Faraway Island Sailing Trip – October 2019
I’m a bit behind with the blogging this month due to a two-week sailing trip in the Ionian. Part of the trip included a few days in the Faraway Islands north of Corfu, Greece. I thought I’d document it here for others to read if they are considering it and also to remember the route before it gets filed in the dark recesses of my brain!
The boat was a 38 Beneteau Oceanis, a new boat, for our two week trip around Corfu with a crew of 5 including myself. As with most sailing trips around Corfu, we started from Gouvia Marina.
Our plan was to start heading up to the Faraway Islands first. Once provisioned we headed North with a lunch stop planned for Kouloura Bay. Our first swim in the crystal clear sea and temperatures were ideal. We then headed further north to spend the night in the beautiful harbour of Kassiopi. Tavernas line the circular harbour and dinner was at Tavanaki Taverna overlooking the boats. The highlight of the evening had to be the complementary frozen limoncello sorbet-esque drinks given to us by the taverna. Delicious. Distance travelled 13 Nautical miles. Moored stern-to with bow anchor.
The following morning we slipped the lines at 10:45 and made our way over the straits to Orthoni, the first of our Faraway Islands. We motor-sailed for 3.5 hours and lunch was taken on the hoof, Spanakopita (must post a recipe for this). We tried attracting the dolphins after reading they loved to listen to Radiohead’s Lotus Flower. Hanging the waterproof speaker over the side we waiting with anticipation but to no avail. We concluded the Greek dolphins may prefer Zorba’s Dance.
We arrived in Port Ammos a small harbour with a breakwater. Coming in can be tricky due to the reef on the Eastside. There was evidence on the hard of boats that had misjudged the location of the reef and come to a sticky end. We moored side onto the quay and then went off for a late afternoon swim in the adjacent bay. Distance travelled 25.5nm.
Orthoni is a small island that has a small summer population of between 300-1200 (it’s hard to ascertain the correct figure!). Most of the inhabitants leave during the winter to return to Corfu or mainland Greece. As you walk the short distance from the harbour to the town you come across a decommissioned torpedo tube and torpedo which are a memorial to Hellenic submariners. The submarine Porteus sank in waters north of the island during the second world war. The Proteus had attacked an Italian convoy and managed to sink a steamer carrying ammunition. In return, the Italian torpedo boat rammed the submarine and she sank all lives lost.
The following morning we headed out of Orthoni and sailed around the north of the island to anchor in Fiki Bay for lunch. A gentle sail with the winds being a bit flakey. Fiki Bay was a delightfully picturesque bay with tree-covered slopes running into the sea. We had been warned of rocks so we didn’t venture too far in anchoring further out so swimming to shore was not an option. Leaving Fiki Bay we then had to make for Ericousa before the forecast storm hit. Wind speeds were gusting 18kts and SOG was 5.5 to 6kts an exhilarating sail arriving into Ericousa just as the storm clouds started to gather. The swell had increased and we made it into the harbour before the rain hit, to moor up stern-to with two lazy lines. We were the last boat to come in and being bigger than the rest were going to take the brunt of the swell coming in so prudence dictated we were secure. A very bumpy night, a few other boats came loose and hit the wall but no damage and we held in place. Distance travelled 17.2nm
The harbour at Ericousa is a brand new concrete construction built with 7million euros of EU money. Built to encourage more visitors to the island it’s felt that they have missed the point somewhat. Ugly and utilitarian it doesn’t inspire visiting boats to stay. Maybe it’s the visiting ferry with their day-trippers that they want to encourage but I feel something a little more pleasing to the eye could have been built. We were holed up in Ericousa the next day waiting out the storm before making a dash back to Corfu and St Stephanos. Unfortunately due to the storm, we would have to miss a visit to Mathraki.
The Faraway Islands are billed as stunning, unspoiled like Greece used to be with fabulous crystal clear bays for snorkelling. I may have to disagree. Dare I say the Faraway Islands are spoiled. Gone are most of the traditional buildings you would expect, instead there are square concrete boxes. The harbours are improved to handle the new influx of visitors, but with this comes more concrete. Over-flowing rubbish skips, stray cats and unkempt public areas. It just feels rundown and as if locals have no pride in the islands. The water is crystal clear, I’ll give them that but it is devoid of any life. When snorkelling you are lucky if you see a few fish. Mostly you are spying weed and grey rocks with a few spiky sea urchins clinging on. I wouldn’t visit the Faraway Islands sailing again. I was glad I experienced them and do have great memories of the time spent there with friends, but with a whole world to discover I would much prefer to spend my time exploring areas where the culture is celebrated and there is a pride in the area.
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