We enjoyed our week immensely and cannot thank you enough for helping make this a very memorable holiday. By the end of the week we felt we were starting to get to grips with the Lugger and were starting to find out how to get the best out of it. Next time we will be more confident with undertaking some more adventurous trips, but we were very happy with what we achieved in such a beautiful area.
Our excellent Dragon Drascombe sailing holiday in the Ionian, began with an advertisement in one of the sailing magazines that led to an internet search and reading Phil’s comprehensive introduction and looking at the website. A decision was made to take up a short notice offer for a two-week booking in June that had become available due to an illness cancellation.
We fully agree with all Phil writes, in his introduction, about the Ionian Drascombe experience being an all-encompassing holiday. We experienced an exceptionally flexible, laid back and enjoyable sailing holiday that exceeded all our expectations.
Flying from Heathrow to Corfu, after a short 15-minute taxi ride from the Airport to the Ferry Terminal, we boarded a ferry for a two-hour sail to Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland. There we were met by Phil and whisked off to Lefkas and our apartment for the next two weeks in Geni Gardens. The journey took about two hours and after moving our luggage into the apartment we went to a local Taverna for supper, where we met two other ‘Drascombe’ couples.
Our stay in Geni Gardens was nothing short of superb, we had a lovely clean and modern apartment that faced a well-manicured garden stretching down to Vliho Bay where Annie B, our Drascombe Lugger was moored for our stay. The Owners of the Apartments Franz and Poli, along with their daughter, Sandra were fantastic hosts and we wanted for nothing during our stay with them.
Our sailing expectations were also exceeded, we had previously sailed cruising yachts in the eastern Mediterranean around Cyprus, but found that the Ionian, especially around southern Lefkas and Meganisi offered wonderful sailing and exceptionally stunning scenery. Both being a tad rusty especially in sailing a Lugger, Phil provided us with some sound mentorship, and introduced us to the nuances of sailing a Lugger. After a day on the water with him, we were left to our own devices and overall, except for one day during a particularly impressive thunderstorm, we managed to get afloat every day of our holiday.
Our sailing grounds included the Meganisi channel and the islands and bays surrounding the channel including Meganisi Island. We visited the brilliant Papanikolis sea caves, also the sea caves off the southern tip of Lefkas and anchored in Desimi bay. The winds around Lefkas can be varied with light breezes in the morning and good sailing in the afternoon with occasional and infrequent but interesting gusts if you get caught out in a shower. We did have to employ the iron foresail and or motor sail at times to reach a planned destination but for us that did not detract from the enjoyment of being on the water.
We anchored in some picturesque bays and enjoyed al fresco lunches under the Lugger’s Bimini; moreover, using the boat ladder, we swam and snorkelled off the boat, this was very pleasant, with the water temperature being around 24/5 degrees C and the air temperature some 6 or 7 degrees warmer. One fantastic event will stay in our memories for ever, we were sailing back to Vliho and Geni from Niso Thilia island, where we had been anchored, just off our starboard about 4 or 5 dolphins broke the surface and crossed in front of us heading towards Niso Skorpios. There was no leaping out of the water, but they were spectacular to watch, especially from the Lugger, we were almost level and very close to them for a short while. We saw them again about 20 minutes later.
All too soon our time to leave arrived and we were taxied up to the ferry terminal at Igoumenitsa where we caught the ferry back to Corfu, all in a massive thunderstorm, which was a strange and very wet way to finish our holiday, the temperature in Corfu was about 18 degrees C and on arrival that evening at Heathrow it was about 26 degrees.
On reflection, this was one of the best holidays that we have had. It provided us with all we could want and more. Already we do miss the weather, the people we met and the incredible sailing we enjoyed. We plan to return next year for more of the same.
We have just returned from a ten day stay at Geni Garden courtesy of Dragon Drascombe. We had a superb holiday, sailing ‘Ellie’ all around Nydri, Meganissi and the Greek mainland. Thanks to Phil, the entire trip went without any hiccups and he was on hand everyday to help with sailing tips and advice. All in all a fabulous holiday, where I learned so much about the Lugger.
“Are you really travelling around the world in that little boat?”
As much as I hated to decrease our status as instant celebrities, I had to admit the truth: “No, we are travelling around the Ionian Sea for a few weeks.” The person who asked the question was the third party in fifteen minutes to approach us as we tied off stern to at a quayside taverna. Apparently, one of the earlier passers-by had misheard me and our legend had grown exponentially in a short span of time. We were to discover that we would often be approached with questions and curiosity as we entered harbours and marinas in one of Philip Osborne’s lovely Drascombe Luggers.
I had found out about Philip Osborne’s Dragon Drascombes through an advertisement in the Drascombe Association’s magazine. As I was familiar with Drascombes and their capabilities in strong wind and sea conditions, I decided to inquire about the possibility for conducting a self-guided three-week expedition in the Ionian sea. Phil got back to me quickly and we began to form the foundations of an expedition that would travel to five islands during the first three weeks of July.
We arrived much later in Preveza than planned due to a series of challenging connections with airlines. We had packed lightly for the journey, and unfortunately, our luggage did not arrive with us. Phil had been in contact with us throughout our travels and had thoughtfully arranged for a taxi to meet us late at night. We travelled to our beautiful accommodation in Geni on Nisos Lefkada and surprisingly, Phil was there to meet us. He had arranged a lovely welcome meal for us and compassionately guaranteed us that he would assist us with finding our lost luggage.
Over the next two days Phil went above and beyond in assisting us with the luggage handlers at Preveza airport as well as taking us to buy clothing to substitute for lost items. In the process, we also familiarised ourselves with Heulwen, our chartered lugger. She’s a lovely restored lugger and was outfitted completely for our journey, including a set of new sails. I even managed to coax Phil into loaning me a set of oars so we could row on occasion. After a couple of days of preparation and waiting, and still minus one of our bags, Phil guided us out of Vlicho Bay. He pointed us to a beach for a quick swim and gave us some tips for navigating the passage to our first destination, Poros, at the south end of Nisos Lefkada.
Due to unfavourable and light winds, we motored nearly the entire way to Poros. What a lovely spot! We had our first opportunity to nestle the little lugger among the local fishing boats – a technique we used for mooring throughout the trip. The great thing about travelling in a little, open boat is that there is always space for a mooring, even in the most crowded harbours. With the shallow draft of a Drascombe and the minimal tides of the Ionian Sea, it was possible to anchor or tie off quayside in water too shallow for the large keelboats that most visitors charter. Our host and accommodations in Poros were just as nice as in Geni. We discovered a love for Greek coffee at the taverna and we had a day to swim and relax after all of the preparation of the past few days. Phil paid us a visit and brought along some items I requested, including a new yard, that I thought might improve our sail shape a bit. Next stop: Kioni on Nisos Ithaki!
We set off from Poros under such light winds that we elected to row all the way out of the harbour rather than engage the outboard. Although rowing a Drascombe Lugger isn’t the most efficient means of travel, it provides excellent exercise. Phil provides each boat with a custom sun shade – perfect for staying cool while working out. Our route to Kioni provided a great mix of conditions, from flat calm to spirited sailing under a reefed main with plenty of spray over the windward rail. It can get cool in the wind and spray. Pamela was happy to have a light spray jacket to cut the chill. The passage was over too soon.
Our arrival in beautiful Kioni was met with the interaction described in the first paragraph of this trip report. It’s hard to put into words the affection we felt for the village and wonderful people of Kioni. A helpful taverna owner made sure that we were tied up properly to the quay near his business. I think he really enjoyed the attention Heulwen brought to the location! Our host for our lodgings for the several days we spent in Kioni picked us up on his motor scooter and took us and our luggage up the steep road to our apartment. It pays to pack light! The apartment overlooked the entire harbour from a private balcony. Pamela and I would sip Greek Coffee each morning while watching the always entertaining comings and goings of the yacht crowd. I have to admit that I was pretty happy not to have to deal with all of the yelling, fouled anchors and drama that accompanied the larger boats in the harbour. I had set up an impromptu private mooring near the local fishing boats and we came and went on day sails without a care. We found a lovely cove with several traditional Greek fishing boats a short distance from our apartment, and we enjoyed a few refreshing swims there. Next stop: Fiskardo on Nisos Kephalonia!
Our passage to Fiskardo was a mix of light winds and strong gusts. We began the day with a bit of rowing for exercise, we switched to motor, over to sail and back to motor and then back to sail again as neared Fiskardo. One of the benefits the lugger is that it takes so little time to strike the sails, they don’t need to be lowered: just roller furl the jib, roll the main back on itself and secure it with a sail tie to the mast and roll the mizzen around its mast. It takes just moments to go from sail to motor or oar and back to sailing again! Our entrance into Fiskardo was once again met with hails from other skippers: “Nice boat. Where did you sail from!” In spite of the the harbour being very full of keelboats we once again found a suitable mooring on the quay in shallow water – so easy!!
Ah, Fiskardo! There are excellent restaurants, amazing groceries, inexpensive Greek wine, lovely hiking trails and outstanding bakeries. Pamela even measured the distance to the closest bakery to our lodgings – just 100 paces (needless to say, we ate a lot of baked goods!). Our trip to Kephalonia was also punctuated with a wonderful day on a rental motor scooter as we explored vineyards and the other harbours of the island, including beautiful Assos. Our lovely landlady washed our clothes for us free of charge and was an incredible source of information on the island and its inhabitants. Next stop: The long passage to Nisos Kalamos.
Once again we set off under oar power. The passage to Nisos Kalamos was our longest of the trip and provided some of the most enjoyable sailing of the trip. We had good, consistent winds throughout the day and arrived tired and happy at the tiny village of Episkopi. What a gem! We were able to set a bow anchor and a stern line right in front of our lodgings in Episkopi – so convenient! Episkopi was a departure from the hustle and bustle of our previous ports of call. There’s just one taverna, no store, and not much to see, yet we quickly fell in love with this unassuming location. The sunsets were gorgeous, Heulwen was happily moored close at hand and we could swim right off our front porch on an uncrowded beach with clear water.
Needing a few groceries and a bit more adventure, we elected to circumnavigate Kalamos. The winds were forecast to be brisk and we weren’t disappointed! It’s important to reef early and anticipate the strength of the wind as it’s deflected and directed by the land. Keep the mainsheet in your hand. Even with strong gusts, Heulwen was steady on her lines throughout a thrilling day of sailing. We entered Port Kalamos under the strongest winds of the trip to find an entire charter flotilla shore bound for the day. One of the skippers asked, “you’ve been out there today? In this wind? In that little boat? Our flotilla captain required us to remain in port!” We stocked up on groceries, good wine, baked goods and fresh fruit (kept cool in the little cooler provided by Phil) and set sail to complete our circumnavigation as the flotilla charterers looked on in envy. Next stop: Nisos Meganisi.
Although our original itinerary had indicated a direct course back to our starting port on Nisos Lefkada, Pamela and I elected to explore another island. We reluctantly cut short our stay on Kalamos in favour of spending a couple of days on Meganisi. We easily arranged another lodging via Airbnb and set sail for Vathy on Meganisi. Light winds prevailed, but we enjoyed the exercise of “motorsailing” under sails and oars for a couple of hours and then turned on the iron ‘genny to complete the passage.
Vathy is a busy yachting destination with seemingly every space on the quay taken, yet we once again found ourselves conveniently moored against the quay in shallow water right in front of a taverna. Our hosts for the next two days picked us up and drove us and our simple luggage to the apartment. Yet again, we were rewarded with a lovely, comfortable lodging within easy walking distance to the harbour, shops and tavernas. Inspired by our previous motor scooter rental on Kephalonia, I elected to rent a scooter to “tour” Meganisi. Within less than an hour, we discovered that we had covered nearly every navigable road on the island, so we did it three times! Along the way, we enjoyed a lovely meal, and were thrilled by the tiny roads through the villages on the island.
I haven’t yet mentioned a major attraction that Pamela fell in love with on the Greek Islands. Everywhere we went, we were entertained by small, affectionate, Greek cats. Our apartment in Vathy was home to the most delightful kitten of the trip. I was afraid that we’d end up back in the ‘States with an adopted pet, stowed away in Pamela’s luggage. Next stop: Return to Vlicho Bay, Nisos Lefkada.
Our return to Lefkada was powered by a light, following breeze. We spent most of the passage motor sailing under oar power and trying to coax Heulwen along by sailing wing and wing with the boat hook employed as a whisker pole. Just as we were about to give up and resort to burning dinosaurs, we rounded into Vlicho Bay to be met by Phil who had motored out to greet us! He joyfully directed us back to the bay and our most luxurious lodging of the trip: Geni Gardens. We joined Phil and his partner for a lovely dinner at the water’s edge that evening and toasted the success of our journey – what a fitting end to an outstanding adventure.
Thank you, Phil for all of the support and service. From one adventurer to another, we truly had an adventure we’ll treasure for years to come!
Dave Craig, July 2018
Nidri, The Greek Ionian. It’s a sad day for Bengy today, he does not know it yet but the boat he uses for a day time shelter is being moved, I will have to make him another shelter out of a Lugger winter cover – with temperatures at around 33 he has to have shade and plenty of airflow.
July has been an interesting month in many respects, re-registering the Luggers from the UK SSR certificate to a Blue book Greek registration and forming a business in Greece for taxation purposes. These are all changes Greece has to make to comply with the 10 years of EU bailout finances imposed on them, this August seeing the end of financial support from both the IMF and the Euro-zone.
On 2nd July Dave and Pamela Craig arrived from Arizona, USA for a 3 week Island Hopping adventure. Dave is a teacher at an outdoor centre on the Gulf of Mexico and they have several Drascombe Longboats which they use as a part of their outdoor programmes with children and young adults.
It was not a good start to their visit, they missed a connecting flight and got stuck in Chicago and arrived 10 hours late at Preveza, late in the evening, only to find that their luggage was not on the same flight! They only had the clothes that they wore for the trip, not even a toothbrush. Hey ho, that’s not good. The baggage handling company could not trace these bags immediately and it was not until the next morning that we discovered that one bag was still in Heathrow, and Dave’s bag was not traced! With 2018 technology it is frightening to think a bag can go missing and not be traceable. So it was a shopping trip to Lefkas for Pamela to buy some basic clothes, whilst Ionian Air got their act together and made the transfer of the one bag via Athens to Preveza which finally happened 3 days later.
In the hope that Dave’s bag would appear, they set off from the apartment at Poros to catch up with their itinerary of pre-booked overnight B&B’s, the first being on the island of Ithica in the beautiful village of Kioni. They had a 5-night booking at an Air B&B room called Theo Filos House, you must read Dave’s diary!
Alas, by the Sunday, just under a week after their arrival I had delivery at my base in Nidri of Dave’s travel dry bag. This was strapped up with a docking line, I added a spare fuel container and put it onto the car deck of the evening Frikes ferry, for his collection at the other end. This is a typical Greek way of transporting things around the Islands – a baker in the morning will arrive on his scooter at the ferry port and add his 10 trays of spinach pies and numerous bags of loaves of bread, all to be collected at the other end by the Taverna or hotel which they are meant for, no payment and no hassle. It works, this is the Greek Islands. Being American, Dave was amazed that this could happen ‘what if there was a bomb in that bag of mine?’ he exclaimed with incredulity!
So, now with all their worldly belongings they were finally set for their adventure around the islands of Lefkada, Ithica, Cephalonia, Kastos and lastly Kalamos in Heulwen my 2017 Lugger. There have always been small boarding houses or lodgings available, but it has been mainly hotels and apartments were you stayed for the entire duration, but just this year the new phenomena of Air B&B has hit Greece and the Islands from mainland Europe in a dramatic way, with usually booking for a minimum of 3 nights and room prices around €70. Some were 45 and the most expensive 90, but still great value. Read more in Dave’s diary which is to follow.
For the End of Season’s Diary I will have done more research on more Lodgings, rooms and places that have flexible booking periods for you all to look at and maybe plan your 2019 Island Hopping Lugger adventure.
Arriving on 10th July for the week were the ‘Family Foster’, Simon, Louise and 11 year old Matthew, known as ‘Matty’, all total beginners to sailing, although Matty had done a little with his school. This was my first group of Family Sailing for Beginners, a feature I intend to push for future years.
Having this unique geographical position of Vliho Bay, some 3 km long, it is south of Nidri, with north and south prevailing winds, light in the morning with freshening winds later on; it is a superb ‘large pond’ to learn to sail on. In the past Lugger groups when faced with blustery conditions out in the Meganissi channel have used the bay as an alternative, being quite sheltered for half-day sessions and pulling in for lunch at the Gialos Taverna. Why be uncomfortable when you can have a few hours of gentle sailing and then lunch on the waters edge. You simply cannot beat it.
The Family Foster had specifically come to Dragon Drascombe to learn to sail as a family, and what better boat to have to learn to sail in. I go back to my sail training times of working as an instructor for the Outward Bound Trust, Wales sailing school at Aberdovey, Merionethshire, in the early 1970s.
So where to start and what will be the objective? A plan is needed and I set out with the following:
- To introduce the group to theoretical aspects of sailing, how the wind on sail produces a reaction and forward motion.
- The terminology used in sailing, quite important when communicating amongst a group sailing a boat. Everyone needs to understand terms like port and starboard etc.
- The use of knots and how to rig the boat. I am aware that present sailing tuition does not enter into this field – it is all about putting people onto boats and using one sail, a rudder and a mainsheet, but this is not preparing young sailors in particular to move forward and understand the wider aspect of sailing.
- The Lugger in the true sense is a proper boat, it has 3 sails, 2 masts, a centre board, a rudder, an auxiliary engine and lots of bits of string to pull
- This set-up will provide the family group with all the tasks necessary to sail the boat as a group, each having the chance to Helm or to satisfy the varying functions of the crew, be it on the jib or main sheets or centre board duties etc, plenty to learn
- Finally, my objective was at the end of the 7 days to have the family competent in moving the Lugger under engine safely and being able to sail on all points of sailing, that is, sailing a triangular course, fully rigged.
Was this ambitious? Yes maybe, but it was achieved.
We started by getting the Lugger moving under engine, picking up fenders that were thrown overboard, promoting manoeuvrability skill, coming alongside and very important being able to get back onto Geni Garden pontoon, bow to with lazy line safely. The days were split into AM and PM sessions with an important break at lunch time at the Gialos Taverna for a much needed Meza and Mythos beer, all except Matty who was stuck on Fanta. It was good to have this break and run through how the session had gone and we found that after the break the PM period went much better – not sure if the Mythos had anything to do with it?
From my position in the tender, observing the family group, they were learning a great deal from each other. Matty soon became very proficient on the outboard tiller, being excellent at coming onto a lazy line and judging distance and speed. He was quick to show his mum how to do things, whilst Simon his dad, once over the ‘hurdle ‘ of understanding the effect the wind has on sail and the various sail positions, became the boat Skipper.
What a successful week! Matty was presented with the Dragon Drascombe T shirt on the final evening in recognition of his outstanding progress. Well done to The Family Foster. I thoroughly enjoyed the week and their company.
Thanks to everyone so far this summer for making Dragon Drascombe very successful and enjoyable.
2018 is not finished yet, there are still good package deals on offer for late August at the Villa Eleanor, one week amazing deals for the last week in September and first week of October at both Geni Garden and the Gialos Taverna. Take an early winter break with me for the few vacancies left for the first and second weeks in October. Don’t delay, call to discuss on
+44 7812 562579
Our normal sailing grounds are on the North Norfolk coast, choppy short seas and usually a cold north or north-east wind and very limited tides. So the idea of sailing in 30°C, with a gentle Mediterranean wind, surrounded by mountains sounded really appealing when we discussed it at the tail end of winter and I have to say that it didn’t disappoint.
We flew into Corfu and enjoyed a few days exploring before catching the ferry over to Igoumenitsa where a smiling Phil was waiting for us. It was a long ride down to Vliho Bay, but Phil then kindly treated us to a meze lunch before delivering us to the Geni Gardens, our base for the week. He then returned in his tender to take us out to meet our craft, Lugger Heulwen. It was blowing up pretty well, but undeterred we sailed around for an hour or so, getting the hang of our new boat. She handled well and we were happy sailors.
During our week we sailed every day, except on Thursday, when the wind was blowing into the bay and the sea seemed too choppy. On this day we taxied into Nidri with fellow lugger sailors Gordon and Fran, to explore and do some shopping. Looking at the sea from Nidri, we could have sailed quite happily on this day as well.
The boat does, as promised, sit at the bottom of the Geni Gardens, a stone’s throw from our apartment. Our routine was to have a latish breakfast and then set off, with a picnic lunch (packed in the cool-bag thoughtfully provided by Phil), swimsuits and snorkels. Coming from Norfolk we aren’t used to unlimited sailing, so we just wanted to sail, but as the week progressed we discovered that there is also joy in dropping anchor and hopping over the side to explore the bottom of the very deep, blue Mediterranean sea, so wonderfully refreshing in the heat. Phil provided a bimini, a sort of tent you tie between the masts to give you shelter from the sun when you are moored. This was great, as the sun is quite relentless.
The sailing was spectacular, with lots of islands and a backdrop of huge, impressive mountains on every side. There was not always a good wind for a Drascombe to catch so we had to use the motor more than we would normally, but we still managed to sail for four to six hours a day. The weather was blissful, but also exciting as we had three very big storms whilst we were there. Sailing home as we watched the lightening over the sea some twenty miles away will stay in my memory for a very long time. As will the two and half hours of torrential rain when we arrived back to base!
We were surprised that, whilst out sailing, we were very much the centre of attention. Local fishermen waved enthusiastically, we thought it may have been because we were sailing a traditional craft. Big yachts stared and photographed us; one even sailed in a circle around us taking a video and photos. They then passed us their yacht’s business card (yes, I am not kidding!) so that we could contact them for copies of the pictures and the video. You don’t often get photos of yourself sailing, so this was very kind of them.
Our intention on day one was to visit the caves, but the winds were contrary so we never made it. However that didn’t detract from our trip, because there was so much to look at and always somewhere nice to which we could sail. Maybe next time…
Apart from the sailing, everyone we met: our hosts at the Geni Gardens; Christos and the staff at Phil’s pet taverna The Gialos; Harry the baker (who baked me special gluten-free bread upon request and even delivered it to me in time for breakfast); our Lugger sailing pals, Alex and Penny, Gordon and Fran; and last, but not least Phil and Leslie, were all so friendly and welcoming it was a joy to be with them. We ate most evenings at the Taverna (gorgeous food and very cheap) with our fellow sailors (and often Phil and Leslie as well) which has generated a sense of comradeship which is unusual when on a holiday.
The week passed incredibly quickly and before we knew it we were having our final Saturday night meal in the taverna, with us dreading the thought that our Ionian sailing experience was over. But no! The lovely Phil suggested that, as we were not in a rush to get back to the ferry, perhaps we should spend Sunday morning sailing as well. Well, it would have been rude to say no – and what a three hour sail it was sailing around an island in perfect winds. They say you should always finish a holiday wanting more, we realise that we haven’t finished with sailing a Drascombe in Ionia, so we will are going to have to go back.