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Sunday, July 21, 2013, in Lefkada, Greece

Hi all. We’re still whiling away the summer in the Ionian. Last time we wrote, and for several times before that, we were also here in Lefkada Marina.

Settled in Lefkada again, Art arranged for some work to be done on the boat. He’d noticed a squeaking in a belt in the engine, and we’d gotten a recommendation for Sailand, a shop based inside the marina.

Their assessment was that the belt should be replaced, but we’d be able to keep the old belt as a spare. The technicians also noticed the consequences of a small leak in the electric bilge pump, one that Art had already fixed, in the main engine. The drip had landed on the 12-volt alternator underneath. There was no corrosion on the alternator, and there would be no additional leaking, but the repair guys took the alternator with them, changed the bearing, returned it to a pristine state and reinstalled it for us. We’d also chipped the paint on the underside of the gangway, and this was an opportunity to fix that while we were sitting in port. Once they fixed it, Art couldn’t find the paint seam where the old paint met the patch. Along with their very conscientious work habits: tools laid out on tarps, systematic inspection of systems surrounding the systems assigned to them, this was the mark of professionals, and Art was glad he’d contracted the work.

And so we left the marina once more for a mini-cruise to anchor out for a few nights. Our first port was to return to the lovely Abelike on the nearby island of Meganisi. We were determined to sail, as we had many hours and few miles to go. The wind wasn’t at all cooperative. For some time, the speedometer recorded our motion at some speed less than .1 knot.

To add insult to all of this, we couldn’t even float directly to our waypoint, because the wimpy wind wasn’t even in a usable direction. Thus, when I glanced at the estimated time to reach the next waypoint, as we tacked on an angle away from it, the time-to-go to finish the several miles was something like 347 hours.

Eventually, the wind picked up enough so that our speed was in single-digit integers, and we anchored inside the harbor well in time to settle in and take the dinghy ashore for a fine Greek lunch. While the restaurant was called “Pirates’ Cove”, the experience put you in mind of anything but pirates.

This place had a romance for us, partly because our guests of a few weeks earlier had just written that they missed this specific spot, and partly because the place had an unusual combination of good food, a great view, and a postcard of a harbor to spend the night. We sat at a table shaded by a canvas awning and with a border bursting with flowers and fruits. One side was a tableau of pink oleander, and the fragrance flavored the meal. On the other, olive trees were pruned and shining. On the far side of the patio, we saw peaches and nectarines only half-ripened in the Greek sunshine, and on our side, the edge of the canvas had grapes hanging seductively from disheveled green vines. Off the land was a splay of turquoise and the bright watery green that comes from shallow, sandy harbors.

The night was still and warm, and we woke to a cacophony of cicadas. Art started the engine, and we were off again. The anchor was muddy and knitted with weeds, like a well-built nest, and I loved watching the mud melt off while we motored forward, and then backwards, to reduce the amount of hosing I’d need to do. When I brought the anchor out of the water, I could see immediately that a low-powered deck hose was no match for this effort. A boat hook did the job well, and within a minute the anchor was stowed and I was back in the cockpit.

Art seemed distracted, and he finally shared with me that he didn’t like the squeal of the engine belt that had just been replaced. He knew that it was normal for the belt to loosen for a short breaking-in period, but I could tell that this anxiety would affect him until we went back to the marina and technical support. I was surprised that he relented, and we motored back to the marina.

By now, we were getting seasoned at docking in our reserved berth, and this day would be relatively easy. Both of our neighbors were alongside, wide powerboats that would keep us from sliding sideways in the moderate midday wind. Art backed in, and I tied up the windward stern line to port with the help of the dock crew. I took the mooring line from him by boat hook and worked it forward.

Normally Art takes over this line from here, because the thick working part of the mooring line is hard for me to handle with small hands and hard for me to pull in with my underdeveloped middle-aged female torso. But this time, he waited longer than usual, and helped keep the bow straight by using the bow thruster, a little propeller that pushes water out the side of the bow to keep the boat in a desired position.

I suppose that normally we don’t use the bow thruster at the same time we’re putting the mooring line in place. Suddenly the line was pulled out of my hand. Art wisely stopped touching the bow thruster when he realized that it had eaten the unsecured mooring line.

So many things could be wrong now. We might strip the mooring line infrastructure owned by the marina. The plastic propeller blades of the bow thruster could break, necessitating a new bow thruster and a visit out of the water on the Travelift at the adjacent boatyard. Between ordering parts and making repairs, this had the potential to be very inconvenient. We engaged a diver to assess the situation and fix what he could.

We were lucky to have the best-case scenario. The thin access line from the mooring line had wrapped around the propeller, if only because it was small enough to bypass the metal guards that protect the blades from exactly this situation. The diver untangled the line from the bow thruster propeller. The access line hadn’t broken, the bow thruster was intact, and we docked without further incident.

Similarly, we were able to get the engine belt tightened in the afternoon, and we were ready to venture back out to less-populated places.

We continued our itinerary to known places with another stop at Sivota. Apparently, our relationship with the Ionian Islands has matured, like that of a club-goer who realizes that they’d just as soon call the one they met last Friday for a date instead of heading back to the club to check out the new batch of candidates. By now, in Sivota, we had a favorite restaurant for lunch (Spiridoula), a favorite café for mornings and for an evening waffle with ice cream (Sivota Bakery.) We knew where to land the dinghy, and when the harbor emptied out. And we knew that the sun would disappear behind the mountains just in time for us to have dinner in the still, cooling air.

After two nights at anchor, we came back to the same harbor that houses the resort Nidri, and this time we anchored well into the harbor, at Vlikho. The boats around us looked as though they were in for a long visit, but we planned only a day’s stay. We went ashore and found a restaurant close to our dinghy landing.

I was heartened by the signage, which was decidedly Greek without translation. The place looked like an American 1950s-era luncheonette. The Mama—and cook – handed us menus and then handed us off to her son, whose English was fluent and whose attitude was welcome.

He proposed that we eschew the feta cheese on our village salad in favor of the cheese that he and his family choose instead, a sheep’s/goat mix made by hand by a woman somewhere in the mountain above the restaurant. When I asked if feta is common in Greece, he said dismissively, “Yes, for Athenians.”

Art ordered a pita sandwich, and I ordered three skewers of pork, knowing that I’d take two of them home with me. At one euro each, it would be a bargain dinner for Art. Indeed, we augmented the bounty with two skewers of grilled chicken as well. Restaurants often thank their patrons with a dessert of fruit or cake, and our waiter brought us a piece of sheet cake made on the premises and soaked in honey. The price of the feast, including the two dinners in the future that it would support, was half what we’d paid a week earlier down the road in Nidri, on the quay adjacent to a dozen harborside hotels.

A morning motor out of Nidri harbor took us back to Lefkada Marina, and we settled back into our home base routine. We took a bike ride around the beach side of Lefkada Town, past a sleepy lagoon and sporadic guest residences, and another ride on a different day across the inland suburbia of the town, past new condominium units and medium-sized retail showrooms. Art was dismayed to discover that he’d run out of boat maintenance tasks to occupy himself, and was taking to cleaning microscopic particles out of joinery with a Q-tip.

We began to think about our to-do list for the return to Malta in a week or so.

It sounds like you’re having a hot time of it yourselves. Hope you’re finding ways to keep cool. Let us know how you’re doing.

Love, Karen (and Art)