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  LEFKAS

4. Greece 3. after the return from Hortó,

autumn and winter 2009-2010.

 

 

 

 

Nehalinnia at HORTO  

Rien n'est jamais plus cruel que les rêves qui se réalisent.* 
Jean d'Ormesson, Le vent du soir.
... because now we are facing the choice we had wanted to ignore during a long time. We know that if we leave Greece next spring, we never will return by our boat. When we had imagined this project we had taken into account the possibility to stay one year more in Greece. However we never had thought that this should be now a dilemma, balancing constantly between delight and irritation, between the love and the hatred for this country. This country where we arrived for the first time in 1975, attracts and repels, such as a magnificent diamond, still very raw(gross), and nevertheless already too badly cut. This country, also, where we saw, alas, dying too many boats, tired and worn, like their owners, in search of impossible dreams of eternal suns ...
* Nothing is more cruel than dreams coming true.
 

 

Overview and notes about cruising and harbours click here.

 

25.09.09: Lefkas Marina.

12 o'clock. Wind, E then S, 13 then 25 kn Kaat is coming back from the fitness session, organized by the wife of the marina manager twice a week. She does also some shopping. The daily routine starts again, now that we are back in the marina. Not a unpleasant change - really not, we think - after our five months trip. Eric has already updated a part of the website, but he has still a lot of text to write for the French and the English pages ... And we have to complete the photo album. A good shower will refresh his inspiration.

   

1 p.m. Rain and thunderclouds are huddling ... Light south wind. Some drops. Suddenly a violent gust, strong southerly winds.

3 p.m. Heavy rain. Ink black sky. We think it is better to disconnect the electronics - that will make the fourth time! In all its intensity the thunderstorm breaks loose. Violent. Lightning. Orange and blue flashes. Hissing crackles. Deep rumbling of thunder. Shrill, too. Violent bangs. Impacts of mortar. The wind howls. Torrents of rain. We connect the anemometer - just for a moment - 31 kn A lot of sailboats are entering the marina. Through sheets of rain - the visibility is now very bad - the sodden marina staff is trying to direct the boats to free berths. Intense and rough waltz of the marina dinghies. The gusts are sometimes so violent that some skippers do not dare to moor. They wait. Many charter boats, too, appear at the entrance. It's Friday afternoon: time for the crew change. After two or three weeks, for most of them, it's the end of expensive holidays... North wind, now.

5.15 p.m. The storm leaves Alfas and the soaked harbour. Newly winds. It's still raining. Heavily ... With skepticism Kaat is looking outside while she opens the newspaper. Lefkas ... last year ... is it already the same weather, again? Bis repetita non placent! [*]

[* Lat.fr.transl. we will not appreciate it twice]

 

 

23.10.09: Lefkas Marina.

 
 
 

Meanwhile, the flotilla season runs to the end - finally, because it was still very busy mid-October! The marina regains its quietness and becomes mainly neater. But to many times the weather is the poor factor. Serious perturbations associated with lows in the central Mediterranean Sea are regularly moving over Lefkas. After a wet month of September, October till today counts more days with rain than without. The heavy rainfall is usually associated with thunderstorms as the cold air masses are sliding over the warm sea and the land, providing very spicy effects, still reinforced by the mountains.

Gale warnings from 16H30 on October 23, 2009 of the HNMS (This report was also broadcast by NAVTEX). For North Ionio: SSE gale 8, locally strong gale 9[...], a VHF radio traffic reported 45 knots, we measured 35 knots in the marina. Low: over Tyrrenian Sea lies a centre of 995 hPa, over Central Italy one of 1000 hPa, high: 1017 hPa over Aegean Sea
 

 

Now back to the beginning of the month of October...

The elections of October 4, gave the Nea Demokratia (N.D.), the party of resigning Prime Minister Karamanlis, a resounding defeat. Big winner is George Papandreou; with his PASOK party: he obtains an absolute majority in parliament. Kostas Karamanlis did with early elections a desperate attempt to find an exit out of the political impasse and of the non-govern by his government, weakened by numerous corruption scandals, while Greece was descending further into a deep financial, economic and social crisis (GDP deficit in 2009 12.5 %). Surrounded by a group of younger politicians and with a promising program Papandreou could win the voters for him, partly at the expense of other leftist parties including the more left Syriza-coalition, while Karamanlis also lost on his right side to the LAOS party. Despite a certain plebiscite and the high score of PASOK - 160 seats with 43.92% of the votes to 33.48% and only 91 seats for the N.D. - these elections had a high degree of resignation, which brought some commentators to consider the victory of Papandreou more as the result of the rejection of Karamanlis and his Nea Demokratia than a genuine belief in the PASOK program. This program is so ambitious that it is right to doubt whether this is not too ambitious, or - and we are aware about our question - if Greece really can handle such profound changes and ... really want them! However this new social-democratic government gets generally much credit. Also in the economic world the attitude is positive. In all modesty, we like to join it!

 

 

[A selection out of the program: boosting the economy (raising the lowest wages, pensions and benefits, measures to promote small businesses), reducing the debt, tax reform, combat fraud and corruption, decentralization of decisions, reforming the electoral system and electoral law, combat clientelism, tackling bureaucracy, reform of public administration to citizens, open recruitment, tackle insecurity, reform of education, health and justice (transparency), choice for (green) technology, environmentally oriented policies, good neighbourly relations with Turkey, resolving the Cyprus issue ..., the guidance is "[to] adapt Greece to European and international standards ", MP Miltiadis Papaioannou in: Athens News, October 9, 2009, p .8]

For those who wants to know more about the reactions of Greek people ... reactions in: Athens News, nr 13359, 9-15 October 2009, click here; see also www.athensnews.eu

about Greece, see Some facts and dates ) *

about corruption: in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking table 2009 of 180 countries Greece is at the 71st place with a CPI of 3.8, ex aequo with Bulgaria, FYR Makedonia and Romania; New-Zealand has the best ranking (9.4), Denemarken is second (9.3), then (3) Singapore (9.2), (4) Sweden (9.2), (5) Switzerland (9.0), (6) ex aequo the Netherlands and Finland (8.9), (14) Germany (8.0), (17) the United-Kingdom (7.7), (19) the United-States (7.5), (21) Belgium (7.1), (24) France (6.9), (32) Spain (6.1), (63) Italy (4.3), (180) Somalia (1.1) ( source: Tranparency International, www.transparency.org )

 

 

 

During spring we have been there already for a checkup. We were pleasantly surprised about this modern dental practice that a, in the United Kingdom trained and in dental implant specialised, couple of dentists has opened here in Lefkas At the end of the return trip from Hortó Eric had some problems with a sensitive tooth. A root canal treatment is necessary to preserve - absolutely - the tooth but in this case the intervention will be particularly complicated and our dentist sends us to a colleague specialised in endodontics. For this we need to go Patras , at more than ... 200km. But we decide to make the best of a bad hand: it will be an opportunity for a new experience in dentistry in Greece, again we will drive through new places and now we will pass the new bridge of Rio-Antirrio driving over it instead of sailing under it. We'll have to go twice to Patras. Because going by bus will not make things easy, we rent a car for some time being thus much more mobile.

 

7 &13.10.09. Visiting a dentist in Patras... ( Eric tells the story )

My first appointment. The trip goes via Vonitsa, then along the great inland sea - the Amvrakikos kolpos - to Amfilochia. There we have to turn south-east. A very recently opened stretch of the future Ionian highway connecting Patras and Athens to Ioannina more in the north allows us to avoid the very busy and unpleasant road via Agrinio. In Ioannina the motorway will be connected - when finished - to the west-east highway Igoumenitsa - Alexandropouli, near the Turkish border, which opened a few months ago. In Ellenika we reach the old two stroke-road to Athens. Driving here quite close along the north of the Patraikos Kolpos and approaching the large and impressive bridge we get a beautiful view of the gulf. The passage fees are 11.70 euros. Really not as elegant as the viaduct at Millau in France, we are thinking again. Patras, 174.000 inhabitants. Patras, the city that never sleeps and where traffic never stops, we read in our Guide du Routard. We are quite fast in the hellish traffic although while we are on the Fast road leading us directly to the heart of the modern city, the harbour, we can breathe easier. We succeed - only after driving some circles - to find a parking to get rid of our car during a few hours, for 6 euros. We are a little too early and it's nice weather: on a terrace at one of the busy squares the city counts, at Olgas Square - Platia Olgas - we can relax. This part of the city is a patchwork of rather narrow and very similar streets, perpendicular to each other. The buildings are fairly uniform, apartment buildings of four or five stories. The ground floor is always occupied by shops, bars and restaurants. We notice a large number of nice cloth shops and chic boutiques; a number of new fast food restaurants. There are a lot of people on terraces and in the cafés.

Korinthou, one of the main streets of Patras, a few minutes walk from Platia Olgas. At 10.57 a.m. we arrive at the five-store , apartment block, looking dull and little dingy, where we should be. A gypsy woman with several young children is sitting on the entrance steps. Many times we have noticed that the Greeks are tolerant towards beggars. An indifferent tolerance that doesn't prevent them to have a positive response when solicited, but nothing more. Tolerant also towards the Roma, quite numerous in Greece; they often travel around selling their goods, from village to village.

Not by the lift but by the little dark stairs we reach the first floor. We ring. Behind the massive and blinded door of the dental surgery we enter in a very tastefully decorated waiting room. Yellow ocher, soft leather seats and a glass table, on which some magazines and look books; on the wall a plasma screen on which a National Geographic program is broadcast. We have just flattered down in the comfortable seats when a smiling, nice young assistant of the dentist appears asking us in neat English to be patient, for some moments.

At exactly 12 o'clock, just after the next patient had arrived, we leave the office, led out by the assistant, who wishes us a good trip and reminding us the second appointment.

I am still a little impressed by this first treatment when am telling "No, I've felt no real pain, sometimes a pressure [...], yes, of course, that long time with gaping mouth is little difficult and annoying the second injection at the inside of the gum [...]. Yes, here too, the treating tooth has been completely isolated [...] first, the dentist has put a kind of a clip, then a thin soft rubber screen over my whole mouth [...] A friendly, very nice man, rather young [ ...]. Very much routine, everything very coordinated ... they were three, yeah, two assistants. [...] A very good impression, very driven in his work. [...] A completely new equipment, at many times he was working with a microscope. Really very high precision. [...] Yes, he speaks very fluent English. But most of all, his drive makes impression, and his penetrating gaze, but always with a smile ... "

We go to the yacht harbour, where we never have been before. The nice weather and what we believe to be considered as lunchtime make it very busy in the large bars along the marina. We walk to the three docks . The first two are almost fully occupied by local sailing boats, the building of the sailing club with a restaurant nearby, is located just behind the first, the most northern dock. The visitors pontoon is located in the most southern part of the yacht harbour, which is also closest to the ferry harbour. At every berth there is water and electricity, but the whole marina does not seem so sheltered by strong winds, especially from the west and the north. But today there is no wind and thus also at the visitor pontoon looks comfortable.

Crossing again the Promontories bridge we return in the direction of Alfas via Mussolini. The section of highway under construction is only open in N-S direction so that the coastal road from Mussolini to Stakes and Palpations is a pleasant alternative to the tedious return along Marino and Mafiosi. Stakes was a possible stop on our return trip from Horton. But then we opted for a crossing to Va thy on Yitzhak. Now we would like to have a look at Stakes. We go by the salt pans of Mussolini, by Netlike, Anechoic en Pedal. This is the plain of the River Bachelors. An amazing project wanted to move the headwaters of this important watercourse to deliver more water to the heavily subsidized cotton fields in the north.

  LEFKAS to PATRAS  

This unecological and most absurd plan is now apparently abandoned by the new government. Meanwhile my anaesthesia is almost worked out so we could eat a bit - it's now about 3.15 p.m.. Astakos is really disappointing: sloppy and deserted, no really nice tavernas but big restaurants with ... empty terraces. Despite the nice weather we get not enthusiastic.The only small restaurant that we necessarily pick out is finally worth nothing: Kaat doesn't touch her almost completely charred Bifteki while it's very hard for me to eat the tsaziki with to big cucumber cuts - the only food I should be able to eat. The harbour - in fact only a quay open to the south and a pier - where two work ships for the fish farms and four sailing boats are moored, is also disappointing. We decide not to stay any longer and to go to Pálairos, at 54 km. The main part of this coastal road, with very little traffic, is bordering beautiful bays. Especially the view of the numerous islands , the small ones - around N. Dragoneira -, the medium ones - Atokos, Kastos, Meganisi - and the bigger ones - Ithaka, Kefallinia and Lefkas - is very beautiful. In a few bays we see fish farms of which the culture pools marked by large floating buoys marked prevent any access. In the harbour of Pálairos, where were already in spring, two sailboats and some foreign individual charter boats are moored at the concrete quay. On the wooden floating pontoon with water and electricity facilities, that kept our attention by our last visit - it was empty at that moment - is now a whole fleet of sailboats from a charter company. Pálairos isn't unpleasant and at a quiet terrace we order coffee and fresh orange juice, combining business with pleasure, because, after all, these drinks are comparative price indicators. At dusk we return to Lefkas by the road through "the ghost village" Palia Plagia.

[map: GNTO]

 

The second appointment.

By this event, one week later, we get quiet different weather: heavy rain in the early morning; in Patras, squally showers, a little later on, rainy, then bright intervals, finally it becomes sunny - at that moment it's about 1 p.m.. The W to NW-ly remains very strong.

09.45 a.m. On the motorway even less traffic than last week: we haven't seen a single car! Patras also shows a different look. No people on the terraces but in the cafés and bars it's very busy. We wonder how this can be on a Tuesday morning ... and while the current prices are very high relative to the wages!

The intervention of the endodontist happens as smoothly as at the first visit. One hour later , it's up to my dentist in Lefkada to finish the job. After paying the fees the assistant gives me a letter for the colleague and detailed information and statements for the Belgian social security and the health insurance.

This time again we have seen the other face of this country. The Greece of rather young enthusiastic people who - the ones with a very high degree of training and specialization, the others with kindness, good communication and good technical background - can compete with their equals in all countries of the European Union where they belong too. This Greece is not the country that the tourist brochures as a low cost destination like to promote with all negative consequences. Those people are aware of the problems their country is facing. Sailing here a defined trip on a small sailing boat, gets curiosity but sometimes also people are worrying about your opinion. So, I had a short conversation after the treatment about things going on. I didn't hear the so many times used answer "what can you do? This is Greece!"

So when then such people are asking time and patience for changing , we understand this is perhaps more important than subsidies ... because by them things could be on a better way ...

The Gulf of Patras too offers today a very different look. This morning the water was dark, grey-blue, under heavily overcast sky. Heavy rain could no flatten the sea built up by the wind. There was no sail in sight. Now, around noon, the sky - at least temporarily here - cleared, and the sun is shining. But there is still a strong W-NW winds of around 30 knots blowing and the seas are shining in hell white and steel blue colours. Now we want to see the yacht harbour by this weather. In the three docks the boats are pulling on their ropes and wave foam is coming over the low wall. In the most southern part the waves are rolling in. The entrance is open to the NW and the waves are creating a heavy swell. At the visitors pontoon all the boats - alongside or bow or stern to - are very heavily rolling and pitching. It looks like the pontoon will break up, so violently the different elements are moving. The crew of two Italian sailboats has apparently given up. Trying to keep his balance a man is stepping wide-legged on the pontoon, going from the farthest boat to the quay. A little further, apparently exhausted, his wife is sitting on the quay. No, this is really quite not a safe marina. Looking to the spectacle of the dancing boats, we wonder how it will be here with force 9 or more ...

Far of, on the other side of gulf, close to the coast, we distinguish in the sunlight, the white sails of boats sailing before the wind to the east ...

From our second trip to Patras we also take the opportunity to visit the harbour in Mesolongi The works in the new marina are well going on - there is now electricity on all pontoons and all berths along the quays have power supplies. We observe again the relative large number of boats that will winter here. Several boat owners we met during our summer trip, have chosen for Mesolongi, as our French friends Guy and Martine. This new marina-in-works has certainly now a number of assets, particularly including the rates ... if the wintering people have transport. We think that having no car can be difficult.

Kaat has thoroughly perused the road map. She wants to make also a stop at Mytikas. In the evening light, the view on Mytikas from the coastal road to Pálairos just before Akra Kamilafka, is very beautiful, a true postcard, but when we are entering the village the disappointment is all the greater. It looks like the many chaotic and unfinished buildings, but also the new small flats, are put down before thinking about the streets. The old town part looks also dingy. Only the pedestrian street near the harbour has some character. The harbour consists of two parts but small local boats and a small tourist boat are taking all the space. A wooden pontoon in the middle of the east dock is largely limiting berthing; a sailing boat moored alongside is also taking all the space - but we think that there is no other solution.

We take the same road to Pálairos but then we go in the direction of Vónitsa until we can turn left to Agios Nikolaos. Hence it's still 10km to Lefkada. The floating bridge - the Santa Maura ferry - between the island Lefkas and the mainland, is opening on the hour, it is therefore important if we don't want to wait, to avoid arriving then. The more we succeed.

* * *

 

Now we have for some time a car again, we make, this time with UK-friends from the marina, a few trips through the beautiful island that Lefkas indisputably is ...

   

 

 

when most tourists are gone! Crossing the high "inland" to Agios Donatos, it's always a nice experience. The autumn colours, though less rich in nuances than in our countries, are making the trips always completely different. During the few real nice days of October , the car takes us also several times to Agios Nikitas, where we reach after a steep climb and the same descent the beach of Mylos. Except some rare late sun lovers, we have this very beautiful beach with its thick white sand just for us. In contrast to our visit in the spring - and to almost the end of April - the water is very nice. We enjoy very intense those beautiful but rare late summer days.

Several times, we also visit the pleasant and good restaurant - The Katoghi - Peter and Alison have opened in the spring in Vafkeri. A major challenge, but now after a very good first season, they can look to the the future with greater confidence.

 

01.11.09: Lefkas Marina. Nice but cool weather - 14°C at midday today. In fact we get better weather since a few days - finally! -, since October 28th, the second national holiday in Greece (1940: the Italian invasion led to the resistance against Mussolini's ultimatum and defeat of the Italians, the Germans in 1941 attacked Greece): that day it was sunny with temperature about 20°C at noon.

 

03.11.09: Lefkas Marina. At 7.25 a.m. (05h25 UTC) an earthquake of 5.7-5.9 (Richter scale) created some anxieties at Zakinthos en Kefallinia (www.iris.edu/seismon & http://www.emsc-csem.org/#2), the epicentre is at about 10 km below seabed south west of Zakinthos ( 37°37'200N 20°16'800E ) but no damage nor injuries is reported. The quake was felt at Lefkas. After four days dry but relatively cool weather the very wet and windy program is back. A deep depression brings heavy rain and strong wind, south and west winds to 30 kn The whole country but especially the Pelopponesos is affected by water damage. The strong wind field keeps temporarily ferries ashore in Lavrio and Rafina, and in the Ionian and in the Aegean Sea.

 

   

 

 

When we arrived this evening to our restaurant Paramythi a unpleasant surprise awaits us. It's closed: a part of the ceiling collapsed and three large beams and plaster came down. The owner of the building is performing major renovation works rebuilding completely the upper floors above the restaurant. We were sitting there last night ... Paramythii will remain closed for a long time just now a new attraction by playing music and songs was planned from the coming Sunday ...

Many boats - whole charter fleets - are going now out of the water. However, we consider the risk of earthquakes as an important - if not as the decisive factor - for wintering afloat. Not only Lefkas and Greece but also a large part of the Mediterranean Sea are situated on major fracture lines and friction points of plates - (www.iris.edu/seismon/html/plates.html ). We could move the boat and berth now closer to the beginning of the pontoon; double mooring lines at the bow - one in tension with rubbers, the second a little slacked - and two lazy lines at the stern must increase safety of the boat. We used the few dry and sunny days to clean the sails thoroughly and to store them dry. So is Nehalinnia slowly going into her second Greek winter...

 

09.11.09: Lefkas Marina. Relatives and friends in the North, many from Nieuwpoort, still say they envy us as the winter is approaching there ... they think we are lucky being at the warm Lefkas, endless enjoying nice sunny days, looking after our sun-tanned skin on white beaches in between two refreshing swims and in the evening, at a nice terrace, enjoying delicious food and tasting divine drinks while a very light breeze is caressing the palm trees ...

Ah, if the weather charts could speak, and, could answer the e-mails and the calls, instead of us ...

 

 
temperature forecast 8-15NOV2009
precipitation forecast 8-15NOV2009
forecast U-GRIB 2009NOV08 0300UTC
 
   
 
Temperature&precipitation : www.meteopagina.nl 
U-Grib: www.grib.us
 

 

What kind of weather we have here now - and we had the previous weeks? A quite simple answer, the weather of a real poor Belgian summer!

August 25, 2005. On the way back, via Guernsey and Jersey, coming from northern Brittany - Lézardrieux, Saint-Quay-Portrieux. A few days ago we have anchored at Sark. Our friends Jacky and Françoise on their Moody 34 are anchoring a little deeper into the small bay. Jacky - old skipper of a fishing boats and "patron" of the SNSM-lifeboat from S. .. had advised us not to stay longer here and to start our return trip to Belgium. Now we stay since three days in Le Havre. For the fourth consecutive day Météo-France broadcasts a "BMS-côte": "Pour Pas de Calais et Manche-Est, avis de grand-frais à coup de vent de secteur ouest. Vent de SW 7 tournant et fraîchissant W 7 à 8, mer très agitée à forte, localement très forte".[trans. Galewarning. For Pas de Calais (Dover) and Manche-Est (Wight), near gale to gale from the West. (Wind) SW 7 turning (veering) and increasing W 7 to 8, seastate: moderate to rough, localy very rough]. In the north corner of the "digue nord", at many times waves are coming over the harbour wall, and white foam is splashing and flying around. Two fingers further a beautiful sailing yacht is moored: the Wizard of Paget. Several months ago, Boat Owner, published a four-part article about the restoration of the ship. The skipper-qwner invites us to have a drink. His wife comes back from shopping. Yes, France, they love this country, and its Atlantic and Channel coasts. Oh, no, the Mediterranean Sea ... when we speak about of our project. They do not understand our stress. "La vie est belle en France et le vin est délicieux" thats what I read in their eyes ... until they hear that Kaat has to be at school on August 30, for deliberations. "Then you could have a problem", they understand. By train, our son coming by car, but then ... what about the boat? When, the next day, I see the weather charts, the stress suddenly disappears. A well situated ridge of high pressure will bring calmer weather from August 27: two days with a SW-W 2-4, later, the third day, NE 2-3. Three days, that's exactly what we need to reach Nieuwpoort in two stops. But ... within two years, there will be no longer deadlines, and, above all, we'll get milder weather, so we think naively ...

August 2006. The end of a really poor summer. We are on the return trip from the Channel Islands to Nieuwpoort. The meeting on the Iles Chausey with our French friends, Jack and Françoise could not happen: they have been waiting a long time in Saint-Malo for the strong wind easing and better weather while we were defying the to prominent rain on Guernsey ... and re-discovering the island for the third consecutive year, by bus! But this year we are more prudent and we return earlier. Yet the weather is holding us longer than we expected: in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue - which is nót a punishment with a "plateau de fruits de mer" from l'Océane fish-shop -, and in Dieppe, 5 days ... But in Greece - and next year it will be the start of our project -, there it will be different ... A very, very long fore- and after season, that's what we hope ... The climate statistics of Weather-on-line have increased our optimistic expectations.

   

Lefkas 2009. Could this be a second bad year? When, last Tuesday, a Greek friend who saw me arriving at his home with my sailing trousers on, defying the pouring rain, he told me that he heard from his father that during autumn it can be raining here incessantly for 40 days ...

 

So, if we do not have a sunny autumn, we may still think that we are lucky: since our return from Horton on September 22, we had "only" 23 rainy days...

 

11.11.09: Alfas Marina. At 11H51(09H51 UTC) a new earthquake 5.1-5.4 on the Richter scale reminds us that the earth crust here is always submitted to very important tension as this zone is one of Europe's most seismically active. The quake has his epicentre at 10 km depth in the Ionian Sea in pos. 37°33' 000N 20°16' 200E; there are no reports of injuries or damage.

 

24.11.09: Lefkas Marina. Well ... then the Indian summer arrived! After a last last-ditch struggle on November 12th, the thunderstorm left Lefkada, hunting by a beautiful high pressure which settled down completely and proudly. Big and powerful, it reigns over a wide zone of the Mediterranean Sea. The blue sky replaced the grey and black clouds. The sun of November participates in the celebration of the beautiful, finally arrived autumn. If the temperature at noon under shelter around 18 ° seems a little bit shy, in the sun, the T-shirts and shorts again replaced trousers, pullovers and the other rain and cold weather clothes. On the other hand, and this is the levy to be paid for the clear sky, the evenings and nights, under a sky glittering with thousands stars, are really cool - fleeces required! - and in the morning boats are wet, covered with dew. The morning mists on the lagoons of Lefkada are quickly chased away and the day looks again sunny....

Is it in fact not for this weather, also, that we had dreamed - under the drizzle of the North - about "these nice autumns in Greece "?

   

 

 

 

Last week, as to celebrate the return of the good weather, at Artiria, this fascinating cultural centre situated in the marina, jazz rang till late in the night. Craig Bailey, former saxophonist of Ray Charles, accompanied by three Greek musicians, on tour in Greece, gave a concert. Melodies in the grave sounds, sometimes melancholic, alternated with lively accents of bossa nova, and the peaceful humour of the jazzman had quickly conquered the assistance! But the public got also strong enthusiastic about the performance of the Greek drummer, the very applied performance of the bassist and the personal style of the guitarist.

 

 

But our sailboat after the long summer trip requires, after the the sails care, another particular attention before the "winter break": to avoid, as much as possible,

   

   

 

a new, too brutal cleaning of the underwater hull by high pressure in the spring - the waterline still has the marks of it! -, an intervention by a brush is imperative. And the list becomes still longer: maintenance of the engine, waxing the hull, cleaning the water tank, treatment of the reservoir of waste water, removal of the sensor of log (a boring job in our boat!), rinsing the outboard and draining its carburetor, cleaning and treatment of the dinghy, check of the seals of the teak deck, cleaning of the stainless steel, and ... the list seems endless!

 

01.12.09: Lefkas Marina. Slowly the high pressure is weakening, allowing the perturbations associated with zones of low pressure on the West and the Northwest of Europe to approach Greece. The weather forecasts are relatively pessimistic: rain, thunderstorms and strong winds of the South will be in the menu, this week!

 

 
ZCZC KB52 010130 UTC NOV 09 KERKYRA RADIO GALEWARN 0285/09 GALE WARNING 01-12-2009 / 0130 UTC VALID FM 010130 UTC UP
TO 011000 UTC NEAR STNR LOW 993 OVER GULF OF GENOA ASSOCIATED WITH FRONTAL ACTIVITYIS COMBINED WITH HIGH PRESSURES
1026 OVER TURKEY AFFECTING: CENTRAL ADRIATIC WITH S SE NEAR GALE 7 LOC GALE 8 AND FM 010200 UTC W OF 16.00 WITH SW
LOC NEAR GALE 7 SOUTH ADRIATIC WITH S SE NEAR GALE 7 LOC 8 AND E OF 17.00 GALE 8 STRG GALE 9 BOOT WITH S NEAR GALE
7 LOC GALE 8 AND FM 011000 UTC WITH  S SW LOC NEAR GALE 7 NORTH IONIO WITH S NEAR GALE 7 LOC GALE 8 AND W OF 19.30
GALE 8 LOC STRG GALE 9 SOUTH IONIO W OF 20.00 WITH S NEAR GALE 7 LOC GALE 8 SIDRA N OF 35.00 WITH S NEAR GALE 7 LOC
LOC GALE 8 AND FM 010600 UTC LOC NEAR GALE 7 NNNN
 

 

The national as the international press are more and more mentioning the big financial difficulties of Greece, and the requirements of the international authorities and, especially of the European, towards the Papandreou government put more and more pressure. Financial markets are not in rest: Greece pays its loans more and more expensively. The government prepares ambitious recovery plans for the end of the winter, while the last statistics - the Greek data were until now often subject to pledge! - confirm that Greece - a little later that the other European countries - has entered in recession, for the first time in sixteen years. The figures of the OECD, published in Le Monde [www.lemonde.fr] of November 26th under the title Le dérapage des comptes publics grecs inquiète les investisseurs internationaux: le premier ministre Georges Papandreou, agite la menace d'une "banqueroute", [...] Inquiétante détérioration, [trans.The skid of the Greek public financial situation scares the international investors: Prime Minister Georges Papandreou, shakes the threat of a "bankruptcy" [...] Disturbing deterioration. ] are eloquent: "évolution du PIB (variante annuelle en %) 2008 +2%, 2009 -1.1, prév.2010 -0.7, taux de chômage (en % de la population active) 2008 7.7, 2009 9.3, prév. 2010 10.4, solde des administrations publiques (en % du PIB) 2008 -7.8, 2009 -12.7, prév. 2010 -9.9." [ trans. " evolution of the GDP (GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT) (annual variant in %) on 2008 2 %, on 2009-1.1, prev.2010 0.7, unemployment rate (in % of the working population) 2008 7.7, 2009 9.3, prev. 2010 10.4, settles public administrations (in % of the GDP(GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT)) 2008 7.8, 2009 12.7, prev. 2010 9.9. "]. From his part Minister of Finance, Georges Papaconstantinou, recognizes that "[la Grèce doit] faire face à une énorme suspicion" [trans. "[Greece owes] to face an enormous suspicion". And Le Monde continues: Le vote du budget le 23 décembre vise à rétablir la crédibilité.[ trans. the vote of the budget on December 23rd aims at restoring the credibility]. The Dutch-speaking Belgian economic newspaper De Tijd [www.tijd.be] - site we visit daily - is not in rest. Greece which gets a very important part of the resources from the foreign tourism knew this year a decrease of these incomes which would be situated around 15 %; the domestic demand lost 4 %, the building knows a 25 % drop - we read in Athens News of November 27 that Alpha bank reported earlier "that residential investment is set to fall further in 2009 and 2010"...

 

Should the marina also be a victim of this more than gloomy general economic and financial situation ? Some signs could be revealing.

The number of boats which winter here is apparently lower than last winter. We hear as well that the marina had a relatively "pleasant and quiet" summer, far from the fever of the summer 2008...

Fact is that the public quay is this year well occupied, that in Nidri and in Vliho there are no more berths available at the quay, that at the anchorage of Tranquil Bay much more boats are wintering afloat.

The quay of Vonitsa, also, would know an increasing interest... And then there is the new the marina in developing in Messolonghi, that, successfully, proposed very competitive rates... We could also evoke the shipyards of Preveza which, cheaper, attract very numerous boats wintering

ashore.... Finally, there would be too a rather important migration of boats leaving Greece for Turkey where the value for money is reported to be much better ...

   

 

   

In Marina Lefkadas, there are three bars with terrace, and a hotel. Two bars used to close once the season of (charter)boats ending. The third, Il Porto, open all year long, is well frequented during the winter on beautiful days and during the weekends. It is also the meeting place of the live aboards, mostly British sailors. They organize a.o. every Friday evening a meeting and also a weekly ladies-coffee there.

Il Porto has just closed, suddenly and apparently definitively - some whisper that it could be due to outstanding payments...

Whit this closure, the marina has lost some more animation, leaving the approaching winter all the leisure to cover the boats by its veil of too mat silence...

 

Among masterpieces of the cinema some big classics of Hitchcock were put on at the cultural centre Artiria, last week. Thanks to these five evenings we could discover - and rediscover - some major works of the Master directing these great actors, stars of the years ' 40 and ' 50:

   

Charles Laughton and Maureen O' Hara in Jamaica Inn (1939), Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in Rebecca (1940) - according to the novel of Daphné du Maurier -, Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck in Spellbound (1945), Gary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious (1946), Gregory Peck still in The Paradine Case (1947) with Ann Todd and Anida Valli.

   

Previous week the short films were in the poster: Iraqi, French, Czech and Lebanese short movies. Artiria also organized meetings with writers and philosophers but, alas, our knowledge of the Greek language being limited to some basic words and expressions, we shouldn't have understood a word!

 

Year of very serious economic and social consequences, with on the background an international financial crisis provoked by incredible guilty irresponsibility, 2009 also saw appearing fears of pandemic among which a too wide part of the humanity was imaging to be safe from. Lefkas was, until now, in fact, spared by the virus H1N1. In Greece the vaccination campaign begins - a little bit late - on December 12th, firstly for the risk groups ... while 80 % of the population says itself opposite to the vaccination!

 

 

But Christmas and New Year are approaching. The Christmas lights appear, already, here and there;also in the marina.

So, will the atmosphere and the hearts participate in these too much programmed holidays, or, and that would be wiser, finally, will be these holidays, enclosing this annus horribilis, a soft incitement in a reflection leading to a more rational and more ecological world?

 

 

Back home, in Belgium.

 

 

 

Winter stops...

 

(see also Kortom 4.9.3 )

 

Nieuwpoort. The snow arrives in the night of December 16th to 17th. At dawn we contemplate a white carpet: finally we begin to realize that we have returned home for some weeks.

 

   

...Last week - we landed at about 10 a.m. (LT) on December 9th to Brussels Airport with flight OA145 of Olympic Air - it seemed us being the main actors in a film telling the most stressing moments of a common life. Appointments, meetings, little daily worries, shopping: an endless succession of tasks and relatively insignificant events interconnected by tens of kilometres by car...

Behind us, Lefkas, and our boat, left to the good guarding of Maureen and Mark. Looking back, we still see Helena and Alekko wishing us a nice trip, after a farewell lunch at restaurant Frini sto Molo, on the sunny midday of our departure, this December 8th. In the late afternoon and evening, we had the five hour trip by coach to Athens, the transfer to the airport, and the waiting night at the airport till the take off at 7:45 a.m. (HL) ... Then the three hours flight, the waiting for our luggage, the trip by train to De Panne - in every station young people were getting in and out, we were Wednesday noon, and we followed almost with a kind of surprise this simple life, while observing the flooded lands along the river IJzer due to the heavy rainfall these last months...

 

 

Olivier was waiting for us at the station: the reunion was warm, we had so much to tell since Hortó, in spite of our regular phone calls. To finalize the purchase of the new car - nevertheless perfectly prepared by Olivier - we had to do numerous goings and comings ... finally some hundreds of kilometres! So, then we knew really that we were back home!

 

   

Snow. Slippery roads. The record of the length of traffic queues is broken. In all West - European airports reigns a real mess: for the very numerous travellers a disappointing start of Christmas holidays. Eurostar trains have a breakdown in the Channel Tunnel.

TV shows thousands of angry people, stuck, constrained in waiting for many days and seeing how the dream of nice city trips is transformed into nightmare.

 

 

The river Zenne, then the river Dender are struck by a very important pollution: Ecolo-minister Evelyne Uyttebroeck must suffer for it but she defends herself with pugnacity. The water-treatment plant of Brussels-North was stopped by Aquiris, the developer, because of waters too much loaded with rubbles. The pollution extends. Flanders lodges a complaint and assigns in justice.

In Copenhagen, the summit on the global warming is reaching a deadlock.

The ultimate compromise concerning not binding agreements, concluded in the last hours, means for many a heavy defeat of the political world; some try to see in this more than disappointing conclusion, a historic unanimous agreement for a future promising pact. Meanwhile another record falls: that of the number of transactions by electronic payment in the fever of purchases for Christmas. The poor countries of the South feel abandoned. At night the cold becomes icy. Illegal immigrants testify of their calvary in front of cameras and microphones, .and homeless and poor people, unemployed persons .... In view of the broadcast outlines of the year 2009 appears as a long continuation of dramas and disasters... The images of poverty and misfortunes call us: violently they throw us - we who just came back to this rich Flanders region - in the hard reality of a world which becomes more and more dehumanised. In humility we try to transform the feeling of impotence into a consequent attitude and action, tiny but so precious...

 

Every day we make a walk to the mouth of the river IJzer: mostly we go to the west pier, where brave fishermen defy the cold. On the other side of the channel, extends the nature reserve " de IJzermonding " ( click also here to read more about the project ). The restoration of this precious territory of modest dimensions is coming to the final stage. Thanks to the numerous paths - also accessible for bicycles - and the well situated lookouts the visitor feels a privileged witness of the life of swamps and salty meadows, tidal reservoirs, channels, and dunes. Panels present the inhabitants, explain their

 

 

vulnerability, clear and without pedantry. We are very surprised noticing how nature recovers: since our departure from Nieuwpoort the progress is impressive. Fifteen years ago, when we were sailing on the channel during our first navigations on Nehalinnia , what was going to become the reserve was partially occupied by the military base - which is still situated east of it - and partially by grounds where dredging mud were dumped . But with allowances of the European Funds of Development, Flanders ( click also here to go to the website Visitflanders - or other than UK click here ) and the city of Nieuwpoort also undertook a big project of renovation of the West bank: a magnificent Promenade - partially in wood - connects now Nieuwpoort-Bad and Nieuwpoort-Stad, where the square in front of the fish-auction, the " Vismijn ", - has been completely and nicely reorganized. The works which were in the first phase at the moment of our departure, are now finished. The result is a great success. Nieuwpoort has also been equipped with a new park of sorting: this waste reception centre equipped in a hyper-rational way answers the most severe criteria - we made the experience during our first visit ! So is demonstrated how governance and well planned works can realize spaces for live where respect for the nature, feature and intense tourism are going harmoniously together. In Greece, in Lefkas, in particular, we saw how they made a mess, while getting advantage of the European basket too! Again we are stunned, we cannot and do not want to understand how a country, endowed with such a great natural potential, which took advantage of numerous special treatments since its membership of the European Union in 1979 and which got regularly exceptional financial treatments, has realised so little. Spontaneously we think again about the irritated reaction by this Greek emigrant who exclaimed, coming back to the country after a long stay in Germany: " with all the money which my country was getting, the yellow lines of roads should be gold! "...

On December 25th the snow begins to melt. So we enter for the next days into the Belgian, rainy and very windy winter. ( 27.12.2009 )

 

 

 

Click here to continue the voyage, Greece 4.4: Spring, summer and autumn 2010, short sailings and discovering trips by car. Ep8

Photo album? Click here!

Back to the previous page: 4.Greece 2: to Hortó (2009) Ep6

Back to the general overview, click here.

 

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