Messolonghi, 10 May 2016,

Charles & Maggie Bevis
Tue 10 May 2016 19:56
 Our very long stay here is now coming to an end.   We leave first thing on Thursday 12 May, weather permitting!  

 It has been quite an experience here in Messolonghi one way or another and we have enjoyed ourselves and really appreciated what rural Greece has to offer.

 When we arrived here on the 15th of April the hydraulic trailer the boatyard uses to move boats in the yard was defective and there was a considerable backlog of boats waiting to be launched.  We soldiered on with the hull work that needed to be completed before launching and were more or less ready on 25 April, the day we had booked for launching.  The boatyard trailer was operational and they were working through the backlog; neither Maggie nor I was convinced that we would launch on time.  In fact Maggie was still in bed at 08:00 on 25th when the tractor unit arrived to move us to a location below the crane for launching!  We were shocked.  Since then we have lain afloat at jetty No1, along with some 40 other boats, completing our outfitting. 

 The new mainsail is on and looks rather grand.  It is to be put through its paces on Thursday with any luck.  The water maker is in place and has been tested – satisfactorily so far.  Mechanic wise we seem to be ok, the only fault seems to be the engineer, and, the boat has been cleaned within an inch of its life by the crew.  Charlie has even let several ‘treasures’ be escorted to the tip!

 Ann joined us on 27 April and since then life has moved on apace.   The weather has for the most part been pleasant with sunshine, light winds and temperatures in the range 20 to 27oC through the day and night time temperatures of around 15 to 18oC.  We have enjoyed a few really first class meals out and as usual, Maggie has performed wonders on the other evenings.  We have successfully kept the mossies’ at bay in the evenings, although they do take advantage given the chance to attack and inflict grievous wounds.

On the entertainment front we are presently working our way through the BBC TV series “Spooks” courtesy of some dubious DVD copies obtained during our days in Shanghai.  We move on later to a repeat viewing of “Deadwood” as requested by Ann. 

 Our plans have crystalised over the past few weeks.  We are no longer going to Zante (Zakinthos) as our first stop, but are heading east, through the Gulf of Corinth to the Corinth Canal and from there into the Aegean. We will then head north as speedily as we can to the area East of Thessaloniki known as Khalkidhiki. 

 The book says this area in the Northeast of Greece offers some of the grandest scenery and finest sandy beaches.  The climate is reputed to be more Balkan than Mediterranean - the summers being mainly hot and languid.  The coastal terrain is fertile and wild life is abundant.  The Eastern peninsula, with Mt Athos at its southern extremity is known as Akti – this is a remote area where some 9 monasteries are located.  Men only visitors and then by appointment only - women are forbidden to land.

 This change of plan is the reason we are still here in Messolonghi as we are awaiting delivery of new spectacles for both of Maggie and I – we had intended to have these made/sourced in Zante but that meant a days’ passage in the wrong direction – but all purchased at a fraction of the cost of the same products in UK.

 We have made a lot of friends here in Messolonghi and count Americans, Belgians, Norwegians, Danish and Greek couples as valued friends with relevant entries in our expanding address book. 

 Maggie has put me to shame and made a determined effort to learn some Greek words and phrases, much to the delight of the owners shops and the two restaurants we have frequented in the last month.  She has mastered various phrases including her favourite “etsy-ketsy”. (meaning so-so or 50/50)

 During our stay we became unwittingly embroiled in a squabble between rival  interests who operate the marina here.  We experienced increasing harassment from the port police who were fining people found working on their boats in the marina boatyard.  This action was reportedly in response to complaints raised by individual(s) to the effect that work was being undertaken in contravention of Greek Law, and specifically in the absence of a license.  The ambiguous and doubtful practices of the port police are reported to be lawful.  It transpires that the complainant is a disaffected shareholder of the marina company who was removed from the board some years ago over the alleged misappropriation of funds.  Despite assurances that this individual is a “nobody” it appears that neither the Mayor (who is president of the Marina company) nor the local press feels able to take action or dissuade this individual from making these complaints.  The words mafia and thug have been bandied about!  The stated policy of the marina company is that they presently have no license to provide services at Messolonghi and Owners who undertake work on their own boats or employ others to do it for them do so at their own risk, viz a viz potential prosecution by the Port Police.  The marina anticipates they will be awarded a full license to operate in about 6 months time.  Thereafter there should be no further harassment from the Port Police at least.  However this is nothing new and has been the situation for the last 2+ years or so!  On the basis of this information the marina here will not have a license until long after this season ends so their chances of attracting a full complement of boats for this winter are somewhat slim. It seems nothing has changed except for the escalation of harassment by the authorities at the behest of an unpleasant individual who has some influence in the area and a grievance against the marina management. 

 We were lucky that we were here early and did not get caught while working on our boat.  Our exposure to prosecution is now over that we are afloat but I feel sorry for the owners of the some 100 or so boats that are still up on the quay.  I also feel sorry for the town as this enterprise represents a valuable income stream for the restaurants, chandlers etc.  We are unlikely to be returning!  As far as the police are concerned it seems the universal rule of travel applies i.e. the less one has to do with them the better – shades of our experience in China!!!

 On a more happy note, with Ann here for the longer term this year, we were deficient in shore transport.  This has now been remedied by Maggie and a random conversation with an about to depart yacht owner who gifted their unwanted bike to her, which we have  gratefully and happily adopted(it being an unloved Dutch bicycle which when new cost a pretty penny).  A little TLC,  a new brake cable and new handlebars, all for the princely outlay of Euros 40 and we now have a very functional third bicycle.  It is not elegant, it doesn’t fold up and it will be pain at times to store on deck, but beggars can’t be choosers.  For what it has cost we can leave it behind somewhere along the line and without tears.

 So the adventure begins … and with plenty more stories to follow in due course.