Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

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.......