Life Abroad Charlie Girl
A new and lasting relationship?
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Tuesday 23rd May to Tuesday June 13th
It is amazing how a drop in temperature to 22°C can cause one to feel chilly and require long trousers, long-sleeved shirt and jumper to replace the shorts and polo shirt one might expect; perhaps a natural consequence of the body acclimatising to the warmer climate and the blood thinning as a result. Certainly the 30° temperatures experienced soon after arrival and for week or so afterwards will have fuelled that change and the feeling of being chilly with the average daytime maximum struggling to reach 27° now and dropping by 18.00 to around 22° hastening the addition of further layers of clothing. But as June dawned, the temperatures started to rise a little, certainly at night time with it rarely dropping below 20°.
Jans flight from Gatwick was broadly on time despite a much delayed departure, it touching down at 21.31 slightly behind its scheduled arrival time of 21.15, presumably as a consequence of a strong tail wind or Jan peddling exceptionally hard to quicken her arrival. Kos airport is small, thus, before the passengers could reach the arrivals area, their baggage was already running round the conveyor belt looking for its owners. Jan, however, walked straight through as she had cleverly packed all she would need for her three week stay in one wheelie-bin piece of hand luggage with such items as could not be so accommodated being stuffed in the pocket of her brand new, yet to be christened, Musto wet-weather jacket. She had day-sailed the Fal estuary in a Westerly Contessa, a wonderful classic British yacht, but otherwise had little experience of life aboard a cruising yacht. How brave of her to thus commit to such an adventure with a chap she hardly knew.
Wednesday was spent in Kos, shopping for bits and bobs whilst otherwise lazing around and soaking up the atmosphere of the harbour and the town square as well as visiting the fort set as it is behind quay where CGIV was moored (See photo). To achieve that the bikes were assembled and one adjusted to suit Jans needs. Supper was taken aboard being a chilli con carne previously prepared and accompanied by Basmati rice and just a little red wine.
The forecast wind for Thursday was light, no more than 10 knots and from the south, absolutely perfect for an easy first day and making it a few degrees north of west to Kalimnos a fascinating island just ten miles north of Kos requiring a 16nm voyage from the main port which sits on the eastern side of Kos. After a short motor out of the harbour and turning north the genoa was deployed and we sailed north until clear of the islands north-eastern tip and its sand bar extending a mile or two beyond the point and then turning left and sailing on, dead downwind, towards Kalimnos. Yes, the wind was easterly, not southerly, but only because Kos itself bent the wind round either end thus predicting the sail would not last the journey as the wind was bound to eventually come in from the west. And so it was we had a gentle downwind sail of some 7nms before the wind changed forcing us to employ the donkey for the rest of the journey. It was a perfect first day and in calm conditions we moored up amongst many other yachts on the town quay.
Kalimnos seemed surprisingly
quiet with the bars in the north-west corner of the harbour, normally heaving
for most of the day, holding no more than a dozen revellers. But we had a couple
of glasses of wine whilst checking the emails et al and then returned to CGIV
to again eat aboard.
Friday dawned brightly and the gentle breeze blowing in from the south make Richard very keen to get going as the hope for the day was to push on to the charming little island of Lipsi some 30nms north. We left Kalimnos port heading briefly south and then west to clear the island before turning north to sail up the mountainous western coast of Kalimnos and then Leros before crossing the last few miles of sea, dotted with small islands or rocks, into Lipsis quaint little harbour; all but 2nms was under sail and with the wind broad on the port beam and both sails deployed we made 4-7 knots in a moderate one metre sea. Jans fear of becoming sea sick was ill-founded and she was fine. Besides that, it was one of the easiest days sailing for a very long time.
Once moored up and, for the second day running having paid a new charge of €3.00 to whomever takes your lines from you, plus €6.00 for electricity, a very steep charge, and €7.60 in port fees, a very reasonable amount, we contemplated eating ashore in the village area that sits atop a small hill to the east of the harbour. Whilst so doing Manolis approached the back of each yacht in turn offering the delights of his taverna and leaving a copy of his menu. That made the decision for us as to where to eat so we wandered up, very early for an evening meal, at 18.00 and upon finding his empty and barely open taverna (Manolis Delights), were invited in and offered a table over-looking the beautifully white painted water tank sitting on the flat roof of the house opposite on the other side of the street, it being built further down the hill, and to either side of which there was a better view of the valley beyond and its gently rising slopes, dotted with as many chapels as it was houses between sparsely tended agricultural plots.
Being so early we ordered a half kilo of white wine, logged on to the Internet via their free wifi and checked our emails; then banking and the weather for the following day was checked and the latter found to still be southerly but probably too light to sail and with a clear risk of thunderstorms, not what one wants at all. But with the following day indicating the winds would return to northerlies, pressing on the final 30nms to Samos would be the preferred option.
The supper was quite exceptional; aubergine halves stuffed with a tomato and vegetable mix and feta cheese, followed by beautifully cooked lamb shank served in a mild mustard sauce and oven baked potatoes. Interestingly, our fellow eaters comprised a German couple, a South African family of five and twelve Brits, not all of whom were yachties; a surprisingly high proportion for this locality.
There was little sign of thunderstorms in the sky the following morning so after purchasing bread we set off to motor north to Samos at just after 09.00. Less than an hour out and the skies to our south, east and west started to fill with the most threatening of cloud formations. Our only comfort was the presence of three other yachts though it turned out they were not heading for Samos and we were soon to lose sight of all three in different directions. The first storm to break was the one to our south and being twenty miles or so away, it was of little concern but very audible and was dumping huge quantities of rain, clearly visible even at that distance, as it drifted steadily east. Next came the one to our west which was less violent and seemed to progress north. Neither produced any wind to affect us. But then the larger storm that had formed over the Turkish mainland some twenty miles to our east started to seriously fill and build out towards us with numerous huge forks of lightning striking down into the sea followed at differing intervals by claps of thunder. Inevitably it finally reached us and it started to rain torrentially but not before we had donned our wet weather gear, life jackets and harnesses. The visibility reduced to near zero; certainly no more than 50 metres and so it stayed for more than half an hour with regular strikes occurring all around us and the wind rising to a good F6 (25-30mph). As the rain finally eased a little, Aeolus decided on one more really big strike which hit the sea just a few metres off our stern with an attendant thunder clap that made us both jump, was deafening and scared the life out of us. It was very much a near miss that had me wondering whether we had been wise to set off at all. But the sky slowly started to clear all around us, the rain ease and the wind drop back to nothing at all, with the exception that is of the area over Samos which was preparing to receive its share of what the powers of nature can throw at us mere mortals and remind us of just how insignificant we are. Fortunately it stayed over Samos, Pithagoria, in particular, our intended destination.
Thankfully, by the time we prepared ship to enter port it had subsided and the skies cleared. The port was very full but there was just one nice little space in amongst the twenty plus yachts moored up there for us to slip in and moor up with ease and without incident. I have rarely been so pleased to arrive at a destination.
It had been hoped we might make it to Samos within a week or so if the prevailing northerlies allowed us to make any progress north at all. Here we were, on Samos, in just three days, as the winds had been in the south. Once settled we shot up the main street to a travel agents to book a trip to Ephesus due on Sunday, the following day. But we were to be disappointed. For reasons that were unclear the trips were not to start until Thursday.
A car was hired and one day spent driving round the island to give Jan a flavour of its various offerings including taking lunch in a quaint, slightly bohemian village harbour Marathakambos tucked up in the middle of a huge bay that indents the southern coast of Samos. (Click to see video). How they survive on the minimal takings we saw is a mystery but it was little different from my previous visit back in 2014 and, more important, still thriving, somehow.
The forecast for the Thursday was hot so our rucksack was filled with the usual cameras et al plus a large bottle of water and the risk taken of boarding Venus our rather ancient and ropy looking tripper boat at 07.30 for the trip across to Kusadasi 20 miles way on the Turkish coast where we joined a small coach for the trip to and a guided tour of Ephesus and a detailed explanation of its history before we arrived. The hour and half walk down through the city was as awe inspiring as ever; despite this being my fourth visit and Jans first, I enjoyed every minute of it and learnt even more about its fascinating history. The sun was blazing and there is little shade or protection to give you respite so we very happy on concluding the walk to partake of a large glass of freshly pressed lemon juice after which we re-boarded our little coach for a short journey to a nearby hostelry where we enjoyed an unlimited three course buffet for the princely sum of €20 each; and, yes, the Turks quite happily accept Euros.
The trip back was uneventful except for the sad explanation as to why there were no cruise ships in Kusadasi or ever likely to be in the near future; all cruise companies having withdrawn from all Turkish visits. The cost to Turkey in lost trade of several thousand money spending tourists a day must be huge.
Thus we had happily spent six nights in Pithagoria relishing its simple charms and experiencing a couple of its tavernas, tucked away in a square just behind the harbour.
But it was time to move on and whilst the forecast winds and weather were not brilliant, on Friday June 2nd we set off, under motor, on a 40nm trek due west to Evdhilos, a little port on the north coast of Ikaria where we spent the night laid alongside and ate well at a very traditional taverna overlooking the harbour and, much to our surprise and not a little concern, were amazed when a huge ferry swung into the harbour and moored up with her bows quite close to CGIV. We need not have worried as the skipper manoeuvred her round with consummate skill creating surprisingly little swell.
The following day we set off 50nms further west, heading for Mykonos where the plan was to spend a couple of days and visit Delos, another historic site set on a small rocky and barren island of the same name. But it was not to be. We could not get into the marina and had to anchor off the old town harbour which was lovely, particularly as the sun went down (see sunset photo), as was our trip ashore to experience the rather noisy bustle of this busiest and most popular of the Greek tourist resorts. We checked the weather for the following day and on the strength of its benign nature, booked the trip to Delos for the next morning.
I was awakened by the pitching of CGIV at about 07.00 and by 09.00 it was clear that the forecasts were entirely wrong, a common feature of this Springs trip, and we were in for a blow; leaving CGIV at anchor in such circumstances was not a sensible or viable option so after packing away the dinghy and outboard, by then no mean feat in a very choppy sea, we set off for Tinos some 12nms to the west.
Some of the distance was sailed in the relatively strong gradient wind but with the winds becoming katabatic as we approached the island, all sails were dropped and we motored in, a wise decision as it turned out as the katabatic gusts were huge and would have laid us flat for sure; certainly not an experience for a relatively novice guest. Having said that, Jans help in putting out the fenders and preparing us for mooring up once we were in the harbour was invaluable as, by then, it was blowing a near gale and holding CGIV on station whilst we did so was a real challenge in the relatively confined space. Fortunately the wind was blowing straight off the quay making reversing in, dropping the anchor and mooring up a quite easy task completed with the assistance of the directing marinero and Jan of course handing him the port line, taking it back and securing it aboard, right first time; this lady is going to make a good sailor!
I love Tinos and I think Jan came to understand why. Its mountainous slopes are all heavily terraced suggesting that in its past it supported considerably more than it current permanent population of just a few tens of thousands. It is also the centre, shrine almost, for all Greek catholics and many Orthodox Greeks too. Its church, a cathedral in size, attracts thousands each year, many to crawl, literally, up the carpeted main street from the harbour to pray for healing in front of the miracle working icon of the Virgin discovered by a saintly nun in 1822.
The island is peppered with Venetian style dovecotes and numerous villages, each with its own individual charm. Needless to say, we hired a car for the day and toured many of them, enjoying coffee, lunch or just a drink at most of them. It is an easy island to be captivated by.
With one eye on Jans departure date of June 13th and now being more or less on the right latitude to make access to Athens airport via a mainland port easy in most conditions, we had booked her a flight from Athens to Heathrow. Nonetheless, a rough crossing for the last 60nms was not what was in my mind and with the medium term forecasts suggesting a few days of the Meltemi blowing, it was thought it wise to push on a bit before that happened. So we headed north up the coast of Tinos and then Andros, which is separated from Tinos by a straight less than a mile wide, heading for Gavrion its main port to which the numerous ferries run. What a dump that turned out to be but we had sailed half of the 32nms in varying winds peppered with several periods of motoring whilst it changed direction. Thunderstorms were again a feature of the skyline though none approached us. What an odd June this is.
To cut a long story short, we snagged our anchor whilst trying to moor up during which time I had almost decided that we would not stop any way. I could not free it no matter what tricks I tried so we asked the Port Police for help and they kindly arranged for a diver and for the princely sum of €150 he quickly released it from whatever it was caught on and we left at just before 18.00!
We sailed 6 of the 19nms to Garystos on Evvoia arriving just before dark and mooring up on its long quay, the only yacht in town that night. Now we were just 20nms ENE of Porto Rafti on the mainland which is just a twenty minute taxi ride from Athens airport.
Garystos is a very Greek seaside resort. Yes, they expect some foreign tourists, particularly yachties because of their relatively large mooring facility but it is not on the usual charter yacht routes and tends to attract folk such as us who look for places where there wont be any charter yachts with their tendency to attract bunches of blokes of all ages who seem to forget the niceties of half decent social behaviour as soon as they get aboard. Thus the menus, shop adverts and prices are mainly in Greek which, to me, despite the frustrations that can bring, makes the place more authentic and more interesting.
(Click for Video)
Evvoia also has its own history and in certain areas, its own language, a bit like Gaelic in the UK. But it is not an island I have ever explored so hiring a car for the day to see some of it seemed like a good idea and what a surprise it was too.
The island is much larger than one imagines it to be, being some 95 miles long yet a meagre 5-10 miles wide, its western coast broadly following the contours of the Greek mainland just a mile or two away and less than 50 metres at its capital, Khalki. Thus we really drove less than half its length up to Kymi on its eastern shores, perched as it is atop of and around a mountain peak with its harbour a few hundred feet below at the end of a tortuous, narrow and windy road that snakes its way down its steep sides. It clearly was a wealthy town at one time as some of its buildings have fairly ornate balconies and roofs. The drive there and back included some detours but was broadly through some surprisingly broad fertile valleys and plateaus, most still being actively and intensively farmed.
With the Meltemi forecast to return on Sunday we decided to run across to Porto Rafti on Saturday and what a sail we had with the wind broad on the beam and the sea slight, we creamed along at 5-8 knots, sailing 20 of the 23nm trip. There was no way we could get in to the port itself as most of its moorings were taken up by local boats but in fact I became quite glad about that as later inspection found it dead or dying and very drab and uninteresting whereas the opposite side of the bay where we anchored off was charming with a taverna/bar, Palmie Bistro, pumping out a good wifi signal that even reached us at anchor and was free access, no password needed. Their menu was pretty good too, as we discovered taking supper there one evening and a couple of breakfasts.
Being confident of the anchorage and that the forecast wind would not produce any anchor shifting swell, we took a gamble and headed for Athens the following morning. It was a typical Smiffy scantily researched, take a chance, type trip but, as usual, luck was with us.
Based on a ten year old bus timetable found on the internet, we walked the 2kms round the bay to where it was thought we would find a bus terminus. After some questioning at a kiosk and a nearby bar where we took coffee we discovered it was the bus shelter the other side of the road that had absolutely no indications on it of its purpose other than an old rusted sign in Geeek that indicated reginal buses stopped there; certainly there was no terminus. The old timetable had suggested an hourly service to Athens with one at 09.05. In fact a bus did come at about 09.20 which took us to the next town, Markopoulos, which did have a more normal sort of bus terminus. All the passengers on our bus upon which we had bought two tickets to Athens for €4 each, piled off and onto the next bus. I, wrongly as it turned out, marked this as an Athens bus. After a few minutes aboard the conductor came around, looked at our tickets and said this bus not for Athens and walked on. No further help or assistance being offered we disembarked at the next stop atop a bridge over the motorway and metro that I recognised as running between Athens and its airport. A rather bemused Jan followed me as I bought a couple of Metro tickets for a train to Athens and upon asking the driver of the next train to stop, jumped aboard. Fortunately it had a legend not unlike the London underground and after a couple of stops I was able to work out where we were and where we might be going; more important I spotted a stop named Acropolis, albeit on another line, which was actually the target of our trip! All in all, after a change of trains, we arrived at the Acropolis an hour before my best estimate by bus. What a hoot!
Understandably, Jan was dumbfounded by the Acropolis and its surroundings and we spent a very interesting and happy couple of hours walking over it and around it eventually ending up sitting in a very nice street restaurant, under a parasol as it looked like rain, enjoying a lovely, if expensive mezze of typical Geek starters and a half litre of white wine.
Now, how to get back to the yacht!
Plan A was to take the metro to the airport and a taxi from there, partly so that Jan could familiarise herself with it. Plan B was to find the regional busses I remembered seeing at the airport. But first we had to overcome a hurdle I had not anticipated. The metro we had joined as an overground, dives into tunnels when it reaches the suburbs just like our underground which is something Jan just cannot do, principally because of the escalators. But she bravely gave it a try as long as she could hang on to me and so five escalator rides later we arrived at Athens airport in the pouring rain. After a half hour search we finally found the regional busses, asked a driver of one where we could get a bus to Porto Rafti, to which he replied This one. This one, come on, get on and two minutes later he departed to Markopoulos with us his only passengers, where we changed buses, this time asking and getting the right bus which actually drove past where we were moored up.
The day was a great success.
Finally Tuesday morning came round and after breakfast ashore; orange juice for me and a HUGE plate of chocolate waffle for Jan, she jumped in the organised taxi for her trip home.
I was left, alone again, with my thoughts and a 250nm trip back to Crete. It had been a fabulous three weeks and I am full of hope and expectation that it is the start of something permanent and lasting. We shall see.
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