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Round the Cape

September 1, 2011

The innocent-looking Akios Maleas on the tip of the eastern-most "finger" of the Peleponnese

If you look on the internet, there are no end of sites with weather forecasts, including a number dedicated to the yachtsman. They vary in the quality of their output, with some giving little more than the shipping forecast, whilst others purport to give details down to almost street level. There are ones where they are simple to interpret, presenting the information in easy to assimilate ways whilst others seem to rely on your detailed knowledge of weather forecasting to read the info.

Now, being in a part of the world where weather (and particularly winds) play an important part of the decision making process, we take a keen interest in these sites. For one reason or another, we’ve settled on about 3 sites. One is weatheronline.co.uk, one is meteo.gr and finally a site called Zygrib. We watch all three sites so that we know what the winds are up to and, when a blow is forecast, we visit the sites more frequently. Over time, we’ve come to trust the output from weatheronline and Zygrib but had only recently found meteo.gr so were unsure of how good it was.

Well, we left you at the end of the last blog waiting in breathless dread to hear about how we coped with the gale force winds we were expecting arrive at any moment. In the event, we did get some winds but nothing to worry us and nowhere near as bad as forecast. We’d been looking mainly at meteo.gr with its fine detail forecast which turned out to be nowhere near as accurate as the ones from the other 2 sites.

We stayed in Plitra, at anchor, until Saturday, when the winds looked to be getting lighter and there was a possibility of sneaking round the corner into the Aegean. Plitra is a funny little place, almost like a seaside version of a town from a spaghetti western. Not quite tumbleweed blowing through the streets but the feeling of neglect and nothing much happening. There were a few tavernas and a little shop offering very little in the way of anything. As we had eaten our way through all of our fresh rations, we were a little disappointed to find that all we could buy there was a couple of tins of meatballs, some fresh bread and milk and a (vital) replen of beer. We did manage to pick up a water melon from a guy selling them from the back of his pickup, which helped assuage J’s fruit cravings for a few days.

We left Plitra heading for Elafonisos, a little island about 20 miles to the south, where we expected to be able to tuck ourselves up for a couple of nights before rounding the cape as the winds abated. In the event, we met a force 5 – 6 from the north east which made for great sailing but rendered the anchorage for which we were heading, untenable. Instead, we ran downwind for another 20 miles or so to Porto Kayio, which we had left 4 days before to go to Plitra. Such are the vagaries of the sea; you never quite know what’s going to happen next.

Duncan - never far from his "Times" on the Kindle - tucked up in the only available shade as we motor in flat windless, seas.

We had all sorts of fun getting the anchor to take in the hard sand of the bottom of the cove. In the end, we gave in and just left it lolling on the seabed in an idle fashion with a load of chain to help keep us in place. Later that evening, the wind finally settled down into a light north easterly and I put out the new kedge anchor, which bit in nicely and gave me the confidence for a good night’s sleep.

The following morning, I was quite ready to loll about and do nothing, aiming to head back to Elafonisos again on Monday and round the cape on Tuesday. J had other ideas so I gave in and we left at 11.30am to try Elafonisos once more. There was no wind and we retraced our steps of the day before on the motor. About 4 or 5 miles short of the anchorage, the wind came up and we started to make sail. We’d just finished hoisting the mainsail when the phone went – not the best of times. For once, we answered it instead of ignoring it. Just as well we did: it was a call from John and Aiveen McCool from their yacht “Cool Runnings”. Their engine had decided to stop working and the wind had disappeared and they were just off Cape Maleas and please could we help…..

We were about 2½ hours from their position but told them that of course we’d come and help – a tow was the most obvious solution. We then motor-sailed towards their position for the next hour or so, making little progress because of the wind and a current running against us. The last thing I wanted to do was to break anything on “Rampage” and just add to the problems. In the end, John called back to say that the alternator mounting had sheared but that he had managed a temporary repair and was motoring towards Elafonisos. We said we’d carry on towards them so as to be there if the repair broke. Shortly after that, we spotted them as they rounded the island between us and the shore, so we were able to drop the sails and motor into the anchorage behind them.

We had an emotional reunion with them both on board their boat. I had a look at the engine, which couldn’t be fixed properly with the resources we had there but would get them to Kalamata (about 80 miles away) where they could get it properly repaired, so much relief all round. Later, we went ashore by dinghy and had supper in a funny little canteen type place which was part of a large camp site just behind the beach.

John and Aiveen aboard "Cool Runnings" leave Elafonisos, heading for Kalamata and engine repairs!

After coffee onboard “Rampage” the following morning, “Cool Runnings” (named after the film of the same name about the Jamaican bobsleigh team) left, headed for Porto Kayio and then on to Kalamata, where they should be by now! We left a little later, when a slight southerly wind signaled the change from the meltemi which had been stopping us from rounding the cape.

A fellow yachtsman seizes the opportunity to round Akios Maleas, heading west as we go east.

We picked up a lovely wind and headed off east towards the cape. As we sailed, we were followed by another boat who had been playing the same game as us over the past week – we had seen them before in Porto Kayio. About 3 or 4 boats passed us going the opposite direction, so we were optimistic that the winds had changed as forecast.

As we approached the cape, the wind reversed direction and we had to tack away from the cape to get round it. Our tack took us a few miles off, but we were eventually able to reverse the tack and make good progress towards the cape with all sails set. Finally, we made it round the headland and were able to set a northerly course towards our destination of Monemvasia. Then the wind died. Then the cooling water flow for the engine stopped. So there we were about 500 metres off the shore, in a very confused sea, with no wind and no motor! I dived down into the saloon and frantically fiddled about with the engine and eventually managed to resolve the problem. Calm then returned to the cockpit and we resumed out unhurried trip.

The grim face of Akios Maleas challenging all sailors not to underestimate him...

... and closer to, the face is clearer still.

It took us another 2½ hours to get to Monemvasia. It is a remarkable place and is known as the Gibraltar of the Aegean. There is a rocky island just offshore here that rises up out of the sea much like Gib does off the coast of Spain. There is a causeway linking it to the mainland and a castle and fortified village to explore.

Approaching Monemvasia with the little, walled town at the base of the Rock. More of this in the next blog!

Now that I’ve finished repairing the engine and J has finished making new bags for ropes, we aim to explore the island in the cool of the evening before moving on tomorrow towards Athens. Keep watching for more exciting installments. Hmmm, perhaps not exciting. Frankly, exciting round here means something’s gone wrong. So perhaps our next boring installment would be better?

 

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6 comments

  1. your life is so interesting!


    • and I thought you may get pissed off with the same ness of sun and sea!


      • You must be joking!! This is our 3rd summer & we’re not even slightly bored of it. The only time it gets a bit tedious sometimes is waiting for the wind.


  2. Wonderful that you are getting around all the little islands and seeing so many different places. Lucky you and you really have had a wonderful time. Look forward to the next blog. Lots of love to you both and happy sailing. Di


  3. I loved to read what you experienced on your jorney. I must say, that what you are doing there comes very close to what I wish for my own future. Still got a little way ahead, as I am only 27 and still working on the husband and family-part of the plan, but I will surely keep reading your blog to not let me forget about what I used to dream of. All the best for you!


    • Hi Sandra, good to hear from you and very glad our blog is an inspiration for you to do something similar one day. Would be very interested to hear how you found our blog. We started it originally for familiy and friends but now find many people read it whom we’ve never met. It’s a fabulous life and we have met so many lovely, interesting and adventurous people since we set out.



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