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Archive for May, 2010

MED MOORING NIGHTMARES

May 25th, 2010 No comments

With dock space at a premium in the Mediterranean, clever Europeans have adopted a style of docking that does not exist in the US or most other places for that matter.  Having been accustomed to slipping alongside a dock or picking up a mooring ball, we have had to adjust to the nightmare of gingerly backing our 20 ton boat into narrow spaces without hitting other boats, or worse yet the concrete quay.

Destiny, unfortunately, does not back in a straight line very easily like modern yachts because our rudder is near the stern.  Compounding our problem with this mooring style is the tailed lines that are handed to you by dock personnel, who unfamiliar with our prop configuration often raise the line under our stern catching it in the prop.  Kent has had to jump in the water in more than once to unwrap or cut a tailed line. 

Destiny docked at Aigina

Destiny docked at Aigina

When there are no tailed lines, which is often the case at town quays, the procedure becomes even more problematic because you have to drop your anchor to secure the bow and back into the quay.  As boat after boat, drops anchor inevitably one anchor drops on top of another with sometimes disastrous results.  

While Med moored in Poros recently a 25 kt. wind came up and was pushing us into the quay when our anchor started to drag.  As we attempted to leave to reset the anchor, our anchor got caught and couldn’t be raised no matter what we tried.  After twenty or so very stressful minutes, we had no choice but to jettison the anchor and 250 ft. of chain to get Destiny away from other boats that we were being pushed into by the wind.  The anchor and chain were retrieved, so all ended well—except for the anxiety about Med mooring.  But, after that incident we anchored for a few days in the next harbor not wanting to get near a quay.

It happens that the biggest terror of Med mooring is charter boats run by inexperienced crews that often come into a harbor late in the afternoon trying to drop an anchor and take one of the last spots available.  In Aigina we witnessed a spectacle that almost ended with fists flying when a charter boat with six men on board tried at least six times to get into the last slip on the town quay just before dusk.  Thankfully, the spot they were attempting to enter was one boat away, but we watched helplessly as the couples on the boats on either side tried to protect their boats from damage as these “clowns” (probably a little intoxicated) repeatedly attempted to dock. 

 The pictures speak for themselves.

Watch out here they come

Watch out here they come

Holy S**t!!! That's too close for comfort

Holy S**t!!! That's too close for comfort

They did this SIX times!

They did this SIX times!

They aren't giving up

They aren't giving up

I keep telling you. . .you're over my chain

I keep telling you. . .you're over my chain

In the end, they finally docked and although there was a lot of shouting and cursing the preceded their arrival everyone made up.  Another Med “adventure”.

Jolie takes everything in stride

Jolie takes everything in stride

The thing about Med mooring is that it is unavoidable and you just have to accept that there are inherent risks–if you get your anchor properly set you can’t be assured that the boat next to you will.  There are some harbors, like Hydra that are so small and so notorious for crossed anchors, that we will simply avoid going there–except maybe by hydrofoil.

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GULF OF CORINTH AND CANAL

May 15th, 2010 No comments

 

Approaching the Rion Bridge

Approaching the Rion Bridge

Longest Cable Stayed Bridge in World

Longest Cable Stayed Bridge in World

On May 7th we passed through the narrow Strait of Rion and under what is reported to be the longest cable stayed bridge in the world at 2,252 meters with three navigable channels each 560 meters wide.  The straits mark the transition between the Gulfs of Patras and Corinth and the bridge is quite impressive.  Yachts must call Rion Traffic 5 NM from the bridge to request permission to transit.

After several days working our way East through the Gulf of Corinth including stops at the island of Trizonia, Galaxidhi (mentioned in the Delphi post), we left Andikiron on May 11th enroute to Corinth and the Corinth Canal.

Harbor at Andikiron

Harbor at Andikiron

The commercial harbor in Corinth is very busy with freighters coming and going, but there is often space to tie to the quay overnight when transiting the canal.

Corinth is a busy commercial port on Gulf side of canal

Corinth is a busy commercial port on Gulf side of canal

Berthed at Corinth with Excalibur & Glass Slipper

Berthed at Corinth with Excalibur & Glass Slipper

Dusk at Port of Corinth

Dusk at Port of Corinth

After laying along side the quay in the commercial harbor at Corinth at the west end of the Canal with Excalibur and Glass Slipper, we left early the next morning to position at the entrance of the canal for our passage through.

 

Following Excalibur and Freighter into Canal

Following Excalibur and Freighter into Canal

Glass Slipper entering canal

Glass Slipper entering canal

Glass Slipper at west end of Canal

Glass Slipper at west end of Canal

Canal is about 259 ft. above sea level at highest point

Canal is about 259 ft. above sea level at highest point

 

Capt. Kent pilots Destiny through Canal

Capt. Kent pilots Destiny through Canal

The canal is approx. 3.2 mi. long and 82 ft. wide--not everyone fits

The canal is approx. 3.2 mi. long and 82 ft. wide--not everyone fits

View West from East end of Canal

View West from East end of Canal

The transit through the canal was expensive—230 euros ($287 US at current rates) but saved about 150 NM in getting to the Athens area.  It is also quite an experience to follow a large freighter, which from a distance appears to barely clear go through ahead of you.

At the east end of the Canal you tie along side and go ashore to pay.  An interesting aspect of the current Greek financial crisis is that credit cards (which according to our pilot guide were being accepted to pay transit fees) were no longer being accepted.  As each boat reported to canal control for clearance they were asked “do you have cash?”—we heard this refrain so often it was amusing.

At the east end you pay up

At the east end you pay up

 

Carol had called in advance to determine whether they would take credit cards, because routinely they are being refused and was told by the canal authorities  “we haven’t taken credit cards for the last ten days—we have a problem with our bank”—that is also a standard response even at establishments that prominently display credit card symbols.

 

So now we have arrived in the Aegean and are off on the next part of our adventure.  More to follow.

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REMEMBERING TOOTIE

May 11th, 2010 No comments
St. Jean Beach, St. Bart with Susie and Richard

St. Jean Beach, St. Bart with Susie and Richard

Today we lost a beloved family member, Kent’s sister, Susie, known to family as “Tootie”.  She died much too young from cancer, having just reached her 67th birthday last month on April 15th.  She leaves a legacy of children and grandchildren,  a husband who adored her and an amazing perennial garden having spent her few “retirement years” becoming a master gardener.

 

We will miss your smile, Tootie

We will miss your smile, Tootie

We were blessed to spend several days with her in late March before we left for Croatia before her illness overwhelmed her.  We laughed and shared stories and did spring clean up in her garden much to her amusement.

 Susie and her husband Richard spent time with us on Destiny in St. Barth and St. Martin last year and we have wonderful memories to comfort us, but her passing is a great loss to everyone who knew and loved her.

 Today as we were traveling down the Gulf of Corinth heading for the canal, we saw beautiful wispy clouds that looked like a band of angels and we hoped that Susie had been relieved of her pain and was safely in God’s hands, and now we know that she was at peace and no more in pain when we shared that passing thought.

 

Clouds or Angels

Clouds or Angels

In retrospect we like to think that a dolphin that followed us for a time cruising along in our bow wake and jumping playfully was Susie saying goodbye and wishing us well. We later realized that Kent was unknowingly shooting video of this dolphin—very eerie.

Dolphin Farewell

Dolphin Farewell

God speed, Tootie.  We will never forget you.

Kent, Carol & Jolie

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THE WONDERS OF DELPHI

May 9th, 2010 No comments

It is impossible to travel through the Gulf of Corinth and not stop near Delphi one of the most famous of all Greek ruins.  We docked Destiny in Galaxidhi about 30 km from Delphi and rented a car to visit the site.

Enroute to Delphi

Enroute to Delphi

Leaving Galaxhidi we climbed for miles, higher and higher up the switch back road that leads to the modern town of Delphi and then the archeological site and museum just beyond it.  The view down the valley to the sea, with Galaxidhi in the distance were quite dramatic.

Delphi to the Sea

Delphi to the Sea

What remains of Delphi pales in comparison to the Parthenon in Athens or Ostio Antica in Rome, but what makes it so spectacular is its location high on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, the second highest mountain in Greece after Mt. Olympus.

Amphitheater

Amphitheater

 The famous Oracle of Delphi, which is believed to have been a rock chasm through which emerged a gas that cast a spell and caused the person so affected to spout prophecies is well entrenched in Greek history and legend. 

Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollo

 

The Treasury--one of few buildings standing

The Treasury--one of few buildings standing

The steep cliffs and brilliant blue sky (we were blessed with a glorious, sunny day) frame the ancient columns, amphitheater and other building remains.

How did they get it here

How did they get it here

Lower archeological site

Lower archeological site

Upon first viewing  the Delphi  ruins seem small compared to others we have seen, but as you climb higher and higher and then look down from near the Stadium which is at the highest point in the ruins you are struck by how massive this excavation is and what a feat it was to have built the ancient town in this location.

Delphi's Stadium echoes with past contests

Delphi's Stadium echoes with past contests

Thankfully there was a water stop along the way–it was a long, hot climb.

Kent tanks up for the walk down

Kent tanks up for the walk down

After viewing the archeological site and touring the museum we traveled to the town of Arachova about 10 km further east.  We were very surprised to learn that there is a ski resort on Mt. Parnassus—in fact we could see the runs carved into the mountain slopes and some appeared to still have snow. 

Arachova's narrow streets are lined with ski shops and still have traces of winter in the decorations

Arachova's narrow streets are lined with ski shops and still have traces of winter in the decorations

Arachova is a quintessential ski town with tavernas that advertise numerous fireplaces and shops selling skis, snowboards and upscale clothing.  This time of year the action moves outdoors and every little square is chock-a-block full of chairs and umbrellas. 

Arachova Cafe Scene

Arachova Cafe Scene

We had lunch at a little café filled with locals doing what Greeks do on Sunday—relaxing and sipping coffee or something stronger for hours on end.  Spilling from a fountain right next to our table was water that comes directly from the mountain.  Pitchers were filled with ice cold water from the fountain and served as you sat down—better than anything that comes from a bottle.

Mt. water sounded wonderful and tasted even better

Mt. water sounded wonderful and tasted even better

One of the first shops we saw entering the town was “Columbia Sportswear”—they have definitely penetrated the Euro market, as this is not the first we have seen.  Our favorite sign appears below—who knew Montana’s reach was so far!

Montana Ski Club

Montana Ski Club

On the way back to Galaxidhi we notice a modern aquiduct that runs for miles down the mountain, much of it above ground.  Apparently the water we enjoyed in Arachova is served at sea level too.

A winding blue ribbon of mountain water

A winding blue ribbon of mountain water

Along the way we saw masses of yellow on the mountain sides, as scotch broom, bloomed at the higher elevations where little else grew.

Scotch broom, just like Nantucket

Scotch broom, just like Nantucket

We also saw the iron ore mines that are common to this region, scarring the mountain side and turning everything red from the dust that accompanies the mining process.

Iron ore mine

Iron ore mine

Finally back at sea level, our final stop on the way back to Destiny was Itea, another sea side village a few miles to the east.

Kent returns to Sea Level

Kent returns to Sea Level

All in all, it was a wonderful day exploring—despite the fact that our little rental car didn’t like to go into reverse gear—nice to know that not all “mechanicals” are boat related.

Kent called it "the Bumble Bee"

Kent called it "the Bumble Bee"

Back to Destiny with pleasure!

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IONIAN ISLAND TIME

May 4th, 2010 No comments
Full Moon over Preveza

Full Moon over Preveza

For the past week, except for a anchoring overnight off the mainland town of Preveza which sits on a large bay with good protection, but lacks some of the charm of the island towns we visited, we have cruised through the Ionian Islands working our way south and east.  Preveza did have a wonderful bakery and the usual assortment of shops and cafes lining the quay. 

Preveza Quay

Preveza Quay

We timed our departure from Preveza to enter the Levkas Canal at the north end of the island of Levkas in the early afternoon before the wind blows up to 15-18 kts. as is often the case in the late afternoon—the canal bridge (a swinging affair that looks like a barge pivoting) opens on the hour.  The approach to the canal is on the lee shore and involves a scary right then left hand turn as you enter the canal.  Vessels wait outside the entrance until the bridge horn sounds to announce the opening of the bridge.  We followed a Greek flag vessel through figuring that it was probably not their first time. 

Sure, there's a canal here. . .

Sure, there's a canal here. . .

Levkas Canal Swing Bridge

Levkas Canal Swing Bridge

Back it goes

Back it goes

The town of Levkas just at the beginning the canal is not much more than a large marina, with the usual assortment of charter outfits—most of the boats at dock this early in the season.   If you need fuel or a chandlery this is the place to be.  We quickly fueled at the marina quay and headed further down the canal looking for a little more quiet.  The island of Levkas is one of the most populated islands in the Ionian due largely to its being attached to the mainland by the swing bridge that we passed through. 

Levkas Marina where we fueled up and moved on

Levkas Marina where we fueled up and moved on

Skorpios on the east side of Levkas is the private island of the Onassis family and seemed like just the spot to avoid crowds.  The cruising guide said that you can anchor (though not go ashore) but we found the water quite deep and decided that was not a good idea.  Besides, there were cameras on towering poles the range of which seemed to encompass the entire island—something about being under the watchful eye of security cameras did not appeal. 

Approaching Skorpios

Approaching Skorpios

Isthmis at Skorpios

Isthmis at Skorpios

However, we saw the little cove with a small white cottage which was reportedly Jackie O’s favorite place on the island.  If we had billions, we would want an island just like this.  As is the case with all the Ionian islands, it is lush and surrounded by turquoise water. 

Jackie O's Hideaway on a little cove

Jackie O's Hideaway on a little cove

From Skorpios we went through the strait between Levkas and Megannis which is described as one of the prettiest channels in the Ionian. 

Strait between Levkas & Meganisi--islands everywhere

Strait between Levkas & Meganisi--islands everywhere

 We found the perfect spot when we went into the harbor at Sivota.  This picturesque little town is what we have been looking for in Greece.  Like the harbor at Lakka on Paxio, Sivota was just starting to wake up for the season.  It had three small grocery stores—not a single one open, but a few tavernas ready to take our euros.  Although our 3G internet signal was non-existent, the Ionian Taverna had wi-fi that reached the boat and we were able to stay in touch with the outside world. 

Well protected harbors like Sovita are often hard to find--thank you GPS

Well protected harbors like Sovita are often hard to find--thank you GPS

Our stay in Sivota was extended by a day when we lost forward gear leaving the harbor.  We were quite a sight sailing back into the harbor, dropping an anchor and then winching the boat back to the dock we had just left. 

Destiny docked at Sovita before the fiasco

Destiny docked at Sivota before the fiasco

 Sivota is like being in an inland lake.  You can’t see the opening from inside the harbor which is lined with tavernas and vacation homes.  However, there are no ATM’s and most tavernas only take cash this time of year–and we wonder why Greece is having an economic crisis?

Long line to dock

Long line to dock

Long line to winch

Long line to winch

We made it back to the dock thanks to the Roto-Winch!

We made it back to the dock thanks to the Roto-Winch!

For a while it appeared to be the transmission—not good at all.  Thanks to Kent’s perseverance the problem was narrowed to the linkage cable and some debris had caught in the area of the prop.  A good day is a day when nothing breaks—but on a 25 year old boat something seems to break every other day.  This was a good day because Kent could fix it—we even had the spare part on board.

Where did that come from

Where did that come from? At least the water is warm

 By 7 p.m. we were having cocktails with new Aussie friends, Simon (who aided us getting Destiny to the dock) and Maguerite, who were in the anchorage on board their boat, “Where Next”.

 Leaving Sivota the next day, after carefully checking that everything was in working order we headed for Cephalonia and went down the strait between it and Ithaca stopping next at Eufemia about mid-way down the coast of Cephalonia. 

Channel between Ithaca and Cephalonia

Channel between Ithaca and Cephalonia

Eufimia is a large harbor in a very large bay on the east side of the island.  Although protected from the prevailing NW wind, it funnels between the surrounding mountains late in the day in gusts of 15-18 kts.  By dusk the wind dies and is calm overnight.  Unlike Sivota, there were grocery stores, bakeries and butchers all open and the teenagers in the town were organizing a mid-day dance for May Day. 

Destiny at anchor off Eufimia

Destiny at anchor off Eufimia

 We left Eufemia in the morning is what we thought was over 10 kts. of wind—proved to be mountain effect—and ended up mostly motoring further south down the channel.

Jolie checks the Pilot Guide

Jolie checks the Pilot Guide

We stopped for a time off the town Poros and had lunch while listening to loud Greek music from a lively cafe on shore, then continued on to Zakinthos. 

Lunch stop off Poros

Lunch stop off Poros

Lunch Greek Style

Lunch Greek Style

The passage from the southeast end of Cephalonia to Zakinthos finally brought sailing weather, but with it big seas.  With open water to the NW between the islands, we plowed our way through 4 ft. seas in 20kt. wind—which Destiny and Kent loved. 

On the way to Zakinthos

Let 'er blow!!

Finally sailing to Zakinthos

Finally sailing to Zakinthos

By 5:30 p.m. we were docked along side the quay in the tiny harbor of Nikolaos, where Dimitri and his family who own the fuel station, restaurant (had Mama’s mousakka for dinner) and mini-mart made us feel very at home.  Dimitri also told us about the red sponges in the Blue Caves and told us how to capture them by camera. (See Blue Caves of Zakithnos post) 

Destiny docked in Nikolaos

Destiny docked in Nikolaos

Since our plan is to go through the Corinth Canal rather than around the Pelopponnisos Peninsula, we only visited the north end of Zakithnos and then headed back north to the island of Ithaca of Odyssey fame.  Our first night on the island we spent in a wonderfully private bay called Skhoinos.  We anchored in front of the only home on the bay (more like a mini-estate with miles of stone fences and manicured grounds). They may not have appreciated our being there, but we enjoyed sharing the multi-million dollar view with them.  We did notice a little white dog running around on shore–kindred spirits not doubt.

Anchored in Skhoinos Bay on Ithaca

Anchored in Skhoinos Bay on Ithaca

 

Jolie and Kent love the kayak

Jolie and Kent love the kayak

Dusk at anchor in Ithaca

Dusk at anchor in Ithaca

The next day we went less than three NM to Vathi, the capital of Ithaca (or Ithaki as it is pronounced in Greek).  There we met up once again with Glass Slipper and Excalibur, found a laundry (always welcome) and anchored. 

Ubiquitous Greek Chapel on way to Vathi

Ubiquitous Greek Chapel on way to Vathi

Excalibur & Glass Slipper in Vathi

Excalibur & Glass Slipper in Vathi

Dusk comes about 8:40 p.m. at Vathi

Dusk comes about 8:40 p.m. at Vathi

From Vathi our plan is to make a 50+ NM passage to Patras in the Gulf of Patras enroute to the Corinth Canal, leaving the Ionian Sea and islands as memories.  But good ones.

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