- Skip & Melanie
Have to tell you how much we enjoyed our time as part of the Dragon Drascombe entourage. Meeting you, Andy and Dave, the Burwells, and all our wonderful Greek hosts was unforgettable.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than the Lugger and Greece. How the rest unfolded was just great. The details you arranged made the whole trip comfortable, with just the right amount of adventure.
Our boat was a tribute to your care and handiwork. Everything functioned and the condition was “as new”. We particularly liked the details of the anchor set-up fore and aft, the thoughtfulness of having charts and pilot, the very efficient sunshade and swim ladder. Having a spotlight stored away and the idea of an insulated picnic bag with utensils and ice packs was just brilliant.
Melanie enjoyed afternoons at the Iris Hotel pool while I singlehanded, and we both enjoyed sailing down the coast and around the point to Desimi for a swim and lunch at the beachside taverna there.
The social life with the rest of your entourage was just a series of rich cultural events, particularly the visit to Concrete Bill’s. (As well as the other tavernas!!)
At any rate, you made possible a wonderful getaway. We could have stayed all summer.
- Guy & Gail
We really enjoyed our time in Lefkas and would consider returning as it was the perfect sailing holiday. I’ve just returned from the USA where my son and family are heading down the intra-coastal waterway to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Not as warm as Greece though! Thanks again for the holiday experience and your personal experience of Drascombes that you imparted to us.
- Eric & Julie Taylor
Many thanks again for a wonderful holiday. Please pass on our thanks also to Poldi and family, as well as their staff. Also to Costas and his mother, all of whom made our stay very pleasant. For us it was a great holiday and we may be tempted by Ithaca next time.
- Boats & Bikes at Ithica – a Holiday with a Difference
Having spent such a great week with Phil in 2018, sailing out from our Geni Garden Apartment, we decided to continue the Luggering about in the Sun adventure for this summer, but with a difference.
Our own Lugger is based on the East Coast of England and sailing there can be somewhat tedious, waiting of the right tidal conditions, decent weather and whether we can spare that right time in between work commitments. In Greek waters there are no tides to consider, the weather is good so one can sail each day, certainly getting more time on the water in one week than we did in an entire summer season at home.
To add to this adventure, Phil recommended a 2-week visit to Frikes on Ithica, staying with Peter at the Frikes Bay Apartments, and this for June. “Two weeks of sailing in the warmth of the Greek Ionian” gasped Richard in delight! We had read previous accounts in Phil’s reviews of the exploits of the Wilson Family’s many visits to Frikes.
We had so many questions for Phil on the ins and outs of the logistics etc, but he had it all organised. From the collection by private taxi from Preveza, delivered to the Gialos Taverna for a stunning lunch and ice cold beer, one night there with an early start and a speedy trip south in the B Class ex RNLI Rib Warrior Spirit to Frikes. This took us through the Meganissi Channel before leaving the island and striking out across the open water for the island of Ithica, this taking a mere 45 minutes. We were just in time for one of Peter’s breakfast specials in his outside eating area overlooking this traditional harbour of Frikes, where Heulwen our Lugger was moored awaiting our arrival. What a start to this 2-week adventure!
The apartment was as described in reviews – so good, with a comfy bed and Peter and his staff were so attentive. To cap it all in the evenings we would sit out on the balcony with a glass of wine and watch for hours the comings and goings of fishing boats and visiting yachts.
In June we found the wind somewhat unpredictable to start and for the first few days sailed with the Jib and Mizen only. This worked well and the Lugger is happy with that since she is not a performance boat. We did have a surprise on day 4 after leaving Kioni under full sail, when suddenly, without notice the wind gathered speed and all hell was let loose, throwing us all over the place. Without further ado, the mainsail was down in the bottom of the boat, engine dropped and on full power, kicking us through the waves and making headway back to Frikes, needless to say totally wet through but exhilarated after the adventure. Richard announced it was time for an early well-earned beer, to which I agreed wholeheartedly.
It was at this stage we realised that we were not going to fully explore Ithica by boat as by sheer coincidence we came across a customer in the bar below the apartment with a big odd-looking electric bike.
“What is this?”, we asked having not seen an electric bike close-to before, and certainly not expecting one on this tiny quiet island in the Southern Ionian. They turned out to be a fleet Dimitri had for hire and new this summer. Well that was it, we summoned Peter over and a deal was done for 2 to be delivered the following morning. They certainly were ideally suited for the poor mountainous roads. We covered all the roads, lanes and accessible paths on the island, dividing our days between sailing, snorkelling and riding these bikes, visiting the beautiful church at Stavros and as far as the town of Vathi. The views from the high mountain road were just stunning, looking over the water as far as Zanti some 30 Km south and across to the main Kephalonia land mass. What an experience! This is well recommended.
Alas, time was up to leave Frikes. We packed two small rucksacks with a pre-made lunch for the sail back north to Lefkada. It was planned that Phil would return in the Rib Warrior Spirit to take our bags but since we only had these two small sacks we decided it was not necessary. However, the Rib did meet up with us as we entered the southern end of the Meganissi Channel.
We returned home tanned and relaxed, which is how a holiday should make you feel.
Thanks Phil again for a wonderful experience.
- Family Inglis
“Yip, a grand and successful family holiday, Phil. It ticked all the boxes for us.”
From our late evening arrival at Geni Garden, the Family Apartment was just outstanding. We sat on the balcony to catch our breath, a cold beer in hand which Phil had waiting in the fridge, looking over the bay still active with boats arriving and departing. This was going to be our ‘backdrop’ view for the coming week: what a way to commence this adventure for our kids Gabe and Becki.
Our first morning was a leisurely start. Phil had organised a breakfast with Poldi in their outside garden dining area, and for our remaining mornings we would visit the bakery by Lugger and collect bread and pastries for a breakfast on our balcony, which gave the kids an extra hour or so in bed.
Now to the start of the sailing stuff and getting to know Paxi. Whilst I have a lot of experience in bigger boats, the Lugger is a more Traditional Rig, loose footed mainsail and lots of bits of string for the kids to pull. After a comprehensive introduction to the boat we ventured off the pontoon and out into Vliho Bay, quickly to realise and understand her qualities as a very safe, stable, easy to manage craft and great fun to sail to boot!
Vliho Bay is such an ideal area to sail with kids, there are no tides, the winds blows either from the north or the south and with the outboard engine running you are no more than 10 minutes from the shore. We soon got the hang of Paxi, the kids had their various jobs to perform. Gabe was exceptionally quick to jump on the tiller of the outboard, as boys do and soon became a very adept crew member. However for Becki she took the view of “letting the boys play” after all it was “Dads new toy”. For her it was to be first on the swimming ladder and overboard for a swim.
With this intro over it was time to break out of Vliho Bay, rounding the Geni Peninsula, leaving Agio Ekklisis Church to starboard and heading for the island of Skorpios, this renowned as the one time residence of Jacqui Kennedy, lately Onassis. I couldn’t help wondering of the life she once led, her little Idaho Cyclades style house on the southern tip of the island, looking across at Meganissi and far south towards Kephalonia.
The Bimini Phil provided was superb and made crossings with it up just great with just Jib and Mizen out. Our reliable pal,the outboard deployed we covered good ground, stopping in coves and bays to swim, snorkel and have picnic lunches.
A highlight of the week for Gabe and Ceiran was the mountain bike trail ride with Simon at Get Active on the Wednesday late afternoon. It proved to have surpassed their expectations; the bikes were good quality, well maintained and the trails were appropriately graded, my thanks to Get Active for that.
Now it was time for me to collect them from Nidri by Lugger, late evening. The wind had got up and the sea was very lumpy, yes and I was on my own! Who else to rely on? Phil came to my rescue, a quick text and he was in the power boat heading for the pontoon near Nidri where they were both waiting. Their motor back to Geni Garden was a wet one, but safely back and thrilled by the adventure.
The week was excellently managed and organised by Phil, he was always available and there for us, but one never felt he was intruding on our privacy. The presentation of boats show a high level of maintenance with excellent safety equipment, a credit to his hard work.
What I have begun to appreciate about the Lugger is its classic lines; for a small boat her sea keeping qualities are incredible and at no time did the kids feel at risk. I must say over the week we as a family developed a “relationship” with Paxi which I’m sure will be a long lasting affection for “Dads new toy”.
You successfully brought together for us new activities, great places to eat like our favourite The Gialos Taverna, wonderful bays to swim and snorkel, providing Gabe with the chance to be able to helm the boat under engine and last but not least the truly wonderful Geni Garden Apartment, owned and run so efficiently by Franz, Poldi and Daughter Sandra, many thanks to all of them.
Who knows Phil when we will return, certainly after this complete family holiday experience and with so many places to explore I hope it will be soon.
- Stephen & Emmie
Emmie and I had a fabulous time and miss Geni, and all that made it a great, different holiday. We would love to return next year.
We enjoyed Gialos and it was very handy, but we would prefer to be at the Geni apartments with a sea view, access to somewhere to relax after a sail and a pool etc. We would like to visit around the same time of year to avoid crowds, warmer sea, take advantage of lower prices, but before all gets closed down, though I see you’ve had excellent weather since we left. I imagine we could go any time after children are back at school so early September onwards. There are many bays on Meganissi we must visit and Tavernas to tie alongside. We would one day like to visit Ithaca, but not sure how best to do that. Maybe you have a suggestion.
After submitting this review, Stephen and Emmie went on to book for 10 days in September 2020.
- Tony & Helen
We have just returned from the most wonderful holiday, sailing a beautiful Drascombe Lugger, called Paxi, in Lefkada. Our expectations of the sailing trip were far exceeded, and we will always remember it.
But first, how did two Aussies end up sailing a Drascombe Lugger in Lefkada, Greece in June 2019? Well, it all started a year ago. In July 2018, Tony was in hospital, recovering, thankfully, from a serious accident. With little to do, he read his Practical Boatowner, sailing magazine from front cover to back, but kept returning to an advertisement for Sailing a Drascombe Lugger in Greece. What a dream to sail a small boat in the Greek Islands – wasn’t it only larger yachts that were available for charter in Greece, could we do this from the other side of the world?
Next step, Helen begins the email correspondence with Phil – which went back and forth for sometime (Thanks Phil). Eventually, we decide we will go for it! Of course, if we have to travel so far, we must stay for a good amount of time and see some of Greece also. Yes, one month should do it – 18 nights in beautiful Geni Gardens, some time for seeing the sights in Athens, Delphi, Meteora, and a bit more (what a fascinating place Greece is).
Whilst Tony is experienced sailing our two small sailing boats here in Australia, they are quite different to the Lugger, and we also don’t really use a motor, so Phil provided invaluable guidance and great tips to get us quickly and confidently on our way – both motoring and sailing.
We had the best holiday – it is difficult to sum it all up, but here are some highlights:
- Our room at Geni Gardens, recommended by Phil, had the most fantastic view! We would sit there from breakfast onwards, watching the world, and many yachts, go by.
- Jumping in for a refreshing swim in the Geni Gardens pool after a great day sailing – perfect!
- Venturing outside Vliho Bay to sail and/or motor between the nearby Ionian Islands, and stopping for a swim or a meal at a Taverna.
- Taking the short walk to and from our favourite local Taverna, Gialos, for our evening meal. Saying hello to the locals, looking at how their gardens are growing and enjoying the cool of the evening as the sun goes down.
- And our best sailing experience, on our last evening in Lefkada, sailing in Vliho Bay with a strong wind. Magnificent scenery and cheers from crew on the nearby moored super yachts as we whizzed by. Yes, bigger isn’t always better!
Cheers Phil, and thanks for our Great Greek Sailing Holiday
- Anne & Nick Marks
“Greece would be nice“, he said. “Let’s go sailing“, he said. “You’ll enjoy it“, he said.
My husband loves to sail whereas I am a very much a reluctant one despite having completed various courses (including competent crew and helming a topper) many years ago. So we looked at what was available in Greece with some day sailing and decent accommodation. We knew of Phil and his luggers so gave him a call, he suggested we stay at Geni Gardens on Lefkada.
Geni Gardens turned out to be a real find, set on the sea shore in beautiful, kept grounds with a pool, and run by a lovely family that live on site. The husband is the local baker so we could order bread, cakes etc the night before and they’d be delivered for breakfast, or we took the boat and motored across the bay to sit and drink our coffee at the bakery. Our ground floor apartment was spotless, full size cooker and fridge, comfortable beds and views of the sea from our veranda area. Perfect and with the added bonus of much needed air conditioning. Our lugger for the week, Annie B, was moored on the pontoon at the end of the garden.
A short walk from the apartment was a fabulous waterside taverna called Gialos, the food was delicious, the beers cold and the welcome warm. We also used the boat to motor there and someone always came to help us tie up alongside the taverna’s jetty.
Before letting us loose on the high seas Phil showed us the ropes (literally), called sheets on boats, and how to get the best from our sailing. He also gave us great ideas about where to sail, have lunch and swim. The first time we went out of the bay he accompanied us in his rib, which I found most reassuring. The lugger was recognised at one taverna where we ran the boat up the beach to ‘moor’ just as Phil suggested we do. A fabulous way to arrive!
It was a brilliant holiday, Phil was great with lots of suggestions & ideas for the best sailing trips, as well as providing a superb service as local guide. The combination of a lugger with the lovely Geni Gardens was perfect.
Thanks Phil for a great holiday
- Neil, Jean & Ruth Wilson
Sailing in the Sun, once more, August – September 2018.
One can perhaps get addicted to some things, if you keep trying them – this was our fifth holiday sailing one of Phil’s Luggers ‘in the sun’. Though our first Greek sailing experience goes back some few years to Lemnos when we had the shock to capsize a Laser on the first outing – the shock being the warmth of the water; we do hail from Scotland! Beware that there is a sensory impact of departing London and within little more than three hours be embraced by a duvet of warmth and the stunning blue sky reflecting in the sea – islands, mountains and water; there’s a beguiling combination.
This year we were heading off to start on Ithika, after an all too brief catch-up with Phil as he transported us from the airport to Nidri for the ferry to Frikes. There were still time for some beers by the waters of Vlicho Bay, however adding those and the convivial company to the scenic combination and … well we had to take a later ferry.
Peter, of the Frikes Bay apartments, was to be found running his popular Ice Cream parlour and soon saw us settled in for our first week there. For our second week we sailed Lugger Heulwen back up to Vlicho and the Geni Gardens to enjoy the hospitality of Franz and Poldi, along with their daughter, Sandra and provisioned with bread and other daily necessities supplied by son-in-law Hari. Both weeks provided great opportunities to revisit some familiar bays and harbours as well as discovering some new ones. In effect we sailed every day; a nice routine of collecting together the necessities for picnic lunch, sail till we got somewhere then swim, snorkel, wander ashore, picnic, enjoy a cold Mythos from the chill bag and perhaps another swim to give an excuse for a chittering bite – Scottish term for a bit of bread eaten after swimming, to prevent shivering or the chattering of their teeth; we weren’t shivering and the ‘bread’ might just have be a Greek pastry!
In all I see we sailed 216 km with some sailing days as short as 7 km and other longer trips of over 30 km. This year Phil had another innovation: Heulwen was fitted with a new set of sails and a chance to try the innovative Batten Roached Main. Isn’t every sailing day a school day anyway? Phil offered some helpful tips and input from Dick at R&J Sails, the maker, namely more downhaul tension; keep the luff parrel beads and lacing slack; avoid having the gaff too tight to the mast, slacken the halyard slightly; and finally if you want to ‘brail-up’ the topsail, you have to release the downhaul – it has an extra bit of rope, the brailing line; we like extra bits to play with!
Our impressions included: the Lugger did make better progress notably for us in the lighter winds going to windward, when one might ‘entertain’ the crew with the game: ‘What’s our speed?’ adjudicated by the Garmin GPS. In those light winds I also thought the Lugger would go about more reliably rather than falling back – though in past times there may have been a helmsman skill deficit here! It is a larger sail – but has two rows of reefing lines. We did put in both once but that was overdoing it that time; one reef proved a delight on a day tacking north out of Nidri, though I still like having the ‘Jib and Mizzen’ option especially when reaching in gusty conditions – simple and keeps the crew from mutinying! Drawbacks of this sail, ‘wrangling’ it is different, admittedly of course it was a new sail so the material will acquire more flex in time, however it needs a bit of discipline and there was no tidy ‘roll it up’ from the clew. We thought it best to routinely lower the gaff and bungee the whole thing up – especially the topsail section; the brailing line helps in that process. Part of the Drascombe’s effect is adding to the delight of others and augment the scenery; with its topsail section it does add a distinct element of traditional style! Now you might see the risk of getting addicted to this Lugger sailing in the sun!
- Jon Paton
Our many thanks for accommodating our 2 families of 8 adults at the very special Villa Nisos on our most recent stay with you in the Greek Ionian. The Villa was just outstanding set high up and overlooking Vliho Bay and the Meganissi channel. Its facilities for our large group were just right and I highly recommend it.
Not having a safe mooring at Perigali meant the morning commute for Fiona and myself by your tender to collect the Luggers from the head of Vliho Bay. This for us was great as it gave the girls time to get themselves together and we enjoyed the time to ourselves on the water. It also served as a time when we could stop off at the Nidri slipway and get provisions for the day, rather than having to walk into town from Perigali.
You kindly organised the collection of Joe from her bus transfer from Lefkas. She travelled independently on the day of our arrival, that took an issue off my mind knowing you were in contact with her during her travels from Athens.
Again Phil, many thanks, we had a fabulous week sailing and exploring in the great Luggers and enjoying being with our families all together at the Villa Nisos and would do it again tomorrow.
- Simon & Lucy Atkinson
We decided to get out of the mountains and into the sea to celebrate Simon’s birthday last month and were lucky enough to take a Drascombe Lugger for the day. Phil from Dragon Drascombe met us at the pontoon in Geni and gave us a thorough briefing on the boat before escorting us out of the bay, with some final instruction on putting up the sails, and then waving us off.
The boat was very responsive and glided through the water effortlessly; it was a pleasure to sail. There was plenty of room for us and our two boys and not forgetting our picnic hamper! We sailed around the islands that dot our coastline and anchored for a swim when the mood took us. It was a wonderfully relaxing day and one we hope to repeat!
Drascombe Lugger holidays are ideal for travellers looking for a different sailing holiday, one where you can get back to the basics, where you can be as active as you like – sail some days and perhaps read by the pool the next or take a MTB tour with us – a holiday where your lugger is simply at the bottom of the garden for you to hop on and off whenever you wish. Seems perfect to us!
- Eric, Julie, Ray & Jackie
We arrived on a beautiful, warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. There was Yani’s taxi waiting to collect us and we were whisked off to Geni apartments where Phil was waiting to greet us. After being shown our rooms it was into Phil’s dory for a short trip to Gialos Taverna for a much needed Meze lunch and cold beer. The following day we had instruction on the use and handling of our Lugger “Paxi” and so the weeks adventures could now begin!
Some of where to go and what to do within the islands is documented in other testimonials, but we would like to include another aspect which, perhaps not everyone gets to see. Phil suggested that one evening we take a short taxi ride to go and see “Concrete Bill’s” and Dimitri’s Taverna which is located in the hills above Nydri. Phil arrange for Yani’s taxi to collect us for our visit to the pub owned by “Concrete Bill”. At this point I should add, he was given the nickname after he built himself a concrete yacht, which he has since sold.
His pub sells real ale sourced from the Peloponnese within Greece, which he collects himself. As you can see the pub is not exactly what all may consider but I can assure you he is quite a character and you will enjoy the beer and the ambience of this unique establishment. Don’t be fooled by appearances, this isn’t Billy Connolly but Concrete Bill is a very likeable guy, very well educated and hails from Gloucestershire. The pub is very popular with the local ex-pats and well worth the visit, especially to sample his fairly strong beer!
The evening also included a meal in Dimitri’s Taverna, just a short walk back down the hill. This Taverna has some of the most spectacular views in the area. As you walk in you cannot fail to be impressed by the remarkable vista that awaits you.
Good food, excellent views and great prices make this a must-see location. We certainly recommend you to consider a visit to both Bill’s pub and Dimitri’s Taverna.
Another great aspect of this holiday is being able to use the Lugger for your transport to the taverna. We had great pleasure in arriving at the jetty of Gialos Taverna in the evening. Arriving while other diners are enjoying their meals becomes quite a talking point as you step off to secure your lines. Some even gave us scores out of 10! We should add they were exceptional!
Fair winds and a great holiday, we can’t wait to return. The whole experience is very well executed by Phil and we thank him for the efforts he made to ensure our holiday was a success. Many thanks to Poldi, Franz and family at the Geni apartment’s for providing the accommodation which is sensational and such a fabulous location to stay in.
- Tim & Dot
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.
- Gordon and Frances MacDonald
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.
- The Vaughan Family
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.
- An Ionian Tour
“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
- Richard & Cheri Crosley
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.