23 June 2018

Released from the Schengen Dance!

Back and forth, back and forth in Corfu Town brought me Schengen freedom!
Clearing in and out is a different set of bureaucracy in every country.  For me, a nonEU citizen and hence, limited by Schengen 90 day rule, the dilemma in Europe has been whether or not getting a stamp on my passport is a good or a bad thing.  For example, checking into Malta from Tunisia on a Sunday with disinterested officials I did not get a stamp to enter the EU.  According to some cruising lore, this is good - I could stay as long as I wanted.  But the wise are adamant that, instead, bureaucratic trouble can pop it's ugly head.  I took the naive but positive perspective.  We left Malta for Italy, Norway by plane via Netherlands and France, and Greece with nary a stamp.

I was about two weeks over my 90 day allowance we decided it was time to head to Albania and out of Schengen.

Clearing out time in Corfu, Greece in 34 degree sunshine:  Walk a couple of kms from anchorage to commercial port.  First stop, port authority where very efficient woman dressed in a spotless white uniform took multiple photocopies, asked about our engines! and sent us a hot km to immigration/passport control because of my Canadian passport - they didn't care about Peter's EU passport.

Passport control official looked through my passport for a stamp from Malta.  Voice raised and angry, "Where is your stamp?  You could have been in the EU for a year.  You are allowed 90 days only or you will get major fines."  Yikes.  We told her that Malta did not stamp.  She did not consider this a valid excuse, I am responsible for ensuring that my passport is stamped.  I told her that I had an exit stamp from Tunisia.  Don't know how this would have gone - she was now in no mood to be kind - but I decided to test a theory.

As an aside, when internet is available I have a couple of favourite FB profiles (is that what they're called) that I look at for cruising/travelling info.  Women Who Sail the Med is an excellent one, full of helpful info with no grumpy or offensive comments allowed.  Rarely do I read entire threads - some people are wordy, as you are now reading - but I happened on one thread where one woman said that as a nonEU citizen travelling with an EU spouse, she was treated as EU with respect to freedom of movement i.e. the 90 Schengen limitation did not apply.  Several women, including myself, responded in disbelieve.  (I had checked Schengen rules, asked multiple people including the Canadian government and told by all that Schengen applied to me.  The Canadian government response had been terse and clear.) A few resources were posted on the FB thread and, indeed, it seemed to be true with marriage license documentation and a copy of EU rules and, most important, an official who was aware of the rules.
Some say it's only a piece of paper but to us it's saved us from the Schengen dance.

So in Corfu, with our official on the edge of boiling, I said, "Doesn't freedom of movement apply when I am married to an EU citizen?"  She threw up her hands, not believing that I was married, and handed our documents to another official who calmly agreed, yes, with proof of marriage I could travel with Peter!!  Eureka.  Marriage certificate was on Milly.  Walk back to Milly in heat but with lighter steps.  And back to passport control where he looked at and copied marriage certificate and told me that I do not need a stamp coming into the EU or leaving EU and that I can stay as long as I want when with Peter.  Wow!!  Unbelievable revelation!!

To complete our clearing out, we had to go back to port authority (1 km), return to customs which was the office beside passport control office (1 km) and return to port authority (1 km) where another official took the same photocopies that the first one did.  Do they actually keep all these copies??
Happily joined at the hip!

We walked 12 km, sweated buckets but were elated with a new sense of freedom.  We could stay in Europe and winter anywhere.  I could even join the EU passport line.  Yet another great reason for marrying Peter!!

19 June 2018

Cruising in Corfu

Lakkha in Paxos.  A crowded, lively anchorage after 1600 when there is lots of entertainment watching boats anchor in what quickly becomes a boat parking lot.  During commuter time though when this pic is taken, there is lots of room.  The water is so clear you can see shadows on the bottom under Milly who is happily anchored in beautiful sand.  Lakkha at the head of the bay is a tiny town, catering to yachties with restaurants and bars along the seaside.  Tom had a great night out here with a friend - and his friends - he met on the plane.
Whenever we get to a new place, we ask ourselves if it is somewhere we would consider living on boat or on land when we quit this cruising lifestyle.  Although we love pretty well everywhere we have been, our list of where we would live is very short.  Mallorca is one.  And Corfu is right up there.

The Paleo/Old fort from our anchorage in Corfu Town.

Old Corfu Town is full of a mishmash of lanes.  some are residential, most are packed with shops, restaurants, bars.  All are charming, even with the hubbub of tourists also enjoying the lanes.  No cars and it's a large area.

The human made moat to the old fort.  

From the top of the old fort.  The green of the esplanade or Spianadha complete with cricket field lined by the arcaded cafe-lined Liston built during the French occupation by the architect who designed the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. Behind is the extensive old town and then the not very new Neo fort.  A hodgepodge of delight from many different occupations.

Of course, there was plenty for the consumer in the old town even for us non consuming types - wooden bikes!

And acceptable cheap wines in water bottles to be responsibly disposed and hopefully recycled.

The English cemetery was an oasis of green and peace in the bustling town.  

Greeks seem to like their pots of greenery and flowers as much as I do.  This family had their watering work cut out for them but I was appreciative.

Use of space in the narrow pedestrian streets was efficient and charming.
Sensational scenery, very friendly English-speaking people, lots of interesting history both ancient and modern, a quaint and picturesque main town (even if touristy), good transport system, great hiking and mainland and other islands an easy daysail away.  A great vibe.  Lots and lots to like.
Always fun times with our boy!  A hike to the west side of Paxos was stunning...and hot.

Working out on the move.  

My guys - shooting' sailing shit....

....and enjoying....

...the cruise with a beer or two.

And, best of all, we had Tom's company for five days.  Can only get better by having Emily and Gid along too.

Looking way, way down a sheer cliff to a tiny bay on the west side of Paxos.

Peter and I took a bus to  Paleokastrttsa on the west coast.  A series of bays with rocky, very high headlands made it spectacular scenery.  We weren't equipped to hike but it would have been fantastic.  Some day....

I was lent a skirt by the monk at the gate of the monastery at the peak of the headland.  My shorts were a bit offensive, I guess.  The grounds of the monastery were peaceful and lush.

View from the monastery.  Our gods are different but it sure is a spiritual place.

Monastery. There are many on Corfu.

We're heading north into the Adriatic for the summer and then back to Corfu to pick up Em and Gid at the beginning of September.  Very happy to be coming back!

Milly Floats Away...Without Us!

Milly, still sitting pretty after the first leg of our hike.  
We chose our first anchorage on the north side of Corfu based on the forecasted south wind.  A beautiful, wide bay lined by a beach, park and a few houses, with hiking paths on one headland and Calliope, a tourist town with a cute harbour on the other, each within walking distance.  The bay was deep and, according to the chart, had a bottom covered in weed.  In the still north wind, we set the anchor by gradually pulling back in reverse to 1400 rpm on both motors.  We set our anchor alert system which alarms if Milly moves outside a set radius and had a sound sleep. We were in good company with a couple of sailboats, a motor yacht and a huge 72 m superyacht, Axioma

The next day the wind had changed to a gentle south as forecast.  Peter and I blithely set off in to the headland on a hike through green tunnels opening to blue views.  We circled back to the beach and met an older Brit who had come to Corfu twenty odd years before to run a sailing centre.  He advised us on how to walk to town, commented on the chance of rain by flapping his arms about and questioned whether we had left anyone on the boat, suggesting that if he saw Milly floating away he would watch being unable to do anything more.  And we followed his directions to town.  Calliope was full of tourists with a pleasant harbour and fort which we walked the long way around.  At one point we had a view of Milly in the next bay.  She seemed to be in a different place but, then again, we were at a new angle and about 3 km away.  She was still tucked well inside the bay.  A bit more exploring and some grocery purchases meant our way home was a bit of a steamy trudge.
Our view from the fort at Calliope.  Milly is in the bay in the distance.  Our perspective was out of whack so we didn't trust our view that she had shifted.
After being on land, we always look for Milly as soon as she is in view.  We came out of the tunnel of trees to find that Milly was not in her place.  Several panicked expletives later, we spotted her way outside the bay.  We broke into a sprint over the beach.  TomTom was beached at the other end of the very long pebbly beach.  The groceries suddenly seemed weightless.  The old Brit tried to stop us with an “I told you so” type statement.  But we were not to be waylaid.

Finally, got to TomTom, pushed him into the water, jumped in and sped out to Milly who was being towed back into the bay by Axioma’s enormous tender.  Four young men had saved Milly.  She was securely tied to the tender, anchor weighed.  Even though the tender was essentially a large ski boat about 35 feet long to our 44 feet with two powerful motors, it was having trouble guiding Milly who’s freeboard is so high, it actually acts as a sail in 18 knots of wind.  Without dilly dally or time for heartfelt hugs, just heartfelt words, we quickly turned on the motors and released our saviour.

We anchored again in the bay but didn’t leave the boat except to quickly dinghy over to the enormous Axioma.  Luckily her tender was out guiding her out of the anchorage and we could again thank the skipper, a young Aussie, who said, “No worries!”  I think the Milly episode was actually a bit of an adventure for them.  

For us, though, it was a heartstopping, stomach plummeting lesson.  An OMG moment!  Our home was on her way to Albania.  If Axioma had not been there with able crew aboard, no other boat in the bay would have been able to do anything. 

The wind had done a 180 and was about 10 knots higher than forecast coming from the south.  The water was flat in the anchorage but the wind was still enough to tug on the anchor without being strong enough to reset it.  Because the anchorage was deep with a narrower shelf where we had anchored and our rode was only the usual 1:4, Milly quickly floated into deep water until her anchor was hanging without bottom.  (It makes me cringe to write it!)

We were damned lucky and have learned our lessons for weedy anchorages well:

  • With any change of wind, especially a 180, pull up and reset anchor.
  • Put out much longer than usual rode (or length of chain)
  • Pay attention to local wisdom, even if oddly put.  (Do not assume your anchor has held for 3.5 years in all kinds of changing conditions and will hold in thick weed.)

Thank you, Axioma!!  https://www.yachtcharterfleet.com/luxury-charter-yacht-22231/axioma.htm  Just in case any of you want to charter her, we can vouch for her crew!

17 June 2018

Greece, At Last!

Milly in the harbour of clear, blue water and the mountains of Albania in the background.  Superbly beautiful.  We have arrived at sensational cruising grounds - warm water (finally), thousands of years of history, lovely people, tons (perhaps a few too many) boats, incredible geography.  It might take a lifetime!
We have arrived in Greece!  Actually at the tiny island north of Corfu called Erikoussa.  Albania in the distance.  A lovely welcome by locals.  A quick reconnoitre and then off to Corfu.  Ahhhh, Greece!

2 June 2018

The Plastic Passage

We have now arrived at the tip of the stiletto of Italy, an attractive and very busy resort town of Santa Maria Di Leuca.  We daysailed what should have been, and largely was, a beautiful 34 NM passage from Gallipoli hugging the coast, down wind using each of our sails, including golden spinnaker.
These nets used in packaging were one of several plastic catches.  These are especially dangerous to sea life that as they catch around body parts from which there is no escape.  

The spoiler was the horrific amount of flotsam in the otherwise beautiful, clear, blue sea.  Miles and miles of plastic floating on top and swimming beneath the surface along with styrofoam, and other crap.  Our fishing hooks gathered several loads of plastic but no fish - which is always a disappointment and a relief.  At the end of the day, jumping into the sea, I picked up several pieces of plastic as it floated past and cut a huge, thick bag off the propeller.  I'm afraid to say that on this passage we saw the worst of appalling human waste in all of our three and a half years on rivers, seas and oceans.  And this along the coast of and in the sea almost completely surrounded by "developed" and relatively affluent countries.  So distressing!  What are we thoughtless humans up to?

1 June 2018

Gallipoli, Italy

From Milly, the old city in blue surrounds.
This is not the Turkish Gallipoli of WW1 infamy, but a small old and new city on the stiletto arch of Italy.  A two night stop in a rolly anchorage to clear out of Italy and check out the walled old city on a small island off the nondescript and, dare I say, ugly new city.
The industry here used to be pressing olive oil.  Now tourism...

Clearing out took awhile.  After leaving Tunisia we have had no official stamp on our passport.  Neither when we cleared into Malta, nor cleared out, cleared into Italy, flew to Norway via Amsterdam, and back via Paris.  Now clearing out of Italy with the aid of Google Translate, they were a bit perturbed that we did not have a stamp into Italy.  After to-ing and fro-ing between two offices four times, we finally got a guy who understood what we needed.  No passport stamp!  Ninety Schengen days start when??

...and fishing provide the employment.  I have a feeling that this heel of Italy is a bit forgotten.

The city, or rather tiny town of narrow cobbled streets, laundry hanging and pots full of geraniums and succulents was lovely to amble around.  The facade of the cathedral was intricately carved but difficult to see- it was the first cathedral that was not in a piazza and so jammed into the surrounding streets and impossible to admire.  We lunched on the promenade that circled the island. And then enjoyed a lazy siesta on the boat.  Life is good.