Friday, November 7, 2008

Here in Finike

Hi again.
We are back in communication after a couple of weeks travelling along the coast eastward toward Finike,where we are safely tucked in for the winter and starting the endless list of jobs to be done.
These weeks have opened our eyes to Turkey and what a fantastic place it is - from Marmaris, where we checked in, we went on down to Fethiye where we anchored and met up with several old friends on route to winter a bit further east than Finike. We had a great time catching up with Phil& Pauline (Moyle Rose) who we last saw in Nidri back in July and Dick and Ginger (Alchemy) who we haven't seen since Lagos in Portugal.
We liked the town of Fethiye and joined a walk run by a walking group in the town. It was a fantastic day out in the mountains. We thought it would be a 2 hour ramble looking for wild mushrooms but it turned out that it is a serious walking group. Our trip started by bus at about 9am and climbed into the mountains for about an hour where we started out on forest logging tracks. We passed through a small village where we were all welcomed by a man on his porch. He directed us to the ripe pomegranates, walnuts, grapes and figs growing near his house and round the village and told us that we were welcome to feast as we passed through. Like a swarm of locusts we all did. Typical of the generosity to visitors. The walking party was mostly made up of local Turks with one expat and 4 of us boaties. The Turkish walkers explained things to us as we walked in various amounts of English. The guide also spoke English and was a mine of information, finding mushrooms and edible berries and explaining the older houses and watermills and trout farms that we passed as well as picking us wild herbs for the cooking pot, and pointing out plants like St Johns wort that can be made into tea to heal various disorders.

Lunch was spent in a small terraced field where the local children shyly brought a bucket of pomegranates and another of apples for us as a gift from the village.
Most of the walk was along ancient Lycian paths dating back as much as 1200 BC and still very walkable. The scenery was absolutely magnificent and the scenes of the farmers wives boiling up pomegranate molasses in great drums on open fires was as real as it gets. No tourist shows here. We were probably the first walkers through some of these places for months, and you certainly would not get there by car, unless you were seriously lost.
The day finished with a thunderstorm ( we were not prepared for rain and certainly not at altitude) but the guide arranged the mini buses to find us at a convenient point and transport us to a village cay (Turkish Tea) house where we had cay with the local men folk - the women are always working and too busy for cay.

Dick and Ginger invited us on another walk from Fethiye, which was also very memorable as we started out through the old town of Kaya Koyu, which was forcibly but peacefully deserted by the Greek inhabitants at the time of the Turkish and Greek resettlement program that effectively was the end of the civil unrest after the first world war. The village was not small, consisting of almost 1000 houses and the churches and supporting industry that goes with it.

Despite some effort by the government, it was never resettled by the Turks and fell into ruin. From Kaya Koyu, we continued over the hill following a trail but lost it toward the beginning of the decent to Olu Deniz, the most photographed bay or lagoon in Turkey. Stunning views but without a path to follow we had a serious 2 plus hour bush-whacking descent to the bay. Scratched and tired it was a delight to find cold beer and food despite the tourist prices and attitude.

The anchorage at Fethiye is basically bombproof and in years before marinas sprung up in these parts, Fethiye bay used to accommodate up to 50 liveaboard yachts for the winter. We have met several with fond memories of the place, but none so far that still free anchor for the winter, as the attraction of wifi and hot showers are too appealing these days.
From Fethiye we moved on with an overnight stop at the bay to the east of Kas. We didn't go ashore and the next morning after a scrub of the bottom of the boat saw a gentle sail to Kekova Roads for another hiking appointment with Alchemy.
It turned out to be a great walk through Aperlae, a sunken city of about 500 BC and on up through the ruins and tracks. And on up and on up and on up. After about 3 hours climb we found ourselves in another ancient site of Apollonia at the top of a high hill. Pillar tombs dating from the same period, and sarcophagus tombs dotted the landscape dating to as new as 400AD.

A ruin of a Byzantine church stood next to a more or less complete amphitheater, and we sat on the even older walls of the acropolis and ate a well deserved picnic. It took 2 1/2 hours to descend the trail and we were all quite tired and commenting on just how much water you need to take on a long walk even now that we are almost in November. Kekova Roads was almost
too beautiful to tear ourselves away from. However we did manage to move from the outer western bay ( which was bomb proof anchoring) to the double protected inner harbour or bay of Ucagiz . Nuclear Bomb proof. We met up with another boat Dawn Chaser (nicknamed Aubergine by Mehmet in the restaurant) and Moyle Rose (Courgette) and ate out. To our surprise
simply having a shared beer in Ibrahim's restaurant resulted in a free bread delivery the next morning to the boat and having eaten there we got bread for the following 2 days and I would bet every day if we had stayed. We broke out the canoes and toured the inner bay and the remains of another sunken city of unknown age and name. It is still hot enough to canoe in swim shorts only all day. Time was ticking and we had heard on the grapevine that the social club at Finike marina was having it's grand reopening the following night, and as it will be a main focus of
our social activities this winter we were keen not to miss the evening and the opportunity to meet some of our winter neighbours. It was tough to leave Kekova, but it is only 20 miles from Finike and we hope to visit during the winter if the weather allows, harbour rot permitting!.

Day 1 of harbour rot : check in at 4pm, buy supplies and cook for pot luck supper at 6pm for opening of Porthole club, meet Tuncay the marina manager and lots of other liveaboards.

Day 2 : 10am meeting of liveaboards to discuss winter activities and plan a timetable. Haul 3 months of laundry to the lady that does it with a smile. It is too much and too bad to do by hand! Morning swim in pleasant but chilly water, wash boat and dinghy and canoes with first free fresh water for months - what a luxury! First Turkish lessons with Tuncay this evening
and then out to try out a local restaurant -bill £15 for 2 !!

Day 3: Visit to fruit and veg market for several kilos of supplies and practice some basic Turkish, morning swim a bit chillier, retrieve laundry all beautifully air-dryed and folded - our clothes think they are in the wrong home now. More boat cleaning. Dinner was a spit-roast chicken from town (about £2.50!! ) and salad from market purchases. Games evening at Porthole, learned to play Okey a game with tiles we'd seen locals playing in the square.

Day 4: A bit shocked, as there was nothing in the diary, so got on with removing the main sail and stacker-pack (mainsail cover) for repairs - a b***h of a job involving a lot of heaving and grunting. Morning swim a bit chillier. Making the most of the late autumn sunshine - we all know
this great weather has to end sometime, but when?? Sorted out a better passarelle (plank to get on and off the boat as we are backed into the berth), that we can raise when we are off the boat to avoid the local cat population taking residence -they've already tried but we were quick
to evict.

Day 5: Morning swim - really chilly today, we could see the fresh water from the rivers (and previously the mountains) laying on top of the sea water, without any chop to mix the layers together the cold fresh water lies on the surface. To warm your feet, you can tread water as 1 metre down it's much warmer. After that, all day mending the stacker pack with the sewing machine in the cockpit - repairing and patching the chafed parts and making improvements so it
doesn't tear again. The sewing machine is worth its weight!

Day 6: - a walk in the mountains for a rest!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Marmaris, Turkey

Just a quickie,
We've arrived at Marmaris, Turkey and managed to check-in despite it
being Friday night and Saturday morning. We were sent all over the place
by well meaning people, and have been rubber stamped by health
department (no death or contagious disease on board), immigration for
visa (€15 each), port police, customs, harbour master (€10). The first
stage is to buy the transit log from the Chamber of Shipping (€50). This
has just moved from the town shopping mall to the cruise port (where
customs and port police are based). Staff in the marina, liveaboards and
the harbour master all sent us to the wrong place!!
It was weird that we were free to wander around town on Friday night,
technically without a visa or passport stamp, as they were all closed.
Everyone is very relaxed about the formalities. Turkish people
everywhere are helpful polite and chatty, with a genuine interest in who
you are and where you are from. There's a fair amount of hussle on the
seafront to compete for restaurant and carpet business, but not
menacing, just funny and time-consuming as you have to chat to every
restaurant owner.
Netsel marina is being very well run by Charlie, the previous manager of
Finike, where we are headed. So that bodes well for us later. He is
really encouraging a liveaboard community, or family as he calls it, in
the marina. For convenience, price and access to the town, theres no
comparison with Marmaris Yat Marine 8km out of town, with just the one
restaurant to choose from. We went along to the end of season liveaboard
BBQ and met a few people who are spending the winter in Netsel.
The weather is really warm (27 degrees) sunny and no wind. Anchored out
in the bay off the 'sunset strip' of nightclubs we thought we might not
get much sleep, but it all closed down by 1am which isn't bad for a
Saturday night.
Off tomorrow to visit another nice anchorage on the way east.
Steph and Stu xx

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Symi and Rhodes

Not much to say we motored all the way to Symi and stopped overnight in
a quiet anchorage on the southern end of Symi. The monastery that
dominates the bay thoughtfully stopped donging it's bells at about 10pm,
unlike Scario last year, when they went every 15 minutes all through the
It looks like stunning scenery to explore, but we have to leave it to
next year as we wanted to truck along closer to Turkey in case the
weather slows us down.
At the moment we are enjoying the start of this regions 'Indian Summer',
30 degrees in the sun, but chilly enough for socks as soon as the sun
goes down around 6.30pm.
Today we are in Rhodes town, in the harbour. We walked for hours around
the old town, admiring the fortifications of the Knights of St John of
We filled up with diesel and for half an hour had to listen to the
diesel man's propoganda for why we shouldn't go to Turkey and why
Greece, particularly Rhodes, is a much better place - despite the fact
that he admitted that the marina is still under construction in true
Greek fashion, with no end in sight. According to him no-one goes to
Turkey anymore because it is so expensive, and their tourist numbers
have plummeted. Whereas, he said, Rhodes had 6 million visitors this
year. On questioning, he admitted that it had 11 million last year, but
he thought this was to do with the elections !!! Bless him....... He
said Turkey has no history, or culture, or castles, or churches, and the
diesel is dirty and full of water, so what a good thing we were filling
up here. If only they could finish the marina, we could stay !!
The buildings in Rhodes town are splendidly restored by the Italians
during their occupation. The remnants of Turkish occupation, including
the fantastic original mosque, are unfortunately struggling to find the
cash to start renovation. No doubt all those applications for EU funding
go astray in the Greek post!

Port police and passport control willing, we are due to check out of the
EU tomorrow and will be on route to Turkey. Turkish lessons have started
on board. Drastic measures are needed to make the strange words stick you can see in the photo.....
We'll be less communicative for up to a couple of weeks as we get out of
range of the Greek phone system, and establish ourselves in the Turkish
The international phone ( the 00 ) will still work if you need
to call.
Love to all
Steph and Stu xx

Kos and Nisyros

Well here we are motoring again but now along the Turkish coast toward
Simi, (Greece). We had a few more days in Kos, Kos of the weather! We
had our night in the marina but it was about to explode with 50 more
charter boats so we went to the town quay, also administered by Kos
Marina. Lower charges but less facilities and just as friendly. Still
tucked up into the corner we felt no effect of the blow from the north
and enjoyed our 3 night stay. The first morning we were awoken by a
graunching sound at about 8:30am. We recognised it immediately as a
crossed anchor with our neighbour, who was leaving. He seemed to have
dropped it about 2 boats to windward. Once it was untangled which took
him some time he kindly dropped it again three boats to leeward which
meant it got caught on another mooring and we then had to untie and
relay. Such is life on crowded quay walls. Just after settling we got a
thoroughly nice new neighbor. A Turkish 55 foot Gulet, with Captain
Hicko and his wife, Belkin. They were lovely and offered to take us in
their hire car to the hot springs and then delivered us on another
evening to their favourite restaurant in the ethnic Turkish village of
Platani a few kilometers out of town. We were looked after very well by
his old friend Serif and family, (Serif is the name of the restaurant)
and the food was exceptional. An English couple, Trevor and Amanda, gave
us a lift back to the town late that night, despite being well out of
their way. It seems the Turkish friendliness we heard of from everyone
is infectious, and the local Greek islands seem to benefit from it as
well. It gives us a good feeling about our decision to winter in Turkey.
Hicko gave us tips on good wine and an insight into Turkish culture. Our
decision to stay a few days in Kos was assisted by the need to stock up
before leaving the EU. Both fuel, alcohol and 'Piggy' (Greek make of
vaccum-packed bacon) will be more expensive in Turkey. Kos proved a good
stop. Rhodes will be bigger, but Kos is small enough to get around and
research on the bikes and the main supply shops are easy to get
to,although some are a little way out of town. LIDL featured as number
one on the hit-list for beer and spirits (some on order from friends in
Turkey). Unfortunately they didn't have enough beer for my liking so we
went back down the road to Carrefour where they matched price for beer
and had more stock. We piled it into a taxi and got back for €10. Wine
came from "B" supermarket (pronounced something like Vasileithis), an
independent local chain who have a wholesale division supplying
restaurants. Not posh wine but it won the taste test of the evenings
before and they delivered all 140 liters in less than an hour for free.
We added 3 kg of 'Piggy' to the order at very reasonable prices. Total
stores taken on weigh about a quarter of a ton but they have been stowed
away in all the corners and we are barely aware of their existence.
(To those who follow- if you want to stock up here and need
directions,email us )

Except for fuel we are ready to leave Greece but there are yet more
islands to explore before then.

We left Kos and headed for the 17 mile sail to the volcano island of
Nisyros. On route we stopped and anchored off the natural hot spring on
the east coast. In settled weather you can anchor in 4 to 5m on sand and
rock about 50 m off the beach (36 deg 50.6 N 27 deg 19.1 E - but don't
blame me if you go aground using those co-ordinates without looking
where you're going!) A quick swim into the beach is rewarded by
simmering in the sulphurous brine inside the rough stone wall, where you
can suit yourself how hot you like it by moving toward or away from the
hot source spring flowing across the gravelly beach.Once we were part
boiled a plunge into the sea and a swim back to the boat soon wakens you

Nisyros the volcano stands about 550m high so when we got the bikes out
we knew it would be hard going. The road to the edge of the caldera
winds up at a punishing gradient for about 5 km to the nearly deserted
village of Emborios. We visited the natural sauna just under the village
but after a 5k climb in 30 degrees we didn't feel the need to partake.
From the edge of the caldera it's a 7 minute free ride downhill into
the crater. It was difficult to determine if the heat at the bottom was
from the boiling and steaming ground or the brake disks on the bicycle
but the sulphurous smell does give it away. Its quite a spectacle, both
from above, and when you walk across the crater floor to the sound of
hollow echoes, hissing steam and bubbling from underfoot. We were lucky
that the 2 tourist coaches had just left, so we had the whole crater to
ourselves, though we were careful not to tread where there were no other
footsteps! Don't forget to wear some shoes, you won't get far without
them without having sizzled feet. After a well earned drink at the snack
bar it was up the dirt road which ascends the opposite caldera wall. It
was a grueling and hot climb for about an hour but once over the ridge a
20 minute non-stop full-on dirt road downhill, exhilarating! No sleeping
policemen to slow you down although a dozy goat may have the same
effect. Even Steph (more conservative than me) managed to overtake 3
motorbikes and a car on the way down.
We came across the 'paleokastro', a castle from the 7C BC with well
preserved polygonal walls - massive shaped bolders that interlock with
each other making them very resistant to attack and earthquake-proof.
The fact that you can wander around this castle and clamber up the
massive staircase to the ramparts
any time of day or night, with unrestricted access, is one of the great
things about Greece now. In 5 years time the EU money will have been
spent on admission kiosks, handrails and special lighting effects.
You'll be paying twice over! After the castle, just a 5 km mainly flat
road back to the start for a well earned beer. Total cycle about 30
kilometers along and nearly as many vertical ones.

So today we are off east again. Force 5 north-west wind forecast, but
alas, 3 knots from north, south, east, and west with odd little
thunderstorms. The iron sails are doing the work once again but in abut
6 hours we will be on Simi. Perhaps we will get the bikes out?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Leros and Kos

We returned to south Leros on hearing the news that friends, Andy and Carla and their two blond cherubs, Mia and Ellie (6 and 4 ish ) on No Limits, were in town. We last saw them two years ago, but have kept in touch ever since. They are a lovely family of long-term liveaboards and have a gorgeous boat, testament to Andy's skill as a master craftsman. After spending 2 days with them catching up, and comparing teak deck improvements, it was time for both boats to move on. Such is the life of wandering cruisers, that we part company never really knowing when our paths with cross again. Last year we missed them by 1 day, as we were both committed to picking up visitors.

We can't comment much on Leros as we only went ashore at Xerocambos on the south of the island, and the only shop in the village was closed, most of the village asleep. We shared what we had between the two yachts and a good time was had by all.

Now we are in Kos, in the marina, enjoying the luxury of all inclusive water, electric and wifi. Clean showers and exquisite facilities, and lovely helpful Greek staff who are as accomodating as possible, but might have to turf us out into the wind and sea tomorrow as they have 50 charter yachts coming and have no space for the likes of us.

Before we're evicted, we are trying to stock up on beer, wine and pork products before we hit Turkey....... our advance guard inform us that the Turkish government have decided to heavily tax alcohol to discourage the faithful from going astray!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Patmos, Island of Revelations

As usual the forecast was full of wishful thinking SW5 and we got....ESE 6 we were intending to visit a small almost uninhabited island of Levitha ESE of Ios. The wind had other ideas, so we headed just slightly north to Leros, the next nearest island with a suitably lit entrance, as our change of plan meant 63 miles instead of 30 and that we would then be arriving after dark.

It was a cracking blast to windward, but arriving at the base of 2 large cliffs with breaking seas at the dark entrance with no moonlight was a bit hair-raising as it is difficult to judge distance even with GPS and radar. Matters were made worse by a large military patrol boat, which decided to hang around the narrow entrance as we tried to navigate through. He moved so slow that ultimately we turned and aimed straight at him rather as that seemed preferable to the sound of crashing sea meeting rocks. We got in and anchored without any incidents, but didn't get a rewarding nights sleep as there was a stinky big ferry at 2am, and just as you got off to sleep again, a second ferry at 4am. Its not just the sound of the engines nearby, but its the sound of them dumping hundreds of meters of anchor and chain as they manoevre onto the quay.

Of again the next morning, as the forecast was for southerlies, we decided to go north to Patmos, further away from our winter goal.

We tied on the town quay at Patmos, and joined the throngs from the two cruise ships to climb the beaten cobbled track to the monastery and church of the Apocalypse, both serving to remind us that John the Divine put his head on rock in a cave and heard the story of the end of the world. He dictated these divine words to a disciple and this is the book of Revelations. Still, its a cheerier place than this would suggest, presumably everyone is just enjoying themselves while they still can!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ormos Katapola, Amorgos - The Big Blue

1st October 08
Leaving Ios, we motorsailed in light winds to Amorgos, where most
businesses are called 'The Big Blue' - pensions, hotels, bars, cafes -
all testament to the Luc Besson film 'Le Grand Bleu', filmed around
here. The film was about 1 hour too long for our liking, but did have
spectacular scenery and lots of fit tanned men in small pants as it's
about free-diving.
Our Amorgos experience was less blue and sunny but just as spectacular,
and is one of the islands we would definitely like to come back to. We
took the hour long climb to the 'hora' - this literally means 'the
place' but refers to the main town of an island, often built high on a
hill to avoid the marauding Turks and pirates. This was beautiful in
itself, but we then walked over the back of the hill down and up to the
9th C Horoviotissa monastery glued on a rocky perch halfway up a 500m
cliff. We arrived 5 minutes after closing time, so didn't benefit from
the three remaining monks' hospitality of tea, lemon liqueur and (non)
Turkish Delight.
The view however was to die for, and the walk up to it would nearly
finish some people off, even if they drove to the start of the path.
Above the monastery we found another walking track, and being without a
map or compass, and not wanting to retrace our steps to the hora, we set
off on what we thought might be a 35 minute walk to the saddle of the
hill, followed by a short downhill back to the hora. However, you know
what it's like, the further you go, the more committed you are to that
path, even though you can clearly see a big mountain in the way, and the
path is still going up it, with the monastery disappearing behind us.
Suffice to say 3 hours later we arrived back in the hora, having only
seen 2 other people and lot of goats, who all looked at us like we were
mad. Only another hour downhill back to the boat after that. The total
days walking time was about 6 hours. The thing about Amorgos is that
there is nothing there, no restful little bars or villages or even
houses on the route. Just rocks and goats, and all the better for it.
If you anchor in the bay, watch out for the 3am ferry, who needs most of
the bay to drop his two anchors and back onto the quay. You don't want
to wake up to find him alongside your boat, so anchor as close in to the
beach as you dare. We moved onto the quay for our monthly water fill
and diesel top up. We needed our transit log stamped for the month, so
visited the port police whose office had a balcony right over the quay.
However he had not the slightest interest in taking money from us or
stamping papers. The Turkish charter boat alongside us, however, was
hailed and requested to produce all papers and passports.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ormos Manganari, Nisos Ios to Santorini and back again.

The Rough Guide has a bit of a downer on Ios as an island, all
backpackers, clubbers, nudists and troublesome sorts. We anchored in the
bay at the far south of the island in a wide sandy bay, well protected
from the wind and seas that are blowing down the sides of the island.
There are no naked ladies here, much to Stuart's disappointment - its a
little chilly for that. There was a charter boat with 8 naked Poles, I
mean Polish men, so that was alright entertainment. There are no
nightclubs here, just sand beach, blue clear sea, 2 tavernas (closed),
and a lot of peace and quiet.
As we could see the famous island of Santorini (Nisos Thira) from the
anchorage, 12 miles away, it would be a shame not to go there on this trip.
So we set off downwind this morning in a F5-6, with the Captain weeping
about how much ground we would be losing by going south, but a jolly
nice sail we had. Unfortunately, since Thira is a volcano with a sunken
central caldera (crater), this means it is 300m deep virtually up to the
shoreline, meaning that anchoring and mooring options are limited. The
central island has a little port and quay but is apparently home to big
bold rats that don't think twice about coming on board. So we thought it
would be a jolly idea, to sail around the caldera for the lark, take
pictures, avoid the tourists - most of whom had arrived on one of the
five cruise ships moored in the bay, and sail back to Ios for the night,
as it is the next closest island. Well it all went to plan until I lost
my hat overboard. In trying to retrieve it before it sank, we gybed and
broke a part of the mainsheet traveller, not a vital safety part, but
does help to facilitate good sailing trim, and broke a sail slider too.
But the wind and sea had got up to F6 gusting 7 and we want to go
directly upwind and arrive in Ios before dark, to the unlit anchorage.
Well we sailed, shook, rattled, rolled, and pitched 20miles through the
water to make just 12 miles upwind over the ground. It was long and
tedious slog, made worse with the Captain moaning 'Why did we come here?
I knew this would happen!' Anyway we are safe and sound back at Ios,
and there are no other boats, tourists or naked people. It is chilly and
windy outside, but 21 degrees inside the boat with a hot chilli con
carne on the stove to warm us up after a long day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mirsini, Nisos Skhinousa

A challenge to you Google Earthers...... 36 53'.7N 25 32'.6 E
This sleepy idyllic bay was home to a couple of cruising yachts for the
In the morning all boat crews were up in the tiny Chora, enjoying
coffees or frappes (cold coffee with ice) in the pristine kafeneio with
polite service. This tiny island has only recently been 'discovered' by
a few hardy tourists and walkers. Out of three tiny local food shops,
not one of the many lounging locals or staff responded to my polite and
cheery kalimera-sas (good morning), which by Greek standards is just
plain rude. Too many tourist €'s have passed by them this season, and
what with the weather closing in on their bleak landscape they were not
a cheery bunch. Shame on them, it is otherwise a delightful place. I
bought some eggs in what has to be the smelliest shop from the smelliest
and grumpiest old woman I've met to date. Hopefully a winter with only
their own company will sharpen their enthusiasm for visitors of the new


26 September 08
A short but satisfyingly breezy sail to Naxos, we anchored in the
shelter of the man-made breakwater. We spent the evening pottering
around the old town, another warren of alleys and arches within the
fortified walls. It was a Venetian duchy for 300 years and the houses
surrounding the old church at the top of the hill still are marked with
the coat of arms of the Venetian families, some of whose ancestors still
live there. One ground floor was given over to an antique shop, so we
could see the internal timber ceilings/floors. Four marble pillars
supported the ceiling, recycled from the former citadel that the
Venetians replaced.
We were looking forward to exploring further the next day, not least
because this is the island of Dionysus, the god of wine, and we were
hoping to taste some examples with a view to stocking up.
Unfortunately, while we were discussing our plans for the day, the port
police representative came alongside with much whistle-blowing and told
us we must leave because 'no anchoring is allowed here'.
We politely told him that our pilot book and charts show it as an
anchorage, but he said ' It is a new rule! Only for swimming now! If you
want to stay you must go to the marina!' Without a doubt he is in the
pay of the now privatised marina, which having empty berths was keen to
encourage yachts not to anchor. Along with two other yachts treated to
the same instruction, we all left, refusing to pay for something we
don't need, and so depriving the tavernas and shops of Naxos of the
tourist €'s from at least 8 people. We all disappeared to other islands,
which was probably not what the port police/marina had in mind leaving
the 400m long unbuoyed bay, sorry, 'swimming area' to the 1 or 2 brave
souls paddling on the beach.


24 September 08
Fortune smiled on us, and the wind guided us straight to Paroika on
Paros. The wind died briefly when we said, 'Oh this is good, we're
pointing at Paros', but it filled in again shortly after.
The entrance to the port has some very large and obvious offlying rocks,
and some not so obvious below the water. In 2000 a ferry hit the large
obvious ones at night in a gale, which sunk the ferry and 500
passengers. The miraculous rescue of over 400 of the passengers was
entirely down to the local boat and fishing community. It is thought
that the ferry was on autopilot and didn't take account of the current.
This utter arrogance and incompetence, caused the loss of around 80
souls. When you see this huge rock in the daytime it beggars belief that
this accident happened so recently.
We anchored in the top of the bay, expecting 4 days of northerly gales.
We extracted the bikes from the forecabin, rowed them ashore in the
dinghy, assembled them in front of a taverna and set off to explore.
We'd been recommended a beautiful place, called 'The Butterfly Valley',
home to zillions of pretty butterflies. First we took wrong turn and
mounted an impossibly steep hill, which infuratingly only led to a
property development. The hill was so steep that it hurt to walk up, let
alone push a bike up it. Realising our error, we descended carefully and
slowly and continued along the main route, to find numerous signs
guiding us to Butterfly Valley. Up and over another steep long hill and
down into the valley, we found the entrance and the sign on the securely
locked gate in simple explanatory terms - End of Season - No
Butterflies! Shame they didn't put a sign on one of the 5 or 6 road
signs at the bottom of the hill!!! Grrr...
Anyway we had a great cycle offroad-downhill back to town. 2 hours up,
10 minutes down.
The town is a fascinating warren of arches and paved alleys, tavernas,
trinket shops, tourist tat, more than an average number of shoe shops,
and some stunning craft shops. Despite the tourists it is a lovely town
and some supplies are still delivered by donkey from the hills, and old
men sell their farm vegetables in the central square. After a walking
shoe and bikini upgrade in the end of season sales we packed the bikes
back into the boat, much to the entertainment of the tourists enjoying
sundowners at the taverna.
By morning the forecast had been downgraded to force 4-5 from the north
and the captain was twitchy to be on the move.

Finikas, Nisos Siros

22 September 08
Anchored off the small town of Finikas on the west coast of Siros, many
of the charter boats also here attempting to anchor and tie back to the
outer quay wall. Unfortunately some of them forget the bit about
dropping the anchor, which kind of messes up the plan when reversing
onto the quay. One boat dropped his anchor at the right time, but it
jammed and only got as far as the waterline, where it dangled uselessly,
however they still continued to tie up ignorant of the lack of grip at
the front of the boat. Linda and Martin (Marlin) have coined a phrase
for charter boats - the 'Oh my God's' - which is what they are often
saying as they cock-up their parking procedure. Well the Oh my Gods here
in the Cyclades are the worst we've seen in Greece to date. The German
skipper in Kithnos told us that it is impossible to fail your practical
yachtmaster in Germany (as it probably is in UK) as the training centres
are financially driven and examiners are discouraged from failing the
incompetents. That, and a lack of experience aside from 2 weeks
chartering per year, leads to some spectacular cock-ups, especially when
they don't have to fix the dents and scratches themselves, although they
do lose up to €1000 deposit, and many charter companies employ a diver
to check the underwater surface of the yacht on its return to base.
Feeling quite safe away from the quay wall, at anchor away from the
oh-my-gods, we left Matador to take the bus to the other side of the
island to Ermoupolis. This lovely old town is in 2 parts, the orthodox
settlement on one hill, and the catholic settlement on another. Of
course this meant a steep climb to the church at the top twice over -
neither of which were open in typical Greek fashion.
However it was fun just to wander through the back streets around the
neo-classical buildings and shipowner mansions in various states of
collapse or repair.
Back on board the forecast was gloomy for southeasterlies - the
direction we want to go, but there are so many islands around that we
decided to head out in the morning and point the boat for the best
sailing and then see where we would end up .

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Andros and Kithnos, North Cyclades

We left Skyros a couple of days ago, doing 2 legs to get to Andros 60
miles south. We would have done it in one hit but there was no wind the
first day so we motored 35 odd miles to Petries on Evvia and the next
day 45 miles on down through the gap between Evvia and Andros, Stenon
Kafirevs, synonymous with bad seas and high winds when the meltemi blows
hard - bad enough to lay up the shipping in anchorages when it's bad.
Still we were coming south, so down wind in theory. However, the weather
which we fought northward for weeks and weeks has decided to take a gap
week and after having already waited some days for north winds and
fearful of getting behind schedule we were pressing on in a forecast
south-westerly. Should have known better. The wind blew from the south
lightly as we motored south and as we entered the channel with 20 miles
to go it blew 35 knots up through the channel creating a short steep sea
and an adverse current. It was a hard wet motor-sail and it bit hard
into my plan to try to get to Turkey without refueling again. We have
about half a tank left so I will be surprised if we manage it but we'll
see. Gavrion, the port in the north west of Andros was very pleasent.
Tourism has had some impact but not destroyed it's natural charm. If you
are anchoring here take note of the warning in the pilot to keep clear
of the ferry turning area. They need a lot of the bay, as they steam in
at full speed pointing directly at the quay. Then it's hard to port and
anchors away at about 10+ knots, handbrake turn onto the quay. Thats if
it's south winds. North is another game and suffice to say that if you
are in the way you'll have a ferry-shape hole in the boat. The quay was
free although we were expecting a visit from annoyed police after some
fishing boats tried to stop a ferry tying up for the night at 2 am and
the police had to attend to convince them that whether they wanted it to
or not the ferry would tie up and they could be blocked in till it went
or they could move right now. It was a bit obvious that they would lose
the battle and they all went off fishing a couple of hours early,
leaving the police and ferry Captain stamping up and down the quay. Good
time for a low profile.
The next day we hired a jeep. It sounds extravagant but (1) you can't
cycle round this island as it's too hilly and (2) We wanted a quad bike
but there aren't any, (3) A scooter was the cheap option and fun but
after finding George, the scooter man, by wandering the backstreets.
Stepping over the dog lying in a slimy puddle of God knows what at the
gate to what at first smelt and looked like a goat pen, but was in fact
a pig-sty, full of scooters in various states of terminal decline, I
decided that a car might be a safer option. "George" was anyway not too
bothered, as he discussed some sort of repair to a cylinder barrel in
his hand, with someone who looked like the missing goat herder. I
suspect the scooter brakes, and insurance offered, were probably about
as reliable as each other.
The car was upgraded to a 4WD Jeep FOC, old but great fun and very
smooth for it's age. We had a great day buzzing about the island with
its quirky leftovers from Venetian control. Pigeon towers and mile upon
mile of strange dry stone walling which seems to have developed into an
The next day saw a forecast of north F4. There was no stopping us, thats
good for the challenge. Great sail, genoa only, down-wind, 25-35 knots.
A bit more than the forecast F4 and a bit rolly but 35 miles in 5 hours
with a total of 1 engine hour, most of which was used on a
buttock-clenching extraction from alongside the quay wall, with 35 knot
gusts pinning us on. We didn't touch anybody and got out cleanly with
just a little concern from the surrounding boats.
Now we are in Kithnos. Anchored for 2 nights but the weather is closing
in with rain and wind and we have today come in to the town quay of
Loutra for a more relaxed atmosphere, and are now enjoying the luxury of
the first plug-in electricity since April in Italy. Unfortunately it
seems that this port is on the charter list of places to visit. Four
boats arrived today, all either hit other boats, dragged and simply tied
up anyway resting on their neighbours or had all of the above. None were
driven by experienced skippers and none were below 50 foot. A resting
instructor was forced to offer his services to a 55 foot Bavaria after
it's 3rd attempt of demolition-derby. I think a small sum was paid for
expert driving, using no more than tick-over power to park without
damage, despite an engine stall for no apparent reason and 2 attempts to
get the 15 kilo anchor (smaller than our kedge!) to hold on all the
chain they had. The expression on the instructor's wife's face, who was
assisting, when the anchor chain came to the end was a picture. This
harbour is only about 70 m across so they must have less than 35m of
chain in total. That's not the charterers fault- it should be a criminal
act to supply a 55 foot boat to in-experienced charterers, let alone
with inadequate equipment aboard. It is supposed to be an enjoyable
experience for them, not an ordeal. Oh I forgot. It also is pissing with
rain and blowing F5 to 6 to add to their enjoyment.

So we are sitting here not quite relaxed but on the bright side, we
found good food at two restaurants ( and we could only really recommend
a handful in Greece making an effort to be different, so far) . Goat in
lemon sauce was a big hit for lunch and a meze of interesting starters
for dinner, followed by a wallow in the natural hot spring that pours
straight into the sea on the beach 200 yards away. Great walk yesterday
up to the 'Hora', Capital town, on the hill, followed by more wallowing.

21 September

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Uninhabited Sporades, Skyros, and southerly winds

The uninhabited islands of Pelagos and Skantzoura were idyllic. A few
yachts and fishing boats came and went, but the islands remain desolate,
windswept and uninhabited other than wild goats and a very rare monk
seal (we weren't surprised not to see any, they are critically
endangered and very shy). We tried to have walk but there were no paths
and the scrub was denser than it looked, so we returned scratched and
defeated. The old monastery on the east side of Pelagos apparently
supports one monk and a guardian! He must have been a very special monk
or a very bad monk to have been sent to this lonely outpost.
The fishermen still treat the sea as their rubbish bins though, and
snorkeling in the clear waters of Skantzoura revealed truck and car
batteries - which must have come from fishing boats.
Stu tried to catch us some meals, with a little success, as the fish
were small or nervous and swam away. When we ran out of food, and more
worryingly beer, we headed south to Skyros, out on its own in the middle
of the Aegean, hoping for a big supermarket to stock up. That was not to
be found, Skyros resembling a remote Scottish island with houses
scattered in the hills and dotted on the coast. The tiny village of
Linaria has only basic provisions, and a bus ride to Skyros town (10km)
was necessary to find a butcher.

Now we are at the turning point of the season, when we want to head
south after staying in sheltered waters behind Evvia to beat north in
the almost constant northerly meltemi winds of August. Of course, as
soon as we were ready to head south the winds have changed to come from
Africa, bringing hot sticky air, 70% humidity and interfering with our
nice little plan of cruising gently though the islands to Turkey with
the wind behind us. So we are tied up in the little ferry port of
Linaria on Skyros for a few days, and we'll do a little exploration and
cycling despite the uncomfortable heat. It has its entertainments.
Every night the ferry arrives blasting out the theme of Space Odyssey
2001 as it docks close by, and opens its hold doors. It then disgorges a
new selection of tourists and locals returning from the mainland, and an
astonishing number of immense trucks which give an idea of the amount of
new building going on in parts of the island. The little port fills up
for a few hours, and the locals of all ages surround the harbour to fish
for squid and mullet until the early hours of the morning. The church
service is broadcast to the whole village from pretty church above, no
excuse not to pay attention, even if you can't make it to the service!
The old town of Skyros, the chora, is set high on a hill on the opposite
side of the island, with strange cubist architecture more commonly found
further south in the Cyclades Islands. It is a maze of narrow steep
streets where tourist shops nestle among traditional craft shops of wood
carving and embroidery. Make sure you get there before 1.30pm, as a
deathly silence and absence of people descends after the shops close.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Skopelos and Alonissos, Northern Sporades

We spent our last night in the Gulf of Volos in a smalll fishing harbour
called Pigadhi. As there was plenty of room we tied up alongside the
concrete quay instead of anchoring off. Tourism has mostly passed it
by, with just a few Greek holiday apartments and tavernas.
We had a lovely meal on the waterfront of simple steamed king prawns,
anchovies fried in flour, and Greek salad. There was lots of heads and
tails to feed to the local cats who are always sat just within reach, in
case of leftovers. They ate everything we offered, and later one jumped
on board in the night and showed their gratitude by visiting the cockpit
and spraying all over and leaving a pile of poo! Now I know why we
anchor everywhere, it deters all sorts of unwelcome guests.

Leaving the Gulf of Volos, we headed across to the islands of the
Northern Sporades, first stop the beach resort of Koukounaries,on
Skiathos, according to some, one of the best beaches of the Aegean. Well
I guess it's OK if you like to be lined up like sardines on sunbeds, and
listen to waterskis and fizz boats all day. Our advice is to keep going
east and leave Skiathos to the droves of package holiday tourists, and
head for Skopelos where the beaches are simply divine. We have not yet
seen the film Mama Mia, but this is where it was filmed, and the island
is enjoying the increased tourist euros that result from extra interest
in their island. We had a special meal at a restaurant called Agnanti in
Glossa, the old town 300m above the little port of Loutraki, the first
'decent' or non-taverna meal we've had in Greece. It was a serious climb
up the steep path, but well worth the effort, even if we arrived sweaty
and crumpled at the posh restaurant.
The beaches south of Loutraki are really special, the best we've seen in
Greece, or even the Med to date. The colours of the forested slopes,
clear sky and sparkling water defy all attempts at capturing them with
the camera, and they are virtually empty. In our opinion the islands are
much more attractive than the Ionian, and less exploited.
Tonight we are in an anchorage called Ormos Rousoumi next to the tiny
town of Patitiri on Alonissos. The island is home to some wealthy
expats, we believe, so the shops are more inspiring than the usual
tourist tat, but way beyond our simple means. I (Steph) had a haircut
brought about by desperation after the ravages of sun and swimming all
season. It took all of 5 minutes including wash and sort of dry. No Tony
and Guy or Scissors here, just the one choice, like it or lump it!
We've booked our winter home from 1st November which will be Finike in
Turkey. This leaves us 350-500 miles (depending on how many islands we
visit) to go in 6 weeks. The nearest airport will be Antalya, if anyone
is hoping to visit us there.
Despite Finike being southeast, we still have a few islands to visit to
the northeast in a marine reserve, and then we are hoping for a
downhill, downwind blast through the islands to Turkey.

6th September 08

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gulf of Volos

Since our last update we have been to Orei, a pretty little holiday town
on the north coast of Evvia. We stayed a couple of days, but the port
police were based at the end of the quay and had actually gone onto the
quay to ask a boat to bring their papers to them, a very rare event,
usually initiated by a visit from their regional boss who gives them a
nudge to get up and do something. This is not a problem, but as they are
also lumbered with the responsibility for taking money for the use of
the quay, a visit usually incurs a charge for the quay wall. We have
been told to check in once a month to get our cruising papers stamped
and this we make every effort to do when at anchor, as then there are no
port charges or paperwork associated so it is quick and free. One of the
cruisers said 'One shouldn't make a habit of disturbing the busy chaps
with pointless work', and I agree with that!
So we cut short our visit to this port and headed the short distance
north into the Gulf of Volos. Here we anchored in the south-eastern
corner near Milina, in an almost deserted little cove with good shelter
from the forecast bad weather on its way the next day. With remarkable
forecast accuracy the thunderstorm started up at about 7.30am and by 9am
it was in full swing. An impressive firework display with a flashes and
bolts of lightning, and associated cracks or booms of thunder every 10
to 12 seconds. We counted 30 in 12 minutes, thats about 250 bolts per
hour! There was not much else to do......The very active part of the
thunder and lightning lasted about 2 1/2 hours - thats about 650
lightning bolts.The associated rain was heavy and we were glad of our
chosen anchorage tucked between two hills of the bay which served to
attract the closer lightening away from our mast. There is not much else
you can do to avoid unwanted attentions of thunderstorms, so we sat with
big mugs of tea and went 'oooh' and 'aaahh' at the impressive reminder
of the power of nature. After about 7 hours it was starting to clear and
this morning is more or less clear sky and about 30 degrees again.
Last night we had to sit inside the boat to be warm and wear socks - it
reminded us of an English summer! We had a walk to the small town today,
about 8 miles round trip. Its a lovely area, but unfortunately must have
been 'discovered' by Location, Location, or some such program, as there
are many invitations to buy land or property all addressed in English only.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Limni and Loutra Edipsou, wild camping and wild spas

Following on from our previous blog, when we went ashore into the town
with no people, we realised that we'd thoroughly underestimated the
number of taverna seats, more like 2000!
Within a half hour a few people started to appear in the seats around
the shore, and they were very smartly dressed. This is very odd we
thought. Within another half hour there were about 3000 - 4000 people in
the town, out of nowhere. They had all emerged from the church or their
houses to follow the procession of the town's saint down to the shore.
It was a huge celebration complete with music and fireworks, probably
the towns saint-day. What a transformation.

Next stop was the tiny port of Limni, we had to squeeze inside another boat alongside the quay wall. It's a long narrow harbour due to the steeply sloping bottom and it is quite disconcerting when you enter the harbour and there are people standing in the water right next to the very narrow entrance by the beach.
More and more boats squeezed in after us, as it is an Athenian weekend destination. It was a wonder that any fishing boats could get out through the nearly blocked entrance, though they did. For any cruisers following in our wake, it is possible to tie on the outside of the mole,
but we were warned that when the tide turns at night it sends in an evil swell and it would be untenable. It was hard to believe during the day, but turned out to be totally true, as waves crashed over the shore side taverna seats that night.
We decided to cycle along the shore to an old monastery. It was hot, very very hot. Well it is Greece, and it is August, and they always put monasteries on hills, we should have known better. It was a lovely cycle through a 7km wild camping area lapped by crystal clear waters. The only
facilities are a single natural spring. I bet you could camp here in June, and be the only ones here, but it is only a 2 hour drive to Athens airport! I paid for the cycle big time, with a mammoth headache, despite having drank about 10 litres of water. The monastery was quaint, and very old but the nuns were not too keen on showing us around (probably as we are clearly the wrong sort!) and they didn't speak any English, not that we thought they would. I asked why the faces of the figures in the church frescoes had been damaged. 'Turks' they spat in unison. It needed no translation.....

We are now in Loutra Edipsou, which has been a spa resort since
antiquity, Hadrian and Augustus took the waters here, it is now a kind
of Greek Eastbourne, as it bustles with purple rinses and walking
sticks, I'm convinced I saw Augustus walk past on the other side of the
street. I had images of a plush spa hotel with massage etc, but instead we
climbed down onto the rocky beach, where the spa waters tumble down into
the sea, and we had a wild spa instead. The rock pools are too hot to
sit in (about 50 degrees) but mixed with the sea water are an agreeable
temperature. It's probably the outfall of the treatment plants above, so
we'll probably end up with scabies and amoebic dysentery! Sulphur mixed
with eau-de-drain kind of a smell. People pay loads of money for marine
algae treatments, we just sat in it, in its natural state.
We had a look at some of the treatment spas, but we'd suspect a high
incontinence factor by the age of the occupants, and decided to save our
euros and perhaps our sanity, the incessant chattering would try the
patience of a saint.

We're now anchored in the large bay at the head of Evvia, Stuart is
fishing, but luckily we have lots of provisions as the catch so far has
been illegal..We're off around the top end of the island tomorrow.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Halkida (Chalkis), capital of Evvia

Moving on north to get to Chalkis we had to negotiate 2 bridges. The
first is fine, you just sail or motor under it, into a large protected
bay. The next one is a road bridge, and the pilot book told us to tie up
or anchor and visit the port police as soon as possible to pay your dues
and find out what time the bridge will open. We anchored and picked our
way ashore through the railway station with no trains. It can't have
trains because it has no tracks ! It does have a large waiting room, a
timetable and a manned ticket office!
We headed for the port police office nearby, but it was clearly being
renovated and was empty. We found some local fishermen to ask, and they
directed us over the bridge and into the town. We found the new shiny
building, but it was locked and no-one was home. Port police with no
police! Back to the boat, we called Chalkis bridge on the radio, no
reply. A couple of hours later six large motor yachts in convoy anchored
in the bay and they raised the police on the radio, so we called in too.
We were told to present our documents to the office, so back we went
over the bridge. All 7 boats paid their bridge dues €18 for us, €50 for
the others, and all documents were scrutinised (but not stamped). The
bridge would open just before midnight and we would be called up one by
one to go through.
The bridge is about the same size as Poole bridge, but the tide worse -
and you thought there was no tide in the Med. It was still running at
about 5 knots against us at 10pm.
At midnight we were called up by name, one boat at a time, and told to
get ready, then told to go through. The streets are by now packed with
people in bars and from cars waiting to get across. As we went through
they all waved, cheered and clapped like we'd just done something really
clever !!! Can you imagine this at Poole bridge, with boats called one
by one to go through - it would take all day.
They do send rather large ships through too, so its just as well that
its regulated. The tide by this time had turned to run with us, so no
problems there.
You can tie up to the quay on either side of the bridge, with free water
(and electricity on the south side). Once through the bridge on the
north side, we tied up alongside outside a bar, providing some
entertainment as we underestimated the tidal eddy. We seem to have lost
the knack - thank goodness we don't sail in the Solent any more, we'd be
a disaster....
We stayed here for a couple of days enjoying the novelty of being in a
small city, but hearing beaches calling further north we've moved on
again to Nea Artaki. We're just about to go ashore. The tavernas lining
the bay would probably seat a minimum of 500 people, but despite it
being 8pm on a Friday evening in peak holiday time, there's barely a
soul to be seen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eretria, Evvia

We have headed on north, hoping to beat the forecast northerly winds due
to interrupt our progress for the next five days. We sailed on and off
to Nisos (Island) Stira but found it was incorrectly charted and too
deep to anchor in.
So we stopped for the night in a remote spot just opposite Stira, but on
the main Evvia island. The water was warm and delightfully clear. The
little fizz-boats left at dusk and we were on our own with a few small
fishing boats out at sea. When we went for our morning snorkel there
seemed to be a lot of pots and bits of pots buried in the sand. We
didn't disturb them, so have no idea if they are ancient or not. Its a
bit of a change from the usual plastic half-buried loot.

The following day we sailed on and off in light winds to a one-horse,
two-taverna town called Voufalo - I challenge you to find it on a map.
It blew like stink from the north by the morning, through the gap in the
mountains and by the time we had everything ready to go it was 30
knots+. I had to remind Stu that people still sail around the cans in
Poole Bay in this wind in winter, and that encouraged us to leave the
safety of the dogleg, sandbar entrance and head out to sea. In contrast
to Poole Bay, it was a flat sea and we flew along at 8 knots. As we
rounded the headland it was blowing 35 knots and we had to beat up to
the entrance of Karastos.
The pilot book says that Karastos is captivating and friendly and
bypassed by tourism, despite the power station on the opposite side of
the bay. As we beat closer and closer to the town for 2 hours, the
cement factory took over the landscape followed by what has to be the
ugliest power station on earth. We dropped the sails and headed into the
harbour, where all the mooring space has been taken up by local boats
and there appeared to be nowhere for visiting yachts. Apart from a few
people in the tavernas on the waterfront, it looked like the the bomb
had dropped here. So we put the sails back up and sailed on very quickly
downwind and on to Eretria. It is very touristy here (Greeks only) and
there are only 2 other yachts anchored with us but I'd rather look at
tavernas and other yachts than a post nuclear fallout zone.
It does have rather a lot of ferries going back and forth to the
mainland, which all appear to be mostly empty. If we find out why, we'll
let you know.
Tues 19th August

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Marmari, South end of Evvia (or Euboa)

After spending four nights in Sounion, waiting for the meltemi (strong
north wind) to cease, Peter went off in a taxi to the airport to return
to the rat race, and we have sailed in almost no wind to Evvia, often
seen as Euboa. It is the second largest island in Greece, Crete being
the largest, but is not one that you will have heard about on travel
programs or Thompson holiday brochures. It is only 1 hour from Athens by
road (there's a bridge!) so the tourists are mostly Greeks. We have to
keep pinching ourselves and asking each other: 'So this place is one
hour from Athens?', 'Yes', 'and this is August, the holiday season for
Greeks?', 'Yes', 'and this weekend is the peak holiday weekend in Greece
after the 15 August national holiday?', 'Yes -that's right' , 'but we
are the only yacht in the bay?', 'Yes ....and all the anchorages we
passed on the way in were empty....this is sailing heaven!'
We stocked up on much needed supplies, as the book says we should in
preparation for the simpler place to come!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Poros, Saronic Gulf

On our way to Poros (another motor in light headwinds) we saw ahead a
patch of turbulent boiling water surrounded by seabirds, a sure sign of
big fish feeding on smaller fish. After several passes through the area
we hooked a small bonito tuna - just right to feed 3 mouths for 4 days
with only a small risk of tuna boredom.

Poros has numerous anchorages, we chose 'Navy Bay' close to the town.
The only drawback being the church service being broadcast by
loudspeaker at 7am and the Naval marching band practice at 8am.

After picking up Peter, the following day we hired a car and sped up the
coast to visit Epidavros where there is an ancient theatre capable of
holding 14,000 spectators built in 4C BC. The theater is perfectly
proportioned and has perfect acoustics - apparently you can hear a pin
drop on stage from any seat. There are regular productions of greek
tragedies and comedies such as those of Sophocles and Euripides. We
could have bought tickets for Oedipus Rex but thought that we would be
unlikely to understand a word of it, especially in ancient Greek!

The theatre is set among the ruins of the sanctuary of Asklepios, the
god of medicine. People from all over Greece would come to sacrifice to
the gods and consult the oracle. They would spend the night in the
sacred dormitory and hopefully have an instant cure, or Asklepios might
appear in a dream, which the priests would translate into a
recommendation for exercise, rest, baths or intellectual pursuits. After
their cure the 'patient' would make a votive offering in the shape of
the part of the body which had been cured. This explained to us the
reason for some of the exhibits in the museum of willies, boobs, ears,
feet, hands or whole legs. The doctors emblem to this day is the
caduceus, which represents the augur's wand and magic serpent of
Asklepios. From 5C AD to 19C the site was completely forgotton.

After that we sped on towards Argos – the site of the oldest city in
Greece (remember the Argonauts?)– to the hilltop site of Mikinai, or
better known to us as Mycaenae. This acropolis was built while in
England people were still making additions to the stones at stonehenge.
It was the centre of a great civilisation from about 1650 to 1100BC, the
dominant culture of Greece, the home of King Agamemon. The wealth of the
Mycaeneans was legendary. The dead were buried in tombs with lavish
treasures and gold death masks, only a portion of which has survived
grave robbers through the centuries.

It was yet another unbelievably hot and dry day, but we survived the
visit even in the afternoon heat. We thought this was the site to top
all sights. On the way back to Poros we saw signs all over to more
Mycaenean ruins until we had to say ' Oh no not another acropolis!' and
pass on by without a glance.

We were excited by the forecast of north force 5 the next day, for our
trip NE across the Saronic Gulf. As usual we burned diesel for hours in
no wind , and then fought a 30 knot headwind for the last two hours.

We didn't have high expectations of the anchorage under Ak Sounion, as
it was suggested just as a rest stop to wait out the meltemi winds
before heading up the east coast. Well, as a complete surprise yet
another stunningly ancient site adorns the headland. Built in 448BC the
Temple of Poseidon sits on the hilltop, with most of its pillars intact.
It is a simply perfect backdrop for a cockpit BBQ of – you've guessed it
- tuna, and I'm going to go back and enjoy it, instead of sitting inside
writing this!!!!


Steph and Stu xx

Friday, August 8, 2008

Corinth Canal

We have successfully navigated the Corinth Canal, the only damage being to the wallet at €4.40 per minute we went as slowly as we could to make it last, without being rammed by the following yacht. Considering the canal is over 100 years old, it is an amazing feat of engineering and a spectacle for transiters and onlookers. At least we know some of our euros are going to help the maintenance of the canal, we could see parts where the walls were falling into the canal due to erosion.

We are now in the Saronic Gulf, tonight in Korfos, a featureless holiday resort village but a good anchorage. We'll be moving on to Poros tomorrow to meet up with our friend Peter.

Our trip to Poros five years ago, on Paul and Elke's boat, was what decided us to come to the Mediterrean, instead of heading straight across the Atlantic.

Corinth Yacht Harbour

After a long and hot 40 mile motor we arrived at Corinth and are moored
alongside a Greek yacht in the tiny yacht harbour. Theres only a few
places here, but the turnover of yachts is high so the odds on getting a
space are good. Its only one mile to the canal entrance from here.
We spent today visiting ancient Corinth, a short bus trip away. It was
exceptionally hot and windless, and required several stops under shady
trees to avoid heatstroke.
Thankfully the museums are air-conditioned to preserve the relics, so
are always a welcome respite on hot days, and never boring.
Ancient Corinth seemed to have been a very popular shopping destination.
St Paul had something to say about the other activities that the
Corinthians offered in the precincts!
As you can see it was spectacularly crowded at the main shopping mall in
the peak August holiday season.
Later we took another bus to the bridge over the canal to have a look at
what to expect tomorrow when we go through it ourselves.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Galaxidi, Gulf of Corinth

Today we are anchored in Galaxidi, a lovely town 3 hours from Athens, on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth. We went on an excursion to Delfi by local bus today, to see the site of the ancient oracle whose prophecies were sought by leaders all over Greece and from Spain to the Black Sea. It was awesome and hot - we'll write about it later for the website. When we returned to the boat, as it had been closed up all day, the temperature inside was 38 degrees.
We're off tomorrow to close the distance to the Corinth Canal.

Wishing there was water in the spa pool