2019 A year to forget. Frustrations, failures and very little sailing.

There had been an earlier trip planned for this year but that turned into a fiasco.  Tony, Paul and Graham had a lengthy trip planned which would have taken them to Crete and the Cyclades and involved a change of crew in Santorini but it never happened.

Dave and Tony had built up a reasonable working relationship with Michalis, a local engineer, who had done some good work on our engine.  When he announced that he was opening a boat yard not far from Poros, we decided to throw our lot in with him and took the boat there to be anti-fouled.  And that’s where the boat stayed for months!

We discovered that his yard was poorly prepared and, when the rains came, it flooded.  Admittedly, they did get three-months worth of rain in as many weeks but work ground to a halt as he and his wife tried their hardest to stop boats from sinking into the quagmire.  We went there regularly and each time we were promised a date when he would be finished.  Tempers frayed and it became clear that we weren’t going to get any sailing done.

Graham left for home after a week and even Paul bailed out early.  Tony stuck it to the end and finally got the boat finished and back to Methana.  Even then the problems continued.  But that’s another story…

After the frustration of the non-sailing trip earlier this year, this trip is to both make us feel better and to give Carpe Diem a shakedown.  It should have been the three that failed to get out earlier in the year but unfortunately Graham couldn’t make it.  He’s in Methana but not for long enough to fit in the sailing.

The fuel fitting which our least favourite engineer broke has been replaced – would have cost €125 to buy here in Greece but we got it for £27 in Sheffield! There is still a bit of a leak but it’s manageable. Plus, there’s a bit of a mystery water leak but, again, we should be able to cope with that. All in all, it’s great to have a working boat again. Or so we thought…

Sunday, 20th October

We set off this morning at 10:50 with very little wind. Despite this, we try to sail but give up and motor all the way through Poros and round past Hydra. Just heading into the narrows in Poros, Tony’s phone rings: “Coo-eee,” says Graham, “we can see you!” They are up by the church with a grandstand view of our passage.

At around 4:00 this afternoon we pull into an anchorage in a bay on the north side of the island of Dhokos. There’s a big catamaran tied in to the shore on the other side from us ; a family with kids and they decide to amuse said kids by roaring round in their inflatable towing a big ring behind. Fun for them; annoying for us.  Thankfully, it doesn’t last that long and they’ve packed away.

Now it’s sunset and the chilli is nearly done. Hopefully, we’ll have a peaceful night.

Monday 21st – Dhokos to Khailadia

A serene night. Once the noise of kids and generators had died away, there was nothing but the gentle slap of water on the stern and the occasional hoot of an owl. So serene in fact we were ready for bed by 9:00!

Gentle start with tea first then porridge. Next luxury on Carpe Diem will be a generator and espresso machine! Absolutely no wind but also no depth sounding. Little gizmo has a mind of its own.

Although the wind increased to around 5 knots, there was little else happened for the next hour or two so it was autopilot on and books out.

As we turned past Spetses, the wind picked up a little so the sails came out. Thanks to Dave and his magic silicone spray trick, the main shot out again and so did the foresail. We managed a couple of tacks back and forth across that gulf doing around 4.5 knots just on sail which, given how light the wind was, shows how slippery our new shiny bottom is.

12:30 and just before the slip road to Porto Heli, we pulled in to an anchorage where we had lunch. One of us even went for a swim (no prizes for guessing who didn’t… ).  Now it’s back to little wind and motoring as we head for our next stop – Koilada in the Argolic Gulf.

And that’s where we are. It’s 5:20 and we’ve managed to moor up stern-to without 1) hitting anything; 2) annoying ferry skippers; and 3) making fools of ourselves. We’re now sitting supping a beer in one of the few tavernas open. It’s an industrial place full of fishing boats and there’s two huge boatyards. It’s chicken something or other for dinner tonight. It was going to be chicken cacciatore but the absence of half the ingredients means it’s now chicken something or other.

Tuesday 22nd – Khoilada to Nafplion

We left Khoilada with a plan to go to Nafplion via a possible anchor spot for lunch. As we left, the wind picked up again and the sails came out. We then had a very enjoyable couple of hours racing two catamarans towards the lunch anchorage. We had full sails out and at times, with 15+ knots of wind, we wandered whether this was a mistake. In the end though, the only mistake was in our tactics and we found ourselves miles behind the cats. Still, it was worth it for the sailing with Carpe creaming along at six and a half knots and smiles all round.

The lunch anchorage wasn’t tempting enough so we headed on to Nafplion. We’d been there before so knew what to expect. What we didn’t expect was two enormous dredgers and barges in the middle of the channel. Turned out to be more than enough room to get past and the adrenaline levels momentarily dropped back to somewhere near normal.  As we came in, someone shouted to us to anchor stern-to with 40 metres of chain out. Not sure who did the shouting or whether we had heard right, we headed toward the wall to begin the stern-to manoeuvre when we discovered, horror of horrors, the anchor wouldn’t work. No anchor, no stern-to mooring.

We circled, Paul flicked switches. We circled some more, nothing. In the end, we abandoned stern-to and came in alongside. Just after we’d tied up, the source of the 40 meters of chain shout appeared on his bike and accused us of not listening and doing as we had been told. Seems he was the harbour parker man. He quickly changed his tune once he understood the absence of anchor and even arranged for an electrician to come to look at the problem.

We sat around for a couple of hours and our new-best-friend Harry the harbour parker man kept cycling past telling us the electrician was coming. He finally turned up and spent half an hour testing and making sparks and then told us the control box for the anchor was buggered. Actually, he spoke no English so we had to rely on Harry who, being half Greek half South African, spoke good English. The electrician told us he would try to find on in a shop in the morning and would come back if he did.

With nothing better to do, we headed into the back streets of old Nafplion and found a superb restaurant where we eat good food and drank too much red wine followed by Tsipero. Needless to say, that night’s sleep was not perfect…

Wednesday 23rd – Nafplion to Dhokos

With no working anchor it was pointless carrying on. Tony made it quite clear that a week of hauling 40 meters of chain and a 15kg anchor was not something he looked forward to! So, we made the decision to make the 35 mile trip to Dhokos, anchor the night there and then back to Methana.

There was enough wind to make it worthwhile playing with sails and, for most of the leg between Nafplion and Spetses, we had fun. The first part took us along a rocky coastline, with big cliffs plunging straight down to the sea.

Once past Porto Heli, the wind changed and it was back to motoring. Turning past Spetsais, the wind picked up and hammered us right ‘on the nose’. We still had the main out although it was pulled in tight on the middle line of the boat. The thinking was that we may catch some wind once we turned again towards Dhokos and it would save hauling the sail out again.

Suddenly, there was a bang from above and we looked to find that the main sail had pulled free of the pulley set up that hauls it out. The stitching on the tapes holding the sail to the pulley had ripped through. For once, Poseidon was looking after us because we saw that a thin piece of cord (normally used to tension the back edge of the sail) had caught in the pulley and was holding the sail, stopping from being whipped out from the mast; without that thin cord, we would have been faced with a full sail flying free and a mighty struggle to make it safe. Quickly we pulled the sail in, grabbed rope and lashed the last bit of sail round the mast. Not pretty, but safe.

Praying for no more dramas we motored into Dhokos to anchor. We anchored in a small inlet called Derrick Cove, a perfectly sheltered small inlet with just the right amount of room. The wind dropped, the chilli and rice were cooked and we settled to a calm night with stars in all directions.

Thursday 24th – Dhokos to Methana

What a great place to wake up!  As we sat in near silence sipping morning tea, the word tranquil sprang readily to mind. Hardly a breath of wind and just gentle lapping against the hull. Even hauling in the chain and anchor by hand did nothing to spoil the mood. (Actually, the anchor came up easily and it was good to have a bit of exercise.)

From Dhokos, we headed home. And the closer we got, the more the wind blew and the more the sea lumped. By the time we turned through the gap to head for Poros, the wind was gusting somewhere near 25 knots and the seas were building. Unfortunately, we could only estimate the wind speed as the gremlins had struck again and all of our navigation instruments had stopped working. Good job we knew where we were going!

Heading towards the turn into the gap a particularly rude catamaran (fatamarans from now on!) came ploughing through forcing us to veer off course. Curses were thrown to the wind but they were oblivious.

Once through the gap we were met by biggish seas that chucked us around quite a bit. Paul did a magnificent job making tea and bring up biscuits – not a drop spilled! Mind you, he very nearly came a cropper as he went back down to take the cups. Carpe got caught by a couple of waves that lifted her then threw her sideways as she dropped … just as Paul let go of the grab rail to turn off the steps. Luckily his cat-like reflexes didn’t desert him in his hour of need and the only casualty was the remaining biscuit, bits of which we continued to find all around the saloon.

And that was it really, apart from the mooring in Methana marina but least said about that the better…

Some great moments but, yet again, frustration at not having the boat fully functioning. Ah well, there’s always next year…