Friday, 25 July 2014

Corfu connection

Sailing past Corfu harbour - the planes keep coming

The girl we've been waiting for

Now we are three again. Three's a good number on Enki. We can all find our own spaces. Claudia is using the boat in ways we don't much. It's a swimming platform. When she's been gone a while, I start scanning the water, looking for her blonde head. I'm mum, worrying about my girl being decapitated by crazy boy drivers.  Back on the boat she finds skinny places on the deck to stretch out her body. It's quickly taking on colour. She's never been pale-skinned, but when we collected her at Corfu airport our skins flashed tan at her and she wanted the sun.

We're happy to have her with us. That goes without saying.

Cruise ship slides past the land border between Greece and Albania

She arrived on a night when thunderclouds were forming over the Albanian hinterland. The next day it rained so heavily that the dinghy needed bailing out, and in the evening we watched lightning over the horizon west of Corfu town. Rain is something we've never much considered before in July and August. In our first season in the Mediterranean we became so blasé about a cloudless sky that we mistook the first autumn clouds for a bushfire coming off the hills above Kas. Summer weather patterns in the Ionian are not as stable, it seems.

In the week before Claudia's arrival, we loitered on the town quay at Levkas. We had some fancy paperwork to see to. Levkas town sits on exposed salt marshes at the north-eastern end of the island of the same name. We thought of it as a place to stop to do a few jobs on the way through to Corfu, and that we'd move on quickly up the canal once we'd wrapped up our business. But it's a town which grows on you.

Houses built to resist earthquakes

Mainstreet Levkas

It's not a conventional Greek beauty. It has tourists, but they don't swamp its inhabitants as is the case in some other port towns where summer is the only working season. Levkas has interesting food stores and decent chandleries (two important boxes to tick), idiosyncratic corrugated iron architecture and a lively main walking street named after the German archeologist Dorpfeld who argued vigorously for Levkas being Homer's mythical Ithaca. Levkadians obviously love him for that - he's buried in a lovely spot near Nidri harbour and in the Levkas archeological museum gets local hero treatment.

The road bridge over the Levkas canal
The sandspit and fortress at the north end of the canal

The Levkas canal is what people in boats talk about. What are the depths like? Where's it silted up? It's an intriguing waterway. The Corinthians dug the first canal through the salt marshes in the 7th century BC so their ships had a quicker, safer passage north. Without the canal, Levkas would be just another bump on the mainland coast. Much more cache in being an Ionian island. We watched the road bridge open and close on the hour for a few days before we went north and when the time came to navigate the final bend of the canal ourselves, followed the boat in front of us out into open water. When we come south again from Corfu, we'll know not to do that. The depth sounder got a fright as we cut across the tip of the sandpit.

Sailing into Corfu town past the old fortress (and below)

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