The Ithaka Circuit (25th May to 6th June 2016)

We circumnavigated Ithaka in a week when my friend Anne was on board. Just a bit quicker than Odysseus, who took 10 years to return to his home island. Like Odysseus, we took in lots of other islands on the way, but we did not have a speedy start as it was very windy when Anne arrived. 

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View from Sami, Kefalonia

We spent the first day of Anne’s week in Ay Efemia in Kefalonia, wandering through the town, visiting the lovely beaches and watching the shenanigans of the flotilla boats coming in. The harbour master said it was blowing 30 knots in the Ithaka sound, so we were glad to be safely tied up and despite the wind, the sun was shining.

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Ay Efemia 

We set off the following morning in a lighter wind but still able to sail. We stopped in the beautiful cove of Ay Andreous on Ithaka for lunch and a quick swim. It’s a very narrow cove and the wind is fickle, so not a good place for overnight. So we headed for Vathi further up the east coast of Ithaka. As usual, as we approached, the wind increased and we had a tricky entry. The northern quay is most sheltered but there was very little room, as our “favourite” flotilla, Sailing Holidays, took up most of the space!! Andy managed to squeeze us in just beside the fishing boats though and after a wee tussle with some lines dangling in the water, we were tied up.
We then had a lovely walk round the bay to the main town quay to inspect it for future use. The wind was strong and waves were splashing over the promenade, so we headed back to Vaila fairly quickly, but not before sampling some Vathi ice cream. Anne and I also managed to walk along to see the Venetian canons, before going to eat at the wonderful Ithaki Mare restaurant. The food is exceptionally good there, as we remembered from last year and Andy’s moussaka survey gave this one top marks.
Luckily the wind dropped overnight and we even managed to sail a bit the next day. We stopped for lunch in “one house bay” on the island of Atokos. The rocks of the white cliffs were amazingly folded, like some demented tiler had gone crazy with the adhesive applicator!! The sea was translucent green so just right for a swim, but Andy still felt that at 21 degrees the water was too cold for him!

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Our stop for the Saturday night was the island of Kalamos. George, the unofficial harbourmaster and Taverna owner, helped us with our lines and greeted us like long lost friends. The harbour was lovely and quiet, unlike last year when it was packed 3 deep. We walked to the pebble beach and looked at the old windmill. It was still pretty well preserved, with even the old wooden axle still there.

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Bird like chimney pots

 

Dinner was at George’s Taverna with the cats hanging about as Anne and I ate our white snapper. One cheeky kitten managed to steel my fish bones from my plate!!
The following day was Sunday and we awoke to church bells. I went to one of the small shops in the village for a few bits for lunch. It was like stepping back in time to the Hebrides 40 years ago. The shop was dark with lots of floor to ceiling shelves. At first it looked chaotic but everything had its place and I got what I wanted, except the fresh bread. The shop keeper spoke some English and he explained that the island bakery does not work on sundays. So he phoned his son to go and get one of yesterday’s loaves from the bakery for me. The bakery is a kilometer up the hill. His son returned on his moped with my loaf 5 minutes later….all for just 2 euros. I love the Greek people.
We left Kalamos and headed for the island of Kastos. We had not been there last year so were keen to have a look at the island, it’s harbour and anchorages. The harbour is extremely shallow but it’s a beautiful spot with a restored windmill restaurant on the point. We will definitely go back there.

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Kastos

Leaving Kastos, we headed for Meganissi, briefly mingling with some racing yachts and Anne hitting 6 knots while helming, until the wind dropped and we had to motor. We poked our nose into some of the anchorages on Meganissi , which are very deep, before settling for Abelike where we could anchor without having to take a line ashore. There are rumours of rats on this island so we were not keen to tie on.

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Abeliki, Meganissi 

As we came into the bay, we spotted another Moody, “Bob” with Maggie and Richard from Edinburgh aboard. We met them last year in Corfu, so it was great to see them again. They came over to Vaila for drinks in the evening so we had a very sociable evening catching up with news.
Our next port of call was Fiscardo on the north east tip of Kefalonia. It’s the only village in Kefalonia that has some buildings older than 1953. There was a devastating earthquake in that year which wiped out all the other towns and villages on the island. It’s a beautiful spot with an old Venetian lighthouse, newer lighthouse and the ruined Christian basilica dating back to the 6th century, as well as the lovely houses clustered round the bay.

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Approaching Fiscardo

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Safely tied on in Fiscardo

It wasn’t easy to find a spot to tie up though as flotillas had taken most of the available quayside. So we thought we would anchor and take 2 long lines ashore from the stern. We had not done this before, as it’s pretty difficult when there are only 2 of us on board, but we had Anne to help this time. It all went smoothly to start with until the German on the boat next door said we had come across his anchor. We knew we hadn’t, but went out again and re anchored. We drifted towards his boat as we reversed and he offered that we could tie to him until we got our lines ashore ( he probably felt guilty making us re-anchor!). Andy set off in the dinghy and got us tied on. We let go from the boat next to us, we tightened the lines and anchor and hey presto we were secure!! A first for Vaila and her crew.

 

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The backstreets of Fiscardo

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Some of the crazy limestone rock the islands are made of

Fiscardo was beautiful. Pretty streets and restaurants and coloured houses with hidden alleyways and gardens. We sat on the front, looking at Vaila and enjoying our dinner.

Anne enjoying the sun and sailing 
We set sail for Sami the next day and we had a really good wind so sailed out towards the southern tip of Ithaka, thereby completing the full circle. Anne was revelling helming in a force 4/5 broad reach. Sami was already busy at 1430, with a lot of Sailing Holiday yachts in, so we were glad we had not left it later. Anne and I had a swim in the crashing waves along the beach and we ate at Faros restaurant.
Anne left the next day and we stayed in Sami for another night and then headed for Sivota at the southern end of Levkas. We anchored in the busy bay as there were few places on the quays and pontoons and we would be leaving the next day anyway. It’s nice being able to anchor, no need for lots of fenders and ropes. All was fine until a 57 foot Maltese flagged boat arrived and parked itself directly in front of us. The 4 guys on board jumped into their dinghy and paddled ashore just as the wind was winding up in the late afternoon. The inevitable happened, they dragged anchor and were coming dangerously close to Vaila and another boat. Frantic blowing of the horn did not make them materialise and luckily a man from a neighbouring boat came to our aid. We let more chain out, he let chain out on the Maltese boat. Then we timed the boat swings so we could lift our anchor to get out of their way. We re-anchored about 50m away. It makes us cross when people are so careless especially with boats that cost several million pounds.
We had a quiet night after the early evening adrenalin rush. The next day we motored the 7 miles up to Nidri. It’s a real tourist trap town and not pretty. The reason we went there was that we were going to a Moody Owners get together that night. It took place in a nice Taverna away from the front street. There were about 25 people there, some old faces from last year and lots of new people that we hadn’t met before. The male shanty choir entertained us and the food was delicious. Of course there was plenty of wine and beer too.
We moved from the town quay of Nidri (aptly named “the washing machine”) to Vliho bay further up the inlet the next morning and spent a lovely couple of nights there in peace and quiet. It’s the biggest anchorage we have been into in the Ionian and it’s very sheltered, so I am sure we will be back.

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Quit evening in Vliho

We are now in Levkas marina for a couple of nights to do essential jobs, get diesel etc. Our next stop will be Preveza and the lovely gulf of Amvraki. We are back in lagoon territory, where there are egrets and terns and the fish scrape at the hull during the night making crackling sounds. It’s only 3 weeks before I fly back to Scotland, in time for Kirsty’s hen do….all very exciting.
We ate in the town square in Levkas last night with kids cycling and running around enjoying the evening sunshine. After a delicious meal at Nautilus, we were given free fruit and a bottle of home made wine and a large tub of olives!! Greek hospitality is amazing!!!

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