Back in August 2012 Maggie travelled
to Falmouth to see ALKIRA for the first time – Charlie was in Shanghai. Maggie liked what she saw and on the second
day of viewing, put in an offer which was accepted. Brave lady!
Following a satisfactory survey, we arranged
for the boat to be laid up at Mylor to await Charlie’s return from Shanghai. When Charlie first saw ALKIRA
some months later she was ashore and the mast was down and being re-rigged with
new standing and running rigging. Phew, Maggie got it right! Smiles all round.
After a further 5 months in
Shanghai, work for Charlie finally came to an end. In the same way that he had left Webster’s several year previously, he
closed and locked the office door, pushed the keys through the letterbox and
walked away! No song and dance as his
colleagues were all away on assignments.
Maggie had retired in the spring of 2010 prior to joining Charlie in China so was comfortably into retirement mode, but for Charlie It felt rather weird to be ‘unemployed' for the very first time since 1965, but also very exciting to be on
the cusp of a new adventure, having lived the previous two years with all fingers
crossed that we would both be fit enough to begin living our dream and to start sailing again. It was some 5 years+ since we’d last chartered a
boat to sail the Turkish coast and some 10 years or so had passed since we’d
sold FREYA, our much loved Halberg Rassy 29, which we sailed around the south
coast of England and occasionally to the Chanel Islands and France.
ALKIRA was launched at Mylor
at the end of April 2013 and Charlie was as excited as a small boy, with a very
big ‘toy!’ The boat had been looked
after by Colin Pugh while we were away, during which time he had sorted the anti-fouling and
polishing in our absence. Colin manoeuvred
the boat from the crane berth to an adjacent pontoon – Charlie was too
nervous and Maggie stood well back! The riggers from the yard
showed Charlie how and indeed helped to get the sails up – the genoa was huge and
it took two of them to lift the sail on board! Our first trip was under
power up the River Fal and back. All
went well and we managed the manoeuvres without denting ALKIRA or indeed anyone
else in the marina.
Our youngest son James came
down to Falmouth and our adventure began on 1 June, with a 70-mile crossing to
St Peter Port in Guernsey. After a few days wth us, James left us and Ann joined us for a few weeks. Our travels and adventures that
year took us to Guernsey, Herme and Sark, to Brittany and around Ushant to Atlantic
France and Oleron. Then south again across
the Bay of Biscay to Basque Spain, (wonderful) and westward to La Corruña. Further south again to Portugal and then back again
to Spain, onto Gibraltar and then around the Iberian peninsular and all the way up
to Barcelona - all this in our first year. We wintered the boat in St Carlos de la
Rapita, and excellent boatyard. A mini
adventure then as we decided that rather than fly home, we would take the overnight sleeper train to Paris and then the Eurostar
home – altogether a good experience.
For our second year, we travelled
by train again, lugging 4 extremely heavy bags all the way back to Barcelona. Once commissioned we back tracked to Almerimar
in Southern Spain to have some modifications done on Alkira, including the
addition of a targa frame for solar panels, aerials etc and moving a lot of other
stuff to more suitable locations. We then
headed North again along the coast, revisiting several ports along the way plus some new ones, until we reached Denia and from there we headed across to Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca. Next came Sardinia, where our eldest son Matt
joined us for a holiday, very briefly visiting Corsica and then back to Sardinia where sadly Matt had to go home but was followed out on the same day by Ann who arrived to take his place. From here, we then sailed across to Italy and Rome, staying in the historical port of Fumicino.
After Rome, we headed south down
the west coast, via the Pontine Islands (we'd never even heard of them before either), going south as far as Agropoli in Southern Italy before crossing to the
Aeolian Islands. The memorable, indeed unforgettable star of the show that year
was Stromboli – a continuously erupting volcano – we sailed around and past this sight at night
to watch the spectacular eruptions and lava flow, then continued with our overnight passage to Vulcano island
for a brief stay and so that Ann and Charlie could dunk themselves into the sulphurous
mud! Not a pretty sight I can assure you. Finally, being much rejuvenated by
that experience, we crossed to Sicily, waving goodbye to Ann when we reached Catania. We left the
boat at the end of our second year in Ragusa, southern Sicily.
Charlie returned to the boat in January 2015 as ALKIRA had been left in the water and he felt the need to be on hand. Maggie was in the UK over the whole winter,
knocking our new home to bits, with the assistance of her brother in law other tradesmen and builders. A sad and even more difficult winter too for Maggie and family as both parents passed away within 4 months of each other.
However, once I joined Charlie in Sicily, our 2015 season started in a very pleasant and leisurely way. With the boat based at Ragusa, we took the
opportunity hire a car and tour this idyllic island at its best time, early spring – after the rain and before the heat and tourists arrived for
From Sicily we crossed over
to southern Italy for a couple of weeks to lift out and spruce up at Crotone boatyard before crossing
That first year in Greece we
stayed in the Ionian, with a brief foray into the Gulf of Corinth. We met up again with John and Di (we first met them in Sicily on their boat Pixys) and spent quite a lot of that summer cruising with them. That was back in the time when the £ was still strong and bought us 1.44€). After a very successful season, We lifted out and left ALKIRA in Messolonghi, mainland Greece.
For 2016 and we had our
sights set on the Aegean, all the way up to the very top of Greece. The general plan was to cross from the Ionian into the Aegean via the Corinth canal and then
head north and then all the way across the top of Greek coastline and into Istanbul, arriving before the strong southerly Meltemi winds set in. But that plan was well and truly thwarted by terrorist attaches and more besides.
With pleasant adventures far too numerous to mention,
we reached Thessaloniki via Aegina, Skyros and the Sporades Islands. In Thassos we had our only serious mishap of
the 5 years when Maggie broke her arm rather badly, so we were delayed
at Kavala for several weeks. Once that situation was stabilised, we were
joined by our son Matt and carefully,
we ventured back to sea again calling at Samothraki and Limnos where we waved
goodbye to Matt, before returning to the delightful Sporades islands for a
second visit. From there we headed south
calling at Skyros, Andros, Kythnos, Sifnos and Serifos, before finally leaving
the boat in Kilada, Peloponnese for the winter… An eventful year to be sure!
This last year (2017) saw us
sail in grand style from Kilada, south and east through the Cyclades
(pronounced ‘Kiklahdees’) to Sifnos,
Milos, Ios, Folegandros, Santorini and onward to Crete. At long last, David and Marilyn (Webley) were able to join us for a holiday and joined us for the whole of this
leg, leaving us when we arrived in Agios Nikolaos. ALKIRA put on a grand show for our visitors,
tearing along at up to 9.5 knots on more than one occasion - wonderful sailing! David was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat for most of the time, this from someone who had flown fighter jets most of his working life, we were thrilled that he was thrilled!
After an extended stay for us in Crete (1 month), we sailed eastward to
Rhodes, via Karpathos and then north and to Turkey.
After ‘threatening’ David and Hilary (Armstrong) that we’d try and visit them should we ever
reach Turkey, we finally made it to the Bodrum peninsula and spent a few very
nice days being tourists with them, staying at their delightful holiday home. We then pottered for a while longer in this region, particularly enjoying the Seven islands anchorages. Our final destination in Turkey was Kusadasi and not to be missed, a visit to Ephesus. Although we were
‘ruined out’ by now, quite accepting the odd temple or theatre as 'the norm', the ruins at
Ephesus are very special and worth the visit.
After just 4 weeks Turkey, rather than the longer stay we'd originally anticipated, our preference was to return to Greece and Samos, and where several days later friends Karen and Phil finally succeeded in joining us. From Samos it was an even windier westward passage
across the Southern Aegean, via Mikonos (we didn’t stop as we didn’t like what
we saw ), so we continued to the close neighbouring island of Siros, followed by Kithnos, Kea and Idhra. Karen
and Phil left us when we arrived back on the mainland at Ermioni, on the mainland. For the very first time in 5 years, we came back to where we started this year’s
Charlie has estimated that since leaving
Falmouth, we have sailed some 8,500 miles, visited some 6 countries and so many
ports, anchorages and islands on the way that we have now, quite simply, lost count. We have had our moments over
the years - some (two) very minor groundings, some very dodgy anchorages, a few hair-raising
berthing manoeuvres in strong winds or when the Italians are on holiday (August - be warned - they sail like they drive), some difficult anchor recovery incidents
and more than one or two bad storms, (but only one whilst out at sea in 2013). To our relief, there’s been no damage to the boat in all that time, just
to Maggie, but loads of stubbed toes and boat freckles (that's cuts/bruises to you!)
There are simply too many highlights to list
here but importantly, very few disappointments or regrets. We
didn’t make it to Malta or Cyprus and we were obliged to miss Istanbul. We only
saw James once on board, which was a great shame, but his input on the first passage was
invaluable. Thankfully, Matt fared a
little better plus various friends who've also joined us along the way; we think they all enjoyed the
experience of sailing with us? Our apologies to those who didn’t make it. We have had some
brilliant sailing, in particular during the early part of this year; we've met hundreds of other "yachties" from many countries and made some very nice new friends, who we hope to continue our friendship with.
As we write this we are anchored
in a very pleasant enclosed bay off the village of Vivari, (discovered last year at the very
end of the season), where we have now completed our packing in readiness for a
courier to meet us when we arrive at the boatyard in Kilada on Monday 28th
August. Yes, we will be sad to say goodbye to a beautiful and indeed an exceptional yacht, but we can happily say "mission accomplished." What a time we've had, but now it's almost time to return home 5th September) and get on with our Plan B. Watch this space...
ALKIRA now passes into the hands of a nice Swedish man, who first saw her in Rhodes. He takes over on Friday 1st September, exactly 5 years since we bought her in Mylor.
Charlie & Maggie
S/Y ALKIRA 🇬🇷⛵️⚓️
Our blog can be found via Google, type in Alkira followed by our names.