Paxoi and more mooring antics (parts two and three!)

We had heard that Paxos island, ten miles west of the mainland and just south of Corfu, gets very crowded in summer so you need to get there early to grab a spot. Our first port of call was Lakka in the north. A lovely natural harbour, well sheltered with a town quay, bars and restaurants. We were going to anchor and heeded advice that it’s best to anchor and take lines ashore in the north end. By 11am we were tied up and swimming off the back of the boat.

Lines ashore in Lakka

By 1pm another 20 boats had come in but only a few had left. This continued right up into the evening. By dusk, 50 boats were in the anchorage and that would have been fine if there weren’t weird currents and wind patterns. Boats were all swinging at different angles and getting very close to each other. Some ended up re-anchoring. The town itself is quite sweet with lots of shops for Liz to browse in. We decided to stay two nights.

Another amazing turquoise harbour at Lakka

We left Lakka early on the Tuesday morning as we wanted to get to Gaios just down the coast. It is very popular as well and we were keen to snaffle a spot on one of the quays as we were staying for a couple of days. It’s set in a narrow channel so you have to drop your anchor and then motor back to the quay. We decided to go for the north quay slightly out of town as we saw a spot free. We were pretty sure that the town quay would be full of charter boats and we weren’t sure whether we would end up with crossed anchors. This was the first time we had to pay for mooring since leaving Italy but at €24 a night we weren’t too upset as we could also fill up with water and recharge our batteries.

Chaos at Gaios

Whilst we were having dinner on the first night, an old, classic yacht came in looking for a berth. They had to anchor opposite us and then tie ashore on rocks on the island. I presume that the boat doesn’t go well backwards as they hit the same boat next to them twice before getting it right. Much hollering and screaming amongst the three gentlemen aboard.

Later, we strolled into town to catch the second half of the France Belgium game. On the Wednesday, we hired a scooter to tour the island and were just going to pick it up when we saw that someone was about to come in next to us. They perfected it really well except they had forgotten to drop their anchor so had to do it all again!

The island itself is lovely and only 15km long. It has two main roads and lots of tracks. Luckily, our scooter was 200hp so could cope with both the terrain and the hills! We spent the day exploring the island including the white cliffs at Erimitis, Trypitos’ arch, coves and beach bars (much to Liz’s delight) before settling down for a meal to watch the England Croatia semi final.

White cliffs at Erimitis

Harbour at Logos

Trypitos’ Arch

We had decided that we would have a leisurely morning so Liz could do some more shopping but this was cut short when our neighbours decided to leave and went out at such an angle that they managed to catch our anchor chain around their keel. Yes, the same ones who forgot to put their anchor down first time! We managed to sort them out but felt we probably ought to leave relatively promptly in case something else happened.

We continued south to a harbour called Mongonisi that apparently got good reviews but when we arrived it was full of charter boats so we moved onto Anti Paxos.

Voutoumi Bay, Anti Paxos

We found the most amazing turquoise beach on the north of this little island. You can see why super yachts come here. Voutoumi Bay was extraordinary with its white sand, turquoise water and trendy beach bar. We stayed for a few hours to soak in the atmosphere but we knew that it wasn’t going to be an overnight stop for us. At around 5pm we set sail (and for once we really did sail!) for the main land to ensure we had a safe anchorage for the night.

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Mourtos and mooring antics part one

We left Petriti on Friday morning and made our way to Mourtos, on the mainland. There are a couple of islands there that provide good anchorages and shelter from the prevailing NW wind. For the first time since we left Italy we actually managed to sail although we did have the engine running to top all the batteries and also make some water. Having not been in a marina or on a town quay for a week, we found that we have managed to use up nearly one of our water tanks (around 250 litres).

We arrived in Mourtos around midday to find that the bay (called Middle Bay) we wanted to be in virtually empty so we anchored and then added lines ashore to keep us out of the channel between the islands. As the afternoon progressed, more and more boats arrived and anchored pretty much anywhere, including the channel so clearly no one else worried about it! The currents and back eddies running between the islands caused all sorts of commotion as no one boat sat the same as the next one so it made for an interesting spectacle.

Our first evening with lines ashore at Mourtos

We decided the next morning to anchor over the other side of the channel as a strong NW wind was due in the afternoon and we didn’t want to be pushed back onto the rocks. Most of the boats from the previous evening had left so we picked a spot in shallow water that would afford us great shelter later on. Very pleased with ourselves, we dinghied over to the town and bought provisions and had a look around. Mourtos has a lovely frontage/town quay with bars and restaurants along it. We also wanted to explore the other bays so we made our way back to the boat.

Mourtos town quay

We spent the afternoon in a bay around the corner that has a sand bar running through the centre of it. Nielsen have a yachting and watersport centre on one side but you can anchor on the other and there was also a public beach. The wind was starting to get up so we thought we had better get back. More boats had come into anchor, including one we had met in Gouvia when we were getting our Greek permits. All seemed well though so we settled down to watch the England football match. Around half time, we noticed that the local rental boats were being brought over from the town quay, presumably to keep themsafe during the strong winds. They anchored them together fore and aft about 30m away from us so we weren’t too perturbed. About 30 mins into the second half, we realised that they had added more boats and by now they were getting very close and we were in danger of drifting onto them. The guys who had put them there cane back and we told them in no uncertain terms that what they had done was ridiculous. Their boats weren’t going anywhere yet the rest of us were all at anchor so we were bound to swing. They were adamant that all would be fine as long as we pulled in 3m of chain. Rubbish or some such word came to mind! Because of the odd eddies and currents, we kept drifting back onto their boats so we gave up and pulled our anchor up. There was no room where we were to re-anchor so we popped round to the bay we had seen earlier (called 4th bay) but it was full. We came back to our original bay to find that someone had left so we were able to anchor. By this time it was 8.30pm and dusk was coming soon. We got settled and Liz made a wonderful dinner of stuffed squid with tomatoes, pepper and feta. In the meantime, various boats were trying to moor near us but in the high winds their anchors were either dragging or they were to close to the shore.

After a traumatic evening, a lovely relaxing meal

Welcome to the Ionian in summer!

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Corfu Town

On Tuesday morning (July 3rd) we dinghied over to Corfu Town from the anchorage and looked for a place to park Baby Nimmie. The nearby marina/yacht club had had reports of no longer being managed so we were reluctant to leave it there untended for several hours. The sea moat around the old Fort hadn’t completely silted up so we went down it to see whether we could leave her there. There were various huts along the side of the moat with small local boats moored up so we tied up about half way along and climbed the stairs to come out by the entrance to the fort.

Sea boat around the old fort with Nimrod in the bay

Corfu has been heavily fortified over the years by its various ‘occupants’, especially the Venetians who built two forts. The ‘Old Fort’ is right at the end of the channel looking across to Albania and you can imagine the guns protecting both the town and the waters below. We walked up to the lighthouse at the top of the hill to find magnificent views across the channel. It was blistering hot though so we were glad that we had got there in the morning before it got even warmer!

View across the bay from the old fort

The fort houses various exhibitions including Byzantine mosaics and paintings as well as water colours by a local artist.

On our way out, we looked across to check on Baby Nimmie only to see that the gate half way up the stairs was locked! Oops. We went for a closer inspection and it had been locked but luckily it was easy enough to open. Phew!

The town itself has large gardens, wide Italianate boulevards and even a cricket pitch. The narrow streets of the old town could have been anywhere in southern Italy with the marble cobblestones.

The Liston boulevard

We wandered round for a hour or two but then decided to get back to both the dinghy and Nimmie and have lunch on board. We went back into town in the evening to find a bar to watch the England v Columbia World Cup game as our tv can’t pick up Greek digital tv apparently. (It was fine in Italy but clearly our 8 year old tv is getting past it!) After the game, we had celebratory drinks at the rooftop bar at Hotel Cavalieri, even though it was past midnight. Lovely cool breeze and still very warm.

Hotel Cavalieri roof garden

On Weds morning we left our anchorage to go searching for beach bars. Liz had read about a lovely one a few miles north of Gouvia so we went back on ourselves to have a look. Unfortunately, it didn’t even look open despite the beach looking very nice so on we went. Next stop Mouse Island opposite the Durrell’s Pink House and right under the flightpath to Corfu Airport! After taking some pictures (you can’t actually see the Durrell’s house from the sea), we then went on to find the Achilleion Palace. Sadly, again we couldn’t see it as it was behind trees.

Not that we were close to the runway or anything!

Our evening stop was the delightful village of Petriti on the south of Corfu. We anchored in 4m of sand and turquoise water and within ten minutes of getting there, we had both jumped in the water to cool off and check the anchor. The water was so clear that you could see that it was well dug in.

Petriti anchorage

We had heard good reports about the Panorama taverna about half a mile from the anchorage so we took the dinghy for a drink. The place was an oasis of calm and tranquility with lush gardens, hammocks, terrace and dockside tables. We decided to try their own wine (very good) and some calamari and tzatziki before retiring back to the boat for our main meal.

Entrance to the Panorama Taverna gardens

This morning (Thursday), we took the dinghy over to the town to do some food shopping. We had only meant to pick up some bread but the local supermarket was excellent and cheap so we ended up getting two 3 litre flagons of local wine, some swordfish, fruit and bottled water (that they were selling for €1.50 for 5 litres). This afternoon has been spent chilling on the boat having done a few chores but mainly watching the antics of people anchoring. The French (as usual) don’t bother to slow down when dropping the anchor and then look baffled when it drags. One British boat came in and politely asked if he was too close. We said no but he re-anchored anyway. Having said that, he re-anchored closer to us but at least he asked!

This evening we tried a couple more tavernas in Notos (about half a mile away) for a sundowner or two before going back on board to have the swordfish with salad and a nice bottle of cold, white wine.

Electra’s Botanic Garden Restaurant

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Northern Corfu

We left Erikoussa on Sunday morning feeling slightly refreshed although it was a bit of a rolly night. No idea where the swell came from as we should have been safely tucked away from it. I can only imagine it was the wash from various large ships passing on their way up into the Adriatic. We were so tired that it didn’t matter too much.

We made our way to the east side of Corfu to Kalami Bay where Lawrence Durrell had a house. The wind was very light so we motored the whole 4 hours. The bay was pretty full and we would have had to anchor in quite deep water so we decided to go around the corner to O. Agni. It was a delightful bay. We anchored and then took lines ashore using our new webbing. Our neighbours were Aussies who were very entertaining and quite good guard dogs when we took the dinghy round to the Durrell’s White House in Kalami for a drink. It has been beautifully renovated and has lots of quirky touches to reflect its heritage.

Lawrence Durrell’s White House

O. Agni

An Austrian boat had tried to anchor near us earlier but their anchor was over ours (we did have 60m out!) so they had given up but came back later and were seen off by our friendly neighbours who also had 60m of chain out.

The new webbing in action!

We ate out at a lovely taverna called Agni’s which was a short dinghy ride away. Being an hour ahead of Italy meant that it was still light at 9.30pm.

A fabulous meal at Agni’s

Today we checked in officially at Gouvia. It is a massive marina holding over 1500 yachts and has a local Port Authority office there. We anchored across the bay (saving money as always!) and took the dinghy across. It took quite a long time because there was a bit of a queue and all the paperwork is written out by hand. Still we had the necessary document to allow us to cruise in Greece for the year. As Gouvia is a major charter centre, it also has a fuel berth so we took advantage to refill our tanks from the crossing. It has been really hot today with our weather station registering 43 degrees in the sun!

We want to explore Corfu Town tomorrow so we decided to move round to O. Garitsas bay this evening which is just to the south of Corfu Town. In fact, we are currently anchored under the Venetian Fortress with a positive dirth of superyachts for company!

Venetian fortress in Corfu Town

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Greece at last!

Having settled our debts and finished off the last of our chores, we were ready to set off for Corfu. We left at 1pm, slightly later than planned but we should still make landfall before dark the next day. As previously mentioned, our course would take us along the Italian coast until Brindisi and then onto the islands just north of Corfu.

The wind and swell were coming from behind and at only 11 knots, it would take days to get to Corfu so we motor-sailed for the afternoon and took advantage of 1.5 knots of current. We were rocking and managed to get up to 8.9knots at one point. The combination of a newly coppercoated hull with the current meant that we were making very good speed at only 1700 revs. For the first 100 miles we were doing well over 7 knots and even after then we were doing around 6 knots so we were very pleased.

We arrived in Erikoussa around midday (Greek time) so it only took us 22 hours rather than the predicted 30. We dropped anchor with one other boat in the bay and were soon joined by a few other boats who were making it their lunchtime stop. One of them was a British flagged Oyster 55 who decided they wanted to get close and personal so dropped their anchor very close to us and of course the wind shifted a bit and their anchor was literally at the back of us. Luckily, there was just enough room for them to get their anchor up without hitting us. Numpties.

Erikoussa, Corfu

So far we have had a relaxing afternoon just chilling and even went for a swim to check on the anchor. Cold but turquoise and quite refreshing. Liz has decided to try out the new paddle board, even though the wind is now blowing sufficiently to top up the batteries. Let’s hope she doesn’t get swept out to sea!

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Batteries arrived and installed

The new batteries were delivered this morning (June 28) and installed this afternoon. They weighed a tonne. Each of the 4 domestic batteries weighed 35kg each and the engine battery around 25kg. However, all now in place and working so we are very happy.

New batteries finally arrived

We have completed most of our chores, including a last minute shop for fresh produce so that we can leave for Corfu late tomorrow morning after we have settled our bill. Our plan is to go directly to Erikoussa just north of Corfu island, which should take us around 30 hours. However, we go along the coast of Italy for quite a time so if there are any unforeseen problems, we can can divert into Brindisi or Otranto. The storms have finally abated so we should have the wind behind us with a moderate swell. Fingers crossed!

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We had visited many areas around Puglia last year when we were storm bound in Otranto and Brindisi as well as when we brought Nimmie back to Bari for the winter. However, there were a few places we hadn’t managed to see so with a few days to kill, off we travelled.

After picking up the hire car from the airport and paying nearly as much again for insurance and additional driver, we headed to Castel del Monte. It was built in the 13th century by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily. No one really knows why it was built but most people assume that it was as a hunting lodge. It is an extraordinary, white octagonal castle sitting on a hilltop.

An amazing circular courtyard at the castle

Fish stalls at Trani – very fresh!

Next stop, Trani. A pretty little port on the coast just north of Bari. This fortified town sits on a promontory and was an island at one time. It rivalled Bari in its heyday. Whilst we were there the fishing boats came in after their evening catch so supper was sorted!

 

 

It also had an amazing cathedral that is three churches on top of each other with even a Roman hypogeum underground. Sadly, photos weren’t allowed inside but it was very impressive with medieval paintings on the wall. There was a wedding about to take place in the main duomo and instead of a photographer capturing the entrance of the bride, they had a drone!

Sink hole at Grotte di Castellana

Next day, after a leisurely breakfast, we headed inland to the Grotte di Castellana. This is an amazing labyrinth of caves following an expedition in 1938 through the sinkhole that had been there for centuries. Indeed, the locals though that it was haunted as bats would come flying out of the mist to feed. The caves go some 70m down for several kilometres. It was fascinating to see. Of course, as we had a car we also took the opportunity to go shopping and pick up all the heavy or bulky essentials like wine, olive oil and loo roll!

On Sunday, we decided to go down to Gallipoli on the instep of the ‘boot’. This is not the same Gallipoli as the WWI battle in the Dardanelles but a very old city in the very south of Puglia. It was a charming place with lots of alleyways, restaurants and bars.

Cute alleyways in Gallipoli

We found a beach bar in Gallipoli!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gallipoli area is also renowned for its beaches. The town beach was okay but surely there were better ones nearby. Do not worry, dear reader, Liz was  able to sniff out a decent beach at fifty paces so off we went in search. True enough, we found not one but three!

Gorgeous beaches and wife!

Monday was a boat job day and on Tuesday we found a local golf course to try out. The weather in the morning had been atrocious with continuing gales and storms but the afternoon was very pleasant – overcast but warm. Today we needed to return the car so early start for Jo to take it back whilst Liz waited on the delivery of the batteries. They didn’t turn up but hopefully tomorrow…..

 

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Update on batteries

It seems that our batteries will take a while to get here (Weds at the latest) so we have hired a car to see more sights of Puglia. We took out full insurance, even though it pretty much doubles the cost of the hire, and are glad we did. Within 8 hours of having the car, someone scratched the side of it whilst we were looking around Trani!

More on our tour of the region shortly.

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Still here and will be for a while

The storms on Friday (June 15th) continued until lunchtime and so with Bari’s poor drainage systems and much of the town below sea level, it meant that all the roads were pretty much flooded. Consequently, the fridge repairman couldn’t get to us on Friday and he doesn’t work Saturdays! So, another few days until it could be fixed. An engineer came to check the electrics and confirmed that the solar panels were fine but that the batteries were knackered. We have AGM batteries that are more expensive than the usual lead acid ones but you can discharge them more deeply and they last longer. We have had them since 2011 so they have done well. They looked fine when we checked them at the end of last season but they are now overheating and one has actually blown. Unfortunately, it was, by now, Friday afternoon so although the boatyard was on the case to find replacements, we wouldn’t know much until Monday.

There have been plenty of boat jobs to be done in the meantime including cleaning Nimmie within an inch of her life and, my, was she dirty. There was an orange glow to her from months of sand and dirt in the air. Liz put a knife block in the galley. She was going to do it whilst we were on the hard then realised that we weren’t on the level. Could have ended up at a lovely, jaunty angle!

Knife block

We had brought out a new dinghy that had been replaced by the manufacturer. Some of you will remember that our ‘brand new’ dinghy last year developed a faulty seam so didn’t keep losing pressure. The new Baby Nimmie IV needed her name tags and signage put on her. We have also bought a reel of webbing that you can use when needing lines ashore. This is lightweight but strong so much easier for Liz to swim with and it rolls off the reel as you need it.

New Webbing Reel

Monday morning the fridge repairman arrived and found the root cause of the problem – the probe that sends signals to the compressor as to the desired temperature. Luckily, we had a spare on board so he was able to fix it. Cost us €300 for his and his brother’s time (on Thursday) but it is working now and frankly, the thought of not having a working fridge all summer was too much to bear.

It’s always amazing how much time things take when you are on a boat and also what can go wrong on an almost daily basis. The latest is that the water pump wouldn’t switch off. We thought it was a drop of pressure in the accumulator so wasn’t hard to fix but it meant emptying the entire cockpit locker to get to it. We took the opportunity to have a look at the heating system as well given we had problems in March. I’m not sure it was the best time to do it given it was 31 degrees today!

The locker really is deeper than Liz is tall!

At least with being here we were able to watch the England game in the Football World Cup. Even Liz got into it.

The update on the batteries is that the ones we want are hard to source here so we have ordered them from the U.K. but they will take 5 or 6 days to get to us once dispatched. I reckon that means that we won’t be leaving Bari for another week at least. It seems that we are destined to spend this time of year waiting for repairs. In 2012 it was the engine, last year the gear box and now the batteries. Still, at least it’s warm, sunny and we aren’t at work!

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Not as heavy as we thought

Due to various family crises, we flew out to Bari a week later than planned on June 12th, a year on from when we were first there sussing out the boatyard. Nimmie has been on the hard standing since Oct 2017 and has fared well although she is completely covered in sand. All the work we authorised has been completed apart from the replacement of the main halyard (that keeps the main sail up) as Cesare wanted to check the shackle fitting with us.

We had brought out a replacement dinghy with us but waited until she was launched to bring it on board – no point lugging that up 10m!

Having been up early to close the house up, we were pretty tired once we had unpacked so we went to a restaurant close by called Antica Santa Lucia, which did very good pizza, pasta and seafood. We had pizza, beer, wine and a dessert for less than €20 each. Given we could hardly keep our eyes open past 9.30pm it was some anniversary celebration! It was still very warm, in the high 20s even at 10pm so it was difficult to get to sleep as the boat had been closed up for so long. Luckily, we do have a small AC unit which helped although Liz decamped to the saloon to try and get some breeze.

You can see where they tightened the keel bolts on the far left

Wednesday was another lovely day but we needed to stay on board so we could check all the work that had been done and ensure no snags. We also found out that the fridge had stopped working. Although it’s cooled by sea water, it was clear that the compressor wasn’t coming on. We hoped it wasn’t a faulty compressor as we only had it replaced two years ago and they are very expensive. We also realised that our batteries had been drained flat, which is very unusual as we have 200 watts of solar panels and they normally ensure that the batteries are topped up. So, not sure whether it’s the batteries or the panels (although they appear to be charging and sending current from the regulator to the batteries). It needs an electrical engineer to test the charging and batteries and he can’t come until Monday so we know we won’t be leaving before Tuesday at the earliest.

We did manage to repair the winch and polish the transom before calling it a day, having a shower (god did that feel good) and then off back to Antica’s for a proper meal this time.

We were due to be launched on Thursday around 11am so we wanted to ensure we had all the jobs done that required the boat out of the water. We needed to be a bit careful when we did these as it is often forbidden in Italy to do any work on your own boat that requires the use of power tools so we had polished the transom after the boatyard had shut for the day on Wednesday.

Nimmie on the move!

Nimmie was carefully launched into the water and a mechanic came on board to check there was no water ingress from the new propeller shaft or sea cock. He was then followed by the mechanical engineer to check the engine as they had replaced the water pump gasket and completed an engine service so it needed priming. All good. We found out that the travel lift has a weighing mechanism that showed Nimmie’s weight as 12.5 tonnes, some 2.5 tonnes less than we thought.

Launched!

We then moved her round to a berth. I was a bit nervous as, not having parked a boat Med style in 7 months, you’re never quite sure how she will behave. However, despite the wind picking up (not forecast) it all went very smoothly and we were soon in our berth. We then had the new dinghy, valeted sails and a repaired outboard motor delivered.

Liz had work to finish off (I know, she’s supposed to be NOT working since end of May) so I started cleaning the inside of the boat. We had decided that with the amount of dust and grime in the boatyard, it wasn’t worth cleaning her until she was in the water. Then the fridge men arrived. It was like a Laurel and Hardy act. Michael was the older, English speaking half with his boss, younger and the one who did all the work. They identified that it was the control unit that was at fault and proved it by bypassing it and the fridge started to work. They are fashioning a mechanical switch like you have in your fridge at home to override the unit but we also found a replacement unit we had shipped out last year and forgot about so we will see which one works when they come back today.

We decided to eat on board last night so popped to the local shops once they had reopened after the statutory siesta and had a lovely simple meal of baked chicken and salad sitting in the cockpit before the thunderstorms arrived. I’m glad we were launched yesterday as there has been the most amazing thunder and lightning much of the night and all morning. We are safely tucked up in board and Nimmie is getting a very good wash!

You couldn’t see across the harbour this morning

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