Carry on Cruising –The Ionian

Sun 9 Sep 2018 10:54

Our taxi arrived at Meadscroft prompt at 05.30 and after collecting our good friends Bernie and Val we were soon at the airport and by 07.30 were aboard the very pleasant Boeing 757 operated by Jet2 finding that our pre booked seats on row twelve were very spacious indeed. By 14.00 local time (two hours ahead of the U.K.) we were wending our way across Corfu town in our hired car bound for the Sailing Club.

We arrived to find that the club’s dinghy was floating off the stern of Team Jones, David and Charlotte’s boat moored next to us on the mole. I hailed him and a very unhappy looking David rowed across. I quickly learnt the reason for his unhappiness was the fact that some inconsiderate fool had removed his shore power cable from the pedestal whilst they had been back in the U.K. with the consequence that all his batteries were completely discharged and ruined and he had fridge and freezer full of rotting food. We introduced him to Bernie and Val and enticed him to have a drink at the bar with us before he took me and the luggage across to Pamarzi. All the way across I was fervently hoping that his misfortune was not repeated on our boat, besides the inconvenience replacements would cost several thousands of pounds. I was relieved to find our power cable in place and the batteries fully charged.

That evening we introduced Bernie and Val to the culinary delights of the Sailing Club restaurant where now all the staff following the example of Efkhairs our favourite waitress call me Mr Roger. Needless to say the food was again excellent and enjoyed by all.

After an earlyish breakfast next morning we set off in the hire car on a provisioning trip to a Lidl supermarket near the airport taking back our hire car and returning by taxi to the sailing club loaded with our purchases. Quite a performance to get it all aboard; after negotiating the steep and uneven steps of the fort, traversing the rough path atop the mole, and with Andrew’s permission using his precarious gang plank to get aboard his beautiful classic boat Alouette moored on our starboard side and thence across to Pamarzi. An afternoon of boat washing for Lynn and Ifollowed while Bernie and Val explored Corfu Old Town.

Mooring bill settled, a final meal at the restaurant with goodbyes to all the staff who had looked after us so well during our stay we spent a last peaceful night at this unusual marina.

Hauling in and resetting our mooring lines to slip and making sure all was secured inside took but half an hour or so and by 10.00 we motored out of the Sailing Club passing beneath the towering edifice of the fort and out into a calm sunlit sea on a course to Ormos Lacca on the island of Paxos. The hook went down there around 15.00 in eight metres of crystal clear, pale turquoise water. A late afternoon swim and supper aboard in the cockpit as we watched other boats moor as the setting sun slipped behind the surrounding hills completed our day and was a prelude to being gently rocked to sleep by the soft swell entering the bay. We stayed another day in Lacca enjoying the little town at the head of the bay, swimming and lazing in the sunshine and delighting in our surroundings.

We weighed anchor on Monday around 09.30 and headed to the town of Gaios hoping to find a berth on the town quay. After a brief one hour sail down the coast  we arrived to find, once again and much to Lynn’s annoyance, no suitable place to moor.

Plan B was to head back to the mainland to Prevesa and with Lynn still nursing her disappointment we motored the twenty or so miles to the town on a calm now windless sea. As we entered the buoyed channel that extends far out to sea we noted ominous black clouds forming over Lefkas to the west. As we approached the town we saw that the quay was pretty crowded but there was a spot at the southern end and although two other boats were mooring there enough space was left for us. We readied our lines and I was positioning the boat when the wind across our bows suddenly increased and the storm broke right over us, just to make mooring that bit more difficult; Mr Murphy applying his law again!

We spent two pleasant if unremarkable days in Prevesa although we cursed the fact that we had not noticed the amusement arcade not far behind us when at three o clock one morning some yobs started playing on a very noisy machine outside the arcade that had been left switched on. On our first morning an elderly couple in a forty footer got themselves in a bit of a mess when their anchor snagged the chain of another boat and their panicky reaction similarly endangered the chains of two more. They seemed not to know what to do as the owners of the snagged boats yelled at them and the lady obviously becoming frightened and tearful, so I took to our tender with my newly acquired slip hook and managed to release the their anchor without much difficulty. They graciously thanked me profusely as they motored away and the snagged boat to called across their thanks. My good deed for the day done I returned to my breakfast feeling just slightly heroic!.

Our next stop was Lefkas marina a little way down the Lefkada canal and as the floating bridge only opens on the hour and would not be opening this day at one o clock, two or three we aimed for the twelve o clock opening. Lynn timed our passage to perfection and with only a couple of minutes wait we transited past the open ‘bridge’ and into the canal. It is but a short distance down the canal to Lefkas marina where I had booked a berth for two nights and by 14.00 we were comfortably moored on pontoon C with all mooring jobs done. We enjoyed showing Bernie and Val the town with its distinctly Caribbean feel and to introducing them to a couple of our favourite restaurants.

It was on the last day of August that we slipped our lines at Lefkas marina and traversed the remaining couple of miles of canal and out into what is called the Inland Sea, more properly the Southern Ionian our destination Ormos Varko where as the weather was set fair we thought we would have a couple of days at anchor. It took several attempts to get the hook through the thick weed but we finally (we thought!)  got it well in. The breeze, as it often does, picked up substantially in the late afternoon and backed through one hundred and eighty degrees to the north west and we (and four other boats) discovered that our anchors were dragging. Up came the hook and in the now strong winds we searched for a less weedy spot. After half an hour or so we finally got the anchor firmly dug in and laid out forty five metres of chain. Thirty minutes later the wind had dropped to a dead calm and it remained quiet for the rest of the night.

A slow start to the day but after breakfast we hauled up the anchor and after clearing the mud and weed off it set sail for the island of Meganisi where I had booked a berth at the Odyseas marina. It was fun to be back here and we had a very nice welcome from Yannis the manager, Goose the South African marinero and Charlie who is now running a yacht brokerage. We spent two more days here showing Bernie and Val around the little town, taking the tender around to a nearby sandy bay and hiring quad bikes to explore the island, all great fun.

I purchased delicious croissants from my friend at Pistrini’s for breakfast and by 10.00 we were ready to set off for the very short voyage to Spartakori just a few bays around the island. Bernie and Val helping we went through all our usual procedures and after casting off stern and bow lines we gently motored away from the quay, a light touch on the bow thruster to counteract the cross breeze and the thruster cut out! Lynn on the helm we motored out into a lumpy sea whilst I tried to find the fault taking the forward cabin apart in the process but even a call to Adrian at Oyster did not help much. So we had to attempt to med moor at Porto Spilia, Spartakori in a strong cross wind without the bow thruster. It was quite a trial, we made four attempts but on each occasion the bow just blew off (it is laid lines here so we could not drop our anchor which would have held the bow whilst we reversed) I decided on a different tactic and with a crowd gathering on the quayside and Babi yelling (useless!) instruction I closed on the moored boats turned Pamarzi’s bow into the wind  and used a combination of forward gear, brief full throttle and hard a starboard with gentle throttle in reverse and hard a port to squeeze us into the tight gap between a small yacht and a pleasure boat rigged up as a Viking battle ship. Whilst all this was going on a Polish guy on the small yacht now next to us was telling Lynn to listen to Babi not me and once we were in told me how he only used his bow thruster for emergencies. His thirty foot boat weighing about five tons compared to Pamarzi’s thirty five tons with very different handling characteristics made his comments ridiculous and he escaped a bop on the nose from Bernie by the skin of his teeth. The watching crowd had now dissipated and after completing the usual mooring procedures and partaking of a very welcome beer I set about finding the bow thruster fault. A four hundred amp fuse hidden under a control box situated under a panel, under the guest cabin bed, held in place by large, almost inaccessible nuts was the culprit. After removing the nuts and most of the skin on my knuckles I got it out, found I had a spare but the spares I had been provided with were of a slightly different fitting. Half an hour of metal working and I had adapted the thing to fit and was relieved to find the bow thruster functioned once more.  After putting the guest cabin back to rights it was 16.30 and all I wanted to do was relax with a book for an hour or so. The crew went for a swim and on their return we readied ourselves to dine, Shirley Valentine style on the beach at Babi and Panos’s restaurant. It was fun and I think Bernie and Val enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately although there was little wind it was a noisy rolly night with the mooring lines continually snatching.

The following morning whilst we were preparing to leave the charter boat next to us on our starboard side was similarly preparing. They slipped their lines first and then got themselves in a terrible mess. Their progress was too slow and the wind blew them broadside onto the bows (and anchor) of the boat on their starboard side. Babi ranted and raved at the unfortunate skipper from the quayside which was not helpful and just got the guy stressed even more as the boat now lay across the bows of two other boats. Eventually a dinghy was deployed to haul the poor guy off and he motored away with his tail very much between his legs. Our departure went smoothly and we were quickly able to hoist the genoa to give Bernie and Val the chance to helm the boat downwind. Once through the wide channel between Meganisi and Lefkas the wind came on the beam and with reefed main and genoa we had a great sail to the island of Ithaca. Bernie and Val were at the wheel most of the time and Val in particular really seemed to enjoy the experience.

We arrived at the picturesque town of Vathi just after lunch and med moored on the town quay and had not even got the passerelle rigged when Oyster 56 Sabbatical (Previously owned by John Marshall and called Rock Oyster) arrived in the bay. I moved an eight metre rib that had moored side on, further down the quay so that they could moor next to us. We later learnt that the rib was delivering an injured crew member to hospital. I gave Sabbatical a hand with their lines and we chatted with the owners Michael and Charlotte Robinson before completing our mooring procedures. We had just gone below when we all heard and felt our anchor chain being moved. Rushing topsides we saw that a German skippered boat had yanked Michael’s anchor out and dragged it across our chain, thankfully it had not fouled our anchor but Sabbatical’s hook was right out. I offered to take their hook back out in our tender and their guest Simon came with me and with Michael on their windlass we managed to get them re anchored. I had just returned to the boat and tied up the tender when I heard a splash from the boat on our starboard side and saw that their passerelle had collapsed and an elderly guy was in the water. I stepped over on to their boat and with the help of their swim ladder hauled him back aboard. He was shocked, wet but thankfully uninjured, well may be his pride just a bit.

Lynn introduced Val to her favourite shops in the early evening whilst Bernie and I checked the Wi-Fi router at the Vodaphone shop and were on our way to get a beer when we came across the girls, unsurprisingly laden with carrier bags. We dined at Nikos where we were treated to huge chunks of lamb carved of a beast rotating on a spit – delicious. A quiet night followed as the wind died away.

An earlyish start on Friday (7th September) and with goodbyes to Michael and Charlotte we motored out into a calm, windless sea for the twenty or so mile trip to Eufimia on Cephalonia from where Bernie and Val will take a taxi across the island to the airport at Argostoli tomorrow. We arrived around noon to be welcomed by George the Harbourmaster. We dined that evening at To Steki almost immediately behind our berth where again we were welcomed like old friends. A lovely last evening supper which Bernie insisted was his treat. We all breakfasted ashore next morning which I insisted was my treat and then it was back to the boat for Bernie and Val to complete their packing. The taxi arrived promptly at 11.00 and with final fond and in the case of Val tearful fair wells we waved them off and returned to a quiet boat and a longish list of boat cleaning  jobs inside and out after two weeks of cruising. But it has been very nice having them aboard and we have enjoyed showing them some of our favourite Ionian places and I know that they have relished sharing the aquatic, gypsy life we lead.