A Feast of Music - 16 August to 3 September

We'd seen posters for a Paxos music festival in Lakka, and thought we'd like to attend as many of the chamber music concerts as possible. Most were to be in Longos, so we needed to be thereabouts by 23 August. We also needed either to decide that Longos was a viable port, or arrange transport from Gaios or Lakka.

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Harbour for Parga
So, we headed through the Lefkas Canal bound for Gaios. In the event, we couldn't lay the course and settled for Parga where we pushed Razzmatazz's bow onto the beach in the harbour. Then I spent a day tightening the trampolin - with the bow on the beach I could walk all round the trampolin underneath, and reach all the ties comfortably. We went for a longish walk in the afternoon through the abandonned monastery and along the cliff path leading north.

When we arrived off Gaios at lunchtime next day, we had such a great wind that we decided to put about and head for Mourtos instead. We moored in the shallow bay on the west side of Nisos Ay Nikolaos. This is the most secure mooring we've found in the Ionian. The tiny bay has three boats moored fore-and-aft on permanent moorings. We find space to drop the bower anchor just north of them and take stern lines to boulders on the north shore. The previous year we got caught in a thunderstorm with 50kt gusts. The anchor buried itself deep in the thick mud, and the boat stayed rock steady. The bay is also rather pleasant.

We spent a couple of days exploring locally. First a dinghy trip round St Nick Island. Then an attempt to walk to the centre of the island. There were tracks made by hunters and others by goats and/or goatherds. We couldn't get to the top without a machet and jungle boots. Then we walked round the Neilsen hotel, down to the beach and back through the hotel. Older readers may remember the TV series The Prisoner - this could have been one of their sets.

We thought we'd have a look at the Lefkimini Canal, a much silted channel running inland to Lefkimini. Arrived off the entrance in the early afternoon, and in the F3/4 north-westerly wind had no difficulty in motoring in, with the depth sounder showing 1.2m. We looked for a mooring, but the stagings all appeared occupied or dangerously derelict. And the canal became too narrow for turning, until we saw a cable stretched across marking the absolute end of navigation for a sailing vessel. We managed to turn and moor temporarily to some rickety staging, but then thought we didn't want to leave Razzmatazz while we explored. So we put to sea again, bumping three times on the sandy bar on the way out. But I thought a concrete quay just inside the entrance might be usable on a further visit. We aimed for Lakka, and as we left the shelter of Corfu found a good F5 beam reach. Razzmatazz kept up a steady 10 to 12 knots, touching 15.5 at one point. To my relief, the entrance to Lakka proved completely sheltered, and we dropped the main easily and motored into the anchorage.

Gaios (49K)
Decided to look at Longos on the way to Gaios, then, if it looked practical, return to Longos for the concert next day. Moored stern-in to the north side of Ay Nilolaos, a lovely anchorage where there always seems to be room. However, this year the authorities had dedicated a stretch of the north quay opposite for large tripper boats. The first that came in made me nervous as it dropped its anchor close under our bow. Then a second tried to come alongside the first, got it wrong, clouted a British yacht on the north quay, then careered out of control towards the town, yanking another yacht from its mooring with its dragging anchor. Eventually the first tripper boat and a ferry towed him away. In the morning, the port police came round in a borrowed launch to tell yachts not to moor to the island opposite the tripper boat part of the quay. Not sure how they will enforce this when they haven't even got a patrol boat of their own!

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Longos Old Schoolhouse Longos mooring behind breakwater
We reached Longos at lunchtime and, after examining all the possibilities, anchored behind the outer breakwater on a patch of sand and took our new polyprop line ashore to a boulder on the beach. This worked brilliantly, and we ended up moored very securely with excellent shelter from the prevailing north-westerly wind. Attended a superb flute and piano concert in the Old Schoolhouse.

Then to Garitsa Bay. Ann counted 20 tacks! Anchored in our favourite spot in the south-west corner, and dined in a taverna with excellent food and vile wine. Even overheard the Greeks on the next table complaining!

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Kouloura Gypsy Moth III
CA member David Woods from Serenity rowed across to say hello, and we invited him to dinner before he went to the airport to fetch his wife. And we met her for coffee the next morning. Hope to see more of them next year. Then we headed north in a very fluky wind, which expired as we were opposite Kouloura, a mile or so short of Ay Stefanos. The bay was deep, but we dropped the bower in 10m and I swam the polyprop ashore to a boulder so we could pull the stern in. We're getting the hang of this! Lovely bay, with Gypsy Moth III in retirement on a permanent mooring. Next morning I had a conversation with someone who was acting as caretaker for her.

We sailed north in light winds inside the reef just north of Ay Stefanos to reach Kassiopi just before lunch. There was no space on the obviously favourite north breakwater, so we moored bows in to the south breakwater. When I swam out to look at the anchor, I realised we were lucky not to be entangled in all the chain lying around. After a brief explore, the north-west wind arrived, and we decided to head south down the mainland coast to Pagania, a totally sheltered inlet with no facilities other than fish farms. This was the first place we'd been without a Cosmote mobile signal.

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Moored in the Lefkimini Canal From the taverna by the bridge
We decided to try the quayside in the Lefkimini Canal. Arrived at lunchtime to find the quay perfectly arranged with bollards just where we needed them, and providing a large flat surface for Ann to cut some material. Took the dinghy up the canal to enjoy an excellent meze by the bridge in the village. In the morning we cycled through the town to a baker and on to a Lidl and large supermarket on the bypass. Then back along tracks through the woods to Razzmatazz. Set sail after lunch for the next concert, which was in Lakka.

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On our walk
Except it wasn't! When we, and several other people arrived, we found that some posters, including the one we'd read, said the concert was in Lakka, and the others said Longos! So much for proofreading!

Next day we went for a long walk along the west side of the island. As we stopped by some kind of ruined temple we chatted to Paulo, an Italian who was touring the island on a scooter. Then an elderly German lady emerged from a house that was part of the building, apologised that she couldn't ask us in as she was just going out to lunch, and brought us all glasses of very welcome water.

To Gaios, where we had our clothes washed and found a shop to sell me a gear cable for my bike, then to Longos for the next concert, where we moored in our favourite spot behind the breakwater. The Paxos Music Festival is really excellent, with a resident string quartet. My annoyance at their poor proofreading couldn't be sustained in the face of so much wonderful music!

The last concert was to be in two days' time, so we sailed to Parga just for the fun of it, and came back the following day to the same spot to enjoy another suberb concert, followed by an excellent meal in the same quayside taverna.

That was the end of the Paxos Festival, or at least the chamber music part of it. Our next engagement was the opera in Corfu in four days. Not far, but fortunate that we had the time, as we'd reached September with its much weaker sea breezes. We made stops in the Lefkimini Canal and Petriki before anchoring in Garitsa Bay. In Lefkimini we stayed a day and cycled to the west coast. Most enjoyable, as the south end of Corfu has gentle hills in contrast with the mountains of the centre and north.

The opera, the Italian Girl in Algiers, was presented by an English company, Popup Opera (http://popupopera.co.uk), in the Ionian Institute, just behind the NAOK harbour. We'd been to their production of Cosi Fan Tutti the year before, and this was equally excellent. Woke next morning to find two old ladies chatting by our stern on their morning swim. A yachtsman came across in his dinghy because he liked the look of Razzmatazz. As we chatted, I realised that we'd met Mike and Sarah some three years' before in Fornells, in Minorca. Hopefully, we'll meet again next year.

We had one more concert in Corfu in a week's time. In the meantime, meteo.gr suggested we'd have a F8/9 south-easterly on Thursday, although Poseidon thought the intense and sudden depression would stall 50 miles to the west. Time to seek out a safe refuge. Only Gouvia is safe on Corfu, and that is expensive. Lakka might be alright in a south-easterly, but dodgy if the wind direction changed. The mainland, on the other hand, offers several refuges - O Fetalias, Pelagia, Igounemitsa Creek, Platarias and the bay in Ay Nikolaos near Mourtos. We'd not been to Platarias, so set out bound for it, with a gentle following wind on and off and on again. When we arrived, several yachts were leaving the jam-packed harbour, so we found a good slot. We gathered that a flotilla was leaving, intending to come back on Wednesday to find shelter. Well, there was now one less space for them!

We stayed for 5 nights. The bad weather in Platarias was only a F4/5, with quite a bit of thunder and lightening. We cycled up the valley leading inland. We made friends with Margaret and Richard on the motor boat alongside, and Margaret cut Ann's hair. And we rowed across to a German Wharram cat anchored in the centre of the harbour and were offered a very spicy soup by skipper Peter. For lunch, we found that if you ordered a half-litre of wine in either of the bars opposite, you got enough delicious mezes to fill you up!

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Yacht ashore under the New Castle
When we arrived back in Garitsa Bay for the next concert, we saw this massive motor yacht high and dry on the rocks under the castle. Apparently they did get their F9, and several yachts were lost.

The concert was given by Dmitry Mayboroda, a young Russian pianist who has won several competitions. Brilliant.