Ionian Blog 1 (September 2020)
18 September 2020 | Plataria, Greece
Martyn Morris | Overcast with Drizzle, luck to be north of a major Medi-can
We seriously thought that we would not make it to the boat this year. As everybody knows, 2020 has been the crazy year of the dreaded virus, yet somehow we managed to visit Veronica’s brother in Australia, buy a house and move to the country and now go sailing, so we feel very blessed. This is the longest we have ever left the boat. We lifted the boat last year on 21 August 2019 after our Peloponnese circumnavigation and this year we put the boat in the water on 4 September 2020. Surprisingly, it was in remarkably good shape. However, the domestic water system which had been a bit dicky at the end of last year, seemed dodgy when we first turned it on . One thing was for sure there was water squirting out of the accumulator valve when we pressed it, so that was stuffed. We ordered a new accumulator and pump, it hasn’t arrived yet (as I write) but after exercising the system a bit, cleaning all the filters and blowing out the cobwebs, it turns out we could have got by with just the accumulator. I guess having a spare pump is not a bad idea anyway.
Having moved out of London, we took a flight out of Bristol, direct to Corfu. We stayed in an Air B&B after our 23:30 arrival and took the 10 euro ferry to Ignoumenitsa on the mainland the next day. We had arranged a hire car, which was very convenient especially as the boat yard is not doing accommodation this year, so we had to go back and forth through the undersea tunnel and the toll. The rig up was the normal hot dusty toil in the yard but we got it done with only the minimum of profanity. I spoiled myself by having the technical department service the engine and change the oil seals on the sail drive. Oddly, last year when I drained the oil it was milky, which is why I had the sail drive seals done but then when the guy drained the oil this time it did not look like it had water in it. Strange but I guess after 9 years, redoing the seals was not a bad idea anyway. He also re-greased the propeller, which was a bargain.
After, we got the boat in the water, we extravagantly stayed a night in the Cleopatra shipyard marina, where we put up the repaired Solent sail and then chugged across the channel to the town quay. We stayed the weekend, two nights for Euro 21 including electricity and water, which is the usual bargain, in contrast to Euro 62 for a night in the water in Cleopatra Marina. The pump and accumulator had still not arrived by Monday, so we headed into the Ambracian Gulf for a few nights while we waited for Aidan, who was to arrive from London on the Wednesday. We snuck into a little cove just before Vonitsa and totally chilled there for two nights. We just swam and SUP-ed around and did not even put the dinghy in the water.
Aidan’s plane landed at 14h00 on the Wednesday, so we pottered across the Gulf of Amvrakia to Nisis Vouvalos and dropped an anchor for lunch and a swim. On the way back to Preveza, the dolphins joined and stayed for about 15 minutes which added more cheer to the morning. By noon we were back on the Preveza Town quay and were in the 3 storey giraffe like supermarket when Aidan rang to say he had arrived. I went back to the boat laden with bottled water while Veronica carried on shopping. We drink bottled water until we have cycled the main boat tanks a few times, after a year of leaving them. Aidan settled his stuff into the boat and we went ashore for a beer. The Greeks are definitely very aware of Covid-19 and masks are compulsory in shops but the restaurants seem pretty normal except the waitrons are mostly wearing transparent half-screens covering their nose and mouth. I guess the one advantage is almost everything is outdoors and the tables are very well spaced. It seems that things were picking up as far as tourism and number of boats were concerned although it was definitely quieter but not remarkably so. Difficult to say if this is due to the virus or just that we are later in the year than we have ever been here before?
The next day we headed north, up to Two Rock Bay, some 20Nm up the mainland coast. Described by some in the CaptainsMate app as their favourite place in the Northern Ionian, it did not disappoint. Crystal clear water, thickly wooded surrounds and a small beach under a cliff. There was a super rustic shack of a Taverna perched on the cliff top, which afforded brilliant views of the bay and all the yachts at anchor. We could have stayed two days but late the next afternoon after swimming, SUP-ing and then lunching at the Taverna, we headed for Paxos, sailing most of the way, which was a result. We arrived in Gaios, dubbed ‘Chaos’ by many yachties on account of the potential for crossed anchors in the narrow channel. It was relatively quiet, with very little chaos. It is a quaint little town, known to have more cats than tourists. We took a cocktail at the restaurant we had virtually reversed into on the quay behind us. We then whiled away the evening, exploring narrow alleys, ducking under curtains of sarongs and summer dresses, finding our way ultimately to a quayside restaurant with a pleasant breeze. We watched bemused, the comings and goings of the tender from a super yacht delivering guests to their restaurant table. Somehow we did not get the same level of service but I guess we didn’t tip as well or spend nearly as much. A lesson on life is that the patriarch (possibly also the Super Yacht owner) came over to make the waiter put each fish the table had ordered on the scale, to make sure they were not over charged. I guess you don’t buy a super yacht if you don’t watch the pennies.
The next day we back-tracked 4Nm south to Emerald Bay on Anti-Paxos and anchored in the gin-clear waters over white sand amongst the frenetic bustle of day-tripper boats. We swam and were entertained by the goings on. After lunch we headed out to sea tacking twice on the west coast of Paxos to get up to Lakka on the northern tip. Almost complete shelter and also over a sandy bottom, with excellent holding, we dropped in 5m and reversed onto the northern shore, taking stern lines ashore. We stayed two nights, taking a taxi 4km to get some expensive petrol for the tender. We ate ashore in a restaurant, with a view of the boat. On the way back we towed a tipsy English couple back to their charter boat and then the other three tipsy gypsies had a Timeless Odyssey bow party with a whisky night-cap.
On the Sunday we headed for Sivota, looked at End Bay but ended up free anchoring in Middle Bay between the mainland and Nisis Áy Nikólaos. The wind was light but all over the place and boats were doing strange things. Aidan and I went into Town in the tender and had a beer while the sun set. When we got back to the boat the First Mate was cooking down below, not a preferred option in the heat. The 3 islands in Sivota are a really great location and the morning was spent on the paddleboard going in and out of all the nooks and crannies and observing the land-lubbing holiday makers on their sun loungers.
Platarias was our next stop. We have been here 2 nights and will probably stay 3 partly on account of the weather. There is a deep low, some have called it a Medicane that has developed between Italy and Libya. Right now the eye is tracking into the Zakinthos, Peleponnisos area. Winds around the eye are 50 knots. So far it looks like we are going to be further enough north to be little or mildly affected but we will keep watching the forecast. Three weather models are showing less that 10 knots and a smattering of rain but the PWG model shows up to 25 knots. So we are playing it safe and staying on the mainland for another night as everywhere on the east coast of Corfu will be a lee shore. We will check out what happens tonight and it should be all over by lunch tomorrow. Our arrival here was marked by a mooring incident. The marinero Babas and his side-kick had some lazy lines tangled, so they told us to drop an anchor and come in. They should have told us to wait while they spent their time sorting the lines. The short story is that we got a lazy line on the prop, which stalled the engine. Luckily we already had a stern line ashore, so we got settled and then Aidan snorkelled up and down and after a lot of battling, managed to get the line off without cutting it. This was a result and it appears at this stage that there is no damage to the prop.
A pleasant enough place Platarias is, to have whiled away our time in by exploring the back streets and lounging at Zanzibar, a rather pleasant beach bar, in the middle of the beach. We had our neighbours over for some drinks and managed to flatten a plastic bottle of red they brought, which as we have discovered in previous years was remarkably quaffable.
I will leave the blog here and report back in the next one as to whether (no pun intended) the Medicane affected us or not. Thanks for reading.