22 October 2018

Cruising the Ionian Sea

It is tough not to compare the coasts we have been cruising.  Each has it's own beauty.  We often comment that a place reminds us of another.  Although our time spent is longer than most on holiday, there is always more to see and places we have missed - more than we have seen, actually.  So comparisons are unfair, based on superficial observations.

Given all that, we agree that the Greek Ionian Islands are among the best cruising grounds with the most spectacular scenery we have enjoyed in our four years.  The islands are large enough to offer lots to do but small enough that sailing along on Milly, you can see layer upon layer of islands and mountain tops.  The villages are not quite as charming as the villages in Croatia with their caramel coloured stone and orange tiled roofs.  The Ionian suffered from a devastating earthquake in 1953 which demolished many of the old buildings in turn replaced by not so charming or imaginative blocks.  Still some of the villages are lovely with the usual promenade lining the harbour.  The water is a glorious multi-shaded clear blue and the skies (until about three weeks ago) equally clear and blue.  History riddles the islands with sea battles, ruins, monasteries, forts from ancient to modern.  The people have been kind and friendly.

With this incredible background, the only big downfall, like all the Mediterranean as we have experienced it, the wind is all over the place.  There is no consistency of force or direction.  We've had some great sails but too often Milly is a motorboat - we have gone through way more diesel this season than our way up the entire South American coast from B.A. to Trinidad.  And then there are boras, and medicanes.

So in our world, all is not perfect....but pretty damn great!!  And the Aegean is supposed to be even better.

The Ionian in photos:

Number one highlight on this trip to Corfu was hosting Emily and Gid for a few days.  We did a quick tour of the northern coast of the island, spending three nights at anchor.  They know how to make themselves comfy...

...and find the shade.

Before joining us, they had spent a week with Gid's family on a motor yacht.  We were lucky enough to join them for an elegant dinner on the sumptuous yacht.  A really lovely experience.
Waving good-bye to Gid's parents, as we left Corfu Town anchorage.

Sailing vessel Milly becomes a medical clinic more often than you would think.  Em and Gid both opted for the ear cleanse treatment.

Our anchorage on the west side of Corfu in a vast bay surrounded by high cliffs.

Reportedly, the most photoed church in Corfu with the airport within spitting distance.

Only in Greece!

Sweet town of Gaios on Paxos.  It is protected by a small island that is so close the waterfront feels like it's on a river.

The cliffs on Andipaxos are spectacular white limestone that was so etched by time and waves that it looked like large snakes were coiling over themselves.  The coast was dotted with caves.
Our anchorage in Erika Bay was almost deserted after the tripper boats left and before they reappeared the next day.  By late morning it was packed with others enjoying the amazingly clear water.

Levkas used to be attached to the mainland until about the 7th century BC when the first canal was built by the Corinthians and then again by Augustus in Roman times.  We had to wait for the all clear when the highway bridge was raised and twisted to let the boat traffic through.  It was the closest we had been to a traffic jam in a long time.

Very cool engineering.  The floating bridge has both ends raised and then swivels to lie parallel to the canal bank.

Another tranquil anchorage on Nisos Meganisi in Ormos Kapali.  We spent a few days walking the island and visiting two of it's three tiny villages.  The village of Spartakhori was perched on a hill top with a gorgeous view over the enormous bay and mainland.

On a windy night, the only protected port on Nisos Kalamos was at Port Kalamos where this guy, George, is the unofficial harbourmaster who directs Med mooring for the privilege of eating at his restaurant.  We were entertained by his traffic cop talents when several fleets of boats arrived in the late afternoon in mounting wind until a anchoring boat pulled our anchor out.  We left the increasingly crowded harbour to anchor peacefully - with a few waves - outside.  But we missed what I'm sure would have been a lively dinner out.

The village of Port Kalamos.

Ormos Sivota on Lefkas was a busy place, again with charter fleets.  We anchored but most tied stern to the town wall or on restaurant docks, hull to hull and overlooking packed restaurant tables on the promenade only a couple of feet away.  We were entertained here for a few days while walking the area.  

The completely protected and long Ormos Sivota

We rented a car for the day on Levkas, a large island by Ionian standards.  Ay Nikitas on the stunning west coast is a touristy but still charming pedestrian village built on the hill with a beach.  Beaches in the Ionian are usually rounded large pebbles or rock.  Very little sand.

Looked like an island in the sky.  In the heat of the summer, the haze is so thick that an island six miles away can be difficult to see.  The deep and narrow bay in the foreground is a popular anchorage - obviously.  We didn't go there.

Peter captured views for his boat bound wife.  The best included flowers.

Sweet town of Fiskardho on Kefalonia, packed with fleets of charterers.  It's the only town on the island that wasn't demolished by the earthquake in 1953.

Milly in the Fiskardho parking lot - I had to take the helm.  Nerve-racking for me and the boats on either side.

Peter's hike - lighthouse

Venetian lighthouse.  There were many marked trails around but couldn't do it....guess we'll have to go back.

Another tight squeeze.

Another sweet village, Kione on Ithaca.  

Heading into Vathy, Ithaca.

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