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2019 Diary

Friday April 5th - We have a plan!

Chris is out in Leros getting Kabardar ready for the year.  2 of the 3 new sails have been made and delivered to Leros. They haven’t yet been fitted because of gales from the NE last weekend and now the prospect of a lot of wind from the SE which may bring red Sahara dust - they’ll get dirty soon enough without that!  The 3rd (a new staysail) has been ordered.

We now have a plan for the next 2 or 3 or 4 or more years which will see us heading back west and ultimately north.  The objective this year is to get up to the South of France and then in Spring 2020 put Kabardar on a lorry and head across to the Biscay coast of France.  That’s as far as we need to be planning - we’ll see what happens.

Sunday May 5th - Ready to go

Having got the new main and genoa fitted, we went off for a bit of a potter round some of the islands north of here - specifically Aganothisi, Arki and Patmos. We had some good sailing, the boat went well and the new sails seem to be working just fine.

We were in Patmos over the Greek Orthodox Easter weekend which this year was 1 week later than Easter in the UK.  It was interesting to see, or rather hear, one of the ways in which the Patmians celebrate Easter Sunday - by firing off explosives!  It all started in earnest around midnight on Easter Saturday with various bangs ranging from what sounded like shot guns to some seriously loud explosions and a cruise ship anchored in the bay joined in by sounding it’s hooter!  The bangs continued sporadically throughout Easter Sunday.  During Sunday evening there was traditional Greek music and dancing in the town square, for once not aimed at tourists like us - which meant we didn’t have a clue what the announcements were all about!

Now back in Leros Marina the 3rd sail (a new staysail) has arrived and been fitted.  It looks OK, it fits OK and the new roller system works OK, there is just a bit of tweaking of the way the sheets come back into the cockpit to be done.

So, we are now all ready to go west, but unfortunately it doesn’t look as though that will be until at least Wednesday.  Today there is just too much wind over the Aegean with forecasts of F7/8/9, and it’s raining.  Unless things change, it’s looking as though there will be just too much west in the wind for our planned course over the next couple of days.  So we wait and watch the forecasts.  Twas ever thus!


Tuesday May 14th - Almost across the Aegean

After watching the forecasts for several days, we decided that the best time for getting across to Milos was over Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  The thinking went like this - on Saturday, with winds forecast from the E and SE we would be able to sail, maybe slowly, to Amorgos; on Saturday, with no wind forecast at all we would motor a short distance further on;  on Monday with winds forecast from the E and SE we would be able to sail, again maybe slowly, to Milos. The reality - Saturday no wind from anywhere so we motored the 55 miles to Amorgos, anchored in the main bay and passed a peaceful night;  Sunday no wind from anywhere so we motored 40 miles to a large enclosed piece of water between Antiparos and Despotika and another peaceful night at anchor; Monday a flutter from the E so we motored the 40 miles on to Milos, we did put the genoa up at one point and an optimistic estimate would say that this added 0.1 kt to our speed!  We are now anchored in the large bay here on a grey, slightly rainy day.

We now wait for suitable conditions to get round Cape Malea to finally leave the Aegean.

Just as we are on our way out of Greece we have a new bit of Greek bureaucracy to deal with. The much promised/threatened implementation of the Greek cruising tax (or to give it it’s official name - the Recreational and Daily Tour Cruise Ships Fee) has just happened.  It was implemented on 10th May with the requirement that all pleasure boats in Greek waters register for, and pay the tax due by 18th May - such optimism!   The procedure seems to be, register online to pay the tax, get a 20 digit code and then, armed with this code proceed to a bank or Post Office and pay.  We are still trying to get through the registration process!


Tuesday May 21st - Round to the Ionian

We were up at 4am last Saturday to leave Milos for the 80nm trip round Cape Malea to Elafonisi.  The forecasts promised light winds with southerlies as we approached the Cape, but crucially, nothing wild in the area of the Cape which in certain conditions can have very confused seas and winds.  It was an uneventful trip with a mixture of sailing, motor sailing and motoring and we anchored for the night in a bay on the eastern side of Elafonisi away from most of the wash from passing ships.

On again the next day for the 65nm to Koroni.  The weather forecast suggested that a strong SE airflow skirting the peninsulas of the Peloponnesos would give a good sail once we had passed the next peninsula, Cape Teneron.  We got the rougher sea before we got the wind, and as we approached the next Cape we picked up the SE winds.  Once round the Cape and turning NW towards Koroni the wind got much stronger and before long we consistently had 35-40 knots and a rough sea.  With the genoa well reefed we turned a bit more N until we got out of the worst of it and the wind was down to a mere 30 knots!  We then rolled on to Koroni with the wind speed gradually falling, and the sea state very slightly improving as we went.  Approaching Koroni we could sea the masts of a yacht at anchor rolling rather wildly and wondered what the shelter would be like.  As it turned out we tucked ourselves as far into the corner as we could and, given the conditions, found the shelter pretty good. Round the end of the Peleponnesos is a busy shipping lane with most of the traffic passing a mile or more south of our course.  Only one of them caused us any concern when it was approaching from behind and on the same track as ourselves.  When the AIS transmission was giving us a CPA of 0nm in less than 10 minutes, we called them on the radio.  Yes, he said, I am aware of you - no worries. And then immediately changed course to pass us, although still fairly closely.

A day of motoring yesterday brought us a further 25 nm west to Pylos on the SW side of the Peloponnesos.  We first of all anchored in the same place we had last year, just outside the very small harbour, but later in the day the Port Police hooted their car horn and shouted to us from the shore that we couldn’t stay where we were as we were ‘in the middle of the Port’.  Port would seem to be a rather grand term for a small area of 4m deep water with a few tiny boats in, however, we did what they asked and moved into the unfinished and totally unmanaged and ramshackle ‘marina’.  It’s full of makeshift moorings and one or two sunken boats and it’s a case of tie up where one can, raft up or borrow a mooring which is what we have done having been told that it is likely to be unused for a couple of weeks.  The good thing about being here is that it’s free and there is an unlocked water tap not too far away.

Whilst in Milos we did our bit to help the Greek economy and managed to pay the Cruising tax.  For us it is just 33 euros monthly, but we’re lucky as we just sneak into the under 12 meter length category, another 0.5 meter and we would be paying just over 100 euros a month as above 12 metres the charge is per metre.

We had a brilliant example of Greek business and tax reduction here today.  In the chandlery we spent 95 euros; offering a card for payment he said cash would be better, so we paid cash.  He then gave us a till receipt for 50 euros!

We are now getting stocked up and ready to head over to Sicily, about 300nm due west.  At the moment the weather conditions look pretty good for leaving here on Thursday morning.


Wednesday May 29th - To Lefkada

Believing that we had a 3 day window of reasonable weather we planned to leave Pylos last Thursday and set off west for Sicily, a distance of around 300 n.miles.  We went into the town for a last meal in Greece with the forecast for Thursday on the Greek side of the Ionian being NNW 4.  Unfortunately, by morning this had changed into WNW 5 and was forecast to last throughout the day and beyond.  This did not help our desired course of more or less west!   We stuck our noses out and gave it a look but the sea was pretty nasty and we didn’t relish the thought of bashing into it all day so it was about turn and back to the ‘marina’.  At this point, rather that wait for another window in the weather, we decided to head north up the Greek side and cross over to Italy further north which will also mean a much shorter crossing.

It was Saturday before we left Pylos and headed the 55 n.miles north to Katacolon.  After motoring about a quarter of the distance, we picked up the westerley winds and had a good sail for the rest of the trip.  Katacolon provided a good, sheltered, calm anchorage for the night.  The only problem being that in the morning one side of the boat was covered in bird droppings.  It would appear that Kabardar had provided a good seagull perch from which they could spot their breakfast!

Another 50 n.miles on Sunday got us up to Liman Petala.  I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve been in there over the years and, as ever, it provided a good night’s anchorage.  A rainy Monday morning saw us setting off for Lefkada.  It turned out to be a good day’s sailing, only needing to use the engine to get out of Liman Petala and up the canal to Lefkada.  The blustery wind went from NE to SE during the day with a lot of gusting and funnelling of winds around and between the islands leading to frequent sail changes.

Here in Lefkas marina we’ve got up to date with the laundry, cleaned the boat, the diesel, water, wine and beer tanks are all full, the food stocks are all replenished.  This evening we will go into the town for a second last meal in Greece as we hope to be leaving in the morning for Le Castella, Italy.


Monday June 10th - A lot of ground covered

Since leaving Lefkhada on 30th May we have done a little over 700 miles and arrived this morning into Bonifacio, Corsica.

We were up for the 8am opening of the bridge at the end of the Lefkas canal on 30th and set off west for Le Castella.  There was little wind for quite a distance until, as expected, it settled into the north late in the evening.  This continued for the rest of the trip and gradually built to a F4/5.  The sea got a bit rougher than we would have liked but with part of the main and the staysail up we managed to keep reasonably comfortable while still getting along at a reasonable speed. 31 hours and 174 miles after leaving Lefkhada we anchored in the calm waters behind Capo Rizutto for the night.

On again the next day for the 110 mile trip round to Reggio.  This was the fourth time we have done this route over the years (twiice in each direction) and it has never been a good trip.  On the occasion, the first 3rd distance was bashing SW across the Golfo di Squillace into the remains of a SW wind and sea, the next 3rd had wind coming off the land at speeds varying between 5 and 20 knots, and finally round the toe of Italy to head north against the northerly airflow coming down through the straits of Messina.  The highlight of the trip for Chris was catching sight of the eruption of Mt Etna.  Kathleen was off watch, asleep and had no such excitement.  Reggio is not one of our favourite places - I always think the Mafia aren’t far away!  Nevertheless, it provides a reasonable service point.

A short 55 mile hop the next day up to Lipari in the Aeolian Islands.  The only excitement on this trip caused by a piece of plastic.  We were plodding along under engine when there was a noise from underneath the boat, the engine note changed,  the autohelm was having trouble with the steering and the engine started running hotter than it should. Fortunately we had plenty of sea room and there was no other vessel near us so we turned the engine off to investigate.  Before we had much of a chance to do anything, there was a lot of swishing noise from underneath the boat and out floated a large piece of black plastic which we believe must have got tangled up on the rudder. After it had floated away, all was OK.

After a peaceful night at anchor off Lipari, we set off NNW for Ponza an island just north of the Bay of Naples, distance of 178 miles.  The wind direction, varying between S and E, was very good but there was never enough of it to give anything other than a little help but the sea was calm so it made for a very easy, if extremely tedious trip.  At one point we were visited by a large pod of dolphins who swam enthusiastically over to us, checked us out and then disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.  On arrival at Ponza we first anchored on the south side of the island, but with the SE winds set to increase we were a bit to exposed and so moved to a delightful small bay on the north side. There were 2 bays side by side and we chose one more or less at random.  What a lucky thing.  On Saturday morning at just after 6am there was a lot of hooting from the water ship needing  to get into the other bay, it sent a small boat to make sure that not only were the people on all anchored boats awake, but to make them move.

After a day of relaxation on Ponza, on Saturday morning we set off for the Maddalena archipelago between Sardinia and Corsica approximately 163 miles and the last of our overnight trips for a while.  It was an odd trip.  A mixture of winds, at times a fairly lumpy sea, poor visibility overnight, squalls at dawn, then a constant wind direction but hugely varying strengths, and finally approaching our destination with a good wind but mist and poor visibility.  This is a busy sailing area and we anchored in a large bay on the island of Caprera, in the company of several other yachts.  At just after 2am we had a rude awakening when thunderstorm activity some distance away caused severe gusting and we were all suddenly turned 180°.  Most anchors held (ours did) but one was not so lucky and was blown back into another boat.  Everything calmed down for a few hours until the wind got up again although much less severe this time.

With the wind blowing easterly through the Straits of Bonifacio but forecast to turn westerly by early afternoon on Monday we decided to set off NW for Bonifacio hoping to beat the change to westerlies.  It worked.  We had an excellent sail for the 22 miles, roaring along at about 7 knots and by the time we had got tied up and sorted out, the wind was in the west.


Monday June 17th - Gunshots and hot air

On our first morning in Bonifacio we were eating breakfast at around 8.30am and enjoying fresh croissants (one of the advantages of being in a marina in a town) when we heard what sounded like a gunshot, and then another, and then after a minute or so a third!  We didn’t take too much notice but it turned out to have been a murder on the quay, only about 100m from where we were.  It seems from what the local news reports said to have been argument between trip boat owners!  Police had part of the quay cordoned off for several hours providing an unusual backdrop to many people’s’ holiday snaps.  It didn’t stop our feeding of the washing machines in the laundrette.

After spending a second day in Bonifacio seeing what sights there were, we headed north along the coast to anchor in a bay at Campomoro which would provide shelter from the strong SE winds forecast for the following day. They reached gale force out at sea but not quite that much where we were, all caused by a depression heading north from North Africa and it was amazing how incredibly hot the wind was, even at 7am.  Everything calmed down during the next day and we have spent the last couple of days pottering north with easy, gentle sailing on both days in light conditions.  We are now in a very small harbour at Cargese.  Cargese itself is a charming village, up hill from the port, but like most of this coast mostly given over to the holiday business.


Monday 24th June - On to France

We stayed a couple of nights in Cargese and on the second night, which was Kathleen’s birthday, enjoyed a good meal out at one of the harbour side restaurants. The small harbour was mostly full of very small boats with only a short section of the quay reserved for visiting yachts. It was a pleasant place to tie up, if a little expensive at 60 euros per night.

Leaving Cargese we headed a little further north to Port Girolata which unlike it’s name is not a port at all but a very small, much visited little bay tucked away behind a headland.  On the approach it looked as though we were diving into the cliff face.

Once around the headland it was completely different!  We found a large number of fore and aft mooring buoys and ashore a number of makeshift, summer only bars, restaurants and even a small shop!  We were there for almost 24 hours and during that time there was a constant flow of trip boats sometimes landing people for a short time, sometimes not.  So, not as remote and unspoilt as one might have imagined.  On the positive side - the shop had fresh croissants and bread available for breakfast!

The moorings at Girolata

The weather forecasts were showing a window in the weather which would give us good conditions for the 120 miles across to S. France so we decided to leave Corsica on 19th June and head WNW.  It was an easy crossing of which we managed to totally sail about half.  It is a busy patch of water with a lot of traffic of all kinds about - cargo ships, passenger ships lighting up the sea and many yachts.  It is a long time since we had such a cluttered AIS display!  Early in the morning of 20th we anchored in the Bay of Cavaliere which is a bay of two halves!  On the eastern side were a number of well established villas with nicely tended grounds while on the western side was all the paraphenalia that goes with seaside holidays - holiday flats, restaurants, parascending, pedalos and children paddling around in inflatable, winged unicorns - but it was a good place to stop and catch up on sleep.  Thankfully, that was the last overnight sail of this trip - all this sleep deprivation gets harder and harder to deal with!

The next day we went a short distance west to Porquerolles, the largest of the Isles d’Hyeres.  We headed for the marina and found the organisation there to be absolutely hopeless.  First of all they didn’t answer our radio call, or indeed anybody else’s, so there were a number of boats floating around aimlessly. Eventually, they did answer us and told us to berth ‘on the left’ as we came in.  Well, we didn’t like the look of ‘on the left’ it being a pontoon for visitors but with no water and electricity so we decided that if we had no services we’d rather take one of the mooring buoys, pay less money and have more air around us.  It was all even worse on Saturday evening with many weekenders turning up.  Total chaos.

Porquerolles is a popular day/weekend trip from many places along the coast and ferries were arriving every couple of minutes bringing hundreds of visitors. There is limited development on the island and bicycle hire establishments probably outnumber eating places - where they will happily charge 8 euros for ½ litre of draught Heineken.

Boats, people and bicycles as far as the eye can see

All that said, once away from the main viillage area and from the main paths and cycle routes it was possible to have a pleasant shady walk, which is what we did and gave our legs more exercise than they’ve had for many weeks.  And, in spite of the prices, we enjoyed a nice lunch afterwards.  Then on Sunday we visited a relatively new art gallery containing works from the collection of one Edouard Carmignac, mostly 20th C American.

This morning we headed a little more west and with the light easterly winds, the spinnaker had an airing which has left us with a problem.  After happily ambling along for a while, the wind died and we dropped the spinnaker.  Literally!  The snap shackle let go leaving it and the end of the halyard at the masthead.  To be sorted later.  We had hoped to find a place in the marina at Bandol but they said no, there was no space available.  It seems they are ‘having work done’ - in peak season!?  Ridiculous. So we have found a place to anchor nearby behind an island which is apparently owned by the Ricard family.  A beautiful, scenic holiday island it is not, but it is peaceful and calm and so long as the winds stay as they are, it’ll be fine.


Saturday 29th June - Marseilles

Leaving our anchorage at Bandol we headed a little further west with a good easterly breeze behind us.  We decided to head for a marina some miles short of Marseilles, mainly because our pilot book listed it as just about the only marina on this stretch of the coast where one could be certain of finding a berth.  It wasn’t to be, it was full.  So we headed a few miles further to the Isles du Frioul, a small archipelago a little way off Marseilles, where we had no problem getting a place.  It seemed a pleasant enough place, reasonably priced and with a good ferry service across to Marseilles so we decided to stay for a few days.  We’ve taken the ferry across to Marseilles a couple of times and done touristy things like ride ‘Le petit train touristique’ which was a good way of getting a view of the city.

Some time ago when we were looking at places we might stop, we did think about trying to get a place in the Vieux Port at Marseilles for a few days.  We are so glad we didn’t pursue that option.  It is jammed full of yachts with little space between them and this week the temperature has risen sharply reaching 36° C in Marseilles which would have made it a really unpleasant place to be.  Much better out on the islands where we have more air around us.

Isles du Frioul viewed from Marseilles

The islands are very rocky, heavily indented and initially seem rather barren but there are a large variety of plants clinging to the rocks and a large population of Yellow Legged Gulls. These gulls are so successful here that it seems people are worried about the impact on other creatures living here.  We’ve done a very little bit of walking but it really has been too hot.

The coastline A pair of immature gulls keeping out of the sun Back

Wednesday 3rd July - Objective achieved

Last Sunday, 7 weeks and just under 1500 nautical miles after leaving Leros, we arrived at the Rhone delta and came up the Saint Antoine Canal to Port Napoleon.  Kabardar has now been lifted out, a little later than planned because the crane broke down (twice) while lifting a Swiss boat on Monday morning and didn’t move again until late this morning!