Tag Archives: Ionian

Up North 

2 Jul

With the Ionian getting into full swing for the peak holiday season it seemed time to head north through the Lefkas Canal again. The wind gods were kind enough not to throw anything unpleasant at us on our return journey and we chose to break up the trip, anchoring in a quiet bay for a night to brace ourselves for manic Parga the next day.
Despite the noise and constant bashing from the wake of speedboats dragging assorted inflatables and anything else they can think of around any boat willing to anchor and thus provide the required obstacle course, Parga has its attractions. It must have been absolutely stunning before mass tourism took off but enough remains of the original harbour with its narrow streets leading up to the castle to preserve a bit of character. One night is enough, though.

Lakka, on the other hand, called for a bit of lingering and redeemed itself after the “unpleasantness” in May. However, after some eight weeks of beetling about, the lure of a few days in our marina berth on Corfu complete with shore power and the civilising influence of showers with unlimited hot water, was inevitable.

Not so good, though, is that our visit coincided with the first of the stupidly hot weather. Life on board trying to cope with 40 degrees in the shade is no picnic when even what breeze there is almost makes it worse. You know it’s hot when you’re just as sweaty after a shower as before. I tried cooking a quick pasta dish yesterday. Mistake! It put up the temperature of the interior to literally unbearable levels and it was 3am before venturing to sleep below deck became feasible.

So here I sit in the nearest bar making a soft drink last as long as possible. Thankfully the direction of the wind is slowly changing. The downside is that it’s also increasing, enough to keep us in the marina for a few more days. Even I can get a bit bored of it. I know – there’s just no pleasing some people.

A Tale of Three Harbours 

21 Jun

Vasiliki quay has space – at the moment

It is undoubtedly true that the Ionian is becoming more crowded. I understand that a lot of foreign boats have left Turkish waters due to the uncertainty of the political situation there, some some 1,000 I’ve been told heading for Greece many to the Ionian. There are far more charter and flotilla companies than a few years ago, all with bigger boats – many catamarans – and each individual flotilla seems bigger than I remember it.

Add to this the increase in independent land-based tourism, particularly to some areas that had previously not caught the eye of the big companies and it is not surprising the whole experience is changing. These once small fishing harbours that only developed to cater for their boating visitors have had a rethink.

Fiskardo on Kefalonia now seems to give boats a very low priority. A pontoon that was damaged in a storm has not been repaired or replaced and the quay is crowded and full very quickly. Even taking long lines to the rocky shore, once a favourite of ours, will find you as close to neighbouring boats as on the quay as Fiskardo’s reputation means every charter and​ flotilla crew wants to go there. That’s not to say that you won’t receive a welcome from the shop keepers and taverna owners who will still happily take your lines when your stern is nosing its way amongst their tables. Business is obviously booming.

Until very recently it was rare to see a land based tourist in Sivota on Lefkas but apartments and villas are rapidly being built in the hills around the harbour. Additionally, a flotilla company has made it their base and the quay has changed accordingly. There are several pontoons attached to restaurants who let you moor free of charge if you eat in their taverna. Some of these have been there for a while but the difference now is that there are more than enough boats wanting to take up the offer so the owners only want those with large crews staying one night.

With the lazy lines of the pontoons preventing access to a significant amount of the quay ever more deep water berths are being swallowed up by small motor boats. These either belong to regular land based visitors or are the little self drive boats hired out for a few hours at a time. The owners of these lay bouys and lazy lines blocking off the spaces for when the boats are out.
The remaining spaces seem to be taken by liveaboards who, having got a place, are reluctant to move. On our last recent visit we managed to nab a space between the latest pontoon and the rapidly spreading rental boats. For the first time ever in Sivota there was no one to take our lines. Neil had to call over a passing tourist who was willing enough to help but had obviously no idea what to do.

Neighbouring Vasiliki has taken a different course. Renowned for its strong winds, the resort has long been popular with younger visitors wanting all the water sports the guaranteed breezy conditions​ allow. The hotels, apartments, bars and cafes are well established. Now, though, a new breakwater is being built with a privately owned marina due to open in three months time and the old inner harbour, that was alarmingly shallow, has been dredged to a more comfortable 2.5ish meters.

The new breakwater in Vasaliki

This is all no doubt welcome to the struggling Greek economy and the port authorities are, rather belatedly catching on. Sivota, with no Port Police presence (we did see police cars patrolling for the first time, though) continues to remain free to tie up to the quay. Fiskardo will take a hefty mooring fee from private boats, certainly enough to make you think twice, while offering a reduced fee to charters.

Vasiliki seems to have taken a middle way. Earlier in the season we heard reports that the quay was taken up by non-moving boats but, with settled winds forecast, we still decided to check it out. We arrived to find an almost empty quay that gradually filled up around us. That evening the port authorities visited each boat, checking paperwork and charging a modest nightly fee, not enough to put most short term visitors off whilst dissuading those that have taken root.

I do wonder how long it will last, though. Today a flotilla​ from one of the smaller companies came in – for the first time according to the lead crew. The skipper had to bring each boat in himself as the afternoon wind is strong enough to be a worry. But when the new breakwater is complete maybe that won’t be such an issue. It remains to be seen.

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. 

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.

Last Few Days

6 Sep

Our cruising season ended with Desert Dream at anchor in the narrow bay of San Stefano on Corfu. It’s a strange place, undeniably pretty with excellent tavernas and yet.. In all honesty I think it’s more touristy and British dominated than Benidorm. Just because you’re more likely be disturbed by a Hooray Henry than a Lager Lout doesn’t make it less so. Personal opinion, of course, and we had a great couple of nights there.

Anyway, with thunderstorms threatening again we headed back to the marina. There was a lot to do to put the boat “to bed” before we could leave her for the winter months and as much of it was on the outside we needed to get in before the rain set in. So with engine serviced, water maker (which is still costing more money, incidentally) winterised, salt water washed off, cockpit wood scrubbed and oiled, sails secured, dinghy deflated etc, etc, we’re sitting out the last few days in the rain, waiting to go home.

To top it all our dongle has stopped working. We’ve no idea why as there should be plenty left on there but we’ve given up on it and are now struggling with the rather tenuous marina WiFi. I’ll try to post this but there’s no way pictures will upload, I’m afraid.

It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable sailing season despite the odd close encounter with a bucket. We’ve been to new places and met new people, some of whom we hope will become firm friends. With one or two things still to be sorted, hopefully over the winter months, the boat is definitely feeling like our home from home and has lived up to her name. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to a real bed, though. And a bath. Oh, and flushing toilets. You get the picture.

Ups and Downs

27 Aug

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We sat out a few days of thunderstorms in the marina. Although never a hardship for us, we were nonetheless eager to get out and about again as the weather improved. We’d both been studying the forecasts with a view to heading south to Paxos and while Neil was quite happy, I wasn’t so sure.

You see I’m a nervous sailor. Scrap that. I’m not a sailor. I’m here under completely false pretences. When real sailors come in going “Oh brilliant, great sail today. 30 knots and we were stonking along” I just think “Mad!”

The forecast was for a Force 4, perhaps the sailing ideal. Really nothing to worry about and as Neil pointed out, I can’t have it both ways. If I want a breeze to keep us cool at anchor we’ve got to actually go out when there’s some wind. He’s right, of course.

Off we went, up went the sails and off went the engine. We weren’t heeled over much, the sails cast a pleasant shadow into the cockpit and all was well with the world. Wonderful. Yes, I get it.

Soon we were anchored at the southern end of Corfu in Petriti’s large bay and for a while it looked like we were going to be the only boat there. It wasn’t long, though, before they were rolling in – and so was the swell. Not the annoying, boat-rattling swell of the ferry boats further north but the constant, all-nighter. We were bucking like a rodeo rider but, to be fair, the motion wasn’t unpleasant. It just meant that Neil didn’t get the fried eggs he was looking forward to.

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We didn’t hang about the next day and happily left the crowded bay heading for Lakka on Paxos. Lovely, lovely Lakka. Yes, it gets crowded too but we like to tie up to the rocks, providing a relatively private patch of turquoise water to swim in and the shade comes in early as the sun starts to go down.

This time, though, the last few miles were uncomfortable to say the least. I’ve often felt seasick but never actually reached the throwing up stage. It took about 10 minutes. Just writing about it now makes me feel ill and, would you believe it, a rolling swell has just started here in Lakka. I’ll be sitting next to the bucket.

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Kassiopi Festival

18 Aug

We managed to get on to the quay in Kassiopi on the 15th of August when they celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Although the day is celebrated throughout Greece and is generally a holiday they particularly make a big deal of it in Kassiopi because they regard Mary as “their” saint as the church is named after her.

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The church parade is led by the band followed by the choir competing with the ringing of the church bell

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The boys carrying the banners and cross walk ahead

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Followed by the girls throwing flower petals

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The priests emerge singing from the church dressed in their finery as the elaborately decorated alter that contains the image of the Virgin is paraded through the streets. The image itself, though, never leaves the church.

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The evening is all about celebrating. Tables and chairs are laid out around the harbour as whole lambs are roasted. A band plays traditional Greek songs long into the night.