Sunday, 28 September 2008

Sail Ionian Greek Sailng Odyssey

31st August 2008
I'll leave out the boring stuff about how we got to Greece - for the record though, we stayed at the Sofitel Gatwick, then got the 06.30 Preveza flight with Monarch. Outward journey was fabulously non-eventful. The flight left on time, we had extra legroom seats which actually WERE extra legroom, and we were off the plane at Preveza nice and quickly - waiting with Linda from Sail Ionian before we knew it for another couple with whom we would share a taxi ride down to Vlikho. As we all travelled through Lefkas, we chatted with the other couple (Sean and Ruth). Turns out that they were quite inexperienced as well so it looked as though we wouldn't be the only 'beginner' sailors taking a boat out! I was getting a little nervous as we sped along the coastline looking at the yachts and the glistening sea. What were we letting ourselves in for? Would we be able to sail the boat on our own? Would Sail Ionian think we were crap sailors and insist on putting a skipper with us for the whole holiday (help!!)? As we drove through Nidri, a tourist was waiting to cross the road next to the taxi. It crossed my mind that if this holiday was a roaring success, we may not want to do a traditional "hotel package" holiday in Greece ever again!!

Eventually, we reached Vlikho and got out of the taxi to be greeted by Di who is very friendly, much like everyone else in the Sail Ionian 'family'. We boarded our boat, a Bavaria 32 called Winspit and dumped our bags, eager to take a look at her (Winspit that is, not Di). She had a fore and aft cabin - which Marco quickly bagged as his 'dressing room', loads of storage, one head (toilet to the non-yachties who may read this) and a good sized saloon for the two of us. On the table was a welcome pack of food - a bottle of red wine (yippee), bread, olives and a fruit bowl. In the fridge (yes we had a kitchen too), was tzatziki, milk, juice and BEER (yippee yahoo). We couldn't wait to get going, but first, the boring bit - paperwork! We sat with our first Mythos of the holiday under the vines of a small café while Neil (Di's husband) went through the charts and pilot guides advising us of great places to go and where wasn't so good. The top tip? Avoid flotillas!!!! This advice would come back to haunt us almost every day. Having then signed our lives away (better not sink the boat then), we were nearly ready. The boat was officially handed over to us, along with a what-does-what talk through and we were confirmed as skipper and crew of one!

The agreement was that everyone heads off and those who want to, meet the family at Spartakhori in time for sundowners/dinner etc. We cast off and started to motor out of Vlikho. This was it....the start of two weeks of bareboat sailing.......just the two of us on our own boat. A boat of lads ahead of us on a S.I. yacht immediatly put the sails up. It didn't look a good idea to us, with a narrow bottleneck to negotiate before the Ionian opened up so we carried on motoring out.

Once we were through the bottleneck and Nidri, we attempted to put up the mainsail. Hmmm...take two inexperienced sailors, one mainsail and 4knots of wind and what do you get? Answer? Nowhere really! We faffed about a bit watching all the other S.I. boats whizzing off towards Meganissi and wondered what we were doing wrong. Of course, they were probably motor-sailing but we hadn't thought of that at this stage - we MUST sail!! That's what we're here for. However, after an hour of going about half a nautical mile, we gave up and motored with the sails up towards errr...Spartakhori?? Didn't look much like it to me, and especially as all the S.I. boats were heading into the harbour next door. We decided to follow everyone else and of course, as we got nearer it became obvious that they were right. On arrival, there didn't look to be any room at all and we were aware of a burly Greek bloke yelling something from the end of a pontoon...was that aimed at us??? We never found out, but Neil came out on Rodney-the-Rib and pointed us towards the corner of the harbour and the tiniest gap you've ever seen in your life. He expected us to get in there??? Well, we would never have done it on our own or even attempted it, but of course, with S.I. help it was a doddle (of sorts). Came in bows to and Matt from S.I. jumped on board and assisted us with the lazy line. Our first ever park!

We jumped off and headed to the taverna on the beach and had an ice cold beer. Luxury-our first ''end of proper sailing'' beer! We then stepped back on to Winspit to freshen up then back again to the taverna for dinner. The taverna had no menus - instead, we were invited to view the kitchen. Everything was fresh - fish, chicken/meat kebabs, marinated steak etc. We ordered a carafe of white wine and our food and spent an hour or so watching it get dark over the Ionian. As we were finishing our wine, our taxi friend Sean came over and asked how we'd got on with our sailing. He invited us over to where he and Ruth were sitting so we sat with them while they had their dinner. They offered us to share their wine, so of course it would have been rude not to. It would also have been rude not to offer to buy one back so another bottle was ordered and drank while the conversation flowed and the waves lapped against the moored up boats. Eventually, we managed to stagger back to the boat and got to sleep at about 11.30pm. What a great start to the hols....already we've sailed to a different island and made new friends and we've only been in Greece for 12 hours! Is this perfection?????

No comments: