Greece, Malta, Italy
We departed the Cyclades and made way to the Peloponnisos. Many cruisers head north to the Corinth Canal near Athens and skip this rugged island but we took the advise of a Swiss couple we met in Malaysia who told us it was their favorite cruising area and of course there is the fact that we are headed for Malta not Venice. The Peloponnisos is/was the home of Sparta.
Today nothing exist of the city of Sparta but legends of its fierce warriors. It is said that Spartans would abandon their weak or impaired sons by throwing them off a cliff. This warrior attitude served them well during the Peloponnesian War which ended in the defeat of Athens. This is why there are many US sports teams nicknamed Spartans but none (?) named Athenians.
Our first stop was the island of Elafonisos which has the most beautiful beach we have seen in Greece. We swam in the clear waters but never went ashore even though we were there for three days. The swell ran through the anchorage and created just enough rocking that we became lethargic and just sat around enjoying the beauty of the water and the sand.
As we sailed from harbor to harbor in the Peloponnisos, we were often the only cruising boat in the area. This is certainly the path less traveled. The Venetians built many of the ports and fortifications in the southern Peloponnesos to protect their trade routes to the eastern Mediterranean. Instead of all white buildings we now seeing hues of tan and pink with tile roofs. There is also a great deal of greenery covering the landscape. Tall cedar trees and short olive trees and many other forms of vegetation indicate a significant increase in rainfall compared to the islands to the east. Tourism is still the main focus of seaside communities with restaurants whose seating area is right next to the water but the kitchens are often located across the street.
We cleared out of Greece at Kalamata home of the large black olives you find in the deli section of your grocery. This port and the surrounding castle was built by the Franks. The city is still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 1968 but the marina is in good shape and manned by a friendly staff. We filled every tank, provisioned and checked weather on the internet before departing. We stopped several times before leaving Greece in order to let the winds subside and the sea die down. Our last stop was Mathoni which is
equipped with the prerequisite castle. Here the landscape is rolly and green and just fifty miles north of here is Olympus another of the sites we didn't see while in Greece. But maybe on the second lap.
We decided to let the seas calm down a little since the winds had been Force 5 for a week or better , and we are off. As it happened we let the seas and the wind die a little too much. But the water was flat and the moon was out and all was good aboard Shiraz as we made our first three day run in quite a while deciding that we would sail, albeit slowly, as far as we could. And at $5.00 plus per gallon motoring can get costly. So we tacked and tacked and decided we would take another night at sea rather than motor the last 24 hours. The weather forecast called for high winds in a two days so when the wind died at sunset we turned the engines on. But the Force 5 came early and by midnight we were motoring into 25 knots on the nose with worsening seas. Fifteen hours later we hailed Valletta Port Control and requested permission to enter the harbor.
To see our Flickr set of photos of our visit to Greece, just click on the "smiley face".
The Phoenicians were the first to settle Malta as they built trade routes throughout the Mediterranean. Later occupants included by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans.
In 1523 the Ottomans drove the Knights of St John from the heavily fortified island of Rhodes and in 1530 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, offered the Knights the Island of Malta as a new home. The lease provided for an annual payment of one falcon, hence the movie the Maltese Falcon. You know, starring Humphry Bogart, as Sam Spade and Peter Lorre, as Joel Cario and that other guy the "fat man" searching for the Falcon statuette. Okay okay back to history. The Knights of St John finally defeated the Ottomans with the help of the Sicilians in a most gruesome battle and ended the westward push of the Ottomans.
After entering a marina we searched for a good pizza and were directed to the Tax Blex area, not far from the boat by dinghy. It so happened that this was Sunday, the day for the Feast of St Joseph. The streets were lighted and food carts filled the blocked off streets. People pushed baby carriages and enjoyed the mild weather and then at 11:00 PM a crowd gathered in front of the church which was outlined in lights. Fireworks broke out from across the bay and were answered in same from the roof of the church. The church bells rang and a brass band played as the statute of St Joseph was returned to the Church. We were sure this was a scene from the movie Godfather II. Malta is a very Catholic country and its ecomony is based on tourism so these fiestas are held around the island almost continuously during the tourists season.
While in Malta we received our mail and a package of parts without any problems and everything was good except the space at the marina where we were tied to a high rough cement (rock) wall that ate through one dock line and marred our fenders. It was way overpriced especially since there there was no water nor electricity along the wall. But every marina was crowded. Provisioning was excellent and we had an enjoyable visit. On our way out of Malta we stopped at Gozo and spent several nights at Dwerja, a most unique anchorage. You enter the cut which is about 100 meters wide and inside you find an anchorage that could maybe hold ten boats that is surround by high cliffs. The bottom is rock and grass and maybe sand but the key is that there is little if any rolling. Try it you'll like it. For those of you that are in to Greek Mythology the island of Gozo (originally named Ogygia) was home to Calypso, a nymph who entrapped the legendary hero Odysseus on the island as her lover for 7 long years, until she was forced by the Olympian gods to let him go. She kept him in a cave that is called today, Calypso's Cave.
We made our way to the southern shore of Sicily but only by motoring the last six or so hours. Sooner or later we always end up with northwest winds which is of course our direction of travel.
To view our Flickr set of Malta, please click on the "smiley face".
Sicily, home of ice cream and the mafia
We made landfall at Selinunte with its complex of temples and an acropolis you can view from the boat. We opted not to go ashore and visit since the view was excellent from
the boat and we had just sailed all night.
Suddenly I can't get the theme from the Godfather out of my mind.
In making our way around the west end of Sicily we found the islands of Isole Egadi. These islands make up a marine reserve as Italy responds to the tourist trade. We arrived at Isola Favignana on a Sunday and found small stretches of beach (read rock) full of sun bathers and way too many speed boats in every anchorage and of course a castle at the very top of the mountain.
As the sun started to fall behind the hill most of the smaller craft disappeared and a half a dozen sailboats were left to enjoy the sunset. The "pink" sand beaches reach about 10 meters up from the water and not more than 200 meters in length and everything else is boulders which people lie upon to worship the sun. But everyone seems to be having a good time. We are quite a curiosity and speed boats go zooming by until they see the "stars and stripes" and then they do a slow circle or two of our boat. To this point in our trip across the Med, we have encountered only two other US boats.
Next we made our way to Tranpani on the most northwest corner of Sicily. We were able to grab a "free" mooring ball but it was quite rolly due to the number of fishing boats in and out of the harbor. The catch must have been exceptional since about three per hour all day and all night came and went. Since we are on a catamaran we survived the roll. There are also mooring balls on the other side of the harbor which appeared to be less rolly but further away from everything. Tranpani was a good stop. We cleared into Italy, we think, walked around to take pictures of the baroque churches and narrow streets and took the tram up to Erice known for its temple of Aphrodite.
As we walk the streets we think every conversation we overhear sounds like Marlon Brando with the dry, scratchy, weak voice he used when portaying Vito Corleone.
We came back down the tram around 2:30 and with the help of a local lady that actually took us in her car (after a long hot walk trying to find a grocery store) to a grocery store that was actually open during this siesta period. We asked the manager first thing if he thought that there would be a problem getting a taxi back to the marina once we loaded up on supplies. We thought the answer was "no problem". Well we loaded up and unfortunately when we finished it was still siesta and nothing moves during siesta. We waited for over an hour before we were able to get a taxi. So if you are visiting Sicily take a siesta during the hours of 1200 and 1630 because almost every shop is closed and nothing is moving.
Tranpani is also the home of the twenty foot plus inflatables. There are hundreds of these boats in and around the waters probably because the islands of Isole Egadi are close by. You can drop a couple of 250 horsepower outboards on the back and drape a couple of women on the front and be at the islands in twenty minutes or less having only created 70 pounds of hydrocarbons for the atmosphere and at $6.95 USD per gallon you can also prove how much money you have to waste. But they are beautiful. Rene could be the babe on the front but I adamantly refuse to be the driver in a tight Speedo, so no inflatable for us.
Hey, I'm pretty sure I saw that guy from the Sopranos the other day. I thinks he's here visiting family.
If you're headed our way:
- The Mediterranean is not all about Med mooring. There are many good anchorages with sandy bottoms in twenty feet or less in Greece and Turkey.
- You can anchor in Lararetto Creek in Malta just look for the rock beach with people swimming and you may see a boat or two there. We didn't see it so we ended up in an fairly expensive marina.
- We have discovered two radio nets. 8122 Mhz at 0530 GMT and the "drag" net at 4033 MHz at 0600 GMT. We lurk on both occassionally.