Thursday, 29 May 2014

Just chilling

(Still no photos - see previous entries for pictures of Lakki and Arki)
We stayed in Arki till Sunday 25 May, meeting new people, having wonderfully cooked simple food with Nicolas and Carolina, walking to the ancient watchtower (some say a pirate's castle) and to Tigana, the idyllic beach with turquoise water at the south end of the island, where we swam a couple of times - the water was not warm, but it was refreshing after the hot walk.
We came back to Lakki on 25th - motoring all the way as there was no wind, and tied up on the town quay, where we have been ever since. We saw Ian and Jo, who have driven out to unload their boat, which they hand over to the new owner at the end of the week, and they go back to the UK in a couple of weeks. They come for a cup of tea after their early morning walk each day. We have done a lot more cleaning and polishing, odd repairs and sorting out the lockers. Usually we go for a beer at the Cafe Escape at lunchtime, and after another beer with lunch fall asleep over our books in the afternoon. We had a few really hot days, when Lin went for a swim, but it has now cooled down, with rain forecast.
On Wednesday 28th Simon cycled over to Temenia to leave the spare alternator and water pump motor to be fixed and then went to the chandlers at Evros marina to buy some hose. He was warned to mind his head upstairs, but walked straight into a beam, which whacked him on the forehead. He was not knocked out but collapsed in a heap and when he got up found that he had pulled a muscle in his thigh. When he got back to the boat Lin tied ice to the lump on his head with a scarf and rubbed Voltarol into his thigh. When he went back to the electrician later, it turned out that he did not have time to do the work because he had a big job for the navy which would keep him busy for at least two more weeks. He sent us instead to another electrician up the hill towards Platanos.
In the evening we went to the opening party for Tacis and Marietta's new shop, with drinks, pastries and the priest blessing the shop. The shop is now a very swish delicatessen, over the road (in the former bank premises) from the old shop, a traditional grocer which Tacis's dad had started in 1962. We felt very honoured to have been invited because we, Jo and Ian and an English family who had been friends of Marietta since her teens were the only foreigners there. We knew quite a few of the guests - the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker and it was good to feel a (albeit peripheral) part of the community. We forgot to take a camera, so no pictures of the party!
We have been hanging around in Lakki partly because we love the place and have made many friends here, but also hoping to see Sue and Steve who were planning to come up from Crete to see us all, but they have been waiting for new batteries, which have still not arrived, so have had to cancel the trip.
Tomorrow (Friday) we will stock up ready to leave, probably for Agathonisi, on Saturday morning, when we will still have southerly winds to help us on our way.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A new year – and new disasters

Not many photos because they are all places we have been to before, so pictures are in previous postings.

We flew to Athens on Wednesday 30 April and stayed with Lena for two nights before taking the bus to Kranidi and then got a taxi to Kilarda on Friday morning. Mia Hara was covered in sand from the Sahara, but otherwise was as we had left her.
We had sent a box of bits and pieces to Kilarda by Parcelforce, but just before we left home we learned that it had been returned from Germany because it contained illegal liquids and aerosols. We thought we had sent it by road, but it turned out that Parcelforce flies things to Greece from Germany, which was why it had been checked. We had booked it through Parcels Please who were very good in dealing with the problem, arranging to send it instead by DHL, though DHL would not take aerosols. We decided to send it to Leros, rather than have to wait a week or ten days in Kilarda for it to arrive. When the parcel got home Andrew and Becky took out the aerosols, repacked it and sent it off again, but it meant we were without a lot of things we needed for maintenance and repair, so we decided to head off for Leros as soon as possible. It got to Leros in four days – it turned out that DHL also fly things to Athens. When we collected the box we found that it had been opened and DHL had opened the box inside containing a new water pump, but this time had resealed it and sent it on its way.
Over the winter we had bought a new propeller, a Brunton’s autoprop. I had intended to fit it myself, but when we got the mechanic in the yard to check the shaft it turned out that when we fitted a new shaft in Marmaris last year they had replaced the 1 ¼” shaft with a 30mm shaft and turned the end to fit the old propeller, so the shaft needed to be re-turned for the new prop to fit. The mechanic then found that the shaft was bent, so we needed a new shaft. This probably explained why the new engine had been so noisy when under load. When we got back the job was done, with our beautiful new prop on the new shaft.
Over the weekend we cleaned and polished the outside of the hull till it was like a mirror, except that all the little scratches and blemishes showed, and got things cleaned and sorted below. On Friday night we ate at the excellent giro place in Kilarda for a quick cheap meal. On Saturday night we went into town for dinner, planning to go to the fish restaurant we had been to last year, but the place and the one next door were both empty. As we walked back we saw that some people were eating in a little place with no sign and no menus outside, which we had thought was a bar. We went in, but all the tables inside were reserved so we sat at a little table outside. Before we could order, the owner started to bring us an array of delicious starters, eventually asking if we would also like some horta and grilled sardines, so we ended up having a superb and very cheap dinner.
In the meantime, Simon thought that he had lost a wallet of euros, which he could not find in his bag. We called Helena and Lena to see if he had left them at home or in Athens and checked Heathrow lost property, but no sign of the money, so on Monday morning Simon had to cycle up to Kranidi to get some cash to pay the yard (and some paint for the anchor chain). Kranidi is up a long hill that gets steeper and steeper so, despite just having ridden the Pennine cycle ride, he got off and walked up the last bit. 
On the way back Simon stopped off in Lidl to stock up, filling the enormous Brompton bike bag with goodies. He surprised Lin by picking her a big bunch of wild flowers, which lined the road. The spring flowers are beautiful, though coming to the end of their short lives.
On Monday we finished all the jobs that had to be done in the yard and decided to go back to the little restaurant for dinner, only to find it packed full of Russians, who had arrived on an enormous flotilla. We went instead to the pizza/pasta restaurant, that is normally empty but tonight was also full of Russians.
We have really got to like Kilarda. It is a quiet, very friendly little town, untroubled by tourism, though it looks as though a lot of Athenians have holiday homes      on the hill behind the town, so it is a bit busier in summer. There is a good supermarket, a baker, a laundry, several butchers and fishmongers, but no hardware store and the chandlers in the yard is a bit limited.
On Tuesday May 6 Simon found the missing money – he had forgotten that he had put it away in a safe place. We launched at 3 pm. They have a very efficient system in the yard, by which a trailer lifts both boat and cradle and drives down to the lift, driven by radio control.

Once at the slip, the slings are put round the boat and it is lowered into the water (you can see our beautiful new propeller).
Once we had checked that we were not sinking and the engine started, we motored across to anchor off the town to get everything ready to leave. We set off early on Wednesday morning, amazed at the difference the new propeller and shaft made as it was much quieter and we made at least one and a half knots more than with the old propeller. 
After about a mile Lin noticed a smell of burning and saw that the engine was overheating. We dropped anchor.  Simon went down and found the boat full of steam/smoke. He had left the stopcock on the cooling water intake closed when he had been servicing the seacocks! He opened the seacock, replaced the shredded impeller and we set off again, only to find the boat still filling with smoke and overheating. Simon now found that the return pipe for the cooling water from the anti-syphon lock was split, probably when they fitted the new shaft,  and water was pouring into the bilge. We sailed back to anchor in Kilarda bay again. Simon cut the end of the pipe and refixed it. When we restarted the engine smoke still billowed out – Simon looked in the engine room and realised that the hot exhaust gas had melted the water lock-muffler so the exhaust and cooling water was just filling the engine room. He rowed ashore to see if the chandler in the yard had a replacement, but they only had a cheap Greek muffler which was much too big and said that they did not deal with Vetus, though they had Vetus equipment in their shop. Back on the boat Simon phoned Vetus in Piraeus and they promised to deliver a new waterlock the next day.
At 10 on Thursday morning Simon phoned the courier in Krainidi and they said that the waterlock had arrived and would be delivered to Kilarda in the afternoon. Instead, Simon took a taxi to Kranidi and picked it up. He fitted the new waterlock and we were underway by mid-day.
We motored round the corner and down the Hydra channel, with the little wind there was going round in a circle so that it was always more or less on the nose. 
We had decided to anchor in a little bay at the Eastern end of the Hydra channel, ready to set off for Serifos the next morning, but the wind was getting up and Lin decided that we were a bit exposed, so we upped anchor and motored up to Poros. We tried to anchor in Monastry Bay, but the anchor dragged twice in the thick weed when we put it under load, so instead we motored past Poros town and anchored just short of Russian Bay.
We left Poros early on Friday morning in a good northerly breeze, which steadily increased as we sailed across to Serifos, blowing at 35 knots, gusting to 39, for the last bit of the passage, with 3 metre waves. We covered the 60 miles in eight hours. We were zipping along, but the problem was when to get the sails down, particularly as the lazy jacks, which hold the sail in place when you drop it, had come undone on the starboard side, so the sail would be difficult to control, and the wind direction gauge had gone haywire, making it more difficult to hold the boat on the wind when dropping the sail. We hoped to get the sails down in the lee of Serifos, but the wind there was even stronger. We wound up the genoa, though with the strong wind it rolled so tightly that we ran out of furling line, leaving a bit of genoa still out, and we motored into the wind into Livadhi, the port of Serifos, with the main flogging, waiting for the wind to drop. The wind didn’t drop. As we approached the shore we decided we had to go for it. Lin kept the boat head to wind and the mainsail came down cleanly, though two battens had sprung and the main had torn in two places at the leach when it was flogging. Having tied up the main, we had to deal with the genoa because it would be difficult getting on to the quay with some genoa still out, and we didn’t want to anchor in the bay because the holding is very bad in Livadhi. The only thing to do was to unfurl it and try to furl it up again less tightly in a lull in the wind. Having managed this, we got ourselves stern to the quay on the leeward side, with help from those already there and immediately got down to repairs.
The wind dropped overnight so that on Saturday morning there was no wind at all. We set off early and motored uneventfully to Skhinoussa, where we arrived at 3 pm. We were surprised that Skhinoussa harbour, which had been jam packed when we were last here in August, was completely empty. 
Simon went up to town to do some shopping and brought back another bunch of spring flowers.
We had dinner in the taverna, to use his wifi, and went to bed.
We left early again on Sunday morning, again with almost no wind, and motored to Levitha, arriving about 3pm to find half a dozen boats already there. We picked up a mooring boy and went for dinner at the farmhouse, where  Lin had a delicious lamb stew and Simon some rather disgusting fish. They told us that the projected wind farm may not go ahead because the estimate of the anticipated output had been cut in half.
On Monday morning we left Levitha at 7 am to motor across to Lakki on Leros, arriving at 10, having completed a passage of 210 miles. Before we went onto the town quay Simon lowered the outboard to put it on the dinghy and the carrying strap broke. Fortunately it did not detach completely from the outboard, so it did not sink into 60 metres of water.
Getting back to Lakki was like coming home. All our friends in the shops and cafes greeted us enthusiastically – they had all got through a warm wet winter. Tacis the grocer’s dad, who had been in hospital in Athens with heart problems when we left last year, had had a triple by-pass and looked ten years younger.
First thing to do was to go over to Evros marina to collect our parcel from Simon and Christiana, but the outboard would only work, spluttering, on full revs with the choke out. Simon had to restart it about twenty times on the short trip across the bay, but got there and back with the parcel so that we had all the bits and pieces we needed. When he took off the carburettor the next day it was clogged up with muck. 
We had a week in Lakki, going out to dinner twice with Simon and Christiana, once to To Petrino in town (fantastic steak) and once to Milos, over in Agia Marina (fantastic seafood). Other nights we ate various pasta delicacies we had got from Lidl. On Wednesday we went into the marina, because it was forecast to blow from the south overnight and we would be better sheltered there. We were surprised to find Kiriakos still running the marina (he agreed it must be the longest he had ever held down a job) and Aggiris was back from Germany, where he had not been able to find work, for the summer.
We met some really nice and interesting people in Lakki, a couple from Brisbane, who had just bought an ex-charter boat; a climber from Nottingham, who had bought a small Vancouver on a whim last year; and Archie and Liz, retired teachers from Shetland, in a She 36. Their stories brought home just how far Shetland is from the rest of the UK – their nearest cruising ground is Norway. Liz had only been to London once, for a day 40 years ago, and was very apprehensive about their next visit in the summer – how would they be able to find their way around? We tried to reassure them.
We did a lot of cleaning, maintenance and repairs, all of which took far longer than expected. Simon spent a whole day trying to fix the chain counter. It had shown ‘Sensor Failure’, so we had got a replacement sensor, which Simon fitted, but it still said sensor failure. He checked all the wiring and connections, finding all was OK, and concluded that the problem was in the handheld unit so gave up. Simon also refitted our water filter under the sink, requiring great contortions to get at it, and then had to deal with all the leaks from the piping that he had created (the last one is still to be fixed – Lin is not too happy!). Over the weekend Simon went up the mast to rig the inner forestay (for the storm jib) and to check out the failed wind gauge. It turned out that the connector of the gauge had just come loose. Once it was tightened and aligned it went back to work.
Sunday May 18th was local election day, with a hotly contested election for mayor. Apparently the existing mayor is a bit of a populist, while our friends in the shops and cafes wanted his opponent to win, to bring changes to Lakki, while others told us that the existing mayor looks after people, but his opponent would only look after his rich friends. The incumbent won a narrow vote.
We left Lakki on Monday May 19th for Partheni. On the way up the alternator regulator cut out, with a high alternator voltage warning. We moored on a buoy and went into the boatyard to get a spare impeller and get a quote for the yard for next year. While he was away a French boat came on to the buoy next to us and asked to borrow our dinghy so they could get ashore to collect their new dinghy from the yard. When they brought the dinghy back we both went ashore and as Irene had offered us a reasonable discount, we took a 12-month contract from the end of June, when we go home for ten days.
When we got back to the boat it was only about 3.30 so Simon suggested we go further north. In his hurry to leave he forgot to lift the dinghy on the davits. As we accelerated out of the mooring there was a loud clunk – the dinghy had flipped over and the oars were floating away towards the shallows. After a delicate recovery operation, to avoid running aground, we got the oars back and set off again. After about a mile Simon noticed that the battery voltage had gone to 17.8 volts, without the regulator cutting out. We gingerly made our way back to Partheni bay, hoping the batteries would not boil, and anchored in the bay for the night. Lin, as usual, had been right. We should have stopped there in the first place. The problem was sorted out easily enough – when Simon installed the new batteries the cable through which the regulator monitored the batteries had fallen down the side and he had not attached it. The regulator thought the batteries were dead, so kept jacking up the alternator voltage. Once the cable was attached, all was well – for now.
There was no sun, with heavy cloud cover, and we were moored between the naval base and a steelworks, but still the surrounding hills, still green from the winter rains, and the mountains of Kalimnos behind were in the evening light. As Christiana had commented, we are so used to all these places that we rarely notice how stunningly beautiful they are.
We left Partheni early on Tuesday morning, beating up to Arki in a light wind. After a couple of hours we decided to motor the rest of the way, to be sure of getting a place on the quay. We tied up on the end of the quay and went to see Nicholas and Carolina, who had returned from Poland with Alexandr/Alexandros at the end of April. We had not seen them all since we had left Arki at the beginning of August last year so it was great to catch up. Simon spent most of the rest of the day trying to fix the leaks in his botched installation of the water filter, which has so many joints that when you fix one, another starts to leak.
On Wednesday morning, after a bit of housekeeping, we went for a walk round the headland at the entrance to the bay, past the lighthouse

and up to the remains of the fourth century BC watchtower.