Sailing: the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

On the Move Again and Close Encounters with a Monk Seal

Good Friday was our last day in Kos.  The marina distributed plates of Easter sweet breads and bright red hard boiled eggs.  The eggs are dyed bright red to signify the blood of Christ.  The Greeks play an egg cracking game with these eggs called tsougrisma (τσούγκρισμα) which symbolizes the breaking open of the tomb and Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Easter sweet breads and eggs - a gift from the marina
In the evening is the procession of The Epitaph.  After a church service, an elaborate wooden bier, symbolizings the tomb of Jesus, adorned with fresh flowers (and the modern touch of LED lights) is carried from the various churches through the streets of the town.  All the biers are brought by their congregation to the town square where the sombre rites continue to midnight.  We walked into town to watch the beginning of the procession but could not stay on as we had an early start in the morning.
The faithful waiting outside the church for the Epitaph
The Epitaph procession
Up early the next morning for our passage to Leros.  About an hour after setting out of Kos harbour a Turkish Coast Guard boat comes towards us.  We of course were checked into Greece but in those waters the two countries are so close that it is impossible to go from one island to another without criss-crossing the borders.  The Coast Guard ship circled us then called us up on the radio, asked us to turn off our motor and then came along side, tied up to us and then ask to see all our papers.  They were very polite and even apologetic, explaining it was all routine.  Fortunately the sea was dead calm with no wind so it was fine to have the large Coast Guard boat tie up alongside our little boat.  I suspect that is why they chose to stop us - good practice for the crew.
Turkish Coast Guard waving goodbye after checking our papers
Mid-afternoon we arrived at Alinda in Leros.  We were the only yacht around and able to pick up a mooring.  We settled in to relax for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  We didn’t bother to go ashore and happily stayed on the boat to prepare for an even earlier start the next morning.

Alinda, Leros
Just after sunrise we dropped the mooring line for our long passage to Karlovasi on the northern side of the island of Samos.  We managed to do a fair amount of sailing in the light southerlies but had to motor for the last two hours so we would get into the harbour before dark.  After a 10 ½ hour passage we entered a deserted harbor with friendly Greek Coast Guard at the ready to catch our lines as we pulled alongside the town wharf.
Only visiting yacht in the harbour of Karlovasi
The next day we took a walk to the nearby fishing harbour.  We were walking along the wharf, Bob was a few paces ahead of me.  He had just passed what at first looked to me like a rolled up carpet.  I stopped to look and realised it was a seal.  At first I thought it was dead as I was only a foot away and it wasn't moving.  I called Bob back. (He had walked right passed without noticing anything.)  Sure enough we saw the seal was sleeping without a care in the world.  Bob has had lots of experience with seals in Antarctica so knew we could pat her and not disturb her.  She was such a slug.  We patted her belly, walked all around her and she barely blinked.  Nothing was going to disturb her nap.  Despite the seal’s total indifference, it was all quite exciting for us. 

When we got back to the boat we Googled Mediterranean seals and found out it was a Monk seal.  They are very rare with only an estimated 700 left in the wild.  What a privilege to have had such a close interaction with such a rare and beautiful animal - even if she did have a brain the size of a pea and was a total slug!
Bob tickling the Monk seal's belly
A slight lifting of the head was the only reaction we got from this slug-a-bug
So we have settled into the berth at Karlovasi, watching the huge ferries come and go, resting and waiting for the next good winds to our trip to Chios.

Huge ferry docking on the wharf about 50m from us

Friday, 14 April 2017

Laid Low in Kos

As seems to be the case much too often, the wind forecasters and Mother Nature are not on the same page.  We left Symi at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the predicted perfect winds for out northwest passage.  What we got was a dead calm for the first three hours, then the predicted winds for about two hours then for the rest of the passage dead calm again.  So the iron spinnaker once again got quite the workout and the sails only a light exercise.  Still there were some compensations.  About an hour out a pod of dolphins visited us.  This was the first time we had seen dolphins on passage.  Once we saw a dolphin in harbour in Emborios but this was the first time ‘at sea’.
 We tied up to the town wharf by mid-afternoon.  Bob had come down with the flu again and was feeling pretty miserable.  Given his history of pneumonia we decided to be very cautious and sought out a doctor to check him out.  As a retired epidemiologist, I find these interactions with the health care system in different countries quite interesting, if only it wasn’t Bob who was always getting sick!  We came away with the diagnosis of febrile Bronchitis, not pneumonia and a list of medication to relieve the symptoms, to which we added a few of our own home remedies. 
Bob taking the remedies. We found the Bailey's especially helpful!
We resolved not to leave Kos until Bob was better.  We did not want to be on some remote island without good medical care if Bob’s condition turned worse.  We had a good explore of Kos Island last year when we were here so were not too bothered by vegging out for awhile while Bob’s immune system did its thing.  After a few days at the town wharf we decided to move into the marina as the wind had picked up and the harbour was getting an uncomfortable swell.

By this time the inevitable happened and I came down with the dreaded lurgy.  Fortunately Bob was beginning to be on the mend by this time so I had a good nurse to get me through several days of shivers and shakes, sneezing and coughing.  It is a nasty bug and all the more so as we had just gotten over a similar infection a month ago.  Our stay in Kos was delayed a few more days but not without some compensations – beautiful sunsets and reconnecting with Australian cruisers Sal and John who we befriended in the winter of 2016 at Marmaris.
Sunset over Kos

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Setting Sail

After nearly three years it was time to say goodbye to Marmaris and Turkey.  We said goodbye to our neighbours Mary Beth and Karl with hopes to catch up in the northern Aegean.  Then early on April Fools we cast off the mooring lines and set off for the open sea (well really coastal cruising).
Bye Yacht Marina
Bye Marmaris
Bye Marmaris Bay
Cold but happy Skipper
Sadly there was no sailing our first day out but we still had a pleasant 4 hour motor to Bozukkale where we spent the night.  The bay was totally empty.  None of the restaurants were open and except for a fisherman coming for a few hours it was just us and the donkeys and goats.
Marmaris to Bozukkale
We were up early the next morning to head for Symi and to check into Greece for the next year.
As it was Sunday when we checked in at Symi and early in the season, we only completed the immigration part of the three part check-in necessary for when we enter a new country with our boat.  There was absolutely no problems with my long stay visa being in my damaged passport.  I am able to stay in Greece for a year.  We then went to customs but it was closed (though I don't think officially it was meant to be closed but it was Sunday and not many tourist and it is Greece so the official had a long siesta and stayed home).  Then we went to the port police (Coast Guard).  Since the Coast Guard needs the customs clearance before they can finalize the paperwork, they said we could finish the check-in the next day and we should go and have a nice lunch and enjoy the island.  So we did and the food was heaven. 
Having our Greek Lunch on arrival
What could be better - stifado, fish soup and of course Greek salad
We were the only visiting boat in the harbour and were able to moor along side, which was so much easier for us.  Just so one doesn’t think all is beer and skittles in this sailing gig, we returned from the sublime lunch to the reality of unblocking the aft head (rear toilet). Not a pleasant job but it turned out to be less vile than we feared. Much of sailing is boat repair in exotic locations. 
Songster along side
When we had finished with the plumbing, we stuck our heads out into the cockpit and at the restaurant 20m away music was playing and a very happy woman was dancing on the table to the joy of her friends who were clapping the rhythm.  
Dancing on the table
We completed our check-in on Monday morning and did a bit of grocery shopping to get those items that are not easy to get in Turkey or expensive.  As has happened every time we shopped at Symi supermarket, the proprietor gave us a free bottle of wine.  You have to love Greece - free wine, locals dancing on the tables and officials who encourage you to have a nice lunch and not worry about paperwork!
Pretty Symi
View from Ekklisia Evaggelistria Church
It was going to be hard to leave this beautiful island in the morning but the predicted winds are to be perfect for our long sail to Kos.
Bozukkale to Symi

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Getting Songster Ready

Once Songster was in the water we had a few more jobs to do to get her ready for the season.  The major jobs; replacing the VHF cable, replacing a broken block and replacing some halyards, required Bob to go up the main mast – 14 metres above the deck.  Bob donned the bosun chair and safety harnesses and I winched him up.  All the jobs required Bob to go up the mast five times over two or three days.  I developed quite the pectoral muscles with all the winching and Bob became less and less happy hanging by lines 14 metres above a hard deck.
It's a long way up - and down!
While in Australia browsing through chandleries, Bob happened upon a nifty product which will indicate if there is water in the fuel.  This product wasn’t on our list but looked like a good thing to have.  So Bob tried it out on Songster’s fuel tank.  You paint a bit of solution on the end of a dip stick and lower it to the bottom of the tank.  If the solution turns red, there is water in the tank.  Well we got the red colour.  We borrowed a fuel pump to pump out the water, which being heavier than diesel fuel, concentrates in the bottom of the tank.  Not only did water come out but then a thick brown sludge came through.  This was not what should be in the tank!
Sludge from the bottom of the fuel tank
So back to our saviours, the Marvellous Marlin Men in Red.  We had a nasty build up of algae requiring the fuel tanks to be cleaned.  This is a massive all day five step process consisting of pumping out the contaminated fuel through filters, washing the tanks several times with various solutions, adding biocide to the filtered fuel then pumping it back into the clean tank through more filters.  That impulse buy of a water test kit was worth its weight in gold (even if it did cost us several hundred euros to fix the problem).  A fuel filter clogged with algae cutting out the engine in the middle of rough seas is not a prospect we would relish!
The fuel pumping set up
Before cleaning
All clean
Our final splurge was to spruce up below decks with some new carpets.  The carpets that came with the boat were getting very tatty.  Lantana, who made us a cockpit enclosure last year, made us lovely new carpets.  Songster was looking very smart and all ready to sail.
New carpets