A Timeless Odyssey

Allures 45 (a thing of great practical beauty)

Ionian 2020 Blog 3…… “The sea took my Vespa”…(12 October 2020)


We are in Syvota on the pontoon of the 12 Gods restaurant. For the sensitive among you they spell it with a capital letter and you have to respect that, respect the Greeks, the Greeks gave us a lot of things. For example, last night we asked for a half a kilo of wine, it is how you order it here. It came in a beautiful spherical cut glass carafe. Perhaps because we are misers at times we asked ourselves, that looks a bit small for half a litre, so we decided to calculate the volume. What is the volume of a sphere... 4/3 πr3 (no this website can't handle special characters, that is meant to be 4/3 x Pi x the radius to the power of 3), so for our estimated radius of 5cm, we were not getting cheated. The volume was 524cm3 and a cubic centimetre is a millilitre. Let us not forget that it was a Greek that gave us π ?

The "Μεγάλος άνεμος" is coming, 30 knots plus, the weather apps say. It is why we came here. Syvota is alive with boats scurrying for shelter, the clatter of anchor chains, the hub-a-bub chatter as lines are tightened, biminis taken down, a Sailing Holidays representative desperately running along from pontoon to pontoon asking the restaurant owners if they have any spare space as they have a whole fleet of 13 charter boats that has rerouted here. Unlikely I will finish this blog before tonight so I will report back tomorrow on how the stormy night went.

Just earlier on, in the context of storms, both past and imminent, I had gone into the local mini market, looking for white wine. They had none. They are running down their shelves as it's nearing the end of the season. With the impending weather in mind, I asked the girl at the till how Syvota had weathered the Medicane (Med equivalent of a hurricane) that occurred about a month ago. She had a certain smile, she was vivacious, her English was excellent and she had a twinkle in her eyes. She looked at me and simply said, "The sea took my Vespa"! It crossed my mind that perhaps she had been slightly silly to leave it within claiming distance of the sea in a hurricane but her smile and the cheerful way she quickly followed with, "......but it is still going" made me dismiss the thought of mentioning that.

The previous blog ended in the other Sivota, the one spelt with an I and not a Y. We spent an uneventful two nights there, one anchored between the islands and the other in the harbour. The plan was to keep going south and perhaps spend a night in Two Rock Bay but Veronica got chatting to a couple from the Cruising Association who said, they were going to Mongonisi on Paxos. It was the one place on Paxos where we had never taken the boat. It was Veronica's kind of place... we gingerly went stern to the quay, leaving ¼ metre below the rudders. Nice beach, great taverna run by Theo where you moor for free but eat in their restaurant. Later in the afternoon a 47ft Sailing Holidays boat shows up. The place is rammed but I tell them they can come in next to us but need to take care of their depth and not get to close to the quay. We are expecting charterer entertainment but we get none. The boat deftly swings into line with the berth the guy on the anchor needs no instruction and starts dropping in time and perfectly, the boat tracks straight into the berth. The guy on the helm sees the South African courtesy flag and is giving me shit about Rugby as the stern line is delivered on target. I think he is an Aussie. Mistake. He is a Kiwi. Turns out that all the directors from Sailing Holidays are on this boat. What nice guys they are! We stayed two nights and then headed for Two Rock Bay but only stayed for lunch and half the afternoon before pressing on to Preveza town quay. Slight concern for the weather was the reason for not staying out on anchor in that glorious bay. That meant that instead of waking up in a bay, going for a SUP, swim and a walk on the beach, we instead woke to the dustbin truck emptying the bins on the town quay, the diesel truck delivering diesel to a nearby boat and the restaurants cleaning tables and getting ready for the morning coffee trade. The washing of laundry was achieved at Royal Freshness and Nicole, the blonde, New York-accented Greek, and collector of money, was as friendly as ever.

The possible thunder threat decreased however after our experiences thus far this season we are super cautious but also realize that there is no silver bullet to the prediction thereof. We left the bustling town quay once more and spent two nights in the Gulf of Amvrakia. Some great sailing was had, a turtle was spotted and after taking a look at Koronisia on the north shore, which was mill-pond flat, but had no room, we anchored and spent two fabulous nights in the bay east of the causeway near Vonitsa. It is perfect shelter from the SE but the wind doesn't show up anyway. This time we get to do a long walk and the Venetian castle is open. It affords far-reaching views across the gulf. The Venetian fort was built on the ruins of a Byzantine castle, which was a popular stopover during the Crusades. Robert Guiscard apparently died there. I did not know who he was but it seems he was a character from the Norman occupation of present day southern Italy. Circa 999 to 1042AD.

This account of the man by Anna Comnena makes interesting reading: "This Robert was Norman by birth, of obscure origins, with an overbearing character and a thoroughly villainous mind; he was a brave fighter, very cunning in his assaults on the wealth and power of great men; in achieving his aims absolutely inexorable, diverting criticism by incontrovertible argument. He was a man of immense stature, surpassing even the biggest men; he had a ruddy complexion, fair hair, broad shoulders, eyes that all but shot out sparks of fire. In a well-built man one looks for breadth here and slimness there; in him all was admirably well-proportioned and elegant... Homer remarked of Achilles that when he shouted his hearers had the impression of a multitude in uproar, but Robert's bellow, so they say, put tens of thousands to flight."

It was in this anchorage that we ran into Peter and Katherine van de Geest, last seen in Sicily, the year we left the boat there for winter. It was the first time in this Covid-19 year that we had people over on our boat for a braai. It was great to catch-up. He grew up in South Africa. Yarns were told of the Medicane, most of survival but a few of tragedy.

From there we decided to go to Lefkas to sort some staysail repairs and other boat jobs. 5Nm out of the canal entrance an unpredicted 32 knot SE wind developed. We were on the second reef and tacking. It has been a season like this. We arrived at the canal entrance in time for the noon bridge opening but I decided to anchor off and wait for the wind to die. It didn't. We had lunch but we also decided that trying to get onto the town quay in 30 knots was not wise. So we took the one o'clock bridge and went through the canal in 30 dropping to 20 knots, and headed for Nidri which provided more shelter. The wind dropped totally as we came into the bay and the first mate was chuffed with the Sailing Holidays/Hotel Iris pontoon, with its fantastic pool and bar, water, electricity all thrown in for only €15 a night. We stayed for two. Here we also managed to connect and commission a guy to make a holding tank. I hired a quad-bike to take the sail to Lefkas for mending and made some progress finding people to look at the solar/battery project. Having the quad also allowed us to head up into the mountains the next morning to see a Kokkinh Monastery and have breakfast in the traditional mountain village of Karia.

Since then we have spent two nights in Paleros on the mainland. We went into the main harbour but just south of the town Neilsen have a huge harbour and hotel complex. I took a stroll over there and it was remarkable to see that they had not been operating at all this year. There must have been 70 boats floating idle and the hotel complex (dinghy and windsurfing holidays) was over grown and ghostly quiet, I didn't see a soul. It has been a tough year for many.

We had breakfasts at the highly recommended Paleros Yacht Club and a light dinner with our omnipresent restaurant friends, the ubiquitous Greek cats. We also met a lovely couple, Michael and Sandra.

From there we went to Syvota on the bottom of Lefkas to find shelter from the storm with its SE veering to SW winds. We have been here 2 days and can highly recommend the 12 Gods restaurant and their pontoon. As promised I shall report on the storm last night. It did get a bit frenetic and thank goodness we were well fendered at the stern. It must have been over 30 knots but there was also a major surge coming into the bay and torrential rain. We were upstairs in the restaurant watching the boat. The first mate had been tracking the storm on her latest obsession, the Lightning Tracker app. Over the afternoon the lightning band had been making its way from Sicily and was steadily getting closer. There is an interesting picture of the app in the gallery of this blog, which shows the location of lightning strikes in the last 15 minutes. The restaurant owner got a little nervous about his pontoon and asked us to put extra lines to the quay with his and his foot soldiers help. It was difficult to stand on the pontoon in the surge but we got the lines on. Amazingly, Mario (make that Super Mario) dived in amidst, the surge, the darkness, the staccato of lightning, the violently bobbing boats and torrential rain to swim an extra bowline to the quay for our neighbours. Impressive, verging on bloody madness, one brave Romanian.

Tis' the morning and all is calm. Just before we left, we learned that Fiona and John on Ella May hadn't been able to get back on their boat last night due to a writhing pontoon and dangerously see-sawing pasarelle, so at the generous invitation of Ben and Anna, who we had also met yesterday, they spent the night with them in their villa. We're off to Nidri to fit a holding tank......yay......and ciao.


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