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 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.
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.
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!)
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.
Although we left Argostoli at 9 on Saturday morning, we didn’t actually leave for Galaxidi until about 6 that evening, spending the day with Ivan, Lu and the girls. Our departure from Argostoli was delayed because another yacht had laid their anchor cable across ours and it took a bit of perseverance to free ourselves, then we had to take on fuel.
So after another day spent with friends we left at 6.30 for Galaxidi, planning another overnight passage to get into the Gulf of Corinth a day earlier than planned. This will give us a spare day until we arrive in Ormos Anavissou off the port of Palaia Fokaia where we pick up Zeynep and Stephen.
The passage itself was entirely uneventful, the evening wind died away by sunset and we didn’t even bother with the main sail just using the Code Zero, which Ivan had helped me rig up. Valeria’s excitement came at about 10pm when she had a nocturnal visit from some dolphins, a first for us and mine came at about 2 am when suddenly the wind picked up from the beam and I rolled out the Code Zero and we were flying along at 6 knots under sail …… for half an hour before the wind dropped away again.
At dawn we were approaching the bridge across the narrows between Rion and Antirion, entering the Gulf of Corinth from the Gulf of Patras, passing under the bridge at 7.30. The rest of the trip was equally quiet and we arrived at Galaxidi at about 2 pm and we all tied up to the Town Quay by 2.30, using our anchor again. Here there was no ‘Harbour Master’, just a rather scruffy young boy volunteering to take our lines. This was quite helpful as we had to tie up to rings on the Quay wall but not as helpful as he thought when he wanted €10 for the assistance, he got €5! The lady who collected the money for the berths wandered along at about 6 and asked for us to go to her office, a small kiosk on the quayside reminiscent of those used by car park attendants – all very laid back and delightfully inexpensive!
There isn’t a lot at Galaxidi but it is very pleasant and relatively peaceful. It is a holiday town popular mainly with the Greeks, but it is one of the two ports from which we could reach Delphi, the other is Itea, but Galaxidi sounded more pleasant.
Cephalonia was a convenient point to aim for after 2 days at sea from Messina but also Ivan and Lu based their holiday destination on our itinerary so we could meet. However, John introduced us to his friend Keith who lives on the island and he turned a great stop over into a fantastic one.
As soon as we turned up in Argostoli he came and took us for a night out, then the following day took us shopping and on Friday he took us for a tour of the island! He has lived here for 6 years and was a regular visitor for many before that and loves the island and was keen to show it off taking us to places off the beaten track, so to speak.
Cephalonia has an ancient history, as you might expect, and unlike many of the places mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey all those in Ithica and Cephalonia can be identified. Unfortunately the island is subject to earthquakes, the last major one was in 1953, and it caused massive damage, virtually destroying the island, hence, most of the architecture is quite modern.
During the war the island was occupied by the Italians and this is the backdrop to the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, filmed entirely on the island.
For our island tour Keith took us first to the Church of St Gerasimus, a 17th century philanthropist. Keith told us that two years after his burial a light was seen above his grave. He was disintered and found to be undecomposed. He was canonised and put in a glass sarcophagus which on occasions is opened for viewing and sometimes the faithful are permitted to kiss one of his toes. The church interior was very ornate but it didn’t seem appropriate to take photos.
From there he drove us to the top of Mount Ainos, at 1628 metres the highest peak in the Ionian. The views from here across southern Cephalonia were magnificent. He also took us to what used to be the retreat of Prime Minister Metaxa, hidden away from the road but offering more fantastic views from the balcony.
Then we drove down to Sami, for a coffee, then to the picturesque bay of Antisamos, one of the film sets, then on to Melissani an under ground cave, the roof of which collaped to reveal the hidden river lake. It has been shown using dyes that sea water disappears to a cave in Argostoli and sometime later appears again as fresh water in Sami.
After Sami we drove to Fiskardo, a small port on the north east tip of the island. Under clear blue skies, with yachts moored on the quayside and against the rocks close by it looked really picturesque.
Then it was back to Argostoli where we treated him to dinner before we said our good byes.
Without Keith Cephalonia would have just been an island, now it is somewhere we plan to return to to see more of. A massive thanks to him for showing us some of his lovely home.
We set off from Messina at 8.40 on Sunday morning, the 28th and had an uneventful crossing to Argostoli in Cephalonia, arriving at 1030 on Tuesday.
There nearest thing we had to excitement was passing John and Isabel in White Lion at 3 am, Italian time, in the Ionian Sea. They had left Argostoli at 3am on Sunday and we were expecting to pass each other so even at night it was easy to figure out who we each were. We had a chat with him and Isa on the VHF before we continued on our separate ways. Small world.
We managed to sail for some of the time, leaving the Messina Straits with the wind gusting to 25 knots from behind us giving us over 7 knots with one reef in the main sail. We sailed for a good part of Monday and although we were motoring over night both nights, as the sun rose on Tuesday morning with the wind just getting to 12 knots, again from behind us, I just rolled out the Code Zero as we approached the coast of Cephalonia.
We were making up to 6 knots in some of the gusts and it was lovely to watch the sun rise over the island with just the sound of the wake as we ran towards the south east corner of the island. I’d never sailed under just the Code Zero before and it was interesting to find that we were getting as much speed without the Main Sail as with it.
On our way to Argostoli we were to pass the bay close to the hotel where Ivan and Lu are going to stay, and as there is nothing in the Pilot Books about the bay we decided to have reconnoitre. Our plan is to anchor in the bay and pick them up from the beach in the tender, but that would only work if we could actually anchor and the beach was accessible. It was a successful visit and I now know just where we can anchor to meet them, even sent them a photo of the place!
So with ‘recce’ completed we made our way round to Argostoli and moored on the town quay. I am frequently asked whether the boat is moored, tied up, parked etc. Well this time the technical term is moored because we had to use a technique called a Mediterranean Moor where you use your anchor to hold the front of the boat and mooring lines on the quay to secure the back. I’d only ever done this in big ships many years ago so this was a bit of a first for me but by 1030, now 1130 in Greece, we were all secure and looking forward to some sleep after a well earned beer and a glass of bubbly in the aptly named ‘Compass Bar’ just across the road!
Tomorrow morning, Sunday the 28th, we set off from Italy for Greece, our destination is Argostoli in Cephalonia. Our crossing should take about 52 hours, if we make 5 knots all the way, and we should be there by Tuesday afternoon.
On our way we hope to pass John and Isabel coming in the opposite direction from Cephalonia, almost certainly passing exactly like ‘ships in the night’.
Our prime reason for staying in Cephalonia is to meet up with Ivan, Lu, Bianca and Rebecca who will be in an hotel on the south west corner of the island. I have an idea to anchor in the bay where their hotel is,and although the charts show enough depth of water there is no information about the bay in the Pilot Book. Regardless, we are looking forward to seeing them and hopefully they’ll spend a day or so with us on the boat.
All our shopping is done, the new fuel caps and shock absorber arrived and I had the outboard engine serviced so we can pick up Ivan, Lu and the kids. The boat is clean, courses all laid off and so we’ll have an early night and aim to be away nice and early in the morning, looking forward to fair winds and following seas.