DeDannan reaches Greece for the winter
We arrived from Sicilia at the little port of Fiskardho, on the island of Cephalonia (Nisos Cephalonia) in the early hours of Sunday 4th October, having spent thirty hours riding out an easterly gale, the weather remained bad for several days with high winds and torrential rain pouring down upon us, the port was full to capacity with boats sheltering from the severe conditions outside. Despite the bad weather there was a great buzz about the port with crew from all over the world sitting about the little cafe's and taverna's making the best of things, great drinking sessions, and good banter went on till the early hours each day, the local business people love the odd bout of bad weather.
Fiskardho is a little gem of a port, with lots of fine eateries and cafe's, a supermarket, chandlery, and clothes shops, it has a small local fishing fleet, and ferry dock that serves some of the neighbouring islands, great use of colour on the old, but very well kept buildings, would remind you of dingle or kinsale. There is no fuel station near bye, one depends on George, who comes in his pickup and delivers to the port at €1.35/ lt, which we found most reasonable, we paid €2.00/lt at the fuel dock in Sicilia. The local people are most friendly and helpful, they ,like the Sardinians, have not let the mighty euro become their god, they are relaxed about everything and never in a hurry to collect their money, the port police we find friendly everywhere, they don't get excited about anything, but they will quickly remind you to fly the Greek courtesy flag, I had ours upside down, and was gently put right by one of them.
We hung about here for a couple of weeks, enjoying the nice walks through the hills and pine forests, there is a very old Venetian light house which burnt solid fuel in its day to produce the light at the port entrance, it is almost derelict along with the keepers cottage, I thought it would make a fine tourist attraction if done up with the cottage also a coffee shop with tables and parasols along the shore line. The locals are not so enterprising as we Irish, they have so much on their doorstep and wonderful weather that they could capitalise on, but they don't seem that interested.
We took a hire car and stayed over in the main town of Agristoli, which has a large commercial port and a marina that is only partially finished with no services working, but like all the other ports here there is no charge to tie up. The roads on this island are rough to say the least, you see little moseleums on the roadside everywhere dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in traffic accidents, the motorcyclist's don't ever wear helmets, you often see a mother and two school going kids riding the auld Honda 50s that are everywhere over here. We met a nice Australian guy who had just come out of the local hospital after three weeks there when he nearly lost a whole leg after a motorbike accident, he had major reconstructive work done and was walking on a stick again, I asked him about the health care he received, excellent was his reply, the hospital looks ancient, I was concerned on my way to theatre, but it was like something out of space it was so modern, and the surgeons and staff where top drawer.
We left Fiskardho and headed south to the port of Sami on the east coast, this is the town where the film Captain Corelli's Mandoline was filmed, the film was based on a true story and the dreadful atrocity that took place here during WW11 when Hitler ordered the cold blooded execution of over 3000 Italian soldiers who were based here during the war along with priests and native Greeks for not following orders to give the local people rough treatment, which the Italians refused to do.
The Italians are held in high esteem by the local people here, the Germans on the other hand,are just tolerated,as long as they keep spending their money, they all seem to like us Irish.
We then took ourselves off to Nisos Ithaca and the port of Vathi, the weather was good with no wind so we motor sailed all the way, I had my first bit of luck fishing from DeDanann when I caught a fine dolphin fish (not a real dolphin) which we had for dinner that night, and very nice it was too, we came in off the sea in a flat calm to the entrance to Vathi which is through a kind of lough with steep hills on both sides, well the wind was blowing at 30kt from the NW, it does this in the afternoons and then dies off at sunset, we tied up for free on the town quay which is right in the dead centre of things here. Vathi is a nice port to visit, with plenty of taverna's, shops etc, I was in a local hardware store when the owner on hearing my accent enquired as to where I was from, Irish, I replied, he said you look more like a Greek, I assured him I was not Greek, he said all you Irish are descended from Greece, have you never heard of the DeDanann,I replied I had indeed, well he said, they came from the agean sea to settle in Ireland, and you are obviously descended from them, he couldn't believe it when I told him about our yacht around the corner in the port, he told me of docking in the port of finnes on the Shannon estuary during his years in the merchant marine, and of when he crushed his fingers late one night under a deck hatch, he was taken to a local doctor who stitched them up and then punctured his finger nails with a hot needle, they then drank irish whiskey together to numb the pain till the early hours before returning to the ship, pissed. I got a 50% discount on a nice opinel boat knife just because I was descended from the tuatha DeDanann, I thought the paddies were good with the blarney, but these Greeks can give us a run for the money and they can down the booze too.
We had intended to visit Nisos Zakynthos to the south when we left Sicilia, but the gale we encountered changed all that, Zakynthos is the island on the ancient maritime charts that the compass rose (wind Rose) is centred, the term rose comes from the compass points that resemble the petals of a rose, in the Mediterranean the winds all have names to indicate their orientation and direction, accordingly, Greece is to the NE (where the Grecale blows from), Syria is to the SE (Scirocco), Libya is to the SW (Libeccio) and Rome is to the NW (Mistrale), the Alps are to the N (Tramantona) and so forth.
The Mediterranean people have a greater understanding of the winds, they will refer to, say, the scirocco as a hot humid wind that blows from the desert, and associate this with bringing on chest problems etc, the Mistrale, which is the prevailing wind down here is considered a squally wind that blows strong in the afternoons, the Tramantona in this part of the med blows in gusts, causing dry good weather and excellent visibility, in the northern mediterranean around the gulf of Leon, it is greatly feared. The local people of the Mediterranean dress according to the wind that blows much more so than in our part of the world, the ordinary person is more familiar with what the various winds bring with them.
Having spent a few days here in Vathi we headed north again to Fiskardho, DeDanann had suffered some storm damage during our last stay in Fiskardho, we had the engine bay and deck hatches open during one of the better days to dry her out when all of a sudden the wind got up to gale force with torrential rain, DeDanann was being forced onto the quay wall, as I was coming ashore to tend her lines and move fenders etc I was thrown from the passerelle into the water, fully dressed, mobile, wallet , the lot, as I struggled to get out without being crushed, water poured into the open engine bay, when we dried it up and started the generator some days later it packed up, the water damage was extensive and was going to cost a lot of money to repair, it was also twelve years old, so it was decided to change it for a new one which runs at half the revolutions and half the noise, the passerelle was badly damaged also, along with some gelcoat damage to the stern, however, my pride remains intact, having crawled out of the port looking like a drowned rat.
The local engineer, Aleco, did a grand job of replacing the generator, a real family affair with brothers, sons and cousins all helping out, but they knew their stuff for sure. I also serviced the Perkins Diesel engine and gearbox myself, thankfully it survived the water.
We were the last boat to leave the port in November, the cafe's and taverna's, all the shops had by now closed down for the winter, only the small fishing boats remained, and Fiskardho became a ghost town, so we headed north to Nisos Lekkas and the nice port of Nydri were we tied up to the town quay at no cost, this is a very popular port in the summer with the charter operators, lots of taverna's, supermarkets, banks etc, and one of the best chandlery's I have ever seen, Nydri Marine, they have a massive range of stock including lots of second hand gear at reasonable prices, everything the sailor or fisherman could want is there. A lot of refit work on all sorts of boats from yachts to car ferries was starting now that the season was over, hundreds of charter yachts coming ashore for winter lay-up.
We made brief visits to Sivota bay and Vasiliki port near by, again like Fiskardo, everything was shut down with only a few liveaboards tied up, these are very popular ports in the summer months, most boats anchor off in 6/8 meters surrounded by high mountains around the ports.
After a nice quite few days here, we headed north up through the Lefkas Canal, to the port of Lefkas, careful navigation is required as the canal is long and narrow, it is dredged to 6 meters, but goes shallow very fast if you don't stay exactly to the middle, it twists and turns and is poorly marked with the odd bit of stick.
We tied up at the Lefkas Marina, @ €28 per night, great value with all facilities, more bad weather was forecast for a few days, so Lefkas was a good town to be holed up in.
Lefkas is the main town on this island, it's more of a working town than a tourist destination, good for shopping, and getting work done on boats, lots of live aboards stay here for the winter, both ashore in the yard and in the water, they have a good cumunuity going on here with both male and female choirs, book club, chess, and a good deal of boozing also, the local British pub sells Guinness, you'd want to see the way they serve up a pint, it's no wonder they think the Guinness is better in Ireland.
We rambled about the town and surrounding villages on our bikes, I have enjoyed the music shops with their wonderful collections of bouzouki, mandola's, and mandolines, (no Chinese crap here), all made in Greece, and very reasonable too, they, like the Irish,have held on well to their traditional music, it is instrumental, much like our own music, the young people play well and their music is safe, they, like us have great respect for the old musicians, who played bouzouki with only 6 strings, the young players play with 8 and tune down to the first 4 strings of the guitar. They are very aware of the fine musicians the Irish bouzouki players are, and they like to listen to our trad music. We saw a great photograph in a local taverna that has live music here in the port, of Aristotle Onasis and Jackie Kennedy being serenaded by a band of ten musicians, bouzouki, of different size and tuning, mandola's , Mandoline, and one guitar, several brothers in the group all dressed up in suits a ties, great photos of other performing musicians, some dead and gone.
We ourselves own the well known McNeills Pub and Music Shop, in Capel Street, Dublin,
The walls there are decorated with photo's of the most wonderful Irish traditional musicians from all over that come and go each week, (most taken by me) and all in black and white, indeed, some are now dead and gone, Mick and Barney McKenna, Pecker Dunne, the peckers cousins Christy and Paddy Dunne, (both blind) and a few more, but their music lives on, the punters love looking at the photos and talking about them. We fly a flag for McNeills on DeDanann made by fellow HYC member, Ken Kearns, which we fly from the spinnaker halyard when in port, it's a great way to meet any body of even Irish Decent no matter what port were in, they see the flag and come to say hello, we have met English, Scottish, American, and Australian people and of course a few real paddies along the way with that flag, we met a German guy whose mother came from Corofin, Clare, where my own grandmother who played concertina came from, he spoke with a typical German accent and a Clare accent when he reverted to speaking English, he had just come back from the Willy Clancy week in Milltown, so we drank some of the little devils of Irish whiskey and listened to the music of DeDanann as we talked about the auld sod and the wonderful culture of music that we Paddies are world famous for.
We have been taking in the culture of the Greeks, visiting their magnificent little church's, and lighting the odd candle for our own that have passed on, I was rambling about the local graveyard one wet day this week, looking at the graves, when a funeral party came in the gate, black old hearse, black coffin, bearded priest in all black, everybody without exception in black, kids and all, the coffin was placed by the grave, lid taken off, priest prays over the body of an old man, he then takes out a 1lt bottle of olive oil (I think), he pours the whole bottle over the head and face of the deceased, undertaker places a white hanky over the face, gravedigger hands the priest a full shovel of muck which he throw's over the body, the lid is put on the coffin, on que, all the women cry, the coffin is lowered into the grave, the women stop crying, and everybody leaves the graveyard at the one time, in all about 15 minutes.
We set out on this voyage after a big refit of DeDanann in July 14, with a box of 50 little devils of Irish whiskey, ( we've only 3 left) neither Linda or I touch the stuff, Irish Distillers should employ me as their roving ambassador.
We have visited Mallorca, Menorca, Sardinia, Egada Islands, Sicilia, Aolian Islands, Ionian Islands, and Greece, we have met some fine people along the way and made some new friends, we have enjoyed good weather for most of it, we have come through the odd gale, I have lost weight, and my blood pressure has also dropped, which is good, we spend most days with the sun on our backs, the wind in our hair ( Linda only) I have none left, we breath fresh salty air all day, i cannot think of a better way to ride out this European Crisis that has hurt Ireland so much, when sailing late at night, I often think of those at home, who wake up in a sweat at three in the morning, and walk the floors for hours with worry, then fall back into bed at eight o'clock exhausted, night after night, while the bankers who destroyed the Irish economy sleep soundly, having been bailed out by the the very people they now seek to screw for everything they have, I was there many years ago during the property market collapse in the UK, I used to call it "the 3 AM parade" when all the company's creditors would line up ,in ghost like appearance, at the foot of my bed and demand their money from me, one by one. I left this country during a terrible recession in 87 to seek my fortune in the UK, and I can tell you, I have learned to ignore such events and take advantage of the free time when one has no real business to be getting on with, the good times come, the good times go, but they always come back again, I sleep well on DeDanann every night, the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
When the weather settles, we will come out through the Lefkas Canal swing bridge and head north 60M distant to Corfu where we will winter DeDanann ashore, I will do a few jobs, new antifoul replace anodes, replace shaft seal, and sterilise the water holding tank etc, prior to going back into the water, we will come back to Dublin in time for Christmas and see our little grandchildren and family whom we have missed so much.
To those of you following our logs, we hope you have enjoyed them, we hope they have inspired you, we wish you a peaceful, and happy Christmas, and a prosperous new year.