Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Corinth Canal & Delphi

I am writing this having still not managed to post the previous update as we haven’t been able to find an internet cafĂ© anywhere we have stopped.

So what has happened, well after leaving Epidhavros we sailed to Korfos where we met up again with our friends Ian & Sue on Pulsar II, as we planned to go through the canal together. We had to stay at anchor in Korfos for two nights as the canal is closed on Tuesdays for maintenance.

On Wednesday 1st August (perfect planning!) we passed through the Corinth Canal that joins the Gulf of Corinth to the Aegean Sea. The canal divides the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland and is just 3.2 miles long. For its length it is the most expensive piece of waterway in the world but it saves the long journey round the bottom of Greece. It is only 25m wide and as you pass through it you see various colours of paint left on the vertical limestone sides that rise up to 76m by the large cargo and cruise ships that pass through the canal. It is an amazing sight and you can’t believe that such large ships are taken through, it felt narrow even in Tiamat.

Having successfully negotiated the canal and with our wallets considerably lighter we motored to the town of Itea, which is on the North side of the Gulf of Corinth. Here we tied up to the quay of the ‘unfinished’ marina for three nights, taking the opportunity to fill up with diesel again.

As well as it being a convenient stopping off point whilst going through the Gulf, the real reason for coming to Itea was so we could visit the site of Ancient Delphi. This is one of the most spectacular and beautiful classical sites in Greece and was regarded by the Greeks to be the centre of the world. Delphi sits high up the side of Mt Parnassos and is surrounded by sheer cliffs and ravines. It is an impressive sight with the remains of temples stretching over a wide area. This was a real highlight of this years trip.

From Itea we continued west through the Gulf to the wonderful little island of Trizonia. Here we were able to tie up alongside in another of the ‘unfinished’ marinas that seem to be prevalent in Greece. Trizonia is a very small relatively unspoilt island that is even vehicle free. There is an idyllic little fishermen’s wharf which has some good Tavernas along the edge and there are lovely walks around the island through old untouched Olive Groves.

Unfortunately we became trapped in Trizonia for 5 nights, longer than we originally planned, as the wind decided to blow 30knt straight down the Gulf, whipping the sea up and sending gusts into the marina that kept us pinned against the quay. Even if we wanted to there was no way we could get off the wall so we just had to sit it out. On the plus side if you are going to be trapped somewhere I can’t think of a much better place for it to happen.

Finally after 5 days the wind dropped and we were able to leave early in the morning before the wind returned. We motored down the Gulf in a steadily rising wind but as we neared the new Rion Bridge that links the mainland to the Peloponnese, the wind dropped and we passed under the central span of this very impressive structure with only a slight breeze. We were very relieved as the wind and seas in the area of the bridge have an awesome reputation.

From the bridge we motored into the Gulf of Patras and on to the port of Missalonghi on the northern side. Missalonghi stands on salt flats and is reached by a 3 mile dredged narrow channel. The entrance to the channel has some interesting fishermen’s houses standing on stilts in the shallow water. The other thing that the port is known for is the two large turtles that inhabit the basin. We were lucky enough to see one of them blissfully sleeping on the surface and quite unaware of Tiamat as we drifted alongside.

Now the next part of our voyage begins, the Ionian. It is the 9th August and we have the rest of the month to slowly make our way up to Corfu. The weather is turning much warmer again and they are forecasting a return to the 40C plus temperatures we had earlier. We do think of you all back in the UK in the wet and cold !

Take care.

Duncan & Kim.

Strong Winds & High Temperatures

The title of this entry just about sums up the last three weeks which have been busy and varied. Firstly though sorry for the delay in posting another update and also for replying to emails but this is the first opportunity we have had to get on the internet in the last three weeks. Where we have been anchoring there were no internet cafes.

In the last update I said we planned to pickup Peter and then sail North and West to try and get out of the worst of the Meltemi and this we managed mainly to do. We had to stay in Naxos for a day after Peter arrived as the winds were strong but this gave us a chance to have another look round and for Peter to recover as he had flown in from the Maldives.

As the wind was still blowing the next day we did the short hop to Paros and stayed sheltered at anchor in a lovely bay for the next two nights. As the wind then dropped a little we were able to motor and sail north to the island of Kithnos. Here we found a fantastic anchorage (Merikha) behind a small islet that was joined to the main island by a sand causeway and there was even a nice little Taverna overlooking the bay. In the evening a herd of about 50 goats made their way across the sand causeway from the islet back to the main island, it appears they do this every night.

Unfortunately as we needed to get further north we were only able to stay there the one night and then moved onto the island of Kea where we anchored in the small harbour and went ashore in the evening and had a lovely meal in a restaurant on the quay.

Next stop was a bay in the south of a small island called Petaloi, as this would then give us an easy run into the mainland of Greece where we could drop Peter off for his plane from Athens airport. That was the plan and luckily we had allowed a little contingency as on the way to Petaloi the wind dropped and then came back strongly from the North. By the time we reached the bay it was really blowing and we had 2 reefs in the sails. That night the wind continued to build and so we spent the following day sheltering in the bay rather than moving to the mainland as planned. The bay was beautiful however very unspoilt and isolated so it was no problem staying there just that Peters plane left the following afternoon!

The following morning we got up early before sunrise and set off for the mainland with two reefs in the mainsail and a small Genoa. The plan was to try and beat the wind and when we left it was reasonable. As the sun came up so did the wind and the seas but we made the mainland and the bay of Rafti just before things got too rough. We anchored in the bay and after a good liquid lunch we said goodbye to Peter. It had been a great week catching up with him again and he enjoyed being back on a sailing boat for a week, it had been too long since he last was onboard.

We continued to stay in Rafti as the following day Alex (my daughter) was flying in to join us for a two week holiday. Once Alex arrived we still had to stay a further day in Rafti as the wind was still blowing and the seas were very rough. Unfortunately the wind had also gone round to the east a little and this brought the swell into the bay which was very uncomfortable so even though the wind had not gone down much we decided to make a run for it the next day. Once out in the open sea we realised how big the waves were but by now it was easier to keep going rather than fight our way back so with a small Genoa we had an exciting and fast sail down wind back to the island of Kea where this time we went on the quay as we needed fuel and water.

We spent two nights in Kea and then reached across back to the mainland and into a lovely but busy bay at Sounion. On the cliff overlooking the bay are the ruins of a Temple to Poseidon which we climbed up to in the afternoon.

The following morning we upped anchor early and sailed south across the Gulf of Saronica. The wind gradually increased during the morning and by lunchtime we were having a great sail past the island of Idhra. As the wind was perfect and we were enjoying ourselves and making such good time we pressed on rather than stopping as originally planned and by late afternoon we arrived at the picturesque port of Porto Kheli. Here we met up with our old friends Ian and Sue on Pulsar II and spent several days lazing around, catching up on gossip and drinking! This part of Greece is very sheltered and the temperatures soared. Everyday it was around 40 C in the shade, much too hot to do anything other than fall in the water and try and cool off.

After a few days we decided we had better move so made the short motor to Koiladhia. Here we managed to catch sight of the couple of Turtles that inhabit the bay. Then it was time to start working our way slowly back northwards to get in ferry distance to Athens so Alex could catch her flight at the end of the week.

Still no wind so we had to motor to Ormos Skindos a bay on a totally uninhabited island. A beautiful place with lovely clear water. During the evening we saw several Fire Planes fly overhead and when we awoke in the morning the boat looked like it was covered in snow! Tiamat had a fine dusting of ash all over and there was a smell of wood burning in the air. When we left the bay we soon discovered where it was coming from. The island of Idhra was well ablaze and must have been burning all night. We could see flames shooting high in the air and the fire was being fanned by a strong breeze that had got up. As we passed the island we saw the Fire planes return and slowly they appeared to bring the fire under control although it continued to burn for another day.

On the way to Poros, our destination, Kim noticed a puff of smoke on the hill that overlooks the town. As we watched the smoke increased and within no time there were flames shooting high in the air. All afternoon we watched the fire planes attack the fire until they finally had it out. You may have seen on the news that Greece has really suffered from forest fires this summer as it has been so hot and dry and everywhere we go we can see the signs of past blazes.

Poros island is separated from the coast of the Peleponnisos by a very narrow and shallow channel and as we approach the town of Poros from the east we had to run along as close to the quay and moored boats as we dared in order to find deep enough water. Poros town is a picturesque little village which has been over run by tourists, especially at weekends, as it is a fast ferry ride away from Athens but we found it pleasant for a short stay. The fist night we stayed at anchor in the bay and then we moved onto the quay so that we could fill up with water.

Then it was onto the island of Aigina so that Alex could catch the hydrofoil ferry back to the mainland and the plane back to the UK. Alex caught the first ferry so we sailed on to the port of Epidhavros and dropped anchor in the really nice bay. That evening there was a handicraft market and Greek dancing on the quay; needless to say we didn’t join in the dancing!

The next morning we got up early before it became too hot and took a taxi to the ruins of Epidhavros which is famous for its stunning ancient theatre built around 330 BC. The theatre is almost complete and has amazing acoustics, anyone standing and speaking in the centre of the ‘stage’ can be heard clearly from any part of the 54 tiers of seats that could hold an audience of 14,000. As well as the theatre there is are ruins of temples, baths, a gymnasium, etc spread out over a large area. It was certainly worth the visit.

So now we are getting ready to cross through the canal back to the west coast of Greece and the Ionian islands.

Have just realised how much I have written and rambled on, sorry, but I hope you enjoy it. Will try and keep it shorter next time. Not sure when I will be able to post this as good internet connections are few and far between where we are at the moment.

We will post the next instalment when we are through the Gulf of Corinth.

Hope you are all well. Duncan & Kim.