17/09/2011, Near Frikes
We'd had a great time in Sivota, swarming, raucous and sweltering as it was. But now we needed something different. The complete opposite in fact. We'd spotted a quiet anchorage as we left Frikes so it was to there we headed when we were eventually able to move from the quay.
Arriving after a great sail (a steady 6.7 knots SOG for those who like to know these things) for a late lunch, there were a few other boats around but they gradually disappeared as the afternoon wore on. Maybe it had something to do with the wind and the boat that ran aground on the rocks nearby or maybe it was just that they were chartered or on flotillas and had somewhere else to be. Whatever, by dinner we were alone.
Tranquil and restful, the clear water teeming with fish, we'd finally found our deserted bay. As night fell a fisherman laid his net around us and a ferry made its way in the distance. In the deepening darkness before the waning moon rose, the sky filled with a multitude of stars, the Milky Way spilling its trail beyond them. Here was one of those brief instances in time that become "the photographs and still-frames in your mind". We've had so many of those on this journey. Sometimes you don't need a camera.
We were thwarted from berthing in our usual space in Sivota yesterday. The Ionian Regatta Committee was reserving those spaces for their own boats. Not to worry - there was plenty of room a few berths down closer to the restaurant. Not ideal for privacy but we guessed there would be precious little of that anyway. It was only after we had tied up that we noticed the stage - about 5meters from the stern!
The race was due to start at 2pm today but here at the finish things really got underway when the large, rather ramshackle committee boat arrived in the harbour. And boy, do they know how to make an entrance! To the strains of "Land of Hope and Glory" belting out across the water, bodies gyrated and flairs blazed. Oh, for a camera. They came to rest two boats down from us, complete with speakers that could have graced Ozzy Osbourne's stage. Looks like the party had started.
To help it along into a barrel went a crate of vodka, another or Metaxa, what looked like quite a lot of wine and a couple of cartons of orange juice. This lethal brew well and truly had its effect as the evening went on.
The first competitors started to arrive, heralded in with the themes from "633 Squadron" and "The Dambusters". It wasn't long before we had boats rafted to both sides of out bow. The atmosphere was jubilant and the buzz contagious. We were in the thick of it without having to move from the cockpit!
As night fell a live band struck up on the stage and soon we were bouncing around with everybody else. Great evening. Oh, apparently the sailing was good, too.
The pilot book describes Frikes as picture postcard pretty and it certainly is. It also mentions the inevitable tourism and we thought we might be in for a noisy time when the lead boat of a flotilla moored alongside us on the quay. Surprisingly this didn't turn out to be the case.
Once the flotilla was in along with a few more private boats we were three or four abreast along the quay while the opposite shore had plenty of space to go stern or bows to. It does seem more bouncy over there though. The lead crew had invited us to attend their punch party that evening so it was coconut flavoured wine for sundowners. After dinner in one of the tavernas we staggered back to the boat expecting not to get much sleep as crews returned to their boats over Seren Môr's fore cabin. As it turned out we never heard them. The only thing to disturb our sleep was a line frapping and the bells attached to the goats as they came down to drink during the night.
At the punch party, Rhys, the engineer, a Welsh lad, mentioned that all the Sailing Holidays' flotillas as well as those of other companies would be heading for Sivota on Thursday for the area's regatta. So we had a decision to make. Should we keep well away from the inevitable chaos or should we go to the biggest party of the year? What would you do?
I would think most people in the western world would be able to remember where they were ten years ago today. The date has become synonymous with the attacks on the USA and the appalling images that were beamed live around the globe into every home with a television. The consequences were far reaching, still surrounding us today and affect us as individuals every time we fly or enter many public buildings. The war in Afghanistan seems no nearer a conclusion.
As the newspapers and televisions channels fill again with those images I wonder if the personal effect on those of us who weren't directly involved is still reverberating. Ten years ago I was decorating a house that has long since ceased to be my home. Were the events of 9/11 relevant to the changes that came afterwards? I don't think they were, at least directly, but perhaps we all reflected on our own lives as we saw the fragility of our existence all too clearly on the screen in our living rooms. Combining this with the awareness that there are not as many days left to us as have already gone, even if we live to a ripe old age, makes for a potent brew of dissatisfaction.
Sitting on a yacht in the sunshine of a beautiful Greek harbour couldn't really be more different than that day ten years ago. Inevitably the question of where we will be on the twentieth anniversary arises. How can we begin to guess?
Slipping out of Argostoli around 8.30 this morning the sea was flat and the wind light. We'd had a couple of lumpy nights but nothing unpleasant and the accompanying breeze during the day was wonderful. It meant we could explore more than has been possible for the last couple of months.
We walked to the head of the bay and also crossed over the crumbling bridge to the other side where there is the basic structure of an uncompleted marina. The area around it, evidently once thought prime land for development is rapidly deteriorating and strewn with litter. Unsurprisingly, the crew of the only boat we saw who stayed there had to deal with a rat on board. So, not really to be recommended.
The best walk is north to the headland. Once you get out of the town the pine trees take over and there are several small beaches and a couple of classy-looking restaurants. One of these is on the site of an old waterwheel which has been restored and set amongst a landscaped terrace - tempting for a special occasion, perhaps.
Further on is the lighthouse rather pretentiously shaped like a temple on which the local youth have expressed their opinion, daubing it in graffiti. Even so it's a pretty place to linger before heading back to the quay.
I finally got to have a look around the shops yesterday but found them frankly overpriced. Neil,however, found a pair of swimshorts labelled at 5 euros outside a Chinese bazaar. When he put them back on the rail the shop assistant rushed out saying they were 4 euros and got a sale. This meant, oh sweet joy, that Neil finally consigned his old shorts, verging on the indecent, to the bin. Glory be!
After the serene beauty of the Ionian "lake" where we've spent the last couple of months, motoring south along Kefalonia's west coast on Tuesday seemed rugged and uninviting. The sheer, rapidly-eroding cliffs look daunting, not even home to the seabirds you might expect.
Turning the SW corner at the green-domed lighthouse the terrain suddenly flattens out and small communities dot the friendlier landscape.
The wind turbines on the dry, barren hillside approaching Argostili were the first we'd seen in Greece and are perhaps an ominous sign of the usual blowy conditions in the area.
However, we would have welcomed a little wind yesterday as the pressure and humidity continued to mount. The black clouds eventually tripped over the hillside and the brief thunderstorm finally brought a longed for freshness.
The quay at Argostoli runs alongside a busy road, separated by a palm tree-lined promenade, so this is not a quiet stopover. But carry on walking south along the promenade and it opens into a green, less busy walk around the head of the bay. The town is popular, with a parade of mostly British pensioners and is a port of call for the cruise liners. There was even a mega, mega super yacht berthed when we arrived - we guessed Qatari royal family.
It's a great spot to re-provision with the best fruit and veg shops we've seen since the markets in Italy. Water is freely available on the quayside (you'll need a long hose) but the port police are VERY active, although at 7 euros a night not unreasonable. Just make sure you have your paperwork in order!
Pride of place, though, goes to the turtles that seem to have made the bay their home. They happily cruise along the shoreline accepting tit bits from the fishermen much to the delight of the tourists clicking away with cameras. You don't see that everywhere.