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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Friday, September 01, 2006
Sailing in Odysseus' Tracks (Part 2)

Previously on this blog: We engaged in a multi-day sailing trip around the Ionian Islands where we ate Octopus like crazy, sailed like crazy, snorkeled like crazy, and didn't sleep very well. Now the conclusion...

The next morning we received word about very rough seas around the Ionian Islands. They reported 25 knots of wind speed (which doesn't sound like that much to me, but I am more of a windsurfer than a sailor) and large swells (waves). We were advised to stay in port, but our skipper Neil just said "rubbish... these old chaps are just a bunch of bloody sissies" and off we went. And he was right: The wind was actually great for sailing, and I am not sure what waves they were speaking of. We had a great day of sailing and we actually reached our greatest speed of the trip, blasting along at a screaming 8.2 knots (about 15 km/h or a bit less than 10 miles per hour).

We went down the coast of Kefalonia with the goal of reaching Sami. However, winds took some nasty turns just before we got to Sami, so we decided to go to Ag. Efimia instead. Here's a sailing picture just before we entered port. It doesn't look all that windy here, but that has to do with the fact that the winds turned a lot in this area. You can see how windy it is by how Ellen's "big-balloon-shirt" (as she calls it) blows around and by how much the boat is leaning over. This was another day where we sailed with the deck in the water. As Neil said: "It was blowing bloody old boots!":


Once we went ashore again, we got a taxi and drove off to see the caves of Kefalonia. They are a major tourist attraction and a nice diversion after a few days on the boat. But do not expect mammoth cave! The first cave we saw has a lake in it. It is quite nice, but it is also expensive and our guide didn't say much besides giving us 3 depth readings of the lake (one goes on it in a rowboat). I think he didn't speak much English. I am glad I did it, but it def. is one of those "yup, there it is... we saw it, now let's move on" sort of experiences.


The second cave has tons of stalactites and stalagmites. I liked this one better than the first, as it seems more impressive and one has the freedom to walk around in it. When we entered, they told us that "it was OK to take a few pictures, but not TOO many as it is forbidden by the Greek ministry of culture". That's the spirit! We of course went right along with it, and to stick to the overall philosophy, we took a bunch of photos, but mostly blurry ones. That gotta make the ministry of culture happy!


On our way back to the boat I noticed I sign that pointed to the "ancient acropolis of Sami", so we hijacked out taxi driver to take us there. Unfortunately, this was quite a bit out of the way, and it was not very "acropolisish" at all, since hardly any of it is preserved. However, we had a great few of the island and of Sami bay:


It got quite late by the time we got back to the boat (in part because by now Neil was so engrossed in Sudoku that he didn't want to hear about sailing). We had originally planned to go back to Kalamos or Meganisi, but it was too late for that, so we enjoyed some excellent sailing up the west coast of Ithaka, were we ended up spending the night in a lonely bay together with two other boats. I like spending the night out on the sea rather than in ports. It was very quiet and relaxing. We simply anchored out in the bay, and I swam ashore with a second rope, just to make sure things wouldn't get too bad in case the anchor didn't hold. We enjoyed our first dinner on the boat under another amazing sky full of stars (well, I suppose it was the same sky actually, but it just never grows old).

The next day, after enjoying a nice swim and some handfeeding the fish, we sailed north towards Lefkas and the port of Vasiliki. On the way, we decided to have a bit of extra fun, threw out a rope the back of the boat, and surfed on the inflated dingy-bottom. Here is Neil going at it:


In general, we had lots of this type of fun on the boat. One day I jumped off the front of the boat at full speed and tried to swim around the back of it to climb back up the ladder before it passed. I failed to do this and the boat almost sailed by, leaving me in the middle of the open sea, but I managed to hang on to the dingy at the last moment. Ellen was nice enough to throw me a rope (ruining her chance of getting rid of me). We also enjoyed hanging off the ladder at the back of the boat while we were sailing about. I really like this about the Greek island. There just isn't much to worry about when you jump in the sea, since there are no sharks, even if it is out in the open. I wouldn't be nearly as comfortable trying this in Hawaii or other places.

Vasiliki was a special stop for me, because it is known for windsurfing. And in fact, it was a windy, although not too constant day. Neil dropped me off at the shore, and I rented some nice and brand new F2 gear. The board was a little different from what I was used to, and it took a while for the board and I to bond, but after 20 minutes, it went quite well. Here I am, zipping by our boat:


I can guarantee you that I went faster than 8.2 knots on the windsurf board. By a lot!

Vasiliki was another great stop. In addition to the windsurfing, we had some excellent food again. This would have also been the place to party, as Vasiliki is very touristy, and has a lot of bars. I originally planned on that, but then was just too worn out from the windsurfing, so we only had a drink or two before we went to bed.

Our trip was now rapidly coming to an end, with only two days left. The next day we sailed around the south tip of Lefkas towards Meganisi. It was a nice sailing day again, and Neil thought we were going along at a speed that was "just bloody marvelous". After spending our afternoon at a nice and sheltered bay (with some fish to feed and some cave-snorkeling), we went to the north side of Meganisi which has some very sheltered bays. We grilled our Souvlaki (a greek skewer speciality) on shore and had a great time. There were quite a few boats in there, but it was not too bad. We grilled our Souvlaki on shore, which I enjoyed a lot (Ellen tolerated it since she knew I was looking forward to it).

Later that evening, Neil and I went skinny-dipping with a voluptuous French woman. Well, in fairness the (presumably) French beauty skinny dipped on the other end of the bay some several hundred yards away, but it was in the same area nevertheless. Ellen for some reason didn't want to partake.

Here's a photo of where we anchored in Meganisi. Don't get your hopes up (or should I say "don't be afraid"?), there are no skinny-dipping pictures ;-)


The next morning, we vent to Vathi, got some fresh bread, and set off for our last day of sailing. At first, there wasn't much wind, so we just sailed downwind into a nice bay and went swimming, but later that afternoon, a little more wind came up and we decided to sail upwind to Nidri and go for some ice cream. This was rather exciting since we decided to sail into the bay of Nidri and through the port, rather than motoring up. There must have been over a hundred boats in there and we crisscrossed (tacked) up wind through them going 6-7 knots. They must have all thought we were nuts. But Neil is an excellent skipper and I can pull ropes like crazy, so we all got a good laugh out of it.

Here's a picture from Nidri on the way back out:


This was the end of the trip. That night we sailed back to Lefkas. We did pretty much everything we wanted, except we didn't see the dolphins Neil promised. Dang sales people! ;-)

Here is the course we took:


Different days are shown in alternating colors, starting at the very top, roughly clockwise, except for the part between Kefalonia and Ithaka.

Posted @ 3:41 AM by Egger, Markus ( -
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