Sunday Island and her crew have now been cruising the Ionian Islands of Greece since mid July 2022. Our first main stop was Corfu (see previous blog) and then we began cruising our way south through the islands.
After crusing Corfu and Ithica we sailed south to Atokos Island. The wind dropped out during our passage to Atokos and we continued under motor. To cool off we put the surfboard in the water and took turns in scurfing behind Sunday Island. Both Issy and Max took turns in standing up on the Malibu surf board while I lay on the board and held onto the rope connecting us with Sunday Island as Emilie steered Sunday Island weaving through fleets of charter yachts sailing in the other direction. After Issy and Max had their fill of the scurfing it was time for me to show the kids how its done, and I had a great time scurfing behind the yacht.
We arrived at Atokos Island and moored stern to the rocks in Cliff Bay. Cliff bay is an amazing deep water bay at the base of the cliffs. When we arrived there was one other yacht anchored beneath the cliffs and we felt a bit rude asking the New Zealand couple if we could share their small bay. They informed us there was plenty of room and we had a good chat. They informed us that evenigns were calm and there was good holding. We spent the afternoon exploring the cliffs and the beach. The snorkling around the area was fantastic.
That afternoon the Kiwi’s left the bay, and before sunset we were accompanied by two more yachts, after dinner another rather large catamaran tried to squeeze into the bay, and was determined to be as close to us as possible. When we arrived in Greece we wondered why everybody put their fenders over the side when they were at anchor, now we were beginning to understand!
That evening we awoke at midnight with Katabatic winds funnelling down the cliffs into the bay. This was a local weather system that was not forecasted. Interestingly a local charter skipper informed us that if you see clouds in the sky in an August evening in the ionian you could expect lots of local weather.
The next day Issy learnt to cliff jump and by the end of the morning was jumping off 3m cliffs and loving it! We put the tender in the water and rowed about 2nm around the corner to explore the deep caves. Some of the caves had stalictites of about 1m hanging from the ceiling giving us an indication that they were very old.
We did a lot of swimming around the caves, Issy did another cliff jump, and on the way back Max decided to do some scurfing on the surfboard and stood up for the first time demonstrating a perfect surfing stance. Max scurfed the entire way back to Sunday Island.
The next day we sailed back to Vathy harbour Ithica so Emilie could find some Tarima fish row which a greek friend had advised was a must purchase while in Greece. Emilie was very impressed with the store being run as a family affair and the old lady advising her son how much Tarima was required so as not to waste. We find the Greeks of the Ionian islands take a lot of pride in their food and water and don’t want to see anything go to waste.
After leaving Vathy we continued to explore the various safe anchorages in Ithica. One of our favourite spots was Antri bay where we moored stern to the cliffs next to a cave that was home to a number of goats. The snorkelling around Antri was amazing and it was fun to watch the goats walking around the shoreline.
While anchored a large catamaran circled near our anchor looking to drop their anchor right on top. Emilie and I were on the bow informing the yacht if our anchor location and the 40m of chain when one of the ladies on the yacht shrieked “YOUR CHILD!!!!” We casually looked behind us to see Max climbing naked at the first spreaders. We shrugged our shoulders as if this was normal behavior then continued our warnings about their proposed anchorage
On our second night in Vathy we saw clouds in the sky and the wind begun to swing. We re positioned the boat in the early evening to be stern to the wind in preparation for some strong katabatics. At about 10pm the wind picked up to 30kts from our beam (side on). Rather than risking the anchor dragging and us being blown onto the rocks we let go our leeward stern line, and eased out the windward stern line until we were anchored facing the wind. I then went ashore and let go the second stern line as Sunday Island swung into the middle of the bay. We slept a lot more comfortably swinging at anchor without relying on our nylon stern lines.
The next morning after a good night sleep we hiked up a nearby mountain, checking out some old ruions of farmers houses and the ancient stone terracing. We did not make it to the top of the mountain but the view was fantastic.
The next day we enjoyed a nice sail across the straits of Kefalonia to Antisamao and anchored in Ormos. We found a quiet corner of the bay to anchor in and enjoyed our morning of swimming. Late in the morning a large 70m superyacht decided to anchor on top of us and put their stern lines to the shore. As the wind shifted through the day we swung closer to their shiny topsides. The captain refused to talk to us about our position and much to our disappointment we were forced to move anchorage as we would have collided if we maintained our anchorage. We anchored near some other cruising yachts and enjoyed an afternoon on the beach, while Emilie and I enjoyed drinking a couple of “Lesbian” cocktails at the bar. (note Lesbian is the name that the bartender had given to his latest creation and we do not want to offend any of our LGB friends).
The next morning we hiked up the nearby mountain for a fantastic view of the island and then returned to the boat before the sun go too hot, and Issy and Max finally were allowed to get into their harnesses and climb to our main mast. Both Issy and Max climbed all the way to the top. We also rigged the spinnaker pole and enjoyed some swinging and jumping into the water.
Later that day we motored around the corner to the town of Sami and anchored off the main port for some provisioning ashore and to buy some gas. We looked like the typical cruising family as we meandered through the town with our shopping trolly filled with two weeks of groceries and when we returned to our tender on the beach we found it surrounded by holiday makers vying for a spot on the now crowded beach.
After loading the shopping onboard, and a quick return into town to drop off the supermarket trolley and pick up the gas we sailed to Kamini in the north of Kefalonia where we found an anchorage all to ourselves. The pilot advised of “aggressive wasps” in the anchorage, but during the afternoon we found the wasps no more aggressive than previous anchorages. Then at dinner time the wasps got the memo about the new boat in town and we spent the evening shooing them out from inside the boat. The next morning we were forced to evacuate the bay at sunrise as the wasps had told more of their friends.
We had planned a nice walk to the cute village of Fiskardho but we arrived so early even the bakery was not open. I noticed a Taverna in Fiskardho and showed Emilie the sign with laughter “Rooms Toilet”. Emilie pointed out the sign actually said “Rooms To Let” and the joke was on me! We decided to sail around the top of Cephalonia and then west to Athera and enjoyed the rest of the day exploring the beach and caves.
We remained in Athera for a few days enjoying exploring caves, and swimming at the nice beach. We even treated ourselves for a seafood lunch at the local Taverna which was beautiful and fantastic value for money, even if we were accompanied by many of our wasp friends. The waiter at the Taverna offered us burning coffee to keep the wasps away and we greatly accepted. Within minutes of the burning coffee sitting on the table all the wasps had flown away. When we got back to the boat Emilie was very impressed when I replicated the formula using her expensive illy coffee!
The next morning we sailed 30nm down the coast of Cephalonia in a beautiful 12kt easterly wind. I took the opportunity to fly the large Code Zero sail as we headed for Akrotiri or Kounopetra where we are presently anchored 100m off the beach. We are amazed at the contrast of the low and dry south coast of Cephalonia compared to the hilly and green west coast. The beach to our north is famous as a breeding ground for the logger head turtle, and we are hoping to perhaps see a turtle while we are here.
Weather is looking good for us to depart Greece and passage to Malta on Sunday 21st August. We have made many improvements to Sunday Island while we have been cruising Greece and have perfected the storage of our many items onboard. I have also been working on the navigation systems onboard and have Expedition now working on the boat computer allowing us to do more extensive weather routing for future passages.
CRUISING NOTES FOR GREECE
- Long and strong stern lines are needed for anchoring “Mediterranean” style to the shore. We used 170m of 14mm nylon line that was onboard when we bought the boat. These were strong and flexible enough to moor securely. We used some scraps of spectra with covering to tie the lines around the rocks ashore but some rigging strops would have been even better.
- Anchorages are often crowded and the charter yacht skippers and super yacht captains are quite ruthless in squeezing into the perfect spot even if there was only a few metres to spare. This is why most yachts moor stern to with fenders and it appears the norm, but was too much for us and we normally moved to a less crowded position to be prudent.
- If there are clouds in the sky in the evening, expect some strong localised winds and very strong Katabatic winds whistling down the hills. We found anchoring in the lee of a mountain for shelter normally resulted in getting blasted by Katabatic winds in the late evening until early morning.
- Greek people on the Ionian islands are amazingly friendly, and the food is reasonably priced and good quality. Funnily the prices in the supermarkets on the smaller islands were cheaper than the bigger ports!
- Buy food early morning, particularly on weekends because by the end of the day supermarket shelves have been emptied.
- Waters around the Ionian are deep but poorly charted. We came close to a few bommies that we only noticed when snorking around the bay. It pays to have a person on the bow looking out for bommies when approaching anchorages.