Today would see us spend nine full hours cruising non-stop in the Ionian, to ensure we reached Zakynthos (Zante) this afternoon as planned. The wind had dropped considerably from the strength that had prevented us leaving Nydri for the last three nights, but Skipper Yanni warned us we would still be in for a fairly bumpy ride. With Trevor’s and my robust sea-legs, that news was not particularly alarming, although some other passengers accepted the information with some trepidation. 🙂
At 8.00am precisely the engines of the Hemera gained momentum as the ropes were cast off, and we watched as the shoreline of Nydri receded slowly into the distance, and we said “goodbye” to Lefkada and set off for our final port of call. It hadn’t quite been the island-hopping adventure we’d hoped for, but nevertheless we’d still enjoyed our trip immensely and agreed that Lefkada was the sort of colourful little island that you’d probably want to have a three-day break in anyway, as there was so much to do and see and the beaches were gorgeous.
As the Hemera increased her speed to her maximum of 8-10 knots, the Ionian had lots of brisk little waves and the sea washed against the side of the vessel at the bow, sometimes cascading up in a graceful arc of sea-spray. The wind whistled through the steel cables of the rigging, and the Greek flag at the stern stuck straight out from its flagpole. You had to be very careful when moving around the Hemera as the motion of the vessel was really noticeable; it was advisable to keep hold of the railings, the cables or anything else that would prevent you from losing your balance. 🙂
As it was rather windy (and comparatively chilly) at the stern, Trevor and I walked around to the bow where, despite the lively breeze, it was much more pleasant sitting in the sun. There was something completely mesmerising about watching the bow of the Hemera as it rose and fell, listening to the sounds of the wind and tasting the salt spray on your lips. This is what is just so wonderful about being at sea; the sheer power of the elements, the vastness of the sea and sky, the clouds and the sunshine – Mother Nature in all her strength and glory.
Looking around at our fellow passengers, everyone was spending the time in various ways. Some, like us, were enjoying the sunshine and the passing rugged scenery. Others were reclining on the comfortable mattresses at the stern, reading paperbacks books or browsing on their tablets. One or two had disappeared below decks to have a quiet lie-down in their cabin as they were feeling a little queasy with the rocking and rolling the Hemera on the waves.
Spending all these hours on the Hemera today allowed us to notice things about her in more detail. For example, it had become increasingly evident during our days on board that Trevor and I had struck it lucky and been allocated the biggest cabin. Despite our initial impression that the space was limited, in actual fact cabin #1, the foremost cabin near the bow, was probably about half as large again as the others we had seen, sneaking a peek through any open doors as we passed by which, let’s be honest here, everybody does on every cruise. 🙂
This was because our cabin and its ensuite bathroom stretched the width of the vessel (less the width of the ‘promenade deck’ such that it was). When we were in bed, our feet were pointing towards the bow. The cabins adjacent to ours which were reached via the same corridor were only half the width of the vessel (less the width of the corridor) and their beds were placed at right angles to the bow. Here’s a copy of the deck plans of the Hemera. 🙂
Another thing we found really charming about our cabin was the fact that the walls sloped to follow the shape of the hull. This allowed shelves to be built in the extra spaces to increased the amount of stowage space. We had two high-up windows/portholes in our bedroom and two in the bathroom with little curtains to ensure privacy. The windows were at the same level as the decking on the ‘promenade deck’ which meant you could see people’s lower legs as they walked by, as well as the paddle boards that were lashed to the railings.
As we sought refuge from the sun under the canopy at the stern of the gulet, we were also amused that the ‘main’ deck, also served as the boat deck, the promenade deck and the sun deck.
The crew’s quarters were reached by descending a ladder through a hatch right at the bow; apparently there are four bunk beds and a shared bathroom. 🙂
Around 12.30pm, when we’d been at sea for about four and a half hours and we realised we must be half-way to our destination, we decided a pre-luncheon beer was in order, and several of us sat around the large table and enjoyed the freezing cold lager. Then, at one o’clock, Mohammed announced that lunch was ready; he’d managed to conjure up and amazingly-tasty meal in the confines of his tiny galley and despite all the motion of the vessel – what a legend! 🙂
Lunch was a tender, delicious braised lamb served with peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, moussaka and rice if you wanted. It was followed by the juicy fresh fruit platter once again, and we enjoyed slices of peach, pear, pineapple and apple. Afterwards, Trevor and I decided a power nap was in order, so we returned to cabin #1 and settled down; from my prone position I enjoyed the feel of the Hemera’s motion – it was rhythmic and soothing, although not everybody would agree.
And so the afternoon passed in its pleasant, relaxing way, and soon we could see land ahoy which Yanni told us was Zakynthos. It was just after five o’clock as we glided into port and moored up almost in the same place as we’d been when we joined Hemera. It was sad to think we’d be disembarking tomorrow morning. 🙁
As such, Abdul the barman told everyone they had to pay their bar bill tonight (we’d have to pay-as-we-go if we wanted any more drinks later on) so we waited while he totted up the drinks in the honesty book and then paid him what we owed. It was now about 6.00pm and time to go ashore.
Going down the gangplank, Trevor and I decided to walk into town to stretch our legs after sitting around all day. The heat had gone out of the sun by now and the evening was mellow and pleasant. We wondered where to go for something to eat, and decided to visit that little restaurant, Alektor, where we’d eaten when we first arrived, as we’d really enjoyed their food.
Soon we arrived at the restaurant where the smiling proprietor showed us to a table for two. I decided to order the same delicious house salad that I’d had the first time, while Trevor chose the beef and baby onion stew. As ever, it was washed down with a large glass of cold local beer.
After our meal, Trevor and I wandered through the pleasant little streets, looking in souvenir and craft shops and enjoying the atmosphere. We didn’t really want to stay out too late tonight, as we’d have to be up early in the morning to do our packing.
We therefore found an attracticve little cocktail bar and went inside, where I ordered an Aperol spritz and Trevor enjoyed a beer. A good selection of 80’s and 90’s music was playing in the background.
We then took a slow stroll back to the Hemera, arriving back around 8.45pm. Going to the bar, we snaffled the last two cans of cold beer (they’d have to restock for all the new arrivals tomorrow) and sat at the long table at the stern; several other passengers arrived back shortly afterwards. Wendy gave us a questionnaire to fill in to rate various aspects of the boat, the meals and the service. I gave everything top marks. 🙂
I then did some of this blog and read my Kindle, as we sat and talked with the other passengers about this holiday and other cruises we had booked. Then we enjoyed a nightcap (I had wine while Trevor had cider) before heading back to cabin #1 for the final evening on board. 🙁
We hadn’t packed yet, but as we didn’t have to be out of cabin until 9.30am, that inevitable chore could wait until the morning.