For a while I was not planning on keeping a (b)log but have decided this has been an unprecedented time that it would be good to keep some sort of written memory of the past 8 or so months.
So I begin or rather continue for the Summer 2019 blog.
We arrived in our berth in Lefkas marina at the beginning of November in a new berth on B pontoon (which is a distance away from F and G party pontoons). Doug and Josie are on Windsong a couple of boats down and there are one or two other liveaboards on this pontoon too.
Wintering in Levkas is great – all the shops and restaurants are open throughout the winter – it is quite a lively centre. It has been great seeing the people we had met last winter and I decided this year I would be more social-able and attend bi-weekly Stretch classes (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and the Sunday Whacky Walkers (whose walks are generally 2 hours long covering approx. 10 kms and take place around various parts of the island).
The Saturday fresh f&v market was just as good as ever. The stall holders remembered me and always greeted me with a Kalimera, Ti Kanis? (hello, how are you?). Love watching the comings and goings of seasonal produce.
There was the usual Welcome party where winter liveaboards attend, each bring a plate of nibbles to share, drinks are thrown on by the marina and Porto cafe (plus others). The Shanty Boys performed and then there was music to all hours. A truly fun night.
A couple of (Perth) Aussies arrived in early December to take possession of their first boat (and embark on their first sailing experience, another story). Steve and Kim had a huge container load of stuff which they had sent over from Perth and were getting rid of double up /extraneous items, so we picked up quite a bit of stuff. We had them over for an Eastern European Christmas lunch.
As we didn’t attend the various Christmas events I suggested that any liveaboards left in the marina (as most head home for the festive season “– UK, Norway etc) to have an in between Christmas and New Years chat up” at Porto Cafe. This was well attended, everyone brought a plate of nibbles and we had a great time.
One of the Greek traditions, especially in Levkas, it the blessing of the oranges and diving for the holy cross. They performed this near the bridge. I bought some oranges and duly dunked them in the blessed canal and took them back on the boat. They are supposed to go rock hard over the year and the following year to throw them back into the canal. One of mine went mouldy after a few weeks so I threw them away. Maybe a bad omen?
One of the advantages of socialising wth those that have been here for a while they introduce you to some new places. Red Wine Rob spilled the beans about this Oozeire, which we all call the Albanian Bar, which serves you all these home cooked mezze for free with each drink. One drink and they bring out 4-5 small plates of wonderful food: omelettes, sausages, beans, potatoes, chicken wings, meatballs etc. Absolutely wonderful The previous year Gen and I found the fishmonger/restaurant which did the same, which we still frequented.
In February we went to Venice for the opening of the Carnival. It was good – it could have been better hadn’t we both had differing problems with our legs, and if we would have gone to the main venue a little earlier to get a better vantage point (saw very little where we stood – best watch the you tube vid’s the next day). Anyways, we always said we wanted to be in Venice for carnival – so therefore tick.
When we got back to Levkas it was Clean Monday (which is the Greek celebration of the beginning of Lent if I remember correctly) and we tried to go to the Fish place but that was full, so we went to the Albanian bar with Josie and Doug. What a treat. On Clean Monday seafood, mostly shellfish, is served – yum. That probably explains why at my supermarket fishmonger I could get crabs – not something that is very local. I managed also to find clams at my other favourite fishmonger.
Got back to Lefkas around 11 Feb. On 19 Feb, or thereabouts, north Italy announced first cases of C-19 and then went into lockdown. Gen and I were worried as we had just come back from Venice and that was within the last two weeks and Venice was crowded with tourists etc., so we were watching closely.
Anyways, first case of C-19 was in the Athens area (where we had flown into and stayed overnight) was on 26 Feb. By 6 March the schools had closed with bars, tavernas and coffee shops following suit. On 24 March lockdown/ restriction of movement had been introduced. For shopping, essential exercise or a visit to the doctors or dependents was only allowed by permit only (SMS to Greek telephone numbers or the completion of a paper document which you need to carry around with you along with identification).
Impact on us at that particular moment was that Gen was getting his new teeth made and fitted. Thankfully Ioanna kept seeing him until the upper dentures were made and fitted and he would have to wait until lockdown lifted to get the bottom teeth made (so for a period of time he sometimes whistled whilst talking).
As lockdown was introduced Gen and I went out daily for exercise and provisioning (we wanted to be sure we had enough staples (pasta, rice, flour, tomato puree, dried beans, coffee, tea, etc.) to see us through six months if need be.
Life in the marina was interesting. Spiros, Marina Manager, would broadcast each morning on VHF the latest c-19 statistics and advice from the Government, and would also post as such on Facebook. The advice was to stay on your boat and stay safe. Social distancing was required when out exercising or shopping etc. Gatherings of no more than 3 not permitted.
Gen and I one Sunday decided to go for a walk through the centre, it was a very sad sight – quite depressing, hardly anyone about but at least everyone was following the rules even though no cases on the island.
Further restrictions were imposed where other than residents no one could come onto the islands (unless with permission i.e. a returning resident or essential business). Also all ferry and air travel services were further stopped (so many of our friends wishing to return to their boats were left stranded back home). Lots of stories how this impacted friends but that’s for another day. But where this impacted us, is that we have No.1 who is in France and we can’t get to her to move her either to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. Hmmm dilemma. Thankfully the marina manager in France let us off paying 2 months worth of fees due to the travel restrictions, a very kind gesture. Oh and by the way, here in Levkas, our winter contract rates were supposed to stop on 1 April but the marina continued with the winter rates up until the restrictions on pleasure craft being lifted, again a very kind gesture. (We still have no idea of what we’ll do about No.1 – we have quite a few options to consider but also need to see if there are any further lockdowns in the future).
As restrictions were slowly lifted various exercise classes, aerobics, stretch, knit and natter (complying with social distancing requirements) were taking place around the marina grounds. The mood was improving. People were starting to socialise on their boats or on the pontoon, respecting numbers allowed to congregate.
Once restaurants were open we went to support our locals haunts – it was great going to the Albanian bar. Once other retail shops e.g. chandlers reopened, all the money saved during lockdown was duly spent.
Then the best news came on May 25, my birthday, that pleasure craft are free to cruise around Greek waters from 1 June. Great news and oh s**t news – so many of us were so convinced that the restrictions would last until say July/Aug, so many of us delayed completing projects. Yikes – all hands on deck – need to prioritise.
On June 1 we checked out of Levkas marina and headed for Nidri/Vliho where we spent more or less 7 weeks getting No.2 ship shape for summer 2020. Gen completed some improvements / projects, some moved up in priority and I was on sewing projects (shades, pockets, various shaped holders). Never again will I make a dinghy cover / chap – other items were relatively straight forward in comparison. Rented a car for a few days to travel either to Levkas or Aktio to stock up on various technical /boatie bits and buy cheap diesel from the petrol stations – by doing it this way we saved more than 20c per litre and our tank takes 900 litres (although at this time is was still nearly half full). We had 4 gerry cans so 80 litres each trip.
We did spend some time relaxing in O.Varko which is one of our favourite anchorages around here. Went there 3 times to get in some swimming. Still got a list of projects to complete but some may have to wait until we are on the way and find suitable safe and secure anchorages