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Month: September 2017

Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 18th to 22nd September 2017

Gaios on the Island of Paxos – 18th to 22nd September 2017

042 - 2017 - Paxos - 00We were keen to visit Paxos, another one of our favourite Islands in the Ionian. So, with a few strong coffee’s inside us, we left Sivota in the dark at 6:45 am on Monday, driving the 150km north to catch the car ferry from Igoumenitsa to the port at Gaios.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 01Paxos is the smallest of the Ionian Islands, just eight miles long by two wide, a place where most things can be left until tomorrow and where visitors, mainly Italians, English and Athenians, return year after year to do not much at all. Our studio apartment was a few minutes’ walk from the town quay in Gaios, unfortunately no sea view this time and not quite as spacious as our apartment in Sivota, but pleasant enough. As the car ferries don’t run every day, we decided to stay till Friday.

We quickly unpacked, keen to revisit some of our old haunts and check out the restaurants again …. most importantly, was there a spit roast on the bbq ready for tonight, in our favourite restaurant? We headed for the top of town to Taverna Taka Taka and joy upon joy, there they were slowly turning on the spit, a choice of lamb or chicken calling to us to “come and get some”. The only downside is the restaurant is also home to the largest herd of cats we have ever seen, so we would need to be on our guard with Hudson as they can be pretty vicious with dogs. Despite the glorious appearance of the pork and the vast quantities served up, the flavours were not as intense as they have been in the past, so we left a little disappointed at the end of the meal – can’t say the same for Hudson, who was salivating at the thought of getting the leftovers for breakfast the next morning.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 04Over the next few days we settled into a daily routine, with a leisurely start in the morning lounging around the apartment, followed by an excursion in the hire car in the afternoon and ending the day with the obligatory taverna visit for beer and cards.

The first day’s excursion was to the north of the island, to Lakka. We have been there several times and never tire of visiting this gorgeous horseshoe-shaped bay, its translucent waters crammed with fishing boats and yachts. We did our customary walk around the bay, dodging the many cats who hang out around the tavernas and in any shady spot they can find, waiting to be fed or petted by cooing tourists. One of the more mangy of these creatures tried to attack Hudson, I did a blocking action with my leg which resulted in some more scratches to add to my collection of bruises and mosquito bites. We stopped for lunch at our usual place, the restaurant Arriva on the end of the town quay and had our usual selection of yummy dishes, calamari, stuffed aubergine, Greek salad, etc, all washed down with a glass of wine/beer.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 03The clouds started to mass in a dark and threatening way towards evening so after an early dinner, we arrived back in the apartment just as the heavens opened, monsoon style, with a bit of thunder thrown in for luck.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 02Day two of our sightseeing, found us heading to Mongonissi, a small bay on the south coast which will definitely go on our “must visit by yacht” list. It had a lovely anchorage, several tavernas and a beautiful sandy beach, quite unusual for this part of the world where pebbles are the norm.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 05This was followed by the spectacular Tripitos Arch, later in the afternoon, which in typical Greek fashion took someone with SAS navigational skills to find. It is the remains of a collapsed sea cave, over 20 meters at its highest point. Approaching from above it is very imposing, the arch itself appears scarily narrow but is apparently wider than it looks, nonetheless Mr & Mrs (I hate Heights) Clark both wimped out and decided on a photograph as our memory of the visit.042 - 2017 - Paxos - 07The day finished with a late lunch at Longos, a small fishing village on the northeast coast of the island and also a must see, it is very pretty. Only room for one or two cruising yachts on the mole though, so you are likely to have to visit this one by road.

The last couple of days passed in much the same way as the first few, we revisited a few of the sights and spend leisurely evenings on the town quay playing cards and watching the antics of the charter yachts and hordes of tourists disgorging from their tripper boats out of Corfu.

On the Friday 22nd, we caught the 2:00pm ferry back to Igoumenitsa, before returning to Sivota for our final 5 days in Greece.

Sivota – 15th to 18th September 2017

Sivota – 15th to 18th September 2017

041 - 2017 - Sivota - 00Sivota is just a gem, we say that each time we go there, so our decision to spend three days to try to relax and at least have a small holiday before going home was brilliant. With our hire car loaded to the gunnels, apartment booked and the rest of the gang heading down on board Shiraz, we set off. Our plans didn’t however go entirely smoothly, as the apartment I had booked was in Syvota with a “Y” (Not Sivota with an “I”) which was 150 km in the wrong direction – easy mistake to make I told Mark, who had that highly unimpressed expression that he sometimes gets. Fortunately, we had an option 2, the Galini Studios which turned out to be just wonderful, a 2-bed spacious apartment in a great location a street back from the town quay, but high enough so we could keep an eye on the activity in the bay as yachts crossed anchors and jockeyed for a place to park – the bay was pretty full in advance of the Ionian Regatta later this week.

041 - 2017 - Sivota - 11The first evening (Friday 15th) we joined our friends Tina, Tim, Alice and Aunia for a game of boules and bbq on the beach, this is always a noisy, riotous affair. The boules teams were decided by picking a short or long twig and overseen by Mark, I am sure he cheated so as to not to get stuck with me on his team. The challenge with boules on the pebbly Sivota beach is that the jack is pretty impossible to see, so we had to mark it with a pink ice cream spoon. My team, which included Tina and Tim were on form and despite trailing in the early stages, managed to get ahead and steal an overall victory in the last game. Mark, through gritted teeth, congratulated his victorious wife, blaming his team for more focus on the beer than the game – to say he is competitive is an understatement.041 - 2017 - Sivota - 06

041 - 2017 - Sivota - 04

041 - 2017 - Sivota - 03Saturday 16th (Day 2) began with Hudson and I jogging around the bay, followed by a couple of hours sun bathing/swimming and finishing up with Mark and I, together with Keith and Tracy enjoying a massive grilled Red Snapper with oven roasted vegetables, absolutely deliciously cooked by the Twelve Gods Restaurant. Another item on my tick list of things to do this Autumn … shame we didn’t have Hapatoni. It’s not the same without the yacht, but it comes a close second.041 - 2017 - Sivota - 07Our group of 8 started to expand as other boaties who we had met on our travels, pulled up on the town quay, Greece is quite a small place really, and boaty people are a very friendly lot. We chose “The Family Restaurant” or “Mama’s” as we call it for our final night in Sivota and ended up taking over half the restaurant. Nicos is the young waiter who has a really welcoming disposition and always remembers us from previous years, particularly that Mark likes his food spicy. So, every meal results in weight loss as he tries to increase the spicy heat on everything he serves – this bizarrely also includes the salt and vinegar crisps.041 - 2017 - Sivota - 09Mama is the matriarch, spending much of her time in the kitchen, but venturing out to give her favoured guests a hug and over indulge Hudson with a sneaky sausage snack. She is truly wonderful, the type of woman that everyone would love to have as their mum. As the evening passed the volume increased along with the number of empty glasses, we even persuaded Mark and Justine to play a tune on the guitar, although I ‘m not sure anyone was in a fit condition to “name that tune”. With an early start planned for the next day we headed home after a night cap at the Pirates bar.
041a - 2017 - Sivota - 01

Lefkas on the Island of Lefkada – 11th to 15th September 2017

Lefkas on the Island of Lefkada – 11th to 15th September 2017

040 - 2017 - Lefkas - 00The insurance company (Navigators & General) was very efficient, a surveyor was organised who arrived promptly the next day and gave us our first really good bit of news … that amazingly, Hapatoni was fixable. Engineers arrived in droves to scratch their heads, sucking on their teeth and shaking their heads in that way that they do to signify, “this is going to cost loads of money”. The net result was that the boat had to be cleared, the interior woodwork would all have to come out in order to assess the extent of the damage and get a quote for the final repair. So over the next few days 45 cardboard boxes arrived and were filled with “stuff” from the main cabin – we soon realised we definitely have too much STUFF!!039 - 2017 - The Rock - 04We stayed at the hotel Ianos in Lefkas marina while we packed up the boat, the weather is still in the 30’s during the day, so the swimming pool is a welcome break to the somewhat soul-destroying hours spent on our damaged Hapatoni. It’s hard to describe the feelings you have when your boat sustains such damage, it is such a part of our lives for five months every year, and we spend many hours in maintenance and a lot of cash keeping her in tip top condition.

040 - 2017 - Lefkas - 01Tina and Tim on Shiraz and Alice on Spirit III have been brilliant, offering loads of support, making lunches and cooking evening meals. We have also met up with Keith and Tracy whose Beneteau 50 unfortunately also sustained damage in a 60-knot blow which arrived unexpectedly at their marina in Preveza, accompanied by a big surge which ripped out their stern cleats and pushed Amonite sideways onto the bows of the facing boats. The damage to their port side was extensive, anchors punctured large holes, the guard rails and toe rails were ripped off. Not a great week for boats.

Our last night in Lefkas was a boisterous meal on the front with the 8 of us as well as a couple of Americans that Keith had met during his travels. Unfortunately, Mark had chipped his tooth, so half way through the meal had to disappear to the local dentist to try to get it fixed. He arrived back after an hour and a half, apparently the dentist had been unable to find the right nerves so it took four sets of injections and an hour waiting for numbness to arrive before Mark finally managed to get his filling – I don’t think he will be going back there in a hurry.

We have completed packing and now it’s time to decide … do we go home to the glorious English (drizzly) autumn or do we stay for a little while and enjoy the 30 degree sunshine of Greece … difficult decision!!!

We decided to take a week or so to explore some of those places that we had been cheated out of by the accident. We booked to stay a few days in Sivota, then up to Gaios on the Island of Paxos and finally back to our lovely Sivota to finish off, before we headed for home on the 27th September.

The Trip to Lefkas & The Rock – 11th September 2017

The Trip to Lefkas & The Rock – 11th September 2017

We had originally intended to go to the town quay at Kioni on the Island of Ithaca, the mythical home of the legends of Homer’s Odyssey. It is one of our favourite spots in the Ionian, we just wanted to relax and do nothing for 3 or 4 days …. except for maybe the occasional beer, enjoying a mouth-watering spit roast and awarding marks for the inept parking of the flotilla fleets as they swarm in. However, because of some strong southerlies due to arrive over the next couple of days, we decided to head for the safer moorings on the north of the island of Meganisi.

So, after a swift change of course we left the Gulf of Patras and rounded the south side of Nisis Oxia, to head north. This corner leading into the Ionian has always seemed to be an area teaming with fish and this was where we were to land our second catch since leaving the UK back in 2014. Mark was dozing below when I noticed a tugging on his brand new, all-singing fishing reel. Expecting to find the usual bit of seaweed, I pulled in the line to be confronted by an eminently eatable mackerel, which in my shocked haste, I left dangling on the hook and shouted for Mark to come and assist. He immediately came up top and despite his surprise that I had actual managed to reel in a fish, quickly despatched the fish and placed it in the fridge for later consumption.

Looking for shelter, we continued on our way to Spartakhori (on the Island of Meganisi) to be told by Babis, the Taverna owner, that there was no room on his pontoons. There was a similar story at Vathi in the next bay, everyone was heading for cover to hide from the approaching high winds. With options running out, we phoned the marina at Lefkas at the top of the Island of Lefkada, a further two hours away (and one of the most expensive in the Ionian). Lefkas however, did have the bonus that our friends on Shiraz and Spirit 3 were also there and fortunately the marina had spaces, so of we set.

And this is when our world literally came tumbling around our ears.

THE ROCK

039 - 2017 - The Rock - 00A few minutes into the journey, with me below preparing lunch, Hudson at my feet hoping for a few stray scraps, and Hapatoni making 6 knots, we came to an abrupt halt as we hit a submerged rock. The keel took the full force, lifted and flexed the hull which moved a few centimetres upwards, this was enough to cause incredible damage in the main salon. The dining table broke away from the floor and lay in a twisted heap. The fitted kitchen cupboards and chart desk had come lose from there secure mountings, cracking panels and snapping the worktop. The worst damage was revealed when we lifted the floorboards, there were many large cracks in the inner floor laminate, stretching from side to side. We were also taking on water, fortunately not a large amount and the bilge pump was able to cope. We both stared in disbelief at the unbelievable carnage caused and both voiced similar thoughts, that this looked like the end for Hapatoni.

039 - 2017 - The Rock - 01 (1)

039 - 2017 - The Rock - 03

039 - 2017 - The Rock - 02None the less, we decided to try to get Hapatoni to Lefkas which was the nearest marina where we could get her lifted out of the water, but was still an hour and a half away. We both went into auto pilot, deciding to minimise any trips down below, not knowing how attached the keel was, the loss of which would have proved catastrophic. With the passports, money, phones, home keys, etc, secured in our water proof bag and life jackets on, we launched the dinghy and tied it to the transom … just in case. We phoned Lefkas Marina and requested an immediate lift-out also informing the Port Police, who asked us to activate the DSC alarm so they could locate us – not sure that was necessary, as at that point we were not in any life-threatening danger, but we did as we were told. The port police eventually arrived in a rib and escorted up the canal to Lefkas where we were immediately lifted onto the hard.

With Hapatoni out of danger and the knowledge that our possessions were safe, we headed to our friends Tina and Tim’s boat, for a tidy up and very sweet cup of tea to calm the nerves. It was time to relax a little from the stress of the last couple of hours, the impact of what had happened, just starting to sink in.

 

Messolonghi – 10th September 2017

Messolonghi – 10th September 2017

038 - 2017 - Messalongi - 00We did not hurry to leave Galaxidi even though the passage was 48 miles and about 8 hours, as we had intended to anchor in the basin outside the now closed marina at Messolonghi and there was never an issue with finding a vacant spot there. We left at around 8:30am motoring across the windless, mirror flat calm of the Gulf of Corinth towards the distant Rion-Antirion Bridge, settling into our now familiar shift system, two hours on and two hours off, taking turns to nap or read or just chill during our off-shift periods.  The Bridge was 34 miles away, but due to its impressive size, became visible quite quickly into our passage. The bridge is considered to be a creation of extraordinary engineering, built in an area with high seismic activity, it spans a 3 km wide straight, linking the town of Rion with the town of Antirion and is the longest cable-stayed suspension bridge in the world.038 - 2017 - Messalongi - 01After the bridge, the final 20-mile passage to Messolonghi was entirely uneventful, arriving at about 5:30pm at the 2 km long channel leading up to the Lagoon, our anchorage for the night, just outside the town.038 - 2017 - Messalongi - 02And now the inevitable history lesson. In 1822 the Turks tried to unsuccessfully take Messolonghi from the Greeks who managed to resist for four years before deciding on a mass evacuation of the town. Tragically, as a result of a betrayal, this led to the massacre of most of the inhabitants.  The famous British poet and philhellene Lord Byron, who supported the Greek struggle for independence, died in Messolonghi in 1824. He is commemorated by a cenotaph containing his heart and a statue located in the town. In 1829 Messolonghi was liberated and started again to flourish and in 1937 the government decided to name it the SACRED TOWN OF GREECE. In the ensuing years, the town produced 5 famous Prime Ministers, many people of history, many poets, artists and scientists, architects and literately men.038 - 2017 - Messalongi - 03We left Messolonghi before daybreak on the following day with high anticipation. This was to be the day we returned to the Ionion.

The Corinth Canal and Galaxidhi – 7th – 9th September 2017

The Corinth Canal and Galaxidhi – 7th – 9th September 2017

037 - 2017 - Galaxidhi - 00We set off bright and early at 7.15am, keen to be on the move, with the Corinth Canal a good 21 miles away. The sun was shining, although it was still cool at this hour, the sea was flat and there was a very gently breeze, only 7 knots of wind.We motored to the canal arriving at 11am and lined up alongside three other boats waiting to transit, one was registered in Portsmouth – lots of Brits in this part of the world.
036 - 2017 - Corinth - 02There was a group of stray dogs here last time and they seemed to be the same ones here again, but sadly looking a little bit more worse for wear. The paperwork took a record 5 minutes as we had crossed before but the costs had not changed from the eye watering amount of 234 euros. We were lucky as we only had to wait 20 minutes before we had the green light to go, Mark made sure he was the first boat through, keen not to get caught behind any stragglers.036 - 2017 - Corinth - 04Some facts about the canal – It is 3.2 miles long and 25 metres wide, the maximum permitted draft is 6.5m. The limestone from which it is cut rises to 79m above sea level and as you enter the canal at each end there are two very unusual hydraulic bridges across the canal, the bridges are lowered DOWN into the sea water to allow the boats to pass over the top of them.036 - 2017 - Corinth - 03In ancient times before the canal, they used to drag ships across the Isthmus on a paved road (the dhiolkos), for the history buffs, Octavian in pursuit of Antony after the battle of Actium had his ships dragged across here. Digging finally started by the Roman ruler Nero, using 6,000 Jews, but he got distracted and the canal was finally built by a French company and finished by the Greeks in 1893.036 - 2017 - Corinth - 05Our original plan was to stop the night in Kiato about an hour and a half from the canal, (we did not like this place when we stopped here last year, too many dodgy itinerants around), so as the conditions were good and it was only mid-day, we continued on to Galaxidhi on the Greece mainland a further 6 hours along the Gulf. We arrived at 6pm, ready to unwind, Hudson was keen to stretch his legs, so following a walk around the bay, a short beer we retired back to the boat for dinner – more yummy king prawns.036 - 2017 - Corinth - 01Galaxidhi was a lovely surprise, it is one of the prettiest towns in the Gulf of Corinth, the narrow harbour is from a distance, hidden by the rocky islets and stony hills. The bay is hemmed in by a pine studded peninsula on the east, with the town hunched on a rocky mound to the west. Back in the 18th and early 19th Centuries it was a prosperous, busy port until the Turks captured the area. Now it is a much more quiet and tranquil spot, offering shelter to yachts with very little other tourism, but surprisingly has many more bars and restaurants than would seem to be required for the number of visitors. The village is clean and well maintained and offers a great dog walk or morning run (to be decided) around the bay under the cover of the pine trees.  We liked the setting so much we decided to stay an extra day and explore the village.037 - 2017 - Galaxidhi - 03Friday 8th September, it is so nice to wake up to sunshine, we had a lazy start catching up on our sleep before we took Hudson for a well-earned long walk around the bay. The road ended at a lovely secluded beach which was occupied by masses of tiny jelly fish who were sunbathing on the shore line (or dying, not sure which!) …. Shame, it would have been a beautiful spot for a dip.037 - 2017 - Galaxidhi - 01Marks next task was to sort out his storage areas, hoping to make more space. From what I could see, it involved emptying out all his stored items onto the main cabin floor (mess mess mess), jiggling them around a little bit and then putting them back in a slightly different order, resulting in a large bag full of rubbish, but oddly, less space than when he started. However, it is tiring work so he finished his jobs off with an afternoon siesta – bless him.

The next day’s plan was to get through the Gulf of Corinth under the always impressive Rion-Antirion bridge and anchor outside the Messolonghi Marina in the Gulf of Patras.

The Return to Greece – The Journey back to Aegina 4th – 6th September 2017

The Return to Greece – The Journey back to Aegina 4th – 6th September 2017

035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 00We left Hamble by taxi on a damp drizzly Monday morning, our travel to the boat was split over two days, with the expectation that we would arrive at 10am on the 5th September, which we did. However, the journey to get there was far from straight forward. As you all know Hudson is not a keen flyer, so Heathrow to Athens works well, it is only a three-hour flight and we are able to drop Hudson off 2 hours before the flight in the same terminal that we fly from, at the “oversized luggage” – fear not, he does not go down the luggage belt, but is noisily wheeled off into the terminal on the back of a trolley. To try to aid this process and minimise Hudson’s trauma, I had some new “stress relief” pills from the vet for Hudson to try this time.00a - 2016 Apr - Preveza - 01The flight was an hour late in taking off and after a further hour into the flight, (you will be shocked to hear, no drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, had even been served at this time) the captain announced we are having to divert to Dusseldorf as we are leaking water through the plane. Mark and I naively think ok, not the end of the world, we can land, stick the plug back in the hole, fill up with water and leave, but no that would be far too simple. After sitting in the plane on the runway at Dusseldorf for an hour, we are told that this plane was going no further and to get off. There followed major confusion as the Captain, flight crew and airport staff were uncommunicative as to what to do next. Finally, we were informed that a new plane was to be sent from Athens, arriving at 8pm and that our luggage will transfer automatically. So, I hear you ask, what about Hudson? It took two traumatic hours to get him off the plane and with us, I have to admit I finally lost the plot and a few expletives were heard by the ground staff, but finally he announced his arrival with his non-stop, machine gun barking, at the customs gate. Following this noisy re-union, a pee and poo (outside of course), we all went for some dinner, we found an excellent Thai/Chinese takeaway in the airport which is the only good thing I have to say about Dusseldorf airport. Unfortunately, to Hudson’s horror, shortly after we had to hand him back to the ground staff ready for flight number two, again lots more barking and a very unhappy dog. We finally took off at 10:30pm and reached our hotel for the night at the port of Piraeus around 3am, three very exhausted bodies collapsed into bed.035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 02Tuesday started early after a disturbed 4 hours sleep, with a passage on the 8:50am Flying Dolphin ferry to Aegina. Other than the tiredness, plans went to schedule on Tuesday and three happy faces arrived at Hapatoni in the boatyard at 10am, ready to unpack and start work preparing the boat. We worked non-stop until 3pm and then headed for our charming boutique hotel Rastoni, which we had stayed in back in July just before we left to go home.035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 01As we have said before the hotel is in a great location, hidden behind a high mature hedge concealing a row of tall shady pistachio nut trees around the front of the building and the garden to the rear is amazing, full of scented fragrant herbs, fruit growing on the trees, pomegranates, lemons and figs with rows of colourful flowering shrubs and hidden seating areas carefully installed to take full advantage of the shade. Following a desperately needed nap and shower we headed into town, enjoying a stroll around the narrow streets as the shops started to open after the afternoon siesta and restaurants prepared their tables for the evening rush. Legs stretched we headed to a bar on the quay front overlooking the parked yachts for a quick glass before dinner. Later, we enjoyed a very pleasant meal at the local fish restaurant adjacent to the fish market, feasting on Calamari, Stuffed peppers, Mackerel and of course a delicious Greek salad.035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 04It is great to be back in Greece in late summer, enjoying the enduring charm and friendliness of the Greek people and the wall to wall sunshine, with a cooler day time temperate currently around 30 degrees. The evenings are also pleasantly cooler now, so you don’t need six fans on to get enough air movement through the boat to allow you to sleep.
With 3 months at the start of the year travelling from Crete up through the Aegean to Aegina, just south of Athens, we discovered many memorable places. Our personal favourites have been (1) standing in the centre of a volcano on Nisyros (2) Port Augusta on the Island of Arki, which was a tiny island mostly inhabited by goats and where Mark learned to make rope mats (3) Amorgos with its monastery, impossibly perched up the side of a cliff and (4) the splendid isolation of Wreck Cove, who can ever forget Mark flashing his extremely white bum cheeks in the oh to transparent waters of the cove.

In hindsight, our July/Aug gap at home was a great success, we missed the extreme heat of high summer in the 40’s and the hordes of Italians invading Greece, a few of whom are comical, but mostly are rude, impolite and extremely annoying – a lovely nation, but they should not be allowed on any form of boat….EVER. Even though the weather at home was mostly damp, it was nice to see busy Hamble filled with boaty activity. For the first time, we got to enjoy our garden with all the beautiful flowers in bloom (but also had to maintain it…can’t have it both ways I guess). Mark went racing in Cowes week and loved it, we took the rib out for lunch to Cowes and Yarmouth and we enjoyed many an evening at the Royal Southern Yacht Club, especially at Happy Hour on a Friday and in the village with family and friends. Even though the weather was pretty poor, we didn’t mind at all because we still had a couple months of Greek sunshine to look forward to – sorry to rub the weather thing in, but it is what it is.035 - 2017 - Aegina Sep - 03We now have two-months remaining this season to enjoy the Ionian, discovering a few new places and re-visiting a lot of our old favourite haunts with their familiar restaurants serving our favourite dishes of red snapper and spit roast. Since we began our travels in 2014, the Ionian is the region we love the most.
Our last day in Aegina was a day of tasks for Mark, and shopping for supplies for me. Another busy day but we are keen to get the boat stocked and ready so we can leave on Thursday heading to the Corinth Canal and onto into the Ionian. It will take us a few days to reach the Ionian and we are both keen to get sailing and exploring.