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It would be a Greek tragedy to miss it!

Stanley and Pamela Henderson-Monsef married in Bahrain in 2012 after meeting and falling in love in Hamala. Stanley is British, born in the Scottish city of Dundee before following his mother's lead and becoming a Londoner. Pamela is originally from South Island, New Zealand, then resettled on Australia's Sunshine Coast. Both aged 68, Stanley, a civil engineer by training, is now director of operations and a training instructor for a lifting equipment services company based in Saudi Arabia. Pamela has a degree in education and taught mathematics at a national school in Bahrain for 15 years.

Stanley has lived in Bahrain off and on since 1983, the past 10 years at Hamala Beach Resort. Pamela moved to the kingdom in 2001 and resided at Hamala Beach Resort where the two met before Cupid's arrow struck and they started sailing off into the sunset.

Stanley and Pamela will soon return to the Greek Islands, with their Bahraini flag to hoist from a chartered yacht, as they did last summer when they filed this report ...

Sailing among the Greek Islands is a joy and not particularly difficult. The climate is warm and sunny from May through September; the winds are generally steady, although strong gusts may occur and there are no tides, so the depth shown on the chart is always what it shows.

It was our third trip to this destination, the island of Poros, a small island-pair in the southern part of the Saronic Gulf, about 58km (31 nautical miles) south from the Athens port of Piraeus and separated from the Peloponnese by a 200m wide sea channel. Its surface area is about 31 square kilometres and it has 3,780 inhabitants.

Like other ports in the Saronic, it is a popular weekend destination for Athenian travellers. It is also the home of our sailing charter company of choice, Greek Sails.

Greek Sails is one of the longest-established sailing holiday businesses in Greece founded in 1983, the very early days of sailing charter holidays. They provide flotilla holidays and bareboat yacht charters to qualified skippers with at least one able crew member per boat, and learn-to-sail holidays in the Saronic and Argolic gulfs, the Cyclades Islands and Peloponnese.

This time we remembered to pack the home port flag from our local yacht "Fiorella" which is berthed at Hamala Beach Resort here in Bahrain. We refer, of course, to the distinctive red and white flag of the Kingdom of Bahrain which we proudly hoisted to the yardarm of the 35ft Jeanneau Sun Odyssey yacht 'Thiaki' chartered from Greek Sails for the duration, making it easier to identify from the many other, similar looking yachts in the Greek Sails fleet.

For the first week we were a small flotilla of just three yachts, including the sail school lead boat, and set off on a beautiful September Sunday morning to discover the Saronic Gulf to the north of Poros, and the many beautiful little harbours that make up the region's character.

Nea Ephidavros. We left Poros via the western channel and set a northern course till past Methanon, then due west to our destination.

The settlement is built in the interior part of a steep rock only few a kilometres from the sea. It is not visible from the sea, so the inhabitants were protected from pirates in the old days.

At the top of the rock is a medieval castle that dates back to the Byzantine period, and the First National Assembly of the Greeks took place here in the early 19th Century.

Nea Ephidavros harbour was easy mooring 'stern-to'. It featured not much more than a strange little shop selling not much, so it was off to Nick's Taverna for dinner, next morning's briefing and, of course, free Wi-Fi.

An interesting place visited after the briefing was the old theatre and museum. The theatre has stunning acoustics, amazing as it was built in the 4th Century. It seats around 14,000 people and is still used today for concerts.

Vathi. Not far across the sea from Nea Ephidavros, this tiny harbour sported the usual brightly-painted fishing boats. There's not one convenience shop to be seen here but an abundance of tavernas right by the dock offering the usual fare of moussaka, octopus, calamari and various fresh fish.

Palaia Ephidavros. A bigger town than the others with many tavernas, shops and hotels, a pizzeria, and even an ATM! We held a punch party on arrival, a 'dressing up' party with girls in black and boys wearing white. A stormy night was forecast and so it proved.

Angistri. This was a short passage of 9.5 miles with a detour for an exquisite swim at Nissos Dhorousa, where the water is a rich turquoise with deep blue edges, and unbelievably clean.

While sailing in the company of dolphins we were told that turtles can also be seen here at times.

Angistri is a quaint small fishing boat/ferry port, with lots of shoals to avoid entering the tiny harbour. The town is typical of Greek villages with tavernas and bikes, fishing boats and rising roads, but we opted for a quiet canasta and pasta evening on board.

Nissos Moni. This was an anchor-stop night and a Plan B as the desired port of Perdika was full, but what was there to complain about? It was a perfect anchorage in translucent turquoise water with the island pine trees filling the air with their fragrant flavour, a quiet warm night with a sunset from heaven. With our brilliant leaders, Ana and Louis on anchor watch, we all slept peacefully.

We returned to our Poros base for the weekend for maintenance checks in-between flotillas and opted to be ashore the next night at a nearby seaside hotel resort, mainly for a sleep in a 'real bed' and also for 'same day' laundry.

The New Aegli Hotel on the north side of Poros Island was ideal. Situated on Askeli bay, the most beautiful beach on the island, New Aegli Resort Hotel is modern with 80 fully equipped rooms featuring magical blue water sea views.

Re-embarking on 'Thiaki' the next day, we found that the number of yachts participating in the second week flotilla had risen to 19, and we all sailed off together to discover the beauty of the Argolic Gulf to the south-west.

Ermioni. This port town is situated in the southeastern part of Argolis, on the coast of the Aegean Sea. It faces the islands of Hydra and Dokos. It is 21 miles from Poros sailing east to Nisidhes Tselevinia, then turning the corner into the Hydra Gulf. It is an easy passage. We had the sails up throughout, although the engine on too at times.

The place has been continuously inhabited, at least since the times of Homer. During the classic era it was well known for its shipbuilders and also for the production of porphyra, a very important red dye. This dye was used for the colouring of the uniforms of many armies, including that of Alexander the Great.

During the Ottoman era it was still known for ship building and its naval abilities, which played a significant role in the Greek Revolution of 1821.

There is a North Harbour into which come the ferries and a South Mooring more popular with smaller boats.

There are many tavernas, shops and other facilities in both, but our flotilla chose the south side as we had 'preferred parking' immediately in front of the popular Michalis's Taverna. A delicious group meal was had there and our Irish contingent brought out guitars and soon had us all singing along.

Tyros (Tiros). This old naval town in the Peloponnese 26 miles from Ermioni.

We received clear instructions how to clear Dhokos channel, then aim for Spetsapoula till passage is seen through Spetsai channel, then into the wide open waters across to Tyros, where we had the most exhilarating beam reach (wind from the side).

It is a busy little resort, popular with the Greeks, Germans and French. The long pebble beach is permanently occupied and hums with the sounds of eating, drinking and having fun.

Every Easter one of the most famous Greek traditions takes place here. On Good Friday a procession of the Epitaph is held on the coastal road of the town. On Easter Saturday evening a ceremonial burning of an effigy of Judas by the sea is organised and the bay of the town is filled with thousands of candles that symbolise the souls of lost sailors and fishermen of Tyros.

Navplioni. This town has expanded up the hillsides near the north end of the Argolic Gulf.

It was an important seaport held under a succession of royal houses in the Middle Ages as part of the lordship of Argos and Nauplia, held initially by the de la Roche following the Fourth Crusade before coming under the Republic of Venice and, lastly, the Ottoman Empire. The town was the capital of the First Hellenic Republic and of the Kingdom of Greece from the start of the Greek Revolution in 1821 until 1834. Navplion is now the capital of Argolic region.

The Palamidi fortress here was built by the Venetians between 1711 and 1714, but in 1715 it was captured by the Turks who controlled it till 1822 when the Greeks took over.

Sailing out of Tyros the forecasted strong winds started to appear as we cleared the bay, then largish waves and a few very strong gusts made for an interesting 20 mile journey. We missed the planned lunch stop anchorage at Tolo and stopped instead at Karathono. Navplioni is familiar and an easy mooring. We dined at a waterfront restaurant called Rendezvous.

Porto Kheli. The ancient city of Halieis, excavated by Michael H. Jameson, is situated near Porto Heli, and King Constantine II of Greece and his wife Queen Anne-Marie of Greece live here.

The island of Spetses is located 6km south of Porto Heli. There are ferry connections from Porto Heli to the islands of Spetses, Hydra and Poros and to Ermioni and Piraeus.

We had light winds for the 23 mile passage from Navplioni heading south-east. On the way we anchored at Kourakonisia for a swim and lunch. At Porto Kheli all 19 boats in the group anchored under the guidance of the flotilla leaders. After that it was water-taxis to town for an evening out.

From there returning to Poros ended an amazing two weeks of brilliant sailing, camaraderie, food, sun, music, new skills and joyfulness but we were ready to stop.

Sailing a large boat two handed is not a holiday. We were feeling it and were quite happy for the Greek Sails base team to take over the final mooring in their excellent fashion.

The Argolic and the Saronic seas are now is firmly entrenched in our memory map. The varying shades of the clearest water ever of shades from turquoise to deep blue, dining by the sea every night on local dishes like Pastitsio and Moussaka and also sleeping the best sleeps ever.

Poros can be reached from the Athens' Port of Pireaus on Hellenic Seaways hydrofoil in just an hour. Departures are every two hours during daylight. Athens Airport is served by Gulf Air which operates daily flights from Bahrain.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:May 31, 2018
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