The eyes of Venice

26th May - 2nd June

With a following wind we sailed into Kalamata marina on Saturday morning and an hour later Alex arrived. We were just having a well earned midday beer - Alex recovering from having stayed up all night to catch his early flight, me recovering from bungling the berthing, and Paul just enjoying his beer - when an ominous crunching of metal on fibreglass came from our bow. A British yacht attempting to get on the quay next to us had blown onto our bow anchor. After much ineffectual commotion with people jumping off and on neighbouring boats to assist he ended up with the mooring line wrapped around his keel. The helpful and friendly marina man who appeared to do everything around the place said 'You need a diver! Wait I will get one!', rode off on his moped and came back 2 minutes later in his speedos. The situation was finally resolved by superman 'Security Guy' as his boss referred to him. Security Guy basically ran the place whilst his boss appeared entirely surplus to requirements.
After a night at the marina we set off for Koroni where we anchored in the bay and went in our dinghy ('Tenderer') to check out the local beer and have a look at the town and castle. Wondering slightly whether Tenderer and her brand new outboard would still be there on the slipway in the harbour on our return, we set off for an anchor dram in the square by the harbour, and then found our way up to the castle.
The castle is spectacular, one of the furthest outposts of the Venetian occupation of Greece. The western finger of the Peloppenese is littered with these 'eyes of Venice'. The castles were often built by (or usurped by) the Venetians - or even Byzantines before them, then taken over by the Ottomans, then again by Venetians, then again by Ottomans, before falling into disrepair after the Greek won independence in the 1830. Or so I think. It's a lot to get your head around.
One of the nice things about Greece is the laissez faire nature of things. The castle is free to walk about in, with a few inhabited houses and a church with graveyard inside the castle walls. Any indications of where the ground drops off hundreds of feet into the blue sea are cursory, and perhaps more accurately described as trip hazards. One or two rusty signs warn of unspecified danger, this one featuring bullet holes.
Koroni is also an attractive town. We had a great meal in a restaurant cornering the harbour.
Next day we headed for the bay of Marathos. Difficult to find just going by the charts but spotted in passing. We were very fortunate to have this beautiful bay and beach to ourselves overnight. There was something strange about it though, unnatural: there was no rubbish. We theorised about tides and winds but it didn't take much foraying to realise that someone must have done a full beach clean very recently, for in the bushes behind the beach I picked three bags full, duly deposited in the bins at our next stop.
In Marathos we had the perfect opportunity to try out our new inflatable stand-up paddle board. This proved really good fun and a surprisingly effective way of getting about. An evening of BBQ on board and a quiet night at anchor under a rising almost-full moon topped the day.
The next day we headed off again in light winds as we had all week, for the town of Methoni with its truly spectacular Venetian/Ottoman castle on the south-western tip of the Peloppenese. Photos do not do it justice.
It always seems strange that the towns inside the castle walls have been abandoned, nowhere more so than here where no buildings were still standing apart from a small church with a beautifully simple interior. Paul lit a candle in memory of Phil. He would have loved it there. He was with us at that moment.
Kastro taverna supplied a most delicious meal of lamb woth sage and honey. After a night in the bay we headed for Pylos, where it was quiet enough to drop the anchor for an afternoon stop just inside the breakwater cliffs and Alex and I took Tenderer for an explore. Tethering Tenderer to the tiny landing quay for the lighthouse we climbed the winding steps cut into the stone, thinking of those who cut these steps in the first place and how in earth they did it.
On top we found not only the lighthouse and the ruins of the keeper's house but a monument to the French troops who fell here in the battle of Navarinho Bay, in the Greek war of Independence. We also took Tenderer for a turn in one of the caves... eerily spectacular.
Crossing the bay to the town of Pylos we found space and moored side to the quay and had dinner onboard.
Paul and I even laid on a duet for Alex under the rising full moon.

Before heading west next day we decided to visit a bay further north 'Ormos Voidokholos'. This proved a place that has to be seen to be believed, with sand dunes rising high up the sides of the hills towards the mouth of a huge cave. Having just finished reading the Odyssey I was looking forward to seeing 'sandy Pylos', and was disappointed by the rocky shores of present-day Pylos. But here was this beautiful sandy bay just round the corner, the perfect shape and position for a harbour in times when they pulled boats up the beach, and here was Nestor's cave too, the Nestor whom Odysseus' son travelled to 'Sandy Pylos' to see. So evocative.
Nestor's cave is also mentioned in the Odyssey as where Nestor kept his cattle, and may also be the very cave where Hermes hid the golden cows after stealing them from Apollo. The dark inside is broken only by a tiny skylight. The cave is cavernous - 20x16 meters wide and 30 meters high.
Last stop Finikounda, a pleasant little place where we anchored in the bay and went ashore for a taverna meal, befire heading back to Kalamata the next day to drop Alex. On the last leg we even had some good sailing wind so ticked that box as well.