Sailing from Leros to Sicily: Chapter 3

Zakynthos and the shipwreck bay

We continued sailing towards our destination, now stopping more often than before and taking it easy as we came to the conclusion – with great disappointment on my side, initially- that we won’t make it to Sicily in time for me to see my family reunited and my friends there on holiday.


We had a few delays along the way: we were in Milos for 4 days as the wind was too strong and the sea quite rough, making it very difficult for us to cross to the southern part of the Peloponnesos. We also stopped a few days in Koroni to rest as we were quite tired after sailing for many days, stopping only at night to sleep.

Sailing teaches you a big lesson: you and your plans mean nothing when at sea.

You are just a minuscule pawn on a big chess board: you have no control on your moves. No point in being stubborn and trying to impose your will: no matter what, you’ll have no chance to change the course of the game.

All you can do is second the elements.


Sometimes I look at sailing as a metaphor of life: when the wind is constantly on your nose and you struggle to make any progress then it’s probably time to stop and wait for more favourable conditions before setting sails again. Like in life, sometimes it’s wiser to step aside and gain a new perspective on things before making the next move.

Having come to terms with the new circumstances all was left to do was take a deep breath and enjoy the journey! Tough thing to do when sailing in the beautiful Greek waters with thousands of wonderful islands to visit, right?

navagio bay

Next stop along the way was Zakynthos. The name sounded very familiar to me and I then remembered why! Ugo Foscolo, a famous Italian poet, dedicated a poem to the island where he was born.

In the poem, Foscolo laments the fact that he will never be able to go back to his beloved homeland with its luxuriously green slopes and its turquoise waters which gave birth to the goddess Venus.

Having been exiled from the island, he will never be able to be buried on its fertile soil washed by crystalline waters.

nav bay3

He compares himself to Ulysses as they share a similar fate. Ulysses, though, did manage to go back to his Ithaca eventually. The poet instead will never see this dream come true.

Gc and I started reciting the poem while sailing, feeling very sympathetic towards the unlucky poet.

High on poetry and sea breeze, we kept on going until we saw an unusual movement of boats, yachts and super yachts – all concentrated in a small patch of sea.


What was going on there? People call people.. and our curious souls couldn’t resist the temptation. We joined the crowd.

And what a beautiful spectacle started to take shape in front of our eyes! Clear water, white sandy beaches, and a bay enclosed within steep reefs, stretching high in the sky.  What a divine scene! The colours so vivid and intense, the water so crystalline it almost looks transparent, the sky so blue. A brown carcass resting on the beach.

What’s that? I grab the binoculars to ascertain the nature of that ‘thing’…we are still too far to be able to distinguish the contours.

I look intently….Wow! Hundreds of people are on the beach surrounding the ‘thing’. A shipwreck – that’s what it is!

DSC_3028 What’s this massive wreck doing there? I started wondering. Well, story goes that in the October of 1980 the ship was carrying cigarettes illegally, smuggled from Turkey and destined for the Sicilian black market controlled by mafia. The Greek coast guard had tailed it for a while and grown suspicious: they wanted to search the goods.

It was a stormy night and the waves were getting higher and higher. The ship would go up and then slide down the wave, in an rhythmic way, every time reaching new heights. The crew grew restless as they became aware of the coast guard chasing them.

The captain decided to hide in the bay: it was the only way to shake them off their tail.  The high waves though pushed the boat too far inside the bay and it got stuck on a shoal. The crew somehow managed to escape.

For months after the incident, locals would help themselves with cigarettes and whisky from the new ‘free market’: the Panagiotis shipwreck!

Some believe the Greek Ministry of Tourism to be behind all this. A smart way to attract more tourists!DSC_3021

We loved the place and the touch of mystery around the wreck, but decided to wait until all the day-trippers had left before approaching land! That way we could enjoy the beach and the wreck by ourselves.

We anchored in the bay and had a light lunch with a mixed salad.

It was roughly 6pm and the beach was almost empty. I prepared our pic- nic bag with crisps, G&T and some olives. We boarded our dingy and made our way to the beach. Best place for our aperitif!

DSC_3096On the beach, we bumped into some very nice people who happened to be the owners of one of the super yachts anchored in the bay. They were so nice as to invite us for a drink on their boat that night.

The drink turned into a dinner and we had a great time aboard their luxurious boat. Great hosts and great food cooked by their chef.

The night was a bit rocky as there is a big swell in the bay. It is not advisable to anchor in the bay unless the weather is very calm and, even so, expect some swell if you decide to spend the night there.

What a great stay in this marvellous bay!DSC_3040

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