Elixir against the wall with Kristiane alongside.
04 August 09 1000hrs and we haul in alongside the town quay and within 200 metres of the Khalkis Bridge. This bridge spans the gap between Evia and Mainland Greece 39.3metres in length and uses an ingenious sliding method with each half sliding back under the road on its respective side allowing boats to traverse the channel. As the current runs through the small gap at up to 7 knots at times causing huge overfalls and whirlpools that in themselves look very dangerous and terrifying, it is important that the bridge gap be accessed at slack water and due to it being so busy with road traffic the authorities will not allow it to open during the day, opening only once in 24 hours, usually around 1am in the morning. One has to approach the port authorities during business hours, pay the prescribed fee and obtain a pass. An attractive young woman, in an official dark uniform, asked me if I had been through the passage before then on obtaining an answer in the negative she proceeded to give me my instructions... You will pay attention. I will call you, channel 12 vhf 10 minutes before the bridge opens and you will answer me. You will wait in the area before the bridge right away from the centre.. I will call you again and you will come when I say, in the order that I say. I asked her at what time will the bridge be opening... It will only open when I decide.. anytime after 10pm and perhaps as late as 2am you will be ready because it will close quickly and should you miss your moment you will have to wait a further 24 hours. I asked her why the time is not set more accurately and she looked annoyed and rolled her eyes skyward and snapped.. we have no way of predicting exactly when the slack water will be and rely on eyesight.. She did not tell me I could, but I thanked her anyway, and proceeded to head back to Elixir in company with David Hicks and Paddy Mitchell. Paddy had also just received his instructions and paid his fee. What made this traverse an unusual and exciting event was not actually the young woman in uniform, although the observation was not missed by me, but the actual historical significance of the bridge gap and its ancient history. The dangerous currents in the channel obtain mention in historic documentation and sources like, Livy, Cicero, Pliny, and Strabo. Tradition also has it that Aristotle flung himself into the gap after being embarrassed by not having an answer as to why the currents run the way they did so unpredictably. The first record of a bridge was one that was built in 411BC. In 1896 a iron swing bridge was built and remained in use until 1962 when the existing structure was completed. Unknown to us at this time was that the opening of the bridge each night was one of Khalkis's top entertainments and tourist attractions which resulted in hundreds of people turning up in the middle of the night to enjoy the revelry and to observe the action.
All along the waterfront are bars and restaurants which as the evening turns to the blackness of night creates a vibrant hum of excitement and with the black swirling waters of the dangerous currents creating a ominous backdrop a heightened sense of anticipation. Engine oil checked, fuel levels checked, navigation lights checked, we are ready by 10pm, 11pm passes, still no info.. 12pm and the tension mounts, the tide gets angrier, the night gets blacker and wind starts to howl in our rigging.. 01:00 when is the bloody thing going to open, 02:00 and we begin to wonder if they have forgotten us! 03:00 and the vhf startles all as it suddenly crackled loudly and spat into life. We are informed that there will be 14 vessels passing south to north and that they will go first, Elixir will be the third vessel to traverse north to south. The bridge will open in 10 minutes.
Kristiane is the first to cast off..
We cast off away from the warmth and perceived safety of the bar lights and our strong line to the quay and into the black void of the night. Paddy and Carolyn of Kristiane have been given the 1st position so we station ourselves close by them and with engine idling at a gentle throb turning the prop just enough to maintain steerage we await our moment of glory.
The black bridge ever slowly starts it's slide back under the approach roads getting faster the further it slides then the first vessel from the south approaches out of the gloom for the apparent teeny little gap and what-oh it is a ruddy great freighter and it is steaming at some 15 knots, such speed no doubt needed to allow for it to maintain steerage, it must be 80 stories high
( well.. it looked that big to us.. writers license damnit!) black and menacing with the light reflected off its bow wave and its navigation lights glinting angrily amongst the stars in the sky as it squeezed through the gap with just centimetres to spare, I could swear it was breathing hot steam out of it's anchor pipes as it was bearing down on us to pass so close we felt that we could just reach out and touch it. The monster was followed by a line of yachts then motor yachts.
Well chaos then erupted because there is only room at the North Town Quay, just vacated by us, for about three large motor yachts and around seven of them wanted a position there, those missing out will have to motor a further 8 mile in the dark before being able to anchor in flat water and their paid skippers will have to bear the consequences of failure. These moorings at the quay on the north side of the bridge are not allocated and it is a matter of biggest, fasted, boldest and first there, best dressed! These multi million dollar fancy blocks of flats literally raced, high pitched engines screaming, right through the south bound waiting fleet, barreling like demons possessed northwards right between Kristiane and Elixir creating a lot of wake, with a spot at the quay being the prize for the boldest and fastest. Blasting loudly on their horns, flashing their bright searchlights menacingly and yelling angry abuse through their claxons, (well.. it sounded like abuse... in Italian, Greek, French or any language you might like!) what an absolute circus. As fascinated as we were with the drama being played out behind us by the super yachts, it was now our turn to traverse the gap.
Adrenalin now pumping through our veins,
Kristiane was called up as No1 and was off like a robbers dog followed closely by us called in at No3. We had to try and pickout in the blackness where the hell No2 was in order that we could fall in behind.
No2 turned out to be a motor vessel who had been waiting in the dark on the other side of the channel from us and he duly fell in behind Kristiane right at the bridge
Mr Cool..Calm. and mentally in control..Yeah Right!
with us in our proper place, line astern, the lady in the dark uniform will not have to give us a round up, full revs were needed as the tide had now turned and we were needing to push against a rapidly increasing current.
We shot through the gap and out into a large bay on the other side. The VHF crackled into life .. Jaguar! Jaguar! where are you?... we are just approaching from the north came the instant reply.. Well Hurry Up! snapped the uniformed lady. There must have been a few red faces on Jaguar as it was easily the biggest and fanciest super yacht traveling in our direction and the one who's Australian skipper we had passed some time and pleasantries with at the bridge headquarters earlier in the day, Jaguar must be worth in the millions of dollars, we could not resist a little chuckle now that we had established a passed though demeanor and wallowed securely in our position as perceived teachers pets. Paddy had already sorted out where he was going to anchor Kristiane for the night however David had been for a walk earlier as is his habit and had discovered a marina half a mile south of the gap which he recommended for us due to it being well lit and free, so we made our way there and duly tied up around 4am in ripple free flat water. Hot cup of tea and off to our bunks, no drama really! Piece of cake!
0700 18 July 2009 after visting the cave on Alonnisos
A study of the charts showed a promising bay about 3 miles away at the bottom of a nearby island and indeed it was here that we lay at anchor for the afternoon with only minor inconvenience from the occasional wake left by speeding craft. 1600 we sail back over to Alonissos and stuck our nose into a small village called Steni Vala, it looked a delightful place and so we decided to take the opportunity to go stern to at the town wall. When going stern to one is required to drop ones anchor in the small harbour's fairway and motor backwards keeping the anchor chain rolling only to have the brake applied at the last moment when the wall gets close to the stern just allowing stern lines to be attached to whatever bollards are available and then the anchor tightened to make secure. I am free here to impart my observation that this is often the most stressful part of a cruising family's day and many a rowdy argument in lots of differing languages rebound over the water as various expensive craft make this maneuver with widely differing skills in evidence. One tries to take no notice as normally lovely sane men turn into some stress filled monster looking to weaker members of crews to take a piece out of. Luckily for us we have this maneuver fairly well under control and I can (mostly) act quite calm while ignoring the anxious looks of adjacent boat owners and all the ondeck advice coming like staccato from all of our own crew, as we try to fit a 4 metre wide Elixir into what appears to be a 3 metre wide slot at what seems like an unholy speed which speed is required to maintain some semblance of steerage. This slot is indeed just wide enough but whoa! The bottom is coming up too quickly and I realise that we will not have enough water under us to clear Elixir's rudder next to the wall. No time to explain to crew as gearing is thrown into full forwards and we stop dead in the water from our own thrust and not that of rock. Without hoisting the anchour we have a quick team huddle and decide to go in again but this time to tie 4 metres off the wall, which we did and had to use the dingy as a very wobbly but convenient bridge to walk across to reach the wharf. We got good wifi at the taverna 50 metres away, fresh bread and some fruit and veggies, no water or power though but we are ok onboard for those items anyway. We settled into a goodtime happy hour watching all of the other boats comings and goings and the dramas being played out thereon. Mr Meltimi decided at around midnight to pay this coast a visit and 30knot winds whistled in our rigging and an uncomfortable swell fetched into the anchorage. We had a metre of depth between our rudder and the bottom so the swell was not a safety concern for us as our anchor was well bedded in, a concern was however raised as I caught a bit of a meaningful glance from she who must be obeyed (SWMBO) which did I admit send a slight chill down my spine but I needn't have worried as her several glasses of wine consumed during happy hour ensured that she was too sleepy to really notice that much. Up and down the pier there was movement as all of the fiz boats spilled their sleepy crew onto the wharf due to seasickness caused by the sometimes violent rocking that they were being constantly subjected to. Many endured the rest of the night wrapped up in whatever garments they had, huddled in little heaps on whatever seating could be found. Elixir's cockpit was my bed for the night as I needed to stay aware and available instantly if required. David would come up from down below from time to time to ascertain if I wanted a break but I was actually quite comfortable and was enjoying all of the fuss and activity.
0730 19 July we slip out of Steni Vala and move further down the coast to the Islands main town of Patitri this is a bustling and obviously thriving resort town with ferrys coming and going along with all manner of pleasure craft and fishing vessels. There is a good wharf setup in the town basin however it was devoid of a space for us. We left to lay at anchor in the bay next door and commuted by rubber ducky to shore where Shanke's pony was put to good use. Dinner ashore that night followed by a further day there as we enjoyed it so much. Good supplies were available from the main shopping area.
0700 21 July we set course for the Skopelos of recent Mama Mia fame and duly tied stern to in Skopelos Town Basin at 0900. Girls stepped ashore as soon as we were tied up as this was definitely a shopping opportunity. A bustling friendly town with lots to look at and do. Next day David and Elizabeth hired a motor scooter and did the touristy thing around all the sights, Jenny did her shop gazing, and talking to locals thing while I enjoyed being at one with Elixir. I watched as a particularly amusing unloading of a very large ferry took place just near Elixir which event had me off the boat to watch. A very zealous wharf policeman with a referees whistle tried to control the flow of cars off the ferry but... mayhem.. people and cars trying all to get off the one ramp at the same time.. Cars were only allowed to drive off with the driver and only one passenger so the first car drove off at pace followed closely by others but ... the first car needed to pick up it's passengers so it stopped on the wharf which was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. Whistle..Whistle.. Whistle.. no notice taken.. the policeman rushed over.. put his head through the drivers window and blew his whistle right in the drivers ear.. well that got his attention.. Greek swearing sounds a lot like a back blocks shepherd. Gesticulations! Obvious obscenities as the cars passengers rushed to board the car and it was off to be quickly replaced about three vehicles later with the next wally.. lots to amuse the by the now growing interested bunch of yachties. Next came the trucks.. well the first huge lorry got bellied on the slope out of the ferry so a lot more whistling and gesticulating as it inched forward and back as overly large doormats were eased under its front wheels until it was high enough to reverse back on to the ferry.. Policeman runs down the wharf continuously blowing his whistle at everybody he could see to the vehicles waiting to board the ferry for the backload.. about 15 of these cars were ordered onto the ferry and parked just inside and at the aft end leaving a narrow passage-way for the truck.. The combined weight of the cars lowered the back of the ferry so that the truck could roll off without bellying this truck was followed by four of five more until all of the inbound vehicles had left the wharf. Then the loading continued.. a lot of the car drivers had obviously not taken a sharp right turn into the dark belly of a ferry before... the slightest hesitation while the driver took stock resulted in the man with the whistle adding his full blow to the situation providing a good deal of panic and caution being thrown to the wind.. drivers preferring the chance of landing in the briney, or entering the black void rather than face the wrath of the whistle.. As the last car was approaching the ramp the ferry men were already untying their lines and literally within seconds the ship was pulling out while the ramp was being raised. Some of the best entertainment I have found available anywhere just for the looking of and absolutely free. I wandered back to Elixir well satisfied that I had had the best day of all finished off by real live drama. I noticed the policeman walking past Elixir, bathed in sweat, with a grin from ear to ear, he had obviously enjoyed his 20 minutes of power and felt that he had been the main player in the afternoons entertainment. Paddy and Carolyn arrived with Kristiane and tied stern to 3 boats away from us. Jenny returned to Elixir just as did David and Elizabeth, Elizabeth complaining as to her numb bum from the bike saddle, a fun happy hour ensued as we heard of Kristian's voyage and all imparted our days adventures before deciding what to do about tea, which event I did expostulate had become an urgent need. I have decided that a whistle could be put to good use on board, if I was brave enough, or stupid enough, to suffer the perceived consequences of ever using it.
0800 22 July Elixir moves out of Skopelos Basin into a stiff breeze where all all enjoyed the sail around the northern tip of the island to wend our way down the south eastern shoreline observing the many nice anchorages and beaches. We put into one of these, Stafilo, at 1000 for breakfast which was by now well past being due. The scenery too good to miss by someone having to prepare it on the move. Blue Blue sea, clear sky, huge cliff faces and us just 100 metres off most of the way. After breakfast and a swim we continued under headsail alone around the coast making stops here and there for a look or a swim until we reached a lovely sheltered bay, Panoramu, with very still water reflecting the greenery of the shoreline and that of the few local fishing boats and yachts. We anchored by a couple of charter yachts and ran a shore line in deciding that here we would stay very comfortably for two nights.
Winds were forecast to blow strongly on the 25th July so we decided that to find a sheltered stronghold would be advisable. A sail further around the coast revealed a new seawall construction making the little village of Elios as our choice to weather any blow. The blow came that night and built to over 40 knots there was spray flying over the seawall as the wind growled and whistled in our rigging, making rags of our NZ fern flag and our Greece courtesy flag both flown from our spreaders about 20 feet above deck. Other boats had come in and we were packed like sardines all swaying together in the wind as one while totally reliant on the strength of our combined sternlines. The sea outside was a turmoil but in where we were was calm with just a small fetch making its way around the seawall just to keep us on our toes. Next day it blew until easing around 1500 but with the sea outside still running we opted for another night tied to the concrete.
0800 28 July 2009 Cast off for Skiathos and made for a the main town of the same name. The charter group that operates out of Skiathos were kind to us and offered us a berth for the night but no water or power would be available. We had a comfortable night there and enjoyed the buzziness of the place along with thousands of tourists. I reunited my love affair with a Gyros, a sort of donner kebab, Greek style, costing about 2.3 euros, pita bread stuffed full of chunks of pork carved off a gas spit and mixed with salad and chips and smothered in mustard and tomato sauce with some mayonnaise chucked in to cover all bases, 1 million calories! Yummy!
29 July and we are off stopping only for a swim and walk ashore at a beach on Skiathos. Our destination the mainland on our way to the Gulf of Volos.
Put into a bay called Andriami where we, at it's northern extremity, were the only boat except for a little runabout that belonged to a lovely Greek couple that were there with their two children building a holiday home in this isolated bay. We so much enjoyed meeting them and spent the evening in their company under a tree ashore before returning about midnight to Elixir and our, by now, welcome bunks. David and I had gone ashore during that late afternoon for, a rather arduous I might say, walk through the olive groves under the cliffs, I was puffing along, about half a kilometer behind David, admiring the all the centuries old olive trees with accompanying stonework of walls and small block mounds that were the sole remaining evidence of past occupiers when out of the corner of my eye I caught a movement.. I stood stock still and over a wall about 20 metres away trotted, straight towards me, a fox. Well of all things I did not expect to come face to face with a fox. The fox likewise was not at all expecting to come across me! He stopped dead in his tracks looked straight in my eye, made a instant decision between fight or flight. Well he turned that fast I was sure his head went through his backside! bounding off at a great rate of knots. It is hard here to put in words how seeing this lively bright eyed little wild fox, so close in that environment, married me to the moment and is a poignant memory of that environment that I will treasure for a very long time indeed. After a good sleep we sailed out of the bay and entered the Gulf of Volus stopping only to see if we could score some fresh bread at a fishing village, but no the bakery was five kilometers away up a steep hill... result we would have to saw up day old stuff from our cubboard. Greek bread is not famous for it's keepability.
The sea around here is full of these strange noisy animals!
On we sailed to a Island in the Gulf called Trikeri where we tied stern to in a small bay and spent the afternoon swimming and observing the comings and goings. The next morning we sailed a further six miles across the bay to the village of Milina where we put into the town basin only to find there was no water to be had there so we departed to go the further mile to the charter base for Sunsail Yacht Charters. Well the Sunsail people welcomed us, gave us all the water we would need and allowed us to use their wifi to contact family and all the while tied to their pontoon. They were all so good to us that it has given us a really good impression of them so that we would not hesitate to recommend them to other yachties looking to for a charter.
We sailed across the Gulf again to a little island where the only inhabitant was a rather lonely donkey, which animal incidentally scoffed a lot of our newly acquired water .. Fed of course by SWMBO! totally ignoring sound advice regarding our own needs from me!
31 July we sail into Pigadhi, famous as the place where Achilles embarked upon his search for the Golden Fleece. We enjoyed breakfast on board then all but me went ashore for a look see. After a couple of hours we left the Gulf of Volos back into Chanel of Stenon Oreon where sailing by was our friends on Kristiane. Paddy, being a Navy man, had seen us first and would have had missile lock on if he was on one of his old destroyers, Yacht wise though he didn't scare us a bit as we outgunned him two women to one.. And I assure you without any fear of contradiction that our girls can look very intimidating indeed!
We enjoyed sailing in company with them and would continue to do so over the next few days as we approach Khalkis.
We enjoyed our spinnaker and had a relaxing run for three hours in that mode. Our chosen anchorage for the night turned out to be the place where the local disco was situated ashore so on hearing the big base music we out of there..Pronto!
and sailed a further six miles to anchour behind a little hook at Kinaion that would protect us against any likelihood of a visit from the Meltimi where we spend a pleasant and quiet night.
01 August sees us tied in the town basin at a seaside village of Atlantis to be joined later in the day by a fleet of seven yacht that had raced their from Limni. This was worrying for a start as everyone rafted up to each other including us due to the limited room available. I was not so worried about the rafting as we are well used to that back home but the worry was the gravel on the wharf being tramped over our teak while all crew came and went. I need not have worried as the crews were lovely, fun and polite, removing their shoes whenever they traversed our decks.
The morning of the 2nd August and we are invited to join the fleet for the race back to Limni, which invitation we were flattered to have received so we immediately accepted, however, we said that we did not wish to interfere with their race but would sail along keeping clear of the dedicated. Well when came the time to leave all the fleet cast off including us but lo and behold we were stuck fast in the mud! A small racing yacht came to our rescue and a line tied to our spinnaker halyard and pulled at right angel sideways from our mast top lifted our keel enough for us to motor away from the wharf. For the first two hours we enjoyed our racing but due to the wind dying completely on us we ended up pulling out to motor the 15 miles left to go. We tied to a steel wharf sticking out into the sea off Limni where we could marvel at the town.
It was just so lovely, the people so friendly, and that night a local children's folk dancing group put on a performance for the locals right on our wharf. Jenny was in seventh heaven and spent the evening dreaming of our own grandchildren.
Carolyn and Elizabeth watch as David prepares the evenings meal of free fish supplied by a local storeowner.... We love these people!
Elizabeth in racing mode.. Notice internet dish in background.. Obviously a higly skilled technition on board..
3 August and having said goodbye to our newly found yachting friends and in particular a fond goodbye to Persa Chrysomallis who had made us so welcome in her town. We in the company of Kristiane sailed a further 15 miles south down towards Khalkis and anchored for a peaceful night half a mile to the east of the light at Mnima. 4 August today we approach Khalkis to traverse the famous gap under the sliding bridge..exciting as the tide can run at 6 to 7 knots there..but we go at slack water tonight probably around 0200. This promises to be an exciting litlle diversion. Join us next week for the next excitying episode..
10 July 2009 At the end of a great days sail around the Northern side of Lesvos
we found Molyvos to be a delightful little port with the facilities that we need, like water, a steep hill to climb to another ruddy castle (Yeah right!) and a lot of excellent little suppliers. It was here that I found a nice little shop run by a local artist and managed to secret (yeah right once again!) away a little something for the upcoming most important birthday of the year. Actually to be perfectly candid Jenny does not have a birthday she has a birthmonth! Anyway we did the obligatory hard climb to the castle, half way up I had fun writing my epitaph, I could see it etched in marble on one of the steeper lots of steps, and I QUOTE.. Here died Ted unenthusiastic and reluctant climber of steep castle hills, his devoted (but decidedly bossy) wife labored only under the mistaken belief that it would be good for him to get the exercise. Sadly missed by SWMBO who must now carry her own water! UNQUOTE. Yep I can see it now as I swallow yet another hand full of blood thinners to go with this evening's rum. The other concern that was crossing my mind, not during the climb which time was self pitying, was that we had now been three whole days in Lesvos and if we stayed another two days Jenny and Elizabeth might start eyeing each other up! I understand that it only takes 5 days to fall victim to the lands greatest call to fame! I will be watching carefully for hardening of muscles and deepening of voices. No electricity was available as the provided electricity boxes on the wharf had been blown to bits by arcing and I can only assume that some clown had tried to run his personalized welder through the devices, the welding worked but only within the said boxes, they were just a molten mass and a danger to walk near. Cast off early in the morning of the 12th June on a course set to take us to Sigri another 25 miles around the coast to the North-Western side of Lesvos.
We were reminded at the entrance to the bay to remain ever vigilant of the rocks that lurk in these waters looking for their next unhappy victim.
On entering Sigri Bay at 08:00 we noticed Kristiane laying at anchor so we neatly anchored beside them and formally offered them a cup of tea. Paddy, being a retired Australian Navy officer and all, we made sure that our maneuvers looked very smart and up to regulation, I shot down below decks and had a quick shave, just to complete the picture.
I am sure nobody noticed us putting the rubber ducky in upside down! What a time to do it!
Paddy tried, vainly I might add, to look like he had swabbed his decks at least twice this morning and had unfurled his flag at sunrise... Humph. The Girls, being girls, Carolyn, Elizabeth and Jenny, just all squealed with delight and enjoyed the encounter immensely and made no pretenses at any noticeable seamanship, that's good, that's good, Lesvos has clearly not yet cast its spell! Paddy and Carolyn had sailed up the 40 miles or so from Oinoussa the day before and reported that they had had a good sail. We all loved Sigri and think it is a must for a quiet stopover even though we had a very social time there. I even fixed the closest restaurant's wifi for them and thus we were able to take advantage of free wifi from Elixir and Kristiane during our stay which was an unexpected but welcome bonus allowing us all to talk extensively to our home teams.
A good time on board Elixir, no lies were told... well......
The many free beers given by the restaurant owner was also well received during the heat of the day. 14 July at 03:30 we slip our moorings in the darkness and quietly leave a very still Sigri Bay and sleeping Kristiane behind once again to sail North. We had a 50 mile sail ahead of us to the Northernmost port on our planned destination of Lemnos. The day's sail up to Lemnos was uneventful as the expected strong headwinds failed to eventuate and we spent most of the time motorsailing. We entered the inland seaway of Moudros. Moudros is where the ANZAC's were stationed as a shore base during the Gallipoli campaign being just 40 miles from the Front Line. It was with somber hearts that we looked around the empty bay and tried to envision what it must have been like filled with troopships and various battle cruisers all billowing smoke from coal fired steam engines with the continual flotilla of support craft going back and forth from the wharfs, the camps, the barking of orders and the clomping of heavily booted feet marching in the tiny cobbled streets, young fresh faces grimly coming to terms with the reality that they may never be returning home to country and loved ones. We visited the war memorial and grave yard and noticed the many NZ and Aussie graves with no name on them just ..Known only to God.. in the inscription. All young men some even as young as 16 that died for King and Country who no doubt went only for the comradeship, excitement and adventure. It was a hot sweaty walk to the Cemetery and one was left with the feeling that no matter what recognition we could give to them it could never be adequate, all of us were, however, moved and deeply saddened.
We spent the night tied to the Pier at Moudros having watched as the red sun departed a peaceful and tranquil day so in good old seamanlike fashion we drank a large rum to the departed countrymen both our own New Zealanders and our mates from Australia and Britton that suffered the same tragic fate so many years ago. 06:00 on 15 June 2009 and we motor quietly out of Moudros and hoist sail for a short but fun sail around the coast of Lemnos to Mirina a delightful town and now capital of Lemnos containing a good modern harbour with lots of people and a bunch new places to visit.
Tied up by 11:00 and started a most enjoyable day and a half of celebrations for Jennifer's birthday.
Birthday girl on way to dinner..
Delightful little dinner venue by the sea with castle background.. Sigh
Now to the other side of the Agean Sea wind supposed from here on to be behind us.. What Wind Where?
17th June we set sail for the Western portion of the Northern Sporades and our first broad reach sail right across the Agean to the uninhabited Island of Pelagos.
No sooner had our anchor hit the sand and we were buzzed by a huge and very noisy Hellenic Coast Guard helicopter. My first reaction as it literally powered down the side of the cliff was that it was in trouble and was about to tragically crash in this out of the way place so it was with a sense of relief when we discovered that it was just doing what appeared to us to be a yacht count.
The way that pilot threw that machine around you would think he was at an airshow, put on just to impress us, well we were certainly impressed at his skill and daring, but wondered at the relevance of the obvious expense. A very peaceful night ensued but due to the lack of a breeze I spent the whole night sleeping under the stars on the deck.
Next day we visited several islands and a set of caves on Alonnosis.
Elixir just can not keep out of the picture!
That is it for now.
We need not have worried as to the difficulty of sailing north into the teeth of the Meltimi as 5 July we cast off at 0600 and immediately hoisted the main and motor sailed through the gap between Samos and Turkey.
Jenny and Elizabeth abandoned ship in Samos preferring the luxury affored by the local ferry to transport them to Chios for 12 euro each. Back to the sailing, as we rounded the northeastern extremity of Samos we indeed came onto the wind with 10knts meaning that we were unable to sail the direct course, however, it was not the expected exact dead beat so it looked like we were going to get away with only having to put in a couple of boards, this was not the Meltimi. (Interpretation: A dead beat is the wind coming exactly from where we want to go while a board is a change of course, not the yacht falling apart. A new board puts the wind on the opposite side of the boat meaning that we are still obliged to make a zig zag type of course, but for us the zig was to be about 6 times the distance of the zag so one hour in six will have to be on the opposite tack.) Ten miles up the course and the wind direction changes to allow us to make an even longer zig. Managed to tack near the big blue Ferry containing our loved ones, keepers of our credit cards, the girls managed to fire off a lot of photos while making quite a stir on board with their use of the handheld VHF. I am pleased to report that the use of the VHF has got a lot more formal and Jenny no longer calls me darling over the airwaves, so I can hold my head up in port! Wind pressure now about 20knots and we are creaming it at 7.5knts boat speed. Yipee!
This was turning into a fast trip, David and I had smiles right around our faces as we settled into one of the best days sailing that we have ever had in the Med. Plenty of other boats out and about for us to chase, visibility, due to the Mediterranean haze, was no more that 8 miles so as we caught up and passed slower yachts another would show in the distance to track. All the while we were being sucked in towards the Turkish coast and indeed we could have even have swum ashore at the upper end of the track.
At 1800 we enter the narrow gap between Turkey and Chios and change tack dramatically to avoid a couple of fish farms being slowly towed north by small tug boats, the tugs are at least 300 metres from the fish farms with steel hawsers joining them ready to take the keel off the unwary. The wind turns a bit chilly, so we need to put on a shirt, start the motor and have happy hour before entering Chios Town Basin to find our boat girls again. We had to stand off the entrance while we flaked the main (Folded and secured the mainsail onto the boom) and waited as a motorized super yacht left. The motor yacht was followed out by a 60 foot tender manned by what must have been a New Zealand couple, we know this as they nearly fell off their boat waving to us. We have noticed this phenomena of really zealous waving on a couple of other occasions so we now believe beyond a shadow of any doubt that it is the Mediterranean working New Zealanders' equivalent to the Haka, a reply was duly performed and all were happy. Europeans do not wave first, not ever, you may observe on occasion an Australian making similar gestures to the NZs. Our girls were standing on the wharf waiting to take our stern lines as we dropped our anchor in the basin and reversed into a likely looking spot. We told them of the terrible strenuous passage we had just made and of the depravation we had to endure along the way just to get their beds to them, yes them who had had the luxury big ship trip. Some how I think our smiles and happy, slightly rum induced, demeanor gave us away! They, Elizabeth and Jenny, had had to spend the afternoon poolside at the best hotel in town and they didn't have their fancy shoes with them, the poor wee things, so we quietly sipped another rum in sympathy while they savaged a dry white from our fridge.
Happy hour number two took place however let me assure you that we do not very often fall from the discipline of one happy hour a day!
Next day 0500 and slip out of Chios, destination, Mandraki on the island of Oinoussa. This was just a short motor sail and we were tied up alongside by 08:00 and off to the wharf police and bread shop.
Such a pretty little island that was a must visit for us as it has the best maritime museum to be found. In this museum can be viewed exact replicas of 16th Century sailing ships elaborately carved out of whale bone and ivory by French prisoners of war from that era. The Greek shipping bosses mostly from this island controlled 2/3 of all of the European shipping at the outbreak of the second world war. Magnificent homes are around every corner, elaborate affairs that in the main have been left to the elements as the owners have either died off or moved to Athens. The younger generation find it hard to live in the outer islands due to the lack of the types of excitement that appeals to them.
In the evening David jumped ship and went crewing on a teeny Greek fishing boat (about 16ft), he could not even speak greek and the owner couldn't speak english, however, he returned at 0100 next morning bearing gifts of a half a bucket of squid, we accepted the gifts and graciously allowed him to return to the Elixir crew and all was forgiven as cooking duties will mitigate our need to extract a savage and bloody revenge. Besides blood tends to make an awful mess of our sailing lines and sheets. David having achieved one of his stated goals on this trip and that was to go out fishing with a local.
0600 7th July and we go west some 10 miles to Marmaro back on the northern extremity of Chios and there we met a Greek Australian that helped David to prepare the calamari which was mostly consumed in the first sitting. What a feast the fresh calamari cut into rings, crumbed and fried was too delicious to describe, we ate it, accompanied by a cheeky little wine under the full moonlight sky. Sigh, sigh! we have indeed found our Utopia? By the way on arriving in Marmaro I visited the Port Police to sign in only to be told that in the three years that this particular officer had controlled the port we were the very first New Zealanders to enter, he waived any berthage or port dues, nice man, and wished us a pleasant stay. 0300 8th July and a sleeping Marmaro is left to the feint echo of our departing exhaust as the wind was now 0 knots and the motor offered us 6.5. At 0400 we are overtaken, close to, by a large cruise liner all lit up like a Christmas tree , this was a magnificent sight in the mist of a cool morning as the ship proceeded towards Ismir in Turkey located down a deep seaway and some 40 miles to the south west, we rippled our way on towards Lesbos.
0800 and we anchor in a small deserted lagoon in the southern part of Lesvos. Breakfast swims, dingy in the water and outboard reconnoiter revealed nothing of note so once again we get under way and half an hour later entered the inland sea of Kolpos Yeros.
Old Pelican could not care a less about us..
Anchored at Kopos Yeros for some shore exercise.
After spending a few hours nosing our way around we returned through the pass and sailed north east to the main port on Lesvos called Mytilini which we entered at 1900. Stern to again and off to organize the legals and sort out the rules. Very noisy buzzy place with unceasing traffic passing within 20 meters of our stern. Next morning a quick trip to supermarkets, chandelers, gas suppliers and hardware stores to replenish dwindling supplies. A revisit to Port Authorities, I have now got the drill... on arrival have a copy of the Crew List pre typed out in full, names addresses passport numbers, Ships details including tonnage, home port and shipping registration number, have the travel log duly stamped by the last port authority and stamped again on leaving, pay the berthage, electricity and water usage all up usually around 8 to 10 euros plus tax. 0100 and we once again at sea on a very, very, hot day showing 42deg, clear the coastal shipping and harbour boundary and we cut the motor and all and sundry jump overboard to cool down.
Top foot or so of water is tepid like a bath but once you get below that it is really quite cooling and refreshing. So we spent a pleasant half hour playing fishes before reverting to the motor and northing once again. We spot a few dotted islands just off the coast which only just show sketchy on our navigational systems and the pilot book does not even mention them.
We closed them with caution using number one eyeball for navigation and pick our way into a lovely sandy encourage of some 6 metres deep, we pick it would be safe in the Meltimi but exposed to the south and south west. We settled in for the night and enjoyed this spot immensely, what a change from the city ports, not a sound other than seagulls and the odd passing fishing boat.
I spent the whole night sleeping on deck, the Islands, sky and sea were so enchanting. 0600 on 10 July and we pick our way out amongst the rocks and head for Molyvos some 20 miles distant.
It is from this little port of Molyvos in Northern Lesvos that I write and send this blog.
Magic under the castle loom..
Sail maintenance must be a part of every sailors life... Careful with that needle!
Hope you enjoy the account of traveling north by yacht in Greece.
28 June 2009, Late in the day we move the yacht into Kos Marina for water before returning to our anchorage off the Kos Atkis Hotel.
Over the two days that we had been laying to anchor there I was delighted to be able to welcome Paddy and Carolyn Mitchell who arrived in their Yacht Kristiane, having sailed all the way from Sydney.
Kristiane on the left Elixir to the right with Tactical Direction to the right and behind.
Ausi - Carolyn Mitchell with NZ cuzzie-bro Ted
All enjoyed the reunion and on this our last night in Kos we adjourned for drinkies, oh yes and story telling, Boy was there some story telling... I never lied once I tell you! All on board Tactical Directions a roomy catamaran belonging to Tony Roberts also sailed all the way from Sydney.
29th June 05:00 and we ship our anchor and head off under motor northward to Pandeli on the east coast of Leros.
Pandeli with Castle and Windmills - A picture postcard into which we sailed.
Anchored by the entrance to the town basin and with a sternline ashore it was off to investigate our surrounds which from seaward had looked magic and we were not disappointed in the reality. Decided the next day would be spent here also and to hire motor scooters to promulgate a greater exploration. Off around the Leros with Jenny on the pillion I was back to my bikey best with a full 80cc under us. Bit embarrassing when it literally ran out of grunt and we had to walk the last little bit of hill to the castle. Have had a word to Jenny about the ballast but she informed me that ballast was integral to my free board. Nothing further one could say.
David and Elizabeth - Born to be wild!
We even had time to visit the odd small church along the way.
We were delighted when at the northernmost part of Leros we observed Savana with just Keith and Pam aboard making sail in the bay below.
You just can't keep boatgirls away from the sailors..can you!
Back to Elixir at the end of the day and into the anchorage came both Savarna and Perfect Lady who's owners Tim and June Perfect are from Leamington, Cambridge in the Waikato making it a three NZ ship line up along the embankment. Lots of fun on Savarna for drinks her having rugby field sized cockpit and all.
Savarna Under way and about to peal off to the South while we head Northward.
Photo of Elixir under sail thanks to Keith and Pam.
First thing next day 01 July and we set sail north to Lipso and the other two yachts sailed off into the distant south. All onboard Elixir feeling a bit sorry that we had to leave Kristiane behind as they were still catching up on their correspondence in Kos and we need to keep a bit of a hammer down to achieve our northing. Lipso has not lost any of its charm despite us being away for a year. Quick turn around in Lipso leaving at 10:00 on 2 July with the wind now being very boisterous 18 - 23 knots in gusts with a mean level of 17knts. Two reefing points rolled into the genoa and we are doing 7knts on a lay to Agathonisi where we were one of 7 yachts sheltering for the night.
Lots of Coastguard and Naval activity as this is one of the closer Islands to Turkey and as such is a favorite destination for refugees making a precarious landfall for souls full of hope for a brighter future. 05:00 3 July and we slip out of Agathonisi in the dim light of the new day and face a good beat into the Meltimi to clear the Island in an accompanying short steep sea making exhilarating sailing all the while enduring a very uncomfortable bash into the breaking sea with decks awash. It took about an hour to clear the island however now on a port tack we are still not able to lay Samos but now a lot more comfortable. As the morning progressed the Meltime decided to stall out and we found ourselves motoring the last five miles into Samos Marina near Pithagorian, Electricity, Wifi, Showers and all the comforts. David and I walk the very hot steep incline before a downhill amble into the town to organize a rental car to explore Samos, it being about a 3 hour drive we had been informed by SWMBO that bikes were not appropriate here. We were surprised to find, for the first time I might add, that our NZ drivers licenses were unacceptable and that we should have had International ones. At last we found a rental car firm that didn't ask about our licenses so we rented a grunty 1800cc Daihatsu shopping cart to provide the next days entertainment.
Saturday 4 July did the touristy thing and toured Samos. We did the high towns and the beaches getting back to Elixir at 1800 to set the boat up for the next days sail, 67 Nautical miles to Chios and all of it up hill may extend the distance needed to be sailed by a further 30 miles. Good sleep needed.
Bye for now
Sorry guys but after receiving pressure from all our readers that are Amelda ruddy Marcoses means that they must have their moment in the sun. I have been assured however that this is an essential part of equipping the vessel....Yeah Right!
Negotiating with the Harbourmaster..
Now for some heavy weather sweaters...
Stormy weather boots .. essential yachting equipment.. I thinkest not!
And for Northern Hemisphere severe Arctic conditions ... Ice Picks (not wanting to slip on the teak!)
Safety Harnesses?... One does not want to fall overboard! Or out or anything!
Rain proofing... One wouldn't want to risk getting wet would one! (Oh.. No.. No.. No!)
Spare crew perhaps?...Noooooo!... Holding the very latest in diving wetsuits then..?
Boat Gear Bags... by the dozen.. For lugging collateral damage unseen on board perhaps!
Nah.. it must be just a real bad dream, Okay so Greek salad does not agree with me after all..!!!!!