- Happy New Year for 2020
A very warm welcome everyone to my first Dragon Drascombe Newsletter of 2020, a year in which I will be focused on providing an even greater spread of accommodation alternatives within the community of Geni and Vliho Bay.
The past year of 2019 has seen a lot of change which has impacted on my Drascombe Lugger charter company in the Ionian. After years of pronouncements by the Greek Government, they finally implemented last May a “Yachting Tax”. This has been ongoing for the past 6 years, possibly longer. It will be for the benefit of the economy and once all the wrinkles are ironed out, it should work. For myself with the Luggers it will not be relevant as they are under the length limit and are classed as day boats / dinghies. The Flotilla / Charter Companies however will be affected by the tax.
The other change that is just about complete, is that the business has been registered in Greece and the boats re-registered, now with Greek registry and insurance. Apart from the time it’s taken, it will not have any impact on my Lugger Holidays.
The summer of 2019 saw the demise of Thomas Cook Airlines who were frequent carriers from the UK to Greece, especially Preveza. However, with the emergence of Jet2, a new carrier, and the Thomas Cook flight slots going to Easy Jet and the low cost Norwegian Air, there are now only 2 days in each week when there are no flights to Preveza. Flight prices at present are respectable, they will never go back to the days of Monarch Airlines, so this is positive.
From last September when £1 Sterling only got you €1 , things are improving week by week, with the rate at €1.171, so again a move forward for those planning a visit to the Ionian.
The big news for ourselves as a family is that Stephanie my daughter, is making great strides in her recovery from surgery to eradicate her diagnosed Ovarian Cancer, this procedure took place in July 2019. She is now back running and just yesterday received her entry confirmation to participate in The Great North Run this coming late summer.
This year, as a company, Dragon Drascombe Ltd will support Target Ovarian Cancer and contribute from our income to this very worthwhile cause. Last year’s Great North Run by Andy, my son in law, raised well over £3000 for TOC.
So a lot has happened during 2019, let us all hope that 2020 will be a healthy and peaceful year. For those who aim to visit Dragon Drascombe, we look forward to giving you a great holiday in the sun.
Bengy is enjoying watching some of my Lugger sailors trying out canoeing and paddleboarding. These are just some of the activities offered by Horizon Watersports in Nidri, and you’ll be hearing more about this in the February newsletter.
You will I’m sure have followed the great review in the previous newsletter of getactivelefkas, the biking guys from Nidri who run road and off-road biking sessions around the hilly countryside. My past family groups have loved these evening sessions.
Whilst appreciating that you all have a great affection for the distinguished lines of the Drascombe Lugger and its easy sailing characteristics, especially out in this magnificent area of the South Ionian, there is now a great opportunity to explore this uniquely Greek countryside on foot or by cycle, and combine it with your day sailing. Your kids will just love it, take a look at the article on Cycle and Sail. So there is so much to look forward to in 2020.
I could even interest you in a 2-week adventure to explore the Island of Ithica by Lugger. They have Electric Bikes at Frikes to hire, as Richard and Cheri Crosley told us about in their visit last June. How about this for an itinerary?
You will arrive at Preveza on Sunday 23rd August, be collected by my taxi and following a Meze lunch will be taken to the Nidri ferry port for the 2-hour ferry to Frikes Bay, where your Lugger will be awaiting your arrival. For this first week you will stay at the splendid Frikes Bay Suite and be well looked after by Peter and his staff as you can read in Cheri’s review.
On the morning of Sunday 30th August I will arrive by Rib to collect your bags and transport them back to Geni where they will await your arrival at your apartment at Geni Garden. This will give you the chance to have a full day to sail north from Frikes to Vliho Bay, a great day out and achievement. Your apartment at Geni Garden is large and sea-facing, with full self-catering facilities and a delightful balcony, from which you can sail and explore the lovely harbours and islands around the Meganissi channel. Your return to Preveza on the 6th September will be arranged with my taxi company.
- December 2019
This will be my last post of this year. I do hope you will appreciate the diverse nature and approach of the holidays available for this coming summer. As you can read on our Cycle and Sail page, we have teamed up with Simon and Lucy at Get Active Lefkas to offer a variety of cycling and walking activities for you and your family while you stay with us at Dragon Drascombe.
The Villa Eleanor, the Gem of Geni, has recently undergone a total professional refurbishment to a very high standard and is now available for families or groups. It has 3 bedrooms, accommodating up to 6 persons in exceptional luxury, and is very private with your Lugger safely moored on their sheltered pontoon.
In my January Newsletter I will give you an introduction to the Horizon Watersports crew, and the activities they will be able to offer to Lugger guests, so look out for that in the new year.
So finally, to all Drascombers, past and present, I wish you a merry Christmas and look forward to meeting up in the sun in 2020
- End of Summer Blog 2019
My morning starts with getting the weather forecast for the day, walking Bengy my Greek sheep dog and then the 15 minute motor in the tender south into Vliho Bay, and to the bakery owned and run by Harri. As those who have stayed with me at ‘Luggering about in the sun’ will have experienced, the bakery is a real treasure; there are numerous mentions in past clients’ reviews of his pastries and especially the Spinach Pies, all made on site. It’s just brilliant.
Stephen and Emmie arrived late afternoon on Sunday 28th September, my last group before the final boat clean and getting the equipment ready for storage over the winter. They are here to have an initiation into Sailing for Emmie and a refresher course for Stephen.
As when all my groups arrive, we meet initially at the Gialos Taverna for a cold beer and a Meze lunch, before settling into whatever accommodation has been selected, be it a Villa, Geni Garden Apartment, Stella Apartment or, as it is for Stephen and Emmie, an Apartment at the Gialos.
For their first day yesterday – Stephen’s Birthday – it was an accompanied motor over to the bakery, then onto the small supermarket at Vliho for provisions. After a late breakfast we had an initiation into the Lugger Paxi, this taking place in Vliho Bay itself. Then with myself on board we motored out into the channel and headed south to a very small bay which is favoured for swimming and snorkelling.
Stephen and Emmie will finish their review in a week or so to give you an update on their experience of Luggering about in the sun. So please stay connected to the website and read their review.
Today is 1st October, and I awoke for my early morning walk and my trip across the bay with the sunrise in a temperature of 22 degrees; as I write this blog this afternoon it has topped 29 degrees!
Just remember to consider a late break sailing in 2020. The weather is fantastic out here in the Greek Ionian and the crowds have gone.
- Late Season Activity 2019
The first day of September, and what a lovely change this morning at 6.30, a calm, clear and fresh atmosphere, temperature around 20 degrees and the Meganissi Chanel very quiet.
We are now coming into the last six weeks of the charter season. September especially is a great month, the locality is much quieter, the Italian tourists have departed and with the sea remaining warm it’s great to pull into a cove, have lunch and swim.
We started in early June and have seen groups, couples and families join us to enjoy the free and easy approach adopted. There is no hard and fast time to get out to sail, in fact you may choose not to sail at all. People can walk from the apartments, use the Lugger as a taxi to visit Vliho or Nidri and of course use it to visit the Gialos Taverna in the evening.
It has indeed been a busy period, as you will see from the reviews. We kicked off in early June with Helen and Tony from Melbourne Australia. They sail a traditional boat, but quickly became conversant with the Lugger. They started their adventure by flying into Athens and spent their first week discovering historic sites around the city, then getting a train to the Monasteries of Meteora in the north, these dating back to the 14th century – what a journey back into history for them, and they had a great time. After a coach trip via Preveza they spent their remaining 3 weeks at Geni Garden and getting familiar with the Lugger.
This summer has brought four families to ‘Lugger about in the Sun’ with children from the ages of 9 to 15 and using the splendid Villa Eleanor and the Geni Garden large family apartment, all have been so complimentary of their accommodation, and with the variety of activities we are able to offer the children, be it paddle boarding, kayaking or mountain biking. More of this in later reviews. For such family groups we are able to devise an activities programme to suit all needs and ages.
We will now be very busy preparing the boats for 2020, cleaning and keeping them in tip-top condition for the start in mid-May. With flights prices now into both Preveza and Corfu being at their best and availability of the larger sea facing apartments at Geni Garden readily available it is advisable to think ahead and book early, I am just a phone call away to talk through your questions.
Remember, it’s just a 15% confirmation deposit now, with the remainder paid in 2020.
So call me and grab your 2020 “Luggering about in the sun” holiday
- Clara joins the Dragon Drascombe fleet
You may have followed Lugger Clara’s progress from October 2018 when I acquired her and brought her back to the workshop of Dragon Design at Tredegar in South Wales. This is the home and base of my Cabinetry and boat building business.
She has now travelled across Central Europe, enduring a dramatic fault with her hull to deck mould just after launching, all fully repaired at the 11th hour, yet delivered to Frikes on the island of Ithaca in time for old friends to have her for her inaugural charter week.
Neil, Jean and Daughter Ruth, as you will note from their previous reviews, are experienced Lugger sailors and frequent visitors to Frikes, staying with Peter at his wonderful Frikes Bay Suite, so close and overlooking the small village harbour.
On their arrival at Nidri on Sunday 25th August, I met them and following a quick Meze lunch and cold beer they were put onto the 15.30 ferry to Frikes, they would spend their first week there sailing around old haunts and coves, discovering more of this truly wonderful island. Their second week would be back at Geni in Vliho Bay staying yet again with Franz, Poldi and Daughter Sandra at Geni Garden Apartments. For the return trip I collect their luggage from Frikes to allow them to enjoy the comfort of the Lugger and have a pleasant sail back.
On the clear yet cool morning of 1st September I set off from Vliho Bay, firstly fuelling up Warrior Spirit for the trip south to Frikes, collecting friends on Meganissi and then heading out of the channel into open water for the leg across to Ithaca. This is a main sea route to the port of Patras from the Adriatic coast port of Bari and Ancona, so very busy with large ferries and container ships. It is however a very scenic passage, the islands of Ithaca and Kephalonia are very mountainous, rugged and green, these mountains dropping down steeply into the Ionian Sea creating a spectacularly back drop.
With the Rib travelling at 30 knots we soon entered Frikes Bay, it has an obvious tower standing on the southern entrance to the small harbour and as you approach the mole harbour wall, the Frikes Bay Suite is dead in front with its 2-tiered levels of apartments and with striking cream frontage. The aspect from the apartment balcony overlooking the small bay is just awesome – sunrises in the early morning and late evening, with the arrival of yachts mooring up, all adds great interest from the balcony .
A breakfast for ourselves with Peter was the order of the day whilst the Wilson Family got themselves ready for their day on the water.
Soon we had loaded their bags on the Rib and circled in the harbour awaiting for them to slip their lazy line and head out past the breakwater mole. The breeze was good, force 3 to 4 from the south west which gave them a great sail back, stopping off at Arkoudi Island for the customary swim and lunch.
A fantastic end to their first week ‘Luggering about in the Sun’, and well done Clara for your first week on charter.
For those interested in Greek history and mythology, Ithaca was the island home of the hero Odysseus in Homer’s classic poem The Odyssey, believed to have been composed in the 8th century BC.
You must all visit Ionian Greece and Dragon Drascombe.
- Return to Nidri – part 2
It was good to leave the Chiemsee campsite, still wet and cold and have the certainty of hitting better weather as each day we headed south, firstly through Austria, into Slovenia where the new roads are excellent and dropping into the northern end of Croatia. Again, I had pre-booked a campsite at Selce for 2 nights as it’s good to have a break from driving. Arriving at the campsite I noticed a ‘rumbling’ noise from the radiator area of the van, which I assumed was something to do with the air-con, since when switched off the noise stopped. I was to find out on Saturday morning that it had far reaching consequences!
A great rest day, time to catch up with some walking for Bengy and some paddling in the sea. He doesn’t do chasing sticks, but prefers just wading in the shallows and floating around, being very hairy. He then shackles himself near to someone, it’s all a part of getting wet for him.
Not quite an early start on Saturday morning, we left at 10 and joined the slow-moving holiday traffic heading towards Split on the coast road. At Senji you can keep on the coast road which out of the holiday season is good, but slow. So it was an easterly heading up the mountain road that joined with the main Highway.
Just before the Highway I lost power in the van, the engine ran but no power. So, conveniently I pulled in at an intersection where there was a cafe / restaurant and called the AA breakdown call centre number. Eventually after half an hour of listening to their recorded messages, I got through to an English speaking advisor. By this time a low-loader rescue vehicle had pulled up and asked if he could help. This detail I explained to the AA advisor and she recommended I take up his offer of a low-loader drive to Zadar, which as it happens was on our route. It transpired that these breakdown trucks trawl the motorway areas looking for custom, they are not a part of the Croatian road rescue organisation alas and can basically charge whatever they like for the service.
By late afternoon he took us to a back street garage out of town. For this 2 hour ride on the back of his truck came a price tag of 8500 HKU. They are not in the EU and this £1150 had to be paid then in that local currency, the Kuna. It wiped me out of my spare Eu notes and with a visit to a card machine withdrew the rest from 3 cards in Kune. The driver must have thought it was Christmas come early!
The defective electric fan was ordered but could not be fitted until Monday morning. This part and the labour amounted to another 9000.00 Kuna, but at least it was all done by late afternoon and we were back on the main highway heading for a stopover at Dubrovnik: what a lovely drive and getting hot.
So out of Croatia and into Montenegro. You think the Dover Border is a pain, but it’s not a patch on the leaving Croatia and entering Montenegro, just over 3 hours plus a Green Card insurance of 75 EU just to be in Montenegro for 3 hours. However, their short ferry crossing to avoid a tricky 30 mile drive was great, followed by driving up into the mountains to reach the Albanian border, spectacular views although a bit hazy.
By late afternoon we were again in heavy traffic waiting at the border to cross into Albania. These 2 counties are destined to join the EU very shortly, I think next year. They are going to have a shock, or is the EU going to scratch its head and wonder what have they let themselves in for? Out of the main towns they are really poor towns and villages.
Our last evening was spent at a truck stop in Albania. With an early kick-off we soon crossed into northern Greece and made our way through the University City of Ioannina and heading south to Lefkada, where we arrived at last on Wednesday evening after a journey of 9 days. It was well worth it since Clara was now in the boat yard ready for her chartering during September and October.
- Clara’s maiden voyage
Less than 24 hours after discovering the leak and the damage to Clara, the repair has been completed and she sailed across to Frikes Bay. The daytime heat meant that the glassing had to wait until nearer to sunset, but the job was soon done.
So at 6.30am on Friday she was back on the water ready for the journey across to the island of Ithica and Frikes Bay. But first a stop at the bakery in Vliho bay for essential provisions!
The journey across to Ithica went smoothly with a little assistance from the wind. Stephen and Georgina, our transit crew, enjoyed a well earned swim break on the east side of Orkide island before sailing on to the destination of Frikes Bay. With Clara tied up at her mooring, ready for the Wilson family to begin their holiday, it was time for a late lunch at the Bay Taverna. Their Squid, Dorado fish and Tuna Salad is first rate, a fabulous way to end a day’s sailing!
- The Dangers of Automotive Filler
To all DIY Drascombers, avoid using automotive body filler on your ‘Pride and Joy’, especially below the water line, it could be disastrous!
You will have ready my review of the rebuild of Clara by my cabinetry making company, Dragon Design in Wales. Despite a thorough check of the underside when we cleaned all the old anti-foul off back to the gel coat, we missed totally what now appears to be a cosmetic finish of a nasty cavity rip that had been packed with car body filler. It looked good but it let in vast quantities of water on Clara’s first launch.
We started just fine yesterday morning, up at 6 to miss the heat of the day and down at the slipway to pop Clara in the water. I moored her and resumed with launching Warrior Spirit, our Atlantic 21 ex RNLI B-Class Inshore Rescue boat. Two hours later I got back to the mooring to find the floor boards afloat in Clara. Did I put the bung in correctly, I asked myself? I bailed with a bucket, then with the hand bailer and finally a sponge, but I could see a constant stream coming from the back of the floor of the aft locker. No time for pics, it was a mad rush to get her to the beach at the slipway and get the camper hitched up with the trailer and retrieve her from the sea.
With so much water still in her when I got back to the boatyard it was quite obvious where the water was entering, because by now the process had reversed itself and the water was pouring out. With very little effort or force from my Stanley knife I exposed the offending material and the extent of the cavity. The water now gushed out from the boat and she was dry in a short time. This could have been a lot worse – that packet of body filler was just waiting to explode and fall out.
Looking at the long and wide cavity I still cannot see what sort of damage would have caused this 10 mm wide and 30 mm deep gash. The wooden keel band is not damaged and this is directly under the damaged area, so it looks like a de-lamination of the moulding. Has anyone got any thoughts on this or past experience of this happening?
So to work! I have only today, Friday 22 August to get this cleaned, prepped and glassed before Saturday when I will be delivering her to Frikes on the island of Ithica. The Wilson Family from Glasgow are picking her up on Sunday in the harbour for their 6th visit to Dragon Drascombe, this for 2 weeks of ‘Luggering about in the sun’.
It’s all cleaned and prepped (note the exposure of the gel coat) and I will be wrapping the chopped strand mat over this edge as well as plugging the cavity with thoroughly wetted mat. The wetting agent is a polyester resin, but with a temperature this morning of 35 and in the sun, I will wait until this evening to do this glassing. She has to be launched in the morning!
- Back to Nidri
For those that have followed Dragon Drascombe, ‘Luggering about in the sun’, you will be aware of my return to Wales in mid-July to visit Steph, my daughter, who had just undergone surgery for ovarian cancer. Yes, the procedure at BMI, Birmingham has gone well, but the post operational period and chemotherapy is going to be a long road. However , she is making great strides thank goodness, all thanks to the early diagnosis and prompt surgery. Andy Stringer, my son in law, is trying to raise awareness for this cause, and will be taking part in the Great North Run.
So on Monday 5th August, Clara was packed and secured on the trailer ready for the drive to Dover followed by the overland drive of 1945 miles to Nidri, via Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, entering Greece on its northern border near the University City of Ioannina, and from there a 3 hour drive to Nidri.
Tuesday 6th August saw the drive through Luxembourg to Neunkirchen where I had arranged an overnight campsite. For those who know the issues and dangers of towing caravans or trailers, these are significant and not to be taken lightly. I’m sure everyone has come across whilst driving, caravans overturned, trailers that have lost wheels and accidents caused by caravans swerving across the highway and hitting other vehicles. I have trailed eight boats in total to Greece over the past ten years and I still find it stressful.
Wednesday was a drive through Germany to get us close to the Austrian border. Germany was a nightmare, rain all day, holiday traffic and endless road works from Karlsruhe towards Munich and cold into the bargain, even Bengy was not impressed! My organised stop-over was a campsite close to the border with Austria at Chiemsee, I’ve used it before and it’s a good stepping stone to clear the border and crack on into Slovenia and head to the northern coast of Croatia, with a welcome day’s rest.
In the next few days I will bring you up to date with our camper breakdown in Croatia and the trauma of dealing with the AA in the UK and a crooked so called garage at Zadar, not easy! However, as you will see, Clara made it to Nidri.
- Early Summer 2019
With winter cabinetry projects very close to completion and 2018 Lugger Clara totally refurbished it’s time yet again to gather my Lugger fittings and equipment together for packing into the campervan for the drive over to the Greek Ionian. Along with our tent based awning, it is home for us and Bengy throughout the summer set along the shore of Vliho Bay facing East looking across to Geni where my rental apartments are based. For my Greek dog Bengy, now 5 and rescued from a boat yard when he was 4 months old, it’s home for the summer, this in exchange for his winter place of work at my cabinetry making business at Tredegar, South Wales, is something of a contrast.
Last year we travelled via Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, a great trip but you need 10 days to enjoy the drive, time this year I did not have. So I came via Switzerland over the Alps and down into northern Italy, progressing down the eastern Adriatic coast to Ancona for the crossing to Igeomenitsa.
My first charter crew arrived on 9th June, Tony and Helen from Melbourne Australia. They had arrived at Athens at the beginning of the month and had an itinerary that took them to Delfi, on to the monasteries in northern Greece and ending at Preveza on 9th June, from where my taxi collected them, a great start to their holiday. Read more about their trip here.
Early June was a busy period, the weather improved daily reaching an average of 32°C. Out on the Wednesday Easy Jet flight the next arrivals were Nick and Anne Marks. Nick had owned a Lugger previously so was well versed in sailing them, but wanted Anne to become happier sailing in the much more favourable conditions than their home at Lyme Regis, as you will note from her Blog, and she certainly did this. For a few days they teamed up with Tony and Helen and sailed off together during the day. On the last-but-one evening I arranged a taxi for the 4 of them to visit the bar of ‘Concrete Bill up at Peolokatouna, an interesting bar to visit and then on for supper at Dimitri’s Taverna just a short distance down the hill. It is always a great night, the food is wonderful and the views of the bay just breathtaking.
To prepare for the arrival of Richard and Cheri Crosley, Nick and Anne sailed the Lugger down to Frikes on Ithaca. I followed in the Rib Warrior Spirit, my 1969-built ex RNLI Atlantic 21 B Class Inshore Rescue boat, which you can read about here. We travelled back to Nidri very quickly with Nick at the helm. Nick has an association with the RNLI base at Lyme Regis and was interested in this elderly Atlantic Class Rescue boat.
Richard and Cheri Crosley were my guests last summer and decided for this year to team up with Gordon and Francis MacDonald for 2 weeks based down south at Frikes on Ithaca. However, very sadly for Gordon and Frances, their son in law died very suddenly at the beginning of May so they were forced to cancel their holiday. For Richard and Cheri their holiday started with an overnight apartment at the Gialos Apartments on Geni followed by a rib transfer to Frikes the following morning, arriving in time for breakfast at The Frikes Bay Suite, courtesy of Peter, what a great introduction to Frikes Bay.
During June I have been giving Lugger Jojo a full underside hull renovation. She is one of my most well-used boats and hence has suffered a lot of wear and tear. It started in 2017 with the replacement of the Iroko keel band and beach rails, all done in the boat yard without a hoist or lifting gear, just lots of cursing and regular infusions of Mythos beer to see the job done. This refurb process will be detailed in my Mid-Summer Report.
- Final completion and debut of Lugger Clara
On a cold and grey Wednesday, 12th December 2018 at the home of Dragon Design, Cabinetmakers, Clara was wheeled out for the first time after undergoing a full and extensive refit. It has taken 6 weeks, not all full time work, and 280 man hours to complete.
As a Mk 1 Lugger, with a hull number of 937, built by Honnor Marine at their yard at Totnes in 1973, she inherited many of the issues boat builders were experiencing with glass fibre and resin lay up procedures. These materials and methods were in their infancy; the laying up of a mould was done manually, and consequently the gel coat was often penetrated and breached by this application of chopped strand matting, hence what I find when preparing the surface ready for spray finishing. The mat is so close to the surface, this requires a lot preparation before one can start the spraying process.
The woodwork, albeit only the Gunwhales and 3 sections inside the cockpit which were included in the boat, were all in Burmese Teak. When the Teak became very expensive after controls on its export out of the country by its ruling military junta were enforced, the industry turned to Iroko, an Asian hardwood which was primarily used for the floors and beds of trucks. Being very dense and fibrous it is very hard wearing. At that stage the Gunwhale section was made of 2 pieces with a scarfing joint connecting both pieces, and there is a significant difference in the colour of these two different materials. You will note from Clara’s existing Gunwhale, which is dark and rich in colour to the light and mellow colour of the new Iroko of the cockpit woodwork. As I have expanded on, early on in her rebuild all the woodwork had been treated in Rustin’s Danish Oil. Yes it burns out, especially in the Mediterranean sun, but will recover easily with a once-over with an oiled pad. So much easier than varnish which bakes hard and brittle. This surface cover then cracks, moisture gets under it and starts the rotting and discolouration process. For those who have sailed my Luggers out in the Ionian, despite the usage they get the woodwork always looks good.
For the overland drive to Greece via Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, dropping into Northern Greece close to the provincial capital city of Ioannina, this being around 2100 miles, I have made a supporting cradle. I have found that the conventional beam rollers which are great for rolling the boat on and off are not good to support the side hull sections. The rollers have just 2 points of contact to the hull, so all the side movement is taken onto these 2 areas, thus causing damage. The full cradle which has total contact with the full surface of the hull is soft sprung fabric lined and this fully protects the anti-foul primer.
If you would like to sail this magnificent Lugger in June 2019, I still have sea-facing apartments at Geni Garden from 12 to 26th June 2019. Why not give it a go, have a look at the Reviews and see what they say out about the experience of ‘Luggering about in the sun’
- Clara Restoration – Week 4
She is not quite completed as I had anticipated, and it’s the small and time consuming work on the boat in readiness for her launching in May 2019 that has taken the time.
The fittings have now arrived from Jimmy Green Marine Company to enable its last stage of fit out. The hull graphics have been done, making and paint finish to the aft Lazerette floor is now completed, the main bow anchor Iroko fittings are in progress and finally the important work to the trailer and its road wheel hub bearings.
When I collected Clara 6 weeks ago I was focused on the larger aspects of work to be done. It was only this week when I came to fit the tiller stock on the one piece rudder that I realised that the 25mm dia stainless steel stock was not straight, and further examination shows there has been a weld repair done, quite badly, leaving the stock out of line with the rudder. This is now with a fabricator to make a new stock and fit it to the rudder. I am constantly amazed at what repairs/ refurbishments have been carried out to boats.
How many times have we all seen trailers and caravans with wheel problems on the road side, the majority related to axle issues, especially trailers for boats that have been used as launching trollies? Yes numerous. Clara will undertake a road journey of 2100 miles in early May 2019, via Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, dropping into Albania briefly before entering northern Greece. Quite a journey, so from experience I want to have the peace of mind of knowing that the trailer is 110 % road worthy.
The Bramber trailer is original, some 45 years old, and from assessment of the bearings they are also original from the manufacturer name, so used for short road trips but with many dunkings into sea water on launching, and this is the problem. In the pictures you can see the scoring marks on the tapered ring and the damaged and missing roller bearings, not a bearing set that would withstand this long journey safely.
We have checked the rubber suspension modules and their fixing bolts, cleaned and replaced washers where necessary. Next is to remove the hub assembly from the stub axle, to reveal the 2 tapered roller bearings and the press fit tapered hub ring. It’s the latter that is difficult to remove, as it’s a tight press fit for obvious reasons and care has to be taken in its removal – a workshop environment is in preference for this task. Once removed the hub assembly can be cleaned, grease nipple cleared of hard material before re-making with new components. It is not worth cutting corners in this process. Having your lovely Lugger severely damaged by a wheel and hub shearing off on a highway is not an option.
Check back next week for her final appearance outside with all her spars and rigging fitted, ready to go for May 2019 – you will not believe how stunning she looks. Why not take a look at booking her for your Sailing In The Sun, Lugger Style 2019. If you need further inspiration just take a look at the 2018 client testimonials.
- Clara Restoration – Week 3
So here we are at the end of week 3. All the spray finishing has been completed to the cockpit in Manilla with the hull lower section in white and the top plank in a grey, and she’s looking good.
The next stage was the fitting of the Iroko hatches and centre board casing cheeks. These are not a standard fitting of Drascombe Luggers – my company Dragon Design has manufactured these and finished them in Rustins Danish Oil. This product is a soft durable oil which does not harden like varnish and just needs a once over a few times during the summer, given that these boats are exposed to the Mediterranean sun constantly for 5 months.
For Dragon Drascombe it is important for me to have them looking traditional, functional hatches for Mediterranean chartering and very smart looking. Charter groups want to see their Lugger, which is an intrinsic part of their holiday, looking great moored on the pontoon at the Taverna, a boat for all to admire. My charter crews in their testimonials have commented how yachts will stop and take photographs of the boat sailing – note what Cheri and Richard Crosley encountered this June when a yacht videoed then under sail.
The Lugger when I bought here just 5 weeks ago did not have a Lazerette hatch cover, so I set about making one and spray finishing it in the same grey as the top hull plank. These get a lot of hard use during the season so they can be re sprayed easily over the winter maintenance period. There will be a blue canvas deck bag fitted next week for the bow anchor’s chain and warp. The bag keeps the chain and warp neatly stowed and easily deployed. The cockpit bag that I fitted this week is ideal for keeping the Ionian Pilot manual and local chart – easy access and keeps them safe. I will have shorty a small bag fitted on the port side for sail bunnies and other useful lines.
From my initial photograph you will have noted the poor state that the Spars were in, many layers of varnish which had discoloured, staining from water that had got through cracks in the varnish and generally looking quite poor. The process of refurbishing the Spars is laborious and time consuming, starting with using a very powerful chemical stripper to degrade the varnish slowly and removing with a hand scraper and wire wool. After over a week of careful work I spray primed them with a thin oil based Yacht Varnish, prepping between coats and then the final clear finish sprayed on coat after coat. It’s called ‘wet on wet’, each successive thin coat adhering to the tacky coat below, and this process has 10 applications. Look at them now, really head turning.
Next week on the fourth week of work we will be stripping down the trailer hubs, cleaning the stub axle and replacing the bearings, all in preparation for its 1500 mile journey to the Greek Ionian in April 2019. In the way of her sails, she had a new foresail when I bought her, fortunately a sail made by Dick at R&J Sails Bristol, so this goes back on. The Mainsail Gaff was a short Mk1 version, so next week I will make a new Gaff out of Canadian Cedar and Dick will supply a new Mizen and a Baton Roached Mainsail in early 2019. Take a look at Jon Paton’s write up and the pics of Heulwen under sail with the brilliant stripped top sail, it adds significantly to the performance of the Lugger.
Keep up with the restoration of ‘Clara’ and her readiness to be delivered to the Greek Ionian. Would you like to sail this iconic rebuilt Lugger in 2019? For 2 persons in June based at the Gialos Apartments, including transfers and Lugger charter, from just £1195 as a great package. Call Phil now to reserve your 1 week of sailing in the sun!
- Clara Restoration – Week 2
The hard work on preparing the hull is over, with all the masking up done, and by Tuesday the upper plank was in grey and the lower part in white, all left to cure for 48 hours. Next was to prep the underwater area up to the white hull before roller-painting with a Seajet primer. This was given 3 coats, and the final Seajet anti-foul will be done in May out in Vliho Bay. We have now painted all hatch interiors with White Danboline glass fibre paint – they look clean and are very durable.
Clara is over 45 years old and you will note that in that era the Gunwale top rail and the small amount of woodwork was all in Teak, and the rails were made in one piece. Later on there was a limit to the amount of Teak being allowed out of Burma, and to cut cost Asian Iroko was introduced and the rails were scarf-jointed. The rails were scrapped back to reveal a near perfect finish which is enhanced with Rustins Danish Oil. This I use on all my hatches etc, not varnish and throughout the summer charter period I keep this finish topped up.
So, we have now started to fit the boat out, starting with the original stern plate by Honnor Marine. There is something very satisfying to take a boat of this age and refit it will present day materials and to add modifications to it. Week 3 will see her having all the spars fully varnished and the interior completed.
Who will be the first lucky group to have Clara in early June 2019 to enjoy at our base apartments at Geni Garden? I now have some really great packages for the June period, so why not give it a go and call me to secure your 2019 ‘Luggering about in the Sun’.
- Clara Restoration – Week 1
Clara with a hull number of 937 would have been an early 1970 boat and a Mk 1 model, still with the original short Gaff. Despite being a little dirty from some 4 years of being unused and left undercover, her hull gel coat was original, very little damage apart from some scratches. The early Honnor Marine moulds were not good, although they did improve in the mid 1980s. The development of resins were in their infancy and these Luggers were being churned out at a great rate of knots, becoming very popular and a relatively low cost boat, quite basic in design and production, but with a significant good name as a safe Day Boat.
When it comes to refurbishing a Lugger one has to be prepared to do a significant amount of basic initial work. You will find air bubbles in the gel coat, an uneven layer of gel coat exposing the lay up mat beneath and ripples in the gunwale top plank.
From getting her back to my base of Dragon Design, my Cabinetry making company, she had to be totally dismantled, de-greased and power washed to remove all loose paint and debris.
Photograph 1 shows her ready to be primed. I use Automotive 2K paints, spray-applied. This is a professional material which is very hard and holds its colour and, being catalysed, sticks well to good, well prepared surfaces.
Photograph 2 is the hull in primer, a high build material paint which has good filling properties, you will note how she has been rubbed back to remove imperfections, a further coat will then be applied before prepping.
Photograph 3 is the cockpit having been previously primed now in its Manilla colour finish. This is the colour of all the Dragon Drascombe Luggers.
In between preparing and spraying the hull shell I have started to strip the Spars of their old varnish. Years of varying layers of varnish has discoloured the Cedar material of the Spars, and I want to get back to the natural wood. Photographs 4 & 5 highlight the difficulties in removing these layers, so a very powerful corrosive stripper is used, not a pleasant job.
The final pic shows the Mizen Mast having been stripped of its layers of varnish and sanded ready for approximately 10 spray coats of clear high gloss varnish. Visit this site next week to see the spars re-finished and Gunwale rails cleaned and oiled.
- Clara – the refit begins
So this is Clara, an early 70’s Lugger bought just in the last week or so. She was owned and sailed as a part of a University Marine Studies programme in Cardiff, predominantly in Cardiff bay and the Bristol Channel. She has been lightly used and in a clean condition, requiring now to be stripped out and re sprayed, this will be done this coming week.
With all the fittings removed I will prepare all the hull and cockpit for spray priming, followed by a Manilla colour to the cockpit, white to the lower hull and a light grey top plank. To the under water line I will roller-apply International primer followed by one coat of antifoul, and the finish coat will go on just before launching next May in Vliho Bay.
Follow this refit over the next 4 weeks.
- End of Season Diary 2018
The delightful calm of Vliho Bay with cool mornings and temperatures of sustainable levels are now behind me, having taken the Igeomenitsa to Ancona ferry some 2 weeks ago for the shorter drive back to chilly Wales. With charter groups continuing through to the last week in September it was a very busy period getting the boats cleaned and prepped ready for my arrival next May. I was fortunate to have the help of a good pal who came out to help me for 2 weeks with this work.
As always June was a busy month, with at least 3 Luggers out each week. Weather wise it got better as the month progressed; there was a 3-day period when we had stormy conditions which made it uncomfortable sailing out in the channel, however Vliho Bay was still good for an exciting few hours before retiring to the Gialos for lunch.
I am sure most people will by now have read Dave Craig’s diary on their Island Hopping in July. It was my first use of Airbnb – this phenomenon has suddenly hit the Ionian Islands, making use of log cabins, spare rooms in family villas and living with Greek families in their homes. Dave and Pamela really loved the varied experience of meeting the local people in their natural environment. I am sure this type of Lugger charter will be even more popular next year, being able to be very flexible and move around to different destinations.
Another first for me was to run a full week of sail tuition in July for the Foster Family. Louise and Simon made contact with me 3 years ago when they came across one of my Luggers on Ithica. Their son Matty, aged 11 had sailed Pico’s with his school but Simon and Louise were total beginners. With half day sessions in Vliho Bay, we covered the important safety aspects and the safe use of an outboard engine, which a dinghy would not have. Their progress was impressive, and by the end of their stay they sailed on all points of sailing and were a very competent crew. Matty, on their final evening with us at the Gialos Taverna, was awarded a Dragon Drascombe T-shirt. A great family to spend one’s time with, again my thanks to them.
The temperatures in July and August this year were not excessive, peaking at about 36, which was good for Bengy. He always managed to find the shade and a breeze around our Lugger base area.
In late August good friends from north of the border visited again for the 5th consecutive time and had their first week with Peter at Frikes Bay Suite on Ithica, returning to Geni Garden for the second week. They had Heulwen with the Batten Roached Mainsail; you must read what Neil has to say about this new rig.
So with over 50 boat weeks this summer, an increase of eight, it’s satisfying to see steady progress and people returning to sample this unique experience in the Southern Ionian. For 2019 I will be looking for an enthusiastic assistant to help me with the day-to-day running and looking after charter groups, someone who is mature and has an interest in boats and is able to assist with the general maintenance etc, possibly someone who has just left University and is preparing to have a gap year. Who knows, you might know of just the person in your family or sailing club.
In line with my Dragon Drascombe plan, I have acquired another Lugger ready for refitting locally in South Wales, and work has just started. Why not follow its progress and see how a ‘sad old boat’ can be transformed into a pristine Drascombe Lugger. This one, now named Clara has a number of 937, which puts it at an early 1970 boat.
To all that have travelled and joined me this summer to ‘Lugger about in the sun’, my many thanks and so looking forward to meeting up again.
- Mid Summer Diary
Nidri, The Greek Ionian. It’s a sad day for Bengy today, he does not know it yet but the boat he uses for a day time shelter is being moved, I will have to make him another shelter out of a Lugger winter cover – with temperatures at around 33 he has to have shade and plenty of airflow.
July has been an interesting month in many respects, re-registering the Luggers from the UK SSR certificate to a Blue book Greek registration and forming a business in Greece for taxation purposes. These are all changes Greece has to make to comply with the 10 years of EU bailout finances imposed on them, this August seeing the end of financial support from both the IMF and the Euro-zone.
On 2nd July Dave and Pamela Craig arrived from Arizona, USA for a 3 week Island Hopping adventure. Dave is a teacher at an outdoor centre on the Gulf of Mexico and they have several Drascombe Longboats which they use as a part of their outdoor programmes with children and young adults.
It was not a good start to their visit, they missed a connecting flight and got stuck in Chicago and arrived 10 hours late at Preveza, late in the evening, only to find that their luggage was not on the same flight! They only had the clothes that they wore for the trip, not even a toothbrush. Hey ho, that’s not good. The baggage handling company could not trace these bags immediately and it was not until the next morning that we discovered that one bag was still in Heathrow, and Dave’s bag was not traced! With 2018 technology it is frightening to think a bag can go missing and not be traceable. So it was a shopping trip to Lefkas for Pamela to buy some basic clothes, whilst Ionian Air got their act together and made the transfer of the one bag via Athens to Preveza which finally happened 3 days later.
In the hope that Dave’s bag would appear, they set off from the apartment at Poros to catch up with their itinerary of pre-booked overnight B&B’s, the first being on the island of Ithica in the beautiful village of Kioni. They had a 5-night booking at an Air B&B room called Theo Filos House, you must read Dave’s diary!
Alas, by the Sunday, just under a week after their arrival I had delivery at my base in Nidri of Dave’s travel dry bag. This was strapped up with a docking line, I added a spare fuel container and put it onto the car deck of the evening Frikes ferry, for his collection at the other end. This is a typical Greek way of transporting things around the Islands – a baker in the morning will arrive on his scooter at the ferry port and add his 10 trays of spinach pies and numerous bags of loaves of bread, all to be collected at the other end by the Taverna or hotel which they are meant for, no payment and no hassle. It works, this is the Greek Islands. Being American, Dave was amazed that this could happen ‘what if there was a bomb in that bag of mine?’ he exclaimed with incredulity!
So, now with all their worldly belongings they were finally set for their adventure around the islands of Lefkada, Ithica, Cephalonia, Kastos and lastly Kalamos in Heulwen my 2017 Lugger. There have always been small boarding houses or lodgings available, but it has been mainly hotels and apartments were you stayed for the entire duration, but just this year the new phenomena of Air B&B has hit Greece and the Islands from mainland Europe in a dramatic way, with usually booking for a minimum of 3 nights and room prices around €70. Some were 45 and the most expensive 90, but still great value. Read more in Dave’s diary which is to follow.
For the End of Season’s Diary I will have done more research on more Lodgings, rooms and places that have flexible booking periods for you all to look at and maybe plan your 2019 Island Hopping Lugger adventure.
Arriving on 10th July for the week were the ‘Family Foster’, Simon, Louise and 11 year old Matthew, known as ‘Matty’, all total beginners to sailing, although Matty had done a little with his school. This was my first group of Family Sailing for Beginners, a feature I intend to push for future years.
Having this unique geographical position of Vliho Bay, some 3 km long, it is south of Nidri, with north and south prevailing winds, light in the morning with freshening winds later on; it is a superb ‘large pond’ to learn to sail on. In the past Lugger groups when faced with blustery conditions out in the Meganissi channel have used the bay as an alternative, being quite sheltered for half-day sessions and pulling in for lunch at the Gialos Taverna. Why be uncomfortable when you can have a few hours of gentle sailing and then lunch on the waters edge. You simply cannot beat it.
The Family Foster had specifically come to Dragon Drascombe to learn to sail as a family, and what better boat to have to learn to sail in. I go back to my sail training times of working as an instructor for the Outward Bound Trust, Wales sailing school at Aberdovey, Merionethshire, in the early 1970s.
So where to start and what will be the objective? A plan is needed and I set out with the following:
- To introduce the group to theoretical aspects of sailing, how the wind on sail produces a reaction and forward motion.
- The terminology used in sailing, quite important when communicating amongst a group sailing a boat. Everyone needs to understand terms like port and starboard etc.
- The use of knots and how to rig the boat. I am aware that present sailing tuition does not enter into this field – it is all about putting people onto boats and using one sail, a rudder and a mainsheet, but this is not preparing young sailors in particular to move forward and understand the wider aspect of sailing.
- The Lugger in the true sense is a proper boat, it has 3 sails, 2 masts, a centre board, a rudder, an auxiliary engine and lots of bits of string to pull
- This set-up will provide the family group with all the tasks necessary to sail the boat as a group, each having the chance to Helm or to satisfy the varying functions of the crew, be it on the jib or main sheets or centre board duties etc, plenty to learn
- Finally, my objective was at the end of the 7 days to have the family competent in moving the Lugger under engine safely and being able to sail on all points of sailing, that is, sailing a triangular course, fully rigged.
Was this ambitious? Yes maybe, but it was achieved.
We started by getting the Lugger moving under engine, picking up fenders that were thrown overboard, promoting manoeuvrability skill, coming alongside and very important being able to get back onto Geni Garden pontoon, bow to with lazy line safely. The days were split into AM and PM sessions with an important break at lunch time at the Gialos Taverna for a much needed Meza and Mythos beer, all except Matty who was stuck on Fanta. It was good to have this break and run through how the session had gone and we found that after the break the PM period went much better – not sure if the Mythos had anything to do with it?
From my position in the tender, observing the family group, they were learning a great deal from each other. Matty soon became very proficient on the outboard tiller, being excellent at coming onto a lazy line and judging distance and speed. He was quick to show his mum how to do things, whilst Simon his dad, once over the ‘hurdle ‘ of understanding the effect the wind has on sail and the various sail positions, became the boat Skipper.
What a successful week! Matty was presented with the Dragon Drascombe T shirt on the final evening in recognition of his outstanding progress. Well done to The Family Foster. I thoroughly enjoyed the week and their company.
Thanks to everyone so far this summer for making Dragon Drascombe very successful and enjoyable.
2018 is not finished yet, there are still good package deals on offer for late August at the Villa Eleanor, one week amazing deals for the last week in September and first week of October at both Geni Garden and the Gialos Taverna. Take an early winter break with me for the few vacancies left for the first and second weeks in October. Don’t delay, call to discuss on
+44 7812 562579
- Early Summer 2018
From my stunning summer office / home on the water’s-edge overlooking Vliho Bay, I can watch as boats enter and leave. My Luggers and workshop are close by, so in between introducing groups to Lugger sailing I am on hand to clean and maintain the boats before launching. All the boats were cleaned last October before being covered and left in winter storage, but to maintain the high standard of the woodwork it requires constant attention. On average each boat will be on the water for 60 days each season, a lot more use than ones own boat in the UK.
I am now into the beginning of the 4th week of charters and 7 groups have visited. The weather has been mixed, a hot start in early June with sunshine and showers since, however, it has not stopped groups from getting out in the Luggers to swim and snorkel in bays. The bimini’s again have come in for praise, a must when anchored for lunch and even when under engine they can be used.
Group members constantly ask how I manage to get all the Lugger kit and spares back and fore from the UK and Bengy my dog. Yes, it’s the drive overland in my newly completed Camper. For the past 12 years I have dropped down onto the eastern Adriatic coast to Ancona and got the overnight ferry to Igeomenitsa. For a change this year I took the route via Austria, Slovenia, into Croatia, having campsite stops overnight, staying near Dubrovnik for 2 nights. I continued then into Montenegro, briefly through Bosnia Herzegovina and into Albania; this is the Greek northern crossing point near Ioannina, and from there Lefkada is only 3 hours drive.
The first couple arrived at the beginning of June, arriving on a flight from Bristol to Corfu. From Corfu port they had the delightful ferry across to Igeomenitsa, where I was waiting to take them for the 2 hour drive down to Lefkada. Richard and Cheri Crosley were the next to arrive, again landing in Corfu. You will note from Cheri’s testimonial that they had a great time.
Gordon and Francis MacDonald then arrived, again via Corfu, having departed from Heathrow. Corfu is becoming a very popular point of entry to Greece; there are flights from so many regional airports and they are far less expensive compared with the flights into Preveza, so it’s a good idea for those interested to look at the Corfu point of entry into Greece.
Melvyn and Jane Walker leave tomorrow on the Easy Jet flight into Gatwick. They have been here for 10 day, making it a nice break. For the past 3 days they hired a quad bike and set off to explore the mountainous region of central Lefkada. There will be some photographs to follow of their adventure.
Last week I received the newly made Baton Roached Mainsail from Dick at R& J sails. Due to his illness this winter it was late being made, however, it was worth waiting for as all his work is to a very high standard. This sail will be rigged within days ready for David and Pamela from Prescott Arizona in the US. They will have it on Ellie for their 3 week expedition, taking in the eastern Ionian Sea towards Patras, heading south to Ithica and the Cephalonia area before returning to Lefkada. It will be a very flexible itinerary for their stay. This will be documented in the Mid-Season Blog in early August
For now its goodbye to all, there are still available dates and Special offers to grab and seriously look at coming to the Ionian via Corfu.