A Timeless Odyssey

Allures 45 (a thing of great practical beauty)

Peloponnese Blog 3 (15 July 2019)

The Peloponnese has 3 fingers and no thumb, and if you assume that the thumb and the forefinger are missing on the left hand then this blog starts with us sailing between the ring finger and the pinkie (little finger). At the base of the little finger there is a wonderfully barren island called Elafónisos, which actually has nothing to do with elephants as the English phonetics might suggest but means ‘Deer Island’ in Greek. It is noted in the Pilot’s Guide that no one in recent years have seen either animal there. We did not get to see the beach on the south of the island that has made the tourist map as we were worried about onshore wind, so we bypassed it and, after a full afternoon of sailing we pulled into Órmos Levki, with 3 other French boats. A pleasant enough place but we did not go ashore. There was a surprisingly busy road and a few buildings amongst the sand dune scrub that rose into a 100m high hill. The Greek Waters Pilot sage Rod Heikell, speaks of boats amassing in the various anchorages here waiting for their opportunity to round the sometimes fearsome Peloponnese Pinkie finger (a.k.a Ák Maléas). I suspect there is something in that name and that the pinkie has poked many a sailor in the eye. On the day we rounded it, it was thankfully in flat calm, under motor, joined by a school of dolphins. Distressingly one of them had a plastic packaging strap on one flipper. I have to say the plastic in the oceans is a very real thing and the tide on plastic needs to be turned, so I am massively grateful to David Attenborough and others that are on the awareness campaign. We waved at the monastery on the edge of the Cape, accessed by a precarious path along the cliffs and we sent our blessings as instructed by the Pilot Guide as we turned north, noting that this is furthest south we had been in the boat in Europe.

Next stop Monemvasia, where on the first night we dropped the anchor just south of the causeway to the island. This is billed as a must see place and did not disappoint. The walled city is of Byzantine origin, although the Venetians rebuilt it and it is now being further enhanced and restored in a sympathetic way by its modern occupants. It is a mini Dubrovnik, a maze of stone alleys, steps and restaurants, quaint shops, hotels and of course churches. There are only porter’s trolleys and human footsteps allowed inside the walls. We had tried to get there in the cool of morning, but it did not work, the heat came on earlier than we had planned. However, we climbed a magnificent zig-zag of steps up to the summit of the mostly flat topped monolith of dolomite. On top the views are amazing for miles around and of, course this is why it was chosen as a site for a settlement, for its easily defensive properties. On top there are a few intact churches but many extensive ruins of the earlier settlements. It was well worth the slog in the searing heat. We met Mike and Sarah in town and offered to look after Bella, their dog, whist they clambered to the top. We retreated to deep shade in a vine-covered courtyard and had an omelette whilst Bella strained at the lead at the omnipresent Greek cats.

On the second night in Monemvasia we moved onto the quay on the northern side of the causeway and went shallow and alongside; in the space where it was not possible for a deep keel boat to moor stern-to. Something amazing happened there, we were asked to pay! It was €12 for the night, including water. This was the first time in a month that we had had to pay anywhere. The taker of fees was convivial and when asked about the water quality from the tap on the quay, described it as good for boiling spaghetti, but if we wanted to use it for much more, we take our chances. We had two tasting sessions and in the end took 180 litres. We didn’t boil any spaghetti and we are still alive.

We continued north to Ieraka, which is a deep narrow cliff sided inlet that opens out into an un-navigable lagoon. It is nestled under an ancient acropolis. We went stern-to on the former ferry quay. It was here that we weathered some rock and roll and learnt the words “Megálos ánemos” from the fisherman that was picking nets next to us. Veronica was initially not enamoured by the chap on account of the flies that his fishing boat attracted and by his manner of dress, which comprised solely of a pair of stained clinging swimming trunks that were not hiding any budgies. He however proved to be very helpful and gave us a chapter and verse demonstration for what extra lines we should put on as the protection against the “Megálos ánemos” that was arriving at 14:00. The demonstration also included Veronica getting a lesson in the double bowline, which given the shorts and manner of dress, I am disappointed I did not get a picture of.

Actually that night a few people were killed in northern Greece in a freak storm, we were far south and the ánemos we experienced was only mildly hectic for about 5 hours, more bothersome was the swell and the snatching that continued for a lot longer. We sat out a day here to let the sea state outside our hidey-hole ameliorate.

In Kiparísí we went stern-to the tiny quay in Chapel Cove, which, as the name suggests, was just a quaint white washed diminutive chapel and nothing else. Room for about 4 boats and we were two there for the night after Mike and Sarah on Ivernia pulled in. In the morning we went for a fantastic albeit hot walk on a remarkably well made up path about 2km into the village, for breakfast. The setting was spectacular with 1300m high mountains behind the village and the area is renowned for its mountain walks.

Leonídhion was our last stop before crossing the gulf of Argoslikós. It is remarkable only for the fact that we were the only yacht in the harbour and they still insisted we moor stern-to. We also had to pay a modest fee and were visited by the port police who came to check all our paper work, another first this year.

As described in the Cruising Association’s Captain’s Mate app, Margaret of Margaret and Michael’s restaurant ambushed us with a welcome gift of two super sized tomatoes and 4 undersized cucumbers. It worked… we ate there that night and had a lovely meal.

The wind set south and we reached across the gulf to the island of Spetses and tacked up the channel between the island and the mainland. It was a trendy place, described in the Pilot’s Guide as more like the Italian Riviera than a Greek Island. The old harbour was crowded chaos but we managed to find a space with long lines to the shore, accompanied by all sorts of yachts, catamarans and super yachts. Interestingly, just 4 boats away was a large beach of sorts, decked with restaurant tables right down to the water. It looked like a possibility to moor and we nearly did but passed up because there were not many good places to take stern lines to. This turned out to be a excellent choice as to my surprise this monstrous ferry drove in putting its shovel-like front door down on the beach and tying its massive centre warp to an old cannon cemented into the ground to form a bollard. This was its unlikely resting place each night. Remarkably, there were no signs on the beach and neither was it mentioned in any of our sources of mooring information. Looking at the parking place, no one could have imagined that it could be a parking place for a massive truck-carrying ferry. So when it arrived that night, it told the New Zealand catamaran to scamper or move up. The skipper, of a certain age, and his lady friend who had just arrived that day from Kiwi-land had to let go of their lines while a crew member from the monstrosity showed them where to reset their lines to. They ended up having to reset their anchor too, at which stage I could see the lady friend, also of a certain age, was not coping too well. I asked them if I could help, which they gladly accepted and swam over through the not so kosher harbour water.

Spetses is a lovely spot however we failed to find a laundry but that was our secondary purpose as Dylan was ferrying in from Athens to join the boat. On the morning of Dylan’s arrival, I went shopping while Veronica remained on the boat. I was quite chuffed after getting 3 massive pork chops and some sausage for €9 which seemed a bargain. I arrived back at the tender, close to the boat to see this massive chartered catamaran reversing into the gap next to us. At the time I saw them they were heading straight for our bow. The first mate was down below and oblivious. I shouted to Veronica and she shot out of the companionway like a warthog with a red hot poker in its posterior, to fend off. They then proceeded to hang onto our guard rail with a boat hook. So we essentially now had their 16 ton catamaran hanging on the guard rail in a cross wind. Veronica tried to get them to let go but they hung on like a hyena. She did however, after some less than polite persuasion, get them to put the boat hook on the toe rail instead. Of course the problem here is we now have the weight and windage of two boats, both supported on our anchor and our upwind shore line, if either of those let go, both our boat and their boat will blow onto the boats downwind. The most amazing thing to me is they had never done stern line to shore mooring before and the whole crew were standing around totally clueless that they either had to have a swimmer or a tender to take the lines to the shore. They did not even have stern lines prepared or on a cleat. We had to explain this all to them while they were hanging on. I told them that they needed to go out of the slot prepare and come back in but the hyena jaw grip, in the form of the boat hook, stayed firmly clamped. The saga continued however, they did eventually send a swimmer ashore and luckily I was there to help. He was the clueless but blameless long-suffering boyfriend of the daughter now unfairly in the cross hairs. Of course their lines were not long enough. Eventually they got lines on but I noticed that the knot joining the upwind line was not good and sure enough, after about 15 minutes it parted. Everybody has to start somewhere but you just wish that people would read up a bit more and also think through and brief crew about what you have to do. Saying that we never moor like this in the Netherlands is no excuse when you are in Greece.

Dylan arrived, it was raining for the first time in a month and we had a fantastic meal out. The next morning as we left, two other boats had laid their anchor chain across ours. We were glad to have Dylan as both Dylan and I had go in the water, put a rope under the chains. We had to dive down and physically pull the anchors one by one over the top of our chain. We escaped Spetses, a fantastic place but a mooring nightmare and headed north for Koiladhia. I shall pick up from there in the next blog.