Penelope waiting outside a Vathi supermarket!
The heat is going out of the sun and it is time to drag ourselves away from Selkie Dancer, and find new land based adventures. We are in Skoinos, a bay just short of Vathi on Ithaca. There are Penelope’s waiting for Odysseus I imagine, certainly she was outside the Alpha Beta supermarket!
We have had a particularly busy time since leaving Aegina. We transited the Corinth Canal, settled in Zakynthos for a few days, and travelled north taking in Ithaca, Meganisi and Lefkada.
Three generations – is George calling for help?!
Tim, Louise, George and Lucy joined us in Aegina, what a welcome they had! First of all it was so busy that boats were rafting and when we returned from supper another boat had backed up jamming its stern between our bow and that of our neighbour thus squishing everyone together in awkward angles and trapping a dinghy at our stern. An exercise in creativity then ensued as we thought of all the ways to get the dinghy out of its dilemma. In the end we raised it up with a halyard and guided it along our length until it could be lowered safely down into the water at our bow. His container of petrol went into the drink and even though he was a German he gave a loud F***!!! Having retrieved it I was astonished to see both his flip flops had stayed put. All afternoon a band had been warming up across the harbour, thunder clouds building simultaneously. Darkness fell and as if waiting for this signal they both began at once, as the music got going so did the thunder and lightning and as an extra the rain came down in stair rods. The music failed to drown out the noise of the storm and then, nowhere but in Greece, a firework display happens as if the heavens weren’t enough.
We had a very early start, waking the boat ahead of us to leave and motored all the way (there has been a disappointing lack of sailing). The Corinth Canal was amazing and we were lucky in that there was no significant wait, I think it was half an hour from docking, completing paper work and paying, to the off. Then three yachts and a tourist trip boat began the passage. We go fast; sheer cliffs rise above us, some vegetation clings to the side, under the various bridges miniature people wave and take photos. What a feat of engineering. In 20 minutes it’s all over and I’m looking for the lighthouse at the end of the Perachora and some signs of the temple to Hera – in vain.
So on into uncharted (for us) waters we go, the cockpit became a playpen with various distractions, picture dominoes and play dough, not to mention the ever popular clothes pegs that take on all manner of identities from hair accessories to crocodiles. The destination we had chosen turned out to be far too deep to anchor so we motored around a seemingly empty indented coastline and cane across a huge industrial jetty, the place had the look of a setting from a Bond movie and one expected the land to peel back and reveal a busy headquarters. We anchored in a small bay but it was too windy to linger in the sea. Tim went for a run in the morning and said that inland there was quite a production of steel sheets and quarrying etc, seemed bizarre so far away from anything else. We moved on to Galaxidi which was a charming place where we had a nice meal in a taverna, both waitresses coming from Albania and recommending their country to us for next year. They both took quite a shine to George and Lucy and Lucy spent some time stalking a cat with a companion.
It was here that we realised that we needed to get somewhere and hang out and not have everyday a motor, without the children, not to mention their parents going stir crazy so we left our lunch spot late in the afternoon with the intention of sailing/motoring through the night to arrive in a bay in the south of Zakinthos for breakfast. The children would not settle that night; I think we all found it difficult to sleep.
Everyone was up to go under the Rion Bridge; I tried to get some sleep to prepare for the 1-3am slot when I am often awake anyway. Typically, sleep evaded me. But I love night watches; I get settled in with a hot drink, book and snacks, sitting in my ‘comfort seat’ my duvet tucked in around me I can track shipping on the radar and enjoy the night, the stars and moon, the feeling of purpose and destination.
Staying in Keri Bay was lovely, the beach was just a swim away and one day the family went for a turtle, cave and beach trip in another boat. I took an indulgent taxi ride to and from Zakinthos town and enjoyed two contrasting taxi conversations. The first driver was slow and gentle and desperate to visit Scotland sometime for its mystery and castles and the second more typical, loud and opinionated in everything and cursed all politicians past and present. Mornings have been a delight, the children entertain each other and I’ll never forget the sight of George in Lucy’s bed, we deployed the lee cloths in the saloon to make little bunks for them, wearing his hat, dark glasses and monkey bag (rucksack) playing happily together. The last day we anchored for lunch and a swim in a rocky bottomed spot with water so clear and cliffs so immense that people at the base looked like ants moving around a giant anthill. The pebbles on the beach were rounded and smoothed by surf and storm, someone had built a tower, obviously home to Macapaca (The Night Garden). Looking up and seeing layers of pale striated rock soaring upwards, many hundreds of years in the making, felt to me sinister and slightly edgy, the tree at the very top tiny and hanging over at an unnatural angle, what if this earthquake prone island suddenly decided to crack?!
We had a mad turnover day when we said goodbye to the WB W-B’s and hello to String and Ben, whose plane was conveniently delayed and allowed us some restock time. That evening they too were welcomed by a wedding firework display; (We left the thunder and lightning for the following night!). We settled in an impersonal hotel and watched, but having had no welcome or encouragement, left to find just around the corner a most delightful and unusual eatery. Imagine Cath Kidston meets Boho Chic meets vintage attic, it was flowery and quirky and utterly unique ditto the food, we LOVED it and if you ever go to the town it is called AVLI meaning Yard.
The next night saw us in Ay Nikolaos and another restaurant called NOBELOS, very good and holding a beautiful position over the bay. The photo shows us before all hell let loose!!!
On return to the boat we found that we were rather nearer than we liked to a fishing boat so we reanchored and after a nightcap went to bed. I have never woken up so suddenly, one minute all was calm and Andy was closing some ports as a light rain had begun, next there was a whoompf and the boat was whipped around by a strong wind, I was up scrabbling for clothes and into the cockpit, engine on in seconds and within seconds was soaked to the skin. The rain was coming so hard and the night so pitch that I could only see how far we were dragging and appreciate the storm like waves when lightning illuminated the scary scene like broad daylight. I suppose it didn’t last long and we set our anchor again, but just as we were drifting to sleep it happened again so this time we cut our losses and decided to leave early for Ithaca. A tedious lumpy motor but punctuated along the way by eggs and bacon and on arrival the most delicious salad, inspired by Avli I think. During the next few days we found some lovely places to anchor and enjoyed evenings of music and wagers!
Finally we positioned ourselves in Nikiana, an unassuming town just short of the Lefkas canal and a taxi ride away from the airport at Preveza which we arranged in time honoured fashion in the restaurant the night before departure. Next morning with the aid of our new squishy, plastic solar lamps we took our guests ashore and sure enough as I was signalling my farewell I saw the red rear lights of a taxi positioning itself in readiness – shame their flight was delayed in Schipol for 5 hours!!!
Now alone and the echo of all the souls that have been with us since 29 August take a long time to leave. Every morning I wake up and wonder who is here, and I feel their presence.
The islands in the Ionian are pretty, green; the Cyclades and much of the Dodecanese, ‘aspro’ (White). The Ionian holds earth that supports vegetation and trees that give a wonderful strong piney smell; The Cyclades and Dodecanese are stark, beautiful awesome, with their white cube ‘choras’ sitting on the hills and a quite different smell, arid, lemony, sharp, they have no soil to hold the shades of green that we see here. In this our last little bay, the water crystal clear lapping the rock. On the hill behind, bushes, shrubs, pines and cypresses standing alert like infantry, so many different tones of green and kingfishers darting in early morning and late evening their brilliant blue green back and russet breast showing alternately as they fly low along the water’s edge. It is as friends have warned us, VERY busy with 100’s of boats around, they cram into all the ‘well known’ or recognised places however there are still bays, that if you seek hard enough you can be peaceful.
Now time moves on and we look towards the next few months with curiosity while holding our summer home close in our hearts.
*Courtesy of Wikipedia
the Greek poets Hesiod (ca. 750-650 BCE) and Aratus (ca. 310–240 BCE) refer in their writings to “the heat of late summer that the Greeks believed was actually brought on by the appearance of Sirius,” a star in the constellation that the later Romans and we today refer to as Canis Major, literally the “greater dog” constellation.:15f He notes,
The Greeks possessed an elaborate lore associated with Sirius… [Its] first appearance… in the morning skies during the final days of July and early August indicated the arrival of the sweltering heat of late summer… [and was] associated with heat, fire, and even fevers.:16
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky On summer nights, star of stars, Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat And fevers to suffering humanity.
Alternatively, this is rendered:
like to the star that cometh forth at harvest-time, and brightly do his rays shine amid the host of stars in the darkness of night, the star that men call by name the Dog of Orion. Brightest of all is he, yet withal is he a sign of evil, and bringeth much fever upon wretched mortals.[