Vonitsa Seafront with the Marina in the background
After spending a few days with John and Marilyn McMeeking from Helensburgh and obtaining our Greek Transit Log from the Port Police we were ready to cruise the Ionian. Our first port of call was to be Vonitsa only a few miles south east from Preveza and still within the inland sea. Vonitsa is a small holiday town with a small free marina and a fort which we had been told was worth a visit.
Vonitsa's Fort (closed)
Unfortunately having climbed the hill to the fort we found it closed due to construction work. We would have much appreciated the notice advising us of this to have been placed at the foot of the hill rather than at the entrance to the fort.
The day was hot and like most forts it was built on the top of the hill, however it was an excuse for a nice cool beer when we arrived back in town.
We departed Vonitsa on Tuesday 15th May heading south to Lefkas but calling in at Preveza on the way past to do some last minute shopping and top up our water tanks. We have been told that the availability of water can be a problem in parts of Greece and it's not unusual to have to buy water from tankers on the quayside. So whenever we have the opportunity to fill our tanks from a free quayside tap we do so.
To reach Lefkas you have to pass down the Lefkas Canal which has an unusual opening road bridge (opens on the half-hour) which takes the form of a floating barge.
Opening Bridge on the Lefkas Canal
Once safely past the bridge Lefkas sits halfway along the canal on your starboard side (right). We had arranged to meet up with John and Vanessa (a couple we had spent part of the winter with in Sibari) on Lefkas Town Quay, little did we know it was going to be so busy.
Lefkas Town Quay
We managed to squeeze in and ended up staying five days as the town had so much to offer. We dined out at a non-touristy Greek restaurant where you were taken into the kitchen and shown all the food being prepared and you make your choice from that. Saves on printing menus I suppose!
The food was excellent and not expensive by British standards. Now one of the problems we have been having is with mosquitoes bites (100 times worse than the Scottish Midge) and meeting up with John and Vanessa gave us the chance to do something about it. They have a sewing machine!! So off we went into town in search of mosquito netting. This turned out not to be as difficult as we thought (obviously they have a lot of problems with the mosquitoes). Hey ho, back to the boat to make our mosquito net which would enclose our bed and hopefully allow us to sleep in peace. I can now report it has been a great success and the number of bites we now suffer has been greatly reduced.
Alba Voyager at anchor in Kioni
As we have said before, we prefer the smaller villages to the large towns and this has to be one of our favourites. We had to anchor and take a stern line to the shore to stop us swinging into other boats, the harbour is a favourite stop for the flotilla charters and gets very busy. Charter boats are always a cause for amusement and Kioni presented plenty of that. We had one woman fall off a yacht while leaning out holding on to the flagstaff (which broke) at the back of the boat. A man some how fell out of the dinghy while rowing ashore, the woman left in the dinghy couldn't row and was being blown out of the harbour. Another woman (sorry ladies) lost one of the oars while rowing the dinghy ashore and was left going round in circles. We had one French yacht run into us while it was trying to anchor (no damage), after several more attempts it left the harbour presumably to go and practice some where quieter.
Anne just popping in to see Nicholas Cage
We had enjoyed our time on the island of Ithaca and had one more stop at Vathi, spending a couple of days before moving on to Cephalonia. Anne was keen to visit the place where Captain Corelli's Mandolin was filmed, so our first port of call was Sami. Here there is a good yacht harbour and we found plenty of space although it filled up late afternoon with charter yachts. The town has embraced the making of the film (which is based on a true story, in 1943 the Germans massacred 9000 Italian troops on the island, on Hitler's personal orders) and you can find all sorts of memorabilia from the film in the town.
Scene of the accident at Sami
While there we witnessed a bad accident with a dredge working in the commercial harbour. The driver of the drag made a dangerous, near fatal error by bringing the jib of the drag nearly vertical. The bucket swung towards the drag smashing into the cab with the result the jib flipped backwards breaking off at its base and somersaulting over the machine. Fortunately the driver had seen this coming and had jumped from his cab and fallen into the water where he was rescued. Wonder what his boss said when he heard the news!
Too much excitement, so we moved a few miles south to Poros a small village with nice walks and free of charter yachts. We spent a couple of days here before moving on to Zakinthos the next island down where we were to meet up with our good friends Georgie and Morag.
Zakinthos at night from the Anchorage
Zakinthos town has the main commercial port for the island and as such yachts must use the marina, but at 15€ per night including electricity it wasn't bad. Zakinthos Island (also called Zante) is the furthest south of the Ionian islands and we were surprised the find it was also the most touristy (with exception to Corfu) with the consequence that prices had taken a major hike.
In saying that they were still cheaper than you would find in the U.K.
Girls Day Out
As the picture shows our friends enjoyed their holiday with temperatures in the 90's, this considering Britain was experiencing one of the wettest Junes on record. After an excellent week together and a farewell dinner on the last evening, we set sail the next day for Killini on the Greek mainland.
The Ferry Port at Killini
Killini although a small town is the main ferry port for the islands and as such sees a tremendous amount of through traffic. Unfortunately very few people stay any length of time most driving straight on to the ferry. A new yacht harbour has been built inside the commercial port and we tied up there with water and electricity, all free! This has got to be the best yet!! (all marinas should be like this).
The new Yacht Harbour at Killini
We would have stayed longer but were on our way to meet up with our friends John and Vanessa who we had last seen in Lefkas. It was now Monday 18th June and we were heading for Missalonghi in the Gulf of Patras.
Missalonghi is reached along a one mile dredged channel, the port is huge and little used by commercial shipping. There is an area of the port laid out for yachts with alongside berths and floating pontoons (no water, no electricity). The town is a half-mile walk from the port and on the way to town there is this field full of old fighter aircraft, tanks, mobile rocket launchers and other bits of military equipment. There is no indication who they belong to or why they are there, strange!
Some of Aircraft just sitting in the field with the grass growing round them
The town itself was a delight with many pedestrainised streets, good shops and excellent restaurants. We stayed for a week in company with John and Vanessa, mainly working on maintenance jobs on the boat during the day and sampling the local cuisine in the evening.
On saying our goodbyes to John and Vanessa we headed south for Katakolon stopping overnight at Killini to top-up our water tanks.
Two Cruise Ships in the Harbour at Katakolon
We arrived at Katakolon to find it a very busy harbour indeed. Our reason for coming here was to visit Olympia, site of the ancient Olympic Games and by the number of cruise ships in the harbour a number of other people had the same idea. On one day alone there were three cruise ships in the harbour with a total of 7500 passengers on board.
Olympia is 25 miles inland from Katakolon, so we went by train at a cost of 2 Euro each return (now how does that compare with rail prices in Britain) and the train was very modern, clean and air conditioned.
Information Board at the Olympic Village This is the place where the flame is lit
The fame lighting Ceremony Information Board Leading down to the Games Field
The Olympic Village The original Games Field
Statue of the Emperor Hadrian in the on site Museum
We had a marvellous day out visiting the site and the museum and would advise anyone who gets the chance not to miss it, you won't be disappointed.
Rock formation at the entrance to the Lagoon at Pilos Harbour
We were now nearing the bottom of the Ionian (actually we were in the Peloponnese) and only had one more place on our list of 'must see' places (Methoni) before we turned east and headed for the Aegean and all its islands. On the way down we dropped in to Pilos for a couple of days. Pilos sits in a large sheltered lagoon and the entrance to the lagoon has a spectacular rock formation.
The Venetian Fort at Methoni viewed from seaward
Methoni is only 10 miles further south, so we made a late start hoping for some wind. Wrong again, motored all the way. Methoni has a large and well preserved Venetian Fort which guarded the trade routes around the Peloponnese and is open to daily to visitors. It also boasts some beautiful sandy beaches and really is an idyllic spot to anchor and spend a few days.
Sunset in Methoni Anchorage with the Fort in the background
While anchored here we met up with a young Russian couple who were just completing a five year circumnavigation. They both spoke good English and we spent a very interesting afternoon in their company. We were pleased to be able to help them with information on ports and harbours between here and Falmouth. Their boat was a catamaran of unusual construction which they had taken seven years to build. They were heading to St Petersburg and we wish them fair winds and good luck.
Steel Russian yacht at anchor in Methoni