Tight Sailing

Written by Pieter Jan on Oct 1, 2019 — 4 min read

From: Koroni, Western Peloponnesos, Greece
To: Pylos, Western Peloponnesos, Greece

After another rocking night in Koroni — the swell from Messiniakos bay comes into the harbor, where it gets reflected by the concrete quay, leading to a very confused wave pattern — we left for Pylos on the other side of the Peloponnesos pinky finger. We departed in 3 knots of wind, so we expected not much sailing today. We were wrong again.

A last look at the Koroni fortress
A last look at the Koroni fortress

Because after 10 minutes of motoring around the peninsula, the wind increased to 5 knots, then to 6. My sailor’s heart began to beat a bit faster with every knot. 7 knots now. I was getting thrilled. When the wind speed indicator briefly touched 8 knots, I burst into song and decided to roll out full sails, using our light wind Code D sail. For a while, the wind varied between 2 and 7 knots from the east. Languid sailing.

Then we approached cape Akritas. I stopped singing. Barbara breathed a sigh of relief. I was on guard, because capes are always tricky. Just before the treacherous cape, the wind fell away. But behind the cape, I saw small whiteheads on the waves. How much would it be? 12 knots? Maybe 15? It was like watching a countdown: 3… 2… 1… BAM! 20 knots on the nose!

The adrenalin you get when you feel the wind increase from 0 to 20 knots in less than a second is pretty intense. We scrambled like mad to furl the Code D (which can handle 15 knots but not a lot more) as Vite & Rêves, like an unleashed racing horse, accelerated to 9 knots, adding even more knots to the apparent wind speed.

I put one reef in the main, let the daggerboards down two thirds and we were on our merry way. The moment we had come from behind the cape, the wind had shifted from east to north-west. We needed to go — you guessed it — north-west.

We resigned ourselves to another day of beating into the wind. But we decided to do only one tack if we could help it. Cruising is all about touching those pesky sails as little as possible. We set our course below the islands Skhiza and Sapientza and not between. This gave us one leg south-west and one leg north to get to Pylos.

On the way, we passed the fortress of Methoni, the other ‘eye’ of the Venetians with which they controlled all marine traffic in the area.

Methoni fortress
Methoni fortress

I pulled the sails as tight as possible, so tight you could hang some kids from the sheet. What they promptly did, like the little monkeys they are.

One monkey
One monkey
Another monkey
Another monkey

And you know what? It worked! For once the wind didn’t turn on the exact moment we tacked, it didn’t drop all the way to 0 when we were the furthest from our destination, it stayed constant on the first leg and went down to 16-18 knots on the second leg. The second leg — full sails up, daggerboards all the way down — ended exactly where we wanted it to end, which is the nautical equivalent of a hole in one.

I was pretty pleased with the whole situation and almost burst into song again, but a warning expression on Barbara’s face made me think the better of it.

Navarinou
Navarinou

We arrived in Navarinou bay just before sunset. We briefly dipped into Pylos marina, but apparently its construction was abandoned at 90%. Now it’s full of small fishing boats and liveaboards taking up all the available space. If you’re a cruiser looking for a transient berth, tough luck. Out in the bay with you.

Fortunately, the bay is almost completely closed of by an island, so not an inch of swell here. The night is so quiet we can hear the shrimps walking on the hulls.