Sarah has been away for ten days so I am taking up the blog writing baton.
I am moored up on Zakinthos town quay awaiting the arrival of Sarah and Keira. It’s a lovely place and as I sat watching the sun set this evening with a glass of wine in hand I contemplated my surroundings.
On my port side there is a beautiful looking yacht, it’s about 18m long and well equipped. On-board are a delightful couple, I am guessing they are late 60’s and obviously enjoying the rewards of their working life. They have just gone ashore to eat. They have unpronounceable Dutch names so let’s call them the Port Siders.
On my starboard side is a much smaller boat, about 9m in length, she looks very sea worthy and is probably quite exciting to sail, but she is a mature lady. On-board are a young family with two little girls, maybe 6 and 4. They are in Greece for the whole summer. At the moment dad and daughters are fishing off the back of the boat (a pointless exercise), all are obviously having fun. I can hear food being prepared, I hope they aren’t depending on the fish. Let’s call them the Starboard siders.
To buy and more importantly run an 18m yacht requires a lot of Euro’s. The winches on this boat will have cost more than we paid for Linea. I am making some assumptions but the Port Siders must have worked extremely hard and been successful at accumulating cash. In my experience this requires a few sacrifices along the way, perhaps risking the family house to invest in the business, being a grumpy, tired git, long working days, business trips eating into week-ends, and, as I see often, a lengthy conference call or two whilst on holiday with the family.
Again making a few assumptions but I am guessing the Starboard siders have made a life choice to live for now. Taking the summer off to sail your old boat around Greece having fun with your kids doesn’t tend to go hand in hand with climbing the corporate ladder or accumulating lots of cash.
What nobody tells you when your children are 6 and 4 is how brief their childhood will be, how quickly they will become young adults and not be too enthusiastic to spend the entire summer with their parents.
I am wondering is a turn to port or starboard the better life?
We left Sami harbour, waved to Stavros and sailed north. We decided to stop off in Kala Limeni; a little bay with a farmstead of goats, cows, sheep and olive trees; since the weather was increasingly settled and it is a beautiful bay. The tinkling of the cows bells offers an interesting accompaniment to the scenery. This also happens to be the site of one of my most lucrative fishing sessions a couple of years ago!
We had two glorious days there, but no fish! Then drove a little further north to Fiscardo. Here we ‘parked’ with long lines to the north shore.
This process involves me having to get into the dinghy and drive to the shore. I have to jump out of the dinghy on to sharp rocks covered with sea urchins and attach a line to a useful rock (or ring, if we are lucky) using a chain and fireman’s hose to prevent chafe. I have to ensure that I don’t let go of the dinghy in all of this as that would be most distressing. I hop back into the dinghy and push away from the sharp rocks. I then coil said line in the bottom of the dinghy so that it pays out over the front of the dinghy without snagging on anything. Gradually, I reverse back to the boat whilst Ian simultaneously reverses Linea and lets out the anchor and chain. The idea being that we meet at the point just before I run out of line!
He then takes the line on to a winch and pulls us back so that the anchor chain becomes taut and the line is holding us in position and we can’t swing.
I find it quite challenging although I am getting much better. It is fairly nerve racking for me especially if it happens to be windy and I have to cope with painter, line, knot-tying, dinghy, outboard motor, gears and steering. Good job I can walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s a bit like tapping your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time – only more stressful.
On our second day in Fiscardo, we enjoyed a morning of watching charter yachts conducting anchor knitting as they left their moorings.
Ian went to the assistance of a few who were struggling but I finally managed to persuade him that all would be well without him. We left the boat and set out to complete one of the walking routes from Fiscardo.
We decided to do the one called Battery. It is a 10km hike through forests and was absolutely stunning.
I popped into a fishing tackle shop on the way back to the boat and the owner assured me that the lure I was about to buy for E20 would be the BEST for catching tuna. I bought it! Now we have invested in a new BBQ to cook the fish, a gaff hook to land the fish, a filleting knife to prep the fish, secateurs to cut the fins off the fish, gardening gloves to haul in the line and a very expensive lure.
Total catch – a big fat ZERO.
Back at the boat we had a cooling swim, a well-deserved beer and a curry. Bliss!
Today, we have sailed nicely to the North east across the bay towards Meganisi and Levkas. We decided to investigate a huge enclosed bay called Vliko on the east side of Levkas. There is an enormous anchorage where some boats safely spend the winter. This would be perfect for us as the forecast is for winds up to 28kts from the Southeast tonight.
Unforthunately we dragged our anchor at about 2200h so things were a little frantic til we had reset it.
Next day we left for anchorage on the east side of Meganisi but it didn’t look very inviting so we doubled back and anchored in Kalo Elia, which was very pretty.
We were up and out early (due to some noisy strimming ashore) and headed round to Spartakhori on the north coast of Meganissi. We found a spot bows to the south quay. We enjoyed a walk up to the Chora later in the afternoon with friends Lars and Anna on Odin (from MDR) and after that we had supper at the restaurant near the boat, by way of ‘payment’. it was delicious.
THe following day, trawling the tuna lure again (NO FISH), we arrived in Vathi on Ithaca and anchored at the head of the bay. It is delightful and colourful place with noticeably more noise than other anchorages but it is still a very pleasant and sheltered spot.
Over the next couple of days the plan is to head gradually south to Zakinthos from where I am flying home for a week or so to sort out the house and tenants.
When I return Keira will join us for a couple of weeks. Then in July, Erin and Josh will be with us too.
After saying a fond farewell to the Heanes, we set about some jobs. As soon as we were filled with water and provisioned up we set off for Vathi. Once out in the bay around the Argostoli headland, we realised that the best sailing would be to the south, so changed our plan and headed down to Ay Nikolaos Bay, on the north east corner of Zante, one of our favourite places in the Ionian.
We were helped by the delightful Costas and moored against the town quay. However, strong-ish winds were pressing us against the concrete so we decided to anchor instead. Costas whizzed out in his boat and offered us a mooring. We swung there happily for two days in winds up to 28kts. It is a gorgeous spot in the bay. The water is crystal clear, and there is a nice walk south along the road overlooking the coastline.
Next stop was Sami back on Cephalonia. We had hoped to be able to go alongside the large north quay but were allocated a spot near the root of the south mole which was a bit tight to get into and to put down enough chain. We felt happier after our third attempt. Neighbours helped with the lines and soon we were all set.
We paid for two nights here and organised car hire for the next day so that we could go and explore a little. Next morning, we set off to see the semi underground Lake Melissani. We walked down the tunnel towards a little rowing boat sitting there to take us on a short tour round the lake. Who should be sitting in that very boat but friends Laura and Steve Brown our friendly Texan pals from Marina di Ragusa. Now, that’s what I call serendipity. (And we had parked next to them in the car park!) We decided to hook up for the day and set off to Sami for our morning coffee.
Our task in Sami was to find Stavros from Faros Restaurant on the front and say hello from The Two Gees. We had a lovely chat with Stavros and gave him all Glen and Gwen’s news.
We then drove to Myrtos beach and swam in the turquoise water beside a beach that looked to be made up of mint imperials. On closer inspection they were perfectly rounded limestone pebbles, polished and smoothed by the constant wear from being dashed in the winter waves.
The breath-taking coastal road is cut into the steep slopes along the North Western side of Cephalonia and we swept along gasping at the colours and breathing in the heady scent of the island flowers and plants.
We dropped down to Assos and had a little wander around. Realising that we hadn’t had lunch we stopped off and enjoyed a shared mese dish and had a cold beer each in the most heavenly of settings. Assos is an almost enclosed bay surrounded by tree covered hills and prettily coloured houses running down to the shore. There is a Venetian Fort on the headland to the west. The village had an almost Cornish look to it. It was a quiet and unassuming spot.
From here we headed our separate ways and wished Steve and Laura fair winds as they head towards the Corinth Canal in a few days.
That evening we had delicious lamb chops cooked on the barbecue at Faros restaurant and more chats with the laconic Stavros.
The next day we drove up into the hills to the south of Sami and were once again bowled over by the beauty of the island.
Having analysed the weather yet again, no amount of re-looking could make it show what we wanted to see. There was just no chance that we could set off for Cephalonia with the predicted low pressure system steaming in to give us a proper beating.
We decided to change the plan in the hope that the low would move out of our way.
So, we headed for Porto Palo on the south coast of Sicily. We had a fairly good sail north and arrived in good time. We anchored in the bay in among many of our friends from MdR who had recently left the marina, it being close to the end of the month and the start of May prices!
The next day we headed in the direction of Syracuse. At least if the weather forecast didn’t change Chris would be able to return home from Catania.
We had a very pleasant sail up the coast and arrived late afternoon. Despite their being heaps of space on Quay 11 – the Town Quay, we were not given permission to go there. We were told to anchor off.
David and Chris went ashore and Ian invited Gwen and Glen from Pardella over for drinks. It was good to catch up.
The next day the wind was due to really pick up from the South West in the afternoon. We decided to go ashore and have lunch near the market with the two Gees. It was such fun and ended up being quite lengthy! Needless to say, by the time we returned to the marina pontoon, the wind was whipping the waves across the bay and not only would it have been wet to go across the bay to the boat, it would have been dangerous.
Luckily, kind people on the pontoon offered to put us all up. We stayed on Pardella and David and Chris on on their neighbours’ (Diane and Fred) boat. It was a noisy night with waves smacking the bow and lines creaking as the pontoon bucked! We had to leave Linea all alone out there and just hope that the anchor was well dug in.
Next morning, the wind was still lashing the pontoon. All the boats that had been moored on the Town Quay had left in the night to anchor off. Linea was still out there.
It continued to be wild. Finally, at about 1800hrs we managed to get the dinghy engine started and Ian and Chris went back to the boat to retrieve Chris’ things so he could fly home the next day.
David, Ian and I made it back soon after saying goodbye to Chris, had a quick supper and retired to bed.
We decided on an early departure in the morning so that we would have some chance of arriving in Cephalonia before Angela and Lizzie had to go home!!
We put the sails up in Syracuse Harbour and sailed for 50 hours. The sea was unpleasantly swelly for the first 36 hours but gradually began to calm down as we approached Cephalonia.
Some miles off shore, we could smell Cephalonia’s unique flora. The heady combination of wild sage, juniper, pine and cypress trees and flowering jamine. It is the most fragrant isle.
We lowered the sails once we were inside the dog leg to Argostoli having made a record Ionian crossing time for Linea. (We had trawled a fishing line the entire way, however, and managed only to catch a bit of seaweed!)
We moored stern to the town quay and put the boat to bed.
By 1200hrs we were having a well earned chicken gyros and a Mythos beer in town with Angela and Lizzie.