A slow[ish] passage from Porto Cheli to Kalamata

You might recall that at I wrote about the “Medicane” and some of the chaos it caused around the Argolics and Saronics when it crossed the area on 29th September. When Mike and I left Porto Cheli on 2nd October we saw further evidence of damage. As well as dodging lots of branches and sometimes whole trees which were floating around we also passed this boat….

Really hope there was no-one on board when it overturned

….and, on arrival at our first overnight anchorage, could see this beached yacht in the north part of the bay.

We had read on the internet that it was a boat chartered by a group of ten and blown ashore in the strong winds. Fortunately they all escaped unharmed.

The anchorage was in the large Bay of Kyparissi which lies on the eastern Peloponnese coast 24 miles south west of Porto Cheli. We anchored just off the main town….

Lovely surroundings in Kyparissi Bay

……and went ashore for a look around. I expect that it is quite a bustling destination in the summer months with yachts – as there are several mooring options – and land based tourists, but it was very quiet when we were there, with more signs of bygone days than the present.

1869….

… and 1885

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again we had parted company with “Coriander” as they were heading north to meet family and we were making a leisurely passage to our winter marina in Kalamata.

We basically just went with the weather, sailing when we could and sheltering when necessary. We weren’t in a hurry so also took time out to see places along the route. All in all we spent 17 days getting from Porto Cheli to Kalamata, during which we sailed on 11 of them and covered 220 miles.

The weather on 3rd October was very strange – a kind of lilac grey tinge to the sky and no wind. It was definitely a motoring day but we only had 13 miles to go to from Kiparissi to Ierika so that was fine. We arrived late morning and as there was a boat alongside the village quay we anchored opposite under the cliffs. However, they moved and we took their place. We really liked Ierika and, although there isn’t room for many boats either at anchor or on the quay it would be a brilliant place to “hide” in all winds except, perhaps, strong winds from the west.

Above the small village are the ruins of the Ancient City of Zarakas…

Some of the ruins

…. and we spent a pleasant couple of hours in the late afternoon just wandering around before a sundowner on the quay.

Whilst walking alongside the lagoon we saw this fish.

At first we thought it was dying – and then, when we saw lots of others doing the same thing, decided it was probably feeding – though whatever it was after was too small for us to see.

Our last port of call on the Eastern Peloponnese was Monemvasia….

Approaching the island

Old village from the east as we sail by

…..or, to be more accurate, Yefira, the town which has developed on the mainland and is now linked by causeway to Monemvasia island. The name derives from “moni emvasi” and means single entrance. Until the late C19 a fourteen arch bridge – the middle part of which was a drawbridge – joined the Lakonia coastline with the rock.

Although we had been here once before we still walked up to the old village……

Signposted walkway to the upper village… didn’t go anywhere and had to turn round!

……which, at least in the lower part, has been restored considerably in the intervening ten or more years.

Original gateway to upper village

Old upper village

Dome of C12 church “Hagia Sophia” in upper village

Lower village from above

More ruins!!!

Most recently restored square in lower village

Main square

Yefira is a very popular stop for yachts rounding Cape Maléas and the harbour is generally pretty full. Having said that, the available anchorages in the large bay and under the causeway are rather rocky and subject to surge and the holding, if med moored on the harbour pier, is poor – especially in cross winds. We were therefore very glad to find one of about five available alongside spots on the harbour wall empty – and, even better, the one furthest away from the entrance. We were therefore well protected from the wind, waves and surge during the four nights we stayed there.

Others were not so lucky. At about 3 am on 6th October I was awakened by the sound of anchor chains. Two boats on the pier had dragged and were re-anchoring. About two hours later one of them dragged again so went alongside the pier, which isn’t actually allowed – but there was no-one to make him move in the middle of the night and it was definitely his best option. All of this had woken up the crews of the three or four other boats on the pier and, quite sensibly, some went to check their anchor chains too. One couple decided they wanted to tighten their chain so turned on the engine to power the windlass. Apparently they heard some kind of “pop” and smoke started coming out of the engine compartment. They got off the boat and by the time I got into our cockpit, having once again been disturbed by the commotion of the other boats leaving the pier, this is what I saw….

Mike and I sat in the cockpit with fire extinguishers, as did the other boats moored alongside the harbour wall. There was absolutely nothing any of us could do to assist so all we could do was try to ensure that no other boats caught fire.

Genoa sheets burnt through and sail unfurled

Fishermen moved the two fishing boats moored on the other side of the pier to the alight boat and eventually the coastguard and fire brigade turned up.

Coastguard boat struggled to hold fire fighters close enough

Fishing boat got closer and the alight boat anchor chain was cut

Next to the pier ….. almost burnt out

All that remains

Three boats from the pier who had spent a few hours outside the harbour motoring around returned and rafted alongside us and others on the harbour wall.

It was an awful thing to witness but fortunately no-one was injured and no other boats were damaged. We were impressed by the speed in which an anti- pollution skirt was put around the burnt yacht – in fact it was done so quickly that they then had to wet it through a few times to stop it also burning.

It’s great that anti-pollution is taken so seriously. If it wasn’t, I suspect we wouldn’t see some of the wildlife we are lucky enough to come across on our journeys. Over the course of this passage the following sightings were particularly memorable.

Turtle in Yefira harbour

White wagtail – Monemvasia

Stunning kingfisher at Petalidhion

I mentioned above that Monemvasia is popular with yachts rounding the Cape [Akrotíri Maléas] which has quite a fearsome reputation, so picking a good weather window was important to us. Although it is generally less threatening travelling east to west [as we were] we still didn’t want to round it and find ourselves in fierce headwinds or heavy rolling seas.

The day we chose for rounding it, 8th October, dawned bright and fair with negligible wind – just like the forecast has said – and we left Monemvasia at 8.30am. Approaching Maléas the sea was wonderfully calm….

Lighthouse at the Cape

……and we had a 1kn current with us. It only lasted a short time but, when it is going the way you are, every little helps!

Having rounded the headland we were subjected to about 20 minutes of 20kn gusts off the mountains but the wind then settled to a lovely 10kn from the south and we crossed Ormos Vatika to arrive at our chosen bay on the small island of Elafónisos at 2pm.

A little gem of a place with crystal clear water and a lovely beach. We didn’t actually go ashore but we hope to revisit at the start of our 2019 sailing season.

Our next destination was Yíthion, 28 miles NW at the head of the Gulf of Lakonika. The cruising guide describes it as a pleasant low key place seldom visited by yachts. We really liked it. When we arrived there wasn’t much room to berth because whilst it might not be much visited by transiting yachts it is clearly a place where some people have chosen to berth longer term and we took one of maybe two or three spaces available at the inner end of the row of boats along the harbour wall.

Looking over the harbour to the newer part of town

We would certainly recommend it as a place to visit for at least a couple of days – for the general ambience if nothing else – and, if the harbour wall is full there is the option of the anchorage protected by the causeway.

Anchorage and older part of town from the island, Nisis Kanai, now attached by causeway

Maniot Fort on the island

Nisis Kanai lighthouse

We have tried and tested the anchorage because having left Yithion on 11th October for a nice 11 mile sail in 10-14kn winds across the Gulf to Elaia we found that we did not at all fancy the mooring options there so turned round and sailed back to Yithion and opted to anchor. In fact, because winds seem to gust from the north and blow across the harbour we actually felt more secure in the anchorage than in the harbour.

The island from the anchorage

The next four nights we also spent at anchor – firstly at Scutari Bay and then at Porto Káyio on the east coast of the Mani Peninsula and the third and fourth nights at Karavostasi in the large Bay of Limeni half way up the Mani’s west coast.

Wonderfully secluded “Fisherman’s Cove in Scutari Bay

Popular Porto Kayio

The Mani is an amazing place steeped in history and is a very popular place with holiday makers in camper vans – though how they manage some of the steeply winding narrow roads I don’t know. The drivers obviously don’t suffer from vertigo.

An original Maniot Village – now an upscale holiday resort!

Its east and west coasts are very different and are sometimes referred to as the Bright side and the Dark side. When rounding the tip of the peninsula the huge bulk of Capo Grosso gives you the first inclination of why the “Dark side” might be appropriate. The imposing coastline is peppered with caves and split by ravines and it is perhaps no wonder why at least two places along its length are in the list of many claimed entrances to Hades.

Two entrances in one!!

Almost directly across the Gulf of Messiani from Limeni lies the lovely town of Koroni….

…. and we spent two nights here, taking time out to visit the castle…..

The monestary inside the fort

One of the churches in the fort built in the left nave of an older church

Inside the small church

The old walls – pretty thick

Bell tower of lowest and newest church

….and the splendid wine shop tucked down a back street.

The anchorage is mainly sand but there are huge boulders on the bottom. The water is very clear, which certainly makes it easier to spot them and we motored around quite a bit of the anchoring space trying to find somewhere we would not snag a rock with the anchor or chain. However, there are so many it’s not easy to find a 40m boulder free “hole” to drop the anchor in the middle of and when the wind shifted overnight our chain wrapped around one. Fortunately we were able to clear it easily by driving in a semi-circle.

We left Koroni on 18th October and arrived in Kalamata on the 19th having spent our final night at anchor off the small working town of Petalídhion.

Overall it was a really nice pleasantly paced trip from Porto Cheli to Kalamata and, although we weren’t booked in until the beginning of Nov there was no problem with us arriving 2 weeks early [we had contacted them to check] and we settled happily into our winter berth.

Home from home

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