Not long after the end of the 2017 Holiday Courses I decided that, for a few reasons, I needed to do something for ‘me’. I needed a break, but rather than lie on a beach all week I decided that I should combine this break with something I had been pondering for a while – starting my way on the RYA cruising syllabus. And so it was that I left Cornwall on Saturday 14th bound for Lefkada Island in the Ionian and the Lefkas base of Seafarer Sailing.
My flights were initially booked on the Monarch airline but as they went into administration in spectacular style (causing travellers to be stranded all over the shop!) about 10 days prior to my departure I was booked by the company onto Thompson flights. As the original flight leaving Gatwick was at 6am on Sunday morning I had booked myself into the Gatwick Premier Inn so I was ready for the earlier start. The Thompson flight didn’t leave until mid afternoon however so I had a nice lie in flowed by a cooked breakfast at The Nicholas Culpepper pub in Gatwick’s North terminal.
The change in flight time meant an evening arrival in Preveza International Airport and nighttime drive down the length of Lefkada. Arriving in Sivota on the southern tip of the island at around 8pm we were shown to our vessels and after meeting my shipmates- Jean (going for Day Skipper), Allan (Competant Crew) and Michael (Day Skipper refresher), and a safety brief were invited up to Stavros’s Taverna for dinner.
Now it was at this point that I got a bit worried. I was being a bit cheeky by taking the practical course without having completed the theory course first, and so despite having checked with head office whether that would be OK I was given a warning that it was much harder to pass the practical course without having done the theory course first. At dinner, we ate with sailors from a flotilla who were also departing the following morning and I was subject to a little more teasing about my ‘audacity’.
So it was that my first night on board was quite sleepless what with my worries about the course and a freshwater system with air in it which caused the pumps immediately behind my bulkhead to try and run continuously!
Monday dawned and after a breakfast in Sivota bakery we started our course.
The week’s forecast was sunny with not much wind which meant we had quite a bit of motoring to do!
Our first task after our instructor, Becky, had taken us out of Sivota bay was to get used to how the yacht handled under power both in ahead and astern – very similar to the exercise we start with when teaching powerboating.
After we had completed that we motored around the headland to the west to find an anchorage for lunch before the wind picked up allowing us our first sail south west to Fiskardo on the northern tip of Kefalonia.
From here we sailed to Polis bay on Ithaca (the island famed for it’s part in Homer’s Odyssey) for lunch before another lovely downwind run to Eufimia on Kefalonia.
Wednesday was a long motor to ‘Big Vathi’ on the Eastern side of Ithaca. We had just enough wind to conduct some MOB drills before heading into the port for some more ‘parking’ practice.
Wednesday night was our night sail (compulsory for day skipper certification) under engine we used back bearings and transits to help us navigate back out of Vathi and north up the coast towards Kioni, with the objective of finding the Kioni light. We were approximately 1.5nm east of Kioni and well after the time when we should have been able to see the Kioni light when we were posed the question: ‘Ok, we haven’t found the light, what should we do now?’. Thinking for a second I proposed that, uncertain of the coastline and our position in relation to it that we should turn east, away from land until such time as we could pick up the Akra Dhoukaton light on the south western tip of Lefkada, allowing us to triangulate our position with the Atokos light. Swiftly overruled it was decided that we should head towards the harbour lights of Kioni despite not being able to check out position. Having nosed into the harbour and discovered that the illusive light was actually not lit we turned tail and headed back down to Vathi.
The following day we motor-sailed from Vathi to Kastos via One House Bay on Atokos island for lunch which, not surprisingly has only one (uninhabited) house… on…. it…. Anyway! on our trip from Atokos to Kastos we became head to head with a large catamaran charted from Sunsail’s ‘posh’ arm The Moorings. Both heading to Kastos we knew that we would be in competition for a space on the pier. Unfortunately our sail handling meant that they beat us through the breakwater and we had a very interesting approach and were shoehorned in on the very end!
Friday morning saw us practicing and re-practicing alongside mooring for a couple of hours(!) before heading back to Ithaca, again via Atokos but Cliff bay on the southern side for a bit of a change! Heading into Frikes harbour on Friday evening was beautiful but with a slightly tricky valley funneled wind to contend with.
Saturday was test day – Jean and I were to be in charge – to make all the decisions (no pressure!) with our only aim being that we needed to arrive in Sivota at around 5pm. During the morning passage found ourselves surrounded by dolphins!!
We had decided to head to Ormos Roudha just to the east of Sivota for lunch so we had most of the milage under our belts already. After a swim and Allan getting blown downwind in the inflatable we headed round the headland and into Sivota.
It wasn’t until were right in the harbour that Becky told me that the berth we had been given meant playing about in 1-2m of water (don’t get it wrong!) as it happened I managed a reasonable astern mooring, even with the new complication of lazy lines (so nothing to keep the bow straight or slow us down!
Then we were one by one told whether we had passed or not (I did! 🙂 ) and were able to relax into a final meal at Stavros’s.
The change of flights meant that out departure the next day wasn’t until around 4pm so a lovely day was spent reading on the shores of Sivota.
A bus and a plane later and I had the task of getting to my Auntie’s house in Isleworth, West London. I had looked at the train times and it was tight! I had a 4 minute change at Clapham Junction and our train was running two mins late! I waited patiently as the gentleman in front of me struggled to disembark, costing me valuable seconds! I then sprinted (with a heavy bag and rucksack) down the platform and down the ramp to the tunnel… The signs said Platforms 8-1…. I knew I needed platform 5 but it cost me even more seconds trying to work out if 5 was between 8 and 1 (rather than 1-8 which would have been easy!). I turned right and kept jogging until I saw a sign saying platforms 5+6, wheeling to the right I sprinted again up the ramp… on reaching the platforms I glanced right – no train, left – TRAIN! running through the doors just as they closed I hoped beyond hope that this was in fact the right train and it was a good 60 seconds and after the train had left the station that the announcement came that this was indeed the train to Hounslow calling at Wandsworth Town…. Putney….. Barnes….. Mortlake…. Northsheen…. Richmond….. RELIEF! it was the right train.
After that it was easy, train from Richmond to Reading on Monday morning and Reading to Truro in the afternoon.
Holiday Success and Day Skipper ticket in my pocket! 🙂