Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Up to Corfu and goodbye to Greece

As always, click on any image for larger view.

Our arrival into the Saronic Gulf was a little early, so we twiddled our thumbs at a few anchorages before the grandchildren arrived at the Athens airport.  We hung out in Chapel Cove off Ormos Anavissou for 5 nights while the wind blew itself out and we needed a change of scenery.  Then we moved up to Varkiza and anchored off the beach at 37.48.952N  023.45.933E.  We had anchored here back in 2011 and knew the area.  

Glassy calm when entered Ionian Sea.  And we were
very glad to have the calm after the Gulf of Corinth.
There is every kind of water sport imaginable at Varkiza.  As in so many places in Greece it is challenging to find a place to land or tie off a dinghy, but we did manage to do this one day.  Bill went into the tiny fishing harbor and let me climb out; then he moved the dinghy to the very high concrete wall.  One must use a stern anchor for the dinghy at that wall.  There are 2 issues: being capable of climbing up onto that high concrete wall and the shallow depth of water.  Bill managed both, although getting back out with the dinghy loaded with our purchases caused the dinghy to drag bottom several times.  Our dinghy has an aluminum double hull and is not easily damaged but the hull shape also is not conducive for ultra-shallow water depth.  He churned the sand and then picked me up back at that tiny fishing boat 'marina.'

How we sail today.  With tablets and iPhones.
We took a taxi at Varkiza to a distant Lidl and stocked up again on favorite items.  We had bought several bottles of wine at the Lidl in Kos and discovered that one was very much to our tastes; we bought a few of the half-cases.  We will skip buying any other brand or type of wine as long as we can find this one at Lidl locations as we move around.  This was worth the taxi ride out there and back.

Corinth Canal
Varkiza is a great anchorage as long as wind does not come from west or south.  When the forecast called for SW winds it was time to move on.  But not far.  We motored another 8 NM around the point to another anchorage familiar to us near Voula and dropped anchor at 37.49.170N   023.45.933E.  This anchorage provides shelter from SW and S winds but is exposed to NW and N winds.  When the winds changed again 3 days later we had no choice but to move on.  Much to our displeasure, the direction change happened a day before the forecast predicted.    At 0200 the wind picked up from the NW and by daylight the anchor was up and we were motoring directly into rapidly building waves and wind.  Getting over to the island of Salamis was torturous!  Took over 4 hours to motor 14 NM.  Even at 2500 rpm the SOG was only 3.5 knots!  

Cargo ship exiting Corinth Canal into Saronic Gulf
Dropped anchor in a small bay called Peranis at 37.54.00N  023.30.038E on the eastern side of the island of Salamis.  This anchorage provides good shelter from N or NW or W winds but is exposed to the S, SE and NE.  One thing we have learned here in Greece is to always have an alternate anchorage selected and a course plotted just in case wind switches direction, which happens all too frequently and often with no prediction forecast.  We stayed here only one night because the forecast was for 45 knot wind from the NE to hit us on Friday around noon.  
After the experience getting out of Voula we did not want to chance this NE wind possibly arriving early, so we contacted Zea Marina and arranged to arrive on Thursday rather than Friday.  It was great being able to dock with no high winds buffeting us about.

BeBe (Elisabeth) driving through
Corinth Canal
This was our fourth or fifth time to dock at Zea Marina.  It is a convenient location to dock when meeting someone at the airport.  The airport is quite some distance away.  The X96 express bus stops just a couple of block from the marina and goes straight to the airport with only a few stops along the way.  There are other marinas that are closer (in fact, the bus goes right by the Lidl that we visited when anchored at Varkiza), but there are very few stops on the route; so Zea Marina is the most convenient marina in our opinions.

Zachary driving through Corinth Canal

On Friday we took a taxi out to Flisvos Marina in Faliron and met up with fellow Amel owner Dimitris Krasopoulos and his wife Maria.  Our taxi driver got lost and first took us to where the Millennium Falcon was docked.  The Millennium Falcon has been purchased by a wealthy Greek woman who lives in Athens and London.  Sorry everyone, but I continue to think this yacht is just plain ugly.  I do not care how innovative and expensive it is; it is ugly.  Dimitris treated us to a fantastic lunch of octopus and calamari and several Greek delicacies.  Very delicious!  And I discovered that I like ouzo!  I tried ouzo many years ago and very much did not care for it.  But that was served straight on ice.  Here in Greece ouzo is first poured into a glass with a few ice cubes and then diluted with water, causing it to become cloudy.  This produces a much lighter drink that is refreshing on warm days.  Dimitris said that it is Greek custom to only drink ouzo when you are beside the sea.  Never drink it in the mountains or inland.  Well...okay; if you say so.  This was a perfectly delightful afternoon.

S/V BeBe transiting Corinth Canal
The next day the grandkids' flight from the USA to Frankfurt arrived late, causing them to miss their connection for the flight to Athens.  This is the first time Zachary and Elisabeth have flown on their own without being 'unaccompanied minors' -- wouldn't you know they would get stuck in the Frankfurt airport for 5 hours without adult supervision.  The cousins managed fine and even called us to let us know which flight to meet later that afternoon.  Unfortunately, since they arrived so late we were unable to do any shopping at the nearby Carrefour.  Who knew that Carrefour closes at 8 pm!  And is closed on Sundays.  Oh well, we would miss out on that good bacon and lots of other favorite things we wanted.  Not staying another night in a marina just to buy groceries.  Glad we had stocked up on beer and drinks before the kids arrived.

Parts of the walls of the Corinth Canal are covered
in stone or brick that has deteriorated over years.
We departed Zea Marina on Sunday morning, 1 June.  Forecast was for 8-9 knots from the NW.  We started off sailing tight on the wind but soon the wind was up to 35 knots!  Oh great; here we go again!  We sailed on for a few hours and then decided to douse the sails and motor, thinking we would have a good angle to motor up to the eastern side of Salamis island. However, the wind dropped strength enough that we were able to motor all the way west to the anchorage next to the entrance of the Corinth Canal.  Whew!  Glad that was over!  Both kids declared that they do not enjoy sailing upwind beating into 35 knots wind.  It was a lively day.

Exiting Corinth Canal into Gulf of Corinth

Next day we motored through the Corinth Canal.  This canal is a marvel to me.  I won't write the history here.  Check it out yourself if you are so inclined.  The simplest info is here
Corinth Canal history and images

Both Zachary and Elisabeth took turns driving the boat through the canal...under Bill's close supervision, of course.  I was too busy taking dozens of photos to care about manning the helm.  (Besides, I handled the helm all the way through the Panama Canal; it was Bill's turn to drive through a narrow canal.  

Bill meeting new people at Delphi
When we popped out on the northwestern end of the canal the weather was already building again.  Forecast had been for 8-9 knots from NW, so we were expecting to beat into it again today.  However, instead of 8-9 knots we again were hit with 35 knots wind!  And absolutely nothing we could do about it because there are no nearby anchorages.  We did change destinations and turned due north after rounding the point (after 4 hours of 3-meter rough seas and strong wind on our nose) and motored/motor-sailed 25 NM up to a tiny anchorage called Paralia Saranda.  This bay is very deep until almost on the beach.  We dropped the anchor at 38.14.144N  022.04.568E in 17 meter depth.  Could only put out 54 meter chain or we would have been on the beach as the boat swung on anchor.  It was a slightly rolly night but we were all glad to be there rather than being beat up in those steep seas.  The next morning we motored 30 NM northwest to Itea and docked in the abandoned marina which is now a town dock.  No electricity or water but it was great being side-tied to a concrete dock.

Zach and BeBe at Delphi
The next day we took the bus up to the ancient site of Delphi to see where the famous Oracle(s) lived so long ago.  Scenery was gorgeous and this was a nice day.  Both grandkids were decidedly unimpressed with the site of Delphi.  They said after visiting Ephesus that all other ancient sites are not quite so impressive.  Bill and I enjoyed the museum.  The fine detail of the marble statues and carvings are wondrous to me.  However did the artists do such fine detail work so long ago with the limited tools available to them at that time.  

Ice cream lunch in Delphi town
The kids enjoyed their pizza lunch in the quaint town on the mountainside more than they enjoyed Delphi or the museum.  But I am still glad we made the trip.  It is also possible to make a slightly longer trip and visit Meteora.  This would have been really interesting to me but we did not have the time.
Meteora Greece

Walls at Delphi were once covered in plaster.  Must
have been beautiful back then.  And lots of color.

Sample in museum of the colors
that once adorned buildings
at ancient Delphi.

Moving mountains at Delphi
Next morning we were on our way by 05:30.  Our hope was to make it to Navpaktos, the town with the tiny  medieval harbor.  S/V BeBe is too large to go inside the harbor but it is possible to anchor outside the entrance if the weather is settled.  Both kids wanted to visit Navpaktos.  But, yet again, forecast weather and actual weather were totally opposite.  Wind ranged 20 to 35 knots from NW and there was no way we would be able to anchor outside that tiny harbor entrance in those conditions.  
Very colorful boat at Trissona
So we changed destinations and instead sheltered overnight in the small harbor on the eastern side of Nisos Trissona.  Dropped anchor at 38.22.040N  022.04.568E after another 25 NM of motoring, most of that distance directly into the wind.  This was getting very annoying.  By this point both Bill and I were seriously re-considering remaining in the Med for another season.  We were both ready to just start sailing/motoring west and get the heck out of the Med.  We were really tired of this nasty weather.

Graffiti in today's town of Delphi
The steep steps killed me
at Delphi town.
Next morning we were again on our way by 05:30.  Seas were much, much calmer and wind was way down.  For the first time in weeks the weather was exactly as forecast!  And we took full advantage of it.   Zachary and Elisabeth wanted us to stop briefly at Navpaktos but we did not want to waste over 2 hours of time to do it.  Sorry kids, you will have to be happy with whatever tiny harbors we find in Croatia.  We were moving on while the moving was good.  We motored 60 NM this day, dropping anchor at abandoned Port Marathia near Ak Tourkovigla, a few miles SW of Astakos.  Wind picked up for the final 2 hours but the first 8 1/2 hours was smooth and calm motoring.  We were all glad to reach the anchorage.  This is a very small anchorage that provides good shelter from N and NW winds.  We thought there was room only for one boat, but soon two other smaller boats joined us and there was room for all of us...barely.
Rion - Andrion Bridge at separation of Gulf of Corinth
and Gulf of Patras.  This one is so high that it did not look
like our mast would hit as we went beneath it as with all
other bridges.

Resting after climbing steep steps at Delphi town.
Up early once again and on our way by 05:30 for another 60 NM motor up the Ionian Sea.  This day we motored through the long and ultra-narrow channel on the NE tip of the island of Lefkas, a/k/a Lefkada.  The swing bridge on the northern entrance of this channel opens on the hour, so we were able to drop anchor when the bridge was in sight at the 90-degree turn from west to north.  There was plenty of room for all the boats in transit to hang out for the 20 minutes or so waiting for the bridge to open.  Gave us time for a quick lunch.  Zachary made hot dogs and sliced apples for us and we ate in the cockpit with our eyes glued to the bridge.  The bridge only stays open a few minutes so we had to be ready to go as soon as the bridge started to swing open.  

Foot fight after exiting Lefkas Channel
Once through the Lefkas Channel we once again changed destinations.  (First we rescued yet another fender.  When we spot a floating fender we treat it like a 'man overboard' drill and rescue it.  This is the third fender rescued while Zachary and Elisabeth were with us.)  We had planned to anchor at Preveza but the weather was so benign that it did not make sense to stop when there were many hours of daylight left.  So we motored up to Ormos Ayiou Ioannou, some 3 NM east of Paraga.  This little bay did not even show up on our electronic charts until I drilled down 4 levels.  Then it was easy to see that there was a tiny cove in the bay that should provide good shelter from NW or N or NE winds.  Would be untenable in W or SW winds.  As the wind was very light from NW and not predicted to change for days, we opted to try this tiny cove for the night.  Dropped anchor at 39.16.6156N   020.27.953E.   It was lovely.  A tiny bit rolly during the night, but nothing uncomfortable.  And the kids were able to swim off the boat for the first time this summer.  It has been much too cold for them to get into the water.  This day was the first really warm day and they enjoyed swimming in the cold bay water.  We covered another 60 NM this day.

Finally warm enough for them to swim.
About 2 hours after we exited the Lefkas Channel we heard a VHF radio hail from a British sailor.  First he tried calling Lefkas Port Police and got no response.  Then he tried the Greek national radio monitoring system -- the name of which we cannot understand.  It sounds like Libya Radio but is Greek.  The 'Libya Radio' finally answered his hail and we and everyone else on channel 16 heard the British guy report that 3 sailboats had gone aground in the Lefkas Channel.  Okay; I know this guy thought he was doing the right thing by reporting these groundings to the authorities; but we would not have done that.  Not one of those grounded boats had called to report a problem.  For all we know they were capable of getting themselves back to floating without requiring assistance.  What the do-gooder British guy probably did not know is that Greece has a rule that if a boat experiences any problem that requires towing or assistance then that vessel must be certified seaworthy by a marine surveyor before it is allowed to be moved again.  A marine surveyor would cost minimum $1,000 to certify a sailboat to be seaworthy.  So it is no wonder that not one of those 3 grounded boats wanted to report their grounding to the authorities.  The British guy thought he was helping or doing the right thing but he likely just cost those 3 boats a minimum $1,000 each.

Snacks prepared by 2 loving grandchildren.
They knew how tired we were!
Next morning we slept in a half hour (we were getting very tired of these early morning departures to motor all day long, even though weather has been significantly improved since we exited the Gulf of Corinth and Gulf of Patras and entered the Ionian Sea.  We motored 41 NM this day and arrived at Gouvia Marina in Corfu.  This was our destination and we made it on schedule.  We wanted to clear out of Greece as quickly as possible so we can begin our 90 days out of Schengen territory.  All this so that we can enter Italy in mid-September and be legal on the Schengen time limitations.  It is a shame that we could not take any time to enjoy the Ionian Sea and the lovely Greek isles here, but Schengen rules dominate our every thought these days.  It is always nagging at the backs of our minds.  Europeans have no concept of how stressful and difficult it is for non-EU people to cruise the Med.

Castle at Corfu at Old Town.
Today we rented a car.  Found a large Lidl supermarket and once again stocked up with a few more half-cases of our current favorite wine, plus lots of good pork products and all sorts of other goodies.  Also found a Carrefour and bought a few kilos of good streaky smoked bacon and some Kerrygold cheddar cheese that our granddaughter loves so much.  And visited the port authorities, customs and passport control in the main commercial harbor.  Boats can clear in and out of Gouvia Marina if they are remaining in Greece, but if departing Greece then one must visit the main commercial harbor for formalities.  We are officially cleared out now, passports stamped and ready to go.  Still not sure whether we will leave tomorrow or the next day; that will depend on the weather forecast in the morning.  We know not to trust a weather forecast given tonight; it probably would change by morning.  Also, we still have not decided if we are going to Albania to coastal hop north or just sail straight to Montenegro.  That decision will be made depending on the weather forecast at the time we leave the fuel dock of this marina.  Although, if we are going to Albania then we need to call the agent before leaving Greek cell phone area since our phones and internet will not work in Albania.  

Another castle or fort at Corfu.  Extensive walls.
Kids are enjoying the marina swimming pool.  Bill and I are enjoying resting.  After the passages from Pireaus/Athens to here, we need a bit of rest.  FWIW, I have never been so happy as I was to say goodbye to the Gulf of Corinth and the Gulf of Patras.  Hoping beyond hope that the Adriatic Sea is kinder that the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth.  Those were horrible for us.  I have heard from other sailors in the Aegean that the weather has been just as bad and unpredictable there too thus far this summer.  Other than that, we have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Greece this year.

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