Freya & Us

Vessel Name: Freya of Wight
Vessel Make/Model: Westerly Oceanranger
Hailing Port: Portishead
25 July 2017 | Bristol - 6,358 NM
25 July 2017 | Bristol - 6,358 NM
10 July 2017 | Preveza - 6,358 NM
04 July 2017 | Nydri - 6,293 NM
24 June 2017 | Port Athini - 6,255 NM
14 June 2017 | Messolonghi - 6,189 NM
11 June 2017
09 June 2017 | Astakos - 6149 NM
02 June 2017 | Fiskardo, Kefalonia - 6,098 NM
02 June 2017 | Fiskardo, Kefalonia - 6,098 NM
17 May 2017
11 May 2017 | Preveza - 6020 NM
02 May 2017 | Mandraki, Corfu, Greece - 5,950 NM
29 April 2017 | Marina di Orikum, Albania - 5,866 NM
29 April 2017 | Marina di Orikum, Albania - 5,866 NM
27 April 2017 | Sarande, Albania - 5,800 NM
27 April 2017
19 April 2017 | Sarande, Albania 5,800 NM
17 April 2017 | Paxos, Greece - 5,748 NM
11 April 2017 | Nydri, Greece - 5,698 NM
Recent Blog Posts
25 July 2017 | Bristol - 6,358 NM

Gorgeous

From Meteora we drove to the city of Ioannina. This is a small city built on the banks of lake Pamvotis and is about 50 miles east of the port of Igoumenitsa on the Ionian Sea. Our hotel was in one of its suburbs, Perama. Perama is famous for its large limestone show cave. It was wonderfully cool and [...]

25 July 2017 | Bristol - 6,358 NM

For Your Eyes Only

Our road trip started with a drive to Delphi. On the way we stopped at Galaxidi, a very beautiful village on the banks of the the Gulf of Patras, where we went for a stroll and invested in some very fetching sun hats. We had left ours on the boat and in the heat these were essential. When we arrived [...]

10 July 2017 | Preveza - 6,358 NM

Inland Sea

We survived our last night of heavy winds with no problems and I even managed a few hours sleep as the winds died down not long after midnight. We went ashore in the morning to stock up on supplies and to say goodbye to Beccs on Miss Chips. Our plan was to head out to the Inland Sea that afternoon. When [...]

04 July 2017 | Nydri - 6,293 NM

Stowaway!

We stayed in Port Atheni for 3 nights in total, just chilling out and snorkelling when the weather got too hot. But it was time for a change of scene (and we also needed to escape the wasps that were driving us down below at meal times) so we motored the 8 miles to Palairos on the mainland. We anchored [...]

24 June 2017 | Port Athini - 6,255 NM

Cats Cradles

Our next stop was Poros 35 miles away on Kephalonia. As we had to motor all the way we were very relieved that Paul had managed to identify the problem with the auto pilot and it behaved well - phew! The first night we anchored just around the point where the water was so clear we could actually see [...]

14 June 2017 | Messolonghi - 6,189 NM

Muddy Tracks

After 3 nights in Astakos we thought we'd exhausted its possibilities and moved on. Our plan was to head for Messolonghi anchoring for 1 night on the way. We motored (again!) to our planned anchorage but there were lots of fish farms and very little shelter as the land was so flat. There was a lovely [...]

Gorgeous

25 July 2017 | Bristol - 6,358 NM
Cool and Sunny
From Meteora we drove to the city of Ioannina. This is a small city built on the banks of lake Pamvotis and is about 50 miles east of the port of Igoumenitsa on the Ionian Sea. Our hotel was in one of its suburbs, Perama. Perama is famous for its large limestone show cave. It was wonderfully cool and full of the most beautiful stalactites and stalagmites which didn't need embellishing with tales of witches and the like to amaze us.

In Ioannina itself we explored the old walled town visiting the fort and the tomb and mosque (now a museum) of Ali Pasha before heading down to the lake to catch a boat for a trip to the island in its centre. We spent a pleasant couple of hours circumnavigating the island and having a drink while we waited for the boat to take us back.

The next day we visited the ruined Sanctuary of Dodoni, where yet another Oracle did their stuff. Here the priests interpreted the rustling of the leaves on a sacred oak tree to deliver their prophecies. The most impressive building at the site was the amphitheater, which could seat 40,000 spectators. Before returning to our hotel we decided to drive around the lake. The lakeshore was lined with cafes in the city, but soon we were driving along the shore looking across the waters through gaps in the very tall reed beds that lined the banks. We were lucky enough to spot some pelicans at one point and we really enjoyed the day.

The following day we headed north into the Pindus mountains to visit the Vikos Gorge. The gorge is about 20km long and 1600m deep at its deepest point. According to the Guinness Book of Records its the worlds deepest canyon in relation to its width, but this apparently is very controversial. Thankfully it was much cooler when we set off, but the clouds soon thickened and we were driving through the mountains into the clouds and rain. Between the showers we did manage to walk to the various viewpoints without getting too wet, but the views were stunning and the low clouds just added to the atmosphere. At times the showers were torrential making driving all but impossible. We timed lunch to sit out one of the worst downpours and ended up in a wonderful restaurant that specialised in mushroom dishes. While we ate our wild mushroom pasta and truffle risotto we watched the lightening work it's way through the mountains and wondered if our car insurance covered bodywork damage caused by the marble sized hailstones that fell for a around 10 minutes.

Before the modern road around the gorge was completed (sometime in the 1960s) many of the villages that cling precariously to the sides of the gorge could only be reached by foot. Some were linked by steep stone staircases carved into the mountainside which would challenge even the fittest amongst us. The foot paths crossed the rivers that run through the gorge on arched stone bridges which seem to blend into the natural landscape. The gorge was a beautiful and stunning place, so different from the coast and the sea which is the picture of Greece most of us have in our heads. It was my (Paul's) favourite part of Greece.

After a final night in Ioannina it was time to return to Freya, but of course there was more to see on the way. First stop was the coastal town of Parga. We nearly stopped here with Freya when we returned from Albania in May but chose to anchor in nearby Mourtos instead. Parga is a beautiful bay almost totally enclosed by low lying rocks and a small island, but the village is now a large and buzzing tourist town with hotels and bars aplenty. Its more a package tour destination rather than a quaint fishing village, but it had a certain charm nonetheless. We walked along the seafront, around the ruined fort and had lunch in a taverna with fabulous views and mediocre food, before heading back to the car.

Our final stop was at the town of Arta. Arta is not really on the tourist trail, but does have a pretty medieval bridge and a very neglected fort to look at. There were a number of other buildings and ruins to see, but as we were there on a Monday they were all closed. So after a quick wander through the town centre we headed back to Freya.

We spent the next couple of nights sleeping aboard Freya on the hard, which always feels very strange, boats should be in the water not propped up 8ft above the ground. We did some socialising with friends, did a little maintenance work and put Freya to bed before flying back to Bristol for the rest of the summer.

The link to our map seems to be stopping people leaving comments on the blog, so I've removed it from these posts for now. I will be keeping it up to date so simply go to one of the special map only posts and click the link there to see it

For Your Eyes Only

25 July 2017 | Bristol - 6,358 NM
Cool and Sunny
Our road trip started with a drive to Delphi. On the way we stopped at Galaxidi, a very beautiful village on the banks of the the Gulf of Patras, where we went for a stroll and invested in some very fetching sun hats. We had left ours on the boat and in the heat these were essential. When we arrived in Delphi we checked into our hotel, which as advertised had fantastic views, if you ignored the electricity pole and transformer which was right in front it! We sat out the worst of the afternoon heat before venturing out for a stroll in the evening. The village really only exists as a tourist base for visitors to the ruins, but it was a nice place nonetheless.

We spent the next morning exploring the ruins which were walking distance from our hotel and they were as impressive as we had hoped. The Oracle of Delphi, was a woman who, in the Temple of Apollo, sat above a fissure in the rocks, through which (in ancient times) gas escaped from deep within the earth. If this wasn't enough to send the woman into a trance (mad?), she was dosed up on three plant extracts including cannabis. She would babble incoherently and priests, who sat a safe distance from the fissure would interpret her ravings into prophecies for the visiting nobles who paid handsomely for the privilege. The ruins where quite large and in addition to the Temple of Apollo there were temples to other gods, Treasuries, built by most of the Greek City States that contained expensive gifts and statues to curry favour with the gods and the Oracle. There were also buildings to house the priests and visitors and a large stadium and amphitheatre that hosted the many festivals that were held in Delphi. After a visit to the thankfully air conditioned museum, we returned to our hotel to sit out the heat.

The next day we drove north into the region of Thessaly to Meteora. Our first stop was to visit the Corycian Cave on the slopes of mount Parnassos. Excavations in the cave have determined that it was inhabited in Neolithic times and that it was sacred to the ancient Greeks. It was a site for astragalomancy - annimals were slaughtered and their knucklebones were looked at to determine the prophecy. Around 24,000 knucklebones were excavated from the cave in the 1960s. We parked half way up the mountain and walked the two miles to cave. The cave was enormous perhaps 50m across, 30m deep and 6m high. It was quite awesome and very atmospheric.

On the boat we occasionally watch DVDs and like to watch films based where we are. A few days before we left we watched The 300 Spartans. Back in the car, we realised that our route to Meteora was going to pass quite close to the pass of Thermopylae. This is where King Leonidaes of Sparta led a force of 300 Spartans (and 700 Thespians) against an immense Persian Army. They managed to hold the pass for three days against overwhelming odds and so we had to stop and pay our respects. Too much of a coincidence so we had to go, although there isn't really much to see.

In Greek, Meteora means literally the "middle of the sky" or "suspended in the air" and Meteora lives up its name. It is an area full of immense monolithic pillars (hundreds of metres high) and huge "hill like" boulders which look really alien.

There is evidence of human habitation here from around 23,000 years ago, including outside a Neolithic cave, a stone wall which is claimed to be the oldest existing human construction yet to be discovered. Unfortunately when went we to see the cave and wall it was closed due to "technical reasons".

Monks and hermits lived in Meteora from as early as the 10th or 11th centuries but in the 14th century, to escape ever more frequent raids from the Ottoman Turks, the monks moved their monasteries to the tops of the pillars. Initially the only way to access the monasteries was to be winched up in a basket, but now they have carved (a lot of) steps into the mountainside to reach them. The area is truly stunning and the views from the top are well worth the climb. One of the monasteries featured in the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only" where Roger Moore climbed up to the top and after killing a few baddies lowered the basket to his waiting colleagues where they went on to save the world (again). We clearly had to watch this film (again) when we got back to the boat.

We spent a couple of days touring the area and visiting three of the monasteries and also walked into the hills to visit some of the caves/hermitages used in the 11th century. Walking back down a steep rocky path from one of these, Lorraine lost her footing and fell somehow landing upside down across the path. She was quite shaken and had a number of scrapes but luckily no bones were broken. She did however knock her head quite badly and the right side of her face had a very impressive bruise on it for a while.

The link to our map seems to be stopping people leaving comments on the blog, so I've removed it from these posts for now. I will be keeping it up to date so simply go to one of the special map only posts and click the link there to see it

Inland Sea

10 July 2017 | Preveza - 6,358 NM
Sunny and Very Hot
We survived our last night of heavy winds with no problems and I even managed a few hours sleep as the winds died down not long after midnight. We went ashore in the morning to stock up on supplies and to say goodbye to Beccs on Miss Chips. Our plan was to head out to the Inland Sea that afternoon. When we returned to Freya we realised that if we were quick we could make the 15:00 opening of the bridge on the Lefkas canal. So we dumped the shopping and took off our shore lines. All that we then had to do was winch in the anchor and we were away. The first twenty five metres of chain went up no problem, but then the windlass started struggling and stopped. The anchor had dug in so well it didn't want to come up. We drove the boat forward over the anchor and it came free and we were on our way. The bridge was a little late opening so we had to slow down a little on the final approach, otherwise we would have timed it perfectly.

We arrived in Vonitsa in the Inland Sea (Gulf of Amvraki) just after 18:00 and dropped the anchor in a beautiful bay just east of the village. The bay is divided by a small island linked to the mainland by a pretty arched stone causeway. We spent a beautifully peaceful night at anchor, watching the sunset and were serenaded, first by a piper on a neighbouring boat and then a chorus of cicadas. The pipers rendition of Scotland the Brave was applauded by all the boats and he followed this with a few encores until he ran out of puff. Anchoring there was very different than the previous few nights in Nydri. However it wasn't going to be that easy. We anchored in a 15kt westerly and the wind died down to zero pretty soon afterwards, however just after dawn the wind picked up very quickly up to 25+ kts easterly. The wind was coming from completely the opposite direction in which the anchor was set. We were woken up by the anchor alarm going off and had to reset the anchor for the new wind direction at 07:30 - before we had even had a cup of tea! The heavy winds only lasted an hour or so.

That day the wind was forecast to switch back to the west in afternoon, so we thought it best to be back on the boat by then in case there was a repeat of the morning's problems, so we headed off early (for us at least) to explore Vonitsa. We took the dinghy ashore by the causeway and walked into town. Vonitsa is a nice small town, not too touristy but with a few tavernas and harbour side bars and a beach. It is overlooked by a large Venetian fort which we climbed up to and explored. There was no information on its history but the views from the top were amazing and worth the climb. We returned to Freya after stocking up on supplies and a quick visit to one of the bars.

The winds did change as forecast, but this time when the anchor tripped, it reset itself almost immediately so apart from adjusting the anchor alarm, we had nothing to do. In the evening we took the dinghy ashore twice, once to get some water for our tanks from a tap on the causeway and then again for a beautiful sunset stroll around the island through its pine forest.

We left Vonitsa, heading towards the north east corner of the inland sea and anchored off a beach near the town of Mendihion. This part of the gulf is supposed to be good for bird and turtle watching. There wasn't much in the way of bird life but we did see quite a few turtles. The sea is very murky here and they only surface briefly for air and so each sighting is very brief leaving you wondering whether it was really there. We only stayed a few hours as the anchorage was very exposed and after checking out a few alternatives returned to Vonitsa. This we time anchored nearer the town, almost under the fort. This was a good choice as not only was it was sheltered from the evening wind, but on route we saw a few dolphins.

The next morning we headed to Preveza and moored in our usual spot on the town quay. After a quick oil change, we went into town for an evening stroll and a spot of dinner. Dinner wasn't quite what we had planned though. First there was an international choral festival in the town. Groups of choral singers from all over Europe were walking through the town performing for a few minutes at a time outside the bars and tavernas, so we sat down for a drink and let the entertainment come to us for a while. We then moved on to the town square on the seafront, where earlier we saw them setting up for an event, the climax of the singing we thought. No it was a rhythmic gymnastics gala. The competitors ranged in age from 7 or 8 to young adults and the standard was varied, but always very high. By the time we were ready to move on it was nearly 10:00pm so instead of a leisurely romantic dinner, we grabbed a quick gyros on the way home.

The next day, we took Freya one mile north to the boatyard where she was duly lifted and put her to bed for the summer. Before we set off though we had to evict yet another stowaway. This time it was a tiny, two inch long lizard. We are returning home, for a break and to escape the crowds and heat for a while. The heat for most of the last month or so has been quite oppressive with temperatures sometimes pushing 40 degrees in the shade. The only thing you can do is sit and slowly melt. We will probably return in September, but before we get back to the UK, we are having a bit of a holiday and are on a road trip exploring inland for 8 or 9 days.

The link to our map seems to be stopping people leaving comments on the blog, so I've removed it from these posts for now. I will be keeping it up to date so simply go to one of the special map only posts and click the link there to see it

Stowaway!

04 July 2017 | Nydri - 6,293 NM
Nydri - 6,293 NM
We stayed in Port Atheni for 3 nights in total, just chilling out and snorkelling when the weather got too hot. But it was time for a change of scene (and we also needed to escape the wasps that were driving us down below at meal times) so we motored the 8 miles to Palairos on the mainland. We anchored off the harbour for our first night and were planning to move into the harbour the next morning, after the charter fleet that uses this port as a base left. Before we had even thought about breakfast a number of boats weighed anchor and started circling around the harbour mouth, waiting for the boats to leave. A couple of hours later as the first boat pulled away the very undignified scrap for spaces began. At that point we decided to leave them to it and stayed at anchor for another night before leisurely moving into the harbour on Tuesday morning. There was free water and electricity available on the pontoon which we think was the reason why people were so keen to get in.

Palairos was a nice little town with a beach and the usual array of bars and shops but otherwise it was unremarkable, but it was good for some swimming and chilling. Its other main attraction was the Panorama Taverna, a Greek taverna that employs a Bangladeshi chef, and hence serves "proper English curries" which were as good as we were led to believe by other boaties.

In Port Atheni, we picked up a stowaway that was with us for quite a while. One evening we saw something crawling along one of our long lines. It was a bright green cicada. We thought nothing of it at the time, but while we were at anchor a few days later realised it was still on board. We hear him every night and have been feeding him on lettuce leaves. We almost caught it one time, with the intention of releasing him ashore, but so far "Jiminy" has been to fast for us.

From Palarios we motored, again, to Sivota where we met up with Aran and Kitty. We anchored in the middle of the very sheltered bay where it was relatively cool and had a nice meal with Arran and Kitty. We raised our anchor the next morning to meet Miss Chips in Vliho.

We weren't expecting to much much from our short passage as there was no wind, but as we entered the Meganisi straits the wind accelerated and we had about 5 kts behind us. We unfurled the jib and sailed down wind at between 2.5 and 3.5 kts for just over an hour. Exciting it wasn't but it was very peaceful and satisfying.
It took us a little while to find Miss Chips as she was on the Sail Ionian charter company's pontoon and not at anchor as we expected. When we found them we realised why, Becs was on her own as Robin was working (excuse the language) ....... He is working as a skipper for a few weeks.

When we arrived in Vliho we dropped the anchor and it bit first time. However the next morning the wind changed and we realised we were a little closer to an unoccupied mooring buoy than was ideal, so no problem we thought, just raise the anchor and set it 10m further forward. It took us four attempts to get the anchor to hold securely. It seemed to set each time, but as we tested it by reversing with the engine on, we just pulled it through the soft mud. What should have taken a couple of minutes, took nearly an hour before we found a firmer bit of mud, but as least we put some charge back in the batteries! Temperatures here have been in the mid to high 30s and it was hot work. Unfortunately the water in Vliho Bay is a bit murky and doesn't encourage you to go swimming to cool down.

We stayed in Vliho for a couple of nights sharing a couple of glasses of wine with Becs and then moved a whole mile or so north to Nidri. In Nidri we anchored with lines ashore in Tranquil Bay which we were hoping would live up to its name as there are some strong winds forecast for the next couple of nights.

We celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary in Nidri, with a bottle of Greek champagne in De Blancs wine bar, where after a little while, we were joined by Arran and Dylan. Another bottle of champagne and a few glasses of wine later, helped along by a delicious meze platter, we finally found our dinghy and made our why back to Freya where we sat on deck for a while looking at the stars....and feeding the mossies. 11 years ago when we got married in Wells it was blisteringly hot and after everybody had left the party at our house, we sat in our garden staring at the stars until 4:00 am - History almost repeated itself.

The next day, while the sea in Tranquil Bay stayed quite flat as the forecast winds arrived in the evening. Initially we felt quite secure. However a few minutes after we both came down below to get out of the wind, we were hailed by our neighbours. Freya's bow was being blown onto their boat and we were a lot closer to shore than we should have been. The wind wasn't quite from the direction forecast and was hitting us beam on and our anchor had slipped.

We quickly turned the engine on and gently motored forward against our stern lines to get us away from the shore. We then tied onto our neighbours boat so we could focus on sorting the anchor. We pulled it back in with the windlass and then drove the dinghy to the bow. Then holding the anchor in the water with a rope from the bow of the dinghy, we flaked all of our anchor chain into the bottom of the dinghy. Then with the help of Murray from the neighbouring boat, we drove the dinghy out (in reverse) as far as we could go laying the anchor chain as we went, eventually dropping the anchor about 40m in front (and slightly to windward) of the boat. Then we pulled in the chain with the windlass and the boat straightened up as the anchor bit. Voila problem sorted! We then added a second shore line to the mid-ships cleat to reduce the lateral strain on the anchor and hopefully its a bit better now.

It was a bit exciting and made it much harder to relax that evening. In fact I (Paul) am writing this at 1:00 am as I can't sleep and keep checking the anchor every few minutes. The winds are now forecast to die down in 24 hours and so I've only got to stay awake for 2 days or so.

The good news is that later that same night we managed to capture Jiminy and after a night in a sandwich box with a few lettuce leaves, we released him ashore the next morning

Cats Cradles

24 June 2017 | Port Athini - 6,255 NM
Sunny and Hot
Our next stop was Poros 35 miles away on Kephalonia. As we had to motor all the way we were very relieved that Paul had managed to identify the problem with the auto pilot and it behaved well - phew! The first night we anchored just around the point where the water was so clear we could actually see the anchor at the end of its chain, 25m away, securely set on the bottom. In the morning we went into the small port and found a nice little town in a lovely setting with a gorge towering above and not to busy. There was a nice walk all around the bay and a small beach almost next to the port for our afternoon swim and snorkel (even Paul is getting in now!). On our 2nd night the port got quite busy and there was lots of talk of high winds the following day. We'd noticed a bit higher than usual on the forecast but it didn't look that bad. As the talk spread extra lines started going on - fair enough and we added an extra line each side. Then we noticed our neighbour checking his anchor every 5 minutes. More lines went on which started a snow ball effect all down the quay until there were so many lines we had cats cradles all along. (We stuck with our four). We hoped no one's anchor did slip and they had to unravel it all in a hurry! It was amazing how one nervous person could cause panic all around! Needless to say the winds didn't amount to much and it would've been a good sailing day albeit a bit choppy.

After a pleasant few days we headed back to Vathi as we hadn't had chance to explore last visit. There's a lovely big anchorage with plenty of room and very peaceful. We walked around the bay having a lovely lunch on route in the town which is really pretty. On our 2nd night katabatic winds blew off the hills and funnelled through the bay which at up to 30 knots caused a choppy night. We felt reasonably confident in our anchor holding but we're a little and concerned over whether other boat's might slip. In the morning, a bit bleary eyed, we decided to move on.

Next stop was a full on sail at between 5-6.5 kts to the small island of Kalamos. We literally blew the cobwebs out the sails which haven't been up for a while. Kalamos is spectacular with its steep mountains rising straight out of the sea. In the small port, the taverna owner, George, helps everyone moor very efficiently and packs a lot of boats into a small space. I don't really like playing boat sardines with everyone so close together but it was a pretty little village and lovely beach with several old windmills along it. When we arrived the boat 2 up said that he thought we were across his anchor - no problem, we didn't think we were but agreed to leave before him in the morning - little did we know what would happen in the morning! When the first boat raised his anchor he had another's anchor across it and we all watched the technique as they expertly freed it - a first for us although we'd heard lots of stories. Then the 2nd boat had the same - they weren't quite so expert but managed to free themselves. The third had a chain completely wrapped around his - that needed help from George and his dinghy to sort. And so it continued, nearly every boat picked up another chain - there was a cats cradle of chain under the sea! We nervously watched until our turn came hoping we could untangle ourselves without too much embarrassment but our anchor came up with no problem apart from avoiding the other boats trapped in the middle, almost an anticlimax in the end!

Then to here - Port Athini on Meganissi. Apart from a quay, fishing boats and a taverna it's just a very pretty bay. We've anchored with long lines ashore away from the quay and it's very peaceful and pretty. The only problem is the wasps which are really annoying and I have a sting on my arm which is driving me mad! We were a bit worried when a flotilla arrived and the taverna started playing Greek music for the obligatory dancing at 10 pm but they played 2 songs to much cheering followed by half a dozen disco numbers, again to much cheering and all finished by 11! And again exactly the set the 2nd night. Why can't they all be like that! Yesterday we walked over the island to little Vathi - not very far but very hilly and hot! It was a very pretty walk through olive groves to Katomeri, a pretty village on the hill with narrow windy roads and then to Vathi which again is very pretty. Obviously lunch in a quayside taverna was essential before the walk back and a much needed swim around the boat.

Muddy Tracks

14 June 2017 | Messolonghi - 6,189 NM
Sunny and Hot
After 3 nights in Astakos we thought we'd exhausted its possibilities and moved on. Our plan was to head for Messolonghi anchoring for 1 night on the way. We motored (again!) to our planned anchorage but there were lots of fish farms and very little shelter as the land was so flat. There was a lovely looking beach a bit further on but it was too shallow to get in behind a hill for shelter - too shallow is a new problem in Greece but we're near a river delta with lots of shifting sand banks. Our last option was a stunning bay on an island - but this time was very deep! Given our new skills in long line mooring we thought we'd give it a go in a corner which shallowed close in. We dropped the anchor in 16m and nervously reversed against it towards the shallow bit and Paul took our lines ashore in the dinghy - it was perfect and we were very proud of ourselves - but as we went to tighten the chain, the anchor hadn't dug in! Very disappointed but impressed with our attempts we headed back to the beach and anchored for lunch.

We decided to head on the 20 miles to Messolonghi on the north coast of the Gulf of Patras where we had to go a long way off shore to avoid the shallow water and moving sandbanks. The town is up a 2 mile channel lined with houses on stilts and passing lagoons which are a national park and wetland wildlife reserve - very different from the very mountainous parts of Greece we've visited so far. We arrived quite late and anchored in the bay which was very sheltered and peaceful - until the club started at about 11.00 and continued all night! In the morning we went into the marina - very odd as the 2 partners have fallen out and rumours abound as to whether you can go in or not, whether you can stay or be thrown out by the port police etc. But it's been fine, with all facilities working and cheap given the problems. The rumours continue in the marina with lots of boats refusing to move in case they aren't allowed back in.

We were pleased to be safely in the marina that first night as the winds picked up (as forecast), but what wasn't forecast was the thunderstorm that hammered the boat for over an hour. The deck needed a good clean and a pressure washer wouldn't have done a much better job than the rain.

Our bikes are out for the first time in a while! We spent a day cycling around the lagoons which was very hard work on the rough tracks. We are definitely here at the wrong time of year for the over wintering birds but we saw lots - most of which we couldn't identify! There were interesting fishing techniques with poles and nets across the lagoons with fishermen from the stilt houses punting in the shallow water. Disappointingly, for a national park, there was also lots of rubbish on the tracks, but this is Greece! At one point Paul cycled on ahead to see if a muddy bit of track was passable, as you can see from the picture, it wasn't!

There is a 5km causeway between the channel and the lagoons linking Messolonghi and a small beach village. We cycled along it for lovely views of the lagoons and stilt houses and sat on the beach for a while - something we don't do very often. On returning we cycled into Messolonghi and found The Heroes Garden commemorating the war of independence in the 1820s. There is a statue of Byron as he was instrumental in the uprising and died of a fever here. There's nothing else of great interest in the town but it is very nice, with a pleasant square to people watch over a drink.

Today we're having a domestic day and may go to the beach later. I think tomorrow we'll continue out travels........

The link to our map seems to be stopping people leaving comments on the blog, so I've removed it from these posts for now. I will be keeping it up to date so simply go to one of the special map only posts and click the link there to see it
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