Pembroke Haven Yacht Club

Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock

Preveza & Vonitsa 25/9/2020

On the 25th September we left Port Athene and headed off towards the Lefkas Channel.  The Channel runs for approximately 3 miles through low lying land at the end of the island, dividing it from the Greek mainland.  It is dredged to a depth of 5-6 metres with parts that sometimes are as little as 3-4 metres.  We entered the Channel through 3 sets of port & starboard buoys and then followed the channel markers (wooden poles!) until we reached Lefkas Marina at the North end.  The Channel continues to a floating bridge where the main road passes over the Channel.  The bridge is normally opened on the hour but this changes periodically and we had to check on line before proceeding.  We were approximately 10 minutes early and a ‘tricky’ few minutes ensued as we waited with numerous boats in a turning basin.  It was like ‘follow my leader’ around a clock with the occasional boat deciding to go in a different direction.  The current at this point can be as much as 1-1.5 knots so it was ‘fun’ to say the least!

As we exited the Channel around a sandy spit, we hoisted our sails and headed off towards Preveza.  Preveza, on the north-western mainland and sitting at the mouth of the Ambracian Gulf was where we planned to leave Money Penny through the winter.  Cleopatra Marina is directly opposite the town quay and holds approximately 100 yachts and the storage yard is the largest dry dock in Greece with a capacity of over 1000 vessels.  It had been recommended by a number of people and sits within minutes of the airport. Access to Preveza is via an underwater tunnel, the only one in Greece.  We radioed the Marina and pulled up on an outside quay before visiting the Yard office to arrange a contract for the winter.  We would return on the 19th October for our liftout.

IMG-20210531-WA0000Looking across towards Cleopatra Yard and the amazing number of masts!

 IMG-20210531-WA0001The Ambracian Gulf showing Vonitsa

At 14.30 we continued into the Ambracian Gulf towards Vonitsa.  The Gulf is a 400 sq Kilometre of water, one of the largests wetlands in this region of Greece and due to two rivers, Arachthos & Louros flowing into the Gulf, makes for a very interesting biotope & ecosystem.    It has the largest reed bed in the country and reportedly over 100,000 species of fauna and flora and 250 birds (some rare), but unfortunately marine life has been reduced due to pollution from the rivers. Mussel farms line the coastline and apparently cuttlefish, shrimp, mullet, eel and sole remain.  The area offers great protection from strong winds and we had visited in September of 2013 with our friends Alison & Neil whilst on Flotilla to shelter from a storm .

A Venetian fortress dominates the hill above the town of Vonitsa and the village itself is populated mainly by locals.   We spent two nights at anchor and enjoyed walking around this quiet ‘non touristy’ town.  We also met up with Fernweh (Jeremy & Chrissy) having last seen them in the Peloponnese, before they headed for their winter lift out at Cleopatra and a flight back to New Zealand.

20200927_102548Vonitsa 20200927_100344IMG-20210524-WA0018IMG-20210524-WA0020

IMG-20210527-WA0004IMG-20210524-WA0019We were very impressed by these fantastic facilities for the less mobile.

From Vonitsa we spent a night on the town quay at Preveza and at 10.30am on the 28th September we made the 33 mile journey North from the mainland to Gaios on Paxos Island, the smallest of the Ionian Island and is the main port.  The Port is small and extremely picturesque but was the most expensive town quay that we had visited throughout the season at 27 euros for Money Penny without electricity!  We had to keep reminding ourselves that had we been charged this in Italy we would have been over the moon!  We spent two nights here enjoying the hustle and bustle of this busy town and also took a 4 kilometre bike ride to nearby Mongonissi, a small circular bay with a sandy beach and a private quay belonging to the beach bay.  We would certainly return here to spend a night later in the month or perhaps next year.

IMG-20210524-WA0017Gaios looking towards the Quay.          

20200929_160326Mongonissi Bay

After two nights at Gaios we moved on to Lakka, a small village with a deep, well protected circular bay on the North coast of Paxos. Lakka itself is situated on a hill covered with olive trees and cypresses and has spectacular views across the sea towards the mainland.  The quayside houses a number of bars and tavernas and there are also small alleyways lined with souvenir shops and more bars and tavernas.  Lakka is popular with yachts and the anchorage was extremely busy, we even ‘kissed’ another yacht during a very calm first night at anchor. 

IMG-20210524-WA001520200930_134313We decided to reseal the hatch above our berth whilst in Lakka.  Hopefully we won’t have a shower during the next downpour!

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Heading North from Vathi 21/9/2021

We remained in Vathi for another two nights following the Medicane, we needed to ‘reboot’ and ‘recharge’.  On the morning of 21st September we headed northwards.  We were aware of the fact that there had been a huge amount of damage to Cephalonia and had spoken to Amanda & Jonnie who were still shell shocked from their experience in Sami.  It would be Alistair's birthday on the 22nd so Judith had arranged with as many friends as possible to meet in Sivota on Lefkada to celebrate. It would be a happy release after the experience we had all just gone through.   In the meantime we headed towards Port Leonne for a quiet anchorage overnight.

IMG-20210524-WA0003  IMG-20200921-WA000120200921_133255Approaching Port Leonne

Port Leone is the former harbour on the small island of Kalamos, one of two islands adjacent to each other, Kastus being the other.  The port was deserted following the 1953 earthquake leaving only the church standing.    We decided to fish on route and were lucky enough to catch a beautiful Mahi Mahi, our favourite fish.  Supper was sorted!!  We also passed a huge amount of debris floating in the water.  A plastic chair was ‘rescued’ and eventually passed on to one of the restaurants in Sivota that had lost a number of theirs during the storm.


goat port leonne20200921_151912Our Anchorage for the night complete with resident goat!

After a relaxing night at anchor we departed for Sivota and a party with friends.   Sivota, on the Island of Lefkada, is a beautiful bay, with a hidden entrance, which provides safe shelter and is surrounded by numerous restaurants. It has been developed over the last few years which means it is a lot busier but it is still a pleasant place to stop.  Most of the pontoons at Sivota are managed by the restaurants and the mooring comes free with a table booking!  We had booked in advance and Miss Chips (Di & John), Infinite Blue (Amanda & Jonnie), Galene (Anthea & Paul), Caresse (Casper & Aline) were already waiting for us.  Jonnie & Amanda’s daughter had also finally managed to join them following a slight detour to Athens to await the passing storm.  We joined everyone onboard Caresse for early evening drinks plus a presentation to the Birthday Boy and then moved over to the restaurant to enjoy a fabulous meal with superb company. It was lovely to be back together.

IMG-20210527-WA0003IMG-20210527-WA0006IMG-20210527-WA0005Birthday Boy Sivota

The following day we left Sivota and headed slightly north on the island of Lefkada to Nidri.  We booked a slot on the Iris Quay belonging to a hotel run by Sailing Holidays.  When empty, the Quay is available to book and the facilities of the Hotel are free.  We had a number of items we needed to purchase from the chandlery in Nidri and we needed to stock up at the supermarket.  We had also booked an appointment with a local firm run by a British lady to try and arrange Greek Temporary Residency which we hoped would enable us to remain in Greece for longer than 90 days after Brexit.  We enjoyed an afternoon by the swimming pool and then headed to the office to attend our appointment.  It was extremely straightforward.  After we had provided financial information, photographs, our passports and other basic information we were taxied to the local police station and after a wait of 30 mins were presented with our Residency Beige Cards!! 

That night, tied to the Quay at the Iris Hotel we were ‘hit’ by a squall during a thunderstorm.  For 20 minutes we fought to keep the unmanned adjacent charter yachts that had pulled their mooring lines, away from the topsides of Money Penny.  The rain was torrential and the thunder deafening and such a short time after the Medicane our nerves were completely ‘shot’!  Judith hadn’t even had time to get dressed and sat on the topside with her waterproof jacket over her underwear.  Everyone was so busy trying to help us that no one noticed, or so she hoped!    The charter yacht owners appeared just as the wind died down.  They laid anchors to secure the boats and we eventually returned to our bed!

The following day we motored off the Idris Quay and out of the Bay of Nidri.  Port Athene, an inlet on the Island of Meganisi was our next stop.  Meganisi is separated from the Island of Lefkas by a mile wide channel.  There are three inlets, Port Athene, Kapali & Abelike and a small quay, plus  a pontoon along side a local taverna, but we decided to anchor and tie back against the shore in one of the coves along the inlet.  We had radioed Annastasia (Alex & Kuni) to find out where they were and they were also heading for Meganisi. 


Having been joined by Alex & Kuni we enjoyed the rest of the day catching up on our experiences during the Medicane, paddle boarding and swimming before settling down for a well earned calm, quiet night onboard. 

Alex & Kuni were soon to return to Germany so the following day we said our goodbyes as we headed further North towards Preveza.

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Vathi & The Medicane!

Having left Messalongi early on the 14th September, we made our way towards ‘Big’ Vathi on the island of Ithaka.  Ithaka lies off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and is 96 sq kilometres, the second smallest of the seven main Ionian Islands after Paxos.  Vathi is the capital and main harbour of the Island and is built around a deep sheltered bay with a narrow entrance.   We had both ‘sat’ out a number of storms in this bay during our times on ‘charter boats’ in the Ionian, and having seen the weather forecast for the next few days, had felt that this would be a ‘fair bet’ as far as shelter.  We had also been in contact with the ‘crew’ of Dulcinea who were making their way towards us.  We were hoping to meet up again before saying goodbye until next year.

As we have mentioned before, the yachting community is small, and Judith had been in touch with Paul and Anthea who live in Tenby and keep their boat in the Ionian on a permanent basis.  We had been hoping to catch them some time this season and sure enough they were also heading for Vathi over the next day or so.   Two of our ‘pontoon buddies’ from MDR Sicily (Di & John off Miss Chips & Catherine & Peter – Rocko) who we had last seen in Kefalonia, were at anchor off Vathi so hopefully we would be able to catch up with them too.

We were planning to spend two nights in Vathi and then head further north on the coast of Ithika to Kioni where a childhood family friend of Alistair’s, Tim & his wife Sue, now lived.

After arriving and anchoring close to Dulcinea in the bay off Vathi town, we contacted our friends from MDR, Sicily and arranged to meet at a small bar for cocktails early evening.  Dave from Dulcinea appeared in his tender on route to the supermarket and invited us for supper.  We were happy to meet up again as we had thoroughly enjoyed their company earlier on in the season.  Judith joined him on the trip to the supermarket and already we had a busy evening ahead.  Whilst returning from the shops Judith noticed Annastasia was secured to the Quay she went over to welcome them.  Alex & Kuni were spending the night here and leaving early in the morning to make their way North to try and avoid the storm.

During cocktails and supper the subject was  the approaching storm.  Dave & Carolyn had also decided that they were going to make a ‘run’ North to their home mooring at Corfu Marina.  This would be a 12 hour sail and they would leave early the following morning.  They tried their best to get us to join them but we HAD PLANS!!!  With hindsight we wish we had taken their advice but we had arranged to meet Tim & Sue and were looking forward to catching up with Anthea & Paul and also Jonnie & Amanda who were now only a few miles away in Cephalonia.  We were not ready to head North yet!  after all, the storm was somewhat unpredictable and was supposed to head slightly further North than us and then head East.  We would be safe sheltering here in Vathi!

Storm ready!

The morning after our arrival in Vathi we moved Money Penny to the Quay and began to make her ‘storm ready’.  We secured extra lines to the dock and took down our solar panels, bimini and sprayhood.  Anthea and Paul had arrived and were moored on the same quay.  As our bimini had been removed and Anthea had a sewing machine onboard, Judith took advantage and borrowed the sewing machine that afternoon to replace two of the zips.  This was a job that had been waiting since Sicily.

Sewing on a boat!Vathi waiting for the stormweather 18 September 2020

During the course of the evening a total of eight boats joined us on the quayside stern to, pointing northwards. The first element of the storm was predicted to come from the south which would in effect hold us off the quayside.  We took a walk across to the other Quay (facing east) and spoke to the skipper of a Sunsail flotilla as he attempted to secure all 16 of his boats.  He had sent all flotilla crew members to guest houses and only the skippers of each individual boat remained!   There was also an English couple close by who had chosen to secure to this quayside, they were in the process of adding a number of extra lines.  The young Sunsail skipper informed us of the VHF channel that he would be monitoring that night and kindly said that if we needed assistance we should call him.

As the wind gained in strength and the rain started we headed ‘down below’.  We sat in the saloon monitoring the building wind and the safety of Money Penny until a mayday call was heard on our radio from within the bay of Vathi. We hoped that the Coastguard would assist.  We also heard a French boat asking for assistance after loosing both anchors and being unable to dock due to the wind strength.   At this point we were unable to leave the boat as the gap between Money Penny and the quayside was too large to risk jumping.  On venturing outside the Coastguard were dealing with a tripper boat that had broken it’s moorings and was lying side on across three other boats.  The noise of the wind and lashing rain meant we were unable to draw the attention of anyone on the quay, however, Paul had also heard the call from the French boat and luckily had the phone number of someone with a car that could drive to the other side of the bay to give assistance to the yacht as it attempted to berth at the far side quay.

It is extremely difficult to express how helpless we all felt but it was just a case of keeping calm and trying to minimise damage to Money Penny and others around us.  The wind reached Storm Force 11 – 60-70 kts.  We were awake all night, at times trying to fend off the adjacent yachts and wondering how long the wind and rain would go on for!  At daylight it became apparent that we had come off lightly!  The wind was still fairly strong but as we looked across to the other quay we could see the yacht belonging to the English couple with her bow down in the water.  As we continued to watch helplessly over the next hour, the yacht sank further into the water!  We found out the following day that the stern of the yacht had been pushed up onto the quay allowing her to ‘nose dive’ into the water and slowly fill with water.  There was also a life raft floating around in front of us which was eventually picked up by the Coastguard and put in front of their office. 



As the second element of the storm began with the wind veering around to the East, it was now hitting us on the broadside so we decided to move.  The yacht to our portside had already left and in doing so had ended up broadside on to our bow missing a collision by inches and taking out the anchor of the yacht on her other side.  The charter yacht to our starboard was no longer being held by her anchor and the crew, who had spent most of the night sleeping or arguing, unaware of us fending them off, were looking like they were thinking of moving.  We decided to make a run for it as we had no faith in their seamanship and worried that they would not be able to avoid a collision if the wind caught them!

We anchored on the lee shore and settled down for another sleepless night.  Alistair went down below to catch up on some sleep and asked me to remain on watch until 9pm when he would take over for a few hours .  We would take shifts throughout the night.  By 8.30 pm it was obvious to me that the wind was decreasing.  I was now only seeing gusts of 30-35 kts and it felt positively ‘calm’ !!  I decided not to wake him and went to bed myself. confident that the anchor was secure and the yachts around us were at a safe distance.  We both woke the following morning at 9 am!!!  The sun shone and the bay was calm but as we looked over to where our friends John & Di on Miss Chips had been anchored we could no longer see them.  Miss Chips had been anchored near to the French boat that had lost both anchors and she had also pulled her anchor and had ended up on the rocks on the opposite shore to where we were anchored.  We spoke to them on the ‘phone and learned that they had left Miss Chips and had been told by the Coastguard that they could not return until they had spoken to the ‘office’.  We arranged to return to the quay and meet them to organise any help that they may need.  Luckily there was superficial cosmetic damage to the hull and we were able to help re-float and re-anchor her later that day.

IMG-20210524-WA0006cake during stormJudith baked a treat as the wind calmed down!

Once moored back on the quay we were able to take a walk to survey the damage around the town quay area. The Sunsail boats had faired well with only one yacht having a prop wrap.  The young skipper had certainly done his job.  We subsequently emailed Sunsail to express our gratitude for his offer of help and also admiration for the excellent job he had provided in keeping their clients & yachts safe.

There was no electricity throughout the village and a number of small boats had sunk on their moorings.  People walked around in shock.  The local villagers had never experienced anything like it before.  We never want to experience anything like it again!!

That afternoon we cycled to a nearby beach for a swim and looked out at the calm seas before leaving Vathi the following morning…………… it was as if nothing had happened.


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