Carnival: February 20 2010
The seasons are definitely changing as winter again becomes spring. We especially enjoy the gradually lengthening days and the growing excitement for a new cruising season. Slotting perfectly into this pattern is the festive season of Carnival. It is celebrated all over the world just before the deprivations of Lent. We have heard of Rio's Carnival and New Orleans' Mardi Gras...but who knew that Corfu celebrates with comparable enthusiasm?! Carnival is called Apokries in Greek. The Venetian conquerors of Corfu left a solid mark on the celebrations with masquerade balls in abundance. It is literally a solid month of bands, parades, floats, masks and costumes. We were unexpectedly introduced to the season as we sat in a town square with cocktails awaiting an acceptable hour to arrive for dinner with fellow cruisers (Jan 29). We could not have been more surprised as the square began to fill with people and a spectacle unfolded. Masquerade party goers were costumed in flowing velvet, elaborate headdresses and Venetian inspired masks. Torches were carried and the night glowed with laughter and music. Wow - a great start to the evening! At 8.30pm we left the bands and performers...heading for a small taverna, tucked in a quiet corner of Corfu Town. We chose a warm table beside the wood stove for a delicious feast of hot and cold mezes. The place was soon packed...seems our "Greek" arrival time was improving. The original goal for the evening was to see a bouzouki musician scheduled to play "later" in the evening...but we finally accepted defeat and went home at 11.30pm...no musician in sight. Yikes, we have come a long way from our cruiser midnight of 9pm.
The marina has also begun to come out of hibernation. There are now more than just a smattering of folks on various boats painting, sanding, cleaning and generally sorting out the fleets of charter sailboats. The buzz is energizing as we continue on our own list of To Dos. The biggest item at the moment is the cockpit table. Wow - Chris is amazing with the gluing, sanding and varnishing. Steve has added a few words of advice from years of experience as well as a few tools...really appreciated...thank you. The downside is that our cockpit resembles a woodworking shop rather than the single point of entry into the boat...but it is all for a good cause. Yikes, but the only entrance has been taken over with resin pots, wood bits, hand tools, power tools...eeek...all covered in layers of fine, yellow sawdust. No use cleaning it up everyday because tomorrow will be more of the same. Overflow only periodically comes into the salon...for example...cold nights meant that the resin would just not "kick." So inside came the table and we awoke to a warm, cozy and...glued...table. However, it does grate a bit on the nerves...thankfully, it is only temporary. Even more progress was made as Jill and Warren stopped by with a router to snub nose the angles...what a difference the right tool makes...just twenty minutes and the job was done.
A bit of sunshine and light winds gave us a chance to re-string the completely repaired trampoline on the front deck...drat...but only one side since the rain decided to swing through. However, these same calm conditions were perfect for a rigging inspection by a professional...between the rain drops. Chris had noticed a crack in the cap stay of the swage fitting while up the mast...potentially a big deal because this is one of the few supports holding up the mast. Sure enough, it needed replacing. Thankfully, replacement did not require the entire mast to come down...just add additional supports until the new cap stay arrives. But ouch...900 euros later we were all set. Thank goodness the dollar is strengthening. During the bit of sunshine we also helped Martin get some of his roof beams sanded and varnished...much needed protection from the rains. Our muscles were aching but a bit of down time took place at a friendly poker game (Feb 3 and 10). Chris introduced our friends to the Texas Hold 'Em game of home. It is 5 euros to play and that is it...when you are out of chips, your night of cards is over. Navigator's lent the venue and it was a rollicking night!
Spring cleaning became the next project as three days of rain were forecast....and rain it did...with hail, strong winds and even booming thunder. We dug all the way to the bottom of storage lockers and piles of canvas that had not been excavated for over two years. Needless to say many things could be tossed and thorough inspections were carried out (Feb 11). Did we mention that it rains a lot here? Well, we noticed a bit of wetness in the port side half bedroom...looks like it is just a slow drip from two points that should be solved with the re-bedding of bolts (one at the self tacker and one at the windlass locker hatch). The ceiling panels were removed, standing water was mopped up, bleach cleaned the area and a bucket was left below to catch drips until we get some sunshine to carry out the rebedding of bolts. Okay, seems our attempt to cross one item off the list resulted in two more items being added...so it goes. That said, we are confident that we will be ready to start sailing in May. Yippee!
Okay, now a little known fact about Greek infrastructure...their sewer pipes are no bigger than the average water pipes at home. The Minoans first invented sewer pipes...4"-6" pipe of terra cotta. It seems, if it ain't broke, don't fix it...so pipe materials have changed over time but size has stayed pretty constant since 3000 BC. "So what?" you might ask...as did we. Well, it seems that these tiny pipes can handle...um...refuse but only the human kind. TP is strictly off limits. Okay, no problem. Just station a small waste basket beside the toilet for...er...used toilet paper. Okay, all good. All good, that is, until someone tries to get cute and clever (and hygienic)...the dances we have performed...pants held at the knees, jackets lifted up, bags swinging from necks and dirty TP aiming for anything in sight...would keep America's Funniest Videos in material for ages. Oh, there it is...the silver waste bucket...on the other side of the closet...and with a foot pedal to open it?! It feels more like a game of Twister with some unpleasant outcomes if footing slips or something is dropped. Oh yeah, and the door opens inward into the small closet which nearly requires a foot to be placed into the waste TP baskets in order to accomplish the pirouette required to leave the toilet...water closet (WC) seems a remarkably apt label. (Sorry, no photos of this novelty...you really must visit to see it...and experience it...for yourself.)
The Eastern Orthodox religious calendar is followed in Greece and dictates many of the patterns of society; fun and frivolity as well as fasting and abstinence. The carnival festivities reach a climax the weekend before the first day of Lent. This year the dates were February 12-14. We joined in the fun with a fancy dress party at Navigator's pub. We found and borrowed bits and pieces to make costumes for ourselves. The fun began aboard s/v Fire Dream for a pre-party party (Feb 13). We were a hodge podge group of pig farmers, farmer's wives out for a hen night and glittering glams. Getting ready was close quarters but all was congenial with drinks and bits throughout. Navigators was decked out in streamers and balloons, costumes ran the gamut from lovely mermaid to green toad and music kept the fun flowing. We all carried on until well after midnight. Although a bit slow moving the next day, Chris hosted a full English breakfast for the boys while the gals headed for a bit of shopping at the weekly Table Top.
Phew, it feels as if Spring has truly sprung (Feb 17). We are seeing temperatures that do not mandate jackets and shivers...and rain is looking spotty rater than constant. Plus, interior boat condensation is way down and we have opened windows during the day for a few hours IN A ROW...unbelievable! One of the reasons for this change is the change in wind direction. The Northern winds off of the snow capped mountains of Albania have been replaced by Southern winds from Africa...complete with red dust. The lack of outdoor activities has not been all bad. It has given us a chance to read many books and catch up on movies. An entertaining book written about Corfu was picked up at a used book sale (thanks for the tip Mike). My Family and Other Animals was written by Gerald Durrell about his time on Corfu as a child, 1935-1939. He describes many island inhabitants as well as flora, fauna and animals of the island...fueling his lifelong passion for conservation (www.durrell.org). The book is generally compulsory reading for school kids in Britain but it was new for a Yank...and enjoyed.
Deciding on another night visit into Corfu Town we headed to the cinema (Feb 18). It was a huge barn of a room with blue twinkle lights lining the walls (www.cineorfeas.gr). We saw Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. It was fabulous! Modern day son of Poseidon (living in NYC) battles through countless Greek myths all in the 21st century....across the USA...and even Olympus. The clever weave of old and modern was wonderfully entertaining. Later, clear skies tented our walk through tiny Corfu alleyways not much wider than the two of us. Paving stones the size of door mats sparkled in the dim street lights as we wound our way to a tiny taverna. Warm and cozy we nibbled through our favorites...tzatziki and french fries, Greek salad, 1/2 kilo of white wine and peppered chicken for variety. We will continue this pattern of boat work and Corfu distraction as the calendar clicks ever closer to our anticipated departure in early May.