Thursday, 4 May 2017

Note to self

Note to self: Greece is chilly in April.


I got some good use out of the only long sleeved T-shirt I brought for our first week’s voyage south through the Greek islands of the Northern Ionian. We were prepared, but as we packed the majority of our possessions in a van headed for Emily’s family house on Zakynthos island, we kept the provisions for the first five day leg from Corfu to a minimum.

We did have our sailing jackets though - some form of Musto clothing is mandatory on a sailing yacht - which came in handy for the cloud covered third day of the voyage and few spots of rain. RAIN!

It’s been seven days. Let’s start at the beginning.


This is a picture of Emily on a Monday morning.

This is a picture of Emily on a Monday morning waiting in Jamie’s Italian of Gatwick Airport before flying to Corfu.

NB. Notice the Musto coat in the background
The 5.50am flight was easy. We were on our way to meet our 37ft Jeanneau Sun Oddyssey sailing yacht - aka ‘Hodja’ - berthed in Gouvia Marina, Corfu. The last time we visited was an overnight connecting flight via Athens during a cold January weekend. We had more or less made up our mind to buy her before we flew out, after seeing 18 different yachts in the UK and knowing almost exactly what we wanted. She ticked almost all the boxes and was really well looked after. We arrived, looked, offered, negotiated a little and agreed. Deposit, survey, legals and six weeks later - she was ours.


Marinas are expensive. Don’t buy a boat that has to sit in one.


We arrived in Corfu just before lunch and sat in one of the Marina cafes while we waited for the yacht broker to turn-up with the keys and paperwork. He seemed to be a talkative fellow, which felt to be eating into the short amount of time we had to setup the boat. We were right on both accounts but didn’t mind much. We learnt a lot from him and as we have six months ahead it seemed odd to be so desperate to be on the water. Finally we escaped his clutched jaws and made way for the yacht, keys in hand.


The domestic setup of a yacht is a lot more complicated than a house. Houses have rules and regulations with standard arrangements and conventions. Boats on the other hand are built by different builders that use varying methods and setups. Standardisation is thin. They are also taken on by independent owners who employ independent maintenance companies. Each has their preferred method and as result, simple tasks like running a tap become idiosyncratic.

Boring bit:
For example on Hodja, the taps use a water pressure pump powered by either 12V battery or 240V mains shore-power. It has a pressure release valve via the hot water cylinder which is powered by either 12V, 240V or a hot water flow from the engine. All is managed centrally but with a local switch/stop. So depending on where you are and what you’re using and in combination with which other amenity each is set differently. 

Boring bit over:
You get the point. We didn’t. Which is why we flooded the yacht’s bilges. Won’t happen again.


So it took a little longer to get running than anticipated. We also had a few issues outside our control. But by Tuesday and after a few visits to the supermarket, chandlery, boat builders, harbour master and port police we were ready to rig the old girl up – queue Wednesday morning.

Rigging went smoothly and by the afternoon we were circling the local waters: testing points of sail, reefing lines and other sailing guff. We anchored in a local bay to make sure the windless (electric anchor winch), tender (small inflatable boat) and outboard (engine for the small inflatable boat) all worked. Along the way a pod of dolphins rocked up to say hi, which we took as a positive omen for our first sail - although that is yet to be seen.

It all went surprisingly well which we found counter intuitively unnerving - but swiftly moved on to a few evening beers and conversation with neighbouring boats before the big day on Thursday – cast off for the five day trip south to Zakynthos island.


There is something about ‘sailors’. By ‘sailor’ I refer here and in all descriptions hereafter, purely to recreational sailors who go about their varying and diverse lives with almost no mutually identifying characteristics but have a single common attribute: they sail, recreationally. From young sailing instructor who ‘just wants to be out on the water’, slumming-it in any old aft cabin to fulfil said wish to FTSE 100 CEO cruising the Solent in a 60ft custom ketch. They open-up, they’re all friendly and just bloody love sailing boats. You don’t have to make an effort because there’s a solid common ground and basis to build a relationship from. You also rarely agree – because everyone has their own way of doing things. But show me a pontoon, dock, jetty or harbour wall where the crew of the moored boat next door don’t get out and offer to take your mooring lines before quizzing you on the belt setup of you Yanmar 29 Diesel and I’ll show you a blind man. And a liar.

There’s also something about being a sailor that affords you the luxury of going unnoticed doing the things that anywhere else would have you sectioned. From pull-ups on the boom in nought but swim shorts berthed outside a restaurant to poking a bent coat hanger taped to a five metre metal rod down the length of the boom to fish out a lost reefing pennant at 7.30am. The postman walks by with a puzzled shrug of his shoulders and you just know – he’s no sailor.

NB. Long sleeved T-shirt

First and last selfie - Emily was in bed.

Details of first passage to follow in due course...

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