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Published: March 14th 2020
At The Helm Going Around in Circles
waiting for the OK to enter the Corinth Canal
We left Itea at 6:55 AM on September 25th
with 2’ waves and clear skies as we were headed to the Corinth Canal today. You must call the canal authorities when you are near the entrance in order to find out when you will be given permission to go through the canal. This is due to the fact that there is only one way traffic allowed. With not knowing how long we would have to wait for permission we wanted to leave early enough to give ourselves a buffer of time to make the passage as well as find an anchorage for the night once we were through the canal.
We had an uneventful trip to the canal entrance, although it was a little bit “rocky” as the waves continued to build and they seemed to be quite confused. We didn’t see much else in boat traffic out except a few commercial ships. We arrived at the entrance to the Corinth Canal around 2PM. We made contact by radio with the canal control as we were instructed and were told that we had to wait before entering which meant we started to go around in circles near the entrance. It
Taking the "Red" Route to the Corinth Canal
saved us from taking the longer white route this time
wasn’t the most pleasant thing to do as the winds kept building as well as the sea. Unfortunately they did not give a clear indication of how long we would need to do this and there wasn’t a really good place to put an anchor down so around in circles we went. Why is it when you are waiting the winds and seas seem to build? Guess it is Murphy’s Law… Finally at 2:51 we were given the green light to enter which we were happy to do.
The bridge at the western entrance to the canal carries cars over it which we could see while we were waiting. We found that this bridge was quit unique however in the fact that when it opened, it didn’t swing up and out of the way, but instead dropped down into the water so in fact we motor over it! The canal itself is an impressive one especially when you remember that this man-made canal was started in 1882 and not completed until 1893. The total length is 3.9 miles with a depth of 26 feet of water. The width differs with it being 69 feet across at the bottom and
The Canal Entrance From the West
note that bridge goes UNDER the water for us to enter
82 feet at the top. You motor under quite a few bridges as you make the passage and you can actually hear and see small pebbles and soil cascade down the sides in places as birds flew by the clumps of grass and weeds growing out of the sides. Fortunately we didn’t see anything big coming down, however, we did hear on the radio one of the boats that had traveled through in the opposite direction report that a larger chunk of the wall had dropped down in front of them – that wasn’t something we really wanted to hear or experience ourselves and fortunately it didn’t happen.
It took us just over 35 minutes to make it from the west to the east end of the Canal where we had to stop to present our boat papers and pay our fee for the use of the canal. Hopefully the map that is posted gives you an idea of how much time and distance we saved by using the canal. We would definitely like to explore the area that we missed, but as it is near the end of September and our goal was to get to our wintering
location in Turkey by the beginning of October, this shortcut through the canal was an excellent option. It not only saved us time, but it was interesting to travel through this canal and think about the work that went into it and how it has saved so much time for all that have used it since 1893.
When you exit the canal at the eastern end you notice immediately the amount of large ship traffic as well as the increase of ferry traffic due to the fact that you are now quite close to Athens. We visited Athens years ago on a return trip to Botswana so we did not move it to the top of the list for this time through. We know that we will have time to come back and explore Greece more so continued on our way to find a safe anchorage for the night. By 6PM we found a protected bay and anchored in 28 feet of crystal clear water. We are now in the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea – that much closer to our season goal of Turkey.
With it being near the end of September we pushed on the
As You Travel Through the Canal
there are numerous bridges to go under
next morning leaving our anchorage at 7:25 under a clear sky and flat seas so it turned out to be more of a motoring day. We made it a short day and were anchored in 24 feet on a sandy bottom. Unfortunately this stop was not that pleasant as there were numerous hotels in this bay and many of the hotel guests were being pulled behind speedboats on huge rafts. Bob keeps wondering “why is it that teenage girls in particular seem to always have very high pitched screams??” When picking out an anchorage on our charts we are always checking the depths and most importantly the amount of protection it will give us from wind and waves. Unfortunately we can’t always figure which areas are going to be built up with hotels and the associated boat traffic that is a result of the number of tourists out to have fun on the water. We actually checked to see if there were other places to anchor nearby, but nothing seemed to be popping out at us so we just settled down and waited for nightfall as we knew the water fun for the hotel guest would end. That fortunately was
The Top Left Shows the Western Entrance
the others show the eastern end where we pay the fee
true and we had a pleasant night sleep. You can’t win them all with picking out an anchorage – at least it was protected and we had a safe hook!
The next morning we left at 7AM with clear skies and 14 knots of wind and headed to Kea Island. It was going to be a short day, but this seemed like the best place to stop on our route. We anchored at Koundouros about 12:45PM and just enjoyed the view. We didn’t even take the time to explore ashore this time as we just got into that lazy mood of just sitting out back to relax and spend time reading. Sometimes you feel guilty doing that but at other times like today we felt that we wanted the time to just sit and enjoy where we were with no pressure to do anything! The view here was interesting as you could see many stone bases of windmills. The more you looked at the buildings scattered around the hills here you saw more and more of the stone mill bases as they blended in well with the rocky hillsides. Many you could tell were now being used as homes,
The western side of the canal is green & lush
& east of the canal is mainly rock formations
some we learned are now hotels while others still lay vacant. It must have been interesting to see this many windmills actually functioning. Later we found that due to the steady winds in this area, the mills were built with 3 story stone bases and conical roofs made of grass sitting on wooden frames. The write-ups that we read stated that there had been 28 windmills on the ridge with another 20 in the area, but that many were demolished after WWII. It made for an interesting view and a change from the typical white stucco buildings that we have been seeing since traveling through Greece.
Our routine now was to have a good night sleep on anchor, get up early and push off to another location closer to our destination. At 7AM with no wind we were off with only the iron jenny (engine), but by 10AM the wind filled in to 14-15 knots and we had 4-5’ seas. We anchored in 24’ of water on sand in the bay off Finikos on the island of Syros. This time we put the dinghy down and headed to shore as it always good to stretch our legs after being
on the boat for a few days. As we arrived about 1:30pm we decided to treat ourselves to lunch ashore. After a great meal we walked around the village and saw that there was a sign on a door giving a number to call if you wanted to rent a car. We made the call and found a car was available for the next day for only 35 euros so our next day was now decided. We hadn’t done a road trip in a while so the next morning we picked up the car, got some ideas from the person we rented the car from of places to visit and we set off.
The island of Syros is only 52 square miles in size and has a population of just over 21,000. The road system we found to be very good, but definitely took you up and over plenty of hills and around numerous curves which provided wonderful views of the island and surrounding sea. We were very fortunate to have a wonderful sunny day for exploring the island. We wandered over to see a few seaside villages, but our main destination was to see the capital city of
Ermoupoli as we were told there were numerous sights to see. The woman at the car rental company gave us some pointers so figured we would use her advice on this one.
As the city of Ermoupoli comes into view, you quickly notice two very distinct hills, each with a church on top. We had been told about these as well as the large harbor of the capital city. We drove along the waterfront road to a large parking lot so we could take time to walk around the central part of town first before heading up to take a closer look at the hilltop churches.
We saw that there were plenty of sailboats tied to the quay at the harbor and at first thought we could have explored this area by bringing the boat here, but after only a few minutes we quickly saw that we were glad that the boat was not here as they were rocking back and forth like crazy with the movement of large ships coming in and out of the harbor. We are now very glad that we came over by land as Tsamaya stays safely anchored on the other side of
the island and we get to see lots more of the island by land. A road trip was the right decision.
As this road trip on Syros was a spur of the moment plan, we hadn’t taken much time to research what was here to see so we figured we’d just wander and see what we could find. We soon came upon the Church of Agios Nikolaos, dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of this town. It was built in 1870 and fortunately for us we were able to see the interior of this Orthodox Church. The exterior is impressive with its twin bell towers, Corinthian style columns and a 13 foot high marble stairway leading to the entrance. After viewing the beauty of the inside of the Church we continued wandering around the roads going along the waters’ edge. While rambling around we stumbled upon an interesting looking building. We didn’t know what it was, but decided to see if we could check inside. We were glad we did as we were invited in to tour the Apollo Theatre. It was built between 1862-1864 and with the numerous renovations over the years it consists of a combination
of Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian styles. Theater was important here between 1830-1860 which allowed for the funding from the City Council for the building of this structure. It was used heavily up until it was extensively damaged during WWII. After the war it was fixed up some and then used as a cinema, but then went into disrepair for approximately 40 years. Fortunately in 1991 it reopened as a theater holding 350 patrons and is now used for theatre and other community activities. We were allowed to walk around and into the boxes upstairs in the balcony to view the main section of the theater. Upstairs they also had some wonderful exhibits which included the dressing rooms, posters for the shows and some of the costumes. It also allowed us a closer look at the ceiling with its murals of various poets and composers. We were glad we took the chance in checking to see if the building was open. When leaving we even were given a sample of a local treat, the Turkish Delight. Yes, we are still in Greece, but have been told that this candy is very common here as well. Surprisingly it was not that sweet
and we both were grateful for the chance to sample it.
City Hall here is another building that is quite imposing to see. From the top of the stairs at the entrance you are treated to a wonder view looking toward the Bay –quite an impressive location for the City Hall. It was built in 1876 using a combination of Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian style. We were allowed to wander around the halls of the building which actually had a wonderful center courtyard. We learned that the city of Ermoupoli was founded during the Greek Revolution in the 1820’s by refugees from neighboring Greek Islands. The city became the leading commercial and industrial center of Greece at the time. Its port was the largest and most important during that time with the Greek Steamship Co. starting here in 1856. Over the years thousands of ships were built in the number of shipyards located here. It went into a decline in the late 19th
C. but recently has been bouncing back with an emphasis on its service trade. While we were here we noticed that there seemed to be quite a few tourists enjoying the island of Syros. It is
a small island, but can be reached easily by ferry which is a benefit to the economy here.
After wandering through town we decided we should continue our journey in order to have time to see more of the island, but first we wanted to head up to see the churches located on the hilltops. We decided to drive up which was a challenge in itself. We wound our way up the hairpin turns and manage to get to the Orthodox Church of Resurrection that was built in 1870. Unfortunately it was closed so we were only able to view the exterior with its distinct blue dome that is easy to see from anywhere. We thought we would try to get to the other hill to see the Monastery of Capuchin which contains the Church of Agios Ioannis, but after making numerous attempts up narrow, windy roads, we realized we must have made a wrong turn and were headed back down and out of town. We decided to miss getting any closer and continued on our way to see more of Syros.
We continued for the rest of the day enjoying the scenery, stopping at times in lovely
coastal villages and having a lovely lunch out. We wandered around both sides of the island and made it back to the village of Finikos to drop off the car, head back to the dinghy where we had to pump a little air into it (fortunately not all the time) and enjoy the evening soaking up the view from the cockpit on Tsamaya.
It is always nice to slow down at times and take the opportunity to explore more of a location than what you can easily walk to from an anchorage, but it was time to move on the next morning again.
The last day of September took us from the anchorage at Syros around 7AM to make a short passage to Paros. From the chart it appeared that there would be nice protection for anchoring that night. It worked out well and we enjoyed the view of what appeared to be two villages with its distinct orthodox churches. This bay even had a small island with a church on it that looked like it would be an interesting place to explore. We thought about putting the dinghy down and going to shore, but we decided to
stay onboard and put it on our list of places to return to next year.
It is now October and we are still in Greece even though our early season goal was to get to Turkey by the first of October. Oh well, plans are meant to be flexible and we appeared to be in close proximity so we didn’t feel we were doing too bad considering the distance we have traveled this season. Even though we are moving through this area quicker than we would like, we have enjoyed the rocky scenery that we pass each day. The formations of the land are interesting and twist and turn giving you a distinct view each time you look. The next day was no exception. To get to the anchorage we picked out on Dhonoussa we motored through a few cuts of rock cliffs which were spectacular. When we got to the anchorage we thought we would be the only one there, but soon after getting our anchor down, another boat decided to join us. Oh well, it was an area definitely big enough for us both, but we had hoped to finally get to an anchorage by ourselves as
the season is getting later and we have had plenty of others around earlier in the busy tourists season.
We have been getting going each morning about 7AM and leaving Dhoussa was no exception to the schedule getting us to Levithan around 1PM. On this passage a bird decided to take a detour and flew down into the cabin of Tsamaya – we have had birds hitch rides on our railing before, but never had one go down below before. Fortunately it just took a quick flight around and then flew out and continued on its way! We finally had an anchorage to ourselves anchoring in 34 feet of water on a sandy bottom. This bay had two “deep fingers” and we heard that the one going to the right had a restaurant down it, but the one on the left didn’t. We choose the left side and were happy we did as all afternoon long we saw boats coming into the bay and head down to the right. From the chart it didn’t look like it would have been large enough to hold all the boats that went in that direction, but we were glad it did as
we had a magnificent evening by ourselves. The only other land creatures we saw were a few goats roaming the hill which was fine with us!
Hard to believe that this blog only covers a week on the calendar, but we definitely made plenty of progress when we look back to see that we started with going through the Corinth canal and are now only another day from getting to the last island we will visit in Greece before crossing over to Turkey. Progress has been made with our distance and we were able to take time to enjoy the journey – a great combination!
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