Route planning and Ithaca

Vasiliki turned out to be a more entertaining place than expected. After our dispute with the “ferry boat driver”, we decided to spent the weekend on top. I like the special atmosphere in the small villages in the early morning. Old Greeks sit in the cafés and the first terraces are being prepared for the day. In Vasiliki or Grand Bourg – somehow it’s the same relaxed morning charm everywhere.

My reports about the calm wind have become outdated in the last few days. It got stronger and stronger in the afternoon and much windier in the evening. The 30 kn wind in the afternoon delighted the unbelievably large crowd of surfers and related species. We had long since stowed our SUPs away out of the wind. The more wind, the more skilled got on their boards and shot splendidly through the bay. Very impressive. A surf instructor told us that 35-40 knots are quite common – that’s why Vasiliki is a hotspot for windsurfers.

Challenging surf conditions in Vasiliki

At anchor it did get annoying at some point and as a signal to leave, the wind swept a large cushion off our foredeck when we were in the village. A nice Norwegian cat came by just in time, the crew picked it up and handed it over to us later. We were lucky because the thing was custom-made and certainly couldn’t be replaced easily.

These katabatic winds finally got on our nerves when we still had so much wind on Sunday evening at 10.00 pm that the Switzerland-Germany football game looked even bumpier on our windswept screen than it probably was. With the swell, we would hardly have got to a bar on land dry and our vocabulary was nowhere near good enough for a Greek commentary.

How do we plan our route?

Before lifting anchor, it’s helpful to have a next destination. We still had one place in Lefkada on our wish list, Katsiki Beach on the west coast. But the weather wasn’t right for that. So we did what sailors are particularly good at: we changed the plan.

South of us were the islands of Ithaca and Kefalonia. So Ithaca. East coast or west coast? Anchor bay or small village? There were easily 30 possible destinations within a day’s reach, which was 29 too many.

As always, we consulted our digital helpers: “Windy” and “PredictWind” for the weather, “Navily” for the moorings and “Navionics” for the navigation. These are all apps that work on tablets and mobile phones.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast in the Ionian Sea is more of a serving suggestion than a reliable one. In Vasiliki, no model predicted more than 20 knots, but it turned out to be 30. Due to local effects and katabatic winds, you can’t rely on that. We see the weather forecast more as a trend. This allows us to include some destinations and exclude others. We also pay attention to the following days in the weather forecast so that we are not blown in somewhere and have room to manoeuvre. The following weather often determines the number of days we spend in one place. The wind actually determines our entire planning.

Navily anchorages and the weather for the locations. Red = not that nice 🙂 

After the wind adjustment, 8 destinations remained on the shortlist. We talk a lot with other sailors about their recommendations. Especially with sailing buddies whose preferences we know. Then we have to decide whether we want to be alone or socialise.

Useless cruising guides and useful helpers

Cruising guides were very helpful in the Caribbean, especially the classics by “Doyle”. The literature we have found for Greece so far is complete rubbish. For example, we bought “Greece 1” by Gerd Radspieler for €46. What a waste of money and trees. Embarrassing for the Delius Klasing publishing house.

But there is “Navily”. This app lists anchorages and harbours, with information and feedback from sailors, including pictures. For €20 a year, you can get a forecast of what the anchorage might be like in the prevailing conditions. Some harbours can also be booked directly at no extra cost. A very helpful thing, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Depending on the weather, navigation and mood, the shortlist is then actually short – there are still 3 possibilities. And then it’s the turn of the nautical charts. Like almost all sailors, we use Navionics (with the exception of the Bahamas). The nautical charts can be constantly updated online, so you are relatively sure to be well supplied with charts.

After this usual procedure, our next destination was set: Ithaki – Vathy, the “capital” of Ithaca, only 18 nm away.

Ithaca – home of the first superhero.

The two islands are about 10 nm apart, on a north-south axis. This provides a favourable westerly wind for sailing – which usually prevails. Everything is within sight, as all the islands and the mainland have decent mountains and are covered in greenery. We looked into a few nice anchor bays and two smaller villages along the way, but Vathy Ithaki remained the destination.

Odysseus, probably the first superhero when there were no superheroes, is said to have lived in Ithaka. At least that’s what Homer says. Of course, it is highly doubtful that Odysseus actually existed. But the stories of Cyclops, sirens, gods and people turned into pigs were very entertaining.

Of course, the fact that there is not the slightest evidence of Odysseus’ existence does not bother the Ithacans. There are even two places on the island that are disputed to have been Odysseus’ and Penelope’s residence. Particularly entertaining is the serious disagreement between archaeologists about whether Ithaca was Homer’s Ithaca or rather Lefkada or Kefalonia. Isn’t that like criminologists arguing about whether Peter Parker caught criminals on 5th or 7th Ave?

However, Homer’s Iliad really did exist, written around the 6th century B.C. and one of the most important epics of Western civilisation. 24 volumes with 15,693 verses (dactylic hexameters 🙂 ). As a child, I devoured the legends of Odysseus, Achilles, Hector and the other heroes. Thankfully, however, they were converted into prose.

Little alleyway in Vathy, Ka creating delicacies, taverna (delicious rabbit and lamb), Sea cloud – we met her many times in the Caribbean, skyline of Vathy

Ithaca and Vathy Ithaki

Ithaca is an island inhabited by 3,000 people, 95 square kilometres in size. There is plenty of uninhabited land and only 27 inhabitants per square kilometre. For comparison: Paxos has 93 and Berlin 4,240. It is completely laidback – like all places in the Ionian Sea so far. Vathy is a bit like St Tropez – only smaller and without the chic. There are only a handful of hotels on Ithaca, nothing special, but very cool and relaxed.

Vathy is a spot for small and big vessels, photo below: in the background huge amount of charter boats

We anchored the Rivercafe in the bay of Vathy. Initially with plenty of space and there was also plenty of room on the town quay. That changed in the afternoon within minutes when the charter fleets arrived and put on the usual show. It never gets boring. Finally the bay was jam-packed, hardly a molecule of water without contact with anchor chains and not a metre of stone quay remained unoccupied. At 9.00 a.m. the spooky was over for a few hours – until the afternoon.

Vathy will probably be the last urbanisation we visit in the near future. The next parts of our trip will be nature and bays. / Holger Binz

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