Bye bye Preveza (18 April – 10 May 2017)

Andy arrived back on Vaila on the 18th April and worked on Vaila at Cleopatra yard. He fitted new sea clocks, completely replaced all the hoses on the sea toilet, serviced the engine and carried out countless other pre season jobs. So when I arrived on 2 May, Vaila was in the water with new antifouling on and a lovely polished hull and even a full fridge. Not much for me to do! Our friends Tony and Alison from Reveller also arrived, so we had a few sociable evenings along with Marc from Sundancer. Tony and Alison are making their way west this year, heading home to Britain eventually.

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Afloat again and the Skipper is happy

We set off from Preveza on 6th May, heading through the Levkas canal in beautiful sunshine, along with about 12 Sailing Holidays yachts being delivered to their summer homes. There were quiet a few Scottish voices in evidence. The canal has been well dredged within new red and green buoys,  making life less “interesting”.

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Going through the Levkas canal

It felt strange leaving Preveza knowing we would not be there again for a few years probably.
We spent a quiet night in Abelike, Meganissi and I had my first swim of the season. The next morning was not so good, as we had rain and a thunderstorm. When the weather had passed over, we set off for Kioni in Ithaka. It was so quiet when got to Kioni, we even managed to get on to the town quay. A couple of very large charter boats caused havoc when trying to come backwards but they eventually got tied up with much help and luckily no damage done to anyone.

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Vaila second from left, a small boat beside the giant 50 footers!

We had a wee walk and ate at one of the Tavernas, enjoying being in this beautiful spot.

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View from the Taverna,  Kioni

Our next stop was Poros on Kefalonia. We got in and tied up in the very shallow harbour by 4pm. Well needed showers at one of the apartment blocks and dinner high up on the headland at Taverna Agrapidos. Home grown meat and veg, the best Feta cheese I have ever tasted all washed down with delicious home made wine. Unfortunately, the wind and swell did not die down overnight so it was quire a disturbed night.
So now we are in Agios Nikolaos at the northern end of Zakynthos. We were here last year and it’s a lovely quiet spot and remarkably sheltered. It was quite a windy passage over from Kefalonia and great sailing, we’ll reefed in F4/5 SW wind. We are waiting for Sally to arrive tonight and then we are heading over to the Peloponnese for new places and adventures. Aegean here we come.

 

Thunderstorms and anchor knitting

We arrived home in Scotland last Wednesday and have been enjoying the bright autumn weather. Vaila is safely on land in Cleopatra marina amongst thousands of other boats.

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We had a couple of eventful weeks before our sailing finished for the season. The week after Trina and Joe left was one of rain and frequent thunderstorms, culminating in a large storm overhead at Sami for about 45 minutes. The rain was lashing down and the sky was purple and black at 5pm with spectacular lightning. We were tied on to the quayside with the anchor at the front as usual, but unfortunately, the 48 foot boat next to us had not tightened their anchor sufficiently, so started pushing us sideways as the wind hit them. Andy had to motor forwards and steer so we did not get pushed into the boat on our other side. Luckily our anchor was strong enough to hold both boats. A bit scary and very frustrating as the French people on board the large yacht didn’t care and just shrugged their shoulders (the gallic shrug) when Andy suggested they tighten their anchor!! Luckily no damage done, but a stressful hour.
Our friend Paul arrived the next day and luckily the weather improved over the next few days and we got some good sailing. Paul had not been to Greece before so we enjoyed showing him some favourite spots and he enjoyed sampling the Greek food.

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The two old codgers enjoying a beer in little Vathi, Meganissi 

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The local cats enjoying a fish dinner

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Rainy day in Vathi, Ithaka

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The Venetian cannons, Vathi,  Ithaka

We also managed to demonstrate the anchor knitting untangling technique in Kalamos harbour, as George had squeezed about 50-60 yachts into the small harbour which led to mild chaos when leaving the next day!

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Colours of Kalamos

We finished off in Preveza with a noisy Friday night on the town quay and then headed over to Cleopatra marina the next morning. Paul helped get the sails down and we continued with jobs once Paul had flown home on the Sunday.

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Paul demonstrating a new sail folding technique

Lift out on the Monday went according to plan and Vaila was slotted in amongst 1000 other yachts on the hard standing. The cradles are strong and secured with chains to keep them secure during earthquakes, which happen frequently in the region.

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We sailed/ motored about 1000 miles this year. It was lovely pottering around the islands and re visiting places we know. The Ionian has got really busy though, as some big charter companies have pulled out of Turkey and are now based in Greece. Perhaps it’s time to move on a bit again next year and explore some new parts of Greece ?

Autumn is coming to the Ionian

We had a fantastic week with our friends Trina and Joe. We collected them from the airport on the Sunday evening after a trip to spectacular Assos with its castle and to Mourtos beach (which featured in the film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”).

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Looking down on Assos from the castle

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Assos castle

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Not the tourist path to the castle

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Entering by the back door

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On Mourtos beach

Monday dawned fair with a good forecast, so we set off up the Ithaka sound to Fiskardo. We managed to sail for a bit and arrived at 3pm but the pontoon and quayside were already full, so tied up with long lines to the north shore, Trina and I swimming with one line each. It helps having two extra people on board for complicated maneouvers. We snorkeled off the point in wavy conditions, but still saw lots including some peacock wrasse. An expensive ice cream and not so expensive dinner in the town completed the day.
It was very windy the next morning and we thought we might struggle to get our lines retrieved, but a small Spanish boat had come in next to us late in the evening and they let us tie on to them while we got our lines back from shore (Andy went to get them in the dinghy). We headed over to Meganissi to inspect the spectacular caves there and were lucky as the wind dropped, allowing us to swim right into the cave. It was an eerie feeling swimming under millions of tons of rock hanging over your head.

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Another yacht getting ready to take people into the cave

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We anchored in Abelike, Meganissi overnight and had a walk across to Vathi, followed by more swimming and showers ashore.

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Small chapel, Vathi, Meganissi

It was a beautiful starry night and we stayed on board for a BBQ tea. It’s a beautiful, sheltered and peaceful place with no loud music from shore.
On Wednesday morning we set off to sail to Kalamos island. The wind was NE/E so we had a good few hours sailing but had to turn the engine on to motor into the headwind along the south shore of Kastos. We arrived at Kalamos harbour about 1430 and George helped tie us up as usual. Just as well we got in early as it just continued to get busier and busier. There are still lots of flotillas around and Kalamos is always on their itinerary.
A walk to the windmill beach, drinks and the most amazing prawns at the beach Taverna, followed by showers and a meal at George’s Taverna sitting at a table on the beach. Another great day.

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Trina and Joe at the windmill, Kalamos island

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View from the beach bar, Kalamos

We were heading across to Kioni on Ithaka the next morning. Conveniently, the wind dropped as we approached Atakos island and we anchored, along with about 10 other yachts. The snorkeling under the tortured cliffs was as good as ever but it was all much busier than when we had been there in May. We did see a large shoal of young swordfish swimming quite close in to shore. It was a bit spooky swimming through the shoal, as they parted and then surrounded you. The small “swords” on the fish were about 8cm long so looked quite intimidating!
When we arrived in Kioni at 1515, the small quay was already full so we took long lines ashore again on the west side. There was plenty of space and Trina swam ashore with both lines. She then also helped another boat with their lines. We got a bottle of wine in return for the help. We were thinking of farming out the line swimming services, but when the next boat came in on our other side, Andy was already in the dinghy so took their lines. Another bottle wine came our way!!

 

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One of the three old windmills at the entrance to Kioni, Ithaka

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View to Atakos island from Point at Kioni

Kioni is a beautiful place. There are three old windmills on the point to the south of the town and we walked out to see them and to keep up the ” step count” for the “Fitbit” enthusiasts. Ithaka has lots of beautiful walks and many lovely holiday houses and apartments , so it’s a popular place. We had dinner at the same restaurant as last year, sitting on a terrace overlooking the harbour and watching the light fade and the town lights come on. One of the local cats took a real shine to Joe, but thankfully it didn’t steal food off the plates. The cats actually look well cared for on this island. Jasmine scented the night air as we walked back through the small streets to Vaila.
Trina and I went ashore the next morning. Not as simple as it sounds, as it involved getting into the dinghy and pulling ourselves along the mooring rope to reach the quayside . We got yogurt and fruit for breakfast and stopped to watch the antics of two cat families with some very boisterous, cheeky and demanding kittens.
Getting away from the anchorage was a bit more complicated than usual, as our anchor had caught the chain of a large catamaran close to us. Luckily our “anchor thief” or “finger of God” as it’s known here, came to the rescue and we unentangled ourselves pronto and got a round of applause from the cat’s crew!!
We motored to Arkhoudion island where we had been snorkeling before. The wind had dropped so we felt safe to anchor so close to shore. We were getting ready to snorkel when a large catamaran with Russians on board came charging into the bay towing two snorkelers at about 4knots and with music blaring. Luckily they got the message when Andy shouted at them, so they anchored instead and then got their spearguns out! There is no accounting for what some folk like to do. Unfortunately Russians seem to be some of the more obnoxious people we come across while sailing!!
The snorkeling was fantastic with shoals of swordfish, colourful reef fish, soft corals, starfish and urchins all in crystal clear water. The wind stayed down until after lunch, so we then set off for Vathi on Ithaka. As usual, the wind gusted about 10-15 knots just as we were coming in to Vathi, and the north quay was full, so we opted to anchor and wait for the wind to drop (hopefully). Luckily at 7pm the wind did decrease, briefly, so we backed on to the town quay. We walked right round the bay in the blustery wind, until we reached a favourite restaurant where we sat by the water’s edge and enjoyed some delicious food and the odd spot of wine!

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We sailed over to Ay Efemia on the Saturday and had some good wind, but by the time we got to the harbour it was blowing 15 knots, so again we anchored hoping the wind would drop. We got onto the quayside about 7pm once it calmed down. Luckily, at this time of year, there are not so many flotillas and there was lots of space. We snatched a snorkel at paradise beach and had a last dinner with Trina and Joe, as they were leaving the next day. We had a fantastic week together and the weather luck of the Gavans held as usual!!


Now we are back in Sami, sitting out some stormy weather and waiting for Paul to arrive, before we head up to Preveza for lift out on the 17th October. It’s definitely end of season here. Everything is much quieter, the restaurants are closing the beach front sections and the showers are only open in the morning. The weather is still warm just now but it’s more stormy and we are expecting rain this week. Ashore the chainsaws are working and wood is being stockpiled for winter. We are still managing a swim most days and were lucky enough to get really close to a cormorant and some kingfishers yesterday while swimming.

Thunderstorms in the Ionian.

Since Fiona and Gordon left we have had a mixed bag of weather. Quite a lot of stormy nights with thunderstorms most days. After our “incident” last year we are naturally wary about these!
We met up again with Maggie and Richard from “Bob” in Fiskardo where we were tied on to the pontoon, which has magically appeared again in late summer! We had a lovely evening together after some great snorkeling off the rocks under the lighthouse. Lots of colourful fish, mostly peacock wrasse.

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Fiskardo 

“BoB” and crew set off for an overnight trip to Paxos the next afternoon, once the thunderstorm had cleared, while we stayed in lovely Fiskardo another night. The weather still didn’t look great but we did not want to stay any longer, so headed off to Vliho in Lefkada. It got blacker and blacker behind us and dozens of boats were heading south towards Sivota and shelter but right into the wind! The rain caught us about 4 miles away from Vliho in the Meganissi channel and all the islands and mountains disappeared in the driving rain. Luckily we have the chart plotter and radar, although radar signals are very confused in heavy rain.

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Poor viz off Lefkada

The worst of the storm was past when we got into Vliho, which is a good anchorage although thunderstorms can also be very threatening here. So it was an indoor evening watching catch up “game of thrones”!!
The wind calmed down in the night and we had a good sleep and a short trip of a few miles to Abelike in Meganissi where we anchored.

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Abelike anchorage

It’s a beautiful spot and we swam and walked over to the small town of Vathi in the next Bay. This is “little Vathi”, to distinguish it from “big Vathi” in Ithaka. There are actually lots of Vathis around here, as it means deep inlet.
The weather forecast was very variable but we decided to head over to the mainland to anchor in Marathia bay. Once over on the mainland there are not many options but it’s a beautiful spot so we wanted to go back. Unfortunately the wind got stronger and we had a lot of strong downdrafts, so we had a restless night, along with the other two boats in the bay. It was good having the anchor alarm but we were up several times during the night.
We left after breakfast and headed for Petala, a big bay south of of Marathia, protected by an island. It was a very quiet spot with no houses or tavernas. Unfortunately, the wind did not get easier and we had yet another broken night.
So now we are back in Sami, which feels like our home port these days. We have hired a car for a couple of days and are exploring the inland mountains. We stopped at a memorial to a sailor who was the only survivor of a mine attack on the British submarine HMS Perseus just off Poros. He was smuggled back to Britain at great risk and was duly clapped in jail as the MOD did not believe his story. It was not until many years later that local divers found the submarine in very deep water. The unfortunate submariner was eventually pardoned in the 1990s!!

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The submarine memorial

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Overlooking Poros harbour

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Argostoli town quay

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Mountain scenery south Kefalonia

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Chapel gates at the top of the mountain pass

We are now looking forward to Trina and Joe arriving tonight.

Back in Kefalonia (5th-14th September 2016)

It’s 7am and the cockerels have been crowing for about 1 hour with the growing light. The big yellow “Speedrunner III ” ferry slipped out of the harbour with little fuss, heading to Patras on the mainland. Now the blue ferry is loading with lorries clanging on the ramp. Church bells are ringing and the early traffic noises are starting in the town.

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Speedrunner III, Sami

We are back in Sami in Kefalonia, having left Messalonghi on the 5th September. We had to motor all of the 40 miles across as there was no wind. Since then there have been quite a few thunderstorms which made us take shelter. The sea is lovely and warm for swimming but the harbours are pretty full with flotillas and charter yachts, as well as cruisers like us, so finding a berth is often challenging.
Our friends Fiona and Gordon arrived on the 7th September from Scotland and unfortunately their first full day was spent sheltering from a thunderstorm.

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Thunderstorm and torrential rain in Sami

We also spotted a leak from the water trap on the exhaust of the engine, which filled the bottom of the locker with about 4 pints of water. On top of that, the anchor winch remote also broke!! Not a great start to their holiday, but Gordon, being a plumber, felt quite at home looking for leaks!!
The welded sections of the water trap, which is 31 years old were leaking and Andy managed to plug the leaks temporarily. The anchor winch remote wiring was completely corroded, which was very disappointing as the remote was just over 1 year old! Andy managed to rewire it so it worked and our next visitors will hopefully bring a new one out. Thank goodness for all the tools and spares we carry and Andy’s expertise to fix most things.
At last we could set off for some of the islands. We stopped for one night at Ay Efemia, to take on diesel, show Fiona and Gordon paradise beach and eat at a favourite restaurant. Then we headed up the Ithaka channel and across to Kalamos. It was Saturday so Kalamos harbour was relatively quiet as the flotillas turn around at weekends. George was on hand to take our ropes as usual.

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Kalamos harbour on a quiet day

We walked to the windmill beach and had a swim in the fairly rough water and a drink at the small beach Taverna which had not been open in May. Showers and food at George’s Taverna completed the day.
We left Kalamos on the Sunday morning after a leisurely start. Fiona and Gordon went to the shop to get a few provisions. The shop is like the ones you used to find in the Scottish Highlands, with floor to ceiling shelves, stocking everything from a needle to an anchor. There had been a local wedding the day before and the young couple went off in a speedboat with horns blaring and lots of selfies being taken.
We motored out of Kalamos and anchored for lunch and swimming in One Tree Bay (with two trees), just opposite Vliho on Lefkada. It was busy and again there was a beach bar ashore. Luckily the “muzak” was bland and not too intrusive.

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Fiona at One Tree Bay

We ended the day anchored in Vliho with Prosecco and a BBQ on the boat in the quiet. No sailing all day though as the wind had deserted us.
Our next port of call was Vathi on Ithaka. It was very overcast with no wind so we motored past the caves on Meganissi’s west coast and then anchored off Arkoudion island, where we had read that the snorkeling was very good. It did not disappoint, with 10-15 species of fish, octopus and black sponges all in beautiful clear water. The sun even came out while we were snorkeling and the afternoon wind meant we could sail to Vathi. As we left the anchorage we saw lots of small flying fish. As usual, the wind blew up to 15 knots on the nose just as we were coming in to Vathi. The small quay was full of Sailing Holidays yachts but luckily our friends Lynn and Keith had kept us a space next to them and Andy managed to squeeze our way in. A lively evening followed, with good food and company at Dimitris Taverna. Fact of the day was that mink are wild all over Ithaka, perhaps not so bad if they keep down rat numbers!!

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The motley crew at Dimitris quay in Vathi, Ithaka

The next day we had to get back to Sami for Fiona and Gordon’s flight on the Wednesday. We nosed our way into Ay Andreous but we were beaten in by a large yacht which left no space in the tiny anchorage, so we had to move on. Gordon steered us safely through the shallows at Pigadi but the swell meant we couldn’t stop there for lunch either. Third time lucky and we managed to get into Ay Andreas on the south side of Ithaka. Gordon swam our stern line ashore and we all snorkeled. There were less fish than at the previous snorkeling site but I saw an octopus which I only spotted because it changed colour and there were a few colourful red starfish as well.
We arrived back in Sami just before 5pm. A walk, swim and lovely meal finished the evening.
Fiona and Gordon were leaving at lunchtime for Argostoli airport the next day, so we had a leisurely start and brunch ashore.

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Brunch in Sami

Two bags of laundry went to be washed and we felt a bit lonely back to just the two of us.
Today, Andy has fibreglassed the leaking exhaust water trap and it’s now curing on the quayside.

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Fibreglassing the water trap

The forecast looks reasonable for the next few days so we will leave tomorrow and hopefully explore a couple of new anchorages before coming back to Kefalonia to pick up Trina and Joe on the 25th September.

It was a Foque up kind of day (a bit like the referendum??)

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We were anchored in a bay on the south side of Kastos, just enjoying a post lunch rest on Vaila, when we saw the line of wind approaching. It looked like it might be quite a good breeze so we got set to leave and pulled the anchor up. The wind was a lovely 10 knots. Within 10 minutes it was 20 knots and gusting 25 knots, so it was a great day for flying our staysail (“Foque” in Spanish as we had the sail made in Spain 2 years ago).
We had planned to stay overnight in Kastos but as that was not to be, we thought Meganissi might be nice. Unfortunately the wind changed to northerly, still 18 knots and people were leaving the anchorages on Meganissi as we approached about 5 pm. So, change of plan again and we headed for Vliho which is well sheltered with good holding. We were glad to stop after 28 miles and the Foque had proved it’s worth again allowing us to sail comfortably in a pretty strong wind.
Prior to Kastos we had been back to Paxos, an island south of Corfu. We anchored in Lakka the first night and luckily there was not much “Lakka rumba” going on. Last year boats were moving in all directions at anchor,  doing the Lakka dance . There was a noisy Greek wedding ashore though, so we found out the bride was from Australia and heard snatches of the speeches as the PA system was very loud!

We sailed into Gaios town but it’s very narrow and gets incredibly busy so we were happy not to stop.

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Gaios in Paxos on a quiet day

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Gaios, Paxos

We  spent a lovely night in Mongonissi bay at the south end of Paxos, tied stern to the shore. It was the first time we had done this with just the 2 of us. Andy swam the line ashore and it all worked really well.
We also arranged our winter storage for Vaila after Anne left. We are going to get hauled out at Cleopatra marina near Preveza in October. There is an airport only a 5 minute taxi ride away so it’s actually more convenient than Messalonghi and despite having to fly via Gatwick, it also works out cheaper.

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Not such a nice day at Cleopatra marina

 

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Fishing quay, Aktion, Preveza

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Ali Pasha’s fort, Aktion. Andy Pasha climbing the wall!!

While at Preveza, we also visited the ruins of ancient Nikopolis, a city built by Octavius after the defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra in 31BC at the Battle of Actium near Preveza (hence the marina name). The ruins are extensive and almost devoid of visitors, so a lovely change from Delphi and Olympia.

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Odeum, Nikopolis.  Partially restored and used for music performances.

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Behind the Odeum at Nikopolis

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Mosaic at Nikopolis

Now we are back in Messalonghi marina, where Vaila will stay for July and August. We had a massive thunderstorm yesterday which cleared the air a bit as it had been really muggy. I fly home on Tuesday in time for Kirsty’s hen do on the 2nd July and Andy comes home on the 6th July. We are very excited about seeing family and friends and about Kirsty and Chris’s wedding.
We are not so excited about the political turmoil that has been inflicted at home. We are embarrassed and ashamed and have taken down our red ensign in disgust! Now we are just flying the saltire. Luckily we are not at sea as we have to fly the ensign by law there. Everyone here in Greece is completely puzzled by the decision and it’s the talking point of all the nationalities here.
Let’s hope that by the time  we come back in September some sort of reality check will have set in.

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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!!!

The Peloponnese and Olympia

We said cheerio to Andy’s sister Sally yesterday (22nd May). She arrived in Kefalonia on the 12th May and met up with us in Sami on the east coast. From there we sailed across the bay to Ay Eufimia and tied up at the town quay. Sally and I walked along to one of my favourite beaches and although the water was cool, I went for a swim. Sally opted just to sunbathe.

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Swimming at Ay Efemia

The weather forecast looked good, so we set sail for Zakynthos, the island south of Kefalonia. Zakynthos (Zante) is a very popular tourist island and we had all been there before but not by sailing boat. We had a great sail and pulled in at small village of Ay Nicolaos near the northern tip. Costas, a tall Greek, arrived on his motor scooter and helped to tie us up alongside on the big concrete pier. He proudly explained that there was no charge for this harbour as there is no water or electricity available! We would have been quite happy to pay a small fee for the shelter but that’s not how it’s done in Greece. He also said we could get a free shower at one of the local hotels and he gave us the card for his restaurant. So we wandered along the road and got our showers in a spare room in the hotel. The woman looked quite confused when we gave a €6 tip!!!

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Ay Nikolaos

 

 

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Ay Nicolaos, Zakynthos

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An elderly man arrived on his motorised tricycle pulling a trailer full of local produce and I got the job of speaking to him. He had a little English and I bought tomatoes, olive oil, a huge jar of honey, currants and olives. Like most Greek locals I have met he was delighted to make the sale. A good supplement for whatever else he lives on. Another couple we met later, told us he was reluctant to accept a large note from them as that needed change and he then had to reveal the large stack of notes in his pocket!!
Dinner at “La Storia” later that evening was delicious and Andy continued his survey of moussaka. Verdict….still not as good as Erikoussa. We sat right down at the waters edge and one young couple even had a table on the beach. We did need fleeces on though, as the evenings are still very cool at this time of year. Costas greeted us. He seems to be “the” go-to man in Ay Nicolaos, I think he owns most of the village!!
Our next port of call was 32nM across to the Peloponnese mainland and the port of Katakolon. It’s a huge harbour that caters for cruise ships and used to have a marina, but like most marinas in Greece it fell to bits and only the breakwaters remain, leaving the pontoon chains lying on the bottom. So we went alongside again on the breakwater.
The frontage of the harbour was full of prosperous looking restaurants, but you didn’t have to go far to see that this part of mainland Greece is very different to the Ionian. The most striking thing was mountains of rubbish piled up outside the school, Church and every available lay-by. There had recently been a general strike in Greece so we presumed it was left over from that. Not pleasant and a definite vermin risk.
We were invited on to another boat for a drink by the owners Neil and Andrea. They also wanted to visit Olympia the next day so we decided to hire a car, as the trains are erratic to say the least. We had dinner and went to bed in anticipation of a long day ahead. Just as we were dropping off the local youths arrived with their car boots full of speakers. We were treated to an hour or so of rap and Greek music at maximum volume before they thankfully screeched off.
We awoke to find that 3 cruise ships had appeared during the night, with ranks of busses on the quayside to take them off to Olympia. We got our hire car and set off after breakfast. Luckily it was only a 40minute drive and Olympia seemed quiet. We assumed everyone had gone to the museum first so we went round the site. It’s a very large site and was mostly destroyed by a huge earthquake and helped along by an emperor who did not like the games! There were great signs in English though, so it was amazing to try to imagine how imposing it must have been once. The Olympic flame is still lit on this very site these days. We visited the museum just as the masses appeared on the site.

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Like we had found in Delphi, there was nowhere to eat, but we managed to get a cool drink and ice lollies just outside the site boundary. I presume it’s a deliberate decision not to allow food anywhere near archaeological sites. The local towns also have plenty of restaurants but Olympia town was heaving with bus tours, so we decided to give it a miss and headed back to the harbour.
The next day we sailed back over to Zakynthos, stopping at Zakynthos town. It’s a busy place with lots of ferries. Like many of the island towns, it was destroyed in the 1953 earthquake, but the local government decided to try to rebuild it in the old Venetian style. There are a few “Campaniles” and lovely squares. We had a delicious evening meal just off one of the squares. The “free” wine was nothing to write home about, a bit too like Retsina for my taste.
We had a walk up to the Venetian fort the next morning. Quite a steep climb through the back streets but a great view as reward. Surprise, surprise the fort was shut due to “lack of security”!!!

 

A little light shopping followed and then we were off at 1130, heading for Kefalonia again. Unfortunately, the wind was from a northerly direction but we could sail to start with and we also had a brief sighting of about 6 small dolphins (common?) fishing. As the wind increased and the waves got lumpier, we started motor sailing. The last couple of hours were pretty horrible, punching into a horrible sea and seemingly never getting closer to Poros harbour. It was a tricky entrance, dodging a ferry and the shallows, but we were all relieved to tie up in the shelter at 1915 hours.
Poros is a lovely wee town. Prosperous looking and geared up for tourists, however we did not stay long as the forecast was for strong winds over friday night and thunderstorms, so we wanted to be back in Sami by then. We headed back north in a bit of drizzle and anchored at Ay Eufimia. A slightly disturbed night followed, as the wind swung all over the place and the waves got up but we stayed put on the anchor and the morning was calm. A quick motor across to Sami saw us back on the town quay by 1045 with the harbour master welcoming us to our “home”.
The rain came overnight but we were sheltered from the worst of the southerly wind. By Saturday morning, the rain was torrential but all the new hatches were great and did not leak. Once the rain stopped, we had a walk up the hill behind Sami to the ancient hill town from the 5th century BC.

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Ruins of ancient Sami, 500BC

 

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Looking down on Sami, Kefalonia

Huge blocks of limestone had been cut and made into walls, towers etc. Very impressive and in a great strategic location. We also had lovely views down to the new town of Sami nestling round the bay. The next day we said goodbye to Sally after a great week with her.
So here we are now, waiting on our next visitor, my friend Anne, who arrives on Wednesday. The swallows are not serenading us so much now as they are busy feeding 3 or 4 youngsters each and brooding them at night. The weather is warming up and we are looking forward to some nice sailing round more islands and more swimming, well for me at least….it’s still too cold for the skipper!!!

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A stowaway

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Mending nets, Sami

Back in the Ionian

Well, here we are back for our fourth season of sailing since retirement. Lucky us.
We left Messalonghi on the 9th May and are now back in Kefalonia and waiting on Andy’s sister Sally to arrive. We even managed a few hours of good sailing on the 8 hour trip coming across.
Andy came out on the 14th April and did a power of work on Vaila, replacing all the old leaky hatches and adding new batteries and rewiring, as well as other jobs. Vaila looks much smarter now and we have sorted out our storage and shed some unnecessary stuff.
I arrived on the 26th April and helped to get Vaila ready for another season. Andy added single line reefing back to the cockpit which makes life simpler and safer. No more going up to the mast to reef in heavy weather.
We had a hire car so managed a couple of trips inland and round about Messalonghi. We walked up into the mountains trying to find a cave used as a church. As ever, the walk was lovely but we never did find the cave. We got up to about 2500feet above a stupendous gorge and had wonderful views down to the Messalonghi lagoons.

 

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We even saw tortoises in the wild and lots of wild flowers. The hillside was covered with big leaves from bulbs so it must have been a fantastic sight when the flowers were out. No idea what they were though!
It was Easter sunday when we did the walk and surprisingly there were no church bells, just the bells from the sheep and goats on the hillside and shotguns going off in the valleys. Driving back along the tiny mountain road was an adventure. Large parts of the road had been partly washed away in the winter storms making driving interesting. The road clung to the hillside contouring round through endless oak forests. It was very wild countryside. The BBQ s were going in all the villages with spit roasting lamb and in one tiny village high up they had to move the chairs from the road to let us past. They invited us to eat with them but we didn’t want to intrude.
We made another trip, to Delphi. It was a long drive along the northern shore of the gulf of Patras with an amazing “alpine” style hairpin road taking us up the last few miles to Delphi. The site is pretty vertical and must have been very imposing when all the temples stood, especially the main one to Apollo. Now you just have to imagine it as it’s mostly ruins with a bit of reconstruction.

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We were lucky to see the site at lunchtime as the weather closed in later. By that time we were in the museum which housed the statues and other artefacts.

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By the time we left, it was pouring and we were glad to be making our way back down from the mountains. The weather was better in Messalonghi.
We really enjoyed the birdlife of the Messalongh lagoons. We often had flamingoes fly over and there were black winged stilts, egrets, terns and pelicans. Someone told us of lesser kestrels and we saw them in the town. The swallows were busy nesting and serenaded us every morning and evening, sitting on the mooring ropes. The whole boat was covered in cobwebs, with spiders doing a good trade in catching flies and mossies. Wildlife was bountiful. No heavy agriculture and not much spraying in evidence. Wild flowers and butterflies everywhere and lots of open spaces left wild round the town. It makes you realise how controlled by big agriculture our environment is at home and what we have lost!
Despite the lack of large scale agriculture, there is lots of vegetable and fruit growing though and lots of people have small plots. Great tomatoes and courgettes already in season and the oranges are falling off the trees. We had the freshest sardines ever the other day from the local market.
It’s lovely to be back here and the weather looks like it’s improving at last. It has been pretty cold up to now. We have needed fleeces and windproofs and the duvet on the bed. Hard to imagine just how hot it was last summer. The flotillas have just started but the harbours are still pretty quiet which suits us. We now have 7 weeks sailing round the Ionian islands and Peloponnese before we fly back for July and August at home (we have a special wedding to attend!)

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Anchorage at Ay Euphemia 

Andy’s Atlantic adventure

As a brief divergence from the Vaila sailing blog I thought I would record my further sailing adventures on the Atlantic Ocean.

In February 2015 Petra encouraged me to go and organise sailing the Atlantic, crewing for another boat, so I did. I signed up with Alan Broadbridge and his wife Avryl, on their yacht Weohgi, who were planning on taking part in the ARC+ in November 2015. The route is from the Canaries to the Cape Verde Islands for a few days stopover then across to St Lucia, a total of nearly 3000 Nautical Miles.

 

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Malta

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Gozo

We had a trial week sailing in the Mediterranean in May from Malta, via Gozo to Trapani on Sicily. The whole crew was on board for this trip, Alan and Avryl and Colin Hussell a ‘flying’ friend of theirs of many years. We had good weather and the opportunity to try out Alan’s modifications on their Jeanneau 45.2 to make it Atlantic seaworthy.

For the next stage we gathered at the end of October in Las Palmas, Grand Canaria to prepare for the crossing starting on 8 November, along with 60 odd other boats and crews. We had a few days of frantic boat prep, seminars on things as diverse as first ad and provisioning, a party every night and shopping for food

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Fresh food Prep.

 

Then it was off, before either Colin or I could change our minds and join Judy’s yacht (they were struggling to find enough crew). We got an average start (remember it isn’t a race) and set off south at 7+ knots in a 20 Kt wind from behind

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By that evening it was blowing over 30 Kts and we were starting to surf down large waves at up to 11.5 Kts – way past hull speed. My watch was in the dark that night – I guess it usually is! – and it was fairly interesting surfing down the waves at those speeds in the pitch dark. The hydrovane self steering helped, as you didn’t have to hand steer unless you wanted to.

The sun shone the next day, the wind had moderated to 15-20 Kts and it pretty much stayed like that for 6 days as we did just under 1000 Nms at an average speed of 7+ Kts. We had dolphins at dawn and dolphins at night with light shows of phosphorescence trails like underwater shooting stars and of course birdlife to liven up proceedings.DSCF5824

Cape Verde arrival

We arrived in Cape Verde at a very civilised 10 am or so and after a bit of fun, berthed in the Marina at Mindelo. The next few days were spent exploring the islands, meeting with other crews, fixing small items on Weohgi and the inevitable parties. The islands are ‘interesting’.  Sao Vincente, where we were based, was pretty barren and not a lot going for it really, the next door island of Sao Antao was more verdant, with high mountains and a walking destination for many explorative tourists. We had had enough Grog for a lifetime by the time we set off again on 18 Nov heading for St Lucia some 2000 Nm distant

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Sao Antao

Sao Vincente

We had a slightly better start and set off with great enthusiasm heading due west, just the small matter of avoiding Sao Antao provided some amusement. Not that no wind in the wind shadow of the island in 2-3 m waves was overly amusing, seasickness set in for a few and we decided to motor for a few hours to get back in to the favourable winds that others were reporting on the vhf.

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Waves off Cape Verde

We soon got into the trade winds, anywhere from 12-22 Kts of wind. The constant easterly wind gave us a very easy time with not much sail adjustment to do once we had the spinnaker pole out and the boom preventer fixed. So we basically sailed as near 270 degrees as we could for about 8 days whilst doing nothing but reefing a bit at night to avoid dramas in the dark. The sun shone, a full moon illuminated the nights, the wind blew and the boat rolled 15-20 degrees each way for 24 hours a day

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A busy day in the trades                                                            Weohgi steering herself

Trade wind sailing at its best. We saw little wildlife, just a few birds, mostly shearwaters and a few storm petrels, loads of flying fish and that was it. No cetaceans of any sort, so we had to rely on doing small jobs on Weohgi to liven up the day shifts. The big excitement came on the 9th day when we put in a gybe, its amazing what can seem fun when running downwind in the Trades.

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Careful on deck at 9 Kts

From this time on we had quite a few squalls to keep us on our toes with clouds, some sharp rain showers and occasionally a bit of stronger wind. Fortunately we could see them coming, either by eye during the day or on the radar at night if they were bad ones.

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Spray and rain

We had a few interesting moments, but didn’t break anything – unlike quite a few who arrived in St Lucia with broken poles and damaged sails, and a few who didn’t arrive at all after turning back or diverting. We arrived on Nov 30th, just in time for Alan’s birthday and only 13 days from Cape Verde. We averaged 7.2 Kts over the whole voyage, faster than we normally sail at any time on Vaila, and we even had some food left!

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Relaxed a thousand miles from land                                  …………..or are we?

 

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A relaxing 8 Kts into Rodney bay and the finish line

Petra flew out to the Caribbean to stay on Weohgi for 10 days or so on 7 Dec. So we had a lovely time staying in Rodney Bay marina for a few days then cruising down the west coast of St Lucia. We stopped off at Marigot bay, an idyllic small bay fringed with mangroves and palms with lovely walks and restaurants.

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Marigot bay

Then to Soufriere in the large bay at the Pitons where the snorkeling was great and we visited the volcano and botanical gardens on a trip organised by ‘Captain Bob’  then after a couple of nights there we headed down to Labourie so that we could head for the airport.DSCF6213

Gros Piton

A fairly predictable taxi trip involving the inevitable hassle with a local fixer provided some last minute entertainment.

 

 

So – an adventure – fun, challenging and fulfillment of a lifelong ambition.

 

 

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The final sunset as we approach St Lucia

 

Many thanks to Alan and Avryl for the invitation and Colin for being a great shipmate.