It felt familiar when we steered out of the narrow strait of the gulf and arrived at Lefkas a few minutes before the bridge opened. We sailed on on the canal and out into the widening.
We were surrounded by mountains.
Ahead by the mountains of Meganisi, Itaka and Kalamos. To the starboard by the mountain range at Lefkas. To port and aft by the mountains on the mainland.
The high pressure was stable. During the afternoon there would be a sea breeze, which at night would change to a weak land breeze.
It was hot. Luckily, we had let the cockpit tent undergo a metamorphosis.
Now it had become a bimini and protected us well from the burning sun.
This year's trip was different.
Firstly. We had an agreement to winter in the same place as last winter. i.e. No pressure to find a new one.
Secondly. We had absolutely no destinations to reach. i.e. Plenty of time to stay in places we liked.
"We are stuck in Ambelakia" was the answer in an SMS from the couple we had met in Cleopatra Marina.
We also got stuck.
Babis, the self-proclaimed harbor master of Spillia, nodded recognizantly and had a hint of kindness in his voice as he commanded us into a vacant berth.
The English couple's boat was at the same spot as last year. They had been there since the spring. But now they had to go home. Brexit had come into force and British citizens are now allowed to spend a maximum of 90 days in an EU country within a period of 180 days.
«We've been here for 89 days» they said «We're sailing up to Preveza tomorrow. Right into the lift at the yard and hauled out right away. Then we will fly home in the afternoon »
In Sivota, the construction of 5 terraced houses on the mountain wall overlooking the bay had been completed.
«It's expensive to build a house here»explained an Englishman next to us «It takes a lot of steel to protect against earthquakes. Now it is only dangerous if pieces of rock break loose during an earthquake and roll down over the house »
In Ambelakia we learned to anchor with mooring lines ashore.
«Then you face the bow against the swells when they roll into the bay at sunset» explained the Dane, who last year had taught us to lay an anchor.
The days just went by.
When we needed change we just sailed to another bay or island. One to two hours of sailing and more if we insisted on sailing for sail.
In the Mediterranean, an interpretation of weather forecasts is an important part of everyday life.
Weather forecasts can be downloaded from an abundance of web applications and apps. Well in fact there are so many that we have decided to use only one - Windy. We now know it quite well.
Windy is available in a web and mobile version
It provides four weather forecasts based on data from four meteorological institutes. When the four different forecast say the same , it is our experience that the predictions are quite accurate. If they deviate, we plan for the worse of the four.
One morning one of the four weather forecasts predicted that a strong low pressure with thunder and gusts of hurricane force was building op a little east of Sicily.
The low pressure would move east and reach the Ionian Islands, where we were.
It reminded of last year, when the same weather mode, at almost the same time forecasted Hurricane Ianos.
We hurried to book a berth in Preveza Marina.
For a while, the other three models said light wind.
But then they changed their forecast. One by one they predicted the same. No doubt. The low pressure east of Sicily would reach gusts of hurricane force and hit the Ionian Islands.
The low pressure and wind came almost at the predicted time. But all four models failed on one essential point.
The gusts did not reach hurricane strength.
“A low pressure rarely turns into a hurricane when it starts moving so fast,” explained one who had followed the predictions on Windy with skepticism.
When the low pressure had passed we left Preveza. For the second time. Again we sailed south towards Lefkas. This time we called at the town of Lefkas, which is a few hundred meters south of the swing bridge.
The city has 9.000 inhabitants. It seems like there are many more. Maybe it is due to the many tourists and that the city is the administrative headquarters of the municipality.
The old town is adjacent to the harbor. The architecture with the narrow alleys and picturesque houses is Venetian. But the city is cheating. Most of the buildings were erected after the earthquake that struck the Ionian Islands in 1953.
The main street is a pedestrian street. Here is a lively business life, cafes, and a square with a good family-run tavern, a few shops and a fashionable cafe.
The marina is an important part of the city. Almost like a a town in the town with lots of cafes and taverns along the long city quay. Here is also a private marina with all facilities.
There are many charter boats in the Ionian Sea. Also in Lefkas
Friday to Sunday are changeover days.
Relaxed people with faces saturated with experiences leave the boats. They are replaced by diligent cleaners in T-shirts with company logos. Some are visited by a mechanic or sailmaker who has to repair something that has broken.
Later a new crew onboards. While they are unpacking, an instructor comes on board. He looks at some papers. Then he reviews the boat with the new crew and benevolently answers questions. Once he is gone, provisions are taken on board.
The new crew spends some time getting used to being on board. Then the mooringlines are thrown.
Unfamiliar with the boat and its movements the skipper steers out of the marina. The maneuver is closely followed by the crew. The atmosphere on board seems a bit nervous, but probably more tense and expectant.
Monday, the marina will be taken over by contractors and cruisers.
Some have been away on a long weekend trip. Now they return to their permanent place and the everyday rhythm of the marina.
«We had a house. We sold it. We were always on the boat anyway» tells an English couple «now we live on the boat here in the marina but we take off when the charter boats arrive»
Others get ready for a longer trip. Like now, for example, the two Danish Bavaria 49ers. Each with a crew of 14 young people. Very young. The two skippers are not very old either. But they both have a ring in their ear and soon they are to circumnavigate.
…For the second time