As we were stuck in Kalamata for a few days, we took the opportunity to hire a car on one of them to visit the places we missed by having to leave Navarino Bay. Some 20 km northwest of the Pilos is Nestor’s Palace. It was destroyed by fire in 1200BC and rediscovered in 1939. The Mycenaean palace looks over the bay from a hilltop where the authorities have recently built a suspended walkway and roof so that you get a much better perspective of the layout. The palace features in Homer’s Odyssey when Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, seeks out Nestor for news of his father. He is taken to the palace where he is bathed by Nestor’s youngest daughter. We saw a royal bath but whether it was the same one, who knows?!
Royal bath at Nestor’s Palace
Then onto the beaches where we had lunch at the delightful Kookoonari beach bar on the coast just north of Navarino Bay. It was quite nice that it was cloudy as it has been so hot here for the last month.
This was followed by the fabulous Voidokilia Beach with its semi circle of sand overlooked by Nestor’s Cave. Apparently, Nestor kept some cattle there.
We walked up from the beach to the cave (only finding out later that there are snakes there!) and had wonderful views across the bay.
View from Nestor’s Cave
We needed to make our way back to Kalamata but popped in Pilos on the way home. This town was designed by the French after the battle of Navarino Bay and you can see it in the main square. Lovely place. It also has a castle that was originally built by the Turks in the 13th century. There were two museums, a church (once a mosque) and a Fort – all for €6 entrance fee.
The church/mosque at Pilos Castle
Kalamata is the main city in the Messinian region and is not a bad place to be stranded for a few days. The city has a long beach, extensive cycle ways and even a railway train park! The latter is an open space set in the old station (which is now a cafe) with a number of old train stock amongst the trees. A lovely space that is obviously enjoyed by the locals. We also met up with an old friend, Jaco, who moors his boat in the marina.
We left Keri early on Monday morning so we could investigate the Strofadhes Islands, some 20nm south and absolutely in the middle of nowhere. As per usual, there was no wind so we motored all the way arriving around midday. Whilst the islands were arresting in a desolate way, the anchorage was not tenable. The swell was rolling in and the seabed was strewn with boulders that were big enough to get our chain snared around. We decided against staying and headed for the Peloponnese mainland.
There is an island called Petrì that might have worked as an anchorage so we sailed/motored over to there. We arrived around 1730 but again there was very little shelter and we would be in deep water so would necessitate a lot of chain. We also noticed that our domestic batteries didn’t seem to be charging very well. We had been using the water maker during the day with increased engine revs but we were still down to 65%. Exactly the same when we were in Cephalonia and then we had to divert into Ay. Eufima. Odd. We continued south for another couple of hours to Navarino Bay and the town of Pilos. Navarino Bay is famous in Greece as it effectively brought an end to the Greek War of Independence when an allied fleet of British, French and Russian ships routed the Turkish Egyptian fleet in 1827.
The entrance to Navarino Bay
This is a huge bay (some 3nm long) that had plenty of anchoring opportunities so we weren’t worried about getting there at dusk. We anchored in 5m of sand off the defunct town marina at Pilos and set about trying to diagnose our charging problems. We called our friend, Lee, who is both a sailor and an engineer, for some guidance as we had done some tests and narrowed it down to either the alternator or split diode (this splits the charge from the alternator to the different battery banks). We agreed with Lee that we would do some more tests in the morning when the engine and the alternator were cool. A quick supper and off to bed as it had been a long day.
The next morning it was clear that our domestic battery bank wasn’t charging at all whilst our engine and bow thruster ones were. It was looking more and more like the split diode was the problem. We would have to be in a marina to get this fixed as we needed shore power to charge the batteries otherwise no cold beer! Despite the bay and Pilos looking very inviting we left first thing to travel 40nm east to Kalamata, the first proper marina on the Peloponnese unless we wanted to go back on ourselves. There was no wind so we put the towing generator arm on our wind generator so at least we could generate some power along with the solar panels and started motoring towards Kalamata. The solar panels and the towing arm generated around 12-14 amps which was more than enough to keep us going. The afternoon sea breeze kicked in around 1400 so we were able to sail the last 15nm to Kalamata.
Safely moored up despite our neighbour mansplaining exactly what we needed to do to moor (we ignored him!), the electrical engineer came on board to investigate our problem. He soon confirmed our diagnosis that the split diode was indeed broken which was comforting as a) we had thought the same and b) it would be a lot cheaper to replace than an alternator! However, because of the model required he needed to order it from Athens and have it couriered to us, which he did the following morning. Sadly, the courier sent it to the wrong town so a replacement was sent out today. Fingers crossed it is delivered tomorrow morning.
We left Messolonghi early on Monday morning (September 3rd) to make our way across to Zakynthos Town where our friends, Julie and Yvonne, were flying in to spend a few days with us. We’d heard that the part of the town quay that has electricity and water gets very busy as there is limited space for visiting yachts with the day tripper boats taking up a lot of room. However, there was plenty of room so we moored up with no problems. The company that took our lines, YCZ (Yacht Club Zakynthos), act as agents for the Port Authority and charge a ‘commission’ for helping you and then pay the Port the standard fee of 47 cents per metre. They wanted to charge us €20 per night plus €5 each for electricity and water – per day! So, we politely declined and I went round the next morning to the Port Authority to pay our dues and get a key fob for the utilities. It cost us the princely sum of €21 for three days mooring and €8 for the electricity and water during the whole of our stay.
Zakynthos town from the Port Authority balcony!
We spent Tuesday and Wednesday getting food, cleaning the boat, washing clothes and doing admin. The wind had got up Wednesday and was forecast to be strong on Thursday as well so we were glad we had got in early and our anchor was well dug in. Wednesday afternoon was ‘interesting’ as other boats moored in the strong winds – some made a better job of it than others.
Zakynthos Town Quay – complete with washing!
Inevitably, Yvonne and Julie’s plane was delayed so it was nearly 10pm before they got on the boat. We went out to a local taverna for a very late supper and catch up. We decided that we would hire a car on Thursday to travel round the island as the winds were still too strong to take our guests out. Thursday morning was a beautiful, albeit, windy day and our car was duly delivered to the town quay. We spent the day discovering eco farms, gorgeous beaches and topped it off with a meal at sunset in Kambi.
Sunset at Kambi
The highlight was Shipwreck Bay despite all the hype and masses of people. We got there about 5pm after all the tripper boats had left and walked across the headland to look back. Breathtaking.
Shipwreck Bay #nofilters
After a quick food shop, we left Zakynthos Town to sail around the south of the island to Keri and Turtle Island. Yvonne helmed part of the way as we sailed in the afternoon breeze. We anchored just off the little harbour at Keri and all of us jumped into the sea at the first opportunity! Dinner on board after deciding to take a tripper boat to Turtle Island and Keri Caves the next morning as it looked quite a long way to take the dinghy.
Turtle nests protected on Turtle Island
Up early on Saturday to see whether we could get on a boat. Liz negotiated the price down as there were four of us and we excitedly set off at 11am, hoping to see turtles. First stop, Turtle Island, where the turtles lay their eggs. The vast majority of the beach is cordoned off to protect the eggs but the water was crystal clear and warm. It was good to see that despite all the tourists, no one tried to disturb the nests. Then onto Keri Caves around the headland. Arches and more crystal clear water so another swim! Back on shore for a lovely lunch before making our way to Nimmie. Yvonne, Julie and Liz went turtle spotting whilst Jo prepared supper.
The intrepid explorers return
On Sunday, we decided that we would go back to the island in the dinghy for some more turtle spotting. Whilst it was interesting to explore the coves and caves, sadly no turtles. Back on the boat, Yvonne put her paddle board skills to the test and eventually was able to stand up for longer than 10 seconds. So much so, she disappeared into the distance as she could not turn the board in the wind. Liz and Baby Nimmie to the rescue. Then we saw a unicorn floating by. Again, Liz and Baby Nimmie reunited the unicorn with its owner.
Saving the unicorn!
A lovely farewell dinner at the harbour side before Yvonne and Julie left for their hotel in Argassi. A truly fun packed few days together.
On Wednesday, August 29th, we left Kalamakis and headed south to the Island of Petalas. We had read that there was a nice, sheltered anchorage here and we were keen to ensure there would be room. We needn’t have worried. You could have fitted 50-100 boats in there and there were only 8 when we arrived! It is all very shallow, no more than 5m deep and really good holding. Nothing there but turquoise water, more goats and tranquility. It was so nice we spent two days there just chilling.
Petalas – nothing there but nature and a few boats
We were running low on fresh produce so we decided to move onto Messolonghi in the Gulf of Patras. This is the same Gulf that takes you to the Corinth Canal but that’s some 80nm further on! The harbour up to Messolonghi is navigated by traversing 3nm up a shallow, narrow channel. It’s dredged to 6m but less than 1m either side so no room for error.
Messolonghi is situated in the largest lagoon in Greece, some 220,000 sq kilometres of marsh and wetland. Home to numerous wading birds, we saw herons and flamingoes today in Klisova Lagoon. The town is best known as the place where Lord Byron died in 1824 during the Greek War of Independence. There is a Garden of Heroes in the town that commemorates those involved in the struggle including a statue of Byron. Allegedly, his heart is buried there.
We got our folding bikes out as we had moved from being at anchor on Friday evening to being alongside on the town quay. We thought it would be a good idea to save money and cycle to the Lidl outside of town. Unfortunately, it was also very hot. Well over 40 degrees in the sun. Still we managed it and stocked up on some essentials, including gin. We decided to stay another day and explore the lagoon in more detail so we used the bikes to go the 3 miles down to the bottom of the lagoon along a cycle way to a small hamlet called Tourlidha. It is there where you see the fishermen’s huts, pellades, on stilts that are now holiday homes.
On the way, we saw many locals swimming in the lagoon, covering themselves with mud and generally enjoying the natural beauty of the place. We had lunch overlooking the lagoon and Liz decided to have a local delicacy, Havidra which is grey mullet roe. Safe to say, neither of us will be ordering that again!
The guide books aren’t very kind to Messolonghi but we really liked it. It feels authentic with the locals filling the cafes and bars rather than tourists. The only downside is that the bars play really loud music and last night, Saturday, it didn’t stop until 5am. Let’s hope tonight isn’t as late!
Ithaca is the smaller neighbour to Cephalonia and takes its name from Ithacus, son of Poseidon. It isn’t large and due to the prevailing winds coming from the NW, most of the anchorages or harbours are on the east side.
The island of Ithaca
We went across from Ag. Effima on Sunday morning looking for a lunch time stop along the bottom but none really took our fancy until we saw Gidaki Bay on the SE coast not far from the capital of Vathy. It was a lovely stop for about an hour but then we moved on as we knew some strong winds were due and wanted to be well dug in somewhere safe.
We went round to Vathy bay where we anchored in a bay just outside of town that gave us a bit more protection than the main anchorage. There was only one other boat in there when we arrived but by the time dusk came, there were about 5 more including one or two super yachts. We also had one French 54 footer decide to anchor very close to us. Given the blow due, we had put out quite a bit of chain and were worried that with his length, he would be too close when the wind swung. He didn’t seem to be bothered so we put out fenders and set the alarm for when the wind was due to change. In the end it was fine but didn’t make for a great night’s sleep.
Our neighbours in Vathy
Mind you, that was difficult anyway as a wedding reception was being held in the garden of the hotel opposite where we were anchored and the music didn’t stop until 3am! However, it was all quite sweet as they had been married in the church on the island in the middle of the bay so everyone was delivered to and from the church by boat with horns blaring and red flares being set off.
The following morning we were going to go into town but the clouds had started to gather and we knew a storm was due so we left quickly to make our way up the coast. First stop was Kioni, a small village with a town quay that our friends, Caron and Yvonne, had recommended. It was lovely but a real bun fight to get a space on the quay with one boat literally cutting us up to get there in front of us. We decided that we really didn’t need that level of stress so went 5nm North to Frikes.
Frikes harbour from the outside
Frikes is a forgotten harbour. Boats seem to go past it and not bother stopping, preferring Kioni or Vathy. It’s named after the pirate Frikon who had his base there for a time. There is a harbour wall where you can moor inside and alongside and be protected from the wash of passing ferries and any swell. Luckily, there was space for us as it was only midday. It felt so nice mooring like this as it’s so rare in the Med yet so common in the U.K. Around 3pm the heavens opened and it poured on and off until around 9pm. The winds also increased and we had gusts of 34 knots in the harbour, much more than forecast. However, it is known for its gusts which is why they built windmills up the hillside in the 19th century.
Windmills at Frikes
Ferries still come into Frikes despite its sleepy nature (which is quite nice actually) at least 3 times a day and stays there overnight. There is a plaque in the village commemorating the taking of a German gunboat in WWII by partisans. It brings home to you that these islands have been occupied by many and not always benevolently.
The ferry really was that close!
Not letting the bad weather stop her, Liz decided she was going to walk back along the road to Kioni. Unfortunately, the rain hadn’t finished but, being well prepared, she had an umbrella with her so kept relatively dry.
After the storm
The wind calmed down after dusk so we had a peaceful evening on board. We set off this morning for the mainland to explore the coves and islands north of the Gulf of Patras. We are now anchored in a little bay with four other boats on the mainland with only the lapping of the water and cicadas for background noise.
Finally, we left Lixouri. It was so easy to just idle our time away there with everything we needed without any charges in the company of friends. However, we had places to visit if we were going to get to Athens by mid October! We had spent Monday catching up on admin (work and personal) before casting off around midday on Tuesday. It looked like we would have a lovely sail but, of course, the wind was on the nose until we got to the head of the bay and then pretty much died. Motor on, we continued anti clockwise around Cephalonia along the south coast to Lourdas beach. Rob and Lisa had said how nice it was and it even had a beach bar. We kayaked over and had lovely views back towards Nimmie whilst having a drink at the Waikiki bar.
The Waikiki Beach Bar with Nimmie in the distance
We were wondering whether to spend the night there but the swell didn’t seem to be dissipating so we back tracked a couple of miles to a bay called Spartia, where we would be sheltered from the swell. Having anchored in turquoise water, Jo dived down to check the anchor and it had set well but if we swung in the night our chain could get snagged on rocks so we moved and reset in a better place. It’s so much easier to check this sort of thing when you can see the bottom!
After dinner on board and a peaceful night’s sleep we took the dinghy to explore the bay and found yet another bar (Waterway) for morning coffee! We then continued our journey around southern Cephalonia.
View from Waterway beach bar
For the first time in ages, we actually had both sails up and sailed the whole afternoon until we reached Katelios on the SE tip of the island. It was a busy little anchorage but again turquoise water. The bottom was hard packed sand so it took a couple of goes to get the anchor probably dug in. In the morning, after another quiet night, Liz kayaked around the bay as we had read that turtles can sometimes be seen there. No luck though.
Our next port of call was going to be Sami in the large bay of Kolpos Samos on the east coast of the island. This was where Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed. The book is so much better than the film. Anyway, Sami has a town quay but no electricity and you can usually find a space, even in high summer. However, we ended up diverting to Ag Efimia in the NW corner of the same bay as they did have electricity. On the way round, after Liz had caught a fish (more on that in a moment), we realised that the batteries were down to 65%. Because we were motoring, we had been making water, charging freezers and fridges but only going at about 1600 revs despite clocking over 6 knots. It appeared that there was a problem with the alternator, hence the diversion to Efimia as it did have electricity and hopefully a mechanic! We arrived around 3pm and moored up with the help of very directive harbour staff. You can’t blame them as they need to get a lot of people in and they have a lot of inexperienced flotillas so they wanted to ensure no crosses anchors but, boy, do the ‘instructions’ grate. Luckily, there was an engineer (with a good reputation) coming to look at another boat so we waited. Around 8.30pm he finished with the other boat and came aboard. The good news is that the alternator, split diode and batteries are all working well. I think the problem was that we weren’t running the engine in high enough revs. Too efficient!
Ay. Efimia harbour
Anyway, back to the FISH. We had about 70m of fishing line out as we went across shoals on the SE tip. All of a sudden, the line squeaked and we had caught a fish. This time, Liz was ready and the fish was landed. The only problem was, what was it and was it edible? The books we had suggested Amberjack but they tended to be big and this was definitely not big. Luckily, Liz found a fishing shop with a book by its owner on Greek fish. Bingo, it was a Meagre fish, part of the tuna family. We had it as a starter marinated in soy sauce and honey mustard and figs. Delicious.
A very happy fisherwoman!
We had already decided that we wanted to stay at least two nights as there was bad weather due and there isn’t anything more miserable at anchor than torrential rain and thunderstorms. We managed to get a two night stay but anything longer would depend on the flotillas coming back in as they were the bread and butter for this town. Ag. Efimia used to be the primary port for this side of Cephalonia but after the earthquake, the British rebuilt Sami and created a ferry port there. Consequently, Ay. Efimia struggled to compete until tourism hit. Now the harbour is full most days during the summer and the bars and restaurants thrive. It is also far more sheltered than Sami so it was a good decision to come in.
We wanted to go to the Melissani Cave which is a bit like the Mexican Cenotes or sinkholes. It is on the outskirts of Sami so we grabbed a taxi and joined the queue of tourists. It had turquoise waters inside the cave with a ceiling that collapsed over a 1,000 years ago and not as a result of the 1953 earthquake that some guidebooks suggest. Afterwards, we walked into Sami and visited the lake where the water emerges. Sami itself is much bigger than Efimia but no different to many island harbours we’ve seen in the Ionian. After a lunch stop for gyros, we jumped in a taxi to head home having heard thunder.
It really was that turquoise in the cave
The weather today has been erratic with rain showers and thunder on and off all day. We decided to stay another night as it’s only around €13 a night and safe. There was a break in the weather around 4pm so we ventured out for walk and a dip in the sea. We found two beaches that looked like they had deposited white pebbles to enhance the clear water to make it look turquoise. After a humid day, a dip in the sea was just the ticket.
We had planned to spend two days in Fiscardo but on Wednesday morning (15th August) our very nice neighbours managed to literally pick up our anchor as they were pulling up theirs! We could have relaid ours but decided to move on instead. As it was a beautiful day with little wind, we decided to go across to the north west coast of the island to a place called Assos. The town quay has room for a handful of boats but most boats anchor in the bay and take lines ashore. We found a lovely spot and tried a new way of taking lines ashore which entailed me holding station whilst Liz paddled the kayak ashore with lines to attach. Once a suitable rock was found, Liz tied the rope around the rock and then paddled back to the boat with the line. I dropped the anchor and motored back to Liz and picked up the line. All seemed to go well.
We then jumped off the boat for a well deserved snorkel before heading into town to climb up to the ruined Venetian Fort. It was built in 1611 and would have been able to control the NW corner of the island as well as the harbour. Dinner on board before a relatively early night.
The castle at Assos is from 1611 not Liz!
View from the Fort looking down on Assos Bay
Around 7am, it started to rain. Not much but enough to get up and close the hatches. It then started to rain more heavily and we noticed that the catamaran next to us had slipped back over our ropes. Next the thunder and lightning started. We then saw that a number of boats had dragged their anchors and were departing quickly to the safety of the bay opposite. At this point the wind was coming from the left (North) so we decided we would also get our lines in and motor forward away from the rocks. Liz jumped in to take the line off and as she did so, the wind came round 180 degrees and was blowing at somewhere between 30 and 40 knots – side on! We were then pushed onto other boats with Liz not yet back on board. Luckily, I managed to let the other line off from the boat and the kayak did a good job of being an extra fender. We could then motor forward, get the anchor up and away from danger although we managed to snarl the chain of another anchor but, with the help of our neighbours, we were able to untangle ourselves and move to the bay and anchor in relative calm. Others weren’t so lucky with at least two boats on the rocks who then needed to be towed off without too much damage. All of this happened in less than 90 mins. Needless to say we were both emotionally exhausted! We were in the bay opposite and well dug in by then so we decided to rest for the remainder of the day and leave the following morning.
So, on Friday, we continued down the western side of Cephalonia with its sweeping coastline and majestic cliffs. We saw a number of pretty bays and beaches but nothing to tempt us to stay. We also knew that the wind was going to pick up in the afternoon and were keen to get to Lixouri on the south coast. It’s set on the western side of the bay of Argostoli with the capital city of the island on the eastern side. For some reason, Lixouri is the forgotten port of the bay. It’s actually quite pretty with a town quay lined with restaurants and bars, pedestrianised streets and good shops. It was flattened in the 1953 earthquake (as was Argostoli) and the subsequent rebuilding stipulated that the buildings should only be two stories high. However, even more importantly, our friends Lisa and Rob Orme were there and in their Southerly 38, Hightime. We’d both been in the Ionian this summer but this was the first time our plans coincided. The icing on the cake was that the town quay was free and even had electricity and water! The water wasn’t great so we made sure we filled our tanks with water from the water maker before coming in.
Friday evening meant a lot of catching up over drinks on Hightime so dinner was a quick gyros in town. Saturday gave us an opportunity to reprovision the boat and wander around the shops as well as reciprocate with drinks on board.
On the ferry looking back at Lixouri with Nimmie in the background
On Sunday we caught the very good and very frequent ferry from Lixouri to Argostoli. It cost the princely sum of €2.80 per person each way. If you went round by road it would take 45 minutes. Argostoli is much bigger than Lixouri with the town quay rammed with boats and others anchored off in the harbour.
Argostoli Bell Tower
We wanted to go there to visit the bell tower and the archaeological museum (both shut!) and the museum dedicated to the Italian soldiers of the Acqui Division who were slaughtered by the Germans in 1943. The book, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, was based on them but the museum didn’t open to 8pm. Instead, we hoped to see some loggerhead turtles that can sometimes be found in the harbour and by the causeway.
Causeway in Argostoli
The causeway was built by Debousset in 1813 when the British ran the island. It’s the longest stone ‘bridge’ in Europe. It’s now closed to cars so makes a lovely walk to the other side of the bay. After lunch by the causeway, we wandered back towards the ferry and were honoured to see 4 different turtles, one of whom was at least a metre long and looked very old.
A very old turtle!
Back on board in the early evening for more drinks on Hightime before retiring. We were thinking of leaving today but with free mooring, electricity and even WiFi (courtesy of a nearby bar), we’ve decided to stay another day – we’ve all got too comfortable!
Early evening drinks with Lisa and Rob on their boat, Hightime
After a lovely two weeks in the U.K. with the Wall family celebrating John and Ruth’s Diamond Wedding Anniversary, we fly out at stupid o’clock from Gatwick back to Préveza. As it was an early flight, we had decided to get a hotel room at the airport rather than risk trains that early. The only problem was that we didn’t get to the hotel until 1am so only had 3 hours sleep. Needless to say, we were like Zombies last Friday. Still we managed to get the laundry and food shopping done before collapsing. We felt much more human on Saturday so went about our chores with renewed vigour. We had brought back various spares with us from England so spent Saturday and Sunday replacing things including the foot switch on the windlass (pretty crucial for raising the anchor), the music speaker in the cockpit that had given up the ghost back in June and the water filter under the sink. We treated ourselves to Gyros (filled pitta bread) in town for the princely sum of €8 for two of them including beer and water!
On Monday morning we were ready to continue our adventures but first we needed to pop over to Lefkas Town to pick up our liferaft that had been serviced whilst we were away. As we also needed fuel, the company kindly delivered it to the fuel pontoon at Lefkas Marina. We wanted to explore the western side of Lefkas so this meant that we needed to go through the floating bridge (again) rather than go down the eastern side. We timed it well and arrived at the bridge for the 1pm opening but nothing happened. We were told that we would have to wait until 2pm so we and the other four boats waiting all dropped our anchor in the middle of the channel and had lunch!
The western side of Lefkada is very dramatic with lovely beaches and steep cliffs. Many of the beaches are no longer accessible after the earthquake in 2015 so they look even more remote. At one, there seemed to be a flotilla of super yachts and there were setting up a banquet on the beach. We thought we might stay at Mylos Beach but the swell was coming straight in and would for much of the night thus making it very uncomfortable. It was a beautiful spot though.
Sappho’s leap – we think!
We continued on to various beaches and bays but they were all untenable for one reason or another.
Fancy neighbours in Vasiliki
In the end we went into Vasiliki on the south of Lefkada where we knew we would be out of the swell and wind in good holding. However, as we were coming in we had winds of over 25 knots sweeping down the mountains. Luckily, by the time we reached the top of the bay to anchor, the wind had dropped to 10 knots and no swell. Bliss. Our neighbours for the evening were a couple of large yachts (40 and 46m long) so obviously we were keeping good company.
This morning we left Lefkada for the last time and made our way to Fiskardo on Cephalonia.
Entrance to Fiskado – Venetian lighthouse to the left
We anchored and took lines ashore in strong cross winds so we were grateful for the help of our next door skipper who was an ex flotilla skipper. You could tell from the way she gave directions – reminded me of one or two teachers we know! The harbour was pretty busy when we arrived but at least twice as many boats arrived after us and were still coming in at 8pm.
We dinghied into town for happy hour and then back on Nimrod for dinner.
Local sculptures in the hotel courtyard in Fiskado
Arrived Sunday evening to the beautiful town of Preveza. A quick G&T on the boat and off to dinner. The food at Ventura was delicious. Fabulous atmosphere with many restaurants and tables lining the pedestrian streets.
On the quay side at Prèveza
Monday, after a quick walk to town and gathering yummy bakery treats, we set off for Nidri … after our job descriptions and safety briefing (of course)! We motored across the sea and Jo timed the opening of the floating bridge perfectly. We were on our way to more wide open water. It was a bit cloudy but we thought the weather would hold… it didn’t! David took the helm while the jib was out (no mainsail today… hmmm) and we made our way across the bay. We finally settled ourselves in at anchor in the quiet bay of Vliko near Nidri. We managed to stay fairly dry through the various storms, thunder and lightning. We let out the anchor but weren’t convinced we were holding so we attempted to lift the anchor to reset it BUT THEN the windlass anchor foot switch failed us. Jo quickly shut off the circuit breaker and we had to do a relay of shouting “on/off” while Judy was down below turning the circuit on and off and Liz was manning the anchor. We finally felt comfortable with the anchor holding… so we waited out the various rain showers (we kept saying “I think it’s going to clear soon… just as the next rain shower rolled in). We enjoyed the amazing cloud colors and formations. We played games, showered up, and had Dimitri himself pick us up via “boat taxi” to go to dinner at Dimitri’s taverna just on the shore of our little bay. The storms kept rolling in as we ate a delicious meal on the water. Back to Nimmie safe and sound. Thanks Dimitri!
Storm clouds gathering as we eat at Dimitri’s
Early morning swim after the storms have gone
Tuesday started with Liz’s delish banana pancakes. We had sunny skies and set off on an adventure to Sivota. We wanted to arrive midday to get a spot on the pontoon so we could enjoy the little village and have a delicious dinner by the water at 12 Gods Taverna. We wandered around the shops and found a nice little beach to have a swim. Later that day the winds kicked up a bit while David and Judy were kayaking.
Sneaky afternoon beer in Sivota
We had a nice easy day, enjoyed free showers at the 12 Gods before suiting up in our new Nimrod crew gear and sipping on a few pink Gin &Tonics while hanging around on 4 hammocks. Absolutely lovely!! Yummy dinner at 12 Gods Taverna and back to Nimmie for a beautiful cool night.
Wednesday morning we mooched around the shops a bit and had breakfast at a yummy bakery before untying Nimmie and setting sail at about noon to find some caves to explore. We raised the jib (but still no mainsail…hmmm) when we were out of the harbor and Judy took the helm for a bit until we found the Papanikolis Cave on Meganisi to explore. Judy and David explored the cave via kayak while Jo and Liz stayed on Nimmie.
David & Judy kayaking at the cave
We then sailed past Jackie Onassis’ island, Skorpios, but could not get close to anchor and swim. On we moved to Port Atheni on Meganisi where we anchored and put lines ashore to spend the night. Judy and David earned their keep by jumping off with the lines and swimming ashore to tie onto a tree or rock. By late afternoon we were settled in. We went for a swim and took the dinghy across the bay to a little beach and bar.
Drinks at the Jammin’ beach bar in Port Atheni
After a cocktail we set off to explore the coral reef just inside our bay. Another lovely evening on the boat. We cooked steaks and enjoyed yet another delicious meal by Liz.
Thursday morning we had Greek salad omelettes by Chef Liz. We took it slow and swam around the bay for a bit before releasing the shore lines and heading across toward the mainland and a pretty bay called Varko. We enjoyed stunning turquoise waters and fun beach bar.
We had a yummy Greek salad lunch (thanks Liz), swam and snorkelled for a few hours before setting off to make the 6pm opening of the floating bridge. Again, Jo timed our arrival perfectly and we were on our way through to Preveza. We had 13 knot winds and storm clouds in the distance, so there was a suggestion to put up the main sail! David & Judy were very excited at the idea of actually laying eyes on the main sail… but still no luck. With the storm clouds around us, Jo and Liz decided it was best to motor as we would have to tack all the way.
So the question remains…. do they actually have a mainsail?
Throughout the week, David tried fishing at every opportunity but had as much luck/success as his sister! Maybe fishing isn’t in their genes.
We had an evening of cleaning up Nimrod and then walking into the town for a lively last dinner. Nimmie will rest at the marina for a couple of weeks while Liz and Jo return to England with Judy and David for a Wall family holiday in the south of England next week to celebrate Ruth and John’s Diamond wedding anniversary!
Thank you to Liz and Jo for a fabulous week of great hospitality, fun laughs, delicious food & wine and of course the gorgeous turquoise waters. We will be back!
A note to the next guest blogger: WANTED: picture evidence of Nimrod’s mainsail.
We’ve spent the last five days in the Lefkas area. The last time we were there was 2003 when we both learnt to sail with Neilsen. It was lovely revisiting old haunts.
We left Vonitsa at lunchtime on Monday having bought fresh provisions in the morning. We were blessed with yet more dolphins en route to Preveza. We were going to use the Lefkas Canal for the first time and we could understand why the pilot books urge caution when entering it when the wind and sea have built up. We, of course, arrived at the entrance as the wind had got up to 20 knots and we had 20 mins before the floating bridge opened on the hour. There was a waiting quay you can use and we only managed to tie up with the help of the motor yacht in front of us. However, the favour was returned when they set off to go through the bridge and found one of their lines was caught. Liz quickly jumped off Nimmie and untied it for them.
The canal itself is very pretty as it is essentially a lagoon that separates Lefkas from the mainland. It takes about 45 minutes to navigate the length of it but by then you are well and truly in the southern Ionian.
Our overnight stop was Port Atheni on Meganisi. The name doesn’t do the bay on the NE corner of the island justice – turquoise water, tavernas and beach. It is a lot busier than Croatia or the northern Ionian islands but we still managed to anchor and take lines ashore. We had also been told that rats try to climb up your ropes here so we installed ‘rat protectors’ otherwise known as cut off water bottles on our lines. By which time it was after 8pm so no time for a G&T in the hammock. A very peaceful night and a leisurely breakfast before setting off. The afternoon sea breeze here gives you several hours of sailing, as long as you don’t want to go south or southwest!
After investigating several coves we had remembered from our previous visit, we sailed down to the SE tip of Lefkas at Vasiliki. It is a watersport centre as well as a large anchorage. You can see why as the afternoon sea breeze comes straight in! However, once the sun had set, things calmed down a bit although the wind was greater than forecast due to the katabatic effect of the hills around.
We left early the next day as there were strong winds forecast for the next two days and we wanted to find a safe spot near Nidri, halfway up the eastern side of Lefkas. There is an anchorage in Vlikho Bay that is described as a ‘hurricane hole’. It’s really well sheltered from pretty much every direction – perfect. Quite a few other boats had similar ideas but we found a spot we were happy with. We put out plenty of chain as it was forecast to gust F5/6. We went into Nidri in the afternoon and reminisced about the Nielsen base there at the Athos Hotel with its Tree Bar. Those were the days. The Wednesday night was pretty uneventful as the holding is excellent in gluppy mud.
Vlikho Bay, Nidri is quite pretty and very sheltered
On Thursday morning the weather forecast had increased the predicted wind strength so we decided to stay put and work on our list of boat jobs. By 11am the wind was consistently a F4 (16 knots) and getting stronger. By 3pm it was gusting 30 knots and boats were flooding in as we suspect it was closer to 40 knots outside. We were very glad we made the decision to stay put as we knew the anchor was dug in. However, we did have our own incident when the dinghy flipped with the outboard attached. Normally, we take the outboard off when there are strong winds but we thought Baby Nimmie was safely tethered and so this wouldn’t happen. We were wrong! Luckily, we spotted it pretty quickly so got the outboard on board and flushed the water out, took various bits apart and put it all back together again. Fingers crossed we started it up and it worked! We suspect that we have done some irreparable damage as engines and salt water don’t mix. We shall see.
The wind didn’t abate until around 10pm but at least we were able to sleep knowing the anchor had held and no one else seemed to have dragged. On Friday morning (July 20), we quickly did some shopping in Nidri town (and tried out the outboard again) and set off to explore some anchorages on the mainland. We found a wonderful one at Ormos Varko with amazing sand, turquoise water and a nice beach bar. This time it was a lunchtime stop but we will be back!
Back up the Lefkas Canal for the 5pm bridge and into Preveza where we are to be joined on Sunday by Liz’s brother, David and sister in law, Judy.