Now that we are back in the UK visiting friends and relatives there has been a certain amount of lantern swinging and the odd ‘one that got away’ story, so I decided to do a more formal recap of 2017; and it has been a busy year. I estimate we covered over 2500 nautical miles between leaving Olbia and reaching Roccella. We have visited some fantastic places and spent time with our friends, old and new.
We started the season in Sardinia and my only real plan was to get to Thassos by June to see my friend Dave and his wife Jane once they’d settled into retired life on the island. We also had to attend Tabatha and Raffa’s wedding in Malaga in August. Other than that we had no fixed plans but as the year progressed we made arrangements to meet friends at various points on our travels; Charlie and Anna in Sardinia, Ivan and Lu in Cephalonia, Zeinep and Steve for a trip from Athens to Thassos, Solange in Sounion, Marco and Lu in Crete and Keith in Cephalonia. These meetings ‘filled in the blanks’ between Olbia, Thassos and Malaga and dictated our route.
Our first job in Olbia was getting the anti fouling renewed. We spent the week touring the island while it was being done, discovering the unique history of the island along the way. Once back in the water we said goodbyes to our new friends and neighbours, setting off antilockwise around the island, taking a short detour to Bonifacio in Corsica as we were passing.
Our next destination was Alghero where Charlie and Ana finally came to see us, along with Ana’s nephew Mateus. We had a fantastic few days with them before they returned home and we carried on round the island to Cagliari before making for mainland Italy. We stayed in Salerno for a week and toured the beautiful Amalfi Coast by bus, visiting Capri by ferry.
From there we headed south for Messina. We timed our voyage south to pass Stromboli at night to see the volcano erupting; it is known as the biggest lighthouse in the Med and didn’t disappoint.
We called at Messina and stayed in the small marina there taking the opportunity of a weekend in Palermo; that was a really pleasant surprise. Then, waiting for some decent weather, we headed off towards our first port of call in Greece, Argostoli on the island of Cephalonia. John and Isabel were coming in the opposite direction and we passed them, literally ‘ships in the night’, off the south coast of Italy.
Once in Argostoli on Cephalonia we contacted John’s friend Keith who lives on the island. And what a fantastic guy! He seemed to drop everything and become our personal tour guide giving us an island tour, taking us out and driving us to the supermarkets for a supply run!
Mid way through our stay on Cephalonia we moved to anchor in a small bay on the south west corner of the island to meet Ivan, Lu, Bianca and Rebecca who had chosen their holiday to coincide with our arrival! We anchored and picked them up from the beach by their hotel, took them for a sail around Rabbit Island, then back to Argostoli for an afternoon.
From Cephalonia we continued east through the Gulfs of Patras and Corinth stopping for a couple of days at the quaint harbour of Galaxidi. We stayed a couple of days allowing us to visit the ruins at Delphi.
Then it was on to and through the Corinth Canal heading towards our next ‘crew change’. We arranged to meet Zeynep and Steve in Palaia Fokaia, a port about an hour south of Athens in the Ormos Anavisou. Again, I met them on the beach for a clandestine night time pick up.
They sailed with us from there to Thassos, a trip of about 10 days. Our route took us passed Sounion, Lavrio and between the islands of Evia and Andros where we anchored in the ultra secluded bay of Kastri. Then we continued north to the delightful island of Skyros where we loitered for a few days before making for Thassos. That was not ‘plain sailing’ as we got caught out in some thundery squalls over night and had to run for cover in the harbour of Mirina on Limnos, before resuming our voyage. The winds reached Beaufort Force 6, Valeria Force 10.
We made landfall on Thassos in a delightful bay called Aliki before moving on to the port of Limenas on the north of the island. Dave and Jane drove up to meet us and it was then I found that they lived about a mile from the port of Linaria on the south end of the island. Limena / Linaria, so confusing! So we actually ended up doing a complete circumnavigation of the island but it did allow us to complete Zeynep and Steve’s trip in the manner it started, dropping them off by tender on the beach in Poros, right beside the ferry terminal for their journey on to Thessaloniki and then home.
So having circled Thassos we stayed in Linaria for a week visiting with Dave and Jane. They made us so amazingly welcome, showing us around and introducing us to island life. We took them sailing and then hired a car to drive around the island to see it from the dry side. It was really good to see an ex colleague who is living his dream as well!
From Thassos we sailed west across the peninsulas of Khalkhidiki on our way towards, then through, the rest of the Northern Sporades enjoying more delightful anchorages and quiet town quays. We’d planned to explore a little of the Gulf of Volos but toilet troubles diverted us to Oreoi in Evia.
From Oreoi we sailed, actually sailed, a lot of the way down the North Evia Channel to the bridge at Khalkis. Once through the bridge we headed for Olympic Marina south of Lavrion where we planned to leave the boat and go to Malaga. On the passage from Oreoi on the north end of Evia to Olympic we had virtually every combination of wind and weather, light airs to Near Gales, and from every point on the compass, all crammed into about 4 days, finally forcing us to shelter in Ormos Marcopoulo off Port Rafti for a few days.
But a week or so later normal service resumed on the weather front and we anchored in Sounion Bay, just off the beach in front of the hotel Solange and the girls were staying in. I ferried them to and from the beach each day in the tender and we spent a wonderful few days with them on the boat swimming and sailing and by their hotel pool before retracing our route to Olympic Marina where we said farewell to Solange, Luna and Mayara.
With the boat secure in Olympic Marina we set off for Malaga by plane, via Istanbul, and spent almost a week in and around Malaga and Nerja celebrating Tabatha and Rafael’s marriage.
Back at Olympic we had the water maker serviced, badly, then set off south for Crete, aiming for Spinalonga Lagoon and then Agios Nikolaos where we were to meet Marco and Lu. With almost perfect timing this was also Valeria’s birthday weekend!
Leaving Crete we sailed north west for the Peloponese and spent our wedding anniversary in Porto Kayio before continuing on our way to Zakynthos and Cephalonia again. We met up with Keith and Tracy in Sami, one of the stops on his Guided Tour from our previous visit! We had a great day with them before setting off north towards Lefkas where we had arranged to rendezvous with Graeme, Jayne and Isabela in Scarlett, our friends from Olbia. We spent the best part of a week with them in and around Sivota then continued on north to Paxos and Corfu, salvaging an abandoned tender en route.
By now we had firmly arranged our winter berth in Roccella Ionica and so spent our last few days in Corfu in Port Mandraki, courtesy of my salvage fee, waiting for a settled period of weather for our crossing from Greece back to Italy. Once in Roccella we found ourselves surrounded by another set of fantastic, friendly people, all doing roughly the same as ourselves!
A busy year!
Next year we plan to take things slower. We’ll confine our travels to the Ionian on our way to the Cyclades and Dodecanese Islands where I plan to do a vaguely anti-clockwise trip around the islands. This means we’ll be fairly easy to track down and generally will be within easy reach of somewhere with an airport or ferry port where we can meet friends who wish to come and visit us.