July 11, 2014

This is not the name of a new island or village that we have recently visited, but what we’ve been doing for the past three weeks: Bimbling About The Ionian!

Since waving farewell to Linda and Stephen aboard “Tantrum”, we have yoyo’d between Nidri/Vliho on Levkas, ‘Big’ Vathi on Ithaca and Meganisi plus a visit to Kastos, sometimes on our own but also meeting up with various friends and making a few new ones. None of the above places are new to us although we have learned new and useful facts about most of them: for example there are no ATMs on Meganisi so when you run out of cash you have to leave!

Rampage on the Neilson Charter Boat pontoon at Nidri, Levkas

Rampage on the Neilson Charter Boat pontoon at Nidri, Levkas

Our visits to Vliho and Nidri are always for business rather than pleasure. Nidri has several chandleries, cashpoints, decent shops, a laundry etc etc. Indeed there is not much we cannot get there. Vliho, just down the coast is famous for the Vliho Yacht Club. Now this is not a yacht club like any other you may know; indeed the grandiose title should not fool you. It is actually a taverna that offers Brit delicacies such as fish ‘n chips plus showers, washing machines, and an impressively large bookswap. For us though, and for many others, the big attraction is that they are willing to receive and hold post for us water gypsies. This is invaluable to us through the summer when we have no other postal address and thus it was that we loaded the minimal dinghy one evening with an enormous brown parcel containing three new solar panels. These were to replace those we previously had on the deck which D had scavenged from a dumpster 18 months ago in Messolonghi and which had given up the ghost.

The downside of both Nidri and Vliho Bay however is that the water is filthy. Why? Well, to be brutal because of a large number of shore-based and boat sewage discharges. Vliho Bay sits at the head of a long, large inlet so there is no real circulation of water and there are a number of boats that are lived aboard all year round and which never move. Usually the water is crystal clear in this part of the world so the murky depths here are the exception rather than the rule but after J had a very traumatic experience one day while swimming in Tranquil Bay (the anchorage opposite Nidri,) neither of us will consider swimming and the salt water tap is also out of commission while we’re there! You have to understand that these are considerable drawbacks because in the heat of summer, being able to throw one’s body into the water on a regular basis is one of the factors that makes life here pleasant. In addition use of the salt water tap enables us to spin out our 270 litres of fresh water to last somewhere between 10 days and two weeks!

Looking north up the coast of Nidri this morning, (it's rather overcast here this morning.)

Looking north up the coast of Nidri this morning, (it’s rather overcast here this morning.)

As I write this however, we have broken with tradition, and today we are tied up on one of the charter boat pontoons at Nidri. This is a first for us, having always free anchored here before but for just €10 a night we have 240 volt shore-power to boost the battery bank, fresh water for refilling the tanks and washing the boat and joy of joys, access to the hotel pools along the shore. I have discovered that most of the hotels are happy to let visiting yachties use their pool for the price of a drink or two at their pool bar. But enough of the somewhat uninspiring delights of the resort that is Nidri.

Walking to Little Vathi from the anchorage at Abelike

Walking to Little Vathi from the anchorage at Abelike

Meganisi is the next island east and we can be at Spartachori, Little Vathi or Abelike Bay within about an hour of leaving Nidri. All these are delightful bays along the north coast of Meganisi which has a beautiful, crinkle-cut coastline full of pretty bays, small villages and isolated little tavernas, catering largely to the water-borne visitors. We told you about Abelike in our previous post; we went there with Linda and Steven. On our next visit, I got chatting to the English ex-pat lady in the motorboat next to us and learned that just round the headland and well tucked out of sight are two small tavernas. The first is pretty basic but the shady, flower-filled garden is a lovely place to sit and have a beer and watch the sun go down. The second is more upmarket and quite an acceptable place to have a meal. Both offer washing machines, book swaps, access to a water tap for filling water carriers plus there are large rubbish disposal bins which saves hiking up over the hill to Little Vathi carrying all the rubbish. Nonetheless, we do make the effort to do the walk most days because Little Vathi is the nearest village and source of fresh food. It does not however, have either an ATM (see above) or a butcher. This latter was resolved, however, by the resourceful lady running one of the general stores who phones meat requirements through to the butcher in the next village. She then sends you off to have a coffee whilst the butcher delivers the meat about 15 minutes later.

Abelike Bay, Meganisi

Abelike Bay, Meganisi

On one visit to Abelike we met up with our friends Robbie and Jax on “Springdawn” and D helped them take long lines ashore – a technique they’d not tackled before. As it happened, D was happy to break away from the task of replacing the solar panels. Removing the old adhesive from the stippled deck was a complete nightmare and the job took us a day and a half to finish. With Jax and Robbie we had a lovely barbecue on the beach and sat chatting until it got dark, before retiring for a night cap aboard “Springdawn”. On our next visit to Abelike we found the tavernas and we were able to take our friends Brian and Rose when they joined us after a couple of days.

Duncan, (in the dinghy) helps Brian and Rose aboard "Alixora" to take lines ashore in Abelike.

Duncan, (in the dinghy) helps Brian and Rose aboard “Alixora” to take lines ashore in Abelike.

The next day we were joined by other friends of theirs, Gill and John aboard there steel-hulled ketch, “Petronella”. Rose had persuaded Gill that it would be a fine thing to make one of the splendid curries for which she is justifiably famous and to include us in the invitation. This Gill duly did which was incredibly noble in view of the fact that she’d never even met us! We had a splendid evening and a wonderful meal aboard “Petronella” that night.

Evening picnic on the beach at Abelike with (from left to right,) Rose, Brian, Duncan, Gill and John

Evening picnic on the beach at Abelike with (from left to right,) Rose, Brian, Duncan, Gill and John

Two days later we all sailed down to Big Vathi; D and I we down to our last few euros, Gill and John were due to meet up with a Turkish friend, (of whom more later,) and the others fancied a change of scene. This was our second visit to Big Vathi this year. The first time, D and I were on our own and I had a happy time (not!) giving our cabin a thorough clean including the head lining, under the bed slats etc. This burst of energy was prompted because Duncan had needed to replace the pipe to the forward water tank which involved removing our bed mattresses and all the storage beneath our bed in order to gain access to the water tank. Having emptied the cabin it seemed a good opportunity to spring clean.

"Rampage" in Big Vathi

“Rampage” in Big Vathi

On that visit too, we also attempted to look for a cache which is located on the north coast of the bay about two kilometres out of the town. Foolishly we left it a bit late to set off so that by the time we arrived at the location it was too dark, even with the aid of a torch, to search for the cache. Vowing to look again next time we returned we abandoned the hunt but had a very pleasant walk along the coast road in the cool of the evening.

The highlight of our second visit to Big Vathi was meeting Dilek, a redoubtable Turkish lady who plans to be the first Turkish woman to do a single-handed transatlantic crossing. She had sailed from Turkey to Ithaca in three weeks in the company of her very justifiably self-confident son, Deniz, and the two of them joined the rest of us for a meal out that evening. Dilek and Deniz regaled us with wonderful tales of sailing and life in Turkey. We had lots to chat about as Dilek comes from and has spent most of her life in Izmir, where we lived for three years in the early 1990s. We have met very few single-handed yachtswomen and as a Turkish woman Dilek is even more unusual and remarkable. We wish her fair winds and safe travels on her trip for which she has taken a sabbatical of about a year and persuaded her company to provide some sponsorship. If you wish to read more about Dilek and her transatlantic trip please go to www.rotaatlantik.com In addition, Dilek sponsors four young girls from very poor Turkish families through their education up to age 18. This will be very hard for her to maintain while she is on her sabbatical. Her company have undertaken to support one of the girls but she is hoping to raise 200,000 euros in further sponsorship to support the other three. If you would like to contribute to this extremely valuable cause, you can make a donation directly to the foundation at www.darussafa.org

Dinner with Dilek and Deniz, (apologies for the view of my back, this is still the best photo we have of that evening!)

Dinner with Dilek and Deniz, (apologies for the view of my back, this is still the best photo we have of that evening!)

We never did go back to look for that cache in daylight.

The other place we have visited in the last 3 weeks is Kastos. This is one of our favourite islands and we spent several days there. Jax and Robbie had mentioned in their blog that Chef John’s restaurant, high on the hill above the tiny harbour, now proudly boasts 3 large washing machines and 3 dryers. This is utterly amazing, and far more than is warranted by the visiting yachts but we were happy to make the walk up the hill with our wash load, particularly since by using the laundry facilities we were presented with a 15% discount voucher towards a meal at Chef John’s restaurant. This we look forward to using when we are joined by UK visitors in just over a week from now, since the views from Chef John’s are second to none.

In honour of the Kastos Ramblers Club

In honour of the Kastos Ramblers Club

One morning while we were on Kastos, we rose early and went for a longish walk all round the northern end of the island, partly in tribute to the Kastos Ramblers Club which we formed with our dear friends Andy and Susan Mills. We made the tactical error of going the wrong way round; ie we started by heading north up the western coast looking across the straits to Port Leone and Kalamos. By the time we started back down the eastern coast, it was 08:15 and starting to get warm. There is little shade on the eastern side and by 09:30 as we got back to Kastos harbour the sun was blazing down on us and we could hardly wait to get into the sea to cool off.

We made more new friends while on Kastos; as we took the shore lines for a yacht coming in to berth next to us we recognised the yacht name: “Scath” and realised they were friends of Andy and Susan so we duly invited them to join us that evening for a drink aboard “Rampage”. We extended the invitation to other Brits, Ruth and Clive aboard “Mr Whiskers” and a “pre-dinner” drink lasted until well after dark. Another great evening.

"Scath" tied up next door to "Rampage" in Kastos harbour

“Scath” tied up next door to “Rampage” in Kastos harbour

So that’s about it. We plan to return to Abelike tomorrow, ‘cos it’s just so nice there, frankly and hope to rejoin Jax and Robbie at some point. Peter and Pam Lynch arrive from UK at the end of next week so our next post will probably be after their visit.


One comment

  1. Great post – love reading what you write. Gives me a real feel for where you are … Makes me a little envious though! 🙂
    Our meet and greet is organised for September 10th in Katelios, Kefalonia. Be lovely to see you if you ARE about. Look forward to more blog entries. Take care.
    Jan (& John) xx

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