Log #23a Greek Waters – Dubrovnik to Corfu

October 26, 2001 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 23 Greece, The Logs

Log #23a Greek Waters – Dubrovnik to Corfu

Oct. 26, 2001
Cape Matapan, The Peloponnisos
Covers the period Sept. 20 to 26, 2001

We left Gruz (outside Dubrovnik) at 1150 after clearing customs and immigration and handing in our crew list. We still have our Croatian cruising permit which is good for a year. Before leaving we encountered George and Liz on Amador, first met a few days ago in Korcula, who had come in to clear out as well. They were heading for Corfu as well, and we kept them in sight most of the trip down, a comfort for both of us as we would be passing the Albanian coast, about which we had been warned and advised to stay well off. We also said goodbye to Flavia, a Swedish boat next to us in Gruz.

It was a nice day for a change, as the last two had been miserable and rainy. The winds were a light force 2 and 3 and from a suitable westerly or northwesterly direction to allow us at least to motor sail, with a few short frustrating attempts to sail without the engine on. We were headed in a southeasterly direction, for a two day, 50 hour trip (of which we were able to sail only 8 hours) of 220 nautical miles, giving the Albanian coast a wide 15 to 20 mile clearance until we approached the north end of Corfu. Then our decision had to be: do we take the shorter route around the north end of Corfu, through the North Corfu Channel which would take us close to the Albanian coast, within a mile as we pass the narrows of the channel; or do we go a much longer way around the south tip of Corfu and up the east coast to get to Corfu town (Kerkira), an extra 40 miles? We chose the shorter northern route, and had no problems. We hugged the Corfu shoreline, enjoying our first glimpses of Greece.

The cruising costs, permits and procedures for sailing Greek waters are still in a state of confusion. There is a transit log and cruising permit which were required, but have been ruled illegal by the EU (for EU boats), and Greece has passed legislation revoking the requirement. However, the actual administrative changes have not filtered down through their system and many port authorities still insist on such logs, and will demand payment for such if it cannot be produced. We also heard that non-EU boats were charged more than EU boats, or still may be charged under the new legislation, which for our 10 metre boat would be at least the equivalent of $200 Canadian, or more. With this in mind, and since I had taken out British citizenship, and lived and worked in London, I got an SSR (Small Ships Registry) number for Veleda which entitles me to fly the British red ensign (affectionately called the red duster). Other advice was to avoid the authorities, and let them come to you. A boat flying the red ensign would not attract as much attention as a boat flying the Canadian flag, and so we switched to the red ensign while at sea.

As we approached Corfu, the big decision was do we bother checking in, as we were recommended against going to authorities, especially as we were now an EU boat, or do we fly the Quebec yellow quarantine flag and take our papers to the port authority. I preferred the former, but Judy preferred the latter. With a reluctant “Yes, dear” we entered port with Quebec flying above the Greek courtesy flag. (Flag Quebec is for the letter “Q”, a plain yellow flag used to indicate that a boat needs to be cleared in to a country, and should be flown until entry procedures have been completed.) We went to the customs dock beside the main ferry terminal with our passports (my British and Judy’s Canadian), and our SSR certificate. We finally found an office open and I presented our papers to the official, indicating we were coming from Croatia, a non-EU country, flying the red ensign, with nothing to declare, and did we need to check in? He looked at them and said, “No”. That was it! Judy’s sense of doing the “right thing” was satisfied, and we were legitimately in Greece. I did not want to ask any more questions, and did not want to ask to have our passports stamped, but we did note down in our log the location, date, and time of this entry as we had no piece of paper saying we had done so. Perhaps I should have asked his name or badge number, but we were happy to clear out without paying and fees, and returned to Veleda to take down the “Q” flag.

As I write this, we have been in Greece for over a month, and when asking other cruisers about the transit log, still get mixed messages as to the requirement for it. Many who do not have it say “Stay away from the authorities”, as they may or may not require it, depending on whether they have heard of the changed legislation, or whether they have had a bad day. Some have been caught and required to pay, and we have heard that the permit may be for a short 3 month period or a full year.  Some marinas may require to see the permit, others not. Theoretically if the fee is paid, it should be refunded when the administrative procedures go through, but the complications and hassles in that, especially while cruising in other countries, would be horrendous. Thus I am reluctant to go to marinas, or report to port authorities, as if the transit log is requested I may face a major unnecessary expense for a few weeks transitting the Greek isles en route to Turkey. We will be returning to Greece next year by which time I hope the issue is settled.

Anyways, after we left the customs dock we went over to the fuel dock, and walked across the road to the local gas station (petrol to you Brits) and filled our jerry cans with diesel, before going around the breakwater to the old port of Corfu (also known as Kerkira) where we tied up alongside a rough concrete wall (39 37.7N, 019 55.1E) along with local fishing and tour boats and a few other cruisers. We were right in the centre waterfront of the old town, with several tavernas, repair shops and chandleries on the port street below the imposing bastions of the “New” Venetian Fort. We wandered the old town looking for a laundry we saw advertised on a street sign, only to find out later that it had gone out of business. We have had a difficult time finding laundries, the last one being in Trieste over a month ago, and have been doing hand laundry in the meantime. However, we had a good tour of the old town, and a delicious Greek meal at a quaint back street Restaurant Arpi, recommended by our Lonely Planet Guide to the Greek Islands. We have found these Lonely Planet Guides a good addition to information contained in our pilot books for sights to see, maps, history, places to eat (low, medium and high ranges), etc.

Next day we were invited to raft alongside Odabella, a Belgian boat with Sylvia and Herman on board, whom we first met in Syracusa on Sicily and with whom we shared a day on Mount Etna. They had taken their boat from Syracusa to Riposto, a port located nearer to the volcano. They reported that their boat was covered in black ash from the fallout from Etna, and it took days to get all the soot cleaned up. We weren’t that close to it when it erupted last July, but we did see the red glow from the summit and the long plume of smoke and ash trailing downwind as we crossed the Strait of Messina. Also in the rafted boats ahead of us was the Swedish boat Flavia we met in Gruz before departure. We were pleased to host the other boats in the raft for drinks the second day. It was a good get-together.

We toured the “New” Venetian Fort with Sylvia and Herman, “new” referring to the second fort built to defend Corfu by the Venetians in the 16th and 17th centuries. I enjoyed wandering off to explore the many tunnels and passageways that honeycombed the walls of the fortress. There were also some spectacular views as it had to command the sea approaches to Corfu and the North Corfu Channel, and be a sentinel against raids from the mainland of Albania. The Greek/Albanian border is at the southern end of the North Corfu Channel, about 8 miles northeast across from Corfu town.

I later explored the Old Fort, a large complex dominating the southern promontory of Kerkyra Town, again enjoying snooping through abandoned buildings, and trying to imagine the structures in their operational usage. One building was a hospital which was in use until about thirty years ago, now empty, the courtyards overgrown, all fixtures removed leaving gaping holes in floors and walls, but a few regimental murals, mottos and symbols were still evident, mute testimony of former units, fading on the dusty walls. The hike to the very top gun platform and lighthouse was exhausting, but rewarded me with a spectacular panorama of the old town, the airport, a few bays around the city, the yacht club located below the walls, and a grand vista across the azure blue Mediterranean water of the Gulf of Corfu to the Greek and Albanian mainland. After doing some shopping in the large open air market below the ramparts of the “New” fort, we left about 1000 for Nisoi Paxoi, a 30 mile trip south.

Incidentally, the spelling used to translate names from Greek script to our alphabet may differ, depending on what author is used, upon whether the singular or plural is used, the town or the island, and the nominative or dative case of the original, and noun or adjective form. For example the next island we are going to is called Nisoi Paxoi or Paxos (Paxoi is the dative or possessive case of Paxos, thus “the island of Paxos). The Greek name for Corfu is Kerkyra (Lonely Planet Guide) or Kerkira (Rod Heikell’s Greek Waters Pilot). Similarly the large peninsula of southern Greece is spelled the Peloponnisos (Rod Heikell), or the Peloponnese (Lonely Planet). I will tend to use Rod Heikell’s spelling most of the time. But heck, if the authorities cannot be consistent, why should I?