At the beginning of the year 2020 we delved into boat projects aboard our sailboat Aina. At that point nobody knew that the world was about to turn upside down. Greece went into total lockdown in March, but we just kept on working. Read more about our time during the spring lockdown in Messolonghi!
Paxos and Antipaxos, together called Paxoi, are the smallest island group in the Ionian, just south of Corfu. On September the 7th we sailed to Lakka, a small village on the northern end of Paxos. We knew Lakka is a popular anchorage, so we wanted to be there early in the afternoon in order to secure a place. We had some mayhem along the way, however, so we didn’t arrive until 7 pm – the bay looked absolutely packed as I was looking through my binoculars, but we sailed closer to have a look. After all, there’s always room for an optimist – and there was! In fact, more than ten boats came after us, and somehow they all managed to squeeze in.
The Ionian islands of Greece were part of the Venetian Republic for more than four hundred years. Venice conquered the islands one by one – Corfu in 1383, Zakynthos about a century later, Kefalonia and Ithaca around 1500 and finally Lefkada in 1718. The Venetians and Ottomans fought over the territory for many centuries, but unlike the rest of Greece, the Ionian islands escaped the Ottoman rule. Corfu, as the bulwark against the Ottoman empire became one of the most fortified places in Europe.
In the first half of August we headed north from the Nidri area. First we would travel through the Lefkas Channel, a narrow passage that separates the island of Lefkas from the Greek mainland, and has a turning bridge that opens to let boats pass. Anchors aweigh, and off we went!
After leaving our winter base, Messolonghi, we rounded the southwestern corner of mainland Greece. Next to a small but very high, rugged island called Oxia we hoisted the sails for the first time. Our destination was a boatyard on the island of Lefkas, to the northwest, where our boat would be lifted out and we would spend a month or so doing boat projects “on the hard”. But before that, we would have a little mini holiday of at least a couple of days, and we planned to use it anchoring in pretty coves and getting a little first glimpse of the Ionian archipelago.
Everything must come to an end, and that fortunately includes the corona lockdown. Our winter home, the town of Messolongi, emerged from its long slumber, and more and more people could be seen around town. The shops and services opened up one by one, and our small world: the marina, Lidl and AB supermarkets – the triangle our daily life had pretty much evolved around – was growing bigger. Finally pleasure boats were given the green light to sail from one port to another, that is those boats that already happened to be in Greek waters. Boats coming from abroad will have to wait for their turn a little while longer.
In January we began the first boat project we had scheduled for the winter. In March we meant to sail the boat to a boatyard and commence further projects on dry land. Those plans have now been delayed, postponed to a “more suitable time”, or perhaps they might turn into something a bit different. Who knows, unexpected things happen, as we well know. When we first started our journey, we had ambitious route plans and schedules, which soon turned topsy-turvy. Since then we have only sailed (or stayed put, like we now have for the winter) one day at a time. It used to sound a bit cliché to say that to people who asked about our plans. But then came the Coronavirus, and the world has rapidly changed. I bet living one day at a time is much more common now than it was a few weeks or months ago!
After a leisurely Christmas and New Year it was time for some much needed boat refit – plumbing, to be precise. We’re still in the middle of it, and that’s why I won’t go into any detail at this moment. I will write about the project later, when it’s finished. There hasn’t been much time for anything else besides drilling, screwing, demolishing and building during the last few weeks.
Just like the previous New Year, I decided to write a little summary of this past year, along with some scientific statistics at the end. It feels incredible to have made it this far, and to be travelling still, when it’s been a year and a half since we left! Both of us and our boat still in one piece, the money not quite run out, and various plans for next year already springing up. And the places we’ve seen! In May we crossed the Bay of Biscay, sailed along the Atlantic coast of Spain’s Galicia and then Portugal. There we decided to turn towards the Straits of Gibraltar. We made it to the Mediterranean in July, and in August we were hopping along the coast of Sicily. In September we crossed over to Greece, and there we found our next winter base.
The sun was beaming from a bright blue sky when we began our ”autumn holiday” on the Bay of Corinth. We had our winter base in Mesolongi sorted out, but the winter was still a long way away! The day turned very hot, and a gentle breeze started in the afternoon. We rolled out our big genoa, and let the boat move downwind at her own chosen speed. There was no hurry, but our big lady seemed to be waking up as the wind gradually freshened, and was making good speed. Soon we could see the Rio-Antirrio Bridge looming in the distance. This imposing bridge that opened just before the Olympic Games of Athens in 2004, separates the Bay of Patras from the Bay of Corinth, and connects the Peloponnese to the Greek mainland.