As many of you might have guessed, we are not the only ones cruising the Ionians in July and August. Where there is a safe bay protected from the prevailing Northwesterlies there are usually a few boats anchored. And if the water is turquoise-crystal-clear or the town is picturesque or both, finding the right spot for the night can get as hard as snagging parking at Thriftys in Fairfield on Saturdays.
Lakka on Paxos just South of the island of Corfu is one of those gorgeous places we kept coming back to, notwithstanding the 60 or more boats of all makes and sizes crowding the horseshoe shaped bay. Surprisingly there was no (visible) pollution, not even by noise. Visitors seem to take care with their garbage, fuel or sewage. And in the little seaside town the locals smile broadly when they see the dinghies lined up on their town quay evening after evening as their livelihood depends one hundred percent on tourism now.
Arriving early in the bay doesn’t really help. Even though we might find a big free spot to anchor, the fenders likely still have to come out later because we have no control over how close late comers might settle in next to us. Some yachties scare off new arrivals by standing on their bow staring (or in some rare events: yelling) them away. Since we – flying a Canadian flag – wouldn’t be caught excercizing such inhospitable behaviour, we learned to land tie. It is more work than anchoring, but the boat can’t swing onto another one at night when the wind dies down or changes – and we sleep more soundly.
For those of you who are interested: Land tying is done a lot in these waters, because the bays are small or crowded and deep right up to shore. It is done by dropping the anchor, backing the boat up close to shore so one person (usually me) can jump into the water with a line and tie it to a rock.
As we learned in Fiskardo on the island of Cephalonia, another well loved harbour town, land tying doesn’t always take the stress away from ‘parking’. Along the steep rugged shore around this bay boats are lined up so closely that they often inevitably crash, slide or drift into each other when coming and going. Especially if there is wind!
This sounds tiring, which it is, but has it’s joys as well: we meet lovely people (our preferred neighbours are the ever cheerful and bold Italians), advance our trouble- shooting skills, and help each other out. The helpfulness among people on the water still blows me away. Even when it is crowded like this, not once have we docked next to people who don’t jump up to take our lines or look for a tool to loan us should we need one.
Sometimes it is nice to dock right at the town quay. In contrary to Sardinia or Sicily, the Ionian islands have lots of small seaside villages and towns with a long public quay where fishing boats used to lie. Since the decline of fishing these have been replaced by yachts from all over the world. Mooring is free of charge, but the unspoken expectation is that visitors spend money in the restaurants, cafes, bars and shops of the town. This seems to be working. We, for one, have been able to eat out more, given this arrangement and the reasonable prices in Greek tavernas.
There is one ‘dish’ we don’t like, though: It is called Anchor Salad. It has been served to us in Fiskardo, the busiest little harbour we’ve been in so far. When we left the dock one morning and tried to pull up our anchor we had four other anchors with chains lying over ours. It took 45 minutes of Bill diving to get untangled with three friendly guys from the offending boats helping – not to forget an anchor road wrapped briefly around our propeller.
Did we avoid Fiskardo in the week after? No, we came back. Leonie wanted to celebrate her birthday at Café Tselenti. This restaurant is owned by the Tselenti family since 1893 and my favourite hangout in Greece, where Minas, the French-speaking owner, introduced me to the wonderful music of René Aubry and Manos Hadjidakis.