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West to refuge...and Raki

Having spent a couple of weeks in Epidavros harbour on anchor and visiting the sites, we left this very "velcro port" to head further west to the well sheltered anchorage of Korfos, still on the north coast of the Peloponnese.

We visited here last year having transited the Corinth Canal, followed by a lovely gentle sail.

This time spent a week, meeting up with boaty friends and swimming lots, and sailed back to the island of Poros to provision-up and fill our water tanks, before setting off to explore more of the Peloponnese.

The trip was beautiful, passing the famous island of Hydra, before turning into Porto Khelli, a very sheltered anchorage just inside the Argolic Gulf. A few days later we had a hard windward bash to the grand town of Koiladhia with its dominating church.

Beautiful clear water enticed me into the water many times and we saw a couple of huge turtles. There is a tiny island at the entrance here which is owned privately by a shipping magnate. We thought that it might have given us more protection than it did in the massive recent thunderstorm. Luckily our anchor held well, but a few boats had to re-anchor.

We waited until after a meltemi before heading off to Milos (the eastern-most Cyclades island). It is a Caldera (a flooded exploded volcano). So we were anchored in the middle of an ancient volcano! amazing! And just off the town of Adamus...fabulous views.

Koiladhia church

At this point we could go south or east, and decided to head for Crete and set off at the crack of dawn for an overnight sail. From that afternoon we sailed the whole way on a steady broad reach (wind on the rear quarter) 130 miles.

All fine until we approached the notorious headland that precedes the island and anchorage of Spinalonga. The wind increased and we were going faster and faster. When we started to make the turn around Ak Ioannis, the winds were 35 knots with gusts of 50-60 knots. We had a reefed mainsail and entered the lagoon of Spinalonga with a partly reefed foresail and a bit of Perkins power. Several boats have been rolled here, so we were somewhat tense.

Spinalonga Island

Once in the lagoon, we dropped anchor in a beautiful spot. We saw several turtles here and soaring overhead were the amazing Griffon Vultures. We could also see Spinalonga Island, previously used as a leper colony – illuminated so well in Victoria Hislop's excellent novel The Island. This is a truly magnificent place with clear water surrounded by huge mountains, causing ferocious catabatic winds from the north west.

The most important drink here is Raki, made in an active distillery puffing smoke from the surrounding hills. The local red wine (Kockino) is made by the monks of Sitia. An excellent wine!

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