Greek Islands | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Southern passage around the Peloponnisos and on to Malta

We have lots of new things to tell you about in this month's newsletter as you can see from the summary above, starting with the continuation of our adventures on the southern passage around the Peloponnisos.

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. 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.

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!

Fair Winds,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
SV Two-Step

Launch in Marmaris, Turkey, New Lewmar electric windlass in Rhodes, Passage across the Aegean Sea, the Peloponnisos, on to Malta

Boat Maintenance at Yacht Marine, Marmaris, Turkey
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

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.

More Podcasts
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
SV Two-Step