May 01, 2006
A periodic check of the Sailing Holidays web-site (www.sailingholidays.com) reveals the fact that they are planning to do an “exploratory” flotilla to the Diapondia Island group (Othoni, Ericousa and Mathraki) northwest of Corfu, an area where there regular trips haven’t gone before. These islands are the furthest west that you can go in Greece.
A quick phone call and I am signed up for a “share-a-yacht” berth. Normally they have four people on a Beneteau 361, but we will have three on a 331.
This trip is going to be on of the first of the season for Sailing Holidays and hence will be starting from their winter base at Gouvia Marina, just noth of Corfu Town.
All of their 120 boats will be going out on the same day and taking various routes to get down to their three operating bases.
Down to Gatwick and board our “special” charter to Corfu and then wait to see which of my fellow passengers will be my two crew-mates.
On arrival at the marina I find that my yacht will be “Misios” and my crew-mates will be Alan and Lance. So its down the pontoon and see who gets there first (First on gets first choice of the cabins!)
We all meet up on board and then its off to the first night party and meet the crew from the other boats in our fleet as well as saying “Hi” to people that we have met on earlier flotillas.
“Which trip are you doing this time?” “What is the Farway Islands?” “That sounds like fun I wonder if we can switch our boat into your group?”
The following morning we meet up for our morning fleet briefing and are told that we will now have twelve yachts, plus the lead boat instead of ten, someone must have got their wish to swap fleets.
We also have a slightly odd set-up for this flotilla, Jock will be our lead skipper, but we will also have the company’s owner taking one of the yachts out with some of his friends. So will we have a bit of an Admiral and Flag Captain situation.
“We haven’t had a chance to refuel all of the boats this year, so on your way out just call in at the fuel quay and we will top you up. Don’t worry you won’t all be leaving together so there shouldn’t be too much of a queue”
Yes, OK, so not all our group were leaving at exactly the same time but we did have 120 boats leaving that morning, so what is that about an average of 1 every 2 minutes. and how long does it take to fuel a yacht…
It is interesting how difficult it can be to hold a yacht stationary in a queue when it isn’t tied up to anything and we were only about number 30 in he queue…
(They haven’t tried that little exercise on the Break-out weekend since!)
May 02, 2006
Up the Corfu channel, passing Agios Stephanos and watching out for the nasty reef just north of it and we emerge into clear waters.
May 02, 2006
For our first day’s sailing the destination is the village of Kassiopi, which is just around the corner onto the north coast of Corfu.
The harbour here has a mole on the starboard side as you enter that you can tuck in behind, but you can also moor side-to on the port side of the harbour.
Like many of the harbours here you have to be aware of the risk of wash coming in from the fast international ferries, so if taking the side-to option it is important to do so with your bows pointing towards the entrance.
Misios goes for a side-to rafted up alongside one of the 361’s as there isn’t a lot of depth alongside the wall and we draw a little more than they do.
We have had a problem furling our mainsail and have to get the lead crew over to sort it out for us. In mast reefing is great when it works but if it jams half way in then it can be a real problem to sort it out. You have to be very careful when taking in sail!
We have a group meal in one of the harbour side tavernas and then go back to the boats for the night.
About 03:00 I am woken up by a thumping from the bottom of the boat, and jump on deck. There are waves coming into through the entrance and our keel is hitting the bottom. Oops, ferry wash! Fire up the motor and find another berth, alongside another pair of our yachts a bit closer to the entrance.
May 03, 2006
Out into the unknown today along the north coast of Corfu with our destination in sight on the horizon.
May 03, 2006
The first of the “Faraway Islands” and our first taste of “creative parking” squeezing 13 yachts onto a small length of quay.
Ericoussa is definitely off the normal “Tourist Trail” and seems to get few visiting yachts.
We are of course right at the start of the season and things haven’t got going yet.
We find one small shop with a restaurant attached but the restaurant appears to be closed. “Are you open tonight? Or lets put it this way, if we bring 40 people up here tonight will you be open?”
“Of course we will be!” Thats someone’s season off to a good start!
I take a wander into the interior and come across a very distinguished looking ram that was a bit edgy. Luckily he was tied up so I could get around him without giving him a chance to take too much offence!
Walking around from the quay towards the village there is another stone pier that juts out into the harbour. This is used by the local ferry when it comes in but I think you could tie up there side to. It is, however, a bit more exposed than the quay.
By the pier is the port office and here a road goes off away from the shoreline. If you take this a short walk brings you out on the other side of the penninsular.
Here another road on the left hairpins back up the hill to the heliport which overlooks the harbour and allows you to look down on the village and the harbour.
Whilst looking around up here I had a falcon come past just below me, a lovely sight and of couse as is usual with such encounters , the camera wasn’t ready..
May 04, 2006
A short trip today to the next of the “Faraways”, Othoni.
Othoni harbour has a lot of reefs streching out from the breakwater, so if approaching from the East stay well off shore until you are opposite the entrance and then turn in.
There is another set of rocks about a mile south of the entrance so don’t go too far off either!
All in all this is a harbour where you really need to check the charts before attempting entry.
The harbour has been formed by building a breakwater into a bay and it was more popular with other yachts than Erikousasa had been. There were three or four other boats anchored in the bay. Othoni is often seen as a jumping off point for boats heading across to Italy.
A walk west along the coast road will take you up a valley and then round a sharp bend and up onto the headland with good views over the harbour and out to Mathraki and Corfu.
At the point where the road turns out of the valley we found a path or bridleway which continued up the valley. This was paved with stone slabs as if it used to be a road, but also had steps in it. Presumably when it was constructed all the traffic was carried on horses or donkeys.
We followed the track a few miles inland and were probably close to the other side of the island when we emerged onto a road by an old farm house, but as time was ticking away we then decided to retrace our steps instead of trying to find another route back to the village.
May 05, 2006
Our next destination is Mathraki, but Misios decides to circumnavigate Othoni on the way
May 05, 2006
Cliffs and rocky stacks with sheep on them.
May 05, 2006
Passed a bay with a couple of the other yachts from the flotilla anchored up for lunch.
May 05, 2006
A nice new harbour, courtesy of the European Union, but it is silting up rapidly with a lot of brown seaweed. This seems to be common along the north coast of Corfu. The inner harbour was too silted for yachts so moored up on the quay in the outer harbour. This quay is almost totally exposed to the North East.
There is a road that runs down the spine of this narrow island and if you go down to the southern end and turn left you can then come back along the eastern shore on a track that follows the line of the beach.
There are some amazing sandy streches on this side of the island.
Whilst wandering on Mathraki I encountered a family of Angora goats who were also wandering free and the Billy was a bit protective of his family!