Porto Cheli, Spetses, Medicane and Trip Inland

Porto Cheli holds fantastic memories for Gill and I.

While sailing the world has been a lifelong dream for me, the same can’t be said for Gill. I took her introduction to sailing quite gently. We took a couple of 4 day holidays on a motor cruiser on the Caledonian Canal – no sails, no waves and beautiful scenery. I chartered a yacht on Lake Windemere – no waves and light winds before finally booking a 2 week villa flotilla holiday to based at Porto Cheli. The first week Gill took (yacht) sailing lessons while I had a great time windsurfing. On the second week of the holiday we had a Moody S31 named ‘Coriander’ and sailed with the flotilla around the Argolic Gulf. After a week of great (and very gentle) sailing in fantastic weather visiting beautiful villages and anchorages Gill saw what I was talking about and agreed to us buying our first yacht. This was in July 2003 and by October the same year we’d purchased a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 32.2 which we named ‘Coriander’ after the yacht that made it possible. We’re now sailing on our 3rd Coriander.

Coriander 1-1
Gill and I in 2003 on the flotilla Coriander

Anyway, back to 2018.

Ormos Zogeria – Spetses

This beautiful bay on the NW tip of Spetses was our favourite anchorage 15 years ago and it is still gorgeous, if a little busier.

zogeria
Ormos Zogeria anchorage

In 2003 we had the anchorage to ourselves. On both occasions that we visited the anchorage this year there were plenty of yachts anchored and flotilla and tripper boats anchoring for swim stops through the day. There is still plenty of room though. The water is crystal clear and the bottom sand.

On our first visit, after a refreshing swim, we took the dinghies round to the taverna in the smaller bay just west of our anchorage where we enjoyed a beer and ouzo while looking across Spetses Channel to Porto Heli 3 miles away.

Spetses Bar-1
Looking over to Porto Heli

Porto (C)heli

Porto Heli or Cheli depending upon what you read is a very special place for Gill and I. It was the home base of the Neilson flotilla in 2003.

Neilson-1
The flotilla at Porto Heli in 2003

The flotilla has long gone but the hotel and pontoon are still there and this time we anchored about 500m away.

Neilson Hotel-1
Looking to the hotel from Coriander. The pontoon to the left of the picture is now home to motorboats.

On the first occasion we visited in company with Mike and Claire on Owl and Pussycat and their guests Andrea and Fiona. We had a meal ashore and Gill and I were astounded by how busy the town now was with the front lined with restaurants and the quay filled with boats med moored.

The next day Fiona and I tried windsurfing on the Red Windsup paddleboard / windsurfer that I’d bought the year before. Fiona did incredibly well considering it was her first attempt and the sail was much larger than a beginner sail would be. It wasn’t quite as easy as I’d found it years ago though I did manage to sail and turn.

Porto Chelli is a large natural harbour with depths of 5-6m pretty much throughout with the bottom being thick mud, perfect anchoring ground.

Porto Chelli
Porto Cheli bay. We anchored at (A) 3 times

It’s sheltered from pretty much all wind directions and the entrance to the SW is sheltered by Spetses so large waves don’t enter.

We used this to our advantage on our second visit when a medicane had been forecast. A Medicane is a Mediterranean Hurricane and this had been forecast at least a week in advance, along with strong winds a few days earlier.

We discussed the options with Mike and Claire (both of us now on the Peloponnese side of the gulf) and we decided we’d return to Porto Cheli for its’ all round shelter.

wind10mkph_024-1
Forecast chart of AVERAGE wind speeds. Gusts were 140km/h. Arrow pointing to Porto Cheli

We got to Porto Cheli on the 21st September 2018 and left on the 2nd of October. This was probably the longest time we’d spent anywhere when it wasn’t for the winter.

It gave us time to celebrate my birthday at a place we loved and we took the opportunity to rent a car on one of the calm days and explore inland – more on that trip later.

In preparation for the strong winds and the fact that the wind would turn 180 degrees as the eye passed over us we laid out 60m of chain in 6m of water. As more and more boats came in we found we had to go around the neighbouring boats and tell them how much chain we had out and that we’d swing as the winds changed. Astoundingly some people didn’t know about the impending storm and thanked us for the advice and put out a similar amount of chain. We also had some boats thinking we were silly for putting out that much stating that 30m was plenty – They dragged at the peak of the storm putting themselves and other anchored boats in danger. Luckily they were able to re-anchor and this time put out plenty of chain.

We’d taken the bimini down and lashed ropes around the sail bag to stop it flapping and also reduce windage. The dinghy was also secured with extra lines to ensure it didn’t move.

On the 29th September the sky darkened as the storm approached at around 8:30am.

medicane-1
Storm approaching

And by 9:00am it hit with a bang – the wind increased to 40kts and torrential rain reduced visibility to metres.

The weather was wild all day and everyone were either confined to their boats or in some cases they’d left their boats and had booked hotel rooms. We stayed on anchor watch all day and well into the night with the wind changing direction at around 8pm. Our anchor held fine and apart from a boat close to us having to let more chain out so that we’d avoid them we didn’t have any trouble. Several other coats dragged but luckily they missed the other anchored boats and were able to re-anchor safely.

The boats that had been stern to the quay didn’t fare quite so well. The strong winds and chop that built up crashed them against the concrete quay and 7 or so were quite badly damaged. Those that could left the quay and came out to anchor where it was much safer.

By 2am on the 30th the winds had eased enough for Gill and I to feel happy to leave the cockpit, have a nightcap and go to bed. The next morning dawned completely calm and we were able to go ashore to see the damage and see how everyone else had fared.

The maximum gust we’d recorded was 74.6kts.

wind
Wind instrument showing maximum gust of 74.6 kts

Our anchor logging app track was pretty impressive too. It shows that we moved around a lot but the anchor held firm.

IMG_0975
Our anchor track

We’d definitely made the right decision to shelter here as reports came in of damaged and sunken boats in many of the places we’d been and could have gone to.

The 3rd time we visited was with Chris and Liba on the 21st October. By this time the town was much quieter and many of the restaurants had closed.

We visited for a 4th time on the 26th October while making our way round to Kalamata.

PH3-1
Sundowners in a favourite place

Ferry boat trip to Spetses

On our first visit to Porto Cheli we joined Mike, Claire, Andrea and Fiona on a trip to Spetses town. We took a bus to Kosta and then the ferry over to Spetses town.

The ferry docks in front of the impressive Poseidon Grand hotel next to the old harbour which is now reserved for taxi and tripper boats.

As usual Claire had done her research and suggested a visit to a museum dedicated to a hero of the Greek war of independence – Laskarina “Bouboulina” Pinotsis. The museum is housed in Bouboulina’s house and the museum guides are descendants of  Bouboulina.

On entering and paying our €2 we were seated and told that we’d get a 30 minute talk on the great lady before being split into groups organised by language for the museum tour. The talk was only given in Greek but luckily we were given notes in English.

Please feel free to click on the photographs to read the story in full but a precis is that: Bouboulina was born in a prison in Constantinople, the daughter of Stavrianos Pinotsis, a captain from Hydra island, and his wife Skevo. Pinotsis was in prison and during one of her mother’s visits she was born. When her father died she moved to Hydra with her mother and then to the island of Spetses four years later.

Bouboulina married twice, first Dimitrios Yiannouzas and later the wealthy shipowner and captain Dimitrios Bouboulis. Bouboulis was killed in battle against Algerian pirates in 1811. Then 40 years old, Bouboulina took over his fortune and his trading business and had four more ships built at her own expense, most famously the large warship Agamemnon (Interesting aside – Agamemnon was the king of Mycenae. His brother was Menelaus, who was married to Helen of Troy, the main characters that participated in the events leading to the Trojan War).

Bouboulina joined the Filiki Etaireia, an underground organisation that was preparing Greece for revolution against Ottoman rule. She bought arms and ammunition at her own expense and brought them secretly to Spetses in her ships, to fight “for the sake of my nation.” Construction of the ship Agamemnon was finished in 1820.

She bribed Turkish officials to ignore the ship’s size and it was later one of the largest warships in the hands of Greek rebels. She organised her own armed troops, composed of men from Spetses. She used her fortune to provide food and ammunition for the sailors and soldiers under her command.

On 13 March 1821 Bouboulina raised on the mast of Agamemnon her own Greek flag. The people of Spetses revolted on 3 April and joined forces with ships from other Greek islands. Bouboulina sailed with eight ships to Nafplion and began a naval blockade. Later she took part in the naval blockade and capture of Monemvasia and Pylos.

Bouboulina attacking Nafplion
Famous painting of Bouboulina attacking Nafplion

When the opposing factions erupted into civil war in 1824, the Greek government arrested Bouboulina for her family connections. Eventually she was exiled back to Spetses. She had exhausted her fortune for the war of independence.

Bouboulina was killed in 1825 as the result of a family feud in Spetses. The daughter of a Koutsis family and Bouboulina’s son Georgios Yiannouzas had eloped. Seeking her, the girl’s father Christodoulos Koutsis went to Bouboulina’s house with armed members of his family. Infuriated, Bouboulina confronted them from the balcony. After her argument with Christodoulos Koutsis, someone shot at her. She was hit in the forehead and killed instantly; the killer was not identified.

Bouboulina was commemerated on the reverse side of the Greek Drachma and we were given one to keep.

drachma
Bouboulina on the drachma

The tour of the museum was very interesting, the rooms grand and the exhibits very personal. The guides imbued a real sense of pride in Bouboulina. She was the first lady to hold the rank of admiral.

Culture done we then went for a walk through the town to the main harbour.

The harbour is where visiting yachts can go but space was very tight. We’d sailed here in 2003 when we were pretty much the only yacht there. This time it was packed with both visiting and local boats as well as the water tankers which are the only source of drinking water.

We then made our way back in to town through the very chic (expensive) shops to a taverna for lunch before catching the ferry and bus back to Porto Cheli.

Road trip to Didyma and Ancient Epidavros

In between a storm on the 26th September and the medicane on the 29th the weather returned to what we had come to expect as normal. We decided to hire a car for the day and take a trip inland to Ancient Epidavros (as opposed to Palaia ‘old’ Epidavros and Nea ‘new’ Epidavros).

The first stop was at a famous sinkholes at Didyma. On seeing the signposts we turned off the main road onto a very rough dirt track heading to some hills. It’s times like this I appreciate that I’m in a hire car rather than one I own.

I parked the car under a tree for shade and we made our way to what we thought was the more impressive hole.

Hole 1-1
Yes it’s a hole but not that impressive

Returning to the car we saw a gate with steps down to a tunnel. We went through and entered a massive sink hole with 2 churches built in to the wall. We went round the perimeter of the hole and into the churches. It’s fantastic that the churches are unlocked and without any form of security.

Especially given the artefacts and icons inside.

From Didyma we took the (long and) winding road to the ruined city of Ancient Epidavros. The car and coach park were massive but thankfully nearly empty, that’s one of the good things about visiting these sites outwith the main tourist season.

E-overhead
Google maps overhead of the site

Epidavros is a small town 5 miles away from this site. The site or the Asclepius at Epidavros was founded in the 6th century BC.

The asclepeion was the most celebrated healing centre of the Classical world, the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured. To find out the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimeteria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. Within the sanctuary there was a guest house with 160 guestrooms. There are also mineral springs in the vicinity, which may have been used in healing.

We paid our entry fee of €12 if memory serves correctly and made our way firstly to the museum. In the first room the exhibit that impressed me the most was the cabinet of surgical instruments. It’s amazing to me that there would be fine scalpels and other instruments  that were used thousands of years ago.

There were also stones with carved descriptions (in ancient Greek of course) describing the purpose of the site and who visited. The museum holds many of the friezes and statues that have been found during the excavations of the site that are still ongoing.

From the museum we headed for, probably, the highlight of the site – the theatre.

We followed the narrow stone path through pine trees and were stunned as the view opened up before us. The theatre was built at the end of the 4th century BC by the architect, Polykleitos the Younger, who also designed the Tholos in the sanctuary. More on that later. It is estimated that the theatre could seat 12,000 in the audience.

The auditorium is divided into 2 unequal parts divided by a horizontal walkway. The lower part is divided by 13 radiating staircases into 12 wedge shaped segments containing 34 rows of seats. Above the walkway 23 radiating passages divide it into 22 wedge shaped sections, each with 20 rows of seats. The seats on the lowest row have backrests and are known as the seats of honour. No prize for guessing where Gill sat.

Given that we were at the end of September now and between storms the weather was gorgeous with little wind and temperatures in the mid 30s centigrade.

We climbed the stairs to the top row to see if the acoustics were as good as everyone says e.g. you can hear a pin drop on the stage. As we sat to listen a group of visitors started to sing in the middle of the stage and I can confirm you could hear every word.

E-theatre-3
Epidavros theatre. Not bad for 4BC and perfect acoustics

After being blown away by the theatre we headed for the main site of the sanctuary. It isn’t as well preserved as the theatre but you get a good impression of its’ size and previous splendour.

The first part was the Katagogian or hostel which was used to house pilgrims, patients and their companions when they visted the sanctuary. It consisted of 160 rooms set in 4 units, each of which had a central courtyard.

Katagogian-1
Not a lot left of the Katagion or hostel but you get an appreciation of the size

We then went through to the main part of the ancient sanctuary

E-main-1
Main part of the sanctuary

This area hold several buildings, a gymnasium, public baths, a banquet hall and various temples.

Whilst there isn’t a lot left, what there is impresses with the quality of the building with carved stones for the walls and drainage waterways. It should also be remembered that the site was ransacked by pirates and the stones used as building materials elsewhere.

At the far end of the complex lies the stadium. Having been to the site of Olympia I have to say it’s pretty similar.

E-main-6
The stadium at Epidavros

The stadium is constructed in a natural depression with a track some 180m long by 22m wide. The stone columns were the start / finish lines. Unlike Olympia where the seats were only for the judges, here the seating was for anyone.

The Tholos which was designed by the architect responsible for the theatre is an alter and was used for offerings to the gods.It consisted of 26 external Doric columns and 14 internal columns. The floor was paved with black and white limestone slabs with a central stone which could re removed to gain access to the room underneath which is believed to have been used for storing valuable objects.

Tholos
The Tholos being partially restored.

Once we left Epidavros we decided to head for the coast and the town of Methana on the Methana peninsula. It is a spa resort known for its’ thermal springs and the smell of sulpher was certainly in the air when we arrived. There is a small marina there and all of the fastenings are rope as chain would apparently rot. I certainly wouldn’t take Coriander there. A number of yachts went stern to the ferry berth but the bottom was rocky and some took several attempts to get the anchor to bite.

We stopped at a quayside taverna for a drink to watch the action and were visited by a large locust type insect. Unfortunately the phone picture I took didn’t turn out too well.

insect-1
It was pretty big, honest.

Time was now against us as we had to get the car back by 7pm. It was a fairly long drive along narrow twisty roads with drop offs down to the sea from the cliffs. The low sun wasn’t fun either as we crested rises and turned corners heading west along the coast we’d sailed along in the previous few weeks.

We made it back in time and in one piece. Time for a meal and then head back to the boats to prepare for the medicane described earlier.

Saronic Gulf 2018

This (and the next) blog will be a little different because we visited the Saronic Gulf and many of the towns and anchorages twice last year. In order to avoid repetition I’ll cover both visits at the same time.

SaronicArea
The area inside the red outline is in this blog

Korfos

After leaving the Corinth Canal we headed for the small town of Korfos. We’d kept in touch with Mike and Claire and arranged to meet them there. They’d been on the island of Aigina awaiting the arrival of family from the UK. As we sailed down we heard Claire calling us on the VHF. Unfortunately she didn’t hear us replying. It was a very slow sail the 12 or so miles from the canal to Korfos with the wind promising much to keep us sailing but not delivering and seeming to remain resolutely from directly astern whenever our course changed. We spent about 4 hours ghosting along at 2-3kts before motoring the last mile into the anchorage. Owl and Pussycat were anchored next to the tavernas but there wasn’t space for us to anchor next to them so we moved a little further across the bay before heading over in the dinghy to catch up.

korfos anchor
Owl and Pussycat anchored where white circle is. Coriander at the yellow circle

As you enter the bay, George stands at the edge of his taverna encouraging you to go stern to. This of course means that you have to eat there. Not a bad thing if you’re intending to do that anyway but we prefer to wander along the rows of restaurants and choose the one that the locals use.

korfos2
A yacht stern to at George’s

We went ashore and ate at the “local’s” restaurant that night.

This was the only time we visited here but would recommend it as a first stop after transiting the Corinth Canal.

Palaia Epidavros

We sailed in company with Owl and Pussycat the next day to the port and anchorage of Palaia (New) Epidavros. It was only 9 miles but we ghosted along under jib alone.

O-P-1
Sailing in company with Owl and Pussycat

And then entered through the 2 lights and anchored off the church.

The bay is quite difficult to spot until you’re almost at it. It then opens up to be a delightful anchorage and town. It’s very popular with charter fleets and the home base of one.

PalBay
We anchored where the anchor symbol is NW of the green mark

The quay was already full with charter boats and the anchorage soon filled up with a couple of flotillas.

We went ashore for a walk and a visit to one of the tavernas. After a couple of ouzos we decided to eat ashore. One of the items on the menu really appealed,  this was the garlic salad. I love both garlic and salad so where could I go wrong? I should have known something was wrong when both Mike and Claire asked if I was sure. The Greek name for the dish is Skordalia (σκορδαλιά) and is a thick paste of garlic and potato puree, thinned slightly with olive oil. It is VERY heavy on the garlic and is eaten as a dip, usually with bread. It wasn’t what I expected and, although pleasant, not something that I’ll order too often.

The next day we decided to walk round the headland for a spot of snorkelling on a well signposted tourist attraction:

sign-1
Can’t fault the accuracy

Gill, Mike, Claire, James and I donned our mask and fins and headed out to swim over what is actually a large roman villa with streets and outbuildings.

The ‘city’ is only a hundred or so metres from the beach and only 1-2m down which makes it pretty popular and very easy to reach. The street layout was simple to make our and the star attraction for me was the storage urns which must have been 1.5m in diameter.

We took a shortcut back to the town and as is normal for Greece we passed an ancient ruined theatre which we were free to walk around.

epi-theater-1
Ancient theatre

The following morning we’d intended heading to Vathi on the Methana peninsula, however, we overheard a flotilla briefing and knew that 14 boats would be heading there shortly and given its’ small size we decided to head to Nisos Angistri instead.

A slight aside here – there are at least 14 places called Vathi (or Vathy) in Greece so we will give extra information so it is clear which one is being referred to.

Nisos Angistri

We motored the 9 miles to Nisos Angistri, a small island to the SW of Aigina in the middle of the Saronic Gulf.

N-Angistri
Route to the anchorage on Nisos Angistri

The anchorage is quite small and it is normal practise here to drop the anchor and reverse towards the shore and tie a couple of lines there. In that way more boats can share the anchorage safely. We dropped the hook in about 12m of crystal clear water and dropped back. I used the dinghy to take a 50m line to shore and tied it to a rock. I then repeated it with another line. In future I’ll swim as it’s far less hassle.

Ang-lines-1
Lines to shore with fenders to indicate where they are.

Vathi – Methana Peninsula

We left early the following morning to ensure we were off the harbour at Vathi for 11am as we knew that the flotilla that had gone there the day before would be leaving around then. We’d timed it perfectly and they were leaving as we arrived so we had no problems finding room to med moor.

Once sorted, we decided to take a walk to the taverna to work up a thirst. After the exercise it was time for a well earned beer.

Vathi-Methana-1
The long walk from Coriander to the taverna

In all seriousness, Mike, Claire and I decided to walk to find a volcano that is meant to be on the north of the peninsula. We took a water bottle and set off, trying to get a view of our moored boats on the way.

Vathi-Methana-2
Looking back at the boats in the tiny harbour

We walked for around an hour and upon turning a corner we looked up at what we decided must be the volcano. On a later road trip we found out that we were nowhere near it but we convinced ourselves it was time to head back for the beer we had earned this time. We joined Gill and James who’d decided that a beer outweighed exercise even before we set off.

The following day we took another walk up to the village overlooking Vathi and then down to a beach about 1km south of the harbour where we stopped for lunch and probably the biggest pork chop I’ve seen.

The walk took us past another church that was so small you’d be lucky to get the priest and 2 members of the congregation inside.

Vathi-Methana-3
Very small church

At Vathi there are 4 or more tavernas surrounding the small harbour. The larger one immediately behind where we were moored seems to have the deal with the flotilla skippers and was busy on both nights we were there. We found the service to be fairly poor and the prices high. The next one along “Το Λιμανάκι” only had one other table occupied. Mike and Claire had eaten there before and it was fantastic. We had several dishes ‘on the house’ and didn’t have to pay for the first round of drinks. The food and wine was superb and at the end of the meal we were brought fantastic sweets – again on the house. It’s just a shame that the other restaurants have to work so hard and give so much to get custom. It would be better if the flotillas shared their business but then I guess we wouldn’t have had such a fantastic deal.

Nisis Moni

On the 24th August 2018 we motorsailed 12 miles to first of all to Ormos Ligia on the south of Aigina. We anchored there for about 4 hours and went for a swim but a bit of a swell started rolling in which would have made for an uncomfortable night. We lifted the anchor again and went to 4 miles to the gorgeous anchorage on Nisis Moni – timing our arrival for when the tripper boats left.

Moni
Vathi to Nisis Moni via Ormos Ligia

Nisis Moni is a nature reserve with crystal clear water and is famed for the deer and peacocks which roam the island. We stopped here on 2 occasions in total. This time with Mike, Claire and James and then we had a swim stop here with my brother Chris and his wife Liba.

Moni-1
Coriander and Owl and Pussycat anchored at Nisis Moni

Having arrived fairly late in the day we just had a swim before sundowners and an evening meal aboard.

The next morning was completely still and we marvelled at the aquarium all around us.

We then went ashore and found the peacocks but unfortunately no deer.

We left the reserve at 10:45 just as the day trippers started to arrive and the beach bar opened spoiling the tranquillity.

Aigina

We visited Aigina for Mike and Claire to drop James off for his flight back to Germany and for them to pick up Andre and Fiona who were coming out for about 10 days. We also went there to pick up Chris and Liba.

Aigina is a great place for ‘crew change’ due to the cheap and frequent ferries and hydrofoils from Athens port of Piraeus. The hydrofoil is a great way for our guests to start their holidays.

On our first visit we anchored outside the harbour in 4m of water. The anchorage is huge and is fantastic in settled weather.

Aigina-1
Anchored off Aigina

As the chart shows there is lots of room to anchor over sand in 3-6m of water

Aegina
Aegina harbour and anchorage

Mike and Claire took Owl and Pussycat into the harbour on the next morning to make it easier for their guests to get on and off the boat. We also went into the harbour on our second visit here to meet Chris and Liba.

The harbour is always busy, especially on a Thursday night when the charter fleets are making their way back to the Athens marinas. They were med moored 2 rows deep while we were there.

Aegina
Typical photo of Aegina harbour

The yachts med moor right next to the promenade which is great except that it can get pretty noisy when they close the street to traffic and the streets fill with holidaymakers on a night out.

The town is great for stocking up, and having a mini holiday ourselves.

It’s amazing how much you miss what you took for granted back home – one of the things for me is a decent pint of beer (it’s all lager here) so I was pretty pleased to find a real ale bar – the prices were ‘London’ prices but OK once in a while.

Especially when you can sit outside with a decent pint and watch the sunset.

Poros

Mike and Claire had a couple of days to wait for Andrea and Fiona so Gill and I decided to head across to the sheltered inlet at Poros and would let Mike and Claire catch us up later.

We’d visit this sheltered ‘almost’ lagoon several times this year. There are many anchorages and the first time we anchored at the opposite end to Poros town at Ormos Vidhi (1).

Poros
The 3 Anchorages we used

We dropped the hook in around 10m just outside the waterski area. We were entertained for much of the day by some pretty expert skiers on the slalom course. The first night we had a very impressive moonrise looking towards Poros town.

Poros-moon-1
Poros moonrise

After a couple of nights we moved to the anchorage (2) just outside Poros town. It was pretty busy here after the relative peace at the first anchorage. We were just off the White Cat restaurant which provides a handy dinghy dock.

Poros-sunset-1
Sunset over the White Cat’s dinghy pontoon

Although Poros hosts a large charter fleet and is on the route of many flotillas, they tend to want to go stern to the quay so the anchorage doesn’t get too busy.

The first time here we spent a great couple of days with Mike, Claire, Andrea and Fiona. The town is very pretty but also very busy with tourists (I suppose that’s us too).

The second visit to this anchorage with Chris and Liba was memorable for a couple of reasons:-

The first, less good, one was seeing the damage that had been done to the quayside by the Medicane (Mediterranean hurricane) which hit a couple of weeks before Chris and Liba arrived and will be described in the next blog. A significant amount of money had been spent on the quay and facilities including putting a walkway with rubber matting all of the way around and providing water and electricity points. These were all smashed, the pontoon had broken away and the quayside had been cracked.

The better memory was going ashore for a meal at the aforementioned White Cat. It was obvious when we got there that most of the tables had been reserved for a large party. We nonetheless sat down to another great meal there when the other party turned out to be a Greek dance class. The night of course turned into a night of Greek dancing, with the restaurant providing constant re-fills of wine ‘on the house’. Fantastic.

Our final anchorage in this (3) area was behind a delightful island with a church on it (remember we’re in Greece). It is next to a famous beach in the area with a taverna ashore called Russian Bay. While Russian Bay was packed, we shared this beautiful bay with one other yacht for a couple of nights.

With yet another great sunset to round off our time here

Poros-3-1
Another sunset

Nisos Soupia (frog island)

After leaving Poros through the narrow and shallow channel we headed south to an anchorage behind an island we’d read about in the pilot called Nisos Soupia. Once seen we christened it frog island – not sure if the photo below has its’ best angle.

frog-1
Frog Island

We spent a great day here swimming and letting Fiona paddle board – without falling in!

Ermioni

Our final town in this blog is Ermioni. It’s about 12 miles west from Frog island. Again this is somewhere we visited 3 times.

Ermioni town is located on the peninsula at the south of the chart below

Ermioni
Ermioni – town on the peninsula at the bottom (south) of the chart

We anchored at point (1)  on the first 2 times we went there. The last day of the second time and the 3rd time the wind was from the east so we went and anchored at point 2 to get out of the swell.

It is also possible to go stern to the quay in Ermioni bay – roughly where it says ICE on the chart. Most charter boats go stern to the quay to the south of the peninsula – Mandrakia.

Ermioni-1
Anchored next to Owl and Pussycat at Ermioni
Ermioni-3
Yachts stern to in harbour

Ermioni is served by ferry and hydrofoil. The latter comes in at full speed and only comes off the foil at the last minute. It produces very little wash and is always an impressive sight.

Ermioni-2
Hydrofoil entering Ermoni bay

The outer part of the peninsula is a park and walk. At the centre and on the highest point there are the ruins of a temple to Apollo. The walk through the park and to the light and windmill at the end is well worth it and only takes 20 mins or so on the well maintained path. There are signs along the path pointing out where the old city walls and settlement used to be though there is very little left.

The path starts with a couple of interesting pieces of art and the sign showing the places to see:

And then carries on around the peninsula, with the option to go to the centre to see the ruined temple.

At the far end of the walk (there is a shortcut straight across) you come to the south quay where the charter flotillas tend to go. The pictures below were taken at around 11am. By 4pm the quay was completely full and boats were anchoring off.

From here we walked up and over the hill back to Ermioni harbour. It was a a very steep climb through narrow lanes and of course at the top was the church. Religious Greeks must be very fit.

On our second visit we were lucky to be there on market day. Most towns have a market a couple of days each week. The produce is mostly local and is incredibly cheap and fresh.

From Ermioni we’ll make our way into the Argolic Gulf – that’s the next instalment.

Corinth Canal – 3.2 ‘must do’ miles

In 2003 Gill and I travelled to Greece to go on a sailing holiday. On the trip from the airport to the charter base at Porto Heli we had to cross the Corinth Canal. The bus stopped at a cafe to one side of the bridge spanning the canal to allow us to sight-see and take pictures.

Looking down from the bridge at the yachts coming through we said one day we’d take our own boat through here – The day had finally arrived, 15 years later – 18th August 2018.

CCanal
Corinth Canal and Kiato, our departure point

As required in the sailing directions we called up the canal “Isthmia Pilot” on VHF channel 11 as we approached the breakwater at the entrance. After giving our vessel type, length and mast height and whether we had pre-paid or had the cash to pay, we were asked to hold station to one side of the entrance and await instructions. As detailed in our previous blog, we’d arrived at the entrance to the canal at 09:00. We watched boats from the east end (the canal runs NW-SE) come through but still no instructions for us to head through. In the meantime around 10 yachts and small motorboats joined us milling around outside the entrance awaiting permission to enter. Eventually at 10:45 a pretty large superyacht arrived and we were called up to follow the superyacht and other boats through in size order and maintain 6kts throughout the journey. Obviously the canal control were waiting for the arrival of the yacht. If only they’d told us, we could have anchored off the beach rather than motoring around in circles for almost 2 hours.

We joined the procession of boats and made our way into this amazing feat of engineering.

KtoC-10
Joining the procession and making our way into the canal

There are 3 road bridges and a railway bridge crossing the canal at it’s highest part with a minimum air draft of 57m. No problem there. At each end of the canal, however, there are hydraulic bridges with a draft of only 0.5m when closed. As these bridges carry road traffic, they only open (by lowering down 8m underwater!) when there are sufficient boats wanting to go through. We were too far back in the procession to see the bridges lower but it must be impressive – maybe a road trip in the future.

Corinth- Canal-1
Approaching the lowered bridge. Note the cars queuing on the right.

The first mile or so of the canal is quite low lying.

Corinth- Canal-2
First mile of the canal

The canal has a minimum depth of 8m and as has been said a minimum air draft of 57m and is 25m wide. To provide for an element of safety the maximum dimensions of vessels allowed through is 52m in height, 18.25m wide and with a draught of 6.5m.

We are nowhere near these dimensions but the canal still seemed narrow.

After the initial mile the canal gets more and more impressive as the side rise and steepen. You get a real appreciation of the work involved in digging out this canal and the millions of tons of earth excavated.

Corinth-Canal-3
Approaching the first of the overhead bridges as the sides rise

The canal is closed for maintenance one day per week and as we went through we saw evidence of rock falls and where the retaining walls had fallen down.

Corinth-fall-1
Landslips and eroding retaining wall

Approaching the middle part of the canal the sides rise almost vertically (the actual angle is only 10 degrees off vertical) to almost 80m above water level.

Corinth-Canal-4
Looking back, note the steepness of the canal sides

We approached the railway bridge around 20 minutes into our canal transit

Corinth-Canal-5
Railway over the Corinth Canal

We were now approaching the road bridges.

Corinth-Canal-8
Bridges over the Corinth Canal

and especially the bridge where Gill and I had stood all those years ago. Looking up was just as impressive as it had been looking down.

Corinth-Canal-9
We’ve stood there
Corinth-Canal-10
Watching you watching us

After around 30 minutes we were passing under the final bridge before getting to the end of the canal.

Corinth-Canal-11
last overhead bridge

By 11:20 we were tied up alongside the dock where we had to go to pay. Gill headed off to the white canal control tower and office to have our documents checked while I fended off the mini-tankers wanting to sell us diesel.

We had our ships papers checked and paid the canal transit fee. The fee is calculated on vessel flag and type, private or charter, length and VAT status. For us it came out at £270 or €297. As an aside, we paid by credit card so no idea why they asked if we had the cash.

Given that the canal is only 3.2 miles in length, that comes out at almost £90 per mile and puts it among the most expensive canals per mile in the world. Not that it mattered, we’d fulfilled a dream.

We cast off and set off for the next part of our adventure in the Saronic Gulf – The next blog instalment.

Corinth-Saronic-1
Leaving the Corinth Canal and heading into the Saronic Gulf

Additional Photographs

As you can imagine, we took many photographs whilst traversing the canal. Below is a selection that didn’t make it into the main blog. Click on any of them to see the full size image.

A few facts about the canal from the internet

From Wikipedia

The Corinth Canal (Greek: Διώρυγα της Κορίνθου) connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland, arguably making the peninsula an island. The canal was dug through the Isthmus at sea level and has no locks. It is 3.2 in length and only 21.4 metres (70 ft) wide at its base, making it impassable for most modern ships. The canal was initially proposed in classical times and a failed effort was made to build it in the 1st century AD. Construction started in 1881 but was hampered by geological and financial problems that bankrupted the original builders. It was completed in 1893 but, due to the canal’s narrowness, navigational problems and periodic closures to repair landslides from its steep walls, it failed to attract the level of traffic expected by its operators

Construction was formally inaugurated on 23 April 1882 in the presence of King George I of Greece and, after a brief stoppage due to lack of funds, was completed on 25 July 1893 after eleven years’ work.

A persistent problem with the canal was the heavily faulted nature of the sedimentary rock, in an active seismic zone, through which the canal is cut. The canal’s high limestone walls have been persistently unstable from the start. Although it was formally opened in July 1893 it was not opened to navigation until the following November, due to landslides. It was soon found that the wake from ships passing through the canal undermined the walls, causing further landslides. This required further expense in building retaining walls along the water’s edge for more than half of the length of the canal, using 165,000 cubic metres of masonry. Between 1893 and 1940, it was closed for a total of four years for maintenance to stabilise the walls. In 1923 alone, 41,000 cubic metres of material fell into the canal, which took two years to clear out.

Serious damage was caused to the canal during World War II. On 26 April 1941, during the Battle of Greece between defending British troops and the invading forces of Nazi Germany, German parachutists and glider troops attempted to capture the main bridge over the canal. The bridge was defended by the British and had been wired for demolition. The Germans surprised the defenders with a glider-borne assault in the early morning of 26 April and captured the bridge, but the British set off the charges and destroyed the structure. Other authors maintain that German pioneers cut the detonation wires, and a lucky hit by British artillery triggered the explosion.

Three years later, as German forces retreated from Greece, the canal was put out of action by German “scorched earth” operations. German forces used explosives to trigger landslides to block the canal, destroyed the bridges and dumped locomotives, bridge wreckage and other infrastructure into the canal to hinder repairs. The United States Army Corps of Engineers began to clear the canal in November 1947 and reopened it for shallow-draft traffic by 7 July 1948, and for all traffic by that September.

The canal consists of a single channel 8 metres (26 ft) deep, excavated at sea level (thus requiring no locks), measuring 6,343 metres (20,810 ft) long by 24.6 metres (81 ft) wide at sea level and 21.3 metres (70 ft) wide at the bottom. The rock walls, which rise 90 metres (300 ft) above sea level, are at a near-vertical 80° angle. The canal is crossed by a railway line, a road and a motorway at a height of about 45 metres (148 ft). In 1988 submersible bridges were installed at sea level at each end of the canal, by the eastern harbour of Isthmia and the western harbour of Poseidonia.

Although the canal saves the 700-kilometre (430 mi) journey around the Peloponnese, it is too narrow for modern ocean freighters, as it can accommodate ships only of a width up to 17.6 metres (58 ft) and draft up to 7.3 metres (24 ft). In October 2019, With over 900 passengers on board, the 22.5 metres (74 ft) wide and 195 metres (640 ft) long Fred.Olsen cruise ship successfully traversed the canal to set a new record for longest ship to pass through the canal. Ships can pass through the canal only one convoy at a time on a one-way system. Larger ships have to be towed by tugs. The canal is currently used mainly by tourist ships; around 11,000 ships per year travel through the waterway.

Gulfs of Patras and Corinth

From Wikipedia:

“The Gulf of Patras is a branch of the Ionian Sea. On the east, it is closed by the Strait of Rion between capes Rio and Antirrio, near the Rio-Antirrio bridge, that is the entrance of the Gulf of Corinth. On the west, it is bounded by a line from Oxeia island to Cape Araxos”

This blog charts our journey from Nisis Petalas to the entrance of the Corinth Canal.

Gulfs Route
Our route in red

After waiting 4 days behind Nisis Petalas for the winds and sea to ease we motored for 45 miles though the Gulf of Patras and under the very impressive Rio-Antirrio bridge.

“The Rio–Antirrio Bridge , officially the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge, is one of the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and longest of the fully suspended type. It crosses the Gulf of Corinth near Patras, linking the town of Rio on the Peloponnese peninsula to Antirrio on mainland Greece by road. It opened one day before the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics, on 12 August 2004, and was used to transport the Olympic Flame.

The 2,380-metre-long (7,808 ft) bridge (approximately 1.8 miles) dramatically improves access to and from the Peloponnese, which could previously be reached only by ferry or via the isthmus of Corinth in the east. Its width is 28 m (92 ft) — it has two vehicle lanes per direction, an emergency lane and a pedestrian walkway. Its five-span four-pylon cable-stayed portion of length 2,252 m (7,388 ft) is the world’s third longest cable-stayed deck; only the decks of the Jiaxing-Shaoxing Sea Bridge in Shaoxing, China and the Millau Viaduct in southern France are longer at 2,680 m (8,793 ft) and 2,460 m (8,071 ft), respectively. However, as the latter is also supported by bearings at the pylons apart from cable stays, the Rio–Antirrio Bridge deck might be considered the longest cable-stayed “suspended” deck.

This bridge is widely considered to be an engineering masterpiece, owing to several solutions applied to span the difficult site. These difficulties include deep water, insecure materials for foundations, seismic activity, the probability of tsunamis, and the expansion of the Gulf of Corinth due to plate tectonics.

Due to the peculiar conditions of the straits, several unique engineering problems needed to be considered and overcome. The water depth reaches 65 m, the seabed is mostly of loose sediment, the seismic activity and possibility of tectonic movement is significant, and the Gulf of Corinth is expanding at a rate of about 30 mm a year. In addition, the hills on either side create a wind tunnel where 70 mph winds are common.

Rio_AntiRio_Bridge_Elevation-fr.svg
Elevation of the bridge. By Pinpin – self-made with Inkscape from Gefyra Construction, CC BY-SA 3.0,

For these reasons, special design and construction techniques were applied. Beneath each pier the seabed was first reinforced and stabilized by driving 200 hollow steel pipes vertically into the ground. The pier footings were not buried into the seabed, but rather rest on a bed of gravel meticulously leveled to an even surface (a difficult endeavor at this depth). During an earthquake, the piers can move laterally on the sea floor with the gravel bed absorbing the energy. The bridge decking is connected to the pylons using jacks and dampers to absorb movement; too rigid a connection would cause the bridge structure to fail in the event of an earthquake and too much lateral leeway would damage the piers. There is also provision for the gradual widening of the strait over the lifetime of the bridge. Protection from the effect of high winds on the decking is provided by the use of aerodynamic spoiler-like fairing and on the cables by the use of spiral Scruton strakes.”

Due to the amount of sea traffic through the gulf and under the bridge there are strict protocols for passing beneath it. In line with the directions, we called up “Rion Traffic” on VHF channel 14 when we were 5 miles away and asked for permission to transit the bridge. Vessels under 20m in length (we’re 15m) pass through one of the gaps to either side of the central one which is reserved for commercial traffic. The controllers had been tracking us on AIS and were expecting our call. We gave our length and mast height and were told to pass under the span to the North of centre. They ensure that you have understood by getting you to confirm e.g. 1 Pillar to the left and 3 to the right. We called up again when we were 1 mile away and were given permission to proceed.

We know that our air draft (the height of the top of the mast above sea level) is 22m including the antennas at the top and that the minimum height under the span we were going through is 35m but it always looks close.

r-bridge-5
Over 15m clearance but still looks close!

After passing under the bridge it was a short motor to the anchorage at Navpaktos.

13/08/2018 – Navpaktos or Nafpaktos

The sailing directions state that you shouldn’t attempt to enter the harbour if your boat is over 12m in length. Given our 15m we joined a couple of other yachts anchoring off the beach.

After getting everything settled we headed ashore and were stunned by how beautiful the town and harbour are.

“Nafpaktos (Greek: Ναύπακτος), known as Lepanto during part of its history, is a town and a former municipality in Aetolia Akarnania, West Greece, Greece, situated on a bay on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth, 3 km (2 mi) west of the mouth of the river Mornos.

It is named for Naupaktos (Ναύπακτος, Latinized Naupactus), an important Athenian naval station in the Peloponnesian war. As a strategically crucial possession controlling access to the Gulf of Corinth, Naupaktos changed hands many times during the Crusades and the Ottoman–Venetian Wars. It was under Venetian control in the 15th century, and came to be known by the Venetian form of its name, Lepanto. It fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1499 and was used as naval station by the Ottoman Navy in the 16th century, being the site of the decisive victory by the Holy League in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Except a brief period of Venetian control in 1687–1699, Lepanto remained under Ottoman control until Greek independence in 1829.”

The town is centred around a gorgeous harbour and under an impressive fortified hill.

GR-nafpaktos
Nafpaktos harbour by Bgabel at wikivoyage

A few more pictures of the harbour:

We had a splendid meal ashore before heading back to Coriander to be “treated” to a showing of Shrek on the large outdoor screen on the roof of a nearby hotel. It was of course in Greek but having seen it many times it was easy to follow 🙂

We had intended staying just the one night but in true Coriander tradition we liked the town so much we decided to stay for a second night.

We headed ashore the next morning intending to do some shopping but found all of the shops to be closed and everyone heading to church. It was Assumption day – The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on 15 August. This is a joyful celebration because it commemorates Mary’s reunion with Jesus in heaven. Not too much of a problem as we understood that there was a shop at our next port of call.

15/08/2018 – Nisis Trizona

Having left Nafpaktos we again motored for 13 miles to the island (Nisis) of Trizona. We’d been told this was a ‘must see’, so we did.

There is a sheltered harbour but most of the quayside was taken up be abandoned and partly sunken boats. The rest of the available space was rough concrete. Luckily there is lots of room to anchor, which is what we did.

Triz-harbour-1
Trizonia harbour with Coriander just visible in the background

We’d been told that Trizonia was a lovely quiet island with some sleepy tavernas surrounding a quay on the other side of the small harbour. We went ashore and walked the 100m or so to the quay.

Those paying attention will have remembered that this was the  Assumption of the Virgin Mary. After church everyone goes out to lunch, which in Greece lasts all afternoon. There wasn’t a hope of getting a table for something to eat.

Triz-rest-1
Very busy restaurants on the public holiday

The small island is beautiful and it is a ‘must see’ if you are in this part of Greece. It was full of locals enjoying a Greek public holiday in a typical way – eating a laughing outdoors as a family.

We managed to squeeze into a bar for a drink before making our way back to Coriander for the night.

16/08/2018 – Vidhavis

Next morning it was time to move on, we’d found out that the shop on Trizona had closed down the previous year so shopping would have to wait.

We motored for another 13 miles to the tiny beach resort of Vidhavis. This is a tiny harbour for small fishing boats and a beach with a few houses along it. Due to the depths of the bay you have to anchor pretty close to the beach. We joined one other yacht there, anchoring in about 18m of water. Deeper than we ideally like but fine given the sheltered conditions.

Vidhavis-1
Anchored off the beach at Vidhavis

We only stayed for the one night, leaving early the next morning.

17/08/2018 – Kiato

We left at 07:20 for the 30 mile trip to Kiato. This was the only sail we managed in the gulfs. We got there at 12:50 and went alongside the commercial quay, the inner harbour being full. Luckily the mooring bollards were up to the job!

Kiato-2
The mooring bollard could have held the QE2
Kiato-3
Alongside on the commercial quay. Coriander in front of the catamaran

The view from where we were anchored was dominated by a rather impressive church

Kiato-1
Ekklisia Agia Sotira

Wikipedia has a limited entry on Kiato…

“Kiato (Greek: Κιάτο) is a town in the northern part of Corinthia in the Peloponnese, Greece. It is the seat of the municipality of Sikyona. Kiato is situated on the Gulf of Corinth, near the mouth of the river Asopos. It has some tourist activity, mainly in the summer. The ancient city Sicyon was located 4 km southwest of present Kiato. Kiato is 4 km northwest of Velo, 13 km southeast of Xylokastro and 18 km northwest of Corinth. It has a station on the railway from Patras to Corinth, and it is the western terminus of a Proastiakos (suburban railway) line to Athens.”

First impressions are of a busy town rather than a tourist resort. We’d primarily gone there to stock up at the Lidl and Sklavenitis (Σκλαβενίτης) supermarkets. We understood that they were a short walk form the quay but they turned out to be a 40 minute walk which wasn’t fun in a windless 35 degree heat. We filled 2 shopping trolleys with provisions anyway.

Later in the day we took a wander through the town and found some rather attractive parks and shopping streets.

It was also good to see that I was expected 🙂

Kiato-5
Haircut anyone?

We had a very nice and very cheap meal ashore in a taverna opposite the fisherman’s harbour before settling in for an early night as we had an early start the next day to head for the Corinth Canal.

We were up and away by 07:15 for the 9 mile motor to the canal. We passed some beautiful scenery on the way.

KtoC-6
Looking back in the direction of Kiato

And the large town of Corinth

KtoC-7
Corinth

By 09:00 we were off the breakwater guarding the entrance to the canal. We’d called up the canal authorities and had been told to wait at the breakwater and await further instructions.

KtoC-8
Holding station off the breakwater

Before long traffic from the east started coming through.

KtoC-9
Boat exiting the canal

I’m going to leave this blog here. Our next blog tells of our trip through the canal. First a little teaser:

KtoC-10
Heading into the Corinth Canal

Ionian – Part 2

Our previous post had us sailing from Corfu, through the Lefkas canal and to the gorgeous beach Ormos Vlikho or 2 tree bay. We should have mentioned that it is quite remote and difficult to get there apart from by boat. there are 3 bays to anchor in and during our 2 night there it was mobbed.

02/08/2018 Nidri on Lefkas

This was quite a short sail to the large sheltered lagoon. We had chosen to go there as there were thunderstorms forecast for that night.

Nidri

Nidri is a popular tourist resort and you pass through a narrow channel to get to the anchorage which has room for hundreds of yachts.

One of the popular anchorages in the narrows was Tranquil Bay – maybe it used to be but it’s now anything but.

tranquil-1
Tranquil Bay – boats long lined all around and at anchor in the centre

The narrows are packed with charter boats on pontoons throughout the length of it.

Once through, however, it opens up into a peaceful anchorage with lots of options and only a short dinghy ride into town.

Although very sheltered, the lagoon was hit by a very violent thunderstorm and many of the yachts were knocked flat, a catamaran capsized and several boats dragged. LUckily for us it was quite benign while we were there.

03/08/2018 – Ormos Vasilikis – Levkas

From Nidri, we sailed around to Vasiliki where we would meet up friends who had just had a weeks sailing holiday in this area of the Ionian and had rented a villa for the second week.

Vasiliki is a well known windsurfing spot during the summer months due to a local thermal wind known amongst windsurfers as ‘Eric’. for the few days we were there the wind would be calm in the morning and then be onshore at up to 20kts in the afternoon before calming off in the evening. In the afternoon there were over a hundred windsurfers in the bay. We chose to anchor in the bay so the wind was disconcerting the first time. As it is a local phenomenon there were no waves to speak of so no issues from that standpoint.

The village is located around an extremely picturesque harbour which at one time would have been filled with fishing boats but was now filled with tourist boats. They are building a new marina at the moment and we would expect it to be open in 2020 increasing the available berthing and freeing up room in the anchorage.

06/08/2018 – Vathi – Ithaka

After 4 days in Vasiliki (and having met up with John and his family) we decided to move the 12 or so miles to Vathi on the next island down – Ithaka.

From the Greek tourism site:

“Vathi is the capital and the main harbour of Ithaca since the 16th century. The picturesque village, the largest of the island is built amphitheatrically around a deep and sheltered bay with a narrow entrance. Today it counts 2000 inhabitants.

The earthquakes of 1953 had almost destroyed the village, leaving only a few buildings standing. Fortunately, most of the ruined Venetian buildings were rebuilt by the residents. Vathi is considered a traditional preservable settlement and any construction that is not similar to the traditional architectural style and colour is prohibited by a law voted in 1978.

Some of the many interesting sights of Vathi are the beautiful houses of G. Karavias and G. Drakoulis,one of the wealthiest families of Vathi, the churches of Agios Georgios (Saint George), the fine restored cathedral dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin, which has a wonderful wood carved iconostasis, the Archaeological Museum that houses a collection of various findings from the Geometric period, the Mycenaean and the Corinthian periods, and the house where Odysseas Androutsos was born, the Greek hero of the War of Independence.

Being the capital of Ithaca, Vathi is the administrative, cultural and commercial centre of the island and has primary and high schools, an athletic stadium, a medical centre, a theatre, a library and branches of the National, Commercial and Agricultural Banks of Greece.

A yachting service station for refueling, service stations for cars and motorbikes and a petrol station are also available in Vathi. Several hotels and many rooms for rent are filling the village and a wide variety of taverns, cafes, bars and night clubs are lining the waterside.”

Vathi

As you can see it is very secure. It also proved to be extremely popular.

vathi-1

By 4pm all of the available dock space was taken up and the anchorage was full. The next morning we had to wait for the yacht next to us to lift their anchor before we could move as we were within 10 feet of them with our anchor chain running under their boat.

We stocked up at the supermarket and filled up with diesel before leaving the next day.

07/08/2018 – Kalamos – Kalamos

Our final Ionian island for 2018 was Kalamos. It had been recommended to  us by our friend John who we’d met at Vasiliki.

We’d been advised by Mike and Claire (our friends on Owl and Pussycat) to anchor outside the harbour  and then go ashore to watch the fun when George the harbourmaster (and taverna owner) attempts to moor 70+ charter boats rafting 3-5 deep in a relatively small harbour. We did as suggested and it was truly a sight to behold.

Kal-3
Kalamos harbour BEFORE it filled up!

Later that evening we went ashore to eat. George’s taverna was packed but he found us a table by getting the waiting staff to give up their break table. Packing all of the boats in is certainly worth his while.

The following day we walked up to the old village above the harbour for some bread from the bakery and a coffee and cake. On returning to our dinghy we were surprised to hear someone shouting our name. John had rented a RIB and brought his family over for a final visit to Kalamos before they flew home. We invited them back to Coriander for a drink before they had to get the RIB back to Vasiliki.

Kal-5

09/08/2018 – Nisis Petalas – Mainland

Our final anchorage in the Ionian was the sheltered lagoon in the lee of Nisis Petalas just before the entrance to the Gulf of Patras. Local folklore states that a vulture lives in a cave on the island but though we looked hard we didn’t see it.

Pet

We shared the huge anchorage with just 3 other yachts. We’d left flotilla Greece!

pan-1

We spent a couple of nights here waiting for the winds which would take us into the gulfs of Patras and Corinth. More of that next time…

Ionian, Beautiful and (sometimes) hectic – Part 1

From Wikipedia…
“The Ionian Sea is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the to the north, and is bounded by southern Italy, including Calabria, Sicily, and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and the west coast of Greece, including the peninsula of The Peloponnese.

All major islands in the sea, which are located in the east of the sea, belong to Greece. They are collectively named the Ionian Islands, the main ones being Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada, and Ithaca. There are ferry routes between Patras and Igoumenitsa, Greece, and Brindisi and Ancona, Italy, that cross the east and north of the Ionian Sea, and from Piraeus westward. Calypso Deep, the deepest point in the Mediterranean at 5,267 m (17,280 ft), is located in the Ionian Sea, at 36°34′N 21°8′E. The sea is one of the most seismically active areas in the world.”

Our journey this time would take us from Corfu at the northern end and via various island and mainland anchorages as far south as the Gulf of Patras and Corinth . It is our intention to visit the islands to the south on our way back west in 2020.

area
Our Ionian cruising area – Route in yellow

23/07/2018 Ormiskos Valtou – Mainland Greece

We sailed the 10 miles from Petriti to Ormiski Valtou. This is a very sheltered inlet on the mainland, just across from Corfu.

Valtou
Our anchorage at Valtou

As can be seen from the chartlet above it is pretty shallow on the way in. the spit to the north is a large sandy beach with a few beach bars. regular boat trips from Corfu. Loud music was blasting out as we made our way in and a brave sole had anchored off the beach. We joined 5 or so live aboard boats and a single charter boat in the east most inlet. It was completely tranquil and would be a great bolt hole in poor weather.

24/07/2018 Parga

We left Valtou and sailed 23 miles down the coast to the lovely resort of Parga.

In antiquity the area was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Thesprotians. The ancient town of Toryne was probably located here.

Parga itself is mentioned for the first time in 1318; the name is most likely of Slavic origin. Two years later, the town and its sugarcane plantation proceeds were unsuccessfully offered by Nicholas Orsini, the Despot of Epirus, to the Republic of Venice in exchange for Venetian aid against the Byzantine Empire. During the Epirote rebellion of 1338/39 against the Byzantine emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos, Parga remained loyal to the emperor. In the 1390s it was under the rule of John Spata, lord of Arta.

The town finally passed under Venetian control in 1401, and was administered as a mainland exclave of the Venetian possession of Corfu, under a castellan. Venetian possession was confirmed in the Ottoman–Venetian treaty of 1419.[5] Apart from brief periods of Ottoman possession, the town remained in Venetian hands until the Fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797.

In 1815, with the fortunes of the French failing, the citizens of Parga revolted against French rule and sought the protection of the British. In 1819, the British sold the city to Ali Pasha of Ioannina, and from him it passed under Ottoman rule.

Ottoman rule in Parga and the rest of Epirus was ended in 1913 following the victory of Greece in the Balkan Wars.

We anchored off the north beach in the shadow of the Castle of Parga.

The Castle is on the top of a hill overlooking the town and was used to protect the town from invasions from the mainland and the sea. It was initially built in the 11th century by the residents of Parga to protect their town from pirates and the Ottomans. In the 13th century, as their control of the region increased, the Venetians rebuilt the castle to fortify the area. In 1452, Parga and the castle were occupied by the Ottomans for two years; part of the castle was demolished at that time. In 1537, Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa burned and destroyed the fortress and the houses within.

Before the reconstruction of the castle in 1572 by the Venetians, the Turks demolished it once again. The Venetians rebuilt it for the third and last time creating a stronger fortress that stayed impregnable until 1819, despite attacks, especially by Ali Pasha of Ioannina. Provisions for the castle were transported via two bays at Valtos and Pogonia. When Parga was sold to the Ottomans, Ali Pasha made structural additions to the castle, including a Turkish bath and his harem quarters which he built at the top of the fortress. On the arched gate at the wall of the castle entrance, the winged lion of Agios Markos is visible. Other entrance details include, the name “ANTONIO BERVASS 1764”, emblems of Ali Pasha, two-headed eagles and related inscriptions

Like us, most visitors to Parga arrive by boat. In their case though it is by ferry from Corfu.

25/07/2018 Preveza

The following day we left Parga for the 30 mile trip to Preveza. Preveza is just inside the very narrow channel into the Ambracian Gulf. Care has to be taken not to stray out of the channel. It is good that the tides are slight in the Mediterranean as this channel is the only way sea water gets in or out and the currents can still run at over 3kts.

Preveza map
Narrow buoyed channel into the Ambracian Gulf.

There is a partially completed marina at the town however we chose to anchor with several other yachts just north of the town, a short dinghy ride from the fishermans harbour.

The town was a very pleasant surprise with both pedestrianised shopping streets and narrow streets with restaurants. We spent a very happy couple of nights here.

Preveza is a commercial harbour and tourist hub, with a marina, 4 Museums, two cinemas, an open theatre, a music Hall (OASIS), many clubs, taverns and cafes, benefiting from its proximity to the nearby Aktion National Airport and the nearby island of Lefkada. There are in the city University of Financial (TEI) and Commercial Navy Academy. The Aktio-Preveza Immersed Tunnel, opened on 2002, is an important work of infrastructure for what has traditionally been a remote and underdeveloped region, and links Preveza to Actium on the southern shore of the Ambracian Gulf, greatly shortening the distance of the trip to Lefkada.

The airport and nearby Cleopatra marina make this a very popular place for boat owners to leave their boats over the winter.

After a trip ashore for provisions we decided to stop at a small taverna for a beer. It was here we got a taste of Greece when off the main tourist trail as despite only ordering 2 small beers we were served a delicious mezze (same as tapas in Spain) of pork in wine sauce with bread and chips – it was delicious!

Preveza-4
Traditional Greek mezze

27/07/2018 Vonitsa

Vonitsa is a small town some 8 miles into the gulf. We chose to anchor behind the small islet of Nsis Kukuvista. The islet has a small church on it and  is connected by a causeway to the mainland. It was a very picturesque location which we thought would also be quieter than the town with the tavernas ashore. The town has a small harbour but it was full of yachts which looked like they’d been there for years.

The town has a delightful waterfront with lined with the obligatory tavernas. As with most towns in Greece it was overshadowed with a castle on the hill overlooking it, which of course we had to walk up to.

We retired to get some sleep at around 10pm after a couple of very pleasant sun-downers in the cockpit, only to be woken at around midnight by the boom boom of Greek techno music which only stopped at 7am the next morning. We found out we’d anchored next to a campsite which was hosting a rave. Thinking that as it had been a Saturday night it wouldn’t happen again on the Sunday night we decided to stay a second day. How wrong we were!!

30/07/2018 Preveza (again)

We stopped off on the way out of the gulf to stock up with provisions and were treated to a fantastic sunset over the anchorage.

Preveza Sunset-1
Sunset over the anchorage at Preveza

One abiding memory of our time in the gulf was the number of turtles we saw. They are wonderful to see swimming around the yachts in the anchorage.

31/07/2018 Ormos Varko (two tree bay)

We again navigated through the buoyed channel out of the gulf and headed for the canal which separates Lefkas from mainland Greece. At the north end on the canal there is an amazing floating bridge which swings open to let boats through. We entered the canal, going past the imposing fort which guards the north entrance to the canal.

Lefkas fort-1
Fort at the entrance to the Lefkas canal

The yellow mark is one of 3 that mark the end of groynes (just visible in the photograph) which have been built to stop the entrance of the canal from silting up.

groynes-1
Marks showing the end of the groynes

We joined a few other boats waiting for the bridge to open.

And then joined the melee as everyone seemed to want to go through at once, including us I suppose 🙂

The passage through the canal took us past the sheltered Lefkas marina – part of the same group as Kalamata where we’d booked to stay for the winter.

Marina-1
Lefkas marina

The canal itself is just over 6 miles long and very picturesque as it makes its way through the countryside. We went through in just over an hour, patiently following the other yachts and being overtaken by speedboats occasionally.

On exiting the canal we turned left and anchored in the crystal clear water off the beach bar in 2 tree bay (named because the field ashore has just 2 trees in it.

We were back in the ‘land’ of charter fleets and flotillas.

We had anchored to the shore side of a SunSail charter boat and in the early afternoon the wind changed from being a light onshore breeze to an offshore wind. when it turned the charter boat started to drift out of the bay. I jumped into our dinghy and  went to pick up a chap from the  boat next to us to go and retrieve the drifting yacht. Just as we got to it, the family that had charted it came racing out in their dinghy and we handed the yacht back over to them. On chatting to the chap who’d helped he said his wife had dived on the charter boats anchor. They’d anchored in 10 metres of water and only had 12 metres of chain out e.g. only 2m of chain along the bottom. For the non-yachties reading this, the recommended practise is to deploy chain length of 4x the depth of water – 40m in this case. It’s no wonder the boat started to wander. While it didn’t cause any problems in this case, it’s easy to see that it could have drifted onto another boat, causing damage to both.

Our trip through the Ionian will be continued in the next post.