Posted by Julia
While Johnny was busy preparing for his captain duties and fixing important bits and bobs all over the boat I’ve been spending my mornings exploring the hills and mountains close to the marinas and anchorages.
Sometimes the route uphill was straight forward, sometimes not and I had to turn around at dead ends several times to find the right track to a good photo opportunity. These pics were often used to prove to Johnny that I had indeed been busy marching uphill rather than lounging with an ice coffee in my hand in a roadside café like a local.
During my hikes, most notable of which were; Vathi, Sami, Sivota and Kioni I've been discovering lots of local wonders. I can't really include Nydri as I ended up going no where as there was simply no way up – unless wading through rocks, thorns and millions of spiders and their webs, which is not really my thing :) ...despite mild attacks of arachnophobia, I started developing a sort of admiration for this greek micro culture (except spiders and mosquitoes of course). Along the way, I’ve been observing the roadside flora, which revealed a multitude of butterflies, bugs, beetles and various flying creatures:
My hikes were also full of cultural observations -such as the myriad of historic sights and sacred locations. The ancient Greeks, it seems, liked also to hike quite high up the hills while placing significant buildings and fortifications at respectable altitudes. Along the way this also included a plethora of miniature Greek Shrines looking like tiny replicas of full size Churches! These are scattered around everywhere and look meticulously cared for with a candle burning in each one and all sorts of Icons proudly displayed within.
Another curious element of Greek culture was this architectural feature, a palm symbol reoccurring throughout, which looked like this:
Mostly I found these to be used as roof ornaments but it happened that they also often accompany entrances to houses or building facades. They seemed to be consistently reappearing on each Ionian Island we visited so far. I became particularly aware of these motifs when a lovely couple Mary and Malcolm, from Scotland, who invited us for drinks on their yacht Lazy Days, kindly shared a book with us about Olympia. They strongly advised we take the time to visit. While flicking though the book, I noticed similar symbols to the one I have been spotting along the way through the Ionian and finally learned it was the “palmette” which has many varieties in Greek architecture and creates an enchanting air of mystery when observed out of context.
I learnt from Wikipedia that the "palmette is a motif in decorative art which, in its most characteristic expression, resembles the fan-shaped leaves of a palm tree. It has a far-reaching history, originating in Ancient Egypt with a subsequent development through the art of most of Eurasia, often in forms that bear relatively little resemblance to the original. In Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman uses it is also known as the anthemion (from the Greek ανθέμιον, a flower). It is found in most artistic media, but especially as an architectural ornament, whether carved or painted, and painted on ceramics. It is very often a component of the design of a frieze or border. The complex evolution of the palmette was first traced by Alois Riegl in his Stilfragen of 1893. The half-palmette, bisected vertically, is also a very common motif, found in many mutated and vestigial forms, and especially important in the development of plant-based scroll ornament."
During my hikes, another breathtaking feature was of course the view once the top of the mountain is reached, no need for words, here is what I saw:
Of the historic sites I have to mention a couple which really stood out. Firstly in Lefkada, an Early Bronze Age Tumuli which appeared as rings made of stone located very tightly one next to another, which have been identified as 33 burial monuments. For more information on these artefacts a book by Christina Haywood "The Ionian Islands in the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age" has lots of info.
The second fascinating find was the ruin of the Ancient town Sami on Cephalonia, which were quite a hike away from the marina. The original town and fortifications were built around 300 b.c by the native Greek people but then invaded and taken over by the Romans, which only became apparent with the finding of Roman concrete within the site. At the top I was lucky to meet a very nice man from Newcastle, called Allan, who kindly gave me a tour around the ruin and explained all about the history of the place and showed me some curious findings that he has discovered over the many years he has been visiting the site.
Last but not least of my ramblings was Paliochora situated high above the town of Vathi on Ithaka, which was not the oldest site but certainly the highest hike so far!
Lastly I wanted to mention the goats... they are very important out here as their footprint on Greek Islands is hard to miss - they are probably more numerous than humans - much like sheep in New Zealand! The islands also seem to be generously populated with ants and cats, making the most of all the restaurants and the al fresco dining.
The wind that was forecast while we were in Vathi never showed up & to be honest I’m struggling to find a weather source that is accurate. We’ve had one or two scares where the wind way exceeded our expectations so we are sailing cautiously at the moment.
After two nights in Vathi waiting for the storm that never came, we sailed to kefalonia and made landfall at Ay Eufimia where we decide to anchor rather than tie up stern-to as the motion of the boat is more comfortable. The next day we hired a car and headed off to explore the island.
We started with the underground lake at Mellisani Cave which Rod Heikell compares with enter the gates of Hades. Our boatman took us into the vast cavern whilst whistling and singing to demonstrate the unusual acoustics.
Once back above ground we drove to Sami to continue our search for a bigger anchor. No joy on the anchor front but it is a lovely little town with a well protected harbour. Next we visited the Drogarati caves before driving up over the hills past all the goats scattered across the road to arrive in Argostoli about half an hour later.
We did a quick lap of the town looking for a decent chandlery but were disappointed so we headed off for the main attraction; Myrtos Beach. This beach was made famous by the film of Captain Correlis Mandolin. The beach was breathtaking but the water was too cold to swim.
After returning our hire car we set off for a sheltered anchorage just around the corner to anchor for the night. As we got underway the wind and waves picked up and blew in the opposite direction to all my forecasts. The conditions became a bit too sketchy so we bailed at the last moment and retreated to Sami. This was a stroke of luck as we wanted to explore the town a bit more and ended up staying for two nights. We also came to the decision that we are not yet ready to leave the shelter of the inland Ionian Sea so will not be heading for Athens and on to the Cyclades. Instead we will make the most of the gentle sailing around here before leaving Greece and heading West.
In the harbour at Sami we got the boson’s chair out and I hoisted Julia up the mast to investigate why our steaming light is not working. It looked like fun so I went up next with a few tools and a new bulb but still no illumination –I’ll need to go back up with a multimeter and check the contacts.
We are currently in the tiny port of Kioni which we like so much we’ve decided to stay a second night. We spent last night on anchor and our gps track in the morning showed just how much the boat moves around during the night. Luckily we took the dinghy over to inspect the anchor when we arrived, we could see it just lying on it’s side so we powered up again and re-set it. We had supper in the town and carried out a bit of Ouzo tasting.
We hiked up and over the hill this morning to discover a stunning bay with a huge gin palace anchored just beyond. On the way back down we had a fantastic view of Bumblebee anchored in the middle of the bay. As the day has progressed lots of boats have arrived and started squeezing into the tiny bay with crossed anchors and shouting to keep all the onlookers entertained.
After Sivota we headed south to Vasiliki and made a complete mess of mooring stern-to. We were going to take the anchor out in the dinghy (which I had just repaired) to fix it but a nice guy on the quay suggested I give it another go with the boat and he'd lend a hand. Securely moored, we wondered into town to get some spare fuel as I was not sure if the fuel gauge was broken or we just hadn't yet made a dent in the fuel that was already in the tank. We had the whole afternoon ahead so we hired a beaten up little Citroen and went in search of the fabled Katsiki Beach:
The nice guy on the quay turned out to be Ken, who with his wife Sue were sailing their yacht for a couple of weeks and had quite a bit of experience. They were heading the same way as us and the next day offered to sail with us across from Lefkada to Kefalonia. This turned out to be an awesome downwind sail (a first for us) averaging about 6 knots.
We arrived in Fiskardho and Ken came to the rescue as we anchored and tried to take long lines ashore in the dinghy. Our line was too short and I was trying in vain to pull Bumblebee into the wind with just the oars while it was clear I could neither move the boat nor reach the shore. Ken attached his dinghy to ours and together we rowed like crazy and eventually reached his line and tied up safely. After this slightly stressful situation we made sure Bumblebee was safely moored and dived into the gin clear water for our first chilly swim.
Ken and Sue kindly invited us over to their boat for a few drinks and a debriefing then we took the dinghy to explore the area then headed to the quayside to find a taverna for supper.
This morning we set off for Vathy, the capital of Ithaka. The wind was forecast to be light so we set out with confidence but were soon met by strong gusts. At one point we paused to reef the sails. We were heading into the wind to make the change but lost speed without realising. In an instant the wind caught the sails and pulled us suddenly round sideways on to the wind with an alarming lean. No harm was done but our nerves needed a bit of gentle motoring to recover. At this point I noticed our wind measurements were being displayed in metres per seconds instead of knots meaning every reading since the beginning was only half of the truth! The storm on Julia's second night had been 50 knots not 25 and we were currently sailing in 25!!
The wind died down in the afternoon and we moored stern-to in Vathy where we plan to spend the next 24 hours as there is lots to see here and there's a bit of a blow forecast:
After the storm we spent a couple of days in the shelter of Preveza Marina then headed over to say fairwell to Dirk and Anneke over at the boat yard. We were drinking coffee onboard Narid when we told them our plan to hire an instructor that afternoon for 85 Euros, Dirk spat out his coffee, told us we were mad, then offered to take us out for a lesson for free!
We spent an awesome afternoon sailing around different points of the wind getting to grips with tacking and gybing. We then returned to the yard and tried several times to moor stern to but struggled to get the anchor to hold as the wind blew us around. Eventually we dropped the anchor a little further out and returned them to the shore by dinghy. Our GPS track was a complete mess!
After dropping off Dirk and Anneke we plucked up the courage to head out to sea and made our way to Lefkada. The waves were large and sideways-on which made the passage a bit sketchy. After an hour or so we arrived at the entrance to lefkada canal where we waited for the bridge to open with another yacht, then we made our way down to the town quay. After our first successful stern-to mooring we were invited for drinks on the big catamaran next to us by the owners Steve and D. Here we met Barrie who owns SailingHolidays.com and their fleet of 160 yachts. He’s a notorious character around here and has pretty much been running the place since the 80’s. Little did we know we were to keep bumping into him at every port for the next four days!
Lefkada is a very interesting town with a history of destructive earthquakes. As a result most of the building are made from corrugated steel from the first floor up. From Lefkada we headed to Nidri but not without snagging someone else’s anchor chain on the way out. We were off to meet up with some great family friends Mike and Sue S-T at their beautiful hillside house that they built from scratch. We had a couple of Ouzo’s in town then they took us up the hill for supper and breathtaking views.
The next morning was Julia’s birthday and we set off early to hike up to a famous waterfall. Then after ice coffees we headed back to the boat, released the lines and headed out of Nidri. For the first time it was just the two of us and perfect sailing conditions. We started with the sails reefed right down but before long we had full sails up and were tacking happily into a south westerly breeze. I put my little spinning rod together and began trolling a lure at a steady 5 knots. Almost straight away a speed boat passed out stern, caught my lure and ripped three hundred yards of braid straight off the reel (I’m heading out this morning to but some proper fishing kit).
Later in the afternoon the wind died down and we were forced to motor as we made our way to the little village of Sivota, where it is now Monday morning, I am sat writing this and Julia has gone for a hike to the top of the hill.
The day finally came when Julia finished work in Amsterdam, hopped on the very first flight into Preveza and I had my first mate onboard. She was supposed to be followed by a family friend who was to be our on hand professional for the first week but sadly he didn’t make it –we are on our own!
The first night on the boat was nice and calm. We were tied up alongside the bars and restaurants of Preveza and the situation was very agreeable. The next morning I noticed a lot of the boats were leaving the quay and heading off, concerned I checked the weather and realised gusts of 25kts were expected later that day. I chatted to a couple of skippers and the consensus was the Bumblebee was in the worst position pinned to the quay and needed to find shelter.
For the first time it was just the two of us onboard and in charge. We slipped our mooring lines, sprung off our stern and motored to the sheltered anchorage behind Preveza Marina. When we arrived we were relieved to see about six other boats with the same idea so we dropped anchor and settled in amongst them. A few hours later the wind picked up and we found ourselves in a mini storm with lightning, wind and waves. We nervously watched our surroundings to ensure the anchor was not dragging as we sat out the storm.
Later the sky cleared, the sun came out and we got down to the business of officially renaming the boat. To safely change the name of a boat it is necessary to invoke the good will of Poseidon and request that the old name be erased from the ledger of the deep and the new name be scribed in it’s place. This involves many libations overboard and three separate ceremonies to appease Poseidon and all four winds. Luckily there is lots of help online to get us through this complicated procedure! The ceremony got of to a concerning start when the degradable plaque made up with the old name that was thrust off the bow flew right back onboard and landed in the cockpit. This was soon dismissed as a pod of dolphins emerged to port and broke the surface several times –surely a good omen. To top it all of, as the ceremony ended a burst of fireworks went up on the nearest shore. The deed was done and we could finally display Bumblebee’s name on her stern.
My last full day in the yard was spent wrestling with the replacement shaft seal that the insurance company wanted replaced. The shaft was a nightmare to separate from the gearbox but thankfully Dirk came to the rescue again with a couple of heavy duty wheel pullers and got stuck in, then Mateus from the next door boat lent me a heatgun which saw the job done by about midnight. I would have got absolutely nowhere with this project without these guys!
As the week has gone by, boats from all around me have been wheeled away for launch. My turn finally came & I was more than a little nervous. I’d got quite comfortable with yard life –wake up scrape, paint, repeat.. now I was to be thrust into the unknown, on my own, with hardly a clue what to do...
This could have been a very different story were not for my new friends Dirk and Anneke of the fine yacht Narid who offered to join me for the launch and help me cross the water to the safety of Preveza town quay.
Stephen the broker turned up for the launch to check the engine and transmission work as the should. However there was a problem –no cooling water meant the engine was rapidly overheating. The problem was traced to a missing water filter seal and we were soon on our way.
We did a little bit of anchor practice along the way and then Dirk & anneke showed me how to install the sails (quite a big job it turns out) before reaching the quay. Next they suggested I get the tender and outboard out to get a feel for my new so I spent a few minutes doing doughnuts and flybys before sharing a few well earned beers, buying them supper and getting them a taxi back to the boat yard.
Since then I’ve been tied up alongside the town quay, carrying out my first engine service and generally getting things ready for my fellow sailors to arrive on Sunday.