Tag Archives: Ionian

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.

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.