Chicks aboard!

I’ve nicked the title from a friend who commented on a picture we posted – all will become clear later.

We arrived in Greece last Sunday evening and it was 2330 by the time we got to our hotel in Piraeus. We had decided to spend three nights in a hotel rather than on the boat as the boatyard is a bit basic to say the least. This way, we were able to freshen up in a clean shower after spending the day on Nimmie. So, on Monday morning we caught the ferry from Piraeus to Paloukia in Salamina and then jumped in a taxi for the 10 minute taxi ride with two large bags, rucksacks and holdalls. Some of the work had been done but not all completed. Just as well we arrived a few days before we wanted to have her launched.

New lettering on the stern

Over the next two days we set about doing the various jobs required to get her launched but we hadn’t reckoned on either Greek bureaucracy or sparrow chicks. The former meant they had “lost” my online payment for the new Greek Cruising Tax that came into effect on May 9th and you only had 10 days grace to pay it. We were safe until we entered the water (and the authorities are being very keen to ensure people have paid it) so several hours of Wednesday were spent waiting in line at a bank to pay our €300 and hope it got credited to the correct account. The latter, sparrow chicks, was also a delaying factor. Local sparrows had built a nest in our boom and the eggs had hatched a few weeks ago according to our neighbour.

Who knew that birds liked to make nests in booms!

We were in a real quandary as to what to do. Luckily, on Thursday afternoon it appeared to have flown off so we were safe to launch. However, once we were on our way, we heard chirping again coming from the boom. Now, we aren’t sure whether this is a second chick or the original one but it’s joined us on our first passage of the season.

Launching was an uncomplicated affair with a low hydraulic trailer and a tractor. Twenty minutes was all it took.

Keeping it simple

Our journey from Salamina was uneventful although we had some great wind. We decided to only use the Genoa (front sail) so as not to disturb the chick if we used the main sail pso motorsailed all the way.

We are now in Palaia Epidhavros, anchored in the harbour for the next couple of days. Not sure what to do about the sparrow chick but a local sparrow must have heard it as it came to investigate once we had settled here. Hopefully, it will fly off soon. We’ll keep you posted.

Palaia (old) Epidhavros looking across to the other anchorage.
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Happy 21st birthday!

Nimmie reached the grand old age of 21 earlier this month so Jo popped over to Greece for a few days to check on her and, of course, wish her a happy birthday! We were slightly worried as there had been radio silence from the boatyard since mid December. No replies to emails or anyone answering the phone (not that we would be able to understand them if the English speaking nephew wasn’t in the office!). We were starting to worry that they’d gone out of business or just abandoned the yard. Jo sent an email in late March in Greek (thanks Duolingo and Google translate) to the office in case the problem was the nephew. Amazingly, within two hours we had a reply  from him and also his mobile number. Phew!

So, on a cool Monday afternoon in April, Jo set off down to Gatwick to fly out to Athens. Laden down with a suitcase full of boat stuff, she caught the bus from Athens airport to Piraeus where we’d found a cheap hotel for a couple of nights. Jo had decided to stay in a hotel in Piraeus and get the ferry and then taxi each day rather than stay on the boat in the boatyard as it was very basic there as well as being in the middle of nowhere.

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My commute each morning and evening!

The ferry was all of €2.90 each way and the taxi €7 so not exactly exorbitant. Salamina town is about a 20 min walk from the boatyard and then a couple of miles on to the ferry port at Paloukia, hence the need for a taxi part of the way. The ferry is a commuter boat taking people into Piraeus in the morning and stopping around 6/7pm at night. The hotel was only about 5 minute walk from the ferry dock.

It was useful to be over there as Jo met with the boatyard people to discuss the work that had yet to be done as well as try out the new portable solar panels that fold away. We were going to buy new solar panels at the Dusseldorf Boat Show to replace those on our aft deck but we decided to wait and get a new smart controller for the panels that will show us exactly what we are (or aren’t) getting through the current panels (no pun intended!) and then take it from there. The temporary panels don’t require any hard wiring so you can just clip the wires straight onto your battery bank.

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The new solar panels fitting neatly on the side

They were working well even in the April sunshine giving us nearly 6 amps of power. Very impressed. As they are portable, we can place them wherever is best for maximum exposure so this should help to keep the batteries topped up whilst we sort the fixed solar panels.

Generally, Nimmie was looking good after the winter but the real test will be when she is relaunched in May and we find out what’s decided to stop working in the preceding seven months because there is bound to be something.

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Reflections on our summer in Greece

2018 was our first summer living aboard in Greece. It was interesting to observe how different things appeared between when we first sailed there in 2003 and now. The biggest difference was the amount of rubbish. Tourist beaches were kept clean such as Elafonisos and Karathona were spotlessly maintained but those in isolated bays open to the prevailing wind or currents were covered with rubbish.

The Ionian was incredibly busy, although we were there in July and August so perhaps not surprising. There were a lot more skippered charter boats who seemed very happy to cut you up to get the last spot on a town quay. We weren’t that bothered so generally left them to it and found a quieter spot. We mainly anchored but mixed it up with a few town quays as these were relatively cheap at €8 per night excluding electricity or water. We only stayed in two marinas, Kalamata and Preveza. The former to resolve our charging problem and the latter to leave the boat for two weeks. When the bays are crowded and there isn’t enough room to swing at anchor, it’s common practice to take lines ashore so you don’t move but this can be a challenge in less than ideal conditions and with only two of you on board. We also learnt to ensure that we could release these long lines quickly in an emergency. We found the mainland a lot less crowded than the islands but still as pretty. If we did intend to go to a popular spot, we tried to go at the weekends on charter changeover days. As a result of all the charter boats there seemed to be a lot of wasps but we did find burning ground coffee helped. We also found that mosquitoes tended to stop biting you after a while, until we got to Salamina, off Piraeus, where they attacked with some ferocity at dawn and dusk – very reminiscent of Venice!

The Greek people were friendly and polite with almost everyone speaking English although a bit of Greek went down well. A lot of people smoked, especially young people which was a marked change from last year in Croatia. Although the shops in some places were finding it difficult to keep shelves stocked, we generally found good food shops in the more populated areas and some great finds on small islands. As with most of the Med, shop opening hours tended to be 0800-1300 and then 1730-2100. Local wine was very cheap in the shops and in the restaurants, as long as you bought it by the kilo! Greece is very much a cash economy and whilst you can pay by card in restaurants, anyone working on your boat wanted cash in hand.

Liz caught a lot more fish this year, all of which were very tasty. No tuna as such but definitely tuna family. In fact we caught more fish than we had the mainsail up. This was because the wind bends around the island so we were often head to wind despite changing direction. When the afternoon sea breeze kicked in we were able to sail downwind so only bothered with the genoa. However, when the wind did get up we had strong northwesterlies (Meltemi) and also needed to hole up for the Medicane that blew through in September. We were glad that we anchored when the Medicane came as we saw for ourselves the damage it had done to a number of boats that moored on town quays. This was mainly because the wind direction shifted from SE to NE to NW so it was very likely that surge would come from one of those directions and push your boat against the concrete quay. You can guess who would win that encounter! We found many delightful bays and islands, particularly off the beaten track. There was much wildlife including turtles, sea snakes and dolphins.

We had read that it can be difficult to get fuel in Greece but we found that it was relatively easy to find mini tankers who come along the town quays. The quality of the water was variable so using our watermaker worked well. Getting our gas bottles refilled was generally better than expected and certainly easier than Croatia. It was also cheaper at around €13 per refill.

We were surprised that a number of banks charged for withdrawing money from our pre loaded card. The only one we found that didn’t was Alpha Bank and luckily, they have a large number of branches across Greece. 

We travelled far less this year as the islands are much closer together and we only had one night sail (from Bari, Italy to Erikoussa, Greece). This meant that we could enjoy the places we visited in a more leisurely fashion. It also meant that we were subject to the prevailing wind conditions of Western Greece so that there was either little or no wind for most of the day, hence we motored or motorsailed – a lot!

We have updated our running costs and charted where we have been during 2018. We found Greece significantly cheaper than Croatia and Italy, spending less than €2,000 per month rather than over €3,000! One major difference between Croatia and Greece was the cost and type of mooring. We could anchor much more often and if we were on a town quay, the charges were pretty cheap (at €8 per night) or free.

Running costs 2018

Please click here for more details on mooring and statistics of our time in Greece.


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Preparing for winter

We left Aegina on Sunday morning, relieved that we hadn’t caught anyone’s anchor or chain and made our way up to Salamina, an island just west of Piraeus. This would be our winter mooring on the hard in the boatyard of a family run concern.

Both sails up – what a treat! Happy as pig in sh*t

We had a cracking sail to finish our season off in style. I suspect that we have caught more fish than the number of times we have had the mainsail up this year! Although we had to tack our way up to Salamina as, of course, the wind was on the nose, it was great to blast through the water one last time. We anchored off the boatyard for the night and had a really peaceful night’s sleep. No swell, no wash from passing boats and only the gentlest of breezes. Lovely.

The old fashioned way!

Next morning, we contacted the yard and they were ready for us so we carefully made our way to their slipway. The Koupetori yard uses the old fashioned method of hydraulic tractors to ‘lift’ you out rather than a travel hoist. This entails going alongside a barge to tie up with only centimetres under the keel and then the tractor with a hydraulic trailer is reversed into the water. Once underneath Nimmie, they lifted her up a bit, pulled her into the yard, washed her down (she was very clean so that didn’t take long) and put her into her supports. Whilst a bit nerve racking, it was all done with the minimum of fuss and took less than 30 minutes. The yard used to make wooden boats but when the Greek fishing industry collapsed they turned their hand to providing yacht services. It’s been a family business for three generations.

Up on her supports for the winter

We’ve spent the last few days getting Nimmie ready for winter. This means that we have to clean her inside and out, remove the genoa sail, wash all the ropes, make sure nothing can be damaged in a storm so removing the bimini and spray hood and doing the laundry. That doesn’t include the long list we have for when we leave her for 6 months. Frankly, it’s exhausting! We decided to stay on board even though this means that you have to climb down the ladder every time you want the loo or the shower. There are boats of every nationality here with our newest neighbours being from Latvia. Most people only stay on board a few days as it would be very tiresome to be here any length of time, especially as the mosquitoes are prevalent.

We did find time to get the ferry over to Piraeus and then get a taxi down to Glyfada to meet up with a friend, Ian, who lives there. It was great to catch up with him as we hadn’t seen him for at least 4 years. We had a lovely meal at one of his local haunts and caught the last ferry back at 7pm.

Lovely to catch up with Ian

Today, we fly back home having had a wonderful season out in Greece and we can’t complain that even in mid October we are wearing t shirts and shorts during the day. I suspect it won’t be quite as warm in the U.K.

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Aegina

We knew that another Meltemi was due on Wednesday so, we planned to get to Aegina Town on the island of the same name on Tuesday in case others had the same idea! This would then only leave us a few hours sail up to our winter berth at Salamina, near Piraeus.

First, though, we wanted to have one last night in a tranquil bay and possibly a last swim. We motored north to the island of Agristri and found a lovely bay with turquoise water and no one else. Perfect. We dropped the anchor and whilst we had a late lunch, a fishing boat came into the bay. It was fascinating watching them at work.

Someone has to work!

Afterwards we made our way ashore to explore. Sadly, the head of the bay was covered in rubbish. I suspect it was blown in whenever there is a strong northerly. So sad but something we have really noticed these last months. If a bay is not inhabited then the rubbish doesn’t get collected. We walked to one of only three settlements on the island. We did get a few strange glances from the locals but as soon as you said ‘kalispera’ (good afternoon) you got at least a nod back. The island has an inland seawater lagoon and a couple of other bays but otherwise not much. We settled in for a quiet evening knowing that the wind was due to come round to the North in the morning, which would make for an uncomfortable berth. Of course, this happened at 3am not 9am so by 8 we had enough and left for Aegina.

Nimmie at anchor on Agristri

When we arrived at Aegina Town, there weren’t too many free berths on the North quay where we knew we would be very sheltered from the Meltemi but there was one right next to Shindig, our Westerly neighbours in Vathy. Although it was windy in the harbour, we dropped the anchor and came in pretty effectively. We tied up and sorted ourselves out. Unfortunately a short time later, a boat three down from us had somehow managed to snag our chain as they were pulling their own anchor up. Sometimes when that happens they sort themselves out and we drop our chain and the anchor isn’t disturbed. Not this time. When we tightened our anchor the chain kept coming in so they had obviously dislodged it which meant we had to go out and re-anchor. By this point, the wind had got up more and we ended up with our anchor at an angle to our boat so we were over Shindig’s chain. Luckily, they weren’t leaving anytime soon! Also, we had dropped our anchor too far out so as we went astern we ran out of chain and that stopped us dead in our tracks so we made contact with our other neighbour. Luckily, just a little mark which soon rubbed off but Jo was so mortified that we gave them a pack of beer as an apology.

We figured we would be here for several days as the strong winds were forecast to last until at least Sunday so we rented a couple of scooters to explore the island.

Great fun exploring the island

The island is rich in history as remains dating back to 2500BC have been found. Indeed, just north of Aegina town is the Temple of Apollo that sits on top of Bronze Age settlements. Legend has it that Zeus sent one of his lovers, Aigina, to the island and gave birth to his son, Alakos. Venetian sailors used to use the column that is left as a navigation aid.

The Temple of Apollo

In the centre of the island is a settlement called Paleohora where we found the ruins of 35 churches dating back to the Middle Ages. It was completely open and we saw just a couple of other people there. Fascinating. We also went to the Temple of Aphaia to the north east part of the island with amazing views across to Piraeus.

Temple of Aphaia

The southern harbour of Perdika was a delightful spot for coffee and cake. Pistachios are everywhere on the island and we happened to find a coffee shop that specialised in pistachio pie. It was really more like a cake and, my goodness, it was heavenly.

The most delicious pistachio pie!

Away from the exploring, we have been busy getting jobs done in preparation for Nimmie being lifted out. We did get the bikes out and cycled just north of the town where there are several boatyards to see whether any of them are viable options for next year. Most of them were pretty rudimentary with bits of wood holding up the boats rather than metal cradles. They were also very close to the sea with little protection so I doubt if we will use them.

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Saronic Gulf – final week sailing

We left Mandraki Bay on Hydra on Thursday October 4th in almost flat calm conditions. It seems amazing that only a few days before, all hell was letting loose with the weather gods. Still we weren’t complaining. We motored for about an hour to the corner of the Peloponnese that would signify us finally making it into the Saronic Gulf, where we will overwinter. It feels good to know that we are only a day sail away from the boatyard on Salamis island, near Piraeus.

We stopped for lunch on the corner of the island of Spathi where it was turquoise water and blue skies.

Spathi – a lovely lunchtime spot

We had thought about staying there overnight but it was a little bit too exposed to the northerlies that were due so we continued around the corner to the island of Poros.

The monastery of Zoodochou Peges

We anchored in Monastery Bay and then walked up the hill to the monastery.

Monastery Bay with Nimmie in the picture!

It was a lovely spot although the bay itself had seen better days and was probably indicative of the financial crisis in Greece. There was no spare money to sort out the rubbish and the dilapidated buildings. It also turned out to be one of the most rolly anchorages we had ever been in. The wind died and so we sat beam on to any wash coming from the ferries, yachts and fishing boats that were making their way to Poros Town. By 8am the next morning we were ready to move on to Poros Town Quay. We knew it was very popular so we wanted to get in early as people were leaving.

Poros Town is a lovely place sitting on the south side of the tiny island in an incredibly protected channel. It’s only a short sea taxi ride between Poros and the mainland town of Galatas but they are worlds apart in terms of prosperity. Poros is clearly a tourist destination with cute shops in steep, little alleyways as you walk up away from the harbour front. We ended spending two nights there and having a couple of meals out.

Poros Town

On Saturday evening we had cocktails watching the sunset behind the mountain range known as the Sleeping Lady – we will leave it to you to work out why so named!

The Sleeping Lady

Refreshed, we left Sunday morning to go onto the peninsular of Methana and the little harbour of Vathy. It’s now very popular with flotillas so we were hoping that Sunday would be a quiet day. There was no wind so we motored all the way round (some 20nm). When we arrived, there were only 3 boats there so we tied up to the quay and met our neighbours, 3 Australians with another Westerly boat, a Westerly 490.

Nimmie with her big sister, Shindig

Vathy is a delightful place with nothing but a few fishing boats and a few tavernas.

Vathy Harbour, Methana

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Hydra and back to vest tops and shorts

We stayed in Porto Cheli for a couple of days to take advantage of being securely tied up against a quay. Porto Cheli had suffered quite badly in the storms with debris blown around and boats damaged. Once the storm had passed, the sun came out and temperatures were back into the 20s.

Mosaics in Spetses

We decided to take a ferry to the nearby island of Spetses as the wind direction made the small harbour there untenable. It was a quick visit as the ferry was nearly two hours late leaving Porto Cheli but was on time coming back! Spetses town is quite sweet with lovely nautical themed stone mosaics around the place. There are very few cars so most people get around on scooters and quad bikes with the occasional bicycle.

Back to vest tops and shorts – hurrah!

The next day (Tuesday, Oct 2nd), we continued our journey eastwards, slightly earlier than planned as a boat three down from us had their anchor under ours. We awoke with a start as the chain rumbled loudly, a sure sign of a crossed anchor. We had intended to go directly to the island of Hydra but we diverted to the small island of Dokos.

Sunrise on Dokos

We found a lovely bay to spend the afternoon and night with goats on the shoreline and a little chapel. Unfortunately, we also saw a huge amount of rubbish on the shore which is such a shame. However, there was a spectacular sunrise the next day.

After an early start, we headed 5nm to the island of Hydra. We’d intended to go into the main harbour but when we saw the ensuing chaos with too many boats trying to get into too few places even by 10am, we went and anchored in the bay next door. Mandraki Bay is about a 30 minute walk from the main town of Hydra but you couldn’t get a calmer feel. It’s quite a deep bay so most people drop the anchor and take lines ashore. We waited to make sure Nimmie was settled and then headed for Hydra town. By the time we got there around 1pm, all the spaces on the quays were full and people were rafting in front of them. Now, some of you will be familiar with rafting alongside so that boats are tied together along the length of the boat and then onto the quay or pontoon. Here people were stern to the quay with their anchor out and the next lot also put their anchor out and then motored back in between the bows of two boats and secure their sterns to the bows of said boats. How chaos doesn’t ensue in the morning, I’ll never know but I’m sure it does!

Mooring Hydra style!

Hydra also doesn’t have many cars. In fact, only a few commercial trucks are allowed so if you need a taxi then you can choose between a boat or a four legged variety.

By sea or by pony?

It was a vibrant, up market place even though clearly catering for tourists. A walk back to check Nimmie was okay and found a lot more boats in the bay, including one that decided to free anchor in front of us! Drinks and dinner on board before retiring to a very peaceful night’s sleep.

Pre dinner drinks in Mandraki Bay

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Meltemi and Medicane

As you know from our last post, we found ourselves a bolt hole in Karathona Bay, near Nafplio in the Eastern Peloponnese. The winds came on Tuesday afternoon as predicted but, as a result of where we had chosen, we only saw gusts of 26 knots rather than 40. The Meltemi (north east) winds raged for three days but thankfully they eased each night. It was cold and damp with the occasional rain shower. Liz managed to get into nearby Nafplio to get fresh bread and milk on the Tuesday but otherwise we didn’t get off the boat until today (Sunday).

Waiting for bad weather is actually quite tiring. You make sure that everything is lashed down, reduce windage by taking the bimini down and ensure that you have plenty of chain out. At one point, there were only two boats in the bay and you wonder whether you’ve made the right decision. Then the storms come and you don’t move so you know you’ve chosen a good spot. By being slightly north of the winds, we reduced the impact and with the bay we reduced the swell.

On Friday, we knew we had a day of respite before the Medicane came through, except that it rained for most of the day so there was no point going ashore. We debated whether we should go further south to Porto Cheli as the winds hadn’t been as strong as forecast for the Meltemi. In the end we stayed put as we knew we were well dug in and we wouldn’t have to worry about other boats so much.

Saturday morning was eerily quiet, the real calm before the storm, and then at 1100 hours, a bit earlier than forecast, the wind started to build and build. In the end we had 10 hours of 35-40 knot gusts from the East/Northeast and torrential rain of biblical proportions – Nimmie won’t need washing down for a while! Then the winds eased a little (gusting around 30 knots) and moved around to the Northwest with the barometer starting to rise from a low of 999. (I’m not sure I’ve ever been in the Med when the barometer has been so low.) That’s when we knew knew the storm had passed. We had survived with no damage. However, it wasn’t the best time to have to change the gas bottle! We checked that our nearest boat was also okay and it looked like all 7 boats in the bay were fine. Despite being in a sheltered bay, we still had a very rolly sea to contend with for most of the night and it didn’t stop raining until midnight. Despite being exhausted, we set an anchor watch every two hours to check nothing had changed.

The Medicane – an arrow to mark where we were

By morning the barometer had risen to 1021 and, although it was still raining, the winds were much more manageable. We decided to head south to Porto Cheli to either go onto the town quay if there was room or anchor in the large bay. The winds were still quite strong at 20 knots but behind us so we surfed along at 7 knots for three hours or so. We managed to get one of the last remaining spaces on the quay.

Porto Cheli is in a natural harbour and so quite sheltered normally. However, we have seen at least 6 boats who have smashed their transoms (back of the boat) on the quay yesterday so they had clearly been pushed back onto the quay with some force. It vindicated our decision to stay put!

Porto Cheli Town Quay on the left

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Monemvasia

We left Kythira on Saturday morning, having handed the rental car back and topped up with water. We had about a 30nm journey to the ancient town of Monemvasia. The name means ‘single entrance’ and you can see why. The spectacular town and fortress are on a towering rock that is only accessible by a causeway. As usual, there was no wind in the morning which was good as it meant that we were able to round Cape Maleas in pretty flat seas. We were able to sail/motor sail in the afternoon, arriving in front of the town around 5pm. We popped our heads into the marina to see if there was any space to go alongside the harbour wall but it was full. You can go stern to onto the pontoons there but they are exposed if you go on the north quay and rubbish holding if you go onto the south quay. The conditions were benign but we wanted the option of maybe staying longer and sitting out the strong Meltemi that was coming through on Tuesday. So, we anchored outside in about 5m.

Monemvasia behind Liz

Liz went off on the paddle board and started to collect various bits of flotsam and jetsam that had been blown into the bay to put in the rubbish bin rather than them getting wrapped around a boat prop. Then we went over to the town in the dinghy for an explore. The town at the bottom of the causeway is called Yerifa, which means ‘bridge’. It’s quite sweet and has some very good food shops including a wonderful butcher’s. Back on board for G&Ts and dinner.

A real Venetian feel to Monemvasia

We got up early as we knew one of the yachts was leaving so we wanted their space alongside. By 0730 we were tied up feeling very pleased with ourselves. However, by lunchtime, all but one of the boats alongside had left so we didn’t need to get up quite so early! Still, it meant we could spend the day exploring the old town with its narrow alleyways, squares and amazing views.

The narrow alleyways added to the atmosphere

They don’t allow cars there, and you would never get them through the gates, so we took a shuttle bus up to the West Gate. What a place.

The fortified town was first built in 6th Century by the Byzantines, taken by the Franks and then retaken by the Byzantines. The city looked to Venice for security and during their tenure, many of the fortifications were enhanced. It was held by the Turks a couple of times before the Greek War of Independence claimed it for Greece. The place is full of atmosphere and all the buildings had been renovated very sympathetically. We wandered around and then had lunch overlooking the bay. Back to Nimmie for an afternoon nap (it was very hot when sheltered from the wind) before back up to the old town for cocktails on a roof terrace.

Cocktails watching the full moon

Next day, Monday 24th September, we set off early as one of the strongest Meltemi (NE winds) was coming through the Med with projected winds of over 55 knots (60mph) and we wanted to find a safe spot to see it out.

Monemvasia in the early morning light

We had decided to go 60nm North to the top of Argolikos Bay in the Peloponnese near Navplion into a small bay called Karathona. The winds there were forecast to only be around 30 rather than 55 and the holding was supposed to be excellent.

As usual, no wind to start with but then we were able to sail downwind with the afternoon breeze. On the way, Liz caught another fish which has been identified as a Bonito, part of the tuna family so that’s supper sorted!

Another tasty catch

We arrived to find the bay empty of boats so we had our pick of spots so, of course, Liz opted for opposite the beach bar and as close in as we dared. Settled in, we went ashore as that might be the only time we can both leave the boat. We bought a beer at the beach bar (to get the WiFi code) and then wandered along the bay. It had an end of season feel to it with some of the bars taking down decking although there were still plenty of people on the beach.

There are worse places to be storm bound!

Today, Liz went into town (about a 40 minute walk away from the beach) and Jo stayed on board in case it all blew up early. Now settled in for the night with another 5 boats around us watching the wind built. Not sure how much sleep we will get for the next three days but at least we should be safe here.

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Kythira – birthplace of Aphrodite

The journey across to Kythira early on Friday morning, September 21st, was uneventful. After the windy conditions of the previous 4 days, it was devoid of wind although the sea still had some swell. Part of the sailing directions include the unmistakable shipwreck of the cargo ship, Nordland, which landed on the nearby island of Fidonisi in 2000. It looks as if the captain was trying to beach it!

We arrived into the port of Diakofti to find ourselves the only ones there so we tied up alongside next to the ferry quay. The quay was high so it was challenging for Liz to get off but with benign conditions, all went well. Whilst Diakofti isn’t the most interesting of places, it was free and it does have a car rental place by the port so we were able to hire a car for 24 hours to tour the island.

Kythira is part of the Ionian Islands despite the fact that it is only 12 miles south of the Peloponnese. Whilst it is about the size of Zakynthos, it only has 3,354 residents spread over 66 villages and is a sleepy sort of place. It was first inhabited by the Minoans in 3,000BC. In 2017 there was a major fire that destroyed a quarter of the land bringing havoc to the economy as tourists then stayed away. The fire started with a carelessly discarded cigarette butt but impacted many livelihoods. We saw the remnants of the blackened vegetation for miles during our tour, which was such a shame as the selling points of the island are the fauna, flora and walking tours.

We stopped for lunch at Mylopotamos (mill on the river) where there was a lovely square with a river (dry at the moment), ducks, geese and a fab taverna. The place had a lovely feel to it with everywhere well looked after. A real sense of civic pride. We walked to the site of their waterfall which alas was dry given the hot summer. I suspect this would be a lovely place to visit in the spring.

Lunch stop

We then went on an expedition to find the Green Pool (never found it) and the Temple of Aphrodite. The temple was supposed to be at Paliokastro. We found the signpost off the road and started hiking up the track. We then saw that it was fenced off but undaunted, we clambered over and continued. Another 20 mins on, we could see we were getting closer only to be met with a billy goat and a ram who both were protecting their respective herds. There was no way either of them were going to let us pass!

Oh well, onto Kapsali on the south coast. A lovely harbour with a Venetian fort overlooking the bay. Had a really good feel to the place. There was a recently unveiled plague to the men of HMS Gloucester who were killed when the ship sank in Kythiran waters in May 1941.

Kapsali, Kithera

On the way back, we went to the Bridge at Katouni, which was built by the British in 1823 – no idea why!

Katouni Bridge

Back to the boat for supper and to watch the ferry come in. Amazing to see articulated lorries coming off the ferry with inches to spare above them. The next morning we left to make the 30nm journey north to Monemvasia on the mainland.

That’s how close to the ferry we were!

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