Corfu

Posted Sept. 18, 2012 at 10:57

Even though we planned on a stop in Otranto on the way from Lastovo to Corfu, a few hours after we departed, we changed plan to head straight down the middle of the Adriatic, staying to the east of the shipping lanes, with a rest stop at a small Greek island, Erikoussa instead of Otranto.

There was still some swell from the NW coming down the Adriatic, with diminishing winds after a front, so we were forced to motor-sail in order to make the 220nm (400km) distance in 36 hours or so...  From Erikoussa, we sailed to Gouvia marina on Corfu which was supposed to be official check-in point for non-EU boats according to our British guide by Rod Heikell...

Unfortunately, our guide was a bit out of date, so after loosing two hours at the immense Gouvia marina complex in vain searching for the border officials (the marina crew and girls were utterly unhelpful - didn't know anything about Greece other than their own marina - probably hoping that we'd loose more time and decide to stay for the night at the (exorbitant for Greece) rate of 47euros/night), we left our berth and headed straight for the commercial port of Corfu where the cruise ships dock...

Leaving Dazzle moored to the rustiest looking bollards on the harbour walls, between two ferry docks (in hope that we would not be in the way of any ships coming in), I chased the port police, customs and border police around the 1km wide new-port complex to complete formalities.  It all went well, courteously, with a bit of traditional waiting in front of offices while coffee and important idle conversation was being carried on inside...

Not wanting to go back to unhelpful and expensive Gouvia, we checked out the small harbour just below the northern walls of the old Corfu fort...  It is the home the Corfu Sailing Club and a stop for small charter flottillas.  It was the perfect location, right 'downtown' Corfu (after wading through the ancient steps and walkways of the fort) from which to explore, it cost much less than Gouvia and there was room to finagle since a cyclone with rain and strong winds kept us there for 6 days...

We got a waving welcome to the old fort Corfu Sailing Club Marina from the hydrofoil captain going to Corfu...

View of the Fort from the marina with the School of Music above...

The way out from the marina...

...from Onatop... (Dazzle center, top)
Unfortunately, the first night of thunderstorms and strong ESE winds brought a strong swell that bounced back off the fort walls into the small harbour, making boats go up and down more than half a meter...  Didn't sleep all night, had to adjust fenders every hour or so, had a dozen of 'hard encounters' between our hull/toerail and the neighbouring boats on both sides with terrible screeching which miraculously ended up as minor damage only...  Our anemometer showed a max of 88kn in the morning, which is suspect, but possible, given the vortexes the tall fort walls created while 'protecting' the harbour from the 50+kn SE-ly gusts... During the following days, the wind had turned a bit more southerly, the swell from the E subsided, and we could sleep better at night...  We had more rain in those five days than we could remember, and it's definitely our worst marina experience so far...   We were told that such an event is relatively rare (once a year or so) in Corfu...  oh well, we were there for it.

(360 deg panorama, starting from E, from the top of the old Corfu Fort...)

On the nice side, high above the harbour, inside the walls is the building of the local conservatory of music... Every morning at 8am we would listen to beautiful piano practice, followed later by equally beautiful tenor and baritone opera singers, later a bit of oboa-jazz and so on... It added a romantic touch to the already romantic old fort vista.

Bad weather notwithstanding, we were able to leave the boat every day and do some sightseeing...  After wandering the town of Corfu, we took local buses in all directions (north, south, west) over three days so we got a pretty good overall impression of the island.  We located basic provisions, most importantly good crusty bread and - sheep's milk yogurt! It's available in most supermarkets year round apparently, but in a small dairy shop near the market they have it brought in fresh from the mainland mountains... amazing, if you like the stuff, like I do.  We also found a taverna that Dora liked a lot, a bit off the beaten track in the old town, so we went back there again the next night...

Dora's favourite... (find it!...)

The symmetrical dog-pair, guarding their territory... while ostensibly sleeping (yeah, right...)
The timing of two of the three bus trips coincided with high-school kids also travelling back to their 'villages', so the buses were full and noisy... We felt like on a school trip and were amazed to observe the interaction between the conductor/ticket handlers (TH) and the young girls and boys.  On the first trip (to Lefkimmi on the south, then onto Cavos and back), the TH (a Jack Nicholson lookalike) knew most of the older school-girls and was freely touching and hugging them in ways that would result in hundreds of sexual harassment cases in North America over a period of one hour...  yet they seemed to take it giggling without any visible embarrassment, like it's usual business, there was not a bit of tenseness to notice...   Someone forgot a sweater, the TH noticed, and got on the phone to let her know...  He received a phone call from someone asking to talk to an older gentlemen on board, and he promptly passed his phone over...  He then notices a girl that fell asleep, so he sits next to her, hugs and gently kisses her on the cheek to wake her not to miss her stop...

The oldest tree in Lefkimmi... don't ask...

The 'promenade' along the river (creek, really)
On the second bus trip (to Agios Stefanos in the northwest), with a younger school-crowd, there's a younger TH as well, and he has his hands full controlling the youngsters being only a couple years their senior...  Again, a lot of man-handling boys and girls with giggling and shouting and generally elated spirits...  A tourist (girl) bought the wrong ticket, so the TH takes it without a blink, re-sells it to another traveler for whom it's correct, and issues a new ticket to the girl.   How's all the above for customer service?
Our third bus trip was much quieter, mostly tourists, to a beautiful village, Palaiokastritsa on the west coast...  Fantastic coastline with cliffs and turquoise bays, not a lot of protection from the sea, with the exception of one small harbour, so this was a perfect way to see the place.

Sharing a beach-beer with our mysterious co-traveller...

Once weather had settled, we checked out from port police in Corfu (in Greece, non-EU boats are supposed to stamp their transit log papers in every port they go into) and proceeded up north along the eastern coast to a nice little anchorage with tavernas filling the space along the small beach...  The "White House" of Lawrence Durrell was also among the tavernas, but we didn't pick it and ended up at the most visited taverna right in the middle... and everyone spoke British-English.  Here and there you might have made out German or other Nordic languages.

The next day we sailed south for Syvota on the mainland, on the way towards Paxoi...
- Z -
(These blogs were added with a bit of delay, but are correctly back-dated...)