Log #23h Waiting out Storms in Kayio

December 31, 2001 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 23 Greece, The Logs

Toronto, Canada
Dec. 31, 2001

Hi Folks,

Happy New Year, and may 2002 be prosperous, healthy and happy for you. It is cold with light snow flurries here in Toronto, while Buffalo 90 km away south of Niagara Falls is digging out from under over 2 metres of snow since Christmas. I like cold snowy Canadian winters, and am looking forward to going up to the Sudbury-North Bay area in late January to see family and do some snowmobiling and cross country skiing. The crowds and traffic in Toronto I could do without. As much as we enjoy being back in Canada and visiting friends and family, we are also looking forward to returning “home “ to Veleda.

This Log #23h tells of an interesting experience exploring an old Greek crypt while waiting out a storm at Port Kayio. I have a picture of it on my laptop. If any of you would like me to E-mail it to you, let me know. The image will also be on the www.searoom.com website if you wish to view it. I got my final Christmas present a couple of days ago, a Nikon digital camera. Now I’ll have to learn how to use it and the new laptop, and hope to be able to have more pictures to accompany my logs. However, I will not send them out as attachments unless requested individually, as too many cruisers have difficulty downloading such material.

All the best,


Log #23h Waiting out Storms in Kayio

Kemer, Turkey
Dec. 1, 2001
Covers the period Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, 2001

A few miles above Cape Matapan we entered Port Kayio, a fair sized bay, and anchored off the town (36˚ 25.7 N, 022˚ 29.7′ E) shortly before dark. Kajsa came in half an hour later, and putting out his own anchor, rafted off alongside us. We had a pleasant dinner on board with Rune as our guest.  However, during the night the wind veered, and by 0545 was blowing us towards the shore. Rune reported that he was touching bottom, and so we weighed anchor, or tried. Good old Murphy, the boats had swung and the anchor chains were tangled. However, I was able to haul up our anchor and disentangle it from his, and re-anchored another 100 metres out. Rune was having difficulty hauling his anchor as he was aground and being blown harder on by the wind. I launched Sprite and went over to help by pushing his bow around into the wind so he could use his engine more effectively to power off the bottom.

When he finally got off, he decided to head out rather than try to re anchor. We had our anchor well set and decided to stay at least until daylight, at 0730, at which time we felt it would be unwise to stay anchored on this lee shore with the wind increasing. It was a constant force 6, but gusting to 40 knots (force 8/9) quite frequently. Rather than head out into a heavy NE gale and the associated violent seas, we relocated to a small cove nestled between the mountains on the north side of the bay, about 50 metres from shore in 4 metres of well sheltered clear water ( 36˚26.3′ N, 022˚ 29.4 E).

Shortly after, we heard from Rune on Kajsa, and advised him that the anchorage looked quite secure. He was heading back as the seas were too heavy, and came into the cove to join us. However, this time we did not raft off. He set his anchor parallel to us, 50 metres off our port. To reduce our swinging circles, using Sprite I took his port bow line to a rock on shore and our starboard bow line to a rock on the opposite shore. I then took a line from his starboard bow over to our port bow, so we were well secured with our two anchors forward, two lines at right angles ashore, and the line between our two bows. The storm increased during the day, and before dark I doubled up the lines of both boats, and put chafing protection on some points. The wind was howling down the valley between the mountains at the head of the cove with such force that we decided between the two boats to set up an anchor watch system throughout the night, each of us (Judy, Rune, and myself) taking a four hour watch during the hours of darkness. Although there were no other boats around and no habitation in the cove, we put on our anchor lights so we could see how the other boat was lying. This second night in Port Kayio was uneventful, other than the anxiety of the wind. The water was quiet in the cove, but the wind was gusting from different angles ahead of us as it funneled out of the valley.

The storm lasted two more days. The third night was not as bad and we did not bother with anchor watches as such. However, both Rune and I were up several times during the night to check the anchors. Next morning I was able to take Sprite ashore to check out the deserted stone cabin on the rocky beach at the head of the cove, and to climb half way up the side of the mountain to explore an interesting couple of cave entrances we could see from the boat. The semi-arid vegetation was short and prickly. Many of the low bushes had hard sharp thorns that pierced my jeans if I didn’t step carefully. Rather than being able to climb straight up, I hopped from rock to rock and followed zigzag donkey trails. It was a lovely panoramic view over the cove and across the bay. I could see the rollers still coming in the north-facing entrance of the bay, and was glad we were not out in it.

The fourth day I ventured with Sprite across to the town, to wander around it, and to walk out to the white chapel dedicated to sailors and fishermen out on the point.  The town itself consisted of twenty or thirty houses, three restaurants open, two more closed, all along the main street skirting the shore. There were a closed mini-market, a couple of vacation apartment/condominium buildings with a few local tenants, and three large unfinished (and, I think, unlikely to be finished) vacation apartment buildings up a couple of the side roads off the shoreline.

On the way back to Veleda I dinghied out the entrance into the continuing two metres swells, but went along the northwest point in a bit of shelter to explore a few beautiful caves and crevices stretching into the rocky promontory. I find myself fascinated by the gigantic rock formations, the tranquil waters inside the cave entrances, the vivid colours and veins of slate green, grey, black, ochre, purple, and gold in the tortured granite outcroppings and crevices, testifying to the cataclysmic upheavals responsible for such demented, primitive, but perfect beauty. Birds, small darting swallows and petrels as well as larger swooping seagulls and hooded crows, made the upper and outer reaches of the cave a busy stretch of rockery, home for these avian inhabitants. I shut off Sprite’s engine and just drifted quietly, reverentially, for a few minutes, absorbing the powerful grandeur of this mountain wall rising out of the sea. Then I headed out around this point sheltering us so indifferently from the ravages of the gale swept sea and back to Veleda, lying serenely in the cove.

High up on an inner mountain road, visible from Veleda were a few castle-like stone structures and a monastery. In the afternoon, Rune and I went over in Sprite to a sheltered cove beneath these remains, and climbed up to them. Two of the structures were in good repair with modern facilities: water, plumbing, phone and electricity lines, secure doors and windows, wrought-iron gated patios, but with sections of high stone walls tumbling into small barrel-vaulted remnants of rooms or animal enclosures. No one was around. We didn’t climb any fences or gates, or intrude on the gated patios, as it was evident that these were private property, old dwellings made over into vacation condominiums. The views over the cove where Kajsa and Veleda were at anchor were dramatic. The walls had high ramparts overlooking the entrance yards and presenting high stone faces on all sides of the structures, except those overlooking the precipitous descent to the bay several hundred metres below. Fascinating!

These were restored fortified Maniot houses of the Taygetos mountains! The Mani broke away from Sparta, only 70 kilometres to the north, in the Roman period and, fiercely independent, sought refuge in and controlled this mountainous peninsula which bears their name. Apparently Port Kayio was used by the Venetians and Turks, and latterly by Maniot pirates, the most famous being Katsonis, a “freedom fighter” for Greek independence, but also a pirate. There is a monument to him near the quay in the SE corner of the town. This bay would have been a good location for pirate fleets as it is easily protected, blends into the background mountains when viewed from seaward, and can dominate the main shipping lanes coming from or going to Athens, the Aegean or Turkey around Cape Maleas only 30 miles away.

The Maniot house was fortified not against outside invaders, but against neighbours. These are not big castles, but fortified homes surrounded by high stone curtain walls with barrel vaulted rooms at their bases for structural strength and to house animals, equipment or weapons. They reminded me of the tower houses we saw in Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. Two of these complexes were restored for vacation condos, but still had some derelict walls and vaults crumbling for the past 150 years or more. Above these two was another with a high lookout tower in ruins.

Along the road another couple of kilometres was a monastery with a derelict school room and an ancient cemetery with recent graves, overlooking Port Kayio. The monastery had a clean, well maintained church building, and some plain, simple residences, all currently unoccupied. Below these buildings was what looked like a school room, open and in a state of abandonment, a few old wooden desks, chalk boards on the walls or torn down in pieces on the floor. At one end was a simple small whitewashed room that may have been for the resident teacher.

Below the school was an overgrown cemetery, the rusted gate creaking as we snooped through it into the walled-off plots. We saw old graves of stone slabs at ground level with weathered out Greek inscriptions. There were several newer above-ground vaults, many with fresh whitewash, and locked ornate wrought iron and glass doors giving a view into the crypts. Inside were two waist-high coffin-shaped biers flanking a small central aisle ending in a small altar. I assume these vaults were for a family, and could accommodate two to four adults and a few baby or child size coffins. In several we saw altars with icons, Greek crosses, candle holders, a few pictures, and inscriptions about the deceased. These crypts were set up so that the living could come there to pray or meditate on their departed loved ones. In some cases there were small niches on the outside walls beside the entrances for flowers or religious ornaments to honour the dead. Unfortunately the grounds outside these crypts were overgrown with shrubs, and bits of garbage cluttered the ground level tombstones.

A few of these were open, some with deceased inhabitants, judging from the religious items found inside. In one we found a small coffin, obviously for a child, resting on a white marble altar, in another a chair, and on a side table a Bible and a cross. There were also a few incomplete crypts, no doors, wide open, with rectangular coffin shaped unpainted cement openings. It was hard to identify how old the older ones were, as dates were not decipherable on the weathered slabs.

However, on our way out, I spotted another overgrown barrel vaulted structure similar to those we saw in the Maniot houses. This one had a jagged but open access, and so of course I had to explore inside. There was sufficient light from the entrance and from a small rectangular opening at the back, to see dimly the inside. The vault was about eight metres in length, three metres wide, and two metres high in the centre of the barrel shaped ancient stone structure. The entrance was in the middle of one side. It was divided into two “rooms”, the larger about two thirds the length, sectioned off by a plastered wall, with a rectangular entrance into a smaller arched alcove with an altar under the small opening. It had a dry dirt floor, and the walls screening off the small alcove had paintings of traditional Greek saints, similar to the icons on the altar walls of Greek churches, beneath grey layers of dirt. They were ghost-like apparitions, dusty and cob web covered, and seemed incomplete as the cement had dropped off in a few places. I then went into the inner alcove to see what was on the dusty ruins of the altar.

Three bare skulls and a collection of human bones lay silky dry on the dusty, cobwebbed altar surface. I picked one up to satisfy myself it was real and not a plaster cast. It was real. The smooth skull was very light, the nose socket a flat triangular opening, the teeth of the upper jaw … and before I could identify anything more about it, I put it back with a guilty feeling of desecrating human remains and not wanting it to fall apart in my hands. It was the first time I had ever touched a real human skeleton. I didn’t want to touch any of the other skulls or bones lying on that dry dusty altar. Rune came in and we continued to look at them, but did not disturb them further. These were the remains of people who lived at one time in Greece, hundreds of years ago.

How the skeletons got there, how they died, how old they were, what happened to the rest of the missing bones; we couldn’t know. (Although, one skull had a small hole in the back of the skull from a bullet or arrow? We have pictures of these skulls and the icon paintings that we could forward if requested by E-mail, or, they will be posted on the <www.searoom.com> website if you want to see them) None of the remaining bones were joined, as in no rib cage, no hand or foot with appendages, no large bones such as pelvis or shoulder blades; just a couple dozen bones looking like arm or leg bones. To break the tension I felt in the situation, I mentioned to Rune the quote from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” when the grave digger came up with a skull of an old acquaintance (Actually it was Hamlet’s father’s court jester), and Hamlet started the speech, “Alas poor Yoric, I knew him, Horatio …” We both felt strange being in the presence of such relics, and quietly left the altar area.

Back in the larger section, I looked more closely at the wall paintings of the saints, and tried to wipe away some of the dust. I found that the colours were solid and did not flake off as I wiped the surface. I remembered a technique that a guide in Tunisia, when we were visiting Carthage, used to display the qualities of the ancient mosaics, splashing water on them to highlight the intensity of their two thousand year old colours. Outside in the scattered garbage I found a half filled plastic water bottle and a rag with which I splashed, wiped lightly, and splashed again on one of the paintings. Beautiful deep solid colours emerged, including the golden halos above the saints’ heads. They were glorious works of Byzantine religious art created long ago and long forgotten in this deserted, derelict, dusty crypt. I could have washed all the paintings, but why?

We left the vault to its deserted solitude, and made our way back down to Sprite before sunset.