SOULMATE Greek Islands & Turkey
Sail the Mediterranean’s pristine waters in the Greek Islands’ Ionian Sea during an extended European summer season in our fast Cape-to-Rio class winning Knysna 440 catamaran with full professional South African crew of Conrad and Ria Brits. The yacht was commissioned by us and built at the Knysna Yachts shipyard in South Africa in 2008 and is currently moored at the Odyseas Marina in the picturesque Greek harbour town of Meganisi. Here you can enjoy the great hospitality for which the Greek townsfolk are known whilst visiting the many harbour towns lining the coast - port hopping all over the Med. Do arrive in style and have your family enjoy the holiday of a lifetime. Our magnificent cat is fully equipped to the highest standard including safety equipment, life raft, rubber duck & outboard etc. The roomy 4 cabin, 4 head (bathroom) configuration is luxury personified – you deserve a break at this level! Personal utilization is for two weeks about every second year on a rotating schedule at a most affordable share price of only R 165,000(£ 8,100 or € 12,000 – exchange rare dependent). Incredible – certainly, at this level in yachting circles almost unbelievable, yet quite feasible relying on the Socoro Syndicates Group’s unequalled know-how in forming syndicates in the co-ownership (fractional ownership) market. The Group is the only one in this market niche - anywhere - with an almost 3 decade’s success track record in the syndication of leisure property.
Sailing The Ionian Sea on Soulmate – 13 July to 4 August 2015
Cape Town to Preveza to Vathi, Meganisi
Our trip started in Cape Town on Saturday evening 11 July 2015 boarding the KLM Boeing to Amsterdam, and then to Athens landing at around 13h00 the next afternoon. From there we flew to Preveza where we stayed the night at the Captains House, who arranged the transport from the airport.
The next morning the same taxi took us to Nidri and dropped us at the ferry that took us to Vathi, Meganisi (about 1 hour) where we were warmly received on board by Conrad and Ria, our hosts for the next 22 days.
We unpacked while Ria did the final shopping to ensure that all our needs on the gastronomic and beverage side were catered for. The next morning, after a breakfast of fruit, muesli, yoghurt and honey we did some shopping as we needed closed shoes (eg Crocs) to swim as there are sea urchins all over the ocean floor.
Vathi to Zakynthos
On our return from shopping we sailed a short distance to Ormos Atherino, a small bay nearby to spend the night, arriving just in time for a lovely lunch of tuna salad with anchovies, freshly baked bread, olive oil and Mythos to wash it all down.
The plan was to sail to Zakynthos, the most Southern island in the Ionian Sea, with no fixed time table, except that we must start the journey back in time to depart again on Tuesday 4 August.
The water was crystal clear and warm, we spent most of the day floating on the pool noodles, often with a beer in hand, watching little fishes and other sea life on the bottom of the sea. After watching the sun set over the Ionians, we had a lovely chicken dish that Ria had prepared.
The next morning we had a quick swim before setting sail for Kioni on Ithaki. As soon as we got going, Ria had breakfast ready - flat peaches (squeezed when still small to create a peach that is shaped like a disc and very easy to eat), melon and watermelon, berries, muesli, yoghurt and honey. This will be our standard breakfast throughout the trip, with only the fruit changing to whatever is available from the market on the day.
Kioni is a beautiful little village. We moored with our passarelle amongst the tables of the restaurant Calypso, the restaurant where we had supper that evening. A short walk to the end of the pier takes you to a lovely swimming area, but the water in the harbor was so clean that we often just took a dip in the crystal clear water with lots of little fishes swimming all around us.
We had lunch at the Three Mills restaurant, a stunning lamb shank for Helene and grilled sardinas for me – both were absolutely fantastic.
That evening we had dinner at Calypso. As starter we had the best dolmas that I have ever tasted, followed by grilled sardinas, mousaka and pork washed down with the inevitable Mythos and some house wine, before taking the 5 steps back onto Soulmate.
The next morning after breakfast we sailed to Vathi, Ithaki – or “big Vathi” as per the locals. (small Vathi being our home base in Meganisi). We anchored in a big bay just outside the entrance to the port and swam to the shore. The day was spent lazing in the warm water, drinking beer, having lunch, sleeping and reading – with only a few people on the beach and later a twin mast luxury sailing yacht moored about 100 meters away.
I woke up early to a sea that looked like oil with not a breath of wind. I saw a seal chasing fishes nearby, and some small fishing boats pulling their nets – a beautiful, tranquil scene that will forever be remembered.
After breakfast we sailed into “big Vathi” to moor. We went for a swim at the beach and a cold beer on the way back. Later that afternoon a late arrival tried to force his mono hull between Soulmate and out neighbor, bumping into the other boat. We decided to pull anchor and sailed back to the bay for a peaceful night’s sleep.
The next morning we left for Sami, another picture-perfect village. We had lunch at Faros Teverna, one of the restaurants on the water front – pastisio and their famous stuffed aubergine washed down with Mythos – excellent fare at a reasonable price.
Going for a walk after supper on Soulmate we found the town square closed for traffic and all the children playing in the street and with parents having supper at the quay side restaurants – truly a carnival atmosphere. Apparently this is normal for Saturday evenings in the holiday season.
After breakfast we set sail for Agios Nicolaos on Zakhyntos, a small village near the Blue Caves where most of the day trippers servicing the caves and the shipwreck are based. The sea was like a pond of blue ink occasionally broken by light sandy patches underneath. We watched the villages and busy beaches slowly slip by with ice cold Mythos in hand.
The mooring at Agios Nicolaos offers power, so as soon as we had moored, the aircon on board was humming, providing some relief from the heat. After lunch we went for a swim on the nearby beach where people were sunbathing in the midday heat (or should I say burning themselves to a crisp as it was at least 40⁰ Celsius).
We had supper at La Storia, right on the sea. Good seafood, generous portions, ice cold beer and wine makes for good conversation, all of this with the sea so close that you can touch the water with your feet.
The next morning we booked a trip with one of the day trippers to visit the blue caves and the ship wreck beach. About 30 of us boarded the powerful motor boat and visited the ship wreck first. As we rounded the point of the beautiful bay with high cliffs, the beach looked like an ant farm – it was packed, with yachts, day trippers and other floating craft, all spewing people onto the already packed beach. Our captain used the hooter to open a spot on the beach where we got off for about 30 minutes.
Swimming in the clear pale blue water is an amazing experience, even with all the other tourists around.
After about 30 minutes, our captain pushed the nose of the boat onto the beach, we all climbed up via the ladder and in no time we were speeding back towards the blue caves that we passed earlier.
The Blue Caves were definitely one of the highlights of the trip and should not be missed. The reflection of the blue water against the white roofs of the caves creates an eerie blue tinge on the white surface that has to be seen to really appreciate, and swimming inside the caves was a fantastic experience.
We arrived back at our mooring after about 30 minutes, to a lunch on Soulmate of chicken with sumac – a brand new taste for me. Ria excelled with this one!
An afternoon nap, more swimming and much more Mythos watching the sun set was followed by supper at La Grotta, organic lamb chops (5 per portion!) grilled on an open fire and washed down with ice cold Mythos and the customary sweet red watermelon as a complimentary dessert.
The next morning we left for Zakythos town – a large harbor town with lots of night life and a big marina. We had to have wifi access for the next few days, so we decided to stay an extra day. We spent the morning at Estro Café in the main shopping boulevard in town. This little gem serves snacks and pancakes, freshly squeezed juice and homemade ice cream, is air conditioned and has free wifi.
Supper was served on deck with the locals parading by, or just sitting on the benches watching the yachts or fishing for small mullet from the pier.
We stayed another night as I had to attend to some urgent matters.
The next morning after breakfast we sailed to Ormos Keri where the Caretta Caretta sea turtles nest. The area near the beaches where they nest is a no-go for boats, so we sail towards a little island on the Western side that looks strangely like a sea turtle. On the way we spot a number of turtles swimming towards the nesting beach, but they were on their way to ensure the next generation and did not hang around.
We anchored off the coast near the tip of Zakynthos, swimming in the sea and sitting on the deck watching the sun set.
The next morning, Friday 24 July, we set sail after breakfast up the Western coast of Zakythos. This is the most dramatic coastline that I have ever sailed. Ragged rocks near the shoreline and amazing white cliffs where slices of land had dropped into the ocean, form a continuously changing vista, with each bay more beautiful the previous one.
We stopped at Porto Vromos, a small harbor with its own blue cave, sans all the people.
After a most amazing swim, we continued our journey to Kefalonia. The sea was like a pond, no wind and the bluest colour I have ever seen.
The harbor of Luxori was our first choice in Kefalonia, but it is under construction and we decided to rather go to Argostoli. This is the capital of the Kefalonia and the harbor services a number of cruise ships, so it is very touristy.
We found a lovely mooring spot, not far from the market and the place where the fishermen sell their freshly caught fish – and a resident population of sea turtles.
For supper we went to Casa Grec, it being the number 1 restaurant on Trip Advisor. The food was sublime, the Chef’s special subtly flavored with Pernod and herbs, the portions generous and choice of wine worked well with both dishes. We finished the meal with ice cream, coffee and Metaxa aperitif (on the house).
After our normal breakfast, with the addition of water- and honey melon, we set sail for Poros where we stayed for a few days as Helene had a tummy ailment. The local shopkeeper assisted to obtain some much-needed Emodium that helped matters to return to normal.
Nothing seems too much trouble for these islanders – they go out of their way and far beyond what is expected to help. Next thing there was a young man on the quay asking to come on board – the local doctor, phoned by the shop keeper, doing a “yacht” visit on a Sunday afternoon! And he refused to accept money.
We left Poros for Agia Effimia early on Monday 27 July. It is a quaint little harbor town, with a few markets, a butcher, confectionery (that also makes their own ice cream), pharmacy, jeweler and a few restaurants. The marina offers water and power and the harbor master is a busy one – he personally directs every boat that enters to a mooring spot and proceeds to tell them exactly what they must do until safely moored to the quay.
There are also a number of beaches with crystal clear water within walking distance of the marina. Right opposite our mooring was Spiros Restaurant – strong free wifi that we could get on board, reasonable priced food and the cleanest bathroom in the Ionian. And ice cold Mythos.
The next morning, Thursday 30 July, we set sail for Kioni where we moored at the exact same spot that we did on the way out. This time the marina was much busier than the previous time.
The swimming area behind the harbor wall is excellent, although there are other swimming spots. We lunch at Three Mills, having a pizza and the excellent lamb shank – both were delicious.
We spent the rest of the day swimming, lounging around on deck and reading. Supper was served on Soulmate – fried beef steak and mushroom cream sauce served with couscous and a salad and Mythos.
The next day we sailed to Sivotha, a few bays further North. We moored at Yannis restaurant where we got water and power in exchange for having supper at the restaurant. There is a lovely swimming beach with a small fountain trickling into the bay, creating cold swathes in the warm sea.
Lunch was served on board - traditional Greek sausage bought at the butcher in Agia Effimia, salad and freshly baked bread from the local bakery - excellent!
After another lazy afternoon spent swimming, playing Sudoku and bridge was followed by supper at Yanni’s - grilled lamb chops, chips and salad with sweet red watermelon for dessert.
After breakfast we set sail back to Lefkada. On our way we went for a swim in Papanikolis Cave in bright blue water. It is a busy spot due to its proximity to Lefkada and is on the day tripper venue list, so it is best to stand off to the port side as to stay out of the day tripper gulets’ way.
We stand off that evening in Ormos Kapali, Meganisi. We put lines out to trees on shore and the anchor out to hold us. We spent the day swimming off the back of Soulmate in crystal clear water, feeding stale bread to the fishes and drinking Mythos. After a light lunch and supper on Soulmate we savor the quiet, with the nearest yacht a few hundred meters away.
The next morning after breakfast we sail to Ormos Abelike, overland about 2 kilometers from our home base Vathi. Later that evening the wind picked up, prompting us to move to a more secure mooring spot. The rest of the night was uneventful, Soulmate swinging in the wind on her anchor.
The next morning we left for Vathi and the end of our journey.
First we fill up her tanks with diesel and then to our permanent mooring spot, with water and power. We walk to a pub with wifi and sort out e-mails and messages whilst the crew starts preparing for the next guests.
That evening we had supper on Soulmate and after that we had to pack our bags.
The next morning, after saying our farewells to our crew and hosts over the last 22 days, we took the ferry to Nidri where we were met by our taxi to Athens airport and our trip home to Cape Town via Amsterdam.
It is the end of truly remarkable 22 days sailing the beautiful, tranquil waters of the Ionian Sea, enjoying the hospitality of our Greek hosts in the various ports that we visited, eating fantastic food and watching the world go by – slowly.
My overall impression of the Ionians and of the Greek people is of a life that most of us have either forgotten or never experienced. The fruit and vegetables are not grown for their shape or to all look the same, but rather their taste. Bread is freshly baked, the meat is from animals not fed in feedlots, but roaming freely amongst the olive trees on the mountain side. The villagers go about their daily lives in most cases oblivious to the gawking eyes of tourists.
We did not see any sign of the Greek crisis. Money was freely available and there was no shortage of any diesel, food or Mythos.
We would have gladly spent another 3 weeks sailing around the Ionians – it is by far the most beautiful of all the places we journeyed to on board the good yacht Soulmate.
Philip & Helene De Beer