Sailing: the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Gunkholing Around the Ionian

We stayed around the island of Corfu for another week or so after Pam and Nicole left.  As we pottered around Corfu town, we noticed a huge build-up of rubbish in the streets.  On one of our excursions, we came across a small demonstration outside the town hall.  We got talking to the demonstrators (articulate and multilingual) and as suspected the garbage collectors were on strike.  They had all been on contracts and now they were being let go so that the government could hire new people on insecure contracts for less money.  As it is their wage was only 30 a day.  This amount of money will get you a modest meal for two in Greece – hardly a living wage.  We wished them well and felt humbled by the working conditions so many Greeks are experiencing. 
Garbage piling up in Corfu
Strikers outside city hall
We were rapidly becoming in danger of being a permanent fixture in Corfu Bay and decided it was finally time to move on and explore some of the little bays and coves on the mainland side of the Ionian.  These bays were absolute gems and I was in my happy space spending hours snorkelling with the fish in crystal clear water.

First there was Plataria, a quiet resort town in a delightful anchorage, where we had the best ouzo mezze we have had yet in Greece while watching brilliant sunsets.
A mermaid looking at Songster
The best ouzo mezze...
...with a perfect sunset
We then moved just a few miles down the coast to revisit Mourtos.  There were many more boats around the anchorage than on our last visit a month previously.  There was not enough room to swing at anchor so we had to take a line ashore.  Since Songster, with its long keel does not go backwards easily, this is a technique that we tended to avoid but we now seem to have gotten the hang of it.  It involves lowering the dinghy and towing it behind, then we get into position about 100m off shore.  We drop the anchor and reverse back letting out the chain until we are about 50m from the shore.  Then I go off the back of the boat, swim to the rocky shore dragging a line which is attached to Songster behind me.  Then I loop and tie the rope around a rock to secure us.  Then I swim back to the boat where Bob throws me another rope and I repeat the process from the other side of the stern of the boat. So the boat is secured in a three point configuration.  It is a lot more effort than swinging at anchor but it allows us to go into many more places.  The rocky shore provided some great snorkelling and I took the underwater camera for some happy marine snaps.
An orange centiped-like creature
Red Starfish about 15cm in diameter

Parga was the next stop.  This large bay was the full on tourist scene with banana boats zooming around and families on paddle boats and the beaches packed with people on lounge chairs under umbrellas all in neat rows in the typical Mediterranean fashion.  But the bay was crystal clear and big enough to accommodate many yachts and holiday makers.  The hillside town had narrow winding streets, excellent restaurants and a Venetian castle to explore.  A neighbouring yacht was doing some maintenance on their mast and took a fantastic photo of Songster for us.
The anchorage from Parga castle
Parga Castle from the anchorage
Pretty Songster
The beach quiet at dusk
Full Moon over Parga

A few miles down the coast is the isolated bay (no buildings, no 3G) of Ayiou Ioannou.  We took a line ashore in a narrow cove and essentially had the place to ourselves.  I snorkelled for hours.  It was heaven.
The isolated anchorage of Ioannou
Ornate wrasse
Bream and wrasse
I found this fantastic shell

Another short hop south was Two Rock Bay.  This beautiful bay is lined with rock shelves making an excellent habitat for the fish – and more hours of snorkelling for me.
Two Rock Bay (but those are not the eponymous two rocks)
Lots of bream under the boat
More but different bream
Cardinal fish hiding under a ledge
Anchorage at Two Rock Bay

These short hops exploring little bays and coves have been a delightful way to make our way down the coast.  The Ionian seems to have a different weather pattern from the Aegean.  For our three years in the Aegean the Meltemi winds funnelling down the Aegean from the north were always the worry.  Every passage plan needed to ensure there were no Meltemis predicted and the route had to work around the prevailing northerlies so we didn’t have the wind on the nose and could minimise motoring.  We were sometimes stuck at anchor in a sheltered bay dealing with 20+ knot winds for days on end.

In the Ionian the prevailing winds tend to be from the west and have not been as fierce as the Meltemis.  The mornings are generally calm and by early afternoon a nice 10 knot breeze picks up.  So we have gotten in the pattern of leaving an anchorage after lunch and having a gentle sail for around 10- 15 nm to the next anchorage.  Since the anchorages are so close and the winds gentle we are quite happy to meander along under sail, tweaking the sails and learning to get the most out of light winds.  In the ‘Motorterranian’ to sail for an entire passage is a treat.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Corfu with Pam and Nicole

We had planned to spend a week or so in Corfu checking out various bays and anchorages in preparation for Pam and Nicole’s visit to Corfu mid-May.  As it turned out we really only had time for a short sail to Gouvia for fuel supplies and to read up on some places to go in ‘Rod the God’s’ pilot book.
Approaching Corfu
The anchorage at Corfu
Corfu is a great place to pick up guests.  The airport is only a 20 minute walk to the anchorage.  The long awaited day finally came and we met Pam and Nicole in a cafĂ© just near their hotel.  There were hugs and greetings all around.  After they checked in, we took them for the £5 tour of Songster.  Then we went ashore with the dinghy mooring in the moat just under the castle.  A tour of the town and refreshing cold drinks then back to the boat for sundowners and dinner.  Pam and Nicole had been up since 3am to catch their flight from Luton so it was an early night with plans for their first sail in the morning.
Our view with the hotel on the right
The first sail for our non-sailor guest was a short run to Kalami Bay about 10 nm north of Corfu Town.  It is a charming little bay and we had a bracing swim, lunch on board and then a very nice sail back to Corfu town for dinner at the Rex restaurant while the migratory African swallows swooped around darting in and out gathering insects to feed their noisy young in their mud nests nestled under the eaves of the old buildings.
On our way to Kalami Bay
Pam and Bob playing silly hats
The next day was a land day to explore the castle, do a bit of shopping for the elusive perfect sandals and another pleasant evening on the boat with sundowners, dinner and games.
Pam looking out over the northern bay of Corfu
The next day was to be the overnight excursion on Songster.  We headed south to Petriti, a pretty sandy bay and village about 15 nm south of Corfu Town.  Another swim off the boat, Spritz in the cockpit and then went ashore to explore the little village and have a fantastic dinner at one of the waterfront tavernas.
Having lunch while underway
Relaxing while sailing along

Dinner at Petriti

The next morning Pam made us her perfect pancakes for breakfast before we motored (no wind) back to Corfu Town for another swim, dinner ashore.  The next few days were devoted to land travel, seeing the sights around the island.  A short walk from the girls’ hotel is Mon Repose, the birthplace of Prince Phillip.  A lovely spot but as in so much of Greece in need of a bit of TLC.
Mon Repose, birthplace of Prince Phillip
View from Mon Repose
Picture of Corfu harbour from the 1860's
We took in the castle, of course, and had a tranquil walk through the British cemetery.

Castle walls
St Georges chapel at the fort which use to be a British barracks
Tranquility of the British cemetery
Tortoise at the cemetery
We drove north to Kalami Bay where the White House restaurant is located.  This was one of the houses that the Durrell’s lived in during their stay in Corfu in the 1930’s.  The restaurant is filled with books written by the Durrell sons and memorabilia from their time here.  Then on to a lovely holiday spot of Kassiopi, had a nice lunch while watching the coming and goings of the tripper boats and tourist. 
The Yellow Submarine at Kassiopi
We then circled around to Benetsis where the Achillion Palace is located.  What a magnificent palace built by the Austrian Princess Sissi in the mid 19th Century and after her death bought by Kaiser Willhelm II.  The audio guide was very well done and we spent hours in the house and gardens.
Achillion Palace
Cupids on the walls
Statue of Emperess Sissi
Ceiling at Achillion
All too quickly it was time for Pam and Nicole to return to London: Sad goodbyes but so happy to have had such a nice visit with them.