In the autumn we had good news. We were to be grandparents. A few weeks later we had more good news. We were to be grandparents. Again
The scan had revealed twins.
When we left our permanent berth in Humlebæk Harbor to sail to the Mediterranean, we had no grandchildren. There was no one in sight either. But we had barely got out of the harbor before we got a call on Skype that started
≫We have something to tell you≪
As we sailed through Europe and across the Mediterranean, we had other calls on Skype.
On a beautiful day in May, twins Louis and William were born. Healthy and shapely.
Now we have five grandchildren. (at the time of writing this it is)
Over the course of the winter, a number of repairs were to be made to Heron. It would be good to see the result before we approved them.
The spring cruise, which we had canceled for the third year in a row, thus became a kind of inspection trip.
Maybe we would also get the opportunity to sail. Just a little bit.
Not everything as before
Préveza is located at the Ionian Sea. Just under 400 kilometers west of Athens. The city has an airport. It is military and is within walking distance of the boatyard. During the summer months, civil air traffic is permitted. Easy and convenient. But there are only a few connections and none at all to Denmark.
If you want to fly to Préveza from Copenhagen, one or more stopovers are necessary (you may be lucky to find a direct connection with a charter plane, however, they only fly in the high season, seats are few and prices are often high).
After a lot of searching on the net, we managed to find a route to Préveza. Departure Monday morning. Four hour stopover in London. Return Friday 11 days later. Perfect for us.
A few days before we were due to leave, an email came from EasyJet. The flight to London was cancelled. The first link in the chain was broken before we had even set off. Now what? On the net again. Luck was with us. Norwegian had seats available on one of its (slightly too) early morning flights.
Everything worked normally again at Kastrup Airport. No one wore a mask. The gloomy almost solemn silence in the departure hall was replaced by an expectant hum of voices. Cafes and restaurants were open. The information boards were again packed with flights departing every few minutes.
But everything was still not quite as before.
The queues for the security check were unusually long. This despite that traffic was 25% less than before the Corona epidemic closed virtually all activity.
≫We lack people≪ explained one of the controllers and added with a sigh ≫It takes time to hire and train new≪.
At London's Gatwick airport, the logistics were no better.
Transit was closed.
First we had to go through passport and customs control to get out of the arrivals. Then through another passport control and the second security check of the trip to enter the departures, adjacent to the arrivals.
The electronic passport control – eGate – did not work, or rather only worked periodically. The result was very long queues. Well, we had plenty of time and could not be more than a little impressed by the polite, patient and probably efficient queuing culture of the British.
After 6 hours we finally boarded the plane.
≫Boarding completed≪ it sounded over the loudspeaker system. Préveza here we come. But the plane did not move. At all.
≫Sorry. We lack manpower to handle the luggage. We can't fly until the plane is unloaded of luggage and the new one loaded ≪ said the captain, who calmly ended his briefing with ≫We expect to land at the scheduled time in Préveza≪.
But the lack of manpower was clearly greater than the captain had anticipated. Only after an hour did we manage to get off.
It was dark when we landed at Préveza airport.
By then we had traveled for a little more than 18 hours.
The next morning we drove over to Aktio Marina. Here Heron had spent the winter again this year. Marina is a bit misleading. Aktio Marina only has berths on land and none in the water, which the word marina otherwise suggests (at least for a Dane).
We entered the yellow building and were greeted by Ioanna with a friendly “welcome back” as we entered the small office she shared with two others.
She wanted to know if we wanted to launch today at 14.00 p.m.
Launch already today?
Yes, why not. Then we would get to sail a bit, even though the spring cruise was cancelled.
But first we had to see the works that had been done.
We walked the nice long way over to Heron. Found a ladder. Put it up on the transom and climbed up.
✓ Glass in doghouse replaced. The difference was huge.
✓ The aft stern replaced on both sides and the cleats attached with a solid flange.
✓ Cracks and holes in gelcoat patched.
✓ Plugs in all screw holes in the teak deck.
✓ Fore and aft cover in mainsail and genoa replaced
✓ Sea valves and throughhulls reviewed. A corroded seavalve replaced.
✓ Hoses inspected
✓ Filters, oil and impeller replaced.
✓ Diesel heater uninstalled and new being fitted.
Everything was in perfect order. So why not just launch as Ioanna had suggested.
Finally we meet
While we were waiting for the crane, we heard a ≫Hello Heron≪ from a voice in Swedish.
We looked around a little confused. Then discovered that the voice belonged to a man in the cockpit in a boat near us. We had seen the boat before. Like the Heron, it was an Oceanis 36cc and had been berthed next to us in Porto Rotondo in Sardinia, where we wintered in 2018.
We had followed almost the same route and later crossed each other's route on the voyage to Greece.
Only now did we meet and naturally exchanged our stories.
The man had been struck with cancer several years ago. During the painful treatment, he promised himself to do his dream trip if he survived. When the treatment was completed, the doctors declared him free of symptoms.
≫I was completely debilitated after the many chemo and radiation treatments. But it was now or never if I were to live my dream. Good friends and my children helped me. One sailed me to Malmö, while I slept in the aft cabin most of the way. Another got me to Lübeck and a third helped me all the way down to France. Only then did I gain so much strength that I could be a skipper myself ≪ he said.
Then he thoughtfully finished his story ≫Actually, I have been gifted with a new life. I will spend it on sailing. Now I have been in the Ionian for two years. This year I am sailing to Leros. This is where Göran Schildt settled when he went ashore ≪
Plans, plans and plans
The travel lift did not arrive until the afternoon. In no time, Heron was moved from the steel stand onto the lift. Driven to the to the lift and put in the water. The engine started on the first attempt and ran so silently that the turns were only revealed by the splash of the cooling water against the surface of the sea.
We sailed the short way over to Préveza Marina and were directed into a place by a marinero.
The next morning two men came and finished cleaning the new glasses. A little later the electrician came and installed the new diesel heater.
…there you go.
Now we were ready and could easily sail to a couple of the Ionian islands in the 8 days we had available.
But the plan was changed, as so many times before
≫It smells strange in here ≪ it sounded from Pia below deck.
We opened the hatch to the room with the batteries. A smell of rotten eggs rose from the room.
The middle battery was swollen and glowing hot.
A few years ago we attended a course on electrical safety. The images from there of fire and seeping acid from a collapsed battery flashed across the retina.
We called the electrician. Fortunately, he answered.
≫It's completely crazy. The batteries are red-hot, stink of rotten eggs and are swollen≪
≫This is serious. Switch off the shore power and all consumption. I'll be with you in half an hour ≪
Would a fire break out or acid seep out anyway?
We didn't know the answer and thought it wiser to leave Heron and tell the marinero not to put guest boats next to us.
The electrician was more than welcome when he showed up after 30 long minutes on the pier.
He took the situation a lot more calmly than us and the course teacher who had shown the dramatic photos.
Together we went onboard..
The smell of rotten eggs was gone, but the batteries were still very hot.
The electrician removed the charging cables and switched on the shore power. Then we had power on board again.
≫ You guys need to replace all three batteries ≪ he explained and added ≫ I'll find some new ones and install them the day after tomorrow≪
The eight sailing days had thus been reduced to five.
But it didn't matter so much.
It was wonderful to be back on the Heron and Préveza Marina is, as you may remember, one of our 'guilty pleasures'
Sail just a little bit
And yes, we got to sail. A trip down to Palairos, where we managed to enjoy the atmosphere and the magnificent surroundings and get used to live in Heron.
When we got back to Préveza we had Heron hauled out in Aktio Marina.
The next morning we boarded an EasyJet flight to London. To most people's surprise and our relief, it was not cancelled.
This ended the inspection trip which had given us the opportunity to sail half of just a little bit.