Friday, 6th July Abelike Bay, Meganisi
We have been back to island hopping. We had an interesting stop by a rock sticking out of the sea (an islet really) called Formikoula. We had seen a tripper boat in there when passing a week or so earlier, so thought it must be picturesque. There was one there when we arrived, its passengers leaping off its decks for some swimming. We settled behind it, 10 minutes later it left, we moved in closer and then had our own private island all to ourselves for the rest of the day and night. And with quiet, we finally saw more wildlife. First up were dolphins, lazily making their way across in gentle arcs. These were bigger than the little Atlantic dolphins that leap and play and bow ride. They keep their distance and swim seemingly slowly and gracefully. Perhaps it's just the heat. Secondly, we saw a bright red starfish (Echinaster sepositus), quite big - larger that a big hand and bright crimson.
And best of all, we saw a large, dark shape in the water, about 8 ft long, that slowly moved towards us. A back showed first, then a head nosed up. A pup-like face, this was one of the very rare monk seals that used to inhabit these waters in large numbers. They are now an endangered species, so we were very lucky. A sweet, whiskery face, it looked at us and blew loudly with a great hiss - a bit like a whale does - before slowly moving languorously off.
The forecast was calm, the anchor was well dug in, and we were in the middle of the inlet with sufficient swinging room, rocks on 3 sides. A dark, starlit night - amazing what you can see with no light pollution. In the early hours of the morning the wind started to pick up a bit. W got up with the sun up, woken by the sound of whooshing water behind us, and sat in the cockpit. We were swinging in an unexpected direction, the wind was coming from the East (no hints of that in any forecasts). That was ok, a bit closer to the rocks than expected or desirable. But noticed that the anchor chain was fully stretched out and straining - put the instruments on to find we were in only 3.8m of water and the wind blowing F6, then F7. Anchor well held and we weren't moving, but with jagged rocks only now a boat length behind us, W woke R and we made our escape in case things deteriorated further. A bumpy, breezy start to the day! But worth it for the location.
Enough of the idyllic stuff. Richard has been concerned for a while about our alternator. The batteries are not charging properly. They are now 4 years old, have had a lot of work to do, but seem to be still all right. He has been monitoring the situation. There is a slight whining noise in the engine. Given that these days we never plug into shore power, this is important. He fears there is a bearing about to go, or a diode or bushes or something. It charges in boost mode, but float mode works not. Something else too, but I cannot remember - not my forte. Anyway we were back in Sivota on Levkas where one of the Charter companies has its office. Vicky from Sailing Holidays, was most helpful and knowledgeable. She referred us to "George the Electrician" up in Nidri, who would help us out.
When things go wrong in a foreign country, it can be more of a challenge. We are lucky that R is very capable and can fix most things himself or can at least diagnose relatively accurately to look for best solutions. Options are: buy new here at twice the price and hope you get as good an equivalent. But online in UK and get shipped at enormous cost. Or take Vicki's advice and go and see George. Up to Nidri, as we approach, alternator seems to be having dying throes. Just in time delivery. Luckily there is a space on town quay, someone takes our lines and R goes in search of George.
Problem explained to George, he says, well where is it - did you not bring it? Back to boat, R removes still hot alternator, takes back to George, George says come back at 7pm. OK. Go back, all fixed! And not what expected. All the diodes had gone and the stator needed replacing in its entirety - not cheap, but much much less than the alternative options. We are back in business, as they say. Given its importance, we may buy another one when back in the UK and bring it out in hand luggage as a spare. And during our stay in Nidri, we get all sorts of other useful tips and resources from fellow sailors.
So back out to Abelike on Meganisi to cool down and decide on where next. Would still like to get to Olympia. But not yet sure of where we will leave boat for August and where to fly home from. To be decided.
Next time: the international community here, and meat.