Rounding any major Cape as a sailor is always a time to take particular care as they tend to accelerate the winds. With an often rough seabed and a differing wind direction on the other side this is regularly a recipe for rough and dangerous seas.
Cape Maleas had a fearsome reputation with ancient sailors. With its 780m high cliffs the Greeks coined a phrase, 'Round Maleas, forget your native country' and it's supposed to be where Odyesseus was blown south to the land of the 'Lotus Eaters' in mythology. Today with good weather forecasts planning is somewhat easier but it needs to be treated with respect.
We had been watching the weather for more than a week looking for the right timing. For such a passage we look for calm weather for preferably 24 hours before we leave as well as the right conditions for the time we expect to be sailing (we've been caught before by a strong counter swell from the previous days winds making a planned trip in otherwise good conditions impossible).
All week the forecasts showed Thursday was reasonable weather with Friday showing light northerly winds most of the day before strong northerlies re-commenced for the next week on the eastern side of the peninsula. The western side we were heading towards showed calmer conditions for the coming period, another reason to make this window!
So the plan was an early start on Friday to travel the 20 miles to the Cape and round at about 9.00 hrs allowing an 11.00 hrs arrival in the target bay. We slipped our lines at Gerakas at 06.05 whilst the port was still asleep. It was just light enough from the coming sunrise around 07.00 to feel our way out into a northerly breeze of about 3 knots. We motored south watching the sunrise to port as we ate breakfast at the helm station together. Early starts in good conditions are one of the pleasures of sailing.
We did hoist the mainsail with one reef but the wind never rose above 8 knots all the way to the cape so it behaved mostly like a flag as we made the 'apparent wind' at 7 knots under motor.
Photos struggle to do the Cape justice as its an impressive bit of rock to approach. Our plan worked as we rounded Maleas in about 5 knots of wind and slight seas before a different wind direction, now 8 knots from the west, meant continuing to motor.
There is a very isolated Hermitage on the south face of the Cape, facing out across what is a very busy stretch of water between this and the island of Kithera to the south. Many large ships transit this route heading to Athens and other ports to the east. We often had 3 or 4 ships in view but they were passing clear south of us and were not an issue on this trip.
Rounding Cape Maleas, the Hermitage is the white building ashore
We had chosen a bay on the south of the island of Elafonisos called Ormos Frangos to moor as it has protection from West, North and East and we knew strong north winds would arrive overnight. As we approached we could see on our AIS instruments that there was a large 170ft ship in the bay which caused some concern (that's five times our size!) She was a massive sailing ship under a Maltese flag but luckily there was still room for us to squeeze into the northwest corner of the bay along with two other boats who joined us. Three other boats anchored in the next bay.
Frangos is one of two sandy bays split by a sandbar on the south of the island. They are popular beaches for locals and tourists and were very busy when we arrived. As usual, by 18.00 most of the beach-goers had gone and we had a quiet time until around midnight when the wind started to increase. By 05.00 it was blowing at 25 knots and from 08.00 to 10.00 we were recording 28/29 knots. Our anchor was well dug into the sand and Chris had swum out and checked it, we had 6 times the depth of chain out and so we were comfortable that the boat was fine. We had a reasonable nights sleep though regular inspections of the anchor alarm chart and the conditions through the windows were required!
The sandbar of Ormos Frangos on our arrival
Today we are sitting out the remainder of the forecast wind with it gusting past outside between 15 and 25 knots this afternoon. We are now positioned to explore the Gulf of Kolpos over the coming days, we haven't visited before so a new area to experience.
Main photo: Approaching Cape Maleas