“Sailing boat, sailing boat, let go your lines and go now!” The voice from the canal control tower crackled over the radio and we did as we were told. We were the only boat to enter the 6.3 kilometre Corinth Canal which links the Ionian Sea between Italy and Greece with the Aegean. It took nearly an hour to motor at full speed against the 1 knot current between towering limestone walls only 25 meters apart to make the full transit.
Corinth Canal, Peloponnes…
The canal is a maritime engineering marvel to be sure. Cut through Greek territory near the site of ancient Corinth, it separates the mountanous Peloponnese from the rest of the mainland and effectively makes the former an island.
The canal certainly cuts down the time taken to make East to West passages or vice versa and eliminates the passage around the often wild and tempestuous southern capes of the Peloponnese, but one wonders why there are so few boats using the waterway today. Has this masterpiece of construction become a white elephant?
Ships in Narrow Corinth C…
Corinth’s power in the golden age of Greece lay in its key position controlling the passage by sea from the Ionian to the Aegean across the narrow isthmus or the landward passage from Greece proper to the Peloponnese. It takes little imagination to see why the construction of a canal occupied so many minds through the ages.
It was the building of the Suez Canal in the late nineteenth century which spurred the independent Greek government to finally make the canal a reality, but the result was a passage way so narrow that few modern cargo vessels can use it. Additionally, the earthquake prone territory and crumbly stone make maintenance of the canal an ongoing expensive concern.
Construction of the Corin…
Today, the canal is more of a route for tourist traffic than a serious seagoing option for commercial craft. Large ships avoid the canal because they are either too wide or too deep.
“Sailing boat, go faster, go faster,” the voice implored us. We were encountering the strong current and adverse winds that funnel through the canal that the canal is well known for. Now followed by an impatient fishing boat, it still seemed faintly ridiculous that there was any hurry. But the canal is a one way maritime traffic system – it is so narrow that boats can only pass through one at a time, with several vessels following in line at busy times. Larger ships which just fit must be towed through by tug boats.
Nowadays, about 10,000 boats use the canal each year, avoiding the 700 kilometres trip around the three southern capes.
Ahead we could see the last bridge still blocking our passageway out into the Gulf of Corinth. Several road bridges including a motorway bridge cross the canal high above the water and allow motorists and pedestrians a fascinating glimpse of the passing boats far below. Two bridges need to be dropped into the water to allow boats to pass and the passage is carefully controlled by the canal authorities.
Finally, we popped out from the canal into the choppy gulf waters and passed a small freighter and two yachts waiting to pass through the opposite way. Although the canal is reputed to be the most expensive to transit of any of the world’s major canals per kilometre we reckoned the saving in time and diesel was well worth it. Perhaps the Corinth Canal was not such a white elephant after all!
A new race for sail training Tall Ships will be organised by Sail Training International next year. The North Sea Tall Ships Regatta 2010 will start in Hartlepool on the north west coast of England on 10 August and conclude in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on 19 August where the fleet and trainee crews will join in the Sail Amsterdam festivities. (Sail Amsterdam has been held every five years since 1975 and attracts about 2.5 million visitors over five days).
“Welcoming the Tall Ships fleet and its trainee crew members to Sail Amsterdam will be a great bonus for our event,” says Daan Meijer, Director of Sail Amsterdam. “The ships will add to the spectacle in the harbour for the visiting crowds, and the young crews will add to the colour and atmosphere of the event as well as having the opportunity to enjoy what the festival has to offer,”
“Organising a race for sail training Tall Ships to a major festival like Sail Amsterdam is a new departure for us. We will seek out other opportunities for similar arrangements with festivals that are organised at times that do not conflict with our regular schedule of races and regattas,” says Nigel Rowe, President and Chairman of Sail Training International.
The North Sea Tall Ships Regatta will be fourth event in 2010 organised by Sail Training International. The Garibaldi Tall Ships Regatta in April, from Genoa in northern Italy to Trapani in Sicily, celebrates the 200th anniversary of the unification of Italy. The Historical Seas Tall Ships Regatta, in May and early June, will be the first of what Sail Training International plans to be an annual series in the Mediterranean and adjacent seas. The regatta will start in Volos, Greece, and call at Varna, Bulgaria, and Istanbul, Turkey (European Capital of Culture 2010) before finishing in Lavrion, Greece. The Tall Ships Races, the traditional summer series event that began in 1956, starts in July in Antwerp, Belgium before calling at Aalborg, Denmark and Kristiansand, Norway and finishing in early August in Hartlepool prior to the start of the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta.
Host ports in Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey now finalised
Final detailed agreements have now been signed with host ports in Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey to complete planning arrangements the Historical Seas Tall Ships Regatta 2010, it was announced today by Sail Training International.
The Regatta will comprise the traditional mix of races and cruises-in-company for a Tall Ships event organised by Sail Training International*. It will begin in May and conclude in early June 2010, in time for those taking part to make passage to northern Europe for the annual summer series Tall Ships’ Races (organised by Sail Training International).
Leg one of the Historical Seas Tall Ships Regatta will follow the route, according to legend, of Jason and the Argonaughts in search of the Golden Fleece from Volos, Greece (12-15 May) through the Dardanelles into the Black Sea. The next port of call will be Varna, Bulgaria (21-24 May), departing on the country’s National Day (24 May). From there the fleet will race to Istanbul, Turkey (27-30 May), where the Regatta will be a centrepiece of the city’s celebrations of its designation as European Capital of Culture in 2010. From there the fleet will cruise and race to Lavrion, Greece (4-7 June) close to Athens and a wealth of other historical and cultural sites.
Burgas, One of Bulgaria’s Principal B…
“This will be the first ever Tall Ships event in this region of Europe, and we now have an enthusiastic set of host ports determined it will be a great success” says Capt Robin Snouck-Hurgronje, Chairman of the Regatta’s management committee. “Sail Training International plans to organise other events in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean and Black Seas in future years, perhaps annually, as part of its development programme.”
*The Historical Seas Tall Ships Regatta 2010 is organised by Tall Ships International Limited, a wholly owned company of Sail Training International.