After seeing all there was to see we had no more excuses to stay and reluctantly untied from our free marina berth at Mesolongi. We motored back out of the channel into the Gulf of Patras and headed west once again, it was time to move on to the Ioanian Sea. Light westerlies once again, so just 8 tacks to clear the headland at the end of the Gulf before we could bear away a little and head for the popular island of Ithaca. Before we cleared the headland the winds picked up to over 20 knots but while we were thinking of putting a reef in the main they dropped, totally, leaving us with a messy slop which we started to motor though. After about an hour we had about 15 knots so managed to sail through the sloppy seas, but the wind and seas kept building, with the wind back on the nose and up to 30 knots. Engine back on and we motor-sailed for the final 3 hours making slow time in very uncomfortable conditions as the twilight approached. Welcome to the Ioanian.
Vathy harbour on Ithaca had come highly recommended by several fellow cruisers and sounded lovely in the Greek Waters Pilot but as we looked again at the charts and guide book we didn't think it was going to be great coverage but it was our only option late in the day. It's a big long bay, within a larger indentation, but with a strong nor'wester the wind was whipping through, and although on a lee shore it shallowed slowly and the water was reasonably flat, it was ok as home for the night.
The following morning brought clear skies again but around 20 knots plus was still gusting through. We didn't like to leave Balvenie on a lee shore to go off exploring, although the venetian architecture ashore with the surrounding green hills looked very appealing. We decided instead to head off about 20 miles northeast, and once we cleared Ithaca we had a well earned beam reach in flat seas across to the bottom tip of Meganisi. The wind then dropped, so along with about 30 charter yachts we motored up the east coast of the island. Minutes after we turned west at the top were met with 20 knots on the nose, this provided much entertainment as some novice sailors on the charter boats were struggling with the sudden change in conditions.
We headed into the sheltered anchorage of Abelike Bay, we had at last hit the "busy anchorages", there were boats just everywhere, and a new addition arrived every couple of minutes. So with little time to ponder we claimed our spot. This was our first med mooring anchorage of the season, so while Skipper runs out the chain and tries to reverse in a straightish line simultaneously, (never easy with a good breeze blowing, a skeg rudder and no bow thruster), I take a quick dip and dive overboard with the floating mooring line attached to the boat at one end and swim ashore in search of a hardy tree or stable rock to tie to. Of course, this all needs to be effected in a very short space of time or Balvenie simply decides she doesn't want to be where we say and bounces back out on her anchor chain before I can get the line attached. This really is the most difficult way of anchoring with only 2 people on board, but when there are 27 boats tied up for the night in an anchorage that may comfortably fit 4 if swinging, then it is a necessary evil. The afternoons entertainment is also provided, watching everyone having there own way of doing this. Concern is always raised with the odd boat that likes to tie up to shore first and then just drop the anchor over the bow, not quite the way to do it!!!! We were also provided with much entertainment from some of the 'nudist' boats in the anchorage, they didn't seem to want anyone anchoring next to them (but it certainly didn't seem that they wanted the privacy!!) so would stand up on the bow, arms and other body parts waving in all directions if a boat came close. It is very hard to take anyone seriously when they are in the nuddie!!!
We decided to move on the next morning, it was the weekend and we had heard that the Yacht Club in Vlikho Bay on Levkas Island was showing the rugby test and the Wimbledon Mens Final, skipper was overdue for an injection of sport!!!! Off we set and motored the short distance in glassy seas. Enroute we circumnavigated the small lush island of Skorpios, which has been privately owned by the Onassis family for many years. Although they own the island you are allowed to anchor in the bays and step ashore up to the high water mark, as dozens of the charter boats were doing. I suspect the family and visitors have a very large swimming pool at their summer house and never come down to the waters edge!
Onto Levkas and past the town of Nidri and Tranquil Bay. It quite possibly was Tranquil when named some years ago but now bumper to bumper with boats and jet skis whizzing around it is anything but Tranquil. We spotted fellow circumnavigators Samsara, with David and Sheryl from Melbourne onboard and rafted up next to them for a catch up and lunch. Always great to see familiar faces along the way. Then we headed down into Vlikho Bay, and although there were many boats it is a huge sheltered anchorage with room for all. Next day we had more friends arrive, Richard and Pam on Aliesha , a British boat we have known since Darwin. They are nearing the end of their circumnavigation and were waiting to head for Sicily. We had a great afternoon at the Yacht Club watching the epic mens final at Wimbledon and finished off the day with an excellent Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding, nice to have 'normal' food out for a change!
Time was moving on, and so did we. We planned to motor up the bay and channel north to Levkas Town, stay for the night on the town quay and await the opening of the floating bridge which connects Levkas Island to Mainland Greece at 10.00am the following morning. There was a reasonably sized space on the quay next to Samsara but the wind had picked up, blowing us sideways. After 2 failed attempts at dropping anchor and trying to reverse in we admitted defeat and gave up, but then snared someones anchor chain while lifting ours, lost our boat hook overboard while freeing it and nearly ran aground while reversing out.! We know when we are beaten! We decided our best option was to go through on the 2pm bridge opening and head the 10 miles north to Preveza. Standing station with around 15 charter boats for the bridge opening in a tiny canal was more than enough excitement for me for one day, but then once out the other side through a myriad of tiny red buoys arranged in no sensible manner at all through 3 metre waters nearly finished me off completely. Still, we got through into deeper water, rolled just the headsail out and actually had rather a nice sail north, things were looking up. Preveza here we come
Cruising Info for Ithaca, Meganisi & Levkas:
Anchorages - Vathy Bay, Ithaca ... 38 22.03N 20 43.08E 4.0m held well in strong winds. Lee shore in prevailing winds, flat water but annoying chop
Abelike Bay, Meganisi ... 38 40.29N 20 47.34E settled in 4.4m dropped anchor in around 12m, stern tied to rock and tree. Tucked up away from sea breeze
Vlikho Bay, Levkas ... 38 41.09N 20 42.03E 6.1m mud bottom held well. Very big shallow bay but well sheltered, may get chop in strong winds. Boats are wintered afloat here at anchor.
Internet - Didn't manage a signal onboard from any of these anchorages. Yacht Club in Vlikho has dial-up, very slow and 2Euro half hour
Money/Provisions - Didn't go ashore in Vathy. Nothing in Abelike but can walk about 20minutes to town. Small mini market in Vlikho best to go to Nidri. The Yacht Club in Vlikho has a wealth of information about the area, an excellent library for book swapping at no charge, washer and dryer 3Euro each per load, and satellite tv with all the sport on!
Formalities - Didn't do anywhere