In July I joined a group of professional sailors in Corfu for some skill honing time and some kosher sailing. It was a great bunch of people led by Barak who is from the Matzpen team and keeps a recently purchased catamaran moored in Corfu. Since COVID-19 has limited the opportunities to work with at-risk youth in Israel, for the remainder of the 2021 season, he sailed with professional sailors who needed to complete official ‘sea time’ requirements of the Israeli Transport Ministry.
The Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41 had 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and although a little older and not quite as luxurious as the catamarans we sail, it was perfect for the task at hand. In fact the Fountaine Pajot catamarans are known for their improved sailing capabilities compared to other catamarans which are built firstly as floating apartments!
We covered 98 nautical miles (181.5 km) over 6 days including crossing an international border between Greece and Albania (and back). We were 1 couple and 4 singles and out of the 6 of us, 5 were qualified skippers. July/August are peak season in Greece but despite crowded anchorages, we always managed to find space and privacy.
Day 1: Corfu to Syvota
After spending the morning shopping, we arrived midday at the boat and met the rest of the crew to plan the route and familiarize ourselves with the boat. The boat was moored at Corfu Town Yacht Harbour on the East of the island and unfortunately the way to the boat was blocked to vehicles by a huge group of kids hauling their boats out of the water after a lesson so we had to carry everything around the quay.
Finally setting off early afternoon, we headed South East towards the Blue Lagoon and Syvota and had a fantastic couple of hours in perfect wind with the sails up. A great start to the week.
The Blue Lagoon is a secluded cove of amazing blue/green crystal clear water on a deserted island just off the mainland of Greece. It’s very popular in summer and gets quite crowded but we were able to stop, swim and explore for a good few hours before heading off to Syvota which was only another 30 mins short motoring East to the mainland.
Syvota was packed the previous night but we managed to find a space to tie up at the end of a quay under one of the navigational lights which afforded us the most spectacular sunset photo op!
Day 2: Syvota to Lakka
A very pleasant, quaint and quiet town, we spent the night and woke up refreshed for our next hop to Lakka on the island of Paxos, south of Corfu island. Lakka is one of the top sailing destinations in the area since it is almost totally sheltered from prevailing winds and offers a large area of perfect anchorage. In summer it gets particularly busy and we had to navigate in between boats to find a place to tie up by the shore. We spent a very relaxing afternoon swimming, paddle boarding, eating and drinking.
Day 3: Lakka to Blue Caves to Corfu
Leaving Lakka in the morning, we headed round to the Western more exposed side of Paxos where we visited the Blue Caves, another extremely popular tourist destination for both sailors and day trippers from Corfu or the mainland.
We swam, explored and relaxed in and near the caves and then unbelievably, a freak event occurred and when we came to pull up the anchor, the chain came up but the anchor stayed on the sea floor. We were in around 10m of crystal clear water which meant that when we looked over the side, it seemed like we could reach out and touch the anchor, but in reality, 10m is too far to easily dive down without breathing apparatus. After lots of head scratching and group attempts at problem solving, a 12 year old Greek kid from the nearby tour boat managed to rescue the anchor by carefully and slowly hooking a rope around it.
We spent a long time trying to solve this problem and by the time we had retrieved the anchor, it was a race to get back to Corfu before shabbat.
Day 4: Shabbat in Corfu
Friday afternoon cooking, then Shabbat day relaxing and exploring Corfu town. We were moored at the sailing club marina right inside the old fort on the town peninsula… a spectacular setting but on a very hot summer’s day, it was a very hot walk to the top of the fort to the view point and an even longer walk through the fort to get to the town. We then enjoyed a post-Shabbat group effort to fix the anchor and remount it on its chain!
Day 5: Corfu to Saranda (Albania)
Having been in one place since Friday afternoon, we tried to make an early start on Sunday morning but couldn’t set off until we had completed customs and passport control at the port ready for leaving Greece and going across the channel to Albania. When we finally set off, we motored up to Gouvia marina which is north of Corfu town and the main charter and sailing base for Corfu with more than 1300 berths. We stopped there to take a look around, pick up some provisions and have a coffee.
Finally leaving Greek waters, we crossed into Albanian waters, stopping on the way at Ksamil Islands which is offshore of an Albanian resort town. We were chased off by the police at first because we strayed into swimming waters but then dropped the anchor in an authorized location and spent a pleasant hour swimming, snorkeling and relaxing before heading North for Sarandë, Albania where we’d be tying up for the night. The sunset sail we experience in the waning hours of the day was one of the most spectacular I have experienced… calm seas, gorgeous glowing orange sun and a glass of pretty decent malt whisky to while away the time.
Day 6: Albania to Corfu
On the last day, we went through passport control at the ferry terminal in Albania, boarded a ferry and traveled the short distance back to Corfu for the flight home. It was a great few days, sharpening skills, having fun and making new friends.
We look forward to coming back soon and have you join us!