We booked an Air BnB place so that we didn’t subject David and Angela to the horrors of the boatyard ladder in the night. From here we were able to explore a little of the old town and have one or two delicious pitta gyros.
On the morning of Friday 21st September, we completed all the last minute jobs on board.
Linea was put back in the water at 1230pm, having been seven weeks out of action. After a quick check from Kamel that all was well with the sail drive and engine, we set sail for Symi.
Actually, we motored the whole way as the wind was on the nose and we wanted to test the engine. We were able to use David’s vast fishing experience and trolled a line behind us. David’s conviction that we were going to catch a fish was contagious. We had a bite, a big one, but it got away. A few minutes later the line went taut and we actually managed to reel in our first fish! After consultation, we discovered that it was an Atlantic Bonita, a member of the tuna family, of which even adult ones are quite small – 12cm to 35cm apparently. It was duly dispatched and filleted. We anchored in Panormitis Bay just in time to watch the setting sun flit across the impressive monastery edifice and plunge the bay into shade.
Next stop, and a fantastic sail away, was Nisiros: The volcano island. No joy with fishing today. We had a wonderful couple of days there and then set sail for the south coast of Kos to sit out some strong northerlies and to drop off the Heanes
In the morning, we saw a large shoal of pipe fish making murmurations in the shade under our boat. There were several large predators nearby and one came in for the kill, carrying off one of the thin fish broadside across his mouth. We tried in vain to tempt him with our lure from the dinghy but he was not to be fooled.
The windy weather arrived and we decided a long lunch was called for. We headed for shore and to the Sydney bar and had a fantastic meal two days running.
All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to David and Angela. We waved them off as we sailed west for Astipaliea.
So we found ourselves back in Symi. Luckily, Erin and Josh were able to catch a couple of ferries to take them back to Kos. Soon they were winging their way to Corsica to jobs at a Marc Warner resort for the summer.
Whilst we organised our escape from Symi we were looking forward to a cheer-up visit from Alice and Ian. Once more, Alice and Ian’s visit coincided with engine problems and there was no possibility of them sailing anywhere with us. It was so lovely to see them. We were delighted that they had made the effort. They came at the height of summer temperatures. It was a stifling 40 degrees in the harbour in Symi. The water temperature in the bay was only marginally less hot. The breeze was barely registering on the Beaufort scale.
Desperate to cool off, we had the ingenious idea of buying a bag of ice every night to scatter at our feet in the cockpit. Cold ice bottles pressed to our bodies helped as we sweltered on the boat.
Delicious rhubarb gin and plenty of wine helped to anaesthetise us to the dreadful, loud and repetitive music emanating from the bar opposite the stern of the boat and disturbing the peace and quiet of the night until 0500h EVERY morning!!
We took a couple of bus trips: One over to Pethi bay where we spent a pleasant afternoon swimming and supping beer.
And one down the island to Panormitis Bay where we had lunch and a wander round the beautiful monastery and museums there.
We did get out on the water in the dinghy and to find a suitable spot for a swim and barbecue one evening.
We had a good time catching up with our mates and we are so grateful to them for coming to give us moral support and to cheer us up.
After their departure, Alice managed to track down the Ice Factory in Symi and organised the Ice Man to Cometh! He delivered a very welcome bag of ice each day to the boat at her behest! Thank you very much Alice and Ian.
As the days dragged by, we established a routine.
Up and at ‘em in the morning.
Check the boat is safe against the swell and surge that comes in with the arrival of any of the numerous ferries and cruise ships. The boat is rocked violently and pushed back and forth on her anchor and lines. Mast and spreaders can clatter against the boat next door if not properly aligned. The gang plank must be raised high otherwise it smashes on the quay and wrecks the sprocket to which it is attached on the boat.
Ian would start the day with a visit to Mr Ilias the Harbour Master at the port Police.
On his return he would often have to deploy ThunderBird Two to help charter boats undo their anchor knitting.
I would do a quick clean up inside the boat.
Then, taking a bottle of ice tucked under my arm, my hat on my head, my fan in hand, I would hop ashore to sit in the shade at the Axinos Café and concentrate on trying not to sweat so much.
Here I would sit, nursing an ice cold coffee frappe, and chat to Ioannis (John) who helped out at the café.
Ioannis is in his mid-80’s and has lived in Australia for 50 years. He has a house in Symi and comes back during the summer to see friends and family. He was a charmer and a joy to meet and to talk to. I enjoyed listening to his history and hearing commentary on life in Symi.
Despite being stuck here for nearly three weeks, we were lucky compared to our neighbouring boat that had been impounded for four years. It had been stolen and used to transport 70 refugees to Greece and was in a sorry state. I hope that the refugees had faired better.
Ian would return from the police and we would invariably sit and watch the passengers from the ferries troupe past on the ‘Parade’ until well after 1330h. Occasionally I saw this man on his donkey trotting on by.
Then we would head to the café on the corner and indulge in a Pita Gyros.
The heat saps the energy and so an afternoon nap would be required, followed by a few more jobs and then the early evening entertainment of ‘Charter Boat Cha Cha’. We would sit in the shade with a cold beer and watch them as they tangled anchors and collided with each other.
Some evenings, we took off in the dinghy to a little beach area around the headland for a swim and a cool off. We explored the village, attended a music and dance festival a couple of evenings and, ever hopeful, prepared for departure.
We enjoyed a final meal up at Haritomeni Restaurant high above the bay.
As pretty as Symi is and as kind and friendly the locals are, I don’t think we will return here any time soon, if we can help it!
We finally left Symi thinking that we would be back in the water within a week. How wrong we were!
After a lovely two weeks in Turkey we left Bozborun, slightly perturbed by a loud knocking sound as the anchor came up. We quickly attributed it to the dinghy hitting the bow as it swung forwards and happily set sail for Symi, Greece. We had the sails up the whole way.
After completing the paperwork formalities, we set off to deliver Josh and Erin the 50 miles to Kos, as the winds were forecast to be favourable. After a fairly slow and hot start out of Symi bay, we were soon tonking along in strong winds at 7.5kts. Almost as soon as the wind appeared, it died and came only in fits and starts. On starting the engine there was a terrible noise and on further investigation black oil and sea water were gushing into the engine bilge. On selecting forward or reverse gears there were awful grinding and grating noises. The engine would not help us. The swell was too great to deploy the dinghy. Oh, bugger!
The swell was rapidly pushing us closer to the rocks. Finally, we were resigned to the fact that we would need an emergency tow.
Whilst the option to call for help is well-organised and the coastguard response prompt and professional, the consequences of calling them out can be far-reaching, as we were soon to discover.
Once you have called them, their obligation is to organise a tow to the nearest safe harbour. In our case this was to be Symi, a harbour where we knew we would not be able to be repaired as there are no haul out facilities for yachts. Once in the harbour, they impound your boat and take your documents until such a time as you have had the problem fixed.
Soon we were in an endless cycle of;
Port Authority: “You cannot leave until you have the engine fixed.”
Us: “We cannot get the engine fixed here and we must go to Kos or Rhodes.”
Port Authority: “You cannot go until you have the engine fixed.”
We already had an offer from the fishing boat that brought us back to Symi, to tow us to Rhodes. But the paperwork involved in issuing a Towing Certificate is significant. It transpired that the fishing boat did not have sufficient horse power on its papers to comply with the Ministry of Port Police regulations.
Another boat that was willing to tow us was found and negotiations ensued AND he had the required horsepower, too. But no, this was still not adequate. The Port Police were now insisting that we use a professional tug boat company from Rhodes. The quote for this service was 750 Euros an hour plus VAT for a job that will probably take about ten hours. A quick calculation gives a total fee of around E10000!
We tried every possible tack. Wonderful friends and neighbours from our winter mooring base in Sicily offered messages of support and suggestions as to how we should proceed.
So, we tried to make a temporary repair guided by clear instructions and diagrams from Allan and Bruce. Ian dived under the boat to fill the hole in the sail drive with epoxy putty and cover it with self-amalgamating tape. We pumped out burnt oil and sea water from the gear box and replaced it with bio-degradable vegetable oil. Now we had two methods of propulsion and a working mast and sails but the necessary certification could not be granted even to let us go to Rhodes for proper repairs.
Inevitably we toyed with the idea of absconding to Turkey about 10 miles away but the harbour here in Symi is small and everyone knows our predicament due to effective jungle drums. The port police and the coastguard have offices on either side of the entrance to the harbour. The harbour is at the head of a huge bay, the sheer size of which would hamper our chances of a rapid departure without being seen.
We did not want to be arrested!
So we continued with discussions and negotiations about a tug boat.
We managed to whittle the price down a bit but it was still a massive amount. We had no option but to agree to the charge being held to ransom, as it were.
The port police added in hurdles every time we spoke. We were told that the first towing certificate we received from our surveyor had expired so he would need to issue a new one.
Next, we are told that the Captain of the tug boat would only be given permission to leave Rhodes once the Port Police had viewed the latest weather report and agreed that it was safe to tow us and that the whole operation must be completed within a twelve hour time frame.
Additionally, we are not allowed to have our boat papers back until this permission has been given and the Captain of the tug boat had signed some paperwork and been fully rubber-stamped in the Port Police office here in Symi. A process that was bound to take time, for which we would be paying!
To add to the irony of the situation, the tug boat was HUGE. It was 31m long, 11m wide and weighs 400T. It had 4500HP engines. It was so big that it couldn’t even enter the harbour in Symi to pick us up. So, we had to manoeuvre out in to the bay using our temporarily fixed engine, to the precise point from which we could easily sail! Hmmm? When we arrived in Rhodes we would be dropped near the boat yard and would have to motor in to the slips. Talk about a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The rigid following of procedures and rules to the letter, with no logical thought about the type of boat and the individual circumstances, has been incredibly frustrating and stressful.
Anyway, the day of the tow was selected and the tug duly arrived. Once we had directed the crew of the tug boat as to how they should rig their substantial towing line to our bridle and what distance to leave between our two vessels the tow went very smoothly. ( See our blog on How to rig a bridle when your yacht is to be towed.)
The weather was kind to us and the swell was a minimal 60cm, even in the Rhodes Channel. We arrived within four hours and the tug was able to drop us very close to the slips.
The yard stayed open a little later than normal and we were soon in the cradle and lifted out on the hard.
Twenty days after breaking down we had arrived in Rhodes.
With Keira back on board it was time to start heading east to pick up Erin and Josh from Kos.
Even the Meltemi wind had gone on holiday, so we had delightful and stress free sailing and stops in Schinousa, Amorgos, Levitha and finally Kos Marina.
Kos Marina gave us a convenient spot close to the shower block and laundry. Were they trying to tell us something?
The next day, with Erin and Josh too, we departed for a jaunt to Nisos Pserimos, just north of Kos, for an overnight anchorage prior to returning to sit out the next meltemi winds. The anchorage was fantastic although there was a lot of debris on the beach including three knackered old RIBS.
We had a great sail back to the old harbour in Kos Town. The Town Quay is in use despite a shocking 6.7 Richter scale earthquake last year. The quake has created quite a severe kinks and cracks in the concrete but the bollards are still in place. We took a road trip in a hire car round the island and were pleasantly surprised at how leafy and green it was in places.
We had a lovely few days in Kos town (Trash Tuesday turned into ‘Trash Every Day of the Week’ as we collected loads of plastic from within the harbour!) We celebrated my birthday with a meal out and rigging up my new fishing rod! All too soon it was time to say TTFN to Keira who was going back to the UK to work at Oxford Summer School.
We met up with Jacqueline and Peter from SY Dolce Farr Niente, M D R Friends, and it was great to compare notes with them despite the distractions of Wimbledon and World Cup finals on TV.
As soon as the wind calmed to a brisk 18kts we decided to leave Kos for an anchorage to the south of the island. Kamares Bay is well-protected, experiences little swell and has facilities ashore, so was perfect for us. We stayed for a couple of nights and then had a lovely downwind sail straight to Nisos Nisiros.
What a pretty village and pleasant harbour.
We hired a car here to explore the caldera, villages and black sand beaches of this incredible volcano island. The smell of sulphur wafting from the caldera was almost overpowering.
It was truly amazing.
Our next sail was a thirty-five miler east to Symi. This island is tucked in under the Datca peninsula. We anchored in Ay Marina just north of Pethi and enjoyed the crystal clear waters. The wind was a fruity 28kts gusting in here but we were safe. Two nights here, and then we headed to Symi town to check out of Greece.
Symi Town is soooo lovely. The buildings encircle the bay and creep up the steep slopes around. They are all designed as if by a child, each with symmetrical windows, central door, red tiled rooves, colourful doors and window shutters. The clock tower was just like the miniature wooden ones that come in a toy farm set. Heikell describes it as ‘an exotic flower in a desert’, but it’s too cute for that. Certainly, it is a surprising and endearing place. (More of that in a later blog!)