Dates: 09/16/09 – 09/17/09
Distance: 29 nm
Sailed from: Corinth
We passed through the Corinth Canal and into the Aegean Sea today — a short-cut that saves five days of sailing at a time in the season when we really need it. We’re making a beeline for Turkey — as much as this is possible in the Greek Islands — to find a winter home for Gyatso. We didn’t mind that the weather was totally calm on this particular day.
We were not prepared for how much we would actually enjoy taking the canal. Lisa especially liked the geology, and David marveled at the amount of work it must have taken to actually build it. The three-mile long Corinth Canal cuts across a natural isthmus between the Gulf of Corinth on the Ionian Sea and the Saronic Gulf on the Aegean Sea. At the highest point, the steep rock walls of the canal rise more than 250 feet above the water. We threaded our way through the narrow channel which was about 75 feet wide. The only other time we had an experience like it was going through the Welland Canal between Lakes Ontario and Erie on our previous boat, About Time, but those steep walls were made of cement. These exposed the beautiful sedimentary features of the bedrock in this area.
While transiting the canal, we also talked about one of the books we read over the summer: The King Must Die & the Bull from the Sea, by Mary Renault. It is an historical novel about the legendary Greek hero, Theseus, who became the King of Athens. One of the great passages in the book is about his crossing of this very same isthmus when going to Athens to meet his father for the first time. Along the way, he killed Skiron, one of the worst bandits of the isthmus with a wrestling move which sent him over the cliff and to his death, and Phaia, the great she-boar of Krommyon which was terrorizing the local people.
For any history or geology buffs reading this, there’s also a tourist ferry which takes you through the canal. If you’re visiting Greece, it’s an interesting sight to see. Here’s a short video of what transiting the canal was like for us:
Aigina is a picturesque island in the Saronic Gulf about 12 miles southwest of Athens. Most people reach the island by ferry, so we entered the harbor very cautiously to avoid the frequent ferries. We found a floating pontoon in the outer harbor with space to to tie alongside. The only slight problem was that the pontoon was connected to a seawall but not to shore. We solved this by launching our dinghy and rowing across to the docks that did connect with the shore. We actually didn’t mind being outside of the main harbor which is busy with tourists from Athens, even in the middle of the week in September. We shared our pontoon with two other cruising sailboats, a stray cat which had apparently been a stow-away on the floating dock when it was moved, and as we discovered later that evening, a loud cricket which was a stow-away on Gyatso. After David checked-in with appropriate harbor authorities, we both went ashore for a late lunch at a local gyro cafe. In the early evening, Lisa took a turn ashore and went to the internet cafe to download weather forecasts and check emails.