September 19, 2016
It’s pomegranate season in Greece! For those of you who didn’t grow up with these peculiar fruits – and that’s anybody from north of about 30° latitude – the right way to open one is not to cut it in half, but to score the skin with a knife and then pull it apart. Then you use your fingers to brush the jewel-like seeds away from the bitter white fascia, pop them in your mouth, squeeze out the tangy juice with your tongue then spit out the hard centers. The trees are striking this time of year, with the red fruit hanging like Christmas ornaments in the intensely green trees. It’s one of those foods that benefits from the concentration that a child is best prepared to give it, but fun!
And ripe pomegranates mean summer is coming to an end, as is our stay in Greece. The weather took a sudden lurch this weekend, from hot and dry to cool and unsettled. Our friends and frequent crew Andy and Anita arrive in Kalamata today, and will see rain and thunderstorms, off and on, for the next three days. We’ll fill Serafina’s fuel and water tanks, check out with Greek Customs, briefly visit two familiar anchorages on the way out of Greece, then set sail for Sicily towards the end of this week. We’ll be crossing about 400 miles of open ocean – the Ionian Sea – and watching the weather carefully in advance of our departure.
It’s a potentially windy time of year, not big howling gales, but thunderstorms (“squalls,” sometimes with abruptly strong and gusty winds) and occasional Mediterranean phenomena like the Mistral, the Bora and the Sirocco. They are particular wind patterns that can lead to rough seas and winds of 30 to 40 knots. We’d like to cross in 20 knots or less, so we’ll be watching the forecasts for a three or four day break. Of course, the forecasts can be wrong, so we’ll keep the sails reefed down and try to be ready for whatever the sea may bring.
At sea, thunderstorms are visible from far off (towering clouds during the day and lightning flashes at night), and the best tactic is to “heave-to” and let them pass by. Heaving-to is a particular sailing maneuver where the headsail is back-winded and the main sheeted in just enough to keep the boat pointed generally in the direction of the wind. The tiller is lashed to the lee side of the boat, and the result is that the boat stops in its tracks, wobbling back and forth, and typically drifts downwind at a half a knot (a reminder, that’s a nautical mile per hour) or so. That way you can let the thunderstorm pass by, unless of course it’s headed straight for you….
The end of our stay in Greece included a wonderful week, mostly at anchor, with Birgit’s mother and sister – Anita and Tanja, an excellent reunion with our friends Morten and Anne-Inger – and a series of repairs to the boat.
The two years of travel and the four years since the engine was installed have taken their toll, from our disintegrated (and required) flag to the shattered plastic valve at the end of our water hose, to, most seriously, the failure of our transmission two weeks ago.
Very luckily for us, there is an excellent Yanmar mechanic in Kalamata – a man who worked in Seattle, in our old neighborhood of Ballard, for two years. He and his assistant were intelligent, quick, competent and fun to be around. In 24 hours the transmission was out of the boat, rebuilt with new clutch parts and reinstalled! It got its sea trial during Anita and Tanja’s visit and functioned perfectly. Anyone who has had a boat, or for that matter, a car worked on knows that repair stories don’t always have that kind of happy ending.
Andy and Anita were kind enough to bring replacements for the other failing items, not to mention two pounds of fine, fresh-roasted Ballard coffee!
Our next post, Poseidon willing, will be from Sicily – Licata or Siracusa, wherever the winds may carry us.