Travels through the Ionian Sea

In the old part of Corfu town we had our first experience of Greek tourist prices…1 beer, 1 orange juice and 2 ice creams…wait for it…30 Euro’s!!!  We were none to happy and after a frank chat with the bar owner made our way off to look around the old Citadel. We left Corfu the next day and with no wind and a flat calm sea we motored south to anchor for lunch and a swim.  By mid afternoon a 20 knot westerly had picked up to help us on our way to Lakka Bay on the beautiful island of Paxos.

For good reason, Lakka is a popular anchorage, it is a protected, clear bay with a lovely town nestled at its head. As we motored in looking for a spot it was packed. We dropped the hook in the first available place. Heather and the kids took to the dinghy to head further into the bay to find Calyxa (who we had arranged to meet there) and scout for a better place to anchor near the beach. As it turned out Calyxa had managed to save us a spot just off the beach, a truly spectacular spot.

After 3 nights in Lakka, we headed south east toward the Lefkas canal. With 15 knots dead behind us we rolled along under headsail and the spinnaker set wing on wing. This was a great light wind sail plan, but took a bit of skill on the helm to keep both sails filled.

The bridge over the Lefkas canal opens on the hour for 10 minutes to let yachts pass through, and typical of our timing, we arrived just after the 7pm slot had closed. There is nowhere to wait for the bridge to open so we had to motor around in a bit of a swell eating dinner waiting for it to re-open. We were the only yacht using the canal for the 8pm opening and as we were arriving late into Lefkas I didn’t think we would get a place on the town quay, but I needn’t have worried as there was plenty of room, and at only 7 Euros a night, a bit of a bargain. Lefkas thumps all night, it is jammed full of bars and clubs and is a fun place to hang out for a couple of days, so we did exactly that.

Next stop was Nisis Meganisi to the south of Lefkas. In light winds we dropped the hook for lunch in a small and exposed anchorage and enjoyed a nice few hours swimming and playing until the afternoon breeze picked up to 20 knots and a decent swell developed. No worries, we will just move around the corner…but our windlass jammed. So in building breeze and swell we hauled up our anchor and 30 m of chain by hand. We fixed the ensuing mess and headed towards shelter around the corner.

As we sailed through the Ionion, we spent our days fishing, exploring sea caves, swimming and barbecuing and each day heading a little further south to Zakinthos, via the islands of Ithika and Kefalonia, they were perfect, long sun filled days.

At the south of Kefalonia we spent a night at Katelios and as we were rowing ashore saw a huge turtle resting in about 3 ft of water. We sat in the dinghy watching him, until we got too close, causing him to quickly head for deeper water.

Zakinthos was hot. Probably the hottest we have had on this trip. Shade temps were 42 degrees and it was tough doing anything. So we ate Ice cream for a few days and hid from the sun. It was here, in this heat that our fridge gave up its fight for life and the only place we could get a new one fitted was in Athens. So we decided to head to Athens via the Corinth canal which is a shorter route than heading south around the Peloponnese.

On the way we stopped at a number of great anchorages including Kalydonos, Navpaktos, with its fantastic old port and castle, and Galaxidiou. The latter being recommended to us by a fellow cruiser and it didn’t disappoint. It was crammed full of fresh local food and had some great small, intimate beaches. On our first night there a thunderstorm came to and the yacht who was a good distance in front of us appeared, out of the dark, along side and very nearly hit us. At first I thought there anchor had dragged, but after a chat with the American skipper it turned out they had 200 ft of chain out in an anchorage 20ft deep. In short – way too much chain in a busy anchorage. Anyhow, they seemed very stressed by the situation so Heather and I picked up our anchor and moved Vega through the dark in a rock strewn anchorage, it took us 3 goes to get the anchor re-set on a dark dark night. Hey Ho.

After 2 nights in Galaxidiou we left at 5 am and headed towards the Corinth Canal and Athens and a new fridge 80NM away. Passing through the canal is quite an experience. As we followed a series of tankers into the mouth of the canal we marveled at its engineering. Sheer walls cut into the stone with azure water flowing between.

The bridges spanning over the top were crammed full of visitors watching the boats passing by. The tankers up front were only just narrow enough to pass through the 24m wide canal. We had plenty of space, but had difficultly keeping up the 6knot minimum speed and were asked to speed up several times via the VHF Radio.

Once into the Saronic gulf the wind picked up and we sailed into a 15-18knot breeze for 4 hours to Athens. This part of Greece is heavily developed and not the most attractive coast line of refineries and heavy industry and as we sailed along we had to continually adjust course to avoid tankers.

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