Cephalonia – Zakynthos and a Cro ssing in Time
We had planned to spend a couple of days in Eufimia after saying goodbye to Bernie and Val and on Sunday we were chatting with our very pleasant starboard side neighbours Vincenzo and Julia when we heard a voice calling “Roger hi!” but looking around could see no one, but when the call was repeated we realised that it was coming from the water at our stern and looking down we saw Andy from SY Sula who we first met in Marina di Ragusa two years ago. He had swum across from Sula, anchored in the bay, when he spotted Pamarzi moored on the town quay. It was good to see him again and whilst swapping cruising stories he pointed out that Ananda, Keith and Stella’s Oyster 56, was also at anchor close by and an hour or so later they too came over for a chat.
Lynn cooked an excellent English breakfast for brunch and a relaxed afternoon reading in the sun followed. We dined ashore that evening with Keith and Stella at Staki enjoying slow cooked lamb whilst listening to local musicians and watching the Greek dancing. Our final day in Eufimia was spent with Keith and Stella. Keith and I discussing technical boat issues whist the ladies went ashore. I settled our mooring bill with George that evening leaving us clear to leave earlyish the next morning.
We slipped our lines just after 08.00 and motor sailed the thirty odd miles to Zante town on Zakynthos where I had booked a berth on the town quay for three nights. Dionysus (Denis) his son Andreas and assistant Alex were there to greet us and take our lines and we enjoyed some banter and bargaining finally settling on one hundred and fifty Euros for the three nights. No laid lines here, as in so many places in Greece so we were med moored with our anchor and some forty five metres of chain holding our bow. The town was still buzzing with tourists and the four big day tripper boats including one pimped up to resemble an old galleon were all doing a roaring trade. We were therefore very pleased to find hidden away in a quiet square a couple of blocks back from the waterfront great little taverna called Zachios where we dined on deep fried squid, chicken livers in garlic and a really excellent lamb kleftiko
We hired a car the following day to explore more of the island and were initially disappointed to find several rather tacky tourist towns along the east coast. Okay, there were no high rise developments, thank goodness but they obviously catered for a certain market. North and inland though a different story, well wooded slopes of pine, cyprus and laurel and in the centre of the island a beautiful lush valley running the entire length rich with vines, olive groves and orchards. The island has apparently thirty six varieties of grape and is renowned for its small very sweet dessert grapes. Some pretty reasonable wine is made to, both red and white and its historic trade in raisins, although much diminished from earlier times, still continues.
On the North West coast we visited the famous ‘Ship Wreck Bay’ (more correctly Navagia Bay). Viewed from the cliffs above the sea colours are spectacular ranging from pale aquamarine to bright azure blue. The large rusting tramp steamer lying on the white limestone pebble beach does indeed make a startling spectacle. We took a late lunch sitting under shady pines at a little roadside taverna. After a stop to collect some provisions we headed back to Pamarzi for supper and an evening aboard.
Our last day in Zakynthos dawned bright and sunny; I took the rental car back and returned to boat jobs whilst Lynn took to the shops. We heard today that there had been a major landslip in Shipwreck Bay, part of the cliff face having collapsed sending hundreds of tons of limestone crashing into the bay and creating a mini tsunami. Boats were damaged and several people hurt in the panic to get away.
Weather forecasts indicated that today Friday 14th September would be a good day to leave for our passage across the Ionian back to Sicily. A bit earlier than we had planned but it seemed wise to take advantage of the weather window and sail across to Syracuse and then perhaps onwards to Malta before returning to Marina di Ragusa. Ah the best laid plans of mice and men!
After a quick visit to town for fresh bread and croissants we prepared the boat for departure. Lynn took the helm, I released the stern lines and went forward to operate the windlass as the boat eased forward out of her berth but after just a few turns of the gypsy it stopped picking up chain although the motor was still humming the main shaft was not turning. Options reverse back into our berth or haul up forty five metres of chain and a forty kilo Rocna anchor (probably weighing sixty kilos or more with its inevitable haul of mud!) by hand. There was little breeze and I was feeling strong so took the second option, it turned out to be quite an early morning workout but with the help of a rope through the Rocna’s top hoop I finally secured it over the bow roller and got the securing pin in place. Once under way I stripped down the above deck parts of the windlass finding everything in order I came to the conclusion that the problem must lie within the gearbox, which is effectively a sealed unit certainly not something that could be resolved at sea. We decided to continue with the crossing but to set a course for our winter berth in Marina di Ragusa where we might resolve the problem in time for a trip across to Malta before the season’s end.
We sailed around the northern end of Zakynthos and down the western coast to view Shipwreck Bay from the seaward side and pretty spectacular is was to with the blues of the water reflected onto the white limestone of the cliffs. A coastguard boat patrolled the bay preventing any landings and a digger was on the beach clearing away the landslip rubble. The site of the collapse clearly visible on the cliff face as a large patch of even whiter limestone.
Course now set for the south eastern point of Sicily we set out in light northerly winds on our three hundred and sixty mile passage to Marina di Ragusa. The forecasts had promised us light to moderate northerly breezes and a slight sea but they did not materialise and it motoring most of the way on slight even smooth seas. On the afternoon of the second day the sea became so smooth as to resemble undulating mercury. We spotted numerous turtles basking on or near the surface and were visited by a pod of dolphins. The setting sun cast rays of red, pink and lilac across the darkening sky which was reflected in the mercurial water making our thirty mile meniscus a magical multihued place as we made our solitary way across this other worldly scene. The night sky brought more delights, a slight crescent of a moon hung in a velvet dark, cloudless sky and despite being such a modest sickle cast a beam of light across the smooth water. It had as companions Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all clearly visible and as Venus sank from her zenith she to cast a beam of light across the water. As the sky darkened still further so the stars in their multitudes appeared from horizon to horizon with our own Milky Way galaxy directly overhead.
Lynn is still not keen on doing solo night watches so I take the watches throughout the hours of darkness. These were quiet nights with little shipping which left me for much of the time free to enjoy the star lit skies, the transit of the planets and thanks to my Kindle and the writings of Patrick O’Brian, the exploits of Jack Aubrey and Steven Maturin as they sailed these very waters two hundred years ago. As we approached Sicily the volume of shipping both commercial and fishing increased substantially but once past Portopalo our solitary journey resumed as we sailed along the now so familiar southern coast of Sicily. We arrived at Porto Turistico, Marina di Ragusa around 12.30 to be greeted by the ever friendly Rosario our favourite marinero and after a stop at the fuel dock to top up our tanks with three hundred and sixty litres of diesel we headed to pontoon M where we were soon moored in our usual berth. Despite the warm welcome from other Oyster owners David and Liz of Lazy Tern and Jan and Terri of Cloud 9 we both felt slightly down as we were starting to believe that our cruising for this year was at an end.
Our melancholier though was short lived and after a good night’s sleep we started, bright eyed and bushy tailed on boat jobs, although we were frequently, pleasantly interrupted by other yacht folk coming over for a chat and inviting us for drinks or meals out.
Unfortunately the windlass gearbox problem is terminal and I learnt from the makers, Lewmar that they do not they do not sell any parts, the only option being to purchase a new gearbox but the delivery would be four to six weeks. A call to Oyster customer service department resulted in Lewmar stating that they would build one for me and ship it within the week!
The timing for our crossing proved to be fortuitous as we watched the gathering of a perfect storm or medicane as they have come to be known in this part of the world, with wind gusts of over sixty knots and wave heights of six point five metres. Its predicted path right over our course from Zakynthos, so although our season has been cut a little short we would rather be here than out there.
It has been another wonderful year cruising in this much admired boat, leading a dream of a life as we experience the freedom to roam anywhere we choose. Meeting exceptional people, visiting fascinating places and experiencing remarkable natural phenomena. I am glad to say that after six years of this life many is the time we pinch ourselves to make sure that it is all not just a dream. We fly home on the 19th and there is a lot to do before then so for another year, if you are reading this we wish you adieu.
Roger & Lynn
The Crew of Pamarzi