28th March - 3rd April
Arriving in Corfu from Stansted at midnight on 28th March, our Odyssey begins.
With the snowcapped peaks of Albania in the background we took a ferry to the mainland, collected our hire car and got to Preveza in an hour, found our hotel and went to Cleopatra Marina to check if our boat really existed and cast an eye over it before its scheduled on launch at midday the next day. After 40 minutes hunting amongst a thousand or more stranded boats on stilts in a seemingly abandoned boatyard, we found it.
After an interesting stay as the only guests at the 'Ionian Star' hotel in Preveza we returned to Cleopatra Friday morning. Some vacillation about whether or not to change the sea cocks (Surveyor say yes, Workman say why?) resulted in keeping the sea cocks, but launch now postponed till after the weekend. Our home for now then is four meters up a ladder. The boat is a little tired, a bit mouldy, all the bedding damp, both inside and outside in need of a good clean. A considerable sum spent on washing powder and laundry fees later we had clean and dry bedding for our first night on board, amongst a certain amount of chaos.
On Saturday we drove to Lefkos and stocked up on new flares, arranged for the life raft to be serviced, talked to a shop about buying the old outboard motor, bought food at Lidl and various essentials such as mugs, towels, clothes pegs, tea strainer - much of which we later found to be already on board. The boat is well equipped in every way. There is even a small hoover, sewing machine, and an iron. I was surprised not to find a grapefruit knife this morning but sure enough when I looked again there it was. With the vegetable peeler I was looking for yesterday hidden in its handle. Clever.
First dinner on board Saturday evening -grilled halloumi, salad and tahini wraps. It is starting to feel like home though chaos still abounds. A lot of gear to check and ensure is functioning and safe. The steering gear, the engine, the VHF radio, the sea cocks, the log paddle wheel, the water tanks, the batteries etc etc. Over to Paul on this front. We are fairly traditionally gender divided on the chores front. I have been mostly playing to my strengths in the cleaning and tidying department, preparing our vessel Cazal's Lady (soon to be 'Wonderer') for its launch and renaming ceremony, cleaning the decks and polishing the black streaks off its sides to look its best for Mr. Launchman. I am slightly hampered in my efforts however by having pulled a muscle in my back... what with awkward ankles and a stiff arm I'm not the most nimble crew right now. Back pain is improving but probably caused by trying to manhandle a very heavy life raft into and out of its fitting on the back of the boat. The life raft is now serviced and in perfect working order - according to the man who came and (I'm glad to say) winched it off the boat and returned it the next day.
The wind built during the day on Saturday and under a huge full moon we were buffeted about by warm but forceful winds, the boat juddering on its stilts and the whistling and clanking of the rigging on the sea of boats around us rising and falling with the gusts. The night passed otherwise uneventfully however. Three stray dogs who seem to live on site wander round, the odd cat, otherwise the place is deserted at night. I rather like it. I've grown to quite like this eerie home, in spite of the ever present rubbish blowing about. Perhaps that's part of the eeriness.
Paul spent much of the weekend trying to find a freshwater leak into the stern cabin. This concluded in the removal of the seized up passerelle (folding gangplank) at the back of the boat, which left us with a large hole needing professional glassfiber repair. The marina said they could do it, a guy came to patch it up and our launch is now scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday 2pm. I have been mostly cleaning mould and sticky stuff off windows. The removable mesh mosquito grills for the hatches had rubber linings which had turned into orange glue. Quite a job to get off, but last night the merits of mosquito protection became evident. They are hungry the mozzies around here. Big eaters. The windows frames and hatches now mould free and mesh grills gleaming, there is a satisfaction in that. The boat no longer feels like a second hand caravan. It is starting to feel quite homely here up the ladder. I have become quite attached to our little bit of dry land up these stilts.