Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Monday, 27 June 2011

One in 6,930,000,000!

Mike's last supper
Thursday night we all went out for dinner to mark Mike's departure, a simple meal in the central piazza of Skopelos town; it was a meal rather reminiscent of the stalls in Singapore; tables in the centre and food from any one of a variety of tavernas surrounding the square. Mike duly departed next morning on the 0715 fast catamaran to Skiathos and I settled down to a day of victualling and maintenance. With the winds forecast to be strong northerlies within the next 48 hours David and I decided that we would stay here and see it through before putting to sea. No point in volunteering for a wet uncomfortable beat to windward!
The sea outside!
Next day, Saturday, an Australian flag, Brisbane registered, yacht came in with a mixed group onboard which reminded me of a days sailing I had been fortunate to be offered during the visit of HMS Tiger, to Brisbane in spring 1978.
Nick and I
On meeting one of the senior members of the crew walking along the water front I struck up conversation by asking him perchance if he knew a dentist, by now retired, who was also a keen sailor, by the name of Nick Girdis. His reply “you are speaking to him”! The world is a small place despite a population of 6.93 thousand million people! We were later able to meet up again and talk over the past over a G&T onboard Camilla; an amazing coincidence! Perhaps I should take up doing the lottery!
The berth at Skopelos
As it is the strong winds are now forecast to last until Tuesday, almost 5 days, a considerable amount of maintenance will get done whilst pinned down here and the pressure comes on to make ground NE towards the Dardanelles and Istanbul in order to meet up with my next crew who are due to join on the 12th of July in Kanakkale, near the entrance to the Dardanelles. There is still plenty of time in hand but the weather from here on becomes much less benign. Time to bend on the number 2 Genoa! Next post will be from Thessalonica area in a few days time.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The bridge opens, at last!

After a further delay of 24 hours the bridge workers finally conceded to open the bridge, five days after the previous opening. The opening was due at 0355 on Wednesday morning. Night openings are normal but it is intended to be a daily occurrence! The process of booking the transit with the Port Police was humourless but also painless and I even received a 10cent discount as they had no change; the intended cost being €18.70!
Derelict Ottoman Mosque at Khalkis
The delay at Khalkis was not all wasted time as a fair amount of maintenance got done in the time alongside plus fuel, water and shore power were arranged; albeit on an ad hoc basis with massively long hoses and extension leads. Kurukulla was berthed outboard of a Swiss yacht, a delightful couple who when I asked whether they were also waiting for the bridge to open replied “no, we are waiting for the baby to arrive”. My powers of observation on such things have never been good but at second glance she was, although still relatively slim, obviously expecting. They informed me the baby is due in July so not long to go. I have rarely berthed alongside such willing and helpful people, the baby is lucky to have such splendid parents.
The dreaded bridge
At 2000 Tuesday night I said goodbye to my neighbours and moved Kurukulla out into the stream and anchored in the designated waiting anchorage to await the bridge opening. David in Camilla did likewise. The promised Channel 12 radio call at 2200, to confirm the exact opening time, did not materialise but ….......... this is Greece. What did materialise was a call at 0345 instructing Kurukulla to prepare to pass through the bridge as the first yacht through, Some hope, with Germans and Austrians also waiting. No amount of prior organisation by the Port Police would sort them out. There ensued the usual scrum which I declined to get involved in; when single handed fending off and helming are mutually incompatible! The reason for the scrum was that there are only four alongside berths to the north of the bridge, As I intended to go a mile further out and anchor in a wide bay, to avoid the hassle of securing alongside in the early hours, this did not worry me but I was amused to observe, as I steamed past, that the southbound yachts were still securely tied up alongside; occupying all four berths and exactly where they had been told to stay by the Port Police to await the southward passage of a merchant ship. Those who had barged through were all trying to hold position in the stream whilst avoiding each other and the oncoming ship!
Flying Dolphins, to be avoided!
After spending what remained of the night at anchor I awoke to a brisk northerly wind. I sailed off the anchor for what was going to be another day beating to windward. Fortunately the wind never rose sufficiently to require more than a few rolls in the No1 Genoa and by the end of the day it had gone light and variable leading to a frustrating finish. David decided to stop for the night after 24 miles; however, with Kurukulla being somewhat faster than Camilla upwind I decided to press on towards Skiathos as I only had two and a half days to get there before my next crew member, Mike Owens, was due to arrive and I was still 80 miles away. In all Kurukulla and I made 38 miles to windward in 10 hours that day before anchoring at Cape Lithada, the most north westerly tip of Evia. Not a bad sail!
Krassa (Small Banana) Beach
Kurukulla and Camilla off Krassa Beach
Thursday the 16th dawned with a moderate westerly wind blowing and the opportunity to get to Skiathos, downwind; hence it was an early start, a quick motor round the corner and then full main and poled out genoa for the whole trip. On arrival in Skiathos I anchored Kurukulla in Koukounaries bay near the SW tip of the island and then went ashore to revisit Krassa Beach (aka Little Banana), slightly to the NW of Koukounaries, the favourite beach of a family holiday in Skiathos some 25 years ago but not marked on any chart or pilot as a suitable anchorage. Having satisfied myself that it was suitable I moved round there at 0800 next morning, anchored and stayed there three days. Mike arrived at the beach at 1430 on the Friday and slightly to his surprise was plucked off the beach with the dinghy, bags and all. Later that same afternoon David Ashby, in Camilla, arrived and after some trouble finding the anchorage, anchored in the same bay. The beach was much more commercialised than 25 years ago but there was still only one small beach bar whose proprietor was very accommodating, agreeing to provide us with fresh bread and meats as and when required. The result was lazy days and two evenings spent barbecuing on the beach.
Moving to Skiathos town was not an option for that weekend as the harbour is jam packed with charter yachts doing their changeover and day trip vessels touting for trade. We were eventually forced to vacate the anchorage on Monday morning with the onset of a strong N wind; the start of the Meltemi, the wind to do battle with on the journey north to Istanbul.
Mike relaxing!
As a consequence we motored round to Skiathos Town in a lumpy and unpleasant sea with winds gusting up to 30+ knots and getting goffered on a regular basis. Rather than risk berthing in a strong crosswind in Skiathos harbour we anchored for the afternoon off one of the town beaches. In fact we need not have worried for on entering the port in the calmer winds of the evening it was still full to overflowing and hence we anchored off inside the harbour and headed ashore in the dinghy. Skiathos is a lively town dedicated to tourists. Some of us were sensible and returned onboard relatively early, others were not; however, my hangover had improved sufficiently to go to sea by mid day the next day!

Tuesday we sailed off the anchor and set off on a brisk reach for a beautiful anchorage at Panormou, on Skopelos, where we were escorted in by three dolphins playing round the boat. We anchored with line ashore for the night and managed a small shop in a local mini-market a mile away. It is a really delightful anchorage only slightly spoilt by the number of Sunsail yachts also present.
Mourtia Beach
Knowing that I had to have Mike back in Skopelos town for the 0700 Flying Dolphin departure on Friday morning we decided to add one more island to our total before his departure and sailed across to Ormos Mourtia, on Alonnisos, for Wednesday night before heading back to Skopelos town for his final night onboard on Thursday. Although the holding in the most easterly bay of the three possible anchorages at Mourtia was not great it was by far the best protected and hence we had supper onboard Camilla and then spent the evening watching a film in Kurukulla, “School for scoundrels” (an old British film production) followed by the night at anchor.
The town of Skopelos
Thursday morning dawned with the now familiar cloudless sky and northerly wind and after a swim, at midday, we set sail for Skopelos town to seek out a berth. By 1315 we were safely berthed, stern to, in the port of Skopelos and by 1400 seated in a restaurant having lunch.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Across the Gulf and northwards

Poros lunch venue

Poros was an excellent stop where we managed to get victuals and enjoyed a very good lunch in a local taverna in the back streets, sadly I omitted to record its name. All that done we decided to head for the anchorage at the west of Poros, Yerolimena, where we anchored in 5 metres of crystal clear water, in the northern bay, for the night.
Anchorage at Yerolimena
That evening we also received an SMS from David Ashby in Camilla to say that they too were in the area and asking where would we like to meet up tomorrow? We decided to head north east and meet up in the anchorage at Sounion, near the headland to the east of Athens. Anchoring at Yerolimena overnight gave us a head start on our voyage north but it was a flat calm day and hence five hours of motoring to reach Sounion. We anchored in the bay at 1500 in the shadow of the temple and Camilla duly arrived at 1830.
Anchorage at Sounion with temple in background
There followed a few gin and tonics in the cockpit of Kurukulla followed by supper.
Rafted up at Porto Rafti
Next morning we both set off in convoy to sail the 15 miles up the east coast to Porto Rafti, on the wind but a very pleasant sail. It was from here that Simon, my nephew, was to depart the next day and being only a 20€ taxi fare to the new Athens airport it is a very convenient drop off point. There then followed the usual saga with the Coastguard/Port Police getting him taken off the crew list and registering into and out of Porto Rafti. It took some persuasion to get them to log us in and out on the same visit notwithstanding the fact that we were leaving on the same day that we logged in! Oh the joys of bureaucracy! In fact we spent 48 hours anchored in Porto Rafti but to have admitted that to the port police would simply have created more time wasting and, as we were unable to get alongside, they were unaware of our presence. Porto Rafti only has five stern to berths suitable for yachts and all of these are taken up with permanent local boats; something which also makes it all but impossible, without some nifty manoeuvring, to embark water here. Fortunately neither of us believed we needed it (but more later). On the day after Simon's departure one of David's crew, Alistair, also departed via the same route and then, next morning, we were off; on the wind again, beating northwards.
View of anchorage at Nisos Stira "Marina"
Our chosen destination was the anchorage between Nisos Stira nad Nisos Petousi but on arrival we found the depths to be much greater than described in the pilot and, with a strong northerly wind blowing, anchoring with a line ashore was out of the question. We therefore moved further north into the anchorage behind Nisos Ay Andreas where, according to the pilot, there are plans for a marina. The attached photo shows how far they have got! One of the most deserted anchorages we have found. The next discovery was that Camilla was completely out of water so finding a jetty with a public water supply became a top priority. Next morning the wind had shifted and Kurukulla dragged her anchor so it was a sudden start and a move to a better protected anchorage on the eastern side of the island. After an afternoon of sunning and swimming, whilst waiting for the strong northerlies to abate, we set off at 1500 to sail north to Eretria, We enjoyed a late afternoon, 24 mile, beat to windward, on the limits for full main and No 1 genoa, finishing with a quiet night at anchor inside Eretria harbour.
Khalkis yacht club
Saturday the 11th started bright and clear but with the now habitual “wind on the nose”. As a consequence we motored a few miles along the coast and then anchored for a lunchtime swim at Ormos Levkanti before pushing on towards Khalkis and the bridge transit. By luck I found a telephone number from the internet which allowed me to check when the next bridge opening was due, Tuesday at 0250, three days hence; so we were in for an enforced delay of 48 hours at least. As a consequence we moored in the half finished marina at Khalkis, searched out a water supply, and made several new friends with the members of the Khalkis Yacht Club; a very sociable group and very keen to help.
Khalkis "marina" as yet unfinished!
More when we leave for the bridge transit.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Northwards from Spetses (with a stowaway!)

Spetses inner old harbour

Simon, my nephew, joined as planned on the evening of the 1st of June. We decided to eat ashore that night and enjoyed “Pesche alla Speziaola” in the Old Olive Press bordering on the edge of the old harbour, and very good it was too. White Tuna fillet cooked in a wine, tomato and vegetable sauce with the addition of some feta cheese. Next morning we set off at 1000 to do battle with the port police, to get Simon officially put on the crew list, and to do some victualling. The former took nearly an hour of bureaucracy and the latter ten minutes in the supermarket. I know which was better use of our time!
Simon on passsage
That done we set off for the inner reach of the inner harbour to refuel and fill up with water. Refuelling in Greece needs to be managed with care. Fuelling stations on the waterfront are few and far between and not to be ignored when available. !40litres embarked via a gravity feed from the fuel station up the hill and water replete, we set off in the direction of Hydra. Initially a good sail but as so often happens ending under motor in a flat calm. On arrival in the vicinity of Nisos Dhokos we decided to opt for the peace of the anchorage at Ornos Skindos and not to go to the always overcrowded harbour at Hydra. The American crew of the yacht berthed next to us in Spetses had already warned us that even at this time of year berthing was three deep on the outer mole in Hydra (that is three one in front of the other med-moor fashion, not alongside each other!).

The NE anchorage in Ornos Skindos was blissful. Clear blue sky and water, and not a soul, That is until a Swedish charter group turned up two hours later for a beach BBQ! Three boats but they were no problem. After a pork steak supper it was off to bed and a reasonably early night. That was until at 0130 Simon woke me to tell me we had a visitor, (according to Manuel of Fawlty Towers “a Siberian Hamster”) otherwise known as a rat. Simon had been woken to the sound of him scrabbling in the veg basket and on turning on the light had come face to face. Needless to say he woke me in no time at all!
Entering Poros
There followed a 90 minute farce, worthy of the Whitehall Theatre, chasing the rat into all corners of the boat, the final act of which was me holding the wriggling rat in a folded towel and dispatching him overboard for an unexpected swim. That done we returned to bed! The assumption was that he had come onboard in Spetses via the gangplank which had been left down overnight for the benefit of our neighbours, whose gangplank could not reach the jetty and who therefore had used Kurukulla to access their boat.
Arriving alongside

From Ornos Skindos we sailed north to Poros but again the wind defeated us and so we diverted to an anchorage just west of Nisos Spathi, four miles short of Poros, where we sat out the ensuing thunder storm and settled for the night. Next morning, in brilliant sunshine again, we finished the four miles into Poros and at the moment I am sitting on the boat waiting for the water man to arrive to allow us to top up before spending the day ashore.
Med-moored in Poros