A Mini-Cruise to the Faraway Islands and Back to Lefkas - 28 July to 14 August

Our plan, now, was to cruise gently to the Faraway islands, the islands north and west of Corfu. We'd wanted to go there last year, but we never got a week with forecast benign conditions. There are no heavy weather harbours or anchorages there, and we didn't want to find ourselves exposed.

After a splendid send-off from Pierre and Madeleine, we had to motor out of the Mesolongi canal, then began a very slow reach westwards out of the Gulf of Patras, As the wind gradually increased it headed us, till we had a beat through the channel behind Oxia in F4, then, with a reef, a thrash in a F5 north-westerly to the bay behind Petala, where no other boat was closer than a quarter of a mile.

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Kastos beach
The second day took gave us a beat past Dragonera in F2/3, then a single board in a westerly F4 to Kastos, where we tied back to the beach, although there was space on the east quay. In fact, in the fairly strong off-shore wind, I found the mooring quite tricky, as there was no way Ann could hold Razzmatazz on station while I swam with a rope end to the shore. However, we managed in the end, and were left working out ways to improve our mooring technique. Later, as we going ashore, we helped a large Greek motor yacht to get his lines ashore. To my embarrasment he insisted on giving us a bottle of wine. It was the best Greek wine we've tasted to date!

From Kastos the wind allowed us to lay the NE corner of Meganisi, where we had to motor for half an hour until we met the N wind. A beat in a F4 took us to the entrance of the Lefkas canal, where we decided to anchor at Livka, the bay to port, rather than motor into a head wind. This makes a lovely stop, with a pleasant walk along the shore to the rather sadly run-down village of Lygia.

When we left the north end of the canal next morning, we had a F2 northerly, which took us to the reef guarding Ormos Ag Nikolaos, a bay just south of Preveza that features in none of the pilots. We resolved to explore it one calm day when we weren't aiming to get anywhere. Anyway, on this day, the wind then backed F4 to let us lay Preveza, where we anchored in Hospital Bay. We booked our winter mooring at Margarona yard and provisioned.

After watering the boat from the town quay lawn sprinkler, we set out hoping to reach Paxos. However, the strengthening wind headed us, and we ended up with a beat in a F4 to reach Parga, where there was room for us to nudge into the beach.

The next day gave us an easy, but slow sail to Lakka, where we met fellow CA members Leighton and Ali for drinks on their boat Zig Zag. We'd first met when laid up in Bosa, Sadinia, and it was great to get to know them better. Then we had a rest day, with a walk along the cliffs running east from the bay. The fridge stopped working, so we changed to the standby coolbox. A definite drop in our living stanfards, to be remedied asap!

As we left Lakka, a thunderstorm appeared over the mainland, threatening to cut us off. So we hove to for half an hour until it seemed to have moved on. Then had a nice beat in a north-westerly 4, until the wind failed just as we reached Garitsa Bay. Anchored in 3m in our favourite SW corner.

Landed the bikes and cycled to the market and Lidl to provision for the Faraway islands. Then sailed in fickle winds, ending up with a gusty F5 north-westerly as we approached Ay Stefanos. First tried anchoring on the south side of the entrance, then moved to just off the beach on the north side when someone complained we were blocking the port. Took three goes to get the anchor through the weed, then we had a thunderstorm and dragged a bit anyway, and had to reanchor yet again, as did several other yachts.

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At anchor off Erikoussa
From Ay Stefanos, we had a beat in very light airs until we were becalmed off Kassopeto, them motored to Ak Ay Aikaterini, the northernmost point of Corfu, where we met the afternoon north-westerly. Except it was a very unfriendly wind, heading us alternately northerly then westerly on each tack, so that we thought we'd never reach Erikoussa. But we did, to anchor in 5m in Porto Bay just outside the yellow buoys, with good shelter from west through north to north-east. Excellent fish dinner in a restaurant immediately overlooking Razzmatazz. The owner told us that the previous year they'd been packed out with Italians stopping on their way to and from Corfu, but this year hardly any.

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The bay just north of Palaiokastritsa harbour
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In and around the monastery at Palaiokastritsa
In the small hours, we woke to find an easterly, F5 or 6. This was not dangerous, but it was certainly very uncomfortable, and we got little sleep. So, after buying bread, we decided that the conditions made it quite likely to repeat the next night. So we scarpered south, wing and wing in the increasing north- westerly, to Palaiokastrita, the only harbour on the west coast of Corfu. There was no room in the harbour, but there was in the lovely little bay just north of it, where we found space to swing together with a French yacht. In any other country, there would have been a prohibition on anchoring here, where we shared the water with swimmers, hired motor boats and glass-bottomed tripper boats. But, this being Greece, we all mixed happily, and safely, together.

We enjoyed a day here, walking to the monastery, which manages to remain tranquil despite the coach loads of tourists, and taking the dinghy around the spectactular nearby bays. They gave us a firework display after dinner in the next bay - thank-you!

From Palaiokastritsa we had a splendid reach with Mr Blue in a steadily increasing westerly to cover the 34 miles to Lakka in time to go out for a pizza ashore. Our next task was to get the fridge fixed. A query on the CA's Mednet led to advice to consult Vernon, trading as "Stiff Nipples", in Lefkas. A phone call established that he would return from a trip in a few days, so we needed to make our way slowly to Lefkas. We started with a day's pottering in Lakka. A French yachtsman rowed past looking for customers for his watercolours of yachts. We liked his work, and commissioned Razzmatazz'a portrait. About 20:00, after a perfect day, a F6 or 7 southerly came from nowhere for half an hour, and caused some excitement. Our anchor was buried deep in the sand, and we had space to let out extra chain as precaution, so were in no danger. But we heard later that a couple of yachts off Gaios were swept onto the south breakwater.

Next day offered only light southerlies, so we tacked down to Mongonisi on the south end of Paxos, and anchored free in the bay. An American tied back to the cliff complained that we were over his anchor. It turned out that he had laid out two anchors on enormous scope the night before during the blow. Anyway, we motored to pull our chain off his, and away he went. We then went for a walk on the hill north of the inlet, and renewed our aquaintance with the delightful Carnayo Gold bar.

As we weighed anchor next morning, a French yachtsman rowed across and showed us a video he'd made the previous year of Razzmatazz thrashing to windward alongside him. See http://www.montgomery-smith.org/RazzmatazzVideo. Outside. we found a typical light easterly to start, allowing us nearly to clear AntiPaxos, then half-an-hour's calm, then an increasing westerly taking us to the Lefkas Canal. Our Lefkas luck held once again, and we found a slot just our size to moor bows-in to the town quay.

Discovered Vernon would not be back for another day, so spent the day pottering in the rather excessive heat. Vernon came next morning and took the fridge away. We learned that he lived in Nidri so decided to sail down to Vlikho, where we could have a swim. And he delivered one repaired fridge the following morning. I found there was still a problem with voltage drop, and renewed all the connections. Now sorted. Also bought 50m floating polyprop rope. The idea is that we can anchor off the cliff, I can swim leisurely to the shore with the floating rope and make fast, then we pull in and swap for a shorter, but stronger conventional line. We'll see!