Greece 2015

11-26 September 2015

Skipper
Alistair Edwards
First mate and cook
Anne Edwards
Charterers
Greek Sails
Yacht
Kavafis Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 29
Books read
We shared.
  • Where My Heart Used to Be, Sebastian Faulks (A birthday present from Anne)
  • A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
I also read
  • A World of my Own, Robin Knox-Johnson

Note All the pictures can be clicked on if you want to see an enlargement

I don't think that I can be bothered this year with the usual, nerdy attempt at a nautical-looking log, with courses and speeds and all that. Let's face it, at the time of writing, I still have not completed the website for out last sailing holiday, two years ago! Nevertheless, we need a record, so in future (i.e. in the next month or two) we'll be able to talk about where we went. This will therefore be rather more impressionistic.

Contents

Our Route

Friday 11th September, York - Athens

We set an alarm for 2.30 am, but naturally were not able to sleep up to it. So we got up and were under way easily by 2.40, as planned. The drive was straight-forward. We got to the airport in good time. We found the carpark. While waiting for the bus, I checked the flight – and it was delayed two hours.

The Ambrosia Hotel
The Ambrosia Hotel

The wait didn't seem too bad. We had breakfast. The flight boarded – then there were further delays. Never mind, we made it to Athens, just a few hours late. I had planned ahead regarding the transfer. Greek Sails had suggested a taxi, at about €30, but I had found that you could get a bus for about one tenth of that. I'd printed maps from Google and it was evidently quite a short walk from the bus stop to the hotel. When we got off the bus we stopped for refreshments – and a look at the maps. I was soon approached by a very friendly Greek who helped me find the way. It was a bit of a walk, which was awkward with the luggage   but not too bad and well worth the saving in fares. We got to the hotel – 'Ambrosia'. From the outside it might have looked a bit shabby, but inside it was fine, clean and comfortable (apart from the bed, which Anne found a bit hard).

In the evening we wandered out and had a bit of a walk around. We looked at some of the shops – and some of the old stuff. Eventually we sought out the restaurant we ate at last time we were in Athens with Dan and Tori, Kapnikarea. It was, as we remembered, a very traditional place – with a band. As previously – and as traditional – service was very slow. It seemed there was just one woman trusted to serve at the tables, so she was kept busy. Eventually we got some beers. Eventually she took our order. Eventually we got our food. When it came to getting the bill and paying it we were getting a bit impatient with the pace, but we eventually made it – and then walked back to the hotel.

Athens

Saturday 12 September: Athens - Poros

Breakfast in the hotel, which was quite good. Then we wandered out again. We went to a show shop where Anne had seen some shoes she liked – and we bought them.

Back to the hotel for our bag, and then we got the metro to Piraeus. We were in good time but did not have long to wait and soon were skimming over to Poros, a ride of about 90 minutes.

We were shown to our – 29-foot – boat. This was a bit of a surprise as we thought we'd booked a 32. However, in going through emails with Sue in the office, we were reminded that we were originally offered a 32 or a 29, but in the event, the 32 was only available a week later – too late for us – and I'd settled for the 29.

There were a few disturbing aspects to this. One was that I had almost no memory of the transaction, until reminded. Another that I wasn't sure whether I'd ever discussed it with Anne – apparently not. But mainly... It was a 29-foot yacht. Over the years we have got used to the boats being bigger and newer and better appointed. This was a step back, back to basics.

On the plus side, this explained why it was so much cheaper than we'd expected.

Briefing from Marcos.

Looking at the weather recently, I had been concerned that there had not been much wind in the Aegean, and contemplated going to the Cyclades for more winds. As last time, Marcos was a bit dubious, and then the woman on the boat next door said there were fives and sixes over there – so I was happy to change and stick to the Peleponese.

We had a late 'lunch'. We realized it was about 5 o'clock and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. So we went to the Trescio Taverna for beer – and Anne had a salmon salad, while I had a lemon crepe.

Then we had showers. There was a bar near the boat offering them. The bar had loos, and in the loos were showers. They were quite good, much better than the Trescio which we had used before. Three Euros each.

There seemed to be more tavernas than before, three quite near the boat. Marcos said the first was good for fish. The second was Greek and the third was very Greek. We went there and, as he had explained, they brought a tray full of mezes. We chose four, mostly very cheesy. One way and another, we were now not that hungry and struggled through even these four. When they tried to bring a salad course, we really did have to turn them away.

Slept quite well on board.

Poros

Sunday 13 September: Poros - Ermioni

Slow start, sorting out the last-minute bits and pieces.

Had a good chat with the woman next door. Her husband used to run a sailing school in Poros, now they spend half the year out here. She gave lots of good advice about sailing up the Navpoli Gulf – specifically to start from the south and zig-zag northwards alternating between the east and west coasts. She also told us to look for clouds forming over the land, they would be harbingers of good afternoon breezes.

1110 Motored off. Once clear of the channel, we got the sails up. Nice new mainsail. Wind was about force 2, so we sailed, but kept the engine on to recharge the batteries. It was pretty much a run to the point (Skilli). Goosewinging was not working too well, so we did some broad reaches. Round the point. Through the channel off Hydra. We used most points of sailing at one time or another. The wind varied a lot in strength too. At times I was contemplating a reef and then I'd be wondering about putting the engine on.

We ended up coasting along. This was partly because the GPS kept telling us to steer a more northerly course than was needed. (Lesson: ignore that and look at the bearing. I guess the GPS is trying to be clever and compensate for some kind of drift).


A turtle – honest.

We were lucky with the wildlife today: a big bird (eagle?) and a turtle.

We'd been advised that if we were to visit Ermioni, then we should moor off the south quay. We got there for about 1630 and it was quite busy, but plenty of space off the western quay. So we set up and reversed in. Now, in his briefing, Marcos had been very insistent that when mooring off, we should always lay the full 50 metres of chain. We were pretty sure we knew what 50 metres looked like and dropped the anchor a good way off – too far off – four times.

Anne was understandably fed-up with this, so we decided we didn't want to stay there, anyway. There were anchorages near-by that Rod says are alright in the right conditions. Question was, were these the right conditions? We anchored in the north-west corner. Seemed it would be sheltered from any northerlies, but there was some swell from the south east. Would this ease in the night?

No. (See below)

We had a good snorkel. Saw some good fish and an enormous sea snail.

Dinner on board and some reading – and writing. Good sunset too.

It was a pretty disturbed night. It's funny how what probably looks like a gentle rocking from the outside feels like a roller coaster in the boat. It makes all sorts of noises too. The rhythmic ones are very irritating, and the arhythmic ones are worse: there is the starting pattern and is it going to stop...

or start again.

We moved into the cabin, where the amplitude of the rocking was less. I got a couple of periods of sleep, between long, thoughtful wakefulness. Then it seemed to moderate and we moved back into the berth and got a little more sleep, before dawn.

Ermioni

Monday 14 September: Ermioni-Spetsis

Anne had another snorkel. She said the water was clearer. Then we set off, under motor. We sailed a bit, but were not getting a lot of wind, so we motored to a lunch stop. We anchored in a bay, off a beach. There was what looked to be a derelict hotel near the beach. Victim of austerity, one might think, and yet just along from it, there were workmen pouring concrete into some new construction. We swam to the shore and along, but there really was very little sealife to be seen. Back to the boat for lunch – and a snooze.

There was no afternoon breeze, so we motored to Spetsis. The harbour was pretty busy. We thought we spotted a space on the end of a raft of Sailingholidays boats. It needed a line ashore. Anne volunteered to swim it in. She did that and I dropped the anchor. We would have been better doing it in two stages. In the event I forgot about Cedric. Hence, when we tried to attach the long-line we did not seem to have quite enough anchor. We just managed to join all the bits, but lying somewhat ahead of the other boats. Then i realized it was Cedric's line that was holding us. A quick cut through that and we were able to line up.

Then another boat, moored stern-to abeam of us started shouting – that we were across their anchor. We probably were, but I assured them that we would leave early, so we would take our line – the top one – away. They did a lot out shouting. Two or three other boats started trying to moor along side us, and were shooed away. I accused them of being German, but it turned out they were French. When we went ashore, I walked over and asked them when they planned to leave. They said 9.30, so I assured them we'd be gone by then.

I had inflated the dinghy, which we needed for the short distance to the shore (oars only). Having appeased the Frogs we had a little walk up past various sculptures to the lighthouse. Then we went into town. There was a good selection of tavernas, most with lovely views. We ended up at the one just about as far away from the boat as possible. It was lovely food, though. I had my annual mousaka and Anne had a shrimp risotto, and beer. The view was pretty good, although there was a noisy flotilla moored just off, playing music that was just not quite drowned by the taverna's Greek selection.

It was a long, but pleasant walk back to the dinghy, and thence to the yacht for a good night's sleep.

Evening in Spetsis


Tuesday 15 September: Spetsis-Monemvasia

Forecast

0900 1200

Long sail, so we started early (0900). Not an easy start. The anchor – or the line that should have been connected to Cedric – was fouled. However, we eventually freed it and set off. Out of the harbour there was some wind (N 2), so we set some sail and were broad reaching across the channel.

We saw dolphins! They seemed to come over to play in our bow wave, but as we were sailing quite gently there wasn't much of one, and so they seemed to give up and dived off, but we'd seen them!

Dolphins!

It dropped after a while, so engine on.

I had intended to head a bit north of our destination, so that we would have an idea where we were making landfall, but I over-did it somewhat so that we were quite far north. It did facilitate navigation, though. Whereas out in the middle of the sea, without reference to GPS and charts (we have no plotter) you could be virtually anywhere, once in sight of the coast we could follow various landmarks towards our destination.

As we got nearer a bit of a wind got up (N 3), so were were able to sail the last leg. It was a broad reach with a following sea.

When we came in to the bay, the rock was pretty prominent. Near to it the wind dropped, so we dropped sails and motored in.

We weren't sure what to expect. Rod (2009 edition) said there had been the start of a marina here, then it stalled, but then it had been revived. His plan showed dotted lines of the planned extension to the marina. Marcus had said, 'Pretty village. Moor in the harbour'. On approaching there were five yachts moored alongside on the east side of the harbour. That is marked for the lifeboat – but it was moored in the inner harbour. The rest of the inner harbour seemed full of local boats, but there was plenty of room off the mole which separates the harbours.

We were a bit concerned about depth – or lack of it. The sounder was showing 3-4 metres. Yet clearly there were yacht comfortably moored. There was one Bavaria stern-to on the mole, so we headed upwind of it. We moored pretty much straight-forwardly, including my having to take my own lines ashore, as there was nobody around to help.

There was a fuel bowser sitting there, so I thought I might as well patronise him. Eleven litres was all we could manage: €14.

The lifeboat looks very much like an Arun. I don't know if the RNLI licenses its designs.

Anne was pretty worn out. She slept a bit and then we agreed to eat on-board, that I would go and get a pizza. I did and it was good pizza.

Monemvasia

Wednesday 16 September: Monemvasia

We had decided to stay here for the day. Anne was up early to catch pictures of the sunrise. I slept on a bit. Then I got up and we headed into a taverna for breakfast: yogurt and toast for me, bacon and eggs for Anne.

The we walked to the rock. There was a notice showing a walk around the island and into the town, so we followed that. It was quite rough in places, but very well marked with red paint (or was it blood?). On the rockiest bit there was practically one mark per step.

The rock at Monemvasia

There were ants. It was quite fascinating to see a very long line of them. Some were carrying enormous (to them) loads of straw, so they were obviously the ones going to the nest, while the others were on their way out to forage. We could see them following each other, and yet making the odd error. Why they had to go so far afield was not at all apparent. I decided I should read 'My Family and Other Animals' again.

We made it into the old town. As far as we could make out, much of it was under restoration, with the help of European money, and perhaps some of the restored houses were for sale?

Monemvasia old town

The buildings an connecting alleyways were very pretty. We went as high as we could, but the upper city was closed for restoration. There were lots of churches, some ruined, but some complete and usable. One could not help wondering how there needed to be so many churches in such a small space. What would the size of the average congregation be?

We had drinks, and later we had milk shakes (or 'milk sheiks', as the menu had it). Then we returned to the boat. As we approached something was different. There was a bunch of fenders on the port quarter, on the transom, which we had not left there. It was apparent that the anchor had slipped, and some kind people had set some fenders for protection. It seemed that our saviours were from a Kiwi yacht moored on the other side of the harbour. They had done a good job, not just sticking some fenders there, they had woven them into an elaborate arrangement that would not just pull apart. We thanked (one of) them but he said someone else had done the same for them last week.

We discussed our options. To moor alongside seemed the best. In fact we were able to do this without moving off. The anchor was so poorly set that I was able to pull it in on the windlass, and then the wind just blew us on to the quay.

We were in the middle of doing this when a yacht appeared, being towed alongside a fishing boat. They were yelling and waving, but they just wanted us to move along the quay to give them enough room to also moor alongside, behind us. It seems they'd lost their engine a mile or two out. I don't know how they got the help, but there were coastguards on the fishing boat with them. Not worth getting the lifeboat out?

We moored up. I set some springs, of course, and we seemed quite snug, so we had some lunch and a rest. Various other boats came in and they were finding it hard to find space. There were now three of us alongside the mole. A couple moored alongside other boats. We headed off for a snorkel, as a cat was coming in, but they found enough space to go stern-to off our mole.

We went back over the causeway to the rock to swim. It was quite good. Mainly it was refreshingly cool in the water. There were quite a lot of fishes – but nothing very big or exciting.

We headed back. Earlier we had spotted a water tap quite near us – but not near enough for our hose. I planned to pull us far enough forward to reach in the morning, but then the cat put out a very long hose and when they weren't looking I borrowed it. So we were replenished with fuel and water.

Space was still at a premium and one yacht had moored behind the lifeboat. Evidently that was a problem. A female coastguard came and told us – and another yacht – we had to moor stern-to to make more space for the one which had moored by the lifeboat. There was a third, but there was no one on board that, so they got away with it.

We sorted ourselves out and motored out. At the first attempt we moored up but it was apparent that the anchor had not taken. We were 'taking up the slack' on it, and it just kept coming. The boat we'd made space for was now stern-to next to us, but we had to untie and head out again. This time the anchor seemed quite firm – but we had not enough length to make it to the dock. Out again. On going out and retrieving the anchor it was apparent that there was half a shipwreck in the harbour, and our chain was wrapped around it. I could see the anchor itself, lying flat and ineffectual on the seafloor.

Of course, the inevitable happened. Trying to get the anchor up, it caught on a chain attached to the wreck. Long story, but we were eventually much assisted by a guy from the next boat who snorkelled out and got a rope around the offending chain, so that we could release the anchor.

Made it in. Perhaps the greatest frustration was that we ended up stern-to, about 2 metres further down the quay, allowing the other boat in (named 'Chandler' – boat supplier or character from 'Friends'?). In other words, if we would have warped down the quay a bit, alongside, we would all have been happy – except the coastguard lady.

We staggered ashore and ate in the Scorpio Taverna. I had local sausage and Anne had chicken souvlaki. We'd taken neither watch nor phones, so we had little idea what time it was, but we were tired and headed back to the boat, pretty sure it was late. It was nine o'clock.

Regardless, Anne was tired enough to go straight to bed. I stayed up and wrote some of this and read a bit too.

What was planned to be a quiet, hassle-free, sailing-free day turned out to be rather something else. The fun bits were good, though. Also my faith was restored in the fraternity of sailors helping each other out – rather than showing off how much better they are.

Thursday 17 September: Monemvasia - Kiparissi

Forecast

0900 1500

Uneventful night – thank goodness.

Breakfast on board. Wandered ashore for some supplies. Had a chat with our anchor man. He was Italian. Among our shopping we got him a six-pack, but he'd gone by the time we got back – so we had to drink it ourselves😕.

1100 Set off. There was quite a wind, about a 4 ENE and the sea was quite lumpy. I set a main with 2 reefs. That was not as easy as it might have been. It was not possible to pull the leach down far enough to get the ram's horn on to the reefing cringle. I opened up the track and took one hank out. Even then it was hard, and I only succeeded with the help of a sail tie through the cringle to pull it down a bit.

It's a new sail and I suspect it had not been reefed before. We were comfortable, so I set half a genoa. We were quite comfortable on a starboard tack and the engine went off. It was a beat out to the point. The wind seemed to back slightly, to NE.

We did several tacks. Eventually we got to a position from which Kitaprissi seemed a starboard tack fetch (340°). The wind was dropping, though. First I pulled out the rest of the genoa, and then all the main. That was okay for a while, but it was eventually too little and the motor went on.

As we were motoring we heard some booming noises. At first I tried to convince us that it was just an overtone on the engine noise. Then we wondered about thunder – but there was not a cloud to be seen. Later, as we were entering the bay near Kiparissi a helicopter flew in. It was a military one. It hovered for some time over the water just off the village, setting up a lot of spray with its downwash. Then it hurtled off, straight over us. This was enough to convince me that they were playing war in the area, and that the bangs we had heard were explosions – or at least fireworks. The area is marked as a submarine exercise area on the chart.

It took a couple of hours or so to make the bay at Kitaprissi. There were various options there. We looked at Chapel Bay. It was empty – and pretty, but I was a bit concerned about how steeply it shelved. I thought of an anchor and a long line ashore. On the other hand, the North Bay offered better shelter from northerlies – and northerlies were forecast.

We headed over there. We were thinking in terms of anchoring, but there were only three boats on the quay and plenty of space, so we decided to go in. The surfeit of space was probably due to the recession. There are no ferries coming in here now – so their bit of the quay is available.

On the first attempt the anchor did not bite at all, so we had to go out again. This time it bit, but the concern was whether we'd let it out too soon and whether we'd reach the quay. We did. Well, as long as we didn't want to go ashore on the passarel. So, we were entirely secure. We definitely had a full 50 metres out.

There was lots of fishing going on – a couple on the quay and two guys on the next boat. So Anne joined in – but it is as well we were not relying on her fishing for dinner. Instead she made a lovely meal, which I christened 'peppers à la grecque'.

Sitting on deck we watched the sun set, and then the moon set behind a mountain. There was scenery and the lights of the villages and I thought (and said) this is how it's meant to be.

We read for a while, but Anne was tired and turned in quite early. I sat on deck a bit longer. With no moon there was not much scenery to see, but there were lights on the quay which made reading easy.

Friday 18 September: Kiparissi

Forecast

1200 1500 1800

Ashore in Kiparissi

Although we were entirely secure, it was not a still night. Rod does say that any swell will find its way into all corners of this bay, so we would not have been better off anywhere else. Anne could not sleep well in it, though.

We decided to move cabins to the forepeak. For various reasons, we thought we might get a better sleep there.

We arose and had tea and coffee. Then I reinflated the dinghy (it really is rather porous, a disappointment) and we shipped the outboard and headed over to the village. It was very pretty. We had a wander around and then went to one of the tavernas for some breakfast: ham and cheese toasties and iced coffees.

We picked up some supplies in a little supermarket and she directed us to a bakery. It was a longer walk than we expected, but we found some bread. Back to the dinghy and back to the yacht. However, about half-way across we ran out of fuel. I was a bit annoyed with Greek Sails, but more annoyed with myself. I had specifically asked how much fuel was in the outboard in Poros – because I could not see any. I was told it was full and anyway there was a spare can on board. What I thought of doing, what I ought to have done, was pour the can into the motor and have the can refilled. However, I had not done that and hence I had to row the last bit. It was quite hard, into the wind and I got a blister – which immediately burst. (Aww!) It was one of those situations in which it was better not to look where I was going, because the boat would not seem to be getting any closer so eventually it was a nice surprise that we were nearly there.

The forecast was for winds much as yesterday – quite a lot (forecast northerly, although we found it to be more from the east) in the morning and midday, dropping in the afternoon. We agreed that we would stay here another day, and then make an earlyish start tomorrow, for the relatively short sail to Leonidis in a bit of wind. It was nice here, so why rush off?

We read on board for a while, then Anne made some lovely cheese salad sandwiches for lunch. It was, indeed, quite windy over lunch, blowing easterly on to our stern. After that had settled, we went for a snorkel. For the third time on this trip, the GoPro was not charged (even though I thought I had fully charged it after the last time). Shame, because we did see quite a few fish. (There were also some anchors worthy of filming – for good and bad reasons, ours being one of the good ones).

We showered onboard. Later we walked up to the taverna. Nice table on the end with a view. We had a tsatsiki starter, then Anne had pork chop and I the Greek hamburger – and chips. A reasonably quiet night.

Saturday 19 September: Kiparissis - Leonidis

Forecast

0900 1200 1500

Breakfast on board. Recovered the dinghy. Made a reasonably early start – but didn't look at the time, so not sure: 0930? 1000?

As forecast there was quite a fresh (3-4) northerly, so I set 2 reefs in the main (which is getting easier as I get the hang of using a sail tie on the reefing cringle), and 2/3 genoa. It was a beat so I set quite a long port tack out. It was the usual dilemma as to when to tack. My dinghy-sailing instincts are usually to tack too soon – too optimistic as to how close we can sail to the wind, and forgetting how much way a yacht loses. However, in this instance there was another factor: the wind was forecast to drop. There was no point in trucking off way to the east, just so that we could motor back in again. Far better to tack back and be near the shore when it dropped – and we could motor direct to the destination.

This worked quite well. After a while I pulled all the genoa out, then all the main. Eventually we were making little way, so the engine came on.

We motored for a while and came in to the bay. We spotted some masts and a harbour so headed straight for it. We got there and were all ready to moor, but, it did not look like what we expected and eventually I realized that this was Poulithra – which is not a highly recommended stop. So we turned and headed for the right harbour.

We got in there and moored stern-to without incident but with some help from a couple of guys ashore. One of them was English and came back to chat. He told us that one of the tavernas was run by Margeritta, an old friend of Greek Sails and she had told him there was thundery weather on the way – and that Leonidris was not the place to be in those conditions. We phoned Greek Sails and they confirmed there were thunderstorms due Monday or Tuesday. They said the precise conditions would depend on the track of the storm. We told them that we were aiming for Navplion, probably via Astros. They said that either of those was a good place to ride out a storm – not only sheltered but there were things to do on shore. I said we'd planned to go to the monastery from here in the morning and they saw no problem with that; there was time to fit that in.

Around us there was a guy – and his mother(?) – fishing. He had a number of lines on spools. He loaded up the end with some kind of brown mushy bait and lobbed it about 50 metres into the harbour. He then seemed regularly to hook quite large sea bream. These he transferred to a bucket of water – with a lid to apparently stop them escaping. As far as we could tell, he did this all night, inasmuch as he was there into the evening and after we went to bed – and was still there when we awoke next morning. Presumably this was a commercial activity for him but I don't know when and where he sold his catch on.

We went ashore for a walk around. We met Margaritta, who told us she was friends with Andreas and Richard for 20 years. She also showed us her lovely menu. We had been thinking of eating on board, but after this hard sell, we – sort of – promised we'd be back. We re-provisioned at the supermarket where we were also able to book a taxi for the morning – and ate ice cream.

We walked on. On our way back we were lured into another taverna. This guy had some lovely looking – and cheap – food. Again, we sort-of promised to come back.

Back at the boat the port police arrived and told us we had to report to their office. I did this and after a couple of hours of paperwork (I exaggerate) I handed over €1.70 for one night's stay – and they wonder why there's no money in Greece.

It was nearly dusk. We'd planned to go for a swim and a beach-side shower. Even though it was getting late, we went anyway. It was great. There was a bit of surf rolling in and it was fun to play and swim in. Then a shower and soap down on the beach and there were bathing huts in which we could dress.

We were not yet hungry, so we read for a while. Then we scurried past the back of Margaritta's to the other taverna, the Dolphin. We'd been seduced, mainly by his artichoke stew. We had that, lemon chicken, fried aubergine spinach and the house wine. It was fantastic. We really had been caught by his sales technique, because if we had just sauntered up, the menu would have looked pretty standard and we would not have known about most of the things we had – especially the artichoke stew.

Most of the time we were eating a flock of ducks was hanging around. One of them had a voice just like Puddle. There were also the usual collection of cats. At one point a man from the next table kicked one of them into the harbour. It sprang back and on to the quay immediately, but I was not sure whether Anne was going to get up and do the same to the culprit.

Back on board was not too restful. The boat was rocking quite a lot. There was a lot of noise too – some of it internal but also disco, loud voices and over-revved motorbikes. I dozed on and off for quite a while, getting some sleep, but it was probably not until quite late that I really got to sleep.

Leonidis

Sunday 20 September: Leonidis - Astros

Forecast

0900 1200 1500
1800 2100

We'd booked the taxi for 0800 and set an alarm for 0730, but naturally we woke before either. Anne had tea and we got the taxi on time. Rod reckons that the drive to the monastery is scarier than the cliff-top place itself, but we found it not at all alarming, and really quite pretty.

Elona Monastery

We stopped in Leonidris proper so that Theo, our driver, could get a coffee. We had a bit of a look around. Striking was the 'river'. That is to say a dry river bed, but of some proportions. Clearly in the winter that must fill and must shift an enormous amount of water.

The monastery itself is quite spectacular. It is poised at the top of the mountain and there is a story as to why it is there – a glowing icon appearing to shepherds in the mountains. As soon as we entered There was the broadcast sound of a couple of guys ...well you couldn't call it singing... (any time either of them seemed to be approaching a melody he would veer off on a different note).

We walked through the buildings and eventually came to the church. We ventured inside and there were the two guys. As I expected, they were quite old – but thereafter my expectations were unmet. They had no long beards and were dressed not in black robes, but polo shirts. They had a sort of turntable lectern before them and every so often one of them would rotate it, presumably to the next 'song'.

There were a few people in there. They would cross themselves from time to time. There was also a silver-clustered icon in a glass case which most people kissed on entry. There was a caretaker guy, overlooking the selling of candles and he also furiously polished the glass case after every kiss. Being comparatively crowded in there and since we did not want to be conspicuous, we stood for a while in front of his candle stall for a while, but he moved us along; I think he thought we were bad for sales.

Anne generally likes to light a candle for her mum, given the chance in a church. So far on this holiday she has not had a lot of luck. Twice she's paid her money, picked up a candle, lit it and put it in place and then in no more than two minutes, some woman has come and snuffed it out for recycling. She tried again and this one seemed to last longer. I was certainly hoping that the people who were splashing out on four-foot candles were getting a longer burn for their money.

There was a priest up at the altar end. There were screens, so we could not see what he was doing, but he just seemed to shuffle around and while we were there did not come or to read the weekly notices, or deliver a sermon or anything.

The monastery was handed over to nuns about 50 years ago, but we only saw one. She was sitting outside the church, but every now and then got up and rang two bells. There was also a young woman in the gift shop (oh yes, there was a gift shop) but I don't think she was a nun.

We were thinking of leaving, but decided to wait until after the next arrival. She was coming down the stairs by the church door. Sideways. On her hands and knees.

I had no idea how far she'd come like this. She had all the signs of a pro, though – gloves and a back support. She crawled up to the icon and kissed the glass – low down. I presume she thinks God will be pretty pleased with her. I hope He is.

We wandered back to Theo and his taxi. He tried for a second time to get us to stop for coffee in Leonidis. Presumably his cousin owns the taverna, but we decided to carry on and had breakfast at a café/taverna in the port.

The forecast was for no winds until after lunch, so there was no point in hurrying. We loaded up with water. This was on a coin machine, which delivered 100 litres for one Euro. I had two problems: I had no idea how much water we needed and I had no one-Euro coins. I ended up paying €2.70, washing down the cockpit as well as filling the tank, and leaving 50 cents' credit to the next lucky user.

It was probably about 1100 when we set off (but since my watch was broken, all times became approximate). We decided to head for Tiros. This had always been a potential stop on our itinerary, but now given the weather situation, it seemed a better lunch stop. We could motor there, have a swim and then hopefully sail the rest. That was pretty much how it worked out.

I think that might have been the first day when we did see orographic clouds over the land – and did catch some afternoon breeze.

We motored into the bay. Had a look at some beaches to the south of the town. They shelved a bit steeply, though. We motored past the harbour. There was a reasonable beach for anchoring there, but it was a bit public, so we worked around further north where we found a small, deserted beach off which we were able to anchor in 11 metres. (We might have anchored sooner were it not for my messing with Cedric). Naturally, with the snorkel and mask on, I checked the anchor, and it was pretty-much textbook.

The snorkelling was excellent, with a lot of fish. I caught some of them – and a squid – on the GoPro. It was fully-charged this time. Shame it ran out of memory. Otherwise I would also have got pictures of the quite spectacular cave that we went into.

Back to the boat and a modest lunch of jam butties – made with bread liberated from the restaurant last night. As predicted, the wind has risen so we set off with 2 reefs in the main in a Force 3 south-easterly. Soon we had the genoa out too. It was really a dead run to Astros, but she doesn't sail well on a run. The genoa gets blanketed, but (as we usually find) without a pole, it is very hard to goosewing – and avoid gybes. It was more comfortable and faster (through the water, at least) to set a starboard broad reach, due north. Just as with tacking upwind, this left the problem of when to gybe, but we did okay, reaching in just south of Astros and then finishing under main alone on a run.

In the circumstances, we would have been quite comfortable under full main. However I did not shake out the reefs: (1) Because we were not racing. (2) I couldn't be bothered and (3) The time we spent messing about, head-to-wind would probably nullify any speed advantage.

The skies were darkening and we wondered whether the bad weather was going to be early, but it brightened up again by the time we'd moored. There were just three other yachts on the harbour wall, and since we'd last been to Astros a number of pontoons have been floated in the harbour, so there really is plenty of space.

We ended up heading between two of the moored yachts. There was the usual problem as to when to drop the anchor – and I asked Anne to drop it just too far out. That is to say that when I passed my lines ashore (to two helpful people from the other boats) there was not enough length for them to pass them back. I therefore asked if they would time us off anyway, which they did.

Now, there was no chance of the gangplank reaching from there. Anne was a bit annoyed about that – understandably. On the other hand, I was glad that we had a full 50 metres of scope out. If the winds were going to get up, we had the best chance of staying in one place.

After a lot of farting about, with the dinghy and ropes and winches I managed to haul us in to gangplank range, so I hope we were all happy. I thought we were pretty secure. We definitely had a full 50 metres of chain out and all pretty tight. With memories of a stormy night in Little Vathi I had thought of putting the kedge anchor out too, but decided it should not be needed.

The quay at Astros was always good, but it has been further improved. There are also floating pontoons. In other words it resembles a marina, and yet there was no sign of organization. We heard a rumour that ther was some kind of local Mafia dispute over control of the 'marina', which sounded plausible.

Soon after we had moored, a coastguard arrived. He seemed interested only in the Czech boat. He wanted all their papers. Perhaps he was suspicious of eastern Europeans – illegal immigrants. The quayside was equipped with power points and water – and even firefighting equipment – but again there seemed no access to them. The other people talked to the coastguard. He phoned someone who turned up and waved a card at the card reader, making water flow. So the other boats filled up for no charge. Since we had already taken on water that morning, I did not join in.

We had tea, coffee and biscuits onboard. Later we wandered ashore and into a taverna for some beers, still trying to get used to the slow rate of service. The cats didn't mind that they were a bit slow clearing the tables, though.

There was election news on a television and when I looked it up on the Web, it seemed that Tsiris was heading for another victory.

We had a wander right down the main street looking in the shops. We spied out a supermarket for bread and other supplies for the next day.

We got back to the boat and Anne made omelettes. They formed one of those meals which sounds quite prosaic, but in the surroundings was really lovely. We read for a while and then Anne went to bed. I stayed up a little longer, mostly writing this.

Astros

Monday 21 September: Astros

Forecast

0000 0300 1200
1500 1800 2100

About 5 am Anne was up watching the firework display that was the lightning in the distance. It was some way off so that we could hear no thunder. I did wonder if it was going to pass us by. We went back to bed and in a couple of hours we had more lightning – and this time accompanied by thunder – and rain. It was quite wild and there was some wind with it off and on.

We did not rush to get up. When we did, we had some breakfast on board with the rain battering on the roof. Looking through a side window, I was concerned that the (British) boat to our port seemed to be swinging towards us. Then I had a cry from the quay and the skipper of the Czech boat on the other side pointed out that it was us who were moving. I took in on the anchor, but it was just keeping coming; we were going to have to re-lay it. I kept us off the quay by using the engine.

I was able to sort things out and then we went out and back in again. On the second attempt we set the anchor solidly at a good distance (though less than 50 metres). I thought again about the kedge. It was one of those moments when I felt I knew the right ting to do (to set it) but was tempted to think, 'It'll be alright'. I decided to try to be sensible.

Of course it was a hassle. I got the dinghy out and fitted the outboard. The plan was to lay the anchor from the stem, backing towards the dropping point. Naturally it didn't work like that. This was partly because whenever I tried to go astern (by twisting the engine) it would swing out of the water. I later diagnosed the problem – that there was a retainer that was supposed to engage when the engine was reversed that was broken. In the meantime, gracefully motoring backwards laying scope was not an option. Instead I was skimming all over the place, subject to the competing forces of the wind (not strong), the weight of the chain and tension in the line – oh yes, and trying not to wrap the scope around the prop. I went all over the place. I also find it hard to control this kind of outboard astern – when you have to twist the throttle in the opposite direction. However, I did eventually reach a suitable point and chucked the anchor. I came back in, pulled it tight and felt more secure. At least if the main anchor were to slip I felt there was backup.

Anne stayed below while I was doing all this. That was probably just as well as I think I know which side of her incompetence/bad-luck balance she would have put all that. The people on the Czech boat witnessed it. I suspect they found it a bit entertaining – and incompetent. I smiled weakly at them thereafter whenever We crossed.

We went into town, climbing around the hole that had been dug in the quayside. We had coffee in a nice taverna. We bought a few supplies, then for the want of anything better to do, we headed for the citadel – even though we'd been there before. However, it started to rain, so we changed our mind and went back to the boat. Thereon Anne cooked lunch and we ate, read and dozed.

After a while we felt we really ought to get out. Rod suggested that a walk to Astros proper, through orchards was worthwhile, so we set off.

We thought we had a vague idea where the rest of the village was and set off down a road. There were a number of apartment blocks along the road. They looked quite new and in good repair, though many of them seemed unoccupied; I suppose they are a mixture of locals and holiday homes.

After a while, it was apparent that the road we were on was following the coast – and that was not the direction of the village. We decided, therefore, to strike out in the direction we thought was right. This meant following tracks which went through the olive groves.

So, we got our walk through the orchards – but we didn't make it to the village. As dusk was imminent I had the bright idea of asking Google Maps for help. It seemed we were sort-of where I thought we were, we were on our way towards the village. It was, however, some distance away, so we asked for a route back to the port. It was slightly amazing to me that Google Maps included (some of) the little tracks we were walking along and was able to guide us back. I was never that concerned about getting lost, because wherever we were we had a good chance of seeing the citadel – or the lighted blue cross on a church just below it. We could have used these landmarks if we had needed.

It was not quite the walk we'd planned, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.

Walk in the olive groves

It was quite dark by the time we were back in the port. We looked for a taverna Anne had spotted the night before and which she thought we had enjoyed previously, but we turned the wrong way and missed it. It was quiet, anyway, and it seemed that many of the tavernas do not open on a Monday. It started to rain, so we dived into the nearest one we could find with an awning over its tables.

We had a nice meal, much the usual: chicken souvlaki (nice with potatoes and tsatsiki), sardines, fried courgettes and white beans. We got talking to the couple on the next table (the only other customers) who were Australian – but very much Greek-Australian. It seems they set up catering businesses and then sold them on. Once they sold one they would take a long holiday before setting up the next one. This time they were including the 'old country' which they hardly knew, having left 45 years ago – but still had family to visit.

Back to the boat, around the big hole in the dark. A quite night, although Anne made tea at about 5 am.

Tuesday 22 September: Astros - Khäidhari

Forecast

1200 1500 1800

The forecast was for light winds all day, but the possibility of more thunder in the evening, so there seemed little point in rushing. I got the kedge up with little difficulty. In fact it was so easy I have to wonder if it did any good – or if it would have done had the wind got up.

We had a porridge breakfast on-board and I opened my cards – and present. Yes, I am 60. I really don't feel it. I remember turning 30 and it not being a shock because I had been psyching myself up to it from 29. I thought 60 might be similar; I have been practising over the past year, but now it has come about I really do not feel ...well, that old.

For the first time there were orographic clouds over the land. We had been told that this was a sign of afternoon wind, so we were hopeful.

We motored out. There was not a lot of wind at first, but then some was coming in so I set the main – and then the genoa. It was northerly 2, so it was a narrow reach to the passage south of Tolo Island. The sailing was quite pleasant, though, so Anne suggested we made a bit more of a sail of it. Close-hauled we made about 10 degrees on a port tack. This brought us close to the passage at the north end of the island. We tacked. Continuing north we ate lunch under way. However, the wind was dropping and there seemed no point continuing going north, away from our destination, just to work back again – in no wind. So we tacked. In fact the wind did die away, so the engine came on. We motored through the gap and past the town of Tolo.

We needed water. We could have got some at Tolo, but Rod said that it was hard to work out who could turn the water on, so we carried on.

Beyond Tolo was like a lake, or even a millpond, but we did not have too far to motor. We headed in to Órmous Dhrepanou – which is a bit like a fjord. We motored up to Khäidhari, for water. We moored alongside the end of the pier where there clearly were water taps. Only problem was they all had locks on them. Anne wandered off and found where she could get a key from a taverna – for €5.

We filled up and then motored to an anchorage. There was a sudden heavy shower. The first anchorage wasn't quite right – the anchor did not seem to hold and we seemed too close to the shore. So we moved to the location Anne thought was better anyway and anchored there neatly. We like sitting on an anchor on our own.

We had beer and then birthday tea/coffee, with chocolate cake Anne had bought in Astros. (I was not naked). Then we went for a snorkel. The water was pretty cloudy and there was a lot of junk on the seabed, but there were quite a lot of (small) fish. Back on the boat Anne tried to lure some of them on to her hook – but the bait either fell off the hook (e.g. bread) or was not to the fishes' liking (dried apricot).

We had contemplated going ashore for a birthday meal. However, getting ashore in our only-semi-inflatable would have been a wet experience and we were some way from the village. Hence, I was very happy to have a special corned beef hash birthday tea.

Anne turned in early. I stayed up and wrote this and read.

Khäidhari

Video from Khäidhari

Wednesday 23 September: Khäidhari - Porta Kheli

Forecast

1200 1500 1800

I would describe this as a full day.

We had a bit of a lie-in. Then breakfast. It was nice and sunny so we had a swim too. Then we got ready and set off. It was still in the fjord, but as we got out there was a south-easterly, Force 2 so we hoisted sail. It was a beat, but not a hard one, and the sea was not lumpy. We made a long starboard tack then tacked out towards Ipslili Island. Then we tacked back with the aim of passing between it and the headland.

The wind was quite fresh and we were quite hungry. This was a bad combination. As we came to leeward of the island, the wind moderated a bit, but not much, so we hove-to so that Anne could make and serve a snack lunch.

We set off again on a starboard tack, due east. The wind seemed to be freshening (a good 3), and not just because we were leaving the lee of the island, so we agreed it would be prudent to put in a reef. We did and it was more comfortable. We seemed to be making good progress, but behind us and then to the south grey clouds were building. I was hoping that it would pass us by – but was not at all sure.

After a while the wind was definitely moderating and backing. I shook out the reef, but also put the engine on. Time was getting on and the clouds were looking no friendlier, so it seemed appropriate to motor. The wind was still pretty good, but it was right on the nose and I did not want to be too late. It also seemed further to go than I had expected so it seemed prudent to get the engine on. We motored on towards Porto Kheli. The wind was quite good, but it would have been on the nose and a long sail – longer than we had time for. Indeed, I was concerned that Porto Kheli would be busy. I know it is a huge, sheltered bay in which we could comfortably anchor, but we had agreed on a meal ashore, and I don't think either of us would have relished having to use the dinghy to get it.

Another reason for expediting our passage was the weather. We watched dark clouds forming behind us, where we had come from. They seemed to move to the south of us and I was hoping they'd miss us; certainly that's what the forecast on weather.gr indicated. However, ahead of us, to the north east, we did see several forks of lightening. We put rain jackets on.

On the way we spotted Blue Star, under sail. Anne was helming and since she was under sail I wanted to keep clear, so I suggested we bore away. As we did, though, Blue Star seemed to turn towards us. Eventually they passed and they shouted that they just wanted to say hello. I yelled 'Hello', but was sorry that I didn't think to complement them – because they were looking good.

It took us two or three hours to get there, so it must have been about 1800 or later as we pulled in. Pages 119-120 were missing from our copy of Rod – the pages detailing Porto Kheli – but we had enough information from what was left.

The water was shallow (though I now firmly suspect not as shallow as the sounder would have us believe). There were also a lot of yachts moored off the town quay, but we manoeuvred through them and there seemed to be a few spaces on the quay. I chose one between a blue yacht bows-to and a slightly larger one next to it. As we reversed in a head appeared on the blue boat ('Fox'). He said something like, 'Nice and easy', and I was quite reassured, although I replied, 'We're not in yet'. However, we did moor up smoothly. This was with the assistance of a couple of urchins waiting for our lines. At first I thought they might be the same kids who took our lines last time we moored here, but thinking about it I decided they might be their children – or more likely grandchildren.

I gathered what change we had and gave it to them. It was less than €2, so I don't think they were impressed. The man on Fox said, 'They'll ask for €5. Give them one each', so we didn't quite make that. Later he told us that they were gypsies who lived in a car. Certainly, on the Thursday when we left they were not at school.

Fox looked like a well sailed boat. Her skipper seemed to most enjoy criticising other people's seamanship. Apparently the 45, bows-to on the other side of him had made a pig's ear of trying to come in stern-to where we now were – despite having bow thrusters. He told me all about their manoeuvring – including the woman having a nervous breakdown, which he fixed with a squeeze of her thigh. Then there was the story of the Russians who had dropped and anchor and tried to come in sideways.

I wish I could say that we spoiled his entertainment by our perfect arrival followed by a perfect exit next day. But I can't. (See tomorrow).

We read and wrote a bit on-board and then went ashore. We were not sure what we wanted. Rod mentions a couple of restaurants, and we vaguely looked for them, but there was no way of knowing whether they still existed. Having wandered one way, towards the hotels, we walked back and right along the front to the church at the other end. Several of the tavernas – including some of the good-looking ones – had their seats lined up in front of television screens, showing a football match.

We were perhaps getting a bit jaded with the standard Greek taverna and had spotted an Italian pizza and pasta place on the first floor. We went up and it was very pleasant. We were the only customers, so we chose a table on the balcony, but under an awning. As half-expected, it did begin to rain and we moved in a bit further.

Anne had been talking during the day of her liking for crab meat, so she went for a crab pasta. Being in an Italian restaurant in Greece, I chose a Greek pizza – with the usual including olives – and feta. They were both good.

Back to the boat, a bit of reading and then sleep.

Thursday 24 September: Porta Kheli - Derrick Cove

Forecast

1200 1500 1800

Gentle awakening. Ashore for breakfast: coffee and croissants. A little bit of shopping.

Made ready. Surely even Captain Fox was impressed by the 45-foot cat, who moored stern-to alongside him – all on his own; he even told the urchins to, 'Go away!' and lassoed his stern line on to the bollards (right word?)

Tried to slip the lines, but were held up a bit as both of them got a bit caught. Captain Fox said something like, 'I don't go for these modern methods'. It's the only method I know, but given the opportunity, I really would have liked to know how else he would recommend – apart from not being in such a hurry, so that you can be sure your lines are clear. It was not a big problem. The Frenchman on our starboard kindly cleared that line and I was able to release the other. We recovered the anchor with no further drama.

There was no wind in the bay. We motored out. I raised the main and we motor sailed for a while. There were clouds over the land, so there was the hope of afternoon winds, but in the meantime we thought we could motor toward the destination and if we got there early, we could spend the afternoon swimming.

We'd bought cheese pasties for lunch and were soon hungry enough to eat them. Then a bit of wind (SE 2) was getting up, so we pulled out the genoa. The wind was now quite pleasant so we agreed to make a bit of a sail of it. Instead of going straight to Derrick Cove, to the north of the island, we would go around the south, anti-clockwise. This meant beating (with the usual judgement problems). At one point I took a phone call and missed the chance to say to my bank, 'I really am going to have to go now. I'm on a yacht in the Mediterranean, and if I don't tack within the next minute, I am going to hit an island.'

A few tacks got us into the channel between Dhokos and Ihra and we could bear away. Beam reach for a while. Then it should have been a run, but I settled for two broad reaches. Then it was a beat back into the bay. There were quite a few yachts around. We had been hoping for a quiet Derrick Cove to ourselves, but with the number of yachts heading in that direction, it was apparently not going to be. The other anchorages around this bay were also well occupied. We carried on. As we got closer, it was evident that most of the yachts in Derrick Cove were Greek Sails ones – and that they were a flotilla, rafting up together. Thus, we were not going to have the place to ourselves, but they were leaving space for others. I suppose we could have guessed that this was as good a place for the flotilla's last night as for us.

There was another Greek Sails yacht anchored away from the others. We recognized the occupants as a couple who had also been in Porta Kheli over night. They had set an achor and called that they were going to take a long line ashore. We dropped our anchor a bit further into the bay. By the time we had settled, though, our stern was quite near the shore and I was not convinced we had sufficient scope. The other couple had also decided to re-lay their anchor, so we stood by while they did that and sorted out their shore lines. (They ended up setting a pair of them).

Then Anne took a line ashore and tied it to the same handy chain that the others were using. We did the trick of attaching the other end to a fender, with a coil of rope as a sea anchor. Then we motored out a little way, dropped the anchor a bit further out and motored back to pick up our line.

Sharing the same chain, we were quite close and able to have a chat. He was a Kiwi, she was German and they lived in Paris. He'd done a one-week course the previous week and then they'd had a week bare boating.

We went snorkelling. It was pretty good for fish – and an octopus.

Rod warned of a chain in this bay. It was a big one and impossible to lift if you did catch an anchor on it. Apprently it used to be marked by a buoy, but now without that his warning was a bit nugatory. In fact, we spotted it while snorkelling – and it was a good distance from where we were.

Later, on-board, Anne went fishing – and caught one. She was going to eat it, but when she came to prepare it, it did not seem suitable, so it was vegetarian for both of us.

When we had arrived there were three fishing boats in, two moored on the shore and one anchored near us. While we were there they all went out to sea, but later two of them came back and tied up ashore again. The flotilla was clearly on its last night and had a barbecue ashore. They started quite early, so they were all finished and closed down at a reasonable time. However, one of the fishing boats decided to play some Greek music – quite loudly. At first I suspected them of deliberately trying to annoy the tourists. But then we could hear them clapping along and for all I knew, they might have been dancing, so I guess it really was for their own amusement. It didn't go on too late, anyway, so we were able get a good night's sleep with good shelter.

Derrick Cove

Friday 25 September: Derrick Cove - Poros

Forecast

1500

Relaxed arising and breakfast. Anne got some good sunrise pictures. The flotilla got underway about 0900 and the other yacht left soon afterwards. We could not resist a last swim. Anne struck out across the cove, but I got the snorkel on for one last commune with the fishes. I swam round to a sign which proclaimed that the area near it was an underwater archaeological park – and prohibiting anchoring. I had a look around but could not see anything exciting. Apparently it is a shipwreck, but 'the ship itself is long gone, as everything biodegradable has been taken back by the sea'.

Then we motored out. The forecast did not promise much, but there was some cloud over the land. We raised the main and soon some wind did fill in – Force 2 from the south – so the genoa came out too and it really was quite an easy – and pleasant – broad starboard reach towards the point.

We passed Idra (alternative spelling for Hydra), saw a few other yachts. This really was pleasant and easy sailing. Nice for our last day.

After a while were at the passage between the two islands. I kept us going for a while in the hope of being able to gybe from broad reach to broad reach, and avoid any uncomfortable running. We almost succeeded. The port reach brought us back quite close to the mainland. We could have coasted along, but that would have been close to a run, and that close in to the shore could get a bit shallow, so we gybed back out. Around the middle of the channel we were able to gybe back and aim for Poros.

Behind the island with the fort on it, we got the motor on and dropped the sails. We motored in, following another Greek Sails yacht. They moored up and we were directed in alongside them. The crew seemed to consist of four men, three middle-aged and one older one.

We were ready for a cold-one. It seemed most of the tavernas were closed. We stopped at the first open one, but I think the waitress was a bit disappointed, thinking we were looking for a full meal. Two of our neighbours called in to book a table for later and we had a bit of a chat – usual swapping of sea stories.

We went back to the boat, read, rested, tidied up and pretty much did all our packing. We also got talking to (we really should have asked her name...) the lady whose husband used to run the sailing school. She told us there had been a lot of damage in the storms. There had been some deaths in Monomvasia, when water had torrented down the streets. A cat had sunk in Idra. So really we had been pretty lucky: we had been in a very secure harbour but had clearly not caught the worst of it. We'd had the lightening and the rain, but no real winds. Later Andreas said it had been pretty bad in Poros, that a wall of water had swept across the harbour. None of his boats had been damaged, but some fishing boats had.


Ah, a hot shower!

Then we went for hot showers (but not too hot; it was still pretty warm). Andreas came aboard and we told him our woes: excessive water in the bilges; a porous dinghy and, sorry, we lost your horseshoe lifebelt.

We had a wander, past several shop windows and eventually to the Poseidon. If you do the same thing twice, does it constitute a tradition? We didn't have adventurous gourmet, Dan, with us this time, to share exotic seafood with Anne, so she had to make do with a shrimp salad. I had beef stiffado, and we shared some starters. It was all very good, and we washed it down with a celebratory bottle of Proseco. For entertainment, we watched one of the waiters barbecuing octopus.

We walked a bit further, and then doubled back. There were a lot of boats packed in to various parts of Poros. We inspected some of them, thinking about what we might like, and whether we might quite like a go on one of the gin palaces. I looked some of them up on the web. We had a bit of a feeling that if it's a charter, it doesn't really count: you have to be the owner to deserve to show off. Not sure if the occupant of 'Ego' was its owner, but he was trying to live up to the name, posing on deck and watching the peasants wandering past.

We were tired and perhaps a little drunk, and ready for bed. There was some noise, but I got off to sleep, but then was awoken again by the noise. I was lying, trying to get back to sleep when I became aware of a shouting voice. Anne's theory was that a dog had got on to someone's boat and he wanted it to f*** off his boat. We agreed that it would not be a bad idea to get our gangplank off, to deter any unwanted visitors. I did that, but as I was moving it it became apparent that the shouting was coming from below deck on our neighbours'. One of them was clearly unhappy with one of the others. He hated him. He wanted them to 'Get him out!' It was a bit disturbing but did not sound actually violent. I suspect that one of the others was trying to calm the situation I guess he eventually succeeded. It was quite a while before I could settle again, though.

We saw the guys next morning. They seemed as normal. I don't know which of them had been so upset, perhaps the older-looking one? Effects of just a bit too much alcohol?

Saturday 26 September: Poros - Manchester

It was a dull and overcast morning. There were some rumbles of thunder. We went ashore for breakfast (bacon and eggs and ham and cheese omelette). While we were waiting for that there was a nit of rain. We went back to the boat and finished packing. I was getting the bag ready to take to the office when the heavens opened. We quickly retreated back down below. Andreas arrived and sorted the motor with a view to its leaking less seawater. When the rain abated a bit we went ashore, dropped the bag at the office and went in to the café for shelter and coffee.

It was not long until it was time to wander to the port. We hung around a bit, worried mildly whether our luggage was going to arrive, but it did and soon we were powering across to Piraeous. I enjoyed the view for most of the voyage, but also read a bit of 'Three Ways to Capsize a Boat', which was very apt because it was about Chris Stewart sailing through the very same waters.

Back at Piraeous we found the bus stop was just outside. We had to wait about 20 minutes for the bus, which was running late, but then it was an easy ride to the airport. The flight back was uneventful, as was the drive back to York

Leaving Poros

Back in the UK – the weather was rather different.

Austerity

I wondered if we would see signs of the economy. On our first night in Athens I thought not. Around the shops were plenty of affluent-looking people, though the shops themselves were perhaps jot as busy as they might have been. Next day there were more signs, though. Most obvious and poignant was a young, student-aged girl who seemed to be trying to sell tissues and biros. In fact there were quite a few people peddling all sorts of odd bits, and some simply begging.

There were also some apparent migrants. They seemed to be just hanging around, four or five in the port at Pireaus, for instance.

When we stopped at Kiparissus for two days there were some regulars who came to fish near us. We couldn't help wondering if this was just a pastime, or a way of getting food, or even a way of making money – though with the small catches they made that seemed unsuccessful.

Perspective

When on land we probably think of a (say) 20-mile journey in terms of the time it will take. We can do the same at sea. One difference is that it is going to take a much longer time; we sail at little more than a jogging pace. The other difference is that we can often see our objective – and usually it seems to be getting no closer. We can carry on for hours with apparently the same view.

I realize that I tend to have an over-optimistic attitude. If there are two headland ahead, I will tend to assume that the nearer one is our destination. It rarely is. In fact it's probably not the second one either.

Another observation is the perennial problem of when to tack. If I look back through my logs, I'll probably find that I've made this observation before, but I don't think I realize how much leeway these yachts make. So even if I seem to get the heading right, I don't because that is not the true track.

The Boat

As hinted at above, our boat was a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 29 – and quite an old one. By the time we booked, it was all that was available for the weeks we wanted. Over the years we have got used to the boats getting better each year, so this was a bit of a step back. It was quite small (and we have noted before the difference that a few feet can make in terms of accommodation). She was showing her age, but most things worked – and she had a new sail. Biggest disappointment was the dinghy. It held air for about 2 minutes – and the inflatable floor not at all. Having paid for an outboard, we might have expected a reasonable dinghy to attach it to, in order to make the most of it.

One problem was excessive bilge water. I could have been more creative in getting the bilge pumps to work more effectively, but Andreas did also note that the cooling pump seemed to be leaking a bit – and fixed it.

The boat lacked some equipment we might have liked:

Autohelm
Push-button sailing? – but quite handy on a short-handed yacht.
An efficient fridge
Last year we had a fridge that we could leave on all the time, a real fridge. Now we were back to a cool box with a cooling element we could only use when the engine was on.
No oven
Just two burners. Again, we were sort-of used to having an oven and Anne bought foods for baking before we noticed. Of course, as a resourceful and skillful cook, she was still able to make delicious food.
Shore power
Yes, we couldn't even have the fridge on when we were in a harbour. Having said that, I think there were only two places that we stayed which had shore power – and in one of them (Astros) it was a mystery as to how to get the power turned on. We also had no inverter. I'd brought the laptop, mainly to back up pictures, but also with a view to writing this log as I went along. Of course that depended on being able to re-charge it. Without an inverter that was not going to happen. The laptop survived, though, by turning it on occasionally and using it only for backups. I wrote the log on the iPad. We did have a 12-volt output and I had remembered (at the last minute) to bring a plug. I also had a solar recharger. These kept our phones, iPad and GoPro charged. One phone battery lasted me nearly two weeks – and I had one spare back up.
GPS
Yes, a GPS – but no plotter. That was not a big problem in the conditions. I had to use the chart a bit for confirmation.

Footnotes

Rod
Rod Rod Heikell is the author of a series of pilot books about sailing in the Mediterranean. They are an invaluable source of information and we rely on them - for social as well as sailing advice. For this trip we were using his West Aegean book.
Cedric

Cedric is an inflatable buoy (inflatable to fit in the luggage), which I attached to the anchor with 11 m of rope (on the basis that we'll never anchor in more than 10m). This serves two purposes. Firstly it gives an idea where the anchor is. Whenever I anchor, I am trying to make judgements and calculations: where are we now and where will we end up if the wind changes and strengthens? It seems to me that this is much easier if I have at least some idea of where the centre is of the circle (or near circle) about which we will swing. The second purpose is that it is possible for the anchor to get stuck. It has not happened to me, but it is easy to see how it might get lodged under a rock for instance. In such an event, there is a limit to what you can do pulling the anchor in one direction, by the chain. With a rope attached, as a tripping line, you have the opportunity to apply a force in a different direction. We first had this facility when we sailed with Club Sail in the Canaries. As I recall, they said that they provided this because you never know when you might need it. Rod sometimes says, 'It might be worth rigging a tripping line', but in most cases I bet it's too late by the time you realize you need one.

We did have some problems with Cedric this year, so that Anne reckons he's more trouble than he's worth. I think I need to be more mindful as to when he is needed (i.e. when we're going to swing free) and use him then - – and keep him well clear when he is not (e.g. mooring in a harbour).

We also had such a buoy on the Endeavour, which was called Cedric - hence the name.