Thursday, 11 May 2017

Rights of passage

Apologies for the extended intervals between blog postings. Despite very slow speeds of the yacht (circa. 5 knots under motor - circa. 7 pushing 8 knots under a good wind) and long distances between destinations, there still seems too little time to get everything done. I should have kept a paper list of all the jobs I've been doing - then I could show off how hard I've been working versus everyone back home :-0


What's the correct term for a chandlery fetish? I could spend all day in a Chandlery and I think I'd just fall deeper in love. We've been to one in almost every port so far. Went to one in Zakynthos that had 25 different sizes of anchor. You can't make a lot from running one though. The money is in marinas.


The trip south from Corfu, where we picked up our yacht Hodja, to Zakynthos island, where all our possessions where waiting for us, became something of a 'passage'. An A to B trip rather than a sightseeing tour. We were running on the bare bones with a limited tool kit acquired last minute in Corfu and some meagre provisions.

We also picked up a 'skipper' for the first few days. We hadn't sailed in the Mediterranean before and they do things a little differently to The Solent. Most mooring (parking the boat) is done stern-to (back to the pontoon instead of side on) and a general lack of compliance to standard boating regulation such as rights of way which are drilled into you in training is considered the norm - which works fine once you adopt the same philosophy. So The Skip helped us adjust while we got to know the boat.

The primary detractor on time was the regularly required trips to the chandlers for little things you don't notice are missing until you need them. A couple of shackles here, a snub there, some extra gear for the grab bag etc. I was more than happy to oblige and so far have notched at least six Greek chandlers onto my belt. If you find a really good one it's like going to screwfix but you're allowed over the counter. Often you turn up and it's closed (Greek shops tend to be closed when you need them open) - but if you rattle the front door, peer round the corner, bang a window - someone normally turns up:
"Are you open?"
"No, but we can open"
"Thanks, do you have [list off what you need whilst walking round the shop inspecting random items]"


So here's the first leg in cartographic form, short descriptions and subsequent pictures (this is a travel blog after all).

Gouvia Marina, Corfu island.
Very good but expensive marina. To be good, a marina should be sheltered and have plenty of facilities. Tick. You don't tend to get the facilities without the cost. There are currently a couple of big PE backed firms consolidating Greek marinas. They know what they're doing. They know what they can charge for it.

Mourtos Sivota, Mainland.
First stop was the epitome of a little Greek port (which are almost always free). It was April, so at about 20% capacity we had plenty of room to practice our stern-to mornings. It was a hot afternoon and we soon settled with our skill level and had a few local beers accompanied by unlimited crisps and a free ouzo in one of the harbour-side tavernas. Ideal.

On the way to Ligia we stopped off in two rock bay for lunch. I went for a swim which was chilly but worth it after a couple of minutes. I surveyed the bottom of the boat and combed the beach for anything useful. No luck.

We learnt to sail-off-anchor in the rocky bay (learn on a black run and a red is easy). It's a useful skill to have if the worst happens.

Ligia, Mainland
Port was at 0% visitor capacity when we arrived. Great time for some stern-to-rock mooring and side-to practice followed by beers in the hillside taverna. Tick.

The next day we ducked into Preveza to drop off Theo our skipper. Shit was about to get real. We pulled away into the harbour channel and suddenly realised we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Wah.

Made our way to Lefkas canal which opens every hour on the hour. After treading water for 15 minutes in a small channel the Greek bridge operator decided to give us a lonely introduction to the world of Greek sailing. He only opening the end of the bridge. We squeezed through, knocking our first test of nerves for six. The rest of the canal was easy peasy - make way for Meganisi.

(Little) Vathi - Meganisi island.
We thought Mortos was good. This place is everything you could want from a Greek port. Local tavernas, chiming church bells and a small chandlery to boot.

We ate out for the first time and it was worth the wait. The local wine at €8 per kilo was good stuff too. The restaurant wifi afforded me the first chance to look at some news from home (financials obviously). It was a weird feeling. I'd missed it. Just habit or borderline Stockholm Syndrome?

The next day saw us meet our first bought of serious wind and a proper sea. We were reefed right down (reduced the size of our sails to near minimum) and still struggled to hold the old girl. We were also crossing a shipping channel during which a ferry almost took the paint off the back of our boat (did i mention a lack of regard for rights of way?). Needless to say it was a valuable intro to the world of the sailor and I'm glad to have had it without any serious issues - Hodja did us proud.

Sami, Kefalonia island.
We rode the waves into the little chilled-out town of Sami. The wind shook the boat until dusk but finally calmed. We took the opportunity to re-lay our anchor and add a little more chain before a late evening wander around town. Wine induced chatter and puffs of smoke perforated the air around the second floor balconies of the bars surrounding the town quay. The sea's last few efforts lapped against the lazy boats tied off on the waterfront, enjoyed by their sailors' after a hard day at sea. A great Sunday evening vibe reminding us of why we chose this little corner of the world for our six month foray.

The final leg saw us hug the east coast of Kefalonia to its southern tip before making a b-line for the port of Ay Nikolas, Zakynthos island. The two hour crossing saw the winds climb from a Force 2 up to at least a F6. We were in familiar waters so avoided reefing the main sail to test the boat's limits. Big mistake - the wind continued to grow to easily above what we've experienced so far and since. But Hodja held her own and for that I am eternally grateful.

The moment you've been waiting for - the obligatory photo of Zakynthos chandlery in all its glory!

NB. Touching stuff


  1. I sailed for two weeks in this area with my wife about ten years ago. Ahh, the memories of a great holiday.... We also visited Little Vathi and Sami - lovely places.

  2. PS. I'm also really rather jealous of your trip and will be following how you do...

  3. Thanks Adam! According the many other boats we've spoken with I think the area has changed very little over the last ten years, which is great. Greece is one of the last few places you can really sail freely I think.