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.
A 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.
None 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.