The sail from Fourni to Mykonos started off well. For nearly two hours, we charged along under full sail (main, staysail and yankee) in 15 knots of wind, making speeds of 6 to 7 knots. Then the wind died and it was back to the "iron jenny", but even that didn't go too well. Rick lifted the floorboards, peered at the shaft and announced "the water is pouring in". This, of course, is a phrase you never want to hear on a boat.
Those of you who know me well know that I am a worry-wart by nature. We can be anchored in a drop-dead gorgeous place, with absolutely no rational reason to feel anxious, and I can suddenly start worrying about our kids, our parents, our house burning down etc. (I recently read that there is a "worry" gene that causes this. ) So it was surprising was that, having just been told that a substantial quantity of the Aegean sea was pouring into our boat, I just said "Really?" This calm reaction was partly because I knew that Rick tends to be a little prone to exaggeration, and partly because I was pretty sure he could fix the problem. And sure enough, after spending about half an hour on his hands and knees with his head in the engine compartment, he managed to get the leaking reduced to a drip. Still, it was becoming clear that we were entering one of those phases where the main focus of our lives would be the search for a mechanic and a yard where Aisling could be lifted out.
In the meantime, there was a visit to Mykonos on the agenda, but we weren't sure where to go. Our Greek Waters Pilot (purchased second hand from our friend Claude before he left Trapani and already one edition behind the most current) had the misfortune to be positioned underneath a leaking chain plate last year. It is tattered, mildewed and missing bits of paper where the pages stuck together. Since we refuse to cough up the 100 bucks for a new one until the next edition becomes available (sometime this summer, we hope), we're finding the selection of anchorages more challenging than usual. It's frustrating to be reading a description of an idyllic anchorage, come to a paragraph that begins "Caution! In the meltemi..." and then realize that the rest of the page has been torn away. Two years ago we did purchase a copy of the Eagle Ray guide to the Cyclades, which gives great weather, anchorage info and history but is lacking on the amenities you can expect to find there. (Mykonos is in the Cyclades so it should get a little easier from here as we make the crossing.)
So, as I was saying, we weren't sure where to anchor in Mykonos. The marina sounded like it was a bit out of the way. There are three "coves" on the south coast to pick from; Rick stabbed a pin in the chart and picked Elia, where we dropped the hook with about 25-30 knots of catabatic wind coming off the land. The wind generator was howling! The anchorage turned out to be a great choice (although we got rocked around a bit) because a bus runs between Elia beach and the town several times a day. As we dropped our anchor, we were excited to see another Canadian boat (Maltese Falcon from Toronto) in the anchorage, but unfortunately we delayed too long before dropping over for a visit and they pulled out before we could introduce ourselves.
I took a firm stand when Rick suggested that we leave for Syros the next morning. Mykonos is the island from "Shirley Valentine" (and old favourite movie) and even though I had read reports of how the charms of Mykonos had been thoroughly destroyed by rampant tourism, I had a hankering to see white buildings and bougainvillea. So the next morning, instead of weighing anchor, we tied our dinghy to a rock on the beach (with a little bit of trepidation...there's that worry thing again) and went in search of a bus into town. The scene on the beach was about as entertaining as a beach scene can be, with everyone having a gay old time, so to speak.
The bus ride to town was equally entertaining, with the driver manoeuvring the huge bus along the narrow roads, shrugging and gesticulating in classic Greek style at any drivers who got in his road (and there were many). Several times, we came to a standstill as we waited for a hapless driver to back up to a lay-by to let us pass.
After disembarking at Mykonos town (or "Hora") we headed for the harbour, got a town map from a helpful travel agent, then took a walk through the confusing maze of streets in the old town. Everything was whitewashed the purest white, with cool little boutiques lining the alleyways. Flowers tumbled from window boxes and balconies. The crowds we'd been led to expect didn't materialize, but we could imagine what it must be like during high season when the narrow alleys become crowded with people. Eventually, we ended up at a waterfront restaurant, eating pizza and surfing the internet on our Netbook (because our Wind internet stick didn't work at Elia, either). Rick asked the waiter what we should see on Mykonos and the reply was "the nightlife!". Next we asked for directions to the bakery and he replied "Even if I tell you, you'll get lost long before you get there!" His advice was to go a little deeper into the town, find another restaurant, and ask again. So we did that, found the bakery, and bought some brown bread (which never did get eaten because it was too tough to make sandwiches from).
I knew there was one thing I definitely wanted to see in Mykonos...the windmills! We walked out past the church on the point, took several pictures of each other with the windmills as a back-drop, then headed up the hill to catch the four o'clock bus back to Elia beach. Once there, we hung out in the beach bar for a while to soak up a little more atmosphere, then retrieved our dinghy from its rock and went back to our rocky boat to cook dinner.
As we motored past Paradise Beach at 0645 the next morning, we could hear dance music throbbing out over the water. Last night's party was still in full swing. Oh, to be young again!
As Bonnie mentioned, there is a "marina" of sorts on the north side of the island but it is unattended and reportedly minimalist in amenities. We did see some large power boats stern-to in the main small harbour but we really liked our Elia beach spot on the south coast. The wind was strong there but this was to our advantage as we have a wind generator. We did not have to run the engine while we were there and the batteries were well charged and the freezer very cold. We anchored on the west side of the cove on hard packed sand in 18' of water. Very good holding. We used extra scope given the wind. There are a couple of tavernas and beach bars ashore, where you apparently can buy bread. The bus to Mykonos town leaves outside the Elia restaurant. Elia is a gay-friendly beach, in keeping with the general free-spiritedness of the island.
From Mykonos, you can see ancient Delos, either by taking a ferry from Mykonos town or taking your own boat over and anchoring in the little cove just off the ruins for the afternoon. (You are not permitted to anchor overnight at Delos.) We stopped at Delos two years ago, on our way to Turkey, so we did not do it this time, but would highly recommend a visit.
The island of Samos is less than 2 km and a world away from the coast of Turkey. You know you're not in Turkey anymore when there's no picture of Ataturk on the wall of a public office. Instead, the walls of the small inner office of the police station are decorated with icons and religious artwork. The police officer who checks us in has the face and body of a Greek god. As he examines our passports, he is simultaneously having a very loud telephone conversation punctuated by emphatic exclamations of "Nay!" "Nay, nay, nay!" If you don't know the Greek language as well as we do (which is to say, if instead of knowing about 10 words, you know none at all) you may assume he was saying No!, but in fact he is saying "Yes!" "Yes, yes, yes!". Later, I comment on his god-like-ness to Rick, who hadn't noticed. On the other hand, he was very impressed with the woman in the Customs office, who listened to Van Morrison while she checked him in.
With passports duly and energetically stamped, we wander down the main street of Pythagorio (named for the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, who was born on Samos). We pass a site with ruins that we later learn are the "ruins of Aphrodite" but we don't go in. Instead, we check out the prices of bacon and proscuitto in a small supermarket, then headed for a waterfront café where we toast our arrival in Greece with the extra-cold extra-large Mythos that Rick has already told you about. The pleasant waterfront reminds us of our first landfall in Greece, on the island of Paxos, two years earlier.
The next morning, we catch a bus to Samos town to buy an internet plan. At the bus stop, a woman points out some unusual yellow and purple flowers growing at the side of the road. She invites me to taste the small green berry...capers! In rapid-fire French, she launches into an explanation of how to pickle capers and what to serve them with. By the time we arrive in Samos town, I know most of her life story and have seen every photo on the memory card of her camera. I am saved from revealing the significant limitations of my French grammar and pronunciation by simply murmuring "ah oui" and "tres jolie!" at appropriate intervals. But she is very kind and in Samos town she walks with us all the way to the "Wind" store, where we will buy our internet plan. I am surprised to see her stop and chat in apparently fluent Greek with an elderly woman. "I took a three-month course eight years ago and I rent an apartment here every winter" she says. "If you just talk to people, it's easy. I don't speak English though...too difficult!"
Compared to the ordeal of buying an internet plan from Turkcell, our visit to the Wind store is a breeze (pardon the pun). For only 14 euros, we walk away with a new Sim Card and a one-month 3G internet plan. Our next stop is a little café in the garden of the museum, where we drink cappucino and watch the world go by. We are feeling pretty happy with our accomplishments until we get back to the boat and realize that Wind has only GPRS cellphone coverage in Pythagorio and the signal is too weak for us to get on the internet. This is bad timing, since I have to join a conference call at 6 p.m. and had hoped to use Skype. Instead, I have to make the call by cellphone (but fortunately our "One Sim Card" plan makes this less of a budget-buster than it might otherwise have been). By the time I finish the call, it is dinner time. We decide to go ashore and eat at the Poseidon restaurant, where we have calamari, stuffed eggplant and our first taste of Samos wine (which comes distinctively packaged in a small, clear bottle with a crimped metal lid; like a beer cap).
Going cold turkey on internet access can be good for the soul. The following day is given over to a mad cleaning and organizing frenzy. By late afternoon the boat is spic and span, but once again neither of us feels like cooking dinner . We are also in serious internet withdrawal. We take the dinghy ashore and walk along the waterfront to the "Remataki" restaurant, where we enjoy the "stifadho", "kleftika", Samos wine and internet coverage. A torrential downpour begins as we are eating and continues throughout the evening. By the time we get back to the boat we are drenched to the skin and my lovely white pants are splattered with black mud stains that will never completely disappear.
Pythagorio is a World Heritage Site, mainly because of the Evpalinos Tunnel that lies on the outskirts of the town. This 6th century engineering feat, over 1000 meters long, once carried drinking water to the town. There is also a 19th century castle, an ancient theatre and a monastery , none of which will be explored by us. We have decided to leave Samos the next day and begin making our way across the Aegean.
The next morning, we get an unscheduled wake-up call when our cellphone rings at 6 a.m. We are worried that something has gone wrong at home, but instead it is Turkish Airlines calling to say that they have found our bag! We can hardly believe our ears, but now we aren't sure what to do. We could have the bag delivered to the marina in Kusadasi and take the ferry back over to pick it up, but that would mean delaying our departure from Samos by at least two days. Since we are anxious to start our journey across the Aegean, we decide we will leave the bag in storage with Turkish Air (a bit of a leap of faith at this point) and sort it out later. By 9 a.m. we have checked out of Samos and are underway for Fourni. The wind gods are with us again, which is fortunate, because the engine gods are not (the stuffing box at the prop is leaking). After an otherwise good day, mostly under sail, we anchor off a beach in Marmara cove, Fourni. The scenery and colours of the water are stunning and we have the anchorage entirely to ourselves, but there are big gusts off the mountains. We spend the entire night hanging on for dear life in some of the worst swell I've ever experienced at anchor. The village around the corner looks charming, but the next morning we decide to press on to Mykonos. Are you still there, Shirley Valentine?
Pythagorio is a port of entry for Greece and the process is simple here with each of the Police, Customs and Port Police offices fairly close to the harbour. You have 3 choices for the boat. The first is to go bow or stern to the quay in town and it is a beautiful setting. The 2nd is to go to the marina about 2km outside of town and the 3rd is to anchor just outside the main harbour. We picked #3 and anchored in 24' of rock, sand and weed. It took a while for the anchor to bite but we did get a good hold eventually. The marina is a bit of a walk from the town but we were told by a friend that it has 2 great restaurants, a full service mechanic and a travel lift. Fuel and water are available in town by truck or at the marina. Local vegetables, fruit , fish and meat markets on the main street and camping gas can be purchased at the supermarket. There were lots of tavernas with traditional Greek food available along the waterfront. We had a great meal at the Poseidon. There is regular bus service from Pythagorio to Vathi (Samos Town) for less than 2 euro.
06/22/2011, Olympic Marina
It's dark, calm and the clock reads 4:30am. Why am I waking up so early and feeling like I should get up? Am I still worried about work? I shouldn't be worried about work because I don't have any work :-) Maybe it's because my senses are on high alert. We are still in Kusadasi, Turkey and it's been a whirlwind cultural and historic feast for the senses. Ephesus, Miletus, Priene, Church of St John, Sirince, House of the Virgin Mary, Didim's Temple of Apollo etc etc etc. Rick and Bonnie do western Turkey in 2 days.
It has been a struggle deciding.... stay in Turkey and explore the coast we rapidly passed on the way north, or head west to the Greek islands for a change of scene? Eventually the die is cast and we decide to head to Samos. I decide that I will try to do the check out of Turkey myself and save the 55 euros the marina will change to use their agent. I pack the boat papers and passports and head to the office for instructions.. No problem, the pretty clerk at reception tells me. First go to the harbourmaster, then the Port Police and then Customs. I decide to grab a cab for 7 TL to save the 1 mile walk. I arrive at the harbour master's office, where the man at the desk is dressed like a cruiser in scruffy shorts and t-shirt and is missing one temple from his glasses. He peers at my transit log while holding his glasses and asks me why do I not have the marina do this? Who will type up the form? Have you been to the bank yet to pay the 8 TL?.... I reply that I want to save the 55 Euros, I don't understand about typing the form and no, I have not been to the bank. I stand there trying to look perplexed and confused and finally a uniformed man calls out Mustafa ! Mustafa! He looks at me and says, "Wait 2 minutes, the harbour master will see you". So I sit and wait 5, minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, while other people are being waited on in a steady stream. Finally, Mustafa comes out and takes my form without saying a word. He types up an explanation for the bank and tells me to go to the bank and pay the fee. Where is the banks, says I? Across from the marina says he..... I say nothing but am steaming inside and decide to walk back, thinking , I'll pay the damn 55 euro agent fee, this is too much. Off I trudge in the 30 degree heat. By the time I get to the bank and pay the fee, it is even hotter outside but I have cooled down inside. Screw it, I'm going to make this work so I grab another cab for 6TL and head back to the harbour master. After another wait, they type up the form, print it on their printer and then stamp it on 4 pages with 4 different stamps, bang, bang, bang, bang. No, we are not done. Now it is off to the Port Police for immigration formalities. There the uniformed policeman sees me right away and after 3 more bangs of his stamps I am through. This is getting too easy, I think. I try to find an English speaker who then directs me to Customs. "Just over there," he points, so I head back but can't find it. Back to the Police and ask someone else who explains it is right next door to the harbourmaster. OK, here we go. The Customs officer is available and also sees me directly and gives 3 bangs of her stamps on 3 pages of my transit log and then looks at me and smiles. "Are we done?" I ask. "Yes," says she. "Thank you" says I and smile back. Outside, I grab a cab and head back to the boat for 7TL. That took 2 hours, a 1 mile walk and cost 32TL ( about $18Cdn) to save 55 euros (about $80 CDN). So I'm ahead, I think. We are checked out of Turkey and it's 11:20 and there is still time to get to Samos.
The sail to Samos is wonderful. It starts with power assist in 8 knots on the nose with a chop that Aisling does not like but slowly builds to 15 knots and moves to just forward of the beam which Aisling loves and we charge ahead at 6 -8 knots with full main, staysail and yankee. This we maintain for the rest of the trip. The boat is beautifully balanced with very little weather helm and she just charges through it all. The wind gods seem to approve because when we round the point to enter the Samos channel between Samos and Turkey, the wind remains on the beam and on the same tack even though we have altered course by over 120 degrees. Near the island, it picks up with the catabatic affect and we see readings of up to 30 knots apparent in the gusts. Bon and I are both exhilarated with the approach to Greece and we arrive at Pythagorio, on Samos at about 4:30.
We have trouble getting the spade to set as the white spots, which I thought were sand , turn out to be gravel. Drag, drag, drag..... we end up moving to a new spot in 17' of water where the anchor finally sets. The wind is still piping here and the wind generator is putting out about 10 amps per hour. We are happy to have arrived.
We launch the dingy and head into town to check in to Greece and the European Union, where our 90 day Schengen clock starts and the 18 month VAT clock for the boat starts. The town is beautiful. Whitewashed buildings framed with bougainvillea line the narrow, cobbled, twisting streets. We find customs and the officer explains that she is just heading to the airport to meet the plane and can see us in about an hour. Perfect, we think, and head to one of the restaurants lining the harbour front and order a large Mythos that comes in a 1 litre chilled glass with semi frozen beer. Delicious! We toast our return to Europe and our departure from Asia, which we can still see in the hazy distance.
09/16/2009, Yacht Marine Marina, Marmaris, Turkey!
Early yesterday morning, things were a bit tense onboard Aisling. Our dinghy was (mostly) to blame. Before leaving Astypalia for Yiali, we'd hoisted the dinghy onto the foredeck and deflated it. A quick, bumpy day of sailing had taken us to the south coast of Yiali, where we spent one night anchored off a very un-photogenic mine. Then the motor was back on for the windless and flat passage to Symi where, I assumed, we would check out of Greece and stock up on a few items (yoghurt, taramasalata, feta, pork) before departing for Turkey. From the water, Symi looked lovely, with pastel buildings stepping in tiers down the steep hillside. I was looking forward to taking the bus into town and doing a little exploring, but Rick had just downloaded the weather forecast. He wanted to leave immediately. Without checking out of Greece. Because you see, getting the dinghy inflated and back into the water, and then lifting the fifty-pound outboard motor down into the dinghy, is a difficult job in the heat, which had returned with vengeance. For reasons that were perfectly understandable, Rick was not keen on going to all that effort, only to face doing the entire process in reverse as soon as we got back to the boat. We were almost close enough to swim to shore, but could we carry the boat's papers, our passports and dry clothes? To resolve the whole dilemma, Rick had decided that we should skip checking out, go directly to Marmaris and just mail our cruising log back to the Greek authorities.
As the daughter of a teacher, I am a died-in-the-wool conformist, with a deep respect for authority and a complete aversion to rule-breaking. I was appalled at the idea of leaving Greece without checking out. I fretted and fumed, recounted stories of cruisers who had come to grief came by flouting the authorities, invoked emails from Jean Francois that CLEARLY stated "check out of Greece" as the final step of the proposed itinerary for Greece. The instructions on the Cruising Log document did say that we could mail it back to Greece, but only under "extenuating circumstances." I didn't see anything about our current situation that would fit the definition of "extenuating". Eventually, Rick became resigned to his fate, went on deck and inflated the dinghy. By 0930, we were on the bus.
Symi is a very pretty place and I really wish we could have spent more time there. As it was, we had just enough time to walk around the harbour to visit Immigration, the Port Police and a supermarket. A small contingent of (presumably) illegal immigrants had camped out on the large veranda outside the Immigration offices, the women wearing head-scarves and long bulky overcoats in spite of the heat of the day. Their sad expressions were a heart-wrenching sight, and I wondered what their stories were. The offices of the Port Police were in a lovely old house overlooking the harbour. There, for the first time, we encountered the surly attitudes we had heard about from other cruisers, but everything went smoothly. We were finished in plenty of time to catch the 11 a.m. bus back to the anchorage.
As we walked down the dock, a large tour group was converging on the bus stop. Rick managed to claim a seat at the back, but somehow I got jammed behind the tour guide, who informed me that I was to stay where I was. "Too many people" he told me firmly. "We're young, we're standing." It was nice to be called young, and since most of his clients really did seem to be quite a bit older than me, I decided not to argue. "Now", he bellowed to his clients, "you are experiencing the real Greece, you are riding the bus with the locals!" In reality, it was quite the reverse. Rick and I were suddenly experiencing the lives of the "Elderhostel.org" tourists who had filled the bus beyond capacity, while several local people who had been hoping to take the bus were left behind on the sidewalk. I must say, though, that their tour did sound like a great experience. Elderhostel tours have an educational focus, and this group had cruised from Athens through the Aegean on a 20-cabin sailing ship, taking almost the identical route that we had followed.
By noon we were underway, and within an hour we were sailing down the coast of Turkey. As we approached Marmaris, the hills became greener and higher. As we sailed through the spectacular scenery surrounding the luxurious marina of "Yacht Marine" at Marmaris, we realized that we were adding both another country and another continent to Aisling's logbook. Turkey! Asia! Water to wash the decks! Unlimited showers! A (drum roll) swimming pool! A day that started out with a little tension had ended very well.
The passage from Astyphalea was brisk and included passing through the main shipping channel to the Bosporus and the region where typically the strong Meltimi winds are frequent. We had a broad reach and Aisling flew with the wind. We saw three ships heading south, one oil rig slogging north and about five other sailboats going our way.. Our destination was Yiali, which is a small island north of Nisiros with a large mine and loading gantries. The harbour is very deep, but in close to the northern shore, in the saddle of the island there is a sign with an anchor on it. Here we anchored in 22' of water on hard packed sand with good holding. The wind was still strong but there were no waves, just a slight roll from the swell outside that followed us around the point over 2 miles south. There were three other sailboats here with us and we were all rolling together.
The next stop was Simi where we anchored at the head of a long deep bay in Pethi, just over the hill from Simi town. According to the Imray pilot the holding here is questionable, but we bit well in 42' of water with 180' of chain out. Just off our stern the water was 60 to 150' deep. There can be strong katabatic gusts off the mountain so we needed to be anchored well. And we were lucky, I think. There were quite a few boats here so swing room was a bit of a concern, but all worked out well in the end.
It is 35 mile to Marmaris, Turkey from Simi and the winds were light so we motored east by a mountainous coast that became greener and greener the farther east we went. It's nice to see trees again. Marmaris is in a large bay that is well protected from the sea and the slopes are covered in beautiful pine trees. The marina is top notch with great facilities, chandlery, and many yacht maintenance services. There were probably 1000 boats here in the water and a hundred or so ashore on the hard. That number will grow as winter approaches. The price is very reasonable for long term storage. Our quote was for 1182 euros for storage on the hard for six and a half months. There is a bus into town every half hour and there is a large live aboard contingent that stays over the winter.