Tag Archives: Greece

Guest blog – exams over

After a stressful period of exams, I was relieved and excited to have the opportunity to finally fulfil my dream of sailing in the Med. It was very daunting flying “solo” to a place I had never been before and staying with people whom I had never met. However, I was quickly put at ease by Sarah and Ian.

We drove to the Marina where the spectacular Linea was waiting and I was delighted to find out that we had good company present in the form of “gin palace” rental man Lorenzo. We conversed with him for a short while before heading off to the beach to top up the tan. However, we found out that this was one of the few bays in the fingers which was harbouring hundreds of sea urchins. We put this thought to the back of our minds and ventured out into deeper water. While snorkelling there we enjoyed chasing the fish which were inhabiting the coral. Normally snorkelling is not my biggest hobby due to the waters of sunny Cornwall not being particularly warm, however swimming in water hot enough to bath in was wonderful. Upon return to the yacht I was pleasantly surprised to find an iced coffee waiting for me, made by Lorenzo. We finished the day with a very pleasant evening at the beach taverna accompanied by great food and local entertainment.

The next day we said farewell to our neighbours and set off to the next finger. Sam and I both took turns helming which was great fun. During our journey we practiced our man overboard principles, experimenting with buoys and a lost “frozen ball”. Nobody was harmed during this exercise and both the buoy and the frozen ball were recovered safely. Upon arrival to our destination we anchored up and packed all the sails away. Sam and I then began to wind down and we engaged in activities such as diving off the boat. We spent the rest of the night together eating on board and after packing everything away we brought out the cards and had a great game of Uno.

Chefs at work

Over the next couple of days we did some bay hopping and Sam and I both took the opportunity to go to shore to walk to the various towns around our position to collect some supplies and take some photos. We continued to do some diving off the front of the boat and we also erected a rope swing which was thoroughly enjoyable. During the nights which we stayed in the bays Sam and I were tasked with cooking some carbonara. It was not too bad, however, Sam and I seemed to use too little pasta and cream meaning portions were a bit thin! Cooking on a boat, rocking from side to side, was quite a challenging experience but it was nonetheless enjoyable. On the next night we watched a talent show unfold from our boat. The “talent” was not actually visible to us (as we were watching from afar), however the music was certainly audible, so much so that we were all very tempted to go ashore and cut the audio cables. The music went on into the early hours of the morning.

Meet Genevieve

The next morning we prepared the boat in order for a short sail across to the second finger. We got the spinnaker out and we caught some nice wind, maxing out at roughly 6 Knots. The sail did have to come down before we arrived, as we had reached a fairly treacherous point of our journey- the entrance to Diaporos. We were therefore forced to motor in and we found a lovely sheltered spot in which we were accompanied by fellow Brits, an Aussie, a Frenchman and a Hungarian. At the Diaporos we continued diving and swimming from the boat, but we also took up games such as backgammon and draughts. We did this mainly, however on several occasions we ventured off into some of the inlets for some snorkelling and a general look around the stunning collective of bays. During these days we also played a lot of beach tennis, however we never did finish our mini “Wimbledon/Diaporos” tennis tournament. We finished off our stay in the Diaporos Island with a visit to the local restaurant based at one of the campsites dotted around the coast of the mainland. Our hosts were very welcoming however throughout the night there was an ongoing issue in the communication department, which meant that my main meal never arrived. This aside we all had a great night out and Sam and I were lucky enough to meet some of the locals, with whom we snatched up the opportunity of a photo.

The boys meet the “girls”

The next day we set off to our final destination of the trip and while under sail we conducted some more man overboard drills. We arrived at a pontoon and tied ourselves up. Sam and I then jetted off on the tender to Ormos Panagias to have a walk to the long strip of beach in the bay adjacent to the one in which we were staying. Unfortunately for us, during the trip back from the beach to Linea the engine very abruptly cut out on us- as we had run out of fuel- meaning we had to row back.

No fuel

In doing this I worked up quite an appetite which was met with splendid seafood from one of the restaurants in Ormos Panagias.

This was a wonderful way to finish off our fantastic 11 day stay on Linea.

Thank you so much for allowing me aboard you home and for making me feel welcome.

Rory Cornelius Smith

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!).