Captains Log – Sailing Greece
We all met at the Telesilla Hotel, conveniently located a 10 minute walk from Gouvia Marina where we are to board our 41 ft. catamaran, ‘Sea Breeze’. Jim and Sue arrived Thursday from MN, USA. Maija and Anne from Finland, Daryl and Beth from VA, USA will arrive Fri. This gives us all a day or two to explore old Corfu Town.
Corfu Town is an ancient fortress trading port. Two old battlements protect the bustling narrow marble and stone paved streets filled with shops, cafes and churches. A popular destination, it’s bustling with Europeans and mainland Greeks enjoying the small winding alleys leading to courtyard cafes.
Anna, the hostess at the Piperitsa Taverna, talked us into her patio courtyard restaurant promising delicious Stifhato; slow-cooked beef with onions, garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary or lamb shank with lemon potatoes. After Tzatziki, a cucumber yogurt dip, and fresh salads, we tucked into our dinners. Our waitress, Anjela, started us off with a complementary Prosecco. We followed with a carafe of light local white wine. Anna was correct – delicious!
Armed with recommendations from Anastasia, Telesilla’s bartender, we walked over to the Spianada, an esplanade between the city and the citadel. This wide street near the waterfront is flanked by the Liston, a columned arcade with cafes and tavernas. On Friday night, it is jammed with locals and tourists enjoying the perfect weather for al fresco dining and sipping. We happily join the festivities.
While Jim and I do the check-in on Sea Breeze Sat. at midday; Beth, Maija and Anne provision. Daryl checks out the marina facilities. Sea Breeze is a clean, roomy cat with new lines, four queen ensuite cabins and an electric winch! Daryl, nominated as chief mainsail wincher, is delighted.
Gouvia Marina has shops, free WiFi at the Blue Dream Cafe, good shower Olympic size swimming pool and the excellent Olympia restaurant. Sue and Jim opt for the Olympia, the rest bundled into taxis for Corfu Town.
The Bellisimo Taverna, in a hidden courtyard, delivers up tasty eggplant yogurt dip and huge lamb dishes!
We head out of Gouvia Marina on Sunday morning. It’s a blue sky day with an 8 kn breeze. The mainsail goes up easily with the electric winch and we’re sailing! Our plan is to head SE towards Sivota, about 23 NM with a Plan B for a shorter 13 NM sail to Petriti . As we clear the small island of Vidho, SE of Gouvia, the wind stays on our nose but drops to 5kn. We begin thinking of a Plan C to use the soft wind for a shorter downwind sail north.
Ag Stephanos, Agni and Kalami are about 8 NM north. For our first day we need to get used to the
yacht and each other so we turn north. It’s a nice easy sail on a broad reach. I ask Jim to rig a preventer and we sail for almost two hours under sunny skies.
Kalami looks perfect, a few yachts anchored in the bay, a nice beach and the White House Taverna, another recommendation of the Telesilla, for our dinner.
After anchoring, the clear water looks inviting. Everyone jumps in for a refreshing swim. We’re only about 50 meters from shore so Daryl and Beth swim in for some beach time.
The White House sits on the south bank of the Bay and lives up to its reputation. We schedule its launch for a pickup for dinner. At 8 pm we are seated on its veranda looking over the Bay towards Sea Breeze at anchor.
Hungry after our first sailing day we share tzatziki, octopus, calamari and mussels appetizers before entrees. My seafood risotto is outstanding. With two carafes of local wine the total for seven is only €166. This turns out to be our most expensive dinner of the week.
The night has just begun! We’re told the launch will bring us back to Sea Breeze at any time so we walk a few minutes into the village. Music streaming from a cafe up a small hill tempts us. There’s a performance of traditional Greek dancing underway. Stopping for an after dinner drink, we’re treated to local dancers in white and black costumes with red sashes leaping within a burning ring of flames. Thirsty work!
Rain is in the Tuesday forecast so Monday we to Corfu Town in case we need to stay in harbor Tues. With a SE wind at 18 kn we one reef for five hours – an excellent sailing day! Late afternoon we drop the sail and berth stern-to at Mandraki Harbor.
The €50 port fee is the only one we’ll pay all week! Berthed under the protection of Corfu’s 15th century Venetian fortress, we relax on board until mid-evening when we stroll through the fort to visit the Spianada, the famous square of Corfu and the second largest square in Europe. The outdoor cafes along the columned Liston are again full of patrons enjoying the evening. We stop in for coffees and deserts.
The morning is fresh from overnight rain but there’s still some rain in the forecast. The sea is a little choppy beyond the harbor so we decide on a short cruise of 6 NM south to Benitses or 12 NM to Petriti, if the conditions improve. There is some light rain as we head south but its a bit choppy so we opt for the short sail.
Benitses turns out to be a fun overnight port. We berth next to an unoccupied gulet-style sailboat. The office is not open so there’s no berth fee. We celebrate this small gratuity at Antoni’s cafe located along the busy lane of tavernas, cafes and shops facing the main street that runs along the waterfront.
Antoni sits with us to discuss the current Greek economic crisis. Although happy his kids can visit him during their summer holidays he laments taxes and lack of off-season work back in Athens where his wife and children live. Rather than take a lower paying restaurant job in Athens, he accepts welfare for the five winter months he’s not in Corfu.
Wednesday morning we head SE under sail in 8 kn of wind towards Sivota on the west coast of the
mainland. We sail for a couple of hours until the wind drops and motor the last 30 minutes into the harbor past several attractive outer anchorages between small islands. There’s only a couple of spaces open along the main quay so we squeeze stern-to between a 47 catamaran and a 42 ft. monohull crewed by a helpful couple from Denmark.
The quay is a broad stretch of white paving and tavernas facing the harbor. Jim and Sue go for a walk to the small beach at the head of the harbor while Daryl, Beth, Maija and Anne stroll around the village and up the hill for a view overlooking he harbor and islands. Maija returns saying she has found her vacation home!
At 8 pm, we all stroll over to George’s Taverna, a well-known spot started by George’s father. George Jr. joins our table as we wait for our lamb, octopus, kebabs and salads. He was a well-known restaurateur in the USA before returning to Sivota to take over his ailing father’s small restaurant.
imminent financial default. George is interesting company willing to discuss his US experience and his current 23% tax rate.
We plan two stops for the following day. It’s forecasted to be sunny with good wind so we set out SW towards Emerald Bay at the northern tip of Anti Paxos. The wind is 10-12 kn on a beam reach that gives us a fine 2.5 hr sail to this beautiful lunchtime swimming stop. The turquoise water is clear to the sandy bottom 30 ft. below. Everyone jumps in and enjoys a swim before lunch at anchor.
It’s a difficult spot to leave so we wait until midafternoon before hoisting the anchor. Two long tacks in 10 kn of anchorage in the wide protected harbor of Lakka Bay.
We choose to drop anchor near the west wall in four meters and run a long line to the shore tied to a protruding rock. We have a full view of the Bay if front of us with the small town of Lakka off our starboard bow.
Jim makes two trips in the dinghy to bring us in for dinner. Maija has selected a nice fish restaurant at the edge of the quayside. We dig into fresh local fish, kebabs, fresh salads and carafes of local white wine.
For our last stop we find a small cafe at the water’s edge with music and serving late night drinks.Our final day for sailing looks clear and sunny but with light winds. We set out early planning to stop halfway to Gouvia Marina for lunch at the small fishing village of Petriti.
There’s a space for us at the village pier allowing us to come alongside and tie off. All the other boats are local fishing boats of all sizes and colors. The tavernas are full of lunching fishermen; a few invite boaters in with signs stating ‘Meals and Showers’. They want clean customers!
ahead announcing we’re approaching our final destination. We round Vidho Island, drop the mainsail and furl the jib for the last time.
Daryl and Jim man the lazy lines from our berth at Gouvia Marina, Beth and Sue tail for them to insure there’s no prop issue; Maija and Anne grab the stern lines. We’re in and ready for dinner at the Olympia!