Dodging Ifalos Panayia I headed for Prevenza. The sea had become a little rough and the waves were just the right size to set Eileen of Avoca rocking so I wanted to get into the lee afforded by the mainland. At dawn the weather had settled and I pushed on to Lefkada. Refueling at the marina I returned to the main city quay for 4 hours of sleep.
While the town square is quaint, Lefkada is not on my list of must see Greek destinations. There isn’t much in the architecture department, and my frustration with obtaining Internet access (the local children occupy Internet Cafes playing network games all day) may have coloured my opinion, but what really tipped the balance for me was the smelly garbage disposal site just south of the town. Apparently it’s their way of doing land reclamation.
With olfactory relief I approached Nisos Meganisi, 15 miles further south, found a quiet anchorage, and settled in for the night.
IMRAY Chart G1 Mainland Greece and the Peloponnísos ISBN 08522 805 8
IMRAY Chart G3 Aegean Sea (South) ISBN 9781846230769
Admiralty Chart 4302 Mediterranean Sea Eastern Part
BlueNav XL3 Electronic Chart Number: XLG34 for Magellan GPS Product Number: 980843-20E
November 1st, Day 1
GPS Tack to Egypt
Flight with Olympic Airlines to Athens, 4hrs later I was on my connecting flight to Corfu and by 11pm my voyage begins on Eileen of Avoca.
I was surprised to find the marina full of life as partygoers reveled well into the night. Apparently it was the last day of a flotilla outing for sailingholidays.com and everyone was “at it” with abandon. “At it” principally being the tavernas supply of alcohol. I happily went to bed as the sounds of nightlife turned decidedly ugly.
Once reaching the sheltered waters of Othoni, the remainder of the trip to Gouvia Marina (see www.medmarinas.com) was smooth and scenic. Corfu is a splendid island with lush vegetation softening its rugged features (stated as I scratched the rather lush facial vegetation softening my own imaginary rugged features). BTW has anyone successfully shaved while sailing his Yarmouth23?
Safely nestled in our berth opposite the seaplane service (see www.airsealines.com) I set about the unhappy task of packing and the many and varied chores necessary when leaving the boat for a lengthy period. I found quite a bit of water in the bilge and I can only imagine that it came in through the pushpit lockers during the crossing from Italy. I really must do something about that.
Following a short stop for dinner at Santa Maria di Leuca we said farewell to Italy and sped across to Greece on a lumpy sea and a broad reach, a distance of less than 50 miles between S.Maria di Leuca and the closest Greek island (Othoni).
I generally enjoy sailing at night, but only when the waves stay on their side of the freeboard. On this trip there was no need to set an alarm to wake me for the compulsory shipping lookout, if I dozed for more than a few minutes a frolicsome wave was sure to rouse me from my slumber with a frigid dousing. Fabulous.
I asked the manager of the boat yard for some assistance in fitting the gear, but he made such a song and dance of how complicated it could be that I decided the path of least resistance was to DIY.
Perhaps the temperature had something to do with his reluctance. I never knew the human body could perspire with such exuberance!
Several blasphemous hours later the recalcitrant contraption was where it should be, but I still needed to modify the Autohelm bracket, fit some internal bracing to the through-bolts, and mount my flagstaff elsewhere.
The Autohelm bracket was essential because while the Aries is now bolted in place, it will not yet be operational until I get around to rigging blocks and running gear. A long sail to Gallipoli across the Gulf of Taranto without my trusty robotic assistant would be tiring to say the least. After negotiating access to the yard’s workshop I enthusiastically hammered the old bracket into a U-shape contrivance which mounts laterally on top of the tiller. Voila!
The other tasks would have to wait for another day.
A few celebratory drinks with the gregarious Neapolitan berthed nearby followed before I cast off from the pylons (a rather tricky maneuver), waved goodbye, and motored on through the much-improved (i.e. recently dredged) marina channel to the sea.
I set a heading of 70° and raised the mainsail as the sun set. Free at last.
It was a trouble free 2000km drive from Belgium to Sibari via Gallipoli (where I left my mum for some R&R at a friendly little hotel www.hotelbianco.it ) but without air-conditioning in my FIAT 600 it was a somewhat viscous affair especially when the thermometer rose above 32°C.
The relief at finding Eileen of Avoca safe at her berth in Sibari was palpable. Relegating loading stores to the morning I fortified myself for the task of mounting my Aries vane gear by attempting a world sleeping record. Unfortunately the vane gear was still to be found clogging the companionway upon regaining consciousness.
Sunday the 20th of April
Late afternoon start for the 1500km drive to Rome.
Monday the 21st of April
Arrived by 6am and attempted to sleep in the car waiting for Delta Italia to open (no easy feat in a Fiat 600 unless you are a contortionist on Valium).
Eileen of Avoca was still in her cradle, awaiting some finishing touches. I was assured that all would be in order by late afternoon, so after transferring my electronic gadgetry (GPS, EPRIB, Laptop, Handheld VHF etc.) to the boat I steeled myself for the additional 500km drive to Sibari. Arriving before 5pm, I had just enough time for a brief chat with the friendly marina staff and to look around the enormous marina complex.
First impressions were not encouraging. With nearly 3000 places for yachts, I was expecting a bustling metropolis of boating activity. What I found was dilapidated ghost town.
My major concern was with the marina parking, where I had thought to leave my car for 10 days (with my Aries wind-vane in the back seat). The prospect (real or imagined) of not finding anything upon my return was making me decidedly apprehensive.
After a short ride to what passed for the town centre, (20 Euro for the 6km in an unofficial taxi) my misgivings grew and when the regular coach to Rome arrived at 23:00 I could not bring myself to take it. Instead I walked the 6km back to the, marina, picked up the car and retraced my route back to Rome.
For peace of mind, if for no other apparent reason, I would leave the car at Delta Italia and carry the vane gear lashed to the floor of the pushpit.
Only twenty hours if I could keep an average of 5kt. The swell outside the harbour was very uncomfortable and for the first 4 hours Eileen of Avoca rolled heavily on a heading of 135°.
I gave Eva a couple of Sturgeon tablets and sent her to bed as she was not feeling well and readied myself for what was effectively if not technically a solo crossing.
After traveling 35NM I could no longer make out the city lights to the north. Left in splendid isolation on a moonless night, I motor-sailed, double reefed for hours on end. Much later that night, as I sat huddled by the companionway to keep out of the dew, the sea calmed considerably. Apart from having to dodge the occasional ship there was little to do and despite my best efforts I was beginning to feel very tired.
Just at the point where I felt I could easily doze off, a great splash wrenched me from my stupor. Wide awake I looked to port and stood amazed as three dolphins leapt from Eileen’s bow-wave with enviable agility. Wow!
The moon rose just before dawn and the remaining hours passed without event. By 16:00 I was approaching the port of Calvi. Our little holiday was over.
Well, at least until September the 22nd when I intend to take Eileen of Avoca to Sardinia. 🙂
At this point I was already wondering where we should leave the boat as our holiday was nearing its end.
Nice would be a prime candidate with its nearby airport and good transport links. I was very conscious that I still had to get back to Port St. Louis to collect my car.
I ventured into the port of Antibes to see if it would afford an alternative if Nice turned out to be overcrowded but quickly realized this was where the super yachts of super yachts slept.
Not quite what I was looking for.
Apart from the toys of the wealthy, I did come across one odd vessel, the Polarsyssel. This wasn’t the first time either. The ship had passed me four days earlier near Ile de Porquerolles. What an Artic exploration vessel was doing in these parts was beyond me, but perhaps I’ll eventually get an answer to this riddle. Upon my return to Belgium and after finding their URL
I sent a polite email enquiry to their site along with my snapshots. (No reply)
By 16:00 I’d found a berth in Nice but it sure wasn’t easy. There was plenty of discussion at the marina office over whether there was really enough space for me, but given that I could not keep the boat here for the time I required, all this was rather pointless.
After several phone calls it was also evident that the nearby ports could offer no more than a few nights stay. So at 20:00 I gave up, left the hard won mooring, and set sail south while the sun set.
(15:00) It was a late start to my sailing week, as I had to wait for the Capitanerie to reopen following the usual extended French lunch break. With a planned 25 NM trip to Port du Frioul just off the coast from Marseille my girlfriend and I were eager to get started even after driving more than 1200km on Friday night from Amsterdam and having had less than 4 hours sleep. We considered ourselves lucky as the weather forecast for the next few days was fine with the Mistral (which really howls through Port St. Louis and the rest of the Camargue for that matter); set to return no earlier than Tuesday.
There really isn’t much to Port St. Louis and it’s a bit isolated (If you don’t take your own car you’ll need to catch a train to Arles; worth the visit; and then take the infrequently run bus from there). Taxi fares from Marseille airport will set you back as much as the airfare. The port lacks character but is reasonably priced (at 72 Euro a week) and the facilities are good. It’s no surprise that the nearby Port Napoleon is so popular for wintering (see http://www.port-napoleon.com/) but you need to get quite a way out of the commercial port before the scenery improves.
It was just on sunset when we rounded Cape de Croix and saw the chateau fort of Ile d’lf (made famous by the Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo) and before long I had settled in by the visitors quay against the sea wall joining the islands of Ratonneau and Pomegues (at the far side of the marina and contrary to directions given by the pilot book). The buzz of quayside restaurants in the balmy evening set the holiday atmosphere and we toasted our successful first leg over a glass of port.