Heading for the North Greece and the mainland

After being fortunate to find a bar showing a couple of the Lions games which we thoroughly enjoyed at the very civilised time of 1030hrs over a coffee or two, we sailed away from Skopelos towards Alonissis, the next island along.  We anchored in a little bay and walked over the headland to the nearest big village, Patitiri. There we visited a exhibition about the severely endangered monk seals (Monachus Monachus) which inhabit the most eastern islands of the Northern Sporades and are protected by a Marine National Park.  Such beautiful creatures. 

I also spent a happy hour at the private museum in Patitiri which houses an incredible number of artefacts from life gone by on Alonissos, when the island life was hard and goods and products had to be made on the island itself.  The exhibition showed tools of each trade; the cobbler, the joiner, the farrier, the copper, the rope maker, the iron monger, the boat builder, the saddler, the weaver, the potter, the baker, and so on.  The attention to detail was brilliant.  There was also an exhibition of old charts of the Aegean from 500 years ago, showing extraordinary accuracy for the time.  The pirate and World War exhibitions were also equally fascinating.

So, after an educational day, we made the short hop to the next island and anchored in Peristeri bay.  The sea was flat as a mirror throughout the day and evening.  We had been in bed for about 20 minutes when I was alerted to a rapid rise in the wind speed by the vibrations from the wind turbine above my head.  Ian leapt out of bed and just as well he had been so quick because our stern was gently brushing up against the bow of a French boat that had come in late on and anchored far too close to us.  In the non-existent winds of the earlier it wouldn’t had been a problem but in the stronger gusts of the thunder storm passing overhead, it was an issue.   We put our engine on and attempted to wake the people in the boat.  Finally, they came on deck and let out more chain but since we were swinging on more chain we soon found ourselves back in the same predicament.

So, the only thing for it was to up anchor and head out into the night.  We donned life jackets and wet weather gear because by now the rain was lashing down. We travelled the short distance back to Patitiri and with the lightning illuminating the way, reversed into the last remaining spot on the quay.  The wall was exceptionally high so I had to hoist myself up about a metre to get the lines secured.  Good thing my back was feeling better.

By 0300hrs we were snugged back up in bed and snoring.

Next day, we motored to the top of the next island –  Panayia.  We planned to anchor in this remote, deserted anchorage with two large bays and a narrow north facing opening.  Once inside this bay the water is completely still.   We found a perfect spot and were swimming in clear waters within minutes.  We never did solve the mystery as to how three knackered old chest freezers had ended up on the beach.  The island has one monastery and one monk guardian and no other inhabitants whatsoever!

A fresh North Easterly wind had been forecast for the Tuesday so that was a good day to sail north to the mainland.  We tonked the forty odd miles north across to the second finger of Halkhidhiki province and found yet another amazing anchorage.  An almost totally enclosed large bay with a lagoon at its southern end.  We anchored off the jetty in fairly deep water but we’re confident that with our new 100m of chain out we would be fine.  And indeed we were.

We went ashore to explore the area and walked all around the bay and round the lagoon.  The following day we walked the other way and found a Byzantian fort and numerous goat tracks winding around the olive trees and shrubs on the head land.  We passed pistacio trees which I have never seen before. 

Our nephew Sam and his friend Rory arrive on Monday and so we are now prepping for their arrival and positioning ourselves to pick them up in Thessaloniki.   Then the plan is to head south again and round towards the third finger and Mount Akti (huge!).

 

 

And on to Alonnisos and beyond.

After leaving the Gulf of Volos we spent a night at Ay Kiriaki to the south side of the Trikeri Peninsular, on the town quay.  The village was completely charming.  There were virtually no other tourists there at this time of year. We walked around the sea front and admired the prettily painted cottages and window shutters.  Every colour under the sun.

In the distance, we could hear a persistent, rhythmic slapping noise and on further investigation found that a robust lady in her sixties, wearing a fetching plastic apron, standing up to her knees in seawater, was knocking seven shades of ink from an unfortunate octopus, actually, several octopi! One by one, she bashed them mercilessly with a large flat wooden paddle, rather like a rectangular ping pong bat.  Presumably intending to tenderise them and force them to relinquish their inkiness to the ocean.

The next morning we set sail for Skiathos again passing huge limestone/marble quarries on the way.  We anchored in a sweeping bay trimmed with a long sandy beach.  The sand was dotted with regimentally arranged chess board patches of straw umbrellas.

Music, suitably matched to the time of day, pumped out from the bar nearby.  Soothing watery techno loops in the morning; raising the beat and volume early afternoon; popular songs with strong added under beat mid to late afternoon; mellow jazzy pop songs in the early evening.  All finished by 1900hrs and then the beach was quite literally our own!

We met up with new friends on Miss Adventure and with friends from Marina di Ragusa on Halcyon.

After a couple of days there, we moved a massive two miles east after a couple of days to Ormos Kolios where we had arranged to meet my old (As in, long-standing) PGCE pal, Heather Wilson and her hubby, Gary.  We had a lovely afternoon catching up on the boat and then a meal high up above the trees overlooking the bay.

Later, we headed back to Skiathos town where we wanted to fill up on water and diesel, but after abortive attempts to get on the very full town quay we headed round to Skopelos instead.  Here we met up with more M d R friends, Lindsay and David on Goldcrest.

The forecast was for strong winds and rain, and I had a painful back, so we decided to stay for a few days.  Old Skopelos is a lovely warren of narrow streets and steps.  We took the opportunity for a bus trip across the island to Glossa, a delightful, small village clinging to the steep slopes above Loutraki.   White edged steps and passages, snickets and alleys weave like some intricate knot around the houses which have balconies overhanging the street.  Each balcony accommodates an ‘outside’ loo with no obvious means of plumbing.

After our exertions walking up and down steps we revived body and soul with gyros and a beer whilst watching local colourful characters in full flow.

Mary Poppins!

Gosh, Greece is vast!  We’ve been sailing now for six weeks around Greek waters and have still only touched a minute fraction of its coasts which apparently stretch to some 14000km.

How pleasant an experience it has been, too.  Not just because we are more familiar with the boat and parking techniques but because the harbours, bays and town quays are set up for visiting yachties.  There is usually some welcoming person to help take your lines, to organise refilling water tanks, to arrange for a mini tanker to deliver diesel and camping gas and yer man, in his laden pickup, will generally call by in the morning, baskets overflowing with delicious produce; announcing loudly over the microphone mounted on the cab, ‘Pataatas!’ (I say, ‘Potatoes!’)

Which leads me to contemplate the food available here in Greece. In tavernas we have eaten well.  Chicken and tarragon, pork with plums, lamb with wine and vegetables, beef with baked whole onions, Greek salad, olives and olive oil, grilled squid and octopus, marinated sardines, fava bean dip, (‘Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh!’  as Hannibal Lector would say!!) cod’s roe and tomato dip, grilled courgettes and aubergines and all manner of fresh fish and seafood.

All washed down with reasonably priced wine which now comes in far more sophisticated vintages and blends than the rather ghastly retsina of old.  (We bought a bottle by accident and used it, rather effectively, I might add, to de-scale the kettle!!!)

The wealth of edible vegetation in the Northern Sporades is amazing.  Plums are a speciality around Skopelos but there is such a wide variety of vegetation.  From the conifer crowded alpine slopes of the high ground to the lush vegetation lower down.  We have seen walnut, hazelnut, chestnut, pistachio, vine, cherry, fig, plum, lemon and apricot trees.  Nearly every home has some kind of kitchen garden.  Recently, we have eaten a kind of samphire seaweed which looks a bit like lavender but is much more succulent.  It grows on the sea-waters’ edge and is vaguely salty in a perfumed kind of way.  An intriguing seaweed full of minerals and phosphorus, apparently.

Bakeries are another joy, with cheese pies, spinach pies, honey soaked sponges, mille feuilles filled with nuts and coiled rings of stuffed filo pastry that you just know are not going to change shape much when they land on your waistline!  As well as that, there is a fantastic variety of healthy brown, rye, spelt, oat and wholewheat breads.

But, Godliest of Greek goodies, Olympus of oral gratification, the Oracle of the olfactory, the pinnacle of provender, has got to be the humble gyros.  Simple, compact, substantial, tasty, balanced and healthy.

A comforting spongy pitta, (don’t think of those dry oval slippers from home)  cozily encasing grilled slices of chicken or pork, garlicky tzatziki yoghurt and cucumber dip, lettuce, succulent tomato and crunchy onions.  Hmmmm hmmmmm! (Most places now seem to add chips as an added extra but they are completely superfluous to requirement!)

At between €2.40 and €2.80 they are a meal in themselves and extremely good value.

Together with an Alpha, Fix or Mythos beer (€3.40/4) it is Mary Poppins!  –  Practically Perfect in Every Way!

 

Alone again- naturally

Looking at the weather and wind for the next few days we decided we would be able to have a great sail south back to the Gulf of Volos which we had by-passed earlier in the week.  Indeed, it was a gorgeous day and the wind was perfect.  We had been sailing for about twenty minutes when Ian went to check the charts.  I was on watch and had a good look around thinking how nice it is to be sailing and not to have the tractor engine interrupting the peace and quiet of the open seas.  Not even the slapping of the dinghy could be heard as it chased along behind us.

I turned to check the dinghy. GONE!

Shouting for Ian I explained that the dinghy had escaped again.

‘Dinghy’s gone!’  I said as directly and simply as I could.

‘Where?’ Ian responded, rather unnecessarily, I thought at the time.

‘Back there,’ I explained as precisely as I could, under the circumstances.

‘Right, go and set a course back along our track but slightly to the right and then get on those ‘knockers and see if you can spot it.’

Houdini, the naughty dinghy.

No sooner said than done!  I could see the miscreant dancing along the waves about a mile or so away.  If it had had arms, it would have been waving vees at us from each hand.  Two other yachts were already heading towards it.  Would they take it hostage?  Quick!  Gun the engine!

With only the loss of one particularly useless boat hook whose handle came right off in my hand when I grabbed the dinghy, we managed to get the beggar back and firmly tied on to the back cleat with a safety loop that even Houdini couldn’t have got out of. Without further incident or insubordination we anchored in a quiet bay in the south east corner of the Gulf of Volos. Now, we are on holiday!

Mamma Mia

The next morning, we set about delivering laundry and provisioning up.  We left at about midday for Skopelos, the island where some of Mamma Mia was filmed.  We arrived in a large bay on the west coast but after trying to anchor unsuccessfully decided to go in a secluded inlet off to the south and took a long line ashore.  Soon it was beer o’clock.  What a lovely quiet spot – oh, apart from a noisy bunch of Romanians larking about and having fun!  How very rude!!

The wind was good from the south the following day so we had a fantastic run to the northern tip of the island and then tacked down the eastern flank.  We were in strong winds so couldn’t stop to take pictures of the headland with the church at the top of hundreds of steps where the wedding scene was filmed but the whole thing put us in the mood for watching the film as we listed to the score and sang along with all the tunes.

‘Do you think that’s it?’ Alice asked me casually, as we approached the headland from afar and were trying to pick it out from its backdrop through the binoculars.

‘I do, I do, I do!  I replied.  Which set us off – hooting hysterically.

Ah, little things…

We had a great dinner out and a leisurely start in the morning -this time aiming to close the circle and set of up the west coast again.  We parked up in a little harbour called Nea Klima.  It looked like a nice place, however, the constant slop from the waves rolling right in the mouth of the harbour would make for a noisy and uncomfortable night so we returned to the same inlet from the other night.  There was a bit more of a performance this time getting parked up but it was all good practice and I am now more confident about using the dinghy and tying up lines and bringing them back to the boat as Ian reverses in.  I dare say that we could even manage to do it with just the two of us.  But for now it was luxury to have Ian and Alice’s help and support.

On the Thursday morning, we set off back to Skiathos and arrived early enough to find a place on the town quay.  All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Alice and Ian.  They headed off to the airport after kindly helping us with laundry collection and shopping, including the purchase of a huge new gang plank from a Greek version of Merrit and Fryers.

Massive jet coming in to land on the shortest runway in Europe.

Ian checked the recently occupied cabin and found Daggett items.  So, we wandered round to the bottom of the airport runway, a mere kilometre from the quay as they walked down from the airport and we met in the middle.  Just in time to witness a plane come in to land literally metres from our heads.

Watch out for flying stones!

As if that wasn’t excitement enough, there, minutes later, coming straight at us down the runway was a plane preparing to leave.   After a neat pirouette it faced away from us into the oncoming wind.  We, along with about forty other onlookers were standing there taking selfies and holding up cameras to record the take off.  I wimped out and walked back a few meters to hide in a drive way whilst the jet engines roared to life and the full force of their power could be felt as a blast of hot air, sand, dust and small stones shot back over the people and pebble-dashed every one of them.

Back at the boat,  we met David and Sarah on Rozinante as they came in to a space beside us and we soon struck up conversation over a couple of beers.  We had a further three nights here enjoying the town, harbour and company.  We had yet more boat jobs to do.  The bowsprit that holds the genaker down had come adrift recently so we needed to try and find something substantial to hold it back in place.  Our kind neighbour David Beanie dug around in his useful bits and bobs box and came up with something that might just do the job – a huge bolt, complete with nuts.  Perfect.  From now on, in memory of Bob Monkhouse and the Golden Shot, between us (and maybe to his face) he will for ever be referred to as, ‘Beanie – the Bolt’!!