After much winter maintenance, somewhat hindered by the often rainy weather and considerably delayed by problems with our new watermaker (more about that in a future post), we finally left Licata on the last day of May.
We had some problems with the autopilot, so we stopped for an extra day in Portopalo, stripping the fluxgate compass, which seemed to be stuck. Our anchor sensed a trend there and also got stuck in some rocks, but in only 4m depth this was quickly resolved with a refreshing freedive. We hopped over to Siracusa the following days and then across from Sicily to the "boot" of Italy, entering the very shallow marina at Rocella Ionica for a night and half a metre pizza for dinner.
Soon we were off further east, having to stop and drift for a little while underway as our engine water intake was blocked, presumably by a plastic bag - we never found it, as by the time I got in the water nothing was to be seen and when we started the engine again it pumped water like nothing ever happened. We aimed for a charted mooring field near Crotone, only to find the "field" consisted of a single (already occupied) buoy. It was then just one more hop to Capo San Grigorio (near Santa Maria di Leuca), where we anchored on a little beach with beautiful clear water. At 23:00 a roaring noise scared me out of bed and I hopped out in the dark in my underpants, only to find a searchlight shone on me and get interviewed (in Italian!) by a Guardia di Finanza patrol boat with some very loud engines. I hope they enjoyed the view.
The next hop from there was across the entrance to the Adriatic and over to Greece. The Othoni islands north of Corfu provide a convenient landing spot and the passage there was so calm that we could pull out our newly recycled washing machine (found by the bins in Licata) and wash our clothes underway, although the skipper got a bit grumpy about wet clothing making the watch keeping more difficult.
A few days in the Othoni islands introduced us to the lovely Greek people and their praiseworthy habit of putting little dinghy docks on the beach near tavernas for easy access. After that we rounded northern Corfu and anchored in a busy corner near Gouvia in order to visit the port police there and exchange some money for stamps. Our cruising tax was already paid online and the officer was delighted at our printout, as apparently there had been many problems with the new system.
That was it, we had arrived and were ready to enjoy this area, and enjoy it we would very much! First though we took the dinghy up a small river to stock up on food. Then we slowly anchored our way down the Ionian, from Petriti to Paxos and Antipaxos, avoiding overcrowded anchorages (Lakka) and favouring smaller and quieter ones. We practiced anchoring with a line ashore, stopped at Preveza to pick up some parts and found and salvaged a free Kobra anchor from the seafloor.
After Preveza we passed through the Lefkada canal, sailed past the private islands of the Onassis clan and met just about everyone from Licata again in the large enclosed bay at Vliho. This place is overrun by Brits and the waters are murky, but it has all-around shelter and great holding in mud, and you can dock your dinghy right at the waterside taverna and enjoy a Souvlaki and a Mythos while watching your boat.
It was near the end of June and the Ionian was getting too crowded for our liking, so we decided to move on. Meganisi turned out to be another place overrun by pests such as wasps, rats and superyachts, so we crossed over to mainland Greece and visited Mytika, then Kastos and Astakos before heading to a spacious and uncrowded (because there are no tavernas) anchorage at Petalas.
From Petalas we ventured past the entrance to the gulf of Patras and stopped at the ferryport of Kylinis, where we met some young Germans who we introduced to our homemade Limoncello. We also found a massive cockroach hiding inside our swim ladder the next morning, which was promptly evicted and sent for some swimming exercise. Spent a night at Katakolon, which is a cruise ship town, although we also found some very nice local wine there, a fact we sadly only discovered after having left. Across the bay in Kyparissia we docked the boat on a free town quay and stocked up on food again at the local AB supermarket, which unfortunately was on top of a big hill.
This area was far quieter, there were hardly any charter boats down here and we were looking forward to seeing the rest of this huge Peninsula.