Gladlee of Guernsey
August 1993 - September 1993
30th August – 3rd September 1993
Still quite a swell when we left to pass the huge mass of Cape Grosso, the cave that’s reported to be one of the entrances to Hades, and finally Cape Matapan, after which the sea eased considerably. Still not enough wind to sail, and it was very hot and humid, but an otherwise uneventful passage was enlivened by a reward for James’ patient attempts to catch us some dinner (we had actually run out of fresh food by this time) – a 1lb 14oz fish which we identified from Alan Davidson’s book as a frigate mackerel. We anchored in the attractive bay of Porto Kayio, surrounded by steep hills, just before 12.30 – the anchor held at the second attempt, which was better then the average over the next couple of days (one Italian yacht, “Toshiba”, gave up and left only to return and still drag!) We dinghied ashore and found a couple of tavernas and a “Mini-Market” (closed) in someone’s back garden – had some good calamari and chips, followed by burnt souvlaki for lunch and bludged half a loaf of bread to eat with James’ excellent fish for dinner.
The generally poor holding in the bay became rather crucial next day as the wind steadily picked up and we started to get quite serious gusts over the hills to the NW. James took off in the dinghy to fish, but without success (Nigel keeping fingers crossed that he wouldn’t run out of fuel while drifting downwind out to sea), and in the late afternoon we went for a stroll to the top of the seaward headland – it looked like F5/6 out to sea, and the downdraughts were making fascinating kaleidoscopic patterns on the sea inshore. On the way back we were relieved to meet a travelling vegetable salesman (fusilli con zucchini for dinner!), and with the anchorage beginning to fill up we said a brief “hello” to an Austrian catamaran (“Diethyl”) we’d last seen beached on the Isla Culatra in Portugal: “Shelley” also turned up, as did (after dark) a mysterious small Ukranian yacht with a crew of what might have been Sinhalese – a timely shout stopped them impaling their boat on the reef inshore of us. Meanwhile our dinghy turned over in a particularly ferocious gust just after we’d laid out the kedge, briefly dunking the outboard – first aid as per the handbook seemed to bring it back to life again – and to complete an unsettled evening Nigel managed to knock the anchor light overboard into 6 metres of water.
The morning brought calmer conditions, and after Nigel had surprised himself by retrieving the lamp we set out just after 08.00: a brief promise of wind an hour later proved short-lived, and we headed on towards Yithion with the bare hills and watchtowers of the Mani near to port. With Yithion lighthouse in sight we at last got a breeze, and for 45 minutes we were actually able to show James that “Gladlee” could sail, to0 – by 12.45 we were tied up, with loads of space to spare, alongside Yithion quay.
We found Yithion a very easy-going small town, with few if any foreign tourists and (by Greek standards) quite decent shopping. We got fuel and water without difficulty, and nobody kicked us off our berth or badgered us with formalities, though Nigel did eventually have to cough up a modest mooring fee to the Port Police. James practised his fishing and exercised the outboard, while we wrote letters for him to take home. On the first evening we had supper out at a waterfront taverna (excellent calamari, disappointing octopus), just as well, since James’ final evening brought a violent series of squalls from the south which brought waves over the pier!
A slightly anxious wait for James’ bus to Athens in the morning, which pulled in late – meanwhile we realised he hadn’t signed the visitors’ book, and Julie hurried back for it, only to return as the bus moved off. Sad to see James go, but he seemed to have enjoyed himself enough to come again sometime. The weather still looked unsettled, so we stayed put, a Canadian boat showed up, and later a Spanish couple who gave us some useful advice on Elafonisos, our next stop.
4th – 8th September 1993
The morning brought calm and cloudless sky, so we retrieved our papers from the Harbour Police and set off down the Gulf towards Elafonisos. By midday a southerly breeze had got up, and we had our first decent sail in over three weeks, making a good 6 knots to the SW corner of Elafonisos. As we nosed into Ormos Franges, with its tropical looking white sand beach the depth sounder packed up as it had threatened to do since Porto Kayio a few days earlier. We picked ourselves a spot with the help of the lead line, but having to keep clear of a large motor yacht we found we were out of what little shelter there was from an increasing SSW wind and accompanying swell. We moved to slightly calmer water when the motor yacht took off later, but given the idyllic “desert island” surroundings it would have been nice not to roll about so much! We slept well enough, but with a steady WSW F4 blowing at daybreak and a lot of heavy cloud to the E there was no reason to linger. We had the wind on the quarter down to Cape Maleas, our last turning point on the Peloponnese, being passed on the way by a vast square-rigger (unfortunately with no sail set, for some reason) out of Odessa. Once we got out of the almost flat calm in the lee of the Cape and headed northwards, our helpful WSW wind was gusting erratically off the heavily clouded mountains to the west (strikingly green after the Mani), and we had difficulty sailing, in anything between 8 and 28 knots from one moment to the next – eventually we gave up the struggle and motor-sailed for a bit. Past Ak Kamili the wind seemed to steady a little so we put the genoa out again with the rocky peninsular of Monemvasia in sight some 12 miles away. We got reefs in quickly and efficiently on the run as the wind freshened to F6-7, with gusts to 35 knots (more violent ones further inshore at times), but the sea was relatively calm and we made more or less 7 knots over the 1¾ hours it took to run down to the relative shelter of the N side of Monemvasia rock. It was still blowing F4/5 as we got the sails down under the cliffs, but happily there was a lull as we reversed into the short quay off the causeway – did we really feel a few spots of rain? Having caught our breath we walked along the road to the mediaeval fortified village, so far rather tastefully restored, with attractive tourist shops and a few small bar/restaurants and guest houses. As the clouds closed further in, the thought of a beer took us back to the taverna opposite the quay, where there was even the bonus of some football on TV!
The weather had cleared by morning, and we walked back up through the old village and on through the upper fortifications and miscellaneous ruins to the church at the very top, perched on the edge of the cliff under which we’d taken in our sails the day before – a spectacular view in all directions. Then across the causeway to the new village to inspect the half-complete marina and do some shopping (momentary interest when we spotted a yacht flying the Red Ensign with “Ramsgate” on its lifebelts, but the owner professed to speak no English!) before setting off on the short run to Yerakas, a picturesque sheltered creek with a tiny hamlet on the water’s edge. We started by tying up alongside the quay behind a Belgian/German couple in a ketch, but a gentle bump or two soon warned us that one of our keels was above a rock, so we anchored off – for a while before accepting the ketch’s invitation to raft alongside. Next morning we discovered that there was no reason not to fill up the ferry quay further back in deeper water, so joined Alan and Rita from Lancashire in their Westerly Pembroke “Poseidon” and a large French catamaran (whose lady sold us a rather fetching hand-dyed pareo). The anchorage filled up gradually during the day – quite a crowd in the end – and we escaped for a lovely walk along to the lagoon at the end of the creek and up the hill behind to the Mycenean acropolis on the headland overlooking the harbour entrance – more superb views, birds etc. and an altogether outstanding port of call.
Another short hop, to the bay of Kiparissi, where we found the small jetty on the north side of the bay occupied only by a couple of fishing boats: another very scenic and peaceful spot, though we didn’t have it to ourselves for long. A small tripper boat turned up to tip diesel into tank, inevitably spilling some in the water (we duly gave him our opinion of that), followed by an 8-boat Falcon flotilla and, finally Alan and Rita, who settled for a raft outside us. With our windlass in increasingly bad shape (only working one way) we decided, with Alan’s advice, he being an engineer, to dismantle it altogether. As darkness fell we appeared to have solved the problem, but what with a stubborn spring pin and a crossed thread on the shaft, reassembly seemed to be beyond us! Anchoring for the next five weeks without either depth sounder or windlass didn’t bear thinking about.
9th – 13th September 1993
Some hopeful hammering early in the morning brought us no nearer a solution, but Alan was fortunately itching to take a hand: a walk to the village was cancelled, departure delayed, and the expert set to work. Some venomous blows with the hammer sorted out the spring pin, and an hour or more, patient filing and turning eventually coaxed the clutch nut back on the shaft. By mid-morning we had a functioning windlass, needing only oil and an improvised gasket to get it fully operational again: what a stroke of luck to have fallen in with “Poseidon”. We waved goodbye and set off for Spetsai with much lighter hearts!
We knew that Spetsai town and harbour would be packed at the weekend for the island’s annual celebration of “Armada”, a festival to mark a local girl’s heroism in leading a flotilla of fire-ships against the Turks during the War if Independence, hence our arrival on the previous Thursday. In the event we found what proved to be a relatively snug berth, with our bow wedged between the bows of two motor cruisers moored stern-to to the quay in Baltiza Creek, and partly sheltered by a row of moored excursion boats. The Creek is not the most attractive of moorings and there was constant coming and going, but at least we knew we were safe from wind and swell. Nigel made contact with Magda Apostolides by phone, and later a pleasant English couple with a young boy brought their charter boat in to lie alongside us for the weekend.
After an abortive wait for Magda next morning, we walked into the town centre through attractive winding lanes, with glimpses of fine merchants’ houses overlooking the sea. Virtually no cars are allowed on the island, which certainly improves the environment. Shopping was adequate, though we failed to find gas and the pedestrian area of the Dapia, overlooking the “new” harbour, was already thronged with holidaymakers. Magda turned up with son Philip from an unexpected direction in mid-afternoon – in a Zodiac dinghy! – to say that Paul would be arriving early next morning, delayed by the fall of the Government and the announcement of a General Election. Our neighbours David and Julie came across for a few drinks as the Creek steadily filled up – the third row out from the quay already well established!
More arrivals throughout Saturday, mainly motor yachts, mostly considerate, but one or two inevitably thoughtless: we were charged a monstrous Dx 2000 for water. The Apostolides eventually invited us for drinks before the evening’s festivities, which was no doubt as much as they could manage in the end (inevitably a slight let down, though). We decided to explore the island on our bikes got through the town, past the College (where John Fowler taught hence “The Magus”) and up into some promising pine-woods overlooking the strait and the mainland, when Nigel’s rear tyre went irretrievably flat. The long walk back was more agreeable than it might have been, with a lengthy pause for lunch at a beautiful restaurant and an interesting short-cut through some pretty back streets to reach Baltiza again. We had time to put our feet up before meeting Paul and walking to the Apostolides’ lovely converted merchant’s house tucked away off an alley with a terrace overlooking the sea where we swapped news over beers for a couple of hours before making our way down to Dapia again.
Baltiza Creek and the old outer harbour were packed with anchored boats of all shapes and sizes by now, but the really serious luxury yachts had found themselves ringside berths off the new harbour, where the “Armada” pageant opened rather ponderously but reached a spectacular climax with the traditional torching of a model Turkish galleon, which, blew up loudly (scattering debris all over the spectator fleet, it seemed) and then burned and sank most convincingly amid much cheering and hooting and firing off of surplus distress rockets. The real fireworks which followed were also very spectacular, after which we returned to the English pub down the road for steak and chips.
We’d hoped that the Apostalides would manage to drop in the following morning for a few minutes so that Paul would at least see the boat, but their final day of the season was bound to be hectic and we did not meet again. The crowd in Baltiza Creek steadily thinned out, with only a few crossed anchor incidents, and we topped up with fuel and changed the oil, before disentangling ourselves from some Swede’s anchor chain and heading out shortly before 16.00. Who should be in the outer harbour but “Shelley”, so we exchanged news briefly before crossing to the landlocked bay of Porto Kheli on the mainland, where we’d been assured we would get gas. Lots of room on the long quay, with a lot of boats on permanent moorings anchored off – at first sight an agreeably laid-back place. We did well the following morning, finding gas as well as suitable oil and gasket material for the windlass, as well as stocking up with food and drink, before heading into a quiet cove on the way out of Porto Kheli to while away the afternoon. This was enlivened by the hopeless efforts of a young German charter crew to get their anchor to hold in 4m, sandy bottom – Nigel tried to keep a straight face as he offered advice to two very pretty girls on the bow, both of them stark naked!