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The story of Fandancer
Shopping expedition
George. Sunny. 16 degrees.
Wed/03/13, Syros

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 ........

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A walk to Azolimnos, Syros
George. warm and sunny
Fri/02/13, Azolimnos

"Kalo Mina". This is what you must say to a Greek person on the first day of the month - it means "have a good month". So I tried it out on about four random Greeks today and they did smile back at me, so I must have pronounced it properly. Unlike the other day when I tried to say good morning to an old Greek woman. I said "Kalimari" instead of "Kalimera" so I had called her a squid which she wasn't too pleased about.

Today Tim decided to have a day off from boat work, the first day off for almost three weeks. As the forecast said it was going to be sunny for most of the day we decided to go to the nearest beach resort to us, which is Azolimnos, about three miles south. Greek buses are hard to fathom out, especially the winter timetable, and everyone you ask gives a different answer. So we decided to walk there. Yes, I know, you did read correctly, I was going to attempt to walk three miles each way. This is unheard of, I have never walked three miles in my life.

So we set off at about 1030, stopping off at the boatyard to show the owners Spiros and Stavros their names in print as I had mentioned them and the boatyard in one of my recently published magazine articles. Maybe they will give us a discount on next month's yard fees....
Five hundred metres up the road the bus passed us! Grrrr! I knew that would happen! Never mind, we carried on, and decided there was much more to see on foot; we saw a Greek scarecrow, several huge prickly pear cactus plants several metres high, a solitary pig in a field and a multitude of spring wild flowers.

I shall digress for a moment - a few days ago Tim tried to buy some small pieces of clear thin Perspex to cover some new lights in the shower room on board Fandancer, but was unsuccessful. After walking for about a mile or so out of town, just past the airport turn off, (one flight a day to Athens in a tiny plane resembling a bus with wings), we came across a building that seemed to be a modern print workshop, and after digging about in some boxes, the owner found us some scrap pieces of thin Perspex! Now, what are the chances of going for a walk and randomly finding somewhere that would not only have exactly the right pieces you wanted, but also have them cut out on a laser cutting machine and only charge you three euros! Quite bizarre!

So we carried on walking and arrived in Azolimnos some time later, carrying two pieces of Perspex. The village is very much a small holiday resort in summer, with several tavernas and many apartments for rent opposite a clean sandy beach with tamarisk trees growing out of the sand. A lovely place for a holiday. However, everything closes down from the end of October until April so we had the beach to ourselves, apart from a couple of hardy Greek ladies who were actually swimming in the sea. But as the water temperature in Greece in February was probably equal to what it would be on the hottest day of the year at a beach in the UK, It probably wasn't that cold.

It was such a lovely day, clear blue sky, no breeze, sun shining. Perfect for walking. Fantastic for February 1st, we felt very lucky to be there. I must say that if it had been even 4 or 5 degrees warmer it would have been TOO WARM to have walked that far! And a further bonus was that we did find a taverna opposite the beach that looked like it was open, as people were sitting at a table with drinks, although we thought they might just be friends of the owner. But it really was open, so we ordered a beer each, as a reward for walking three miles, and then ordered lunch from the quite extensive menu - Greek salad, bread, tzatziki, fried courgettes, pork chop for me and Tim bravely chose something called spiny dogfish which arrived disguised almost like nuggets, in batter. I was half expecting that we would have to walk the three miles back before we got any food or even a drink, so it was a lovely surprise to be able to eat lunch with a perfect view of the sea.
And yes, I did make it back home, another three miles!

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Sailing Today article
George. It's cold in Englanf
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 ....

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Last blog this year ....
George. Slightly colder, 21 degrees. Some cloud.
Wed/10/12, Syros

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!

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An apartment for the winter
George. Mega warm today.
Mon/10/12, Syros

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 ........

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Kithnos Serifos Syros
George. Very warm, rather cloudy
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.

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