Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Monday, 30 May 2011

Round the Peloponnese

After a weekend on Zakynthos town quay I finally departed on the Monday morning after watering ship and victualling from the local supermarket. Before leaving Zakynthos I thought it prudent to refuel as well but the only fuelling point is a garage on the landward side of the seafront road. A brief visit confirmed that they had a tank on wheels into which they decant the fuel from the ordinary forecourt pump and then dispense it under gravity to the boat concerned. On arrival alongside, or almost, it was obvious that I was aground, 5 metres from the jetty. Back off and try again, this time 50 metres along the jetty; at least it was not me who would have to push the tank! My request for 40 litres was initially interpreted as 400 followed by a look of disappointment! I suspect they do not fuel many sailing yachts!
The Abbey at Strofhades Islands
That done it was off and the “where next” question arose. The choices were follow the mainland coast or head out and visit the Strofadhes Islands. My liking for out the way places got the better of me and off to the Strofadhes it was. There are two main islands and according to the pilot one inhabitant, a lone monk who inhabits the abbey on the major island. During my visit the abbey and its environs looked well cared for so, although I saw no one, the lone monk is either an assiduous worker or the numbers on the island have increased. I anchored overnight in Ornos Taverna on Nisis Arpia (the smaller island) with the intention of landing on Nisis Stamfani the next day and visiting the abbey. This was not to be, the next day dawned with an easterly wind blowing making the Nisis Stefani anchorage too risky to leave the boat in unattended, hence my visit to the abbey will have to wait another opportunity.
Self at Methoni with fortifications in background
From the Strofadhes Islands it was a 45 mile passage south eastwards, in a fickle wind, to Methoni; the leg was part sailed but with a frustrating number of sail changes. Methoni is a fantastic landfall with enormous Turkish and Venetian fortifications guarding its harbour. Along the way I passed the entrance to Navarino Bay, scene of Admiral Codringtons (26 ships, 1270 guns) victory over the combined Turkish and Egyptian fleets (89 ships, 2450 guns) which effectively gave the Greeks victory in their war for independence from Turkish rule.
Methoni is a very well preserved town with much good quality restoration work still going on, unlike the concrete monstrosities being constructed along the coastlines of the Ionian Islands. The harbour is dominated by the Turkish Tower and the Venetian fortifications. Next morning a quick shopping trip ashore followed by a stop for a morning coffee left a lasting, favourable, impression. The harbour is reasonably well protected (southerly swell can roll in) with good holding. From here I set off to investigate the island to the south of Methoni, Nisis Sapientya, where I spent a very pleasant afternoon anchored in Port Longos, a deserted bay, with only a fish farm for company! As the evening drew in I moved back to Methoni to achieve an internet connection (very slow) and do some admin. Thereafter bed!
Cape Matapan

Next day it was off eastwards to continue the passage round the southern tip of the Greek mainland. I awoke to an eerie calm, not a breath of wind, hence we set off under motor for the first part of the day. After two hours there were ominous rumbles of thunder in a grey overcast sky and the occasional heavy shower but none of them lasted more than a few minutes. We rounded Cape Akritas the most westerly of the three fingers of the Peloponnese and headed for Cape Tainaron (better known but its English name Cape Matapan, scene of another famous Naval battle in March 1941 when the RN Mediterranean fleet sank five Italian ships ) which is the most southerly point of mainland Greece. This started as a much better leg with enough wind to do 5 knots on a broad reach, good sailing at last but it was not to last! As the afternoon drew on the wind went astern and fluctuated between 20deg off the port quarter and 20deg off the stbd, How many times can you gybe a poled out genoa in an afternoon? I think I have the record! Finally a mile short of Cape Matapan the wind suddenly appeared on the nose at 30kts, fortunately I saw it coming and had handed the genoa and reefed the main before it hit. The final three miles to the anchorage at Kayio, on the eastern side of Cape Matapan, were a bit of a roller-coaster ride but ended well. The anchorage was crowded but with boats all heading east but I managed to find a space, tight though it was.
Crowded anchorage at Kayio
If the wind holds we will all swing clear of each other but if it falls to nothing tonight there will be mayhem! Next entry tomorrow morning!
Over the night the wind died and all the boats made at least two pirouettes, fortunately without any incidents, that is that I know of. A disturbed night with constant checking of position. Not one to be repeated; it is going to be an open, spacious, anchorage tonight! Today dawned grey and with the residual swell still rolling in, consequently I left it until midday before I decided to set off. No wind, swell on the nose, grey sky, grey sea, and cold! Just like the English Channel, even the shipping is similar, I currently have nine large freighters in view all lining up to round Cape Maleas. The first hour or so was an uncomfortable passage under motor but the wind then roused itself to provide a fast close fetch for a pair of hours before dying away again but leaving behind sunshine! Rather like yesterday the wind came up on the nose at 20kts just one hour before arrival at Elafonisos, my chosen overnight anchorage! The fickle winds of the Mediterranean! Nevertheless I needed to make progress towards Spetses in order to pick up my next crew; hence, the uncomfortable first part was worth it.
Anchorage at Ornos Frangos, Elafonisos
The anchorages at Nisos Elafanisos are many but I chose the smaller of two on the south coast, this offered the better protection from the prevailing wind. Safely anchored in 3m on pure white sand and in crystal clear water I immediately fell in love with the place. Given the forecast for light, contrary, winds after Maleas I took little persuading to stay for two nights and enjoy the swimming and beaches, plus a climb to the top of the headland separating the two anchorages. After 36 hours in paradise I set off again to round Maleas and head for the protected harbour at Ieraka.
Cape Maleas with hermitage and bell house
Waterfront at Ieraka
Ieraka was a fascinating place, almost cut off from the rest of the world. Having anchored off the village,in the middle of the small channel which leads into a very shallow, enclosed, lake, I rowed ashore to have a walk around and to get some fresh bread. I set off first to visit the “extensive ruined acropolis, probably of the Mycenaean period” referred to in the pilot. My request for directions from a taverna owner was greeted with a slightly surprised look and then a brief nod of the head, up the hill. I set off, only later was I to realise that the slightly surprised look was brought about by my wearing shorts and flip-flops. As I found to my cost the path was well overgrown with that thorny grass which abounds in Greece! This, combined with the lecture I had received from Stephanos the week previous, when he had warned me how many poisonous snakes are to be found in Greece, had me looking very carefully where I was treading! The acropolis was barely discernible as such, extensive ruins but little left standing, but was worth the visit and the path down, following the slightly more established route, was easier to negotiate. Next came the search for bread; my request of another taverna owner, by chance a Danish lady, married to a Greek, elicited the information that bread arrived here on Fridays. The local shop holds a stock but it was probably more stale than that which I already had onboard. At this point she took pity on me and offered to sell me a loaf from her freezer! A pasta supper onboard and an early night followed.
The morning broke with wind but not necessarily from the right direction. From the shelter of Ieraka it was difficult to tell. Not to waste it I weighed anchor and set forth for the entrance and yes there was wind, 15kts of it, from the north! I put Kurukulla on the wind, port tack, and went below for breakfast. Three hours and three tacks later the wind died to nothing and I had my first open sea swim of the season, the boat was going nowhere! This being the case I motored into Kiparissi bay and dropped anchor. Either I could stay the night or if the wind came up it was an easy place to set off from. Two hours later at 1630 the onshore started and provided a splendid 5kt reach northwards for the final 20 miles to Spetses.
Sunset over Spetses
This final photograph was taken just as I arrived. Kurukulla is now berthed in the outer harbour at Spetses and will be here for a pair of days. At last I have an internet connection fast enough to publish a Blog!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Ithaca to Zakinthos

Anchored at Skhoinos

On arrival in Vathi we were welcomed by a smiling local inviting us to berth on the end of the ferry berth as there was no room on the quay adjacent to the other yachts in that section. We backed in, dropping the anchor 3-4 boat lengths out, thanked him and passed him our shore lines. The fendering was large but not impossible to bridge with the onboard passareile (gangway) and we set about ordering a pair of beers from the waterfront café. Only then did we discover that the local forecast was for winds down the length of the harbour and we were beam on! The smiling face had been the water vendor and as this jetty was his last call of the day, he was determined that we berth there in order that he could sell us water.
He wasted his time, we declined his offer and moved berth after our beer! Safely berthed, head to expected wind and on a more central section of the town quay, we set out on a stroll to discover what delights Vathi had to offer. It is a small but nonetheless pleasant town with a busy waterfront and several attractive looking restaurants. We chose a fish taverna, right on the waterfront, and ate very well. Best food so far! Taverna Kantouni, Tel: 0030 2674033405. I had been to Vathi once before on a family charter holiday but on that occasion the anchor had steadfastly refused to hold in the strong winds and we had passed the night cruising up and down the harbour resetting the anchor every hour or so! This time we were luckier and I had an efficient anchor!
The berth near the Coast Guard offices
Next morning dawned with the predicted wind blowing us directly onto the wall but with 50m of chain out in 5m of water we were not going anywhere despite the choppy waters of the harbour. After the mandatory visit to the Coast Guard, to pay our dues and fill in yet more forms, we were off on another tour of the town to visit the local museum and purchase some food essentials, bread, steaks for a BBQ etc. This done we came to the decision that the weather was improving and sailing south was the best bet, either to the anchorage to the south of Pighadi Island or to the inlet called Ay Andreas right on the southern tip of the island. In the event we did both. The anchorage at Pighadi looked so inviting that we decided to anchor and have an afternoon BBQ, a sort of late lunch. In intermittent but glorious sunshine we ferried the gear ashore, collected wood for the fire and duly lit it. That was the sign for the heavens to open and open they did. A torrential downpour started lasting over half an hour with a not unspectacular thunder and lightening show! By the time it finished we were drenched, the fire was all but out and the dinghy full of water! Every cloud has a silver lining though, at least it washed the last of the Brindisi grime off of the decks of Kurukulla! Fortunately we had squirrelled away some more wood under cover and, not to be defeated, we rekindled the fire and finished lunch. It tasted all the better for the delay! Thereafter we motored down the coast, in a still calm, to reach Ay Andreas an hour or so before sunset. One other boat, live-aboard Germans, had occupied the prime anchorage but we were able to anchor slightly further out without difficulty. This done a quick recce of the beach, a swim and shower, and then supper. Next morning, over breakfast, we were serenaded by the German frau playing the flute, and very good she was too (well to my ears anyway!). We were offered everything from the UK and Greek national anthems through Greensleeves to Jerusalem! A good way to start the day! After passing on our thanks, and a swim, it was off to a yet to be decided destination on the southern end of Cephalonia. Yet to be decided because we were on the wind and unsure how much progress we would make.
The harbour at Ag Nikolaous
Berthed next to Dimitri's powerboat
Four and a half hours later we had passed Poros and had more or less decided to bear away at Ak Mounda (the SE tip of Cefallonia) and reach across to Argostoli, arriving about sunset. The wind had other ideas! As we arrived at Ak Mounda the wind shifted by 100 degrees placing Argostoli upwind again and making the southern shore of Cephalonia untenable for anchoring as there are no sheltered spots on this coast in a SW wind. The nearest shelter was Ay Nikolaous in Zakynthos, thus it was that we missed out Cephalonia and headed straight to Zakinthos arriving at 1800. A very cheerful Dimitri took our lines, offered water and power (both declined) and proffered the card of his taverna. On our first stroll ashore we visited the taverna, enjoyed a small aperitivo and were informed it was on the house! We were trapped, after such generosity how could we eat elsewhere even if it was a public jetty. The food was OK, somewhat touristy, but there was also not a lot of choice in the small village hence we could have done worse.
Wreck Bay
Next morning we slipped our moorings at 1100 and headed for the most photographed beach in Greece, Wreck Bay, (what it was called before the wreck of the “Panagiotis”, in October 1980 I have no idea. She was originally the St Bedan and built in 1937 in Glasgow!). En route we were overtaken by Dimitri in his speedboat which was full of tourists!
From here it was southwards, goose-winged and doing 7 knots, to reach Keri for the night. Keri is in a bay at the western end of the famous turtle and lager lout breeding beech at Lagana and is the only area of the whole bay where anchoring is still permitted. A stroll ashore, another aperitivo and a small amount of shopping and we were back onboard for supper and a game of scrabble.
The following morning dawned stunningly bright and still. Breakfast, a swim, and then it was off to Zakinthos town with a stop for lunch and a swim in an anchorage on the way. This part of the coast of Zakinthos is either banned to boats wishing to anchor or a succession of heavily commercialised beaches. We found the only nearly civilised beach at the southern end of Porto Roma but even this rang to the sound of construction gangs working on a part completed taverna and had two hotels in the vicinity.
Cathedral of St Dhionisos

The view inside
Friday night we were safely berthed on Zakinthos town quay. The project to build a marina here seems to have been all but abandoned, the outer moles exist but nothing else. During our now habitual walking tour of the town we first visited the bus station to purchase tickets for Stephanos's impending departure (who builds a bus station out at the back of town, remote from all other transport links?) and then headed for the Cathedral of St Dhionisos. This was built to replace an earlier cathedral destroyed by an earthquake in the late 19th century.
View from the fortress
Final drink before departure
View down on our berth below
For this reason it was built to survive earthquakes and it did so, in 1953, 2 years after completion when the rest of the town was destroyed! This being Stephanos's last night aboard we set of to find a good restaurant for supper and succeeded in finding the “Thymalos Fish Taverna” Tel: 0030 2695026732, right on the waterfront, where we enjoyed the best meal of the trip so far. This morning we decided to climb the escarpment behind Zakinthos town and tour the fortress, well worth the daunting climb but not for the faint hearted. All this before Stefanos caught the 1400 bus departure to initiate his bus-ferry-bus-ferry journey back to Corfu. I plan to stay here another day at least and catch up on some maintenance, not least of which is curing a leak on the dinghy! After that it is the first single handed passage of the season round the Peloponnese. A quiet week or so on my own before Simon, my nephew, arrives via Athens and Spetses on 1 June.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Corfu to Ithaca.

The next morning dawned bright and clear and after a brief pause to do some admin using the Blue Cafe WiFi, Stephanos (Steve) and I set off for Paxos. The previous evening we had succeeded in getting Greek SIM cards for both my mobile and mobile broadband dongle however Vodafone Greece does not allow VOIP telephone calls over their network unless you pay by the highest level of monthly subscription! Even to get a data SIM at a sensible price I had to enter into a three month contract. Nothing in Greece is simple.
Corfu from seaward
Motoring south along the coast of Corfu we decided that we were making such good progress that we would head direct to Paxos and, as we would arrive at dusk, we chose the well sheltered bay Mongonisi for our overnight anchorage. On arrival we discovered that eighteen Sunsail charter yachts had made the same choice! Fortunately we heard little of them!
Paxos waterfront
Next morning we set off early to do battle with the Greek authorities and to get myself and Kurukulla officially into Greece. I had been recommended to do this in Paxos as all of the functions are performed by the same small waterfront office. We entered the delightful village of Paxos via the north entrance (it is sheltered between a small island and the island of Paxos itself) and found a berth in which to med-moor, very near the Port Police office. Full of confidence and with my Greek speaking friend in attendance I set off to do battle! The battle lasted 30 seconds; they were unable to log me in to Greece as they did not have the new version of the necessary form! I would have to go to Levkas.

Thus it was that after a brief tour of the waterfront and a coffee in a bar we set off for Levkas. Leaving via the southern entrance (slightly heart in mouth as it is charted at 2m but seemed to be being used by yachts of the same size as Kurukulla and was in fact 2.4m min.) we set course for the entrance of the Levkas canal. Normally difficult to see from seaward we were assisted in identifying it by the sight of the British registered yacht “Gatto Pardo” being hauled off the sandbank on the far side of the entrance by a local powerboat. With 30 minutes to wait for the floating swing-bridge to open we stemmed the wind and current and finally entered the canal at 1800. From here it was a short leg to Levkas town and a berth, med-moored, on the town quay.
Levkas canal
An hour later we set off to explore the town and find a local restaurant. The town was almost completely destroyed in the 1953 earthquake; it has been rebuilt but in a rather temporary fashion, the buildings are mostly of wooden frame construction with metal cladding of one sort or other. Only the churches seem to have been rebuilt as original! After enduring a torrential downpour, lasting 30 minutes, we finally arrived at a restaurant called “Seven Islands” where we were greeted warmly and given a conducted tour of the kitchen so that we might choose our food based on first hand experience. Armed with a half litre of their best house red we sat down to platefuls of good traditional Greek food; just what was needed!
Next morning we set off again to do battle with the authorities and get me legally into Greece. We had been warned by other yachtsmen not to admit to having been in any other Greek port previously and so Levkas was Kuruklla's first “official” port of call. The process took nearly two hours and involved a mile long walk in the middle to pay the entry tax that has to be paid at the local tax office which, of course, is not co-located. Taxes paid, cruising permit issued, we were in. All we have to do now is get it stamped at every port we enter! The Greek philosophy seems to be that “if you make the simple things difficult then you will never have time to deal with difficult things and your life is therefore made simpler!” When departing I was told by a sympathetic Port Police woman that one stamp a month is the bare minimum!
Sunsail flotilla
That achieved it was off to complete the canal transit and head south to Meganisi. We anchored in one of the northern bays for an afternoon swim and then moved to a more sheltered spot, in an adjacent bay, for the night. Who should be there, Sunsail, having their beach BBQ night! Fortunately we were far enough away not hear much of the singing!
Evening drinks at Sivota
After breakfast and a swim we transited the Meganisi Channel and headed for the anchorage at Sivota, on Levkas, for another leisurely afternoon swim and dinner in a taverna. Sivota is a change over port for Sailing Holidays and so it was again crowded with charter yachts, all berthed in neat rows around the harbour, but none the less pleasant for that. Dinner was fresh seafood in the Spiridoula taverna and very good it was too.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and windless and so we motored round to the anchorage at Ammousa on the south coast of Levkas. Not a great anchorage but a pretty enough small beach which shelved steeply into the sea, resulting in care needing to be taken not to anchor too close whilst having enough scope out for the anchor to hold. A delicate balance with no consistent wind to hold the boat in a given direction. After lunch and a spell on the beach we set off for Atokos on a brisk beam reach and doing 6.5 knots. Two hours later and we were anchored in Cliff Bay, not an ideal anchorage but pleasant for an early evening swim.
One house bay
On completion we moved round to One House Bay for the night. An almost deserted bay as the name suggests. We anchored near the beach in 6m of water and set about cooking supper!
Monday dawned cloudy with a slight easterly wind, hence we made an early departure from One House, reached across to Ithaca and anchored for a lazy day in Ornos Skhoinos, a beautiful anchorage near Vathi. Tonight we head to Vathi itself for a night in town.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Under-way at last

After getting in the water a day late it was full steam ahead to get under-way. After a brief engine trial around the harbour to confirm the accuracy of the new propeller pitch setting (to match the new engine installed last year) and to warm up the oil for the first oil change since installation, it was a stern-board on the end of the Balsamo jetty to do the oil change and attend to the final details like putting on sails (No 1 genoa and main) and storing ship.
All this completed, Derek Lambert embarked (he is the owner of Tranquillo, see first entry this year) and we set off the next morning at 1000 in a brisk NE wind to beam reach down to Otranto. Derek, having decided to leave his boat ashore this year, was keen to do a bit of sailing in the interim. Otranto was reached in good time; seven hours to do 45 miles, not bad for a first sail of the season. Keen to be away early the next day and without a great deal of choice, we picked up one of the large mooring buoys in the middle of the harbour and settled down to prepare a chicken supper and get a good night sleep.
0800 next morning found us under-way, on another good reach but this time in somewhat less wind and what there was was failing. By 1400 we were doing less than 3kts in a flat sea and decided to motor for a while, suffice to say other than a few brief periods we motored until our arrival in Errikoussa at 1915 (Greek time, 1815 Italian). This was followed by the first swim of the season (warmer than Brighton on the Royal Wedding weekend but not much!) and a smoked salmon pasta supper.
Saturday dawned bright, sunny and with a gentle breeze. Under-way at 1030 we set off for the Corfu channel and Gouvia marina arriving at 1600. the early sailing breeze did not last long but we had a spectacular sail through the Corfu channel, 8kts, goose-winged, and enjoying the first views of the Corfu coastline. On arrival we met up with Yacht Camilla, David Ashby and his crew, plus two other members of the RNSA, and enjoyed a few beers to celebrate our arrival. The plan is that David and I will cruise in company for part of this season, as we did for part of last year.
The two days in Gouvia have passed quickly, spent sorting out minor items and doing a bit of tourism, aided by the next crew member to join, Stephanos (Steve), who lives here in Corfu. Last night he took Derek and I for supper in the oldest village in Corfu, Old Perithia, up in the mountainous north; sadly the whole village was closed on out of season Mondays but we still managed to find a good local taverna to eat in.
This morning (Tuesday) Derek made a slightly earlier than planned departure having discovered that his flight from Corfu to UK on Wednesday had been cancelled due to an air traffic controllers strike. He was fortunate to get to know about it before his actual departure and even more fortunate to get a flight on the day before! Tomorrow Stephanos joins and we set off down to the southern tip of Corfu and then on to Paxos and Levkas.
More from there …...................

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The start of another season - 2011

Sitting here, listening to the pouring rain and waiting to get to grips with the final elements of the recommissioning of Kurukulla for this year, is very frustrating! Even more so when the news from UK is of high temperatures and sunshine!
The frustration is not helped by the marked lack of organisation in the boatyard; today was to be the day when Kurukulla went in the water first thing; at present it is gone mid-day, I am still in the cradle on the hard and there is not much sign of progress! At times one has to restrain ones-self and remember this is Italy! The arrangements were only made six months ago and confirmed three times since ........... the compensation is that their winter storage prices are good.
Having taken the opportunity to drive down to Brindisi in March and do the winter refit, re anti-foul etc., there is not a lot to do before getting under way. What there is though is mostly re-rigging and therefore out in the weather. Ugh!
The plan now is to put Kurukulla in the water tomorrow morning, store and victual her over the day and to leave Brindisi on Friday next. We then head down to Otranto for the night and follow that by a crossing to Corfu over the weekend. I am joined on this trip by Derek Lambert, the owner of Tranquillo, another British registered boat here in Brindisi. Derek has decided not to put his boat in the water this season and is therefore keen to do some sailing in Kurukulla. We met in the yard last year and the adjacent photo (Self, Awilda (Derek's girlfriend, sailing with him at the time) and Derek) was taken in a local Trattoria, Luigi's, where we still dine frequently; a copy of this photo now adorns the wall of the trattoria which, as a place to eat, is simple but good.
The forecast is good, northerly winds and sunshine, it just needs to arrive and displace the weather system we have at the moment. The next post will be once we are under-way, that is unless something goes horribly awry!