This logbook records our cruise across the Mediterranean Sea and will be updated from time to time.
3) Balearic Islands and Spanish mainland
Marti Marina to Olympic Marina near Athens
April 17th to May 17th
We flew back to Dalaman in Turkey aboard Thomas Cook Airlines on Monday, April 17th. As usual we were overweight by about 10 kg, weighed down with boat equipment. Thomas Cook declined to charge us for the excess. Very nice of them. The flight arrived on time at 5.00pm and after the usual, bumpy, swaying 2 hour ride in the Marti Marina mini bus, we found Ocean Harmony safely moored at the Marina berth. During March, I had spent a week at the Marina, living on the hard, in order to arrange for a new sprayhood (dodger), bimini and a “lazybag” for storing the mainsail. The “bag” is held in position with lines run from the top spreader and acts as a kind of a catch bag for gathering up the sail as it is lowered. The bag stays permanently in place atop the boom making sail handling a lot easier. I also arranged for a new stainless steel bracket to be built and attached to the dinghy davits on the stern where a 175 watt solar panel was mounted.
We spent a week at the marina completing the installation of the above mentioned items as well as various other preparations for our summer cruise. Finally on Monday April 24th, we bade farewell to the Marti Marina staff and slipped our lines and headed west to Simi. It was a cool spring day with fresh northwesterly blowing . We soon had the sails set and we enjoyed the first sail of the season, arriving at Simi 3 hours later. A day later, after provisioning with some Greek wine and other delights, we sailed on to the island of Tilos some 30 miles east of Simi. Once again we enjoyed 15 to 20 knots northwesterly winds. We rafted up alongside a British boat on the quay inside the small fishing harbour of Livadia. The town is unspoilt with very few tourists, particularly this early in the season. We did a long walk through and around the village and enjoyed a fine fish dinner ashore.
Next, on to the larger island of Kos some 30 miles north, where we tied up in the rather modern and efficiently run Marina. The town itself has a long history, generating its wealth in earlier times from trading goods along the eastern Mediterranean coast. There are many Roman ruins both in the town and in the surrounding areas, but the town itself is dominated by the 16th Century Castle built by the Knights of St John. On a wet rainy day we rented a car and explored the island by road, visiting the impressive ruins at Asklepieion with white marble terraces cut into the pine forested hillside. The views from the top were spectacular. Originally the site housed a school and medical centre built after the death of Hippocrates, the “father of modern medicine” who was born on Kos. Our drive took us to the quaint Asfendiou villages high on the slopes of the mountain and then down to the seaside, where we stopped at an almost deserted beach resort and had tea overlooking the waterfront, while the rain poured down. I felt sure that in a few weeks the beach would be teeming with sunburned revellers.
We left Kos after 3 days and motored in a light north westerly to the small fishing harbour of Pandeli on the Island of Leros. We rafted up alongside an American boat named Mahdi. Rod and Becky hail from Whidby Island in Puget Sound. Rod was in the US Navy and retired 11 years ago to sail around the world in their Waterline Yacht, built in Sidney BC. It is always interesting to meet fellow sailors and hear their stories. Rod actually fell overboard in the South China Sea one night and managed to just hang on to the jib sheet, which then dragged him alongside the boat in the water. He was unable to haul himself aboard, and it was Becky who came to the rescue by grabbing his trouser leg and hauling his one leg up over the gunwale so that he could then leverage himself aboard again. He also mentioned pirates in the Red sea, but we didn't get that whole story at that time. As it turned out, we found an article written in the February Cruising World magazine that gave the full story of the pirate attack on Mahdi and another boat en route to Aden in the Red Sea. Rod it seems is quite the hero, having repelled the armed attackers with a shot gun, while machine gun bullets raked the deck of Mahdi. Good thing it was a steel boat. They were very lucky to escape with their lives.
While at Pandeli, we hiked to the Venetian castle which sits high above the small village. It was a 2 hour hike but well worth it for the views. In the evening we dined on Greek salad and fresh fish at the local taverna. Pandeli on Leros rates high on our list of must see places.
We island hopped across to Patmos Island where we visited the 11th century Monastery of St John that crowns the Chora. It is one of the richest and most influential monasteries in Greece and is the destination of thousands of pilgrims. It is interesting as monasteries go and the tiny church contains some truly ancient art work dating back to the 12th century. The wind blew strongly while we were in Patmos and we vacated our stern berth in favour of anchoring out in the bay where the boat road comfortably at anchor rather than stern tied to the dock with the wind blowing broadside on. We spent the afternoon doing a few chores on the boat and ate dinner aboard.
Despite the wind which persisted through the night and a forecast Force 5 to 6, we left next morning for the island of Agathonisi on our route to Samos. Our logbook shows that we averaged 7 knots with steady winds of 20knots from the north west. We had a double reefed mainsail but left the jib unfurled, which seems to be a good combination on Ocean Harmony as the boat sails close to hull speed with no weather helm. The tiny fishing harbour of Agothonisi had just one other sailboat alongside the quay. It is not a common destination for charter boats. There is just room for two or three visiting boats as the one end of the pier is reserved for the ferry which visits twice weekly and the other end of the pier is reserved, with very faded yellow lines, for the Coast Guard launch. We dined at the Seagull taverna run by a wonderful Greek gentleman called Jannis. The food was good and significantly cheaper than the other islands we visited.
We left next morning heading more or less due north toward Samos. The wind was steady at N 20knots. So we tacked our way into the rather lumpy seas. But after covering 13 miles, the wind freshened to 30 knots and we were making very slow progress, so we turned and ran back to Agothonisi and tied up on the pier again, to await a better wind. The extra day was most pleasant and we went back to the Seagull taverna again.
Next day we made the crossing to Samos Island and berthed alongside the quay at Pythagoria Marina, named after Pythagoras. On the pier in town there is a large statue of the great man, with a right angle triangle rather strangely suspended above his head. We rented a car and spent a day exploring the island. The island of Samos is green and fertile and is quite famous for its wines which grow on the south facing mountain slopes. Mount Kerketefs at 4700 feet dominates the western end of the island and we had good views of it as we drove through the valley across the middle of the island. We stopped for lunch at the small fishing village of Kokkari which is picture postcard beautiful.
Samos was our last stop in the Dodecanese islands before heading west across the Aegean to mainland Greece where we were to leave our boat for a month while we returned to Canada. We reached Olympic Marina near Lavrion in 6 days. Our longest crossing was from Nisos Fournoi to Mykonos which took 8 hours to cover the 67 miles. Unfortunately we had light winds and motored most of the way. We did have some excellent sailing from Mykonos to Siros in a fresh south westerly. Our plan had been to anchor on the south end Siros, but with the south wester blowing we would have been exposed so we altered course and made for Ermopoli, a well sheltered harbour on the east coast, where we could expect better shelter from the wind. The “marina” at Ermopoli is a joke. It has absolutely no facilities and is located directly downwind of a steel smelter which belches out sulphur dioxide laden fumes day and night. Not the most pleasant place. We left as soon as we could the next day and made for Ormos Vourkari on the north west tip of Kea. We tied up at an unoccupied mooring buoy. Our final cross to mainland Greece tested our skills and patience. We started out with a double reefed mainsail in 20+ knots but soon the wind died to nothing. Then as we approached the south end of Evia, the wind built back to 20 knots. We stayed well clear of the shallow shoal extending south east from the tip of Evia, and then tacked our way up the strait, only dropping our sails when we were just a few hundred yard from the entrance to Olympic Marina.
Besides a day trip to Athens to see the Acropolis and Parthenon, we gave the boat a much needed cleaning before she was hauled out of the water to await our return in a month's time. Olympic Marina is quite well organised with a decent restaurant and chandlers. The town of Lavrion is a short taxi ride away and has several nice restaurants along the harbourside. The marina has security gates which are accessed using your credit card after the office codes it. A good system that I haven't seen before. But we did have a good laugh when I somehow locked myself into the boat yard and the card would not work. A local worker who saw my dilemma, came over to me and said, “You have to use a credit card on this security gate, Sir.” I showed him my card and demonstrated that when I swiped it through it did not unlock. “No” he said with a smile, “Not like that” and promptly used the card to jimmy the lock and so we escaped. Good Greek system. Unfortunately the front office staff were not so helpful. In fact they seem to go out of their way to be as rude and unpleasant as they can be.
Another strange aspect of this marina that was the way in which they allocate berths to visiting yachts. There are very few, if any dedicated visiting berths, so visiting yachts are put into berths that belong to local yacht owners when they are away sailing. There is no system for tracking when the rightful tenants are due back so, if they do return when you are in their space, you are obliged to move out to another empty space. This is most annoying and the solution seems simple: all they need is a way of tracking when local boats are due to return. At Van Isle Marina in Sidney this was a system they used and it worked well. The local boat owner also got a portion of the fee so there was an incentive to advise the Marina when they were going to be away.
I should mention that the new additions that we made to the boat in Turkey over the winter have worked a treat. The “lazybag” is a blessing and the tedious job of covering the mainsail after a long day of sailing is reduced to a 5 minute exercise of simply zipping up the bag and putting a small cover around the mast. The boat also looks so smart with the new matching sprayhood and bimini. But undoubtedly the biggest success is the solar panel. Last year, prior to installing it, we were consuming about 50 amphours per day, which meant that we needed to run the engine for about an hour a day on average to keep up with our electrical demand. With the solar panel providing approximately 30 amphours a day (when sunny) we now only need to run the engine to charge batteries every 3rd day for an hour. But of course we do use the engine anyway so in practice we will hardly ever need to run the engine solely for charging. What a pleasure. And the power is free and soundless!
Olympic Marina and surrounds
May 17th to June 30th
Leaving the boat on the hard at Olympic Marina, we returned to London on May 17th. Our first grandchild, Ned, arrived on May 15th, so our timing was perfect. Then a quick trip back to Calgary for 3 days during which time we packed up our apartment and moved the furniture into storage and packed up Susan's apartment for her move to Vancouver. Then a short flight across to Victoria to meet the architect and finalise the plans for our new home at Sidney. Then another short hop to Portland, Oregon to help Ken celebrate his 50th birthday. Then 3 days in Vancouver helping Susan unpack, before boarding another plane back to England. Phew!
Leaving Harmony in London to spend more time with grandson, Ned, I flew back to Athens on June 10th. Ocean Harmony had been on the hard at Olympic Marina for less than a month but she was filthy, dirty and speckled with carbon residue from the power station plume situated about 5 miles upwind of the marina. Apparently all the boats suffer from this fate. It does create employment for quite a large number of Filipino workers who clean the boats on a very regular basis. For 20 Euros a very nice young man spent a morning scrubbing Ocean Harmony so that she looked as good as new. Meanwhile I was kept busy installing a new Iridium Satellite phone and fitting the new Genoa that we have purchased for our downwind Atlantic crossing in November.
Harmony returned June 15th with the good news that daughter Susan was planning a short visit to come sailing with us later in the month. We therefore changed our plans and decided to do a short trip up to the island of Evia, before returning to Olympic Marina to meet Susan for a short sail around the Attic Peninsular. After all our travels we were intent on a restful few days and in this regard we were content. The anchorages around Evia were well sheltered and there were very few other boats around. So we were able to swim and rest. We anchored at Vasiliko, Voufalo and Animvoriou. This latter anchorage was idyllic except for the flies which invaded the boat as soon as we arrived. There were signs of an animal pen ashore which was no doubt the source of the flies. If you have read my previous logs you will recall that we experienced this problem on the island of Limnos. We should have learned our lesson.
Susan arrived from Vancouver on June 24th , coincident with the arrival of a howling Meltemi. However, we determined to go sailing anyway and spent a wonderful few days anchored in well sheltered coves around the Attic Peninsular. Chapel Cove was idyllic and despite the wind, we were all able to enjoy swimming, snorkelling and few cold beers in the evenings. We chose sandy bottoms where the anchor set well in and we never had any concerns about our holding. We had a brisk sail on our way back to Olympic Marina, until gusts over 35 knots at the southern end of the peninsular resulted in us dropping sails and motoring the last few miles. It was sad to see her off at Athens airport on June 29th.
Olympic Marina to Cephalonia
July 1st to August 2nd
On July 1st we departed Olympic Marina for the last time. We left without the long awaited whisker pole that I had ordered from the Selden agent in Athens a month earlier. The agent has promised to deliver it to us further along our route to Corfu. More about that later. Meanwhile we were on our way to Corfu via Corinth Canal to meet with Ken and the family on 24th July. Initially we sailed south west to take a quick look at the islands off the south coast of the Peloponnisos. We anchored the first night in Ormos Skindos on the island of Dhokos. A magnificent setting in clear water with the mountains on the mainland outlined in soft mauves and pinks in the early evening. Next day we sailed in light winds south past the the attractive town of Spetsai to anchor at the south end of the island in Ormos Zoyioria. The island is wooded with pine trees that were donated by a wealthy benefactor and the anchorage was surrounded by tall pines. But when we arrived at the anchorage,our attention was focussed on the masses of cumulo nimbus clouds building over the mainland. By 4.30pm it was dark and gloomy with lightening flashes in the distance. The throng of Sunday afternoon powerboaters out for the day from Athens began an early exodus from our anchorage. We sat and waited. We didn't have long to wait and the arrival of the storm was heralded by a line of silvery white capped waves rushing towards us across the water. The 30 knot wind hit us broadside on and the boat lurched sideways, healing over, before the anchor pulled the bow into the wind. Unfortunately the wind was blowing from the north directly into the open bay so our situation was untenable. The waves built quickly and we decided to up anchor and head across to the other side of the bay where there was now space created by all the vacated power boats. We were soon safely re anchored and were able to sit out the rain and wind.
We sailed and motored next day up to the island of Poros. The town of Poros is a very popular resort for Athenians and tourist alike and the actual port is crowded with people and boats with the bars open all night long blaring out loud music. We stayed well away, anchoring a few miles away in Monastery Bay, directly below the Monastery. It was a peaceful place and the day tripper boats all left by 6.00pm leaving it all to us. I swam ashore and spoke to the owner of the small taverna which had been busy all afternoon and asked him if was open in the evening. He said he was, so we rowed ashore later and dined very well indeed. For starters we had pickled octopus which was served with Ouzo and then grilled fresh fish and salad. We were the only one's there and we realised that he and his wife had stayed open just for us. A very nice evening.
With forecasts of Force 6, locally 7, we moved to a more sheltered anchorage at Russian Bay, Nisos Poros, where we, together with 4 other boats, waited 3 days for the wind to abate. We departed on July 7th and sailed close hauled in a 10 to 15 knot northerly wind to Korfos on the Pellopenese, where we tied up at the quay of Taverna Giannis. The 7 day German weather forecast on www.wetteronline.de had predicted light southerlies and right on cue next day we motored north up to the Corinth Canal. We tied up at the dock at the east end of the canal and the pilot boat crew told us to hurry into the office and pay our transit fare and then we could follow the last yacht directly through the canal. We were very fortunate as one normal expects to wait up to 3 hours before transiting. Although this was our second transit of the canal, having come down from the Adriatic sea in 2004, we still found the canal inpressive with the high walled sandstone sides towering above narrow strip of water. Once through the canal we set course for Galaxidi on the north shore of the gulf on Corinth. The wind stayed light but we were able to motor sail in the 5 to 10 knot easterly.
At Galaxidi we stern tied to the quay opposite a most attractive frontage of Italian style houses and shops. From Galaxidi it is easy to visit the ruins at Delphi, which we did the next day. Renting a car we drove the 30 km along the winding coast road before ascending to the ruins which sit high in the coastal mountains. Delphi is one of the best known ancient sites in Greece,and for good reason. The setting against a backdrop a solid rock face, overlooking the valley and mountains is spectacular and creates a certain air of mystique. It is easy to understand why the ancients would have found this a spiritual place. Delphi was regarded by the ancients as the centre of the world and it was here that one could contact the gods through a woman priest who could communicate with the gods and then tell people the future. People would come from all over the Greece to pay homage to the gods and hear the oracles at Delphi.
From Galaxidi to the Ionian islands is normally a hard slog of 80 miles against the prevailing westerly. But the wind gods were on our side and when the forecast called for 2 days of easterly winds we cut short our visit and headed east, stopping at the island of Trizonia overnight before sailing on to the large anchorage at Nisis Petalas where, from previous experience we knew that there was good shelter with lots of room. This was the best sailing we have had this year. We were able to sail the whole way, running with the wind, as it varied between south east and north east 15 to 20 knots. Our average speed under sail was 7.2 knots.
Meanwhile a quick update on the long awaited whisker pole. When we first arrived at Olympic marina, back in May, we were directed to a particular berth where we dually tied alongside. Just as we were settling down with a cold refreshment, one very irate Englishman named David Hurley informed me that we were in a berth reserved for one of his clients, whose boat was arriving next morning. After we agreed to move out first thing next morning, we got chatting. In no time he had arranged for a new genoa sail to be made in UK and shipped to the Marina for our return and and contacted the Selden agent in Athens who could supply a whisker pole. The new Jeckel sail dually arrived on schedule and David delivered it to the boat for me. But the Whisker Pole never arrived. Every week, it was just about to arrive but never did. Eventually, when we were ready to leave the marina, it still hadn't arrived so we arranged with the agent that he should arrange to deliver it to us somewhere along our route to Corfu. Through all of this time we had become good friends with David and his partner Annie, who live aboard a powerboat at Olympic marina. We joined them for a trip on the powerboat and we had several dinners together. However, he took out plight with the whisker pole to heart and while we were at Nisis Petalas he called to tell me that the agent had delivered the whisker pole to him and that he would drive up and give it to us.
We arranged to meet at the small town of Astakos on the mainland, just north of where we were anchored at Nisis Petalas. Next day we tied up at the town quay. David and Annie arrived at about 6.00pm after a tortuous drive that took 7 hours! We quickly fitted the pole to the stanchion using mounts that I had asked him to bring. Then we relaxed over a few beers. After a few more beers it was clear that they would not be driving back so we made a bed in the aft cabin for them and went out for a nice dinner at the local taverna. The name of the town, Astakos, means lobster in Greek so David inquired if we could have lobster, but we were told that there weren't any available as they were too expensive to bring in! We nevertheless enjoyed a good dinner together. David and Annie left before we were up next morning. They are a great couple and we hope to stay in touch.
With a week left to reach Corfu for our rendezvous with the Barker family, we had time to explore several anchorages and harbours in the Ionian Islands. Also, as we planned to sail with the family from Corfu to Cephalonia, it was a good opportunity to research the route that we would follow south with them. Looking back at our logbook, it is interesting that in the so called “inland sea” created by the ring of islands Levkas, Ithaka and Cephalonia and the mainland, there was almost no wind. We made a mental note of this for when we had the family with us so that we could expect at least some quiet, swimming and relaxing days. Once we passed through Levkas Canal, we had more wind and actually sailed up to Gulf of Anrakia where we anchored near Vonitsa. We were not that impressed with the Gulf as it is ringed with fish farms that detract from the beauty of the coast line and worst of all, they cause the water to be murky; a result of the high local concentrations of fish excrement. But we did enjoy the town of Preveza at the entrance to the Gulf. It was not particularly pretty but it felt very genuine and there were very few tourists. We anchored off on the north side of the town, but realised upon walking around the quay that a stern berth on the quay would be better and determined to do that when we returned with Ken, Di and family.
From Preveza we sailed north west to Mongonisi on the south end of Nisos Paxoi. The bottom is weed and not good holding. It took 3 tries before we got the anchor to dig in. The restaurant was great and they had Greek dancing which we thoroughly enjoyed. We made another stop on the south end of Corfu, at Petriti, anchoring off the breakwater. It was safe enough but a swell rolled in all night long. We arrived next day at Gouvia Marina on Corfu. The Barker family were arriving 4 days hence.
We had a busy few days at the Marina getting our backlog of cleaning and laundry done. We also provisioned the boat. However it was not all work as we were determined to explore the island, which we did, renting a car and spending a day driving around the northern half of the island. We started out up the east coast road stopping for a late breakfast overlooking the bay at Kalami, where Lawrence Durrell lived for many years. This is a most attractive area with pebble beaches. The road hugs the side of the mountain revealing glimpses of the mountainous coast of Albania just a few mile across the strait. In contrast the north coast boasts a large number of tacky tourist towns inundated with British tourists. The tavernas were even advertising Sunday lunch of Roast Beef! We chose to have a late lunch of Greek salad and kalamari overlooking the very popular beach at Palaiokastritsa on the west coast of the island. On the return journey to Corfu we stopped at Achilleion Palace which was built for the Empress of Austria in 1890. She was a sickly woman, married to the notoriously unfaithful Emperor Frans Joseph and she used the palace as her retreat until her unhappy life was ended by an assassin. Kaiser Willem 2nd bought the palace in 1907. The architecture of the palace is a strange mixture of styles. We thought the outside was quite nice in a classical Greek style except for the fake Greek statues everywhere in abundance. Lawrence Durrell apparently described it as a “monstrous building.”
We also spent a day exploring the town of Corfu which we both really liked, despite the large number of tourists. The town is dominated by the Old Fortress (circa 700AD) and New Fortress (circa 1580) When Britain gained control of Corfu in 1814, as a result of the Napoleonic wars, they modernised the Forts, only to destroy them again in 1864 when they handed Corfu back to the Greeks. The British left a legacy on the island. Perhaps the most remarkable being the game of cricket which is still played on the island. The main cricket field is by the Esplanade, which encompasses a park as well as the town square. We also came across the British cemetery in Corfu, which is in a park like setting with beautifully kept gardens. It was interesting wandering amongst the old gravestones from the time of British rule. It always surprises me how many young men in the 20's died in these outposts of the British Empire. We wandered along the quaint narrow streets in the old town where Harmony found a shop selling wooden bowls made from ancient olive trees and immediately bought some. Since olive trees live for up to a 1000 years, one hopes they control the cutting down of these old olive trees.
Ken, Di, Jade and Tyler arrived by ferry boat from Venice on July 25th. We soon had them aboard and after sorting out some laundry and unpacking, we hired two taxi's and went to Corfu town where we enjoyed a Greek dinner before we strolled around the old town. The next morning, after breakfast, we held a safety briefing before slipping out lines and heading south on what we hoped would be a relaxing 8 days of sailing. We had planned a leisurely trip south ending at Cephalonia, where they would catch a flight back to Athens and the home. Perhaps fortunately, we did not have a lot of wind during the 8 day trip and our logbook shows that we motored or motor sailed about 70% of the time. The winds were typically less that 10 knots with the strongest wind we recorded being 13 knots! But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and since we had an easy schedule there was lots of time for swimming and snorkelling every day.
The most memorable anchorages were at Lakka on the northern tip of Paxoi, and the east coast of Andi Paxoi. Both of these anchorages have crystal clear turquoise waters with white sandy bottoms. The snorkelling was excellent. Ken got so excited about the fish he saw that he bought a spear gun and after Harmony's request for a nice sole, he went spear fishing early one morning. He returned proudly presenting us with a sole, speared through it's middle, all of about 4 inches long! Great shooting Ken! Most evening's we went ashore to the local taverna. Everyone seemed to enjoy the Greek cuisine except for Tyler who stuck steadfastly to Italian pasta and American hamburgers for all his meals! The highlight for Tyler on this trip was the Tinker dinghy which he launched as soon as we arrived at an anchorage. He became the Captain of Tinker and he would happily ferry us back and forth to the taverna. We have a small walkie talkie set that we let him take so that we could communicate with him as he roared around the anchorages. He quickly learned the radio etiquette calling Ocean Harmony and signing off “this is Tinker, over and out” In one week he used more gas in the outboard than we did all of last year. Jade and Di really enjoyed swimming and developed the most remarkable tan in such a short time. I am sure people back home might not recognise them for a few days, until the tan washes off in the Portland rains. Di and Harmony became prodigious rock collectors and at two of the anchorages where there were pebbly beaches they spent hours lolling in the shallow waters picking out the most colourful pebbles. These were collected in bags and brought back on board. It was a good thing that the trip ended when it did otherwise we might have begun to list to port with the weight of stones in the port locker!
We arrived at Ay Eufimia on Cephalonia on Wednesday 2nd August and stern berthed on the town quay. It was a busy afternoon getting everything sorted for their 7.00am flight the next morning. Ken arranged with a taxi driver to pick them up at 5.00am. Bags were packed (sans the stones which proved to be too heavy at the end!) and everything tidied up. Harmony and I rented a car for the following day as we intended to explore the island by road next day. The car rental company delivered the car that very same evening. And fortunate they did because next morning when the family were assembled on the quay with bags packed and ready to go, there was no taxi. By 5.20 am we were desperate and so we somehow packed 4 bags and 5 adults into the rental Fiat and set out to drive the 50 km over the mountains to the airport on the other side of the island. It was pitch dark and as anyone who has driven in Greece will attest, there are very few road signs and those that there are, are usually in Greek with totally different spelling from what is shown on the map. We careened along the winding narrow roads, me doing my imitation of Michael Schumaker. Passengers in the rear began to feel queasy, but Ken, the navigator in front urged me on. Despite losing our way a couple of times we made it to the airport by 6.20am and all ended well. The missing taxi driver did show up at the boat at 6.00am and was distraught that he had misunderstood the pick up time. I believe an honest miscommunication.
I got back to the boat at a bout 7.30am and we took advantage of our early rising to get going on our exploration of Cephalonia. The island is mountainous and the road we took northwards, winds along the mountainside offering spectacular views out over the water to the island of Ithaka. Our first stop was at Fiscardo, which is a coastal village that survived the 1953 earthquake that devastated much of the rest of the island. The village has many fine Venetian buildings ringing the water front. We had breakfast overlooking the incredibly busy harbour, crammed full of visiting sailboats and large motor yachts. We stopped at Asos on the west side of the island to view the Venetian castle. Returning to the east coast of the island we visited the subterranean cave at Melissani, which was the sanctuary of the mythical god Pan. Legend has it that Melissani drowned herself when she was spurned by Pan. Another cave in the area is Drogkarati which is the size of a large concert hall and we were told that every year they actually hold a concert in the cave because of its fine acoustics. The cave has many stalactites and stalagmites although many have been broken off for souvenirs in years gone by. We visited the cave in the heat of the day and it was wonderfully cool and damp in the cave.
We lunched at the quay of the town of Sami and then went to the customs and harbour master to complete the formalities for departing Greece as we were leaving for Italy the next day. Back at Ay Eufimia we provisioned and prepared for our overnight crossing to Italy. We had our last Greek meal and as we sipped on the local Greek barrel wine, reflected on the three summers of cruising we had had in Greece. We concluded that Greece is a wonderful cruising area. The islands are beautiful and the people genuinely friendly and helpful. We never experienced the problems with the Authorities that many yachtsmen have complained about. Perhaps joining the EU has had a beneficial effect in this regard.
August 4th to August 25th
At 0600 on August the 4th, we slipped our lines and motored out of the harbour to begin our 180 mile crossing to Italy. The forecast was for light southerlies which suited us fine as we figured we would be broad reaching the whole way across to Crotone on the “toe” of Italy. Initially we motored but by mid-morning we were able to motorsail and, as the wind built to Force 4, we shut the engine and enjoyed fine sailing in the open ocean. We saw only one other yacht on the horizon. At 1830 we were joined by 4 dolphins who played in the bow wave for a while before they bored of that and headed off. We took the Dolphin sighting as a good omen for the crossing. As evening came we noticed a build up of clouds on the western horizon and the evening weather forecast announced thunderstorms for our region. We sailed on into the gathering dusk. The wind was steady from the south west, but as darkness came we could see lightening flashes in the distance. At 2300hours, the storm was close and as the wind built to 20 knots, we dropped all sails and motored on. The wind veered to the north west and it began to rain. At 0030hours the wind picked up to over 30 knots and the rain was torrential. The lightening was like nothing we had ever seen before. It travelled horizontally across the sky before descending to the sea in a jagged burst. All we could think of was our 65 foot mast, the biggest lightening conductor on the ocean! We motored on with waves now breaking over the bow. Our speed dropped to about 4 knots as we pounded into the wind and waves. After half an hour the wind eased and then the rain stopped and we started to relax. But we were premature because ahead of us we could see more lightening, and, the moon, which had reappeared for a short while, disappeared behind heavy dark clouds. Sure enough, at 0430am the wind built again to 25 knots and the heavens opened, pouring buckets. We went through a similar lightening show, but with less concern, having survived the earlier storm. This second storm was if anything more fierce than the first one, but it was over in an hour and we were able to resume our course towards Crotone.
We had both been awake the whole night so we now took turns sleeping in the aft cabin. A spectacular sunrise greeted us at 0700hours as the sun rose beneath the storm clouds which had now passed us heading east. The wind stayed light so we kept the motor running, finally arriving at Crotone at 1145 hours. We covered the 180 miles at an average speed of 6knots, which, all things considered, was not bad.
According to the Pilot, Crotone is a Port of entry into Italy and so, upon arriving I made inquiries of the dock hand where the customs office was located. He indicated a red brick builing around the end of the commercial harbour. He even lent me his bicycle. I cycled around to the brick building only to discover that it was the Coast Guard. I found someone smoking a cigarette behind the large stell gates and he directed me to the customs office around the corner. Sure enough there was a door with a small faded sign saying Dogane. It looked as if it had not been used for a long time. I went back dejectedly to the boat returning the bicycle. I was then introduced to someone else who spoke a bit of English, who told me that the Customs was permanently closed and that I should proceed to Messina to clear in. Oh well, such is the cruising life. We went out for lunch in the town and then returned for a sleep. We ate aboard as we were still tired from the previous night.
Next day we sailed 15 miles to the town of Le Castella and, anchored off the entrance to the small harbour. (the harbour was too shallow for our 2.2 metre draft). Then some official came and told us we could not anchor in the entrance. As there was quite a sea running we decided to tie up alongside a fshing boat inside the fishing harbour. OF course there was the risk that they might want to leave at 3 o'clock in the morning! Indeed at 3 o'clock we were awoken by the sound of an engine starting, but fortunately it was the fishing boat that was moored ahead of us, leaving. 3 boats left in succession but we were lucky as our fisherman was taking the day off. We left at 0645 hours and sailed 50 miles across the Golfo di Squilace (“Gulf of Squalls”) to the marina at Rocecella Ionica. The gulf is aptly named. The wind varied in strength from variable (zero) to 20 knots. We reefed and un-reefed approximately 10 times before reaching our destination. The marina is not yet completed but it was very secure and even had water available at the dock, and it was free for up to 5 days. There was no power, but we don't really need to be plugged in with our new solar panel giving us more than enough charge. We met John and Linda on board S/V Guardian, a wooden hull cutter that he had built himself in Florida and sailed across the Atlantic. John informed us that the local Pizzeria made the best Pizza in Italy so we joined them for beer and pizza in the evening. They sell it by the metre or half metre. Harmony and I ordered half a metre and managed to eat about a half of it. Great, we had pizza for breakfast and lunch the next day. We ended up spending the next day at the marina doing a few chores and catching up on sleep. There is a very nice sandy beach just along from the Marina, so we were able to take a swim in the afternoon. For dinner, you'll never guess, another half metre of pizza! Which meant breakfast and lunch the next day as well. So in all we had a very healthy diet of pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner two days in a row!
Now back to the clearing into Italy saga. As yet we were still not officially in Italy. Once again turning to Rod Heikel's Italian Pilot, we noted that there was no customs at Messina but there was at Reggio di Calabria on the mainland, opposite Messina. So we went to Reggio next day. There was little wind so we were motoring the 60 miles along the Calabrian coast around the toe of Italy and then two thirds of the way up the strait of Messina. We stayed close to the shore which offers attractive vistas of sparsely populated white sandy beaches with green hills as background. Definitely a good holiday destination. Reggio is a dirty dusty working harbour and the marina was ugly with the train line running close by. However, we were on a mission to clear officially into Italy and so after consulting with the dockman, we headed off to find the Customs office. Success! We found the office and the man himself who was very pleasant, but informed us that we did not need to clear customs in Italy at all! Since we had already cleared into the EU in Greece that was all we needed to do. The only “clearing in” that was required was to obtain a Costituto (Transit log for the yacht) and that this could be obtained from the Porto Kapitani (Port Captain at the Port Authority). This was at the other end of the harbour. We thanked the Customs man and headed for the white building that he had shown us. It was 4.30 pm by the time we got to the building. It took a while to explain in Italian using our phrasebook what we wanted. Finally a very helpful young man dressed in white uniform, who spoke English, translated for us. We were told to wait while they took all our documents for photocopying. About 20 minutes later they returned with the originals but informed us that we needed to come back the next morning to get our Constituto. At 9.00 am we were back and sure enough after copying all our documents (again!) the 4 page Constituto was filled out, stamped and handed over to us. No charge was made.
So to clarify the regulations for non EU boats travelling to Italy, and I suspect elsewhere in the EU, once in the EU no further customs or immigration controls exist. Only the non EU boat requires a transit log which is obtained from the relevant Harbour authorities.
We were keen to leave Reggio and so we motored 5 miles across the strait to the marina at Messina. The marina is located at the harbour entrance and is protected only by a floating wave breakwater. At Euro 100 per night is was the most expensive and also the most uncomfortable marina we have encountered in 4 years of cruising. But Messina itself was a pleasant surprise. The Pilot book says that most of the city was devastated by bombing in WW2 and earthquakes. But we found many old buildings still standing in good repair and the newer ones were of a high standard. My father, who was a bomber pilot in the SAAF (South African Air force) in WW2, flew many bombing sorties to Messina in 1943. His flight logbook shows that his targets were the railway yards and the harbour itself. Perhaps the bombing was quite accurate, avoiding damaging the main part of the city. Despite the cost and discomfort of the marina we were determined to see something of Sicily and so we stayed another day and rented a car to explore the north east corner of the island. We drove along the coast road to Taormina which is the site of a famous Greek amphitheatre. We spent hours driving around the area but never actually found the site. But we did discover a wonderful castle on top of a mountain with views over the Messina straits. The highlight for us though, was Mount Etna. We drove up through remote villages. The vegetation slowly changed from tropical to temperate. We were soon driving through a forest of fir trees with lush undergrowth of ferns and mosses. Higher and higher, with ears popping, until we emerged at the northern lookout point. We were stunned with the scene which confronted us. The forest had been obliterated by a lava flow from the 2001 eruption. The grey-black lava rock looked like a lunar landscape. It was bleak, in stark contrast with the green forest through which we had passed. The views were spectacular. We could see the steam rising from the crater. On the drive down we saw the plaque that marked the furthest point that the lava had reached, just a few miles from a town on the slopes of Etna. It is amazing that people have lived and survived on the slopes of Etna for thousands of years.
We left Messina the following morning, Saturday, August 12th. Motoring up the Straits of Messina we benefitted from a 1 to 2 knot northerly current . On the was we sighted a Swordfish boat. These fishing boats are unique in that they have a very high mast (at least 100foot high) with a platform on top, from which a spotter reports on the location of migrating swordfish. Once through the straits we headed north west toward to volcanic Aeolian Islands. However after about an hour the wind built to 20 knots from the north west so we changed our plans and bore away to the north east heading for the port of Tropea on the mainland of Italy.
We were heading for the Naples area before the overnight crossing to Sardinia. We had been watching the weather forecasts intensly and we were in a favourable “window” with light winds mostly from the east or north east which was in our favour. So we hurried along reaching the island of Ischia at the north west end of the Bay of Naples, just 4 days after leaving Messina, covering 230 nautical miles. We anchored beneath the castle and ate dinner aboard. Besides a severe thunderstorm while tied up alongside at Cetraro the trip was uneventful. We endured a rowdy disco night anchored off the resort town of Cameroto and we did get to see the Isle of Capri from very close up, as headed north across the Bay of Naples. The crossing from Naples to Sardinia is 200 miles. With a favourable southeasterly in the 24 hour forecast, we left at 6.00am the following morning. The crossing was great. We took 30 hours to make the crossing at an average speed of 6.5 knots. We sailed for about 24 of the 32 hours. Overnight the wind freshened to 25 knots and at one time we were double reefed, roaring through the night at nearly 9 knots. But mostly we had around 15 knots. We arrived at the Marina Portisco on the north east coast of Sardinia at about 12.30pm but were forced to wait around outside for over an hour before a berth was available. As soon as we were secured and tidied up we both slept for an hour and then opened the bar early to celebrate our successful crossing.
Despite the cost of Euro 135 per night we stayed 2 nights and caught up on our sleep. The marina is like a 5 star hotel, with great restaurants and all amenities. We were stern tied directly in front of the cafe/bar. For breakfast we stepped off our yacht and sat at a table literally 3 feet from our gangplank and enjoyed fresh orange juice, Italian coffee and croissants. We had stayed on the Costas Miralda (emerald Coast), of Sardinia on vacation in 2002 so we decided to spend most of our time visiting the Maddalena Islands that lie in the Bonoficio strait that separates Sardinia and Corsica rather than revisiting places we had previously seen. So we sailed north and anchored in Porto Palma where we stayed for 2 days. It was very windy but we were well sheltered and enjoyed watching the 2 man lasers sailing in the bay with winds gusting up to 30 knots. Then we had a very quick sail in 20+ knots to the anchorage adjacent to Deadman's Passage. It is a beautiful location in a protected Marine park. But in August there were just too many boats. I asked the Park Ranger if we could use one of the mooring buoys and they indicated we could do so after five o'clock when most of the tripper boats depart. Just as well because the wind continued to blow hard and we dragged our anchor in the afternoon. At 5.00pm the Park Ranger assisted us tying up to the buoy where we felt secure for the night as the wind continued unabated. We were surprised by the strength of the wind because all the weather forecasts were calling for light winds. We figured it was a local phenomenon caused by the wind accelerating through the Bonoficio Channel. This theory seems to have proved correct because next day as soon as we were clear of the channel the winds dropped from Force 5 to the forecast Force 3.
We stern berthed at Castelsardo which proved to be a pleasant town. Castelsardo, as it's name implies is dominated by the castle that sits high on top of the hill overlooking the town and harbour. We took the local bus to the top and explored the castle before walking down the steep hillside to find a restaurant for dinner. Our last stop in Sardinia was the Port of Stintino on the north west coast. Stintino was disappointing. There was no space available for visiting yachts and we were forced to anchor out in the bay. We took a dinghy ride ashore and decided to have take out pizza aboard for our last night in Italy, which we did, and enjoyed immensely.
We left the next morning for the 200 mile crossing to Mahon on the island of Menorca. More about the crossing in the next section.
3)Balearic Islands and Mainland Spain
August 25th to October 5th
The crossing from Sardinia to the Balearic's is a difficult one because the prevailing winds are west or north westerly and the Sardinian Sea is notorious for its sudden gales that develop out of the Gulf of Lyon. For the week prior to leaving we had been watching the long range forecasts very carefully. We had 4 main sources of long range forecasts: Wetteronline (7days), Raymarine (3 Days), the Italian weather on VHF (3 days) and the UK Met office, which has a telephone number that you can call and get to talk to a meteorologist who will give you a detailed forecast for £17. To complicate matters, we were well aware that just to the north of us they were forecasting gales for the Corsican sea. Based on what we had to hand we ultimately decided to go with the proviso that if it was really rough, we would head south to the town of Alghero.
We passed through the narrow channel XXX which is only 4 metres deep in places and immediately experienced very rough conditions with large waves. However we were able to sail our rhumb line course to Mahon of 250 degrees, With a double reef and 2/3rd's of a jib we were close hauled averaging 6.2 knots. After 3 hours the wind backed and whilst we maintained our speed we were heading south of the rhumbline, on 240 degrees. At 1630 we decided to motor sail and bring the yacht back onto a more westerly heading whilst maintaining our boat speed at about 6.2knots. At about 0200 hours the wind veered to the north and strengthened to Force 5. The motor was quickly stopped and we roared through the night with speeds close to 8 knots. Exhilarating stuff with spray everywhere. Not easy to sleep though. At about 0800 hours the wind began to diminish and veered to the north east. We motored the last few hours and entered Mahon harbour at 1330 hours and stern berthed on the floating pontoon called Isla Clementina.
The various forecasts on August 25th are compared with what we actually experienced during the crossing. The fact is that no forecast was entirely correct, which demonstrates the difficulty of forecasting in the Mediterranean Sea.
UK Met office
What we actually had
Aug 25 0600-1200
Aug 25 1200-1800
Aug 25 1800- 2359
Aug 26 0000-0600
Aug 26 0600-1200
Aug 26 1200-1800
NW5 to 6
N5 (occ 6)
We enjoyed a few days exploring the town. The waterfront is particularly pleasant and we had the added pleasure of being their when the classic wooden boats were in town for a regatta. There were at least 30 old wooden sailing yachts, several dating from the early 1900's. We had planned a quick visit back to the UK to renew acquaintance with our 3 month old grandson, Ned. So we moved onto the quay at Sunseeker Marina where the friendly marina staff agreed to keep an eye on Ocean Harmony while we were away.
The trip back to England went well and we returned to Mahon a week later, together with daughter Susan who had a short, 1 week vacation with us. Susan doesn't enjoy marina's all that much so after provisioning, we left Mahon planning to sail west to Palma Majorca where Susan would leave us for the long return flight to to Vancouver, via London. We anchored at Cala Covas on the south side of Menorca. We ran a stern line to prevent the boast swinging around in the narrow cala (cove) which is surrounded by high cliffs that have many small caves dwellings carved out of the rock face. Some of these cave dwelling date back thousands of years although apparently they have been used up until very recently by “hippy” types. Susan and I hiked up a rocky path to see inside one of them. It was quite spacious and would have given adequate shelter, although bringing provisions up the narrow steep path would have been hard work. The water in the cala was turquoise blue and a pleasant 27 degrees Celsius, but the one downside was the large number of jelly fish that were blown in with the afternoon breeze. The jelly fish were coloured bright orange, and they do sting, as I discovered!
Another memorable anchorage was at the marine park on Isla de Cabrera. In order to visit the marine park one needs to first of all apply for a permit. We had done so in Mahon before we went back to England. The permit entitled us to two nights on one of the designated mooring buoys in the bay. The buoys are colour coded according to the length of the boat: white under 12 metres, yellow 12 to 15 metres ,15 to 20 metres, orange and 20 to 30 metres, red. There is no charge made for the use of the buoys but someone does check that the boat is on their list of permit holders. When we were there, there were lots of spare buoys. Access to the island is restricted and one is not allowed to walk around the island except in guided tour parties. The walk to the castle however is allowed and we did hike up to it and enjoyed the views around the island.
At Palma Majorca, Susan's all to short visit came to an end and we saw her off at the airport on 14th September. During Susan's visit we had had light southerly winds which made for quiet anchorages and gentle sailing. We were anxious to continue our westward progress toward mainland Spain and our rendezvous with new crew members for the crossing to the Canary Islands in October. But Susan's departure heralded the arrival of a front with gales forecast in the Gulf of Lyon, to the north of us. Actually we were not that unhappy to spend a few days in Palma. Palma is a bustling city that sprawls around the bay. There are several marina's around the harbour that hold thousands of yachts. The walk around the harbour on the seawall is interesting as is the old town with its narrow streets with many restaurants and shops. There is a fine Gothic cathedral that dates from 1230. There was also an art display of sculptures by a Spanish sculpture that was rather striking. The figures, both male and female were almost twice life size with very prominently displayed private parts that appeared even more than twice life size! It certainly attracted a lot of attention.
Spanish mainland: Costa Brava and Costa del Sol
We left Palma de Mallorca on 17th of September and enjoyed one of our best sailing days, covering almost all of the 6o mile trip to Cala Boix on Ibiza island under sail. We averaged over 6.5 knots with a north westerly Force 4 on the beam. Another 60 mile day as we crossed from Ibiza to mainland Spain. Unfortunately the winds were light from the north and northeast and we motored or motorsailed all the way, finally anchoring at El Rinconet, near Puerto de Moriara. on the Costa Brava. A swim and dinner aboard and a quiet night with no swell. We still had 300 miles to go south west along the Costa Brava and then west along the Costa del Sol, to reach Malaga where I would pick up new crew for the Atlantic crossing. Both coasts are very developed with many tourist hotels and resorts visible as we sailed by, but we were actually pleasantly surprised with what we found. Perhaps it being late in the season was a factor, but we had little difficulty in getting into Marina's and we found the people extremely helpful and friendly.
On Wednesday 20th September, we crossed the Greenwich Meridian into the western hemisphere and of course west of our London apartment. It began to feel like the Atlantic was indeed getting close. It was also interesting that Spain being on European daylight saving time ( GMT + 2 hours) the sun only rose at 0800. So our early morning departures weren't actually that early. We visited Cartagena (pronounced I think Cartahena) and really lucked out because there was a major festival happening. The festival celebrates the great history of Cartegena which dates back to pre-Roman times. Hannibal used it as his base for his expeditions across the Alps ( elephants and all I recall). The Romans arrived in AD36 and finally defeated the Cartheginians. The festival recreates ancient Cartagena. Every evening the local people dressed up either as Romans or Carthaginian's and paraded around the town to the sound of a marching drumbeat. There were battles re enacted, plays about the local Roman senate and so on. We missed out a bit because we couldn't understand enough Spanish. But is surely was a great event. We also made friends with a number of other yachties who were wintering there. The marina was great and it turned out to be a memorable 3 days.
From Cartagena we sailed south west to the port of Garrucha. A very unfriendly welcome from the man at the fuel dock who told us we had to anchor out in the harbour, which we duly did. There was a large freighter loading silica (sand) presumable for glass making up wind of us in the harbour and the dust blew down on us until they finally stopped loading at 1800. We ate aboard and left early next morning heading for Almerimar, about 60 miles away. There wasn't much wind so we were motor sailing when we had an interesting experience which Harmony recorded below:
Quite an amazing day today. It all started out very ordinary with us leaving at 0800 with very little wind, motoring and then motor sailing south and then west. All of this changed as we were just having lunch at 1330 when a bird of prey started circling the boat. It looked like it wanted to land on the boat but finally plopped down in the sea very close to us. It was obviously to us a bird of prey with a big beak, tallons and a wingspan of about 6ft. We had both sails up at the time and the poor thing was in obvious distress so we went back, furled in sails and to cut a long story short tried to rescue it. It took us at least half an hour to call the coast guard (they said pick it up and call us back) and to finally get to a position where it was right on the stern and Dad could pick it up and put it on the aft stern. The poor thing was so exhausted that it just allowed itself to be brought aboard. In fact both of us felt that it had chosen us to rescue it. How does a a bird of so little brain do that? Dad lifted it aboard by it's wings next to it's body and then tied a sailbag around it and to the stern. We put another line behind the wings also tied to the stern and wrapped it in a recovery thermal blanket. The poor thing was totoally exhausted and seemed to be relieved to be rescued. It was the most bizarre thing. We then changed course and went to Almeria, the closest port where the coastguard said that the wildlife people would meet us. It wasn't quite that simple as we had to wait a while to get a berth and for the officials to arrive which they eventually did. They took one look at this huge bird and pronounced it to be a Buitre! We had no idea what they meant but they untied her from the stern, put her in the back of the car and after much Gracias sped off. We did give them our card and the co-ordinates of where we found her. Both of us agreed that she must be a girl given her behaviour. It was only later when we spoke to a Spanish guy that also spoke English and he said that Buitre was a vulture!!!! So we went and rescued a vulture! Given it's behaviour this might be true as it wasn't happy in the water. If anybody can find out more info for us we would really appreciate it. Her plumage was a golden brown colour, she had big tallons, a hooked beak and a wingspan of about 6 feet. This has all been much too much excitement for us. We went ashore and asked to have dinner at the club and she said " oh yes the bird boat!" We only hope that she survives but at least felt that we have done our bit. Could not have left her in the sea like that. Probably won't go too far tomorrow.
With help from Robert we identified the bird as a Griffon Vulture. Here is a description of the bird:
Size: About 15 pounds, wingspan 8 feet. Small, but bulky.
Voice: Unlike many other species of vulture, the Griffon is able to utter noises. Young make peeps and wheezes.
Diet/Feeding: One of the Old World vultures, Griffons cannot smell. They find food by soaring high, scanning the land for signs of a kill, or for stationary bodies. Often, the vultures will wait on the outskirts of a feeding frenzy, closing in once the mammalian scavengers have gone. Their weak beaks are not designed for ripping open fresh hides. They depend on predators or larger vultures to begin the work for them. Once they can access a carcass, the vultures will gorge themselves. Their crop can hold up to 13 pounds of meat!
Flight: Griffons can soar for 6 to 7 hours, or 100 miles. They often require steep cliffs or mountains to aid them in taking off. It can soar as high as 3300 meters, but has been recorded at heights of up to 9000 meters. Descending on a carcass, the bird can dive at over 100 miles per hour. They are one of the fastest species of vulture.
Range/Habitat: The largest numbers of Eurasian Griffon Vultures are found in Spain, but there are significant populations in Turkey, Gibraltar, and Bosphorus. They favour the more southern parts of their range, and can tolerate inclement weather such as rain, mist, and snow fairly well. Though they avoid wetlands and marine areas, they are very fond of fresh and running water, for bathing and drinking. Behaviour: Griffons are very social, living and nesting in colonies of 15 to 20 pairs. Sometimes more than 100 pairs compose a colony. After feeding on a carcass, Griffons often gather at a watering hole to bathe. They are dominant over most of the other vultures in their range, except the cinereous and lappet-faced vulture. * * *Life Cycle: *Young fledge 3 to 4 months after hatching. Griffons are mature enough to breed after 7 years, and live around 40 years.
Breeding: Griffons pair for life. They build nests of grass and twigs on cliff ledges. Mating takes place on the same steep cliff faces where the birds construct their nests, and the female lays one or two eggs 2 months after mating. Both parents tend the egg. Model parents, the griffons incubate their eggs by night, and shade them by day, as the temperature rises. Incubation lasts from 48 to 52 days.
Status: Griffon vultures are quickly losing habitat as humans increase their use of mammal poisons, and expand more and more into their areas. They also suffer at the hands of misunderstanding individuals who do not know the value of these wonderful creatures. In France, their populations are declining so drastically in that conservationists are thinking of bringing in new griffons to help repopulate the area. The griffon is extinct in much of its former range.
Folklore, Misc. Information: The feather of the Eurasian Griffon Vulture, according to Greek myth, could protect against snake bites, cure blindness, and relieve the pain of childbirth. "
From Almeria we motored the 20 miles to Almerimar which had been our destination the day before, prior to the bird rescue. The winds were light south west so we had to motor all the way. Almerimar is a fantastic marina. There are excellent facilities and a very large live aboard community. There are several restaurants around the harbour which had space for 1100 boats! Just as well we were secure because the forecast was for wind west Force 5. We decided to wait it out as we still had time on our hands. We did a bit of work on the boat and generally cleaned up. We met quite a few of the livaboards. There is a large community of them at the Marina. When we did finally leave Almerimar, the winds had dropped although they were still westerly (on the nose as we sailing folks say). We covered the 90 miles to Malaga in two days with a stopover at Marina del Est which is a beautiful holiday resort development with a marina. We found it pleasant and quite civilized, in sharp contrast with the marina near Malaga where we had arranged to meet the new crew. The marina at Puerto de Benalmadena which actual at Torremolinos, is surrounded by tacky tourist shops and restaurants. It made us think of Monty Python and their Whatney Red Barrel song about Torremolinos! Anyone remember that from the 60's? It still fits what we found. The past two days had been much cooler and we noticed that the water temperature was only 17 degrees at Torremolinos. The Atlantic was getting very close. This will be the last log of our Mediterranean trip as Harmony left for England on October 4th and the new crew for the Atlantic arrived.