Ionian Sea

11. Preveza to Split 2022

Engine repair and launch at Preveza

Graptolite spent the best part of four years in the boatyard of Cleopatra Marina in Preveza mostly due to Covid lockdowns. Idleness like this does a boat no good at all and we had some bad problems with sticky bacteria clogging up the fuel tank and fuel lines and corrosion in the engine. The engine was so bad that I even bought a new engine from a Volvo-Penta dealer in Lefkas, but they were unable to deliver it in a reasonable time and I got my money back. We went back to Plan A which was to try to get the old engine running again. The engine was lifted out of the boat on September 10th and put back in again twelve days later. We rigged up a temporary 70 litre fuel tank with a lot of jerrycans of diesel. After reconnecting the engine, on September 24th we launched and sailed to nearby Preveza Marina to wait for the electrician to fit a new alternator. Work was completed the following Monday and we sailed out into the Ionian Sea. About 5 miles out the engine overheated and the batteries were not charging. I poured a bucket of water in the seawater filter which fixed the overheating problem and later I found a battery isolation switch left in the wrong position. Apart from that, the old engine was as good as new.

North to Corfu, Albania and Montenegro

By evening we reached Gouvia Marina in Corfu where we stopped for the night and topped up with diesel. At first light we sailed along the mountainous and bleak coast of Albania. As night fell we anchored for a few hours in a remote bay near Vlore hoping not to be boarded by the Albanian coastguard. The following day we crossed into Montenegro waters and tried another nap in a remote bay but with less success. As we were crossing the Croatian border we were chased by a Montenegro police launch and taken into Kotor to pay a small fine for not spending half a day and a lot of money on the official formalities. They clearly watch all bays very closely. It actually turned out to be cheaper and quicker than doing things properly but we will probably go via the Italian coast next time.

Arriving in Croatia for lift-out

We did clear into Croatia in Dubrovnik in the authorized way and spent the night in Marina Frapa. By coincidence, the cruise ship that H has been working on, the AIDAblu, on was also in port and we invited the Captain, Peter Schade, over for breakfast. As we were sailing out of Dubrovnik port we had a salute on the ship’s horn. This is apparently a great honour as it is normally reserved for captains leaving the ship. Our next overnight stop was a bay on the island of Korcula and the following day we arrived at Marina Kastela which was our final stop before hauling out for a refit. If the money holds up we intend to get a bow-thruster fitted, new standing rigging, new upholstery and mattresses, new navigation instruments and radar and new decking. The boat is 21 years-old this year and has done over 60,000NM so she deserves a facelift.

Lift-out was on October 7th and we flew back to Berlin on the 8th.

10. Ionian Sea, Corfu, Greece, Albania 2018-2022

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Lido di Jesolo, Italy to Preveza, Greece, May 2018

During early May 2018 we relaunched Graptolite at Porto Turistico di Jesolo and Heike and I together with friend Hilmar set off south down the Adriatic to a new home in Greece.

It was about 700NM and we had a few overnight stops in Croatia and had an overnight passage skirting around the 12 mile limit off Albania to Corfu. Albania has had a bad rap in recent years for being difficult to clear into and having thieves run off with your kit.

In Corfu, we anchored off the Old Fortress but had some trouble with the starter motor and I had to tow Grapto with the dinghy into NAOK marina. Some very helpful guys there got us going again by whacking the motor with a hammer.

Hilmar left for home and Heike and I sailed on south to Preveza where we wanted to check out Cleopatra Marina as a winter berth. We arrived in the dark and anchored about 100 metres from the marina entrance. The next morning the starter motor wouldn’t respond to any amount of hammering and we had to have another tow from the marineros onto a pontoon. The name Cleopatra Marina is not quite as twee as it sounds. It is a homage to the sea battle of Actium (31BC) which was nearby. This was a fight between Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. Octavian won.

Preveza, Paxos, Lefkada, Meganisi, Vonitsa June 2018

Heike left to go to work and I pottered about at anchor until early June when John and Alison came to the boat for week. We meandered about, first going north to Paxos and then south to  Lefkada and Meganisi then north again to Vonitsa in the bay of Amvrakikos near Preveza. The only mini-disaster was the engine over-heating while we in the Lefkas Canal. There was a strong cross-wind and we drifted gently into some rocks in the few minutes the engine was off while I got the airlock out of the seawater cooling system. A few scrapes on the anti-fouling but nothing serious.

Corfu, July 2018

I sailed single-handed back to Corfu after that and then hung around NAOK marina for most of the rest of June and July except for a quick trip to Norway. NAOK was initially free-of-charge for some legal dispute reason but then they started charging and I went back to anchoring in the bay. The marina had no facilities anyway except for a concrete wall to bang into when the swell from the big ships comes.

Sarande, Albania, August 2018

Heike came back in early August and we had a sail to Sarande, Albania. We took in some tourist sites there. One was the very popular Blue Eye spring. Very cold water. Another was the Greek, Roman, Medieval archaeological site of Butrint. Albania turned out to be very pleasant. We had to employ a shipping agent for the formalities, which is a bit unusual in this part of the world, and we were expected to berth near the port police station but apart from that everyone was very nice. including the chap who helped Heike use a local ATM. After leaving Albania we did a circumnavigation anticlockwise around Corfu and then south to Paxos and on to Preveza for the haul out for winter.

Preveza, 2019

2019 was very busy for us with non-sailing travel (see and we missed the season.

Preveza, 2020

During 2020, COVID-19 put a stop to visits to Greece. We booked and paid for a lot of time in Preveza Marina. Hopefully, we have not lost that money.

Preveza, 2021

COVID-19 is still doing its thing. The last update here is May 2021 and still it’s not really possible to get back to Preveza although Greece claims to be open. I am waiting on my second Astra-Zeneca which will be in July. Hopefully we can go then with a Covid passport but Grapto is likely to be uninhabitable after so long. Earlier this year we considered selling and getting a motor yacht but it didn’t work out and we are now intending to completely refit the old girl with new navigation electronics and other kit.

Preveza, 2022

From May to September, I spent many weeks, months, onboard in the scorching heat of Cleopatra Marina boatyard trying to bring the old girl back to life. Admittedly, this was alternated with cruise ship runs through the Ionian, Aegean and Adriatic Seas (see . The biggest frustration was after servicing the engine and having bits replaced it turned out that the diesel tank was gummed up with diesel bug and the oil-pan was leaking badly. I ordered a new engine but delivery would have been months away so it was cancelled and we had the old engine lifted out to see if it could be repaired. New parts for our problem are impossible to get as well so we had a used oil-pan shipped down from Split, Croatia. We are still waiting for it as I write.

09. Northern Adriatic Sea, 2011-2017

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This blog covers a long stay in Lido di Jesolo on the edge of the Venetian lagoon where cruising was mostly with various friends and family on a frequently used weekend circuit. The usual route would be to leave the Porto Turistico di Jesolo marina and go down the Fiume Sile, not infrequently getting stuck on a sandbar in the mouth of the river, and then out to sea and back into the Venice lagoon and along the Giudecca Canal cruising past St Mark’s and as far as the cruise ship port. Turning around we would then go to Murano and moor alongside in a canal there for the night. Then off to Burano to anchor for another night and return to Fiume Sile the next day. Most of the lagoon is too shallow for sailing boats, the water is very rough from all the water traffic and because of many cables buried in the mud, there are very few places to anchor so options are limited. Sometimes we stayed out of the lagoon and would sail eastwards but that coast is not very interesting. One time, we delivered my Uncle Frank and Aunt Brenda to their cruise ship by parking under the cruise ship’s bow. Security was not happy. Another time, we were not paying attention to the dates and got accidentally mixed up in the middle of the Americas Cup race off St Marks. The water police made us anchor in, perhaps, the best spectating spot available and we watched the race eating lasagne. And once I tried a late-season run south to Corfu with friends Ian and John. We got as far as mid-Croatia but gave up due to timing and weather. After almost seven years of of this unadventurous stuff we needed a change and relocated to Preveza, Greece in the Ionian Sea.

Mostly I didn’t keep a regular blog over this period. These are some of the few events I wrote down at the time. They cover a time when we we re-fitting for another around-the-world trip which we planned to do in stages during H’s cruise ship work vacations. It didn’t really happen as some health issues got in the way.

02-22.02.2016 Lido di Jesolo, Venice, Boat repairs and a visa for India

Grapto was not really fit for human habitation after so long on the hard so I stayed for a couple of nights in a hotel in Lido di Jesolo while I got things working. The main thing was new house batteries which I got in “Casa di Batteria” in Jesolo. Countless other essential bits a pieces were sourced in the local chandleries.

I had a quick trip on the ferry to St Mark’s to catch the tail end of the Carnivale in Venice. I just missed the fireworks and the whole piazza was ankle deep in confetti with a few masked revellers lying around looking stunned. I’ll make a better showing another year.

I needed a tourist visa for India so I could go ashore from H’s cruise ship in March (Plan A) I applied for an e-visa which is a wholly unnecessary bit of bureaucracy in this modern age but it turned out to be no good if arriving in India by boat. So (Plan B), I schlepped from Venice to Milan to go to the Indian Embassy to get a full-blown tourist visa. The embassy, which is just behind La Scala opera house, was stuffed with Indians trying to get home to the mother country. I think some of them had been there for days. After all kinds of adventures trying to get the specified size of passport photograph  I was told they would keep my passport for 8-15 days. With a Pakistan visa already in my passport my guess is I would be lucky to ever see my passport again. So that was a waste of two days of driving, 40 Euros in road tolls and an overnight hotel stay. Plan C is to try again in Bangkok. (Note: Bangkok didn’t work either.)

So back to working on the the boat. It rained almost continuously for two weeks and working outside with power tools is not recommended in the rain so it slowed things down a bit and soon it was time to head off to Marco Polo Airport for the flight to Abu Dhabi and Bangkok. See our trip Saigon to Venice.

13.-24.06.2016 Lido di Jesolo, Antifouling and Re-flagging

Progress was made with the antifouling. It is a nasty job but two coats of Primocon and two coats of Micron in a fetching navy blue have made it all look nice again. After four years in the boatyard Grapto was finally on the move. With a British Red Ensign and Italian and Venetian courtesy flags flying majestically she made the short voyage from the cradle into the water and was towed another 50 metres into a berth. This was Grapto’s last voyage under the “Red Duster” as she is now German-flagged but we had no actual German flag to hand. Being towed onto a berth felt a bit like we were the “Fighting Temeraire” although unlike that ship it is planned that Grapto will battle again. The reflagging was not really a “Brexit” protest, although it might have been if I had thought of it, it was just that a revised Part 1 registration suitable for my UK residency status was going to be expensive to arrange as all local marine surveyors qualified to take a tape-measure to the boat wanted several thousand euros to confirm what they could have found out from a catalogue.