Tony Olin's 'DeDannan' returns to the Ionian Sea
25 August 2019
It’s hot down here, most days 38* reducing to only 36* at night time, there’s not much to do between mid day and evening only stay in the shade at this time of year. We walk Alfie early in the mornings or late in the evening, he seems to be struggling with the heat the older he gets, although, he is a genius at finding the shade, he will drag you across from one side of the street to the shady side at every turn.
Our time in the old fishing port of Paleiros was up and we set off in flat calm late in the morning hoping to catch the afternoon breeze that generally blows from the North West down here in the Ionian to our next port of call Kalamos. We arrived after a slow sail under cruising shute with both my fishing rods run out and not a bite to show for it, it’s not easy catching fish in the mediterranean I can tell you.
Kalamos is a small island with only a few hundred people living there, it’s only port being the center of everything, it has good berthing in four meters of water for many boats, two good taverna’s and a mini market run and owned by the infamous Georgeos who is a most helpful unofficial harbour master, it’s a most relaxing and friendly port to spend time in, and that we did, staying for over a week. It’s truly amazing the amount of boats that man can shoehorn into that port with the charter flotillas coming in great numbers as is more and more the case here in the beautiful Ionian these days.
Our next port was the mainland port of Astakos some twenty odd miles to the South East. The water around here is deep, it can be several hundred meters deep, we had noticed a huge tug boat anchored off miles out to sea, as we sailed by the water came up to only thirteen meters in a small area where she lay to her anchor, she was on standby to the big ships and tankers coming and going through the narrow gulf of Patras on their way to the Korinth Canal. The crew on board where trying their hand at a bit of fishing whilst awaiting for some ship or other to request their service. Life on a tug boat would be either very boring, or indeed, very exciting when they go into action.
Astakos is a typical Greek working town where the only tourists are the cruisers who tie up in the port, there is good mooring on the town quay and the water and electricity is free. It’s a friendly town where the taverna's and shop keepers appreciate the business the cruisers bring, its very noticeable how much less one pays for everything in ports where the tourists are not about, and these towns are so much more interesting places to visit as a result of this. You don’t have the tourist shops full of the usual “made in China” Greek tat and overpriced boutiques that’s so common in ports where the tourists go.
Like most mainland ports, taking Alfie walking is a treacherous task with all the street dogs who congregate in different parts of the towns in gangs, they are usually large hunting mongrels and whilst they are always friendly to humans, they are very territorial to strange dogs, this is not so much a problem on the islands where they only keep cats.
We left Astakos and set course for the Island of Kafalonia and the port of Sami (topmost photo) some thirty miles distant to the South West. The afternoon wind was fresh blowing 20 knots from the North West giving us a speedy passage in a slight sea from port to port. DeDanann makes 8 to 9 knots in this wind under reefed main and full Genoa and mizzen sails without putting her toe rail into the sea, she is a fast safe passage maker in good wind.
We arrived into a packed port late in the evening, there were several monster motor boats tied up, Makis, the harbour master, knows DeDanann well from some years ago when we were regular visitors there, he enjoys my gifts of Irish Whiskey, he ordered the crew of one of the big motor boats to move their tender to the bow and we squeezed in beside them.
Sami is a nice port to spend time in, it has always been popular with the charter boats, it seems to be getting popular with the big super yachts since we were here a few years ago, it has good depth of water and substantial quays to tie up to. It’s always a mistake to tie up near to these boats, the buggers run their generators 24/7, the crew are cleaning and washing decks and topsides morning noon and night, the owners and their invited guests generally wouldn’t bid you the time of day.
We hired a beast of a quad bike to go visit the country side and some interesting caves a few miles away, I’ve ridden motorbikes all my life and I can tell you those quad bikes you see the youngsters renting are bloody dangerous, the handling on them is dreadful and needless to say we were happy to return it early.
I am told by a local I know well, that a lot of cannabis is grown high up in the mountains here and that it is loaded onto fast ribs and delivered to passing freighters in the dark of night. Earlier this year a Russian guy was found washed up on the beach in a small cove on the North of the island with his hands bound and his throat cut from ear to ear, it is believed he reneged on payments to certain individuals involved in this business on the island.
I have an uncle still living in Finglas in his nineties, he served in the British army during WW2, when we meet up he likes to talk with me of his time working undercover with the resistance on Crete and several other islands here in Greece during their occupation by the Germans. He was a seasoned soldier who served in several wars during his twenty years service, he told me the smiley happy go lucky Greeks, including some of the women, that he lived among in the villages of these islands were the fiercest resistance fighters that he ever encountered, deadly with a knife, and that the German soldier going on patrol at night lived in mortal fear of coming up against them.
That said, Linda and I were not deterred and off we set for the short hop to our favourite port of Fiskardho two hours to the North. We had set off early in order to find space to tie up on the town quay, it was wall to wall with nearly two hundred boats including several of the dreaded monster boats. Several flotillas of charter boats rafting up in great numbers. We dropped anchor outside the port and ran a long line to some rocks ashore. We found ourselves being neighbours to a massive ketch rigged yacht over sixty meters long, it was owned by the founder of the Spanish clothing company Mango, he is a Turkish guy and his family were arriving from Barcelona that very night. The crew were busy with the usual cleaning all day, boat loads of supplies were being loaded from her tender which, I may add, is forty five foot long. The tender follows the mother ship from port to port.
The following morning we moved into the port and tied up beside another large motor boat, well” they say, beggars can’t be choosers. We became friendly with the skipper, a recently retired Hellenic Navy Captain, he was waiting for the arrival of the owner and his family in a few days time. Over dinner on board DeDanann one night, he told us of his time rescuing migrants off the Turkish coast during the migrant crises a couple of years ago, for over two years there was seldom a time when he would come back to port to provision and refuel when the deck would not be littered with the dead body’s of migrants who had drowned, whole families lost to the sea. He was also very mindful of the amount of young men who were the most likely to survive, they had a policy of cable tying and searching them once they came on board, often finding they were carrying large sums of money (€15/20,000) and the best of iPhones in water proof covers, they would nearly all lie about their age claiming to be juveniles and no documents or passports. He would argue that young people that age would not have that kind of dough in normal circumstances, and why would they just leave their family’s and siblings behind? He would argue that at least the young Greeks could not muster up that kind of dough or be inclined to leave family behind were their roles reversed.
In anyway, the Russians arrived and before long, before they even set off, they had a big row over unpaid wages and a fuel and beverage bill that Yanni had paid. It sadly ended up with Yanni heading back to Athens and the family just stayed in port. I am told that getting paid on some of these boats is problematic, and whilst they all give the impression they are all minted, in reality, it’s often a very different story.
We hung about here for nearly two weeks before heading north around the island to the gorgeous little port of Assos on the North West coast. We anchored off and took a long line to the shore in less than three meters. Assos is a picture postcard little village with two ok taverna’s and a mini market. It’s only safe to stay here in fair weather as it’s very open to the prevailing NW wind and the holding is poor in lots of weed, but it is a nice pleasant place to relax and for swimming and snorkeling off the boat. The high ground around the port is covered in pine tree’s and the mosquitos at night are only savage, so much so that we upped anchor after only two nights and cleared off for the long voyage to the port of Messalonghi in the gulf of Patras some fifty miles distant.
Our trip to Messalonghi was windless in a flat calm sea, the voyage up the Messalonghi canal is always interesting, there is a big dredging job going on and new marker buoys to replace the bits of sticks that have served the navigator for many years. The fishing lodges that line both sides of the canal are gone very dilapidated, one passes the salt march’s with mountains of sea salt stacked high for shipping all over the world.
We had reserved a mooring for one month in the “new” Messalonghi marina that has just opened again for business, having been closed for the last two years. To call this marina “new” is the understatement of the year, the place is in tatters and nothing has been done other than get the electricity and water turned back on.
It’s just as well we are heading home for the month of August to see some of our grandchildren who are coming in from Thailand for their annual holiday.
On our return at the end of August we will sail down through the gulf of Korinth and transit the canal back into the Aegean and onwards to the island of Syros for a gathering of Amel yachts which is being organized by the Amel owners Facebook group which should be some fun.