Saturday, October 25, 2008

Summer Cruising 2008 - Greece

Summer Cruising 2008 - Greece

Photo: Transiting the Corinth Canal


Croatia to Greece (September 2008)

At the time of writing we have just arrived in Turkey after a 700 n. mile "whirlwind" month through the Agean islands. Bad weather, including the “meltemi”, the Greek term for a very strong northerly that can last for weeks, held us up a twice on the journey, so we did not see as much as we would have liked of some of the islands. But we do intend to cruise much more of the nothern Aegean in 2009.

The overnight sail from Croatia to Brindisi on the east coast of Italy was uneventful. Leaving Lastovo Island at 1030 a.m. on September 25, we motored for 6 hours until the winds increased enough to sail by - at least for 7 hours, then a motor-sail for the next 13 hours, finally sailing the last two. A total of 140 n.miles taking 30 hours. We spent two nights waiting for weather in the new Brindisi marina (at 18 euros per night), filled up with diesel and sailed south to Otranto where we tied up at the sea wall - a free night, and, being a Sunday hassle-free also. None of the “customs, police and immigration hoop-jumping” we had to perform when we stayed there previously (en-route to Croatia).

Leaving at first light with favourable winds to sail the 52 n.miles across the Southern Ionian to the Greek island of Erikoussa, anchoring and swimming in the southern bay. . By the next morning the winds had switched 180 degrees forcing us to motor the 25 miles to the Island of Corfu which is just off the Albanian/Greek mainland.

Clearing immigration and customs at the commercial harbour was not that easy in Corfu due to the back and forth between the wide-spread offices in the harbour. We obtained (for 30 euros) a “Transit Log” which allows us to sail in Greek waters for up to six months. The bonus of that for us is that, if we travel with the boat we are personally allowed six months, rather than three, in Greece. A Greek exception to the E.U. rules and which will be advantageous for when we return next summer to cruise.

In Corfu the weather turned against us (southerly winds, torrential rain with thunder showers) so we spent ten days in the Kerkira (Corfu) marina. It was our first “taste” of Greece, and what we saw we liked. The people were friendly and helpful, the marina was well run (20 euros per day for us in the off-season - supermarket and laundry inside the marina), we saw the sights of the touristy city, the old quarters and the weather, although rainy at times, was warm and eventually came right. We were surprised at how much English was spoken but as it happens, Corfu was a British protectorate for over 50 years. As well, many Brits holiday in Corfu so it is also easy to obtain English newspapers and magazines. Another oil and filter change was routinely done, the third this season, speaking of how often we have had to use the engine - and how many nautical miles we have traveled.

The Passage through Greece to Turkey (October 2008)

Our aim was to take the month of October to travel through Greece to get to Turkey (Marmaris Marina), arriving in early November. The route was to be (roughly): south in the Ionian Sea along the west coast, then east along the north Peloponnisos to the Gulf of Corinth, though the Corinth Canal into the Aegean Sea island-hopping east to Turkey. Only about 600 n.miles - a total of 750 from Croatia. And should the weather cooperate it was quite “doable” in a month albeit a bit rushed.

The names of most of the places mentioned may mean little to readers who have not been to Greece, but for your information: Corfu to Paxos I. - 35 n.m., Paxos to Levkas I. - 47 n.m., Levkas to Oxia I. - 30 n.m., and Oxia to Patras - 30 n.m. These first legs had warm days, anchoring and swimming on arrival made it a delightful cruise.

Then, four nights in Patras marina waiting for weather before heading into the Gulf of Corinth . Spanning the strait at the western end of the Gulf of Corinth one mile from Patras is the world’s second longest (and newest) suspension bridge, the Rio-Antino. It was quite the experience passing beneath it after obtaining clearance, dodging ferries and battling a three knot current as well as funnelled winds on the nose for an hour on the approach. From Patras to Nikalous Bay - 26 n.m., then to Corinth City - 45 n.m. with a free overnight stay in the yacht harbour tied up to the wall.

Photo: The Patras Suspension Bridge - the world's second longest (and newest) - completed 2006. Design allowances were made for frequent earthquakes in the area, deep waters and a widening tectonic plate that it spans.

We were outside the entrance to the Corinth Canal at 0830 the next morning and received clearance to transit after a ten-minute wait. The trip through was quite awesome. The canal is 3.2 n.miles long, 25 metres wide with sheer rock sides of 75 metres along much of its length. We were fortunate being the only boat transiting as bow water pushed by large ships can cause much turbulence and be quite dangerous to vessels of our size. Current helped us considerably and we averaged six knots. We paid the fee at the east end - in our case 114 euros; as the guide book says, “probably the world’s most expensive canal per mile“. However, the alternative (south around the Peloponnisos adding approximately 200 n.miles to the trip) was not attractive to us.

Finally we had arrived in the Aegean Sea and the next stage was to begin. The first day (which included the canal trip) we sailed to Aigina I. - 30 n.m., the next to Kea I. - 45 n.m., Kea to Syros I. - 35 n.m. and then to Naxos I. - 32 n.m. arriving there in force 6 winds, Deborah having “doubting moments” about getting into the marina. The seas outside the harbour were up and a swell rolled into the harbour, rolling us uncomfortably also. No option but to sit, waiting for the big slow-moving “high” over much of Europe to move on and reduce the pressure difference between the “low” to the south of us - which creates meltemis.

We enjoyed the town and the island. Naxos is the most important food producer of the Greek islands. possessing a large fertile plain in the interior with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as olives and wines. It is also touristy, but at this time of year we almost have the place to ourselves. A bus trip to the town of Filoti at the foot of Mount Zeus and a hike to Zeus’ cave part way up was an interesting day.

Photo: Naxos from the portal of the ruins of Opollo's temple - short walk fron the town

According to several guides, Greece (the Aegean particularly) is pretty well “fished out”, but there seems to be a thriving fishing industry on Naxos. The fishing boats go out nightly and there are many fresh fish shops in town.

Photo: the town of Filoti on the slopes of of Mount Zeus

Yet another oil and filter change was completed and a diesel top up from the mini-tanker which comes to your boat on the dock (1.25 euros per litre).

There were only six more sailing days to get to Turkey. The winds finally died after waiting 9 days in naxos, the seas calmed after another one and we continued our island hopping eastwards - mostly motoring: Naxos to Amorgos, to Astypalaia, to Kos, to Symi and to Rhodes, the last Greek stop. Two nights rest, provisioning and then to the last 25 n.miles to Maramis, Turkey.
The huge marina was a welcome sight. An inflatable came out to meet us and guided us into our berth - we could never have found our own way in with 1000 boats in the water (and another 1500 on the hard). But more on Turkey in the next blog.

Keep the emails coming - always love to hear from you.
Brian and Deborah
October, 2008


Photos below: The Christian Church in Naxos town, Brian enjoying a aGreek ham and cheese "pie", and the old town above Naxos