As we mentioned in the previous newsletter, the southern passage around the Peloponnissos is the long route to the Ionian Sea and ports beyond in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, when leaving the Aegean Sea. This is as opposed to the shorter, though more expensive, route of going through the Corinth Canal.
When we did the Corinth Canal in 2002 going west to east from the Ionian into the Aegean, the canal fees for our 37-foot sailboat were about 100 euros ($130 US). It is a 6.343 Km trip which takes about half an hour to do. If you're interested, the Canal Authority has an excellent website with a rate converter on it as well as lots of historical photos and information. www.corinthcanal.com/en_index.php Our canal experience is featured in episode #24 of Distant Shores found in the Distant Shores Volume 4 - Greek Islands and Turkey DVD. In fact, when the Commander of the Canal saw this episode on TV (Distant Shores is broadcast across Europe on Travel Channel) he contacted us to say it documented the transit procedure for small boats really well and he requested a copy to use for the promotion of the Canal to sailors. The Canal transit, though pricey, IS very cool to do!
The southern passage around the Peloponnissos takes longer and is a challenging voyage since you have to round 3 major capes where winds and weather can be against you, but we're so glad we chose to do it since it introduced us to a wild and dramatically beautiful part of Greece.
We arrived at the Greek peninsula of the Peloponnissos on September 21st, Sheryl's birthday, after island-hopping our way west across the Aegean Sea, from Marmaris, Turkey, which has been our base for the last few seasons of cruising. The Aegean Sea divides the continent of Asia from Europe and the Greek Islands are like stepping stones bridging one to another.
Flowers that young friend, Anastassia Kambouris, had given Sheryl 3 weeks earlier when we left the Greek island of Rhodes on the other side of the Aegean, were still blooming when we arrived, a good omen.
We'd had a quiet motorsail from the Greek island of Milos that day and had hoped to continue on around Cape Maleas but conditions weren't good for rounding it that night so we decided to make landfall at Monemvassia on the southeast coast. Monemvassia is a rocky island sometimes called “the Gibraltar of Greece” because of it's shape. We'd heard from other cruisers that it was worth stopping there anyway because it is so picturesque and they were right!
The island of Monemvassia is joined to the mainland by a causeway and, depending on the wind direction, you can anchor on one side or the other of the causeway. There is also an abandoned marina where, for no charge, you can tie alongside the quay or go stern-to one of the rickety pontoons. We went to the anchorage first but the holding wasn't great in the spots we tried and there was some swell so we opted for the marina which is much more protected. That night we had a torrential thunderstorm so were glad we'd decided to come in to port.
The next day a space came available at the quay so we moved to the wall and when the local fuel truck made its daily stop at the marina we fueled up on diesel for 1 euro ($1.30 US) per litre. There are a few municipal water taps maintained here for the fishing fleet, coast guard vessels, and visiting yachts, so we took the opportunity to give the boat a quick wash-down and topped up our water tanks too.
The local town is quietly touristic, at least in September, and we enjoyed the waterfront cafes, tavernas, internet cafe, and green grocers for restocking our fresh produce supplies but the highlight was walking across the causeway to the island to wander the narrow streets of the old town and make the hike up to the Byzantine church of Agia Sophia.
On September 23rd we got a forecast for benign weather conditions at Cape Maleas, the first of the 3 capes or Aks we were to round, and set sail at sunrise hoping to make it to Porto Kayio at Cape Tainaron, cape #2. It was flat calm but when we approached the Ak Maleas lighthouse the winds came howling down off the mountains and we were hit with rain squalls.
Surprisingly, within minutes of rounding the cape it was hot sunny weather once again and since we were making good time decided to make a lunch stop at Elafonisis, anchoring in the bay, O. Frangos. Now we felt like we were in the Caribbean with the beautiful white sand beach here and clear turquiose water.
We're really enjoying the new Lewmar V3 electric anchor windlass we installed in Rhodes so are anchoring at every opportunity just to play with it! Unfortunately, when it was delivered to us in Rhodes where Paul installed it, it came with the wrong size gypsy for our 8 mm anchor chain so we had to use rope rode for this part of the trip until we picked up the correct gypsy which was being shipped and held for our arrival in Malta.
We had a great sail that afternoon to Porto Kayio where we stayed a few days surrounded by mountains and on September 25 sailed on and rounded Ak Akritas, the third cape, headed for Methoni or Pylos but we passed a boat going the other way, who recommended the little anchorage of Port Longo on the southeast end of Nisis Sapientza.
We anchored here for a couple of days in the company of Australian yacht, All the Colours, who we knew from Marmaris and together with Chas and Rowena and their kids, Jack, Monica and Allister, we made hikes ashore and visited the lighthouse at the south end of the island.
Our next stop was Pylos on the southwest coast of the Peloponnissos where we had a chance meeting with Dan and Karen on Dakare who we had travelled with to Middle Eastern countries with the year before and had last seen while sailing in Egypt in the Red Sea in the spring. These adventures are featured in our latest DVD, “Cruising in the Middle East”, a 3-disk set with a special feature on “Dealing with Piracy”.
Twelve of us sailed together on that Middle East cruise under the banner of the Levante Basin Rally organized by Canadian and American friends, Bill Cote and Jean Panepinto aboard “Soleil sans Fin”, and following its success they are planning another one. They are also organizing flotilla cruises along the beautiful Turquoise Coast of Turkey which are booking up fast. We highly recommend these guys as hosts and expedition leaders and invite you to visit their website for more information and to see Jean's great photos. http://www.soleilsansfin.com/
From Pylos we made a couple of attempts to jump off to Malta but although the weather was good where we were, there was a major gale howling over Italy which created massive head seas – no fun for a 3-day passage. Finally on September 30th we cast off and began what was to be a very pleasant passage. But more on this next time...
Paul's New Boat Blog
In August 1986, over 20 years ago, we took delivery of a bare hull and began building our Classic 37 sailboat, Two-Step, which we launched in August 1988, and in 1989 began our international cruising adventures. It's hard to believe that it's been over 20 years that we have been enjoying this wonderful boat but we have finally got the itch for something new and different. Check out the latest addition to Paul's Boat Blog - and follow the process as we weigh the pros and cons in our search for the new ideal cruising boat.
Hope these resources are helpful to your cruising plans and entertain you as well.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays and the Very Best for the Coming New Year!
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Launch in Marmaris, Turkey, New Lewmar electric windlass in Rhodes, Passage across the Aegean Sea, the Peloponnisos, on to Malta
After completing post production on the final episodes on Egypt for season 4 of the Distant Shores series (coming soon on the new Distant Shores: Cruising the Middle East 3-volume DVD ) we flew from Toronto on August 15, 2006, back to the boat via London Heathrow and Istanbul which was a story in itself since it was just a few days after the terrorist threat on London airports and carry-on baggage was severely restricted, a problem for us since we usually carry on our laptop computer and some fragile camera equipment.
However, it all worked out fine and we arrived back at the boat just after midnight on August 16. We were exhausted and jet-lagged after our journey and at first we couldn't find Two-Step since the boat had been repositioned a couple of times during the months we had left her stored in the boat yard at Marmaris Yacht Marine a popular wintering place for yachties which we have written about in several other newsletters. The yard crew is very good there and Two-Step was in fine shape.
We spent a couple of weeks in the boat yard while our friend Mustafa Yesildag completed a new epoxy barrier on Two-Step's hull while we did seasonal maintenance and prepared the boat for all the passage-making we'll be doing in the next few months.
Temperatures reached 41 degrees C on board in the afternoons so we worked in the yard early mornings and evenings and escaped to Yacht Marine's beautiful new pool and restaurant during the height of the sun to keep cool. Everything seemed to take so long in the heat which really saps your energy.
As we slogged away, a bright orange Dockwise ship anchored out in the bay. This ship offers the service of loading yachts on board to ship them quickly across the Atlantic. As we thought of the months and miles it would take us to sail Two-Step from Turkey to the Caribbean ourselves, the Dockwise alternative – a passage of a few weeks, they do night watch - was certainly appealing!
But we have been looking forward to the passages aboard Two-Step and find the personal challenge rewarding so resisted the temptation. However, Dockwise is an excellent service that several of our cruising friends have found beneficial when their time was short and they wanted the experience of sailing their own boat in a new part of the world. The reduced wear and tear on the boat is certainly something to think about too. For info see www.yacht-transport.com
August 25th was our Launch Day and friend Tony Cobb from Lady Coppelia dropped by to help with Two-Step's splash-down, marking the beginning of our 18th year of international cruising aboard Two-Step, our Sparkman and Stephen's Classic 37 sailboat which we built ourselves from a bare hull when we were in our 20's.
You may recall we sailed through the Suez Canal with Tony in Egypt last spring (see July 06 newsletter ) so it was great to see him again in Turkey and say our farewells before we began our departure from the Med. We have so many friends in the Med now that the thought of leaving has really been difficult! We first met Tony in Spain in 1999 and have cruised together on various occasions in several Mediterranean countries over the years.
From Marmaris you can see the Greek island of Rhodes, so after many nice farewells we set sail from Marmaris and made landfall in Rhodes Town at Mandraki Harbour and cleared into Greece on the afternoon of August 31st. We were greeted by friends Thomas and Thanos who manage several yacht charters there and who have helped us out on more than one occasion. Since we first met Thanos several years ago he has been teasing us about Two-Step's old manual anchor windlass so this year we surprised him by replacing it right there at the quay with a new Lewmar V3 electric anchor windlass!
He gave him the old one as a souvenir for his mantlepiece.
Rhodes is one of our favourite stops in the Greek Islands. The harbour is surrounded by the walls of the medieval town and castle making for a magical setting however it's a very crowded harbour and often difficult to find a spot especially if you arrive Friday to Sunday. These are the turn-over days for the charter boats that are based there and most berths are reserved for them at this time. Best to plan a mid-week, early afternoon arrival in Rhodes. Once you're docked it's a lovely place with many things to see and do, good shops for provisioning and well-stocked chandleries and hardware stores within walking distance.
While we worked on the boat our good friends Chrissy Arvanitis and Irene Zifias who taught us how to eat sea urchins in the Rhodes and Symi episode of Distant Shores (see the Vol. 5 Greek Islands and Turkey II DVD ) dropped by for cheerful visits with their kids and Chrissy (pictured on the left) couldn't stop cooking for us - and what feasts she and this friend prepared!
West through Aegean Sea
But finally, with windlass installed, a repair made to our grounding system that seemed to be affecting our autopilot, and Euro provisions loaded, it was time to say goodbye and begin our voyage west across the Aegean Sea. We left Rhodes on September 13 and our first stop was at the island of Symi, an afternoon sail away, then on to Yiali, Astapalia, and finally to Santorini - a volcanic crater believed to be the site of the lost city of Atlantis. You can sail right into the center of the crater along with cruise ships and tour boats and make the climb to the town perched like snow on the rim of the crater above.
Next stop was Milos, where the statue of the Venus de Milo was discovered and then on September 21st we made landfall on the Peloponnisos at Monemvassia, a wild and mountainous place, so different from the islands. There is a lovely old historic town there and we wandered the narrow streets imagining the days of old. It was here we waited for a good weather window to go south around the capes (versus going through the Corinth Canal which we did when we arrived in the Greece a few seasons back) and make our jump to Malta. But more on this in our next newsletter...
Before we close we'd just like to mention a few new things we're doing.
Cruising in the Middle East - New DVD
This week we'll be releasing the latest Distant Shores DVD, “Cruising in the Middle East from Turkey to Egypt”. This special 3-disk set contains all 13 episodes of Season Four which takes you on a voyage from Turkey, to ports in North and South Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt and has some very special features on “Dealing with Piracy”, an important issue when cruising in this region and many others around the world.
In the “Dealing with Piracy” features on the new Middle East DVD we interview people such as Rod and Becky Nowlin aboard SV Mahdi who have experienced pirate attacks first-hand and who generously give their advice on how to prevent and protect yourselves from encounters with pirates. The cost of $34.95 US/$39.95 CDN is an excellent deal for the up-to-date safety information and peace-of-mind we feel these new episodes and extra features provide.
The long-awaited podcast #4 with David Anderson discussing weather information and technology for cruisers is now up in the Podcast Directory on our web site. While cruising this summer we recorded some more podcasts with technical experts and interesting cruisers “out there” which we'll be uploading on Distant Shores shortly. These online talk shows focus on cruising topics and have been really popular! We thank you for sending in your comments and ideas.
Wishing you Fair Winds,
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Completion of Middle East cruise & Levante Basin Rally, Cruise to Egypt - The Red Sea, Passage through the Suez Canal, Egyptian Pyramids, Nile River
- Completion of Middle East cruise & Levante Basin Rally
- Boat Maintenance at Yacht Marine, Marmaris, Turkey
- Cruise to Egypt - Red Sea
- Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
- Red Sea Rally
- Passage through the Suez Canal
- Egyptian Pyramids
- Sailing down the Nile River
- Leaving the Mediterranean for Madeira and Canary Islands
- New Season of Distant Shores on Travel Channel and Canadian Learning Television
- DVD review in August 2006 issue of Cruising World
- Free shipping offer on DVDs ends in August. Order today and save.
We hope you are all having a good summer and enjoying lots of outdoor activities with friends and family. Paul and I certainly are and as we prepare to set sail from Turkey to leave the Mediterranean Sea in the fall we'd like to update you on our adventures of the past few months.
Welcome to New Subscribers / Cruising World Review
First, welcome to all newcomers to our newsletter list. Many of your were introduced to our website through the recent review of our Distant Shores DVDs in the August 2006 issue of Cruising World magazine and we hope that you'll find the resources on distantshores.ca are entertaining and informative. Glad to have you aboard.
Completion of Middle East Cruise and Levante Basin Rally
Those of you that have been with us for awhile will recall that last summer Paul and I joined 11 other international yachts in the Levante Basin Rally to sail to Middle Eastern countries that border the Eastern Mediterranean - Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, as well as Jordan on the Red Sea. (See our October 2005 newsletter as well as the Levante Basin Rally website at http://www.dakare.com/levante/ ) It was an enlightening voyage as we learned first-hand about the issues and concerns of everyday people living in these countries and it is with aching hearts that we listen to the news of the latest conflicts. We think of the many people that we met there who were working to create tolerance and peace in their communities and wonder how they and their children are doing. We completed the rally in Herzliya, Israel, last August.
Boat Maintenance at Yacht Marine, Marmaris, Turkey
In August the temperatures in Israel were climbing to 42-44 C and it was just too hot to continue filming productively. We, along with most of the other yachts in the rally, sailed back to Turkey and Paul and I stopped in Cyprus on the way for another visit with relatives that have retired there. Four of the rally yachts sailed on to Egypt, 2 to spend the winter at Abu Tig Marina in El Gouna on the Red Sea where we planned to join them later in the spring.
In mid-August we hauled our Classic 37 sailboat, Two-Step, out of the water at Yacht Marine in Marmaris http://www.yachtmarin.com leaving the boat in the good care of Mustafa Yesildag and his son, Ali, who are experts in yacht painting and fibreglass repair. They are featured in the Distant Shores Volume 5 - Greece and Turkey II DVD . There were a few blisters in Two-Step's fibreglass hull that needed patching and we left Ali and Mustafa to also do the brightwork and bottom paint for the next season while we flew home to begin post-production on the Middle East shows. If you're cruising in Turkey and want to contact the Yesildags for a quote, just send us an e-mail and we'll put you in touch.
Yacht Marine is an excellent marina and boat yard for having work done on your boat, for doing work yourself, and for long-term boat storage. Many live-aboard sailors spend the winter here aboard their boats too since there's an active community and lots of social events.
Middle East Episodes of Distant Shores airing on Travel Channel and CLT
The Middle East episodes of Distant Shores started airing in the UK, across Europe, Asia and South Africa on Travel Channel on July 4.
Cruise to Egypt - Red Sea
In April and May Paul and I did a very different cruise. We flew from Toronto to Cairo to join our sailing friends who were spending the winter on their yachts at Abu Tig marina in El Gouna on the Red Sea and sailed on their boats. What fun! We first stayed aboard the 52' motor yacht, Lady Coppelia, (it has a bath tub), home of our British friend, Tony Cobb, www.ladycoppelia.co.uk who some of you know from the "mud baths episode" on the Distant Shores Volume 1 - Western Mediterranean DVD, and later aboard SY Ginny, home of Chris and Elaine Champ, a beautiful Halberg Rassey 46. Both kindly let us film aboard to show you what cruising is like aboard their boats. Together with Bill and Jean on SY Soliel sans Fin (See them in the Hvar Rendezvous episode in Croatia in the Distant Shores Volume 3 - Adriatic Sea DVD), Patricia and Jean-Claude on Tololea and the Varriale family aboard the catamaran Itusca we cruised the deserted out-islands of the Red Sea diving on the fabulous reefs, thanks to Chris who certified as a PADI Rescue Diver as a winter project and knows all the good reefs.
Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Chris also introduced us to the Orca Dive Club which operates out of Turtle's Inn and the Abu Tig marina in El Gouna. If you're looking for a great dive vacation, owners Racquel Marcos and Norbert (Nunu) Bewernitz run a top-notch operation and offer vacation packages through the resort. We spoke to many repeat customers on the days we joined them to dive and film on the wrecks of the Carnatic, Chrisoula K and Ghiannis D. For info:
www.turtles-inn.com or www.orca.de or e-mail email@example.com
Red Sea Rally
At the end of April, Tony was ready to head back north to the Mediterranean. He's planning on returning to the Red Sea next winter 2007 and is organizing a Red Sea Rally. If you're interested in joining up there's info on his web site: www.ladycoppelia.co.uk
Passage through the Suez Canal
We joined Tony as crew for the night passage north through the Gulf of Suez lit by many many flaming oil rigs. We entered the Suez Canal at Port Suez where we were held up for a day when a war ship passed through. For security reasons, the canal is closed to yacht traffic when there are war ships using it. Our next stop was the port of Ismailiya where we said goodbye to Tony and he, accompanied by the sailing yacht, Miss Cat, made the passage to Turkey.
We stayed in Ismailiya at the Timsah Hotel for a few days (~ $25 US/night) to participate in festivities for Coptic Easter and the spring festival, Sham el Nissem, which originated with the pharoahs over 3,000 years ago. Coloured eggs are part of the feast so we learned that the tradition of Easter Eggs originated in this ancient Egyptian fertility festival.
From Ismailiya, we rode the bus to Cairo to see the Pyramids of Giza and the Solar Boat museum which has a perfectly preserved ancient boat found buried in the pyramid of Cheops for use in the afterlife. Lots of crowds and touts! We much preferred the pyramids of Dashur 15 km south which are the oldest and best preserved pyramids in Egypt but a bit out of the way and alone in the desert so are hardly every visited - a great experience! While in Cairo we stayed at the Mayfair Hotel (~ $25 US/night) not too far from to the Antiquities Museum where we enjoyed the fabulous King Tut collection.
Sailing Down the Nile River
We completed our exploration of the waterways of Egypt by making a voyage down the Nile River for 3 days. You can do this in style on a cruise ship but, being sailors, we opted to do it on a felucca, a traditional lateen-rigged open sailboat run by 2 rivermen - Captain Atef and Chief Chef SherSher (firstname.lastname@example.org) It cost us $175 US for 3 days and 2 nights including all food prepared by the crew. The cost would have been divided if we'd had a few more friends on board. They can take up to about 6 people. It was a wonderful way to drift back in time. The bird life along the river was amazing and it was a great way to approach the temples and to get to know the real Egyptian people. The conditions are comfortable but basic, i.e. no washroom facilities, just regular stops at shady palm groves which beat the public washrooms at bus stops.
Wishing you Fair Winds,
Sheryl and Paul Shard