IONIAN ISLANDS, GREECE
We are all so excited to be able to travel only a few miles and come upon an entirely new town or quiet anchorage. We have had many long (some rough) sails, and now feel like we've reached our final destination. However, we will be making our way over to Turkey for the winter. The winds and seas pick up around early November, so one must put one's boat in a safe marina until March, until it is possible to venture out again. We have explored many options, from Barcelonna, to Rome, to the Balearics to Rome and have decided upon Turkey as it is less expensive and there are supposedly many yachts wintering there. Top on the priority list is a marina with other families living on their boats (preferably with many children!!). We have heard that Kemer is such a spot.
The Ionian Islands in Greece are a favorite among the locals for enjoying sun and sea. We decided to "forego" the culture for a few weeks and have a summer vacation. We have loved it, and although we aren't visiting the cities and touring museums and ruins, the culture is still to be found.
Every time we enter a market, we learn something new.
Every time we dine out, we come to learn a bit about what they enjoy eating. Just hearing many different languages about you every day provides a different perspective.
We met a family from Slovenia, and Kelsey enjoyed playing with their daughter, Nikki. She has been living on her boat for several years, and now speaks fluent Italian as they ended up traveling with another boat for 3 months which had an Italian girl aboard. She also speaks a little Spanish and a bit of English. It made for an interesting afternoon with lots of sign language.
Although the Ionian islands offer much beauty, they would not come to mind if you were to think of a Greek village. Most of the architecture is new as they suffered from a severe earthquake in 1953. The architecture is more "Italian" with the red roofs than it is Greek. Many of the towns are now occupied by the older generations and have been deserted by the younger generations reducing the population dramatically. We still do see an occasional woman dressed all in black slowly meandering through the streets or sweeping her front porch.
"The Ionian derives its name from the goddess Io. Io was a priestess of Hera and for a short time a mistress to Zeus. Inevitably there was conflict when Hera discovered Zeus was deceiving her and, fearing what Hera in her wrath might do, he changed Io into a white cow. Not to be outdone, Hera sent a gadfly to torment the unfortunate Io, who plunged into the sea to rid herself of the stinging pest - hence the Ionian Sea. " - Greek Waters Pilot.
Meganissi - Aug. 17
Back to Meganissi for a night as the girls really wanted to return to this one harbor as the swimming was fantastic. Now, our head has a problem so on to a port with some new tubing, or so we hope.
Deserted cove to quiet bay
We tried the next night at a deserted cove, but of course, we dragged as the wind came up and left for a more traditional anchorage in a quiet bay with about 6 other boats. On the way over, out auto-pilot gave out. Fortunately, it was an easy fix that night.
One boat entered the harbor around 8 and had great difficulty anchoring, so Bill and the girls went to the rescue, as they were on their double-digit attempt. Bill has been blessed with a great "set of lungs" and can free-dive to over 60 feet which comes in very handy when you have to set an anchor. All the guests on this boat were telling him it was 80 feet on their depth gauge and too deep to dive down to check the anchor. Superhero that he is, he did it and they were incredibly appreciative.
Went South to Eufimia which used to be the main port but was abandoned after the earthquake. It now has a few tavernas and mini-markets.
We should have listened to our guidebook as it said the bottom is sand, rocks and weed, not the best holding. We anchored and tied a stern line to the quay (as they all do here). Ten minutes later our neighbor was knocking on our hull and motioning to us that we were obviously dragging. Re-anchoring didn't help the second time. Three is the charm so we tried again and just to be safe, put out a second anchor as well. It held. Early evening when most of the boats enter the harbor, proved very exciting as boats drifted over other boats anchors, powerboats hit sailboats, people were screaming in several different languages, and Bill was out in his dinghy (with the 40 hp) pushing errant sailboats off of others as their charter guest i.e. captain didn't have a clue as to how to maneuver his yacht.
We found a great lunch stop at a quiet beach where the girls could jump 15 feet from rocks into the ocean, and also swim in underwater passages which lead to caves. This was an unexpected highlight of the day. Then on to Fiskardho which is one of the only towns which was not destroyed by the 1953 earthquake because it is built on a bed of clay. It was lovely, although slightly touristy. It is a big attraction for yachts which always is fun to watch them all come in and try to anchor - some successfully, and others provide good stories.....We met (actually drifted onto their boat when our anchor let go) a wonderful British couple with a 10 year old daughter. It was just what we all needed. Bill had a pal to have a Scotch with, and Kelsey and the girls were thrilled to add one more to the group and they entertained themselves playing tag, sardines etc....Jasmine even slept-over on our boat.
Vathi, Ithaka -
Home of Odysseus! Much to the frustration of the locals, there have not been many relics uncovered to prove that Odysseus' palace was here. However, archaeologists have discovered Mycenaean pottery and other relics in the "cave of the nymphs" which they believed were used to worship Odysseus. Present day, a few t-shirts and souvenirs in the shops claim that this was Odysseus' home and many strongly believe it was, including Homer..
Watched the opening of the Olympics from here and the small town had a big screen TV outside. We were waiting, somewhat hesitantly, to see what the reaction would be when the US athletes proceeded into the auditorium. There was no response which is better than what we had expected.
Small inlet, Ithaka-
Crystal blue waters so the girls could jump off the boat and swing off the stern line. We were the only boat there for the night.
Very attractive small town with whitewashed houses and a few tavernas and mini-markets along the harbor. Anchored in incredibly deep water in the middle of the bay and watched all the other boats come in and take stern lines to the land. That is often how it is done here as the depth in the middle of the harbors can be 30+ meters. Five captained mega-power boats anchored next to each other and provided entertainment for us onlookers.
Many of the islanders from Kioni now live in Australia, and the school roll is reported to have gone from 600 children to only 20 now.
Harbor on the south side of Levkas. Enclosed bay busy with SunSail charter boats and lots of ivy-laden tavernas along the waterfront. Enclosed bay with olive trees. Went for a croissant ashore in the morning.
Meganisi, August 8-9
Quiet anchorage with a few other boats. Took a dinghy ride around to Vathi for groceries. Celebrated Hayden's 13th Birthday here! Unfortunately, I had been looking for cake mix for sometime or the ingredients to make a chocolate cake.....we ended up having homemade apple cake. The parents thought it was good...
Stopped at Spartakhori for lunch at a taverna overlooking the harbor and enjoyed meeting the owner who was incredibly friendly. The town was beautiful as it sat up high overlooking the harbor. Each house had a trellis covered with grapes which were enclosed in a mesh bag so the insects can't get to them. Speaking of insects, there are lots of bees around these islands which made for many frightened screams early on.
Private island of the Onassis family, originally bought by Aristotle.
Levkas Marina, Levkas
This was our first stop after coming from Italy. We had a pleasant, calm, MOTOR across. We left at 4 a.m. and arrived at about 3 p.m. the following day.
There is a swing bridge which supposedly opens every hour at the entry to the Levkas canal. We were told that the bridge was only going to open at 7 p.m. due to security for the Olympics so we waited outside the channel for a few hours. Above us were helicopters patrolling the area which we found odd since we are a fair way from Athens. At 6:15 (Italian time), that would be 7:15 Greek time, we realized that all the other boats had already pulled up their anchors and headed through the bridge! A quick call to the bridge attendant to ask him to hold it for a few minutes, and we were through - luckily. We later came to find out that the torch was making its way through Levkas that afternoon. If only we had arrived a day earlier!
Stopped here for 3 nights and did some provisioning, errands, repaired the baby stay,and had some electrical work done for the tricolor light. Also scrubbed the boat down thoroughly.