The wind was light so we didn't bother with setting the mainsail for the two hours/15 miles to Gythion. The wind decided to turn up 30 minutes before we arrived but the skipper felt lazy and the sail stayed on the boom.
Gythion has only room in the normal port for about 12 yachts and we had read that there had been 6 impounded yachts there (we think for smuggling) for a few years. There are 8 derelicts now, wind and lack of attention ruining the boats and leaving less space for visitors. It was full on the quay so we decided to go side to the old ferry quay as we know the ferry no longer calls there. This would be ok but there are still the huge black solid fenders for the ferry, these would not do Splice any good so careful fendering was required to keep us off them. A local bloke has a reputation for 'helping' you moor and then asking for a tip, he was indeed there but was quite helpful in the complicated mooring and so we did donate a few euros....we saw him later in a bar!!
We walked round to the Town Hall to pay but at 16.00 hrs they were closed and we were told to come back tomorrow. As we returned to the boat, a really scruffy car passed us with two men in dark t-shirts in it. The car pulled up alongside Splice and we both imeadiately thought that some local roughs were eyeing her. They pulled away as we approached then stopped as they saw us returning tho the boat, it was the Port Police...... (times must be tough on police budgets) who were courteous and polite. They checked the normal papers (ownership, crew-list, insurance and TEPAI (boat tax) paid). When a large motor boat moored in front of us later they came back and the conversation was much more intense, maybe because he was chartering the boat out to guests.
The harbour at Gythion
Chris appeared at the Town Hall at 09.00 hrs the next morning, it took 5 minutes to pay and then 15 minutes for his receipt to be printed! A very old PC system! We had booked a hire car from the agent on the quay and a somewhat tatty black Hyundai was ours for the day at 40 Euros - but it did have air conditioning! It's a 50 minute drive to Mystras, a Byzantine town and fortifications built on a steep hill in the 12-13th century. It's still quite intact for its age and you can see the layout and many of the main buildings.
The Admiral inspects the fortifications at Mystras
It took us two and a half hours to explore much of the place but the climb was steep and the sun was getting high so we retreated to the local village and had a 'special omelette' and lots of water to recover. It was well worth the visit and in cooler times we would have stayed longer, we probably saw 80% of the place anyway.
One of the churches at Mystras
After lunch we tried to find the site of ancient Sparta which is only about 15 miles away (the inhabitants of Mystras were moved to the newer town of Sparta when it was built). We almost gave up after 40 miuntes fruitless driving around, even with a satnav the little roads/tracks didn't seem to exist. Eventually we found the one sign that pointed up a track at the side of the current sports stadium and ancient Sparta was (re)discovered. The site is worth visiting but is mostly ground level ruins given it dates from c 400 years bc. Having read about the militaristic culture of the Spartans, Chris found the visit interesting, Carolyn less so. She did however perk up at our next stop, there's a Lidls on the road from Sparta to Gythion, so stocks and the Admirals spirits were replenished!
The ruins of the theatre at ancient Sparta
The next morning the forecast showed a morning northerly wind, not good for our position in the harbour as it would send waves pushing us against the quay. As it was for 15 knots we decided that it would be OK, unfortunately it arrived as 25 knots gusting 29 which is significant in terms of the swell it creates, and lasted much longer. We spent an uncomfortable day adding extra lines and monitoring Splices fenders as we bounced against the quay. The wind continued through the night so we were keen to get away early before it build again during the day. We dropped our lines before breakfast and headed south in calmer waters, eating muesli and homemade yoghurt at the helm station.
Our fenders protecting Splice from the north wind. We sacrificed two old t-shirts to keep the black rubber off our white fenders
Our target was Skoutari Bay, only six miles to the south. It has shelter from all sides except south east so we hoped to find calmer waters and hide from the northerly wind. When we arrived it was perfectly calm and with a taverna ashore we looked forward to a pleasant day.
That afternoon a brief south wind sent swell into the bay, that was fine as the later east and west winds would counter that for a calmer night.........except they didn't. The wind changed to east and then west but the swell from the south kept coming, all afternoon and all evening. We did go ashore but it was a bit of a faff. Firstly we couldn't find anywhere to tie Fid (our dinghy) to without her bashing against the quay and then once we did, we then couldn't find a path to the taverna that didn't go through a field of bulls! Fortunately they were tethered so we went for it. When we eventually got to the taverna we could see Splice bouncing about in the bay so didn't really enjoy our meal. On our way back to Fid we decided to walk back along the beach which did mean we got a bit wet, but meant that we avoided having to sneak round the bulls in the dark!
Skoutari Bay and the taverna we visited
Wind from the east or west turns the boat to face it leaving her side on to the swell from the south which is irritating and uncomfortable. It was past midnight when the motion dropped enough for it to be possible to sleep. The skipper was rather grumpy having placed two bets in a row that turned out to be poor options. And no, we can't explain why the swell didn't die down, that's sailing life, you have to suffer the unpredictability of the seas to get the nice experiences.
Main photo: The palace complex at Mystras, the fortifications are on the summit to the left and the hill is covered by the town ruins