From Greece to Italy through the Ionian Sea and over to Sicily

Lefkas harbour with sunset in an unstable weather condition
Lefkas harbour with sunset in an unstable weather condition
going north from Lefkas you have to pass the bridge which is opened once per hour
going north from Lefkas you have to pass the bridge which is opened once per hour
Ormos Lakka on Nisos Paxoi in the south of Korfu
Ormos Lakka on Nisos Paxoi in the south of Korfu

So we enjoyed spending the day in the harbour in Lefkas without working on the engine. The next day it was only raining so we left Lefkas passing the movable bridge and went to Ormos Lakka in the north of Paxoi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Korfu
Korfu
Korfu
Korfu

On Sunday we left the lovely Ormos Lakka early in the morning to Mariana Gouvia on Korfu, the plan was to visit the city by mountain bike and then clear out to Italy in the customs of the Marina (our book said it is only possible there, not in Korfu itself).

the engine after Reto has extinguished the fire
the engine after Reto has extinguished the fire
the starter motor, happy to have an replacement
the starter motor, happy to have an replacement
Great, we are allowed to stay in the berth for the boats with technical problems ;-( right next to the gas station
Great, we are allowed to stay in the berth for the boats with technical problems ;-( right next to the gas station

On the way into the Marina we stop at the fuel station to fill up our tank and just in the moment Reto is handing back the fuel hose he sees smoke coming out of the starboard engine room. Immediately the fire extinguisher is handed over and Reto empties almost 2 kg of powder onto the centre of the fire which was the starter engine. Great, especially next to the fuel station. The fuel man got quite a bit nervous, wanted us to empty another 5 kg bottle and told us to leave. We on the other hand were not so eager to leave with a just extinguished fire and only one engine to maneuver. Help quickly came from the Marina guys who then towed us to the “technical problems pier” right next to the fuel station.

Well, at least we managed to extinguish quickly and also we had the spare part with us, so instead of sight seeing and biking off we go again into the engine room (Reto) and handing the tools (Angela). Two hours later the engine was starting again but of course we still had no clue why something like this can happen. The next morning we manage to find some fuses which are immediately installed and we hope to prevent the re-occurrence.

So when by next day noon we wanted to finally clear out at the Gouvia Marina we had to find out that we still need to go to Korfu in order to give back our Transit log to the customs office there. Great, in the morning the lady said it is all fine, she can do our checkout from Greece. Grrr…

sundowner on the way over to Italy
sundowner on the way over to Italy
the flag change from Greece to Italy
the flag change from Greece to Italy

Since we are a bit fed up from Greece and Korfu and also expect tougher winds for the coming days, we go to Korfu harbour with the ship, clear out and leave Korfu at 4 pm going north towards the border to Albania, then westwards to Italy.

During the night we have a nice speed of around 8 knots on an upwind course with the 3rd reef in the sail and the ship is bumping heavily in the waves ;-( I recognize that only very tired I fall asleep like this even though I already chose the salon where the bumping is felt less than in the hulls.
Early at 4 am we pass St. Maria di Leuca, for us too early to go into a harbour, but from there on we have the wind really on the nose. Afterward Reto said “only idiots or beginners go against the Wind” – well there is something true in this one, but when we arrive at 2 pm at Gallipoli we are happy as well.

we enjoy the new plates, a gift of my brother Alfred and the variety of ham after 8 weeks of white cheese
we enjoy the new plates, a gift of my brother Alfred and the variety of ham after 8 weeks of white cheese
Gallipoli old town
Gallipoli old town
Gallipoli old town, we like it ;-)
Gallipoli old town, we like it 😉

So why Gallipoli? Well, since my brothers wife Anna is from there they helped us in transporting our two pallets of material (household, tools, ect.) to their friend Francesco and together with Anna’s Brother Antonio they brought all the loads of stuff faster onto She San than we could look or take a picture of it.

Next day after stowing away the material and enjoying the beautiful settings in Gallipoli we decide to head on southwards starting at 4 pm, since the outlook of the forecast tells about thunderstorms for later the next day.

 

 

 

 
The night starts great, we sail with 7 knots with the first reef and I sleep deeply when Reto wakes me up at 4 am to help him.

the thunderstorms on the Radar display
the thunderstorms on the Radar display
Sun set on our way to Italy
Sun set on our way to Italy
the harbour entrance of Rocella Ionica, don't go straight in but stay on the side of the beach!! we are happy that Davide shows us the way in ;-)
the harbour entrance of Rocella Ionica, don’t go straight in but stay on the side of the beach!! we are happy that Davide shows us the way in 😉
Caulonia, some parts date from medieval times
Caulonia, some parts date from medieval times
medieval town of Caulonia
Caulonia
the castle of Rocella Ionica
the castle of Rocella Ionica
often we find this picture: the men sit and watch
often we find this picture: the men sit and watch
endless sand beaches in Rocella Ionica
endless sand beaches in Rocella Ionica

Damn, we are in the middle of the thunderstorms already and Reto just went though one when a lightening stroke down quite close to us. For the next hours the thunderstorms play cat and mouse with us, we manage to escape and avoid most of the fields which we see on radar. At noon we arrive in Rocella Ionica and reconsider our weather forecasts and the way we interpret them. Since Navtex gives notice of thunderstorms for the weekend we get out the mountain bikes and enjoy the area around Rocella Ionica. There are endless beaches, plantations with oranges, olives, grenadines, cactus fruits, beautiful hills, we find the middle aged town of Caulonia and of course Rocella Ionica, which is very pittoresc with its palace and castle on the hills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reto busy doing the olive harvest
Reto busy doing the olive harvest
I am invited to pick out the ripe black olives
I am invited to pick out the ripe black olives

Another highlight is the olive harvest, where Mimmo immediatly invites us to help and have a look and he gives me the best black olives together with the recipe of how to water them during one week and what spices to put on afterwards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mimmo invited us to join the olive harvest and gives me the best black olives including recipe of how to prepare
Mimmo invited us to join the olive harvest
you have no choice, the smallest pizza is half a meter, together with some nice Heineken it does make happy ;-)
you have no choice, the smallest pizza is half a meter, together with some nice Heineken it does make happy 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also the Pizza in the Marina is worth being recognized, you buy Pizza here only starting from half meter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we are about ready to leave, but the forecasts again make us crazy, whatever plan we make, the next moment it doesn’t look good anymore, so again we stay one more day before leaving to “finish with” the Ionian sea.

and again one Bonito
and again one Bonito
the first catch of the day is already served for lunch
the first catch of the day is already served for lunch
and again the first one was followed by two of his collegues ;-)
and again the first one was followed by two of his collegues 😉

On the way over we get lucky in fishing and while we already have the first bonito on the plate for lunch we catch 2 more of his collegues, so our lucky number fishing seems to be the 3 ;-).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the messina straight, we go right through Skylla and Charybdis
the messina straight, we go right through Skylla and Charybdis
on our way into the harbour of San Nicola d'Arena
on our way into the harbour of San Nicola d’Arena
San Nicola, not very big, but well protected
San Nicola, not very big, but well protected
the dark clouds pass over the mountain but from time to time the sun comes out ;-)
the dark clouds pass over the mountain but from time to time the sun comes out 😉
the barometer is constantly falling...
the barometer is constantly falling…

 

 

 

 

 

After another “stormy winds break day” in Reggio di Calabria we head on to San Nicola d’Arena, a small harbour close to Palermo in the northwest of Sicily. We chose San Nicola because it was described for good shelter and the geographical position in the weather charts promisses to be good in the upcoming fronts over the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the plan was to head on to Sardinia, but it is as always with the plans… the next thunderstorm from in the strait between Sicily and Sardinia is not a good idea and our “starter motor burning story” also is not yet solved as the starting relays seems to be at the end of its lifetime and almost caused another cable burn again. So off we go on the way to the next Yanmar dealers…

From the Korinth Channel to the Ionian Sea

So what are the next steps on our way to Italy?

one of the many cargo ships close to the Korinth channel
one of the many cargo ships close to the Korinth channel

The Korinth channel, the Golf of Korinth and the Golf of Patras are quite given on our way to the Ionian Sea, so next step is to go through the Korinth Channel.

 

Sunrise at the east entrance of Korinth Channel
Sunrise at the east entrance of Korinth Channel

We spend the night in the bay right before the channel and early in the morning we are the first to cross in daylight.

 

 

East entrance to the Korinth Channel
East entrance to the Korinth Channel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Korinth channel
Korinth channel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the other side we get some good wind and speed with 9 knots under sail before the wind disappears again at noon and the rest of the day the engine is running.

4 dolphins but the picture only got 3 of them ;-)
4 dolphins but the picture only got 3 of them 😉

Many times this afternoon Delphins come to visit and once even 4 of them swim with us a part of our way.

 

 

 

the "Marina" of Trizonia - we have been registered but it was free of charge ;-)
the “Marina” of Trizonia – we have been registered but it was free of charge 😉

On arrival at Trizonia island we have some wind against us and again, the starboard engine gives notice of overheating. So next day we spend again some time in getting to know our engine respectively cooling system, but also we take the time to do some walks around the island and enjoy

Entrance of the bay of Trizonia
Entrance of the bay of Trizonia

the setting of the lovely small harbour.

With our engines ready to go again (but we already know that the root cause is not yet found) we cross further west

the world's longest hanging bridge (2.5 km)
the world’s longest hanging bridge (2.5 km)
there was enough space but still it was quite exiting and some strong currents
there was enough space but still it was quite exiting and some strong currents

 

underneath the largest hanging bridge in the world (2.5 km).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the houses are build on poles at the entrance of the channel of Mesolongion
the houses are build on poles at the entrance of the channel of Mesolongion

In the afternoon we arrive at Mesolongion which is reached via a 2.5 miles channel where already two yachts we talked to ran on a sand bed and needed help to get off again. We stick to the tons and have no problem 😉

From Mesolongion we continue by engine to the Ionian Sea and although we do not have any luck with the wind there comes our luck fishing. We are really happy to catch our first fish in many years, it is a small Bonito Thuna. Just as I start to prepare it, we hear the next bite, another a bit bigger Bonito.

Bonito 1 and 2
Bonito 1 and 2

So that is great!  But again the fishing rod makes noise and this time we know it is bigger than the first two. Coming closer I am afraid we catch a bird, it looks as if it had wings.

and our first (small) swordfish
and our first (small) swordfish
well, this guy now really doesn't fit into the fridge without being taken apart before ;-)
well, this guy now really doesn’t fit into the fridge without being taken apart before 😉
Sushi from Thuna and Swordfish
Sushi from Thuna and Swordfish

Then we can see it: we caught a small swordfish 😉 Good that we just probed how to get a rope around the tale of larger fish, since up to now I always held them with one hand 😉 After visiting 3 bays we finally find a place for the night in Ormas Vathy on Nisis Ithaki and enjoy the Sushi that we have dreamed off for so long (the last fish we caught back in 2011…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sushi number 2
Sushi number 2
one of many swordfish Carpaccios ;-)
one of many swordfish Carpaccios 😉
filled anchor fields close to Nidri on Lefkas
filled anchor fields close to Nidri on Lefkas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we moved up to Lefkas island in a “well-protected” bay where we had to learn our lesson on spending a stormy night in a fully packed anchor field. I had read about these situations before, but I did not imagine how scary a thunderstorm really could become.

In the beginning we watched most of the other yachts going on drift and with the engines helping in the highest gusts we stayed held by our anchor for quite some time. The all of a sudden we werde 50 meters further back and touched land with the heck either our neighbors (so either our anchor also had ripped out by itself or it was our neighbors who dragged it out during their drifting. In any way trying to get to get the chain and anchor back in (in what at least felt like one meter high waves) was one nightmare, but then to circulate through the anchor field wtih gusts coming alternately from all sides trying not to touch anyone one… Well, after something like 2.5 hours we were “stable” at anchor again and I went for some sleep while Reto stayed awake on anchor watch. I only took over at 5.30 in the morning so he also could relax a bit.

After another front passing though in the morning we used a slot to head up to the

the harbour side in Lefkas - on the other side the Sunsail fleet
the harbour side in Lefkas – on the other side the Sunsail fleet

Lefkas Marina, where we most happily took the mooring lines.

 

 

heat exchanger needs cleaning
heat exchanger needs cleaning
the new and old fresh water pumps
the new and old fresh water pumps

It was a good coincidence that the weather forecast for the next days was not very promising and we found a very nice Yanmar dealer who supplied us with all the parts we needed to do the repair and maintenance of both our engine’s cooling systems. We cleaned the heat exchangers, changed both thermostates and had to replace the leaking fresh water pumpe on one side.

Then 3 days later we wanted to leave but the whole day one storm after the other went over the Marina, so we decided not to take any risk and stay in the nice and cosy saloon being fixed in the nice harbour.

Heineken flip flops meet greek Heineken beer and bottle
Heineken flip flops meet greek Heineken beer and bottle

and on we go in Greece

After arriving in Kithnos we have to recognize that we are a bit exhausted by the sailing of the past days, so we decide to take a break the following day. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that we go to the beach and sleep the whole day.

the Chora in Kythnos, we got there after a good walk
the Chora in Kythnos, we got there after a good walk

Instead we decide to walk up to the Chora of Kithnos which is 7 km up on the island. Walking on the paved road in the hottest time of the day was not the most relaxing thing to do, but in the end we were happy and enjoyed the village as well as the refreshments 😉

great beer and the great greek Frappé (cold coffee with a lot of foam, you can get it even without milk!)
great beer and the great greek Frappé (cold coffee with a lot of foam, you can get it even without milk!)
coulorful houses in Kithnos
coulorful houses in Kithnos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next days sailing was going over to Aigina island, in the morning the motor was running but from noon on we had a nice wind blowing us to the other side. It was on that afternoon that we both stated who great the weather forecast “Poseidon” had turned out to be right, really a good tip to use this one. Well, from this evening on we found out that that was true for the Cyclades, the Dodecanes and the Turkish coast were we used to sail in the past years. But not for the Saronic golf between the Korinth channel and Athens.
Just as we were well anchored in the bay that evening  a wall of waves and wind came up and we tried to flee into the harbour of Aigina.

Of course all other boats on that Friday evening had the same problem and the same idea.

She San in the ferry harbour of Methana
She San in the ferry harbour of Methana

So next plan change and going down south to Mericha. Good that there was a lot of space in the ferry harbour since one of our engines became overheated, so had had to choose an easy manouver in the wind that still was blowing into the harbour.

Mericha Yacht harbour - calm but a bit smelly from the sulfural spring water in the back
Mericha Yacht harbour – calm but a bit smelly from the sulfural spring water in the back

After a bumpy night were we had been pressed into all our fenders the whole night through we of course first had a look at our engine and quickly found out that the lid of the cooling water system had been a bit loosened (why ever we still have to find out) and therefore the problem could be solved by filling up the system again. Although the direction of the wind had changed the next night resulted to be almost as bumpy as the first one and we found out that the strong pier was looking quite strong, but the waves just passed on underneath it. Thanks to Reto’s brilliant idea to put some soap on our fenders we finally did find our sleep.

we arrived in Perika on Aigina island, a lovely bay used as harbour by fisherman and yachts, in the back the island of Moni
we arrived in Perika on Aigina island, a lovely bay used as harbour by fisherman and yachts, in the back the island of Moni

The next day we crossed over to Perika on Aigina island, a beautiful small bay with many fishing boats and filling up with yachts in the evening. Good place to enjoy harbour cinema, first of all because the charter yachts just sail out of Athens and make their first stop here, second because there is a lot of rubbish in the harbour and apart from the usual chains also large tires and such things are fished by the anchors.

Well it also happened to us that the anchor in the first large blow ripped out and at the second trial we fished a large chain and a lot of rope. Only on the third trial we were fixed safely to enjoy the stay and had a nice lunch together with Volker and Elke. I know Volker from my time at Nestlé and they were just spending the weekend in their weekend house here around the corner.

And you cannot imagine how we did enjoy the peaceful night without bumping and squeaking of ropes and fenders.

great view around the bay from the top of the mountain at Aigina during our bike tour
great view around the bay from the top of the mountain at Aigina during our bike tour

The following day we spent watching the harbour cinema again and made a nice bike tour, to Aigina and up the hill to finally make the first meters of hight after leavin Switzerland.