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We have spent more than four months in Belgium and will return to Lefkas at the end of March: this is by no means a deliberated choice but the consequence of totally unexpected works on the underwater hull of our boat.
Reflections before our departure ...
Back to Lefkas ...
01.04.11 Lefkas. Since Monday we are back at Lefkas. Waiting for the finish of the works on the underwater hull we are living again in Tony's maisonette, villa Athene ( websitelink, update 2013 ) in Apolpena. We hope to be back in the water in the second part of April: we will take the opportunity of the epoxy treatment by the Ionian Composites-Ionian Glassfibre Repair yard of Leslie Wood to replace the all the now 12 years old through hull fittings. Because now we only can follow the evolution of the works, we have all time to improve our still to limited knowledge of the Italian language. Having decided to stay a few years longer in Greece - to leave is to die a little - , we started again, about two weeks ago, learning Greek now on a more systematic way by the Assimil manual because we feel our very basic knowledge as very frustrating in our efforts to communicate with the Greeks. It seems not be easy: the Greek grammar is not simple and we miss the links we have learning Italian with Latin and French. The knowledge of ancient Greek brings sometimes even more confusion, certainly in the beginning of the learning process of the dimotiki. But we start daringly: every day - after one hour Italian - one hour Greek, both together and with the CD ( incl. for MP3 .) which are part of the Assimil manual French version ( the Assimil with reference language Dutch contains still older dialogues and offers only audio cassettes ).
27.03.2011 The Lefka Ori leaving Venice
Although the weather wasn't quite nice during the first days after our arrival - rather cold, some scattered showers and cloudiness -, we had not to complain: no stressful situations on the road nor heavy traffic from Nieuwpoort to Venice ( we made the choice for a weekend so there were very less lorries on the roads, but a lot on the park areas), nice crossing by the same ferry to Igoumenitsa as we got in October but then in bad weather ( out-side cabin, with bath (!), fridge and tv due to an upgrade by the company but without real supplement ), on arrival a favourable outlook for the progression of the works, and a nice weather forecast.
Everything could augur well for a start of the season without real worries ... Could, because a tragic accident has since the Monday before our departure darkened the atmosphere: during the traditional and yearly soapbox race organised by the British community - a race on self-made go-cars launched at too fast speed on a too heavy slope - Mark Wicherley has been dramatically injured. Maureen and Mark - s/y Options - were on our boat, a few days before we left Lefkas, to say goodbye. We have also spoken about works we wanted to do at spring. Mark is a very nice and friendly man, and a very good technician: devoted, he should help us to renew the through-hull fittings and he would also see to perform some more important maintenance work a.o. on the engine. This spring, because Maureen and Mark were planning to resume soon their sailings. By this dramatic accident fate has, pitiless, decided otherwise ...
10.04.11Lefkas. We just hear that a 27 years old Greek men who also had participated and who had been very seriously injured too, died yesterday ...
11.04.11 Lefkas. Today Mark has been brought back to the UK by a special fly ...
--------------------> For all those who want to be further informed about Mark's health condition maureenandmark.blogspot.com providing regularly recently updated information ( Mark Wicherley, s/y Options )
But at Eastern Sunday the weather is really very nice: an excellent opportunity to have lunch at Peter and Alison's To Katoghi in Vafkeri in the company of Penny and Keith: they will serve the traditional Eastern-lamb plate!
To Katoghi - spring colours in Vafkeri - on the way back, view of Nidri and the islands
And then ... finally ...
Tuesday 26th April 2011
We had an unexpected chance by already launching the boat yesterday.
At 11H30 our boat was floating again at the pontoon in Lefkas Marina after about six months on the hard! The inside cleaning work could start ...
26.05.11 Lefkas Marina. Mark's accident had not only consequences for the planning of the preparation of the boat during April - till the 6th of May we had to stay on the house in Apolpena, although quite not an unpleasant thing! This month too things are not going like we could have hope. In this period of launching so numerous boats and of maintenance the best engineers are very busy. So we have to be patient till Saturday the 29th for the works on the engine, having late planed our requests. Although we have not a breakdown our engine need a more important maintenance after 1200 hours and some parts need ( some for the second or third time again! ) to be replaced. A few recurring problems make us being in doubt about the quality of our Yanmar engine! During the voyage we always have serviced the engine ourselves but we don't dare to do these interventions!
Although the temperature is nice during the sunny days - then we forget rapidly the irritating rain of the previous days -, evenings and nights are still too cold. In Peter and Alison's Katoghi in Vafkeri - in the mountains, at 450m - in the fire place oliver logs are nicely burning. A pleasant atmosphere is reigning in the restaurant ... " kalispera sas ke kalo chimona " [ " good evening to you and nice winter "] !
10.06.11 Lefkas Marina. At the start of the new month the weather also seems to have changed its attitude. The sunshine seems more stable although in the afternoon over the mainland threatening thunderstorms assert their presence by impressive clouds. After a last avaricious shower had sprinkled the marina with more yellow sand than with rain, we get now clement and sunny weather, with little wind in the morning, increasing during the afternoon, sometimes strongly.
The engine finally receives the care it needed. To finish all the maintenance Simon Trippier who runs Sivota Yacht Services and has a very good reputation, has to come twice having noticed during its first intervention the missing of all the gaskets necessary for the installation of the new injector which we got for complete at our departure from Nieuwpoort in 2007!
So, finally, after more than ten weeks after our return to Greece we could do our first but modest sailing: a 15 NM round trip to Ormos Varko.
Slowly a possible variant is appearing in our planned sailing for 2013 towards Corsica: taking into account a.o. testimonies and experiences we read in the e-mails of members of the Cruising Association, we are exploring the possibility of a "detour" by Sicily and Sardinia.
About Greece, from our trip to the Pagasitikos Kolpos and Hortó in 2009, we learned some not unimportant lessons for us and our small boat:
(1) there are in Greece only a limited number of good and safe harbours ( essentially the marinas ), this factor is determining considering the size and the autonomy of our sailboat, as far as we want to keep things nice and pleasant
(2) the Cycladic islands are not taken into account for these same reasons
(3) a few days at anchor is a very nice experience but thereafter or in case of threatening weather deterioration we want to go back or find refuge in a safe and well equipped harbour with facilities a.o. water, shore power and showers
(4) the huge number of boats - not at least the consequence of the too numerous charter boats, in the Ionian, in the Saronic gulf, in the Sporades, many times in flotillas (what makes the situation only more difficult, as showed by this reported attitude of a flotilla-leader in Fiskardo (still before the start of the high season): this one was asking for their intentions and urging private yacht owners to leave the free quay pleading the lack of space for his clients who had paid for assured holidays! - we experienced analogues pressures a.o.at Mourtos and at Vathi-Methana Chersonisos) - and the almost generalized absence of any kind of organization get too often disagreeable feeling for the crew of a small sailing - being squeezed by bigger boats, the impoliteness of noisy crews of holidaymakers or Ferienmachern - that's not what we are looking for!
Finally we can sail again, on the way to One Tree Bay - Ormos Varko!
20.06.11 Lefkas Marina. While we made the choice for short sailing trips out from our berth in Lefkas Marina - of course rather lazy but so comfortable ! - we get confirmation of our good choice by reading the following email on the Cruising Association's Mednet: 'Far from the madding crowd in the Ionian? [ ...] Here we are two bays down from Fiskardo and asking ourselves where everybody came from. The big idea was to cruise in June and early July, laying up until late august to avoid the crowds. All I can say is if this is low season, July and August must be madness! I would be grateful for any members recommendations on special places to avoid the crowds in the Inland Sea and indeed places to avoid unless you want to be able to hop to your boat from deck to deck across the anchorage, which was very much the case last night in Sivota. [...] -, others among our friends and acquaintances are realising much more ambitious sailings. Sometimes we can travel with them by reading their stories thanks to our 3G internet connection: by their blog we are following the cruising around the world from the crew of the White Wizard from Nieuwpoort (B) [in Dutch only], and the sailing trip of M. Balthazar - having done last year a return trip to Lebanon - from Lefkas to Istanbul. Of such sailings we on Nehalinnia, we can only dream by those fascinating stories. Wil and Jeanine from the Windswept are again sailing around the Peloponnisos. Christine and Paul from the Gaviotta are exploring the Turkish west-coast. Martine and Guy from the Roving Topsy are sailing along the Italian coasts on their returntrip to France ....
And last week we went sailing and meet the very nice Zoé the boat of our friends from Menton, Marise and Rinaldo. they will stay some days at Lefkas before returning to Leros. This first unexpected meeting was a nice opportunity for doing nice trips across the island.
And then, bringing real better weather, the Greek summer comes ...
An early-summer exploration of the south-Pindos region from Kalarrytes
( Kalarrytes, Sirrako, Matsouki, Pramanda, Melissourgi, Plaka )
Last year, due to the weather conditions, we had to delay twice the exploration of the region of Kalarrytes in the south Pindos mountain. Our friends Kris and Brigitte were there last August and they were very enthusiastic about their stay and they also had recommended the nice hotel.
On Friday the 24th of June we leave Lefkas for Kallarytes.
During five days we cross in the mountains magnificent landscapes, we explore picturesque villages, we do long walks, discover deserted monasteries and small churches, and meet very nice and hospitable people. Five days long we find again a Greece that we thought lost for ever.
Click here and read the story of this marvelous trip: explorations of the region of Kalarrytes
When the Greek diakopes and the Italian Ferragosto are approaching ...
29.07.11 Lefkas Marina.
Friends are coming, friends are leaving: Kris and Brigitte are now at Lefkas and we meet each other regularly. Marise and Rinaldo from the Zoé are on the way back to Leros. Christine and Guy from M.Balthazar reached Istanbul and the Golden Horn - the aim of their voyage - and are now returning by a still long navigation by the North of the Aegean Sea towards Lefkas. Martine and Guy have brought back their Roving Topsy to France and now, at home, they hope for a nice summer. Liesbeth and Leo, our former neighbours in Nieuwpoort, are in Ireland on Shetwins, after a very windy crossing from Falmouth. By email with all we keep in touch. And then, we also follow, very admiring, the magnificent navigation of White Wizard from Nieuwpoort, which arrived at Tonga!
The Eurogroup of the European Union and the Central European Bank managed to finish the second rescue plan for Greece after difficult negotiations. From the general strikes and the succession of category-specific strikes - and the almost daily mass demonstrations - we have felt little at Lefkas, except some power cuts and two small demonstrations. Although. In full touristic high season the taxi drivers have started a strike against the liberalization of their licenses, seriously hindering the accessibility of the island by Aktio-Preveza airport. But the view of the street reveals only little from the crisis which according to the rating agencies brings Greece dangerously closer of what is indicated by the - still not enough vague in all its consequences - notion of " bankruptcy of a State in the zone-euro ". If during the day we see fewer clients on terraces, if numerous businesses seem in vain to wait for the customers, in the evening - as usual - everything livens up. On the south quay - there where numerous yachts are moored - is crowded. On the north Promenade tables in restaurants are well occupied . We learn nevertheless that the orders are less plentiful, that plates return less full to the kitchens - for numerous Greeks the by to numerous ordered plates overloaded table of the restaurant had become the outside sign of an ease which they liked to show. Less wasting thus! Yeah, the loss of purchasing power must have some consequence, the prices not having fallen, on the contrary.
Together with the local and regional elections of the last autumn, a administrative reforms was implemented - so e.g. the number of municipalities was reduced in a drastic way. In Lefkas town a new administrative centre was built (and rather suitably finished!) just in front of the marina. It seems that the new municipality wants to make and end on with the relatively neglected aspect the town is offering since years a.o. by the activation of the maintenance services. They started cleaning up and planting, and the honesty forces us to say that this sudden change is obvious. Although, some old habits seem firm; on the recently developed parking areas the absolute majority of drivers ignore to pay the tax despite of the pompously installed panels, due to the lack of motivation of the policemen, who, as we can believe one of our local knowledge, report especially the contravening tourists!
Also for that reason, but above all because it is more and more busy now that the Italian migration of Ferragosto is coming closer and that more and more Greeks are launching their boat for the therines diakopes - summer holidays - we prefer leave Lefkas and the too crowded marina. We prefer to forget our boat, the charming anchorages and the beautiful bays. The invasion of not only sailing boats, speedboats, and small yachts but especially of big fast ribs equipped with too powerful engines - 2x 250 hp is then by no means exceptional - allows no hope for a quiet anchorage. The stay in a bay or in a small harbour - where there is a total lack of organization rages and where at the other moments of the year, already, by the increasing invasion of flotillas and the other charter boats, remaining is not always pleasant - is during these mass holidays absolutely deprived of any pleasure. The crowded beaches, too, are to be avoided. It is thus a question of moving in a hideout, of going far from this distressing excitement, to " oversummer" in a quiet place!
... our " oversummering " in Hortó, during the Summer Meeting 2011, and a short exploration of the Olympos region from Litochoro
04.08.11 Hortó, Magnesia Chersonisos ( region of the Pilion )
Yesterday we arrived at Hortó
As previous years, we want to spend this touristic peak-month in this very charming and rather quiet village. We have taken up our room in the small hotel which, like its owners is getting older. But after our rigorous cleaning and some small repairs, we feel again completely at home. With a certain involved nostalgia and some powerlessness we see the small hotel aging with difficulty as its owners for whom everything becomes more hard - the incapacity, this lack of courage to keep everything in good condition ... unless they have given up already... The dynamism of 1992, in that time already moderated, left them now for ever. But we are always welcome, while they refuse, deliberately, the rare customers. And we, we want to enjoy the admirable view and the charm this small village is offering us.... as long as it is still possible ...
From Lefkas to Hortó, from the Ionian to the Aegean: we always have chosen an other way:
This year we took the Egnatia highway till about ten kilometres before Thessaloniki for a short visit of the region of the mount Olympos. Since 1976 we have many times passed this mythical mountain - heading for Thessaloniki and Lesbos, Thassos or Turkey - but we had never explored the region.
06.08.11 Hortó, Magnesia Chersonisos ( region of the Pilion )
10.08.11 Hortó, Magnesia Chersonisos
The Summer Meeting in Horto Mt Pelion, organised every year since 1984 by the non-profit Cultural Foundation "G.Angelinis - Pia Hadjinikos", www.horto.net, firstname.lastname@example.org are for the 27th edition this year.
While this year also the music occupies the dominating place, an exhibition organized in the small museum of the Foundation draws very fast our attention: Spalathrians in America in early 20th century - Photos and documents. After the liberation of the Thessaly, Argalasti was the administrative centre of the municipality of Spalathra, which from 1881 till 1914 grouped a number of villages of the surroundings. Yiannis Koniordos made relive, by letters but also by photos, the story of the emigrants of Spalatra who left for America. Thanks to comments and explanations which he has given us verbally we were able to exceed the language barrier! Yiannis Koniordos is also the author of a interesting and beautiful book which redraws the history of the village of Hortó, starting also for this work from photographic sources.
The coincidences the daily life bring - sometimes - fascinating and charming surprises. In the evening we are regularly going to have supper at Evochia; the restaurant which opened two years ago, is now, after a little hesitating start, one of the most pleasant cuisines of our stays in Greece. The nearby table is occupied by a young woman and her two still very young children, accompanied with a friend. The conversation which makes a commitment by a few exchanges about both boys, will reveal that the young woman on holiday is no other one than Smaro Gregoriadou, classical guitar soloist and composer, who created the musical arrangement for A Midsummer Night's Dream (op. 21 & 61) from William Shakespeare, music from Felix Mendelssohn, a musical theater show with dances during the 25th edition of the Summer meetings, in 2009. We like very much her first CD Reinventing guitar.
At Hortó, during the summer, the music is very present, even during a fortuitous meeting in a restaurant!
22.08.11 Hortó, Magnesia Chersonisos ( a look in Eric's photo-diary and logbook )
With in memory the song of Mort Shuman, it's really Un été de porcelaine [ A summer of porcelain ] that we are spending here ... a nice summer, charming - at times bewitching - but so frail ...
Pictures of Hortó, Kaat sunbathing on Yiorgos' buoy, M. Balthazar ( arrival and at the jetty ), a Canadair filling the tanks during the fire between Lafkos and Xenovrissi 11.08, Yiorgos, the fisherman on work, Eric updating the website at our terrace
29.08.11 Hortó, Magnesia Chersonisos ( a look in Eric's photo-diary and logbook )
And we do also nice walks on the hills between the olive trees ....
The walk here leads by the west side of the village, crossing the nice olive groves, to the road to Metochi - the walk we did last year - following from Hortó the path - marked out by small yellow round badges - at the more eastern side of the ravine.
06.09.11 18H00 Lefkas Marina. Back to our boat.
Images of the tornado are to be seen on a. o. YouTube.
We take advantage of the nice sunny and still warm days for preparing the wintering of the boat on the hard: in a few days we will haul out the boat while already our project for next season is beginning to take shape ...
17.10.11 Nieuwpoort ( B ). While Greece gets ready for a new week of strong protests against the additional austerity cuts imposed by the EU, the ECB and the IMF ( the Troika), we arrive at home. The last images of our boat, from Lefkas and Hortó, and from the return trip are still remaining on our retina: and give us coming home a feeling of unreality But we are very happy to see again Olivier and Helen, and the fact of having again an easy and quick access to all information is reassuring as in Belgium the endless negotiations to form a new government seem closer to succeed and while the euro crisis enters into a new stage of dramatic tension.
At the end of September we returned to Hortó (1) for a few days: while a violent thunderstorm was passing over Lefkas and while in Vliho tens of boats were strongly damaged and a sailor died in a tornado, we had only one and a half day of sometimes strong rain and some thunder and lighting. In a general way the weather of the end of September and the first part of October was relatively summery (2)! We were lucky to prepare the wintering of the boat on the hard in Lefkas Marina.
On October 3rd we hauled the boat( 3 ) and moved again into villa Athene ( websitelink, update 2013 )( 4 ) at Apolpena. As every year we use the check list to prepare the wintering of the boat, and like every year to these works of routine are always added more punctual interventions: so this year we had to dismantle practically the whole forepeak to replace the cable of the navigation light on the pulpit - after about 15 years well oxidized!
This year also we made a reservation for the ferry from Igoumenitsa ( 5 ) ( 6 ) to Venice on the Lefka Ori of Anek lines, for Saturday, October 15th. We travelled with other companies but we find the service on this boat perfect. As we arrive on a Sunday morning in Venice we avoid for a large part the traffic of trucks on the Italian and Swiss motorways. The approach of a stormy depression makes us decide for safety to reach Igoumenitsa already on Friday afternoon because leaving Lefkas at four o'clock in the morning for hundred kilometres - as we did last year - makes us not enthusiastic, heavy thunderstorms being forecasted.
On Friday morning Kaat was still sunbathing on the terrace of villa Athene. But after the passage of the Aktio-Preveza tunnel - having left Lefkas at about half past three - we were driving on the road towards Igoumenitsa under a pitch black sky into thunderstorms with heavy rains which had invited their selves very earlier!
After a very windy Saturday morning ( 7 ) - E-ly force 7 - wind and seas eased a little in the late afternoon while on Lefka Ori sailing was always comfortable!
During the disembarkation we are lucky: we are among by the first ones for driving out of the gigantic and hyper full stomach of the ferry. At first the traffic is very fluid on this early Sunday morning but it is going to intensify seriously around and after Milan, and in Switzerland also, especially after the passage of the Gotthardo tunnel: in some Swiss cantons autumn holidays have already started.
Nieuwpoort, on Monday afternoon, October 17th, at about 4 pm we park our car on the area in front of our building. We are back home, for these dark winter months!
--------------------> For all those who want to be further informed about Mark's health condition maureenandmark.blogspot.com providing regularly recently updated information ( Mark Wicherley, s/y Options )