We had been hoping to get back to Heron in early May. But long before before our flight was due, we got an email from Aegean. The flight to Athens was canceled. It did not matter that much. We still would not be fully vaccinated before. And then there was something else. We were to be grandparents. For the third time. Another girl who had already been given a name - Svea - even though she was not due to come into the world until mid-July. So the cancellation suited us well. Instead, we could then leave in August.
… Just like last year.
We had met many Danes on last year's journey.
One day we received a message from one of them. Two photos of Heron with the comment "Everything looks fine from below" suddenly appeared on Messenger.
"Oh, how lovely. 1.000 thanks ”, we replied
Yes it looked fine. The anchor was in the bow, the many fenders were still tied to the mast and the bow fender was still hanging, as when we had left.
But as we studied the two photos more closely, we discovered a frightening detail.
A motorhome had been parked next to Heron.
Oh oh no not again.
We hurried to send a new message.
“Got a little tics when we looked a little closer at the two photos. In the square to the left of us there is now a motorhome !!! Do not hope it is Mr. Ignacio aka the Spanish surgeon who is around just like last year ”
"Yes I understand well 😄 it looks nice and think it is a couple working on their boat 😉" was the reassuring answer.
So most likely the Spanish surgeon aka Mr. Ignacio or whatever he might call himself had kept his long fingers from Heron this year? At least that was the conclusion we comforted ourselves with during the next couple of months.
The plan for this year’s journey was to spend most of the time on the southern Ionian islands. On the last part of the journey we would sail through the Corinth Canal to Athens, where we would lay Heron up for the winter.
However, a landslide from the 80-meter-high limestone walls had closed off all sailing on the canal. It has been closed several times before, but has been cleaned and reopened each time. But this time the landslide was bigger than before. Still had no one had an overview of how the repair work was to be carried out and what it would cost. As the canal is also of minor importance to commercial shipping today, many doubt that it will ever open.
For us, the closure meant we had to sail south of the Peloponnese if we wanted to go to Athens. That meant less time in the Southern Ionian Islands. The plan was therefore to stay in the Ionian Sea.
In mid-August we then set off.
There was more activity at the airport in Kastrup than last year. But there was still a long way to the busy pre-Corona atmosphere. The requirement for wearing a mask in the airport and on the plane to Athens also sent a clear signal that the epidemic was not yet over.
A few weeks before we were to leave, Greece had been hit by a heat wave. The worst in over 30 years. When we arrived in Athens it was over and had moved west to Sicily. Here, 48,8 degrees had been measured, which is a new heat record for Europe.
It was still hot when we arrived in Athens. The thermometer in the arrival hall showed 35 degrees. Outdoors and in the shade. But since the air was now cooler than body temperature, it felt comfortable when we were greeted outside by a powerful Meltimi, as the wind from the northeast is called here.
"There is a nice road to Preveza" several had said. "It's actually only just eventually it gets bad before Preveza" had a single one however added.
In the last 20 years, the motorway network in Greece has been expanded. Today, it appears as an advanced network that connects the country in the inaccessible terrain. From the airport parking lot, we drove directly onto the wide beautiful highway that was to lead us out to Heron. Almost 400 km furhter west.
We had not driven far before we were stopped by a toll. € 3 to drive on the beautiful new motorway. It was ok then, but wasn't it just a symbolic payment? We got wiser. There were many tolls on the route. So many that we eventually gave up counting them. So if you charge € 3 a sufficient number of times, there may well be a good economy in constructing and operating a motorway.
After a few hundred kilometers, we reached the Rio – Antirrio bridge, which connects the Peloponnese with the mainland. The bridge was opened in 2004. The German coach, who the same year had made Greece European champions in football, was the first to walk or rather run over the bridge. He carried with him the Olympic torch, which 5 months earlier had begun its journey around the world from Olympus, located a little south of the bridge. Three days after the opening of the bridge, the torch arrived at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. Thus, the 2004 Summer Olympics could also be declared open.
After 100 kilometers, the fine highway ended. A country road now led us through smaller and larger cities. When we reached the large Amvrakikos National Park it got dark. Now we were driving on a narrow road that was laid out on the rock walls. For a while, it became mountain driving.
Yes the last part of the road was actually not very good.
Finally we reached Aktio Marina, where Heron had been ashore for over 10 months.
We found the room we had rented in the building at the yard. Nice and tidy. But it was 32 degrees hot and was without air conditioning.
No problem. We then just started our newly purchased smart air cooler. But alas. Total disappointment. The cooling effect was neither superb nor indispensable, which the reviews on the manufacturer's website and the enthusiastic salesman at Skousen had informed us.
It became a long and hot night.
The next morning it was finally time for a reunion with Heron.
The boatyard Aktio Marina is located next to the narrow Preveza Strait, which connects the Gulf of Amvrakikos with the Ionian Sea. In the same place are two other yards.
In the whole area there is room for 1.500 boats.
Aktio is the largest of the three yards and has room for 600 boats.
The boats are handled with modern equipment by very skilled employees. There is plenty of space between the pitches and there are plugs for electricity and water in all pitches. Each of the three yards has its own store with a good selection of marine equipment. It is allowed to do work on the boat yourself, and an efficient administration can help find help for most of the work you do not want or can do yourself.
There is a small harbor next to one of the other yards. Here you can moor while getting your boat ready. But you can also sail the short distance over to Preveza Here you can dock at the long town quay or in Preveza Marina where you will find all the amenities that belong to a modern marina There is less than an hour sailing down to the well-protected waters east of Lefkas and almost 6 hours up to the small island Paxos, located a little south of Corfu. There is walking distance to the airport Aktion. It is a military airport, but in the summer there are civilian planes connecting to a number of the major airports in Europe.
No wonder the three yards are a popular place to store your boat.
The area of the yard is large, but we easily found space 8 on Lane I.
Here stood Heron.
Everything looked, quite rightly, fine from below.
Why was there a ladder up the stern now?
Shortly after, the pulse returned to normal. On the aft platform stood a small cardboard box with filters that the mechanic had replaced a few days earlier. So hadn't he just forgotten to take the ladder down?
Still, it was with excitement, we removed the flaps, pushed the hatch aside and went down.
That looked nice. No black mold stains. The sump was dry and there was not so much as a drop of water in the engine compartment. 12.7v voltage on the batteries and all sea valves could be opened and closed.
A few days later, Heron was launched into the water.
The engine started at the first push on of the start button and sent out the cooling water out with its soothing rhythmic splashes.
We threw the moorings and sailed over to Cleopatra Marina a few hundred meters away to get ready for this year's sailing.
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