Mile Builder 2012

26th April 2012

Sivota to Cefalonia

Skipper Tom and crew Sarah, Joyce and David prepare to set sail following safety briefings and provisioning, from Sivota harbour, (southern Lefkas Island) for a shake out sail towards southern Cefalonia.

Forcast: sunny with NW4-5 – perfect weather for a first days sailing.

27th April 2012

Shake Out Sail

A perfect day for a shake out sail! A fresh 15-20kts from the NW and not a cloud in the sky helped blow the winter cobwebs off both boat and crew.

After spending the morning in harbour running through the boats systems, safety gear and some basic power handling everyone was eager to get out sailing. We tacked, we gybed and we hove-too to refresh memories and then we enjoyed a 10 mile reach due South making over 8kts at times. No snags on the boat, just aching limbs and tired grins.

The wind died as we entered the lee of Ithaca and looked up at the supposed location of Odysseus’ palace – thinking of the weeks ahead we realised we were recreating the start of that legendary journey – the storm that blew Odysseus’ off course happened as he tried to round Cape Maleas, the last finger of the Southern Peloponnese which we will encounter within the next few days. The Southern fingers of Greece’s Peloponnese have a reputation for rapidly changing weather and are the last resting place of many a ship. An ancient Greek proverb sums up: “Stay ten miles off Cape Malea, and from Cape Grosso ten and then ten more”. Part of our challenge over the next couple of days will be finding a suitable weather window to round the three capes.

We motored into Vathi on Ithaca around 6.30, moored and had an early night after a great meal ashore. Tomorrow we check the weather again but are expecting the Northerly to continue and push us South overnight to Pilos, our stop before rounding the Peloponnese.

Around 100nm will take us past Zakynthos, the entrance to the Gulf of Patras and down the coast of Greece, we expect to arrive in Pilos Sunday morning.



29th April

Vathi to Pilos



One of the new extras on the Mile Builder trip this year is wi-fi on the yacht – so I can sit here at the chart table at 6am 5 miles off the Western Peloponnese coast and update the blog! Only problem being – there isn’t a lot to say! We’ve had a very quiet journey from Ithaca (though we still have 15 miles to go) with little to no wind so have been motoring for most of the night.

The forecast was for 15-20kts from the NW so we were looking forward to a fast downwind leg but in reality it peaked at around 12kts for not much more than an hour then dropped off again, this morning we have an anemometer spinning in lazy circles.

The night passed slowly as the crew got used to the 3 hour shift pattern – plenty of coffee and star-gazing – with very little shipping to worry about. We should reach Pilos and be moored up around 10am and after a few more hours sleep we will check the weather again and see when we can get around the Southern capes.

Pic 1: Theory session on route, Pic 2: Dawn over the Western Peloponnese

29th April


Tranquilizer has arrived in Pilos and is tied up on the marina wall.

The entrance into Navarino Bay was spectacular and the glorious morning brought smiles to tired faces. A study of local weather sites and GRIB files leads us to believe we can stick to our original plan and leave Pilos bound for Monemvasia, rounding all three of the Peloponnese capes tomorrow. With a distance of 115nm ahead and in order to safely round Cape Maleas during daylight hours (the Elafonisou straits are a major shipping channel) we will aim to slip our lines tomorrow lunchtime. In the meantime the crew are catching up on lost sleep and exploring Pilos which is an attractive town developed mainly by the French in the 19th Century with a massive castle over-looking it built by the Venetians and the Turks.

30th April


Last night after a nautical themed quiz we took a taxi across the headland to the village of Methoni to visit the spectacular castle and sample the local seafood. The castle was at various times a stronghold protecting the trade routes around the Peloponnese for the Myceans, the Venetians and the Turks and covered an enormous area of the headland enclosing the entire settlement. A spectacular place to watch the sun go down.

This morning the crew are planning our journey around the southern capes with Sarah as designated Skipper for the passage. After checking the weather again we have re-evaluated our original plan to round Maleas in the early morning tomorrow due to a strong wind forecast on the Greek weather site HNMS (up to force 7) and now plan to leave later today rounding the cape tomorrow afternoon when the wind is due to drop.

We are waiting for a fuel truck to arrive at lunchtime and then intend to leave Pilos and anchor off Koroni (which promises another spectacular Venetian castle!) for dinner before continuing overnight around the second cape – Grosso.

Photo 1: The Turkish castle outside the massive battlements protecting the old settlement of Methoni. Photo 2: The crew hard at work planning the next leg of our journey


Passage Planning

30th April


We left Pilos around lunchtime and were motoring out of the harbour when a strange vibrating noise was heard in both aft cabins. After a brief inspection nothing was found amiss but the sound returned as we put the engine back into gear, this time we also felt the vibration in the cockpit. This can often be the first sign of a prop wrap (a rope or other debris wrapped around the propellor. Tom was voted most eager to jump in the water and look under the boat to see if he could see anything. Just before entering the water we noticed a bit of rubber drifting away from the boat – this looked suspiciously like a seal that covers the seals over the sail drive. A quick cold swim confirmed this to be the case and an even quicker call to the engineers confirmed that it was not a major problem and that we could continue with the only risk being a few barnacles growing where they shouldn’t. Continuing out of the harbour we rounded Methoni where we ate last night and continued to yet another castle on a headland at Koroni to drop the hook and have dinner in the sunshine. We leave at sunset to continue overnight around Cape Grosso and on to anchor in Sarakiniko Bay on Elafonisos for breakfast before rounding Cape Maleas tomorrow afternoon during a weather window.

Photo: Tranqilizer at anchor beneath the walls of Koroni.

1st May Another night of no wind has made it a frustrating journey around the southern capes but we have finally turned north just half an hour ago and are heading for Monemvasia marina. We motored south east from Koroni as the bright moon rose last night across the Gulf of Messiniakos towards Cape Grosso and said a quick ‘thank you’ to the engineers for our AIS as we saw the queue of shipping overtaking each other around the cape. We were able to steer a course to hug the coast in the light winds and avoid the worst of the maul rounding the cape by 4am whilst listening to the late night chat and music on channel 16 from the various ships lonely night watch officers! The crew continued their 3 hour watches through the night arriving into Sarkiniko Bay on Elafonisou around 9am. Sarakiniko was a stunning bay with a long stretch of sandy beach backed by dunes and clear turquoise water – so clear it even tempted Sarah in for a swim! We breakfasted on french toast and bacon and felt tired but privileged to be the only boat in sight. Tranquilizer left to round the final cape at 10.30 after checking the weather again and finding the Greek sites had downgraded their forecast wind strength. Cape Maleas was an imposing place with near sheer cliff rising almost 1000m from the turbulent seas. A Greek Orthodox monastery clings to the cliffs, the only access by boat, and though we followed tradition and waved to the monks we could see no reaction even with the binoculars! Tranquilizer is due into Monemvasia around 4pm this afternoon.

Photo: Cape Maleas

2nd May


We arrived in Monemvasia to find the marina in a state of disrepair but luckily managed to get alongside on the wall. After a drink and a de-brief ashore we walked out to visit the old town. Monemvasia has been called ‘Little Gibraltar’ as there is a narrow causeway to a massive rock island. The old town and sits in a depression towered over by the remains of the citadel. An incredible place with a maze of tiny alleyways, posh tavernas and chic gift shops. Next stop Hydra after 50nm or so.

Photo: Monemvasia

2nd May


A brisk 20kts of wind allowed a great sail during the morning but slowly dropped off into the afternoon by the time we were approaching Hydra. As the wind eased it prompted a theory session on sail trim and aerodynamics as sailing in light winds is much harder than in strong.
Joyce was skipper for the passage and navigated us into Hyra. We had heard the harbour can get busy during the summer months but had not been prepared for the fact that it was the May Day bank holiday week and the entire yachting armada of Athens seemed to have chosen Hyra for that night too. After nosing into the harbour and staring amazed at the boats parked 5 deep stern-to with yet more arriving behind us we made a hasty exit and motored to a bay around the corner where the pilot book promised a water taxi to the main town. We long-lined as the bay was deep and caught the taxi into town for a drink and a wander around the pretty harbour returning to eat on the boat and sit under the stars away from the carnage of the public holiday sailors!Photo 1: Tranquilizer under sail for HydraPhoto 2: The innovative parking solution in Hydra 

3rd May


Tranquilizer left Hydra this morning with the intention of visiting Poros only 20nm away as we sailed up the Gulf of Hydra we were suddenly amongst the Athenian armada once more, it seems they had chosen Poros too! We took a longer route around the island to give the harbour a chance to settle and poked our nose in an hour ago. As we came into the channel south of the island we were overtaken by a string of 10 mega-yachts cruising at 25kts and discovered that Poros hosts an annual boat show this weekend. We continued for a look at the pretty town but turned back when it was clear there was no room at the inn! As an alternative we are currently rounding the Methanon peninsula en-route to Vathi, a small (supposedly quiet) harbour off the beaten track. We hope to be moored up by late afternoon but are prepared to spend another night in a bay if necessary. Tomorrow we need to be in Athens to welcome our new crew members for the return leg back to the Ionian through the Corinth Canal. A few hasty phone calls this morning revealed full marinas but we managed to find a spot in an alternative.

Photo: Poros from the Channel

4th May


Tranquilzer is just about to depart Vathi for Athens (40nm) after a relaxing if different evening! We arrived in Vathi around 5pm to find a tiny picturesque harbour without a yacht in sight, we moored in front of a very friendly taverna and a couple of boats followed us in shortly. After a relaxing drink and some peace and quiet far from the busy ports we had been to recently we were concerned to see a Ukrainian yacht with 6 big men aboard come into the harbour and shout to the taverna owner that he had another 4 boats following him! There followed a period of hilarity at many aborted attempts at mooring followed by an invasion ashore of, actually quite polite, Ukrainians asking for tsiporo (a Greek version of grappa) and prancing around in bikinis and ‘budgie-smugglers’. The evening actually ended up being quite funny after we felt that we couldn’t beat them so joined them on the tsiporo. They retired early thankfully as they had to be back at their charter base early the next day.

Photo 1: The pretty volcanic peninsula of Methanon

Photo 2: The calm before the Ukrainian invasion of Vathi!

5th May


After leaving Vathi we sailed across the Saronic to our mid-journey stop over in Athens. Sarah took the skippers role for her final day (she is leaving today) and navigated us around plenty of yachts returning to Athens and several large fast ferries. We were concerned that the approach to Athens itself would be a mess of ferries and other boats zig-zagging around but were pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t as much traffic as we expected – despite 20 sailing dinghies exiting the marina just as we entered! Kalamaki marina is probably the largest in Greece with over 1,000 berths and plenty of mega-yachts. A good navigation exercise in an area without many big ports or traffic separation schemes.

We welcomed two new crew last night, Philip and Jean, and with David and Joyce (who are staying aboard for the return leg) they have gone into Athens to see the Parthenon as we are waiting for a last crew member, Andrew, due later today. Depending on his arrival time we may leave tonight and find a bay to anchor in or stay an additional night in Athens and leave early tomorrow. Our plan is to head across the Saronic to Palia Epidavros which sets us up for the canal on Monday morning. Once through we sail on to Ithea, our first stop in the Gulf of Corinth.

Photo: The hustle and bustle of Kalamaki marina

6th May


After welcoming our final crew member, Andy, yesterday the crew spent the day visiting the Parthenon and then planning the journey to both Epidavros and through the Corinth Canal. A boat and safety brief followed for the new crew and we departed Athens this morning eager to get out into the wind. Joyce was skipper for the day and took us out of Kalamaki marina towards Palia Epidavros. We set the sails shortly after leaving the marina and had a great mornings sailing in a fresh
20 knot wind. After negotiating the Traffic Separation Scheme outside Athens we continued on and arrived in Epidavros around 1730. The town is mainly famed for the nearby massive 14,000 seat ancient Greek theatre though the lure of new conversation, a drink and dinner prevented an excursion to visit it. A great meal at the Poseidon taverna on the seafront was enhanced by the moon rise over the headland. The full moon was at it’s perigee and appeared enormous and incredibly bright but we were sensible, resisted it’s pull, and turned in early with an dawn start planned for the next day.Photo 1: Our new crew; Andy, Phil and Jean ready to departPhoto 2: The quiet, charming town of Epidavros


7th May


A 6am wake up call from skipper Jean resulted in bleary eyed demands for coffee before slipping our lines and heading out towards the sunrise and the Corinth Canal. We wanted to get an early start since we had 20nm to cover before reaching the canal and the pilot book advised that a wait of up to 3 hours can be possible. Little wind meant a quick motor and we arrived at 1000. After completing the paperwork we were hailed on the VHF and told we could depart before the crew had even finished their coffee break! The canal is a spectacular 30 minute experience with sheer rock walls reaching nearly 100m high either side of the boat. It cost nearly 200 euros for Tranquilizer to transit and is supposed to be the most expensive canal in the world!

We are currently motoring with little wind in the Gulf of Corinth heading for our first stop on the west side of Greece. We had planned to put in to the well lit marina at Ithea tonight since we were expecting a delay in Corinth and thought we might be making a night entry. However with our speedy journey so far we have decided on Galaxidi as a prettier option and expect to be into the harbour early evening before sundown.

Photo 1: Tranquilizer in the dawn light at Epidavros

Photo 2: The amazing rock walls of the Corinth Canal

8th May


We arrived in Galaxidi last night after an interesting pilotage exercise around several reefs and islands to find a pretty small town settled in a fertile plain below the hills that hide Delphi, we came alongside and after a relaxed dinner had an early night planning to visit the ruins the next morning.

Many coffees and several buses finally brought us up into the mountains behind Galaxidi to the ruins of Delphi. Believed by the ancient Greeks to be the centre of the world it held special religious significance and harboured shines to Apollo and Athena amongst others.
The site is an incredible place to visit and well worth the morning spend on busy public transport. We decided to get taxis back to the boat.

Arriving back in Galaxidi we slipped our lines around 3pm bound for Trizonia, a small island some 15nm east. As we exited the bay we found more wind than predicted and enjoyed an afternoon tacking upwind in 20kts plus! After much discussion on upwind sailing strategies we finally arrived in the marina in Trizonia around 8pm to find it absolutely packed! A sneaky stern-to park on the outside of the mole got us settled and after some balancing of the passerelle we found a lovely taverna for a simple but very well cooked dinner.

Photo 1: Tranquilizer alongside in pretty Galaxidi

Photo 2: Delphi

Photo 3: The crew enjoying an upwind leg

12th May


Tranquilizer arrived safely into Sivota Harbour after an explore of the Southern Ionian including Kastos and Fiscardho.