Monday, 29 September 2014

Vliho and counting

David, Janice and Trevor on board Breeze in Vliho Bay
As regular readers will know Vliho Bay offers mixed blessings. It is normally a safe haven; protected, calm, good holding and a refuge when things get nasty outside. However, Vliho has a dark side. Southerly winds can whip up vicious seas. Boats have been sunk, people have died.

Today we are seeing the more benign side of Vliho. We are at anchor in calm conditions. David and Jan (Lucinda Jane) are just astern. We met for coffee this morning and drinks this evening.  This is quintessentially why we came to Greece. Good company, easy free-ranging conversation, no ‘edge’, a convivial bottle or three of wine (French not Greek) and all with a backdrop of clear blue skies and pink mountains.

Janice on Breeze in Vliho - we will miss the Hobarts

With just days to go before we bid farewell to David, Jan and the Greek islands we are preparing for Breeze’s hibernation and the start of our European excursion. We will have completed most of the laying-up jobs by the time we are hauled out. Some people save all that until they are out of the water and then spend a week sorting themselves out and living on a boat on the hard. Awful, we think. We prefer to have everything organised and so all we have to do come lift out day is a few tasks that cannot be completed beforehand and then hand over the keys to trusted staff who will look after Breeze during the winter.

We then look forward to our journey through Italy and France back to Blighty, it is a holiday all on its own.

We are already making plans for next year.

Just a few more days left now. Precious days.

And before you know it it’ll be Christmas.  Ho Ho Ho.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Whether to Sail.

The local fishermen rarely get caught out by the weather.
Nothing consumes the minds of sailors more than the weather forecast. Every decision we take about when and where to go is informed by the forecasts. Usually the Ionian is very predictable – calm overnight and into the morning. By midday the winds start to pick up and in the afternoon you get a North-Westerly Force 3 or 4. That dies down come the evening and so the cycle repeats. Except this year that dependable, predictable, comforting pattern has been tossed overboard and has sunk without trace. This year the weather has been rubbish. Almost two weeks ago we set out in a predicted southerly force 3 only to find ourselves battling a north-westerly force 8 and violent thunder storm!

John and Lori from Cantski

Last night (Monday) we met Lori and John (Cantski) and David and Jan (Lucinda Jane) for dinner and to plan our next few days. The forecast was for southerly force 3 this morning veering west, north-west by lunchtime. There was rain forecast for around one o’clock. We resolved to leave at nine this morning, take advantage of the southerlies and head to Meganisi arriving at the island’s Abelike Bay for lunch and, hopefully, beating the rain shower.

At half past eight this morning (Tuesday) David and Jan came over in the dinghy with news that the forecast they’d seen showed a change for the worse. Higher winds, sooner, making the passage to Meganisi far less attractive, possibly dangerous. We compared forecasts. The Greek Met Office’s sailing forecast for the area didn’t look too bad. The rain had vanished from the forecast and the high winds were now due later. Poseidon, a popular forecast site linked to Athens University, tended to agree with the official met office site. Wind Finder Pro, a site used by wind surfers, showed more wind earlier.

All sites were showing North Westerly winds force 4 at the time we were debating what to do. What we actually had was a dead flat calm. This conspicuous inaccuracy cast doubt on the accuracy of all the forecasts.

Lucinda Jane underway between Ithaca and Meganisi. Calm seas after the gales the night before.
Based on these conflicting reports we had to make a decision. How on earth do you take critical, possibly life threatening, decisions if the best available information is so contradictory? This is a real problem out here. There are many sites providing forecasts for the Ionian. People tend to have their favourites, usually based on what has proved to be accurate in the past. The temptation is to play safe and stay put and if the high winds come either sit them out tied-up somewhere secure or ride them out at anchor.

We took a leaf out of Scotland’s book and held a referendum. By a tiny majority we opted to stay and ride it out at anchor.

Wednesday Morning

"I think I’ll mend my nets and skip the gales"

Well, we had a very uncomfortable night last night.  The winds did blow and thanks to the design of Breeze the stern slapped and banged all night as the waves came in. A nearby yacht dragged anchor and had to reset a couple of times during the night. That kept John and Lori on Cantski awake. We had almost 50 metres of chain out which held but gave us an enormous swinging circle. I stayed up until about 2am on anchor watch and then as the winds reduced I tried to sleep. I didn’t, of course, far too alert to every sound to be able to enter the land of nod. At around 3am there was the unmistakable sound of anchor dragging across rock. My reactions were instant. I was up even faster than when I’m allowed a full English Breakfast, but all was well - the anchor had reset as fast as it had broken out and we were once again secure. The winds dropped after about 4am and I managed a few hours sleep.

We are now at anchor in Abelike Bay with Cantski and Lucinda-Jane. A pleasant trip, we even managed to sail part of the way, and the forecast for the next two days shows light winds and a blow on Friday. But can we trust the forecast? How accurate will it be? Forecasts, sadly, don’t come with a guarantee. Pass the seaweed I’ll just double-check.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Cantski (l) and Breeze ® at anchor in Big Vathy, Ithaca.
We had planned to sail north today to Abelike Bay on Meganisi but a change in the weather means we are staying put at anchor in Big Vathy on Itaca. We are here with John and Lori on Cantski and David and Jan on Lucinda Jane.

Jo, Lori, John and Jan on shore ready for the hike.

Jan and David Hobart suggested a walk to a tiny chapel on the headland at the entrance to Big Vathy. It seemed like a good idea but we hadn’t realized that in a previous life the Hobarts had been mountain goats and so took the vertiginous, craggy, crumbly path in their stride. The coastal footpath comprised stones, broken rocks, rust-red earth and spiky plants which snatched at ankles. I didn’t see a bit of the scenery, my eyes were focused on where my feet were landing. Every step a judgement.

This was one of the easier bits.

We clambered up rocks, slid down earthy slopes, dodged boulders, enjoyed a waterfall and, when possible, admired the views.

Clouds gather - time to go back.

We got almost to the chapel when the skies started to darken – there was rain and possibly lightning in those clouds. Within sight of the goal four of us elected to return leaving Billy and Nanny Goat to continue.  They reached the chapel and then headed back to Lucinda Jane.

We are all now back on board our boats. Breeze is weaving an erratic series of arcs as the wind catches the bow first on the port side and then on the starboard. The stern is slapping, the wind howls, waves crash against the hull.

Pleasant scene as we returned from the adventure.

We expect these conditions to continue into the night – it’s three o’clock in the afternoon as I write – oh joy! But with such totally unreliable forecasts anything could happen.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Kioni - revisited.

Breeze (left) and Cantski (middle) tied up on the quay at Kioni.
Just about everyone out here wants to find the quaint, picturesque unspoilt village that has echoes of the film Captain Corelli’s Manolin and travel brochures from the 60s. Sadly few exist. Today just about every bay has been taken over by a bar pumping out loud ‘disco’ music well into the night. Even our old faithful, Spilia Bay on Meganisi, now has a beach bar and PA system which does not enhance the atmosphere in the taverna.  

But, I bring news that all is not lost. For the past couple of weeks, encouraged by Lori and John from Cantski (that’s not an ex-Russian boat, it’s Can’t Ski – i.e., if I’m sailing I Can’t Ski), we have been exploring a few nooks and crannies of the Ionian coastline.

The three derelict windmills which act as landmarks to identify the channel entrance to Kioni. 

We tied-up in Kioni on Ithaca which, I have to say, just about manages to retain it’s coastal charm while also being a tripper destination.  But Lori and John ignored the quayside restaurants and took us for a coastal path walk towards the three derelict mills which define the bay’s entrance. After a mile or so we came across a delightful bay, small beach and a charming cafĂ©/taverna. There were perhaps a dozen people there. John and I had some beers while the girls went on an expedition to the mills. On their return we had a feast. Now this is the Greece we came for – quiet, peaceful, charming, idyllic and with a bar.

Discreet, quiet and a real gem.

Lori and ‘naughty’ John

Naughty Jo - it’s rude to point.

Inside the ‘no admittance’ windmill

Friday, 19 September 2014

Filleted Salmond

Lori and John showing off just because they have a dinghy.

Yesterday the Scottish people served up a feast of Filleted Salmond. The smiling Cheshire cat has had the smile wiped off his face. We can now all heave a huge sigh of relief.  The markets have responded positively, jobs north of the border are secure, our nuclear subs can continue to use Scottish lochs, whisky will not, after all, be priced in euros and, as a bonus, Scottish MP will be banned from voting on purely English matters. Quite right too.

Of course the SNP will continue to bang on about separatism, the joy of the kilt and ‘their’ oil but with such a decisive defeat little Alex Salmond has far less authority than he had two days ago.

We are going out for dinner this evening to celebrate and have invented a cocktail to mark the event. It’s called a Jock on the Rocks…in memory of the defeated SNP leader. It comprises a shot of whisky, a measure of lies, a generous helping of deceit, loads of bitters and plenty of chilling ice. Cheers.