Gladlee of Guernsey
2nd – 7th August 1993
Got fuel, water and food, set off shortly after midday in the lightest of SE breezes – a clear, sunny day with only a little haze. We’d decided to go back to Levkas to sort out the cooling system and (perhaps) the alternator/TWC problem, and for a change we steered round the south end of Ithaca and headed for Atoko Island, roughly half-way to Levkas Canal via the east side of Meganisi. The attractive bay on the south side of Atoko (“One House Bay”) was fairly full of yachts and motor cruisers, but they thinned out to half a dozen or so later. Unfortunately a pair of noisy Greek motor yachts produced a jet ski. And a large ketch wearing a Red Ensign (Italians on board) ran a generator until Nigel rowed over at sundown and persuaded them to turn it off. Having secured relative peace and quiet we had a good barbecue on a lovely clear evening, though later some swell started rolling into the anchorage (we picked up a gale warning for the Aegean, so evidently some weather to the south as well). It was still quite uncomfortable in the morning, with no significant wind to hold us head to the swell, so we left early and headed north, getting a bit of wind too late as we neared the Levkas Canal entrance. Arrived at Levkas town we found a crowded quay, and the only convenient space available was at the N end, near the tripper boats and the main road junction: poor holding, too, and it took three attempts to get the anchor set (though we were pleased with our manoeuvring in the process). It was very hot as the wind dropped again – more boats squeezed on to the quay, and we got our various alternator bits and pieces in to Contract Yacht Services, who undertook to try and get them assembled into something that worked. Meanwhile Julie had fitted new burners to the cooker, and next day we tackled the cooling system, fitting the new heat exchanger and pipe, and checked out the lift pump (whence we’d had a slight but irritating leak). Later we collected a heap of laundry and went for a beer in the town square, where a folk-dance group was putting on a show: a noisy night from traffic on the road, so we moved in the morning to the SE section of the quay, near our original berth, where there was still a distinct whiff of drains in spite of the removal of the dead dog (nor did it prove much quieter!) Hot again, despite a gusty breeze in the afternoon, as we got on with more boat jobs. Nigel serviced the windlass early next morning before calling on Contract Yacht Services to find that the alternator had come back from the workshop at Nidri with a regulator fitted instead of the TWC brush unit – CYS’ own mechanic, the amiable Lewis, switched the parts, but when we refitted the alternator and TWC we got no output. With the regulator we did, so the inevitable conclusion was that we had burnt up some part of the TWC’s electronics off the Moroccan coast.
Meanwhile Lewis spotted that our oil pressure warning switch was u/s and fitted a new one, so it proved to be quite an expensive afternoon…. Later a couple of Israelis turned up on our starboard side, and an older British couple to port: quite a brisk SE breeze in the evening. Shopping and settling of accounts next day, as we planned to leave on Sunday, and our new Israeli friends came over for a drink – the elder of the two had sailed all round the Mediterranean and gave us much helpful information (and pleasant company as well).
8th – 12th August 1993
Pulled out the neighbouring Brits anchor as we left (perhaps qualifying their preference for mooring bows to with warp to a kedge anchor off the back!) and motored down to Kalamos island in a light headwind: Port Leone a very attractive anchorage with a deserted village at the head of the bay and steep wooded slopes all around. A few yachts were moored near the village, but the shore opposite was deserted, so we anchored there, turning a blind eye to the unusual amount of litter on the beach. Julie stitched a tear in the mainsail and spotted a red-backed shrike. We got up early next morning, which was dull, very hot, and humid, to go ashore and clamber up the hill a bit for a view over the anchorage (and a sight of some rock partridges). Having decided to stay put for another night we weren’t too pleased to see our side of the bay filling up with yachts: one boat-load of Italians had already dragged a few hundred yards away, and two more Italian charter yachts proceeded to raft up to one anchor a mere 25m off our port beam. They went ashore (reasonably quietly) for a barbecue, and we put fenders out while lightening flickered behind the hills.
A heavy thunderstorm broke at 06.30, bringing the Italians on deck (in oilskins!) to check their anchor. As the storm passed we got quite strong gusts from the south, and the Italians sensibly moved off before they were blown too close to us. It was still very hazy as we set out in mid-morning, sailing briefly but motoring most of the 15 miles to Astakos, a small port at the head of a gulf on the mainland. We moored to the quay very well (though a little far out on the drop, so that we ended up almost running out of the few metres of warp on the end of our chain!): no sooner settled then we had to move off to make way for the weekly (!) visit of a Flying Dolphin hydrofoil. We went back a mile or so to a partly sheltered cove and anchored for a very late lunch, returning to Astakos quay (with a little less chain out) just after 15.30. Astakos had a decidedly more domestic feel about it than the popular international tourist destinations to the north: definitely more Broadstairs than Brighton (as it were), and rather attractive in a relatively down-at-heel way. We met a friendly Greek lawyer off a neighbouring boat and invited him round for a drink – he gave us coffee next morning, and a number of useful tips on the Aegean besides. After an easy shopping expedition (nothing more than a few hundred metres away) we set off down the gulf again, only to get into some confusion trying to identify the dozen or so islands visible to the west and south – in the end we got ourselves more or less orientated, as the wind picked up from WNW and we had an excellent beam reach (rare treat!) for an hour to the south end of Petala: tiresomely, though, the wind held up long enough to make our planned barbecue impossible, and the souvlaki and chicken we’d bought in Astakos had to be grilled instead.
Next day’s weather forecast suggested that we might get better wind than on the following day (Friday), so we decided to skip Oxia and head straight for Zakinthos. There turned out to be no wind at all for most of the 45 mile passage (though at least visibility was good) until the last three hours, when we got a tedious head-wind with attendant swell and chop. Meanwhile an alteration of course to look at a shark drew our attention to a funny noise from the engine: water was leaking from the fresh water cooling pump, which seemed to indicate a faulty seal and probably u/s bearings. No repair possible under way, so we pressed cautiously on to Zakinthos in increasingly unpleasant conditions. A reasonably good moor on the crowded quay.
13th – 18th August 1993
Good news and bad news in the morning, after we’d relaid our anchor (possibly foul over neighbouring motor cruiser): a helpful Customs officer tracked down a mechanic for us, who removed the water pump and returned a little while later to confirm our suspicion that the bearings had gone. The bad news was that new bearings would have to be ordered from Athens and could not get to Zakinthos until Monday evening at the earliest, this being Friday – nothing for it but to switch the fridge off, to conserve battery power, and sit out the weekend. “Shelley” (ex-Bizerte and Syracuse) was just down the quay, and we bought them a beer later on – he tall and lean, she quite short and rather loud, but we still neglected to find out their names!
Zakinthos town did not impress us much at first sight: even allowing for the destruction of the Venetian town in the 1953 earthquake the place seemed to have little to offer and a decidedly dilapidated air about it. There were some quite good-looking buildings and a pleasantly arcaded main street, but the shops were among the scruffiest and least well-stocked we’d come across. Prices were generally high, with the water-front turned over to fast food places catering for tourists. The yacht quay was totally disorganised, with crossed lines and fouled anchors the general rule, leaky water hoses, messy fuel deliveries, noisy motor-bikes and only a token and ineffectual effort by the harbour authorities to exercise some sort of control (at least the mooring was free!). We had much quiet amusement, not to mention mounting incredulity, watching the comings and goings as more and more boats turned up over the weekend. In the meantime we got our bikes out and spent Sunday morning (the Feast of the Assumption) cycling down to the beach resort of Laguna at the south end of the island – had a coffee there before the tourists woke up – and back north through vineyards and orchards before turning east and back to Zakinthos town. The centre of the island was certainly much more attractive – very fertile and dotted with farmhouses against a backdrop of low hills, quite unlike any other Greek island we saw. We passed two or three churches just off the road, with the local community gathered round to celebrate the feast-day and priest’s sonorous chant echoing across the fields: the roads featured an alarming quantity of squashed rats (the harbour was said to be infested with them, though we saw none alive!). Back in Zakinthos we had an excellent brunch at “Tyler’s”, an English-run establishment on the waterfront.
Monday saw us getting everything ready to go, taking on water and fuel (the surly fellow on the tanker refused to let us take more than 50 litres because we were pumping too slowly, his machinery being geared to deliver ‘000’s of litres to Italian motor yachts! We calculated that our modest sized neighbour must cost £100 an hour to run in fuel alone….) and finally getting round to freeing and lubricating our sticky stop control cable. We had another rather dreary shopping expedition and bumped into Brian Smith, an acquaintances of Julie’s from Nigerian days, who was with a party diving on a Venetian wreck. No sign of our bearings though (or indeed any word from the mechanic), nor was there the next day, notable only for more antics on the quay – a very large wooded sailing boat barged into a space too small for it, provoking some understandable histrionics from a neighbouring skipper and (eventually) the arrival of the port police to restore calm: and a loud-mouthed (drunken?) German returned to his berth late at night with genoa stuck half out, making a fearful hash of getting back in and then leaving the sail to flog for the rest of the night. Zakinthos did not grow on us…
A friendly Greek yachtsman – new neighbour – took pity on us the following morning and managed to contact our mechanic. Good news: the bearings had arrived and he would be round shortly. In the event he turned up just after midday, by which time Julie had done a final frustrating shop, and Nigel had had two slightly fraught phone conversations with James about arrangements for his forthcoming visit. With the engine back in commission we settled the inevitably horrendous bill and pushed off, having rid ourselves of the equally inevitable neighbour’s chain laid across ours! We motored down the east side of Zakinthos (securing a loose alternator nut, yet again, on the way) and across the south end to the pleasant anchorage of Ormos Keri, spotting a turtle off Laguna Beach (where they go ashore to lay eggs). Several yachts at anchor, including one sporting a CA burgee, so we made contact and later went over for several drinks with the Wittons on “Lucinda” – eventually sat down to our pot roasted chicken at 23.20!
19th – 24th August 1993
Apart from a horde of wasps, the beach at Ormos Keri looked a pleasant enough place to anchor off for a while, with only a handful of tavernas and a couple of small supermarkets, one of which seemed rather better stocked (bacon, cream, cheap wine etc.) than any in Zakinthos. The Wittons came over for coffee after Nigel got back from a shopping trip ashore, but we managed to get away by 11.30 to motor down (still next to no wind) to the Strophades Islands, a couple of more or less deserted lumps of rock covered by scrub – a few ruined buildings including a monastery (conspic) on the larger island, otherwise nothing much to write home about. There were a few yachts in the anchorage on the south side of the smaller island, but it was peaceful and pleasant enough until the arrival of two large Italian motor cruisers, one of which laid its anchor far too close to ours, prompting an angry word or two as we passed it on our way ashore in the dinghy. The islet was reported (by Heikell’s Pilot) to be overrun by rabbits, but we saw none – perhaps the enormous quantity of expended shot-gun cartridges lying about was not entirely coincidental… After dark there was an extraordinary noise, not unlike fighting cats, which Julie’s bird-song C.D.’s identified for us a s breeding shearwaters.
The morning brought more disturbances from the motor yachts (kids in dinghies with noisy outboards), and we were not sorry to move off in mid-morning and head SE towards the entrance to the Gulf of Navarinon – again only a light wind. Arrived off the entrance at 17.00 we decided to continue down the coast to Methoni, and we rounded its spectacular fortifications and Turkish tower in lovely evening light, dropping anchor among half a dozen other yachts in the harbour soon after 19.00. A friendly young single-hander Dutchman named Lucas rowed over from his trimaran for a beer and a chat, and we paid a return call next morning for coffee before walking into town (pleasant enough with no particularly memorable feature except for lots of hibiscus in flower along the pavements) for provisions – returned later to phone Spetsai and return some soggy biscuits! On Sunday we explored the shell of the huge fortress and the watchtower to seaward: a few more yachts turned up, including a single-hander on a British registered yacht who turned out to be a Greek expatriate from Southampton. Almost asleep on his feet when he arrived, he came to life after downing a mug of coffee and proved to have a fascinating fund of stories, experiences and useful advice. “Shelley” was also amongst the new arrivals, and we exchanged brief news the following morning as we rowed past them to get more food, a couple of cans of water from the tap on the beach, but no meat worth buying – sadly a regular feature of our Greek ports of call. We left lunchtime in a light SW breeze and actually managed half an hour’s genuine sailing (our first for 12 days!) on the way down to Cape Akritas. Once round the cape we got slightly more wind, and we made quite good progress goose-winged until just off the fortress at Koroni, where we gybed in to the lovely bay below the village and anchored a couple of hundred metres off the single taverna on the north side. Ashore later in search of a photograph in the evening light – we didn’t find a good vantage point above the taverna but had a nice wander along a country lane that might have been in Cornwall of Brittany, eventually stopping at the taverna for ouzos and meze and a marvellous view as the sun went down: definitely what cruising is all about, we decided.
In the morning we went ashore and walked up through the pretty village to the gate of the fortress, and inside to a peaceful hill-top occupied by tidy white-washed monastery buildings and a small cemetery, with a spectacular view out to sea and along the coast N and S. We shopped on the way down, then weighed anchor at 12.45 intending to find a lunch stop anchorage on the way N to Petalidhion. Unfortunately we managed to miss what might have been the best places just round the corner, but eventually fetched up in an open but pleasant enough bay 4 miles short of our destination just before 14.00. The wind picked up a little as we left a couple of hours later, and we sailed for 40 minutes or so until it died again, finally motoring in to the fairly nondescript anchorage off Petalidhion just o 17.00.
25th – 29th August 1993
We didn’t bother to go ashore at Petalidhion, but pottered about on board through a very hazy and humid morning before covering the ten miles or so to Kalamata under engine-assisted genoa. We took a look at the marina, but it appeared to have no facilities, was more or less full with local boats (and a few visitors), and had a noisy dump truck shifting rocks about on the breakwater – so we went on to the main harbour, where we squeezed neatly into an alongside berth between a Swiss liveaboard couple and a Spanish charter boat. For the first time since Levkas we had to fill in forms and pay harbour dues. After topping up with fuel in cans from a pump round the corner we walked into town – a long hike past featureless modern apartment blocks and the odd ruin (Kalamata was flattened in a recent earthquake) to the undistinguished town centre, in which most of the shops seemed to be shut. On the way back we discovered a couple of good supermarkets and a basic ouzeria which served us ice-cold beers and very decent souvlaki: we made the mistake of admiring a sort of döner which was being prepared for a party and were promptly offered a sample, which turned out to be kokoretsi (a pretty stomach-churning concoction of pig’s guts). Rang the Apostolides to confirm James’ imminent arrival, then a big shop at the supermarket across the road from the quay.
Much of the following morning was spent tracking down someone to turn on the water hydrant, and Nigel then had a long walk back into town to track down the main post office for poste restante letters from Jo and Uncle Bill (pleasant discovery en route of the old railway station, turned into a park-cum-museum, with splendid locomotives and old carriages parked amid flower beds). A rather hot figure with a rucksack on its back trudged into view just after 13.00. James having walked all the way from the bus station north of the town centre. There followed a tiresome delay while N. tried to get our papers back and negotiate (successfully) a reduction of the absurd “minimum” charge of Dx 2000 (roughly £6) for water - we also put in a good word for the pleasant young Spanish crew on the boat ahead of us, who had been quite unjustly accused of spilling diesel in the harbour. We were relieved to get going soon after 16.30, very little impressed with the place: we passed “Shelley” on the way in as we headed southwards for the attractive anchorage of Kitries Bay, five miles away. Still very hot and hazy the next morning, no wind, as we headed down to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s home village of Kardamila and anchored off the jetty – the main street has become a bit of a low-key tourist trap, but the village is still very pretty, with some fine doorways and courtyards and picturesque little lanes.
We had excellent home-made pizzas for lunch before getting back to the boat, deceived by a little afternoon breeze we got the main up, but the wind soon died and we motored on along the steep and barren shore until the huge bay of Ormos Limenion opened up and we could see the small hamlet of Porto Limeni ahead – anchored in the cove with a line ashore, noisy party later in the taverna above. James crashed quite early, while we went ashore to a quieter taverna where a friendly German girl served us beers – rang Bernard on his birthday. We stayed put the following day, venturing up to the east end of the bay in the (disappointed) hope of finding a shop, but at least giving the outboard a bit of a run. We had intended to go ashore for dinner, but “our” taverna was hosting a wedding reception and we settled for pasta on board and a beer ashore later. We got a rather off-hand reception from the German girl we’d met the previous evening, but she later apologised for being run off her feet, gave us three beers for the price of one and showed us where to fill up our water cans. The next morning saw us motor round into the next bay, Dyros, where we anchored off the beach opposite the entrance to a spectacular complex of underground caves – took the half-hour tour by flat-bottomed boat and had cheese pies on the terrace afterwards. We left again just before 13.00 and went on to Mezapo, a tiny cove of a harbour surrounded by cliffs, partly sheltered from the west by a large peninsular topped with the ruins of a fortress. We decided we couldn’t squeeze into the harbour, but instead anchored just round the corner with a line ashore, pitching a bit to the swell and rocked a few times by a couple of idiots showing off in launches. The tiny hamlet appeared to have no shop, we stopped at a taverna for a beer, were offered fish for supper and then (amid much embarrassment and hurt feelings) had to decline the raw material weighed for us - £20 a kilo was a perfectly fair price, but too much for our budget! For some unaccountable reason our anchor ball untied itself (twice) from our shore line – Nigel had a long row to retrieve it second time round.