We motored out of Kalamata. The sea all around was a field of sparkling diamonds as far as the eye could see. All was fine until just past Karavi Rock, a nasty unlit saw toothed crag off the south end of the Mani peninsular, then the sea got up, the engine overheated and stopped. From then on with the wave height rising and the boat rolling (last wine glass gone!) the waves surfed and hissed at us from behind and gave us a very heavy sail around Cape Matapan admiring the elegant lighthouse and wondered what we looked like to the watchers as we swept past! We got repeatedly soaked on the gusts as water spewed up but at least the water is still warm and we know we can shower in hot water once safely anchored. That was my next worry. Andy had found a broken impellor and replaced it hoping that that was the problem but I could not breathe easy until the engine had started and kept going …….. it did. The wind did not lessen until about 0400.
The next day we left early for Kythira – Durrell called it an ‘unprepossessing little island’ there is a well known 1973 song (if you are a Greek of a certain age) by Dimitris Mitropanos called ‘Road to Kythira’. It (Kythira) represents ‘the end of the line’ a place that is never reached. It was funny to read this because this is exactly why I wanted to come here, to reach the end of that line. It is the half way point between the mainland and Crete which we could see in the distance. Its appearance is more like that of a Cycladian island, the white Chora on the hilltop, the land summer dry, bare and treeless. We did snatch glimpses of the occasional verdant little valley, cultivated and fertile. The water was crystal clear, beautiful for swimming. In the evening we walked up to the Chora and explored around the castle enjoying the views down to Kapsali bay and our boat.
From Kapsali we had a very long day as we wanted to make it as far north as we could. We covered 60 miles and spent 10 hours on the boat. It never ceases to amaze me how the time passes. The eastern Peloponnesian coast was all high mountains. High mountains with great clefts creating gorges from which emanated cloud that rose up in fantastical shapes to be blown, dispersing in slow motion, whispered away by the high winds. We are going directly toward one of these openings, cumulo nimbus are bubbling up over the faraway hills.
A peaceful night was spent anchored off the beach in this wide bay at Kiparissi and in the morning my attention was drawn by a huge splash. So I looked over the side and saw what I first took to be weed floating on the surface close to our water line on the shady side of the boat. It turned out to be pipe fish and it soon became apparent why they were cowering there. – Cue jaws music and enter the predator who was stalking the little fishes. He suddenly accelerated and pounced. We have not yet managed to identify this fish, but he was a beautiful killer; alternating vertical bands of lime green yellow and black the fins shone turquoise and the swallow tail was yellow under the water in the morning sun. This kept us amused for ages, trying to get photos and videos that were something more than empty water!
On Spetzes we anchored in Lazaretto Bay an idyllic deep bay protected from south and westerly winds. We were in clear water, surrounded by pines and olives; we could have stayed here many days and we intend to return. Our idyll was brought short however by a change in the wind direction and a building up of sea but not before we had a real treat. A silver fold on the water gave away the presence of something big. We watched and waited. Momentarily I had seen a sleek back dive and my first thought was selkie. However I have been fooled before and a few minutes later a cormorant or shag has popped up! We watched and waited and at last were rewarded by a set of large soulful eyes, whiskers and dark nostrils emerging before snorting and disappearing again. It was indeed a large Selkie and before he left he surfaced once again and looked back at us. We felt so privileged to have seen this; subsequently when we told local people of this story, they were unsurprised so – good news. There must be an increase in the Mediterranean monk seal population.
From Porto Heli, Andy, fearful of the sea state on our way to Poros routed us around the south of Hydra. The first four hours we sailed, yes sailed. But we were going in the wrong direction. We were thrown around and tipped up but lessened the agony by listening to the sound track of “Hamilton” which we are going to see in London at the end of November. That was fun. We went about and now we were speeding north at last skimming the north east cape of Hydra and on a good course for Poros. Approaching the narrow waters that cut Poros from the mainland accompanied by many other yachts, the heavens opened and I mean really opened. The water came down in torrents, so much I could hardly see the boat in front. It was a little chaotic in the town as the boats ahead were all trying to moor up alongside. We decided to keep going and anchor about 2nm west of Poros. Just as we exited the narrow bit of water our engine overheated and had to be stopped – this is getting to be a habit. We made it to our anchorage and for the second time this season anchored under sail, this time of necessity! The boat has had an amazingly good rinse and we stayed here for a couple of nights as we were tired . Here, the engine overheat problem was investigated some more and Andy thinks he has bottomed it out. We motored back up into Poros where we met up with some friends who have a house there and by chance were in residence. A very nice little interlude and so with washing done and ice cream eaten we continued our journey up to Athens. In the next little bay just north of Perdika, early in the morning I noticed again a larger fish than normal – iridescent blue fins, yellow tail and faint mottled striping – it was the same as before. We have been told that this is a dolphin fish. I’m still not sure. But it was fascinating to watch as it circled Selkie Dancer.
And so, anchorage by anchorage we came to Athens, the penultimate one being on the south coast of Salamis.
The following morning we made a fantastic sail which found us weaving our way through the dozens of ships at anchor, keeping a sharp lookout for the fast ferries going into Piraeus, to our winter home in Zea Marina. In the distance were a mass of white sails, it was Saturday and it seems that all of Athens had taken to the water.
Andy is in seventh heaven as there are chandleries, three within five minutes!
What is staggering to me is the profusion of antiquity at every turn. On the surface, modern Athens sprawls, white clumps of chalk scattered over the contours. Whilst underneath the ancients sleep and sometimes break out. We get out at Monastiraki metro and immediately we are in an archaeological site, we see the remains of town walls and the ancient river, paved over by the Romans and turned into a sewer. As we emerge into daylight, there high above us is the Parthenon shining in the mid day sun – glorious.
So here we are in Marina Zeas E26 is our ‘pied a mer’ until October 2020 and perhaps beyond – who knows……….please note the glass drinking straws and pretty gold motifs – such a clever present! για μας!