Winter 2008/2009

Dick and Irene Craig
Mon 13 Apr 2009 18:42

At the beginning of November, the boat was lifted out of the water and left on the hard, at Preveza, on mainland Greece, just south of Corfu. We have left instructions for various tasks to be undertaken during our absence, including the anti-fouling.

The agreed price, for leaving the boat in the marina until mid April was changed, the day before it was due to be lifted out of the water. Although we had a contract in place, there was nothing we could do but to pay the additional costs. There was nowhere else available, within reasonable traveling distance, for us to go. We had booked hotels and flights for just a couple of days hence so to delay departure was also going to incur additional costs.

From the marina, a taxi took us to Prevasa town, where we stayed overnight in a hotel, rising early to meet up again with the same taxi, which took us to the local bus station to catch the first bus to leave for Athens that day.

Although it was a national bus, it had been necessary for us to book our seats in advance. This ensured that we would be able to travel at the time which best suited us. The inside of the bus was amazing, decorated with a mass of personal trinkets and ornaments which belonged to the regular bus driver.

It took about 5 and a half hours to reach Athens, plus a stop at a café adjacent to the bridge across the Gulf of Patra. We had sailed under this same bridge the previous year. Having crossed the Bridge of Patra, we travelled along the south side of the Gulf of Corinth, crossing the Corinth canal to once again, reach the north bank. We had passed along this canal in our own boat, only the year before.

On arrival at the bus station in Athens, we took a taxi to a hotel where we planned to spend the night and which was within easy walking distance of several restaurants.

Another early morning and another taxi ride. The taxi took us to the airport, for our flight to the UK, where we spent a week or two, prior to returning home to Spain.

Each year since we moved to Spain in 2002, we seem to have been spending less and less time here. There are so many places to visit, new horizons to reach and the boundaries of our comfort zone to push just that little bit further.

The oranges on our trees were magnificent this year. There were so many that we were able to have freshly squeezed juice, made from our own oranges, for all but the last two weeks that we were in Spain. The lemons, always plentiful, were the size of grapefruit.

We were home for a month before it was time to be on the move again. We spent Christmas in Barbados with some friends and their family. Our friends had recently bought a house there, with stunning, uninterrupted views across woodland, to the Caribbean Sea. The icing on the cake was that my daughter Caroline was also able to join us from Trinidad, albeit only for one week. However, we packed in as much quality time together as was possible. It has to last us for quite some time until we meet again. She will be sailing in the Caribbean or Brazil this year, we believe!!.

We took sufficient clothing with us when we left Spain, to cater for 2 weeks in Barbados and then a subsequent 2 weeks in the UK. Rather than take the warm, winter clothes to the Caribbean, we decided that we would leave them with a friend, with whom we were to spend the night, prior to flying to Barbados.

“The best laid plans…,.” were thwarted. Having not previously checked out the feasibility of using our friend’s home as a wardrobe, we had to take all the clothes with us to Barbados. Our friend was visiting relatives over the holiday period and would not be returning home before we arrived back in Gatwick.

The night flight to Gatwick was fine. Collecting the hire car was a nightmare. We have been using the same car rental company for several years, using them each time we visit the UK, en-route to another destination as well as while we are there visiting family and friends.

We always pre-book a car and it is always ready when we arrive and the paperwork takes no more than about 10 minutes or so. Not this time. The attendant was so hostile. The paperwork had not been prepared, nor had the car which was very dirty and underneath a layer of ice. There was no de-icer, or even a scraper available and we were told to deal with the problem ourselves. DVLC was phoned, at our expense, to check that the driving-license that Dick proffered, was legal. We were given a great deal of misinformation and the whole procedure took well over an hour to perform, at 6.30 in the morning!

Unbelievably, the letter of complaint was not only ignored, so were the 3 follow-up complaints. Not to mention the many calls which were not returned. The final result was that the car rental company justified the behaviour of its employee and we will never use them again.

Perhaps the problem was that three car rental companies were amalgamating and there was no longer a reliable executive to handle problems. I would have thought that at this time of financial hardship, a loyal customer was the biggest asset a company could have. Perhaps I am just being naïve.

While in the UK we attended a 7 day intensive medical course. This was great fun and extremely interesting. Amongst other things we can now insert a catheter into a flexible model, inject an orange and suture a chicken leg.

We became quite adept at scraping the ice off the car windscreen in January. If the frozen sea on the south coast is anything to go by, it was possibly one of the coldest winters in many years. It seemed so to us, our blood having thinned from spending so much time in temperatures in the 40’s, while sailing in the Mediterranean during the summer months.

Back home in Spain mid-January, a friend, who has lived there a little longer than us, moved in with us temporarily, as he had become homeless once again.

We spent a long weekend in Seville where Dick and our live-in friend took part in a Bridge tournament and didn’t disgrace themselves, obtaining a good position, though not quite good enough to win a prize.

The Bridge sessions took place in the evenings or mid-afternoon so it gave us plenty of time for sightseeing and we visited many places of interest, utilizing the open-top tourist bus and the river boats.

Seville is a very attractive city with a lot of lovely architecture. Streets, lined with orange trees, were heavily laden with fruit. The sun shone, with temperatures every day in the low 20’s.

We attended a three day seminar in Guildford at the beginning of March. This was designed for people like us who were planning to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a small sailing boat. We found that the time spent here was very useful and interesting. It also gave us the opportunity to meet a number of other people who are crossing the Atlantic with the ARC this year, as well as some, who, like us, are planning to carry on through the Panama canal and circumnavigate. We met three potential crew members, one of whom will be sailing with us from Las Palmas to St. Lucia.

Just two weeks prior to departing from Spain on our proposed epic journey, some friends visited us and together we went to see the Fallas in Valencia. About 350 incredible structures were on display, all over Valencia, constructed by different groups of people. A number of the fallas were over 10 metres high. After dark, these amazing constructions are burnt. The next day it all starts again with new ideas, new designs. Brass bands paraded the streets and men, women and children, beautifully dressed in styles of a by-gone age, joined in.

Fire-crackers were constantly set off. Sometimes a whole street was blocked by a framework on which fireworks were attached which resulted in a huge roll of noise as each one exploded. At 2pm on the final day of the Fallas, there was a mighty firework display held in the town square. The pyrotechnic was applauded as he arrived to start the fun and we were rewarded by a lengthy display of very loud, cleverly choreographed explosions. Having experienced this display several years ago, we ensured that we were not too close because last time, the noise was deafening and actually caused pain to my ear-drums.

We renewed all of the requisite vaccinations although nowadays, several, such as typhoid and that of cholera, can be taken orally. It is most certainly a less invasive method, preferred by us.

Gales in February caused a lot of damage throughout Spain but we were fortunate in that we only lost a few tiles from the roof. The bourgainvillea hedges were stripped of all of their leaves and the pool was covered in debris, some floating, some at the bottom. The guys who look after the pools had their work load increased heavily, temporarily.

One of the ladies, who attends the same art class as myself, lives on a hill, just outside Benidorm. She told us that the hill was evacuated as fire broke out, subsequent to electricity pylons being blown over by the very strong wind. The planes, that would have normally been used to assist in dousing the flames, were unable to take-off, due to the strength of the wind.

I have to say that I was glad to be on-shore rather than at sea during that tempest.


Below:- Koby @ 2 and a half. Dick cooking Paella at home in Spain. Result of my 4th drawing lesson.