Shipwreck Beach

Written by Pieter Jan on Oct 6, 2019 — 3 min read

From: Keri, Zakynthos island, Greece
To: Agios Nikolaos, Zakynthos island, Greece

No visit to Zakynthos would be complete without a stop at Shipwreck Beach. This beach, inaccessible from land, surrounded on three sides by 200 meter cliffs, must be the most photographed beach in the world. Entire slabs of rock regularly fall of these cliffs. Tourists as well. Obviously, a perfect picture is worth death by selfie.

We set sail for the famous beach, or better, we set engine, because there was no wind today. What we found once outside our protected Keri bay, was a huge leftover swell from yesterday. Feeling invincible because of our reserve fuel, I decided to power through.

The swell was so high and steep that we regularly buried the bows underwater. I steered deeper into the sea. When the swell reaches the shallower part around land, the waves get slowed down but the amount of water in them stays the same. The result is that they come faster after one another and they get steeper and higher as well. When the depth meter couldn’t register the depth anymore, the swell became more palatable. Vite & Rêves was gliding over the moving mountains of water.

We reached Shipwreck Beach after a few hours of reading, eating and changing course slightly every hour. Powerboating is so boring. I can’t imagine people do this for fun. They probably think the same about those crazy sailors.

MV Panagiotis has seen better days
MV Panagiotis has seen better days

In October 1980, the MV Panagiotis ran aground due to bad weather and a mechanical failure. People from the surrounding villages — descendants of pirates, presumably — promptly stole the shipment and all equipment that wasn’t bolted down. Everything was eventually found by the police and 29 villagers were arrested.

Andreas inspecting the hull. 'This is not watertight anymore'
Andreas inspecting the hull. 'This is not watertight anymore'

The last boat of tourists was just leaving as we arrived, so we had the entire beach to ourselves.

We had the entire beach to ourselves
We had the entire beach to ourselves
Vite & Rêves
Vite & Rêves
Mira lifting the anchor
Mira lifting the anchor
Lot of love here
Lot of love here

Getting out proved… challenging. The surf was pretty intense. After a few minutes of observing the wave pattern, I noticed that the high waves came in groups, then there was a brief lull of one or two lover waves. Launch in a high wave would surely capsize the dingy. We lined up the kids, then timed it so that we’d launch after the high waves.

A few high waves crashed and almost pulled the dingy out of our hands. Then I saw the pause. “Now, now, NOW!!”, I yelled. Andreas and Helder jumped in, Barbara threw Mira after them, then jumped in herself. I pushed and pushed, barely got in, and started rowing like a maniac to get away from the surf and deep enough to use the outboard. And saw the biggest wave of them all approach. It seemed to be grinning and gurgling, “Wrong timing, buddy”, as it built up to an impossible height. I thew away the paddles and gunned little electric outboard to the maximum. The kids threw their weight forward. Time slowed down. Then the wave crashed. Everyone aboard was soaked, especially Mira, but we made it through! The kids found all of this very entertaining and were laughing their little heads off.

“Never again”, Barbara said.

But the pictures were worth it.