We returned mid September together with Brian and were joined by two new volunteers, Paul, a Web designer and massage expert, came from England, and Italian Paolo arrived from Milan by car.
But first there was another problem - Rats!
We were moored in the ‘raft’ close to the shore by the boatyard with our main anchor and second anchor facing out and shore lines from our sterns. The boat guardians had discovered rat damage in our galley the previous week and had sent in the cleaning team, they had also set a trap with which they had caught one rat. It was soon clear that the rats had been into every cabin. We have round ‘inspection hatch’ ventilation holes in all the beam troughs, which are perfect for keeping the boat fresh, but also make perfect rat entry points.
These rats loved plastic and many of our plastic jugs, bins, storage boxes and other equipment had been chewed at. Fortunately they did not reach our electric cables, which are mostly under the shelves and not so convenient to chew at. Nor did they touch our sails. They had been very industrious, making little trial nests in many places, dragging plastic bags and toilet paper long distances. When cleaning the cockpit I noticed all our small lines were not in the locker I keep normally them, but in another one. Pulling them out I found another rat nest, this one with five live little baby rats. They were at least a couple of weeks old, so the rats had definitely been on board a lot longer than their first discovery a week ago. Brian and I spent two days thoroughly cleaning every surface to get rid of the rat tracks.
..And Encrusted Anchor Warps
Meantime the other nasty cleaning job was the anchor warps. In the warm water of Vliho Bay aquatic grows on these warps was exuberant. We had at least 50m of main anchor warp out and nearly as much of the other. They were both covered in green slime, calcium encrustations and jelly like blobs. Paul and Paolo spent days in the dinghy and on the bow walk scraping and scrubbing. And they managed to stay happy and cheerful whilst doing it!
Will We Be Hauled Out?
We moved Gaia a 100 meters sideways into the shallow water off the boatyard, in hopeful anticipation of being able to be hauled out with their winch, but no argument was able to persuade the owners of the yard to undertake this unusual haul out. They are absolute experts at hauling out and launching monohull yachts on a wooden sledge on a greased wooden slip. We had seen them at work and were sure they could handle hauling out Gaia.
We tried to tell them that Gaia was like a sledge herself and all we would need is a series of greased logs under her keels. Still they were not convinced and were worried they would not be able to get her back into the water. We showed them pictures of Gaia’s original launch in Devoran from a very similar gently sloping beach, to no avail.
We gave up and once more scraped her bottom clean with the wide scraper. We could wade round the boat in the shallow water making the job easier. However the yard owners were friendly and they did not mind us setting up a small workspace in a corner of the empty yard to work on our stern ramp.
Renovation Of The Stern Ramp
Under a sunshelter made out of shade netting Brian did a thorough sanding job and together we repainted the ramp. Sadly after one week, with his ramp project nearly completed, Brian had to fly home. No sailing for him this time.
Right after Brian left Dutch Michael and his Norwegian girlfriend Sigrid, veterans of restoring Gaia, joined us. They fitted new netting to the newly painted ramp to fill the open spaces, lashing it with new rope and fitting new hardwood steps in the rope ladder.
Time to take Paolo for a well deserved sail before he also had to leave us. Paolo was ever cheerful and generous, James enjoyed his company greatly; after happily cleaning anchor warps and scraping the bottom he had taken the job of redecorating another hull cabin. Paolo lives in Milan and had just bought a second hand Tiki 30 building project and with two weeks to spare came to learn all about Wharram. He was an engineer, who had spent time working in America. Going gliding was his hobby, so he and Brian had much in common.
After collecting his Tiki 30 project Paolo discovered it was built with a copied set of building plans. An ethical engineer, he promptly bought a new set of plans. Then on closer examination he found the two part-built hulls were built to a very poor quality, with too thin, too flexible cheap plywood and atrocious epoxy fillets. Michael went to Milan to help Paolo with the building and the decision was made to scrap the hulls and build new. A wise decision, one needs to know when to cut ones losses. He will now end up with a boat he fully built himself and can be proud of.
Sailing The Beautiful Southern Ionian
The rest of that autumn was spent sailing and exploring the beautiful southern Ionian. James enjoyed many a superb massage from Paul, which helped ease stiff leg muscles, which made walking difficult. We sailed back to Preveza and its large inland sea, where a lovely German family, living in a small VW camper, were delighted to meet the hero from their favourite book ‘Two Girls Two Catamarans’. Later they guided us to a beautiful uninhabited bay off Kastos Island with a cave in the cliff one can take a dinghy in. We also visited the lovely town of Vathi on Ithaca, set into a land-enclosed bay similar to Vliho.
Whilst sailing we built a new firebox. This box is free standing so it can be moved. I had brought 30mm Vermiculite board from the UK. This board is used to insulate pottery kilns and is quite light, much lighter than the Portuguese firebricks that lined the old firebox. It is also quite soft; so it needs to be protected from wear. You can cut it with a saw.
Michael built the box from 10mm marine plywood with sturdy uprights in the corners that became short legs to keep the bottom about 6cm above the deck. The bottom layer of vermiculite was given a 30mm airspace below it, to protect the bottom plywood. Inside the box we spread a layer of lightweight pumice pellets we had collected years ago on a beach in Fiji, saved from the old firebox. Traditionally ship’s fireboxes would have had a thick layer of sand in the bottom, but this would make it heavy. I built a lid for the box, like a deck hatch, to keep the ashes and Vermiculite dry. It was strong enough to stand on, very handy when reefing the mainsail. It also makes a very good table and workbench.
On the 4th October the box was ready and was initiated with the first fire and BBQ. It was a success; the plywood did not get too hot, so long as we kept the fire small. It gets used regularly and everyone loves it. It transforms the deck in the evening, creating a central focus that encourages conversation and togetherness.
Laying-up Lessons Learnt
Mid October we laid Spirit of Gaia up again in the ‘raft’. This time we spent a day rat proofing the boat with wire mesh covers over every vent hole and large funnels over the shore lines. We also got wise to not use our best anchor warps and were able to moor up using just one of our older anchors and the yacht club’s mooring lines.