In early July we left Selkie Dancer stranded ashore at Gouvia Marina, we needed to be home and she needed attention. There were a few below the water line jobs required, not least the forward “heads” seacock – that has to work effectively! Costas and Corfu Yacht Services have been fantastic; they did our standing rigging last year and, once again, have been so professional. They even cleaned the hull as it looked a little sad after standing in the dust with work being done. If I had an equal amount of lolly lavished on me I could look amazing! So our Greek summer work went smoothly, in contrast to the experience we had with England. If you remember, we left for the summer break with the remains of our dinghy tube as hold luggage confident that it could be re-created for a promised a date of 29 August, when it would be shipped for Andy to re attach. Oh this has been a saga! It can be reported upon elsewhere but the long and the short of it is that we have never received it; there was decreasing communication and increasing frustration. Fortunately we have a kayak as well as the dinghy so now Kayak is King!
Tom and Jess arrived the day we went back into the water and the next day we arrived at one of our favourite anchorages, San Stefano, confident that all that would be needed to get ashore was to pump the kayak full of air with Andy’s brand new electric powered device. Well it would have been perfect but for the fact that the battery was flat! In a now well known Heath Robinson Andy tradition we soon had Jess using our emergency bilge pump and Andy holding a tube suitably wrapped with damp material to make a better seal and eventually we had the kayak ‘good enough’ to get us ashore to eat – phew, another night off from the galley.
We sailed on to anchor underneath the castle at Corfu and to visit the Cavalieri hotel and the recently re-opened Archaeological Museum. At drinks that night I encountered a hidden danger when endeavouring to improve my Greek by repetition and mimicry. After having been corrected to ask for ‘αλλο ενα καμπαρι’ when I wished to have another Campari and having repeated quite often these words so that they would stay in my brain – some chance. What should happen? Obvious if I had given it some thought – the waiter kept bringing more Camparis!!!
At the Archaeological Museum I finally got to meet Medusa the Gorgon. Almost Indonesian in style, an archetypal witch goddess that Lawrence Durrell describes so well ‘…the insane grin, the bulging eyes, the hissing ringlets of snake-like hair, the spatulate tongue stuck out as far as it will go – no wonder she turned men to stone if they dared to gaze on her!’ There were lots of other fascinating objects and collections in this modern and digestible museum.
Lakka cove at Paxos has become sooo crowded, I think Tom counted over 80 mast head lights and those were the ones that were lit. Luckily we know it well so wove our way through the melee to the very head of the bay where we found a suitable space. Ashore I found cushions, yes more cushions. Always trying to achieve the ultimate comfort on the boat; these are more like little duvets and in fact doubled up as such when Jess slept on deck.
Laid back in Lakka!
Once we had left Tom and Jess at Preveza and done the laundry we set off in slow time for Zakinthos to meet up with String and Ben. We came through the Lefkas canal and stopped at Nikiana, another favourite place. It is still very hot in the day so we took advantage of the cool of the morning to take a walk up the hill behind the village. It was a beautiful early morning walk, with the smell of the pines and the myriad shades of green surrounding us.
…..and the view
On the way to Astakos on the mainland we dropped our anchor between two islands, the Nisis Provati. It was a bit random and of course sod’s law saw us discover, the next morning, a perfect little inlet just around the corner. However we did have two excitements that I would not have missed. Firstly, gazing mindlessly into the water I thought I was looking at a reflection of our mast. A few minutes later I looked again and realised that our mast did not have regular little brown circular floats! This was a fisherman’s net and we were right on top of it and the fisherman’s boat was approaching! He didn’t seem that bothered, we moved a little and it was taken up without incident or fish as far as I could see. On leaving here we noticed a lot of birds on a craggy rock. I am no “twitcher” but I think these were herons. Well herons/storks/cranes …… grey blue birds with long necks and an imperious outlook. They were in sole command, nothing to fear; they had been practicing meditation and Alexander technique for generations which was borne out by their upright yet relaxed posture. What a delight! The photos don’t work I know, but maybe if you zoom in…………………..
On we went indulging ourselves by visiting known places that we love. We tied back in Kingfisher Bay (our name) on Ithaca. We stayed here longer than intended, there were some strong winds and we walked one day into Vathi to get some supplies.
We had a bouncy sail to Zakinthos using the working jib and moored on the town quay. I baked Pecorino shortbreads for the next guests and only remembered them yesterday – ah!
On our first day we had to cover 70nm, a long distance, to get from the islands to the mainland but being day one we had lots of chat to catch up on and the 12 hours passed very pleasantly interrupted every so often by offerings of food and drink and String had brought with her a Bishops Cake so by the time we got to our anchorage we didn’t need anything else to eat at all. We entered the large horseshoe bay of Navarino with the town of Pylos and its fort standing sentry. We actually entered through what might have been, in different weather, the clashing rocks but that day there were just amazing sheer walls of rock with a large natural arch worn through. The photo shows it from the other side as we were leaving.
We anchored off the little mainland resort of Gialova; so nice and such a contrast to the islands. We knew that someone had sat out last year’s ‘medicane’ here and so were confident of the holding. There were quite strong winds the following morning that whipped up a playful sea and made the journey to shore in the kayak a challenge. We did the usual two trips with Andy paddling, so he certainly got some exercise and when he returned we had to be ready to catch the painter lest he be swept past and on to the south to Pylos!
We took a taxi to Pylos and noticed the building of a new hotel and golf course complex. The Pylos fort museum has been revamped since we visited last eight years ago and was beautifully set out. The glass, the beads and other artefacts were magical things. I never cease to be in awe of the skilful people working 5,000 years ago. We had the best meal with extras and couldn’t eat any more all day. We all noticed that once out of the islands we see how ‘twee’, in String’s words, they can be. I know what she means. They are charming but ephemeral; their existence brief, their summer a transient phase whereas the mainland is lasting, meaty and no nonsense. We visited a gift shop in Gialova and Andy admired a child’s map of Greece, coloured in to show the smaller regions. No sooner admired than it was his! I also bought earrings and later we sent the shop a photo of the map in situ illustrating our route.
South we sailed to Methoni which is essentially a medieval walled town with a castle in the middle. Many have contributed to it over the years, Pirates, Ottomans, Turks, Venetians, Franks and Egyptians. Now all that remains are the impressive stone works and the occasional Venetian lion on the walls, there is a sweet little arched bridge over the sea to a where the Bourtzi Tower stands in perfect symmetry.
String bought me a gorgeous gift of glass straws each decorated with a different nautical motif – how does she find these things?! We had to try them out!
We ended our trip in Kalamata, a city of two parts as described in the guide; a healthy side and an unhealthy side – on the one hand the kalamata olive producing high quality oil and the large olives that are so delicious and on the other the production of a popular brand of cigarette. All I had time for here on our last visit was to make a mad dash in search of some guitar strings. Today we saw the city in two parts, the old and the new. We walked through the modern city, rebuilt after an earthquake in 1986 to get to the old town and the castle. Once again hit by the heady smell of pine, there are fire extinguishers everywhere and notices forbidding smoking. The trees here are so dry. We had a good view out to the bay and down to the fertile Messinia plain with thoughts of Sparta beyond. I love our way of finding places, we never quite manage to find the ‘approved’ way but go off piste and this leads to some wonderful encounters as today when we had climbed up a steep narrow paved road, braving the barking guard dogs and breathing in the smell of gardenia and jasmine growing outside houses. We got to a dead end but were hailed by the occupants of a small house and asked if we were looking for the castle. A conversation ensued and we learned that the lady was from New York having left Kalamata 50 years ago and was visiting her brother. What a lovely chat and we still didn’t find the castle and had to ask someone else!
Over the week King Kayak has collected and deposited sand aboard Selkie Dancer not to mention an attempt by a gecko to stowaway. Today the king got a right royal wash down and now we are ready for our passage to Kythira, an island that has long eluded us.