The sea goes up and down

Dick and Irene Craig
Fri 19 Sep 2008 12:59

We left Methoni late morning and made our way to Pilos, a journey of less than 2 hours. Pilos was mainly built by the French in the 19th century and the style still persists, with elegant buildings around a large square.

 It was a bit of a shock to leave the smooth and blue of our anchorage and find, that once we were out of the protection of the bay, the wind was blowing force 4 and the water was going up and down. After several weeks of smooth and blue, one becomes very complacent and a gentle force 4 suddenly feels as if it is a gale.

The approach to the bay at Pilos is graced with a Venetian fort on the mainland, which was later taken and extended, by the Turks. Within he walls is a most impressive mosque which is now a church.

The island of Sfaktiria, on the other side of the entrance to the bay, is easily recognizable, with a huge natural arch through it.

After carrying around my bread-maker since last July, today I finally used it and made some very satisfactory French bread. Tomorrow I will make some bread rolls and next some ciabatta bread. I want to try out various recipes so that bread making becomes as simple on the boat as it was at home.

We left Pilos before 8am and made passage to Katakolon, taking 9 hours to travel 45miles. The wind was very light and at no time did it exceed a force 3. The sea was smooth for most of the journey, with a half metre swell.

The pontoons in the harbour at Katakolon, as shown in the pilot book, no longer existed, they had been smashed to pieces in a storm. We tied up alongside, against the harbour wall.

A cruise ship arrived in the harbour during the night causing an enormous amount of swell. It arrived at the same time as the wind became to blow and at first I thought it was a squall. The rain arrived just after 9am and I rushed around shutting all the deck hatches.

Although the rain wasn’t much, just continuous, it must have been very disappointing for the passengers on the cruise ship. Five coach loads of people trekked off to Olympia, 25 miles away, although the actual site is now just a collection of ruins, overgrown by olive trees and maquis. It is incredulous that this site was used for over 1000 years to host the Panhellenic games as it is now just a mess.

The ships’ personnel took advantage of the large, unencumbered harbour, lowered all the life-raft from the starboard side of the ship, and practiced manipulating them in the water.

Two customs officers arrived at our boat late afternoon of the day we arrived, a female dressed in black and a man dressed in white. After asking from whence we had come, where the boat was registered and how long we intended to stay, they requested that the boat papers were taken to their offices next morning.

The disappointment with the weather extended to us and most of the people who owned small pleasure craft when the wind accelerated to 40knots and the sea was being thrown over the boats and the quayside. Boats were smashing into the quayside and into each other and their owners arrived at the port and spent most of the afternoon on their boat constantly making changes to secure it.

Having had to register our arrival with the local officials and receive the appropriately stamped documents, we now had to be stamped out of the port. We were advised by the man from the marina to check out the evening before we left. He said that should we leave this procedure until the morning there would be considerable delays due to the arrival of the cruise ships. Just 1 of 900 per year which visit this port.

We walked to the offices, the door of which was locked. We banged on the door which was opened by an officer but he refused the handle the documentation before the morrow even though his superior had suggested to Dick when he registered our arrival, that it would be perfectly OK to do so.

Next morning, the chap from the marina was mystified by the non action taken by the officer and duly took Dick to the offices at the other end of the harbour, on his motor-bike. He even waited for the completion of formalities and brought him back to the boat.

Before we left, we paid our dues for the 2 nights we had stayed, discounted by 25% for the second night because of the dreadful weather.

The journey to Zakinthos (Zante), took 4 hours and we managed to sail almost half of the trip.

En-route to Zante, a bee crawled up the leg of Dick’s shorts and finding itself trapped, stung him on the inner thigh. Even though he pulled out the sting and use a potion to help ease the discomfort, it was still very uncomfortable for several hours.

As we approached the harbour and brought down the main sail, we noticed that one of the lazy jacks had become disconnected from the sail-bag and the sail was flaking on top of the bimini instead of into the sail-bag. Quick action on Dick’s part and he managed to make a temporary repair.

We motored into the harbour and dropped the anchor, intending to go astern towards the quayside to tie up. The wind was only blowing force 4 but it was a cross wind and blew us away from where we wanted to be. It became necessary to raise the anchor and repeat the process. The second attempt had to be aborted as the anchor had not set but, in raising the anchor, it lifted the anchor of a small sailing yacht which was already tied stern to the quay. After much messing about, we finally freed our anchor from the other and after ensuring the safety of the small yacht, dropped our anchor for the 3rd time and finally tied up stern to the quay.    

Next morning we spent the day at a dive centre and did the theory portion. When we arrived back at the boat, we found that the mon-hull, which had moored next to us the previous night, had lifted our anchor when he raised his. In our absence, the stern of our boat had become a close companion of the stone quayside. Fortunately the wind had changed from the previous day by 180degrees so no real damage was done to our boat though it took quite some time to make it secure again.

Due to the current prevailing winds, almost all the boats which moor here have real problems going astern because they are blown off course. There is a real hazard in Greek harbours, with boats fouling the anchor of another moored boat. It is almost unsafe to leave your boat, not knowing what to expect when you return.

Day 2 of the diving course had Dick doing his refresher course in confined water, on a one-to-one basis, with an attractive blonde instructor. I did 2 dives in confined water and was also fortunate enough to receive one-to-one tuition.

Day 3 of the diving course was not so good. I wore my new wet suit and it was so buoyant I couldn’t get my body submerged at all without weights. Then my feet refused to co-operate and I was upside down, totally out of control, just like an astronaut in a weightless situation. We did only one session as my diving instructor was not available for my use, during the afternoon. Now I have the weekend off as a storm is forecast so it won’t really be appropriate to do any training, not even in the swimming pool.

It is better that we are on the boat during storm conditions so that we are available should a problem arise. We will also move the boat a few more metres from the quay although this will make it very difficult to gain access to the shore. Not that this causes any inconvenience. We are quite self sufficient and won’t need to get to the shore, unless a problem arises shore-side. 

Below:-Hole in rocks on approach to Pilos, Driving practice on cruise ship life boats, Storm in harbour at Katakolon