The last of the summer

Dick and Irene Craig
Sat 11 Oct 2008 13:54

We arrived at Vathi, Ithaca on Tuesday, coming here deliberately to seek shelter from the storms forecast for the weekend. You would have thought therefore that when the winds came up in the middle of the night on Saturday, we would have been prepared. Not so. The unexpected force of the water pushed us up against the concrete quayside and it took an hour, at 1.30am, to re-adjust lines and make the boat safe. It was our own fault, not having paid sufficient attention to the direction from which the wind and sea would be coming. Not a pleasant night.

I had attacked the rust spots covering most of the boat, which had been caused by the crew doing maintenance work on the tripper boat, while we were in Zakinthos town. Having treated the rust spots on the fibreglass, the boat needed to be washed off and I had hoped that the heavy rain would do the job for me. Needless to say, this was not the case and as soon as the sea stops going up and down as much as it is, I will get out the power washer and finish the job.

Sunday was not pleasant. The sea still continued to go up and down with the wind continuing to gust force 8. These were conditions that we had expected so, having made the boat safe during the night, we just sat it out.

Monday was such a different day. The wind was no more than 17 knots and the sea state vastly improved. The sun shone from a blue sky with a smattering of fair weather cumulus clouds.

We stocked up with fresh fruit and vegetables then left Vathi, making passage to Kioni, a distance of just over 6 miles.

We arrived just in time. Within the hour, the quayside was full, with insufficient room to moor all of the sailing boats in the Sunsail flotilla. The boats which were already tied up to the quay squeezed together a little more. Two boats pushed their bows between other boats, which were stern to the quay. Five boats were rafted together but that still left one boat which had to anchor in the bay.

Next morning, there was insufficient charge in the generator battery for it to start the generator. We were able to jump start it but for some reason, the battery is not being charged and the manual only suggests that the fan belt may be loose. We decide that we can probably cope with the situation until the boat comes out of the water in November and the problem investigated by an Onan expert.

A few boats in the flotilla left before 10am but most were still tied up when we departed just before noon. As one boat lifted its anchor, it fouled the anchor of another. This is very much par for the course in Greece. The captain of the boat, with the fouled anchor, swam out to the boat which had caused the problem. The leader of the flotilla took his dinghy across. Soon, all was sorted and we were then able to leave the quayside, lift our anchor and make our way to the next bay where we moored alongside in the harbour at Frikes where we encountered another flotilla of boats, one of which, occupied by four people from the Netherlands, rafted up on our port side.

We got up next morning to face another warm and sunny day with a cloudless blue sky. The temperature is ideal, reminiscent of the summers that one remembers from childhood. The fierce heat of the summer months is no longer with us. One of the party from the boat rafted next to us, remarked on the wonderful weather which she thought was as good as they could expect during the summer in the Netherlands.

The forecast until the weekend is slight winds and warm sunny days. We change our plans and decide to visit the small island of Atakos, just over 5 miles hence, where we can anchor in a small bay and practice our diving skills. Imagine our surprise, when we reach One House Bay at lunchtime, to find that 16 other boats are already at anchor here. This is obviously not going to be suitable for our purposes and I am eager to move on and find somewhere less populated.

It is incredible that during the main summer months we managed to stay in reasonably isolated areas and didn’t encounter many tourists. Now, in October, when one would least expect it, we find ourselves in the midst of more activity than since we left the EMYR at the end of June. Have to say it is good for the local economy that there appears to be such an extended tourist period.

We drop the anchor, hoist the anchor ball, swim out to check the anchor then have lunch. By mid afternoon, all but 2 boats from the armada remain. I should have realized that most of the boats wouldn’t stay here overnight. There is no taverna ashore.

One of the chaps from a boat anchored in the bay, rowed his dinghy ashore, leaving it on the edge of the beach, before wandering through the trees towards the house and small church, behind the beyond. The water laps against the dinghy and soon it is in the water, floating away from the beach. Using the hand-held fog horn which we keep close by, in the event of emergencies, Dick tries to alert the man who is hidden from our sight. Eventually, the lone explorer returned from the heavily wooded shore and saw that his dinghy was now well away from the beach. He discarded his belt and thinks about removing his cropped jeans. He rushes into the water and swims, still clad in his jeans, to rescue the dinghy.

Dick spent the afternoon emptying the stale air from the diving tanks and refilling them with compressed air. We barbecue steak for supper. It is good to be back at anchor. After the poor weather we have experienced recently, we thought that it unlikely that we would be able to anchor again this year, let alone get in some diving.

A fishing boat joins us and the 2 other boats in the small bay. The fishermen spend some time working on board and then leave. As darkness approaches I switch on the anchor light. Neither of the 2 mono-hulls, both charter boats, raise an anchor ball or switch on a mooring light. Sometime in the middle of the night, the fishing boat returns and the fishermen, in their illuminated boat, work busily. They have gone by the morning.

When Tucanon was cabled for electricity, both the water maker and the dive compressor were cabled through the invertors. The invertors permit us to use on board, ordinary household electrical equipment such as toasters and kettles. Dick has already re-routed the water maker directly to the generator and will do the same with the dive compressor once we reach Prevasa, where the boat will spend the winter. It makes for more proficient use of the facilities.

Thursday morning, before 10am, one of the boats which had stayed here overnight, departed at the same time as another charter boat arrived. By 11.30 the bay was beginning to be invaded but less so than the day that we arrived here and all were gone by mid- afternoon, except two other boats which also stayed overnight.

We managed to get in 2 short dives, one just before lunch and the other mid afternoon. The water was shallow and very clear with quite a lot of different types of fish, including a huge shoal, of what we have been told are baby tuna. We admired fish with very attractive shapes and beautiful colours, such as orange or blue. Some were even striped.

Friday morning, a mono-hull, which had also anchored overnight in the bay, departed before 8.30. A small fishing boat arrived and remained just outside the bay for a while, moving back and forth for several hours. The sun was shining, the sea was smooth and the wind was almost non existent. We did just one dive during the morning, but it was much more satisfactory that the 2 we had done yesterday. There were fewer boats in the bay and only 2 of us stayed there overnight.

As on each of the previous nights that we had stayed in the bay, by 9pm, the swell became bigger and rocked us from side to side for 2 or 3 hours. It was not a pleasant sensation, but we were securely anchored and there was no wind.

After breakfast on Saturday, we raised the anchor and made our way back to Cephalonia, to visit the village of Fiskardho with its picturesque 19th-century houses. This is the only place on Cephalonia that escaped damage in the 1953 earthquake which devastated a large part of the Ionian.

Even though we are now well into October and that Saturday tends to be change-over day for charter boats, the port was nearly full. An English chap who helped with our lines, commented that he thought us very lucky to have managed to find a space for a boat our width.


Below:- Boat with fouled anchor at Kioni, Dick just completed his 2nd dive of the day, Drying out the scuba gear