Greece - The Northern Ionian II
To view our previous log entries please use the following link:
Greece - The Northern Ionian I (2011).
To view our next log entries please use the following link:
Greece - The Southern Ionian.
Log Entry Saturday 19th March - day two on the road and a great party to finish off!
We awoke to un forecast rain, quite heavy down pours at times, not an ideal day for a car journey, we had agreed to leave tomorrow, rain or not so we decided to make the best of the transport. We had to go into town to replace our two gas bottles, that in itself was an experience. The shop had previously given us a price of €15/bottle - we had been paying €8 on Ithaca, but he was not interested. When we presented the bottles he wanted to charge us an additional €5 to have the Italian bottle repainted and, beat this, a further €3 because the Greek bottle was the wrong shade of blue - this was now a matter of principle? Voices now became quite loud, even I began using my arms during the debate! The best he would do was to drop the €3 paint charge for the Greek bottle, and of coarse then, as is the custom, he could no longer speak English - we were clearly given the choice of paying up, or, p___ off! That, unfortunately is the way it is some times?
We returned to the car we had left by the fishing boats selling their catch. I was stopped by a Greek gentleman who enquired where I had bought the bottles, I "cringed" as I helped the guy, supplying directions to the shop and giving the shop keeper more business, still he would not have paid the same price as us? Dual pricing is also very common on these islands?
We dropped the gas bottles back on Sailaway, and then made for our next point of interest, an English Cemetery. The Cemetery, according to the literature was founded in 1675 for the burial of British merchants, nobles and military, along with their family. The literature read " The impressive funerary monuments, tombs in the form of sarcophagi, tombstones and plaques were built by local stone masons and depict the high financial and aesthetic of that time" Well worth a visit we thought - we found it in a dense built up area and yes it was shut, not due to the season but condemned! The cemetery had been left to natures coarse's, the grass at times a meter high, nothing like the pictures in the book - what a difference a year makes? The gates were chained but we noticed a man tending his adjacent garden which also had access to the cemetery, I asked him if we could enter, he politely said yes.
We spent some time inside, reading, where we could the details of the occupants, many family tombs held small children, a sign of the times? It truly was a shame to see such waste of our history, the associated church converted into a modern town house.
Our visit was interesting, it was clear that in those time, many children died and the age of life expectancy was indeed short? We left thanking the gentleman for his kindness allowing us to enter through his garden.
Our next place to visit was the Castle of Zakynthos and it's reported views of both the city and the island, not that we were too optimistic as the rain was getting heavier and the clouds lower? Along our route we saw many dated buildings, mostly unidentified?
As we climbed in height above the city the scenery changed and Ann got more opportunities with regards to live stock?
As we approached the castle, the views of the harbour were great, far below us we could see Sailaway sitting in the harbour. Beyond that our route south tomorrow, past Laganas and the protected Marine reserve - do not start me off on that again!
The external castle walls were in good condition, acclaimed to be a true monument to the islands history, protecting the inhabitants over time from the Turks and pirates. One pirate clearly never breached the walls, stayed down below, opened a hardware store and now sell gas!
The gates were open and the payment kiosk occupied, we entered the gate and I drew out the €3/person entrance fee - but it was closed, he must have a lonely job? He would not let us enter any further so we left disappointed.
We now decided to head up the east coast of the island, we passed through, resort after resort, all closed with refurbishment active in most of them.
We drove as far north as Agia Aikaterihi, it's Church and Clock Tower very impressive even in the low cloud. Here we could leave the coast road as we tired of "closed resorts" and make our way back to Sailaway using a more direct route.
Cutting in land and south we were now a little unsure as to where we were all signs were in Greek but we knew we were heading in the correct direction. A well lit Taverna (Pool Bar) caught our attention and we were thirsty?
We entered hesitantly, as they appeared to be some sort of private function on, the place was quite full? We thought at first it was possibly a funeral (for some reason?) How wrong could we have been, we sat at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks, people sat around us at tables, but a gentleman called Keith began talking to us at the bar. We had actually walked into "Brenda's birthday party", most people in the room were British, all living within a short distance, this was their meeting place. It was not long before many people had approached us, enquiring as to how we had found the place and what we were doing there (nosey or what?) - we wished Brenda a happy birthday and things took off from there?
They had music and "Kamikase Karaoke" we had never heard of it? The ruling was that you sang a song of some one else's choice, the Karaoke was run by a husband and wife team - Ann had already set upon the poor gent with her cheek and inquisitive nature? She tried to set me up with a song to sing, I found out, and tried to turn the tables on her? What we both did not realise was that we were not getting out without us both performing?
The dancing began, we were bought a couple of drinks so Ann warmed very easily to the challenge - we were by now fully integrated into the event, never being made so welcome anywhere before, it was great. We looked at the time, the afternoon had flown by but it was time for us to leave. We were just putting on our coats when Ann was called out to sing, the look on her face was brilliant, I explained what had happened? Ann sung her song (I am the music man) very well, all clapped, as she walked back we tried again to leave again?
I had just put my jacket on again, when I was called out, we should have known better than to think we would get out without performing? Ann and others had warmed the crowd well for me? Accompanied at times, I performed an excellant performance of "Simply the Best". The applause was out standing - some would have said "clapped off?" We were now past that "point of no return" so we stayed for another drink! Brenda's party was excellant, we were accepted in a tremendous way, as one of the community and would like to thank all involved. The afternoon/early evening was such an intense series of introductions, names were forgotten, we apologise for that - good luck to you all!
We said our thank you's and goodbyes and made our way back to Sailaway, what a great time we had!
Log Entry Friday 18th March - Off around the island by road.
At least now we have a break coming in the weather, Sunday looks good for us to leave and head south. When we arrived we had been handed last years tourist information booklet, looking through a few areas had caught our eye - we had to also bare in mind that we are "out of season", things could be closed? The weather was too volatile to take Sailaway around the island and anchor off, so we negotiated a small car for a couple of days to allow us to wander around the island before we left. We took our marked up tourist map with us to pick the car up and took advice from the lady in the office with regards to routes. Many roads were identified as "No Asphalt Roads", we did not want too many of those, she was very helpful. Our first day would take us south west past the famous "Laganas" and the National Marine Park, where the turtles came to lay their eggs, then we would climb into the mountains to Louha and Giri (two ancient villages), then as recommended over to Limnonas for lunch. We would then call into Laganas on the way back to Sailaway, a trip to the Supermarket to restock was also planed that evening.
We left, slowly re-adjusting to the car and the road, not that there seemed many rules to follow? On the route south east we spot a Lidl, just before the airport turn off, perfect for our shopping? We in time leave the main road for Keri and turn north, making for Louha and Giri, the roads now reduced to a track, more or less with good and bad sections. The road was not busy at all, we some times drove for miles without seeing another vehicle. We came into a town called Killomenos, we were at quite a height now on the island so the surrounding views were amazing. The small centre square of the village was dominated by both the Church and Clock Tower, few people to be seen, but a small Taverna open, we stopped had refreshments and left for Louha.
Louha was set in a beautiful valley, stretching down the mountain side, all so amazingly green. Louha, during the 15th Century was called Luka, a few of the houses from that period still remain in tact even after the great earthquake, it was in sections a true walk back in time. Shamefully, without control, certain sections had been modernised, one of the areas now, clearly for the wealthy.
We climbed higher still to Giri, another picturesque 15th century village. Giri had seen a higher degree of uncontrolled, modernisation - it even had a shop which was open? Close by lay the cave of Hagioti, it's three chambers said to be filled with stalactites and stalagmites, we did not visit as experience told us it would be locked up! The trip out to see Louha and Giri was well worth while, it gave a feel for how it would have been in those times. True reflection is difficult in Greece as most has been destroyed by various means?
We now needed to back track west to Limnonas, we had some time back, had to wait behind a truck while they off loaded live chicks into a home stead, a dozen or so at a time by hand - guess what, now we were behind him and no where to pass? The truck and a number of shepherds slowed our progress, still, we had all day? Ann takes millions of pictures of sheep and other live stock, if we ever firm our routes on land again I am confident we will have livestock?
As we made our way west, we passed through the mountainous region of Vraxiona, through many small villages of old, pre-earthquke buildings. The farms appeared to have traditional crops of wheat, grapes and olives, the drive to Limnionas was out standing and quite difficult as we approached the coast line, with sharp, steep winding single track roads. Upon arrival the views were fantastic, the lady in the hire shop was clearly optimistic when she suggested us having lunch there. There was only one building, a larger taverna, over hanging the water, and, yes it was shut! We were ok as we had packed a "pack lunch", but no doubt with the trip boats and tourists during the season it must be a very bust place judging by the size of the building. We felt rather lucky to have it to our selves, we sat for quite a while, then left for Laganas.
Laganas, the town was a monstrous tourist resort, all the restaurants bars, discos all closed - the main drag full of litter and buildings under refurbishment for the coming season. It could only be described as, dirty and tacky, but I am sure it will look very different to the tourists in the season - especially in the dark! That is clearly an age thing! We followed the signs for the "Turtle, reserved breeding area", the turtles clearly a source of revenue, had their own hotels and bars on the beach, closed and being reworked, but of coarse the turtles are not due until June?
The beach area was covered with bamboo, little and debris, swept in by the winter storms, all to be cleaned up before the turtles arrive?
Even more encouraging, when considering this beach area was a "Protected Reserve" was a sign I spotted on the beach - they even put on live music for the turtles?
It was a little disappointing to see how the turtles were being exploited, their destruction must be imminent - any where else in the world this type of area would be managed in a much different way I felt? Still, I read on a sign that sun shades must not be used on the beach during "egg laying season" as they may damage the eggs - that must be a great help?
Log Entry Friday 11th March - The town of Zakynthos.
From our berth on the north wall we benefit from the good shelter from a stiff northerly breeze today, where was that yesterday, it was forecast - still we all get it wrong at times? The boats along side of us are covered in dried sea weed which has at times been blown over the wall in storms and dried off. The only concern with regards to our berth (@ €15/night, water and electric extra!) is that the winter storms are predominantly from the south, so we are a little exposed other than the shelter provided from the dormant ferry?
The terrain on the island is far less mountainous than the islands to the north from where we have come, but, the weather is noticeably warmer and far less humid. Our solar and wind generators are maintaining our batteries now, no need to run the generator or the engine which is good for us.
Zakinthos appears to have had an amazing history, it's culture a combination of it's leaders over time? It has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic Age, it geographical position attracting the Byzantines, Romans, Goths, Turks, Saracens, Normans, Venetians, French, Russians and English - has any one else ever been as popular? The town of Zakynthos was completely destroyed, like many others in the great earthquake of 1953. It claims to have maintained it's Venetian aura during the rebuild? It has spacious boulevards, pedestrian walkways, it's imposing public buildings put to shame the private ventures? The town, apart from the occasion reconstruction or one of few acclaimed, surviving dwellings is predominantly a modern concrete city. Whilst I said earlier it is great to have every thing available again, with it comes the price, pollution, both noise and debrief. There is a noticeable lack of refuge bins in the streets, which is noticeable in most Mediterranean towns, so garbage seems to goes on the street or in the water - shame. It is quite annoying to read in the "tourist literature" about the tourists and how they cause pollution, looks to me as if it was here before they arrived, however, I am sure they do contribute! The water front and promenade is attractive as expected, providing all the tourists needs, you do not have to wander too many streets back to find clear indications of urban decay. Here, at the moment, every thing is at a leisurely pace, no aggravation from cafe or restruant owners as one walks by?
Wandering off the water front, the streets are well kept, quite as we like it, one of the main drags, "Foscolous", named after a famous Greek poet, is our favourite. From the town square it proves street cafe's, pedestrian promenades, as you head south it provides branded boutiques (very useful to us!) stores and then it final reduces in stature offering hardware stores and general goods - all within about 700 meters!
The Church of St Dionysis is an impress establishment, founded in 1925 as a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Designed by Prof. Anastasios Orlandos the church of the patron saint of the island is one three buildings that survived the great earthquake. Inside the church the relics of Saint Dionysios are kept in a silver casket for all to view. The establishment over looks the busy harbour, in fact it's impressive tower can be seen for miles at sea.
The water front is a pleasant stroll, each day fishing boats tie up along side to sell off their catch, the road way forms a main route through the city therefore never appears to be quiet?
Solomos Square is to the north of the water front, the square was gradually recovered from the embankments formed by the sea and today has an impressive array of public building, the Museum of Zakynthos, City Hall, The National Bank of Greece, The Cultural Centre and the Church of St. Nicholas. Incorporated in to the square is the bust of composer Paul Karrer and monument of the National Resistance. An impressive square, many of the cafes not yet open.
Log Entry Thursday 10th March - We leave Vathi for Zakynthos.
Today our plan was to leave and head a further 45 miles south to the island of Zakynthos, we planned an early start to guarantee an arrival in daylight. We knew it to be a busy port as numerous large ferries operate all year long. Our target departure time was after 0700 hours, at that time we would not complicate issues with the due departure of the Patras ferry from the Vathi quay just in front of us? As we awoke it was cold as forecast, it had just touched freezing the last couple of nights - out and on went our thermals. As we began untying Sailaway we noticed the frost on the car parked on the quay next to us, but the sun was coming out and the sky was relatively blue, the journey should not be too cold?
We pushed off the quay with relative ease as we had no wind, the forecast for our trip was 12 - 15 knots of wind from the "northish", should be a good sail down? The town was just waking up with only the odd vehicle or scooter passing on the quay.
We take in the scenery around the ormos for one final time and make our way out, towards the open water.
Once outside, the winds became very light, but not from the north, from the south, completely useless to us? If we cleared the head land and the wind stiffened it may be easier to head back and try another day, rounding the point further confirmed a southerly wind but only of 2 - 4 knots, we decided to carry on! We were making a good 5 knots on the engine, we had put the main sail up which assisted us as the southerly gusts came and went?
As we cleared Ak. AV. Ionnis the most southerly tip of Ithaca, Sami (Cephalonia) came into sight as did the ferry as it crossed to our stern making for the mainland. We had been paralleled by two trawlers for some time "zigzagging" down the coast, their path never colliding with ours, so it was only necessary to keep an eye on them.
We were now traveling down the east coast of Cephalonia, more ferries to watch as they shot out of Poros, again making for the main land. We now seemed to be traveling south, closely parallel to an uncharted shipping lane, traffic was big and fast? Their destination to was south, ignoring the channel between Cephalonia and Zakynthos they continued on towards the Peloponnisos or further onward still? We were quite astounded to see snow on the highest, north facing peeks of the mountains on Cephalonia, we watched as the snow was engulfed by the low clouds?
The sky and water became an amazing pale blue as far as the eye could see, this was reflective on the photographs we took with only close ups depicting true colours. Zakynthos was now also visible, quite a low lying island in comparison to those islands situated to the north of her?
Getting our bearings we are able to highlight Ak Krioneri and it's beach side hotels, rounding Ak Krioneri the harbour was relatively easy to distinguish due to the large, predominantly white ferries on the quays, we carry on south, picking up the port hand buoy warning of the reef, "Ifalos Dhimitris".
With the harbour entrance now visible, we turn for it, we watch for traffic, mainly fishing vessels no apparent movement from ferries moving out or in? Our pilotage information describes a partly built marina, that would have been attractive to us as it would mean free berthing? It's state declared in the pilotage was greatly exaggerated, the protective sea wall was no more than a row of "spaced", huge concrete blocks - not much shelter at all? Our target area for berthing within the main harbour was behind a ferry quay, this would give us good protection from most directions. We cautiously made our way in, our timing was perfect, there was three large ferries in - not one moved during our arrival! We tie up "bow too" behind a large ferry on the terminal, it was under going some form of refit which guaranteed great shelter. There were a number of vessels, including trip boats tied up along the quay they all had lines from their bows to the quay. This meant that there first, visually appeared to be plenty of space available but on close examination reviled that due to the bow lines zigzagging across these spaces we were restricted to one available berth. It was a good job we were not arriving in the dark, the lines had clearly been laid and over time had "stretched", therefore most of the lines were in the water!
Tied up and settled by about 1800 hours, time to think about dinner? We had noticed a taverna situated along the quay at the other side of the ferry quay we sat behind - it certainly seemed popular, plenty of people, by car or foot passed Sailaway making their way to and from the taverna We thought we should give it a shot, if nothing else to "toast" our safe arrival as Sailaway was dry! We walked up to the taverna and started to make our way around to the front door every one seemed to be using. We were attracted by a gent knocking on the window, pointing to a side door. As we entered, he waves us over to his table, he asked "You have just arrived?", they had clearly watched us coming in? He had already found an additional chair for us to sit at their table, he declares "We have just finished eating, will you join us for a drink?" We sat down and he called one of the girls over and took our drinks order. It was only then introductions began, they were Anthony (the recently retired Port Captain), his wife Stella and a friend, which was a true Greek name. I could not say it, never mind spell it? We sat, and discussed what we were doing here this time of year, more drinks came, Anthony insisted on paying. Anthony declares that he is trying to have Stella take up the cruising life for at least five months of the year, it was obvious he had a job on his hands? We tell them that we must order some food, we were told the menu was pretty dated, as most on there was out of season. Anthony ordered our food and I have to say made great selections. They leave before our food comes, they ask if we can meet again, Ann is tasked by Anthony to convince Stella that cruising is fun? They leave, Ann and I are amazed at what just happened, this is the first time we have ever been greeted in such a manor in Greece, friendly, generous - all the tributes one reads about the Greek people?
Log Entry Saturday 5th March - How resourceful the Greeks can be?
The Greeks pride themselves on "making do", I am constantly reminded by the family that own the hardware shop as I search for bits to complete our repairs?
As we were wandering the streets we came across this excellant example of wheel chair access to an upper floor area, even included disabled parking!
Log Entry Sunday 27th February - With car, off north to Frikes to pick up our parts from the Nidri ferry.
We need to be north at Frikes on Sunday about 1300 hours. Looking at the map is is about eleven kilo meters north, we consider cycling but a further discussion indicates that a taxi trip would cost us about €30 each way - some thing not right with our estimations? We find that due to the mountainous route, the climbs, and winding roads, the route is actually a total of twenty three kilo meters across the ground - so cycling is out? We then consider looking at a hire car, we are able to secure a car, following a long debate for €25/day - we agree to two days. As we leave with the car I ask "Do you have a map - is there any need for one?" I was met with a reply "Map, there is only one road?" I was a little confused by the statement as there was property in all directions, so there must be roads - the answer lay ahead of us? We needed to be north tomorrow so I thought first we would first head south on the road around the waters edge.
The views around the ormos are quite stunning from above, one does not realise the true size of the bay, over on the north side Sailaway and Didums. We climbed high over the hill, heading to the south of the island.
We passed a smaller ormos called Skhoinos, a small anchorage situated at the entrance, it was occupied by an English sailboat, probably an over night stop over with no further requirements than a safe berth for the evening? The the question regarding the roads was answered, as we continued south on the island, the road just suddenly stopped! As we drove around the island this was how it was, in all directions except north - there was only one road! The roads now became dirt tracks, some quite badly flooded or even collapsed. There were many properties on these roads, even sign posted beaches, we only continued as long as the car was comfortable, after all if we broke down or got stuck we could not even give our position?
The scenery on the west side of the island was very dramatic, all of it serviced by these dirt tracks, I guess this was the norm to those who lived here?
We retraced our tracks and took "the only road north", the road was indeed winding and high. In time we came across the only main town we saw inland, Stavros.
The town was deserted, taverna's and small hotels closed, the whole area well kept by "some body"? Of coarse no village/town would be complete without a statue of Odysseus?
The road north now crossed over to the west coast of the island, we drove parallel to the Ithaca Straights, on the other side Cephalonia.
In front of us, to the north west, on Cephalonia we could make out the harbour of Friskardho on Cephalonia, twice we had tried to visit in high season and could not get into the harbour for charter boats - now it lay deserted.
As we came over to the east coast again we found Kioni, another small port we had been unable to get Sailaway into last year, again now deserted, nothing open at all, and, no people to be seen - still it was now lunch time?
Kioni was a quaint little place, it must be quite a transformation during the summer months? We turned back and made our way back to Sailaway for the evening - I must confess it seems strange to be comfortably mobile in a vehicle again?
Sunday morning we head north once again to meet the ferry, following yesterday's "wanderings" we now know the route well, one can barely get lost on a one road island? We make Frikes in plenty of time for the ferry, Frikes, like other towns is deserted however it appears that there is more activity here - workman, rebuilding what looks to be another restruant, and an open taverna?
It is hard to imaging what the town is truly like in the summer, packed with charter boats and "normal tourist"? While awaiting the ferry we pop into the taverna, the proprietor glad of the company? He tells us he stays open for the locals, where ever they are - apart from that he has nothing else to do? Our conversation covers all topics, he had lived in Australia for 36 years, he still has a house there, he returned as his son (one of his two) wanted to live back in Greece? He continues to tell us he is struggling to make a living, the house he had built locally cost three times the original estimate? Now, the son they moved back to Greece for only spends the summer with them, the winter he spends back in Australia - his second son has a family and finds life difficult? We continue the conversation and, as usual, move onto politics, he tells us of "corruption" a politician's daughter, who never worked had been found with €7 million in her bank account - must have found it? We did not get onto religion as the ferry was due, we later met the same gent back in Vathi?
We were astounded by the turn around of the ferry, it appeared around the head land, and, the time between the centre picture as it approached the dock and the third, a few hundred yards off leaving, was less than five minutes? In that time, we had met a perfect stranger, taken ownership of our bits and handed over some "pastry nibbles" to him in appreciation for the return journey - amazing?
Our exit of Frikes was blocked by livestock, Ann loves that stuff so I was unable to enthusiastically plough them down in the car?
On our return to Vathi we stopped at a signposted "Ancient Bronze Age Settlement", it was the acclaimed Palace of Odysseus?
It was completely over grown, a good "strimming" needed before the tourists arrive, even a small white pay booth was in urgent need of repair, a nearby church was very quaint.
Log Entry Friday 25th February - Our neighbour turns out to be a "Human Trafficker".
We have in front of us, a fifty foot sailboat, we though left here for the winter? We had seen periodically the local coast guard personal on board, with keys? Sailaway and this "Didum" are the only boats in the Ormos.
When we ask at the local taverna we are told, that "Didum's" and one other vessel were boarded by the authorities, over 400 (seems a large number?) of immigrants were being brought in from Turkey at a cost of €10,00.00 per head? The other vessel disappeared, this one is to be sold on, we were told it will just disappear, one of the "officials" benefiting - this is how it happens here? Corruption is one of the main points of any discussion with the many people we have debated with?
Log Entry Wednesday 23rd February - The mainland ferry keeps rolling in.
Each week day the ferry from Patras arrives about midnight bring every piece of required merchandise for that day, it leaves 0700 the next morning. Every thing used on the island comes by this ferry, the island boasts the most expensive fuel on the islands (€1.95/litre for diesel)? We had taken 250 litre on board on Levkas at €1.48, that price included a surcharge for delivery to the boat by tanker? It is an expensive island but I am sure the delivery costs are inflated?
We are now comfortable with the noise of the large ferry berthing, we barley hear it? Out at anchor it is quite daunting as you watch it drop anchor, circle 360 degrees and berths "stern too."
The severe winds and sea outside clearly do not stop this massive ferry from operating. I was speaking to a french couple this morning, they came over on last night's ferry explaining that the seas were massive and she was still feeling "dizzy" at lunch time - not true sailors? Our conversation lasted almost an hour, we discussed many things, they were here to supervise the laying of foundations for the house they where having build over looking the "ancient Polis" - where Odysseus hung out? We even discussed in detail the infamous "English/French relationship" with no final conclusion as history dictates?
Log Entry Tuesday 22nd February - We are not the only vessels traveling?
To day we have visitors, a small French sailboat enters the sheltered bay, they wave as they pass us making their way to the quay over by the square.
The next morning we watch them leave, a short stay with clearly a destination ahead of them? We find out from friends later that they were a couple we had met briefly in Nidri where they had left their boat for the winter. They had left about two weeks before us and now heading back to Nidri, a change of plans?
Log Entry Sunday 20th February - We all have to eat!
We are now settled here for a period of additional time due to equipment failure, unfortunately none of the required equipment can be purchased on this island, the local supplier does not open until May? We have been, with the help of Eamon (Wayward of Cork) able to order the parts from a supplier back in Nidri (Levkas). The issue of getting them to us has also been resolved, a "friend of a friend" works on the Nidri to Frikes ferry, a town to the north of the island. He will carry them over to us, we just have to get to the ferry one week from today!
The beauty of living on water is the availability of fresh food below, the difficulty is catching it? To day we chose fish for dinner, in fact we were lucky enough to have one each!
Ann has no problem cooking fish but she will not clean it - that's my job!
Log Entry Saturday 19th February - All change, we awake to a beautiful morning at Vathi on the island of Ithaca!
We pull back the hatch and took a deep breath of air in Vathi, we arrived here in the hours of darkness at about 10pm last night.
Less than twelve hours before our arrival at Vathi we had been sitting in Porto Kastos awaiting the weather to peak about mid afternoon and then weaken. We had the option of traveling to Vathi, possibly on Saturday, but more likely Sunday on the forecast northerly winds, that was not to be. As mid afternoon approached the wind shifted from south east, to east - the only direction of which our shelter was weak? This development brought the huge swell directly through the harbour entrance, it became uncomfortable very quickly. Two of the islanders arrived to tend to the small boats in the inner harbour, adding ropes etc, no room in there for us. The harbour was too narrow to allow us to leave the wall and anchor safely, our options were becoming few? We tidied up, put on our wet gear and started our engine, the swell was now such that it, at times, it put our water line almost to the height of the harbour wall - not good, the winds showed no sign of abating either. Our hand was then forced, our stern line snapped and we began to swing away from the wall, I asked Ann to begin to cast off the lines, the only thing to be done was to throw them ashore. Ann struggled with the bow line, I asked her to cut it, we needed to get clear of the wall - buying new lines was the least of our worries. We broke clear of the wall and made our way to the centre of the small harbour, the initial thought was to try and control Sailaway on the engine, within the limited shelter of the confined harbour. Control became harder as the winds now reached over thirty knots, to reduce risk the only option was to get out into open water, we prepared what we could in the time we had and we left the harbour. We were now in large seas and strong winds, straight on the nose, our progress was slow but in the right direction. Then, the bildge alarm began to sound as it brought the pump on - we were taking in water from some where? I then realised that we had not closed the anchor chain locker correctly, as our bow was disappearing into each wave as it approached we needed it closed, water tight urgently. I asked Ann to go forward to secure it, I watched as she too disappeared into each on coming wave. Ann did an excellant job, she returned to the cockpit, drenched, even her pockets full of water - "did you enjoy that?" I asked, Ann grinned.
It took some time to get off shore as our progress was slow, the sensible thing would have been to turn north and run with the wind, there was no secure shelter that way and I was concerned about the seas being funneled through the narrow channels to the north of us. We turned south, the wind was now any where from north west to south east, varying in strength from 6 to 30 knots, it was easier to keep the canvas down and motor, our speed varying from 3 to 7 knots depending upon wave and wind direction. Just when we thought it could not get any worse an electric storm came across us, the rain was horizontal, steering became very difficult at times, a few 360 degree turns forced on us by gusts and seas but we were making reasonable progress south towards Ithaca? Once the electric storm passed over head, others followed but north of us, we were able to work the seas and change into spare dry cloths, what a luxury? Darkness fell, the wind turning more to the north gave us good progress, our issue was now with shipping, on route from the mainland, one vessel causing us to take avoiding action - "thanks very much" we said to him in a polite manner. The noise was unbelievable, the seas confused, one moment we were surfing down a wave, then the next would hit our port side, pushing us to starboard? Ithaca was now only a couple of mile away, as we approached Kolopos Aetou, the large inland recess off which Vathi lay, we began to benefit from it's protection. It was not long before the wind was slight and the water like wise. The night passage into Limin Vathi went without issue, we dropped anchor about 10pm!
We now had to tidy Sailaway, it looked like we had been in the storm for days, not hours. The winds were now forecast to remain southerly for days, we would sit them out here. We need new mooring lines and the manual bildge pump broke, a replacement would be needed before we would move. We also had other little "bits and pieces" to keep us busy!
Log Entry Friday 18th February - Life on Kastos.
We watch our first sundown on Kastos, we are clearly taken by it's simplicity and what seems like true island life? We have three or four days of strong to gale force southerly winds a couple of days ahead of us. This gives us a couple of days to get to where ever we wish to sit out the weather, there are a couple of places ahead but without much consideration we decide to stay here on Kastos. We have more than ample supplies with the exception of fruit and fresh vegetables, if our stay extends, a couple of days without will not kill us? So the decision is made, here we will stay, we lag our lines with old rags to protect the ropes from the coarse concrete quay, we are ready well in advance.
Sitting on Sailaway we watch the activities, one must confess there is not a lot to watch, but we are curious as to how they live their lives at this time of year? We watch four guys turn up in a truck, stopping out side a house one jumps out of the cab and two off from the rear. One walks over to the side of the road and collects two large rocks placing them behind one of the rear wheels. The driver then gets out, clearly no, or little hand brake? They load the truck with wood from the house, removing the rocks they drive off. We watch an old lady, with baggage on her head climb a hill as if to put any one to shame, she must be visiting some one as there are no shops, cafe's or any thing else from what we can gather? The sheep graze, their leader's single bell tolls through out the day, they clearly have free range around the village due to the "dropping" one has to step over?
Every thing comes by ferry, we watch them unload there shopping, a three piece suite comes today and is swiftly gathered and taken to it's new, lucky owner. There appears no real shortage of cash here?
We keep our minds occupied, other than our blatant curiosity we have a few jobs, if not we create them, busy hands and all that good stuff? Ann makes us a replacement out board engine cover with pieces of material she finds in her sewing kit. Our old one was lost some how in Vliho during the winter, great job she makes of it too, pull cord and all!
It is now Thursday, the winds have been to gale force out side for two days now - even the ferry has stopped. The small harbour gives us amble protection, a little "rolly" at times but care attention to our ropes avoid any issues. We decide to go for a walk over to the south side of the island, to enjoy it's beauty and see if we can gain some in site into the sea state out side? We make our way using the main road south out of the centre, plenty of green vegetation around us.
Due to the size of the island it is no time at all before we are high over the port, looking down over it and Sailaway of coarse. The port and Sailaway look so small?
We continue south trying to get a glimpse of "open water" and to see what else is there, curiosity, not being nosey?
Our walk answers one of our questions "What to they do with their rubbish?" A part from the unfortunate litter which does spoil the island but in time becomes "the norm" in ones eyes, there are no skips which is the norm, even on Kalamos they had an area on the harbour where every deposited their rubbish. Here there is nothing, but many large signs telling visitors "Kastos has no rubbish collection, so please take all rubbish home with you". We now know differently, they do have a collection system, they just do not want visitors rubbish! We find a number of telegraph poles on the main roads around property, with large nails driven into them at a height of about 1.5 meters. On these nails people hang their rubbish, someone then obviously collects it - we do see a red pickup active on the roads a lot, perhaps that's his job? We walk as far south as the road will take us, down to a small cove where two buildings are being erected - shame, the rubbish from the site destroys the cove as nothing is collected as the building is being erected. The ground is littered with plastic bottles, bags, broken wooden pallets, every thing one would expect to see on a building site except "builders, and they have been gone for some time!
We head back towards Sailaway, we recognise a shortcut which will take us down by the church, the path is obviously lit in the hours of darkness. Upon close examination of the lighting an ingenious DIY creation is witnessed - The path is lit with energy saving bulbs protected from the elements by a modified plastic bottle?
As we reach the park area, (work in progress) we see the sheep approaching us, the shepard following behind. We stand still as not to startle them off there intended coarse, the gent waves to us, taking them along the water front up to the north of the island. One must say they returned an hour or so later on their own, they can hardly get lost?
We begin to settle down for the evening, checking the lines before we do so as the winds are supposed to peak during the night. Ann catches me unaware as I pour a couple of "tiddlies" as we call them, to warm our souls!