HolidayGreetings from Lefkas
31 December 2010 | Lefkas Greece
Nidri, Levkas Island
The Ionian -- Greece
We're very pleased that we did not follow conventional wisdom and abandon cruising in mid-October. Yes, we've been getting some rain. Usually a couple days a week recently but until mid-December there were plenty of days when shorts and t's are suitable in the day and a fleece at night. Until mid-December, we had no heating on Mary Ann and were quite comfortable. There are virtually no other boats out cruising so we can often side-tie to wharf instead of med-mooring, this might be compared to not having to parallel park your 5-ton truck in a busy city centre. We also have not been asked to pay any of the customary harbor fees, which are modest but do add up.
Since the last missive, we have been to a few more anchorages in Ithaca, one on Cephalonia, a few days in the south of Levkas and then spent three weeks on the island of Meganissi. We're now on the island of Levkas in the harbour of Nidri. Many of the towns and villages are jam packed with charter boats in the season but this time of year several towns did not have so much as a minimarket open. In one small town Fiskardo, named after a Norman prince, there were no shops open but several trucks came by: one selling veg, one selling chickens and one was a sort of mobile pound (or dollar) shop.
We very much enjoyed Meganissi, which this time of year has maybe 2,000 inhabitants. spread among three villages. The ferry runs about three times a day to Levkas. One of the villages has a café with internet and the north side of the island has about a half dozen lovely anchorages. The last two weeks we spent in a picturesque quiet harbor side-tied to a wharf with only two other boats. Most nights we could get power and water. Whilst in Port Spiglia we met a fascinating Welshman, Tony, who is the local diver. We had a fabulous dive on an ancient wreck which time has reduced to a field of broken amphora's (or is that amphorae). At seventy-three Tony is a bit of a role model for us younger retirees. Our only problem in Meganissi was that we still have numerous jobs to finish getting Mary Ann ship shape and going to get a couple of bolts could take most of the day with ferry rides back and forth, hence our move to Nidri on Levkas.
Levkas was formerly a British territory, for the better part of the 19th century. It is maligned as an island because it is only separated from the mainland by a marsh and a small canal. The main town has a distinctly Venetian feel from its 300 hundred years as a province of Venice. The north end has two forts built by the Venetians which are quite impressive. Julia was awed seeing both flamingos and pelicans in the salt marshes here. Luckily for us, Levkas is the home to a very extensive charter boat industry, which means plenty of boat chandleries but at present not too many boats, as they're mostly put away for the winter. We have found ourselves on several occasions congregating at an expatriate pub, the Yacht Club, to hear a bit of English and watch BBC news. It has good Wi-Fi and an ample supple of sailing mags. Sure it may not be mixing with the locals but its nice to hear native English sometimes. Nidri is much like an out of the way Florida beach town in the winter, many closed shops, little traffic and a palpable love-hate relationship with the tourists. We've still not met Nik, the owner of the taverna that Aristotle Onassis frequented but maybe he'll open for New Years!
On the boatie side we've installed a new VHF; AIS receiver and chart plotter; patched some broken fiberglass tabbing; changed the sheeting on the main sail and stay sails, installed a new deck winch, replaced two halyards, made up new dock lines; changed the dorado vents; sealed a few deck leaks, got our life raft inspected, installed the new stereo and Video monitor; replaced the pressure water piping; re-plumbed and replaced the two foot pumps; re-plumbed and rewired the wash down pump. On the down side all these jobs make a small space a bit of a disaster zone but the punch list is shrinking.
The weather has been very moderate; the coldest night was down to 8˚ centigrade: that is about 40˚ F in "old speak". We've been able to see snow on the mountain peaks and we have had to break out foulie jackets but there are some days still when a t-shirt will suffice. Today we did about a 12 mile hike and except for a few windy spells, all in shirt sleeves. Murphy is still enjoying the boatie life although he would prefer it if we did not dock so close the three Chihuahuas' on the adjacent boat as their decorum certainly leaves something to be desired. If he could speak I think his words would be "yapping rats", although we find them cute.
Christmas in the Ionian is hardly the mad affair it has become in the Anglo world. Santa Claus images have migrated from the shopping mall / credit card-driven western cultures but not so abundantly. St. Nicholas was a Greek, although he lived in what today is Turkey near Finike. An icon of St Nicholas can be found on many Greek ships and boats (including Mary Ann) as he is the patron saint of sailors. According to Greek tradition he protects sailors against the waves sinking their ships and rescued them from the angry sea. Interestingly his remains were moved in the eleventh century to Bari, Italy and were guarded there by an elite guard of Vikings sent by the Byzantines in Constantinople. The great westernization of Christmas in Greece was the moving of the day from the Orthodox calendar to the 25 of December back in the twenties the last country in Europe to do so. Gift giving is not a big tradition here at Christmas but with the repatriation of so many Greeks from Australia and the US, not to mention the tribal drum of broadcast media, commercialization is also starting taking hold.
We hope to spend a few more weeks working on the boat then pack up for a tour of Sicily and Italy in the campervan before returning it to England this spring. We'll leave Mary Ann near here and hope to be back on the water by middle to late March. Well maybe it's a bit loose to call an actual plan but let's say that's our general aim at present.
Fair Winds and Happy Holidays from the Ionian Sea
John, Julia and Murphy