No rain here!
Sun 1st Jul 2012, Vathy, Ithaka

We know all about the weather in Britain and the poor drenched Olympic torch bearers. Our neighbours have another use for umbrellas- keeping the sun out of the cockpit. Its 35 degrees and too hot!
We've hired a scooter and are off to create our own breeze and explore the island.

2012- Greece, The Ionian
Back where it all began
Mon 25th Jun 2012, Ormos Ay Andreou, Ithaka

We are back in the Ionian, where we first learnt to sail in 2001 with Neilson on a beginners' flotilla holiday. We are so relaxed we forgot to take any photos last week when we met up with Barrie's sister Elaine and her husband Paul in Meganisi, and we all enjoyed a day's gentle sailing with a swim and lunch (the last of the tuna) off Skorpios, otherwise known as Onassis Island.
We are now on Ithaca, my favourite island, and where Penelope waited for Odysseus to return.
We are at anchor for the night in a small bay on the south of the island, where the only noise is from the bells of the goats as they wander down to the pebbly cove. I doubt if anything here has changed much from Homer's time.

2012- Greece, The Ionian
Mellow Messolongi
Mon 18th Jun 2012, Messolongi

After weeks of sailing past high mountains dropping down into the sea, Messolongi is quite a change. It sits two miles up a dredged channel cut through marshes and lagoons. It is the town where Byron died in 1826 whilst he was supporting the Greek War of Independence and is a pleasant laid back place.
The wind was on the beam when we reached the shallow but well-marked entrance to the channel, so we chose not to turn on the motor, and sailed gently under a well-furled headsail between fisherman's huts on stilts, enjoying the peace of the marshes on either side. The channel opens into a large basin. We had read about the new marina in one corner but it looked crowded, so we went alongside the quay before wandering into town for a beer.
Barrie got up early to take this lovely photo.

2012- Greece, Gulfs of Corinth & Patras
Rest Day
Kath- Sun, 25C, F5 N
Sat 16th Jun 2012, Gilaxidhi, Gulf of Corinth

The Meltemi has really got going, so we are glad to be tucked up on the town quay, between two large motorboats. A flotilla left this morning- brave decision!
Gilaxidhi is a pleasant enough small town, and has some lovely old buildings from the mid 1800's when its wealth came from shipbuilding. But I thought you would prefer to see a photo of some dolphins riding our bow wave yesterday. I can think of no logical reason why they do this- just pure fun.
Tomorrow is Election Day and the locals seem subdued. We chat with other cruisers about the reasons for their present problems, and we all have similar views. There are no doubt exceptions, but Greeks certainly don't appear to like this new concept of paying VAT and taxes, and don't seem to realise this has been the the norm in Northern Europe for some time. Family and community come first, and they distrust the State- a product of their turbulent and complex history. And the troubles are always someone else's fault! But they remain warm and welcoming to us visitors.

2012- Greece, Gulfs of Corinth & Patras
A change of Plan
Fri 15th Jun 2012, Corinth Canal

Today started well. We reached the canal entrance at noon, tied up to pay and do the paperwork ashore, and only had 20 minutes to wait for a transit- you can wait up to 3 hours. We went through in a convoy of just three boats. Our last trip through was on a 32 foot yacht, with a Neilson delivery trip at the end of the season, about seven years ago. That transit cost us nothing; today it was €230- a lot of dosh for four miles!

The wind was blowing hard when we came out at the western end. Our original plan was to go into the yacht harbour in Corinth, but the pilot book reported it as often full and it looked very small to manoeuvre in so I was reluctant to head through the entrance. The commercial harbour was not a good place to be with strong northerlies forecast. We calculated we had just enough daylight to get to Galaxidhi, the next safe harbour, and were please to get there at 20.30 to find just one place left on the town quay- everyone had the same idea.

2012- Greece, Gulfs of Corinth & Patras
A Stranded Swede
Tue 12th Jun 2012, Aigina

A mile off Aigina harbour in a dead calm, we spotted the skipper of a small yacht waving frantically. We motored over to find Eva, a solo Swede, drifting with a broken-down engine and not enough wind to sail. She had been sculling for an hour!
We towed her in to the harbour, dropped the tow line as she dropped her kedge anchor and drifted bows to the quay. Very neat! We circled around and parked up next to her and invited her for a drink which lead to a stroll around the town and then dinner- defrosted tuna, of course!
With her children grown up, three years ago she departed on her big adventure. She brought her 28 foot wooden yacht through the European canals to the Med, and had lived aboard ever since, having spent last winter living aboard in a Turkish fishing harbour to save the cost of marina fees. She is a teacher and qualified masseuse, and earns her way by offering massages whenever she sails into a suitable port. It made me feel like a spoilt softy in comparison!

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
Like Ducks to Water
Sun 10th Jun 2012, Naousa, Paros

It took just two hours to go round the corner to Naousa. The wind was on the nose but we had plenty of time so we sailed most of the way. We're becoming a well honed team at tacking at last! We are at anchor in a bay two miles from the town, but as it is quite calm took the rib across this morning for some shopping and a look round.
Naousa is very attractive and quite up-market, with designer shops and designer prices. We could have walked two miles to the Acropolis, but we've reached the "not another old ruin" stage, so opted instead for a cappuchino frappe in a cool cafe-bar. This family of ducks were enjoying a stroll along the harbour side.

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
Windy Windy
Kath - Sun, 25C, F6 N
Sat 9th Jun 2012, Piso Livadhi

Yesterday and today we have had much stronger northerly winds than forecast, and both mornings have had epic sails to windward, fully reefed. Last night we spent at anchor in a sheltered bay on the south of Naxos.
Today the plan was to head for sophisticated Naousa on the north of Paros, but we'd had enough by lunchtime and diverted instead to this quiet small village. My stern-to berth didn't go to plan because the anchor dragged, so yet again we are side-to, pinned against the quay. We've had a lovely lunch of mixed seafood in the village, washed down with a half-litre of local white wine. Greek wine is really very passable these days- not a hint of retsina.
The work never stops for Barrie. He has spent an hour changing the hose on the watermaker, trying to improve the rate of production. He then baked these lovely scones.

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
A trip round the Island
Thu 7th Jun 2012, Amorgos, Cyclades

We hired a bike today and toured the island. The main road runs along the spine, with numerous hairy hairpin bends. The views were stunning. First stop was the lovely hill-top Hora, and then onto this famous monastery, Moni Hozoviotissis, a dazzling white building built into a sheer cliff face high above the sea. It was built in 1080 when a miraculous icon was found in the sea below. After a short tour, a monk gave us a cube of the local sweet, similar to Turkish Delight, and a small glass of liqueur, tasting of cinnamon and honey. Magic.
After a tasty but huge lunch in Ageali at the north of the island we returned to find Bill and Isabelle, last seen a week ago, tied up to the quay and caught up on news over a G&T in the cockpit of Ocean Dream.

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
Amour Amorgos
Wed 6th Jun 2012, Katapola, Amorgos, Cyclades

We really like it here! The town straggles round the bay, and there are just enough visitors to give the place life, no tourist tat in the shops, and a pleasant variety of laid back cafes and tavernas. The yachts are mixed in with the fishing boats, and the ferry is berthed for the night right next to us.
Today has been a day of jobs and emails. I had a lie in whist Barrie shamed me by going a run at 06.30, up the hill to the remains of an ancient Minoan town. An old man sat side-saddle on a donkey passed him.

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
A Whopper!
Tue 5th Jun 2012, Amorgos, Cyclades

We had a gentle downwind sail today, flying the Genneker. Barrie baked some scones underway to go with the morning coffee, which I photographed with today's blog in mind- but then he caught a tuna! He reeled it in whilst I tried to slow the boat. Is there no end to this man's talents?
Once on deck, we subdued it by pouring neat gin into its gills- works a treat. The next hour was very messy, whilst Barrie gutted the fish on the aft deck and cut it into large fillets before stashing it in the fridge.
Once in the anchorage I dug out the vacuum packer and we sealed it into manageable portions. I swam over to our Austrian neighbours, and they joined us for a barbecue of flash-grilled tuna steaks.

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
Hot Springs
Barrie - Calm Moonlit Night 26C
Sun 3rd Jun 2012, Kammeni - Off Santorini

We had a wonderful late afternoon sail from Ios to Santorini, with calm seas and a gentle 10 knots of wind on the beam. Santorini doesn't have many places to moor a yacht as the pumice cliffs are sheer. Bill had told us about one of his favourite spots- a sheltered cove off a small island in the middle of the volcanic crater. The barren island is the cinder plug left by an ancient eruption, and by day the cove is a star attraction with a steady stream of tripper boats bringing people for a quick dip in the hot spring water. Even though we arrived at 18:45 we had to circle round for thirty minutes for the last of the boats to disappear, and then a fisherman indicated we should tie up to the buoy he was about to leave to set his nets. Now we have the place to ourselves and a few goats, and are looking forward to an early morning swim.
The photograph shows one of the many Hora built around the rim of the crater.

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
Party Island?
Sat 2nd Jun 2012, Ios Port

We left the quiet bay and motored for an hour round the corner to tie up on the town quay. We nearly gave Ios a miss due to its reputation as a noisy party island, but early in the season it is quiet, apart from when the HUGE ferries and fast catamarans arrive.
The old white Chora on the hill is lovely, and probably the first of many we'll visit.

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
A long day's sail
Thu 31st May 2012, Ormos Manganari, Ios

We set off from Spinalonga yesterday at 04.00, knowing we had a long day's passage ahead of us. We had to motor for the first 4 hours, then the wind steadily increased and we had a good sail.
The original plan was to go into the small marina on Santorini but we had had several warnings the entrance silted and might be too shallow. There was no reply when we phoned to check, so we decidied to continue heading north to Ios, and anchored in a bay on the south of the Island at 21.30, glad to have made it.
There was quite a swell in the bay when we arrived but this morning was flat calm, and barrie took this photo when he went for his morning swim.

2012- Greece, The Cyclades
Spooky Spinalonga
Fri 25th May 2012, Crete

We are at anchor in the large shallow lagoon between Spinalonga Island and the mainland. We were up early this morning for a fast ride in the rib to explore the island, famous as a former leper colony. The final leper left in 1952 and it has been uninhabited ever since. Prior to that it was a Venetian fort, and was a facinating if rather spooky place to explore for an hour or so.
Tomorrow we move on to the marina at Agios Nikolaos to meet up with Andreas and Joanna, who used to live next to my mum and dad before retiring to Crete four years ago. We then plan to come back here to chill out and wait for fair weather for the long crossing to Santorini.

2012- Greece, Crete
Wed 23rd May 2012, Iraklion

We had an early start to beat the cruise ship crowds and caught the bus to Knossos, the Royal Palace of King Minos. Sir Arthur Evans lead the excavation in the 1900's, and thought it acceptable to reconstruct some rooms to match his imagination, in the words of one guidebook- "treating the Minoans as if they were a Victorian Royal Family". Unfortunately he used a lot of concrete, which has not weathered as well as the 3,000 year old blocks of limestone.
Then onto the Archaological Museum back in town to view the breathtaking finds from the dig. The Minoans lived a sophisticated, cultured and peaceful life for 500 years before their civilisation was destroyed, probably by a Tsunami when Santorini erupted.

2012- Greece, Crete
Venetian Windbreak
Kath- Sun, 25C, F6 W
Tue 22nd May 2012, Iraklion

A least the wind blew the right way today- what a difference! We've had a fast downwind sail under headsail alone, and by 11.00 am were tied up to the quay in relative calm opposite a beautiful Venetian fort, built on the breakwater sheltering us from an ever-increasing wind.

2012- Greece, Crete
Bali Hi
Kath - Cloudy, 25C, F5 East
Mon 21st May 2012, Ormos Bali - Crete

Not a good day so far. We left Rythymno for Iraklion knowing it was likely we would be motoring into an Easterly- very unusual for Crete. But the wind and swell both built, until we were bashing into the waves and only managing 3 knots at full revs. Sailing was no better- although we sailed well reefed at 5 knots our beating zig-zag course was taking for ever.
So we diverted into what would be a lovely bay, if the sun was shining. Yarona refused to turn and go backwards, so we berthed bows to in a tiny harbour. Barrie managed a flying leap onto the quay- why is there no one to take your lines when you really need it? The skipper of the tripper boat that came in an hour later got a round of applause from his trippers.
Two hours later- we are feeling much happier, having clambered off the bow and had a beer in a village cafe.

2012- Greece, Crete
In my dreams!
Wed 16th May 2012, Chania

How do explain this to Kath? Arabian pirates, hareem to go, or a call centre doing staff training?

2012- Greece, Crete
Up against it!
Tue 15th May 2012, Chania - Crete

We had a great sail yesterday despite having to motor for a couple of hours at the start of the day. Once we had wind it kept building giving us a blast of a sail and an average boat speed of about 7.5knots. Unfortuately by the time we arrived in Chania harbour we had a steady F6 with some F7. Our boat is difficult to park in normal conditions but with F7 on the beam it was a bit of a nightmare. We eventually managed to get alongside a wall.

The wind returned in full force today pinning us hard against the wall and giving us a permenant tilt. Thank heavans for fenders!

Despite crowds of tourists Chania is a really impressive place with many historic buildings dating back to the time of Venetian rule. The ship builing halls are pretty amazing but there are many other fine buldings including the one behind our boat!

2012- Greece, Crete

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