Saturday, 18 December 2010

Snow, Glorious Snow!

Not a lot to say that the pictures don't.

This is the 'main road' through the village. We spotted a deer attempting to get through but cars gave up long ago. Postie did make it earlier on but said we were his last drop. The paper'boy' braved the conditions to deliver today's news but we are now expecting to be cut off for a few days. Pass the wine.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Dolphins galore

In July this year I helped friend Steve Sweet take his 29 foot sail boat from St. Malo to Bordeaux. Great trip, despite the two days of fog, but the highlight was being entertained by a pod of dolphins which followed us for fifteen minutes. Their skill, ability, playfulness and amazing agility had us captivated.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

It's a Wrap

Now, you may not be able to tell from the photograph but it's tipping down. No, I'm wrong, it's not tipping down, it is a continuous, torrential, cats 'n dogs deluge. Six inches fell in a few hours, we know that because that's how much there was in the dinghy. Thunder and lightning added to the drama which sounds even more threatening from the inside of a small boat. Luckily we had warning of the storm (gold star for the forecasters) and so decided to stay on the berth. The alternative plan was to sail close to the Albanian coast (it's less than a mile away in places) so the 'play safe' option proved to be a smart move. We had just one day to go before returning home so a bit disappointing that our last day should be so damp but we can not complain having had one very wet and one dampish day out of three weeks. The rest of the time it was sunny and hot.

Mrs. T made full use of her new toy, an e-book which means she can now carry the entire contents of the Bodleian in her handbag.

We enjoyed out three weeks back in the Ionian. We discovered some new bays, new harbours, new anchorages and some new tavernas - although the boring, predictability of Greek food does leave a bit to be desired. Greek cuisine has yet to discover sauces so there's a fortune to be made by the first person to import creme fraiche.

We returned to the Ionian not sure if we wanted to buy a catamaran or monohull. Our three weeks helped us to decide. it's a cat we are after. But we have also discovered you can't tell a boat from a quick look and test sail; you need to live on board for a week or so. So, to that end, we now plan to charter a Fontaine Pajot (French cat for the non sailors) either in the Caribbean or Thailand - which is where you have to go in the winter to get some sun.

Pass the charts and pilots - time to plan the next trip.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


Platerias is located at the end of a west-facing bay which provides some stunning sunsets. Our boat is thr fifth mast from the left - the small one. our next door neighbours are some jolly Russins with a 53 foot Beneteau - which they almost parked on the jetty in an unconventional moooring move.

The town was quiet, lots of tavernas and bars but most empty. It's the end of the season. It was here we incurred our only mooring fee in three weeks - 3 Euro, and another 3 Euro for water. You can't tie up in Cowes for an hour for that! Our plan now is to to head north towards Gouvia in preparation for our return. The destination will be dictated by the weather - as ever - but with storms in the forecast we may curtail our last day sailing and go straight for the berth.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

What's a Grecian urn?

Oh the old ones are the best....but there's a twist.

With the Greek economy in tatters, Europe, or more specifically Germany, bailing them out you'd expect gloom and doom to dominate. But not a bit of it, or to be more precise, not a lot.

We have spotted a few trends. Fisrtly there are lots of Germans here no doubt trying to work out where their money has gone and also trying to get some of it back, if not in Euros then in kind.

We also reckon that one of the least employable skills in Greece is accountancy. As far as we can detect no one keeps records, receipts are non-existent and credit cards are a figment of the imagination, they clearly do not exist - cash is king.

We were told by a Canadian investment banker that 48% of Greeks in work are employed by the state in one form or another. That leaves 52% supporting the 48% and if what we were told is true, and that is Greeks are as keen to pay taxes as is a sprat to lure a mackerel, then it's no surprise the Greek economy is in a mess. The black market thrives, those in work dodge paying taxes, and half the country works for the state.

No wonder they don't look quite so glum..... what's a Grecian earn? Who knows - certainly not the Greek taxman.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Eastenders in Greece

We tied up in Sivota anticipating the famous annual regatta and found ourselves moored next to the cast of Eastenders - without the television programme's sophistication and elegance. The racing boats arrived during the afternoon and evening and gradually the harbour filled up. The band struck up and two skinheads struck eachother, resulting in blood on the quayside. Cowes was not like this. However despite the unpleasant behaviour of the youths and the casulty of a girl sprawlwd across the jetty thanks to an excess of alcohol it was a pleasant and entertaing evening. We met up with Tony and Gill of Note Bene who we met in June.Nice meal, excellent company and an entertaining time. We are off to Meganissi now - a quiet anchorage.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Anchor Delights

We have had a couple of days of anchoring adventures. Here we are tucked into a quiet bay at Poros on Lefkada. We had it to ourselves until a super yacht complete with flunkies anchored mid-bay overnight. The following morning the guests (owners?) were escorted by two ribs. Either they were very poor swimmers or filthy rich and needed protecting from kidnap. Yesterday we tried the same routine and identified a small bay, One House Bay, on a rock (Nisos Arkoudhi) midway between Ithaca and Meganissi. We were not the only ones to have that thought and when we turned up the bay was home to twenty or more yachts...mainly a Sunsail flotilla. Thankfully as we arived they left. Delighted at the new found quiet we anchored...not once but four times. No matter what we tried we could not get the anchor to stick. It slid, it skated, it danced, it bounced but at no time did the damn thing dig in. We did harvest several tons of weed in the process and the sandy bottom had clearly been mixed with cement because it was not going to yield to our anchor. We gave up and set sail for Poros, around 12miles away. Good sail, 5+ knots under reefed jib. Slightly more heel than Mrs. T. would have liked but I kept reminding her she always wanted a well heeled skipper. We are now about to leave this little haven and head around the corner to Sivota where the famous annual regatta is held. There are live bands, festivities, much visiting of bars and other boats. We are meeting up with friends. Tomorrow may be hazy....and we are not talking weather forecasts.

Monday, 13 September 2010


Currently at anchor in Eufimia on east coast of Kefalonia. It's very windy and too dodgy to try mooring on the quay so we are riding to anchor until the wind drops. However, as I type a gain Sunsail charter boat is going to have a go. Those of us at anchor are watching with interest. May have to dig out the video camera if it gets 'interesting'. Had a good saildown from Fiskadho today, 6 knots under jib...bliss.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ionian Revisited

Well, we are back in the Ionian but for some quirky reason this blog won't let me copy and paste text from Word and so the several paragraphs I have crafted will forever remain locked in Word. Suffice it to say all's well. The main domestic batteries failed on Day 1 but were replaced on Day 2. We now have volts to spare. Currently at anchor off Poros in Rouda Bay, Lefkas. It's raining and the thunder echos around the hills. Good wifi connection thanks to new Javelin X20 and kindly cafe which has not protected it's wifi hot spot.

Will update as we proceed.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

St. Malo to Bordeaux

The deck seating arrangements lend a new meaning to 'armchair sailor'.

Here we are not long out of St. Malo as we head along the north Brittany coast aiming for Bordeaux... a mere 450 miles away to deliver Steve's Contest 29.

We always knew the run along this coast would be a slog - largish seas, head winds and tides which even Noah would have struggled with.

We were encouraged by the thought that once 'round the corner' the sun would shine, the winds would turn in our favour and it would be downhill from then on.

We fought our way along the coast, tackled the awesome Chenal du Four and headed for Cameret...with arguably the best seafood on the planet. The sun did appear once 'round the corner' but not for long.

The fog stayed with us for two days which meant straining eyes and ears as we sailed from Cameret to Ile d’Yeu via Belle Ile.

Belle Ile it may well have been if we could have seen it.

The area is not much used by shipping and the ferries ply between the islands and the mainland so we were not in an area of high traffic but there was always the risk of encountering a fishing boat or another yacht. In two days we saw one other sailing yacht and thought we heard the engines of another two boats.

We were so pleased when the fog decided to go.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

In search of the giant prawns

Thirsty work this flying.

Thursday 10th. June

We wake to see the Oyster getting ready to leave. The ‘crew‘ is on the foredeck and is hosing down the anchor chain as it comes on board. Now that really is showing off.

We get under way soon after and head north towards a small fishing harbour called Petriti. There’s no wind. Not even the slightest zephyr and so we embark on a motorboat trip. The sea is like glass. We make 5.5 knots at less than 2000 revs.

We reach Petritis after 20miles and there, at anchor, is our friend the 57 foot Oyster. The harbour is full and so we anchor again. It’s a bit choppy but we hope that as evening arrives the seas will calm.

The plan is to go ashore this evening and select a taverna to grace with our presence. They’ve got a pretty fine corned beef hash to beat.

Friday 11th. June

Time to move on and this time we cross back to the Greek mainland in search of a taverna at Sayiadha which serves, we are told, the finest prawns to come out of the sea. These are monster prawns - more langoustine than prawn. Jo plots the course. We arrive at a tiny harbour. When I say tiny I mean tiny. Half a dozen boats fills it up and the depth...well, put it like this the echo sounded read 'ZERO' when we moored up and another boat which arrived swears he dug a groove in the mud with his keel on entering. Taking up pole position on the jetty is a Welshman who clearly 'lives' there and said he'd see us when we return in September. He's not going anywhere then.

Sayiadha is interesting. It's on a sliver of land no more than half a mile wide and ten miles long. It separates Albania from the sea - which must annoy the near-coastal Albanians a lot. There's a heavy police and army presence as the hills overlooking the area are Albania and in the past there have been reports of pirate activity and looting. All seems quiet now and such illegal activities seem a thing of the past however we did spot one tree adorned with bottles and a noose. We interpret this as meaning "steal my wine and you'll end up in the noose." Maybe we have a vivid imagination?

We spot a small bird, the twitchers among you will be able to identify it, 'drinking' from a dripping stand pipe while two Greek love-birds get all romantic on the jetty.

There's a small fishing fleet based here, hence the monster prawn speciality, and the local kids use the fishing boats as diving platforms.

We book ourselves in to the taverna and can report that the prawns are every bit as good as their reputation.

This is the end of our Ionian adventure. We've had a great time, seen some amazing places ranging from deserted villages ruined by an earthquake to other villages ruined by being grockle-infested. We've had some great sails, motored more than we'd have liked, had some character-building experiences with an anchor windlass and seen some of the clearest waters and skies ever.

We're back in September but now it's time to return this boat to Gouvia and we fly home tomorrrow.

Thanks for sharing our adventure with us.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Anchor fixed and we're off.

Wednesday 9th. June

Well, last night’s slap-up meal was more slapped-together than slap-up. We opted for the grilled special; pork, chicken and lamb on the spit. The meat was dry and looked as if it had been around for some time. The restaurant was recommended in the pilot book we use but that was written five years ago and things change. We’ll update the author for the next edition.

Today it’s hot – there’s not much wind and Dimitris, the electrician, and mate have turned up to fix the windlass. It’s a sod of a job. The windlass is in an awkward spot in the forward chain locker. It’s held on by four bolts, unscrewing the bolts and the motor drops. It’s heavy. There’s not much room to work and it’s at times like this I am thankful I am not a marine electrician. Dimitris is stoic. Once the cable and windlass are free he’ll have to take them away to remake the corroded connection and then the fun really starts as he tries to put it all back together again. Oh joy.

I did an early morning run to the bakery and bought two croissants for which I was awarded two stars. Sadly I forgot the bread for which I was awarded minus three stars. I am currently into negative equity.

The fishmonger next to the baker had five cats patiently waiting for a few scraps. Very Greek.

The Sailing Holidays flotilla is off to Two Rock Bay today and we are grateful we didn’t time our visit when the flotilla was in. Nice enough people but it’s a bit like turning up at a restaurant and discovering a Saga coach party has just arrived.

The flotilla boats are gradually moving on and a German boat has managed to foul one of the Sailing Holiday boat’s anchor. He lifted his and got one free. Much shouting and swearing in German. Apparently crossed and fouled anchors are a fact of life here.

A tripper boat with Merlin as the figurehead eases out of the anchorage and follows the sister ship. (see pic)

A super yacht, a ketch, moored off the island last night, too big to get in. Not that that stopped them coming ashore. The tansom opened up to reveal a tender garage. She looks very smart but needs a fair size crew to operate. Bet their anchor windlass works!

Dimitris has revealed that he hopes to fix it all here without the need to return to the workshop. That’s a blessing because we did wonder when he’d return once he’d vanished. So far we’ve heard no Greek swearing from the front end…which is more than can be said for us when the damn thing failed!

Good news. Dimistris has fixed it and all in situ. We now have a working windlass and can set off.

We decide to leave Gaios by the northern channel and see if we can spot the abandoned liveaboard yachts Colin mentioned as a possible place for us to moor if we had problems finding a mooring on the town quay. We pass various inter-island ferries, various tripper boats but there’s no sign of the liveaboards.

We head north to Lakka, (first pic) a small town and bay on the north of Paxos. It holds special memories for us because five years ago this is where Mrs. T agreed to become Mrs. T. They say villains always return to the scene of the crime.

We anchor next to a Lagoon 440 occupied by a large German and his equally vast wife who poses on the bow (see pics) . She also has some attributes which are obvious from the accompanying photograph. As you’ll see she has ample pot plants, probably herbs, which she has arranged on the after deck.

We are soon joined by a 57 foot Oyster and for the non-nautical types reading this I should point out this is not some mutant mollusc but a rather smart boat. The guy who we think must be crew hoses down the deck as if water is not an issue and so we assume this travelling palace probably has a water maker.

We dinghy ashore and take cocktails in the terrace bar overlooking the bay. Singapore slings have never tasted so good. We return to the boat for corned beef hash…and before you smirk, let me tell you that tastes pretty good too.

We are in collision in Gaios on Paxos

Tuesday 8th. June

We stirred at 8am, raised the anchor( by hand) and headed west towards Gaios on Paxos. We’ve not been there before although we have visited Lakka in the north and loved the island. There’s no wind and so the donkey provided the power which at least topped up batteries and kept the fridge cold.

We arrived at 11am and it’s a picture postcard place. Narrow streets, sheltered harbour, tavernas lining the quayside – if it didn’t exist you’d have to invent it. Hollywood could not construct a better, more typical Greek island village.

News from Colin is that a Greek electrician will visit at 5pm to look at the dodgy windlass. We tour the town, indulge in an ice cream and beer, top up with provisions from the supermarket and become tourists.

Several ice creams and beers later

The electrician has visited and found the fault – a corroded terminal. He shows me –there’s nothing left, eaten away by the corrosive effects of salt water and electricity. It’s a simple fault to cure but in a pig of a position. He will return tomorrow morning at 9.30ish to replace.

It’s surprisingly quiet here. We expected to have problems finding a slot on the town quay but there’s lots of space. It gradually starts to fill up. A German boat comes along our port side. A British crewed Sailing Holidays flotilla boat comes along our starboard side. I’m on the phone to Colin as it approaches when I hear Jo yell. I hang up on Colin and rush on deck. The boat, a 34 foot Bavaria, has just demolished our horseshoe lifebuoy and fitting. Bits of debris are all over the deck. The Australian who was talking them in says he’ll replace it. We inspect the damage. No damage to the hull or topsides but the buoy mounting is bust. Luckily it was held on with plastic cable ties which gave way when clouted and probably prevented any further damage.

An hour after the collision the Australian appears bearing a new lifebuoy mounting kit. Looks as if this may happen a lot.

We make friends with the Bavaria crew and he says he was grateful we were English and not Greek - the boat flies a Greek flag. He was expecting some animated histronics - we were very British and made sure the upper lip was very stiff.

We take a wander around the town - it is a grockle magnet - a sort of Padstow with sun. We were tempted by the Cats of Greece T-shirt but ended up simply taking a pic.

Tonight we are going to hit the town and treat ourselves to a slap-up meal as a consolation for a crappy time we’ve had with the anchorage and anchor.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The worst day of the trip

Preveza Marina above - Silia below

Monday 7th. June

Time to move on and we decide not to venture into the Gulf and do a spot of dolphin watching but head north again and explore the inland sea when we come back in September. We say farewell to Barry, Derek and Sue – who also return in September so maybe we’ll bump into them again then.

Our plans take us further north on the mainland coast to Two Rock Bay – and that’s also what it’s called on the Greek charts. Apparently it is a magic location. Once clear of the Preveza fairway buoy we head north, crack on some sail and have the best sail of the trip so far. Five plus knots on a close reach with, at times, a little more heel than Jo would have preferred but all perfectly under control. That one tack would take us almost 25 miles to Two Rock Bay. We only dropped the sails when the wind died and we motored the last 45 minutes which helped to top up the batteries and give the fridge a boost.

Two Rock Bay is badly named. There are four rocks in the bay which leads you to think you’ve found the wrong one but a GPS fix confirms we’ve got the right place. Sheer cliffs surround the bay which has the clearest water we have seen. The bay is around 2 metres deep and quite stunning. We pick our spot, we can choose anywhere we like as we have the bay to ourselves, and we drop the anchor. Well, to be more accurate we press the button to drop the anchor. Zilch. Dead as a doornail. We check the switches and all looks OK. Try again, still nothing. Is there a hidden trip we don’t know about? I call Colin who says there’s no hidden trip. Anyway, we drop the anchor manually, mercifully it’s shallow, and then we try to work out why the windlass is not working. After various phone calls and checking of wiring we are none the wiser. The boat’s tool kit is primitive and rusty. Actually it’s rubbish. There’s only one screwdriver and the ‘bits’ for a combination set are there but the holder is rusted solid. There’s no multimeter, no bits of wire and the spare fuses are rusty too. It’s not possible with the kit on board to check whether volts are reaching the motor but it’s starting to look very much as if the fault lies within the motor not the wiring or controller. It’s a bit of a mystery because the windlass worked fine when we lifted the anchor several days ago in Palerios and it’s not been used since and now it’s packed up. Anchors are critical out here because they are the prime means of mooring.

We abandon all hope or finding the fault, settle down for a meal of shrimps in a tomato sauce (Shrimps Provencal, very Greek), curse the windlass and decide to have an earlyish night. We are joined in the bay by another British yacht and I’m tempted to row over to see if he has a meter I can borrow but decide against it.

As I said the water in the bay is crystal clear, the sandy bottom is visible, we can see our anchor clearly. Lots of fish, quite large they are too, swim around the boat. I throw a piece of bread into the water and the sea boils as maybe fifty fish fight over the crust. We dig out the video camera and perform the trick again for the video. It did occur to me that a bit of bread with a hook embedded would be certain to land a fish every time, but I only catch a fish to eat and not knowing what they are and having feasted on prawn provencal I consign my angling activities to feeding the fish and not catching them. They had a feast on the remains of supper.

Two Rock Bay has the reputation of being calm and a stunning place to anchor for the night. It was not calm. We rocked and rolled all over the place and although there was no wind the swell made it very, very uncomfortable. I got about two hours sleep, Jo managed one. After such a great sail the end of the day with a faulty anchor and uncomfortable anchorage marks the low point of the trip.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Jo's Birthday

Sunday 6th.June – Jo’s Birthday

Somehow the postman had managed to find Jo and delivered three cards. Clever people the Greek posties. Various texts came in during the day and thanks to the Preveza free WiFi birthday greetings also land via the internet.

It was a slightly unusual birthday, none of the usual trappings but instead here we are in a foreign marina with people we’ve known only a day all coming by and wishing Jo a happy birthday. Convivial lot sailors.

We decide to spend the day in Preveza, the first time we have spent two days anywhere, So far we have visited a different port every day but it’s Sunday, Jo is a tad older now and so we opt for a slightly gentler day.

We also opt to return to The Mermaid for a birthday meal. It’s much quieter today, the tavernas are open but nothing like as busy. We assume it’s because it’s Sunday, but oh no. The Maitre D at the Mermaid explains that this evening is the final of the Greek basketball league and everyone is at home watching the game. It’s the Greek equivalent of the FA Cup Final and a Test Match rolled into one.

In chatting to the maitre D I mention that it’s Jo’s birthday and two minutes later he appears with a birthday cake. It’s a square of ginger and cinnamon sponge, three scoops of ice cream and a candle. ‘The faster Birthday cake ever’ he declares. He also offers us a birthday drink; I opt for a Mataxa while Jo has a Mataxa and lemonade.

We’ll have to pull this birthday gag more often.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Preveza and armed police on the jetty

Saturday 5th.June

An early rise was prompted by some minor traffic leaving the harbour and so we decided to make the most of the day by setting off early for Preveza via the Levkas canal. The canal links the Northern and Southern Ionian with the road bridge across the northern end opening on the hour. We arrived at the bridge about ten minutes to nine and were one of half a dozen boats heading north. Once through the canal there are really only a couple of places to go; Preveza on the mainland or the island of Paxos. We all fell into line with one flotilla heading to Paxos while our group pointed at Preveza.

The wind was on the nose and we all were under power line astern. The wind increased and towards the end of the trip it had become quite bumpy. We have memories of Preveza five years ago when we visited by road having travelled to look at a boat. We didn’t buy the boat and were equally unimpressed by Preveza however the town, one of the biggest in the area, is the gateway to a large gulf, an inland sea which is rarely visited by yachts and is home to dolphins and giant turtles. We had to see for ourselves. Also, during the time we’ve been here we have been in touch with Barry, the owner of a Moody 346, hoping to meet up as his boat is for sale and Colin, at the marina thinks it may suit us. Barry texts to say he’s in Preveza Marina – so a good opportunity to meet. The entrance to Preveza is well buoyed as it’s a port used by freight traffic and ferries. We follow the entrance channel and pass the town quay which is lined with boats and tavernas. There’s a fair in town with a large ferris wheel a useful landmark as it is sited just beyond the marina. We enter the marina and wonder where to report to get allocated a berth. There’s a conspicuous lack of a harbour office. We opt to take any vacant berth and then seek out the men who must be paid. As we pass one pontoon we notice a Moody 346 and shout ‘Barry?’ to those on board. They seem surprised we know their name. We introduce ourselves and ask what the berthing procedure is. ‘Take anything that’s vacant, it’s free, they haven’t got round to appointing a harbour master yet’. We moor two boats away from Barry on a brand new marina, apparently EU funded, and ours for free.

After sorting out our lines we join Barry with friends Derek and Sue on board the Moody. It’s a nice boat and clearly much loved by Barry. We invite them on board our boat for a 7 o’clock drink and then accept Barry’s invitation to join them for a meal at The Mermaid..a taverna they have discovered.

Preveza has more shops than most of the islands put together so we take the opportunity to re-stock. We were tempted by the fish (see pic above) but could not find a loaf big enough for the sandwiches.

From on board an Italian 'gin palace' moored opposite emerged a rather portly Italian skipper and a rather slim, not to say attractive, crew member. He passed her a package which, when opened up and assembled, turned into a satellite dish. IKEA would have been proud of the flat-pack ingenuity. For the next few hours they watched Italian TV and we were treated to the sound track.

Less than an hour later we hear raised voices and were amazed to see an armed policeman, a Greek coastguard, a fellow British sailor and a rather animated Greek in heated discussion. Actually they were all shouting at each other with arms waving like a semaphore station on speed. It transpires the Greek called the Coastguard who brought along the cop for support to tell our fellow sailor he had to move his mooring. Seemed a bit excessive force but when confronted by a cop with a gun, a coastguard with a walkie-talkie and a demented Greek with attitude it's pragmatic to move on. I helped with the lines and the re-mooring was achieved without a single shot being fired.

Spilia Bay and Palerios

Shopping for provisions consumes a surprising amount of time.

Thursday 3rd. June

Jo paid one last visit to the supermarket (just can’t keep her out of the shops) and we were off. After the trauma of Kioni we were rather pleased with our efforts to spring off the jetty.

A Force 3 SW wind had us making good progress to Meganisi and our favourite bay and taverna with Jerry and Steve in Spilia Bay. We got in around 2pm after a pretty good sail only having to stir the donkey for a brief spell when we lost the wind.

Jerry was there to take our lines and within ten minutes we were sitting on the water’s edge drinking a beer. There’s a table booked for tonight and I’m crossing my fingers that there’s WiFi.

Tomorrow we plan to sail to the Greek mainland, to Palarios, a run of around 12 miles. Oh dear, we are now heading back to base, the halfway point has been reached.

Friday 4th. June

After a quiet night at our favourite spot we emerged gradually into the sun having shared a glass or two more wine than is sensible with Sandra, Pete and Anthony last night – they are here from Manchester.

We slipped the mooring and headed off. The forecast is for SW winds F3, not ideal as we are headed NE, but what do the forecasters know? The winds were SE F3, giving us a nice reach. We trotted along at 5 knots and within two hours we were approaching Palerios.

It’s a small town, maybe village is a better description, with a small harbour. Sadly Palerios is full. There are two boats at anchor just outside the harbour and we make it three. I’m writing this still at anchor. The British boat ahead of us in the queue has now found a spot while the German has given up and moved on. If a slot becomes free we’ll grab it but what’s more likely is that we’ll lie to anchor tonight.

The big decision is whether to go into the town, by far the biggest we’ve seen in days. The boat looks safe enough so we may well venture ashore. If nothing else I may find a WiFi point and be once again united with the rest of the world.

Some time later.

We didn’t go ashore and instead cooked on board and so the delights of the Palarios tavernas remain a mystery.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Ghosts' bells in deserted village.

Wednesday 2nd. June

The village is deserted but we were woken by the ringing of dozens of bells. Had the villagers returned? Were ghosts sounding a warning? Had we consumed far too much Ouzo the night before? No, none of these. Goats, perhaps a hundred of them, had wandered down to the foreshore for a drink and just like Alpine cows they each had a bell round their neck. Did they really drink salt water? Oh yes, as the picture shows.

Anyway, before leaving ‘Earthquake Village’ we went ashore. It was quite spooky. The houses are still standing, albeit with no windows and few doors. The quake didn’t demolish the houses but did destroy the village’s water supply and that is what makes it untenable.

One of the saddest sights we saw on the entire trip was the beach at Port Leone. There was almost as much plastic debris as sand and pebbles.

We walked up to the church and passed a small graveyard on the way. The church was locked up but is clearly tended. The ‘pub’, a part-time taverna, is all but derelict but maybe it’s not sufficiently into the season to justify it opening. Jo peeked into a window of one of the houses and was met by a rat staring back. This precipitated a swift retreat. For some reason she didn’t want to stay.

We lifted the anchor, said a brief farewell to Leighton and Cathy and set course for Kioni on Ithaca, a distance of around 12 miles. There was a bit of wind so we sailed but the wind died and so the donkey kicked in.

We arrived in Kioni just after one o’clock. It’s small and was already quite busy. One of the ‘joys’ of Mediterranean cruising is mooring bows or stern to. We spotted a gap and headed for it stern to. Someone shouted something – we have no idea what he was trying to tell us, but assumed it was not “All’s OK, in you come”. We aborted that attempt and opted for another spot. Just as we got close to the quay mother duck, the girl looking after one of the flotilla, said the water by the quay was shallow. We had four metres on the depth sounder and we suspect she was trying to save the space for one of her ducklings but we decided not to risk the keel of the boat on any hidden rocks. We motored off and decided to go bows to. We got within 6 feet of the jetty when the kedge anchor fetched up. It was an omen, we gave Kioni a miss and went on to Frikes, about 2 miles to the north. It is fair to say that crew relations were under some strain at this point.

We moored up in Frikes alongside a jetty without a problem, one of the few places here where it is practice to moor alongside. There was a Lagoon 380 on the quay, it looked enormous and rather out of place. The Lagoon is one we have been considering but we are now having second thoughts because of their suitability out here. After the agro on Kioni we opted to eat ashore in one of the many tavernas. We also took the opportunity to stock up in the supermarket which also has showers. Not something you get at Waitrose I have to say.

Apart from the disco, which eventually packed-up at 3.30am, we had a quiet night.

Deserted - thanks to an earthquake

Tuesday 1st. June

We are now anchored in Port Leone, but don’t let the Port bit deceive you. It’s no more than a deserted bay which until 1953 supported a small but thriving village. An earthquake changed all that. The town is now deserted save for a church and a part-time pub…strange how these two establishments manage to survive no matter where in the world. Plus ca change!

Today is the first day we have had slightly iffy weather. The sky is overcast, we’ve had a light drizzle but with a wind out of the North West we had a good sail down here. The forecast is for NW 5-6 and with luck our little deserted bay will give us the protection we need overnight. We are anchored next to 'Makarma', a boat from Plymouth owned by Leighton and Cathy, also CA members. They have a solid boat, the sort of craft you want if caught out in bad weather. It’s all brass and teak but sadly neither Jo nor I can recall its make. They are living on board permanently and are now into year two of their cruising adventure. A few days ago we had two couples from the Cotswolds either side. You come all this way and meet the neighbours!

We hope to get ashore a bit later and explore the ruined village. It reminds me a bit of Imber on Salisbury Plain. The village was taken over by the MoD around 1914 and used for combat training. At the height of the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’ it doubled for Belfast! The church is all that remains and it too is tended. Luckily Wiltshire has escaped earthquakes but the army achieved the same result.

The wind was a bit brisk overnight and we kept waking up to check the anchor. It was fine and didn’t move at all but there’s always that nagging doubt when the wind whistles through the rigging and the boat shears around. Leighton and Cathy had to anchor five times before they found a good holding spot.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Sunday 30th. May 2010

We left the bay and motored all of 2 miles to Vathi, a somewhat larger bay but still with an essential Greek village feel. A small fishing fleet gives the harbour an authentic atmosphere but the blight of the Ionian, flotillas, detract from its charm. We are currently moored next to some merry Dutchmen, Sunny Sailing is the name of the flotilla company, and they practice coming stern-to right next to us with VHF radios blaring instructions.

We were paid a visit by Chris and Sue who are anchored in the next bay. They too are CA members and we had an interesting chat comparing experiences. They sailed their boat from the UK going via Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and Malta. That’s serious cruising.

Sunday evening we went to the Rose Garden, the teverna of choice of sailors and had a pleasant meal. We met up with Gill and Tony who are out here for several weeks on their own boat. He used to run a flotilla company – we had to remember that when commenting on the Dutch ‘ducklings’.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Spilia Bay, Meganisi

Saturday 29th. May 2010

We left Vlikho Bay and sailed past Skorpios, a smallish island owned by the Onassis family. Aristole and Jackie (nee Kennedy) got married on the island and are now buried there together with Christina and her brother. Local rumour has it armed guards patrol the island but whether that’s a myth perpetuated by the family or reality who knows. On the south-west corner of the island is a small beach house built in Mykanos style which is, apparently, where Jackie bathed on a small private beach but as it’s quite visible it’s hard to imagine any privacy from paps with long lenses.

We passed the island and headed for Spilia Bay on Meganisi (pics above and below). It’s a wonderfully secluded bay with a view to die for.... although I'm sure that was not the reason for the demise of the four aforementioned Onassis family members. Jerry and Steve run the taverna and moorings. All very unhurried and friendly. Jerry holds out the lazy line as you drift in to the mooring. He later takes your order in the taverna. One nice touch is that they take bread orders for the following morning which saves a serious hike over the hill to the bakers at Spartahori. It’s all very Greek; unhurried, friendly, a bit shambolic and you’d never guess they were in the middle of the worst economic crisis to hit the country for generations. Hospitality is generous or a cynic might think it's just good marketing but after every meals there are 'freebies'. Ours consisted of a free pichet of wine - which considering we'd consumed two glasses and a pichet risked putting up into the high risk category as we teetered along the jetty. We spotted some fellow cruisers we'd seen at another stop and shared the free wine with them. They were delighted, we remained more of less sober and no one ended in the drink because of the drink. This is one of our favourite stops, and not just because of the freebies. We will return....many times.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Maritime Graveyard

Friday 28th. May

From Lefkas to Vlikho, a sheltered bay which seems to be a giant boat park for ex pat Brits. There are two Prout Quest cats here and some Greek rust buckets! Sadly the bay is a dumping ground for boats that have reached the end of their lives. The boat yards to the north of the bay seem active, if a little primitive, but every boating area needs its workshops.

This was one of the quietest moorings of the entire trip. The water is not as clear as elsewhere but that's because of the muddy bottom and, I suspect, it's a result of not being 'flushed' by any tides. Although the view over Rust Mountain was less than enchanting the rest of the bay was picture-postcard fodder. Not surprising, therefore, that there's quite a community of ex-pat Brits here. Red dusters fluttered in all parts of the bay. The mooring is free, it's quiet, the flotilla plague rarely breaks out in these waters and the tavernas and shops are only a few minutes away in the dinghy.

If you find yourself in the Ionian don't be put off by the maritime graveyard. It's only a small part of the bay and Vlikho is well worth a visit.

Friday, 25 June 2010

South from Gouvia

Wednesday 26th. May 2010

Yesterday we stocked the boat. Waitrose is not under threat. From Corfu we sailed south to Lakka on Paxos…lovely picturesque bay on a stunning island (see pic). Excellent WiFi courtesy of the local council. We anchor in the bay and the water is an unreal turquoise – it looks as if someone has overdone the colour settings on Photoshop but it’s real, it’s natural, this is how it really is.

Thursday 27th. May 2010

From Paxos we sailed south to Lefkas via the canal. It’s almost impossible to find the canal entrance. Without GPS and a couple of other boats going the same way I’m not sure we’d have found it. It didn’t help that since the pilot was published they’ve build a harbour wall and added a light so it looks nothing like the photo!

Nice, if expensive , night in Lefkas. £40 mooring for the night…which is about twice what we’d pay in Cowes! Ah, so that’s why Zorba and his missus were smiling.

Health and Safety? I don’t think so.

One of the refreshing things about Greece is that the Health and Safety Police have yet to descend like a blight on the country. Common sense seems to prevail and if someone does something stupid they have only themselves to blame.

We saw some hair raising electrical installations – see picture. The exposed junction box (top right) was at the foot of a power pole and carried 440volts. All the terminals were exposed to prodding fingers and a jolt from that would quickly empty your bilges. But the Greeks are not stupid and refrain from stuffing a digit into lethal electrics. The consumer units (bottom pic) were in Preveza where there seems to be a flexible approach to electricity distribution systems. We saw more than one apparently illicit tap into the public electricity supply. The picture (top left) was also in Preveza, at the marina, where an irate Greek told me that a visiting yacht had approached the jetty in a rather spirited manner and taken out his services post. This did not stop it being used. Power and water flowed despite the post being all but demolished. Who said water and electricity don’t mix?

We were amazed too at how many Greeks you can fit on a motorised scooter. It helps, of course, that none wear helmets or protective clothing and we had to chuckle when we saw several passengers riding pillion and carrying crutches. It did not deter them. As far as the Greeks are concerned scooters were made for multiple occupancy. Three or four on one bike is not unusual. Riding, using a mobile phone and eating an ice cream is pretty normal.

I have to say none look the worse for their lack of H&S. We do love the Greeks.

The Crew

The Crew
On board at Lymington