Towards Athens

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Fri 8 May 2009 15:49

We have been sailing through the stretch of sea which divides Greece from west to east, with Mainland Greece to the north and Pelopponisos to the south.   At the western end is the Gulf of Patras which is about 40 miles long, and to the east the Gulf of Corinth which stretches for 60 miles.  The Gulf at its narrowest is 5 miles wide, and at its widest 20 miles across, so it has been an interesting passage with high mountains on both sides., the highest of which are capped with snow. The Eastern end of the Gulf would have been landlocked if a canal had not been created at Corinth.   Running for only 3.2 miles it links the Ionian Sea with the Agean Sea and Athens.  The canal as it is today was built by French engineers in the late 19th Century, but in ancient times merchant ships and warships could be dragged across the narrow isthmus on a system of rollers, and the city of Corinth, with ports on both the Ionian and Agean sides became rich and famous.

I  apologise for the mistake in the last blog when I said the canal between Levkas and the mainland had been built by the Phoenicians in 700 BC.  I should have said it was built by the Corinthians.  Thanks to all the readers who pointed out my blunder (actually, nobody!), but both races of people were criss crossing these seas in very early times, and it was the Corinthians  who founded a colony  in Sicily in 734 BC, which became the delightful city of Syracuse.

We have put a spurt on as we want to be in Athens in the middle of May, and Istanbul in the middle of June.  Since  leaving Preveza we have had one night at anchor in the tiny uninhabited island of  Atoko, two nights tied up to a pier in the harbour of Messolonghi, a night on a quay on the island of Trizonia, and two nights on the town quay of Galaxidhi.  I am going to put some pictures of these places, all very picturesque in different ways, on the Photos 09 page of once we are in Piraeus with shore power.  We live very cheaply as no charges are made for tying up to the quays, and on an average day’s passage of about five hours our water-maker converts sea water into a tankful of  fresh water.  We don’t drink it – we drink the local wine which we buy onshore – a litre from a barrel into a plastic bottle costs 3 euros – but our made water is excellent for washing and washing up.

I am enjoying mainland Greece – there is a different atmosphere than on the islands, which are mainly a tourist destination.    Yesterday I took a bus from Galaxidhi to visit the ancient site of Delphi.  Will write about it in the next epistle.