Petalas Island, Ionian Sea, Greece
38 24 N, 21 06 E
Some of our days are wonderful.
July 16 found us side-tied to a wall in a marina on the island of Trizonia, just off the Greek mainland, in the Bay of Corinth. We hadn’t expected much of the place, but it was supposed to blow a lot these past couple of days, and it looked safe. Utilitarian.
Tied up, we quickly met an Italian couple, Claudio and Corrine, who stopped to say hello while we were cleaning up the boat. They were on a boat called Levithia, berthed a couple of spaces away.
Then we met Giuseppe, or “Gipo,” another Italian. Gipo had flown 747s for Alitalia. Now he “just” flies smaller prop planes and helicopters. His daughter and son fly too, but, he said, with a wink, “they aren’t real pilots.” He knew the Italian coast well, and we talked briefly about anchorages. We agreed to meet up the next day, when I could bring a chart and take notes.
In short order, we all headed off to dinner at a restaurant by the water. The food was good and the conversation better.
I sat down with Gipo for a couple of hours the next day and discussed route planning, marking up my chart with his suggestions. It was enormously helpful. I stopped by his boat later, and he came out with three pilot guides, two for Italy and one for France. “Look what I found,” he said. “A surprise!” The books provided greater detail and photos for some of the areas we’d be targeting. At one point, I closed one of the books and started to write down the title. “What are you doing that for?” he asked, brows furrowed. “These are your books!”
We spent the late afternoon at the beach, shaded by pine trees, swimming in the warm water, Alexander putting rocks in a bucket. Taking them out. Putting them in again.
When we came back, we saw Gipo, Corrine, and Claudio talking further down the dock, and so I went down to chat. Sima put Alexander to bed.
A bottle of wine was quickly produced. Then some olives from northern Italy. Sun-dried tomatoes drenched in olive oil and a homemade confection of spices and such. Then another bottle of wine appeared. We were joined by Sharla and Mauritzio, an American and an Italian. And then some more Italians, whose names I didn’t catch.
I had to step away, I said. I had left Sima to put Alexander to sleep, and she can’t leave the boat. “So let’s move down to your boat!” was the chorused reply.
So we did. Sima came out. Cushions appeared from various boats, and we sat about the dock. The marina is not operating, and the docks, of a rough concrete that was never finished to begin with, are deteriorating. But it didn’t matter.
We brought out beer, blue cheese, crackers, and then a bottle of wine that we purchased in New Zealand and which was being saved for a special occasion. This seemed to fit the bill. Mauritzio knew his wine. “Resiling!” he announced, sipping, without seeing the bottle. “And a good one!” Gipo said that he was heading to Turkey, and so back into the boat we went and gave him our cruising guide from Turkey.
Corrine brought out a gas lamp. Mauritzio disappeared, and came back with two more bottles of wine. Those were delicious too. Another woman came with a steaming pot of pasta. Then someone else with a bean salad. And finally chocolate.
Sharla took out some instruments from her boat. Bongo drums, a harmonica, a flute, a kazoo, a xylophone. We all banged and tweeted. But those were put aside when a guitar appeared, and someone who could actually play it. The guitarist sang in Italian. And then Gipo took a turn. Corrine translated for us, though Sima, with her handle on Italian, mostly didn’t need it.
I mentioned one of my favorite Italian movies, Mediteranneo, which had been filmed on the Greek island of Kastellorizo. The movie told of Italian soldiers stationed on a Greek island during World War II. As the movie progresses, the urgency of war became less tangible, and the Italians soldiers and Greek islanders grew close.
Toward the end of the movie, the soldiers and locals were playing soccer on a dusty field. A goal was scored. Or maybe it wasn’t. The goalie swears it went wide of the marking rock. An argument ensues, everyone yelling at the goalie, until suddenly they all stop, and everyone runs from the field in panic. Except for the goalie. Where’d everyone go? A small bi-plane appears behind him, seemingly just feet above his head, landing as he dives out of the way.
The plane taxis to a stop, and the pilot jumps from the plane. “It WAS a goal!” he shouts, unprompted. “And why are you all wearing uniforms?” The war’s been over for months.
But I was interrupted mid-way through my discussion of this scene.
“Gipo flew the plane!”
Huh? He flew that kind of plane, the same as in the movie?
“No! THE plane in the movie! That was Gipo!”
“Yup, that was me. They offered me the job, and I accepted it before they realized that I wasn’t in the stunt flying business.”
“And the hardest part of the whole thing,” he said, “was not doing the scene, but getting the plane from Italy to Kastellorizo, in the furthest eastern reaches of the Greek islands, for the shot. We had to stop three times to refuel in the Aegean.”
It was a wonderful story.
We left the next morning. We yelled goodbye at Gipo’s boat, but he appeared to be sleeping still. Claudio and Corinne came to help us with our lines. And then Gipo appeared, maybe a little sleepily, with another bottle of wine as a parting gift.
It was all too much.
The sail itself was our best this year. Imagine, we Leander, going DOWN WIND! Twenty knots of it! Big pushy seas, and Leander got to ride them rather than bash against them. We saw lots of 7s and even some 8s on the speed log.
But going down wind can also be a difficult point of sail on the stomach. The boat surfs on the waves, and rolls and pitches down them, especially if they are coming from an angle. Alexander had been doing fine for several weeks of sailing now, but how would he handle a long day and bumpy seas?
He did fine! He played and laughed, and mostly stayed on his feet, balancing himself with the boat’s motion. He is, perhaps, getting his sea legs.
We were optimistically heading for an island called Petalas, some 60 miles away, out of the Bay, and into the Ionian. It was an ambitious goal, and if it turned out to be too much, we could settle for Mesolongion, at 35 miles away. Gipo had told us to give Mesolongian a pass if we could, as it was hot, crowded, and not so interesting. Petalas was a much better spot, he said.
We roared past Mesolongian at about 3 p.m. We decided to try to make Petalas before nightfall. If the wind held, we’d have no problem.
The wind held. We arrived at about 7 p.m. The bay is huge and of anchoring depth throughout.
There were already five boats here, but they were hundreds of yards apart from each other. We pushed up towards the head of the bay, and dropped in about 15 feet of water. The anchorage is as calm as a pond. Paul went for a swim, and the water was warm. The mountains from nearby islands and the mainland glowed in the sunset. Gulls played about. Other birds could be heard on the island, competing with the bleating of goats.
“Behhheehh” said a goat, somewhere unseen as the light drained from the sky. “Bahh” called Alexander back, smiling.
We smiled too.