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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.