Messolonghi to Trizonia
31 August 2009 | Saronic Gulf, On the way to Athens
Our first stop after leaving Ithaca was Messolonghi, the town where the poet Lord Byron, a passionate advocate of Greece independence, spent his last days. To reach Messolonghi, we motored up a long marshy inlet, where tiny houses were raised above the water on posts. Many of these houses, which were originally built by fisherman, appear to have been converted to cottages, but they are still very picturesque. We anchored just off a partially finished marina, debated about whether to put the motor on the dinghy and go exploring, but in the end decided to eat aboard and make it an early night. (For more information on the new marina at Messolonghi, see the cruising notes below.)
The next day, it was a bracing motorsail into a headwind of 20+ knots for our passage through the gulf of Patras, under the Rion bridge and into the Gulf of Corinth. We would have liked to stop at Navpaktos, but we were worried that there might not be room in the tiny medieval harbour so we pressed on, satisfied that at least we had sailed through the waters where the famous battle of Lepanto took place. By the time we arrived at the tiny island of Trizonia (the only inhabited island in the Gulf of Corinth) the decks and rigging were coated with salt and the cabin was in complete disarray. We were relieved to feel the wind abate as we turned the corner into the well-protected anchorage.
The tiny island of Trizonia is an enchanting place. No sign of the madding crowds on Trizonia! For anyone who truly wants to get away from it all- do some painting, write a book- Trizonia is the perfect hideaway. A small "ferry" (similar in size to my cousin Donnie's fishing boat) carries passengers back and forth (fare 1 euro) to the small town of Glifadha on the mainland, where groceries and the other necessities are available. Otherwise, you might be lucky enough to find what you need at the small general store, where you can also buy bread if you have had the foresight to order it a day in advance. (We hadn't, but they were kind enough to sell us a loaf anyway.) In spite of the miniscule size of the population, a new and imposing Orthodox church sits on the point, positioned so that its large windows overlook the mainland on one side and the fishing dock on the other side. As we peered in a window on one side, we could see a woman walking along a path on the other side, making the sign of the cross-a common practice among those of the Greek Orthodox faith when passing a church.
Four small family-run tavernas line the fishing harbour, all with limited menu choices and (at least at the end of August) very few customers. Both the Taverna Porto Trizonia and the Poseidon restaurant had good food and low prices, although surely anything eaten in such a beautiful setting would taste great! At sunset, the light is exceptional, with shadows outlining the contours and crevices of the mountain across the water on the mainland. At any time of day, it is pleasant to sit by the water in Trizonia and watch the fisherman coming and going, as the elderly men sit in the shade thumbing through their worry beads. At night, the star-gazing from our cockpit was terrific, since there is little ambient light in the anchorage.
Our most exceptional evening was at the Poseidon, where the regular staff spoke no English and a friend of the family, who introduced himself as "Billy the Greek", was helping out with table-side translations. After explaining the various menu choices, Billy amiably agreed to teach us a few simple phrases in Greek. Now there's an oxymoron-nothing is simple in Greek! But by the time we'd finished our meal and two of those dangerous little "half kilo" jugs of wine (it sounds so much worse than a half-litre, doesn't it?) we had a sheaf of notes with a list of phonetically spelled useful phrases like "What do you call this?" (pos toh len afto), "like that" (san afto) "I live on a boat" (zo sto karavi) and "shut up" (skas-eh). We didn't ask for that last one, Billy just seemed to think it would be useful. I finally understand why so many of the elderly Greek women in Canada still struggle with the English language! The differences in the alphabet make things very difficult. When I occasionally successfully decipher a Greek word on a sign or label, I get that same triumphant "I can read!" feeling I had as a child when I first sounded out "Here I am, my name is Nan" from my mother's old reader.
As we were paying our bill, a French family from another boat in the marina sat down at the table beside us and Billy effortlessly switched to French as he chatted with them. When we finally left the restaurant, we had another piece of paper with Billy's phone number in Athens (just in case we needed him to help us with anything) and a most excellent drawing of a whale made for us by the little girl from the French boat.
The next day, we made out way to Galaxadhi, a beautiful town on the north side of the Gulf of Corinth. We chose Galaxadhi mainly because of its proximity to Delphi, but it turned out to also be one of the loveliest places we've stopped. But I've burned enough power already tonight, I'll have to save that story for the next posting!
Messolongi: As of August 2009, berths at Messolongi's new marina were still free. The marina has 100 mooring places (concrete mooring block, chains and lazy lines or moor alongside) water, showers and wifi. Haul-out facilities planned. More info on their website www.messolonghimarina.com. We anchored in 20' with good holding in mud. There are a couple of tavernas ashore. Good protection from all directions.
Trizonia has a small marina where you can either med-moor on your own anchor or tie alongside an outer wall. There is also a small anchorage with good holding just off the marina. We spent one night at anchor and one night along the wall. We anchored in about 18' with a mud bottom and good holding. Good protection from all directions.