May 06, 2007
It is late in 2006 when it becomes obvious that my sister who normally comes sailing with me is getting interested in “going walkabout”, and spending her vacation time visiting parts of the world that she has always wanted to see. She has booked a trip to Alaska next year, and is looking at going to Patagonia later in 2007 and then Outer Mongolia in 2008…
If I want to go sailing next year I will need a new crew member!
I suggest the idea to one of my friends and he is definitely interested, but there is one slight problem, he has never ever even been out in a dinghy or ever seen a yacht before.
The flotilla company that I use is Sailing Holidays (www.sailingholidays.com) and besides letting you book a complete boat they also operate a “share a yacht” booking service where singles or couples can book and they match parties to share one of their Beneteau 361’s mixing experienced sailors and novices to make up the crews. It is a great way of getting away if you are a novice or are not quite sure if you can handle a boat on your own.
Diving into a cruise with only a complete novice as crew is not a good idea so I decide to book us up to do a “share” with two other crew members.
The London boat show comes early in January so I take Gary down for a day to show him what a yacht looks like, and explain a bit of what to expect from a 36 footer.
May 06, 2007
In April I am in the middle of doing a training course in the Solent with the aim of getting my RYA Coastal Skipper ticket when my mobile rings and it is the Sailing Holiday’s office with a little problem.
One of their other clients wants to upgrade from a Beneteau 331 to a 361 but they are all alocated so “do you think that you could handle one of our Bavaria 42’s?”
My last trip involved a 43 footer in the Caribbean so that shouldn’t be a problem.
We arrive at Gouvia marina and are told that our boat is Aurelia, and where to find her, and its off along the pontoon to see if the rest of the crew have got there first. (First ones on get to pick their cabins, not really a problem on the 42 as it has four cabins, but if you get four singles on a 361 then somebody will end up with the saloon)
Our two crew-mates have beaten us to it, the Manchester flight got in first, and we introduce ourselves to Anne and Tony.
Anne has done one two week flotilla before, so is a relative novice, but Tony is a retired yachtmaster examiner with more miles logged than the rest of the flotilla put together.
May 07, 2007
Sailing Holidays have their entire fleet moving out of Gouvia today, thats about 120 yachts in twelve flotillas…
All of them have to find a harbour for the first night, and the first day is usually a short one by the time that you have all been shown where everything is on you boats, checked off the inventory etc.
So every harbour within twenty odd miles will have one or more fleet in it tonight, and where are we off to?
We are given one of the lazy options, we are only going just down the coast to the NAOK harbour just South of Corfu Citadel.
This is a pleasant little harbour, run by one of the local sailing clubs who get a few funds by charging visitors a small fee. It is also very convenient for Corfu town, being only a simple walk away.
If coming in with a yacht though don’t go too far over towards the clubhouse or the shore, it has a rocky bottom that comes up to meet you VERY fast!
One other thing to watch out for is that it is a more exposed to wash coming from passing ferries than you would expect from its position, the waves seem to bounce off the citadel rock and come into the harbour that way.
End up where we were near the end of the quay and you will find out what I mean!
Well we are the biggest yacht in the flotilla and one of the last ones in, so we get the berth nearest to the end of the quay but two berths along from us is a 96 foot motor yacht that makes our Bavaria look small.
May 08, 2007
Next port of call is Sayaidha, easy to find as its about 15 miles due East from the Corfu Citadel, out of NAOK turn right and straight across.
Finding Sayaidha is one thing getting into the harbour is another.
Until the tension between Greece and Albania abated a few years ago this was a military zone and tourism was definitely out. There is even a ruined town up in the hills, abandoned as it was too close to the border.
When things relaxed they built a nice new ferry slip and a little harbour but neither really worked very well. The ferries decided it was easier to drop their loads further along the bay and reduce the distance they had to come from Corfu, and some bright engineer put the harbour entrance facing due west towards Corfu.
Well that meant that any westerly wind had 15 miles to build up a good sea state and come crashing straight into the harbour..
Easily solved, fill in the western entrance and blast a new one in the more sheltered southern arm of the harbour.
OK it now works but the first time you line up to come in you will wonder if they ran out of dynamite before they finished the job. The entrance looks very very narrow. It is actually wide enough to get two Benetteau 361’s in it side by side, but standing at the wheel looking at it, it just doesn’t feel wide enough as the ends of both quays disappear below the bow. Is that is why some nice person put two big lamp-posts on the ends?
Well I’ve been in here with a Jaguar 27 and a Benetteau 361 but this time its a Bavaria 42, and just to make things really interesting there’s a nice Bf5 cross wind.
For some reason Sayaidha seems to be one of those ports where you always seem to get a good blast late in the afternoon, just as you are about to park up for the day…
Oh yes and while I remember, dont swing to far south when lining up for the entrance as it gets very shallow that side of Sayaidha bay…
May 09, 2007
From Sayaidha we sailed, or mostly drifted, back across the Corfu Channel to the little fishing village of Petriti.
This, as with any crossing of the Corfu channel involved a fair bit of ferry dodging.
Although this is my fifth trip in the Corfu Channel I had never actually visited Petriti before, and found it to be a nice little harbour but it is home to a number of large fishing vessels, so watch out that you stay clear of the area where they tie up.
There was one alongside the end of the quay when we arrived and hence we went stern-to on the end of the quay, extending the quay by 42 feet.
I wouldn’t actually recommend it, as it meant we were broadside on to a ferry wash that arrived at about 03:00, some fast ferry or another wasn’t keeping to the agreed speed limit…
There were two supermarkets in the village, one near the waterfront and another a little way up the hill on the road going west from the village. (In 2008 when I visited Petriti again the waterfront one had been converted into a cafe bar/ coffee shop).
May 10, 2007
When coming out of Petriti and intending to turn South or South East watchout for the “Corfu Fly Trap” of Lefkimmi Spit.
This sandbar sticks out about a mile beyond the beacon on it and hence just seems to attract boats like a piece of the old style sticky Fly Paper.
May 10, 2007
From Petriti we motored out to clear Lefkimmi Spit and then got some good wind.
Our desination for that night was Sivota back on the mainland. This village is sometimes refered to as Sivota (north) or Mourtos, to prevent it being confused with Sivota on the island of Lefkada which is about 100 miles further south.
A direct course to Sivota, after rounding Lefkimmi would take you straight into the bay leaving Sivota Island to starboard, but there is a channel by which you can get to Sivota from the south.
We were enjoying some good sailing after the previous day’s drift along and hence went down past Sivota Island and then turned up to come in via the Southern Channel.
I had used this channel several times before but with little Jaguar 27’s and once with a Benetteau 361 and hence knew what to expect. Tony, for though was taken a little aback as the bottom came up to meet us…
If you do try this approach to Sivota then
1) Watchout for exposed rocks off Sivota Island.
2) Dont try to go between Sivota Island and St Nicholas Island (channel off to port as you go North) its very shallow.
3) You can go into the channel that opens to starboard but only if you want to anchor up, there is a sandbar that you can use to wade across it between you and the nice bay that you can see through the narrows!
4) The main channel has a ridge of rock that crosses it (at about 2.5 metres depth) just north of the two side channels, and you need to be bang in the middle of the channel at this point.
5) Have someone up on the bow watching out for unexpected obstructions in case you stray off the deep (joke) water route.
6) If in doubt go around the island and use the main entrance!
May 10, 2007
Sivota is a another nice little village but has grown significantly since I first visited it.
The village quay is looks straight out onto the Corfu Channel and is hence totally exposed to the North West and to that old enemy of yachts in the Corfu Channel, to ferry wash.
I seriously recommend that you go stern-to here, It will let you put your heavier bow tackle out and the boat will ride any swell that comes in better. Doing that I have never had any problems with using the quay.
They have been building a new harbour on the over side of the bay for years now, somewhen they may well finish it but I still haven’t found the Greek term that equates to the Arabic Inshallah or the Spanish Manana..
Anyway its been under construction for at least six years, but once completed will give better shelter, if a longer walk around to the tavernas etc of the village.
The quay is lined with tavernas, cafes and bars and there are several small supermarkets close by.
Sitting in a bar, nibbling some crisps put on the table by the propriator, watching the late arrivals trying to find a slot to put their yachts into its unwinding time in the Ionian. (Then suddenly you find one of the local sparrows helping himself to your crisps (see the photos!))
The main village centre is actually strung out along the road that goes inland and about half a mile up there you will find a great bakery (I got there too early and had to wait until they started to take the bread out of the oven. Fresh baked bread, a scent that we don’t seem to ever find at home these days. Anyway the baker poured my loaves straight off his wooden shovel / spatula tool into a carrier bag for me as it was too hot to touch.
One loaf was still warm when I went below to make lunch hours later.
May 11, 2007
We are off South West today, heading for Gaios on the island of Paxos.
The obvious route is back through the South channel but Tony doesn’t fancy doing that again and in the interests of crew compatability I agree to go out the main channel and outside of Sivota Island.
May 11, 2007
Our final destination for today is the village of Gaios, halfway down the eastern coast of Paxos.
Aurelia is going well in a good breeze so we decide to call in at Lakka on the north coast and anchor in the bay for lunch. This will give us a chance to show Anne and Gary one of the prettiest little places in the Ionian.
Lakka bay is almost circular, and always seems to suggest a volcanic caldera to me, especially as it has a shallow hump right in the middle.
The bottom is white sand and on a sunny day the water turns a vivid blue.
The village itself is quite small but has a fair length of quay which is left clear by the local fishermen so it is usually easy to fiind a berth.
Anyway today we are going to move on, but the empty stretch of quay seems to suggest itself to a chance to let the novice members of the crew have a go at parking the boat.
“We will do an approach, drop the hook and back her in to show you how, and then come out again and lift the anchor then you can both have a go”
Approach the quay, turn well out, slow astern (but not too slow), quarter turn of the wheel to the left when looking aft to counteract the prop walk and keep her straight, “let go” three or four length out , neutral and a touch of forward to stop her, easy OK.
Nice approach if I say so myself, but it really confused the taverna owner who came out to take our lines when we didn’t throw them and simply went back out again.
So now its Anne’s turn so I let Tony do the instructing bit, and he seems to be of the “need speed for control” club, Anne’s first approach ends with a sudden burst of full ahead to avoid the quay, so I suggest that Gary and I go forward and do the anchor bit, and whilst doing it tell him “you need enough speed to get steerage but not full astern”..
Another full astern , full ahead approach and the taverna owner has now realised what we are up to.
Gary takes over and its is nice gentle approach, you wouldn’t think that it is only his fifth day on a yacht..
Anyway time to carry on to Gaios, and we pullout for the last time leaving the taverna guy to realise that there is no hope of trade from us today.