In the middle of paradise

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Gouvia Marina is big. In fact, it is the biggest marina in Greece. It is well protected in a bay just north of Corfu Town. In Greek, the city is called Kerkyra, which is spelled Κέρκυρα in the strange Greek letters. Two buoys mark the beginning of the long and wide entry. On the green it is written "max 4 knots" in white paint and beneath "VHF 69".

When we passed the buoys, we slowed down and called the port office.

After the second call, the office acknowledged "Welcome to Gouvia Marina. Standby. We will come out and take you to a vacanct berth »

A little later Heron was moored at the pontoon for guest sailors. We went ashore after a XNUMX hours journey that brought us across the Ionian Sea to Corfu, Greece.

Proof of taxes and duties
Three ladies sat in the reception in the port office.

«Is this your first visit to Greece? » One asked a little brusquely when we had shown Heron's documents.

We nodded and she continued «You may buy a DEPKA certificate here. You may pay the TEPAI tax at the post office. You just walk up to the big road and take bus number 7. And then you can register the boat with the port police here at the marina »

«OK. How much is the DEPKA? »

«51 €. But you can only pay with cash,» she replied, looking slightly annoyed at the Visa card, which she however was happy to let us pay the marina fee with.

We went outside and found an ATM. Withdrew cash at an insultingly low exchange, went back to the port office, gave the lady her 51 € and got our DEPKA certificate.

Check. First charge was paid. Then we moved on to the next one.

We found the main post office in Corfu town. Drew a number and waited and waited and waited. After an hour it was our turn. It took only a few minutes to pay the TEPAI tax, which unknown for what reason could be paid with the Visa card.

Check. The second charge had been paid.

Thus encouraged, we decided to register Heron with the Corfu Town police, now that we were there . We found the police station and easily forced the first obstacle - a guard, who at the main entrance asked where we were going.

As we entered the building, we were stopped by a lady at the front desk.

« We're going up to 1. st floor where we need to register our boat in the office, located 2.nd door to the right » we replied when she asked where we were going.

She looked at us smiling, asked us to wait and then made a call. When the conversation was over, she continued smilingly announcing that registration must be made with the police in the port where the boat is located.

The next day we went to the small police station in the marina. Payed a slightly peevish female police officer 15 € in cash (you could not pay with a card) and then got a piece of paper stating that we had paid DEPKA and TEPAI.

Later we found out that we could have avoided the trip to the post office because the police (at least in Gouvia) accept a screenshot of an online bank transfer as evidence that TEPAI has been paid.

... And then it would not have been so complicated to pay the strange Greek taxes.

Sailing Paradise
There are many islands in Greece. Some say 6.000, others say 1.200. Both are right. The number depends on when a piece of land surrounded by water is defined as an island.

The 1.200 islands, or 6.000 if you like, are divided into 7 archipelagos.

The Ionian archipelago of which Corfu is a part lies to the far west.

The waters between the islands and the mainland are surrounded by high mountains. It has a myriad of protected coves, with crystal clear water, excellent anchorages and tavernas right down to the beach. In several places there is a marina close to a small town. Here is no Mistral, Bora Bora or Meltemi. The wind is mostly light. The climate is warm and sunny.

No wonder the area is called a sailing paradise.

We are off again
The 325 nautical miles from northeastern Sicily were still in our bodies when we left Gouvia Marina the next day. There wasn't much wind. We motored past the harbor.

A large cruiser was docking. Soon the passengers would get up in the old town and walk around the cozy narrow streets with cafes, restaurants and jewelery and souvenir shops

We sailed closely along a fortress. It had been built by the Venetians. For many years it had been their utmost and impassable bastion against the Ottoman Empire. Now it was a museum and conservatory for music students.

We sailed along the east coast. After a few hours, a little wind came from the northwest. On our course it was a broad reach. This is the angle to the wind Heron like most other sailboats sail fastest at.

When we reached the southern tip of Corfu, we turned off the engine and started sailing out of the protected waters. A little after the wind increased. We reefed the sails. When we were completely free of Corfu, the wind speed increased to 13m / s. The seas were now rolling freely all the way from Italy. They were fairly big and we surfed down them with full pressure on both sails in perfect balance heading towards the island of Paxos.

After an hour we reached the northern tip of the island. Here the waves began to diminish. The seas calmed , and when we reached Gaios, located on the southeast side of the island, the water was almost flat and the wind was light.

Paxos and Antipaxos
Paxos has 2.500 inhabitants and is a popular destination for tourists. Two ferry routes from Corfu and one from the mainland each year carry 200.000 visitors to and from the island.

The main occupation is tourism, but the inhabitants also work within fishing and production of an olive oil, which Harrods markets, among other things, as a Greek specialty in its department store in London.

There are only a few smaller towns. Gaios is the largest and main town. Just opposite are two smaller islands, creating a natural harbor shaped like a curved canal.

Although it was late afternoon, there were several vacant berths. It was obvious that we were out of high season where you should come early in the morning to get a berth.

A man from the neighboring boat took our lines and handed us a mooring line. Shortly afterwards we were firmly moored with the stern facing the quay, where the many cafes, restaurants and shops were still well-visited.

The next morning we sailed over to the island of Antipaxos, which, as the word suggests, is opposite Paxos.

On the east side are two bays of crystal clear water with the special turquoise color that occurs when the seabed consists of white sand.

The wind had gone south-east during the night and put some swells in the bays that were already well stocked with pleasure boats.

We sailed over on the west side and found a bay where the water was equally clear and turquoise. Here was the shelter from the swells and only one boat was anchored in this bay.

We laid out the anchor, bathed, snorkeled and swam in to the deserted beach.

After a few hours, the wind went southwest and blew into the bay.

We picked up the anchor and sailed back to the bays on the east side. Now they were sheltered and there were fewer boats than before.

When we had dropped the anchor, we rowed to the beach and walked into one of the small island's two tavernas.

It felt treacherous almost a little irresponsible to sit in a taverna leaving our home, Heron, unattended a few hundred yards ashore.

Suddenly, the Russian crew on a charter boat managed to grab the Heron's anchor chain as they were heading away from the bay. From our table at the taverna, it looked like Heron's anchor was dragging. Panic, which could only be extinguished by rowing out to check. False alarm. The anchor held but a better anchorage had become vacant. Heron was moved over to this before Carl rowed back and Jørgen swam out and took over the anchor watch, which it obviously was needed to have here - not least for the well-being of our nerves.

Late in the afternoon we sailed back to Gaios. Got the same berth as before and had a farewell dinner with Jørgen and Marianne. They had been with us since we had left Sicily two weeks earlier. Now they were to celebrate their 25 years of engagement on Paxos before flying home to Denmark late this week.

Almost stationaries
It almost felt like coming home when we late in afternoon arrived at the pontoon for guest sailors at the Gouvia Marina.

The marina, which has 1.200 berths, is a community in itself. In the area there are restaurants, cafes, shops, police, laundry, children's playground, great shower and toilet facilities, yes the area even has a welcoming blue swimming pool with sun loungers and serving.

And then there is a Crocket field - Greece's only. It has green and well-kept grass and is eagerly used by retired Englishmen uniformed in chalk white short pants, short-sleeved shirt and a chic hat. More clearly, it can hardly be symbolized that the island, which was part of the empire until 1864, is still influenced by English lifestyle.

There was a lot of life on the guest pontoon. Every day new boats arrived and departed. Some to register or spend the winter in the marina. Others to get ready to leave Greece

And then there were the charter boats. On Fridays they came and filled the marina almost completely. Some spent the last night of their sailing holiday sharing the joy of life expressed with music from small super powerful, portable speakers, dancing and signing or rather trying to put melody on their screaming. Others quietly packed up, had one last dinner at a taverna and got ready for the trip home.

On Saturday morning, a team of cleaners came and made the boats ready for new guests who were eagerly waiting in a café or restaurant. Late in the afternoon there was sign-on and instruction. During Sunday afternoon, most charter boats left the marina, which quickly regained its calm and relaxed rhythm.

The days passed and we became part of the environment.

« We arrive in October and stay on the boat all winter. We have been doing this for seven years. We go for a swim every Christmas and send photos to our friends back home. It never gets really cold and most is open, » explained an Englishman who had gone into a winter harbor in a berth opposite us.

«Last winter we were in Dubrovnik. Before that in Venice. This year we try Gouvia. Early in the morning we go home to Basel and come back in the spring, » explained another who was berthed further out on the pontoon and had given us a bag of food they had left over after the winter preparation.

Once in a while, Danish tourists passed by. Very undanish they would start a conversation themselves. Typically asking «Have you sailed all the way down here? ».

Daytrippers
One day we sailed to Syvota, a small town on the mainland 25 nautical miles southeast of Gouvia. Off the town are 2 small islands and several well protected coves.

It was late afternoon. The bays were full, though we had now gotten even further away from the peak season. We arrived at the almost empty harbor. Here we were welcomed by a friendly harbour master.

«I know a lot about Denmark. My wife is from Germany, » he said

«????»

«All right » he added and continued « She comes from Flensburg and belongs to the Danish minority »

In the next few hours, several boats arrived. When the lights were lit in the town, the harbor was almost full.

We went for a walk around town. It has only 875 inhabitants. However, it seemed that the population, even outside the peak season, was increased by several thousand tourists.

«It's pretty new with tourists here,» said a Danish tourist, whom we started talking to after she asked if we had been sailing all the way down here.

Recent years' investments in the region's infrastructure have apparently had one of the desired effects and developed the coast as a tourist area.

The next day, the weather forecasts said wind from the south, speed 5-7m /s and no seas.

We left Syvota in the morning, set both sails and got an exceptionally stable broad reach in flat water on the whole trip back to Gouvia.

We arrived for the third time at Gouvia Marina and were welcomed back by our English neighbor who also handed us our mooring lines.

Unexpected visit
One day we received an SMS from Gitte, whom we have known for over 30 years. She and Bue had spontaneously taken a week's vacation to Corfu. She had heard that we were now here. Nice with an unexpected visit and a bit surreal to meet spontaneously with friends from home in surroundings, we still perceived as foreign.

Together we walked over to a small public beach, located next to a discreet and fashionable hotel.

On the way over, we stopped outside the house "the Durrells". Here lived Louisa Durrell when, she as a widow moved from England to Corfu with her four children in 1935. Two of her sons became writers. One, Gerald, wrote a novel about his childhood in Corfu. A couple of years ago, it was the setting for a TV series that describes the family life in Corfu in the 36 episodes.

«Strangely, it was the neighboring house that what used in the movie, but it's true that the family lived in the house there, » explained a passing Englishman who obviously knew the TV series, which we hope to have the opportunity to watch at some point.

Day and/or monthly rentals
«I'm not sure » said the brusque lady at the port office when asked if we could stay in the marina for one more week.

Then she started a conversation in Greek with the lady who was in charge of the berths.

« You may stay in that berth for the next 3 weeks,» the lady said, turning to us when the conversation seemed to have ended.

«Thank you » we answered and turned to the brusque lady and asked «How much is it? »

«Nothing. You have already paid for the next 3 weeks, » she replied as brusquely as she used to.

During the time we had been in the marina, we had paid a daily rent and had paid in total what was equivalent to a month's rent. In total, the next three weeks had been paid for was the reasoning.

… We started to like the brusque lady.

Visit
A few days later, Niklas & Olivia and Augusta arrived, who in the days leading up to the holidays had talked about how many nights she had to sleep before flying down to Grandmother and Grandfather´s boat.

The weather forecast warned strong winds on the open sea between Corfu and Paxos.

We therefore decided to sail small trips in the area with Gouiva Marina as a base.

One of the days we walked to the small public beach and past the house "the Durrells" which we eventually felt we knew well.

But we also sailed up the green and mountainous coast. Smelt the scent of the trees and enjoyed the sight of the villas lying gently on the cliff walls. Found a bay and sailed slowly to the shore. Dropped the anchor. Jumped into the water and swam around the boat or into the beach. Snorkeled and experienced the silent alien life in the few meters of deep water. Relaxed in the strong and warm sun and enjoy the tranquility of the bay. Before sunset we sailed back to Gouvia and into our berth.

Motorstop
One day we had problems in the middle of the idyll.

We had found a bay, dropped the anchor and put the engine in reverse to put the chain out. We didn't get far until the engine suddenly stopped. We turned the ignition key and pressed the start button. To our relief, it started. But alas when we put it into gear it went out. Again.

It reminded us of something we had tried before. Rope in the propellor. And quite right. We had backed into the tender and had its long mooring line in the propeller.

Niklas & Olivia jumped in the water, pulled diving glasses down over their eyes, sucked in air, dived under the boat and came up with a piece of rope that had been wrapped around the propeller.

«But there's still some left left» Niklas explained before diving again.

After an hour of concentrated work alternately diving under the boat, Olivia came up with the stubborn piece of rope. High five. The engine could be used again.

End of season
After a week, Niklas & Olivia and Augusta took the last direct flight to Copenhagen.

We continued to be (almost) stationary in the Gouvia Marina. Repaired a lot of small things on the boat and occasionally went in and looked at life in Corfu town.

One morning we got a call again with a sad message. Jens Bo, our mutual friend and one of Carl's oldest friends had died. For the sixth time since we were traveling long distances, we experienced the confusing feelings of grief. The next day we sat down and wrote an obituary dedicated to his son.[*]

One day we took the bus on a narrow road with sharp hairpin turns over the mountains to Sidari. Everything here seemed to be based on tourism. At this time of year, it looked like a ghost town. Almost no guests at cafes and restaurants and an empte gaming hal with full power on the many screens and music that in vain sought to attract customers.

«There is not so much life at this time of year. But this year it is bad because Tomas Cook has gone bankrupt and does not send guests down here,» explained a waiter while she was a little excited about our order.

The good weather continued. Sun from a blue sky, 27 - 29 degrees in the afternoon, cooling 18 degrees at night and morning dew, which remained still later in the morning before the sun wiped it away.

We took a trip up the coast to the bay where we had got the mooring line in the propeller.

This time the idyll was complete. When the anchor chain was laid out and the anchor had digged well into the light sand, we jumped into the tender and rowed the short distance to the beach where we pulled it up. One of the small three taverns was still open. We went there, ordered a cup of coffee and enjoyed the relaxed and calm atmosphere of the small bay. This was where Henry Miller and other Bohemians of the 30 ´ies visited Lawrence Durrell and his wife Nancy while living in the white villa overlooking the water and the high mountains of Albania and Greece.

«We close on Sunday and then I have to go over and work at my restaurant in Kerkyra. I'm looking forward to it, » the owner said when he brought the bill.

When we had paid, we went to the tender, pulled it into the water, stepped into it and rowed out to Heron.

We sat in the cockpit a bit and were warmed by the late afternoon sun. Then we jumped into the water. When we got up, we started the engine, lifted the anchor and sailed back to Gouvia as the sun began to sink towards the mountains.

Winter harbor now?
During the summer we got in contact with the skipper of a Danish boat. He had found a good place to winter. On Facebook, he had asked if others were interested in wintering in the same place. We and two other Danish boats had signed up. Now four Danish boats were to spend the winter at the small boat yard run by an Irishman and his daughter.

We left Gouvia Marina for the last time, and as we crossed the Venetian fortress, we headed for Plataria, which is on the mainland at the bottom of a bay.

The sun was shining from a blue sky, and even in the strong sun the temperature was comfortable. Other boats were out.

Hard to understand that we were on our way to winter harbor.

The hours flew by. After a couple of twenty miles we reached the bay and got high mountains on both sides.

At the end of the bay was a long beach. At one end lay a marina and a small town. In the second the yard where Heron was going to be hauled out.

We sailed over to the yard and as we got closer we could see the masts of the boats standing in the yard.

But we could see neither a travelift nor a slipway.

On the map, the water depth was informed to be three meters. We sailed closer, but still could not see how in the world the boats had been hauled out. When we were a hundred meters from the concrete quay, we gave up, turned the rudder sharply and sailed along the beach to the harbor.

The new quay, as stated in Heikell's pilot book, was 'subsided', which we only then understood meant that it had sunk. Now it was a few centimeters above the surface of the water and some places even below.

We sailed to the 'old' quay and found a berth next to the only boat where there was life.

Once backed into the vacant berth, we found that there were no fixed mooring line. We sailed into the basin again. Dropped the anchor and backed into the berth where an Englishman on the neighboring boat received our stern moorings.

«Corfu » he repeated, «Is for tourists and wealthy people. Many are English. So many that the coast north of Gouvia is called Kensington on Sea. But I like Plataria better. We don't have so many tourists. There is life in the winter and people are incredibly friendly »

«Do they speak English as well as on Corfu? »

"No not quite. During the war, children were taken from their parents and deported to Germany. When they became adults, they returned and have kept the relationship. That is why there are several who speak German ».

The Englishman solved the mystery of how the yard got the boats on land.

« The yard has a tractor and a trailer. When you are to hauled out they call for a crane. You have to sail all the way to the concrete quay. Then the crane lifts your boat up onto the trailer, which the tractor pulls onto the yard. There they drive it into a steel rack »

When we had set off, we cycled to the yard. And quite right. Inside the yard was a tractor and a large trailer. The crane then had to be somewhere else.

When we got back to the harbor, we started getting ready for winter. After a few hours, we were almost done and sat down in the cockpit. There was not much life in the harbor. A fishing dinghy sailed out. A guest sailor anchored outside the harbor. Some boys fished with long rods and some of the small town's inhabitants took a slow walk on the dock while the sun sank behind Corfu.

The next morning we called the yard and got an appointment to be hauled out a few hours later. We did the last work, sailed out of the harbor and towards the concrete quay at the other end of the bay. There was no one to see, but when we had circled for a while, the tractor with the trailer drove out onto the concrete quay. A man stepped out and waved at us. We took a deep breath, sailed all the way to the concrete guy and threw the mooring line around a rusty bollard. After a while, the crane appeared on the road along the beach and drove out onto the concrete quay. A third man from the yard came along. Shortly afterwards, Heron hung in a pair of harnesses, was lifted onto the trailer, driven over into the yard and pushed into a rack.

We made the final preparations for the winter and then drove with the Irishmans daughter to Igoumenitsa, from where we took a ferry back to Corfu.

After a few days at the hotel we left Corfu one morning It was warm and the sun was shining from a cloudless sky. From the plane we looked down to Gouvia Marina, where we had been berthed for over a month. At our cruising altitude we could see Italy on our left for a long time. After a while, the Croatian archipelago appeared. North of the Alps, the ground beneath us was covered by a dense layer of clouds. In Tegel we stepped out of the plane into a cold and humid Berlin. We took the bus to Kurfürstendamm. Had a solid German lunch. Had a look at the town. Then went out to Schönenfeldt and got on a late afternoon flight to Copenhagen.

Here we were welcomed by our two sons and Luva, our second grandchild, who had begun to crawl while we had been away.

… The 2019 expedition had ended .

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Thue
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Thue

Thank you for your wonderful story ! In every paradise there is a snake - in your case here it was in the shape of the rope that the propeller caught! have a good trip !! Thue

Anne-Grete
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Anne-Grete

Then you made it to Greece! Sounds like a completely different culture and delicious climate. Good to hear you are back home

Claes
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Claes

Enjoy. Nice story

Lars Løfstedt
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Lars Løfstedt

Thanks for another picturesque travel description

Per Petersen
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Per Petersen

Hi, thank you for the letter and Merry Christmas to you from here

Dianna and Find
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Dianna and Find

Thanks for the story - good reading. Yes, the Ionian Sea, Corfu Town, is amazing! We are now on land in Kalamata, and on winter holidays until March, in Denmark. Greetings, Dianna and Find

Find Petersen
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Find Petersen

Nice story from a place I hope our common boat choose as a destination from next year.

Mette Vennegaard
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Mette Vennegaard

Thank you so much for your wonderful travel stories. We really get elated when we read them (and then they are pretty well written - you should publish them.
You must have a really Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with new sailing adventure.
Sincerely, Mette and Gunnar

Tina Jane Isle
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Tina Jane Isle

It is so wonderfully described that I am "almost" there myself

Pia S Jespersen
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Pia S Jespersen

Nice story as usual. Welcome home and Merry Christmas to you and your family.🎄

Allan
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Allan

Dear both,
Sounds fantastic again from your story. I am now married to Greek - and can easily depict your journey in that part of the world 😉
You must be home in the dark of Denmark at the moment - and what life contains of good and bad at these latitudes,
but I am sure that the fairy-tale life in the South Sea must have stuck right into you - and as a constant lifestyle going forward….
Give a ring when you have time.
Merry christmas, Happy New Year
Allan

Niels Nielsby
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Niels Nielsby

Thanks for the description, which contains great tips for our next trip. Once you have sailed on the Ionian Sea, it is most likely that you will come there again several seasons. We were there in August. 2019. Next time will be either sooner or later when it is a little cooler.