Tag Archives: Northern Sporades

Thunderbirds International Rescue

Being rescued last week spurred thoughts of Thunderbird style rescues that we have been involved with since embarking on our adventures; those in which we have been on the giving rather than the receiving end!

The first occasion was in Mallorca in Cala Portal Vells when, in the middle of the night, there was an urgent knocking on Linea’s hull. We were roused from a deep sleep and adrenaline ensured that we were rapidly on deck.  We  leaned over the side to see a very frightened man in the water.  He kept saying, ‘Boat tip!’ and in the dim light from the moon we could just about make out the silhouette of a small yacht far to close to the beach and leaning over at an alarming angle.

Ian deployed the dinghy whilst the man swam back to the boat to his friend.  Initially, Ian tried pulling the boat forward off the sand but that didn’t work. Next, they pulled the boat over with a halyard to an even greater angle in an attempt to lift the keel out of the sand.  This together with their engine and the dinghy eventually allowed the boat to move out of the shallow water.

They anchored again and kept a watch and left early the next morning to head back to Palma.  It was their first trip out in the boat and we hope that they weren’t put off and that they have invested in a more substantial anchor.  Thunderbirds were, ‘go’!

In Sardinia, we had gone ashore in the dinghy to do some shopping and came back to the beach just as another family of six was climbing into their dinghy.  Unfortunately, they started their engine in a froth of seaweed and the engine gave up.  In my faltering Italian, I asked them to jump in our dinghy so that we could take them back to their yacht.   We towed theirs behind us.  It was fairly slow progress with eight of us in the dinghy but we made it safely back and they were most grateful.  Eat your heart out Virgil.

In Ormos Panormou on Skopelos, Ian whizzed off in the dinghy to help a crew member from another yacht secure the long lines to the shore.  They were really struggling to attach the heavy lines and then bring them back to the boat.   Puppets on a string!

In Porto Koufo this year, we were watching the rapid approach of a thunder-storm one evening when ahead of us across the huge bay I saw two people on a lilo kicking their way across to the opposite headland; snorkels poking up and face masks clamped to their heads.  As the rain began to bounce down on us like bullets and the wind whipped up the water, I was concerned about the safety of these snorkelers.

Ian shot off in the dinghy and reached them whilst they were still in the sunshine.  He asked if they were ok and they assured him that they were.  He pointed out the looming storm and they shrugged nonchalantly.  They refused a lift back to the shore and again said that they were fine.  What more could he do?  We watched them anxiously as they paddled back soon after; clearly they had realised their folly and were heading back to the safety of the shore.  Safely back to Tracy Island.

In Limnos this year Ian disappeared off the front of the boat to help a couple whose anchor was fouled on another boat’s chain.  He helped them disentangle the knitting and reset the anchor.  Lady Penelope would be proud.

Recently, when we were anchored in Aggias Annas trying to fix our own engine, we realised that we needed more diesel and a full tank of petrol for the outboard.  Just about at dusk, Ian set off across the bay towards the quay. He walked up to the petrol station and replenished our dwindling supplies.  On the way back in the dark he was approached by another yachtie on the quay, asking if he could help him.  He had run out of petrol for his outboard, too.  Could he use some of ours to get him back to his boat?  Ian obliged and Dimitri and his crew were very happy that he had turned up just when he did.  International Rescue whilst rescuing us!  A chip off the Gordon Tracy block!

The other day a couple came down the pontoon looking very tense and anxious.  They had anchored in the bay and brought people ashore but now their dinghy had died on them and they couldn’t paddle all the way back.  I offered them the use of ours.

Just yesterday, we were watching as a huge motor yacht pull out of the town quay here in Naxos.  Their anchor was fouled on the bottom and then the port propeller was fouled on a mooring line. They were pinned in.  Ian attended in the dinghy and with the assistance of other yachts nearby managed to secure the boat before it bashed into others boats moored on the wall.  He freed the anchor and the harbourmaster dived into the water to free the mooring line.  Job done!

This morning a yacht beside us that was pulling out and had his anchor trapped under the chain of a boat that arrived after him. With help from Thunderbird 2 and the harbourmaster’s Dad, (AKA Jeff Tracy!)  Ian managed to free the anchor and the yacht was soon on its way. Another rescue completed.

Parker served drinks on the deck!

My hero!  Ian, not Parker!

 

 

Surfing South (or, ‘I would Sail 5000 miles!’)

The Meltemi is coming

We timed our departure from the Northern Aegean to coincide with the Meltemi; a strong southerly wind that rushes from high pressure in the Balkans to low pressure over Crete.   The wind gathers pace and fury as it heads south and pummels most islands on its way past.  The wind isn’t a constant threat, it comes and goes, so in between there is virtually no wind.  It’s a frustrating because it limits your choices of sailing direction and possible sailing days.  On the plus side, it does mean that temperatures are a very pleasing 27 degrees, which is just about perfect.

So, with the Meltemi due we knew we would be whisked south at a great rate of knots in order to meet up with my brother Paddy, and his family, before the end of their holiday.  We were looking forward to some long days of sailing down wind and surfing along on the waves.

We left Thassos with an accompanying juvenile dolphin twisting and turning near the bow and made it to Myrini  on Limnos in good time.  Initially, we anchored in the bay but couldn’t find a spot we were happy with in strong winds and so spying a small space on the quay, we reversed in on the end.

The next day,  we awoke to a layer of fine sand over everything in the boat.  The wind had picked up and swept with it tonnes of black sand motes.  A boat sticky with salty air provided a large surface that these particles love to cling to, so very soon the boat, ropes, sprayhood and new bimini had a tinge of charcoal hue about them.  Hey ho!  No point in cleaning anything until the wind dies down in about four days.  Whilst gusts tossed chairs and tables about on the quay, we decided to hire a car and have a little exploration of the island.  It is a dry and dusty place in summer. Myrini was the prettiest place we saw with its imposing castle high above the town and the beautiful neo-classical buildings with their Juliette balconies, tall shuttered windows and tiled roofs.

We enjoyed wandering the vine covered alleyways of the town and sampling the delights of the restaurants away from the sea front.  We felt in with the locals when we played backgammon in a very popular ‘ouseria’.  Six euros for two ouzos, two carafes of cold water, a bucket of ice and a plate of meze snacks.

We spent a very moving afternoon visiting one of the Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries on the island.  The island was the launch place for the ill-fated Gallipolli campaign in 1914 and thousands of lives were lost.  Here we met yet more friendly Australians, originally from Limnos, who come back every year to visit family.

After pre-dinner drinks on board Linea with fellow Cruising Association members Nigel and Lawrence on Cormorant we set sail early the next morning to Lesvos where we were due to meet Bryn and Jill.

After a five hour bus journey from Levkas to Athens, a flight from Athens to Lesvos and a two hour bus ride across the island to our western anchorage they were well in need of a beer or too as we caught up on our respective summer adventures.

Next morning, we set off to Khios.  We arrived in the late afternoon after a great downwind sail and parked stern to the new quay.  Yanis was there to meet us and we were delighted to see that there were showers and loos on the quay.  In the morning, we took a walk up to the village of Volissos where we found an old saddlemaker and joinery shop. The joiner was at home and switched his garden fountain on in our honour!  We had a peek into his workshop all twisted olive wood and wooden saddles for donkeys. The supermarket was small but superbly stocked and I was pleased to be able to buy some eco-friendly washing up liquid for the first time in Greece.

The owners agreed to give us a lift back to the port with all our shopping in an hours’ time so we continued our walk up into the village and found a lovely taverna for a late breakfast and a traditional wood fired bakery complete with sooty walls and doddery baker.

Once back at the boat we motored off to an anchorage at the south part of Khios and spent a calm night there in a deserted bay.

The wind had got up again the next day and we had a fair sail towards Ikaria.  Famous as the place where Ikarus flew off towards the sun.  Our pilot guide says that he believes Ikarus’ feathers were blown off not melted off, as the wind around Ikaria is renowned for its ferocity.  However, on the day we were there, there was no wind.

On arriving at Evdhilos port, we were informed by our lovely Greek neighbours that there was a traditional festival on in many of the mountain villages where there would be food and dancing to enjoy.  So we quickly organised a taxi and headed up to one of the villages at about 2200h.  The square was packed with people, tables and chairs.  The boys queued for food and Jill and I bagsied a table.  The food came wrapped in paper.  A huge amount of roasted goat, chips, Greek salad, tzatziki and bread, all to be washed down with locally produced red wine. Yum!

Soon the music livened up and people started to gather in the centre of the piazza to dance.  They linked hands and began to circle round demonstrating nimble foot work.  Irresistible!  We jumped up to join in.  Some of the dances went on for about 20 minutes.  We struck up a conversation with a lady on our table who told me she was 76 years old.  She was extremely fit and agile.  She lived in California, was married to a Brit and wanted to return to live in her native Ikaria.  She was on her annual sojourn to the island. I asked her about the secrets of the islanders longevity which we had heard so much about.  She said it was too complex a thing to explain in a five minute conversation.  She mentioned that it was to do with so many factors such as diet, exercise, mental well-being, family and social connections and so on.  Makes sense.

The following day we arose a little later than normal and hired a car to go off exploring.  We drove along the hairpin bends that skewer the rocky island slopes and wound our way towards the south coast and Kirikos.  After a quick stop at a pebbly beach and a dip, we headed back to watch the sun set.

Next day, the wind was perfect for the final leg of the journey south.  We surfed down huge waves and in big winds to arrive in Agia Annas on Naxos to a welcoming committee from Paddy, Sarah, Sam and Louis waving frantically from the quay.  How marvellous.

The evening was topped off with a visit to the open air cinema to see Zorba the Greek!

Next day, we chilled on the boat in the strengthening winds and then met up with my friend Jane Blanshard (an ex-colleague from Malsis) back at the open air cinema for a viewing of Mamma Mia!

We waved a fond farewell to Bryn and Jill and look forward to seeing them soon.   We were so pleased to have them, with their sailing experience, on board for the 300 miles surfing south and we celebrated reaching another milestone – our 5000th mile on Linea.

Reasons to be cheerful (in Greece)

Well, Greece IS the word.

Not only is the food fantastic, fresh and delicious;  the countryside and nature varied and beautiful but the Greek people are amazing!

Everyone we have met so far has been the epitome (Greek word, I believe!) of helpfulness and friendliness.

I am not intending any hyperbole (Greek word!) when I say that all of the people we have met have been a delight.

I can site at least three examples.

First new spreader in place.

First, was with the delightful and verbose Stavros of Manitsas Marine, who was arranging for the replacement of our mast spreaders.  We took advantage of his address and ordered some essential boat items from our marine suppliers in Germany – an order that would take a maximum of nine days.  We waited patiently but by the 27th July we were resigned to leaving it behind.  DHL could still not give a firm idea of when it would be delivered, even though it was apparently in Kavala some 20km away. We needed to depart as the winds were favourable and we had a long way to go.

We set off for Thassos Island about 20miles away after a very productive beach clean, up operation (200 litres of rubbish plus about 20 polystyrene boxes).   We arrived at Limenaria where we discovered a huge marina development was still underway.  We counted 14 trucks, diggers, steam rollers, etc., standing idle on the half-finished quay.  Anyway I digress.  In the morning we planned to leave early so Ian was up at 0530h to do his engine checks.  He discovered a bilge full of water and coolant.  Not good.

We called our friend Stavros at Manitsas Marine.  He gave us the number of a mechanic in Kavala.  He put us in touch with a mechanic on the island.  An hour later, Georgio arrived.  He contacted a friend who came to the boat on Saturday and spent four hours fixing new core plugs to the engine block.  He charged us 60 Euros.  All of this involved numerous calls to Theo the mechanic in Kavala who acted as translator.  What a star.

Second, Stavros was concerned because we asked him if he had any of the core plugs we needed. He didn’t have any in stock but said he would go into Kavala and buy some for us and not only that he would bring them to Thassos as he was coming that afternoon by boat with his family.  He also said that our parcel had arrived and he would bring that too – which he did at 2030h at night.  How incredibly kind!

Thirdly, we were keen to go to the Nestos gorge to do the river trip but car hire was very expensive in Kavala so we decided we would have to go by bus.  We found it difficult to suss out where the buses stopped and how we would get to the little village where the tour started.  We rang Helen at www.riverland.gr  and she offered to call the various bus companies to find out the score.  She rang us back in 20 minutes with all the details we needed to know.  Not only that, she agreed that they would drive down to the main road and pick us up at the bus stop and drop us back there after the trip.

Once again, above and beyond!!

Commonwealth War graves commission cemetery on Limnos. A very beautiful and moving place to spend the afternoon.
Windmills on Limnos

I met a lovely lady in Limnos who was down at the quay to drum up business for her laundry service.  (Vicky at FAME laundry 6936815902 2254024727 10 Euros for a 6KG load.)

She was handing out cards to boat owners and chatting.  Just as she was talking to some people about when to pick up their laundry she accidently dropped her car key, house keys and business keys into the sea!  Nightmare!  But she responded to this problem by saying, ‘If that is the bad thing that is supposed to happen to me today then I will accept it.  It is certainly not the worst that could happen!’

Such a positive and optimistic attitude.  I liked her immediately and quickly offered Ian’s services to dive down and retrieve the keys.  She said that wasn’t necessary as her brother is a diver and would come to find them and her husband was already on his way with spare keys!

So, plenty of reasons to be cheerful in Greece.

 

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.