Greece – Milos to Cyclone Xenophon.

Our view from the cockpit for six days – quite pleasant.

After six days in Milos, the wind relented and we were able to set sail to Hydra. The extra days were useful to clean and fix things on Esprit and explore Milos by car. We drove up to Plaka and climbed up to the highest point on the island to visit the Venetian castle and the church at the very top.

Plaka village with the Venetian castle top right – let’s go.

Working our way up.

The view from the top is worth the climb.

On the way down – just as many steps.

Beautiful pebble paving in the village.

I was wrong – you don’t need a 2 metre wide alley to place taverna seating.

 

The catacombs – excavated from the volcanic pumice stone.

The family crypt – this one could accommodate six corpses.

The Roman theatre.

Reconstructed remnants of the scene buildings behind the stage.

Some of the reconstructed marble seating.

The site where the Aphrodite of Milos was discovered.

Aphrodite repatriation petition.

We visited a number of sheltered beaches on the south coast where there are some volcanic hot water vents in the shallow waters, just off the beach. Pollonia village in the north west of the island was very windy.

Smart driver.

 

Provatas beach on the south coast.

Pollonia village.

Klima village.

View from south of the bay back to Plaka.

These two old guys were fishing next to Esprit every arvo. The cats are waiting for their share.

We booked airline tickets for the end of the year and for Esprit to be slipped and stored on the hard in Preveza, western Greece, at the end of November. This will also give us the opportunity to have the rudder and steering system checked, the hull pressure cleaned and the topsides polished. It will take some of the pressure off me, with Annie always listing things I need to fix. I have explained to her a number of times, that when I say I will fix something, I will fix it – she doesn’t have to remind me every six months.

Back in London on the 21st September, Michelle and Karen were revving it up on Karen’s 30th birthday. This milestone was celebrated with 30 friends at a buffet lunch at the top of the iconic “Shard” building and concluded with an all-night party at the Royal Albert Hall, where DJ’s of the “Inner Visions” label performed.

Party time – Michelle and Karen.

The plan was to visit the islands of Serifos and Kithnos to the north of Milos, before crossing to Hydra, but the wind was on the nose, with a big sea after the six-day northerly blow. So we set off on the 22nd for the 68 nm sail to Hydra, to complete our crossing of the Aegean Sea. As sometimes happens, we had a mixed bag – the first 35 miles was on a terrific broad reach, averaging 8.5 knots. Then the wind dropped to a whisper and we had to motor the remaining 33 miles, before anchoring in the bay of Agio Nikolaus in south Hydra.

Hydra harbour.

Hydra harbour 2.

There were some seriously big gin palaces anchored in the bay and a competition was on to see who had the most water toys. We were glad to leave the next morning and motor to Hydra harbour, which was full to overflowing, so we turned around and motored for a mile along the coast to Mandraki bay, where we tied up stern to the shore. By the time we got back from our walk to Hydra town to buy provisions, there were more than 50 yachts tied up, or at anchor in the small bay. First night excitement amongst a flotilla of charter catamarans rafted up together, had them partying through the night – about 50 metres from us.

Mandraki Bay.

The next day, Monday, Michelle and two of her friends, Monica and Luke from Sydney arrived by ferry from Athens, to join us on the boat. The weather forecast didn’t look very good, with a very strong weather system developing from the north, potentially turning into a cyclone between Greece and Italy. As a precaution, we sailed to the sheltered bay of Porto Kheli in the gulf of Argolikos Kolpos, to get out of the main blast. The following day we motored deeper into the gulf to Koiladhia, as the weather deteriorated.

Luke, Michelle and Monica.

Windy weather forecast – Esprit anchore at the black wind speed flag.

Discussing the weather – concerned sailors.

Even in this sheltered bay, the wind was gusting at 25 – 30 knots which was OK, compared to the 40 – 50 knots offshore. The locals informed us this was the worst they have seen in 40 years and that cyclones were very rare in this part of the world. We spent a sleepless night with katabatic gusts hitting the boat and rocking it about. By morning, after going ashore to climb a mountain for exercise, our three young guests decided to take a bus to Athens to go and see the sights, rather than spent their time waiting out the storm.

Michelle & Monica on top of the mountain.

Milos to Navplion.

After studying various weather forecasts, Annie and I decided to motor sail to the top of the gulf to Navplion on Friday, to be out of reach of the cyclone as it tracked back from Italy, crossing just south of the Peloponnese. We tied up to the town jetty at 12 pm just before a crowd of boats came in looking for shelter.

Friday 12pm – cyclone forming between Sicily and the Peloponnese. Esprit tied up at the flag.

The harbour in Navplion was crowded, with yachts crashing into one another to tie up to the wharf which was in the teeth of a 20 knot northwester. In the melee, our portside primary winch overwound with a mooring line, bending the stripper arm, imploding the stripper arm support and twisting the three screws. We cast off in a squall at 6pm and anchored in the big outer bay of the harbour, as a swing anchor under these conditions is infinitely safer than being tied on to a concrete wharf. We had a peaceful night.

Friday midnight – cyclone approaching the Peloponnese and Crete.

First thing on Saturday morning I got onto the web to search for Harken 46 self-tailing winch parts, as we could not set sail without a working primary winch. A call to Yannis at Tecrep Marine in Piraeus harbour confirmed that he had the parts, so Michelle who was still in Athens, kindly took a train down to the harbour to collect the parts. Next thing, the Coast Guard arrives to tell us and some other yachts on anchor, we are not allowed to anchor where we are, but should tie up at the wharf – clearly more concerned with rules than safety. It was quite tricky backing into the wharf in 18 knots of cross wind and the rain bucketing down.

Saturday 12pm –  the eye just south of the Peloponnese.

Saturday 5pm and the wind from the northeast has built up to 30 knots and it is mayhem with all the yachts tied up to the concrete wharf, bouncing off the wharf and into one another. The two yachts tied up next to us drag their anchors and crash into us, before casting off from the wharf. Take 2: At 6pm we cast off again crashing into the next boat in line on our port side, before anchoring again in the harbour, with a mooring line fouled in our prop. The wind now gusts at 40 knots, double the predicted wind strength, with rain squalls so heavy, visibility is down to 50 metres. I am cursing the Coast Guard and the Harbour Police – we should have stayed at anchor in the harbour. The wind spray off the water is sometimes heavier than the rain.

Saturday 6pm – very close, wind 20 knots predicted – hitting Esprit at 40 knots actual.

Saturday 9pm – cyclone passes Esprit at the black flag with 19 knots of wind.

Sunday 3am – cyclone moving across the Aegean.

Sunday 6am – cyclone dissipates over Turkey.

All our sailing gear and clothes are drenched at this stage, so Annie and I take turns in our cossies and lifejackets to keep watch until 10pm, when the wind starts to drop. By 11pm we are able to sit down with a stiff whisky and by midnight we have tidied up the boat and hit the sack as the wind has dropped to 5 knots. Sunday morning, we wake up to a flat sea and a steady drizzle – we have survived Cyclone Xenophon (also called Zorba by some) and celebrate this with a strong coffee and rusks. Cheers for now.

 

Greece – Naxos to Milos.

Naxos to Milos.

Naxos is the largest and most fertile island of the Cyclades and has an interesting history. It was sacked by the Persians in 490 BC, became a Venetian duchy for more than 300 years in 1207, fell to the Turks in 1566 and became Greek in 1832. On the approach to Naxos harbour, the marble arch which is part of a temple to Apollo is prominent – begun in 530 BC, but never finished. Marble is plentiful on Naxos.

The marble arch with the town in the background.

Naxos town – Venetian castle at top left.

Annie at the arch.

The warren of alleys, arches and tunnels around the Venetian castle on the summit of the hill in town, is the most fascinating part of the town. It was the up-market end of town and many of the entrances sport coats of arms from the time when Naxos ruled over the surrounding islands.

The old market street.

Oh look – this alley is 2m wide, we can put taverna tables out here.

Alleyway with rooms over.

Fascinating spaces.

A small square.

Walking up to the castle.

View from the top. Paros island in the background.

Exiting the castle through another gate.

Evening promenade.

Annie and an ancient marble statue.

Budding Onassis – I had to buy a stone to take this photo. I bought the one with the lips – EU 2.50.

We spent two days exploring the beautiful old town and the castle before setting sail in a building wind, to Paros, only 5 miles to the west. The north facing bay at Naoussa on the north east corner of Paros was untenable in the strong north wester, so we sailed down the west coast to the main harbour at Paroikia. There is a sheltered bay to the north of the ferry harbour where we anchored with a number of other yachts.

Paros town from our anchorage.

The old windmill.

When you stepped off the ferry in Paros back in the seventies, your first port of call was this old windmill. It was then the police station and information office. Dozens of backpacks would be stacked against the wall outside, while their owners would go off in search of accommodation. With the advent of online booking, the windmill and the moat around it has lost this function – it is still an attractive landmark to welcome you.

The little church.

A hundred metres to the left the little church is still as pretty as ever. The old town has lost none of its charm, but as one would expect, the town has grown around the bay to accommodate the masses of tourists. We did some shopping and Annie had her laptop seen to by a local computer shop – the fellow reloaded her MS software for free . I discovered a very palatable 3 litre cask Retsina at EU 6.70, so bought a couple of casks.

Old town.

More old town.

Beaches around the bay.

Annie bought and shocked me with a ventilated fedora, as she was getting worried about my dark complexion. She knows I hate anything on my head, as it makes my head overheat, but she insists this hat won’t do that. In triumph she posted a photo to our girls on WhatsApp – who cracked up, saying that I look like an Italian pimp. Confusing opinions – what is a man to do? We’ll see if the hat survives.

Aargh!

After two days in Paros, we set sail and carefully navigated the narrow and shallow Paros channel, between Paros and Anti-Paros, dodging vehicle ferries between the islands as well as dozens of kite boarders. Once through and out of the lee of the islands, the wind picked up to 18 knots and we had an exhilarating 24-mile run to Ios. We were lucky to get one of the last open stern berths on the public jetty, in the small harbour. It was like a Jeanneau SO 439 convention – three of Esprit’s siblings tied up next to us. Now, I did say we won’t re-visit the fleshpots of our youth – but we did want to visit Thira (Santorini), to take photos of that magnificent setting. Ios happens to be on the way south – so, we are having a little sticky beak.

Last berth in Ios harbour – next to a SO 439.

More SO 439’s.

Ios harbour from a church nearby.

The church nearby.

Architecturally, I like these organic forms.

Walking up to the chora – this little church.

Near the top – I can count 6 chapels or churches.

View down to the harbour.

The main church in the chora.

A well deserved frappe in the minute town square.

Ios town is still charming, but geared towards the younger set, with more bars than tavernas. In fact, pub crawl tours are on offer, with most pubs offering five Jaeger bombs for EU10, or buy seven shots and get a free T-shirt. The island’s beaches have also become de facto nudist beaches among the younger set. After a bumpy night in the harbour due to all the ferries and a strong Meltemi, we did our climb up to the chora (main town), walked around the harbour and then sailed down to Manganari beach to be in the lee of the island in the 30 knot northerly. Manganari with one taverna, has grown a lot since we camped on the beach.

Manganari beach -crystal clear water

Now with beach loungers and umbrellas.

Calamaria!

Walking back to the boat after lunch.

During the night the Meltemi gusted up to 30 knots, with Esprit slewing from side to side – not conditions conducive to a good night’s sleep. By midday the next day, the wind abated and we went for a long walk along the bay, before having lunch at a beach taverna. Delicious calamari and salads washed down with the house wine. A good night’s sleep followed. By 8am the next morning, we set sail for a smooth run to Thira (Santorini) and a cruise around this giant volcano.

Santorini map.

The principal island is Thira, shaped like a new moon encircling the rim of the crater, now filled with water. To the northwest Thirasia forms another part of the rim and in the middle, a black mass of cinder and lava (Kammeni and Nea Kammeni) is the volcanic plug. Thira is steep-to, dropping sheer into the sea from 150 – 300m and keep going down for another 300m. Since the great eruption of about 1,400BC (Calculated as three times greater than Krakatoa in 1883), the volcano has remained active. It has erupted eight times since then and in 1956 a massive earthquake destroyed many of the buildings at Finikia and Thira.

Starting with Finikia in the north of Thira.

Finikia from the south.

Annie and Thira.

Thira from a distance.

Tripper boats anchored off Nea Kammeni.

Potamos on Thirasia.

Thira and the Atlantis legend – Plato first recorded the Atlantis legend that has baffled historians to the present day. Thira could be a candidate. It may be that the Thira explosion effectively destroyed the Minoan civilization on Crete and the other surrounding islands. Adding to the puzzle of Thira, is that not a single inhabitant has been found buried in the ash and pumice of the excavations at Akrotiri in the south of Thira.

On a mooring next to these gin palaces below Finikia.

Anchoring is virtually impossible due to the great depth, but we found a spot close inshore at Ormos Riva in the north of Thirasia island. A perfect evening with the lights of the towns on the crater rim glittering like stars, got us in the mood for a bit of dancing on the deck, to ABBA going full blast. A couple of Metaxa nightcaps made us sleep well. The following day we set sail for Folegandros, about 23nm to the northwest.

Karavostasi, the harbour of Folegandros is a sleepy hollow with crystal clear water. A few middle aged tourists – mostly Greek, (which is a good sign) and a few tavernas. We didn’t fancy the one hour walk up to the chora, so we did a walk around the bay and finished off with dinner at a rustic taverna on the beach.

Karavostasi harbour on Folegandros.

Perfect spot for paddle boarding.

Leaving Folegandros at sunrise.

The free Wifi at the taverna alerted us to some heavy weather coming, so we set off early the next day to sail and find shelter in Adhamas harbour on Milos, the southwestern most island of the Cyclades. Milos is an ancient volcano which, like Thira, long ago erupted and scooped out the giant bay. In the first world war the large natural harbour was a British naval base.

Google map of Milos.

It was during the Hellenistic period that the Venus de Milo (the Aphrodite of Milos) was sculpted, and is probably one of the best-known pieces of ancient Greek sculpture. The statue was found in the late 19th century by a farmer collecting old Greek stones for field walls. He negotiated to sell it to the French consul, but before a French ship arrived to collect it, the Sultan’s governor forcibly took the statue and put it aboard a ship bound for Istanbul. After a brief skirmish, the French got the statue back on board a French ship.

Venus de Milo.

It is said it was during this skirmish that the Venus de Milo lost her arms, which were spirited away by a local. The arms haven’t been found since and probably shouldn’t, lest it change our accepted perception of the armless beauty art historians are so familiar with. Photos of the statue adorn every shop on the island.

The Plaka chora above fishermen’s cottages.

Annie bought an Octopothi for the BBQ from the fishmonger.

Chapel at the cemetery.

Vaulted graves.

Some of the Greek navy ships tied up to have shelter from the Meltemi.

We took a bus up to the chora to buy more data from Vodafone and visit amongst others, the local cemetery where the departed are housed in vaults of various sizes. We spent the next three days waiting out, hopefully, the last of the fierce Meltemis.

View from the chora.

Ancient theatre.

View across the crater/bay.

A decent walk up to the highest chapel.

We didn’t mind, as Milos is a most agreeable island and we could spend the time doing some maintenance on Esprit. We will next report from the Saronic and eastern Peloponnese.

Cheers until then.

 

Greece – Rhodes to Amorgos.

On Wednesday 22nd August, Annie’s brother, Joe Schady and his partner Mary Griffiths arrived in Rhodes.

Right – let’s start with sundowners. Mary, Annie & Joe.

One of the gates into the old town.

Annie, Mary & Joe in the old town.

Ladies in conversation.

Narrow alleyways.

The two columns where the Colossus of Rhodes stood, at the entrance to Mandraki harbour.

View out of the old town – Esprit at anchor in the bay.

After two nights next to Mandraki harbour and exploring Rhodes old town, we sailed to Simi where we anchored at Panormitis on the south of the island. This quiet bay is home to a Greek Orthodox monastery.

The monastery in the background.

The sail up to Simi town was quick, but the harbour was chockers, so we anchored round the corner in Pedi. From here it was easy to catch the bus into town. We also had an excellent dinner at a local taverna.

Entering Simi harbour.

Simi town.

We set sail the following day and after a night in Alimia bay, we hopped across to Potamos Bay in Khalki. Pleasant walks into Khalki town followed, with delicacies bought from Dimitri’s bakery. Great swims in crystal clear water.

Schady siblings at Potamos Bay.

Coffees in Khalki.

The motor sail back to Mandraki harbour in Rhodes was uneventful and after a last BBQ, Joe and Mary flew home to New Zealand the following day. We enjoyed their company during their weeklong visit.

The fort at the entrance to Mandraki harbour.

Family update: Karen and Michelle took 2018 as a gap year to have a break from their respective professions – as they did after school, to travel the world, before starting University. Since the beginning of the year they have sailed with us from Thailand to Egypt and travelled in Africa and Europe. Michelle is back in London, not convinced that she wants to go back to the social work coalface, now freelancing in various jobs. She will join us in Greece during September. Karen went back to Australia during August for hospital placement interviews in 2019. She was offered six posts including her first choice, Newcastle, which she accepted. This hospital has the largest and busiest orthopaedic trauma unit in New South Wales. She will continue her apprenticeship in orthopaedic surgery in February 2019. To celebrate, she has bought a round the world ticket to travel for the next six months – starting with her 30th birthday party in London during September.

Karen & Michelle in Cape Town.

Rhodes to Amorgos.

Back to cruising. After three days in Rhodes we set sail for Tilos island in the Dodecanese group. A trip of 49 nm in varying winds. Tilos is off the beaten track and very low key, but we did manage to have a good dinner at a local taverna. The next day we continued to Nisiros island where we tied up in the pretty harbour of Palon. This island is comparatively green and has a crater in the centre, where there are a number of steaming vents releasing sulphurous fumes from deep down in the earth.

Palon town – pubs and tavernas within crawling distance.

Kiwi boat next to us.

Palon harbour.

Saturday afternoon was spent watching the passing parade of locals and tourists, before sundowners with our Kiwi neighbours, Michele Lennan and Christopher Hancock on their Jeanneau “Endless Summer”. Michelle is an Aussie and Topher an ex Saffer, living in Auckland with two sons, about the ages of our two daughters. It turns out Topher and us competed against each other in the 1982 Trans-Atlantic race from Cape Town, to Montevideo in Uruguay – he on Nutcracker and us on 34 degrees South. He met Michele after the race in the Caribbean and they have been sailing together ever since.

Early morning visit to the crater – Annie, Christopher and Michele.

View down into the caldera.

Walking down.

Bubble and squeak.

Breakfast at the Balcony taverna – crater in the background.

Early on Sunday morning, we joined them in their rented car for a trip to the crater, with a walk down into the caldera, before driving up to the village of Emporios, where we had breakfast at the Balcony Taverna. A visit to the Coast Guard in Mandraki town followed, to have our transit logs stamped. The town of Mandraki is quite beautiful with narrow streets and town squares, where we had cold frappes at a taverna overlooking the sea. The afternoon was spent on the beach with a swim to cool down, before dinner.

On the way to Mandraki – view down to Palon harbour.

Starting our walk through Mandraki town.

The streets are getting narrower.

View up a side alley.

Three ex Saffers – Topher, Annie and Dirk.

View to castle above.

And then, a shady square for coffee.

The week started with a boisterous and wet 44 nm sail to Astypalaia island, where we tied up in the harbour overnight, before doing another 44 nm sail to Amorgos the following day in kinder conditions. This sail was made even more pleasurable by keeping a bigger 55ft yacht with Kevlar sails and crew out on the rail, behind us for 30 miles, before reaching Amorgos. Esprit was now entering the central Cyclades island group of the Aegean, having left the Dodecanese group behind on leaving Astipalaia.

We anchored in an enclosed bay at the SW end of Amorgos in a little fishing harbour called Kalotaritissa. Soon, a 46 ft Prout catamaran anchored next to us and we noticed it flew Australian and South African flags. We invited them over for sundowners, to discover that James was an Aussie and Tam an ex Saffer, who worked and met in London. They have escaped the rat race in London, retired early, bought the cat three months ago in the eastern Sporades and are now setting out to do the ARC rally across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. After a relaxing morning on the paddleboard, we motored the 6 miles to Katapola harbour, doing a quick detour to look at a French yacht which ran aground recently.

Kalotaritissa – crystal clear water.

Annie getting her paddle board exercise.

Mon Dieu!

Architecturally, Katapola is a typical Cycladic town painted in white and blue, with ferries discharging and picking up, hundreds of tourists every day.

Katapola town.

Katapola street.

Katapola beachfront.

The ideal vessel for Annie to go and catch Octopothi.

There’s a ferry coming in!

They should call this one: the Colossus of Mote.

The following day we took a bus across the island to the south coast. On top of the mountain range is the chora (main town) with many old windmills. Halfway down the southern slope, the bus driver dropped us off for the walk up to the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa. It is like a latter day pilgrimage to climb the more than 300 steps to this monastery built between 812 – 813 AD. You are rewarded with cold water, a shot of raki and Greek delight sweets (made by the monks). The two-hour round trip with the bus called for a swim and a nanna nap in the afternoon, before sundowners on the German catamaran anchored next to us. We rewarded ourselves with a splendid dinner at a local taverna.

View through the bus window down to Katapola.

Having a rest.

Getting close to the top.

Arriving at the top.

Clothes available to dress to the monks required standard.

Going inside – sorry, after this, no photos allowed.

Going down the 300 steps again.

The following day we had a leisurely cruise through the small islands of Karos, Andikaros, Skhinousa and Iraklia to the south of Naxos, before sailing up the west coast of Naxos to anchor in Naxos town at 4pm. We will continue from here in our next post.

Cheers for now.