Anyone following our live track will have noticed that we haven’t travelled very far since my last BLOG post and indeed it feels like we have been in the Ionian for a very long time. We sailed from Corfu down into the Islands mid June and visited Paxos, Prevesa, Levkas, Meganisi, Kastos, Kalamos, and then with some stops along mainland Greece, we sailed back up to Corfu.
Whilst down in the Islands we caught up with friends out here on holiday and spent some time with them out at anchor in Abelike Bay on Meganisi, alongside on Kastos town quay and again at anchor in Parga Bay, mainland. Sadly the weather remained unsettled, with moody grey skies and blustery winds but we did manage to get a couple of meals out ashore together.
Whilst on Kastos we were sitting in a bar with our friends across from where our boat was moored on the town quay, and saw some men on our boat. It was a little unsettling to see our boat drifting sideways towards the rocks, caused by the boat that had been moored next to us leaving the quay and picking up our anchor along with theirs. With our anchor lifted our mooring became compromised and luckily for us, this had been spotted very quickly and a couple of guys had leapt onto our boat to stop us smashing into the rocky quay. The wind had been building steadily throughout the day and there had been a fair amount of chaos, as boats attempted to come onto the quay. Damian and a couple of other guys had been helping other boats come alongside, with gusting winds and in some cases, lack of boat handling experience making the ‘Greek style of mooring’ precarious. In Greece to moor alongside with the stern to the quay, the boat is backed in, dropping the anchor 3-4 boat lengths away and the anchor chain continually ‘paid out’ reversing back to the quay. Sometimes someone will be there to take two stern lines ashore and secure the stern of the boat, if not, one of the crew has to leap ashore swiftly and get the stern lines secured. If the anchor chain is released at the right time, the boat is reversed in a straight line and the stern lines are securely fastened, the boat should be safely moored. If everyone backs into the quay in a straight line, there is less chance of anchors getting crossed. If anchors are crossed then there is a chance that multiple anchors will be lifted on departure, which can potentially compromise the mooring of all of the boats involved. Obviously anchor mooring does take practice and high winds will make the handling of the boat more challenging.
When we had arrived in Kastos earlier that morning there had been just three other boats alongside, but as the day progressed the quay had become full and the whole bay had become crowded with an enormous flotilla arriving en masse. The crew that pulled our anchor up had come alongside earlier, but then decided to join the rest of their flotilla in the bay. After pulling up our anchor, they had tossed it back and cleared off with little regard for the safety of our boat. Damian was up off his chair pretty quickly when we realized what was happening, but to the Ex-RAF guy Nigel on the ‘Feeling’ yacht, “cheers mate, we know we owe you more than that tin of beer!”
It was lovely to see Mark, Kim, Mia and Sam out on the water and after we said goodbye, we headed back up to Corfu and Gouvia Marina, where we were due to stay for a couple of weeks. Damian went off to Egypt diving with our daughter Beth (bucket list stuff for them both) and I was left to my own devices for 10 days. I had company for some of this time from my old school friend Paula, who came out to join me on the boat for 4 days and we had a bit of a holiday together. We spent a very hot day in Corfu town, went to the beach, spent a day on a pirate ship, drank a ‘little’ wine and generally caught up (like only girls know how!). Our pirate ship boat trip took us up to the popular holiday village of Kassiopi, further up the coast of Corfu and we got to do a beach stop and cave swim. It was lovely to see my oldest friend from home and to do the ‘tourist thing’ for a few days and we even managed to watch a couple of the World Cup games.
Alone again got the sewing machine out again to finish of some interior covers for the main saloon did some shopping for my next sewing project – detachable weather protection panels for the cockpit cover. I had spent some time wandering around the marina, checking out how other boats were geared up for cockpit sun and rain protection and went off shopping for the fabric. When on the boat for short periods, it is not always obvious how a lack of shade and rain protection can challenge everyday existence, but long periods in the hot sun can make life very uncomfortable on a boat and rain finds it’s way into the cockpit from every direction. With fabric and zips purchased from the local sail makers, all I need is a cool day alongside to get stuck in!
Damian arrived back onboard, having spent the week sharing the experience of Beth’s Advanced PADI Diving Course and we prepared the boat for friends to join us for a trip back down into the Ionian. Before we left we all managed to watch the World Cup semi final and in an English Bar on Corfu, it was a sad night.
We set sail once again on 12 July and headed back down to Parga Bay for a night at anchor, it was so good to finally get out of the marina. Andy and Jackie have both sailed before and made comfortable sailing companions for our week at sea together. Heading out of Parga we hit a massive fog bank and initially had to use the radar to make our way south.
We avoided the Levkas canal route this time and instead sailed down the west coast of Levkas and after the fog finally cleared we were able to enjoy the stunning coastline of golden beaches and aquamarine sea. Many of the beaches were deserted, only accessible from the sea and a perfect lunch stop for a swim. During the rest of the week we visited the islands of Levkas, Meganisi, Kalamos, Ithaka and Kefalonia, for us venturing into some new territory and revisting old as we returned to Fiskardo on Kefalonia, last visited 26 years ago on flotilla. Traditional Greek cuisine is pretty basic and varies hugely from one island to another, but I would have to say that we had some of our best meals in Fiskardo with the town being well geared up for tourists. This was our last stop with Andy and Jackie before we said our goodbyes. The week had flown by once again, with time spent catching up, sailing, swimming, enjoying the sunshine, cooking and mucking in together, evenings sharing a few glasses of wine and playing cards until it got dark. A lovely week spent in great company, but time to head back north.
With our daughter Beth and her friend arriving in Preveza on 29 July we had decided to make our way to Cleopatra Marina in Preveza, taking the opportunity to get the boat lifted out of the water. This would enable us to get the stern gland (propeller seal) replaced, sorting out our water leak and get the bottom of the boat cleaned and painted. Taking the boat out costs a fair amount, so it made sense to do as much work as possible whilst on dry land. Cleopatra Marina has a good yard, offers a speedy service and is reasonably priced for regular, essential boat maintenance.
Before arriving in Preveza we returned to Levkas to wait out a couple of stormy days in Vlikho Bay, a secure ‘bolt hole’ for high winds and bad weather. The wind whipped up to 30 knots whilst at anchor, but we held fast during our time there. Whilst in Vlikho, we were able to launch the dinghy and head into Nidri, where we found the most amazing chandlery. Boaties in good chandleries are rather like kids in sweet shops and much to Damian’s amusement, even I got excited at what was available in Nidri’s chandlery, showing the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for good shoe shops and cheesecake! Nidri town is throbbing with tourists, bars, restaurants and at night, club music. I guess I’m really showing my age when I say I was glad to be out at anchor, away from the town!
Before heading into Cleopatra Marina we spent a couple of nights on Preveza town quay, a cheap alongside if you can get a slot on the busy quay. We were checking out the potential for picking up Beth and her friend on Sunday, but also used the opportunity to do a few minor jobs. Whilst we were there we met a fabulous 77 year-old South African guy, who had sailed to Greece all the way from South Africa. He was now sailing solo and made an interesting companion to share a few beers with. It is so inspiring to hear about the experiences and adventures of other boaties, like-minded folk who crave a more simplistic way of life. We love to hear sea stories from people like this guy, a learning opportunity but also a gentle reminder of why we need to do this whilst we have the energy and the drive…..
After a couple of nights on Preveza Town Quay we headed over to Cleopatra Marina and watching the boat come out of the water was quite a sight to behold and a little unnerving. We were towed out to our allotted space on the marina’s enormous dry dock yard and given a ladder to enable us to continue to live on the boat whilst out of the water. Life has to change somewhat without sea water to support the boat’s usual systems – toilet flushing, running the freezer etc and of course it is not possible to discharge water from the sinks whilst the boat is being sanded and painted. The marina was well geared up with plenty of toilets and showers available, laundry, restaurant, minimarket and very helpful technical staff. Tahnee Mara was lifted, jet washed and moved to the dry dock. We took a day to thoroughly clean the outside of the boat, cut and lay 3 coats of wax polish on the whole of the hull, whilst waiting for the marina guys to do their bit. We cleaned up the propeller, changed all the anodes, cleaned the bow thruster, re-sprayed the anchor chain markers, cleaned and polished the fenders, polished and cleaned all of the chrome fittings, working late into the evening. Our girl came out of the experience looking brand new and even drew a little attention in her ‘shiny’ state. At eleven years old she’s getting on a bit but looked pretty awesome in the evening sunshine.
We were lifted back into the water after 4 days of hard graft and headed back out to sea to test out the new propeller seal and other new parts and make sure that all was in good working order after our time spent on dry land.
As I write this BLOG we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Beth and her friend Jas, who will join us for another week in the Ionian. From there we will head down into the Aegean Islands, where we will pick up our other daughter Em and her boyfriend, who will stay onboard with us for a month and help us sail up to Sicily and our winter berth.
We cannot believe how fast the time has flown since we left home and have struggled to cover as much ground as we had hoped. I had lots of ideas of how I could share our experience and continue some Yoga presence with practice footage as well as my BLOGS. I have to admit that I came to a fairly quick decision that I would not be able to do what I had intended and be able to relax and take in what this adventure has to offer. We have both given up our jobs for a while and this time away is both precious but also limited and we need to allow ourselves to be fully present to make the most of it.
I am thoroughly looking forward to running my planned retreat in Cornwall in November and will continue to research new venues, but am unlikely to organize any other retreats whilst we are away. One day I hope to return to teaching Yoga again, but for now I am giving myself up this this wonderful opportunity that we have to see a bit of the world and take our foot off the gas for a while.