Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Kalamata to Zakynthos via Methoni, Koroni, Pilos and others!

Koroni Castle
With Jaco safely onboard we finally set off westwards. Our first stop was a short hop away across the bay to Petalidhion; a small town, apparently with not much to offer, (we didn't go ashore) but a good anchorage in NW winds and ideal in the time available.
Next morning we set off south to Koroni, a much more interesting place, where we anchored for lunch in the bay to the west of the town and then, in the evening, we motored back into the bay under the walls of the castle, to the south of the main harbour.
View of the harbour from the Monastery at Coroni.
A delightful anchorage but in the bay that we chose a little bit of care is needed. There are some rocks on the 4m line which are just below the surface, and easy to miss. Fortunately we saw them and anchored clear. The next morning we set off to explore the town plus visit the castle and monastery (the latter being inside the former). It is a delightful place and well worth a visit. A town not quite forgotten by time but very tranquil.
That afternoon we sailed off the anchor, headed slowly round Ak. Livadhia and headed for the anchorage at Maratho; in the event we did not go that far.
The major (but now derelict) chapel of the castle
As we approached Ak. Akritas, the southern tip of the western arm of the Peloponnese, the wind died and we noticed an enticing bay just to the east of the Cape. Thirty minutes later we were anchored there, with the bay to ourselves; swimming and sun were the order of the day and two hours later we settled down to a G&T, on deck, to watch the setting sun. Another piece of paradise.
Kurukulla anchored in bay to east of Ak Akritas
Next day we sailed off the anchor, ghosted around Ak Akritas, and headed for Maratho, this was to surpass even the anchorage of the previous night! A fantastic enclosed bay with two beaches to choose from and relatively well protected. We fortunately chose to anchor off the northern beach; not only because the holding and beach were better but we later discovered a team on the eastern beach who were preparing for a “Music Festival” to be held in two weeks time. The east beach could be reached by an unsurfaced road, the north beach had no such connection. The location was so fantastic that we decided to stay two nights and BBQ'd on the beach the second night; it was then that we met Johannes, a man of the road, who was constructing a path to connect the two beaches.
The bay at Maratho
He was not being paid for his work, had not been asked to do it but had just taken the initiative and was busily constructing a half mile path, across difficult terrain, of his own. He also spoke good English! Asked when he would move on … “When the path is finished”..... He will leave his mark on the place in his own particular way. Good for him.....
From Maratho it was a very gentle sail to Finakounda where we anchored off the beach, debated going ashore and set sail again. Not an unpleasant place but seemed rather commercialised after the tranquillity of the past two days. We chose instead to go to Port Longos on Nisos Sapientza. The bay here has two possible anchorages and I had been here before. The northern anchorage looks attractive but proved to be very poor holding and rock strewn so after two attempts to find good holding we eventually opted for the southern part where I had anchored before. Sadly the fish farm has expanded and this is now all but impossible to anchor in.
Anchorage at N end of Nisos Skhiza
The space is very limited and again the holding not great, the result being that you cannot find enough room to swing to the anchor. After another fruitless hour, trying to find a suitable spot, we gave up and headed for the less protected but much easier anchorage at Ornos Sapientza, a mile and a half up the coast.
This was much better, good holding, a beach to ourselves and idyllic surroundings. It is totally open to the SE but this was not a problem with the current forecast and sea conditions.
Next morning, after a leisurely swim, we set off for Methoni with an afternoon lunch stop in the anchorage NE of Ak. Kolivri.
Methoni harbour
Methoni is another of my favourite towns and this too was to be a two day stop so that we could get to know the town better and visit the castle etc.
Methoni Harbour
The great discovery was the taverna called “Old Story”, situated 200m back from the waterfront. Excellent food and delightful owners who had mover here to escape the turmoil of Athens some years before. The photographs of Methoni will speak for themselves.
From Methoni it was onwards to Navarino Bay, scene of the last great battle between wooden sailing ships; it was here that Admiral
Self at Methoni Castle
Codrington led a combined British, French and Russian Fleet into the bay where the combined Turkish and Egyptian fleet were anchored. One Turkish ship decided to open fire and, despite the lack of any declaration of war between the parties, the British led squadron took up the challenge. They were heavily outnumbered in ships and guns; however, they succeeded in devastating the combined Turkish/Egyptian Fleet and weakened their ability to resupply their occupying forces to such an extent that Greece was able to use the opportunity to advance their fight for independence, this they achieved some years later. The monument in Pilos town square commemorates the battle and the three Admirals commanding the combined British/French/Russian fleet.
Methoni Tower from the Castle
With a NW wind forecast we initially chose to anchor in the northern end of the bay, 4 miles from Pilos town, for the first night only and from here we walked northwards along the edge of the lagoon to the small bay at Voidhokoilia where we hoped to anchor the next night. Sadly this was not to be, the weather turned foul for 48 hours and in the event we spent two days in Pilos “Marina”. This is yet another EU funded “white elephant”, unfinished, unloved and untidy.
Panorama at north end of Navarino Bay, showing bay (R) and lagoon (L)
A waste of EU money and totally neglected.
How else do you tie up?
Even the Coastguard smash holes in the pontoons to create points to tie up their vessel. If they, a Government Agency, commit such acts of vandalism what hope is there!
Monument to battle of Navarino and Admiral Codrington
We were also in need of water, there are two working taps in the whole marina, one for the coastguard (locked) and the other for a small (2 boat) charter operation that operates from there. A polite request for us to take water was refused. Amazing! Later a “traveller” came round asking for
Pilos marina
“Payment for the Marina” which on further questioning became “€10 for security”. My request for some proof of his authority to collect money went unanswered; he went away empty handed....
From Pilos we had a cracking good sail to Kaparissia, on the wind but with 15 to 20 kts over the deck for most of the way. Only in the last two miles did the wind die away.
Kaparissia harbour is another EU “White elephant”. The outer breakwater has recently been extended to give good shelter from all directions and so it is now a good place to shelter....but, .. the harbour is resoundingly empty and although we managed to spot a water supply on the NE arm of the harbour, and quickly took advantage of it, we were soon informed by a local that the “Port Police” are not keen on yachts being alongside.
Kiparissia Harbour
That explained the reason for the mile or so of empty quay and the five yachts (the only vessels of any size in the harbour) anchored in the middle! It is tempting to ask “who paid for all this?” That night we went ashore for a meal. After a long search and walking a half mile to the centre of the town we found the only open taverna that we could find. Good though some of the food was, it was a long way to walk to be left with no choice! Kaparissia is a good place to run for shelter if the weather turns bad but not a great “Run Ashore”.
From here it was a 30 mile fetch up the coast to Katakolon; another newly built or extended harbour. We decided to anchor in the bay overnight and enjoy the beautiful clear water and sand. Next morning we decided to go into the harbour and see what the town was like. (It is also a calling point for cruise liners so that they can ship their clients to Olympus from here.). On arrival in the “marina” (yet another EU White Elephant) we were greeted by the watchman who informed us that it would be €15 to berth there. When told we only wanted to stay for 2 hours and that the first 2 hours should be free he reduced this to €10! We didn't stay!
Katakolon "Marina"
We anchored 30m off the quay and rowed ashore. I headed straight for his office and demanded a copy of the price list. “No, only if you are staying here.” was his defensive reply When questioned again about the amount he had tried to take from us this became “€10 for the night and yes the first two hours were free!”. The man was a lying thief and I told him so. I also threatened to report him to the Port Police, (I didn't do so because that would have involved us in a process which could have gone on for ever and he probably knew that!) As we were departing we spotted the pontoons for the marina rotting on the wasteland to the north of the harbour wall. They have never been installed and now have concrete cancer! Another marina investment spoilt by the total lack of interest in looking after, managing and maintaining that which the EU has funded for them. After two hours we left for Zakynthos.
The sail across to Zakynthos was a gentle beat to windward and we finally arrived in Porto Roma, on the SE tip of Zakynthos, at 1800. We dropped anchor in the centre of the bay where the protection from the wind was best and the noise from the beach tavernas and hotels was least. Here we stayed for nearly 24 hours.
The cascade of rubbish, fly tipped!
The only sadness was the “cascade” of rubbish fly tipped from the top of the cliff and collecting on the beach below or worse still being washed into the sea. No wonder the seas round Greece are full of plastic! Next afternoon we had another visitor, a tourist boat, who anchored 20m from us in an otherwise empty bay, what is it with these people? Half an hour later the wind changed and they had to beat a hasty retreat before their boarding gangway hit us as they swung towards us.
and then the wind changed........
They missed by 1m but not before some of their swimmers had been forced to abandon their water toys and make a scramble for the boat! Sheer stupidity on the part of the skipper.
As the day drew to a close we moved into the harbour at Zakynthos town and berthed stern to alongside the other yachts. The plan was that Jaco would leave from here and I would spend the next few days around the island awaiting the next crew member, Tim, to arrive. Needless to say a quick walk along the waterfront confirmed that Zakynthos marina had only gone backwards since my last visit three years back, still dirty, still derelict with no pontoons or facilities; empty except for a few local small craft and tourist boats (some abandoned).
That night Greece qualified for the next stage of the World Cup, the town exploded into celebrations at 0200 in the morning with car horns sounding, motorbike tyres screeching and festivities all round. If only the Greeks would address their other challenges with the same enthusiasm!!!!
More when I leave Zakynthos.........

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

From Kithera into the Peloponnese – Sun, Rain and Gales!

Departing Kythera
After a relatively pleasant night anchored in Platia Ammos, Kithera, it was time to make my way north, towards Yithion, where I was to meet my next set of guests. The choice was to go now, in windy but not unpleasant conditions, or wait a day, until Saturday and see what the gods would offer 24 hours later. I decided not to trust the gods and got underway there and then. It was a relatively pleasant close reach up into the gulf, “Lakonikos Kolpos” and as ever, having covered 75% of the distance without a struggle, the winds headed us making the final 7 – 8 miles a beat to windward in choppy seas. C'est la vie!
Anchored in Yithion
Notwithstanding the vagaries of the wind the conditions were sunny and warm and the anchorage at Yithion welcoming and calm.
I decided to stay in the anchorage overnight and to move into the harbour the next day. I had a day in hand as my guests were not expected to arrive before the early evening of Sunday. In the event I rowed ashore next morning to do battle with the Vodafone shop staff (I was, and still am, being royally ripped off for my internet connection and was hoping, in vain, to resolve the problem. His ultimate advice “Go to Kalamata, they have an expert!”). On arrival at the shop I discovered I had forgotten to take the “dongle” with it's SIM card with me (I had everything else including the computer) and so was forced to return to the boat and collect it. Having done my reconnaissance of the harbour I chose a berth next to another British boat, (delightful couple Chris and Margaret) and was able to have Kurukulla in the chosen berth and be back to the Vodafone shop within the hour; well before they closed for the day; but all to no avail!
Alongside in Yithion
That night I went for a quiet meal in a restaurant recommended by my neighbours and, that done, settled for a relatively early night. Next morning dawned bright and clear and I went in search of fresh water, there being no facilities on the quayside. The Yithion Hotel, on the opposite side of the road to where I was berthed, had an outdoor tap on the pavement but no amount of door bell ringing would elicit an answer. A request of one of the adjacent shopkeepers elicited approval to use the tap but, as always happens, my initiative led to three other boats wanting to use the hose to fill up. The shopkeeper who had given me approval became distinctly nervous! Our efforts to get an answer from the owner of the hotel, by knocking repeatedly on the door, came to nothing but another neighbour, we know not who, helpfully rang her and told her that the boats were “stealing” her water! This resulted in two things, a lock being put on the tap at 0800 the next day and a demand for €10 per boar for the water taken (we could have bought similar quantity of bottled water for less!). We never did meet the owner of the hotel but I for one will never be a client of hers and I would suggest no one else patronises the establishment either. Distinctly unhelpful and unpleasant!
Later that day, Giuliano, Peter and Mike arrived from Kalamata airport in a taxi. Despite all my efforts, and those of a Greek friend who lives in Corfu, we could not ascertain in advance whether there was a bus service from Kalamata to Yithion; only after my arrival did I discover, by going to the bus station, that there are four buses a day! Greek organisation of such things (or lack of it) defeats me! Notwithstanding this they arrived safely. As they were all first time sailors we had planned to do no more than go from one side of the central peninsula of the Peloponnese to the other; Yithion to Kalamata; a total distance of 60 miles in 8 days. This was to prove to be quite enough!
That night we returned to my restaurant of the night before and then turned in for an early night. In the morning we victualled followed by my usual battle with the Port Police before departure. By mid day we were away and on our way to Plytra. The forecast was about as bad as it could get; Westerly winds for today followed by gale force easterlies tomorrow.
Our french neighbour, Elaphonisos
Oh joy! In the event we decided only to stay in Plytra long enough for lunch and then to head 15 miles south to the island of Elafonisos where there are secure anchorages around the island for every wind direction. On arrival we anchored off the beach on the western side in preparation for the east winds during the night. In the event it was a North East wind that arrived and as a result, early next morning, we moved round to a bay on the the south side, Ornos Frangos, to achieve better shelter. Here we were to stay for 36 hours listening to the winds whistling through the rigging, with gusts of up to 50Kts. Quite a baptism of fire for three novice sailors! The anchor held well and another French boat joined us (at a respectable distance) to shelter in the same bay. 40 hours after our arrival, and following a brief swim and walk ashore, we sailed away from Elafonisos, heading west across the mouth of the gulf towards Porto Kayio.
Porto Kayio
This is a well sheltered anchorage, just NE of Cape Matapan. (We spared Giuliano (who is Italian) the details of the battle of Cape Matapan where the British Navy accounted for several of the Italian Navy's major ships in WW11). On arrival in Porto Kayio we were the only vessel in the anchorage, a marked difference to my previous visit, some years before, when I had struggled to find an anchor spot with sufficient swinging room. Later in the day we were joined by four other vessels. Supper ashore in a taverna, a quiet night and next day we set off for Yerolimena, our planned lunch stop.
The rounding of Cape Matapan was relatively peaceful but as the morning progressed the winds strengthened and by the time we arrived in Yerolimena it was gusting from the west at 25 knots. Not excessive but enough! The anchorage was calm but with northerly gusts funnelling down through it. Tolerable! By the time we came to leave, after a leisurely lunch, life outside the bay was somewhat different! A steep and very uncomfortable sea had built up but the wind had declined. Twenty minutes of bouncing from wave top to wave top (in full foul-weather gear and harnesses!) convinced us that a night in Yerolimena was by far the best option available on the navigation table. We turned back and half an hour later were anchored in Yerolimena again and debating dinner ashore.
Kurukulla anchored in Yerolimena from the terrace of Hotel Kyrimai
The strongest WiFi signal we could receive onboard was from the Kyrimai Hotel and for that reason we headed there first (we wanted to connect via their system). A fortuitous decision. After a drink to try to justify obtaining the WiFi access code (sadly they didn't give it out to non residents) we debated dining there also. It was an absolutely delightful place, well restored from a waterfront warehouse and , as we later found out, rated as one of the best restaurants and waterfront hotels in Greece. The meal was fantastic and we obviously managed to consume enough wine with it to justify us being presented with the WiFi code on departure! We were doubly grateful we had chosen to dine there!
Kurukulla anchored off Kardamila
Next morning we set off in light winds and half sailed, half motored northwards towards Ormos Dirou where there is a great beach and spectacular limestone caves where you can take the tour underground by boat. The crew rowed themselves ashore to tour the caves whilst I spent some time sorting out items on the boat. Least said the better but their rowing skills improved as the day went on! From there it was next stop Kardamila, our planned anchorage for the night.
Kardamila is a beautiful bay with a few luxurious villas built a hundred or so metres from the shore.
Supper at Kardamila
Deep blue water and an ideal anchorage in these conditions.
Next morning we all went for a leisurely swim, discovering in the process that the only minor problem here was that the locals don't appreciate yachts spoiling their view of the otherwise empty bay. Needless to say we ignored them!

You can own the beach but you can't own the water! At 1200 we set off again towards Kalamata making a final lunch stop at Kitries. Peter and Mike swam ashore to try to obtain bread but none of the Tavernas were willing to oblige and the nearest shop was 3 miles inland!
Departing Kitries
As a compromise I knocked up fried bread from what we had! Lunch finished, we set sail for the marina at Kalamata. It was 5 miles away but even so it gave time for us to sail through a torrential downpour! This really isn't Greek summer weather!
On entering the marina we were directed to a berth next door to a boat I knew from my time wintering in Brindisi, Italy. Small world! Kurukulla's next crew member, Jaco, was waiting to join, standing on the jetty, as we arrived and the current team started packing their bags for departure.
The very good but indecipherable taverna!
We all had dinner ashore, in a local taverna, eating very well and for €15 per head including wine!
The leaving photo. Giuliano, Peter, Self & Mike
That was the start of two days in the marina. The intention had been one night only but as nothing in Kalamata opens on a Sunday we had no choice but to wait a day and re-victual on the Monday. Even then the choice was limited as we had struck a public holiday. Even more galling was that the Vodafone shop never did open! Or not before our departure anyway....
Kalamata railway park, all that is left of the 1m guage systemthat served the Peloponnese
More soon.....