Saturday, 25 October 2008

Nikiana to Vlikho

Saturday 13th September

Achtung! I was awoken from my peaceful slumber at 01.15 by the Germans singing 'My Way', accompanied by a guitar! Naturally, Marco snored all the way through it so I just lay there wishing I had some ear plugs and eventually dozed off.

When we got up at 8am the Italians had already left..we had coffee (surprise) and watched a man fishing at the end of our mole. We were also treated to the bizarre sight of an old man in his underpants tightening his sheets....yes it's them Germans again! It's a funny old life! This didn't put us off our breakfast as you might imagine it would although we decamped from the boat to get provisions and hoped that they would be gone by the time we returned with our booty. We picked up some lunchtime beer, cheese pies and water and when we returned the Germans were just leaving! Hurrah......peace restored, we ate, reading our books and watching fishermen. We left at 10, motoring towards Skorpios. We wanted a relaxing last day and for a change, there was wind in the morning so we had a good sail down. Cloud was building as we motored in to see Onassis's landing platform on the north of the island. There were hoards of daytrippers there so we didn't hang about and carried on. Around the corner we came across a huge super-yacht - so big it had a heli-pad on it! We eventually moored around to the south of the island and dropped anchor in a bay which was sectioned off by a line of buoys. These are there to 'discourage' people from anchoring too close to Skorpios - and while you can swim around in the area, you are not allowed to set foot on the beach. Winspit crossed the line slightly as we spun on the anchor, and......maybe not coincidentally, a little red van whizzed down within 5 minutes to 'eyeball' the area and possibly us! Cameras are everywhere on the island apparantly......and although nobody lives on Skorpios now it has a full compliment of security staff to care for the grounds (and keep out noseyparkers).

We swam and read and decided that next time we come to the Ionian we should spend a bit less time sailing from A-B in a rush to fit everything in and see a bit more of the places we go to. ,

Eventually, it was time to leave and we headed out straight into WIND! We spent an hour or so sailing back and forth between Skorpios, Lefkas and Meganissi and managed around 6kn in 13knots of wind. Woohoo! It was then time to take Winspit home so we took the sails down and motored into Vlikho Bay, following another S.I. yacht. Naturally we forgot to switch the VHF on or radio ahead with our arrival and therefore we didn't hear the message to stay out of the bay for now! Chris sent Robin out to eventually get us and within 10 minutes we were moored up nicely at the end of the quay. We chatted to a group of yotties next door for a while and then got showered and changed for the Pimms party that Sail Ionian host every Saturday to end everyones holiday. Chatted to a newly engaged couple, Dave and Deb for the entire evening, eventually ending up at a restaurant recommended by the S.I. crew.......the restaurant were hosting a pig-roast barbecue which Marco really fancied the idea of. BIG mistake....the owner was friendly enough, but the food was rather ordinary which made for a disappointing last meal. Enjoyed our last Mythos of the holiday though! We all ended up in Vlikho Yacht Club which doesn't really feel like a yacht club at all...rather a bar/restaurant with a nautical name. However, the atmosphere was great and once Dave and Deb had left, we decided to stay for one more drink. Bizarrely, we ended up bumping into a couple whose blog i've been reading to learn a bit about the Ionian. A lovely couple called Tim and Katie who were on their first trip back, having sailed up to Montenegro the previous year. We chatted for 10 minutes or so then we left them to catch up with their friend who they'd come to visit. Back on board, sleep beckoned.....our last on the water for a while! Boo hoo!

.....and another thing.......

the next morning we awoke to menacing black clouds - the first of any colour cloud we've seen in two weeks. The day after we flew home, a violent storm hit Fiscardo and many yachts were wrecked on the rocks....the very place that Marco had wanted to moor just a week earlier. Makes you aware of just how much weather matters when you are a sailor.

yukky black cloud...

Paleros to Nikiana - changing plans and wasps for lunch

Friday 12th September

We liked Paleros so much in the dark that we decided to see if we could break the habit of a lifetime and get a coffee somewhere other than the galley of the boat. So we made an early start and walked about watching the town wake up. I wanted to walk up to the church at the top of the town. Marco wasn't keen so i started out on my own but it didn't seem too steep so i went back and got him. I'm glad I did because there was a lovely village atmosphere at the top of the hill and we found an excellent bakery by the church and bought cream pies, eating them on a bench nearby. We then meandered back down to the bottom and had a coffee at Dionysos. A few couples were already inside and we noticed they were all reading from charts. Fellow sailors - how nice. We were three quarters of the way through our coffee and the cafe was nearly full with 'fellow sailors', when we heard a familiar voice. Yes it was the pole-dancing chap from Port Athene who swaggered into the restaurant with his wife and another couple saying VERY loudly "We're 'ere - you can start now". Again everyone collapsed into peals of laughter. It was painful. We left before the rep arrived and, back on the boat we read for a while before leaving. We decided on Vassilikos for our last night as we've not been there yet and it sounded good in the pilot guide.

We motored out and looked in on a large hotel down the coast that is home to Sunsail. Looked quite nice. Off towards Skorpios there was again no wind. Very frustrating....we tried to find some wind but there really was nothing so we ended up motoring all the way. Past Skorpios, Marco had identified Dessimou Bay as a good lunch stop. Recommended by the Di and Neil at Sail Ionian we had high hopes for the place. And it looked idyllic. There were just two other boats anchored and the taverna looked lovely. We rowed in and ordered a couple of Mythos and lunch. Our starter was a gorgeous tuna salad and Marco had the chicken souvlaki while i had the longed-for-all-holiday aubergine slippers for mains. However, before we were half way through the salad we knew we had a big problem. WASPS! The table next door had loads around them and as they finished eating the wasps headed our way. By the time our mains arrived, there was nobody else eating and it was as though we'd invaded a nest (we might well have done for all i know)......we must have had 50 or more wasps buzzing around. There was really no way we could eat anything...not only was it more than a little irritating having to bat the wasps away, there was a real danger that one of us could accidentally swallow one which wouldn't have been much fun at all! The restaurant waitress didn't seem to bat an eyelid and Marco was getting seriously cheesed off, stalking up to pay and leave while i was disappearing in a sea of wasps. Fortunately, an old guy came from the kitchen with a roll of foil and packed everything up for us into a carrier bag. Great stuff. We dashed off, leaving the wasps to scratch their heads and wonder what they were going to do for entertainment for the rest of the afternoon. Back on board Winspit, we unpacked our impromptu takeaway which was still hot and it turned out to be very good.

After a relaxing, post-lunch swim, we made our way down the Meganissi channel for the first time. There were some beautiful caves and scenery so i'm glad that we did it. However, once past the south tip of Meganissi, the wind whipped up and, although we were able to sail perfectly in any other direction, we had a very rough sea and the wind was right on the nose. We weren't really going anywhere fast and eventually Marco admitted defeat and we decided to leave Vassiliki to the experts and headed back into the channel where it quickly calmed down. I leapt off the boat for a cooling swim in one of the coves and Marco did M.O.B to come back and collect me.

We decided on Nikiana for the night and had to motor there as there was zero wind in the channel. When we arrived it seemed perfect. We had a lovely spot right at the end of the jetty and moored up stern-to. We got out and wandered around stopping for the all-important Mythos. There were lots of supermarkets on the high street and Marco managed to bring us back to the harbour via several Greek back gardens and the grounds of a hotel. Back on board we were enjoying another Mythos when......horrors.......a yacht was mooring right next to us. it was a boat full of very loud, drunk Germans. We helped them in and I stood on the quay waiting to take their line but the chap on the boat hurled it at me, hitting me in the face and laughed. Nice!

Marco was all for upping anchor and leaving but they then helped a yacht full of Italiens who moored next to them and we were more or less stuck there. They all got the drinks out again and offered us a campari and orange. Marco declined so I took one so as not to appear too unfriendly. M eventually took one as they were the sort of people who just went on and on until you accepted. They were harmless really but just too loud and annoying. We started to get ready and to really cheer Marco up, the water ran out while i was in the shower, so he had to wash in my leftovers on the bathroom floor!!!! There was no water in Nikiana so we'll need to use bottled water until we get back to Vlikho tomorrow. We went out and avoided the Germans who were already loudly settled in one of the restaurants around the bay....we ended up in a nice little place right in the corner by the sea. We had a lovely meal, which was only spoiled by the "white wine"which looked like wee and tasted little better (I would imagine anyway, obviously I don't know for sure). Back on board the yacht, we finished the bottle of Baileys and went to bed at 11.....we could hear the Germans in the taverna right across the other side of the harbour.

Port Athene to Paleros

Thursday 11th September

Woke up on deck to the sound of the fishing boats going out. It was only 04:30 so I went downstairs where Marco had already gone earlier (the swine left me to the elements!)...Woke up properly at 7.30 (again)...and came back up on deck to another beautiful sunrise. We had a quick glass of juice, then made our way in Junior to the shore. We then walked up to the village of Katameri which was lovely, but there was nothing open, not even the bakery. We could see the potential for an evening out or even a lunch stop but breakfast? Forget it....! On the way back, a little old Greek lady in black, watering her garden, turned her hose on us. I think the intention was to cool us down as it was already hot. Can't imagine how we would have upset her otherwise!

We made it safely back to Winspit and had a lovely breakfast of honey/yoghurt with the traditional coffee and watched the Sailing Holidays yachts leave...they turned to port as they left the bay and we noted with regret that we would probably end up bumping into them again at some stage of the trip.

We left eventually ourselves into 11 knots of wind and sailed on a beam reach towards Kalamos at 5kn for a while. As we tacked and came back towards Abelieke Bay, our lunch stop, the wind died again and we motored in. The bay is much hyped and Rod Heikel is very complimentary but we didn't really think it was that exciting. The atmosphere wasn't helped by two diggers that constantly jiggered noisily the entire time we were there and when we tried to leave, the anchor chain ran away and we had to let it run right out. Marco reversed the boat back and I tightened the gypsy before successfully pulling up again.

There was wind and although it was already 3pm, we decided it was too early to go to Paleros, so we decided to sail around Skorpios. It started well enough, good tacking, up to 6kn speed, but it all went wrong as I was helming and took Winspit off course. Being a nervous ''What do I do now?" kind of sailor I was heading towards an oncoming ferry. Marco took the helm rather huffily and i then proceeded to mess up the tacking too. Names were called, tears were shed (can't say by who)...and the result was that we had started to run out of time to get to our destination, so Marco took in the genoa and we motored fast to Paleros.

Getting there, another boat ahead of us entered the little harbour and came straight out again. We did the same. There was no space. Why?? Well, Odysseus Yachting have their base here so one pontoon was entirely taken out by their fleet. The other pontoon.....? Hmmm Sailing Holidays had tacked themselves onto the end . Having experienced them so often now, we actually preferred to anchor again just outside the harbour, thus avoiding any noisy parties and disco songs from the "Brits Abroad". We chose our spot and Marco signalled to drop the anchor. It dropped alright....and didn't stop..! Brought up several metres of chain until we could tell we were well in. We had beer and nibbles on board watching the sunset and all the day's traumas were forgotten once again.
We motored in Junior over to the shore and walked around the town. We liked Paleros - our first visit to the Greek mainland. It had real old charm, lots of cafes and tavernas too. We chose 'Dionysos' and had a lovely meal, sitting by the sea where an old lady was fishing with a single reel and line. Afterwards, we walked around the town eating ice cream before heading back to Winspit for a coffee and Baileys.

Frikes to Port Athene

Wednesday 10th September

Had a disturbed night - not sure why but we still woke up at our usual time of around 7am. I came up into the cockpit and witnessed the most spectacular sunrise of the holiday so sound except for a small put-putting outboard belonging to a Greek fisherman. We were facing East with nothing but sea and the sun seemed to come right out of the water. It was very beautiful. After our coffee, we clamboured over the other two boats to get ashore. We walked into Frikes and around to the other side of the harbour. There isn't really very much to Frikes and it made us wonder why it's so popular - compared to Kioni for example it's really not so pretty. There was a small supermarket there though, so we bought a few little bits to keep us going and got on our way. Having dropped our lines at 09:40, we motored out past the pontoon and there was enough wind to be able to put up the sails. A huge 'Easycruise' liner waited for us to leave before skirting around the outside of the bay and heading south to show the non-sailing cruisers what the little ports looked like.

I helmed and managed 5kn in just 8kn of wind. We enjoyed it so much it more than made up for the exertions of last night's voyage. When we're in control of our vessel there's no better feeling at all. We videoed a massive ferry which passed behind us just about 50m away. The wash made us bob around a bit for a while but it was interesting to see this kind of fast-ferry life from a slow, lazy perspective of a yacht. We reached the small islet of Atoko and stopped for lunch at Cliff Bay (so called because......err....cliffs!). There was us and a supersize yacht all the way over on the other side of the massive bay and we put the outboard on and motored around marvelling at the sheer height of the cliffs and investigating the many caves in the area. It was great fun

...intrepid explorer!

We had one of the best lunches here......Greek salad, tsatsiki and a bottle of white wine....all to be shared in the cockpit whilst watching other yachts come and go. Lots of Dutch yachts started to arrive as part of a flotilla and we decided to leave them to it. An arguement ensued between skipper and first mate about whether to leave the outboard on the dinghy or not. I won and the outboard came off. Going through open sea with the outboard dangling off the back of the dinghy didn't seem to be the done thing to me and i think i was right - it's not ours to damage after all!

We motored past 'one house bay' so called because........oh use your was lovely but packed full of yachts including the lads we had rafted up against the previous night. We crossed the sea towards Meganissi - no wind whatsoever and Marco started moaning that this was not a sailing holiday but a cruising holiday. We managed to get the sails up a few times as the wind hit 8kn (cor!) but really, the breeze was only just there and in the end, we gave up. We motored around the N.E. tip of Meganissi and down into Port Athene, being careful to avoid the underwater rocks near the entrance to the bay. It was beautiful with a single taverna to port as you enter. We anchored off and I offered to swim ashore with the line. If i say so myself i did a top job and even got my bowline spot on! Having winched in the spare line so that we were secure, we re-fitted the outboard.....much moaning from the husband! We then motored over to check out the taverna. The Mythos went down very well after all that....motoring....and we enjoyed the company of a small kitten that took every opportunity to sit on our laps purring loudly. We got the dinghy back to Winspit, had a refreshing swim about and got ready to return to the taverna for dinner that night.

.....Back to Winspit with the taverna behind us.
We left the dinghy by a rickerty pontoon used by fishermen and nearly fell in twice trying to get out of it. Once in Niagas restaurant, we got a nice table well away from the ''Sailing Holidays" flotilla that were moored all along the harbour wall (of course, where else?)! I had mousakka AGAIN because they had no stuffed aubergine and nothing else appealed. It was the best yet. A high recommendation from me! One of the guests from the flotilla obviously styled himself as the in-house entertainer and proceeded to swing around one of the poles holding up the awning and rub himself up and down on it whilst impersonating Marilyn Monroe. This made all the flotilla crowd hoot with laughter and call encouragements like ''Ooh Jeff, you are awful'' etc. which served to remind us of why we don't ever want to do flotillas. It was very tiresome and just not funny! We found our own entertainment in a family of mum and 5 kittens, all feral, who approached our table with varying degrees of boldness. We hope they survive the winter..and we gave them some of our leftovers to fight over. There's a massive problem all over Greece with feral, un-neutered cats and they depend on tourists and kind locals for life......when all the tourists leave, who feeds's just survival of the fittest and it makes us sad but this is unfortunately the way it is here.
We returned to Winspit and had a Baileys on board, after which, both of us went to sleep on deck, listening to the Sailing Holidays party shattering the atmosphere with renditions of 'Staying Alive' and 'Sex Bomb'.....oh dear!

Ay Eufimia to Frikes - Lakes and Caves

Tuesday 9th September

We awoke early again and watched Eufimia wake up while drinking a coffee on board and chatting to the South African catamaran owners next door. We then took a stroll up to the taxi rank and booked a Greek taxi driver to take us to the Melissani Lake. The lake is up to 20,000 years old and was officially discovered in 1951 where relics dating back to the Minoans were also found. Part of the roof of the cave collapsed during an earthquake, bringing sunlight into the interior and giving the water a beautiful blue/gree hue in the middle of the day when the sun is highest in the sky. The cave was opened to tourists in 1963 and a tunnel leads down to the edge of the water where you can pick up a rowing boat and be taken on a small tour around the lake. As we were very early, the cave had just opened and we were the only ones on the lake. This had obvious advantages over being in a long queue with coach parties of tourists. However, the down side is that the water isn't a very dramatic blue colour yet as the angle of the sun isn't high enough. But that didn't bother us - we're surrounded by blue water every day aren't we! So we marvelled at the stalegtites and little plants that are now able to grow in seemingly impossible places and listened to our Greek rowing guide telling us mythology stories about nymphs that used to live in the cave in ancient times.
The taxi driver made to take us back to the town but we mentioned that we wanted to see the Drogorati caves too so he performed a Greek U-turn (just do it and all the traffic will grind to a halt for you) and within moments we were at our destination. In many ways these caves were even more spectacular...stalagtites and mites, formed over thousands of years were displayed in a huge corridor that opened into a 30m x 40m room. Pictures were meant to be forbidden. However, that didn't stop the coach load of Saga tourists who snapped away to their hearts content - so early in the morning, the cave guides weren't awake enough to be bothered stopping them. We took a few pictures without flash and managed to get one or two that weren't blurred.

We were taken back to Eufimia and stocked up on breakfast goodies from a bakery along the promenade. The freshly baked pain-au-chocolat were sitting in trays next to an open oven and were still warm so we bought some and they were the best we've ever tasted.
At Ay Eufimia there is a little ticket office along the prom and, having investigated, found out that we were meant to pay for mooring and water/electricity. Unfortunately, we hadn't been provided with shore power by Sail Ionian. I imagine this is due to the fact that 90% of harbours don't have facilities, plus, as you need to motor everywhere for half the day, everything charges itself!
Having settled up with the harbourmaster, we weighed anchor and motored around to Ak Agriossiki, the little inlet that we'd seen on the way into Eufimia yesterday. It was as beautiful as it looked - from a distance. But when we got up close and dropped anchor we quickly discovered that the bay was full of wasps! Not only that, but I swam ashore to take some photos and was very disappointed to find the shore covered in broken glass, barbecue remains , plastic bottles etc. It really annoys me that people think someone else will come along and clear up their mess. Why do people think it's ok to leave their child's dirty nappy on a beach?? Grrr.....! Rant over, we decided not to stay but to motor across to Ithaka and a bay to the south.
Half way across, we looked back and saw junior bobbing around in the middle of the channel. Somehow the dinghy had untied itself. Time for a M.O.B. rehearsal - and we succeeded in retrieving it at the second attempt. It was fortunate that we discovered our loss quickly. Greek fishermen are always on the lookout for this sort of thing and there's a kind of finders keepers rule which means basically, that if "found" we would have to pay for it's safe other words it's a bit of a racket and a hassle that you don't need when you're on your hols!
When we got to our destination bay, a lot of boats had beaten us to it and several attempts by us to drop anchor in water that was either too deep or too close to the rocks failed so we ended up back in Pighada Bay, this time slightly nearer to 'rat island'. Had a swim and a late lunch in crystal clear water - lovely!
We then motored between Pighada and Ithaka and were encouraged to see sails up in the distance. Finding just 10kn of wind was all the encouragement Marco needed to hoist everything and we travelled all of a few feet before the wind died again and we were drifting. Suddenly, it picked up again and we were off...woo hoo! The first proper sail in three days - we were really moving and it was exhilerating to feel the wind through the sails and no motor sounds! Of course, our good fortune couldn't last and, already having reefed the main, Marco decided to put out more genoa..."just a little" which was way more than i was comfortable with. In no time we were doing 5kn in 16kn of wind. Then it all started to go wrong....The wind, which had been nice and consistent, suddenly became 25kn - bloody hell! Winspit heeled and Marco turned her back into the wind to right her. This was fine, but then we lost all our speed...bringing her back on course made her heel again. The genoa took a dip in the sea and my feet were glued to the vertical opposite coaming! It was all happening too quick to be scared but on writing about this now...hmm it wasn't great. Heeling again, anything in the saloon that wasn't tied down went crashing from one side to the other and I for one, was convinced we were going over. This seemed to give Marco a reality check as he shoved me onto the helm and quickly furled the genoa. Having little experience and also trying to keep my balance, we gybed and tacked rather badly for a while - fortunately, with the main pulled in, this wasn't a problem but it really showed us how ridiculously inexperienced we are! All the sheets ended up in a tangled mess and it was impossible to reef the main properly in these conditions so we stuck the motor back on and limped towards Frikes, covered in sea spray.
We followed a German boat into the harbour and once past the breakwater and floating pontoon, we did a reccy of the area. We had been warned against using the pontoon due to the wash from passing ferries, and we certainly weren't going against this good advice. I spotted the familiar sight of a Sail Ionian boat moored alongside on the west of the bay and asked if we could raft next to them. The chaps on Sandpiper all helped us to moor up with lines to shore and springs etc. and we were, at last, safely 'home' for the night and could relax with a beer and dissect the days events.
Having chatted to our new neighbours and had our sundowner, we went out for dinner and chose a little restaurant called Symposium. It is one of many around the bay. The food was ok but nothing special, and we finished our evening in a little bar, drinking Irish coffee and listening to the waves lapping on the shore.

Ormos Polis to Ay Eufimia

Monday 8th September

Another glorious day in paradise as we woke up and raised our sleepy heads out of the companionway to watch Polis Bay waking up. Actually the only things that seemed to have woken up early were the goats, and we could only tell this by the hollow,tinny sound of the bells slung around their necks which echoed around the bay as they skipped down the hillside to feed. Oh, a digger had also woken up and that was an altogether less natural sound which we could have done without! We took video, had a refreshing morning dip, then breakfast. We could have stayed in this beautiful bay a lot longer but we don't have 'longer' - we have more places to see and only a few more days in which to see them. We chugged out of the bay into zero wind - a phenomenon that we were getting more than used to during Ionian mornings - and carried on around and into the Strait of Ithaca heading south west (ish) towards Ay Eufimia. There was less than 1kn of wind in places and it was a bit disappointing not to be able to raise the sails. However, we were the only ones on this stretch of millpond-esque water and that's rare in this area so we took our time and hugged the coast of Ithaca, taking in the landscape and playing a chillout cd.
As Ay Eufimia is on Kefallonia, we crossed over the strait and were rewarded with a lovely little bay which we promised ourselves we would visit tomorrow. Ay Eufimia's breakwater was only visible once we got right into the bay - we motored in and Marco picked our spot. There were plenty to choose from and we chose to go near a catamaran which we could see was already hooked up to shore power....another rare thing here it seems. It was all so easy for a change; line up, drop anchor, reverse and we're in! First time! No problems! WOW! A Greek man on the quay helped us to tie up and we found out later that it was his job - it was just as well he was there as the quay was too high to jump onto and the passarelle ended up at a very awkward angle. Once the engine was off, we quickly found water and filled up Winspit - so we have enough now for the rest of the week. Then it was time for the obligatory Mythos. Panic! Only one left in the fridge so we shared it and toddled over to a restaurant, imaginitively named 'Spiros' which looked nice and as it turned out, WAS nice! Cheese pies, tuna, stuffed tomatoes and a couple of large Mythos later we were happy. While we were eating, we were temporarily ad
opted by a couple of cats, one of which was cross-eyed so we called him Clarence after the lion with the same problem.

We made our way back to Winspit, where we had a lovely, lazy afternoon sunbathing and swimming around near the boat. For most of the time we had the place to ourselves as our catamaran neighbours were out. Later on, we strolled along the promenade watching the boats come in and out and lots that were mooring near Winspit. We headed back eventually and Marco helped a Swedish guy moor up, then some Austrians just nipped in-between the two yachts - a shame really as the Swedes were a young, quiet couple and the Austrians were about 10 to a boat and shouting loudly to each other! We got ready for dinner with plenty of music for company, mainly to drown out the noise from the catamaran's generator. We sat in the cockpit having our G&T/nibbles-for-two party, while watching promenaders researching the best dinner venues. By the time we ventured out, many of the restaurants were packed. Against our normal "go nowhere twice" policy, we went back to Spiros. A great meal as it turned out and the bonus was a large glass of brandy each which the restaurant gave us at the end of the night. Maybe it was because we had already been there for lunch - we never saw anyone else get one. As we left, I put forward the question of 'nightcap' which didn't seem to go down too well (skippers do get rather more tired than crew I get the impression). However, we compromised and bought a bottle of Baileys from a supermarket, then I popped back to Spiros where they gave me two plastic cups full of ice cubes. We sat, watching Ay Eufimia's evening draw to a close, sipping Baileys in the cockpit then, at some later stage, we both woke up, still in the cockpit and rather colder than before..........

Fiscardo to Ormos Polis

7th September

Fiscardo is a nice place to wake up to. Let's face it, compared with the 7.05 Thameslink from Flitwick, most places, bar the Bangkok Hilton must be better! But it was lovely to take a stroll around Fiscardo with hardly anyone around, watching the place wake up. Deliveries were being made to fruit shops, restaurants and everyone was just calmly going about their simple lives. It was great. We walked to the end of the harbour and had breakfast at The Yacht Inn where we had something appropriately named Fiscardo Omlette (feta, tomatoes, oregano, olives) plus a fresh orange juice. It was relaxing to watch fellow sailors preparing their lines and motoring gently out of the harbour. Back at the boat, a loud Sailing Holidays rep was giving a lesson on sailing to some even louder Canadians....yes really they hadn't ever sailed before and were about to be let loose on a yacht.We found that bizarre. As soon as our neighbours (who were tied to us) left, we left too. There was absolutely no wind at all as we motored out of Fiscardo. The Ithaka Channel was very quiet and still so there wasn't much point in putting up the sails as we meandered across to Ormos Polis.
Ahh Ormos Polis. What a find....well ok we didn't actually 'find' it. We were recommended to go there by Chris at Sail Ionian so thought as we were sailing past it we might as well pop in to see what it was all about.
Polis Bay as us Brits call it, is just a mile or so down from Fiscardo, across the Ithaka channel. It's reasonably well hidden on the approach from the North until you get quite close. The bay itself looked beautiful and we were the only boat going in there so we would have the whole place to ourself. What a result! We dropped anchor in the north east of the bay and Marco took a line ashore. It didn't take us long to decide that this looked like a perfect place to spend the entire night. So our original plan to simply lunch here and then head to Ay Eufimia went right out of the window! It was good to know that we were going to be here for a while and it gave us a chance to relax and take in the atmosphere of this place.
We went for a swim. The water was 5m deep and full of little fish were soon collecting under the yacht. The fish were a bluey grey colour with a white spot near the tail. I'd like to say that, as scuba divers we should know what they were but we had no idea! We had lunch on the boat before deciding to it the outboard and motor around. We investigated some coves nearby one of which is meant to be Homer's meeting place. But there was nothing interesting to see so we made our way to the shore where we heaved Junior onto the pebbles and walked to the bay where there was a small café selling nothing much except crisps and refridgerated drinks. We had a Mythos and watched the locals going about their business, then it was back to Winspit for more swimming and sunbathing. We'd by now been joined by a large catamaran. Why oh why, when there's a large EMPTY bay do people choose to moor up right next to the only other boat in that bay???? They were within swimming distance in an empty bay, obscuring our view out which was a bit of a pain, especially as the tranquil view was now of a boat full of naked Austrians!! Hmmm..interesting. Their 'tranquil' view was rapidly obscured by yet another yacht arrival. Six people arrived on a yacht, most of them diving into the water and swimming to shore, leaving one person to row their dinghy for the journey home. Together, they all made their way up to the village of Stavros up the hill.
Stavros was a recommended 'must see, must eat there' place by Sail Ionian and we'd been given the name of a restaurant which we'd now forgotten. Marco texted Chris to ask it's name. A few hours later he replied with a name and number and Marco tried to call. There was no answer and without thinking, he put the phone in his swimshorts pocket.......five minutes later he dived into the sea - uh oh! Now we had no phone and no name and number of the restaurant...damn!

Going...............................................................................gone (along with the phone )
So we got ready and jumped in the dinghy. Marco insisted on motoring all the way to the café jetty whereas I thought the beach would have done just as well but we made it ok. We tied up and walked all the way up the hill to Stavros. The views across the bay back towards the yacht were spectacular and I loved the walk. Marco wasn't so keen and kept enquiring as to why we couldn't have just used a pasta sauce and cooked on Winspit! Really, the walk was not that bad and the village of Stavros more than made up for it. There were a lot more tavernas than we expected so finding the one we wanted was quite a task, considering we didn't have the name or number! Around the square, at a normal looking taverna, were the people from our neighbouring boat. We carried on looking as this place didn't look too inviting. Eventually we found a beautiful looking place with a private garden. We decided to eat there and of course, it turned out to be the very place that Sail Ionian had recommended to us. The food was divine. Lots of mezze, fresh fish with garlic mash, lamb in paper and lots of fresh salad. The owner was a very friendly German lady and the place was called Polyphemus. If you go to Ithaka go to this restaurant!
We returned to Winspit back down the hill and the moon lit up the bay and the boat. We started the dinghy and got half way back to the boat when the outboard conked out! Oh help....slightly tipsy couple in the middle of the bay in a small dinghy, no oars. Hmmm...paddle with hands?? Marco yanked on the outboard a few times and thankfully, it started and worked for long enough for us to pootle back to the boat. Back on board we celebrated our safe return with a can of coke then I slept on deck, waking up at 5am freezing cold. Back to sleep in the warmth of the cabin.

Kioni to Fiscardo (or where NOT to park your boat)

6th September

Grrr.....flotillas! It doesn't matter what time you turn up at a place, they are always there first, bagging all the spots. It really makes life hard for the novice sailor (i.e. US!!) trying to do it on his own. Still, we made it albeit with a little help!

The day started well. Kioni is such a pretty picture postcard place that it was a pleasure to wake up there. Ashore, we had a little wander around, taking advantage of all the photo opportunities there. After breakfast we said goodbye to Mick and Tanya next door and Mick helped us with our lines - just as well really as Marco dropped the long line at both ends and we had to go back for it.....a good throw by Mick and it was safely back on board. Once out of Kioni, the wind got up to 6kn and in minutes up to 10kn so we were quick to put the sails up and take advantage of a bit of morning sailing at last. As it turned out, we had fantastic wind all the way around the top of Ithaka and down to Fiscardo which was great....I even sailed while Marco tacked, and managed to keep her on a close reach on both tacks without stalling..hurrah! Fiscardo wasn't too easy to spot coming in from the north, but soon, the lighthouses mentioned in the pilot guide loomed into view. We took down the sails and motored in. So far so good eh? Well, it didn't last! It quickly became apparant that even at 2pm, you can't beat Sailing Holidays into any harbour in the Ionian! So we did a little circle, surveying the area trying to decide where to moor for the rest of the day. We managed to find a space between a dinghy and a yacht towards the NE of the harbour and were feeling quite pleased with ourselves, especially as we managed to drop the anchor and reverse in first time! I cracked open a couple of Mythos and came up the companionway, ready to celebrate. Our smugness was short-lived though......a Greek chap emerged from the shadows of a nearby shop and told us we had to leave as it was the space for a local boat. Marco (being tall and therefore allowed to be smug) ignored him, cheerily calling to the chap 'first come, first served'. I shifted nervously on my cockpit cushion. The Greek chap didn't bat an eyelid as he lit a cigarette, drew heavily on it, blew out the smoke and said menacingly 'you'll pay' . I became rather nervous and was assured by 'the smug one' that he was all smoke, no fire or words to that effect. Fifteen minutes later, another Greek chap, this time, better looking with better English told us the same story about the local boat and it was up to us but the owner was a bit wild. So I then shifted rather more nervously than before and Marco rang Chris at Sail Ionian for advice. Chris asked where we were moored, and advised us to speak to the port police. Marco headed off and I sat in the cockpit competing with The Man with No Name for who could scowl the most, the one with the fag or the one with the beer! There was no winner, as Marco returned looking as worried as I felt and said 'let's get out of here'.

As if that wasn't bad enough there was more.

A friendly enough guy came up to us as we were preparing our lines and asked if we wanted help leaving. I opened my mouth to say 'yes please' but found myself beaten by the 'no thanks' of Marco...damn! Marco gave me the nod and I started to pull up the anchor.....within seconds it slowed,then ground to a halt. The anchor would neither go up nor down. Fab! Out of the corner of my eye I could see the friendly guy climbing into a dinghy and motoring out towards us. Upon reaching us he told me to release the anchor from the windlass and let it I obeyed....he then asked me to try again, and the anchor started to come up with no problem. I asked what had happened and he laughed. 'Look over your left shoulder' he said. With a sense of foreboding i took a glance, to see the owners of all the yachts on the north quay looking from their bows to me and back again........dropping our anchor in that spot, we had crossed every one of their lines. When I tried to pull the anchor in, it simply brought all their chains together risking fouling every last one of them. Luckily, they all seemed ok and meandered back to their G&Ts or whatever, leaving me rather red-faced at the bow of Winspit.

The friendly guy asked if we needed help finding another spot. Without hesitation or looking at Marco I immediately said YES!! We motored out a little way and as luck would have it, as we did so, a Sunsail yacht was leaving a berth right by the Captains Cabin. We dropped anchor and squeezed into the gap he left with no trouble at all. I thanked the friendly chap profusely and he gave me a cheery 'it's all part of the job' kind of salute and headed back to his warm beer. Once we'd moored up safely and tied our lines, Marco started moaning about where we were parked and how we would get so much noise ....blah blah and how he'd wanted to moor on the east wall with a line ashore. Ah well, never mind that we were moored outside the most famous canopy in Fiscardo then!

We walked away from Fiscardo up the hill and found a lovely bar with Mythos on tap where we could overlook the sea and watch the yachts coming it (we called out ''it's full'' while smugly sipping our beers). It was idyllic. Marco called his dad to tell him how fantastic everything was while we had our two beers each. Wandered back to the boat to find next door having trouble keeping their boat off the quay. they tried to tighten the anchor but ended up pulling it up. So they tied a stern spring from their stern to our bow in order to be secured without having the hassle of relaying the anchor and possibly crossing ours at the same time. By way of thanks they offered us a glass of wine and so we sat chatting to them for a while....a lovely family (even though they were with a flotilla) who were en route to Corfu. They went off for dinner eventually and we speedily got ready and did the same. The quay is chock full of restaurants and there were lots of people around and a great atmosphere. We wandered to the end of the harbour to see what we fancied and ended up choosing Tassia's. It was a great place but pretty expensive as is most of Fiscardo in comparison with the other places we visited. Lobster pasta and filet mignon with a 1lt bottle of wine came to €90. Not content with our litre bottle of wine, we stopped off for a cocktail on the way back to the boat for a nightcap. We had amaretto, vodka, baileys, metaxa 5* and ice cream, all in one glass - YUM!! It was great at the time, but oh boy it hit us as we got up to go back to the boat. I made it back in one piece but only as far as the cockpit. Spent a couple of hours catching flies.

Woke up thinking 'where am I', to a whole shed load of noise coming from the other side of the harbour. A wedding was going on in a large taverna over there and cars were all honking their horns, people were shouting, laughing and generally being rather 3.30am. How glad was I that we were moored outside the tranquil Captain's Cabin instead of that awfully noisy eastern side ha ha!! Who's the smug one now???

Sami to Kioni

5th September

Not only is Sami a great place to moor up in peace - it also provided a top sleep. We slept with hatch wide open and when I awoke in the middle of the night, it was wonderful to just stare up at the stars. This is one of the highlights of sailing and is a truly fabulous experience.

We both got going at 8 and had our coffee, watching the fishermen going about their business. We then took a stroll around the town. Sami was a provisioning paradise, with bakeries and supermarkets in abundance. We stocked up on all the basics, which of course included more Mythos before heading back to Winspit. Along the edge of the water, other cruisers and holidaymakers were enjoying breakfast in the sun, overlooking the sea, sipping on an orange juice. It was simple and idyllic. Despite it being the busiest place we had been to yet, it was still relatively quiet - a real find!

Sean and Ruth departed first. We wished them a happy remainder of their holiday and we swapped numbers. We will definitely keep in touch, not least because they only live 40 minutes from us in England - what are the chances of that eh? After we'd waved them off, we prepared our lines and cast off. As we already knew, we had crossed the lines of the other boat, so Steve came out in the dinghy and helped to free us, at the same time showing me how to free ourselves if this should happen again. Then we were off - out of the cocoon of the sheltered harbour and into the bay and from there into the Ithaca channel. We picked up 10kn of wind and sailed around to the base of Ithaca where the wind died and we ended up motoring again. We had a vague idea of going either to Vathi, Kioni or Frikes this evening and decided to keep our options open and see how the day panned out. By lunch time, we had made it to Pera Pigadi, a small islet off Ithaca with a couple of lovely bays nearby. We had heard stories of the islet being rat-infested and not to moor by the pontoon. We didn't moor there simply because the bays around it were so much prettier. However, we did see yachts moored there, and no rat evidence so not sure if the problem been addressed or not? We'd definitely give it a go next time.

There were mountain goats up the side of the hill in a small bay and we tried to drop anchor there, but despite trying twice, it didn't hold so we aborted that idea and moved around to the next bay where we anchored first time. We jumped into the clear, blue water and had a refreshing swim. Marco got into the dinghy and had a ten minute power-nap then woke up with a cold Mythos. I snorkelled - it was so clear you could see the bottom. We left at around 3pm and started to motor up the side of Ithaca. Having checked the options, we decided to try Kioni and were hopeful of finding another Sail Ionian yacht there again, to perhaps help us with our shaky mooring. However, having spotted the familiar white flag of SI, it was heading towards Vathi so it looked as though we'd be on our own...figuratively speaking. There was not one knot of wind and yet we could see sails ahead so we carried on motoring hopefully. As we rounded a rocky outcrop past the entrance to Vathi, we were suddenly hit by 12 knots from a lowly 2, with gusts of up to 20knots. We put out all our sail and Winspit picked up speed. Off went the engine and the exhileration of sailing took us over once more.

Minutes later we were heeling at what I thought was a rather alarming angle (but then i'm a bit of a girl when it comes to this!!)When you are a novice sailor as we are....heeling is a very alien experience and one that takes some getting used to. All around us were yachts that were also heeling but somehow they seemed to be totally in control. By comparison, I felt uneasy, probably because I know how inexperienced we are at this. Did we have the sail trim correct? Should we reef? Aggghhh!!! The wind was getting fiercer and it got to the stage where every time Marco turned the boat to starboard, she heeled A LOT, and every time he inched her to port, the sails flapped about which was no good either. Eventually we hauled in the genoa and sailed on the main which was an improvement.

Kioni was now in sight but to get there we would be heading straight into the wind. It felt like a bit of a nightmare to be honest. Massive flapping of sails but the sea was getting so rough that I was a bit worried about getting up to bring it down. Oh for in-mast reefing at this point!!! As we approached the bay of Kioni, I took the helm and prayed i'd keep her straight, while Marco got up and pull in the main. Once into Kioni it quickly became apparant that there was a) still 16knots of wind (joy) and b) no space! Yikes! We motored around a couple of times and ended up choosing a spot next to antoher Bavaria (a 34ft). We had to make two attempts as the wind was blowing us everywhere. But on the third attempt a man appeared to take our lines and Marco reversed in perfectly. The man tied us on the windward side and we were tight. After securing all other lines we felt safe. It would have been a struggle though without the man's help and we still had to jump into Junior to get off as there was some very shallow water at our stern.

We walked around the quay of Kioni. A beautiful place. Across the harbour, naturally, Sailing Holidays had bagged all of the better bays. We settled down for a smug Mythos in a large green bottle and admired Winspit across the bay in her spot. Suddenly and without warning all the yachts in our row started bobbing madly about. Before it happened we knew what was coming next - the grating of Winspit's rudder on the shallow rocks beneath her almost made us choke on our beer. The wash from a large ferry, miles away had come into Kioni and was pushing her backwards onto them. As I gulped the last of my beer, and went inside the bar to pay, Marco was already racing back around to Winspit. I followed soon after but by the time I got there, he had already loosened the lines, tightened the anchor chain and was happily chatting to our neighbour, leaving me to paddle across on my own using Junior. Marco gave me a merry wave and carried on chatting, leaving me to catch my foot in my sarong as I left the dinghy and nearly go head first down into the galley! Having regained my composure, I joined Marco and the neighbours and we had a sundowner, while their baby boy played in the water.

After freshening up, we went out for dinner, finding a lovely place right in the centre of the bay. The restaurant gave us free desserts, plus we had a starter each, main course each and half a litre of red wine all for €27 - a bargain! There was a great jazz club that we passed on the way back but we were just too tired to go there.....another place for 'next time'! Back on board, we chatted to our neighbours again for an hour or so then crashed out to sleep at midnight. Another few lessons learned today and lots of excitement too!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Kastos to Sami (with no wind)

4th September

Life on board a yacht, we have discovered is 90% joy and 10% mild discomfort. The entire 10% can be accumulated during the hours of sleep! Marco is 6'6" and believe me you need sizeable cabin space to stretch out when you are that tall. If there is no such space, then the answer is simple; takeover the majority of the bed while your wife curls up into the foetus postion and makes the most of the square foot she has left to her!!!

And so it was that I had a rubbish sleep due to it being too hot, zero air and zero space. I ended up sitting in the cockpit with a bottle of water listening to the cicadas and thanking my lucky stars that we had decided to take up sailing!

When we both woke up properly, it was again fun to jump in the tender (affectionately we now called it Junior) and go ashore. Naturally, only wanting to sail, Marco showed no interest in going all over town looking around so we were straight off to the mini-market for supplies. We found everyone here to be a lot friendlier than on Kalamos, so I decided I prefer Kastos! Everyone smiles and/or says hello. It's lovely. We got away by 9.30 racing in .......2kn of wind! The whole Ionian sea seemed like a mill pond and it was so clear, you could see for miles - beautiful, hazy sunshine, hardly a cloud in the sky, it was perfect - apart from the lack of wind. We motored away from the Kalamos/Kastos area and down towards Atoko, a small islet north-east of Ithaka. Gradually, as we went along, Ithaka started to loom out of the haze. Now, look at the picture at the start of this post.....if you didn't know better, you would think we were lunching on a boating lake. But no, this was literally in the middle of the Ionian sea. We were able to stop the boat, switch off the engine and eat our lunch right there, no wind, no sail, no noise! It was a real delight. We set off again and with it being after 2 we were hoping for the wind to pick up but it didn't. We ended up motoring around the south of Ithaka raising the sails in hope, only to have to lower them again when nothing happened. However, once we reached the channel between Ithaka and Kefalonia it was different matter, and suddenly out of nothing, we had 11kn of wind. We put out sail and genoa and we were off! We tacked and gybed our way around the bay of Sami, then motored in. There was a Sail Ionian yacht already in but it wasn't Sean and Ruth on Ciaran. It was Cormorant, with Steve, the skipper and his holidaymakers Toby and Sara. Steve helped us moor up and we all had a beer together (sailing is SO sociable)...then Steve noticed that it looked as though we'd crossed their chain with ours so we will have to be careful how we leave tomorrow. Ruth and Sean arrived about an hour after us and could still berth up right next to us, so it looked like a mini Sail Ionian flotilla! We all went out for a large beer at Captain Corelli's bar - the first was so nice, we had a second! Sami is a beautiful, bustling town, mostly ignored by the flotilla companies and for that reason we liked it all the more!

Toby and Sara decided to have dinner by themselves (well it was their honeymoon) so we invited Steve to eat with us and the five of us had a pre-dinner G&T at 'our place'! We provided the drink, Sean and Ruth provided the nibbles and Steve provided the story of his Sweden yacht and how he plans to sail it around the world. We found a lovely taverna with minimal tourists where I shared a bottle of red wine with Sean and Ruth, while Marco and Steve went on the beers. The food was lovely and so was the company. Afterwards, Sean invited us back to their yacht for a red wine nightcap. I opened my mouth to say ok and heard Marco saying 'No thanks, I 've been on the beer all night'. Bugger! Our last night with our new friends and no nightcap.

Kalamos to Kastos

3rd September

Not a bad night but we're finding that we always wake up really early, then can't get back to sleep. The area where we were moored seemed to belong to the fishermen, one of whom delighted in starting his engine at around 06.30 and revving it, waking most of us along that side of the quay. We had a coffee on board which turned out to be a bit of an error because on the boat next door but one to us were the loudest people we've ever heard - along with the revving engine next door, it was hardly a relaxing start to the day! We decided to leave the noise behind and take a walk up to the bakery in the village up the hill for a few supplies. Thank heavens for some painted signs guiding the way otherwise we'd never have found it! The bakery itself was a scrum - mainly old ladies jostling us 'foreigners' out of the way - it's weird really. They treat you as if you simply aren't there whilst at the same time staring at you as if you've just stepped off of a spaceship! The views on the way back down to the boat were beautiful across the sea to Kastos.

We had our breakfast in the cockpit - a quiet one..just us and a hundred wasps. We then walked around the quay to see Sean and Ruth and planned our next meet-up to be in Sami tomorrow night, both couples wanting to do their own thing for this evening. We swapped numbers, walked back round to Winspit, raised the anchor and cast off. I decided that in the end, I wasn't as keen on Kalamos as I thought I was. Grumpy old women and noisy fishermen etc....Therefore, when we return to do another Ionian charter, which we will invariably do, we'll need to return and try to see it in a better light (and with cheerier locals!).

We motored out of Kalamos and immediately hit 5-7knots of wind. Ooh quick, raise the sails before it all dies down was great. A gentle sail, tacking back and forth between Kalamos and Kastos - really easy and within an hour we were down at Port Leone. Of course, we weren't lucky enough to have the bay to ourselves and a couple of boats were already anchored up so we decided to anchor off and just sit in the bay. So far so good..we swam and snorkelled and it was just fabulous to do this in the shadow of this beautiful deserted village. Because of the massive earthquake that devasted many of the islands in 1953, Port Leone was reduced to a ghost town when the water supply was destroyed. There's an calm aura here though and it's definitely worth dropping anchor for an hour or two. Much to Marco's annoyance, I insisted on investigating the village so we got into the tender and (he) rowed ashore. The church was locked but in good condition considering the rest of the place. We had read that it is looked after still by the locals and it was a shame that we couldn't take a peek inside. Still, the views down to the bays made up for that and we took some pictures, heading back to the tender after a while. Here, a weird thing took place. As we rowed back to Winspit, she was spinning on her anchor. This gave us the impression that she was on the move. The more Marco rowed, the less ground he was making up and the further away the boat seemed to be. Being so naive, we really thought she'd dragged her anchor and was moving away from us. It was quite scary and we had visions of having to ring Chris or Neil and tell them that we'd managed to put one of their Bavaria's on rocks within two days of being let loose on it. Of course, we eventually managed to reach her, scramble on board panicking like mad, only to realise that she hadn't actually moved at all. So here was another lesson - we are crap rowers - in future we should use the outboard and we'd be back with our floating home in relative comfort!

Relieved, we had lunch in the bay and decided that after the hassle we'd had mooring at Kalamos we'd get to Kastos nice and early(ish). The sailing was quite tricky for us, although not as bad as yesterday's fun and we headed up to the top of Kastos, intending to go around the top. Marco of course, thought that sailing between Kastos and the small islet to the north of it looked quicker. I quickly studied the chart and it was ok as long as we didn't go too near to the islet where the waters were very shallow with rocks under the surface. Of course Marco developed a small case of forgetting his left from his right and started heading straight for the islet.....with the wind blowing us on.....HELP!! Luckily we had by now taken the sails in and were able to steer away under power but it made us sweat a bit! Once around the other side of Kastos we got some wind and up went the sails and we were off. Approaching the harbour there again looked to be a lot of masts already there, despite it only being 4.30pm. And this time it was 'Sailing Holidays' who had rather selfishly bagged the entire jetty. They had even moored one of the yachts alongside, thus preventing anyone else from mooring there, AND they were waving us away...lovely and helpful (not). We motored around a few times looking for any available space and decided to drop anchor and reverse between two Sailing Holidays yachts near the beach. From there we could take a line ashore - yikes, our first one! We postioned ourselves perfectly and Marco was doing a sterling job, until a chap from one of the SH yachts popped his head up and shouted "You can't park there, you're crossing our line". We took a good look and it seemed that all of the SH yachts had their anchor chains going out starboard of the bow. This was frustrating. The SH reps could see we were struggling yet completely ignored us-they were really unhelpful... so we made a mental note never to go on a 'sailing holiday' with them (that'll teach 'em!!!). Every time we attempted to drop anchor someone else would start having a go at us. I was getting really cheesed off and we were really beginning to flail, not knowing what to do and with the wind getting really strong, we were being blown away from any desired spot.

Suddenly, a tender appeared alongside us with a guy in it wanting to help. Joy! I could have hugged him. He advised us to take the line ashore first to steady the boat in the wind, then we could calmly drop anchor and winch in to steady her. He held our boat steady while Marco rowed across to the beach with the line and tied it around a rock. Marco was then able to row (yes we STILL hadn't attached the outboard at this stage) back to Winspit and tighten the line while I anchored. Job done. We were secure. The guy in the tender, it turned out, owns a yacht called Bayan Blue from which he and his wife host luxury crewed sailing trips. They were on their own holiday at the time and we will be forever grateful for his assistance. It really helped us out of a spot and made our first go at taking a line ashore a happier memory than it might have been.

It was fun getting into the dinghy and going ashore along the line. We strolled to a place called 'The Windmill' - a bar/restaurant. We had a huge beer each which was thoroughly well-deserved, then I had a smaller one while Marco treated himself to another large one (well, all that rowing is tiring). After going back to the boat and getting showered and changed, we returned to The Windmill for dinner. It was packed! We got the only table left overlooking the sea and soon found out why it was free...the smell of sewage was appalling. Despite the stench we stayed and had an ok dinner of spag bol (they'd run out of moussaka) and downed a bottle of Greek white wine whilst chatting to a couple on the next table who were from North Wales and owned a part-share in a yacht. Also, we were approached by one of the women who'd shooed us away from an anchoring spot earlier. She'd come to apologise for her abruptness. That was nice of her (still don't want to go on a flotilla holiday with SH though!).

Back on the tender, I thought it was hilarious to take pictures in the dark of our struggle to find our way along the line. Marco wasn't laughing though and we had a row about my lack of assistance. Oh well - the picture was funny though!

Sivota to Kalamos

2nd September
Today's lesson was - don't be inexperienced sailors and attempt to sail 20knots downwind!!!

Firstly, If you've never sailed before let me just say that waking up in a new place every day is the best feeling in the world. It's like that feeling you get on the first day of your holiday - a new place to explore....and on a boat you get it every day!!

We decided to explore Sivota and get some lunch in one of the many supermarkets lining the front. Before that, we washed and brushed up in the showers at Yiannis taverna. I was disgusted to find that one of the loos was blocked with toilet paper. EVERYONE knows that in Greece, the loos everywhere get blocked really easily and therefore, a bin is provided for you to dispose of your paper. It was so early in the morning that I imagine it could only have been fellow boaties that would have used the toilets during the night. Some people are animals honestly and really should know better.

Having shopped for provsions and complained to Marco about the state of the loos, we started what was now becoming the daily battle to eat breakfast and swat wasps at the same time. Having dispensed with 5, we were just finishing up when Chris arrived. He'd come to fix us up with a new genoa as the one we had on was too small (not that we'd noticed). It was interesting to watch him and it took a matter of minutes to take the old one off and put the new one on. Marco helped out enthusiastically. Sean came across and we arranged to meet up with him and Ruth in Kalamos tonight.

We cast off and motored around the corner to Ormos Rouda and the tiny village of Poros. Oh WOW! WOW! WOW! This place was lovely. We picked a spot in between two other yachts and dropped anchor. It held first time - hurrah! We were being blown towards the shore and although I say so myself, Marco did a top job for a first 'lone' attempt. We went swimming off the back of the boat and I put on a chillout cd. Marco launched himself into the dinghy and I chucked him a can of Mythos from the boat. Then we looked at each other and started grinning inanely. This life is bloody fantastic! We're on our own (well, it felt like our own) boat, anchored in a beautiful bay, surrounded by water, drinking Mythos and with no inclination to go ashore! We felt ridiculously priviledged to be doing this.

We stayed in Poros for a couple of hours eating Greek salad for lunch, bread, tzatziki etc. It was like a dream. Eventually, we raised the anchor and motored out into the big wide world! Quickly picked up wind and it hit 10/11 knots before we knew it. Put the genoa and full sail out which in hindsight was probably a mistake as there was far to much of a sail/wind ratio. However, this is how you learn isn't it?? We headed for Arkhoudi, a little island between Meganissi and Ithaka and although that was ok being on a beam reach, we knew we'd have to tack round to get to Kalamos and would be heading downwind. Easier said than done especially when you don't know what you're really doing, and each time I tried to turn to port, the boat heeled and I freaked out. M took the genoa in and it was better after that. However, the best thing to do was gybe down to Kalamos and this is when it all went horribly wrong. My helming skills aren't finely honed yet and so when I turned the boat as I was meant to, it went far too far and whizzed off course to the stage where we were now on a beam reach and nearly heading back the way we came. Help!! Lots of ''What the hell are you doing'' from the skipper! We tried it again...same thing. Then because we still had 20kn of wind, M tried to reef in. Oh dear - the reefing system's not what we're used to and my helming was crap! Decided that the best thing to do in the circumstances was take down all the sail and motor up to Kalamos as we were now losing time. We could check the reefing tomorrow in calmer waters.

Nearing Kalamos, we could already see plenty of masts. Inwardly groaned as we approached and saw how full it was. Despite our best efforts, we'd happened upon a flotilla of 'Sailing Holidays' boats who had taken the prime harbour wall spots. Obviously we should have arrived earlier. No matter....Sean and Ruth were already there and were with George, the local taverna owner who helps hapless sailors like ourselves find a spot to moor up for the princely sum of eating at his taverna! Geroge indicated that we should go bows to between the anchor chains of two other boats. Hmmmm sod that for a first time solo park-up. M was all for heading off elsewhere but I knew it would be like this anywhere else and Kastos was apparantly smaller than Kalamos! Having been persuaded to find us somewhere else, George parked another boat and we ended up coming in stern to next to him and in front of a local boat. The chap next door, took our lines and tied us up through his boat with a bow spring. George took a stern spring to the shore and we were done! We'd made it. Got off the boat and had our first beer of the day sitting in the sunshine with S&R and a guy called Steve from S.I. who was teaching a couple to sail who were on their honeymoon.

Later, having showered and changed, we emerged again from the boat to find George at the quayside. He shook our hands enthusiastically saying "My name is George, you eat at my taverna". So we did!! The food was so-so. I had swordfish and it didn't set me alight but of course it might just be my bad choice because everyone else raved about theirs! One thing that was true to form was the red wine. Very drinkable and of course, we got through another 2 bottles. An early night was in store - very tiring this sailing. Apart from the mooring nightmare I rather liked Kalamos.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Spartakhori to Sivota

1st September

Well, we slept but I've no idea how well really. I was awoken at some unknown hour by the distant voice of a chap gabbling away in Greek. Went back to sleep and dreamt that Spartakhori had a big tidal wave coming in (weird!) - we got up at 7.15 and had a coffee, sitting in the cockpit overlooking the bay. We seemed to be the first up apart from the local fishermen, so it was pretty special to have the place to ourselves for a while. Next door (Sally and Peter) were next up and we chatted to them for a while and then walked up to the taverna to see what we could find for breakfast. We went for the yoghurt option as we already had bread and we'd bought some honey in a little shop in Vlikho yesterday. Sat in the cockpit eating our yoghurt and fighting off wasps, then Chris (son of Neil and Di) turned up to announce that he was going to teach us stern mooring - in Vathi, the bay next door.

Once we were ready to leave, we managed, with Chris's help, to squeeze ourselves out of the ridiculously small parking bay by reversing out. Fun and games! We then did some runs at reversing up to a mooring buoy before doing the same up to the harbour wall and Rodney (the rib). Marco seemed to be doing ok so Chris sped off round to Vathi and we followed on a few minutes later. Ruth and Sean were already there practicing their stern mooring and we followed suit. Evidentally we didn't do too bad because after a couple of goes, Chris let us moor up ourselves on the other side of the harbour. Naturally, all the stress of worrying that we WOULDN'T be able to do it called for a large Mythos and this seemed a good time to order some lunch to go with it. Ahhh the first Greek salad of the holiday - oh, and the first stuffed tomatoes of the holiday. Hurrah! Chris sat with us chatting about his oh so fantastic life (grrr we hate you Chris) running a successful yacht charter company in Greece all summer (!) which most of us can only dream of. After a while, Ruth and Sean came across and we struck a deal to sail down the east coast of Meganissi together, ending up in Sivota in the evening, where we would meet once more with Sail Ionian. I should stress here that this was NOT a flotilla holiday - and never felt like one - but we did feel reasonably 'safe' knowing that the guys from S.I. would be there to catch our lines should we get into trouble!

However, the best laid plans and all that meant that Ruth and Sean sailed off ahead of us, and we never saw them again until Sivota. As per yesterday, we struggled to make any headway with our feeble attempts at sailing and they obviously found wind where we didn't! Marco was starting to get a bit pissed off motoring everywhere so I put on a cd, brought out a beer and we chilled out for a while watching other boats motoring around like us. Suddenly the wind picked up! Sail up again, genoa out, engine off and suddenly we were doing some real-life sailing for the very first time. I think we were sailing on a beam reach but what do I know (well, what did I know at the time). It was great and all was going really well.....until I took the helm so that Marco could do some videoing. Everything went pear-shaped - I took the yacht about 90 degrees off course and M went a bit mad at me!!! He got it back on course but we lost the wind, it was taking ages and we weren't getting anywhere (again). As we reached the bottom of Meganisi, there's a separate little islet just off it. We decided not to sail between the islands but to go around the little islet. Mistake! We should have gone between. The gap was much bigger than we originally thought plus we lost speed and it was getting late, so on went the engine and we motored the rest of the way to Sivota where we knew S.I. would be waiting. It seemed to take forever but after Marco gave me a rough lesson in chart reading, I managed to chart our progress quite well though i say so myself.

We approached the headland of Sivota where there were some little houses on a hill, and motored in. This was really easy, plus Neil was all ready and waiting to help us in. We'd already picked our spot to moor up and as luck would have it, Neil chose the same spot so that gave us confidence. I dropped anchor, Marco reversed Winspit up and Neil grabbed the rope, wrapping it around a post. Unfortunately, as Marco was pulling the line tight, the rope slipped off the post and Marco careered backwards into the cockpit landing on his backside with his legs in the air. The first of many 'comedy moments'! Neil apologised and Marco put the line through one of the more reliable mooring rings! Now we were safe. Neil had a cold beer waiting at the Olive Press bar across the bay and offered a lift across on Rodney. However, Ruth and Sean arrived as we were getting in, so we all got out and helped them moor up. Eventually we made it across to the bar and got stuck into the beers and wine. The setting was idyllic and we could see the entire bay from where we were. We strolled back to the boat and got ready to go out, using the showers available at Yiannis taverna where we were moored. Before dinner, Sean and Ruth came over for G&Ts in the cockpit. Very civilised eh? Then we went for dinner at .....Yiannis - well it was close by and looked good. We sat upstairs where we had a great view across the harbour. Of course, wine had to be drunk, and we owed R&S a bottle as they paid last night, so we downed another couple of bottles with dinner. Afterwards, we were invited back to their boat and we ended up with their neighbours joining us on board with another bottle. Bloody sociable stuff this sailing malarky. At some stage in the evening, around midnight I think, we staggered back to Winspit where we had a top night's sleep - obviously we're getting used to sleeping on the boat...or were we just knocked out by alcohol????

Sail Ionian Greek Sailng Odyssey

31st August 2008
I'll leave out the boring stuff about how we got to Greece - for the record though, we stayed at the Sofitel Gatwick, then got the 06.30 Preveza flight with Monarch. Outward journey was fabulously non-eventful. The flight left on time, we had extra legroom seats which actually WERE extra legroom, and we were off the plane at Preveza nice and quickly - waiting with Linda from Sail Ionian before we knew it for another couple with whom we would share a taxi ride down to Vlikho. As we all travelled through Lefkas, we chatted with the other couple (Sean and Ruth). Turns out that they were quite inexperienced as well so it looked as though we wouldn't be the only 'beginner' sailors taking a boat out! I was getting a little nervous as we sped along the coastline looking at the yachts and the glistening sea. What were we letting ourselves in for? Would we be able to sail the boat on our own? Would Sail Ionian think we were crap sailors and insist on putting a skipper with us for the whole holiday (help!!)? As we drove through Nidri, a tourist was waiting to cross the road next to the taxi. It crossed my mind that if this holiday was a roaring success, we may not want to do a traditional "hotel package" holiday in Greece ever again!!

Eventually, we reached Vlikho and got out of the taxi to be greeted by Di who is very friendly, much like everyone else in the Sail Ionian 'family'. We boarded our boat, a Bavaria 32 called Winspit and dumped our bags, eager to take a look at her (Winspit that is, not Di). She had a fore and aft cabin - which Marco quickly bagged as his 'dressing room', loads of storage, one head (toilet to the non-yachties who may read this) and a good sized saloon for the two of us. On the table was a welcome pack of food - a bottle of red wine (yippee), bread, olives and a fruit bowl. In the fridge (yes we had a kitchen too), was tzatziki, milk, juice and BEER (yippee yahoo). We couldn't wait to get going, but first, the boring bit - paperwork! We sat with our first Mythos of the holiday under the vines of a small café while Neil (Di's husband) went through the charts and pilot guides advising us of great places to go and where wasn't so good. The top tip? Avoid flotillas!!!! This advice would come back to haunt us almost every day. Having then signed our lives away (better not sink the boat then), we were nearly ready. The boat was officially handed over to us, along with a what-does-what talk through and we were confirmed as skipper and crew of one!

The agreement was that everyone heads off and those who want to, meet the family at Spartakhori in time for sundowners/dinner etc. We cast off and started to motor out of Vlikho. This was it....the start of two weeks of bareboat sailing.......just the two of us on our own boat. A boat of lads ahead of us on a S.I. yacht immediatly put the sails up. It didn't look a good idea to us, with a narrow bottleneck to negotiate before the Ionian opened up so we carried on motoring out.

Once we were through the bottleneck and Nidri, we attempted to put up the mainsail. Hmmm...take two inexperienced sailors, one mainsail and 4knots of wind and what do you get? Answer? Nowhere really! We faffed about a bit watching all the other S.I. boats whizzing off towards Meganissi and wondered what we were doing wrong. Of course, they were probably motor-sailing but we hadn't thought of that at this stage - we MUST sail!! That's what we're here for. However, after an hour of going about half a nautical mile, we gave up and motored with the sails up towards errr...Spartakhori?? Didn't look much like it to me, and especially as all the S.I. boats were heading into the harbour next door. We decided to follow everyone else and of course, as we got nearer it became obvious that they were right. On arrival, there didn't look to be any room at all and we were aware of a burly Greek bloke yelling something from the end of a pontoon...was that aimed at us??? We never found out, but Neil came out on Rodney-the-Rib and pointed us towards the corner of the harbour and the tiniest gap you've ever seen in your life. He expected us to get in there??? Well, we would never have done it on our own or even attempted it, but of course, with S.I. help it was a doddle (of sorts). Came in bows to and Matt from S.I. jumped on board and assisted us with the lazy line. Our first ever park!

We jumped off and headed to the taverna on the beach and had an ice cold beer. Luxury-our first ''end of proper sailing'' beer! We then stepped back on to Winspit to freshen up then back again to the taverna for dinner. The taverna had no menus - instead, we were invited to view the kitchen. Everything was fresh - fish, chicken/meat kebabs, marinated steak etc. We ordered a carafe of white wine and our food and spent an hour or so watching it get dark over the Ionian. As we were finishing our wine, our taxi friend Sean came over and asked how we'd got on with our sailing. He invited us over to where he and Ruth were sitting so we sat with them while they had their dinner. They offered us to share their wine, so of course it would have been rude not to. It would also have been rude not to offer to buy one back so another bottle was ordered and drank while the conversation flowed and the waves lapped against the moored up boats. Eventually, we managed to stagger back to the boat and got to sleep at about 11.30pm. What a great start to the hols....already we've sailed to a different island and made new friends and we've only been in Greece for 12 hours! Is this perfection?????

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Start of The Journey

"The Journey" actually started in Mykonos back in 2002 when we were sitting on a beach watching a yacht appear in the bay, where it anchored up. Half a dozen lads leapt into a dinghy, motored across to the only taverna in site, clambered out and went inside. Just over an hour later, they piled out full of Mythos and moussaka and motored back to the yacht. Anchor up and off they went to the next bay. We looked at each other and both said 'Bastards - bloody lucky bastards!'

Imagine having your own yacht and being able to sail wherever you want. An impossible dream? We thought so - we assumed these people had rich parents, city jobs or were drugs runners. Where else did they get the money from to sail a yacht around the Greek islands???
Fast forward to 2007 and we were in Menorca. Once again, we watched yachts come and go in little bays........that little light went on again and we started to think that maybe this was something we too could get into. A quick question at the local yacht centre confirmed our worst fears. All we could hire with our (zero) experience would be a bathtub. To sail a REAL boat, we would have to do (horror) exams and gain some experience.

The return from Menorca was swiftly followed by enrollment in a Competent Crew course, followed by Marco doing DaySkipper theory and practical. Based on the fact that he would of course pass, we booked a bareboat charter in the Ionian at the end of August, with a view that if we enjoyed it so much, maybe...just maybe we should one day do this sailing stuff for good.