DeDannan's last cruise of 2018 finishes in Preveza
01 December 2018
It’s late September when Linda arrives from Athens on the flying dolphin, Alfie and I have been busy sorting out some boat electrics, our batteries have been acting up and not holding their charge, two of them are roasting hot, lead acid batteries can be troublesome, so we finally bit the bullet and forked out €360 each for six top end Gel batteries, they take under and over charging so much better and with our new solar panals they should hopefully give us lots of power to keep our two fridges and freezer going 24/7.
Here in the Saronic Islands, we are always slow to leave this wonderful port of Poros, with its lively town and narrow streets, its very nice secluded anchorages close bye were one can slip out to and return to the town quay in the evennings or stay on anchor and dinghy in at night.
We left Poros in fine settled weather for the two hour trip to the port of Vathi on Methana, we were sailing nicely in 10/12 knots of wind when all of a sudden the sky went black, the wind meter started to climb to the whistling sound coming from the north, thunder and lightening lit up the sky, in minutes we were jumping about taking in sail, gathering up cockpit cushions etc as the rain bucketed down from the heavens above us, Alfie is always first down the hatch, in no time at all we were scooting along at 8/9 knots in 30 knots of wind.
A quick change of course saw us heading for the shelter of a very nice safe anchorage on the small un-inhabited island of Moni where we dropped anchor in ten meters of flat water, we weren't the only boat coming in for shelter. We all sat out the thunder storm and we enjoyed a quite night on anchor on Nissos Moni.
We resumed our journey to Vathi the next morning, it was like the calm after the storm as we motored in a flat calm sea with the sun shinning brightly.
Vathi is a small fishing port with two decent tavernas, its shallow in there with only 3 meters of water but enough room for about ten boats on the quay to tie up. It’s a nice quite peaceful port to spend time, the only tourists are the cruisers and a few hill walkers that come to climb the volcano thats puffing away all the time.
We spent several days here taking life easy in the the very pleasant weather that September brings after the intense heat of July and August.
Our next port of call was Nea Epidavorous some ten miles to the west where we would meet up with our good friends Memduh and Sabel from Turkey, they were returning from a summer cruise of the Ionian and heading back to Bodrum in Turkey for the winter on their yacht Papalina.
Memduh is a man who never lets the grass grow under his feet, we were only in port and it was off in his hire car to visit the Amphiteather of Epidavorous, famed for its wonderful acoustics. The next morning early we were off to visit the ancient city of Navplio where we had a fine lunch in the old town. The drive across the peloponesse from east to west was enjoyable, this area is rich in agriculture, they grow a lot of fruit and vegitables in this part of Greece, the towns and villages away from the coast are typical Greek working towns that have not yet been commercialised to accomodate the tourists. It’s amazing the difference in cost of eating and shopping when away from the touristic areas.
After several enjoyable days we said our goodbye’s to Memduh and Sabel and set sail for to transit the Korinth Canal, there was no stress this being our fourth time to pass through this wonderful feat of ancient engineering, we paid the extorionat fee of €340 for the pleasure. The canal was dug out in ancient times by 6,000 jewish slaves of Emperor Nero and the Greeks are still coining it in to this day.
We set our course west up through the gulf of Korinth in an almost perfect 16/18 knots of north east wind and a flat sea to go with it, which is unusual for the gulf, to our arrival at the port of Kiato on the peloponesse side. The next afternoon we took ourselves off to Galaxidi some 35 miles distant in the same north east wind that saw us sailing port to port, there is a bit of pilotage involved coming into Galaxidi as one meanders through shallows and rocks between the small islands just outside of the port. Galaxidi made a very nice scene as we entered this port just as the sun was setting in the west.
We always enjoy our time here, the fishing in the late evenings is good, there are nice walks on the flat, there’s a nice little beach with turquoise water to swim in, the town is a pleasant place to spend time with everything you could want, nice taverna’s, bars and intersting little shops to whilst away the day.
We were hoping to meet up with HYC member Norman Fullum, but he was away cruising his yacht Somers Isle singlehanded in the Ionian.
Our next port of call was the ancient port of Navpaktos some 30 miles distant to the west, again we had the north east wind to sail us port to port. The ancient castellated entrance is a grand sight for such a tiny port built by the Venetians in 1600. It was really too small for DeDanann and we grounded in the soft mud as we tried to berth on the quay. We dropped anchor in 10 meters outside, dinner on board, some fishing and a quite night in flat calm water was had.
We continued our cruise west through the gulf of Patras transiting under the Rionn road bridge to our arrival at the Messalonghi canal some twenty miles distant, once again we had a cracking sail port to port in a warm north east wind blowing 18/20 knots on our starboard quarter. We spent a week or more tied up side on to the substantial town quay, rambling about on our bikes along the four mile causeway parallel to the canal through the salt marsh to a very nice beach club overlooking the gulf of Patras where we would have a long lazy lunch before heading back to Alfie and DeDanann. Our absence for any long period of time is always marked by Alfie, he becomes a vandal in protest at leaving him behind, flip flops will be found all over the boat, my hats may be eaten, pillows dragged off the bunks to the floor, books tore asunder, its unbelievable how bold he becomes for a dog who is normally very well behaved.
The marina here is somewhat abandoned again, it was being well run for a few years by a Dutch guy, the word is that he was not greasing the palms of some local politicians and they managed to persuade the local council to revoke his license for some reason or other, the dropsey or (lowery) as known in Ireland is very much a part of doing business in Greece.
Our time being up we headed out of the canal and set a westerly course to our favourite Ionian island Keffalonia, and the port of Agia Eufiama, some 45 miles distant. There was hardly any space in the port which I taught unusual this late in the year, with several flotillas of charter boats tied up, the tavernas were doing good business and prices were inflated since were last here two years ago.
Our next port is our favourite port in all of the Mediterranean - Fiskardho, I thought an early arrival would secure a berth on the town quay, but again the port was packed with flotilla boats, we were spotted on our arrival by the harbour master Theo who we have been friendly with for many years, Theo always enjoys my little devils of Irish Whiskey and it paid dividends this day as a place normally reserved for the tripper boats was given to us to berth on. We couldn't believe that a reservation was required for a table at night in all the better tavernas such is the business they are doing with all the charterers.
We spent a couple of weeks here meeting up with some cruisers from south Africa that we met in 2014, one of them has just retired after forty five years working as a veterinary surgeon in a game reserve, he is a great raconteur of his life working with wild animals and he had certainly caught my interest. Growing up in Finglas in the sixties my favourite programs on tv in those days was Daktari and Tarzan, although I have never stepped foot in Africa I have always loved wild life and Ross has wet my appetite to do a safari there one day. He had us in stitches over dinner one night telling us of going out to take a panther that a farmer had trapped on his land, the panther was enormous and the plan was to tranquilize him and take him to the game reserve by helicopter, the panther was in a cage being very aggressive, Ross missed him with the first tranquilizer as it hit one of the bars, he got him with the second one and with the help of the farmers they carried him to the helicopter. As they flew to the reserve the weather became overcast with thick cloud and the helicopter couldn't come down, as the pilot searched for a break in the clouds the panther started to come around, Ross having no other tranquilizer became more than a little concerned for their safety, a plan was being hatched to open the door and tilt the helicopter to slide him out, luckily for the poor panther the pilot spotted a gap in the clouds and took them down just in the nick of time. Ross said panthers are really aggressive and confused when they come to after being tranquillized and the panther would have devoured the pair of them.
We were here in Fiskardho when the terrible storm (medicane) hit from the east with winds blasting through the port in the early hours one morning at over fifty knots, we were berthed stern to the wind and we had no problems. I was on deck one night in the worst of it, there were several yachts on anchor in the port with their anchors dragging, it was distressing looking at crew panicking and trying to haul in their anchor in ferocious wind and rain, the prospect of going back out to sea in these conditions would be distressing for experienced cruisers, I can only imagine what it would be like for inexperienced crew on charter.
I heard one side of a may day call to an elderly but experienced Irish skipper who was in trouble forty miles west of Lefkada on his yacht, wild goose, he was a single hander, his mast was down and his prop was fouled. A Turkish bulk carrier offered to turn around and assist, Later I could here the Turkish captain advise the coastgaurd that conditions were too bad to attempt to take him on board as they were far too high and he advised them to send out a patrol boat immediately, to cut a long story short, and despite several requests over many hours from an angry Turkish captain, it took the Greek coastgaurd two days to get out to him, take him off and bring him in to Preveza, the excuse being the weather was too bad, they went back out the next day when the weather settled to tow his yacht in. The Turkish captain stood by giving him a lee until the coastguard came. We don't realise how fortunate we are to have the RNLI in Ireland.
We continued our cruise north up through Meganissi, Palairos, Lefkada through the Lefkas canal and on to Gaois, Lakka and Monganissi on Paxos.
Paxos is a nice island to spend time, it like the other Ionian islands has become very busy with the flotillas and prices for everything has become expensive, the cost to berth on the town quay in Gaois is €30 per night plus electricity and water, we used to stay here for a tenner.
Our final voyage was back south to the port of Preveza where we spent our time preparing DeDanann for winter lift out and storage in the boat yards there. We have sent our sails off for valeting, serviced the engine and generator and all the other things required to go on the hard. We always enjoy the town of Preveza, a typical Greek working town with plenty to do and see, Alfie went missing for one day, but we got a phone call late that night from a Greek family who had taken him in many miles away, we were having dinner in one of the tavernas at the time, the owner Costas kindly drove Linda off to pick him up on the back of his auld honda fifty, the Greeks are a decent, warm people who are always keen to help.
The weather has been very nice, still in shorts and tee shirts in early November.
Thats it till next year, to all of you who have been reading our blog, we hope you have enjoyed them and we take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas.