Passing through the Ionian Sea

Since we left the Peloponnese and headed into the Ionian sea things have been busy, and have not really gone to plan. Our sail from Pilos to Zakinthos was not as expected. The forecast promised F4 on the beam, but instead delivered flat calms for the first 20NM followed by a F6 close reach for 30NM and then 15NM of motoring right into a F5 up to Zakinthos. Force 5 may not sound much but the usual Mediterranean waves picked up and with white caps everywhere the last 10 miles was slow, slow going, taking nearly 3 hours. Still, wet and very salty, we made it in time to pick up my parents who were joining us in Zakinthos for this leg of the voyage.

The Ionian is flotilla holiday madness. Every anchorage is busy, every wharf full and it is still only June. There are not many liveaboards here – its mainly rental yachts with skippers of very mixed ability. They come here as the sea is flat, the scenery beautiful and the towns vibrant. Our route was taking us north from the Island of Zakinthos up through the Lefkas Canal and on to Corfu.

Highlights included a number of fantastic sailing days with a great breeze blowing across flat water, cosy anchorages and refreshing lunchtime swims. Fiskardo on Kefalonia is a beautiful port town to visit, with a bunch of great restaurants. We had a fantastic meal there made up of a host of local tapas style dishes including stuffed tomatoes, feta, egg plant, zucchini balls, squid and lamb all washed down with Greek wine…which, to be fair, isn’t great, the trick to enjoying it is to drink it quickly when its very cold!

Last year my favourite Ionian anchorage was Lakka Bay, this year we gave it a miss because of the weather. This year my favourite Ionian anchorage was Two Rocks Bay, on the Greek Mainland about 40NM south of Corfu. Great sandy beaches, clear water and lots of caves which the kids spent hours swimming through.

Ionian Sailing challenges

In the Ionian we have had to leave our anchorages twice at night due to the weather. First off we were anchored on the south end of Kefalnoia when the swell picked up and the boat was rolling miserably, everything that could move was being tossed around the boat. By midnight, we were over it. At 12:30am, guided by an almost full moon Dad and I navigated our way around a reef strewn headland and a further 2 hours north to Pyros where we cautiously dropped anchor off the town. The second night time re-anchor took place  when we were anchored with a stern line ashore at Kioni on the Island of Ithaca when a large gust came through, beam on to Vega.  Our bow pulled around and kept going until we were almost touching the boat next to us. I tried to reset the anchor but it was no use so in strong wind, so I released the stern line, dropped Heather in for a swim to untie it from the rocks while Dad and I upped anchor and went back to pick up Heather. I couldn’t understand why our anchor had not reset, but once I lifted it all was clear – a large boulder had become lodged on the fluke and was jammed under the anti roll bar, essentially preventing the anchor from digging in. Once the wind picked up and we were dragging, there was no way it would reset! We decided to head down the coast to a sheltered anchorage called Vathi, we arrived there at 10pm  and dropped anchor in a very busy anchorage. By midnight it was blowing a steady 30 knots and no less than 8 yachts around us dragged, one colliding with another anchored yacht. I was up all night keeping  watch, not because I was worried about  Vega dragging, but because I was worried about other boats hitting us!

At Lefkas we managed, somehow, to get our anchor snagged on other anchors three times and in Fiskardo on Kefalonia it happened once. Anchoring in Moutras on the main land and in North Corfu was problematic due to very thick weed we could not get our anchor through. Lucky the nights are generally flat calm! So its been a challenging, but fun, 10 days and our next stop is the heel of Italy for some decent pizza.

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