Consulting the Oracle

August 8, 2011

Well actually we didn’t – we took the decision before going to Delphi! What decision? Well the thorny matter of where to stay next winter but more of that anon.

We left Kastos on 27th July together with “Curly Sue” and headed south away from the increasingly crowded Ionian islands and down towards the Gulfs of Patras and Corinth. We didn’t go far that first day and by lunchtime we were both tucked up snug and sound in a very protected anchorage on the Greek mainland called Petalas Bay. We’d chosen the anchorage advisedly because of strong winds predicted for the afternoon and sure enough it started to blow not long after we arrived. The holding was excellent so neither of us had a problem but when Duncan and I made our way over to join Susan and Andy that evening we all agreed that the planned barbecue on the back of “Curly Sue” was probably not the best idea so Susan retreated down below to cook in the galley while the wind howled round us and we watched more and more yachts hastening into the relatively calm waters of the anchorage. Eventually the wind dropped and we were able to admire the clearest, starriest night sky we’ve seen for some time, the Milky Way making a broad sweep above us, undimmed by light pollution.

The following day we continued south, and then, rounding Oxia Island turned into the Gulf of Patras. The Gulfs of Patras and Corinth divide the north coast of the Peloponnese from mainland Greece; they are linked by the Rio-Antirio Strait and lead on to the Corinth Canal and thence into the Aegean. We were not planning to go through the Canal at this stage but Duncan and I plan to come back that way later in the year. In the meantime it was nice to explore new territory. The north coast of the Gulf of Patras is mostly low lying with salt marshes and sandbanks so it is necessary to keep well clear of the coastline. We reached Mesolongi marina by mid-afternoon, following a 2 ½ mile dredged channel marked by buoys. As you turn into the channel is the little village of Tourlis where all the wooden buildings are on stilts and the local people use flat bottomed dories to fish the lagoon. The village is linked to the town of Mesolongi by a causeway that runs parallel to the dredged channel.

Houses on stilts in the salt marshes near Mesolongi

We, like probably everyone else in the liveaboard community, had heard various dubious reports about Mesolongi marina so we had no particular expectations; it was merely a convenient stopping point where we could buy provisions, take on water etc. The marina is about 20 minutes walk outside the town so Duncan and I decided to dig out the bicycles in order to explore. We were agreeably surprised by the town which turned out to be very attractive with reasonable amenities. When we had booked into the marina earlier in the afternoon we had been offered a quote for the winter months and were taken aback by how very much cheaper it was than Gouvia marina on Corfu where we spent last winter. This gave us pause for thought as one way and another we had a very expensive time last winter and this would help our deficit-reduction plan! We mulled things over during the next couple of days, debating the pros and cons together with Susan and Andy.

In the meantime, after filling the forward water tank, Duncan decided to check the bilges under our bed and discovered that we had a veritable swimming pool going on. Regular readers to this blog may recall that he spent a considerable time whilst in Barcelona 18 months ago, trying without success to resolve a persistent leak from the forward tank. In the end we gave up and resorted to using the forward tank as little as possible and baling it out as necessary; now though, matters were much more serious. Having dried out the bilges as much as possible we noted that the tank didn’t appear to be emptying and therefore came to the conclusion the problem had to be with either the intake or the breather hose. J was therefore dispatched by bicycle to the chandlery in town with instructions regarding the length and diameter of hoses required while Duncan struggled to remove the old ones. She had a second expedition to town but in due course the new hoses were installed and he felt a quiet glow of satisfaction as the tank filled with no sign of leakage down the pipes.

The following day, we set off with Curly Sue in the direction of a little place called Nafpaktos. This lies on the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth, a few miles east of the Rio – Antirio Bridge. We were all a little nervous about approaching the bridge for the first time, as it has a traffic control scheme in palace. When you’re 5 miles away, you call the traffic control centre and ask for permission to transit the bridge. You’re then allocated a channel to use and told to call again at 1 mile out. All very official and not at all what us yachties are used to. The bridge itself is magnificent; its 2.8km long and is the longest ‘cable stayed’ bridge in the world. It’s visible from miles away and we expected to be directed to the southern channel so positioned ourselves on that side of the strait and called up the control centre. Their response was a little broken but we understood what we had to do and made a successful passage; swapping places with “Curly Sue” as we went under the bridge so as to get pictures of both boats with the bridge in the background.

The Rio-Antirio Bridge

Nafpaktos turned out to be a VERY tiny little place with no room for us to get in there at all and, as the wind was building, nowhere sufficiently sheltered nearby to anchor. So we resorted to the fall back plan if going to Trizonia Island, another 11 miles or so east. It was a shame as Nafpaktos looked very attractive – a little walled town with the ruins of a castle behind. Still, with the wind continuing to build, we had a great sail, tacking downwind across the gulf before gybing onto a northerly tack that took us straight into the lee of the island. We did have some excitement with an inverted sail and an inverted dinghy but we resolved those incidents in what I consider to be a seaman like manner with little shouting and no lost tempers…


Trizonia has a marina, built with little cost spared with EU money. However, the Greek government built the place with no consideration of how to manage it once completed. What it needed was a company to manage it, charge reasonable rates and control the place. Instead it’s just been left to moulder, along with a significant number of boats seemingly left there to decay. There’s even a sizable ketch that has sunk (fairly recently by the look of it) and is just lying there between the pontoons. Disappointing to see squandered a opportunity like this. However, for us yachties, it’s great. A free, secure place to moor sheltered from the prevailing winds and with a charming little village with bars, tavernas and the most eccentric ‘mini market’ we’ve yet found, run by an old dear who does things at her pace and no one else’s!

The sunken ketch at Trizonia - what a sad sight.

We spent 2 nights there in company with Andy and Susan waiting for the rather exciting winds to die down a bit before we set off to our next port of call, the small town of Galaxidi. We had a lovely trip there, all on the motor as there was no wind to mention throughout the whole trip of about 20 miles. We were greeted on arrival by a small half naked Greek aged about 65 or so, who took our lines and gave us instructions as to how to tie our lines. He called himself the ‘harbour master’; later it turned out he is the local drunk who spends his summer catching lines in exchange for beer and wine and his winters in jail!

His mate runs a small diesel tanker, which was a godsend for us, as we needed to refuel. Not only was he sitting there waiting for us to appear, his price is the lowest we’ve found fuel this season at €1.42 a litre (it’s been as high as €1.69 on Paxos). Almost a shame that we could only cram 70 litres into the tank!

Galaxidi is a lovely little town rising up from a deep, sheltered inlet with bars and tavernas lining the waterfront. We had a walk round the town that evening and decided to hire a car along with Andy and Susan so that we could visit Delphi the following day.

The amphitheathre at Delphi

The Delphi visit was a second visit for J and I as we’d been there before on our trip to Turkey back in 1993. J’s main memory of the place is Polly running round the stadium pretending to be an ancient participant in the games held there (no, Polly can’t remember it!). The place is stunning, high in the hills looking down into the Gulf and it is easy to imagine how vibrant it must have been at its peak. We spent a really enjoyable day there and managed to find a sizeable Carrefour supermarket on the way back to the boat to stock up a bit with heavy items, making use of the car while we had it.

We all had supper out that evening along with John and Aiveen off the boat “Cool Runnings”. We’d met them in Trizonia and were delighted to see they’d berthed next to us when we got back from Delphi. They’re heading round the Peloponese in a clockwise direction whilst we’re going anticlockwise so hopefully we’ll be able to meet up again somewhere en route.

We spent one more night in Galaxidi, dealing with a leaking front water tank. Yes, I know. I thought I’d fixed it in Mesolongi but I hadn’t. Yet another swimming pool under our bed. This time I finally tracked down the cause; there were 2 cracks in the top of the tank which, when the tank is slightly overfill, let the excess water pour out and accumulate under the bed. I used several things to try and stop the leak and seem to have temporarily solved the problem but I fear it will reoccur. Seeing as the problem mainly occurs during filling, we’ve decided to designate the forward tank as the reserve and only use it in emergency, thus minimizing the number of times we have to fill the thing. A permanent solution will have to wait until the winter layover, when I can get the place completely dry and come up with some proper fix. Watch this space.

We came back westwards again last Friday (5th August,) stopping at Trizonia for one night. The following day we set off bright and early to Mesolongi. As we passed under the bridge, the wind got up nicely and we had a cracking sail all the way down to the entrance to the Mesolongi channel. We anchored for the night outside the marina (all part of the deficit reduction programme) and had a great evening playing Rumikub with Andy and Sue.

An early morning start, "Curly Sue" ahead of us.

The following morning, we had planned to set off to Killini at 8 am. At 7.50, our phone went, waking us both from the sleep of the dead! For the first time for ages we’d both overslept. Sue and Andy were being very rude to us as they smugly hauled up their anchor and departed as we struggled out of the companion way hatch. In the event, we hauled our anchor at 8.05 – not bad, 15 minutes from being woken to getting under way. Breakfast, however, was taken underway!

Killini is an unlovely ferry port serving Kephalonia and Zakinthos. We couldn’t get into the fishing port as the depth is too shallow, so we anchored off the beach and were rocked all over the place as the (frequent) ferries arrive and depart. Ah well, at least it’s free. Today, after another good sail, running before the wind, we reached Katakolon, where we aim to stay for a few days, take a deep breath and visit the site of Olympia.

"Curly Sue" looking romantic last night at anchor outside the harbour at Killini

Our plans are now firming up somewhat. We have Jonno visiting us in Athens towards the end of September, my sister Susie is coming out shortly thereafter and we then aim to transit the Corinth Canal and make our way back to Mesolongi by mid to late October to spend the winter, finances having influenced our decision rather more than anything the Oracle at Delphi had to say on the matter. Anyone wanting to visit, feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our best to fit you in round the edges. Sleazy Jet fly to Athens all year round and there are good bus links from there but be prepared for a long journey.



One comment

  1. Yet more fab views and sights seen and enjoyed. Hope the water tank problem gets no worse, it sounds rather like the tanks on the combine harvester you need to be a midget to get in to mend the holes!

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