02:30 am, will we be able to find a place to lay our aching bones for the night? The tiny port of Nafpaktos looks like a medieval decor, while approaching it we woke Shpongel up to help me assess the situation. The entrance is 30m wide with 15m navigable and the rest is very shallow. We entered the port slowly, with much care, we have no idea what to expect inside. Right and left was loaded with fishing boats and there seemed to be a space for 1 yacht. We have to go bow to the concrete wall to see if it is deep enough for us, then we need to put Shpongel ashore to tie the stern lines. We have to drop anchor in a tight space and make sure it is holding well, the young men are now ready for action. Take one, anchor dropped, not holding. Take two, anchor dropped again, and now we are holding. 0400am, the yacht is secured and we had a glass of ouzo (or more), 16 hours after we left Ithaki I can finally rest.

Nafpaktos port is picturesque, the view was even prettier when we climbed the mountain to the upper fort. There were a few Italian gelaterias and restaurants around the port and the town seemed to be busy even in November. The town is situated about a third of the way eastbound on the Corinthian gulf.

So many times we (captains) need to make a decision that is not always the most comfortable one, but the right one. We had a long rough day and I had no rest – physical and mental. The weather is forecasted to get much better in 2 days and we need to get to Athens. I keep running the scenarios of “what if” in my head and there is no room for maneuvers if the anchor loses his grip. I decided that we set sail after 16 hours of rest. The weather is neither comfortable nor dangerous. It will get better on the way and the yacht will be safer out there. The young men carried diesel containers to refuel Rachel and after provisioning with wine and food we set sail.

We left after sunset and were greeted by waves of over 1.5m high with a period of less than 3 sec. This means the yacht is bouncing up and down all the time with no rest. I knew it was going to be uncomfortable but this was worse than expected. There were also the autumn thunderstorms that we learned to welcome and use in our favor. We were moving forward on a bumpy sea at pace of 2 knots. After a few hours of sailing I felt comfortable enough to sleep on deck and let Seagal take the wheel. A few hours later, the sea state was the same but I woke up in a more comfortable motion. Seagal took her job seriously and by trial and error found the most comfortable headings for us. I checked our position and decided we go in Trizonia Island for shelter.

It is dark and we are headed for another unfamiliar port by night, I use the chart plotter, the pilot book and my eyes to navigate. We manage to dodge all the rocks around us and get closer to the marina. Thunders explode in our ears and lightning lights up the autumn sky. Most of the crew is on deck trying to identify the entrance to the marina on a dark night. The whole island looks haunted, the village is asleep and the marina lights are flashing (mostly off). The only lights to guide us in are lightning, for the first time in my life I am thankful for a thunderstorm.

We enter the marina, there are no signs of life and a very tight room for maneuvers. By the lightning’s light I can see the top of a 2 mast sailboat popping out of the water and many more obstacles. The best would be to go alongside the break water and let the wind push us away from it.

It is well known that if the wind blows hard when you plan your maneuvers, she will blow way stronger whenever you approach the dock… We prepare the lines and fenders and get closer to the dock, lightning shows us the way and thunders makes the sound effects. This haunted Island with its dark village and deserted\half built marina made us believe there are zombies all around us… Shpongel jumped to the dock and the crew handed him the mid ship spring. I put Rachel in forward gear but the wind blows so strong that I have to rev the engine up to get us next to the dock. The mid ship spring worked like magic and we were able to comfortably tie Rachel to the dock. Once we were secured, Ouzo and wine came on deck and the rain started pouring from the sky. Perfect timing, what a exhilarating night. It is the dawning of a new day, we can see people waking up and the outlines of the village, we are safe to fall asleep now.

Trizonia is the only inhabited island on the Corinthian gulf, it gets crowded at summer, but during the winter there are less than 100 people living there. We woke up at noon and wandered around the village, from a nearby taverna we heard a call: “come have a drink”. A long conversation with Dimitri revealed the islands’ history: Dimitri’s great grandfather was living in a village just opposite the island, on the main land. He decided to try his luck on this deserted island so he took his family and his brothers’ family some 250 years ago and landed on the deserted island. They wandered around and then decided what part of the island goes to which brother, the rest is history.

From Trizonia onward we had a champagne cruise with hardly any winds and calm seas. A few encounters with large schools of dolphins made everything much more interesting and joyful. We crossed the famous Corinth canal by night, I recommend night passages to those who sailed here by day. The nights are quiet with hardly any traffic and the special lighting of the place makes it an unforgettable experience. Next stop was the island of Aegina where pistachio is a major product. We came on saint Nectarios day (the islands’ patron) and the streets were packed with pilgrims from Romania (Yes, Romania).We took a day for resting and island exploration. We rented scooters and quad bikes and enjoyed our island exploration time. this is a pleasure cruise. Saturday morning: a short sail to marina Kalamaki brought us safe to our final destination. Thank you Sailor sailing club for making it happen!!

Lessons learned:

  1. Practice the use of spring lines on a calm day to understand the benefits of it.
  2. If you are caught sailing in a thunder storm go inside the cabin and stay away from the mast and other metal objects. Lightning discharges hundreds of thousands of volts. The best way to protect your boat and crew is to ground the mast through the keel to the water. Doing so will not promise 100% protection, but will reduce your chances of getting hurt.