Yacht Pipit


Far from the madd(en)ing crowd - 29th August 2014

Pipit in the busy, crowded Ionian in August...

So (don't you just hate the current vogue for beginning every sentence with "So") perhaps not surprisingly, we spent four nights in Preveza Marina, as we still had numerous jobs to do and it was just so hot they couldn't be rushed. It was a novelty to be alongside meaning, for the first time in three years (apart from the occasional fuel berth), we were able to use our side gates. On the face of it Preveza Marina is pretty useful - only €12 per night including power & water. However, there are no showers, it's a bit of a desolate place and it is quite a long walk to the supermarket. In comparison Cleopatra Marina, although across the water from Preveza and more expensive, we find preferable and is, somewhat perversely, more convenient. This is because, in addition to the small on-site mini-market (which stocks bulky and/or heavy items such as beer, wine, frozen bottles of water and kitchen paper at reasonable prices including, when we were there, eight cans of Alfa beer for the price of five!) the marina launch goes daily (except Sundays) to Preveza at 1000 and returns at 1200. This is amusing in itself as although it looks like a smart workboat with seats, it actually has a fairly enormous turbocharged Volvo Penta engine and gets up on the plane in remarkably short order - not a bad way to go shopping! It docks very much nearer to the supermarket, butcher and fishmonger than is Preveza Marina, so is really rather convenient - 2 hours is just about the ideal length of time for a steeling pre-shopping frappé, the shopping, and perhaps a post shopping Mythos. On top of this, Cleopatra Marina is a pleasant place to be and was remarkably quiet in August. It has bar far the best marina showers in the Ionian and a bank of quality washing machines. The on-site taverna is also very pleasant, so all in all it gets our vote, and we returned twice during August. The only note of caution is the surprisingly strong current in the marina, making parking somewhat tricky at certain times of the day.

Another Cobb triumph - bream stuffed with dill & lemon.

So (there it is again) we eventually left Preveza and headed into the Gulf of Amvrakia, an inland sea of some 10 by 20 nautical miles. This surely is one of the hidden gems of the Ionian - it's not really on the charter or flotilla routes, and in the two weeks or so we spent there we saw about a dozen other yachts - in August! Although there is no tide, there is noticeable current and a significant fetch in some places. Being an inland sea the water is warm, and the wind is the most predictable and consistent we have encountered in the Ionian - you can almost set your watch by the rising north-westerly breeze at about 1130 each day, providing the best sailing we have enjoyed this year. The breeze drops with the sun, leaving the evenings calm and peaceful, without much in the way of the katabatic winds suffered elsewhere.

Our first stop was in Ormos Rougas, a few miles past the town of Vonitsa which we had visited by car last winter and to which we had no real desire to return. There are numerous coves and bights on the west side of the bay which offer good shelter from the prevailing wind, and we anchored in a likely looking one, in solitary splendour, for a couple of nights. As we were anchoring a flock of pelicans flew overhead - not something that happens every day! We then moved all of about 1 nautical mile to anchor off the beach at the head of the bay, where there is a small campsite and a couple of tavernas. This anchorage was busy - there were two other yachts...

Not exactly Old Harry, but...

After six days we returned to Preveza and anchored off for a night, watching loggerhead turtles which seem to favour this area, before going into Cleopatra Marina at 0900 the following day (we are experts at getting our money's worth out of a single night's marina fee) when the current early in the morning seems to be less severe. We were allocated a berth between two resident, non-occupied yachts, meaning we could leave Pipit without worrying.

Another reason to return to Cleopatra...

Sunset over Preveza looking from Cleopatra Marina.

A day of chores followed and the next day we ventured once more into the Gulf, heading towards Menidhion, a town towards the north-east of the Gulf. As the wind piped up on cue, we had a lovely 5 hour downwind sail, accompanied at one stage by the largest pod of dolphins we have seen since crossing Biscay. Rather than trying to take photos and ending up with yet more pictures of only sea, we just enjoyed the spectacle for ourselves - sorry!

On the north side of the Gulf there are extensive shallows and salterns, requiring some attention to navigation and pilotage, together with the entrances to three rivers, the largest being the River Arta. This is no longer navigable because of the hydroelectric dam, meaning there is either too little or too much water. There are also fish farms throughout the Gulf, especially in the north. We anchored just to the west of Menidhion in Ormos Koprainis, off a small beach served by a couple of tavernas, where we stayed for a couple of nights. On the second night one of the tavernas had live modern Greek music, which didn't stop until 0500 - it is possible to have too much of a good thing... We then moved another nautical mile to anchor 'under Ak Kopraina', as Mr Heikell writes in his esteemed tome. This initially confused us as Ak Kopraina is no more than about a metre above sea level - when we read about anchoring under something we normally visualise a high cliff or headland. Anyway, although low lying, the spit of land offered superb protection from any fetch and the guaranteed afternoon breeze was highly welcome. It also offers habitat for heron, egrets and various other marsh and reed loving birds, so we weren't short of fauna to observe. Perhaps the most memorable was the largest flock of egrets we've ever seen returning to roost at dusk.

A non-paying passenger...

Fishermen working in a team at dusk as the moon was rising.

The next day we had an early morning row ashore (that is, propulsion via oars, not an argument) and walked to the sector light on the point:

A reed warbler or similar in the bottom left corner...

Ak Kopraina sector light.

Only one neighbour in Ormos Koprainis.

After two nights at Ak Kopraina we returned west to anchor off Nisoi Vouvalo, a collection of tiny islands in the middle of the Gulf joined by a sandbar, thus forming a lagoon within. They offer surprising shelter from the prevailing wind, and it seemed odd to be anchoring (again, alone) in the middle of a large body of water. We were visited again by many dolphins and this time managed to capture a few on silicon:

There were dozens of them, but here are two.

The lagoon at Nisoi Vouvalo.

Sea foam, not pollution at Nisoi Vouvalo.

After two nights we returned to Cleopatra for domestic chores and the following morning left Preveza, possibly for the last time this year, and headed south to the Neilson pontoon in Nidri, where we had a business meeting :-o Whilst in the Gulf we received an email from a villa owner who wanted his website updated - could we help? Well yes we can, and further to that meeting we have been commissioned to rewrite his website.

After a couple of nights at anchor in Ormos Varko, we headed to Vathi for the birthday boy's meal ashore, but alas there was no room at the inn, save for being squashed in between towering motor yachts, so a quick call to Babis at Porto Spilia had us a space reserved on the quay which we filled less than 30 minutes later, and a berth with daylight between fenders at that! As on Ann's birthday Babis & Panos looked after us well. We also enjoyed the customary walk up to Spartochori for a pre-dinner glass or two of Mythos-bergs...

Sometimes, we are surprised that the saying 'it's a small world' can be so very true. This was the case recently when we met up with Sally & Dennis, a couple that Ann originally met over 20 years ago when they sailed their yacht into Sydney half way through their circumnavigation. She last saw them in Cornwall when they had completed their circumnavigation, sold their yacht and were doing a whistle-stop campervan tour of the UK before heading for New Zealand (flying, not sailing this time) to settle. She kept in touch initially via snail mail (this was in the days before everyone had computers, email addresses, etc) then lost touch. Fast forward to two years ago, when chatting with John & Maggie on Lazy Pelican who were describing a holiday exchange they were planning where they were to have a campervan in New Zealand, and said campervan owners would sail Lazy Pelican for a month. When Maggie first said the names Sally & Dennis and the associations with sailing & campervans, Ann heard a distant alarm bell, then when it was mentioned that they had circumnavigated in their yacht, the bells grew louder until she finally discovered it was the same Sally & Dennis! So (that word again), we met in Lefkas Marina last week for a few drinks and a meal, although something funny happened to the clock - one minute it was 2300, then suddenly it was 0230! A thoroughly enjoyable evening. We met again for a convivial lunch in Nidri yesterday as we were once more on the Neilson pontoon for power & water and at least with modern technology, we can keep in touch more easily now and who knows, maybe we'll plan a holiday in New Zealand one day - but probably not on Pipit!

We now have work to do, so our movements will be curtailed somewhat by our requirement for power - we don't like sitting in anchorages running the engine and annoying our neighbours (assuming we have any)!

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