Well, as the saying goes, better late than never. I’ve definitely drug my feet in completing our final post of the sailing season. I guess you could say I am in mourning 🙂 So, here is the rest of the story…..
As the close of our season was rapidly coming to an end, we decided to make our way to the town of Preveza. The thunderstorms had gone away, and we were left with sunny skies and moderate breezes. We had been watching the weather and our remaining days very closely after finding out that the swing bridge between the island of Lefkada and mainland Greece had broken. This is a car bridge from the island to the mainland that opens once on the hour to allow boats to pass through. When it broke down, it would no longer swing away which meant the only boats that would be able to pass through the channel had to have a beam (the width at the farthest part of your boat) no more than 5 meters. Zoe is 7.25 meters wide! We would not be able to fit. If the bridge did not get repaired in a timely manner, we would be forced to sail all the way around the island, adding significant time to our journey (an hour and a half trip would turn into an 8-9 hour trip). We had a slot booked at the Marina to have Zoe hauled out on Wednesday the 16th of October. We anxiously watched the bridge from our berth in the marina. You can imagine our excitement when we saw a couple of catamarans head up the channel, and the bridge fully opened. Woo hoo! We decided it was best not to wait until haul out time in case the bridge broke again. We scrambled to get underway and make the next bridge opening. At this point, we would have about a week to cruise around if the weather permitted.
We headed out of the marina and up channel to get in the line up of boats waiting for the bridge to be opened. Once it cleared, we all zoomed through the gap out into the open sea. It would be about an hour and a half to motor to Preveza. The forecasts were still all over the map, so we opted to head to a brand new marina in Preveza and spend some time digging deeper into this town since this was the area where Zoe would be wintering, and where we will prepare her for re-launching next spring. Anyway, we had tried to book with Preveza Marina before the last big storm, but they had been full. This time, they were able to accommodate us. Once we arrived, the marinero directed us to our spot and helped us to tie up. We were in an awesome spot close to all the marina facilities and an easy walk to the town center. It was a beautiful marina and definitely one of our favorites.
We spent the next few days getting to know our new stomping ground, eventually riding our bikes to the ruins of a castle nearby. As we rode down into the center “courtyard” of the ruins, we were quickly enveloped by a very creepy feeling. Surrounding us on all sides were high stone walls with rotting rooms behind them. As you walked by the dark, gaping openings, the roosting pigeons made their unhappiness very clear. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Birds,” this would be a scene out of that. The unease was further magnified by the graffiti and evidence of human misbehavior within the hidden sanctuaries of the castle. As we continued our exploration, we found our way up a decrepit, stone staircase that led up to the ramparts and an amazing view of the Ionian Sea. Despite the overcast skies, you could still see the varying hues of blue, green, and black across the water. Unlike sites you see in America (and even other parts of the world) which are fenced off for safety, the ramparts had an abrupt edge where one misstep would send you plummeting to the rocks or sea below…..no fence, no barrier, nothing…..just crumbling rock being retaken by nature. By this point, I had gotten a little bit braver and ventured into some of the abandoned halls…..yep, still super creepy. They were very, very dark, and I had no interest in encountering whatever might be hiding or lurking in there. After Dan managed to flush out a barrage of pigeons, we decided it was time to go.
At this point, we had paid for 3 days in this awesome marina, but decided that we could really have a lot of fun here. There were beautiful beaches not far away and great places to ride our bikes. We had just come to the decision that we would stay put in this lovely marina when Dan received an email telling us there was an issue with the large travel lift that would lift Zoe out of the water. They told us that they needed to move our winter haul out from Wednesday of the following week to Sunday! Are you kidding me??? We had less than 2 days to play around in the heart of Preveza before Zoe would be out of the water and stored on land. Then comes the real fun….prepping her to be shutdown for the next 5-6 months 🙁
Unfortunately, we had already purchased our tickets to fly out of Preveza which meant we could not head home earlier despite the boat being put away for winter. We decided we’d take our time getting her shut down and head inland by car for a bit of exploration off the water. We rented a car and headed to Meteora which is a rock formation consisting of one of the largest and most steeply built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. The six monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area. The sight of these very old monasteries perched high in the sky are absolutely breathtaking. We arrived in the town of Kalabaka, at the base of these towering rocks. Dan found us a great little AirBnb that looked out at the cliff face. We wandered the town that evening taking in the beauty and getting the scoop on where to go and the best things to see.
The following day, we drove up into rocky formations to take a closer look at these famous monasteries. Given the somewhat extreme locations of these monasteries, each had it’s own set of unique challenges for accessing them. Only one of the six had an easy entrance where you just walked straight in over the roadway. The remaining 5 required an incredible amount of stair climbing to reach the entrance (and of course lots more steps once you got inside). This day definitely provided a strenuous workout, but you could not beat the views. Check out the pictures, and you’ll see what I mean.
We spent a great 3 days driving through the inner parts of Greece before heading back to the boat to finalize her shut down. Once complete, we said a very sad farewell to Zoe. It was time to head home. We had a 3 hour flight from Preveza, Greece to London where we spent our 15th wedding anniversary. The next day was an 11 hour flight to from London to Phoenix. There you have it. We had another wonderful cruising season in the Med. and met so many great people. While we are happy to be home with family and friends, we are also very excited for the adventures ahead in our next cruising season. We wanted to thank all of you who have followed along on our journey. As I’ve mentioned before, our purpose of our blog is to document our travel adventures. We may go quiet for a period of time until we get our winter adventures figured out. We hope you’ll stick around to see what kind of trouble we can get into in the near future.
When you joined us last, we were once again happily anchored in Vlikho bay on the island of Lefkada. At this point, our final set of guests (Dan’s college fraternity brother and his wife) were due to arrive in 3 days, so this seemed as good of a place as any to pick them up. As luck would have it, another storm was forecasted (yes, this one was actually forecasted) to arrive the same day as our guests. We came to the conclusion that it just might be better all around to head into the marina. The boat would be secure, and they could walk on board with all their things rather than having to be shuttled in on the dinghy in rain. Besides, we didn’t want their first night on board to be another one of our hair-raising experiences (that could come later)! The day they were due to arrive, we pulled into Lefkada marina and cleaned up the boat. Remember, we had been at anchor for almost 3 weeks now, so Zoe was in need of a good cleaning. For the next two days, we explored the area with Jeff and April, our new guests. Since they had driven down from Athens, we were able to explore further afield in their car.
We drove to the River Styx (also known as the Acheron River). This was the river I mentioned in a previous post that was said to have ferried the souls of the dead to the underworld. Unfortunately, the boats were not running on this day, so we were unable to go to the underworld 🤣 We did enjoy walking along the river though. From there, we went to Necromanteion. This was an ancient Greek temple devoted to Hades. People would come here to speak to the dead. We tried to speak to the dead, but our reception was poor. Our next stop was the amphitheater of Nikopolis. It was founded in 29 BC to commemorate the Roman Emperor Octavian’s victory over Marc Antony and Cleopatra at a battle nearby. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get close due to the danger of falling stone. As we made our way back, we stumbled upon a local olive oil producer who kindly opened up his mill and sold us some of his oil….Yum!
After 2 days of land exploration, we were all eager to get underway. It was time to get out on the water. We decided to take our friends to the island of Kastos. This time we found a narrow, little bay with no one in it. We anchored in the center to give us the greatest amount of swing room which also meant it would be really uncomfortable for anyone else to come in and anchor. The sun was out and the water was crystal clear and inviting. The boys went exploring by kayak and played on the SUPs….yep, I say boys for a reason. The two of them laughed and played all day long. You know you have a good friend when you can pick up where you left off despite not seeing each other for many years. Above the anchorage was a cute little windmill that housed a cafe, so as sunset approached, we all headed up there for a drink. It was a great time. We all decided this was well worth a two night stay.
As much as we loved this bay, it was time to move on again. We headed back to Vlikho bay (jellyfish bay) since our friends had not yet been there. With solid holding, we would be comfortable getting off the boat to do some more land explorations. Our friends would be leaving us soon, so this was also a good place to be to avoid the expense of the marina. Our first stop was the waterfalls of Dimosari. After picking our way up the hill, we were treated to beautiful, lush vegetation and some small pools of water. The waterfall itself had definitely seen better days. It was falling down the rock face in a trickle. From there, we drove to the little town of Vasiliki….another cute little seaside village. This town is known as the windsurfing capital of Europe in August with over 100 windsurfers taking to the water. By now, the sun was beginning to go down, so we made our way back to the boat. Sadly, the next day would be the last day of Jeff and April’s visit with us, so we decided on a winery tour followed by a visit to the town of Nydri which is a quaint little seaside resort, and one of our favorite places to explore. The next day we headed to the small, hillside winery that we had driven by on numerous occasions. The four of us were treated to a private tour of the wine making facilities as we learned the process their grapes go through to become that delicious nectar of the gods that we all so love. You gotta love touring sights during off season. Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve pretty much had the sights all to ourselves. Anyway, after learning about the wine making process, we returned to the tasting room where we were treated to a variety of their wines. Needless to say, we all walked out with some of our favorites. From there, we decided to grab some lunch by the sea in Nydri. While waiting for the wine tour, I had been thumbing through a tourist guide and found a very highly reviewed restaurant. Sounded like a winner! As promised, it did not disappoint. It was definitely one of my favorite meals in Greece so far. Our friends dropped us back at our dinghy, and we all reluctantly said good-bye. All alone….once again.
Our time on the boat was rapidly slipping away….and with it, the weather was becoming less settled. It seemed as though we would have a few more days of calm weather, so we decided to head south again…..this time to the island of Ithaca. The 22 mile voyage brought us into the bay of Limin Vathi where we found a nice spot to anchor behind this tiny little church on it’s own little island. This islet was once a quarantine station long ago and then turned into a prison during English rule. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 1953 and never rebuilt. The “church” which was built in 1668 is the only thing remaining. The main part of the bay was full of boats at anchor, but our little spot on the outskirts consisted of only one other boat. Since we were confident that Zoe was secure at anchor, we rented a car to explore the island. There are a number of sites associated with Homer’s Odyssey that we wanted to check out. Once again, we found ourselves on very narrow, winding roads as we made our way into the mountains. We found some of the ruins to be a little bit questionable….meaning it looked to us that perhaps something more modern (in the last 100 or so years) had been built over top of the site and it was THAT which was actually in ruin. We aren’t archaeologists by any means, so who knows…..On our way back, we stopped in the village of Kioni for lunch. This was another potential anchoring spot, but after witnessing the utter chaos of the many boats trying to tie up while dodging one another, I decided this spot would never be on my list of anchorages.
We enjoyed two days on the island of Ithaca and decided it was time to move closer north. We had been carefully watching a very large storm system that was forecasted to come in, and we had already secured our spot in the marina. Our only worry now was whether or not it held true to it’s predicted date and did not arrive early. We contemplated heading back to…..you guessed it….Vlikho bay. As we drew near the channel entrance, we decided to head across to the mainland and check out the bay of Ormos Varko. It was close enough that if it didn’t look good, we would still have time to head back to our trusted hidey hole. When we arrived, there were only 2 other boats at anchor, so we picked a nice spot and dropped the hook. This turned out to be a phenomenal decision. We were surrounded by rock outcroppings, sand beaches, and sparkling aqua water. This might very well be our last few days of swimming this season….and swim we did. We swam 450 feet to shore and back and just enjoyed basking in the water one last time. We continued to keep an eye on the approaching storm and agonized over when it would be the best time to duck into the marina. In the end, we opted to play it safe and left the following afternoon. We arrived and got tied up a few hours before the winds started to kick up. In the end, we probably could’ve gotten away with one more night out at anchor, but when the storm took off the next day, we were grateful that we didn’t have to tie up in that craziness.
As I wrap up this tale, we have been in the marina (along with many other cruisers) for the last 3 nights. We have had pouring rain, thunder and lightning. We have also seen 40 knot winds IN the marina and bounced around in the 2 foot waves that came with that wind. There are still storm clouds all around, the temperature has dropped dramatically, and we are still blowing consistently at 15-20 knots. Unfortunately, rain is forecasted up until our last few days on the water, so at this point we will probably remain marina bound until it’s time to pull Zoe out of the water. For now, we will begin the process of packing up and shutting down for the season. Our plan is to do some more inland exploration, so we will likely have one more post from this part of the world before heading home. We hope you will join us as we close out one more sailing season.
You may recall from our last post, we were happily ensconced in Vlikho bay on the island of Lefkada (also known affectionately as Jellyfish bay and Velcro bay). It becomes quickly evident why it is also known as Velcro bay…..once in, it’s pretty easy to just stay parked….and we were no exception. Your anchor digs in deep to this thick, sludgy mud, it’s usually well protected from all winds, it’s surrounded by high mountains, and it’s easy access to almost anything you could want.
After the third day, we had to remind ourselves that we did not buy a boat just to sit in once place, so we reluctantly pulled up anchor and headed out into the beauty of the islands. Our next stop was going to be the island of Kastos, anchorage to be determined upon my review 🤣 Yes, I hold THAT kind of power! Our journey south would be about 3 1/2 hours with the wind at our back. As luck would have it, we did manage to sail for some of the cruise there. Despite it being mid-September, there were still a ridiculous number of boats in this part of the Ionian. So much for it being low season! As we cruised up the east side of the island (the perfect protection for the direction of the wind), we spotted a couple of empty anchorages and stored them in the back of our mind in case the one we had in mind was full. When we arrived at the spot known as Wasp bay (none of these cute little names are official of course….they are the names that sailors before us have given title to), there were only 2 other boats anchored in this lovely bay. We quickly chose a great spot that was respectfully distant from our two neighbors, and dropped the anchor. The bay was surrounded by spectacular rock walls and crystal clear water. This will definitely do!
Not long after we were settled, another boat came in and dropped anchor right in front of us. This was a little unsettling as he was quite close and did not appear to do much more than drop his anchor overboard. We seriously hoped he wasn’t staying the night since he would be a risk to us if the winds picked up even slightly. Fortunately, he only stayed for a few hours and went on his way. Dan had been out snorkeling to check our anchor and had said that their anchor was literally just laying on the sea floor, not dug in at all. Not long after, a large catamaran came in and anchored behind us. They caught our eye as they were flying a large California flag. This was the first Americans we had encountered all season on the water. They ended up inviting us to their boat for dinner and drinks. As we motored over in our dinghy, we were greeted by the captain and his friend both decked out in Rasta wigs and Bob Marley playing on the stereo. Needless to say, we busted up laughing….this was definitely going to be a fun night! The 10 of us enjoyed a great dinner, lots of wine, some games, and of course laughter and storytelling. We found ourselves disappointed that we had not crossed paths earlier in their voyage. Despite meeting for the first time, it was like being with friends we had known for years. The following day, they continued their journey, and we opted to spend one more evening in this beautiful bay (never mind the fact that we were nursing a wee bit of a hangover).
After 2 nights, it was time to explore our next port of call…the island of Cephalonia, bay of Eufimia. This passage was 24 miles to the west. Initially, we had thought we might med moor to the town quay, but I quickly nixed that idea. Since this would be our fist time to med moor our boat alone (and I had already been warned about the harbormaster who barks orders at you for how he wants it done), I didn’t feel like putting on my big girl panties and dealing with being yelled at. 🤣 We found a spot in that small bay that we liked and dropped the anchor. Unfortunately the sand bottom was hard packed sand, so it took us 3 tries to get the anchor dug in and holding. Later in the day, a small catamaran (looked almost homemade) with 4 young Germans dropped anchor somewhat close to us. Given the amount of room in the bay, I was not super happy that they chose so close by. Before long, one of the young men had rowed over to our boat to ask if we were okay with where he had anchored. I told him that as long as he felt he was dug in and secure, I was fine. He very kindly offered to move, but I told him it was fine and thanked him for asking (you know this random sidebar about our neighbor holds a key piece to this part of our story). As the evening drew to a close, ominous clouds had begun to build. None of the weather models had called for any sort of weather, but we have learned from experience that these type of cloud formations usually bring bad times if you are on a boat.
As we laid in bed, I could not shake the uneasiness I was feeling (this is often the case for me in unknown anchorages). Around 2:00 a.m., I could see lightning flashing in the sky through the hatch over our head. Not long after, it started to rain. Dan and I scrambled to close up all the open hatches before heading up on deck to see what was happening. By 2:30 a.m. all hell had broken loose. The rain was coming down sideways, thunder and lightning boomed all around us, and then came the wind….the worst wind we have ever seen at anchor. Within minutes, Dan and I were soaking wet as I ran below deck to grab our foul weather jackets (a little late at that point….we were already drenched from head to toe). Dan fired up the engines in case we broke free. When the wind hit 40 and 50 knots Dan powered forward on the anchor to relieve some of the strain. This went on for about a half hour. A couple of boats dragged and chose to head out to sea until the worst had passed. Just then, we saw our German neighbors’ boat go flying by us…..and NO ONE was on deck! They were headed straight for the jagged rocks of the shore. I grabbed our air horn and big spot light and started blasting it at them. It felt like it took forever for someone to finally come up on deck. Thankfully, they were able to get control of their boat before they hit shore. Several boats circled around in the chaos until things began to settle, and they could re-anchor. Within 45 minutes, the storm had come and gone. As I stood on deck shivering in my soaking wet pajamas, my crazy husband proclaims, “I’ve never felt so alive!” Sometimes he baffles me beyond belief. It was a terrifying experience with a lot of running around and yelling information to each other over the howling wind, but our anchor held like a champ. We had survived our toughest storm yet. I’ve come a long way in reading the clouds and understanding when things are likely to go sideways. I also have full faith in my gut now….when it tells me to go sleep up in the salon or on deck….I do.
After our soggy, sleepless night (we were on a definite adrenaline high for the next few hours), we decided it was time to move on. We had asked about the possibility of tying to the quay (yes, I was willing to brave it at this point), but the harbor master said there would be no room as a flotilla was coming in. Well, that cinched it….time to find a quiet, safe place to anchor. Where was our anchorage of choice? Back to Vlikho bay, of course. We knew we’d hold well and could get a good nights sleep despite being at anchor. The one thing I have not yet learned is to get a deep, restful sleep at anchor, and we have been at anchor now for 17 straight days. Thanks to last night’s storm, the seas were rough and confused (going in all directions). It was cloudy and rainy with 3-5 foot seas. As we came into the channel to the bay, we crossed paths with our California friends. They were on their way to turn in their charter boat, so we passed close by waving and shouting our goodbyes to one another. Once again, we were happily secure in our peaceful bay. Time for some much needed rest.
When we checked out of Albania, Dan was able to go ashore and take care of the paperwork the night before (this was a new treat). The only caveat was that we had to be out of the bay by 9:00 a.m the following day….otherwise, we would be required to come back in and check out again. We made sure to set an alarm to give us enough time to get underway and meet the 9:00 requirement. For some bizarre reason, our process went a little slow. We ended up motoring out right at 9:02….really hoping they weren’t militant about being gone before 9:00. As we came out of the bay, the Greek island of Corfu was directly ahead of us. This would only be a 2 hour cruise to get to our next port of call (a big change from the last 3 trips of 55+ miles each). Unfortunately, after a phone call to the marina, we learned that we could not check in until 4 p.m. Ugh. After another phone call, we were told they could probably accommodate us if we came after 1 or 2 p.m. There was very little wind (as usual). Normally we would motor, but since we had so much time to kill, we decided to sail it…..ssssllllllooooowwwwwlllly. It gave us a lot of opportunity to play around with our sail trim and get a feel for maximizing our speed in light winds. We were able to match our boat speed to the wind speed much of the time, so we were quite pleased with ourselves. It was finally time to head into the marina. Wouldn’t you know, the wind picked up quite a bit right when it was time for us to dock (and it was a crosswind)! Needless to say, docking was a lot more “fun” than we would’ve liked….but we managed to get securely tied up.
We arrived in Gouvia Marina on the island of Corfu on Sunday, September 1st. We purposefully chose this date since Greece had recently instituted a cruising tax that is paid by the month (literally by the month, meaning if you arrive on August 31st you will pay for the entire month of August). Anyway, once we got the boat secured and checked in with the marina, we set out to get ourselves and Zoe cleared into the country. As I may have mentioned in our first post of the sailing season, checking into and out of countries is often its own little adventure. Not only does the process vary between countries, but it can vary greatly even within the same country. Sometimes this can be rather frustrating. Our arrival in Greece was no exception. We were advised at the marina office to grab a cab into the old town since they would drop us in front of the correct offices. We headed over to the taxi zone and waited….and waited….and waited. Dan tried calling several times to no avail. At this point, we were both hot, tired and frustrated, so we wandered off to find a place to rent a car. As luck would have it, there was a rental car place right there in the marina compound. We were able to quickly rent a car and get on our way to the old town (big shocker….there was a cab sitting at the taxi stand as we drove away).
We had no clue where to find the port police or customs/immigration, so we headed for the port in old town Corfu hoping our destinations would be clearly marked (they of course were not). We drove by a building that said “customs” on the front, so we quickly found a place to park and headed over. It was clearly a defunct building. We found a break in the fencing, and squeezed our way through to the interior of the port. After several attempts, we finally found the port police. He then told us to go to customs and immigration, and then return to him once more. He pointed us to the building with no instruction as to where exactly we needed to go. Once again, we wandered aimlessly trying to figure out where we needed to be. To make a long story a little less long……we walked over 2 miles trying to find these offices and spent 2 hours taking care of paperwork. The majority of our time was spent in the customs office trying to show that we paid the cruising tax and trying to explain that we were pretty sure we screwed up when paying it because we forgot to put in our “ID” number that would associate the tax with our boat. The agent was kind, but she was definitely flustered and tired of dealing with us. In the end, we were finally checked in and on our way (although still very uneasy about this cruising tax because if you don’t have proof that you paid it, you get HUGE fines).
After that long and stressful endeavor, we continued on our way to old town Corfu to wander around and grab some dinner. The town is a maze of stone streets lined with cute little shops and restaurants. Surrounding the old city is an old fortress and a new fortress. Corfu was once controlled by the Venetians (many, many years ago) since it was considered the gateway to trade in the Adriatic, so their influence on the architecture is very evident. It is a beautiful place to explore. Unfortunately, several huge cruise ships arrive in port every day making the old town extremely crowded with large tour groups and buses. On our way back to the car, we stumbled on this little dessert shop that had more than 50 different types of exotic baklava. Needless to say, we bought several of the more unusual ones to try out. They were amazing! The next day, we popped into the port police at the marina (they were closed when we had arrived the day before) to show him our paperwork and explain our dilemma with the cruising tax. The money had come out of our account, but without proof we’d be in trouble. He looked over our papers and showed us that customs had stamped us as paid, but the reality was that we were not paid and the money would likely be refunded since it did not have a way to associate it with our boat. We told him that it was important for us to be legitimately “legal,” and we weren’t looking for loopholes. He was kind enough to tell us where several banks were that we could go into and pay. He also told us that his colleague had been very kind to us because he had stamped us into and out of the Ionian. This meant that we were totally free to roam the Ionian islands without having to check into and out of every port we visited. Awesome!!!
We ended up staying in the marina for 3 days before we decided it was time to continue making our way south. Our next stop was on the east side of the island in a small town called Petriti. We found a great little spot outside of the main bay in the hopes of avoiding crowds of boats anchored on top of us. I swear charterers are like moths drawn to the light! Every boat that came in anchored closely around us! This was not suppose to happen! Everything we had read said everybody anchors in the bay right outside of town. Liars! It wouldn’t have been so bad except we ended up with two different charter boats very close to us. One in particular re-anchored 4 different times (every time equally as close) throughout the day and evening…..that inspired a lot of confidence that he wouldn’t drag into us in the middle of the night. There would be no sleep for me this night. I literally slept up on deck, popping my head up every hour or so to make sure no one was getting any closer. Buy a boat they said…..cruising is fun they said…..it’s so peaceful at anchor they said…HA! More often than not, it really is peaceful and fun…..but it’s the bad times that really stick with you 😝 The next few nights were much better. We had a few, very well spaced neighbors and the hordes had filled the main bay as expected. After a few blissful days, we decided it was time to move again (can I just stay here?). We headed south again to our next chosen destination. It was packed! We cruised through at least 8 different anchorages, and every one of them was uncomfortably full of boats (as in reach out and touch your neighbor!). Nope, nope, nope….not gonna do it. So guess what we did? Yep, headed straight back to Petriti (2 hours away). This time I talked Dan into anchoring even farther from the town. Our old spot once again took on quite a few boats…..but not us! Score one for team Muzich! We giggled and marveled when 40 boats crammed into the town bay, all on top of each other. We, of course, were blissfully secluded with only a couple of boats also anchored a nice distance away. We enjoyed it here so much that we ended up staying for 9 days!
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. It was time to move again…..NOOOOO! This was going to be a really long push. Our goal was to make it to the inland Ionian Sea (about 57 miles away). We had pre-selected a couple of possible anchorages in case we didn’t feel like doing a full 9-10 hour slog south. Bet you can’t guess what we found??? Yep, each one we came to was full of boats 🤦♀️ Geez, I though we were finally out of peak season. We did cruise through one bay in order to see the Acheron River where the souls of the dead were thought to descend into the underworld according to Homer’s Odyssey. Supposedly we could’ve cruised up it a little ways, but once we saw how narrow and choppy the rocky entrance was…..we respectfully declined. I am hoping to go back and explore it more thoroughly by land once we pull the boat out for the winter. We finally had the channel markers in sight that would take us into the inland sea. We also cruised past the marina where Zoe would be spending her winter. I have never seen so many boats! They can store 1000 boats on land! Anyway, as the inland sea opened up before us, the winds had picked up quite a bit and there was a fair amount of chop and swell. Storm clouds had begun to build off in the distance. We had chosen a bay that would provide us with good protection from the predicted winds and made our way there. When we arrived, there were only 2 other boats in the bay, so we found a spot that we were happy with (and well spaced from our neighbors) and dropped the anchor. Unfortunately, the water here is not the typical crystal blue that we had grown use to….it was more like the murky green of a lake (clean, just not clear). This would be a case of drop the anchor and pray. Usually, we swim the anchor to verify it’s dug in and holding well. Not a chance of seeing it here.
As the evening went on, two more boats joined us in the anchorage. We continued to watch the storm clouds build. This was not good…..when storms come in, so do big winds….and of course none of this was in any of the forecasts! Not long after we sat down for dinner, all hell broke loose. The winds were gusting to 30 knots, 3-4 foot waves came crashing into the bay, and big bolts of lightning rained down. We were all now pointed in the direction of shore if our anchors let loose. Every one of us was scrambling on deck securing things, closing hatches, and monitoring our anchor….oh, and of course night had now fallen. Dan fired up the engines and I ran to the bow to monitor the anchor (my favorite place to be when there is lightning!). Whenever a huge gust would hit, Dan would give a little forward throttle to help ease the pressure on the anchor. One boat ended up pulling his anchor up and moving to the other side of the bay. Luckily, the storm blew itself out within about 30-45 minutes. They say that sailing is 90% pleasure and 10% terror. I think I’ve had more than my 10% of terror at this point. The next day, all the boats had bugged out leaving us all alone in the bay. We kayaked to another bay to check it out for future stays, and depth checked our bay close to the rocks just for peace of mind. This little bay quickly became another favorite of ours, but after 3 nights it was time to move again.
We headed out of the inland sea and made our way to the swing bridge that opens your access to the Ionian islands. This swing bridge is well traveled by many cars, so it only opens for boats to pass through on the hour, and the operator is very gruff about getting your butt through as fast as possible. We arrived at the bridge about 10 minutes before opening and queued up with all the other boats. As the bridge swung open, we all formed a single file line and blasted through the canal as the operator vigorously waved for oncoming boat traffic to get moving. As we spilled out of the canal and into the sea, I was taken aback by the number of sailboats I saw. If this is the decline of the season, I would hate to see what July and August look like here. No thank you. I have no plan to sail here in peak season! Yuck! As we made our way to several different anchorages, we found them stacked deep with boats. I am so not ready for this. I tell Dan in no uncertain terms that I do not want to do this….we need to find a place with less boats. The conversation continued like this….Dan: You’re not afraid to park a car between two other cars. What is your problem? This is just like parking a car! Me: (mouth hanging open and spitting fire) This is most certainly not like parking a car!!! The wind does not push on the car! There is no current acting on a car! You cannot possibly be comparing parking a car with backing a boat down in between 2 other boats and taking a line to shore so you don’t swing and hit them! I’ll spare you the gory details, but our conversation rapidly devolved from there. Cruising is fun….cruising is fun….cruising is fun! We were at a loss as to where to go and the day was slipping away. Fortunately, I remembered an email a new cruising friend had sent me with her tips for this area. I quickly pulled it up and showed it to Dan. We decided we would try Vliho bay on the island of Lefkada. It was supposedly a huge bay with plenty of room for lots of boats. When we arrived, it was certainly full of LOTS of boats, but there was plenty of room for us. We chose a spot we were happy with and dropped the anchor. Once again, we could not see the anchor through the murky green water, but we had read that you hold like glue in here. We did. It’s a beautiful bay despite the unpleasant looking water. The major downside is that you can’t swim here. Well, you can…..if you’re brave enough. The bay is teeming with these giant jellyfish. We’ve seen them before and read that they are not poisonous to humans (supposedly no painful sting), but I have no desire to be swimming around with them. There are so many of them that you will be touched by them 🤢. They are the size of a freaking basketball. Nope….no thanks….that’s a hard pass on the swimming. Since we were holding so well, we decided to dinghy into the town of Nidri and explore. We wandered around this great little town that is lined with all kinds of shops and tavernas. We both were really kind of digging it here. Maybe we will just live here for the month 🤣 (You know that’s me, right?).
After wandering for a bit, we decided to rent a car and go explore the island. This is the first time we have left the boat on anchor and gone really far away….it was a little bit scary. Ironically, we were more worried about the dinghy getting stolen than the anchor letting go and our boat ending up on land. We drove all around the island….up steep winding roads with sheer cliff drop offs, overlooking beautiful crystal bays, and through adorable little villages. We even stopped at an olive museum to learn some more about the making of olive oil (which of course came with some tastings of their products). It was one of our nicest days in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, we have been having a great time, but we have been at anchor for almost 2 weeks now and this was our first big adventure off the boat. We thoroughly enjoyed it. So, at the time of this writing, we are still at anchor in this bay. This will be our third night. Neither of us is in a hurry to leave. As a matter of fact, we are thinking of renting a scooter tomorrow and touring some wineries before heading to a beach along one of those crystal clear, turquoise bays we saw. Stay tuned….our finale is rapidly approaching!