Sivota and the South Ionian Regatta

Returning to Sivota was a good choice as it turned out. Busy due to the Regatta but well sheltered from the winds which were good for the races but not for passage making north! We are grateful to Martino for squeezing us in. Turns out his sister’s boyfriend is …. you guessed it …. Brazilian!

Isabella On Watch ….

The bay was very, very busy with every available berth taken, and the anchorage full each evening. But with all these crews in town it wasn’t as rowdy as might have been expected and we quite enjoyed our stop over. There were plenty of restaurants and tavernas, shops for essential food and fishing tackle and of course Graeme, Jayne and Isabella.

As the week wore on the Regatta crowd slowly disappeared and normality returned although on Saturday we were entertained watching two departing yachts getting their anchors caught on submerged obstructions. One eventually freed himself through brute force but the second managed to dredge up 3 or 4 old anchor chains, all comprehensively tangled round his anchor. After a while Graeme and I went over and helped him free himself.

On Saturday afternoon the four of us decided we needed some exercise and so took a 4 km walk up to a reputedly good winery in the hills above Sivota on the road to Lefkada. We found a taverna for refreshments half way there with fantastic views into Sivota Bay. Happily the taverna was there for refreshments half way back as well!

Sivota Bay

But when we got to the winery it was closed …… well, mostly. We managed to tag onto the end of an over running coach tour and after a quick tasting bought a couple of bottles! Had to be done after all the hiking to get there!

We also had our last meal out with Graeme and Jayne that evening; the ’12 Gods’ restaurant was the best one we found in Sivota. And then we bid our farewells. It was lovely to see them again and spend time with them and we may not see them again until we return to Greece next year.  We’re pretty sure to meet up again as we’re both heading in the same general direction as each other.

Sunset in Sivota

We are both set to leave Sivota on Sunday although we’ll be off earlier with further to go. Paxos, here we come!

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.

Reunion in Sivota

We set off from Sami early on Saturday morning for a short ‘drive’ up to Sivota on the south coast of the island of Lefkas, where we planned to meet up with our friends Graeme and Jayne, and their Ship’s Cat Isabella,  in Scarlett.

Scarlett

As it happened we both arrived at the same time and ended up on opposite sides of the same pontoon just after lunch.  Our plan loosely was to leave on Tuesday on our way up towards Lefkas town to wait out the next batch of poor weather, so with a couple of days to kill we set about some serious socialising, meals on board and ashore.  Isabella even seemed to remember us and Windependent from Olbia almost 5 months ago and settled right in when Graeme and Jayne came to visit!   It is great to meet up with them again.

Chart of Sivota

Sivota is a sheltered bay about half a mile long.  It has a small town quay and is home to an enormous charter fleet which takes up fully 3/4 of the available space.    Unbeknown to us, we had arrived at the start of a charter fleet sailing regatta and space in Sivota was at a premium.  Luckily,arriving early we got onto a privately run pontoon and as the afternoon wore on all the available berths were taken up and boats were anchoring in the harbour with very little room to swing.  How it will be when it gets busy is anyone’s guess.

The village has grown to service the charter fleet custom and trade from other visiting yachts and there is little  else in Sivota other than restaurants, shops and a couple of mini markets.  That said it is a pleasant enough place to pass a couple of days, quiet but crowded, picturesque and sheltered.

Sami and a visit from Keith and Tracy

Last time we were in Cephalonia was May, at the start of our trip around the Aegean, and had been made so welcome by Keith that we had to drop in again on our way passed to say hello.

Sami port

Sami is a quaint place on the east coast of the island at the south end of the Kolpos Samis, the big bay opposite the south end of Ithica. Keith had taken us here for coffee on our last visit and we arranged for him to come up on Friday for the afternoon.

Keith and Tracey arrived at lunch time on Friday and we settled down to an afternoon and evening of BBQing, sunbathing and socialising.   Great to see Keith again and to meet Tracey; all in all a very pleasant visit and we hope to to meet up again in the UK and next year when we stop off in Cephalonia on our way back to explore more of the Aegean.

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.

Zakynthos

Zakynthos town was rather a surprise for me; I had always associated it with the excesses of the ‘party scene’ and so was pleasantly surprised.

Zakynthos Town Quay

We arrived from Ormos Navarino on Sunday evening and were directed to the town quay. This is alongside the main road through town and so was quite busy although it was not intrusive. Our plan was to remain here until Wednesday or Thursday before heading on towards Sami on Cephalonia.

View across the harbour

Our prime reason for being in Zakynthos was, again, the weather; even Valeria’s Med Sailing Facebook group had mention of it! On Monday we were due strong southerly winds and on Tuesday the wind was due to swing round to the west; for a change the forecasts were quite accurate. What we didn’t realise was how exposed the quay was to southerly winds. The quay lays almost north – south so the wind, up to 30 knots, was directly on our beam and ‘twisting’ the boat on our anchor and moorings so the port quarter (left hand back bit) was pushed close to the quay, too close for comfort really. So we stayed on board on Tuesday with a fender to hand. It was only later we found out that a local game fisherman on the next mooring to ours moves his boat elsewhere in strong southerlies! Wednesday the wind was mostly from the west and we were quite sheltered so went for a wander round town.

St Dionisios
Byzantine Museum, Solomos Sq.

Zakynthos was mostly demolished in the earthquake in 1953 and like many towns in the Ionian Islands is ‘new’. The harbour front is all restaurants, hotels and shops and a few streets back from the quay is a pedestrianised shopping street, the ‘Central Market’. At the south end of the harbour is the huge St Dionisios church and at the north end is the large Solomos Square, with the Byzantine Museum fronting on to it.

St Nikolaos Church, Solomos Sq

I visited the museum and was a little disappointed. It houses a magnificent collection of religious iconography, some of it dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and I assume salvaged after the earthquake, although it could have been salvaged from war damaged churches, unfortunately what explanations there are, are all in Greek.

We found Zakynthos to be a lively place, probably livelier ‘in season’.   On three nights we had a busker on the quayside just along from us and it was very pleasant having dinner with our own personal musician on hand. Valeria face bragged about it! We also met a very nice helpful big game fisherman called Yannis, but more of him later.

It doesn’t seem as if there is a lot to do or see in town, it is obviously very geared up for tourists but it was a pleasant place to spend a couple of days.

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.

Porto Kayio to Kalamata

We set off from Porto Kayio at first light on Thursday morning, much to Valeria’s joy, to make the most of the good weather on our 50 mile passage to Kalamata.

First light at the entrance to Porto Kayio

Moon over the Mani Peninsula
Sunrise over Matapan

Our route took us south round Cape Matapan, hugging the coast in the flat calm weather before we could head north in to the Messiniakos Gulf.   In antiquity this area was know as Messene.  When conquered by the Spartans the Messenians left for Sicily, settling in the area now known as Messina.

As we motored north towards Kalamata we checked the weather again and found the forecast had become somewhat more favourable and meant we could probably manage with just one night in Kalamata. This would allow us time to do some washing, clean the boat, take on fuel and fresh water and go shopping before setting off again by 2 pm on Friday,  the check out time!

And it all went according to plan, with one very pleasant variation. We went for a walk in the port area of Kalamata in the evening and found it to be a rather dispiriting place, rather run down in parts and not very inviting at all.   Turning back towards the marina we suddenly bumped into the French couple we’d met in Porto Kayio; Jacques and Isabel from the yacht ‘Manipo’.  They had found space in the main port and, seeing our AIS, had come looking for us!   So returning to the restaurants close to the Marina we had a couple of drinks and some snacks before inviting them back to ‘Windependent’  for more of the same!

The following morning after washing the boat and filling up with diesel we set off for a coffee aboard ‘Manipo’ before doing our shopping.  It transpires that Jacques and Isabel are heading in the same direction as we are in a couple of days and so we hope to meet up with them again before long.

Our walk around town in daylight didn’t change our impressions of Kalamata very much, but then it is off-season in what was once THE commercial port for the area, although not so now.  But the weather was definately looking up for the next few days so we decided to set off as planned and continue on our way towards Corfu.

Porto Kayio.

Sunset off the coast of Crete

We left Spinalonga on Saturday, 2nd September, at just after 7am for a 36 hour passage to Porto Kayio, an anchorage on the eastern tip of the Mani Peninsula, the middle of the three fingers of the Peloponese.

We had head winds the entire way although they were relatively light until Sunday when they built to 20 then 25 knots, with a 2 metre swell, as we got towards Porto Kayio on Sunday evening. Once into the shelter of the land the sea died away but we still had the wind, and this was funnelled through the entrance to Porto Kayio quite spectacularly.  Inside the bay the wind let up a little and we found ourselves a spot to anchor for the night.

Winds in the mouth of Porto Kayio

The following day it looked as if we’d dragged our anchor and diving on it I found we had indeed dragged 10 metres into deeper water. As we were considering our options another yacht left the bay from a position close into the beach and so we moved in to take their spot. As it transpired this position is about the best place to be, the sand offers slightly better holding and the wind which whistles across the north part of the bay only gusts here, seldom reaching full force.

Porto Kayio is a bit of an exaggeration really. There is little here that would qualify as a ‘port’ except a small jetty for local motor boats.   The village comprises about 30 buildings, most of which are hotels or B&B’s with restaurants.  There is a tiny scrap of stony beach only big enough for a single row of sun beds and not a lot else. It is very isolated and wonderfully peaceful and an ideal destination if you want beautiful scenery and quiet contemplation.  Tourist buses visit occasionally as a lunch stop on their way to and from Cape Matapan, the south tip of the peninsular, and there is a steady stream of yachts.

Our plan was to wait here until Thursday for favourable winds before setting off north towards Pilos in search of diesel.  Unfortunately Pilos seems to be on of those marinas which was started but never completed and reports suggest that as there is no one to collect harbour dues it is likely completely full of local boats. With this uncertainty in mind I decided to head for Kalamata where there is fuel and a marina where we can wait out the next burst of strong winds forecast for this weekend.

Porto Kayio has been inhabitted since antiquity due to its sheltered anchorage.   The name Kayio derives from its Venetian name which meant Quail, as apparently they were abundant here.   The Ottoman Turks occupied the area, building a castle in the 16th century to defend the anchorage which was the base for galleys patrolling the Kythera Channel.  There after it was occupied by the Venetians then the Turks again until Greek independence.

Ma belle …….

We went for a walk to the headland at the mouth of the bay on Monday afternoon and I took a hike up to the church above the bay on Wednesday.   That was a bit disappointing as after a steep climb and a rather overgrown footpath to get there I couldn’t get into the church yard which over looks the bay.    There is also the ruined castle on the hill over looking the church but I couldn’t find the footpath to get to it.  But the exercise was welcome!

Kastro

The rest of our stay was taken up with swimming and snorkeling,  reading and keeping an eye on the forecast.  We also had to go ashore to find some water and sample the local cuisine and struck it lucky with the Akrotiri Restaurant.   Simple food, absolutely delicious and they were quite happy for us to take water from their tap.

The Akrotiri

Tuesday, the 5th, was our Wedding Anniversary and so we went back to the Akrotiri for a long lunch of Saganaki (a fried cheese dish), sardines, a fish of some description and a delicious baked aubergine in tomato and cheese sauce, and some wine of course. This stretched well into the evening when we met a French couple from another yacht and some of their friends.  It was a lively way to spend our anniversary, unexpected and all the nicer for it!

View from our table

Tomorrow we are off early for a 10 hour passage to Kalamata.  We have had a very pleasant few days in Porto Kayio.  It is a lovely little place, more so when the wind isn’t howling through the bay.

Back to Spinalonga.

Getting down here to Crete, with fair winds and a following sea, was simple; however, getting away again is not proving to be so easy.

The Meltemi blows here every afternoon and recently has been blowing all day, every day.  As it hits the north coast of Crete the wind turns to come from the north west and west, the direction we want to go.   So we are back to waiting for favourable weather to head up to Peloponnisos, then on towards Cephalonia, Lefkas and Corfu.

On reflection ‘favourable’ may not be the right word, perhaps ‘least unfavourable’ would be a better description!  When we get good weather in Crete it is not so good further north, and vice versa.  But we have decided to go for it on Saturday morning aiming to reach the anchorage off Porto Kayio on Sunday evening anticipating generally north westerly winds to 15 knots for most of the way, we hope.

So, having said farewell to Lu and Marco we left Ágios Nikolaos Marina on Tuesday morning (with a bit of a struggle against the wind still pushing us onto the jetty) and returned to the south end of Spinalonga Lagoon to anchor off Elounda again.

Although sheltered here, we still had up to 30 knot winds whistling down off the high ground to the west of the town but apart from the, sometimes sharp, snubbing of the anchor bridle as we swung in the wind it was comfortable enough.  Getting ashore in the tender would have been a very wet endeavour though so we sat on board until Friday when the wind stopped.

Elounda Church again

The weather forecasts appeared to remain unchanged, showing 15 knot winds again, which seemed to translate to double that at the bottom of the mountains.  But on Thursday evening the wind  off Elounda died away and Friday was a beautiful calm day with the occasional puffs of stronger winds.  We went shopping,  had lunch and managed to scrounge 40 litres of fresh water from the skipper of a day trip boat on the quay and another 40 from the restaurant Poulis, right by the scrap beach (all of 30 metres long and 3 metres wide.

So on Friday evening it was early to bed looking forward to heaving the anchor at sunrise and setting off for our 36 hour passage to the tip of the middle finger of Peloponnisos.

Elounda in the evening

As with a lot of places we’ve spent any time Elounda grew on us.  It is a tourist town and base for the day trip boats to the Venetian Fort,  but it was not manically crowded and in the evenings was quite quiet.  It is hardly picturesque but it is pleasant and has a certain charm to it.   The harbour area and sea front is home to numerous restaurants right on the water, literally tables on the beach in the case of Poulis!

Also, just south of Elounda is the site of the Minoan city of Olous. Most of it is submerged beneath the sea and what were salt pans.  I had a walk around looking for the remains pictured on the web site but found nothing but some goats.

Over all Elounda was a pleasant stopover.  A nice place to wander round; we found fresh fruit and veg, a butcher, water and some nice restaurants.   I have read of people spending the winter in Spinalonga; that might be a bit much but there are definately worse places to wait out the weather.

Sailing south ….