Our first night sailing for the season was upon us. We had already agreed to both stay up the whole night instead of doing night shifts because of the short duration of the trip. I was equally excited and worried about this trip. Would the wind be OK? Would Elena sleep through the night? We were about to find out! On Saturday, 8th July, we prepared the boat, lifted the anchor, and for a change, we did not turn on our engine, but we hoisted our main sail and left the anchorage sailing! Super cool, like old-time sailors! For the first time on this trip, we would put our windpilot into use! Normally we use our electrical autopilot, but windpilot is a great invention that steers the boat based on the wind, it is a mechanicalself-steering miracle! Its main advantages are the zero electric energy, quietness and it is great for upwind sailing (which requires constant steering), and strong winds. We bought it in Santa Maria, Azores during our previous trip from an old Catalan couple who were live-aboards. With Jelle’s inquisitive nature and my Spanish skills, we managed a great deal for us and Jelle used it all the way back to the Netherlands! (I flew back to the Netherlands as I was pregnant to Elena and extremely seasick).
Back to our current trip, it went great! In the beginning, it was very light winds and too dark, but soon enough our eyes adjusted to the night and the wind picked up. The wind pilot worked wonders, especially once the wind got stronger and Jelle and I were keeping watch in turns, but outside in the cockpit, in our t-shirts and shorts. What a luxury is, sailing in Greece! We usually spent our night shifts in layers and layers of clothes and sailing jackets! We sailed up/halfwind for 80 miles and arrived in Kapsali, a village in south Kythira, where we anchored in the middle of the bay.
Kapsali is a cute, touristic village. It features an array of cafes and restaurants as well as a wide sandy beach, where we spent most of our time. Jelle picked up some work while Elena and I worked on our tan. The holding was good, but there was a slight swell all day long, which made our nights less restful than desired. We only spent two nights here, as Aeolus graced us with a great wind window to sail north.
On Tuesday, 11th July, we started our second-night sailing trip for the season, towards south Peloponesse. The beginning of the trip was rough, with strong gusts in an upwind course, which Libra handled beautifully, gracefully gliding over the waves, reaching 7 and over knots of speed, but still, big sprays of salt water splashing against the cockpit, and unfortunately our faces as well. Once we rounded the island though, the wind stabilized and we had a nice up/halfwind course but with more wind than last time. Jelle did most of the night shift while I took over a bit in the morning. The last hour before we arrived the wind died completely, like in a timer, which gave us plenty of time to put down the sails, clean up the boat, and prepare the anchor. Once we threw our anchor in Gerolimenas, in Mani, we were ready to go!
Gerolimenas is a fantastic place for a quick visit if you are lucky enough to find a spot. There is only a thin strip of sand in the middle of a narrow bay. Left and right you have rocks, also in the bottom, and if you go towards the beach you only find rusted chains and other debris and if you go further out, it is quite deep and you will need many meters of chain. Luckily, we arrived at 8 am, so we got the best (and only) spot, exactly in the middle of the bay, completely protected from almost all winds and with excellent holding. Some boats came later and struggled to find their place, but eventually, with 5 boats in anchor, this bay was already full. Gerolimenas is a great sample of Mani, one of the most historic places in Greece. Its houses and buildings are nothing like the Cyclades, the Aegean islands, or any other city we visited. They are made of stone and concrete and have a grey-reddish color and a general feeling of a village stuck in time. The water is green-blue and the beach is marbled. We had an amazing meal at Kyrimai, probably the most expensive octopus “pizza” I ever had, but I would order again and again. We only stayed for two days here, in this little corner of the past, before the heat this time ordered us to move along as a heatwave was upon us.
On Thursday, 13th July we started our engine and motor-sailed our way to what would become our home for the next 8(!) days and Elena’s favorite city; Kalamata. I had never been to Kalamata before, and although it features no fantastic buildings, we were impressed by its big green parks, long, clean promenade with lots of restaurants, and wide roads. We moored alongside in the harbor, and we were in the middle of the city, at a very low cost (around 8 euros a day!). We loved it here! We had to survive a heatwave (35-40 degrees daily), so we spent most of our time indoors, in the big supermarket, in Jysk and Elena’s all-time favorite, Jumbo. For our non-Greek readers, Jumbo is a have-it-all shop. Originally a toy store, apart from the bazillion toys and school supplies, it offers numerous small and larger items for the house, the garden, and pets. No wonder Elena loved the air-conditioning space and multiple colors and shapes! We also strolled around when the heat allowed and even met with friends! Jelle and I both worked as well and in general, it was nice to be in a big city again after several days of anchoring.
With the heatwave finally behind us but the temperatures never under 30 Celsius, we left our trusted harbor wall and started our engine. Once again, no wind but only motored 15 miles to our next destination, Koroni. Koroni sits on the southwest of Peloponnese, nestled on a hill, under a Venetian castle. We threw our anchor just under the castle and quickly used our dinghy to go ashore and drench ourselves in the seawater in hopes of cooling off. Pretty place, with a very busy beach, and a coffee bar with lots to be desired. Still, Elena had fun and it would be only a day’s stop, tomorrow we would sail again.
The next day, 22nd July, we left our anchorage in Koroni and sailed towards Methoni, the southeastern tip of Peloponnese. Again, no wind so the engine was busy for 3 hours before we could see the Methoni castle. It was like magic! The wind picked up but as soon as we entered the bay, it was wind still, flat water, and the many anchoring boats were rocking ever so gently. The castle is impressive, to say the least, and the whole bay reeks of mysticism and tranquility. What a life! Blue crystal water, a protected natural bay, and a medieval fort to engulf them all, making you feel like a medieval sea explorer!