Monday 11 May
Just before five in the morning Temptress rounded the western corner of Crete. We had one last radio chat with Silver Tern before they continued westward to Messina and Sicily. We will miss their company after so long together and wish them well for the rest of their voyage to the UK.
It’s a cold morning, despite layers of warm clothing, the breeze building from behind is chilling to the bone. One hundred and twenty six miles across Steno (Strait) Antikythiron to the southern tip of the Peloponnese. Another similar distance beyond that to Messolonghi. Hopefully this wind will build and Temptress can sail. The moon is so bright it seems like morning already. We are racing northwards as the current sluicing round this corner is adding over a knot to our speed.
An hour later and clear of the headland the wind was enough to sail by. I woke the skipper and we unfurled some but not all of the gennie. With the engine finally off after almost 24 hours we were sailing at much the same speed. However the wind didn’t last long, by 06:15 I had to gybe the sail and ten minutes later there was virtually no wind at all. I raised the skipper from his bunk a second time, he wasn’t asleep; the waves slapping under the transom meant he was expecting my call.
We furled the sail and I turned the ignition key. Nothing. Tried again, silence not even the usual click of the starter motor. Kevin linked all the batteries in case it was a charge issue, which it shouldn’t be as having motored all day yesterday and through the night, the monitors showed everything as fully charged. Tried again still nothing. Temptress drifted along with a knot of current into the strait. Ten minutes later by bypassing the start solenoid with a screw driver, the engine sprang to life. Another job for the list and perhaps we should motor all the way to avoid having to do that again. We have enough fuel.
Poor old boat she desperately needs an engine overhaul, the watermaker requires a work bench and replacement parts, instruments need replacing, the sails a sail loft to restitched many of the seams and her crew a break from all this. It’s 57 days since we left our last port of Djibouti, 81 since Cochin and four months since leaving the marina in Langkawi, over a year since we left Singapore. Repairs have been fashioned from odds and ends, regular servicing like changing oil and filters carried out but now what Temptress needs is a major refit, a going over of everything, not to mention the cleaning, polishing and varnishing to be done. A secure marina berth, a mechanic, a sail loft, and a good chandlery.
And if things can go wrong they will. Kevin was still snoozing below when the boom sudden swung out to starboard as we rolled on the waves. The shackle attaching it to the traveller had come loose, it swung to port, reached the end of the preventer that was also securing it, then back again to starboard dangling the pinless shackle tantalisingly over the water. I scrambled out to catch the shackle before it was lost forever then moving low across the cabin top to avoid the swinging boom grabbed the pin from where it lay by the traveller. As I turned to move back, the block at the bottom of the mainsheet swung inboard again swiping me behind the temple, glasses flew off, I was stunned. I somehow got back into the cockpit with shackle, pin and glasses then yelled for Kevin. Five minutes later order was restored, a lump rising rapidly on my head and my nose rather sore. Kevin gave up on sleep. Coffee was called for.
After a hearty breakfast of bacon, egg, tomatoes, fried potatoes and fried slice we unfurled some gennie again. I headed off for some sleep. A couple of hours later the sailing or rather motor-sailing, was glorious. The clouds have cleared; blue skies, warm sun, a cool breeze with the wind behind us. In the distance the purple grey shapes of islands that are scattered in a trail from Crete northwards. Dolphins join us again, three large, rather scraped and battered looking ones with pale blunt noses that danced back and forth across the bow or dived under the keel to emerge the other side. They entertained us for almost half an hour. Temptress is making great progress in the southerly F4-5, by 13:00 we’d covered 50nm from Crete; 185nm to Messolonghi.
The afternoon rushed past at over six knots with us identifying the islands as they rose then disappeared behind us. The seas grew as the afternoon progressed, big lumpy rolling stuff mostly on the port quarter but occasionally one would slap against the topsides further forward and the wind would blow the spray off the top into the cockpit over the dodger. I read, the skipper snoozed. By early evening we were under 50 miles south of Methoni on the south western tip of the Peloponnese, crossing the ships heading too and from Turkey and the Black Sea ports. Kalamata (home of the eponymous olive?) at the head of the bay to the east is a pilot station, we assumed the ships drifting to the southeast of Methoni are waiting for pilots to guide them through the islands into the Agean and beyond.
As the sun began to set the wind became too light to hold the gennie. We furled it and continued for the next few hours under engine alone, making slower progress but at least the seas were flatter making it easier for the off watch to sleep. Toward the end of the first watch as darkness fell I spotted a tug hovering around a ship that was in complete darkness. Eventually the tug began to move towards us towing the much bigger ship. When it all drew closer I could see the ship was in fact a lorry ferry. The only light it had was a orange on high upon the bridge, the tug was shining a spot light back at it. As the whole tow was barely making a couple of knots through the water it was not difficult to cross ahead of it.
The rest of the night passed easily, by 01:00 on Tuesday morning we had reached the waypoint off Sapienza island. The wind picked up from the south east and we could unfurl some jib again, adding a couple of knots to our speed. Temptress was now on the final hundred nautical miles to Messolonghi.