Croatia: Trogier to Zadar

Esprit’s route in the Adriatic.

After saying goodbye to Reini and Lynne, we spent another two days at Trogier Marina before setting sail to go northwest up the Croatian coast. The weather continued to be wet and cold, proving that at 44 degree latitude north in the Adriatic Sea, summer comes later than our friends who were sailing in Greece and Turkey, were experiencing at 37 degrees north.

Leaving Trogier old town.

Anchored in Vinisce.

Vinisce waterfront.

The first three days provided little in the way of wind, which meant a lot of motoring with fairly average scenery on land of new developments. We stopped at Vinisce, Rogoznica and Razanj. Once we headed up the Luka canal, the scenery improved as we reached Sibenik.

Sailing past Sibenik.

We were now in a massive inland waterway that took us about 10 nm inland to Skradin, which is as far as Esprit could go before a low road bridge. Tickets from the National Parks allowed us to take a ferry another 3 nm into the Krka National Park to the Skradinski Buk waterfalls.

Esprit’s route on the vast waterway of the Luka canal.

Going under the road bridge to Skradin.

Skradin town.

One of the many swans that welcomed us.

With the rains we had over the previous two days, the waterfalls were in full flood and quite beautiful – it reminded us of a mini version of the Iguazu falls between Brazil and Argentina. Back  on Esprit, the wind picked up to 40 knots from the northeast and we spent an anxious night anchored off Skradin town on the Krka river.

Entrance into the Krka Park.

The travertine falls.

More falls.

More falls as we climb higher.

Water everywhere.

Walkways so close, you can touch the water.

At first light the following morning, we ducked downstream to Vrulje to get into the lee of the land. Charlie, a local fisherman came over to suggest we re-anchor further into the cove, as there was an even stronger westerly coming through that evening. The following day, we motored to Zaton village where the anchorage was too narrow for us, so we carried on to Sibenik, and found shelter in a bay south of the town.

Zaton village.

This was a good choice, as we were near a ships chandler where we bought a discharge pipe for the toilet to the holding tank, to replace a blocked pipe. Four hours later and a new passage cut through two bulkheads with a 55mm hole saw, the job was done. We settled down with celebratory drinks, as it was the 15th May, our third anniversary since sailing out of Sydney.

Back in Sibenik, the barrel vaulted cathedral.

We enjoyed Sibenik before motoring to Vodice, seven miles to the northwest. The sun came out at last and we explored the town to buy fruit and veg at the market and groceries, wine and beer at the Tommy hypermarket. The sunny period was short lived as it clouded over the next day, but with a nice 25 knot south easterly to take us 20 nm north to Hramina where we found shelter.

Leaving Sibenik – WW2 shelters for submarines.

The Venetian fortification at the entrance of the Luka canal.

Opposite it, the lighthouse.

What’s wrong with this picture? The new hotel next to the town of Vodice.

Hramina, like most of the towns further north, has a marina for the exclusive use of a charter company. The company at this marina for example, had more than 80 vessels, of which about half were Jeanneau SO 439 monohulls like Esprit, with also smaller and bigger Jeanneau’s. These were in the company of about 20 American Lagoon catamarans.

Lagoon of course, wins the prize for building floating camper vans that least resemble sailing vessels, often challenged by Leopard catamarans. However, the Hummer military combat vehicle aesthetic of Lagoon cats, tip the scales in their favour. Different strokes for different folks.

Hramina peninsula – the sunken Roman town of Colentum at top left.

Colentum partially visible.

Walking up Gradina hill – the church and cemetery below.

View from Gradina to Hramina marina.

View up to the islands.

Fresh calamari paella from the market.

After some good walks around Hramina, a strong south easterly took us swiftly to Zadar, a large city, 22 nm to the northwest. We will spend a few days here to get prices for a new anchor windlass, as the original one sounds as though it will kark it at any minute. So, rather than wait for that surprise and pull up the anchor and chain by hand, let’s be ready with a replacement.

We will keep you posted on developments.

Cheers for now.

Croatia: Dubrovnik to Split.

Due to very little wind, it was a 31 nm motor cruise from Montenegro to Cavtat in Croatia where we checked in with the friendly female harbour master and the police. This necessitated a quick trip to an ATM to draw cash to pay the 663 Kuna ($144) “Safety of Navigation” fees for 2019 and the 1,400 Kuna ($304) “Sojourn Tax Vignette” valid for 30 days. It therefore costs $10/day to sail in Croatia, before any other expenses.

Cavtat from the cemetery on the hill above the town.

Cavtat is a small and attractive town, 12 km southeast of Dubrovnik, built on the ruins of the ancient Greek settlement of Epidaurus. Two days later Reini and Lynne Adelbert from Cape Town flew in from Berlin to join us for a bit of R & R. The 28th April marked my 72nd birthday and we spent a pleasant day starting with coffees at the harbour, exploring Cavtat and finishing off with a BBQ on the boat.

Lynne & Reini on the Cavtat waterfront.

Kids playing on the statue of an old Cavtat luminary.

A local Mini – I owned a number of these beauties in SA!

The following day we caught a bus into Dubrovnik to explore the Old Town, which was bustling with people. The town has been restored since it was devastated in the 1991-2 war and is really worth a visit. With its breathtakingly beautiful streets, squares and buildings, the only downside are the exorbitant prices which take your breath away. After a pleasant walk about, we took the bus back to Cavtat.

The bridge into Dubrovnik old town.

Dubrovnik street scene.

A tragic war reminder on a Dubrovnik house.

A map of the old town – the black dots show the mortar and bomb hits.

Dubrovnik side alley.

Annie, Lynne and Reini on the Dubrovnik town square.

Visits to Zaton Bay, Ston and Kobas followed, before we anchored in Lumbarda for two nights, to bus into Korcula for a visit. Again, we were struck by the well maintained old town and were pleasantly surprised to find the local Asparagus festival happening on the town square. At the festival, young students offered savoury and sweet snacks free of charge, in exchange for a donation to the school.

Broce village on the way to Ston.

Lumbarda church and cemetery.

Lumbarda. The forgotten communist dream: A worker with the obligatory machine gun on his back.

At the entrance to Korcula old town.

Korcula town gate.

Kids following their teacher on a rope.

Marko Polo came from Korcula.

Walking around the town.

Interesting architecture.

The asparagus festival lunch.

Sailing out of Korcula.

A fast 34 nm sail to Vela Luka followed, ending in a robust rain storm which must have worried our guests, before we tied up to a town mooring. Two quiet nights at Duboka Vela followed before we wrapped up Reini and Lynne’s visit at Trogier Marina, 25 km west of Split. They kindly helped us clean the boat and do the laundry, before they flew back to Berlin on the 8th May. The weather could have been better during their visit, but they confirmed that they enjoyed Croatia and their sailing experience.

We now continue our sail north through the Croatian islands and will report again in due course.

Cheers for now.

Albania and Montenegro.

Esprit was re-launched at Cleopatra Marina in Preveza, Greece on Friday 29th of March 2019. She was looking as good as new after the anti-fouling, ding repairs and hull polishing that was done during our absence.

Esprit relaunch.

We motored across to Preveza Marina, a mile away and tied up to one of their new refurbished pontoons for the weekend. Saturday morning was spent buying provisions for the boat for the next three months. The anchor was covered in rust after 4 months of idleness, so I treated it with 3 coats of rust converter in the afternoon, followed up with 2 coats of cold galvanising on the Sunday. We also re-packed all the lockers.

Esprit’s track through Albania and Montenegro.

Mogonisi – no tavernas open yet.

After checking out with immigration at the police, customs and the port police on Monday morning, we set sail in bright sunshine and a light breeze for Paxoi island, 37 nm to the northwest. We anchored in the quaint bay of Mongonisi for a BBQ and celebratory bottle of wine. Two more days of relaxed sailing and overnighting in Platarias and Kalami followed, before crossing from the Ionian Sea to the Adriatic and into Albanian waters where we checked into Albania at Sarande. There was still some snow on the Albanian mountains.

Platarias harbour.

Kalani in the north of Corfu.

A cold wind off the snow capped Albanian mountains,

Albania

Albania has been settled, invaded and occupied by many nations since the 8th century BC. Albania’s history during the 20th century has continued to be turbulent, with characters like President Zogu, who declared himself King Zog in 1928. At the end of World War 2 in 1945, the Communists under Enver Hoxha came to power. Hoxha ruled Albania with an iron fist until his death in 1985. Under his dictatorship 700,000 concrete bunkers were built along the coast and minefields were laid offshore, in case the country was invaded.

A few of the concrete bunkers.

Close up of a bunker.

Cramped quarters below.

Popular movement of disaffection and protest finally led to the election in 1992 of Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, he lost the next election to the Socialist Party (the former Communist Party with a new name). Finally, in 2005 the Democratic Party under Sali Berisha came back to power, shaking off the shackles of Communism. The country is gradually improving despite many problems.

Old systems persevere and the government bureaucracy requires sailors to employ agents at considerable expense at every harbour, to obtain entry and exit permits. Hopefully, this will change in time, bringing more sailors to Albania and growing their tourism industry. After employing Agim Zholi as our agent to do all the paperwork, we were free to go ashore and caught a bus to visit the historic site of Butrint which has been inhabited since the 8th century BC.

A Venetian tower at the entrance, built in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Butrint, a UNESCO world heritage site, offers a remarkable journey through the ages of history and its structures bear testimony to the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman cultures and civilizations which occupied this place at some time in history. Most of these monuments have been discovered by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Ugolini who excavated the site from 1928 to 1939.

The Venetian castle, built in the 14th and 15th century. Reconstructed in the 1930s.

View from the top of the castle.

A chapel dedicated to the god Asclepius – 4th century BC.

Ancient theatre – 3rd century AD.

Roman baths – 2nd century AD.

The baptistery – early 6th century AD. The mosaic floor is covered in sand to protect it.

The mosaic floor below the sand – read the text.

The great basilica – early Christian period, built in the 6th century AD.

After a pleasant afternoon walking through the site, we returned by bus, collected the approved documents from our agent and got back to the boat just as the rains came down for the night.

The following day we set off in bright sunshine for the 20 nm passage to anchor at Palermos. This wide bay is separated in two by a peninsula, which is dominated by one of Ali Pasha’s castles which was built around 1807 to ensure his protection against the French attacks coming from Corfu. This castle, being relatively new, is still in excellent condition, despite it having been used as a storage facility for fuel and armaments during the communist regime. We anchored off the peninsula for the night, after our visit to the castle.

Approaching the castle from the sea.

Plan of the castle.

Castle interior.

Ali Pasha.

The weather prediction for Sunday indicated freshening southerlies, so we set off early and had a fast, cold and wet sail sail to Vlore, 38 nm to the northwest. At this point, the distance to the east coast of Italy is only 39 nm and this narrow gap creates a venturi effect on the wind. We anchored in the lee of a north facing bay and by 6 pm the wind was pumping at 30 knots with the rain bucketing down, requiring a close watch on our anchor. I was also developing a persistent and irritating cough.

Sailing past Dhermi, where Karen enjoyed a music festival last year.

Anchored in the lee of the land at Vlore, just before the wind and the rain came.

There was no point in sitting out the heavy winds and rain the next morning, so we set off for Durres, the main Albanian harbour further north, covering the 56 nm passage at an average speed of 7 knots. We were totally drenched and freezing cold due to the continuous rain following us from the south. We anchored off the harbour wall and consumed a few calming brandies. I woke up the next morning with a serious cold – my first cold in 3 years of sailing!

Beautiful Orthodox church in Durres.

Our new agent in Durres, Ilir Gjergji took care of the paperwork in the record time 0f 2.5 h and pointed us to a chemist for medications, supermarket and fruit and veg shops. It turns out I had contracted an upper respiratory tract infection, which could potentially turn into pneumonia. So, a 5-day course of antibiotics was called for, plus Bisolvon to clear mucus from the chest. The next four days was a blur of continuous coughing and very little sleep.

“Can’t quite place this style” in Durres.

On Wednesday the 10th April (our wedding anniversary) we departed Durres, Albania for Bar in Montenegro. It wasn’t the best anniversary we have had, what with me down below under a duvet, suffering coughing fits and Annie above in the pouring rain and wind, sailing the boat singlehandedly for 55 nm to Bar.

Montenegro.

Over the past few decades this area has experienced considerable turbulence, from major earthquakes in 1979 which devastated Kotor and Budva, to the knock-on effects of the wars in Croatia and Kosovo in 1991-1992, when the former Yugoslavia fell apart.

Bar is the principal port of Montenegro. The city is modern, having largely been rebuilt after the second world war. The officials at the harbour master’s office and the police were pleasant and helpful. We paid EU60 for a two-week vignette – cruising permit. Despite advice to the contrary, the marina is smart and clean with water and electricity included in the steep EU71.50 daily berthing fee.

Entrance to Bar marina.

Bar marina.

Sleeping dogs in Bar.

Annie had by now, also picked up a cold, so rather than duelling banjos, we had duelling phlegm and snot coughing fits. After two days, we headed north to Sveti Stefan, where we anchored off this beautiful little island for another two days of recovery.

Sveti Stefan.

Suitably refreshed, we motored to Budva, a large holiday town and anchored off the marina in the bay. The old town in Budva has been well restored and we enjoyed walking through the narrow streets and up the fortifications. Budva justified a two-day visit before we sailed on.

Budva old town.

Old town street.

Budva new town.

Next stop was the Bay of Kotor, just south of the border with Croatia. This extensive waterway is a cruising paradise and we spent the next 9 days exploring all the little bays and villages along the shore. If you only have a week for cruising in Albania and Montenegro, come and spend it here. Another plus was, we could buy duty free diesel at Porto Montenegro marina before departure to Croatia. At EU0.67/l, we filled Esprit’s tank as well as our 10 x 20l jerry cans.

Esprit’s cruise in the Bay of Kotor.

I attach some of our photos of the beautiful Bay of Kotor – untitled, as most of the place names are unpronounceable. From beautiful mountains, to small islands with churches and even a baby christening.

As a farewell gift, we were sent a dust storm from Egypt, the day before we left Porto Montenegro, This covered the boat in dust before a light drizzle turned the dust into mud. Amazing to see that the southerlies can carry dust this far up the Adriatic sea, but evidently it is not unusual. At least we had the opportunity to wash the boat down in the marina before we set sail for Croatia.

We will report again from Croatia.

 

Australia 2019

New feature! This page now has a widget in the top right corner, where you can enter your email address to receive notifications of our new posts by email. No need to check the blog from time to time for new posts!

At the same time, we have updated some photos on our main pages to freshen them up.


The Qantas flight from Johannesburg landed in Sydney at 15:30 on Sunday 3rd February 2019, where Michelle our daughter was waiting to pick us up and deliver us to our Airbnb in North Curl Curl, 150m from the beach.

View from our deck.

It was a 38-deg C day in Sydney, so after dropping off our gear at Giles and Cecilia Hill’s “Curly Beach Hideaway” we walked down to the beach for a swim. We were joined by Chantale Tremblay for sundowners on our deck overlooking the beach.

The next day, we started exploring some of our favourite coastal walks in this great city and attending BBQ’s at some of ours and the girl’s friends.

Dee Why to Curl Curl walk – Long Reef in the distance.

Dee Why to Curl Curl walk – North Curly beach.

BBQ at Luke and Monika: Chantale, Annie, Monika, Michelle and the chicks.

A busy week with medical and dental check-ups followed while we were trying to get over the jetlag. The weekend saw us catching up with Michelle and Karen who drove down from Newcastle for a birthday party. Michelle shares a neat house with three guys near the beach in Coogee, south of the harbour.

Boat equipment that needed repairs were our Yamaha generator and the two B&G VHF handsets – these were dropped off at their respective distributors. We also spent quite a bit of time looking at apartments in Dee Why, Manly Vale and Freshwater for investment potential in our Self-Managed Super Fund.

Newcastle – Bar Beach

Then we drove up to Newcastle, 160 km north of Sydney, to have a sticky beak at where Karen settled in a flat on “The Hill” with another female surgery registrar. They get on well and are close to Bar beach and about 20 minutes from the John Hunter Hospital. We walked, swam and had lunch before driving back.

The interesting Memorial Walk bridge in front of Karen’s flat.

Karen and Annie on the bridge.

Newcastle = Tattoo Central.

After a swim at Bar beach.

Back in Sydney, we continued our morning walks with Michelle Watson around the Northern Beaches.

Annie, Michelle and Hooper at Harbord Diggers.

Annie at Long Reef.

In a flash the three weeks at Curly Beach Hideaway was over and we moved up to Newport to house sit our friends, Gavin and Debra Birch’s house for the rest of our stay, while they travelled overseas. Their daughter Imogen and partner Beau stayed in the self-contained flat below the house. We enjoyed some great BBQ’s.

Beau, Imogen, Karen, Remi, Michelle and Annie.

The 9.5km walk around Narrabeen Lake.

Our various medical, pathology, skin, dental and eye tests went off without a hitch for both of us and gave us peace of mind for the next couple of years. Annie was concerned about the longevity of my RH titanium knee replacement, which has served me well over the last 15 years, despite lots of walking and climbing mountains. After an examination of the knee and looking at the X-rays, Ed Marel my orthopaedic surgeon, declared it good to go for at least another 5 years of sailing around the world.

The new Northern Beaches Hospital

Ed’s practice is now in the new Northern Beaches Hospital, less than a kilometre from our house – the hospital was completed in our absence. The new roadworks is almost complete with the Warringah Road/Forest Way/Wakehurst Parkway intersections still in progress.

Occupying our minds, was our future crossing of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, relying solely on “Ben & Gerry” our B&G autopilot. The autopilot has played up a number of times in heavy seas, as reported in our previous posts from Papua New Guinea and crossing the Torres Strait. I have become quite adept at fixing the autopilot in emergency situations at sea, but having to spend extended periods of time hand steering, is exhausting. The other worry is losing the boat’s rudder while at sea – there are a number of accounts of this happening on Youtube. The autopilot would be useless in such a case, but a windvane steering system will work in a way.

The Hydrovane system.

So, with some time on our hands, I started researching windvane self steering systems – the mechanical systems that have been in use since before modern electric/hydraulic systems. There are a number of these systems on the market, of which two, the Canadian Hydrovane and German Windpilot systems appeared the most suitable to mount on Esprit’s stern configuration. Both companies were most helpful with their advice, but the prices were quite high (between AUD7,000 and AUD9,000), so we will chew this over for a while.

The Windpilot system.

Another option is to buy an autonomous USA standby CPT autopilot kit for about AUD2,500 as backup for our B&G autopilot and install it, if the B&G breaks down. We plan to winter in Tunisia at the end of 2019 and will therefore have to order a system by November, so that I can install a system during December, if needed.

The CPT autopilot kit.

Annie in the meantime, joined a Yoga group for classes during our stay in Newport, while I kept busy doing some walking – essential after various dinner parties, lunches and a birthday with our Sydney friends.

We visited the Royal Motor Yacht Club to see the new marina extensions, catch up with the marina guys and have lunch with Jayson McDonald, CEO of the club. There were a few more dinner parties to attend to before our departure for Greece on the 27th March. One of these, Ron Watson’s birthday party, was a liquid affair.

Ice cream birthday cake for Big Ronnie, with Ilija and Ashleigh.

Dinner with Karin, Daniel, Annie, Lynn, Kevin & Malcolm.

We took the train up to Newcastle for a sleepover at Karen to say goodbye before our departure. She showed us around Newcastle, including her workplace, the massive John Hunter hospital and introduced us to some of her colleagues at the local food, wine and craft beer festival. We slept most of the way back on the train.

Annie and Karen having a coffee at Merewether beach.

Sunday arvo drinks at the Newport SLS club with Imogen and Beau.

On our last weekend, Michelle and her friend Remi from London came to visit and we said our goodbyes. Karen surprised us with a last visit for two days before we left. The girls have indicated they want to join us in October 2020, for our Atlantic ocean crossing from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. We will keep you posted on developments.

Our next post will be from Croatia. Cheers until then!

Greece, Preveza to South Africa.

Esprit was lifted onto the hard at Cleopatra Marina in Preveza, Greece on the 30th November 2019.

I pondered this name for a marina and then read up on the history of this area. It goes something like this:

Esprit moving onto the hardstand.

After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BC, a civil war was intermittently waged until 31BC, when Octavian’s victory over Anthony, decided the fate of the known world. Anthony had assembled his soldiers and ships here at Actium (Preveza), intending to invade Italy.

Map: The Battle of Actium.

Now, as we know, Mark Anthony had a thing going with Cleopatra (she bore him 3 children), so she brought her Egyptian ships across to support Anthony. History tells us that Octavian’s fleet routed Anthony’s fleet here at the mouth of the estuary. Cleopatra fled, taking her Egyptian ships and Anthony followed, leaving his men and ships to be scattered by Octavian. So, Voila! a name for the marina, exactly where Anthony’s camp was.

Nicopolis, the city that Octavian built to celebrate his victory over Anthony.
The extensive city walls of Nicopolis.

On the 3rd December we departed Preveza by bus for the 5-hour journey to Athens, where the bus promptly got stuck in traffic jams. It gave us ample time to study the graffiti covering every available surface on walls next to the main roads – even the trains were covered in graffiti. The thought occurred to me that if the Greek government levied a tax of 1 Euro on every can of spray paint sold, they could wipe out the Greek national debt within a year.

A flight to Istanbul at 8pm connected us on a flight to Johannesburg where we arrived at midday on the 4th. The next three weeks was a whirlwind of social engagements catching up with family, school and uni friends. My twin brothers arranged visits to Pretoria, live music shows, BBQ’s with friends and a visit to our old yacht club on the Vaal dam, Pennant Nine Yacht Club.

The three brothers, Vanna, Dirk and Peet, at the Upper Deck for music and lunch.
Afrikaans music would not be the same without a concertina.
Starting your BBQ the South African way.
Christmas day: the three Amigos and the three Annie’s.
Property security in Waterkloof, Pretoria
Our mob at Pennant Nine Yacht Club. (The no. 9 pennant means “Come on board for a party”)

After consuming too much food and drink over Christmas, we flew to Cape Town to spend January enjoying our old stamping grounds of years ago and catch up with friends. There were also fellow sailors in Cape Town who took the route from Thailand around the Cape to the Caribbean that we wanted to meet up with. Amongst them, Colin Villiers from the UK and Thant Zin from Burma on Burmese Breeze in Hout Bay.

First, we stayed with Debbie Preller and Jan de Waal in Muizenberg: Above, Muizenberg beach and False Bay.
Historic Muizenberg station. (Muizenberg = Mice Mountain)
St James beach, next door.
With Jim and Gail at the Garage market.
Thant Zin, Annie and Colin on Burmese Breeze in Hout Bay.
More than twenty-two years ago, our girls grew up here on Bakoven beach.
Jim, Reini and Lynne covering Van Morrison.
The Adelbert chorus.

On new year’s eve we got word from Karen that she was stoked to have summited Cotopaxi in Ecuador after five days on the mountain – quote: “the hardest thing I have done”. Cotopaxi is an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located about 50km south of Quito, Ecuador, in South America. It is the second highest summit in Ecuador, reaching a height of 5,897m (19,347 ft). It is one of the world’s highest volcanoes. Since 1738, Cotopaxi has erupted more than 50 times. The last eruption was in 2016.

And here I was, thinking our daughter was a sailor.

Karen on the summit of Cotopaxi.

New Year’s eve was spent with Jim and Gail Petrie. Starting with sundowners at the Brass Bell in Kalk Bay, followed by a BBQ at their lovely house overlooking the harbour, concluding with the arrival of 2019 and Annie’s 64th birthday at midnight. A very happy and liquid affair! New Year’s day meant recovering after a late rise, with a swim at Muizenberg beach. It was rounded off with more sundowner drinks and pizzas at Reini and Lynne Adelbert in Simonstown.

The view from Jim and Gail’s house over Kalk bay harbour.
New Year at Muizenberg beach.

Good weather gave us the opportunity to do a number of walks along the False Bay coast before we drove along the east coast to Hermanus. We stayed at the lovely waterside house of David and Patricia Bruce.

Patricia and Annie.
Dave and Dirk.
Launching the Hobie tri-sailor.
Canoeing with Dave.
Walking party up the mountain.
The Newfoundland dory which Dave built.

The five-day stay was busy, with visits to other friends in the area, walks in the mountains and sailing on Dave’s fleet of water toys. We also went to visit the Greek chapel where we got married in 1987 – sadly now, like everything else, behind security fencing.

The chapel where we were married in 1987.
Dirk, Etna, Torben & Annie.
Skulpiesbaai, Hermanus.
Melissa, Annie & Andrea.

Back in Cape Town, there were numerous dinner parties and catching up with fellow sailors at the V&A and RCYC. After two weeks of staying in Debbie Preller’s beautiful office/flat in Muizenberg as our base, we moved to Jim & Gail Petrie in Kalk Bay (Chalk Bay), a few kilometres to the south.

Surfing lessons in Muizenberg.
Fishermen net fishing from the beach.

Our stay with the Petrie’s was most pleasant with walks along the coast to Fish Hoek, up the mountains above Kalk Bay and listening to music in Constantia.

The pretty Kalk Bay community centre.
View across False Bay from St James.
Cameron Bruce (left) and his daughter Rosie at “Pastis” in Constantia.
View towards Simonstown from the mountain.
Annie and Jim taking a breather at Weary Willy’s.
Beautiful Cape fynbos.
more,
and more.

We took a trip up to Langebaan on the West coast to visit some old friends.

Lunch at Liesl and Jannie – now you know why he always beat me at squash.
Our first bungalow at Langebaan – the name is not ours!

There were outings to Steenberg, to visit the Norval Foundation gallery, the V&A to visit the MOCAA (Museum Of Contemporary African Art) gallery and the Cape Town stadium, constructed for the soccer world cup.

Norval gallery with an Eduardo Villa sculpture.
The Norval sculpture garden.
The MOCAA interior – clever recycling of the old grain silos at the V&A.
From the basement..
To the top.
An installation from Ghana making a statement about military rulers.
The stadium – like Fort Knox: I walked around it and couldn’t find an entrance.
A laid back evening with Jim at Cafe Roux with “The Lift Club” – Seniors rule!

After 10 days of the Petrie’s hospitality, we moved to the deep South to stay with Reini and Lynne Adelbert in Simonstown for another 10 days. We were very grateful for all the hospitality we received in South Africa, but were worried about wearing out the thresholds of the various friends we stayed at.

Breakfast on the Adelbert’s balcony overlooking False Bay.
A Guinea fowl for company.

The Adelbert’s immediately got us into their morning swim routine at the local tidal pool and beach. Very invigorating!

Annie and Lynne inspecting the Glencairn tidal pool.
Walking down to Fisherman’s Beach.

Simonstown has changed very little over the years and still has most of the Victorian buildings intact along the main street, next to the naval base. Although far from the city, it is a relaxed place to live.

The main street.
The ornate British Hotel.

We drove to Somerset West to have lunch with two of my primary school friends. We also had lunch at Constantia Nek with Annie’s old friend, Lanie.

Comrade Ben, Salty Dirk and Doctor Carl.
Lanelle and Annie.

Our last week in Cape Town was filled with numerous farewell dinners with friends. We were sad to leave on Saturday the 2nd of February to fly to Sydney for the following two months.

Jean, Derek, Dave, Nusheen, Thea and Annie.

We leave behind a country with beautiful scenery, large numbers of refugees from the rest of Africa, a huge disparity between rich and poor, but despite this, friendly and hospitable people with a never ending sense of humour.

But sadly, with endemic corruption in the ANC government and bankrupt para-statals following the nine year presidency of Jacob Zuma, we can only hope that the new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, will be able to sort out this mess. From the country that gave you “Apartheid”, comes a new term, “State Capture” – a trite synonym for cronyism and corruption.

We will write again from Australia – cheers for now!

Greece – Galaxidi to Preveza.

Before we set sail back to the Ionian islands on the Monday, Sunday the 28th October turned out to be a most interesting day. Galaxidi was festooned with Greek flags, school children were marching in their school uniforms and families were filling all the eateries in town for lunch. On enquiring what the occasion was, we were told it was Oxi (ohi) day which means “The day of No” in Greece.

Galaxidi waterfront.

During the second world war, on the 28th October 1940, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, through his ambassador in Athens, demanded Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations” or otherwise face war. The Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas allegedly answered with a single laconic word: όχι (No!). This resulted in the Greek nation putting up a spirited resistance to the Italian invasion, which humiliated Mussolini and which according to Churchill, changed the course of the war. The day has since been celebrated as a family day. We enjoyed the festivities and another day in Galaxidi.

Galaxidi – Ships figureheads to support this little roof.

Sailing out of Galaxidi.

On the Monday, a favourable 24 to 28 knot easterly had us steaming along on a broad reach to cover 60 nm out of the gulfs of Corinth and Patras at an average speed of 8 knots, and tie up in Mesolongi at 5pm. We walked into this “ordinary” town the next morning to buy groceries and wine, before motor sailing to Ormos Marathia the next day and then on to Kastos island, the following day.

Sailing back under the bridge.

Mesolongi – architecturally challenged.

A classic Onassis yacht “Christina O” being refurbished in Mesolongi harbour.

Sunny days with very little wind followed, allowing us to explore the numerous bays on the east coast of Meganisi island, before tying up in the main town of Vathi harbour, .

Tied up to the harbour wall in Kastos.

Sundowners at the old windmill in Kastos.

Vathi harbour.

We were next to the Dutch boat Onan and its skipper Nol Schade, who we previously met in Kastos, where we were the only two boats tied up at the harbour wall. Noel has been running charters in the Ionian for the last 20 years and is a great source of information.

Esprit tied up for free in Vathi.

We had the opportunity to top up our water tanks and clean the deck, which had accumulated a lot of dust. After two days we set off to explore the east coast of Levkas and visited the pretty harbours of Sivota, Nidri, Vlikho, Nikiana and Ligia before motoring through the Levkas canal between the island and the mainland.

Approaching the road bridge over the Levkas canal.

Bridge open – a narrow passage.

Worried skipper – about a half metre clear on both sides.

We anchored in Levkas to buy more Vodafone data, and then motored the short distance to Preveza. Here we anchored to wait for the easterly that was predicted for the following day, to take us north towards Corfu.

Anchored off Cleopatra marina – lots of boats on the hard.

The easterly wind provided a good sail as far as Parga on the mainland, where we explored this lovely town before crossing to the island of Paxos (Paxoi) to tie up to the town wharf of Gaios – another gem of a place.

Sailing in to Parga.

Parga town nestled against the hill.

Walk up the hill for a view from the monastery.

The walk down again.

House with a proud gardener – my size of garden.

Parga harbourside.

Until recently, Paxos produced little else except olive oil, for which it it famous. At one time, Harrods in London only sold olive oil from Paxos. Now, tourists and flotilla sailors crowd the island in summer. This is understandable, as the island is beautiful and the locals are very friendly.

Gaios town square from the water.

Gaios harbour from the hill – small Panayia island with the lighthouse in the background.

Town wharf in Gaios – Cath and Allan’s Jeanneau 41DS “Destiny” from Kent in the UK, next to us.

Entrance to the lighthouse on Panayia island off Gaios.

After two days we sailed to Lakka, a town on the north coast, which is picturesque with almost impossibly clear turquoise water over the sandy bottom, below the olive clad slopes of the hills.

Lakka village from our anchorage.

Turquoise water from our anchorage.

Walking through the village.

Sunset walk around the bay.

The short 7 nm crossing to the island of Corfu followed, where we tied up in the fishing harbour of Petriti on the east coast. Locals stopped by to chat and find out where we from. All these villages gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs with long walks during the warm and clear autumn days.

Petriti fishing harbour.

The nights were a different story, as now at 40 degrees north of the equator, we could feel the northern hemisphere winter coming on. Our usual spooning at night, now resembled spoons stuck together with Bostik.

Another 11 nm got us to the main town of Corfu (Kerkira) where we tied up at the Nautical Club of Corfu (NAOK Yacht Club), right next to the old town. Being out of season our berth alongside was free (no water or electricity, but showers, clubhouse and café).

NAOK Yacht Club.

Esprit on the breakwater right next to the old fort of Corfu.

Before setting out to explore the town, there was an urgent issue to attend to: We got word from Lucy Connop who uses our Holden Barina in our absence, that NSW Revenue was after my blood. It has to do with taking democracy seriously and citizen’s obligations.

Australia legislated compulsory voting in federal, state and local government elections in 1924, the fine for not voting is currently $55. Ignore the penalty and the fine goes up to $120. Ignore it again and your driver’s licence and vehicle rego is suspended. All of the above happened in my absence while sailing.

Fail to vote fine: $120

 

But wait there’s more: When I was interviewed for Australian citizenship years ago, I agreed to my rights and obligations as a citizen, which under obligations also listed doing jury duty when requested. Same story – fine for failing to do this is currently $1,650 and by ignoring the penalty, it has increased to $1,755.

 

Fail Jury duty fine: $1,755

It was critical to request an annulment of these fines – I was unaware of it due to my absence from Australia. (I also don’t have that sort of money to throw away) I eventually found an email address for the Sheriff of the Court on the NSW Revenue website and submitted my motivation (and Annie’s) for an annulment of the fines – hold your breath, we will keep you posted.

Corfu is a luxuriant green island, lying close to the Albanian mainland in the north and opposite the Greek mainland to the south. Since 1200 BC Corfu has been colonised by the Corinthians, Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Norman, Sicilian and Venetian rulers. When the French took over Corfu in 1797, they laid out a regular street plan, constructed arcaded buildings and a second Rue de Rivoli, far from Paris. The British occupation began many public works and introduced fruit cake and cricket. Today Corfu reflects many of these influences in its special Corfiot culture. The few photos below, will illustrate this.

Cricket pitch in the middle of Corfu old town

Old town 1.

Old town 2.

Old town 3.

Old town 4.

Old town 5.

Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband was born on Corfu and the author brothers, Lawrence and Gerald Durrell lived here and wrote extensively about their love of this island.

Lawrence Durrell – his younger brother Gerald called “Corfu, the garden of the Gods”

Since I first visited Corfu some 40 years ago, I have also had a passion for the place. Annie and I spent a week here just before kids. The old town is still as beautiful as ever and this time we spent five days here and rented a car to explore the north of the island.

The old fort at sunset.

Entrance to the fort.

View down to the yacht club – Esprit on the breakwater at the left.

View across town – cricket field in the center.

French colonnaded buildings.

Entrance foyer of the excellent Corfu Museum of Asian Art.

Japanese lacquered objects.

Coffee at Paleokastritsa in the north west of the island.

Visiting the olive press at the monastery in Paleokastritsa.

The weather changed overnight on the Thursday and we departed Corfu on Friday the 16th November, beating into a cold and rainy south-easter and swell. After 20 wet miles we anchored in the sheltered bay of Mourtos on the mainland and enjoyed hot showers and stiff Metaxas. In the afternoon we walked into town for Greek coffees – no sooner did we get back to the boat, than the rain came down again.

Mourtos town.

And rain it did – for 3 days and nights! We were well sheltered between an island and the mainland, but offshore, the wind was howling. Eventually on the Monday there was a break in the weather and we had a brisk 46 nm sail down to Preveza, to tie up to the town wharf. It took another two days for this system to blow out before we could explore the extensive inland waters of the gulf beyond Preveza inlet.

Venetian tower in Preveza.

Two fixer uppers, or waiting to be turned into apartments?

We sailed to Vonitsa in the south east and tied up to the town quay for free – water included. The next five days gave us the opportunity to prepare the boat for wintering at Cleopatra marina. I drained the engine and saildrive oil, replaced the oil, fuel and fuel/water separating filters, replaced the water pump impeller and checked belt tensions and starter battery electrolyte levels.

Vonitsa causeway to chapel on a little island.

The Chapel.

Autumn view into the gulf.

Also managed to clean the dinghy inside and out and flush the outboard engine, while Annie did the laundry and sorted out the boat generally.

Out she comes.

Friday, November the 30th came around and it was time for Esprit to be lifted out of the water, for a four month rest. We had been sailing for the past 22 months, since leaving Cairns in northern Queensland, and having seen some amazing places and meeting some very interesting people, we were also ready for a break on land. We will spend two months in South Africa and two months in Australia, before continuing our cruising in April 2019.

Parked in the marina by a very competent crew.

View from Esprit’s deck.

Cleopatra Marina stores a 1,000 boats in their shipyard for winter, the two neighbouring marinas also store around a 1,000 boats each. Quite a business.

Greece has been great and in the four and a half months of cruising here, we have covered 2, 034 nautical miles (3, 767 km) –  see our cruising map below.

Greece cruise 2018 map.

Until later, cheers for now!

Annie & Dirk

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.