Early 2017 we've sold our house and quit our jobs in Holland and sailed to Greece in a 24 feet Cornish Crabber. On Kefalonia our new captain boarded, Captain Jack, a seven year old Jack Russel we've adopted from the shelter on this Greek island. Now we all live and sail together on a beautiful Southern Cross 31, named Coco. In this blog you can read about our adventures.
‘A dog’s life’, do you know this expression? Well, that’s exactly what I have on board of my ship. They call me Captain Jack, but I don’t have shit to say. It’s sheer mutiny! Making a good impression with a shelter dog, that’s what this is all about. But Í will tell you what’s really going on here. At least if I get the chance to when they don’t pay attention. In my own Captain’s corner.
She took me out of the shelter a year ago. You know, the tall lady. I’m really happy with that, because it was no fun out there. So I always follow in her footsteps. I lost my lady boss before and this wont happen to me again.
I’m not really sure what to think about him. You know, the little bald man. He reminds me of my old owner who brought me to the shelter when my first lady boss died. Really a dick move. Sometimes this little bald man also tries to take me for a walk. Away from my new lady boss. But I’m not falling for that. Then I start growling like a pit bull and they both look at me totally surprised, because normally I’m a really chill dog. Now he never takes me for a walk any more. And that’s how I get my way as a Captain. It may take a while, but in the end I always succeed.
But back to the Captain’s corner. If you want to know how things really work out here, it’s me you want. Feel free to ask all your questions and as soon as I get the chance, I will tell you the honest truth about the dog’s life I have here. But only in the Captain’s corner please, because if they catch me I’ll be in some serious trouble.
A good neighbour is worth more than a distant friend. That certainly applies to us ‘gypseas’. All our old friends are far away and our new contacts are usually limited to ever-changing good neighbours. Usually, but not always. On Crete we meet our distant friends again. No less than twice.
Compared to our part-time paradise on Gramvousa, our stay in Chania has somewhat more infernal features. In the beautiful old venetian harbour we are moored between two music terraces. It’s already mid-September, but the city is still crawling with tourists. Every evening we are treated to a deafening mix of traditional Cretan live music and something that can best be described as ‘nothing-going-on-boom-tjak-house’. Chania rocks! A true torture for the ear and not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately this is not our biggest problem.
It’s September 3th 7 a.m. when I step into the dinghy with the Captain. We are anchored at Gramvousa, a small island north-west of Crete. The tourists have not yet arrived, the fishermen are out fishing and the other sailing yacht that was anchored next to us last night has already left. We are all alone in Gramvousa. Alone in paradise. The three of us on our own uninhabited island.
Finally the time has come. After a long week of windy weather in Monemvasia, we are able to sail on to Kythira, an island on our route to Crete. The circumstances seem to be reasonable with some stronger wind and higher waves in the morning. At sunrise and a first cup of coffee we slip our moorings and off we go. Everything is calm. It’s shaping up to be a beautiful day. There is no indication that this is also going to be our last cup of coffee for today.
It is still dark when I wake up. “Where are we again?” is the first thing that springs to mind. There is a stiff breeze. The mooringlines are pulling our Coco. I’m not comfortable with it. After lying awake for an hour, listening and lurking through the portholes, I get up with the first dash of daylight. It’s not a moment too early. It is chaos in the harbor of Monemvasia.
Together with Captain Jack I step outside for our morning round. When I look around, I cannot believe my eyes. Half of the stern to moored sailing yachts are simultaneously leaving the port at the crack of dawn. They are apparently pushed onto the jetty by the strong north wind because their anchors aren’t holding. Most of them anchor again just outside the harbor and roll sideways back and forth on the high waves. The anchor bay clearly offers even less shelter than the harbor. We are lucky to have found a place alongside the breakwater this time. The whole morning we witness all kinds of mooring and anchor problems without having to fear for our own anchor. TV from the cockpit.
After four days of wonderful sailing from Astros to Tyros, Sabatiki and Kiparisi we have arrived in Monemvasia on the edge of the area where the Meltemi reigns in the summer months. And we will know it. As predicted, it starts to blow hard the day after our arrival and only stops briefly in between.
The port itself also has some obstacles. Both at the inner and the outer pontoon there are large stones and other junk under water, in which chains become entangled or as a result of which anchors cannot secure themselves properly. Several yachts only get away with the greatest possible effort. Someone from the crew has to go into the water to dive to the anchor. If that doesn’t work either, there’s nothing else left to do than call a local diver. He will rush over and dissolve everything neatly. Don’t forget to pay the bill please. And he does really good business here.
Like that morning that the first sailing yacht departs from the outer jetty. When they pull up their anchor, they get so entangled in their neighbors’ anchors and anchor chains that they are eventually blown back to the same jetty again by the strong wind. They carry one extra anchor and no less than three extra chains on their own anchor.
As a result, three neighbouring boats are no longer well positioned behind their anchors. With fenders, the crews try to keep their yachts off the jetty and prevent damage. A little later the Port Police also arrives, visiting all the boats involved. Ultimately, a diver and a fisherman spend a few hours disentangling the chains and placing the anchors of all ships in their proper places. A beautiful spectacle to be watched from our cockpit.
All ships depart from the jetty later in the afternoon. Sailing yacht Tolo leaves first. To great applause from their neighbouring boats, this time they only pull up their own anchor. A few hours later new ships are moored stern to the same jetty again with unsuspecting crews on it. Curious what the morning will bring for them. And for our cockpit TV of course.
But despite all our observations from the cockpit, we miss the most important broadcast. Okay, we have seen a luxurious motor yacht moored with a luxury dinghy and a few hours later leave again without any problems. We only miss that it is our own Dutch king with his wife and children. We hear about that later. How is it possible that we missed this? Are they really very ordinary people, who do not stand out among the crowd at all? Or is it because of Willem’s new hipster look? He appears to have a beard lately and you don’t expect that of course. They indeed appear to be on holiday in their modest holiday residence in the Argolic Gulf and are paying the ancient city of Monemvasia a quick visit.
In the meantime, the wind is still blowing. Harder than before. And it keeps blowing. So we wait. We wait for the wind to die down and the waves to disappear. Let’s switch our cockpit TV to the weather forecast again.
When it rains, it pours. After the troubles with our stern anchor in Kilada, the bow anchor spontaneously breaks from the chain when we leave Vivari’s anchor bay. Fortunately it doesn’t happens until the anchor is completely hoisted. As soon as the pole of the anchor hits the bowsprit, the connecting swivel falls apart. I utter a cry of bewilderment and thank our guardian angel, whoever it may be. If this had happened during the night, we might all have ended upon the rocks.
We are on our way to Paralia Astrous. Strong winds are expected in the coming days and this seems to be a well-protected harbour. We will have to moor bow to again though. With the perils in Kilada still fresh in our memory, that does not feel so comfortable now. We consider our options and decide to do it again anyway, but better then last time. We lower the stern anchor further from the quay, keep the line tighter and put an extra weight on the line that we lower down with another line. An additional advantage is that the anchor line now also goes down more steeply and other ships no longer run into it as quickly. Ron checks everything diving down and although he cannot see the anchor, we are pretty sure that we are in good hands. The anchor line is real tight.
Strong winds are gusting here for a few days, but our anchor won’t budge. So that seems to be ok. But the wind is not our biggest problem. Every day most of the yachts leave the harbour and new ones enter. With their often poorly executed anchor maneuvers they are the biggest threat to our anchor now. The wind is on our butt, that means that we will immediately be on the concrete quay with our bow if someone accidentaly picks up our anchor. And there are very bad skippers among them. The larger the rental yacht, the greater the incompetence, it seems. To top it all, a mega yacht is trying to moor next to us. Although a layman can see that this ship, about 40 meters long, is really too big for this port, they still do.
The megayacht is also troubled by the fierce wind gusts and a lot of motor usage is needed to keep it straight. Coco is now almost knocked off her anchor by the enormous turbulence of the water caused by this. I let the crew know in uncensored Dutch how I feel about this. The owner says ‘sorry’, but seems to shrug his shoulders. As soon as they fix their mooring lines, they decide to leave again. Indeed, it is not working, they now also conclude. A lot of fuss for nothing. And like this it goes on for much of the day. The three of us only dare to get off the boat when all the boats are moored, evening falls and nothing can go wrong any more. Then we hike in the cool of the evening twilight near the remains of the old castle and enjoy the tranquillity and the beautiful views.
On our last morning there a Romanian 50-foot rental yacht tries to moor next to us without having any idea how to tackle this. The strong crosswind now makes this an impossible task for them. Together with the crew of our neighbouring boats, we stand watching this with pinched buttocks. Fortunately, they eventually cut their losses and moor elsewhere alongside. On the lower shore. Can’t miss. But for me, the total lack of skills of the Romanians is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I want to get away from here. I no longer feel safe. So we leave in a rush.
comes on foot, but goes on horseback,” as the old Dutch saying
goes. Trust is hard to gain, but easy to lose. I have lost it