Tag Archives: paradise

A week with Keira in the Cyclades

The day after Josh and Erin left us the wind was finally at more acceptable levels so we sailed off back to Rhinia, our favourite of the islands round here.  We had a good sail round to the west side and anchored in a beautiful cove – Ormos Miso.

We had a lovely couple of days here exploring the island and dodging flying shot gun bullets, as the farmers were constantly out hunting birds.

We managed another impressive beach clean-up here: Collecting something like 200lts of plastic debris. The most unusual finds were, curtain hooks, tile spacers, an intact huge electric light bulb.

Most prolific finds;  plastic straws, glow bands, balloons, plastic bottle lids, fisherman’s twine and netting.

Good job done; we sailed across to Syros in yet more fruity winds and parked on the quay with the help of Thannasis, the lovely, stylish, colour-coordinated and helpful harbourmaster.

Further exploration inland revealed a beautiful town, marbled paved square and streets, Venetian style Neo-Classical buildings, bulging wrought iron balconies, tall shuttered windows and a charming elegance we have not seen elsewhere.  The bay is huge.  At its heart is the newly bankrupt shipyard and dry docks.  Once providing employment for 2500 people it has just stopped operating some 5 months ago.

In the south part of the bay is a newish mariner which is not properly managed or maintained since it seems no one can agree who should have the contract.  So, it is left un-cared for and defunct before it has even been completed.  Boat owners use it regardless…for free but it is a shambles.

Sea water in the sail drive makes the oil go a milky colour…not good!

Ian carried out his daily engine check and discovered that seawater was getting into the saildrive: Another potentially costly repair.

We organised for an engineer, Stamatis and his son Georgios, to check it and he confirmed what we suspected.  We would have to be hauled out for the repairs to the saildrive.  We agreed to come back in on Friday morning after having dropped Keira in Mykonos.

We had a lovely few days in Ermoupolis, and had the added bonus of meeting up with a Clipper chum of Ian’s called Mike Stephenson who was out on a charter yacht with his wife Amanda and friends.  We had a pleasant evening with them and waved them off in the morning.

The biggest shell we have ever found.

We headed back to our favourite place on Rhinia, shocked to see a HUGE rock across the entrance to the cove that we had not spotted on our first stay.  We took a bearing on the GPS so that we could add it to our chart.

We enjoyed sunbathing, swimming, back gammoning,  eating and watching a couple of films.  (A fish called Wanda – helping to complete Keira’s film education) and then, all too soon, it was time to head back to Mykonos to say goodbye to Keira as she heads back to the UK after her year abroad.

Leaving Naxos after one month (Testing the engine)

Octopus drying on the quay in Naxos

We finally waved goodbye to harbourmaster father and son team Nikos and Makos in Naxos.  They wryly commented that we should have asked for the monthly mooring fee.  We returned to Paros.  We anchored in the south west part of the bay of Naoussa and enjoyed a fine afternoon swimming and snorkeling.  Erin spotted a beautiful starfish for us all to admire.

After a super calm night, we headed north in great winds to Finikas.  Arriving with a flurry of charter yachts, we were hoodwinked into thinking that the quay would be a good place to be overnight, despite forecasts of strong southerly winds in the night.  Foolish error!

We were awoken from fitful sleep by the grating noise of the spreaders and stays clashing with those of the neighbouring boat.  We managed to pull forward so that the rocking would be safer and went back to bed.  Ten minutes later, Erin shouted out, ‘Boat!’ in a tone of great alarm.  She had popped her head out of the forward hatch and to her amazement saw a charter yacht pinned across our bow at 0400h in the morning, in the dark!

We all dashed on deck to fend off this yacht.  Another departing yacht had tripped its anchor and so they were forced to leave in some haste.  On motoring out, they wrapped a rope round the propeller so they had no power.  Left to the devices of the strengthening wind, they were blown along the bows of the boats on the quay, stopping at us because they fouled their keel on our anchor chain.


After hours of fending, our anchor finally gave up and their keel was free. They continued to bounce along every single bow along the quay finally stopping about 2 metres from some rocks.  Ian helped them to get their anchor down and then they waited for the coastguard to arrive to tow them to safety.

Our massive stern fender was burst and numerous other damages were incurred in the night when the charter yacht hit us.

In the meantime, we were all busy on Linea.  First, we pulled the anchor as tight as it would go.  Then, we kept the engine on in case we need to motor forwards at all.  We tried to limit the damage as much as possible whilst this boat was pressing us back against the quay. Tthe swell was lifting us higher than the quay and it is a miracle that the rudder didn’t get damaged.  Josh was doing sterling fending off with the popped fender.

Ian eventually came back to the boat and we decided that since it was almost dawn and we were not happy with our anchor we would leave.  The boat on our starboard side had to leave first since their anchor chain was lying right over ours.  We motored to the anchorage on the other side of the bay.

After a few hours nap we were beginning to see the humorous side of the story.  We still couldn’t quite believe all that had happened during the night.  We were mightily relieved not to have incurred more damage.  The boat next to us had not been nearly so lucky; having its stern constantly smashed into the quay.

Josh and Erin chilling on the deck

We moved on to the practically deserted island west of Mykonos and had a wonderful night in a perfect cove with Delos in the distance.  A beautiful place to calm the nerves.

On Wednesday we set off to Mykonos, as Josh and Erin had bought fantastically cheap flights back to Manchester from there.  (£38 each)  We anchored in the bay south of town and sat out the evening’s strong winds.

There was time for some last minute hair braiding and back gammon championships.

Next day, we caught a bus to explore the lanes, whitewashed churches and bijoux shops in town.  We walked round to meet up with Stephen and Gilly for a swift beer and to catch up on their island-hopping adventures.

It was a pleasant wander round Little Venice, past the windmills and up and down the steps on the hill.  The town was thronged with doddering cruise ship passengers.

During the very wet journey back to the boat to collect bags,  we saw yet another inflatable toy somersaulting across the bay.  We managed to catch it and the girls were very happy with their swan (Susan).  All too soon, it was time to bid a fond farewell to Erin and Josh.  They headed to the airport and we went back for another windy night in Ormos Ornos.

During the last few days, we have switched the engine on and off a total of eight times and all seems to be well.  We are gradually gaining more confidence that the fuel is clean and the pipes are clear.  Phew!

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!

 

 

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!!!!