The sailing season of 2020 was a bit short. But that was the case for many other sailors, with all sorts of restrictions and lock-downs in most parts of the world. But in the Greek waters the summer turned out fine in the end, even though a little later than usual. Our own adventure was delayed, of course, by the corona virus, and we couldn’t leave our winter base until the end of May. Then our boat had a surprise in store for us, which kept us busy at the boatyard until the end of July. And now another lock-down brought our journey to a halt in the harbour of Galaxidi. Well, it is what it is – we’ll try to make the most of it.
At the same time as hurricane Sally was approaching the American coast, a similar storm was brewing in the Mediterranean – medicane Ianos. We woke up in a quiet anchorage in Paxos on Tuesday, the 15th of September, with the intention of sailing to Preveza. We had the wind straight on the nose, and after hours of tacking back and forth we decided to anchor at Two Rock Bay instead, and continue to Preveza the following morning.
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.
During the first days of our mountain holiday in Zagori we visited the mountains and the spectacular gorge that I wrote about in previous post. In an earlier brief history I mentioned that there are also 46 old villages built of stone – now it’s time to visit some of them! These days there are less than 4000 inhabitants in the area. In the heyday the number was many times that. Fortunately, travellers interested in nature, hiking, biking, horse riding, canoeing, climbing and other outdoor activities are beginning to find their way here, as well as those who are into history, architecture and stone construction. And for people who just love rocks – we happen to have those among our friends – it’s an endless goldmine.
If you travel to a mountainous area, the first thing you naturally want to see there are the mountains! We found the Zagori area in the Northwestern Greece to be a true treasure trove of many other things as well – such as distinctive culture, history, stone villages and bridges, rich flora and fauna and all sorts of strange and wonderful things – but the mountains would be a good starting point. And those gorges and mountains are really the reason why the history and culture of Zagori turned out the way it did. Also, you can see very far from high places and easily form a general idea of the area.
Every once in a while it feels good to take a break from boat life – to travel along roads, live in a house that sits firmly on the ground, sleep in a bed that doesn’t rock from side to side. Before Christmas we decided to run away from the marina for a week, and headed to a region very different from the usual “Greek Holiday Destination”. Clearly these few months that we have spent in Greece are just a scratch of the surface: this country has so many facets, and so many stories hidden amongst its thousands of years of history. This blog post is not about sailing or the sea, this time we escape into the mountains!
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.
After a month of coastal sailing in Sicily, we felt ready to cross the Ionian Sea to Greece. Ionian is the most popular cruising area in Greece, and full of charter sailors and flotillas during the summer months. September would be a much better time – less tourists, and still very warm.