The wrong way

15 to 18 June 2018

Kiato to Itea, N38° 25.73’ E22° 25.45’, 27nm, 5 hours 30

to Trizonia, N38° 19.45’ E22° 04.58’, 23nm, 4 hours 30

to Mesolonghi, N38° 21.57’ E21° 25.23’, 37nm, 6 hours 30

to Agia Eufimia, Cefalonia, N38° 18.06’ E20° 35.98’, 38nm, 7 hours

After 2 years we have realised the importance of thinking about the direction of the prevailing wind in planning our routes. We just haven’t always put this knowledge into practice. The prevailing wind through the gulfs of Corinth and Patras is from the west and to get back out into the Ionian we were heading right into it. Add to this a 2 knot current in places and we truly had it all against us. With nowhere of great interest along the way we wanted to get through to the Ionian islands as fast as we could. We just needed the weather to cooperate.

One other problem: with every mile west we went we were taking Jim further away from Athens and his return flight on 19 July.

We really were going the wrong way!

After our passage Through the Corinth Canal we carried on to Kiato where we planned to sit out some strong westerly winds forecast for the coming couple of days. Tying up in the outer harbour our only company was a tanker off-loading its cargo of gravel into waiting lorries. Jim was learning that we do not spend our lives in pretty anchorages with stunning views! It was noisy and dusty and a million miles away from the peaceful and pretty harbours at Poros and Korfos but it was free so we couldn’t complain.

We were promised that the tanker was leaving at 8pm and all the lorries would be gone. The presence of the tanker was not a regular event in the town and lots of people came out to watch it leave bang on schedule at 8pm.

The forecast wind turned up with a vengeance the following day. Pintail was safe enough in the harbour but spent the day getting a good coating of salt from all the spray coming over the wall.

When the wind calmed we carried on up the Gulf of Corinth. In very light winds the water was calm enough for this gaggle of gulls to have a meeting. Unfortunately they were in our way and we disrupted them!

The scenery along the gulf is spectacular – mountains tumbling down to the sea on both the mainland side and the Peloponnese. The unsettled weather we were experiencing just added to the drama of the views.

After a night in another free harbour at Itea we had a bumpy passage into the wind to the tiny island of Trizonia. Stefan and I had stopped here before on our delivery trip and had found a sunken ketch in the marina along with many other abandoned boats. We were surprised to find that the ketch had recently been raised from the seabed but many other boats still looked on the verge of sinking.

 

Our evening entertainment was watching the drama of a local fisherman getting his net caught on rocks. Not wishing to get his own feet wet or risk stepping on a sea urchin he called his grandson who sped round on his bike and gamefully waded in to free it.

The following day we had another 6am start but let Jim have a lie in – it was Father’s Day after all!

We got him up at about 8am with a homemade card, a cup of tea and the first glimpse of the Rion bridge.

We carefully navigated around the sandbar at the eastern side of the bridge. Another yacht had not been so lucky.

As we got closer to the bridge we radioed the bridge control for instructions as to how to pass under it. The bridge is one of the longest single span suspension bridges in the world. It was completed in 2004 and built to withstand an earthquake of 7.5 on the Richter scale and a collison from an 18,000 tonne tanker travelling at 16 knots. Although probably not both at the same time! It has won the illustrious Outstanding Concrete Structure Award and is pretty impressive.

Its height meant no problem for Pintail’s 20 metre mast but it was still a bit nerve-wracking going underneath. This has only been our second bridge since sailing up to Lisbon in Portugal. For road traffic the bridge has reduced the time for crossing the Gulf of Corinth from a 45 ferry ride to a 5 minute drive. It’s not a cheap drive though. The toll is 13 Euros! Sailing under it is thankfully free.

Once safely under the bridge we were officially in the Gulf of Patras and as storm clouds gathered we still had a way to go to reach our destination for the night at Messolonghi.

Entering the narrow channel through the marshes at Messolonghi feels like you’ve been picked up and put down somewhere in South East Asia. The shallow waters are home to fishermen living in houses on stilts.

Messolonghi was also home to Byron who lived and died there during his time supporting the Greek War of Independence. His body was returned to England to be interred in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey but minus his heart which remains in Messolonghi.

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Any hopes of leaving the boat in the anchorage in search of Byron were dashed as we watched the storm clouds coming closer, bringing with them rain but also thunder and lightening. We nervously watched the flashes of lightening from two directions but both storms passed us by without getting too close. By sunset all was calm again and our neighbour’s boat glowed in the low sunlight.

By now we had travelled too far west for Jim to get back for his flight from Athens so we decided to head to Cefalonia where he could fly back from instead. Returning to Cefalonia, the island we first arrived in Greece on almost a year ago, would mean we would be completing our circumnavigation of Greece and therefore the perfect place to end our fortnight with Jim.

We arrived back on Cefalonia in the harbour of Agia Eufimia and after a night at anchor went onto the very busy town quay. We are now in the busiest of seasons with flotillas and charter boats everywhere. It makes great afternoon entertainment watching everyone trying to moor up.

Like so many towns on Cefalonia, Agia Eufimia’s houses were devastated in the 1953 earthquake. Although largely the town has been rebuilt there are glimpses of the houses that haven’t yet been restored. These ghost houses haunted the shore opposite our anchorage which we shared with not just other boats but lots of friendly swallows.

With a day before Jim left us we had time to walk and swim around the beautiful coast

before sharing one last meal together in a taverna above Paradise Beach.

Thanks, Jim, for being a brilliant crew member for a fortnight – for all the tea-making and washing up, for wheeling the gas canisters over Greece’s very wonky pavements and for introducing fishcakes to the Pintail menu. (Readers, we promise he did also change his clothes once or twice!)

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Thank you for bringing out all the important things for us like Marmite, series two of Good Karma Hospital (and watching it all with me!), mosquito bats and our new safety clips.

and thanks for all the laughs on board and ashore. You certainly got to experience just how different every day can be on Pintail and we hope you had fun along the way!

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