Sugar 'n' Spice - Weblog

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Porto Heli, Peloponnese, Greece


37º 19.39 N

23º 09.13 E

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The crowds were out in Kalamata for the Easter festivities. Shops closed, the restaurants were full to overflowing so we ate on board, caught up some chores & round tuits & explored the town either on foot or by bike.

On Tuesday (21stApril) we started on the formalities for our & the boat’s entry into Greece.  This started with the Port Police(forms) then a visit to the TAX office (more forms, obtain a tax reference number, pay money, another form) & back to the Port Police (with form) to obtain a ‘dekpa’, the boat’s registration document in Greece (more money).

Next it was obtain diesel – very necessary after our marathon motor on the crossing from Malta.  A mini tanker was summoned, which duly arrived, uncoiled its hose & our tank was full again, & purse lighter.

Overnight there was a terrific thunder storm with lots of rain.  We had intended to do a walk in the hills on Wednesday, but that morning the clouds were so low you couldn’t see the hills even if you wanted to ‘swim’ them.

So it was a wet bike ride along the coast to the gas supply depot where we watched our camping gaz bottle refilled.  Definitely different from the UK , & very efficient.

Back on board  Charles, from ‘Flicka’, the Parker 31 berthed next to us, arrived with a bottle of wine to share, as the best way of passing  such a wet day!  Very nice of him.

Thursday the heavy showers continued, but we partly dodged them, & walked up to the castle, via a park on the site of a disused railway line.  It is full of old railway engines & rolling stock, which you can walk around or climb in/on at will.  Unfortunately they also seem to be a target for the graffiti artists.

 Not much remains of the castle but a tumble down gatehouse, but there were good views over the town & bay.

Friday 24th April with better weather we decided to leave.  This meant another visit to the Port Police to ‘check out’ (forms), but what we didn’t know (new this year we are told) was that that meant another trip to Tax office (to pay  88cents departure tax!) then back to Port Police with receipt to get the ‘dekpa’  exit stamped.  Finally just before midday we left Kalamata heading south down the coast.  With a light wind we had a mix of sailing & motoring, we saw some distant dolphins, the snow covered mountains (Profitis Ilias 2400m high in the Taygetus range) were hiding in cloud & Doug fished –  usual result, nothing.  Early evening after 23.5nm  we anchored close to the quay in the bay of Ormos Limeni.  Several fishing boats were coming & going & we were entertained by the efforts of one to right their dinghy, which had capsized on its mooring.  A large flock (12 or more) of what appeared to be white egrets circled the bay, apparently trying to find a spot they all liked to land, before disappearing on up the coast.  I’ve never seem this number in a flock before so don’t know if this is normal round here.

The next day, Saturday, we made a prompt departure in a light wind to carry on south, & round Ak Tainaron, the cape at the southern end of the Mani peninsula, just after noon.  Then it was a short sharp sail north to anchor in the bay at Porto Kayio.

 A few Greeks were out fishing & walking to the headland of the bay, & we were amused when a Greek man & his daughter swam out to the boat & asked if they might come on board to jump in, as it transpired that they had left son on the beach, who hadn’t wanted to swim with them, & they wanted to wind him up!  They certainly achieved that with cheerful shouts & laughter from us when we realised their plan.

We went ashore & had a very nice fish supper, at one of the beach tavernas, having been virtually highjacked by the lady proprietor.

Sunday we went for a walk back along the coastal hills towards Cape Tainaron.  The hills were a mass of flowers, so much so that in several places the path was very overgrown, & it was difficult to work out where it actually went.    It did, however, take us down to a really hidden little bay, probably best accessed by boat, before another rocky scramble up again.  The vegetation was a riot of colour & a lot of the flowers were similar to what we have in the UK only more exuberant - larger & more vividly coloured.  I realise I have only seen Greek hillsides from midsummer on, when they are parched & brown.

Back at the boat we found the forecast had changed from its settled prediction to a lot of wind.  Indeed this picked up during the night, as forecast, so at first light (27th April) we upped anchor & headed for a cove in the NE corner of the bay that the pilot book recommended. We re-anchored mid morning as we suspected the anchor was dragging.  But it was a very uncomfortable day as a ravine ran down to the cove & the wind gusted down this causing the boat to shear around a lot.  At dusk we set anchor drag alarums on the electronic chart in the hope of getting some rest, but about 11pm off they went & yes we were dragging!  Doug headed the boat away from the shore, while I got the anchor up – relief, it was still attached to the chain.  We sorted ourselves out as best we could in the dark, & headed back close to our original location on the southern shore near the little hamlet.  There we anchored yet again, but took it in turns to monitor the position for the rest of the night & into the next day, as we were now on a lee shore.  Finally late in the day (Tuesday 28th April) the wind subsided & we were able to relax our anchor watch, & in the evening go ashore for another supper in the taverna.  There it transpired that several people had been watching our adventures & they did not think the cove a good place to anchor, despite the pilot!

So on Wednesday 29th April we made a prompt start from Kayio for the 22nm to Yithion (Githion).  The wind was still gusty (4-7), varying in direction, & there was a large left over swell, so it was a mix of heavily reefed sailing, supplemented by the motor in the lulls.

At Yithion we used the anchorage as the harbour was a jumble of fishing boats.  Had our first dip of the year as Doug dived to check the anchor, I wonder why, & I was sufficiently tempted to swim round the boat a couple of times.  Ashore we did some provisioning, & some reconnaissance as to how best visit Mystra, & had another supper out so Doug could have octopus.

On Thursday 30th April it was another early start, this time to catch a bus to Sparta.  This was complicated as we did not expect to find the bus station in a fast food caff.  The bus trip gave us fine views of our snow capped mountain, Profitis Ilias, but from the other side.  From Sparta we got a taxi to the Byzantine site of Mystra.

Starting at the lower entrance, & lower town we made our way up & through long abandoned houses, churches, monasteries & convents.  Most of the churches had at least some remains of the frescos that originally decorated them, while a number of buildings had been or were being carefully restored.  Reaching the upper town we found the Palace swathed in scaffolding, so that was out of bounds, then it was on & upwards for the final steep ascent to the Kastro, with commanding views of the land & town down below. Returning down through the beautiful buildings we wondered why it had been allowed to fall to ruin – too steep & too narrow roads for modern wheels perhaps? Then it was refreshment in the village below & bus back first to Sparta then Yithion & the boat.

Friday 1st May, another festival (& bank holiday) - we did some chores then went round to the fishing boat area in the harbour to fill the water tanks, so it was a late morning start.  The wind picked up as we cleared the harbour, we unfurled the genny & as we were doing 7 knots & towing the dinghy, left the main alone.  We continued with wind from a westerly sector & varying strengths & sometimes some rolls in the genny past the lighthouse at Ak Zovolo & then gybed to pass the Monastery & cape of Ak Maleus.  This is the third cape along the south of the Peloponnese, & has a bad reputation, so we were glad to be round the next lighthouse.   The wind still had games to play as the high cliffs caused it to drop off & restart from another direction, so the engine went on for the final stretch up the coast.  We had a brief sighting of some dolphins then the rock that is likened to Gibraltar, Monemvasia, came into view.  The single pontoon in the harbour seemed full so we anchored behind the mole for the night. (56nm).  The next day we discovered that one boat had moved up to make room, but we had not been sure there was room & had stayed at anchor.

Saturday 2nd May – One yacht left so we moved into that spot, alongside on a concrete pontoon.  We did a provisioning run to the little town & were amazed to find what we would consider old fashioned traditional butchers.  The meat was cut & dressed to order, straight from the cool room & there were huge wooden slabs for the actual cutting.

Then it was across the causeway & up the hill, where the residents have  to park their cars on the road, to the mediaeval  gateway guarding the walled city of Monemvasia.  No cars beyond here, they don’t fit through the gateway!  This Byzantine city buzzes with life, it was occupied at one time by the Venetians, more has recently been restored & all the buildings are in use as cafes, shops & hotel accommodation.  It gets quieter as you climb the narrow streets into the upper Town, then through a gate in the walls you reach the upper rock crowned at one end with the ruins of the old fort & at the other a 13th century church.

The next day (3rd May) the wind was picking up & forecast to get more so we put the dinghy away & left Monemvasia.  We were sailing close hauled & the wind was quite gusty (hills again!) close to the coast.  Later as we got further north & away from the coast it dropped completely.  So we continued with a mix of sailing & motoring.  Mid afternoon we had the best sighting of dolphins that we have had in the Med.  We reckoned about 20-30 were around the boat at one stage, & there were more travelling in all directions, presumably fishing, for quite a distance, so a total of perhaps a 100.  Lovely.  So early evening after 43nm we arrived at Porto Heli, where years ago I worked teaching dinghy sailing for a summer, & anchored in its large bay.

The 4th May was grey & wet.  We seized a break in the damp & headed ashore, & along to the Hotel Rozos, where the sailing of 20+ years ago had been based.  And yes they knew Brian, my ex boss, & were able to give me his phone number.  Later I contacted him on the phone & we met him & his lady, Linda for supper, & caught up the news of years.  They had only returned from the UK a couple of weeks before so it was really very lucky we were able to link up.


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