When we began our 2015 sailing season, the plan was to get back to Italy for the winter via Southern Turkey, Crete, the Peloponnese and the Ionian Islands. But as in most years, our plan changed. After reaching Corfu, our jumping off point for Italy, we decided to go back to Turkey. Why, you ask, with all the unrest in the Middle East and the challenges created in the Aegean by refugees moving from Turkey to Europe, would we go to Turkey? Well, Berkeley East has a mind of her own; she decided she needs a little more deck beautification and Turkey is the best place to get the work done. So we turned around and started back east, this time taking the shorter (450-mile) route through the Corinth Canal and across the Cyclades, stopping at some islands we had not visited before.
We left Kastos, in the Ionian Islands, with a forecast for strong westerly winds and had a quick passage through the Gulf of Patras, the Gulf of Corinth and the Corinth Canal arriving at Nisos Salamis, just outside Athens, in two days.
After brief stops in Pireaus and Sounion, we landed in Kythnos to sit out one of those infamous Clyclades Meltemis. We picked Ormos Kolona, a nice twin anchorage with a pretty little strip of beach and a somewhat trendy restaurant. During a lull in the wind one day, we went ashore and did our typical hiked to high ground in order to snap some pics. As we were coming back down the hill, a helicopter flew over and turned the little strip of beach into a landing pad, setting down right next to our dinghy. Someone, from a large yacht anchored in the bay, quickly hopped in the copter and they were off. We held our breath, as the bird came way too close to Berkeley East, hoping it would not clip the mast. And people think we live a life of luxury!
Next stop was Livadhi on the island of Serifos. This time we took the bus up a windy one-lane road to the Chora and walked down the mountain, catching photo ops along the way. There was a fire over the hill while we were there and fire planes were skimming along the Aegean Sea picking up water then flying overhead dumping it on the flames, flying dangerously close to the hillside and buzzing buildings in the town. Each pass took about 10 minutes and they did this for hours. These Greek pilots like to fly on the edge.
We had been to Mykonos before but could not resist a stop in Ornos Bay, on the beach side of the island, to celebrate a special day. Birthdays and Sushi are a great combination. During the evening, we made plans to stay a week or so to explore the different anchorages on the island. But weather prevailed and the next day we sailed on to the island of Patmos, away from the worst of the wind.
After a few days waiting out the weather in Patmos, amid reports of increases in the refugee crisis on neighboring islands, we decided to make the 35-mile crossing to our winter marina in Turkey. So instead of brushing up on our Italian, we revisited our very limited Turkish language skills, and got BE ready to rest on land.
But we are definitely going to Italy next year! At least, that is the current plan.
We had just dropped the hook in Varkos Bay, a large anchorage off the mainland of Greece with water as blue as the Caribbean Islands, when the Captain said "that looks just like Gattopardo," a boat we had encountered several times in the Caribbean. A bit later, a dinghy approached Berkeley East and the driver said, "I think I know this boat" followed by "It is you!"
We met Pete and Sari on Gattopardo in English Harbor, Antigua when we stuffed up our first Med mooring (dropping the anchor and backing into a dock) in a cross wind, catching the anchor line of another boat and Pete helped rescue us with his dinghy. We got to know them at the Shirley Heights "Jump Up," spent time with them later in an anchorage on Union Island, and they witnessed a close encounter we had with a Spanish yacht in Bequia. That was eight years ago and we haven't seen or heard of them since. But there they were, right behind Berkeley East in Varkos Bay, Greece, shocked and impressed that we had crossed the Atlantic.
We spent several days in Varkos catching up with Pete and Sari, relaxing and enjoying the Caribbean-like atmosphere with its crystal-clear water, white sand beach and open-air beach bar.
We often spend time looking for boats that we have met while cruising, but they seem to show up when you least expect them. It truly is a small world.
Berkeley East and Amante were built at the same time, nearly nine years ago, by Queenlong Marine in Taiwan, and commissioned by Hylas Yachts, side by side in Hollywood, Florida. While the boats are the same brand, they are very different in size and design. We ran across each other during the following two years while cruising the Caribbean. And then the Amantes (Vanessa and Neal) came aboard Berkeley East in Sicily to see how the other Hylas owners live. We had a great time getting to know Vanessa and Neal better (see "Sorpresas in Italy blog update" )
and have spent recent years keeping up with them via email, Facebook and blog updates.
A few years ago, they brought Amante across the Atlantic and while both boats were in the Med, we were in the east and they were in the west. We were finally able to meet up this year in Paxos Greece for a mini Hylas Rendezvous. It is always fun to run across friends in beautiful far away places.