A Timeless Odyssey

Allures 45 (a thing of great practical beauty)

Eastern Med Blog 2 (May/June 2018)

We lazed languidly and lethargically for 3 nights in Ormos Kalami with no wind to speak of. We swam, explored ashore and generally just “chillaxed” as the younger generation would say. It was a wonderful place surrounded by villas and deeply wooded verdant slopes, scented by salt and pine. The Durrell’s had the right idea.

On day 3 of the chillax, we pointed the bow toward Albania, skirting the coast of the mainland until it turned to Greece. We were heading for Sayiádha. The weather was close and hot with azure blue skies and the occasional cumulonimbus trying the build but thankfully never getting big enough to get angry. We went to Sayiádha because someone had said it is an insight into the Greece that is off the tourist main track. That it was, we went through the ridiculously tight harbour entrance, checked in with the Port Authority and were not charged a thing. Seeing that there were only two boats in the harbour, we walked away scratching our heads about what the two guys do in their air conditioned office all day. There were 3 Tavernas on the harbour front, all welcoming, simple and with good Greek fare. We took the bicycles into town 3 km distant. We then explored a bit into the agricultural land that covers the birds foot delta, which forms the one side of the shallow gulf that the harbour is at the head of. The town was backed by a large hill (the Welsh and the Brits may have called it a mountain) it provided a interesting backdrop and the Albanian border ran along the top of it. It was a simple place with people eking out a living, fishing and growing things that relied on liquidised, piercingly pungent, brown stuff from animals to grow. Fortunately the aroma was not reaching the harbour. The locals seemed cheerful enough about there existence.

We had a crew change approaching and an appointment with a laundry to fulfil. We had yet another zero wind day and hence we motored back to Corfu town, anchoring in Ormos Garitsas just off the Nautical Athletic Club of Corfu (NAOK) yacht club, in the shadow of the old fort. This structure is complete with something that looked a bit like the Parthenon but turned out to be a church built during the British occupation 1814 to 1864. As luck would have it the morning dawned to a building southerly, which put us on a lee-shore. We lugged washing and rubbish ashore noticing that half of NOAK is given to a swimming pool in the sea, with starting blocks for races and an active and quaint gaggle of old ladies that come down to take the water and socialise. All rather nice!

The walk in search of a laundry was anything but nice. Hot sweaty stuff with big bags. After a few unappreciated navigational deviations, we found our first laundry. They wanted €45 for 2 loads. Veronica’s gauge was going into the red when an elegantly dressed Greek lady helped out and actually walked with her for 10 minutes to find the other laundry. A ten minute walk and the 2 loads cost €8,50. Restored faith in humanity returned Veronica’s gauge to the blue level but I had at this stage decided not to witness any more of the red gauge stuff and I busied myself with the other mission for the morning, getting a Greek data SIM card. This was successful and I headed back to the boat as I was slightly concerned about the holding. It was holding but I went out to it and fetched Veronica when she called. It was a bouncy tender ride back to the boat struggling to keep the laundry dry, the gauge was creeping up again but luckily the wind was dropping.

Clive was arriving on a 9pm flight, so we decided to move the boat into the SE corner of the bay, where there was better protection from the prevailing wind and where it was closer to the airport for Clive’s arrival and Veronica’s departure the next day. We occupied ourselves with some boat cleaning and Veronica went ashore to buy some minor groceries. Later on, I walked to the airport to meet Clive. I overestimated how long the walk would take and additionally Clive’s flight was delayed by ½ an hour. So I had an extended period of people watching until I stumbled on a rickety outdoor beer garden at the end of the airport car park, an unlikely place for a beer garden. It was warm and humid but on meeting Clive, we decided to walk back, stopping in for a beer on the waterfront and then having a few snacks and drinks with Veronica on the boat when we got there.

The next morning it was dead calm, fortuitous for us as the plan was to explore the Corfu fort and old town. Like anywhere in Greece the history is interesting, Corfu is mentioned in Homer in 1200BC as Skheria, the island of the Phaeacians. The in between history is too long to go into here so skipping to the modern era, 229BC colonised by Rome, in 1431, 1573 and 1716, there were major assaults by the Turks, 1797 the French occupation started and from 1814 to 1864 it was occupied by the British (as a result they still play cricket, eat fruit cake and drink ginger beer). It was ceded to Greece in 1864.

We visited the Fort and climbed up to the lighthouse in the already hot morning sun. The the views from the top were worth the perspiring for. We retreated to the narrow passages and limestone flagstone alleys of the old town with an extraordinary number of quaint shops, selling everything from olive oil, soap, boards and other accoutrements made from olive tree roots to blue eye charms. The deep shade of the alleyways was crowded with people from all over Europe, that had spilled out of planes and cruise ships. We retreated to a sidewalk table to have one of the best savoury crepes I have had in a long time (definitely not crepe). We watched the good looking local police women come past on their bicycles, guns holstered at their side. After soaking up the environment for a while, we returned to the boat for lunch, stopping at the wonderful panorama deck above the Nautical Athletic Yacht Club for beer and G&T on the way home.

Veronica said her goodbyes mid-afternoon and headed for the airport. She was flying back to London to hook up with her sister who was coming over from Cape Town to visit her daughter and daughter’s fiancé who were working in Dublin. There was no wind, so we motored to Petriti and anchored off the Panorama restaurant. Clive and I had another excellent meal there and swam and chilled.

Late the next morning we motor-sailed across to the mainland, Moutros, where there are three small-uninhabited islands with sheltered channels between them and some very tasteful hotel complexes on the mainland side of these. We went stern to the wall with a line to the shore but a strong wind came up later and one gust on the beam started our anchor dragging. We had to scuttle quickly before we blew onto the catamaran next to us. Luckily some of the boats in the channel anchorage had left and we found a spot to swing securely. We explored ashore, had a waterfront beer in one of the many tavernas and picked one to comeback to for dinner. Splice, the boat we had met in Kalami were there too, so we had a drink ashore with them before dinner.

As is so often the case in the Ionian, the next morning was mirror calm and we both in turn went for a long paddle board around the islands and into the channel with the upmarket hotel. A strong southerly blow was predicted. We got the sails up, one reef in from the start, 2 reefs at the end and had an excellent sail on the wind to Paxos. It was one of those sails were we set the autopilot to sail 34 degrees to the apparent wind and in the beginning were heading for the rock garden at the bottom of Corfu but as it progressed the direction kept coming around in our favour until we sailed a big arc straight into Lakka on the top of Paxos. Lakka is stunning bay with white sand and turquoise water. It was packed with boats that had run for shelter from the 20 knot wind gusting 30. We saw a space and dropped anchor, of course the space was there for a reason, it was over a patch of weed, so slowly we dragged and we had to go and squeeze in elsewhere where the sand was white and the holding secure. Because there was no room to swing a cat, we could only get 25m of chain out, which was too little for the conditions but the holding was solid. After dealing with the gesticulating Germans claiming that we had laid our anchor over his, which was nonsense, we dived and swam the anchor to check. We had a great afternoon and evening, simply admiring the impressive surroundings and setting. By evening the wind was dropping and we were confident in the anchor even with only 25m of chain out, so we had a fantastic pizza in the village.

The next day dawned calm with very light winds in the forecast all day. As any yachtsman knows now your anchoring worries are different, maybe the boats won’t all weathervane in the same direction. It seldom happens but we put some fenders down in case. We hired scooters for the day and went out exploring the island. Paxos is world famous for its Olive oil, surprisingly we did not really find much of it on the island, well at least it was not being marketed. The olive groves are intensive with the ancient stone wall terraces. The highest point on the island is probably about 300m and the western side is a cliff into the sea. We stopped in Longos for morning coffee, Giaos for an excellent fresh salad lunch and after some navigational errors of the pleasant meandering kind, explored Mongonisi on the southern tip.

The days had now fallen into a rhythm, with Clive up at 6pm when there was no wind and going for a long stand up paddle-board (SUP) session, coming back an hour later by which time the coffee was ready, me taking my turn on the paddle board. Like Clive says in these waters and in these conditions to SUP is a winner. Good exercise, a chance to explore nooks and crannies around the coast and peer through the crystal clear turquois water. The other winner at breakfast time was the Greek yogurt. I told Clive you have to make sure you get the 5% fat one, and then he discovered the 10% fat one. Creamy and delicious, with sprinklings of muesli, nuts, ground pistachio and dried apricots. Welcome to Greece.

We then spent a night on the town quay at Gaios, the main town on Paxos. It is a stunning setting for a yacht. There is a narrow channel that arcs around a deeply wooded island with a fort on it and a lively and vibrant quayside. We got chatting to the Aussies on the boat next door and they invited us to come over to their boat for take away pizza. We decided that our contribution would be ice cream for dessert. We went off on our mission to find it but with time in hand, had a glass of wine at a quayside taverna. It was here, perched on our tall stools that we witnessed our worst third party yacht mooring episode ever. It was a amusing to start with and then left us fearing for the crew, who were totally undirected by a stupidly determined but clueless skipper. The Dutch guy on the boat in the next berth was tearing his hair out. They made about four attempts at putting the anchor out and reversing, gave up and decided to come to the quay and put a long line on and then go out to drop the anchor. The problem was the did not have a long line, so they tied spinnaker halyards with snap-shackles on them and other lines together, so of course the knots and shackles would not slip through the rings. The young girls were getting hand and fingers in the mess and were going to loose a finger soon. All of this and there was hardly a breath of wind. If there was a cross wind this would have been very messy. You never get on another skippers boat but Clive said, Mart you have to do it before someone gets hurt. I asked and the German skipper (of sorts), who reluctantly agreed to accept help, he clearly was not going to let me take the helm, which was fine but he was also reluctant to take instruction. Back to basics, I got him to go out of the narrow channel and just drive around in the open while we sorted out the mess and tangle of lines in the cockpit and prepared two lines with no knots. I also had to get the anchor man to understand that you had to let the anchor keep paying out as the boat reversed, they had been dropping it and dragging it with them, leaving the chain far to short. Enough said, we got the boat secure and the Dutch guy (the boat nextdoor) nearly hugged me and spoke with gushing gratefulness, explaining that he wanted to go on the boat with Captain Clueless but couldn’t, since if there was an incident with his boat it would be difficult to explain to his insurance company that he was on the boat inflicting the damage. We had a fantastic meal with the Aussies.

We left early the next morning. A light wind was to fill in, in the afternoon. We motored over to Emerald bay on Antipaxos. It lived up to its name, we dropped the hook, swam and SUP’d around. At noon the tripper and other boats were getting dense. We then had one of the finest >30Nm gennaker runs I have had in ages down to the Lefkas channel. We made the 6pm opening bridge and anchored in Ligia, it had been a long day and I think it was the famous Clive King Risotto we had that night. I will leave the delights of the inland sea for the next blog. Check out the gallery.