This web page describes the sixth and seventh legs of a 7 week trip with S/Y Thetis in 1996 from Greece to Malta, Sardinia, Ustica and Calabria in Italy, and back to Greece. The sixth leg is the solo passage from Ayia Efimia in Cephalonia to Corinth and the seventh leg is the transit of the Corinth Canal and the arrival to Thetis’ home port in Glyfada, near Athens. This is the end of the trip. It is illustrated with maps and photographs, also included are some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.
Monday October 21, 1996 Day 39
The alarm woke me up at 3:00. The sky was clear other than the inevitable distant lightning. After a cup of coffee I raised and lashed down the zodiac, raised the anchor, and left. By leaving this early I should easily make it to Trizonia before dark. It was a fairly calm night with a light breeze which allowed me to sail on and off. The engine was still very well behaved. The night was very cold and I kept putting on more and more clothes but I still felt the chill.
By sunrise we were passing the island of Oxia and were sailing nicely with 15 -18 knot winds from the North. This point was the end of the Ionian Sea and the beginning of the Gulf of Patras (Patraikos).
By 11:00 AM the wind died completely and I started the engine again. Fortunately the sun was out in its full glory as I had many wet clothes to dry. Now it was getting warm and I started removing the clothes that I had put on during the night. The color of the water had changed completely from the deep, deep blue to an almost emerald green. The sea was almost calm and it was absolutely beautiful again. Gone was the darkness of yesterday’s afternoon. We had come a full circle from the glorious morning of yesterday, to the utter wet misery of the afternoon, to this perfect Greek autumn morning. When one moves with a slow boat like this, one must enjoy these peaceful moments because this loveliness and serenity can quickly change into shear terror. I could not help but remembering sailing past the Aeolian islands during the night. That night must have been one of the loveliest nights of my life but it ended in the nightmare of the Messina Strait.
Around 2:00 PM we passed the Rio-Antirio channel which separates the Peloponnesos from the mainland and is the end of the Patraikos and the beginning of the Korinthiakos (Gulf of Corinth). By 4:45 and after 75.3 nM we reached Trizonia [38° 22.08' N 22° 04.66' E]. I anchored offshore without any problem as I did not feel like going inside the half-finished ugly marina. Now I was beginning to believe that there is an end to this trip. I took a lukewarm shower (during this time of the year it does get cold early, and strong sunshine lasts for a short time) and relax over a glass of ouzo. Definitely I was now on the “final approach.” The last obstacles were the Gulf of Corinth, which can get nasty, and the Corinth Canal. I did hope that Nikos will come as he has promised to do.
Later I went ashore. There were several sailing boats in the “marina.” I met a Frenchman, he and his wife came from Tunisia and were planning to winter here. Almost all the boats planned to do so, some owners will stay with their boats, others will leave them here. The attraction was that although it is a well protected harbor and very secure, it still is absolutely free. There are several places that the permanent boat community uses for wintering: Gibraltar, Malta, Tunisia, Bodrum, Marmaris, Kusadasi, Trizonia, Pylos etc. Word of mouth determines which are less expensive and most reliable. Every one of these boats was now either at her wintering harbor or on her way there. The boats that were planning to cross the Atlantic have been moving toward Gibraltar, their goal is to be at Gibraltar by the end of October or earlier and wait there for December before starting on their crossing.
I have been thinking about how I feel towards an Atlantic crossing next year. I have some mixed feelings. I definitely need better communications and access to weather information. If I had at least one person to go with me I would definitely say yes. Being all alone on such a long trip has some drawbacks, mostly that there is so little margin for error during any form of trouble. Also I now see that in foreign places, especially away from the Mediterranean, there can be complications with leaving the boat unattended. Most serious cruisers are couples either retired or with young children and have very flexible time schedules, where few months more or less make little difference. Anyway I will wait and digest my experiences from this trip, after it is over, and see what to plan next.
I went to the local restaurant but, unlike last time we were here, they did not have much of interest. It was definitely late in the year. So I had a small meal and went to bed by 8:30 PM.
Tuesday October 22, 1996 Day 40
I must have been very tired because I did not wake up until 8:00 AM almost 12 hours of sleep! It was another glorious morning with many small clouds interspersed with blue sky. There was a very light breeze and everything was very quiet. The amazing thing was that the boat’s cockpit was perfectly dry, no evidence of any humidity whatsoever. I cannot even remember when it was the last time that the boat was dry. I suppose that as we moved towards Eastern Greece the climate was changing to a drier one.
I was in a very lazy mood today. In many ways I was glad and relieved that this journey was coming to a close. I had also missed Alice and my daughters, and at the same time I felt a little sad to be leaving Thetis so soon. Despite some loneliness, I just love the sailing and the life on the boat.
Later in the morning I went ashore and called my brother Nikos. Yes he will come and help me go through the canal, I think our mother Pitsa has pressured him, but he could not find a convenient way to go to Galaxidi so we arranged to meet tomorrow evening in New Corinth. I then took a long walk lasting about 2 hrs. The island is quite nice and very thinly populated, I met only one donkey. It was full of cyclamens and other autumn flowers. The day turned out to be sunny and not cold. After the walk I went back to the hamlet and did some light shopping and then called the weather information number. The forecast called for light winds and scattered clouds for both today and tomorrow, with the temperature dropping. I decided not to go to Galaxidi after all and stay here, which is so pleasant, for tonight also and to go directly to Corinth tomorrow.
I spent a very lazy afternoon reading and sunbathing. After a warm shower, I visited the S/Y Claewen with David and Mary Cliffe from Hampshire, England. They have sailed their boat from England and have been cruising in Greece and Turkey for 4 years now. During the winters they leave the boat in a safe anchorage and fly back home. She is a practicing nurse and he is retired. They usually spend 6 - 9 months of the year living on their boat with visiting children and grandchildren. Their boat is smaller and not as well equipped as Thetis but they do have a Navtex system which David demonstrated. He considers the Navtex even more important than radar.
After the visit I called my brother Nikos for the final arrangements for tomorrow. He will take the train and we will meet around 5:00 PM. I also called my wife Alice and actually spoke to her.
Back onboard I cooked and had dinner. Altogether a very pleasant, restful, and uneventful day. Cooking when the boat is still and upright is actually a pleasure, it is so peaceful. During the long passages cooking was an exercise in balance and acrobatics.
Wednesday October 23, 1996 Day 41
“In the middle of the night, something was not right…” Actually the wind had picked up speed to almost 20 knots and shifted direction 180° so that the boat had moved uncomfortably close to the land. I had to re-anchor before I could go back to sleep.
I woke up at 6:30 and listened to the weather forecast. In the Korinthiakos the wind will be force 4 - 5 from the NE with an occasional rain. Not so bad!
By 7:30 we were underway. The sea was choppy, not rough, and the wind which was earlier from the NE had changed to SW almost dead against our course. It was an uncomfortable ride and we are motor-sailing without the jib. There were a few drizzles. Nikos called, via Hellas Radio, to verify that I will be in Corinth this evening. He will meet me there but he was not sure at what time. My estimated time of arrival was 5:00 PM.
After reaching Xylocastro the wind died out completely and the sea became glassy calm. Here there were floating some of the largest jelly fish I have ever seen, close to ½ m in diameter. As we are getting close to Corinth, I siphoned fuel from the jerry cans to the main tank without a single drop of spillage. I am getting rather proficient by now in these transfers while underway.
We arrived in Corinth [37° 56.47' N 22° 56.28' E] at 4:45 and after 51.05 nM. There was no one there to help with the lines. The second anchor controller, operated from the cockpit, was indispensable in this case, with it I managed quite nicely, keeping the proper tension on the anchor chain as I backed up towards the dock. When we were close enough, with the chain preventing Thetis to go any further back, I jumped ashore and tied one line. I then jumped back onboard and tensioned the line. Then once more I repeated the process with a second line. As I was installing the passarella, I was hailed from Hellas Radio. It was Rozina who told me that Nikos was on the train and will be at Corinth by 6:45.
While waiting for Nikos’ arrival, I went to a gas station and refilled the jerry cans with diesel fuel. Corinth has changed a lot since the days that Alice was staying at the Belvue hotel. Now there are boutiques, and specialty stores, and shopping malls, all the makings of a modern nondescript town.
Back on board I was having a relaxing glass of ouzo when the people from another sail boat came and introduced themselves. The husband was Brazilian and the wife Irish, they were traveling with their three children and the husband’s brother. They have just purchased their boat used from Olympic Marine in Lavrion. She was not in the best of shape, and they did not seem to be too experienced. They were heading towards Gibraltar, and then to Madeira and the Caribbean. They had no weather information, very few charts, no pilot books, nor did they know where to get most of this information. I loaned them my Heikell pilots. They seemed surprised to hear that November is not such a good month for sailing in the Mediterranean.
Nikos arrived full of pent up energy after sitting for several hours on the train. We went out to eat. The dinner was fine and we went back on board. The Brazilians came back and we had a friendly conversation, mostly giving them advice for their journey. Nikos was very doubtful about them.
This could very well be my last night on Thetis for this year. I am glad to be nearing the end of the journey, yet I do not seem to get enough of the boat and the sea. I have traveled altogether 969 nM together with Lewis and 715 nM by myself. These last miles were difficult miles and now I am relieved to be back and safe without any major damage to the boat or myself. Yet, I just love living on board, I am so envious of the people I meet who live 5 to 6 months of the year on their boats. A sail boat is such a self-contained cozy little universe that is floating on the sea “endless and full of variety.” Well this it! Tomorrow the Corinth Canal and the Saronic Gulf.
Thursday October 24, 1996 Day 42
We got up by 7:30 or so after an uneventful night. I went to town first to change some traveler’s checks and then to buy a loaf of bread. The wind was coming rather strong from the East. I called the Canal from the VHF and informed them that we want to transit and that we are about 20 minutes away from the west entrance. They said that the canal was clear and we can transit right away. We raised our anchor and departed the Corinth marina at 9:30 AM. We motored to the Poseidonia, the Western canal entrance [37° 57.2' N 22° 57.44' E], where we were placed on hold so that we could follow a large tourist schooner (with sails which were never used) that arrived a few minutes later. Altogether we did not wait more than 5 minutes.
In the canal there was a strong current but since there were no large ships we could easily proceed at a speed of 4 to 5 knots so the current did not affect us very much. At the Isthmia end of the canal [37° 54.91' N 23° 0.61' E] the sea was fairly calm so there was no problem docking the boat sideways. We went ashore and paid the dues at the canal office and then cast off for Glyfada right away.
We are now in the Saronic Gulf. Near Isthmia there was practically no wind and we had to use the engine but as soon as we left the area the wind started blowing 30 - 40 knots from the North. So we were able to sail, with a reefed main and reduced genoa, very fast averaging better than 7 knots. We sailed all the way to Glyfada, where we arrived at 4:30 PM after 36.45 nM.
The situation at the Glyfada Marina 4 [37° 52.3' N 23° 43.87' E] was very bad, They were doing some excavation work and all the boats which were normally docked at the south side had been moved to our side; as a result our normal slot was taken and there was no space for us. We rafted on to Nikos’ Faneromeni and to another boat. Thetis was not very secure but she should be all right unless the weather changes.
This is the end of the voyage.