Greece – Zakynthos to Delphi.

Route from Zakynthos to Delphi.

After collecting my passport with a new 90 day Greek visa from Spyros at Police headquarters, we cast off from Zakynthos harbour with a good following wind to sail to Cephalonia, the biggest of the Ionian islands. The plan was to stop in Poros in the south east of the island, but the wind blew straight into the harbour, so we carried on to Sami harbour, 12 nm to the north which was sheltered from the unusual south easterly.

Statue in Sami – Captain Corelli or a very slim fisherman?

Annie has ambitions to buy this big fishing boat.

The major earthquake of 1953 effectively demolished every town on Cephalonia, except Fiskardho in the north, presumably because of the underlying clay in the north. Sami was rebuilt and is a lovely town where the film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” was made. The narrow Ithakis channel separates Cephalonia from the island of Ithaca – according to Homer, this is the island home of Odysseus.

Two sister Jeanneau in Foki Bay.

From Sami we crisscrossed the channel to visit anchorages on both islands, eventually anchoring at Port Polis on the northwest side of Ithaca, before crossing to Fiskardho the next day to anchor in the lovely Foki bay.  Later in the day, another SO 439 anchored next to us, with Chris Evans and Rose Bowey from Adelaide in South Australia on board – also our vintage in age! They took delivery of their Jeanneau at the factory in La Rochelle, France about 18 months ago and were pleased to hear we have come this far without major problems.

Rose, Chris and Annie at 200 BC Roman graves.

Foki bay anchorage deserved a two-day stay, during which time we walked to Fiskardho for coffees and some groceries. Fiskardho was chockers with charter yachts and it was amazing to see up to 50 yachts a day sailing past our anchorage. We spent pleasant times with Chris and Rose having sundowners and a BBQ.

Autumn was setting in and although we have clear sunny days, the evenings calls for jumpers – Annie also pulled out our summer duvet, so nuddy sleeping is on hold. The sea temperature is still a very pleasant 25 deg C, so we swim every day. Having exchanged notes with Chris and Rose on cruising areas, we set forth to explore the east coast of Ithaca, where we anchored at Limani bay just south of Frikes on the first night. In the short 11 mile sail we must have passed upwards of 70 yachts, sailing in flotillas and having fun.

Small Kioni harbour, full of charter boats.

Further south, we turned into Kioni harbour for brunch, before anchoring at Vathi harbour for a two-day stay in picturesque surroundings. Vathi bay is large and sheltered from the winds from most directions, with adequate room to anchor off the town, which wraps around the top end of the bay. It offers some good walks along the shore to exercise our legs, as well as a 6 km coastal walk to the entrance to the bay, where we spotted the chapel of St. Andrew while sailing into the bay.

St Andrews chapel from the water.

Vathi town.

More Vathi town from our anchorage.

Vathi village street.

We walked past the yacht club where young kids were training in Optimist and Laser class dinghies, reminding us of the days we spent on the water while Karen and Michelle trained in the very same classes. At one of the beaches we passed, was a lifeguard tower with a fireman’s pole to slide down, for quick assistance to swimmers in distress. The pole should have been stainless steel, as the rusted pole will result in severe injuries.

Sunday sail training.

Fireman’s pole – it seemed like a good idea, at the time.

Walking to the chapel.

Annie taking a breather.

At night we listened to the local music from the bars, which was different to the Greek music in the Aegean, being more Italian in influence, with passionate romantic harmonies. On the third day we reluctantly left, to take advantage of the prevailing wind and sailed the 43 nm to the Greek mainland. At the entrance to the Gulf of Patras, the northern shore has saltmarshes and sandbars, so we had to motor up the 2.5 nm dredged channel to the spacious harbour of Mesolongi where we anchored off the yacht club on Sunday 21st October.

We had to spend the following three nights at anchor here because a 35 knot easterly with rain kicked in, making sailing into the gulf, virtually impossible. Mesolongi is an architecturally challenged town, with its claim to fame being, that the poet Byron died here. The only entertainment we had was a cargo vessel tied up close to us with two cranes offloading six huge wind turbines onto low bed trailer trucks.

Approaching the bridge.

On the Wednesday we woke up to a sunny day with light winds, which allowed us to set sail for Navpaktos, 35 nm away. By 1pm we reached the strait of Rion and Andirrion, only one-mile-wide with Venetian forts on both sides. The impressive suspension bridge across the strait completed in 2004, is the longest cable stayed bridge in the world at 2,252m with an air height of 25-45m (Similar design as the ANZAC bridge in Sydney).

Venetian fort on the north side.

The north side of the bridge.

An unusual sight – a yacht actually sailing.

We sailed under the bridge to enter the Gulf of Corinth and continued to Navpaktos where we anchored off the beach – the harbour being too small for boats over 12 metres.

Navpaktos (Lepanto) from Esprit.

Navpaktos (Lepanto) is a captivating place, with the minute medieval harbour under the shadow of a Venetian castle. Before we could go ashore, we had to sort out the freshwater pump which delivers water from the water tanks to all the taps and showers – without a working pump, we are in trouble. For some reason, the pump decided to stop working and no amount of switching valves between tanks, would get the water flowing.

Annie and her offsider decided to strip the pump expecting to find a blocked or stuck impeller, which should be easy enough to fix. The pump is of course mounted in a diabolically difficult space to get into. After an hour, we got it out, stripped the pump and hello – what is this? A diaphragm pump, which I have never clapped eyes on before. All the parts were cleaned and inspected and after reassembly it takes another hour (and cursing) to mount the pump again. We hold our collective breaths and turn it on again – it works! Don’t ask me what I have fixed, as I do not know. Anyway it was 6pm and time for a soothing red wine.

Entrance into the harbour – Esprit outside on the left.

Fishing boats in the harbour.

The following day we go ashore early to climb up to the castle, which evidently is the best preserved castle in the Mediterranean – 45 minutes later and 250m higher, we reached the top to admire the view. This area was settled around 2,000 BC and the castle construction was started around 500 BC. The battle of Lepanto in 1571, was fought off the coast here, when the Ottoman fleet was defeated by a coalition of Christian countries.

View down to the harbour.

Halfway up to the castle.

View back towards the bridge.

Entrance to the top fortifications.

At the very top.

On board the Spanish galley “Marquesa” was a 24-year-old Spanish marine, Miguel de Cervantes who received three gunshot wounds—two in the chest and one which rendered his left arm useless. Cervantes later started writing and is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language and one of the world’s pre-eminent novelists. His novel “Don Quixote” has been translated into over 140 languages. In the little harbour of Navpaktos stands a statue of Cervantes to remind us of his service in the battle of Lepanto.

Statue of Miguel de Cervantes.

Our next anchorage was on the small island of Trizonia, before enjoying a fabulous downwind sail to Galaxidi, where we anchored in the harbour. This tranquil harbour, hemmed in by a pine-studded peninsula, is one of the most pleasing in the Gulf of Corinth. It is a useful safe harbour near Delphi which can be reached by bus.

Galaxidi street.

Galaxidi – colourful flowers.

We stayed here for three days, enjoying the laid back atmosphere and catching the bus to Delphi on the Saturday. Delphi was regarded by the ancients as the centre of the world. Its spectacular site amidst ravines, rocky bluffs and sheer cliffs on the side of Mt Parnassos contributes to its air of mystery.

Starting in Delphi village.

Walking towards the Delphi archeological site.

Looking back towards the coast.

Information at the entrance.

Model of the original site.

Delphi takes its name from Apollo Delphinios, when the god was worshipped in the shape of a dolphin. The Delphic oracle was famous throughout Greece. The French school began excavating the site in 1892 and a museum next to the site houses most of the important finds. Truly, a must-visit place in Greece. I am uploading just a few of the 95 photos I have taken.

Beautiful mosaic floors.

Start of the sacred way.

The retaining wall for the Temple of Apollo – craftsmanship as good as at Machu Picchu in Peru.

The remains of the tripod of Plataea with the temple of Apollo behind.

Looking down at the base of the temple of Apollo.

Temple of Apollo with the floor recess where the oracle of Delphi resided.

The theatre of Delphi.

At the very top, the stadium with the track 178 m long. The athletes must have been knackered by the time they got to this altitude.

The museum – philosopher on the left.

The Naxian Sphinx.

Statue of the athlete Agias (330 BC)

Bronze incense burner (460 BC)

The bronze statue of the charioteer – the most important exhibit in the Delphi museum (474 BC)

On Monday, a favourable easterly will carry us back west to the Ionian islands, to continue our cruising.

Cheers for now.

Greece – Navplion to Zakynthos.

Route: Navplion to Zakynthos.

We couldn’t really motor from Navplion after the cyclone, due to a stern line caught in the propeller, but fortunately there was a good wind to sail the short 10 mile hop to Astrous on the eastern Peloponnese coast. We arrived to tie up next to about 12 other yachts in the harbour –  the crews of which were shell shocked after the cyclone hit them. Evidently, the winds here peaked at 60 knots with waves breaking 5 metres high over the harbour breakwater to swamp some of the boats. We were glad to have been 10 miles north.

Astrous harbour.

Astrous is a gem of a place, with lovely walks, friendly people and tavernas serving traditional food. We stayed for two days to dry things out, do the washing and fill the water and diesel tanks.

Astrous town from the Venetian castle.

Michelle dived to clear the prop of rope and fishing lines, as the water was settling down and visibility improved. Our next stop was Kiparissi, 38 nm further south on this magnificent coast. We met up with James Foot and his partner Wallace for sundowners on Esprit. Rob Wallace put us in touch with this exceptional water colour artist.

Michelle cut all of this from the prop.

Kiparissi houses along the harbour.

Kiparissi: Esprit tied up to the small mole.

Doing the 5km walk to this remote chapel south of Kiparissi.

Looking back to Kiparissi.

Couldn’t resist ringing the bell.

Chatting with a friendly Scottish expat over coffee.

Taking the very expensive shortcut through the Corinth canal from the eastern Peloponnese to the Ionian islands in the west was a consideration, but we were rewarded by the most beautiful mountains and greenery of the eastern Peloponnese, which we highly recommend. The following day we sailed to Monemvasia, which was an unexpected and beautiful surprise for us. Monemvasia is a humpbacked island (likened to a little Gibraltar) connected to the Peloponnese by a causeway. On the south side of the island is the ancient town which was first settled in the 6th century AD.

Sailing past the village of Monemvasia.

Esprit tied up in the harbour with Monemvasia in the background.

Approaching the gate to Monemvasia.

Narrow cobbled streets.

Earthy colours.

More beautiful textures.

The town square with one of numerous churches.

Watching Michelle and Annie return from their walk to the fortifications on top, while enjoying my breakfast.

Castles and walls, old houses, narrow cobbled streets, churches, arches and coats of arms – untouched by the passage of time. We explored this magical place and had breakfast at a small taverna, before walking back across the causeway to the new town. After stocking up with provisions we set sail to round the south eastern tip of the Peloponnese and anchor in Frangos bay in the south of Elafonisos island.

Map of Monemvasia town.

On Friday the 5th of October we cast off in a freshening easterly to cross the gulfs of Lakonikos and Messiniakos for a 66 nm crossing to Maratho on the south western corner of the Peloponnese. I should have stayed in bed – two competitive sailors in the shape of Michelle and Annie left me with white knuckles. With a fully reefed main and 25% of the jib out, they managed to surf the waves, hitting 13 knots in a 33 knot north easter, on the aft quarter. After rounding Cape Tainaron, it got wetter, as we were now on a broad reach. A stiff whisky was called for when we anchored at Maratho, having averaged 8.25 knots/hour.

Michelle thinking she is sailing a 49er.

What better than a chilled bottle of Lambrusco to celebrate a good sail.

Followed by a game of chess.

The next morning, we had to motor past Methoni, all the way to the Strofadhes islands (Arpia and Stamfani), a distance of 50 nm. From fresh winds one day, to nothing the next – that’s sailing. One consolation was a Bluefin Tuna the girls caught on a trawling line.

Motoring past the fortifications of Methoni.

Michelle with her catch.

After a quiet night off Arpia, we motored the last 40 nm to anchor in front of Freddie’s Beach Bar at Tsilivi Beach on Zakynthos at 4 pm. We had a warm welcome from Robert and Ritsa Wallace, old friends from Cape Town and their staff, before enjoying a sumptuous dinner.

Arriving at Freddie’s.

Welcome drink with Rob and Ritsa at Freddie’s with Esprit in the background.

First course: Meze platter.

The Schengen visa rules allows Annie with her UK passport to stay in the EU Schengen countries indefinitely, whereas my Aussie passport has a limit of 90 days in these countries, after which I have to leave for 90 days. My 90 days expires on the 15th October, so after two previous unsuccessful attempts to extend the visa, Ritsa facilitated a meeting with the local police, who deals with foreign passport holders. Unfortunately, the official who interviewed us must have had a difficult morning dealing with refugees, so he didn’t want to know about my problem. After a prolonged argument, he agreed to consider this again the following Saturday.

Robert at sea.

We used the rest of the week, to take Rob and Ritsa for a sail to Wreck beach and the Blue caves and they in turn drove us around the island to show us all the sights.

Wreck beach.

Michelle, Ritsa and Annie.

Esprit anchored below the spectacular limestone cliffs.

The ladies enjoying the water.

The anchorage off Freddie’s Beach Bar became untenable due to an onshore north westerly on the Wednesday, so we motored to Zakynthos harbour for a sheltered berth.

Rob’s tours: View of Zakynthos town.

View from Rob’s friends taverna.

Buying produce from Dimitri and his daughter.

Windmill near the northern end of the island.

More spectacular coastline.

Visiting the St. George monastery.

Michelle flew back to London on the Thursday after her three-week visit. I managed to get the required documentation ready for my meeting with the official on the Saturday, which Ritsa again facilitated.

The meeting went well and I was issued with a 90-day visa. This was a relief, as we were also wearing the Wallace’s threshold out after a week. We will now head north to explore the rest of the Ionian islands, before leaving Esprit in Preveza at the end of November. Cheers for now.

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.

 

 

 

Greece – Crete to Rhodes.

A perfect downwind sail from Anafi island, took us to Gouves Marina, about 8 miles east of Iraklion in Crete.

Lesvos to Crete and on to Rhodes.

Back in 1980, I spent three months in Greece, including a month in Crete. The objective was to have a holiday and walk a bit, to get my legs in shape again. I had stacked my Suzuki 750 motorbike on the way to work, fractured my right femur and tore all the left knee ligaments. I read about the 18 km long Samaria Gorge in western Crete, starting near Chania at an altitude of 1,230m and winding down to Agio Roumeli on the south coast. This hike inspired me to carry on hiking along the Cretan south coast, walking east for about half the length of the south coast of Crete, sleeping on the beach and wherever I could unroll my sleeping bag.

Penny, Frank & Annie at a windmill.

So here we were again, planning to cruise the north coast of Crete with Annie’s sister Penny and husband Frank. They arrived at Gouves the next day from a cycling tour in Croatia and after getting provisions and topping up the water and diesel tanks, we set off east, to go with the building Meltemi. We found shelter in Khersonisos bay with reasonably flat water and only the occasional strong gust to bother our fish barbequing on board. The following day we continued east through a very confused sea and 25 knot winds, until we turned the corner at Cape Fatsi to get into the big bay of Kolpos Merambellou and in the lee of the land.

Spinalonga island.

A mile or two to the south, at the entrance to the Spinalonga lagoon, is Spinalonga island with its Venetian fort. There is a small deserted settlement which was a leper colony in the previous century. After 33 nm we anchored at Schisma in the Spinalonga lagoon.

Schisma harbour.

Nice place for a coffee.

View from our table.

Schisma town centre.

This is an attractive town offering walks along the shore as well as numerous tavernas, to have coffees or dinner. The wind increased to a full blown Meltemi gusting up to 30 knots in the two days we spent there. We figured there had to be less wind further south and motored to Ormos Porou where there was some wind shelter, close inshore in front of a holiday resort.

Generic resort – could be anywhere.

By the evening it was gusting 25 knots again, so the next day we motored another 6 miles south to Agio Nikolaos, where we booked into the marina. It wasn’t more sheltered here, but at least we were securely tied to a pontoon in the marina. It gave us the opportunity to do our laundry in the marina laundromat. I bought a Greek gas bottle with a regulator as backup, if we couldn’t refill the Aussie gas bottles by the time they were empty. We also had a pleasant evening in the old town with a superb meal at a taverna.

Agio Nikolaos marina.

Agio Nikolaos town – beautifully landscaped street.

The lagoon in Agio Nikolaos.

Dinner time – Dirk, Annie, Penny & Frank.

Penny & Annie in front of a church mosaic.

Photo for an old friend, who loves the word “Octopothi”

On Saturday, after five days on board, Penny and Frank caught the bus back to meet their children at a pre-arranged holiday apartment near Gouves. We spent another night in the marina waiting for the wind to abate and explored the old town. At this stage, we noticed that due to the 30 knot winds, the seagulls and pigeons were walking along the road, because they couldn’t fly. The wind didn’t let up, so we ended staying a third day in the marina until the Monday when we bought more Vodafone data and posted stuff to Karen.

Screenshot of “Windy” on Saturday.

Vasilis, on the boat next to us, gave us some tips on the best route, sailing to Rhodes. By 11 am on Monday, we left the marina and motored back to Ormos Porou where we found a reasonable anchorage with varying levels of wind gusts, interrupted by the continuous drone of speedboats pulling inflatable couches of varying designs, filled with shrieking kids, testing the limits of the flexibility of their spines. The physios and chiropractors in this area must have a field day. We were to wait another two nights before the weather forecasts indicated a temporary drop in wind speed to about 15 knots, by the Wednesday and Thursday.

Ormos  Porou, in the split second that there were no speedboats in the frame.

On Wednesday the 15th August, we set off at 7am to do the 23 miles to Cape Sidheros, the eastern tip of Crete. Well, hello! Within 10 minutes, we had to fully reef the main, furl the jib to about 15% of its area. In a big sea and on a broad reach we were bowling along in 25 – 27 knots of wind, hitting 10 – 11 knots going down the waves. We reached Dragonara island, just north of the cape in record time and anchored in a sheltered bay to recover. So much for weather forecasts – Valium or Zoloft please. Hang on, I have Retsina wine for a relaxed arvo.

Waiting for Wednesday at this quiet spot in Kher bay, two miles to the north of Ormos Porou.

At 6am the following day we set off, sail reefs still tucked in, to do the 36 miles across, reputedly, the worst seas, to Kasos island. “Anchor in Fry on the north side, because the south side, which although in the lee, is even worse” Vasilis said. OK, we were going to go around the south side, but let’s listen to local knowledge. The weather the next day was much like the day before and we got to Kasos having averaged 8 knots in a very big sea. Then, a big surprise – we haven’t seen any Aussie boats in Greece up to now, but tied up in the harbour were two boats from Fremantle, Perth. We were quickly welcomed and everyone met on Esprit for sundowners.

Three Aussie boats in Kasos harbour.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie …

Oi, Oi, Oi!

The small Kasos fishing harbour.

Close up of the church.

Clive and Jenny Willis from Perth on their Beneteau 45, mentioned that George, their impeccable Greek source, had told them the following day would indeed be a low wind day. They were going to leave early to do the 60 miles to Khalki island, west of Rhodes. We decided to accompany them and set off at 6 am, despite a hangover. We had perfect conditions with a flat sea and 14 – 18 knot winds on the beam, zooming past Karpathos to reach Potamos Bay, next to Khalki harbour at 2 pm. Sixty nautical miles in 8 hours, averaging 7.5 knots SOG (speed over ground).

Khalki harbour.

On approaching Potamos Bay, who should arrive from the opposite direction – Mike and Sarah Mason on Soul! After a good night’s sleep, we picked them up with the dinghy the next morning, to go ashore and walk the kilometre across to Khalki village. Here we found Clive and Jenny’s boat tied up to the town jetty and went aboard “Australie” to introduce them to Mike and Sarah. A coffee in the quaint village, with a visit to the bakery and supermarket followed, before we walked back to Potamos bay. We stayed for two days.

Church and cemetery on the way to town.

Lovely old house on the waterfront.

Dimitri’s bakery on the town square doing a roaring trade.

This guy had to go and buy a bread, but bumped into a friend – for a game of backgammon.

Our next stop was the island of Alimia, eight miles to the north, which was used by the Germans as a U-boat submarine base during world war 2. We did a long hike and visited some of the deserted buildings. In one of these, nostalgic German soldiers drew a series of cartoons, depicting what life was like back home and what life might been like on some distant tropical island, if there had been no war.

WW2 quarters on Alimia.

Some of the cartoons.

Dancing with a mermaid on a tropical island.

The following day we had a relaxing 33 nm downwind sail to Rhodes, where we anchored next to the marina. They say you either love or hate Rhodes. We love it, especially the old town. On this our third visit, the number of tourists is overwhelming, as it still is the European summer holidays.

Dolphins outside Rhodes old town.

Street with the lodges of the Knights of St. John.

Lots of tourists.

A refreshing beer.

 

Tomorrow, Joe and Mary arrives to join us for 6 days of cruising. We will report on that in due course.

Cheers for now!

Greece – Eastern Sporades and Dodecanese islands.

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!

Mitilini harbour – Lesvos.

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!

Looking for a place to buy phone cards in Mitilini.

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.

Route: Lesvos to Crete.

Mandraki harbour on Oinoussa.

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.

Walking in Oinoussa.

Up to the church.

Mini fishing boat.

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 harbour.

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.

Dinner on the waterfront.

View of the town and harbour from the hill.

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.

Approaching Marathakambos backed by the high mountains of Samos.

This 230 foot super yacht anchored next to us.

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.

View from our anchorage to the village.

Water so clear, you can see your shadow on the sand 3m below.

Walking up to Mikro Horio.

Passing a chapel.

Chapel interior.

View from Mikro Horio.

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.

Patmos harbour.

Patmos town.

A beautifully restored Fiat 500 Topolino – check the rattan seats.

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.

Palionisou.

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.

Sarah with Mathea and Igor the dancers.

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.

Noise on your transom.

Vathi harbour on Kalymnos.

View up the fertile Vathi valley.

On our walk up the valley – a micro chapel.

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.

Tied up in Skala harbour on Astipalaia.

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.

View from the beach – the castle top left.

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.

Halfway up the hill.

Three quarter way – getting tired.

Nearly there.

The entrance, at last.

Not one, but…

..two churches in the castle.

View on the way down.

Windmills in the chora.

Rewarded with an iced frappe.

Colourful alleys on the way down.

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.

 

 

Turkey – the Aeolian coast.

After leaving Port Alacati in Turkey on Monday 16th July 2018, we passed the Greek island of Khios to port, and then saw a NATO warship patrolling the strait between Greece and Turkey. We were now entering the Aeolian coast as we sailed past Cesme. The wind was in our favour and with main and jib up, we averaged 7 – 8 knots to take us to Foca bay for a 52 nm day. Foca is at the mouth of the Bay of Izmir, but we decided not to sail into Izmir as it is now a huge commercial harbour – also my brothers and I travelled overland from Istanbul to Izmir in 1975 and we didn’t find much of interest on the Anatolian plain, or in Izmir.

Dikili – our last Turkish port of call.

Our next stop was Dikili harbour where we planned to clear out of Turkey, before sailing the 11 nm across to the Greek island of Lesvos. The harbour was chockers, so we tied up next to a number of big fishing vessels at the harbour entrance, requiring an interesting climbing/walking trip over 5 vessels to shore. Tuesdays are the big fresh fruit and vegie market day in Dikili, when the farmers bring their produce to town. Annie was in her element buying fresh produce at a smidgen of Sydney prices. A pain getting this all back on board.

Tied up next to the fishing vessels.

Market.

More market.

Overflowing on the streets.

In the afternoon we set off to find the harbourmaster which is your first stop in clearing out. Dikili not being a tourist town, had very few English speakers, resulting in us crisscrossing town before we eventually tracked his office down. He had decided to take the afternoon off, so his secretary called him on his mobile to ask what to do. His English was passable and he told us to call around at 8am the next morning to process our documents. So we spent the afternoon sightseeing and shopping at Migros for food, wine and beer.

Dikili town square.

Next morning at 8am, we were back at the harbourmaster’s office – his secretary serving us tea until he arrived at 9:10am. From here on, things picked up – he only took 45 minutes to complete all the documentation, before giving us instructions of how to get to customs and the harbour police, who processes passports. This was completed in 15 minutes and then we had to return to the harbourmaster to drop off his stamped copies. He then wished us a speedy return and we took our leave without having to pay a Turkish lira.

This then completed our 8-week cruise from Anamur in the east of Turkey, to Dikili in the north west, during which time we covered 768 nm (1,422 km) and enjoyed the hospitality of the friendly Turkish people, saw some amazing historical sites and made many new friends.

Our Turkish coastal route.

As an aside, I had completed Andrew Mango’s definitive biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which strips away the myth to show the complexities of the man beneath. Ataturk was a man who enjoyed his tipple – when his secretary Hasan Riza Soyak urged him to cut down on his drinking, he replied: “I’ve got to drink, my mind keeps on working hard and fast to the point of suffering. I have to slow down and rest at times. When I don’t drink, I can’t sleep and the distress stupefies me” …… On hearing this, Annie decided to call me Atadurk!

Final chuckle – first the seagull phone, here we have the dolphin phones!

Our next post will start in Lesvos, Greece, from where it will be downwind sailing through the Eastern Sporades and Dodecanese islands – we will catch up in due course.

Turkey – the Ionian coast

First up, apologies for our website going down about three weeks ago. Our hosting company in the USA told me, that some plug-in used on the site, malfunctioned. This could only be fixed by paying a developer on their side AUD 112 to trouble shoot and sort it. Evidently, I need to update plug-ins when alerted to do so. After that came the news that we had a random malware attack on the site, which cost another AUD 584 to clean up and be given a clean bill of health for the site – let’s hope all goes well for the next couple of years!

The concrete coast.

Over the past three months I have spent a lot of time alone in the cockpit while making passages, as Annie spends all her spare hours down below, doing an intensive course in French, to brush up on her school French of many years ago. I would occasionally invite her up on deck to do sail changes or to look at once in a lifetime scenery. There was no need to call her up much, as we left Gumusluk to sail east around the Bodrum peninsula – the reason, as mentioned in our previous post, the “Concrete coast” stretching on for miles.

Entrance to Iassus – the Byzantine tower with the fort on the hill above.

Still, there is a blessing in these developments being limited to about 4-storeys, fragmented into smaller blocks and painted uniformly white. It did get a bit boring though, so we took a shortcut across the Gulf of Korfezi, to anchor in the ancient harbour of Iassus, which is entered though a narrow passage between the ruins of a Byzantine tower and a sunken breakwater. We were welcomed by two German yachts who invited us over for drinks. They had sailed from Germany via the Black Sea to visit this site, their furthest point south.

The harbour entrance tower from the hill.

Iassus was colonised from about 900BC around this harbour and has remains of the Agora, theatre and houses on the hill on the eastern side. The substantial fort on top of the hill was built by the Knights of St John, during the Crusades. We were able to explore this magnificent site the next morning, the only people about, marvelling at intricate floor mosaics, more than 2,000 years old and still in good condition – we wondered which type of tile adhesive they used! Some of the wall murals still intact. The site is enchanting.

The fort built by the knights – note the recycling of materials.

Floor mosaics.

View down to Iassus village and anchorage.

From here we motored through numerous marine (fish) farms, directly to Altinkum on the north side of the gulf, to get into the lee of the land and out of the Meltemi. This proved to be a bad choice, as the locals had decided to challenge Bodrum for supremacy in the doof-doof music stakes – until 4 o’clock in the morning. The mosquitos in town couldn’t handle the noise and decided to fly out to sea and seek refuge on Esprit!

Fish farms.

Bleary eyed, we left Altinkum after an early walk ashore, to tie up at the Didim marina, a mile to the west. We had to make this stop as the Turkish “Mavi” or blue card requires us to have our two black water holding tanks pumped out and logged, once a month – or face a huge fine. Good on them for their effort at minimising waste pump outs in their beautiful anchorages. We can only hope the day tripper boats and gulets with their hundreds of punters on board, does the right thing. We also filled up with water and diesel.

Cheerio Altinkum.

An early night in a secluded bay at Cukurcuk with one other yacht followed – with no music or mozzies.

More fish farms.

Going north from here to the narrow strait between Turkey and the Greek island of Samos, there are dozens of fish farms to navigate, until you reach the small anchorage of St Nikolas, 21 miles to the north. This little anchorage presented us with the worst challenge in anchoring since we left Sydney. After 11 attempts, the anchor eventually bit in a sandy patch between the luxurious seaweed on the bottom. All of this accompanied by loud outdoor voices – thankfully, there were no other yachts in the anchorage. Although only midday, this necessitated a few calming Efes beers, as soon as the GPS confirmed we were stationary.

St. Nikolas anchorage.

The next morning, we motored through the Samos strait, slightly less than a mile at the narrowest part – the closest Turkey and Greece get to each other. We took the shortest route to Setur marina in Kusadasi harbour, as this west facing bay is in the teeth of the prevailing westerly Meltemi and there are no other anchorages between the strait and Kusadasi. We took the bikes out and cycled through Kusadasi, which is a quaint town, focussed on tourism. The old caravansari and the castle in the harbour were really worth the visit.

The Samos strait.

Entering Kusadasi.

Kusadasi town – colourful housing.

Visiting the castle.

It also gave us the chance to take a taxi early the next morning to Ephesus, about 18km inland. Ephesus is home to some of the most impressive ruins in Turkey. Originally occupied by the Lydians, until the Ionians arrived in 1,000BC. Ephesus survived Alexander the Great’s conquest and later as the Roman capital of the province of Asia, entered its greatest period of prosperity. It was sacked and destroyed by the Goths in AD 263. The site today is impressive – you can walk down the marble streets and see the ruins of the theatre, agora, library, odeon, stadium, gymnasium and even the brothel, the bones of the ancient city laid bare. It takes little to visualise what life was like here. After a two-hour walkabout, the taxi took us back to town.

Entrance to Ephesus.

The Great theatre could seat nearly 24,000 people.

Inside the theatre.

The Curetes street.

Temple of Hadrian.

The Celsius library.

Celsius library detail.

Gate of Mazeus to the Agora.

Vicinity of the State Altar.

The Nike of Ephesus.

Inside the hillside houses – marble wall cladding.

Frescoes on the higher walls.

Seeing that it was still mid-morning, Annie decided decided on some retail therapy. She noticed that ladies clothing and swimsuits were very well priced compared to Sydney. Turkish ladies also have fuller figures and therefore she could buy bikinis for gals, with more than a handful. I managed to buy a 665 page English biography on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the much revered father of the modern Turkish Republic. Afterwards, we set sail for Cam Limani and had a robust 14-mile sail in a building north easterly, to anchor in a small bay.

Kusadasi marina.

One of the new bikinis.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The good sailing continued the next morning until we rounded the Doganbey Cape to set course for Teos Limani, when a 25 knot northerly hit us. After tucking in two reefs in the main and furling the jib to 50%, we were still overpowered. With only the reefed main, we managed to motor sail into an increasing swell to reach Teos anchorage at around midday. The anchor bit well the third time in sandy patch and we enjoyed lunch and a beer watching the board sailors screaming past us in the pumping northerly.

Strong wind sailing.

Fun, fun, fun – longing back to those days at Big Bay in the 80’s.

The plan was to sail around the Teos peninsula to Sigacik to visit the old walled town, but the wind was still gusting 25 knots the following morning. We were confident that the anchor had bitten well in the sandy patch amongst the seagrass, so we went ashore and walked across the peninsula through the remains of ancient Teos. It was a pleasant 3km walk through ancient olive trees and citrus orchards, and it took 40 minutes to reach Sigacik. After walking through the walled town, we had brunch and coffee at a bakery, before walking back along the 3km dirt road. The dinghy and boat were still there. We slept well that night.

Inside Sigacik walled town.

Another pretty street.

The weather forecast indicated two more days of a strong Meltemi, so we upped anchor and had an exhilarating sail in 25 knots of wind on the beam, with only the jib up to reach the lee shore of Kirkdilim bay. Beautiful clear water with not a soul in sight – but unfortunately a swarm of bees came to visit us at sunset. Annie tried some earlier advice and burned ground coffee, which, together with my frantic swatting, drove them away. The following day’s sail to Port Alacati was a replay of the previous day, minus the bees. We sailed out of the Ionian coast area when we passed Cesme the next day to enter the Aeolian coast.

We will report on the Aeolian coast in our next post. Cheers for now!

Turkey – the Carian coast

Having dropped Karen off in Sarsala Bay to catch a taxi to Dalaman airport for her flight to Istanbul, we set sail for Marmaris. Or so we thought – the westerlies had started kicking in, resulting in the wind on the nose, a confused sea and much motoring to make headway. The first night we found shelter at the jetty in Asi Koyu, where we enjoyed dinner at the restaurant, in return for the tie up at their bouncing, floating jetty.

Carian coast.

This time around, we decided not to visit the ruins of ancient Caunos and their rock tombs on the Dalyan river again, because like Machu Picchu in Peru, the tourist numbers have skyrocketed. Across, in the bay of Ekincik we found a beautiful anchorage in Semizce cove, before motoring into Marmaris the following day. We would spend a week in Marmaris, the first four days at the Marmaris Yacht Marina, with its 600 berths and 1,000 dry berths. A well run marina with all the facilities and reasonably priced. We had a lot to do.

Marmaris Yacht marina.

Our original three-year-old anchor chain, had come to the end of its useful life. It had been re-galvanised twice, in Darwin and in India, but was again badly rusted and worn. We purchased 80m of 10mm short link galvanised chain at a very reasonable price (by Sydney standards). Also on the shopping list, was a 6.5l engine oil draining vacuum pump for our periodic engine services and an industrial type pop riveter. After five broken pop riveters in my lifetime, it seemed the sensible thing to buy. The other items required were two stern reels with 50m webbing for the med style mooring here – no more tying halyards and lines together!

The name is Blond – James Blond, correction – James Grey.

Stern webbing reel.

Webbing reel in action.

Lucky for us, we could refill the gas bottles, but we will probably have to dump them when we get to the EU countries, as they don’t refill the Aussie bottles. We also found a sailmaker to sew new Sunbrella edging fabric to leech and foot of the jib sail– he also reinforced the spray dodger which showed signs of wear. I rust treated the anchor and painted it with cold galvanising, as the nearest galvanisers were in Istanbul. Then there was the usual replenishing of water, diesel, petrol, wine, beer and food. In between, we spent time at the pool, at the bar and walking around Marmaris old town, still recognisable, but much modernised.

Marmaris harbour – the castle and old town on the hill.

The old town mostly unchanged.

The bazaar area now paved with sculptures.

New paving and landscaping.

Social media has a lot to answer for – Sunday the 24th June 2018 was election day for 56 million eligible voters in Turkey, for a new government and president. As a result of misinformation, many sailors left for Cyprus and Greece to be away from this perceived catastrophe. Everything went without drama and we spent the day at the library and later, having a few drinks with friends. The Turks were mostly non plussed.

Byzantine church ruins above Gerbekse Cove.

From Marmaris sailing west, we will be on the Carian coast. We anchored at Gerbekse Cove, Bozuk Buku and Bozburun over the following three days, as we wanted to re-visit these anchorages to climb some hills for exercise and visit their Byzantine ruins. Bozburun is the heart of the timber boat building industry where most of their traditional gulets are built. Five years ago, while sailing with Dave Bruce, we visited a huge shed here where some Russian oligarch was having a 100m long timber gulet built. We didn’t call again, as security was tight – maybe the oligarch was now spending time in Siberia as one of Vlad Putin’s guests.

The massive uncompleted fortification at the entrance to Bozuk Buku.

The view down from the fortification.

Huge stone blocks, perfectly hewn and placed.

A refreshing beer after the climb up and down.

Anchored off Bozburun town.

Anchoring in Selimiye, we caught up with Soul again and had a great dinner with them on Esprit. Selimiye is a pretty town offering walks along the shore with waterside cafes and shops. The next day we anchored in Keci Buku where the dedicated rock-hounds on Soul and Esprit climbed up to the fort on the island for sundowners – leaving the climb down not too late, as the climb down was as difficult as the one going up.

Selimiye beachfront.

Cozy cafes along the beachfront.

Colourful bougainvillea on the streets.

For the Vespa enthusiasts.

Keci Buku – the fort on the island.

Sundowners with the Mason’s at the top.

View of Keci Buku from the top – note the people walking out on the sandbar.

Our next stop was Datcha which has retained much of its charm despite the substantial growth of this beautiful town. Annie had to buy more data for her SIM card in town and I did shopping for fresh vegies and other provisions at the Migros supermarket. The sail from Datcha to Knidos was quite lively in a strong westerly. The anchorage in the ancient harbour of Knidos was crowded but we found a spot and explored this ancient city early the next morning. Knidos was one of the six cities of the Dorian Confederacy.

Anchored in Datcha.

Fish statue in Datcha – hard to resist for our fishing enthusiast.

The town was famous for the statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles one of the great Greek sculptors. In the 4th century BC, the statue was one of the first of a naked woman, only male statues having been naked until this time. The sexy Aphrodite was believed to bring good fortune to seafarers. Although the ruins of the city are overgrown, it is easy to pick out the skeleton of the city in this grand setting. We set sail after our hour walk around the site and had a fast sail past the Greek island of Kos to Aspat Koyu, 5 miles west of Bodrum.

View over part of Knidos to the harbour.

The theatre.

Clay amphora for grain storage.

Amazing detail on these lintels.

Even more amazing.

Although Bodrum is quite a lovely but very busy town, the reason we gave Bodrum a miss was the memory of 5 years ago when we sailed out of there with Dave Bruce. To quote Rod Heikell from his Turkish Pilot: “Several discos assail the night air with the latest dance music to keep the novice sailors happy into the late evening. In the height of summer, bars and clubs around the harbour compete for ascendancy in decibels and the incessant beats, reminiscent of a cardiac monitor in overdrive, can go on into the small hours.”

The start of the Meltemi season appeared earlier this year and we had a night of 20-25 knot winds in Aspat Koyu, requiring constant checks of the anchor during the night. An early start the next morning in lighter winds got us to Gumusluk, which is a more sheltered bay and very quaint with its village on the shore. Thanks to strict planning laws, little has changed here for 20 years. Despite the intense housing developments to the north and south, which had earned itself the moniker of the “Concrete coast”. Lots of opportunities for exercising here, with walks up to the ancient ruins of Myndus and the lookout at the top of the hill.

View of Gumusluk bay from the hill.

Gumusluk waterfront restaurants.

Gumusluk village.

Lively restaurants at night.

Here you can keep your feet cool.

The wines of Myndus were said by Athenaeus to be salty in taste because they were mixed with salt water, a practice believed to eliminate hangovers and aid digestion. Others have said it was mixed with salt water because the wine was so bad. The local wines we had at the restaurants here, were in fact most palatable. Gumusluk also has an excellent bakery where we bought delicious spinach and feta pies, baklavas and rice puddings after our walks. After waiting for two days for the winds to subside, we set forth to round the Bodrum peninsula, leave the Carian coast behind and enter the Ionian coast. Our aim was to explore the coast going north to Kusadasi harbour and then visit Ephesus, site of the most impressive ruins in Turkey.

Next to us in Gumusluk: “Young men who sail” – who said 22ft is to small to sail from Australia? Half the length of Esprit.

We will report on the Ionian coast in our next post, around the end of July. Cheers for now!