What Desi Did Next 

27 May

With some blowy weather forecast we headed for our ‘go to’ place in the the Southern Ionian, Sivota on Lefkas. As it turned out, the worst of the weather didn’t materialise, although there was obviously more wind outside the harbour, but we never mind spending time in there.

Eventually, though, the pretty little resort of Fiscardo called to us. We usually choose to tie to the rocks and dinghy ashore, preferring what tends to be a quieter spot with easy swimming access to the noise of the quay. This time, however, with the weather still decidedly changeable and the sea definitely failing my big toe test, the quay seemed a better option. The pontoon which only a couple of years ago provided extra space has now disappeared and the better spots were already taken up so we had no choice but to tie outside a taverna, the passarelle touching down amongst the tables.

Despite this and the incessant Zorba music, Fiscardo didn’t disappoint. It is probably my favourite stop in the Ionian, rather gentrified and with prices to match, but still worth the harbour dues. It even has a better class of tourist tat. This is the place to buy your chic summer dresses and thick Turkish towels if you don’t mind forking out the readies. I’m always tempted but compromised with a rather pretty fridge magnet. Now all we need is a fridge to put it on. Oh, and a kitchen, of course.

Next stop was Kalamos and the bay of the deserted Port Leone. Abandoned after an earthquake wrought havoc, it is now given over to boats and fishermen who have a habit of laying nets and almost blocking access, a real propeller hazard for the unwary or those arriving in the dark. Again it was a bit on the chilly side and the katabatic wind not particularly pleasant so one night was enough. The following morning we tootled the couple of miles to Port Kalamos itself.
There was a fair bit of wind as well as rain forecast for the Ionian with just a small patch of blue (indicating light winds) over Kalamos and neighbouring Kastos. This probably played its part in the frenzy that developed that evening. We’ve been here several times, often in peak season, and have never seen it so busy. Two flotillas, one of them unexpected, along with numerous charter boats and all arriving relatively late in the day (the owner occupied crews made sure to get in early) created, what turned out to be, very well organised chaos. This is all thanks to an amazing taverna owner who skillfully made sure every boat dropped enough chain and had a place to go to. How he managed it is something to behold. Inevitably there was anchor chain spaghetti the next morning but again George was there to make sure no anchor was uprooted. We’re not in any hurry to move off.

All quiet at the weekend – pretty Kalamos

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Not All Plain Sailing

19 May

 

As I said in the previous post, the journey down to Lakka was fine, just boring which I never complain about when it comes to sailing. And the first night was lovely, free swinging in the bay. The following night, though, the swell rolled in making for a very bouncy bed but nothing to worry about and no sign of the promised thunderstorms, just a rather wet and chilly afternoon cooped up below.

It was the following night that proved to be particularly unpleasant. The day had been a perfect temperature with a pleasant enough breeze lulling us in to a false sense of security. Neil had even gone for a swim – for all of 30 seconds! We’d been for a walk, done a bit of shopping in the small village and lingered over a couple of cokes chatting to another crew who also have a berth in the same marina. The afternoon was spent lounging around reading and watching the comings and goings. This is what it’s all supposed to be about. There had been a bit of thunder and a short burst of rain but that was actually quite reassuring in that it was not an issue at all.

We’d turned in for an early night when a sudden squall hit. The first I knew about it was a howling wind giving the boat what felt like a big shove and the sudden jerk of the anchor chain as it was stretched to its fullest. All I could do was lie there rigid in bed for a few seconds, stunned and disoriented. In the meantime, Neil was up with coat on, heading up top. That finally broke the spell.

Thankfully our anchor had held but others weren’t so lucky. Everybody around us was letting out more chain which allowed us to do the same. Dinghies were somehow returning to their boats from the shore, something I really wouldn’t have relished in those conditions. That was all we could do, to be honest, but sleep was out of the question for a while as we kept watch to make sure we weren’t going to drag and nobody was going to drag into us. The wind eventually dropped as quickly as it had arrived but leaving a very churned up sea. Not a pleasant night.

So leaving the following morning, despite a bouncy sea, seemed like a good idea even to me. I’d had enough of the Northern Ionian in May but it had to have one more pop at us. Just as I was starting to enjoy the long journey down to the Lefkas Canal, flat seas and only just enough wind for the mainsail to help us along, out of nowhere we were hit on the nose by almost 30 knots of wind. With nowhere nearer to run to, we made as much headway as we could against the wind and rolling white seas. Neil gave the sail its head, heeling us over to the water line.

Five minutes before we had been lounging on the cushions eating grapes in true Bacchanalian fashion. Now we were soaked to the skin, the floor was far from horizontal and Desi was crashing down the waves in a truly sickening fashion. For three hours. Perhaps you will appreciate the relief we felt on making it into the canal close to bridge opening time. And the wind was gone. 

Let Loose

16 May

We’ve finally let go of the lazy line. Yes, the Lamputts have left the marina. Neil must have started to think that he’d have to drag me kicking and screaming from the pontoon even as I still clung onto the shore power cable. But, this time at least, my reluctance genuinely wasn’t due to losing the comforts of home.

It was still a bit blowy. Well, it was the day before to be precise and it all still looked a bit unsettled in the forecast. I know, I know, I sound pathetic but it’s experience that’s made be this way. Apart from anything else the last time we’d done this journey was the one and only time I’ve been physically sea sick. In the entire time we’ve been sailing, in all the big seas and high winds we’ve been in from Plymouth to Greece, the only time I’ve had my head in a bucket is during that short distance between the two islands of Corfu and Paxos.

We were both awake early. Truth be told, I’d been awake most of the night. Eventually, though, with every forecast known to man checked, a pile of ham rolls in the fridge, water tank refilled and a couple of Stugeron swallowed, we left the marina behind us. Once out of the bay, the sea was still a bit churned up and it was decidedly on the chilly side but I started to relax.

If you wait for the wind to drop before leaving harbour you can’t expect to sail all the way. Well, so be it. A steady 6 knots on engine and main sail would get us into Lakka just fine. OK, it’s a bit boring but at least the floor stays mostly horizontal and there’s an awful lot to be said for that. I know Neil wouldn’t entirely agree with me.

When the cork-screw motion approaching Paxos set in the meds did their work. We could see the boats at anchor in Lakka, their hulls appearing pale blue in the distance, reflection from the turquoise water of the bay. It is worth letting loose.

Stage Set 

15 May

Enforced lingering in the marina, latterly by my reticence to leave the safety of harbour in anything stronger than a force 4, has at least given us the chance to get out and about a bit on Corfu. Not that we’ve gone far; a couple of bus journeys into Corfu Town where we struck lucky and caught sight of Champagne and her crew, formerly of the good ship Isabelle, Christine and Vic. Fizz duly ensued, the preferred Italian kind rather than that to match the boat’s name.

Otherwise we’ve not got much further than easy walking distance of the marina itself. It was on one of these walks we spotted the film crew outside the old Durrell House as featured in the TV series. Of course I immediately wanted to take a photo but was practically jumped on by a fluorescent vest wearing youth who was alert enough to put down his phone in time to stop me. No photos. So this is a sneaky one taken from the road on the return journey.

Around the back was a different story and we’d already taken the picture of the house overlooking the beach. It appeared suitably rather ramshackle as it would have appeared in Gerald Durrell’s time here, presumably staged for filming. 

His books are attributed as being largely responsible for the beginnings of Corfu’s tourist trade, a fact he, apparently, lived to regret when he saw how the island had changed. It appears that the local residents feel differently, however, if the monument in Corfu town is anything to go by. Certainly the house in Kalami that was rented by big brother “Larry” is now a rather nice restaurant doing a booming trade. The owners of the house rented by his family, on the other hand, have remained very private people, the grounds surrounded by high walls. If it wasn’t for local knowledge and the current presence of a film crew, the visitor wouldn’t be aware that it was anything out of the ordinary. I confess to a certain frisson at seeing it, though.

Back on Board 

7 May

 

A winter in Spain with a couple of weeks in the UK either side means we’ve been away from the boat for the best part of 8 months. Thankfully, a man (a very nice man, a very, very nice man) has been looking after her in our absence. We returned to a clean and aired Desi, lift-out, antifouling and lift-in all done. Now that is what I call luxury. He’d also fitted the new anchor Neil had ordered, the same as on our previous boat which we’ve grown to trust (a Kobra 2 for those who are interested in that sort of thing – yawn.)
Arriving in the early afternoon with three big holdalls of “stuff” (including much-missed slow cooker and quilts) meant we had a few hours to get the interior back to rights and unpack. For the non-boaties out there I should perhaps explain that the unheated space below deck left over winter can get very damp so anything that might suffer has to be wrapped up and positioned​ away from the walls.

Much to our relief Desi has proved to be a very dry boat and it was only the one pillow that showed any sign of mildew. As well as unpacking and unwrapping, all the loose items from deck including dinghy, sails etc were stowed in the rear cabin needed shifting.

However, our early start got the better of us and a cold beer was giving off its siren call. A glass or two and a delicious stifado later and we were both done in. With enough space cleared to sleep on, we collapsed into Desi’s welcome rocking and the lullaby of creaking mooring lines and rattling halyards. It was 8:30pm.

Pamplona Impressions

25 Apr

Although best known for its bull running event, Pamplona is so much more. Following on the heels of our visit to Zaragoza the contrast is striking and left us wishing we’d chosen to spend longer here than this flying visit. With just a couple of hours to explore, not even long enough to have a meal, we raced around the beautiful narrow streets, a photogenic view at every turn.

They say that we subconsciously remember smells and that they trigger memories. For Seville that will certainly be from the orange blossom. For me, Pamplona will for ever be associated in my mind with the green fragrance of the new growth of spring. And, perhaps, the tangy sweetness​ of lemon ice cream.

Shady, green park

Beautiful buildings

Open, sunny Plaza 

There’s even deer grazing, protected by the city moat

Zaragoza

18 Apr

It’s perhaps unfortunate that we visited Zaragoza so soon after spending time in Seville. It seriously doesn’t compare. But perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh, particularly if, like us, you want to break up the long drive from the Mediterranean coast to the the ferries in the north.

There are two cathedrals for a start, not to mention the fortified palace of the Aragon Court. We visited the latter on our first evening after failing to be able to walk to it along the riverbank. It’s pleasant enough although so restored it resembles a stereotypical toy castle. It must have been splendid in its day but little of that splendour remains and we left after half an hour feeling we hadn’t been allowed to access most of the building.

Then there’s the food. The tapas bars get rave reviews but I feel like the boy who said the Emperor was “in the altogether”. I’d have been grateful for a Macdonald’s, to be honest. And everybody is so incredibly unfriendly to the point of rudeness. Yes, they’re busy and they are serving idiots who are stupid enough to eat in a place where the waiter insists you don’t ask him for a particular item on the menu, just tell him the number. I sympathise but it doesn’t help. Oh, and you’ll pay far more than anywhere else in Spain that we have visited.

Ok, maybe my judgement has been clouded by accidentally stepping with both feet into a water feature shortly followed by walking into a glass door that turned out not to be a door – the only time I saw a local laugh. I decided that the dire food was the third of the “these things come in threes” event. Nevertheless, I’ve been very careful to hold handrails while going up and down stairs!

Our second day restored my faith in Zaragoza. For a start we found somewhere serving fresh bread at reasonable prices for breakfast and the busy waitress managed to both smile and be friendly. It’s amazing how something like that can change your day. After losing it slightly when I was served warm white wine (they quickly realised it was a good idea to get me a fresh one!) we decided to change our eating intentions completely and hunted out a lunchtime Menu del Dia in the shopping district, completely abandoning the idea of tapas. Thankfully that worked, too.

We managed to visit both cathedrals, some Roman ruins and a quirky exhibition of huge illuminated lanterns at the Museum of the Crystal Rosary (Museo de los Faroles y Rosario de Cristal). Apparently these huge illuminated lanterns are carried around Zaragoza in October which one review we read described as a sort of collision between Blackpool Illuminations and Semana Santa. Now that would definitely be something to see.

So would we return? As an overnight stopover – probably.