At noon the first charter boats returned. It was changeover day and within a few hours the marina would be filled with returning boats. We decided to sail before. The distances in the area are not great. Ten nautical miles south is the island of Meganisi with its many fine anchorages. One of them is called Karnagio. We arrived in the early afternoon. A few days later, a flotilla of charter boats announced its arrival. Then we also left Karnagio. Now heading towards the island of Kalamos, located close to the mainland southwest of Megansi.
When we reached the southern tip of the island, we headed into the narrow strait between Kalamos and the slightly smaller island of Kastos. Both are mountainous and form the peaks of an underwater mountain, the highest point of which rises 745 meters above sea level.
To port, a well-protected bay appeared. It is still called Porto Leone, which the Venetians named it when they came there hundreds of years ago. At the bottom of the bay are a few houses. None of them are inhabited. They were abandoned after the earthquake in 1953. Today, the bay is a favorite anchorage for sailors.
After a short hour of sailing, we reached the eastern end of the narrow strait. To port was Kalamos Marina. It is owned by the municipality. The allocation of berths is administered by George. He runs the marina's only taverna and is a living legend among sailors.
"George is the only harbor master I know who can fill a marina with three times as many boats as there is room for," wrote one in his review of the marina on the app Navily.
Super friendly, competent and helpful were adjectives on other reviews.
It was early in the afternoon when we reached the marina. It was almost empty. A man came out on the pier. He stopped at a boat and waved at us.
When we were next to him, we turned 90 degrees and sailed out into the basin. Only when we were almost completely over at the other pier did he give us signs to drop anchor. When it reached the bottom, we put the engine on reverse and sailed the man on the pier.
»Are you George?«
The man nodded affirmatively and took our lines. When we were moored, he pointed in along the pier and said in a subdued, friendly but also slightly determined tone of voice.
»It's my Taverna. You are welcome to eat there tonight«
It was early in the afternoon. It was hot. The two small shops were closed for the afternoon. Messimeri, as it is called in Greek. At a cafe sat a couple of elderly men. A few others with difficulty pulled a fishing dinghy up on a tow site.
A boat docked. George came out on the pier again. He stopped next to the vacant berth next to us and silently directed the new guest out in the basin. When the anchor was dropped a few feet from ours, he gave the skipper signs to go to the pier. George again helped with the mooring lines. When the boat was moored, he repeated his friendly but also slightly determined dinner invitation.
During the afternoon, several guest boats arrived. Suddenly, 3 boats called at the same time. All three was directed in by George. When there were no more vacancies, he assigned the new guests a berth on the pier opposite us.
Eventually, both piers were filled up with guest boats.
»Oh, it's nothing« said our neighbor, »we were here during a storm a few years ago. Then you could walk across the boats from one pier to the other. When we were about to leave, he directed the boats out in reverse order. Not a single anchor chain was crossed«
When it became evening we went into George's taverna. George stood at the entrance
»Welcome. Today's specialty is grilled squid« he said, asking with a smile »Table for two? «
The tavern was packed with guests. But no problem for George. He found two chairs, took a table from a larger company, and had a young girl prepare two guests, just as we had sat down. And vupti then we were seated at a well-set table.
The next morning the boats began to leave the marina. George held an early messimeri. Or something like that. He was not at the marina.
It was a chaotic morning. Virtually everyone caught an anchor chain as they pulled the anchor. Some even more.
Two boats went out - rather unwise - simultaneously. They managed to catch each other's anchors. As if that were not enough, they caught the same anchor on an unmanned boat on the pier opposite. The frustration and panic culminated when the ferry to the mainland left and with a furious loud signal expressed its dissatisfaction with the two boats blocking the marina.
Well, eventually everyone came out. Apparently without damage to people and equipment, but for a few boats a good quarrel richer.
A little about Kalamos
Almost all of the island's 500 inhabitants live in the village, located on the mountainside a few hundred meters above the marina. On the north side of the island is another settlement Episkopi, which consists of a dozen houses.
On the rest of the island's 24 km2 is a rich bird life and a varied vegetation consisting of strawberry, almond and olive trees and stone oak. Here is also the a special pine, Pinus Pinaster. It grows in several other Mediterranean countries. But in Greece it is found only on Kalamos and on an island in the Sporades several hundred nautical miles to the east. Extracts of the tree are used by herbalists in the treatment of a variety of diseases.
The main occupation on the island is tourism. Growing olives and fishing are other and smaller occupations. They primarily employ the older part of the residents. The younger ones work in other occupations and commute daily between Kalamos and the mainland.
The NGO Terra Sylvestris has established a station on the island. It is open all year round and is part of the mission to spread awareness of ecosystems. Terra Sylvestris also believes that Kalamos and Kastos should focus on sustainable forestry and agriculture, which in their view will develop the biodiversity of the two islands.
From 1991 to 2000, the population increased by almost 20%. Maybe this is because houses were supplied with electricity and water during this periode.
Since then, the number of permanent residents has fallen by almost 10%. But who knows, maybe the last few years' investments in telecommunications structure will be able to attract residents, now that distance working has become more widespread.
The village or rather the settlement.
When the last boat had left the marina, we walked the steep road up to the village. There was a spectacular view to the mainland, the neighboring island of Kastos and the marina, which was now just as empty as when we had arrived the day before.
It was quiet in the village. A taverna was open but there were no guests. Two small grocery stores held messimery. A corpulent man on a moped with a large empty barn nodded to us as he passed us on what we assumed was the main street. But otherwise the small town or rather buildings were empty of people and emitted a peculiarly de-stressed atmosphere.
On the way back to the marina we tried to find the shop 'Jasmine' which, according to a sign on the marina, sold handicrafts.
»Is Jasmine closed, too?«Pia asked a lady sitting on a chair next to one of the two stores closed for messimeri.
»Yes. It closed two years ago,«the lady replied, adding, »Jasmine went to Brazil.«
On the way back to the marina we found a beach to which there was access from the road or rather the path system. The water was crystal clear and deep almost all the way to the beach edge. But there was only one younger couple with a child on the beach. A few hundred meters from the descent was a taverna. It was open, but there were no guests here either.
When we got back to the marina, the first guest boats had already arrived. Before long, the marina's two piers were full again. In the evening, all the tables at George's Taverne were again occupied by loud guests who kindly; but had firmly been invited to dine at George's.
The next day we got ready to leave Kalamos Marina. On our starboard side lay a flotilla of charter boats. We had viewed the boats' dockings with skepticism when they had been guided by the flotilla's young leaders or ´boaties´ as they are called.
»No problem, we are there to help you when you go out tomorrow « one of them had assured us before he had left in his dinghy to guide another of the flotilla's boats to the dock.
It was late in the morning when the three boaties appeared drowsy from the boat they had slept in. Large flags in the stern left no doubt that this was the lead boat. Just as the mess on board left no one in doubt that it served as housing for the three boaties.
»Where are you going?« I asked the one as he sailed past us.
»It is a secret«
But it was hard to keep such a big secret. The boatie gave the engine full throttle. When he reached us, he put it in neutral. While the dinghy was still drifting slowly, he whispered:
»We're going to Vassilliki, but we'll not tell them till the skipper's meeting.«
Then he gave the engine full throttle. As he hurried away, he blinked at us with one eye, as if to emphasize that we were now confidential.
It was early afternoon when we could finally get going. We were one of the last to leave the marina. Still, we caught an anchor chain as we pulled the anchor up.
The youngest of the three boaties raced to us and freed us from the anchor chain.
On the mainland a dozen nautical miles north of Kalamos lies the town Palairos. Ut also existed in ancient Greece. At that time it had 10.000 inhabitants. Today the population is less than half.
Today's Palairos is located on the coast. The marina has room for half a hundred boats, but the number of guest berths is smaller.
We arrived late in the afternoon and had not expected to get a berth. But luck was with us. A French boat sailed out, leaving a vacant berth just as we arrived. A man on the neighboring boat nodded affirmatively when we asked if the berth was available and took to our moorings as we backed into the berth.
There are a small dozen berths on the pontoon. Friday to Sunday, a charter company has all the berths.The rest of the week, guest sailors can use the pontoon, which is owned by the municipality just like the rest of the small marina.
Early in the evening, a young man with deadly tattoos on both arms stopped next to us.
»When did you arrive?« he shouted in a cutting rusty voice.
»It will be 10 €. You can stay here until Friday. Then it's out,« he replied and disappeared before we could pay.
The marina is adjacent to a square with a taverna. Here some of the city's residents gathered in the evening and watched sports on a big TV screen. One evening there were especially many. Olympiakos met Turkish Fener. The mood was condensed and the sound level increased noticeably when Olympiakos was in control.
Further up is another taverna. Here a couple of tourists met in the late afternoon, talked and drank beer. In addition, such a generous meze was served that a few beers apparently made up the dinner meal.
From the square is access to a promenade with a few small hotels, cafes and tavernas with tables down to the beach.
We liked the town and fell into the rhythm of the little marina.
When we reached Friday, the girl from the charter company came out to us »You can stay« she explained and added »The boat that will be in your berth will not come until tomorrow«
The harbor master came as usual early in the evening. When, as usual, he had asked when we had arrived and as usual had told us that it cost 10 €, he told us that the next day there would be a vacancy on the concrete pier.
You just take it,« he said in his shrill, rusty voice, and was finally persuaded to accept the fee we owed.
We were at the end of the season. Ay night, we had long ago replaced the thin cool sheets with blankets. The mornings became cool and the dew remained on the deck until up in the morning. It was time to get home.
We sailed again up to Preveza Marina. Spent a few days to winterize and got Heron hauled ot at Aktio Marina in the same place as the year before.
A couple of friends drove us up to Igoumenitsa. From there we took the ferry over to Corfu. Here we spent a few days before flying home to a dark and cold Copenhagen.
The 2021 cruise was over.