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Sailing with light wind: Video

Calm, stable weather is the forecast. So on 20th June we set off from Preveza to the west coast of Lefkas. There are no harbours or sheltered bays here. Instead, there are endless cliffs and long white sandy beaches with turquoise-coloured clear water. Paradise! Some beaches can only be reached by boat or on foot via a steep staircase with almost 300 steps. 

We particularly like the long beach at Egremni. Should we spend the night here at anchor? There isn't supposed to be much wind overnight, but the swell coming in from the open sea will rock us a lot. The anchor drops and we decide to stay.

We swim in the wonderfully clear water, watch how the colours of the rocks change as the sun goes down towards evening and how the few people leave the beach after watching the sun set over the sea. Then we are all alone on the shortest night of the year. 

Pictures of Egremni Beach

The swell rocks us more than we like it, but Walter still manages to cook dinner below deck. A challenge with our cooker, which is not gimballed. To be on the safe side, Gisela sleeps on deck. No problem, it's very warm. After the hot days, the land is obviously very hot, because during the night there are suddenly strong gusts of wind from the mountains, a hot, dry wind.

After all the rocking, we are longing for a place without swell. So we head further south along the coast, past Katsiki Beach with the rock from which, according to the legend, the poet Sappho threw herself to her death out of lovesickness. Then around Cape Doukato, the most south-westerly point of Lefkas, into the large bay of Vasiliki.

Pictures of Katsiki and Cape Doukato

We moor at the outer pier in the small harbour of Vasiliki. Here we can also watch the many windsurfers who come and go in the bay every afternoon in the constant strong wind.

Pictures of Vasiliki

A few years ago, a fairly large marina was built in front of the old harbour with EU funding. We estimate that it could accommodate up to 200 boats. But the floating jetties, which are illuminated at night, are all cordoned off. The marina is finished, but is not in operation. We had already heard about that. But what is the reason? Is there no operator? Do the locals not want the marina? One thing is clear: If it goes into operation, it will massively change the character of this lovely little harbour town. 

We enjoy the cosy atmosphere and hope that the temperatures will drop again.   

A short sail south-west from the Greek mainland to the island of Paxos brings us to Gaios, the island's main town. It is beautifully situated and very well sheltered by an island directly in front of it on the east side. After mooring at the newly constructed floating dock in the northern part, we feel like we are in a fjord. Everything is green and the seagulls are circling and calling above our boat. The new facility is a little unusual, as the murings are not positioned in line with the lack of bollards and are far too long. We stay here for three days and pull in metres of mooring line every day until our boat is reasonably straight again. However, the new floating dock was urgently needed. Even now, in June, the harbour is full from midday and the race for the very last places begins. When we arrive, the jetty is almost empty; when we leave, it is full. Further in at the harbour pier, it is always full, with excursion boats and yachts coming and going, lots of swell and often a mess of anchors when casting off. We have a much quieter spot a little further out. Gaios is known as the Saint Tropez of the Ionian Islands. That's true.

Pictures of Gaios

We move ashore again during our time in Gaios, feel the need to walk and make two day trips on foot. Our first destination is Mongonisi, an anchorage and bathing bay. We walk along the coast to get there. We've been here twice before by boat, most recently at the beginning of May, when it wasn't yet the season and it was pretty empty. Now it's very busy and we're glad that we don't have to look for an anchorage here today.

Pictures of Mongonisi

We walk and climb to the southern tip of Paxos, a wild rocky landscape with caves and a beautiful view of the nearby smaller Antipaxos.

The second hike takes us to the small harbour town of Longos. We would have been interested in visiting this place by boat. However, the harbour is too shallow for our boat and there are no really sheltered anchorages. The village is beautiful and cosy, although tourism is starting to boom here too. The old olive oil factory is currently being converted into flat blocks.

Pictures of Longos

In the meantime we have taken another long ride to the south-east and are moored in Preveza on the town pier. It's 35 degrees, the second heatwave in a short space of time. There's no wind and it's set to get even hotter. The sweat is pouring off us.

We are on the Greek mainland in Sivota. Once again, the wind is blowing from the south or not at all. The heat coming over from North Africa lies over Greece. What do we do if it doesn't make much sense to make our way south under sail? We hire a car for a day and explore the country.

First we head south to the mountain village of Perdika with a magnificent view of the Sivota Islands and Corfu.

Then we continue along the coast past the tourist town of Parga. We anchored here last year. And then we look down on the Arachtos estuary delta from above and are totally impressed by this unusual green water landscape.

We continue further inland to the Ambracian Gulf via a long causeway to Koronisia. Here in this shallow lagoon landscape, we feel like we are at the end of the world. No tourists, everything is very quiet.

And then we find the perfect place for a cool drink, because it's been over 30 degrees all day. A few parasols, tables and chairs and a mixture of kiosk and bar, that's "Bohème". Everything is very relaxed. Only a few locals refresh themselves in the water here.

Later we make a detour to Arta to see the old bridge over the Arachtos. It is described as the most beautiful and most famous bridge in Greece and was already mentioned in ancient times. In its current form, it was built from 1612 in the Ottoman architectural style. A real eye-catcher!

We then drive back through the mountains towards Sivota and make a stop in Plataría to take a look at the large, cosy harbour. It would also be a good place for our boat. Before we return the car, we have a nice view of Sivota from above.  

A long 45 nautical miles to the south-west brought us back to Greece, to the small island of Erikoussa just north of Corfu. With little wind in the morning, we first had to motor for a while, still with a view of the high Albanian mountains through which we had travelled in the hire car. Goodbye Albania! But then it was nice sailing with a stern wind.

Francesco greeted us in the port of Erikoussa and took our lines. Only around 60 nautical miles from Italy, there is already a bit of Italian flair here. Every time a boat docks, there is a lot of discussion, often a little heated. Erikoussa is the Greek name for heather. We saw a lot of it on our two walks around the island. However, most of it blooms in October. Then the whole island probably glows purple. We stayed on this cosy and beautiful island for three days.

Pictures of Erikoussa

When we wanted to leave, we hesitated at first. The evening before, we had seen a large sailing boat being pushed onto the mooring lines of the other boats by the gusts of wind. There was a lot of shouting in the harbour, but it went well. We didn't want to experience the same when we cast off, but the gusts didn't stop. Francesco then buffered us with his dinghy. Mille grazie Francesco!

We finally reached our next destination only under sail: the large bay of Agios Georgios in the north-west of Corfu. We had already spent a week here 17 years ago, had a small apartment. Every evening we sat on the beach and imagined what it would be like when we anchored here with our own boat. That's what we did now, a quiet night at anchor with a little swell. When comparing our photos from 2007 with now, we realised that many houses and hotels have been added since then. But it is still a very beautiful and rather quiet bay.

Pictures of Agios Georgios

And then the next day another long distance. We travelled along the entire beautiful west coast of Corfu, first under motor again and then with a nice sailing wind. At the southern tip of Corfu we could say ‘Corfu round after all!’. However, we then sailed to the Greek mainland and moored in the port of Sivota. The harbourmaster Petros not only remembered our boat, but also our crew. The last time we visited Sivota a month ago, there were three of us with Claudia. Petros' first question was “Where's the other lady?” Yes, unfortunately she had to go back home to work.   

45 nautical miles north of our last stop at Porto Palermo lies the Orikum marina in the deep bay of Vlora. The Italians had started building it, but then construction stalled and there were reports of smuggling going on there. That time is probably over. Even today, the marina is not quite finished, but it already looks very respectable. Floating jetties, good mooring lines, clean showers and toilets. And very friendly harbour staff. But also typically Albanian: 1000PS powerboats, extremely weird-looking large motor yachts, lots of SUVs in the car park.

But otherwise there's not much going on. We stayed for a week in total because we wanted to explore the interior from here, waited for better winds - and because it was really cosy here. The town is a 20-minute walk away, small supermarkets, a long beach, some of the hotels and restaurants still look a little socialist - which has its charm.

Here visited us Gisela‘s cousin Michael. He is on his way south with his camper-car. Destination: Armenia.

With a hire car, we drove over the Llogara Pass, then above the coast to Port Palermo and then back through the Shushica Valley. An incredibly wild and beautiful landscape, partly like the Allgäu/Alps. Then after the pass, a gigantic winding road with a view of the sea from high above, impressive. The return journey through a wide valley with a mountain stream that has a huge gravel bed - lots of somewhat scary, wobbly suspension bridges. 

We were also able to visit the highlight of Orikum: Ody, one of the marineros, drove us into the restricted military area (hundreds of small bunkers, broken vehicles and ships), where we had to hand in our ID cards, and then through completely overgrown terrain to the archaeological site, a Greek/Illyrian city from the sixth century BC, which is now largely under water.

The entire Karaburun peninsula, 16 kilometres long and 5 kilometres wide, is a restricted military area; nothing has changed in nature here for 30 years, and the flora and fauna are correspondingly exotic. However, Ody, who gave us a bottle of his home-made olive oil on the way back, told us that there are plans to build a NATO base in the restricted military area.

When we paid at the end of the week, we were given a substantial discount. We are now leaving Albania, a wild and beautiful country with very friendly people.

After a day sailing, when we head for our destination for the night, a slight inner anxiety spreads: What will the conditions in the harbour or bay actually be like? Of course, we have checked the harbour guide, Navionics and Navily beforehand, but still: how much space will there be, will a sudden strong wind make it difficult for us to moor, will someone be standing at the pier to take our ropes? Will our anchor hold on the first try? This inner anxiety is immediately forgotten, when we are well moored and even more so, when we receive a friendly welcome in a harbour. That has always been the case so far.

We don't have to set off again the very next day. After all, we have time to get to know the places we have travelled to a little. Our experience: it's often worth staying. Some of the places we visited were so beautiful, that as soon as we arrived, we said ‘We won't stay here just one night’ (e.g. in Port Palermo, Albania). But even if a place doesn't seem very inviting to us at first glance, we can usually win something over to it bit by bit. This often happens through our experience with the people we meet: our ‘agent’ Jelja for clearing in in Saranda, who said goodbye to us with a handshake after two nights. It wasn't just a formal gesture, it came from the heart. Or the people we meet by chance, working on a building site, who we simply greet or ask for directions. Their faces always become friendly, they greet us back or if we have a question, they want to help us. Or the Albanian woman in the shop with the yellow dress and straw hat, who worked in Switzerland for 50 years and has now returned to her home country in her retirement. We buy a loaf of bread, she stands next to us and says ‘There's also bread made from cornflour. That's very good.’ No question, we buy the bread.

At some point we want or have to leave again. After all, Aglaya is not a holiday bungalow. So we say goodbye. And hopefully we have a nice sail with the right wind to our next destination. Then comes the good feeling of travelling again.

We took a few days to see Kerkyra and visit the beautiful park and Monrepos Castle on the outskirts of the city. 

On 23 May, we made our way north. We had already seen Saranda, the southernmost city in Albania, from our boat over the last few weeks. It is only a few nautical miles away from the northern tip of Corfu.

When travelling to Albania, you have to register with the authorities and clear in. Albania is not part of the EU, but is a candidate country. You need an "agent" to clear in. Sounds a bit like James Bond. We had already contacted Jelia from Corfu the day before we arrived in Saranda. She got us a place at the customs pier and took care of all the formalities for us. Very pleasant. And we were even allowed to stay for two nights. However, our berth took a bit of getting used to: right next to a large ship that was being repaired. And a ferry moored directly over our anchor chain overnight. It manoeuvred very carefully, so we didn't have to worry.

Saranda is a lively, large town, totally built up, with lots of bars and restaurants on the waterfront. Jelia got us a hire car for the day. This meant we could visit Butrint and drive through the mountains to Gyrokaster.

Butrint and Gyrokaster

Ancient Butrint is the most visited archaeological site in Albania and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were not only impressed by the walls and buildings dating back almost 2500 years (from the Greek colonists to Ali Pasha). We were also impressed by its location on a small peninsula between Lake Butrint and the Vivar Canal. A fantastic lagoon landscape with views as far as Corfu and the mountains.

We drove over a spectacular pass road into the Drino Valley to the Ottoman town of Gyrokaster. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town with its narrow, steep alleyways is built on three mountain ridges. The former dictator Enver Hoxha was born here. Back from all the sightseeing, a little bit tired we sat in our cockpit in the evening, parked between the ferries.

A brief excursion into history: Ali Pasha

Ali Pasha (probably 1740-1822) is often encountered in Greece and Albania. He came from Albania and was the head of a gang of thieves for 20 years, which he then betrayed to Sultan Mahmut II. This earned him the Sultan's favour and he was entrusted with ruling (what is now) northern Greece, Albania and northern Macedonia for the Ottoman Empire.

He was known and infamous for his extremely brutal rule and the execution of thousands of Greeks and Albanians who refused to convert to Islam.

Ali Pasha was also a power-conscious politician who attempted to mould the area he ruled into a state of his own. His army comprised 100,000 men at times. He ruled over Epirus, southern Albania, Thessaly and south-western Macedonia, which ultimately proved to be his undoing: He was murdered by order of the Sultan, his head was taken to Constantinople, preserved with salt and exhibited there.

What you can still see of him today are many fortifications in exposed locations, often built on Venetian foundations and displaying impressive, state-of-the-art military architecture for the time.

Port Palermo

Port Palermo, 17 nautical miles north of Saranda, was our next destination. As we entered the well-protected bay, we were curious to see whether we would even be allowed to moor at the very high concrete pier. Port Palermo used to be a military base with a submarine bunker. The northern part is still a military area. In the southern part, you can anchor in very deep water or go to the old pier. However, we had read from other sailors that they were sent away again. Mooring at the pier was not easy at all and only worked with a very sporty climb to the top. And fixing the boat wasn't easy either, as there are very few bollards. But we managed it. And we were lucky: the police allowed us to stay after they had photographed all our documents and inspected our boat.

There is a beach, a restaurant and an Ali Pasha castle in the beautiful bay. A great place and also really well protected. We realised this when a thunderstorm raged over us during the night. We will stay another night.