Tag Archives: Peloponese

Adama to Katacolon

We left Adama at 2 pm on Tuesday, 21 August headed for Porto Kayio, Methoni and Katacolon.  This was a total of just over 200 nautical miles and, due to the settled weather we decided to do it in three days.

The first leg, Adama to Porto Kayio was the best part of 100 miles miles, or 20 hours and we did this as an overnight passage to arrive in the morning as other boats would be leaving.  The weather was also predicted to be calm which was good.  According to the Pilot Book the two easternmost fingers of the Peloponnese, Capes Malea and Matapan, should be treated with respect as far as the weather is concerned and can be subject to violent winds.  We had a little taste on our way up here from Crete last year, but this time made the passage without much wind at all, the biggest challenge was all shipping using the Steno Elafonisou, the channel between Cape Malea and Nisos Kithera.

Approaching Porto Kayio
Porto Kayio

We made good time and  were anchored by 9.30 am on Wednesday.   We spent the day resting and swimming before going ashore for an early dinner. unfortunately it was not as good as we remembered and so leaving on Thursday was not such a chore.

Thursday saw us up at 6 and away by 6.30 heading for Methoni.  Methoni has the ruins of a Venetian fortress occupying the entire headland which looked pretty impressive as we’d sailed passed last year so I wanted to visit.  After a straightforward passage we anchored at 4.30, put the tender in the water immediately and went ashore. I had a look around the castle while Valeria supped wine on the beach.

Artists impression of the fortress from the north

The castle is Venetian and was built in the 13th century to control the east west trade routes around the Peloponnese.  Although it looks spectacular there is little actually there apart from the round tower and the adjacent castle gate overlooking the old galley harbour.    It passed to the Ottoman Turks who built the hexagonal tower, the Bourtzi, at the southern tip of the headland after they took the fort in 1500.    This apparently had little defensive value but did help enclose the galley harbour.

Main entrance
Southern gate
Bourtzi tower from southern gate

Interior of the fortress looking north-east
Granite column from an early Christian shipwreck, erected in the main Piazza d’armi by the Venetians in the 14th century

View from the Kastro taverna

After an hour or so hiking around the site, it is very large, I went back to Valeria and we went for a meal to Taverna To Kastro right outside the castle entrance.  And what a fantastic meal, mini cheese pies, stuffed zucchini flowers and a delicious mousaka.  Our intention had been to spend a day here looking around but we decided to push on so that we wouldn’t have to travel on Valeria’s birthday.u

Anchorage off Methoni

So, at 6.30 on Friday morning we set off again for Katacolon.  This is the small port and cruise ship terminal close to the ancient site of Olympia, the home of the Olympic games.

From Kalamata to Zakynthos

Although it would have been good to linger along the way we were pushed by the weather again.  Strong southerly winds were forecast for Monday and Tuesday and we could make for Zakynthos over the weekend arriving by Sunday evening.

In the longer term we are now heading into mid-September and want to be in Roccella by mid-October having visited friends and got the watermaker fixed in Corfu. So Zakynthos here we come.

We left Kalamata on Friday lunch time and headed 15 miles across the Messiniakos Gulf towards Koroni.  This was the site of one of a pair of massive Venetian fortresses guarding the trade routes around the Peloponese; the other being at Methoni,  further west around the peninsular.

I have gone on about the fickle wind, too much, too little, wrong direction,  but today we had fantastic wind.  At first I thought we’d have to tack back and forth across the Gulf but as the afternoon progressed the wind backed round until we were sailing directly for Koroni. Then we had a 180 degree wind shift, had to take a reef and were flying along at 7 knots right up to the anchorage!   And all this because we had just filled up with fuel ………

Sunrise over the Mani Peninsula

We anchored off Koroni over night and in order to avoid the afternoon winds set off at sunrise – you can tell how concerned Valeria is about brisk winds when she suggests getting up in the dark!!!!!

Koroni’s ruined Venetian Fort
The fortress at Methoni

We passed the other fortress at Methoni at 10.30 and arrived in Ormos Navarinou just after lunch.  As our information suggested the marina at Pylos was rammed full and so, planning on a quick get away on Sunday morning, we anchored.

Navarino was the site of the naval battle which effectively ended the Greek War of Independence.  Long story short, the Turkish and Egyptian fleets were anchored in the bay in a horseshoe facing the entrance.  The British, under Admiral Codrington sailed in, gun ports half open and anchored in the middle of the horseshoe.  Apparently the Brits and Turks weren’t actually at war (that’s the long story).  The British anchored in the middle of the horseshoe, out numbered 21 ships to 89, when the Turks fired on them.  The engagement lasted some 4 hours and the superior rate of fire of the Royal Naval gun crews won the day.

Sunrise over Ormos Navarinon

On Sunday morning, at first light again we set off again for Zakynthos, a 70 mile passage in light or no winds.   We had the sails up but it wasn’t until mid afternoon that we got any wind we could use and even then needed an engine to keep our speed up.   But we arrived as planned dead on 6 o’clock and were put on the Town Quay in the northern corner of the old harbour.   Rather a busy, noisy part of town but at least hopefully sheltered from the expected winds.

Porto Kayio to Kalamata

We set off from Porto Kayio at first light on Thursday morning, much to Valeria’s joy, to make the most of the good weather on our 50 mile passage to Kalamata.

First light at the entrance to Porto Kayio

Moon over the Mani Peninsula
Sunrise over Matapan

Our route took us south round Cape Matapan, hugging the coast in the flat calm weather before we could head north in to the Messiniakos Gulf.   In antiquity this area was know as Messene.  When conquered by the Spartans the Messenians left for Sicily, settling in the area now known as Messina.

As we motored north towards Kalamata we checked the weather again and found the forecast had become somewhat more favourable and meant we could probably manage with just one night in Kalamata. This would allow us time to do some washing, clean the boat, take on fuel and fresh water and go shopping before setting off again by 2 pm on Friday,  the check out time!

And it all went according to plan, with one very pleasant variation. We went for a walk in the port area of Kalamata in the evening and found it to be a rather dispiriting place, rather run down in parts and not very inviting at all.   Turning back towards the marina we suddenly bumped into the French couple we’d met in Porto Kayio; Jacques and Isabel from the yacht ‘Manipo’.  They had found space in the main port and, seeing our AIS, had come looking for us!   So returning to the restaurants close to the Marina we had a couple of drinks and some snacks before inviting them back to ‘Windependent’  for more of the same!

The following morning after washing the boat and filling up with diesel we set off for a coffee aboard ‘Manipo’ before doing our shopping.  It transpires that Jacques and Isabel are heading in the same direction as we are in a couple of days and so we hope to meet up with them again before long.

Our walk around town in daylight didn’t change our impressions of Kalamata very much, but then it is off-season in what was once THE commercial port for the area, although not so now.  But the weather was definately looking up for the next few days so we decided to set off as planned and continue on our way towards Corfu.

Porto Kayio.

Sunset off the coast of Crete

We left Spinalonga on Saturday, 2nd September, at just after 7am for a 36 hour passage to Porto Kayio, an anchorage on the eastern tip of the Mani Peninsula, the middle of the three fingers of the Peloponese.

We had head winds the entire way although they were relatively light until Sunday when they built to 20 then 25 knots, with a 2 metre swell, as we got towards Porto Kayio on Sunday evening. Once into the shelter of the land the sea died away but we still had the wind, and this was funnelled through the entrance to Porto Kayio quite spectacularly.  Inside the bay the wind let up a little and we found ourselves a spot to anchor for the night.

Winds in the mouth of Porto Kayio

The following day it looked as if we’d dragged our anchor and diving on it I found we had indeed dragged 10 metres into deeper water. As we were considering our options another yacht left the bay from a position close into the beach and so we moved in to take their spot. As it transpired this position is about the best place to be, the sand offers slightly better holding and the wind which whistles across the north part of the bay only gusts here, seldom reaching full force.

Porto Kayio is a bit of an exaggeration really. There is little here that would qualify as a ‘port’ except a small jetty for local motor boats.   The village comprises about 30 buildings, most of which are hotels or B&B’s with restaurants.  There is a tiny scrap of stony beach only big enough for a single row of sun beds and not a lot else. It is very isolated and wonderfully peaceful and an ideal destination if you want beautiful scenery and quiet contemplation.  Tourist buses visit occasionally as a lunch stop on their way to and from Cape Matapan, the south tip of the peninsular, and there is a steady stream of yachts.

Our plan was to wait here until Thursday for favourable winds before setting off north towards Pilos in search of diesel.  Unfortunately Pilos seems to be on of those marinas which was started but never completed and reports suggest that as there is no one to collect harbour dues it is likely completely full of local boats. With this uncertainty in mind I decided to head for Kalamata where there is fuel and a marina where we can wait out the next burst of strong winds forecast for this weekend.

Porto Kayio has been inhabitted since antiquity due to its sheltered anchorage.   The name Kayio derives from its Venetian name which meant Quail, as apparently they were abundant here.   The Ottoman Turks occupied the area, building a castle in the 16th century to defend the anchorage which was the base for galleys patrolling the Kythera Channel.  There after it was occupied by the Venetians then the Turks again until Greek independence.

Ma belle …….

We went for a walk to the headland at the mouth of the bay on Monday afternoon and I took a hike up to the church above the bay on Wednesday.   That was a bit disappointing as after a steep climb and a rather overgrown footpath to get there I couldn’t get into the church yard which over looks the bay.    There is also the ruined castle on the hill over looking the church but I couldn’t find the footpath to get to it.  But the exercise was welcome!

Kastro

The rest of our stay was taken up with swimming and snorkeling,  reading and keeping an eye on the forecast.  We also had to go ashore to find some water and sample the local cuisine and struck it lucky with the Akrotiri Restaurant.   Simple food, absolutely delicious and they were quite happy for us to take water from their tap.

The Akrotiri

Tuesday, the 5th, was our Wedding Anniversary and so we went back to the Akrotiri for a long lunch of Saganaki (a fried cheese dish), sardines, a fish of some description and a delicious baked aubergine in tomato and cheese sauce, and some wine of course. This stretched well into the evening when we met a French couple from another yacht and some of their friends.  It was a lively way to spend our anniversary, unexpected and all the nicer for it!

View from our table

Tomorrow we are off early for a 10 hour passage to Kalamata.  We have had a very pleasant few days in Porto Kayio.  It is a lovely little place, more so when the wind isn’t howling through the bay.