As many of you may be aware a non EU flagged boat can only stay within Greek waters for a maximum of 18 months. It must then visit a non EU country before re-entering Greek waters in order to obtain a new transit log. What follows is Heather’s account of our little trip to Albania to obtain one such transit log… grab a blanket and a brew, it’ll make you cold just reading it.
With my hands stinking of bleach, busy deep cleaning fridges, Vicky pops her head around the door and asks “would you like to come sailing?” Of course I agree! Who wouldn’t, given the alternative?
Now, early on I should point out that I am very new to sailing, only experiencing the beauty and relaxation of summer sailing around the Ionian. This was to be an entirely new adventure…
I arrive early at the Yacht Club, layered up as had been advised by Debs (Thank you so much for the layers – I definitely owe you one!). I am given a pair of salopettes; snow is due to be dumped all across Greece, most people are preparing their log fires for a duvet day – not us! We’re going sailing!
As we head up the Lefkas channel I am eager and optimistic. Millie is tucked up in bed under the spray hood; an addition that we all become immensely thankful for (and something that Ruairi will continue to remind us of). It’s drizzly and grey but not unpleasant – is this what sailing in England feels like?
It is as we approach Santa Maura bridge that my optimism drops. It is now throwing it down, the wind has picked up and as a result the swell has greatly increased. And we still have to collect Yevgeni, the owner of the boat, & his belongings from the quay. I am nervous. The largest waves I have experienced up to this point are those delightful summer breeze waves in the stretch between Lefkas and Ithaka. What am I doing? Get off now. This is a ridiculous idea. I’m 25 minutes from home if I abandon ship now. My lovely warm home, with Netflix and an electric blanket… No, where is your sense of adventure Heather? Pull yourself together – you’ve got this!
Of course my nerves are not warranted. Ruairi and Vicky expertly bring Diana alongside and the process of collecting Yevgeni is seamless. With all his energy and madness, Yevgeni alleviates my mood somewhat. It does not last.
As I previously mentioned I am a rookie. Open seas are new to me. The swell does not subside and I find myself in a dilemma; do I go down below and be warm but increase the chances of throwing up over a recently refitted saloon or do I suffer the cold and keep my eyes fixed on the land to try to suppress the sickness? I decide upon the latter and curl up tightly under the spray hood desperately fighting the urge to throw up over the side. Ruairi does offer the kindest of support “seasickness and motion sickness are a state of mind” Thanks Ruairi…
It is night as we reach Corfu Town and all along the headland lights flicker on – night sailing is another first for me and excitement over rides sickness, perhaps it is all in my head (don’t tell Ruairi I thought that!) Gouvia Maina is to be our home for the night and as we follow the buoys in (red on the Port and green on the Starboard – see I am learning!) relief washes over me. I have survived!
We wake to snow covered hatches. Thank god for the heater! I take full advantage of hot showers (and secretly think about staying here all day).
All we have to do now is sail to Albania and back…no big deal…it’s only a little bit of snow right?
Valiantly, Vicky and I take on the role of coffee makers, seeking shelter down below, plotting, planning and dreaming of summer and all that it promises for 2019!
The snowstorm only worsens and the swell is unforgiving as we reach Saranda. Visibility is poor and a hydrofoil whizzes out of the port only just missing us. I have no words for this experience, instead take a look at the video, it gives you an idea…
I have three reflections on Saranda;
- The people here could not have been more helpful; though this may have been because they thought we were all mad!
- Add sugar to the hot chocolate – its proper cocoa!
- I would love to return and explore more of Saranda and Albania, the town is quirky with much character – a larger Nidri if you will – and the coastline looks beautiful! Though perhaps I’ll wait until Spring…
The next morning is brilliant sunshine. Everyone is in high spirits; our mission to Saranda and back is complete and with the wind behind us it looks like we can get some good sailing in as we head home! We do one last stock up; predominantly chocolate, bread and cheese – what else? – and head back down south.
All hands are on deck and our sails are raised! The boys take the opportunity to play with the new kite, Vicky retreats into her happy reading corner and I lie on the foredeck basking in the afternoon sunshine, mesmerized by the Spinnaker as it ebbs and flows in the wind.
A sailing yacht, the first one we have seen out this trip, motors towards us – they must be envious of our full sails downwind!
For our final day, Helios is once again kind. The last leg is one we know well, Lefkas to Vlicho and everyone is relaxed. We take full advantage of the gorgeous weather, using our sails all the way.
Our final lunch stop is a little bay on Skorpios, the infamous Jackie O bay. We anchor just off the shore and I can’t help but comment on how inviting the sea looks. Before I know it, the ladders are down. I’ve got to now haven’t I?
And so, ladies and gentleman, the adventure concludes with my first swim of the year framed by a snow capped Lefkada and I must say I am glad to be home!