Sometimes It’s Just Life On A Boat….

Our GPS tracks since last blog update as we wander the treasures of the Ionian Sea

It’s been awhile since we last checked in, but we are still here in Greece living life on the hook. One of the main goals of our blog is to share our adventures along with the cool things and places we come across on our journeys. Unfortunately, with our season rapidly coming to an end, we have spent a fair amount of time revisiting places that we shared with you last year. We’ve even managed to escape the hair raising drama of surprise storms. I will do my best to try and make this worth the read.

We cut our stay in Nydri short. This part of Greece has been having a long spell of high heat warnings, and this anchorage does not lend itself to swimming. While the swarms of jellyfish have not yet materialized this year, the water is very brackish and unpleasant looking. Given the number of wrecked boats lying along the shore here and there, you can only imagine what grossness has leeched into the water. Needless to say, with the high heat and no wind, we decided to head over to one of more favorite anchorages known as Two Tree Bay (not the official name). We stopped here toward the beginning of our season, and it was blissfully empty. When we arrived, there were a few boats already anchored, but we carefully selected our spot nicely distanced from everyone else. Unfortunately, Greece had now opened up their borders to a number of other countries, so tourism was back in full swing. This meant that those beautiful, isolated spots we were in at the start of July were no longer peaceful and isolated 🙁 Before long, our beautiful little anchorage was packed full of boats…..and everyone was on top of everyone else…..yuck! In watching the ebb and flow, I quickly learned that it was best to avoid this anchorage on the weekends. Despite the crowds that came and went, we ended up spending almost a week here. The crystal clear water and abundant sea life made for some really great swims.

We probably would’ve stayed longer, but a weather system was forecasted to come in, so we decided to head into a marina. At this point, we had been out at anchor for 35 days straight. That is a record for us! I actually like a little marina time because it means I get unlimited air conditioning. While we are able to run the A/C while at anchor, we really try not to. The primary reason is the huge drain it places on our batteries, but the other reason is safety. To run the A/C in our cabin requires us to close up all the hatches and the door. The unit itself is located under our bed and is much noisier than a home A/C. While this does not disturb our sleep, it does mean that we are no longer able to hear what is happening outside of the boat (such as changes in the wind)….not a good thing. Unfortunately, I cannot sleep when I am too hot (which happens to be every night). My newest invention….sleeping on hard, blue ice packs. Yes, I do this almost every night! Maybe next year we can buy the soft, blue gel packs…..haha. If I could only figure out how to build those blue gel packs into an ice vest, I’d be set!

Riding out a strong wind forecast in Gouvia Marina.
While in the marina, our new cushions from a local sewing shop were ready!
Specials of the day at a local Greek Taverna. You walk with the waiter to the kitchen and he explains what each dish is. Yum!

Well, the storm came and went with a lot less gusto than the forecast promised. It was time to get moving once again. We decided to head for a couple of islands to the north that we had to bypass last year because they were overcrowded with boats. Surprise, surprise…..they were overcrowded or taken over by super yachts, so we were skunked again. So off we headed to the island of Corfu, and one of our favorite anchorages (Petriti). Our 6 hour planned sail ended up being an 11 hour sail (this did include waiting for the swing bridge to open so we could transit north). We arrived in the anchorage at 9:00 p.m. Another fun first, anchoring after sunset…..we call that drop and pray because you can’t see the bottom to know whether you are in sand, weed, or rock. We got lucky.

The next evening, we spotted some very ominous looking clouds building up over mainland Greece. It did not look good. As we continued to watch the storm’s progress, it became very evident that we were about to be hit. Sure enough, in it rolled. We were surrounded by thick bolts of lightning, loud claps of thunder, pouring rain, and 25-28 knots of wind. The wind then kicked up the seas, and we were being hit with 3 foot waves. We fired up our engines when the wind clocked around putting us on a lee shore (translation: if our anchor broke free, we would be on the rocks of the shoreline). Fortunately our anchor held like a rockstar, and we stayed put. It wasn’t long before we heard a mayday being called on the VHF….that’s never a good sign. There was not a lick of English being spoken, so we really don’t know what the issue was or where exactly the emergency was taking place. As I am sure you have guessed, this storm was not on any of the 7-8 forecast models we check everyday.

Thunder and lightning in the anchorage. Not fun when you are a sailboat with stick of metal 60 feet high!
Enjoying home made Stifado – a specialty of Savvas Taverna in Notos, Corfu

Before long, we were itching to get moving again. Our plan was to make our way up the island of Corfu (it’s quite large) and then eventually get ourselves up to the island of Erikoussa, the northernmost island in Greece. This journey brought us to an anchorage right outside of Corfu Town. This particular anchorage was one of our more challenging anchorages. It is a big, beautiful bay with lots of room, but there is also lots of thick weed with few sand patches. Needless to say, we failed our first attempt as we began dragging our anchor. When I brought it back up, it was loaded with weed. We had slid out of our tiny little sand patch and into a big weed area. We moved along a little further until we found a bigger sand patch that we were happier with. This time the anchor set perfectly. The downside of our perfect little spot is that we were on the direct line to the dock for the water taxis and tenders for the mega yachts. This made our spot a little choppy at times as they zoomed right by us. It also meant no swimming far from the boat. Despite all of this, the water was crystal clear, and we somehow adopted an entourage of about 40 fish. They hung out under our boat, and would come out whenever I got in the water and follow me around as I swam. It was so funny! So of course I spent as much time in the water as I could with my little friends. I even had a few eating out of my hand! We loved this place! The entire bay was lined with little tavernas and the castle walls lit up the skyline at night. We had so much fun here we ended up spending almost a week. We became regulars at our favorite bakery, fish market, and baklava shop.

The aquarium under our boat. They followed Robyn everywhere she swam
That’s an old gravesite!
Corfu town and it’s Venetian castle by night
Our favorite fish market in town
Robyn hand feeding her new pets

It was hard leaving my little fish buddies behind, but it was time to go. Our next stop was a tiny little bay which required us to take lines to shore (translation: anchor is down and there is a line off each end of the back of the boat tied to a rock or tree so that you cannot swing around on your anchor). At the time, the weather was calm. If it had not been, this would not have been a safe place for us to be. Sadly, we only spent 2 days here because another big blow was forecasted. Once again, we headed into a marina for shelter. We managed to get in and tied up before it hit. We watched a number of boats struggle to come in once the winds kicked up. We were very thankful that we came in early. Before long, we had 25 knot winds IN the marina. The wind was shrieking and waves were crashing over the outermost docks. We were quite content to ride this out in the safety of the marina (plus I got air conditioning again!)

Psaromita point anchorage on Corfu
Mermaid Robyn swimming in front of Zoe at Psaromita point
We loved waking up to this view the next morning!

The weather cleared, and we were on the move again. Our destination was the island of Erikoussa. We enjoyed two days on this quaint little island. We walked a portion of the island which had some beautiful homes up on the hilltop, many of which had been newly remodeled or constructed. On our second night, we had an unexpected visitor. Dan and I were watching a movie inside when, all of a sudden, a small bird flew inside our boat. It startled both of us as he flew spastically around the boat banging into things. Something had definitely scared him. When he finally settled down, you could see he was breathing heavily. Now came the task of trying to get him OUT of the boat without scaring him even more. It took a fair amount of work before we finally got him outside where he rested on the pillows in our cockpit. He was still scared and in need of rest, so we brought out a pan of water and some bread crumbs and left him alone. By the time we went to bed, he was still bedded down in our cockpit, but by morning he had flown the “nest.”

Erikousa Island – northernmost island in Greece
Sunset over Erikousa anchorage. The next landfall in that direction is Italy…

There isn’t a lot on the island, so before long we were ready to move again. Believe it or not, we were watching another strong wind in the forecast specifically for this area, so we wanted to make sure we were out of the area by then. From the island, we headed to the windward side of Corfu. This side can get really nasty in high winds and the anchorages can become very uncomfortable. Since we still had a day or two more of good weather, we anchored in a big beautiful bay. We enjoyed some amazing snorkeling along the rocky shoreline but soon discovered that you needed to be done swimming in the morning. By late morning, the bay came to life with powerboats, jet skis, water skiers, and every other form of water fun you can imagine. This meant the bay became very pitchy with swell and chop…..not fun to try and swim in. Also not fun to hang out in, so we left. Our desire was hastened even further when a charter boat came in an anchored right beside us! Did I mention that the bay was huge and we were the only boat in it???? Literally, right beside us! See ya!

We began making our way back south with the intent of finding another little anchorage on the leeward side of Corfu island. The forecast showed that the leeward side would be relatively protected from this next high wind that was forecasted (the two places we had just been were about to be walloped). The wind had already started picking up, so we were able to sail almost the entire day. Sadly, every anchorage we passed was loaded up with boats. In the end, we opted for the anchorage just outside the marina we had been in the week before. Here the water was a little murky, so this would be another drop and pray scenario. We had watched some boats ride out the last storm in this anchorage, so we figured we could do the same. This was a one and done. It’s been so hot here that swimming is a necessity, and while you can swim here (we did) it’s just not fun to swim in water that is dark and murky….especially when you know how beautiful the water is everywhere else. So, off we went….back to our favorite bay in Corfu town. Last time we were here, there had been boats anchored right beneath the castle walls. It looked amazing, but a little too crowded and completely surrounded by hazards….not our cup of tea. However, when we rounded the point this time, there were no boats there! We were so excited. We carefully selected the biggest patch of sand we could find in the back part of the anchorage and made ourselves at home. On two sides of us were towering castle walls and on the third side of us were mega million dollar yachts tied to the quay (I’m sure they were thinking….there went the neighborhood….haha). Our spot was amazing! And wouldn’t you know, I ended up with another fish entourage! Once again, the snorkeling was incredible. Needless to say, we weren’t alone for long. Most of the time was good with people anchoring a respectful distance away. The weekend was another story. It got super busy Friday and Saturday with a couple of knuckleheads anchored waaaay to close! Luckily they didn’t stay long. I did give them my evil, stink eye….it didn’t seem to work. Maybe the Europeans don’t know what the evil, stink eye means? Just kidding.

Zoe anchored off of Corfu town and it’s fortress walls
When you realize out of wine onboard! Nah just kidding. Never happens!
Corfu town strolls always means finding random ruins from antiquity
Cannons overlooking the anchorage from the castle
We love wondering these places from antiquity!
We hiked this nature park daily while we did an extended anchor stop in Corfu town
When you have that fired calamari itch….
Grocery shopping in the Old town. Such colors.
Venetian castle grounds.
Kanoni and it’s picturesque island churches.
Returning to Zoe by dinghy from a shore visit.

That pretty much brings you up to speed. We spent 5 more days in Corfu Town making daily pilgrimages to an awesome archeological park where we could hike among the ruins and daily swims along the castle wall admiring the underwater scenery. Sadly, we are now 12 days from hauling out. This has been a weird year, as everyone knows. Thanks to Covid, our season started much later than normal, and thanks to Covid it will also end a lot sooner than normal. Our original plan had been to sail new areas of Greece before heading to Albania or Turkey and then on to either Italy or Croatia. Unfortunately, Greece has kept their borders closed with both Albania and Turkey. Those places would’ve allowed us to reset the tax clock on our boat, and going to Croatia would’ve allowed me to reset my time here in Europe. Because Americans are not allowed into Greece (remember, I came in as Dan’s wife on his Croatian passport), we did not feel that leaving Greek waters was a wise idea as we would probably not be allowed to bring out boat back into Greece (and this is where we have a contract for Zoe for the winter). Long story longer…..I am reaching the end of my visa time, so our sailing time is up 🙁

Our story is not quite over though. As we make our way back to the marina for haul out, we will hit a few more new places to share with you. Once Zoe is tucked away for the winter, we will be making our way to Croatia (sadly without our dear boat). We plan to do some work on the house and visit some friends and family. We hope to do some more land based adventures while we are there as well…..so, stay tuned!

Still chasing sunsets 🙂
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Nora Espenshade
Nora Espenshade
15 days ago

What is the building in your final photograph? It looks like something from Game of Thrones. It appears to be ancient.