Sailing in Greece

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This is the story of Neil and Yvonne Armitage, a couple of New Zealanders in their sixties who, in May and June 2011 broke - again ! -from their own conventions to experience a month+ sailing adventure in Greece. Also have a look at their previous yacht charter (1), sailing (2) and yachting (3) adventures (4) in the Greek islands (5).

Athens and Lefkas

A long but not so uncomfortable first stage of the journey ended in London. The flight was ahead of schedule but the skies over London were closed to air traffic because of the fly-over for the Royal wedding. The 6 hour transit at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 became a series of power naps and flashes of the highlights of the Royal wedding being played and replayed on the TV screens. During the 3 and a half hour flight to Athens eyes were glued to the inboard screen and snail trail as the flight crept it way across France, Italy to finally cross the Adriatic Sea and come to rest on Athens at 2:45am on Saturday morning, 30th April.

We cleared immigration, collected our luggage and 2 minutes to cross the road outside the terminus and check into the Airport Hotel. What a relief. The journey had all been quite civilized but it had also been very fatiguing. The shower, clean sheets and a soft bed to lie down on was bliss. Sleep was elusive for a while but we were aroused from a deep sleep with the 9:00am wake up call. After leisurely packing up, breakfasting and checking out we made our way across to the Airport, walking the 100 metres to the x93 bus which took us to the main bus terminus in Athens. An hour later we were on a very comfortable coach for the 5 hour drive to Lefkas.

We were met at the quay by the representatives. Spyros was still being prepared. The cleaning; crew were just finishing and a new anchor winch that arrived on the same bus as we did had to be fitted. Spyros had undergone quite a re-fitting. The settees in the main cabin had been re-covered, she sported a new main sail, new jib sheets, an additional water tank and cockpit seat cushions; the helm had been swapped for one of a smaller diameter which made moving around the aft end of the cockpit so much easier.

Yvonne and I busied our selves at the local supermarket gathering provisions whilst the workmen were fitting the winch. Some items for the next few weeks, some food items to last a few days because tomorrow, Sunday, the shops would be closed and we had in mind to leave Lefkas on Sunday only for one night. We boarded Spyros about 9:00pm, stowed our gear and provisions then went across the road to a taverna for our first real Greek meal.

It rained quite heavily Saturday night and wind at times during the night was quite strong. Sunday morning dawned overcast although the wind had died down. Our contact arrived at 10:00 and we went through our briefing. We couldn’t take over Spyros until Monday as the Port Police were closed but he was quite happy that we could sail down to Spartachori on Meganisi for the night and return on Monday. We also need to set up a broadband connection as soon as the shops opened again. The wind started build about midday Sunday and blew from the south gusting over 20 knots. We busied ourselves setting up at Spyros, attaching our home-made wind pennants, marking the centre point on the new helm, tying on coloured wire at 10 metre marks on the anchor chain, washing the muddy dust stains that covered Spyros after last night’s rain. By 3:30pm the wind was still strong so we gave up the idea of trying to leave Lefkas, just getting Spyros out of the berth would be a major physical effort then pushing into the head wind down to Meganisi would take the shine off the reason for doing so; Spartachori was our first overnight stop and fantastic experience 2 years ago.

Monday greeted us with a moderately clear sky, and a light north westerly breeze. The representatives arrived to complete formalities including a trip to the Port Police to get our papers duly registered. They accompanied us down to the Wind shop to help, should we need a translator, to sort out a suitable pre-pay broadband connection. A brief visit to a supermarket for a couple of items and a bread shop then we were ready to leave by 11:30am. I dropped the lines and Yvonne steered Spyros out of her berth into the town harbour then out into the Lefkas Channel heading south.

We had sent a text to our friends Ron and Elizabeth, who has arrived in Lefkas last evening and were on a 2 week sailing holiday in Nidri, and arranged to meet them that afternoon. Out from the Lefkas channel a following breeze allowed us to pull out the head sail and reach down towards Nidri at a respectable 4 knots. The breeze soon died and we resorted to motoring the rest of the way to Nidri. Anchoring Spyros clear of the Neilson pontoon, a veritable hive of activity as their flotilla fleets changed over, we launched our dingy and paddled over to the base of the pontoon and made our way to the Athos hotel to meet Ron and Elizabeth. It was great to see them after 2 years. They were to spend the first week at the hotel on R & R then join a flotilla for the second week, we arranged to meet up again once they were under way on their flotilla.

Yvonne and I returned to Spyros and got under way heading to Sivota, a small port on the south of the island of Lefkas. We motored out into the Meganisi channel, several yachts were tacking into the 15 – 23 knot southerly breeze; we motored on. Clear of the channel the breeze steadied at 12 – 18 knots the swell was a bit lumpy and in an hour and a half after leaving Nidri we were motoring into the delightful bay at the head of which lay the small town of Sivota. At very attractive spot and, it seemed was known to all as everyone seemed to be there. We arrived about 5:00pm and moored in one of the few spaces we could find but yachts still came in and with a lot of squeezing by the flotilla masters most were eventually moored to the various quays.

The Ionian Inland Sea part 1

The Sivota town quay was lined with tavernas and coffee shops. After our usual drink and nibbles in the cockpit and after showering Yvonne and I headed off to review the menu boards of tavernas. We were met by enthusiastic waiters all eager that we should sample their food. It was very early in the season and although the harbour was crowded with yachts the land based tourist numbers were almost absent. There was obviously an under utilization of the available eateries and an enticement of a free carafe of wine did not go amiss. I really enjoyed the fried octopus, something I can only get in Greece.

With Spyros squeezed tightly between two other yachts in this crowded little port the warps and fenders creaked all night. At one point I got up and eased the warps, Spyros was pulled forward by the tension on the anchor so the fender creaking became worse. We endured the night, slept in till 9:00am and awoke to a fine morning. Several yachts had left, or were in the process of leaving, which took the pressure off and Spyros rested neatly stern to the quay while we contemplated the day.

It was 11:30 by the time we left the quay, not certain of where we were going. The weather forecasts suggested light winds for the morning. We thought that if there was a reasonable sailing breeze we might head for Astakos, an off the beaten track town on the Greek mainland about 24 miles across the Inland Sea. If the winds were not so good then we might have to motor so we would likely head for Kioni only 15 miles away on the Island of Ithaca in the Ionian. Out of the Sivota bay there was a light southerly wind, not enough to sail by at first so we pointed south to Kioni and motored for an hour before picking up enough of a breeze to sail on.

In a light 5 knot breeze we just made headway but Spyros picked up the pace as the breeze filled in. She was soon hustling along at a good 6 knots in 12-13 knots of wind. A cruise liner passed in front of us and soon a large tanker appeared on our starboard quarter. The wind built to 15-18 knots and we took in 3 roll on the genoa and put in 1 reef in the mainsail. Spyros was up to 6-7 knots, we tacked away before the tanker crossed our bows to soften the effect of her wake. Spyros handled the wind gust of up to 22 knots beautifully, she felt great in those conditions with the reduced sail. After 2 hours sailing the wind died and we motored Spyros the rest of the way to Kioni.

Kioni was tucked away in a small bay on eastern side of Ithaca. The harbour at the head of the bay was the centrepiece of an amphitheatre of houses that were scattered amongst the olive trees and conifers covering the hillsides. Our arrival early in the afternoon meant we had choices as to where we berthed. We moored up, had our usual tea and biscuit then set off on a walk that took us up zigzag road amongst houses, olive and citrus trees, tall Cyprus pines wild flowers and gardens with bright red geraniums. We came to the summit where our path joined the main road to Frikes which we followed back to the harbour. Kioni was out of cell phone range so we would have to guess the weather tomorrow, we showered sat in the sun and had a brandy then made up our simple on-board tea that had evolved over the last 2 years. Based on a Greek salad we use tomato, cucumber, red onion, green capsicum, a green pepper, olives, feta cheese, boiled eggs dressed with olive oil and tostado (bread drizzled with olive oil fried to a crisp in a pan) washed down with local Greek red wine.

Wednesday 4th May, with a clear sky and light winds we left Kioni about 10:30, again uncertain of our destination. Out of the bay a light 5-7 knot northwest wind was blowing. We had thought of going to either Poros on Kefalonia in the south or across to Astakos depending on the wind. We motored Spyros for half an hour to charge the batteries then set the sails and headed east towards Astakos. Spyros would do better reaching in a light wind than running before it. From a slow 2 knots the breeze filled in and soon Spyros was up to 5 knots. In the light winds the headsail seemed too large, flapping often when the breeze lightened. We took in three rolls and the genoa set much better, drawing without flapping Later as the breeze got up to 15 knots we put a reef in the mainsail. Spyros revelled in the conditions, a 1 meter swell lifting her port quarter and kept her trucking along at 5-6 knots. Yvonne was on the helm and with the reduced sail she was very docile. We made the entrance to Ormos Astakos in 4 hours and encountered a few strong gusts around the headlands to the bay. Took the sails off, which in the case of the new mainsail was a body building exercise as the spring in the new cloth meant it had to be wound very tightly or it would not fit inside the mast.

Astakos is a larger town, we had visited here in 2009 and liked it then, it was not a tourist centre and did not attract the flotillas or many yachties; perhaps because there was only space on the quay for about half a dozen yachts. Wind gusts came down from the high hills surrounding the town for most of the afternoon, shaking Spyros but our moorings held so Yvonne and I took off for a walk. There was a light wind for most of the evening we walked across the quay into the nearby taverna for a pleasant diner at a real non- tourist price.

Thursday, an early Winderfinder•com check indicated that we could expect a good breeze today so we thought we would head across to Kastos, a small island about 15 miles sailing. We loitered about this morning then ducked into town for a few supplies and located a wonderful market in a street leading off the town square. All the vegetables were fresh and cheap as were clothes, shoes, nick knacks and general goods. We stocked up on tomatoes and bananas at the market then found a baker for the daily loaf of fresh bread and a supermarket in which we stocked up on soda, wine and eggs at really good prices. Astakos being on the mainland does not have to rely on shipping for supplies, further as is it is not a tourist town there is no advantage in charging tourist rates.

After a quick lunch we left the quay and motored for three quarters of an hour out of the deep bay and into a 12-15 knot wind and a lumpy sea. We set up Spyros with a reefed mainsail and 3 rolls in the jib and proceeded to beat into 1.5-2 metre waves that knocked the wind from her sails and slowed her down to 3-4 knots. We held the beat for 3 miles until we needed to tack onto port in the lee of a small islet. The wind was gusting 22-23 knots and Spyros settled into the new beat quickly getting up to 6-7 knots of boat speed. The waves were now striking Spyros from abeam and were an advantage rather than a hindrance. She stood up in the wind beautifully and we enjoyed a wonderful sail to Kastos (see the yacht charters guide).

There were two flotillas berthing in this small harbour this evening. Several yachts were already in and we had to encourage them to squeeze up to give us room to moor stern to the quay. The lead crew of one of the flotillas comprised of 3 New Zealanders and one Australian, easy to spot as the lead yacht was flying one NZ flag, one Australian flag a Kiwi flag and the Silver fern. They were a very busy crew fitting 15 flotilla yachts into Kastos harbour. Yvonne and I retraced our steps from 2 years ago through the partially derelict settlement out into olive trees and old stone walls of the countryside that once was a thriving agricultural community. It was fair to say that we did see some houses in various states of reconstruction and a few quite well refurbished as holiday homes. Yvonne and I ate in this evening leaving the flotilla crews to face a cool bracing wind as they trudged off to one of the two tavernas of the town.

Friday 6th May, we awoke to a clear sky and a cool breeze from the east. Windfinder indicated light winds in the Inland Sea. I checked with the flotilla leaders to find out where they were heading so we knew which harbours to avoid. I was surprised when they said their intelligence suggested that winds would reach force 6 today. We headed Spyros out of the harbour fairly early, at least before our neighbouring yacht as I knew we had crossed their anchor chain. They had anchored a quite an oblique angle to the quay so crossing their chain had been unavoidable. We headed Spyros into a 12-15 knot breeze as soon as we left the harbour and set a reefed mainsail and a full genoa then ran before the breeze. We had an idea that we might head across the inland sea of the Ionian to Vathi on Ithaca so settled on a course in the general direction of Vathi. The wind was quite fickle, shifting through several degrees but eventually settled from the south east. We set Spyros on a fine reach, she was much better on a reach than running in softer winds, and decided to go to where ever she sailed best, which was to Poros. Windfinder was very true; we ran into almost no wind out in the Inland Sea and resorted to motoring for 3 hours to reach Poros.

Poros was another revisit from 2 years ago, a picturesque little town on the Island of Kefalonia, a busy tourist centre but also an important terminal for the ferries from Killini that connect the Island with mainland Greece. One of the attractions of Poros for us was the ‘water on the quay’, taps and hoses to refill water tanks that we did and also washed Spyros of the dirty red stain brought by the rain last Saturday. On our afternoon walk we were lured up the 99 steps to the Taverna Agrapidos – A Greek Name for a Greek Place said the advertisement. We met the young couple with a young daughter and surveyed the menu. Maria recommended her Squid Saganaki, small squid rings cooked in a sauce with tomato and feta cheese, we said we will be back tonight. The squid was delicious and the view from the taverna over the bay and north to the silhouette of Ithaca against an orange hue of the setting sun was stupendous.

The Ionian Inland Sea part 2

Saturday 7th May, Poros was bathed in sun when we ventured out of the cabin; there was a light sea breeze and not a cloud in the sky. Yvonne and I walked over the small rise to the main village passing the Police Office we asked directions to the bakery. Behind the beach front façade there were several streets with tidy looking houses and each had a healthy looking vegetable garden. We found the bakery and explored a supermarket to check on prices of our usual supplies.

We left Poros about 11:15am and pulled up sail as soon as we were out of the harbour. Spyros struggled to make much headway in the swell and light south-easterly following breeze. After an hour we had made an uncomfortable 4 miles so the sails were rolled away and we let the auto pilot take us to Vathi on the Island of Ithaca east of Kefalonia.

At the entrance to the secluded Vathi harbour we met a stiff breeze. A flotilla of Optimus dinghies were sailing in the harbour as we made our way over to the north quay. There was plenty of room so we berth stern to in a wide gap between a yacht and a motor cruiser. The anchor chain held well at first but the breeze was pushing the head about. We put on a spring but still the mooring was not holding so we decided to pull away and re-set our anchor. The motor boat beside us had gone out for a while and we had to wait until it had re-moored before starting our manoeuvre. Little did we know that the motor cruiser had laid an anchor line across our path, and that of any vessel wanting to moor at the quay? As we pulled out from the quay the anchor picked up this unsuspected line, we freed it and had to quickly engage the motor before the cross wind blew us onto two moored fishing boats. The propeller picked up the unsuspected line and wound it tightly about the prop shaft. We were stuck. I jumped into togs and a lycra top, grabbed goggles and dropped into the rather cold water to see a tangled mass of heavy rope wound around the propeller about 5 or 6 times. With the help of the boat hook I managed to slowly unravel the mess and eventually freed the line. Spyros immediately drifted towards the fishing boats but the episode had seriously affected the propeller drive and we had no propulsion at all. A small crowd was now on the quay and a couple of yachties were quick to help. While we held Spyros off the fishing boats someone rowed over with a long line and several hands pulled Spyros over to the other side of the quay. Eventually we managed to get her securely berthed alongside the quay. All in all this was quite a mission.

Sunday 8th May, the owner worked hard to try and get a solution to our predicament. As best as we could describe the event and the state of the propeller he figured the loss of propulsion was due to a friction fitting designed to give way under these circumstances and arranged for a diver to meet us and replace the fitting. The diver duly arrived about 5 pm, changed the propeller for the spare we had on board but still there was no power. After several phone conversations with the mechanic he said that the gear change cable had broken and the mechanic would come in the morning.

The mechanic and another assistant arrived on the dot of 8:30 Monday morning. An older man, large, big hands, grey haired, spoke a little English but was efficient and really charming. He had the whole console apart in a flash, sized up the situation and said we needed a plastic fitting that he didn’t have but could get one from Lefkas in 2 days. Alternatively he could make a temporary repair and we could go to Lefkas to get it fixed properly, we elected for the temporary repair which involved the use of 3 electricians ties!

Spyros now had propulsion so we untied her and slowly pulled away from the quay on the long anchor that had been set on Saturday during our rescue operation. Since mooring Spyros along side the quay two fishing boats were due to return to port and would demand their rights to the place we were occupying. On that news we had shifted back along the quay but could not shift the anchor. One of the boats arrived on Sunday and moored stern to the quay laying out two anchors across our anchor. So another drama evolved as we began to heave on lines and untangle 30-40 kilos of anchors and twisted chain and rope. A fisherman saw our predicament and managed to clamber on-board as we drifted close to other boats, at least there was only a very light breeze and there was no danger of wild collisions. Eventually we freed the mess, got our anchor on board, returned the kind fisherman to the quay and set off for Lefkas. It took a good 20-30 minutes to unravel and stow the mess of ropes on Spyros, to untie the fenders and make her shipshape for passage.

As there was only a light breeze out in the Inland Sea we charted a straight line passage to Lefkas set the motor on 2000 revs and switched on the auto pilot. Spyros sat on 7 knots and we sat back and watched the 34 miles tick over. We sent a text to the owner saying we would be in before 5pm, later we confirmed an ETA of 4pm and berthed in Lefkas on time. Yannis had the mechanic booked, he arrived about 6pm and was done by 7pm, including giving the engine a good inspection and fixing a diesel leak. He was a young chap running his own marine engineering business; he had a fantastic work ethic finishing the day only when all the jobs had been done. He was the chap who finished fitting the anchor winch to Spyros at 9:00pm on the day we arrived. Yvonne and I ended the day with a call to the great little taverna on the North side of the town that we had discovered in 2009. The proprietor’s wife has a connection with Lyall Bay Wellington which added spice to the conversation.

Tuesday 10th May, it had been windy night; we rocked and rolled quite a bit. Windfinder indicated force 6 winds from the west this morning but reducing in the afternoon. These conditions looked good for a trip south to Kioni to eventually meet up with Ron and Elizabeth. In Lefkas harbour a strong easterly wind was blowing at 20-28k knots. We did a bit of shopping, re-filled the water tanks, topped up with diesel and waited until the wind abated and we could safely get out of our berth. About 1:00pm the wind had died down to a steady 10-15 knots. Waiting for a lull we then released Spyros, pulled her off the quay with the lazy line and motored out into the channel. Clear of the Lefkas channel the wind was 14-18 knots, setting a reefed mainsail and 4 rolls in the genoa; Spyros took off and soon the speedometer was reading 7.5 knots with 8.2 in the gusts. It was a thrilling ride for an hour until we came into the wind shadow of a group of small Islands off Nidri. We took the sail off and motored in the light shifting condition for an hour until we were clear of the Meganisi channel when we re-hoisted sail in 12-16, gusting 20 knot winds. So for an hour and a half Spyros again revelled in great sailing conditions until the wind lightened, her speed dropped and the sloppy sea started to knock the wind out of her sails. Motoring for the last half hour we arrived into Kioni at 5:30pm and a very crowded harbour with no space left on the quay. There was room on the south side for us to anchor and take a long line ashore, which we did and met up with Ron and Elizabeth who were waiting to take our lines.

We spent a very pleasant evening together, a few drinks on Liberty, Ron & Elizabeth’s yacht then to a local taverna for dinner. Wednesday dawned sunny and little wind, we slept in but there was no rush today as we intended to follow the flotilla (back) to Vathi, which was just around the corner in the next bay, and to spend the evening with the Bulmer’s again before heading on our way south. The light wind from the north east gave us a wonderful reach and gybe run into Vathi harbour; where we moored this time away from the dreaded anchor of the motor cruiser, enjoyed a couple of walks and a pleasant diner at Dimitris Taverna across the road from the north quay.

Thursday 12th May, a sunny morning with little wind. Yvonne and I walked the 25 minutes back into town to the Wind shop we located yesterday to see if we could two 2 monthly PAYG vouchers for the internet connection. We had tried to buy these in Lefkas but they had run out. The Vathi shop gave us two receipts that were the same as the cards; we don’t know why Lefkas couldn’t have obliged, but now we were set up for internet connections for the whole of our yacht charter holiday in Greece and wouldn’t have to worry about finding any more Wind shops. Back at Spyros it was time to leave. I found a willing and capable person to take photographs of us all before it was time to bid Ron and Elizabeth farewell. It had been wonderful to see them again and enjoy their company. With a vague idea of perhaps meeting up again next year we pulled up anchor and, for the third time in Vathi extricated Spyros from another laid mooring. We motored out of the harbour into a very light easterly wind, the Bulmer’s followed us. Out at the mouth of the large bay we pulled on sail and headed Spyros very slowly southwards towards Poros (see top ten sailing islands in Greece), Liberty turned northwards heading for Fiskardo.


South from Vathi on Ithaca Spyros drifted slowly in the very light wind; after 2 miles we pulled in the sails and motored to Poros, moored then Yvonne and I set off for a walk along the waterfront and out onto a long pebble beach. The pebbles were rounded, various sizes and coloured from pearly white to inky black. We picked up nice ones then discarded them as we found nicer ones, white, cream, pink, yellow and black; I had a heavy pocket carrying them back to Spyros.

Friday 13th May; a light breeze was blowing in from the east but Windfinder said this would die down around midday then pick up to around 10 knots from the west this afternoon. Yvonne and I loafed about for the morning, called into the supermarket for bread, made lunch then decided to leave. We had planned a short trip to Ay Nikolaos thinking also that the westerly breeze might give us good sailing. We motored for about an hour to the south of Kefalonia, the breeze had turned to the west, settling in at 9-10 knots. It looked such a great sailing wind and, to reach Ay Nikolaos we would have to beat into it so we turned south and had a wonderful reach to Zante on the Island of Zakinthos. A little further than we had planned but with the wind on our beam we sailed faster than we could have motored, mooring in Zante about 4:30pm. By the time we had had our coffee and biscuits, walked a couple of miles around to the to the office of the Port Police to register, wandered back through town checking stocks and prices in a couple of super markets on the way, it was nearly 8:00pm. Time for a shower, skipped the brandies and went straight into fixing dinner with a couple of wines.

We had found that the red house wine at all the tavernas we had dined at over the last few years was quite palatable and seemingly all from the same source. So, when in Lefkas we happened to spy a supermarket filling 1.5 litre plastic bottles from a barrel, and beside these bottles were 5 litre casks of the same wine, in the same casks as I was shown in Astakos when I had to decide if I wanted demi sweet red or dry red, so we bought one of each and reduced our in-house wine costs by 50 percent. The plan was to decant from the cask into the 1.5 litre bottle every so often!

Saturday 14th May, we awoke to an absolutely still morning, not a cloud in the sky and warm sun streaming into the saloon. I went to the laptop and turned on Windfinder, these conditions would hang around all morning then a light south westerly breeze would arrive after lunch building to about 10 knots later in the afternoon. Not day to start out early, unless we wanted to waste diesel which, at 1.60 Euros a litre was a 60 percent increase on the price last year. Our plan today is to reach Katakolon, about 25 miles away and easily reached in an afternoon with a reasonable sailing breeze.

Yvonne and I got back to Spyros after noon, we had a quick lunch then got under way; motoring for a bit over an hour until we were south of the Island of Zakinthos and started to pick up the forecast westerly breeze. It was a light breeze that settled in at 9-12 knots for most of the afternoon. Spyros made 4 to 6 knots of boat speed with the wind from the starboard quarter, not her best point of sailing in the light, but it was a pleasant, relaxing two and a half hour sail before motoring the last 4 miles into Katakolon. Sunday 15th May, the baker was only going to open at 6:30 for 2 hours this morning so I rushed over at 7 am to get a few sticky buns for a birthday treat today. Ordinarily the shops are closed on Sundays except for the occasional small food outlet. Oddly this morning we saw a group of workmen refurbishing a house so perhaps the rules don’t apply to them or that rules are only advisory and not mandatory. Windfinder said that a light wind would come in from the west again around midday. No cruise liners had called today so Yvonne and I spent an hour wandering through the near deserted town before motoring Spyros out of the harbour around 11 am.

Out of the harbour a light breeze was blowing from the west but not enough to sail on and we wanted to put an hours charge into the batteries so waited for an hour until the breeze lifted to 7-8 knots before trying to sail. We made 4 knots of boat speed, not great with a 30+ mile journey ahead but the day was sunny, it was hot and we had lots of time so we worked on our sun tans and had one sticky bun each for lunch. After an hour, with Yvonne on the helm, the breeze lifted to 10-11 knots and Spyros began making a respectable 5+ knots. It was during Yvonne’s shift that a couple of dolphins called by to say hello. They appeared off our quarter then ducked and dived beneath the bow for a minute or two. The breeze started to lighten, we had our second sticky bun each for afternoon tea, and about 10 miles out of Kiparissa we took the sails in and motored Spyros into the port.

A large trawler followed us into port and began to unload fish. The folk in a neighbouring yacht went to see if they could get some fresh fish, I don’t know if they did but they were given a large box of freshly caught shrimp. They were quite embarrassed with the quantity, more than they could handle and, not wanting to waste them pleaded with the other 4 yachts in port to take a few off their hands. I took a small shopping bag full, about a kilo, then spent an hour and a half boiling and peeling them. I had a cup full on my salad tonight, the rest are in the refrigerator for today or tomorrow at the latest. Not a bad end to a birthday.

Monday 16th May, Windfinder said we shouldn’t waste diesel today so we spent the day in Kiparissa. Although everyone can be wrong because by midday there was a fresh breeze blowing from the west giving those who arrived in the afternoon some magnificent sailing. Anyway, we had sort of planned to stay here for the day so Yvonne and I slept in then wandered up to the town cruising through the supermarkets and stopping at a bakery for a couple of sticky buns. We continued on our walk uphill to the old Venetian castle along this south coast of the Peloponnese on the hill overlooking the town and harbour. It was a glorious day in full sun, hot and at that time only a very light cooling breeze blowing. We ate our sticky bun in the small amphitheatre in the castle then wandered back to Spyros picking up a few supplies on the way.

Tuesday 17th May, Windfinder said we should have light sailing winds all day so we left Kiparissa at 9 am with dark clouds covering the high hill tops behind the town and motored into a very sloppy sea. The aftermath of a blow yesterday left a 2-3 metre swell; Spyros pitched and crashed as we pushed our way into the light breeze and swell. After an hour we rounded a headland and came off the wind and were able to set sail in 9-11 knots of breeze. We made 4-5 knots but it was a lumpy ride with the swell on our beam knocking the wind from the sails. We made slow progress. The sun burnt off the clouds that were around in the early part of the day and although the sea remained the same the rest of the journey south through the Proti channel off Marathopolis and down to Pilos was pleasant enough and certainly better than the force 7 near gale we face two years ago.

The Pilos marina looked as full today as it did two years ago but we were determined to find a berth this time and not moor up on the town quay to suffer the discomfort of the swells than roll into the large Navarinou Bay. A kindly local yacht owner called us over and, together with the owner of an adjacent yacht helped us squeeze Spyros into the small space between their yachts, not the easiest mooring we have accomplished.

Yvonne and I had a long walk, up the (closed) castle and through town. Pilos was a clean and tidy town that extended up the hill from the waterfront, with streets running along the sides of the hill intersected by wide steps running directly uphill. We returned to Spyros and enjoyed a wonderfully still and quiet night. We both slept like logs.

Wednesday 18th May, in our wandering yesterday we found a supermarket that offered our usual supplies at good prices so this morning we returned and stocked up, some items for immediate use others as a hedge against higher prices elsewhere! It was quite a calm day and Windfinder said the early part of the day would be dogged with light westerly winds but later in the afternoon things should be better. We thought about going to the small village of Finakounda, limited shelter and moorings were available and we had by-passed this town 2 years ago when we transited the Menthoni Roadstead. Out of Navarinou Bay the swells from yesterday were still making for a sloppy sea and with very little wind it was useless to try and sail. We motored Spyros the 7 miles down the coast to Menthoni then another 7 miles to Finakounda to arrive just as the westerly wind picked up to 10 knots, just as Windfinder said it would. We nosed in behind the breakwater and realized this port was most vulnerable to the westerly wind so spun around and immediately pulled on all sail and headed for Koroni (see the guide on yacht charters in Greece). Spyros sailed out of the bay doing 6 knots, soon to drop to 4-5 knots as the wind eased but we made good passage through the Roadstead and around to Koroni. Anchoring in the bay, as is usual here we were initially sheltered from the westerly wind but within an hour Spyros’s nose was pointing to the east and into a fresh breeze. This continued into the night and to make matters worse the breeze had kicked up quite a chop which had Spyros bucking like a bronco for a few hours.

Thursday 19th May, the sky this morning is a brilliant blue; there is a light breeze, a cool nip in the air and Spyros is still rocking in the aftermath of last night’s blow. We didn’t feel like going ashore so by 10 o’clock we had pulled up anchor and were motoring Spyros into a 7 knot breeze from the north, we set her sails straight away then motor sailed her for an hour until the breeze died. A light breeze picked up again after an hour and a half when we managed to sail Spyros making 2-3 knots towards Limeni, across the other side of the Gulf of Messiniakos. A very slow 23 mile trip which had its advantages as dark clouds covered the high hills surrounding Limeni and it was raining. We sat in the sun watching the rain system move away, glad we were not racing into it although we did don our rain jackets when one or two stray rain drops came our way. The breeze had turned to the south and strengthened a little, Spyros started making good speed as we closed on Limeni bay. The Greek Waters Pilot recommended two mooring sites, one in the small south bay by the town, the other in the north east on a small mole (or quay) if there was space. We opted for the mole and a local fisherman indicated it would be ok to moor alongside, we did.

We were now in new territory. We had been following the same route south down the Peloponnese peninsular that we had taken 2 years ago so Limeni was new to us and quite different. Around the shore line of the bay there were several clusters of private holiday homes, apartments, tavernas, coffee houses and bars but there was no place that really looked like a focal settlement, except high on the hills above the bay there were two larger clusters of houses and dotted around the hillsides were many single houses. Interestingly, most of the private houses were quite substantial homes built in stone blocks to the old Maniote style and were “holiday” homes. There were few local residents, some fishermen, bar and taverna owners and a few farmers. The whole area seems to cater for summer migrants and the migration, in May, had yet to begin. Our mooring was at a place called Karavostasi, about 4-5 km from Limeni, so Yvonne and I spent a pleasant 2 hours walking past olive orchards, wild flowers, several clusters of houses around the bay to Limeni and back. It was our first time off Spyros since yesterday morning.

Peloponnes #2

Friday 20th May, in a beautiful morning we got under way just after 10am, motored Spyros out of Karovastasi into 7-6 knots of wind and, for an hour motor-sailed southwards along the rugged Mani peninsular on the Peloponnese, the hills rising to 800-1000 metres with sparse vegetation on the tops. Lower down low scrubby bushes and plants gave the appearance of pasture but no animals could be seen. Lower still small hamlets sat strategically on ridge-lines and small plateaus surrounded by olive trees. Near the shoreline steep rocky cliffs rose straight out of the sea, pitted with caves. Rocky outcrops lined the faces of the hillsides and the occasional stone clad house and old castles blended in with the natural stone faces. This was a beautifully barren landscape although dotted with “summer” houses they paled into insignificance against the massive nature of the landscape.

After a frustrating 2 and a half hours slowly sailing across the south of the Mani peninsular we picked up a nice breeze once we rounded Cape Tainaro. Then managing to sail at a respectable 5-6 knots sail for the last half hour of the day to reach Port Kayio, a sheltered indentation in the coast where many yachts stop overnight on their way around the Peloponnes. We anchored in quite deep water and were in the company of 3 other yachts. The small hamlet at the head of the bay consisted of 2 Tavernas and a handful of houses, mainly occupied during the summer months. We didn’t go ashore as there were no shops and we did have the makings of our dinner on board that night.

Saturday 21st May, we are the last to leave the anchorage this morning, a nice breeze was being drawn into the bay from offshore. We motored Spyros out of the bay and kept on heading out to sea, the breeze died down and there was no hope of sailing for an hour or two. We motored north towards Yithion, a larger town at the head of the Lakonikos gulf. After two and a half hours a steady 4-5 knot breeze fills in from the south. Running before a breeze is not Spyros’ strongest point of sail but we turn the motor off and creep along at 1.7-2 knots. A pod of about 20 dolphins, line abreast came leaping towards us surfacing in unison. They parted to pass on both sides of Spyros then continued in the same direction without pausing. Later the breeze lifted to 7-8 knots and we used the boat hook to pole the jib out, Spyros picked up to 4-5 knots and we sailed for the rest of the journey to Yithion. Just as we approached the harbour entrance we were welcomed by another small pod of dolphins.

We first moored Spyros alongside the quay but were told that space was “reserved” for a large trawler that would be arriving later that day. We moved Spyros down the quay, clear of the space that the trawler would need, just before the port police arrived to adjudicate on the issue. On our return to Spyros after dinner we could see that the trawler had arrived but had berthed in a different place, I resolved to move Spyros back to our original berth in the morning, particularly as this would be closer to the hose tap and we would also rewarded with a 240 volt power connection. We re-moored Spyros before breakfast, connected the water hose and the power then had breakfast in the cockpit in a very calm and sunny morning. Yvonne and I took a walk through the town to the north, following the main road hoping to find a petrol station on the outskirts of the town and to arrange a diesel refill on Monday. No luck before lunch but we did find a petrol station over the low hill at Mavrovouni and with a little bit of imagination conveyed to the minder what we wanted. He sort of arranged a diesel delivery for tomorrow but we would have to ring the truck driver. This was our problem few seemed to understand, the people we were likely to talk to did not speak English and that we would have to use a mobile phone which was effectively ringing from NZ to Greece at an exorbitant cost. This would not be so bad if we could talk to someone but otherwise it seemed a waste of money. On our way back to the yacht we passed by the Port Police office and explained our problem, they got on the phone and in a minute had confirmed a delivery truck would come to Spyros at 10:30 tomorrow, this was a great relief. On our return Spyros was bucking and rolling about. Earlier in the day a large 1000 passenger cruise liner stopped and anchored in the outer harbor, we thought a ferry be due in when buses had begun to line up on the quay. The cruise liner was quite a surprise; it launched 4 tenders and proceeded to disgorge hundreds of passengers and they were fed onto the buses for tours to various sites. While all of this was going on the water in the inner and outer harbor was awash with wakes. The disturbed and confused sea lasted all afternoon, only settling when the cruise liner left about 7:30 in the evening.

Monday 23rd May, the diesel man arrived right on 10:30 and, to my surprise could only fit in 45 litres of diesel. We had used our engine for about 28 hours since we last re-filled Spyros in Lefkas and calculated that we would need about 60 litres of diesel. On our earlier charter in 2009 Spyros used 2.1L an hour so we were a bit miffed when we had to re-fill Spyros with 83 litres in Lefkas for only 20 hours running. So we kept a careful record of our motor use and, using lower engine revs at about 1700-1900 rpm, when motoring we were quite delighted to find this new fuel consumption rate was 1.6 litres per hour.

We made a quick call to the supermarket for a few supplies and provisions before casting off and motoring Spyros out into a light easterly breeze, setting sail as soon as we had reached the outer harbour and pointed in the direction of Plitra. At first the light breeze gave us slow travelling then as it started to pick up Spyros romped along on a reach, her preferred point of sail. It wasn’t long before we took in a reef in the mainsail and had 5 rolls on the genoa, later to be shaken out and even more drastically, taken in when we dropped into a big windless hole. Perhaps this was fortunate because the lull signaled a strengthening and shifting of the wind direction to exactly where we wanted to go. We pushed Spyros into the wind and building waves for the rest of the journey across the gulf of Lakonikos. Just as we were about to round the headland into Xilis bay a pod of dolphins joined us for a short while, one showed off its’ high jumping skills. At the head of the bay lay the small town of Plitra, where we found a reasonable anchorage in preference to running the gauntlet of ropes and lazy lines behind the town mole and breakwater (see wind patterns of Greece and Seawater temperatures).

A fresh breeze blew for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. We stayed on anchor watch for a good hour or more as the pilot advised the anchorage was sand and rock, not everywhere good holding. With 40 meters of chain out Spyros remained firm on anchor but yawed around in the 16-24 knots of wind. The breeze did die down in the evening to give us a comfortable night. Internet reception in the bay was good but the data transfer rate was very slow, frequently the connection would time out. I did manage to get Windfinder up on the Tuesday morning to learn that winds were forecast from the east-northeast at 5-10 knots, at Plitra and 15 knots to the south of the Elous peninsular and the island of Elafonisos. That seemed ok for a run to Elafonisos so we got under way shortly after 9:30. From a dead calm at anchor to 15 knots of wind on our beam after 20 minutes was an illustration of what the winds will do in this part of Greece. We set a reefed mainsail and 6 rolls in the head sail. The winds climbed to 20-24 knots and Spyros was soon fine reaching at 7.5-8.5 knots. We took another reef in the mainsail and later another roll in the headsail. Spyros was quite manageable with this rig and romped along eating up the 15 miles to a point off the south west of Elafonisis in 2 hours. The winds fluctuated between 10 and 25 knots, over on our right was a rain shower that passed over us at Plitra and was now well out in the gulf. Dark clouds surrounded the Island of Kythera ahead of us and for half an hour we were treated to a lighting display, hoping that it would remain in the distance and not come over to see who we were! (see yacht charter holiday itineraries for +3 weeks in the Aegean)

At the southwest of Elafonisis the breeze strengthened, came onto our head, gust of 28 knots shook Spyros as we sailed hard onto the wind around the headland. When clear of the gusts we took in sail and motored Spyros into Ormous Frangos, a delightful little bay at the south of the Island, anchoring on sand in 4 metres of clear water. Two other yachts were also sheltering here, both of whom we had met before on our way south, an anchorage noted in the pilot as being sheltered and a starting point for the passage around Cape Maleas. We launched the dinghy and went ashore for a long walk along a long beach of white sand. There were a few other people around; the summer beach lovers hadn’t arrived yet.

Spyros rocked on anchor all night, the rigging howled in the wind and strong gusts shook her from time to time. By morning it was quite still, the wind had died down and Spyros swung on the anchor to a slight swell rolling into the bay. With no mobile phone net we could not connect to the internet and consult Windfinder on what the weather might do. We used instinct and hope. Hope that the forecast from 2 days ago might by right and the winds might lighten, instinct that if we did a binocular search of the Kythera channel for white caps and couldn’t find any then truly the wind might have died down. There were no white caps. We were ready to leave by 8 am. Island Bear, who was also intending to head around the Cape shortly after us, asked if we would keep watch on the VHF channel 10. Leaving the anchorage we immediately met wind gusts of 20-25 as we rounded the headland to the south of the bay. Away from the headland though the gusts died down and we pointed Spyros on a visual heading towards Ak Zovolo, the southern most Cape on mainland Greece (see sailing holidays in Greece).

Across the large bay, Ormos Vatika, the winds were only 10-20 knots with 1-1.5 meter waves. It was quite pleasant motoring but it was a lull before the storm so to speak. As we neared the lee of the 700-800 meter high hills at the south of the Elous peninsular the wind rose to a consistent 20-24 knots. The wind and waves were striking Spyros on the port bow so we were able to motor a course along the line of the tops and troughs of the waves, which wasn’t too uncomfortable. The high hills accelerated the wind and strong gusts raced across the bay towards us. At first we would see the black line on the water followed by a sea of white caps racing behind. Spyros would lean with the wall of wind and press ahead under motor without changing speed. Then the charging waves hit her, the wind screaming and the anemometer wound up to 30 then 35 knots. The steep waves crashing against Spyros’ side sending sheets of water over her, the spray hitting us like bullets. Spyros would shudder and almost stop.

Yvonne and I had made a plan that if conditions got too bad we would turn back. During a gust there was nothing to we could do but keep Spyros on her heading. As soon as the gust died down and the wind returned to 20-24 knots, the steep waves receded and we could make reasonable progress. As we neared the southern coast of the peninsular I could see that the gusts were confined only to about a 3 mile section in the lee of the hills and the sea looked more settled beyond the white water caused by the gusts. So we pressed on. The gusts were regular and their onset quite visible; we had good warning of their coming. They all were in the 30-35 knot range although at its peak the strongest gust was 39 knots.

When reaching Ak. Zovolo the seas had moderated and the wind was back to a consistent 20-24 knots. Spyros, no longer hindered now by the wind and sea, made a steady six and a half knots. The Monastery at Ak. Maleas stood out clearly in the sunlight, we had made it through the worst of the conditions and after 3 hours motoring we rounded the infamous Cape Maleas in a relatively gentle 18 knots of wind and into the Aegean Sea.

Argolic Gulf

Monemvasia in the Argolic Gulf was another two and half hours motoring although a nice breeze did arrive that we could have sail on for an hour but all the excitement of the early part of the day was enough. We moored Spyros stern to on the outside of the small pier in the boat harbour. The anchor didn’t hold and wind gusts had the stern of Spyros pinned to the pier. We tried for a second time to berth but the same thing happened. Several other yachts had arrived by now and it was a bit of a circus as several tried to berth stern to the pier. The owner of a large yacht that had similar problems the previous night and had shifted into the inner boat harbour to moor alongside the quay invited us to raft up along side. We did so and were really grateful for their offer. The pilot says the holding is not good in the outer harbour as those moored there found out and by Thursday morning most had vacated the pier and were rafted up alongside yachts in the inner harbour, one even against us making us in a raft of three yachts.

The weather forecast was not good for the next 2 days but we had planned to stay here in Monemvasia at least 2 days. Thursday 26th May we got to know two couples on the other yachts in our raft quite well as we all struggled to get the 3rd yacht moored alongside; it had caught its’ rudder on a lazy line and it took a bit of time and teamwork to sort the problem out. Invitations to drinks that evening flowed from all quarters so a social hour was arranged for 7:30.

Yvonne and I eventually got into Yefira for supplies, the small village adjacent to the harbour then headed off towards the large rocky island outcrop upon which stood the old, 12th century Byzantine settlement of Monemvasia, a World Heritage site. We crossed the causeway to the island and entered the lower town through a portal in the wall. A town which today has been resurrected and reconstructed. The narrow streets were only 2-3 metres wide with small shops, stalls, bars, guest houses and hotels in abundance. Outside the 12th Century church, rebuilt several hundred years ago was the large paved town square from which great views of the sea and Peloponnese coast line. The lower town was built on the slopes of the island and from the upper part of the town steep steps zigzagged their way to the summit of the rock to the old upper town which is now a large mass of ruins except for one Church. This has stood since the 12th Century and served as a orthodox church, a mosque, a catholic church, a mosque again and finally now an orthodox church. It is reputed to have some very fine frescos but we were unable to enter the church to see for ourselves. The whole upper town once housed many hundreds of people. There were relics of the old cisterns which stored and reticulated water to the settlement; this was incredible engineering of the day. The rock was a natural fortress, the lower town was walled but for the rest of the settlement there were only one or two walls built where the natural defences might have been breeched (see the guide to yacht charters).

Friday 27th May, an overcast day with quite strong winds in the morning and a rain shower lasting a good 30-40 minutes. Dark skies about midday heralded a thunderstorm so no one was keen to leave, including us. Yvonne and I took a long walk in the afternoon as a break from playing patience. We three yachts that had rafted together planned to re-group before dark to shuffle the yachts so that the inner yacht was free to leave at 3:00am the next morning. After duly completing this manoeuvre Yvonne and I were able to clean up about 8:30 and have our social hour and salad tea on board.

Saturday 28th May, when I got up at 7:00am many yachts in the boat harbour had already gone. Our remaining neighbour left at 7:30 and the 3 other yachts had departed by 9:30am. Yvonne and I made a quick trip to the supermarket, baker and green grocer for supplies to last the next 2-3 days, tomorrow being Sunday when shops are closed. We pulled out of our berth, moved 200 metres up the quay to take on water, giving the decks of Spyros a fresh water wash before heading north to the small town of Paralia. A 10-12 knot good breeze met us just out of the harbour so we set sail and, at first managed a respectable 5-6 knots. Away from the effect of the rocky outcrop of Monemvasia the breeze lightened and became quite fickle. At times we struggled to make headway in the rather strong current sweeping down the peninsular so when we went through a tack at 180 degrees it was time to use the motor. We tried to sail one more time but to no avail so motored Spyros northwards along and incredibly barren, rugged coastline beneath towering cliffs and steep hills of the Argolic Gulf rising to 12-1300 metres to the small village of Paralia.

Paralia is one of three villages clustered together in an incredibly beautiful bay with a backdrop of high cliffs and mountains. We moored to the jetty. Although we were exposed to any swell from the open sea, the weather was calm and forecast to remain so for the next 2 days. There were two other mooring sites that may have provided better shelter but these were remote from the town. Paralia was clean and very tidy; it was old with a few recently built vacation houses dotting the hillsides. Small well kept olive orchards separated the houses in the village. The walk around the bay to Chapel Cove, a remote sheltered anchorage reminded us of the Queen Charlotte Walkway in the Marlborough Sounds. A well made pathway above the water through low shrubs and wild flowers, a sprinkling of pine trees afforded some shade. The hillside dropped steeply to a rocky shore line lapped by the deep blue sea.

Although no wind was forecast a sea breeze was blowing onto the quay, ruffling the water and rocking Spyros. We got under way after lunch expecting to motor most of the 14 miles to Plaka. We did motor for an hour but soon there was enough wind from behind that we pulled out the headsail and Spyros ran at 2+ knots before a light breeze which later built and before long we were up to a respectable 4 knots the we held until reaching the small harbour of Plaka. Dark clouds had built up over the mountains during the afternoon and we had not long moored to the quay, put up the spray cover and bimini when a thunder storm arrived bringing with it a heavy rain shower lasting about an hour.

Monday 30th May, a brilliant morning, blue sky, a light breeze from the south refreshed the rather muggy atmosphere left over from last evenings’ rain. Yvonne and I took a long walk through the countryside trying and find the town Leonidhion, of which Plaka is only a small village and port. We gave up after about an hour or so returned to Spyros, made a sandwich for lunch then got underway. Slightly undecided as to where we should go, we motored out of Plaka onto a glassy sea heading across the Gulf and away from where the flotilla of 7 boats who also berthed in Plaka last evening were heading. At first we set a course to Spetsai but when a breeze set in from the south we pulled on sail and, finding the best sailing angle, headed for Porto Kheli instead.

The sail across to the major town and port of Porto Kheli was a pleasant 4-5 knot reach. We were now back in familiar territory, Plaka and Porto Kheli were re-visits from our 2008 flotilla cruise. After settling in on the berth, Yvonne and I headed for the supermarket, one of the better ones in maritime Greece, and the supplies we stocked up on were a hedge against higher prices later on (see budget yacht charters and last-minutes).

Tuesday 31st May, Windfinder forecast there should be a good southerly sea breeze out in the gulf by mid-afternoon. In Porto Kheli harbour Spyros was rocking to 9 knots of breeze as we were ate a lunch-time sandwich, after which we got under way; motoring Spyros to clear the harbour before settling down to a 4 hour reach back across the gulf to Astros, another revisit from our 2008 cruise. By mid-afternoon the breeze did strengthen and we put several rolls in the genoa and took a reef in the main; Spyros still trucked along at 6 knots. The breeze held all afternoon and we could have sailed into the harbour of Astros but at the expense of a warm frig and cold showers we turned the motor on for the last part of the journey.

Astros is an old village on a small headland at the north end of a large bay. Atop the headland sits the ruins of a Venetian Castle. A very picturesque site with the harbour and its fishing boats, the original small village clustered around the harbour and rising up the slopes to the castle. But the nearby beaches have attracted many residential developments and an infrastructure to support vacationers. It is now the end of May but the beach chairs, holiday homes, bars, cafés and streets of Astros are desolate; the impact of the Greek economy on the local tourist industry has never been so evident until now.

Wednesday 1st June, we breakfasted in the cockpit then wandered up the zigzag path between the houses to the church at the top of the hill and along a rough path to revisit the castle. There had been no change in 3 years, acres of olive trees covered the flat land behind the headland, the long curving beach and the views across the Gulf were wonderful. The weather had become settled, winds were forecast to be light but the sea breeze that builds up in the afternoon was a local weather effect and by the time we had returned to Spyros there was a nice sea breeze blowing in the gulf. After a quick cheese and tomato sandwich we got Spyros under way and headed out back across the Gulf. A southerly sea breeze has kicked in each afternoon for the past few days and, to our advantage, we have reached back and forth across the Gulf making for easy sailing. Today was no different, our goal was an anchorage in a large but sheltered bay on the northeast of the Gulf called Khaidhari, only about 12 miles from Astros. On a full main and genoa Yvonne soon had Spyros reaching at 6-7 knots in the 12 knot breeze. As the breeze built to 16-18 knots we took in rolls on the genoa and later a reef in the main; we were still making 6+ knots. The trip took a little over 2 hours and we had to idle the motor for an hour while sailing otherwise we would have been out of power for the evening.

Anchoring Spyros in 9 metres of water the head of the bay, keeping well clear of the large number of laid moorings, we sat on anchor watch for a couple of hours until we were convinced the anchor was holding in the stiff breeze that was still blowing into the bay. It would have been a long bumpy ride to go ashore so we sat entertained by a flotilla of 11 yachts rafting up on the other side of the bay. It took more than 2 hours to get 9 of the yachts secured on the raft, the other two decided to anchor on their own.

Thursday 2nd June, after a very still and quiet night we awoke to a brilliant morning; a light breeze refreshed the air. We pottered about until 11:30 before getting Spyros under way, motoring for 25 minutes until we were clear of the bay and set her sails for a windward beat south to Koiladhia, a secluded bay in the eastern most corner of the Argolic Gulf. A great sail in the 5-6 knot range, even after reducing sail as the breeze built during the afternoon. Koiladhia is a sheltered bay protected by a low tree covered island privately owned by a shipping magnate. We anchored Spyros amongst a crowd of other yachts and, again, sat out the afternoon watching the comings and goings of other yachts, large fishing trawlers and a busy speed boat shuttling back and forward from the private island. Again we didn’t venture ashore, preferring to sit back and relax.

Friday 3rd June, at the end of breakfast we had only enough bread for our lunchtime sandwiches so we had to go ashore today or go hungry. Our plan was to reach Ermioni tonight and spend a couple of days stocking up before heading out to the Cyclades. For two and a half hours we motored Spyros on a flat sea, the wind indicator reading 1-2 knots of wind speed. Almost on the dot of midday the sea breeze picked up from the south. We were at the south eastern end of the Spetsai Channel (Spetses island) so after clearing the channel we pulled on sail and headed north east on a fine lead towards the Dhokos channel managing to sail through this but eventually the lost wind just off the end of the Ermioni peninsular. The town of Ermioni was another revisit from 2008. We had now left the Argolic Gulf and were in the Saronic region and were beginning to concentrate on the next phase of our cruise out to the Cyclades.


Friday 3rd June, We took the same pretty walk around the peninsular that we did in 2008 although this time Yvonne did not have an excruciating pain from a back strain she had at that time after struggling with an anchor. We had been directed to a very large supermarket that might sell super-glue; it seemed to sell everything food, toiletries, cleaners, alcohol, kitchenware, paint, hardware, garden tools and garden paraphernalia. A veritable (NZ) Warehouse with similar stock levels in about one fifth of the space. The wind vane on one of our wind pennants had come adrift and needed to be re-glued. These were doing really great service; the windward vane always remained steady as a rock in all conditions and I don’t think it was because the genoa sheet had wrapped around it a couple of times that the vane was coming adrift. I think it may have been the glue I used when I made them, the port vane was still sound though. I found a twin pack of super-glue and managed to repair the starboard one.

The large supermarket also had great prices so, in preparation for the Cyclades trip we began to stock up on supplies, some that would last us a few weeks. We returned to Spyros just as a thunder and rain storm arrived lasting half an hour. Next we re-filled the water tanks. There was a locked water tap on the quay that would be opened twice a day for a fixed fee. Something to be avoided unless you want a cubic metre of water, but when you need only a 100 litres the cost can be exorbitant. A neighbouring yachtie, saw my predicament and offered his 30 litre jerry can with trolley and directed me to a public tap about 200 metres from the quay. After 3 trips I had filled Spyros’ tanks and gratefully returned the jerry can full to its’ owner.

Saturday 4th June, we slept in and continued with preparations for the Cycladic islands. Back to the supermarket, then to the green grocer and on to the baker. On our trip to the supermarket we called into a petrol station but, as it was Saturday the man who drove the mini tanker was not on duty so they could only offer diesel by the jerry can load but indicated that getting a 20kg can of diesel half a kilometre back to the quay would not be a problem. We stowed the supplies on Spyros then dug out the spare 20 litre can of diesel from the locker, poured this into the yachts’ tank and wandered off back to the gas station. True to their word, they filled the jerry can and provided us with a good strong barrow to ferry the diesel back to Spyros. We did this twice, filling the main tank and our 20litre spare supply.

Having finished all our tasks we sat back in the shade of the bimini and watched the world go by in the 30° heat of the afternoon. Later we took another walk around the Ermioni peninsular stopping off at a small beach for a swim, actually a snorkel. The water was warm and I saw the largest number of fish that I had ever seen in the Mediterranean. Small, large and many coloured fish; the water resembled snorkelling in the Pacific Islands.

From time to time a yacht turns up with a pet on board, frequently a dog, or dogs, but twice we have been neighbours to a yacht with a cat. The yacht on our right had a lovely charcoal long haired cat, quite obviously brought up onboard but keen to get its feet onto hard ground and twice struck out for the freedom of the quay only to be pulled up short by the leash attached to a shoulder harness. Not that it minded as it willingly returned to the yacht, I think it got scared when lost in its’ freedom. This morning I looked out from the “office”, the chart table that doubles as the computer station and through the window I saw cat sprawled out on the deck. The neighbours left a short time later and as they pulled away from the quay cat, who was now unleashed was pacing the decks with the airs of an admiral ensuring the departure went according to plan.

Sunday 5th June, the boat harbour at Ermioni was a bit small and with a breeze blowing Spyros off the quay we would have to be careful that we did not run onto the fishing boats on the other side of the harbour. Mooring in these small harbours usually means stern to the quay whereby the anchor is dropped 2-3 boat lengths out from where you want to berth and the boat is reversed back to the quay. This morning Yvonne wanted to “do“ the anchor, normally she does the helm but today thought that once the anchor had been pulled up helming Spyros out of the harbour might be a bit tight. When the anchor came up Yvonne called out that it was attached to something. Panic, as the dramas of previous snagged anchors flooded through the mind. The anchor was free and I was reversing Spyros away from the fishing boats. Yvonne thought the object was a boat hook, great, was it attached to anything? No, even better I said pull the anchor up and I motored Spyros out of the rather tight position we found ourselves in. We swapped roles, Yvonne kept motoring Spyros out of the harbour and I attended to the now captured barnacle encrusted boat hook.

Out in the Idhra Channel (Hydra island) a good sailing breeze set us on our way to an anchorage some 15 miles away at Cape Skillaion the northeastern portal to the channel. After a frustrating time tacking on shifting winds and into a current we eventually finished motoring into a delightful little bay tucked in behind a small island. The water over the white sandy bottom was crystal clear, the shoreline was rock where depths started at 2 metres; we anchored Spyros to within 4-5 boat lengths of the shoreline. According to the pilot this anchorage provided good shelter in reasonable weather, but the pilot didn’t mention that the wakes from the high speed ferries rounding the cape were very uncomfortable. These only lasted until the last ferries went past in the early evening. This was a very picturesque spot so I launched the dinghy to go ashore and take a few photographs. Amongst to wild flowers and low scrub were masses of thyme, I filled a pocket with sprigs and back on Spyros harvested a matchbox full of leaves.

Monday 6th June, we pulled up the anchor at quarter past eight, motored out of the bay at Cape Skillaion and pointed towards the Island of Kea in the Cyclades, 43 miles away. We picked up a light breeze from the north, set sail and motor sailed for 3 hours on a flat sea except for a slight disturbance when a pod of dolphins came by and with the wash from ships moving to and fro in the busy shipping lanes out of Athens. The sails added about 2 knots of boat speed so we only needed to idle the motor to keep Spyros moving along at 5+ knots for an 8+ hour trip. By mid-day we ran out of wind, we put up the bimini as it was quite hot, later the wind picked up again and we tried to sail without the motor for a while, the wind shifted and we could only sail on a heading that was taking us well away from our destination so we finished the day motoring into an anchorage at Kavia Bay on the Island of Kea. We stayed on board watching a couple of scuba divers, a few yachts coming and going and a huge ultra modern motor yacht (ship), the Ocean Star, anchor in the bay for the night. After the wind settled down Spyros stopped bobbing about and only rocked when a liner or freighter passed by the island, albeit 3-4 miles away. The waterways in this part of the Cyclades seem to be constantly churned up by passing ships.

Tuesday 7th June, a moderate northerly breeze had Spyros tugging at the anchor when we left Kavia Bay about 10:30. As soon as we were away from the hills the breeze died, we continued motoring for 6 miles to the south of Kea rounded the cape and came head on into a strong breeze. We were nearly caught with a full mainsail and just managed to pull in a reef before the black line of a gust caught us after which the wind settled into a steady northeasterly at 15-20 knots. We set a reduced size headsail and, in the steep chop we made very slow headway for quite a while before slowly picking up pace and settling down into a steady close hauled slog. The wind eased back into the 13-18 knot range and backed so that we could lay Cape Kefalos on the northeast of Kithnos, the Island we were now heading for. The slog eased to a fine lead with Spyros happily charging along at 6-7 knots, rising and falling in the chop of the sea and the wash from ferries and liners that, at times looked like tidal waves. On rounding Cape Kefalos we came off the wind and being rattled by a choppy sea, doused sail to motor into the small harbour of Loutra.

We were most definitely back in the Cyclades. Low barren islands, although both Kea and Kithnos/Kythnos were covered with a lattice of old stone walls suggesting some form of animal farming took place some time ago, no animals were seen today, but the white box form houses with blue shutters and doors were the real stand out feature. With all of our planning back in Ermioni, a visit to the ATM machine was essential but never written down. It was a job that could be done on Sunday morning before we left but it slipped our minds and now there was a sense of urgency because Loutrou did not have an ATM but we could have taken a taxi across the island to Merikha where there were two. We needed 5 Euro for the mooring and we could get dinner for 20 Euro so we could wait until we sailed to Merikha tomorrow, we had 1.65 euro in our pockets when we left Loutrou.

Wednesday 8th June, we edged Spyros out of the very crowded little Loutrou harbour and breathed a sigh of relief that we had no crossed anchor chains then retraced our route of yesterday around Cape Kefalos. Heading west through the Kithos channel we picked up a 7-8 knot easterly breeze and set up Spyros for a reach, rather than running down wind, and soon Yvonne had Spyros tracking along at 4 knots on a slightly ruffled sea. After about 3 miles we gybed Spyros for the reach back towards Kithnos, now doing 5-6 knots in 10-12 knots of wind and on down the east coast to the town and port of Merikha. Nice sailing. We had only intended to stay for an hour to visit the ATM and the supermarket but it looked quite a nice spot so decided to join the 3 other yachts and stay. As the afternoon crawled by we watched the yacht basin filled up, several yachts anchored in the small bay and the large ferry that was berthed here when we arrived left, only to be replaced by another that had left again almost before it had stopped!

Thursday 9th June, Windfinder predicted a south/southwesterly wind so we thought the best place to sail to might be a reach across Finikas on the island of Siros (Syros island). The breeze was from the southwest as we left Merikha but we had to retrace our route around the north of Kithnos and as Spyros does not do well with a following breeze we motored. Expecting to set sail for a reach when got clear of Kithnos we found a light wind coming in from the northeast and not enough to sail on. We continued to motor for another hour until the southwesterly eventually arrived and we could set sail. It was a fickle wind at times gusting to 18 knots, when we needed to reef, then shifting 75° so we ended up way off course, then it backed so we could just make our course on a hard beat. Eventually we made it to Finikas and moored in very lumpy conditions alongside the end of the quay. Luckily so as several large yachts moored stern to the seaward side of the quay, where we would otherwise have had to berth, had a very “rocking-horse” night.

Finikas is an older village on the south west of Siros set at the head of a very large bay. Very picturesque place, low barren hills dotted with a growing number of residences, tavernas and bars lining the beach-front, a small harbour with many fishing boats. The visiting berths in the harbour were overseen by the Port Police and a manager who collected fees for water and power. Water is not in abundance in the islands and during the summer months can become a scarce commodity especially with the influx of many tourists.

Finikas gave us a stepping stone to the island of Paros where our yacht charter company had a representative. We had been concerned that the toilet holding tank was leaking hence we made the trip to Paros to get this investigated. Friday 11th June, Windfinder predicted a westerly wind which should have been great for a reach south from Siros to Naousa at the northern end of Paros but the very lumpy sea put paid to that as it shook all of the light wind out of the sails. We resorted to motoring for all but a half an hour of the trip to Naousa. A man from the charter company came to Spyros early in the evening; the problem was a bit beyond him at that stage so we arranged to have someone from a boat yard in Paroikia to look at it on Sunday.

Saturday 12th June, a brilliantly fine day with hardly any wind. As we had to wait until Sunday at least before we could leave was a good day to have a clean up. We sent a pile of laundry off for dry cleaning, tidied up Spyros, walked through the maze of narrow streets in the town all bustling with bars, boutiques and tavernas. Away from the glitzy central area were the hotels, villas, apartments and rooms for rent none of which seemed very busy. We rested up; I took a swim and helped a neighbouring yacht sort out how to set their spinnaker, as seven o’clock came along it was time for brandy and nibbles in the cockpit (see crewed yacht charters in Greece).

Sunday 13th June, the person from the boat yard arrived at ten thirty, he took 2 minutes to confirm the suspicion that a valve had broken and the Spyros would need to be taken out of the water to repair the problem. After talking to the charter company it was decided that a repair could be done differently and it was not necessary to do it at that time so Yvonne and I decided to forego our 15 Euro a night berth in the marina and leave. There was a light northerly blowing as we motored Spyros out of the large spectacular Naousa bay, we had planned 2 options so chose to go west around the island of Paros to Dhespotiko bay in the south of the island of Andiparos. The sea was very lumpy and although we tried to sail for an hour we made very slow progress; we effectively motored the whole way to Dhespotiko bay. A large secluded bay although exposed it is reasonably protected from the weather. It has a pirate history dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. A remote place surrounded by low hills, two tavernas near a fishing jetty and an increasing number of houses scattered over the hills to the north. To the south, on a barren hill, fences confined a flock of sheep, to me the first sign of animal husbandry in Greece.

Cyclades #2

Monday 13th June, Windfinder rightly predicted a 15 knot northerly wind that was already blowing into Dhespotiko bay causing Spyros to tug on the anchor. In fact the wind had picked up during the night rocking Spyros and creating disturbing noises as the anchor chain dragged across the bow roller. The sea in the bay was only ruffled but outside we could see a lot of white caps. We sat out the morning in the bay before deciding to leave just after lunch, motoring south around Dhespotiko island then heading west with reefed sails towards the sheltered bay of Platis Yialos on the Island of Sifnos in the Cyclades. The true wind sat on 13-18 knots, which pushed Spyros at 6-7 knots, but waves of up to 2.5 metres gave us a rocky ride and one rogue wave gave us a good drenching.

We were expecting to anchor at Yialos but were pleasantly surprised to find a new boat harbour that had been constructed since the pilot had been written. We tucked in behind a very large old (refurbished) gaff cutter and moored alongside the quay. The village was impeccably neat, small with one street of villas, rooms for rent a few art shops, 2 mini markets and a cluster of bars and tavernas that opened onto the beach. We sorted out a taverna to return to later this evening then sat back and enjoyed the place.

Tuesday 14th June, Windfinder was still predicting a northerly breeze but much lighter than yesterday. Still we thought we should have been able to reach west across to the Island of Milos. Leaving Yialos in 7-8 knots of wind we motored to clear a small island just off the entrance to the bay and raised sail. The wind played games with us for about an hour shifting through 180 degrees before settling in from the west and with no real power to sail on; we motored about 4 hours to Milos.

Adhamas, the port of Milos lies at the head of a very deep bay, an old volcanic crater. The surrounding hills are barren but not as spectacularly steep as the caldera on Thira - Santorini. The chora on the hill tops is quite spectacular though. Milos is well served by ferries, through Adhamas, and is a popular tourist centre which appeared to be reasonably well patronized compared to other places we had visited. Moored on the town quay in the area set aside for visiting yachts was quite exposed to the swells and wash from the ferries, and more so from the fishing boats that seem to roar passed at top speed. The pilot warns of the wash and recommends yachts to moor pulled well off the quay, we certainly endorsed that.

Mid June is now half way through our cruise and Milos is now the furtherest the point from Lefkas and the point at which we began to head back towards Lefkas. Windfinder predicted strong winds for Thursday and Friday and although there was one small anchorage in the Milos group of islands that seemed an attractive overnight destination, getting away from Milos in strong northerly winds might have been problematical. So, on Wednesday 15th June we decided to return to the sheltered harbour of Platis Yialos where, if strong northerly winds did evolve we could ride them out in safety of the harbour.

We motored Spyros out of the large bay into 12-13 knot headwinds and a growing chop when we reached the entrance. The headwinds followed us as we turned north but once clear of 2 small islands guarding the entrance to the bay we pulled on sail and started on a long beat towards the Cape Monastiri at the northeast of Kimolos Island, one of the ‘Milos’ island group. We were making 4-5 knots in building seas but part way towards the Cape a 20° wind shift had us pointing at the lee shore unable to make the Cape. For 2 miles we motor sailed to clear Cape Monastiri then eased sheets slightly to reach across to the island of Sifnos. Spyros revelled in the conditions, heeling to the 18-20 knot wind, 2 metre waves and making 6-7+ knots. This was a real hang on tight ride.

Back in Yialos the northerly wind still funnelled down the surrounding gullies and into the small boat harbour but Spyros was quite safe moored stern to the quay. Yvonne and I followed a road up a nearby hill passed modern new homes that blended in with the stark surroundings; bare rock and dirt with a sparse covering of stunted bushes, broom and a prickly legume much like a stunted gorse, many flowering ‘weeds’ and wild thyme. The late afternoon views hilltop to Platis Yialos and its’ neighbouring bay, across to Milos and Andiparos and the outline of Folegandros and Skinos in the distance were wonderful. We dined in tonight and I won the game of crib, we must be about even so far.

Thursday 16th June, Windfinder predicted 10-15 knots of wind today and was predicting fresh weather for the next few days. We decided to return to Dhespotiko Bay today and make for Piso Livadhi, on the east of Paros, tomorrow. Outside Platis Yialos we motored into a fresh northerly, gusting to 20 knots and put up a reefed mainsail and a headsail with 5 rolls. We were in the lee of Sifnos so nursed Spyros through the gusts until clear of the island. The wind steadied to 13-16 knots, we eased sheets slightly and hung on as Spyros rollicked along, sliding off the 1.5-2 metre waves that came rolling through on the port quarter. We averaged 7 knots for an hour. As we neared the island of Dhespotiko the bucking seas abated but the current had swept us below our course so we needed to sail closer to the wind to regain our heading to round the southern tip of the island. As we did so the wind dropped to 10-12 knots; it was just after midday and with all the afternoon left and a good sailing breeze we decided to continue on up the east of Andiparos and Paros to the small port of Piso Livadhi on the east of Paros. In calmer conditions we pulled on the full mainsail, made a sandwich and bowled along a 6+ knots. From time to time we caught gusts coming down gullies off the land but when we reached the wide channel between Andiparos and Paros the breeze freshened and the chop increased, we put the reef back into the mainsail and continued sailing with eased sheets, Spyros was romping along at 6+ knots. When we were north of the Andiparos channel we lost the wind that had been on our beam for most of the day. We were now entering the Paros-Naxos channel where a fresh northerly breeze came in from ahead, pushing before it a steep chop. We gave up sailing and motored for the next 12 miles to the sheltered harbour of Piso Livadh.

Piso Livadh was a revisit from last year, a delightful little port and village with quite a spread of houses, hotels and villas scattered over the surrounding hills. The quayside settlement boasted several tavernas, a baker and a mini-market but, as we discovered last year, about a mile away was a large well stocked Carrefours supermarket. Yvonne and I headed to the supermarket with a short shopping list and came away with 4 heavy bags of supplies; another hedge against higher prices in other remote destinations.

Friday 17th June, our plan now was to position ourselves for either a return to the island of Siros or to the island of Rinia just west of Mikonos depending on the wind. Windfinder was still predicting fresh northerly breezes for the weekend so we left Piso Livadhi and motored Spyros out into 13-18 knot northerly winds and a steep chop. With only about 13 miles to an anchorage in a cove in the north of Naousa Bay we flagged trying to sail and motored the whole way. At times the chop almost brought Spyros to a halt; we took a calculated risk motoring in less demanding conditions through a narrow gap between to islands guarding the eastern entrance to Naousa Bay, into the bay and around to join 18 other yachts at anchor in the sheltered cove.

Saturday 18th June, Yesterday afternoon was very restful at anchor in Naousa Bay although the wake from the water sports boats hauling water skiers and boogie boarders gave us a rocking from time to time. The northerly breeze came into the anchorage during the night, nothing to worry about but noticeable. Windfinder predicted it would stay in the north all day at about 10 knots. If it did come in from the north, as it had the past 3 days then we could get a sailing angle to Varis Bay on Siros, about 20 miles away. If not then plan B was to broad reach across to Livadhi on Serifos some 40 miles away. We pushed through a steep chop into 12-14 knots of wind leaving Naousa Bay. Outside the chop settled and we set a reefed rig, decided the wind at 330° was too close for Spyros to sail at and turned west towards Serifos. We had a great sail on a reasonable settled sea and for an hour or more bowling along at 6-7+ knots. Windfinder had predicted quite accurately that the north (westerly) would lighten and shift more to the west, it did. We struggled for quite a long time trying to get Spyros to sail at 30° to the wind eventually having to pull off 10° to get any sort of speed otherwise we would have been out all night. In the end the breeze died to the extent that it could not fill any sail so we resorted to motoring for the last 13 miles into a beautiful bay and port of Livadhi (see the guide to yacht charters in Greece).

Livadhi is a text book Greek island picture, an amphitheatre of a bay surrounded by high hills, the lower village hugging the shoreline and the Chora, described in the pilots as icing on the cake, looking down from a craggy hill high above the bay. We moored stern to the quay at one of only 2 spaces left on the south side of the quay. Later 2 large motor cruisers berthed directly opposite us blocking the views. Later still, 8:30pm, a larger skippered charter yacht arrived and decided to moor on a speck of the quay right beside us, shoving us aside as it reversed up to the quay. We had words but I could not effectively communicate in Italian so I vented an English version and left the intention hanging. I guess because of the picturesque nature of Livadhi it is a very popular tourist spot and, in contrast to many other places, was quite busy with visitors. The taverna we had chosen for the evening was busy and it was the first time we had had to wait any length of time before being served.

Sunday 19th June, the skippered charter yacht beside departed at 5:15am leaving us with slack lines. We breakfasted as usual then left, motoring out onto a flat sea. We continued motoring for an hour and a half then tried to sail on a very light breeze making a mile and half in an hour so motored for another hour and tried sailing again with slightly better success. Eventually we finished up motoring for another hour and a half to reach an anchorage in Varis Bay on the south of Siros. We had the bay to ourselves after the two other yachts left later in the afternoon. It was a sheltered bay but a swell from the westerly breeze drifted into the anchorage rocking Spyros during the night. Although this was an anchorage there were tavernas, hotels and villas at the head of the bay and being Sunday a crowd of children were enjoying the water, diving off rocks and ballasting near the shore.

Our general plan now was to gain an easting then work our way north along Tinos and Andros, two of the larger islands in the Cyclades. We had reached the island of Siros from where we thought one of the secluded anchorages on the barren island of Rinia, lying just west of Delos and Mykonos, would be nice for the night. We had no intention of visiting these places as anchoring on Delos is prohibited and Mykonos sounded too much like a busy tourist centre that had no appeal for us.

Windfinder on Sunday, and again this morning (Monday), predicted strong northerly winds for the whole of the Cyclades on Tuesday and Wednesday at least, the predictions did not extend to Thursday. Many of the larger ports within reach of Varis bay were not reported as having the best shelter in a meltemi (a summer condition of strong northerly winds for several days on end). Two anchorages on the island of Rinia were reported as having good shelter in a meltemi and the holding on sand made it quite secure, so it was to the South Bay on Rinia that we headed on Monday 20th June (see reliable yacht charters for the Aegean Sea).

With supplies for only 2 days on board Spyros and no facilities on Rinia before we left Varis bay we launched the dinghy, motored over to the village and managed to find a market where we stocked up with supplies to give us another 2 days self sufficiency if we had to sit out a meltemi for 4 days. In a light westerly wind, that gave no sailing at all, a clear blue sky and a flat sea we motored for 3 hours to reach the South Bay on Rinia. There was quite a heavy haze and visibility was not good but it was difficult to comprehend that in a short time this whole sea area would be tossed about with 20 knot winds. We passed many yachts travelling in the opposite direction and thought we may be going the wrong way but on reaching the South Bay to find two large fishing trawlers anchored up, a larger motor cruiser and 4 other yachts hunkering down we were happy we had made this choice. Soon after we anchored a northerly wind started to push over the low hills at the head of the bay and ruffle the water. In anticipation of a rough night we loaded the second anchor into the dinghy and laid it out before the wind became too strong. We would be quite secure tonight.


Tuesday 21st June, we were very secure last night. The wind died shortly after we went to bed. When the wake of a ferry passing several miles away rolled into the bay disturbing our sleep the sea looked like a millpond. “What a have”, we thought, all this preparation in readiness for strong winds for nothing. The two fishing boats left late yesterday afternoon as did the motor cruisers, gulets and several small motorboats that had tucked up in an arm of the bay outside our view. This morning two other yachts departed leaving only us and one other yacht. About 8:30 strong gusts of wind started coming over the low hills and by mid morning these were blowing at 20 knots and remained this strength through to mid day when the other yacht departed leaving us on our own. Later in the afternoon the wind softened and at times almost died away. We could have left then and motored across to Siros where we would have had access to facilities and the internet but we had set our minds on heading to Tinos, which was to the north and into head winds and mooring may have been a problem if the port was crowded. We didn’t want to change plan at this stage. Instead we launched the dinghy and rowed ashore to the very barren island to which we were anchored, for a short walk. A large motor cruiser or gulet came to join us in the bay and entertained us by laying out 2 anchors and 2 long lines to which they attached the vessel to the shore then proceeded to snorkel then barbecue on the beach in the - now rising- breeze (see the yacht charters guide).

We sat out the day getting bored with cards, the wind, lack of internet and wishing we had left earlier for Siros where at least we would have some civilization. From late afternoon the wind started rising and soon the wind over the low hill had settled in at 25 knots. At least our anchors were well dug into the sand and Spyros was being held tightly against the wind, but was yawing left and right as far as the anchors would allow. Although we were tucked up at the head of the bay no real waves could develop but the sea was ruffled with angry little waves that poked their white heads up about a foot and raced off out to sea. It was quite an unusual event, the day and night were warm, there was not a cloud in the sky during the day and at night the sky was full of stars and bright half moon. Just this very incessant wind, we were in a Meltemi.

Wednesday 22nd June, last night was the pits, Spyros rocked and tugged at the anchor, the wind howled through the rigging tossing Spyros about and keeping us awake most of the night. We resolved to leave this morning. The wind was blowing 15-25 knots in the bay, not much more, while we had handled Spyros in these conditions before we recognized that the sea outside would be quite large. We prepped Spyros and started to retrieve the anchors about 8:30. The second anchor had been set at 45° to the main anchor so it took a while to pull this in, tidy it up then stow it away. We left the anchorage about 9 o’clock motoring Spyros on a flattish sea before the wind and out of the bay. Turning right we were still in the lee of Rinia so the sea was not great and the wind on our quarter pushed Spyros along under bare poles which added another knot of boat speed. We were clear of the island, and no more than 2 and a half miles from the anchorage, in quite big seas and 20+ knots of wind when the engine alarm squealed and motor stopped. We tried to restart the motor but it sounded very sick and gave up again. We quickly pulled on the headsail leaving about 6 rolls on the roller reef and got Spyros sailing.

We headed towards the south of the Island of Siros where, in the lee of the island we would retry to start the motor and, if that worked we could get into Varis and have good shelter, internet, shops and tavernas. Spyros was broad reaching along at 5-6 knots with only the headsail. Part way across to Siros the winds started to gust 25-30 knots, Spyros handled these well and by 11 o’clock we were off the south of Siros and tried the motor again. It didn’t work. What to do now, the entrance to Varis was narrow and guarded by rocky headlands so we wouldn’t be able to sail into there. We kept heading west along the south of Siros thinking that we might be able to tack into Finikas on the south west of the Island. As we cleared the south west cape of Siros and came onto to the wind attempting to tack up towards Finikas gusts of wind roared out of the bay at 30+ knots. We weren’t going to make it into Finikas so steadied Spyros back onto a reach and continued heading west towards the island of Sifnos, 25 miles away. Although Sifnos would be a lee shore we thought the entrance to Loutrou in the north east might be wide enough that we could run in without trying to tack.

Spyros sailed higher than the 280° heading needed to reach Loutrou on Kythnos but this was necessary to counter the south drift we were getting from the seas. The winds sat at 20-30 knots with several gusts at 35 knots, Spyros made good speed reaching 8.5 knots at times but getting knocked back to 3 if we hit big waves. The waves were big, 4-5 metres high. In the gusts they towered over us as they raced up to Spyros from the starboard quarter. Spyros would rise then start to head down the wave, spray flying, and I would fight to control the bow from heading down wind with Spyros leaning over at an awkward angle. At times these huge waves came in pairs and we would find ourselves in a long trough with waves on both sides towering over us. We were constantly wiping salt spray from our sun glasses, so bright were the conditions. At one point a large ferry came up to within a mile from our port side, we thought it was going to pass us but then turned away in a completely different direction. It had only come to see how we were doing. It wouldn’t have known we had no engine.

About 6 miles off the coast of Sifnos Yvonne got on to the radio and sent out a call to see if we could get any assistance getting into Loutrou harbour. We could sail to Loutrou OK. There were a lot of exchanges but Yvonne managed to give our position, affirmed that we were a sailing vessel and not a motorboat, that we were two people and did not need medical assistance, that our only problem was that we our engine had broken down. At this time I was trying to head Spyros higher into the wind as the south drift through out the afternoon had pushed us below our sailing course to Loutrou. The eastern capes of Sifnos were getting awfully close and we were not making much headway against the sea and wind. With Sifnos being a lee shore and us about 2 miles off in 25-30 knots of wind in big seas I decided we were running out of sea room fast. I eased the sheet and turned Spyros south to run before the wind down the east coast of Sifnos thinking we might have a better chance of tacking northwards up the west coast of Sifnos where the seas would not be so great. Three miles down the coast we came to the headland behind which lay 2 bays that could provide shelter in the meltemi. I immediately headed Spyros towards the headland and into calmer water but still strong breezes. Yvonne conveyed our changes in plan to the rescue centre, with whom she was now communicating.

Spyros reached across into calmer waters and, as the first bay opened up we could see several yachts anchored in shelter. We tacked in order to sail up-wind towards them at the head of the bay. Immediately ahead of us was a charted reef, dropping below the reef we lost ground but managed to tack to the other side of the bay. With only a headsail we couldn’t tack very well but we eventually managed to reach the shelter of a small cove and drop anchor. The shelter was great but the cove was small and Spyros swung back on the anchor towards rocks. We were in the throes of getting the kedge anchor ready to row out to keep us off the rocks when a fishing boat came up to us. We passed a line to it, hastily made the dingy safe and pulled up anchor. Our assistance had arrived.

The fishing boat towed us around to another, more sheltered bay, where there were a few houses and 2 tavernas. We dropped anchor and thought we were safe but the pilot book did warn the holding was not good. The fishermen then said that the port police, who had arrived from from Merikha and who had been involved with our drama, wanted to see our papers. I had to row across to a small landing to meet them. Just as I reached the landing Spyros broke free and was dragging its anchor at a fast pace before the wind. The police officer whistled and alerted to the fishermen who immediately gave chase. Yvonne was unaware of the drama and was surprised when one of them climbed aboard, secured a line and the fishing boat started towing Spyros back into the bay and to security of its own mooring. It was six o’clock and we both were pretty whacked.

Thursday 23rd June, although we were held fast to a fishing boats’ mooring buoy the gusts coming down the hills has Spyros twisting and turning all night. We could send and receive text messages but the signals were not strong enough to get internet. We managed to keep in touch with the yacht charter company who arranged for a mechanic to fix our problem later in the afternoon. There was little to do all day. I did rig the dinghy and outboard for a brief stint ashore to reconnoitre the 2 tavernas and to meet the mechanic. The mechanic didn’t need anything as light as an inflatable dinghy; he had his own heavy open fishing boat moored to the very jetty I had tied up to. He lived locally, fished as well as being a diesel mechanic in Merikha. He was a large genial fellow who could speak only enough English to get the job done. He traced our problem to fuel blockages due to a shred of rag obstructing the fuel line as well as a lot of sludge from “bad” diesel commonly sourced from small retailers. The engine worked well after his ministrations and he filed his report back to the yacht charter company and to the Port Police; who would return our papers to us tomorrow. Yvonne and I went to the nearest taverna for a rather disappointing dinner, there was no written menu and the owners did not have enough English to really say what they could offer or understand what we wanted. Suffice to say we didn’t get what we thought we had ordered.

Friday 24th June, we had been out of email range for 4 days and there were a couple of issues that needed following up on so we arranged with the port police that we would go around to Merikha, on the other side of Kithnos where we could at least shop, get diesel, pick up our papers and get internet reception. The yacht charter company sent us an SMS for a F5 wind forecast so we got under way mid morning motoring Spyros out into 15-20 knots and a moderate sea. It wasn’t very long before we were punching into 3-4 metre waves and 20-30 knots of wind. It was slow going but we just inched our way around the east capes of Kythnos, crossed the Loutrou bay in easier conditions before punching our way around the north east cape then turning to run across the north of the island and down to Merika. We contacted the port police and retrieved our papers but had to agree to go to Kalamaki marina, in Athens, to have Spyros inspected by the yacht certifiers, a requirement when ever a call is made for assistance. We filled Spyros’ tank with diesel. Although we had a little less than half a tank of diesel at the time of the engine failure, the 3-4 meter seas at the time healed Spyros over so that the diesel in the tank sloshed about which may have also caused air to be sucked into the fuel line. To avoid this we resolved from now on to keep a full tank of diesel.

Saturday 25th June, Windfinder predicted a quiet wind window for today. For the next two days the winds in the region were predicted to be Force 7/8 so we took advantage of the weather window and set off for the 50 mile run to Kalamaki at 8:30. The crew of two large motor cruisers which had hemmed us in on the quay kindly took a line from us and pulled us clear so that we could motor away without damage or embarrassment. This was going to be a long day. We made a call to the port police advising of our departure and motored for and hour on a heading of 280° towards the southern tip of mainland Greece. We picked up the scheduled light northerly breeze and set sail, this lasted about 25 minutes then we were down to 2-3 knots of boat speed; not enough for what we needed to achieve if we were to get to Kalamaki in daylight. We motored on for another hour and the northerly breeze kicked in again at 10+ knots so we set sail again. The breeze played around between 7-11 knots for an hour enabling Spyros to make 3-4 knots then picked up to 12 rising to 19 knots. Spyros scuttled along at 6-7 knots; we pulled a reef in the mainsail and took another 2 rolls in the headsail, Spyros stood upright and continued on at the same boat speed. In the lee of the southern tip of mainland Greece the breeze died to a point we could not continue to sail and make the passage we had planned. In the distance the sunlight picked out the Temple at Sounion on the headland. We motored Spyros making 6-7 knots constantly checking our position and heading as we were in quite foreign territory and we needed to find Alimos Marina at Kalamaki amongst a host of other marinas along this busy coast in the Saronic Gulf. The background of a dense ribbon of residential development along the coast, the outskirts of Athens, disguised the usual features that would point to a marina, instead it was by strict map and compass work that we managed to locate Kalamaki and we eventually picked up the lazy line and berthed Spyros stern to the quay at 6:00pm (see sailing in Greece).

Sunday 26th June, we were secure in the marina with power and water to Spyros but no work could be carried out until Monday when the inspector would arrive and the holding tank seacock could be replaced. Yvonne and I took the light rail into Athens. A half hour trip with many stops on a very crowded train where we had to stand the whole way clutching hand rails as it lurched around tight corners. Alighting at Syntagma Square in the centre of Athens was a revisit from 2 years ago. Rather than walk the hot pavements as we had done then we took the hop-on hop-off bus and sat for an hour listening to commentary in comfort while retracing our previous walking route. Nothing much had changed. Being Sunday the shops were closed so after the bus tour we strolled through the park then headed back to Alimos on the light rail. Monday 27th June, the fix-it man arrived and replaced the broken seacock and the inspectors arrived and cleared Spyros. Then the yacht charter company brought in their mechanics to fully check out the fuel lines, the diesel pre-filter was clogged with sludge. As a precaution they elected to discard the almost full tank of diesel, wash the tank and replace the fuel with new stuff. The responses to our misfortunes had been tremendous, the yacht charter company spared no effort to ensure Spyros was sound and we were going to be safe.

Saronic Gulf

Tuesday 28th June, we planned to spend the next few days in the Saronic Gulf revisiting some of the places we first visited in 2008 on a flotilla cruise. The Saronic gulf near Athens is a very compact area with short sailing distances so this was to be a relaxed affair sailing where it would be easy to sail and not trying to battle the wind every day.

We made a slow start, refilled the water tank and managed to get a refilled cooking gas bottle. I had meant to ask own yacht charter company yesterday about refilling the bottle but it slipped my mind. So I spoke to man at another charter company about refilling tanks and he told me that the local petrol station would fill Petro Gas bottles but no other. But there was another petrol station a couple of kilometres away that would fill ‘others’ if I had a fuel card. But if had no joy then I should come back to him and he could exchange my empty for a full one at half the price. I walked to the local petrol station and, true to form they wouldn’t fill the bottle so I returned to the charter company who kindly swapped tanks for the exchange of 5 Euros.

We dropped the lazy line about midday and met a nice westerly breeze outside the marina so put on all sail and started to beat southwards. We had thought we might make either Perdika on the south of the island of Aigina or Methana tonight. The wind was more in the west than I had reckoned on so we had to put in a long beat southwards before we could tack and lay the south east coast of Aigina. This wasn’t too bad though as it would give us a direct line across the Traffic Separation Zone, a shipping lane where inbound ships travel on the right and outbound ships travel on the left and you must travel across the lane at right angles. After 8 miles we tacked onto port and headed across the separation zone. Three ships passed on front of us heading into Athens and several passed in the opposite direction. We were almost across the zone when a large outbound cruise liner approached; it crossed immediately in front of us. The wind had been shifting around and it appeared that a better sailing course would be to the north of Aigina rather than the south; the cruise liner impacted on the decision as we had pulled off the wind slightly to go behind her and we were now in a fresh breeze from the south accelerated by our proximity to the island. We reduced sail to make it easier in the gusts and began a great reach across the north of Aigina; the notion of reaching Perdika or Methana were put aside and we headed for the small town of Angistri on the north of the island of the same name. In the lee of Aigina the breeze died but we expected it to return with strength as we cleared Aigina to cross the narrow channel to Angistri. We doused sail as a previous experience with a wind from this direct made for a very boisterous sail so we motored Spyros for an hour and a half into the quiet, rather full harbour of Angistri.

Well, Angistri was not a revisit from 3 years ago but we found it to be quite a delightful little village. A very dutiful woman on the quay, in civvies, politely waited until we had moored and tidied up before approaching Spyros asking for our papers took, and receipted one Euro 53 cents for one nights’ fee. A few tavernas dotted the shoreline but the old village, little changed in recent times sat on the rise above the harbour. Quaint narrow streets wound their way throughout the town to the odd shaped square, the centrepiece being a beautifully reconstructed church. It was prayer time and I made a quick peek inside and saw wonderful the frescos on the walls and ceiling.

Wednesday 29th June after a quick lunch we got Spyros underway pulling out the headsail for a reach south along the east coast of the island. The gusts coming down the gullies and through the channel separating Angistri and Dhorousa had Spyros romping along. We shortened the headsail and pulled out a reefed main before rounding the south of Dhorousa where we came onto a moderate breeze crossing the Methana channel. Spyros revelled in the conditions making 6-7 knots at times before coming into the lee of the Methana peninsular and calm waters.

Methana was as beautiful as we remembered, a small harbour resembling a thumb-print on the coastline. Three tavernas and a couple of houses built into the shoreline. Yachts berth directly across the quay from the tavernas, fishing boats spread out around the remainder of the harbour. Yvonne and I, always keen for a walk, wandered along the coast to revisit the old Acropolis, now no longer warranting a signpost. Soon the harbour hosted a full compliment of yachts. The rain clouds that had gathered during the afternoon decided to produce a hefty shower of rain. We sat in the shelter of our cockpit having an aperitif watching others doing the same under the veranda of the taverna only a few metres away. The shower eventually subsided and Yvonne and I made our way around to the taverna whose veranda was more substantial than the canvas one of our neighbouring taverna, and to a revisit of 3 years ago.

Thursday 30th June; a day full of options with a southwest breeze of 10 knots predicted for the afternoon there were several places we could go to. We opted for the village of Perdika on the southwest of the island of Aegina. We motored Spyros out of Methana onto a glassy sea towards the headland at the western portal to the Methana channel and on towards Dhorousa Bay, a delightfully tranquil spot on the south of the island of Angistri. A good breeze was building as we approached Dhorousa bay. There were already 6 yachts moored in the bay and the breeze was blowing offshore. Five yachts had taken long lines ashore so would not swing on anchor, it looked a bit tricky so we did one circuit of the bay where we had spent a couple of lunch time stops 3 years ago and decided to take advantage of the breeze for a sail to Perdika. With reefed sails making 5-6 knots, two long windward beats brought us within a mile of Perdika. In one circuit of the small harbour we hooked a fishing boat anchor line and decided the one available space was a bit risky to try and berth at so we departed for Methana. Setting reefed sails we again had a great off the wind sail to Methana where we cruised through the yacht harbour searching out an available berth. The yacht harbour is adjacent to the old thermal baths, the water in the harbour is a milky blue with a sulphurous odour, the yachts and launches cramming the harbour were in storage and created the appearance of a convalescent home for sick boats. One circuit and we headed out of the harbour and over to the town quay. The 12-13 knot southerly breeze was stirring up a chop, our attempt to anchor and moor stern to the quay was a failure so we opted to moor along side the quay. The chop had Spyros bouncing and water slopping between the quay and Spyros ended up in the cockpit. Spyros was firmly attached to the quay so we took off to town knowing that the breeze and chop would die down in an hour.

So we had revisited three places in one day, two of which were too crowded to try and stop at but no problem as they say in Greece. Methana was a quaint mixture of a dying town and an old village. The dying parts of town are relics of the days when the spa and thermal pools were popular. The old part of town is current and active as it has always been, shops, super markets, utilities, tavernas and cafés on the water front, a VW Beetle not looking out of place, and to our surprise and delight two ATM’s. Another cash inflow was essential during this short sojourn in the Saronic Gulf especially to pay for the passage through the Corinth Canal in a few days time. We were expecting to find an ATM in Epidhavros but getting a berth there when we wanted one could have been a lottery so finding the ATM in Methana was great. Another wonderful find was an original hardware store that carried nearly everything you would ever want from such a shop, in particular stainless steel gauze to replace the burnt out gauze on the toaster. We bought a 300mm strip from a metre wide roll for 0.50c and replaced the 150 x 200mm original piece of gauze. We’ll know if it works alright or just burns out tomorrow.

Friday 1st July; all the wind and chop did die down by the time we returned to Spyros after yesterday’s town ramble and we spent a quite night. The sea this morning was like a mill pond as we motored Spyros off the town quay and heading around into the Methana channel where a 6-8 knot following breeze allowed us to put on the headsail, adding another knot of boat speed. It was a hot day and we were in no hurry to make the short distance to Palaia (Old) Epidhavros so called in to Dhorousa Bay again to try our luck with an anchorage. We were in luck five other yachts were swinging at anchor so we dropped our pick in 7 metres of crystal clear water near the shore on the southeast of the bay. A sandwich for lunch, one of us had a swim, then we then just soaked up the scene. A tranquil bay surrounded by low rocky hills with a sparse covering of stunted pine trees clinging to the crevasses in the rock. Later we set sail in 6-8 knots of wind taking almost 3 hours to make the 9 miles to Palaia Epidhavros in the Saronic Gulf near Athens.

Arriving mid afternoon, as we did, there were a couple of berths available on the quay, we chose to berth alongside at the end of the quay extension, laying out the anchor and reversed in. There was a little bit of chop so we set springs and were glad we had done so. Shortly after we arrived 3 very large motor cruisers berth next to us at the end of the quay extension. Other yachts slowly arrived during the course of the afternoon and early evening. The breeze into Epidhavros remained constant but the chop increased and by 7:00 o’clock it was almost untenable, Spyros was rocking most violently as was the yacht immediately behind us. We can’t think this was all to do with the breeze so we think that a lot of the chop must have been attributed to the wash from the yachts and motorboats coming into the bay, as well as the many small craft buzzing about. Eventually the breeze died down and much later so to did the chop. It was a pity we didn’t opt for anchoring in the bay, it would have been more comfortable and we really didn’t need to go ashore now our cash had been topped up from the ATM in Methana and we were dining in this evening.

Saturday 2nd July, another cloudless windless morning. Yvonne and I did a walk through the town and picked up a few supplies to last us a couple of days, tomorrow would be Sunday and shops would be closed also we were expecting a longish day as we intended to pass through the Corinth Canal. The 3 motor cruisers departed a while before us, which was good because we thought we might have a problem with the really large one that protruded out from the end of the quay and across our line as we would leave our berth.

The two hour trip to Korfos was all on the motor. The light breeze was more useful for cooling than sailing. A pair of dolphins passed us 50 metres away, the first we had seen for a long time. The green hills were a pleasant contrast from the barren hills of the Cyclades islands. Nearer to Korfos several fish farms clogged the coastline. We made our way towards the settlement lining the shore and were waved in by one of two entrepreneur taverna owners who vie for custom from visiting yachts. The tavernas are on the quay, they provide lazy lines and showers, help you to moor and in return expect you patronize their taverna. This was also how it we remember it from 3 years ago. Yvonne and I took a long stroll around the bay stopping at a hard stony beach for a swim then retiring to the shade of Spyros to pass the time before crossing to the taverna and dining at the table 10 metres away.

Sunday 3rd July, the Internet was out of action this morning but our neighbour gave us a forecast of F4/5 from the northwest, which was a bit stronger than Windfinder had predicted yesterday. The light breeze from the north helped Spyros motorsail out of the bay but it constantly changed direction as we turned north to round the headland and into the Kenkhreon Gulf, the head of which lay Isthmia and the southern entrance to the Corinth Canal. We had put on all sail and for 25 minutes were reaching in a light breeze when the headsail fluttered and the small wavelets ahead seemed to be breaking towards us. We quickly downed all sail just as a moderate breeze hit us from dead ahead. The breeze stayed ahead of us for the rest of the morning, strengthening as we rounded each headland. The seas in the gulf developed into a quite a chop and at times Spyros was pushing hard to make headway. We eventually berthed against the quay in Isthmia, the officiating port for the Corinth Canal (see sailing in Greece).

Calling into the office we filled out the forms and paid our 109 Euro fee and waited 20-30 minutes before the now 5 waiting yachts could transit the canal. After two vessels emerged from the canal travelling in the opposite direction a man in the signal tower whistled and waved his arm, an impromptu signal for us to leave and we did so even with the flags still against us. Four yachts took off in line and entered the milky blue water of the canal against a moderate northerly breeze; the fifth developed engine trouble. The low banks near the start suddenly grew into tall cliffs carved out of the limestone more than a hundred years ago. Along the banks there was old block work to above water level, much of which had now disappeared, and some vegetation grew in crevasses on the steep canal sides. We passed beneath several bridges, following and keeping pace with the yacht ahead. Towards the northern end of the canal the cliffs receded and we were more exposed to the breeze that now strengthened. The canal widened just ahead of the draw bridge and the breeze lifted to 20 knots bringing with it a steep chop. Punching through the chop we had to be careful to keep to the centre of the channel. Passed the draw bridge and out into the exit pond the breeze strengthened, the waves were steep and breaking. It took full power to push Spyros through the seas at the opening and out into the Gulf of Corinth. The crew on the catamaran ahead of us were familiar with the canal so we followed their direction to the Port of Corinth, in fact we had been sort of company for the past 3 days. We made it to the Corinth Yacht Harbour and found a space to moor alongside the quay amongst the tangle of mooring lines of a dozen small motor boats, gulets and motorsailers (or see crewed yacht charters).

Corinthian Gulf

The wind blew across the yacht harbour all afternoon and into the evening. Spyros was rocking and tugging at the warps. We were grateful for the lads on the quay who had helped us moor although the sting came when they wanted 10 Euro, we negotiated 5. We were trapped by the wind and the tangle of small boat mooring lines and our departure from this place would depend on the wind. Windfinder suggested tomorrow may be good but we would see in the morning (see Corinth Canal).

Corinth was a large city. Yvonne and I took a short stroll into the commercial centre near the yacht harbour. An extensive, well laid out system of pedestrian malls with featureless buildings and on Sunday it was almost completely deserted. The lifeless city, the incessant wind and feeling of being trapped did not stir any passion for Corinth. Monday dawned with a clear blue sky, the wind had moderated and Windfinder predicted the wind would moderate further during the day and remain so for the next 24 hours. We could have extricated Spyros from the berth and the tangle of lines but decided to stay a day and visit the ancient city of Corinth. Following the advice of the pilot we found our way to the correct bus stop and half an hour later paid our 4 Euro each to enter the archaeological site. This was quite an extensive site but there is still a lot more work to do. The most outstanding feature is the six remaining columns of the Temple of Apollo. The shape and structure of the Peirene Fountain is intact but for most of the city, earthquakes and time have destroyed the structures. Reconstruction of some features and the preservation of the overall layout provided an insight into what was once a magnificent city sited high on a hill overlooking the present city and out to the sea in the Gulf (see ancient Greek culture).

Tuesday 5th July, a light zephyr brushed the yacht harbour barely ruffling the water. We released the lines except for the stern spring and pushed Spyros off the quay. The zephyr caught the bow and took it further away from the quay, we pulled in the spring which helped propel Spyros forward and clear of the tangle of mooring lines then engaged the engine and we were away without trauma. When clear of the commercial harbour we pulled on all sail in a light breeze and began sailing straight away, figuring that we would have plenty of time later in the day to run the motor to charge the batteries. For four hours we had easy sailing and covered 19 miles in 4 tacks to clear Cape Melangavi, the northern point of Corinth Bay after which the breeze died away and we had to resort to the motor. Our goal was to anchor in one of several secluded bays on the northern side of the Corinthian gulf where the coast line is very indented. We reached Domvrainis Bay, a large area of water tucked away behind a string of small islands, and investigated 2 anchorages recommended by the pilot but eventually went into Ormos Vathi a more sheltered and secluded anchorage at the very western end of Domvrainis Bay. We anchored in sand with Spyros pointing into the light southerly breeze. A motor cruiser left as we arrived, a fishing boat far across the other side of the bay left an hour later leaving us alone to a chorus of crickets from the nearby shore and the call of one or two seagulls. We were surrounded by hills; bare rocky faces with sparse vegetation, lower down the slopes were terraced with stone retaining walls on which olive trees grew, perhaps a neglected orchard. Just as we were finishing dinner a moderate breeze sprung up from the north swinging Spyros on anchor to face the wind. We had anchored in 5 metres of water but the breeze in turning Spyros brought it back into 2 meters of water and much closer to the shore. For piece of mind, and with only half an hour of light left we pulled up the anchor and reset it further away from the shore in 7 metres of water. It was holding well but for added insurance we dropped the kedge anchor down the main anchor chain to weight the line and make for a heavier spring. The stronger gusts lasted only an hour or so; we had an uneventful night, thanks to our anchoring techniques.

Wednesday 6th July, we left the seclusion of Ormos Vathi with a light northerly breeze blowing that intensified as we hugged the coastline, first heading south then west before rounding the light on Cape Tsarla and punching into steep chop and 13-15 knots of northerly breeze. We pushed our way northwards; once passed Cape Tambourlo we could veer off the waves towards the coastline for a more comfortable passage. When passed Cape Velanidhia we were then into Andikiron Gulf, a large indentation in the northern part of the Corintian Gulf. The wind dropped to 5-8 knots and the swell had no direction, it just slopped up and down making for a very uncomfortable passage. Headed deeper into the Gulf towards the town of Andikiron the hills engulfed us and the breeze strengthened. Just off the western headland of Andikiron Bay we were battered by 20-26 knot gusts of wind. Even in the bay there was no shelter from the wind; we berthed with difficulty alongside the quay then to endure several hours of bucking with the waves kicked up in the breeze and the jerking of the mooring lines as the sea tried to wrench Spyros away from the berth; it managed to wrench one of the bow fairleads off Spyros.

Yvonne and I did a quick reconnoitre of the town which, apart from the petrol station, was almost completely deserted in the mid-afternoon. The petrol station could supply diesel but could not deliver it to the town quay, the mini-tanker had broken down and they had no trolley. However, we approached the owner of a neighbouring yacht who kindly loaned us a folding suitcase trolley, just the thing for these occasions, and we made 3 trips with our 20 litre container to top up the diesel tank. Between trips to the petrol station and helping one other yacht to berth, which took more than half an hour, the afternoon duly passed with only the incessant wind and uncomfortable berth to complain about. By 7:30pm the wind had died completely, the sea quieted down about an hour later and the whole town became alive. The quay seemed to be the central meeting place, it became crowded with people strolling, sitting and talking. The contrast between a deserted town in the afternoon to being fully animated at night was quite amazing.

Thursday 7th July, we awoke to a perfect day, not a breath of wind and the sea was like a mirror, what a contrast from yesterday. The town of Andikiron was tucked away behind a headland at the head of the bay, the surrounding hills were high, some reaching over 1500 metres and it felt like being in a fjord. The hills on either side of the Corinthian Gulf are all high which creates a wind tunnel with the prevailing winds. We motored Spyros away from Andikiron hugging the shoreline to the west as we headed for Itea at the head of the next large indentation in the Corinthian Gulf.

The rocky hillsides that are common to most of maritime Greece are quite fascinating. Sedimentary layers stand out in the fractured rock giving the appearance of a huge dry stone wall retaining the hill side. Clinging to the hill sides with roots anchored in the crevasses and fractured rock grew stunted pines. Ledges and shelves of rock where some soil had accumulated provided a habitat for grasses. The colour palate was simple, grey rock, dark green pines dotted over the hillside and streaks of pale wheaten coloured dry grasses. We motored Spyros all the way to Itea, like Andikiron the high hills of the Kissaisos Gulf seemed to swallow us up the deeper into the gulf we went.

Arriving in Itea in early afternoon was like coming into a ghost town. The sun beat down on empty streets. Some people were swimming, some were mucking around in small boats, the town didn’t come alive until after six o’clock. Yvonne and I located the bus depot and got all the information we needed about buses to the ancient city of Delphi where we had planned to visit the next day.

Friday 8th July, with a large bottle of water and a couple of oranges and bananas packed we caught the 10:45 bus for the 20 minute ride way up into the mountains behind Itea to the town of Delphi perched on the cliff side overlooking a huge plain of olive trees and out to the town of Itea and the sea. A 20 minute walk brought us to the archaeological site and museum of ancient Delphi. The museum contained many excellent exhibits of Greek occupation dating back 9000 years. The archaeological site was spread out on terraces over several levels overlooking a deep ravine. Much of the site had been destroyed by earthquakes and invasions but the amphitheatre and stadium were essentially intact, the foundation and 5 partial columns of the Temple of Apollo remained and the reconstructed Treasury of the Athenians stood on the original site incorporating much of the original material. It was really quite a magnificent site. Today many pine and Cyprus trees are growing for which we were really thankful as they provided shade during one of the hottest days we have had so far.

Saturday 9th July, we slipped the lines about half past nine, motoring Spyros out of the large boat harbour onto a smooth glassy sea heading for Cape Andromakhi, the western portal of the Kissaisos Gulf. Windfinder predicted a light 5-10 knot southeasterly building during the day. After rounding the Cape a good breeze soon caught up with us on our port beam, we set a reefed mainsail and full genoa and settled down to a wonderful beam reach making 5-6 knots for an hour and a half before reeling in sail to motor into the sheltered harbour of Trizonia on the small island of the same name. A popular port for yachts and boats; some traversing the Gulf of Corinth and others wintering over. Although rough conditions must have occurred at some time as the 2 masts of a sunken ketch were all that could be seen of one misfortunate yacht. The small hamlet on the island included several beach side tavernas, a couple of hotels and modest tourist business, including that from visiting boaties. One enterprising hotel offered a laundry service and for 5 Euro we got 4 towels washed. We picked them up washed at 7:00pm pegged them to the railings and by nine they were dry.

Sunday 10th July, another brilliant cloudless morning, a light draft coming through the window keeping the yacht cool. Top yacht charter companies in Greece. By 9:30 we were motoring Spyros out of the harbour onto a flat glassy sea as we turned west around the southeastern corner of Trizonia the four columns and cables of the Rion Bridge stood out like a mountain range. The bridge spans 2.2 kilometres with 3 navigable spans of 500 metres each; it is the longest cable bridge in the world. After 7 miles motoring a nice 15-20 knot easterly breeze filled in which, allowed us to motorsail with the genoa for the next 8 miles. We rolled the genoa away about 2 miles from the bridge. Protocols required us to call Rion traffic control 5 miles out from the bridge advising them of our intention to transit beneath the bridge; we did so then had to repeat the call within a mile to gain permission to make the transit. Heading westward, as we were, we had to transit under the north span, yachts heading eastward used the southern span leaving the central span with its higher clearance for ships. We were instructed not to cross lanes until 4-5 miles beyond the bridge which would have been a nuisance as we were heading for Patras and would have caused us to make a 5 mile detour. We crossed the lanes only 2 miles after the bridge as there was only light small craft traffic and no ships in sight (see the guide to yacht charters in Greece).

The breeze from the northeast was blowing at 20 knots as we entered Patras marina but still managed a reasonable job of mooring stern to the wind and the visitor’s pontoon. The marina management, keen to take our 31 Euros for a minimum stay of 2 nights; were pretty lax in giving any information about toilets and showers. In fact to use these facilities we would have to find the cleaner who had the key! Suffice to say we didn’t try to find the cleaner. At least the marina had water and power included in the fee, we filled the water tanks and washed Spyros but our power adaptor was the wrong size so we could not take any power. Pity really as temperatures were in the 38-40° range and the refrigerator took all our onboard power. The marina did have a glossy brochure on things to do and see in Patras so Yvonne and I headed off towards the Patras Castle high on the hill above the city. Being Sunday, and with 40° temperatures, the city was deserted. We made the climb to the Castle expecting it to still be open at 4:30pm. Then we found out the brochure was not well written and it had closed at 3:00pm. We were also keen to find out information about a rack railway through a gorge which the pilot had recommended and could be accessed from Patras. We asked about but no-one could help us. Returning to the marina we still had to check in with the Port Police, so along with the boats papers I wrote down the information about the railway and asked the police. They were quite helpful saying that I needed to catch a bus, at the bus station where we had already made enquiries. An information breakthrough we thought, we resolved to investigate the bus and railway the next day.

Monday 11th July, we lay in bed for a while listening to the hum and clatter of a large city, then the piercing wail of sirens which shook us out of bed. By 9:15 we were out on the street walking under the shade of shop verandas as the temperatures began to rack upwards and no indication they would stop before 40°. We found the bus station and produced the note we had written about the rack railway, the attendant was helpful, gave us 2 tickets for a bus leaving in 15 minutes. He told us that we could expect returning buses at 1:45pm, but that might be a bit tight, otherwise it would be 6:55pm or 8:45pm. Well we had set our minds on doing the railway so we thought that this might be a long day. The bus was the Patras – Athens bus and we needed to get off at Dhiakofto, the second stop. No wonder few had heard of the railway in Patras the bus trip took an hour and Dhiakofto was a third of the way down the Gulf of Corinth, it stopped at a railway station and there was a sign that said Rack Railway. We bought tickets for the trip that was departing in 15 minutes.

This had been an old narrow gauge steam railway into the hinterland of the Peleponnese, now a tourist attraction with modern air conditioned trains that wound their way through the tortuous Vouraikos gorge. The train entered into the gorge almost immediately after leaving town and started to climb the 750 metres to Kalavryta over a journey of 22 kilometres. Deeper into the gorge the lower part narrowed, the train hugged the steep sides twisting and turning the whole time. There was hardly any straight track at all. The river at times was at track level, at other times would disappear into deep chasms below the track. The gorge would narrow in places to 30-40 metres wide. The train wound its way slowly onward and upward, the tracks etched into the rock often overhanging the train often supported by half bridges, many short tunnels and steep cuttings the side of which were barely a foot away from the carriages. At the steeper sections the train slowed down to engage the 3rd serrated rail to which it attached its gear wheels to help traction when going uphill. Towards the upper part, the gorge widened into a valley with trees and small cultivated tracts of level ground, all surrounded by high rocky hills. Eventually we came to the top station, Kalavryta where, after a 10 minute stop the train retraced the journey down hill; a journey just as spectacular and awesome as the uphill one. On our arrival back at Dhiakofto we waited only 15 minutes to catch the 1:45pm bus back to Patras. This had been a great day more so in that we had avoided much of the 40° heat by spending most of it in air conditioned buses and train.


Tuesday 12th July, a 20 knots northerly was keeping both the air cool and Spyros pulled off the pontoon. Another glorious day without a cloud and the temperatures set to return to those of the past two days. We made a lazy start before deciding to check out the charts for the voyage to Killini; to our surprise it was going to be a 38 mile day and we were not ready to leave Patras until eleven o’clock. We motored Spyros for fifteen minutes to clear the yacht harbour and outer breakwater and set sail. With a reduced rig in 20-23 knots of following wind Spyros was soon bowling along at 6-7 knots. As the breeze slowly reduced in strength over the next few hours we progressively pulled out more sail. By 4:00pm we had clocked up 24 miles and although the breeze now at 12 knot was still giving us 3-4 knots of boat speed we needed to close the gap between 24 miles and the 38 miles to Killini, so we reluctantly dispensed with the sails and motored for two and a half hours reaching Killini at about six thirty.

The small fishing harbour was full so we had to use the only available mooring spot on the end of the quay, displacing a genial wharf fisherman for a moment or two but not to the extent that we interrupted his fishing. He proceeded to catch several small fish while we were having brandies and dinner in the cockpit. Killini was a revisit from 2 years ago, not a popular port for yachties, but the fishing harbour was home to a large fishing fleet and many local boats, there were only 6 visiting yachts and one motor cruiser. It was a busy port with the frequent coming and going of ferries plying between mainland Greece (Killini) and the islands of Zykanthos and Kefalonia.

Wednesday 13th July, if we hadn’t been aroused by the clatter of diesel motored fishing boats passing a few meters away, or the wash from the fishing boats or ferries then the rattle of anchor chains of the ferries would certainly do it; their noise was enough to wake the dead. Windfinder had predicted a similar day to yesterday. Our objective today was the small port of Ay Nikolaos, theoretically a perfect reach of 22 miles which should have taken us about 5 hours. We made a quick call to the supermarket and by 10:30 we were the last yacht to leave; motoring for half an hour to clear a reef off the nearby headland before pulling on sail for the start of a great reach. The wind was blowing at 12-13 knots giving us good boat speed but gradually it eased over the next 3 hours when we had to turn on the engine to finish the last 9 miles. The small harbour of Ay Nikolaos was quite popular, four yachts were berthed stern to the quay and 7 or 8 were anchored at various sites in the small bay. There was still room on the quay so we moored stern to and went into anchor watch for the next hour. I snorkelled over our anchor to find it was only just holding and didn’t have a great length of chain out. Mind you none of the anchors of the nearby yachts appeared to be well dug in either. The wind was blowing us off the quay so there wasn’t going to be a lot of pressure on the anchor except when swells rolled into the bay. As a precaution we dropped the kedge anchor to weight the main chain and increase the spring effect.

An enterprising family in the small hamlet owned one of the two tavernas, the petrol station, several of the tripper boats and could arrange almost anything one might want. We were greeted on the quay by one of the family members who tied us up, welcomed us to Ay Nikolaos gave us a menu pointing out that the house wine was on the house, the taverna had a free wifi internet connection and invited us to have showers, it was all very welcoming. We had a great dinner at the taverna and arranged for a trip to the Blue Caves in the morning. The northeast corner of the island of Zykanthos is limestone and pitted with caves. The blue caves are a popular tourist destination and about 10 minutes in a fast motorboat from the hamlet. The hamlet also is a ferry port and a popular overnight stop for yachts people, so there is quite a lot of traffic for a small place (see cruising in Greece).

Thursday 14th July, we were ready and waiting for the Blue Caves trip by 9:30am, quite early for us but the trip was to take about an hour and we wanted to be away as soon after our return as we could. Armed with camera and snorkel gear we hung on for a fast motorboat ride around to the pitted coastline, nosing into several caves one of which we, me and 4 others on the trip dived into the water and swam through the cave. We made several stops around the coastline, motored through a couple of ‘holes in the rock’ and for the finale the boat anchored near a small opening at water level through which we swam into a large cavern. Yvonne and I arrived back to Spyros by eleven o’clock but for the short exercise of clearing the kedge anchor from the main anchor chain, we were away without much fuss motoring out on a flat sea. The breeze never got above 5 knots; we motored the whole 22 miles to Argostoli on the island of Kefalonia and apart from seeing one other yacht and a large sea turtle it was a rather boring journey in the 40° heat (see anchoring and anchors).

Argostoli was a revisit from 2009, a rather large out-of-the-way town in the south of Kefalonia tucked well up in the Argostoli Gulf. After passing the southeastern headland to the gulf it was another 7 miles before we reached the town. At least the gulf and the secondary bay in which the town lay drew the breeze which cooled the air a bit but a trip along the waterfront to a supermarket was stifling. Yvonne and I didn’t venture to far, preferring to sit in the shade and consume bottles of water. We were back on the internet in Argostoli, there had been no cell-phone connection in Ay Nikolaos, and Windfinder was predicting very little wind for tomorrow so we thought that we would stay for two nights. We had about 2 weeks remaining of our 3 month cruise and it was time to put our minds towards what we wanted to do now, how to do it and what supplies do we have to get us through the next 2 week and what do we need to stock up on.

From Argostoli we had two options, one to go west around the island or south around the island. Windfinder suggested that south around the island might be a better choice for Saturday as the breeze was predicted to come from the west and we would be slogging into the wind most probably on motor. We had two places that were must-do’s on our list – the taverna of Babas on the island of Meganisi and Georges Taverna of on the island of Kalamos. However, both of these places are in the Ionian Inland Sea and are extremely popular with yachties, in particular flotillas. At this time of the year these ports would be very crowded so our Plan A was to wait until the weekend, Friday and Saturday nights when the flotillas would be at their bases changing crews. Plan B of course would be to get into these ports early to ensure a berth. So, going south around Kefalonia to Poros on Saturday could usefully set us up for either Plan A or Plan B, the winds for Sunday looked to be staying in the west so we could be setting up Plan B with a good sail northwards in the Inland Sea and tucking up on anchor nearby to Kalamos or to Spartachori on Meganisi.

Friday 15th July, the sign outside the chemist in Argostoli read 40° at eleven o’clock as Yvonne and I went down to the supermarket for supplies, some of which would now last us until the end of the cruise and two packs of drinking water, 6 x 1.5 litres each, that we were now consuming at a great rate and our monthly sticky bun treat. Actually we got a slice of spinach pie and a sticky raisin wheel with a fresh peach for afterwards, sat in the cockpit and had a gourmet lunch washed down with cold water. We retired inside for the rest of the afternoon. Most other people had sensibly stayed in doors during the afternoon but once the sun had passed below the line of the buildings the quay became a promenade, crowded with people literally strolling up and down, we recognized several couples going each way. A very large motor cruiser had berthed alongside of us and became the centre of attention, many strollers pausing to pose for a photograph in front of the cruiser and many photographing. Needless to say I don’t think we featured in any snap shots like the rich or famous.

Saturday 16th July, after a quick trip across the road to replenish our cash holding from an ATM, we got under way motoring Spyros out of the port into a light northerly breeze where we pulled on sail in readiness for the long run down the Gulf of Argostoli to the open sea. We actually motor sailed for the 7 miles out beyond the entrance to the gulf and passed a wicked looking reef then angled southwest to run across the south of the island. The, now, following wind was too light to be any help so we wound the sails in and settled down for three hours of motoring to the south east cape of Kefalonia and beyond for another 2 miles to clear the shallows off the Cape. The wind had picked up and we were able to motor sail with the headsail until clear of the shallows before gybing then putting on full sail to run north to Poros. We had now returned to the popular sailing territory of the Ionian Inland Sea, there were already eleven yachts berthed in Poros when we arrived, another 7 or 8 were to join us before nightfall.

Sunday 17th July, Windfinder predicted a westerly wind, light at first but building to 10-15 knots in the afternoon, just the wind for a run across to Kalamos we thought. After a short walk we hastily got under way as our anchoring yesterday had fouled the anchor chain of the neighbouring yacht, which was trying to leave so we needed to help untangle chains. Having freed our shackles we motored out of the harbour into a light northerly breeze, pulled on all sail and spent a fitful two hours sailing only 4 miles. With a 30 mile day we needed to pick up the pace so we motored with mainsail set for and hour and a half. The breeze went through 180° during that time then at 13 miles out from Poros the northwesterly breeze arrived. We pulled on the headsail with 3 rolls in and started sailing hard on the wind but at 10° south of our course. The breeze built and we took a reef in the mail and 2 more rolls in the headsail. Spyros was enjoying the relatively flat sea, the 13-16 knots of wind and scampered along at 6-7 knots. The wind stayed in the northwest backing slightly so that eventually we came up on our course and could free the sheets a little. We ran an almost straight line from Poros to the northwestern bay on the Island of Kastos where, in the lee of Kastos we pulled in sail and motored the mile across the narrow channel separating Kastos and the Island of Kalamos. George was there to help us moor just as he had done 2 years ago. I thought the trip ought to have taken 6 hours but with the slow start of the day it did look as though we might have been rather late into Kalamos, the moderate breeze took care of that, the journey took 6 and a half hours and Plan B worked. Yvonne and I enjoyed a great dinner at Georges Taverna. Many yachts continued to arrive after we had berthed and although it was not the most crowded that we had seen Kalamos boat harbour it was still very full. George was kept busy even as late as 9:00pm piloting yachts into berths (see the yacht charters guide to Greece).

Monday 18th July, a moderate cross wind in the harbour last night had tested the holding of our anchor, we had been pushed back onto the quay at times but strong fenders ensured that no damage was done. The morning dawned calm and clear, a procession of yachts began leaving Kalamos from eight o’clock. With only a short trip to Palairos today we were in no hurry and didn’t leave the harbour until 10:30. We motored down the Kastos-Kalamos channel into a light breeze which strengthened near the western entrance but was very variable in direction until we were well clear of the headlands. Eventually it settled into a steady northwesterly at 5-10 knots, we set up Spyros on a fine lead with full sail. The sea was flat and the autopilot did a good job holding Spyros on a steady course at 3-4 knots for a couple of hours until the breeze died away and we had to motor into the small boat harbour of Palairos mooring at one of only 4 remaining berths (reliable yacht charter companies).

Palairos is one of the few ports in the Inland Sea that is on mainland Greece and prices, especially the price of diesel is much cheaper than those on the Islands, which incur a freight surcharge. We were by now fairly savvy about diesel prices and 1.50 Euro per litre seemed to be about the average price for mainland Greece. Two garages in Poros were offering diesel at 1.56-1.57 Euro per litre so we were quite happy to get into Palairos and pay only 1.49 Euro.

Ionian #2

Tuesday 19th July, by eleven o’clock the sign over the chemist shop in the village was reading 43°. There was a light breeze when we returned to Spyros so we got under way motoring out of the harbour and setting sail. The light breeze carried us along at a speed of 3 knots towards the Island of Meganisi, next to Lefkas, in the south Ionian a journey of only 9 miles. It was a fickle wind that shifted direction making sailing a matter of great concentration; broken only by a flurry of little fish as a swordfish carved through a nearby shoal looking for a snack. We covered half the journey by sail before resorting to the motor. Porto Spillia, the port of Spartachori and the place of Babis’ Taverna had surprisingly few yachts, it was still only three in the afternoon and it seemed like Plan B was working quite well.

Here at Porto Spillia the mobile reception was weak but improved when we went outside. The signal strength on the mobile phone was usually a good indicator of the likelihood of internet reception so I wondered if I took computer and dongle outside if the internet would work in a similar way. It did, with the laptop on my knee, the dongle on a 1 metre extension cord and the power cable snaking through the window to the inverter balanced on a cupboard door we, at least got our emails read and answered. Later Yvonne and I headed for the beach to spend a good hour swimming and taking up more sun. A few more yachts came in later in the day but, according to Babis, these next two nights were going not going to be busy. However come Friday, Saturday and Sunday the port would be overflowing. We were glad we had gone for Plan B rather than Plan A. Yvonne and I dined at a table on the beach only a couple of metres from the water lapping the stones at the same time being entertained by a very large rather unusual looking motor cruiser mooring in the bay. We thought that it was the same vessel that we had first seen in Kea in the Cyclades and again in Nassaou, Paros but it turned out to be a sister ship.

Wednesday 20th July, we left Porto Spillia quite early with only a vague plan of heading for Vasiliki, motoring north and west around the island of Meganisi out into the Ionian Inland Sea. Although the breeze was reasonably brisk in the channels, away from the influence of the land it was barely noticeable. There was huge exodus of charter yachts from the sheltered port of Sivota and with no wind to sail on we decided to head into Sivota instead of wasting diesel motoring to Vasiliki; that could wait for another day. We had ample choice of where we would moor stern to the quay. No sooner had we berthed when a brand new 50 foot yacht came charging into the quay alongside of us. It had engine problems but little had been done to ready the yacht for a hard landing. We were spared any direct impact but the stem of the yacht took the full impact as it came to a shuddering halt against the concrete quay. The mechanic from Lefkas, incidentally the one who attended to Spyros 2 months ago, was waiting on the quay so we helped to secure the yacht and provided access to the yacht while he looked at their problem. We were also able to alert him to our own little problem of a broken bow fairlead that would have to be repaired when we gave up Spyros. As the afternoon wore on we were entertained by a procession of yachts that came into the harbour, but the best entertainment was watching the flotillas and the antics of the lead crews directing the mooring of each yacht including using a rubber dinghy to push yachts around and reset anchors that had been dropped too short.

Thursday 21st July, Windfinder predicted 10 rising to 20 knots of wind in the Kefalonia channel between Lefkas Island and Kefalonia/Ithaca Islands so we, like many others quite snugly tied to the quay in Sivota decided to stay for the day. A long day it turned out to be and the cards got a thrashing. A little afternoon entertainment was provided by incoming yachts with nowhere to go other than having to anchor in the harbour then dragging their anchors in the gusty conditions. One other exciting moment was a small motor boat pulling in beside us but first moving the dinghy of the neighbouring flotilla lead yacht onto our bow. This incensed the lead crew who promptly took the motor boat away and parked it several spaces down the quay. Dinghy’s of lead crews are constantly in use when in port and in this case the dinghy was legitimately tied up to the quay beside their yacht. The owners of the motor boat caused quite a ruckus when they discovered the removal of their boat. So the afternoon wore on and soon it was time for drinks then dinner in the cockpit at which time we were joined by masses of “benign” wasps, large noisy and bothersome but quite harmless. Friday 22nd July, Windfinder predicted a day of quieter winds, more so in the afternoon. Their in lies the dilemma; should you leave early so that you arrive early at your destination in time to find a berth but use more engine in doing so or leave later to take advantage of better sailing conditions, motor less and have difficulty in getting a berth. We left about 10:30 expecting to motor for a couple of hours across the Kefalonia channel hoping to find wind when we headed south down the Ithaca channel to Sami on the Island of Kefalonia. It all worked reasonably well. We motored for nine miles across the channel encountering quite a large swell from the blow yesterday, also the mess caused by ferries and ships that traverse the channel. It would have taken a decent breeze to get Spyros moving well enough to battle the swell. As we approached the Ithaca channel a good sailing breeze filled in from the northwest, we cut the motor and set sail making a good 5-6 knots on a fine lead until we were well into the channel then bore off on a broad reach for 5 miles before the fickle nature of the winds in confined seaways came ahead of us. We motored Spyros the last 8 miles into Sami boat harbour with a choice of places at which to berth. By seven o’clock there were no spaces left; a fresh breeze had now kicked up a short sharp chop that broke on the outside of the quay, spray flying everywhere and had yachts tugging at their moorings. After an hour the breeze died as rapidly as it had arisen, we had a pleasant evening dining at a local Taverna and a quiet night on the quay (see the guide to yacht charters in Greece).

Saturday 23rd July, with Windfinder predicting very little wind and we having no agenda to keep, the objective today was just to change the scenery. We left Sami on motor but when we had reached the southern portal to the Ithaca channel there was a local breeze of 8-10 knots so up went the sails and we spent about an hour tacking backwards and forwards trying to clear the channel and head east around Ithaca and up to Kioni. Frustrating is a kind word for the cruel tricks a light breeze does in confined places. It always seems to head you off then softens when ever you really need a lift. Needless to say we then continued then to motor around to Kioni thinking that at three in the afternoon there should be some spaces on the quay. We were wrong, either those occupying the berths had arrived earlier in the day or were staying for their second night. Not to worry as no one had anchored with a line ashore directly opposite the quay so we had first pick of the mooring spots. We weren’t really ready with our long line but we were going to hang on anchor and sort out the long line after re-inflating the dinghy. A voice from the water beside us introduced himself as a fellow Kiwi and offered to swim our long line ashore, which he did and we were very grateful promising to bring a beer around later on. After a swim and dry off the wind shifted in direction and other yachts started to arrive. A large 50 foot yacht arrived and at first tried to squeeze into a space on the quay that a yacht had vacated after we had anchored; it was not well skippered and the wind was taking charge. It retreated to the bay and anchored for a while but the crew kept eyeing up the space to windward of us so we needed to keep a watchful eye on it as I could see it being blown down onto us should they try to manoeuvre into the space.

Sunday 24th July, we never did get to leave Spyros yesterday and have that beer with the Kiwi’s moored across on the quay but I called around before we left this morning for a short chat. Windfinder yesterday had predicted a moderate breeze but, as with our previous visits the internet reception was no good so we couldn’t confirm the wind conditions. That didn’t really matter because within half an hour of leaving port we had a slightly reduce sail plan up and Spyros was rollicking along at 6-7 knots in a force 5 wind. We did inflate the dinghy in Kioni, it had been deflated and stowed about 5 weeks ago, and as we were heading to an anchorage in Vlikho Bay we decided to tow it instead of stowing it on the foredeck. Spyros was romping along at 6+ knots and as we came into the lee of a small Island of Arkoudhi there was a strange gushing sound as the dinghy was slowly becoming submerged. The towing ‘D’ had ripped out and 2 smaller ‘D’s’ that I used for accessory attachments were only just holding. Luckily we were in the lee of the small island because we let the helm and the headsail go free; rolled in the main then stowed the headsail and with great effort managed to empty the dinghy, which by now was full of water, lift it on the foredeck and lash it down. We got Spyros moving again on motor, tidied up the cockpit then pulled on the headsail expecting to continue reaching northwards into the Meganisi channel. No such luck, the breeze softened, we added the mainsail and barely made 3 knots. About a mile off the Meganisi channel we wrapped up the sails and motored on to Vlikho Bay anchoring, in what we thought was a good spot. After an hour it was clear we were dragging the anchor so we re-anchored in the same area. Spyros hated being buffeted by wind while on anchor and would weave back and forward through 180°at times; I’m sure this had an effect on whether the anchor held or not particularly in not so good ground. We dragged again, so for the third time we had to re-anchor but this time we moved down to the south end of the bay where at last we held firmly.

Vlikho Bay must have been the meeting place for the four winds, we could be pointing north and the boat next door would be pointing south, others would be facing all points of the compass. At times it was difficult to judge whether the anchor was holding or not when all the reference points were shifting individually. Eventually the wind(s) died down, as they do at night, and as the evening progressed a myriad of anchor lights around us started to twinkle like stars. The morning dawned still and quiet, many yachts had left by the time we had surfaced but they didn’t disturb the tranquillity of this beautiful bay.

Monday 25th July and we head for Vonitsa in the Gulf of Amvrakikos. In 2009 we spent our last 2 days in Vonitsa, an agricultural town off the beat (yacht) track, where it was great to unwind, tidy up the yacht and begin to retrieve our things that had found niches and cupboards on Spyros as though it was our home. Soon after half past nine we got Spyros under way, motoring slowly out of Vlikho Bay weaving between the dozens of yachts anchored both in the bay and just off Nidiri. At first the breeze came in from the south but as we cleared Nidiri it came in from ahead and stayed this way as we motored further away from Nidiri towards the southern portal of the Lefkas channel. On nearing the Lefkas channel it looked like we might make the 12 o’clock opening of the road bridge at the north end so we kept up the engine revs as we had about 5 miles to go. We made the bridge in plenty of time; having to motor around in lazy circles to keep moving to fill in time and to ensure we weren’t blown to somewhere not nice to be in. By quarter past 12 we were through the bridge, clear of the Lefkas channel and pulling on sail into a 15 knot breeze from the northwest. With 3 rolls in the headsail, half a reef in the main and the breeze coming across the beam, Spyros was in its element. The sea was quite lumpy, the aftermath of yesterday’s winds, but we trucked along making 5-6 knots for just under an hour when we doused sail and motored until we could locate the entrance to the dredged channel into Preveza. Not so easy with the swell. Fifty minutes motoring and we had passed Preveza and were in the big ‘S’ bend that lead into the Gulf proper. The wind was now on our stern quarter; we pulled on the headsail reaching and gybing in the 15-20 knot breeze, through the S bend and around into Vonitsa Bay. The wind would have carried us all the way to the town quay if we hadn’t taken in the sail to motor, under control, into the boat harbour. It had been a great sail and we performed a good stern to mooring in the 14-16 knot cross wind (find reliable yacht charters in the Ionian).

Our first job was to rig up a long hose from the one and only water tap on the quay; one other yacht that had recently arrived was also in need of water so we attached our hose to theirs using PVC tape. This worked for only a short while. Another yacht owner seeing our predicament loaned us a proper connector we got both boats topped up with water and Spyros cleaned down for the last time. Next we checked the cupboards to see what was required to keep us fed and “watered” until Friday morning, then to reconnoitre the town for a supermarket and a taverna to eat at tonight. We awoke on Tuesday to a very still and overcast morning that threatened rain and later delivered it, first as a light shower in the morning then quite a heavy shower in the early afternoon. We started to “de-camp” Spyros, taking down the wind pennants, giving our sailing gear a fresh water wash before packing it, retrieving our things which had personalized Spyros for us over the last 12 weeks, restoring yacht equipment and utensils that we had packed away as being more than we needed to live with, and returning to the supermarket to top up the cupboards. Later in the afternoon the clouds cleared and we retraced our steps of 2 years ago around to the small island to the east of the township, across the causeway to follow the pathway through the pine trees around the island.

Wednesday 27th July the sea was like a mirror, Windfinder confirmed it would be like this most of the day. We made a slow start; just before ten o’clock we raised anchor and motored Spyros slowly out of the boat harbour to Preveza, a short journey of 2 hours at a lazy 4 and a half knots, retracing the route we had come 2 days ago. The pilot book had recommended a visit to Nikopolis, an ancient city about 3 miles from the town of Preveza. Yvonne and I spent an hour trying to find a bus stop where a bus, said by some locals would take us there, but found out from others that no bus runs to Nikopolis. Nevertheless the hour or so walk in the 30° heat did us good as we had become quite sedentary over the past few weeks and had not been getting out and exercising so much. We were moored on the town quay and, very much like other towns, the pedestrian traffic increased in the evening with a veritable crowds meandering up and down the quay. The cafés and bars across the road were also busy by early evening and seemed to remain so well into the night.

Thursday 28th July and the day we leave port for the last time and make our way back to Lefkas. The diesel man called at 9:00am so we topped up the tank on Spyros. Later the Port Police turned up asking everyone to register at the office, off I went and after half an hour the queue shortened by the 3 people in front of me whereupon I paid my 1.53€ and returned to Spyros. We pulled up anchor at 10:20am to motor the 2 miles out of the Preveza channel, a buoyed channel dredged to about 6 meters through some wicked shallows. Once clear of the channel we raised sail in 4-5 knots of wind managing 2 knots of boat speed. We were hoping to make the 12 noon bridge opening at the north end of the Lefkas channel, our 2 knots of boat speed wasn’t going to cover the 5 miles in time so we turned on the engine at 4 miles to go and motor sailed at 5-6 knots for 40 minutes. At 10 minutes to 12 we pulled in sail and pushed Spyros up to 6.5 knots covering the last mile to the channel just before noon. The shallows through the entrance to the channel are marked with red buoys; we hurried along following these and to our amazement found a buoy out of place, we clipped a rock, we stopped, we reversed and the propeller walk moved the stern of Spyros into deeper water, we stopped and Spyros drifted off the rock, we throttled hard and just caught up to the last yacht in front of us before the road bridge closed. Fifteen minutes later we tied up to the Lefkas town quay and our three months sailing was all over.

Story by Neil & Yvonne Armitage from New Zealand

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30 July 2011
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