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. 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