Over the past eight days we’ve crisscrossed between Ithaca and Kefalonia. The two islands are located a very short distance apart and so sailing between them is very easy.
Our first stop was Frikes on Ithaca where we berthed on the town quay. We were one of the first boats in the harbour and assumed it would be relatively quiet, just like our last visit back in 2019. How wrong we were! The bar that was once owned by a Greek-Australian woman is now the office/bar of a charter boat company. Not long after we arrived their boats started motoring into the port and by late afternoon there were over twenty charter yachts in the small harbour, many rafted up to one another and taking up every space on the quay or jetty that they could find. There were also a few private boats like ours. We wandered around to a taverna to get some lunch and watch them jostle for space, which has fast become quite an entertaining pastime everywhere we go.
Later in the evening we climbed to the top of the hill overlooking the town to check out an old round stone building and were rewarded with some amazing views across the town and bay. That night the people from the charter boats partied with dance music blaring across the bay until just after 3am. Thankfully this is very rare here in the Ionian islands.
The next day we motored around to Kioni in the next bay, a town we’d missed last time we were sailing around Ithaca. After tying up to the quay we went for a walk around the town with plans to swim off the small pebbly beach later in the day. Unfortunately this wasn’t possible as we saw purple jellyfish in the bay. Although harmless, they give a very nasty sting. Later I noticed people walking past our boat towards the end of the quay with towels and so followed them to discover a ladder into the sea and no jelly fish. I went for a quick swim with a close eye on the water. I was very glad I did as the next morning they’d also moved into this section.
Kioni is a very popular town for yachts and the quay filled quickly. I like to check out the different flags on the boats to see where they’re from. In the past there have been many Brits and Aussies but this year the ports have been dominated by French, German and Dutch boats, although we have started to see more British boats around Kefalonia and Ithaca.
Everywhere we’ve been so far there are cats. They roam the streets and hang about the outdoor tables of the tavernas hoping for scraps. They lie on chairs in shops, they walk along the beach, they play in boats … they’re everywhere. In Kioni there were more than anywhere else we’d been but they appeared to be very well kept. A local woman told us they were looked after by the townsfolk who use donations to ensure the cats are fed and neutered. We later spotted a donation tin and a large container of cat food outside a shop near our boat.
We enjoyed Kioni so much we stayed for two nights. There were many nice walks around the town and we also spent time watching the different boats coming and going from the harbour. Sitting across the bay from our boat was a massive luxury cruiser with its own helicopter. We’ve seen many large boats on our travels but this was definitely a first.
Shortly after leaving Kioni we stopped in a small bay to have a quick swim. We’d checked for jellyfish before jumping in and thought we’d outsmarted them. Unfortunately one of our crew was stung while getting out of the water. It took a few hours for the pain to subside and he still has a large burn-like mark on his back, almost a week later.
Fiskardo is the northern most port on nearby Kefalonia and was our next stop. It is on a busy harbour full of charter and private yachts as well as huge luxury cruisers and ferries. Backing up to the town quay can be a little difficult as you need to negotiate your way through the many boats while trying not to cross anchors. It is worth the effort though as it is a vibrant and interesting village full of tavernas and shops, a few nice beaches and some interesting walks. It is also one of the few villages on Kefalonia that escaped destruction in the 1953 Ionian earthquake and so has kept most of its beautiful Venetian architecture.
While berthed in Corfu we were alongside another Australian boat and met them again in Fiskardo. They stopped by our boat to say hello and invite us over for a G&T later in the evening which we happily accepted. It was nice to chat with some other Aussies and share stories of our sailing adventures past and present.
After getting advice that the local swimming beach was jellyfish-free I walked around for an early swim before we headed off the next morning. Other members of our crew took a walk up to an old lighthouse high above the town.
While coming into the port had been relatively uneventful for us, leaving was a different story. As we were preparing to depart a boat quickly pulled in next to us rather than waiting for us to leave. Unfortunately they laid their anchor over ours so that when we tried to lift it the two were locked together. It took two of our crew a lot of effort to get us untangled, while the people from the other boat looked on very sheepishly.
Another favourite bay from our last trip was Asos, just around from Fiskardo on the west coast of Kefalonia. Unfortunately, there were big swells and we were unable to anchor, so after enduring a rough sail there, we had to turn around and go back to the smoother waters of the east coast. I don’t get seasick very often but the lumpy waves from that sail put my stomach to the test.
Polis is located across the water from Fiskardo so we sailed back to Ithaca and for the first time this trip dropped anchor and secured the back of our boat to a tree. This is a very popular way of tying up boats here in Greece and requires one of the crew to swim or take a dinghy to shore with a rope that is attached to the back of the boat and tie it to a rock or tree. Rather than the boat naturally swaying with the wind and tides, it stays still. It also means that you have a nice semi-private space between the shore and your boat to swim and paddle. I must admit I’m happier swaying on anchor but it was nice to tie up this way at least once on our trip. After checking for jellyfish we enjoyed an afternoon of swimming, paddling and lying around on the boat watching other yachts coming and going. We were also entertained by the wild goats running around the rocks near the shore. The next morning as we got ready to leave we spotted some purple jellyfish at the back of our boat. They’re clearly becoming a problem for us.
The need to wash towels and sheets determined our next stop. Nearby Effimia on Kefalonia, while at first glance not a very attractive port, had a laundromat and a few large supermarkets. Once our washing was done and the fridge and cupboards restocked, we took a long walk in the evening around the point and enjoyed some beautiful views across the water and dinner at a small taverna. On the way back to our boat we watched the near-full moon rising across the water while local children played on the beach. Later we went for a drink at a nearby bar and chatted with a young Australian couple over here for a family wedding.
Effimia sits at the top of a large bay on the east coast of Kefalonia and at the bottom of the bay is Sami. As we hadn’t visited Sami on our last trip we decided to take the short journey to check it out. It was a large and lively town with a well-protected port so we decided to back up to the town quay. Soon after a huge yacht came into the small port and also backed up to the quay. It was 39m long (ours is 15m) and dominated the small port. Seeing a boat this size back up to a town quay is very unusual – they normally anchor out on the water and use their tender to come to shore. There’s never a dull moment when berthing at a town quay in the Ionians. After a wander around the town we ventured down to the nearby beach for a swim before heading out for dinner.
The next morning two of our crew walked up the very steep hill behind the town to see the ancient ruins of the St Fanestes Monastery and its stunning frescoes, which are currently being preserved. There was also a small, more contemporary church nearby. It took them almost an hour to walk up to the site but it was well worth the effort as can be seen in the photos below.
We were all ready for an anchorage where we could swim off the back of the boat and had been told about Antisamos, a small bay just around the point from Sami. Our intention was to spend a few hours there before finding somewhere else for the night as we’d been told it was a party beach. But after finding a good place to anchor we decided to stay the night. While we had to put up with a few noisy jetskiers hooning around the bay, it was otherwise peaceful and jellyfish free. Again, we swam and paddled around the bay, watching the boats come and go. We even saw a large turtle swim by our boat and spotted a few goats climbing down from the hills to the water’s edge. They appeared to be drinking the sea water just like we’d seen on Polis, which confounded us all. A check of Google has since confirmed that goats from arid islands will indeed drink seawater if no freshwater is available. In fact, a certain amount per day will slow their rate of dehydration.
The next day we journeyed back across to Ithaca and discovered a tiny island off the south east coast called Ligia. It had a small stone jetty and was surrounded by clear, turquoise, jellyfish-free water. It was so perfect we decided to spend the night. We tied up to the side of the jetty and went for a swim. Later a Swiss boat arrived and berthed on the other side. Soon after, two Italian boats tied up together nearby on the pier. In the evening the Italians made a fire and cooked some meat. It smelt so good! They had two young boys who swam and played on the jetty with a cat that had appeared out of the scrub. We could see luxury cruisers and charter boats filling the bay further down the channel, but we much preferred our small piece of paradise alongside our European neighbours. The next morning we woke to the bleat of baby goats, and went for one last swim and paddle before reluctantly lifting anchor to head north.
We are now on our way back to the island of Meganisi for the final leg of our journey.