On our passage up to Levkas we managed to get the sails out for a couple of hours which was a real treat. We beat to windward up the Inland Sea towards the Levkas Canal between the Town and the Greek mainland. The winds were a force 3 on the nose, so with the apparent wind close to 15 knots, we managed to squeeze over 6 knots out of Hapatoni, which is not bad for the old lady considering the baggage she is carrying. We tacked backwards and forwards gaining a little to windward with each turn, racing every boat who looked like they were going in the same direction, and finally got the challenge accepted by a French schooner, who didn’t really have a chance, but entertained us for half an hour, his ensign drooping as we left him far in the rear view mirror. We finally saw dolphins in Greece, a pod of about 6 came to play but to our disappointment, only stayed a few minutes and not a single acrobatic…..guess its too hot for all that stuff over here.
We had planned to stay in Levkas Town a couple of days, but managed to complete all our tasks on the first day, arranging a visit from the sailmaker to do some mods to our bimini and get a quote for a tent to shield Hapatoni from the heat of the day. The mid day heat over here has been so hot, some of our leather on our seating in the main cabin melted, so next year, no sun gets below decks.
We were moored on the town quay next to one of the main through roads into town, so although full of activity, it is noisy. Some areas further along the quay do seem quieter but Hapatoni is a bit too deep for those sections. You do pay on this Town Quay but it was pennies at 7.90 euros, which included water. The town itself is a hive of activity, with plenty of fruit & vegetable shops and even a good fishmongers (the first I have seen in the Ionian). The main street is pedestrian only full of fashionable cafes and clothes shops but the town does feel a bit touristy. For Yachties it seems to be a stopover for boats refuelling, picking up supplies and then going, so we decided to do the same, and leave after the first night. The photo below shows the Levkas canal.
Again our plans changed, we had originally decided to go up to our final port of Preveza, where we were going to stay on the town quay for a few days before being hauled out at the Cleopatra Boat Yard for the winter, but the lure of the Inland Sea and great Red Snapper dragged us back southwards, and so we returned to Sivota, one of our favourite places in the Ionian.
Spartakhori village is perched on the cliff top above Port Spiglia which is the taverna run by two local Greek families who also dictate who moors where and when on the small quay and pontoons. This is definitely their domain, they have laid lazy lines and electricity and water, all of which is free, but you are “encouraged” to eat in their taverna, which by the way is the only easily accessible eating establishment around. I think the flotillas are picked on a bit and get the pontoons which become a bucking bronco ride from Alton Towers in the slightest of wave action. The moorings are also supervised by the muscular sons who ride the dinghies standing up, (in all weathers) charging out to greet the yachts like Roman charioteers. The head of the family is an impressive man who bears an incredible resemblance to Shrek, and busies himself during the day organising and instructing people how to moor (he is very vocal and knows best), and during the evenings commands his troops in the taverna as they serve the hordes coming in from the yachts, and then as the money starts arriving, anchors himself in front of the till, collecting the cash.
August was marked by the Italian invasion, and there were an awful lot of them, with very varying degrees of skill at mooring, but always with the whole extended family and friends crammed into every nook and cranny of their boat, and do they know how to party. When they arrived at a mooring, all the girls would drape themselves over the boats in the skimpiest of swimwear and pose for any waiting cameras, and as you can see from the below, budgie smugglers were mandatory for the blokes, yellow seemed to be a particular favourite this season.
We spent a brilliant couple of days in this beautiful setting and only really moved on because it was a little bumpy at night making sleeping possible only with earplugs. Also we had started to think about what we needed to do as our summer holiday for this year comes to an end in a week. So we headed for the town of Levkas at the top of the canal between it and the mainland.
Nidri is a short 3 mile hop from Vathi, so we lazily left the sail in its bag and fenders pulled over the sides of the guard rails. We arrived opposite Nidri in Tranquil Bay and I manoeuvred Hapatoni, Mark dropped anchor and attached the long lines ashore to stop us swinging as the wind changed….I seem to have taken over responsibility for stern mooring following my superb (if I say so myself) town quay mooring in Sivota, which I had to repeat 3 times because Mark messed up the dropping of the anchor..tut, tut. After a delicious swim off the back of the boat, the only other neighbour moored the same way as us, up-anchored and disappeared (should have been a sign really). In came the force 6 on the side of the boat, putting extreme pressure on our lines ashore, which was obviously not going to make for a comfortable night, so we decided to go on anchor further down the bay in Ormos Vlikho.
This improved the situation dramatically, and after we were sure the anchor was set, we went to shore and had the worst meal we had eaten in Greece. The restaurant we chose had become packed with over a 100 diners in a short space of time, and with 3 people to take orders and serve drinks, disaster was inevitable, it was just like an episode from Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares without the good ending. The chips were soggy, the meat tough, and the service very very slow, which is surprising considering the prime spot they have on the water’s edge. We stayed the night and after much debate as strong winds were forecast for a further 3 days, headed back in the direction of Vathi, briefly stopping for supplies in Nidi, stopping just short in the bay of Spartakhori, which Mark had cycled to on our visit to the area a few days before.
We abandoned our previous plans to go to Ithica because of some strong winds coming in for a few days, so flexed our wallets and blew out the moths, as we headed for a secure berth on Vathi which, as we have previously said, charge an outrageous 50 euro per night – if you are in Balearics and reading this, I know you would wish that a berth that was only 50 euros a night. The wind obligingly got up to around a force 6, and the heavens opened, reminding us of our sailing in the Solent.
So we stayed in our cosy little berth till it was almost gone, I say almost because we slightly misjudged our time to leave, and headed off a day early. Irrespective our stay in Vathi was pleasant, all the usual stuff – swimming, eating (sea bass this time), sleeping; I read another book….and then repeating. Mark decided to get his masochistic head on and in the heat of the day went for a cycle ride around the island, he got as far as Spartakhori, when he came across the “hill from hell” and after losing several pints of sweat decided to abandon his attempt at the hill after taking a picture of the glorious views of the Inland Sea and return to the boat. As I said, we left a day too early and headed for one of our favourite spots, Tranquil bay.
We seem to be revisiting the places we have enjoyed in the past few weeks as we slowly make our way back up to Preveza where we will put Hapatoni to bed for the winter. So here we are for the third time in Sivota, it really does have everything to make for a relaxing few days which have now stretched to seven – sun, swimming, great restaurants, and the quaintest Greek bar 15 metres from the boat.
This time we hired a car for 3 days (it was the tiniest yellow car ever) to explore the interior, which is quite mountainous, roads seem as though they are about to split and fall into the abyss, and incredibly tight bends are mandatory and are by law to be placed every 50 metres. Roads must also only be accessible by mountain goats, and if you are stupid enough to ascend some of them then don’t imagine you will get out of first gear. The views from the mountains are stunning and give us a chance to get a different perspective of the bays we have moored Hapatoni in previous weeks. The photo below shows the resort of Nidri and Tranquil bay.
On the 13th we had some Dutch friends arrive in their boat, they came down with us on the Portugal ARC last year. Roger, Sisca and their daughter Fleure were great company, and we took them back to the same restaurant that we had visited twice before and had some superb red snapper bbq grilled with potatoes roasted in olive oil in the oven…together with the obligatory Greek salad. Finishing the night off with a nightcap, whisky of course (for the boys) and they are generous portions, in our local taverna.
The car has now gone back and we have been relaxing for the last few days, we had planned to leave today 18th August, but with possible stronger north westerly winds forecast today and our next port of call is open to those winds, we decided to wait until tomorrow morning. The temperature has certainly cooled down in the last week from the boiling top 30’s we have had on many afternoons, to the cool of today’s 32*c, and much cooler nights, so sleeping has become easier and you can do more in the day. Our next port of call is back to Kioni as it was pretty and had delicious pork roasted on the spit we want to try again and then onto Vathi, which will be a new port for us to explore both on the Island of N.Ithaca.
We have spent three relaxing days at anchor in Fiskardho, swimming, sunbathing, reading, Mark on his guitar, totally doing nothing (wonderful) and watching the antics of others mooring up. The first batch of mayhem starts about lunch time, followed by the real mayhem starting about 6pm. The “Picture-postcard spot” as described in the pilot book has now lost its tranquillity and charm as the Italians swarm the area. They are entertaining at times with their lack of planning, often no fenders ready or long ropes ready and so so so much shouting. We just pray they don’t come next to us. Last night was the icing on the cake as we watched every tiny gap being filled whether we thought there was room or not, finishing off with an 88ft motor boat mooring on top of a little 25ft yacht. The motor boat ran over our anchor and just pushed the little yacht out of his way they had no regard, it was infuriating and guess what they were….Italians.
The town is pretty and very well presented and maintained, with lots of bars and restaurants, pretty buildings it has a real charm. It is on one of the prettiest places. The price of all items here are more expensive from general shopping items to drinks, in Sivota 2 fresh orange juices were 7 euros and here they are 11 euros. We finally went to Nicolas Taverna on the hill for our fresh fish (Sea Bass), a lovely evening overlooking the bay.
It is weird not having Hudson on the boat; cleaner and quieter but I miss him running around the boat when we jump into the sea, then running away in case Mark makes him go swimming. But I know he is a happy dog at the moment being spoilt at my parents house eating BBQ sausages.
After 3 days here watching the activities and super yachts all trying to be seen, we are heading off tomorrow morning back up the coast to the island of Levkas, probably stopping at the quieter bay (hopefully) of Sivito en route. We are ready for a change.
We decided to leave Sivota on day three to get some extra anchor chain in Nidri, our previous anchoring experiences had shown that 50 metres wasn’t enough, it gets quite deep in these bays and the winds can whistle through them in the afternoons so you need to make sure you are well dug in with plenty of chain out. So back we went to Tranquil Bay opposite Nidri, armed with our shiny new 80 metres of chain and feeling a lot more confident when we drop out excessive amounts of chain. In the last few late afternoons, the thunder and lightning have been growling above us, it is amazing how fast the wind gets up but also calms down very quickly as well.
We stayed for one night in Nidri and headed back to exactly the same spot on the quay in Sivota where we had been a couple of days before. One of the highlights was dinner on night two which was locally culled pork chop and you have to admit that this is one hell of a slice of meat, it would have fed a family of four back home.
We plan to stay here for three or four days, waiting out some afternoon thunderstorms that are still rolling in this week. We are trying out something quite new and revolutionary for us, and that is doing absolutely nothing and just relaxing, should be interesting.
Sivota is at the end of a dog-leg bay so the town quay is quite sheltered, we moored right at the end of the quay a little away from the main restaurants, but unfortunately 10 feet away from a delightful bar called Antica Tostatura Triestina – at least that was what we thought it was called, it could also have been the type of coffee they were serving. “Unfortunately” because it was far too easy to get our freshly squeezed orange delivered every morning and to struggle across that 10 foot divide for our evening beer. Sivota is a wonderful bay planted with olive trees and old houses clustered around the water’s edge, it is also the home to several yacht charter companies and frequented by many others during the week, but that doesn’t seem to affect the quiet tranquillity of the bay. We were also grateful for a swimming option at the end of the quay 20 metres away, and a small pebbly beach a little further off – by the way, pebble beach makes no difference as it is too hot to sit on the beach, and all your time is spent making ahhhhh noises as you descend into the cooling delicious water.
We met Steve and Jan our neighbours on the quay, who also spend their summers in the Ionian on their centre cockpit Beneteau. Steve spied Mark strumming his guitar and said “I do that”, so ended up coming onboard with his own guitar and Jan for a couple of evening’s entertainment. Mark is still not as confident as he should be with his guitar playing, which has come on quite a bit….his singing however is still “interesting”, however the duet of Mark and Steve managed to entertain the surrounding boats for an hour or so during the evenings. The two days in Sivota passed by with a mix of swimming, sleep, beer, siesta, guitar and great company.
Fiskardho was a last minute decision, we really wanted to find somewhere to anchor so we could take a dip of the transom and easily cool down in the mid-day heat…. and the morning heat……and the evening heat, so a town quay which was reputed to be “rammed” by lunchtime, was not appealing, but the idyllic “picture postcard” description of the town and its location meant we had to have a look, which was lucky for us. Fiskardho was one of the few places to escape wholesale destruction in the 1953 earthquake which levelled over 90% of the buildings in Cephalonia, so the buildings here are all of an Italian’ish architecture that has virtually vanished from the rest of the island as a result of the earthquake.
The north of the bay was glorious, given over to yachts anchoring with long lines ashore, just far enough from town quay to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep for us oldies, but absolutely perfect for jumping of the transom into the crystal clear waters to cooool down. The perfect setting for us, a nice town close by and the ability to swim whenever you like.
We stayed for a couple of days with regular trips to the town quay and tavernas, and even discovered one taverna slightly up on the hill where we could watch the crazies (mainly Italian) trying to moor with every bizarre strategy known to man. A quick beer turned into several (OK more than several), and an afternoon passed lazily by watching the goings-on in the bay, so entertaining. On day three, we got some southerly winds which were pushing us on the beam quite strongly, so we decided to head for more shelter but resolved to return fairly soon, especially to this elevated taverna that had entertained us for an afternoon, and also promised to have some fresh and delicious sea bass for our return.
It was great to finally leave Mesolongion and sail the 37 miles to Eufimia, it really was hot, no breeze daring to travel the 2 miles inland. The sail across was lovely with a nice steady breeze, we were even able to sail a small part of the way. Then as we reached the bottom of Ithaca we noticed white horses on the horizon and I remembered that you get strong winds between the two islands, so 2 reefs later and with 25 to 30 knots of wind blowing down the valleys, we headed into port. We had hoped to moor on the Town Quay, but the wind was on our beam so we were very undecided. With two marinaras on shore shouting instructions we decided to be brave and have a go. First attempt I had a disaster with the anchor, second attempt the anchor was still not performing 100% and Mark was struggling to go back straight in the wind, third attempt the marinara came on board to help and we moored with him showing off. Next time we should take more notice of the book as it did warn of extremely strong winds in the harbour.
Eufimia is a small little village with a great bakers, two supermarkets and lovely deli/butchers, filled in with a few bars and tavernas; a simple but pretty place. We found a great tavern for dinner, having the local speciality of spit roast pig and greek salad, accompanied by local music. A great start to our holiday.