Our last day in Lefkas fell on a national holiday so we joined the locals on a bus up to a monastery overlooking the town. Amongst the festivities were markets stalls selling everything from cheap underwear to baby terrapins. We headed back to town and found a great little bar called Octopus’s Garden where the drinks came with enough Mezze to fill us up. The aim was to get an early night but we ran into Dirk and Anneke having some drinks on their boat so we raided Bumblebee’s drinks cupboard and joined them.
We set off late the next morning and headed towards Corfu. We had a recommendation of a great spot to stop for a swim about five hours into the journey. As the day was getting on a bit we changed our plan and headed to Parga instead. We were due to meet our friends Nik and Dagmara in Corfu but they had a hotel sorted so we decided not to rush.
Parga has a wide anchorage under a ruined old fort. We took the dinghy ashore and climbed up the steep streets, around the fort and up the hill above the town. The views were spectacular from up high but as we descended to the waterfront things got crowded and lost their charm.
The next morning we set off for Corfu and began an eight hour slog into the wind and waves. When we arrived in Corfu we sailed up to the hotel, dropped anchor in the sheltered bay outside and took the dinghy to their water sports pontoon. N&D had picked the nicest hotel on the island (Grecotel Imperial) for a bit of conditioning before coming onboard Bumblebee. For a couple of days we enjoyed incredible buffet breakfasts and delicious suppers as their guests, while staying at anchor in front of the hotel. Soon we would try to return the hospitality with a trip across the Ionian Sea to Sicily.
Off once again to explore Corfu Old Town.
After a slight mishap involving a safety pin in a light socket to get a fan working (don’t ask) we awoke the next morning with depleted batteries. Our water was running low too so we took the plunge and headed in to Gouvia Marina where we could hook up to the mains. While there I went about replacing the hatch lens for the forward cabin that N&D had flown out with. All was going well until a crucial component leapt out of my breast pocket and into the murky depths below. In vain I dug out my fins and mask to see if I could locate the 2cm piece of plastic. I had some trouble reaching the bottom at 6 metres with just 1 metre of visibility. The bottom was soft mud with no chance of finding anything. On my ascent I nearly knocked myself out of the hull and decided it just wasn’t worth it. I cobbled together a temporary replacement with a series of washers that will suffice for now.
25th June –we left Gouvia marina armed with two new high power fans and lots of provisions. No one had actually noticed us arrive and had our consciences not got the better of us we could have slipped away without paying the outrageous mooring fee of 70 euros. Ten minutes later we stopped by N & D’s hotel to pick them up en route to the outer island of Othoni –last stop before Italy!
With the engine warmed up I decided to check the oil and noticed a lot of water in the sump under the engine. A quick taste test confirmed it was salt water and the source was somewhere behind the impellor. We dropped the anchor and after some investigation located the offending seal. I took the tender back to the marina and after a bit of a wild goose chase I return with two new impellors and replacement seals. Soon we were back in action and on our way to the island of Othoni.
After a five hour sail and record speeds of 8.2 knots we pulled in to the small fishing harbour at Othoni. After supper in a small taverna, surrounded by cats and watching a lightning storm, we returned to the boat to sleep. This morning we arose a bit late but were soon under way and en route to Italy.
Early into the crossing we passed two turtles and were greeted by a pod of Dolphins. At about mid way across we lost sight of land in every direction for the first time.
Next stop Sta Maris di Leuca!
Posted by Johnny
Leaving Corfu with the three of us onboard we headed to Voutoumi Beach for a swim before the long journey to Lefkas. As we were leaving Paxos we were joined by a large pod of dolphins who raced along at the bow. Julia managed to film them and will add the video soon.
The wind and currents were finally in our favour and we had an easy downwind sail averaging six knots for almost five hours. As we approached Lefkas we decided to motor sail for the last hour to catch the six o'clock bridge opening. This meant charging at full speed while constantly trying to shave minutes off our ETA. In the end we timed it perfectly and were the last to pass through with only seconds to spare.
Lefkas town quay was crowded but there was one spot free where it's very shallow. We cautiously winched ourselves in checking the rudder for contact with the bottom. Once in place the passerelle was too short so the dinghy would have to be our means of getting on and off. A new problem arose after we came back to the boat and the wind had swung the dinghy around and out of reach, leaving me to climb across our neighbours boat and stretch out over the water.
We hired a car to explore the beaches on the west of the island as they are not safe to reach by boat. The water was a crazy shade of blue that looked amazing but was too milky for snorkelling at the first beach. The next was crystal clear and full of fish and the last was windswept and popular with kite surfers.
The next day Manraj had to head back to London and Julia needed to fly to Warsaw for an important event so I prepare for a weekend marooned in Lefkas town. Before they left we bumped into our friend Stephan and went out for supper and a few drinks.
In preparation for the days ahead I drew up a to do list and began planning a few jobs. The cover for the gas storage was loose as the threads had been stripped and cracked. I fixed it by drilling out the old fiberglass and rotten wood fillets and replacing them. With new holes drilled and hinges refitted the lid is now good as new. I also needed to buy more data for our Greek sim card as we accidentally roamed too close to Albania and instantly lost all our credit!
Over the last few days I've done lots of cleaning, fixing, polishing, upholstery repairs and also found time to sketch and paint. The heat makes every task a lot harder and I'm longing to be away from the town and in clean water so I can swim. Technically I have had a swim although I wouldn't want to do it again; I was washing the seat covers and decided to wash my watch strap at the same time. When it came time to chuck the dirty water, my watch went overboard too! The water is really filthy here in the town but I had no choice but to don my mask and lower myself in. Luckily I found it and was back on deck showering in seconds.
My AIS tracking website let me know that my friends Dirk and Anneke from the yard were afloat at last. I got in touch and they decided to come over to Lefkas. We had a great evening hanging out on their boat and eating in town.
Since then it's been more cleaning and working through my list. The heads were looking spotless so I took some wide angle photos that might be handy one day. I also found a carved Buddha in town who I hope will keep a watchful eye over Bumblebee and her crew.
Click to enlarge the smaller images.
I've set up a second blog page where we will post in more detail on matters of nature, architecture and the like. The main blog is already quite image heavy so this seems like a good idea. See 'Notes' in the menu above.
Posted by Johnny
After Gaios we headed up the East side of Paxos and ended up dropping the anchor for lunch by a beach we discovered a few days before. Armed with my sketchbook, we took the tender ashore to find a bit of shelter from the wind and to have a go at stand up paddle boarding.
Later we returned to Lakka, which is rapidly becoming a favourite anchorage. It was much busier this time and we spent some time phaffing around with lines to shore before realising it was unnecessary and simply dropping the anchor was sufficient to secure us.
The wind was still blowing in our face when we set off then next day for Corfu so we had to motor for 5 hours to reach the town. When we arrived we anchored in the large bay below the old fortress with breathtaking views and some spectacular yachts dotted about. We spotted our friends Steve and Pam close by who probably think we’re following them now!
We took the tender ashore to have a wander about the town. It was not obvious where to leave the tender and we ended up going through the vast man made canal separating the fortress from the town and tied up inside the small marina on the north side. To find the town we had to work our way through the labyrinth of old fortifications and up countless steps.
We had some apprehensions about Corfu town as there is a busy airport there and a couple of huge cruise ships had arrived in the harbour. Our fears were totally unjustified and the old town instantly won us over. The architecture is in a wonderful state of faded glory with paint peeling off elaborate shutters and ironwork. The cobblestone streets are polished from years of foot traffic and reflect the bright lights of the shop fronts at night.
The next day we dropped into Gouvia Marina to top up the fuel tank, then sailed north to the bay of St Stefanou, where we anchored for the night.
The next morning we got up early and set sail for the furthest island north of Corfu. Othoni is a stepping off point for boats heading to Italy and we would be using it for exactly that purpose in the coming weeks. We thought it would be good practice for open water sailing and familiarising ourselves with the first leg of the journey might make the crossing a less daunting prospect. We were lucky to have large waves and winds up to 26 knots to give us a taste of what to expect further out to sea. Confidence was high for the whole 7 hours of the journey and we even reached a record speed of 8 knots while Julia was at the helm.
We arrived in Othoni at about 4pm and tied up in the deserted fishing harbour at Avlaki. We walked through the small sleepy town and hiked up the hill to survey the bay from above. We hoped to meet some Italians fresh from the crossing who could impart some useful wisdom but there was just one other boat in the entire bay and the owners were nowhere to be seen. We found a taverna selling cold beers, then headed back for supper on the boat. We were exhausted after a long sail and Julia crashed out on the sofa around 6pm and slept until the next morning.
From Othoni we sailed to the West side of Corfu and tied up in the touristy town of Palaiokastrita. We went with the flow and visited the monastery on the hill, took the glass bottom boat tour and visited the aquarium. In the evening we discovered an epic bar built into the cliff with cascading terraces and underwater floodlights.
That evening our friend Manraj phoned to say he could get a last minute flight to come and join us in Corfu so we made plans to set off early then next morning to pick him up. Morning came and we set off motoring into a gentle breeze. We were making good time so we dropped by the bay of Kalami for a walk around the bay and past Gerald Durrel’s childhood home.
We arrived a few hours later in Corfu at exactly the same time as Manraj, although the old harbour we pulled into was disgusting, with raw sewage floating on the surface! We wasted no time picking him up and getting out of there, retreating to our familiar anchorage on the other side of the old fortress.
Since then we’ve made it back to Lakka, putting our new crew member to good use on the helm. Having never sailed before (just like us), Manraj was soon confidently bashing into 20 knot of headwind.
Posted by Johnny
From Lakka we sailed south to Antipaxos and back to Voutoumi Beach to give it the time it deserves.
The water was crystal clear with visibility up to about thirty metres. We wasted no time getting our fins and snorkels on and dived in.
Just a few minutes away there was the only beach with white sand rather than pebbles so we went to investigate. Upon taking the dinghy ashore we found the beach strewn with rubbish so we did our good deed for the day and then went off in search of sand.
Later on we pulled up the anchor and headed to the town of Gaios on Paxos island to find a spot on the town quay. We were tacking into 28 knots of wind and getting nowhere so we reluctantly dropped the genoa and motored in. Gaios appeared to be nicely tucked away from the strong prevailing winds - we were surprised by the available mooring space as the pilot book advised we might have to fight for a berth. Inside the town is a maze of quaint little streets and touristy shops. While heading back we were relieved of a few euros by some business minded little girls doing a roaring trade in seashells.
So far in this blog I've not really mentioned the technical bugs and fixes we've been dealing with. All have been fairly minor and easily overcome after a bit of head scratching. The steaming lights on the mast have been tricky but are now fully working. Julia winched me right to the top this morning to fix the mooring light that had been playing up, quite a feat of strength. While up there I took some photos of the view before the handle ripped off the bag containing my camera, multimeter, tools and fell twelve metres down to the deck below, landing on and cracking one of the hatches. Amazingly the camera still works but is a bit beaten up.
Once back down on terra firma a large boat made a complete mess of mooring nearby, catching his prop on our neighbours anchor chain before coming very close to catching ours as well. Later on I dug out my painting kit and started a sketch of one of the fishing boats in the harbour.
Posted by Johnny
After a gruelling 3.30am start in London, we flew into Athens, found our hire car and drove the five hours to Preveza to be reunited with Bumblebee. We went out for a quick sail to find our sea legs again but there was no wind so we headed back and tied up once again on the town quay.
The next day we got up early, slipped the lines and set sail for the paradise islands of Paxos and Antipaxos. Setting sail actually turned out to be motoring for six hours in a flat calm. We spotted a navy blue hull up ahead who we thought might be Steve and Pam, friends we met in Patras and Preveza but as we caught up it turned out to be a different boat. As I write this a few days later, they are by coincidence, moored up next to us in Lakka- It’s a very small world here in the Ionian.
We swung by Voutoumi beach as we reached Antipaxos to see the bright azure water but headed on past towards Paxos where we had a grid reference for a good snorkelling spot and the hopes of meeting Stephan and his crew who we met in Preveza. An hour later we pulled into a deserted little cove with deep caves and cliffs all around. We had missed Stephan but decided to check the place out. We nervously dropped the anchor on a tiny patch of sand in ten metres with savage looking rocks all around. Upon successfully securing ourselves we felt quite heroic until a local tourist boat showed up and motored past us right into the cave!
Around about 4pm we pulled up the hook and headed north to the little bay of Lakka. The place was scattered with anchored boats and the turquoise water was crystal clear. I keep saying it but this was the best anchorage so far. We anchored in just 2.5 metres and took a couple of lines ashore. We were a bit concerned that we had an insufficient amount of chain out so we subtly swam past the next door boat who had miles of chain out. To resolve the situation, Julia kept the lines in place with the dinghy and I fired up the engine, picked up the hook and dropped it much further out. This was a good move as we fell in love with the place and are now spending our second night here.
We went for a walk up the road and out of the bay. Not knowing where we were going we followed the road and ended up in an idyllic cove with a beach bar and gin clear water. After a cold beer we set off again only to find an even more idyllic bar at the next cove, so we stayed and had another beer.
Beers finished we headed back to the boat, picking up a few groceries on the way. Julia knocked up a Greek salad, we digested, then went snorkelling. Later we took the tender ashore and went for another walk, this time along the rocky coast. We found a path heading inland and proceeded to get completely lost. We were lost for long enough to build up a good appetite so when we emerged back into civilisation we were ready for supper.
Posted by Johnny
It’s been two weeks since our last post and in that time we’ve been up to all sorts; we had some lessons from friends, sailed through the night, reached a new top speed, returned to England for Dee’s wedding and my Mum’s birthday, discovered epic caves and anchored in amazing spots. This post should hopefully bring us up to date and the plan is to carry on in future with regular posts to a void another backlog.
From Kioni we set off on our first long passage across to Messolonghi. The passage time was about six hours with the waves and tail wind pushing us along at a healthy 6 knots. We were making such good time that we passed our plan B overnight spot by lunchtime. Our arrival at Messolonghi was slightly dampened when we were charged 25 Euros to stay in the marina without power or water. It was a calm day and we should have just dropped the hook outside the marina.
Messolonghi seems slightly on it’s heels and a bit forgotten. It is best known for a grim massacre in 1826 and as the death place of Lord Byron. There’s not a lot going on except an interesting sculpture garden commemorating the lives lost in the struggle for independence.
The next day we sailed to Patras where we would meet Julia’s friend Pawel in a few days time. We got in early as some weather was expected and we wanted to hire a car to call in on the oracle at Delphi. Patras is a fairly big city with an awesome fruit & veg market and a ruined fort with epic views over the city. The marina has seen better days and there were no signs of any staff for the first few days.
While there we met Andreas, a friend of a friend who runs the local sailing club, organises races and is also an instructor. He offered to let us sit in on a class the next day onboard his carbon fibre IMX racing yacht. The day started quite slowly but by the end of it we were racing along in 30kts of wind with full sails up and heeled right over. This was a totally different approach from what we had seen so far, confirmed by Andreas’s remark while observing a boat similar to Bumblebee straining into the wind with sails reefed right down; ‘..you see those sails reefed down… is not necessary!!” as we tear past at 10.5 knots.
That day we learnt a lot about angles of vanishing stability and are much more comfortable sailing with a decent amount of heel.
On Monday Pawel arrived from Warsaw to spend four days ironing out the bad habits we had taught ourselves. While not a qualified instructor he is a serious sailor and regularly competes. His approach is quite hardcore compared to our soft cruising style and it was clear we needed quite a bit of working on. Careful planning and a well organised cockpit was the order of the day and after a relaxing evening on anchor we awoke at 4am to a stirred up seas and strong winds which turned out to be Pawel’s favourite conditions! After a promising first day we decided to take on our first night sail so as the sun set we headed past Kefalonia and out to sea. The forecast turned out to be a little bit understated and we were soon bashing into a force 6 in pitch darkness. We decided it was a bit too much too soon so headed back to the inland sea and carried on our night sail in calmer water.
Sunrise saw us pull in to the island of Kastos where we anchored and sorted out some breakfast then went ashore to explore. We found some stunning bays and a tiny town but were soon back as our time with Pawel was short and we wanted to make the most of it.
The wind picked up as we left Kastos and we found ourselves blasting into 30 knots gusts and hit our record speed of 7.5 knots. We persevered with our course, tacking our way around the island as other boats turned tail and fled. We made it right across the open water and took shelter in Porto Atheni bay on Meganissi. Once in the shelter of the bay you’d never know it was blowing so strong.
The next day we made our way back to Preveza and tucked into the marina where Bumblebee would spend six nights as we had a wedding and birthday to attend back in England. Picking up the hire car deserves a post all to itself; I’ll just say it was not straightforward.
That’s it for this post, I’m still not up to date so more will follow soon..