I'm writing this blog in an attempt to bring my blog timeline more in sync with our YouTube video timeline, so for this week it's back to the future as I recall our trip from Kefalonia, through the Greek islands and onwards to Kaş (pronounced cash) in Turkey.
Here today gone tomorrow
With the associated high winds from 'Medicane Zorbas' dying down to nothing in the area of our hidey hole in the unfinished marina in Kefalonia, Greece we were able to untie A B Sea at 7.30am on Sunday 30th September and start our 6.5 hour trip north to the island of Ithaca. It was an uneventful trip and we had to motor the whole way as there was no wind, I guess the wind gods had run out of puff after all the effort they put in Zorbas!
The reason we were going to Ithaca was to meet up with another yacht that Mike and Elaine were going to help sail to Turkey, just as they had done with us from Spain. Arriving into the big and well protected bay at Vathy, Ithaca I was starting to feel somewhat nervous as I was about to attempt my first ever Med mooring. I'd heard all sorts of horror stories about it all going pear shaped, but I also knew that I had perfectly calm, flat and almost windless conditions for my first try, plus I had the secret weapon of Mike standing by my side with his 20+ years of sailing experience. I give a full description of exactly what Med mooring is in Barry's Blog # 48 - Med mooring is a bloody nightmare so I won't go into any detail here. Suffice to say that overall it all went okay and by 2.00pm we were tied up, putting A B Sea to bed and drinking a cold beer.
Our stay in Ithaca was just long enough to top up our fuel tank with 64 litres of diesel, have a nice wander around town and get two good night's sleep in preparation for the next leg of our journey which would be a 22 hour overnight passage. But before I get into that, there are a couple of things I'd like to mention that may be of interest to other med sailors visiting Ithaca. Firstly there is a lady who comes around to collect a fee for mooring against the harbour wall and at first there was some question about whether she was genuine or just scamming. Phil, the owner of the boat we were meeting up with, phoned the port police to enquire if there was a charge for mooring and they said no there wasn't. At which point the phone was passed to the lady who proceeded to have a very animated conversation with the police officer, the phone was then passed back to Phil and the police officer then told him that there was a charge for mooring. This action alone raised more concern that maybe she was now giving the police a cut of the takings. Eventually we ended up paying 12.50 Euros per night, however that didn't include any electricity or water as there was none available to hook up to. You can, if you wish, simply anchor in the big bay and dinghy ashore, which is what we'd normally do, but this was a good chance for me to practice mooring stern-to and we also wanted to introduce ourselves to Phil and Linda on our buddy boat.
Here come the charter yachts
Our rest day of Monday at Ithaca was going quite smoothly until about 15 charter yachts turned up skippered by Russians. The weather conditions were still very favourable and the wind was manageable but for some reason they just could not get a handle on the med mooring. At one point Mike had to dive into the bay to bring a line ashore for one yacht because they'd managed to get the anchor chain of the boat next to them in between their keel and their rudder so they could not safely go forwards or backwards. With five people on each of their foreward and aft lines they were eventually manhandled to safety. Mike was rewarded with a couple of glasses of fine Russian vodka.
Next to us was an empty slot and after watching and helping with several other moorings I was rightfully concerned when the next yacht in chose to come alongside A B Sea. Needless to say it didn't go smoothly but we managed to not get any scrapes on our hull and only just avoided our anchor chain getting hooked by their keel.
On Tuesday 2nd October at 11.30am A B Sea and our buddy boat untied the lines from Ithaca harbour and began our 22 hour passage which would culminate with us being on the southern side of the Corinth Canal by 9.30am the following day.
Our overnight passage would take us under the Rio–Antirrio Bridge, officially called the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge. It's one of the world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and longest of the fully suspended type. It's a road traffic only bridge and it crosses the Gulf of Corinth near Patras, linking the town of Rio on the Peloponnese peninsula to Antirrio on mainland Greece. It took 7 years to construct.
I'm sure it is a wondrous sight to behold during daylight but our schedule meant that we'd be passing under it at night. The formalities are very straight forward, you radio Rio Traffic on VHF channel 14 when you're 5 miles off the bridge and tell them your vessel name, length and mast height above water, remembering to add an extra metre for your VHF antennas. Minimum clearance under the bridge is 25 metres so based on your mast height they'll instruct you as to which set of pylons to pass between. Yachts with exceptionally high rigs may need to request permission to use the channel between the two central pylons, which is normally restricted to commercial vessels. At one mile off the bridge you radio Rio Traffic again to receive final clearance. There are ferries which constantly run from north to south, but Rio Traffic will request them to hold while you pass through.
Because this hop of our journey was a night passage we also had Elaine on board A B Sea so we could do our night watches in shifts. It's mentally very tiring navigating at night so Aannsha and I were thankful for a helping hand. The night passage was uneventful and we arrived at the western end of the Corinth Canal to a stunning sunrise.
A man made wonder
The Corinth canal is 6.3 kilometres (4 nm) (3.9 miles) in length and only 25 metres (82 feet) wide. The depth is kept dredged to 6.5 metres (21.3 feet) along its entire length. As we got to 5 miles from the western end we called Corinth Canal Control on VHF channel 11, gave them our vessel name, length and beam and were instructed to proceed to half a nautical mile from the entrance to await further instructions. It was another windless day and the water was like a mill pond so we were able to hold position very easily. In windier conditions it is advised that you anchor to wait your turn, as your wait can be up to several hours in busy times.
Our wait was about 50 minutes and once the way was clear, canal control called each vessel through by name. The canal is cut through the bedrock and runs ruler straight for its entire length, it was slightly unnerving at first but once we were in and up to speed, about 5.5 knots, it was simply a case of staying away from the edges. Exiting the eastern end of the canal there is a waiting quay where we tied up and went ashore to complete the paperwork and pay the transiting fee of 249 Euros for our 14.15 metre (46 foot) vessel. The canal is open 24 hrs a day but closes on Tuesdays for routine repairs and maintenance.
Half an hour later we and our buddy boat were on our way to the Greek island of Poros where we arrived at 4.00pm and I completed my second med mooring which took me three attempts. After I finally got our Mantus anchor to dig in I was talking to Elaine, who was pushing the buttons at our bow to drop the anchor, and she explained that it didn't work on the first two attempts because I wasn't allowing the anchor to reach the bottom before motoring back towards the quay. I'd made a rookie mistake of not checking my water depth readout and factoring in how long it takes for the anchor to reach the bottom. Lesson learned and a big thanks to Elaine for being so patient with me.
The following day, Thursday 4th October, we departed from Poros at 8.15am and once again had to motor for the 10 hour trip south east to Serifos. Arriving there at 6.00pm and thankfully there was no med mooring this time as we rafted up alongside our buddy boat who'd found a nice spot to go alongside the harbour wall. We phoned the refuelling truck who came along and topped off both boats' diesel tanks, we put in 82 litres. Some viewers of our YouTube videos have been asking why we seem to be constantly filling our diesel tank as that is how it appears in our videos. A B Sea has a fuel tank capacity of 205 litres and I always take every opportunity to keep it filled to the brim, because you never know if the next island you visit will have fuel available or not. It also stops water condensation forming inside the tank which could lead to a diesel bug problem. Because water is heavier than diesel it settles to the bottom of the tank and the bug forms in the layer between the two liquids. If the bug sludge gets sucked up and clogs your fuel filters your engine just stops working and that's not something I want to happen.
The wind is blowing our way!
Friday 5th October we departed Serifos at the very reasonable hour of 9.45am and this time we got lucky with the wind. It was blowing our way at a nice steady 20 knots so we unfurled the head sail and turned off the engine. Things got a bit hairy during the last 45 minutes as the wind suddenly increased to 30 knots and the waves got a lot bigger. We were wearing our life jackets and were strapped to A B Sea with our safety harnesses, but both Aannsha and I agree that 30 knots of wind is right on the edge of our comfort zone.
Putting the head sail away in 30 knots was challenging with only three hands between the two of us, but eventually we got it furled in and increased the throttle to 2,200 rpm and made it to the relative safety of the bay where the ferries dock on the western side of Ios. As we were shorthanded (pun intended) the drill we had with our buddy boat was to let them go in and tie up first so that they could then be ready to offer us assistance with our mooring lines.
Mooring at Ios was very different from the previous Greek islands. As we did lazy circles in the big bay watching Mike try six times to get his anchor set in with winds gusting to 30 knots I got more and more nervous about the whole plan. Eventually Mike managed to get the anchor set and radioed us to come in at which point I said "after watching the difficulty you had, I think we'll put trust in our Mantus anchor and drop anchor in the shallow part of the bay". Our Mantus went in first time and stuck like glue and we were happy that the wind was predicted to die down as night fell. However the port authorities were not happy and we watched as a silver 4-wheel drive came hurtling around the bay towards us with blue lights flashing and sirens going. It seems that even though our chart showed our location as an anchorage, things had changed and they required the whole area to be cleared to allow the big ferries to manoeuvre when docking and leaving.
With great reluctance we pulled up our anchor and radioed Mike that we'd be coming in. That was when we got some good news. Mike had explained to the harbour master that Aannsha had a broken arm (slight exaggeration as it's a fractured wrist) so stern-to mooring was difficult with only two people on board. The harbour master generously said that we could berth alongside in the 'emergency zone', but if another boat came in with an emergency they'd have to raft up alongside us. Offer accepted and without too much messing around we got A B Sea safely tied up.
We stayed Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in Ios waiting for the wind and waves to settle down which gave us ample time to get some work done on blogs and videos, then explore the beautiful town of Ios which they call the Village. Hopping on board a local bus we paid 1.80 Euro each and accidently ended up at a very nice beach dotted with bars and restaurants, many of which were closed for the end of the season, but we found a nice one with a view across the bay to enjoy a cold beer while we waited for the bus to turn around and come back again.
Hopping back on the bus we managed to get off at the right place and began exploring the twisting narrow alleyways always heading in a general uphill direction. At the top of the village there are three small churches and an incredible view. Below us we could see A B Sea tied up in the harbour, looking further out we were greeted by the sight of several other Greek islands seeming to glow warmly in the midday sun. It was picture postcard perfect. This is what we signed up for, this was yet another reason why we do what we do.