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Our Wakes: 2018

Ionian Islands (1 June 2018 - 30 October 2018)
The Ionian Islands form a group of islands located on the West side of the Greek mainland. Several  islands are part of this group such as Corfu, located in the north, as well as the islands of  Paxos, Lefkas, Scorpios, Meganisi, Kalamos, Ithaka, Cephalonie and Zanthe. All these islands offer numerous places where boats can drop anchor and enjoy beautiful scenery and blue waters. During the months of July and August, the islands are invaded by large groups of tourists and the sea is crowded with charter boats. The other months there are fewer people and finding a mooring for the night is easier. The Ionian Islands are frequently affected by earthquakes. The islands of Cephalonia and Zanthe suffered a very bad ‘quake in 1953 with many victims but even today minor quakes still happen. The Island and city of Corfu: The island of Corfu is the biggest of the Ionian Islands with its main city of Corfu. There is an airport that brings in a lot of people, but in the harbor, there are often as many as three big passenger boats full of tourists who want to visit the city. Needless to say, the center of Corfu has a very large number of restaurants and tourist shops. If you decide to go away from the main streets you can discover some quiet streets that give you a better idea of what the city was before the tourist invasion. There is even a nice market in the city if you want to find fresh vegetables and fish.  Two big fortresses on the edges of the city indicating that Corfu was once played a strategic role in the past. As Corfu was our entry point to Greece, we had to obtain a permit (Depka), but in early July it all went smoothly. While we were there we rented a motorbike to visit the West side of the island. While crossing the island we saw some very big olive tree groves reminding us that olives are an important source of revenue for the island. The West coast of the island is much more exposed to the winds than the East coast. It has a beautiful coastline with white cliffs. Palaiokastritsa is a village where you can enjoy the beautiful scenery. There is also a monastery (Panayia Thietokos) that you can visit easily. From there, you have a unique view of the cliffs and the sea. 10km South of Corfu there is a big villa called Archilleion villa that was built by Sissi, the empress of Hungary. It can be visited, but most of the original furniture was removed when the villa was purchased by the German Kaiser. The only disappointment in Corfu is that they have a serious problem with managing the garbage. Even in the city itself there are big piles of garbage giving off the usual and smell. Paxos Island. 30 miles south of Corfu lies Paxos Island. The northern part has a nice bay offering good protection against southerly winds. At the end of the bay there is a charming little village that makes you forget Corfu because it is so quiet. All the houses have been transformed into restaurants or tourist shops, but despite that, the village looks has it’s charm and is very nice. Further south lies the harbor of Gaios. This is a superb place with little houses along pontoons. As a result, during the day, a lot of charter boats arrive and their passengers swarm the place during daytime. Luckily, by 5pm, the charter boats are all gone and the place becomes quiet again. Amongst the numerous restaurants you can discover a white building that is not a restaurant, but a place where oil made form olives harvested on the island is sold. You can purchase oil in canisters of 1, 2, 5 liters or more. The City of Preveza On the continent between Paxos and Lefkas lies the city of Preveza. Most boats make a stop at Preveza. The pier to the city is located inside an inner sea and is therefore well protected except from easterly winds. No problem if you can’t cook as a restaurant is always nearby. A large crowd visits the city in the evening, but  it is very calm.  If you walk on the jetty you can see that it is deformed, not flat. The reason is earthquakes, and the city is repairing them, but with mooring fees of only 5.82euro per night for Terus , they cannot repair it very quickly. Opposite the pontoons you find three big wharfs where more than 3,000 boats are on the dry. Terus will pass the 2018-2019 winter in one of the wharfs. If you want to put your boat there for the winter, you’d better make a reservation early because there are not many places where you can leave your boat for the winter. Lefkas Island A few miles south of Preveza you reach the island of Lefkas. North of Lefkas, there is a turning bridge that allows you to access the Lefkas canal. The bridge only opens for a few minutes every hour. Once past the bridge you follow the canal for about 3.5 miles. You then arrive in a large area that is very much liked by people renting boats because it is very rich in good mooring places. On the right side of the canal lies Lefkas Island then a bay gives you access to the village of Nidri. On the main pontoon, big charter boats are parked for tourists who want to visit the area but also a statue of Aristotle Onassis. He lived nearby on the island of Scorpios, and the people of Nidri liked him very much because he gave work to many people. Further south of Nidri you find a well-protected area where you can take shelter if the weather turns bad, whatever the direction of the wind. The bottom is sand and  holds very well your anchor. Unfortunately, in 2011 a very strong storm hit the place and while it only lasted 10 minutes, the wind speed reached >100 knots and boats were tossed about in all directions. Several boats sank and even one person died. Meteorologists explained later that the topography of the place was responsible for the extreme weather. Today you can still see the remains of the boats that went under in the storm. On the southern end of Lefkas lies the bay of Sivota that offers a good place for the night. There are nearly no cars, only people living on boats. All the restaurants have a pontoon for boats and you can dock at them provided you eat there. As the prices are very reasonable, everybody believes it is a fair deal. Scorpios Island When you leave Nidri by boat, the first island you see is the Island of Scorpios. Aristotle Onassis owned the island, but today a rich Russian guy has purchased it. Numerous bodyguards make sure nobody sets foot on the island. South of Scorpios there is a little chapel where Jackie Onassis liked to sunbathe. It is in this chapel that Aristotle and his 2 children Alexander and Christina are buried. Meganisi Close to Scorpios lies Meganisi Island. This island has numerous bays and some very nice beaches. It offers many places where you can drop anchor and spend several days, if you wish. In one of them, is the little harbor of Vathy were you can dock for free. But you should get there early, between  10 and 11 am, because after that, the place is fully booked. Kalamos This Island has very impressive cliffs and one little harbor on the East side. A certain Georges has taken control of the harbor and will help you dock there. Where normally 20 boats could dock, Georges can fit 100 boats.  All the anchors overlap each other, but nevertheless, the next day most people can leave their moorings quite easily. You don’t have to pay anything, but please visit his restaurant called, of course, Georges. Ithaque Island This island lies south of Lefkas. According to the legend, Penelope waited there for Ulysses. For us it is a wonderfull island. The main town is Vathy, but we preferred the little harbor of Kioni. This harbor is not accessible to the big ferries and only a few people who rent small ferries can reach it. Around the quays there are a few restaurants, but the place is extremely quiet. Boat owners discuss the places they have visited lately. If you arrive in the afternoon, the quay is full, but on the opposite side you can drop your anchor and bring a line to the shore. You will be docked quite securely but will need to use your little boat to get ashore. In the evening, a few small fishing boats go out to drop their nets and then return Cephalonia This island was very badly affected in 1953 by several ‘quakes, one of which on the 12 of August, was as strong as 7.3. Luckily it was preceded by two smaller earthquakes. Despite the warnings, around 600 people died out of the 125,000 inhabitants. Some parts of the island were lifted 60 cm. All the buildings were destroyed except in the northern part of the island. After those tragic events 100,000 people decided to move to Australia. Agrostoli, the main town of the island has a modern look and is a big tourist center. After sunset, the city attracts a lot of people and shops remain open till 11pm. Several sea turtles live in the harbor and attract tourists who come to see them. The local fisherman who clean their catch upon returning from their fishing trips feed them. Some nature conservationists are not happy about this way of feeding the turtles, but the impact on the number of tourists who visit is significant, so a compromise has been reached. The West side of the island once again consists of big white cliffs. Mirtos is a place where you can see this beautiful scenery by car. You can go down to the beach if you want to swim. Some people also enjoy the scenery by kitesurfing down. Further north is the village of Assosso. This little harbor is well protected and a few boats can anchor there. As usual, a few restaurants are available  should you desire to relax. North of the island is the harbor of Friscardo.  This harbor was less affected by the ‘quake and most of the houses have been restored. Today it is a picturesque harbor that attracts a lot of ferries.  Luckily, at by 5pm the ferries have gone and at night it is quiet. On the East side, you can find nice little places where you can drop anchor for the day or the night. Continuing south. you find the harbors of Sami and Effimia. There is nothing particular about them except that they offer good protection from most of the prevailing winds. Between the 2 harbors is the Melissa cave. This cave was unknown before the ‘quake but its top collapsed in 1953 and now it is interesting to visit. Even if the visit last only less than 10 minutes, it is worth having a look. Zanthe The last of the Ionian islands is Zante, often called Zachintos. The earthquake also damaged the town badly, but today it is rarely mentioned. The main town of Zachintos has a big harbor and several ferry lines connect it to the islands of the Peloponnese located only 35 km from there. Zante has 2 major attractions. The first one is the sea turtles and the second one is the shipwreck. South of the island there is a big beach were the sea turtles come to lay their eggs. Today it is a natural reserve and access is strictly regulated. No visits are allowed at night because the sea turtles lay their eggs, or the little turtles crawl across the beach to the sea before daylight. During the night, from May till September, nature protection associations patrol the beaches and monitor the places where the turtles lay their eggs.  Once a turtle has finished laying her eggs, a few pieces of wood are placed to mark the nest.  When the eggs hatch, the little turtles start their dangerous journey to the sea. They do it before daylight to reduce the risk of being caught by predators. We saw some markings on the sand made by the little turtles and all seemed to have reached the sea safely. So we wish the turtles a long life even though statistics tell us that only 0.2% of them will return to the beach 20 years later to lay their own eggs. On the North West side of the island there is the famous wreck. Some people say that the wreck was put there by the tourist office, but the truth is that the boat was smuggling cigarettes and alcohol and was chased by Customs when it tried to hide.  The boat hit the rocks and could not move anymore. Over time the white cliff started to erode and surrounded the wreck with white sand. The mixture of white cliff, dark wreck and blue sea is absolutely magnificent. You will have no difficulty finding a boat to see the wreck if you are interested. Otherwise, you can take a car and go to the top of the cliff which in my view, is the best way to see the wreck. Otherwise, Zante has not much to offer, but if you want to buy souvenirs you will certainly have no problem finding turtle souvenirs and derived products to remember your visit by.
 Panayia monastry
Mirtos beach
Melissani cave
Turtle nest protection
Olive oil
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