Venice to Croatia and back to Greece - postcard from Mags
Returning to Pula, Croatia was a dream compared with the ride to Venice, and Uli who is one of the first to suffer from the boat's movement when first setting sail didn't suffer at all. That shows the difference. We had a good time with P&U visiting some of the same places as with R&M but also varying the bays and seeing just a bit more of Croatia. They add to our trips by superb cooking and a need to do a bit more real sailing which wasn't that easy this time as there was little wind but we did have one superb sail when we used the drifter, only ever used once before.
Packing up the drifter
We liked Croatia. They are very geared up to chartering and in many bays instead of anchoring you pick up one of the buoys already laid and pay a small charge when the boat attendant comes round. He also takes the rubbish. It has some interesting towns to visit such as Pula, Split and Dubrovnik and some nice small villages. One village we particularly liked and revisited was Bettina. Having said this, Croatia is not our favourite country to sail in despite the multitude of beautiful islands. We still prefer Greece and Turkey perhaps because we found the life style in Croatia felt more European whereas Greece is simply Greece and Turkey just Turkey.
We dropped Petra and Uli off in Split and headed down to Dubrovnic where we stayed again at the splendid marina up the nearby river. It is well worth a visit with a wonderful swimming pool and a couple of restaurants and coming up the river is a different approach to most marinas. Our next visitors were son Glyn and Katy who were arriving in just over a week's time in Cephalonia. However, we still had our auto-pilot problem and we needed to get back to Giannis in Corfu to resolve it. Barry had phoned the manufacturers in the UK and USA and been told, with great regret, that the new computer was not compatible with the old fluxgate compass and steering reference unit that form parts of the auto-pilot system, so we phoned Giannis before arriving and ordered these two new units. He swiftly installed them and in doing so we discovered that the compass that we thought he would be replacing was not at all the one and Giannis discovered the real one in our shoe locker. So the question now is what on earth is this other one? We have not yet discovered. We were planning to set off from Corfu but found we still had a problem so took Giannis out for sea trials to demonstrate what was happening. He agreed that there was something definitely not functioning correctly and replaced our new course computer temporarily with one he had in his workshop. As we couldn't wait any longer we planned to return yet again to Corfu after Glyn and Katy had gone home.
Katy and Glyn on board
We got to Argostoli on Cephalonia only 4 hours before Katy and Glyn flew in. Phew! Just made it once again. Katy had never been cruising before so we were careful not to over-do the trips. We had a lovely time with them. Barry really enjoyed having Glyn on board and being able to spend more time with him and Katy threw herself in to boating with her usual enthusiasm. At the end of the trip the wind got up as we sailed to Fiscardo so in the end they took a taxi from there to the airport which saved us a longish trip south and back and also meant we didn't test Katy's seasickness to the limits. We all agreed that it was best to end on a happy note.
Fiscardo - roped into dance - yes, even Barry!
So off we went back to Corfu. Giannis reinstalled our new computer once more. Note that we hadn't had any problems with the replacement one he had loaned us. We took him for another test sail when he unbent a little from a fairly gruff type to very pleasant company and at last we agreed that all was well with the steering. We shall never know what was wrong nor whether we really needed to replace the compass and the rudder reference unit. To research all this just seems too hard and we are happy to have a working auto-pilot.
So we set sail again heading south back towards the Corinth Canal. We stopped in the Gulf of Corinth first at Missalonghi. To get there you motor up a canal that crosses a salt marsh. We had visited the town (Barry says Byron died here) on our way north and had had a small adventure. Barry followed strictly the instructions in the book which said "At the entrance don't cut the corner but head for the middle of the basin to clear shallows on the E". Well, either the shallows had shifted or we had misunderstood, as we went quite gently on to a mud bank. With revving engine and me running from side to side on the stern we did eventually unstick and motored on to our mooring. According to Barry there was an article in Yachting Monthly by some very experienced sailors who have written books about their exploits, describing how they did the same thing up this channel but were stuck for a week had to empty water tanks, take all heavy equipment off the boat etc. before eventually getting off. Thank heavens I hadn't read this at the time. As we came in this second time we followed a boat up the canal and blow me they did exactly as we had done and got stuck on the mud. As we motored up they waved frantically and told us we shouldn't go on as there was only one metre depth. We were about 20 metres away from them in 7 metres. They were obviously planning to turn round and head out to sea but seeing us pass they managed to slip off the mud and followed us in. Something is very wrong with the instructions and I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't a local hobby to go and see if any boats were on the mud.
We next visited a nice island, Trizonia where we met a pleasant American couple off WindSong. We met them again in our next stop in Galaxidhi where we spent 4 days waiting for the wind to moderate. Here we had some pleasant chats over a beer or two with our new friends John and Karen from Windsong, some power boat owners, also American and an Irishman, Peter. Our next door neighbours Jan and Ray were lovely neighbours and I felt myself starting to take root. It certainly was a very pleasant little community to spend time with waiting for better winds. The only fly in the ointment was the method of getting ashore. As there was ballast against the quay we couldn't get close enough to use our passarell. So at first we stepped into the dinghy and climbed ashore up our rather flexible boarding ladder. It felt dodgy. The "harbour master", a gentleman who we think is really a fisherman but has taken it on himself to direct boats in and assist where he can eventually came along with a long plank for us. However, walking this plank felt like "walking the plank" and we never did it without our hearts in our mouths.
Walking the plank
When we left it was nearly a flat calm and we changed our minds as to our destination and decided to bite the bullet and head straight for the canal and try and go through in the same day and get ourselves as far as the village of Korfos, Corinthia. We had berthed outside another Giannis' restaurant here and were keen to go back. We arrived at 8.00 pm. This is much later than we would normally seek a berth but we were lucky. There was room, people to help us tie up and we then stepped ashore to have our supper. We were quite shattered and went to bed pretty early.