Thursday, 27 September 2012

Famous last words!

I ended the last post by saying that nothing interesting would happen. How wrong I was.
We had a lovely two days anchored in a little bay just out of town, clearing up and swimming. On Tuesday we were booked in to Leros marina, our new home. The engine struggled to start, but we got it going, drove out of the bay to empty the holding tank at sea and as we approached the marina on the way back the engine stalled and would not start again. Simon jumped into the dinghy, tied it alongside and towed us slowly into the marina. Fortunately there was very little wind, but still steering was very difficult - with the dinghy alongside Lin could only turn to starboard. We called to say we had no engine, but they directed us to an inside berth on an inside pontoon. It turned out later that they had not heard our call and could not see Simon in the dinghy because he was tied up on the outside. We managed to get to the pontoon and line up for the berth, but the marina people kept calling for lines and changing their mind, by which time we had drifted broadside to the berthed boats. We eventually managed to get into a berth bows too, which makes it very difficult to get on and off.
The next day a mechanic came and said that we had a lot of water in the oil and the likelihood was that the engine was severely damaged, but to work on it properly they would have to take out the engine and it could cost thousands, so they advised us to get a new engine. On balance we have decided that they are right - just a pity that we are not in Marmaris, where it is much cheaper, but Lin does not want to sail to Marmaris without an engine!
On Wednesday we went into town to watch the memorial for the Queen Olga, which was sunk on September 26 1943, along with the British ship Intrepid. In the end there was very little happening. Later in the morning a band marched along the front and then a naval vessel took some dignataries out to lay wreaths over Queen Olga.
On Thursday morning we lifted out. The engine started, but then stalled when we put it into gear and would not start again, so it was a dinghy job again. This time the outboard would not start -probably out of fuel, which we have been running down, but the marina had a dinghy to push us round this time, though they charged us 56 euros for the privilege. Now we are on land packing up and hoping that nothing else will go wrong.
Love to all
Simon and Lin

Friday, 21 September 2012

Back to Lakki

On Sunday night we went to a concert of traditional Naxos music and dancing on the terrace of the Venetian museum (video won't upload).

We left Naxos early on Monday 17th for a gentle sail in a light northwesterly wind to Skhinousa, where we arrived in time for lunch.
After lunch we went for a walk, following the instructions in our walks book, which involved breaking in to the 'Valley of the Muses', a grandiose investment project now abandoned, clambering along cliff edges an beaking through fences, till we arrived at a beautiful beach,

where the one German couple on the beach hurriedly put on their knickers when they saw us arriving (there was a big sign forbidding nudism). After a swim we walked back to the harbour, getting a liftup to the Hora from the German couple in their hotel minibus.
We left early next morning for Amorgos and had a gentle sail down to Aegiali, where we got a place on the quay.

 In the afternoon we set off on a walk, using our trusty walks book, but Simon went completely the wrong way and we ended up having a very steep walk up to Lower Potamos. Lin turned back, while Simon climbed up to Upper Potamos and then found some very rough paths back down.
Again we set off early in the morning to sail to Levitha. Off Amorgos there was very little wind and confused seas that set us rolling around. Just as last year we had a problem with the mainsail just off the Northwest tip of Amorgos, but we got it down, sorted it out and set off again.
As we approached Levitha a helicopter took off and flew over us

- it made two more sorties during the afternoon. It turned out that a German company has a contract to construct a wind farm and the helicopter was to carry out the surveys. The family who live on the island are horrified at the prospect. We don't object to a windfarm, but the construction will despoil the last unspolit island in the Aegean.
In the afternoon Lin swam and chilled, while Simon walked over to the hills on the north of the island.

By evening sixteen yachts had arrived - more boats that we had seen in one place since leaving Lakki. The taverna in the farmyard was bursting at the seams.
We left early next morning for Leros, arriving in Lakki at midday, planning to go into the marina on Friday. On Friday morning the engine would not start. We had had trouble starting for the last couple of weeks, but this time it would not start at all. Simon checked the fuel filters, which looked clean, and unburnt fuel was coming out of the exhaust, so we concluded that it was a problem with the glow plugs. Simon took them out and found that two were not working (the two remaining new ones that we had fitted last year). Fortunately we still had two of the old ones and when we fitted them the engine started fine.
When we got into the marina we found that the water pump was not working. That too had been temperamental for the last couple of weeks, but started when bashed. Simon checked the wiring, which was OK, took the pump apart, but could not see anything obviously wrong so now have no hot water, and cold water only from the foot tap in the galley sink.
Now we are in Lakki cleaning and mending and preparing to layup. All too boring for another blog. We take the ferry to Athens on Sunday night and fly to Gatwick on the 3rd and home on October 4th.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Off to Naxos

On Sunday in Skhinousa a young Greek couple from Syros came alongside us in a Gibsea 92, the boat we had chartered on our first sailing trip in Greece with Sam and Becky in 1987. They suggested that it might even be the same boat renamed as there are only two of them in Greece. It looked very small next to us!

We had an excellent lunch in taverna Deli looking over the bay below.

On Monday we ran the engine to charge the batteries as usual and after a couple of minutes the engine died. Having ruled out dirty fuel by checking the filter we concluded that we had run out of diesel. Lin had suggested filling up in Lakki, but Simon insisted that we had enough to get to Naxos at least. It had all looked OK, with the gauge on a quarter, but clearly the gauge had stuck. We asked Costas in the taverna where we could get diesel and he replied that we could not get diesel on Skhinousa. So Simon checked the ferry times to Naxos, hoping to take a couple of cans to fill and come back the same day. Costas told us that the ferry stops in Naxos for about three hours, which would give us plenty of time, but warned that we would not be allowed to take fuel on the ferry so we would have to hide it in a bag. What to do? We could not risk sailing to Naxos with no engine, especially in these winds. But then a saviour appeared - an Australian family on a chartered catamaran overheard us and offered us their spare can of diesel - about 20 litres.

We liked Skhinousa very much but it was getting time to leave as soon as the wind allowed.

The forecast on Skhinousa told us every day that tomorrow will be windy but the day after tomorrow will be better, but it then turns out to be worse. The forecast for Tuesday was not too bad, northerly 6 with a bit of 7, so we decided to go for it with two reefs and the third reef rigged just in case. For the first hour we motored as there was no wind at all in the lee of Naxos, but we could see a line of white horses just to the west, which we hit as we rounded the tip of Naxos. We had a windy beat up the channel between Naxos and Paros with winds of 25-30 knots true, a current against us of 1-2 knots and waves over two metres in the channel. Nevertheless we had two reefs, a flat main and a tiny bit of genoa and we made a good 5-6 knots, pointing well, but getting soaked when we hit a nasty wave.

As we got west of Naxos town, on the Paros side, we decided to take in the genoa and motor sail under main only the rest of the way. Simon started to pull in the genoa and the furling line snapped, releasing the genoa so that the whole sail unrolled and flogged violently. Lin tried to keep the boat and the genoa under control while Simon jury-rigged a rolling line and eventually got the genoa in.

As we crossed over to Naxos in increasing winds and seas we got perilously close to the notorious reef, which we could not see until we were a couple of hundred metres off it. Once we had rounded the reef we decided it was time to get the main down - not easy on a bucking deck, with the waves pushing the boat off the wind this way and that, but Lin managed to keep us pretty much on the wind, while Simon got the main down (finding that one of the battens had sprung out of its fitting) and lashed it to the boom - it was not the time to get it into its bag and zip it up. We came into Naxos harbour and found the entrance to the marina, which turned out to be full, but Nikos, the harbour master, was very helpful, getting us to anchor and come back on to the corner of a pontoon.

Once we had settled down and got everything stowed, Simon went to lower the dinghy, to find it half full of water from breaking waves, and floating in it was the top half of the casing of our radar reflector. We realised that the flogging genoa had smashed the radar reflector casing, leaving the reflector dangling from its lower mount. We connected up the electricity, but it tripped. Simon switched everything off and by a process of elimination found that the problem was the immersion heater, which we switched off.

We were tied up next to a very nice Danish couple, who were very helpful. As we were tired and hungry we asked their advice about the best place to eat. We followed their instructions, but could see no sign of their recommended taverna after walking for miles, so we ducked back to a taverna in the old town, where we had a tolerable dinner, went home and collapsed into bed.

Wednesday was the first repairs day. First stop was the immersion heater, so that could get hot water. Simon removed the immersion heater cover to find it full of water, which was bubbling out of the insulation all around. The first thing was to get some stoppers so that we could disconnect the tank from the water supply. Simon tried the chandlers, but the caps would not fit - it looked as though the thread was too wide. The chandlers sent him off to a plumbing supplier on the other side of town, and eventually he found 1" plastic caps to fit the pipes. He got back to the boat to find that the caps were too big (aqbout 30mm), so he had to trudge back to the edge of town to replace them. The shop owner insisted they were 1" caps and that 1" was three centimetres. He produced 25mm brass fittings which were stamped 3/4, so Simon changed his nominal 1" caps for Naxos 3/4" 25mm caps, which, after much manipulation, he managed to get on to the pipes to isolate the tank.

Assuming that the problem was the immersion heater joint, Simon packed it with Leak Fix and declared it sound. Wewalked up to the Kastro in the afternoon, visiting the Venetian museum, a fortified house, making part of the castle wall, that was built by a Venetian invader (supposedly on the Crusade) in 1207 and still inhabited by the same family. The house was fascinating, the exhibits less so (it looked as though they had emptied the junk from their cellar and attic).

When we got back to the boat Simon proudly switched the water back on, and it still came squirting and gurgling out of the insulation on the hot water tank. He had to cut away about a quarter of the insulation to track down the leak, which was on the other side from the immersion heater. Repeated attempts to block the leaks with Leak Fix failed (though the leak is now not so bad) as the water finds its way out under the Leak Fix - probably the surface was not completely dry around the leak so it had not bonded. So now we have to switch the water off when we are not using it and pump out the bilges every day.

Thursday was repairs day 2. But before we began, Simon spent one and a half hours diving to free the propellor of the Danich couple's boat from a tangle of mooring lines - they had dropped the mooring line long before moving off, but it had jammed in their rudder and when the started it twisted round the propellor and picked up a load of other bits of old rope. They gave us two good bottles of wine for our pains - not necessary, we yachters are always ready to help each other.

Having rescued the Danes, Simon removed the old furling line and measured it up for a replacement. We needed a 10mm line (easier on the hands, quite apart from the strength) but the chandlers turned out to have only 8 mm and 12 mm line. 12mm would not fit on the drum, so we had to get 8mm and hope that it holds until we get back to Lakki. We then refitted the batten that had fallen out, with a lot of pulling and pushing,  In the afternoon we went off for a swim to a beach on the causeway leading to the temple of Apollo

- a tiny little cove with deep sand and clear water. Simon disappeared, snorkling over to Grotta beach to see the submerged Cycladic and classical buildings. Mostly it was not possible to tell the difference between ruins and natural rocks, though there were some obviously cut marble blocks. Getting out of the water was treacherous - the flat rocks were covered with sea urchins almost to the sea shore. Simon managed to surf over the rocks without getting spiked and walked back to our cove.In the evening we had an excellent Thai meal at the East West restaurant.

Our friend Gill Frith was arriving on the Thursday night ferry from Athens to start her HF walking holiday. Simon went down to the quay, thinking the ferry came in at 10.40, only to find that on Thursdays it did not come in intil 11.40, so we went to bed without seeing Gill, but left her a message to come for a drink on Friday evening.

On Friday we rented a car for the day to drive around the island and check out the likeliest walking routes. The car hire man gave us a half hour briefing and mapped out a route for us, which turned out to be perfect, taking us round all the main sites and ending up on a beach. We went to the temple of Demeter,

where a walking group emerged from the bushes - not Gill's HF group, but a group on a Ramblers holiday. We also stopped off at Halki, where we had a coffee in the old town, and drove up the valley

and over the ridge to Apeiranthos,

 a Cretan village, where we took in three museums, the best being a higgeldy piggledy archaeological museum with some lovely Cycladic pieces and ancient carvings.

We drove back down another valley, past a modern marble quarry

then went for a walk to look at an ancient quarry and two Kouros, large statues that had been abandoned in the quarry because they were broken.

We got home just in time for a quick shower before Gill arrived for a drink and Mexican dinner.

Gill decided to duck out of her Saturday walk, so she joined us to go to the wonderful archaeological museum, with terrific Mycenean and Cycladic figures and pottery.
(Sorry I can't rotate them!)

Although not up to the Cycladic art in the Benares in Athens, it is much more impressive when you know where it comes from and you get a good sense of the longevity and prosperity of Naxos civilisation. After the most expensive beers we have ever drunk (Gill paid), overlooking the marina and Mia Hara,

we had a quick swim in our little cove

and after lunch we walked round to Agios Georgios beach for another swim. The guide books suggested that we would not be able to move for bodies, but in fact there were few people beyond the tavernas and sun beds and it was all remarkably clean. For dinner we went back to East West - three days without Greek food!

We decided to set off back towards Leros on Monday, so Sunday is shopping, cleaning and clearing up. And fixing the radar reflector, which was dangling dangerously loose. Lin winched Simon up the mast,

where it was very windy and where he tied the top end of the reflector,

but we will have to be very careful not to catch the genoa on it and will take it down when it is less windy. He had planned to go to the masthead and remove the anchor light for repair, but it was too windy, so we put that off for another day.

It has got markedly cooler in the last couple of weeks, jumpers or jackets in the evenings, and we have quite a bit of cloud and even a few drops of rain in Naxos.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Just the two of us

Simon's treatment went well and he got back to Leros on the ferry at 5am on Thursday morning 30th August to jump into bed with a sleeping Lin, who had a very windy time in Leros. We pottered around for a couple of days, cleaning and tidying, and on Saturday had a windy beat up to Arki (we cheated and motor sailed the last half as the wind got up to 25 knots. On passage the passarel disintegrated, so we had no way to get ashore in Arki, so we anchored in the bay just south of the port - crystal clear water and very sheltered. We stayed there two nights, mending the passarel and swimming, then moved to the harbour for a couple of days more, having some excellent meals at Nikolas's taverna before saying good bye to everyone. On Wedensday 5th September we set off at dawn to sail the fifty miles to Dhonoussa, just East of Naxos. There was a good wind till we got to the southern tip of Patmos, then the wind died for a couple of hours motoring. Anticipating stronger and more westerly winds we worked our way north, which was lucky because when the wind came back there was a lot of west in it and we could only just lay Dhonoussa. The wind increased steadily as we close reached, often at over 8 knots, with two reefs and a patch of genoa. The waves also got bigger and bigger, well over two metres, so the boat got a good wash down. We had planned to go to the anchorage in the north west of Dhonoussa, that Derek had recommended to us, but we could not lay it as the wind increased and went further west, so we decided to head for Ormos Dhendro in the south of the island. As we reached the island the gusts increased to 35 knots and Simon had to work hard on the wheel to keep us on course. The anchorage did not look promising from offshore - a little bay with spray flying everywhere, but things calmed down as we motored in and we anchored off the beach, the only yacht here (or on the whole island), with 55 metres of chain. The beach had a lot of little tents and bivouaks. Simon swam around to check the anchor and swinging room and went ashore to check out the beach. It was clearly a middle-aged hippy beach, with half the people (including many Greeks) naked and a lively bar/taverna at the back.

Even in the bay the wind was 25 knots, but the anchor was well dug in so we were confident we would be OK, but still Simon slept on deck and set the anchor alarm just in case.

The forecast was for calmer weather on Thursday, but then gale force winds from Friday lunchtime, so we decided to find a more sheltered anchorage and headed for Mirsini on Skhinousa, which we found almost empty - just two Greek yachts, so we found a comfortable place on the quay.
We had a delicious lunch at Mersini taverna behind the beach, then relaxed after two days heavy sailing.

On Friday morning we walked up to the hora to do some shopping, passing an emaciated donkey
and the financial district.

The hora is pretty nondescript, having been developed for tourists who fill the island in high season, but who were now conspicuous by their absence, but there were spectacular views to the many beaches around the island.
On Saturday, after shopping, putting extra lines on the boat, swimming, lunch and a siesta, the day flashed by, the wind still very strong and no yachts coming or going.
On Sunday we walked over the hill to the north, to look at the sea state, and walked down to a little chapel on the headland.

We could see that the wind was still blowing hard and the forecast is to keep blowing through Monday, so we decided to stay here until Tuesday and then head up to Naxos to explore the island. The local ferries have been cancelled for the last two days. On Saturday a stranded Greek couple were hoping to find a yacht to take them to Naxos and on Sunday a Swimtrek group were brought over from Naxos  a day late crammed onto a yacht. We wouldn't fancy inter-island swimming in these seas, but presumably they will find some sheltered passages.
We are very happy to be storm bound here. It is very peaceful on the little quay with friendly Greek and Italian neighbours, sandy beaches and lovely swimming in very clear water, an excellent taverna and reasonable shopping in the hora.