25/07/2015, Partheni Harbour, Leros.
Peros the local sparky identified the blown capacitor in his root cause analysis of the desalinator. Easy? No. A new one had to be ordered from Athens, so we decided to head over to the nearby Arki island for a few days. The recommended anchorages were windy with poor holding so Diomedea went down to the southern tip of the island into a beautiful spot for a stern-tie up. As David drove the dinghy toward the rocky shore with the tie up line he managed to spear the front pontoon on a tiny but razor-sharp rock spike. A big whoosh of air and the dinghy now had only 2 out of 3 pontoons. Amazingly it still drove quite well and continued to plane even. Surely there were no more dramas, right? No. With two lines ashore our anchor still dragged as wind built on the beam overnight and Diomedea was pushed inexorably toward the limestone as the new day dawned. Disappointingly, dropping our previously reliable 36kg Manson Supreme anchor into sand is no guarantee of good holding in these parts. Our belief, although as yet unconfirmed, is that the sand is only a thin layer over rock. The anchor will dig in somewhat but go no further. Visual inspections shows a lot of the anchor exposed. Other boat anchors perform no better. We have now experienced this in many bays and have become super cautious about "good holding" as stated in the pilot. Big winds are also common adding to the problem.
Chastened, Diomedea did the short hop over to Marathi island with its taverna on the beach and sunset bar on the hill. (Father and son team) There, we stern tied but used a mooring on the bow rather than the anchor. Marathi is a nice little hideaway and was justifiably popular with yachts. And gulets. An 80 footer anchored more or less on top of us with stern lines running close along our port side. As the wind built on the beam overnight .... well you will never guess. They started to drag their anchor onto poor little Diomedea at zero dark thirty. Eventually they did the right thing and took off. Marathi has a resident population of about 20 in summer and 3 in winter. Many people in the Aegean islands head back to Athens for winter.
After a very enjoyable stay at Marathi it was back to Grikos bay on Patmos for the new capacitor and the desalinator was once again in action. We picked up a mooring again there.
Our next destination was the large boatyard at Partheni harbour, Leros, about 25nm SE. We had put a patch on the 30mm cut in the dinghy with some success but it was still leaking. The boatyard confirmed they could fix it and so we had an excellent beam reach before gybing around an off-lying island into flat water. Partheni is an all-weather harbour and one could ride out a storm here. Holding is absolutely solid in thick mud. We had trouble getting the anchor out of it! Not overly scenic, and with an airport close by it is a working harbour with fishing boats coming and going. The boatyard has a huge hardstand, a well stocked chandlery, and full workshops for all repairs. We abandoned the dinghy to their care and hired a car for some tiki touring on Leros. (We have an inflatable kayak for getting to and from the boat, sans dinghy. See, you have to have two of everything.) We also enjoyed a day anchored at Nisos Arkhangelos. Pristine.
Leros has a fairly intense history. If you look at Google Earth you will see that the island is blessed, or cursed, with excellent indented bays making quality harbours. I have already mentioned Partheni in the north. This fluke of geography did not pass unnoticed by anyone bent on conquering. The island has been fought over by all players for this exact reason. The island was seized in 1309 by the Knights of St John. Now, the more attentive readers will remember that we jokingly referred to Knight architect Heinrich Schlegelholt being awarded castle designer of the year in 1422. Well, we now suspect that this was in fact the case, as he was employed to consult on the castle that now sits magnificently above the village of Pantelis on the east side of Leros. An impregnable fortress with multiple layers of defence, it is in very good condition. We were given a two hour lesson in history of the region by the museum curator. An American born Greek islander, with the looks and mannerisms of John Malkovich, his father had become Italianized during that country's occupation of Leros, before moving to the USA. Confusing isn't it? Anyway, like the castles at Bodrum and Rhodos, the castle at Leros was handed over to Suleiman II in 1522 for the beginning of the Ottoman occupation. In 1912, the island was siezed by Italians and held for over 30 years. The forced Italianization programme occurred under fascist rule with Mussolini, who even had a mansion at Lakki. Lakki is the township on the large harbour toward the SW part of the island. Nazi Germany attacked the island in 1943 in operation Taifun, using amphibious and paratrooper assaults, backed up by intense aerial bombardment, and held it until the end of the war. In 1948, the island, along with others of the Dodecanese, was reunited with Greece, 700 years after the end of the Byzantine Empire.
The photo above is the castle at Leros.
Pix in Photo Gallery link RHS of this page
14/07/2015, Grikos, Patmos
When the first one of us says "Do you think we should reef?", we do. So as the wind built to 25 kts the first reef went in and then later the second and then the jib was rolled a bit. Finally Diomedea rounded Cape Aghridhio at the southern end of Fournoi island straight into 35kts on the nose. The jib was put away and we motor-sailed the last few miles to make anchorage in the delightful Petrokopio bay just south of the main town of Fourni.
Fourni only has a standing population of 1100 souls or so, yet has a relatively new paved road system and two soccer fields proudly sponsored by the EU for many millions of euros. (Landslides already blocking the roads, and weeds growing in the fields) We took advantage of this to tour the island by rental car. We had coffee at Chrysomilia on the NE peninsula of the island before a swim and lunch at Kamari along the east.
In one of the bays is an ancient quarry with cutoffs scattered about like nine-pins. The island was used as a naval base by the Samiots in the 6th century BCE. In medieval times it served as a pirate lair, and they were based appropriately in Kleftolimane Bay (Thievery bay) on the nearby Thymena island. After the Greek war of Independence in 1821, the Turks waged vengeful destruction on Fourni.
Surprisingly the next leg took us south to Patmos in a flat calm. A welcome respite from the days of howling northerlies that we had been getting. Anchorage was made initially in Agriolivadi Bay and then in the rather more attractive Grikos bay south of the main town of Scala. The port itself is rather too busy for our tastes but one can stern-tie to a quay if desired. Having said that, Patmos is extraordinary. It is the epicentre of Greek Orthodox religion and is a regular pilgrimage destination. The crown in the jewel is definitely the fortified Monastery of St John the Theologian on the hill above town. Other monasteries or chapels adorn the island in their hundreds it seems. The Cave of the Apocalypse is found below the monastery, and is where John the Apostle received his Revelation apparently. He is said to have died in 100CE but this seems rather unlikely. There was a basilica erected around 300CE but this was destroyed by Turkish raiders. Construction of the monastery seen today started in 1101. Interestingly, the island was declared a duty-free zone in its early days. Even more interesting is that the Otttomans allowed the monastery to continue under their rule (and they kept the tax free status going) and there are no minarets. The Italians held the island for a while then Nazi Germany before finally it joined independent Greece in 1948.
Whilst anchored in Grikos we went for a walk up a nearby mountain. We experienced very strong winds on the summit and on the beach where we had cutaneous resurfacing care of the fine sand blasting we received. Amazingly this same beach was very populated by Euro nudists. Ouch. Upon returning we found Diomedea on a mooring, not on anchor as we had left her. She had dragged in some strong gusts before re-anchoring herself some hundreds of metres away just before going onto the beach of an island. A sensible yachtie retrieved her and put her on a mooring. However, he was unable to lift the anchor and nor could we. We presumed that we had hooked some harbour floor debris, hence the drag. So David went down on scuba to sort out the anchor so that we could finally reel it in. A huge ball of mud and weed was the culprit. Weed is remarkably resistant to anchors here. Overall a very stressful afternoon. We thanked the yachtie with wine from Suvla bay. Of course, as you know bad things come in threes. And so it was that we spent a day replacing a leaking macerator pump on the blackwater tank, as well as cleaning its diverter valve, and then the electric motor on the desalinator blew up. Too much fun.
The 30 mile beat to Greece took us through a blast zone of up to 30 kts on the nose before we finally gained the entrance to Pythagorio harbour on the island of Samos(37 41.3'N: 26.56.94'E). Strangely this harbour is separated from Turkey by a strait only about a mile wide. Once entrance formalities were complete, made much easier in the Customs office with our very Greek yacht name, we were free to roam the country and prop up the economy as best we could. So, naturally our first stop was the Cosmote telco for sim cards! To do this one has to take the dolmus over to Samos town, the commercial centre of the island on the northern side. Whilst there we toured a beautiful Greek Orthodox church and the excellent museum before having a quick lunch with Stormvogel and Southern Star on the quay. It turns out that the island has been inhabited since 10,000 BCE, so the production of ruins has been well-developed over the period. It also continues today as evidenced by the many abandoned modern half-constructed buildings littering the countryside. Back in Pythagorio we walked the grounds of the fortified monastery above the old town, inspected ancient Byzantine villas, clambered up the hill to tour the town walls, and had a couple of meals out. (Recommend Aphrodite restaurant). Without a doubt our best trip was by car to the base of Mt Kerkis (1434m) for a walking ascent of its peak. One of the highest mountains in Greece, the climb is 1000m up and took about 8 hours return. We were rewarded with stunning views across the Aegean to many islands. We lit a candle in the tiny chapel of the high mountain refuge hut to give us extra insurance for the summit bid. For this trip we were accompanied by the wonderful crew of Birgitta, Murray and Lyn, who hail from Gisborne in NZ. They have spent 5 seasons in the Med and combined a great depth of knowledge of the area with an excellent sense of humour and outstanding palates. Samos really grew on us but we decided to join Birgitta southbound. So, with a forecast of 20 kts NNW breeze we sailed SW toward the Fournoi archipelago.
Here are the belated pix of this incredible place. CLICK HERE
04/07/2015, Didyma, Turkey
The town is rather touristy and noisy but its history is captivating. The Knights of St John were originally charged with defending the Holy Land after the First Crusade seized Jerusalem around 1099. They lost this to invading Islamic armies and retreated to Rhodes and Malta. However, the knights still wanted a base on Asia Minor and the site was chosen. It had previously been the a fortification as early as 1110 BCE and also a palace of King Mausolos (who went on to build one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - an extremely large burial monument to himself, known of course as a Mausoleum. All the stone from this building was recycled into the castle, so only the foundations of the Mausoleum remain today). The castle was designed by Heinrich Schlegelholt, a knight architect. Over the next century or so the castle was a refuge for Christians but also for some prominent Islamic figures who feared execution at the hands of their families. The vast armies of Sultan Suleiman attacked Rhodes in 1522. The Knights surrendered and handed over the Castle of St Peter as well. Thus the castle went into Islamic hands in which it has remained ever since. It has had many and various uses over time but nowadays it hosts the fascinating Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Like most historic things in Turkey it is only possible through the work of foreigners, in this case Americans. The castle is well worth a visit if you are in town. The ruins of the mausoleum are not all that interesting. A large Roman era amphitheatre is found above the town and is being renovated.
From Bodrum we flew downwind into the gulf to explore some remote and lovely anchorages. The wind stayed around 25 kts much of the time but subsided overnight. Diomedea returned via the popular anchorage of Adana Adasi and another bay near Bodrum before turning north once again. We had planned to stop at the ancient city of Melitos but the anchorage was chock-a-block and no ruins were visible. Our voyage continued up to Didyma and the excellent Didim Marina, at which we made a rendezvous with Southern Star and Stormvogel.
Didyma was the site of the temple and oracle of Apollo in the ancient Greek world and was second only to Delphi in importance. The ruins remain today. The town itself is relatively drab and dull so there is little reason to visit it. For the crews of the three yachts it was a time to pool resources and take a trip to fabulous Ephesus, north of Kusadasi and some hours driving from Didyma.
Ephesus was inhabited in the Neolithic period around 6000BCE but the ancient Greeks established the city as an Ionian colony around 1000BCE. Needless to say it went on to have a long and chequered history, being conquered and retaken by all and sundry. In Roman times it was the capital of Asia Minor with a population of about 250,000. For a very long time it was a seaport but the Little Meander river and its harbour gradually silted up and the access to the Aegean was lost. Today the city is 5km inland! The city was eventually taken by Islamic forces in 1304 and then abandoned in the 15th century. Ephesus has huge significance for Christianity as Paul the Apostle lived and wrote here as did John. Mary, mother of JC ended her days in Ephesus. A very large Church of St Mary can be seen as ruins today. Early councils to ratify Christian doctrine were held in Ephesus. As a tourist one is overwhelmed by the size and grandeur of what was a very big city by the standards of the day. Most impressive is the Library of Celsus built in 125 CE but equally the amphitheatre with seating for 25,000 people is incredible. Most of the work to expose and restore the site has been done by Austrians and continues today. A visit to this ancient capital is not to be missed.
Finally the time to say farewell to Turkey came. We spent some time overhauling all the seals on one of hydraulic steering rams and doing many other jobs. Then it was food and fuel, clearing out of the country with the help of the very nice local agent Attila (the Turk) and we were in the wind.
For photos CLICK HERE