Having arrived in Corfu airport on Sunday 10th of August at 0500, one hour later than planned due to a preceding aircraft shedding its hydraulic fluid on the runway at Gatwick, it was a taxi to Gouvia followed by a short nap to catch up on lost sleep; next on the agenda was a trip to the local supermarket to get some fresh victuals afer which I set off single handed for Preveza.
The first night was spent anchored off Paxos, outside the harbour at Gaios (but not far enough outside to prevent a sleepless night brought about by the bars and disco music!). Next morning it was an early start and a motor in windless conditions to Preveza arriving at 1500. A shout from the shore confirmed that Michael, the friend whose boat I had come to help launch, had noted my arrival and once anchored I dropped the dinghy in the water, fitted the outboard and headed in to get on with the task. 48 hours later Michael's boat, Contessa Maria, was in the water and we were heading off on a test sail, leaving Kurukulla anchored off the boatyard for the night. Next day we arrived back, put Contessa Maria in Cleopatra Marina, to await a delivery crew who were to take her to Port St Louis in France, and set off in Kurukulla, to Levkas, to collect Michael's life-raft which had been sent there for servicing.
|Sunset at Ornos Oxias|
After a brief stop in Levkas Marina, to collect the life-raft, we then spent that night anchored in a bay just beyond the southern end of the Levkas Canal near Ak Kephali. Here we anchored off a small beach where we were befriended by a stray dog, so friendly she kept swimming out and round the boat wanting to be invited onboard! She was still there next day when we headed off at 1200, back northwards, to catch the 1400 bridge opening (the swing bridge across the canal opens once an hour on the hour). By 1530 we were again anchored in Preveza 100m off the Aktio Marina, Michael very kindly treated me to dinner ashore and a late night whisky onboard brought the day to a close.
The next day, Saturday, was spent getting victuals for both yachts in Preveza town and doing the finishing touches on Contessa Maria before the arrival of the three man delivery crew. They duly arrived in the late afternoon as did my next sailing guest, a Greek friend Andonis, who lives in London. He was in Greece visiting family and was to spend the next three days onboard Kurukulla.
Next morning we said our goodbyes to Michael, who headed off to Preveza airport to catch his flight home, watched Contessa Maria head out on her way to France and then we set off into the inland sea for a night at anchor in the calm water to the east of Nisos Vouvalos, a good anchorage but a slightly nerve racking anchorage as it is all charted at 2m for a very large area and the pilot offers no more detail. By 1500 we were anchored in the lee of Vouvalos itself and set to enjoy a restful evening. Next morning we were forced to motor back to Preveza due to lack of wind but as we exited the buoyed channel, at the entrance to Preveza, the wind wicked up and we had a fine sail back to Levkas and yet another canal transit! This time we anchored off Levkas town and headed ashore to get some fresh victuals, spending a pair of hours ashore, and then headed off again to the same beach at the bottom of the canal. Despite me having come prepared with a tin of dog food, sadly, our friend was nowhere to be seen. C'est la vie.
Next morning I dropped Andonis off at Nikiana for his return trip and I set off to Frikes, in Ithaca, to pick up Steve the next friend joining. Frikes is definitely one of my favourite ports in this area. Steve duly arrived via Cephalonia airport and a ferry in the late afternoon so we decided to dine ashore and head off mid day the next day.
|Evening anchored off Kryoneri|
It was now time to start heading into the Gulf of Patras and thence the Gulf of Corinth. The first leg took us to Nisos Kalamos where we intended to anchor in Port Leone, a well protected anchorage, but on arrival it was clear to see that many other boats had had the same idea; as a consequence we gybed round, headed back out of the anchorage and made for Nisos Kastos instead. This was much more to our liking, the North East coast has several small bays, most of which were almost empty if not empty. We chose our bay, anchored under sail and spent a very pleasant night there in a bay on our own. Much better than Port Leone!
From here we headed off next afternoon to Nisos Petalas where we anchored in the lagoon to the east of the island. We had four other boats for company in an area of 2 square miles, hardly crowded, and so we stayed two nights here enjoying the scenery and the warm water of the lagoon. Late on the second day we set off again for a short hop to Nisos Oxia, but finding the anchorage there to be far too deep for sensible anchoring (not as described in the pilot!) we headed back the short distance to Ornos Oxias and anchored off the beach for the night.
Our next stop was Mesolongion, a rather lack-lustre town where the town quay and yacht marina are 2 miles up a canal through the salt pans. After a brief look at the marina we opted for the town quay as a spot to stay for the night. A very pleasant Dutch couple took our lines and then warned us that this town has a reputation for theft from boats, what a greeting! We had no problem but they did recount a story of a charter group where every yacht had all its valuables stolen; how true this story is who knows? Next morning it was a trip to Lidl to restock with all the basics (and wine) after which we sailed, in the middle afternoon, for Kryoneri. This is an open anchorage, not far along the coast, eminently suitable in the calm weather we were experiencing. We ghosted in on the last of the evening breeze, dropped anchor and set about having a late evening swim followed by supper in the setting sun.
|Treasury of Athena, Delphi|
The result was we delayed the trip to Delphi by a day, spent 3 hours amongst the ruins, returned to the boat and then sailed back to Anemokambi late the following afternoon. We could have stayed another night in Galaxidhi but the noise of the disco bars and the traffic on the road along the quay results in little opportunity for good sleep!
The anchorage was quiet and our only company was a small group of fishermen in the late evening and a single fisherman next day. We saw no other inhabitants. Amusingly our first attempt at anchoring was in a smaller bay slightly to the north. It was not until we had tidied up and prepared for the night that I looked up and noticed that across the bay 30m ahead of us were strung 415volt power transmission lines.
|The stadium, Delphi|
Next morning dawned bright and clear but windless. By mid day a slight easterly breeze had set in and so we sailed off the anchor heading for Ormos Ay Saranda, a large bay suitable for our next night anchorage. Sailing was not to be; after the first two hours of sailing in very light, contrary, winds we were forced to resort to the engine and motored for the next three hours across glassy seas. Not even a zephyr of wind! On arrival there was one other yacht in the bay, but the locals had laid a row of buoys marking a swimming area, resulting in it being almost impossible to anchor in a reasonable depth. We managed by anchoring very near to the harbour mole but there is now very little anchorable space here despite the size of the bay. Worth a visit all the same and a good place to sit out the 18 hours of thunderstorms that passed through. Spectacular thunder and lightning but fortunately little wind.
|Kurukulla anchored in small bay at Ornos Vathi|
Next morning we sailed off the anchor heading for the Alikionhides Islands, a small group of islands in the middle of Kolpos Alkionidhon, the northern gulf at the eastern end of the Gulf of Corinth. This anchorage was fantastic, tranquil, sheltered and inhabited by only a few workers at the fish farm which also nestled between the three main islands. On the main island was also a small, reportedly deserted, monastery but sadly we did not get to visit it. Later in the afternoon a US registered trimaran entered the bay and anchored in our vicinity followed by a shout “If I come across with a bottle of cheap wine am I invited for a drink?”. An hour later the skipper, who was alone, single handed, arrived onboard and an evenings exchange of sailing stories ensued!
Details of the canal transit and cruising the Saronic Gulf in the next edition.