Off to Zakinthos – Eventually!!!

I can’t remember how many times I have looked at a Greek weather forecast and then been unpleasantly surprised. But then again, these days I’m not really that surprised – more like p@ssed off than surprised.

So there we were, bashing away into 35kts of norwesterly, with Zakinthos looking hours away. We tried tacking out to sea a bit hoping for a wind angle change, but instead the wind kept building along with the swell. So I tacked back into the bay and this seemed to work better as the swell dropped and the wind angle improved – a bit. But there was no way we would make it to Zakinthos in daylight. So back to the Peloponnisos we went. Consulting Rod, we picked out Katakolon as the likely suspect and got in at 6pm with still a couple of hours of sunlight left.
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It wasn’t all bad as Katakolon is the main cruise ship port for passengers visiting Olympia; Dee having called in there on a much larger version of La Mischief with her Mom and Niece in earlier times. Unfortunately, it was Greek Easter Friday so all the car rental places along with just about everything else was shut (barring the restaurants of course). We eventually got hold of Georgio’s mobile and organized a car for 30 euros. Georgio also helped us organize diesel to be delivered by truck for the next morning – we’d used a bit motoring up against headwinds a lot of the way.

In the meantime we took up the offer of yet another George to come to his house and buy some wine, olive oil, olives and eggs from his family farm. We followed him up a steep set of stairs to his house perched overlooking the harbour. Here we met his mother and father; his father having travelled the world as a Greek seaman. We sampled the wine and chatted in broken English for a while. Their second son was in Athens, an IT guy (I think) and was returning home for Easter.

Returning back down the hill, we found the car park was filling fast; and Georgio explained later, when he dropped off the car at 9pm, that a lot of Greeks were returning to the village for Easter as this is when they gathered their families together in their home villages. We could see something brewing at the church from our boat, so  we wandered over and saw a lot of well dressed people gathering around – from Athens I guess. Then the procession started, lead by a whole heap of boys with staffs, followed by the local priest and then 6 pall bearers holding an effigy. There must have been 1000 people in the procession as we joined in, taking photos as it went by.

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Next morning the fuel truck duly came at 8.30am and we got what we think is enough diesel to get us to the duty-free fuel at Montenegro. Then it was off to Olympia, 38kms away. Olympia has a very pretty setting, amongst olive tree groves with a stream flowing through. I couldn’t resist a dash on the athletics track – but I’m pretty sure Usain Bolt is fairly safe. The ruins are pretty ruined, but its pleasant walking through them. What is really, really good however is the museum, one of the best for Greek antiquities we’ve been through. Some of the marble statues in particular were exquisite. Whole frescos of statues – stunning. Our last stop at Olympia was the “other” museum – the museum of the ancient Olympics, which was interesting but a bit of a come down from the main museum.

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Olympia done, it was off cross country to Tornese Castle built by the Franks in 1220 and improved upon by the Venetians. The restoration work is going well and it looks great, with commanding views across to Zakinthos and Cephalonia Islands. Well worth a visit.

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Greek ruins and Castles ticked off, it was back to the boat and straight off to Zakinthos. We had originally intended to get to the top of the island as the weather forecast had said the winds were dying off in the afternoon; but the only thing dying off was the Poseidon Weather Forecaster – just as soon as I find him.

Hence we bashed our way to the somewhat closer Zakinthos Town, the Island’s capital.  We pulled up on the wall with the help of George. I’m beginning to think every harbour guy in Greece is called George. George (the forty third) suggested we visit the supermarket ASAP as it was closing for Easter in a few minutes and we took him up on the suggestion. Then we had a wander around the town, thinking it may be a good place to see a bit of Easter action, being Easter Saturday –  but it was dissappointly quiet.

Next morning, Easter Sunday (believe it or not), we left in very little wind to head around to Shipwreck Bay, the famously iconic beach that inevitably appears on all those Greek Travel Brochures. The weather was overcast but otherwise perfect for visiting the West Coast – no nasty Nor Westerlies.

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As we neared the bay the water turned a wonderfully beautiful blue. It’s a spectacular setting, the white beach set amongst towering chalk coloured cliffs, with a wreck plonked neatly up the beach. We dropped anchor in 10m of water but couldn’t see the bottom. The cloudy chalk in the water was what made it so blue. We dropped the dingy and took 10 million photos of La Mischief in front of the beach, before setting foot on the iconic beach itself. There was a steady stream of day boats coming and going but it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately it was a bit cold (for us) to go swimming so no pictures of me (or Dee) in our bikinis – so sorry!

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We returned to the boat and just got our anchor up before 10 flotilla boats appeared from around the corner for a bit of anchoring mayhem in the bay.

Then it was off to Captain Corelli Country – Cephalonia.

How Do You Spell Peloponnisos?

The weather gods were behaving themselves as we pulled away from the wall at Kissamos and headed North past Kithera Island. We ducked in close to have a look see at the wreck just outside the main harbour, the result of Rum induced navigation.

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The weather window however didn’t quite last until we got to Elafonisos Island, just off the Peloponnisos mainland coast. We were aiming to anchor off one of the best beaches in Greece – according to our reliable guide, Aran, who had sailed his boat in these waters before. Nice thought except the wind was reaching 40kts and the swell was building through the narrow passage between Kithera Island and Elafonisos. So not exactly beach weather…or anchoring off a beach weather. Aran was not too perturbed though as he knew the island also had a quaint little fishing village with some good restaurants.

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We got there about 6pm after doing nearly 70nm and pulled into the town pier. It was quite a big harbour but with little usable wall, so we congratulated ourselves on finding the last spot on the wall. We then had a wander around the town and out to the cute church poking out on a spit off the other side of the harbour. The restaurant lived up to Aran’s (and our) expectations and we were all fuelled up for an early morning 5am start.

13100800_10205676163016266_3475948392331933951_nUp at the allotted hour, we were surprised to find a small cat had tucked himself in right in front of us. None of us had heard him come in. The weather was looking good so our plan was to press on as far as we could as it was Aran’s last day with us and we needed to get him somewhere close to a bus so he could get to Athens. We rounded Cape Grosso with its impressive old lighthouse and admired the interesting coast as it went by.

We ended up getting some great sailing in with the wind off our starboard stern quarter. Time to put the geneker up and chew up some miles!

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We passed close by the scenic old Venetian port of Methoni with its very impressive castle right on the water

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and kept going to Pilos in the Bay of Navarinou, where the last great battle involving sailing ships took place. It effectively ended the Greek War of Independence when the British Admiral Codrington sailed into the bay and defeated the Ottoman Fleet that were stationed there.   As we sailed in we spotted the very impressive memorial on top of a small island that marked the entrance of the bay.

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We parked on the town quay opposite a Finnish Coastguard vessel and next to a 48 foot Benneteau with a couple of Americans on board together with Rory, their Irish sailing coach. We were soon on their boat drinking wine and letting the Americans natter away. The six of us ended up going out to dinner to celebrate Aran’s last night with us.

Next morning Dee and I said our goodbyes to Aran and then set off to Zakinthos. Or so we thought!