Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Greece sailing, day 2 - sailing to Poros

I woke up with light coming in through the small windows. Everyone was a sleep and so I climbed outside to see the sun rise beyond Ithaca. Ayelet, who is also an early bird, woke up and we sat on the deck drinking cappuccino. (The boat is equipped with a small makineta and a cool device for frothing milk.)

In preparation for the day I checked the diving equipment drying on the boat's upper area and realized that I am missing a light (torch) that I gave Tomer during the dive (see picture in yesterday's entry). Apparently, he clipped it on his jacket and we forgot to take it off when we returned Tomer's rented equipment.

After a quick check with Udi, we decided to do the half hour trip back to Fiskardo. And since we will be there, to get breakfast over there. We raised anchor and started on our way back.

When arriving in Fiskardo harbor again, Udi decided to skip mooring. Instead, Ayelet and me took the dingy to shore while Udi idled in mid-harbor. Since Udi let us off about twenty meters from the quay, we didn't bother using the engine and I practiced rowing instead. We tied the dingy to the quay and went looking for Takis. We saw his boat, but he wasn't in. We asked the waitress in the cafe next to his boat whether he was in, and we were told he probably went to fetch something and will be back in "5 minutes". By now I learned that this can be a rather variable unit of time. To make use of the wait, we strolled to the bakery to buy bread. We decided that the tiropita at the bakery didn't look as good as the store we bought from yesterday, and so proceeded back to that store. On our way we run into Takis who was surprised to see us again. He said he didn't see the missing light, but will check. He had small business at the post office and will be back in his boat in "10 minutes" (more worrisome). We bought tiropita, spinakopita, and olive pita. After a short wait Takis showed up, and quickly found the light clipped on the jacket. We said goodbye and returned to the dingy and with it and all our goods back to the boat.

We started sailing south along the channel separating Kefallonia and Ithaca.

An important part of the sailing routine was to drop a fishing line behind the boat. At the end of the line was a fishlike plastic bait with hooks. The idea is that predatory fish believe the bait to be a small fish and try to eat it. By now I heard story about the success of different baits, and that one kind managed to bring in few large tunas. On the way to Kefallonia this bait caught a big swordfish. After a heroic struggle Udi brought to the boat, but the at the last minute the fish managed to sever the line and escape, with the bait. The loss of a tasty dinner (several actually) was a disappointment. Moreover, we were now forced to use an inferior bait.

To our surprise, fairly soon after leaving Fiskardo port, the line showed some movement. Udi suspected we managed to hook some floating debris or seaweed. Reeling in the line, It was quickly apparent that we caught a fish. It was silvery and looked fast, and it's fins were reminiscent of a tuna, but it was much smaller. We later learned from a local fisherman that it was a palamida, which is rather unclear name to subgenus of Mackerels (called Scomberomorus in scientific classifications). I suspect that most likely it is an Atlantic Chub Mackerel but as usual with fish, classification is not easy.

The catch
Catching the fish is only the first step. Next, one has to kill it somehow. The traditional approach is rather brutal, and I will spare the details but will mention that it involves a club. Ayelet learned that spraying ethanol on the gills kills fishes quickly and more humanely. And so while Udi was lifting the fish she attacked it with a 70% percent ethanol spray bottle (that looked suspiciously familiar). Once the spray actually reached the gills the fish subsided rather gracefully and the experiment was declared successful. Ayelet also heard from her sources that hanging the fish upside down removed some of the blood from the fleshy parts. And so we took a small piece of rope and hanged the fish from its tail outside the deck area.

Trying the Ethanol treatment

We reached our first destination for the day, a small island in the middle of the channel that was barren except for a small church. According to nautical map there was a nearby wreck in shallow water. The reflection of light made it hard to spot the wreck. Udi brought us to the marked location on the map, and I jumped to look for the wreck. Since this was an impromptu search I took only snorkel and mask and left my fins (and camera) on board.

Small island and a church

The water was a bit dark, but I could see the seagrass growing on the bottom. I started to widen the search and started seeing shapes underwater. Getting closer these turned out to be flat slates of rock. The diagonally layered rock here was eroded and left a series of tilted slabs on the bottom. While exploring these I encountered a group of snorkelers. I asked one (who turned out to be the guide) where is the wreck. He answered that there is no wreck about. I started swimming toward our boat, which seemed far away by now. Swimming without fins was surprisingly slow, but I finally made it.

I learned that while I was searching for the wreck, Ayelet took her mask and fin and also searched for the wreck. We started looking for her. Since there was another group in the water we could not distinguish her from the rest, and so we slowly moved over to their position. We still could not find her. In the mean time the group started returning to their boat, and after few minutes the water was clear of snorkelers. Still no sign of Ayelet. At this point we got a bit too close to rocks near the islands and Udi had to back up to avoid running into them.

At this point we got a bit worried. The snorkelers boat left the area and we were alone in the water. Suddenly we spotted movement on the far part of the island. Upon getting closer, we indeed found Ayelet. She decided she will find the wreck no matter what and ended up circling the island, including parts with strong currents.

We resumed our course southward. Slowly the wind picked up, and the captain decided to open sails. Once the sails were open and full, we turned off the engine. When sailing the boat sounds very different, the noise of the engine is gone, and instead there is the occasional slap of the sails.

By now everyone woke up, as well as our appetite and we decided that breakfast is due.

Late breakfast

After breakfast we set out to the task of cleaning and filleting the fish. I volunteered to show my skills in filleting (which was mostly theoretical). Between Udi and me we managed to clean, fillet and skin the fish in nice cube sized chunks. Roni, the cooking enthusiast aboard took over from here and marinated the fish in olive oil and lemon juice with some fresh herbs thrown in. (The boat was equipped with a basil and mint plants growing under the spill shield above the cockpit.)

Surprisingly, travel takes time. And once on our course there was little to do fo few hours. There are many ways to spend this time differently, chatting, reading, or napping. After we passed reach the bay of Samis, Udi went sleep while Ayelet was already napping on the deck. I was left in charge.

The southern tip of Ithaca

This sounds very serious. In fact it was relatively simple. The boat has auto-pilot that can maintain a given direction. It counters the shifts due to waves and wind. The person in charge has to watch out for other boats to avoid collisions. This can be hard in busy areas with a lot of large commercial ships (that move very fast compared to a sail boat). In calm water this was less of an issue.

This a good time to mention some of the devices on the boat. For sailing, an important device is a wind meter that reports the strength of the wind and it's direction relative to the boat. Watching this meter ensure that the we face the risk of the sail flipping sides in uncontrolled manner. Another important device is the bottom meter that measures the depth of water below the boats keel. This is particularly important when navigating close to shore.

The most recent addition to these devices is the combination of GPS with an iPad. The boat iPad has an application with detailed nautical map, and it shows the position of the boat and it's trajectory. In addition the iPad is interfaced to a system that serves to share positional information between vessels on the water. Each boat or ship broadcasts it identity and current position and trajectory. This information is displayed on the map to avoid potential collisions. An elegant feature of this system is that each vessel transmit not only its own position, but also all the information it has on sea traffic. This means that a small sailboat can get a map with ships that are still beyond its reception range.

The upshot was that navigation was looking up the desired location on the map and drawing a line toward it to get the orientation one has to guide the boat. Then setting the autopilot to keep that direction and hang back. Once every few minutes a glace to see that the water ahead is clear suffices to avoid troubles.

After rather quiet sailing south we reached the Poros area. The mountains on the island reach the shore with very steep slopes creating a dramatic effect. Poros itself is situated at the outlet of a small stream that over the years dug a gorge through the mountains.

Poros gorge
Anchorman is ready for action

The landing at the harbor was smooth. Ayelet was at the helm and got very good grade from the captain on her performance. The port itself is a bit separate from the main town, but has few stores and tavernas catering to the port visitors and for people waiting for the ferry that reaches the port several times a day.
Island-hoping tourist "pirate" ferry

Ayelet decided that the boat need a wash. Since there was free water here, this was a good spot to do so. What started as washing the outer deck, ended as a through scrab of all the surfaces.

We were recruited for various tasks through the cleanup, but most of the effort was Ayelet's. When she finished the boat was glowing white and smelled of fresh bleach.

twilight time

last rays of light
the scrub must go on

Tonight, Roni took charge of dinner. She decided to go for a greek recipe (from an Israeli cookbook) of rice and spinach. She and Udi went to the store to get the required ingredients, and then she set off to work.
Roni at work in the kitchen

Tomer and Udi spending time before dinner

Between Roni and Ayelet's cleanup, we ate very late. The food included a salad, ceviche (from the fish we caught earlier), spinach rice, and grilled sausages. 

Large ferry boat
By the time we finished eating it was almost midnight and we were all very tired. Moreover, we had to start early tomorrow for our trip. 

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