Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Life with a new dinghy!

We stayed in Arki for three days. Having wondered last week where all the yachts had gone, boats came pouring in and on Tuesday August 11th the quay was full with another half a dozen boats anchored in the bay. The vast majority of boats are Italian, both owned boats and charters, many more than in previous years. In Arki we chilled and swam, waiting to hear that our new dinghy had been delivered to Partheni. In Arki, Kai met a Greek English boy, Manolis, who had come on a day trip and whose father owned the taverna To Pefko in Lipsi, number one on Trip Advisor. So, of course, we had to move on to Lipsi so that Kai could meet up with Manolis.
We motored down to Lipsi on Wednesday August 12th, again in no wind, and tied up on the quay. Kai shot off to play computer games with Manolis. Since the new dinghy was arriving in Partheni the next morning, we motored down (again no wind) to arrive about 9. We waited for another boat to leave the place alongside the slip and went alongside as soon as they left. No sooner had we tied up than a big motor boat arrived to tell us that they had to go on the slip for repairs. We asked them to wait for an hour while we sorted out the dinghy. Simon went up to the office and the courier’s van arrived just as he got there. Two people from the yard brought the dinghy down to the slip for us and we unpacked it. Lin went off with all the packaging to put it in the rubbish bins. The yard told us that we could leave the old dinghy on the slip, for anyone who wanted to repair it.
As Simon pulled up the old dinghy to get the water out of it the temporary rope with which he had attached it to the davit broke and Simon fell flat on his back, banging his head on the deck, with his thumb pouring blood. Kai leapt up from below and Dmitra’s father (from the tavern at Arkhangelos) leapt aboard, as he had just come into the slip to collect passengers for the trip to the taverna. Kai insisted that Simon should not get up, but the bang on his head was not bad, so he wound some kitchen roll round his thumb. Meanwhile, Dmitra’s dad and the guy from the motor boat took over, lifting the old dinghy onto the quay, launching the new dinghy and attaching it to the davits, so that by the time Lin returned we were ready to leave. We motored over to Arkhangelos and anchored near the tavern. Lin dressed Simon’s wounded thumb – it was a big cut but not deep, with a big flap of skin to be secured with butterflies. Simon then pumped up the dinghy and we went ashore for lunch with Dmitra, who had already heard about the saga from her dad and greeted us like long lost friends.
As we were preparing for dinner aboard a couple of young Italians came alongside in their dinghy to warn us that they had a flotilla of ten yachts who were going to have a party on the beach at the other side of the bay. They apologized for the noise and invited us to join them, though we preferred to look, more or less in vain, for shooting stars and to get to bed in good time. In the end we could hear the party, but it was far enough away for us not to lose any sleep.
Next morning, Friday August 14th, we went back to Lipsi to do some washing and so that Kai could spend more time with Manolis. We met Manolis’s parents, Sheila, who had come to Lipsi when she worked for Laskarina Holidays and had eventually settled down with Nikos, who owned the tavern. She and Manolis had lived with Nikos on Lipsi for three years, but decided to go back to England for his schooling, coming to Lipsi for the summer, Easter and any other chance they could get, while Nikos came to England when he could get away in the winter. That evening we ate at To Pefko and, unusually, it certainly justified its top rating on Trip Advisor – undoubtedly the best restaurant in Lipsi town.  
Saturday August 15th was Panagia. The church bells rang out early (actually it was not the bells, Kai told us, but a recording) and the liturgy went on for a couple of hours. There was to be live Greek music at Karnagio restaurant, close to the quay, that evening. Last time we had experienced music there it was deafening until 3 in the morning, so we decided to move off the quay and anchor off the beach on the other side of the bay. Nikos and Manolis came past in their motor boat, whose engine they had just been fixing, and Kai called out to them. A bit later Manolis and Sheila swam out to the boat from the beach. When they left, Simon took Kai ashore in the dinghy to play some more with Manolis. In the evening Simon went to pick up Kai and bring back some pizza for dinner.
Kai wanted to stay in Lipsi, but Lin was keen to get up to Samos in good time to be ready to meet Andrew and Charlie on Thursday morning. On Sunday morning we motored up to Arki (still no wind) and went into the anchorage. When we reversed there was a clunking noise from the transmission. Simon dived down and checked the propeller and transmission and could not see anything wrong, so we all went for a swim.

Kai then rowed us ashore to walk over to lunch at Nikolas.
Next morning, Monday 17th, we left Arki, in absolutely no wind, and motored up to Marathokampos on Samos. 

We found a space on the inner quay, where the mooring line was very short, but just about OK. The clunking in reverse had got worst. Simon and Lin went to book a car for Wednesday and to do some shopping. Soon after they returned a Greek motor boat arrived and told us that we were in his place – there were indeed mooring lines attached on the quay. We did not want to make an issue of it, so we moved to the outer quay, which was a bit tricky as there was nobody to take our lines, but Kai jumped ashore to do the job and we tied up.

Simon dived again to find out the source of the clunking noise and discovered that one of the bolts had fallen out of the shaft anode so it was sliding on the shaft and banging on the cutless bearing. Simon, helped by Kai, got the anode off, found a bolt that fitted, and reattached it, so all should be well.
In the evening we went to an excellent giro restaurant on the front, the owner of which had studied aerospace engineering at Coventry University for four years. When we got back to the boat we saw that the passerelle of the French boat next to us had fallen in the water. Kai retrieved it and went to tell the French people, who were eating in the giro restaurant, what had happened. When he did not return, Simon went to look for him and met him surrounded by a dozen cats. He had bought himself four pork kalamaki and had given some to the cats. Kai made a run for it and Simon fended off the cats with his crutch so we got back to the boat without a flock of cats. The passerelle had fallen in again, so again Kai retrieved it.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Back to Greece

Lin, Simon and Kai took the train to London on Saturday 1st August, where they saw Simon’s mum and sister Nilly and stayed with John. We took the train from St Pancras to Gatwick on Sunday morning, where we got the afternoon Easyjet flight to Athens. We then got the airport bus to a very nice little hotel that we had booked in Paleo Faliron.

On Monday morning we got a taxi to Fokionos Negri, where we had breakfast before visiting our old friend Nikos, who is slowly recovering from a very nasty spinal infection. We then got a taxi back to the hotel and bus to the airport to get the evening flight to Leros. The flight was repeatedly delayed, leaving us to sit around at the gate,

supposedly because of the ‘late arrival of the incoming aircraft’, before they finally admitted that there was a technical problem and the flight was cancelled. We were given vouchers for the Sofitel, where they allocated us Superior adjoining rooms with a connecting door, and a free buffet dinner.

The flight was rescheduled for 9.20 on Tuesday morning and left on time. We walked from the airport to the yard and got the boat ready for launching. We did not have to wait long – we were launched at 12.30 and motored straight down to Lakki, Kai travelling on the boom, even though there was quite a bit of rolling in the swell. 

In Lakki  we tied up in the marina where, after months of empty promises, the showers and toilets are now open! We spent a couple of days in Lakki meeting up with friends, stocking up and resting after our journey. Refugees are pouring into Lakki, probably because the seas are calm. The yard of the port police, where the refugees camp out, is crammed to bursting point, so the port police have closed off the road and are using that as a makeshift campsite. Local people are still queueing up outside the port police to give the refugees food and water. When we see the media response to the relative handful of refugees in Calais trying to get into the UK we are ashamed to be British.

We met a Syrian woman from Damascus with her 8 year old son who was looking for shops to buy water. She had been in Lakki for four days and was leaving for Athens on the ferry in the evening. She was hoping to get to Austria by train and bus and when there hoped that her husband and two older children, still in Damascus, would be able to join her. She was calm and dignified despite her ordeal. We gave her a bottle of water and some juice and chocolate for her son and wished her well.
We left Lakki on Thursday August 6th and motor sailed to Agathonissi, arriving at midday. There was plenty of room on the town quay and off the rocks in town, but a British chartered motor yacht had anchored to block the whole lot off. We decided to moor to the rocks at the far end, where we hoped we would be clear of him, but as Simon reached the shore with our mooring line the chain on the end fell off as the shackle had worked loose. As he rowed back to the boat to fix it, the Brit started to yell at us that we were over his chain, so Kai pulled the line back on board and we got the anchor up.

We decided to free anchor off the beach. Simon had left the dinghy on the stern, instead of bringing it alongside. When he reversed to dig the anchor in, the dinghy painter caught on the propeller, which dragged the dinghy under and sliced off the front end and cut the painter before we could stop the engine. The wrecked dinghy drifted off, but someone from a neighbouring boat dived in to rescue it and Simon dived in to bring it back. We then went alongside the coastguard quay until the British motor yacht left when he had finished his lunch. Once he left we went onto the town quay, but we cannot get right up to the quay as it is too shallow, so we used the remains of the dinghy as a stepping stone to get ashore. The problem was that every time that Simon went across it filled up with water, with his great weight, and we had to empty it again.

We were welcomed by our old friends in Agathonissi and got the latest news. The primary school has a teacher, but only one for all four years in one class. The doctor (who was probably a midwife rather than a doctor, but who could give first aid) had just left, so they had no medical service at all. Hundreds of refugees have been arriving every day. A few weeks ago they had made a fire on Poros beach, at the other end of the island, which had set off a forest fire that took the fire engine and two water planes from Samos four hours to exitinguish. Maria, who runs the little shop, was thinking of moving to Kalymnos, but her husband still has six years of an unbreakable contract to run as a council worker, although his pay has been halved over the last few years to 800 euros a month.

We enjoyed meeting up with Luccio and his family, whom we meet on Agathonissi every summer, and Kai enjoyed fishing and playing No with Alexandr, but we were preoccupied with getting a new dinghy. Eventually, after much internet searching and emailing, we found the dinghy we wanted available in Lefkas, but with the weekend coming it was not until Monday that we were able to confirm our order.

Since we were more or less stuck on the boat we decided to leave Agathonissi on Sunday in the hope of getting on the quay in Arki. We got to Arki about 12 to find plenty of room on the quay, to our great relief. We still had the wrecked dinghy, which we could not put in the water, so we slung it high on our davits and had to crouch under it to get ashore. 

We are hoping that we can leave it in the yard when we go to Partheni to pick up our new dinghy. Otherwise we will have to abandon in it on a remote beach, with the other dozens of old dinghies abandoned by the refugees.

An English interlude

We flew from Leros to Athens on John’s birthday, Sunday July 12th, and had a birthday lunch in the Sofitel, before we got our flight to Birmingham and John got his to London. We spent the week at home seeing friends, doing odd jobs and spent a couple of days seeing family in London before we set off with Becky and the boys for a week’s camping in Salcombe on Monday 20th July. We met Sam for lunch at a pub in Exeter and got to the campsite about 3 pm, to find the usual mist and light rain as we put up the tents, 

but with electricity and a fan heater it was warm and comfortable inside!

On Tuesday we went to the beach at South Milton, where the sun shone. The beach was pretty empty when we arrived,
but it soon filled up. 

Lin and Charlie swam 

and Kai, who says he hates beaches, took Charlie exploring and went rock pooling. On Tuesday night Andrew cooked a nice barbecue, though one of the two instant barbecues would not light properly so it all took a lot of blowing.
 On Wednesday we went into Salcombe and took the ferry over to East Portlemouth and walked round to Mill Bay, where Charlie and Kai got involved in some major hydraulic engineering, damming and re-routing the stream across the beach. 

Kai climbed onto a knoll to get off the beach for his lunch

but Bobby enjoyed his in the sand.

Lin and Simon walked round to Sunny Cove for old times' sake. In the olden days it would have been packed, but today there were only a few people there.

Lin took Bobby for his first paddle in the sea

We walked back to the ferry landing along the beach, now that the tide was out, got the ferry back to Salcombe

and went in to the Ferry Inn for a drink.

 As soon as we arrived, Lin realized that Charlie had left his surf board on Mill Bay, so she went back on the ferry and down to Mill Bay and collected the board. 

When we got home Bobby had a bath.

That evening a pizza cook came to the camp site and we had excellent pizzas for dinner.

On Thursday we drove over to Totnes to visit the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm, which was excellent – the kids could handle and feed many of the animals and there were very good information boards. Charlie drove the tractor.

In the afternoon we went to Overbecks house and gardens. The kids liked the garden best, though Bobby liked reading the leaflet.

 Lin and Simon had cream teas. In the evening we had a pretty awful delivered Chinese takeaway as we sheltered in the tents from the light rain..
Heavy and persistent rain was forecast for Friday, so we drove into Cornwall to visit Cotehele, stopping in Plymouth on the way to get Becky a cagoule. We planned also to visit Saltram on the way back, but Andrew’s satnav kept sending us the wrong way so that by the time we had found it it was almost closing time, so we came straight home.
Saturday, as forecast, was a glorious sunny day. Relying on the forecast we had booked a motor boat for the day. By coincidence, the boat was called Charlie
so Charlie had a go at driving, with a bit of help from Andrew. We passed a skiff out training
 and then responded to a call for help from two young lads, wh.o we towed back to the bag

We motored out to the bar, then up to Kingsbridge (nearly running aground because of Simon’s inattention) and then up to South Pool for an expensive pub lunch, which Bobby really enjoyed. 

We anchored to try a bit of unsuccessful fishing on the way back, before leaving the boat at tea time and going back to the camp site for another bath 

and another round of pizza.
Charlie spent the week getting more and more adventurous on his balance bike, though once he rode straight into the brambles.

Sunday morning was pouring with rain, so we sat in Becky’s tent and played Trivial Pursuit. The rain let up at lunchtime, so we went down to South Sands beach, where we watched the ferry coming in to its landing through quite big waves (the ferry was a shilling each way when we first came here. Now it is 3.60).

Kai found wifi in the café and Charlie made sandcastles and wrote his name in the sand.

Becky and the boys had planned to stay until the Wednesday, but realized that they could not get everything into their car, so we all came back home on the Monday 27th July, with both cars jammed full. Becky and the boys went straight home, but Lin and Simon met up with Sam, who got us visitors’ passes and gave us a tour of the Met Office, finishing with lunch in their excellent (no doubt heavily subsidized) canteen.