Captain’s log day 1 (July 1): We have finally cast off lines and set sail. We had to time our departure carefully since the swing bridge between the mainland and the island of Lefkada had been towed away for repair over the winter, and in it’s place was a large drive on/off ferry. This ferry allowed cars to drive through it and would then pivot away to allow boats to cross through the channel. Unlike the swing bridge which opened every hour, the ferry cleared the channel every two hours. We timed our arrival so that we would be in the basin, hovering, until the ferry motored itself in a pivot to allow boats to pass through on one side. It was quite a sight to see and felt like a bit of a squeeze! Luckily we had very little wind and current, so we passed through without any drama. Once we cleared the very long channel, we headed for Two Tree Bay….one of our favorites from the end of the season last year. When we arrived, there were only 2 other boats in this beautiful bay. We were a little disappointed that there was already another catamaran anchored in our favorite part of the bay. Oh well! We dropped anchor and went for a swim. It was good to be back!
Captain’s log day 2 (July 2): We decided to spend another night in this lovely bay. It wasn’t long before we were questioning our decision. On the horizon, we spotted 7 chartered catamarans heading straight for us! Before we knew it, they had anchored themselves in a large circle behind (and very close to) the catamaran that was in our favorite spot. I found myself feeling very grateful that we hadn’t been able to anchor there. By late afternoon, the bay had 15 boats anchored! Lucky for us, most only stayed a few hours for some swimming and fun. By early evening, only 5 of us remained. We decided it was probably time to start making our way south.
Captain’s log day 3-4 (July 3 and 4): Today we got underway earlier than normal since our sail would be about 6 hours….okay, so sail is a bit of a misnomer….we motored since their was not a lick of wind 🙁 This also meant it was blistering hot as well. As a result, we pulled into a small bay on the island of Ithaca to cool off with some swimming and snorkeling. We anchored fairly close to raised, rock reef and headed off to check out the underwater scene. The water was quite crisp and beautifully clear. Before long, we hoisted the anchor and were on our way once again. Destination: The town of Poros on the island of Kefalonia. About 45 minutes outside of our intended anchorage, we noticed a high speed, official looking boat rapidly approaching us. We had no doubt that we were about to be “pulled over.” Sure enough, he pulled up beside us after checking us out for a bit (in the meantime, Dan and I donned our mask….we didn’t know if they would want to board us or not). He finally put down his window and asked us where we were coming from and where we were headed (I’m pretty sure I saw them chuckling that we were wearing masks despite them being 30 feet from us). Anyway, we answered their questions and they told us to have a nice day as they zoomed off. It’s always VERY unsettling to get pulled over and/or boarded by officials even when you know you’ve done nothing wrong. Given that we were American, we were both pretty sure that this will not be the last time we are questioned by officials. Once again, we spent two nights in this lovely anchorage doing a lot of snorkeling in the crystal clear water. On the second day, we took our dinghy and explored the beaches and town. Like everywhere else, it was a virtual ghost town despite being the weekend. The locals have been very kind and gracious to us….even thanking us for coming to Greece. One local woman explained to Dan that they earn their wages for a year during the tourist months of summer. With very few tourists this year (and Americans being locked out), they are very fearful that they will starve this winter 🙁 There are some European tourists around, but we have heard that American tourists spend 40% more than Europeans when they come to visit. Our hearts break for Greece right now.
Captain’s log day 5-6 (July 5 and 6): We decided to leave even earlier this morning since today’s sail was going to be a long one. The hot, still weather has continued to plague us making sleeping at night almost impossible (at least for me….Dan seems to be able to sleep through anything!) Forecasts were starting to show some potential thunderstorms coming in the next few days, so we would need to keep our eye on that. They weren’t calling for any high winds, but experience has taught us that thunderstorms rarely come without nasty wind. Up to this point, the seas had been as flat as glass, so our plan was to stop at a very famous tourist spot known as Shipwreck Bay. Under normal circumstances, this bay is inundated with tourist boats so we figured this would be the best year for us to get in there and explore it. At the very least, we planned to do a lunch stop there before continuing on but if conditions were as favorable as they had been, we would anchor there overnight. Ahhh best laid plans. It wasn’t long before the seas were all churned up. We had 5-7 foot rollers with short periods which made for a very rough ride. As we motored into the narrow entrance, the views were incredible! Not only was the water the most beautiful blue you can imagine, the surrounding cliffs were a spectacular contrast of white limestone. Sadly, the chop and swell made it so that we only motored a little way into the bay, took some pictures and quickly exited. Neither of us felt like it would be a safe place for us to anchor today….even for just a little bit.
After taking a few quick photos, we continued our way south to the town of Keri on the island of Zakinthos. We anchored in the bay and settled in. It had been close to a 45 mile journey and the first time we had actually been able to sail. By the next day, the thunderstorms had arrived. We had 30 knot winds, thunder, lightning, and rain. I am super grateful that this time the storm arrived at 8:30 a.m. instead of the usual 2:00 a.m. So, we spent the morning working on boat chores (which included working on our generator which had inexplicably stopped working). By the afternoon, the skies were clear so we headed into town for a nice long walk and a visit to the “pitch” lake. It is literally made of pitch (like a heavy liquid asphalt used to seal boats in the old days). This place is also known as Herodotus Springs since he (Herodotus: An ancient Greek historian) wrote about it in the 5th century B.C. We plan to return to this area soon. On our way out of the bay, we spotted 2 sea turtles in a different anchorage (this area is one of the Meds largest loggerheads turtle hatcheries), so I definitely plan to revisit!
Captain’s Log day 7 and 8 (July 7 and 8): Our next stop takes us to the town of Katakolon on the Péloponnèse Peninsula. We pulled up to a wall and got ready to side tie. The wind was blowing pretty strongly which made for quite a challenge tying up the boat. Not only did I have to leap across a two foot gap from boat to wall, but the wall was about 3 1/2-4 feet lower than the deck. Eesh….my poor knees. Then came the fun of tying our 16 ton boat to a bollard against the wind. By the time I got the bow tied, the port police were tying our stern line. Well, that’s not a good sign. Everywhere you go, you have to go find the port police to show your documents. The fact that they came to us as soon as we arrived was a little unnerving. They spent quite a bit of time studying all of our documents and asking us a lot of questions. This is the first time that we felt like someone was uneasy about our presence. They finally told us we were okay, but one of the officers told us we could not stay on the wall more than an hour or so. We decided to head out to the bay and anchor. Another awesome choice as we dug in well and were surrounded by an endless sand beach. It made for some great swims and walks along the beach.
The second day, we took a very small train into the town of Olympia (home to the first Olympic Games back in 776 B.C.) Dan and I boarded the little train with our masks on. We were working really hard to be responsible visitors. The conductor chuckled a little bit and told us we didn’t need them because there is no Covid here. Sheesh….this is the first time I’ve felt a little mask shamed (he was super nice about it). We also chose a spot toward the back of the train car (socially distancing and all), but he told us to move up to the front for the best view. At this point, there was only one other passenger on board. As we made our way to Olympia, other locals boarded at various stops, but the train was far from full. When we arrived at Olympia, the conductor smiled and reminded us that the return train was at 1:10 p.m. Since this was the only running time, it was important that we did not miss it! We headed off on foot to the ruins of Olympia. Along the way, several store owners greeted us in English, welcoming us and thanking us for coming (I felt like we were in a game of telephone….had somebody called ahead and told the villagers the American’s were coming?) Our first stop was the museum….masks required. We masked up, sanitized our hands, and explored the ancient artifacts. Once we left there, we continued our journey to the ruins. Despite being more pieces than actual structures, the grounds were huge. It was not hard to imagine this place in all it’s glory. I will let the pictures do the talking at this point. After our very hot exploration of the grounds, we had a nice lunch and bought a few local treasures. When we boarded the train, we went back to our original seats. The conductor told us no and to move back (his English was very broken, so we didn’t really understand). We moved to the back of the car and he told us no again. He pointed us through the corridor to the back car. At this point we were puzzled….until we entered the back car and realized that this would now be the front car! He told us to go to the same spot as before which was now the raised seats at the front of the train with awesome views. The car was nice and chilly with air conditioning as well. I love this guy! He took good care of us on our journey…..and, we were the only people on the train! What a great adventure.
Captain’s log day 9 (July 9): Today we left Katakolon for the town of Kiparissi (also on the Péloponnèse Peninsula). As we pulled into the bay, it was a lot smaller than we expected and really grungy looking. We had decided to side tie to the high wall we had read about and made our approach. Just as I was about to secure our line, a guy in a truck drove up and told us no. He said we needed to tie up across the way. I really wanted this wall despite how dirty and debris laden it was (not to mention the furthest point from town) because I actually would’ve had to step up to get off the boat! Sadly we moved over to the main wall where we basically had to parallel park our boat, in 17 knots of wind, between a very derelict boat and a tug boat. I once again jumped down from the deck and secured our lines (while the 3 guys from the tugboat stood and watched….thanks for the line help guys!) This area wasn’t a whole lot better. There was a lot of debris here as well and bags of trash (and some not so nice graffiti). I felt a little uncomfortable. A Spanish couple warned us that they had been chased from this very same spot by fishermen. At this point, we decided if they wanted to make us move, they would need to get the port police involved. We were NOT moving! I can honestly say this is the first place I’ve been here in Greece where I felt really uncomfortable with regard to people. We had a steady flow of cars, fishing locals, and people just hanging out on the pier. We felt a little bit like we were in a fishbowl. This hangout spot didn’t die down until sometime after 11:30 p.m. This was the first time we didn’t leave the boat wide open all night long. Anyway, nothing weird happened and everyone left us alone (maybe it was the fear of seeing the pariahs from America…haha). We decided this place was a one and done.
We got up early the next morning and hoofed it to some castle ruins. It was a very long hot walk (especially since we got lost a few times) and all up a steep hill. Did you ever notice they put castles on the highest points? Unfortunately, these were probably the least preserved ruins we have seen. It took more time to get there than it did to see everything. From there we headed down the hill to an old flour mill that had been restored. It was small but cool to see how it functioned. We continued back down the hill, stopped at the market for a few provisions, and trekked back to the boat (5 miles and 3 hours later). We quickly got underway in time for the afternoon winds to kick up. Next stop: The town of Pylos on the Péloponnèse Peninsula. The wind wasn’t particularly strong at the start, but before long, we were actually sailing again! Woo hoo!
Captain’s log day 10 and 11 (July 10 and 11): We arrived in Navarino Bay. As we entered the bay, we were greeted by some spectacular rock formations (complete with awe inspiring caves….man, I want to go explore those caves!) and Pylos Castle. The bay is huge and has many attractive places to anchor, so we chose our spot and settled in for the night. The next morning, our adventure took us up a hilltop to some castle ruins known as Navarino Castle. It was a hot, steep trek along a very overgrown path. There is nothing quite like bushwhacking in shorts and a tank top. I can only imagine what creepy crawlies were hidden in the 4 foot high weeds. Some additional fun were the sticker bushes to the left and sharp thorned thistles to the right! But wait…..it gets better…..guess what other fun awaited us? Those of you that know me well have probably already figured out what I was about to encounter. Yep…..huge, ginormous spiders hanging across the path…..hundreds of them! Okay….probably more like A 100 of them and by ginormous I mean bodies the size of a dime…..but that is huge by my standards. Dan was kind enough to blaze the trail, so if he could fit under the web, then I certainly could as well. We spent most of our trek dodging these nasty things. However, in my absolute terror of one dropping on me, I ran the trail whenever we encountered the overhead webs. Needless to say, there was a large section of the trail that I spent running. I am sure to an outside observer, I looked like a nut.
We arrived at the castle after 30 minutes of hiking. Unfortunately, it has kind of been retaken by nature. It was definitely in a state of ruin, but the views were astounding (as you will see from the pictures). We wandered all around the grounds (as much as we could given all the overgrowth) and attempted to find the cave of King Nestor of Pylos, known as the wise king and grandson of Poseidon. We were not successful in finding the cave where mythology says Hermès successfully hid 50 cattle stolen from Apollo. I am grateful for my spidey-sense because the deeper into the trail we went, twice I just about walked face first into a huge spider but saw it at the last second….ack!! I even bushwhacked off trail to try and find a way, but no such luck. We explored as much of the ruins as we could (oh, I forgot to mention….the structure has been officially closed because it is considered dangerous). There was nothing barring entrance besides a worn and faded sign warning of the dangers. You are, however, allowed to access the castle from an entrance on the beach since it does not take you through the main entrance with stone overhead….oops. We kept to the pathways, stayed out from under areas that could collapse and stayed well away from the edges where one could easily slide down the cliff to their death if the land gave way. Since you are reading this, we obviously made it out alive. In hindsight, I have learned that I must make Dan give me the background details before exploring. Not only did I learn that the cave can be dangerous to access from where we were (glad we didn’t find it) but that it is also not for people afraid of heights (ummm, yep that’s me too). In addition, there were warnings about snakes….especially the little green ones which were dangerous! It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know all this ahead of time!
We were anchored very close to shore in a busy beach/camping area part of the bay, so we decided to move to a more remote part of the bay just off the town of Gialova. It is very quiet and peaceful here, we are much further from the shore, and there are a number of highly reviewed tavernas a short dinghy ride away. Our plan is to spend at least the next few days here enjoying the peace and solitude and checking out the little towns surrounding the bay. We also plan to do some inland exploration, so in the interest of a very long post so far, I am going to leave you here. We will be back again soon with some new stories to tell and sights to see! Thanks for sticking with us on our journey through Greece.