Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Monday, 23 November 2015

Mykonos to Marmaris

Mykonos to Astypalaia
From Mykonos we headed southward through the Paros / Naxos channel assisted by a northerly wind which subsided the further south we progressed. As a result of the diminishing wind we decided to anchor for the night in the small bay at the western end of Ornos Kouroupa. This bay is on the SW coast of Naxos, in the shadow of someone's failed dream; an enormous, half built, hotel development collapsing due to advanced concrete cancer. The bay is small but beautiful with a golden sandy beach and only one occupied villa. There are some small boat moorings in the west of the bay but still plenty of room nearby to anchor on perfect sand; good holding.
Anchored in Ormos Kouroupa, Naxos
The following morning we awoke to a forecast of strong southerly winds, due within 24 hours. As a consequence we decided to make a run for Amorgos and anchor in the bay between the main island and Nisos Nikouria; a smaller island close off the north west coast where protection from the southerlies would be found. A lunchtime stop in Ornos Livadhi on Nisos Iraklia, allowed us time to climb the hill between the beach and the deserted chora (capital of the island), abandoned after WWII when the population decided not to return. By 1500 it was time to depart and by this stage in the day the clouds were gathering and rain threatening. We managed to reach the narrow channel between Nisos Dhrima and Nisos Andikaros, and to make the passage between the islands, before the rain hit us. From here on, for the next two hours, it was dodging the rain clouds; not always effectively and we were forced into donning full foul weather gear for the first time this autumn!
View from the old Chora, Ornos Livadhi, Iraklia
By 1930, just after the sun had set, we were entering our chosen anchorage at Ornos Kalotiri where we initially we anchored on the north western side, off the coast of Nisos Nikouria; however, by 2200 the wind was of such force that the anchor started dragging and we decided to move to the south eastern side of the anchorage, on main island shore, and anchor off the beach at Ay Pavios; an interesting manoeuvre, in total darkness and onto a beach where I had not anchored before. To make matters more complicated we also found ourselves doing a ballet with another yacht trying to anchor in the same place.
Sunset at Ornos Kalotiri, Amorgos
At the fourth attempt, anchoring very close to the beach and in less than 5m depth, we managed to find a patch of good sand and get the anchor to hold. Just as well, we were to stay here for 36 hours, with the wind whistling overhead, before the gods would allow us to depart. Eventually, on the second morning, the wind had abated sufficiently for us to brave the elements and head into the bay at Katapola, the island capital, and berth stern to on the town jetty. Here we were greeted with a free bottle (well 25cl bottle) of local liqueur from the “local produce” tourist shop and the offer of water and power for the duration of our stay. All very efficient and welcoming.
Katapola, Amorgos
Our plan was to have lunch on the waterfront and then catch the bus to the famous and spectacular monastery on the south coast. Initially we took ourselves off on a walk into the hills behind Katapola ending up descending directly into the town and just in time for lunch. After a cheap and cheerful “gyros” (Kebab) we set off to the bus stop. After a 20 minute wait for a bus that didn't come we telephoned the bus company only to find out that the buses stopped at the end of September, there was no service! Not to be beaten we hired a car for €20 and headed off on a tour of the island. In our research we had also discovered that the monastery was only open in the afternoons from 1700 to 1900, hence we decided to go on a very enjoyable tour,
Windmills above the Chora, Amorgos
including the chora and the south of the island, before returning to the monastery for a visit; spectacular does not describe it. The monastery clings to the cliffs, hundreds of metres up, under a perilous overhang and is home to just three monks. For the visit we had to don long trousers and long sleeved shirts but it was worth it. Small though it is, it is unique and quite amazing.
Monastery of Hozoviotissa, Amorgos
At the end of our tour we were invited to take a seat around a rectangular table which was in a small side room and a few minutes later one of the monks appeared with six glasses, three full of water and the other three containing a generous measure of the liqueur that they produce in the monastery; so very welcoming. I am not sure whether we were give special treatment due to Yorgos being a native Greek or whether all visitors are treated so generously. Whichever it was much enjoyed.
From here we retired to the Chora for a delicious meal in a very local taverna and, after returning the hire car, adjourned back to Kurukulla for the night. The next morning, after getting fresh bread and a few other victuals, we set off for Santorini. The promised northerly wind was blowing a steady 15 knots and we made excellent progress passing through between Amorgos and it off-lying islands at its SW tip and then … ; yes you have guessed, after the first two hours the wind started to lighten and we found ourselves going dead downwind in light airs!
Ormos Tris Klises, Ios
Rather than drift downwind at 2 – 3 knots we decided to turn onto a beam reach and head for the southern end of Ios, towards which we could make considerably better speed; thus it was we settled on Ormos Tris Klises on the SE corner of Ios as our overnight anchorage. On arrival we found three fishing boats anchored in the bay but within two hours they had departed for their nights work and we had the bay to ourselves. A delightful anchorage with good holding on sand.
Next morning we sailed off the anchor, out of the bay and again headed south to Santorini; this time it was to be a downwind sail but with enough wind to keep us making good progress all the way. In fact by 1400 we were on a buoy, inside the lagoon at Santorini, having been fortunate enough to find a vacant private mooring off the shoreline of the smaller island of Thirasia.
Finikia on Santorini
We were later informed that these two moorings are owned by the “Trips round the bay” sailing catamarans and are only used between mid day and 1800. Outside these times they are happy for them to be used by other vessels. We decided to stay on the mooring overnight and then to adjourn to the marina at Vlikadha, on the south coast, in order to leave Kurukulla in a place of safety whilst we visited Skala Thira, the main town of Santorini. The marina is an interesting place, it is now re-designated a “fishing haven” and used as an overnight berth by all the “trip round the bay” catamarans and a selection of fishing boats; however, because there is such poor utilisation of space and no pontoons, there is very little room available to visiting yachts.
The channel between Palaia Kammeni (L) & Nea Kammeni (R)
Although built as a marina for visiting craft it has been claimed as home territory by the large, unwieldy, catamarans and they are not particularly helpful when it comes to making space available. Access is also not helped by the fact that the harbour is very shallow, ranging from 3m max to less than 2m in places.
Vlikadha Marina (Fishing Refuge)
Much care is needed not to go aground.That said we managed to get into a tight but sheltered berth at the inner end of the outer harbour. Not too bad and with berthing, water and power available for a minimal charge we could not complain! We made our dash for town early the next morning, catching the 0700 bus which was due to arrive at Skala at 0730 according to the timetable. In fact, after taking us on a magical mystery tour of the southern part of the island, we finally arrived in Thira at 0815; Yorgos explained that the timetable was irrelevant as the bus was used to pick up all the school children from the outlying areas and due to this detour it was much later arriving on school days; the timetable gave no hint of this!
Sunset at Anafi
After coffee and a walk along the cliff tops we adjourned to a local supermarket to get all our victuals for the coming days and then took a taxi back to the boat, much easier... Buy 1130 we were under-way, under full sail and heading for the small island of Anafi where we planned to anchor for the night. Anafi has a very small population but some stunning beaches along the south coast. After a short reconnaissance we settled on an anchorage just off the longest beach on the south coast; it was totally open to the south but with north winds blowing, and forecast to continue, anchoring here was not a problem.
Yorgos doing acrobatics....
We were securely anchored an hour before sunset, passed a very pleasant night here and were away by 1030 the next day enjoying an exhilarating reach to Astipalaia. Once clear of the lee of Anafi were forced to take in a reef but even so we were averaging over 7 kts for the first two hours and eventually covered the 33 miles in 5 hours.
I have been to Astipalaia a few times before and so it was a real pleasure to return to this picturesque and unspoilt island. Our time here was to be limited and so we opted for the anchorage to the west of the main town of Scala for the first night, moving into the port early the next morning to visit the town and the castle.
Scala, Asti Palaia
The castle has been extensively restored but still carries considerable charm. After a short shopping trip and an excellent lunch ashore, in a taverna right on the northern end of the harbour beach, we set off for a brief passage across to the anchorage at Ag Ioannis which we anticipated might be deserted; this was not to be; we arrived to find two other yachts anchored in the inlet but there was still enough room for us. The only problem with this anchorage is that the bottom is mostly hard sand and it is not easy to get the anchor to penetrate, It took us three attempts but eventually we were satisfied that we were secure for the night. After a brief wander ashore around the deserted buildings (once a farm) we settled for the night and prepared for a relatively early start in the morning.
AstyPalaia to Mykonos
Our next destination was the volcanic island of Nisiros.
We set off on the 35 mile passage to Nisiros at 0600 in reasonably brisk northerly winds and were earlier than anticipated reaching the islands. As a consequence we decided to anchor in the bay on the eastern side of Pergoussa, a small island 3 miles short of Nisiros, and enjoy a leisurely lunch. The leisurely lunch led into a relaxing and windless afternoon and that turned into a night at anchor in the bay!
Inside the crater of the vulcano, Nisiros
Next morning there was just enough wind to sail off the anchor but within half an hour that had subsided to nothing. “Hoist the iron foresail!”. We motored for the next 45 minutes towards Pali, the best yacht harbour in Nisiros. Just as we approached the wind started to get up but too late, we had resigned ourselves to motoring in and berthed on the southern side of the harbour in front of the tavernas. Our main aim was to go and see the crater of the still (just) active volcano but unbeknown to us the bus service does not run this late in the year! Only one thing for it …. a hire car. Ten minutes later and €30 poorer we set off on a tour of the island. In fact hiring the car was the best decision that we made as it allowed us to tour all the easily passable roads on the island (for the rest you need 4WD).
Looking down on the crater of the vulcano, Nisiros
The crater is impressive but so are some of the other sights on the island, deserted villages and great views. We ended the evening with a visit to Mandraki, the capital of the island, and then returned the hire car before retiring for the night.
The forecast for the next day was for thunderstorms with mostly northerly winds, gusts in the thunderstorms but nothing excessive. They were wrong!
Pali harbour, Nisiros at dusk
For the first half of the passage to Symi the winds were westerly and relatively light; we steered courses to avoid the worst of the dark clouds lingering over Turkey but eventually our luck in avoiding these ran out. For the next 45 minutes were hurtled blind into torrential rain, so strong that you could only just make out the bow from the wheel and 45 to 50 knot winds; fortunately for us these were on the beam as we headed east. We had taken the precaution of double reefing and rolling five rolls in the genoa before it hit but it was still fairly hairy! I sent the two crew down below and stayed at the wheel sheltering my eyes with my hand so that I could see the compass and glancing occasionally in the direction of the bow but unable to see anything. When in Symi harbour, two days later, we were shown video film of the devastation caused by the same storm as it passed over Symi; the main street leading down into the town was like a river with cars being washed into the harbour. Devastating! After weathering the storm we headed for the anchorage at Panormos for the night.
The monastery at Panormitis, Symi
Storms were still circulating and this seemed the best sheltered anchorage available. Despite a thunder and lightning show, going on for most of the night, the winds remained moderate and we passed a settled night at anchor. Next morning we moved alongside the jetty, in front of the monastery, and made a quick tour of the same before motoring out of the anchorage and setting sail for the town of Symi. We chose to go west-about and after anchoring for lunch we sailed eastwards through the narrow gap between Nisos Nimos and Nisos Symi. As luck would have it the beam reach we enjoyed as we entered the gap turned into a beat to windward to escape the far end. Seven tacks later we were through, good practice for the crew but slightly nerve racking for the skipper, the channel is little more than three boats lengths wide at its narrowest so a passage upwind through the gap is not simple.
Stern to at Symi
Three quarters of an hour later we were moored on the north side of Symi harbour, between a large power boat and a Turkish gullet. It was possibly the most sheltered spot in the harbour and this was lucky for us as there was quite a nasty send running up and down the harbour. Fortunately it moderated as the night progressed. Next morning it was time to do battle with the authorities again, this time to leave Greece. After visits to Port police, Immigration Police, Customs and finally Port police again we were free to leave. Now was time to say goodbye to Yorgos, our Greek crew member, who was returning home by ferry to Paros (via Pireaus – there is no direct ferry to Paros or it adjacent islands) and for Christoph and I to sail across to Bozburun and do battle with the Turkish authorities to enter Turkey.
Departing Symi heading for Bozburun
After a night anchored outside the harbour we entered Bozburun next morning, engaged an agent and let him get on with it. Turkish Cruising Permits are almost exclusively available through agents hence they have a virtual monopoly on the process of entry and charge between €75 and €100 for the privilege. By 1130 we were free to go and set off in a brisk SW breeze to beat out of the bay at Bozburun, out into the Rhodes Straits and head NE towards Marmaris with the intention of anchoring in one of the bays en route for the night, depending on progress. By 1530 we had decided to head into Gerbekse for the night as the wind was very light and we were only making 1 – 2 knots. Start the engine …. nothing … not even a whisper. It was either the starter motor or an electrical fault. Given that the starter motor is in the most inaccessible place possible and fault finding on the electrics in the failing light was going to be a nightmare I opted to keep sailing and head direct to Marmaris. Suffice to say we arrived 10 hours later having covered the final 12 miles at an average speed of 1.2kts. There was no wind and just to make life more interesting, at 0100, just as we were entering the narrowest part of the channel heading into the bay of Marmaris, a Thompson cruise ship decided to depart the bay. It all adds to the fun...
The lift out, 2015
A t 0330, after anchoring just to the east of Marmaris Yacht Marina, we turned in for what was left of the night. Next morning I turned to with a multi meter and discovered that the wire from ignition switch to starter relay was broken somewhere in the “new” wiring loom of the engine fitted last year! A quick temporary bypass of this wire and we had a running engine again. We ran it for just long enough to get us alongside in the ship lift berth and to warm up the engine enough for its end of season oil change.
That was the end of the 2015 season; all that remained now was to pack away all the sails and sailing gear, deep clean her, put on Kurukulla's winter cover and then head home to UK. This will be Kurukulla's last winter in Turkey. Next year the plan is to head west and winter in France.
More in 2016...............

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Porto Rafti to Mykonos

Porto Rafti to Mykonos
With Ale, Ray and Dimitri safely embarked and a major re-victualling exercise completed at Carrefour we moved and spent the night in the anchorage to the south of the promontory in Porto Rafti bay; the move was in order to avoid a rather uncomfortable swell that had built up from the NE during the day. The following morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then got under-way to Ornos Kavia in Kea. The original plan had been to stay further north and head for Ormos Kastri on the SE corner of Evia, as a precaution against the onset of the Meltemi, this was abandoned due to the brisk ENE wind that we were faced with. The choice was a 20 odd mile beat to windward in 20kts or a beam reach to Kea. No contest, Kea here we come.
Departing Ormos Kavia, Kea
Three hours and 22 miles later we were safely anchored in Ornos Kavia, enjoying a late lunch and the sunshine. Ornos Kavia is a popular beach with some very tasteful developments interspersed with numerous windmills. They are even in the process of demolishing some of the redundant concrete structures left over from the failed building boom. The anchorage was indeed so good that we decided to stay an extra 24 hours and avoid a bout of strong northerly wind forecast to be passing through next day!
After our extended sojourn in Kea we sailed off the anchor in the early morning of Thursday, round the southern tip of Kea, and headed for Ornos Kolona in Kithnos;
Ornos Kolona, Kithnos
chosen because of the hot springs on the beach in the northern bay. The initially the intention was to make this a lunch stop but so taken were the team with the bay that we decided to stay overnight and set off early next day for Siros. The net result was an evening spent toasting the sunset, with G&T, on the top of the hill behind the bay. This venue has great views and is amongst a collection of enormous cairns (goodness knows who built them); all of this was followed by a late evening soak in the hot spring.
By 0830 next morning we were motoring out of the bay in a flat calm, hoping to find wind as we rounded the northern tip of Kithnos; it was not to be! The wind wistfully came and went throughout the morning but was never strong enough to shut down the engine for more than 15 minutes at a time.
Sunset at Ornos Delfino, Siros
By 1430 we were anchored in Ornos Delfino, on Siros, and swimming ashore for a drink and ice-cream from the beach taverna. Later that afternoon the team walked the 1.5 km to Kini, the next, more populated, bay to the south where they were able to procure some provisions. In anticipation of a spectacular sunset we all collected at 1930 on Kurukulla's foredeck, G&T in hand; we were not disappointed: it was the most spectacular sunset I have seen for many years. The sky was an amazing flame red! Well worth waiting for.
By close of play next day, Saturday, we had to be in Mykonos for Dimitri's departure on the following morning. As a consequence it was yet another early start but not wasted. We motored to the northern tip of Siros and then set full sail for a brisk reach under No2 Genoa and full main (later reefed) to the north of Rhinia and then round onto the south coast of Mykonos heading for my favourite anchorage at Elia Beach.
The "Shirley Valentine" beach at Elia
This was the best sail of the season so far touching 9.5kts at stages and averaging over 8. By 1500 we were anchored off the beach and having lunch prior to swimming ashore. It was with regret that at 1730 we had to leave the anchorage and head for Mykonos Marina to allow Dimitri to catch his ferry next day.
After a wet and windy motor to windward up the west side of Mykonos we finally berthed in the marina at just after sunset. The good news is that some investment has been made in the marina and power/water terminals have now been installed. There are still no holding off ropes though although I am told by Nikos (the Marina “Manager”) that further work is planned this coming winter! After a hot shower at the cafe opposite the marina (€5 per head) it was off into Mykonos town for a splendid dinner at “Funky Kitchen” and to renew acquaintances with the Piano Bar, Porta Porta and several other bars.
Ormos Langeri in the bay at Naousa, Paros
Sunday morning was not a great experience, all were suffering from a moderate hangover, but after a large and leisurely breakfast at Matthews Taverna we said goodbye to Dimitri who headed for his ferry and the rest of us prepared to head back to Elia in the mid afternoon. Here anchored off Elia Beach Kurukulla was destined to stay for six days due to strong northerly winds. The Meltemi had definitely set in! As a consequence we arranged for the water sports boat from Agrari Beach to collect Ray and Ale and transfer them ashore in time for them to catch a taxi to the airport on Wednesday morning. It was orders of magnitude easier than flogging back round to Mykonos Marina in the conditions prevailing. I was now single handed again for the first time in several weeks.
What a forecast!
Having sheltered from the Meltemi in Elia bay for four days the forecast at last changed and offered a chance to head south before the forecast southerly winds set in. Naousa in Paros was the ideal destination given that it provided good shelter from southerly winds and the forecast was somewhat extreme, see the adjacent screen shot, northerly winds gusting to 106mph! This had to be an error but how much of an error was the question! All other indicators were for winds from the southern sector of light to moderate strength. The passage to Paros was tedious, I had delayed too long and the southerlies had already set in by the time I left Elia, mid morning Sunday. It was to be a motor in light, contrary, winds all the way. The only advantage was the new batteries got their first full charge for several weeks!
Sunset at Ormos Langeri, Paros
Once in the bay at Naousa I headed for the eastern side of the bay where there is a sheltered anchorage for the forecast southerly winds. It is a beautiful sandy beach with the added advantage of being one of the clothes optional beaches in Paros! After 36 hours anchored here I moved across to the town and took the last vacant place in the marina; it was well inside and therefore sheltered but a challenge to get in to at any time, let alone single handed. Fortunately all went well; the marina “manager”, having realised I was alone onboard came to take my lines and offer up the “holding off” line which was available. The marina is now a private marina and charges €30 a day for Kurukulla (12m), last year it was free and the year before it was being run by the municipality so something is changing, as with Mykonos.
Anchored at Rinia, Northern bay
With full tanks of fuel and water, fully victualled and the bar restocked, and the new crew of Simon and Yorgos onboard we sailed back to the anchorage for a final night and a relatively early departure back north, saling downwind initially to Rhinia North bay via the Delos Channel and then, two nights later, to Mykonos to collect Jason another crew member flying out from UK. After one night off Mykonos; during which we got up at 0400 to see the eclipse of the moon (only to discover it was 100% cloud cover) we set off on a fast sail, using the Meltemi, down to Ormos Dhendro in Dhenoussa for a night in the bay there; we were expecting to be the only boat there. To our surprise there were four boats anchored in the bay already. Fortunately they had left us a space near the beach and we sailed through the anchored boats, onto the anchor, just as the sun was setting. This was followed next day by a morning swimming and lunch ashore in the taverna before departure.
Lunch in the beach taverna, Ornos Dhendro, Dhenoussa
After lunch it was a sail off the anchor and a very fast and bumpy reach across to the south coast of Naxos where we put in for the night in Ornos Panormou, a beautiful and quiet cove on the SE corner of of the island. Panormou is an anchorage which is well protected from the Meltemi; however, the wind still howled overhead most of the night.
The following day we decided to see what our options were for making ground north after rounding Ak Giatani, the southerly tip of Naxos. As we approached on a relatively gentle beam reach it was obvious that a significant challenge awaited us if we wanted to go to windward! We opted for the less demanding option of reaching across to the south coast of Paros and even this was a challenging ride, especially for Yorgos who had not been out in such conditions before.
Entering Ornos Panormou, Naxos S coast
We initially put into Aliki which is a relatively wide, sandy bottom, bay on the south west of Paros, sited at the end of Paros airport runway! After three hours of gale force gusts we decided to retrace our steps by 2 miles and return to Ornos Faranga which is a smaller but better sheltered option. Here we landed Yorgos to return to his home on the island and spent the night hoping that the wind might abate by the morning, as forecast. Our hopes were raised by the anchor alarm going off three times during the night as light winds pushed us north towards the beach (we had set it to be sure that we did not swing too close to the beach; expecting the north wind to hold us off the beach all night. We were wrong!).
Notwithstanding the variable winds of the night, when we awoke, as a result of the alarm clock going off at 0600, the winds looked light if not favourable. It was not to be, by 0630 we were motoring across the Paros – Andiparos gap with 30kt winds from the north. By the time we rounded the island of Dhespotico, the first point at which we could turn north towards Paros (Parikia) town the winds were 35kts gusting 40kts and the seas up to 4m high.It was an extremely lumpy, uncomfortable, passage and I am ashamed to say I decided we should motor all the way; we probably stayed drier and warmer this way, but it did nothing for my sailing pride! The batteries were grateful for the charge is all I can say in my defence! We arrived at 1430, anchored for a swim in the outer bay of the inlet, and settled to a lunch of hot, home-made, soup; not quite the normal diet when sailing in the Mediterranean but very gratefully received.
At 1800, after researching the non availability of a berth in the “marina” at Paros (it was crowded and already in two layers out from the jetty), we decided the better option was a night at anchor in the bay. Next morning it was time for Jason and Simon to make their escape; Jason back to UK via a ferry to Mykonos and flight from there; Simon by ferry back to his home in Athens. I accompanied them ashore with the dinghy, for a crew breakfast, we said our goodbyes and I set off for the local Carrefour to re-victual; I was potentially back to single handing again for a while!
Anchored in Rhinia, South Bay
In the event I delayed two days in the anchorage at Paros, to allow the wind and seas to subside, before heading back north to Rhinia and then Mykonos again to collect Christoph, the last joining crew of the season. 24 hours into this pause I had an SMS request from Yorgos telling me he had cancelled a planned trip to Bologna (Italy) and asking if he might join again for the last of the passage until we departed Greece; single handing was not to be!
From Paros we headed northwards, on the wind, to South Bay in Rhinia for one night at anchor. On arrival we found both arms of the bay occupied and chose to head into the eastern arm which seemed to offer more shelter. We ghosted past the anchored charter yacht (with German crew) and dropped anchor in the narrow entrance to the bay 60m ahead of them. Plenty of room to swing but they were unimpressed that we had squeezed in between them and the shallows of the bay itself. We received a hard stare for our trouble but following an uneventful night they were sociable enough as we left next day. That afternoon we sailed off the anchor, out of South Bay, and tacked up through the narrow Delos Channel (I never could resist a challenge!) followed by a close fetch across to Ormos Tourlos where we anchored in the bay just north of the Mykonos New Port. Next morning, after a leisurely start we headed to the southern end of the New Port and berthed in the marina for the last time this year. An hour later we had hired a car and were heading to airport to collect Christoph, visit the best supermarket on the island, and have lunch in Ano Mera which is the second largest town on the island. That night we visited the favourite spots in town and then, nursing our hangovers, set off next morning for a passage taking us south and then east, heading slowly back to our winter quarters in Marmaris.
More as we return to Turkish waters............

Monday, 14 September 2015

Sporades to Porto Rafti via the Gulf of Evia and Khalkis.

My prediction of a disturbed night was well founded. At about 0400 there was a wind shift to the east which brought the British registered sailing super-yacht into contact with a motor yacht which was well within his swinging circle. By judicious use of twin screws and powerful bow thrusters the managed to extricate himself from the restricted space he had chosen and proceeded to back up into the ferry turning area and anchor there. The net result of this was 5 short blasts (meaning “get out of my way!”) from the ferry that arrived an hour later. At this point common sense prevailed and they departed! I would not have wanted to be the “professional skipper” who brought about this debacle; his days in command may be numbered! In the meantime a French yacht had also departed the anchorage freeing up a much more appropriate space for the Spanish super yacht and they had wisely and silently moved into it, placing me well outside their swinging area. Deep sleep at last, with the exception that Mike was arriving at 0630 and needed to be plucked off the jetty using the dinghy; ah well, there is always tomorrow night...
Banana II, but not as I remember it.
That morning, leaving Mike to sleep off his overnight flight I set of into town to get victuals etc. Skiathos is not an ideal town for re-victualling; almost every shop sells tourist tat of one sort or another. Food shops are very few and far between and after the torrential downpour of the night before the streets were crowded with tourists, seeking somewhere to go in the continuing rain, and still awash with water and detritus from the drainage gulleys. An hour in town was long enough and with all the necessary victuals acquired I woke Michael and we set off for Banana II beach which looked as though it would be a sheltered anchorage in the prevailing NE wind. By 1430 we were anchored and enjoying the sunshine. There we stayed overnight and for the next 24 hours.
The following day we met up with three Italian speakers on the beach, and not being one to miss an opportunity to practise my Italian we invited them to join us for a circumnavigation of Skiathos the next day. Two of the guys, Luca and Marco were from Venice and the third, Filippo, was part Italian, part Greek which was to prove very useful later. Next morning we set off at 1100, using a northerly breeze, for a very enjoyable sail round the island. By 1630 we were anchored back at Banana II having covered 27 miles in total. Not everyone was pleased to see us! A lady (I call her that out of politeness only) soon swam out to complain that at 75m we were anchored too close to the beach. If we didn't “go away” she would call the Port Police (AKA Coastguard). No amount of Filippo's persuasion, in Greek, would succeed in making her be more reasonable. The Coastguard duly arrived and told us we were “breaking the law” by being so close to the beach. I questioned the origin of the law. One of the Coastguard officers replied “It is Greek law”, I was able to explain to him that it was not Greek Law but was in fact European Law adopted by Greece and because the law was so badly drafted it was unclear whether it applied at all in this case. It was intended to prevent power driven vessels operating near bathing beaches where they represent a severe risk to swimmers. Having undermined his confidence in his position he then became much more reasonable and, having inspected all my documents (in order to save face), we then agreed that, to keep the old woman quiet, we would move a further 50m off the beach. They departed, we moved and the old woman swam round the boat in circles for the next hour mouthing comments; it was not clear whether these referred to the ineffectiveness of the Coastguard (in her eyes) or our continued presence! Eventually she tired of it and departed.
Sunset at the anchorage at Nisos Pithou
In the course of the day Filippo had informed us that he was planning to depart for Athens in two days time and one option was via Volos. As Volos was on the agenda anyway we offered him a lift to Volos which quickly became all of us sailing across to Volos and then returning to Skiathos. With a northerly wind forecast for the next three days this was not going to be a problem, and so it was that the next morning we set off for Volos anchoring overnight at Nisos Pithou, a small uninhabited island just inside the Gulf of Volos.
Anchored in bay on west coast of Nisos Palaio Trikeri
The next day we said goodbye to Filippo, had a slightly questionable lunch on the waterfront (not a restaurant to be recommended), re-victualled, refuelled and re-watered the boat and then set off for the return leg to Skiathos stopping at an anchorage on Nisos Palaio Trikeri overnight.
Panormou, south bay, Skopelos
The next morning we exited the Gulf of Volos early and were on a brisk beam reach heading for Skiathos as the wind died and headed; in the end we decided that we would bypass Skiathos and head for Skopelos instead. Our guests were very happy to stay on an extra couple of days and Mike was keen to see Skopelos as well. In the end we finished the day in the delightful surroundings of the south bay at Panormou. Next morning dawned fair and bright but with little wind and so we motored round to the east beach at Stafilos passing a good two hours swimming and enjoying the sun before motoring round to Skopelos town to replenish with water and food.
So taken were the team with Skopelos town that we decided to stay the night there and make an early passage back to Skiathos next day. As a consequence we enjoyed an excellent lunch on the waterfront and a somewhat less successful dinner in the restaurant high above the town behind the church on the quay.
Next morning it was away early to motor to the northern tip of Skopelos, a beam reach from there to the SE of Skiathos and then a close reach along the south coast to Koukounaries beach where we finally
Skopelos town quay
said goodbye to our guests; they were flying back to Venice next day! Mike and I settled down for an early night and an even earlier departure next morning; westwards towards the Stenon Trikeri, Orei Channel and then into the northern part of the Gulf of Evia. Our intention had been to anchor for the night near the Nisos Likhades, at the very northern end of the gulf, but as we had made such good time and the anchorage was not that great we continued on down to Kopolos Atlantis, 15 miles further south. Unexpectedly the island Nisos Atlantis did not offer a suitable sheltered anchorage and so with dusk approaching we motored at full speed the 4 miles east to Ormos Ay Ioannis Theologos,
The crew at Skopelos
which was much more sheltered even if less secluded.
From here it was an easy 20 mile sail to Khalkis and a phone call to the Port Police at Khalkis informed us that the bridge would open at 2320 that night. As a consequence we spent a quiet afternoon at anchor just north of Khalkis and moved into the town quay waiting berths at 1700. By 1800 I had completed the formalities, paid my €42, and received my briefing from the Port Police. All we had to do now was wait. To pass some of the time we walked along to the Khalkis Yacht Club where we were very well received. An hour and two beers later we had been allocated a
Downwind towards Evia
berth and made several new friends amongst the membership. Supper at the Xalkos Meze Bar (excellent and highly recommended, halfway from the Yacht Club to the bridge and lying back from the waterfront) and it was back to the boat to await our call on VHF Ch 12.
In the waiting berths, north of the bridge at Khalkis
Sure enough at 2300 we were called by name and requested to get under-way and pass through the bridge.
Khalkis Bridge, no tides in the Med!
By midnight we were moored at the yacht club, assisted by members who had stayed late to await our arrival. We had decided to take a days pause at Khalkis to get victuals, find a laundry, replenish gas and try to get all the essentials sorted before heading on south.
Khalkis Bridge
With the assistance of the club secretary all of this was achieved in half the time it might otherwise have taken. The club really is the most hospitable Yacht Club I have ever visited! In return all they asked was a complimentary comment in their visitors book ! Such generosity.....
Khalkos meze bar
Supper was again taken in the Meze Bar (we were greeted like long lost friends, given a complementary carafe of wine whilst we decided what to eat, and the prices were very reasonable) and after a second night in a club berth, with our laundry returned, we set off at 1100 to head on into the southern half of the Gulf of Evia.
Khalkis Yacht Club, we couldn't get closer to the clubhouse!
Our plan was to head for Ormos Almiropotamou, a well sheltered anchorage, for the first night and then onwards to Nea Marmara for the second. The reason being we were due to pick up some friends, who live in Athens, for a weekend sail; from Nea Marmara, on the Saturday morning. Ormos Almiropotamou is not a densely populated place but it suffers more than most places I have seen from the blight of part finished buildings. 30% were empty cast concrete frames or evidently only part completed.
Approaching the new Khalkis road bridge
As it turned out we spent a very tranquil night in Ormos Almiropotamou and then motored in a flat calm to Nisos Stira for lunch the next day. The west side anchorage there was so lovely that we decided to spend the night there and accept an early start the next day. At 0830 on the Saturday morning we motored out of the southern entrance of the enclosed bay and headed for Nea Marmara in another flat calm!
Having plucked Simon and Nikos off the ferry jetty in Nea Marmara we motored out to the Petaloi Islands and anchored in the bay on the NW side of Nisos Xero for the rest of the day. There was no wind even if we wanted to have a sail! This bay is a beautiful bay and was not too crowded despite it being a weekend.
Ormos Almiropotamou
The following day we again had no wind but decided on a change of scenery and thus we headed southwards through the channel separating Nisos Megalo Petali from Nisos Zero; slightly nervously as it is charted at 3m depth and the last 3m channel I tried, in Turkey, had silted to less than 2m with the result that we spent an hour plus trying to re-float Kurukulla! The channel successfully navigated we headed for Ornos Likourimas, a bay on Evia Island proper, at the southern end of the Stenon Xero channel separating Nisos Xero from Evia. A pleasant anchorage and much less frequented than the islands.
Sunset at Nisos Stira
After a few hours here we decided to shorten the distance between us and Porto Rafti in the hope of some wind later in the day to sail the rest. Our prayers were answered. After motoring to Vasiliko on the south shore of Nisos Megalo Petali and an hour there swimming we were justly rewarded with a brisk wind for a beam reach all the way to Porto Rafti. 7 knots plus almost all the way. The only downside was that there was no berth available at Porto Rafti and so we put Simon and Nikos ashore by a touch and go on a fishing boat moored alongside and then Mike and I went out into the anchorage to anchor for the night and prepare the dinghy for taking him ashore at 0530 for his flight back to UK.
Ormos Likourimas
Not a great time or way to start the day but all was successfully completed and I settled down to await the arrival of another group of friends joining later that day.
The next leg takes us out into the Cyclades, wrestling with the Meltemi, so more when we are there.......