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Saturday, September 30, 2017

ENVOY CRUISES NORTH BACK TO CEPHALONIA

Envoy is now anchored off the Greek mainland at spectacular Mourtos, while the Blog continues at Ormos Keri – the turtle area with our daughter Amy still aboard.
Greece is not a place noted for its health and safety regulations (or indeed for observing any regulations!) and when we land ashore we find the decking of the main jetty has many holes and missing planks. We're surprised as this is the jetty used by tourists to board their hire boats, but never mind – helpful young Greek guys are on hand to help you. When walking along the many makeshift jetties here it's a good idea to place you feet on areas where the thin planks are supported underneath.

With missing planks you need to watch your step

This part is much worse and requires a big stretch

While anchored at Keri a strong offshore wind develops one afternoon. Later we see an inflatable plastic turtle blowing from the beach towards us. We imagine that some poor child is crying over this lost turtle so Amy and I jump in the RHIB, retrieve it and head to shore. As we approach the beach Amy stands up and starts waving the turtle around to find its owners who turn out to be a young Chinese couple. They're delighted to be reunited with their turtle but in less than a heartbeat they lose it again to the strong wind and again we retrieve it for them. I think these are the first oriental people we've seen in months as Greece is very mono-cultural and even among visitors you rarely see a non-European face.

Aboard our RHIB inside a cave at Ormos Keri


Ormos Keri is the furthermost point we'll be from our Lefkada home base and on 2 September we start heading back north to Cephalonia. Again we cruise up Zakyntos's remote west coast and again the swell is rolling in too much to anchor, despite fine weather and a light wind.
We try out our new trolling lures and bingo – catch a fish, but we don't recognise the species and decide not to chance our luck by eating it. Since then we've caught four more fish, but all too small to eat so back to the sea they went.
The coming of September signals a noticeable change in the weather and temperatures drop by a few degrees to mid 20s, there is more cloud around and generally more unstable weather. Usually this change doesn't occur until mid September.

Spectacular ravine at Poros, Cephalonia - in the foreground is a spillway floodwaters

Enjoying drinks in the rustic Pirate's Bar at Poros.

It's interesting how the decking and bar have been built into the rocks


Ruined houses ashore at Kalo Lim viewed from Envoy

Kalo Lim is a great sheltered anchorage

We spend a couple of days anchored at one of our favourite bays – Foki, which is just south of Fiskhardo on Cephalonia Island. Most cruisers here in the Med don't want to anchor and instead moor stern-to the shore and we spend some amusing time watching people trying to do this unsuccessfully. One large British yacht secures a stern line to a tree and a short time later pulls it out by the roots and sends it crashing into the sea amid a minor landslide of rocks and dirt.

This yacht's stern line pulled out the tree it was moored to by its roots

I'm going to write some more shortly about the advantages and pitfalls of mooring stern to shore as opposed to anchoring


Saturday, September 23, 2017

ENVOY AMONG THE TURTLES

Envoy is now cruising around Corfu having just returned from nearby Albania.
Amy has left us after a great six weeks together, but the good news is that she's moving back to live in Auckland arriving late November.

We cruise east to anchor in the harbour of Cephalonia's capital – Argostoli. This is a great harbour where you see quite few Loggerhead turtles in the water as it's adjacent to a large breeding and feeding lagoon called Koutavos. Amy had a great experience when a large turtle became interested in our RHIB and it swam close-by giving her great views.

Amy snapped this turtle swimming around our RHIB

In Argostoli I buy a new trolling reel and some new lures as this is the season to catch tuna – watch this space (hopefully!)

Only thing missing is the fish!

Next day we take a rental car to visit the Castle of St George, originally built by Byzantines in the 12th century but taken over by Normans, then Turks. The Venetians defeated the Turks in 1500 and took the castle which they held for the next 300 years.

Argostoli harbour viewed from castle - as you can see it's very sheltered

Another great view from the castle

Laurie and Amy on ramp to castle's main gate

Laurie at castle's gate

During our driving tour we visit this spectacular cave


While filling our water containers ashore I meet some British cruisers who had just sailed here from Malta. Our original plan was to cruise to Malta until Envoy's fire damage changed that. These people said Malta was a great place to visit by land but they didn't enjoy cruising around there during July and August as the few anchorages were crowded and there were too many fast speedboats zipping around.

We move south to anchor off Spatia, somewhere he hadn't been before, and like it so much we stay two nights. Here is great scenery and holding with very few other boats. 
Here and at many similar bays locals and visitors leave their small craft such as RHIBs, kayaks, dinghys and trailerable motor boats unattended on moorings, unlocked without any fear of theft or damage. Sadly this is something you cannot do in most parts of New Zealand any longer – your boat would be stripped of all valuable gear or possibly stolen in total.

Dingy moorings at Spatia

We moor our RHIB - front right in a nearby small boat harbour. There are many hundreds or probably thousands of similar very small harbours throughout Greece

As we depart Spatia for Zakynthos Island there are spectacular storm clouds on nearby hills and soon the thunder and lightning starts. 

Storm clouds over Envoy

See how the clouds are rolling down from the hilltop

The wind strength increases, the seas come up and we have a slightly rough crossing until we reach the shelter of Zakynthos. We cruise down the island's rugged west coast, famous for its vast number of caves - in fact we've never seen a stretch of coast with so many. 
We'd hoped to find some semi-sheltered bay where we could anchor overnight but the ground swell is too much and we have to keep going, just stopping briefly to take photos at famous Wreck Bay – said to be the most photographed bay in Greece. The crew of a charter catamaran anchored in the bay seem to be a bit inebriated judging by their loud music and gyrating on deck and we have to take evasive action when a teenage girl dives into the water and obliviously starts swimming across Envoy's intended track.

Famous Wreck Bay

Close-up of actual wreck

On Zakynthos's southern side is a relatively sheltered bay called Ormos Keri where we anchor for a few days. Early one morning we take our RHIB out to a sandy beach on Marathonisi Island where there's a turtle breeding ground. 

Marathonisi Island has the appearance of a turtle

By sheer luck we time our visit perfectly as three rangers are digging up a nest where eggs have been laid to help some turtles find their way out of the sand and down to the water. It's a wonderful experience to see five turtles, each about the size of a thumbnail, flipper their way down the beach and launch themselves into the sea for their first time. 

The Rangers are excavating a turtles nest to help baby turtles

Baby turtles


This beach gets a lot of visitors brought out by ferry and catering is provided by several floating cafes which come out each day and run themselves ashore.

A bit of commercial crassness at the turtle breeding area






Monday, September 11, 2017

ENVOY CRUISING AROUND CEPHALONIA

Envoy is now cruising around Meganisi with our daughter Amy aboard.

I meant to include this picture of Di in the Corfu market in an earlier post. Although we've been mostly unsuccessful in our fishing endeavors there is an enormous annual fish catch in the Med of 800,000 tonnes.

Di in Corfu fish and produce market

Fish shops and markets are common place, supplied by an estimated 82,000 commercial fishing boats employing 314,000 people. Virtually every seaside village has its own tiny shallow harbour, generally consisting of a simple rock wall providing some shelter to its fishing boat fleet - mostly boats under 10 metres.

After leaving Lefkas Marina we head south through the canal, initially constructed by Corinthians in the 8th century BC. It's always great to visit places for the first time and we anchor in a stunning bay at the island of Nisis Arkoudian. During the day there are five RHIBs anchored but we enjoy the solitude of being the only boat there at night.
From here it's a short cruise over to Ithica Island, said to be the home of Odysseus in ancient times.
Many nice bays are too deep to anchor in, being over 40 metres and offshore the depth is hundreds of metres. We anchor in Ormos Skhoinos offshore from a local family's holiday villa. They've had the same caretaker for over 50 years, who lives in a beautifully maintained wooden sailing boat alongside their jetty. 

The family villa's caretaker lives aboard this unusually painted boat

Envoy at anchor in Ormos Skhoinis

Further out in the bay a superyacht is anchored looking more like a floating childrens' playground than a serious boat.

While a boat of this size would turn heads back in New Zealand, there are hundreds of boats like this in the Med and nobody really bats an eyelid.

Very close to this anchorage is a stunning unnamed bay with a rustic but ramshackle beach bar. 

Sitting outside the bar is a very thin older man looking like a biblical prophet cleaning some recently caught squid that are covered in wasps. When Di and Amy commented on this he replied “wasps don't worry me they are my friends.” We think this highly amusing as wasps have been an issue in some bays and both Di and Amy have been stung. Very few flies or mosquitoes though.

This ferry drives up onto the beach to disembark day trippers using a builder's ladder

We move on to Cephalonia, the largest of seven main Ionian islands, although there are many dozen smaller islands. I'm sure I've mentioned previously that this island is also where the events took place on which the novel and movie Captain Corelli's mandolin are based. That is in 1943 German soldiers massacred around 5,000 Italian soldiers of the Acqui Division who had surrendered and represented no threat to the Germans.
First we anchor in the harbour of Ay Eufimia, one of our favorite anchorages. Here is a great butcher's shop where we are able to buy New Zealand lamb chops and top quality fillet steak at surprisingly reasonable prices.
One morning we walk inland up a gorgeous valley to an old Turkish village called Drakopoulata. 

The lush valley leading inland from Ay Eufimia

During the 1920s Turks living in Greece were sent home as were Greeks living in Turkey and now the village remains largely ruined.

This old building contains rusty remains of olive presses


Cruising down to Ormos Katelios we put our trolling lure in the water for the first time this year and catch a small tuna. It's far too small to eat but at least it proves the lure works.
This is an interesting anchorage as it's quite shallow with many areas of underwater rocks and requires great care. The locals have marked some of the reefs and rocks with buoys which is a big help.

Looking down on Ormos Katelios

From here we're heading to Cephalonia's capital – Argostoli.