VIII - The Peloponnese II, Greece.
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XI - Sicily, Italy.
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VII - The Peloponnese.
Log Entry Sunday 16th August - Our farewell evening in Pilos, tomorrow we leave for Sicily.
Yet a further week has passed as we tracked the weather systems, predominantly thunder storms and their impact across the waters in front of us, but, tomorrow looks good for our passage to Sicily. The forecast is a little light on wind, Sailaway is a hefty vessel needing some wind to move her, but the forecasts are traditionally light anyway? When they forecast a F3 it is usually F4 or even F5, they probably have it wrong this time too? If we sit here and miss this window then there are another series of thunder storms maturing to the west of Sardinia - we could be here another week easily. We have filled our water tanks and have taken on board another 100 litres of fuel, we could now motor across the 350 miles, but our plan is to sail as much as possible, a trip of 3 - 5 days depending on winds - a mini Atlantic crossing for us novices!
We decide to spend our last evening in town, our last frappe in the square and a last meal in what has become our favourite restaurant, we walk around the harbour as the evening approaches.
We sit in the square as all the locals do, the kids are going nuts in their traditional manner, a football game has already started, the child cyclists make their way with easy through the players as they do each evening - very Italian, their past occupation still very evident! It is rewarding to see the freedom children have here, playing publically without fear from danger - the UK being so different from the rest of Europe?
The food is good as expected, as is the Retsina, local brew - Ann persisted I post this picture as she feels all photographs feature herself eating, what must people think?
Log Entry Sunday 9th August - Keeping ourselves busy.
We have been here a week now, the only thing we have seen any increase in, is electrical storms and temperature, but that does not stop much activity.
Each afternoon, usually around 1600 to 2000 hours we have thunder storms, sometimes we escape the downpours, sometimes not? Often we sit and just watch them pass us by. Certainly by 1400 hours it is just too hot to do most things, we sit and pass the time waiting for the sky to blacken, or night fall - either brings the temperatures down to a more manageable 30C! During the cooler periods we are able to complete some jobs, we had our mainsail repaired and I rebuilt a sea water engine coolant pump as a spare. Two winter jobs off the list, covers are resewn, as the sun rots the thread.
There are two interesting fishing boats in the marina/harbour, they remind me of the ghost ship out of "Pirates of the Caribbean", the "Flying Dutchman". They work each day, unlike the other small craft you never see a net being fixed? The fisherman here have a good practise, they drop their anchor outside the harbour and clean their catch as opposed to depositing the waste within the harbour as we have seen in so many other harbours.
Tonight we were in town late and were able to see the local band, march around the square then finish off in the square itself, in front of the monument to the great sea battle here. It was about 2200 hours but the kids playing still loved the spectacle.
The winds to take us the 320 miles to Sicily are still not visible, hopefully this next week will see this tropical type weather return to normal and provide us with wind for the 3-4 days we need?
Log Entry Saturday 1st August - We make for Pilos, and a farewell to Alan, where did that week go?
With our visit to Methoni concluded, we lift our anchor and head north to Pilos, only a short trip again around eight sea miles. The air is heavy, the morning mist thick and as the norm, not a breath of wind.
Passing the time amongst ourselves we soon see appearing out of the mist the entrance to Órmos Navarinou in the distance. The bay was made famous due to the "The Battle of Navarinou" in which a senior British admiral took his fleet directly into a trap, and although heavily out numbered won the day, proving that European gun crews were far superior to that of their eastern counterparts. The allied force (Britain & France) were 26 ships and 1270 guns, while the Turko - Egyptian fleet were 89 vessels and 2450 guns - impressive!
Today the only aggression one meets entering the bay is the remains of the great castle build originally to protect the bay.
The town sits on the waterside, the harbour has in this decade had a fantastic uplift with EU grants, it even includes a marina which as no one will take responsibility for so it is free to visitors and local boat owners - one of many dotted around Greece. There are no services, but free water is available to all, fuel is delivered by a tanker on standby on the quay.
Pilos was originally built by the French after the great sea battle although over the occupational period had and still has, a strong Italian influence. The town square just off the quay is a tribute to that, you could be sitting in a square in Italy. The square is frequently by all ages day and night, the area is very friendly to all visitors, however somewhat restricted in it's offering, Kalamata being the nearest main town in the region.
We find a berth easily, we spend most of the day hiding out of the heat in the sheltered square, we return to the town in the evening for a farewell dinner with Alan - he leaves for Kalamata early in the morning. We know Pilos well, we last visited here in April 2011 as we travelled east.
The next day, Sunday sees the arrival of almost a tropical type front, great heat, electrical storms, we will wait here for good winds to Sicily!
Log Entry Friday 31st July - Methoni Castle.
First of all, my apologies for the quality of the photographs caused by a mark on the lense!
Methoni was once an ancient Byzantine city, construction is dated back to the 13th century. With the development of artillery, major changes took place around the 15th century. The walls were increased in size to repel canon balls and the original square towers were replaced with circular constructions. The large central gate had a wooden draw bridge until around 1828, influenced heavily by the French rule of that time..
Once inside the primary walls the size of the town within is clear, old streets can clearly be made out.
The gate to the south is under restoration as is parts of the other remaining structure - nothing happening fast. It is stated that the development has been ongoing since 2012, a grant of €900,000.00 being utilised - work that one out! When you consider that there is no entrance fee charged, it makes the situation even more confusing, perhaps it is just me?
The construction of the almost circular tower began originally in 15th century but was finally completed by the Ottomans in the 16th century, hence the nickname "Turkish Tower". Originally a gun tower but is also served as a prison and a lighthouse through out it's life.
The construction is enormous, but predominantly only the great walls remaining in tact
There is also evidence of the occupation by "The Knights of St John" which adds even more mystery to the dwellings.
Log Entry Thursday 30th July - On to Methoni.
We pack up and look to make our way around to Methoni, our last stop before Pilos, it is a short trip, again no wind which seems typical to this region, engine on. Ann is some what tickled by the sighnage on this small boat, she mentioned it last night but by the time I understood what she was on about he had gone. Who knows what goes through a woman mind or how it works? As we leave the resort is quiet, but, as they do people are already beginning to lay claim to their sun loungers - now that does confuse us!
The trip is no more than eight miles following the coast line, with the engine doing the work the only task is to occupy the mind.
Methoni cannot be missed, easy to locate because of the Castle and the Turkish Tower, a couple of reefs to manage, but that is about it. We arrive to find a busy anchorage, so we drop our anchor behind them all, once the all clear is given with regards to the anchor's holding we drop the dinghy and head ashore.
The town, other than the Castle is very small, similar to Finakouda, it is too hot in the day to attempt the Castle so after a brief walk around we settle in the square for the usual frappe, which then turns into a couple beers!
After busy afternoon (not really) it is back to Sailaway to continue the relaxation and dinner.
We sit on deck and chat, once dinner is done, we watch the sun go down and the moon rise - tomorrow the Castle, nice and early.
Log Entry Wednesday 29th July - We move on to Finakouda.
Finakouda is our next planned stop across the Peloponnese toward Pilos, where Alan leaves for his flight from Kalamata and we prepare to leave Greece for Sicily. Sailaway is soon tidied away, her anchor raised and her bow pointed south. We soon leave the Castle and it's internal residential dwellings far behind in the distance. The winds almost nonexistent, progress is steady under motor following the coastline southwest.
We plan to follow the coastline and pass between the mainland and Ák Akritas. The electronic charts warn us of many shallows stretching far offshore, shallows that we catered for but we never confirmed, the inaccuracy of the charts in this region is well known. Eventually Ák Akritas came out of the mist, our path through the channel clear.
As we approached the point, light winds came from beyond, we made our way through the channel and raised our canvas, engine off, progress was slow but quiet and peaceful - apart from the chat of coarse, Ann never shuts up! She claims it makes a difference talking to a real person - surprised Alan was not upset?.
We were in no hurry, a number of vessels passed us under motor, we were quite happy to potter along on just the genoa at 3 knots or so, ahead of us directly now lay Finakouda in the distance.
We arrived and dropped anchor off the main beach of this small resort, only three or four vessels with us, some stayed only for hours.
After a couple of hours, with the anchor checked by Alan, we headed ashore to have a look around for fruit and salad as well as pick a venue for dinner.
The town is quite small, but all there that we needed, we sat for a couple of hours under cover - we are now addicted to frappes!
We walk on to the small harbour, only a few hundred meters, and then made our way back to Sailaway, our venue for this evening chosen.
We had chosen one of the beach Tavernas, in front of where Sailaway sat. The proprietor had sold us the idea of his "Special roast pork, a whole pig, not each, and special potatoes created by his mother". The meal was good, no complaints, we never got to meet his mother, only his sister. In the time we sat there was another English table seated and a second family arrived as we left.
Log Entry Tuesday 28th July - Koroni Castle. (171)
The plan today was to visit Koroni Castle high above the town, we left Sailaway at anchor and took the dinghy ashore.
I also had to check in with the Pharmacist, I had sort help with an ear infection yesterday, the medication supplied had not eased the pain or allowed me to sleep any easier. Upon chatting to the Pharmacist he advises that I seek assistance in the Medical Centre up by the Castle, we head up there. We all wait until I am seen by the Doctor, antibiotics are needed, he checks with the Pharmacist, they have stock and he issues me viols.
I return down to town to catch the Pharmacist before it closes for the afternoon, Ann and Alan head up towards the Castle as originally planned.
The views from the top are fantastic, Sailaway can be seen far over to the west of the bay.
The Castle gates sit high, but once inside it becomes more of a residential estate, houses, gardens, even woodland, olive trees etc.
They walk the perimeter, again the views fantastic in all directions.
Once back through the gate they are back into the streets they came in, going down easier than going up, clearly.
Eventually they reach the water front where all the activity is based around, and walk along to me up with me at the Taverna.
The Castle was described as interesting but not a lot to see other than the outer walls and the residential dwelling now standing within!
Log Entry Monday 27th July - Jobs done time to go sailing.
We had arranged for a fuel delivery at 0900 (200 litres), they told me he could not delivery Saturday because the guy was getting married, he does not work Sunday? I was to stay with Sailaway and Ann and Alan were to revisit the stores that were closed yesterday. The only job left on board after the fuel was to fill our water tanks, we plan to leave around lunch time and head back south to Koroni, Alan's first port of visit.
The fuel man did not turn up - I wonder why Greece is in such a mess? Fortunetly I had seen another tanker delivering earlier in the Marina, I had spoken to him and taken his details "just in case". I gave the guy an hour and arranged an alternative delivery, he turned up no problem. In time we were already to go, all we needed was Ann, Alan and the provisions, they turned up as the fuel was being delivered, we packed away the provisions, made ready and left Kalamata.
Within 15-20 minutes the light winds were clean enough to utilise, we only had about 15 miles to cover back to Koroni, plenty of time, canvas up and engine off. Alan soon gains his feet and assists with the tasks, time to kill now.
Sailaway, set to take care of herself, this then means, finding something to occupy your mind.
We told Alan about the tuna we had seen on the way north, Alan, a fisherman, set about catching dinner. He did catch more than we did previously, unfortunately not edible, just a large plastic cup - you have to start some where? As we got within 2-3 miles from Koroni the local winds began to stiffen and become variable, depending on the terrain, we were now carrying too much canvas, we reduced, then in time in the gusts, and now head wind, we motored the last mile or so.
Once into the small harbour, Alan took the wheel and Ann and him, dropped anchor - After that, Alan was assigned another job "Anchor Man", his role was to locate the anchor once set and assess it's holding - he did well!
Log Entry Sunday 26th July - Alan now with us a look around town.
We take a walk, it is not only the marina which has a tired look to it, the whole town has - a shame! The commercial docks appear mainly closed down, little activity at all, a shame for the people living here? We need to find two shops, a supermarket to refill our food stocks and a stockist of grease for our stern tube, getting a little short. The problem we have, which is unusual, this is Sunday, all is closed. One would expect something to be open, especially in the major town of the Peloponnese - No, all is closed except cafes etc. So, it is find and return Monday morning.
We find an interesting park and cafe, an extension of the closed railway lines leaving the dock area - quite a collection of old trains, worth a look around, and, helps fill in the day.