Tag Archives: Greece

A waiting game

You would have thought our life style had very few time pressures, but if we want to meet up with friends and family from the real world, and we do, we have to be in certain places at certain times.

For several months we have had a crack in one of our spreaders (crucial bits for keeping the mast up) and have been trying to find an opportunity to solve the problem in a way that didn’t stop our summer sailing for too long. After several trips up the mast with the tape measure we ordered replacements from EuroSpars in Plymouth to arrive in Kavala as we dropped off Sam and Rory. The boat yard, rigger, and crane were all booked.

First spreader removed

UPS decided things were going too well and contrived to send our parcel via the scenic route to Kavala. After a weeks delay our new spreaders arrived. Stavros at Manitsas Marine orchestrated the troops in between telling us what was wrong with the Greek economy, government, port authority, and tax office, Adonnis sorted out the rigging assisted by “the fat man” skillfully maneuvering the crane. By 1600 hrs we were back at anchor, invoice paid and ready for the first of several hops south to meet-up with Sarah’s brother, Paddy, who had already arrived in the Cyclades. We were hoping another parcel of supplies would have arrived by now but DHL made UPS look efficient. Our parcel had left Germany 17 days earlier, DHL had no idea where it was and were only able to give us vague promises of delivery. We decided to abandon this parcel, it only contained spares for our VHF radio, who needs a radio?

Friday 28 July looked to be perfect for the start of our journey south, a 50 mile leg to Limnos.

The Meltemi is coming

We had a weather window to get south before the next Meltemi kicked in. The forecast showed wind in the right direction, not too much, not too little, clear skies, and 26 degrees. Mary Poppins, “Practically Perfect in Every Way”. We were up at 0530 to get the best of the day’s conditions. As I made Sarah’s tea I started my engine checks (multi-tasking), odd, the coolant header tank is empty. I opened up the bilges to find them awash with seven litres of coolant, not good. That’s the end of today’s sailing plans.

It’s definitely leaking

So we are once more waiting, this time for engine parts. Even this life style has its stresses.

Best Kept Secret – The Northern Aegean

We sailed North on a close reach with favourable winds from Alonnisos in the Northern Sporades to the Sinthonia Peninsular in the middle of June.  From that moment on, pretty much, we were one of a mere handful of yachts sailing around this fabulous area.  Admittedly, there are not that many decent harbours with the same sorts of facilities or mooring space as the Ionian, the Sporades or Evia but there are lots of good anchorages depending on the wind direction and, if there is a town quay, it is nearly always free to park there.

Not only is the scenery stunning, the scent of the pine trees noticeable and pungent, the coast is quite unspoilt and development is fitting and limited.

Full of ‘Tsipouro me’!

We have anchored in virtually deserted bays. We  have moored on a rickety pontoons,  rubbed shoulders with fishing boats and, we have parked on a town quay between posh charter motor boats (with friendly skippers who plied me with the local tipple – ‘Tsipouro  me’) in a small place called ‘Nea Fokkaia’ – easy for you to say!

We found the paradise island of Dhiaporos off the east coast of Sinthonia Peninsular (rivaling anything we have seen in Thailand) and enjoyed the crystal clear waters.

The journey by car from Ormos Panayia to Kavala allowed us to see more of this beautiful part of Greece.  The road wound through stony mountains, along precipitous coastal routes and through lush rural farmland.  There were huge round bales of hay like giants’ draughts pieces; fields of nodding sunflowers, heads bowed like ashamed drunks; huge glimmering mirror lakes and gentle rolling hills reminiscent of the land around Ripon.

On the road home was a shop selling every imaginable size, colour and design of pot and ready-made shrines. 

 

The gods were benevolent the day we skirted the most holy of holy pieces of land in Greece – The Atki Peninsular.   A place where time is still reckoned by the Julian calendar (13 days behind the Roman  calendar) and the day is ruled by the Byzantine clock with hours of variable length.

It is an awe-inspiring view.

This rugged peninsular has for centuries existed as a world unto itself.  Divorced from the modern world, the holy community has a few roads or mod cons.  The medieval monasteries occupy spectacular sites on the rocky bluffs and cliffs-sides teetering over the rocks and sea below.

Think Potala Palace, Tibet; Bavarian castles; St Basil’s cathedral; onion-domed minarets; Colditz’ impenetrable walls; Tudor balconies and cool blue-green paint. 

At the tip of the peninsular is the spectacular Mount Athos that rises some 3000ft towards heaven.

Mount Athos

Once home to some 80000 monks, there are now only 3000 monks living on the peninsular.  However, even the monks must have realised the value of the tourist dollar, as building and restoration work was in evidence, as were roads, solar panels and phone aerials.

On the day we dropped Sam and Rory at the airport in Kavala, we visited a photographic exhibition.  The images featured the monks and scenes from their lives on the holy peninsular.  The culmination of 8 years work by Stratos Kalafatis.  He trailed around the vast peninsular by mule to visit hermits and far-flung communities.  The exhibition has been shown around the world and the quality of images is excellent.

South winds were due from midday on the 13th July.  We set off motoring across the bay to get round the Atki peninsular.  We had read that should a cigar-shaped cloud develop over Mount Athos then it would be prudent to be far to seaward. The winds fly down the sides of the mountain and make for very big seas and frightening sailing.   So, it was with a certain amount of relief that there was no cigar. Close! But no cigar!

Although we were motoring, we were rewarded with a sighting of beautiful dolphins.  Not just your common dolphin either.  These are their snub-nosed cousins, Grampus griseus, and although a couple did briefly come and play at the bow, they clearly had more important duties in mind and disappeared off to concentrate on fishing.

As the wind picked up we were able to put the genaker up and knocked off the remaining 40 miles in good time.  After a heavenly few weeks up here we realised that the gods are truly smiling on us.

 

Teenagers on board – Sam and Rory come to visit

Fresh from G.C.S.E. exams, our nephew, Sam Hill and his friend Rory were due to come and stay.  We hired a car and went on a shopping expedition to Lidl and filled the whole boot and back seat with supplies.  The next day we were in the observation lounge at Thessaloniki airport in time to see their plane land. 

We whisked them back to the boat and gave them the most important talk of the day…how to use the heads, or toilet!

Not quite as straightforward as it is on land.

Only pee and poo go down the loo!  NEVER put paper down the loo or you will be the one to fish it out!  Use the manual pump GENTLY but firmly to flush and rinse Think about your levers.  There are levers for ‘tank’, ’empty’ and ‘out’ to be used in combination with levers for ‘rinse’, ‘flush’ and ‘lock’.  Rinsing is done with sea water which you are pumping in to the toilet bowl.  In the harbour, use the loo on tank mode.  Out at sea, use the loo in out mode.  Use appropriate combinations of these modes according to your output!  Always ‘lock’ the loo after use or water with siphon in and flood the bathroom.

Enough information for one day!

Next day, after a thorough safety briefing, we set off south aiming for the bottom of the middle ‘finger’ – Sinthnia Peninsular.  We practised some man overboard manoeuvres under motor to get the boys used to handling the boat.  The first rescue was of a child’s beach ball (Frozen themed to the boys’ obvious delight!  They never did play with it!) There was even time for a spot of keel hauling.  Once the wind got up we were sailing along really nicely but, of course, the wind was coming from the direction we wanted to go but gave us a good opportunity for helming and tacking.

Soon, it was clear that we needed a plan B and so anchored in the gorgeous bay of Paliourion on the bottom of the west ‘finger’ – Kassandra Peninsular. We went through the anchoring procedure, and how to ‘put the boat to bed’.  Then it was chill time.

The boys enjoyed jumping in, diving and going ashore in the tender.

Paddling home. Ran our of petrol!

On day two, we had them scrubbing the algae build up off the hull.  On the second night here the boys cooked up a storm – their favourite carbonara.

From this anchorage, we made it round the middle finger to a bay called Kalamitsi.  We anchored here for a couple of nights.

Every day at sea we worked through the ‘syllabus’; the golden rule of ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’; knot tying; winch handling; rope stowing; engine checks; pilot guides; charts and course plotting; plus learning all the names of parts of the boat.  A lot to take in.  So, might need to go over the golden rule again in more depth!

We were very impressed that Rory already knew his knots and could even tie. monkey’s fist; that is a very elegant knot!

Keeping hydrated.

Gradually, we headed north towards the island of Diaporos which has lots of lovely anchorages.  En route to Diaporos we spotted these huge white ghostly clouds in the water.   At first we thought they were sting rays but they were shape changing so much that we realised that they were algae blooms drifting along in the currents.  The boys bravely jumped in and swam with them.

We arrived at Diaporos and negotiated the narrow entrance to our chosen anchorage. We stayed for a few days soaking up the sun and swimming.  The boys got into playing draughts, backgammon, whist, 21 and Uno.

Paddy Challenge 1 – Check!

It was extremely hot for those few days and that curtailed sea and sun activity until later in the day so there was a fair amount of sitting about trying to keep cool.  We did have an evening out at a nearby camp site and not only did they have a taverna they also had a washing machine.  So whilst I sneaked into the laundry, the boys diverted the attention of the staff in the taverna.  Looks like they had a great time!

Looking across Diaporos Island to Mount Athos beyond.

We managed to get through most of the syllabus but the wind was not favourable, as seems to be the case here – either there is too much or non at all! So there was a limited amount of sailing, but when it was good – the genaker came out to play. 

We cooked on board and ate out at some great tavernas and the boys tried octopus, fish, mussels, aubergine dip, taramosalata, tzatziki, fired zucchini balls, kebabs, cheese, whitebait, sardines and Greek salad with the biggest olives ever.

 

 

But, sadly, no humble pitta gyros!!!!

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.