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Wonderful Greece, Amazing reunions and more broken bits

July 3, 2016

The plan to sail to Kefalonia and sign in to Greece was welcomed by old friends who emailed and said they were in Sami and were looking forward to seeing us!  If you cast your minds back a couple of years, Aagje and Bert (their yacht is Boya) were in Kas over Christmas and joined us in the mansion we were house sitting for Christmas dinner!  And Bert was allergic to cats so had to walk back to the marina at midnight!

A last view of Ragusa, Sicily and Italy

A last view of Ragusa, Sicily and Italy

So we set off on Thursday 2nd June, with the promise of moderate north winds as we headed pretty much east.  That was the plan – the actuality was very little wind at all, so we were driving on the engine all the way – with some slight assistance with our mainsail up.  We tried the genoa a couple of times, but it only held out for an hour or so before flapping uselessly. There were a few ships to avoid, but otherwise just expanses of flat ocean.

Dawn, somewhere south of Italy!

Dawn, somewhere south of Italy!

Then at about the half way point at 10.30 on Friday night, I was woken from my fitful slumber to Brian shaking me and getting me up on deck.  He explained that something had gone clunk, and then the engine started overheating, so he had turned it off and we were drifting in the middle of nowhere! More precisely over 130 nautical miles from any land.

After various investigations to make sure it wasn’t something in the cooling water intake we agreed that he would have to check the water pump – the one that had just been reconditioned.  Meanwhile I managed to get the boat back on course and we were sailing along at the princely speed of 2 knots.  Brian took the front plate off the pump and I dabbed at the starter switch – no movement on the impeller, which meant that the connection to the engine was broken.  That there were calm seas was a godsend as Brian wrestled with pipes and tools to remove the pump.  In a way it was a good thing he had done all that work previously, so at least everything was easier to remove.  He took the pump out and a couple of small bits of metal fell – one into his hand and the other into the depths of the oil sump (we hope).  These small bits of metal were what was left of the collar that joins the engine to the pump to make the water circulate!  It was a relief that it wasn’t something more serious.  And what good fortune that we had a spare pump with collar – also reconditioned while we had been in Licata!  So Brian refitted that one, we crossed fingers and started the engine up again.  Water circulated and we were back in business after only two hours.  Phew.  That messed up our watch schedule somewhat but we managed to get back on track the following day.

Ionian island

Ionian island

Finally on Sunday 5th June we sighted land and motored north around Kefalonia (now in a strong northerly of course) to Sami.  The friendly dock where we had previously been able to tie up alongside seemed to be out of bounds, so I had to quickly remember our techniques for putting the anchor out the front and backing up to the quayside!

The harbour at Sami

The harbour at Sami

Fortunately everything went well and we tied up to be greeted by Aagje and Bert.  After quick reunions we went back to bed for a while, then out for drinks, and gyros (pork kebab wraps with tzatziki, chips and tomatoes – we had missed them so much!) and back to sleep again.

Aagje & Bert in Sami

Aagje & Bert in Sami

We were moored next to other Cruising Association members on Mojo who we chatted to for a while.  Then after more siestas (taking turns, so each of us went for walks around town while the other slept) we went to Boya for drinks and then out for dinner with them, after finding out that we had changed timezone and it was an hour later than we had thought!  Oops.

We were fortunate that there was excellent free municipal wifi, so I got onto the internet and ordered a new collar to repair our water pump.  We needed to get Greek mobile phone and internet sim cards, so decided to head up to Lefkas marina where we knew stuff could be delivered easily, and where there were phone shops.

Ionian islands

Ionian islands

We were really enjoying our return to Greece after two years.  Gyros, Mythos beer, no dogs, clean streets, Greek salad, cheap harbours, cheap food, the list goes on. And of course it is now nectarine and peach season!

We set off to Lefkas on Thursday 9th June, expecting to be there 2-3 days. We even managed to sail some of the way, goosewinging up the Ithaka – Kefalonia channel!

The castle at the south end of Lefkas canal

The castle at the south end of Lefkas canal

We motored up the Lefkas canal – now being dredged by huge bucket cranes filling up barges with mud.

We were placed on the end of a pontoon which was good as it was cooler there – if a bit bumpy as the small boats raced up and down the marina.  It was packed with Sunsail charter boats as well as hundreds of other charter and private yachts – very busy.

Canals around Lefkas marina

Canals around Lefkas marina

The next day we toured the streets to remind ourselves where everything was.  Having found the laundry and the phone shops we sorted out our pile of washing and bought Wind sim cards for the phone and Android.

Brian decided to work on the gear and throttle mechanisms as the engine wouldn’t always go into neutral when expected – causing unwanted effects!  In order to do this he had to arrange the webcam at the engine end, with the computer connected to our cockpit TV – all very complicated.  He looked up the specs for the gear cable (called a morse cable for some reason) and found that it should be changed every 3 years or so!  Seeing that ours was at least 8 years old I was sent off to find a new one.  This after having to empty “my” cabin so we could track the cable with a piece of string to measure its length – 17 feet!

Mmm - icecream

Mmm – icecream

The marina chandlery didn’t have one, but I was sent off to the little one in town – which I did eventually find and remembered and which was even open on a Sunday!  After some stilted discussion, the old shop owner sat me outside and went off on his motorbike, returning ¼ hour later with the correct cable – what a result.

Grape Vine pergola

Grape Vine pergola

We had lunch, then threaded the new cable around, following the track of the old one, Brian put it all together, and then found that a small connector at the engine end was very worn.  So back to the old man in the little chandlery and after some rummaging he found the correct bit.  He was very pleased the new cable was a good fit.  Endaxi indeed.  On Monday Brian fitted it all together, and rearranged the linkages so it all worked much better.

While he had been working on this, we had been running the engine for a while to test forward and backward gear changing.  Brian noticed that some water was gathering in the bilge below the engine.  So he mopped it out and checked it again the next day without running the engine – it was dry.  So we ran the engine again and he found a fine spray coming out of the cast aluminium engine exhaust manifold where it mixes with cooling water.  He poked at the pinhole – and a big lump fell out and lots of water came out!  Oh no.

Not a good sign!

Not a good sign!

So he had to take the whole manifold apart, and we trudged off to a yacht maintenance workshop that had been recommended by CA members on our pontoon.  The man there looked at the wreck of the parts, but sent them off to his engineer.  Not surprisingly the answer was that it was irrepairable, and he placed an order for new parts to be sent from the Perkins dealer in Athens.  By this time our new collar had arrived and he got that fitted to the water pump so we have a working spare again.

The design of the manifold is crazy – the water inlet is steel, connected directly to the aluminium casting which means that the aluminium just corrodes away.  The amount of metal involved means that this takes a few years (possibly 28!) – but even so.  We were so lucky that this didn’t fail while on our long trip from Ragusa to Kefalonia as we would have just had to sail – it might have taken a long time.

New exhaust manifold - quite a difference!

New exhaust manifold – quite a difference!

The new parts didn’t arrive until the following Tuesday – by which time we had been in Lefkas marina nearly two weeks!  Fortunately we were able to stay in our berth the entire time – otherwise we would have had to have been towed somewhere!

When the new parts arrived Brian fitted them, after having to extract some bolts that were imperial thread from the old part – only to find that a part of the new bit leaked!  Back to the shop, which sent it to his engineer and the next day it was returned.  A second fitting, and finally it worked with no drips!

Canals around Lefkas marina

Canals around Lefkas marina

All this time it had been getting hotter and hotter, so poor Brian was working in a melting atmosphere. The shower blocks were excellent and we became very clean!  For a few days I had just been able to sit and read books on deck in the slight breeze, getting accustomed to the heat, although we had one day of rain that cooled everything down and a few days of strong winds.

While we had been in Lefkas we saw two boats that we knew from Licata.  Both were passing through though so we didn’t meet up.

Then on Wednesday night we were ready to leave.  We had our usual drinks with tzatziki at our favourite GyroGyro bar and Brian left me to pay as he went off to cook dinner.  Our friendly waiter then turned up with complimentary drinks (fortunately an unopened beer) and was most upset that we couldn’t accept them especially as it was our last night – that he hadn’t known!  What a shame!  But I would have had difficulty walking back if we had….

Beer, wine and tzatziki at GyroGyro, Lefkas - wonderful

Beer, wine and tzatziki at GyroGyro, Lefkas – wonderful

As Brian was returning to the boat he saw Rampage – Julia and Duncan had just arrived after putting their boat back in the water in Preveza.  They were out that evening but I found them the next morning and we met for an hour over coffee after we had prepared Alixora for leaving.  It was great to catch up – we had last seen them in the Aegean two years ago!  We may meet up again in the Ionian area after they have completed a few errands.

Back street in Lefkas

Back street in Lefkas

This was Thursday 23rd June – not only EU referendum day but also sister Jessica’s significant birthday. Having paid our dues to the marina – an expensive two week sojourn – we set off down the canal again.  The weather was looking a bit iffy so we decided to head for Vathi, Meganisi which had places to tie up.  Motoring all the way as usual – but I managed to catch Jessica to wish her happy birthday.  We should have stopped at the restaurant on the outskirts of Vathi really but Brian wasn’t keen, but having headed in we found the town quay was full, so had to beg a place in the new marina that had been set up there since our last visit.  We were on the outside of a high wall, so had to get to shore in the dinghy!  However on shore was a small beach and I fell into the water for a most refreshing first of the year swim.  Bliss.  Then out for a drink on the other side of the bay, and back to make dinner with the boat bumping up and down in the predicted strong northerly winds.

The following day with further dire weather warnings we headed down to the other Vathi – Ithaka.  Again no wind, but we put the sail up which gave us a bit of shade – so hot!  Even so I caught the sun and had managed to be attacked by a rapacious mosquito or three the previous couple of days, so was a bit uncomfortable!

Cool waterfall in Karamela cafe garden

Cool waterfall in Karamela cafe garden

We arrived to find a fairly empty town quay, managed to get the anchor down on the second attempt and tied up securely – although we spent a couple of hours worrying that we didn’t have enough chain out – it was getting quite windy (of course – after a day’s sailing without).  However I knew that the bottom here is thick mud remembering having to wash it all off the anchor in previous visits so when we saw that it wasn’t moving we relaxed.  After I washed off all the sweat from our efforts in the shower on the back of the boat, we headed over the road to the very conveniently located Karamela taverna for much needed cold beer  – only to be joined by Conceição, Philippe & Scuba the dog.  I don’t know how long it is since we saw them last – possibly 2 years again? Their aluminium Ovni yacht called Jad was at anchor in the bay – Philippe is here to catch the Euro 2016 football matches that are on TV in all the tavernas – they support Belgium and Portugal, but also wanted to watch England vs Iceland!

On looking around the large harbour we saw Sea Too at anchor – from Licata.  Craig with Molly the dog found us after I had gone to bed that night and caught up with Brian. The next day started fine, but quickly clouded over and we were treated to an extraordinary thunderstorm that lasted for several hours, with torrential rain.  That washed some of the dust off the boat!  I took the opportunity to have a short siesta in the resulting cool but it was somewhat disturbed by the rolling thunder, pounding rain and rolling boat in the gusts.  With no sun our batteries were getting a bit low, so we had to run the engine for a while – at least we get hot water again from that!

Rain!

Rain!

The following day (Sunday) was fine again but a bit cooler.  We went shopping and then I took advantage of the electric outlets in Karamela’s shady garden to start this blog.  When Brian came over for a beer later in the evening I looked up to see Anne-Inger walking past with their dog Loeve (last seen in Licata)!  She joined us for a beer and we went to hunt for Morten, meeting Conceição, Philippe & Scuba on the way, so the dogs got to know each other, then went out to the restaurant we had visited previously when we were here last with friends on Petronella in 2014.  Another amazing meeting.  They are all at anchor (not like us softies that like easy shore access) and had all noticed each other because of the three dogs – Loeve, Scuba and Molly!

Drinks with Morten, Anne-Inger and friend in Big Vathi

Drinks with Morten, Anne-Inger and friend in Big Vathi

Meanwhile Brian has checked the bilge under the engine – no more leaks!  But he is now constructing an electronic system to automatically empty the bilge when it gets water over a certain point……..

We will hang around here for another few days – then off on our travels east through the Corinth Canal, hopefully to meet up with Jessica and Mark at the end of July somewhere on the east coast of Greece.

Irridescent butterflies

Irridescent butterflies

 

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