Corinth Canal to Athens, September 2023
After our stressful and diabolical sail through the Gulf of Corinth, we were more than ready, the next morning to make our way through the Corinth Canal and out into the Aegean side of Greece. More specifically, into the beautiful Saronic Gulf. The Corinth Canal is a spectacular feat of engineering that was first proposed back in 7th Century BC. An attempt to dig it was eventually made by Nero in 67 AD, however it wasn’t until 1893 that the canal as we know it was finally opened after 11 years of digging. The 6.4 km canal links the Ionian Sea with the Aegean Sea, cutting off the Peloponnese from mainland Greece, fundamentally making it an Island. This 20 minute shortcut down the canal saves us over 50 hours of difficult sailing around the bottom of the Peloponnese. I took a timelapse of our Eastward trip through the canal, however it failed badly. So the video below was from our trip back through the canal one month later.
Our first stop in the Saronic Gulf was in the cute little seaside village of Korfos. Only 80 minutes drive from Athens, this remote town felt like it was miles from anywhere. In fact I get the feeling that anywhere more than 60 minutes from Athens is in the middle of nowhere. Greece’s population is surprisingly low and very sparse. Korfos served its purpose for us. A pleasant place for a meal, provisioning and some well earned sleep.
A short sail on the following day took us to a crowd favourite, Poros. We spent 2 nights in Poros and could have easily spent another 5. Poros is a gorgeous town, crammed into a small island, and is a very popular destination for crowds of charter boats. The entertainment starts at 5 O’clock when flocks of amateur charter captains, and even more amateur crew, try to secure a spot on the already crowded town quay. It's an endless source of entertainment. The Poros foreshore is crowded and noisy, however the backstreets are quiet and merandering. It truly is a beautiful place and I suspect we will be back again.
It was soon time to drop our guests Sue & John off in Athens. However there was just enough time for a stopover at the island of Aegina where we visited the ruins of the Temple of Apollo as well as the 500BC Temple of Aphaia. Aegina town is pleasant enough and probably not a bad place to hold out for a few days. However the already full town quay, which is much smaller than it looks on google maps, meant that we had to anchor out where we were very exposed to the prevailing Northerly wind. We headed off the next day after very little sleep.
The Meltemi wind is a regular, and strong, seasonal Northerly wind that blows down through the Aegean sea during the summer months. Often this wind extends as far west as the Saronic Gulf and occasionally even as far as the Gulf of Corinth (as we discovered the week prior). Our sleepless night at anchor in Aegina was our second experience of the unpleasant Meltemi, however not our last, by any stretch of the imagination. The 25 knot northerly did however make for a cracking sail across to the mainland (Attica Peninsula) where we dropped Sue and John off to start their long journey home. We anchored in a reasonably well protected bay in the less than remarkable town of Vari.
Temple of Poseidon
After dropping Sue & John off, we made our way down the South West coast of the Attica Peninsula towards Sounion where we anchored just below the Temple of Poseidon. This was a lovely little spot and the views of the sun setting on the temple were breathtaking.
At this point, we didn’t really have much of a plan. We had to be close to Athens Airport in a little over a week's time to pick up friends, and we did have a reservation at Olympic Marina for this, which is just around the corner. We had a week and a half to fill. We decided to sail over to the Island of Kia. Kia was lovely. So close to Athens, yet hardly any tourists in sight. We spent 2 days exploring the port as well as a day trip up to Kia Chora (the historic town). We were blown away by the beauty of the Chora, and amazed that this location hadn’t become a major tourist destination. Granted it was almost September and peak season was definitely over, but the town was virtually deserted. It was like walking through the streets of Santorini with no tourists at all. A lovely place and I’m sure we will go back again.
There was another Meltemi on its way but it was too soon to head back to Attica, so we decided to sail North to Karystos. The thinking was that if the Meltemi hung around, at least our journey back to Olympic Marina would be with the wind. Thank goodness for this foresight, as the Meltemi DID indeed hang around. It turned out to be a masterstroke of a plan as Karystos harbour provided fantastic protection from the Meltemi. So much so that it was hard to believe that the wind was even blowing. We did have some particularly bad days though where there was no escaping this awful Northerly wind. We also thankfully escaped a massive storm that flooded much of Athens. Karystos was also the cheapest town quay or marina we had ever stayed at (5 Euro per night).
After a week in Karystos, we were well and truly ready to go. There was a slight one day lul in the meltemi and Olympic marine had agreed to let us in 2 days early. The sail down there was fast in 23 knots, however the swell was more or less on our beam, which made it quite uncomfortable. This however was nothing compared to the difficulties we had getting into the marina. We waited out the front for over an hour before they found us a berth. The Berth they did eventually give us was in such a narrow fairway that it felt like landing a Jumbo in a side street. There was a little touch parking, but nothing to worry about. We were in, safe and the Meltemi was about to get turned up to 11. Time to clean and ready the boat for our new guests.