Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Onwards to the western end of Crete and beyond.

Friday night was spent alongside in Ayos Nikolaos collecting George and Nigel from the airport at Iraklion and the following morning, using the same hire car, delivering Steve and Mike to the same airport. All achieved for €37 plus €20 fuel. Somewhat different to the €80 per journey requested by taxi drivers!
A traffic jam on the lanes of Crete (milk collection)!
That done we decided to make use of the hire car and make a tour of this end of Crete, whilst the opportunity presented. Christoph had lived in the area for a period some years ago and was keen to revisit the mountain village, Agios Ioannis, where he stayed. Late that evening we returned the hire car, settled our bill at the marina, and set out for one of the anchorages at Spinalonga. In the event we chose to anchor, just as the sun was setting, in the anchorage on the eastern side of Spinalonga island.
Agios Ioannis
A superb anchorage but one that is on the “grockle boat” itinerary and therefore we vacated fairly early next morning to coincide with their arrival. (For those unfamiliar with “Grockle” it is the term used in Cornwall to describe tourists). At 0930 we sailed off the anchor and very slowly edged our way into the lagoon again, here we were to stay for the following 24 hours.
The night anchorage was in the furthest of these two bays
It really is a superb anchorage and I took the opportunity to climb to the top of Spinalonga island to take some shots of the anchorage we had used the previous night.
Kurukulla and anchored in a bay on the west side of Spinalonga
Next day dawned clear and bright, with a light northerly breeze, and hence we sailed off the anchor, beat out of the lagoon and northwards to the point where we cold turn west towards Iraklion. Our first stop was to be the small port of Khersonisos; our original intention was to make this a lunchtime stop but the anchorage outside the harbour looked only barely tenable and at best uncomfortable; hence, we opted to enter and try to find a space. In the event we were lucky and managed to find a spare slot between two fishing boats in the inner end of the harbour. The Port Police kindly volunteered to take our lines and informed us that if we were only planning to stay one night then the berth was available to us. The Khersonisos harbour chartlet in the Heikell pilot shows a shallow patch in the centre, rocky and less than 2m in depth, making it a tricky harbour to enter. We had carefully skirted around this obstruction on entry only to be informed by the Port Police (Coastguard), when attending to pay my dues, that the obstruction had been removed and the whole harbour centre is now dredged to over 3m in depth, not all was lost though as they also declined to charge me on the basis that a one day stay was not worth the effort! That night we went ashore to investigate the town (very touristy and hardly worth the effort) before dinner and also took the opportunity to top up on victuals from a very well stocked supermarket.
Our departure next morning was to be rather less smooth than our arrival, yet again on lifting our anchor (having been careful to lift it as near as possible over the point we dropped it) we discovered we had picked up a 4 claw mooring anchor for the second time in four days. These really are a pain in Greek harbours. In so many ports every fisherman lays this type of mooring anchor for his individual holding off line meaning that the harbour bottom is littered with them, making them almost impossible to avoid for visitors dependent on using their own anchor. Sinkers and a chain to which all attach is a much more satisfactory solution but one that requires cooperation!
Departing Khersonisos
A forlorn hope I suspect. Anyhow after a five minute “ballet”, in the centre of the harbour, we were free and on our way.
Next stop was to be in the Nisis Dia, a group of islands just north of Iraklion. Our landfall in the islands was just before 1400 and by 1430 we had chosen our spot and were anchored in a small cove, on the southern shores of the main island, ready for lunch. To limit our swinging radius to the available width in the cove we had anchored in the shallower water, reasonably close to the beach; something that we were to slightly regret later! A swim in the crystal clear waters, a foray ashore and a good lunch, what more could we ask for. The answer was a more consistent wind! During lunch, unnoticed by us all, we had turned and gone very gently aground on the beach. It was a very light bump that alerted us to the event. Notwithstanding the softness of our landing it took us a good 10 minutes, and a quick swim by me, to discover that we were very delicately balanced on a small rock, hence the engine alone would not be enough too get ourselves back off the beach. The crew were duly invited to climb onto the boom, the boom pushed out to heel us over, and with our draught duly reduced by the angle of heel we were off in 10 seconds. We changed bays!
Balast on the boom to get us off the beach!
For the overnight stop that we had planned we anchored in the western bay which is less enclosed but offers more swinging room. The western end of the western bay is not quite as well sheltered from the westerly winds and care is needed of several shallow areas on the western side as you enter but it offers much more swinging room!
The night here was uneventful which is more than can be said for the following morning! Our plan was to sail off the anchor and reach over to Iraklion in time for lunch and to do the tourist trip to Knossos. As the mainsail went up something quite substantial, from the top of the mast, hit the deck and bounced over the side. It was the masthead pulley for the main halyard! In 9m depth there was no point in trying to find it and recover it and so we decided on the next best option, motor over to Iraklion and get a new one made!
The trip to Iraklion was and uncomfortable motor with the wind and sea on the beam. However after an hour of rocking and rolling (I really do not understand the joys of motor-boating!) we were safely inside Iraklion harbour. Fortunately we were able to find a berth inside the old Venetian harbour however life was never going to be that simple. The “marinaio” (marina hand) ashore directed us to a berth in a downwind corner of the marina which was about as tight as is it possible to get Kurukulla into with a force 5 wind blowing her into the corner. His misjudgement was not understanding that Kurukulla does not have a bow thruster, mine was accepting the berth! It was to be a one shot attempt to get her in, no second chance would be available. In the event I probably should have gone in faster but entering a blind berth, with no where to go, at speed, is a brave man's game. My compromise resulted on a lot of heaving and hauling, by all concerned, but we got in, inelegantly, and without doing any damage to anything other than my pride. Now it was back to the mast problem! George and Nigel were despatched to go and do the Knossos thing whilst Christoph and I stayed to sort out the mast (we had both seen it before, if some years ago).
My first trip up the mast confirmed, my diagnosis that the main halyard pulley had come free, and
Iraklion port across the marina in the Venetian Harbour
Christoph's judgement that winding me up the mast was going to be a challenging process! The pulley spindle, common to both halyard and topping lift pulleys, was held in place by two flimsy stainless steel plates (not a clever design) and one had detached allowing the spindle to move sideways and the halyard pulley to escape. I came down armed with the topping lift pulley to use as a pattern, the offending spindle and failed “keep plate”. The next challenge was to find a new pulley. A trip to the local yacht chandler was unsuccessful other than obtaining the name of a local craftsman who could potentially make one.
A one mile walk later and into the port area via gate 3 and we found Manolis Dimitrolioi (+30 2810 289 765) in his workshop; an absolutely charming artisan who, despite our lack of a common language, did everything he could to help. By 1900 that night he had made a new pulley, out of PTFE that he held in stock, and it was ready to fit next morning. That night we did a walking tour of Iraklion before having supper in one of the waterfront fish restaurants to celebrate our success.
Some of Irakleon's amazing architecture
It was not to be that easy! When I collected the pulley Manolis explained to me that it was 0.5 mm wider than the original but as both he and I were sure that the tolerances were not that tight I was not worried. We were wrong; as I found out on reaching the top of the mast next day. There was no choice but to return to Manolis's workshop and get him to reduce it to the exact dimension. This I did, accompanied by slight mutterings from the crew about having to wind me up the mast for a third time! Whilst walking back to Manolis's workshop I also contemplated, again, the securing arrangement for the pulley spindle at the top of the mast. I decided to avoid the need to re-rivet the rather under-designed keep plate, to remove the other one, and go for a bolted solution that would last for the rest of my lifetime at least. As a consequence I needed to persuade Manolis to make me two spacers in addition to reducing the pulley.
Me doing mast repairs at Iraklion
He initially shrugged his shoulders and offered me a collection time of 1900 that night. Once I had produced the necessary material from his scrap stock he turned up the piece required, on his lathe, in 5 minutes and I was on my way. My attempt to pay him for this further work was robustly repudiated and any attempt by me to press the matter only resulted in a deep frown. His total bill for manufacturing the new arrangement €15! (Plus a further €2.50 for the new bolt and nylock nut from the chandler). An hour after my return to the boat we were ready to go to sea again.
Our initial plan had been to set sail for Rethimno that day, early, but with a robust westerly wind and too little time even to make Ormos Bali which was the next suitable recommended anchorage
The hamlet at Ormos Bali
(about half the distance), we decided to return to the western bay on Dia Island and set off early next day. This we did. A pleasant second evening was passed anchored under the church on the western end of the island and we finally set off westwards at 0800 next day. Our plan of heading straight to Rethimno was again thwarted by the westerly wind which, although it had moderated to F3-4, had left a lumpy swell for us to battle. After six and a half hours on the wind we decided it was time for a comfortable lunch and headed into the shelter of the bay at Ormos Bali and anchored just outside the small breakwater there. Indeed it was so comfortable that we stayed for the rest of the day and the overnight.
Lianos Cavos
Our slight delay had required a rethink of where George and Nigel would need to depart from. The original plan had been Khania, near the airport of the same name, but now it would have to be from Rethimno. Next day we set off westwards again in an almost flat calm. We motored, motor sailed and sailed as far as Lianos Cavos where, in an almost flat calm, we anchored off the caves for lunch and a swim into the caves.
Our first berth in the old Venetian Harbour at Rethimno
Both were excellent! Two hours motoring later we were in the harbour at Rethimno and decided to at least poke our nose into the old Venetian Harbour there, to see if there was space, before opting for the marina where berthing was bound to be available. To our surprise there was an empty berth just on the left as we entered. Five minutes later we were tucked in on the corner and George and Nigel had set off ashore to organise a hire car. Christoph set off on a photographic expedition around the old town and I tried unsuccessfully to find the supplier of diesel oil, as listed in the pilot. (I was later to find out that the reference is to the marina where they will direct you to the right garage). As part of my research I decided to
Rethinmo's treasures
ask the local Port Police if they knew from where fuel was available. Mistake! Almost before I had made my request I was being told by an over officious Port Policeman that there was no way I could stay in the old harbour, I “must move immediately to the marina” “the berth was needed tonight”,
Rethinmo's treasures
neither of which was true. I suspect there was a backhander somewhere between Marina operator and Port Police (Coastguard), there is almost no other explanation for his insistence! As it was I got my documents inspected and, once the crew returned, we left for the marina; a quarter mile away. We berthed there for the night and were never invited to pay. I didn't object and, after my experience with the Port Police, neither did I volunteer!
Entering Khania
The evening was passed doing a return trip (1 hour each way) to Khania airport to drop off Nigel and George, followed by a quick outing with 2x25 ltr jerry cans in the back of the car to get fuel for the boat, This was followed by a meal ashore and to round it all off, an ice cream in the old port area just to check whether our earlier berth was still empty; it was, as were many others.
The "Mosque" (museum) at Khania
The marina at Khania
Next morning we returned the hire car, watered ship, and set off at 1000 for Khania from where Christoph was due to depart next day. It was again light airs sailing and mixed with more than a bit of motoring towards the end. We arrived in Khania at 1730 and berthed just inside the marina without difficulty; there was even a holding off line available!

A quick trip to the bus station confirmed the availability of buses to the airport next morning and a recommendation from the local owner of the powerboat next door produced an excellent meal ashore at the “Hrysostomos”
Self at Khania
Taverna (near the Yacht Club at the end, and back from the waterfront), all accompanied by rather too much local wine and excessive quantities of free digestif (which might have accounted for my fuzzy head next day).
Christoph departed next morning, for UK, and I set off at 0900 for the western end of Crete.
Anchorage under the castle at Nisis Gramvousa
At the time I was undecided whether to go straight to Andikithera, an island half way to the Peloponnisos or head to Nisis Gramvousa a delightful anchorage at the very western tip of Crete. In the end, given that it was a downwind sail, I opted for Gramvousa. From the photograph you will appreciate why! The anchorage is in the shadow of the fort on the top of the island and is in a lagoon filled with crystal clear, blue, water. There are a couple of dwellings ashore and a few fishing boats but otherwise nothing. Paradise.
The wreck of the old coaster
Whilst there I was also able to snorkel around an old coaster (I suspect built circa 1920) which ran aground on the rocks in the bay. Her side is split open and her cargo of bagged cement is spilling onto the sea floor in perfect bag shaped blocks. She represents a sad end to what was once someone’s livelihood.
Departing NW Crete
From here, next morning, it was onwards; north-westwards to the island of Andikithera; a beam reach in a north easterly breeze. Ideal sailing conditions. As I approached the island the wind went round, as forecast, to the west meaning that the anchorage at Andikithera was likely to be ideal, as it subsequently proved to be. The holding there is not good, very little sand on an otherwise rocky bottom so conditions need to be right. As it is the only tenable anchorage on the island I had allowed enough time to reach the next island, Kithera, in daylight, if required; it wasn't!
The harbour at Andikithera
The anchorage at Andikithera was calm and well protected and so after a long swim, (after which I moved Kurukulla's anchorage to the centre of the harbour where the holding looked better) and supper I settled in for an early night. The following day I set sail at 0930 for Kithera, again on a close reach, this time with the wind in the west. Strengthening as the day passed. My departure was timed perfectly, and purely by chance! Just as I exited the anchorage the weekly ferry turned the corner and entered. My anchorage position was in the middle of his turning area. An hour more sleep and I would have had a very rude awakening!
By the time we arrived off the SE coast of Kithera we were doing over 7 knots, close reaching; flying along. This speed persuaded me to miss out Kapsali, with it's walled chora (the capital of the island) and head to Ayios Nikolaos a bay further up the east coast. I eventually anchored here at 1400, just in time for lunch! The beach was all but deserted; unsurprisingly, as the day was starting to cloud over. Notwithstanding the cloud the air was warm and I swam ashore for a walk and some exercise. Whilst on the beach I was invited to take tea with Dimitrios, a Greek guy who had been working on a conservation project in the island's capital for the past winter and who had decided to leave his rented house but to stay on the island and camp on the beach for the summer His plan was eventually to leave the island and return to Athens next autumn. By the time I left the beach at 1800 it cooling rapidly and 90% cloud cover, signs of things to come.
The bay at Ayios Nikolaos is about a mile or more long so you can imagine my delight when only the second other sailing vessel I had seen that day came and anchored within 40m of Kurukulla; I watched, helpless, from the beach; unable to suggest they anchor elsewhere. My delight was even greater when, on my return onboard, I discovered they apparently had air conditioning for which they needed to run their generator all night! It was even running when I got up at 0500 to check the anchor situation! Why some yachtsmen feel the need to anchor right on top of any other boat in the anchorage I cannot understand; especially when they are then going to then disturb the tranquillity for all others and retire below themselves. It just baffles me!
One mile of beach to choose from!
Fortunately they left early next morning, saving me giving them a piece of my mind; my having had to suffer the noise of the generator all night! (I did try to get my own back though, a bit, by playing some classical music loudly before retiring: I'm not sure they noticed!)
Next morning having already checked at 0500 that all was well I was woken by the anchor drag alarm at 0800 telling me that Kurukulla had changed position and swung round her anchor to the north. The neighbours had fortunately gone.
The wind had set in from the south-east; totally contrary to the forecast but that is not unusual in these parts; it was time to weigh anchor and go somewhere else. I motored out of the bay, set sail north in gusty conditions debating where to go next. In the end I chose to get as far north as possible without leaving the shelter of the east coast of the island as by this time the wind was gusting 30kts and was now from the west; it was gusting even more strongly when funnelling down some of the valleys.
The second in two days! Navigation matters!
In the process I passed a larger and more recent shipwreck, aground on the islet of Vrac Pheidonisi, near Dhiakofti (the new island ferry port). Dhiakofti, or more accurately Makronisos Island appeared to form a good harbour/anchorage, positioned as it is halfway up the east coast of the island, but I declined it's welcome.
Platia Ammos
At 1300 I anchored in the bay off the small hamlet of Platia Ammos, a delightful small bay with good holding and plenty of anchor dragging room to the east if needed in the gusty conditions.
Here I settled down for the rest of the day and a good decision it was as there has been torrential rain ever since. Hopefully it will clear by tomorrow!
The rain at Platia Ammos!
Whichever, it has given me time to catch up on the blog! This will be posted when I can get a suitable connection, more when I get into the Gulf of Lakonika in the Peloponnese.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Windy weather

Descending to Vroukounda
Tombs at Vroukounda
The day after Mike and Steve's arrival was spent touring northern Karpathos island in a hire car, taking in Vroukounda and its associated tombs and the village of Avlona, which must be one of the remotest places in Greece; the return leg took us to Olympus. All this was a very enjoyable way of passing the time before the arrival of Christoph, our next crew member.
On the following day the forecast was for a north westerly wind and so we decided to make life easier by moving Kurukulla round to the main port of the island, Pighadia, where a “new” yacht harbour has been financed by the EU. After sailing out of Finiki, under genoa alone, we had a fast sail down to the southern tip of the island followed by a fairly gentle reach to the headland before Pighadia. As we rounded the headland it was a very rapid pair of reefs in the mainsail and a much reduced genoa. Having reached into the bay for shelter we dropped all sails and then motored into the yacht harbour. Mike was there to greet us, having driven round the coast from Finiki, monitoring our progress as he went.
The "new" yacht harbour at Pighadia
The “new” yacht harbour proved to be somewhat of a disappointment. The available space had mostly been occupied by local small boat owners, all of whom had laid their own moorings leaving lines and floats all over the place, each of which represented a risk of getting a line round our propeller. After some careful manoeuvring, and assistance from Mike on shore, we were in. Only to find that the water and power facilities had all been either vandalised or died of neglect! Why do the EU bother! Wasted money which totally fails to achieve the objective of bringing in tourists to boost the local economy. They might as well have thrown the money in the harbour! I found out later that even the majority of local boat owners had vacated the place when they were asked to pay for their berths there, they just left all their rubbish and lines behind when moving back to the original inner harbour.

We were to spend the next two days here due to strong NW winds. Manoeuvring to exit the harbour in these conditions was going to be too tricky and, given the uninviting conditions outside, not a prospect we relished! Ultimately we were able to victual the yacht ready for escape and then made our escape, during a lull, on the evening of Thursday the 8th of May. Our target was to anchor in the bay that night and then set off mid morning next day. A slight hiccough with gas supplies, like we ran out (the full bottle left over from last year proved to be not so full after all!), meant a quick dash back into the harbour to replenish before setting off south. In the event this delay probably did us a favour as by the time we were half way down the east coast of the island the wind had increased to almost gale force and the seas were building rapidly. We decided to run for cover and, after a very wet and testing hour, we anchored in a bay just 200m south of the runway flight path for the airport. Good news for Mike who is our resident plane spotter!
Next morning we sailed off the anchor, rounded the southern tip of Karpathos and headed for our original destination of Ormos Khelatronas, on the southern tip of the adjacent island Nisos Kasos.
Anchorage at Ormos Khelatronas, southern tip of Nisos Kasos

On arrival we discovered another yacht that had departed Pighadia at the same time as ourselves. His tales of his crossing were enough to convince us that we had made the right decision! Ormos Khelatronas is a beautiful bay, with a sandy beach at the head and well protected; hence, we spent a pleasant evening there and planned to set sail reasonably early next morning. In the event we sailed off the anchor and out of the bay at about 0830 next morning (the other boat had departed at 0700, obviously an early riser!) to make the crossing over to Crete. Our destination was one of the anchorages on the very NE corner of the island. By good fortune this was a brisk crossing, all on starboard tack, and we arrived in the anchorage at Ornos Dhaskalia in time for lunch and a swim. A delightful anchorage, all to ourselves; that is unless you count the two military personnel who turned up to throw us out, apparently we were inside a “Military Area” despite the Rod Heikell pilot stating that we were not.
The second anchorage bay at Dhaskalia
We assured them we would leave once lunch was finished and that seemed to pacify them in the short term; in the event we were just sailing out when they arrived to repeat their warning. We moved half a mile to the next bay south where we anchored without interruption or harassment. After supper in the cockpit, for the first time this year; a peaceful night, and an early morning swim (bracing); we set off for the short sail round to the port of Sitia, on the opposite (W) side of the peninsula.
Alongside in Sitia
Departing Sitia
Anchorage at Dragonada, under St Anthony's church
Anchorage at Dragonada
Inside St Anthony's church
The sound
Sitia is far from picturesque but welcoming all the same. The harbour is well protected and with space galore. We even managed to go alongside, rather than the more usual Mediterranean moor, (anchor out and stern to the jetty). That night it was a trip to the local supermarket, to stock up; followed by dinner ashore in a local restaurant. Next morning I had to go to do battle with the local Port Police (they had called by whilst I was away at the supermarket) and pay the harbour dues after which we were free to go. Our plan was to head out to the Dionisades Islands and anchor there for the night. Anchorages here are not many and those that there are tight for space. After swinging round our anchor, in a small bay under the only building on the island (a church of course) we decided that there were two options, leave or tie back to the rocks. Half an hour later we were tied back and secure for the night. Christoph and I set off for a walking tour of the island of Dragonada whilst Steve and Mike stayed on board to keep a check on the boat. The island is small, one square mile in total, but with steep hills rising to the centre. Reaching the top and then descending again took us two hours. In the process we discovered another fishing boat anchored in the adjacent bay but not another living soul; that is until we got back to Kurukulla to discover two small motor boats sharing our anchorage. The owners had come over to the islands to go hare coursing with their dogs and have a BBQ that night, before departing next day. They explained to us that the refuge next to the church was available for public use, by anyone who came to the islands, and was their intended “home” for the night. In the event other friends of theirs arrived at 0300, in a motor cruiser; eliciting a cheer from the hunters on their arrival, and generating a saga on departure. Their attempt to depart at 0430 resulted in them getting a rope around their propeller from one of the hunters boats and fishing up our anchor cable with their anchor! You can imagine how impressed we were with being woken by the sound of their anchor grating up our anchor cable at 0430! After 30 minutes of pantomime we were free of their anchor and they motored off at high speed, taking the anchor of one of the motorboats with them. Oh how I enjoy power boat owners!
En route Spinalonga Lagoon
Venetian fort and Leper colony at the entrance to Spinalonga
We motored out of the anchorage at 1030 and headed westwards out of the sound (similar but very much smaller than Falkland Sound) heading for Spinalonga Lagoon. For the first hour we were sailing gently, or motor sailing, westwards; but then the white horses ahead became more defined. Yet again, within 30 minutes, we were double reefed on the main and heavily reefed on the genoa, struggling to hold course, in 35 – 40 knots of wind, (Force 7 – 8). The first time this year the foul weather gear and safety harnesses have been out of their stowage! Two hours later we arrived in the Spinalonga Lagoon, sailing past the Venetian fortress at the entrance, with its associated leper colony, and anchoring in one of the bays with a brief sigh of relief! Supper on deck was achieved in the quiet of the evening but as I write this I am sitting onboard, next day, at anchor, in the lagoon, listening to the wind howling through the rigging yet again! Tomorrow we move on to Ayios Nikolaos from where Steve and Mike depart and George and Nigel arrive.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Underway for 2014

Back in the water
The 2014 season started with a Monarch Airlines flight from Gatwick to Dalaman on the 15th of April, with the intention of getting Kurukulla in the water and underway by the 25th. Launch on the 21st went to plan but a series of defects, a double leak on a fresh water tank and a refrigerator problem, resulted in departure being delayed by a day. Nothing that could not be caught up! To help me get Kurukulla ready Dennis Giles, an Australian friend who lives and works in Holland, had volunteered to join on the day she was launched, and very grateful for his help I was too; especially when getting the port fresh water tank out to repair!
So it was that we cleared out of Turkey, at the Marmaris ferry terminal (where they have now built a small boat berthing facility for which they charge €20 for a 30 minute visit!) on the morning of 26 April.
Our intention was to spend one night anchored not very far from Marmaris, in Gerbekse about 10 miles along the coast, using this passage as a shake down sail, and then head for Rhodes and entry into Greece the next day. The weather was ideal and Gerbekse delightful, shared with only a local fisherman and one other yacht; very different to the crowds of boats in high season.
Panorama of Limni Panormittis
Next morning we set sail for Rhodes town; the passage started as a beam reach in ideal conditions; it was not to last! By the end of the first hour we were close hauled on port tack, and an hour later beating to windward in a brisk southerly wind. My patience ran out and I decided to enter Greece via Symi instead thus gaining the lost day on the programme and avoiding a cold and tedious beat to windward. A visit to Rhodes will have to wait! Two hours later we were anchored in Limni Panormittis, a beautiful anchorage at the southern end of Symi. Our plan was to spend the night there and then going on to Symi town, and the battle with bureaucracy, the following day. We motored in and anchored in a completely empty bay, overlooked by the monastery! On the last visit, in July 2013, it had been difficult to find a spot clear enough to anchor! By 1800 it was time for a G&T, “sundowners”, followed by supper thereafter.
Arriving Symi
Empty quays at Symi
The next morning we sailed off the anchor and set off for a brisk sail up the west coast of Symi, through the Nimos passage and across the bay to Symi town; always an enchanting place to visit. On arrival, with our “Q” quarantine flag flying, we were greeted by a charming female member of the Port Police who invited us to complete the formalities. Amazingly the process has been much simplified! The necessary forms are now passed to you, on arrival, whilst onboard; once completed it is a visit to Immigration Police, to present passports; followed by Customs (seems optional if you don't want Duty free, I didn't bother) and finally Port Police offices to pay for entry and have the boat's cruising permit stamped. Armed with €400 in cash to pay the newly introduced Greek Tax on boats cruising in their waters I set off to do battle (My neighbour in Marmaris had a letter from the Greek Embassy in Holland telling him he was exempt as an EU Flagged vessel but this seemed to contradict the draft law that I had seen). At the Port Police Offices I was greeted by another excellent ambassador for the Port Police Service and she explained that they had not yet had instructions on how or when to collect the new tax, despite the fact that it was approved in the Greek parliament and apparently became law on the 14th of April; the consequence, no tax was payable! Joy on joy! Not only this but they had removed the requirement for EU registered vessels to report to the Port Police once per month whilst in Greek waters and all that is now necessary is to report, and have the Boat Cruising Log stamped, on entry and departure or once per year if not departing Greece within 12 months. Putting my €400 back in my pocket, or €380 anyway, (I had to pay €20 for entry to Greece!) I set off back to the boat and late lunch in a taverna on the water front. Later that evening we were chatting to the Lithuanian owner of another waterfront taverna, where we had decided to take supper, and she was lamenting the lack of boats in the harbour. Normally bustling at this time of year it was all but empty. I explained to her the threat of the €400 tax and the deterrent effect this would have for boats visiting Greece for short periods, (For boats under 12m in length it is a graduated annual charge up to a maximum of €400, over 12m in length it is €10 per metre per month if paid monthly) and that this was probably the reason the port was empty. They had no idea the government had taxed their livelihood away!
Entering Marathouda
The next morning was spent organising internet access for the boat, care of Vodafone Greece, and “no” I could not have a contract with Vodafone, as I had had 3 years before, as I now needed a Greek tax number to be able to enter into a contract in Greece! I would have to have PAYG and pay double the rate! Not everything changes for the better! This done we set off for Marathouda, an anchorage on the SE side of Symi, from which we planned to depart for Alimia (an island on the NW side of Rhodes, 25 miles SW) the next day.
Marathouda is a small hamlet, maximum 6 dwellings, at the head of a small creek. On arrival we sailed in and were looking for a suitable place to drop the anchor whilst avoiding getting tangled up with the four fisherman's moorings and the one fishing boat already present. Unexpectedly we were hailed from the fishing boat and invited to use one of the moorings, very friendly! It was a quiet and pleasant night, including a quick (by necessity) swim and shower off the back end of the boat; the water was no warmer than Gerbekse!
Entering the bay at Ormos Alimia
The sail to Alimia was fantastic, a close fetch on Starboard tack, with Kurukulla averaging nearly 7 knots and all in brilliant sunshine. By 1500, and after a short beat up the channel between Rhodes and Alimia, we were anchored in the almost deserted southern corner of the bay at Ormos Alimia with only two fishing boats for company. The remainder of the afternoon and evening was spent relaxing with the occasional swim.
One of the deserted churches
Interior of the church
View across the bay at Ormos Alimia towards the entrance
Our plan for the next day was to sail the 5 miles south to Khalki and hence, with such a short distance to go, we were in no hurry to get underway. We first moved anchorage to the northern end of Ormos Alimia and swam ashore to tour the now deserted and ruined village. The only two buildings in even half decent repair are the two very small churches, both of which were still just about intact inside but full of the debris and building materials used for their maintenance! Imagine our shock when on wandering around the northern church we discovered a burning oil lamp in one of the windows! Spooky! Who fills it, who trims the wick? There are no inhabitants left on the island!
After a leisurely lunch onboard we sailed off the anchor and set off to Khalki. Given the slight swell and the wind direction we were unsure whether to moor up in the main bay at Khalki (AKA Emborious) or to go to the next bay south and anchor there. In the event, after a tour of the bay at Khalki, we chose Ormos Potamos, which is only a half mile to the south. Here we anchored in 5m of water, on pure sand, and inflated the dinghy for its first excursion of the year. We rowed ashore and enjoyed a pleasant walk across the isthmus dividing the bay from the town of Khalki. After a brief visit to the “supermarket” to buy some meat (which we had omitted to buy in Symi) we stopped for a single beer in a waterfront taverna, accompanied by some delicious complimentary smoked fish and squid, before taking in more of the scenery by walking a rather longer route back to the boat. We arrived back onboard at sunset and enjoyed a chicken supper, this being the only fresh meat the “supermarket” had to offer!
Panorama of the head of the bay at Tristoma
The entrance to Tristoma bay, taken looking back, on exit!
Next morning we again sailed off the anchor, beat out of the bay, and set course for the northern end of Karpathos, an anchorage called Tristoma. This was a 34 mile passage and was again a close fetch in brisk but pleasant conditions. In total the trip took 5 hours under a combination of No1 Genoa and Mainsail, both occasionally reefed when the wind got too boisterous. By 1615 we had negotiated the narrow and rather unnerving southerly entrance (the narrowest of three but the only one passable with our draft) and were safely anchored in a small bay on the north side at the head of the inlet. Fantastic holding ground; so good that, next morning, it was quite a task to extricate the anchor after a gusty night. Again our only company was a few local fishing boats. The village at the head of the inlet seems almost abandoned with most of the dwellings dismantled, only a few still show signs of occupation.
Stern too on Finiki jetty
Our task next morning was to reach Finiki, a small fishing port on the southern end of the west coast of Karpathos. It was from here that Dennis was due to leave to fly back to Holland, via Rhodes, next day and three more friends were due to join. We arrived in Finiki at 1315 after motoring and sailing intermittently down the west coast of Karpathos. On entering we were greeted from the jetty by Dimitrios who hailed us, showed us which part of the jetty was available to us and took our lines on arrival. He seems to be a form of self appointed Harbour Master! Having moored up he broke the news to us that there was a strong SE wind forecast and that the harbour would be untenable in such conditions! Great! There are not many options hereabouts! Sure enough, despite being in an enclosed bay, with only a mile or so of open water to the south, as the wind rose the harbour became more and more uncomfortable. After two hours we decided to give up. After extricating our anchor from one of the mooring anchors on which it had fouled, (Dimitrios had said nothing of these but we later found out there are many! It was one of his we lifted!) we went out and anchored close inshore, off the local beach, where the wind was blowing offshore and the sea flat. Here we sat out the overnight gale with me having a sleepless night; not so much because of the conditions but wondering how the hell I was to get Dennis ashore the next day to catch his 1400 flight! If the winds did not abate there was no simple or safe option! Re entering the harbour in those conditions and then coming back out single handed was not without risks and putting him ashore in the dinghy in those conditions was equally risky! Fortunately, despite recording winds of 45kts (Force 9) overnight, by 0800 the winds had abated and we re-entered the harbour and moored up again. This time Dimitrios offered us his nephew's mooring/holding off lines to avoid another saga with the anchors!
Dennis on Finiki waterfront
After an early lunch, the arriving friends, Mike and Steve (who had arrived by air the previous night) gave Dennis a lift to the airport in their hire car and he was safely on his way. They then joined a day later after spending a couple of nights in a local hotel. We now have only to wait for Christoph Herren, the fourth member of the crew, to arrive in two days time and we will be off again, to the south west, towards Crete.
More when we sail.....