1st July. Kioni, Ithaca
A new month , a new island. Ithaca is supposedly the home of Odysseus, although there does seem to be remarkably little archaeological proof. He would have had a palace here several thousand years ago, so its not entirely unlikely that it was swallowed up by the numerous earthquakes that ravage this part of the Med. Even the supposed site of the 'Cave of the Nymphs' was thought to be accidentally destroyed by quarrying – how careless! Of course, the Iliad and Odyssey have to be read whilst in these parts, though I think some sort of award should be forthcoming for anyone who finishes the Iliad!
Kioni was a sweet little place with clear turquoise water in the port. We had just got our anchor to grip, and were trying to tie a line ashore to some rocks, when a charter yacht with 4 men-in-a-boat, retired Sheffield lads, tried to suck our line into their prop in their hurry to get anchored and tied up, resulting in a lot of shouting and tangles. They did treat us to G&T's on board to make up for it, and they promised to warn us next year when they come on holiday again.
3rd July Vathi, capital of Ithaca
We anchored in the harbour of Vathi, it has mud that sucks your anchor in and doesn't let go. Thank goodness, because the wind really knows how to blow here. Most evenings it blows F5-6 due to thermal and geographic katabatic effects of the surrounding mountains, and that's when there's no background wind. When there's wind around the rest of the Ionian it really howls here. This makes for an interesting time as the charter boats have to leave the normally serene anchorages that have become untenable and there's a lot of unhappy people looking seasick at anchor, too scared to get in dinghies and go ashore, or constantly relaying their anchors to avoiding dragging onto the quay walls. When it blows like this, the best trick is to anchor off, and if you want to go ashore, go in your swimwear, with your evening clothes in a drybag!
Vathi claimed to be having a cultural weekend, and so in the good company of Bob and Liz on Birvidik, we set about enjoying the activities on offer. Friday night, music on the quay – we never heard any ! Saturday night, cultural discussion about Homer, advertised in Greek and English. This should be interesting, we thought. We tried to find out more at the tourist information but no English was spoken there. So we all went along to the cultural centre at the appointed hour to find the talks were all in Greek. So we went and ate and drank ourselves silly instead.
Sunday -small church procession and Greek dancing on the quay. We went along 30 minutes before the advertised start time of 10pm, which was good, as the dancing finished at 10pm. More drinking and eating to compensate for our disappointment. Still it is a lovely little town, very Greek and not too touristy, but oh boy does it blow!
There are some lovely swimming bays around Vathi, so we made it our base for some time, popping out for the day and coming back to the safe anchorage. One evening we came back in 42 knots of wind, and the gusts were picking up buckets of surface water and flinging it at us.
For a few days a loggerhead turtle kept the boats company in the bay. I thought since they were endangered that they would be quite cute, but he was an ugly brute, with a head the size of human head, teeth, and a barnacle covered 1m round shell. I shudder to think about ever meeting one when swimming – I'll jump as high as the mast .......
|Mirabella V to the right of the harbour|
We had an interesting neighbour for a couple of nights when Mirabella V visited the port. This is the largest single-masted sailing yacht in the world, and of unfortunate notoriety for being grounded on rocks within a few days of its maiden voyage. Despite it's prodigious size, it is perfectly proportioned, so doesn't appear so big, until you see one of the crew walking past the furling drums, and he's about half the height! It is 75m long, 14.8m wide (2m wider than we are long!), 85m mast height, 10m keel. The boat is available for charter for $375,000 per week (that 1 week would keep us at sea for at least 20 years!). In the 'garage' it has 3 ribs (400hp, 240hp, 125hp) 4 laser dinghies, 2 seedoos, 3 replica models, diving gear, kayaks, and on deck a 20 person jacuzzi and dip pool. But even so, they were in the same anchorage as us, swimming in the same sea!
14th July, Sami, Kefalonia.
Another new island. I visited Kefalonia 20 years ago so was interested to see how tourism had developed on the island, particularly post Captain Corelli's Mandolin fame. Despite the site of much of the filming, Sami is remarkably unaffected, apart from every other bar and restaurant having a Corelli theme or photos of Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz ! It still remains a laid back Greek town, without any high rise tourist apartments, and not too many tourist tat shops. The small quay was free and even the water supply was free, so this was a good base from which to explore Kefalonia (and do laundry!)
We took a hot walk up to the ancient site of Same, a 3rd century BC fort on the hilltop overlooking the Strait between Kefalonia and Ithaca. Incredibly one of the cyclopean walls is still standing despite the earthquake that levelled the whole of the island in 1953, and numerous ones before that. They sure knew how to build in those days. How much has mankind forgotten!
Now the site is only home to a lot of funnel-web spiders.
|Stu rearranges some pots|
|The Cyclopean wall – the ancients thought that only a Cyclops (a giant) could bring these blocks to the hills to build a wall like this|
|A funnel-web spider in his home|
Steve and Sophie from Poole Yacht club were on holiday nearby, so we spent a pleasant couple of days with them. As thanks for taking them on a sailing trip they gave us a tour in their hire car, with a special stop at LIDL, where their eyes popped out of their heads when we filled the tiny boot with another 6 weeks supply of beer!
|Mourtos beach -the colour of the water is due to the local limestone, not digitally enhanced|
The last time I was here, there was no road to the beach.
Our next visitor was Janet from Sheffield, taking a break from the radiography-rat-race.
Janet must have inadvertently packed some Sheffield weather, as we had rain for the first time in 60 days! When not dodging rain and wind in Vathi, we spent the week touring swimming spots around the islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca, our favourite one Ormos Ay Andreou, which we renamed Goaty Bay. A large herd of wild goats populate the cove, sheltering from the sun and tourists in their caves during the day. A dusk they trundle along to the small beach and their favourite bathing spot and stand in the water cooling off, and probably getting rid of the insects in their coats. At night they sleep on the beach, while some others appear to keep watch at the edges of their 'camp'. It was better than Eastenders, honest.
|Ormos Ay Andreou- Goaty bay|
We briefly popped into the well known Fiskardo, but it was stuffed full of charterers. As one boat left it's slot another would zip into its place risking all out anchor-rage. We turned tail and fled, renaming it Fiascardo!
After taking Janet, our last booked visitor, back to the airport we had to face our decision – to stay in the Ionian, to go around the south of the Peloponnese, or to bite the bullet and pay for the Corinth Canal. After an evening spent with Martin and Gill on 'Sapphire' we were absolutely decided on the Canal route, and not least because of the battering our friends Kate and Davy were having with the meltemi in the South Aegean. We'd seen enough of the Ionian islands, lovely though they are, at times it seems that half the world's yachts must be here at one time, and it was still only July. The dreaded August holiday season was just about to start, and the first Italian holiday boats were starting to arrive. Time to be off in search of new adventures......
For those that are interested in these things, in this 3 month period in Greece we paid for only one nights mooring fees, at Gouvia (€50), the other nights were at anchor or on a free quay. We paid for water only twice, once at Gaios- €7 for a tank fill which was straight out of the reservoir and green, and €3 at Nidri on the Neilson pontoon - charter companies do have their uses after all, particularly when all the boats have gone out for the week. We have not plugged into mains power since leaving Vibo, all our charging is from solar panels and the wind generator, or as a by-product of motoring from place to place, except for running the 1kW petrol generator a handful of times using no more than 5l of petrol. The remainder of our budget we ate and drank in numerous tavernas and very good it was too!
|Martin, Linda, Davy, Kate, Norman, Jill, Stu at the fabulous 'Ionion'|
|David, Linda, Ollie, Martin, Dave, Pam, Stu at Vathy|