Trip on Ippoliti starting 2019-09-14 in BSANov19
Cyclades Greece 14 – 24 September 2019 - report by Peter Wakeling
Elan Impression 434 ‘Ippoliti’ chartered from Dream Yacht Charters (DYC) through brokers LateSail
Skipper - Peter Wakeling
This was an eventful trip. Due to take over the boat in Lavrion for easy access to the Cyclades; however, advised 36 hours before that due to strong winds preventing sailing from Lavrion for next 2 to 3 days, the boat was re-based in Alimos in the Saronic Gulf where wind speeds generally 2 strengths Beaufort less than in the Cyclades. We were collected and transported free from Athens airport to Alimos; however, we could not get refund from Suntransfers that we had booked for transfer to Lavrion as they require 48 hours’ notice.
14 September. Arrived at Alimos at 7 pm where surprised to find the boat’s owner coming on board to undertake briefing and handover. This is unheard of in my experience as the owner is not employed by DYC and not trained to do this properly. The owner was very keen to get this completed as soon as possible and transfer responsibility to me for any latent defects. We found the genoa furling line badly frayed and got it replaced. The manual bilge pump was broken and the owner could not get a replacement before our departure. There was a nasty smell in the saloon which the owner tried to disguise by spraying air freshener. He was very reluctant for us to use the holding tank although it is obligatory and we suspected all was not well. On this boat the holding tank is located below the floor of the saloon and an electric pump is used to pump it out. Various instrument covers were cracked and scarred – general impression was that the owner skimps on maintenance. We found some broken bolts and broken plastic parts in the chart table but could not identify then where they came from.
15 September. the meltemi wind continued NE F6 gusting F7 most of the day so as unfamiliar with the boat decided to defer our departure by 24 hours. Found we lacked the sets of snorkeling equipment we had ordered; 6 sets were then delivered but only one was correct size and unbroken. The owner reacted by purchasing 6 new sets of the correct size. Otherwise leisurely day exploring Alimos and dinner in the marina restaurant – very busy as very popular with Athenians, good meal but international and not typically Greek at all.
16 September. Wind decreased to NE F2, set off at 10.00 to sail south under genoa, around the southern cape and then east to Kea in the Cyclades. Berthed stern-to at Korissia at 17.10. Using the anchor for the first time revealed that the windlass was falling apart, lacking the bolts we had found in the chart table and plastic internal parts broken. We decided to continue, exercising great care. Explored ashore then dinner on board as we have talented chefs in crew. 41.4 nm.
17 September Slipped at 10.50 and set sail for Nisos Siros to the southeast. Crew complaining of bad smell causing headaches and loss of sleep so tried as best we could to flush out the holding tank. Anchored in pleasant Ormos Grammata on Siros at 16.15 with opportunity to swim before dinner on board. 32.4 nm.
18 September. Wind now S F3 departed st 09.10 to sail down to Nisos Sifnos. The wind was on the nose making progress very slow so at 1040 changed plan and headed west under sail to Nisos Serifos. At 15.00 berthed at Louvraki harbour which has been upgraded with new jetties, more berths, some alongside. Nothing like the plan in the Pilot. We did not need the anchor, using laid lines to go stern to berth. Good range of restaurants and we dined in our choice right on the beach. A very attractive location with good shelter.
19 September. Started by taking the bus up mountain road to visit an attractive hilltop village with great views over the island. The Cyclades weather forecast for the coming weekend was for F7/8 for several days beginning late on Friday afternoon. Very unexpected reappearance of the meltemi so late in the season. This meant if we continued as planned to the southern Cyclades we were likely to become stormbound and have difficulty getting the boat to Lavrion. Took difficult decision to abort the plan and sail north to Nisos Kythnos from which we could retreat to the Saronic Gulf. Slipped at 12.00 with pleasant sail making 5kts. At 16.30 we entered an extremely attractive anchorage Ormos Fikiada for swim and trip ashore. However, the windlass failed completely. We retrieved the anchor by hand but it was obvious we could not continue to use the anchor so phoned DYC to alert them to the problem and diverted to port of Merikha where we arrived at 17.15. Having pointed out we could not use use the anchor, the harbour master helpfully directed us to go alongside a jetty used by fishing boats. A technician arrived within 15 minutes to assess the problem. We were offered a replacement windlass arriving by ferry late the next day but I pointed out this would be too late to avoid the coming weather so he went back to his workshop to fashion some bolts and parts to make a temporary repair. The repair was fixed by 20.15 and I paid him €100 with the assurance that I would be reimbursed by DYC. Dinner on board. 26.5 nm.
20 September. Left Merikha at 07.00 and tested the windlass. Found it OK and set off due west under full sail all the way across to the Peloponnese. Later the wind dropped off and motor sailed towards Nisos Hydra. Had a look at Mandraki where there were no yachts and recent hotel development severely reduced the anchorage options. Decided to go round to Hydra town harbour but at 15.30 even late in season was totally full so retreated to Mandraki by which time another yacht had arrived. We anchored with stern line ashore but as the wind gusts around the bay took a second line ashore and also deployed the kedge anchor by dinghy for extra security. Completed at 16.45 and called up the high speed water taxi and shot off to Hydra town to look around and have dinner. Then the sky went black and we had the most ferocious thundery squall with absolutely torrential rain turning the alleys down to the harbour into rivers 6 inches deep. My favourite restaurant, Veranda, apologized but if the rain did not stop they could not take us as indoor tables all booked. Same thing all over the town as the rain did not stop, but eventually found a small family-run taverna that found room for us, made us warmly welcome, and we had a splendid traditional Greek meal. With only 5 tables there was soon a constant queue of locals waiting for a table so we were lucky. At 22.00 we found our water taxi driver who retrieved his boat and took us back to Mandraki again at around 25 kts in very choppy seas. We found the boat had dragged sufficiently to just ground the rudder with only the second shore line holding us off another yacht. There were around 8 yachts now anchored. We let go the shore lines and moved off to deeper water by raising some chain. The anchors appeared to be holding but it was pitch black and we kept an anchor watch in 3 hour stretches until the morning when we could assess the situation. All through the night the other yachts were re-setting their anchors after dragging in the strong gusts. Bit like being in a washing machine. My feeling is that our anchors had held but the gusts were strong enough to straighten the chain catenary just enough to ground us. A rather unfortunate visit to Hydra which is quite unique and I was very keen for the crew to experience it which meant using Mandraki. 47.2 nm.
21 September. At 09.30 checked the rudder and sail drive. Minor surface damage to trailing edge of rudder. Retrieved the shore lines and at 10.00 lifted the kedge followed by the main anchor. Left Mandraki at 10.30. Wind NNE up to 35 knots making for a lively sail, very choppy sea meant our speed dropped to 3 Kts. Arrived Poros at 1400, grabbed sole remaining berth in the channel well sheltered from NNE wind. Welcomed by nearby taverna owner with gratis bottle of wine. Explored pretty town before meeting for dinner in his Oasis taverna. It was packed, excellent service and food. 13.3 nm.
22 September. Planned to leave at 09.00 but found the shore cable plug jammed in the socket in the box on shore. Eventually got help from the harbour staff and told this was very common problem. By some dismantling and brute force they got it free and we slipped at 09.45. Wind NNE 20 knts sailing with 2 reefs (only two on this Elan). By 12.00 wind backed NW 8 kts and at 13.30 dropped to 2 kts so motored in. Found Palaia Epidhavros quay crammed with a Sailing Holidays flotilla as this was their handover day before a delivery flotilla cruise through the Corinth Canal up into the Ionian Sea. Managed to squeeze in stern-to between them and a reserved fishing berth. After lunch hired taxis to take crew up to the famed Greek Amphitheatre with the wonderful acoustics. Tried to sing and told firmly that singing was not allowed! Don’t remember that problem on a previous visit 2 years ago. Excellent dinner on board. 21.8nm.
23 September. The wind had eased and veered as forecast to help us get across to Lavrion. Slipped at 08.00, found anchors had crossed and local guy in dinghy helped free us. 10.05 found for’d heads totally blocked – had been a problem throughout but now unuseable. 11.30 sailing main and genoa making 5.5 kts with wind SE 9 kts. 15.15 anchored in Sounion Bay under Poseidon’s Temple for final swim stop. Bit of a swell into the bay. Weighed anchor at 16.35 heading north up the channel to Lavrion. This is now a major commercial port and nothing like I remembered from 2006. Found DYC office deserted until someone appeared at 18.10 and over his protestations I went alongside to the quay. Berthing was tricky here with on-shore wind gusts and much easier to get bags off next morning. Later walked into town and found the highest rated restaurant Pezodromos had room for us at attractive outside table. Very welcoming, inexpensive and excellent Greek food. Then offered extra bottle of wine free, plus free desserts all round, followed by free local liqueurs. Superb and the best meal of the trip. 48.8 nm.
24 September. Surprised to find DYC made no inspection apart from diver to check the hull. Then surprised that the owner then turned up and claimed we were responsible for the windlass and the blocked heads and tried to charge us another €250 before leaving. Rather acrimonious discussion. I then engaged in negotiation with a DYC man in constant contact by phone with the owner to settle up. Repairing the rudder involves lift out and repair costing €1250 deducted from our €2500 deposit. Not unreasonable even though the video taken by DYC diver we were shown looked very different from our own video taken by Brian. Although I managed to strike out the extra charges for the windlass and heads I could not get a refund of the €100 already paid for repair. As bus waiting to take us to airport called it a day and left. Subsequently written to LateSail to complain about the involvement and attitude of the owner with whom I do not have a contract and is not employed or trained by DYC. Both LateSail and DYC have offered significant discounts off a future charter but I would not choose DYC again. They have admitted that part of their fleet (Verniclos) is chartered with the owner taking charge even though LateSail said they would never expect the owner to be involved in a charter. I would add that LateSail provided excellent service in arranging the charter.
I had taken out deposit insurance with Schomaker on recommendation – cheaper and with no residual liability. I received reimbursement of €1250 in just two days after emailing the necessary documentation, even though they are based in Hamburg. Excellent service and highly recommended.
We all arrived safely home, Brian and I caught the coach from Heathrow by the skin of our teeth as our plane was an hour late arriving and the wait for luggage was another half hour. Mad dash through airport and almost lying down in front of the coach to stop it driving off. This was an interesting and enjoyable trip even though we met unseasonal weather, and had to drastically change our itinerary so we never made it to the southern Cyclades (Ios and Santorini) as intended. The charter firm, DYC, failed miserably, in my view, to carry out their function to inspect the boat before arrival and ensure everything working OK. The Elan was a 4 cabin variant so everyone ended up with good accommodation. The Elan 434i proved quite speedy, as was predicted from other owner recommendations and reviews with a large genoa helping considerably (much better than a self-tacking jib) and I would recommend it. Stern-to mooring was new to most of the crew and is a required skill in the Med especially with strong cross-winds. As is dealing with crossed anchors in harbours! We totalled 254.4 nm in 8 days sailing.