July 20th to July 21st
We say goodbye to Barry and Ellen as they are flying to Croatia. We spend the day getting the boat ready for the journey over to the heel of Italy. It is a relaxing day with lots of chores done at an easy pace.
The next day, we head out past the northern end of Corfu and then go west to the outermost island on Greece that is closest to Italy. The intention is to spend the night there and then cross over to Italy early the following morning.
The northern coast of Corfu is beautiful, with aquamarine seas, sculptured white cliffs and water that looked clear, but was not. So, we did not realize we were in shallow water until it was too late. We went aground as the boat bumped into the rocky bottom. The chart showed 4 meters, but there had to have been a shift on the ocean bottom, as we were in less than 2 meters. They had very rough seas the prior few days.
Once we realized we were stuck, John immediately started changing the distribution of weight on the boat. The water in our full tanks were dumped. The spare diesel in several containers went overboard into the water on a line attached to the boat. Anchors, dinghy motor and various other heavy items were shifted to the bow of the boat. We also hit the bottom at low tide on a full moon, so in the next thirty minutes, the tide was also working in our favor.
Diving under the boat did not help establish what we were hung up on, as the water was very murky – a beautiful color, but very murky. I called the coast guard in case we could not get the keel off the bottom, and that started a chain that could not be reversed. They dispatched a tug boat with divers, and soon after they left and about an hour after we got stuck, John was able to maneuver the boat out of the rocks and we were again mobile.
However, since the coast guard was notified, we needed to get the hull, keel and rudder inspected for safety to make sure there was no structural damage. The coast guard showed up and escorted us into the nearest harbor. Luckily, there was no damage to the boat, other than a few chips in the rudder and keel.
This delayed our departure to Italy by a day, as I needed to get paperwork from the surveyor and diver clearing the boat for structural damage, then had to take the paperwork to the port authorities for clearance so we could finally leave for Italy.
Sailing in Greece is trying, to say the least. Very little is marked in the ocean, and the charts are not always accurate. The tug boat company we dealt with says they alone dislodge about three grounded boats a day in the summer, and in most cases, there is serious damage to the hull or rudder. John’s quick actions saved our boat. The sea conditions were also working in our favor, as the boat was not too strongly pounded by waves into the rocks. We also did not sit there for two long. It generally takes about 2 – 3 hours for the tug boat to show up from the time it is called into action.
You do not pay for berths, so technically, it is very inexpensive to sail in Greece, as basically your “accommodation” is free, but just about everyone we spoke to who had been sailing in Greece had a story to tell where they ended up paying quite a price for repairs or assistance. Quite honestly, I would prefer a more structured environment that is safer and is paid for, as opposed to spending hours worrying each day if the boat is OK and if the anchor will hold if the winds pick up.