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 Southern Cross 31, Coco. Nice boat, they say. I feel proud. We must be doing something right after all?
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 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.
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 …
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.