Drama in Corfu

We arrived in Greek waters on 31 July after a lovely12 hour sail across from the heel of Italy. We had good wind and even saw some dolphins. We took down the Italian courtesy flag and hoisted the lovely blue and white Greek courtesy flag. We also put the clocks forward 1 hour.

Down with the Italian flag

Down with the Italian flag

Up with the Greek flag

Up with the Greek flag

We dropped anchor in a beautiful bay at Erikoussa island which is one of a group of islands off the NW corner of Corfu. We opened the Prosecco and enjoyed the view. For the next two days we took it easy, explored the island and did lots of swimming. The restaurants ashore were lovely and it was nice to get some good Greek home cooking. Prices were cheaper than in Italy despite the added 23%VAT!

Erikoussa island

Erikoussa island

Busy day at Erikoussa pier

Busy day at Erikoussa pier

Andy and Sally at Erikoussa

Andy and Sally at Erikoussa

Our next stop was a tiny lagoon on the mainland of Greece, very close to the Albanian border. Albania was dramatic with high mountains and thunder clouds building. There was no obvious border but it was marked on the chart plotter and Sally flirted with it for quite a few miles as it twisted and turned.

Pagnania Creek was delightful, once we threaded our way past the fish farm cages. Herons and egrets were in the trees and by the water and ponies with bells managed to nibble at the little vegetation there was. We were the only boat there for about an hour until two French boats arrived. It was a lovely peaceful evening and we had our first Canasta match of this voyage.

Pagnania anchorage with the goats ashore

Pagnania anchorage with the goats ashore

In the morning the swallows were skimming over the lagoon. We set off for another Creek further south. This time we were getting closer to civilisation and had to dodge a lot of ferry traffic. The entrance was very shallow, but once inside it was calm and sheltered. The thunderstorms over Albania were dramatic but luckily not too close to us.

We officially “cleared in” to Greece on 5th August in Gouvia marina, North of Corfu town. Greece still has very formal arrangements for foreign yachts arriving, despite all being in the EU. It took Andy a few hours getting all the paperwork finalised and money paid. It was great to get proper showers and stock up with food. We treated ourselves to a restaurant meal as a farewell to Sally who was leaving the next day.

Merlin at Gouvia

Merlin at Gouvia

The next 2 days were ” turn around” days, as we were expecting Kirsty and Chris on the  Saturday. Washing and cleaning to be done and communications to be sorted. We got a Greek data SIM for our tablet and a SIM for my phone. Corfu town was heaving with tourists. It’s all very English here with M&S and Bodyshop on the mainstreet. The good thing is that the Greek people on Corfu speak excellent English, so communication is much easier for us than it was in Italy.

Kirsty and Chris arrived as planned at lunchtime on Saturday.  We all cooled off with a swim in the pool. In the evening there was a concert of traditional Greek songs on the quayside, which was lovely and atmospheric. Luckily it cooled down overnight and we all got some sleep. The fans on the boat really make a difference.

We took Kirsty and Chris up to Erikoussa the next day, as we had loved it so much.

Kirsty and Chris relaxing on board

Kirsty and Chris relaxing on board

Unfortunately the weather was not as kind and there was a swell coming in, however we did manage to get ashore. The night was lumpy, so disturbed sleeps for all, but it did calm down by mid morning. The forecast was for south westerly winds, so we headed for the north coast of Corfu and managed to find a tiny bay that was sheltered from the wind. There was only enough room for one boat at this anchorage and we put a second anchor out to stop us swinging. The trees came right down to the shore in the little bay and Jays provided a splash of colour as they flitted through the trees. We had a peaceful night and caught up on sleep.

Tranquil anchorage

The following day we headed back to Pagnania Creek and enjoyed a lovely peaceful night. Unbeknown to us, it was to be the last peaceful night for a while! A short sail over to Corfu town with Chris enjoying the helming, saw us drop anchor in the wide bay south of Corfu town about 5pm. There were many boats of all shapes and sizes anchored in the bay which is  sandy and provides good holding. The forecast was for hardly any wind, so we  decided to go ashore to explore and eat.

Kirsty and Chris in Corfu town before the storm

Kirsty and Chris in Corfu town before the storm

We stopped for a drink and an ice cream and suddenly it got very dark and rain started to fall and the thunder kicked in. Andy decided to head back to Vaila. In the space of the next 10 minutes the wind hit 60 knots, tables, chairs and bits of tree blew everywhere and torrential rain fell. I was really worried for Andy and Vaila, but did not want to walk in the storm with all the flying debris. It calmed down about half an hour later and I  headed down to the anchorage as fast as I good. Debris was everywhere and the limestone pavements were like ice.

I was frantic as I could not see Vaila at all. Lots of boats had been driven ashore and other boats were desperately going backwards and forwards dragging anchors. I found our dinghy but no sign of Andy. Eventually I spotted Vaila about 20m away from the sea wall much further along the bay. Andy was on board. He had seen her drag anchor, get pushed to shore sideways and watched, horrified, as waves crashed right over her coachroof in the height of the storm. He could only get on board once the storm had died down a bit.  If it had lasted any longer Vaila would probably have been totally wrecked.

A bit too close for comfort, Vaila aground

A bit too close for comfort, Vaila aground, another boat even closer!

Andy jumped off the boat into about 1m of water and waded  over to the sea wall to see me. Vaila was deeply embedded in the sand which saved her. There were about 6 other boats in the same predicament and several others on the rocks. We managed to get the dinghy and get on board. Despite lots of efforts from ourselves and others we remained stuck. The local vhf radio station were not really helping but eventually the coastguard appeared. As no one was in any real danger, and the weather had calmed down, the tug would not come until the next day.

Kirsty and Chris managed to find a hotel room for the night and they picked up a few clothes etc, which Andy carried ashore in a dry bag.

We spent a horrible, sleepless night on board, juddering with the waves and hoping the storm would not reappear. We kept trying to work our way out using our second anchor and being pulled over with a mast head rope attached to a neighbouring boat, but nothing worked. Eventually even our engine gave up! Everyone was helping each other though which was great.

The tug appeared mid morning.

Tug

Tug “Doxa” approaching

We then heard that several boats had been badly damaged and some others had lost their rudders. Even 2 superyachts had extensive damage. It was a freak storm that was not forecast and no one could remember weather like this in August in the last 30 years!

The tug pulled us out after 3 attempts, using increasingly bigger hawsers and more power. We were so deeply embedded, we popped out like a cork and then splashed under with the bows before floating normally. Andy had managed to get our engine working, so we set off to motor to Gouvia. Unfortunately it was not to be. The engine failed again, there was no wind and we had to get the tug back. We had a fairground ride at 9.2 knots behind the tug and the staff from the marina tied us up alongside.

A wild ride to Gouvia marina

A wild ride to Gouvia marina

Everyone was great and the insurance company also swung into action. Vaila got lifted out the next day and she is now on the hard awaiting inspection.

Lift out

Lift out

Vaila on the hard

Vaila on the hard

We all managed to find hotel accommodation and so Kirsty and Chris had three nights ashore. Not quite the holiday they had expected!! However they said they enjoyed themselves and it has not put them off.Thank goodness we were not on board when the wind hit, as we would have been helpless anyway. A British guy on a boat not far away was on his boat and could do nothing against the wind and waves. He was also blown ashore and lost his rudder!

Andy and I  are a bit exhausted and stressed, so we are now enjoying a bit of a shore based “holiday”. Vaila looks like she has come out of this fairly unscathed, just a bent fairlead, broken electrical deck fitting and second anchor lost (it was that well dug in that even the tug could not shift it!!).

Now we are waiting for the surveyor and diesel mechanics to come  to give us an assessment. We are keeping our fingers crossed that there is no major damage and we can get back into the water soon to resume our summer cruise.

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