Catamaran cruising

Who: Carolyn & Chris Gebbie
08 September 2018 | Vassiliki
08 September 2018 | Vilikho Bay
02 September 2018 | Preveza and Palairos
07 August 2018 | Vlikho Bay and Ormos Varkos
30 July 2018 | Kioni
30 July 2018 | Kakagito Bay
30 July 2018 | Eufimia
30 July 2018 | Ithaca
15 July 2018 | Spartakhori - Meganissi
15 July 2018 | Abelike Bay-Meganissi
09 July 2018 | Vathi - Ithaca
09 July 2018 | Kastos
09 July 2018 | Fiskardho
04 July 2018 | Eufirmia
04 July 2018 | Andreou Bay
04 July 2018 | Vathi - Ithaca
04 July 2018 | Sivota

Hiding from the winds

18 September 2020 | Gythion
Since the last time we posted a blog we have been sailing around the Laconia Gulf keeping out of the weather!

From Porto Kayio we headed north for shelter from southerly winds and anchored in the bay at Gythion overnight. Then the wind changed to strong northerlies, Gythion has no shelter from this, so we made a windy passage across the gulf to Plytra and sat out that night whilst 20 knots went passed.

It became clear that a very strong weather system was building between Italy and the western side of Greece and this was likely to hit the Greek shores on Friday. We already wanted to get back around Cape Maleas and this had the added advantage that it would take us further away from the storm. So we headed south to the anchorage on the island of Elafonisis in F5/6 winds from our port side. We had the first reef in the main and a double reefed genoa, maybe we should have put a further reef in the main but we didn't feel overpressed. Splice behaved well but the ride was bumpy. Most of the wind was in the higher 25+ knots but sustained 30-33 knot blasts had us doing 9.2 knots, we think a Splice record speed! We spent a cchoppy Tuesday night in the anchorage hoping the weather forecasts that potentially showed a window to round the Cape late on Thursday would be right.

By Wednesday morning it was becoming clear that the window was closing fast and any passage would be very risky.

With regret we then turned about and sailed back up the gulf to Gythion as this is the only place in the gulf which offers protection from the south, west and reasonable east cover as well. We had an easier sail than expected having taken a chance on an early departure when the wind seemed to have dropped before the forecasts indicated it would. We arrived in Gythion around 13.00 hrs and tied up to the harbour wall in calm conditions.

Five more boats have joined us since as the weather closed in. The storm hit the islands of Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Ithica in the Ionian in the early hours of this morning (Friday). We have already seen video clips of sunken boats in places like Eufimia that we know well and the centre of the system is still around that area.

So far we have had gusts in the high 20's from south and east but we are well secured and reasonably sheltered here and Splice is doing OK at present.

One of the neighbouring boats, a French 54ft Amel ketch (2 masted) found its anchor was slipping so had to leave the quay and reset the anchor. Chris and another sailor (Italian) helped with the lines on the shore, a mix of English, French and the odd swearword in three languages serving for communication (no Brexit nonsense here!!). Of course the wind carried on and made things difficult. They tried to set two anchors at once and under the strain one of the chains or secured points gave way and they lost the anchor and chain overboard. Carolyn saw the chain end disappear over the bow and alerted all those working at the stern.

As I write a local diver has just recovered the (expensive) anchor and chain and is now looking for a second lost anchor at the other end of the harbour. Heavy rain showers are adding to the fun but, compared to further west on the Greek coast we are doing fine!

Main photo: Work to recover the anchor and chain underway

Porto Kayio

12 September 2020 | Porto Kayio
Another 15 miles south, nearly at the tip of the peninsula is Porto Kayio. This is a nearly enclosed bay with the entrance in the NE corner and a small village at the head. It's a deep bay so anchoring space is limited but there were only three other boats when we arrived and we got the hook in at the second attempt through the hardened sand with the help of the skipper of an Austrian boat who was already in the water checking his own anchor. He signalled for us as he watched our anchor's behaviour on the sea floor. The water here is very clear and you can see down the 10m to the hard sand, weed and rock.

The village at Potro Kayio, Splice is moored out of picture to the right
We had a calm day and were joined by another Cruising Association boat 'Dragon ll of Cowes', one of the few other CA boats we have seen this year. Martin and Sarah came on board for beer or two that evening and we had a good chat for a couple of hours. They were heading off around the Peleponnese in the other direction so it was a brief meeting but good to talk to fellow sailors.

We took the short stroll to the chapel on the headland the next morning and stopped at a cafe overlooking the harbour for a coffee on the way back. It's a pretty village that is popular with land based tourists judging by the cars that arrive down the one road out each day but still had its character intact.

The bell gets tested at the chapel above Porto Kayio

The forecast looks good here for another night but the week ahead has very strong winds down the eastern side of the gulf meaning its not sensible to carry on to the island of Kithera to the south as we had planned. A retreat north to Gythion is the probable outcome but we will enjoy a meal ashore tonight and make a final call tomorrow.

Main Photo: The bay at Porto Kayio

Gythion (Gythio) and Skoutari Bay

12 September 2020 | Gythion
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


12 September 2020 | PLitra
We had planned to head north up the coast of the island of Elafonisos to the local town to top up on stores, but the winds from the cape were stronger here so we opted to head round the western coast and up to Plitra, a small village in a bay that has shelter from the north but is open to the afternoon southerlies.

We had a good sail with 15 knots on the port quarter which Splice enjoys, Carolyn enjoyed helming at 6-7 knots as we closed towards the bay.

There were two French yachts there as well but plenty of space to sit out the rest of the afternoon wind. We stayed on board the first evening as we usually do in exposed places.

The bay is reasonably attractive with a beach club set up on the shore to the west of the village and the harbour walls crowded with local fishing boats. We ventured ashore the following morning and walked around the the sunken ruins of the old town that had been destroyed by an earthquake in 375 AD. There's not actually much to see, there are some significant sized cleanly cut stone blocks and a couple of outlines of the buildings, the walk was hot though.

The village was dusty and rather closed down but we got some stores from the one and only shop. We had planned to eat ashore but the tavernas looked uninviting so, rather than sit out another afternoon southerly we decided to move on after filling up with water.

Filling up with water

We pulled up the anchor and motored across to the quay, there was just enough room to squeeze Splice on the end with her stern sticking out, luckily we only needed to stay 30 minutes to top up the water tanks and the wind was still calm.

Ak Maleas (Cape Maleas) and Nisos Elafonisos

05 September 2020 | Ormos Frangos
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

Gerakas (Yerakas)

05 September 2020 | Gerakas
We visited Gerakas last season and managed to get a position on the small quayside in this tiny inlet. We were lucky again as space was free when we arrived and Splice secured side-to again as we expected some stronger winds later. We spent two nights here rather than the planned one as the weather forecast changed to southerlies on the second day making our intended anchorage too open and exposed, better to stay put.

We used the time where power and water were available (5 Euros each) to do the washing and top up the tanks. Fresh winds and 40 degree temperatures ensure everything was dry by the end of the day. We returned to the taverna we visited last year (second one along with beige sun-covers) the first night and again had a good value and tasty fish meal of red snapper with tomatoes and chips. The owner is very pleasant and at 35 Euros for two fish, wine, water, bread, fresh figs for desert and two metaxa, it was good value.

The second day was actually our 32nd Wedding Anniversary but with washing clothes and sheets and a very limited intake of alcohol due to a very early start the next day it was a quiet celebration compared to some in the past!!! We must be getting old! That evening we had a simple early meal at the other taverna, the first you come to from the quay. The owner has a bit of a reputation amongst sailors but he was ok and the chicken souvlaki was good. At less than 10 euros each including wine (we took the rest back together with the Admiral's left overs) this was a good deal as well.
Vessel Name: Splice
Vessel Make/Model: Broadblue 435 Catamaran
Crew: Carolyn & Chris Gebbie
We have been married for over 25 years and have two grown up sons. Carolyn has dual English/French nationality and speaks French well. [...]
Extra: Contact us at splice435(the at sign)gmail.com
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Who: Carolyn & Chris Gebbie