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07 July 2018 Argostolion; Greece.

Argostolion or Argostoli is located on the island of Cephalonia or Kefalonia, one of the Ionian Sea islands, on the west side of the Peloponnesus. We arrived here by sailing around the south point and through the passage north of the island of Kithira. It is much easier to go around as then there is no traffic but it is 16 miles longer so all traffic goes through the passage. This passage is called Steno Elafosinou and Steno means strait or passage.  The passage is quite wide but the number of idiots going through is also quite extensive. Last evening it was fairly normal; every ship made the course changes on time and every ship gave each other a little bit of room. But that is not always the case as we come in this area of the Mediterranean on the routes to Turkey and Russia, across some very original thinkers as far as the rules of the road are concerned.

Our route around the Peloponnesus. The red part is the Strait where things can be very interesting as all ships have to make the same course change. NE to SE when going East and NW to SW when going west.

I still remember very vividly when I was captain on the Noordam in 2001 and we went through here that ahead of us was a very large tanker, close to 300 meters or so. While in the middle of the passage, where everybody makes the course change, it decided to make a full U turn. I assume that the captain had received orders to turn back at once and decided to do so; at once. But there was no announcement, nothing of the kind, just suddenly a large tanker making a turn to port and going around. Tankers need quite a bit of space to make a U turn and thus he was blocking the routes of everybody else. For me on the Noordam it was not much of a problem, we put the brakes on and stayed at a safe distance. But for other cargo ships, those who need a long time to slow down when their engine is on sea speed setting, it was not so nice. So we saw ships scattering hither and dither and one even drifting into the bay on the North side. In the meantime this tanker came very close to the shallows on the North side of the Steno Elafosinou; so close that the officer of the watch on the Noordam started to wonder if we should not get the tenders ready in case a rescue mission was needed. The tanker made it, but only just, and then sailed in the opposite direction. In the meantime the air was “blue” on the VHF by all ships who were questioning the heritage of the captain, wishing him a not so nice future, and promising him a very close personal “ conversation” if they would ever meet him somewhere.

The town of Argostolion. Completely rebuilt after the 1953 earthquake and as a result most of the houses have very similar roofs. The building on the right is the Maritime Academy.

Argostolion is located in an inlet which is quite sheltered except from the Northerly winds, the Etesian winds. And they started to blow today. There is a dock nowadays in the port, also in the north south direction, and that made docking possible. Had there been no dock, then we would have had to cancel as you cannot tender in swells caused by 40 knots of wind and more. But we were docked on time. But for the reminder of the day, the waves were slamming under the stern, sending shudder after shudder through the ship. The town is fairly new as it was partly destroyed by German bombing in the 2nd world war and then an earthquake in 1953 took care of the rest. Thus all the houses look fairly new and also fairly similar.

Building a dock the most frugal way possible. Three short platforms and the bow and the stern are held in place by mooring lines connected to two buoys.

It was a good day for the guests as the temperature had dropped significantly from yesterday while the sun remained shining, but with a lot of wind blowing. From here there are tours available to inland caves, ancient sides, wineries and botanical gardens; a great variation which made  our tours well booked.

I spent my day in “red tape”. As is required for each shipping company we have to have a Safety Management System. A set of books or a database which gives us regulations and guidance on how to run the ships and how to implement policies for every aspect of life on board. (Although the SMS is compulsory for safety, environmental, security and health only; we have a lot more in it). The challenge is that it is easy to put a regulation into the system but it is not always that easy to find it back. The search engine reacts to key words and the keywords that the policy maker had in mind are not always the same as the searcher will use. It is like doing a google; you do not always get what you were expecting. I was on my ship inspection again and then you have to check the database for every item as the world keeps changing. So I hovered between my computer to find the theoretical requirements and going into the ship to see what had been implemented in a practical way. …………… and it is amazing how complicated everything around a First Aid Kit can be………..

Tomorrow we are in Kerkira or Corfu as the rest of world calls it. It will be sunny again with temperatures of 85oF / 29oC. and it might be windy again. It is only a 106 miles north from here and that means a slow comfortable run further up the coast, and then we will be docked by 08.00 hrs. If the authorities do not change their mind, we should have the best dock in the port with the shortest walking possible distance to the town.

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