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Month: April 2019

Vonitsa – 9th to 18th April 2019

Vonitsa – 9th to 18th April 2019

002 - 2019 Summer - Vonitsa 000We picked Vonitsa to wait for the weather to improve. You can moor your boat safely, side onto the quay, so you don’t need to drop your anchor …. and no one can inadvertently pull it up. It is a sleepy Greek town that does not appear to rely on tourism, so even at this time of year, there appears to be a pulse. Most of the café/bars on the town quay are open, as well as a couple of Tavernas within the main part of the town … all the amenities you could want … except for a nail shop as I was hoping to get a pedicure. Well a girl can’t have everything.002 - 2019 Summer - Vonitsa 008Preveza is at the mouth of the landlocked Gulf of Amvrakia and Vonitsa is the first town you reach, an hour and a half (at 5 knots) inside the Gulf. The Pilot Book says that the Gulf is full of fish, there are certainly many fish farms lining much of the northern coast and these are supposed to attract pods of dolphins. Mark and I are still to be convinced, we saw very little fish life and nothing anywhere near the size of a dolphin.

002 - 2019 Summer - Vonitsa 006It’s a quiet spot, with not many visiting yachts, certainly not at this time of year. All but four of those moored up seemed to be abandoned and empty for the winter. As the week progressed, we did have a few more boats join us, they appear to come here every year at the same time, to take advantage of the facilities whilst they finish prepping their boats and wait for the weather to improve. I think we will do We fell into a routine, with Hudson and I doing our daily walks and exploring the town (between rain showers), while Mark completed his last few tasks on the boat. We are enjoying being back and have automatically adjusted into boat mode, although I do have a few bruises on my legs and head to remind me to duck when I get out of bed. The weather has not been great, in fact for the first week, most days we had rain and cloud, with cold evenings, we will need long trousers and jackets for a while yet.

002 - 2019 Summer - Vonitsa 009002 - 2019 Summer - Vonitsa 005aNext to the boat at the end of the quay is a car-park, it is hardly used but home to three little puppies who have been abandoned. We don’t usually get involved with the local stray dogs, as there seems so many, but these three touched our hearts. They are two brothers and a sister and look so cute, they are very wary of humans and bark in that non-threatening puppy sort of way, if you get too close. After all it is their territory. We noticed on the first day that they were constantly scratching and had terrible flees, the little pale bitch had red raw patches of hairless skin, due to all her scratching. We felt we had to try to do something, so we bought flee tablets from the local vets. The challenge was to to get them to eat the tablets when they don’t trust humans (who can blame them), so I wrapped the tablets in ham and threw the food towards each one, ensuring that they all got one tablets. Thirty minutes later the job was completed, I hope they will get some relief soon.

002 - 2019 Summer - Vonitsa 014However, this was not the end of the puppy saga. On returning from one of my dog walks, I heard a faint whining and crying coming from the direction of the pontoons. I secured Hudson on our boat and went to look for the source of the noise. One of the puppies had fallen in the water, there was no way for him to get out as everything was too high. He was clinging for dear life to a pontoon chain. I held his head up so he didn’t drown till Mark arrived and lifted him out by the scruff of his neck, saving the puppy for sure.

Today was really our “be kind to animals” day. While driving out of the car park, Mark saw a small turtle (about 6 inches long) on the tarmac in the middle of the car park, 20 metres from water and grass and to stop him being run over, moved him to safety at the edge of the car park.

After a day, the puppies seemed to stop scratching, the tablets definitely helped, so we decided to repeat the dose again just before we left Vonitsa.

002 - 2019 Summer - Vonitsa 010

On a small hill above the town is the site of a large Venetian castle constructed in the 17th century. We decided to check it out. It was open but deserted, there was not a lot to see, although the walls were quite well preserved and there was a great view from the top and the profusion of wild flowers were very colourful and pretty.

002 - 2019 Summer - Vonitsa 012We have been threatening for many years, to visit Meteora in the Peneas Valley northeast of the town of Kalambaka, a couple of hundred kilometres from Preveza. It is an amazing collection of monasteries built on top of inaccessible columns of granite, high up in the mountains. As the weather is cooler and we can leave Hudson in the car while we go inside … and as there was also the threat of some blue sky, we decided to hire a car for a few days to go visit.

003 - 2019 Summer - Meteora 001003 - 2019 Summer - Meteora 011We went inside the nunnery Roussanou Monastery first, it was quite small and not a lot was open to the public. Then onto the Great Meteoron Monastery, which is the biggest and oldest one. It is called Meteoro, the monastery that is “suspended in the air”, because of the formation of the gigantic rock on top of which it was built.

003 - 2019 Summer - Meteora 006003 - 2019 Summer - Meteora 004A bit of history – The Great Meteoron Monastery was founded by Saint Athanasios (born 1302). The main cathedral in the central courtyard is embellished with beautiful 16th century frescoes and the old kitchen is left as it was several hundred years ago, so it gives you an idea of how life was. They seemed to have a whole hall full of wine making facilities, so the monks had something to occupy themselves with. The outside viewing platform is perched high on top of a vertical cliff and providing you have no cloud cover, like we did most of the time, the view is stunning. You can see the other monasteries in the area and for miles around. When the clouds come in, you are literally in them, it gives the place an isolated and eerie feel.

003 - 2019 Summer - Meteora 015Even though it rained … well down poured most of the day, it was worth the 3.5-hour drive to see such stunning structures perched on top of these rock formations.

003 - 2019 Summer - Meteora 016The weather finally improved and at last we got days of sunshine, so we stocked up the boat, completed our domestic tasks (clothes washed as there is unlimited supply of free water) and moved north to a favourite place of ours, Gaios on the Island of Paxos, just south of Corfu, in time for Easter.

The 2019 Sailing Season Begins – Lefkas 29th March to 9th April 2019

The 2019 Sailing Season Begins – Lefkas 29th March to 9th April 2019

001 - 2019 Summer - Lefkas 000We arrived in Greece late on Friday evening on the 29th March, a couple of weeks earlier than in previous years. We had even moved our arrival date a few days, to avoid any Brexit issues, which was now supposed to take place a few hours after we landed in Athens.  We should have known that our government was going to make a mess of it, but eternally grateful that we are out of the country and don’t have to listen to the hourly repetitive updates, saying the same thing about BREXIT (or the lack of).

For the first time ever, our hold luggage was unbelievably only 2 bags (although each still weighed 23kg) and a dog cage. Fantastic you may think, “well done you two”, I hear you say, for controlling Mark’s spending on boat stuff. Don’t be daft, Mark has already been to visit the boat in February with 3 large, 23 kg bags and 2 solar panels. So much for his claim at the end of last season that he had nothing left to buy for the boat. Hmmm, hope I can afford a pedicure after his spending!!

Hudson survived his flight, although he could be heard barking during our bumpy landing at Athens. There were strong winds with some gusts up to 50 knots. It was a long day travelling, especially for Mark who had to drive us a further 4.5 hours after we landed, to our apartment in Lefkas, with us finally crawling into bed at 4am.

001 - 2019 Summer - Lefkas 003We decided to stay in an apartment for 10 days whilst we got Hapatoni ready for the season, it’s a lot easier with Hudson and nicer than staying out of the water, with the cockpit 12 foot in the air, in a deserted and dusty Cleopatra boat yard. We rented the same apartment as last year, at a good rate, which worked out well. Mark went to the boat each day and Hudson and I every other day – we had less jobs to do. The week passed quickly with Mark working non-stop, ticking off things from his efficiently maintained to-do list. Hudson and I re-acquainted ourselves with our dog walk – up to the floating bridge, along the side of the lagoon and over the hump back bridge back into town. Taking particular care to avoid the stray dogs that seem to have increased in numbers this year. Curiously we always manage to arrive at my favourite coffee shop at the top of town … it would be rude not to stop wouldn’t it?

001 - 2019 Summer - Lefkas 001001 - 2019 Summer - Lefkas 002Many of the tourist shops and restaurants are still closed, including our favourite restaurant Nissi, where we always have calamari and king prawns. The town quay is full up with empty Charter boats getting prepared for the season, which starts officially at Easter.

001 - 2019 Summer - Lefkas 005During the week we caught up with Alice from Spirit 3, her boat is tied up in Levkas marina and she returned to Greece even earlier than us, in early March. A couple of evenings we cycled into the centre of town, either to see Alice, or to visit the Pirate bar for a beer and game of cards. Hudson was reacquainted with his trailer, towed behind Mark’s bike. He hates getting in and always needs a bribe and barks in machine gun fashion to let everyone know that he is not happy with the arrangement. He settles down once we get going, sitting upright, with his head poking out the top window, surveying his new territory.  We did however deliberately miss the “famous” Porto Bar quiz night on Wednesday to Mark’s delight, you can write his and my total general knowledge on the back of a postage stamp.

On Friday 5th Mark returned the hire car to Athens, so more driving and this early in the season there are no flights back from Athens to Preveza, so he had to endure a 5-hour coach trip back to us.

On the Saturday we went exploring, we were keen to find possible locations to moor up Hapatoni for a week or so whilst the weather improved – the forecast is warm but showers and cloud. We visited Nidri, which is mainly a holiday town, only a couple of the shops and bars were open. Our plan was to moor on one of our favourite places, the Isis Hotel pontoon. It is safe from weather issues, with lazy lines and the hotel facilities are very useful at this time of year i.e. bar, cooked breakfast and washing machine. it would have been ideal, however the hotel had not yet opened for the season and the pontoon was full of empty charter boats, with one space free – not very inviting.

Moving on, we drove down to Sivota, which we knew would be quiet, but again hoped a few places might be open. The only place with a pulse was Yianna’s -The Family Café. It was lovely to see Yianna again, although this year will be a challenge for her without her two sons who have moved onto new ventures and also no Nikos serving in the front of house. Sivota looked odd with only one pontoon in the water, and very few boats parked up, so lots of space but a ghost town.

001 - 2019 Summer - Lefkas 006On the way home we popped in and visited Tina in her new home. Tina and Tim have sold their Yacht Shiraz and are now exploring Europe in their caravan. They have found a permanent base for the summer in a tranquil spot near the hills behind Nidri. A bit too isolated for us, but ideal for Tim as a base to work from, and the prices are very good.

001 - 2019 Summer - Lefkas 009We left the apartment on Monday 8th April, moving to Hapatoni for our final night ashore and ready for her launch at mid-day on the 9th April. The weather up to the Monday had been a mixture of sun and cloud, however as we arrived at the boat it changed to showers and breezy, typical. Luckily, we launched on-time, between the rain showers and just avoided the 30 knot gusts of wind.

001 - 2019 Summer - Lefkas 010We left Cleopatra and for the first time, went east into the landlocked, Gulf of Amvrakia, we normally go west out into the Ionian Sea. Following a wet and windy 1.5-hour trip, we moored up, side on to the quay, protected by a very convenient breakwater and with a great view of the Venetian castle high above us. This is a perfect spot to wait out the current patch of unsettled weather.

The quay here is small only accommodating about 14 yachts, of which only four have people onboard (including us). The rest are empty and judging by the number of barnacles clinging to their hulls, they have not been moved for a long time. Not surprising as there is no charge to stay on the quay and water is also free. There are food shops, bars and a few restaurants, plus some good dog walking routes and that Venetian castle to explore. I think we are the only English people in town.

We are now hoping for some sunshine., we are going to stay till we get some.