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South Ionian Sailing Journal by Louise, Nautilus Yachting

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

This year, it was time to return to where we first fell in love with sailing, the beautiful South Ionian where our passion for charter holidays started!

To take advantage of cheaper and quieter mid-week flights, we decided to head out to Greece a couple of days ahead of our charter to explore the wonderful beaches on the northwest coast of Lefkas. Car hire at Preveza Airport was easy and the driving is straightforward so don’t be put off! Three nights at Villa Elia - a really friendly apartment-based property. Extending our stay and having time to settle into holiday mode before setting sail was a welcome change.

Kathisma is one of the most stunning beaches on Lefkas, there are many bars and restaurants nearby with facilities and good parking. If you get tired of sunbathing with cold beers delivered to your umbrella while looking out at the turquoise waters, you can look up and watch the paragliders swooping down from the cliffs above.

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 1 - D-Marin to Sivota, Lefkas (16nm)

On embarkation day, having the car meant we were able to provision well in the huge supermarket close to D-Marin. We unloaded our goodies onto our Sun Odyssey 440 for the week. A quick car drop-off combined with paid early embarkation meant we could get away ahead of the rest marina!

After a refreshing swim stop, at the first of many delightful spots in this area, our first night we spent moored in the colourful fishing village of Sivota. On the southern end of Lefkas island this bustling seaside town has a good choice of bars and restaurants with something to suit every budget. A delicious selection of tasty Greek treats to start followed by fish and a lovely evening getting to know our skipper.

Sivota has long been a port of call on our South Ionian flotilla and it is not hard to see why it is so popular with Nautilus clients, a charming place for a stroll after breakfast.

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 2 - Sivota to Assos, Kefalonia (18nm)

Today, our Skipper Alun; a very experienced professional supplied by Kiriacoulis, announced that today we would be heading away from the hoi polloi to somewhere special - we were definitely up for that!

Around midday we anchored for a swim and a delicious lunch of Greek goodies at the divine Porto Katsiki (Goat Port). At the very tail end of Lekfas, it is said to be so named as it could only be reached by goats and sailors.

With perfect afternoon winds we sailed into Assos in the northwest of Kefalonia. What a sight to behold, a picture-perfect bay of crystal-clear water and the stunning village comprising of Venetian villas in an array of pastel colours. More swimming, and it would be rude not to have cocktail and watch the sun go down before heading off to dinner on the quayside.

There are only 10 moorings available in the bay so we were lucky to find space courtesy of our skipper’s local knowledge. We enjoyed Assos town very much, but it was a rocky night with masts knocking together in the early hours. Luckily Alun was able to take control and help instruct our neighbours on what to do. The west coast of Kefalonia is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 3 - Assos to Fiskardo / Foki Bay, Kefalonia (10nm)

There is an hiking track rising above Assos town leading to the Venetian Castle affording the most beautiful views across the bay. It is a challenging walk but definitely worth the effort.

Today we enjoyed revisiting one of the star attractions from our flotilla days. Fiskardo is a gem of a town packed full of sparkling stores to tempt the shoppers amongst you. Treat yourself to a special provisioning stop with delicious breads and pastries from the excellent bakeries.

Alun suggested heading to a quieter anchorage round the corner at Foki Bay, a short hop but a perfect recommendation. We found a shady cool spot to moor up amongst the olive trees with lovely relaxing afternoon swimming and a trip to the sole taverna for a sundowner.

We cooked onboard this evening with a few fully-crewed catamarans as neighbours. We recognised a few Nautilus clients enjoying their multiple courses created by private chefs, and the absolute luxury of dining under the stars in this peaceful bay.

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 4 - Foki Bay to “Big” Vathi, Ithaka (16nm)

The next morning, we head to Afales beach under the chalky white cliffs and the very best snorkeling. Great sailing and good winds, but not without drama - mobile phone overboard! Note to self - buy a buoyant accessory for mobile next year!

We are in need of some housekeeping by this point; to refill our water tanks and stock up on provisioning so we chose to spend this evening in Vathi. The largest town on Ithaka island, often referred to as “Big Vathi” to avoid being confused with “Little Vathi” located on Meganisi island. This is the only place we paid mooring fees during the week, only €6 for a prime spot on the quayside.

As the principal town of Ithaka is a ‘working’ town and is a touch commercial. There are a lot of restaurants around the harbour but going just a couple of streets back from the waterfront and we found a little gem which had a nice vibe and an abundance of food.

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 5 - Big Vathi to Kalamos (19nm)

Time is starting to fly by now but there still time to drop anchor for a lunch stop at one of the South Ionian’s most desirable spots – Atokos island with its single residence where you have the chance to swim ashore and ring the bell in the deserted chapel!

Another swim stop at Kastos island before heading to Kalamos town. A meal at George's Taverna a real Mamma Mia! Experience, from the warm welcome and assistance in mooring to the traditional fayre at his restaurant. Check patterned tablecloths adorn busy tables right on the water’s edge with excellent food and buzzing service whilst watching the glorious sunset.

Our lovely Ionian flotilla was in town tonight and it was good to catch up with such a happy, fulfilled, bunch of sailors swapping their stories over sundowners. Good times!

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 6 - Kalamos to Porto Atheni, Meganisi (11nm)

Today there are good sailing winds so everyone is getting a chance to take the helm.

We take a stop at Port Atheni and enjoy a chance encounter with the legend that is Bobby ‘Dazzler’ our first ever skipper. A good friend to Nautilus and Odysseus Yachting having accompanied many of our happy clients. There are lots of laughs catching up and not merely a few beers at Taverna Niagas.

Many private yacht owners moored here appreciate its simplicity, small shop, excellent bakery, and a couple of good tavernas. We really enjoyed the contrast of this unspoilt, unpretentious little village.

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 7 - Varko Bay (5nm) to D-Marin Lefkas (9nm

Today there are good sailing winds so everyone is getting a chance to take the helm.

Our last day! We head to the bay of Varko, a fabulous open anchorage with a stunning beach and surrounded by lavender fields full of goats. A new beach club has popped up since our last visit but with great chillout music playing it feels very chic and unique! There are also lots of larger yachts and catamarans with European families enjoying play time in the warm clear waters, but in a flash it is time to head back to Lefkas!

What a joy it has been to be back here in the South Ionian sea and making more memories. About as close to the perfect Greek Island hopping adventure as you can get. We are all still smitten with this corner of the world!