Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Thessaloniki to the Sporades

After an intense 36 hours in Thessaloniki, and with the new crew Michael embarked, we departed at 1100 on Friday 31st of July heading for the anchorage at Ak Epanomi where we planned to spend the night. This time we headed for the eastern end of the beach which is slightly more sheltered but comes with a major fish trap on the 6m line! We avoided it without problem. The sail down from Thessaloniki was almost all downwind and offered another opportunity to give the spinnaker an airing. 4kts of wind over the deck and 4-5kts boat speed, it does make a difference!
Sunset off Ak Epanonomi
The next day we were destined to transit the Portas Canal, cut through the neck of the Kassandra Peninsula, to take us into the Gulf of Kassandra; a gulf I had yet to enter on either visit to this area. Heikell gives the clearance on the road bridge over the Portas Canal as 16m. With a masthead height of 15.6m and aerials, windex and instruments on top, this was not enough. Other sources on the internet gave the clearance as 17m. A phone call to the Port Police, responsible for the waterway, gave a figure of 16.5m, just enough, but this advice came with a warning that a boat had recently brought down the overhead power cables above the canal and were we to do the same we would be held liable!
Entering Portas canal
Overall we needed 16.2m clearance and so decided to give it a go. After a two and a half hour close reach down the coast we entered the canal, rolled up the genoa and proceeded under main alone for the first section, clearing the power cables by a small but sufficient margin.
Portas Canal, under mainsail only!
The bridge ahead looked daunting but as we approached the wind dropped to zero and we had to resort to the engine, perhaps no bad thing!
Will we?
In the event we cleared by what looked like 30 – 40 cm, enough but only just; close enough to elicit a scream from one of the girls on the canal bank! Michael thought he saw the VHF aerial touch but I was sure it had cleared.
From here we headed out into the Gulf, under full sail, in very light winds; that is compared with the winds the other end of the half mile long canal. Eventually we had to resort to engine again, for short periods, in order to arrive in daylight at the anchorage just south of Nikitas where we planned to spend the night. It was a beautiful sandy bay, surrounded by camper vans at the back of the beach; we were not the only ones to have discovered it!
Waking to a light northerly breeze next morning we wasted no time getting under way and running downwind towards the headland, Ak Psevdhokavos, at the end of the middle peninsula, named Sinthonia. As the morning wore on so the wind became fickle and eventually settled in the south east blowing 25 – 30kts. With this potential headwind for rounding the headland we chickened out and headed for an anchorage just 500m from the headland and sought shelter for lunch! Priorities satisfied! By 1700 the wind had abated and we decided to try to find an anchorage on the eastern side of the headland, either in Ormos Mamba or further north in Ormos Sikias. In the event Ormos Mamba, although very attractive, proved untenable in the prevailing sea and so we settled for the SW corner of Ormos Sikias to pass a rather roly night, not so bad but certainly more swell than the last time I was here a week or so ago!
The anchorage at Ormos Kriftos, Nisis Dhiaparos
With another early start we set off North West to Panayia, which proved to be a brisk beat to windward away, or the first half anyway, the final hour we were forced to motor; needing to get in to allow sufficient time for Michael to arrange his transport to the airport for the next morning. I did the same manoeuvre as I had done with Nick a week or so earlier; dropped him on the jetty and stooged around until picking him up 20mins later. From here we adjourned to the anchorage at Ormos Kriftos, a delightful and perfectly sheltered anchorage on the northern end of Nisis Dhiaporos. Here we spent the afternoon before adjourning into Panayia again but this time securing alongside for the night and adjourning ashore for a splendid last meal before Michael's departure early next morning.
Harbour at Panayia
Following Michael's departure I returned to the anchorage at Kriftos to pass a few days undertaking maintenance and relaxing before the arrival of the next guest five days later. Sadly two of the nights were far from tranquil, the gods decided to put on a thunder and lightening show which kept all of us in the anchorage awake well into the small hours!
Sunset, Ormos Kriftos, Nisis Dhiaporos
With the next two visitors onboard we set off on the 10th of August for a final night at Ormos Sikias before setting off early the next day for the Sporades and with the intention of heading for the anchorage at Planitis on Nisos Kira Panayia.
The passage across was faster than anticipated with a light but consistent NW wind until we were approaching the islands when the wind died completely and we were forced to resort to engine for the final hour. Not a bad transit overall though, 44 miles in 9.5 hours. The anchorage at Planitis is a delightful and very well protected one. The island only has one permanent resident and he is the monk who acts as caretaker on an otherwise deserted monastery. Later in the week we came back to the other large anchorage on the island, at Panayia, which is less protected than Planitis but enjoys better water quality being more open to the sea.
Departing Planitis, Kira Panayia
From here it was a sail to Alonnisos to drop off Andonis, one of the two Greek friends who had done the crossing with me and to pick up Andrew and Bruno, two friends from UK. With them onboard we spent the night in Patitiri, the port of Alonnisos, before re-victualling the next morning and then departing for a brief sail to Ornos Xero on the south side of Nisos Peristeri where we anchored for the night in a small but charming cove.
The next day was our second visit to Planitis, as mentioned above, and from there we were committed to returning to Patitiri next day to drop off Tom, the second Greek guest. This time it was literally in and out and we sailed round to the south side of Alonnisos, to Ornos Mourtia for the night. Although the wind stayed in the north the swell had other ideas and it was a less than settled night; c'est la vie! The occasional penalty for enjoying anchorages.
Departing Patitiri, Alonnisos
Given a slightly uncertain forecast for the next day, with winds from every direction forecast throughout the 24 hours, we decided to head for the anchorage at Ornos Vasiliko, on Nisos Peristeri, which proved to be much better than described in the pilot. A neat, clean bay, slightly obstructed by two laid up trawlers at the head but with ample room for anchoring and tying back along the north shore and well sheltered. Out night here was much more settled.
From here it was a detour into Skopelos for the next night for a meal ashore, water and victualling before almost circumnavigating the island to spend the night in the delightful anchorage at Panormos, surrounded by wooded hillsides and the smell of pine trees: another venue where tying back to the edge of the creek is all but essential.
Ormos Vasiliko, Nisos Peristeri
After Panormos we sailed up the channel between Skopelos and Skiathos to round the northern tip of Skiathos and head south to the bay called Banana II (or little Banana) a once unspoilt beach but now covered in sunbeds and umbrellas! A good bay to visit all the same. With the wind forecast to be consistently in the north for the next 5 days this was a safe enough place to spend the night even though it is completely open from W to SE through south. Needless to say the gods had other ideas and after a splendid afternoon and impressive sunset we were then treated to an unforecast thunderstorm that night and heavy rain all the following morning! Net result we had to move to Koukounaries, a bay sheltered from the NW which is just the other side of the headland and to the east of Banana.
After a quiet afteroon in Koukounaries we motored along the southern shore of Skiathos to reach Ormos Siferi, an anchorage sheltered from the N, and just to the west of Skiathos town. Although the majority of the night was relatively quiet, just the odd shower, the early morning produced some of the heaviest rain I have ever seen and that includes monsoons in the far east! This was combined with gusting winds. Several yachts in our vicinity dragged their anchors and had to re-anchor, some more than once. We were fortunate, the anchor was well dug in with plenty of scope and thus we stayed put throughout the storm. Andrew and Bruno were due to leave on the Saturday afternoon and so at mid day we motored the short distance into Skiathos harbour hoping that we might be able to get a berth stern to on the town quay. Not a chance! Packed to the limits and no one was moving. Even the charter yachts were berthed three deep out from the floating pontoon! It was to be the anchorage and the dinghy got its first outing of the year. The outboard engine started first time, not bad!
Sunset off Banana II beach, Skiathos
The crew having departed I settled down to a relaxing afternoon combined with a bit of clearing up. All went well until sunset when a second sailing “super-yacht” came in and anchored too close to the flight path onto the runway at Skiathos airport, the first “super-yacht” having arrived at 1800. The glide path passes over the harbour and anchoring in the approach area is forbidden. The crew of the second one could be heard marvelling at how close the aircraft were passing to their mast which was taller than the height of the approaching aircraft. Amazing how stupid people can be! Understandably this was followed by a rapid intervention by the Port Police who rightly required them both to move. What the Port Police had not reconed with was that both then made a rush to take any available space in the anchorage between the smaller yachts. These were both 40m+ length yachts, trying to anchor in spaces suited to 12m yachts. There followed a ballet in which both nearly collided and both then anchored in spaces far to restricted for their length. With minimal cable down it will be interesting to see if the forecast rain and wind produces chaos. I suspect it will! Unfortunately they are both just a boats length (Kurukulla measure) ahead of me and so even if I wanted to move I would have trouble getting my anchor out from under them! It is going to be an interesting night I fear!
Tomorrow another friend, Mike, joins via the flight arriving in Skiathos at 0630 so an early start. More when we get into the inland sea between the Greek mainland and Evia, on passage south.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Istanbul to Thessaloniki

After three weeks of doing the tourist track in Istanbul it was time to leave. Notwithstanding the occasional trip out to sea, either to anchor for a few days in the Princes Islands or to cruise the eastern end of the Sea of Marmara, after three separate visitors and three tours of the sights I had had enough; that said Istanbul is a fantastic city and I would leap at the chance to come back again but I fear it will be a few years before that happens.
Kurukulla alongside a trawler in Cakilkoy
We departed from Yalova marina a day later than planned to allow Jayson the opportunity to reach the boat easily without trekking around half of Turkey to join us. On departure we were three onboard with Stephen due to leave a day later. Our day of departure was brilliant sunshine but windless! In fact we motored much of the way from Yalova to Kakilkoy; a small, sleepy, fishing port some 50 miles west. On arrival it was evident that there were no med moor berths available for us, let alone alongside as a result we dropped Stephen on one of the fishing trawlers and left him to go research transport from Kakilkoy to Bandirma, from where he was to catch his ferry back to Istanbul the next morning. Within ten minutes he had found a suitable taxi and also agreed with the owner of the trawler, where we had dropped him off, that we could remain alongside all night; they were not going to sea; only later did we find out that none of the trawlers go to sea during Ramadan. At eight that night the taxi turned up to take him to the ferry port, the only minor problem was that he was not due to leave until eight the next morning!
Marmara north coast, one big marble hole in the ground.
Language difficulties. In the event the taxi driver pointed him in the direction of a dolmus (Minibus) which was due to leave for Bandirma at 0830 the next morning, a very generous gesture which cost the taxi driver money but saved it for Stephen.
Next morning Jayson and I waved him off and then set sail for the Pasalimani Islands to spend the next three days cruising the islands and doing a circumnavigation of the island of Marmara. After that it was a visit to Erdek again to re-victual and water and then a final night in the Pasalimani Islands before setting off west for the entrance to the Dardanelles.
Jayson at Pasalimani
Our passage from Pasalimani west was originally intended to take us to Karabiga but in the event we made such good speed downwind under “Solent Rig” (Genoa only) that we pressed on to Kemer, inside the Dardanelles, and anchored to the south of the harbour for a quiet night onboard before pressing on to Canakkale the next morning. The passage to Canakkale was rapid to say the least; with up to 4 kts of current assisting us and a 25 to 30kt north-easterly pushing us along we made the passage in record time.
Jayson and I taking a coffee at Erdek
By 1400 we were berthed in the marina and Jayson was preparing to depart for the backpacking part of his Turkish adventure.
My crew from Canakkale onwards was Nick who arrived at 0100 the following morning having flown in from Gatwick via Oslo and Istanbul, a tortuous flight but economic and all went well.
The forecast for the next day was not good, N gusting 37kts plus and so we decided to spend the day victualling the boat, sightseeing in Canakkale, completing the exit formalities for Turkey and then to make an early departure the next day. For the exit formalities I decided to use an agent, he duly arrived and agreed a price of 200YTL for the task which would take him three hours; at 1500 he would have all the papers back with us and we would be free to leave at sunrise the next day.
Supper at Kemer
Suffice to say it was 1730 when the papers arrived back in the hands of an assistant, duly completed, and the price had strangely gone from 200YTL to €200, i.e. trebled! After a slightly heated debate we settled on €120, but I still felt as though I had been “ripped off” as our agreement had been quite clearly understood; they were trying to compensate for the additional time it had taken them but that was their bad judgement.
Next morning, at 0600, we set sail from Canakkale Marina and crossed the Dardanelles to the western side before sailing downwind, at 10kts (overground, by GPS),
Turkish memorial at Gallipoli
south westwards out of the Dardanelles past the Turkish and British memorials on the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. From here it was a brisk reach 50 miles westwards to Limnos where we had decided to anchor for the first night just south Ak Mourtzeflos, the NW tip of the island.
So taken were we with this remote and unspoilt anchorage we stayed a second night before moving on to Mirina, the capital of the island, where we were due to enter Greece officially. Limnos is beautiful and I immediately fell in love with the island. Not overpopulated, nor crowded with tourists, but lively and full of character nonetheless.
Anchorage NW Limnos
On going stern to in the port of Mirina the first task was to enter Greece and the EU officially. A trip to the local Port Police achieved all of the bureaucratic actions in one fell swoop, never before have I had the pleasure of such efficient service, no running around three different offices and the young official who I dealt with knew all the latest rules, a real pleasure; but, the stamp needed to stamp my cruising permit was in use elsewhere and so I would have to come back at 2000 to collect the paperwork. No problem, after such good service it was a small price to pay. Sadly the same official was not present on my return; not only did his relief not want to give me back my paperwork, he had to summon a female colleague to interpret for him as he spoke little or no English.
Myrina, Limnos
His female colleague agreed that I should take my papers but then insisted that I come back the next day for an exit stamp, I explained that as an EU registered yacht I needed stamps on the permit only on entry and exit to Greece, or once per year if still in Greece. She disagreed and suggested that if I departed Mirina without a stamp she would call ahead to Thessaloniki and “cause trouble for me there”! I called back in the office next day and explained why I was not going to have my documents stamped before departure and the official on duty agreed that my understanding of the new rules was correct. I invited him to re-brief his colleague and suggest to her that “if you are unsure of the regulations it is better to stay quiet and have people think you are stupid than to open your mouth and prove it beyond all reasonable doubt”.
Mirina waterfront, Limnos
He smiled!
That afternoon the wind was blowing 20 to 25kts from the east, right along the line of the jetty to which we were berthed, all of the yachts were leaning against each other and it was not going to be long before someone's anchor dragged and the whole row of boats would find themselves grating against the jetty. We decided to get out before it happened and move round to the next bay south which was a large open bay with plenty of room to swing at anchor. After delaying until 1700 for the harbour office to open to enable us to pay our harbour dues (in fact, after waiting until 1715 and then consulting the Port Police, I was informed that man responsible for the harbour office had decided not to re-open again today as no new boats would arrive in these high winds; we were officially given a free stay!) we got underway.
Mirina castle, Limnos
Despite the surprise of our two neighbours, who thought it was too windy to leave harbour, we exited our berth without mishap and motored round to Ornos Plati arriving 30 minutes later. The anchor was somewhat reluctant to penetrate the weed, which was much more extensive than the pilot suggested, but after three attempts we got it to hold. Despite veering 50m of cable and being in only 8m depth it was not to last the night, At 2330, with the wind still rising, the anchor drag alarm went off and we had to reset the anchor in the pitch black. Successfully achieved, further towards the eastern end of the bay, and now with 60m of cable out, we settled down for the night. Next morning we were awoken by the coxswain of the rescue boat from the Mark Warner, Limnos Bay Hotel, water-sports centre informing us that we were in the middle of their sailing area.
Sun setting over Mount Athos, from Ormos Plati
He advised us it was not a problem for them but that we would have numerous sailing craft around us most of the day. In fact because of the wind strength it was to provide us with considerable entertainment throughout the day watching the various craft capsize and right themselves or be rescued. Because of the weather we, on the other hand, decided not to go round to Ormos Moudhrou, the bay from which the British Gallipoli campaign was waged and supported, but to leave for Khalkidhiki from Ormos Plati at daybreak the next morning.
The sail across to Mount Athos and into the Gulf of Singitik was a fast reach all the way, averaging 8 kts. Only after we turned into the gulf, south of Mount Athos, did we lose some of the wind and drop in speed. Soon after arriving in the Gulf we were challenged by a Coast-Guard RIB (I think they were going to complain about our attire, or lack of it; we rectified the problem before their arrival!).
Mount Athos
In the event, when they came alongside, they initially limited themselves to informing us that we were not allowed closer than 500m from the sacred shoreline (we were a mile offshore) after which a second, older member of the crew questioned our ensign, not believing it was a British ensign (Kurukulla wears blue ensign, not red, by virtue of my membership of the Royal Naval Sailing Association) that explained he then demanded to know where our Greek courtesy flag was, pointing at the RNSA burgee on the port halyard; there ensued another explanation that it was in the senior position on the starboard halyard, where tradition dictates it should be, and if he looked between the genoa and mainsail he would see it there! By this time his colleagues were sufficiently embarrassed by his lack of knowledge that they accelerated and turned away, before he could put his foot in his mouth again, giving us a cheery wave and a broad smile as they departed! Despite this brief interlude we had a very pleasant sail up the gulf to Nisos Amouliani, where we anchored in the bay on the western side for the night. I had anchored here in 2011 and knew it to be a pleasant, if touristy, spot.
Next morning, after breakfast and a leisurely swim we set off for the anchorage inside Nisis Dhiaporos, on the opposite side of the gulf.
Nisis Dhiaporos
It was a close fetch across and a great sail. On arrival we entered through the southern entrance into the sound between the island and the mainland shore and then chose a quiet and unspoilt anchorage on the island shore at Ormos Mesopanayia. A quiet night here was followed by motoring out next morning through the northern entrance and a brief visit to Panayia town, to get some fresh victuals, a useful stop and where there is now a small marina as well as the town quay. After sending Nick ashore, with me pottering about the bay, I picked him up again and we set off for Ormos Sikias, near the southern tip of the Sinthonia (middle) peninsula. After a beat to windward, the whole way, we entered the bay at Ormos Sikias at 1700 and anchored in the SW corner, in 5m on pure golden sand. Idyllic!
Athos in the early morning from Ormos Sikias
Next morning we watched the sun rise over mount Athos before taking a leisurely swim and then getting underway for the passage to Nea Skioni, the next destination. In the event the wind died away in the later part of the afternoon and as a consequence we anchored off the shoreline a mile or two short of the town, in a flat calm. It stayed that way for the rest of the night and most of the following day resulting in a frustrating days motoring to get to Ak Epanomi, where again we anchored off the vast sandy beach in a flat calm. The next day we had to be in Thessaloniki for Nick's departure early the following morning; the windless morning did not get the day off to a promising start however by 1400 a south-westerly breeze had established itself and by 1600 we were enjoying a great spinnaker run which took us all the way to Thessaloniki Marina.
Ormos Sikias
A great finish for Nick. It also served to remind me that I really must get a new spinnaker! This one still has the remains of the Italian sail number carried by Kurukulla when she was raced under her first name, Noefra. Anyone know of a good condition, second-hand, spinnaker, suited to a Grand Soleil 39, Swan 40, or similar which is available to purchase?
Arrival in Thessaloniki Marina was fairly easy but it has a quite run down air about it. Two thirds of the berths are empty. We tried two berths before finding a berth with holding off lines of sufficient length and the electric and water connections are looking very tired. That said the lady who is the office manager is a star and exceptionally helpful.
Anchorage just south of Skioni
The marina is run by the local council and is therefore low cost but it sticks to the regime of charging from midnight to midnight therefore for one night you have to pay for two days. This is laid down in the regulations governing town quays in some obscure piece government legislation but I have only seen it applied in two places, Mykonos Marina and Thessaloniki.
My major task whilst in Thessaloniki was to replace the three 100Ah domestic batteries which were failing rapidly.
My rather tired spinnaker
In Greece's second largest city you would think that might be easy. It was not, but I eventually succeeded with the assistance of “Marineshop” an exceedingly helpful chandler on the road just above the marina. €580 later it was all fixed! Not too bad.......
More when I leave.......