Argostoli aka Argostolion

Tue 28 Jun 2016 07:52

Like so many places in Greece this little town has more than one name, even the island itself can be called Cephalonia or Kefallinia or Κεφαλονιά, apparently there is no single agreed way of translating from Greek to Latin and thence to English. Argostoli the capital of Cephalonia is a friendly little place but sadly of very little architectural interest as it was almost completely destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1953 losing all of its beautiful Venetian styled villas and public buildings.

My first task was of course to immigration and port authorities to check in and purchase the obligatory DEPKA (a booklet that has to be stamped at each port of call). I visited three offices with my ships papers, insurance documents, my crew lists and passports dolling out small amounts of cash at each and receiving receipts only to be told at office number three that they had run out of DEPKA’s. They did give me a receipt for one to show at our next port of call and tell me I will be given one then. We shall see! The process took a couple of hours and on my return the crew were flopped about all over the boat recovering in the sunshine from the ardours of the last forty four hours.

That evening we ate at the Captain’s Table an airy pleasant restaurant on the waterfront where our returning appetites were sated on spicy Greek sausages, vine leaves, local lamb cooked in a rich tomato sauce and accompanied of course by skordalia and a bottle of the local red that was surprisingly very good. Skordalia which we were introduced to many years ago by our good friend Alec Finney whose mother hailed from Greece, is a delicious (as long as you like garlic) smooth, rich white sauce of potato or bread, garlic (lots), olive oil, wine vinegar and salt.

Rob and Liliane were to start their journey home on Friday so the girls decided that Thursday was shopping day. Rob decided Thursday was sleeping day. I decided Thursday was electronic communication day. So leaving Rob dozing in the cockpit we three launched the tender and headed for shore. First things first, breakfast at the Captains Table and very good it was to, then Lynn and Liliane set off to find jewellers and shoe shops and anywhere else where they could support the local economy. Whilst, after enquiry I followed the directions given to find an internet provider, 3G seeming to be the best way to connect around these islands. A fifteen minute walk saw me to the recommended store where I joined a queue, ten minutes later I was told by the assistant that the person I needed to see was “Over there”. I joined another queue and waited again. On reaching the correct personage a discussion ensued whereby he agreed that what I needed was a mobile router and appropriate sim card. Great I responded, yes he said but we don’t have any in at the moment. He did suggest another shop at the other end of the town however so off I went for another walk. This store was a Vodaphone reseller and amazingly it was packed with locals, I joined a queue. Thankfully the interior was air conditioned and about fifteen minutes later I was shown to a desk where I met the very friendly manager who after another fifteen minutes of discussion suggested that what I needed was a mobile router and appropriate sim card! We also discussed telephones and I asked for two local sim cards for our unlocked phones. We eventually agreed a price, this took time because every now and then his phone would ring and he had a conversation, then one of his staff would come over for advice which he would give extensively, then one of his friends would appear in the store and they shouted greetings and asked after family members. Then he asked for my passport, which was aboard Pamarzi, damn! Back through the now bustling town, for a cruise ship had come in and the disembarked passengers were wandering in their socks and sandals, aimlessly through the sunlit streets wondering what they were doing here as the cheerful local vendors of tat touted their wares. But I was on a mission, to the waterfront, into the tender, zoom across the bay, moor at the stern of Pamarzi. No greeting for Rob slept. Climb to the cockpit and still my somnolent friend did not stir, down the companionway, aft cabin, unlock safe, remove passport, back up companionway, through the cockpit, across the aft deck, down into the tender leaving Rob (aka sleeping beauty) snoring softly in rhythm with the water gently lapping on the stern. My garrulous electronics vendor was talking to another customer when I arrived but hailed me as an old friend as I entered the store much to the annoyance of his current client. It took another hour but I learnt a lot about his career, hobbies, family and friends before I walked out of the store the proud possessor of four sim cards and a mobile router with which we could access the world.

Now in need of a drink I headed down to the harbour front and settled myself into the Compass bar (was I seeking direction?) with an iced glass of amber liquid served by a pretty, smiling waitress who for the next couple of hours plied me with more glasses of cool fluid and filled baguettes whilst I read and wrote and watched the world go by. Two hours later a phone call from Lynn told me that they were still shopping and would be another two hours! I looked across the softly ruffled, azure blue water to Pamarzi swinging gently at anchor and no doubt Rob still gently snoring in unison with the waves, smiled at the waitress and ordered another beer.

Laden with smart looking carrier bags the ladies appeared, my sunlit reverie broken by their excited talk of unique purchases, they had obviously enjoyed themselves and it was a happy trio that loaded themselves and their purchases into the tender. Now we had noticed earlier a very smart, blue hulled Oyster 46 moored to the quay, there being no one on deck we refrained from a call in case like Rob they were sleeping but as I started the outboard I heard a call of “Are you Roger Allen-Muncey?” and looking up saw a good natured looking fellow hurrying towards us. After introductions it turned out that Tony the owner of Scarcity was a friend of Marco in Palma, (who we first met nine or ten years ago when we chartered Zebhady) who had been providing him with maintenance and guardianage services. Apparently when Tony saw Pamarzi he sent a picture to Marco who immediately recognised her as our yacht and urged Tony to make contact.

On Tony’s suggestion we all dined together that night at the Portside taverna and had a very jolly time with him and his skipper Stefano swapping sailing stories and debating the outcome of the Brexit vote.  We very much hope to meet up with him again and as we will both be in the Ionian for a few weeks I’m glad to say that that is quite likely. Full bellied, mildly intoxicated and still smiling about Tony’s infectious laugh we climbed after midnight into our beds. Some people laugh with their mouths, some with their eyes some even with their whole face but when Tony laughs it is his whole body that expresses his delight.

In the early hours we were woken by a searchlight sweeping the boat and with concern I rose and went topsides to find that another yacht had moored nearby (too close in my opinion!) and their Danish skipper was yelling across the water that we were dragging our anchor. Anchor chain and instruments checked I yelled back against  a stiff breeze that we were not but we did have forty meters of chain out which was in the stronger breeze stretching its catenary to a fuller extent and it would be better if they reanchored further away. This seemed to satisfy them although they did not reanchor. I sat bleary eyed in the cockpit for half an hour or so to be sure all was well before climbing back into my berth irritated by the unnecessary disturbance. An hour or so later we were woken again with searchlight and whistles. I climbed topside once more, looked across the water to the Danish tw&&’s boat where he stood shirtless on the foredeck yelling instructions telling me how they anchor in Denmark and what I should do. After just a moment’s hesitation as I took in the sight I ignored the northern European tw@@ and went back to my berth closing the hatches and blinds.  Breakfasting in the cockpit next morning our digestion was disturbed by the vociferous, Viking tw@@. Back on his foredeck, still shirtless he expressed some sort of an apology for the previous night, sarcastically congratulated us on our exit from the clutches of the EU and launched into yet another tirade of how we should be anchored and what they do in Denmark. Bear in mind that we were anchored before him and that marine etiquette demands that those who follow give safe swinging room, take note of and imitate (where safe to do so) those who have anchored before them. At first we responded to him but he was too busy listening to his own arrogant rantings, so I bit into another slice of toast and once again ignored the supercilious Danish tw@@.

Rob and Liliane gear all packed by midday, we ferried them to their taxi and said our fond farewells. Back on board the boat seemed very quiet as Lynn attended to linen washing and domestic chores whilst I ran generator and water maker to top up our utilities. We were delighted to have a sighting of at least one loggerhead turtle as he/she (how do you tell the difference?) swam around the boat. The weather forecast not looking good for Saturday so we will certainly not leave before Sunday if the predictions prove to be correct.

Not looking good turned out to be somewhat of an understatement as just after noon next day a huge stationary storm system opened directly over the harbour and we had over ten hours of monsoon like rain accompanied by earth shuddering thunder and spectacular lightning. The sewerage system of the little town completely overwhelmed created a foul smelling brown slick over the water engulfing the smaller boats moored on or near the waterfront. Thankfully we were anchored far enough out to escape being surrounded by Greek effluent. I don’t know how much rain fell but it was at least 20/25mm, which when compared with the June average here of 1.3mm is pretty spectacular. We worked on boat jobs, down loading and installing updated navigational software and ate aboard whilst nature swirled and crashed and flashed and poured around us. There was an upside to this cataclysmic torrent of nature, Pamarzi thickly encrusted with salt after the crossing was flushed completely clean by the thousands of gallons of rainwater that for once did not bring with it any of the Sahara.

Sunday’s forecast was for the northerly winds that had picked up overnight to start easing around 11.00. As we would be beating into them as we voyaged in that direction we waited.  At 15.00 hours we were still waiting and as we did not want to arrive in an unknown port in the dark we decided to prepare the boat and hopefully leave Argostoli on Monday morning.

One of the last jobs was to lift the tender on the powered davits and secure her. As we lifted there came a rending sound from the portside davit arm as the cable parted! Neither of us or the boat was damaged but we now had the problem of raising one end of the two hundred and fifty kilo tender with no cable. An interesting exercise with just two of us with thirty knots of wind and the light going but we put together a jury rig through a fairlead on the davit arm and back to a secondary winch and carefully wound the boat into position and snugged her to with the belly bands, safety strops and cross bracing before the light went completely.

Phew!! It was two tired but satisfied sailors that dined on board that night, expectant of an early departure for Ay Eufimia in the morning.