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Author: Debera and Mark Clark

Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 1st to 5th Junes 2019

Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 1st to 5th Junes 2019

013 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 000Following a short hop from Lakka, we arrived in Gaios at 9.30am and to our amazement our corner spot (the same spot we stayed at in April) was vacant. You park ‘side-on’ to the quay, so no anchor is required, perfect in Gaios as the town is known for crossed anchor chains due to the angle of the quay and also for charter boats that cannot moor. Below is a good example of crossed anchors.

013 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 002aGaios was certainly a lot different from when we were there in April, all the bars, restaurants and shops were now open and surprisingly, the town quay was full every night with boats, so with the addition of the daily tripper boats, the town was buzzing with activity and life.

013 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 001aFor our first night in Gaios Mark had no choice, we had to go to my favourite restaurant on the island, the Taverna Taka Taka for their famous pork spit roast. It again lived up to its reputation and surprise surprise we had pre-dinner drinks at Mark’s favourite bar. Sorry we are not very original with our selections of restaurants and hostelries.

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 016aWe had hoped the weather had finally turned, but on Monday we woke to the sound of thunder and heavy rain … again. Fortunately, we were secure in our mooring and cosy below decks. It rained all day, with a short respite in the early evening, I thought this was supposed to be sunny Greece and it is June. Tuesday improved slightly, the rain stopped, but the clouds were threatening and it was chilly but at least we were able to take Hudson out for a long walk. However, due to the poor weather we decided to delay our departure till Wednesday morning as the big yellow thing was forecast to make an appearance and it would make the eight-hour trip much more pleasant.

The only issue with our corner mooring spot, is that it is very easy to get boxed in and this visit was no exception. A German charter yacht decided to squeeze in the small space next to us and as the tripper boats were parked directly in front, rather than wait or go somewhere else, he dropped his anchor next to the tripper boat. The net result was that he only had a few metres of chain out, luckily there was no wind or he would have been pushing hard on us. We woke early, planning to leave at 6:00 am, there was no wind and the sea was like glass so Mark manoeuvred  us out of our corner with no trouble, although he did use the bow thruster more than he probably needed to, they can be quite noisy next to your hull early in the  morning … particularly if you are Germans who have squeezed into too small a space and annoyed your British neighbours.

013 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 003aMy favorite boat, reminds me of Mickey Mouse.

Lakka on the Island of Paxos – 23rd May to 1st June 2019

Lakka on the Island of Paxos – 23rd May to 1st June 2019

012 - 2019 Summer - Laaka 000We left Roccella at 6 am keen to get going. During the early part of the journey we made excellent speed, over 7 knots. Unfortunately for Mark, this wasn’t due to the wind, but due to a glassy smooth sea and an extra kick from the currents which were going the same way as us … happily though, this saved us two hours on the twenty nine hour, 186 mile trip.

012 - 2019 Summer - Laaka 004As the sun rose on the second day, we could see the island of Paxos on the horizon … hoorah, we were nearly back in our lovely Greece. The passage was uneventful, although the calm conditions meant that we had to motor the whole way.  Being on engine does have some advantages, it means you can function, so Í was able to sleep and read, while Mark played his guitar and wrote his book, making the long passage go much quicker. As a bonus, we were lucky enough to see two large pods of dolphins, although they didn’t stay and play for long. We have only seen three pods in all the years we have been in Greece … unfortunately, that tells you something about the fish life in this part of the Med.

012 - 2019 Summer - Laaka 001aAlso, the tuna saga added another chapter. Once again Mark had the excitement of hearing the fishing line whizzing off the reel, as a fish raced away with the lure at high speed. We jumped into action, moving the dog under the spray hood and stopping Hapatoni ready for Mark to land this long-awaited fish. Imagine the moment … Mark starts to pull in his line, the mystery fish is fighting him for survival, Hudson and I hold our breath in anticipation and then snap … the line goes limp and another tuna breathes a sigh of relief. Such disappointment, no fresh fish for dinner tonight.

012 - 2019 Summer - Laaka 013aWe arrived at 11:55am at the town quay in the village of Lakka, the bay is on the north end of Paxos. We normally anchor in the bay here, but as the weather wasn’t great and we had been travelling for a day and a half, we decided to go for solid ground and stern moored onto the quay. As the day passed, there was a British invasion, every boat seemed to have the red ensign and these were complimented with a flotilla of Sailing holidays charter yachts … which are also British. For most of the week, we ruled the quay, most of the private yachts deciding to stay for a few days. We got to know our neighbour, Keith, on his Bavaria called Broke Aweigh. He was currently on his own, passing time whilst he waited for his next guests. As an active member of the Cruising Association and a very sociable guy, he seemed to know a few of the other boaties, but by the end of the week, he had made friends with the whole pontoon and most of the boats anchored in the bay.

The first few days were a bit windy and I am afraid to say, a little chilly as well. We needed a jumper in the evenings. Keen to enjoy some Greek food, we ate out on the first two days. Night one was the Taverna Nionios which was full and very popular with the flotilla boats, although we thought the food was average … we won’t be going back there again. Night two, we were keen to go to our favourite restaurant, the Taverna Arriva. Fortunately, we found a sheltered spot in the restaurant, the tables can be a little exposed if the wind is in the wrong direction. We enjoyed a supper of delicious grilled Prawns, Mussels in a white wine sauce, Calamari and Greek Salad, all our favourites.

012 - 2019 Summer - Laaka 010aSaturday was a lovely day, no wind and finally the temperature is increasing. I discovered that Lakka has a butcher and as the mini market has a good supply of fruit and vegetables, we are now fully stocked with food, we can stay as long as we like. Just to add the icing to the cake, there is no charge for staying on the town quay and we have managed to find free electric and water which we are sharing with our neighbour Keith.

Following an afternoon at the beach, well I went to the beach and Mark and Hudson popped over on the dinghy for a quick swim and an ice-cream, then back to the boat. Please note, I have now paddled up to my knees, the water is getting warmer, but I am still too much of a coward to submerge fully.

012 - 2019 Summer - Laaka 011aWith the weather improving we enjoyed a BBQ on board, inviting our neighbour Keith to join us, it was the first evening that we have been warm enough to sit on deck after dark.

Just as I thought the sun was here to stay, Sunday was a disappointingly overcast day again, the weather is still not performing as it should at this time of year. In the evening, Keith returned the favour and cooked us a delicious prawn risotto supper on his boat.

012 - 2019 Summer - Laaka 006aWe have been surprised how busy Lakka is for this time of year and despite the variable weather, life is just so easy here, we are in a beautiful location and  we have nice neighbours … so as each morning arrives, we decide to delay our departure till the next day. We had originally planned to move onto Gaios for Mark’s birthday, but as the days passed and Mark’s Birthday approached, we took the easy option and stayed.

012 - 2019 Summer - Laaka 008aFriday 31st May – HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARK. Yet another windy day, although this time it is a north easterly, blowing on our nose and bringing some waves into the bay. This caused our anchor to come lose, so in the early evening we had to motor out and reset it. The forecast was for a calm night, so we left the boat and headed out for Mark’s Birthday supper, once more with Keith, who had recommended the Garden Taverna, which was new to us. It is set in a well-protected pretty garden, Keith and I had the lamb and Mark had a seafood platter special in an Ouzo cream sauce, both were delicious.

Unfortunately, the wind did not ease and a bumpy night with very little sleep followed. The wind was due to increase again on Saturday afternoon, so nearly every boat on the quay decided to up anchor and move to Gaios, 6 miles to the south. Gaios has much better protected from northerly winds and so, keen to get a space, we quickly said our farewells and left early.

Roccella Ionica – 17th to 22th May 2019

Roccella Ionica – 17th to 22th May 2019

011 - 2019 Summer - Roccella Ionica 000The sail to Roccella was smooth with only the slightest of breezes and very calm seas. The Messina Straits were thankfully uneventful this time, so with the sun shining, we motor sailed the 15 hours to Roccella. It seems there is either no wind or too much wind in this area, no in-betweens, but we were happy that we could bypass the dirty town of Reggio Di Calibria.

011 - 2019 Summer - Roccella Ionica 001aWe had originally planned to stay one night and leave the next day for Greece, but after a fifteen hour sail, we both felt a rest day was needed … which became five days while we waited for the weather to improve. Whilst enjoying a beer at the pizzeria in the marina watching the sun set, we got talking to a couple whom regularly winter in the area, they advised us that the problem child is the next bay to the north where the town of Crotone is located, which has persistent rough seas and strong winds. Unfortunately, we have to pass through this area to reach Greece. So, we waited for the 30 knot winds to subside and sea swell to calm down, we did not want to be rocking and rolling for 31 hours.

011 - 2019 Summer - Roccella Ionica 004aThe days passed, Hudson was happy, he got extended walks into the village along the promenade, which runs the five kilometres from the marina to the village … which the pilot book says is 15 mins away, when in fact it is closer to 45 mins. There are a few taverna’s near the town, but as yet they are all still closed and no one is on the long sandy beach, not surprising as it is still a little chilly and the sea looks cold … I don’t think the season starts till June around here.

011 - 2019 Summer - Roccella Ionica 005aHudson and I explore the village and stop in the square for our customary cappuccino before we stroll home.

011 - 2019 Summer - Roccella Ionica 003aFinally, the weather looks promising and we plan our departure for Wednesday 22nd May, hoping that it does not change overnight like it did earlier in the week. We wake early and Mark does a final check … and hurrah, it still looks good for the next two days. We left at 6:10am to travel the 186 miles to Lakka on the Island of Paxos, back ‘home’ to Greece.  A tuna on route would be nice, let’s hope.

Adios Italy.

Milazzo on the Island of Sicily 15th to 17th May 2019

Milazzo on the Island of Sicily 15th to 17th May 2019

010 - 2019 Summer - Milazzo 000With heavy rain forecast for the next day we left Vulcano and sailed the 19 miles to Milazzo on the Island of Sicily, the closest marina we could find to the Messina straits, ready for our next big hop to Roccella Ionica. As we approached the North of Sicily we could see the coastline, dark with heavy rain clouds. However, luck was on our side and they cleared before we arrived at 14:45, it was very overcast but dry … hoorah.

010 - 2019 Summer - Milazzo 002a

Following a shower, we took Hudson for a walk around the town. Milazzo has a long sea front promenade stretching from the ferry port at one end, to another smaller marina at the other end. Sadly, they have made nothing of it, no bars or restaurants to relax a way a few hours … very disappointing. The town seems spread out with no real centre (that we could find), it was also very quiet, however, we eventually found a café close to the marina and stopped for a while before heading back to the boat … un-impressed. Not a place we would choose to stay longer, especially as the marina was the most expensive so far at 88 euros plus electricity and it’s not even high season. It seems location is everything.

010 - 2019 Summer - Milazzo 001aKnowing that we had to stay another day, as the forecast for Thursday was heavy rain, we decided to explore the area a bit and hired a car. It was one of those days when we could and probably should have hidden below deck and read a book or watched a film … but determined to find something positive in the area, off we went exploring and headed to the mountain village of Taormina.

shutterstock_222081916_retina-870x410Perched on the side of a mountain, Taormina is described as one of Sicily’s most popular summer destinations, a chi-chi resort town popular in the summer months with holidaying high-rollers, making it touristy and expensive … but none-the-less pretty.

Founded in the 4th century BC, Taormina enjoyed great prosperity under the Greek ruler Gelon II and later under the Romans but fell into quiet obscurity after being conquered by the Normans in 1087. Its reincarnation as a tourist destination dates to the 18th century, when northern Europeans discovered it on the Grand Tour. Among its fans was DH Lawrence, who lived here between 1920 and 1923. We found a traditional Sicilian family run restaurant and enjoyed a delicious pizza lunch before heading back to the boat ready for our departure the next day. With good weather forecast, we planned to sail through the Messina Straits (not stopping at skanksville (Reggio Di Calibria) and onto Roccella Ionica 15 hours away, so a long day.


The Island of Vulcano – 14th to 15th May 2019

The Island of Vulcano – 14th to 15th May 2019

009 - 2019 Summer - Vulcano 000Another day waking up to yet more rain … so as soon as it stopped, we left Lipari heading the 4 miles to the Island of Vulcano and tied up on the Porto Di Levante pontoons.

009 - 2019 Summer - Vulcano 005aThe pontoons looked quite exposed to the elements and also to the wash of the many visiting ferries that are constantly coming into the nearby ports. So Mark put the springs on and that seemed to settle everything down. At the end of each season the pontoons are removed, however this year due to the poor weather, they are behind in re-installing them and as such still have not connected the power and water. Hence the cost was 50 euros rather than the normal 80 euros. The pontoons could hold about 80 yachts but there was only one other in addition to us – probably the weather.

009 - 2019 Summer - Vulcano 001aFollowing lunch, the three of us climbed up the Volcano to Gran Cratere which is the active crater and looms high above the village – it last erupted in 1890 … and yes, Hudson came as well, his first volcano.

009 - 2019 Summer - Vulcano 002aOur timing was not perfect as a large ferry had just disgorged a batch of German tourists, all making the pilgrimage to the top of Vulcano. None-the-less, compared to July and August, this time of year is still relatively quiet. The ascent lived up to its write up, rocky and coated with dust from the centuries of eruptions, just like you would expect the surface of the moon to look like. It took an hour to climb, thankfully it was not a hot summers day, as it was quite steep at times. A rotten egg smell announced our arrival at the crater, the sulphurous gasses are constantly bubbling up from deep within the volcano. Fortunately, the wind was blowing most of it the other way. It was an amazing sight, looking into the crater of an active volcano.

009 - 2019 Summer - Vulcano 003bAfter the climb, we had a look around the village at Vulcano’s base – very quaint. We found a bar with a sun trap and enjoyed a cold beer.

On Wednesday morning, we woke to more rain and to add insult to injury, it was also pretty chilly. It did however improve and we were determined to have a go in the mud baths and hot springs before we left. There were a few people enjoying the mud when we arrived, – which by the way, had the consistency of coffee rather than thick gloopy mud. The prime spots are where the bubbles are, they are the warmest patches and obviously, that’s where I aimed for. The water is heated by volcanic activity and again you have that rotten egg smell bubbling up from below. I don’t think Mark was particularly excited, so after a brief dip, we made for the hot springs which were bubbling up from the seabed about ten metres from the shore. The sea wasn’t particularly warm yet, but we waded out to the bubbles in the hope of heat. Most of the bubbles were unfortunately tepid, but I persevered and did finally find a warm spot and yes, I did have my first dip in the Mediterranean – not a full immersion, but up to my neck. So, with a tick in the box to say we had done it, we were back on the boat within the hour, ready to leave.

009 - 2019 Summer - Vulcano 006aYou could easily spend another day on Vulcano with its stunning views, but we decided that with torrential rain forecast for tomorrow, to head to Milazzo on the Island of Sicily and take another step closer to returning to Greece.

The Island of Lipari – 9th to 14th May 2019

The Island of Lipari – 9th to 14th May 2019

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 000We were up early, keen to leave Reggio de Calabria (and never come back … ever). It is 44 miles to the Island of Vulcano, one of the seven volcanic Aeolian Islands which lie 35 miles off the coast of Sicily. Only two of the seven now remain active: Stromboli and the Gran Cratere on Vulcano.

To get to Vulcano, you have to pass through the straits of Messina which separate Sicily from mainland Italy and at its narrowest point is only 1 ½ miles across. The Straits have a reputation for strong tides, whirlpools and squalls blowing off the high mountains on either side. With this is mind I asked Mark to put a reef in the main (he accidentally put in two reefs) although the forecast for the Straits said only 5 knots of wind. As we headed up the east side of the straits, the seas became bumpier and the wind increased to 20-25 knots. We crossed the traffic separation zone over to the west side without incident and carried on north to Capo Peloro at the top. The wind continued to increase,  but we weren’t too concerned as we expected it to reduce as soon as we turned out of the Straits … not a chance, for the next hour and a half we ploughed through choppy seas with 40 knots (50 mph) of wind on our beam. Mark got soaked and Hudson was a little scared, but he was in the best place, secured in place with his life jacket on … if a little wet. Thank god we had put two reefs in the main sail, although under these conditions we still had too much sail out, I won’t describe the fun we had reducing the sail even further.

Then, just as quickly as the wind came, it disappeared … settling at the forecast 5 knot breeze with glorious sunshine … what a contrast.008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 002

We arrived at Vulcano at 14:25, hoping to anchor in the bay but there was limited space and no mooring buoys left unoccupied. We watched a charter boat close to those buoys, as it hit an underwater rock and literally leap out of the water, so we decided to head for the pontoon and take no chances. Unfortunately, they had a flotilla coming in and there was no room left, so we continued a further four miles on to Lipari. We had planned to come here after Vulcano, so no problem and there was plenty of space.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 003We tied up on the Porto Salva pontoon close to town, their charges are 60 euros for the first night and 50 for any subsequent nights, water and electricity included. We planned to stay here for a few days to explore the island and the neighbouring volcanic island Stromboli (using the ferry service), especially as Lipari is such a key location in the book Mark is writing. There is a steady flow of ferries into the town near our pontoon and they generate some wash but stop at 8pm, so we are hoping they do not impact our sleep too much.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 004a

The first night we went for a walk around town, enjoyed a few drinks before randomly picking one of the many restaurants to try, Mark was so looking forward to having a truly tasty Italian pizza. My seafood risotto was ok, but Mark was disappointed with the pizza, it was just too cheesy with no other real flavours … if you can’t get a good pizza in Italy, where can you?

On Friday 10th May, we hired a car, a fiat convertible that looked and drove like it was 40 years old … no power steering, can you believe it. Lipari is not a large island with one main coastal road circumnavigating it, making navigation very easy. Our first stop was the pumice mines on the east coast which date back to ancient Roman times and were in production up till a few years ago – half of the side of the mountain appears to have been removed over the 2,000 years of pumice extraction.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 008aWhen the owners closed the mine, it is as though they dropped their tools and heavy plant equipment where they stood, just abandoned them and they haven’t moved since. As one of the characters in Mark’s book’s is the owner of this mine, it made viewing the area so much more interesting.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 007cAs you continue along the coast road, there are stunning views over to the neighbouring islands.008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 006

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 012aOur next stop was the Terme di San Calogero (Hot Water Springs) on the west coast. The springs have Roman parts and also an ancient Mycenaean tholos (dome-shaped monument) which is a much earlier period. Over the centuries the Baths of San Calogero have experienced periods of widespread use and others of ruin, with a revival in 1872. The springs are unfortunately now closed, but you can climb under the fence at the back and walk amongst the Ancient Roman ruins.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 022008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 020a

We finished our day out at the fort above Lipari town, which housed a museum with a mass of pottery, jewellery and other artefacts from as far back as 1500 BC.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 025a

On the Saturday, as it was a nice day with calm winds and sunshine, we booked a boat trip to the Island of Stomboli. We left at 2pm from the Marina Corta, which is on the far side of the fort. A small harbour for the tourist boats, surrounded by restaurants, pretty although very touristy. Luckily, we were able to take Hudson, otherwise it would have been a long day on his own left in Hapatoni.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 028The day starts with a visit to the Island of Panarea, about 30 minutes from Lipari, where we stopped for about an hour giving you time to explore the village – it actually only took us 10 mins, there’s not a lot to see, so you guessed it, for the remainder of our time we enjoyed a cold beer. We then sail to Stromboli passing the remote islands of Dattilo and Lisca Bianca.

Once on Stromboli, we had 2.5 hours to explore the village, which again does not take that long. We watched the climbers preparing to ascend to the summit, thinking maybe we should have joined them, but it is a 3 hour climb up and 2-hour decent, although I am sure the view would have been stunning. Instead, we enjoyed supper (our best pizza so far) below the crater over-looking the ocean. The next part of the trip was to the small Island of Strombolicchio, more of a large rock with a light house, to watch the sunset before we continued around Stromboli to watch the Volcanic eruptions. In the day you see continued ‘burps’ of dark smoke and ash coming from the volcano, but at night these smoky burps become exploding larva, an amazing sight.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 043For the next two days, we once again have a forecast for rain, cloud and wind, so we decided to move to Porto Pignataro marina on the far northern end of the bay, as it is more protected – we have already had two nights of poor sleep rolling from side to side due to the swell. Pignataro is a 20-minute walk into town so plenty of exercise for Hudson and the same price, 60 Euros.

008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 046Sunday was a quiet relaxing day, mainly below decks hiding from the rain and strong winds. We have been debating whether to continue as originally planned up the western coast of Italy or head back to Greece. Our opinion, for what it is worth, is that the volcanic islands are definitely worth a visit, but the Italian towns we visited on the mainland were very dirty, even the pretty highly rated ones and too touristy. Mark and I prefer smaller, more remote, untouched villages. We may have still persevered, but the final nail in the coffin is the cost of sailing here is very high, particularly when the weather is bad and you can’t anchor …. so when you compare what you get for your money in Greece, there is no competition … we’re heading back. Before we go, we have decided to visit the Island of Vulcano, 4 miles from Lipari and spend a couple of days exploring the active volcano and bathing in the mud-baths … then back to Greece.008 - 2019 Summer - Lipari 015

Reggio Di Calabria – 8th May 2019

Reggio Di Calabria – 8th May 2019

007 - 2019 Summer - Reggio Di Calabria 000Another early start as we try to get past the (not so pretty) southern Italian coast as quickly as possible, heading to the Volcanic Aeolian Islands north of Sicily. With calm seas for a change and little wind, we motored the 74 miles to RDC arriving at 5:30pm, tired after a long day in the sun. The harbour is principally a commercial port for the ferries traveling back and forth to Sicily across the straits. As you enter the harbour, immediately to the left is the “yacht harbour”, but I use those words advisedly, it is more like a harbour wall, with no character, no view, except the carpark in front and a wide high level road above, streaming traffic into the port. It is without doubt, the ugliest place we have stayed in for a night … and then to add insult to injury, they charge 60 euros for the pleasure of staying in the armpit of the world. The only slightly redeeming factor is that it does have lazy lines and electric.

007 - 2019 Summer - Reggio Di Calabria 001After a long day, we showered and took Hudson for a walk. The town is a 15 minute walk, but we decided to head out of town for a change. The area was absolutely filthy, rubbish all along the street, not just the odd item but piles of bags of rubbish. We were horrified, it was worse than India and that is a 3rd world country.

007 - 2019 Summer - Reggio Di Calabria 002My summary of this town is dirty, ugly and I never want to return, Crotone is lovely in comparison.

Roccella Ionica – 7th May 2109

Roccella Ionica – 7th May 2109

006 - 2019 Summer - Roccella Ionica 000Our trip to Roccella took 10 hours, we left bright and early at 6:20am from Crotone, pleased to be on the move again. The weather forecast was for slight seas and very little wind. However, not long after leaving the protection of the harbour and moving out into the bay, guess what … lumpy, bumpy seas with wave heights of 3-4 metres, we were rocking and a rolling, making me question whether we had picked the right day.

As we rounded the headland, the seas did calm quite a bit, you could at least walk about and go below decks without crawling, but the wind, what there was of it, was bitterly cold reaching a maximum of 17 degrees. On watch during the early morning shift, I was completely wrapped up, with my snood almost covering my whole head. The temperature did improve later in the day, snuggled under the spray hood it was very pleasant and felt much warmer.

We reached Roccella at just after 4pm and filled up with fuel before being directed to a mooring. The entrance to Roccella marina is subject to continuous silting, as such you are usually escorted through the entrance, however today we were able to proceed unaccompanied without touching the sandy bottom, they must have dredged it recently. The marina is large, modern and well protected, it has a shop and pizzeria all surrounded by a row of pine trees, making it quite a clean and attractive place … despite this it is still pretty empty at this time of year.

The little village is 3km away and described as “sleepy”, we didn’t go there this visit, deciding to walk Hudson around the marina area and settling for a beer and a wine at the pizzeria, enjoying the last of the days sun. We finished off with supper onboard.

We planned to leave early again the next day for the next 60-mile trip to Reggio Di Calabria in the Straits of Messina.

Crotone in Italy – 30th April to 7th May 2019

Crotone in Italy – 30th April to 7th May 2019

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 000We finally decided to leave the comfort of Gaios and take the next step on our trip to Italy. Mark had planned the route, 181 miles to the town of Rocella Ionica located on the toe of Italy. The journey was scheduled to take about 31 hours, so I only had one-night sail to get through and there was a favourable weather forecast … hoorah.We left bright and early at 7am, however three large flotillas had arrived the day before, two from Sailing holidays moving their yachts to their summer base in the Ionian and a Seafarers group out of Corfu. The net result was a full town quay, so we had to squeeze our way out of our side on mooring, between two charter yachts that had done their best to hem us in.

As we cleared the Island of Paxos the wind increased to a steady 15 knots with a moderate sea state, a little bumpy but manageable. In order to engage the sails, we headed more north than we wanted and that made Mark a happy sailor, enjoying at least 6 hours of engine free, flappy sailing stuff . We had a passenger gate crashing for an hour mid journey.

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 002aEventually though, we needed to get back on track, which meant having the wind on our nose, so we had to motor sail (what’s new) for the remainder of the trip. The seas remained bumpy and the wind increased as the evening approached. I took the first night shift between 22:00 pm and 01:00 am, there was no moon but so many trillions of stars in the sky, it was mesmerising. Up till this point, the only negative had been the number of container ships and fishing boats all seeming to want to steer directly at us.

I retired to bed after my shift, desperate for a few hours’ sleep. Unfortunately during Mark’s, the wind increased to 30 knots (on the nose of course), with rough 3 to 4 metre seas and just to add insult to injury, the tanker traffic increased exponentially. With sleep a lost cause, I joined Mark on deck to ‘enjoy’ the cold wind and bumpy seas. These are not Hudson’s favourite sailing conditions, he does not like the noise of the bow pounding into the waves. We were now making a little over two knots, I could crawl faster, so we made the decision to detour to Crotone.

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 004The approach to Crotone is marked by four gas platforms, half a mile from the entrance to the marina. We finally arrived after 28 hours, three very tired sailors. I was happy to be on shore although we both continued to sway for the remainder of the day, even whilst sitting having a late lunch and a beer in the local bar.  Our original plan was to leave the next day and continue onto Rocella Ionica, but the weather decided not to cooperate, we decided to stay for one more day. This then extended into five more days as we waited for the 30 knot winds to subside and turn in the right direction.

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 005aThe town of Crotone does not have a lot to write home about, it is a very Italian town (Not many foreign tourists) with a long sandy beach, which I am sure will fill up when it finally warms up. The seafront area is quiet and tired looking … and very, very dirty, there is rubbish everywhere. Most of the buildings are in need of some TLC with paint flaking and covered with graffiti. However, when you go back a few streets you do find signs of life, with lots of shops and a great fruit and vegetable market.

Next to the marina is the fish market, with many warehouses and shops selling locally caught fish, which are plentiful and cheap … well a lot cheaper than paying for them in a restaurant. We bought two large salmon steaks (enough for at least two meals) and 3 kg of mussels (again feeding us for two days) for 19 euros.

We hired a car for 2-days to explore the Calabria region and on Friday 3rd May we started our exploration in the town of Pizzo.

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 009The History of Pizzo begins in 1300 with a community of Basilian monks, the name translated means bird beak or projecting point, which fits perfectly with the promontory on which it sits, that juts out into the sea. The main attraction is the Aragonese castle, where the deposed king Gioacchino Murat was imprisoned and later executed after attempting to regain control of the kingdom. The castle was erected in the late 15th century with its famous quadrangular structure. The other attraction is the church of Piedigrotta located on the beach, which dates back to the 1600’s when the captain of a ship about to be wrecked on the rocks, prayed to a picture of the Madonna of Piedigrotta and vowed in the event of salvation to erect a church where he touched the coast.

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 007We had a fish lunch in the towns main square, not our best food and quite expensive for what it was … but a nice setting.

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 008AWe then made for the village of Zungri on the hills above Monte Poro. Zungri is famous for its Grotto Caves, Immigrants from Sicily moved here back on the 1300’s living in the caves, hiding from Muslim raids which lasted up till the 17th century.

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 011005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 012We finished our day in the old town of Tropea, which stands austere and majestic, built on the top of the rocks overlooking the beach. The history of Tropea begins in Roman times, when along its coast, Sextus Pompey defeated Octavius. Inside the historic town with its maze of narrow streets are small artisan shops, selling local art-craft, hot salami and local produce. The town was preparing for a festival of music with fireworks, so we parked off the main Piazza Ercole and had a walk around just as the rain began to fall.

005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 016a005 - 2019 Summer - Crotone 014aSightseeing done we headed back to the boat, arriving under some very dark clouds and in time for a very wet and windy night.

Day 2 of our car hire: we decided to stay in Crotone, taking the opportunity to stock up the boat with water etc… The day was miserable, dark, wet with heavy rain (again) and very strong winds.

On Sunday morning, the local folk of Crotone come out to play … well, they parade along the promenade, it was very busy. Luckily it was a sunny day although windy (yet again), this is defiantly a feature of this area. Hudson and I joined the crowd on the promenade, stopping for a latte half way. I ordered what I thought was a coffee, however ‘latte’ in Italian is milk, so as he served me my glass of hot milk, my face dropped …  I settled for a cappuccino.

The winds increased on Sunday night to over 40 knots, giving us a disturbed sleep, with all the fenders creaking and ropes squeaking. The wind was so strong, the dinghy blew off the front of the boat did a somersault before it hit the water and catapulted our oars to a watery grave (I wonder who hadn’t tied it down then … I’ll give you a clue, his name begins with an M). More shopping to be done, good job the shops are open on Monday as it is not a bank holiday here.

Monday was our last day and I have to say, it was a bit disappointing to find out that there was a washing machine in the marina office, after I had been hand washing for 5 days. I’m not sure we will be back to Crotone … not one of our most successful stopovers.

Tuesday at 6:00 am, no wind, no rain and calm seas, AT LAST we left the marina to travel to Roccella Ionica, 61 miles south west.

NOTE: As soon as we left the marina and got into the bay between the gas platforms, our calm sea deserted us and we were greeted with 3-4 metre rollers on our side …. we are definitely not coming back.

Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 18th to 30th April 2019

Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 18th to 30th April 2019

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 000004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 006With sunshine forecast, we set off on Thursday 18th April to travel to the picture-perfect town of Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 51 miles north (about 7 hours). As usual, there was not enough wind in the right direction to set the sails, so on went the diesel and we motored the whole way.

The highlight of the trip (or low point depending on your point of view), was Mark hooking a massive Tuna, yes a TUNA … don’t get too excited yet. It was early in the morning and as we sat relaxing, the reel started whizzing as the line was pulled out at speed. It took us a second or two to realise we might have actually caught a fish and leapt into action, Mark to the rod and me to the landing net. Mark spent the next 30 mins slowly reeling in his catch, he thought it was big because it was putting up a good fight. Finally, there it was at the side of the boat, a large Tuna (about 15 lb), we were both shocked. Mark was shouting for me to get the landing net underneath it, which was unfortunately impossible with the boat still moving forward … plus it was too big for the net. Mark was getting frantic, so he took the net to have a go himself and to his dismay, also failed to get the fish in the net. To our horror the tuna then looked up at the two of us and said something like, “If you are not going to pull me on the boat, I’m off”, it flicked its head, broke the 50 lb line and disappeared back into the Med. As you can imagine Mark was not happy. We had nearly had enough fish for a weeks’ worth of dinners for all three of us, or maybe a big BBQ on the town quay, inviting all our new neighbours in Gaios.

Sorry no photos as we were too busy trying to land it, hopefully next time.

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 003Gaios was busier than we expected, although still quiet compared to the summer months, with a gaggle of mainly British yachts on an extended stay on the town quay and a load of charter boats arriving, staying for a day and then heading off to finish their week long Easter holidays.

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 001We were fortunately able to secure Hapatoni side on, outside the Deep Blue bar with its high-speed internet. We had never considered this spot to park before, as it is usually taken, we also thought it was too shallow. However, with our bow in, avoiding the underwater rocks in the corner, we were snug as a bug and completely safe from crossed anchors.

The town was still very much in hibernation for the winter, with many of the shops, restaurants and bars closed. Our favourite restaurant TakaTaka Taverna wasn’t due to open for a few days, but fortunately for us, there were enough that had decided to open early, to keep us entertained.

As the week passed and the Greek Easter weekend approached, the town became a hive of activity, with buildings being painted, although some questionably – why can’t Greeks paint a straight line? Streets were being cleaned and street lights being painted but not all the way to the top, as their scaffolding did not reach that far … typically Greek. We settled into a relaxed routine, very much enjoying our time in Gaios, it has always been one of our favourite places, so staying here for an extended period is very easy.

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 004The weather was variable, with rain, wind and some sun. Each sunny day seemed to be followed with a wet day or two, but we didn’t mind. Finally, my bikini top made an appearance for a couple of days as I relaxed on deck, sunbathing (Please note, not the bikini bottoms yet, shorts are as far as I dare go. Still not warm enough).

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 014The evenings remained chilly, so we had to find a new bar that had comfortable inside seating. We discovered a charming little place just off the main square called Café Kalimera, the staff were friendly, with George from Iran behind the bar and the owner who was also very friendly and always a little tipsy when we saw him. 004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 019Unfortunately, he was also very fond of Julio Iglesias, so the customers had to suffer when he was there. On the nights he was absent, the music of choice was 70’s rock, much more to Mark’s taste. We spent several evenings there, playing cards and sampling some of their fine spirits.

On Thursday 25th the TakaTaka Taverna opened, fortunately it was a warm evening (no coats needed), so we finally had our first calamari and pork spit roast, absolutely delicious. We had so much pork I took a doggy bag home for the next days lunch.

On Saturday our friends Christine and Peter from Hamble, arrived from Corfu on their yacht Oojah, stopping to spend a couple of days with us before they continued east into the Aegean for the summer. We met up in the evening, luckily it was another of those sunny days, so we enjoyed the last of the sun over a beer in the square, moving on to Kalimera as the temperature dropped. The bar was a buzzing, Christine and Peter liked the atmosphere in the place as much as we did. We finished off at the TakaTaka Taverna again … surprise, surprise, we chose calamari and spit roast once more.

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 010Sunday was another sunny day, although a little breezy, we joined Peter and Christine for a walk to Mongonissi beach, 5 miles along the coastal road south of Gaios. It is a small bay with a tiny quay and two tavernas which were both unfortunately closed – the coffee would have to wait till we got back to Gaios. The only activity was one visiting yacht at anchor and a small local day tripper boat. We decided to help ourselves to four chairs from one of the closed taverna and enjoyed the view whilst drinking our bottles of water.

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 013Easter is a big event in Greece, Saturday is business as usual during the day, but by late evening, the town square has filled up. Then just before midnight the locals walk around the town by candlelight singing hymns, followed by a small firework display, before they all head to midnight mass.

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 007Sunday is their religious day with church in the morning, followed by lunch with the whole family, all the generations get together for a spit roast – you wouldn’t want to be a sheep anywhere in Greece near Easter, can’t be many left.

Later that day we were entertained by the local marching band.

004 - 2019 Summer - Gaios 009Christine and Peter joined us in the evening on Hapatoni for bubbles and a joint effort supper – delicious ratatouille, roast chicken, rosemary and garlic roast potatoes all washed down with far too much wine, a fabulous evening.

We said farewell to Christine and Peter as we will not see them now until we are all back in the Hamble in August. On Monday, they headed south and we completed our last tasks ready to travel the 180 miles to Rocella Ionica in Italy.