Hi everyone! It's summer and we're on the water again. Here is 2014.
A late start for us and southward to begin.
Boatyards are dusty
places and this one, in July, seems more dusty than most. Aderyn Glas
was coated in the usual winter Sahara dust that needed washing off
but had the odd benefit of providing a protective layer over the teak
in the cockpit. Washing was my job while Ann had posh new cusion
covers to fit. I'm not sure who noticed the wasp nest first. It was
sandwiched between the winter window cover and the glass and provided
some entertainment while we decided how to dispose of it. Then, as
washing progressed, I discovered the other six. Ultimately we
discovered the wasps weren't particularly aggressive but it was still
unnerving destroying their home while they flew around me in clouds.
Unexpected neighbours on board in Preveza
For once everything on
board seemed to work. I had a problem changing the impellor trying
for an hour to pull it out of its housing then Ann decided to show me
how it was done, gave it a little twist, and out it came. She doesn't
realise it yet but she now has a job for life...
The engine worked. I
tried it while the impellor was out. The starter battery wasn't
enough for it but the house batteries brought it to life which means,
I guess, the now-demoted Trojans that were replaced last year don't
like being used to start engines.
Oh, and the wind thing
on top of the mast is still beating me. Even though it now has a nice
shiny new weathercock it still refuses to tell me wind direction.
It's now five years since it last worked properly and has had just
about everything renewed, like 'Trigger's broom'.
We duly launched and
headed south for a week finishing the jobs we didn't have time for in
the boatyard – the idea was to launch sooner than usual to avoid
the heat. So down to the bridge at Lefkas and then a sail on to
Tranquil Bay. The weather was perfect, the boat was great and even
the anchorage gave us a choice of spaces.
Guiness record for most churchgoers on a single ferry. Clearly God was on their side. Crossing from the church at Nidri
And so, for the first
ten days we simply bimbled around this beautiful bit of the Ionion
just getting used to living on board and settling back into the way
of life. We didn't go far – west to Leoni where we arrived in a 30
knot wind scared of the towed dinghy taking off, south to Vliho where
we sat and contemplated and sat and contemplated and sat and... and
had a few meals out. And then realised we would have to shake
ourselves a bit and start our cruise proper or we would one day be
found dessicated corpses with grins on our faces – two more sailors
lured into Velcro Bay never to escape its charms. Gialos on the east
side is the best restaurant. The floating population seem to be all French or Dutch this year, congregating like flotillas at the Last Night Party.
So a couple of nights
in Spartachori (World Cup Final night but we didn't care) and off we went northwards.
Whatever people say
about it I like Preveza. It's where the boat lives in the winter but
we never get to see it unless we go an anchor or moor there because
the boatyard is the other side of the gulf. But it's a handy stopping
off point between Lefkas and Corfu and has a marina which charges
just E10 a night and water is free. So we soaked up the atmosphere –
all the locals and holiday makers doing the Mediterranean thing where
families walk up and down and inspect other families doing the same
Next morning we left
for a long motor north to the Acheron river, the river that leads to
Hades and which sounds an exciting challenge for a little boat. It
was a long slog, there was no wind and it was hot and the motor made
everything seem hotter. We arrived off the river mouth with a rumble
of thunder and the hint of thermal winds just to stir things up when
we didn't need it. An entrance so narrow that we couldn't believe it
was an entrance and then a narrow canal of a thing, too narrow to
turn around. We looked in vain for a place to moor but ultimately had
to back down a few hundred metres which, frankly, neither I nor the
boat likes doing. When there river was wide enough I started the
usual three point turn but the current from the right and the wind,
now stronger, from the left got her stuck broadside to the current
and the whole thing looked like a lawsuit in waiting as we drifted
down onto moored boats. Endless too-ing and fro-ing later we just
about managed to turn her facing towards the river mouth and we left.
A happy crew is a good crew
And came to Parga just
an hour further by which time we were pretty tired. We'd last been to
Parga, Ann calculated, fifteen years ago and the mooring arrangements
hadn't changed in that time. The quayside just looked like no-one had
touched it in those fifteen years. But, amazingly, there was space
amongst the flotillas and old tripper boat provided a floating
pontoon for us to aim for and, unusually for us, I backed in,
dropping the bow anchor in between two Sailing Holiday boats and
going astern until I could hop onto the tripper boat and basically
pull Aderyn Glas into the hole.
That was it and there
we stayed for four nights. I think I'm becoming a city boy again.
Parga and Monganisi
Parga's little island church from the castle
is a town in a bay and the bay is divided by an Ottoman castle on a
promontory. From the sea the town winds up the hill to the right and
the rest of the bay to the left is dedicated to sunbathing and
watersports. On the far left is Voltou 'harbour' which is where
Aderyn Glas was snuggled up. To get to town there are two
choices, walk all along the beach and over the hill, or catch Yanni's
watertaxi. Yanni seems to have the sole concession for dipping the
nose of his ancient caique Betti
the moored boats and taking people around to the town. His touch on
the throttle and tiller is deft which is just as well when you
consider the damage he could do. Amazingly Yanni looks exactly as he
did fifteen years ago when we last took his taxi; so we told him so
and actually got a rare grin from him. Yanni is one of the best, if
you go to Parga you'll find him on Betti,
the only taxi covered in the flags of all the flotilla companies he
This unused tripper boat was our gangplank
an expensive place to eat though. We were now paying mainland city
prices instead of the island prices we were used to and they were
roughly double. On our last night, after the day we had shopped, and
the day we had climbed to the castle and the day we had swum, we went
out for dinner with a couple we'd met on Yanni's taxi (friendly,
sociable life this) to a Chinese restaurant that boasted an 'Indian
Corner'. It was at sea level and the view was out across the bay and
it had cotton napkins and tablecloths so it was always going to be
expensive, but the food really was good.
Parga castle at sunset from the Voltou mole
debated whether to set sail for Lakka, Gaios or Longos and then went
to Mongonisi because it was an anchorage and we were ready for a bit
of time away from a town.
like this – go to an anchorage and after a couple of days a town
seems an exciting prospect. Then after a couple of days a quiet
anchorage seems attractive. Mongonisi was always a quiet anchorage.
Past tense. This was the first time we had been in it since 2009 and
it was anything but quiet. Finding a place wasn't too bad although we
were a little disappointed that we'd had to motor all the way from
Parga to ensure we arrived early enough. These days it seems the
preferred mooring method – if you avoid the dreadful rock infested
lack of holding quayside – is to reverse into the bank on the right
and tie lines ashore. This was simple for us; we do it all the time,
but the antics some people get up to are curious to say the least,
and sometimes are downright frightening. The worst probably was a
German charter who dropped his anchor a short way from ours then
swung away from the shore in the wind then took a seemingly endless
rope from the now remote back of his boat on a lengthy row to the
shore next to us. So far was it that other boats were in danger of
passing between him and the shore and so heavy did his rope become
that after a while all his oarstrokes were to no avail and he was
One of the quieter moments in Mongonisi
wind surprised us too. On the chart the bay looks well sheltered from
the south wind but the chart doesn't show that the land between the
anchorage and the channel between Paxos and Anti-Paxos is flat and
basically sea-level. We suffered a southerly wind for the three days
we were there. We were fine but constantly anxious about the boats
now clustered around us swinging our way in the unexpected wind
walking around the area is nice, swimming is great with lots to see
through the glass of a facemask, and if you're into that kind of
thing there's Greek Dancing in the sole restaurant each time a
flotilla arrives. Oh wow! Just what we needed in our quiet anchorage.
And the food... superbly average and twice the price it should have
now a snackbar run by Dimitris where you can park your dinghy and
have a beer and simple snackbar food. On the whole we enjoyed our
time there and will go back but now we need a town for some water and
a sea to empty our tanks. The plan was to go to Moutos (Sivota), a
whole day's sail away... so we went instead around the corner to
There were three of these tall ships in Gaios when we were there, a rally perhaps. Would we like one? We couldn't even afford to maintain the leather strops that hold the fenders off the teak rail...
our longest voyage! The two places are about a mile apart although we
did extend it a little to empty the tanks and sail a bit, just to say
we did. Gaios is a town separated from an island by a channel.
Mooring is generally anywhere on the town side or drop an anchor and
take a line to the island – reputed to be a rat colony, well maybe,
but no-one we saw took any great pains to prevent rats getting
aboard. We unexpectedly found a slot appearing on the town side as we
bimbled into the channel so hurriedly dropped the stern anchor, just
missing the dinghy (dropping the anchor into the dinghy instead of
the sea is a great source of fun for everyone except the boat that
does it), and slid nicely into the hole between a friendly English
couple and an equally friendly boat full of Americans.
north quay, where we were moored, is a pleasant walk from the bustle
of the town and we were lucky to find such a good spot at a time af
year when everywhere seems busy. We stayed three nights, wandering
down to the town to browse around the tourist shops and gather food
from the supermarkets, we also bought a fishing net because Ann
dropped something in the water and if we'd had a net retrieving it
would have been easier, and a length of chain and an eyebolt so we
can now lock our forehatch open to let the air in. In all it hadn't
changed much since the last time we were there in 2011 except the
prices in the restaurants had climbed a bit. As usual cotton
tablecloths came at a premium.
the quayside there was the usual chaos of anchor laying and crossing
which we largely escaped, mainly because we don't put out nearly as
much anchor chain as most people. The very experienced guys next door
had sixty metres of chain over their bow, we had seven metres of 12mm
chain for weight then just 25m of rope over our stern. We get away
with this because we have a delta anchor at the stern which is really
a bow anchor and has proved capable of holding Aderyn Glas by the
stern in all sorts of weather (I wrote this before going to Plateria
so read on while I eat these words).
our luck was destroyed on the last day when an incompetent Finn layed
his sixty metres in a great arc that covered at least three yachts
lines. The only good fortune was that he left before us and left our
anchor undisturbed. I was pleased about that not least because I was
in the heads at the time and really didn't want to rush out to sort
out wrapped anchors.
Gaios was a pleasant few days but then the wanderlust kicked in
together with a southerly wind which would carry us north towards our
final destination. So we pulled up the hook, pulled out the sail, and
let the wind take us the three hours to Mourtos. The genoa headsail
is a great parachute that hauls the boat along in a much more kindly
way than than the engine which pushes her. Sails steady a boat
whereas the engine just allows her to roll with every wave that comes
along. With the wind behind there was no finesse to sailing, we just
relaxed and kept Aderyn Glas on course.
doesn't it sound all exciting and romantic so I won't mention all the
hard work that we have to put into it, hauling and scraping great
muddy anchors, pulling the dinghy out of the water, handling eight
heavy fenders, dragging sails up, getting thrown around the boat in
then as we turned the corner onto beam reach into Mourtos when we had
almost finished the three hour crossing the genoa broke at the head
and came crashing down on the deck.
sauntered over and lay on it. This prevented the whole thing
disappearing over the side into the sea which would have been a big
problem. I steered the boat into the shelter of an island and between
us bundled the thing through the forehatch onto our bed. Then we went
looking for a mooring.
Ann lazing around on the broken sail while I struggle to control the boat
used to come to Mourtos and drop the anchor in a quiet bay. This time
we discovered that the quiet bay had been discovered and was now the
home of an apartment block, swimming pool, restaurant, beach-bar,
parasols, and – worst of all – a pontoon already frequented by
two Italian cruisers.
we persevered. We could drop the anchor on the southern side and take
a line ashore to hold us, which is what we normally do. This would
keep us away from the pontoons and the boats further out at anchor so
we went into our normal mode of Ann rowing a rope ashore while I
shuttled the yacht around to line up and collect Ann when she rowed
back. The cross-wind was tricky and it took a lot of fiddling and
when four guys strode along the pontoon and started shouting to Ann
that we couldn't moor there neither of us was particularly receptive.
We did it anyway. No-one owns the sea and even Onassis couldn't stop
people anchoring in his bay though it seems the Russian guy who now
owns his island is having more luck. But not four locals who thought
they could boss us around. But I admit the long day, a broken sail,
and this on top made us a little more anxious than we normally were –
did they know something? Were they going to send raiding parties with
daggers in their teeth to cut our lines as we slept?
take out mind off the possibilities we fixed the sail. The two tapes
that form a loop at the head of the sail had pulled out, the
stitching presumably having had enough after twenty-five years of
ultra-violet radiation. The chance of us re-stitching was zero so I
bored through four layers of tape and the sailcloth with a soldering
iron and bolted through with 5mm bolts. Mended – at least until we
can get to a sailmaker.
final problem was that the halliard was at the top of the mast so the
next job was to climb up and get it. This was, in truth, a long, long
day. But at least we had sailed all the way from one town to another
which was pretty rare for us.
is great for snorkelling. These days I go looking for the octopus
gardens still only half convinced that they are more than just a
Beatles song, but usually only find polychaetes which I hate because
they look like huge millipedes. I have this sense of them crawling
over me each time I see one. Then a near dead seahorse drifted past
which is something I'd never seen here before. But no octopi.
Sad little seahorse
day we motored to Plateria which is just around the corner and the
exhaust overheat alarm went off claiming the exhaust was at 50C.
Maybe it was or maybe the alarm was faulty, but the engine wasn't hot
so we didn't worry. It's just another one of those contributors to
what a friend called the 'constant low level anxiety' that goes with
sailing. He gave up and bought a camper. I just reprogrammed the
alarm so it wouldn't go off until a higher temperature.
nice harbour at the end of an estuary but, as usual in nice harbours,
all the best spots had been grabbed by boats that never seem to move.
We were lucky though and found a space between a tiny sport boat and
a semi-dilapidated sailing yacht. The weather was hot, the wind
variable but everything was fine. Olga's is the place to go (it's
almost the only place to go – the others seem to be snack-bars
rather than restaurants) but the fish platter for two is amazing.
Besides the bars the village has a couple of supermarkets and bakery
and butcher but that's it. It also has a huge long beach complete
with umbrellas and sunbeds which is why the majority of people are
here. But it does have a sting in the tail, at the end of a long
triangular inlet the wind tends to funnel in the afternoon and gets
pretty strong. This wasn't a problem for us, tied against the outer
quay, but it caused havoc among the flotilla and charter yachts that
arrived steadily through the day.
the opposite side of the quay is a short square of concrete at which
fishing boats tie up to land their catch. These are big sea-going
vessels and they land a lot of fish. This morning there were four
refrigerated vans lined up to carry the catch away, most of it
already boxed, but yesterday we watched the crew unload dozens of
full sized tuna, slung six or so at a time in a net, weighed and
off-loaded to the waiting lorry.
in the morning and the lightening woke me. It was strobing away in
the distance probably over Albania but was flashing every few seconds
and kept me awake. At about five I heard the first thunder which was
a little foreboding but we were safe, tied up to the quay with a good
stern anchor. The wind picked up, rolling us a little in our bed, but
we ignored it and tried to snooze. Then the rain began. Not the half-hearted stuff we get in British thunderstorms this is more like an
endless curtain of waterfall that obscures everything more than a few
metres away. Then the boat crashed into the quayside, the whole
vessel shuddering. That got our attention. The wonderful anchor I
have been extolling the virtues of had dragged and the boat had slid
into the quayside. I went out and looked. I was soaked in
milliseconds, a cold endless sheet of rain. Pulling the anchor rope
just confirmed it wasn't holding so I asked Ann to start the engine
and put the boat in reverse. Half-awake, I still remembered to check
no ropes were in the water hovering around waiting to wrap themselves
around the prop.
that's how we spent the next two hours. In a storm with the engine
going astern hoping it was enough to hold us off the quayside. The
boat slewed around, bouncing off the fenders off the boats on either
side. So we had breakfast – what else was there to do? About nine
o'clock the rain stopped and Ann, who loves dinghies, leapt up and
splashed into the dinghy with a bailer to empty the rainwater. I
sorted ropes which meant taking off all the accumulated knitting we
had in the cockpit. The first thing was to try and pull the anchor
aboard, although this sounds odd my philosophy is that it will either
dig in, which is okay, or end up on board, which is also okay and far
easier than trying to pull it over the side of a half-deflated rubber
dinghy. But this time it caught on someone's line – the third
bow-line from a motorboat two places away - to have three lines out he
must have known this sort of thing happened regularly.
Ann paddling in four inches of rainwater
nothing else for it we headed off to try to retrieve the anchor with
a big snap shackle which would slide down our line to our anchor and
a strong Ann who could row into the wind. She rowed and I hauled and
she rowed harder and I hauled harder and ultimately we could see the
anchor buoy a metre under the surface and knew we were winning. Then I could reach the
motorboat's line and our anchor and slip the one over the other. Plop
– no more fouled anchor.
Ann had to row further out so that we could drop it in again and hope
this time it would hold. And it did. And we turned off the engine and
we had a cup of tea and the day began again with a shaft of sunshine
and a dying wind. What fun we sailors have...
plan was to go to Sayiadha but that didn't happen.
much was happening in the harbour or the town and we spent a lot of
the day catching up on the wrecked sleep from the night before.
People came and people left but nothing really disturbed us, we were
sure we were well dug in and going nowhere.
August was our wedding anniversary and we decided to mark it with a
visit to Bados
(pronounced vathos) a fish restaurant at the end of the quay. Ann had
wanted to go to Sayahda to celebrate with some of their famous prawns
but the forecast on the Navtex had a force 7 in it and we don't move
whenever we read the words 'force 7'. So we went to Bados and had a
fantastic meal. I don't often recommend restaurants, but this one is
exceptional although so is the price.
No, honestly, this is a tough life
day we did leave and drove all the way to one of our favourite
anchorages at Voltou. People don't go there (one exception is Sailing
Holidays apparently, we've not seen them there but one of their
hosties told us she'd seen turtles, dolphins and once, seals, in what
they call 'Iggy Creek'). People go to the beach bar on the end of the
spit and play with jet-skis, or they anchor in the charted anchorage
just up from there but they rarely venture into the furthest cove. We
do, and so do a few others. This time of year we half expected it to
be full of people like us trying to hide from the crowds but there
were only two other boats in a huge anchorage.
Voltou, calm and peaceful even in August
The water is turbid green here which may be why people don't come but
the only sounds are cicadas and the occasional dog. The bay is
bounded by an almost-island which is joined to the mainland north of
Igoumenitsa only by a thin strip of land with a dirt road on it. At
night the stars come out because there's less light pollution to
obscure them and we lie in bed gazing up in awe. And the few
neighbouring boats are far enough away from each other not to be a
bother. Two days of winding down, bimbling, reading, writing. Relax.
then off to Sayiadha, finally.
in so close to the Albanian border that for a time no foreigners were
allowed into the harbour at Sayiadha. Albania is over the hill, this
one – by here. But now it's open to all and again we expected it to
be full of boats so we motored again to arrive early. The best space
is just inside the very narrow entrance on the left where you can tie
up alongside but be aligned with all the other boats who have to go
through the hassle of dropping anchors. And, amazingly, it was
available for us. The only other boat was an Italian cruiser who
seemed to be at home. So much for our worry about it being full.
Aderyn Glas in the prime spot in Sayiadha
fill it did – a Sailing Holidays flotilla arrived and entertained
us with the antics of new skippers – it was their first night –
as they got shepherded into every available slot and then a few more.
Sayiadha always gets a strong wind in the afternoon which can make
mooring difficult – one reason we got here early – and the wind
exercised the flotilla crew when each brand-new skipper ran the
gauntlet of the narrow, cross-wind entrance. They gave us room though
leaving about half a boat width between us and the nearest of their
flock, thanks, guys. Fish
supper that night and up next day to hike to the town just because it was there,
and back to an almost empty harbour again planning to cross to Gouvia
and the marina where we'll spend a month.
Saiyhada had one more surprise for us before we left. A port
policeman wandered along the quayside and stopped outside our
cockpit. Please come
to the police office,
he said, and bring
Ann smiled at him and wiggled her body and I called him 'officer' and
tried charm; but it didn't work. He was only about twelve so immune
to any inducement. His request was not unheard of and he was polite
enough but apparently the law had changed while our back was turned
and we now had to have an extra bit of paper normally reserved for
slightly larger yachts. We had to have a DEKPO. This cruising permit
come log, of course, costs money, and of course takes an age to check
every bit of paper related to us and the boat and to fill in all the
necessary forms. It wouldn't surprise me to find that the largest
industry in Greece is the invention and manufacture of forms (though
someone told me it's manufacture of plywood, why not make plywood
from used-up forms?). So now we are the proud owners of a DEKPO that
cost us about E30 even though, under the new rules, we don't know
what to do with it! He also charged us a E16 mooring fee which was a
bigger shock – pay to moor? Wow! But he must have liked us because
he saved us some money: “you
he said, “No,”
said Ann, “three
he insisted, “today!”
I saw Ann was about to argue so I kicked her under the desk and we
only paid for one night. Then Ann picked up the insurance translation
and studied it: “that's
she said. I kicked her again.
to go before they invent another form.
we crossed the dead flat calm sea towards Corfu, a boring motor with
the autopilot, Rachel, doing the steering. As we approached the
castle above the town we found two charter boats doing strange
circles and pirouettes, dodging around each other with their crews on
deck shouting and waving. Being very nervous of charter boats at the
best of times we steered away from them but soon realised what they
were doing. If we see fish feeding on the surface we often steer
towards them, likewise if there are birds diving at the sea we head
towards them too because these are both signs of a predator-prey
bloodbath beneath the surface and that's where you'll find them. But
the best sign of all are yachts doing strange circles with the crews
on deck waving their arms and pointing – at dolphins.
came to join us, the dolphins, swimming under us and alongside our
bow and generally playing. Ann grabbed her camera and filmed it and
then realised she hadn't pressed the right button and grabbed a last
bit of film while swearing into the microphone.
if to give the cruise a happy ending as the dolphins left a breeze
sprang up and we hauled up the sails and turned northward for a slow
blow before heading to the marina. Then someone threw a switch and
suddenly we were pounding into 30 knot gusts coming at us from where
we wanted to go. We hauled the sails down and trickled towards the
marina getting wet all the way and wondering how we were going to
handle a landing in a wind that strong. Little power boats splashed
past us, unhappy wet wives of unhappy fat Italians gripping the
gunwales and cursing. Why didn't they find somewhere to wait? Why
course we arrived safely – it wasn't that bad – and the berthing
man in a boat put us alongside something big and sturdy and we just
let the wind blow us against hi hull then tied up with the marina
ropes. Now we were anchored to some great concrete block in the base
of the harbour that nothing would move. Next day the wind had gone
like it never existed and we moved to our berth for the month.
We took the sister of this picture in Hong Kong where the octopii were hung out like this to dry on the guardrails - but how many bikinis does one woman want?
there we were enjoying a small Krasi in the cockpit when this Italian
RIB ties up across the water from us, about twenty metres or so away.
The guy, obviously steeped in the machismo of the Italian male slumps
in the back of the little boat and his wife, in a bikini, stands near
him and takes a shower. Then she slips a towel around her, does one
of those arcane womanly wriggling things and emerges essentially
naked. She has no discernible clothing on her lower body and just a
tiny cover over the more personal bits of the top half. She then
proceeds to work her way around the boat bending over the various
fittings as she pulls ropes, adjusts stays and starts to erect a tent.
All this time she carelessly turns her back to us and Ann and I watch
transfixed at her nudity. Her man studies her antics through the lazy
smoke of a cigarette. Finally Ann can take no more, beside herself
with indignation she glowers at the scene and, spitting fury, vents
her anger “Look at him,” I wonder what 'him' she's on about, “He
hasn't lifted a finger to help her. Not once! The poor girl...” I
guess we have different viewpoints – same view but different
Marina life, a view from the quarterdeck
what's marina life like? I suppose if you've ever stayed in a caravan
on a campsite for a time you'll have a good idea. Our caravan, Aderyn
Glas, floats on the rather grimy water and is tied up to a concrete
quayside which has a fair amount of internal traffic all day long;
and too many pedestrians walking and talking all day and half the
night. But it's okay; we've been in much worse and this level of
activity doesn't bother us or keep us awake. It's safe. We don't have to worry about
weather forecasts any longer (not that it varies much although, as I
write this, there are thunderstorms coming in a few days signalling
the change to autumn probably). It's secure. Although we usually lock
the boat when we leave her it's almost certainly not necessary, they
have some rudimentary security here and everyone looks out for
everyone else. It's sociable. We've done more socialising in the
three weeks we've been here than in the six weeks before. It's
civilised. There are supermarkets, chandlers, cafés, restaurants,
two beaches, two villages, a bus route to Corfu town, cycle, scooter,
and car hire, laundry, free electricity and water. It just gets a
to try something different we hired a car for three days and took to the
hills. Driving here is fun to look back on. Driving here is
terrifying while you're doing it. Somehow we didn't scrape the car
even though the roads are full of potholes and get increasingly
narrower as dual carriageways turn into single lanes and then into
mountain roads. In the mountain villages the house front doors open
onto the street without any pavement and, if the inhabitants didn't
take care before opening their doors, they would be crushed. It's
that narrow. The streets are as wide as a bus, which means the buses
carry tourists into the hills, but only in one direction – if two
buses were ever to meet they could never pass each other and the
crews and passengers would eventually die, probably of heat
exhaustion as the air conditioning failed.
You can just about see the monastery church under the television mast. Pantokrator, perhaps ironically, means 'all seeing'. The TV or the view?
went first to Pantokrator which is the highest pimple on Corfu (for
those of you who know Twm Barlwm imagine a church on top). The church
is a small monastery with a complement of two monks and an internal
fresco cycle that looks like it came straight from Giotto's Assissi,
right up my street. Outside the magic is broken by the television
mast that the monks planted in their back garden, presumably they get
more revenue from it than from honey. Down the hill a little way is a
forest of other aerials for mobile phones, microwave comms and so on.
But the view is good, across to Sarande in Albania, south to Corfu
town and our marina, and west towards Italy.
Italy is under that cloud, from Angelokastro
went, next day, to the west coast and climbed to another Venetian castle at
Angelokastro where we had the greatest fun creeping through the
narrow streets of the hill towns, and the day after Ann snapped a tooth
off at the root and we went into Corfu town to get it fixed then down
to Achillieon, a rich lady's country seat from the ninteenth century. That's one
thing we've learned: Corfu has a fascinating history and it's
well worth taking time out to discover some of it. In town is a new
museum (called the Living Museum) which shows how life was for the
middle and upper classes in the C19th. We didn't realise that the language spoken by
these classes was invariably Italian with French as a
second language and Greek was only used to direct the servants.
town is a lovely maze of narrow streets full of the bustle of tourism
but somehow unspoilt for all that. The architecture is Venetian and
there are enough museums, and castles, to satisfy anyone. We made the
journey on the bus a number of times and, although the busride was
always pretty gruelling like rush hour tubes in London, we always enjoyed
the town. And there's a fabulous ice-cream shop. Here are a few photos for flavour...
got to the point though where we simply had to leave the quayside, we
were kind of stir-crazy, so we took down the cooling shades and
wind-scoops that keep the boat cool, cast off the additional ropes
that we'd tied here and there for reasons sometimes forgotten in
three weeks and headed for the sea for a day-trip.
went northwards across the bay to the corner of Corfu where it turns
into the Corfu channel and explored the bays and anchorages. There
was little wind and we just let Rachel drive until we got close to
the shore. Outside of the anchorage of Kouloura was a mega-yacht
called Genevieve all blue and shiny. We bimbled around the bay
noting how unspoilt it was and marking it for a longer visit and
lunch stop for the future then crossed behind Genevieve and
the rocky shore of the bay. At the stern of the yacht a uniformed
crewman was helping three rather overweight clients into the RIB and
as we passed they started shouting and waving at us. This is not a
particularly unusual occurrence, often crews of yachts think they own
a bit of water or know about a hidden rock or think you're doing
something wrong so we checked the charts, checked we hadn't infringed
some law of the sea or picked up one of his ropes or made his hull
dirty by looking at it and continued on our way. Two minutes later we
realised the yacht's tender was chasing us. Aderyn Glas, bless
her, is not built for speed so we weren't going to outrun a big bold
RIB so I just throttled back and waited to see what would happen
next? Pirates? Or worse, CA members after a free drink? The RIB
inched alongside us, the uniformed crewman handling it with practised
ease and the three guys planted in the back looking friendly, one of
whom I recognised, I think, from TV. “Hello”, he said, the Welsh
accent unmistakable, “Are you really Welsh then?” We were flying
the flag so it was too late to deny it. Ann told them we were from
Newport and gave them the usual story of how we'd come to the Ionion,
and learned that he was from St Mellons, five miles from home. “I've
chartered Genevieve,” he added, “For some friends and
Gareth Edwards is on board,” Nice, I thought, he's come to ask us
to lunch. Oh, well, dreams are for dashing. Curiosity made us look for Genevieve on the web and I have to admit she really does look lovely down below. If you want to find out how she sails you can charter her yourself for E78000 per week. Let me know if you need a hand with the steering; I'm free that week.
[For those who don't know, Gareth Edwards was Wales' star rugby player in the 1970's. So famous was he that there is a statue in the centre of Cardiff capturing him in action. Most statues in Cardiff are of long dead people!]
Look - there's Gareth - see in the window? Playing with his oddly shaped ball.
beach at Kontokali has one of the three best views in the Ionion (the
others are the view from Spartakhori, and the one south from the
windmill on Kastos). Ahead, to the east, is the castle and town of
Corfu with, on this day, two huge cruise liners glistening white for
added interest. At right angles to the left is the hill of
Pantokrator the highest point on the island and Albania beyond it.
Southwards to the right the beach curves away to the main road (well,
you can't have everything!). The water is smooth today with tiny
wavelets of turquoise and purple with a little rippling gold where
the sea touches the beach and exposes the pebbles. Behind us the
trees cast shade and over to the right a pale green rowing boat bobs
at anchor. The water is clear and warm, and the approach to the beach
shallows gently so no place for a yacht but marvellous for snorkling.
Southwards past Corfu's castle is Voltou where we will head next,
then on towards the southern Ionion islands of Kefellonia, Ithaca,
Kastos and so on. And did we have a camera? Just for this once we
decided to leave it on the boat for fear of getting it sandy!
Autumn and moving again
began on 2nd
September at lunchtime. We quit the marina a few days early to get
some long overdue sailing in and had four weeks left on the water
before we hauled out in the yard and went home for the winter. So we
left early and regretted it. As we motored past Corfu town we amused
ourselves by photographing the black clouds that hung over the island
congratulating ourselves on heading towards the sunny mainland. We
put up the sails and sailed for a bit in the breeze, nothing to shout
about but a nice breeze. And we watched the rain falling over the
town and realised it was going to overtake us. But, no problem,
can be steered from inside so we left the mainsail up to steady us,
started the engine and retreated below.
when the squall hit we had little warning, cocooned and insulated
down below from the growing noise. In a few minutes the sea was so
rough that it was impossible to see more than a hundred metres in any
direction. The rain was horizontal, and when we could get out to see
the instruments the windspeed showed a sustained 40 knots – a gale.
The boat broached, the wind on the sail being so strong that it spun
her around in an uncontrollable screaming turn and for a few seconds
I expected her to be knocked down. By then we had lifejackets on but
the waterproofs were too difficult to fight with. We went into the
cockpit anyway and as I struggled to hold the boat into the howling
wind Ann somehow found strength enough to get most of the sail in.
the next hour we motored slowly with the seas behind us, taking it in
turns to stand in the companionway staring backwards and shouting to
whichever of us was on the wheel to turn this way or that to hold her
stern square to the sea. It was complicated because often wind and
sea were coming from different directions.
the start we had the radar on and at first it was able to show us the
larger targets like ferries, but once the rain really kicked in the
clutter on the screen masked everything. We were blind, doing nothing
more than keeping the boat lined up with the wind and waiting for the
squall to pass over.
it did. The boat was soaked and we were shivering with cold. In our
bucket on the deck there was five inches of rainwater which must have
fallen in that three hours that we were under the cloud. We motored
into Voltou, one of our favourite anchorages, looking bedraggled and
with the inside of the boat a jumble of cupboard and shelf contents
and started the process of drying out. There were two other boats
there, the crews stripped off and sunning themselves, perhaps
wondering at the odd British sailors who chose to wear wet weather
gear and lifejackets on such a calm and sunny day.
days later, after warming through, we set off for Giaos this time
dressed in waterproofs and lifejackets complete with strops to tie us
to the boat. A classic case of horses and stable doors. We expected a
northerly wind because that's what the forecast promised so, of
course, we got the opposite. We dodged rainclouds, big heavy
windjammers of rainclouds piling across the sea towards us then, at
the northern end of Paxos island, we caught up with one. Somehow this
one was moving south against the flow so we waited around and
followed it southward to the harbour. Giaos was soaked but we didn't
get more than a drip or two.
days in Giaos and we motored south to Preveza being by this time
thoroughly fed up with rain and squalls. A long and thankfully boring
motor to Preveza ended in an exciting seven knot dash up the channel
into the town marina. We tied up, fore and aft and an extra bit in
the middle secure against everything nature could throw at us. Well,
not quite, I was sitting in the cockpit looking out over the quayside
when the boat bounced up and down and so did the quayside at about
twice the frequency of the boat. Nature had thrown us an earthquake.
days more and we were in Vliho, that lovely safe anchorage south of
Nidri. For once we had sunshine and weather more befitting Greece in
September. We met some friends and enjoyed a couple of days of
relaxation before moving to Spartachori.
lull before the storm. In Spartachori the water is deep and clear and
I took some bread and the underwater camera and started hand feeding
shoals of fish. I'd tried this before but without much success but
now I found that hiding under the shadow of the dinghy seemed to make
me invisible and the fish would simply fight over the bread I was
holding in my hand. I was surrounded by them, big, small, five or six
species, it was quite exciting. Like interacting with animals from
evening another storm arrived again from completely the wrong
direction. Our friends had moored their small cat outside the
breakwater pontoon and the wind was driving so much swell at them
that the boat was in serious danger of being smashed on the pontoon.
There were already the boat's crew of two and a few others beside
trying desperately to hold the boat away from the quay which was
bouncing up and down in rhythm to the waves. Each time the boat went
down we feared it would tuck under the pontoon and break up. Each
time the boat came up we though it would smash down on the pontoon
and be equally damaged. The tender was already damaged and hauled
bodily onto the pontoon.
struggled for what seemed ages then the skipper got the engine
started and by that time there were enough hands to physically throw
the boat off the pontoon and prevent it smashing on the corner as the
seas took it. It disappeared into the slightly less manic bay. Next
we had to moor a charter yacht that was pitching wildly in the seas
on the inside of the pontoon where the sea and wind would hold it
safely away from the pontoon to prevent it being damaged. When that
was done we waited for our friend in the cat to return so that we
could tie him alongside the charter yacht but there was no sign of
him. Eventually we saw him anchored close in to the lee shore, it
seems his engine had stopped and he was now at the mercy of the
waves. He was okay as long as the anchor held but was far too close
if it didn't.
took the crew an hour to get started and then we were able to tie
them up alongside the yacht, though not before the engine had stopped
again. The rough seas seemed to have resulted in air locks in the
fuel pipes. It was nine o'clock, four hours after we had first gone
day was calm and peaceful and we stayed the night then moved to
Kapali, a small bay nearby. Peaceful until one in the morning when I
was woken by strobe lightening. It was miles away and probably out to
sea, at least so far that I couldn't hear any thunder. But it was
upwind so I spent another hour or so worrying about the poor position I
was in, sideways on to any swell, forced there by a boat who'd defined
which way we were all going to moor by being first to arrive, and at
the shallow end of a bay on a lee shore. I wanted to go home.
I'm sitting here two days later in Port Leoni having had a great sail
from Kapali writing this and realising it's a story of storm after
squall after storm and trying to remember a previous September that
was this bad. Oh, and last night as we went to bed the sky was
illuminated by the flashes of strobe lightning in the distance over