If you aren’t a writer, can you still get writer’s block?
Like ‘Friends’ is my gauge on New York twenty-something culture, so ‘Californication’ provides my understanding of a writer’s lifestyle. Currently between blog posts, reach for the Morleys, commit sufficiently endearing criminal offences, go to rehab.
I’m convinced we’re starting to become actual sailors. The Ionian and Gulf of Corinth were where we made all the mistakes. The Cyclades we started to learn. The Peloponese we started to teach (ha, of course we didn’t teach, but things are running more smoothly).
Running smoothly means we aren’t breaking down every two days. It also means I caught three tuna in three weeks. Yes that’s THREE tuna. Three weeks across an ocean that’s embarrassing. Three weeks in the Med, that gets you a lot quayside cred.
|Oh yah yah, I'm a real sailor you know...|
The Cyclades - being a sea mass of densely grouped islands - provides an ideal sailing playground for charter yachts. The Ionian on the West side of Greece is a similar story with a plethora of towns, bays and inlets. The Peloponnese on the other hand is passage territory, live-aboards only, just trying to get from one side to the other as quickly and efficiently as possible. Meaning? It’s really quiet, and the kind of bays and town quays that would be packed out by lunch time anywhere else in Greece are only half full by 8pm at night. So for a cruiser with no deadline it’s a great territory to take it easy, sail all day and pop into the nearby port at one’s leisure.
The first Tuna was the biggest, which we landed during our night sail from Milos in the Cyclades to Simos bay in the Peloponese. We pulled into the renowned sand bar bay just after sunrise. It lived up to its hype, but being the Peloponnese, had only a handful of boats. The Tuna, caught the evening prior, was 30lbs (yes THIRTY pounds) which means if we were going to eat it all ourselves we were looking at a two week slog (no freezer). So we filleted the big girl into steaks and loins and did the rounds to the other boats in the anchorage (as I said – we’re becoming sailors). A large Austrian catamaran were the most chuffed with their easily obtained spoils and at a price of zero Euros saw fit to invite us up for a beer.
“Sorry – we still have kilos worth of tuna to give away”.
“Ok, how about this evening then.”
“uuumm ok, we might pop over this evening.”
I’m a quarter Austrian so... water off a ducks back.
|Of course I'm showing this photo again|
|In the words of team leader Gareth Keenan "Bloodbath"|
|Packaged, ready to go.|
This bags of Tuna isn't even half of it. Just saying.
It transpires that the Austrian guys were preparing for a catch of their own, which bitterly hadn’t materialised. So our gift was not only well received but was also well prepared for with all the kit for first class sushi. We were trying to give it away, but hey, the sushi was sublime. We also got to have our first tour of a catamaran which I’m marginally embarrassed to say had me converted. Frankly I don’t give a damn how it deals with rough seas, it has a trampoline.
The wind runs from West to East around the Peloponnese – we were heading East to West. Do the maths: lots of early morning starts under motor and late afternoon tacking in the face of prevailing winds. Maybe it builds character as a sailor, I don’t care.
|Another harbour, another sunset.|
Despite the challenging days we stayed in some exquisite anchorages in hidden little bays and coves. The kind that in the UK would be raved about (think Lulworth Cove but with turquoise waters, dense green foliage and completely deserted) but in Greece are barely considered, in the corner of a map of endless and diverse prime yachting water-estate. On the sand bar bay, just chug around the other side if the sea swell begins to veer. Porto Vitilo was huge but with little inlets urbanised by authentic Greek architecture and attitude. Porto Kigio provided all round protection on an Eastern coastline. Methoni, as close to a harbour town as you can get without a Quay – a medieval castle and architectural enhancements provided excellent shelter. A perfect combination of swimming off the back of the boat and access to multiple Tavernas willing to buy your latest catch of Tuna. Nay-too-bad. The huge natural harbour bay of Navarinou stretched for miles of empty beaches and sand banks where a short walk (WALK!) took us to the incredible and almost deserted cove of Voidokilia. If there’s one place to invest your pension withdrawal it’s here. Still only sparingly touched by tourism and expat villas it still feels off the radar... for now.
|Bays Bays Bays|
|Apparently in American this is called 'hiking'.|
|7 Euro a kilo - wholesale price|
Sufficient boats to afford the relaxation provided by group think and support - not too many to spoil the image and feeling of seclusion. The Peloponnese is the bomb.
We need to talk about ‘Marina-Sailors’1
Peppered amongst the outstanding anchorages were a few town quays and harbour walls. Much more rough-and-ready than the rest of yachting Greece – noticeably devoid of the cash liquid charter sailors. Githio has clearly been hit hard by Greece’s 2012 economic struggle but the locals are classically relaxed and welcoming regardless and with architecture that avoided the 1957 earthquake its Greek feel continues to charm. As we headed North, lands became noticeably greener. With foliage came forest fires and this year Greece has seen a disturbing number. Heart wrenching to see 500 year old olive trees burst into flames at the whim of a pyromaniac mentalist and afternoon winds.
The final place of remark: Kalamata marina, Kalamata city. The only international airport on the Peloponnese a prerequisite for the only ‘international marina’ on the Peloponnese. We were lucky to get the last space for a three day stay to get the broken bearings on our engine’s raw water impeller fixed and weather the strongest storm seen so far on the trip. It came in two waves and reminded us not only of the strength the weather can bring out here but also the speed with which it can change. A welcome reminder given the safety of the Marina within which we had shelter.
|We had just the tiniest of leaks|
With nothing between the long stretch from Africa and the outer wall, the swell on the way in was great enough to suck our dingy underneath the front of the yacht as we prepared it for a stern-to mooring. Just the next addition to the long line of valuable lessons. We were fortunate only to lose the seat.
|Quick, get a picture of me being brown.|
|'Best Gyros in Greece'|
Same same, but the best.
With a few days in which to meet the other ‘residents’ of the marina, a sailor who’s name it got too late to ask and with which I use the definition sailor in the loosest possible terms; summed up a lot of what has come to affectionately resemble a ‘Marina-Sailor’. Always friendly, helpful, a pleasure to talk to and can be consistently relied upon for good local advice. But one can’t help wonder whether they’ve ever left the marina, leaving me torn: sometimes glad they’re there to provide endless tales of local advise and effortless conversation whilst also wanting to strap them to the mast and sail them out of the marina to show them what they’re missing.
From the Peloponbnese came a long Northernly climb under motor to the most Southern Ionian island of Zakynthos. Familiar waters and familiar faces, a welcome change at just over the half way mark of our time away. Lots of day sails, abundant wifi and return to civilisation to make us re-appreciate our time away.
|Always room for another tuna pick|
1. Marina sailor
Age: generally >50, not exclusively.
Characteristics: Accommodating temperament. Incessantly concerned. Slow.
Language: Affects a Queens accent toned according to audience.
Habitat: Places of excellent shelter with local amenities.