Kalamata, where the Olives come from (11-21 May 2017)

Sally arrived on schedule on the 10th of May and we set sail for Katakolon on the west side of the Peloponnese peninsular on the 11th of May. We had an uneventful crossing and tied up to the big quayside stern to. We had been here last year, but this year there was an “official”harbourmaster who took our lines and charged us €11 per night without electricity or water. Another British yacht (Constantia) with Lesley and Mike aboard was also there and we got chatting. It turned out they had set off on their trip on exactly the same day as us in 2013.

One Thomson cruise ship was in the big harbour but it left in the eary evening. We wandered round the town, which is a bit of a strange place as it caters for the cruise ships and a lot of shops are only open when the cruise ships are in. There is a good supermarket though and we stocked up with some more supplies.

We found a delightful little Taverna in the back street where we had dinner and met a German couple who we had seen in Preveza last year. We did not recognise them at first, but they looked familiar. The next morning we remembered the connection and we had a coffee with them before they headed off. They had quite a big boat and decided to head off despite a strong wind warning. We decided to stay a second night. It was very windy as predicted and we had a blustery walk along the beach watching the breakers roll in, followed by a lovely ice cream.

The wind was still pretty strong the next morning, but we rigged our small staysail and away we went into 15-20 knots of wind quite happily, arriving in Kiparissi in the early evening.

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Vaila sailing under cutter rig

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Along side at Kiparissi

It had a big harbour which was mostly full of local boats and fishing boats, but there was space to come alongside with three other foreign yachts, one of which was Constantia. We had a brief wander towards the town and had some delicious ice cream. The ice cream shop provided biscuits, chocolate sauce and toppings free with the ice cream, all for princely sum of €2 each! Then it was back on board to eat and play Canasta.

The next morning was lovely and we spent a while watching the turtles cavorting around in the harbour! The skipper decided to clean out the strainer for the engine intake as there was a bit of weed in it, before we set off. This involved switching off the engine cooling water. Unfortunately, he forgot to put the water on again, so when we left, we only got 1 mile away before the engine overheated and we had to sail back into harbour! Oh dear, we had fried the impeller, but we always carry a spare, so the skipper had to spend an afternoon in the hot cockpit locker fixing the engine, while Sally and I went to beach and had 2 swims! Life’s just not fair sometimes !! An added bonus was also a delicious meal in the town.

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One burnt out impeller

When we got back to Vaila that evening we found that a very large trawler had wedged itself at our stern. Lots of noisy Greek negotiation was going with fish merchants. We hoped they were not going to stay all night and luckily the Trawler got out without incident about 11pm, leaving us all to have a quiet night.
We got away without incident the next morning and headed for Navarino bay. There was not much wind until we turned the corner but then we managed a good sail. This part of the coast is very benign with no big mountains and lots of flat land for market gardening. Polytunnels and plastic sheeting were much in evidence from the sea, but not as extensive as in the south of Spain.

Entering Navarino bay was very spectacular, as there is fantastic coastal scenery with caves, rock arches and stacks. Navarino bay was the site of a naval Battle in 1827 during the Greek independence war. The British, French and Russians had orders not to engage but the Egyptians started firing and the battle was fought at anchor, with great loss of life and ships. Despite being heavily outnumbered and outgunned, the British allies won, so the British admiral, Coddington, was not court martialed. Sad to think how little changes!

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Coastal scenery, Navarino bay

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Sally coming into Navarino bay

We spent a lovely quiet night at anchor in the northern part of the bay with Constantia again beside us.

We walked up to the ruined Venetian fort perched on the headland before dinner. It was a small path through lots of wild vegetation, verbascum forests with 2m high flower spikes and wonderful views over the bay. The Venetians certainly knew where to build their forts. Amazing to think their influence stretched all the way down here. We also all managed a rather bracing swim.

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Navarino bay anchorage

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DSCF6671We were running short of supplies so headed over the bay to the small town of Pylos the next morning. There is an unfinished marina there with no services, but it’s sheltered. It looked pretty full when we got in but we were encouraged to tie up to a large rusty hulk by a loud Greek, who took our lines and tied us on. We were only staying long enough to shop. The helpful Greek then told us how poor he was and wanted €10 for cigarettes. We gave him €3 which seemed to be OK!
We had a coffee ashore and shopped in the wee supermarket and a fantastic vegetable shop next door. The weather looked iffy so we didn’t linger in Pylos, though it was a nice working town and not touristy. The drizzle started as we set off and we got a great wind to drive us round the headland to Methoni. We dropped anchor in the lovely bay overlooking the Venetian fort and so called “Turkish tower”. More boats arrived including Constantia but in the end only the two boats stayed overnight. It poured with rain most of the night, reminding us of wet nights at anchor in Scotland.

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It was still drizzling the next morning, but by the time we were ready to go ashore in the dinghy, it was dry. We had a coffee in the little square and then Lesley and Mike also arrived. We had a walk to the Venetian fort and wandered round the extensive ruins for several hours, marvelling at the construction and buildings. Some conservation work had been done as recently as 2015, but the new bits were obvious and there were good signs so it made interpretation easier.

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Another Venetian castle, Methoni

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The recent rain had brought out hundreds of wild flowers and inside the walls was like a garden. Verbascum, red and yellow poppies, caper bushes, cranesbill, Spanish oyster plants, chamomile and a few late allium flowers. A total riot of colour.

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We left Methoni after lunch and motored round to Finakounda, as we needed to charge our batteries. Finakounda is a much more touristy place with lots of tavernas advertising karaoke and vodka bars. Luckily very little was open, so it was quiet. The houses in this part of Greece look very Italian, with pan tiled roofs. Presumably Venetian influence from centuries ago.

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The old codgers at Finakounda

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There were quite a few camper vans parked by the beach. Wherever we go there seem to be camper vans doing a similar journey by land. We had a BBQ tea on board using our Magma and played Canasta outside watching rainbows in the fading light.
The next morning we left in sunshine and rounded Ak Akritas, the first of the three “fingers” of the Peloponnese peninsula. One down, two to go. We headed up towards Koroni on the east side of the peninsula, but there was a horrible swell, so we decided not to stop. The next possible anchorage also looked rough so we pushed on into a 14 knot wind, managing to sail a bit towards Kalamata and the marina shelter. Inside the marina it was much calmer and we berthed next to Constantia again. This journey round the Peloponnese is a popular one for many people, so it’s not surprising that you keep meeting the same boats.
Kalamata marina is very well run (it’s part of the same group as Gouvia in Corfu and Lefkas in the Ionian) and was great having hot showers and getting washing done. We had one more night at anchor across the bay in Petalidhion. Rough to start with, with loud Bangra type music coming from vans on the shore, but it calmed down later and we had a lovely quiet night.
So here we are back in Kalamata marina. We have just said goodbye to Sally who is off home now before starting on her own adventure with her partner Andy on his boat Adagio in July . It’s been great having her company on Vaila again and I know they will love having their own adventures. Sally hold the current speed record of 7.5 knots on a broad reach. We are now waiting for my friend Sandra to arrive today for a week with us.

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View from Kalamata marina

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