I finally left Kalamata marina at 07:30 on Wednesday 13 April. I part sailed and part motored down to the bottom of the bay where I picked up a great south-westerly and decided to continue rather than anchor at Porto Kayio for the night. So I sailed all night and then all day to Bali on the north coast of Crete where I was able to anchor and get a reasonable nights sleep. Next day I sailed, reefed and motored in winds between 1 knot and 30 knots from every direction, and just as the sun was setting I anchored in the bay at Elounda. I stayed for two nights because I needed a good rest, and left on Sunday morning to motor for two hours to the marina at Agios Nikolaos. Here I met Mark & Angie Roope who sailed out of Hull five years ago. It’s very sociable in the marina, and there was the Sunday BBQ in the afternoon…..not really my Welcoming Party but it seemed like it!
A welcome short trip back to London for a Dixie Chicks concert at the O2 with the boys……a birthday present from them. Back to Agios Nikolaos to welcome friend Sharon from the USA. A trip to the ancient site of Knossos was amazing, but our planned ferry trip to Santorini was delayed because of a Greek ferry strike, and so we went up to Elounda to visit Spinalonga and Plaka….and dragged the anchor in the bay!
Eventually we left Agios and sailed to Sitia, and then had a lively sail in 30kt winds and 2-3m swell, across to the island of Kasos. In the short time here we met so many great people….Horst and Gina were especially friendly and helpful.
We left the harbour of Fri late morning and sailed (and motored) for 22 hours, reaching the new Rhodes marina early the next day.
I hadn’t realised what a great history there is in Rhodes. A great place to spend a few days but the old town is a bit too touristy for me! Sharon also left and flew back to Florida… we both had had a great time!
Single-handing again, I had a great sail to the island of Symi to anchor in the bay at Panormitis for two two nights. Again, my anchor dragged and my anchor windlass jammed. All eventually fixed but I needed to get to a harbour to remove the chain extension I added at the end of last year. So I sailed to Livadhi on the island of Tilos….but the harbour was closed overnight to have a new mooring chain and lines fitted! I risked anchoring in the bay in high winds, and….had to dump the anchor and 80m of chain in the sea! So I decided to sail overnight to Kos! I finally arrived at the Marina claimed to be “the marina all Greek marinas aspire to be like” at 3:30 in the morning and was turned away by security….because “it doesn’t open until 7:00”! So I found a spot in the old harbour for a few hours sleep, and returned to the marina later.
I settled in at Kos to order and fit new anchor gear, and to wait for my Referendum postal vote papers to arrive.
I turned the boat bows-to the pontoon to fit the new anchor and chain, and all was fine. I decided to leave the boat bows-to until the wind died down. Later, I was climbing off the bow onto the pontoon and my foot slipped, leaving me hanging on to the pulpit rail with my flip-flops(!) dangling in the water! In all this drama I trashed my ribs on the new anchor, but was able to get my feet back onto the pontoon. But I was in agony! So I’ve booked more days here as I doubt I could sail alone safely.
All ready to go! Left, and then after a tough day sailing had to return to Kos with a raw water cooling problem! Now waiting for a part to be delivered from Athens! New raw water filter and water hose fitted, and all is well….until I was ready to leave AGAIN and the engine wouldn’t start! Having the starter motor cleaned and checked ready for refitting tomorrow and leaving on Friday! The Kos saga continues!
I left Kos marina at 0600 and sailed, motored and motorsailed all the way to Lesvos. I had planned to stop for a rest at Khios but I felt good and arrived at Mytilini marina after 34 hours on the high seas!
Carol flew in from Gatwick for six weeks of island hopping to Skiathos….oh those long holidays in teaching! But a chance conversation in the marina shower block led to an opportunity to work with a charity organisation helping the migrant camp near to Mytilini. So Carol has “jumped ship” while I continue the journey and will rejoin me on Limnos taking the weekly ferry from Mytilini. So I am now in Plomarion, the ouzo capital of Greece, on Lesvos. Not only did I visit the Barbayanni distillery and museum, there was the Festival of Ouzo on Saturday night!….sampling different ouzo and listening to live Greek music. As the boat was moored next to the town square I HAD to listen until 2am in the morning…and the next night too! After Plomarion I sailed up to Erresos but didn’t like the open aspect for anchoring, and so I found a lovely spot at Sigri and stayed for two nights planning the best day to sail up to Limnos. Then on the third day the wind became so strong I had to leave and sailed back to Plomarion in 40kts! I stayed the night but the sea swell had entered the harbour making boat life very uncomfortable. So the next day I went back to Mytilini! New plans are needed! So I decided to miss heading further north to Limnos and Khalkidiki, and instead head across the Aegean to the northern Sporades islands. The plan to sail this passage straight from Mytilini went awry with winds and sea currents against me, and so I stopped at Plomarion again! Two days later off we went!…motoring for a few hours in the wind shadow on this coast of Lesvos. Close to Sigri the northerly winds picked up and carried us across the Aegean overnight. Eventually choosing to anchor in a bay on the south coast of the island Peristeri. After a day and two nights of relaxation (and entertainment from the yacht Utopia) it was time for my shortest passage yet….4.9nm to Patitiri on the island Alonnisos. The yacht Utopia arrived again and the crew explained that they were a theatre/circus/music troupe that performed all over Greece!
Carol left the boat in Patitiri, and I stayed for a few days more before a short and lively sail to Skopelos town harbour. After eleven months in Greece this is the prettiest place I have visited…narrow cobbled streets, steep white painted steps up to the old town and 120 churches! On my last night in town I went to the open air cinema to watch Mamma Mia…much of the film was shot on the island and in particular, the church scenes.
On leaving Skopelos I took the northern passage so I could see the church from the sea. As I rounded the northern headland I was able to sail all the way down to Skiathos town. As it was mid-week I was able to moor on the pontoon. Joanne flew in from Gatwick and the adventure began as we stopped behind the runway to watch a plane take off…..and nearly lost her luggage in the blast!
A great sail around to the south of the island took us to Koukounaries Bay (listed as the seventh best beach in the world!) to anchor overnight, and then a great day of sailing to Orei on the island of Evia….where we had cloud and rain and thunder and lightning! A lovely harbour where I moored next to Olaf and Connie (who I last saw in Kalamata in April!).
We stayed in Orei for a few days because of the strange weather but loved the simplicity of the place. Once leaving Orei we had winds from all directions and from F1 to F6, and a rough sea state at times….we also had jellyfish and dolphins! We approached Chalkis in the dark and encountered a large fishing boat laying small boats with lights (to attract fish) but at the time we weren’t sure whether there was a net between each craft….a weird situation! We eventually moored on the liveliest town quay EVER at about 10:40, and had a beer and an ice cream before crashing into bed at one in the morning. Transiting the bridge only happens at night to minimise disruption to local motor traffic, and we eventually got through the bridge at around midnight. Then we had to negotiate the shallow waters under a road and set off south for an overnight passage, and arrived tired and weary at the Valikili anchorage on the island Megalo Petalhi at nine in the morning. A lazy day and a good sleep was all that we needed for our sail down to Tinos….good wind, no wind, 35kts, no wind, no engine cooling water, 45kt gusts while fixing the water pipe and finally no-one in the harbour to help moor. So we moored alongside early evening, showered and then found the best Taverna yet in a wonderful town!
The next day we got up early to visit the Pelagia Evangelistria church, and Tinos then became our favourite place in our adventure that began in Skiathos. Joanne decided to take no risks with the strong winds and booked a ferry to Mykonos….the Wildbeast had been wild enough!
I stayed in Tinos for a couple more days and then had a leisurely three hour sail to Mykonos town…another tourist haven dominated by cruise ships, much like Santorini. But I really wanted to see the nearby island Delos, which can only be visited by tripper boat. Delos has an amazing history dominated by Greek mythology and a steep walk up to the Sanctuary of Zeus and Athena.
I couldn’t leave Mykonos as early as I had wanted because I suspected that my neighbours anchor chain was over mine and so I waited until he left….and all was fine! 20knts of wind on the starboard beam and 6knts boat speed was fabulous for a couple of hours until the wind slowly began to wither and die….I even tried the cruising chute for a while. But there was more excitement to come….soon after I had moored up on the outer harbour at Finikas on the island Syros a waterspout appeared on the other side of the bay! A bus trip to Ermoupoulis, Syros Delight, Greek manflu, rude Russians and all hands on deck for a charter boat breakdown in the harbour…I won’t forget Syros! It was a short 22nm sail across to Kithnos, but very lively with stronger winds than forecast. I found space in the small harbour of Loutra. An early morning run, swim and dip in the rock pool heated by thermal water was a great way to start each day….and Jimmy and Lynn on Cala Mara joined me in the harbour and are heading back to Agios Nikolaos for the winter months. It’s so nice to see people again, lovely people who you thought you would not see again….and then meet totally new lovely people as Canadians Rene, Lesley, Karen and Lesley moored next to me on their two week charter around the Cyclades islands. Then we all go our own way….Rene and the girls headed across to Syros and I had a great sail to anchor overnight in Chapel Cove on the mainland….my first time on the Greek mainland since leaving Kalamata in April. Six months of island hopping around the Aegean was as good as it sounds! On my way to Chapel Cove I saw the Temple of Poseidon in the distance, and realised it is a good reason to come back this way again. After Chapel Cove I had to motor in still calm for about four hours to moor in Athens marina until the Hull Sailing Club gang arrived, and I took the opportunity to watch Greece beat Cyprus 2-0 in a football World Cup qualifying match at the Olympiakos stadium.
After finding the Hull Sailing Club gang and their charter yacht, Monet, we went for a dinner of Greek food and drink. The following day I left Athens marina early in calm conditions and motored all the way to Palaia Epidavros. I moored on the town quay and then helped Monet to moor up. As there was still some warm sunshine to enjoy Chris Carmichael and I messed about on the paddle board before we went to a recommended open-air restaurant for dinner. The next day most of us caught the early local bus to the Sanctuary of Epidhavros in the morning. Finally, Monet decided that our next stop would be Methana. Although we all expected a few hours of motoring as we left the harbour around midday, a strong wind picked up along the peninsula which allowed for a short sail as we approached Methana. As I was mooring up in the marina, Monet decided that the ferry quay was not an ideal mooring in the easterly wind and left for Poros! Bizarre, but they did radio to let me know. An hour later the wind had reduced to NOTHING! I plan to enjoy the unusual delights of Methana while Monet decides its passage plan for our next stop. Rain stopped play!…the next day I stayed in Methana and Monet stayed in Poros because of heavy rain, and we agreed to sail to Hydra the following day. The sail to Hydra was great until I started the engine close to Hydra with exhaust smoke and a funny engine noise. Turning off the engine and checking the engine bay I found oil in the bilge! Hydra would not have the support I may need to rectify the problem….whatever it was! So I turned around and headed to Athens. I called Athens marina and then spent a long night sailing in strong conditions to finally sail into Athens marina at 14:30 the next day….29 hours and 90nm after leaving Methana! The Yanmar support was great but the news wasn’t….it was best to take the engine out to examine the problem. The fault lay with a split diaphragm in the fuel lift pump which had leaked diesel into the sump. I took the opportunity to service various parts of the engine as it was 13 years old and deserved the effort…and the euros! The boat is my home and I plan to continue sailing around the world for another 6, 7 or 8 years. Less than a week later the engine was back in place and all is well. In the meantime I decided that reaching Corfu for winter would be a rush so I decided to see some more of the Saronic Gulf and then stay in Zea marina for winter.
So the final few weeks of sailing Greek waters in 2016 began with a great passage of only about 20nm but in 30 kt winds to the island of Aigina and its capital of the same name, Aigina. One highlight being moored next to John & Chimene, who plan to sell their UK business, buy a boat and sail away, and the other highlight was to finish reading my 49th book (The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton) since leaving Hull and start my 50th book (Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum).
A beautiful gentle downwind sail to Poros in the sunshine. But the early morning chill of the first day of November meant sailing in long trousers for the first time since April. Poros has a wonderful setting and is quiet now that there are less charter boats around. I stayed for almost two weeks dodging some strong weather, being lazy and meeting some nice people….Flo (Belgian) and Joanna (Polish) and Greek couple Rula and Vasilli, who I may meet again once I’m in Athens.
A gentle sail to start and motoring to finish a passage to Spetses, and the gloriously chaotic harbour at Baltiza Creek! I can imagine it’s a nice town in summer, but in the low season of November some tavernas and the Bouboulina Museum have already closed until next year. So after two days I moved on to Hydra…at last! Hydra, cobbled streets and traffic-free is a wonderful place, and again, only a few visiting yachts. Then back to Poros for one night and one more night in Aegina. The sail from Aegina on Monday 21 November was fabulous and possibly the last sail of 2016! I’m now in Zea marina in Piraeus, the port of Athens, and I will stay here through the winter.
Hull Sailing Club friends, Katie and Christine joined me for a few November days. The weather wasn’t great for sailing so we took a ferry to Aegina and hired a car to explore the island. Then Lycabettus Hill, the Turtle Sanctuary, the Panathinaikon Stadium and the Lazy Bulldog pub were the Athens highlights of a great time had by all!
The boys had planned other things for this Christmas so I took the opportunity to cycle Vietnam over Christmas and the New Year!