Return to Lefkada and Back Across the Ionian Sea

Wed 20 Sep 2017 14:18

Harry prompt as always collected us from Meadscroft at 14.00 for our 16.20 flight back to Prevesa and despite a flight delay of nearly an hour, and the two hour time difference our Greek taxi delivered us to a red dust covered Pamarzi just after midnight.

We walked into town the following morning to do some provisioning and top up our Greek sim card. Very windy, thankfully no swell in the marina but too windy for topside jobs so we and it would seem every other crew in the marina kept below out the howling gusts sweeping up the Lefkas canal. In fact there were no boat movements at all that day. We later learnt when Sam rang to say that he and Florencia would not be arriving till late afternoon tomorrow, that all the ferry crossings to and from the islands had been cancelled. After an unremarkable meal in one of the marinas restaurants we were happy to have an earlyish night and slept peacefully as the winds died away before 23.00.

I hiked round to the marina office next morning to advise them that we would be staying another night and to settle our rather hefty bill. Then back to Pamarzi to rid her of the accumulated red dust before our guests arrived,

Sam & Florencia arrived late afternoon as expected and after we had got them settled in we walked into town and ate in a restaurant in the lively town square.

After a breakfast of croissants, doughnuts and coffee we cast off and headed southwards down the canal spotting a pelican as we negotiated the narrow channel. Although last years dredging has improved navigation considerably, we had three or four metres under our 2.9 metre keel most of the way. Once out of the canal we set a course for Meganisi and were dropping the hook in O. Kapali bay by mid-afternoon. We all enjoyed swimming and snorkelling in the crystal clear waters, surrounded by small fish. Less appealing were the spiney, black 30 to 45 centimetre long sea cucumbers that slithered around the rocks in some shallower spots. I believe they are edible and the Japanese apparently eat them raw as sashimi and consider their intestine once salted and fermented to be a delicacy that they call konowata. None of us were inclined to try the ugly beasts fermented or otherwise.

After a quick dip the following morning we weighed anchor for the short, twenty odd nautical mile cruise back to Vathy, Ithaca. Florencia who with Sam looks after Pamarzi during the winter months had never taken the helm of a sailing boat, so it was she I put on the wheel as we motored out of the bay and towards the channel between the islands of Lefkas and Meganisi. There was a good breeze and we were soon reaching under full main and genoa. As we came out of the channel into more open water the wind freshened and our speed climbed. Florencia under Sam’s guidance was doing a great job on the helm and enjoying every minute. I tweaked the trim of our sails and Florencia held the boat in ‘the groove’ our speed climbing into double figures as we flew past the island of Nisis Atokos and earning Florencia the nickname GoFlo.

Once safely secured to the town quay Sam and GoFlo headed off to find Dimitri who was Sam told us the ex-husband of a lady he had met at the Buzzard Fair in Devon earlier in the year who knitted socks to order on an antiquated Victorian machine. Well Ithaca is a small island but he did not have much to go on other than a name and the fact that the fellow owned a bar. But they did manage to find him and when they explained that they had met his ex-wife he responded by asking them which one! They never did find out quite how many he had had.

We ate at our usual restaurant that evening and were please that Sam and Florencia enjoyed the cuisine as much as we did. Lynn and GoFlo could not resist the shops on our way back so Sam and I left them to it and stopped off at a bar on the way back to the boat for a nightcap.

Breakfast was taken ashore next morning before a trip to the market to top up on provisions for the crossing back to Sicily. We had originally been anticipating staying in the Ionian Islands for a few more days but the forecasts showed a weather window and if we did not take it we might not be able to leave for another week or so. I had decided that we should leave from Ithaca and sail around the northern end of Kefallonia and head directly to Marina di Ragusa a distance of some 360 nautical miles.

Conditions were calm and winds light as we motor sailed around the coast of Ithaca. This was Florencia’s first ever passage and night sail and she was very excited about the prospect. Lynn and I took the first watch from 20.00 to midnight and Sam and Florencia the second from midnight to 04.00 when I came on again for another few hours. It was a quiet night with no other yachts within fifty miles of us and only a couple of tankers passing within distance of our AIS receiver. We did receive a radio message from the coastguard to be on the lookout for a yacht in difficulties but we neither saw it or received any further communication. Despite the fact that we motor sailed all night Florencia was very enthusiastic about the experience. She loved the brilliantly clear night sky, had counted seven shooting stars and marvelled at the sight of a waning crescent moon rising, the two tips of its crescent appearing on the horizon first. Venus rose on my watch around 04.30 bright and clear her reflected light illuminating a swathe across the waves. Lynn brought me tea at 06.45 as we watched the sun rise.

The rest of the crew joined us around 07.45 and by 08.15 I was about to climb into my bed when there was a bump and a judder and the engine dropped into neutral and the revs fell to 700rpm. As I bounded back up the companionway Sam was already reaching for mask and snorkel for we had both assumed that we had become entangled in rope or nets adrift. The engine read out was displaying a number of error messages and red warning triangles, all very alarming but before going over the side I tried a shut down and restart in the hope that the rope cutter on our prop had managed to cut us free. Cautiously I put her into gear and slowly increased the revs. Thankfully no error messages appeared and Pamarzi moved gently forward with increasing speed as I returned us to 1800 revs and breathed a sigh of relief, sleep in prospect rather than a dive under the boat knife in hand.

Just after lunch the wind put in an appearance, up went main and genoa, off went the engine and we made a very respectable seven to eight knots in nine to ten knots of breeze, pretty good for thirty five tons of cruising yacht. Things just got better, as lunch was cleared the fishing reel screamed as line was ripped out. We slowed the boat and struck, whatever was at the other end putting up a spirited fight and as it jumped I was delight to see the iridescent blues, greens and gold of a Dorado. Sam had the landing net ready and ten minutes later we had the fish aboard. Okay was only two kilos but cleaned and filleted she would and did make a nice meal for the four of us.

On we sailed in a freshening wind with light hearts and expectant tummies. I was asked to reduce sail around 18.00 so that the ladies could prepare supper on an even keel. Obediently we reefed main and headsail for them and were rewarded with a delicious fish supper. The soft white flesh of the Dorado every bit as good as I remembered from our catches in the Atlantic. We shook out the reefs and again I took the first watch with Lynn with a star filled but moonless night. Midnight came and Sam and Florencia took over but before we went below a flying fish leapt into the cockpit and another landed on the coach roof. Given that these feats required a leap of over two metres it must have been something pretty big chasing those guys! The wind died on Sam and GoFlo’s watch and the hum of the motor greeted me as I rose at 04.00. Actually Lynn elbowed me out of bed as my telephone alarm had not gone off!

The sun was just peeking over the eastern horizon as we motored into a thick sea mist. It was just beginning to lift as I handed over to Sam & Florencia. When I reappeared refreshed around 11.00 we were motoring in the sunshine along the familiar southern coast of Sicily. Just before 14.00 hours I called in on radio channel 74 to alert the marina of our arrival. Fenders and lines at the ready we headed in to be greeted by Rosario who led us through the channel first to the fuel dock where we topped up our tanks with 450 litres and then on to pontoon M where John and Midge of SY Calico greeted us, helping Rosario with our lines. We completed the oh so familiar routines to secure Pamarzi, connect power and water, set up the passerelle, put on instrument covers, shut down the engine and switch over to shore power before savouring an ice cold beer and reflecting on the end of our fifth cruising year aboard Pamarzi and the forth coming two weeks or so of boat cleaning and winterising before we return to the UK on the 9th October. Of course there will be the almost nightly socialising and reuniting with sailors familiar and new and for us this year the company for a few days of  friends Peter and Sharon who are joining us aboard to give Sharon a taste of the life aquatic.

So given the shortness of our cruising this year I apologise for the fewness of my words but it may be that you find that something of a blessing. Not an easy year for Lynn but I am pleased to say that her knee is healing well although she does have to face a similar procedure on the other one during the winter. She is determined to be fit for an early start to our sixth season next year and we are already tossing around some ideas for our 2018 voyaging. But for now we must take to our polishing cloths and I will leave you in peace until next season. So adieu and farewell until then.

Roger & Lynn

The crew of Pamarzi.