After 33 months enforced absence, we finally returned to Greece and Exotica on June 7th 2022.
The journey from Sydney to Athens was remarkably pain free on Qatar Airlines, stopping only briefly at Doha.
We then collected our car at Athens airport and drove five hours to Lefkas. We briefly checked into the three star Ianos Hotel situated in the Lefkas Marina before, heart-in-mouth making our way to Pontoon G25 to inspect the boat which has languished, neglected by us, for all this time.
Imagine our joy and relief when we found Exotica to be in beautiful condition. Neighbouring boat owners told us that they had ten workers beavering away all the day cleaning inside and out. The boat was still stripped out with no sails, awnings or carpets but the decks were pristine, the inside dust free and the inox sparkling. We sat on board and marvelled that all was well, then celebrated with the traditional mussels and a bottle of rosé.
Things then took a turn for the worse as we both had a very severe stomach upset – perhaps the mussels. Were both laid low for the next three days which, fortunately in the hotel rather than on the boat. During this time, we also discovered a leak from the stern gland – this is the rubber device through which the propeller shaft enters the water and which is supposed to stop water coming into the boat. This hasn’t been replaced since 2013 so it will be before we set off for any serious trips.
The next few days were spent unpacking and stowing our possessions, then hoisting the sails into position and the intelligence test which is rigging the dodger and bimini. Jobs which would take a professional twenty minutes but two hours for us to figure out. It is amazing how much we have forgotten about how the boat works.
Finally, on Monday June 13th we set off for a sea trial. A beautiful day with absolutely no wind. We motored round the famous island of Scorpios paying our respects to the rock which we managed to hit in 2019. We hoisted the sails just to make sure they worked properly and quickly stowed them again before anchoring for lunch and a swim. All Julie’s skills of reversing into the marina berth in a side wind were amply remembered and demonstrated, no wonder she is Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron’s Yachtswoman of the Year!
During this time, we also met up with Jill and John Conroy, friends and fellow sailors from Sydney who have bought a fifty-two foot boat in Athens and are en route to Corsica.
After just over a week we have Exotica back to normal, only the stern gland to fix and so we motored back to Athens in the hire car.
We had a night at the Sofitel Airport Hotel before our early flight to Berlin where we had three days. Two operas and a concert by the Berlin Philharmonie thanks to Sally and Antony Jeffrey plus meeting one of our crew from times past, Ralf Ladenthin who is now a resident in Berlin but planning a world tour.
From Berlin we had a terrifyingly fast driver to Leipzig for the Wagner Festival 2022. Every opera Richard Wagner wrote – 13 in all – over a month. The first three operas, written at age 20, 22 and 24 are considered to be his immature works are not included in the general canon of his work. Rarely performed, they had much merit and gave us great pleasure. Chronologically followed by The Flying Dutchman and Tannhauser, the latter a challengingly controversial production.
We return to Exotica in three weeks, provided Luftansa does not cancel our flight, as Easyjet did, to cruise the islands of the Southern Ionian.