Ithaca, more Islands and on to Vonitsa
After an early morning trip to the bakery where I purchased bread, still warm and sweet bugatza we cast off our lines and by 09.00 were motoring away from Vathy bound for Astakos on the mainland. As we approached the Peloponnesian coast we saw a very nice bay called Marathia and although a touch narrow I chose a spot to anchor that would give us sufficient swinging room. We had a couple of goes at getting the hook in only to find that the bottom was incredibly weedy and as our windlass hauled up the anchor it had a veritable haystack of thick weed piled on it that took fifteen minutes or so of pushing and shoving with the boat hook to get it cleared. We left Marathia, now renamed Weedy Bay and continued towards Astakos but as we approached the little town I was not impressed so we decided to abandon the idea of stopping there and instead headed north west out to the island of Kastos.
Kastos is a very small island with a winter population of just eighty souls. The pretty little harbour there was too small for us but the weather was set fair so we decided to anchor just outside the harbour and on the second attempt we got the hook to bite nicely and with plenty of chain out we felt comfortable. We did however stay aboard as other boats started to arrive but all anchored sensibly at respectable distances. By the time we sat down to our spicy Greek sausages and mustard mash there were twenty boats anchored around us. Loud cheers from the taverna in the harbour reminded us that it was the World Cup final. We took the tender into the harbour next morning and sat drinking iced coffee under the cicada filled pine trees. Unfortunately getting back into the tender Lynn tore a muscle in her butt which has continued to pain her. The rock formations around the shore line of the island are fascinating, layer upon layer of ancient seabed twisted and contorted by earthquakes into weird and wonderful shapes. Sitting in the cockpit that evening enjoying an aperitif with a relatively cool breeze from the north west gently running ‘cats paws’ over the water we were both amazed when the wind shifted to the south east and the temperature immediately rose by eight degrees or more. It just felt as if someone had turned on a gigantic fan heater and pointed it right at us. A late boat came into anchor as the shadows lengthened. It was a small, thirty two foot charter boat with dad at the wheel, mum on the foredeck and a couple of pre teenage kids standing on the side decks. Dad tried to anchor, much too close to a neighbouring boat and was shouted off, he went on to try and anchor again but after five attempts it was looking unlikely that he would succeed. He came out into the deeper water where we were, thankfully at a safe distance from us and tried yet again and this time he managed to get the hook to set. I saw him thirty minutes later sitting on the foredeck in the fading light beer in hand and from eighty metres away I could feel the relief emanating from him. It was very touching to see one of his sons come and sit next to him and put an arm around his dad’s shoulder, he was still someone’s hero. It was fortunate though that the winds stayed light for he had far too little chain out to hold them if the wind and swell had picked up.
We left the anchorage early next morning and set a course for the island of Meganisi where we hoped to anchor in Ormos Kapali a favourite bay of ours. Sadly when we arrived we found that the only tenable spot for us had already been taken and after looking into another couple of possible anchorages and not finding them suitable we decided to head around the northern head of the island to Ormos Spartakhori where thankfully Babis had a berth for us on his main pontoon at Porto Spilia and of course as is de riguer we ate at Babis and Panos restaurant that evening.
It was but a short hop around to Odyseas Marina next morning where we had booked a berth for two nights. It was fun being back in this little place again and to be recognised and welcomed by taverna and shop owners. A Maltese flagged boat with elderly parents and very young children aboard asked if they could squeeze in next to us and we helped the marinero with their lines and secured a bow line to Pamarzis’ starboard, forward cleat to hold them if the wind shifted southerly, which was not forecast. Chatting to them, Daniel and Bianca, later I casually asked as a very long shot if they knew our friend and dentist Lawrence Murray-Curtis who hails from Malta. Amazingly Bianca’s response was, ”Oh yes I know Lawrence and his family.” What a small world we inhabit! On our second night dining ashore at yet another taverna we noticed a couple who had dined at the same restaurant as us the previous evening. One of the fun elements of this cruising life is the number of different people we meet and fall into conversation with. This obviously ‘gay’ couple Mark a teacher and Wilson an architect, at the end of the meal strolled over and asked if we would like to join them for a drink there followed a very pleasant hour or so chatting about work and life and the Greek islands. They not sailors were staying in a small hotel on the island for the eleventh year and were fascinated by our nautical travels.
Northwards next day towards the Lefkas canal but first we headed towards Ormos Varko on the mainland where we spent the afternoon swimming and snorkelling before sailing up to the Lefkas canal and on to Lefkada Marina at the northern end. Meeting along the narrow way a homo moronicus in his chartered catamaran heading south. Lynn at the helm wary of the narrowness and shallow depth saw this idiot coming directly at our bow as he overtook another south bound catamaran he cut back in sharply and swept past us waving and laughing – we were not amused a collision could have cost him tens of thousands, we wondered if he would still be laughing!
We arrived at the marina around 18.30 and by 20.00 we had completed our mooring tasks and I had checked in at the office and settled the paperwork. Boat jobs the next day and seeing from the forecasts that storms were expected on Monday I booked another day’s stay. George and Gertraude arrived on Sunday as planned and we had a very jolly and late evening with them as we chomped our way through some excellent peppered fillet steaks. Sure enough Monday morning was dull and breezy as forecast but brightened by our ever smiling Greco German friend George who at 08.30 came aboard and thrust a carrier bag containing three bottles of Greek wine that he had recommended into my hands before hugging me warmly and insisting, yet again that we meet in the Autumn at their house near Zurich or perhaps in Vienna.
We walked into town to obtain more gigabytes for our router and do a bit of provisioning. I returned to Pamarzi with our purchases calling in at the chandlers on the way to pick up some snap shackles whilst Lynn stayed in town to ‘do the shops’. Aboard Pamarzi I made myself a pot of coffee and sat in the cockpit marvelling at the variety of our neighbours. On our port side a sixty two foot motor boat, Australian flagged, their antipodean voices cutting across the wind like yelping dogs at dawn. One of their number sporting an enormous brush like moustache and who I only ever saw wearing a bright green shirt and matching baseball cap. Perhaps I wondered did he only occupy the starboard side of the boat. On our starboard side sat a Hanse 575 sailing boat, about the same length as us but its towering white plastic freeboard almost half a metre higher and lacking in my opinion any elegance. The very large, very pink, inflatable flamingo lashed to the foredeck doing little to improve the bluntness of its design. But they are a capacious boat and can accommodate a substantial brood. On their starboard side a forty something foot motor boat with ‘Billy Big Boots’ type Greek owners. She slim, haughty and too full of herself by half (It has to be said that many of that type of women parade in and around Alderley Edge), he much too important to look beyond his own kingdom as he puffed imperiously on a large, curving, Meerschaum pipe whilst their tiny Indonesian maid worked and cooked and served the two of them drinks whilst they had important conversations on their mobile telephones. Less fertile ground on the other side of the pontoon where the water is shallower and the boats smaller, as it was empty, empty that is until the arrival of Sea Eagle, her thirty foot faded red hull sporting a wooden mast with russet coloured sails. She looked to have been built eighty or ninety years ago probably contemporaneously with the birth of her wizened, white bearded, solo skipper who brought her in bows to in the strengthening wind with commendable skill, his wiry, leathern frame lithely traversing the side decks to secure his mooring lines. No sooner was he in when a small husband and wife crewed; Finnish flagged boat bickered its way into a berth, after several attempts and much shouting, alongside him. They were still at it an hour later but then disappeared into their boat never to be seen again. Were they I wondered making up or had they killed each other?
Tuesday morning opened fair and we set off to catch the 10.00 opening of the Lefkas canal ‘bridge’. Once through we set a course for the Gulf of Amvrakia and the village of Vonitsa within that shallow expanse of water some fifteen or twenty miles in extent. Different country this, gentle tree clad slopes and in part not unlike the south Devon coast line. As we rounded the final headland before our approach to Vonitsa a pod of dolphins busy with their fishing trade leapt, glistening around us, close enough for their exhalations to be clearly heard. No space for us in the little harbour so we anchored off under the ruins of the Venitian castle in about seven metres and with the snubbing line set and the day marker hoisted we sat admiring the setting and enjoying this quiet and peaceful place.