Pull up the anchor

Porto Helio has a beautiful church, but the town itself doesn’t set our hearts on fire. It’s hot, busy and more touristic than we’d expected. In the large bay we’re anchored among lots of abandoned yachts with the view of a likewise abandoned marina under construction in front of us. Water taxis and rental boats constantly race past Coco leaving her behind violent shaking on their big waves. In the morning I walk our Jack Russel, Captain Jack, amidst big piles of uncollected household waste and gypsy families sleeping on the street. All in all a somewhat desolate place, so the next morning we lift our anchor and continue our journey on the Argolic Gulf to Kilada.

Stern anchor, chain in bucket and line on a roll


Once arrived, we drop our stern anchor and moor Coco with her bow facing the quay. Normally we don’t really fancy quays, because things tend to go wrong with the mooring of other boats, crossing anchor lines etc. This quay however is small and seems manageable, so we decide to take our chances. Being moored on the quay with water available to wash our clothes seems like an attractive idea. The Dutch couple on the charter boat next to us help us by taking our bowlines. As soon as we’re all settled in, I walk Captain Jack. Upon my return, I am shocked to see that Coco is lying completely skewed. Ron is already busy with our stern anchor. The charter boat is just leaving. By picking up their anchor they also pulled ours. Luckily Ron witnesses it al. “We have dropped it again!”, The man shouts optimistically when they release our chain from their anchor. True, only our anchor is now in a completely different position and there is a lot of slack on the anchor line. Ron pulls it tight again and we discuss what to do. We decide to leave the anchor where it is and move Coco to the right by repositioning our bow lines, so we will be moored straight behind our anchor again. If I disconnect the second line and want to move Coco, it almost goes wrong. I nearly can’t hold on to the line any more because of the wind and Coco pulls sideways. “Can somebody please help me?” I call for help around me. The big, black metal worker on the fishing boat next to us is coming to my aid together with the Frenchman from our other neighbouring boat. The Frenchman takes the lead. He sends the metal worker away with a curt ‘thank you’. Instead of helping me to moor Coco again, he wants to get rid of our boat. When I explain to him that Jack and I also belong on it, he forces me to get on the boat quickly via the bow anchors and to leave Jackie on the quay. Now there’s only one thing left we can do: pull up our anchor and drop it again. For a brief moment we hit the gas backwards to get rid of the quay and the fishing boat next to us and immediately the anchor line gets trapped in the propeller. Fortunately, it almost immediately comes loose again. Ron needs all his strength to get the anchor aboard. There is no anchor winch on the stern, so it is all manual labour. With the extra weight of a large lump of clay on the anchor that’s not an easy job. We motor around to get to the right place again for our stern anchor, but I am in a hurry, because Jack is still alone on the quay. And he seems to wander of. I call out to him: “Jackie, wait!” and I snarl at Ron that he has to hurry. Finally we drop our anchor again and approach the quay, where the French neighbour is waiting for us. We want to moor right next to his boat to leave some space for other yachts, but he makes it clear to us that this is not possible. “Problem for my boat,” he says angry and he refuses to move. So we do as he pleases. He leaves us no choice. And there we are again. Captain Jack is back home again. We’re all happy. Only how much anchor line is out now? It seems a little low to me. How many meters are actually on the roll? After some calculations, we conclude that 25 to 30 meters of anchor line are out, including 5 meters of chain, at a water depth of 4 meters. Tight, but as long as there’s no storm coming, it should be ok, we encourage ourselves.

Fisherman in the bay of Kilada


Secretly I am a bit worried about what happens when the wind hits Coco’s butt tonight and the anchor will be put to the test, but we are straight and the anchor line is pretty tight, so what can happen to us? With that reassuring thought, we leave Coco behind and go out for dinner at Taverne 1969. The food is delicious and soon the place is all full. Our French neighbors are also present. Almost at the same time we come back to our boats late in the evening. I see that Coco is not lying straight behind her anchor any more. The wind has turned and now pushes her from behind. I tighten the line of the stern anchor, but a moment later I see that we are moored sideways again. When I look at the bow, we are already touching the quay with our waterstay. Yet another time we must pull up our anchor. There is nothing else to it. This time, to the relief of the neighbour, we are not going to moor again at the quay, but will anchor in the bay. He helps us to release a blocked line and then firmly positions himself on the front of his boat. He points forward. That is where his anchor lies. And his anchor chain. He shouts at us. “If I have a problem, you have a problem.” And something about it being dark. Yes, we see that too. If it were up to us, we would also go to sleep. In the meantime we are trying to get our stern anchor back on board. The wind is blowing quite hard from the side, so that is not easy. The neighbor is still screaming at us. Ron finally gets the stern anchor back aboard. The cockpit is full of anchor line and chain. There is a thick piece of fishing wire wrapped around the anchor. Maybe that’s why it couldn’t fold out properly or maybe it has been pulled loose by the fishing wire in the propeller of one of the many passing fast-moving speed boats – from and to the private island in the bay? Or have we become overconfident ourselves after having successfully anchred with our stern anchor only three times before? It’s all just guesses. The fact is that this is not exactly a sheltered quay and the stern anchor has been severely tested.

Bay of Kilada with the private island


Then we look for an anchorage. It is a pitch-dark night without a moon. We manoeuvre in between unlit yachts, which sometimes suddenly appear before us. Spooky. Next to me I hear things splashing in the water. I scare, search and see that they are flying fish. They probably were attracted by my flashlight shining over the water.

With due strain and a lot of stress later our bow anchor finally hits the water of the bay. We are neatly in between a few other yachts. In the middle of the bay according to the Ipad. The three of us recover from the shock in the cockpit.
It is after midnight and if it’s up to us, we will not pull up our anchor for a while.

Advertenties

Sulfur bath

A pungent rotten egg smell, like the stink bombs we used to crush to spoil the music lessons of Mr. Vink, the last crusader at our high school, a shrill whistle of the harbour master in response to our entry and a sign at the entrance with bans for respectively anchoring, catamarans and ships longer than 47 feet: we have arrived in Methana Marina.

We almost immediately turn around again, because I don’t know exactly how long we want to stay. This is a private port and you have to know how long you want to stay, according to harbourmaster Marina. I feel like I’m back at school again, but this time as a student with fear of failure, eagerly searching for the right answer in my head that just won’t come to my mind. In the end we are allowed to stay for two to three days. We get a mooring line and help with mooring our Coco. Nice boat, they say. I feel proud. We must be doing something right after all?

Methana, sulfur, marina, Methana _Marina, Southern_Cross,  gilmer
Coco in Methana Marina

There we are. In a sulfur bath filled with milk-colored, smelly water. It takes a while before we realize that we have had some kind of ‘luck’. All boats that arrive after us are resolutely sent away by Marina after her shrill whistle. The port is full. And private. This time, the information from the widely acclaimed and used ‘Greek Waters Pilot’ by Rod Heikell turns out to be less useful then Navily, an app about ports and anchorages filled with information provided by users themselves. There is another port in Methana, the ferry port, which is actually the only serious option to dock for passing yachts. Therefore it’s quite busy there, but of course not nearly as sheltered and special as our smelly Marina.

All berths are equipped with mooring lines. Hence the anchor ban. Handy of course, but in this case sulfuric water is the main reason. The sulphur affects the metal anchor chains. And not only that, we notice after a few days. All the bronze parts of our boat have also turned black, just like the top edge of our red antifouling. Sulfur also reacts with copper, a component of bronze. And apparently there isn’t only sulfur in the water, but also in the air. According to the internet it is called patination: chemically blackening copper using sulfur. The only problem is we didn’t ask for it.

Methana, spa, sulfur, sulfur lake
The spa and sulfur lake

Methana is located on the peninsula of the same name on the east side of the Peloponnese, which is entirely of volcanic origin. The hot springs with sulfur are a sign that there is still volcanic activity underground. Along the main road lies the neoclassical building of the spa with the sulfur lake in front of it. However, the building is closed and the first signs of decline are visible already. There is no longer a spa here. For those who appreciate it, there is a small bathing platform by the sea. The locals use it especially during the early evening hours. We also take a dip in the afternoon. The sulfur water is supposed to cure all kinds of ailments.

Methana, sulfur, spa
A dip in the sulfur sea

All in all, Methana is a remarkable place and a special experience. Sometimes I suddenly no longer smell the sulfur air. Habituation or temporarily driven away by the wind? Sometimes I wake up in the middle of a windless night and the unbearable smell almost makes me nauseous. I am reassured with the knowledge that people also live here and some liveaboards even seem to winter in the harbour, so probably it won’t be harmful.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to escape the smelly sulfur air. The pebble beach is right behind the outer harbour wall. There you can also find the smallest and cutest beach bar in all of Greece: the ‘Copacabana Bitch Bar’. Although in Greece you are never sure if it is really ment as a joke or just bad English spelling, with such a name it simply can’t go wrong. And then they also have very friendly service and ice cold beer …

Methana,  beach
Chilling at the Copocabana Bitch Bar

The sulfur harbour seems to be largely filled with fixed berths and therefore it is a haven of peace in the midst of the tourist high season. Since boat and crew now both have finished their sulfur bath, it is time to leave again three nights later. Or four days as Marina calculates the harbour fee. She writes her name and phone number on the bill and mentions she also has Whatsapp. That’s for free, she says with a big smile. We can always call her, but it will probably be fully booked in Methana Marina.

Scaredy-cats

American boat friends lovingly call us ‘scaredy-cats’ when we tell them about our doubts about sailing on the Aegean Sea. According to them, it is not too bad. Adriaan, skipper of sailing yacht the ‘Bataaf’, talks about it with more awe. Too much wind, he says and he tells us about the German sailor from Aachen who left his ship twice in blind fear and now no longer can get insurance for his yacht.

And it’s true. We are a little bit scared. Scared of the strong northerly that plagues the Aegean Sea in the summer months: the infamous Meltemi. So after a few days in Itea we sail further east over the Gulf of Corinth. By then we still don’t know for sure whether we will actually make the crossing through the Corinth Canal to the Aegean Sea or stay on the Gulf which is very beautiful in itself and despite the high season is not crowded at all.

Harbour of Antikyra

First we set sail to Antikyra, a small and quiet harbour one bay further east than Itea. The heat wave has since been driven away by ‘ungreek’ bad summer weather. We enjoy the wonderfully ‘Dutch’ cool and rainy weather that has come instead. For a short while that is. As quiet as it is in the harbour during daytime, as busy it is in the evenings and at night. Not that it’s crowded with tourists, but with locals. After sunset, first the (grand) parents visit the quay with their (grand) children. At midnight it is quiet for a while until night stalking youngsters wake us up from our early sleep.

Dark skies over Antikyra

Therefore we are happy with a day full of coolness and rain. Finally we can sleep for an entire night. At the dry moments it is fresh enough to take a nice walk in the mountains around Antikyra.

A walk in the hills around Antikyra

When the weather improves a few days later, we sail on to Corinth. Then we secretly already know that we will make the leap through the canal one day later. The weather is good and we do not want to miss the opportunity, all the more so because we also cannot get any sleep in the harbour of Corinth because of youth hanging around. We are getting old…

Coco in Corinth harbour

For the second day in a row we get up at six o’clock in the morning after a very short night, but we are highly motivated to leave this port behind us as quickly as possible. At 7 o’clock I call the traffic control of the Corinth Canal. An hour later we can continue, they promise. When we arrive an hour later, the waiting time is still an hour. ‘Greek Maybe Time’… A little after nine and a lot of VHF radio traffic later, the time has finally come: we are allowed in. Last one in a row of four sailing yachts. Encouraged by the traffic control to keep the speed up high, we motor in half an hour through the impressive high and narrow canal. When we go a short distance past the paying office on the East side of the Canal to turn Coco around and moor with the bow against wind and current, traffic control immediately calls us on the VHF. They delicately remind us that we have to pay before leaving. The Corinth Canal is the most expensive canal in the world calculated per mile. We pay no less than €112 for our 9.5-meter Coco with 2 people on it. The canal is a good 3,5 miles long, but it saves us around 190 miles of sailing around the Peloponese.

View from the office in Isthmia

While I am waiting in the office until all the formalities have been completed, I am overlooking a new sea. The water is calm and there is nothing to be seen that can instil fear. All I can see is a sea of opportunities ahead of us. And we have an ocean of time to await our chances.

Heat

With a dark red face, the woman strides across the quay past our Coco to her yacht further on. Sweat pearls all over her face. She drags a cart with two jerry cans of diesel behind her, but she herself seems to pose the most explosion hazard. Her husband follows at a safe distance with the third jerry can dangling on his arm. He also looks hot, but seems resigned. Apparently the walk to the gas pump in Itea is a little longer than their relationship at forty degrees Celsius tolerates.

I get up, Ron says, it is already nine o’clock. Jackie apparently needed a bit of extra sleep and didn’t wake us up before. The sun is already burning. As soon as I get out of bed and put on my sparse clothes, sweat gushes out of all my pores. It is 32 degrees and the day has yet to begin. I take Jack for a walk to the beach around the corner and give him his first cooling bath. Back on the boat we drink our morning coffee, as always. Against our better judgment, because immediately more sweating is our share. Greece is hot. Overheated. Even the Acropolis at Athens is closed to the public.

We carefully plan our activities for the day. First the three of us go to get groceries, because now there is still shade and therefore some coolness to be found under the high buildings along the boulevard. For Jackie, that is his last activity until sunset. Except for some swimming and showering to cool down. When it’s hot, he refuses to walk. Demonstratively, he looks for the nearest shadow spot, sits down and refuses to go any further. He does like to be transported by bike. He doesn’t eat much anymore either. He mainly sleeps and therefore is clearly the wisest of the three of us. On Facebook we read the story of a woman who brought her dog to a Greek vet with the same symptoms. His diagnosis: he is in ‘Greek mode’, so nothing wrong. Just a Greek dog.

The Captain gets a ride

Like real northerners, Ron and I can’t help but also try to do something useful in the middle of the day: the laundry, a chore, a bit of cleaning, cooking and writing this blog. Less and calmer than normal, but too much by Greek standards. The heat wave has now lasted more than a week and here on the Gulf of Corinth daily temperatures reach around 40 degrees. The further the afternoon progresses, the warmer it gets. The wind is coming down and even the crickets give up. When finally a strong wind picks up, it feels like someone has switched on a hair dryer at the hardest and hottest setting. Our attempts to keep the boat cool with cloths against the sun, an extra dorade and a fan deliver only minimal results.

Coco on the quay in Itea

In the evening we take a walk into the town. It doesn’t really cool down, but at least the sun has disappeared. A bit of walking, shopping and drinking an ice cold beer. Just like the Greeks. The couple of the diesel is also present. Their overheated moods seem to be cooled down again. They smile at each other while enjoying two large bottles of Alfa beer.

We never walk to the gas station together to get diesel. It would simply take too much Alfa beer to extinguish our overheated moods again.

Should I stay or…

It is a recurring dilemma since we are ‘on the road’: “should I stay or should I go?” The first year and a half of our trip it is all pretty clear: weather permitting, we will go simply because we are on our way to Greece. After our arrival here we keep on going for a while: first to a safe winter harbour, then searching for a new boat, delivering our old boat at the storage etc. Now finally, we no longer have a destination, so we are free to choose: stay or go. And that sometimes proves to be a rather difficult decision.

View over the Gulf of Corinth

In the port of Trizonia you can see the two extreme effects of our dilemma all around you. On the one hand you have the ‘long-stay peeps’, the often part-time liveaboards, who only leave their place when they bring their boat back to winter storage at the end of the season and fly themselves to their homes elsewhere in the world. On the other hand you have the ‘passers-by’, who presumably want to sail through the Corinth Canal from the Ionian to the Aegean Sea or vice versa. They arrive late in the afternoon and leave early next morning. Sometimes they are rental boats, sometimes they are boats of people who spend a few weeks a year on vacation and sometimes it is a mega yacht that is brought to its destination by a professional crew. All of these crews don’t see much more of this beautiful island than the taverns at the harbour. We are somewhere in between: we don’t go that fast, but we don’t stay that long either.

The taverns of Trizonia

So many different worlds in one port, that sometimes clashes. A few days ago a few mega yachts parked on the other side of our jetty. As soon as one of those yachts fully opens his music installation, our French ‘long-stay’ neighbor immediately steps out of his boat and completely freaks out to people of the mega yacht. Of course all of this in French. The music is turned off immediately. A few more people are involved, including a French-speaking Greek. After a brief and intense turmoil, the music doesn’t start again. Everyone is happy, because now we can have a good nights sleep later on.

Land turtle

Trizonia has many arguments in it for wanting to stay. It is a beautiful, car-free island with lots of opportunities for walking and swimming. You can anchor well, but of course we moor in the well-protected, free harbour with water taps. There is a mini market and there are various taverns. If you are looking for more facilities, just take the small ferry to the mainland nearby. Every few days we get some groceries from a small supermarket and a real bakery over there.

On the other hand, there is always that tickle of wanting to discover something new, of the grass on the other side of the fence that always seems greener, of wanting to be on the road sailing over endless seas where nothing reminds you of the bustle of the harbour, following a dream of idyllic anchor bays, picturesque villages and undiscovered pearls.

We often receive help with our dilemma. The weather is too bad to go or too good to go. For example, our first week the weather was a bit cloudy with a thunderstorm now and then so we could hike nicely all day, because the temperature is tempered and the sun does not burn on our heads. And then all over I get sick with a serious infection in my leg. Sailing is suddenly no longer an option, because I am not mobile anymore. It has been over a week now and is seriously testing my patience.

But the dilemma has been resolved again for a while again. I admit, there are worse dilemmas in life, but we are bothered by it: should we stay or should we go? Today we stay!

Jack & Jack

Just as we get off the boat to walk to the Filoxenia Pool Bar, Stuart is standing in front of us with little Jack by his side. At this first reunion since half a year the Jack brothers are not overflowing with enthusiasm to say the least. They sniff at each other for a moment and then seem to pay more attention to us and their environment. I had imagined something else, something with more violin music, so to speak. After all, they have lived together for more than six years with their first boss.

Filoxenia Pool Bar

We drive with Stuart to his Filoxenia Pool Bar. It is a hotel / bar with swimming pool and is located just outside Katelios in a beautiful setting. Little Jack is inseparable from Stuart and is therefore always present here. In addition to not being able to live without Stuart for more than two minutes, little Jack also has an incontinence problem, a tail that is cut too short and he has difficulty walking. He jumps a bit like a rabbit and then loses a drop of puddle with each little pup. Hence the self-designed diaper system that he always wears when he’s inside. Little Jack has also fallen into the pool once and appears to be unable to swim. Maybe it’s good that his brother, and not he, has become a “seadog”. Despite his handicaps, little Jack does not allow himself to be bullied around by his big brother. On the contrary, Captain Jack regularly looks at me like he’s trying to ask me ‘what the hell is going on?’

Many of the English guests are already aware of our arrival and would like to meet the brother of ‘their’ Jack, ‘our’ Captain Jack. In the meantime, their little Jack prefers to sit on his favourite spot: his chair with a basket behind the bar.

Little Jack in his chair behind the bar

It’s a bit confusing, two brothers who are both named Jack. Once they each had a different name, but after their adoption this changed. We were told at the time that Captain Jack had no name and that we had to come up with one. We called him Jack to find out the next day when he was picked up that his real name was Russell. Not a good name we thought and we kept it with Jack. Little Jack was actually called Riou (or Piou, something confusing with the Greek alphabet) and Stuart and Allison didn’t think that was great either. Just as unimaginative as we are, they also called him Jack. Hence …

In the evening we go back to the Pool Bar. It is Friday evening and time for the weekly pub quiz. The proceeds always go to ARK, Animal Rescue Kefalonia, the shelter where Jack & Jack have also been for a few months. We have some difficulties with the cryptic questions in the English language, so we finish last, but we do win the poodle prize. And then we also win the € 15 grand prize with the lottery. The prize falls on a number that we did not choose, but Allison used for our Captain. Surely there will be no fraud involved? What does it matter. We will put the price in the ARK pot anyway.

It is busy and pleasant and the evening brings the weekly yield for ARK to around € 500. This money, which is normally used to build up a supply of food and medicines for the winter period, is now urgently needed to replenish daily food supplies. Normally there are enough donations for current affairs during the tourist season, but for unclear reasons this is not the case now. Stuart tells us that ordinary dog ​​food alone costs around € 5,000 a month. In addition, special food, medicines and cat food are added. He immediately transfers the proceeds from the past 2 weeks, around € 1,000. So they can barely make a week ahead of that. The shelters do not receive any money from the Greek government, so they are completely dependent on donations. There are now about 250 dogs in ARK. Fortunately that’s a lot less than a year ago, when there were still around 350. And then of course there are the cats. It makes me sad that the people of ARK do their best to look after the animals and have to beg for money all the time.

We stay in Katelios for four days and visit little Jack every day. Slowly the brothers seem to recognize each other again. From careful browsing to really playing together. It is heart warming to see, especially since they normally both hardly play with other dogs at all. It feels sad to separate the brothers again, although they both seem completely in place, as it is now.

Jack & Jack playing

Saying goodbye hurts a bit. It was a very special meeting, both for the dogs and for the people. With a tear we leave the Pool Bar for the last time on Monday evening. Well, not really the last time of course. We will come back. Sometime. Because we will never forget little Jack or his new ‘owners’ Stuart and Allison. On Facebook they were once affectionately referred to as ARK 2. They offer a home to about 15 adopted dogs and at home as well as in the Pool Bar about 12 adopted cats each. In addition, they make every effort to raise money for the ARK and other shelters in Kefalonia.

Jack & Jack have been lucky. They have been adopted and hopefully live happily ever after in their new homes. The dogs and cats left behind in ARK are still waiting for their ‘fairy tale fairy’. If everyone who also loves Jack & Jack could make a small donation to the ARK, their lives will also get a little better. Giving money is easy, because ARK has its own webpage where you can deposit money directly into their account via PayPal: http://www.animalrescuekefalonia.com/contribution.php .

Little Jack, Captain Jack and all their dog and cat friends will be eternally grateful to you. And of course we will be too!