How much can you pack into 10 days? My sister and her partner came to visit and we found out it was a lot of things. When slow travelling by sailboat we often compare our little water-based home to a snail, shifting from anchorage to anchorage. There are so many beautiful places to check out in the islands south of Corfu we worried that our guests would leave feeling like they had missed things. I wondered if they would notice the little things that make life aboard so rich and fulfilling. My sister and her partner had the right attitude, it wasn’t about checking off a list of bays and sights, it was about being together.
When the taxi door opened and my sister and her partner stepped out onto the pier my heart skipped. It was real. A person from real life was here in my dream. Finally, there were two people to share this experience with. We do our best to capture much of the experience for the sake of this blog, and for jogging our memory later, but there is so much that I am still not talented enough to capture with words. The magnitude of difference from one past reality to this current one. They would be able to experience what we could not describe.
After embraces and squeals, (not just from the children at the sight of their aunt and uncle), we ushsured them aboard over the gangplank, balancing with suitcases in hand. We chatted late into the night, about things that you can only talk about with people that know you best.
Early the next morning, we departed Gouvia marina in Corfu and headed down the coast to Two Rock Bay. The wind, as usual, was non-existent and so we motored. Gifts of books for the kids, favourite sunscreen, Canadian flags and other requested supplies were doled out. Some things only a very “bad” Aunty would bring, such as giant inflatable water toys, one bright pink flamingo named Bob and a rainbow named Fred to be exact.
We were trying to get away from the charter boat appearance but in one fell swoop, all was lost. Screw it…. Party boat it is!!!
They had their maiden voyage when we arrived at anchorage and snorkelled over to the caves surrounding the bay. Despite it being a day of transit we still had many hours to swim, cook dinner, and enjoy the evening.
In the morning, we again departed early to make the second jump that would bring us as far down as Vasiliki on the South of Lefkas island. Mornings turned into the afternoon at a lazy pace, as they do, but the crew found many activities to occupy their time from Boga (boat yoga), to learning boat terms, the Greek alphabet, reading stories, and lively conversation. The transit of the west side of Lefkas revealed long lengths of sandy beaches, the majority only accessible via boat. As we neared our destination, but before bending around the point, we poked into a hidden harbour for a swim. The harbour would not be suitable as an overnight anchorage but for an afternoon dip, it was ideal. Again caves were waiting to be explored, and the bright white pebble beaches contrasted with the teal blue that the Mediterranean is so well known for. Climbing back aboard, we had some lunch and headed on our way.
Rounding the point brought with it the discovery of wind, and we were able to sail which is always exciting. Vasiliki was wonderful in that there was plenty of space, with a lovely view. Still well provisioned, we opted to stay aboard and have home cooking. As the darkness fell it revealed the stunning night sky. Rolling back the bimini we settled in for some serious wishing on stars. At the end, the kids with their aunty and uncle slept in the cockpit.
With our major transits under our belt, we were now free to play and move at our own pace. Swimming was the order of the day and the most northern bay on the east of Kefalonia (just north of Fiskardo) was where we headed. We had intended on leaving for the evening, but in the end, we decide to stay the night. Being able to come and go on your own schedule is just one of the many advantages of this lifestyle. Why leave when you’re having fun! We spent the day swimming, boom jumping, lounging in floaties, and swinging from the halyard. It was a blissful day at the beach. Though truth be told, we never went ashore!
On our fourth day, we decided it was time to head for a marina to top up on fresh water for drinking, showering, dishes, etc. We were also low on wine, an absolute travesty. We planned on a dinner out and had to prepare for Miss C’s 11th birthday.
Sami is a quiet town on the east coast of Kefalonia. It came recommended as a good harbour by Nick’s aunt and uncle who spent time there. Close by, are two attractions of interest the Drogarati caves, subterranean caves with impressive stalactites and stalagmites; and the Melissani cave which is a large opening in the earth that has brackish water from the ocean on the other side of the island. Be warned that timing is critical in visiting these attractions in the peak months, as an overwhelming amount of tour buses deliver holidayers all day long and lineups can be appalling. As evening fell and the heat of the day subsided, we had a superb dinner at Il Familia restaurant, everything was fresh and prepared with care. The desserts at the end lasted all of about 30 seconds despite everyone being on their best behaviour!
My sister caught on quickly to the sentiment of many yachties, finding the marina to be stuffy, hot and lacking the general charm of anchorages. So after a day of exploring we set sail for a stopover anchorage on the south side of Kefalonia, with an incredible view of cliffs.
Nick even spotted a face on the side of the cliff… can you see it?
One of our bucket list places was Navagio Bay on Zakynthos island, thou most call it by “Shipwreck Bay”, much to the chagrin of the locals. Rumour has it that a skipper in the 1980s, on the run from weather and authorities ran the M/V Panagiotis aground. Since then, one of the most beautiful and inaccessible beaches has become literally one of the most photographed in the whole world.
Normally I avoid places where rabid holidayers run rampant. I find it annoying watching people more focused on setting up Instagram ready selfies than actually experiencing the wonder of a place.
For this, I made an exception and I am so glad that I did!
When we arrived mid-morning, Navagio Bay was an already a packed zoo of yachts, speed boats, day-trippers, and most notably, hundreds of people crawling the beach like ants. There to snap a photo, swim, consume, leave their trash, their waste and leave again an hour later. We anchored in the thick of it and launched our RIB. Instead of cruising ashore we popped around the point and into the next couple bays that were deserted and absolutely everything that a Greek postcard is made of. One beach was pebbled and made an awesome rustling sound when you floated peacefully in the aquamarine, teal blue water. We bashed soft white rocks together to make face paint and decorated each other to look like warriors. I explored the overhanging caves that lead through to other beaches and snorkelled around looking for whatever there might be to see. When we got bored of that section we motored over to some caves, which we sang in. “Cave concerts” have become a tradition as the echoes give the feeling of a much larger choir. As if two private beaches were not enough, we found a third; this one with fine white sand and tiny pebbles tucked in the back of massive white cliffs. More water tunnels to explore and so… much…. blue. The blue of the water could fill my soul; right any wrong in the world; and sooth any thought. It is the perfect colour…. Ever. Hunger started to creep in, so we clambered into the RIB and zoomed back to Otoka sitting pretty in amongst the chaos of the bay. Lunch and cocktails were enjoyed from the tranquillity of her decks, the only disturbance was the wake from the day trippers, though Miss C loved to play in the surf.
In the evening, the tour boats depart and the magic begins. Our guests swam ashore, and we took the RIB. Around the wreck, a rope suggests not risking life and limb to get a closer look; we, however, shucked off our Canadian tendencies to follow the rules, and walked amongst the walls and stuck our heads in holes to see inside. The belly of the ship has all the rusted accoutrement that one would expect, and around its sides, hundreds of rocks with names of lovers, friends and travellers to signify that they too were here once. The bay itself is surrounded by vertical sand cliffs, approx 300 ft high, and streaked with the layers of sedimentation, so very typical of the area. They created a stunning backdrop, one that without a wide angle lens is impossible to capture. (Gosh I need more lenses). Off to the right, barely visible is a little cave. It is possible to slide in on your belly, and only once inside stand up in the opening. This is a very strange feeling because the cave is dark and you are aware of the sheer volume of mass above you.
On the encouragement of my children who discovered it, I too can claim that I stood within the cliffs of Navagio Bay; if even for only a moment!
Again the pull of our stomachs brought us back to the boat. After re-anchoring in a better overnight location, we prepared spaghetti and watched the sunset show. The rich warm colours painting the sky and the sea while casting warm light on the cliffs around. We felt so privileged to be able to experience such a moment and have the ability to spend quality time with each other in one of the most beautiful places in the world. As night fell, we drank cocktails, told stories, watched stars. All of a sudden, cast upon the cliffs was a shadow dancer! Gracefully twirling and leaping. From across the water, you could hear squeals of laughter and joy as it frolicked. Some of the other yachties were using a flashlight to create a shadow show, with the cliffs as their screen. Immediately, the whole bay was captivated, it was a private show, and we were the audience. When it ended I started cheering and whooping encouragement, other boats joined the cheers and an encore was performed. It was nothing short of magic. It was one of those rare moments that makes you so aware of the here and now. Again, kids fell asleep with their aunty and uncle in the cockpit.
Love is spelled T-I-M-E.
2am. The bang of the paddle board being blown violently across the deck by a gust of wind, had me up on deck before I was fully awake. At the top of the companionway, I picked my way across sleeping bodies, chiding myself for not tying it down properly earlier. It was an unintentional alarm for what was to be 25kn gusts in a well-protected anchorage and completely unforecast. Because it was unforecast we had no way of predicting the duration or probable intensity. Now I was awake, and so was Nick.
“So sorry everyone out of the cockpit and into your beds, please!” Within minutes we were ship shape and ready for whatever might come.
Soon after we suspected the anchor was dragging in the fine pea gravel of the sea floor, so we let out more chain, and then even a little more, until we were satisfied that we were not going anywhere. You could see the lights on other boats, as they too were caught by surprise, adjusted their anchors and kept watch. A catamaran on the far side of the bay (on the lee shore), periodically would illuminate the ominous cliffs close behind them. No doubt weighing their options and comfort level. In the wee hours of the morning, they departed. Our guests found all this exciting and we joked that they were getting a well-rounded trip in terms of idyllic anchorages and real-life realities and practicalities of living aboard.
The next day we departed for Agrostoli, where sadly, our guests had flights to catch. On our last night, we found a delightful restaurant called Oskars Creative Cuisine. The Google maps walking path was an adventure to get there from our berth at the town quay. At times it was a dirt path, that we feared may have been through backyards; over the crest of the peninsula to the opposing shore. Thankfully it was worth the hike! Argostoli has a lively feel, and a bustling town square, busy nightlife, and wonderful fresh food to top up our supplies. We found it odd to be tried up right at the town quay during such a busy season. There was very little privacy.
On our last morning while out provisioning, we saw a loggerhead turtle enjoying snacks from a local fish boat. Since being here Miss T has been obsessed with turtles so to be able to see one so close was a truly remarkable experience. We had decided to skip the turtle sanctuary because we did not want to be a part of the tourist throng negatively impacting this species at risk. Miss T fully understood this, so seeing them wild was an extra special thrill.
Life aboard is created by all the quality moments, the creation of games from nothing, the time to listen to each other, and the fresh opportunity to appreciate the world without all the land-based pressures and rules. Our guests left understanding this, with a deep appreciation for the journey.
We have since moved on and readjusted to it being just the four of us again. Sharing our experience with others provides opportunities to reflect both for us and for them. We will be looking forward to our next guests and our next series of shared memories.