As we began our final preparations to return to Berkeley East and begin our ninth season of cruising, the excitement was mixed with anxiety. Where did the winter go? There was still so much to do in order to leave our land life and go back on the sea. Spring had finally arrived (such a beautiful time in North Carolina) and we were sad to miss it. But the weather in the Mediterranean was warming up as well and soon the conditions would be perfect for sailing. People were asking about the state of affairs in the Mediterranean; was it safe? Others stared blankly, wondering how anyone could have angst over returning to "living the dream." The answer to that is easy: when you have a fabulous land base with good friends who truly hate to see you to leave, it can be difficult to make the transition from one life to the other.
We were lucky that our last weeks at home brought warm weather so we were able to get the ski boat in the water and enjoy the lake. Water ski runs, fire pits on the beach, backyard barbeques were enjoyed between house projects, appointments and packing. As we locked the front door to leave for the airport, we wondered what we forgot to do, or pack, and would it really matter anyway?
Taking off over the lush green countryside, the plane turned east and some 19 hours later, we landed in Turkey. The travel this year was relatively simple, a 15-hour direct flight to Munich, a brief layover, a quick 2-hour hop to Izmir Turkey. After collecting our many heavy bags filled with boat parts, our blurry eyes caught sight of a sign that said "Berkeley East." A smiling man said "merhaba" (hello) grabbed the trolley and dashed off towards the car and the 90-minute drive to the marina.
We left Berkeley East on land last year, so we checked into the marina's Yacht Club for a few days while we prepared her to be splashed. Our first glimpse of the boat after six months away is always nerve-wracking, but as usual, she was right where we left her, high and dry, and looking good. Climbing the ladder, we saw evidence of the repairs we had done while we were away. Suitcases tossed aboard for unpacking and very quickly the changeover began.
We spent the next four days waxing and polishing, moving things from one cabin to the other, stubbing our toes and smashing our heads, as we once again became accustomed to the layout of our boat. With a last bit of bottom paint, BE was ready to float, another moment always filled with tension. But float she did and after some docking excitement, the process was complete; land lubbers to cruisers in just a few days.
The next two weeks were filled with more boat work and cruising preparations, along with dinners with friends, marina parties, and even a land trip to central Turkey.
Checking the rig - 75 feet above the water
The Didim farmers market
Garlic with the stem on it
Enjoying a break from the work at the Yacht Club
Dinner at one of our favorite Didim restaurants - Yoran Bar with a guest eyeing Larry's lamb chops
The resident marina peacock displaying his feathers
A week of parties at the marina - BBQ lamb on a spit for the yachties, opening of the new dockside café and a live concert at the beach club. With the parties over it is time to go sailing.
As the end of our cruising season approached, we continued south through Greece, selecting islands that we had not visited while looking for a good hiding hole to wait out the coming Meltimi winds.
First stop was in the Oinousses islands. We went to the only harbor, Mandraki, and when the anchor was down, we quickly determined that it would be a great place for northeast winds. In its heyday, Madraki was home to some of the most wealthy ship owning families in Greece. Today it is quiet and a bit run down. The harbor was surrounded by little churches on little islands. The waterfront was quaint but deserted. The construction on the breakwater was sure to drive us nuts if we had to sit there for several days of weather.
We asked a fellow cruiser for recommendations of where to eat in Mandraki and their response was the best place to eat while we were in Mandraki was onboard Berkeley East. We took their advice, had a nice meal on BE, a good nights sleep and set off the next morning to continue our search for a Meltimi hole.
Next stop was a little cove on the island of Chios, suggested by friends as a good place to hide from the wind. On paper, the cove looked good, a bit small, but protected from the northeast, which was our goal. As we entered the harbor, we saw that there were no boats there, so there was plenty of room for us, but the wind and waves were coming from the southeast, pushing Berkeley East into the harbor sideways. We quickly accessed that while it might be ok during the Meltimi, it would not work for us until the wind came up, so on we went to one more island, this time Fourni.
There were many coves to choose from on Fourni, but since the sun was dropping upon our arrival, we quickly set the hook as soon as we found water shallow enough. It seemed like the perfect spot, until a swell rolled in during the night and BE's gentle rock turned into a rock and roll. So when morning literally rolled around, we went off in search of yet another Meltimi hole. Five coves later, at our last possible choice, Vlichada, we wondered if we should stay or move on.
With the wind building and the day fading, we dropped the hook in a beautiful cove for what turned out to be five days of big wind. And as big wind goes, we were as comfortable as we could be. It was a good Meltimi hole that we had to ourselves except all the goats.
When the wind lightened on day six, we were ready to move on. We needed to check out of Greece before returning to Turkey so we headed back to our starting point Pythigoria on the island of Samos. While checking out we were reprimanded by the port authority for not properly clearing out of Lesbos. After so much time in Turkey we had forgotten that some Greek island authorities require that you check out of the island before going on to the next island. We put on our best innocent faces, claimed ignorance and apologized, vowing never to do it again and we were reluctantly allowed to check out of Greece without having to return to Lesbos to correct our mistake. After one final Greek fish dinner, we were off, to one more island.
A few more days in 2014 on one more Greek island was all we needed before taking Berkeley East into the marina for the winter. We chose Agathonisi. This time we weren't looking for a Meltimi hole protected from the northeast, as the forecast was calling for south winds that shifted to the north in the middle of the night. So we needed an anchorage that is nearly impossible to find, one that is protected from both the north and south. We tucked BE into a beautiful, tiny cove on the west side of East Bay which seemed to fit the bill with a bit of land to north, south, and even the west. After a day of snorkeling, swimming and kayaking, we spent the evening making plans to stay for a few days and explore the island. But the morning light brought new conditions, a swell from the east that was not in the forecast, and definitely not right for this anchorage. So up came the anchor and off we went in search of just one more island.
Sadly, we were out of islands that had the protection we needed close enough to our winter destination, so instead of one more island, it was one last sail to Turkey. And after two weeks of cleaning and polishing, Berkeley East was tucked into her space in the boat yard ready to rest until spring.
Dear Nigel, Tom, Chris, Linda... We appreciate your interest in "The Adventures of Berkeley East" blog, and your requests for more frequent entries have been noted. Nigel, we don't even know you, but we were overwhelmed that you expressed your concern for our wellbeing before letting us know that our lack of blogging has disrupted your life. We are alive and well, and Berkeley East is just fine, thanks for asking. The simple reason for our inconsistent blogging is that we do not blog in real time. In fact, if we are caught up on blog entries, it usually means that we are bored or sitting out bad weather. If we are not blogging, it's safe to say that we are busy having fun doing things to blog about later. That said, while we are not waiting for a Meltimi to pass right now, we are trying to finish the 2014 cruising season blog before 2014 is over. So as requested many times, by many people, here is a new update.
Lesbos: Land of ouzo and zucchini fritters
Coming back to Greece after months in Turkey was exciting. Back to the beautiful beaches, relaxing coffee cafes, the easy going island life, well sort of. We had almost forgotten about the strick Greek procedures. But as we were waived into the huge ferry dock by the port police in Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos, it all quickly came back to us. The officer was more interested in grilling us about where we were coming from and how long we would stay than he was in catching our dock lines. It was just the beginning of an hour-long quest, going from office to office to get the necessary paperwork, stamps and receipts to clear back into the European Union. And as we finally pulled Berkeley East away from the dock, the office sternly reminded us to come back before we left to get stamped out of Lesbos. Ooops.
Lesbos is the third largest of the 1,200 inhabited islands in Greece. It is less than 10 miles from Turkey, serves as the capital of the North Aegean Region of Greece (Eastern Sporades) and is the center of production of the country's national liquer, ouzo. The island has a long history of winemaking, dating back to at least the 7th century BC when it was mentioned in the works of Homer. But in the early 19th century, phylloxera (an insect desstructive to vines) haulted wine production and it wasn't revived until the late 1990's with Lesbos' unique grape variety, Chidiriotiko. In the meantime, they perfected ouzo.
A beautiful little church of the Panagia Tis Gorgonas (The Mermaid Madonna) located in the picturesque harbor town.
Most Greeks believe that the best ouzo comes from Lesbos, so we had to try some. The only thing that ouzo has in common with wine (our favorite drink) is that it is made from grapes. It is very strong, 46% alcohol, and tastes of licorice. It is typically mixed with water (no ice) and served with traditional Greek meze's like zucchini blossom fritters, calamari and grilled peppers. While we quickly abandoned the idea of learning to like ouzo, one thing we did enjoy were the zucchini blossom fritters, so we rented a car and spent the next few days exploring quaint fishing villages, monasteries, churches, castles, the island's one organic winery, and tasting zucchini fritters along the way.
In Mytilini there are several important churches including the Cathedral of Saint Athanasios
The Byzantine Monastery of the Taxiarchis - the Archangel
At the Byzantine Castle above Molyzos "Mont d olive"
40 chapels surround the monastery of Leimonos founded in 1523