The Waiting Game, Ep. 149

We had taken every reasonable precaution, and now, as the medicane churned its way towards the Ionian Sea on a northeast track, the next 48 hours would determine if we had made the right decision. As often happens with an approaching storm system, the skies and the wind were quite benign. It was almost like the storm was sucking the energy out of the region, feeding it to the hungry monster within. A dull gray upper atmosphere draped over us, a rare sight in the summertime Med. And barely a ripple formed on the water, as we settled into our anchorage. We were over a mile from the harborfront of Igoumenitsa, and well spaced from the shoreline surrounding us. I had worried that other boats seeking shelter would logically aim for this harbor too, so well protected as it was. But only three sailboats joined us, in a space that could easily hold 50 or more. If the high winds made it this far north, we wouldn’t have to worry about other boats dragging on their anchor, and their detritus cast onto the sea surface. We would just have to worry about ourselves, while waiting out our fate.

Our path northward to Igoumenitsa
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Impending Doom, Ep. 148

If you do any amount of sailing in Greece’s Ionian Sea, you are bound to cross paths with the island of Levkas. And, if you are not too thrown off by its equally common name of Levkada, you will find a beautifully mountainous island with something for everyone. Together with the town of Preveza on the mainland, there are a plethora of services for sailboats on Levkas, and the commensurate line up of bars and restaurants to keep all the sailors in good spirits. We had visited Levkas last year with our friends Steve and Julie during a whirlwind tour of the Ionian. This time, as we sailed gently around the southern coast of Meganisi with both Paloma and time on our side, I was looking forward to exploring the island more deeply.

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Escape Vehicle, Ep. 147

They say that whenever there are two boats on the water, there is a race. I’m sure this is a carry-over from the testerone-heavy history of sailing, but today, with Karen at the helm and Theo just ahead and to the lee, we had a race on! We were leaving the Kastos/Kalamos area, bound for the small town of Mitikas on the mainland, just 5 miles to windward. With a short leg, it didn’t matter that winds were light. The tacking duel lasted for about an hour, and I’m proud to say that the New Englanders won! To be fair, Sea Rose has a lighter displacement and therefore manages a steady speed in light winds. In heavy seas in the North Atlantic, I’m sure Paloma would come out on top, if not for speed, at least for sea-kindliness.

The tacking duel is on, bound for Mitikas
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Rebirth, Ep. 146

I had thought our tribute to Mother Nature was respectful enough. But as we tossed off stern lines to leave One House Bay, Mommie Dearest would not let go of her grip. I had used a heavy duty length of chain around a submerged boulder as a tie off for one of our stern lines. The line untied without a problem, but when I sucked in air and dove down to collect the chain, it would not budge. I dove a half dozen times and even tried to wedge a boat hook in between the rock and chain, but this beautiful piece of galvanized chain was going to have to serve as our tribute payment. Rest in peace, and may you soon come to the aid of another boater’s stern line!

After 7nm of light sailing north, we came upon the island of Kastos–a long, skinny, lightly inhabited island close to the mainland. Last summer, we had read about how Kastos, and its neighbor Kalamos, were on a little more of the road less taken, but we couldn’t fit it into our itinerary at the time. We now had ample time – a full four weeks until we hauled out at Preveza just one full day’s sail north. About midway along the eastern shore, a single old windmill came into view on a bluff. Looking like it had been plucked from Mykonos’ row of classic windmills, the bluff protected a small harbor and town quay. With a steady breeze blowing offshore, we skipped the quay and chose to anchor in a nearby cove that might give us more air to cool down on this hot Mediterranean afternoon.

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Nature’s Classroom, Ep. 145

I’m pretty sure the seasickness I was feeling in the morning had nothing to do with the late night with new friends. There was a change in the wind and a swell was rolling into the anchorage. I assure you this was the only reason! We had dropped our lines and were underway by 7am for the island of Atokos, 7nm distant but looking so close it seemed like you could reach out and grab it, the air was so clear. Just enough wind was blowing to make killing the engine a simple decision; we sailed gently onward, at a time in the morning when we would normally just be rustling out of our bunk.

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Rock Stars Among Us, Ep. 144

When the wind rises before you in the morning, you know it’s best to get up, get dressed and make a plan. After yesterday’s parade of boat arrivals in Kioni, we were wedged in tight with boats fendered off of us on both sides. We had seen how other boats had struggled during the strong side winds, and I skipped a morning run in order to get us out before the building wind made it even more challenging. With so many boats med moored around us, and plenty of variability in where they each dropped their anchor, we also wanted to slip our lines sooner than later in order to sort out any crossed anchor chains. We had seen plenty of examples this season of one boat lifting another boat’s anchor and causing a domino effect of boats become unhinged.

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Old Friends and Olive Trees, Ep. 143

Let’s get one thing out of the way at the beginning. There is a particular island in the Ionian, Ithaki, that is not pronounced like you think it would be. It is ‘ehh-TALK-yy’. This came as troubling news to Karen, growing up as she did next door to Ithaca, NY, where natives would think you were from another planet if you didn’t say ‘ITH-a-kuh’. We had the good fortune of a Greek native with us, Theo, to break the news gently. There you go. Now we are ready to move on.

As we rounded the northern tip of Cephalonia on our eastward leg to the neighboring island of Ithaki, the winds started to build, just as they had been forecasted. We started off with both sails fully set, sending us gently along at a speed, because it is less than one could motor at, that can make one twitchy if there’s a long distance to go. Theo, just inshore of us, had a little less wind and more tonnage to move through the water, leading him to keep motoring. We soon had a bonafide breeze of 15 knots, cause enough to begin thinking about a plan to reef, as we skimmed across the water on a glorious downwind angle. The forecast called for higher winds into the evening and possibly over the next few days, so we sought protection on the eastern shore of Ithaki, with our first stop at the little cove of Ormos Nikolaos. Ormos means bay in Greek, but there was nothing expansive here on the scale of San Francisco Bay or the Bay of Biscay. I will be filing for a name change to Limanaki Nikolaos, as soon as I find out who in the Greek government will entertain my request.

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Love, In All Its Forms, Ep. 142

The summer winds in the Ionian Sea are by-and-large quite mild. When it does blow, the wind comes onshore from the west. Therefore, most of the favorable, comfortable anchorages are on the eastern side of the islands. Cephalonia was no exception, with a range of options between quaint and bustling. As we motored into Poros under glassy calm seas, and we were the only boat in the anchorage, the town was feeling much more on the quaint end of the spectrum. A pronounced V-shaped gorge was cut into the ridge behind the town, hinting at a large valley inland and many decades of heavy spring runoff. A few multi-story buildings lined the shore, but otherwise, a long uninterrupted beach greeted us as we landed with the dinghy. Cephalonia was lining up to be a chill, low-key island, about as much of a polar opposite to Mykonos as one could get. A few teenage boys explored the rocky shallows, appearing to care less about what they might find and more about the simple companionship of a friend. Or perhaps Mom kicked them out and told them not to return until dinner time!

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Youth and the Uni-effect, Ep. 141

There should be no shame in a Plan B. Sure, there’s the difficulty in accepting one’s fallibility. But we’ve found that if we think ahead about possible Plan B’s, it’s easier to make the switch when Plan A develops an attitude. And, an attitude was what we were faced with as we rounded the northern tip of Zakynthos for Shipwreck Beach. As soon as we pointed Sea Rose towards the alternative of neighboring Cephalonia, the sea sickness subsided and the curiosity about a new island emerged.

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Staking Claim and Claiming Names, Ep. 140

As the island of Zakynthos came into view, we officially entered the Ionian island group of western Greece. Last year, we had toyed with the idea of visiting Zakynthos, as we made our way south from Croatia, but time was not on our side as we pushed to make a date with friends in the Aegean. This season, with neither Karen nor I willing to take the Covid risk of leaving Greece and tempting clearance into another country, we were staying local. We had six more weeks in Greek waters, which gave us carte blanche to see every nook and cranny in the Ionian.

There are a handful of iconic images that Greeks use to tempt tourists to their land. There is, of course, the Parthenon, and the windmills on Mykonos, as well as the cliffs at Santorini, and finally there’s Shipwreck Beach, which coincidentally resides on Zakynthos. If you’re an Instagram nut, Shipwreck Beach is likely on your short list, to pose with heart-shaped hands, a pouty face, or a simple thumbs up.

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