Category Archives: Voyages

Blogs devoted to the voyages we make in travelling between the places sv Windependent visits.

Vhliko and Port Atheni

On Saturday we slipped from the town quay heading for Ormos Vhliko and Port Atheni.  Vhliko is 9 miles south of Lefkas and from there north coast of the island of Meganisi, where there are a host of small bays to anchor in, is only 4 or 5 miles away.    Then we planned to head south to Vathi on the island of Ithica, a mere 20 miles away.   This is the sort of cruising we hope to do when we get into the Agean again, short hops between islands only making long passages when absolutely necessary.

Leaving Lefkas Town at 11.30 we headed south through the canal which separates the island from the main land.   In fact it is only this canal across salt flats which makes Lefkas an island.   It was first dug in the 7th century BC by the Corinthians and has been in use in various forms ever since.   On leaving the canal we had a slow motor along the coast towards Ormos Vhliko.   Slow because we needed to make water as 5 days in Lefkas, where there isn’t any, had depleted our supplies.

Taverna Elena

Ormos Vhliko is a land locked bay well protected from almost all winds, not that wind was going to be an issue, there wasn’t any ……   We selected our anchor position off the village of Geni on the east side of the bay very carefully, on the basis of its proximity to a couple of tavernas.   These tavernas have their own jetties and just before the sun went down we took the tender to the nearest one and tied it up next to our table and spent a very pleasant couple of hours over a light dinner and some wine, returning to the boat to continue using their internet!

Taverna Elena with jetty, or vice versa …

On Sunday we set off at 11.30 again for the trip across to the north coast of Meganisi.  The island’s north coast is heavily indented with coves in which you can anchor but need to tie back to the shore because the water is quite deep and there is no room to swing; this is not something we’ve done before.

Captain on Deck!

In Lefkas I had purchased two 50 metre lengths of floating mooring line and had already bought two heavy lifting strops so I decided to use the windless conditions to practice with my new toys.   We headed to a bay in Porto Atheni which I knew would suit as a test site; we’d anchored here for lunch last year with our friends Graeme and Jayne in Scarlett, so it was familiar ground.    Anyway, long story short, we anchored and while Valeria BBQ’d lunch I ran my two new lines ashore in the dingy and we successfully tied back to a couple of large rocks on the shore. You wouldn’t want do this in strong winds but now I’ve had a practice I reckon we should be able to do it for real when the time comes.

Long lines ashore

So our second night of generator supported freedom was spent in silent relaxation in a delightfully tranquil bay with just three other boats for company, and none of them charter boats !!!!!!

Off to Lakka

We got away as planned, leaving Roccella at just after 9 on Monday 30 April, bound for Lakka, on Paxos. This was a 180 nautical miles over night passage and the winds were forecast to be generally light and mostly southerly or westerly.  Depending on our speed the passage would take between 30 hours (6 knots) and 36 hours (5 knots).

We managed to keep up a speed of well over 5.5 knots, hitting 7.5 at some points overnight with the wind behind us, and the passage took us just under 30 hours. Unfortunately to do this we needed to run both engines which will be quite expensive when we next need to take on diesel; however, the alternative was a slower passage, with 2 nights at sea or a night approach to the anchorage in Lakka. For our first voyage of the season we went for the swift, single over night passage and an afternoon arrival.

Big fish ...
Big fish ….

Highlights of the trip were lots of dolphins and our first tuna of the season. We now have an ‘I Spy Book of Dolphins’ as I figured it might be fun identifying the ones we see. No such luck, these ones, although distinctive, bore no resemblance to the pictures! More practice needed. The tuna was not only the first of the season, but our biggest ever. It weighed 2.75 kilos and gave us 1.5 kilos of tuna steaks in the freezer and a Fish Supper at sea on Monday night!

Lakka
Lakka

Arriving in, or more accurately ‘returning’ to, Lakka (we visited last year) we found it to be a bit crowded with perhaps 15 boats anchored and a charter fleet of 10 more on the town quay. There was still plenty of space for us and it is delightfully quiet and picturesque with lovely clear water. I took my customary swim to check the anchor and was pleasantly surprised to find only minimal hull fouling (not many things growing on the hull), although the propellers have attracted more growth than I’d like and I can see myself trying to clean them up while we’re here. At least the water is not too cold!

Pimms o’clock

All in all a nice relaxing start to our season! We’ll spend a few days here sampling the delights of Lakka before heading off towards Lefkas

We’re off!!

Over the last weeks of April there has been a palpable feeling of ‘leaving‘; the ‘Winter Community’ has been diminishing as boats have been leaving in dribs and drabs to start their summer cruising. Some off to the west for Scicily and Sardinia, Chris and Sue in ‘Nimrod’ heading  north to the Adriatic and Croatia and others, ourselves amongst them, heading east for Greece.

Our ‘plan’ was to leave with a favourable wind for our over night passage to Othoni, on Thursday 26 April, but …. we were still waiting for a delivery which we ordered two weeks ago.   On Friday, with only one brief period of settled weather approaching we cancelled  the order and started making plans to leave on Monday, 30 April.

Being a few days late setting off and the likelyhood of less than favourable weather conditions next weekend, we have decided to give Corfu a miss and head straight for the island of Paxos and the lovely bay of Lakka at the north of the island.  This is slightly further from Roccella than Othonoi at 180 miles so in order to arrive in daylight we’ll aim for a 6 knot voyage speed rather than 5; that should see us there by mid to late afternoon on Tuesday.   We’ll stay there for a couple of days until our next ‘fair winds’ before continuing south for Lefkas and Cephalonia.

We’re also now trying to predict where we’ll be when friends have asked to visit and it looks like we’ll be in and around Kos by the end of June to meet Lu and Sara.   We’ll visit Turkey in July and be back to Kos for August to meet Jean, Vania and Alex.

But before that we are looking forward to spending May in the Ionian before heading south around the Peloponnese for Milos, the first of the Cyclades.   Hopefully we can meet up with our friends Keith and Tracy in Cephalonia and Grahame and Jane in ‘Scarlett‘ in Kythnos.

We have been a really pleasant time in Roccella, entirely due to the people we have met and become friends with.   But now it is time to go.   And so, having just had our farewell BBQ aboard ‘Purr’ (awesome name for a Cat) hosted by our friends Charlie and Sue, and said our farewells to those still waiting for their own departures we are well and truly set to leave.

Waving to Fabi’s cousins in Albania ….

A while back Valeria said on Facebook that we were off to Corfu. Fabiana asked us to wave at her cousins across the water in Albania. Now I am pretty sure they are Erion’s cousins rather than Fabiana’s, but we waved anyway.  Apparently the cousins didn’t get the memo.

We left Mandraki at 4pm on Sunday, 1st October for our 40 hour passage back across the Ionian to Roccella Ionica.   The first leg of this journey took us north through the North Corfu Channel, a mile wide stretch of water between Corfu and Albania, waving frantically as wé went.  We passed withing 3/4 of a mile of the Albanian coast and within a couple of miles of the port of Saranda. This is where the ferries from Corfu go and the AIS showed a British yacht in the harbour.  Something to consider when we return this way!!

North Corfu Channel with Saranda in the distance

By 6 pm we had turned west along the north coast of Corfu with the fishing line out and caught two large fat fish in rapid succession.  Perhaps it was just a coincidence but just as we were reeling them in and Valeria was preparing them we found ourselves being ‘chased’ by a small fishing boat, and they did seem intent on getting very close to us, so much so that I moved out of their way.  I wondered if they wanted their fish back, or perhaps it was Fabiana’s cousins ……..

An hour or so after sunset we negotiated the small island off the north west corner of Corfu and set our course of 236ºM for the next 35 hours.

The weather was entirely calm for the entire passage and what wind there was was astern of us all the way.   This was a 6th version of the forecast we must have missed and we made such good time that over night on Monday into Tuesday I had to slow down to keep our ETA to office hours, planning to arrive at 8 am.

We have heard consistently good things about Roccella, which is why we came, but it was still a pleasant suprise to be called by them on the VHF at about 7.30; it was almost as if they were expecting us!   An impression reinforced when, having secured to our berth we found a Brazilian flag on the lamp post behind us!  Every lamp post in the marina sports a national flag on it, all rather old and tatty, but what are the odds of us being put next to this one!

Although it is a little isolated Roccella does seem well organised and managed, and there is a growing ‘live aboard’ community here, comprising British, Australians, Canadians and Germans so far.  The marina is opening up the special ‘liveaboard’ shower block soon, there is to be a gym  and a language course in Italian run.  Almost a shame we’ll be leaving for the UK in November!

But before then we have to prepare the boat to be left for the winter and plan some exploration of the local area and get to know our new neighbours.

 

Moving on to Corfu

Corfu is to be our final destination in Greece before we return to Italy.  It is also where we hoped to get our watermaker fixed finally and be rid of the tender we salvaged off Lefkas.

Sunrise over Gaios
Sunrise over Gaios

We set off from Gaios at 8 in the morning and had an uneventful 30 mile passage to Gouvia, or more accurately Ormos Kommino just outside Gouvia bay.   It rained on the way there then cleared up but just as I was out on the foredeck anchoring the skies opened, and the down pour lasted until just after we’d anchored!

Ormos Kommino

Once anchored  we set about making arrangements with the marina, the engineer and Sailing Holidays.  As the engineer could only do a Friday visit we planned to spend Thursday at anchor and go into the marina briefly for the engineer to assess the problem with the water maker on Friday morning; we had no wish to stay in the marina at €90 per night!

On Thursday I decided to flush and run the watermaker one last time to ensure it was still not working; Sod’s Law would dictate that it would work perfectly as soon as the engineer tried it.   And Sod’s Law held true! It worked. For no discernable reason it flushed, then happily started producing fresh water!  We heaved the anchor and went for a motor for an hour or so and the watermaker worked perfectly!  We anchored back in Kommino, cancelled the engineer and arranged for the collection of the tender from the anchorage.

On Friday morning two guys from Sailing Holidays arrived and took back their tender and even gave me a ‘salvage fee’ of €50!  That worked out as one night in Mandraki Marina so, as we’d already decided on the weekend there, we just extended the stay by a day.

So this has been quite a successful visit!   A miraculously working watermaker, restoring a ‘lost tender’ and a free night alongside in return for our salvage operation!  And Valeria was all for just leaving it floating there!    We have also now turned our thoughts to what to do with our last few days in Greece as we wait for a two day ‘weather window’ to get from here to Roccella.

Sivota to Paxos

We said our farewells to Graeme and Jane, and Martino on Saturday evening and at 8 am on Sunday morning, Graeme and Jayne helped throw off our lines and waved goodbye from the pontoon, Isabella had gone back to bed.  ( You know who your friends are …..)

The passage to Paxos could be made to the east or west of the island. Going east was theoretically an hour shorter than the western route but required the negotiation of the narrow channel passed Lefkada port and the bridge north of Lefkada; with perfect timing and no other yachts we might have made Paxos quicker going east.    We went west, out of Sivota, hang a right, then right again at the next light house ……. navigating is a bit more difficult than that but with GPS and Sat Nav not that much!!!!

We put the sails up; a triumph of hope over experience and motor sailed north by north west towards Paxos, fishing line trailing; another triumph of hope over experience.

And then …. exitement …. well, a mild over exaggeration.   I saw a small rubber boat 6 miles off the coast where no small rubber boat should be.   As we got close it became apparent that it was empty.  As we got closer we saw it marked up as belonging to SailingHolidays.com.   Now, charter boats drag their tenders, we’ve seen enough to know that, so in all likelyhood some one couldn’t tie their knots and lost it, but what if …

Salvage ….

So I called the Coast Guard and reported it, then took the tender in tow.  That is £800 worth of dingy!  Well it was until I saw it up close later as we dragged it on board.  My visions of claiming salvage dropped from a week in a marina to a case of beer, if I was lucky.

Arriving at Gaios I called the Port Police as instructed by Coast Guard.  They had found the owner of the dingy,  the manager for the chater company based in Gouvia.  On phoning him it transpired he’d spent most of the afternoon being quizzed by the Police about this tender.  Oh dear, what a shame, perhaps ensuring charterers can tie knots and keep an efficient look out might help?  How can you loose a tender and not notice?   Mind you, we have a few ‘Charterboat stories’ that could answer that question.

Unfortunately,  arriving at Paxos on Sunday afternoon we found the cute anchorage of Mongonisi packed, and the port of Gaios similarly full. Having said that I lack the Charter Boat skipper mentality which will see them drive at spaces which really don’t exist and cram in there regardless.  So we anchored off the port and spent a rather un-comfortable, and mostly sleepless night, ‘on the hook’, expecting 24 hours of rain which never materialised.

South entrance to Gaios

On Monday afternoon, as yachts left, we went into Gaios and found ourselves a spot on the Town Quay; then spent the afternoon watching various yacht drivers trying to reverse into gaps and fending off others mooring next to us.

All in all a far from uneventful passage but now we’re in Gaios we’ll stay a couple of days and look around the island before moving on to Corfu.

Cruising with Scarlett

This was a new experience for us; rather than just meeting up with people in places we set out ‘in company’ with Scarlett.

Stenon Meganisiou
Stenon Meganisiou
Scarlett anchored near Port Atheni
Scarlett anchored near Port Atheni

We set off on Tuesday morning, the 19th, heased for the small harbour of Palairos.  It was only a couple of hours away so we stopped off in Port Atheni, a small bay known to Graeme and Jayne non the north coast of Nisos Meganisi, anchoring for lunch and a swim before resuming our passage.

Unfortunately when we arrived at Palairos the harbour was completely full.  We found out later there is no one to take port fees and so it is effectuvely free to moor, so it is full of thrifty locals!  We then tried the almost empty harbour of Vounaki just south of there, only to be shooed away because it is a ‘Private Harbour’.   We returned to anchor off Palairos.

Evening off Palairos

So, settling down to our anchor, we had drinks aboard Scarlett and, being unable to wait out the next winds in Palairodecided to return to Sivota, or try to; we’d be trying to get in during the Regatta.   As we left the following morning Valeria rang Martino, who runs the pontoon we’d been on and whose number we’d taken.   Martino is Italian and Valeria used the tried and tested ‘Ciao bello! ‘ tactic and managed to secure us two berth, despite the regatta.  The passage back was great as we actually sailed most of the way back to Sivota, getting back onto Martino’s pontoon before the afternoon rush.

It’s us …… under sail …… first ever photo!!

And we were so lucky that Martino found us places, as the afternoon and evening wore on you needed a shoehorn to squeeze boats in and could probably walk from one side of the bay to the other across the decks of anchored yachts.

Sivota again

We paid up until Sunday morning when we hope to be able to set off north again towards Corfu.

Zakynthos to Sami and fish for lunch

Well it wasn’t supper, it was lunch but it was fish we caught ourselves, with some advice and tips from the very friendly Yannis I mentioned in my last post.

The mooring in Zakynthos next to ours belonged to Yannis who runs Big Game Fishing Zante. He was cleaning his boat one evening and Valeria asked him if he could help us with some tips to improve our catch from an average of 1.5 fish per year.

Yannis, who speaks perfect English and is very knowledgeable about fish, was very forthcoming and helpful and ended up giving me a lift to the fishing tackle shop and giving me loads of tips on which line and lures to get; but I have to admit to scaling down the advice as I would have no clue what to do with a massive tuna!   So with a new line and two new lures we set off for Sami.

We wanted to get into Sami at about lunch time for two reasons.  Firstly to avoid the afternoon winds which are reputed to whistle down Stenon Ithaki, the channel between Cephalonia and Ithica, and secondly to avoid the afternoon rush hour of yachts looking for moorings.    So we set off from Zakynthos at about 5.30 am.

Cephalonia

Initially the winds were 15 knots from ahead and the sea was rather confused giving us a rather uncomfortable start to the day but as the morning wore on the going got far easier and so, as we approched Cephalonia, out came the new fishing tackle.  And bang, within 2 hour we had two fish, mackerel we think, but I have yet to invest in my I Spy Book of Fish. (Never needed one before!)

Thank you Yannis

Approaching Kolpos Samis we could see easily 30 yachts in the bay and across the Stenon Ithaki, it was almost like being in the Solent!  We haven’t seen this many yachts in one place, ever.   Happily they we all heading out for the afternoon as we were heading in.    We got into Sami at lunch time and as I tidied up the boat Valeria made lunch of mackerel (we think) fillets.

Our plan now is to stay in Sami for a couple of nights so we can meet up with our friend Keith before heading off to Lefkas for a rendez-vous with Graeme and Jane in Scarlet.

From Kalamata to Zakynthos

Although it would have been good to linger along the way we were pushed by the weather again.  Strong southerly winds were forecast for Monday and Tuesday and we could make for Zakynthos over the weekend arriving by Sunday evening.

In the longer term we are now heading into mid-September and want to be in Roccella by mid-October having visited friends and got the watermaker fixed in Corfu. So Zakynthos here we come.

We left Kalamata on Friday lunch time and headed 15 miles across the Messiniakos Gulf towards Koroni.  This was the site of one of a pair of massive Venetian fortresses guarding the trade routes around the Peloponese; the other being at Methoni,  further west around the peninsular.

I have gone on about the fickle wind, too much, too little, wrong direction,  but today we had fantastic wind.  At first I thought we’d have to tack back and forth across the Gulf but as the afternoon progressed the wind backed round until we were sailing directly for Koroni. Then we had a 180 degree wind shift, had to take a reef and were flying along at 7 knots right up to the anchorage!   And all this because we had just filled up with fuel ………

Sunrise over the Mani Peninsula

We anchored off Koroni over night and in order to avoid the afternoon winds set off at sunrise – you can tell how concerned Valeria is about brisk winds when she suggests getting up in the dark!!!!!

Koroni’s ruined Venetian Fort
The fortress at Methoni

We passed the other fortress at Methoni at 10.30 and arrived in Ormos Navarinou just after lunch.  As our information suggested the marina at Pylos was rammed full and so, planning on a quick get away on Sunday morning, we anchored.

Navarino was the site of the naval battle which effectively ended the Greek War of Independence.  Long story short, the Turkish and Egyptian fleets were anchored in the bay in a horseshoe facing the entrance.  The British, under Admiral Codrington sailed in, gun ports half open and anchored in the middle of the horseshoe.  Apparently the Brits and Turks weren’t actually at war (that’s the long story).  The British anchored in the middle of the horseshoe, out numbered 21 ships to 89, when the Turks fired on them.  The engagement lasted some 4 hours and the superior rate of fire of the Royal Naval gun crews won the day.

Sunrise over Ormos Navarinon

On Sunday morning, at first light again we set off again for Zakynthos, a 70 mile passage in light or no winds.   We had the sails up but it wasn’t until mid afternoon that we got any wind we could use and even then needed an engine to keep our speed up.   But we arrived as planned dead on 6 o’clock and were put on the Town Quay in the northern corner of the old harbour.   Rather a busy, noisy part of town but at least hopefully sheltered from the expected winds.

On our way to Crete – finally

Our plans of a leisurely cruise through the Cyclades were scuppered by our Watermaker problems and so with a two or three day window of reasonable weather we decided to head straight to Crete, 170 nautical miles which we’d complete in about 34 hours.

We were not sad to be leaving Lavrio, all things considered, and I was happily up at 5 am on Sunday morning preparing to leave.  We slipped our moorings at 6.30, just before the sun rose above the island of Makronisos.

The winds were forecast to be northerly 20 knots for most of the morning before dying away by mid afternoon and immediately out of Lavrio harbour we headed into the wind and raised our sails before settling down to sail passed the southern tip of Makronisou and then down the west side of the islands of Kea, Kythnos, Serifos and Sifnos.

The wind stayed at between 15 and 25 knots as forecast and we put the first reef in main sail a couple of times as wind speed topped 20 knots.  The instructions for the boat say this should be done at 23 knots with the wind astern but speed-wise in 20 knots of wind we can make 7 knots with a full main or with the first reef in.  I am sure there is a purist out there who’d be tutting loudly but as long as we make over 5 knots,  our target passage speed, we’re happy!

Passing Kythnos we had a Dolphin Escort.  No fleeting visit this!   They were with us for over 2 hours as we sailed passed the island and even hung around to watch us as we turned into the wind to shake the reef out of the sail.  We’re not up on our dolphins recognition, and the sea was a little to ‘rough’ to make them our with clarity, but these guys were larger than others we’ve seen, 2 or even 3 metres long in some cases.  There maybe a dozen of them treating us to all sorts of jumps and belly flops.

Nisos Serifos

By 2 pm, south of Serifos, the wind began dropping off so we dropped the sails and began to motor, although it did pick up again a little later we decided to carry on motoring so I could get some rest ahead of my night watches.

Sunset over Milos

We passed between Sifnos and Milos and as we passed Folegandros we watched the sun set over Milos as we set off on the long leg of our journey across the Sea of Crete.  This was one straight course of 85 nautical miles taking us passed Santorini, 14 miles distant, and the tiny unlit island of Christiani.   Christiani showed up on radar but could only be seen visually as the lights from Santorini disappeared behind it!

The night was uneventful until an hour or so before dawn when we were joined by another dolphin; just the one I think.. The sea was calm by then and he appeared alongside the helm position breaking the surface noisily before shearing off then charging back towards the bows like a pale torpedo.  At just about sunrise we had a pair of small dolphins practicing ‘synchronised swimming’in our wake!

Ak. Ayios Ioannis from the south

All night the glow of the lights from Crete had been visible, a distance of over 80 miles but it wasn’t until midday that we had reached Ay Ioannis, the mountainous headland sporting a wind farm, behind which lay Spinalonga, our destination.  Spinalonga is a few miles north of Ayios Nikolaos on the western side of the Gulf of Merambellou, the big chunk out of the northern coast at the eastern end of the island.

As we approached Ay Ioannis we had a rather unhappy encounter with a large turtle.  We saw him a fair distance away because of the large plastic bag caught around his back flipper.   The idea of chasing after him in the tender and cutting it free crossed our minds briefly but would have been completely impractical. We continued on our way duly saddened.

Entrance to Spinalonga Lagoon

We followed the coast along to the entrance to Spinalonga lagoon and just after 1 pm we passed Spinalonga Island and the impressive remains of the Venetian fort at the entrance to  the lagoon.  We headed for the small port of Elounda in the south western corner of the lagoon, anchoring just before 2 pm just  outside the old harbour,

View of Elounda

We made pretty good time with the whole passage taking us about 31 hours.  We’ll now spend he next few days looking around before going into Ayios Nikolaos on Friday to wait for Lu and Marco.