Rescue – Friday 18th May 2012


I could hear thunder all night long in the quiet bay. It did not seem very close but rumbled around disturbing sleep. We needed to be up early to have finished breakfast by 9.00 so the engineer could come to fix the cooling system. Whilst we knew he would come, we had no idea how he might get to us. We looked around for roads leading to the bay, but there were very few. We hoped he might come in a boat as we were swinging out in the bay at anchor. However, if he only drove and walked to the coast, we needed to inflate our dingy to get him aboard.
Needless to say, he came in his own dingy with an assistant and got to work re-doing the tests we had run to find the cause of our trouble. Having completed our routine tests he began to pull the engine apart until he found the difficulty.
We were rescued!
It was all over by 11.30 and we continued our travels through drizzle without wind. It is not so much fun just motoring around from island to island, but it is effective.
Three hours later we arrived in a small island called Ionousses, near Khios. Originally a centre for Greek shipping magnets, it is rumoured to have moneyed inhabitants. If this is the case, I must say they hide it well these days.
The harbour is tiny, but picturesque. There are hardly any tourists here and a faded decadence is hinted at by the ruined dwellings that seem to be empty throughout the town. Some houses up the hill are in total ruin, it is overrun by cats, all of whom look very bedraggled and display large scabs. Shops are hidden in the houses, but most are firmly closed for the afternoon, as is often the way in Greece.

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There are three restaurants but only one is serving food, the others are bars. Our meal was very cheap but tasty and we shared the place with two Greek families and their children.

Sailing along – Thursday 17th May 2012


Sailing is, of course, all about wind. The direction, the strength: the gusting, the continuity of it makes or breaks a sail.

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Overnight, in our isolated bay, I was aware of the motion of the ocean, and could hear the anchor chain drag over the seabed, yet, we awake to find our anchorage held well.
After breakfast, gazing over the green shore (not a building in sight), we sail off to another bay several miles away. Each morning Captain briefs us on the wind forecast, and our course. Various possibilities are considered and our day is agreed.
Out at sea, the wind gets up; 25-35 knots so we achieve 9 knots speed at times. The sails are reeled almost to pocket handkerchief size and we still zoom along. The beginning of the journey offers calm seas, but as we approach our destination, the sea begins to churn. The waves reach 2 metres high. This is the Mediterranean Sea, where tide and wind is far calmer than one might expect on the open ocean. Nevertheless, this is an exciting ride. You need a strong stomach as a sailor – and it helps if you like fairground rides (which I don’t).
Our bay for the night is very well sheltered. We can tuck right in away from the wind, so we need to motor in. Sadly, this reveals a problem. The engine is not cooling properly and we need to call out the engineer.
Such amazing service! They offer to come straight out if we are in danger. But we are fine, quite safe and settle to preparing the evening meal on board. Tonight I take my turn to be head chef. The food is good but the atmosphere is tainted by the prospect of the engineer arriving at 9.00 in the morning and what they might find.
Will they be able to get us going again without having to interrupt our itinery?

A night in a bay – Wednesday 16th May 2012


It’s a lovely town, Pythagorio. Clearly used to tourists, but, as it is early in the season, there are many glimpses of everyday life.

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Captain has a few arrangements to complete, including buying a suitable SIM for Internet and phone now he is in Greece. We all take a taxi to the capital of the island, buy a few more fresh ingredients to boost our culinary endeavour, prior to sailing off again for a night in a remote bay.
It’s good sailing weather. The wind takes us to the Northern shore. We eat lunch as we sail.
We anchor in a pretty bay. Our friends volunteer to lead the cooking.
It’s a beautiful evening, clear stars, good food, wine and great conversation.

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Cast off – Tuesday 15th May 2012


Last night the engineer was still at work on board until 11.30 at night. Seats had been dismantled, lockers emptied, carpets lifted and the stairs between decks had been removed for access to the engine room. (Actually it is a simple thing to put the stairs back in place!)
This morning, our task is to it everything back in place. We wake at 7.30 to arrange passport control, and get the ship in ship shape condition for sailing. There are plenty of small tasks, removing a stain from the cushion, scrubbing the deck where some chemical had been spilled – and breakfast, of course.
By 11.30 Captain says we are ready to cast off. We leave Turkey today and sail to Greece. Goodbye to the lovely warm showers at the marina and the posh restaurant. Whilst the marina sea is flat and calm, as soon as we reach the open sea, we find out that the gentle breeze is, in fact, quite strong. This is good for sailing, but creates a ‘lumpy’ sea. Short bursts of high and low rock or toss, depending on your constitution. It is always a shock at first until your body gets into the swing- pun intended!
We hoist our sails and set off. Both John and his friend instantly parry with each other to be at helm. Our friend is 70 this year, but you would think they were both 7!
After 4 hours, with wind of around 20 knots and a speed of 8 knots we land at Pythagorio. This is the island of Samnos, on which Pythagorus lived, becoming the famous mathematician and triangle buster!
It’s a tiny harbour near an airport. There are a few other yachts. There are several good restaurants to choose from and we eat in a garden, covered by vines.

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Ephesus- Monday 14th May 2012


Captain has owned this 45 foot yacht since she was built over 20 years ago, near the beginning of his retirement. Every year, he sails her around Europe. Beginning in the North West, around Britain, France, Scandinavia, and then over to the East, via Italy, Croatia, Cyprus.
These days he sails it for two seasons. From May to July and from September to November. Every fortnight a different crew arrive to cook and support the sailing, doing heavy work, but enjoying themselves hugely.
We know Captain through friends of friends.
However, the beginning of each season is fraught with the need to maintain the boat and she needs at least another day of serious engineer time.
As crew, we are redundant. The ancient site of Ephesus is a long taxi ride away and would cost order £100 so we opt to hire a car and drive off.
Best preserved after Pompeii and more visited than any place in Turkey, after Istanbul, Ephesus dates back 7 millennia. The roads, public toilets, amphi-theatre, library have been restored to something of their former glory, although photographs show just how ruined it must have been at the turn of the 20th century. Not all the restoration is a success. Frequently, the overuse of concrete, the mismatch of remains creates a strange, rather ugly.

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In some areas, the remaining stones line up awaiting for their turn to complete the city further.

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The library shows the elegance and grandeur of the city in days gone by.

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There are streets with houses and even public toilets to admire!

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The scale of the place is very impressive, even with the coach loads of tourists. Surely it must be far more crowded during July or August.
Near the main site is a rather lovely legend of seven Christians who were entombed for their faith. Some two hundred years later, they emerged to tell the tale of their ordeal and shortly after died. I was eager to see this and am so glad we did, as we found a fabulous restaurant just by.

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Driving down the road, we came across a tortoise! What country do tortoises come from? Was it wild or an escaped pet?

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Close to the marina, we stopped at Didima to see the famous Medusa’s head and found another great restaurant for our evening meal. The food was cooked in a wood oven just by us and tasted wonderful.

Learning the ropes – Sunday 13th May 2012


I’m sleeping on bunk beds which are incredibly hard. I bulk up the thin mattress with an extra sleeping bag, which makes a big difference. Our shared bathroom is a narrow triangle consisting mostly of cupboards. The tap pulls out of the basin and then acts as a hand held shower. The main saloon is very comfortable with comfy seating, a dining table and a small galley kitchen. Our captain sleeps at the stern with his own bathroom.
Around 9.00 we assemble for breakfast: bread, cereal, honey, orange juice with coffee. The sky is a soft blue, the air warm, the sea in the marina very still.
As crew we are divided: those who know stuff about sailing and those who are able to follow orders. We are also in charge of food.
We are going nowhere today as the engineer continues his work aboard, so we assess the food stock. Miserably low! Captain has not spent any time buying food, except essentials and some of last year’s stuff is out of date and we throw it.
The sails were hoisted back into place by John and our friend, overseen and assisted by the captain while Louise and I wrote careful lists for the afternoon expedition to the supermarket.
Lunch at the marina was a beautiful affair. The yacht club has exceptional views and the dining area surrounds a large swimming pool. All very white table linen and considerate service. It was like being transported to a new ethereal world.


The afternoon was spent at the supermarket, water, beer, tonic, lots of tins for emergencies, fresh vegetables and fruit etc.
In our time off we thought we might like to swim in the magnificent marina pool for half an hour but, the rules insist that unless we actually own a yacht each we have to pay over £10 for the privilege. No way!
The 7 o’clock gin went down well as did dinner back at the yacht club, generously paid for by our lovely captain.

Journey to Turkey – Saturday 12th May 2012


Our friends turn up with the taxi about 20 minutes before they were due! Not that it mattered, we had already packed and had only the last few things to do. Packing brings its own excitement: what to take and the piquancy and anxiety of forgetting something vital- like passports!
Our journey to Gatwick took just over an hour. By train it would take more like two, so we were lucky that Louise had won a voucher for a minicab ride and was happy to donate this to our trip.
Although EasyJet Bag Drop was impossibly slow, there was time, once through passport control and security to buy some lunch and avoid the ridiculously high prices from plane food.
EasyJet, of course, do not allow booking of seat numbers without a premium, so we felt lucky to make our way through the scrum to the emergency exit and the additional leg room that space provides. Three and half hours flying time is best with a little wriggle room!

Our yacht’s captain had arranged for a taxi to meet us from the Turkish airport. It’s the first time I have ever needed to scan the crowd awaiting planes to see our name! The driver sped along for over an hour and delivered us safely to the yacht in the marina.

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She has been out of the water over winter, having repairs and improvements to her engine and canvas hood. She looks beautiful, but still has a few minor changes before we can set sail. It will be at least a day onshore.
Nevertheless our captain maintains a strict code of conduct which includes a gin and tonic around 7 at night. This settles us in well and the marina has a good restaurant for the evening meal.

I’m convinced travel suits me!

Traveling Again


Despite the fun I am having with my grandson, despite the reunion with lots of friends, John and I are off again; this time only for a fortnight.  A friend of a friend owns a yacht, and he needs crew.  So we fly to Turkey on Saturday.  Hopefully the boat will already be in the water, for it has been in dry dock for the winter season.  Our plan is to sail from Turkey to Greece, where another crew takes over.

We’ve sailed like this before and I am very excited!

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We will travel out with friends who introduced us to the owner several years ago.  So there will be five of us on board altogether.  I’ll take photos and update you when I can.

Yippee!  A retiree’s life is never dull.

A Grand Design to see the Queen


Flushed with success as Nonna and Poppy, John and I are happy to be asked to care for Keoni again for a day. Actually, it was all a bit of a mix up. My daughter and her husband are keen to move to Devon, but have lots of packing to do before they can. I have generously given them old sofas, chairs etc but as they have no where, as yet, to move to they are reluctant to take them with them.
I am reluctant to take them back. Everyone is agreed that selling this house is high priority and that it is crammed full of 28 years living. So they agree to hire a van, and take loads of stuff to the dump. Trouble is, I don’t realise that they will not be able to manage Keoni, so John and I have booked to go to the ‘Grand Designs’ show on the same day.
Still, toddlers love large spaces and new things. How hard can it be to take him too?
This particular journey across London, involves several trains. Right down Keoni’s street: he loves trains. We get to Waterloo without incident. John plans a short detour, purely for educational purposes. Today is the State Opening of Parliament. the Queen is in London. So we stop at Westminster station, with just ten minutes to spare before she is due.

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He loves the horses, the bells, the beautiful coaches. Even though we cannot actually see inside to be sure the Queen is there, it is worth the effort. The British do pageantry with a particular panache.

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By the end of the day, Keoni seems to recognise the headlines in the newspaper of the Queen’s carriage and happily ‘reads’ the paper on the train.
After our Royal Appointment, we head over to the Excel exhibition centre. This involves two more trains. By the time we arrive, he is asleep, which is great because it gives us time to get orientated and visit the stand we really want to see: oak frame houses. Part of the dream is to buy a wreck, knock it down and build our own house.
We are impressed by the range of companies and the standard of care and design they offer. For a short while we believe this will actually happen.
When Keoni wakes we dedicate our time to him, allowing him to tell us what to see. Favourite things are; houses you can walk into without queuing, garden seats where you can sprawl and a giant telephone.

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Armed with our information about timber framed houses, we begin the journey home.
Another successful day.

A wet weekend and a game of hide and seek


Mamma and I had taken Keoni round Tescos almost as soon as I returned from Australia. They had run the stocks down. I did not know what we needed in the way I usually did when shopping. Taking a toddler round a supermarket is a skill I have to re-learn. Mostly, Keoni participates in the debate about choice. However, he seems to need treats like a strange bag of fruit purée which you suck through a screw top, or oatcakes quite regularly.
Tescos is not stupid. Their marketing boys knew their onions! Part of the store is devoted to extracting money from parents through pester power. You can avoid it, of course, but what is a Nonna supposed to do. It’s a well known fact: grandparents should spoil their grandchildren. Anyway, who is counting a £10 box of wooden train track and an additional box of engine.
Keoni has already discovered Thomas the Tank Engine, but he is not discriminating against cheap replica. He loves this new toy and for the next few days, we play at building the track, chuffing and tooting together, while Mamma grabs some well earned rest. Toddlers are highly demanding of attention. However many adults there are, you always need one more. That’s the law!
On Saturday, Mamma goes to work. Usually Pappi does the minding but I’m keen to try my hand. The trouble is it rains all day!
So what shall we do?
(Just before we get to that part, I need to explain the names slightly or you might get confused. You will have gathered the Mamma and Pappi are my daughter and son-in-law. But Poppy is their name for John as Grandad and I am the Nonna. So now we can all play Happy Families)
John reckons that trains are such a hit at present, we could take the train to Waterloo. Good plan!
We pack food, change of clothes, nappies and associated material into the buggy.
By the time we have walked to the station, he is asleep! On the platform, the excitement is lacking due to the heavy relaxed sound of breathing coming from the buggy. The train whooshes in, but Keoni maintains a dignified snore. All through the journey, this continues. The rain pours down the carriage windows and the delighted grandparents wonder why they decided to do this in the first place.
He does not even wake to the sounds of a busy London terminus. It is only when we are walking towards the embankment that he stirs. He seems puzzled as to his whereabouts; fair enough really. Suddenly, Poppy and I begin to realise the additional burden of trying to negotiate stairs with a buggy. We walk a long detour to avoid carrying the deluxe buggy too far. It’s heavy!
It’s past lunchtime and we need to find food. Restaurants are packed with families, all sheltering from the rain. Eventually we find space within the Festival Hall and encourage Keoni out to explore. But he is still sleepy, reluctant to be exposed in a foreign environment with Nonna and Poppy. If he has to be out, he prefers to cling to me, burying his face in my coat.
Still, the food does wonders for his mood. He livens up and begins to gain confidence. John and I are feeling a little tired by now, but that is beside the point.

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