Mon/12/12, Portsmouth, England
Well, it's been an amazing year. This time 365 days ago we were in Beaucaire in the south of France, on Fandancer. We stayed there for five months over the winter before living on April 30th this year to start our journey to Greece. We sailed via Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, the foot of Italy, and then over to Corfu, arriving on June 14th.
On arrival in Kassiopi, Corfu, we encountered an unseasonal heat wave for June, with temperatures about ten degrees warmer than average, which lasted the whole of the summer. With apologies to those of you in England, we didnt see any rain last summer from before we left the south of France at the end of April until one day in early August when we had a ten minute rain shower while in Lefkas, resulting in even warmer weather for the rest of August and the whole of September.
We had various friends and relatives visit us on board Fandancer while in Corfu over the summer, and we hope more will come to see us in 2013. After the Ionian we reached the Argo-Saronic via the Corinth canal on 27 August, and during the first week of October we left Poros for the Cyclades, reaching our eventual winter home in Syros via Kithnos and Serifos.
Fandancer is now out of the water in the boatyard in Syros. We have rented a small apartment within easy walking distance of the boat and the town centre and we expect to be there until April.
Tim and I were both in the UK over Christmas, he has returned to Syros but I am staying on for a while due to the arrival of grandchildren!
During late summer I wrote an article for Sailing Today about our trip through the french canals which has just been published in the February issue. So I am basking in the glory of being a magazine writer and photographer for a short while, until the recycling lorry takes away all the copies. I mentioned this blogsite in the article, so I would like to welcome any new readers who made the effort to read my ramblings and find this blog! Let me know who you are.
More news soon ....
Last blog for a while ......
I think I'm going to make this my last blog for a while .... For a couple of reasons. Firstly it's called Sailblogs and I feel a bit of a fraud as we won't be sailing for a while, and secondly, I'm thinking of changing to another blogsite as I would like to insert photos within the text, rather than have them in a separate gallery. So if you know of a good blog site I might use, do let me know. I had a look at Blogger, but it wasn't very user friendly ....
We've had a great time in the Cyclades. We loved Kithnos, and Serifos. Now we are in Syros where we will be over the winter. Fandancer is tucked away the other side of the big shipyard, in between the fishing boats. Not a very attractive outlook, but at least we're safe from the raging Meltemi winds, which have now subsided. You will be pleased to hear that we had some rain the other day! Only the fifth time it has rained for us in the past year! And one night at 430am we had a massive thunder and lightning storm! Our apartment is only a stone's throw from the boat...., and within walking distance are two decent supermarkets, two butchers, at least two bakeries, cake shops, numerous fruit and veg shops, a bank, garage, chandlers, taverna, pet shop! All very Greek!
I must stop using so many exclamation marks!!!!
We've moved into the apartment full time now. After making numerous trips from boat with armfuls of stuff, the apartment is looking homely. Stacks of cushions! A hundred paperback books! I can't believe how much stuff we've had on the boat. We are waiting for the landlord to produce a new sofa, as the existing one was held together with uncomfortable planks of wood. We also asked for a tv, and and some curtains. There is a decent bed, dining table and chairs, washing machine, but apart from that, it's sparsely furnished. Luckily I have every kitchen utensil and gadget known to man, so no problems there. We have also picked up free wifi from a local hotel, so that's a bonus.
Today we went on an exploratory mission to investigate the local free, yes free, bus service. Yes, totally free! There are two routes - one going along north and south from the port, the other going up to the hill village. We took both buses and stayed on for the whole route, trying to work out what time they get to our local stops, as bizarrely, at each bus stop, the times given for the buses arriving are the same. In between routes we stopped off in town for lunch, an ouzo meze, which is the best thing ever - a huge glass of ouzo and ice, plus a good sized plate of nibbles such as a few chips, meatball, fried courgettes, tomato, fish nugget, cucumber, slice of bread with tzatziki, yum yum. Just enough for a small lunch, only 3 euro each for drink and meze.
Before I go, I wanted to tell you that I have had an article that I submitted to Sailing Today magazine accepted for the February issue! Woo! It is about our trip through the French canals, with lots of photos.
See you in April ......
P.S. I think everyone should come to Greece immediately, it is a wonderful country, don't believe everything you read in the papers!
Today we had to go by bus to the main town on Syros, - Ermopoulis, which is also the capital of the Cyclades. This is why we chose to overwinter here, it's is a big town, not as pretty as some tiny harbours but everything is open over the winter. A great many civil servants work here, there is a branch of the Aegean university, and the big boatyard is the largest employer in the Cyclades, so it's quite a busy place.
After we had deciphered the Greek bus timetable, we arrived at the stop in good time to catch either the 1025 or the 1035 bus. The buses run clockwise and anticlockwise round the southern part of the island at the same time, so we were certain to catch either the long or short route bus. Some waited, and waited, and waited...... At 11am we gave up, and retired to the cafe after consulting with a very helpful lady in the hardware - chandlery - car hire emporium who told us today there was no bus between 10 and 11, but there was certain to be one here around 12.
So we eventually got on the bus. I do love a local bus. It was only 1.70euro each for a 20 minute bus ride around some little villages, beaches, and scary bends. While we were waiting for the bus, I phoned the Greek man who had previously showed us round the apartment we had chosen for the winter on our visit to Syros in August. We arranged to meet him at the apartment at one pm, and found the bus stop in town was virtually outside. We had previously paid him one month's deposit of 260 euro and were expecting him to have a contract to sign, arrange a standing order with the bank, have a formal inventory done, references, credit checks, but no, none of these things happened. He handed us the keys and left! He said to phone him each month when he would arrange to meet us to collect the rent, and we would meet him again on Friday when he would take us to get our name put on the electricity bill. Simple! So we were left there by ourselves! We had a good look round, and checked everything was working. We are now the legitimate tenants of a Greek apartment!
We are really pleased with our little Greek apartment. It's not the most beautiful building in the world, but its fine for us a temporary winter home. On the second floor of a very new building, the bottom floor is obviously going to be a large shop or office or showroom but not open yet. The building itself seems to have several unoccupied flats but we did see some people coming and going. It's in a good location, even sea glimpses from the balcony, and less than ten minutes walk from the main harbour and town centre, but in an area with its own shops - there is a good supermarket, butcher, fruit shop etc all within five minutes walk. The boatyard where Fandancer will come out of the water is also less than five minutes walk and there is a nice cafe/taverna virtually twenty paces from the front door of the apartment.
We then walked ten minutes into the main town and discovered the first rule of Greece, shops and businesses are not open after two pm on Mondays (or Wednesdays). So I could not go to the post office, or the Vodafone shop. Oh well, best to adopt the Greek attitude and just go back another time ..... So instead we had an ouzo meze in a little bar in a side street we had visited previously and were thrilled that the waitress remembered us! In think I'm going to like living in Syros ........
Sat/10/12, Finikas, Syros
Islands coming thick and fast now. I can't write the blog quick enough to keep up, I need a secretary. After a lovely anchorage at the sandbar at Fikihada bay, Kithnos, we motored over to Merikha and moored in the harbour for two nights. We hired a jeep and drove all round the island, the husband navigator sending me, the driver, down some pretty scary routes, very steep unsurfaced rocky tracks, with sheer drops on one side. The four wheel drive lever was fully tested! We drove to the southern most point, and to not the quite most northerly point, but we did get to the highest point - the Chora or mountain village at Kithnos.
Next stop was Serifos, not so many towns or villages as Kithnos, but another wonderful Chora to explore. We caught the local bus up to the top, for a princely sum of 1.60euro, a fabulous scary drive round steep hairpin bends and very narrow roads. At the top, we entered the Chora and had to walk a little further up to get to the highest point. The views were amazing. I took so many photos!
There were no other tourists about so we had the place to ourselves. We gradually followed the many paths back down, there were amazing views and wonderful buildings around every corner. Eventually we found our way back to the harbour.
There were quite a few boats in the harbour at Livadi, despite being the end of the season, a mix of charter boats and live aboards. Finns, Swedes, Norwegians (I detect a common theme here, relating to their home temperatures!), also Dutch, German, Italian, French. This morning we left at 0930 for Syros, in a NE direction, the wind was directly behind us all the way but we sailed most of the way at a steady 5 knots. An hour away from Syros and the clouds darkened and we encountered rain! Amazing! Not seen rain for many months. The wind got stronger for a while and there were lots of squalls, but we got to Finikas harbour safely and pinched a berth on the fishing boat quay. I hope they don't wake us up in the dead of night and get us to move when they return!
We are planning to spend the winter in Siros, not here in Finikas but in Ermopoulis the capital, further to the east, about eight miles away. So we may hire a scooter or car soon and make contact with the boatyard, and with the guy who runs the apartment we will be renting. We will probably be in Ermopoulis around the 20th.
We have a good wifi connection on the laptop here, so must try to put new photos in the gallery.
Tue/10/12, Kolona taverna.
We are still anchored in the lovely bay near the island of St Louka, which is divided by a sandbar. It is really quite remote, we can see the little harbour of Merikha in the distance, two miles away, but there is nothing else here. Except some sheep. And a taverna on a hill above the sandbar. We were overjoyed to find that it is still open in the evenings, we had expected it to have closed down for winter but as yachts are still coming here, I guess they can still make a few drachmas.
So we took the dinghy ashore at sunset and were the first to arrive at the taverna, but some other yachts were also anchored in the bay so we hoped we wouldnt be the only ones eating. Although there is an outside seating area with about twelve tables it was more like someone's house rather than a taverna, with an indoor sitting area and a large open plan kitchen. We said Kalispera to the lady owner and she served us with our drinks, and some other boat people started to arrive.
A while later, we could hear the sound of kitchen activity, and smell something nice wafting through the window, so in traditional Greek fashion, I wandered into the kitchen to ask if they had anything special on the menu tonight. "Menu! You want the menu!" cried the owner, whose English was about as good as my Greek. So I went back to our table having learned nothing about the special dishes on offer, we perused the delicious sounding menu for a while, until she came over to take our order. "can we have some lamb in lemon sauce and some briam please?"
"No! No food!" she replied. "come with me!". And she practically dragged me into the kitchen where there was a large pot simmering on the cooker. "I have this!", she declared, and dramatically removed the lid of the simmering pot to reveal some form of grey meatballs and vegetables. " is that all you have?", I asked. "yes, and the grill" she replied. "and I do you Greek salad and Saganaki" she told me. "Er .... ok then" I said, and returned to our table. Husband and I discussed what was the point of giving us the menu if she didn't have anything on it!
Several more groups of people began to arrive and the tables began to fill up. Our food started to arrive, and we were presented with some delicious warm bread, a beautiful Greek salad and the saganaki, which is fried Greek cheese, which was all delicious. Then she brought our main course which was her home made meat balls, and i needn't have worried, they were lovely! Freshly cooked, very light, flavoursome, cooked in a lemony sauce with chopped onions, carrot, courgette and potato. More and more people kept arriving at the taverna, and we were worried that she would run out of meatballs! We heard others asking for the menu, which she still produced, despite not having anything on it! The Germans ordered huge amounts from the menu, and she nodded and said "Ochi, Ochi" to everything they asked for. I don't think they realised this meant 'no!'
Then some Americans approached, walking up the path from the beach. "hurry up.....!" I called to them, "......or they'll run out of food!"
I'm not quite sure whether her huge pot of meatballs did feed everyone in the taverna, but we certainly enjoyed our meal, and the bill was only 24.50euros which is a smidgeon under a tenner a head, with drinks. Can't complain at that!
We are now on the next stage of our journey - sailing on Fandancer over to Syros for the winter. We left Poros in the Saronic gulf on Sunday 7 October and sailed part of the 45 miles to Kithnos, then the wind dropped and we had to use the engine. The sun is no longer so fierce, although it is still difficult to sit out in full sun for very long.
Kithnos is in the northern Cyclades, between Kea to the north and Serifos to the south, and about 50 miles SE from Athens. Siros is due east of Kithnos, so we have about another 25 miles to go to reach our destination. In the summer months, the strong Meltemi winds blow in this area, making sailing sometimes very difficult, but by the beginning of October they have almost died away.
We are moored in the lovely bay at Fikiadha in the north west of the island, separated from the bay of Kolona by a sand bar. You can anchor in either bay, depending on the wind direction. There is one taverna at the head of the sand bar, and in the summer months this is supposed to be a hugely popular place, as people come from all over the island to the wonderful sandy beach. Although it is the middle of October, there are still about ten yachts anchored in the bay.
This morning we took the dinghy ashore and walked along the sand for a hundred metres or so, to the tiny Island of St Louka which is joined to Kithnos by the sand bar. Louka is deserted, apart from a large number of sheep, which we watched this morning being herded by a shepherd along the beach to another part of the island, possibly for feeding. I can't believe there is anything for them to eat on Louka, it is mostly barren rock with a few very spiky dry plants and lots of lizards sheltering under the many rocks. As well as the compulsory whitewashed tiny greek church, there are some ancient ruined buildings on Louka and some amazing dry stone walls which must have been built thousands of years ago.
Hardly any tourists come to Kithnos - you won't find it in your average holiday brochure, although the tourist industry is slowly growing with some rooms for rent and tiny hotels and tavernas is the harbour towns on the island. But it is steeped in history. There was a Mesolithic settlement on the north coast 10,000BC, and in the Bronze Age it supplied raw materials to other islands. The excavation of an ancient town found evidence of a temple and over 1400 artefacts from 700BC. Enough of the history lesson .....
There is a little harbour on the west coast called Merikha, less than two miles from our current anchorage, which has only recently become usable due to the large amount of dredging which has gone on to deepen the port and accommodate the ferries which sometimes arrive here. So that's where we are off to tomorrow for a day or two. Hopefully we can hire a quad bike to explore this interesting island further ........