2005 Summary & Pictures

 

This year the E-mails were posted straight to our new website, kindly set-up by our good friend and kindred sailing spirit, Rod Day.

 Index of Content:

  1. Dramatic return to Venice, joyful return to Corfiot friends and territory
  2. Rod & Pat Day’s Jonah? Disappointing petty theft, the north Ionian revisited
  3. Greek Easter celebrations, more on eating out, some with lovable Costas
  4. Leaving the Ionian for the Peloponese, more perverse weather but great sailing
  5. Strange affects of cruising, more characters met, Peloponese & Evia channel
  6. Evia Channel, Gulf of Volos, charming new stopping places
  7. Sporades, perverse weather again, wildlife sightings
  8. Wild cat strike! gorgeous Skyros, great wildlife sightings, Eastern Sporades
  9. Roger & Birgitta met, Dodecanese entered, gale produced drama on the rocks!
  10. Dodecanese, haunting but volcanic Nysiros, a must to visit historic Rhodes
  11. Tales of the Wind, more Dodecanese, then Cyclades, more characters met
  12. Cyclades, more Tales of the Wind, near disastrous jellyfish sting
  13. Saronic, Corinth canal & Gulf, Gulf of Patras, “2 for wildlife”?
  14. Ionian fun with friends, Charlie’s stung again
  15. Caught in an earthquake in the Southern Ionian, more Tales of the Wind
  16. Olympia visited, journey from Ionian to Crete becomes a chore
  17. Camaraderie at sea, journey along Crete, laying up, Bonfire Night party

 

E’s from Aboard 2005/1 (Pics)

23 March 2005

Just what is it about Venice and us?  Can we ever go there without some drama or hassle?  The trip up from home to Weston, the stay with Mandy and Neil, the trip to Bristol airport and the flight to Venice were enjoyably uneventful, but the moment we land at Venice Marco Polo, it starts: Richard leaves his wallet on the plane!  But Easyjet and Venice airport live up to their reputation with us and it was returned intact within thirty minutes of landing.  Oh good, we thought, that’s the drama over.

 The “Express” bus to Venice itself, wasn’t in the rush hour traffic.  But it dropped us right outside our booked hotel, the Santa Chiara at around 7pm.  Wanting to avoid dragging 50+kgs of baggage up and down the numerous canal bridges that give Venice some of its charm, we had picked, booked and paid for this hotel last December.  It also put us close to where the courtesy bus for the ferry would depart the following morning.  Our bags were wheeled optimistically into the superficially charming hotel’s reception but on presenting our voucher we were greeted with, “Sorry Sir, we have no rooms.  We will move you to our sister hotel 2 minutes towards the centre of Venice.”

 We were not pleased but dutifully followed the porter and his trolley loaded with some of our baggage along the canal path. We opted to carry the valuable bags ourselves.  After a ten-minute trek, ascending and descending several bridges, we were overcome by a sudden attack of ‘luggage rage’ and we rebelled, returned to the Santa Chiara and refused to move further.  A call to our booking agent and further heated exchanges with the hotel receptionist (manager) soon had us ensconced at their expense in a very nice room on the 4th floor of a hotel overlooking the Grand Canal just two small bridges from Piazza Roma from where the courtesy bus would depart.

 Hassle number two over, a wander to the San Pantalon district is undertaken, partly to calm Richard’s growing paranoia and partly to find the lovely little Trattoria restaurant eaten at the previous November.  Venice is a maze of short straight streets of constantly varying widths turning any journey from a known point to a known destination into an uncountable maze of left and right turns; fine whilst the direction signs to your destination are spotted but a disaster if just one sign is missed.  That is how we first found San Pantalon, by accident having drifted off the marked route to the Rialto Bridge.  We needed to make the same mistake again to find it.  We did and found Arca Trattoria and enjoyed a beautifully prepared and presented meal of Bresaula and Spaghetti Carbonarra for Richard and Mussels in white wine et al followed by Spaghetti with Cray Fish for Charlie, all washed down very nicely with a litre of local white wine.  All for €50.

 Has the Venice Gremlin finished with us, perhaps not?  On returning to our revised hotel, a relaxing nightcap seemed in order and whilst Charlie arranged this, Richard returned the wet weather gear to the room (it hadn’t rained but we were prepared), only he didn’t because he couldn’t get in!  Electronic key at fault, who knows? After five minutes the only perceived option was an embarrassing trip down to reception to admit defeat.  The trip back up with the lovely receptionist should have solved the problem but it didn’t, the key just would not have it.  But eventually the door, no doubt grinning to itself, responded and entry to our assets was regained.

 Late March

The dramas ceased there and the trip to Corfu was smooth and idyllically enjoyable, especially as we met an American couple briefly seen the previous year whilst filling up with water at Gouvia marina.  Fred and Phyl Denton are from Texas.  It must immediately be said they do not fit with the British perception of the archetypal Texans.   They were far from brash, certainly not trying to be bigger than real life and weren’t connected with the oil industry or Dallas.  However, in common with us, they clearly enjoy their food, are entirely charming, similarly retired, good company and as they put it, “been married for 86 years, 43 each”.

 Phyl seemed less interested in sailing than did Fred but they have covered many thousands of enjoyable miles together, apparently in total harmony.  Politics was avoided as a subject but much was learnt about post 9/11 America.  Internal flying, once as routine and common as getting your car out of the garage, is now much reduced with a continuing reticence about boarding an aeroplane unless absolutely necessary.  The resultant impact on American airlines in general needs no elaboration.  And support for George Bush?  That is estimated at no more than 51% of the population; hardly a resounding majority in the world’s largest democracy.

 From pre-dinner drinks, dinner as their guests and coffee the following morning it was gleaned that their possible itinerary for the summer was similar to ours.  Down through the Ionian, across the Aegean and then along the Turkish coast.  Before we parted in Corfu, they for a Greek friend’s villa whilst their yacht was re-commissioned and us for our yacht which hopefully had already been re-commissioned and was ready for us to board, we agreed to keep in touch and perhaps sail to Turkey with half an eye on being together and meeting up in port from time to time.  All being retired folk there is some comfort in knowing friends are near by as you traverse unknown waters.

 And so we arrived in Corfu not to perfect weather.  It was cloudy with occasional light showers but it was warm.  Both Charlie Girl’s I & IV were sitting happily at their moorings in Gouvia Marina in almost ready to go condition.  The marina was stretching its arms and yawning in recognition of the freshly dawning season, the taverna opened the day before, the second bar the day we arrived to join the one bar that stays open most of the winter though one wonders for whom.  Sailing Holidays crews were hard at work preparing their 100 odd yachts for the forthcoming hordes of flotilla holiday makers albeit they would not arrive until the first of the charter flights in early May.  The liveaboards who had over wintered in isolated desolation began to smile as each day brought more and more fellow sailors returning, like us, for a further season of sailing and camaraderie.  Sundowner drinks again become the norm.

 Excited, almost childish anticipation best describes the feelings that prompt every move in the first few days back.  There is an element of homecoming and a feeling of contentment that is difficult to explain.  Is it the warmth that comes with each ray of sunshine that appears from behind the passing Spring clouds?  Or the evident expectant spirit in all at the new season and all it may hold for all in business?  Or is it simply the feeling we all get wherever we are when winter recedes and the first signs of Spring cause the procreative hormones to surge through our bodies?  Who knows.  All we know is, we feel happy, contented, excited and our skin is already tanning.

Though for us there is also a little concern and hope.  Concern that Charlie’s ongoing traumas will again interrupt the otherwise perfect enjoyment this life brings.  The winter has not been without its difficulties as arthritis continues to plague her back and progress to her neck and shoulders which, coupled with the now diagnosed longer term damage from last year’s fun and games, hope that the prescribed Pilates exercises and drugs will right that and all will be well for the whole season.  In the meantime, there is still pain in her neck and thigh to be managed on a daily basis.

 But on a lighter note there is the lower cost of living.  Acceptably drinkable white wine at €1.13 per litre (that is about 60p a bottle for those not into the Euro) and it is only 11% proof so does not have you staggering after just two glasses; an acceptable lunch (sitting in the sun) for around €20 (£14) for a couple of courses and a bottle of wine and water: and a weekly shop at the local supermarket and vegetable market for just over half the UK cost.  And surprisingly to us, after five days in port, no over powering desire to leave!

 Perhaps one of the reasons for that is the warmth of our fellow yachties welcome, whether previously known or unknown to us.  On arrival in Gouvia we are immediately invited to dinner on the yacht two down from ours to celebrate Greek Independence Day (Brits celebrating a Greek festival?).  Dinner was the traditional Independence Day dish of salted cod fried in batter accompanied by garlic mashed potato, followed by a Greek version of Panecota with fruit syrup or honey topping.

 A most enjoyable evening hosted by Patrick an ex-chef of Canadian origin, his wife Sheila an escapee from London City banking life and with fellow guests Peter a charming nearly escaped outdoor pursuits management trainer and his wife Sarah who writes, though we are not allowed to mention that she is often published in a couple of the most popular yachting magazines.  Both couples have opted out from UK life, one apparently by selling up completely to sail and the other by renting out their UK home on a near permanent basis.  We will come to know them all better over the next few weeks before we all depart on our respective summer travels; many to Turkish waters.

 Peter, who we had never met before, kindly offered to assist Richard in the installation of the wind generator purchased from the London Boat Show, which was going to be a task if the batteries were not going to be blown to smithereens in the first strong breeze or when the engine is started.  The management of electricity will never be Richard’s strongest suite and running on 12v batteries rather than unlimited 240v mains power an almost complete mystery.  But that is a perfect example of the camaraderie we experience in what we do and, as recently read in a yachting magazine article, something to be passed on to someone else at the first opportunity.

 We are a bit mystified by the lack of desire and drive to move on that we experienced last year.  Will this curb our travels and adventures this year; we doubt it?  Rod & Pat Day are joining us and taking out Charlie Girl I for three weeks from 04 April to sail the Ionian in tandem with us so we will have to see after that.  As will you because it is Rod who loads these E’s on to our web site for all to read.  So don’t worry (Sue & Alan Sutherland in particular who panicked last year when they did not get an E for over two weeks; they thought we had sunk!) the next E will be after Rod & Pat’s return to the UK late in April; a month from now.

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/2 (Pics)

Early April

We could start this E with “what is about Rod & Pat and us?”  Not that we don’t get on with them because we do, very well indeed; but because they seem to tow a Jonah around with them that attempts to prove wrong all the positive things we told them about sailing the Med.  When they first came out to sail in the Autumn of 2003 they had the worst weather imaginable for their first trip.  Rain? Yes but not just rain, it was torrential rain accompanied by thunder, lightening and, of all things, thick fog!  The winds could not have been more perverse and were a lot stronger than usual for that time of year.  If they wanted to go south, the wind was from the north and visa versa.

 This year their trip started in much the same way.  On the strength of a forecast southerly breeze we headed north to Kassiopi on the north coast of Corfu.  Perfect you would say except that as soon as we cleared the marina the wind blew in strongly from the north making it impossible to sail and decidedly chilly.  Then we moor up in Kassiopi only to find Charlie Girl I, on which they were sailing, bouncing on the bottom as a result of an exceptionally low tide and exceptionally high pressure; both combining to reduce the water level by nigh on a metre.  Remember it is said the Mediterranean doesn’t have tides.  So the yacht had to be moved and in so doing picked up an enormous chain and old anchor left at some time past on the harbour bottom.  As it was by then very dark, there was no way that it could be dealt with, so they moored along side us for the night.  In the morning an hour was spent retrieving their anchor, fortunately in benign conditions.

 That day’s forecast was for a nice little northerly breeze, ideal to take us back down the channel between the Greek mainland and Corfu the 30 odd miles to Sivota Mourtos.  Off we go only to find the wind is due south, right on the nose, exactly what was wanted the previous day but not today!  However as if to frustrate their Jonah, Sivota Mourtos rewarded the effort required to get there by providing brilliant sunshine and an excellent Italianate supper in a previously untried Pizzeria.

 The next morning was bright, sunny and warm if nigh on windless.  Off we set just before lunchtime to cover the twelve miles to the island of Paxoi (Paxos).  At first in flat clam conditions under motor but then in idyllic sailing conditions as a gentle 10 knot northwesterly breeze set in, perfect to make the northern tip of the island and then to sail on a broad reach down its picturesque high cliff west coast, around its southern extremity and then close-hauled just one mile up its east coast into Giaos, the principle harbour.  The clement weather continued the following day encouraging us towards the thirty-five mile trip down to Levkas, through its canal and on to Porto Spiglia on the north coast of Meganissi.  Surely the Jonah has been harpooned?

 Next morning’s early morning tea making brought back the one event of our return we would rather forget.  For twenty years we have sailed Greek waters with no concern as to the security of our personal possessions.  The yacht was generally left open and unlocked in the knowledge that petty theft was never an issue. But our return to Corfu destroyed that idyllic dream; all our CD collection had been stolen together with several other less valuable personal belongings despite the fact the yacht had been locked up for the winter.  The early morning tea making brought the loss back as when the gas bottle ran dry and we went to connect the spare it had been swapped for an empty bottle.  How petty can you get; €5.00 is all it costs to refill a gas bottle.  What was particularly distressing was that the yacht had not been broken into; all this was achieved with the use of a key and there was only one key holder albeit we trust them implicitly but they do have various employees who had access to the key and thus the yacht.

 Anyway, the lack of gas resulted in a great day’s sailing, us with a short trip to Nidri on Levkas Island and then back to Little Vathi on Meganissi; Rod and Pat with a jaunty sail out towards Kalamos Island and back into Little Vathi where we all took supper on Charlie Girl I and afterwards a Metaxa and coffee ashore in a local taverna.  Surely the harpoon has done for Jonah?

 Oh no it hadn’t.  The next forecast was for a south south-easterly gale that would certainly keep us in port and so it did for the next day when an escape was effected to Sivota on the south coast of Levkas Island where the heavens opened and dumped a few tons of red sand bearing rain on both yachts.  This used to be an occasional Spring occurrence but has now become a regular feature of early Spring weather.

 An early morning wash down of the decks removed most of the red sand before we set sail in glorious sunny weather the twelve miles across to Kephalonia then a further eleven miles down the channel between it and Ithaki to Euphemia on Kephalonia’s east coast.  What a cracking sail we had in very flunk winds; one minute on the nose, the next up the bum and then on the beam.  The two yachts took it in turns to lead the way as first one read the wind well, then the other.  What a joyous six hours was had by all.  And the day was rounded off reminiscing over an excellent ethnic supper taken in the only taverna open in town, filling up with locals as it did as we ate.

 That night Jonah returned in the form of further adverse weather; torrential rain that continued in showers throughout the following day whilst we made our way the twenty odd miles round the southern end of Ithaki to our all time favourite port of Kioni on Ithaki’s east coast.  Our arrival was entertaining in that there was an Ocean Star 56.1 (a big flashy yacht) anchored, inconveniently, in the middle of the bay just where our anchors needed to be dropped to moor-up stern-to the quay.

 But never mind, we said entertaining and so it was.  The yacht had a professional skipper on board with half a dozen very strange British passengers.  In a verbal exchange across the fortunately large enough gulf between their yacht and ours, they intimated that they were “Pop Stars” and then asked, “Can you tell us where a party island is.  We want to record a live gig for MTV?”  We thought of suggesting the Isle of Wight but as they were all very drunk, thought better of it.  This seemed to upset what at first sight appeared to be a female; deduced from the long flowing hair, sun glasses and full-length Chinchilla or Silver Fox fur coat.  But when we laughed somewhat dismissively at her protestations about their yacht being bigger and better than ours, she bent down away from us, lifted her fur coat and exposed her tattoos (she was wearing nothing else).  The apparent dangly bits told us this was no female!

 Early season in Kioni is amusing.  Sitting in the Jazz Bar listening to Traditional Jazz and Latin American music just for our benefit whilst the local Greeks (male only) watch Liverpool playing Juventas in the European Cup with no sound has to be experienced to be understood.  The bar has been their local all winter and now the transition to tourist bar is starting; naturally it is mildly resented.  We felt their glee went we left to go to bed at half-time.

 Then it was off to Kastos, a small island just a couple of miles off the mainland, to the east of Levkas; an island with just forty permanent inhabitants: a few more coming each season to serve the limited, mainly yachty, tourist visitors.  There are no shops and the three or four bars and tavernas only open between May and October.  On our arrival we walked with Rod & Pat up the hill above the port to “Chef John’s” taverna, not that we expected him to be open but just to say hello.  John was there and his welcome upon seeing us approaching was on a par with the return of the prodigal son.  As far as his slightly aged legs would allow, he rushed down to his gate to unlock it.  Hugs, kisses and handshakes followed with his exuberant expressions of welcome in Greek and English.  “Come in, come in.  Let me buy you a drink” We introduced Rod & Pat and were then escorted up onto the extended balcony of his villa style taverna where Rod & Pat were astounded by the beauty of the panoramic view out across the sea to the mountainous mainland and Dragoneras Islands beyond.

 John is a chef and a fascinating character; warm, straightforward, kindly, a little larger than perhaps he should be but happy beyond his own belief.  He is married to Maria an equally warm, homely and motherly lady who was actually born on Kastos.  Both worked for many years in the States but returned to Kastos to run their own taverna rather then continue to suffer the stresses of trying to earn a living in such a fast moving and seemingly pointless environment.  Now they enjoy the peace and tranquillity that Kastos has in abundance, living amongst like-minded folk for whom the days pass slowly and softly with a simple undemanding routine, as we saw this morning.  One older couple walking slowly in each others company, him carrying a long fork-ended pole, discussing nothing in particular, pausing periodically to peer over the quayside to see if any octopus had come in overnight that he could spear.  Had there been, they would have caught them, prepared them as is normal and maybe not eaten them for several days or weeks depending on whether they had a freezer or not.  As it was, there were none to be had but it mattered not to them.  Their walk continued as did their gentle conversation until they returned to their little white painted, timber shuttered house near the quay presumably for a simple breakfast and, naturally, the requisite Greek coffee accompanied by a glass of water.

 John and Maria clearly enjoy this existence even though the work in the summer months is hard for them and provides barely enough to pay for their Son’s continuing education at Athens University.  But Maria takes great pride in her garden set on the sun soaked slopes below the taverna’s balcony and from which she daily picks home-grown produce that is then used by John in feeding the taverna’s guests such as us.  Long may this lifestyle be maintained for them and us to enjoy in our subtlety different ways.

 John, Maria, their welcoming ways and their lifestyle are typical of the pleasures we find and experience in our travels.  We make no apology for the perhaps overly romantic reaction this creates.

 After leaving Charlie Girl I in Nidri, Rod & Pat joined us on Charlie Girl Iv for their last few days.  These provided a menu of somewhat indifferent weather but some fantastic sailing, not least of which being the fifteen mile sail from Gaios on Paxos north to Sivota Mourtos on the mainland in a near gale force seven with regular periods of full gale force 8.  CGIV flew through the water with her Genoa reefed down five turns in a strong two to three metre following sea.  She average a little over 8 knots for the whole trip.

 The weather improved on their penultimate day and that night was spent at anchor in the lee of the Old Fort of Corfu town.  A rolly night as it turned out, not because of the wind and sea as there was neither but because as a result of this CGIV lay beam on to the swell produced by the passing ferries.

 We awoke on their last day to a beautiful morning, still flat calm with the sun rising from behind the Albanian mountains into a clear blue sky.  Breakfast was taken on deck soaking this delightfully peaceful atmosphere.

  

E’s from Aboard 2005/3 (Pics)

Late April

The change from Spring to Summer weather was sudden.  The sun’s strength seemed to double overnight and the daytime temperatures soared to a comfy 25°C with the nightime temperatures rarely dropping below 15°C.  Factor 25 & 50 sun creams were applied to exposed parts, particularly noses, and the bimini used to shade the cockpit from the midday sun, especially after Charlie actually succeeded in getting burnt despite all her protection.  The winds readily dropped into their Ionian Summer cycle of slowly fading light easterly breezes in the morning and perfect north-westerly sailing breezes in the afternoon.  Much use was made of both on our return down from Corfu to the Levkas area.

 The last weekend of April saw the advent of Easter (Greek Orthodox calendar) with all the celebrations that entails.  Judas Iscariot strung from a gallows over a bonfire, burnt and as if that is not enough, the body of his dummy filled with fireworks (mainly bangers) that explode as he burns.  That is the Friday night ritual we first experienced in Little Vathi on Megannisi in 2003.

 This year we were again in Little Vathi but on the Saturday night.  Charlie cooked the traditional roast lamb (albeit not the traditional whole carcass as that is a bit big for the yachts oven) accompanied by a selection of roast vegetables.  The evening passed peacefully enough consuming the lamb with relish whilst some of the community’s older residents passed our stern carrying celebratory candles slowly making their way to the church further along the quayside for midnight mass.  The church service started at about 10pm and progressed on past our bedtime, the priest’s incantations gently lulling us to sleep.  But we had forgotten that midnight on Saturday is the height of the Greek Orthodox Easter, celebrating Christ’s arising from the dead.  At 12.30am all hell let loose with fireworks being let off within metres of the moored up yachts and to the evident consternation of all including Charlie who was convinced CGIV would be struck at any moment, burst into flames and sink at her mooring.

 But all was well and the ceremony soon subsided to a fun level with the older village inhabitants taking pots of pre-prepared lamb dishes to friends and family’s houses to continue their celebrations long into the night whilst the younger fraternity continued to drop bangers into anything that might add to their already powerful explosion.  The local mobile concrete mixing truck was the ideal target for that stationed right behind us.  Some were not satisfied with simple bangers and had stuffed wine bottles with dynamite that they then lobbed from the heights above and adjacent to the harbour to explode, thankfully harmlessly, in the sea below.  Perhaps the fish were not the only ones to have hangovers from the night’s festivities.  Easter Sunday by comparison was a damp squib and their Bank Holiday Monday a normal day in all but name.  But the bangers were still being thrown for several nights thereafter.

 Early May

The weekend also saw the start of UK charter flights and an influx of early holidaymakers, a large proportion of whom piled on to charter yachts and disappeared from harbour as soon as paperwork clearance allowed.  There was some disappointment for the sailors amongst them who found the next few days very light on wind; the flat calm of the morning being followed by little more than 5 knots of wind in the afternoon.

These relaxing calm days encouraged us into our first swim whilst anchored in an isolated bay for the night, the earliest swim we can ever remember and it was surprisingly warm even when we got out.

 Wildlife continues to interest us, particularly when at anchor for the night.  Tranquillity Bay opposite Nidri on Levkas Island was given a try after all the nasty things we have said in the past about the noisiness of Nidri.  There were two surprises from that; one that it was quiet and tranquil: the other the dusk visitation of three Terns with their graceful, slow and methodical flight two metres above the water with their heads down scanning near the surface for small fish.  The binoculars soon had us realising they might not be the Common Terns we were used to and on checking in our bird book we found, much to our amazement, they could be Whiskered Terns that it said are not to be found here.

 For several days we hung around Levkas town and Nidri, partly to titivate Charlie Girl I before showing her to prospective buyers and partly to find a decent electrician to fit the wind generator we had sent out and was now sitting proudly on the top of a stainless steel post made and mounted on the stern in Corfu by “Croz”, a reserved native of Sunderland working in Corfu.  Olivier, a French electrician was recommended by Barry Salamons, a Dutchman who looks after Charlie Girl I for us, turned out to be an excellent find.  He is a really charming, smiley character who speaks near perfect English, wears a jaunty little pink hat to cover his prematurely balding head and clearly understands yacht electrics and electronics.  He wired up the wind generator and its regulator and then installed an engine alternator management system we had also purchased, all in just eleven hours.  His equally jolly wife, evidently his business organiser, is German and speaks several languages fluently, including French fortunately for Olivier, was due to deliver their first child any day.  Whilst his mobile rang from time to time it was not for that reason but as you might imagine, every time it did ring he expected it to be “that call”.  Fortunately for us, the only thing she delivered over the two days he worked on the yacht was his bill.

 As that shows, life out here is very cosmopolitan and certainly European.  What a shame it is that we seem to be generally so anti-European in the UK.

 With all that out of the way we progressed a little further south if only to Sivota on the southern end of Levkas island where we were storm bound for two nights.  The first evening was intended to be a romantic supper in Apothaliki taverna (The Old Store), one of our favourites and perhaps the best place locally to have lobster or fresh fish.  Why?  Because one family own and run three largish fishing boats, one gift shop, one mini-supermarket, an insurance brokers and two tavernas, one of which is The Old Store.  A delightfully close-knit family they are too.  Hence their fish is fairly priced.

 Mama and Papa started the first taverna back in the 1970’s to supplement Papa’s earnings from fishing and the additional businesses grew from each of their several sons commitment to the family and their desire to add some value.  This year we found Tao (Theo), one of the younger sons who runs the mini-supermarket, working on an old barge that has been lying semi-derelict alongside the Levkas town quay for many years, to turn it into a swish coffee and cocktail bar.  In true Greek style it is due to open for this season meaning the beginning of May but is still many weeks away from completion.

Meanwhile back at the intended romantic supper we sat overlooking the bay at three yachts swinging at anchor tucking into our starters of prawns wrapped in bacon and grilled giant prawns.  The wind had picked up after our arrival and had been blowing quite strongly from the south.  As we discussed the pro’s and con’s of anchoring off rather than mooring stern-to in Sivota with its excessively weedy bottom that makes either difficult, the wind swung a full 180° and came in very strongly from the north west.  Within seconds all three yachts were dragging their anchors.  No particular problem for the two with crew aboard but a big problem for the one whose crew were ashore for dinner!

 We both rushed out to try and find out which taverna the owners were in only to find a little yacht with a very inexperienced young couple struggling to keep her from smashing into the quay as her anchor was also dragging.  Richard stopped to sort them out with the help of Pat, the marketing manager from Sailing Holidays London office out on a week’s holiday, whilst Charlie ran off down the quay diving in and out of each taverna asking “anybody here got a small Bavaria at anchor in the bay?”

 Eventually we both returned to our table having sorted out the youngsters but having failed to find the Bavaria owners.  Maquis, the taverna owner, took over and soon found them in the taverna next door.  In the meantime the yacht had come to rest against the rocks at the entrance to the bay but had suffered no serious damage so was soon back where it should be, this time with its anchor properly dug in before the owners returned ashore to complete their meal.

 The following day was spent catching up on paperwork (bank accounts etc) and supping coffee whilst the unexpected (nor forecast) deep low pressure formed and did its worst to spoil the last day of the first flotilla holiday makers in the area, many of whom were in Sivota.  The pressure dropped an amazing 5 bars in an hour producing gale force winds even in this most protected of Ionian harbours.  These persisted from the first evening, through the next day and the second night, only abating at about 3am.  As is typical here, we then all arose to a perfect sunny and windless morning for most to pack and board their coaches for the trip to the airport.  We left port and enjoyed an idyllic sail that lasted the best part of the day, around the islands and ending up in Kalamos port on Kalamos island.

 We call Kalamos The Sphinx as that is just what it looks like from a distance when the sun is behind it and it stands up as a black mass set against the skyline.  Its 6-mile long body is so shaped by its six and seven hundred metre peaks tailing down to one hundred metres or so, to give it that strikingly shaped shadow.

 A similar sail was enjoyed the following morning, beating down the channel between Kastos and Kalamos, out across Thalassa Ekhinadhon to our favourite of ports, Kioni on Ithaka.  There we took supper on the beach where Costas joined us to drink wine and put the whole world to rights.  In truth it is his open wish to have Charlie dispose of Richard in some way so she will then marry him and settle down in Hamilton House, his beautiful three-storey home on the waterfront (see photo and “E’s From Aboard” 2004 for more about this most lovable and caring of Greek characters).

  

E’s from Aboard 2005/4 (Pics)

Mid-May

Mid-May saw us heading off out of flotilla land (the Northern Ionian) down to the Peloponnisos (Peloponese) to round the two southern most and notoriously difficult capes of the Greek mainland (Ak Tainaron and Ak Maleas), both having fearsome reputations for battering unsuspecting sailors with unexpected 40 knot plus gusts and heaving seas, and then to make our way up into the Saronic and to Athens to pick up some parts for CGIV.   Approaching the capes should be easy in the prevailing north-westerly winds and making up into the Saronic similarly so in the expected prevailing southerlies.

 And so we set off from Kioni on Itathca, first for Euphimia on Kephalonia to stock up on water and fully charge the batteries from the shore power facilities there.  The wind was southerly but we assumed that would be a fluke.  It wasn’t.  From Euphimia the plan was to use the north-westerlies to run the 70 odd miles down to Katacolon on the Greek mainland just south of the Gulf of Patras but a further two days of southerlies saw us putting, first into Poros on Kephalonia and then into Zakinthos town on Zakinthos (Zante).  Katacolon was reached from there in a more helpful south-westerly.

 The forecasts were for persisting southerlies but we managed to make the 50 miles down from Katacolon to Pilos in a continuing convenient south-westerly.  Then it was just a short 8 mile hop round to the charming anchorage of Methoni for us to be again thwarted by a rising south-easterly that would make Methoni untenable.  So it was back to the historic port of Pilos to sit under the statue of Admiral Codrington who with just 26 ships decimated a Turko-Egyptian fleet of 89 ships that was actually lying there awaiting his arrival.

 Having received a half favourable forecast for the following day we arose at 0500 and beetled off to tackle the 60 mile trip to Porto Kayio situated just round the first of the capes (Ak Tainaron).  Good speed was made in a convenient unforecasted south-westerly until we were just 6 miles short of the cape when we met the sea coming round the cape and the winds of force 6 creating it!  Rounding the cape that afternoon was not a realistic or pleasant option so it was to be a further delay.  Working our way up the east coast of the Main peninsula we sort refuge from the gathering storm, first Mezapo, then Limeni but were unable to enter them as the wind was now gusting at over 40 knots from the land reflecting the rising south-easterly blowing on the otherside of the peninsula.  So it was a 35 mile unwanted hike in the wrong direction to spend the night in Kalamata marina. You might remember the British tourists who were (rightly in our view) arrested, charged and convicted of photographing the military planes based there.

 Of course the weather in Kalamata was flat calm as it was the following morning so we set off south again despite the continuing poor forecast for the capes.  On approaching Limeni we again experienced the vicious katabatic winds racing down the slopes of the peninsula’s mountains and again dispelling any thoughts of rounding any capes or anchoring there for the night.  But we put on the extra four miles to the next bay, Dyros, the site of caves that are reckoned to be amongst the best in the world (see E’s From Aboard 9 of 2004) and found that slightly more tenable.  We pressed our way into the bay and anchored successfully in its south-eastern corner amongst the local fishing boats.

 The adverse forecasts persisted but on the basis that forecast winds in these areas tend not to get up to full strength much before lunchtime, we shot out on Dyros at 0600 next morning to motor in a flat calm sea the 20 miles remaining to Ak Tainaron and rounding it at 0900 in similar conditions.

 Much to our surprise a south-westerly breeze arose within minutes so we set off due east for Ak Maleas 30 miles distant in the knowledge that if the same breeze held up that would make its rounding quite safe.  Reaching Monemvasia on the eastern side of Parnon peninsula was a real possibility.  Had our weather luck changed at last?

 The area between these two capes and north of the island of Kithera is a major shipping channel and today it was busy.  We lost count of the number of ships we saw, checked their courses for the potential of a collision, monitored and passed without incident but it was more than thirty.  Whilst we were under sail and thus under international shipping law had the right of way, it is quite difficult to argue with even a fifty thousand ton freighter let alone some of the bigger boys.  But it is surprising how considerate they are even in such a congested seaway and we noted several that clearly altered their course just to give us a comfortable passing of at least half a mile.

 As we approached Ak Maleas the wind changed and we wondered of we were going to be turned back yet again so, as tradition demands, we shouted and waived at the monks in the capes monastery perched high up on its 300 metre cliffs.  It worked.  We rounded the cape under motor in flat calm and no wind whatsoever.  The forecast had been for a further south-easterly; we were thankful for its inaccuracy or the help of the monks; who knows which?

 A good sail was had, north, up to Monemvasia in a south-westerly blowing anything from 4 knots to 40 knots and we were soon moored to our most (un)favourite pontoon (see E’s From Aboard 11 of 2004 for the wonders of this place and the dramas we suffered).

 So it was a quick sleep, bikes out, a quick shower and dress for a celebratory dinner up in the historic stone built Venetian influenced walled town, overlooking the sea between there and Ak Maleas just as its residents have done for centuries, watching out for shipping that was bound to take refuge within their bays and provide with the income that built this wonderful place.

 A great evening was had, cut short after our main course as we felt a rising breeze off the land.  If you have a strong breeze on the rock, it is probably blowing a gale in the harbour, and so it was!  A rapid return to CG found her safe and secure but the two yachts to windward of us not holding on their anchors.  If their anchors pulled out they would fall down on us and damage was inevitable; we were in big trouble. We decided to leave first to avoid that possibility, thus it was away from the mooring to anchor in the bay just as we had last September to ride out the gale.  We were soon followed by the German yacht that was alongside us who also anchored in the bay for the night.

 In the morning the gale had abated to a strong breeze that would give us a great sail up to Poros in the Saronic.  The anchor was lifted, the sails raised and the following two hours were spent making just five miles.  The wind had dropped to a mere puff!  But it improved and at 2000 that evening we arrived in Poros.

 This leg of our trip was complete.  It had taken us eleven days rather than the planned five but it had been fun if a trifle more adventurous than we would have chosen.

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/5 (Pics)

Late May

Cruising can have some strange affects on peoples’ behaviour.  Take Charlie for instance, who after all had a fairly posh upbringing and whose mother set her some high standards to be maintained throughout her life.  How then could she explain to her mother being found early one morning upside down with her head buried in an industrial sized wheelie bin?  Why was this? Because whilst dumping her rubbish she spotted three bits of stainless steel equipment that had been discarded by someone doing up an old yacht and looked possibly of some further use.  Of course she will blame Richard who hoards anything he finds or that is surplus to his immediate requirements and subsequently puts it all to good use.  And she was right; one piece has made a perfect holder for a fishing rod on the back of the boat and the other two pieces will make excellent wine bottle holders when Richard gets round to fitting them.  Steptoe would be proud of them both.

 Casper is performing brilliantly, helped enormously by the consistent breezes we have had since he was fitted.  Ah but who the hell is Casper you rightly ask; the Rutland 913 wind generator fitted by Olivier in early May.  It is perhaps a further strange affect of cruising or a sad sign of Richard and Charlie’s decline into dotage or, as Terry Wogan would have it, sogginess (SOG’s - Sad Old Gits) that they name all their pieces of equipment and nick knacks carried on the yacht (actually they do it at home as well).  Casper is quiet but sets up an eerie hum in the stainless steel mast that he tops that reminds them of the moans of Casper the childrens’ cartoon ghost, hence the name.

 Further on the same tack (dreadful sailing pun, sorry), there is the consequence of the missed Devonian garden and the loneliness of the summer sailing couple.  Basil (oh dear can you see this one coming?) is their third crewmember, a pot plant herb.  He is on board for three other reasons.  One because they love to cook and want fresh herbs to cook with, two because it is a common plant on Mediterranean ships for religious/good luck reasons and, three ‘cos it replaces the missed garden.  Further crewmembers and garden replacements include Jerry and Jerryson, a pink Germanium and a shoot that was knocked off him in a blow that was planted and is now competing with its parent.  It will be window boxes next; you see.

 Then there is Jane Honda the outboard motor not mention Tim Helman the yacht’s autopilot.  Is there any hope?

 Perhaps a change of tack is required.

 On the subject of cooking, the collection of fresh herbs has become a pastime. Each port or walk round an anchorage sees both Charlie and Richard scouring the verges for Thyme, Rosemary, Sage or any other herb that can be found growing wild in the unspoilt countryside.  The odd lemon or two have also been known to drop off their branches whilst being admired.

 The last few weeks has seen their meeting a flurry of interesting and charming people.  

Di & Tony Miles; Tony being a newly retired dentist working through what he and is wife Di wish to do with their newly acquired free time.  How much shall they spend out in the med sailing, how much at home?

Di was a PA to a CE and Chair of an NHS trust but has managed to retain an ebullient attitude to life that complements Tony’s quiet and friendly manner.  It was an absolute pleasure to join their celebration of Tony’s 60th birthday in Euphemia on Kephalonia.

 Then there was Richard and Jane Hare.  They have made a lifestyle decision to opt out of the mainstream rat race and spend more time sailing the classic Golden Hind that Richard spent several years fitting out himself from a purchased basic hull.  Jane is a nurse and Richard now a freelance (rather than employed) journalist and they hope to both work sufficiently on a part-time basis to fund further sailing adventures that should provide Richard with material for yachting magazine articles.

 As to journalists, we also spent some enjoyable time with Sarah Shrimpton and her husband Peter Button.  Sarah is a freelance journalist and is currently finishing off her first novel.  Good luck Sarah we shall be watching the bookshelves!

 In Pilos square over a vodka or three we met a third journalist.  Do things really come in threes after all?  She and her fella where spending two weeks travelling round the Peloponnisos on a motorbike visiting all the historic sites they could reasonably manage.  We never did get their names but they were a sweet couple, he a property developer and her working for the Mirror Group.

 We mentioned our unplanned trip to Poros on Kephalonia but not that it provided an unexpected evening of really great local and ethnic entertainment.  The bikes transported us the kilometre from the harbour to the beachfront area where the numerous tavernas and bars are fronted by a promenade that backs the beach itself.  As we rode down the hill towards the promenade sounds of classical Greek music floated up towards us from a local band that was set up there.  As May Day (a Spring Festival in Greece) fell on the same weekend as Easter in Greece, the locals decided to celebrate the Spring Festival a couple of weeks later so there they all were sitting around drinking and periodically joining in the various traditional dances.

 What was particularly interesting was the span of age groups taking part.  Teenagers dressed just as their English counterparts would, but unlike them, dancing traditional dances in hand-holding groups just like their parents and grandparents were.  Then one of the older generation holding a white scarf or handkerchief in his hand would approach their group and invite them to follow his lead.  Soon the whole mass of mixed generations were dancing round in one long spiral, holding hands at shoulder level and following the quite complex sequence of steps and shuffles that slowly moved them round and round the dance area.  Periodically one of the older generation would break away and perform his own more elaborate version of the dance within the spiral.

 All this took part with just a German couple and us as non-local visitors but we were made to feel as welcome as if members of one of the Greek families.  Flowers were in abundance and single blooms of wild flowers given freely to all.  As we get off the beaten track this occurs quite regularly during May with Charlie being presented with a bloom by complete strangers for no apparent reason other then the pleasure of giving.

 Later in the month on our way up the Evia channel we stopped at Eretria on Evia’s southern coast.  The approaches were interesting with many reefs and shallows to be circumvented.  Inside the harbour bay created by an island to the east and a very long mole (breakwater) to the west, you can anchor off the beach or moor at the southern extremity of the mole if there is room amongst the numerous fishing vessels.  We chose the latter and were helped in and directed by one of the fishermen who hurried 100 metres or so along the mole just for that purpose.

 As the it was still blowing hard the following morning we stayed where we were and just before lunch there was a knock knock on our hull.  Richard popped his head up to be greeted by another very smiley fisherman holding out a plastic bag full of fresh fish.  It was gift graciously given and gratefully received.  They were like large sardines that he had already gutted for us so we cooked them there and then and feasted on them, a dish of Horta and a carafe of local white wine, sat in the cockpit as the sun broke through and the wind abated.  It’s a tough life this cruising.

 As we departed that afternoon for Khalkis (Khalkidis), we passed the trawler from where the fish had come and exchanged sign language with our benefactor to tell him our tummies were full and the fish were great.  His smiling and waiving told us that gave him great pleasure.

 The weather in the latter part of May declined from its earlier summer format of sunny days and high temperatures, albeit with stronger than normal winds from the wrong direction, to weather reminiscent of the morning after a curry night out; wet, warm and windy.  The Meltemi blew strongly from its usual northerly direction but with a consistent force 6 gusting force 7 (up to 30 mph), dark cumulonimbus rain clouds and torrential downpours.  In Khalkis it rained solidly from 3am to 9am two mornings in a row.

 Why were we so aware of the time?  Because Khalkis is the main town on Evia island that at that point is only separated from the mainland by 39.3m (139 feet) and that space is closed by a sliding road bridge that only a small dinghy can pass beneath.  The bridge is opened daily when the tidal stream allows and then only at nightime to avoid too much traffic disruption.  Hence our passage through was at half past midnight and we were only able to moor up to the town quay adjacent to two bars that stay open to 3am so we joined in the merriment and did not go to bed until they shut and the rain started!  The following day we were able to move 100 metres further along the quay where it was considerably quieter.

 A further Greek myth has it that, as a result of his inability to explain the phenomenon of the rising and falling tides on either side of the channel and the constantly changing flow of water back and forth, Aristotle threw himself into the raging torrent of the channel.  It reaches speeds of 7 knots at times and the tidal range to the north is close to 1 metre but to the south only 200mm.  No wonder he was confused, even Richard could not fully explain the phenomena!

 The trip up the Evia channel was eventful and with some fairly challenging sailing.  We enjoyed all the places we visited (see Appendix Four when the section on the Evia channel is added) but were particularly enchanted with the section north of Khalkis.

  

E’s from Aboard 2005/6 (Pics)

Early June

The gulf of Volos (Pagasitikos Kolpos) was everything we expected it to be; lake like conditions in its roughly 15 mile extent where even when the wind gets up the sea remains relatively flat making for exciting sailing.  Volos itself was too city like for us but excellent for provisioning.

 Elsewhere there were quiet bays where we enjoyed peace and tranquillity and in one almost typical English garden, sounds of a motor mower in the early evening cutting the lawns of the estate, the beach of which we anchored off for the night.

 Another was a very small island with a tiny harbour within a fairly open bay, Nisis Trikeri, where we moored up stern-to the end of their short mole that had just two small fishing boats to each side and enough space on its end to put our stern.  Six or eight boats used this quay, taking it in turns to use it as and when a space was created by a departure, otherwise picking up a laid mooring off-shore and paddling a dinghy to reach the shore.

 They had us enchanted with their comings and goings from there to their fishing grounds or just trips across to the nearby mainland to pick up supplies and even a water taxi for a couple of yachties who were anchored in a mainland bay but had been picked up by the fisherman for a day on the island and returned to their yacht in the early evening.

 Another of the boats, evidently owned by the local builder, spent the evening running back and forth to the nearby mainland picking up pallets of cement and sand that he then proceeded to unload into the bucket of a small digger, transport it along the slightly larger reserved ferry quay and load into a trailer attached to his tractor.  After several boat trips, the tractor disappeared up the hillside to we knew not where until the following morning we walked the un-metalled road up the hill to meet him and his tractor at the top returning from a further small hamlet just half a mile down the other side of the island where he was building an extension to a villa.  On the same walk we saw but choose not to visit, a fairly elaborate stone built monastery that is evidently visited by most who stop on the island.  The peace, tranquillity and sense of living history to be found in such locations is difficult to describe but it certainly generates a feeling of timelessness and lack of urgency about anything whatsoever.

 Back at the harbour there are two tavernas.  You wonder how on earth they survive and make a living from the few summer visitors and the islands very few residents.  Similarly the Mini-Market that would easily fit in the average sized UK bathroom, but survive they do and appear very happy with their lot.  We eat on board that evening having previously prepared some lamb fillet for that purpose and sat in our cockpit watching about ten locals sitting in the nearest taverna, consuming a few beers interspersed by occasional dishes of food prepared by one or the other in the kitchen beyond.  Our meal lasted perhaps half an hour; there’s nearer three hours with constant chatter and argument.  The Greeks are great conversationalists and we often wonder what on earth they find to talk about each and every day with the same friends, in the same café, drinking the traditional coffee or evening meal as in this case.

 Watching them reminded us of the taverna we visited with Peter and Judy a couple of weeks ago at Voufaloo (sounds like a rather personal French question?).  Voufaloo is a little bay on Evia almost closed off from the open sea by a tree lined sand spit at the end of a steep sided valley between two mountain ridges on either side.  There perhaps a dozen houses of various ages and styles and what appears to be two tavernas, one of which is undoubtedly permanently shut and the other looking as if it is.  We were advised by one of the fishermen by a mixture of sign language, his colloquial and Peter’s faltering Greek, that it would be open that evening.  Richard did not believe it as there was no light to be seen and no sign of residents but open it was.  A youngish couple were sitting at a table, listening to their radio, smoking and discussing we know not what.  We entered, sat down and after a few minutes, presumably when they had finished with the topic they were discussing, he brought us a hand-written menu and she disappeared, we assumed, to the kitchen to prepare some food for us.

 Surprisingly, we had a very good meal indeed.  Richard’s meal included a Saganaki of Feta cheese that was better than any previously tasted though he was quite incapable of working out what was different about it other than it was soft and succulent whereas fried Feta tends to be as tough as old boots.  To follow, three had Shrimp Saganaki no doubt made with shrimps they or another villager had brought in earlier that day.  It felt as if we had invaded their home, not a taverna, and were being fed on their balcony overlooking our yachts at anchor in their bay as their guests or would it have been conquerors in times past; you get the feeling the response would have been just the same, only our payment making the modern difference to how their lives continue, little altered from centuries past.

 We have not finished our exploration of the Gulf of Volos as, we felt an overpowering desire to return to the Northern Sporades where we had such good sailing holidays some thirteen plus years previously.  But the Sporades also had some ghosts that needed laying to rest as it was there we had gone for a week’s sailing after Charlie’s initial surgery for breast cancer and was perhaps why we had not returned since 1993.

 So return we did, first to Koukonaries Bay on Skiathos to anchor off this doyen of sandy tourist beaches and to take the dinghy ashore and walk into the tourist village with its plethora of tavernas and bars all vying for the French, German, Dutch and British tourists frequenting the local pensions and hotels.  Yes its is a bit naff with all their quirky attempts at British pun humour adverts to attract you into their specific taverna but it has a character and charm all of its own.  The menus are principally aimed at the ‘mass market, fast food’ desires of so many tourists but you will always find the rebellious chef will tuck away a few typically Greek dishes that some of the more adventurous clientele will try.

 From there we moved along the coast to Skiathos town and its main port; not the most idyllic of harbours for visiting yachts but good enough.  Provisioning and laundry were our main aims, the laundry being the most important as we had by then accumulated a good four loads of fairly grubby clothes and bedding.  The laundry turned out to be one of the best ever found with its bank of ten Miele machines managed by a sweet old Greek gent, short and tubby with a great mass of fluffy white and grey hair, and a smile that could melt ice. His service was even better, all washing returned, neatly folded in nice new fresh bags even though it was ‘wash only’.

 All was returned to the yacht to be hung out on the washing line that stretches three times up and down the yacht’s length but not for long as it dries very quickly in the sun and constant summer breeze.

 A couple of days later found us at anchor in a quiet, tree-lined bay on Nisos Alonnisos with, somewhat surprisingly, three almost deserted beaches despite its holiday resort reputation and its silver sand bottom giving the water the familiar pale blue, emerald hue.  The breeze had been stiff all day but conveniently died in the early evening and so it was the following morning.  That decided Richard the job he had been dreading had to be done and this flat calm was the best opportunity seen for the past couple of weeks.

 Whilst reefing the sails in a blow one of the flag halyards had come adrift and the only way it can be re-positioned is by way of the dreaded Bosuns Chair as it drops from the first set of crosstrees up the mast.  Richard does not like heights and the thought of swinging at the end of a rope half way up the mast fills him with dread as it does Charlie as she must remain below firstly to hoist him up and then to lower him back down with the help of a winch of course.  But one day it might be required in an emergency so the routine has to be sorted.

 It was done as the picture shows.  It will not be repeated unless it has to be.

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/7 (Pics)

Second Half of June

Continuing our return to the Northern Sporades we have been back to the Gulf of Volos to explore a few more ports and anchorages including a further trip to Volos itself to purchase screws and other bits and bobs to keep Richard busy with his DIY.

 As previously mentioned, we met up with our friends Peter & Judy Sturgess from Kingsbridge and sailed up part of the Evia channel with them until they wished to push on up to the Northern Sporades but we met them again as we reached Oreio and they stopped there on their way back to Athens.  Just two days later we found ourselves in the same place as a Sunsail flotilla and exchanged pleasantries with a couple who we subsequently moored close to in Skopelos.  On inviting them aboard we discover they (Roger & Francis) are also from the Kinsbridge area and know Peter & Judy. It is small world indeed.

 And thus we spent a few days sailing in tandem with them and found them great company despite the fact that Roger is a practicing Architect!  Shop talk was rapidly banned from all conversations, a rule firmly imposed by Charlie on pain of death.  It is hoped we shall meet up with them again when we are at home.

 After their departure back home a second attempt at a stop at Platania on the Greek mainland in Steno Trikeri (Trikeri Channel) was successful.  The quay was again full of fishing boats, large and small, thus we were forced to anchor off in the harbour bay.  It is a very Greek holiday resort apparently named Platania because of its Plane trees though it certainly has more than just those trees these days.  The tavernas are very Greek but clearly cater for the minority British, German and other European visitors.

 On choosing Mama’s &Papa’s taverna where we had a very good, typically Greek meal, we were retrospectively amused by a typical comment the Greek owner made whilst taking our order.  Charlie ordered Chorta (‘Ch’ as in Loch; spinach or beetroot tops or any similar wild leafed plant cooked and served with olive oil) to be followed by Briam (Herbs, aubergine, tomato, onion, courgette, potato and/or any other vegetable, cooked in the oven as a stew) whilst Richard went for Gavros (whitebait dipped in flour and fried) and Moussaka (the traditional Greek dish of minced lamb, potato, aubergine, onion and, of course, tomato with herbs, oven baked with a Béchamel topping).

 At that point the owner commented, “A good choice Sir, the Moussaka is freshly made today”.  As we said, on reflection, what would you think if upon ordering your meal in an English restaurant they informed you that ONE of the dishes you have just ordered is fresh today; probably you would leave never to return?  But in Greece this is normal.  Dishes are prepared and kept luke warm for days and similarly served.  Perhaps surprisingly no one seems to suffer from this process, certainly not us.

 Paul and Jackie Evill then joined us for an easy week cruising round the ports and bays of Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonnisos in absolutely perfect weather; cool nightime breezes to sleep by and easy daytime breezes to sail by.  The latter was a bit of a relief as they morning we sailed back to Skiathos to pick them up was in a Force 7 near gale.  They hope to return and join us for another week in early September.

The weather generally has been much warmer with daytime temperatures reaching the low thirties and nighttime temperatures dropping marginally below the thirty mark.  But as a trough of lower pressure passed through in mid June, we found ourselves sailing in a brisk wind from Platania to Skiathos in a 23° air temperature and feeling sufficiently chilled to don trousers, sweatshirt and a skillet; it shows just how quickly the body acclimatises to the higher ambient temperatures and feels cold in what would otherwise pass as a good English summer’s day.

 And further on the weather and Platania, whilst there for the night we experienced another of the weather quirks.  The wind that day had been brisk but no more than a good Force 4 and, as usual, as the sun goes down the wind died away to nothing to be replaced after dark by a gentle puff as the land cooled and the cooling air flowed back down the adjoining valley and out over the bay; just what was needed to keep us cool at anchor with the forward hatch left ajar to catch the breeze and direct it across our bed.  But at about 2.30am out of nowhere comes a near gale (F7) that blew for an hour and half and then disappeared as quickly as it arose.  No clouds, no rain, plenty of stars and bright half moon; just a gale from we know not where that had CG creaking and groaning as she swung first one way then the other, snatching up firmly on her anchor chain at the end of each swing and the noise of the wind howling through the rigging to disturb our peaceful slumbers.

 Wildlife has been little different to previously with regular sightings of dolphins, restful nighttimes enhanced by the plaintive one note whistling call of the Scops owls, and the early morning sharper but very musical call of the Rock Thrush competing feverishly with the Blackbird’s song, apart from the Scops, no different to that you expect at home.  Perhaps the strangest sight to us is the three Ducks of various types accompanied by what we believe is a hybrid Snow Goose.  We need Andrew to confirm what it is as the bird book we have does not cover it at all.  It has the call of the common farmyard goose but it is only slightly larger than your average duck and is totally white with no darker edges to its wing tips or other plumage.

 They happily live at sea and scrounge food from those on the beach or in tavernas.  We have been known to order a lettuce salad and feed that to a goose while we eat our dinner.  Other than the occasional Brit, nobody thinks it is at all odd.  Just another one of those things we are no longer allowed to enjoy in our nanny state back home!

 The dolphin sightings were enhanced off Skopelos island by the presence on the water of Corey’s Shearwaters, a delightful smaller version of the common shearwater, both regularly seen gliding effortlessly over the wave tops and into the troughs from which they gain lift that minimises their need to flap their wings.  The Common Shearwater is normally seen alone or in pairs whereas Corey’s are seen in flocks and can also be readily identified by their more regular need to flap their wings.

 Having spotted two schools of dolphins no more than a 100 meters apart, both with a flock of Corey’s Shearwaters in attendance, we stopped to watch and listen as the dolphins herded the shoals of fish and attacked them from underneath whilst the birds sat on the surface to pick up any bits left over.  The sound of the dolphins exhaling as they surface mixed with the patter patter: patter patter of the birds duck like feet paddling across the surface as they struggle to take off is just enchanting.  Half an hour passed in what seemed like seconds.

 At another lunchtime stop under some fairly high cliffs we watched what can only be described as a flock of Peregrine Falcons diving on unseen prey on the cliff top and the Swifts, Swallows and Martins that were hunting their own prey in the same air space.

 Talking of Martins, Richard spotted what he believes was a Pine Martin on Skopelos whilst at anchor in Panourmous bay and Charlie spotted what turned out to be a fair sized sword fish just a couple of miles off the coast; it was leaping out of the water and splashing down on its side, presumably to clear parasites from its scales.  That was quite a sight and would have made a super meal if Richard had known what bait or lure to use to catch it; swordfish steaks being a favourite meal when eating out.

 Richard has recommenced snorkelling after the purchase of a new mask; partly so we can check our recalcitrant anchor is properly dug in when anchoring for the night and partly just to better see the wildlife below the surface. There is so very little visible life on the sea bottom, one wonders how all the numerous small fish one sees survive; it must be food in the weed patches as they can’t all be predators feeding on other species.

 The CQR type bower (bow) anchor continues to be unpredictable which has caused us to bring our lightweight Fob kedge anchor into more regular use, not only both to moor bows-to or moor with anchors from bow and stern, but as an or alternative bow anchor.  It is proving to be an unmitigated success on all counts.  Not only does it work in all these circumstances, it is proving so easy to lay and lift by hand from the dinghy or the yacht (the bower anchor and chain can only be lifted with the use of the powered windlass).

 We have now covered just over 1,500 nautical miles this year and are reconsidering where we go next when we leave the Northern Sporades.  Shall we go up to northern Greece and the Mount Athos peninsulas and from there across the northern coast of the Aegean to Istanbul, then down the Turkish coast or shall we head East straight across the Aegean via Skiros and Lesvos to the Turkish coast?  The time difference to reach the same point in Turkey would be around one month less with the latter option.

 Shall we then stay in Greek waters or actually ‘check out’ of Greece and ‘enter’ Turkey.  It will almost certainly be the latter even though that is likely to require a two or three day delay in progress south whilst we complete all the formalities.  Who said the British invented bureaucracy?

 Once we reach southern Turkey, which will almost certainly be by later August, where we shall go then is yet in the lap of the gods as we have no firm ideas at all.

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/8 (Pics)

Early July

On July 2nd we had a little 1st birthday celebration for Charlie’s American hip as it appears to have brought to an end the traumas that required its fitting.  To some it will seem bizarre but we celebrated with equal gusto a fall that Charlie had that very day.  Nothing fell off or dislocated; it was just a typical boating type accident, slipping on the boarding plank and landing with a rather unceremonious bump on one’s posterior in front of a whole quay full of witnesses with the resultant cuts and bruises to nurse but nothing worse to manage.  Any excuse to open another bottle of Fizz?

 It can be correctly gathered from that, that Charlie’s full recovery continues apace.  Embarking and disembarking are almost no hassle and all the day-to-day jobs are now equally shared, including the stowing of the anchor chain in the anchor locker, a decidedly bendy and difficult task for anybody.  Charlie’s Arthritis is an ever present concern but there is no doubt that the warm climate and constant movement of all the body’s parts keeps such progression as is inevitable at bay as does the exercises and other therapy recommended prior to this year’s departure; copious quantities of olive oil also helps no end (never mind the points, think of the joints!).

 But there is one sad event to report.  Basil, our third crew member, developed a very nasty and progressive terminal illness requiring his execution and burial at sea. It was carried out with full honours bestowed.  He was executed in a beautiful, tranquil bay of silver sand and emerald clear water but not before his remaining good parts were removed for scientific purposes, a basil and tomato salad.  He has been replaced and his successor, purchased before his execution, seems to have understood his predecessor’s failings and has decided to flower already some three months ahead of what is expected of his type.

 July the 2nd also saw a full boat clean and laundry day subsequent to Paul & Jackie’s departure the previous evening; not that they caused any mess at all, just that it is required from time to time.  The decks were scrubbed, the Genoa let out and fresh water washed to remove the salt it had collected in our last near gale sail, the stainless steel all wiped down and dry polished, the blocks, tackle and ropes fresh water washed and the cockpit washed out.  Down below the soapy wood cleaner was seen in action bringing a ‘ping’ to the internal appearance partly through that commercially added confidence trick that produces an aroma of a fresh spring day in sunny England.

 All cleaning jobs done and electrical appliances charged from the available shore power, we departed from a scorching hot and humid Skiathos in the anticipation of cooler and drier air at sea.  So it was and at about seven that evening we put into Agnondas on Skopelos for the night, unusually alongside as it was by then blowing too hard to risk the beam wind on a stern-to mooring.

 On settling down to ice-cold vodkas after a quick dip to cool off, the wind, by then blowing force five into the bay, suddenly and dramatically died.  Very odd.  Ten minutes later it blew from the opposite direction with equal force.  Not quite so odd as the forecast had been for F4 to F5 from the north-northwest and that would produce wind off the land, Agnondas being on the leeside in such winds.

 Before the ice had melted in the second vodka, the wind again reversed but this time instantaneously and with such force it formed whirlwinds down the quay picking up literally tons of dust and debris that was promptly deposited on and in what had until then been a pristine yacht.  Charlie was understandably distraught and a major wobbly ensued calmed only by the provision of an appropriate medicine, a glass of wine.

 In 30+° degrees all hatches were open but then promptly shut, albeit after the horse had bolted, and so they stayed until morning.  During the night the heavens opened and it rained for an hour or so.  It was hoped that would wash off the decks but a head poked through the hatch in the morning confirmed that as a forlorn hope.  Two hours were then spent cleaning up the debris as best we could with the continuing blow doing its best to ensure further debris replaced all that we had removed.  And so we spent a further night there awaiting the abatement of this unseasonal weather.

 After two nights of bouncing up and down in the swell the bad weather produced, we decided to leave even though it was still blowing a hooley.  We had a great sail with just half the Genoa out and no main with an F6 gusting 7 wind creating some fairly steep seas, particularly whilst crossing the gap between Skopelos an Alonnisos. By the time we reach Steni Vala about two hours later, we were again salt covered but exhilarated and relieved to find the inlet flat calm with little or no swell.

 It was by then time to leave the Northern Sporades.  We decided to miss out Northern Greece and head straight across the Aegean towards Turkey.  Just where would depend on wind direction.  The wind being north west as we left made that Skyros, considered part of the Northern Sporades but being around 50 miles east of the other islands in the group, very much with a character of its own that is more akin to the Cyclades than the Sporades.

 The first night was spent at anchor in Ormos Pevki, a nice enough bay, surrounded by pine covered hills and mountain slopes.  Once the Greek holiday makers, of which there were but twenty, had departed for their dinner, our attention was turned to the flock of birds wheeling high above the surrounding peaks.  Identification for certain was not possible at that range but they were Falcons for sure and we are fairly sure they were all Eleanoras Falcons, rare in their own right but evidently relatively common on Skyros.

 The following day we motored the three miles round to the island’s only port, Linaria where we moored up alongside for the day whilst we took a taxi to the Chora, the main town such as it is.  The architecture is very Cycladic and its tourist attraction failing; the place was close to dead.  A sad sight and a crying shame as it is quite beautiful perched as it is atop a large rocky crag overlooking a fertile valley below.

 We returned to the yacht and ate on board, then wandered up to a beautifully appointed bar that is terraced down the side of the headland protecting the harbour where we whiled away an hour or two drinking Greek coffees and Metaxa after which we retired to bed with the hatches wide open and just a sheet over us; it was very hot.

 The hatches have removable mosquito nets held in place with Velcro pads that Richard made over winter.  At about 4am we were rudely awakened by the sound of the net above our bed peeling back on its Velcro followed instantaneously by it and something alive falling on Richard’s thigh.  The inflicted scratches soon made him realise it was a cat and a wild one at that.  It took quite some time to get it out of the boat as it was understandably terrified and kept tearing about from cabin to cabin finding that it’s exit from any hatch was barred by a mossy net.

 The next day we left for Psara but on rounding the southern end of Skyros found the wind to be ‘on the nose’; very odd for this time of year and this part of the Aegean in particular where the summer wind, the Meltemi blows strongly from the north almost incessantly and often at some strength.  To find the wind coming in from the south east was irritating but it turned out to be a bonus as we found a lovely, if barren, bay (Ormos Renes) on the south east of Skyros and spent a nice peaceful day and night there chilling out with periodic swims between studying the flocks of mountain goats and sheep wandering the surrounding hillsides and the numerous falcons overhead.

 Ormos Renes is in the otherwise unoccupied part of Skyros at least ten miles from the nearest village or made up road.  Imagine our surprise when in the middle of the afternoon at the height of the day’s heat and whilst watching a pair of Eleanora’s falcons circling a nearby promontory, Richard spotted two beach umbrellas apparently walking themselves long the track some two miles away.  It turned out to be four young ladies and one rather strange gent who some time later settled down on the beach where we were anchored for a swim and sunbathe.  Where on earth had they come from?  They were a very disparate group and we could not even work their connection with each other let alone what sort of holiday had brought them to such a desolate and deserted place.  They were very white, looked British, though we were unable to confirm that, as they were just too far away to hear their language.

 When the wind returned to the north west we headed for Psara, leaving the Northern Sporades behind and entering the Eastern Sporades.  It was a fifty mile hop in an excellent breeze if lumpy sea that took us the whole way under sail.

 Here we were to found yet a further change in the culinary delights on offer.  We have become used to horta being anything from the spinach we all know, through beetroot tops to a wide variety of wild plants from which the leaves are taken and cooked as we would spinach.  On Khios we added a couple more; a plant growing readily on the cliff tops that looks a bit like a fleshy succulent version of watercress.  Its flavour and texture was very similar to a good crisp lettuce and that is how it is generally served, as part of a salad or as a garnish to a main course; in our case this was the local cod.  Sandfire, or its Greek equivalent, is also served both cooked or pickled or uncooked in salads.

 As the Ports Visited mentions, our initial reaction to the Eastern Sporades has not all been favourable.  It is difficult to be too precise as it is mainly a feeling rather than a demonstrable fact.  It may flow from the fact that Psara, Khios and Oinoussa for different reasons have retained their original source of wealth (shipping magnates and natural mastic production) and do not rely on tourism or passing trade.  Perhaps they see us as they have seen invaders throughout their history; just that, passing through.

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/9 (Pics)

Mid July

It is getting very hot.  35°C at midday at sea is becoming normal and the temperature rarely drops below 25°C at night.  Though even at that temperature we have acclimatised to such an extent that the duvet is still is use, albeit not until the small hours when the temperature has dropped.  One evening whilst barbequing on Roger and Birgitta’s yacht on Nisos Agathonisi, we actually felt cold in 25°C.

 With all the wildlife concerns elsewhere in the Mediterranean and at home, it is good to be able to report daily sightings of various types of dolphins.  In the Northern Sporades it was a daily occurrence; here in the Eastern Sporades on trips of 20 miles plus, they are becoming almost an hourly event.  One of the numerous sightings on the 60 mile trip from Khios to Samos gave us yet a further question to ask as we saw what appeared to be a very small dolphin clinging to the dorsal fin of a larger animal.  Was this a newly born babe hanging on to its mother’s back to keep up with the feeding school?  We must find out.

 Otherwise that particular trip did nothing for our attempt to sail more and motor less.  The forecast was for a NNW wind of Force 5 (up to 21 knots or 24mph, quite a stiff breeze).  What we had was nothing to 4 knots of wind that would generate little more than 1 knot under sail equating to 2.5 days to complete the voyage against an 8 hour sail we could reasonably have expected F5 wind.  So it was motor the whole way at around 6.5 knots for fuel economy, taking all of 9 hours to reach Pithagorion.

 Pithagorion on Samos, variously called Pythagoreo, was so named in recent times in honour of Pythagoras who was apparently born here.  It was here that we met up with Roger and Birgitta who had sailed up from Crete and with whom we were to spend the next 10 days or so sailing in tandem.

 The stop on Agathonisi for two days was rewarded by the sighting of an Imperial Eagle hovering just above the yacht whilst moored in the East Bay.  Being amateurs at bird watching, the identification was from the book but we are sure it was an Imperial not Golden Eagle as its white flashes were quite distinct though this mountainous habitat is not normal for an Imperial.  However, the Turkish coast with its marshland plains is and is only 10 miles away, just a short flight for such a powerful bird.  It was most magnificent sight, hovering completely stationary in such a strong breeze for minutes at a time and then after a while, gliding gently down to roost in a tree no more than 100 meters away from us.

 From Agathonisi we enjoyed the foretelling of a few days ‘weather’ to come.  We sailed from there to Nisos Marathos in a steady F6 making an average of 8.5 knots with a heavily reefed mainsail and partially reefed Genoa.  The sea was pretty lumpy, making helming quite difficult at times but the whole journey was a rip roaring 16 mile sleigh ride in brilliant sunshine and on crystal clear cobalt sea.  Heaven.

 On arrival in Marathos, an absolutely charming islet that is becoming another of our all time favourites (See Ports Visited- Dodecanese), the weather worsened or to be more precise the wind rose to near gale.  As the anchorage is safe it was planned to stay a couple of nights; that made it a certainty.  With a stronger Meltemi comes a bonus, cooler temperatures and so it was.  But there was serious drama to come.

With the portent of a full gale we attached two strops to the laid mooring to allow for one of its two ropes parting.  We also put our kedge anchor out forward as a back-up just in case both of the mooring ropes parted.  Belt, braces and string on your trousers one might say.

 All was well until 0500 on the third day of our stay.  Richard was awoken, not by the creaking of the mooring ropes as they had been for two days but by the Gennaker halyard slapping the mast.  “Why is it doing that now; it hasn’t done it for two nights?  We must be beam on to the wind?”  A rush out of bed and, even though it was still pitch dark, a look through the companionway showed that was so.  CG was on the rocks, portside on and on the bottom with a slight list to port.  Unbelievably both mooring ropes must have parted and the anchor failed to hold allowing an inevitable drift across the bay to the shallows and rocky shoreline at the leeward end of the bay.

 CG was firmly aground, hence the list though could only just have arrived as on starting the engine and putting her full astern she did move; very hesitantly at first and parallel to the rocks and then, with a touch of starboard helm, slightly away from them.  Whilst praying he could back her out of the shallows and away from the reef at the point of the bay Richard thought  “Have the ropes parted or are we towing the concrete mooring block?  If the anchor is still down it must be in the shallows.  Can we get CG into safe water before all the lines go tight or will they keep us aground?”

 It took several agonising and bumpy minutes with the engine screaming for mercy before she was clear of both hazards.  Charlie took over the helm and held her astern whilst Richard checked what was still attached up forward.  Both the strops were in place hanging below the bow and quickly removed.  The Kedge anchor line, a weighted warp, was taught and stretching back into the shallows.  A few tugs soon demonstrated that for some inexplicable reason, Richard could pull it in without too much difficulty.  How strange?  The 40 metres of line took some time to recover to discover to his amazement the anchor had broken; one of the two flukes was completely missing!  Anchors don’t break, yet we’ve had two break in 3 years.

 Now being safely free it was time to check for damage.  “Is the hull holed?  Water in the bilges, probably not.  Is the keel damaged, did the strike on the rocks loosen it?  The bilges and keel bolt housing are dry and the nuts tight so probably not; good”.  Reversing against a gale with the dinghy secured astern filled that with water and seawater soaked the outboard motor; is that OK?  We can check that later”.

 As the first signs of the forthcoming dawn lightened the eastern sky another laid mooring was picked up further into the bay, a cup of tea made and supped on deck whilst reflecting with some horror on ‘what might have been’.  The dinghy was then emptied, the outboard engine fresh water washed and started, confirming it was in fact undamaged.  It was time for some sleep, taken in the cockpit under the gaze of the slowly rising sun.

 After an hour’s sleep, snorkel mask and flippers were donned by Richard to check the hull, rudder and keel.  Remarkably there was no visible damage other than a couple of scratches on the bulbous base to the keel and as that is a solid lump of steel, a scratch or two are of little consequence.

Then the mooring and where we had struck the shallows and rock shore was investigated.  The mooring rope had broken in two places and near where we struck, the missing piece of the anchor was found and recovered.  It looks as if the anchor was flawed and snapped when we backed (at speed) away from the rocks and the line snatched tight.  If we had struck a boat’s length further up the shore or two lengths further down, she would never have come off; we have been extremely lucky.

 So what did we learn form the experience?

 Our teamwork served us well, apart from saying to Charlie “Get some clothes on, we are on the rocks”, everything else required just happened so not a lot to add or learn there.

 We have a few rules we work to when at anchor or on a fixed mooring and five of them we breached:

  1. Always have clothes laid out ready to don before going to bed.  We didn’t,
  2. Always make sure the deck and cockpit are clear of obstructions.  We didn’t, all the plant pots were in the way of the engine control panel on deck,
  3. If practical, swim and check the anchor (or anchors) are well dug in.  We didn’t and could easily have done so.
  4. If there any doubts about a fixed mooring, don’t use it.  We had doubts and tried to compensate for them with two strops and an anchor back-up,
  5. Lastly and perhaps most important, always set the anchor alarm to an appropriate moving distance.  As we were low on battery power and had already been there for 30 hours in a blow, we didn’t set it.  Had we done so, we would have known immediately CG started to drag on her anchor after the mooring ropes parted and a drama would have been averted.

 Our principal failure was complacency.  When nothing ever goes wrong, rules get broken and if the ‘chaos factor’ intervenes as it did in this instance, it can be disastrous.  Whilst our lives in this instance were never at risk (we could have climbed ashore with ease) we were very lucky not to lose the yacht with all the hassle that entails.

 But we didn’t, and had a lovely easy sail later that morning down to another enchanting island, Lipso where we are to spend a couple of days catching up on ‘jobs’ and dealing with E-mails and banking etc.

 Plans to visit Turkey this year have been cancelled, not because of the bombing in Kusadasi where we intended to check into Turkey though that would have influenced  us had we had any doubts, but because we are yet again being drawn back to our beloved Ionian.  Rod & Pat and Peter & Judy will be there in the latter part of September and of course there is the Southern Ionian Regatta and all the excitement that generates let alone Charlie’s desire to keep in touch with Richard’s future replacement if he misbehaves, Costas.

 In the meantime we are making our way down through the Dodecanese to Rhodes and then across the Cyclades through Astapalaia, Amorgos, Ios, Naxos, Paros, Serifos and who knows where else to the Saronic and Athens to pick up some parts for CGIV.

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/10 (Pics)

Late July

An advantage of the Aegean in the height of summer is the wind.  It blows most days and, more important, most nights, providing a cooling affect on the otherwise hot and sticky nights.  Though there are days and places when a blow is forecast, you leave a harbour where there was a nice breeze to find flat calm at sea.  Frustrating if you were looking forward to a spanking good sail.  It happened twice during the ten days we spent sailing in tandem with Roger and Birgitta and several times more around Simi and Rhodes.

 R & B have a Bavaria 40CC (Centre Cockpit) and have just completed the building of a superb villa for themselves in the mountains on Kriti (Crete) overlooking Kolpos (Gulf) Merambellou.  They keep their yacht (Bubbly Lady II) in Agios Nicolaos just a few miles across the bay from their villa.  They also retired early and spend most of their summers sailing around the Mediterranean.

 Through them we found some delightful stopping places in the Eastern Sporades and Dodecanes (See Ports Visited for details) some of which we spent a cosy two three days just swimming, walking, talking, eating, drinking and watching the world go by.  We parted at Emborios on Kalymnos on the 21st, us for Kos and them to spend a day drying out from our excesses (Roger said) and then head across the Aegean to Astapalaia where they intend to spend a few days exploring and awaiting just the right wind to take them south to Sitia on Kriti and then round to their base in Agios Nicolaos.  They are very much kindred spirits and we enjoyed their company immensely.

 The variety of food we are finding in the Dodecanese is much greater than in the Ionian and generally much cheaper.  On taverna menus, some of that may result from the Turkish and Italian influence, inevitably as Turkey is so close and probably because the Italians ruled the area until the end of the 2nd world war.

 One rather odd find is a different cucumber; it has the texture and some of the taste of an apple looks like a cross betweena cucumber, as we know it, and a courgette.

 Yet another great success on the cooking front is the smoking bags from good old Lakeland Plastics.  Frozen chickens out here are no different to the UK, full of water and empty of flavour.  Bung one in a smoking bag and chuck it in the oven, in joints or whole, and out comes meat absolutely full of flavour; a fresh chicken is even more successful.

 Our 29th wedding anniversary (24.07) was spent on Nisiros, a strange place in deed.  It is a semi-active volcano though its last eruption of any consequence was in 1873.  Because we are potty, we hired a moped as we did on our visit in 2001 and took a trip up to the rim and down into the caldera (crater). Boy is it hot in there, both from the still warm crater bed and because its 3km diameter entraps the suns rays.  The crater is still actively farmed by a few locals and is evidently highly fertile.  We can think of safer places to carry out your life’s work!

 After a cooling drink and a bit of filming, we rode back up to the rim to a village that is literally built into the rim, overhanging the crater where we took lunch.  It was a little sad to note that we were almost the only folk eating that day in such a delightful spot.

 From Nysiros we moved on to Panormitis on Symi that is a Mecca for Greek sailors from all over the world.  It is in a land locked bay that’s barrenness is compensated for by its slightly milky emerald water and the superb monastery complex ashore that includes a three-storey almost wedding cake style clock tower with its numerous bells.  It is an elaborate mock-Baroque copy of the tower of Agia Foteini in Izmir.

 The archangel Michael is the patron saint of Symi and all Greek seafarers many of whom make a pilgrimage to the monastery to pay homage to him.  It is said that if you ask a favour of St. Michael you must vow to give something in return; the monastery museum is full of such gifts, many beautifully crafted models of ships and boats.

 Limited provisions are available, in particular fresh bread, baked in the monastery bakery.  (Charlie is getting seriously worried about the quality of Greek bread we are finding; it is challenging her previously claimed superiority in that field!)  Here they make a special brown bread that tastes a little like ginger cake and a basket of it is put out in the monastery courtyard for all visitors to help themselves.  Other than that you can buy white and wholemeal brown as well as the usual (for Greece) nummy nummy nummies (cheese and ham goodies and a variety of sweet croissant style goodies that are really fattening!).

 Then it was Rhodes.  A Jeckle and Hyde place if there ever was one (see Ports visited for detailed comment).  The temperature in Symi was hot at 35°+ but the humidity was reasonable.  In Rhodes (town) with constant winds of 25 knots (nearly 30mph) the humidity reached 90%, effectively giving an atmosphere of drizzle even though there was a cloud to be seen.  We returned there after a weekend trip down to Lindos as we needed hairdressers; Charlie for the usual female reasons, Richard because he could not see anymore from underneath his four month growth of almost white hair, bleached by the sun from its usual grey.

 Lindos is arguably the second best historic site in Greece after the acropolis and Parthenon in Athens.  To anchor where the Knights of St. John had their ships under the watchful eye of the ancient acropolis and Byzantine fortifications on the headland above, has a historical magic that adds to the safety of the anchorage and its crystal clear, emerald blue water.  Yes there are half a million tourists here each year but, as if by that same magic, they mystically appear around 10.30 in the morning and disappear again by 7.00 in the evening leaving you to enjoy the peace and tranquillity the bay exudes with just a handful of other yachts for company.

 Despite the high temperatures and excessive humidity, we went ashore and climbed, on foot, the 125m to the acropolis and paid our €12 to wonder at man’s ingenuity and ability to have built a place of such magnitude and beauty, originally between 3,000 and 400 BC.  Of course it is largely ruins at present and there are differing opinions on the rebuilding work that is, albeit at a snails pace, returning it to its original state.  The weather worn column sections are being replaced with new in the same stone as are the steps familiar to any such Greek site.  It is not clear just how far they intend the rebuilding to go.

 The site was fortified by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John in the 13th century AD and much of their work can still be seen.  That and the village below are full of Byzantine architecture and even today reflects the wealth that grew around its use and position.  Expats and Greeks alike now own many of the buildings in the village and they have poured money into some the best quality restoration we have ever seen.  One of the houses is now a hotel reception area and has to be seen to be believed; the ceiling frescos and woodwork are fantastic.  Even some of the bars and tavernas have work of a similar quality and are not, as you might then expect, outrageously expensive.

 Just round the corner from the main bay and under the other side of the acropolis is the second, much smaller, historic harbour, St Paul’s bay; so named as it is where the Apostle St. Paul overstayed in AD43 on his way to Rome.  It is idyllic though like the main bay is packed with daytime tourists but in the morning and the evening it is delightful and so full of history we spent much of the day discussing the various contributors to the areas history.

 We had never seen an Eagle in our lives before, now in the Eastern Sporades and Dodecanes we are seeing them so often it almost a daily occurrence.  It is still difficult to be absolutely sure which type we are seeing but we are pretty positive we have seen Golden and Imperial eagles.  They really are the most majestic predators, one Imperial we sighted whilst at anchor in Pethi on Symi obligingly over flew the yacht at little more than 30m with its slow and methodical wing flaps, before using the upward air currents and thermals to soar almost out of sight over the nearby cliff tops.  It returned later to perch on a rock half a mile away where, with the help of our Steiner binoculars, we were able to study its colours and head shape and conclude it was an Imperial eagle.  A magical sight that kept us spell bound for half an hour or more. 

 Charlie is fit and well and for the last five days or so has also been without the pain in her upper back and neck that has been plaguing her for the past month or two.  It might be arthritis or Cerebral Spondalitis (if that is how your spell it?), we know not but it seems to have passed after a week or so of Richard taking up a new profession, masseur come aroma therapist.  As a last resort Charlie asked him to have a go at the areas involved with a bit of massage oil and, bingo, it has gone.  We are hoping forever; we shall see.

 The end of July also brought to an end our eastward progress.  Having decided to miss out Turkey this year, August will see us heading back north for a few days, unfortunately into the prevailing winds, then westward through the Cyclades to the Saronic.

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/11 (Pics)

Early August – Tales of the Wind

Rhodes was as far south and east as we were going for this year and that meant heading north and west against the prevailing northwesterly winds.  After three days of battling winds that were either a little too strong to sail to windward or just plain too little, we concluded that we had seriously upset the Greek wind gods and an appropriate offering may have to be considered.  As neither Charlie nor Richard were prepared to be sacrificed, a few maruli (lettuce) leaves were settled upon.

 t was not all bad though.  We first ran run south-west, (and, yes, the sailors amongst you will have assumed that would be sailable but that day the wind was ….. south westerly!) to Alimia and Khalkis (see Ports visited – Dodecanes), two charming islands off the south-west  coast of Rhodes.  We then headed northwest to Tilos and Nysiros.  Tilos we did not think was worth a stop and despite having just spent a few hours bashing into a two metre short chop sea in 25 knots of wind, we carried on in similar conditions to one of our loves, Pali on Nysiros.

 Entry to the harbour was entertaining with a 2m swell pushing through the narrow entrance and bouncing back off the far side wall as well as working its way round the corner and along the quay.  It made mooring quite difficult.  Once in, CG rocked from side to side by about 10° and lurching backwards and forwards by 5m or so.  Lines were thus left slack and mooring space either side kept clear of further incoming yachts to avoid the possibility of rigging clashes or hull damage.  All soon died down and we partook of a delightful ‘goodbye’ meal in our favourite quayside taverna, Afroditi, Richard having their succulent, herby lamb chops and Charlie an excellent mussel risotto all washed down with miso kilo aspro krasi (half a litre of white wine).

 The following day we set off with a favourable forecast of F4 northwesterly to sail the 40 odd miles to Astapalaia.  The first three miles were sailed in a southwesterly; the wind then came in from the west, smack on the nose.  “OK we’ll head up for Kalimnos.”  That was not to be either, as the wind then veered due north so we tacked and again headed for Astapalia.  Within a few minutes it veered again putting us on a course that would take us 30 miles south of Astapalaia so we tacked yet again and headed up for Kalimnos.  The wind continued to be perverse, sometimes dying completely, but we ultimately reached Emborios on Kalimnos at around 5pm, hot and exhausted but having sailed a good 50% of the way; in the circumstances, no mean feat.  It was a bit like setting off from London for Plymouth and ending up in Birmingham having been through Bristol on the way.

 Next day, to be even more perverse, the wind blew from the south,  “The wind here never blows from the south in August! We could have used this two days ago and saved 70 litres of fuel!”  was our exchange.  Again plans changed as neither Leros or Lipsi, our intended targets, are comfortable in strong southerly winds so we headed up to Patmos hoping the wind would not swing from south to a strong south-easterly as then even Patmos is untenable.

 All this was brought about by the need to refuel.  Too much diesel had been used in the two days of motoring into heavy seas and winds to leave us a safe enough margin to cross from the Dodecanes into the Cyclades.

 As an amusing interlude from Tales of the Wind, we followed The Lonely Planet’s advice and ate in Lukas taverna in Skala Patmos.  The food was quite good but the two waitresses were, not waitresses; poorly trained black booted Gestapo might be a better description.  The owner sat us at a table and a girl whose stomach was bigger than her tits gave us two menus.  As we opened them she lent on the table, heels together, we thought to tell us what the day’s specials were but no, she just “yes?” expecting our order.  Richard laughed, a big mistake, and suggested she came back in a few minutes.  She did.  Two minutes later when we were still on page 1 of the menu and standing to attention said “Well?”  Richard did not laugh this time but asked for half a litre of white wine and a bottle of water.  If looks could kill, he was dead.

 At this point the other girl, who was so skinny she must be eating lettuce sandwiches without the bread, took over and delivered the wine.  Delivered? Perhaps slammed is a better description.  The water did not come so when she returned seconds later for our order, Charlie impolitely reminded her it had been asked for.  The threatening looks implied a three year term in Stalag 13 was on the cards, not dinner.

 She returned minutes later with the water and stood waiting for our order.  We gave up and ordered beetroot salad, taramosalata, marides (whitebait), horta (anything like spinach or wild beetroot tops), and their speciality of rotisserie lamb.  The looks we got were acid.  Less than five minutes later, all but the lamb was dropped indiscriminately on the table.  Nearly an hour later the lamb was still missing, presumed alive.  All this could have easily explained by a desire to turn the tables if they were busy.  They were not.  Only ten of their fifty covers were occupied.  The lamb finally appeared after Charlie gruffly chased it.  Richard was prepared to do without it and enjoy the fuss that would cause with the bill.  But come it did, looking a bit tired as if it had been sitting in the kitchen for the whole of its missing hour.

 To top it all it took over half an hour to get the bill!  Charlie then departed to the loo whilst Richard searched the treasury for some cash and put precisely the right amount on the bill.  As Charlie returned, Fatty was back to check how much was on the table.  Her body language said “No tip? B*******!”  Richard gave her a cheesy knowing grin as we left.  We haven’t laughed so much over meal for ages.

 On our way back we met and had a drink with Ron, a lone sailor who owns a beautiful Dehler 34 and who we met in Skiathos some weeks back.  A really nice retired policeman and gentlemen to boot as you will read in a minute.

 Meanwhile back at the Tales of the Winds, the next morning brought a stiff south-easterly breeze; almost as rare as a lottery win.  It gave us a cracking 10 mile sail across to Lipsi.  Half way across Richard, whilst casting a glance around to check what other vessels were about, spots Ron’s Dehler on the same tack and about half a mile behind.  Bare in mind we are twice his size.  There he is keeping up and possibly even catching up when the wind dropped below 15 knots.  But being a gentlemen he eased up as we approached Lipsi so as to save Richard’s embarrassment by not overtaking CG.  Some sailor and some boat, CG was making a good 7 knots, close hauled in a pretty choppy sea; to match that in a 34’ yacht takes some doing.

 Clearly our offering to the Greek gods of the wind was insufficient or inappropriate as, if there was one wind direction that would stop us heading west across to the Cyclades it is a south westerly; a wind that at this time of year is equally as rare as a lottery win, but that is what the next day brought.  Had we stayed in Nysiros, it would have been ideal but we hadn’t and it was useless for any of our potential stepping stones of NisosDhenousa, Levitha, Kinaros, Amorgos or Astapalaia.  So a quiet day was spent in Lipsi, bike riding, beach sitting and swimming, awaiting a better wind.

 Our chance came the next day with a forecast south or south-southwest winds so an offering of wheat meal brown bread was made to the wind gods in the hope that it would hold south for our longish hike across to the Cyclades.  It did for the first 25 miles and was nearer south-easterly, a gentle F3 that we romped along in at 6 to 7 knots.  But then it died and the motor went on and an hour later it came south-westerly F4 gusting F5 with a very uncomfortable and confused sea.  The wind gods are not yet appeased.

 And so we reached N. Dhenousa leaving the Dodecanes behind.  It is a largely barren island with some stunningly scenic cliffs that drop straight into the sea from several hundred metres.  Whilst it is desolate with a few hardy tourists and several anchorages (see Ports visited – Cyclades), we loved it and will return.

 Ormos Roussa where we anchored for the night was larger than we expected and considerably better protected, even in the by now strong south-westerly.  There is a small community ashore of very basic stone built or white painted concrete boxes and a dirt track road recently cut into the surrounding hillsides to access the main village and port on the other side of the Island.  Two small sand beaches are frequented by a few day-trippers from the main village and by campers; one beach for those with appropriate attire the other for those that prefer none.  We anchored off the latter?

 During the evening the wind swung round to the north west and that brought some other entertainment.  One of the other yachts in the bay, a charter yacht, dragged its anchor, passing quite closely down our starboard side as she went on her way, we thought, to the rocks.  Fortunately her anchor bit in the shallows and she stopped short.  Her French crew were ashore at the time and were understandably a bit distraught upon finding where she was when they returned some time later in the pitch dark.  They motored around the anchorage for over an hour trying to decide where to re-drop, keeping all yachts on tenterhooks in case they dropped over their anchors.

 Then it was on to The Little Cyclades, a group of smaller islands nestling between their larger protective sisters of Naxos, Amorgos and Ios.  The forecast was for a return to the normal summer Meltemi wind but with a sting in the tail that F6 & F7 was expected before the day was out.  Time to be in a safe port.  We picked Mirsini on O. Skhinousa and a good choice it turned out to be, once we had changed anchors, as the CQR just would not bite at all in the rocky bottom.  It is safe and secure as well as peaceful and has a quaint living chora a kilometre or so up the hill where there are magic views of the surrounding islands and the stormy sea as well as Margarita’s a simple taverna with a classy menu and a great people watching atmosphere. 

 Have the wind gods been appeased? What will the wind be tomorrow?  Wait and see!

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/12 (Pics)

Mid August

Tales of the Wind – Epilogue

Two nights were spent in Mirsini whilst the Wind Gods vented their anger over our paltry offerings, blowing F6 & 7 day and night without succeeding in dislodging us from our safe haven.  The official forecast was for a two day blow so on the third morning we left expecting to find it as calm outside as in Mirsini.  It wasn’t.  We were at their mercy.  The 20 mile trip to Ios was cancelled and we headed three miles north into the teeth of the near gale to anchor in O. Kalandou on the south coast of Naxos.  They blew and blew at us all day and most of the next night with the addition of katabatic winds screaming down the valley from the peaks above and out across the bay, trying to dislodge our anchor and spoil our enjoyment of this most tranquil spot.  The anchor held and our determination to enjoy the spot and not complain at the blow seemed to appease them.  From then on we had favourable winds for the journey through N. Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Poliagos, Kimolos, Milos and our destination for this chapter of our adventures, Sifnos.  Most of the 100 odd miles were sailed in near perfect conditions; those motored were for battery charging not adverse winds.

 

Tales of the Wind – The Sequel?

The winds in the middle of August were not at all typical of the Cyclades; once Ios was left behind light southerlies and gentle northerlies were the norm and considering our intended course was generally working northwest into what should have been the prevailing F4 & F5 winds, that was a pleasant and helpful surprise.

 These helpful winds increased our sailing, decreased our motoring thereby decreasing our battery charging, a problem in itself but took us to new spots that we are really taken with; Sikinos, Polegandros, parts of Milos, Poliagos and Sifinos in particular.  Given more time to explore them they could easily challenge our first love, the Ionian. 

 Polegandros is an exceedingly barren 5 mile strip of rock.  Its 400 metre steep sided cliffs rise straight from the sea bottom and somehow starkly brings home man’s insignificance on this planet of ours.  The majestic almost sheer walls that at first sight seem a bland mixture of pale grey and dark brown rock, on closer inspection show their formation of previous seabed and multi coloured volcanic debris heaved up in some huge earthquake to stand at an angle of 80 degrees to their former position.  Other bands of colour appear in grey-green, red and sand, presumably containing the minerals that first attracted early man and the Minoans to this outpost of civilisation. 

 It also prompts respect for our predecessors’ ingenuity and tenacity to have carved a living from this barren rock.  Wherever the slopes’ angle softens to less than 45 degrees, literally miles of terracing has been built behind dry stone walling to provide some level ground upon which to grow food for their survival.  Some appear many thousands of years old and unused for the greater part of modern history.

 Perhaps it is its majesty rather than its small port and Chora perched atop a sheer cliff within a bite taken out of the east side of the island by some later earthquake or Zeus even, and its resultant magnetic charm that brings thousands of tourists, mainly Greek and Italian, to enjoy time away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives.  Even the bus trip from the harbour of Karavostasi to the Chora is spectacular as is the atmosphere for supper.  And you can buy fresh capers for which the island is famous.

Then there is N. Poliagos, lying as it does just a few miles east of Milos (another of the ancient, mildly active, volcanoes in this area), which probably explains the fantastic assortment of rocks on Poliagos.  It is difficult to do justice to its beauty.  Blues, greens, browns, reds, and various chalky white blends of mostly volcanic lava, all work together with its vertical cliffs and lush valleys to form the tiny inlets around its coastline, all worth a visit and some, an overnight stop.  South of the islet Manolonisi, on the west coast is a fairly tight sheltered bay, perfect for an overnight stop.  We had a wonderfully peaceful time there, surprisingly for August, alone.

 Sifnos is just yachty heaven.  Around ten miles long with a selection of bays and ports to hold you here for days on end.  It did us and that is unusual in itself.  (See Ports Visited – Cyclades for more detail).  O. Vathi in particular is tranquillity personified.  Its sand is full of silver flecks that shimmer in the water when the sand is disturbed.  The beach is the only visible road, used in the early morning for deliveries and rubbish collection before the numerous but quiet tourists rise from their beds for another days sunning and swimming in the bay’s calm waters.  During the rest of the day deliveries are made by wheelbarrow, trundled along the beach by the smiley locals who seem quite happy with their lot and determined to keep their bay quiet and tranquil; music, even Greek traditional music, is rarely heard.

 Adventures? It’s the law, “it always happens to Charlie”  Amongst Charlie’s other burdens is an allergy to jelly fish stings; she reacts quite badly to even the smallest of stings, even those she does not feel at the time.  So we are always careful about swimming and she has not been stung for more than 25 years.  But in O. Skala on Sikinos it happened and for the next few days she was in considerable discomfort whilst the stings blistered, and itched uncontrollably.  If they burst the risk of open sores and infection is high as was the case last time she was stung, albeit by a Portuguese Man of War.  The medicine locker was rummaged for all supposed remedies; none were in any way effective.  It seems that what Rod Heikell says in The Greek Waters Pilot is correct, “there are no known antidotes for jelly fish stings”.  Bizarrely, the only remedy that had any effect at all in calming them was further and regular immersion in the sea!

 

People Watching Tales

Unlike 2004, the Greece Olympic year, August is very busy indeed.  Never have we seen so many Greeks on holiday.  In fact the majority of those seen in the Cyclades, on shore or boating, are Greek or Italian in about equal numbers.  We now understand why our Greek friends in the Ionian advise us to stay away when the Italians are about but we shall not elaborate on that.

 The majority of the Greek visitors are Athenians and the difference between them and Greek Islanders is easy to spot.  There is a sophistication about Athenians that is absent in the Islanders not that is intended as a negative observation, just that there is an obvious and surprising difference.  Athenians will not drink what is described as “loose wine”; wine from a barrel: it has to be from a bottle.  Lobster is almost a staple diet that has you wondering just how many there are in the sea to feed just Athenians in August.

 And they tend to shout less despite shouting appearing to be a national trait that starts in childhood and is never dropped.  One such shout of Yaaaniiiiii (Yannis), we heard being constantly repeated on one quayside turned out to be a mimic by a caged Minor bird; even their pets shout.

 Evidently or so we are told, Athenians were not allowed to holiday last year because of the Olympics.  That might have been good for Athens but it was a disaster for the Islands’ staple trade as foreign visitors failed to come either, partly in ignorance, because it was thought the islands would be overrun and partly because airfare prices were substantially up.  The difference to us this year has been quite a shock but has provided a lot more characters.

 One, we think, Greek women, pranced around the deck of her friends’ yacht as if it where a fashion podium, wearing high-heel shoes (a no, no on all yachts!), floaty numbers over a bikini and to top it all, a lace table doyley on her head held there with a pair of dark sunglasses; even at night when ashore.  It’s a shame the last we saw of them they were having a serious domestic late one evening and steamed out at speed.

 A German yachty live-aboard dropped his anchor at 45°’s to the quay thereby covering four mooring spaces.  When a large Athenian Gin Palace and us drop as one should at 90°’s to the quay our chains are over his.  He seemed to think that was totally out of order and ‘demanded’ we move as they were leaving on Friday.  This was on Wednesday.  In conversation with our Greek neighbours, no mention was made of ‘the war’; much!

 Then Ios main harbour when it was so busy it was pandemonium with twice as many takers as there were spaces available, one Italian charter yacht after a first rate barney with a Greek yacht over the same space, backed down wind so fast dropping his anchor that when it reached the end of the chain the last link snapped leaving all his anchor and chain on the seabed.  No insurance deposit refund for them then.

 The French disaster yacht, as we named it.  They dragged in Dhenousa (we covered that); moored alongside a ferry quay in Mirsini where you cannot spring thus couldn’t effectively ride the gale. Next day, they left with a gale forecast and had to come back; had four failed attempts at mooring, then dropped their anchor over another boat’s chain, then picked it up pulling out his anchor.  In Ios the performance was repeated. How do they get permission to charter a yacht we wonder?

 The local bus to the Ios Chora; passengers get up to get off before it stops: bus driver looks in his mirror and his eyes said “how would you like to get off madam, by the door or the front windscreen?”, then slams on his brakes to help her decide; nearly.

 At a cocktail bar we ordered two, expensive at €6.00 each, Bloody Mary’s.  “How d’ya mayke dem den luv?” ask the English barmaid.  We gave up trying to explain and the ingredients were put on the table for us to make them.  Some cocktail bar.

 

The End

After Sifnos we left for Serifos, Kithnos and Kea before leaving the Cyclades for the Saronic, stopping under Ak. Sounion; but that is another story for next time!

 

 E’s from Aboard 2005/13 (Pics)

Late August

The bay under Ak Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon is a regular stopping place for yachts awaiting the right wind to round the cape and head north up the Evia channel or east out across the Cyclades.  We chose to use it again on the return trip and, for a change, to eat ashore.  Not to dwell on the negative too much, the menu was short, most of which they didn’t have; what they did have was only just edible and the service decidedly offhand, aggravated by an overly expressive transvestite, determined to shove his (her?) bi-sexuality in everyone’s face.  To crown it all, whilst ashore at this direst of establishments, the wind died but the swell got up making it impossible to re-launch the dinghy from the beach without it half-filling with water and getting us soaked.  As if that wasn’t enough, CG rolled so badly from side to side that even with us lying across the bed (it is large enough to sleep either way round) we had a very sleepless night.  It was the worst rolling we have ever experienced.

 On a happier note, a few days later we discovered Nea Epidhavros, a quaint little village at the mouth of a small mountain stream with the most basic of rickety pontoons provided by a basic taverna. Whilst swimming to cool off after the days sailing in the sea at around 31°, we found patches that were by comparison absolutely freezing; the water from the stream that is itself spring water was probably little more than 10° and being fresh water also required considerably more effort to stay afloat.

It is customary to eat or drink at a taverna that provides free mooring so ashore we went for a drink having previously eaten lunch whilst sailing.  Also there was a local Greek who owned a beautiful classic wooden sailing yacht and who had taken our lines for us when we came in; we took the opportunity to thank him properly for his help and thus got into conversation with him and his friends who soon thereafter had a platter of freshly cooked fish brought to their table from one of his friends motor boats whose son had caught them all early.  Lo and behold he decants half a dozen onto a platter and passes them to us, saying “here, have these with your wine”.  We did, ordering a plate of potatoes and horta to go with them; just another example of the old fashioned Greek hospitality that is still maintained by many.

 

Early September

Since deleting Turkey from the itinerary, the plan had been to leave the Saronic and enter the Gulf of Corinth on the 1st of September.  During the previous week the forecast had been fairly constant in predicting severe gales in most areas including the Saronic and the Gulf but that did not seem likely from the evident local conditions, particularly on the morning of the 1st.  The last night was spent in Korfos, a charming if sleepy little cowboy town of a place with simple facilities, ideal as it is the nearest sensible port to the eastern entrance of the Corinth Canal.  And the taverna whose quay we used (see Ports Visited – Saronic) served us an excellent, very cheap, meal.

 Approaching the canal is always exciting and rarely straightforward.  The best forecast that day of the available bunch was for a F5/6 north wind but none of that was seen until just two miles from the canal entrance when it did blow up a bit from the light 8 knot breeze we had for the previous 14 miles.  Mooring on the waiting quay was fairly easy with the wind blowing us on to it and Richard was soon off to pay the canal dues; €184.00, ouch: a 75% increase since we last went through in 2003.

 Even at that price and this being our third trip through, it is still awe inspiring on the one hand and mildly challenging on the other.  Awe inspiring as it was dug long before the availability of modern excavating machinery and for its sheer grey/white walls towering up to 76m above its meagre 25m width (see photos with E13).  Challenging as there is generally a fairly strong current flowing through one way or the other and the affect that largish ships that use the canal have on the water.

 As we waited to enter (it is operated on a one-way system) a large tanker came through guided by a tug at its bow.  It must have been close to 20m wide and the maximum draft allowed of 7m as the suction effect on CG at the quay as she passed was dramatic, putting all our lines, cleats and fenders to test.  Then down comes the red flag and up goes the blue flag signalling us to enter, alone.  Only two or three minutes are allowed and if you miss it, they raise the road bridge (it is sunk to allow vessels to pass) and you wait another few hours.  Whilst maintaining the required speed of 6 knots, we struggled to stay in the middle of the canal as the “washing machine affect” set up by all such vessels passing through tossed CG from side to side by as much as 4 or 5 metres.

 

Tales of the Wind Return

The wind in the canal was non-existent but as we burst out the other end we were greeted by the forecast wind.  Having considered that possibility we headed 2 miles up to the north side of the gulf and anchored for the night in a delightful shallow bight in the coastline, Ormos Agriliou.  Imagine our surprise a couple of hours later when the sky filled with dark grey clouds: we had not seen such a sky for several months.  Then it actually rained; not a lot, just enough to make us shut all the hatches and by the time that had been accomplished, it had stopped raining.

 The next day’s forecast was F5 north and that would not allow us to reach our intended new destination of Aliki in Kolpos Domvrainis so we agreed to “sail the wind” and see where it took us.  It eventually took us to our intended destination as it steadily veered from the forecast north to east-southeast and just a nice steady F3.

 You might find Aliki and the antics in the salt marsh just over the beach from there quite amusing.  Several folk in swimming costumes were seen digging up jet black mud from the salt fringes, smearing it all over themselves, then walking around so covered for an hour or so before immersing themselves in the sea to wash it all off again.  As far as we know this is not a well known Spa!

 Easterly winds in the gulfs’ of Corinth and Patras are rare but for the next four days that is what blew, sometimes a gentle F3, sometimes as strong as F7 in the gusts.  But for us it was a following wind and that meant easy sailing so we took the wind gods offering and sailed straight through the gulf after leaving Aliki, via Galaxidi and Trizonia, exiting on the 5th under the newly completed and hugely impressive Rion road bridge.  That is where we got the F7, right up the bum, giving us a hair raising goose-winged sleigh ride for a several miles at speeds up to 10.6 knots.

  

Two on Wildlife?

The Cyclades has fewer birds with the possible exception of Eagles.  The Saronic is little better.  It is not known whether this is because the barrenness of The Cyclades equates with less water and thus less wildlife all round or because for centuries the inhabitants (as with elsewhere in Europe) have shot anything that has the nerve to take off and fly.  Perhaps it is a combination of the two?

 On leaving Trizonia we had a real treat, spotting a pair of Short-toed Eagles circling above this tiny island well within naked eye view though identification needed the binoculars and the bird book Andrew and Jeanne Cooper gave us.

 Another sighting the previous had us intrigued and is a question for Andrew\on behaviour patterns.  We have become used to seeing two to four Peregrine Falcons in any one location, normally around hilltops and wooded slopes.  Imagine our surprise when we encountered uncountable flocks of them, all together, circling over Galaxidi.  Is this normal?  Where they something similar to a Peregrine with a behaviour pattern more like a swift?

 When we reached Limin Petala (in fact just a large flood plain bay behind the small island of Petalis) it was like parking in a menagerie.  There were Kingfishers, Swallows, Martins, Wagtails and Swifts in abundance.  A couple of Rock Thrushes who seemed to think it was still Spring, periodically singing their hearts out throughout the day.  And of course a family of Common Buzzards crying as they do whilst circling in the updrafts and several pairs of Falcons, probably Peregrines, flitting busily in and out of the trees hanging on the cliff face.

 At dusk in the fading light, two huge flocks of Egrets over flew CG.  We think they were Little and Great Whites as there was a size difference but could not be sure in the fading light.  We have seen them flying from a regular daytime feeding site to a nightime roosting spot near the Levkas canal but never in formation flocks as these were.  Are they migratory Andrew?  The book does not say so.

 

Conclusion

Thus we returned a few days earlier than planned to our ‘home’, the Ionian.  Peter and Judy Sturgess arrived on the same day for three weeks on their yacht Serendipity, but 150 miles further north in Corfu so it will be a few days yet before our paths cross.  Rod & Pat Day are due out next Sunday for three weeks on Genevieve so we will meet up with them soon thereafter.  On the 18th Paul and Jackie Evill come out again to spend a further two weeks with us and Derek and Jane Summers arrive on the same day to take their yacht Lazy Days on a cruise round the Ionian for two or three weeks, we are not sure which, so we will hopefully meet up with them as well. Then on the 15th it is the South Ionian Regatta and that is a load of fun.

 So all in all the rest of September looks like being one long party.  But more of that in E’s From Aboard 14.

 

E’s from Aboard 2005/14 (Pics)

Mid September

Ena, ena, ena.  Phfff, phff, phff, Ne, ne, ne.”  Dreaded sounds.

 Finally we got back to Kastos having promised Chef John in April, before his taverna was open, to return and visit him and Maria when it was.  Saturday night was picked to have a better chance of avoiding the harbour being overcrowded with flotilla yachts and that proved effective; there were just half a dozen cruisers such as ourselves there enjoying the peace and tranquillity of an island with just 50 permanent inhabitants and a few summer visitors.

 Sundowners were taken at the Windmill Taverna overlooking Steno Kastou and the mainland mountains beyond.  With the sun going down behind you it makes a wonderful sight.  When five guys arrived we noticed the musical instruments, microphones, speakers and amplifiers.  There was to be a wedding at 7pm followed by the traditional Greek all night party with LOUD amplified music.  The dreaded sounds huffed into each microphone in turn to set the volume level, with the slight enhancement of “tesserra, tesserra, tesserra”, gave us a foretaste of what was to come.

 Meanwhile a delightful meal was had at Chef John’s as well as good chat with Maria.  On returning to CG at 11.30pm the noise was not bearable so we slipped our moorings and motored quietly out into the pitch-black night.  There was no moon at all to clarify the coastline; making the bay we had in mind for anchoring very difficult to find.  But find one we did and spent a very peaceful night after pondering over a nightcap on just what were the odds against us picking the only night in ten years when Kastos was not quiet!

 Then it was off to Porto Spiglia and a warm welcome from Panos and Babis in their taverna.  Their service includes pontoons or harbour quay with lazy lines (fixed moorings), electricity and water; only the water may have to be paid for, the rest is recovered through the use of the taverna.  Why two days?  There were jobs to be done that were not getting done such as fitting the curtains that we had ordered back in May 2004 and had arrived in dribs and drabs over the past 15 months.  Bavaria are not so good at after sales service as they are at building yachts.

 Sometimes a Greek party can make an evening and so it was in Porto Spiglia as Babis is also popular with the Meganisi locals and that night they had a birthday party for a sweet old lady.  They took up all the inside space but of course there is three times that space on the beach to eat and none of the yachties would want to sit inside anyway at this time of year.  After their meal, one group assembled around the birthday girl and sang to her a traditional song with words specially written for her birthday.  This was followed by traditional dance music and many of the guests taking to the floor to entertain us all and themselves.  Inevitably, there were then cries of “Pano Pano”.  Calling for Panos as he has a well earned reputation as a traditional Greek dancer.  He responded, earning himself and his various partners much applause.  All in all it kept us at our table for two hours longer than we would otherwise have been and absolutely made the evening.

 

Fun with Friends

The latter part of September was peppered with other pleasurable interludes through time spent with friends out from the UK on more traditional sailing holidays.  Paul & Jackie Evill spent two weeks with us during which we thought they would enjoy a trip down to Vathi on Ithaca and there to hire a couple of mopeds and ride up into the mountains for lunch at Polephemus.  So we did and Jackie was absolutely terrified sitting on the back of a moped whilst Paul tried desperately to recall how to ride a motorbike and avoid falling off on the sharp bends in the road as we wound our way up the mountainside.  The lunch at Polyphemus was all that was expected of it and the ride back down to Vathi adventurous after the consumption of a litre or two of wine, but at speeds not exceeding 20mph on almost traffic free roads, there was little real risk.

 On our return to CGIV, the wind was blowing onto the quay producing an irritating chop, not a threat but decidedly uncomfortable.  Thus we moved over to the quay at the north side of the bay and moored alongside.  No sooner had we arrived than a port policeman asked us if we would be kind enough to leave the quay with the other six or seven yachts for “ about ten minutes”.  It was an order formed politely as a request; “the Minister of Affairs is being collected by helicopter and it cannot land with all your masts in the way”.  We and the other six or seven yachts stood off for nearer an hour whilst the helicopter landed, switched off and awaited the arrival of the said Minister before starting up and spectacularly lifting off and winging away at speed just above our masthead.  We wondered just what Affairs he administers?

 

Charlie’s Adventures

It has been said before.  “Why does it always happen to Charlie?”  The jellyfish sting has been mentioned.  A wasp sting followed this; painful but relatively trivial once Waspeaze has been applied.  Ok then, try two wasp stings, between the legs at knee level.  That took a little longer to clear up.  A few days later she is stung again and again around the knee.  This time anything that was applied gave little or no relief and within 24 hours her leg was very painful and very swollen.  We think it was either hornet that stung her or she is becoming allergic to such stings, something to be checked out over the winter.  After acquiring some more drugs it took nearly a week before the swelling fully receded and the discomfort passed.

 

Global Warming?

The weather as the end of September approached began to deteriorate, thunderstorms becoming an unusually regular occurrence.  Not that it spoils the fun as they rarely last very long and generally only occur in the evenings once we are in harbour.  And there are some plusses; it gets the boat washed and clean!  Why unusual? Because the weather normally remains summery well into October, making September a favoured month for visiting yachties taking a late summer holiday.  In fact we have never seen the Ionian so busy in September before.

 The weather finally conspired to cause a change of plans during Paul & Jackie’s visit.  There was a threat of nasty weather on the way just two days before their flight home and we were on Paxos at the time.  The sea between Paxos and the mainland can be far from friendly in bad weather so it was thought prudent to make the crossing before any bad weather set in.

As October dawned the weather worsened spoiling Paul and Jackie’s last two days.  We opted to stay in harbour to avoid the possibility of unpleasantness at sea and a wise decision that turned out to be as the rain became close to continuous and the wind in the squally thunderstorms, vicious and violent.  Not a problem in harbour but dangerous if at sea.

 Is this yet another example of climate change we wonder?  Certainly the Meltemi that blows strongly all summer down through the Aegean did not do so this year with its normal periodic ferocity.  Last year we spent several weeks in total holed up waiting for it to abate whereas this year we only experienced one gale albeit it was the gale that had us on the rocks!

 

Early October

Now all our friends have departed home; Rod & Pat after an adventurous three weeks struggling with Pat’s continuing back problem: Paul & Jackie after their first two weeks stay with us on CGIV: Peter & Judy Sturgess and the best surprise visitors of all, Anne, Peter and Michael Knight from Dawlish with their great news that Sophie is now married and still winning in her fight against Cystic Fibrosis.

 We are again on our way south, aiming to reach Ayios Nikolaos on Crete by early November where CGIV will be over-wintered and we shall fly home once she is properly bedded down.  Roger & Birgitta who have had a house built near Ayios Nikolaos, will also be sailing in the Aegean around that time so we may meet up with them and sail the last few days ‘home’ in tandem with them.  We shall see.

 The provisional date for returning to Devon and family and friends is 10 November but that is wholly dependant on the weather.  Good and we may be back later; poor and we may be back earlier.

 

E’s from Aboard 2005/15

It has been said for three seasons now, perhaps unkindly, that bad weather follows Rod & Pat Day and Derek & Jane Summers around.  Certainly that was true of the last two weeks of this September.  The winter ‘booties’ and ‘thermals’ were extricated earlier than usual from the summer store and their use threatened almost before October got started.  But our friends’ departure from the Ionian on the 2nd brought back the summer weather delaying the ‘booties’ use.  On the 3rd the sun came out, temperatures rose by 5°C over the next two days and the thunderstorms ceased for a while at least.  We were not to see rain or clouds for the next three weeks.

 

Further Tales of the Wind

However, we had succeeded in upsetting the wind gods again or rather Richard had.  Some uncooked local sausage had been festering in the fridge for a few days and he cooked it off in an attempt to save it.  The smell was awful so over the side it went with an appropriate prayer to the wind gods for fair northerly winds for our journey south.  Clearly they were offended as for the next two weeks it blew in varying strengths from the south.  Charlie is convinced they are brown bread and sandal brigade vegetarians as it was an offering of whole-wheat brown bread that brought us such unusually good winds for our return north and west across the Aegean in August and September.  Richard is now confined to the brig until they are appeased.

 Appeasement seemed to have been achieved on the 11th of October when the wind came in from the east north east, in itself a rarity if only just in the north.  We sailed from Sivota to Kastos, actually putting the wind right on the nose, producing a twenty mile beat to achieve the twelve mile straight line distance.  But the weather was sunny and warm with hardly a cloud in the sky and the wind for most of the trip just 8 to 10 knots; perfect sailing conditions for CGIV.

 But it had not been achieved for on the 13th the wind returned to the south albeit very lightly, perhaps telling us it is not yet time to leave our beloved Ionian.  We have said goodbye for this year to all our friends and acquaintances in Nidri, Spartahori, Sivota, Kastos and Kioni and were close to making our way south.

 On the 15th we reached Euphemia having the day before beaten down the Ithaki channel in a very light south-easterly from Fiscardo.  Returning northerly winds were forecast for the 15th, perhaps a little stronger than we would like at Force 6 to Force 7 (near gale force) and with the prospect of a full gale tomorrow.  So we headed off for Poros further down the Cephalonian coast, the first leg of our journey to Crete but chickened out on hearing a worse lunchtime (wind) forecast that may have given us an uncomfortable and sleepless night in Poros through undue swell; or so the Pilot tells us.  The plan was changed and a course set to sail across the south end of Ithaki and then to beat up into Vathi, just 4 miles south of where we were three days previously!  And there we spent two nights with a typically lazy Sunday in between.  Lazy is perhaps misleading as we had the bikes out and ‘walked’ them up some pretty steep hills just so we could free-wheel back down them again and then ride around the bay to the main town for a lunchtime glass of wine or three sitting in the sun before riding back to CG for a proper lunch.  Dinner was taken on board under the stars and light of a near full moon.

 The forecast on the 17th was for strong north-westerly winds, between 25 and 30 knots, promising a rapid sleigh ride down to Poros in probably less than three hours with both main and genoa reefed.  With the sky clear and blue, out we went expecting that and motored the whole way with the wind never getting much above 4 knots and from the east.  Again, ah well, that’s sailing and after all it could have blown a gale.

 

Another First?

The 18th saw us well on our way south and heading for Zakinthos.  A pretty good sail and an easy mooring up were followed by the assembly of the bikes and a ride into to town to find a laundry.  The town’s streets were surprisingly empty despite it being close on 18.30 well after all the shops had re-opened for the evening’s trade.

 Riding the wrong way down a one-way street (normal and accepted behaviour in Greece) found us dodging the oncoming traffic by dropping into the crossing road at the junction upon which the laundry was found.  Charlie dismounted and Richard backed his bike out of the way to allow an old lady to cross the side street from pavement to pavement.

 There was no expectant silence of bird or animal life, no cessation of wind or strange silence, just the old lady suddenly clutching Charlie’s arm and crossing herself as Richard heard this crash.  “Was that a car crash or a clap of thunder?  It is neither,” he thought “I’m surrounded by this clap of thunder.  It’s a bloody earthquake!”  And it was.  The tremor lasted about a minute.  Charlie watched as the parked cars shook as if they were made of rubber and Richard sat on his bike feeling the road beneath his feet shaking back and forth a foot or so just like a jelly that had been tapped by a spoon; a quite remarkable experience.  As if by magic, within an instant, the streets filled with people from the surrounding buildings; all clutching mobile phones either ringing or being rung by friends and family enquiring as to their well-being.

 We were later told the quake had registered 6 on the Richter scale, no small quake.  Whether it was shock or a genuine lack of concern we shall never know but once the tremor had ceased we just carried on with what we had planned to do.  The laundry was deposited, arrangements made to collect it and a search for a card shop started.

 Within five minutes one was found and whilst buying a card for Charlie’s niece Mary’s wedding, a further tremor occurred.  We both rushed into the street and being more aware this time, Richard watched the base of the church tower just 50 metres across the road shake from side to side and the movement ripple up its structure as if it were made of rubber.  Evidently this tremor registered 4 on the Richter scale.

 No damage appeared to have occurred from either tremor though the familiar sound of ambulance sirens was soon heard even above the excitable verbal exchanges taking place in the streets or on mobile phones.

 During the evening there were four more, smaller and shorter tremors, the last whilst we were sitting outside under one of a bar’s many large parasols, now with the addition of mushroom gas heaters to keep their customers happy and drinking; the temperature being a cooler 19°.  It was fascinating to watch the initial concern as the tremor started with some people hurrying to be further out in the open, others almost nonchalant, merely pausing their conversations whilst we tensely waited to see how it developed.  As soon as the tremor subsided, all returned almost instantly to their previous conversations as if it were of no more import than the passing of a large truck sounding off its horn and braking sharply.  All typically Greek, ‘life goes on’.

 

People Watching

Not exactly people watching, more recounting some of the pleasant characters we meet along the way, ‘The boys’ as we came to call them being just an example.  We briefly met Steve Miller and his wife Jill in 2004 and last week came across them in Levkas by chance eating in the same taverna.  Jill was going home the following day but we did manage coffee with them both before she left for the airport.

 Steve, as we understood it, was staying on to ‘lay-up’ their yacht, a Dromor that Steve has lavished much love upon to make her look more like last year’s model than the twenty year old lady she in fact is.  To our surprise, when we arrived in Little Vathi, there was Ithaki with not just Steve on board but ‘Marshall’ to boot; a character in his own right with a family history in a timber business with sailing as a pastime.  A pastime it may be for both of them but the following day’s very light and fluky airs showed they were no mean sailors as we jointly made our way to Sivota for another evening’s comical exchanges over dinner and the day after to Kastos after which we parted company.

 They described themselves as Two Men in a Boat, adding it would have been three but Ithaki could not carry three rather corpulent chaps such as they are; too many bad boy breakfasts perhaps: a bad boy breakfast being the whole works of bacon, eggs, fried bread and anything else in the larder such as sausages, beans or potatoes.  But they are happy-go-lucky chaps, full of fun and great company.  We look forward to coming across them again next year.

 In Vathi, an old and very small yacht came in alongside us flying a Czechoslovakian flag with seven people on board; four would have been too many in our book.  A typical storybook old sea dog of a skipper, long grey beard, tatty shorts, ragged tee-shirt and all was apparently in charge of five young Hungarian lads and one Hungarian lass.  They all looked as if they had not got even the proverbial two beans between them to rub together, let alone enough to afford a sailing holiday, yet here they were having an absolute ball.  And perfectly charming they were too.

 For the next two days we ended up in the same port, alongside each other exchanging pleasantries and information about ourselves as well as sharing sailing experiences of the day.  A saxophone player, an American born guitarist, all real characters and part owners/directors of a small Prague based company in the business of making advertising videos, of their own admission, struggling to find any work.

 In Zakinthos we parked alongside a yacht owned by a couple from Dartmouth; it’s a small world is it not?  They had just taken 2½ days to sail across from Italy in less than favourable winds and were pausing to recover before pressing on to Crete.  When ill health brought on early retirement they purchased a yacht in Guernsey where they were then living and working and sailed off to the Caribbean, spent three months there and then sailed back again across a, by then, stormy Atlantic and into the Mediterranean where they are now exploring cruising as we understand it rather than ocean passage making as they have up till now.

 They were invited aboard for early evening ‘drinkies’ to recount some of their adventures so far in exchange for some of our insight into how Greece works for yachties and what we know of the Ionian.  They are also considering the possibility of over-wintering in Crete so it quite likely that we shall meet up again for drinks aboard Dixi their Halberg Rassey 36 before the year is out; if not Crete our paths will surely cross again next year somewhere in the Aegean.

 Our route to Crete from here (Zakinthos) is pretty well set.  Katacolon next (25 nms), then Pilos (53 nms), probably Methoni (8nms) then Korsoni (20nms), certainly Porto Kaio (45 nms), then Kapsali on Kithera (45 nms) where we may have a few days wait for an appropriate wind for the 70 nm passage across the Kithiron Straights to Hania on Kriti (Crete).  From there we will work our way along Crete’s 160 nautical mile north coast to Agios Nikolaos where CGIV will be laid up for the winter.

 Our flights home are booked for Friday 11th of November and Charlie is already agitating to now book the flights back out next Spring; and why not?

 

E’s from Aboard 2005/16

Even Further Tales of the Wind

The 300nm trip to Crete from the Ionian proved to be a bit of a chore at times with the wind persistently being southerly and such northerlies as did blow being light and fluky, both forcing too much use of the iron sail.  But perhaps that is being unduly negative as for the whole of the journey (to the western end of Crete) the atmospheric pressure remained high producing days of brilliant sunshine and mostly calm seas.

 E15 ended with us in Zakinthos and the plan was to leave there at lunchtime on October 19th.  With a northerly force 4 wind forecast we anticipated a cracking sail south-east down to Katacolon on the Greek mainland.  As lunchtime approached the wind swung and came in from the south-east; no good whatsoever.  Thus with time in hand we stayed an extra day in Zakinthos.

 The following day the forecast was force 4 south-east.  A look over the harbour wall told us this was probably another lie as there was no wind to be seen.  Off we went, using the iron sail to cover the 24nms to Katacolon.  A light easterly breeze did develop for a while but was never sufficient to warrant raising the proper sails.

 Southerly winds were to continue for five more days, daily giving us the choice of sitting tight to await a northerly wind or motoring on south if the southerly wind was not too strong.  The longer legs were the real concern as if the southerly wind strengthens whilst we are on our way, a further choice has to be made; turn back or continue, smashing into an ever increasing sea at a much reduced and uncomfortable rate of progress.  After an extra day in Katacolon (see below) the 50nm run to Pilos (perhaps stopping at Kiparissia) was such a leg.

 We set off in the morning with a beneficial un-forecast easterly and then westerly breeze, both of which allowed us some sailing particularly as the original plan was to drop into Kiparissia for the night.  On arriving there we found a building site and the harbour ‘not available’ or so the workmen’s sign language said.  Thus we pushed on the remaining 26nms to Pilos.  Within minutes the wind was up to F6 (25knts) and the sea even worse than F6 would normally create.  Speed dropped from a steady 7knts to just 4.  Fortunately it later abated to F4 (15knts) though we still arrived well after dark at the unlit, unfinished marina.  With no moon either; mooring up was a little tricky.

 Two nights and a most enjoyable day were spent in Pilos awaiting a change in the weather.  It is one of our favourite stopping places and it has a charm probably related to its pro-British history and the famous sea battle that took place here (See E’s from Aboard 09 2004) in 1827 that led (in part) to Greece’s freedom from Turkish rule.  The Greek Maple covered square and its numerous bars is a joy to sit in, surrounded as it is by the shops that are necessary for every day existence, in particular the fruit and vegetable shops that are always full of fresh local produce.  CGIV’s fridge and food store are always full to busting after a stop here; this stop was no different.

 Despite the wait, southerly winds continued even though the forecast as we left was for two days of north-easterlies, hence we motored and motor-sailed first to Koroni (27nms) and then Porto Kayiou (41nms); hardly a port, more a sheltered but very windy bay around which a community has surprisingly grown and survived over the centuries.  Surprising as it is at the end of the Tainaro peninsula, of no obvious attraction and absolutely miles from the nearest outpost of Greek civilisation.  Being here in late October indicated that there are no more than five families eking out a living here.

 On the 26th the wind changed at last, coming in from the north-east and giving us a great sail from Kayiou down to Kapsali on Kithera.  To be accurate, the first 28nms were great.  When we reached the south end of Kithera the addition of katabatic winds off the island’s mountains produced winds of 38 knots (full gale) causing us to furl the sails and motor the last 5 nms into port.

 In such winds mooring alongside or stern-to is impossible, thus we anchored in the bay after obtaining permission from the Port Police so to do (they are reputed to fine yachts that anchor without permission) and spent a lazy afternoon musing over whether the clement weather would hold for the next day’s 65nm hike to Khania across a patch of sea renowned for stormy conditions and very rough water.

 The alarm was set (mobile phone actually) to ensure we rose at 0600 on the 27th to get an early start.  The first 10nms were motor sailed whilst we cleared the shadow of Kithera and gained the full benefit of the F3/F4 (11/12knts) breeze that enabled us to maintain an average speed of 6.5knts for the next 40nms.  As we approached the north coast of Crete, the wind, contrary to the forecast increase to F6 (25knts+), decreased to just 5knts.  Thus the last 10nms were motor sailed as with that little wind we would have been another five hours getting to Khania and thus late for our 6 o’clock vodkas.

 And three days later, we are still here as the weather then broke.  Whilst it is still warm and sunny with F& & F8 gale force northerly winds blowing and some very large seas running, we are going no further until it abates.  We have just 110nms to go and 12 days to do that and put our Girl to bed for the winter before flying home to prepare for Christmas!

 

Wildlife on the Wing

Most days on the trip down to Crete, the sky was clear, the sunshine brilliant and the sea calm and deep blue.  Several flocks of small migrating birds were sighted heading broadly south.  Some were certainly House Martins, others may have been Swallows, many we could not identify, some were probably not migratory such the Wagtails though it is amazing to see them so far from land.  It is also fascinating to see them all flying so close to the sea’s surface you wonder how they don’t get it wrong and crash fatally into the waves.  The absolute master of the art of getting a free lift from being so close to the sea is the Shearwater and we sighted several of them as well.  One seemed almost friendly and circled CGIV several times before peeling off and making his way ahead of us to the mainland coast.  Their wingtips quite often catch the surface but they are seabirds anyway and thus at no risk.

 On the subject of Shearwaters, we are still having trouble identifying exactly which ones we are seeing; Great, Little, Sooty, Cory’s or Mediterranean Shearwaters; we think we have probably seen them all but unless you can spot them all on the same day within a few hours it is impossible, for us anyway, to tell which is which.

 Sadly we have not seen even a single Dolphin for more than a month now.

 

Pursuits Other Than Sailing

Whilst in Katacolon we checked the weather on the Internet (www.poseidon.ncmr.gr) to discover we were roughly at the centre of a high pressure with no significant wind forecast within 50nms of us for the next 48 hours at least.  This presented an opportunity to leave CGIV in a safe position with little chance of adverse weather and to hire a car and visit Olympia, the site of the pagan games that took place for centuries and which inspired the modern Olympic Games.  It was a site Richard had long wanted to visit.

 The 25 mile drive in perfect weather took us through some very fertile countryside to the valley encompassing the Alfios and Kladios rivers.  The location of the site demonstrates very effectively that man’s appreciation of the beauty of this planet of ours is not a recent development as it was first occupied in prehistoric times and by 3000 BC had become a centre of some importance.  It was not long after that the plate (believed to be gold and kept in the temple of Helos) was cast to commemorate the agreement of the area’s warring nations to meet at regular intervals and compete at games during which an absolute and binding truce would hold.

 Olympia is set in a lush green valley and though the site’s destruction was decreed in 426AD, presumably because Christianity had taken a firm grip and those in power wanted the worship of pagan gods to be brought to an end, a task that was completed by nature just a few years thereafter by a massive earthquake, it still retains a strange magnetic appeal perhaps amplified by the random distribution of broken columns and beams that litter the otherwise well organised and well defined site.

 It was warming to see this is another site that is supported by UNESCO and thus, indirectly, by some of the taxes we pay.  It was even more encouraging to see the effort that is going into rebuilding some of the buildings in their entirety.  Pieces of marble blocks are being put together like the pieces of a jigsaw and the missing parts brilliantly filled with new and perfectly matching material.  Where no remnants remain of a column, beam or plinth block, new have been cut and fitted around the existing salvaged blocks.  The care and concentration of the craftsmen we watched carrying out this work was awe inspiring.

 Adjacent to the site a new museum building has been built and is full of beautifully presented ‘finds’ from the site.  Statues, frescos, helmets, cloaks, moulds from which the statues cloaks were cast, tools that you would recognise as little different from those in use in the modern day world, weapons used in the games and cleverly constructed models of how the individual buildings would have looked as well as a centre piece model scale model of the whole site as it was at his zenith at around 400BC.

 Greece has so many such sites of historic importance it is just not feasible for their very small population to fund the cost of repair and maintenance.  As we were again to see in Khania on Crete, it is increasingly evident that UNESCO and other wealthier European countries are providing additional funds.  Khania’s history goes back to at least 2000BC and forward to its peak importance as a Venetian port of some significance within which we are currently moored to one of the old stone quays.

 

E’s from Aboard 2005/17

Tales of the Wind: The Epilogue

The storm abated overnight on October 30th and mid morning on the 31st we sailed and motor sailed in a very lumpy sea, the 33nms to Rethimno.  Our night’s sleep there was disturbed by the onset of some fairly persistent rain, the first we had seen since September, and our rising in the morning brought another surprise, we were cold; it was only 13.9° and it never got above 20° all day.

 From Rethimno we progressed under motor to Iraklion where we had intended to spend the night but could not find any space in the old Venetian harbour.  There was plenty of space in the commercial port but the height of the quays, the lack of rings or bollards appropriate for yachts and the swell did not make it a viable option for us so we pushed on another 6nms north to the deserted and desolate island of Dhia.  Despite the description it absolutely enchanting, its peace only being broken by the cries and calls of the various birds of prey and other feathered varieties.

 We went to bed early hoping for a decent sail in the morning to our final destination Ayios Nikolaos.  The morning’s forecast was for NNE F4, locally F5; a bit fine on the bow for an ideal sail but should be great nonetheless. But what we had as we sailed out of the bay was a meagre F2 SSW and so it stayed for an hour or two whilst we made slow progress due east 6 miles off the coast.  After that we had to motor until we rounded the cape and turned south towards Ayios Nikolaos when the wind increased to F3 for long enough for us to get out the Gennaker (at last) and give it a try in down wind and later beam wind conditions.  Just one mile from the marina the wind died away to nothing and in we motored for the last time this year.

 

Laying up

But we were lucky for the following day the weather was foul; wet and very windy at first though when the wind died in the late afternoon it allowed us the perfect opportunity to have the sails washed free of charge, courtesy of the rainfall.

 The most unpleasant job is necessary replacement of the outlet hoses from the two loos on board.  In little more than a season these become blocked with a concrete like substance produced through the interaction of urine and seawater.

 Engineering and mechanical work has never been strong point for Richard but he decided it was time to learn by trying to change the oil and fuel filters as well as the engines lubricating oil.  That is more difficult on a yacht as you cannot get under the sump to drain the oil out, it has to be pumped out into an appropriate receptacle.  The job was completed successfully with a lot of bad language and a lot of help from Roger Walkey, a fellow Bavaria owner.

 Last KO day was 02 November in brilliant sunshine and 25°

Camaraderie of the Sea

During the previous week as we progressed towards Ayios Nikolaos we kept in touch with Roger & Birgitta who were approaching from the other direction having started from Marmaris on the Turkish coast.  There is a nice comforting feeling about contact with friends who are on a converging course for the same port that adds to the actual meeting when that takes place.  A feeling common we are sure amongst all sailors over the aeons of time, made all the more pleasant by the modern communication aids available to us such as, in this case, the good old text messaging service of the mobile phone.

 A different example arose from our approach to Katacolon. An enormous cruise ship was preparing to leave and as she did so, gave three short blasts on her horn, meaning, “I am using astern propulsion”.  As she was backing out from the end of the mole we were about to pass, we reversed course to make our intention clear, that being to allow him all the manoeuvring space he required.  Why do we record this perfectly normal occurrence?  Because later that day we had supper in the oldest taverna in Katacolon and in seeking out the lady of the house to thank her for an excellent and different meal, we found her sitting with her husband and in the transpiring conversation he asked how we had arrived and said “ah, you were the yacht entering as I left the harbour.” We looked bewildered and he explained.  “I am the Pilot here.  I was piloting the cruise liner leaving as you entered.  Thank you for keeping clear so promptly.”  Another simple example of the camaraderie the sea engenders.

 Then there is the more ancient camaraderie of sailors previously unknown to each other, meeting through a common passage plan, chance one-off meeting or a final destination in common.

 Such was our meeting with a Belgian couple first seen in Pilos then Koroni then Porto Kayiou then Khania, who where on their way to Turkey to over-winter and had previously sailed across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and then back across toenter and explore the Mediterranean.  Whilst they were much more experienced sailors than us we were able to provide them with lots of ‘local’ knowledge to help them on their way each time we met.

 We came across a Swiss couple and their two daughters, first in Porto Kayiou then Khania.  They were really bohemian family with a small yacht heavily equipped for ocean passages but whilst they were quite friendly and practically helpful, they were not very forthcoming about their intentions and exploits despite speaking perfect English.

 On the way from Kapsali to Khania we passed a South African flagged yacht named Thallassa, Greek for sea.  She was certainly equipped for ocean passages and we had some difficulty passing her as she was on automatic steering and in the variable winds, her course was regularly varying left and right by 20° whereas we were trying to hold our course and adjust our sails to accommodate the wind shifts.  Whilst our speed was as much as 1knt faster, in the lulls our speeds were similar; eventually we passed her to port but could see nobody in the cockpit and concluded the crew were asleep.  She later moored up adjacent to us in Khania and over the course of the next few storm bound days we discovered they were a couple Dutch nationals and South African citizens, a fact that was to cause them some problems when they came to book out of Khania with the Port Police, particularly as they were also leaving Greek waters and gave their next destination as the Suez canal.  When we left they were still awaiting clearance.  It was great hearing of their exploits having sailed down from Holland and apparently intending to sail down the east coast of Africa back to South Africa where they had left last year and sailed across the South Atlantic to Brazil.  When they left the wind was so strong (some people are potty) they sailed the first week without sails (bare poled) making an average of 5knts!  The for the next three weeks under just Genoa alone and he told us that he never once had to adjust it, day or night.

 November the 5th was a Saturday and some of the other expats on the marina organised a lunchtime bonfire barbeque party outside the marina clubhouse.  It was a fine day and the temperature at lunchtime was a comfortable 23°.  Everyone brought their own booze and barbeque food as well as providing something such as salad or bake potatoes or a sweet for all to enjoy.  The party was rounded off at dark with a little firework display provided by contributions from all attending.  What fun, though we suspect it would have been highly illegal if held in the UK.

 On the Sunday after a morning spent washing and drying the sails, Roger & Birgitta drove us up into the mountains for a traditional Greek Sunday lunch at ??????

 

Other Things

Richard knows how to spoil a girl, a Chicken Pitta (with chips, tzatziki, tomato, onion) Gyros Pitta and two glasses of wine, €7.60 (£5.00).  Should be in with a chance after that?

 Accordion playing beggars; one boy aged 11 an accomplished player and a girl aged 9 who was nearly as good.  Walking around Khania all day and evening playing to anyone who is sitting still on a seat, in bars or tavernas, even those on yachts like us.