Archive for July, 2012

Jul 30

WheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeSPLASH

Me, Marc and the sea. (And dad :])

Last year, me (Julian) and Marc came up with a brilliant idea. Fendering. It’s amazing. You attach 2 fenders to the back of the dinghy, set up the outboard and blast out some revs!! That was pretty fun. The time has come for fendering to make a comeback!

This year, we went about it slightly differently because our outboard was being crappy. We decided to go off the back of the actual yacht. Turns out this was a very…interesting decision. Much faster, but you get about as much seawater up your nose and mouth as the machines that bored out the friggin’ English Channel did. Also, we decided after my chest had pretty much turned into a rashy desert from the fender covers to use the floats instead. This was a very good decision, as I could actually go upside down, into the waterand actually use the float as a shield from the gallons of salty water. Marc however, couldn’t do this, as his float was a crocodile, which meant if he lifted the front up or down, the entire float got shifted, unlike mine which was rectangular. We also found that our shorts carried on falling off which also gave us massive drag, eventually causing us to fall off, so we got on our birthday suits and went hardcore mode.

At this point our civilised father decided to join in the birthday party (;D) and attached a fender to join the 2 floats. He only fell off once and didn’t go ‘wheew’ at all during the entire session, so congrats to you. (Boring old git :]) Overall it was pretty awesome and was a very nice afternoon activity.

WHEEW 😀

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Jul 28

Food, glorious food

It might be time to mention one of the mundane task we have to perform everyday on board, the necessity of providing fuel to the body (and mind). Being away for 2 months means that we cannot afford to go out eating every night, so cooking on board is essential, so is the shopping and forward planning. Even in bigger towns, the staff in supermarkets have little knowledge of the english language, and our command of the greek language is rather limited too (even though being a maths geek allows me to at least read the language).  I bought pork a few times, thinking it would be beef. Now I wriggle my fingers above my head to picture some horns at the butchers, if I want beef. I also liked the chicken livers you can get in every supermarket, neatly wrapped, and they come with little hearts as well, a particular favourite of Julian. Yesterday though, I got a packet where the hearts were still attached to the livers …hmmm , one heart to two livers. My knowledge of anatomy is quite rusty, but I don’t think that livers are usually attached to the heart, especially not in pairs. I guess, we have been eating lungs then; well, they were nice, but I haven’t told the others yet!

I was slightly worried that we might not be able to follow the paleo/primal diet I have adapted 6 months ago. Trying to figure out a diet that would be anti-inflammatory to reduce the symptoms of my RA (rheumatoid arthritis), I stumbled upon the paleo diet, i.e. the diet that our ancestors were supposed to eat before the invention of agriculture,  when we were hunter-gatherers. This involves eliminating all grains and related products (bread, pasta, cakes etc.), dairy, legumes, sugars (and sugary drinks) and some high-starch veggies; and leaves all meats (preferably organic), fish, seafood, other veggies and some fruit and nuts. I gave it a go for a months and the results were pretty amazing: I was able to stop the anti-inflammatory tablets I had been swallowing for 10 years. Yes, I still have the occasional bout of pain, but it is really remarkably better. This sparked my interest in food and their effect on the body, and I started reading books on low-carb diets, research papers on obesity and diabetes. I have now adapted a diet, that is high in fat (fatty meats, olive oil, butter and coconut oil mainly), good amount of protein and all carbs from veggies and a few fruit. In addition, I have started to cook accordingly at home and Peter and the kids have also reduced their carb load from processed foods (pasta, breads, croissants, cakes, biscuits, crisps, you know what I mean). A side effect was that I lost weight without being hungry ( I was last at my current weight at 16, I think) and so has the rest of the family.

We have actually managed to maintain this diet here in Greece (Peter and the kids get quite a few exemptions, like some bread or ice cream), just means we cook 3 times a day (even at force 7). Full english breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages and mushrooms every morning, salad (who doesn’t love the greek tomatoes?) with tuna for lunch and meat/fish plus 2 veg for dinner. I do most of the cooking, but this is definitely an advantage: it means I do not have to do the washing up.  I make one big exception here though: gin & tonics as aperitifs are somehow justified even if I really should not have the tonic 🙂

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Jul 28

Greek Outboards – The Story

Episode 1

We went to shore at Porto Rafti, had a drink and went shopping. As we left the we realised the motor was struggling against the wind and it eventually died. This was not the first time the outboard had died however so we were not surprised. Even with the heroic efforts of me and Peter (mainly me) we could not make it back to the boat against the wind. We got a tow from a friendly couple for which we are very grateful indeed!

Episode 1 (Part 2)

Peter called Nikos(the man we rented to motor from) who then agreed to meet us and give us a new engine at 10 in the evening. Me and Peter were forced to sit in a Haagen-Dazs and eat ice cream for an hour while we waited for Nikos (nightmarish stuff). The new outboard functioned well for a while but then broke again, Peter managed to get it choking along a few times but it was pretty dead.

Episode 2 – The Fix

We had varying theories on why our outboard didn’t work, the fuel switch was the wrong way round, the motor was shite and that the motor was older than Peter (OLD). Today we got new fuel which seems to have fixed the problem so that never again will we be stuck on the boat without ice cream :D.

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Jul 28

Khalkis (old) bridge

Khalkis is the capital of Evia and in the centre of the town is an old road bridge that connects Evia to mainland Greece. The gap that the bridge spans is only 39m wide and there are strong currents in the vicinity, where the 2 large masses of water are squeezed through the small gap. The bridge only opens once a day, between 10pm and 4am, the exact time determined by when the currents are at their slowest. We arrived on the south side of the bridge and went to find the port police in order to sort out the necessary paperwork to pass through the bridge (and naturally pay the fee).

The port police is hidden down a small alley way away from the main road but thankfully, on a really really hot day, it had the best air conditioning I have experienced in weeks. There were 7 staff in the office all dressed in police uniform, all drinking ice frappe and most of them smoking. I handed over all of our documentation and soon realised that I was in for a long wait. While playing spider solitaire on my phone, the first guy with the documents went over and discussed some of them with a colleague, at some length. After some time colleague number 2 then got on the phone and engaged in further lengthy discussions, the only part of which I could understand was “almost free” and some head shaking. I was beginning to envision “permission denied” being stamped everywhere and us totally stuck; sailing up the east side of Evia to get to the sporades is not for the faint hearted and not a realistic option for us. Fortunately in the end, I was handed back my documentation and given instructions on what would happen when the bridge opened.

At 10pm we were all ready on the boat listening on VHF channel 12 for our call. As time ticked by we were all getting rather sleepy, Simone was already dozing in her cabin cuddling her kindle and Julian was out for the count. Suddenly at midnight, channel 12 came alive and we could hear other boats being called forward to proceed to the holding zone. Finally we were called and with Marc at the bow shining the torch ahead we managed to avoid all the mooring buoys as we left the marina.

As we headed out it suddenly became apparent that there were a large number of small local craft out doing night fishing, some of which had lights and some of which didn’t. Marc and Simone stood on the bow trying to guide me through them and we lined up next to the bridge waiting for it to open.

Amidst all the many lights we didn’t actually see the bridge open, first thing we saw was a large container ship come steaming through at what looked like breakneck speed, not sure if it was drive on by the currents or he was just a loony.

Once all the vessels going from North to South had passed, the lights on the bridge changed and it was our turn. The streets on both sides were lined with people, watching and waving which gave the whole thing a party-like feeling and as the last boat to pass through, the bridge began to close a few seconds after our stern cleared the gap.

The passing of the Khalkis bridge is a major psychological milestone for us:

  • it was the last obstacle between us and the sporades and we had heard stories of mechanical problems with the bridge leading to delays of several days
  • sailing conditions north of Khalkis will be much easier than our passage up from Lavrio, the meltemi blows strongest south of Khalkis
  • North of Khalkis we do a left turn and will hopefully be able to do more sailing and less motoring
  • we are now only 2 days from returning to the area that we know and love so much, it feels like coming home

All in all, a really exciting evening, and once we tied up alongside on the town quay 100m north of the bridge Simone, Marc and I celebrated by taking 5 steps from the boat to one of the many bars and having a well deserved cold drink.

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Jul 28

Going slightly mad

We may have been spending too long at sea!

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Jul 25

Free at last

Once again we started early (7am) this morning, glad that the anchor has not dragged during the night. Even with depth alarms set it would have been nasty. Left the shelter of the bay in a very manageable force 4 but with some concerns of what conditions would be like once we rounded the headland into the main channel between Evia and mainland Greece. Fortunately, the wind did not increase and we settled down to a steady 5.5 knots and comfortable conditions.

After a couple of hours and some miles behind us Simone and I had our first hint of optimism for a while. The further North we went the better conditions became and spurred on by our progress we decided to head straight for Khalkis rather than go for another overnight stop in between. By lunchtime, temperature was up by 10 degrees and the wind had dropped to Force 2. We had lunch on the go and kept moving, now delighted to be making progress and not having to worry about sea and wind condition.

By early afternoon we had reached the approach to Khalkis where we had to pass underneath a new road bridge before getting to the town itself. The ordeal of the past few days was quickly forgotten and the simple act of passing under  a bridge in a yacht (first time for us) was cause for celebration.

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Jul 25

Battling on

The last few days have been fairly tough; the wind has been blowing at a minimum of 20 knots and even at night the howling is always there, like something out of an old horror movie.

Lavrio to Porto Rafti (13nm)

After being stuck in Lavrio for 3 days we were all keen to get away early in the morning. We put up a reefed main in the shelter of the harbour and headed out. Turning North we headed straight into the wind which was around Force 6 as we left but pretty soon increased to Force 7 as we left the lee of the land.

 

Porto Rafti to Voulaki (10nm)

Started out early with a nice F4 and had a fantastic sail for a couple of hours, making good headway to our destination of nea marmari. However, a few miles away we spotted an agitated sea ahead and furled up the jib just before a 40 knot wind hit us. From there it became uncomfortable and under motor we were only making around 3 knots against wind and current. We decided to head for our emergency en route shelter of a small bay on the south side of nea petaloia. Although the pilot book said it provides good shelter from the meltemi (the name of the northerly wind here) we did not find that the case and if it weren’t for the fact that there were 3 other boats already anchored we probably would have tried to find an alternative.

 

Nea Marmari to Voulamaki

Departed at 7am to try and get some miles behind us today. Already Force 4 with some heavy guests as we headed out but this soon turned to a Force 8 hitting us beam on, causing the boat to roll and pitch fairly dramatically and causing the crew to feel uncomfortable (apart from Marc who slept through it all!). Simone was certainly feeling very nervous so we headed for a sheltered bay and dropped anchor.

A feeling of frustration creeping in along with some concerns over the conditions. We’ve been trying to get North now for around a week and it seems that the sea Gods are against us. A week of incessant howling wind, going to bed to it, waking up to it, eating meals to it and trying to shout over it is also a little nerve jarring. This is a long way from long lazy lunches followed by swimming and snorkelling. Certainly the hardest conditions we have ever had to deal with and its testing us all in different ways. Just to rub salt into the wound three other things happened here:

  1. The outboard for the dinghy refused to start meaning that we were stuck on board
  2. We tied 2 fenders on lines and threw them out the back in case anyone swimming was struggling to swim back to the boat against the wind. At some point Simone noticed that there was only one so we ended up heading out to sea to rescue our errant fender. After a few close attempts with a boat hook, Marc jumped in the trailing dinghy and fished it out.
  3. Tomorrow storms are forecast, don’t really want to be the only thing in the bay with a 20m high metal mast:(

 

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Jul 23

Use the force

Ventured out early this morning, around 6.30am, with the intention of making some progress north to Voufalo. A F6 in the harbour at nea marmori seemed pretty ideal to make some progress. We got a reefed main up and began to make  bumpy headway with the wind almost beam on. However, not long before we were wrestling with a F8 gusting to 40 knot winds and me on the helm being regularly drenched with spray even with the spray hood closed. We had been towing the dinghy to give us better visibility but it decided to start flying behind us and then land upside down and turn itself into a submarine causing a huge amount of drag. Managed to winch it in and right it, though it continued to fly around behind us.

Simone feeling very uncomfortable so we headed into the shelter of ormos Vlikho for a big english breakfast and some calm. Hoping the wind calms down this afternoon, if not, forecast is for less wind tomorrow. Making snail like progress up the coast.

 

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Jul 22

Happy birthday!

Alles liebe zum Geburtstag Mama/Oma!! Ich hoffe Ihr habt einen schönen Tag und geht schön aus essen. Wir kämpfen uns vorwärts gegen den Wind, er ist etwas schwächer als am Anfang der Woche, aber immer noch sehr respektabel. Heute morgen sind wir sehr früh los (7 Uhr, allerdings zu früh für Marc!) um die morgendlich Windschwäche auszunutzen und ankern jetzt vor einem kleinen Fischerhafen. Wir wurden weggescheucht als wir versuchten am Kai anzulegen; eine halbe Stunde später hat eine dicke Fähre dort angelegt: es wäre ein wenig ungemütlich geworden.

Wir werden jetzt die kleine Stadt erkundigen, neue Vorräte anschaffen (der Rosewein is alle, Panik), und dann zur nächsten kleinen Bucht schippern. Morgen haben wir einen langen Tag vor uns, nach Voufalo, 22 nm (nautical miles). In dem Wind kann es gerne 6-7 Stunden dauern. Einen ganz lieben Gruss von uns allen 🙂

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Jul 19

Last day in Lavrio

Hopefully our last day in Lavrio. Wind still F7/8 this morning so stayed put again this morning. Had a relaxing day doing pretty much nothing at all apart from reading and watching the world go by.

Tomorrow forecast is for F5 and we are all keen to move on after a few days here so we are aiming for an early start.

However, some minor drama this afternoon when we spotted that one of our fenders had gone missing. Not quite sure whether someone half-inched it or we just did a crap job of tying it up. Hopefully someone stole it so that we can ask the police if it was a repeat offender !!

Simone and I spent an hour walking round the harbour looking for our stray fender but to no avail, so went down to the marina shop and purchased a lovely new shiny one complete with snug cover.

 

 

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