Tuesday, October 22, 2013

East Through The Cyclades To The Dodecanese

After hiding from the winds in Livadi, Serifos we sailed across to Naoussa on the Island of Paros and we did actually manage to sail most of the passage. We met up with Scarlett and Awake and had a couple of lazy days relaxing.

We really wanted to visit the Island of Thira and the village of Santorini so with a weather forecast that looked pretty good for the next few days we headed to a peaceful anchorage on the South of Ios for a nights rest before heading to Santorini the next day.

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Goats Sharing the Beach, Manganari, Ios

The Village of Finikia, Thira

Thira is a spectacular Island that is actually the remains of a volcano, the Island itself is the remnants of the mountain surrounding the crater that you actually sail into, there is also a small Island in the middle that is the plug of the volcano. The size of the crater is quite amazing, it is around 4 miles across and very deep with depths of nearly 400 metres over most of the crater, it must have been a spectacularly huge eruption that created the volcano around 1400BC. There have been some smaller eruptions since then and the volcano is technically still active.

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The Main Village of Santorini, Thira

Donkeys to Take You Up and Down the Steep Path to the Top

There are two main villages, Finikia and Santorini, both perched high above on the rim of the crater, all the white buildings almost make it look like the mountains have snow on the tops. Because of the water depths there is hardly anywhere that you can anchor and all the small harbour space is used by trip boats. We ended up tying the front of the boat to a huge steel mooring buoy and the back of the boat to an old loading gantry on shore, this needed some 40m of line fore and aft but gave us a very secure spot right under the cliffs and only a short dinghy ride to the harbour. Awake joined us and tied up alongside with their own lines to shore and buoy.

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Looking Over The Crater from Santorini

Tied Up With Awake Inside the Crater

We took the cable car up to the village and the views over the crater are quite spectacular and really make you think about just how massive an eruption it must have been. Sadly the place is much visited by cruise ships and tripper boats so the village only seems to exist to part tourists from their money. There are some very nice quiet parts but you have to look quite hard to get away from all the souvenir shops, restaurants and bars. Having said that it is still a place that is well worth seeing, especially when you have the satisfaction of doing it in your own yacht.

After our tour of the town we returned to Nimrod and Awake to watch the sunset over the edge of the crater, unfortunately one of the cruise ships decided that his guests were much more important than anyone else and he motored very, very slowly across in front of all the other moored boats and spoilt the view for everyone.

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Tris Klies Anchorage, Ios

Our Own Deserted Beach, Ios

From Santorini we returned to Ios where we had a pretty uncomfortable night in a rolly anchorage at Tris Klies, the wind direction should have meant it was a nice calm place to stay but the swell rolled in from the wrong direction and had us all rolling around for most of the night.

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Kalotaritissa Anchorage, Amorgos

Panayia Monastery Built Into the Cliffs

Next stop was the Island of Amorgos 25nm to the East and we spent one night in the lovely remote anchorage at the SW end of the Island. Next day we headed up to the main town of Katapola to shelter from 4 or 5 days of forecast strong winds. We hire a quad bike to explore the Island and managed to see pretty much all of the sights in one day with Panavia Monastery being the highlight. The monastery is literally built into the cliffs about 200m above sea level and is accessed by a steep winding path that takes about 15 minutes walk from the car park. The road and path would have been a lot worse when the place was built so it really must have been a Herculaneum task to get all the materials etc up there to build it. The monastery has around 50 rooms inside although you only get to see a small number but it is still very impressive as you make your way up narrow staircases with the cliff face on one side of you.

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Lonely Anchorage, Vathi, Astypalia

Periyialo Village and Harbour

Once the winds had died down we headed over to Vathi on Astypalia, this is almost a lake with a narrow entrance that is about 1.5nm long and 0.5nm wide so it is a wonderful safe anchorage in any weather in very isolated surroundings, only a few houses and a taverna on the shore. We are now in the first of the Dodecanese Islands and getting close to the Turkish mainland.

Periyialo is the main town on the Island and that was the next stop to tie up in the harbour with Awake and Limelight. We were also joined by Lis and Fleming on Summertime who seem to have been trying to catch up with us for about a month.

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Restored Windmills in the Village

Looking Over the Centre of Astypalia Island

Chris, Fleming and Francis set off on a hike the next day to explore the Island, first we walked to the reservoir and then on up to the peak of the Island with some stunning views over the Island and the Aegean. It was pretty hard work for some of it and we covered around 10 miles but it was well worth the effort.

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Water Supply Reservoir for the Island

The Complete Village, Chora and Castle

The village itself was very friendly with good supermarket, butcher, bakery and local tavernas so we had a really enjoyable few days.

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New Bikes for Dave on Scarlett

Volcano Crater Walls, Nisiros

Palio on Nisiros was next, another volcano to explore and another great harbour to tie up in for some more windy weather. The harbour was very busy as everyone heads for shelter so it was great fun watching the entertainment as boats crossed anchors and squeezed into ever smaller gaps, it is much better watching when you are tied up nice and safe. We were joined by Awake, Summertime and Limelight and next day we all set off on scooters and car to explore the Island. We rented scooters from Eagles Nest Car Hire and the man in charge was brilliant, he was from the village of Nikia and gave us a full run down of all the sights we should see and how to get there, he was really enthusiastic about everything and he was really pleased when we returned to tell him what a great day we had had.

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Looking Over the Complete Volcano Crater

Marble Decoration in the Church at Nikia, Nisiros

We visited a couple of villages overlooking the volcano crater with the usual stunning views and then rode right down into the crater itself and finally walked down into the calderas with bubbling mud pool in one.

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Girls on Tour

Sue and Lis Above the Crater

We rode down a very windy road to a wild exposed beach on the South of the Island before heading back to the village of Mandraki for a look round the remains of the castle. Some of the stones used to build the walls weigh over 30 tons and they managed to get them up to 30 ft in the air and fit them together with great precision. Once again a really interesting day around the Island.

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Harbour of Palio

Impressive Stonework, Mandraki Castle

Hi all Sue here

Well the captain has covered everything, What a fantastic time we are having exploring Greece and all made more special by doing it with great friends. One of the highlights of our trip around Nisiros was the natural sauna we went to which was built into the walls surrounding the village of Eborios. We would never have found it if it hadn’t been for the helpful man at Eagles Nest Car/Bike hire, he is so proud of the Island of Nisiros. He even gave us a CD of Greek music which he features on.

The dress code for visiting the Monasteries is very strict but they always have an array of clothes for you to borrow. Which is just as well as having climbed up 300 steps you wouldn’t want to be turned away for not being in the right attire!! Chris, Erika and myself were prepared but Francis ended up wearing a very fetching pair of orange trousers!! The monks were very friendly and we had a taste of the liquor and Turkish delight they make.

Hiring bikes to see the islands is definitely the best way to get around although I never quite saw myself as a biker chick!! I’m quite disappointed I don’t get to wear the leathers though, it’s not quite the same in shorts!!

We haven’t had much luck with fishing lately but we are still enjoying the tuna we caught before. Many Tuna BBQ’s have been had with various friends. We did have one bite but before we could do anything the fish had taken all the line off the reel and the brake on the rod couldn’t stop it!! We consoled ourselves with the fact that whatever it was it was probably too big for us to handle!! Well Chris would liked to have had a good go though!!

It’s so nice sailing in company as when the men want to go off on a mammoth hike the ladies can sit on the beach and put the world to rights. Although we do end up going on most excursions. We are all getting quite fit.

We are now in Simi and are going to Rhodes tomorrow to pick our friends up, Jean & John, who are sailing with us for two weeks, which we are really looking forward to. We will make our way to Finike with them, where we will then settle in to our winter berth. So it’s nearly time to say farewell to Greece until next year. We will include pictures of Simi on our next blog.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Peloponnese Mainland and Into the Cyclades

Hi all Sue here

We have had a fantastic time sailing around the Peloponnese and have now reached the Cylclades Islands.

We hired a scooter to go visit Olympia, which was an adventure in itself, and also managed to stock up on provisions which was useful. Olympia was very impressive and very hot!! Although we visited late afternoon it was still quite a challenge walking around it in the heat. The museum was amazing and you couldn’t help being in awe at some of the things they managed to build and design.

The main site is huge and covers a vast area with all the buildings and the arena, very impressive when you see it for yourself. The quality of the information in the museum was excellent and they could do with doing some work in this area on the main site since information boards are very few and far between with only minimal info, although most people visit the site as part of an organised tour with a guide so they probably get more info. Although they have re-erected some sections of the buildings to give you some idea of the scale the main site is still mainly a pile of old columns, facades and rocks, still you do get an idea of the huge scale of the construction and the quality of the workmanship that went into it. 

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Statuary in The Olympia Museum

Part of The Olympia Site

Pilos was a nice bay where we spent a few nights but the mosquitoes were a problem here. We went ashore for a few walks and found a strange wooden church which looked quite new but it was in the middle of nowhere. It was furnished inside so we presume it must be used at sometime. Pilos town was a very busy place with lots of cafe/bars.

The little wooden church was built right next to another small stone church that also looked as if it was still being used occasionally. They were both on the deserted Island of Sfaktiria and were probably built to commemorate the dead of the Naval Battle of Navarinon in 1827 between the Turko-Egyptian Fleet and the Greeks.

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The Approach to Pilos and Gulf of Navarino

Wooden Church, Sfaktiria, Near Pilos

Chris insisted that we had to hike up to the Venetian Castle where the views were stunning. We walked along the castle walls where he assured me would then lead on to the living quarters. I always believe him and am in awe of how much he seems to know as I thought the wall looked as if it just came to an end. Guess what it did come to an end and we had to turn around and go back!! His answer was that you would have thought it would lead to the living quarters!! The views were well worth the hike though so I let him off.

We climbed back down the North Side of the Island past Nestors Cave and around the beautiful horseshoe bay of Voidhokoilia that we had tried to get into by boat the day before but the swell was too much.

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Palaiokastro Venetian Castle

Voidhokoilia Bay From The Castle

As we prepared to leave Ormos Navarinou we watched one poor boat pull part of a ships funnel up with his anchor. It took quite a while for him to free it. We then moved on to Methoni where there was yet another castle. Here we met up with Steve and Tracy off At Last and spent a few very pleasant evenings with them before they set sail for Ragusa and we moved on towards Finakounda. Unfortunately we never made it there owing to the weather and carried on around to Koroni.


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Neighbours Catching a Ships Funnel on Their Anchor

Turkish Tower at the Approach to Methoni

It was while we were in Koroni that my sister decided she could fit in another little visit to Nimrod and so we made our way to Petalidhion to meet her there. Petalidhion was very quiet and it looked as if the summer season had already finished there. Once we had picked Caroline up we then headed across the bay to Kardamila where we anchored for the night. This was to give us an easy sail around to Diros the next morning to visit the famous caves.

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Sunset Over the Kardamila Anchorage

Caroline and Sue, Couldn’t Find a Picture Without Glasses in Hand

If you are ever in this area these caves are well worth a visit. Small boats take you around and it takes about 30 minutes and then there is a further 10 minute walk through the caves back to the outside.

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The Spectacular Caves at Diros

Another View Inside the Caves

We then sailed back across to Koroni to sit out some windy and rainy weather that was due the next day. As you can see from the photos the forecast was right. It was quite a spectacular storm that blew up in minutes, we went from a flat calm anchorage to big waves rolling in. It did clean the boat though so that was good!! After about an hour normal weather was resumed.

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Approaching Storm at Koroni

35-40knts Thunderstorm in Koroni Harbour

After spending a lovely week with Caroline it was time to say goodbye and we sailed to Porto Kayio, which is a very small but very friendly village. Here we met up with Ragusa friends John and Vanessa off Nostromo and met some new friends Sooty and James off Sempre Decanter who were anchored next to us in the storm in Koroni. We spent a couple of nights ashore here in the friendly Tavernas watching the usual anchor antics at the end of the day.

Three 7kg Tuna Caught all at Once Across the Lakonikos Gulf (Alice Sylvia and Delilah maybe!!)

All Filleted Ready for BBQ and Freezer, Enough for about 60 Portions

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It was time to set sail again, this time to Elafonisos. It was going to be a long sail so Chris put our three fishing lines out. I couldn’t believe it when they all went off at once but Mr Cool Chris dealt with them all very calmly and in no time at all we had two 7 kilo fish and one 6 kilo fish on board. My big yellow washing buckets came in very handy!! They were then all filleted and ready for the freezer. We had sailed in company with Nostromo so a BBQ was planned for that evening over the radio. When we got to the anchorage our friends off Sempre Decanter were there as well so they were also invited to share our small catch!! We had a great night and much wine was drunk to toast the catch of the day.

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Tuna BBQ With Old and New Friends, Elafonisos Island

The Infamous Cape Maleas and Monastery, SE Peloponnese

It was then off to Monemvasia, along with Nostromo and Sempre Decanter, where we intended to sit out some strong winds that were forecast.

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Monemvasia Island From The Harbour

Narrow Stone Streets of the Lower Town, Monemvasia

Another hike was with planned with John and Vanessa to visit the old village and then behind the village to the summit to reach Ayia Sofia. It was breathtaking when you reached the top in more ways than one!!On our way back down we stopped in the village for a much deserved beer and also the most expensive one but the views were worth the extra cost.

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Church of Ayhia Sofia on the Top of the Island

Looking Down Over the Lower Town

Onwards we must go and next stop was Kiparissi where we just stayed the one night to break our journey to Porto Kheli. With the weather that was forecast we decided not to wait around here and to make our way into the Cyclades. So onwards again and after a 10 hour sail (yes SAIL!!) we are now in Serifos. Our plan was to make it to Loutra, Kithnos but never mind perhaps next time.

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The Village of Kiparissi, Argolic Gulf

Approaching Livadi on the Island of Serifos in the Cyclades

We are now in Levadi, Serifos – no way to make Loutra without a 15nm tack to the North!!  We sailed all the way here with the wind at 50deg apparent all the way across, Sea state was pretty messy, not big waves but all short and choppy, also the course for Loutra was nearly straight into the seas and was just too uncomfortable for 50nm, the course to Levadi was much better but still a bit bumpy. So that’s where we are up to now where we once again wait for some strong winds to blow over. Our next stop should be Paros.

As usual for the Med we have not managed to do as much sailing as we would like, quite a few times the weather forecast has looked perfect for sailing only to find the wind was not as much as forecast so we end up motor sailing. Even around the notorious headland of Cape Maleas we only had 15 – 18 knts of wind even though it did seem to come from all directions over the space of a couple of miles and then settled pretty much on the nose for the 10nm up to Monemvasia. Still that is much better than the conditions that all the Pilot Books warn about and that some boats encountered a couple of days later, one 50’ boat came in with a shredded headsail looking very battered so it is definitely a place to be wary of.

We are safely tied up on the South side of the town quay here in Levadi with 20 – 25knts from the North forecast for the next 2 days, the S side of the quay is packed and we are now watching the fun as boats try and drop their anchors and reverse on to the N side of the quay with the wind blowing them straight onto it and their anchors failing to bite in the poor quality bottom. Very glad we managed to find a safe space when we got in yesterday, although just after we got tied up a couple of British boats came to say they were just about to move from the other side of the quay to the space we had used!! After a bit of juggling we managed to find room for them both anyway so everybody was happy in the end.

So we will now spend a gentle month working our way through the Cyclades Islands and over to the Dodecanese where we meet our friends Jean and John in Rhodes towards the end of October. We are looking forward to their visit and we also need to use the shopping opportunities of Rhodes to stock the boat up for our winter in Turkey where most alcohol is expensive and pork is not easily found because it is a mainly muslim country.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

More Travels Around The Ionian

Hi all Sue here

Well after a lovely but hectic week back in the UK looking after my mum I arrived back to a nice welcome from our friends off Awake and Scrabbler.  We then just chilled for a few days around Kephalonia before heading to Ithaca to do some exploring. Chris is renowned for leaping into the Dinghy when the rest of us just climb in gracefully but he had a shock in Argostoli when the sea in there was particularly bouncy one night, he leapt into the dinghy and ended up going straight out the other side!! I was with Francis and Erica and we tried to be very concerned and help him out but we couldn’t help laughing. In fact Erica said every time she thinks of it she has to laugh, poor Chris he lost his new sunglasses as well.

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Busy Fishing Harbour at Astokos on the Mainland

Ice Clear Water at Pigades Bay, Ithaca

Pigades Bay has the most beautiful water we have seen anywhere in Greece so far. We spent a couple of days here just swimming and relaxing. We then headed back to Ay Eufimia, Kephalonia to meet up with Mel and Carl off Thala and we also met Wim and Jacqueline off Zephyr. There was a festival on that night so we had drinks on Thala before heading off to try some Greek Dancing and local cuisine.

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Calm Sunset Near Argostoli

Approaching Assos

The following day we went to Anti Sami Bay and spent a day swimming with Mel and Carl and then had a BBQ at night on Nimrod. The wind picked up in the evening and just as we were going to start the BBQ we noticed a big Catamaran that was anchored by us making it’s way slowly out to sea with no one on board!! The owners who were ashore noticed it and gave frantic chase in their dinghy. Then whilst attempting to re anchor it we noticed their dinghy sailing by!! So Chris jumped in our dinghy and gave chase, they were very grateful he managed to catch it.

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Venetian Fort at Assos

Stunning Views From Around the Fort

The west coast of Cephalonia is generally quite high cliffs but there are some lovely beaches between the rocks and a few small harbours. Unfortunately this coast is wide open to the prevailing NW winds so is not visited by very many yachts because the wind and waves make most of the harbours and anchorages untenable. However if the weather is calm and settled then it is well worth making the effort to explore this side of the Island.

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Sue Checking Out the Prison Buildings

Looking Down Into Assos Harbour. Nimrod is just to the right of the super yacht.

Assos Harbour  is a beautiful place in a stunning setting with a Venetian Fort built on the high peninsula overlooking the town from the West but the normal summer winds make it a pretty uncomfortable place to stop, even downright dangerous if the wind picks up. You need really calm weather and we were lucky to find the right time to go there as it is a very beautiful place.

We took an early stroll up to the Fort but it was still a very hot climb.  The Greeks have spent a huge amount of money (probably EU money) on the road up to the fort and have also restored some of the old prison buildings, presumably to become a visitor centre or museum. Unfortunately the money has run out so the project is not finished and there is no information anywhere on the site to tell you what it is all about – a great shame because it could be a very interesting place. Regardless of that the views from the top and around the peninsula are really impressive and more than make up for the lack of info about the fort.

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Superyachts at Fiskardo, Cephalonia

Part of Vathi Harbour, Ithaca

After Assos we headed back to Fiskardo for a few days, this must be one of the busiest harbours in the Ionian and every boat seems to have to visit at least once.  It is also the place of choice for many of the Superyachts so you can sit on your own deck and watch how the other half live, all very entertaining.  The downside of all the Superyachts is that Fiskardo does seem to be one of the most expensive places for eating, drinking and shopping.

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Very Small Church Just Outside Vathi

Don’t Think This is Going To Sea Again

The weather forecast was quite settled for the next few days so we left Fiskardo to explore the East side of Ithaca, this is known as one of the windiest areas of the Ionian and last time we were here we had winds up to 40knts.  This time the weather was kind and we explored Frikes and Vathi before spending a couple of days in Sarakinko Cove, all very nice places in the warm calm sunshine.

We then headed back South to Zakynthos to meet up with Claire and Eddy as well as seeing Zephyr again. We had a good sail from the south of Cephalonia all the way down to Zakynthos Town where we anchored outside the harbour before heading around to the very South of the Island and the anchorage at Keri.

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Exploring the Caves, Marathonisi Island, Keri, Zakynthos

More of the Caves

Opposite Keri is Marathonisi Island that has some impressive caves and lovely sandy beaches that the Loggerhead Turtles use as nesting sites. We did see turtles last time we were here but so far they have not shown themselves this time.

We are having a few lazy days here in Keri before we head across to the mainland Peloponnese and continue our travels South and East into the Aegean. We are not in too much of a rush to get into the Aegean because it is very windy at the moment with the infamous Meltemi wind blowing at F6 – F9 almost constantly, we don’t need to be anywhere near that!!  The Meltemi generally starts to ease around mid to late September and we can then head slowly across the Aegean towards our winter destination of Finike, Turkey.