Kurukulla at Englishman's Bay, Tobago

Monday, 30 May 2011

Round the Peloponnese

After a weekend on Zakynthos town quay I finally departed on the Monday morning after watering ship and victualling from the local supermarket. Before leaving Zakynthos I thought it prudent to refuel as well but the only fuelling point is a garage on the landward side of the seafront road. A brief visit confirmed that they had a tank on wheels into which they decant the fuel from the ordinary forecourt pump and then dispense it under gravity to the boat concerned. On arrival alongside, or almost, it was obvious that I was aground, 5 metres from the jetty. Back off and try again, this time 50 metres along the jetty; at least it was not me who would have to push the tank! My request for 40 litres was initially interpreted as 400 followed by a look of disappointment! I suspect they do not fuel many sailing yachts!
The Abbey at Strofhades Islands
That done it was off and the “where next” question arose. The choices were follow the mainland coast or head out and visit the Strofadhes Islands. My liking for out the way places got the better of me and off to the Strofadhes it was. There are two main islands and according to the pilot one inhabitant, a lone monk who inhabits the abbey on the major island. During my visit the abbey and its environs looked well cared for so, although I saw no one, the lone monk is either an assiduous worker or the numbers on the island have increased. I anchored overnight in Ornos Taverna on Nisis Arpia (the smaller island) with the intention of landing on Nisis Stamfani the next day and visiting the abbey. This was not to be, the next day dawned with an easterly wind blowing making the Nisis Stefani anchorage too risky to leave the boat in unattended, hence my visit to the abbey will have to wait another opportunity.
Self at Methoni with fortifications in background
From the Strofadhes Islands it was a 45 mile passage south eastwards, in a fickle wind, to Methoni; the leg was part sailed but with a frustrating number of sail changes. Methoni is a fantastic landfall with enormous Turkish and Venetian fortifications guarding its harbour. Along the way I passed the entrance to Navarino Bay, scene of Admiral Codringtons (26 ships, 1270 guns) victory over the combined Turkish and Egyptian fleets (89 ships, 2450 guns) which effectively gave the Greeks victory in their war for independence from Turkish rule.
Methoni is a very well preserved town with much good quality restoration work still going on, unlike the concrete monstrosities being constructed along the coastlines of the Ionian Islands. The harbour is dominated by the Turkish Tower and the Venetian fortifications. Next morning a quick shopping trip ashore followed by a stop for a morning coffee left a lasting, favourable, impression. The harbour is reasonably well protected (southerly swell can roll in) with good holding. From here I set off to investigate the island to the south of Methoni, Nisis Sapientya, where I spent a very pleasant afternoon anchored in Port Longos, a deserted bay, with only a fish farm for company! As the evening drew in I moved back to Methoni to achieve an internet connection (very slow) and do some admin. Thereafter bed!
Cape Matapan

Next day it was off eastwards to continue the passage round the southern tip of the Greek mainland. I awoke to an eerie calm, not a breath of wind, hence we set off under motor for the first part of the day. After two hours there were ominous rumbles of thunder in a grey overcast sky and the occasional heavy shower but none of them lasted more than a few minutes. We rounded Cape Akritas the most westerly of the three fingers of the Peloponnese and headed for Cape Tainaron (better known but its English name Cape Matapan, scene of another famous Naval battle in March 1941 when the RN Mediterranean fleet sank five Italian ships ) which is the most southerly point of mainland Greece. This started as a much better leg with enough wind to do 5 knots on a broad reach, good sailing at last but it was not to last! As the afternoon drew on the wind went astern and fluctuated between 20deg off the port quarter and 20deg off the stbd, How many times can you gybe a poled out genoa in an afternoon? I think I have the record! Finally a mile short of Cape Matapan the wind suddenly appeared on the nose at 30kts, fortunately I saw it coming and had handed the genoa and reefed the main before it hit. The final three miles to the anchorage at Kayio, on the eastern side of Cape Matapan, were a bit of a roller-coaster ride but ended well. The anchorage was crowded but with boats all heading east but I managed to find a space, tight though it was.
Crowded anchorage at Kayio
If the wind holds we will all swing clear of each other but if it falls to nothing tonight there will be mayhem! Next entry tomorrow morning!
Over the night the wind died and all the boats made at least two pirouettes, fortunately without any incidents, that is that I know of. A disturbed night with constant checking of position. Not one to be repeated; it is going to be an open, spacious, anchorage tonight! Today dawned grey and with the residual swell still rolling in, consequently I left it until midday before I decided to set off. No wind, swell on the nose, grey sky, grey sea, and cold! Just like the English Channel, even the shipping is similar, I currently have nine large freighters in view all lining up to round Cape Maleas. The first hour or so was an uncomfortable passage under motor but the wind then roused itself to provide a fast close fetch for a pair of hours before dying away again but leaving behind sunshine! Rather like yesterday the wind came up on the nose at 20kts just one hour before arrival at Elafonisos, my chosen overnight anchorage! The fickle winds of the Mediterranean! Nevertheless I needed to make progress towards Spetses in order to pick up my next crew; hence, the uncomfortable first part was worth it.
Anchorage at Ornos Frangos, Elafonisos
The anchorages at Nisos Elafanisos are many but I chose the smaller of two on the south coast, this offered the better protection from the prevailing wind. Safely anchored in 3m on pure white sand and in crystal clear water I immediately fell in love with the place. Given the forecast for light, contrary, winds after Maleas I took little persuading to stay for two nights and enjoy the swimming and beaches, plus a climb to the top of the headland separating the two anchorages. After 36 hours in paradise I set off again to round Maleas and head for the protected harbour at Ieraka.
Cape Maleas with hermitage and bell house
Waterfront at Ieraka
Ieraka was a fascinating place, almost cut off from the rest of the world. Having anchored off the village,in the middle of the small channel which leads into a very shallow, enclosed, lake, I rowed ashore to have a walk around and to get some fresh bread. I set off first to visit the “extensive ruined acropolis, probably of the Mycenaean period” referred to in the pilot. My request for directions from a taverna owner was greeted with a slightly surprised look and then a brief nod of the head, up the hill. I set off, only later was I to realise that the slightly surprised look was brought about by my wearing shorts and flip-flops. As I found to my cost the path was well overgrown with that thorny grass which abounds in Greece! This, combined with the lecture I had received from Stephanos the week previous, when he had warned me how many poisonous snakes are to be found in Greece, had me looking very carefully where I was treading! The acropolis was barely discernible as such, extensive ruins but little left standing, but was worth the visit and the path down, following the slightly more established route, was easier to negotiate. Next came the search for bread; my request of another taverna owner, by chance a Danish lady, married to a Greek, elicited the information that bread arrived here on Fridays. The local shop holds a stock but it was probably more stale than that which I already had onboard. At this point she took pity on me and offered to sell me a loaf from her freezer! A pasta supper onboard and an early night followed.
The morning broke with wind but not necessarily from the right direction. From the shelter of Ieraka it was difficult to tell. Not to waste it I weighed anchor and set forth for the entrance and yes there was wind, 15kts of it, from the north! I put Kurukulla on the wind, port tack, and went below for breakfast. Three hours and three tacks later the wind died to nothing and I had my first open sea swim of the season, the boat was going nowhere! This being the case I motored into Kiparissi bay and dropped anchor. Either I could stay the night or if the wind came up it was an easy place to set off from. Two hours later at 1630 the onshore started and provided a splendid 5kt reach northwards for the final 20 miles to Spetses.
Sunset over Spetses
This final photograph was taken just as I arrived. Kurukulla is now berthed in the outer harbour at Spetses and will be here for a pair of days. At last I have an internet connection fast enough to publish a Blog!

No comments: