Markus' Travel and International Living Blog

Markus is an enthusiastic traveler, who lives in Houston, TX (USA) most of the time, but also spends some time in Saalfelden, near Salzburg (Austria). He is fascinated by travel and also by his experiences gathered by living in two different countries and continents.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006
Sailing in Odysseus' Tracks (Part 1)

I promised to tell you more about our sailing trip in the Greek islands, so here I go: After completing our journey to Greece, and a good night's sleep in the Ionian Star Hotel, we were ready for our sailing adventure. It was Sunday morning, and the previous crew had just abandoned our boat. The cleaning crew was hard at work, and we still had some shopping to do, since the stores had closed their doors practically on our noses the evening before. (Note to self: Stores in Greece close at 8 on Saturdays). This delayed our departure slightly, but it wasn't a big deal. We bought tons of drinks as well as snacks and some food. We didn't envision eating on board very much, but it is never a bad idea to have some "crisps" (as my british friend Neil likes to call snacks) on board.

We left the Lefkas marina at about 4pm on Sunday. We motored out the Lefkas ship channel and were off to our sailing adventure. At first, there was not much wind, so we decided to go for a quick swim at a lonely little cove on the mainland. Ah! What a treat after a hot day in the busy town of Lefkas (which, BTW, seems to be bursting at its seams... it was much busier than I had previously seen it). After a few hours of R&R, we set out again, and for the first time had enough wind to sail. I haven't sailed in years, but after banging my head on the boom once or twice (do you know why the boom is called a "boom"? Because that's the sound it makes when you bang your head on it.... hahaha... very funny. I dare you to laugh if you are a tall guy...), we were going quite well zipping down the Ionion Sea at a whopping 6 knots (7 mph!).

That night we docked on the town "quay" (this is a sailing term for the "dock") in Mitakas on the Greek mainland. This is a tiny town, and we were the only boat there. This photo is taken from a little restaurant where we had some beers and "meses" (little snacks that usually involve fish). Our boat would be the one with the mast :-)


A little later that evening we walked two houses down the beach to a restaurant called "Thomas". If you ever are remotely in that area, I can only recommend that you stop by there, as we had what turned out to be our best dinner of the trip (and we had no shortage of good food either). We had big shrimps, Mediterranean cod, gavros (small fried fish you can eat with the bone), but the best of all was the grilled octopus! I never liked octopus very much, but I now changed my mind! This octopus was awesome. Very very tender, with a little bit of grilled crunchy outside. It was so good in fact, that we ordered a second portion of it. Even Neil remarked that it was "thoroughly enjoyed by all" which is high praise coming from an Englishman.

We spent a calm night in Mitakas, with practically no wind to speak of. This also made for a very hot night, which made it hard to sleep. Some of us even took to a midnight swim.

The next morning, we set out towards Ithaka, the home of Odysseus, the mythical greek hero. (Yes, he was the one who had the idea with the trojan horse and he also killed the Cyclops). On the way however, we stopped at a bay in Kalamos, where we once again enjoyed a nice swim and snorkeling. We anchored in about 30 feet of water and I took it upon myself to dive down along the anchor chain and swim all the way to the anchor. Seeing as how we had 150 feet of chain out, I didn't quite make it, and boy, was it cold down there!

That afternoon we sailed on to Ithaka. We enjoyed great sailing winds. Some of it was upwind, and for a few minutes, we even sailed with our deck in the water, it was going so well. For the non-sailors: sailing boats lean over quite a bit, especially on upwind - that is against the wind - courses. On our boat, the deck is about 3-4 feet above water, but when it leans over in strong winds, it can sometimes lean over so much that the deck is in the water... which is great fun for those who like it. We had a blast. And do not fear: Sailing yachts practically never tip over.

We spent the night at the village key in Kioni on Ithaka. There were a few boats there, and the village is rather small, so we couldn't dock at the key directly, but we had to lay out a long line and go on shore with the dingy (the small boat one tows behind).Here's a photo from Kioni:


We had another great dinner, and another quiet night. It was hot again, so I slept on deck. They say "the stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas", but you "ain't never seen no night-sky like in Greece"! It feels like you can reach up and touch a million stars. I enjoyed sleeping on deck that night, even though it got hot in the morning a lot earlier than I would have liked. So we got up in search of breakfast, which we found in the form of some nice fresh bread we got at the only store in town. Unfortunately, our quest for some Gyros was unsuccessful for the second day in a row.

The sun came on strong pretty early that day, so we decided to sail away and find a nice bay as quickly as we could. It was rather windy that day and we made good progress on our way to a bay at the very northern tip of Ithaka. There were a few other boats there, but it was not too bad. We had some nice snorkeling (by Mediterranean standards) and we introduced our skipper Neil to the subtleties of Sudoku, which he despised. The bay we were at had a small island in the middle of it with a small church on it. Here's a photo of that church, with our yacht in the background (a little hard to see):


Note: If you enter this bay, be careful as there is a nasty reef at the northern entrance.

Later that day we sailed on to Fiscardo at the northern end of Kefalonia. This is a must-see spot for everyone who sails the Ionian Islands. It is also a very busy spot, and by the time we entered the port, all the nice spots were already taken. In fact, we had to get off our boat by way of another yacht, but hey, that's all part of the sailing experience, right?

Fiscardo is a very cute port. Bigger than Kioni the previous night, but still cute. Especially if you get a spot on the old town key. Unfortunately, I don't have any good pictures of Fiscardo, since we simply got there too late. Here is one I tried to take of our yacht on the key:


This evening we had the worst meal of the trip. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. Ironically enough, it was the most expensive meal of the trip, since we ate at the restaurant of a Greek celebrity cook (whose name I forgot). Nevertheless, the stay in Fiscardo was still very nice. It was also a bit windier that night, so we finally got a good night's sleep in our "regular" beds.

So much for the first part. More about the excitement on the remaining part of the trip tomorrow...

Posted @ 4:54 PM by Egger, Markus ( -
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