Marina di Ragusa to Argostoli
After a winter of numerous challenges which included problems with Lynn’s elderly mother and most significantly Lynn undergoing hip replacement surgery we finally cast off our lines on Tuesday afternoon 20th June at 14.00 for what turned out to be a very rolly 320nm crossing of the Ionian Sea to Argostoli in Cephalonia.
We had flown out to Marina di Ragusa at the beginning of May and spent a month completing boat jobs (our winter list of jobs and new/upgrade purchases was just over three hundred items long!) and allowing Lynn to recuperate in the sun. It was then back to Meadscroft for a week followed by a simple return flight (we thought) from Stansted to Comiso, which is just 25 minutes from Porto Turistico, Marina di Ragusa. Upgraded by Hertz to a larger vehicle we comfortably set out at 09.30 for an easy drive to Stansted for our 16.45 flight. A500, A50 only to find the M1 closed for police investigation of an incident and traffic on the surrounding roads gridlocked in every direction. Blood pressure rising, sticky palms on the wheel, and in monsoon like rain we harried our way westward, the opposite direction to Stansted, across to the M6 and finally onto the A14 now doubting that we would make our flight. Car dropped at Hertz with the command “no time to fuel it, you will have to see to it”, which they did at exorbitant cost, we charged, well Lynn sort of canter limped on her best leg, to the Ryanair bag drop where the queue was about an hour long. After discussion they put us through a fast lane. Another canter to security where it seemed the masses of the world had congregated in an effort to delay our departure. Hot, sweaty, harassed and now running late for our flight I implored the security staff to put us through a fast channel. They disinterestedly refused saying it would only take another 15 minutes. It took nearly an hour! Once through security we ran past interminable rows of perfume and sunglass sellers, barged our way through the legs of recumbent passengers in the departure lounge, although strangely they seemed to be the same people who were there last month. Are these people condemned to a life of waiting, occasionally paying out vast sums for medium lattes and spending their celibate lives sleeping on the plastic seating? At the sign indicating Gate 32 we were brought to (another) enforced halt at the glass gates of the inter gate railway. Hopping from one foot to the other, Lynn hopped on just the one leg, the train finally arrived and parked tantalizingly behind the glass doors for what seemed like an eternity before they, with what seemed like reluctance, hissed themselves apart and allowed us and several hundred other panicky mortals to enter the unluxurious confines. Remaining stationary for several more minutes just to annoy us further the recalcitrant vehicle finally moved off, the automated voice recording issuing its robotic warnings about holding tight and minding the gap, we were past caring with only minutes remaining we positioned ourselves in front of the doors only to find when it did stop at our gate it was the doors on the other side that opened. We were disgorged and with others ran, limped and hopped up two sets of escalators, set a new record for the two hundred meters by a re hipped senior citizen and arrived at the gate. The gate, the centre of our thoughts for the last seven hours of Mad Max driving through torrential rain, interminable queues, brusque and disinterested airport staff, officialdom more interested in process than customer service. But we were here at the Gate, it had taken on an almost a mystical meaning. From The Gate we were to be whisked in a silver bird to far flung exotic places where tomato ketchup and baked beans were unknown and strange tongues were spoken by foreign people. Only we weren’t because a large, lady from Essex in a uniform two sizes too small told us and six others that our baggage had been unloaded and all but instructed us, with a satisfied smirk to “bugger off”. There sat the plane on the tarmac whilst the large, lady from Essex stood behind the locked gates calling for security to escort us back to the arrivals hall to collect our luggage.
Luggage collected we dejectedly, fumed our way back to the departure hall to join another queue for an hour in front of the laughingly signed Customer Services desk whose ever so helpful staff extracted £676 from us for flights the next day to Comiso via Pisa. They did not seem to be leaning over backwards to help! In a Back to the Future experience we overnighted in a tawdry, well worn, Holiday Inn Express, staffed by pleasant enough folk in faded uniforms, were these some of the fugitives from the departure lounge who not having won the car decided to take a job as near to their dealer of improbably expensive lattes as they could?
06.45 next morning we were whisked through security and winged to Pisa, then after a four hour wait back up to 35,000 ft. to finally arrive at Comiso. A friendly taxi driver chatted away the twenty five minutes to Porto Turistico and at last on Tuesday evening as the sun set we stepped wearily aboard Pamarzi.
With Rob and Liliane due to arrive on Thursday it was an early start next morning to set about final cleaning and preparation of the boat. Having washed and hosed away a week’s worth of Saharan sand and leathered off Pamarzi to her glistening, pristineness I was disappointed to notice from inside that a few spots had been missed on the forward windows, on inspection this proved not to be water but hydraulic fluid leaking from a fitting in the boom. Inevitably there were further delays whilst I identified the source in discussion with Oyster back in Wroxham, negotiated with the ship yard, booked the boat in to the boat yard berth at the earliest date which was Monday 19th June. We are learning to relax with the slower pace with which things happen in the Southern Mediterranean and whilst we waited we had a great time in the evenings socialising with our many wonderful new friends and fellow yachtsmen and women who are just great people to be around.
The broken part of the hydraulic system was a tiny quarter inch rubber O ring that had developed an even smaller horizontal split. I comforted myself with the fact that it was much better to have found it before we left for the crossing to the Ionian rather than mid passage. The guys at the yard fixed the fault in a couple of hours and then refused any payment for the work. It is hardly surprising that we like this place and the people, especially the people. A walk along the water front and through the village always brings calls of buongiorno or buonasara according to the time of day, shop keepers and restauranteurs who we have got to know come out for a chat after the obligatory pecks on the cheeks. We have been here for just a few weeks of the year over two winters but the warmth and friendliness far exceeds the greetings we get after thirty years of living in Alderley Edge.
The tender was fuelled, hoisted and secured on the davits and a little after 14.00 we were waving farewell to friends lining the pontoon. The sun shone but the seas around the marina entrance were very lumpy bringing in tons of sand to resilt the entrance after last year’s dredging. This first sail of the year was not a comfortable one, the breeze was good and under reefed main and staysail we made seven to nine knots but the confused seas got to all our stomachs to some extent and it was forty four hours of torture for Lynn and Liliane who finally emerged from the saloon like Orpheus arising from the underworld when the seas calmed just five miles outside of Argostoli.
Pretty shallow here in the bay, too shallow for us to risk the town quay but by 10.00 on Wednesday morning we had the hook down and were starting to look forward to exploring the little town. Another year exploring the Mediterranean has started.