A Sailors Story.
The author of this artical had been thinking of writing it for some time and here it is. Perhaps only relavant in main to the boating fraternity it does offer some interesting places to visit and experiences for all. I hope David finds the time each year to continue the saga.

One line I have to quote as so many will agree:-

'The Ionion is the place to be, some call it the jewel of the Mediterranean.'

A Sailors Story -

It seems just a short while ago since a few of my neighbours helped me to push and drag a 17ft two berth clapped out planning hull cruiser into the back garden of my semi detached three bedroom house.

In my youthfull days my father had a 32ft wooden motor cruiser which was regularly used on inland waterways. During my school days we used to live aboard during the summer months and my younger brother and I were soon to become water rats, something similar to a bug or a bad habit you cannot shake off. Many years later my father changed career and ended his life working for the Inland Waterways and soon lost his interest in boating activity. His boat was to become a fair exchange for a car which would take him to his work and his interest in the waterways became a forgotten dream.

The seventeen foot heap of junk I had bought for a few hundred pounds soon became a part of my life, worse than a bad habit, I constructed a make shift shed around it and two years later the same neighbours helped me drag what appeared to many as a big yellow monster onto my front driveway. The mechanical work seemed endless, I had fitted a 2.3 litre six in line engine I had bought from a breakers yard, a couple of universal joints and with some welding and connecting to the Enfield outdrive, a few busted fingers and pure determination, I thought to myself, well at least I think I have something that looks nice and hopefully it will float too.

I enjoyed six years of absolute pleasure and almost trouble free boating, learned to perfect my waterskiing and one day it was suddenly gone, it just disappeared into the deep like a tired whale. I struggled to recover it from the depths and after I got it ashore something had broken inside me too. I no longer had the same interest. I gave it to a friend who had always admired it and it was soon to end its days as a shelter for farmyard animals. What a shame I thought to myself, it's an old saying 'what comes too easy is seldom appreciated'. Perhaps I should have sold it instead.

I was once again another one of those people that read all the boating magazines, drool over the non affordable boats, regularily visit the marinas and annual boat shows, the bug was again to resurface and I had no resistance other than never to disclose to a soul how much money I had parted with. The new baby was a Searay 230 almost a year old which I purchased from a local marina. The original owner had been lucky, won the Lotto but had no luck with the boat. The marina Manager told me that the guy just used it once or twice and he used it a few times himself just to keep the batteries charged. I got it for a steal.

I again had many years of absolute pleasure, all it ever cost was the fuel, marina charges antifoul and insurance but it was to be an advantage in other ways soon to be realized. Land tends to look different when viewed from water and it came to pass that I bought some well placed waterfront development land which I always dreamed would be my lotto someday.

Itís the old story, we are never totally happy and always desire something bigger and better, but how much bigger. My career had taken some calculated risks and now aware that my life was to change, at last my ultimate dream seemed a possible reality, my Lotto was in sight and it was now time to focus some attention on seeing what was available in the marketplace, without being too extravagant either. A friend once said to me its not the money you spend that matters, itís the enjoyment and satisfaction that counts. I dismissed his words and thought thatís fine for you, you rich bugger but I had never anticipated spending any more than I had on my new fashionable country home. Never, I thought.

One of the biggest problems I had was finding the right boat. One thing for sure was that I did not like sailing boats, something more fashionable like a flygridge motoryacht seemed more attractive and the thought of mooring it in a sunny climate got my adrenelin going. I bored myself almost to tears looking at magazines, went to a few boat shows, they all looked the same, anything I really liked was beyond my budget and my dreams began to fade. I almost bought a six month old Princess 40 and on closing the deal discovered the tax had not been paid. A slight communication problem with a French broker.

I went to a boat show in Earlscourt, having been invited by Sunseeker and when I got to their stand the queue was so long I gave up hope. By now I was beginning to think that the most interesting part of the boat show was socializing around the Guinness stand. While standing there holding my black lady with the cream skirt in one hand and a bag of brochures cutting into the other hand I noticed a guy close by and he had a bag with the name Azimut printed on it. I had seen this name somewhere before but could not recall, we are all so used to buying only the British names we recognize.

I engulfed the black lady and decided to explore, at last I found the stand tucked away in a corner as if it was the last space available at the show or that the agents could not afford a more prominent position. The modern styling of the boats on display just took my breath away. The oval eye shaped windows, the extended flybridge and the classy Italian designed interiors. Now I am getting somewhere at last I thought,

For reasons only to be discovered later as I walked up the steps on the stand the hulls were not visible, only the superstructure from above deck level. The first boat I inspected was a beautiful boat with sleek lines only to be found on women we dream about other than herself. The price was just about within my reach but when I added the extras it was a considerable increase. My hopes were fading but I decided to look at the other models on display. The larger Azimut was without any doubt the boat I wanted. The exterior appearance had been more refined, the decks were wider, flybridge was considerably longer, with the addition of sunbeds and curved seating, the interior was of similar layout but much more spacious and the colour scheme was just irresistible. The price tag with the Med. spec and additional extras was considerably in excess of my house and car combined but one thing I realized for certain, I had to have one.

I studied the brochures for months, obtained the boat test report, checked out the engines and before I knew it we were into another season. This would be the single biggest investment for me and I was no longer in any hurry, pressurized sales talk from the brokers did not bother me. The use of modern technology became apparent,. delivery on a new boat was another year, another season lost and the fear of changing personal circumstances so I became a surfer on the net and eventually discovered a used craft just over a year old with slight use. It was located in Athens. All negotiations were by email and within two months a final price was agreed subject to sea trial , inspection and a survey. The price with all extras and an icemaker thrown in was over six figures less than the new price and subject to all being well I now knew that it would be a good investment. Around this time it became apparent that the UK designers had begun to copy the sleek lines of the Azimut which confirmed my belief that my initial opinion of the boat was not far wrong.

The sea trial took place on an extremely wet and stormy Saturday in November. The broker collected me at my hotel in Athens and as we drove south along the coast road the wind swept palm trees were almost lying flat on the pavement. I was to say the least concerned about the harsh weather not to mention the thought of going out on a boat on a very rough sea but then another thought crossed my mind, what better weather conditions to try out the boats handling. We ran from the car to the boat, jumped on board, the broker had some help waiting, the rain was so heavy we had to steer from inside. As we slowly moved through the marina I could not feel any movement other than the hum of the engines which also surprised me. I had imagined they would be much louder. Once out of the marina I took the helm. My hands were shaking with the excitement and the size of the boat made it feel like I was driving an articulated truck. Little or no movement up and down other than the noise created by waves breaking off the bow. Yes this is finally it I thought to myself, my new adventure is about to begin.

Two weeks later the service agent for the engines took the boat on sea trial and certified them and provided a copy of the warranty, within days the boat was lifted and all antifoul removed and an inspection took place and I received a copy of the report via email and hardcopy. The contracts and paperwork were conducted through a competent lawyer in Athens and I confidently took possession.

The boat remained on the hard until the following April. Prior to launch the broker arranged a few jobs like antifoul and cleaning the exterior. I used an antiosmosis gel shield coating for extra protection due to the warmer waters of the Southern Mediterranean. I arrived in Athens on 27th April and had arranged for the broker to collect me at the hotel at 9 am. At 9.15 he called me on a mobile to say he was in Italy however his assistant would collect me at 9.30. I waited in the hotel lobby until this young 23 year old pretty faced girl arrived, my bags would not fit in her car boot and went on the back seat. It was a small Fiat car and hummed along like a lawnmower. The conversation was scarce apart from her occasional shy smile. I had noticed the outside temperature on the dashboard read 25 deg.

She drove through the marina slowly and my eyes were growing wider and wider with the sight of the fabulous boats, mostly big ones.The thought crossed my mind, where is my little one, suddenly the car stopped, I looked at her feeling confused and she said we are here, I felt a slight panic attack and politely asked where, she just pointed and smiled, I turned, looked, and at that moment all I could think of was Oh what have I done. I suddenly felt insecure and wished I had brought someone with me. The steps up to the boatshow platform had stayed in Earlscourt, the quay wall was less than a meter above the water and the boat looked absolutely huge. I stood there in shock and thought of other ways I could have spent my hard earned money.

She pulled my bags from the car and took something small and black from her pocket, it looked like a box of matches. As she pointed at the boat this hydraulic platform thing which I later discovered to be called a passerelle lifted up and extended itself onto the quay wall and a neat handrail appeared. Before I realized where I was she said goodbye and I was standing on the aft cockpit silently shaking all over feeling mostly panic and a hidden sort of excitement. I didnít know whether to scream or cry. I needed a drink. I had been thinking that the broker should at least show me what everything was for and maybe take me on a trip and show me how to handle it. By this time I could not visualize ever taking it out and certainly not alone.

This was the first time that I had been on the boat alone having the opportunity to have a really good look at everything, The master bedroom was not hard to find, you couldnít miss the big circular bed and all the highly polished woodwork. It took a while to unpack and find where to put things, every time I looked around I found something new that I had not noticed before. I was glad to go to a bar that night to relax, have a few beers and something to eat. The thought of sleeping was the last thing on my mind. It reminded me of when one moves into a new house, all the new appliances etc. and not even knowing how to tune in the TV, having to refer to the manual and in this case there were manuals for everything.

Thankfully because of my CAD experience the GPS/Plotter only took about six hours to learn and to feel confident in using, the rest of the equipment Radar and autopilot was simple to use. It did not take long to realize what a waypoint was supposed to be. The following day I noticed the diesel tanks were just over quarter full and decided to find out where to get some more. I must have walked a few miles around the marina and could not find the pumps only later to discover a tanker comes to the boat. The things that should have been simple now seemed the most difficult.

The boat was moored stern to and with the usual bow anchor rope. There was another yacht tight against the port side and on the starboard side a gap of about six meters to the next boat. The stern ropes were tied to a chain which ran parallel with the quay wall but unfortunately the chain was hardly above water level. There was a light breeze coming from the port side. I now realized that there was no hope of getting this thing out of here without a collision with another yacht, which ropes do I take off first. I decided not to try. I had got myself into a hopeless situation.

Four days had passed and at mid day the following day the broker called me on my mobile and enquired, where are you, I shyly replied in Pireaus marina. He asked where have you been to, the only honest answer I could give him was the pub. He asked how many crew do you have and I replied just me, he started laughing. I could not help feeling annoyed just now and felt like saying you should have told me this when you were selling the boat or at least tell me before I came over. I had previously told him this was new to me.

Anyhow it turns out he arranged for a skipper from a cruise ship in Pireaus to visit me a few hours later. The guy comes onto the boat and said What's your problem. I explained and within a few minutes all was solved. First thing he asked, have you spare ropes? I replied yes and then he said this is your berth and no one will take it when you are out so just drop the stern ropes into the water and pick them up with the boathook when you come back. If you are worried about the wind blowing you sideways just tie a small rope from the deckrail mid ship to the boat beside and that will give you enough time to drop the bow rope. It all seemed so simple.

Within seconds we were moving out through the marina. I felt totally confident with this guy, everything he said made sense, steer with the twin engines not the wheel, turn this way, that way and in a few minutes we were in another marina about five miles down the coast. Here he taught me the stern too mooring. I did panic a few times, the throttles are MicroCommander and so sensitive. I was almost perfect after a few hours and we returned to the marina, all in one piece to my surprise. The Port Police office was located close to the boat and anytime I moved they seemed to be looking at me and sometimes would stand outside with a look of near intimidation on their faces. The fact that I was alone made no difference as they never helped with lines but would smile after I successfully docked.

My maiden voyage was to the island of Poros about 40 miles from Pireaus, I recall taking a photo of a landmark with my digital camera just to make sure I would find my way back. Safety being my primary concern I always disengaged gear when moving about the boat, just in case I ever went overboard. I got enormous satisfaction with the stern too mooring. When I got to Poros, correctly on course, I was amused by the look on faces of other yacht owners as I maneuvered what seemed like an articulated truck into position in reverse. Slowly letting out anchor chain and getting the boat perfectly into position. It was not unusual to get a round of applause once they realized I was alone.

Then the viewers would come along admiring the boat, taking photographs of the boat and their friends in front of the boat, everyone admiring and passing positive comments about the curved lines and my obvious competence. Little did they know but the look of surprise on their faces when I would say I just got it last week or last month.

It quickly became clear to me that my choice was the right one and throughout the summer of 2002, I got the same response everywhere I visited, which included most of the Aegean Islands,the southern Ionion and eventually Corfu.

My memorable trip up the Corinth Canal, the force six chop as I entered the canal. There was a small cruise ship anchored off shore and some of their crew went ashore by dingy to the control office, I was nervous of the anchor not holding and being alone I was reluctant to leave the boat by dingy. If the truth were known it was more fear of going ashore in an eight foot rib that scared me. I pulled anchor and drove alongside the quay instead. I had been put off by the Imray and Lorry handbook which described some steel projections from the quay. There were none to be found. The guys in the control office were friendly and spoke in almost perfect English. Some shared a joke with me but the smile was soon to leave my face when one guy told me the charge was one hundred and eighty euro.

The trip up the canal was something I would write about. The two hundred foot high sheer walls with numerous bridges and as vehicles and people crossed it seemed like a cartoon on TV, they looked so small. I almost felt a tear when I thought about the poor people that had excavated this two thousand years ago. Mostly by hand with primitive tools and could not help but wonder how many got crushed by falling rock or indeed by drowning or just backbreak. I had my video camera switched on in the hope of my friends and family sharing this wonderful adventure but soon had to switch off. The cruise ship that went ahead was putting up a wash and I had to slow to almost standstill and allow him distance ahead. There was a five knot speed limit in the canal but with a three knot current I was not making much progress anyway.

Just about at the end of the canal I looked back and felt saddened that there was no one with me to share this wonderful experience. The temperature that day was around 30 deg but once I got into the canal the temperature must have been over forty. As I approached the canal exit I could see the reflection of a blue sky on the flat calm waters of the Gulf of Patras. I would love to have had the time to explore the many towns, villages, anchorages and harbours but now my thoughts were about the friends I was meeting in Corfu in two days.

The cruise ship in front of me had disappeared, all that remained was a track in the blue water occasionally broken by the reflection of a small cloud. Within minutes I was planning across the calm waters at 25knots on autopilot, the video camera to hand with binoculars and amazement at the sights. This continued for six hours. As I entered the final stretch of the Gulf the sight of pylons and the new bridge under construction came into sight. I had passed the cruise ship some hours before and the wake made my boat jump with joy from wave to wave until I entered the calm waters again. As I entered the southern Ionion the sea became unsettled, winds were unpredictable as if in a conflict from all directions. Each wind desperately trying to overcome the other but as I turned north west it became angry as if I were not welcome.

It was time to head for shelter, the sea was no longer my friend. There were so many islands that did not seem to appear on the Plotter. It was time for alternative action, an element of doubt entered my mind and led to a state of confusion. I entered the main lounge and switched on my laptop with remote GPS, yes my position coinsided with the fixed GPS, I had mistaken an island for the mainland, it seemed bigger in reality than on the chart and my confidence was restored again.

My refuge destination became Mellelongi located on the western mainland. I had plotted my course with reasonable accuracy but could not believe I was so far from land which appeared much closer on the chart. Within seconds I spotted the two buoys which marked the entrance to a narrow dug out channel entrance. Here I would see the fisherman houses standing on stilts cantilevered over the water, each house having its own private mooring. It was a fabulous sight. I moored alongside the town quay, only a few yachts and a small ship were present. The place seemed deserted, I could not see a single soul so it was time to relax, have a Bacardi and coke, followed by a hot shower and find a good restaurant. The restaurant was almost empty, there was no menu, either fish or meat, I went for the fish, grilled shrimp which came in a messy brown sauce followed by a red snapper and a carafe of white wine which I insisted on tasting first. I returned to the boat some hours later to discover the quay was crowded with teenagers, Turns out there was a kids disco within meters of the boat, so much for a good sleep tonight so I continued to lower the Bacardi and finally went to bed at about 2 am when the noise had ceased.

Little did I realize when I retired to bed that there would be a big surprise waiting for me the following morning, not exactly what I had expected.. It became a routine to switch on the VHF radio to channel 16 in the hope of getting weather forecasts. I had obviously missed the earlier broadcast but looking around the harbour there was no sign of any movement, the water was flat calm and it seemed I was the early bird but what would my catch be I wondered as I became suspicious about the lack of movement.

I finished my routine mug of coffee/cure from a night now just a memory, started up the huge engines, let off the mooring lines, moved off the quay a safe distance, disengaged gear and went on deck to secure the fenders. I slowly moved out through the dug out canal towards the sea seated on the flybridge and admiring the fishermans houses for the last time. I was cruising at eight knots located on the centre of the canal, anytime I strayed slightly off centre the shallow alarm set at two meters would remind me to wake up and concentrate. The wind was becoming stronger. I was headed due west and the wind was blowing from the south east pushing me off course and making me feel uneasy each time the shallow alarm went off. I increased speed in the hope of greater control and then I had an early morning cold shower, a wave hit me almost side on and came all the way across the flybridge. This happened a few times and began to happen with every fourth or fifth wave and gradually became more frequent. It was time to head for shelter of the interior plush saloon helm position. Windscreen wipers were on permanently and visibility was becoming increasingly difficult. The hatches were battened down, all windows closed and I felt bad at lighting a cigarette without through ventilation but I needed something to cool the nerves other than cold water and spray. Just as I lit up the VHF radio cut in with a stern Greek accent and followed by a gale warning. Gale force eight to ten from the south east, my greatest nightmare seemed about to happen.

I had visions of a perfect storm, maby it was time to put out the cigarette and get the rosary beads but I was afraid to take my hands off the wheel, it seemed that I would fall over without a grip. By this time I was offshore about six miles. I could see the mainland to my right, north west, and kept on thinking once I get out far enough I will clear the shallows and turn north west with the wind and waves behind me. By this time the boat was rolling big time, the TV hit the floor along with most other things on shelves and I could hear things moving about in presses and kept on hoping that the dingy was secure on the platform.The bedroom door was banging open and closed but I got a strange feeling of satisfaction and fear too, it was too late to turn back, I was nervous the boat would capsize.

Within a half hour I was satisfied with my position on the GPS and turned north west, what an exhilarating feeling,the waves seemed to chase after the boat, like rising on an elevator and plunging down the other side almost out of control. The adrenelin was flowing through my veins like a fast flowing river, at times it was necessary to push the throttles forward to prevent the boat going almost sideways and after a half an hour I was really enjoying the thrill, I no longer felt that fear. The headland was drawing near and I could just about see the calmer waters slightly beyond. I was safe at last but an experience never to be forgotten.

I have only too often heard it said that the day you buy and the day you sell are the two happiest days in your boating life. I cannot say I agree with the first part but I can certainly say that I have no intention of selling. Maybe it's somewhat like buying a second hand car, if you buy a bangar what can you expect other than trouble and the same can be said for an undesirable manufacturer. I have looked at bigger models in the Azimut range but I have realized that if I remain a lonesome boatman I could not handle one bigger one. If the flybridge were as much as a couple of feet longer the stern too mooring would be an almost impossible task due to lack of vision.

Should I decide to sell and forget about the leisurely lifestyle and adventure it would most likely be because of some inhabitants of Greek waters, marinas and town quays. I was soon to learn my first Greek word, Mal...a. These are the guys that always seem to turn up when least expected, usually when one has an unexpected problem. There is no need to fear the sharks in the water but these guys instead. The marina in Athens charged me an advanced payment of just over 700 euro for seven weeks plus 73 euro for water and electricity. The broker had arranged for my berth however requested an additional 500 euro in cash as a backhand payment to some other guy at the marina who arranged the berth. I refused to pay the backhand and stated I would only stay the seven weeks. The harbour master called to my boat the day before my scheduled departure and requested me to call to his office which I did to discover that another payment of 750 euro was required before departure. Luckily I had my receipt, the girls in the office did not speak a word of English and I had to pay a second time, just then a guy came through the door that I had recognized from earlier and I requested his assistance. He muttered a few words in Greek, by this time the girl in the office was shouting and with her hands waving about but she returned the 750 and I was out of there as fast as possible, never to return.

I stayed in Poros for almost two weeks at the town quay. There is a guy there that helps with moorings and he is also referred to as the waterman, it's usual to be offered water in the mornings and late afternoon. The charge for my 500 litre fill was usually 7 to 10 euro but one day I ran dry unexpectedly and enquired at a small shop. The guy in the shop was friendly and offered immediate assistance, he had a key for the manhole on the quay, the charge was 3 euro.

Due to inexperience on my part I switched on the generator one day without realizing the full load was switched on. The generator worked but there was no power. I got a local engineer in Spetsae to advise and he said I needed a new generator. I returned to the mainland, marina and got a local engineer to check it out. The marina staff were most helpful but the engineer charged me 400 euro for half an hours work and replaced the control switch.

Enroute to Corfu I stopped over in Lefkas to refuel with diesel. When leaving my anchor got caught on an obstacle and stupidly I forced it with the winch motor. The motor and wiring caught fire and being in restricted waters I had no choice but to head back to the marina in Lefkas. The staff were friendly and I decided to stay overnight. I felt embarrest for the young girl in the marina office as there was a guy before me who did not have any papers for his yacht and accused the poor girl of being troublesome, This guy was well spoken with an educated tone but a most arrogant individual I thought. After he left the office I apologized for him and the young girl just smiled and said we are used to guys like that.

Next morning I arrived in Corfu by lunchtime and checked in at the marina office and port police. Again the staff here were very friendly and had a welcome for everyone. I enquired about having my winch motor repaired and within half an hour two guys arrived at the boat. They removed the old motor and said they would be back the following morning. They arrived in the afternoon and stated that the motor was kaput and an entire new unit was required at a cost of 1600 euro. I laughed and told them to go you know where, they offered me a used motor for 850 to include fitting. I complained to the marina management who politely phoned the engineer and after ten minutes chatting on the phone I was told I had misunderstood and the cost was 550 euro.

I went to a chandelry outside the marina and bought a new motor with cables and fuse for just over 340 euro. I subsequently got it fitted for 100 euro. The word M...ka had now become my most memorable word. I had thought my DIY days were over but out of desperation I bought myself virtually all the tools necessary for most jobs.

I decided it was time to say goodbye to Greece and move on. I have fond memories of many places I visited and the people I was lucky enough to meet, some I would call friends now. A lot of the Greeks I though to be friends turned out to be less desirable. I have no desire to return to the Aegean as a lot of the people I came across were not as expected. Personally I have no interest in having my body covered in tattoos like most of them but when these sort of guys on some privately owned and charter yachts stand on the bow of their boat and shout in an abusive tone "you have crossed my anchor" considering the fact that they are moored three boats down from me I cannot help thinking of that word again. They boast about being the first to find a town quay where there are no charges, the cheapest restaurants, buy their beer in the supermarket, sit on deck till the early hours and then kick up stink if anyone turns on a generator. So much for the value of this type of tourist, is it any wonder so many Greeks have a rip off attitude.

The Ionion is the place to be, some call it the jewel of the Mediterranean and other than for my lack of travel experience I cannot disagree, it is so beautiful. I donít ask myself any more why do so many UK registered boats turn up there, the word is out, itís a paradise to be in, once you know the ropes and learn how to deal with the undesirable types, close your eyes now and then and when you open them it's as if you are in what I would call the closest place to heaven.

There are so many places to visit by boat, a lot of the small bays have restaurants by the beach and the owners have cleverly constructed small jetties where boat users can tie alongside and enjoy the rural atmosphere, the good food and local wines. Kassiopi on the north shore with its quaint little harbour that has been dredged to allow safe access and good shelter. It's somewhat deceptive when one just arrives as the small town extends much further than one can see from the harbour. There are numerous bars restaurants and shops on the main street. On the town quay entrance there is a small bar in an elevated position, one would naturally assume it to be expensive because of its prominent location but I found it to be the opposite and spent many an afternoon sipping a few beers with many new friends I found there.

Benitses, well known as being one of the most successful resorts on the Island, perhaps sometime in the past. I had two friends on board and we anchored and went ashore by dingy. The small harbour was chocked up with local fishing boats, it seems there must not be any interest in having tourist yachts. We visited a small bar opposite the small harbour and paid nine euro for three drinks. There was little atmosphere and we moved to a bar next door which was no better and had to pay fifteen euro for the same three drinks. It's easy to understand why Benitses is no longer the in place to be. They have killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

Kavos, what can I say, if I were twenty years of age, and just interested in staying up all night sure I would love Kavos. Seems they are not interested in the visitors on boats here either as one has to anchor offshore or walk a few kilometers from the harbour northwards and God only knows would it be safe to walk that distance after twelve.

I did not get to the west of Corfu but did visit the island of Paxoi, ten miles south of Corfu. If you have not been there you are in for a pleasant surprise. A narrow waterway channel runs between a small island and the main island, along here extends a town quay with numerous restaurants, bars and shops that would welcome any tourist and would tempt one to take up residence. I sat in the town square in the afternoon sun to enjoy a carafe of local white wine. There is a small church located on the square with a clock tower, I thought I had had too much wine as every few minutes I looked at the clock the small hand had move an hour every few minutes. After checking with my watch I realized the clock on the tower runs faster than normal. Perhaps it should be called Times Square. On the western side of the island there are many caves, here I anchored offshore and decided to explore. It is possible to enter the caves by dingy and, an experience that will always be a wonderful memory. I entered one of the caves to find the end was illuminated from beneath the water, fissures extend from the rock surface and open beneath the surface of the water and there is a fabulous glow of light through the turquoise waters as if it were by human means.

On my journey back to Corfu I remembered the name Lakka, on the north of the island, a quaint little town with many attractions and decided I would explore. I often wonder why I ever left there. On entering from the sea into somewhat like an inland lake the sight of the turquoise waters and white sand bottom surrounded by lush green hillside and the small town quay on the southern end, not forgetting a clear blue sky and a soft breeze that felt like thirty degrees.

The first thought that entered my mind was to get in the water as fast as possible. It was so warm it reminded me of the last hot bath I had at home but as I swam through the crystal clear water and the whitebait fish that followed as if to make me feel a certain welcome. The town quay was crowded with yachts, some private and tourist. To my surprise I found a very nice restaurant and it reminded me of my previous visit to Corfu some twenty five years ago with certain traditions that had not been forgotten. I was invited into the kitchen to view the food being cooked and to share some jokes with the chef as the flames from his barbecue almost set fire to his kitchen. The appetizer was baked red pepper stuffed with mussels followed by fillet of snapper and a wine sauce that almost gave me a hangover. On reflection it was not the wine sauce but more like the many bars I visited later that evening. I noticed in one of the local papers that a small stone cottage was for sale on a part of the surrounding hillside. I have since had a deep regret that I did not view this property, it will haunt my dreams forever more until I can overlook that bay from my living room terrace on the hillside of Lakka.

All is not as it may seem, I am lucky to have survived one incident as I am sure most seafarers do likewise. After a late night with the boys at a certain bar near Gouvia I returned to the boat at about 2 am. The marina creates the impression of an exotic paradise where only the rich reside. The numerous restaurants serving delicious food and the finest of local and European wines makes one feel the envy of thousands. Like most large enterprise organizations with a vast area there are the usual difficulties keeping up with routine daily maintenance.

My last night at Gouvia could definately have been my last. As I approached the marina the clouds just seemed to open, Greek rain is not unlike rain in Mediterranean Europe. I decided to run for the boat, down the sloped platform and along the pontoon which has intermittent lights out of order, it did not appear to be a problem as there were many lights in sight further ahead. I ran like a thoroughbred in sight of the lights and then there was a big splash, what I did not realize was there was a dog asleep on the pontoon in one of the dark spots, both of us went for a midnight dip. The dog was not a happy dog, Im sure his barking could be heard for miles. The thought of being devoured by Jaws seemed trivial, this dog was about to seek his revenge on me for disturbing his deep sleep and perhaps a memorable dream. I splashed about in the water for minutes and attempted to pull myself up onto the pontoon, to no avail. Thankfully the dog swam away in a different direction and I was alone at the mercy of Jaws. My tired body made several futile efforts to get to safety in the absence of sensibly placed ladders. I held on to the pontoon in the hope that someone would eventually appear and thankfully they did and I was dragged to safety.

My dreams of a boat on the Mediterranean had become a reality.

Part II - The Voyage Continues

Experience, for sure its what counts most. And the reality, whats that, we will see, Being on a large motoryacht alone has some drawbacks but overall I enjoyed many people I have met and the experience is very worthwhile. In hindsight the only real problems encountered apart from staying alive was getting flights to Corfu at short notice, trying to get there over off season months is a serious pain as one must travel through Athens.

I took the boat ashore in October and secured as much as I could. I wrapped the shore power cable with ducktape to ensure if someone did wish to connect that it may be easier to disconnect someone else instead of mine. I decided to visit in January via the Athens route and on arrival discovered that someone had in fact disconnected my shore power resulting in a damp interior. It was about 6 30 am so I had no choice but to sleep on a plastic bag over a damp bed. Had I left my visit till summer I have no doubt that the interior fabrics would have been destroyed with mildew and result in expensive replacement.

The daytime temperature was around 16 deg but at night the temperature dropped to minus four. It was not unusual to carry a plastic bag with me on my scooter at night as ice would form on the saddle and make sleeping later even more difficult with a wet cold rump. Gouvia was deserted in winter, only two bars remained open for business and a handful of restaurants. There was no attraction in being there in winter and I found it difficult to understand why so many people live aboard during those cold and wet months.

My next trip was in May, the summer breeze and clear blue skies, I could not help thinking that my trip in January must have been a dream, it seemed like I was in a different world. The boat had remained as I last left it, home from home as I call it. There is great satisfaction in getting off the plane into a taxi and arriving at the marina without having to sit on a coach bus and listen to a rep waffling on about tours etc. but this all comes at a cost. The taxis can charge what they like unless one tells them that I work at the marina and just returning from a holiday.

The marina charges for the year was just under 3k followed by insurance at another £3k and around £3k for diesel for the season. Add flights and some drinking money and two meals a day and one can expect to spend close on £15k for the year for around six visits. If one brings a friend then its plus and not forgetting the boat antifoul and engines serviced at around £1500

The second season in Corfu was definitely more enjoyable as one has established friends from the first year and one knows where not to go, the restaurant owners seem to have a sharp memory and a big welcome. The only part that's unpredictable is the open sea. Generally its calm but can also have a few surprises like my last visit to Cassiopi. The boat was moored stern to inside the opening in the breakwater. I was sitting at a bar counter chatting the owner and noticed a passenger vessel leaving. As he pulled his anchor he also pulled mine which resulted in my boat becoming less stable in the wind that was blowing up.

I remarked to the guy in the bar that it seems there is a change in the weather, he smiled and said there is a storm on the way and its over Corfu town just now and should reach here shortly. I immediately dropped the coffee mug and ran to the boat, started the engines and raised the anchor, there was a more secure mooring vacant just inside the breakwater. I dropped anchor and reversed stern to the quay wall, when about twenty yards from the wall the black clouds and heavy rain appeared over the hillside and a lightening storm that I had never seen before in my life.

The wind had become severe and I could see almost helpless yachts heading towards the harbour and they would disappear between the waves. The sea was frightening to say the least. The winds was unpredictable and as I reversed closer to the wall the boat was blown from side to side, almost impossible to control and suddenly the passerelle was overhanging the quay. As usual I had the stern ropes prepared, grabbed them and ran to the quay, just at the second I jumped off the wind had taken the boat sideways and I crashed down on the quay face down with a rope in one hand and the other hand as propection.

The quay was like rough pebbled concrete and the abrasive action just cut through my body. I struggled to hold the rope as the boat dragging me towards the water. There were four guys on a boat beside me who just looked on and didn't offer to help, possibly because of the severe lightening, just as I was about to let the rope go what seemed like an angel suddenly appeared. A young girl grabbed the rope from me and tied it in a second, went aboard the boat and recovered the second rope and the boat was secure in a minute. She helped me off the ground in a state of shock and gently said I can help you I am a doctor.

She came aboard and cleaned my wounds, some short while later I passed out on the couch and woke up around ten pm, she was sitting on the couch opposite me starring at me. I couldn't help but smile and thought to myself is this for real. She commented that she could not leave me alone but stated that I needed to go to hospital for stitches. I ended up like Sinbad the sailor, six stitches over my right eye inside a big plaster, a badly bruised and cut cheekbone and one arm in a sling. What a sight.

She arrived back the following day and I took her to dinner that night, I had a new friend but she returned to England the following day. Perhaps just as well, I was getting to like her.

Another pal I met in Corfu remarked why are you alone on the boat, I just replied it's the luck of the draw. Then he said theres no problem getting a woman to come on a boat like yours, the big problem is getting rid of her. He told me this joke about a guy who put an add on the internet for a female crew, preferably one with her own boat, when she replied to the add he asked her to send a photo of the boat.

A friend from home joined me for a week on my last trip. He said he wanted some excitement, seems the boat was not enough. I took him to Kavos. I can just about write as Im laughing so much. I've always thought that I am young at heart but believe me Ive never felt so old. The street were packed with eighteen to twenty year olds, mostly female with skirts so short as if they were in competition with each other. Yes its all true what they say about Kavos but do not forget the music, its just thump thump thump in ones ears to a level almost intolerable to the eardrum. I was talking to a restaurant owner and he put his hands in the air saying they are all crazy here. He was correct.

As we walked back to the boat my friend pulled at my arm as he moved to the opposite side of the road, there was two thugs with broken bottles sitting on a wall, just waiting to hit on some guy silly enough to be alone. A fight with about twenty guys broke out on the street and the police arrived in four jeeps, we didn't wait around to see what happened. We got back to the boat in one piece but around four a.m. we were awakened by people climbing on the roof of the boat and diving into the water. Having taken a look outside we realised that because of the numbers we decided that it may be safer to pass no comment other than to sit in the aft cockpit in the hope that they might go away. They did after about an hour and as soon as there was adequate daylight we were out of there fast and never to return.

We decided to head for Lakka, It seemed even better than my previous visit, I wondered where on the hillside is the Cottage that I longed to have but then reality struck and I recalled my plans for my trip to Croatia, Slovenia and the sight of my yacht on the back of a low loader truck back to Southampton later in the summer.

The Med is not all its cracked up to be apart from a few weeks holiday. Back home I can use the boat almost every day and know for sure that its ok in winter, afterall its worth more than my house. I have met many boating people who sail from England to Spain, France, Italy, Greece and end up in Turkey and where ever after that, they all have a similar story to tell, the aircraft noise at the marina in Gibralter, the lack of cruising grounds in Spain and rough seas, Barcellona is a no go area because of theft, the petty theft in the south of France and over priced marinas, do not leave your boat unattended in Italy or its liable to get stolen but most likely it will be broken into. Stay in Greece where the waters are calm and with extensive cruising grounds but many seem to forget about the rip off attitude of some Greeks and difficulty in getting regular flights direct.

In Ipsos this summer they say business is down 30% on last summer so they hike prices up by 30% and more to compensate for the loss. That's the philosophy of some Greeks. In my mind the boat is still fab, I would sell my house before I would part with the boat, anyhow its smaller when it comes to the vacuum cleaner, the only part I detest is getting the sheets onto the big circular bed in the master cabin.

Perhaps I will return to Greece sometime in the future but like most things in life we can become too familiar and just seek something different.

I would like to pay a tribute to the many friends I have met in Corfu, mostly Greek, very decent people that I hope to remain friends with.

The Greeks are not all the same, the one thing I can advise is to stay away from the popular tourist areas and meet the genuine hospitality of ordinary Greek people who will value your business and friendship.

I have realised that I am too young to retire to a yacht in the lonely Med. Its easier to make another million than it is to meet an understanding intelligent female who is into messing about in boats and lazing about in the Mediterranean sunshine.

Thank you again David. I can only agree wholeheartedly with :-

The Greeks are not all the same, the one thing I can advise is to stay away from the popular tourist areas and meet the genuine hospitality of ordinary Greek people who will value your business and friendship.

Well David - I'm waiting. Let it not end here.
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