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Negotiating the Notorious Lefkada Channel

It's narrow and only 3.5 metres deep in places, making for a hair raising, butt-clenching navigation ...

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It is said some have a fear of negotiating the tricky Lefkada channel. To be perfectly honest, we weren’t sure how it would go ourselves and we had a healthy dose of trepidation as we undertook the challenge of sailing the notorious channel.

So close we could touch the channel markers

Our transit was heading north after spending a peaceful night before in the pretty little touristy village of Nydri, which is full of tourist-attracting tavernas and magical night lights, yet still exudes a peaceful calm despite the ferries that are to-ing and fro-ing a lot of the time.  

So close, we could touch the starboard marker

Famous for the white rocks that abound and adorn its southern end, the mainly shingle island of Lefkas is a land spit, that has a natural causeway connection to the mainland that was taken advantage of by the Corinthians as far back as 7BC when they colonised the island.  They built the town we now know as Lefkas and then undertook the construction of the canal (channel) that we sailed, separating it from the mainland, which is nowadays accessed by a floating bridge.

Our instruments showing we don’t have a lot of space to play

The narrow Lefkada channel runs through low lying land which is dredged to around 6 metres at its deepest and down to as little as 3.5 metres in others, so it is a hair raising, butt-clenching time navigating your way between the port and starboard markers. It is less than 25 metres wide so there is not a lot of forgiving room to play with in an 8-metre-wide boat.  

Narrow canal and the depth is shown on the right side of the plotter

You most definitely don’t sail the channel – motoring is required. The captain positioned me and my eagle eyes out the front of Waiata for the entire duration watching for any potential hazards as we made the transit, and there was much pleasure taken with the ancient fortifications that remain evident along the length of the waterway whilst on watch.

Timing is critical. The floating bridge opens hourly, and we missed it by thirty seconds. It was fairly evident that oncoming sea traffic wasn’t going to be happening along, we decided to simply drop our anchor and wait the 59 minutes until the bridge opened again, taking the opportunity for a fortifying lunch.  The bridge opening is announced with the screaming sound of a siren that shrieks for about 15 seconds and then stops for a minute or two before repeating its rioting squeal. It is a most godawful sound!

Old buildings and fortifications abound on port and starboard

We were the only boat heading north but there were several yachts heading south along the same narrow waterway and even in the skinny watery confines, we all passed port to port giving each other enough room to navigate safely past.

Passing by Lefkas marina

Navigating the channel wasn’t as difficult as some say it is and we took pleasure in the journey. We emerged into the Northern Bay with our destination of Preveza in sight, which is where we are anchored as we write.  It’s a shallow, green lagoon-like, large gulf of water, with fishermen almost buzzing the sugar scoops as they drop their nets and haul in their catch. And whilst here it has become evident that boats and people are increasingly on the move as summer turns her head and nods our way.

Emerging on the northern side – a fisherman on the point

So, we successfully conquered the channel and I’m reminded that the last tricky bridge we negotiated was the Itchen Bridge in Southampton which was virtually a year ago to the day.  We have found the entirety of the last week warmer, enjoyable and beautiful.  It is rare to feel so embraced and surrounded by land when the wide ocean is your element. But we have done it now and are ready for the next phase of our voyages of discovery.

Let’s not let our anger get us lost
And the need to be right comes at way too high a cost
That’s when love can build a bridge of light
That’s what turns the wrongs all right
That’s when you know it’s worth the fight
That’s when love turns night time into day
That’s when loneliness goes away,
That’s why you gotta be strong tonight
‘Cause only love can build us a bridge of light

Pink, Bridge of Light from the Happy Feet Soundtrack

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