Greece - The Northern Ionian II
To view our previous log entries please use the following link: Greece - The Northern Ionian I.
To view our next log entries please use the following link: Greece - The Northern Ionian III.
Log Entry Sunday 20th September - We leave Cephalonia and make for Vliho, Levkas.
Dave and Lisa turned up to bid us fare well, "our holiday begins now" Lisa cry's out at us from the quay? Vliho was a good 70 miles from us, the weather guys were forecasting a strong blow coming our way, it was to last a few days? We had decided to make the trip in one jump, rather than shorter steps and run the risk of being weather bound some where? This would erode into the time we had to complete the work we wanted to do before we went into the yard. The trip would take us up to 16/20 hours depending on winds and stuff!
Off we went, bidding our fare wells, the commercial quay was quite, not a great deal going on this Sunday morning?
Well, plenty of leisure activity, lone fisherman and a canoe club, all pleasant to watch.
One sight to which we had passed a number of times without paying any notice was the local excavation, great chunks of the hill sides being removed for one reason or another?
As we rounded the light house at the head of the bay in which the harbour sits, we were now to turn south to make our way anti clock wise around the south of the island to utilise more favourable winds. To my horror I then realised that the harbour authorities had not stamped our paper work effectively closing off our visit to Argostoli. I was so angry with my self, but the only option was to turn back as it would create complications else where! We turned back, Ann tried to sub dew my anger as I began hitting myself with a winch handle - "as if our trip was not long enough" I was muttering to my self!
We returned, cleared with the authorities, grabbed a coffle in the taverna on the quay and left for a second time. This time, a little later in the day, the winds were better, as we rounded the light house this time we had good winds to take us quickly out of the gulf. As we passed the location of Dave & Lisa's hotel, we received a telephone call - "can you see us waving" we hear! With some direction and the binoculars we make the two of them out on the beach waving their airbed's at us, heavens knows what bathers around them thought? We passed by at over seven knots and later turned to the east, the wind now dead astern of us and increasing to over 20 knots. That is clearly why we had left later, for better wind?
We were now "goose winged" with both sails out fully, we were making good speed, our fear was that as we turned north we would be in the lee of the island - what wind would that give us? We passed Zakinthos to the south of us, and made our way to the south east corner of Cephalonia.
As we turned north, to put Ithaca to our starboard side the wind, as we had feared, the wind began to drop off, soon there was nothing, on went the dreaded engine. What was even more frustrating was the resulting current against us, coming down the channel between Ithaca and Cephalonia, created by the north westerly winds. As darkness fell, at times our forward progress was reduced by 25% due to the current, that went on until we reached the south east corner of Ithaca, nothing one can do just keep going, dogging the ferries of coarse. By the early hours of the morning we could see the "Stenon Meganisiou", the channel between Levkas and Meganisi, we were completely alone by now, the busy ferry traffic well behind us, not even a fishing boat in sight. Continuing up the channel we made our way between Levkas mainland and Madhouri, the small island off the entrance to "Ormos Vliho". We turned into the Ormos and our fun began, the channel was still full of anchored vessels, most of them unlit! We had assumed that the water ways would be a lot quieter now, how wrong we were? The situation was now quite dangerous, with the combination of the bright town lights, and the unlit boats anchored vessels would come loaming out of the darkness without warning only meters ahead. Ann went to the bow of Sailaway with the powerful lantern we carry to find us a clear path through, we communicated via walkie talkies. We make our way into the anchorage, picked a position and dropped our anchor. The journey now over we celebrated our safe arrival (as is tradition), ate breakfast then retired for a few hours sleep. It had, for one reason or another taken us 17 hours to cover 71 miles, not bad going really?
Log Entry Saturday 19th September - A day sail with Lisa and Dave.
Ann and I were leaving in the morning to head back to Levkas, we had mad arrangements with a boat yard there to have Sailaway lifted out for the two yearly clean up. Following that we were to return to the UK for a couple of weeks.
We had agreed with Dave and Lisa to take Sailaway out into the Gulf for the day. The last time Dave had been sailing was when we were in the UK, he had helped us move Sailaway from Liverpool to Milford Haven. The conditions here were slightly different to the Irish Sea, so I think he was looking forward to the day? Sailaway being a "long keel" vessel does not like going backwards, so when required to berth stern, or bow too, we always select bow too. This means we literally throw a kedge anchor over the stern, this means manually handling the anchor, and it's rope and chain. From experience, we knew we would bring a lot of mud and weed aboard from the bottom here.
We needed some one handy with a bucket to wash it all down as I pull it on deck? There was no shortage of volunteers, Dave took the task on with great enthusiasm, although it did get a little intense with his bucket, shouting at one stage "best highlight of my holiday"? We quickly got the perfectly clean anchor and chain stored securely and made our way our of the harbour.
We made our way past the commercial quay and ferry terminal, out into the Gulf, the winds were light, initially from a north west direction, however it was clear from what we could see ahead, the winds would be light and variable?
Up went the canvas, we had no particular coarse, we were to head up to the very north of the Gulf and pick a good spot for lunch - sail to the wind was our coarse?
Our speed was slow, but the conditions excellant, Dave took to the steering well, keeping our speed up, and, better still, in a northerly direction. The girls spotted a small cove to the northeast of us, a mile or so away - our destination for lunch?
We continued making towards the small cove, through the binoculars one could see a small beach with less than half a dozen people on it - perfect for lunch?
On our way we passed a couple of quite industrious fish farms, we gave them a wide berth allow all to carry on with there own activities.
We arrived at the cove about 1300 hours, good timing, we dropped our anchor in about 10 meters of water. Ann set about down below in the galley. There was more than enough for all, any thing not required by any one was devoured by Lisa - "rather keep her for a week than a fortnight" I remember a saying from my child hood days?
After lunch Dave and Lisa inflate the canoe and disappear off to look at a cave, just off the beach, Ann and I take to the water and make for the beach, they join us there. We play for a couple of hours then decide to return, siesta time for the children? We make our way slowly back to Argostoli, the wind is almost nonexistent so we motor most of the way back.
Once again "stern too" in the harbour we sit in the sun and have a beer or two! We are attracted by Dave's excitement, he draws our attention to some thing well below the water, it was a turtle, probably a "leatherback", well over a meter across, It was a fascinating site, our pictures were not too good, but we watched it as it moved below Sailaway, it surfaced a couple of times around us for air.
Dave and Lisa left us alone for the evening, once again they would make sure we were safe and secure, then disappear off alone to have some fun - that what you do with old people apparently?
After their holiday was finished we were sent the above picture, we new it would be difficult for Dave to leave "Jimmy" behind, clearly emotions ran high that day. He was never that emotional any of the times he left us?
Log Entry Thursday 16th September - A barbeque on Sailaway.
Dave and Lisa had been to a beach today, without us? It must be difficult carting two oldies about all of the time on holiday, so we are not offended much? We had arranged for them to eat on board later that evening a barbeque seemed a good idea? My last attempt had not been so successful, better luck this time? I lit the barbie just as they arrived, all seemed to be going well, but steady heat could not be achieved - Dave stepped in.
We quickly realised I had put it together incorrectly (slightly), that was rectified, however we put Ann on stand by with the oven, that was an excellant move. As I helped Dave, Ann set about with the meat in the oven, salad and bread down below - Lisa did what Lisa does, drinks brandy!
The food all came together in the end, in fact we were unable to eat the chicken and a second set of sausages, Ann always buys too much. The conversation and soft drinks went down well, I think it went quite well, considering - must practice more with the barbie, or get a gas one?
Our local fishing expert kept us occupied catching a selection of fish as he had done the night before, our noise did not seem to disturb him nor the fish. We gave him beer as compensation?
Log Entry Wednesday 15th September - On the road again to Skala and Poros.
To day we originally set for Friskardho to the very north of the island, a navigational error, for which I (Kevin) take full responsibility sent us heading south - south it was? I did suffer a few comments enquiring how we found Greece but did not rise to such childish comments? The south of the island is were most of the resorts lie, Ann had some 30 years ago came to Skala (Cephalonia) we were now heading towards it so a re-visit was in order.
The drive along the coast kept us busy taking in the sites, a fortress, many small villages or just the colourful views.
It was not long before we reached Skala, stopping to look down on the town itself. As we made our way down, as we entered the town we were hit with named resorts, the roadside became line with pedestrians, they had to be British holiday makers? There were many properties being developed, we passed a number of UK registered cars, quite old as such, perhaps a car retained here by a Brit or two?
As we drove through the town centre, Ann repetitively commented "that's new?" Guess it could be after 30 years, is Ann that old I hear you say?
Ann and Lisa could not agree on any thing, when it was, who was there? Dave and I said nothing other than the occasional comment to aide the confused situation? We did two tours of the town, gave up and left via the coastal road to Poros. It truly was a holiday resort, geared up fully to be so, hundreds if not thousands must visit each year.
Poros was a more interesting place for me - it had boats for one thing? It was a ferry terminal from Killini on the main land, very little development had been under taken at all, a total contrast to Skala.
The small harbour was hardly used, perhaps busier in the high season, a few small pleasure craft present, a catamaran came in as we arrived. We saw two ferries, one leave and another arrive as we sat and drank coffee. The arriving ferry, steadying herself on the engines, had not even finished tying up before the vehicles began to leave her.
The drive back was very rural, we even came across a recent "terrace development", looked to be shared between three or four parties?
Log Entry Sunday 12th September - Off to Myrtos Beach and further on to Assos.
We are off with Dave & Lisa again today our destination, Myrtos Beach one of the acclaimed best beaches on the island to the north. We pack the toys, snorkels, air beds, even Bladefish, fully charged! Once they kids arrive we make sure they visit the toilet before we leave, as one does - we are convinced they are having a great holiday?
The roads are "minor", an average speed of 40km/hour is probably good if you are not slowed by heavy goods etc. The drive is always interesting, even on the same route one has traveled before you see something you had missed previously, or just take in another perspective of the view. That, topped with fine intellectual conversation makes the time pass very quickly, well, for the none drivers any way?
As we climb high above Argostoli we see the town and it's location within the protective bay.
A great commodity here appears to be honey, used for many things, even yogurt, it can be bought from any where, the honey farmed effortlessly in bulk, in fields, or in a "back yard".
As we climb high over "Kardakata and Kalpos Argostoliou" heading north the views are spectacular, the roads become littered with "tagged" livestock roaming free.
Eventually we arrive high above Myrtos Beach, the cove buried in the steep surrounding shoreline, accessible only by one small, steep, winding lane.
We meet another Brit couple admiring the view high above the cove, we exchange conversation, and cameras.
We now have a couple of hours to play, one cannot just turn up at a beach and lie about!
I have to say, like most beaches here it has little sand which turns to stone and pebbles as you reach the water's edge. With small pebbles and the typical sheer waters edge, walking is difficult, like trying to walk up hill, or down hill on quick sand? In fact you find your self sliding towards the waters edge, far easier and less painful wearing some form of foot ware. As I made my way out of the water I heard some mention of a "James Bond movie and six pack!", no idea what that was about?
The beach in it's centre has what I would call a "taverna", a small, rickety wooden affair, no walls but plenty of the stuff you need at excellant prices. Today's typical waterside taverna is usually finely decorated and priced, well, "priced!" With all that talk of tavernas the subject of lunch arises, Dave suggests Assos as a venue, only a few miles further north - we pack up and off we go.
As you approach Assos by land one has to stop and admire it's location and surroundings. The town is situated in a natural harbour, but strangely almost fully exposed to the predominant winds, so little shelter would be offered? Further out on the headland stands a Venetian fort, built in the 16th Century enclosing a sizable town. The way down to Assos is, as one would expect long and winding - an interesting drive.
Assos is truly reflective of what Ann and I though would be a typical Greek fishing port, it's beauty is out standing. There are only a few small pleasure boats moored in the tiny harbour, a single yacht anchored off. One would assume they would be little such visiting traffic due to the exposure to the winds There is not much more alternative shelter available around on this lonely west coast as we had described it as we passed off shore from the north to meet Dave and Lisa a week or so ago.
As is today's modern Greece and the associated tourist industry, the harbour, quay and all is an ongoing row of tavernas. So many in such a small area but, they must be making a living, we picked one for lunch. The food was good, the surroundings and view excellant, we ate too much obviously, still, we are on holiday?
Log Entry Saturday 11th September - Finally with Lisa & David.
We awake once again to take in our surroundings in day light. We passed a ferry terminal and small commercial quay on the way in, unlike in darkness, all appears very straight forward in day light? The port is located in a large bay, surrounded by mountains on all sides, quite picturesque. Across the water from us is an un finished marina, Greece is full of them, all built by the Government with EU money? The problem they now have is getting some one to take on the venture as a business, the problem the new tenants would have is that they would have to reimburse the Government the construction costs? Hence Greece is full of these unfinished projects, still, they offer free shelter to the likes of us - a Government attempt to increase the leisure industry I guess?
We do not visit the marina, I talk to the Port Authorities, they are fine with us staying on the town quay, and that is far more convenient for us as you are right in the busiest part of the town with every thing at close quarters, as us "nautical bods" would say? The quay itself is relatively quite, us and a couple of others tie up along side as apposed to stern or bow too.
The far end of the quay is used by the local fishermen to land and sell their catch. We have a list of jobs to do, fix the nav. lights and dry out the cruising chute, it was completely soaked through, bag and all, due the the waves breaking over the deck as we made our way in last night. We free the "jammed" snuffer tube, hang the chute from the mast slowly repacking it as we raise it, it will soon dry.
Dave & Lisa arrive, their hotel is only a couple of mile away. They have a hire car so we decide to head off to Sami, a town/resort on the east coast of the island looking onto Ithaca. Our destination is almost due east, but roads are long and winding over and through the mountains, quite apt that Dave has a jeep, he is obviously enjoying his driving? I do comment over the number of times we are over taken, obviously locals with "local knowledge", or they just drive like lunatics?
The view from the highest points are magnificent, the bay in which Sami, and Ay Eufimia eventually comes into view. We continue by road for some time further before arriving at Sami.
The town, like many others was flattened by the 53 earth quake, so it is a quite new port and dwellings, quite a busy town with both motor and pleasure traffic. There were parts of the town and adjacent coast line used in the filming of "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" - not that I would have recognise it as such?
We pick one of the water side tavernas for lunch, the wind gets up and forces us to select a more sheltered table within the protection of the transparent screens, the surroundings and view are very pleasant.
After lunch we take a short walk around the town and head back to Sailaway - Lisa & Dave need a "siesta" as we are going out to a Greek night at "Zorba's Restaurant" tonight. Ann and I are glad we are not young any more, we do not need as much sleep as the kids!
We get dropped off down the quay to pick up some fruit from the excellant, nearby stalls and walk back to Sailaway. There she (Sailaway) sits on the quay, surrounded by a lovely view.
As we approach Sailaway we cut back into the street running parallel to the water front, this a pedestrian shopping mall - beautifully done, especially for the tourists.
At 1900 hours Dave and Lisa pick us up and we make our way to Zorba's, the food was good and traditional, the entertainment kept our attention.
There was a team of two guys and a girl carried out a number of Greek dances - all entertaining stuff.
From the dancing they moved onto various acts utilising tables and chairs - I questioned, "how do you discover that you are able to pick up two tables in your mouth?"
The evening was completed with one of the guys walking in a circle spraying out lighter fluid onto the floor, the girl proceeded to dance behind him on and around the flames, faster and faster as the music quickened. We had to put her out twice - only joking!
With a good evening behind us, Ann and I were dropped off at Sailaway, all to meet up again in the morning.
Log Entry Friday 10th September - The final 30 mile jump to Argostoli, Cephalonia.
It was interesting to see in the morning exactly where we had settled, arriving in the dark is always interesting? The small cove was beautiful, although a road ran around it's outer limits it was quiet, more noise from fellow boaters talking as they walked the road to Friskardho? The steep sides to the cove covered in dense woodland, perfectly green.
After picking up the weather forecast, we had been in touch with Lisa & Dave to give an estimate of our arrival time in Augustoli, we planned to leave at 1000 hours and arrive about 1600 hours, little did we know at that time thing were not to go to plan - as if they ever do!
The water around us was a lovely clear blue. Ann said she was going to have "a quick dip", I check her out and she is giving Sailaway's topsides a final wash down with a sponge and washing up liquid? Consequently we were 30 minutes behind schedule leaving?
We have to pass Friskardho as we head north and turn west to round the north of Cephalonia, we once again keep our eyes peeled looking for the 18th century properties, the surviving dwelling of the 53 earth quake - non to be seen still we both wear glasses?
We pass the most extreme north of Cephalonia, very rugged coastline with Levkas further to the north of us. We now only see the occasional pleasure vessel or small fishing boat, quite a lonely place compared to the "pleasure craft saturation" to the east of the Island, we are now heading out into the Ionian Sea.
As we turn south we have the coastline to ourselves, again a very rugged coastline, mainly towering cliffs. The wind was from the west but very light, the swell coming in was considerable, easily 2-3 meters. A very frustrating combination, big swell and light winds, it can and does become quite uncomfortable? The only thing one can do is keep the speed to a maximum - we put our best canvas up and continued. The swell slows us down, emptying and collapsing our sails each time we drop off the top of the wave? There were numerous fishing vessels to the west of us, we saw two sword fish climb vertically out of the water, pause and crash back into the water.
We felt the west coast was very different to the east, few ports or places to anchor, obviously greatly exposed to the open sea. As we approached "Yero Gombos" the south west tip of the island with it's prominent light house the westerly wind began stiffen as did the swell. We headed further out to the west to seek less confused water to round the point. We start to drop our cruising chute as we are now carrying too much sail? We begin to pull down the snuffer tube, this drops down over the chute, collapsing it as it does so. The tube jams about 15/20 feet from the top of the mast, after three attempts we give up and drop the chute as it is. It is a lot of material to pull down onto the deck without tearing it, keeping it out of the water is difficult/impossible. We get it down on the deck, a large section is wet, we get it into the sail bag best we can, we cannot leave it unsecured so we tie the bag to the deck and continue with just the main sail up.
The wind was now well over 20 knots behind us, we rounded the point with just the main, it was more than enough to take us along at over 6 knots. As we approached the Gulf of Argostoli, the wind began to swing around to our bow, out came the headsail. It was required to reef (reduce sail) within a very short period of time, the local winds, tearing down the Gulf were now becoming an issue. The sky was darkening, as was the sea, we now had over 25 knots of wind against us and a build sea, our speed was reduced significantly to 1-2 knots as the larger waves pushed us back? We continued towards Ak Ay Theodhoroi, it seemed forever before we rounded the point to turn north, put the wind behind us and make our way into the bay of Argostoli.
By now it was dark, to add further complications a "Thompson cruise liner" came out of the harbour, the local Lixouri ferry came in behind us, quickly over taking us, it dropped off it's passengers, reloaded and passed us on the way out so slow was our progress over the last mile? I then realise that our front navigation lights are not on, a bulb must have failed, we give way to the ferry, he must have thought we were a poorly skippered vessel with no navigation light - a job for the list! We entered the harbour itself in total darkness, got our bearings selected our berth and tied up! Again another frustrating trip, ten hours to cover 30 miles, still, we had arrived that was the important thing, we had up dated Lisa & Dave on our lack of progress we were to meet up with them in the morning.
Log Entry Wednesday 8th September - Time to move on to Cephalonia and meet up with Lisa & Dave.
It is now time to leave Vathi on the island of Ithaca and make our way to Argostoli on Cephalonia. We had also finished our business here, for our fellow travelers all are told one needs a "dongle" for on board/mobile internet access. We have been able to source a "data card" to use in our mobile phone from Vodaphone. The shop here at first said it was not possible, but on applying pressure and perseverance, they found it could be done, as in other countries. We were given a "regular sim card I believe" then by activating the data service on that sim we were able to receive a data service. The process took 24 hours to activate, the sim card cost €5 to activate, on that we got €20 credit, which I wasted "fiddling!" The cost for the service as I under stand it is, for example if one apply's €20 credit, €2.5 is taken for the service (10%), the data costs you €1 per day, once you have logged on. That is it, mobile internet access on board for email, more importantly for us weather? Telephone calls at the local mobile rate, usefully when call Greek numbers as opposed to using our UK mobile and international costs?
We lifted our anchor about 1000 hours, we are "running on fumes" as they say, our first stop the very colourful fuel station across the bay. The process did not take long, we took on 380 litres of diesel and 200 litres of water. Our water maker went down, the first recommended solution did not rectify the problem, now awaiting technical support - but that is another story! The station was sparsely stocked but we were able to pick up some two stroke fuel mix for a fraction of the price in the town. Fully fuelled, but "broke" we made our way out of this enormous bay, surrounded all round by mountains, unfortunately not as protected as one might think as the winds howls down the valleys. The scenery is astounding, but the camera never reflects the true beauty.
As we make our way out to open water we are passed by many types of vessels, pleasure and working, but not so many charter which is a good thing as they may be heading for your destination? It's a lovely day, the winds are light, are first destination is Kioni up to the north, we are unsure as to whether we will over night there as it is a small port and we are unsure as to how busy it will be?
Up goes the canvas and off goes the engine - wonderful, on goes the autopilot and we sit back and watch the charter boats explode into all directions as they reach open water. We decide to sail, 2-3 knots is fine for us, that unfortunately allows a few vessels to pass us under engine - we are convinced many motor every where? Still under understand able, many make the effort and motor sail with head sails flapping?
The section of coastline we are now entering is renowned for strong local winds funneling down the valleys from the prevailing north westerlies on the other side of the island. Quite aptly the entrance to the Ormos Kioni is marked by three ancient windmills, resources not yet replaced? We pick them up very easily and as we prepare to enter we have vessels approaching from all directions, all heading for Kioni. A few of them went steaming past us, obviously wanting to get there first - let them get on with it! We stop at the entrance to the small harbour, things have changed from our "latest edition" pilot book. An anchorage has been replaced by local moorings, the quay is now completely fronted by tavernas. We watch as vessels are moving in and out, jostling for position, "not for us", we move into the ormos and look to anchor with a line ashore.
Having selected our place, in fact the only place, as the anchorages have, all but one been taken for more local boat moorings, or cordoned off for swimmers. The plan was to sit out an hour or so to ensure our anchor was secure then drop the dinghy and pop into the town, look around then move further north to shorten our route tomorrow to meet up with Lisa & Dave. We dropped the dinghy, attached the out board engine, but a cross wind began to develop, pushing us sideways? This was the only position we could take as there was no where else left to anchor, and we were the only vessel at anchor in the bay. The wind was increasing, pushing us hard, although the anchor seemed firm, on our starboard (right) side to which we were being blown was rocks? It was too much of a risk to leave Sailaway and the wind was continuing to strengthen, we decide to lift anchor and move on north as planned. We felt a little disappointed as the town looked quaint, we were certainly surrounded by beautiful properties. We had by now seen vessels enter and leave the harbour - probably full of charter vessels, do they not realise it is now September?
We decide to tow the dinghy as the next small harbour was Frikes only a few miles further north, bad move. The wind indeed began to strengthen further, our dinghy "bounced" as we towed it behind. It's some thing we do not like doing as we see potentially damage, especially when the out board is in place. I must confess no one else bothers, but that is us I guess? We quickly identify another old windmill and enter the ormos, heading towards Frikes. By now we have more than 20 knots head wind against us, looking at the valley in which the harbour sits we think the better of it and head of in search of an anchorage in the bay? The anchorages were carrying as much wind, two vessels in separate anchorages had settled in much calmer weather, as we approached one anchorage two vessels in front of us went in to investigate and left - we did the same.
Our plan now was to move on further to Friskardho on Cephalonia, it seemed a much securer option, the wind was against us but we had plenty of time and began to "beat" our way north to round Ithaca, and turn west to Cephalonia. We enjoy our sailing and chat as we do so, unfortunately we loose track of time and we suddenly realise that we will in fact arrive in the dark.
With Friskardho clearly ahead of us we become a little concerned by the amount of vessels entering the harbour, looks to us as another repeat of "Frikes", our thoughts are confirmed. As we approach the harbour boats are anchored with lines ashore out side the harbour never mind inside? We went inside to investigated, there must have been a hundred vessels or so, the vast majority charter, we are beginning to dislike them! The harbour in our pilot book described it as the only town that had escaped the great earth quake and that its colourful 18th century dwellings was reflective of what the island would have been? What we saw was lines of tavernas surrounding the waterside, which was now becoming the norm and above them very expensive, modern homes - I am sure there must have been an old section some where for the tourists?
We circled the harbour twice, we saw no room to "squeeze a cat in (4 legged one)" fortunately on our way over we had notice a number of vessels in a nearby cove, not identified in our pilot book, we made our way over and anchored there, we quickly got a line ashore and by 2100 hours we were secure. It had taken us 10 hours to cover 12 miles, not a good average but there was reasons?