Corinth Canal passage

Lefkas, Greece

We had to face reality one of these days, and that day came on Sunday. We’ve been falling more and more behind our original schedule and found ourselves questioning whether it was realistic to make it up the Adriatic into Croatia before heading further west towards Italy. If we left it another week, we would probably need to skip the Adriatic and head directly west. But on Sunday we woke up at dawn and set out to save our Adriatic visit by making back lost days. We headed north for the Corinth Canal which would save us 3 days of sailing around the bottom of Greece (while costing us around $500), and we decided to sail all the way through the night to earn back another day. This is the pace we’ve kept for the past couple of days, and is similar to what we’ll be doing for the next three or four days to put us back on schedule.

One may think that 30 hours of non-stop sailing might be tedious and boring, but one would be wrong. The passage from Hydra on the Aegean side of Greece to Kefallinia on the Ionian side was fantastic. You get to see 15 or 20 islands as you weave your way towards the canal and you even get a glimpse at Athens off in the distance. The Canal runs 3.5 miles long and is cut into limestone that towers 79 meters on either side. It’s so narrow that traffic is only permitted in one direction at a time, so you wait at the canal entrance for the signal to proceed, then go blasting through at full speed to stop the canal officials from yelling at you. It’s so narrow that you’d never believe huge tanker ships can transit through safely without hitting the walls, but somehow they do.

After transiting the canal you enter an enormous bay, you look around and you immediately notice that everything is different on this side of Greece. The cities are bigger, the resorts are towering, the sea is flat as a pancake, the winds are tame, the distances between land masses are huge, the temperature is warmer, the land is greener, and there are almost no boats anywhere. The canal literally connects two entirely different Greek worlds.

Sailing through the night requires us to take shifts, which we did for four hours each. The person on watch has enormous responsibility – just one mistake and the ship could be on the shore or splintered by a freighter. This means you’re religious about watching the nav screens and the radar, listening out for radio traffic, and scanning the horizon for ship lights coming your way (a task made difficult by the city lights in the background). But you also have time to enjoy the peacefulness of being alone at sea without any distractions. You notice miniscule changes in the wind, you hear new sounds from the water moving against the hull you never noticed before, and you’re aware of the first hint of light in the pre-dawn hours. You feel completely in touch with your surroundings and for some reason you keep getting a peculiar but tranquil thought in your head that can’t really be put into words, but is definitely related to “nothing else matters”.

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