02 July 2011 cruise is now officially underway as we are on a yacht in Istanbul. The yacht that we are on is Kristiane belonging to Paddy and Carolyn of Australia.
Picture is of Paddy standing beside his Yacht Kristiane with a bag of washing for the laundry. No he is not leaving home!
Tomorrow we leave at dawn by plane from Ataturk Airport and fly down to Dalaman where we will catch a bus to Marmaris for a welcome reunion with Elixir. Elixir is due to be launched on Monday and if Jenny and I are not there then we get charged 500 euro to have the marina staff park it in the marina for us!
We can not really give a good account of our travels without going over a few of the trials and tribulations of getting away from New Zealand. We were due to fly out a week ago but the ash cloud from Chili grounded all our flights so we had rebook twice and each time the price went up to due to the increased demand as more and more would be travellers were scrambling for whatever tickets were available. I had been so proud of the fact that Jenny and I had managed to book our passage all the way to Marmaris for the total price of $2,300nz . Well the best laid plans of mice and men and all that sort of thing meant that we have finally got there, well almost, for $3,400nz. There is however a silver lining to this cloud as the hold up gave Jenny time to complete two more house sales with two of our very good clients meaning that even taking into account the increase in Airfares and the delay in timing we have come out with quite a net profit from the whole thing. There is no doubt in my mind now therefore that a good woman is a great asset for a cruising man!
First flight out of Auckland was a 10 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur where we stayed with my brother Ian and sister in Law, Jenny, yes still another Jenny! Such saves Ian and I the embarrassment of forgetting the names of our sisters in law! Ian and Jenny have a whole bunch of Nieces who certainly know how to dress up a party as they are quite the most stunning looking lot of young woman, meaning that my chest swelled with pride to be seen with them out and about at the wonderful eating places to be found in that city.
The Shangri-La was our first stop for lunch! Yes indeed I am not beyond a bit of name dropping when the opportunity presents itself! Here is a bonus tip for you all, if exotic and tasty food is your bag then you can not go past Kuala Lumpur with surrounds in veering levels of grandeur from princely right down to street stalls, all with food that is tasty and interesting with wonderful sauces and recipes. I am a real fan of this city.
02/07/11 early morning, just after Midnight, We left KL at for a direct flight with Malaysian Air right through non stop to Istanbul. On arrival we spent the day with Paddy and Carolyne Mitchell who had their yacht moored in a marina handy to all the lovely parts of Istanbul. Jenny headed off to the spice markets and Grand Bazzar while Paddy and I and a friend of Paddy's spent a very pleasant time drinking cold beers and taking in the scenery. We rejoined the Girls for tea and drinkies on the yacht before retiring for the night onboard.
4:30 next morning 3 July, and Jenny and I were up heading off to the airport. At 5am the sound of the call to prayers from all the minuets setting up a Mexican wave of calls around the inner city. I was off to the toilets and on the way tripped over a small step in the concrete and skinned my knee . I thought my dignity would be in ruins but I think the guards at the gate thought I was doing my bit for morning prayers, I supposed enhanced by my own calls to a well named Deity. Just as well that no English was understood!
Arrived in Dalaman at 8:35 am 3 July, and straight on to a bus for the hour and quarter bus trip through the southern Turkish countryside to Marmaris. Transfer to a Taxi and out to the Marmaris Yat Marin where Elixir would be waiting where we left her two years ago. What no Yacht!
But I could see the marks where she had been stored so I made a quick scout about to find her secured in the water right in the slipway where she had been deposited the day before. It was so good to clap eyes on her and enter into the welcoming cabin. Found the steering had ceased up completely and the decks and cockpit in a state of filth. So first up a cup of tea and then to work. Well we worked away until midnight by which time all was glowing and clean again with the steering fixed and fully operational. Due to the harshness of the heat in this part of the world I had taken down all of our halyards and removable rigging and replaced with nylon ratlines when last I left Elixir. We had expected to only be away for 10 months so I had not anticipated that over two years all of the nylon ratlines would perforate in the sun and fall to bits. Next day 4 July, was spent with riggers up the mast re-rigging and running all lines which turned out to be a bit of a marathon job. By the end of that day all was done. Next day 5 July, we bussed into Marmaris town to get our papers stamped by all and sundry in order that we could export our yacht out of Turkey. We did have a fine to pay as our last cruising permit had expired a year before! Oh! Well here we go again with all the unexpected expenses. By the end of the day were all legal again and ready to put to sea but for clearing the Marina legals which can not be done prior to 08:30 tomorrow.
10:30 6 July, we drop our mooring lines and head out of Marmaris Harbour and Turkey with destination Symi. Symi is a very beautiful Greek Island and is situated close to Turkey about 30 miles North of Rhodes. It is also a port of entry into Greece so being just 40 miles from Marmaris we make that our destination. After all our travels it was so good to be sailing again. Strong wind dead ahead of us large reef in the main and genoa rolled to it's second reefing marks, 28knots of wind and Elixir was skipping off the waves and I swear I could hear her singing and yelling as she ducked her bow under the odd wave and heeled to the wind with a very comfortable motion at 7knots. Yahoo! After an hour of port tack we threw in a board and spent the next two hours on starboard heading back to the cliffs on the Turkish southern coast where we found ourselves sailing amongst a series of Gulets , catamarans, sloops and superyachts, Heaven can be had right here on earth! All my sins must have finally been forgiven! We pass Serce Limani and the castle ruins of Bozak Buku head out off the coast again before tacking around the Turkish headland with Symi now just 8 miles away. Spectacular scenery in all directions. Wind drops away and we motor the final few miles on a flat sea.
Jenny, bless her heart, was enjoying it as much as me and did not feel at all seasick, for which she has been prone in the past.
I suggested to her that we keep on just sailing until we get to New Zealand, but noooo! Symi it must indeed be, by decree, as it is one of Jenny's favorites and 7 hours was long enough on the water for the first day, I was informed.
So 5pm and we are tied stern to in Symi amongst super-yachts and cruisers and I am off to spend the next four hours traipsing between Harbour-masters office and the furthermost building from there, wayyyyy round on the other side of the harbour, the Police Station. Feet so sore in the heat, and sweating like a shearer. Everything got stamped to death and then we had our Greek entry papers and access to European Union all legalized, actually they seem to like New Zealanders in these parts. Brought a six pack for me and a cold bottle of Chardonnay for SWMBO, then... we into our cockpit with the sun tent up for a bit of welcome fluid replacement.... Soooo happy I wouldn't call the King my uncle!
07 July 2011 6:00 and we slip our moorings in Symi and head off into the dim morning.
Me must reach Kos by 2pm to get a car rented and pick up David and Elizabeth Hicks from the Kos airport.
Set up the main off a little Church still on Symi just a few miles from the boat harbour.
Ok so we had to motor for a bit. This allowed both Jenny and I to take turns at sleeping as we moved back into Turkish waters to pass by Knidos and head north to Kos.
Kos township just ahead.
Rounding the South Eastern Part of Kos Island.
Headsail wound in and about to drop the main as the entrance to the marina is just to port out of sight of the camera.
Picking up David and Elizabeth on time as planned, Now all we have to do is finish fitting their luggage and them into this little jeep!
Walking into town for shopping and a place for tea.
Found a place for tea.
"Back in Omaha our drinks are this tall! Its true I tell you!!!"
While the girls were shopping David and I just roamed around.
I thought while I was wandering around that I would do a bit of research for advertising ideas! Purely business you understand...May be able to tax deduct my trip!
15/08/09 We move out of Petalioi and finaly leaving Evia to port we sail full and bye on to the next large land mass island of Andros where we put in to Gavrio 37 53.087N 24 44.05E for a planned stop, however it turned out to be suitable only for lunch as there was no room at the pier as all the local boats where seeking shelter from the wind and there was no room at all. We just anchored off the town pier and enjoyed the comings and goings for an hour or so while.
Deciding to make a hurried break for it when we spotted a rather large ferry heading our way that would need our space to maneuver.
We sailed further south passing a anchored Greek frigate looking menacing in the bay by Kypri we moved on enjoying the sail as we proceed south to Batsi where we found a good space on the south side of the town pier that proved to be a winner of a spot for the night.
16/08/09 We leave early morning and sail on south now leaving Andros and passing on to the next large land mass of Tinos going across the boisterous gap between the islands enjoying the fun of being in the close company of an overtaking ferry.
These ferries, by the way, are bloody big monsters the size of ships the likes of which we have only one back in New Zealand, which NZ ferry is entirely used for transporting cars, freight and people between the North and South Islands. This Greek one passed us about 50 metres off, it was fun waving to all the people who must have looked at us thinking we were quite stupid to be out sailing in such conditions. Just a day in the park for us though and we were thoroughly enjoying our adventure.
End of the day 18:00 and we put into the thriving large town of Tinos itself 37 32.2148N 25 09.72E. Still blowing a gale we drop an anchor into the town basin and go stern-to, to the Town Pier all under the directions of a referee's whistle blowing port captain who looked to all the world like Hulk Hogan complete with the red handkerchief covering his bald head and big blon mostache. He told us we could stay 36 hours as a large annual religious festival taking place on Sunday and the whole of the space was required for a Greek gunboat that was scheduled to be there to show the flag. It was to be a case of Gunboat in Elixir out! We enjoyed the next day and a half though watching the festivities and all the people who had gathered to get the blessing from the church up the hill and hopefully be cured of whatever it was that was ailing them. Lots of fun was had by all as there were street vendors everywhere, colour and people.
Few foreign tourists were evident so we just mingled and merged in the crowds.
A confused SWMBO and another woman both captured working out what they can do for tea incorporating dried tomatoes, or perhaps just bewildered for choice...or something!
In the late evening the next day we watched with concern as several storm damaged boats entered the harbour, a modern yacht with a blown genoa and a launch belonging to a Russian who had had quite a bashing trying to go north. We ended up joining up with a friendly and highly experienced Aussie skipper and jumped onto the Russian boat when he came close and moored it for him as his stress tolerance was not coping at all with his low experience level and his crew were not handling the whole anchoring then backing in thing at all well in the heavy breeze. All was well with him in the end and he will have learned a lot from finding himself in that position. We did however turn down his copious pleadings to deliver the boat to Russia for him. David and I did not contain the courage that would be required to suggest it to the Admirals, no matter what the money!
18/08/09 05:00 and we slip quietly out of Tilos in the dark with destination the tourist Mecca of Mykonos half a days sail away.
37 27.94N 25 19.48E Other than witnessing a wonderful sunrise and enjoying sailing some of the way in company with a yacht that materialized out of the darkness and finally disappeared on the other tack it was a rather uneventful crossing. We were however looking forward to arriving at Mykonos as David and Elizabeth had visited there on an earlier cruise ship visit and related to Jenny and I how they had really enjoyed the experience. We pulled into a cruise terminal and wharf situated about 4km from town and found a spot on the inside highly protected from the blasts of the wind that were still a feature. David and I immediately hired motor scooters, picked up our two bikie girls and headed off to the bright lights. Well David and I had fun for two days touring the island and the girls had to put up with eating out and shopping of which the island provided plenty. Riding Scooters around the Island was a very enjoyable way to get up close and personal with the Island and it's inhabitants, however we were just another couple of tourists of which there were hundreds.
20/08/09 10:00 We bash out of Mykonos into a rough sea and blustery wind, hard on the nose for a couple of miles and then turn south again destination Naxos. 37 06.288N 25 22.48E.
A beautiful maxi sloop in full sail in the blustery conditions was awe inspiring to see.
We approached at a great rate of knots, furled sail as we entered the marina and were delighted to be directed to the only vacant spot left at the end of a Pier in the centre. However this town marina had large pipes opening to the sea and a swell entered the marina which made the mooring an uncomfortable one where we were forced to keep a watch out at all times to ensure that boat was kept safe from other boats coming and going in various states of control. There was the added danger of boats around us dragging on their anchors, banging against the pier and without crew posed a constant threat.
We survived the environment however for a day as we took turns to explore this historic town and it's small labyrinth type streets and many small and intriguing shops and eating places.
We were however happy to leave Naxos due to the danger of suffering damage in the marina and were happy that we were indeed intact, not having been hit by anything. We had now decided that to proceed on to Amorgos which was our original plan is not a good thing to do as the stories of dragging anchors and 50/60knt gusts had reached us in Naxos. The wind was now a tiresome obstacle getting between us and the essentail cruise enjoyment, so a course was set off over the horizon eastward to get the heck out of the windy side of the Aegean Sea and put smiles back ont he faces of our two adorable admirals. Over the top of the Island we sailed putting in two tacks a short 3 miler to start then a long one to the North Eastern end of the Island. We dropped off the wind and made a comfortable 8knt+ downwind slide to the Island of Donoussa which offered a sheltered bay on the south side 37 05.794N 25 48.2333E. Which bay, incidentally turned out to be a favourite camping destination naturalists of which there were at least 100, not that I was counting!
They were not put off by us anchoring very close to shore to get out of the wind and we tried not to take too much notice while we enjoyed the safe anchorage and happy hour drinkies.
15/08/2009, Evia Seaway Greece
11 August 2009 We left Khalkis at 07:00
We all waved a fond goodbye to Paddy and Carolyn who had brought Kristiane alongside us for the last day at the marina. We did not know it at the time but this was the last we would see of them this year.
Heading south we passed under a huge new-ish big bridge with 36m under being plenty of clearance for us. As soon a breakfast was out of the way we went to full sail.
The wind started to build after the bridge and although this gulf is fairly narrow at the northern end it opens up in to a broard seaway of some 3 miles and at places up to 7 miles wide and plenty of depth. On our starboard side we passed what looked to us to be a storage area for large freighters, a dozen of differing sizes and various states of condition all tied together looking very forlorn indeed. The breeze built and built until we found that we must put a reef in the main but as we were now heading downhill so to speak with the wind just in our aft quarter we kept with the full genoa and enjoyed the exhilaration of warm wind, flat seas and a lot of speed averaging 9 knots.
After a couple of hours of this we followed a line of ferries into Eretria (38 23.21n 24 07.06e) and Jenny and David went ashore to find a bakery while Elizabeth prepared the salad and I went over the side with snorkel and flippers and gave the waterline a good scrub, it having built up a bit of grubby slime line and oil marks from Khalkis. Our game plan on leaving Khalkis in the morning was to spend the afternoon and night here at Eretria as it promised to be a pretty little must see town but it was so busy with ferry activity causing a lot of wake to the extent that it was actually very uncomfortable. So out with the old and in with the new plan which was devised during lunch to sail some 16 miles further on southward and stay the night at a little rural bay called Boufulo 38 18.12N 24 07.1E which looked like it would offer good protection from the still building wind which was now blowing 25knts going 32 in the odd sharp gust. A boisterous downhill slide ensued and we made it into Boufulo at 15:00 after heroically retrieving the cap of she who must be obeyed who lost it into the briney as we were furling our main outside the bay's entrance.
We all saw the cap go overboard but as we were in the middle of dropping the main Jenny was assigned to keep pointing at where the had should be whilst we made tidy. Suddenly from the relative calm of sliding downhill we turned into the 22knt wind on a man overboard exercise to retrieve said precious cap which we were now some 200 metres off wind spray and water everywhere. Spotted the cap on a wave top and retrieved turning downhill once more to motor into the anchorage and flat water. There were four other yachts anchored and we found a nice little spot close to shore where our anchor took a good bite. It was fun spending the afternoon nicely sheltered with a little bit of onshore activity to watch as locals were painting the hull of a boat and going about their quiet business. David went and visited an American family on a large catamaran moored ahead of us and found that they were into their 5th year of a global circumnavigation so David returned to Elixir with a lot of stories to amuse us during happy hour.
12/08/09 We awoke to find the wind still howling in our rigging however after we had stowed everything securely we slipped anchor and headed out into rough water. Destination an Island called Nisida Stira 38 10.2N 24 10.1E We were thankful that we were not heading north therefore although the wind was strong we were enjoying the sail and stayed relatively comfortable despite the choppy sea from abaft.
After wending our way along the coast southward we arrived at Nisida Stira and promptly dropped an anchor and tied stern to the rocks for lunch. Very little activity around as this Island is very historic and somewhat of a sanctuary so no landing permitted. The wind keeping all the day trippers at home. Being buffeted quite a bit by the odd squall blasting through we had a bit of a huddle and decided that this was not where we could have a comfortable night so lines and anchor retrieved and off we went again at about 14:00. A study of the chart showed a promising bay called Elafolimano 38 05.7N 24 14.7E which should have an offshore wind and good holding, so that is where we headed and in two hours we were setting anchor once again. David and Elizabeth went ashore to scout while Jenny and I stood watch and kept an eye on the clock as happy hour approached. Nightime came and the wind built and was howling in our rigging with the anchor warp stretched out almost parallel to the water we were yawing a lot and Elixir was snapping at her anchor chain. At 22:00 we decided to set a second anchor so after setting it up on the foredeck and shackling it on we motored up at a 20 degree angel to the existing anchor and when we judged that we were adjacent to the existing one we let the new one go and fell back. Just like magic the wild yawing and anchor warp sailing that we had been experiencing with one anchor ceased and we settled into a peaceful night.
13/08/09 brought some more of the same wild winds so we stayed until 15:00 when a bit of a lull gave us the opportunity to skedaddle out of there. It only took us half an hour to fly down to Marmari 38 02.85N 24 19.2E and secure lines to a large fishing boat tied to the town pier. We were well protected here but the wind still howled. We were astounded to see large steel rubbish skips being pushed along the wharf by the forces of wind alone and then to see them fall off the edges into the sea, we were just thankful to have a secure and safe mooring so off into town we went for walks and dinner. This proved to be lovely little town devoid of all the touristy trappings however offering excellent restaurants and supply stores. We enjoyed it immensely.
14/08/09 found us heading from Marimi to an Island called Megalo and a sandy bottom very pretty anchorage in an inlet on the south side 37 58.9N 24 15.15E where we found the American catamaran that we met up with in Boufulo Bay anchored again. Just the two of us boats there for the night.
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.