We definitely chose the right day to move on again, Sunday being daytripper bedlam. As usual we waited for the wind, and set off North again with full mainsail and genoa in a pleasant WSW F2-3, making water as we sailed. With a brief top-up from the iron topsail as the wind became light and variable, a common precursor to it changing direction, we were able to maintain sail into a NNW F4, before losing the wind properly as we came into the lee of Corfu. To maintain standards, we played with the genoa briefly, before conceding defeat but keeping the main up to give us a slight lift until we were ready to drop all sail for the final approach into the anchorage. We tucked in under the old fortress at the outer extremity of Corfu town, dwarfed by enormous superyachts and gin palaces.
We spent a happy week on the edge of civilisation, comfortable apart from violent rolling from frequent ferry wash, and outdoor music playing loud until late. We made several trips into town to explore and shop, enjoying the attractive Venetian architecture, excellent shopping – including M&S and Body Shop! – and a Jewish synagogue where the simplicity of decor was a soothing contrast to the heavy gilding and plethora of icons in Greek Orthodox churches. We even found Oriental street food at a noodle bar, and less British influence than we’d been led to expect by the pilot book.
On Friday it was time to head South again, as we needed to be in Levkas town for our first Covid vaccinations on 24 June. We made good speed all the way back to Karani on Antipaxos, our longest passage this season at 33 Miles! Saturday found us back in the anchorage just North of the marina in Preveza – the bungee (of good shopping and good friends) just too strong to resist.
We waited for the wind to fill in on Sunday 6 June, before heading down-channel and finally out into the Mediterranean, a full seven months since we’d left it. We hoisted the mainsail for the first time this season, Skipper relieved to find he’d rigged all the lines correctly, and turned North to follow the mainland shore towards Parga. In a perfect Westerly F3-4, we set the staysail and enjoyed a close reach, until the wind veered to 300˚ and dropped to a bare F2. We fired up Trevver to get us into our chosen anchorage before dark, and settled peacefully in pretty Two Rock Bay after a great sail and another turtle sighting.
Monday was less comfortable as a windless swell rolled in and rolled us around, so on Tuesday we set off again for our next destination, Mourtos, opposite the Southern tip of Corfu. Once again the wind was a feisty SW F4, and the genoa with the mainsail soon established an uncomfortable angle of heel, so we changed down to the staysail. After correcting the accidental backing of the main during the change, we gradually climbed back to a very satisfying five knots’ speed, completed a couple of tidy tacks amidst frustrating wind shifts, and finally decided to head for Antipaxos instead. The first cruise ship we’ve seen in a long time passed a long way behind us as we settled to anchor in clear turquoise water in Karani Bay, looking over to the mainland.
Wednesday started well, with a sighting of a whole pod of dolphins feeding early in the morning. The day deteriorated, however, and became not among our better ones…but on reflection could have been a whole lot worse. Other yachts sharing our anchorage all had lines ashore, so we decided to do the same and give a departing boat room to retrieve their anchor. However, we did not make enough allowance for how far off we’d anchored – our usual 50 metres scope for swing room – and soon found we didn’t have enough line in the dinghy, by about five metres. We brought the tender back to the yacht, dug out some extra ropes, and finally got ourselves secured to rocks on the shoreline…or so we thought.
We’d intended to go ashore for a walk, but it was now late enough to decide to have lunch first, and it’s just as well we did, as we looked up to find we were about a boat length from said rocky shore. This is when we remembered how long it takes to retrieve a shore line to make an escape: never a speedy possibility. We got there in the end, and then spent nearly an hour trying to re-anchor in a spot of sand without rocks or Posidonia sea-grass, the right distance from the edges of the bay. We ended up exactly where we’d begun the day before.
On Thursday we paddled together onto the pebble beach, pulled l’arrêt well up above the water line in case of waves from swell or wash from trip boats now beginning to appear again, and set off up the steep rocky path to explore the island, all 2×1.5 miles of it. The sun shone, wildflowers were abundant, birdsong was clear and the fragrances were warm pine and grasses, sweet wild honeysuckle and jasmine. Buildings were few and far between, set among olive groves and vineyards, and at the end of a sloping track was the most beautiful turquoise bay, and a beach taverna open for lunch. Eventually we set off back up the hill, enjoying the views across the sparkling sea to Paxos and the Greek mainland.
Friday was a day of two halves, the morning spent motoring an hour North to anchor just South of the harbour of Gaios on Paxos: a sheltered delight, and blissfully quiet when we realised we’d timed it right and were leaving just as a trip boat was disgorging its day’s load of tourists. We made a brief tour of the shops before motoring another couple of miles up the East coast to a peaceful, pretty anchorage. We stayed through Saturday to enjoy a refreshing swim to the beach, Mate’s first of the season, to cool down after some strenuous needlework.
We landed the dinghy on the edge of a convenient tiny harbour for local small fishing craft, and strolled along the beach walk into Vonitsa town. Our first stop was the town quay, to check out the options for coming in to top up our water tanks, as the water in the Gulf did not look clean enough for us to make our own onboard. There we found our old friends ‘Why Not!’ from the boatyard, and were invited aboard for coffee and a catch up. Their cute puppy is now a mostly grown good-sized dog, but still well-behaved and friendly.
By the time we left it was lunchtime, so we tried out Molos, the taverna on the quay they’d recommended, and enjoyed a very good lunch, in spite of Mate managing to throw a full glass of water all over the table – even before starting on the wine. We then made our way to the top of the high street to the supermarket, and took it all back to the boat for a quiet evening.
On Wednesday we went ashore again, this time in walking boots, to hike up the hillside to the chapel built into the rock face. It was painted white and clearly visible from the (first) approach path, but the track was closed off by a very makeshift, but no less clear, fence barring our way. We tried another route with equally little success, and a short skid back down the scree by one member of the team, before slogging up the edge of the main road to the last option, a sort of forestry track passable by an all-terrain vehicle. Here we disturbed a black snake on a patch of dry bare soil, and were later advised that this species is the only poisonous one in Greece.
The sign from the road did not suggest the chapel was inaccessible, but far enough along not to be visible from the road, it became apparent that we were not welcome, and we gave up and returned to the boat.
On Thursday we pottered around the islet and completed our second successful Med-mooring, stern to the quay with the anchor out front, to fill up with water and buy fresh bread. On this occasion we tucked between other yachts, but all went smoothly. Mate took the opportunity to use the water we were taking on to clean the heads (bathroom) and galley (kitchen), and Skipper ensured the decks were dusted off and the windows offered a view once again.
On our way back out into the Gulf, we struggled to raise the anchor and discovered we’d managed to hook an old, discarded concrete block securing a redundant ‘lazy line’. These make Med mooring easier as they substitute for the anchor, and are picked up with a boat hook as the yacht is slid into the space. We dragged the block several metres away from the quay in our attempts to release our anchor, but eventually we were free with no damage done to our boat or the town quay.
Once out on the water, we found the wind had blown up to its usual afternoon strength, which would give us a reasonable sail to the ‘top right’ ie NE corner of the Gulf, but a hard beat back to our planned anchorage in the lee of a lagoon midway along the North shore. As the direct line was only six miles, we decided to give the engine a good run, which would give us plenty of hot water to enjoy showers later. The new Brunton’s Autoprop, a feathering model where the blades fold in when not in use, improving our streamlining and hydro-dynamics, was put through its paces in a choppy sea, and we were glad to settle at anchor in shallow water out of the line of fetch from the wind.
On Friday morning, Mate was again delegated the job of anchor retrieval, after Skipper had decided the sea bed was sandy and we’d lay out all the chain that had acquired unpleasant growth and muck on Preveza town quay – 40 metres was about twice the length we actually needed. Unfortunately, the chain came up thick with slimy green pondweed and other grime, that took ages to pick and poke off, along with copious quantities of mud. She was rewarded with several sightings of turtles on the way back to Preveza, where we ended up two slots South of our previous berth. We made the docking difficult for ourselves by leaving the dinghy tied up alongside, which affected our approach line, but we got there in the end.
We made the most of one night back in civilisation with a quick dash around all the services and shops we’d enjoyed on our extended stay here, and dinner with the lovely Tina at Taverna Mythos on the town quay.
On the Saturday we escaped the clutches of the town (without having been charged for our stay), and once again enjoyed a much quieter night in the nearby anchorage.