Greece – Zakynthos to Delphi.

Route from Zakynthos to Delphi.

After collecting my passport with a new 90 day Greek visa from Spyros at Police headquarters, we cast off from Zakynthos harbour with a good following wind to sail to Cephalonia, the biggest of the Ionian islands. The plan was to stop in Poros in the south east of the island, but the wind blew straight into the harbour, so we carried on to Sami harbour, 12 nm to the north which was sheltered from the unusual south easterly.

Statue in Sami – Captain Corelli or a very slim fisherman?

Annie has ambitions to buy this big fishing boat.

The major earthquake of 1953 effectively demolished every town on Cephalonia, except Fiskardho in the north, presumably because of the underlying clay in the north. Sami was rebuilt and is a lovely town where the film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” was made. The narrow Ithakis channel separates Cephalonia from the island of Ithaca – according to Homer, this is the island home of Odysseus.

Two sister Jeanneau in Foki Bay.

From Sami we crisscrossed the channel to visit anchorages on both islands, eventually anchoring at Port Polis on the northwest side of Ithaca, before crossing to Fiskardho the next day to anchor in the lovely Foki bay.  Later in the day, another SO 439 anchored next to us, with Chris Evans and Rose Bowey from Adelaide in South Australia on board – also our vintage in age! They took delivery of their Jeanneau at the factory in La Rochelle, France about 18 months ago and were pleased to hear we have come this far without major problems.

Rose, Chris and Annie at 200 BC Roman graves.

Foki bay anchorage deserved a two-day stay, during which time we walked to Fiskardho for coffees and some groceries. Fiskardho was chockers with charter yachts and it was amazing to see up to 50 yachts a day sailing past our anchorage. We spent pleasant times with Chris and Rose having sundowners and a BBQ.

Autumn was setting in and although we have clear sunny days, the evenings calls for jumpers – Annie also pulled out our summer duvet, so nuddy sleeping is on hold. The sea temperature is still a very pleasant 25 deg C, so we swim every day. Having exchanged notes with Chris and Rose on cruising areas, we set forth to explore the east coast of Ithaca, where we anchored at Limani bay just south of Frikes on the first night. In the short 11 mile sail we must have passed upwards of 70 yachts, sailing in flotillas and having fun.

Small Kioni harbour, full of charter boats.

Further south, we turned into Kioni harbour for brunch, before anchoring at Vathi harbour for a two-day stay in picturesque surroundings. Vathi bay is large and sheltered from the winds from most directions, with adequate room to anchor off the town, which wraps around the top end of the bay. It offers some good walks along the shore to exercise our legs, as well as a 6 km coastal walk to the entrance to the bay, where we spotted the chapel of St. Andrew while sailing into the bay.

St Andrews chapel from the water.

Vathi town.

More Vathi town from our anchorage.

Vathi village street.

We walked past the yacht club where young kids were training in Optimist and Laser class dinghies, reminding us of the days we spent on the water while Karen and Michelle trained in the very same classes. At one of the beaches we passed, was a lifeguard tower with a fireman’s pole to slide down, for quick assistance to swimmers in distress. The pole should have been stainless steel, as the rusted pole will result in severe injuries.

Sunday sail training.

Fireman’s pole – it seemed like a good idea, at the time.

Walking to the chapel.

Annie taking a breather.

At night we listened to the local music from the bars, which was different to the Greek music in the Aegean, being more Italian in influence, with passionate romantic harmonies. On the third day we reluctantly left, to take advantage of the prevailing wind and sailed the 43 nm to the Greek mainland. At the entrance to the Gulf of Patras, the northern shore has saltmarshes and sandbars, so we had to motor up the 2.5 nm dredged channel to the spacious harbour of Mesolongi where we anchored off the yacht club on Sunday 21st October.

We had to spend the following three nights at anchor here because a 35 knot easterly with rain kicked in, making sailing into the gulf, virtually impossible. Mesolongi is an architecturally challenged town, with its claim to fame being, that the poet Byron died here. The only entertainment we had was a cargo vessel tied up close to us with two cranes offloading six huge wind turbines onto low bed trailer trucks.

Approaching the bridge.

On the Wednesday we woke up to a sunny day with light winds, which allowed us to set sail for Navpaktos, 35 nm away. By 1pm we reached the strait of Rion and Andirrion, only one-mile-wide with Venetian forts on both sides. The impressive suspension bridge across the strait completed in 2004, is the longest cable stayed bridge in the world at 2,252m with an air height of 25-45m (Similar design as the ANZAC bridge in Sydney).

Venetian fort on the north side.

The north side of the bridge.

An unusual sight – a yacht actually sailing.

We sailed under the bridge to enter the Gulf of Corinth and continued to Navpaktos where we anchored off the beach – the harbour being too small for boats over 12 metres.

Navpaktos (Lepanto) from Esprit.

Navpaktos (Lepanto) is a captivating place, with the minute medieval harbour under the shadow of a Venetian castle. Before we could go ashore, we had to sort out the freshwater pump which delivers water from the water tanks to all the taps and showers – without a working pump, we are in trouble. For some reason, the pump decided to stop working and no amount of switching valves between tanks, would get the water flowing.

Annie and her offsider decided to strip the pump expecting to find a blocked or stuck impeller, which should be easy enough to fix. The pump is of course mounted in a diabolically difficult space to get into. After an hour, we got it out, stripped the pump and hello – what is this? A diaphragm pump, which I have never clapped eyes on before. All the parts were cleaned and inspected and after reassembly it takes another hour (and cursing) to mount the pump again. We hold our collective breaths and turn it on again – it works! Don’t ask me what I have fixed, as I do not know. Anyway it was 6pm and time for a soothing red wine.

Entrance into the harbour – Esprit outside on the left.

Fishing boats in the harbour.

The following day we go ashore early to climb up to the castle, which evidently is the best preserved castle in the Mediterranean – 45 minutes later and 250m higher, we reached the top to admire the view. This area was settled around 2,000 BC and the castle construction was started around 500 BC. The battle of Lepanto in 1571, was fought off the coast here, when the Ottoman fleet was defeated by a coalition of Christian countries.

View down to the harbour.

Halfway up to the castle.

View back towards the bridge.

Entrance to the top fortifications.

At the very top.

On board the Spanish galley “Marquesa” was a 24-year-old Spanish marine, Miguel de Cervantes who received three gunshot wounds—two in the chest and one which rendered his left arm useless. Cervantes later started writing and is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language and one of the world’s pre-eminent novelists. His novel “Don Quixote” has been translated into over 140 languages. In the little harbour of Navpaktos stands a statue of Cervantes to remind us of his service in the battle of Lepanto.

Statue of Miguel de Cervantes.

Our next anchorage was on the small island of Trizonia, before enjoying a fabulous downwind sail to Galaxidi, where we anchored in the harbour. This tranquil harbour, hemmed in by a pine-studded peninsula, is one of the most pleasing in the Gulf of Corinth. It is a useful safe harbour near Delphi which can be reached by bus.

Galaxidi street.

Galaxidi – colourful flowers.

We stayed here for three days, enjoying the laid back atmosphere and catching the bus to Delphi on the Saturday. Delphi was regarded by the ancients as the centre of the world. Its spectacular site amidst ravines, rocky bluffs and sheer cliffs on the side of Mt Parnassos contributes to its air of mystery.

Starting in Delphi village.

Walking towards the Delphi archeological site.

Looking back towards the coast.

Information at the entrance.

Model of the original site.

Delphi takes its name from Apollo Delphinios, when the god was worshipped in the shape of a dolphin. The Delphic oracle was famous throughout Greece. The French school began excavating the site in 1892 and a museum next to the site houses most of the important finds. Truly, a must-visit place in Greece. I am uploading just a few of the 95 photos I have taken.

Beautiful mosaic floors.

Start of the sacred way.

The retaining wall for the Temple of Apollo – craftsmanship as good as at Machu Picchu in Peru.

The remains of the tripod of Plataea with the temple of Apollo behind.

Looking down at the base of the temple of Apollo.

Temple of Apollo with the floor recess where the oracle of Delphi resided.

The theatre of Delphi.

At the very top, the stadium with the track 178 m long. The athletes must have been knackered by the time they got to this altitude.

The museum – philosopher on the left.

The Naxian Sphinx.

Statue of the athlete Agias (330 BC)

Bronze incense burner (460 BC)

The bronze statue of the charioteer – the most important exhibit in the Delphi museum (474 BC)

On Monday, a favourable easterly will carry us back west to the Ionian islands, to continue our cruising.

Cheers for now.

Greece – Navplion to Zakynthos.

Route: Navplion to Zakynthos.

We couldn’t really motor from Navplion after the cyclone, due to a stern line caught in the propeller, but fortunately there was a good wind to sail the short 10 mile hop to Astrous on the eastern Peloponnese coast. We arrived to tie up next to about 12 other yachts in the harbour –  the crews of which were shell shocked after the cyclone hit them. Evidently, the winds here peaked at 60 knots with waves breaking 5 metres high over the harbour breakwater to swamp some of the boats. We were glad to have been 10 miles north.

Astrous harbour.

Astrous is a gem of a place, with lovely walks, friendly people and tavernas serving traditional food. We stayed for two days to dry things out, do the washing and fill the water and diesel tanks.

Astrous town from the Venetian castle.

Michelle dived to clear the prop of rope and fishing lines, as the water was settling down and visibility improved. Our next stop was Kiparissi, 38 nm further south on this magnificent coast. We met up with James Foot and his partner Wallace for sundowners on Esprit. Rob Wallace put us in touch with this exceptional water colour artist.

Michelle cut all of this from the prop.

Kiparissi houses along the harbour.

Kiparissi: Esprit tied up to the small mole.

Doing the 5km walk to this remote chapel south of Kiparissi.

Looking back to Kiparissi.

Couldn’t resist ringing the bell.

Chatting with a friendly Scottish expat over coffee.

Taking the very expensive shortcut through the Corinth canal from the eastern Peloponnese to the Ionian islands in the west was a consideration, but we were rewarded by the most beautiful mountains and greenery of the eastern Peloponnese, which we highly recommend. The following day we sailed to Monemvasia, which was an unexpected and beautiful surprise for us. Monemvasia is a humpbacked island (likened to a little Gibraltar) connected to the Peloponnese by a causeway. On the south side of the island is the ancient town which was first settled in the 6th century AD.

Sailing past the village of Monemvasia.

Esprit tied up in the harbour with Monemvasia in the background.

Approaching the gate to Monemvasia.

Narrow cobbled streets.

Earthy colours.

More beautiful textures.

The town square with one of numerous churches.

Watching Michelle and Annie return from their walk to the fortifications on top, while enjoying my breakfast.

Castles and walls, old houses, narrow cobbled streets, churches, arches and coats of arms – untouched by the passage of time. We explored this magical place and had breakfast at a small taverna, before walking back across the causeway to the new town. After stocking up with provisions we set sail to round the south eastern tip of the Peloponnese and anchor in Frangos bay in the south of Elafonisos island.

Map of Monemvasia town.

On Friday the 5th of October we cast off in a freshening easterly to cross the gulfs of Lakonikos and Messiniakos for a 66 nm crossing to Maratho on the south western corner of the Peloponnese. I should have stayed in bed – two competitive sailors in the shape of Michelle and Annie left me with white knuckles. With a fully reefed main and 25% of the jib out, they managed to surf the waves, hitting 13 knots in a 33 knot north easter, on the aft quarter. After rounding Cape Tainaron, it got wetter, as we were now on a broad reach. A stiff whisky was called for when we anchored at Maratho, having averaged 8.25 knots/hour.

Michelle thinking she is sailing a 49er.

What better than a chilled bottle of Lambrusco to celebrate a good sail.

Followed by a game of chess.

The next morning, we had to motor past Methoni, all the way to the Strofadhes islands (Arpia and Stamfani), a distance of 50 nm. From fresh winds one day, to nothing the next – that’s sailing. One consolation was a Bluefin Tuna the girls caught on a trawling line.

Motoring past the fortifications of Methoni.

Michelle with her catch.

After a quiet night off Arpia, we motored the last 40 nm to anchor in front of Freddie’s Beach Bar at Tsilivi Beach on Zakynthos at 4 pm. We had a warm welcome from Robert and Ritsa Wallace, old friends from Cape Town and their staff, before enjoying a sumptuous dinner.

Arriving at Freddie’s.

Welcome drink with Rob and Ritsa at Freddie’s with Esprit in the background.

First course: Meze platter.

The Schengen visa rules allows Annie with her UK passport to stay in the EU Schengen countries indefinitely, whereas my Aussie passport has a limit of 90 days in these countries, after which I have to leave for 90 days. My 90 days expires on the 15th October, so after two previous unsuccessful attempts to extend the visa, Ritsa facilitated a meeting with the local police, who deals with foreign passport holders. Unfortunately, the official who interviewed us must have had a difficult morning dealing with refugees, so he didn’t want to know about my problem. After a prolonged argument, he agreed to consider this again the following Saturday.

Robert at sea.

We used the rest of the week, to take Rob and Ritsa for a sail to Wreck beach and the Blue caves and they in turn drove us around the island to show us all the sights.

Wreck beach.

Michelle, Ritsa and Annie.

Esprit anchored below the spectacular limestone cliffs.

The ladies enjoying the water.

The anchorage off Freddie’s Beach Bar became untenable due to an onshore north westerly on the Wednesday, so we motored to Zakynthos harbour for a sheltered berth.

Rob’s tours: View of Zakynthos town.

View from Rob’s friends taverna.

Buying produce from Dimitri and his daughter.

Windmill near the northern end of the island.

More spectacular coastline.

Visiting the St. George monastery.

Michelle flew back to London on the Thursday after her three-week visit. I managed to get the required documentation ready for my meeting with the official on the Saturday, which Ritsa again facilitated.

The meeting went well and I was issued with a 90-day visa. This was a relief, as we were also wearing the Wallace’s threshold out after a week. We will now head north to explore the rest of the Ionian islands, before leaving Esprit in Preveza at the end of November. Cheers for now.