The day after we anchored in Preveza we sailed on southwards in our quest to reach the Aegean sea. We passed the Lefkas bridge once again (the previous time was in October last year). This time it was a lot more crowded with boats but it still went smooth. We were planning to anchor in the nice little bay we discovered last year on Lefkas next to Skorpios. Unfortunately two boats were already anchored there and there was no space for a third one. We continued until Ormos Dhesimou, a bay on the other side of Vlikho. We were lucky to have a spot as one boat left when we arrived. The beach there was quite nice and the water really clear blue. We missed that!
The next day we moved on to Cephalonia, the biggest of the Greek islands in the Ionian sea. There are a lot of small bays where it’s possible to anchor on the west side but not all of them are suitable for us because of the depth. After trying a couple of bays that were either too crowded or too deep or both, we finally found an empty one that was not too deep according to the chart. Our in-hull depth meter conveniently decided to stop working that day and we were not really sure how deep we were anchoring… In the end we did manage to anchor, could have a good swim around the boat and enjoy the evening with no charter boats to disturb us. The depth meter problem was solved by topping it up with some olive oil. Just after our swim we noticed a difference in the fish population under our boat. Instead of the usual suspects (saddled seabreams and some more saddled seabreams) a small shark was sharking around the boat. We’re not a 100% sure but we think it was a smooth hound shark. Besides the shark and us the bay was only populated by very vocal (sea) goats. The next day we sailed on along the west coast until Poros. The wind is quite strong between Cephalonia and Ithaca, and we could run on the genoa for a while and then on a broad reach until we reached Sami. There the wind shifted in a few minutes no less than 180 degrees so we had it dead ahead and couldn’t sail anymore. It was a really strange experience. We tied up on the Poros city quay and spent time in the local taverna to get some shade, a decent shower and relax. We had a nice conversation with the waiters who where flabbergasted that we actually sailed here in such a small boat, “you came all the way here with that?”.
From Poros we sailed to the mainland to Kyllini where we planned to meet up with the legendary Geoff, the English gentleman living aboard the imperial grand cruiser Merv. He arrived there in the morning a couple of hours before us and tied up in the ferry harbor (because it’s free). We decided to do the same on Geoffrey’s advice and also because the wind picked up quite a bit when we entered the harbor and we would have it on a beam when going stern-to in the small craft harbor. Halcyon Days doesn’t like to go backwards, especially with wind on a beam. The ferries to Zakynthos and Cephalonia had to turn just next to us (like 25 m away) which was a bit scary (and impressive) at the beginning but we somehow got used to it. The last ferry was at 21:00 so we could sleep without our lifejackets. We met Geoff for drinks and later again for dinner. We heard first hand how he ended up in jail in Greece for “stealing” electricity. It was fun to meet up with him again after approximately 2600 NM. The weather forecast was not looking good for the upcoming week and since we had limited time this year and wanted to sail a bit in the Aegean sea we decided to move on again the next day and go to Mesolongion.
The sail to Mesolongion was rather uneventful (no thunderstorms as was forecast), even quite pleasant. One of the reasons we wanted to stop there was to refill the water tank and charge the batteries in the marina. However when we called on the VHF we were told it was not possible to enter the marina because of “problems with the coast guards” and they sent us instead to the town quay (no facilities there). We later learned that one of the owners ran off with a big bag of money and all the papers and since then the marina was not allowed to take in any boats. That was two years ago… We moored on the quay next to Peter and Monica, a German couple sailing a beautiful X-Yacht named Lilly Marie. They invited us aboard their boat for a beer and Thijs could practice his German a little bit. Mesolongion is (kind of) famous because it’s the place where Lord Byron died. Despite staying two nights in Mesolongion we couldn’t find any sign that Lord Byron ever set foot in this city, except for a bar aptly named Byron on the main square.
The sky didn’t look too promising the morning we wanted to leave Mesolongion, with dark grey clouds on the horizon. We left Mesolongion anyway and hoped to make it to Patras. Lilly Marie did the same and left a bit before us. As they were also faster than us they kept us informed on the VHF of the weather awaiting us. We had to motor against a lot of wind almost the whole way except for the last 3 NM. Then it was also sunny but still very windy. We tied up in the commercial harbor as we couldn’t enter the marina (again). This time we were sent away because the marina was damaged last winter during a storm. We still had no water, electricity or facilities but had to pay €30 for two nights. Luckily Grant and Sara, the English couple in front of us on the quay offered to use their shower on their Outremer, the only catamaran we would consider as it is a proper sailing boat. We met Robert and Catharine, an American couple who sailed a Hank Hinckley 40 over from the US, which looks exactly like a cutter rigged upscaled Varne 27, so we fell in love with their boat. They kindly invited us over for drinks on Merlin. Patras is the third largest city of Greece. It is therefore quite lively, there are a lot of bars and cafés and shops. Except for that, there are not too many things to see (except if you’re really into shopping or eating out). We found one nice big church and visited the old fortress. In the end we stayed three nights there and left as soon as the wind decreased a little. We left Patras as the European youth championship archery was held on the quay right next to us. We would have loved to watch it for a while, but after all we’re on a mission.