Before we set sail back to the Ionian islands on the Monday, Sunday the 28th October turned out to be a most interesting day. Galaxidi was festooned with Greek flags, school children were marching in their school uniforms and families were filling all the eateries in town for lunch. On enquiring what the occasion was, we were told it was Oxi (ohi) day which means “The day of No” in Greece.
During the second world war, on the 28th October 1940, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, through his ambassador in Athens, demanded Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations” or otherwise face war. The Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas allegedly answered with a single laconic word: όχι (No!). This resulted in the Greek nation putting up a spirited resistance to the Italian invasion, which humiliated Mussolini and which according to Churchill, changed the course of the war. The day has since been celebrated as a family day. We enjoyed the festivities and another day in Galaxidi.
On the Monday, a favourable 24 to 28 knot easterly had us steaming along on a broad reach to cover 60 nm out of the gulfs of Corinth and Patras at an average speed of 8 knots, and tie up in Mesolongi at 5pm. We walked into this “ordinary” town the next morning to buy groceries and wine, before motor sailing to Ormos Marathia the next day and then on to Kastos island, the following day.
Sunny days with very little wind followed, allowing us to explore the numerous bays on the east coast of Meganisi island, before tying up in the main town of Vathi harbour, .
We were next to the Dutch boat Onan and its skipper Nol Schade, who we previously met in Kastos, where we were the only two boats tied up at the harbour wall. Noel has been running charters in the Ionian for the last 20 years and is a great source of information.
We had the opportunity to top up our water tanks and clean the deck, which had accumulated a lot of dust. After two days we set off to explore the east coast of Levkas and visited the pretty harbours of Sivota, Nidri, Vlikho, Nikiana and Ligia before motoring through the Levkas canal between the island and the mainland.
We anchored in Levkas to buy more Vodafone data, and then motored the short distance to Preveza. Here we anchored to wait for the easterly that was predicted for the following day, to take us north towards Corfu.
The easterly wind provided a good sail as far as Parga on the mainland, where we explored this lovely town before crossing to the island of Paxos (Paxoi) to tie up to the town wharf of Gaios – another gem of a place.
Until recently, Paxos produced little else except olive oil, for which it it famous. At one time, Harrods in London only sold olive oil from Paxos. Now, tourists and flotilla sailors crowd the island in summer. This is understandable, as the island is beautiful and the locals are very friendly.
After two days we sailed to Lakka, a town on the north coast, which is picturesque with almost impossibly clear turquoise water over the sandy bottom, below the olive clad slopes of the hills.
The short 7 nm crossing to the island of Corfu followed, where we tied up in the fishing harbour of Petriti on the east coast. Locals stopped by to chat and find out where we from. All these villages gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs with long walks during the warm and clear autumn days.
The nights were a different story, as now at 40 degrees north of the equator, we could feel the northern hemisphere winter coming on. Our usual spooning at night, now resembled spoons stuck together with Bostik.
Another 11 nm got us to the main town of Corfu (Kerkira) where we tied up at the Nautical Club of Corfu (NAOK Yacht Club), right next to the old town. Being out of season our berth alongside was free (no water or electricity, but showers, clubhouse and café).
Before setting out to explore the town, there was an urgent issue to attend to: We got word from Lucy Connop who uses our Holden Barina in our absence, that NSW Revenue was after my blood. It has to do with taking democracy seriously and citizen’s obligations.
Australia legislated compulsory voting in federal, state and local government elections in 1924, the fine for not voting is currently $55. Ignore the penalty and the fine goes up to $120. Ignore it again and your driver’s licence and vehicle rego is suspended. All of the above happened in my absence while sailing.
But wait there’s more: When I was interviewed for Australian citizenship years ago, I agreed to my rights and obligations as a citizen, which under obligations also listed doing jury duty when requested. Same story – fine for failing to do this is currently $1,650 and by ignoring the penalty, it has increased to $1,755.
It was critical to request an annulment of these fines – I was unaware of it due to my absence from Australia. (I also don’t have that sort of money to throw away) I eventually found an email address for the Sheriff of the Court on the NSW Revenue website and submitted my motivation (and Annie’s) for an annulment of the fines – hold your breath, we will keep you posted.
Corfu is a luxuriant green island, lying close to the Albanian mainland in the north and opposite the Greek mainland to the south. Since 1200 BC Corfu has been colonised by the Corinthians, Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Norman, Sicilian and Venetian rulers. When the French took over Corfu in 1797, they laid out a regular street plan, constructed arcaded buildings and a second Rue de Rivoli, far from Paris. The British occupation began many public works and introduced fruit cake and cricket. Today Corfu reflects many of these influences in its special Corfiot culture. The few photos below, will illustrate this.
Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband was born on Corfu and the author brothers, Lawrence and Gerald Durrell lived here and wrote extensively about their love of this island.
Since I first visited Corfu some 40 years ago, I have also had a passion for the place. Annie and I spent a week here just before kids. The old town is still as beautiful as ever and this time we spent five days here and rented a car to explore the north of the island.
The weather changed overnight on the Thursday and we departed Corfu on Friday the 16th November, beating into a cold and rainy south-easter and swell. After 20 wet miles we anchored in the sheltered bay of Mourtos on the mainland and enjoyed hot showers and stiff Metaxas. In the afternoon we walked into town for Greek coffees – no sooner did we get back to the boat, than the rain came down again.
And rain it did – for 3 days and nights! We were well sheltered between an island and the mainland, but offshore, the wind was howling. Eventually on the Monday there was a break in the weather and we had a brisk 46 nm sail down to Preveza, to tie up to the town wharf. It took another two days for this system to blow out before we could explore the extensive inland waters of the gulf beyond Preveza inlet.
We sailed to Vonitsa in the south east and tied up to the town quay for free – water included. The next five days gave us the opportunity to prepare the boat for wintering at Cleopatra marina. I drained the engine and saildrive oil, replaced the oil, fuel and fuel/water separating filters, replaced the water pump impeller and checked belt tensions and starter battery electrolyte levels.
Also managed to clean the dinghy inside and out and flush the outboard engine, while Annie did the laundry and sorted out the boat generally.
Friday, November the 30th came around and it was time for Esprit to be lifted out of the water, for a four month rest. We had been sailing for the past 22 months, since leaving Cairns in northern Queensland, and having seen some amazing places and meeting some very interesting people, we were also ready for a break on land. We will spend two months in South Africa and two months in Australia, before continuing our cruising in April 2019.
Cleopatra Marina stores a 1,000 boats in their shipyard for winter, the two neighbouring marinas also store around a 1,000 boats each. Quite a business.
Greece has been great and in the four and a half months of cruising here, we have covered 2, 034 nautical miles (3, 767 km) – see our cruising map below.
Until later, cheers for now!
Annie & Dirk