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IONIAN ISLAND TIME

Full Moon over Preveza

Full Moon over Preveza

For the past week, except for a anchoring overnight off the mainland town of Preveza which sits on a large bay with good protection, but lacks some of the charm of the island towns we visited, we have cruised through the Ionian Islands working our way south and east.  Preveza did have a wonderful bakery and the usual assortment of shops and cafes lining the quay. 

Preveza Quay

Preveza Quay

We timed our departure from Preveza to enter the Levkas Canal at the north end of the island of Levkas in the early afternoon before the wind blows up to 15-18 kts. as is often the case in the late afternoon—the canal bridge (a swinging affair that looks like a barge pivoting) opens on the hour.  The approach to the canal is on the lee shore and involves a scary right then left hand turn as you enter the canal.  Vessels wait outside the entrance until the bridge horn sounds to announce the opening of the bridge.  We followed a Greek flag vessel through figuring that it was probably not their first time. 

Sure, there's a canal here. . .

Sure, there's a canal here. . .

Levkas Canal Swing Bridge

Levkas Canal Swing Bridge

Back it goes

Back it goes

The town of Levkas just at the beginning the canal is not much more than a large marina, with the usual assortment of charter outfits—most of the boats at dock this early in the season.   If you need fuel or a chandlery this is the place to be.  We quickly fueled at the marina quay and headed further down the canal looking for a little more quiet.  The island of Levkas is one of the most populated islands in the Ionian due largely to its being attached to the mainland by the swing bridge that we passed through. 

Levkas Marina where we fueled up and moved on

Levkas Marina where we fueled up and moved on

Skorpios on the east side of Levkas is the private island of the Onassis family and seemed like just the spot to avoid crowds.  The cruising guide said that you can anchor (though not go ashore) but we found the water quite deep and decided that was not a good idea.  Besides, there were cameras on towering poles the range of which seemed to encompass the entire island—something about being under the watchful eye of security cameras did not appeal. 

Approaching Skorpios

Approaching Skorpios

Isthmis at Skorpios

Isthmis at Skorpios

However, we saw the little cove with a small white cottage which was reportedly Jackie O’s favorite place on the island.  If we had billions, we would want an island just like this.  As is the case with all the Ionian islands, it is lush and surrounded by turquoise water. 

Jackie O's Hideaway on a little cove

Jackie O's Hideaway on a little cove

From Skorpios we went through the strait between Levkas and Megannis which is described as one of the prettiest channels in the Ionian. 

Strait between Levkas & Meganisi--islands everywhere

Strait between Levkas & Meganisi--islands everywhere

 We found the perfect spot when we went into the harbor at Sivota.  This picturesque little town is what we have been looking for in Greece.  Like the harbor at Lakka on Paxio, Sivota was just starting to wake up for the season.  It had three small grocery stores—not a single one open, but a few tavernas ready to take our euros.  Although our 3G internet signal was non-existent, the Ionian Taverna had wi-fi that reached the boat and we were able to stay in touch with the outside world. 

Well protected harbors like Sovita are often hard to find--thank you GPS

Well protected harbors like Sovita are often hard to find--thank you GPS

Our stay in Sivota was extended by a day when we lost forward gear leaving the harbor.  We were quite a sight sailing back into the harbor, dropping an anchor and then winching the boat back to the dock we had just left. 

Destiny docked at Sovita before the fiasco

Destiny docked at Sivota before the fiasco

 Sivota is like being in an inland lake.  You can’t see the opening from inside the harbor which is lined with tavernas and vacation homes.  However, there are no ATM’s and most tavernas only take cash this time of year–and we wonder why Greece is having an economic crisis?

Long line to dock

Long line to dock

Long line to winch

Long line to winch

We made it back to the dock thanks to the Roto-Winch!

We made it back to the dock thanks to the Roto-Winch!

For a while it appeared to be the transmission—not good at all.  Thanks to Kent’s perseverance the problem was narrowed to the linkage cable and some debris had caught in the area of the prop.  A good day is a day when nothing breaks—but on a 25 year old boat something seems to break every other day.  This was a good day because Kent could fix it—we even had the spare part on board.

Where did that come from

Where did that come from? At least the water is warm

 By 7 p.m. we were having cocktails with new Aussie friends, Simon (who aided us getting Destiny to the dock) and Maguerite, who were in the anchorage on board their boat, “Where Next”.

 Leaving Sivota the next day, after carefully checking that everything was in working order we headed for Cephalonia and went down the strait between it and Ithaca stopping next at Eufemia about mid-way down the coast of Cephalonia. 

Channel between Ithaca and Cephalonia

Channel between Ithaca and Cephalonia

Eufimia is a large harbor in a very large bay on the east side of the island.  Although protected from the prevailing NW wind, it funnels between the surrounding mountains late in the day in gusts of 15-18 kts.  By dusk the wind dies and is calm overnight.  Unlike Sivota, there were grocery stores, bakeries and butchers all open and the teenagers in the town were organizing a mid-day dance for May Day. 

Destiny at anchor off Eufimia

Destiny at anchor off Eufimia

 We left Eufemia in the morning is what we thought was over 10 kts. of wind—proved to be mountain effect—and ended up mostly motoring further south down the channel.

Jolie checks the Pilot Guide

Jolie checks the Pilot Guide

We stopped for a time off the town Poros and had lunch while listening to loud Greek music from a lively cafe on shore, then continued on to Zakinthos. 

Lunch stop off Poros

Lunch stop off Poros

Lunch Greek Style

Lunch Greek Style

The passage from the southeast end of Cephalonia to Zakinthos finally brought sailing weather, but with it big seas.  With open water to the NW between the islands, we plowed our way through 4 ft. seas in 20kt. wind—which Destiny and Kent loved. 

On the way to Zakinthos

Let 'er blow!!

Finally sailing to Zakinthos

Finally sailing to Zakinthos

By 5:30 p.m. we were docked along side the quay in the tiny harbor of Nikolaos, where Dimitri and his family who own the fuel station, restaurant (had Mama’s mousakka for dinner) and mini-mart made us feel very at home.  Dimitri also told us about the red sponges in the Blue Caves and told us how to capture them by camera. (See Blue Caves of Zakithnos post) 

Destiny docked in Nikolaos

Destiny docked in Nikolaos

Since our plan is to go through the Corinth Canal rather than around the Pelopponnisos Peninsula, we only visited the north end of Zakithnos and then headed back north to the island of Ithaca of Odyssey fame.  Our first night on the island we spent in a wonderfully private bay called Skhoinos.  We anchored in front of the only home on the bay (more like a mini-estate with miles of stone fences and manicured grounds). They may not have appreciated our being there, but we enjoyed sharing the multi-million dollar view with them.  We did notice a little white dog running around on shore–kindred spirits not doubt.

Anchored in Skhoinos Bay on Ithaca

Anchored in Skhoinos Bay on Ithaca

 

Jolie and Kent love the kayak

Jolie and Kent love the kayak

Dusk at anchor in Ithaca

Dusk at anchor in Ithaca

The next day we went less than three NM to Vathi, the capital of Ithaca (or Ithaki as it is pronounced in Greek).  There we met up once again with Glass Slipper and Excalibur, found a laundry (always welcome) and anchored. 

Ubiquitous Greek Chapel on way to Vathi

Ubiquitous Greek Chapel on way to Vathi

Excalibur & Glass Slipper in Vathi

Excalibur & Glass Slipper in Vathi

Dusk comes about 8:40 p.m. at Vathi

Dusk comes about 8:40 p.m. at Vathi

From Vathi our plan is to make a 50+ NM passage to Patras in the Gulf of Patras enroute to the Corinth Canal, leaving the Ionian Sea and islands as memories.  But good ones.

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