus the Spring cruise was done and what a success it had been in almost every aspect, particularly the joy Jan’s presence had brought during her three weeks aboard.

The following nine days seemed to shoot by, partly because of the social life that inevitably occurs without intent or pre-planning and partly from carrying out all the run-down, close-up jobs that must be done before leaving CGIV for a couple of months. And this time, a few jobs needed doing in preparation for an already booked trip out in September.

A couple of days testing confirmed that the existing domestic batteries were done for. After a chat with Udo two new deep-cycle, closed lead acid batteries, each rated at 230amph, were ordered at 15.00 hours on Friday with an unreasonable expectancy of their arrival on Monday from Athens. Udo was happy to pay up front for them but I felt I should cover that so arranged for the required €700 to be transferred to his Greek bank account that very afternoon. Unbelievably the batteries turned up on Saturday and with the assistance of a colleague, he and Udo had them fitted by 16.00, both surprising for Greece and a great example of the modern technology we so easily take for granted now.

With the weather being so hot the awning was needed. Thus the new bimini framework was adapted to allow for its support guys to be deployed and the awning retrieved from the forward sail locker and swiftly raised; the temperature beneath it dropped by more than 5°C almost instantly.
Summer certainly arrived on the Equinox and with it considerably raised temperatures and less cooling wind. The temperatures steadily increased to reach 34° during the day and not drop below 26°at night; sleeping at night and zizzing in the cockpit after lunch were both under a wet towel, a surprisingly effective way of keeping cool, especially if there is a light breeze.

Wednesday June 28th arrived and final plans for the trip home made. It was to be on the 19.15 express bus (an air-conditioned coach really) to Herakleon for the 22.20 EasyJet flight to Bristol, but what to wear? Before leaving it must be shorts, polo shirt and bare feet but arrival in Bristol was to be at 00.15 and just 12°C with rain likely; even though Stuart would be collecting me, certainly socks, shoes, long trousers, shirt and jumper would be the minimum. Is there enough room for all that in my hand luggage?

And so we close, to reopen on September 6th when Jan and I fly out for a two month voyage to who knows where; Aeolus will decide with the wind he will provide.

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