On Friday August 31st. we made our eleventh crossing of the Adriatic, starting at dawn from the small port of Santa Foce di Melendugno
on the Italian east coast and heading due east into the rising sun. We had a little breeze directly behind us so augmented the motor with the sails and were a little ahead of schedule when the first Greek islands came into view.
We slipped into the tiny island of Orthoni on the extreme north west of Greece before we checked into customs. Although the small harbour and anchorage was very full of boats we managed to find a spot over sand with only a few rocks and had a comfortable night with little wind. We met a young Australian couple who have sold up everything, bought a yacht and with very little experience and two dogs plan to sail the Atlantic in November. We are sure they will make it.
The next day we made for the island of Corfu and the huge marina of Gouvia on the east coast of the island. We had been told that the formalities for bringing a boat into Greece were fearsome and that failure to abide by the rules risked all kinds of problems, and costs. Thus, we were a little anxious about our first stop not being a port of entry. In the event it was remarkably easy and took less than an hour of walking between the Marina Office and the Port Police. Furthermore, it only cost 50 Euro in comparison to the thousands they extract in Croatia.
We celebrated our arrival in Greece with a meal at the Marina restaurant and ordered the best bottle of wine on the menu. Our recall from the last time we sailed these waters in 1982 that the Greek wine was undrinkable, Retsina or Domestica. Nowadays, however, even the house wines are palatable.
The Sunday was spent doing a massive clean up in preparation for the arrival of Terry’s sister Margaret and our friends Lizzy and Tony Dyson who have joined us regularly at this time over the past few years. They arrived on a very late flight from England.
We set off south first thing the next morning and, in bright sunshine but no wind, motored thirty miles to a large bay on the Greek mainland called Parga. There were already a few boats in the bay and after a few attempts we managed to find a good spot where the anchor would hold in sand and far enough from the rocky outcrop which we discovered when we went for a swim. Unfortunately, when the wind died completely at night the swell coming into the bay from the sea caused the boat to roll from side to side so nobody had a good night’s sleep.
The forecast for the next couple of days was for strong winds so we decided to head straight for our destination, the marina on the island of Lefkas. We delayed our start from Parga to wait for the wind which duly arrived, and we had an exciting sail due south. There is a swing bridge on the entry into Lefkas which opens on the hour. We were sailing so fast that we were going to arrive too early so reduced sail to slow down. However, we still had to wait for half an hour along with about 15 other boats all going through the bridge down the canal.
Our first passage down the Lefkas canal in 20 knots of breeze did cause a little anxiety but we managed to turn into the Lefkas marina and find a secure berth with minimal problems. It was then time to relax with a cocktail followed by a meal in the town.
Lefkas is very much a holiday resort full of tourists. The town itself is vibrant with many good restaurants and the marina is smart and well run. We are seriously considering taking a year’s contract and making this our base for our 2019 season.
As predicted the winds were strong all day and night so we stayed tied up securely in the marina and explored the town, the museum and the telephone shop. We were spoiled in Croatia for internet which was excellent, always available and cheap. Here in Greece it is very expensive so no more Netflix on rainy evenings.
The next two days we spent exploring the island of Lefkas, anchoring first in Tranquil Bay opposite the town of Nidri where, as its name suggests, we had a very quiet night. Then to Sivota, a bay on the south coast of the island where we tied up to a brand new pontoon. We are learning all the time the differences between Croatia and Greece. Here the yachting infrastructure, i.e. moorings, marinas and pontoons, is much less developed, but it is all about half the price. However, Greece is a lot busier with many more charter yachts and flotillas.
Saturday September 8th. was Julie’s birthday and one of our least successful of the season. The plan was to anchor in one of the bays on the north coast of Meganissi, a small island to the east of Lefkas. After exploring a few bays, we tried to anchor in one where quite a few yachts were already riding comfortably. We must have spent two fruitless hours trying to get the anchor to hold and when it finally did we found we were too close to the rocks at the edge. As you tour around trying to find a space all the other boats are watching you and ready to shout at you if you are coming too close or likely to foul their anchor. Stressful? Yes!
Furthermore, as we were struggling to find a spot a great storm cloud with flashes of lightening and thunder approached and looked very threatening. In the event the worst of it passed to the south of us and we only had a little rain, but it didn’t decrease the level of stress much.
Finally, we gave it away and returned to Tranquil Bay, off Nidri, where we had been successful two nights ago. The wind dropped, the sun came out we had birthday champagne, courtesy of our guests, and chilli con carne.
The next day we made our way north, through the Lefkas canal and the swing bridge, which held us up for an hour, and a final perfect sail in 12 knots of breeze to Preveza, a large port on the mainland of Greece and close to an airport, where our guests left after a week on board.
Sailing into Preveza is interesting since it was in these exact waters on September 2nd. 31 BC that the Battle of Actium was fought between the fleets of Octavian, later Emperor Augustus, and the joint fleets of Anthony and Cleopatra. Octavian won, and Anthony and Cleopatra retreated to Egypt and their deaths shortly afterwards.
We stayed in Preveza an extra day to unblock a toilet. Terry spent the whole morning trying to access the motor on our electric toilet which had suddenly stopped working and tripped its fuse. It was hot, awkward and unrewarding, apart from being rather smelly. A local plumber was working on an adjacent boat and agreed to come and look at it. Within ten minutes and with the aid of a screwdriver and a wrench he had easily fixed the problem. Terry gave him a good tip on top of his modest fee deciding to leave these jobs to the experts in future.
Our final ten days was spent exploring further anchorages in the middle Ionian. We spent a couple of nights near Vonitsa a town with a tenth century castle which we explored for two euros and had completely to ourselves.
Our last night of the 2018 season was spent in a beautiful bay with crystal clear water and good holding. A great memory to take home and look forward to next year.
Exotica was slipped at Cleopatra Marina, Preveza on Tuesday September 18th. and after a night spent in a hotel in the town we took the plane back to England and thence home to Australia.
Statistics for 2018 Cruise
Distance Travelled 1,319.8 nautical miles in 60 days. Engine hours – 275.9 Guests 7