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.
Looking across towards Cleopatra Yard and the amazing number of masts!
The 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.
We 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.
Gaios looking towards the Quay.
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.
We decided to reseal the hatch above our berth whilst in Lakka. Hopefully we won’t have a shower during the next downpour!