The popular resort of Gouvia, on the island's east coast, lies just 7km north of Corfu Town and makes an excellent holiday destination. There are plenty of bars, tavernas and clubs to choose from and a relatively sheltered pebble beach, but it isn`t quite as hectic as some of the other resorts on the island. The large marina at Gouvia Bay was the first such privately-owned facility in Greece and is now one of the country`s busiest.
Located in the Ionian Sea, many sailors use Gouvia Marina as a convenient stopover for maintenance and resupply while transiting between the Adriatic and Mediterranean. With 1,200 berths the marina can become very congested, especially during the peak summer season, and there are always many impressive, very expensive craft to be seen - even a few seafaring dogs!
Base for a fortnight-long stay was the excellent Molfetta Beach Hotel, just north of the marina. We had a bay view room and the staff were friendly and helpful. Distant cruise ships and large ferries passing the island were visible from the balcony most days and an added bonus was the two House Martin`s nests tucked up in the corner.
Larinka is the last of four Zephyr 43ft Wingsail Trimarans, built by Wingtek Plc (formerly Walker Wingsail Plc) between 1998-2001. She was designed by John Walker and built in the Royal Naval Dockyard in Plymouth, England. A Category `A` ocean-going vessel, Larinka is capable of operating in winds of up to Force 10 (Beaufort scale) with the ability to withstand even more severe conditions.
The 44 square metre main wing and tail section, akin to an aircraft`s, can both be manually and electronically controlled by the helmsman who can remain inside, protected from the elements. The main wing provides the thrust while the tail provides the angle of attack and the yacht is simply steered like a car, turning the steering wheel to port or starboard as required - no booms, sails or rigging to worry about.
The Hellenic Coast Guard use Gouvia Marina as its base rather than the port at Corfu Town and the island's lifeboat, also operated by the Coast Guard, is stationed here.
The primary roles of the Hellenic Coast Guard are law enforcement, search and rescue (SAR), marine safety, pollution prevention, fishery protection, prevention of the illegal immigration and drug interdiction.
SAR-520 (above) is one of ten self-righting 18 metre-long Lambro Halmatic 60 Lifeboats in the fleet.
Left: Lambro PB-57 Patrol Launch (LS-142).
LS-130 (below) is an FB 42' STAB high-speed interceptor that features a series of innovative solutions like like the anti-dive bow, and the two separate inflatable stabiliser tubes STAB® positioned one on each side. This type of craft is also in use with Kuwaiti Coast Guard and Jamaican Navy.
The STAB hull is a composite Kevlar and balsa sandwich which guarantees extremely high resistance and reduced weight. The cockpit is protected with high side walls with a wheelhouse top fixed to cover the operators. The cockpit can accommodate either 2 seat boxes or 4 Tecno Moto Seats. The Tecno Moto is a new seat concept designed for special forces. The seats, fitted with shock absorbers, are compact and allow the carriage of more people and equipment when space is at a premium.
The ruins of the Venetian shipyard and arsenal at Gouvia lie close to the modern marina and can be explored free of charge. Although the columns, walls and arches of the arsenal survive almost intact the roof has long since disappeared. Located near the mouth of the Adriatic Sea, Corfu was of great strategic importance to Venice and in 1716, in the aftermath of the second Great Siege of Corfu by the Ottomans, the Venetians built extensive fortifications to bolster the island's defences. The best known are the Old Fortress (below) and New Fortress (above) in Corfu Town.
The bay at Gouvia (previously known as Govino) was developed as a major naval facility and three maintenance docks were built. Historically, a large part of the island was covered with natural oak forests and this resource was utilised by the Venetians, and later the British and French, on a grand scale. The Venetian naval contingent based at Corfu comprised two squadrons: one of twenty five galleys, the other of twelve heavy sailing ships. Each squadron was under the command of a Vice Admiral.
The keystone above the gateway bears the inscription "ZBM ANNO MDCCLXXVIII". ZBM' is thought to be the initials of one of the ship captains involved in building the shipyard. The year is 1778.
It was common practice for Venetian high ranking naval officers who participated in the construction of such projects to inscribe the buildings with their initials and coats of arms.
The Gouvia facility was part of a network of Venetian arsenals and naval stations dotted throughout Greece, which included shipyards in the Aegean Sea, at Epirus, the Peloponnese and on Crete.
As time passed, however, the Venetian Senate became alarmed at the prospect of arsenals that could potentially compete work-wise with the central arsenal in Venice.
In order to safeguard shipbuilding operations in their capital, the Senate opted to limit the work undertaken by shipyards elsewhere. Consequently the facility at Gouvia was restricted to carrying out basic maintenance such as cleaning and caulking.
The number of ships being serviced at Gouvia gradually declined and ceased altogether following the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1798 which signalled the end of the Venetian Republic. The Gouvia arsenal later functioned as a base for the French during the final year of the Great War (1914-18).
Given the local and national historical importance of the Gouvia site, there has been a well-received proposal to restore the structure and create a 'Museum of the Sea', however, with the ongoing, dire financial crisis in Greece, it is highly unlikely that this will ever happen. Meantime, the local rowing club store their boats next to the shipyard.
On 7 October 1915, the Kingdom of Serbia was invaded by a combined German and Austro-Hungarian force. One week later, the Bulgarians declared war. With Serbian forces vastly outnumbered and outgunned, the Serb commander ordered a full retreat.
Tens of thousands of refugees tagged along with the fleeing troops, who fled south and west through Montenegro and into the mountains of Albania. Supplies were quickly exhausted and extreme winter weather began to take its toll.
Even though the severe conditions also hindered the pursuers, hundreds of thousands of Serbs died due to hunger, disease, thirst, and hypothermia, as well as a result of attacks by enemy forces and Albanian bandits.
Although some 155,000 Serbs, mostly soldiers, reached the coast of the Adriatic Sea, approximately 200,000 Serbs had perished during the initial retreat. The survivors embarked on Allied transport ships that carried them to several Greek Islands and relative safety, with the majority arriving on Corfu. The survivors of the retreat were so weakened, however, that despite Allied help, thousands more died from sheer exhaustion in the weeks after their rescue. The memorial below is located on the waterfront at Gouvia.
The surface on most of the islands where the Serbs sought refuge was too rocky for traditional burials and it soon became necessary to dispose of the rapidly growing number of dead at sea after tying rocks to the corpses to prevent flotation. More than 5,000 Serbs were laid to rest in this way, near the Greek island of Vido which became known as the Blue Graveyard (Plava Grobnica). To prevent an epidemic breaking out in Corfu`s capital and other nearby communities, many of the desperately ill with little chance of survival were transferred to the hospital on Vido.
Vido island, which lies directly opposite Corfu Town, has a memorial plaque and mausoleum dedicated to those who died. Because of the horrendous loss of life, the Serbian army's retreat through Albania is considered by Serbs to be one of the darkest episodes in their nation's history.
There are various other Serbian memorials and cemeteries dotted throughout Corfu including the one below, on the road to Lake Korisson at the south end of the island. It honours the men of the Drina Division which formed part of the Third Army.
Please bear in mind that all images on this website and my blog are Copyright. They are not free to use and have been embedded with a digital watermark.