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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.