Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Whilst searching for Dolphins...

 When we sail around the Ionian Islands we are always thrilled and excited to see wild dolphins, they give you such a "feel good factor" and the experience makes you come into the harbour at the end of a good day's sail with an even a bigger grin on your face!
Well this year sailing on Mintaka we didn't actually see any dolphins-Although, I like to think that in the strong windy days when Skipper and I were busy with "all hands on deck" that there were dolphins riding our bow wave in the froth and thrill of the wind and waves! ...

Here are some photos of what we did see, the first is of shoals of fish, We feed  them with bread and ship's biscuits from the bathing platform on the boat, when you swim with them they never touch you, but you can get up really close, Skipper loves to snorkel and take an underwater camera with him.

Here is a blue octopus, amazing colour and a beautiful creature, but I'm glad I was on the pontoon taking this shot and not actually swimming with it.

 A red starfish about the size of your hand.

And this cricket, with a body about the size of your thumb and legs extending to make him as big as your hand, Skipper had quite a shock when it decided to climb up his shorts!!
Safely removed pretty promptly he took a photo! In vivid green, black and yellow what an interesting fellow.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Sailing The Ionian Islands, Part Two- About The Voyage

Whenever we are on board we always keep a log book. Every hour we write up a brief summary of important information for good sailing; Time, Log (distance), Course, Wind,(direction and speed) EP (estimated position) and Comments. I also keep a journal of our adventures which I enjoy writing up early each morning before breakfast, so as I can include observations and details of our stay at each port of call before we set out for another day's sailing. 
Our voyage on Mintaka took two weeks to complete and we sailed 280 nautical miles. 
We started and finished in Sivota, the photo above is of the taverna where our yacht is moored up. We visited-
Sivota,  Spartahori,  Paleros, Kalomos, Kioni,  Frikes, Fiskardo, Ay Euphemia, Nidri, Little Vathi Vassiliki, 

Spartahori is one of our favourite stopovers, we moor up "bows to" with lazy lines, so as we can swim off  the bathing platform on the stern as soon as we arrive, it's wonderful!   

 At Frikes there is an ancient windmill and this year Skipper climbed up the steep hill to it and took a photo of the flotilla below.

In Fiskardo we were joined on a small pontoon by this massive motor cruiser, I thought it would never fit but the crew on board were amazing and bought her in really well, this size of vessel usually anchors out in the entrance to the bay.

Little Mintaka is in the middle in this photo- and we thought 36ft was huge, but next to these two it made us feel quite normal again!

The first week sailing was very light breezes and there was plenty of time to anchor up in small bays and coves, to lunch and swim while waiting for the afternoon winds to blow up. It was also a good time to learn the ropes on board and work out the safest and easiest way for just the two of us to sail her. I could manage light winds up to F4 as crew but when it got stronger it was best for me be on the helm and Skipper to do the hard work! 

We were "storm bound" in Nidri for two days, storms here tend to be hot sunshine and lots of wind. We went out for a couple of hours for a sail, sheltering around the headlands, reefed in well it was great fun! before returning to the same pontoon for the night.

Our penultimate day on the water was a day to remember, we were bound for Vassiliki. In the morning there was a steady breeze F4 and we had a super sail "down the tail of Meganisi" island- all sails up. By the afternoon the wind had blown up and we were reefed and had turned on the engine to make headway. We had spray over the bows, big waves rolling on our port side, it was heavy going. Usually when you enter a bay the headlands provide shelter but when we got into Vassiliki bay it was like a cauldron of wind and sea. As we got to the breakwater of the harbour it was too dangerous to try and moor up in the harbour and we had to lay anchor outside in a F8 Gale, a tricky task. 

After several attempts our anchor held firm and we bobbed in the turquoise waters along with three other yachts from our flotilla waiting for the winds to lessen -"what else can you do but have a brew", a well earned cup of tea with biscuits in a Gale
 Four hours later! as the sun went behind the mountain we were able to moor up in the harbour. Over 35 nautical miles and 10 hours at sea, we were truly salty sailors that day! straight to a taverna for a glass of wine or two to balance my sea legs.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sailing The Ionian Islands, Part One- About The Boat

Just back from Casting Off on another sailing adventure.
We have been sailing around the beautiful Greek Isles again. Our boat this year was called Mintaka. She is a Beneteau 361 and as you can see in the photos she is a lovely yacht; 36ft length with a wide beam (twice the size of our little yacht at home!).With a saloon area, 3 cabins, galley, navigation table and seating, showers and heads there was plenty of room for just the two of us.
 Her name Mintaka  means belt in Arabic hence she is one of the 3 stars in Orion Belt Constellation.

Saloon seating and table

Galley with double sink and large fridge

Mintaka is wheel steering, it was a real treat to have this instead of a tiller

And there were plenty of ropes to pull!

We raised our own little MMA burgee to proudly fly as we started our voyage 

and here we are sails filled creaming along making 8knots on a hot sunny day on the deep blue Mediterranean sea.
We love sailing flotilla holidays. We were a small group of  yachts accompanied by a "Lead crew boat" on board the Lead boat is a Skipper who plans the route, collects information on weather and books us into the harbours each day, an Engineer to maintain all the yachts and a Hostie who keeps us informed on good places to visit, facilities available, where to buy bread etc. 
We have a morning briefing every day together and then we are free to do what we want on our own yachts, sail, anchor up somewhere for lunch and a swim. We navigate our own way to the next harbour and when we arrive the Lead crew is always there ready to take our mooring lines and welcome us to each new exciting place.
Next blog will be about the voyage...