Monday, 26 November 2007

Round the Island Race and beyond

Saturday 3 November 2007
Race day dawned clear and bright after a deluge of rain all night, moored up on the quay in Lefkas town. We narrowly avoided missing the race altogether when John decided to escape from the boat and run off into town after a cat. I heard a shout from a neighbouring boat whilst I was washing and legged after him, bra-less and barefoot (I did manage to put a fleece on). Luckily he was followed by a child from the boat next to us and only took 5 minutes to locate him, frantic and sweating (both of us).

Almost missed the 9am bridge out of Lefkas and only had one sail up by the time the starter pistol went – but hey ho – we were sort of near the start line and were off. As we crossed the start line, I realised we were the only boat towing a tender full of rainwater. Tim struggled to get it onto the scoop and propped up against the gantry. We now had a huge rubber and fibreglass brake instead. Coupled with us being the only competitor not to have launched a spinnaker, our finishing position seemed already assured.

The problem with clear, cloudless days is that they are often accompanied by a distinct lack of wind. Quite fundamental to a sailing race and after three hours of barely moving 2 miles, the dogs told us that there was no way we were going to make a harbour by nightfall unless we turned on our engine. So following the example of a Romanian entrant, we dropped out of the race and motored guiltily past the remaining competitors – so second from last, one better than we expected. Incidentally, the wind never made an appearance and it took the surviving boats 25 hours to complete the race so it was a good, if cowardly, call.

We motored in the unseasonably hot sun for 5 hours, with nothing to see other than the inhospitable cliffs of the west coast of Lefkas. As we neared the southern tip, we saw the mountains of Cephalonia (of ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ fame) rising from the sea to the south. We had two options: either continue towards Nidri with the promise of a drunken night ahead or be a bit more daring and go to Cephalonia. Full of the spirit of adventure, we checked the charts and decided to continue south to Fiscardo, a small harbour on the east coast of Cephalonia.

We arrived in Fiscardo as the sun was setting and moored up on an empty pontoon, the only cruising yacht in the harbour. It was extremely quiet with almost everything shut up for the winter. But we liked it.

We spent several days working on the boat in the exceptionally pretty little harbour, basking in the autumn sunshine and enjoying the peace. It was brilliant to be somewhere new – we both needed a change of scenery and it felt like being on holiday, despite being up to the elbows in Sikaflex sealant and masking tape as usual. On the other side of the harbour lay a pine covered headland, criss-crossed with paths and perfect for dog walking. My romantic notions of walking the dogs along a rocky foreshore, listening to the waves breaking, were finally realised. Above the rocks sat two lighthouses. One a Venetian ruin complete with house and walled garden – if only we had some money. The other was still in use. The ruins of a Norman church stood lonely and windswept on top of the headland providing 360 degree views of the sea, surrounding islands and mountains. All of this made up for the lack of a social life – and we talked about seeing out the winter there.

However, we decided we should make the most of the sunny, breezy weather and get some sailing in so after a few days we hauled anchor.


Gareth said...

Layman's terms (or definitions) please Squires, what is a spinnaker? Does it spin? GG

Gareth said...

...and have YOU been reading Captain Correlli's Mandolin, too?