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Month: June 2016

Relaxing Sivota – 20th June to 27th June 2016

Relaxing Sivota – 20th June to 27th June 2016

It was so nice to be back in one of our favourite places, Sivota. It is on the southern part of the Island Levkadha, the bay is horseshoe shaped, with steeply sloping hills covered in Olive trees. The focus of the village is the town quay, with a few shops, bars and restaurants all very dependant on the waterborne traffic for its tourism. It gets very busy at times with the flotillas, but we have always managed to find a space in our ideal location, directly in front of a charming bar away from the main restaurant area.

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It is easy to fall into a simple, idyllic routine in Sivota, everything we need is near by, the local mini-market has plentiful provisions, the bakers has fresh bread, great cakes and my favourite spinach and feta pie. Fresh orange juice is available 10 feet from the boat and our favourite fish restaurant is a few minutes walk around the bay…..and critically you can cool off with a swim on the little beach or closer at the end of the pontoon, 20 metres from the boat. Our first night, we were both keen to re-sample the extremely large red snapper for two in our favourite fish restaurant, starting where we had left off nearly 12 months ago. We were not disappointed, it was mouth wateringly delicious, so good we returned two nights later and had the same again.

24 - 2016 Jun - Sivota - 01aWe decided to nip up to Levkas for the day on Thursday, Dad’s birthday as we had a number of shopping items to get and Mark was keen to visit the guitar shop. The weather was a boiling 38 deg c, we are having an exceptional hot end to June. Walking around the town of Levkas with its concrete paths,  and zero air movement, we were dripping, it was the hottest we have been. Our first point of call was the guitar shop and wonderful news it was open. After trying out a number of the guitars, Mark found one he was happy with, so Happy Birthday Mark from Debs and the dog xxx. With the key purchase in hand we wandered the streets, collecting our provisions, then stopped for a Gyros pita for lunch, not the healthiest of options but yummy, pork or chicken, salad and chips with Tzatziki in a pita….and all for 2 euro 40 cent, what a bargain. We had paid to stay the night on the town quay, only 8 euros but it was just too hot and no where to swim and cool off, so we sailed down to tranquil bay instead, which is half way to Sivota. It was too late in the day to go all the way back to Sivota and get a good spot. As soon as the anchored was in, we immediately jumped of the back of the boat to cool down, it was heavenly.

We were keen to return to Sivota, back to our tranquil life and catch up with Tina and Tim from Shiraz who had got there yesterday. We arrived mid-morning on Friday 24th June, to find Tina and Tim waiting for us. One of the first kobs was for Tina to colour my hair for me, so I could look presentable, she did a grand job as I sat on a dining chair on the Town quay in front of our boats. With such hot weather we decided to persuade Hudson to go for a swim. As there were no waves, he entered the water cautiously but only to his “knees”, but with Mark holding him firmly he relaxed and allowed him to take him fully in, the cooling water outweighing any fear he had…….so cute and a first.

24 - 2016 Jun - Sivota - 02aThe heat wave continued until Saturday, the morning was hot as usual but the forecast also said strong winds, rain and thunderstorms. In the late afternoon the carnage began, there was thunder and lightning, crews shouting and boat anchors that were not properly dug in, ceasing to hold. One particular boat was heading crewless for the rocks, apparently the owner had gone ashore to watch the rugby, not a good decision. His boat was saved when his dragging anchor became tangled in one of his neighbours anchor chain, he was very lucky. We thought we were ok, as we had 50 metres of chain out and were well dug in. What we had not taken into account was other panicking captains being flung across the bay in their boats as their anchors dragged, one of which did a great job of pulling out our anchor. The net result was that we had gone from very secure to not secure at all, and needing to do something to retrieve the situation. After 5 hours battling the elements, well that’s how it felt to Tina and I, we discovered that the other side of the little bay had much more protection from the wind, so we were lucky and moved quickly, taking the final space on a small pontoon. A Dutch boat rafted up next to us and Shiraz rafted outside them…..everything became extremely calm once more. Boat secure, we headed for the bar, we all felt we had earned a drink. We ended up having dinner in The Family Bar with “mama”, it was such a great evening. No one cared how they looked, we had wind swept glamour and all got a little tipsy.

With the storm clearing in the evening, the next day was lovely, the weather had returned to sunshine and a cooler 30-32 deg c. We waved goodbye to Tina and Tim in Sivota as we headed up to Preveza on the Monday to be lifted out to have a stuck seacock fixed. We hope to catch up with Alice on Spirit 111 in Preveza.

Levkas – 19th June to 20th June 2016

Levkas – 19th June to 20th June 2016

Levkas – 19th June to 20th June 2106

Slight change of plans, following a last minute weather check before we left Tranquil bay, we discovered one of the Ionian weather sites was forecasting strong winds late afternoon and overnight, with a NE F6 forecast gusting to a F8 overnight. Being the careful folk we are, we decided to err on the side of caution and pick a marina protected from the possible gusting north-westerly and headed to Levkas…..Mark also has an ulterior motive, to continue his quest for a replacement guitar (surprise surprise).

Levkas is not the prettiest of places, so with Mark being creative the only picture you get is this one of a Greek fishing boat.

?We stayed in the Levkas marina which is expensive, but here they outdid themselves, charging you for water, electricity and even showers. The day was very still, close and overcast, with NO wind….but the good news and what made the expense all worth while (ho ho ho) was that Mark found a guitar shop. The bad news, it was closed on Sunday and it does not open on Mondays, so Mark will still have to wait a while to see if they have any decent offerings. With Levkas explored we left following the flotillas on Monday morning all heading south. Sivota finally here we come.

Tranquil Bay, Nidri – 15th to 19th June 2016

Tranquil Bay, Nidri – 15th to 19th June 2016

As the name implies, Tranquil Bay is incredibly tranquil, surrounded by olive trees and protected by hills in three directions. It’s a short dinghy ride across the bay from the tourist town of Nidri on the island of Levkas. Levkas by the way, is only classified as an “island” and as such has special tax exemptions, because the man-made canal separating Levkas and the mainland, has a floating bridge crossing it – for Greeks, tax evasion is a national occupation, if they got paid for it, they would all be millionaires.

21 - 2016 Jun - Tranquil Bay - 01We arrived in Tranquil Bay, anchored and took a couple of lines ashore, we really do like this way of mooring as it gives you a very stable platform and avoids all that swinging you have when you are not attached to something that doesn’t move – this obviously only works with the right wind conditions. Our first day was very relaxed and with the temperature climbing up a gear, swimming of the transom has become a regular cooling off ritual. We had an evening visit to Nidri town to try out the local eateries, but as this is a very “kiss me quick” sort of place, the food tends to be burgers and pizza – we both decide to go for the latter.

The next day we were joined by Roger and Sisca on their boat Waterval, a Dutch couple who also came down from Plymouth on our ARC Rally and whom we bump into every year. Roger is a retired eye surgeon, but he can’t quite give it up, so he ends up working in friends practices when they return home. He has an interesting sense of humour, having named his dinghy “Interval”, explaining that it was usually parked between his boat “Waterval”, and the shore – I didn’t quite get it, but they are Dutch. They are great company and the first afternoon passed quickly as we caught up on the previous year’s adventures. Their great news was the imminent arrival of Fleur’s (their daughter) baby son, which is due in August.

21 - 2016 Jun - Tranquil Bay - 03We met up periodically on the second day, as we swam in the water between our two boats and finally, for evening drinks prior to saying our goodbyes as they head back up north tomorrow. We will stay for one more day, doing ….. not a lot really, before we go further into the Southern Ionian, and on to another of our very very very favourite places, Sivota.

Preveza – 12th to 15th June 2016

Preveza – 12th to 15th June 2016

Preveza is a good start point for a lot of people, being ideally placed near the international airport and with a good supply of shops for provisioning. For us it is the stop over point between Corfu and Paxos in the north and the islands of the Inner Sea, further south. It doesn’t have quite the same ambience as the neighbouring islands, but it is pleasant enough – as long as you avoid the town quay, which although free, has many large bars accommodating parties of very noisy Greeks, who don’t believe in going to bed till 4 in the morning. Preveza seems to be where the local population comes out to play, not so many European travellers here.

We arrived mid-afternoon, keeping a look out for Tina and Tim on Shiraz as we passed the town quay, but no luck; they had already headed into the Gulf of Amvrakia to spend a few days dodging the ample fish life (including dolphins) which seem to have entirely migrated from the rest of the Greek waters into this inland sea. We went to the town marina, which has just enough distance from the town quay to ensure a good night sleep. The marina staff finish early on Sundays, so we just found a space and moored up – alongside rather than stern to, for a change. Our plan is to stay 2 days and leave on Wednesday, giving us time to do the various tasks and wait for the rain to pass. The weather is due to be showery with possible thunder for two days then it hots up going up to 35 degrees by Friday.

The first day starts with the usual run along the front with Hudson, dodging the many locals with their fishing rods attempting to catch today’s breakfast – they also use a strange claw like contraption attached to a length of line that they pull along the sea bed to snare unsuspecting octopus and squid. With Hudson’s exercise sorted I headed off to do my shopping and Mark attempts to get a hair cut amongst the many tasks that he has on his list.

When we last met Tim from Shiraz, he proudly showed off his brand new shiny guitar which unfortunately showed Mark the inadequacies of his own – he now has serious guitar envy and seems determined to replace the one he has, claiming the sound from Tim’s was so good. So guess what we did on day two. We found a couple of guitar shops, but their stock was pretty limited, so that particular search continues – more to follow, I am sure. With nearly all our tasks complete, we set of, with great anticipation, back to our absolute favourite stomping ground, the southern Ionian, first stop Tranquil Bay.

Lakka in Paxos – 10th June to 12th June 2106

Lakka in Paxos – 10th June to 12th June 2106

On arrival in Lakka we headed straight for the northern shore, dropped our anchor and took two lines ashore to ensure we wouldn’t swing in this extremely popular and sometimes crowded bay. We had decided to arrive on a Friday to hopefully avoid the charter boats that would be returning to their home port about now, and were delighted to find only private boats in acceptable numbers, and tranquillity in this beautiful location that is very hard to describe.

19 - 2016 Jun - Lakka - 03The waters are so clear and the colour is a stunning turquoise, it took Mark 30 seconds after tying up to dive in (with the excuse I need to check the anchor), with Hudson getting into his usual distressed state, barking wildly as he followed Mark swimming around the boat – obviously that is Mark swimming and not Hudson, Hudson does not do water.

19 - 2016 Jun - Lakka - 04We had our first evening meal ashore, which was a couple of fish dishes (fried fresh sardines, and our ever present squid) and the lovely stuffed Greek aubergines and customary Greek salad that we had enjoyed on our previous visit to this restaurant. The two days here disappeared as we swam (yes I did get in for my first dip this year, it is still a little cold), slept, read books, generally relaxed and sun bathed in the glorious sunshine. We are reluctantly leaving tomorrow, as the clouds are returning for a couple of days, so we are heading to Preveza as a stepping stone to the Islands a bit further south in the Ionian.

Gaios in Paxos – 7th June to 10th June 2106

Gaios in Paxos – 7th June to 10th June 2106

It was so nice to return to sunny Greece especially one of our favourite Islands Paxos. As we came up the channel towards the town quay in Gaios, it felt like we had come back home, such is the affection we have for this country and its people…..and we could relaaaaaax. The anticipation was heightened because we were to meet some very good friends, Tim and Tina on Shiraz, who first set sail with us from Plymouth on the ARC back in 2014 and whom we hadn’t seen for over a year. At first we could not see their boat, so assumed they were up the other end of the quay, we decided to grab the available mooring near the bar with the best WIFI in town, as the latest episode of Game of Thrones needed urgent download – got to get your priorities right.

Hapatoni was settled into her berth, and we set of to find our friends. We caught them relaxing on the back of their boat and after all round hugs, we wasted no time in joining them. The afternoon passed quickly as we caught up with the events and adventures of last year, as did the evening over a few beers and some very fine spit roast – one of my favourite Greek dishes.

Whilst we were enjoying our dinner in a local taverna, Hudson was practising his Houdini act. Luckily our very kind French neighbours had seen Hudson leaving the boat and heading into town, (probably to pinch some food), they caught him put him back on the boat, on deck as the main hatch was locked and secured the passerelle so he could not escape again. Then they came to find us, which was amazing as they must have had to search all over the town. When I returned to the boat I went to investigate how the hell he had escaped, and found he had opened the bathroom door, then the stern bedroom door and climbed up onto the bed and then reaching up several feet, hurled himself through the small window just above not an easy task and I am still amazed how he crawled up and out  the sneaky devil.16 - 2016 Jun - Gaios - 01The next few days were spent relaxing in the company of our friends and planning our next moves. We decided to head up to Lakka, our absolute favourite bay on this island, while Shiraz was heading south to Preveza, they were planning to explore the inland sea which is apparently full of Dolphins, no doubt attracted by the easy pickings from the abundance of fish farms.

The Sail Back to Greece 5th June – 6th June 2016

The Sail Back to Greece 5th June – 6th June 2016

With a long passage ahead of us, we started the day with a run to give Hudson his last bit of exercise for a while. Then after completing the check out procedure for Montenegro (at least this time we did not have to move the boat) we set sail for Greece leaving sunny Bar at 9.30am. The trip was a mixture of sailing and motor sailing, but calm and relaxed. Enough so, that Mark did his guitar and French and slept without the typical engine noise, I did the blog, read and finally started my knitting (a teddy bear).

SAil; to greeceWe had a very calm night (the sea was a mill pond), with my only complaint being it was very damp, so you do had to wear waterproofs and wrap up. We arrived to a glorious sunny morning at about 9.30am in the bay of Limin Erikoussa on the Island of Nisos Erikoussa, which is situated north of Corfu. We anchored up and rested for a couple of hours, took the dog for a walk along the beach and explored the “village”, which consisted of 1 shop (very basic), 1 restaurant (empty) and 1 boutique hotel (expensive). We had a beer (18 euro’s for 2 bottles of beer, ridiculous price) and checked the weather forecast.

17 - 2016 Jun - Corfu - aWith some stronger winds due in that evening and rain coming in later in the week, we decided to head to Corfu and anchor up on the north eastern side, giving us a head start for the next sail to Paxos. After viewing a few different anchorages, some too busy, too deep/narrow we stopped the night in the bay Ormos Gouvia, a few miles up from the busy town of Corfu.

17 - 2016 Jun - Corfu - b

Bar In Montenegro – 4th Jun to 5th Jun 2016

Bar In Montenegro – 4th Jun to 5th Jun 2016

The sun graced us with its presence as we sailed out of the bay of Kotor, although the forecast was for heavy rain later in the area. We got to enjoy the Kotor Bay in its full glory and then headed down the coast to Budva. As we neared the town, dark angry clouds were forming over the mountain range, looking like heavy rain. We decided to forego the pleasure of one more downpour and kept going another 3 hours down the coast to Bar, our “checkout” town from Montenegro (forecast said better weather).

On our sail to Bar, we were lucky enough to have the perfect wind conditions to fly the cruising chute (to Marks utter delight), unfortunately the time was short, the wind moved direction after a hour.

BAR2Bar turned out to be a very commercial town (as per the pilot book), not a pretty place, but certainly the cheapest I found in Montenegro for shopping and beers. We stayed in the marina which was Montenegro’s last chance to deprive us of more Euros before our return to our beloved Greece. After a quick visit to the shops to stock up for the sail, we returned to the boat and prepared for our last overnight (26 hour) passage this summer.

Bye Bye Montenegro

Kotor in Montenegro – 1st June to 4th June 2016

Kotor in Montenegro – 1st June to 4th June 2016

We were the first boat in the queue at the Croatian customs office to check out of the country, and as we knew they were quite bureaucratic, we moved the boat the few meters to their “Q” labelled section of the town quay. To my surprise the process was all relatively quick and we completed check out and were on our way after 20 mins, heading to our fourth country so far this summer. The sail started with wind on the nose at an unexpected 23 knots and bumpy seas, but it was just the local funnelling effect of the mountains behind and everything soon calmed down to a mill pond with little wind – the white flappy things stayed unloved in their bag.

15 - 2016 Jun - Kotor - 1We arrived in Montenegro and headed into the Gulf of Kotor which consists of three large basins (Herecegnovski Zaliv, Tivatski Zaliv and Kotorski Zaliv) and I have to say, the scenery is breathtaking, the mountains climbing almost from the waters edge, reaching to over 1,000m in places. The settlements are sprinkled along the narrow strip of land with these incredibly beautiful mountains as a backdrop. We travelled 2 hours into the third basin to visit Kotor and the trip was worth while just to enjoy the view that greeted us, although some sunshine would have enhanced its beauty, instead Montenegro welcomed us with showers, which we later discovered are a feature here.

15 - 2016 Jun - Kotor - 2In Montenegro, like Croatia you have to check in and out, so more paperwork. We got moored up and got ourselves settled, then headed off in search of the appropriate offices – the Harbour Master, Customs and Police. All started well with the Harbour Master, we purchased our visitors licence for the period of 1-month as we thought 1-week might be a bit short, so 164 euros lighter we moved offices to the Customs and Police, only to be told we had to move the boat to their “special” quay to check-in. By now it’s raining really heavy so we were both unhappy and wet, but we should have known better and not listened to someone’s bad advice that the entry procedures were more flexible than Croatia (rubbish). An hour later all done and we are re-settled on the pontoon. We negotiated a discount for 3 nights stay, so some good news. With the heavy rain continuing, we decided to relax and night one was a quiet one, just eating on board; saving the exploring for day 2 and 3 as the sunshine is due to return.

Hoorah, day 2 greeted us with sunshine, although it was a little damp from the last days deluge. No run today as we had some major exploring planned. Kotor is the number one “must see“ in Montenegro, an old town surrounded by the usual defensive walls which also impressively climbed quite a few hundred metres up the mountainside behind to the castle at the top. Our first challenge of the Day was to climb to the castle up the path (with 1334 steps, so I was told) which zigzagged back and forth across the hill between the walls – and unlike Dubrovnik was “original” and very “rustic”, they had not been over liberal with the concrete and trowel. Hudson relished the challenge, but I was just glad we went early as with the heat of the day the climb would have been a “killer”, the climb and the view of the gulf made it incredibly worth while despite the castle ruins being a little disappointing.

15 - 2016 Jun - Kotor - 3Following more afternoon showers (a feature of the mountains I think), we set out to wander around the old town of Kotor with its narrow charming streets, the shops were a mixture of “designer” clothes, shoes and handbag shops and knick knack bits, nothing impressive – and far too many churches, there seems to be one on every street corner. The town is pretty, it is the stop off point in Montenegro for cruise ships, and today we had two in so the town was busy, although they leave at 6pm, the ideal time to wonder around.

15 - 2016 Jun - Kotor -4We discovered Kotor is mosquito heaven (or hell), Mark got eaten alive, he has bites all over and although I was lucky, I still have 5 itchy lumps, of which two are on my upper neck. We should have appreciated that Kotor is inland and with all this rain, mosquitoes are in abundance.

On day 3 we hired a car (amazingly it had manual windows, very novel) and set off to explore inland. Having learned our lesson, we covered ourselves in mosquito repellent, packed warm fleeces and water, but forgot our rain macs (….stupid, we should have learnt our lesson by now from the last few days) and headed up into those stunning mountains. The first part of our travel led us up the Kotor bay to the most amazing view of the 3 basins. The road is long and very very zigzaggy, ascending up some unbelievable steep slopes, and just when you though it couldn’t go any higher it continued to climb even more. Mark and I tried not to look over the side of the road to the sheer drops that seemed to be just feet from the side of the road, neither of us are good at heights so we both looked determinedly forward at the road ahead. As you climb and stop at the dedicated spots the view is breath taking, I can’t recall seeing any view as incredible as this.

15 - 2016 Jun - Kotor - 5We continued our exploring, heading inland to the Ostrog Monastery, along local windy lanes which became quite narrow (one car only) and very bumpy – luckily we only met 2 cars in the three hours, although the shepherd and his flock of scrawny sheep did hold up the traffic for a while and then a tortoise crossing the road held our attention for a few more minutes as it attempted to get clear of the cars tyres.The route we took was definitely not the shortest, but it was nice to see how the locals live in the mountains, although not many do, most of the houses we passed were very remote and closed up or derelict.

15 - 2016 Jun - Kotor - 6We finally made it to Ostroska Greda; the Ostrog Monastery is the countries most unusual architectural site and a major Christian pilgrimage destination. The entire monastery was carved out of a cave in a nearly vertical mountain cliff, with only the whitewashed facade left visible, although more recent extensions have since been added.

15 - 2016 Jun - Kotor - 7It was built in the 17th Century as a refuge against the Ottoman Empire and houses the remains of Saint Sveti Vasilje – why do they only ever become saints after they are dead. Many still make the pilgrimage, climbing the long winding path up the mountain to see the remains of Sveti and offer prayers. Inside the monastery there are two inner caves used as chapels, which have been decorated with frescoes painted directly onto the cave walls. Sveti can still be found in one of the upper grottos, protected by an ever present monks sitting next to the open coffin – weird. I’m not sure Mark and I observed the correct protocols, as we watched devotees kissing the rock at the entrance, bowing and scraping and exiting the grotto backwards. A very interesting visit and worth the long drive.

We head back to the boat following the more direct route with proper roads, with a detour via Cetinje the old capital of Montenegro. Cetinje was disappointing, we expected a large more significant town with a bustling centre instead it was quiet, drab looking and empty, no main centre or worthwhile features that we could see. The trip back took us via Budva our next planned stop off in the boat. The marina is next to the old walled town but the remainder of Budva looks to be a major tourist holiday centre for locals – “Montenegro Blackpool”, not our ideal choice of places. On our return to Kotor, we found a lovely wine bar in the old town and finished our visit with a bottle of wine enjoying the ambiance and music.

 

Cavtat & Dubrovnik on the Croatian mainland – 30th May to 1st June 2016

Cavtat & Dubrovnik on the Croatian mainland – 30th May to 1st June 2016

Cavtat is the principal place that visiting boats have to check-in or check-out of Croatia, so we moored on the town quay a couple of metres away from the roped off area where you had to moor your boat when entering/leaving the country. As a result we had a regular coming and going of all sizes of boat from 20 foot sail to the super rich in their 200 foot super yachts, with decks as high as our mast – all very entertaining.

14 - 2016 May - Cavtat & Dubrovnik - 02Cavtat is a delightful village, which being quite close to Dubrovnik and the airport is very popular with the tourists, there were all nationalities including a lot of Brits and Americans (the Americans really do need a volume control as it does seem that they want everyone within a mile radius to hear their conversation). It is also an easy bus or water taxi ride to Dubrovnik old town, which we planned to visit the next day. The first night we had decided on a pizza but ended up with a shared fish platter after seeing it delivered to the table next to us (it did look so good), so we tucked into sea bass, prawns (a little small for my liking) and the usual delicious squid. The next day we headed to the old town of Dubrovnik.

14 - 2016 May - Cavtat & Dubrovnik - 13We entered Dubrovnik via water taxi into the small harbour surrounded by the fortified old town walls – you really can see why it is one of the key locations for Game of Thrones. The walls were massive, covering the coat-line for about half a mile before going inland and completely surrounding the town which consisted of ancient red tiled houses – giving the impression it was untouched for hundreds of years.

14 - 2016 May - Cavtat & Dubrovnik - 08Unfortunately, during their war a couple of decades ago, it did get quite badly damaged, being fired upon from the hills above, but restoration has been rapid – probably a bit too liberal with the cement trowel, as there were some places that looked brand spanking new. Still, the town is extremely impressive and we decided to see it initially by walking around the town high up on the city walls, which couldn’t help but leave a lasting impression.

14 - 2016 May - Cavtat & Dubrovnik - 06The only real down-side was the mass of humanity which had turned out to visit on a beautiful sunny day in early summer. The number of groups following tour guides with raised umbrellas for their lines of Japanese/Chinese/British/you name it nationality, to follow was daunting – way too many people and its only June. After a couple of hours and a hot sausage roll followed by an ice cream for desert, we hot footed back to Cavtat by water taxi. Would I recommend a visit to Dubrovnik…..yes, but go in March or April before the tourists invade.

14 - 2016 May - Cavtat & Dubrovnik - 05The last night in Cavtat Mark finally got his pizza and what a good one it was, the “best he ever had” he claimed. We settled down after dinner, to watch the most recent episode of the Game of Thrones – how appropriate, and I wanted to see if I recognised the scenery, we then made ready for our departure for Kotor in Montenegro the next day.