Leaving Greece

May 4, 2012

In common with many folks, we’ve been fairly busy of late and this blog was started some time ago and never got finished.  Anyhow, it was started and I don’t see any reason not to continue it, provided you know its likely to be a bit disjointed, perhaps…


Big Vathi, Ithaca


We are moored in what is known in this part of the world as ‘Big Vathi’ the main town on the island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.  In common with everywhere except Nidri the place is empty, with only the locals and us in the place!  It is wonderful to be able to moor here with no competition for space and watch the place starting to come back to life after the winter shut down.  Folks are busy slapping paint on the frames of sun awnings, digging out tables and chairs and generally getting their act together before the paying public starts to arrive in their hordes.  I suppose that in some ways it must be closer to the way it was before the flotilla companies got into the act.


The last blog ended with us in Spartahouri on the island of Meganissi.  The time we spent there was very pleasant although the weather was a bit wet and windy.  Joan and J took a few walks about the place and we ate on one another’s boats.  Once the winds had died down, we returned to Nidri and then on to Vliho Bay, where we found Messilonghi Reunion, with no less than 3 boats we knew from the winter all anchored off.


Having been watching the weather forecasts carefully, we knew that there was a blow due to come through on the Tuesday/Wednesday, so we were all prepared with provisions laid in and sat out the ensuing winds keeping a close eye on how the anchors were holding.  In the event, only Wishbone dragged her anchor and had to move down the bay to reset it.


Lesley and Bob entertaining aboard “Moon Rebel”


Once the blow had gone, we all met up ashore at Vliho Yacht Club for a meal with an English flavour to it – staples like fish and chips, sausage and chips and curry (and chips if you really must).  Just occasionally you need a fix of the naughty things from home and this was just the right time; good company and the memories of a nasty gale to eradicate.  It also happened to be quiz night and we formed a couple of teams but didn’t win.  I fear the locals were just a bit too serious and we really needed someone who reads OK or Hello to complete the picture round!


On Saturday, together with Lee and Joan, we decided to move on to Big Vathi (Little Vathi is on Meganissi), so we weighed anchor (with a lot of effort breaking ours out, as it had been well dug in by all the wind), stopped briefly in Nidri to shop and then had a really great day sailing on a westerly wind down here to Vathi.  We haven’t been here before – for some reason we always stayed at Frikes when we came to Ithaca.  It is an amazing place, hidden away from all but the fiercest winds.  Andy and Susan had suggested that we use the northern quay as the town quay is often rolly, so we moored stern to and have had a lovely time here, looking across the harbour to the town about ¾ of a mile away.


Not long after getting together, Joan and Lee came round for a drink or three and we discovered liquid in the bilges.  Further investigations showed this to be BEER.  We had bought quite a lot of cheap beer from Lidl before leaving Messolonghi.  We stored this in the bilges, as being a safe place and nice and cool.  Unfortunately, at some point we must have got a little sea water into the bilge and it had corroded the bases of the beer cans such that some of them sprung leaks, releasing beer into the soup in the bilge and further hastening the end of some of the cans.  In the end, we lost about 1/3 of the stock and wound up keeping the remainder in a bucket in the aft cabin, which soon smelled like a pub on a wet afternoon as yet more cans sprung leaks.  A very, very upsetting occurrence.


A very empty Sivota


After a couple of night in Vathi, Wishbone set off for their summer cruise down round the Peloponnese, while we returned yet again to Vliho and the Yacht Club to see if our post had arrived.  It hadn’t, so we did some shopping and left for a couple of days round the headland in Sivota.  We had stayed in Sivota last summer and really liked it.  This early in the season, it was even better, if anything, and as with Big Vathi, there was no competition for a space on the quay.  We had decided that if the post hadn’t arrived by the time we returned to Vliho, we would leave anyhow, as time was now beginning to get short for the long trip to Mallorca.  When we returned two days later, the others had left but Jean Luc aboard “Tranquilla” was anchored in the bay.  We waved a salute but didn’t manage in the end, to go over and greet him.  When we went up to the yacht club we found that my medicine had arrived but not the new Kindle battery.  We celebrated this with a slap up meal including puds in the Yacht Club and staggered back to Rampage feeling very full.


Still undecided about departure dates, we got up on the Saturday morning, looked at routes and timings and decided on the spot to leave then and there for Paxos.  This entailed one of the fastest departures from an anchorage yet seen – about 12 minutes – and we made the opening of the ferry bridge on the Lefkas Canal with minutes to spare.  The trip from there to Gaios on Paxos was great, as we picked up a good wind which let us sail nearly all the way from the canal to Gaios.


A ferry boat standing-in for the usual floating bridge at the northern end of the Levkas canal.


After a quiet night in Gaios, where we met up with a French boat from Messolonghi,  an early morning departure saw us arriving in the anchorage off Gouvia on Corfu by mid afternoon.  With delight, we found that “Moon Rebel” and “Jane G” were also at anchor there and needless to say, found time to share a beer or two with them on board “Rampage.”  Clive from “Jane G” was the centre of attention, as he had managed to chop off the top of his right index finger, not in some horrendous life threatening situation involving rope and sails or anchor chains (the usual way such things happen) but from getting his finger caught in the hinges of the cockpit table……


Clive and Jane from “Jane G” with Duncan aboard “Moon Rebel”


That evening, we had supper at Zorba’s with Bern and Alan off “Sanuk.”  Bern has had to have a pacemaker fitted and the start to their season has been delayed by this.  She’s now well on the mend and out in Corfu waiting to welcome the first of their visitors.  We had intended to stay only one night in Corfu, but the need to do laundry and catch up with all our Gouvia friends led us to staying a second night.  This turned out to be essential, , as we had forgotten that 1 May is a public holiday in Greece and the place was shut down so we wound up eating in Zorba’s for a second time.


On the Wednesday (2 May), we did an enormous shop at AB and then set off for Italy having said goodbye to our friends.  Our intention was to cross to Crotone, which is on the western side of the ‘instep’ on the boot of Italy, about 150 miles from Gouvia, thus reversing the trip we made on our way out to Greece.  We intended to do it in a single overnight hop lasting about 30 hours in total.  In the event, we left Gouvia in a flat calm, picked up a nice northerly round the top of Corfu, along with a fairly steep chop.  When the wind died down as the sun disappeared, the motion from the chop became very uncomfortable, so we looked at the pilot book and chart and decided to head into Plakes on the island of Mathraki.  We got in there as the last of the light faded away and made fast to the quay side, grabbed a hot drink and collapsed into bed.


The following morning, we carefully re-examined the grib files and forecasts and decided that we would leave that morning to continue the trip.  The chop was still running outside the little harbour and we were a little apprehensive about what the crossing would be like, but motored away into the sea with no real wind.  Then suddenly, the wind started to build, we made sail and the motion of the boat with the sails working settled down into a comfortable pattern.  As the wind continued to build, we shortened sail until we were making about 6 knots on the second reef to the foresail alone.  This led to another problem, in that we were now going too fast and therefore likely to encounter the Corunna syndrome – arriving in the dark!


The winds, having given us a great trip across the north Ionian then did as predicted and started to die down as we came away from the entrance to the Adriatic.  J, on watch at the time, increased sail until we had everything up again but by the time the light was starting to go so had the wind and we dropped all the sails and started to motor.  We couldn’t do our normal speed, as that would have got us to Crotone by about 4am – still dark – coming into a port with a number of gas platforms and installations in the area.  So we motored along at just on 5 knots rather than our more usual 5.7 – 6 knots and arrived off the port just as dawn was breaking.  This made finding our way into the port easier and also eased picking up the slime line.


Within minutes of being safely moored up, we had everything shut down and went to bed, rising at midday to sort ourselves out!  And there you have it, our lives for the past couple of weeks!


Our plans now take us from here through the Straits of Messina to the Aeolian Islands and then on to southern Sardinia before we make our crossing to Menorca and Mallorca.  We aim to arrive in Mallorcan waters by 1 June, so as to be there when Naomi, Ken and family arrive. 


Just a word about communications; we do not have a mobile dongle for Italy, so we have to find internet access via wifi (in bars!) and internet cafes (not many about these days), so our access is going to be limited and intermittent.  We’ll do our best to keep this updated but it may not be up to the usual high standard….

“Rampage” tied up in Crotone harbour, (note Italian courtesy flag.)


A quick ps for all our cruising readers.  We’re using the wifi in the Lega Navale in Crotone, where the chef/barman/general factotum (a very nice Englishman), tells us that the Lega Navale has visitors mooring available from now on.  They have 4 or 5 during the winter and an additional 10 or so during the summer when they position an extra pontoon.  Cheaper than the harbour and better facilities…. including a laundry facility and hot showers.



  1. Good to know all is well,we arrived in Kiparissia today 4.th May.All going well so far .Fair winds Love Lee and Joan

  2. I’m crying for your loss of beer :((

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