The last of the Ionian Islands

Ionian Islands

Med Mooring is not for for the faint hearted:

Med-mooring and cross winds do not gel. We left Lefkas for a perfect bay (suggested by a friend) to go Med mooring. With Lientjie on board we will have an extra pair of hands that will certainly make it easier. Well, I don’t think 10 extra hands would have made a difference in those circumstances. The bay was pretty full and was surrounded by hills all round. The wind suddenly came up and we decided on this one spot where the wind will be blowing us onto the shore…which is fine, because it will keep us in line with the anchor. With the hills around us, the wind started swirling from all directions as soon as we had the anchor out, falling back towards the shore. The yacht next to us was kind enough to take our line with their dinghy ashore. That was the first mistake! The line was pulled out to fast and went slack, causing it to get entangled in the prop. By the time we got it undone (Johann had to dive in with goggles!), we were drifting sideways onto their boat and with a cat and a cross wind, it became almost impossible to manoeuvre it. We decided to give it up and while everyone was fending of the boats with fenders, I started pulling in the anchor – just in time to see another yacht on the other side of the yacht we are hugging trying to wave and signal that our anchor is pulling up their anchor! What a mess! The two anchors were so entangled that it took a back braking job (tying a rope to the one to keep the tension on it and manually releasing the second one) on both sides to free it…in the meantime we are both drifting ashore and Johann has to juggle both boats (still tied together) with our engine power away from the rocks. One of our fenders came undone and the only way to get it back was for me to swim out and get it, as well as one of the other yachts oars! Exhausted from struggling to get out of the predicament and just too happy to get away, we dropped the oars and their ropes off with a big “Thank-you-and-sorry-about-the-disturbance” and took off. The poor skipper of that yacht will probably never offer to help another cat again!

Lessons learned … Med mooring should preferably happen in windless conditions. A mild but steady wind on the nose or stern might do – BUT: do not attempt a Med moor with a catamaran in any other conditions! Avoid cross winds at all cost! Extra help often means that you forget to check on them – I started paying attention to other aspects of the process, relying on the lines man to keep an eye on the rope tension. Often extra hands are handy but where quick action is required and you are not use to have extra hands around, they can easily became a unmanageable component.

Port Athena …

We went straight to the next bay (Port Athena), dropped anchor and try and forget about the ordeal! But the debriefing was necessary and we made a mental note of what we have learned from this near disastrous day … too exhausted to even bother going ashore, we were in bed pretty early.
Scorpios Island
The yacht of Christina Onasis ?
Scorpios Island … lovely gardens all over the island
Scorpios Island
A popular site for tourist boats

The next day was a wonderful windless day to motor around to Scorpios Island and anchor for a quick swim out to the beach. Just to be able to say we set foot on this famous Island that once belonged to Ari Onassis! It is still a private island (nowadays belonging to Ekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev) and the high water mark is the cut-off for visitors. It was still a thrill to be around this amazing place and walking on the small sand beach where the Myconos house is located. This was where Jackie Onassis was infamously photographed nude by a Greek paparazzo.
Caves at Meganisi Island

Our lunch stop was at the caves of Meganisi Island and became one of our most idyllic stops thus far! Motoring pass the 2 biggest caves (you can get pretty close to it as the water is very deep), brought us to a small bay – just big enough for one boat. Being wind still, we were just happy to hang on our anchor with the steep cliffs not much more than 50 meters either side! The water crystal clear and blue we swam out to a tiny cave with an overhanging rock roof and took some awesome pictures of Scolamanzi all by herself in this wonderful setting.
An idyllic one yacht anchorage in this small bay in front of these caves
Fabulous water and great snorkelling

We overnight that night at Port Vathy on Ithaki island. Vathy is the capital and the main harbour of Ithaca. This picturesque town is the largest of settlement on the island. It is built in amphitheatre style around a deep and sheltered bay with a narrow entrance and a very popular shelter for yachts.
Restaurateur taking a break
Restaurants on the Waterfront at Port Vathy
Sirines Restaurant… where we had dinner literally in the street!

The earthquakes of 1953 had almost destroyed the village, leaving only a few buildings standing. The lovely taverns all along the bay provides plenty of opportunity to try the local food. They all have a wonderful local atmosphere and view over the bay.
We went for a beer only at one of these tavernas and ended up having a 2 starters … enough to become our dinner in the end! Again – (portion) size matters – we did not need more than these entrées!
Scolamanzi Med Moored in Port Leone on Kalamos Island

We left from there the next morning to Port Leone on Kalamos Island a little north from Ithaka. The dramatic entrance to the bay has three white towering old Greek Windmill ruins. Johann took a hike up to them to take some amazing pictures of the bay. The water is so pretty and blue and we could not resist another try to Med moor.

This time, we had perfect wind conditions and it was so much easier but not without a splash of drama. We had to tie it to a rock that was at sea level and as soon as the wind started blowing and the flat rope picking up a vibration, it almost slipped off. Our neighbours (on a big motor yacht) raised the alarm and got my attention… luckily I was still driving on Scollie (dinghy) around after having dropped Johann off at the base of the windmills. My panic (with the previous experience still vivid in mind) resulted in a big voice, calling Johann to make his way down for a pick-up and rescue operation! It was so funny afterwards, when he told us that he thought it was a goat lamb looking for his mum. (There are heaps of goats on the island) – So my voice was after all not that big! (The little olive tree way above the water line became the safe anchor for the night. They are stronger than they look with solid deep roots. A tree seems to be a much safer option than a rock – it is easier to undo a rope on a tree than from a rock in case of an emergency. And by the way – that was our last use of the flat rope for this purpose – we have decided that it is safer to have something that you can detach from the boat if needed, while the flat rope is on a big wheel attached to the boat.) We fortunately have a great selection of ropes on board that we have never used! That was one of the many bargains Johann found in Cape Town when Scolamanzi was commissioned 3 years ago. It surely comes in handy now that we often need to put out 4 mooring lines to the shore!

Windmills at the entrance of the bay
The damaged town and the church[/caption]
What was left after the earthquakes
Port Leone on Kalamos Island
The church at Port Leone on Kalamos Island
Goats …seeing like the salty water?
The tavern
Massive and very old Olive trees

On the opposite from where we were moored, is a whole lot of ruins that did not withstand the earthquakes in the mid 50’s. The whole settlement was damaged by it. Because their water supply was destroyed, they have decided to rather mover away and settle somewhere else rather than rebuilding everything from scratch. The only building that was rebuild and is to this day still maintained is a lovely little church – it forms a fabulous contrast to the surrounding ruins and some massive old olive trees. It is a very pleasant bay with good holding for a Med moor. It is way too deep to anchor in.

The next day, we stuck to the normal routine for Scolamanzi, of get going early in the morning and find a lovely lunch stop, with clear water to snorkel or swim in. Lunch is followed by a post-lunch-nap (a shortened version of the traditional siesta). It is the captain’s custom to leave for our overnight destination in time to be there at about 3pm, before the rest of the yachts come in later in the afternoon. Being on a Catamaran, and needing more swinging room, it is handy to arrive early.

A small bay on Formikoula Island
Great snorkelling
Diving on the anchor

Our lunch stop was on Formikoula Island in a small bay with crystal clear water and mostly sandy bottom – that makes the water look even bluer! The wonderful thing about this bay is that is surrounded by rocky edges which makes for great snorkelling! We were the only boat for most of the time until a tourist mob on a wooden boat came in for a (thankfully only a quick) swim. It was just another wonderful choice for a quick stopover.

With hardly any wind, we motored on to a bay on the South Eastern side of Nisida Kastos. That will be the last of the Ionian islands that we will see on this journey. Well, Johann could not have picked a better spot to spend the night than this tucked away corner (only big enough for one yacht!) It has its own little pebble beach, big rocky shores and the bluest of water! We still have no idea what it is called and can therefore only refer to it as SE bay of Nisida Kastos! Serenity would have been a great name for this bay. Another island with plenty of goats and we could hear the bells ringing in a distance as they walked back to their shelters late afternoon with the sun dipping behind the hills.

A dream shot of Scolamanzi

I took a hike up onto the highest point of the cliff to take pictures of Scolamanzi! Following the coat paths to the top was an easy climb. The view was breath taking and Scolamanzi looks like a set-up for a commercial, floating in the crystal clear water! It is absolutely the most amazing spot we have been to as far as Med mooring in Greece is going! I took a snapshot and banked it in my memory archives: This quiet nook, tucked away between steep rocks with its own little pebbled beach in the blue pristine waters will be one I will never forget. What a way to leave the Ionian Islands behind!!
Scolamanzi in SE Bay of Nisida Kastos
A wonderful view from the top
A great spot for a sundowner
Amazing rocks!
Early morning light

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