Monday, 29 June 2009

The reluctant sailor

We are now in Gaois, Paxos, having sailed up through the Lefkas Canal from Spartochori on the island of Meganisi, overlooking Skorpios, Jackie O's island. It is hot, calm and peaceful and Mr Grigg is happy because we have borrowed a winch handle from a Nielson boat. On our way out of Kefallonia and mythical Ithaca we were joined by a family of dolphins. Mother and Father gracefully jumped out of the sea while Baby managed bunny-hopping belly flops.

This is the life.

But I am such a fickle, fairweather sailor - one hint of fouling up and I vow to myself this darned boat and I are finished. It's all very well Mr Grigg looking like an old sea dog on the stern, his stubble turning into Captain Birdseye's beard. But I am jolted out of my joy when trying to berth in Sami on Kefallonia.
I am the anchor woman but, to be honest, don't really understand what I'm doing. The anchor chain gets stuck twice as we come back. On the third attempt I crush my little finger. A distant memory of a Frenchman I once met in Plymouth flashes through my mind. An experienced transatlantic yachtsman, he was missing the tip of his index finger after an argument with a rope.

The injury calls for a beer and some TLC. So we stay in Sami for two days and hire a scooter, the Rust Bucket, to explore Captain Corelli's island. It is 30 per cent bigger than Corfu and relatively unspoilt by tourism. Fiskardho is pretty but full of pretentious yacthing types. I much prefer the secluded bays and the working towns where the real people are.

We turn the Rust Bucket around when we run out of oil after 50 yards and complain to the moped man, who looks like the alien from the pawn shop in Men in Black. He, meanwhile, is being shouted at by a drunkard on the other side of the road. The moped man is balding and has buck teeth, googly eyes and I swear he has cloven feet poking out from his trousers.

But we manage to make it around the island, despite the fact that the Rust Bucket's speedo and fuel gauge don't work and the tax is a year out of date. We pass wild thyme and fennel, olive trees and cypress, dry rye grass, hollyhocks and allium. A lazy cicada crosses the road, followed by a skillywiggler salamander. The smell of pine, heat and cooking with garlic as we pass through the villages.

Today we have made the long voyage up to Paxos and ended up playing I Spy to while away the hours. But Mr Grigg is tuned into my lack of sailor speak and comes up with words like binnacle, transome and sheets when all I can come up with is sea, sun and sky.

It's a hard life.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Odyssey begins

We are holed up in Vathi, the capital of Ithaca. While England is bathed in sunshine, the Ionian is subject to cyclonic winds and thunderstorms. I have never slept so much as I have today, after a disturbed night at anchor in this deep bay. The noise of the chain grated and reverberated around the forward cabin I am sharing with Mr Grigg.

Five years ago, we came to Corfu looking for a holiday home. We had a modest sum of money to put towards a property and spent two weeks looking around the island for something suitable. We were in the hands of different British estate agents we neither trusted nor liked.

On the last day of our holiday, Mr Grigg asked me if we could make a detour to the marina at Gouvia, just north of Corfu Town.

'There might be some boats there for sale,' he said.

I was about to congratulate him on his idea only to find several email print-outs between him and the owner of a charter company who was selling surplus stock. He had planned it all along.
We were met at the quayside by a young Greek man with long brown hair, dark eyes and an English accent acquired from an American university.

We looked around what he had to offer but I was not impressed. Cramped boats whose parts came up and knocked me on the shins at every turn. And besides, I could barely swim, let alone sail.

But the encounter planted a seed in my head. With a holiday home you are rooted to one spot. With a holiday boat, you could go anywhere.

I have always loved Greece from the days of reading Enid Blyton's Tales of Long Ago as a child to package holidays to Crete, Rhodes and the Cyclades. I fancied my own name, Grigg, could have come from Greek. My mother insists, however, she has traced the family back to the 1600s when they were farm labourers and publicans venturing no further than a small market town in Somerset.

Back in the UK, Mr Grigg did some research and came up with the ideal solution. A partnership with the company in which both sides put 50%. We had the use of the boat, a 36ft Bavaria yacht, for up to five weeks a year and the company used it the rest of the time, paying all the bills and maintaining it.

So Mr Grigg did evening classes for a day skipper qualification and we both came away with competent crew certificates on a RYA course at Weymouth.
Today, Nestor, named after an ancient Homeric king from the shores of sandy Pilos in the western Peloponnese, is our 'second home'. She takes us to places I have only read about in books, little romantic bays you just dream about. Last year, Mr St John came too and the previous year Mrs Bancroft and I swanned around like Greek royalty.

It's a lovely way to potter around the Greek islands, taking care and shelter when the weather is bad and striking out for new lands when it is good. This morning, I looked out on my porthole at other boats swinging gently on their moorings, old men on mopeds pootling up the street and a strange Truck of Junk, an open sided lorry stacked full of antiques including tables, paintings and the longest, thinnest saxophone you have ever seen.

The sailing bit still scares me. There is so much we do not know. But Mr Grigg, a risk taker in his work and when putting up bunting in his slippers, is a very sensible skipper. I do not usually do as I am told, especially when Mr Grigg tells me to do it. I have learned, however, that the skipper is always right. If he fouls up, then it is his fault not yours.

So it was his fault when he realised he had not completely checked the inventory before we left port. As we were just about to take advantage of a lovely sailing wind from Kastos to Ithaca, we suddenly realised we had no winches. So we missed out on sailing into Vathi but beat on, with the help of our engine.

At the end of the season, Nestor becomes ours. Decisions will have to be made about what to do next. We are too young to retire, me particularly. But maybe a gap year, if I can prise myself away from the world from my window.

That's about it

Love Maddie x