Don’t go out in this storm! – Thursday 24th May 2012

We have to cross about 40 miles to get to Limnos, where we will take the plane home. When we were arranging this trip, Captain suggested that we might have to take the ferry if the weather was inclement. Much discussion has centred on the best day to undertake this five hour voyage and the conclusion was – ‘today’.
However, it has been a really stormy night. We could hear the thunder, see the lightning. It’s not over yet! We eat breakfast in the main cabin instead of on deck. A sense of dread fills the air: lumpy seas and poor visibility are reported by the harbour master. A Swiss yacht comes into harbour very early is morning, bedraggled. They left the same bay we had been in about 3 in the morning because the weather was so bad. They shake their heads and ‘tut’ at the idea of going anywhere today.
Captain says that he feels sure it will be ok. “What is the difference between the strong winds we had the other day in the sun and this rain?” he reasons. I silently think, “the rain and the ridiculous downpour we are witnessing!” but I am wise enough to say nothing. captain has never let us down yet. I trust him, but I take some sea sick tablets!
We are about to set off when another bout of rain begins, so instead we batten the hatches.

It can get quite gloomy down below. Louise and I make sandwiches so we can eat during the voyage, cutting off the crusts from the old bread we scavenged from the restaurant last night.
Despite the portentous signs, we set off by 8.45. The sea chases us with boiling waves. We barrel along. I cannot decide whether to stay below and feel sick, or go above and get wet. Someone has to stay above. Captain has a stock of bright red sou’westers and leggings, which look a lot jollier than they feel. I notice he is wearing Wellington boots!
I am determined not to be sick. For while I stay on board with my IPhone music playing calm tunes like Satie and Chopin. I try something more upbeat and dance and sway to the music, trying to bend my legs to compensate for the rolling, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the horizon.

Below the cooker swings violently on it’s cradle, and even John has to hold on while he scrutinises the charts. Eventually the rain cascades down and I can no longer stand it. I go down below decks, and instantly regret it. Louise has no problem, she has always felt at home at sea and tries to persuade me that it feels like a mother rocking a cradle. This mother is very angry, I think!
I try dancing below decks but it just makes it worse, so I crawl off to my little bunk and lie, headphones firmly attached, listening to podcasts of A History of the World in 100 Objects. I had heard many of these at the time of their broadcast, but they are brilliant and I become absorbed. Louise lies on the sofa in the main saloon, listening to music. John and her husband take it in turns to assist Captain in the pouring rain and I have to say I think her husband was a true hero as he took more than his fair share.
Seven hours!
We motored all the way, but it took seven hours!
Just when I was truly sleepy, Captain roused us all to come on deck. The rain had finally stopped and he had spotted dolphins. Six dolphin chased our yacht, laughing in high spirits. They ran under the bow, jostling for pole position. There is no way you can feel sad when you encounter dolphin. We had seen them in the distance earlier in the week, but now they stayed with us for nearly 15 minutes and our excitement was wonderful. All the cold and wet, the rolling and cold was forgotten. As suddenly as they chose to stay with us, they decide to leave, dropping back and returning into deeper water. We are nearing the coast finally and we can see them for many minutes leaping away into the distance.
None of us need to stay below now. We hug the coast line for a while and decide not to finish the complete journey yet. Instead we pull into an inland waterway where we see monstrous solar panels which rotate to track the sun. Apart from that it is very pretty and very quiet.
I scrape the cupboards to produce an asparagus risotto, which seems to fill a hole. Thank goodness for tins! And tins of asparagus especially!
We are quick to sleep after the exhaustion of the day, even those of us who lay down for most of the time!


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.

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.

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.

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!