The sun rose over Petalás as we lifted the anchor. There was no wind, flat seas and lots of mosquitoes out enjoying the morning sun. We motored out of the bay, passing many fish farms and fishing boats going about their daily business.
With little wind all morning we motored on into the Gulf of Patras towards the Rio–Antirrio bridge.
This impressive bridge links the town of Rio on the Peloponnese peninsula to Antirrio on mainland Greece by road, improving access between the Peloponnese and western Greece
At 2,883m long, it is the longest fully suspended bridge in the world, along with being classified as the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge, and is considered to be an engineering masterpiece.
Work on the bridge began in July 1998 and was finally opened in August 2004, just before the Summer Olympics in Athens. It was used to transport the Olympic flame and the torchbearers were the first to officially cross it.
At a height of 160m with a clearance of 52m we knew that ZigZag’s air draft of 16m would easily pass under but you have to call on the VHF radio to request permission to go through. We were told that we could transit the north channel, ‘1 column to port and 3 columns to starboard’. It was very important that we went through the correct section and I had to repeat the instructions back to them clearly to prove that I understood.
Whilst there’s no doubt that this bridge is magnificent, having previously driven over it, we felt that it is more impressive from above than it was from below.
There was a strong but confused current running through which was carrying us along at 7kts and causing a very disturbed sea including a few small whirlpools. Throw in a number of fast moving ferries crossing ahead of us and it all got quite exciting.
After passing under the bridge we continued to Trizonia, a small island at the start of the Corinthian Gulf, arriving just as the afternoon wind started gusting at 30kts. Once in the sheltered harbour the wind was still blowing around 15 kts as we moored alongside the wall of an unfinished marina.
Trizonia is the only inhabited island among the islands of the Corinthian gulf, situated just 400m away from the mainland. The Island is 2.5 square kilometres with approximately 50 inhabitants in the winter months, however, it is very popular during the summer when at least 600 to 1000 people are on the island.
Next to the harbour is a small fishing port with several restaurants and cafes. There are no cars, motorcycles or shops on the island but a small ferry runs regularly giving easy access to the mainland.
The wind continued to blow for 3 days so we left ZigZag safely tied up in the protection of the harbour and went for a walk around the island.
We followed a trail which gave us great views of the crystal clear sea, the small islands around us and the mainland.
The island is covered with vegetation as we walked through almond, olive, plum, holly and pine trees.
In the middle of this quiet little island we came across what looked like an old destroyed building. Hundreds of marble and granite tiles and wooden doors were all stacked up, there were many kitchen appliances and of course an old mattress. I guess no-one is in a hurry to move all this with no vehicles allowed on the island.
The wind started to ease a little and there was a perfect sailing wind to continue our journey through the Gulf of Corinth towards the canal.
On the way it was very exciting to see many pods of dolphins come and join us, they swam along with us, rolling over under the water and diving across the bow for at least an hour.
We arrived at the entrance to the Corinth canal at 5pm. Our intention was to anchor near the entrance and transit through the following morning but as we had made good time, the sea was calm and the sun was out with a clear blue sky, it seemed like a good opportunity to continue through.
You have to radio to request permission to transit and we were told to wait as oncoming traffic was coming through, but it appears that we were also waiting for a cargo ship to arrive. We waited along with 3 other boats and after almost an hour a small cargo ship arrived and was instructed to enter, each of us were then told to follow. By this time the sky had started to cloud over and the sun was on its way down.
It turned out in our favour to be in a convoy of boats being lead by the cargo ship as it was only travelling at 3 kts. We had heard that you usually get hassled all the way through to go faster by the radio operator, so it was nice to be able to proceed slowly making the most of the scenery.
The canal has been cut through the narrow isthmus of Corinth, joining the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean. The isthmus was first crossed by boats in 600 BC when small boats were being carried on wheeled cradles running in grooves. It is believed that this ‘ship railway’ may have continued until the 9th century.
The canal was initially proposed in the 1st century AD but met with problems and many failed attempts to build it. Construction work on the canal recommenced in 1881 but met with further geological and financial problems. It finally opened in 1893 however, due to the canal’s narrowness, navigational problems, and periodic closures to repair landslides from its steep walls, it failed to attract the level of traffic expected.
It is 6.4 kilometres (4 miles) long and only 24.6 metres (80.7 feet) wide at sea level with a water depth of 8 metres (26 feet) making it inaccessible for large ships, nowadays it is of little economic importance and mainly a tourist attraction.
The canal is made up of heavily faulted limestone and was closed again early 2021 after a landslide. Fortunately repair work was completed in June 2022 and the canal was reopened for the summer, allowing us to experience a journey through. The canal has closed now for further safety measures and scheduled to reopen again in 2023.
The views through the canal were spectacular, as Ziggy travelled along, the waterway narrowed and the walls got taller. We were enclosed between almost vertical walls each side of 90m (300 ft) high.
There was evidence of the repair work along the walls, with visible reinforcements and parts with wire netting. It was very quiet and quite eerie, you could hear the birds singing and small stones dropping from the walls into the water.
Two road bridges and two railway bridges pass over the canal, also there are two submersible bridges, one at each end of the canal, connecting the mainland with the Peloponnese.
This is the most expensive canal in the world based on price per kilometre, costing us just over £200 for the short journey. We have previously travelled over one of the bridges above it and can definitely confirm that this time it looked much more impressive being on the water below.
Once through we paid our dues at the canal offices and continued a short distance to anchor in Ormos Kalamakiou arriving just after sunset. It had been a long day travelling 52 nm and we were definitely ready for a good nights rest.
Having now arrived in the Aegean, we were looking forward to exploring a new sea.