Rob and Jacky Black
Wed 19 Aug 2009 15:48
38 21.7N 21 25.1E
We left Sami on the 13th of August and motored all the way to Mesalonghi on the mainland of Greece. The wind (less than 3 knots) was from the east so on the nose and the sea was glassy calm. We had an uneventful journey as we passed the off lying island of Oxia ( a possible anchorage for another time) and into the bay of Patras. As usual the breeze picked up as we arrived off the entrance to the canal going up to Mesalonghi. The trip up was interesting as we passed small bungalow style homes built on stilts in the shallow water either side of the canal. Each had it's own wooden dock and many were being used as sunbathing and swimming decks with rickety ladders going into the water and brightly coloured umbrellas for shade! Several looked very well kept and had glorious coloured climbing plants spreading across them. fish were jumping and there were many egrets to be seen. it reminded us a bit of the Florida Keys and in some ways too of the river bank in Shoreham. At the end of the canal a wide lagoon opens out and there are withies marking where the small fishing boats work - these are usually propelled by a punting action. The commercial quay lies at the head of the bay and the marina to the western end. There are several tavernas lining the bay and the town is a 15 minute walk inland. The marina itself has pontoons a nearly finished office/ cafe with two showers and toilets plus a water hose on the west end and a concrete quay to the east where there is a limited supply of electricity (enough for 4 boats) and a water hose. Plans are for this area to have both facilities up and running for the winter. Most boats go alongside the pontoons or the quay but one long quay has lazy lines attached.
The town is really good with proper shops and no tourists! It is a University town so at the moment it is quiet but come September there will be 3000 students here. We found an excellent small supermarket that delivered to the boat so did a major re- stock of water bottles beer and some tinned goods (all the heavy stuff). It was brought by two people on a mo-ped carrying our 11 bags!! The whole town has free wifi but unfortunately the signal is not quite strong enough for us to pick up in the marina - but going to one of the cafes is no problem. Yanis the marina manager is a delight and so helpful. We have met several other live-aboard boats and have decided after more investigations that we will winter here this year. The price is half that of the quotes we have had from the Turkish marinas we had approached.
Piper and Grand Slam arrived on Friday and we had a BBQ on Saturday evening (Pam's Cobb BBQ is brilliant we shall have to get one!). We discovered one of the tavernas on the quay (the 2nd one past the old military park - full of planes, tanks and guns) did excellent Meze with each round of beers (2 Euros for a large one) so no need to order food. This bar also promised the football on a big TV for Sunday afternoon so Andy could watch the Liverpool - Spurs game.
We found out that the marina was having a 'blessing' and official opening ceremony on Tuesday so decided to stay a bit longer.
On Tuesday afternoon I cycled to the beach 5 kilometers)along the cycle path this takes you across a causeway with lagoons both sides. There were several stopping points with narrow beaches and here people were having mud baths and then showering off and swimming. The curving beach to the east of the canal entrance is partially protected by two concrete moles and has several tavernas with sun loungers and umbrellas for rent (1.5 Euros). there are fresh water showers at intervals along the bay. I chose to sit on the taverna terrace that was right on the water's edge. Here I had a Frappe (iced coffee) while sitting at a shaded table on the deck before stepping off into the water for a glorious swim - the water was so warm and clean.
The party was good although the blessing from the Greek Orthodox priest took about 20 minutes all of which was chanted or sung while he sprinkled water around and incense was burnt. We met several more Brits and had a long chat with one couple - Mary and Rick who set off from Thailand in January and have travelled all the way to here already! They are going east again to winter the boat in Marmaris Yat Marina to get it ready to sell as they have been sailing now for 11 years.
Mesalonghi is a very important town in Greek history as it was here in the early 19th century that the Greeks made their bid for independence from the Turks The town controlled the western route into the Peloponnese peninsula where the revolution began so the Turks had to gain access to it.After two fruitless attempts the Turks were still being held a bay and in January1824 Lord Byron arrived to lend his assistance to the worthy cause, bringing money from the philhellenic society. Fortifications were improved around the town and despite Byron's death they withstood a land and sea blockade for 12 months before finally being starved into defeat - 12000 men women and children were lost and the Turks whose forces were in excess of 40.000 finally took the town in April 1826. There are several places to visit in the town - in the square a museum and on the western outskirts the Byron Centre plus a monument which record Byron's participation in the events.
No doubt when we return in late October we will explore further.