Arriving in Greece after a 49 hour sail from Sicily we anchored in the crystal clear waters off Kerri on the southern end of the island of Zakinthos. We packed up and tidied the boat after the sail, had a swim and a sleep and rested for what was left of the day. Our first item on the agenda the following day was to check into the country but it was now Saturday and the officials were closed for the weekend so this would have to wait until Monday. We spent the day relaxing in the lovely big bay and did a sneaky dinghy trip to shore at Kerri and enjoyed our first taste of Greece a gyros!!
Sunday we raised anchor and made our way 16 nautical miles North to the town of Zante where we could check in the following morning. It took 3 hours to complete the required official visits and documentation having to visit both the Port Police and Customs then back to the Port Police again but alas it was done without issues. We had all our documentation in order, documents required for check in were; TEAPI payment receipt (Greek cruising tax), passports, covid vaccination certificates, Greek crew list, boat insurance (in Greek), boat registration, and now we also have a Greek transit log to carry with us and get stamped in each major port.
We headed Red Roo north sailing to the island of Kefalonia and anchored at Argostoli. This is a very attractive little town, all set up for the summer season accomodating both international tourists, cruisers in yachts like us, and locals on summer vacation. We also shared the anchorage with many local turtles!
We met up with the crews from Tartuga and Pharea (whom we met in Tunisia over the winter and saw again in Malta) as well as Caffe Latte and walked over the hill to a wonderful little beach bar on the other side and enjoyed a fantastic afternoon/evening together.
Having evaluated the weather forecast for the following few days it made sense to take a bus ride to the north of the island as it wouldn’t be suitable to sail and anchor. It was a great day out, travelling through the mountains to each of the major towns on the island and ending up at Fiskardo for 4 hours before returning on the bus back to Red Roo.
It was time to start making progress sailing in Greece and travelling south, we planned to sail around the coast of the Pelopónnisos Peninsula to the Aegean sea and then visit some of the many Greek Islands between there and Turkey.
Our first stop on the Pelopónnisos was to anchor at Katakolo about 30km from Olympia – the birthplace of the Olympic Games and we couldn’t wait to hire a car with the crews from Sweetie and Caffe Latte and head off to explore this very historic place.
Olympia was originally a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus (a Greek God). The first games were conducted in his name as part of a religious festival and took place here in 776 BC (wow – just wow!) and the last games to be held on the site were in 392 AD.
One month before each games and for two months after there was a holy truce that halted any wars in progress allowing for safe passage to and from the games and for many to participate.
Participation in the games was only for men (and later boys) and all participants had to be Greek, free (not a slave) and be born of free parents.
Females were not allowed to participate and were also not even able to enter the site to watch.
The games began with just the one event the 200 m race and over the years increased to 15 events.
Some random interesting facts we learnt were that there were running races (nude), and also running races in full armour (tough!). The javelin was originally thrown using a leather rope sling from the middle of the pole. Participants in the long jump used to carry rocks and as they took their final step to launch into the jump, they would release the rocks (thrown them behind themselves) in an effort to propel them forwards.
The site held over 70 significant buildings, and today although they are now ruins (and considering their age) yet are still easily recognisable for what they were. We had a fantastic day exploring the site and museums, it really is a wonderful place and a real privilege to be able to visit.
From there we sailed south and our next 4 stops; Kyparissia, Pilos, Methoni & Koroni all lovely small towns with castles to explore.
On our walks we also take the opportunity to forage, so far in Greece we have enjoyed figs (lots of figs), grapes, lemons, mint and basil all either on the sides of the road, or from tree’s hanging over fences, we are looking forward to the pomegranate which we are seeing plenty off but isn’t quite ripe yet!
We are really enjoying the smaller little villages which we have discovered that of an evening shut the streets to cars and bring the dining tables outside to eat in the street.
We are also boosting the Greek economy one ice cream at a time, eating a lot of them – its hot!
The sailing has been really enjoyable, with a bit of everything wind wise to date. We have found the weather pattern is currently little to no wind in the mornings then building to enough wind to sail in the afternoons. This suits our plans as it is very easy to enjoy a morning walk or do a few jobs before moving an easy 10-30 nautical miles in the afternoon to a new location without making it an all day affair.
It is also really enjoyable travelling with two other boats (Caffe Latte – Canada and Sweetie – USA), it makes it a little exciting and competitive, as it is ALWAYS a race, even though we all have very different boats which makes the outcome different each time depending on the conditions.
The light winds (and the friendly competition) has pushed us to use the spinnaker sail for the first time. A spinnaker sail is a very very big very very lightweight material sail that is flown on the bow (pointy end of the front of the boat) for sailing in light winds. It’s quite the effort to set up but it is really worth it. We had a great sail, with great speeds in light wind and look forward to using it more often now we finally have it out (from deep storage) and can remember how to rig it up to fly it.
We have also had a couple of days of heavy downwind sailing in medium/heavy seas. We both enjoy downwind sailing, despite the big swell as Red Roo is very stable and sits well making good speed.
We have also experienced strong winds in the anchorages both whilst anchoring and overnight. We always take great time and care each and every time we anchor to ensure we hold well and are safe.
One of the highlights to date in Greece was Monemvasia where we were able to tie to the town quay wall during some windy weather.
We enjoyed a couple of great days exploring the Old Town which is carved into the steep rock face.
we celebrated Jean’s birthday with a fantastic greek meal out in the old town at the best table in the restaurant overlooking the town and sea below.
The following day we climbed to the top of the rock to see the church and ruins as well as completing the walking the track around the circumference of the rock/island.
The food also is worthy of a mention. In the month we have been here we have eaten out twice which is highly unusual for us as this is a big money eater in the budget. But we have been delighted by the food. To date we have indulged in; Octopus (the best I have ever eaten and it is a favourite of mine so have had many), goat and potatoes, stuffed tomatoes, fried little fish (similar to white bait), eggplant (grilled and baked), dolmades, moussaka & greek lamb. I think food wise Greece may take the best food title from all the countries we have visited so far!! Phil is not convinced and still rates France above Greece – we will just have to keep on eating until we have clear winner!
We are now anchored in one of our last stops on the east coast of the Pelopónnisos at Porto Kheli for a few days in a safe anchorage to wait out some forecast strong winds, a Greek Meltemi (our first one which can be potentially dangerous if you’re not prepared).