Brexit and the rules which ordain that Terry, too, may only stay in the Schengen area for ninety days has significantly limited our time on Exotica. This year, because of our month in Berlin and Leipzig we have had only eight weeks aboard.
Nonetheless, the weather has been so perfect in Ionian Greece, It has been the best year ever of our sailing odyssey. Suffice to say, we no longer feel we have to do long distances to end up in a different place each winter. We now have a permanent base in Lefkas which is the centre of a splendid cruising ground, with multiple islands and bays for anchoring and turquoise water for swimming. It’s also important to stay in Greek waters to avoid the administrative complications UK registered boats now have after Brexit. We have spent more nights at anchor than ever before and only paid for three nights in marinas.
Having returned from Corfu to avoid some inclement weather we decided to hire a car for a roadtrip to explore the Peloponnese. It was too far to sail there but an easy drive by car, five days motoring over 850 km through this peninsula which forms the southernmost part of Greece, dividing the Ionian from the Aegean. The Peloponnese abounds in sites of ancient city states, such as Sparta, Mycenae, Olympia and Argos, which made up the Greek civilization from about 1,500 BC to 400 BC.
We drove past the sprawling capitol, Patras, down the west coast to Ancient Olympia, where the ruins of many ancient buildings are extensive. Of particular note is the Temple of Hera, where every four years they light the Olympic Torch. This is done by the action of the sun concentrated by a parabolic mirror. Julie met a shopkeeper who claimed that her brother was one of the athletes who lit the flame for four Olympic Games, including Sydney in 2000. Hotel Europa, once we wound our way high above the ancient sites through tiny backstreets of the town, was the most comfortable, friendliest family hotel one could find. Balconies overlooking a beautiful pool and taverna under olive trees with mountains in the background.
From Ancient Olympia we motored east across the width of the Peloponnese, through high mountains with storms brewing (thankfully we were on the edge of one ferocious storm which had us quite worried we may have done hail damage to our expensive rental!) to Nafplio, a small but attractive seaport which was for a very brief time, the first capital of Greece when it became an independent country from the Turks in the mid 1800’s. Athens soon stepped in and took over. Nafplio is now a busy tourist town with two impressive fortresses high above it. However, the hotel we stayed in was large and soulless.
The highlight was our visit to the excavated site of the Mycenae, particularly as Julie is attending the opera Elektra in a couple of weeks. Once the most powerful of the city states and the starting point of much myth and legend. The leader of the Greeks in the Trojan war came from Mycenae and the ruling House of Atreus was steeped in blood. Some of the tombs to be found on the site are credited with legendary names of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus but there is no supporting evidence for this.
We returned to Exotica for our final ten days and immediately took off to our favourite bay, Ormos Varko, which we call Goat Bay. This time we saw plenty of goats to justify the name. The water is shallow and clear, the anchor holding excellent and the music from the beach bar only really tiresome on a Saturday evening. Otherwise, it is heaven.
The only uncomfortable time in the whole seven weeks was the next night spent at anchor in a wide and shallow bay near Palairos on the mainland. Just before dark a huge electrical storm arose from the mountains and all we could do was put out a further 30 metres of anchor chain and wait for it. Fortunately, although it rained heavily the wind didn’t get above 30 knots and we were comfortable and safe.
Downside was it was impossible to get to the excellent taverna on the beach, so the cook had to rustle up a meal made up of left overs on board, Salami Risotto, not bad at all.
Our final night was spent in Ormos Vliho where we tied up to a jetty belonging to the taverna across the street and had an excellent meal on a deck with water lapping, before a quiet night.
Now back in Lefkas for three days of washing and cleaning and all the jobs necessary to put Exotica to bed for the winter.
On Sunday, Julie returns to Australia direct from Athens while Terry will be in England for ten days visiting friends and relatives.