While checking our current latitude and longitude, I realised that we were further north of the equator than Sydney is to the south of it. Also, we have covered 120 degrees of the 360 degrees of longitude, so were now about a third of the way around the world – and with the other two thirds to go, the best is still to come!
After a brisk sail of 11 nm from Dikili in Turkey, we arrived in Mitilini harbour on the Greek island of Lesvos just after lunch on Wednesday the 18th July 2018. It took 2 hours to clear in through the passport police, customs and the harbour master and cost EU 45 for a Greek transit log and first stamp of entry. Annie with her UK passport, can stay for a year in the EU Schengen countries, Esprit for 18 months and me with an Aussie passport, only 90 days. Then I have to leave for 90 days to a non-Schengen country, before returning!
Sappho, the Greek poetess was born on Lesvos in 612 BC. Allegations that Sappho was a lover of her own gender, gave the word lesbian to the world. Mitilini is a big town without much character, so we left at 5pm and motored south to Fteli, where we anchored at 7pm. We were alone in this quiet little bay, so we decided to stay for two nights, run the water maker to fill the tanks, clean the boat and do two loads of washing. I also managed to clean the life raft locker and while I had access to the rudder shaft, to lubricate the top bearing as the steering had become sticky.
The following day we had a downwind sail to Khios, 38 nm to the south and put in to Mandraki harbour on the small island of Oinoussa, a mile off Khios island. A stunning little harbour where we had dinner at Pericles’s restaurant as well as coffees the next morning after walking to the Orthodox church on top of the hill. A 47 ft Dufour yacht arrived to tie up next to us and we helped to secure their stern lines to the quay. On board were three friendly French couples who invited us over for drinks. Annie had a chance to practice her French and we had a great time learning about their lives and children in France – we will stay in touch.
Tying up in the harbour cost us EU7.50 – we paid with a smile and left Mandraki at 1 pm the next day, to sail the 23 nm to the southern tip of Khios and anchored at Ormos Kamari in a howling 25 knot north westerly. An hour later, in this strong wind, a 45 ft Lagoon catamaran anchored nearly on top of us, 10 metres away. I took photos and videos of this stupidity, in case it resulted in an insurance claim. Fortunately, the wind died down after two hours and we were able to leave undamaged the next morning to sail to Evdhilos harbour, on the north coast of the island of Ikaria.
Now, you will read the names of a lot of lesser known Greek islands. The reason being: In the seventies we all visited the popular islands – grooving to Pink Floyd on Ios, sleeping on the beach in Paros, smoking Tarzan tobacco in Santorini and sunning in the nude on Paradise and Super Paradise beach in Mykonos. Our less hedonistic lifestyle today, has focussed our minds on the less touristy islands. Did I hear someone say: “Coming back to give something back to the less fortunate”? LOL.
Evdhilos is a sleepy little fishing harbour and after exploring the town, we decided to stay for two days and chill. Again, without boring you with photos of our food, we had excellent calamari, baked pork and a Greek salad with a local white wine for about AUD 18. Can’t get any better. The next morning, we took a brisk walk around town and finished off with a Greek coffee on the quay. At this stage, we were still not able to buy Greek SIM cards for our phones, so a coffee or a beer at a taverna with free Wi-Fi is the way to collect emails.
Moored next to us was a Beneteau 47.7 from Marmaris with a friendly Turkish couple on board. We had them over for drinks in the evening and it was interesting to hear their views about the incumbent Turkish president, Erdogan, who appears to want to be president for life (The African model). They also worry about his emphasis on Muslim schooling, as a threat to their secular republic. The next day we had a good sail to Marathakambos, a small fishing harbour on the south coast of Samos. Strong katabatic gusts of 30 knots, off the mountains hit us during the night, so we didn’t have a good night’s sleep.
We decided to not brave more wind and sailed the 23 nm to the small island of Agathonisi where we anchored in the small harbour of Agios Georgios. It was worth spending two days here and enjoying meals at George’s taverna and Memento’s café. At this time the fires near Athens had burned and all the Greek flags were flying half-mast. On our walks to the nearby villages of Horio and Mikro Horio, people were offering prayers to those affected, at their small Greek orthodox churches.
On leaving Agathonisi for Patmos we were looking forward to a following wind, but this was not to be – we had to motor the 22 nm to Patmos on a mirror like sea, passing Arki island on the way. Skala, the main town of Patmos, is a bustling place with quaint buildings, narrow streets and many tourist shops. At last, we were able to buy Vodafone SIM data cards for our phones as well as decent retsina wine. Annie was brave enough to cycle the steep road up to the monastery and chora, whilst I did the shopping.
The wind kicked in the following morning and we had a marvellous broad reach in 12 – 14 knots of wind, to cover the 21 nm to Xerokambos, in the south of the island of Leros. We had an email from Mike and Sarah on Soul informing us that they were anchored in Palionisou on the east coast of Kalymnos, only 9 miles to the south. We hadn’t seen them for about 3 weeks, so the following morning after a walk through the village, we motored through a lumpy sea to pick up a mooring in Palionisou to catch up with Mike and Sarah.
At sundowners with Mike and Sarah on their boat, they introduced us to a couple from Slovenia, on a boat next to them. These friendly people were principal ballet dancers in various major ballet companies and at 70 and 67 years have physiques only dancers can sport. A liquid dinner with baked goat and Greek salads at a local taverna saw the night out.
After a recuperating walk through the village the next morning, we sailed the short distance of 9 miles to Vathi on Kalymnos. This is a narrow fjord like anchorage at the foot of the fertile Vathi valley. Tied up at the town jetty, you step off the boat into the street with tables and chairs from the tavernas right there. A bit noisy at night, as we discovered that every male from 15 to 50 who owns a 50cc moped, removes their silencers to give them the make believe roar of a Harley-Davidson motorbike. The next morning, we took our exercise walking up the valley and climbing to some chapels for a view over the valley and the harbour.
A lazy 26 nm downwind sail later in the morning took us to Kos island, where we have visited the north coast and main town on two previous cruises. We anchored on the south west coast at Ormos Kamares. This was not a particularly interesting town, so the next day we sailed 32 nm to the west, to the island of Astipalaia. A 13 -15knot north wester had us humming along over a flat sea at 7 – 8 knots. A sailor’s dream conditions. We passed numerous charter yachts motoring without sails and we thought that buying an ex-charter yacht, will give you a boat with as new sails, but maybe a knackered engine. Different strokes for different folks.
On Wednesday the 1st August 2018 we tied up in Skala harbour on Astipalaia island where the friendly port policeman told us there are no charges in their harbour – what a welcome change, although so far, the standard port charges for our boat have been EU 7.50, which equates to AUD 11.60 and is very reasonable.
The following morning, we walked up the hill, where the castle built by the Venetians, dominates the chora. Legend has it that the castle was successfully defended on one occasion, by the defenders throwing beehives onto the attackers (Sort of Asterix and Obelix). From the castle there is a magnificent view to the surrounding islands. It was as usual, good exercise, rewarded with an iced frappe in the chora, some shopping at a bakery and finally, a swim down at the beach.
After two days we had to start making our way towards Crete to meet Annie’s sister Penny and her family, so we did the 36 nm sail to Nisos Anafi, which is like a barren burnt lump of island in the southern Cyclades. This was a one night stop before doing the 65 nm sail to Iraklion in Crete.
Our next post will cover Crete and then the sail to Rhodes to meet Annie’s brother Joe and his partner, Mary. Cheers for now.