Greece 2021 – On Holiday At Last

They make a spectacular sight against a blue sky.

We first booked a trip to Greece, to sail the Faraway Islands, north of Corfu, for spring 2020.

Of course, Covid-19 scuppered those plans, so we rearranged the trip for spring 2021. Then we realised a May holiday could clash with my sons’ rearranged wedding, leaving us no time to isolate if that was the current rules, so we moved it forward a couple of weeks.

Then COVID came back with a vengeance and we asked Sailing Holidays to just find us a sailing trip in Greece for October. We had to avoid the 13th as that was Barbara’s 90th birthday party, so we booked the delivery trip from Nidri to Gouvie for the following weekend.

As the pandemic is still very much with us, we had to be tested, and fill in lots of forms.

Eventually it was time, and off we flew, after an early departure from Pete’s on Sunday, we arrived mid afternoon at the Hotel Iris and were shown our yacht, Elara, a Beneteau 331.

After welcomes, and more testing and forms, we settled on the boat and dined in the restaurant. The weather was a bit glum, but we had a rainbow to give us hope.

The following day, after briefing and shopping, we left Nidri for Spartakhori.

We were delighted to get our sails up, and as we headed into a bay for a swim, we spotted a few dolphins a short distance away.

We have visited Spartakhori a few times before, and as it was a team meal, I forgot to take any new photos.

Next day we set off for Kamalos. the sun was shining but not much wind. We had hoped to meet up with Mary-Ann and Colin, as they were also sailing in the area, but our plans didn’t match up, so we motored down the Meganissi chanel and stopped in Port Leone for a swim.

We anchored just outside the old windmill, before setting off up to Kalamos.

Goerge, who owns the tavern on the quay, is renown for getting any boats into his harbour, even if it seems full. Luckily it was fairly quiet as this was approaching the end of season.

Wednesday we set off to Sivota, with a bit of early wind, and we were delighted to see 3 dolphins swim past our yacht. We kept sailing all the way across the top of Meganissi and downto Sivota.

There is a beach near to the marina so todays swim was sorted on arrival. We also had a punch party on the beach as dusk set.

Sailing this late in the year means we were up before dawn most mornings, and we had some spectacular sunrises.

Thursday started with little wind so we motored most of the way to Little Vathi on Meganissi, only getting the sails up after a stop in Abeliki bay, where a flash new house was being built. This was a feature of the holiday we had not seen before, lots of modern buildings arising everywhere.

We did mange a short stretch sailing Goose wing, which is always a delight.

After an evening briefing, we slept ready for an early start.

The next trip was through the Lefkas Canal, all the way to Gaios, so we had to set off at 07:30.

Another sunrise rose behind us as we set off north to Lefkas.

The morning had a surreal feel to it, as it was so calm and still, with only our 2 flotillas out on the water.

A bit of chaos ensued at the canal, as first one boat had rushed across under full speed and had overheated their engine, then another boat ran aground in the mud in the canal. Then a third yacht had its anchor drop mid canal, meaning the lead crews had to haul it back up while we dodged the obstruction.

So when the horn blasted for the bridge to open, for 5 minutes, it was a crazy dash to get through, and the horn to signal its closing blasted as we motored past. Our lead crew failed to get past and had to wait an hour for the next opening.

We motor sailed part of the way, then dropped the sails and carried on under engine. It’s a long trip, with Paxos only becoming visible after a couple of hours, but luckily the weather was good and not too much swell, as this is my least favourite part of the trip.

After that long trip, we only had to get to Lakka the next day. The wind was stronger and we reefed our sails and had a good play, with more goosewinging.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at NioNios of Pork Hock, then we wandered round the town, finding a children’s clothes shop that had to be visited. That’s 2 Christmas presents sorted.

Next we returned to the mainland, to Sivota Mourtos, stopping on the pontoon in the next bay. Our yacht was moored nearest to the land, and I had my best swim yet along the rocky shore, with many different types of fish.

There is a fancy new taverna in the bay, but other people weren’t impressed, so we dined on board, then as dusk started we walked into town, which is a steep 1. We do werer arround 5km walk. we treated ourselves to a great ice-cream and walked back in the dark.

Monday we sailed up to Plataria, having a good tack with reefed sails before mooring uplowed them orarouhalfnd h on the town quay.

We dined in Olgas fish restaurant and I shared the fish platter with Phil, yum.

A new port for us the next day, Sayiadha. It sits behind mud flats which are very shallow, and we were lucky to spot a turtle just before it disappeared, then some dolphins came swimming nearby, with one of them coming within a couple of meters of us. We were able to follow them for about half an hour.

The tavernas here specialise in local caught prawn, which I had with spaghetti.

A few pelicans were floating just outside the harbour the next morning, and another turtle passed us on our way out.

We finally reach Corfu on Wednesday, stopping in Petitri.

Due to a river entering behind the marina, this bay is very atmospheric.

On a previous trip here I had photographed the dawn, and this year we had a similar experience, with thick mist rolling out from the bay.

Thursday was a trip up the coast, stopping in a bay enroute for a lovely swim, and into Corfu Yacht Club. We were lucky to get a spot on the quay side, but it proved a rocky night.

We walked into town late afternoon, and smelt a great curry cooking in the Yacht Club taverna, so rather than return to town, we dined there.

I found this amazing fruit on the quay.

We still had a couple of days before returning to base, so we now venture to a new area, visiting Kassiopi, which is very close to the Albanian shores.

We had a lot of spare time today, so had a swim and sat and read for a while.

Our last day was a gentle trip back round to Gouvia, with a bay stop for my last swim.

We had a team cocktail party and prize giving, we got the ‘David Attenborough’ award for our wildlife spotting.

The following day we didn’t have to leave the marina until 16:00. The staff had already started work on readying the yachts for winter, opening up the genoas to dry.

They make a spectacular sight against a blue sky.

That sadly is the end of a wonderful trip, lots of sunshine, wildlife, swimming, great food and company, but short of good wind.

And back again

Galaxidi is as gorgeous as ever

As I never got around to finishing the second half of my last blog on our sailing trip from Nidri to Corfu, I thought the best thing to do would be make the return trip, and more.

So this blog covers a flotilla placement trip from Corfu to Epidavros.

We start by waking at 02:30 for a 06:00 flight to Corfu, this had better be worth it.

We arrive in Corfu late morning, and travel the short distance to Gouvier marina to pick up our yacht Kanoni.

After settling in, we dine in a marina cafe, and settle for an early night.

Next morning, we set off (hopefully before the other 160 Sailing Holiday yachts) for Corfu yacht club. We found some light wind in the morning to sail, then stopped on Nisida Vido, the island outside Corfu town, for me to take a swim, and collect sea glass on the beach. Refreshed, we made our way into the yacht club, with the help of the harbour master.

We stayed here last October and fell in love with the quirky place. The marina is set right below the high imposing walls of Corfu citadel, and below the music college.

The citadel is lit at night, and snatches of music can be heard drifting down to the boats.

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The lead crew organised a punch party for us to get to know the flotilla members, then we wandered off to dine in Corfu town, an odd mix of regency British architecture, with twisty lane climbing the hill. While here last year we heard brass band playing in an upper storey.  Research found that Corfu has 3 brass bands.

Tuesday morning is the Greek labour day holiday, and we set off southwards and over to the mainland. The wind was not existent all morning, but after lunch on the go, it picked up and we sailed most of the way to Sivota Mourtos.

Ian is sure we have stayed here before and we both recognise a hotel on the way in, but the town itself doesn’t ring many bells. However we moor on the town quay, facing a busy taverna packed with local and holidaymakers enjoying the sunny labour day.

Next day we head off back over to the island, to Gaios on Paxos. A good windy sail, with our sails well reefed.

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Due to encroaching bad weather we stayed another night in Gaios, giving us a relaxing day for reading and walking, and meeting the local cats.

Friday we set off early towards Prevesa, planning a swim in Emerald bay, but large waves and jelly fish kibosh that idea, so I will have to resort to last years photos, when it was calm and sunny, it really does live up to its name.

We then motor sailed onward. This stretch is my least favourite, large swell and no scenery. Last year it was so tedious we played Eye-Spy, ‘S is for……’ should have been the title to the second blog

Eventually we arrived at Prevesa, which is off the tourist track and is popular with the locals who promenade along the front. On our previous trip this was our laundry stop, as you can see from the washing strung around the boat.

We had another lovely meal in the Mermaid taverna, if you ever travel there, we recommend you visit.

Saturday, after a thundery briefing the rain stopped and we set off out of Prevesa. A good wind allowed us to sail to the Lefkas canal.

After motoring through, we again sailed towards Sivota. We made a brief detour at Skorpios to meet Robin and David who had been sailing in the south Ionian while Robin passed her ICC. Having eventually found them, we had a short chat, then set off again, motoring down to Sivota.

Thunder and heavy rain rattled through during the night, and the next morning.

Sunday was a free sail day, but due to the bad weather many of the flotilla decided to stay put in Sivota. We looked at the weather maps and planned to go to the bays on the north of Meganissi, which looked a bit more promising.

We left the harbour in heavy rain and thunder, but after half an hour, it started to brighten up, and while it still drizzled, it was far better that in Sivota. We sailed around the foot of Meganissi, and up the east side, and finally anchored in Kapoli Bay on the north, with just a small yacht and a cruiser for company. I swam ashore and tied a long line to a tree as wind was blowing down the bay.

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

Eventually the cruiser left, and we spent a quiet if lumpy night, as the wind turned and we were side to to the waves with our line to shore. It alternated between sun and showers all evening.

Next morning we woke to a gorgeous sunrise, and after a swim, in undid the line and we sailed around the north of Meganissi. As we passed Nidri we saw some dolphins who came a played for a few minutes, including a youngster.

We continued down to Big Vathi to rejoin the flotilla, where, despite our longer trip, we arrived first after the lead crew. We strolled into Vathi from Dimitris quay, and had the best ice cream ever from the bakery on the front.

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Next morning,Tuesday we set off by 08:30, as we were rafted in behind 3 yachts, and we had a longer trip today.

We motor sailed across the inland sea to Messalongi. going further than our Autumn trip this time.

This is another town not visited by tourists, and the approach is along a long shallow sandy canal, bordered by wooden houses, some on stilts, that gives the place a very Southern American feel.

Wednesday we strolled around the harbour at Messalongi then set sail before 10:00.

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Once out of the channel, and lots of photos, we raised our sails for a while, but soon gave up. The flotilla congregated by a cardinal marker for sand banks, and one yacht had quick repairs, then we set of for Rion-Antirion bridge which we could see through the haze. The wind picked up a little, and we goose-winged with engine power towards the bridge.

After the bridge the channel narrows, and the wind picked up and we were able to goose-wing all the way to Trezonia, reaching 8.8 knots a few points, as the wind was behind us and the waves travelling our direction and speed. Yeeha!

It was sad to find thaT Trezonia has become a yacht graveyard, with an examples of how NOT to park side to.

We wandered round the quay, comparing sailing notes with the flot, then ate on board as the wind died down.

Thursday, we set off for Galaxidi, getting good sailing under a genoa, until we turned the corner, when it died down. Galaxidi is as gorgeous as ever, a real refreshing treat after Trizonia, it even smells delightful, with rosemary and other herb bushes along the quay.

We wandered into town to dine, only to find the whole of the flotilla had chosen the same restaurant.

We were up early on Friday for a coach trip up to Delphi. We had been before, but due to renewing the paths and step, part of this ancient site was shut. This time we wandered up to the stadium.

Saturday we had an early start towards Corinth. After a short bit of wind, it died down and we motored across, but did see dolphins for a short while. Corinth has cleaned up its act and the yacht marina is now clean and tidy. In the evening it is a meeting point for the youngsters of Corinth, and also a standard walk for young and old alike. Later it became busier as a club ashore had loud music, but we still got a good nights sleep.

IMG_2744We were booked to traverse the Corinth canal at 9:00, so we’re up bright and early again, but we were them delayed to the 10:30 slot so I took the chance for a swim while we loitered. The canal is as marvelous as ever. We saw sparrow hawks nesting on the walls this time.

For lunch we stopped in a bay with a very steep beach, which meant the boat was only a few feet off the shore. I had a great swim, it looked almost like we were on the edge of a reef. A couple of other flotilla boats came and looked, but only one managed to anchor beside us.

After lunch we saw a boat well under sail, so set off. After an hours very good sailing, we realised we didn’t have time to continue so motored on to Angistri, a new harbour for us.

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A team meal in Milos Jamaica bar, a lovely hotel with an incredible view, and live music and they even got us up dancing.

Monday we had a good sail round to Poros. A beautiful sunset over the lady as usual.

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Next day was a free day so we first walked round the end island of Poros and up to the clock tower, then after lunch walked along the large island coast and I had 2 swims, and collected more sea glass.

Early start on Wednesday, to Hydra, as it is always busy. Despite a short sail and arriving 11:15, it was full, so the flot headed round to Mandraki bay, where we rafted and most had a good swim. We then walked into Hydra, for ice cream and shopping, and got water taxi back.

I tried out my GoPro while swimming, and dined onboard, sat looking at stars.

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Thursday, after a morning swim, we headed over to frog rock for another swim,

CIMG0037 then motor sailed to the bay next to Perdika for yet another swim, but didn’t take camera, then on  to Perdika, where we fought off catamarans for a space.

Next we travelled to the third Vathi of the trip, this one is a tiny pretty little harbour next to a few tavernas.

As we had arrived early, we decided to walk up to the volcano, which is a cave formed when the hills behind Vathi last erupted. It was very hot and a long way, but we made it, and the views were spectacular.

Sadly the next day was our last as we sailed on to Epidavros and returned home, but we enjoyed our 3 week adventure, visiting places new and old to us.

Lighthouses and Windmills

We sailed in the North and South Ionian this October.

Despite a few days worrying about our Monarch flight out, when they went bust, Sailing Holidays soon sorted us a new flight, and we arrived in Nidri late on Sunday and were shown to our yacht, and then enjoyed a quick drink at the bar to get into holiday mood.

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On Monday morning, we had our boat briefing and set off for Sivota. winds were light so we stopped in a bay for break, and Mary-Ann and Colin, friends from previous flotillas met us for a quick chat.

That evening we enjoyed a meal with the rest of the flotilla crews.

We made the most of light winds the next morning, but as i needed my first swim we motored to One House Bay on Atoko island.

The sea was blue, and warmish, and lots of fish for me to enjoy

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Light winds took us to the nights port of Kioni, a pretty village we first visited in 2006.

Destination for Wednesday was Fiskardo, the setting for ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’.

It is a very pretty village, but maybe too popular with tourists. On the plus side, it had old Venetian lighthouse and other ruins in the hillside, and as we had to arrive early we had the chance for a walk around the hillside.

Next stop was Ay. Euphemia

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The next day was a free sailing day, and despite the distance, and our yacht having a very poor engine/prop, we decided to head for Kalamos.

George, the owner of the taverna at the end of the harbour, helps everyone moor, and can always find more space. Luckily it wasn’t busy and we also had time for a stroll around town, which is so steep the locals drive golf buggies.

The next morning, as winds were light again, we headed over the hill to see the windmills, and for a swim.

This lighthouse would make a wonderful holiday let.

While there is an air of decay about the place it still charms us.

We even found a project for Jason on the end of the pier

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After our stroll, we headed off for Little Vathi, but not before we were approached by ‘pirates’, OK, crew asking for our spare diesel for another yacht in our flot who had engine problems.

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Little Vathi was our last harbour in the South Ionian, so the next morning we set off under sail for the Lefkas canal

This canal separates Kefkas Island from the mainland and runs between swamps.

There is a boat bridge at the top end that only opens for 10 minutes each hour, but good timing meant our 2 flotillas all safely got through and headed on to Prevesa.

This town is off the tourist trail, but is now loved by locals who promenade along the seafront in the evening. We enjoyed a pleasant meal in the Mermaid and Crepes in the Tram Cafe.IMG_2379

That brings us to the end of week one, and the start of our North Ionian sailing – be back soon