E's from Aboard - 2007 Summarised

Pictures with this summary

As with previous years, the E-mails 2007 were posted straight to our website, kindly set-up and managed by our good friend and kindred sailing spirit, Rod Day.

 Index of Content:

  1. Return to Aghios Nikolaos and to a wedding!
  2. Along the Cretan coast and meeting-up with the Overs
  3. Up from Crete to the Ionian and some holidaying characters seen in Pilos
  4. Sadness at disproportionate inflation in the Ionian & Rod & Pat’s visit
  5. Gale force fun in Kioni and from the Ionian to a new port, Finakoundha
  6. Fisherman characters, historic celebrations in Monemvasia, new Aussie friends and across to Milos.  Boy was it hot!
  7. Sifnos, Serifos, seeing the Sturgess’, nearly wrecked, Coastguard (?) to the rescue.  Back home to the UK for a holiday
  8. Return to Aghios Nikolaos.  Shingles strikes!
  9. Into the Dodecanese and off to Turkey for the first time
  10. Along the Turkish coast from Marmaris back Datca.  Meeting-up with Di & Tony
  11. Perverse winds stop the journey north so back to Aghios Nikolaos

Note

Many of the places mentioned are covered in a little more detail within the Port Appendices elsewhere on the website.

 

E’s from Aboard 2007/1

The near orgasmic pleasure engendered by CG’s gentle sway and roll as I stepped aboard caught me unawares.  Charlie was equally moved, tears welling up in her bright blue eyes glistening in her smiling face.  How could we have forgotten so quickly that sensation of inner warmth and contentment brought about by the movement of a yacht under our feet; it was only seven months since we stepped ashore to return home?  I smiled to myself; the stress induced earlier by nearly missing the flight from Athens to Crete just faded away: we were aboard our second home and she was happy to have us here, her stern tugged softly at her mooring ropes as the swell created by the afternoon breeze wafted softly across the marina alternately moving her stern left and right like a dog’s wagging tail.  Having been washed down by Udo and his wife in preparation for our arrival, she shone like a new pin, glistening in the bright afternoon sunlight unimpeded by the white and fluffy cumulus humilis clouds forming and dissipating in the gentle north-westerly breeze. 

The journey out had been easy enough though security at Gatwick had an unfortunate element of stupidity about it.  We checked our main bags in the night before our flight but were not warned that the four items of hand luggage thus left with us would deny us access to the departure lounge.  We were to find that out when nonchalantly approaching the barriers at 5am the following morning.  We were carrying a briefcase holding our computer, a light flat cardboard package containing two mosquito nets, a carrier bag containing our minimal, legal, toiletry requirements and our camera case.  “Sorry Sir but you can only take one item each through security”.  A pleasant young lad and his lady supervisor who soon descended upon us after he had stopped us, elaborated on the requirements and suggested we put our camera case in the plastic carrier bag, which we did, and shrink wrapped the briefcase and the mosquito nets together, then we would be OK to pass through security.  Has the logic escaped you?  It certainly escaped us.  But we wanted to be understanding and made no fuss as they were only doing their jobs and were trying to be helpful.  Then I remembered previous trips and asked “Doesn’t our computer have to be out of the briefcase for security checks?”  “Oh yes Sir, that’s right.  Please take it out.”  But that makes three pieces?” said I.  “Yes Sir but that is OK as long as the (empty!) Briefcase is shrink-wrapped to the mosquito nets.  Oh, and you can unwrap it all once you have passed through security and carry as many pieces as your carrier will allow on to the aircraft!”  The need for effective security checks is accepted and understood but the advantage of the current restrictive practice eludes us.  The airlines recommend, nay almost insist, you do not put computers, cameras and the like in hold baggage.  So where are you to put them and what happened to customer service?  After all, we are footing the bill for all this additional security at the end of the day and should have some say in how they organise it.  The curiously applied logic is supposed to reduce the time taken at the scanning desks but it merely replaces any additional time there with a pre-scan check involving twenty-two additional staff; we counted them.  Surely that massive staff bill would easily pay for a couple more scanners? 

Once through the security checks we unwrapped and disposed of all the shrink-wrap material though the delays left no time for breakfast.  Lunch at Athens was also missed as Aegean Airlines check-in queues were so long, not only did we not have time for any, we also would have missed the flight altogether had they not encouraged us to jump the organised queue and check-in out of sync.  And that debacle resulted in a half-hour delay through a passenger ‘no-show’ necessitating the hunt for and removal of his baggage from the aircraft’s hold.  No security delays here as it is an internal flight and the checks are minimal. 

Roger & Birgitta kindly agreed to pick us up from the airport and we thus enjoyed an easy drive to Aghios Nikolaos and a couple of beers on deck as soon as we got there interspersed with all the relevant gossip on the goings on at pontoons’ B & C.  The welcome was warm with a steady stream of friends passing our stern and asking after our winter and Charlie’s unfortunate pelvic fracture.  In celebration of our return we dined at Corto Maltese, just the two of us, reflecting romantically on the warm attention we received from the owner and staff who genuinely seemed very pleased to see us.  We were glad to hear they had enjoyed a busy winter and were looking forward to introducing a new menu for us to try in May. 

The big surprise was an invitation to Caz and Jerry’s wedding on the 20th of April.  Their yacht Mandarina is parked on our pontoon right opposite us.  They’re a British couple about whom we know very little as yet though he has a sense of humour to match his jolly, tall, professorial and windswept physique.  Handing us the invite he said “It is going to pretty lonely on the pontoon if we don’t ask you as nearly everyone else has been.”  It was said in such a way that you had to laugh.  Caz is traditionally shorter than the man she loves, is quietly spoken, smiley, sweet and very pretty (see photos). 

Greek registry office weddings take place in the town hall, itself on the second floor of a very ordinary multi-story building on the corner of a busy street junction.  Charlie entered the tiny and basic lift with some trepidation, wondering if arrival at the second floor would ever occur.  It did and we joined the mêlée of fellow witnesses, Caz and Jerry awaiting their turn in the Mayor’s Office.  The Ceremony had been booked many weeks in advance for 13.45 but at 10.00 on the morning itself, the Town Hall called asking the bride and groom to present themselves early, at 13.10 as the Mayor had an important appointment that afternoon.  Panic ensued.  What Bride can reasonably be expected to speed up her preparations with just three hours to go! 

The Ceremony was absolutely charming.  The Mayor greeted us with a specially prepared address in English, welcoming the couple and their guests to Aghios Nikolaos and thanking them profusely for wishing to be married in his town.  The Greek wedding address was enthusiastically read out in English bringing quite a few tears to many eyes with its romantic lilt and heartfelt meaning.  The Mayor was more nervous and embarrassed than either the bride or groom, which added much to the enjoyment of the Ceremony for all.  Cameras clicked and flashes flashed throughout, particularly at the presentation of a gift box from the Town Hall with its content of typically Greek goodwill wishes for a happy and prosperous marriage. 

At its conclusion, all congregated outside for more photos and the quintessential rice and confetti throwing (see photo) after which the ensemble drifted 100m down the street with fog horns sounding to Portes, a very Greek taverna where real, typically Greek food is cooked and served at unbelievably low prices.  Manole, the owner, chef, head and only waiter, solely cooked and served a resplendent and extensive menu as well as keeping us all amply supplied with wine, water and bread; a lesson that could well be learnt by many a UK restaurant.  We steadily worked our way through a selection of five or more starters and an equal number of main courses before collapsing over a selection of sweets including the wedding cake. 

Caz and Jerry’s poem in thanks for our attendance was circulated the following morning:

 

Our Wedding Day came and went,

The perfect weather heaven sent,

Typical Greek chaos reigned agin’,

With wedding brought forwards by 35 min.

 

Our guests arrived on perfect time,

The Ceremony, simple but very fine,

Photos were taken by all and sundry,

The developers families will all go hungry!

 

The gifts received were all amazing,

Books and booze and tinted glazing.

The moneyed shawl was a real pleasure,

We’ll use the cash to shield our eyes!

 

Thanks to all for making the effort,

A day to remember, from start to buffet.

From Bride and Groom, our best wishes

 

For our Cretan Wedding, with no smashed dishes!

We, or to be more precise I, had intended to video the ceremony for them but on pulling out the camera at the Town Hall and focussing in on the first shot, the camera kindly told me I had forgotten to put a cassette in!  Ah me, old age or what?  As if that was not enough, on our visit to Roger and Birgitta’s villa and whilst sitting outside taking the last of the day’s sun, I wandered back round the front of the villa to what I thought was the kitchen door to find it locked.  Embarrassingly, on asking Roger to solve the problem he walked around the building, past the door I was trying to get open to the kitchen door a few metres further on.  And I was cold stone sober! 

Charlie’s birthday was the day after the wedding and equally well celebrated at Portes.  The planned party of six grew steadily until twelve of us finally sat down to supper after a few bottles of bubbles consumed on CG’s after deck (cockpit actually but we like to be a bit grandiose occasionally.  Charlie had a senior moment on donning her skillet; needing to blow her nose she seeks her usual tissue in one of the pockets and finds herself attempting blow her nose on two tea bags, Lady Grey of course but what on earth were they doing in her tissue pocket? 

Trips to Kavousi, Mocolos and Roger and Birgitta’s villa have also been fitted in as well as welcoming and entertaining Paul & Jackie on board for a fortnight.  With all this celebrating and frivolity, only some of which we have mentioned, very little progress has been made towards re-rigging our girl and fitting all the new gadgets for our eventual departure for the season.  Next week must see us doing less of the former and more of the latter!  Together with Charlie’s continuing positive progress towards full physical fitness though the pelvis continues to give her daily discomfort. 

 

E’s from Aboard 2007/2

Setting sail for the first time after the winter break is of course exciting but also somewhat illogically, frightening, particularly leaving with the prospect of having to round Ak Ay Ioannis, the headland at the western tip of Kolpos Merambellou within which Aghios Nikolaos sits.  Headlands often create exceptional seas and winds and this one is no exception.  The rest comes from what has affected all sailors since time immemorial after time ashore, “Will I remember what I have to do?  Will we arrive safe and sound?  Will the sea be kind or claim me for its own?”  We were no different on Tuesday the 8th of May when we slipped our moorings to the sound of Jerry and Caz’s air horn and fond farewells and set off for Spinalonga for the first night before tackling the cape early the next morning.  Rising at 0530, we rounded the cape by 0700 and were on our way, motoring, towards Dhia thirty miles away and 6 nms north of Iraklion.  There was too little wind to sail and the sea was remarkably calm; Aeolus was being kind and had tempered the forecast NW’ly F5 to a gentle ENE’ly F2 that was to assist our motor-sailing onward and past Dhia to the pretty little harbour of Bali, near to where our friends Chris and Nicky Over were holidaying. 

Chris has always wanted to “pose” on the back of a yacht drinking G & T’s and we were only to pleased to oblige him (see photo).  For a serious and caring solicitor he was little more than a big kid out on his first ever adventure and his boyish good humour continued through the couple hours of “posing” on board and the most enjoyable dinner in a taverna ashore that followed.  Even after more than thirty years together, Nicky’s odd comment, knowing smiles and raised eyebrows did little to deter his exuberance.  Whilst we had often socialised with them over the Midas years and since, that evening provided us with an insight into the real Nicky and Chris that we had never seen before and it was an absolute delight.  It was an evening to remember and we will, with great fondness. 

An offer of a sail (subject to the right weather) round from Bali to Panormos the following morning was readily accepted.  Unfortunately the forecast in the morning was adverse and Charlie Girl was being pushed against the quay by the steadily rising wind.  The offer was regrettably cancelled by text and we sailed alone round to Panormos in conditions that at first that made the decision wise but Aeolus must have realised it was us and abated the wind so much we crawled into Panormos three hours later in little more than a vesper of a breeze.  We joined Nicky and Chris for an enjoyable lunch before we all departed for an afternoon siesta after which Chris kindly drove us into Rethimno for a meal in the garden of the Avli taverna (see August 2004 for those of you who follow our exploits and wish to know more of Avli). 

The following morning we left Panormos for a 15 mile windward sail round to Rethimno and after a quiet night there, a further 20 mile windward sail to a delightful bay off the Soudha peninsula, where we dropped anchor behind Nisos Pliasoudha in just 6 meters of crystal clear water over its silver sand bottom.  It is a heavenly spot with its backdrop of snow-capped Cretan mountains (see photo), the only sound being from the gaggle of geese on the nearby beach hoping to scrounge the odd tit bit from the beach tavernas customers also quietly enjoying the idyllic surroundings.  After a very peaceful night at anchor we sailed right round the peninsula, mainly beating, the 25 miles to Khania.  And there we were to stay for five nights awaiting the right wind to tackle the next leg up to the island of Kithera some 65 miles nor’ nor’ west of Khania. 

It was an enjoyable stay as we like Khania despite its tourist resort aspects.  The Old Venetian Harbour, within which the visitor berths are, whilst now filled with later age buildings, still exudes its history, some of its older buildings having been carefully and tastefully restored and renovated.  The tourism itself adds to the charm with hundreds of visiting folk walking the quays and ‘staring’ at its residents such as us, almost as if we were animals in a zoo.  We have been known to rudely imitate chimpanzees when it gets too extreme.  But most smile as they pass and some stop to talk, compliment us on our beautiful yacht (their words not ours though we would naturally agree with their excellent perception) and pass the time of day.  And there are the pony and trap ensemble that pass every few minutes with their tourist passengers enjoying the same aspects of the Old Venetian Harbour, as do we (see photo).  Then there are the swifts nesting in the surrounding buildings that whirl and swoop in the sky above and around us, screeching as they chase and catch their small flying bug food and occasionally deposit their droppings on our decks.  Still, that keeps Charlie happy as otherwise she wouldn’t have to wash our girl down quite so often. 

Mentioning Charlie, she is recovering well; her pelvis seems fine.  Now it is just the effort needed to get the muscles back into shape that had wasted through lack of use over three months of inactivity.  The bikes are out and are being ridden, slowly for now but with increasing pace.  Walking is still fairly limited, relatively slow and is providing a fair amount of discomfort by the end of a day’s efforts, though her feeling of usefulness is returning as now she can scrub down the decks, wash floors and sweep up as anyone does who wishes to maintain their home in pristine condition. 

The day after our arrival, Lord Portal, one of the Combined Services Nicholson 55’s came in and moored up alongside us.  The ex-army Skipper and his first mate, a serving army officer, were a delight as were their nine passengers, all serving personnel on a ‘rest and recreation’ break from their respective postings.  Nic 55’s are the most beautiful of classic yachts of which the Combined Services still have, we think, eight in service.  They were probably built in the late fifties of the last century to a then classic design and they are absolutely beautiful to watch under full sail with their lean hulls creaming through the water and their leeward decks awash.  Magic.  

Apart from that romantic interlude, we cleaned up Charlie Girl IV, scrubbing down the decks and with the convenience of having mains power from the shore, using our newly acquired electric polisher to remove some of the topside bloom collected over the past three years.  There is still be lots more to do before she again shines like a new pin and that we intend to do on reaching the Ionian.  Other than that, we re-stocked ship in advance of the next week or so where provisions will be limited in their availability and generally enjoyed the atmosphere of Khania and some of its eating houses; Taman is particularly good.  It is a converted Turkish bath though they have thoughtfully removed all the water before filling the relatively small pool and its surrounds with classic Greek tables and chairs.  The food is excellent; we ate Taramusalata, Tamman stuffed burgers, Persian risotto, two sweets, water, bread, a litre of local white wine and a small bottle of Raki all for just €26.00 (£17.50) including a tip.  For those who don’t know and why should you, Raki is a distillation of the juice formed from pressing wine grape skins, leaves and twigs left over from the making of local wine.  It is a totally clear liquid and at up to 50% proof can prove lethal for the unwary! 

At 0630am on Friday the 18th of May we set sail for Kithera.  With the forecast south-westerly F4 gusting 5 and the required course being roughly north-westerly, the wind was on the beam, perfect for a long day’s broad-reaching up to Kapsali on Kithera’s southern coast.  A mile after leaving harbour we were making 7 knts under full sail and just a few miles further on were creaming along at 8.5 knts plus.  And so it was for the first twenty miles until we reached a point about three miles off Ak Spathi where the wind rose rapidly to thirty knots with a rough sea to match it.  We were riding a full gale, certainly not what was forecast.  In such a wind, even if we were to sail on well reefed down as we were by then, Kapsali is untenable in a southerly F6 let alone an F8; there was no option but to turn round and sail back to Khania. Thus after six hours of spirited sailing over forty miles we were, once again, back in Khania. 

One of the attractions to us of Khania is its excellent market housed in a traditional cross-shaped market building, probably built in the late 19th or early 20th century.  As most will know, second only to sailing, cooking is our passion, thus copious quantities of good, fresh, local produce is to us what ancient monuments may be to other tourists.  The market is not just food, it includes spices, gifts, clothing, food stalls and tavernas.  In fact The Lonely Planet quite rightly recommends it as a budget cost place to eat.  In our view the ‘budget cost’ aspect gives a wholly wrong impression.   If you want proof that Greeks live to eat, not eat to live, you will find it here.  The dishes are traditionally Greek, Cretan in particular, and definitely not what you find in the average tourist taverna.  The stalls of fresh fish, vegetables and meat are a delight as are the stalls dedicated to cheeses of all descriptions and the delicatessen stalls with their cured meats and fish and mountain teas. 

Having sampled a particularly tasty dish Richard loves to attempt an emulation and from that our repertoire of typically Greek and Cretan dishes is expanding all the time.  Some of them are quite simple; we had a chicken dish recently that was very flavoursome and sweet on the taste buds.  We picked it over with a fork, embarrassing in itself, and worked out it was effectively a base of onions and celery.  A few efforts produced a passable and delicious copy using stock made from the chicken skin and bones, sweet spring onions (see photo!!), a version of celery not available in the UK, some herb sea salt and white wine.  It will be tried again using white onions and we are sure that what we know as celery will produce and even more intense flavour. 

Finance always creeps in to retirement life and we are no exception so it is a real pleasure to able to purchase such good produce at sometimes ridiculously cheap prices to create such enjoyable food.  And of course we can eat out here far more than would ever be possible on the same budget in the UK.  Who knows how long this will last as the effects of EU policy slowly brings the standards of living of the poorer countries up to the average.  As you might expect this is bound to take prices up at the same time.  But it will be a few years yet and in the meantime we can enjoy the benefits whilst contributing in no small measure over our eight month stays to their economies. 

As this leaves us for you to read, it is Monday the 21st of May and we are still in Khania.  Will we manage to escape into the Peloponnisos before E 3 reaches you? You will have to wait and see, as will we! 

E’s from Aboard 2007/3

It was probably the professorial fringe of white hair surrounding an otherwise bald head on one aging character, the unbelted chinos hanging low enough to accommodate two posteriors linked with a check shirt and a blue and a white bow tie worn by a second, and another gent wearing a collar and tie without a blazer and walking with his hands behind his back whilst looking down his nose at others in attendance, that caused us to conclude we had chosen to dine in our favourite terraced garden taverna in Pilos amongst a holidaying group of thirty retired academics.  It would be unkind to describe the ladies present, suffice to say their uniform dress delivered a similar message as did the group’s attitude to other Brits within their circle.  We were all approached, in turn, and questioned as to our reason for being ‘here’ amongst their ‘private’ gathering before an unnecessary apology was proffered for disturbing what they thought we wished to be a quiet romantic evening alone.  Little could they have known that they were providing just what we wished for, free entertainment.  We were not to be disappointed. 

The chap with the bow tie, we shall call him Clarence, was sitting next to Clara, a similar aged lady in a floral skirt and white blouse top.  How we came to know her name will become clear in a moment.  At first we thought Clarence’s close attention to Clara flowed from his poor eyesight, indicated by the overly thick lenses of his spectacles.  But perhaps it was not so.  Clara at first seemed dreadfully disinterested in Clarence even though we had also thought them to be partners.  Clara was obsessed with feeding the numerous feral cats wandering round the taverna seeking free titbits.  She held a morsel between her fingers and, stooped low, followed one cat in and around the tables as it did its best to escape her approaches; it thought it was to get a good kicking this being what most other people do.  After she sat back down next to Clarence, one approached her chair.  She turned to her side and bent right forward to reach her hand to ground level which quite naturally raised her ample buttocks towards Clarence.  Despite his poor eyesight even he could not miss that and grasping her nether regions with both hands exclaimed, “oh, you are looking well today Clara”.  His approach was heard clearly by us so must have been heard by Clara and most of the other people on their table but Clara did not respond.  What followed can best be described referring to a young puppy that has just got his first sniff of a bitch on heat and thus follows her round making asinine approaches and not quite understanding why there was no response.  He tried everything.  Taking photos with his digital camera and seeking her approval et al, apparently all to no avail until all of a sudden Clara’s body language declared a clear interest.  Decorum does not allow this to be amplified; suffice to say they left together with Clarence’s tail wagging excitedly. 

It turned out it was a holiday group on a nine day coach tour of various Greek historic sites organised by two sisters of a similar age, one of whom ‘interviewed’ us to see if we were, in her words, “potential punters” for a future holiday.  She and her sister reminded me of Gert and Daisy the old musical and radio characters; nonetheless both very pleasant for all that.  The dinner was the final one of their holiday and ended with a speech given by one of the ladies in Greek and English to their coach driver; fifteen minutes of fairly meaningless and insincere pleasantries concluding with the presentation to him of the seemingly requisite envelope containing a bundle of notes. 

Arriving in a deserted anchorage like Gramvousa and seeing one small yacht flying a French tricolour with a couple of adults and two young children on board, you could be forgiven for thinking they were French holiday makers out for half-term.  Imagine our surprise when the skipper poddles across in his dinghy to pass the time of day, greets you in perfect English (not something the French are renowned for) and tells us he is a Greek tanker captain working for BP out of Scotland!  To top it all he isn’t even flying a Greek courtesy flag.  Evidently he bought the yacht from a Frenchman and on attempting to change her registration to Greece, found it was too much hassle.  “After all, we’re all Europeans now, what the hell” he said.  “I’ve been fishing today and caught a very large Octopus.  We barbequed some for lunch and are cooking some more with spaghetti tonight.  Would you like to join us for supper?”  We declined politely as neither of us like Octopus and hate to see the way they are caught and killed.  Wildlife programmes of the BBC can be blamed for that having watched one demonstrating how intelligent a being the Octopus is.  Be that as it may, he stayed chatting for quite a while before departing with, “We drank a bit too much ouzo with our lunch; we’re feeling good, perhaps we shall make a baby tonight.  Good bye!!” 

You will have gathered by now that we finally managed to escape the clutches of Crete, first with a tough motor-sail to Gramvousa on a forecast promise of just one day of a decent southerly wind the next day to whisk us up to Kapsali on Kithera.  We anchored off in the company of the French yacht who was alongside the small quay and a small freighter a hundred metres or so off our stern (see photo).  We pondered on her history and the stories she could tell before taking up permanent and final residence here, particularly as by then the wind had come round and was blowing steadily from the south-west; not the best of direction for this anchorage if got up during the night.  It didn’t and next morning we sailed the best part of the 45 miles to Kapsali in an ENE’ly F3; not the forecast southerly but easy and great. 

Kapsali is beautiful and so quiet in May (see photo); their season does not really get going until June but runs on through October.  Back in 2004 we had walked up to the Chora and on finding the Hotel Margurita, took an excellent breakfast of homemade breads, preserves and nummy-nummy-noomies (chocolate croissant and chocolate biscuit/cakes, fruit salads et al).  It is run by two French gays who opted out of life in Paris for a quieter existence on Kithera.  They have made a brilliant job of it too; the hotel exudes the atmosphere of calm and peace they were personally seeking.  On that trip we had walked the extra mile up to the remnants of the dramatic Venetian fort that overlooks Kapsali where we moor up (see photo).  That was not a practical option for this trip so we took a taxi up to the hotel where we enjoyed again their excellent breakfast before walking back down to the harbour; a long and challenging walk for Charlie successfully completed with little stress or consequence. 

Another brilliant sailing day followed (in the SSW F3 forecast for the previous day) to Porto Kayiou just 3 miles up from Ak Tainaron the southern most tip of the Peloponnisos and the Greek mainland.  It is an anchorage that is difficult to avoid when sailing this area and one we always feared as our CQR pattern anchor was a nightmare to get dug in or then hold.  But our new Spade anchor took first time and held perfectly all night in the worst direction of wind for the bay, a north-easterly, albeit only F4.  There are a couple of tavernas, a few houses and holiday apartments ashore but not a lot else; it really is the end of the road in Greece.  Thus we prepared and ate pasta on board with a spring onion, mushroom, wine and cream sauce.  We went to bed very happy and relaxed that night. 

The next day promised similarly good winds for the next leg north-west to Methoni, a fifty mile hike that would more often than not be to windward.  It wasn’t and we sailed almost exactly half the distance in the variable F3 winds; when with us we sailed, when not we motor-sailed. 

Methoni is another of our favourites where there is no option but to anchor off in its mystically impressive historic surroundings.  The Venetian fort covers the whole of the promontory and must have been quite a sizable town and community in its hey day; later the promontory was marked by the occupying Turks with a splendid tower (see photos).  The dinghy was pumped up for the first time this year and Jane the outboard motor attached; surprisingly she started first time despite having been idle for nearly six months and never serviced since we bought her in 2004.  Four-stroke motors do seem a lot less trouble than two-stroke.  Why is she called Jane?  Because she’s a Honda of course! 

We didn’t go far once ashore, just into the little square overlooking the beach where we ate at Meltemi, a taverna we had frequented before.  He excelled himself with two enormous, fresh, barbequed Swordfish steaks at the ridiculous price of €6.00 (£4.00) each; the normal rate is between €12.00 and €15.00. 

The plan was to spend the next day at anchor and walk into Methoni’s sleepy old town but on rising the sea was relatively flat and there was a gentle breeze from the north-west and whilst it only ten miles up to Pilos it can be a bumpy ride in the normally rough sea as the north-westerly builds up during the day.  Off we went, tacking four miles out to sea until we could tack back and make the entrance to Ormos Navarinou where Pilos sits and where the famous battle we have mentioned before took place (see E’ From Aboard 09 from 2004).  As we tacked out to sea, a smaller yacht was motoring up from the south with just his main out and was more or less on a collision course with us.  He spotted us very early and in a most gentlemanly manner, bore away to pass under our stern.  For those who don’t understand, it can be quite stressful when you are under sail and in accordance with the International Collision Regulations, the ‘stand-on vessel’ meaning it is your right of way and you should hold your course, to see another vessel approaching under motor and leaving his ‘giving way’ until the very last minute.  Anyway, we had a great sail all the way to the harbour and moored-up next to the gentleman concerned who we later discovered over a drink or three in the square was returning to his home country, Belgium, after an eleven year solo voyage around the world.  He is a French speaking Belgian, a doctor, who lost his wife eleven years ago as well as experiencing other difficulties that caused him to opt out and see the world.  He is a charming, humorous and friendly man if a little sad at times.  We spent a couple of hours listening to some of his exploits and debating what is wrong with the world and European society in particular.  We solved nothing of course but learnt a lot about Eritrea where he spent several months and clearly fell in love with its very poor but intensely determined people.  One of the most fascinating facets of this very small African continent country surrounded by mainly Islamic countries and with an Islamic history itself, is the equality of the sexes which Claude told us evolved from need during their thirty year fight for independence from Ethiopia; with a population of just four million, women had to fight and do ‘men’s work’ and just like the affects of the First World War on European society, women thus demanded equal rights.  Claude also said that was still ongoing and they have a female government minister whose duty is nothing else but equality.  Recently she introduced penal sentences for anyone found still practicing some of the more ghastly mutilation of women for which that area of Africa is infamous.  His passion for their fight for survival was infectious. 

We would have liked to spend a couple of days getting to know Claude better but the forecast winds were ideal for the next fifty mile leg up to Katacolon, another one that is never easy going north with the prevailing wind being north-west and several hundred miles of open sea in that direction for big seas to develop.  And thus we reached Katacolon, just sixty miles from our beloved Ionian, in some fairly strong southerly winds.  The temptation to push straight on the following morning was soon dampened when we saw the state of the sea, the wind strength and the forecast gale and thunderstorms.  We stayed another night enjoying the hustle and bustle of this sleepy little one street town that bursts into active life each time a cruise liner arrives in its disproportionate large harbour to disgorge its thousand passengers for trips to Olympia or to shop locally for souvenirs and drink at the bars.  We were amused to see a hundred or so of them on an organised tour, transported the 500 metres or so by coach, to a quayside taverna where they were served up a fixed menu of so called typical Greek food and wine in one-and-a-half litre plastic bottles, followed by some local musicians providing typical Greek music and dancing.  Most of them looked completely bewildered by the whole experience. 

As the forecast weather was due to revert to northerlies we set off at 0630 the next morning in a perfect south-westerly breeze motoring the first mile or so to Ak Katacolon, the headland in that direction where in the extensive shallows off the headland we met the consequences of the previous day’s gale.  The seas were enormous; at first about three metres and then as high as five metres, standing CG on her tail as she climbed their steep slopes to the top before crashing down the other side to meet the next one coming in.  They only lasted for a couple of miles over the shallow waters surrounding the headland then we were off on a broad reach at speeds from 6 to 9 knots.  Brilliant!  The wind held up well even as we passed Zakinthos, ten miles to port but then it died as that island disturbed the wind and we motored until we picked up the westerly screaming through the channel between Zakinthos and Kephalonia.  And scream it did getting up to over 25 knots as we passed the south-eastern tip of Kephalonia a good five miles clear of its notorious sand bars and reefs.  By mid-afternoon we were in Euphemia having covered the sixty miles from Katacolon in little more than ten hours, considering the couple of hours of little or no wind, great progress. 

That evening we celebrated our arrival in the Ionian with a juicy fillet steak each at Finikas’s taverna.  June was to be spent cruising around the Ionian and organising berthing for Charlie Girl II after she completes her six seasons of chartering this coming October. 

 

E’s from Aboard 2007/4

May 29th saw our arrival in the Ionian, six weeks later than planned pre-pelvis fracture but with our 2007 ‘take-it-easier’ criteria, sooner than we might have expected on leaving Aghios Nikolaos three weeks earlier on May 9th; 450 nautical miles covered in just twenty days in generally favourable winds which the to be expected prevailing winds would not have been. 

On a sadder note, the Ionian is becoming noticeably more expensive, inevitably moving steadily towards north European prices.  Mooring fees are showing signs of doubling in price, Sivota Mourtos being a prime example where the fees are double what they were in 2005, still only €17.00 a night but plus €4.00 each for water and electricity, exactly what we paid in Euphemia on our arrival there and what a marina berth cost just five years ago, themselves now exceeding €50.00 a night for a yacht of our size.  But there are still plenty of places where there is no charge such as Spartahori where they seemed to have trimmed their prices for meals but still provide mooring, water and power for free on their pontoons.  Though even there, the new water and power facilities on the quay are token fed, as are the similar new facilities in Little Vathi. 

In the same vein, our visit to Paxos was a real disappointment, not that we paid anything for mooring up in Lakka (because we anchored off) or Mongonisi or Gaios in the new (north) port area, but the prices of produce and meals were a shock.  Plums that were €2.40 a kilo in Levkas were €4.80 in Gaios.  The meal we had in Mongonisi, a lamb special, was €10.00 and the portion size miserably small; it was the same at Pan & Theo’s in Giaos, the standard Stifado charged at the same price for four small pieces of cubed beef in a splash of tomato sauce with twenty small and very tired chips.  Charlie’s choice of seafood pasta at €15.00 went straight back!  Six muscles were included, none had any meat; that and just two prawns … need we say more.  The replacement Tuna steak was not much better.  Roma’s seafood pasta in the square at Levkas was enormous in contrast with a dozen meaty muscles and other ingredients for a mere €7.50.  Their other pastas are similarly sized and remain excellent value so, again, it’s not all bad. 

The sailing has been surprisingly good however.  Light or zero wind is a reasonable expectation in the Ionian in June but we have had just what we wanted on most days.  We had a fantastic sail up Stenon Ithaki in winds up to force 7; the gradient wind was about F4, the rest being generated by katabatic gusts off the Kephalonian mountains.  The sea was almost flat and remained so until we broke out of the channel and headed north-east across in a fairly steady F4 with occasional F5 gusts to the Meganissi channel and then round to Spartahori; that was followed by a great sail down to Atokos and a stay in One House Bay for the night before crossing to Kioni for dinner with the old rogue, Costas. 

Costas has put his house, Hamilton House, on the market for €1.5 million.  Good luck to him if he gets it and he just might as Lord Nelson built Hamilton House for his mistress, Lady Hamilton, whilst his fleet were based around IthakaCostas also imparted another piece of interesting information; in Kioni is an early example of what can be found under the sheik and shiny exterior of a Lamborghini (see photo), or so he told us over dinner.  In truth these versatile pieces of machinery are still to be found all over Greece, particularly in the less well developed islands.  The cart at the rear can be detached and a plough or harrow fitted to the engine for farming purposes and even replaced with a cart assembly that will carry four passengers.  They are not quite as fast as a Lamborghini; to make just three miles per hour is quite an achievement.  

Then it was up to Corfu to catch Charlie Girl II in port so we could take some pictures of her to assist her sale in the Autumn (see photo).  Even then we managed to sail a large proportion of the way in favourable winds, not the north-westerlies we would rightly have expected.  They returned for our sail back down again having got the shots we wanted. 

Whilst in Gouvia we went to Boileau, or boiled water if you like, a taverna run by an English lady married to a local Greek chef.  Boileau is her French maiden name though she knows not why or its history in her family.  Friday night is a live music night and quite entertaining.  The music is fine but the real entertainment flows from the people it attracts.  One couple, we nick-named them ‘the retired poshies’, exuded old English upper class social breeding that was not supported by their rather shabby and tired dress.  Perhaps an unkind observation but not meant so.  They were full of character, probably expats who have been living on Corfu for some years and whose income has not kept pace with inflation; a common enough phenomena.  This was clearly their night out and her ladyship was going to make the most of it, tucking into her one course meal as if it were to be her last and singing along with the 1950’s rock numbers; her husband, the (ex) Right Honourable Nicholas Farnsworth (our name for him), was less amused by the music, seemed totally bored with the whole process and had little conversation with his wife of perhaps fifty years.  Then there was the table of six British smoking holidaymakers; one wonders whether these sorts of places will become a haven for smokers after the introduction in July of the smoking ban laws.  The two women chain-smoked their way through the whole meal even when they had food in front of them.  Disgusting! 

We also visited Aghios Stephanou, a beautiful little bay on the east coast just a couple of miles off the Albanian coastline with its backdrop of equally stunning mountains.  Though such thoughts and memories are clouded by the swarms of mosquitoes that attacked us whilst ashore and the apparently sex mad flocks of ducks that frequent the bay and its beaches and seem to do what comes naturally at all times of the day and year; what a mix in a very pleasant anchorage. 

Torrential rain, cloudy skies all day, thunder, lightening and temperatures in the low twenties is not what you expect of the Ionian in June but it is what we got at the beginning of the month; such temperatures are relatively cool for June.  That changed in mid-June to the exact opposite, a totally debilitating heat wave with temperatures rising into the 40’s, some reports said 45 (113ºF) though we did not record that.  What made it worse was the lack of wind, almost none whatsoever for most of the day.  Fortunately the day Rod and Pat arrived it started to cool and even more important, the winds returned.  They had probably the best six days sailing they have ever had and we got to enjoy it too. 

Before they came we had another exciting wildlife sighting between Meganissi and Scorpio.  A large well-whiskered male Monk seal surfaced within 10 metres of us as we motored gently across to Nidri.  We hope this is a sign that they are becoming more tolerant of human proximity and will thus breed more readily.  Only time will tell. 

As said, the sailing for Rod & Pat was just magical.  First a gentle beat around from Euphemia to Pera Pighadi followed by a short motoring session towards Kioni in no wind thinking of Kioni for the night, when up comes the wind to give us a very spirited sail to Kastos, our original intended destination for their first night, in 17 to 26 knots of wind on the port beam and quarter.  The following morning we were able to sail off our anchor, close hauled round the south end of Kastos and close reach up Steno Kalamou for lunch and swim at Paul & Jackie’s bay and then enjoy another spirited sail, a beat this time, from there to Little Vathi, not mooring up until after 19.00 hours.  Then it was an easy beat the next morning up to Tony’s bay for lunch and a hefty downwind sail in a force six to Sivota.  Generally in the Ionian you expect no wind in the morning but to dispute this, the next day we then got the perfect breeze to take us the fifteen miles to One House Bay on Atokos for lunch.  The afternoon brought a bit more than forecast, a brisk north-westerly F6 that we used to beat into Kioni for the night.  Sunday produced a more traditional Ionian day’s sailing with little or no wind until later in the afternoon but still we managed to sail 50% of the trip to Spartahori where the then brisk north-westerly brought an uncomfortable chop into the bay until bedtime.  Monday had us tacking down Steno Meganissi trying for Polis but Charlie’s tummy bug caused us to abort that trip early and drop once again into Sivota for another excellent meal at the ‘No Problem’ taverna, opened on 05 August 1970 and the first taverna in SivotaSpiridoula or Mama as we know her, having produced six children stills fronts the taverna as happily as she did when it started and greets us as if long-lost members of her family every time we come in; an archetypal Greek taverna and welcome if there ever was one.  Rod and Richard were in their element working hard to bring out the best of Charlie Girl IV’s sailing capabilities (see photo). 

All too soon Rod & Pat’s week was over and we dropped then off back in Ay Euphemia wondering if we would ever get such a wonderful week of consistent sailing ever again.  Hopefully we will but you will have to wait and see. 

After picking up our Gennaker from Sivota, we shall be off out of the Ionian heading for the Sporades where Rod & Pat will again join us for a bit more sailing. 

 

E’s from Aboard 2007/5

Whilst departure from our beloved Ionian was tinged with a little sadness it was also tinged with relief.  It was getting too busy for comfort.  Watching yachts leaving in a hurry early in the morning, their spaces filled by incoming yachts from elsewhere almost before they had finished lifting their anchors, is not the relaxed atmosphere we enjoy.  Recently we had been lucky arriving very late in some ports and anchorages, still finding a space, not anymore.  Arriving in Sivota, mid-week when there are no flotillas on turn-round, to find but one space left out of a potential two hundred was a surprise and a classic example of the summer over-crowding.  And that one space contained a buoy marking a laid mooring as if for a fishing boat but none have ever been seen in that spot before.  It turned out to be an anchor mooring a Belgian couple had ‘laid’ for their inflatable day boat they had brought down in their Jeep Cherokee and they thought that gave them permanent rights over that spot on the quay.  They complained, not us, but to the yacht adjacent who politely gave them short shrift telling them, quite rightly, such behaviour is not permitted under Greek maritime law; all quay space is commonly owned and available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.  But that in itself is an indication of over-crowding, again, not how we wish to enjoy our favourite area.  Then there is the seemingly inevitable result of the Ionian’s still increasing mid-summer popularity bringing even more inexperienced sailors into an overcrowded area.  I use the term ‘sailors’ in the loosest sense of the word to cover all those holidaying in all types of boats large and small.  All have to learn but need adequate space and time so to do without the additional pressures produced by such circumstances.  Difficulties and potential damage are bound to follow. 

With winds forecast in the sixes and sevens we were ‘holed-up’ in Kioni, our most favourite of all Greek harbours, saying good bye to our friends there including Costas (see photo), stocking up with fresh food (see photo) and waiting to start off south to the Peloponnisos. We were nicely tucked up in the leeward corner of the harbour, one yacht between us and the mole, right outside Hamilton House, with perhaps twenty yachts moored to windward of us.  Anchor failure is an expected hazard in such conditions, particularly in Kioni where the wind whistles down the valley and out into the bay putting in right on the beam of all the craft moored there.  The harbour is fairly deep and many drop their anchors too late coming in and thus have insufficient scope out for their anchors to hold for sure in such conditions.  And so it was that afternoon as the wind grew in intensity but we were well in and able to support the two yachts to windward of us, the furthest of which was having such difficulty until he used his dinghy to lay a kedge anchor out to windward as did two other yachts.  All these additional anchors were laid under or over other yachts bower anchors thus setting the scene for any leavers providing some ‘entertainment’. 

By dinner time all was well and settled but the next morning, despite a worsening forecast, some yachts did decide to leave and one of them, a Sunsail 34 who had put out an additional kedge anchor, made a complete pigs ear of leaving his berth, picking up his neighbours anchor on exiting with his kedge anchor.  Thus far no great issue; he was the fifth that morning, the others dealt with the problem calmly and sensibly.  This chap despite good advice from adjacent yachts decides the only solution is motor, full-throttle, down-wind, dragging his kedge anchor behind him across all the other anchors in an attempt to lift and clear his.  He picked up a total of four before reaching ours with me and others screaming at him like fishwives to “take her back up to windward”.  With the help of half-a-dozen affected folk, his anchor was cleared and he just steamed off quite content, without so much as ‘a by your leave’ and apparently oblivious to the chaos he left behind.  The rest of us spent the next two hours re-laying the pulled-out anchors as best we could in such winds.  Miraculously, ours stayed in despite having taken his weight and all four dragged out anchors and their yachts! 

The spaces left were soon filled by arriving yachts and, just to pass the time before dinner, I settled down to write this garbage.  Suddenly the peace was disturbed by the most awful deafening vibrating noise throughout CG as if someone was trying to break through the hull with a hammer drill.  A little Italian motorboat had motored downwind along the front of all the moored boats, far too close in, with a view to laying alongside the mole.  Thus when he gets to us he turns right being wholly unaware that when you turn a boat to the right, unlike a car, she changes course by her stern moving left!  The noise was his prop picking up our anchor chain on his very large outboard motor and him trying to get off by opening the throttle wide.  That will have done for his propeller for sure.  Two of his party were holding his bows on the quay with his motor firmly trapped on our anchor chain.  We talked him out of that situation and his stern swung round to lie nicely against the quay, promptly tipping his two fully clothed bow holders into the harbour for an early evening swim!  All watchers and participants laughed, some at and some with the swimmers.  Miracle again, our anchor did not come out. 

So, such events, increasing costs and increasing inexperienced ‘sailors’ means we shall be reviewing the months in which we chose to visit the Ionian in future years. 

Which leads nicely into an interim report on this year’s new equipment. 

Starting with the new Spade anchor, other than the above no further detail is really required except perhaps what Charlie says every day it’s used, “I love you Paul” (Paul Anchor?).  It is much easier to read when dropping; back up strongly and CG stops dead on reaching the end of the paid out chain.  You know Paul’s in and swimming out to see, which we still do, just confirms that fact. 

We had Udo make to drop down sunscreens that we attach to the bimini to keep out the sun in the mornings and evenings.  They do the trick beautifully and additionally we found them useful for keeping the rain out in the same way. 

Two solar powered LED garden lights were purchased and brought out in our luggage to use as anchor lights and thus save unnecessary overnight drain on the batteries.  They are a little dim but in anchorages where there is no real risk of collision other than perhaps close-by pleasure craft, perfectly adequate, accept they don’t work consistently.  We are still trying to work out whether it is just a couple of dud batteries or they are fundamentally flawed. 

So we bought a large traditional brass hurricane lamp with a thick magnifying glass lens.  It is really bright and looks great but we can only hang it out when there is little wind as otherwise it goes out!  A hurricane lamp that won’t work in a light breeze? 

Meanwhile back at our travel log, with a forecast north-westerly F4 following the previous day’s stronger winds, covering the 60 nms from Kioni to Katacolon in the day was a reasonable objective.  But Aeolus had other ideas and after 9 hours of beating into a south-easterly F2, we managed to cover the twenty miles to Poros.  “Not so fast” is what he was saying, “There’s no rush to leave your favourite area”.  He was right of course, it was a fabulous day, quite cool with a clear blue sky and a sea full of Tuna leaping around and chasing their prey.  There may have been plenty of them but even with two rods out with different lures, we couldn’t hook even one. 

The next day’s shortened 40nms jaunt to Katacolon was nearly a repeat though we did manage to sail half the distance before anchoring off the beach for the night.  Then, in pure defiance of these fickle winds and our ‘motor less’ objective, we set off early the next morning expecting to motor most of the 50 nms to Pilos but Aeolus must have taken the hint and though the forecast NW 5-6 never materialised we did manage to sail 30 of the 50 miles. 

This must of angered him somewhat as the forecast for the next few days was for aggressive and strong northerly winds, not that any of that materialised for the 9 nms plod down to Methoni where we spent the next three nights.  With the forecasts remaining adverse for tackling the Capes we sailed 6 nms down the coast to Finakoundha, a place we had not previously visited. 

We anchored off the beach for the first night and when a yacht left the mole in the morning, popped in stern-to.  Whilst reversing in to the space two young lads somewhat dangerously swam around CG.  As we moor up Charlie spots one of them has a small octopus in his hand that he has just extricated from under a rock.  It showed its disdain for him by squirting black ink all over his face; totally unconcerned the young lad shrugged and put it back in the sea then swam away washing his face as he went. 

Later in the day, in comes a very small yacht (see photo of Finakoundha) and proceeds right to the very centre of the tiny harbour that is full of laid moorings for the local fishing boats.  He pulls a large bucket and rope out of a locker and lowered it over the side, we thought to collect seawater to wash his decks; a bit odd before mooring up.  Not a bit of it, it was full of concrete, a homemade anchor! 

We should have visited Finakoundha long ago, perhaps when Roger and Birgitta first mentioned.  It is charming and we will return again for sure.  The tavernas we have used provide pretty good food, very good and friendly service at sensible prices. 

So here we are still in Finakoundha after four nights and three in Methoni just 6 nms up the coast waiting for the forecast winds around the capes we must round to be half acceptable for a try at them.  Today’s forecast is for F5-6 where we are and F7-8 around the capes.  I think we’ll have another beer and stay put. 

 

E’s from Aboard 2007/6

Fisherman are in abundance all over Greece but the “music centre” fisherman in Finakoundha is of a variety we have not seen before.  He appears early in the morning and sits for several hours preparing his barrel of hook lines and then pretties up his already immaculate fishing boat before taking a shower under the tap on the quay and then doing his daily washing.  A lunchtime break comes next (as with us all) involving a few beers and an afternoon zizz.  On awakening it is time to entertain the quay (as we mentioned in E5) with a selection of excellent and non-intrusive traditional Greek music whilst he watches the comings and goings of the afternoon through ‘til dusk whilst consuming copious quantities of local wine.  Then he disappears, presumably to his home and a family.  In the late afternoon of our third day of observation, he started his engine and slipped his moorings.  “He’s going out fishing at last,” exclaimed Charlie.  We watched whilst he pulled his boat out to where its anchor lay, lifted it, moved a few metres further away from the quay, dropped his anchor again, returned to the quay, moored up and turned the Greek music back on.  We agreed, he’s a virtual fisherman, not a real fisherman at all, a state probably brought about by too much exposure computer games as a boy. 

We seem to have an uncanny knack of turning up in places just as they are about to start some sort of celebration or other.  Our progress around the capes of the Peloponnisos had been delayed by further strong and adverse winds resulting in our arrival in Monemvasia being on a Saturday and almost week later than planned.  As laundry and hairdressers where our principle reasons for calling in, a Saturday is the last day you would wish to arrive as such facilities are shut until Monday at the earliest.  But Aeolus is a cunning devil and had delayed us with a purpose, it was on that very weekend Monemvasia annually celebrates the expulsion of the Turks from the Rock at the beginning of the Greek fight for independence in 1821; allegedly it was their first success that raised their morale and hopes of full independence being achieved. 

Not only was the Rock put to siege but the Turkish fleet in the bay were attacked using fire ships, resulting in the Turks capitulating.  It is this latter event that is re-enacted annually with some panache.  Numerous small floating beacons made out of polystyrene blocks upon which olive oil cans filled with lamp oil soaked rags are lit in the early evening.  A mock Turkish warship is anchored in the centre of the bay (see photo) and all the local fishing boats packed to the gunwales with family and friends drift out into the bay as the light fades and proceed to throw maroon style bangers overboard as they circle the warship.  Soon orange and red flares are lit and some thrown onto the warship (see photo), one fishing boat picks up its mooring chain and tows it away.  The whole entourage proceeds slowly out to sea, passing the old town on the rock so they may also enjoy the spectacle.  Then they slowly return towards the shore re-enacting the approach of the Greek fire ships of 1821.  In the now complete darkness they make a forbidding sight particularly as they are backed up by very loud and appropriate dramatic music, full of foreboding, from the assembly point in the old harbour (see photo).  On arrival in the centre of the bay the warship is set alight and the fishing boats circle it hooting, lighting flares and throwing numerous maroons that give a pretty realistic representation of what the actual gunfire of the day must have sounded like (see photo). 

We had an excellent view of all of this from a taverna on the front, half a mile from the noisy centre, right on the water’s edge from where we took some of the photos included and quite a lot of video footage.  It was a great evening and there were further if less dramatic events over the following couple of days.  Surprisingly the wildlife seemed unperturbed by all the action, particularly the maroons dropped in the water.  The following morning, one of the apparently resident turtles, swam past CGIV within hand reach as if such things happened every day in its life (see photo). 

The laundry was done, Charlie’s hair coloured and Richard’s cut and as you can see it really needed cutting! (see photo).  It was time to get off the concrete quay that had been radiating almost unbearable heat over us for the past three days and anchor out in the bay to pick up a little cooling breeze. 

Whilst the UK has been suffering awful wet weather, we have been at the opposite end of the scale; no wind for days and stifling heat in temperatures way above the norm even for mid-summer.  In the summer we would expect night-time temperatures of around 20-25ºC and daytime temperatures of 25-30ºC and in the islands a pretty constant supply of wind, very often more than we would wish for sailing.  We have had weeks on end of 30-40ºC in the day and it never dropping below 27ºC at night, sometimes staying above 30ºC and little or no wind for days to allow us some escape from the heat.  It is a wonder that the discomfort, the frustration and the resultant inclination to bad temper has not caused some major rows; a yacht is very small space when there is no way of escaping the heat: even dipping in the sea at half-hour intervals does little to help as the still water (no wind) is often almost at UK bath water temperature, hardly the cooling environment you might reasonably expect.  For the first time we thought of doing what many of our comrade retired sailors do, go home for July and August to escape the heat. 

But it only takes one day of slightly cooler temperatures and a spanking good sail for those thoughts to melt away and so it was when we left Monemvasia early one morning on a whim.  There was little breeze at all but there had been a little swell rocking us gently for a good part of the night suggesting that a few miles off shore there might be a good breeze.  There was and whilst the wind died away to nothing several times during the day, we had a great seventy mile sail to Ormos Rivari within Ormos Milou on Milos.  It was still hot, 35ºC or so though as evening approached it dropped to 28ºC by which time we were preparing to pass Andi Milos (Little Milos) ten miles from our target where strong katabatic winds are almost inevitable.  When they struck our speed increased and we briefly charged along at speeds up to 9.5knts But those very same winds had passed over this rocky outcrop of an island before whistling down its south-western slopes and across the mile or so of sea to reach us and in doing so had picked up so much heat it was like standing under a hairdryer with the temperature set high enough to burn you.  The temperature rocketed in minutes to 35º though we suspect if we had sat there it was actually well over 45ºC. 

We choose well for the next day we set off in a lovely 12knt breeze to sail the twenty miles over to Ormos Vathi on Sifnos.  The first five miles beating out of Ormos Milou were absolute heaven but then, as forecast, the wind went variable but unlike the forecast force three, died to absolutely nothing with the resultant climb in temperature back up to the high thirties.  This was becoming no joke and plans for a return home again raised their heads. 

Fortunately next morning did produce a light breeze to provide some relief so the dinghy was pumped up and dropped over the side and Jane attached (our outboard motor is a Honda!).  A quick check found she needed fuel, a task normally completed on board CG not on the dinghy.  In the process, Richard managed to knock off the vital cap that tops the engine and as sod’s law predicts, it went over the side, not into the dinghy.  Being at anchor and swinging, flippers and goggles had to be quickly donned as if we moved such a small black plastic object would never be found on the bottom.  On entering the water and peering into the depths through the crystal clear water, Richard spotted its silvery inside as it turned over on the bottom but it was a long way down, around 9/10 metres; he decided to try it nonetheless.  Swimming rapidly down he soon realised it might not be possible but on reaching about 7 metres felt he could do it without breathing difficulties. On passing 8 metres his left ear gave out with a very load ‘crack’; not painful but most uncomfortable.  He pressed on and picked up the cap, turned up to see the surface (it is easy to get disorientated below the surface and swim horizontally not vertically up) and pushed up with all his might.  Half way up his lungs were bursting, they weren’t actually, it was just panic setting in as he realised he had dived deeper than he should have and his ear felt odd.  Losing sight of the surface didn’t help.  A bit more panic.  Then he saw the rudder.  “Fuck” he shouted through his mask and thought “I’ve come up under the yacht.  Not really a problem but panic does strange things to one, all he had to do was a couple a flipper strokes horizontally, which he did, and he would be on the surface just as when he checks the propeller and log assemblies.  But this time it was different, as he broke the surface, spat out his snorkel and took gasps of fresh air, the world was spinning like a top and, thinking it was him, he started paddling furiously in circles the opposite way whilst panting at a frightening rate, trying to unwind the spinning affect.  Charlie had watched all this from the deck and as bubbles rose from under the yacht, realised what had happened.  She was very frightened and worried.  “Do I jump in and grab hold of him or will he be all right”, she thought.  “Are you all right?” she asked.  “No” gasped Richard.  But the direct contact with the real world made him realise he was probably hyperventilating and was thus making himself dizzy.  “Control your breathing you silly sod and swim to the back of the boat”, he thought.  It was only two metres away but his coordination was gone and it seemed to take an age before he reached the steps and there he hung on, leaning back against the tethered dinghy, slowly getting his breath and coordination back before handing the offending cap to Charlie and slowly climbing back on board. 

Much reflection followed and Charlie quite rightly observed, “Such piffling parts can be replaced, you cannot!”  Richard agrees.  Perhaps it was the frustration of the past few weeks and the uncooperative weather that caused him to see the hassle in trying to get such a part in Greece as more important than his life and health.  Dives to recover stuff had been tried before; a fork that unbelievably bounced five or six times before plopping overboard in Skyros.  That depth was only six metres and after three attempts and only reaching around five metres, the fork was left to the fishes.   A dive to such depths should never have been attempted! 

On the health front, Charlie’s pelvis is fine and the muscle recovery almost complete; even bike riding is almost back to normal so perhaps this will be the last mention of that.  Unfortunately Charlie has had another bout of very distressing shoulder pain.  We don’t know what sets it off other than her neck posture but do know it takes a day of heavy drug taking to calm it down to a bearable level of pain let alone get rid of it completely.  She also picked up a tummy bug from somewhere that was persistent for about a fortnight, nothing too dramatic, just inconvenient when out and about away from the yacht. 

Both of us have been stung by wasps and surprisingly both have reacted quite badly and have had to take anti-histamine to reduce the spreading swelling.  Perhaps it is a new strain of killer wasps about to take over the world?  Other than that we are both well if not quite as fit as we should be having had insufficient sailing due to the poor forecasts keeping us in port and Richard is currently putting anti-biotic drops in his left ear.  Time will tell if that is enough to settle it down. 

 

E’s from Aboard 2007/7

Vathi on Sifnos is one of our favourite stops (see photos).  We are not quite sure why as whilst the surrounding scenery of the bay is lovely, it is not as stunning as other places we visit and its facilities are very limited.  There is no power available and mooring on the small quay should you want water can be uncomfortable due to the swell that creeps round into this otherwise very protected bay in a blow: thus we anchor off with the attendant hassle of having to pump up the dinghy and motor ashore.  The tavernas are very limited and basic but the food served is generally good and in one taverna at least, is excellent, very Greek and pretty cheap.  Whatever the attraction is, be it the quietness, the quiet but friendly welcome of the locals, the sandy strip of a beach (its no more than a couple of metres wide) that doubles as the only access road to the beach front properties, the charm of its “no vehicles after 0800 hrs” policy, the added charm of all other deliveries, including the luggage of arriving and departing holiday makers, being by wheelbarrow, we find the place as irresistible as the Hotel California and equally difficult to leave.  We were to spend three nights here and after a trip up to Serifos to meet up with Peter & Judy, another two nights before moving on towards Aghios Nikolaos, our home base, and flying home for a fortnight’s (well earned?) rest and recuperation from the rigours of sailing the Greek islands. 

Saturday morning’s forecast said we were in for a gentle fifteen mile beat north to Lavadhi on Serifos to meet with Peter & Judy Sturgess.  The swell is always large in this area particularly in the seven-mile channel between the two islands but we were looking forward to the sail and seeing our friends before they returned to the UK for August.  Aeolus had other ideas.  By the time we were three miles up track the sea was almost negating any northerly progress in the relatively light airs.  We knew this meant a blow and reefed down in anticipation and sure enough a while later in it came, F6 gusting F7, pretty well un-sailable in the circumstances so on went the iron sail; three hours saw the job done, us anchored off and P & J arriving within the hour (see photo).  The wind stayed up all day and through the night, testing the anchors of quite a few of the thirty odd yachts sheltering there.  We debated whether we should stick to our plan to take the local bus up to the spectacularly beautiful Chora for supper and leave the yachts unattended but as the spaces around us filled and as the sun sank slowly over the mountains the wind abated to F5, so we went. 

The meal at Zorbas taverna was a hoot if a little disappointing compared with previous trips.  It started with us sitting at a two-table arrangement with six chairs.  Despite his taverna not being particularly busy that night, he stood us up asking “for four people?”  We answered “yes” and he promptly removed two chairs, fine, then one of the tables leaving us sitting round a very small table, not so fine but we laughed.  Wine was ordered and shortly after our dinner; the wine was finished before we saw a scrap of food, an inordinate delay even by Greek standards. 

The following morning the forecast was slightly better, F4-5 NNE, perfect for us but a grim prospect for P & J who faced a close-hauled sixty-mile hike in an appalling sea.  They had little option but to leave as they had to get back to the Saronic to lay up their yacht and catch their flight home two days later.  We were less pressurised as we had ten days to cover the one hundred and fifty miles back to our berth in Aghios Nikolaos to catch our flight back to the UK for a two week break.  In fact we were looking forward to a spirited sleigh ride of a sail SSE to Faros on the west coast of Sifnos. 

Anchor was weighed after a bit of shopping, half the Genoa let out and off we went, blown out of the harbour like a cork from an exploding champagne bottle.  The forecast was wrong again, the wind being a good F6, gusting well into F7.  Four metre seas can be expected in such wind and through the channel between the islands somewhat larger as the wind squeezes the sea through the comparatively small seven-mile gap.  Our required course was 125º but we sailed on 105º to counteract the leeway created by the swell and to ensure we didn’t end up having close-reach off the rocky-shore of the north-east corner of Sifnos; as it turned out a more fortuitous decision than we could ever imagined. 

As we left the island behind and screamed off towards Sifnos we almost ran-down a huge sunfish, wallowing around in the swell without a care in the world and probably asleep but as we passed him down our port side, he rapidly turned over and dived from sight.  We didn’t get a photo of him, we were going far too quickly and didn’t see him until the last minute but we did get a picture of a large turtle that swam carelessly past CGIV whilst we were moored alongside in Monemvasia a week or so before (see photo). 

The first five miles were great and our speed exhilarating but then the wind steadily died until no amount of sail put up could move us satisfactorily in such seas.  Our wildly flapping sails were furled, the iron-sail engaged and we motored on rolling drunkenly until we were two miles past the headland where our engine died.  Our situation was potentially dire; there was no perceptible wind and we had no engine.  The 3-5 meters seas were pushing us inexorably and apparently inevitably towards the jagged rock strewn shore less than two miles off our starboard beam.  We were becoming a just little concerned and afraid. 

A quick examination of the charts and the rocky foreshore with binoculars confirmed there were no anchoring options (the depths exceed 100 metres right up to the cliffs).  Launching the dinghy and attempting to tow CGIV off was not a realistic option; the dinghy would have been quickly swamped in such seas.  The only practical option was to raise the sails and try to keep her from moving to leeward whilst working on the engine. 

After an hour of checking filters etc, the engine still would not start and Richard considered that taking fuel lines apart in such rolly conditions was perhaps not a good idea so we ‘sailed’ on whilst he gave the usual routines a further try.  We were still heading broadly SSE when Charlie felt a breath of wind and sensibly took us about until our heading was broadly north-west.  We needed to make about two miles in that direction to safely clear the tip of the island and its attendant reefs and rocks.  The log read zero the whole time and with the mast-head swinging wildly around, the wind indicator could tell us nothing of the wind direction or speed, or indeed even if there was any.  But long-standing dinghy instinct told us there was a faint breath still coming in from the north so we persevered. 

Modern chart plotters are wonderful gadgets and in these circumstances ours showed its real worth.  Closing the range into 200 metres we were able to see that our track in detail showing that some progress through the water was being made and, more importantly, in the right direction.  Its log also indicated a speed varying from zero to 1knt.  We were comforted and, having accepted the engine was not going to start, sat considering our further options whilst CGIV rolled drunkenly from side to side as much as thirty degrees and totally disorganised the inside of all lockers and cupboards in the process.  Charlie was struggling with seasickness this movement was bringing on with the prospect of three or four hours more to suffer even if what little wind there was managed to keep us off the rocks and get us around the headland. 

Calling the coastguard (they run the SAR vessels as well) was always an option and we knew Olympia Radio, the means of contacting them, where within calling range and that there was a coastguard vessel alongside in Serifos just eight miles away.  We were in no immediate danger as long as our progress continued and if the wind came up, we were in none at all, so we decided to press on and keep a sharp lookout on our course and speed.  By now an hour and a half had passed since the engine died. 

Our thoughts moved on to how on earth we were going to find a diesel mechanic who may or may not be able to fix the engine.  Practical commonsense said, “head for the nearest ferry port”; that was Kamares on Sifnos just four miles down the west coast.  If we had wind, no problem, but if we had what we then had, a big problem as that could leave us wallowing around in the path of the ferries entering and leaving the harbour; not an option we could even consider without talking to Kamares Port Control who would rightly deny us access and probably send out the coastguard to make sure we didn’t try it! 

For a week or so we had been sailing in company with an Aussie yacht Malua with her owners Harry and Denny Watson Smith on board (see photo).  Harry is an Australian Coastguard volunteer operating in the same way the UK RNLI do.  We had intended to call them up anyway that day to see if they were again in our vicinity.  Charlie’s call on the VHF brought an immediate response and the knowledge that they were about fifteen miles south of us and motoring towards the south-western end of Sifnos in similarly poor seas conditions.  On receiving our exact position Harry insisted on changing course and heading in our direction to offer assistance or at least to stand-by us as we made for Kamares.  Charlie had been understandably quite emotional and concerned; Harry had detected that in her radio call.  That contact and the knowledge that he could reach us within three to four hours was very reassuring. 

By now we had been drifting along for nigh on three hours but, thankfully, were no nearer the rocks.  Things were looking up. 

Progress round the cape was painfully slow with a constant eye being kept on a particularly nasty semi-submerged rock the waves were breaking over that marked our rounding point.  There was by now some more, still undetectable, wind as we were often making just over 1knot even though the sails still flapped uncontrollably.  On reaching a point to the west of the reef and thus complete relief from a lee shore, Aeolus perversely provided some wind, a good 10knts worth.  The main drama was over. 

Soon we were tacking into the bay at Kamares with Melua in attendance and, thankfully, not a ferry in sight.   Once anchored Harry was soon on board with his toolkit giving Richard an invaluable lesson in diesel engine management and maintenance.  The engine was soon running again though we will never be sure what the cause of the failure was.  Richard thinks it was the heavy rolling caused by the awful seas and a quarter-full fuel tank thus being stirred up sufficiently for a bit of the inevitable contamination to block the fuel’s exit from the tank. 

Yet another Charlie Girl drama survived and some further lessons learnt, particularly that we needed to practice more regularly sailing on and off our anchor in relatively confined spaces. 

Cruising has its risks.  Without a background of a lifetimes experience in unattended cruising, you cannot hope to be a master of all the trades required for long-distance sailing.  Sail maker, electrician, engine mechanic, rigger, plumber, boat builder and engineer, you need to be all of those.  We are none of those though some we can cover adequately; this experience showed the inadequacy of our diesel engine knowledge but, thankfully, the adequacy of our seamanship in such conditions.  Our admiration of round-the-world single-handed sailors such as Dame Ellen McArthur increased immeasurably as a result. 

Two further relaxing days were spent in Vathi in the company of Harry and Denny and a few other Brits we had met up with before (see photo) before we set off for Ios to fill our diesel tank and buy a few provisions for the two or three day trip down to Aghios Nikolaos.  The weather forecasts remained unsound and the weather experienced perverse and sometimes difficult but we had a wonderful seventy mile sail down from Santorini to Spinalonga just ten miles short of our base where we anchored for the night in yet another blustery un-forecast blow. 

Whilst in the so-called marina at Vlikadha on Santorini, Charlie noted two largish fishing boats lying alongside and furiously working on their catch.  Later, a large articulated truck was seen manoeuvring on the fringes of the marina and finally backing onto one of the quays where it was joined by the two fishing boats.  As they started to unload and weigh their catch (see photo) before depositing it in the refrigerated truck we realised it was something special.  It was taking two men to carry each of the fish, most of which were swordfish and some of which were tuna; they were enormous as was the total number caught; we could not believe they were all contained within the holds of these comparatively small boats. 

So here we now are, at home, packing up again to return to CGIV after an enjoyable couple of weeks with family and friends including our eldest Grandson’s 18th birthday bash, a barbeque, very successfully held despite the iffy and rather chilly August weather.

 

E’s from Aboard 2007/8

The trip back to Aghios Nikolaos and CGIV could not have been easier.  The train left Newton Abbot at 09.35, arrived on time at Reading as did the train from there to Gatwick.  We had checked in for our BA flight the night before and the ‘Quick Drop’ baggage check went smoothly and easily before a totally unnecessary delay at the security checks just because BAA cannot be bothered to adequately staff the fully equipped channels they have.  It is much better to offer poor customer service than spend their Spanish shareholders money!  The BA flight was delayed by slow baggage delivery, presumably BAA again, but managed to land at Herakleon just ten minutes late.  The bags were soon retrieved and €60.00 promised to a nice young taxi driver to take us to our girl. 

By 23.15 we were sat in the cockpit sipping a glass of ice-cold wine and wondering just a bit why we had been complaining about the freezing (12ºC) temperature and icy wind on Reading station where Charlie sat huddled up in a cafeteria drinking hot chocolate; here was not a breath of wind and the temperature was a sizzling 36ºC.  By 01.30 it had only dropped to 32 but we just had to go to bed. 

During the night the wind came up and was to stay up for over a week as was the sizzling heat thus scuppering our plans for an early departure to Kassos and islands beyond.  Those same temperatures and winds were to cause the tragic fires throughout Greece that, because of their magnitude, raged almost unstoppably for days and claimed so many innocent lives as a result. 

There were jobs to be done on CGIV.  They were tackled slowly and completed despite the heat and after one such session Richard asked Charlie to check if he had caught his underarm on something sharp without realising it; it was sore and he couldn’t get his head round under his arm to see for himself.  There was nothing to see, it was just an area of skin that had become extremely sensitive.  Richard also commented when working above decks of feeling as if he was being sandblasted by the dust and sand carried by the strong wind.  Then he felt a pain in his arm, nothing significant, probably just a muscle complaining as it had not been used for a couple of weeks but later it worked its way round into his back and then through to his chest.  Furth chest pains  at two in the morning prompted the taking of a couple of Cocodamol thinking, or was it hoping, that he was suffering from something similar to Charlie’s shoulder pain not the early signs of a heart attack. 

Most of the next day all seemed fine except for the occasional tingling sensation around the left hand side of his chest and back until half-way through the next night the pain was stronger and after taking a couple more pills, he felt dizzy.  It was time to seek medical advice and that we did as soon as the doctor’s surgery opened.  He was confident it was a trapped nerve and not anything to do with Richard’s heart until he requested the removal of his shirt for an examination and noted what we had thought were just a couple of spots on Richard’s back.  “Oh I’m sorry”.  He said.  “You have, what do you call it?  Shingles”.  Richard had not been happy with the diagnosis of a trapped nerve, still thinking it was a circulation/heart issue and was thus much relieved to hear the word “shingles”.  “Why on earth did we not think of that, He thought.  “I certainly knew the symptoms”.  His elation was temporary as his memory of others long term suffering with shingles came to mind. 

We were presented with an acceptable bill of €30.00 from the doctor but a staggeringly unacceptable bill for the seven tablets he prescribed of €120.14 (£80.00!!!!). 

By the next morning the sores were spreading round his chest an arm lowering his morale further, particularly as the winds had abated sufficiently for us to otherwise be considering a departure from Aghios Nikolaos.  A visit to the NHS Direct website and its excellent briefing sheets on shingles amplified our limited knowledge of the condition but did little for Richard’s morale.  “ An episode generally lasts from two to four weeks.”  “The virus has lain dormant since childhood chicken pox and has been kept so by the body’s immune system.”  “One in five adults over 50 will have episodes”  “There is no cure.”  Whilst Richard felt his suffering was mild compared with what is possible, the thought of four weeks of blistering rashes, soreness and the stabbing pain of the virus attacking the nerve ends, was not enthralling.  Thoughts of repeating episodes were unthinkable.  Thoughts of going home were rising. 

But all was not bad though.  After three days he felt well enough to consider leaving Aghios and heading up towards the Rhodes area.  Various weather forecasts were consulted and produced a consensus view that a two to three day window of opportunity was opening up on Friday that could allow us to get to Khalki or Tilos in favourable winds.  Friday saw us up at 0530 and in Kassos by 1600 after a beautiful and easy sail in a NW’ly wind up to F5 which, for the majority of the trip, was positioned perfectly on our port quarter as we headed broadly east.  It even died off to a light F2 a mile or two from the port thus allowing us an easy moor-up.  Saturday saw us up at about the same time and heading roughly north, passing Karpathos three miles off its west coast in little or no wind whatsoever and more importantly, a flat sea, almost unheard of for that area.  But Aeolus continued to feel kindly disposed towards us and then provided a WSW’ly wind of a similar strength to the previous day that persuaded us to alter our course and head for Tilos rather than Khalki as that would take the wind from dead astern to, again, nicely on our port quarter.  Two brilliant sailing days in a row in waters where they, to say the very least, as rare as a lottery win; we really were being favoured. 

After two long days at sea, it was time for a day off and consideration of where we would go during the three weeks before we were due in Gocek for the start of the Cruising Association’s Turkish rally.  Should we visit some of our Greek favourites again or should we head straight away into Turkish waters and explore the one hundred mile indented coastline from Datca to Gocek and some of its reportedly abundant and beautifully lush green anchorages along the way?  As I write, we are just 25 nms from Datca and a stop off in Panorimitis on Simi would break that journey and allow us to visit one of our all time favourites, which Panorimitis is. 

A long debate of three minutes over a glass of wine and we decided to head for Turkish waters via Simi, a necessary stop-off to stock up with an ample supply of wine as it is reportedly so expensive in Turkey. 

So that’s it for this E, a little shorter than most as we don’t know what communications will be like in Turkey and have had no real opportunity to take photos.

  

E’s from Aboard 2007/9

Many pleasures derive from what we do; the feeling of freedom, peace and being at one with your surroundings that a good sail in a fair breeze brings on: the excitement generated in seeing or sighting places and creatures not normally seen in our home surroundings such as a pod of dolphins or an ancient site steeped in history: the companionship found in making new friends almost on a daily basis and meeting up with them again sometime later.  The first week or so after leaving Tilos was to provide all of these in spades. 

The 20nm sail from Tilos to Panormitis was a dream.  First, just a gentle puff of wind to carry us gently out of the bay and beyond Tilos’s bulk protecting us from the stronger wind some five miles off shore. Then the thrill of that stronger wind, again on our port quarter, driving CG along at speeds up to 9knts thus easily enabling our dodging of the abundant commercial shipping making its way up or down the channel between Rhodes and the Turkish mainland. 

We were followed out of Tilos by a hydrofoil, a very special hydrofoil the crew of which we had exchanged waves with as we extracted our anchor from right beneath her port fin support.  We could have shaken hands with them we were so close.  As well as acting as an ambulance, it is a travelling hospital ship that spends all its time travelling between the islands providing, as part of the Greek health service, specialist consultant treatment to anyone who needs it, absolutely free.  The consultants are varied so that over a period of time most specialties are covered.  They must have left Tilos a good half an hour after us and decided to pass us to leeward before crossing over our bows and heading off up to Nysiros.  They clearly fancied a look at us sailing as that was a completely unnecessary five-mile detour from their otherwise direct course.  We will have made quite a sight creaming along at the speed we were. 

As if that was not excitement enough, a large fish spotted leaping fully clear of the surface half a mile off our beam sent Richard rushing below for the camera.  By the time he had fitted the long-range lens, the cause of the excitement had reached us.  It was small pod of dolphins in a playful mood.  They joined us, swimming along, either side of our bows, surfing in our bow waves and generally having a good time.  Despite our speed and the relatively large sea, we set CGIV’s auto-pilot and made our way carefully up to the bows, hanging onto the safety rails and grab rails to watch and film their antics under our bows.  Our whoops of joy were clearly heard and their reactions to them said they understood our excitement.  They turned on their sides to look up at us, presumably to make sure we were watching before executing some further acrobatic stunt to impress us and promote yet another whoop of joy.  It was a magic half hour and did much to raise Richard’s spirits after them being dragged down somewhat by the shingles he was suffering.  As might be expected with CGIV cavorting around in the strongish wind and lively sea, of the fifty shots taken only one or two were of note (see photos). 

In what seemed like no time at all we sailed in to Panormitis, dropped the sails and looked around for an appropriate spot to drop the hook.  In so doing we saw an Oyster (posh yacht make) named Osteria and knew we knew her but for the life of us could not remember where we had seen her, the names of her owners or where we had met them.  Our embarrassment was trebled when Ray (we obtained their names later) motored over in his dinghy and greeted us with, “Hello Richard, hello Charlie.  How nice to see you again after so long.  Would you like to come across for a drink?”  Of course we would and did an hour later to discover their names and where we had previously met.  It was on Nysiros in 2005.  Soon the conversation refreshed our memories and all fell into place.  Ray spent his working life as a civilian teacher seconded to the MOD with postings in Germany and Cyprus amongst others and it is Cyprus to which they retired.  There yacht was one of the first Oysters ever built; they have owned and loved her for 18 years and it shows.  We stayed two nights in Panormitis and enjoyed their company immensely.  They were great fun and we look forward to bumping into them again perhaps later this autumn. 

Roger phoned on the second morning asking if we knew Fen Tiger a Bavaria 40 they had seen in Tilos.  We do and their owners John and Dale Hesp we have been trying to meet up with for over five years as our previous contact had only been by phone through Chris Hawes and their consideration of the purchase of Fen Tiger; as part of that process they had taken Charlie Girl I for a week.  We sent them a text message and suggested meeting up in Pethi (see photo), which we did and had a most enjoyable afternoon and evening with them getting to know each other better (see photo).  John is still working but with plans for their retirement being right to the fore in their minds.  FenTiger is due out of her contract this October and they already have a beautiful looking Jeanneau deck saloon in mind as a replacement.  John is a specialist in water control and flood prevention; presumably there is some connection between this and living in Norfolk!  Yet two more folk we will be looking forward to seeing in the future albeit, until they retire, it will be somewhat infrequent. 

Roger’s phone call had a further purpose; to arrange to meet up off Datca (pronounced Datcha so we are told!) on the Turkish coast; a new adventure for us as we have never visited Turkey before.  The sail across from Symi was a bit spirited and sail-wise a bit messy as Richard was just not up to par with regard to sail trimming in the strong and variable wind.  But we arrived safe and sound after just a couple of hours and anchored off to await R&B’s arrival.  They brought a chilli across for supper and we provided a nibbly starter of sausage, cherry tomatoes topped with olive tapenard, stuffed vine leaves, melon, Parma ham and olives.  Rice and a few bottles of wine were added to the chilli and a great evening had. 

The following morning we took CGIV across the bay and moored-up to the quay to collect our passports and boat papers that we had taken ashore the night before, hopefully all stamped up with the necessary permits and visas; all done for us by a really nice young local agent chap named Hassan. 

Datca gave us a great and positive first view of Turkey.   The folk we dealt with in shops, restaurants and the market where friendly and helpful; their English speaking was a surprise and of great assistance as we have no knowledge of Turkish whatsoever.  We were lucky in that Saturday is market day and what a market it is; full of clothing stalls which were of little interest but the food stalls were fantastic, full of local fresh produce at very reasonable prices and little sign of anything imported. 

Datca was also hosting an international local folk dance festival with entrants from all over the Balkan states and a few from beyond that.  All took place after dark in an ancient open-air amphitheatre on the promontory that makes Datca’s harbour.  The costumes were colourful to say the least and some of the dancing very exciting; full of drama including sword fighting and perhaps an excessive amount of passion as well as romance in abundance (see photos). 

Datca itself is a fairly non-descript modern, concrete built town but somehow it has an attractive charm particularly in its promenaded seafront (see photo) that stretches around the two bays either side of the promontory upon which the amphitheatre sits.  There is even a very nicely laid out tree-covered park through within which a powerful rises into a man-made lake that discharges over a small waterfall onto the beach.  We lazily walked around it one afternoon before joining Roger & Birgitta for supper at probably the best restaurant in town.  Not cheap but the food, particularly the starters, was excellent. 

After three enjoyable nights in Datca and having discovered camping gas is not available there we thought it wise to return to Symi to replace our empty spare.  This done we sailed back into Turkish waters to Kuraca Buku, 11 nms east of Datca (see photo).  A pleasant enough spot set off a holiday beach but with the one down side of the main road to Datca running around its rim.  Even the music played by one of the beach bars, whilst loud enough for us to hear clearly at anchor was unusually acceptable; the first evening they played a mixture of Beethoven, Vivaldi and others: the second , gentle melodious modern orchestral music in a Turkish style. 

After two nights there we sailed further into the Hisaranu gulf to Keri Buku at first dropping anchor behind the islet topped with the ruins of a Byzantine fort (see photo) and then, on discovering Ray & Carol were in the bay, moored stern-to alongside them at the Palmiye hotel pontoon where power and water is supplied free on the usual understanding that you eat at their restaurant at some time. 

The Hotel Palmiye also has wifi and that enabled us to catch up with our e-mails and the outside world.  It is not a bad place, positioned as it is at the eastern end of Hisarona Liman amongst a clutch of other restaurant pontoons (see photo), all providing free power and water, and, as we said, put us back in contact with Ray & Carol and even more books to read.  Book swapping is a great way of keeping the onboard library up to scratch with books to be read.  As you read them you swap them with folk you meet or at marinas for others you haven’t. 

Obtaining money in Turkey was proving to be more of an issue than in Greece.  We had become accustomed to finding ATMs in so many places, not finding them since Datca had left us short of ytlls (pronounced ytlls, our word for the Turkish Lira as “YTL” (Yeni Turk Lira) is on each note.  The only solution was a trip to Marmaris by dolmus, a cross between a taxi and a bus that picks up people anywhere in a mini-bus and covers a broadly prescribed route to such a destination.  As you might imagine, the trip was fast and furious but not unduly threatening even with the side door open the whole time to cool the interior as he threaded his way through the mountainous tree-lined coastline and its windy narrow roads. 

Marmaris is not our cup of tea being a largish town centred these days around mass package tourism and very busy and noisy as a result.  We were dropped right outside a massive Burger King, the largest we have ever seen and that just about sums it up for us!  But ATMs it has in abundance and our cash was soon and readily replenished. 

Fresh milk is also rare and apparently, skimmed milk non-existent, so we dropped into a big supermarket to see what we could find.  After a lengthy search of fridges and cold cabinets, looking at totally unfamiliar packaging and gobbledegook wording, we eventually found the sut (milk).  Full-fat in 1 litre red top plastic bottles just like home and alongside that identical bottles but with green tops; we bought four litres of the green top, some fruit, veg and bread and went in search of a dolmus to take us back to CGIV. 

It is always a good idea when you get on a bus to note where you are so you can get a bus back.  Whoops!  We remembered seeing the name of the village but could not pronounce it if we tried – big mistake.  Never mind.  Boy Scout skills to the fore!  Ask someone where the bus station is!  Did that only to get several different answers from which we smartly deduced there was more than one bus station, five in fact.  Fortunately Ray had kindly drawn us a little map of the area, marking where the dolmus should drop us off (it didn’t) and marking the station where they sit, being the best place to board if you want a seat.  Unfortunately, soggy old twit Richard didn’t bring the map.  Anyway, a quick rush up and down a few nearby streets located a dolmus park with a minibus with Orhaniye (pronounced ore-han-e-yea) on the front; bingo: another rush back for Charlie and then back to catch the bus as it left spot on 15.00 hours.  Phew. 

A board meeting was arranged for the following morning to be held, as usual, over morning tea.  Tea needs milk and we now had lots of lovely fresh milk, until Charlie opened the first bottle that is, to find we had bought four litres of disgusting yoghurt drink, not sut.  Ah well, the vagaries of a new country, its language and products.  If we didn’t make silly mistakes we would have nothing to laugh about, though it has to be said we made exactly the same mistake twenty years ago when first in Greece. 

Meanwhile, back at the sailing reports, since we returned in August and so far in September, it has been quiet fantastic.  Day after day of off-wind sailing in perfect conditions and even a couple of easy beats.  One in particular was most enjoyable from Bozburun (see photo) over to Symi in a steady 10 to 15 knot NW’ly breeze and a relatively flat sea. 

Having promised to meet R&B at the entrance to the Dalman river on the 20th of September and having picked up some pretty adverse long range weather forecasts, we decided to head off towards Marmaris as quick as we could thus the following day was a bit more exciting being downwind from Symi, back over to the Turkish coast and along to just short of Mamaris in a wind that started off at 20+ knots, rose to 25 – 30 knots and then abated to practically nothing by the end of our 35 mile jaunt. 

That night brought a touch of bad weather in what we were told were freak winds producing a very bumpy night for us.  Thus we met up with R&B at Marmaris Yacht marine – a marina where one would expect to be over charged, ripped off or whatever one would like to describe it as but is just the opposite.  We decided, despite our fears of such things, to eat at the marina restaurant, pay the price of Turkish tax on wine, and enjoy our evening.  Enjoy it we certainly did, the food was superb, Richard had “duck in the oven” and Charlie the fish stew, helped down with a bottle of Turkish chardonnay.  The food could not have been bettered wherever it was cooked or presented and the bill a very acceptable 65 lira (£26.00 or $40.00), more than we would normally spend but worth every cent. Two nights in a row of good food and wine as we had eaten the previous night at the Kumlubuk Yacht Club in the bay of the same name (see photo) where the food was almost as good at a similar price.  Turkey was proving to be a culinary pleasure that we had not expected. 

R&B sprung a surprise that evening in telling us they were not now planning to take the Dalman river trip with us (a pity they didn’t tell us before) and seemed to be expressing further doubts about the rally in general.  We were already considering the time dangers in going all the way on the rally and then getting back to Crete in time to lay up CGIV and make our flight home on 08 November.  We decided skip both, turn back now and explore some of the bays and spots along the Turkish coast that we had missed out in our rush to meet the 20 September deadline.

 

 E’s from Aboard 2007/10

As we left Maramaris marina a lady came rushing along the pontoon to catch us; it was Di who we see regularly with her husband Tony in the Ionian on their yacht Seaflower.  We had not seen them this year and too our surprise found out this was because they had sold their share in Seaflower and bought a yacht of their own in Cyprus that they were currently keeping in Marmaris but were intending to sail up to the Ionian in 2008.  That was all time allowed, they were leaving, apart from a shouted “keep in touch” from them and a similar response from us. 

Later that day we sailed slowly out of Marmaris bay and as we passed Kumlu Buku ( abay within the bay) that we had stopped at on our way to the Dalman river before deciding to go into Marmaris, our radio blurted out a call for “Charlie Girl”.  On responding we were delighted to find it was Tony & Di who had spotted us through binoculars and thought the call was worth a try.  Their company was just the lift our spirits needed that day and an enjoyable lunchtime drink or three was had aboard their new yacht Storeyville (we think?) at anchor in the bay.  Later that afternoon we both moored up at the Yacht Club pontoon (see photo) and enjoyed some of their quite pricey food at the delightful restaurant (see photo) whilst catching up on all their adventures revolving mainly around their purchase in Cyprus and the trials and tribulations of sailing her to Marmaris during which they discovered her true strengths, weaknesses and shortcomings, always a problem if you buy an older yacht. 

Paradise Found?

Hisaronu Korfezi is a deceptively large indentation in the Turkish coast, 10nms deep and 4nms wide at its extremities with numerous bays and inlets, many unusable as the depths are so great but plenty where a stop can be made, either swinging free, with a line ashore or attached to one of the abundant restaurant pontoons.  Some are fjord like in appearance and worth a wander in and out just to capture the atmosphere even if they are too deep to stop and anchor. 

An oasis of historic lifestyle and peaceful existence was found in an unnamed bay within the gulf.  Its mountainous granite sides covered with scrub, heather and small shrubs liken it to the more barren areas of Dartmoor (see photo).  The lifestyle that exists on the small plain at the head of the bay typifies a lifestyle that may have existed on Dartmoor thousands of years ago as it still appears to here today.  It may be a superficial appearance but the first impression is that it is as it has been for thousands of years with just a few gestures towards modern day life such as electricity from a generator for lighting, fridges, freezers, a water pump to simply extract fresh water from the abundant wells and small fishing boats now fitted with diesel engines for trips around the nearby headland to the nearest village some six miles away; there is no access road to the valley.  The restaurant that nestles neatly under the waterside trees brought these recent additions and gives the bay its modern non-Turkish name, Sailors Paradise.  They have done so tastefully and have not disturbed the tranquil surroundings or its lifestyle in any way whatsoever; even the generator is well silenced and discretely surrounded. 

The valley and small plain appear well fed with fresh water from run-off during the rainy season and numerous stone lined wells dug in centuries past.  A variety of large trees shade the plain and provide an idyllic environment for humans and animals alike.  Birds are abundant and in our two night stay we managed to identify several; Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Tawny Pipit, Kingfisher, Chukar (a member of the Partridge family), Eleonora’s Falcon, Buzzard and one or two others we failed miserably in trying to identify from their calls or colouring using the book Andrew & Jeanne Cooper provided us with for the purpose.  One was a particularly colourful little bird, not much larger than a Wren and with a tail the stuck up in a similar cheeky fashion and flicked up and down as would a Dunnock.  It had a bright yellow breast and generally pale coloured plumage.  Another, an Owl with a call quite similar to a Tawny’s and several other larger birds of prey, almost certainly Eagles but of which variety we could not determine. 

More directly related to human occupation are the goats, dozens of them, supposedly contained by the rough fencing surrounding acre size plots, which they have little difficulty in crossing, particularly when man builds his own bridge to cross the fence that a goat is more than capable of using (see photo).  Chickens of various types roam free and scratch a living from the scrub supplemented by the odd few scraps provided by their owners; surprisingly, the goats diet is supplemented with fodder brought in by boat by the restaurant owners.  The goats have stripped the bark from many of the smaller trees and they have died as a result but are not wasted; man has planted vines nearby and they produce abundant quantities of grapes hanging from the trees’ ded branches, just out of the reach of the goats. 

Even the pontoon has been constructed in locally available timber and appears pretty rickety as a result (see photo).  It is not and ‘lazy lines’ are attached for mooring up on the usual understanding that you eat at the restaurant.  We did on both evenings and enjoyed a surprisingly varied menu, particularly the mezze starters, which are extensive and quite superb.  The mains are a little disappointing being grilled rather than barbequed thus somewhat lacking in flavour but enjoyable nonetheless.  In their garden fresh produce is grown, lettuce, courgette, aubergine, chilli pepper and potato.  Also there is an enormous stone built oven.  On our first afternoon’s walk we passed a traditionally dressed lady collecting dried scrub bush cuttings that it transpired were to fire that very oven and provide fresh bread for our dinner and the following morning for us to take away.  But the food and wine (as we found elsewhere) is not as cheap as had been suggested to us prior to visiting Turkish waters.  The loaf of bread was 5ytlls (£2.00!) and the meal including a bottle of wine around 85ytlls (£34.00), roughly twice what we would pay in Greece for a similar meal.  But such direct comparisons are misleading and perhaps unfair, particularly as the mooring is provided free and in some places (not this one) with power and water thrown in. 

The people running the restaurant could not have been more friendly and helpful without in any way being intrusive.  They live as simply as the description of the plain suggests; one chap sleeps in a tent, two on board small fishing boats and, we assume, the two women, perhaps mother and daughter, somewhere behind the restaurant though we saw no such accommodation within the building itself. 

In the morning one of the boats is loaded up with the previous days rubbish and two chaps toddle off six miles round to the next bay where there is a quay upon which there are rubbish bins and a road that leads over the hill to Bozburun just a mile or so beyond where they collect and return with needed supplies of meat and additional vegetables. 

That same morning whilst searching the skyline a 1,000 feet above us for the birds we heard drifting along the ridge, we spotted a man picking something from the sparse undergrowth on the steep slopes.  We don’t know exactly what but know that in Greece it would be horta being any leaf growth such as spinach that is edible.  We watched him fill the enormous red cloth he carried across his back and then descend the precipitous slopes as well as a mountain goat and carry his burden across the plain, stopping to exchange pleasantries with other folk sitting under the shade of the trees (see photo) before returning to his small boat moored against the rocky edge of the plateau near the beach.  He then stripped off and washed in the sea before resting for an hour or two under the small trees nearby.  Later he took his crop away presumably to sell in Bozburun before returning the next day to repeat the process.  What a hard living that is.  We were to see him again on one of the nearby small outlying islands, again harvesting the wild and free produce from which he ekes out a living. 

All in all it feels as it is described, a sort of paradise.  We only left because they had a Sunsail flotilla coming in and would need all the berths they have to accommodate them.  That is only fair as their season is short and flotilla yachts will spend far more per head than will the likes of us.  We can always return just when we feel like it and we shall for sure. 

*****

 Returning to the gulf as a whole, it makes a perfect mini-cruising ground.  The weather experienced whilst we were there was always less than forecast for the surrounding areas, suggesting its location and topography protect it from the worst of swell and wind.  Most of the time we were sailing in winds less than 15 knots and relatively flat seas.  There are plenty of bays with restaurants, small if limited shops, facilities such as power and water as well as deserted bays where you can escape all that in the company of a few other, generally quiet, yachts. 

And so on the 27th of September we concluded what we like to describe as our three weeks holiday in Turkish waters.  What did we think of it?  Just that; it was a great holiday but it was nice to get home again, into Greek waters. The sights were saw were different and interesting if limited by the relatively short stay and small area covered.  We found the Turks friendly if a bit subservient for our liking and from that perhaps not quite as trustworthy as we find other Mediterranean people; there was often this feeling of uncertainty as to why they were saying what they were and the way they were saying it.  Some of this was explained by a waiter with whom we had a long talk and who had worked in New Zealand for long enough to compare their lifestyle and social habits with his own countrymen.  His view and of course it is only his view, is that Turks expect subservience and see in customers a sign of weakness if “please” and “thank you” are attached to your requirements.  Thus he and others in service expect to be ordered about without respect and respond accordingly.  Perhaps on future visits we shall be able to hone our understanding of the Turkish character. 

September’s weather has been great.  The daytime temperatures dropped to a very acceptable level and the nights were cooler and less humid.  The winds have been largely kind to our intentions and blown when and from where we wished.  Even the Equinox on the 21st can usually be expected to bring some adverse weather as it did last year whilst we were on Crete with some torrential rain.  This year it passed almost unnoticed, certainly without rain and with no evident increase in wind strength one might reasonably expect.  But it does bring autumn, shorter days, longer nights and the increasing signs of nature preparing to put its world to bed for the coming winter.  Birds are seen flocking south to warmer climes and more abundant food and those that stay such as the sparrows, congregating in ever increasing numbers in the evergreen tree tops and making a cacophony of sound with their continuous chirping that one romantically assumes is their exchanging of summer time breeding stories from round about. 

Thus we entered the last phase of this year’s cruise, intending to make our way west and north to Lipso and then west into the Cyclades before again dropping down south from Thira to our base in Aghios Nikolaos to put our girl to bed for the winter. 

 

E’s from Aboard 2007/11

On leaving Datca we headed for Nisyros to meet up with Harry & Denny on Melua and their visitor, Denny’s best friend Alpha, coming down from Kos.  We both had to motor the distance as there was absolutely no wind; not exactly what we wanted to improve our carbon footprint or our sailing averages.  Much to our surprise and despite the harbour having been dredged to increase its capacity, there was no room for us when we arrived; even Harry had had to ‘persuade’ some of the other yachts to move up so he could squeeze in, never a popular move with charter yachts.  But we managed to moor on the end of the line, tying to the newly extended rock breakwater and make our way ashore across a Dutch yacht to reach the quay. 

A few days before we had picked up and claimed salvage rights on a dinghy and outboard several miles off shore.  Judging from the wind direction over night and that day as well as knowing which way the current flows and its superficial appearance, we later deduced it had probably been lost at sea some days before to our north and west; that was after having chased after the only yacht in sight that also happened to be on the right course to have lost it, having passed within a few metres of its position when we first saw it.  It took us an hour to overhaul him only to find out on asking that it was not theirs.  A day was spent in Symi and Datca checking for any yachts without a dinghy before deciding perhaps we would just keep it, particularly as it is a much better dinghy than ours and had a much larger and more powerful outboard. 

After two days of towing it behind us and realising firstly it was too complex a dinghy to deflate and carry on deck and secondly it was costing us half a knot at least in speed and thus pushing up our fuel consumption, it was going to have to go!  Harry to the rescue once again as Richard could not lift it aboard alone or figure out how the wooden keel came apart, and thus we were introduced to the old Australian art of “un-pumping” a dinghy.  We had always wondered why our dinghy pump had an inlet and outlet point for the connecting hose!  Dim or what? 

So, if they are not sold in Aghios Nikolaos we shall take it up to the Ionian next Spring and pass it on to “Scrooge McNeilson” at Sailing Holidays (his description of himself) who has promised a small and commensurate donation to our pension fund for all our efforts and will allocate it to their Croatian fleet lead boat. 

After two excellent days with Harry and Denny much hated “goodbyes” were said as they were heading south and east whilst we were heading north and west, until that is, we read the weather forecast and felt its wrath once outside the harbour at which point we headed south and east, to Tilos where Melua was heading.  That was it; the race was on and we had about a one-mile start.  After twenty miles off downwind sailing in winds from 16 to 30knots with Melua spending most of that time holding the more or less direct course whilst we reached back and forth across the wind to avoid as much as possible sailing goose-winged dead down wind, we still passed across their bows several times and were able to measure our progress – there wasn’t any; Melua was stuck to us like glue and as we cleared the headland marking the harbour bay on Tilos they were only a few lengths behind us.  Line honours for us, yes, but we clearly lost on handicap or elapsed time – boo! 

And so we learnt another old Australian art, the art of “un-goodbye-ing”, in right way up thinking, saying “hello” again.  The following morning we parted company for good for this year with the sincere wish to meet up again some day soon.  They will be back in 2008 so hopefully we will.  That’s cruising for you, good friends made in quick time that you may never see again. 

At long last on Tilos we felt sufficiently secure to leave CGIV unattended whilst we took the local bus round the island to visit the monastery set high up on one of the cliff faces.  It is not the most impressive monastery we have seen but none the less has a quiet charm (see photos).  The trip was an eye-opener in another way; we were shocked at just how barren the majority of the island is.  Yes, there are little oasis of lush vegetation around a few countryside houses and they are as we somehow expected the majority of the island to be.  It is certainly more barren than its nearby neighbour Nisyros and has many of the same characteristics, presumably flowing from the volcanic deposits that Nisyros will have thrown at it over the eons of time.  But we still love the place and eat well in the local tavernas (see photos).

The clement September weather continued on into October and the winds perversely stayed north and west, not what we wanted and unusual as some southerlies should have occurred by then, thus our plans were again reviewed, as, after waiting four days in Kos for almost any wind other than the persistent NW4-5, we decided that to press on north would be hard work and the longer the clement weather lasted the more likely it became that when it did break it would do so violently and probably for a prolonged period and that might just make it difficult to get back to Crete easily or on time.  We decided to head for Crete now. 

A pleasant night was spent in Khalki (see photo) with conflicting forecasts coming in on each Navtex transmission; clearly even the forecasters where having trouble with the persistent highs not collapsing as they should and little developing lows filling again before they could create any wind of consequence.  We left on a forecast of F3/4 NW’ly that would have given us a wonderful broad reach down to somewhere on Karpathos.  Soon it became clear the wind was nearer to WSW’ly, putting us close-hauled and still not making the northern tip of Karpathos.  Pressing on, the wind steadily increased, forcing us to reef both main and genoa but a little more north crept in to the wind so we hit Karpathos just 3nms down its easterly side where we dropped the sails and motored through the narrow and very shallow Saria channel.  Yes the depths are as suggested by the pilot, around 2.5 to 3.0 metres at their least and thus in a calm sea, which we had, quite safe to traverse. 

Tristoma on the west coast of Karpathos was our target for the night.  It has something of a reputation for katabatic gusts that could make it a frightening place to anchor albeit it is very safe in all winds.  There is ample room and plenty of fetch all around so no real fear of dragging ashore. It is also fairly shallow, the holding excellent and the water calm tucked behind one of the islets that effectively block the otherwise wide entrance though it is also a risky place to enter, the entrance channel being very narrow indeed (see photo) and steep seas quickly build up in a north or westerly blow, making any attempt at exiting exceedingly dangerous if not impossible. 

Its name gives no indication of its fascination.  It carries a slight air of foreboding somehow tempered by a feeling of the presence of benign ghosts from its past.  On entering this fjord like inlet, there is a large plain at the foot of an ever steepening side-valley (see photo) that contains the ruins of a fairly large village and stonewalled fields stretching the precipitous sides, almost reaching the top of the 300m high valley walls.  Further down the inlet there are still a few derelict houses in the centre of which a new one has been recently built; why and for whom it is hard to imagine.   On a promontory near to the ruined village there is a pristine chapel and small, possibly accommodation, outbuildings, a small bell tower, no apparent occupants and with no community to serve one wonders just who is maintaining it so well? 

In the early evening after the sun had gone down over the ever-darkening western horizon and as the darkness of the moonless night gently drew its star encrusted blanket around us, Richard heard the chapel bell ring!  Just the once.  Charlie heard voices, thinking it was ship’s radio but there were no other boats about and our radio was off!  She also heard an approaching engine noise but there was no boat and there are no roads!  Despite all this and the plaintive cries of birds of prey wheeling above us, we felt very comfortable and safe.  Why should we feel otherwise? 

The wind blew quite strongly all night and we both thought we would be stuck here for a few days until it abated but the “spirits” were with us as when we rose at dawn, the sea was calm, the wind lighter and we were able to pass through the narrow entrance without difficulty and sail in gentle airs (see photo) the thirty odd miles down to Kassos in largely bright sunshine though the sky was full of white fluffy clouds that from time to time obscured the sun’s rays.  It was just like sailing on a good English summer’s day, warm and dry, 25ºC, a gentle breeze to sail by, a smooth sea sparkling in the sunshine and a safe haven just down the road to berth for the night.  Bliss. 

Kassos has a magnetic attraction and each time we intend to stop for a day or two, always remembering the first time we did that the weather turned and we were stuck there for a week.  This visit was to be no different.  Just two other yachts were present, the village still open and fairly active, the locals welcoming and smiling and we had just had the most relaxing and enjoyable sail, why should we move on?  Over a carafe of wine outside the harbour cantinina run by two burly ex-fishermen who two year’s ago took an EU bribe to give up fishing, we watched the sun disappear yet again whilst a debate between us went along the lines of, “We’ll get the bikes out in the morning and ride out to the other end of the island past the airport”. “After we’ve checked the weather on the internet, perhaps”. “Yes, good idea”. 

Supper was taken at the taverna overlooking the harbour and a further carafe of wine at the cantina finished off the evening nicely with the weather calm and the sky mildly threatening with dark misty clouds obscuring the mountain peaks and sliding slowly down the valleys to the sea.  Peace and tranquillity. 

Surprisingly the next morning the limited shops, particularly the veg shops, were full of crisp fresh produce, most of which looked locally grown.  We bought far more than we needed before taking coffee in true Greek style with some locals for company whilst awaiting 10.00 when the Internet café was due to open.  The church clock said it was five past eleven but then it always does.  We were nervous.  The feeling of discomfort over the continuing unseasonal benign weather and the difficulty of the next leg of our journey in anything but such conditions, had us wondering whether we should push on the 45 miles to Sitea at Crete’s north-eastern extremity and from where reaching Aghios Nikolaos is less of a potential issue.  Coffee hastily drunk the café was approached at 10.15.  It was shut.  We decided it was an omen and despite the latish hour, packed up and left just on 10.30, a swift departure to say the very least. 

The Navtex forecast was for NW3-4, which would be fine for all but the five miles or so around Ak Sideros the tip of Crete.  On clearing the island the wind was found to be northerly and just F3 so we motor-sailed the whole way and after an easy day moored up alongside in Sitea by 17.30. 

Sitea has good eating-out facilities and excellent provisioning facilities, other than that it is less than attractive particularly for visiting yachts though they have tried hard with the front (see photo).  It also has some strange inhabitants including a lonely and rather odd looking Pelican (see photo) with a strong pinkish hue to its colouring who lives in the company of a gaggle of various breeds of geese and ducks that all frequent an entrapped strip of water behind the newly extended but as yet unfinished front.  From the fish we saw in the strip, the pelican certainly will not go hungry! 

As part of these extensive works, the quay to which we were moored is laden with dust from building materials previously stored there; dust, wind and yachts do not mix well unless you like cleaning your boat from top to bottom twice a day so our stay was only ever going to be just the one night.  Thus the following morning we grabbed some bread from the local bakers and put out to sea against a forecast of NW4-5 going W5, neither being helpful to our required course of due west then west-south-west nor likely to very comfortable.  Fortunately the forecast was inaccurate and we tacked back and forth making good headway in a NW3 and a relatively flat sea. 

We were intending to overnight at anchor off of Spinalonga and sent a text to Robin & Pauline on Flapjack to find out where they were to which they responded “Typical! We left Spinalonga two hours ago after an overnight trip down from Ios”.  They then phoned us and advised the forecast weather for the next few days were not good and we would be wise to head for Aghios.  Almost as we spoke to them and we were just two miles from Spinalonga, the wind got up as did the sea and that helped our decision.  We bore away and planed off down on a broad reach at 7 to 9 knots towards our home base.  Of course the wind died to nothing before we got there but at least that made mooring up easier than usual.  It was another day’s brilliant sailing topped by an immense feeling of relief at having reached our home territory without hassle or handicap.  Brilliant. 

The following night we dressed up to celebrate our return with a meal at Corto Maltese, a relatively swish restaurant overlooking the marina (see photo) and serving some quite exquisite food at reasonable prices.  Charlie’s main course was the dish you see at the bottom of the photo, two Dorado fillets separated by a layer of xhorta, dressed in a very light lemon sauce; yum yum.  Richard’s was a salmon fillet in a sweet citrus sauce, equally yummy, following a starter of steamed mussels for Charlie and smoked salmon on a bed of grilled white aubergine for Richard, all very tasty.  That and a parmesan dressed salad, water, salsa and tatziki dip, bread and a litre of wine set us back €61.40 (around £42.00); match that in the UK if you can. 

And then the weather broke as we had suspected and feared it must.  At the Sunday barbeque, fortunately just after we had cooked and eaten our food, others were not so lucky, the heavens opened and much needed rain fell in abundance and kept falling off and on until lunchtime the following day.  The winds also increased with gales all around us, not that we felt much of that as the marina is very well protected from all but southerlies.  Our decision to return early to Crete appears to have been wise. 

With three weeks to go until our return to the UK we hope to get in a couple of day sails.  In the meantime, jobs of CGIV are slowly getting done in preparation for her over-wintering between which Richard’s mind seems to be wandering even more than usual:- 

Hey diddle diddle, the skipper doth fiddle

To keep the rigging in tune

Charlie Girl loves to sail on the run

And made it to Crete much too soon?

 

Hey diddle diddle, we’re off to Lidl

We’ve got to shop there by noon

With ten cases of wine perched on each bike

We both looked a bit of a loon

 

Hey Lidl Lidl, need food for the griddle

For prawns in bacon we’d croon

Sunday BBQ’s are fun

It’s a shame we’re heading for home so soon

 

Hey tiddle tiddle, got to have a widdle

All that wine drunk like a goon

The whole pontoon laughed to see such fun

Shower block to the rescue, what a boon!

 

Hey diddle diddle, Aeolus doth piddle

Much more than he had since June

The sails got washed, seeing that job done

And they’ll all be bagged up quite soon

 

Partly due to the weather breaking shortly after our arrival and partly ‘just because’, we have settled down to and are enjoying the marina’s social life.  Barbeques on Sunday, drinks and suppers with guests on CGIV and similar aboard other yachts as well as a trip up to Kritsa where two German friends have renovated and modernised a delightful little Greek town house.  As there are now just two weeks to go before we fly home and we have also lost the desire to leave or safe little haven for one last sail, that is probably it for this year and some might say “if what’s written above is the level the material has been reduced to, it is just as well!” 

But we are already planning our 2008 season……………….