Kalimera mes amis
We have now visited six greek islands since we set off 12 days ago. We are not trying to beat the world record, it has just happened this way.
After Paros, we spent an enjoyable two nights in Naxos. We hired a car and drove round the island, saw some amazing views and stunning scenery. We drove through mountain villages and saw women weaving colourful items on their ancient looms, and had lunch in a typical greek harbour village of Apollonon on the north coast.
The next stop was the tiny island of Iraklia, some 18 nautical miles south of Naxos. Again, a sleepy village on a sandy beach, with a quay for mooring, near where the ferries come in. There were very few people about in the village, but the number of tavernas and few small hotels suggest a number of tourists do come here. An excellent place for a get-away from-it-all break. If you are feeling energetic, you could walk a couple of miles to some underground caves with stalagmites and tites. We were surprised to be woken one night by the huge Blue Star ferry mooring stern-to, there can't have been many passengers.
After two peaceful days, we left for the passage to Amorgos which took four and a half hours. What a lovely place that was, definitely worth a return trip. We moored on the quay at Katapola, the main town, alongside yachts from Austria, France, Germany, Belgium, Turkey and even one from Australia. Amorgos is famous for its scenic walks and we saw many groups,of ramblers who were preparing to trek to the famous monastery which is built into an overhanging cliff. There is also an old Chora, or hill village to explore, with ancient windmills and winding narrow streets. In the evening we walked around to the other side of the harbour and sat at the appropriately named Moon Bar to watch the sunset with an ouzo in hand.
We have paid very small amounts for mooring fees so far this year - three days in Paros cost us five euros in total, with free electricity and water. Naxos marina was twelve euro a night including elec and water. At Iraklia and Amorgos we paid nothing. The port police in Amorgos obviously kept a check on the boats coming into the harbour and asked the boat alongside is to take their papers to the office, which is common, and charged them ten euros, but they didnt even look at us. We can never fathom out the intricacies of Greek officialdom.......
Our next stop was the amazing island of Levitha, half way between Amorgos and Leros, known to yachtsmen as being a very safe anchorage from very strong winds from any direction. The wind had died away by the time we got there at 5pm. According to the 2009 census, the island is only occupied by one family of three inhabitants. They have a goat farm of 900 goats, and run a small taverna at their farmhouse. They have also put a dozen mooring buoys in the bay for yachtsmen, and charge seven euro a night for the privilege. We took the dinghy ashore and walked the short distance up the hill to the farm taverna. There were goats everywhere! Mostly small ones who presumably escaped the Easter cull,when everyone in Greece roasts goat on the spit. There were about half a dozen tables in the farmhouse courtyard, beautifully decorated with shady awnings, and displayed on the walls were artefacts they had fished from the sea, such as parts of ancient amphorae jugs, and some huge sea shells.
The meal was very simple but delicious. We had a Greek salad with home made feta cheese, fried saganaki (fried cheese) then we chose the goat stew in tomato and garlic sauce, which was extremely tasty. I thought I would be squeamish about eating goat, like I am with bunnies, but it was amazing. It was a good job we took torches, as our walk back was through the unlit stony fields and you could easily get lost and the goats weren't much help.
Have you ever woken to the sound of hundreds of goat bells tinkling at dawn? A terrific start to the day. Lots of small goats came running down the rocks and along the rocky shore before disappearing into the scrubby bushes.
Now we are moored in Lakki harbour, on Leros - island number six, and we are certainly on unknown territory here. We are in the Dodecanese, only about ten miles from Turkey. More news soon .....
You know when you go somewhere and you love it and it is absolutely fab and the best place ever, and then you go somewhere else the next day and it is even more lovely and even more fantastic? That's what happened to us on Sunday when we arrived in Naoussa, just six miles from Paroikia no the north of Paros. We thought we had really fallen on our feet when we found a very safe, sheltered harbour, and paid only five euro for three nights in total, within a minutes walk of all facilities including a laundry, and the most pretty old town with whitewashed Cyclades buildings in narrow streets.
However, we arrived in Naoussa and things were even better. This time we paid no mooring fees, all the water all electricity you could want, for free, an extremely safe harbour, and an even more beautiful old town with the most picturesque Greek harbour I have ever seen. It was like Disneyland. Each time we turned a corner there was a more wonderful sight to behold. Whitewashed buildings beautifully decorated, little streets, chairs and tables alongside three sides of harbour filled with colourful fishing boats, an ancient fortress, the list goes on and on. If you were designing scenery for a Greek film and wanted to fill it with as much cute stereotyped Greekness as you could, then Naoussa would be it. Similar buildings and character to Mykonos, but much much nicer. It is regarded as one of the prettiest towns in the Cyclades and it is true.
Luckily the time of year helped - the holiday season is not in full swing in May, and we walked around very easily, but I can imagine it would be thronged with tourists in high season.
The newer part of the harbour, which actually calls itself a marina, has been extended in recent years by the extension of a breakwater, making the harbour safe in all weathers. There are lazy lines from the quay and use of anchors is forbidden. We were moored alongside boats of many nationalities - Canadians, New Zealanders, Germans, Belgians, French and British.
We have been moored in the harbour at Paroikia on the west coast of Paros for a few days, Tim likes it as not only is it well sheltered, but it is free, and we have only paid 5 euros for all the electricity and water you can drink. Various charter boats have come and gone, and we met a nice Scottish couple on an impressive Swan 49 who have now left, heading ultimately for Majorca, Gibraltar and then the ARC.
Yesterday the sun was shining again and we decided to take a local bus to another part of the island. After fathoming out the intricacies of the Greek bus timetable, we caught the 1210 bus to Piso Livadi, a little harbour village on the other side of the island. I do like a nice bus trip, all the greek buses seem efficient, running on time, and cheap. They are more like posh coaches, with tinted windows, comfy seats and air-conditioning, and the trip alone is well worth the fare, which was only 2.20 euros. The bus took us out of town and into the hills, passing many terraced, cultivated fields mostly grapes and olives, but some fruit trees too. We also passed the site of the ancient marble mines, for which Paros is famous, although they don't produce it in such quantities now. Fact of the day - Napoleon's tomb was made from Paros marble ...
About 40 minutes later, after some stops in pretty hill villages where tavernas nestle under shady plane trees, and ancient windmills stand proudly on the highest point, we reached the east coast of Paros and drove down to Piso Livadi. I guess it would be equivalent to a Cornish fishing village. An excellent golden beach, fishing boats tied to the quay, and much to our surprise, some bigger yachts where moored inside the far mole, where water and electricity was also supplied. There was lots of room, and we thought we might come here in Fandancer in a day or two.
A cold beer was called for in the taverna with the most comfy cushions, and after a stroll round the little town, we had lunch outside, overlooking the harbour. Freshly fried squid, and fresh fried little fish were our choice, plus a cold zucchini salad which was delicious. And the obligatory carafe of wine ....
The return bus was not until 5pm, so we walked round to another beach and had a quick doze in the sunshine before the bus arrived to take us back to Paroikia.
I'll try to put some new pictures in an album on here, look in the gallery.
After seven months in Syros over the winter, we relaunched Fandancer on May 1st. We spent another week in the harbour, then the disused marina, while we did some more jobs on board and stowed a lot of things. We also bought a lot of things from the chandler, who must have rubbed his hands with glee whenever he saw Tim approaching. We now seem to have even more chain, more halyards and more buckets than ever before. The other day, Tim bought some rope to make a new main halyard as the old one was a bit 'ropey', and asked for 15 metres of new green and white rope, which was promptly measured and cut in expert Greek fashion. On returning to Fandancer, we discovered that Tim had correctly measured the length required to go UP the mast, but forgot that the rope also has to come down again, and we in fact needed 30 metres! Oops! So yet more rope was bought from the chandlers, with the original 15m being used for new reefing lines.
When you go back to living on board after several months ashore, you tend to forget where things go. We removed every single thing from Fandancer when we moved ashore, so everything had to be put back, but for the life of me I couldn't remember where I had kept some of the galley stuff, to start with. And why do we need two duvets! Ah yes, the big thick downy one was needed when we stayed the previous winter in the south of France and there was actually ice on the canal and minus 7 degrees for a week, then we definitely needed the big duvet. I cant ever imagine needing it again, but I cant bear to throw it away.
So yesterday, 9 May, at noon, we left Ermoupolis, Syros, and headed to Paros. An excellent shake-down trip. About 24 miles, a good force 4 wind, boat speed topped 7 knots at times. Fandancer performed brilliantly. Neither of us has been to Paros on a boat before, although Tim did a couple of weeks' backpacking about 20 years ago.
The harbour is very small and shallow in parts, and there were already quite a few boats inside, as well as moored on the outside of the wall. We nosed in to the harbour to have a look, and managed to moor stern-to in the last space. After a celebratory cup of tea, we went for a short walk to find a wifi café as I had been requested to forward some photos for another article I have written for Practical Boat Owner magazine.
I will tell you about the wonders of Paros tomorrow, its a lovely place!
Marina at Ermoupolis, Syros
I'm writing this piece in case any of you fellow sailors out there try a Google search for information on the marina in Ermoupolis. Do drop me a line and let me know if you found this useful.
We have been in Syros for six months over winter, with our yacht Fandancer which is our liveaboard home. We arrived here mid October 2012 and had the boat pulled out into the very accommodating Atlas boatyard, run efficiently by Stavros with help from his son Spiros. We rented a small apartment ashore while we continued our renovation work on Fandancer, which we had sailed from Portsmouth to Greece a year previously. So I think we have got to know the island fairly well, especially the main town Ermoupolis. We chose Syros as a place to stay over winter as we knew it would be a lively town where everything we needed was available, being the capital of the Cyclades. Unlike some other places in Greece which can often become ghost towns in the winter, Ermoupolis remained a fully functioning, active and interesting place to stay.
Fandancer went back in the water on 1 May, and we headed for the marina across the harbour while we sorted ourselves out for a few days before we started our liveaboard adventures once more. Tim still had quite a few little jobs to finish on the boat, and we had a lot of things which needed stowing properly. Also, it was the weekend of Greek Easter, which we wanted to experience.
To get back to the marina....... after all, that's probably why you chose to read this blog! Apparently many places in Europe were given a huge amount of EU funds as a loan some years ago to construct marinas to attract visiting sailors who would in turn increase the economy of the town. We heard that the towns did not have to pay back any of the funds they had been loaned until the marina was up and running, with staff in place to manage it and fees charged for mooring and services. I cannot verify if this is actually true, so if anyone knows differently, please let me know. Our thinking is that as Greece is in such an appalling financial state at the moment, they have left these marinas unfinished, this avoiding repaying the marina loan. Consequently we have come across several of these marinas which appear finished, but not operational.
Ermoupolis marina has electric and water posts installed but not connected. There is an office building, a shower block and a fuel pier with petrol pump, all locked up and non-functioning. The lamp posts are rusty and broken, the trees and flower beds left to grow wild. However, if you just want somewhere to stay for a short while with no facilities, the marina is very well sheltered and quiet. If you come here for the first time, you may think it is quite a desolate out of the way place, and to some extent it is. There appears to have been several tavernas and a yacht club very close by, but these are permanently closed. There is a sometimes-open chandlers and a garage nearby. To reach the nearest shop, turn right along the main road when leaving the marina and in about 500m you will come to a very good mini-Carrefour supermarket on your right, and then a further 300m brings you to the outskirts of the town, passing two more supermarkets, bakery and fruit shops, plus two excellent well stocked chandlers. A further pleasant walk brings you to the harbour front. You can catch the free local bus from the supermarket car park right to the harbour and back again, which runs every 20 minutes in summer.
We have also stayed in the main harbour of Ermoupolis for a few days. There are water and electric posts, operated by a card system, available from some kiosks nearby. Although the harbour looks well sheltered from the prevailing northerly winds, there can be a very big swell which can make it very uncomfortable on board. Make sure your stern is not too close to the wall. Several big ferries entering and leaving also create some wash.
However, there is lots to see in the town and beyond, and the harbour-side has attractive cafes and tavernas all the way along.
We really like Ermoupolis, and Syros in general, and feel it is an 'undiscovered gem' of the Cyclades. It is not a big tourist island, and nor does it need to be. It has an amazing history and there is lots to see and do, especially if you hire a moped or car, or use the very good local bus service. Walk up to the top of Ano Syros and look at the amazing views, go to the lovely beaches at Azolimnos or Kini, or just walk through the market streets close to the harbourfront. I hope you will fall in love with Syros, like we did.
This morning TH (the husband) rushed off early to the boat to continue building his amazing wooden bookshelf structure to be attached to the bulkhead in the saloon. Not only does it have two different sized shelves for carefully measured books, but also a special shelf to hold a pilot book, and also a magazine rack. The sides and edges have been lovingly carved into curves and rubbed down copiously. The wood was sourced from a local Greek timber yard, where TH spent quite a while salivating at different bits of wood, which all looked the same to me. This must be what it is like for him when I find myself standing in front of an arrangement of expensive shoes and handbags, or more likely at my age and living status, a display gadgets, cutlery and cookware in a luxury kitchen shop.
Eventually he chose two, four metre planks. Refusing all offers of help, including a lift in a van or the loan of a saw to cut them in half, TH hoisted them effortlessly onto his shoulder and walked through the backstreets to the boat yard. There was a comedy moment and missed photo opportunity when he had a close encounter with a tree, a forklift truck and an old Greek man on a moped .....
TH thinks he can finish the shelves today so while he does this, he has requested that I go on a mission to source some boat related items - namely 35 stainless steel cup-headed screws, 30mm long, and also a 3000 gallons per hour bilge pump. I don't think they are connected to the same project. This has put me in a state of stress as it is equivalent to me asking TH to buy a particular sort of hair conditioner, or an unidentifiable kitchen gadget. Adding to this stress is my fear of going into the little Greek chandlers, which is largely a male dominated emporium, with shifty eyed locals standing around smoking, and whispering to each other to watch the crazy-haired English woman trying to decipher the Greek labels on the shelves.
So I will take a deep breath, take my list, and take the plunge. Although I'd rather be baking a cake, I will endeavour to source these items and show TH that I can be a reliable and trustworthy carpenter's mate ....... or should it be a magician's assistant ........