Tiki Odyssey

Home Wharram World Tiki Odyssey
By Roy Leask
Hand drawn map of a sailing voyage, with locations and distances

From Kos to Kefalonia - Father and son, in a self-build Wharram Tiki, survive a winter passage across Greece.

The call came on Thursday. 'Hey, Dad. There's a weather window, all next week. It could take us all the way to Monemvasia, maybe even round the Peleponese.' It was my son, Andrew, freelance skipper, calling from Greece where he's based. Over the Christmas holiday we had talked about sailing our self-build Wharram Tiki 26 from its birthplace in Kos to its new home in Kefalonia, a winter passage of over 400nm east to west across Greece.

Seven years in the making, in a workshop next to a carpenter on Apolonas street, Dragonfly would be embarking on her maiden cruise, delayed for the past three years by Covid. My winter gear, spread out in the spare room, was good to go - a Rab 900 sleeping bag and silk liner, down jacket and mittens from Kathmandu, two woolly hats from Namche Bazaar, assorted Helly Hansen and Icebreaker base layers, fleeces, all from an Everest base camp trek, and a Musto BR2 sailing jacket.

A catamaran on land at a marina
Kos registered Dragonfly prepped to depart

Preparing The Boat

Flying out of Bristol on Sunday morning, and connecting with SkyExpress to Kos, it was mid afternoon as the airport taxi drew up opposite the Tiki, parked on her trailer in Kos marina. Andrew barely glanced up as he rollered on swathes of dark blue anti-foul to the deep V-shaped hulls. A paint brush was thrust into my hand to take care of the fiddly bits while any sense of leisure quickly evaporated under an Aegean blue sky. In fading light the anti-fouling was finished in readiness for an early launch next morning. But over a few beers and a bite at the Marina cafe, it became clear that we weren't ready. Checks on the rigging, the sails, battery and electrics, storing provisions and how the boat was balanced, was better sorted out on the hard than in the water. Michalis, our boat launcher, was put on hold, until Tuesday.

Catamaran on a pontoon at night with deck tent
Celebrating Burns night in a makeshift decktent

The weather window was still just open, had we departed on that Tuesday afternoon. But by then, a storm jib, a necessary headsail option, was on order from Sladco, the local sailmaker, a newly purchased deep cycle battery had to be installed, new LED nav lights fitted, fire extinguisher refilled, flares updated and life jackets checked. More time enabled Andrew to rig the boat cover as a tent over the cockpit, using the gaff and boom, and with a new cockpit light Burns night was celebrated over a few drams. By Friday, the boat was in order but I wasn't. Increasing stomach pain and nausea compelled me to visit Kos Medicare where an X-ray revealed a major blockage in the intestines. An enema failed but the nuclear option - necking a whole bottle of X-Prep - did the trick. That and a raft of suppositories accompanied me for the rest of the trip.

Storms And Rainbows

Alarms were set for 4am and an hour later on Sunday 29 January the little Tiki, Greek flagged, Kos registered no.564, left her home port. With the lights of Bodrum eight miles to starboard, we headed north along the old fault line between Asia Minor and the edge of Europe. Rounding the headland of Lampi, under full sail, we turned west along the north coast of Kos, still unsure as to whether we'd be taking the high line west via Amorgos, Iraklia, to Eos or a more southerly route to Astipalaia, Anafi and Santorini. Ultimately Poseidon and Aeolus would decide our point of sail.

Up ahead, thunderous skies and lightening flashes seemed to confirm their presence as the wind shifted and the sea state got ugly. Hattie, our 6hp sailpro long shaft Tohatsu, came into play. She ran for two hours, through the worst of the storm, before a choppy sea had her coughing and spluttering. As Kos faded from the port side, the wind was taking us on the southerly course to Astipalaia, about 40nm away. Double rainbows appeared and the sun came out. Peaks and troughs, high and lows, a sailor's lot.

In fifteen years sailing the length and breadth of Greece, Andrew has come to know these waters. Forecasts may provide a general picture but localised conditions; winds accelerating down mountain sides, open seas exposed beyond headlands, can change conditions very rapidly. Which is what happened approaching Astipalaia. Already we'd shortened sail but, in trying to make headway, Hattie couldn't cope with the short, steep wave chop. We went into tacking mode before finally reaching the wind shadow of the most westerly of the Dodecanese islands. After 10 hours on the water covering 52nm, Andrew deployed fenders and mooring lines for an arrival reception we could never have expected.

The Dodecanese Islands - Law Enforcement And Explosions...

Partially restored walls of the old Venetian castle loomed 500 metres above us as the Tiki entered the little harbour. At this time of year, we were spoilt for choice in finding space going alongside. Approaching the deserted quay, a guy on a scooter suddenly appeared. Before I stepped ashore with the bow line, he demanded: 'Where have you come from?' I turned to Andrew who's had years of experience dealing with port police. He replied: 'From Kos.' 'Where are your papers? The boat papers.' Scooter man barked. Not so much as a parakalo. A sea gull squawked overhead. Andrew said: 'Look, first I need to make the boat secure. Give me a minute to tie up.' And proceeded to set the lines and adjust the fenders for the high quayside. The port police representative waited impatiently. Andrew handed over the papers for scrutiny. We held our breath.

'You can't be here!' He exclaimed. 'Well we are here'. Andrew said. 'You can't be here because the licence says this boat is limited to a maximum of 3 kilometres distance from Kos.' Jabbing a finger at the document, he emphasised: 'See here, it's written, 3 kilometres only. You shouldn't be here. I'll have to report this to my superiors.' On a roll now, he wasn't leaving it at that. 'I want to see your life jackets.' I pulled them out of the aft locker and chucked them into the cockpit. 'And your safety equipment, fire extinguisher and flares.' He seemed disappointed they were all in order, then hopped on the scooter and flounced away without so much as a backward glance. Which is just as well because he failed to hear or see the ensuing explosion and fire. Bending down to light the gas cooker in the starboard cabin for a cup of tea, a fireball ignited, throwing me back against the bulkhead.

A harbour with white buildings, viewed from a boat
Approaching Astipalaia after a choppy 10 hours of sailing

'Fire,' I croaked. Andrew grabbed the fire extinguisher from my hand and pulled the pin unleashing a million particles of yellow powder. Like Nesquick, he said. The fire went out, not a flicker of flame anywhere. We stared after the port policeman in open mouthed silence, hearing only the angry buzz of his departing scooter. 'That was close,' said Andrew. In more ways than one, I thought. Oddly enough the fire damage was limited to two cremated packets of Ramen noodles, a charred front to my bobble hat, absence of facial hair and a right hand, done medium rare and quite tender.

Recriminations quickly followed. On the one hand, the cooker setup I considered unfit for purpose and an accident that had already happened. On the other hand, everyone else had used the cooker without incident. The blame game gradually fizzled out as we came to terms with cleaning up every single item in the starboard cabin as well as every surface coated in powder. It took hours. The afternoon light was fading when Andrew suggested: 'Are you up for a beer, Dad?'

A Brief Rest In Astypalaia - Decisions To Make

Finding a bar open on Astypalaia on a midwinter Sunday afternoon seemed a longshot, nonetheless, up we went among the alleyways of the white Cycladic houses to reach the high street. Beyond the old windmills, we looked back east to the distant outline of Kos, a measure of how far we'd come. The nearby sound of TV football commentary drew us to a taverna that was open. A couple of large, cold Alfas didn't touch the sides. Two more were ordered, followed by ouzo.

There was a lot to take in. No amount of alcohol could mask the fact that this was only day one on the water and, though we'd covered a fair distance, a number of concerns clouded any progress going forward. It was dark now and we were told a taverna down the street served food. What we least expected was to walk into a chique, sophisticated, modern Greek restaurant with refined cooking, beautiful flavours and quality house wine from the Peleponese. We gorged ourselves and felt humbled by a bill of €50. A stumbling descent took us back to our capsules on the boat, like sleeping in an MRI scanner, Andrew said, and were quickly unconscious despite the strengthening wind stirring up swell in the harbour.

A street with white buildings overlooking the sea
Distant Kos from Astypalaia

Forecast winds of 25kts + meant we were going nowhere on Monday. Our sodden gear from yesterday's storm dried out in the sunshine while Andrew cut up some old neoprene trousers, then fashioned an under skirt for Hattie to protect her from sea spray and prevent saltwater getting into the air intake. With westerly winds continually denying us a desired point of sail, Hattie's condition and cooperation had became all the more critical to our progress. A morning's work on the boat deserved a good gyros, washed down with a miso kilo grassi. Later we legged it up to the castle which in its time had been occupied by the Romans, Venetians, pirates, Ottomans, Germans, and allied forces. What remained was now being restored by the Greeks.

On the way down, following a circuitous route around the town, we discussed our options, whether to call it a day and go back to Kos or, if we did try to continue, by which route? Throughout our passage, six forecasting apps and websites were scrutinised more or less daily. In no particular order, Windy, WindFinder, WindGuru, Poseidon, Passage Weather and Meteo Gr, if one was preferred it was the latter because of its wave height accuracy prediction. 35nm to the island of Anafi, directly due west, was possible tomorrow but then what? From there the wind angle ruled out Santorini though we might be able to push north and west to Eos, which offered good protection from a very big blow from the North expected at the weekend.

Outboard engine
Hattie, our outboard engine

As it was, we sailed and motored 3nm east to the little village of Antilipsi. On its single quay, we squeezed in between the kaikis on the windward side. Within minutes a local fisherman appeared to check us out. It's unlikely another Wharram had ever moored up in Antilipsi. Andrew's Greek was sufficient to satisfy him as to who and what we were about and very quickly the whole village knew. The tent went up, whatsapp messages flew to family and friends, and we cooked onboard. Over morning coffee on the Wednesday Andrew lay a red line down.

Catamaran on a pontoon, sunny skies
Among the kaikis at Antilipsi

'I can't go back to Kos, Dad. I've said goodbye to Kos. My future's in Kefalonia with Amalia. And that's where the Tiki has to be.' Amalia, Andrew's partner, was five months pregnant and expecting their first child in June. He continued: 'There's a weather window, that could take us north and west through the Cyclades, to Corinth. The canal is closed for repairs right now and doesn't open again until the Summer. We could either delash and dismantle the boat there, park her in Kalamaki marina, Athens or see if Agamemnon can arrange to lift the boat on to a truck and drive it across the isthmus to the Gulf of Corinth and we can continue to Kefalonia that way. What do you think?' Agamemnon is Amalia's father, Stefanatis, from an old Greek family extending way back. I agreed there was no going back and asked more about the weather window.

'We've 24 hours to get from here to Ermoupoli on Syros, that's over 100nm. Winds westerly to start with, should turn more southerly which will help us heading west. It'll be an all-nighter. Are you up for it, Dad?' Bastard. He knows how I respond to a challenge. Ten years before we had delivered a brand new Robertson & Caine Leopard 44 catamaran from Frontignan in southern France to Vouanaki, Greece, 1100nm across the Med in April. It was my introduction to sailing, his world, and I loved it. 'Ok then. Seems doable. Let's prepare.'

A chart, plotting a route
24 hour passage to Syros

The decision made restored our focus and energy. As northerly gusts swept over Astypalaia, the tent came down, the local mini market provided the snacks and energy bars we would need and a cafe served palatable coffee and croissant and a place to smoke. Early that evening, returning from a long afternoon walk along the shore, we were bewildered to find a taverna that looked open. An elderly couple, my age if not older, welcomed us. No menu. 'We have Greek salad, pork burger and patatas.' It was so well cooked and the salad served with feta they made themselves. We feasted, yet again, accompanied by the obligatory miso kilo grassi cocino.

Setting Sail For Corinth

On Thursday 2 February the Tiki set a course for Corinth. Andrew recorded a video and we slipped lines at 8.45am, with two reefs in the main and no headsail as yet. We motored cautiously between outlying islands along Astypalaia's south coast. Emerging around the island's eastern tip into open water, we got an immediate feel for true wind speed and sea state. Andrew handed me the reins and went for'ard to hank on and hoist the genoa. It's an all manual boat, not a winch to be seen, hand tied reefing, etc. A moderate westerly filled the sails as we sat side by side on the padded cockpit bench seat, both looking forward past the mast, legs stretched out to the fuel box, headed best to windward towards Amorgos at a good clip. With our combined weight centred in the middle of the boat, it's comfortable and, for a 24 hour shift, an energy saving position. The steering reins, Andrew's innovation, consist of a loop of two lines of braid extending to separate shackles at the base of the masthead, then running through blocksdown the cabin sides, and attached to a tiller bar tensioned by self centering bungy cords. A little pull on the left cord and she moves to port and vice versa.

Five hours later, still under full sail, we were 9nm east of Amorgos and continued pushing north. Come sunset around 6pm northerly progress had been compromised by being pushed further east. The lights began to twinkle from the rocks of Denousa, away to the west. The long day was waning as the slow moon climbed. The twin hulls sliced furrows through the waves while the deep moaned around with many voices and the night sky began to fill the baths of all the western stars.

A man in the cockpit of a boat, smiling, setting sun
Sunset over Naxos, east of Denousa

That Tennyson reverie ended abruptly with Andrew bringing Hattie to life and pointing us directly west to Denousa. Scanning the horizons there was still not a sailboat to be seen. Hours later, we were still west of Denousa, sailing slowly in light winds, Hattie having thrown in the towel in seas that just didn't suit her. 'There's a little port on the south of Denousa', said Andrew as we marked time. 'Beyond that, there's a good harbour on Naxos and away in the distance to starboard, are the lights of Mykonos.' The wind then shifted becoming more southerly. The Tiki responded willingly and at last we sailed past Denousa. Night had fallen but it wasn't dark. Looking up, a full moon was our masthead light. Orion, followed by his dog, was taking the high road, striding across the heavens, and would definitely be in Ermoupoli before us. To the right of the mast, Cassiopeia pointed at the North Star and further east, was the Plough. Directly ahead, on our point of sail, was the flashing light on the headland of Naxos.

Tired and feeling the chill, I pulled back the cabin hatch and, fully clothed, crawled into my capsule and fell asleep. It was 2.30am when I woke up. Andrew reported 23nm to go. The hard yards were about to begin. He passed me the reins, saying: 'See those pin pricks of light.' Through salt spray covered varifocals I peered into the black. 'That's Ermoupoli.' He went below for a kip and left me, reins in hand, fully exposed driving the stagecoach forward. Dragonfly's cockpit is completely open to the elements, with no bimini or sprayhood and the two man inflatable kayak, our life raft and dinghy, is lashed down to the trampoline in front of the midships cross beam, acting as a splash guard for waves. 'The wind cuts through you to the bone.' Our old friend one-eyed Dave would say. Leaning down on the cockpit side, I was losing consciousness. In an hallucinatory state the black outline to starboard that Andrew said was the unlit island of Renia appeared as a dark, sinister monster. I looked back astern. Just as well, a Bluestar ferry, lit up like a Christmas tree, was coming up fast to starboard and passed about half a mile in front, disappearing off to the north west towards Piraeus. I think it was real.

Stern of a catamaran, looking out to a glimmering sea and an island with a lighthouse on it
Light at the end of a long night

Andrew emerged with some snacks. The wind, out of the northwest, was directly on the nose. In the swelly sea running between Syros and Mykonos, the genoa helped to subdue the bows bouncing off the waves and stabilise the boat. She's light, in cruising mode barely more than a tonne. Nonetheless, Hattie shit the bed. Collectively, we groaned. Andrew gave what energy he had left to reviving her. It was not to be, so we bore away from the distant lights of Ermoupoli, from thoughts of a cosy bed and a shower in Guesthouse Lila, a former French brothel, that I'd booked online and headed now south west towards Serifos.

View of a coastal town from a boat
Ermoupoli, at last!

A Change Of Plan

Then began a series of long tacks over several hours until, around first light, as we clawed our way into the lee of Syros, the sea state flattened sufficiently for Hattie to be coaxed into life. There's an island at the entrance to the bay of Ermoupoli. We passed it to starboard, at 8.45am, with no thought of how important it would prove to be to our exit days later. For now, sagging spirits were buoyed by the sight of the port light on the breakwater, the great sweep of urbanalia that formed a tall, white bowl surrounding the harbour, and the shipyards, such a dominant feature, first established by the French in the mid 1800s as they saved the catholic community from massacre by the Ottomans. 'Too much swell in the harbour, Dad, especially from the ferries.'

Respite At Ermoupoli

We turned to port, passed the shipyards and into one of those unfinished marinas, not so uncommon in Greece where, in the early 2000s when the EU was throwing money at the country, developers built marinas that, when it came to handover, were deemed unacceptable by the municipality for whatever reason. We had been here before, years ago, on a family outing, delivering a sailboat from Kos to Athens. There was less space now but we found a suitable slot, tied up, packed our bags, closed the hatches and start walking towards the town at the other end of the long bay.

The first taxi I saw we flagged down, piled in and shortly arrived at Guesthouse Lila, showered and slept. Hunger woke us. In a taverna on the harbour front, we gazed at the menu and ordered beers that never tasted so good. 115nm from Astypalaia to Ermoupoli in 24 hours. We looked at each other and laughed, with relief. The little boat was toasted and then James Wharram and Hanneke Boon, people of the sea, creators of the Tiki. James, R.I.P, passed away last year but the last time I spoke with Hanneke she reminded me that building the Tiki was only just the beginning of what adventures might be. The meaning of 'Mana' was beginning to sink in.

Catamaran moored on a pontoon
Moored for 40kts+

Tables filled up around us, it was a popular lunchtime place and so was the food. Satiated by the famous Syros sausages with mustard sauce, we made our way up through the alleyways to the guesthouse, not knowing then that we'd be here a week, nor caring. We slept some more. That evening, Andrew, rollup in hand, poked his head out of our doorway to the street and was hit by a golf ball size hailstone. The temperature was dropping and another storm was on its way, full meltemi sweeping down from the north through the Cyclades. Next morning, there was work to be done. It was a twenty minute walk along the seafront, passed the shipyards and round to the marina. It took longer though because we stopped at a bakery for coffee and croissant served by a beautiful girl with a look and innocence akin to Audrey Hepburn.

Moving The Boat, Refills And Repairs

With 40kts winds forecast, the boat had to be moved. Tucked in behind a headland was the small boat sanctuary of the marina. Andrew carefully manoeuvred the 8m Tiki into a well protected space, securing her with springs and fenders to port, kedge anchor and romenzo mooring to starboard as well as bow and stern lines. She was going nowhere. The main and auxiliary fuel tanks were filled up at a petrol station, not near enough for my liking. The water tank was replenished and next on the list was Hattie. With help from the guy at the petrol station, we met up with Stavros and his son Joseph, agents for Mercury and, by any other name, Tohatsu. Andrew explained Hattie's problems and they came in their pickup to take her away for servicing. On the way back to town we spotted a chandlery which would refill the empty fire extinguisher. Further on, an ouzoria crossed our path, offering shelter from the rain, assorted mezze dishes and the smoothest ouzo from Mykronitis distillery on Syros.

A harbour at sunset with folded down chairs and garden umbrellas
Stormbound in Ermoupoli

As comfortable and spacious as the guesthouse was, two nights were as much as the budget could stand. It would be at least another two nights, maybe more, before the we could set sail again. At Central Nine rooms, up an alleyway between the main square and the harbour, a double with two single beds and a shower/toilet where the vertical dimension far exceeded length and width, was €40 per night. An ideal bolt hole for us. Owner and manager, Katia, checked us in to room 3. While the rain danced off the marble paved streets of Ermoupoli and the wind howled round every corner, we took time out, played chess, read Philp Kerr's Bernie Gunther books and plotted our course ahead. Andrew was talking with Amalia and Agamemnon daily. The latter was on the case. Tiki dimensions and weight were being relayed to and fro between truck/crane operators in Corinth and Agamemnon, together with quotes, pickup locations and timing. It was being to look like a real possibility, less of a crazy option.

A couple of days couped up and we were ready to move. But the gods were having none of it. Our favoured option was going round the northern tip of Syros, across to Loutra on Kithnos, south of Kea and Cape Sunion and then on to Athens and Corinth, about 100nm. With persistently strong northerlies blowing away any notion of heading north, a little hop down to the southern tip of Syros, round the corner and up to Finikas on the west coast seemed more feasible. Finikas would also give us a head start for jumping off west towards Corinth. A Thursday departure was on the cards.

Once again we legged it down to the boat, collecting the refilled extinguisher on the way, and retrieved Hattie from Stavros and son. They had stripped her down, changed the impeller, spark plug and other bits and given her a full service, all for €120. Fitting her back on the boat and firing her up, she sounded a lot healthier than before. Overnight, a Friday departure became marginally better than Thursday for the Finikas hop, a mere 15nm. Meantime, we explored Ermoupoli, the administrative capital of the Cyclades. It's a vibrant, commercial town wholly not dependent upon tourism and much better for it. Among the variety of tavernas we ate at, the one we returned to served the most delicious kontosouvli, slow cooked, melt-in-your-mouth pork.

100nm to Corinth

Decoupling the boat from its various mooring lines took a while. Moving out from our sheltered spot, the wind gusts gave us a taste of what was to come. With Hattie purring away, Andrew put two reefs in the main and set the storm jib in the lee of the harbour wall. Out in the bay beyond, among all the white horses, the occasional stallion looked ominous. We bore away. The only boat on the water. Behind our backs, the town looked down and held its breath. The Tiki accelerated forwards, as she does, champing at the bit. With a rock-strewn lee shore to starboard, Andrew's heart was thumping at the lack of sea room. Margins were slim. Waves broke over the port bow. Geysers of spray exploded upwards in the narrow gap between the cockpit and cabin sides. Hattie gave it her best shot and then packed up. Given the sea state, not her fault.

Two men in a boat cockpit
Roy and Andrew in their element

Reins in hand, like riding a bucking bronco, we lurched onwards, holding course for the wind shadow of the island ahead. It took about three quarters of an hour. The pressure eased off as we turned south. With the wind at our backs, 18kts gusting 25kts, we flew down the east coast of Syros, surfing the waves sometimes exceeding 9kts. She almost needed a handbrake turn coming round the southern corner.

A man in the cockpit of a boat, blue seas and skies
Bombing along downwind past Paros

A Stop At Finikas, Lost Luggage...

Hattie came back to life as we pushed up the west coast and into the small marina at Finikas. It was packed with wintering yachts of all shapes and sizes. As many as three were flying the British flag, an unusual number in the post-Brexit era. There were also three Oceanstars, Greek built 56ft monohulls, the same as Mythos, a boat on which Andrew does a lot of skippering. We settled for the only space available, alongside under the port light at the end of the marina wall. Within minutes the only taverna open was located. It had been a short passage but it had had its moments, worthy of a couple of Alfas.

We put the tent up over the cockpit, kicked back and took stock. My phone rang. It was Katia from Central Nine. I had left the black bag for my sleeping bag at the hotel. It was stuffed with dirty washing. I asked her if she would kindly put it in ataxi which could bring it to Finikas. Forecasts were unanimous in predicting strong northerlies in the night, right through tomorrow and into Sunday. We'd give it another 24 hours and look at the situation again. Meanwhile discussions with Agamemnon on the boat transfer across the Corinth isthmus continued. It was looking promising, though cost estimates veered erratically between €1000 and €450.

A catamaran moored on a pontoon
Well sheltered in Finikas

Late afternoon we made a foray into the village for supplies. On the way back a car drew up beside us on the quayside and the driver enquired: 'Are you Mr Leeasque?' I nodded. It was Katia's partner and he handed me my sleeping bag bag that I'd left in Central Nine. I thanked him profusely for delivering it from Ermoupoli. There's so much humanity about the Greeks, more so than many people. Throughout our travels the folk we'd encountered were unfailingly courteous and helpful, give or take the odd official. Andrew cooked onboard. The local red went down well and before bed, as the wind rose, we took the precaution of collapsing the tent, bundling it into the port locker, for an undisturbed night. As low as the Tiki sits on the water, windage is better kept to a minimum.

A harbour and pontoon with boats on it, village on a hillside in background
Last space at the end of the quay

A long walk next morning took us to a cafe in the next village. Loo facilities at marinas were never going to be open at this of year so we were always looking further afield. Back at the boat, the various forecasts were scrutinised and compared. On the next leg we'd be leaving the windswept Cyclades and entering the more sheltered waters of the Saronic gulf, or so we thought. Andrew calculated we had 14 hours tomorrow between about 5am and 7pm to make it out of Finikas probably as far as Perdika, on the south coast of Aegina, before storm force north easterlies set in. Reaching Corinth was out of the question. Depending on the wind angle, our preferred passage would take us to the north of Kithnos then passing Cape Sunion to starboard.

Out in the bay, a dozen Optimists from the local sailing school were racing about, shepherded by a couple of instructors in dinghys. It was heartening to see a future generation under sail out in the water in February. A van drew up alongside us on the quay. The passenger window came down. Looking in at the driver I exchanged 'Yassas.' He looked past me and said: 'It's Andy isn't it? I remember you. You left your passport here and had to come back for it.' He was port authority. After chatting amicably with Andrew about his visits to Finikas over the years, he wished us well and drove off. Later, we hunkered down in the taverna, beneath the patio heater, to enjoy an sumptuous array of local dishes while watching Scotland play some brilliant rugby to beat England.

More Stormy Seas

Alarms were set for 4am. An hour later Hattie was backing the Tiki away from the harbour wall. In the moonless blackness a moderate breeze was stirring the surface of the bay. Two reefs in the main and a full genoa. Add to that, a wing and a prayer. We turned west following the shoreline to the headland. The breeze stiffened, Hattie was silenced. It's wide open water between Syros and Kithnos, a natural funnel for northerlies.

Stern of a catamaran facing the sunrise
Heading onwards at dawn, before the sea gods changed our plans

Beyond the headland, two things happened simultaneously. Katabatic gusts caught the genoa, accelerating the Tiki into a two metre wave grotesquely illuminated by the starboard nav light. The bows went airborne, well above my head. I parted with the cockpit seat and grabbed what came to hand......Andrew's leg. There was a loud crack and a shudder ran through the boat as she slammed down into the trough, green water spilling over the bows into the cockpit. 'Bear away, Dad. She's overpowered. Too much sail.' I tugged on the port rein, turning south, taking the load off the rig but in the darkness, couldn't see the waves coming. The boat was on the limit, possibly beyond it. Andrew went for'ard. Balancing on the trampoline, he dropped and lashed the genoa. God knows how. And we sailed on. As the dawn came up, the wind eased sufficiently for Andrew to stow the genoa and hoist the storm jib. The Tiki was making good speed, albeit on a south westerly course, not where we wanted to go. Time to recalibrate.

Storm jib deployed

Heading For Poros

iPhone to hand, loaded with Navionics, Andrew ran calculations on distance, speed and time. Our current heading was taking us to the south of Kithnos. 'Perdika on Aegina will be too far for us, Dad. We'll never make it in the weather window. I'm thinking we head for Poros, on the Peleponese. 70 nautical miles from Finikas. At current speed, we should just about make it.' Poros I had been to before, on one of our early Sunsail flotillas. 'Sounds good to me.' Rounding Kithnos we sailed into the Saronic gulf. The sun came out, the wind died, and the sea flattened. Hattie couldn't have been happier. Cranked up to two thirds throttle, she was pushing the Tiki along at close to 6kts.

We cruised for hours, luxuriating in the sunshine. To starboard we passed the small island of Agios Georgos, a rocky, turbine-covered hummock, and far away to the north caught glimpses of Cape Sunion. A bit of a milestone. We were getting there. Conditions at sea seldom last. It's a highly dynamic environment. As the light faded behind Hydra to the west, the wind picked up and the sea state changed for the worse. The main town of Poros is on an island separated from the mainland Peleponese by a narrow river channel. Approaching from the south, the channel is located at the head of a bay, itself constricted by two small islands to port and a miscellaneous rock to starboard. Not a lot of sea room, especially in the dark. After twelve hours on the water, we would need to be at the top of our game.

A cargo ship off the bow
Giving way to a container ship north of Hydra

A Tricky Navigation In The Dark, UFOs...

The dark outline of the bay's headland was barely visible in the moonless night. The high cliffs we thought might shield us from northerly gusts seemed to have the opposite effect. I had just got a bead on the light on the the miscellaneous rock when Hattie packed up. As Andrew pulled frantically on the recoil starter, the mainsail and storm jib gave us a measure of control. The sea was building. Waves breaking on the starboard bow were cascading into the cockpit. Hattie came to life. For minutes we held our breath until she died again. We passed the rock, the jaws of the bay were closing, though not that we could see. 'Wow! Look at that. Up above us.' Andrew shouted in the wind. I was reluctant to drag my eyes from a set of street lights, high up on the starboard bow, which I was steering by. 'It's like a bar of lights suspended in the sky. A UFO?' Andrew persisted. I looked up. Had to admit, I'd never seen anything like it. But now was not the time to speculate.

With constant coaxing, Hattie fired once more. Andrew slumped, exhausted, into the cockpit by my side and checked our course on Navionics. 'Ok Dad, keep her steady. See those red lights blinking. They're wind turbines on the hills above Poros. Head for the one on the right.' Every few minutes, minor adjustments were made, as different lights were spotted for steering. 'It's like Nicky Grist and Colin McCrae.' Andrew grinned. Navigator and driver, going back to days spent on PlayStation 2. A large, dark shape passed to port. 'That's the first of the two islands. Now we have to find the port light at the channel entrance.' With so many lights of Poros visible in the gloom, it wasn't until we got round the second island that a flashing red appeared low down in the water. 'It's a very narrow entrance.' He reminded me, reducing Hattie's revs. It was well after 7pm when we glided gently up the channel and found space to tie up between a water taxi and small fishing boat.

Catamaran moored on a pontoon in a harbour town
Dragonfly reaches Poros

Beer On The House

Cold and hungry, we staggered off the Tiki, and swayed down the street trying to find our land legs and a taverna. Dishevelled, unshaven, and more windswept than Billy Connolly could ever imagine, we slumped into chairs next to a patio heater. Nearby, children clung to their mothers. The waiter approached with menus but Alfas were our priority. Curious, as we were definitely not your regular Poros Sunday night restaurant goers, the waiter inquired where we were from. 'We've come from Syros, from Finikas, on a sailboat.' It explained how we looked and felt. He sympathised, told us about the terrifying time the 5 hour ferry from Piraeus to Naxos took 10 hours in a storm, and brought us more beer on the house. Setting the menu to one side, we shared a mix grill, Greek salad, and a miso kilo.

While building the Tiki there had been prolonged debate about an onboard toilet facility, ranging from Jabsco marine assemblies to Portapotti. But in the end we went with what's in the plan: bucket and chuck it. The bucket, partially filled with cat litter had never been christened, until early next morning. Nature's call came at an inconvenient time, before dawn, when the cafe next to our mooring was hours from opening. Taking my seat, I noted the skipper hadn't had the decency to sand off the edges. What to do, at least with no one around at that time of day, the bucket could be chucked. Looking over the boat later, Andrew noticed that a wooden block on the underside of the for'ard crossbeam was missing. We reckoned, coming out of Finikas, the load on the forestay (it had gone banana shaped) had shifted the port hull, forcing the block off. All sixteen lashings on the four crossbeams seemed to be intact. The Tiki is designed deliberately to be lashed together, giving it the flexibility to disperse the force of the waves. We were certainly proving that.

A harbour town at sunset, looking down at a restaurant
Hotel respite in Poros

We had stuff to sort out, like laundry, and down the street found a chandlery where, with my hands raw from pulling the reins, I got a pair of sailing gloves. Andrew, thinking ahead as ever, bought about twenty metres of 6mm line which would be needed for lowering and raising the mast at Corinth. We wandered along the quayside. Poros, a well sheltered port, is packed with yachts in the Summer but only a handful now. On the north side, facing the chill winter wind, all the shops and tavernas were closed but there was still a buzz about the east side. We checked into the 7 Brothers hotel, the brides were obviously being put up elsewhere.

We had a long chat with family back in the UK. The passage had originally been perceived as taking two or three weeks, max. But given how variable and severe weather conditions could be, it was going to take a lot longer. My wife, Jackie, and daughter, Kirsty, were both adamant that we should complete the journey, that we should not rush things nor take unnecessary risks. It was so encouraging to hear that, to know that they were wholeheartedly behind what we were doing. We borrowed a corkscrew from Elias at our favourite taverna and enjoyed some wine on our little balcony, watching the sun go down behind those wind turbines that I was so focused on the previous evening. Funny how a day can change perception of a place. Down in the taverna, Elias served us with delicious kontosouvli accompanied by a miso kilo on the house. The hospitality was overwhelming.

Following The Coast Of Methana North

It was a leisurely departure next morning. We were headed north west to Corinth but the unrelenting northerlies had to abate for any progress to be possible. Hattie, too, would need to be on her best behaviour. Pulling away from the quay, the Tiki's honey-coloured woodwork glistened in the morning light, her shallow curves reflected in the smooth surface of the river channel. Folk waved and gave us thumbs up. A water taxi hooted. A little boat came out to take a closer look. We were in good fettle as we motored upwind following the coast of Methana north.

Andrew was talking on the phone to Agamemnon. The boat uplift and transport across the isthmus was coming together. It was planned for tomorrow. Andrew asked: 'Where do you want us to bring the Tiki?' 'To Mourikes. It's a dock for commercial shipping, about a mile east of the Corinth canal entrance.' Agamemnon replied. Checking it out on Google Maps, we could see the road link across to the Gulf of Corinth. Excitement and apprehension filled us in equal measure as to how this was going to play out. What could go wrong? Pretty much everything.

Back at the coalface, Hattie had had a few hiccups in choppy seas but generally she was being cooperative. Rounding the top of Methana, the wind angle enabled us to give her break as we continued west, under full sail, to the south of Agistri. No two Tikis are alike. The original plan allows, even encourages, various degrees of customisation. What sets ours apart is the cockpit design. The plan calls for a fairly deep, flat bottomed cockpit, wedged between mid and aft crossbeams. Dragonfly's has a shallow V shape, complimentary to the hull shapes, minimising any wave drag, with a for'ard facing seat and low benches running down the cabin sides. Some outboards are positioned within the cockpit, reducing floor space, but Hattie is housed towards the stern, mounted between two hardwood supports linked to a stainless steel, auxiliary aft crossbeam. The stainless steel bar replaced a wooden, glass cloth covered hardwood spar that has subsequently become the boom. That's not in the plan either but we find the boom helps to tension the mainsail and it's easier to tie reefs to.

Catamaran moored next to a chemical storage plant
Out of her depth in Mourikes commercial port

Westward progress was halted by the Peleponese so we turned north again, passing Agios Thomas and Agios Ioannis, slogging our way up the Saronic gulf. Around 5pm, and 36nm from Poros, we weren't the only vessel approaching Mourikes. Still under sail our course converged with a big freighter, named Renata, carrying ammonia chemical compounds. She gave us a loud blast. That might have meant: 'get a bloody move on' or 'nice to see you.' Either way, we dropped the sails and opened up the throttle, coming alongside a high-sided dock where we were greeted by Agamemnon and Albert aka Abi, partner of Amalia's twin sister, Katia. Using mooring ropes the Tiki was backed up into a corner and secured. We piled into Agamemnon's Chevy SUV and with Abi driving, crawled through heavy traffic into Athens for a night's R and R at Agamemnon's house.

Insomnia At Mourikes, Hauling Out Dragonfly

Worry kept me awake for much of the night. In the morning, news came through that the lorry, driver and his mate, would be at Mourikes at 3pm. So not a lot of daylight left to make the transfer. By half past one we were back at the boat, now covered in a thick layer of dust from the lorries unloading cargo from Renata. Andrew briefed us all on how we were going to lower the mast. The Tiki's mast is mounted on the mid crossbeam, at a 4 degree rake to aft and secured by the forestay and two shrouds either side. Ours is aluminium. We had attempted building a wooden mast but after completing 60% of it, we realised that the wood was not fit for purpose. Too many knots. That was abandoned and what was available at the time was an aluminium tube, double the thickness and double the specified weight. At 65kgs it was a handful and needed three or four people to lower and raise it.

Andrew controlled the rate of descent with a pulley system on the forestay. Abi and I released the shrouds, maintaining tension to ensure the mast came down straight while Agamemnon guided the masthead onto the inflatable kayak, positioned on the quayside to cushion the fall. Just as well. It came down with a mighty thump. The mast was then manhandled, centred and lashed on to the crossbeams, together with the shrouds and rigging, ready for transportation.

A catamaran moored at a quay
Dragonfly, dismasted, ready for uplift

Que la fete commence!

A big red lorry with a crane arrived shortly after 3pm and parked alongside. The driver and his mate wasted no time in prepping the lorry, locking steel bars in place, extending the width of the lorry to support the Tiki's twin keels 3.35 metres apart. Two big, wide straps, hooked on to the crane, were guided individually under the bows and rudders, and tensioned under the crossbeams. It took three attempts to lift the boat out of the water on an even keel. The driver, now crane operator, suspended her in midair over the lorry while Andrew pushed her round, bows facing front. Ever so carefully she was lowered down, the lorry crew placing slabs of thick rubber matting over the steel bars to protect the keels. Once settled, a series of heavy duty ratchet straps made her secure. That was the easy bit.

Catamaran on the back of a crane truck
Transporting Dragonfly across the Corinth isthmus, as the ancient Greeks did

A Brush With The Authorities

With fenders suspended in mid air, and port and starboard sides festooned with ribbons of red and white plastic tape, the lorry crew climbed aboard. Full beam headlights blazed, hazard warning lights flickered all round and we followed in the Chevy. Corinth didn't know it but a circus was coming. Approaching the gates to Mourikes port, hardened haulage drivers held back to let our convoy through. We picked up speed on the two lane highway, with Agamemnon in the front passenger seat, urging Abi to drive in the middle of the road to prevent anyone overtaking. With the width of the load, oncoming cars and trucks were taking evasive action. A stuffed fabric smiley emoji dangled from the Chevy mirror, obscuring our view. How long could our luck last? Only a matter of time.

The police flagged us down just over the Corinth canal bridge. The lorry with the Tiki aboard was pulled in and we parked in front of it. Agamemnon got out to investigate or negotiate, or both. In the Chevy, no one spoke. Awaiting the verdict, I thought about what the inside of a Greek police cell might be like. Agamemnon returned. He didn't say much, just asked Abi to follow the lorry when it moved off. After the event, I asked him to elaborate. All he said was, he called a friend. I left it at that.

A man driving a car behind a truck towing a boat
Escorting Dragonfly, not long before the police got involved

The circus continued, approaching the outskirts of Corinth town. Agamemnon, agitated, was urging Abi to keep up. 'Go, go, go! Stay with the truck, Abi.' 'I can't.' Said Abi. 'He's doing over 60kph. We're in the 30kph limit.' Two different cultures occupied the front seats, one Dutch, reserved, Northern European, the other passionate Mediterranean, while a couple of sanguine Scots sat in the back. No sign of Brexit here. As the lorry barrelled on down the Main street, fenders swaying, ribbons flying, cars mounted pavements, some ducked down side streets, pedestrians backed up against walls, dogs were tethered on tight reins, and onlookers stared in wonder.

In my head I could hear that southern drawl of Kris Kristofferson on a crackling CB radio: 'Hey! Breaka Nine! This here's tha rubba duck. Dem bears are uppa head. Reckon we gottus an escort! Ten four.' Past the swaying emoji, I could see a sweeping lefthander coming up. No brake lights showed on the lorry as the Tiki went hard to port listing about 10 degrees to starboard. Lots of street furniture flashed by; traffic lights, direction signs, lampposts, flower baskets and so far a fender hadn't touch one of them. As the lorry swung out to the left to take a hairpin right, I glimpsed a police car holding up traffic. Minutes later, we were driving along the seafront. Looking out at the Gulf of Corinth, our hearts sank.

A man driving a car behind a truck towing a boat, oncoming traffic
Other vehicles had to take evasive action to avoid the wide load

A Difficult Launch

Expecting a smooth, unruffled surface, it was very choppy water that slopped and slapped against the concrete quay. Andrew and I scouted the length of the quay and settled on a slightly more sheltered corner accessible to the lorry. Hydraulic legs to stabilise the lorry were extended and the Tiki swung out over the water. Mooring points were at a premium. To stern was a badly rusted ring and the corroded spike of a concrete reinforcing bar. For the bow line, there was only the hydraulic leg of the lorry. The Tiki was lowered away and secured after a fashion. Andrew was adamant, no way could the mast be raised on the bouncy boat. An hour of daylight remained.

Catamaran on a truck next to the quayside
Dragonfly ready to be lowered back into the water, under less than ideal conditions

Further along the seafront there was a marina, with access by authorised vehicles only. Sitting astride the mast and with Andrew at the helm, we motored into a tight corner of the marina, scraping the bow in the process. Somehow the lorry driver obtained access and drew up beside us. Ideas and options on how best to raise the mast flew thick and fast amongst all six of us, some expressed entirely in Greek, some in English, and a mixture of both. After a long day, folk were getting tired and emotional. Running out of time, we went with a crane assisted operation, resulting in the mast footing being not quite right. For'ard shrouds came up super tight and the aft ones slack. Something to sort out another day.

The lorry driver/crane operator and his mate had done a fantastic job. €780 was asked for and paid. Agamemnon and Abi also departed soon after to catch the Patras/Sami ferry back to Kefalonia. That left us with a local fisherman unhappy that we had taken his boat space. We cast off again, hoping the mast would hold until we tied up on a pontoon on the other side of the marina. It was dark as we walked into town past the spectacular Pegasus statue on Corinth seafront, surrounded by its coloured fountains.

Pegasus statue surrounded by a fountains
The Pegasus statue on Corinth seafront

An Evening And Afternoon In Corinth For Beers And Repairs

The young girl, balancing our long awaited beers and chilled glasses on a tray, managed to drop the whole lot on the grill house patio floor. It had been that kind of day. A phone call home and then Andrew cheered me up with comedian Bill Burr on Youtube talking about domestic violence and pitbull ownership. The plan had been to take off early the next day and, with the help of favourable easterlies, cover the distance to the Patras bridge. The day after that we could be in Kefalonia. Such stuff as dreams are made on... In reality, the morning was taken up with repairing and resetting the footing for the mast, tensioning the rigging with racket straps, giving Hattie some TLC, and refilling fuel and water tanks. We grabbed a gyros in town. Corinth, famous for its music festivals, is a well laid out, prosperous, urbane environment with broad tree-lined avenues and a vibrant student population. A place to spend some time, something we were running out of.

Washing Machine Seas

That afternoon we pushed off for Galaxidi on the north coast of the gulf, 38nm distant. Still the only sailboat on the water, we motor sailed on a calm sea flanked by snow capped mountains, heading due west. We were making good time and reaching our destination by 10pm before the tavernas closed seemed feasible. As the sun went down, conditions changed.

Sunset on a flat sea
The calm before the storm

The temperature dropped, the wind from the north rushed down the steep hillsides and the sea began to build. In darkness, we were guided by the flashing red turbine lights on the Passalos peninsula. Further on, it was the light on the headland. Then above us, an extraordinary sight. A chain of satellites, similar to what we'd seen whilst approaching Poros. We counted 52 in total, moving slowly in a straight line, west to east. Elon Musk's star link. Turning north west into the gulf of Krissa, the nav lights illuminated weird waves converging and breaking from different directions. 'Washing machine seas.' Andrew said.

Overhead, Cassiopeia, just to the right of the masthead, set our course to steer by. 5nm from Galaxidi, Hattie coughed and died. We bore away on a starboard tack towards the lights of Sikia. Tacking endlessly to and fro, we became increasingly conscious of the string of islands that guard the approach to the Galaxidi anchorage. None of them lit except for the most westerly. Cold and fed up, we gave Hattie a turn. She fired up. Reins in hand, Andrew cued me in on the island light. A dark outline passed to starboard then the final obstacle. An unlit concrete sentinel set on top of rocks, like something out of 2001, was left to port.

Galaxidi, More Bad Forecasts

'See the lights of the church, Dad. Head for those' He said, moving forward to drop and stow the sails. Like a lot of places in Greece, he'd been here before, and not just in daylight. The town was asleep when we tied up, well after midnight, at the foot of some stone steps on the quayside. Another hurdle, another ordeal, we celebrated with a glass of wine and some hot food before pulling the hatches closed on our capsules.

Coming in at night, you're never quite sure what you're going to wake up to. Across the narrow inlet opposite the town quay was a beautiful parkland peninsula covered in pine trees and cypress. Beyond the bay to the east, snow covered Mt. Parnassus dominated the horizon and on its lower slopes lay Delphi and the oracle. Forecasts had worsened again. The sheltered, double harbour at Galaxidi, a major centre for seafaring and shipbuilding in the 1800s, was totally oblivious to the forceful westerlies driving down the gulf of Corinth. Looking at the next few days, only tomorrow, Saturday, offered any possibility of moving on.

Looking at a town quayside from the stern of a boat at night
The sheltered harbour at Galaxidi

By ten o'clock we were outside the Nautical Museum, what used to be a sea captain's house, waiting for it to open. The museum pays homage to the great days of sail throughout the ages. The plethora of nauticalia on display includes sextants, compasses, weaponry from the Greek war of Independence as well as collections of stamps from all parts of the world, featuring ships and sailors. Amongst them were stamps of the clippers, Cutty Sark and Thermopylae. The latter built in the Hood yard, Aberdeen. In 1872, in a race from Shanghai, Thermopylae came home a week ahead of Cutty Sark. The same Hood yard built, Gazele, a 98ft schooner, commissioned by my great grandmother's family, Christopher, who were shipmasters from Aberdeen and Dundee. Possibly from where Andrew gets his thirst for the sea. An afternoon of ouzo mellowed us out. Saturday dawned entirely peaceful.

An old compass
One of the relics from the Nautical museum at Galaxidi

Testing The Waters...

Unruffled as the harbour's waters were, it would be different out in the gulf. We thought we'd poke our nose out and take a look, the objective being Nafpaktos, 35nm to the west just before the Patras bridge. In the bay we motor sailed along the coast to the headland, passing fish cages where a fleet of dolphins were breakfasting. Out in the gulf, gusts darkened the surface and the white horses seemed close to stampede. With a storm jib and two reefs in the main, we steered a course best to windward, tacking across the gulf. Further west, the wind was pushing the sea through the narrow gap at the Patras bridge, generating two to three metre breaking rollers. The Tiki was holding her own but only just. Waves breaking across the starboard bow dumped shedloads of water into the cockpit. It was unrelenting and, for a while, so were we. Another five or six hours of this, we'd still be a long way from Nafpaktos. More than halfway across we looked at each other and shook our heads. Turning away to port, we headed back to Galaxidi, completing a little outing of 10nm. Compensation came in the form of a slapup dinner at Abovo restaurant.

Steps leading down to a catamaran on the water
Step aboard!
A quay with boats and people and snowy mountain tops in the distance
Snow capped Mt. Parnassus draws us to Delphi

Temple Of Apollo

The next weather window opened on Monday. Meanwhile, as the gods decreed, we took the bus to Delphi. Walking up to the temple of Apollo, Andrew spoke of when the Dorians came to consult the oracle, as so many did back then, from all over the known world. They wanted to know whether it was a good idea to dig a a canal to separate the Dorian peninsula from the mainland. Pythia gave them their answer. 'If the gods wanted it, they would have made it so.' Above and beyond the temple, the stadium was closed for renovation. Hardly surprising since it had been built back in the 4th century BC. Wandering among the ruins we spoke of the Oracle's three maxims: know thyself, nothing in excess, and surety brings ruin or make a pledge and mischief is nigh. It seemed as though the Ancient Greek gods held a mirror up to human nature inviting mankind to seek guidance from within. In comparison, contemporary religions appear much more prescriptive.

Ruins of an old temple in the mountains
Temple of Apollo

Over the road down by the gymnasium, where the word was invented, we strolled around the soaring stone pillars of the Tholos. On the way back, by the roadside, the Castalian sacred spring slaked our thirst, a source supposedly for poetic inspiration though quite possibly the cause of a nasty lurgi we experienced a day or two later.

Old stone pillars
Stone pillars of the Tholos

On a hot afternoon, most dogs in Delphi lay sprawled out, asleep in the sun. Except for two, heavy duty mongrels, patrolling the 30kph limit. Waiting for the bus back to Galaxidi, we watched them take exception to particular passing vehicles. For some reason, white pickups set them off, barking, bumper chewing and trying to have a go at the driver.

A man drinking from a spring
The spring of poetic lurgi

A Stop At Nafpaktos

On the Monday, we waited patiently for the weather to improve, with time for a good lunch to sustain us for the long night ahead. Out in the gulf beyond the fish cages, conditions had improved. A more northerly wind angle gave us a better point of sail. A few tacks were required but with Hattie's help, the Gulf of Corinth was narrowing as we approached Nafpaktos, scene of the battle of Lepanto in 1572 when the Christian alliance turned the tide on the westward advance of the Ottoman empire.

An illuminated bridge crossing the water in the dark
Patras bridge approaches

The wind dropped. As night fell we were running along the southern shore, making good time, guided by lights of habitation on both sides of the gulf. Four miles short of the Patras bridge, Andrew radioed in. 'Bridge control, bridge control, bridge control. This is sailing catamaran, Dragonfly, 8 metres long, 4.5 metres wide. Two persons on board. Come in please.' Bridge control instructed us to take the north channel under the bridge, three pillars to our left and one to our right. Ahead of us, the illuminated single span looked like an arrow trail, fletched by four towers, arcing over the one mile gap between mainland Greece and the Peleponese. Steering to starboard, a big freighter came up behind and passed us. We followed in its wake. A mile from the bridge, around 9pm, Andrew called in again confirming our course. Then, from Bridge control: 'Dragonfly, where are you?' Probably unfamiliar with spotting lights of a vessel so small. 'Half a mile east of the bridge.' Andrew replied. 'Oh, there you are! I see you now. Proceed.'

Passing under the Patras bridge wasn't taking the chequered flag but it meant we were on the penultimate lap. The elation of the moment lasted just that. A couple of hours later, hugging the northern shore of the gulf of Patras, our spirits were flagging, exacerbated by a cold southerly breeze and lumpy sea state.


'Dad, what do you think about grabbing a few hours rest in Missolonghi? And cook up some hot food.' I nodded enthusiastically. 'Ok then. Look out for a South Cardinal, flashing white, on the starboard side, denoting shallows and the outer marker for the Missolonghi channel.' My night vision was dismal but improved after cleaning sea spray salt from my varifocals. Soon enough we picked up the flashing Cardinal and an hour later, rounded the marker heading north four miles to the narrow channel entrance, then another two miles to the marina. Missolonghi, set amid shallow salt marshes, is approached by a long canal, dredged to 6 metres. Coming in from seaward, it's important to keep within the buoys. So says Rod Heikell. The port light was spotted through swirling mist. We motor sailed past it and kept our heading though we couldn't see the next set of lights. The illuminated airstrip that is the entrance to the river Hamble, it's not. 'To starboard, Dad.' A sharp command from Andrew, as the Tiki narrowly avoided a tall concrete bollard with no light. Assisted by the causeway road lights to starboard, we navigated gingerly towards the lagoon and dropped the hook outside the marina at 1am, lengthening the anchor rope to get sufficient bite in the muddy basin.

We'd covered 60nm from Galaxidi. 'I think hot food would go down better in the morning,' I suggested as we shared a nightcap of local rose wine, perfectly quaffable at less then €4 for a litre and a half. Before calling it a day, Andrew used the jib halyard to hoist a makeshift anchor light.

A beautiful orange sunrise illuminating the water
A beautiful sunrise at Missolonghi

In the night a few kaikis were heard chugging by. Later, grey light seeping through my cabin windows revealed heavy condensation. Decoupling from a damp sleeping bag, I dragged back the hatchcover and poked my head above the parapet. If I never saw another sunrise, it wouldn't matter. In the breathless air, an orange glow peeping through the distant hills was mirrored in the smooth lagoon. This was where Byron caught a fever and died, fighting in the war for Greek independence. A naval hero of ours, Thomas Cochrane, was also involved in that war though he found much greater success skirmishing in South America.

Kefalonia - The Chequered Flag

Andrew cooked breakfast of gigantes beans in a spicy sauce with mini frankfurters. Together with hot coffee, that set us up for the day. But the condensation overnight had put the dampener on Hattie and the little diva took forever to start. Eventually we weighed anchor at 8.30am, in calm conditions, with light southerly winds forecast for the 33nm to Poros on the east coast of Kefalonia.

The bow of a catamaran heading into a blue skied horizon
Drying out on deck, heading for Kefalonia

Beyond the lagoon, the flat hinterland, low lying buildings and sparse vegetation looked like a scene from South east Asia. Dilapidated wooden chalets attached to ramshackle pontoons defined both sides of the long canal as we made our way seaward. At the channel entrance, full sails were hoisted taking us west along the coast. Sleeping bags dried out in the sunshine and the chess board came out. By late morning the Tiki was leaving the mainland, heading out into the Ionian Sea. Kefalonia, sixth largest island in Greece, was nowhere to be seen, hidden in a haze. 'It's dead ahead, Dad.' Andrew insisted. 'Oh, yeah.' My level of scepticism as to what to expect had ramped up majorly during the course of this odyssey.

A tabletop compass on deck
Maintaining a bearing for the finish line

Just in case, the tabletop compass was set and while Andrew went for a kip, I steered south west 240 degrees. Still not a sailboat to be seen. Ithaca appeared out of the haze to the north west. And then, high in the sky ahead, above the clouds, there was the tip of Mt. Ainos. At 1628 metres the highest point on Kefalonia. Hallelujah! Under sail, with our speed falling off below 4kts, Hattie came into play. The haze was lifting to reveal the full extent of Kefalonia. The Tiki's bows pointed at the deep cleft in the hills above the port of Poros. The local Levante ferry was steaming up hard along the coast from the north. It got in just ahead of us.

Approaching the harbour wall, Andrew dropped the sails and we motored past the ferry to tie up on an empty pontoon. It was 2.30pm on Tuesday 21st February. We had left Kos 23 days before. In between, the little boat had sailed 422nm, ten times further than it ever had before. We set up springs, secured fenders, and tidied up all the lines to make her shipshape. Standing in the cockpit, we grinned at each other and hugged. 'We did it! We did it, Dad!' Andrew kept saying, almost in surprise. And I wondered what unspoken doubts he may have harboured in the difficult moments.

Catamaran rafted to a pontoon, a big ferry in the background
Dragonfly's final stop!

The Finish Line

The whisky came out. We drank to the Tiki, for getting us here. It had taken much longer than was planned but then so had building her. Odysseys are like that. We knew each other now much more than we ever had before. With or without the Oracle, we also knew more about ourselves. A white Chevy pulled up at the end of the dock. Amalia stepped out, now a month more pregnant than when she last saw Andrew, and together with her father Agamemnon, joined us on the Tiki. More celebrations, more whisky, and photographs, while Agamemnon and I, pappous to be, puffed on cigars.

Three smiling people on a boat, in a harbour under sunshine
Agamemnon, Amalia and Andrew celebrating the completion of the Tiki odyssey

An hour later, the Chevy had taken us all to Argostoli, administrative capital of Kefalonia, and home to the Stefanatis family hotel. Gathered around the dinner table that evening, Leask, Stefanatis, and Ruijg, family members toasted a successful outcome. They had all played their part. In equal measure, glasses were raised to Jackie, daughter Kirsty and her partner, Charlie, for their unerring encouragement and support throughout our adventure. As remote as we may have been at times, it had brought us all much closer together. A few days later Andrew and Agamemnon sailed the Tiki a final 30nm round the southern tip of Kefalonia to a marina in Argostoli, her new home.

Two happy smiling sailors on a boat
Father and son, the two happy sailors

An Homeric odyssey takes ten years. This one had taken less than a month, though the unrelenting intensity of living in the here and now made it seem much longer. As a rite of passage, the little boat had been proven to be seaworthy. In time to come, maybe high seas worthy. We had learned a lot more about the Tiki and how she sails, about Hattie, about ourselves. Beyond that, the odyssey had given us a better understanding of the people and places of the Greek islands and a deeper respect for the seas that surround them.

A catamaran sailing against a cliff backdrop covered in shrubbery
Journey's end, Argostoli bay

A True Odyssey?

There is a final twist to this tale. Unbeknown to us when we set out, were we recreating a very ancient journey and was our final destination the Ithaca that Homer wrote about in his epic poem? In the book Odysseus Unbound by Robert Bittlestone, there is compelling evidence to suggest that the western peninsula of Kefalonia was once an island and that island was Ithaca, which would mean Dragonfly is now moored at the entrance to Odysseus's harbour and that what we undertook was a true odyssey.

Follow Roy and Andrew's adventure in this short video documentary filmed during the voyage.