France to Greece, 2001
We had left Chefren out of the water in Port Napoleon marina at Port-St-Louis-du-Rhône. We returned in May to have a new forestay fitted and prepare her for the big adventure, our passage to Greece. When the work was finished we delayed going into the water as there were gales blowing.
Whilst we were waiting I painted a new white strip around the hull and touched up the paintwork on the davits. The other men on boats here have told John he is very lucky to have a wife who will paint and do dirty jobs, not to mention someone who enjoys sailing.
The wind made it cooler and kept the mosquitoes at bay, so every cloud has a silver lining. By lunchtime on 3rd June the wind had dropped and the marina was happy to crane us into the water. All went well until we were ready to reverse out of the slings of the travel hoist and our outdrive leg would not lock into position. We could not engage reverse. Fortunately marina staff and friends from other boats were there ready to help. They took our lines and towed us backwards and fended us off until John was able to lock the leg and manoeuvre onto a pontoon. On checking the boat we found we had a leak from the echo sounder and that the toilet was not working. So we had a busy evening and went early to bed.
We were now in the heart of the sailing community, surrounded by voices speaking a variety of languages, and our view was of nothing but boats. We felt we were ready for sea at last. However the high winds returned so we could not think of setting off and contented ourselves by celebrating John's birthday with acquaintances from surrounding boats. His birthday cake was a lemon tart from the on-site restaurant.
We finally set off on 6th June and had an exciting day. Conditions seemed good and we were away soon after 08h00. We followed the buoyed channel to the shipping channel in the Golfe de Fos and proceeded cautiously avoiding the big ships making their way into the Port of Marseilles. Soon after we left the Golfe the GPS failed and remained fitful for most of the day. We had to revert to old-fashioned navigation methods. Heading for La Ciotat a sheltered harbour in a bay, we rounded two headlands into the Mediterranean. At about 15h00 I was dozing in the cockpit when John woke me to give help in shortening sail as the wind was freshening. It continued to freshen and reached Force 7, gusting to 37 knots.
It was quite frightening. I held the boat 'head to wind' whilst John wound in the mainsail which had in-boom furling. Typically it jammed half way down and John had to manually wind it round the boom temporarily. The foresail came in beautifully so no problems there. We were able to turn quite soon into the Bay of La Ciotat and although the wind was quite fresh it was a lot calmer and we made our way into the marina.
We stayed one night for which we were charged the equivalent of £16 with no facilities.
There was time for a quick walk into town the next morning for bread and a hurried visit to Lidl before setting off for our next port of call, the Porquerolle Islands about 30 miles away. The wind was good, just off our stern quarter and we sailed for most of the trip, averaging 6 knots. It was quite exhilarating.
We had just entered the Petite Passe between the mainland and the first of the islands when again about 16h00 a very strong wind blew up. But this time we found ourselves in some difficulty as the boat was not answering the helm. Once the sails were down she was behaving very strangely. So instead of heading for the marina on the island we could only motor inshore using the outdrive leg with which to steer. We dropped anchor and John proceeded to identify the problem. Frustratingly we could see families having a wonderful time on the beach, just too far away for us to join them. Where we were was still in the wind which was cold and we were muffled in sweaters whilst near-naked children romped on the golden sand inshore. It took John three hours to fix the steering problem which he had thought might be the gear box.
However further inspection revealed a problem with the coupling. Whilst he lay on the after-platform with his head and shoulders through the inspection hatch, I prepared the next day's passage plan. After a night at anchor we set off next day at 08h00 for a sail of 50 miles towards Nice. We were to pick up some friends who were flying into Nice in a day or so and needed to get as close as possible.
The sea was calm but it was cold and misty. No wind. By late morning the cloud began to dissipate and the sun began to burn through. We had lovely views along the French coast of rugged rocks and cliffs. By afternoon we had reached the Riviera and could see villas, apartment blocks and hotels along the coast and climbing up the cliffs. Eventually we reached a harbour called La Napoule just across the bay from Cannes. There was a railway station and we reckoned our friends could get a train to join us. We headed for the visitors' pontoon giving way to a smaller version of the Queen Mary which tooted us arrogantly. The Capitaine, standing on the visitors' pontoon started waving his arms at us in a 'go away, we have no room' gesture, and jumped into his RIB to come alongside. I began to speak to him, in French, asking why we could not have one of the empty berths we could see on each side of us. As soon as he realised I could speak some French he became more amenable. He explained that the empty berths were private, and that the visitors' pontoon was occupied by a large catamaran and he did not know when they would be leaving. But he did escort us to a berth amongst some small motor boats and said we could stay for one night but that he had a Yamaha convention the next day and we would need to move. We were very happy to do that but we really needed to stay three nights so that our friends could reach us. In the end the catamaran moved from the visitors' pontoon and we were able to take their place and wait for our friends' arrival. This marina had 3,000 berths and the majority of them were occupied by big motor boats, many of them with crew who stand on the deck, feet apart, hands behind their backs, when they aren't actually doing anything. The usual uniform is white shirt and navy shorts.
The little town drifted away from the sea up a hill. Following narrow streets lined with villas, under the railway, past the boules court we eventually found the shopping centre formed by a jumble of steep streets, steps and terraces. We stocked up at a small supermarket and on our way back found a lovely artisanale boulangerie close to the promenade. Their windows were full of artistically decorated tarts and cakes, and inside a mouth watering array of savoury pastries and pies tempted our appetites. They did not sell ordinary baguettes - just speciality breads.
Our friends Anne and Bill arrived on 10th June. We spent another two nights in La Napoule, exploring the old town, re-provisioning and having a superb meal at one of the restaurants on the quay. I remember fish soup served with croutons, grated cheese and garlic mayonnaise (known as rousti- rusty), and Magret de Canard.
We left La Napoule on June 12th at 10h30 and headed for Corsica. The forecast was light winds and calm sea, but when we were well off shore we discovered a strong wind, on the nose which made for a very bumpy ride and it was not long before Anne was feeling sick. We ploughed through the day and it got rougher. Waves were slamming the bridge deck and washing over the side decks. Anne continued to be sick but would not allow us to turn back. In the afternoon she began to feel better, just in time to view a pod of dolphins who came to play around the boat for over an hour.
Bill, John and I took alternate watches throughout the night and the idea was that Anne would take charge of the galley as she was not a sailor. But she insisted in staying up with me on my watch. I think she did not have any confidence in me. But when I explained to her how we could determine whether nearby shipping was heading in our direction by the colours of their navigation lights, and how we would assess the risk of collision. She seemed reassured by that and consented to go to bed.
The wind strengthened during the night with gusts up to 8 knots. It was coming from all directions. The main sail was banging from side to side and making a dreadful din and I was relieved when it was time to call Bill. Sometime during his watch I heard John leap up and call out anxiously as the engine note changed.. But it was only that Bill had caught his harness on the engine handle!
Early the following morning we were in sight of Corsica - a rugged coastline highlighted in the morning sun. I went on board to help John get the sails down. Within two hours we were tied up in Calvi marina. As we had approached Calvi we noticed something which looked like flower petals on the water, lots and lots of them. Some of them landed on our deck. Fortunately we did not touch any as we discovered later that they were a species of jelly-fish and another sailor who had picked one up found that the whole of his arm went dead, a sensation which lasted half a day.
The marina did not respond to the radio but eventually someone appeared on the quay and waved us in. I have learned since that whilst some ports have a radio, they do not necessarily have anyone qualified to use it, so they just listen in. Calvi was a lovely town of tiered streets climbing up the hill and a Citadel of old buildings to one side. John and I climbed up the hill behind the citadel to admire the view which stretched far to the south.
After two nights in Calvi we sailed out of the bay and tested the wind. It was blowing from the south. We decided to head north and had a wonderful sail, surfing on following waves and making good progress. It was quite scary to see waves as high as the boat bearing down on us. We were lifted high in the air and slid gently down the other side of the wave. Our next port of call was Macinaggio on the east side of the tip of Corsica, a wonderful marina with lots of space and good facilities. We arrived at 17h30 and were glad to get in as we had several problems in the last couple of hours. First the steering went again, and then we could not get the mainsail down. Again we just dropped it and bundled it onto the boom.
We explored the town wandering down ancient streets where ornate balconies overlooked the thoroughfare. Blue and white sheets billowed from one of the balconies.
Back at the boat John and Bill tried to identify the source of our steering problems which involved removing the cockpit floor to get at the gearbox. The work spread over two days but eventually turned out to be another coupling. The sail was also fixed and we were ready for sea again.
Sadly we could not leave the next day, 16th June, although we tried to. As soon as we poked our nose out of the harbour mouth a very strong wind hit us, on the nose. We headed back in. We did not want a rough crossing. During the day the wind increased to gale force. Huge waves were dashing against the outside of the harbour and spray was being thrown high into the air. Inside the harbour the tops were being blown off the waves and sent in sheets of spray across the surface of the water. A member of the marina staff came round checking all the mooring lines. During the night the boat tugged furiously at the lines, the wind rattled the halyards, the helmsman's chair blew over and the main hatch blew closed. So we hired a car and had a day touring part of the island. It was a great day. Our first stop was at Borgo, a little town of steps and narrow streets around a large church. We had coffee at a café/bar and I was rendered speechless by the view from the rear window. The land fell away steeply and gave a view of green fields and low shrubs running down to the coast several miles away. We lunched at a pizzeria on the beach where we watched the pizzas being made in a very dramatic fashion, the chef spinning the dough to achieve the circular base before cooking them in a wood fired oven. The road home clung to the side of the mountain, giving magnificent views along the coast and out to sea.
Back in Macinaggio the gale was still in full force and the boats were hobby-horsing at their moorings. We could scarce walk upright along the quay. The following morning we attempted to find a fuel station to re-fill the car. The only petrol station in the town was closed (it was Monday) and the next station was 10k away. John had the brilliant idea of driving along the mole to enquire of the fuel station that supplied the boats. He was happy to fill the car. We were held up for three nights in Macinaggio, and had yet another pizza in a cellar where the chef wandered around the tables serenading his customers with a guitar whilst the pizza cooked. He was good too. When he was not playing he put on a CD of his own songs.
Finally we were able to get away on 19th June at 06h00. The sea was calm with a light wind on the beam but insufficient to sail by. As we watched the coast of Corsica recede it seemed like the ideal life. The plan was to head towards Elba, or the nearby coast of Italy. By mid-afternoon the wind freshened and was on the nose. Chefren began to lurch and slam. We reefed the sails and ploughed on.
We set a course for Argenteria, behind Giglio but eventually realised that it would be midnight or later by the time we got there and decided it would be better to carry on. It was an uncomfortable sail. The waves were steep and as we were lifted up by one, we slid down the other side sending showers of spray crashing over the foredeck. It ran down the side decks and into the cockpit on the weather side. The cockpit drains could not cope fast enough and we found ourselves standing in several inches of water.
I heated some soup to keep us going. Cooking anything more was out of the question. Pressing on seemed the only option and as night faded we were still ploughing through steep seas with the wind on the nose.
We decided to have two people on watch at all times as it was difficult to control the boat. The noise and slamming of the waves kept us awake when we were not on watch. That night it was dark and boring. A lighthouse was twinkling in the distance and a careful watch had to be kept for fishing boats.
By morning the wind had dropped and eventually swung round behind us. We were able to hoist sail and have a wonderful sail until 16h00 when it became stronger. We shortened sail but were still bowling along at about 6 knots. By night-time we were under foresail alone. We kept on sailing. John decided we would be better having 2 hr. watches thus giving each of us 4 hrs. sleep. It worked well. I was called on deck for my watch at 05h00. The dawn was just beginning and was glorious. It was rosy pink lightening to palest orange, decorated with layers of ragged cloud like shaving foam. Overhead the sky turned pale blue whilst over the Italian mainland, behind the mountains, a bright band of red-gold outlined the hills and gave a promise of the intensity of the emerging sun. To my left the dark shape of Ischia slipped very slowly into the distance, the slopes of its hills covered with grey-white buildings which looked as though they might slip into the sea at any moment. The occasional twinkling light showed where an early riser prepared for the coming day.
When the sun rose it was fiery red in its intensity, sending a ladder of light directly to where the boat ploughed its way through the oil-dark sea, bouncing from wave to wave. I felt as though I could lean down and touch it and pull the boat in towards the land. Is this an optical illusion, does it always happen, this direct connection with the sun? In my fancy I imagine the sun was sending this pathway of golden light just for me as a signal of hope and special blessing as I was just recovering from breast cancer.
The rising sun outlined the clouds with a fiery silhouette and pink streaks of the dawn spread along the whole of the Italian coast. It climbed higher and the sea turned to liquid silver. Capri was still a dark shape ahead, looking so near but still 3-4 hrs. away
I had two fishing boats to contend with, both directly crossing our path. For the first I altered course to pass behind it and for the second I increased speed and passed ahead of it. I am beginning to get much more confident with my boat handling now.
We had travelled for three days and two nights and were all very tired as we reached Capri. I think it had all been a bit much for Anne as she and Bill decided to fly home from Capri. The marina (Porto Touristico) was expensive. The visitors' berths were a long way from town and right by the entrance where the huge ferries from the mainland came in. The boat was rocked continually. But the view was impressive. The rocky face of the island rose sheer from the marina.
On the waterfront there were two small supermarkets, several cafÉs and restaurants, some bars and a lot of souvenir shops. We took the funicular railway up to the old town where we found an esplanade with yet another superb view. Behind this was the square of the old town filled with open air café/bars. Running off from the square were a warren of narrow streets, not even wide enough for a car. Transport was provided in the form of electric carts which carried the luggage of the hotel guests, and the stock for the shops. In the square was a small band in traditional dress, together with a donkey. The men wore red knitted caps, navy shirts and green and white kerchiefs. The women had white blouses and black bodices with brightly coloured satin skirts. On their heads they wore headsquares. Soon a bride appeared from a nearby hotel, simply attired in a long fitted gown. She was lifted onto the donkey for photographs and for a ride, but after a few steps the donkey refused to co-operate. She was lifted down and the whole wedding party was swallowed up in the crowd.
When Anne and Bill had left we took Chefren out of the marina and anchored in the bay, which was much more comfortable. It was a pleasant anchorage, close to the beach. All around us were small motor boats where Italian families stretched out in the sun, a tangle or arms and legs, absolutely motionless, like meat on a griddle. I would not have thought that in a country which gets so much sun they would have wanted to spend so much time sunbathing. I wonder what the incidence of skin cancer is in Italy?
We were not particularly enamoured of Capri. We found people pushed in front of us in shops and did not give way on the pavement. I know tourists tend to be like this the world over but Italians seem to be worse.
I was rather intrigued to see that the males had 'handbags'. You might think this is an affectation but when you consider it, in a hot country where men don't wear jackets, where do they put their keys and money, not to mention their cigarettes? I noticed three main types. No. 1 was a 'bum bag', usually black and leather effect, worn around the hips in a casual manner, the bag forming a sort of 'cod piece'. No. 2 was a simple zipped shoulder bag, in canvas or leather, dark coloured, maybe with a contrasting stripe or piping. No. 3 was worn on the back, usually a stylish back-pack which fastened across the chest from shoulder to waist with one strap. I wondered if I could persuade John to get one? Sunday 24th June. We took on fuel at the berth in the marina. We had to squeeze into the berth between two gin palaces (enormous expensive motor boats). Whilst we were taking on the fuel, yet another small motor boat tried to edge in alongside us. He pushed our bows over to one of the gin palaces, setting up a great shout from the crew. John hastily protected us with a fender and I shortened the starboard line. The cheeky motor boat then edged in completely and began to refuel. Typically Italian!
There was very little wind and we motor-sailed in cloudy sunlight on a course of 125 deg. It was tranquil and uneventful. The wind reached about 4 knots, sufficiently strong to fill the sails, but not enough to sail without engine. The sun became very warm and I was glad of the shade of the sail. The coast of Italy was visible all day, veiled in heat haze. I began to be aware of just how mountainous a country Italy is. We decided to continue and sail overnight to the foot of Italy.
We both took time to have a siesta during the afternoon whilst things were going well. My siesta was disturbed by footsteps on the coachroof overhead and the sound of a stumble. I rushed out expecting to find John overboard, but he had simply gone up to untwist the flag halyard from the mast and tripped over the block through which the staysail sheets run. He had obeyed the maxim "one hand for yourself and one hand for the boat" and he was OK. Just after six we saw a fishing boat in the distance, weaving backwards and forwards. As we drew closer we also saw several large buoys in the water with a line marked by coloured plastic bottles. I was at the helm and had to make the decision whether to try to cross this line and risk getting caught in a net, or change course. I took off the autohelm, and steered a parallel course with the markers until we caught up with the boat and were able to pass clear of the nets. The crew gave us a cheery wave as we put Chefren back on course.
Monday, 25th June. We had crawled like a giant tortoise through the night at 5 or 6 knots, under engine. There was a light sea mist but stars were clearly visible. When I came on deck at 02h00 it looked as though all the stars had fallen from the sky and were floating in the sea. Masses and masses of sea life shone from the water to a depth of about 1 metre. This phenomenon lasted about an hour.
We reached Vibo Valentia at 09h00. The countryside was flatter and vineyards and woods covered the low hills above the commercial dock. There were two long pontoons jutting out into the bay. Each pontoon was managed as a separate marina. We chose the nearer one, Stella del Sud which was managed by an Italian/Canadian lady. A young man in a dinghy came out to greet us and helped us tie up. The marina had a bar, a shady terrace, a washing machine, showers and toilets and a book swap. It was in the dock area of the town which was rather seedy and dirty. There were empty, roofless buildings dotted about and the pavements and roads were in a very bad state of repair. It is an ancient town that has existed since Roman times and the town itself is probably lovely. Nowadays the oil refinery is the most important feature, together with the university.
We managed to find a supermarket but when we wanted to pay by credit card I was taken to the rear of the store to the manager's office where was the only credit card machine. I bought a large round loaf but when I tried to slice it that evening I could not get my bread-knife into it. John got out his wood-working saw but that made no impression either. It would have made a better door-stop. So the fish had it.
At this marina we made the acquaintance of Derek and Sonia on a Sadler yacht called Zigizoo. They invited us for drinks that evening.
We stayed a few nights at Vibo but it was too hot to do any sightseeing. We just cleaned and tidied the boat, and I used the washing machine at the Capitainerie.
Thursday, 27th June. From Vibo Valentia we were planning to go to Bagna Calabria close to the entrance to the Straits of Messina. We had been told we would need a tide table to help us to judge when the tide was right to enter and hoped to get one there. If the tide was not right there was a danger we would get caught up in a whirlpool created when the tide from each side of the Straits meet in the middle. We knew it was also the harbour where the sword fish boats which fished in the Straits were moored. As we approached we saw the emerge and head into the Straits. Our conclusion was that if they were going into the Straits the tide must be right and so we followed them.
The sword fish boats are unusual in that they are wooden boats, about 10m long, like ordinary fishing boats. But they have an enormous mast with a crow's nest on top from where a look out is kept for the sword fish which bask just below the surface. At the bow they have a long bowsprit, supported by rigging from the mast and a crew member is poised at the end of the bowsprit with a harpoon to spear the fish. The mast and the long bowsprit make them look very ungainly.
As soon as we were in the Straits we encountered the whirlpool, Charybdis, which did little but slow us down slightly so we were obviously there at the right time. The other whirlpool, Scilla, is no longer there as an earthquake altered the configuration of the seabed some years ago. We motored on to Reggio Calabrio and moored in the yacht harbour alongside the main port from which the ferries leave for Sicily. There is a train station alongside the harbour and all day and all night we could hear the trains rumbling in and the voice of the announcer broadcasting the trains. The carriages of the train are taken onto the ferries so the passengers do not need to leave their seats.
As at Capri the visitors' berths were close to the entrance. Consequently they were very disturbed, especially during the day. Some bright spark had put a couple of shower cabins on the quayside for the use of visitors. But they were constructed of clear glass so anyone using the cabin had to keep their bathing suit on. The harbour master wanted to charge us for two berths as we were a catamaran. I argued with him. We were alongside a large monohull which was as wide as we were. Did he charge them for two berths, I asked? He conceded the point and reduced it to one and a half widths. The whole harbour, leisure and commercial, was immaculately clean and staff were sweeping all day. But what a contrast once we were through the harbour gate and into the town. It looked as though it had not been cleaned for months. We were ankle deep in polythene bags, drinks cartons, rotting fruit etc. and the dust lay thick over it all. As we progressed into the town we saw that the shops were attractively laid out, many with marble pavements, but the rubbish lay over all.
We assume this was a problem with the Mafia who often have the contract to deal with the rubbish, but don't do it. The next morning we found two croissants on our foredeck. We did not know what to do with them so just kept them, and discovered later that this is the local taxi drivers way of welcoming new boats and drumming up some custom. Sadly for him we enjoy walking and have a trolley for our shopping.
The traffic was bad here. When we were returning to the boat from the supermarket we found the streets of the town at a standstill with traffic, and traffic police at each junction trying to get it to move. Have they never heard of traffic lights? The cause of the congestion is parking. Both sides of every street were full of parked cars, narrowing the street and increasing the blockage. The traffic was backed up along the promenade where an ambulance was vainly wailing its siren.
Before leaving we wanted a weather forecast and were directed to a formidable concrete building alongside the marina - the Capitaineria du Port, and Coastguard. It was surrounded by a high metal fence and entry was via heavy metal sliding gates opened from the inside of the building, with a speakerphone alongside. Inside we were greeted by two figures in military uniform and asked them for a 'meteo'. One of them nodded and rattled a stream of Italian into a phone. We waited 10-15 minutes whilst further military figures came and went, eyeing us suspiciously. Eventually the forecast arrived. It was two sheets of Italian writing with no figures and no pictures or diagrams. We thanked them and took it away to decipher it.
Sunday, 1st July. Zigizoo arrived today and managed to get into a space alongside us. We ate together that evening on the terrace of a pizzeria on the harbour front. Whilst there we were entertained by a local guitar duo who sang a mixture of English and American tunes. They were very good.
Wednesday 4th July. We left at 06h00. The forecast had predicted northerly winds which would have suited us nicely. But when we got into the Straits we found it was southerly and on the nose. That meant no sailing. We followed the foot of Italy and every time we rounded a new cape the wind followed the land contours and was still on the nose until about half way through the day when we were able to strike out from the coast a little to cross a bay and were then able to put the sails up.
There were no beaches here but serried ranks of sunbeds and umbrellas are laid out on the shingle awaiting their customers, together with rows of identical small boats.
We sailed on to Rocella Ionica, arriving about 17h00. It was a huge harbour which we think had once been a naval base but was being turned into a marina. However work had halted and the developer was rumoured to be in gaol. More Mafia problems we wondered? Some berths had water, but not all and there was no electricity. There were only three rubbish bins, not enough for all the boats and litter was piled up in every corner and left to rot. On shore buildings had been created for a restaurant and shops but at the moment they were just empty shells, and gardens had been laid out with an irrigation system, but it was not working. There is a rocky bluff above the town with a ruined castle on it. From the marina it looks as though it is being restored as it was covered with scaffolding.
Friday, 6th July. We had only one more stop planned before reaching Greece. We were away by 06h15. The sea was very calm. What wind there was was on the nose so, having the boat 'head to wind' we spent most of the morning taking the mainsail up and down, up and down, trying to find out what the problem was. We could not get it down without creasing. It seems to be that the sail has stretched and we need to find the exact angle of the boom which will allow us to wind it all in. By 15h00 the sun was right overhead and the cockpit was unbearable because there was so little shade. Inside the boat the temperature was 35 deg. Sweat was running down my face and down the back of my neck. I opened the foreward hatch inside the cabin and the breeze created by the motion of the boat made the heat more bearable.
At 17h30 we arrived at Crotone. Here was a large marina where the moorings were parcelled out to various concessions, one of which was the owner of the fuel berth. we had been told it would be difficult to find a place. We arrived at lunch time when all was closed, but because we needed fuel we tied up to the fuel berth and waited for everything to open again. A huge gin-palace arrived shortly after us and we chatted to the English captain who was delivering it to Turkey for the owner. He too wanted fuel. When the fuel berth attendant arrived he gave precedence to the gin-palace which did not please us very much, especially as we had to wait over an hour whilst he filled up. John used the time to wander along the quay to see if he could find a berth, without success. It was 19h00 before we were re-fuelled and we asked the fuel attendant about the possibility of a mooring. After much muttering and head shaking the owner, an ex-sea captain, agreed to let us tie up amongst some smaller boats because we only had a shallow draft. He wanted us to tie up stern-to which was difficult as not only did we have large rudders which projected at the back but we also had a dinghy in davits which made it impossible to get on and off the boat. It was a great struggle to go ashore as we had to step into the dinghy. After such a tiring day we were hoping for a good night's rest but no such luck. From across the harbour we could hear loud music and a male singer. It was so loud we could have been in the same room. He wasn't a particularly good either and his long drawn out notes were painful. The singing went on until 02h00 by which time we had dozed off, and were woken by the silence when he finished.
Saturday, 7th July. We stayed another night in Crotone. It was too hot to do much. We needed some shopping but decided to leave it until late in the day when it was cooler.
About lunchtime a large Danish yacht came to the fuel berth and was immediately attended by the Carabineri in a RIB. We thought it must be a customs problem, but in a while one of the fuel attendants went off on his motor bike and returned escorting an ambulance. A stretcher was placed on the quayside and a few moments later a lady was helped ashore and laid on it. She was clutching a blood stained pad to her forehead.
About an hour later the lady returned accompanied by her husband. She was still clutching the pad, but a cleaner one. We never found out what had happened but our guess is that she was hit by the boom. (Been there, done that.) The shops did not re-open until 17h00. When we went to get our provisions we had to walk through the dock area which was very depressing. Immediately on leaving the harbour was the fish market, after this were streets of tenement houses where washing dried from balconies and people sat in their doorways. There was nothing picturesque about it, but at least we did not have to pick our way through piles of litter.
Further into town I'm sure it would have been less depressing. We could see trees, hotels and beaches, and a castle at the top of the town. But it was too hot to go exploring.
There was music again that night, and again it went on until 02h00. We dozed fitfully and were disturbed at 05h00 by another boat leaving. Soon afterwards we got up ourselves and were under way by 06h00. I felt as though I had not slept which is not good as the next leg would be a long trip of about 30 hours. The whole point of our two nights here was to get some rest and prepare for this trip.
Sunday, 8th July. The sky was cloudy when we left and the sun did not come out for some time. The sea was blue-black, marbled in our wake by white foam.
By 08h30 we were out of sight of land. The wind which had been on the nose, Force 4, came round to the port bow and we were able to drop off our course slightly and make better progress under sail.
Monday 9th July The overnight journey has been relatively uneventful. The night watches were boring. When I took up my watch at 22h00 the moon was not yet up and there was some sea mist although the stars were clearly visible. It felt very eerie and I longed for something to relieve the gloom. About 22h30 I saw a light, far off on the horizon. A ship perhaps? It seemed very big. Eventually I realised it was the moon, shadowed by black clouds. As it rose higher, the clouds which had at first been low in the sky, seemed to rise higher also. Whenever the moon was visible the 'face' could be clearly seen. It seemed to me it was a feminine face with soft lines and rounded cheeks. She seemed to be smiling on me and when she finally rose clear of the cloud she threw a silken path across the sea to the boat. When the moon reached its zenith the path changed and became hundreds of silver balls which were tossed from wave top to wave top.
In spite of the beauty I was not sorry to hand over to John at 02h00 and get some sleep. When he called me at 06h00 we were still not within sight of Paxos, our destination. The decks were dripping with moisture, like fine drizzle, and it was daylight. The wind had freshened and John had all the sails up but was still using the engine. When I took over I switched off the engine and sailed for two hours at speeds of 3-4 knots. It was slower but more peaceful.
After putting the engine on again some dolphins came to join us. They did not stay long but John said he had had dolphins yesterday. They did not come near the boat but gave him an acrobatic display from a distance, leaping vertically out of the water, seeming to stand on their tails before falling back into the sea.
I began to get worried as we drew closer to where the land should be and I could see no sign. Finally at 09h15 we got our first glimpse of our destination, shrouded in heat mist.
We negotiated the well-marked entrance to the beautiful land-locked bay of Lakka. We could see the small town at the far end of the bay, the squat colourful houses and shops with re-tiled roofs fringing a low quay where various boats were tied up. On the edges of the town and around the bay were tavernas and café/bars.
We elected to anchor off in the bay as we felt it would be too noisy on the quay. There were about 40 boats already at anchor, and shortly after our arrival another Prout Snowgoose arrived, called Loose Goose. They were too busy anchoring to do any more than acknowledge our wave. They were flying the English flag so we hoped we might meet them later. The bay was much busier than we remembered from previous visits. There was a café/bar on the south arm of the bay and a taverna on the north, fringing a little beach where pedaloes and wind surfers were for hire.
We had been travelling for 33 days but had stopped off at only nine ports. It seemed to me to be a great achievement to reach Greece at last. It was the culmination of a dream which began in the early days of our relationship. We had little idea of where we were going to go, and where we would leave the boat whilst we returned home in August for my hospital appointment. But that was in the future, for the moment we just enjoyed being in Greece.