Cruising 2019 Starts - Sicily – Zakynthos – Crete
Although three weeks later than planned it was with light hearts on the 22nd May that we set off for Manchester Airport for our flight to Catania, Sicily and our return to Pamarzi.
I had been out on two previous occasions doing maintenance and prepping her for the cruising season, never sure that we would get away as Lynn’s breathing problems after her operation had been severe and took a long time to improve but improve they at last did and she was given the okay by her surgeon.
We collected our ‘Fat Fiat’ (a Fiat 500X) at Catania airport and had a pleasant drive through still green and poppy clad countryside to the oh so familiar Marina di Ragusa. The weather here bright but unusually cold and windy, unlike the welcome from those of our yachting friends still in port, great to see them again and it more than made up for the inclement weather.
Five days of pretty intensive work saw the remaining jobs completed and except for the cockpit fridge which needed topping up with gas (the boat yard could not find a fridge engineer!) we were ready to go. The weather however had other plans and it was not until Wednesday 29th May that we could slip our lines for the 320nm passage to the Island of Zakynthos. But the delay did enable us to continue to enjoy the marina social scene with our pals. Rob flew in from Belgium on Sunday bringing with him the usual box of delicious Belgian chocolates; Liliane will be joining us in Zakynthos.
The marina entrance here has silted up over winter and it was with great caution and accompanied by marineros in two ribs with depth sounders that we negotiated the narrow channel with just a few centimetres under our keel. Dave and Ludo in their catamaran Bob Cat and Sasha and Lottie in their classic 1952 ketch Yves Christian had left half an hour or so before us. Max and Judy of Silver Lining, a sister yacht to Pamarzi, came out in their tender to wave us off and take photographs of our departure.
It felt good to be free of the land and even though there was little wind we made reasonably good progress passing Bob Cat with a cheery wave and later Yves Christian. But just as we were passing their engine coughed and stopped and with little wind and a lee shore they might have been in trouble. So we stood on circling them for twenty minutes or so whilst Sasha sought to resolve the problem which thankfully he did tracing it to a fuel line blockage. Their engine spluttered back to life and with no tow required we resumed our course.
As we passed Porto Palo at the south eastern corner of Sicily the wind picked up and for the rest of the day and on through the night we sailed on slight seas, beam reaching, making a comfortable 8/9 knots. I handed over the watch to Rob at 6am next morning and soon after I heard the motor come on and we motor sailed onwards ghosting along with full main and genoa and the engine ticking over at 1100 revs. The wind stayed a light north westerly (only 9 knots or so) but we were making 7 knots and on Friday morning (31st May) we rounded the southern end of Zakynthos and headed up to Zakynthos town on the east coast where I had booked a berth for three days, arriving at 13.30 exactly as I had predicted.
We moored stern to as usual here and were met by Denis the harbour master and his assistant Alec who remembered us from last year. For a consideration Denis said he would sort out our Depka, cruising tax and find us a fridge engineer to top up the gas in our cockpit fridge. An engineer did turn up at 08.00 next morning peered and prodded at our cockpit fridge compressor and announced with a certain solemnity that it needed more gas, well whoop di bloody do! He did not have any with him but said he would return in two hours. But that was last we saw of him, oh well let’s hope they have fridge engineers in Crete. We dined that evening at our favourite little back street taverna, Zochios after a visit to a pharmacy as Rob is not feeling so good.
Rob’s wife Liliane flew in on Sunday, lovely to see her again but less lovely was the arrival of a 48 foot charter boat on our starboard side with eight Russian chaps and a couple of women on board. One of the fellows managing to fall in the water as they moored and despite the sun not yet having reached its zenith as soon as they had finished mooring bottles of booze appeared to be quaffed by both the wet and dry crew. Later that day we witnessed the delivery of between thirty and forty cases of wines, beers and spirits. We returned to Pamarzi from dining ashore to find them carousing to loud Russian rock music and swigging copious quantities of their booze. Our berth for a while vibrated to the base notes but thankfully at 10.30pm they either pulled the plug or collapsed in a drunken stupor, in any event the music stopped.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed next morning I was taking my early morning cup of tea in the cockpit and glancing to starboard noted that our Russian neighbours, at least some of them were breakfasting on rose wine!
Rob’s condition had worsened over-night so he and LIliane sought medical help and found the local infirmary where after a very thorough check over they diagnosed bronchitis and loaded him with antibiotics and drugs to clear his tubes.
So a day later than planned we slipped quietly out of Zante (Zakynthos) harbour and set a course for Methoni. Calm conditions prevailed although the North West wind remained cold and we motor sailed most of the 70nm to Methoni at the tip of the first finger of the Peloponnesian peninsular. Rob spent most of the day in his berth feeling rather unwell. We got the hook down in a nice spot behind the ruins of the Venetian fort with the Moorish tower at the end of its spit on our port side.
We were away before nine next morning our destination Porto Kaiyo on the second finger of the peninsular. Easy conditions all the way but some excitement when the fishing reel screamed as line tore out and after a bit of a fight we landed a beautiful young tuna fish of about five kilos. Porto Kaiyo once famous for its piratical inhabitants and later its copious quail harvests remains a unique spot and despite being long ago denuded of its rich afforestation the ancient castellated houses decorating its steep slopes remain and are being restored. Porto Kaiyo lies some three miles northwards on the eastern side of the second Peloponnesian finger and as we rounded the cape the wind gusted up to nigh on 30 knots and it needed some slick work to get the sails reefed down. It was blowing a hooley in the bay as we looked for a spot to anchor and it took some time to find a spot and get fifty metres of chain laid out but we seemed to be holding well although Pamarzi was blown around the compass with the gusting katabatic winds. A couple of hours later as we sat in the warmth of the saloon we heard a fog horn blasting and rushing on deck I found that our anchor was dragging and we were dangerously close to the rocks. Engine on and some smart work on the foredeck got the hook up covered in thick weed and plastic bags! We re-anchored in the north east corner of the bay but I remained concerned about the holding in the still strong gusting winds so I stayed on anchor watch till the winds eased down around 2am and I felt able to doze in the saloon.
Thursday 6th June dawned fine and quiet although unseasonably cool and we breakfasted below before setting off for the island of Kythera south of the third finger of the Peloponnesian peninsular and the tiny hamlet of Kapsali on its southernmost tip. Plain sailing all the way with the wind picking up as we entered the choppy little bay, taking care to avoid the sunken wreck in the middle of the inner bay we motored in. The small dock too shallow for us but we found good holding on the western side dropping the hook in eight metres with a sandy bottom and fifty metres of chain out we felt secure. We dined aboard on our tuna cut into one and a half inch thick steaks, the meat on the belly side white with fat. Seared for just three minutes each side it was probably the best tuna any of us had tasted. Nice to know that there are plenty more steaks in the freezer.
A check on the weather next morning showed conditions remaining fair and with that reassurance Lynn and I got Pamarzi underway around 8am for the 65nm passage to the north western end of Crete and the port of Chania. After a gentle passage with the temperature rising all the time we arrived at the very pretty harbour, once the capital of Crete and moored stern to. No harbour staff to take our lines, so we had to hail startled passer’s by to loop our mooring lines around the old bollards, not one would think a difficult task but the recruits took some time to figure out what we wanted. Once done and the ship secured we relaxed and looked forward to exploring the town.