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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.