18 July 2018 | Severn Beach - 7,283 NM
We were counting down to going home for a few weeks to escape the wind, the heat and the crowds of high summer. We had almost 2 weeks and just 14 miles to go to Leros, where Freya was going to stay.
Leaving wonderful Arkoi we motored the few miles to the next island, Lipsoi where we moored on the town quay. High winds were forecast again and so we wanted shelter. The yacht quay is on the inside of the breakwater and so is much quieter and less public than some. We were met by Manolis who charged us 3€ for catching our lines and then sold us a jar of preserved fish that looked more like a science experiment than dinner! Lipsoi is a small island with just the one village which is very pretty and dominated by the huge church. Our 6 night stay here seems to have been dominated by England World Cup matches in the local bar which had a great atmosphere - the locals supporting Colombia (because everybody else was supporting England) and siding with us when the Swedes arrived for the next match. Who would've thought 2 totally non football fans could get so engrossed! During the day we visited the beaches of Lipsoi either on foot or by mini bus. The beaches are all small but stunningly beautiful with trees giving shade and amazing turquoise sea. It was a very relaxing few days.
Our final stop was Leros. We had planned to have a few days in the marina before Freya was lifted but realised the wind was forecast to be gusting 38 knots on the day of our lift and so after talking to the boat yard it was brought forward from Saturday to Tuesday. We left Lipsoi expecting a final down wind sail but the wind dropped and disappeared leaving us motoring to a lovely bay on a small island opposite the boatyard which we had to ourselves for a lovely day of swimming and relaxing. In the evening we went over to the boatyard and picked up a buoy for the night ready for our lift in the morning. We had been told they started their lifting program at 8.00 in the morning and so to be ready with the radio on. We were but didn't really expect anything to happen at that time - this was Greece! But just before 8.00 we could see the travel lift moving and we were called over. It was very efficient and Freya was in her cradle by 9.30. Our experience in the office wasn't quite so positive! We'd heard rumours of financial difficulties and the credit card machine still wasn't 'working' - we hope we've made the right decision to stay there.......
The boatyard is very isolated on the north of the island and so we hired a car to explore but after 2 nights on the hard we'd had enough and abandoned ship for an apartment by the sea and nearer to life. We really don't like living up a ladder with no plumbing!
For such a little island Leros is really interesting with lots of history. It's also very built up compared to its neighbours making driving the narrow roads interesting. Panteli castle is stunning on the top of a hill dominating most of the island and giving amazing views. It was largely built by the crusaders about 1,000 years ago but also saw action in WWll. Leros was the sight of a major battle in the war when Germany took it from the Italians who had occupied the island in 1912. There are several shipwrecks which we hope to dive later in the year but also a network of tunnels built by the Italians and used by the locals for shelter during the battles and now a museum of that period.
Culture sorted we drove every passable road on the island (our hire car was brand new, unusual in Greece and making us wary of driving off-road) visiting the lovely old villages, ports and beaches.
The day before our flight we drove to Lakki to get the ferry to Kos. Despite all our care we had managed to scratch the car and paid the 50€ requested! The ferry journey was about 30 miles and beautiful giving us a different perspective of the small islands we passed. We arrived in Kos town at about 11.30 in the morning and wow, we were not prepared for tourism on that scale! It was so busy, with so many tripper boats and so many tavernas - a real shock to our system. We think we have to revisit our thoughts on islands we've described as touristy before! On saying that it's a very interesting town with Roman and Arabic ruins scattered about. We only had 1 afternoon and so we'll save that for later. In the morning we took the bus to the airport across the island which appears much quieter out of town and now we're back in Severn Beach......
10 July 2018
05 July 2018 | Lipsoi - 7,273 NM
Hot and Very Windy
On Ikaria there is a marina next to the town quay in the capital, Agios Kirikos which really isn't anymore than a village. The island is a huge slab of rock in the sea and it's a wonder that it's habitable at all. It's named after Icarus who according to legend flew too close to the sun and melted his wings falling into the sea here. On our first perambulation we found the garage and asked if he could deliver diesel. He said yes and would be there in 20 minutes. He duly arrived carrying 3 large plastic containers holding 50 litres of diesel - on a moped! We see lots of things on mopeds here but that's a first! On our second perambulation we thought we'd check out the buses to explore the island. We eventually found the stop which wasn't marked in any way and the driver explained the only bus left at 1.00 but didn't return until the following morning - another first! We hired a car for the following day......
We managed to drive every 'proper' road on Ikaria in one day. It isn't a very big island but as it's just a big mountain sticking out of the sea it's mountain roads or tracks all the way. We started heading to the most eastern point and the 4th century BC ruins of the Drakonas Fortress with its amazingly intact tower and stunning views, very atmospheric. We retraced our steps and crossed the mountains to the north coast stopping for coffee in the very pretty fishing village of Karavostamo. Next stop was the island's second port of Evdilos which isn't much more than a village where we had a delicious lunch on the quay. The drive along to the western point was stunning. Starting with lush green green mountains and turning into a weird rocky moonscape. The road ends at the very tiny port of Karkinagri where waves crashed on the rocks in the little harbour. Again retracing our steps to another road leading over the mountains and back to the south coast passing through a stunning green valley until we emerged onto a road perched on a sheer cliff overlooking the coast. Our final stop was another very pretty little port called Maganitis. The spectacular road then took us east, back to Agios Kirykos and Freya having had a great day but totally exhausted.
On our last day in Ikaria we walked along the coast through the very pretty residential part of Agios Kirykos and the sea before going down into the next village of Therma. The village is known for its radioactive hot springs! We looked into the first 2 'spas' we found which seemed to have lines of clinical cubicles with an ordinary bath in each. They didn't look appealing at all. The final place was on the beach and this had a cave at the back which was a natural steam room with 2 different big jacuzzis of different temperatures to follow. We decided to give it a go - we haven't really noticed any benefits so far but also no reaction to the radiation and so I guess that's ok. When we got back to Freya some neighbours popped round - it would've been rude not to share a drink!
In the morning we left for a 10 mile motor to Thymaina which is a tiny island and named after the wild thyme growing all over it. There's a very small village which appears to be the 'real' Greece with no or very little tourism. It's a beautiful spot sheltered by the 2 neighbouring islands of Fournoi and the even smaller Dhiapori nestled in between. We had a very peaceful night and managed to clean all the black stripes left by the tyre fenders in Chios from Freya's side.
Well, what can we say about out next stop Arkoi - we loved it! We picked up a restaurant buoy in the beautiful bay of Porto Stretto next to Ray and Carol, our new friends, on Ostrea. The sea was unbelievably turquoise and it was so peaceful. The little village is just a 10 minute walk away and is in another equally beautiful bay. There are 3 tavernas and a tiny mini market but that's it. In the other direction the road soon turns into a track and then goat tracks to a small beach. We didn't think the sea could get any bluer but, well, it did - wow! We stayed 3 nights and only left when the winds were building and threatening our meeting with the boat lift on Leros. We had a lovely meal in the taverna on our wedding anniversary but the owner was very relaxed as to how long we spent on his buoy. He even lent Paul glue to mend his shoe!
26 June 2018 | Ikaria - 7,236 NM
Warm but unsettled
After a pleasant but uneventful evening in Karlovassi, we set off for Chios early the next morning. The sea was a bit rough but we had a good sail most of the way, the highlight being a huge pod of dolphins that came to play. They stayed with us for ages spinning and jumping and seemed to be having a great time - as were we. We sailed straight towards Gia and George's villa so that they could see us coming and then turned to do the last couple of miles to the little fishing harbour of Agia Ermioni. Mooring was definitely interesting as it was clearly designed for small fishing boats. It was too shallow further in and had rocks along a long wall which would of been perfect. With the help of Captain Yannis, George's friend, we eventually settled on a spot just inside the wall stern-to but the anchor wouldn't hold and so we pulled her round side to leaving the anchor out but when we pulled it in a bit it suddenly bit very hard. We thought we had probably picked up a mooring chain which was going to make leaving interesting! Anyway, we were in, phew and George took us up to their fabulous villa in Agia Fotini.
George and Gia have a routine where each morning they go for a walk in the hills followed by the beach and a swim and coffee in the local bar, Splash. We were very happy to join in and felt like one of the locals by the time we left. A few days we went exploring further afield and missed the morning swim. The first outing took us to the south west of the island starting with coffee and pastries in a local bakery where we got stuck in a huge thunder storm causing the roads to turn into rivers - spectacular. The storms hampered us further as the windscreen wiper in the hire car kept falling off! Next we visited the fortified towns of Pyrgi and Mesta. Pyrgi had beautiful buildings decorated with geometric patterns in black and white created by scratching off the surface of the render and an old Byzantine church. Mesta was full of narrow streets inside city walls with narrow gates meaning it was traffic free and so very peaceful. At the Mastica museum we learnt that the fortified towns were necessary because of the Mastica which is a gum made from the sap of trees that only grow on Chios and is so valuable that wars have been fought over it. The afternoon was completed with a swim in a beautiful sandy bay, a visit to Mavra Volia beach with its black volcanic pebbles and a late fish lunch in a lovely seaside taverna.
Another trip started with a stunning drive into the mountains which dominate the island to Nea Moni monastery which has a very chequered history having been burnt to the ground twice. The church was being restored but we could still see the remains of frescos hundreds of years old and a relic which miraculously survived the fires. In one room was a glass case full of skulls and other human bones from the hundreds of people slaughtered by the Turks in 1822 - gruesome! We then went to Avgonimia, a very pretty village in the mountains with narrow streets and stunning views - and of course a taverna offering a very nice brunch and big bags of locally picked oregano for 3 euros. Another lovely beach joining an island to Chios finished the day out.
Our final outing was to Langada further north which is a pretty fishing village in a beautiful bay where we had yet another delicious fish dinner.
In between all of this we enjoyed relaxing around the pool and taking in the stunning views of the Aegean from the terrace as well as some delicious meals at home and in tavernas selected by our hosts and all great. All in all we were totally spoilt and had a fantastic time.
After a week we could see the weather changing and so we thought we should move on while we had a northerly wind to blow us back south (and before we outstayed our welcome) and so after saying goodbye one afternoon we were dropped back at Freya. What to do about the potentially stuck anchor had been an ongoing topic of conversation and so we thought we should investigate before leaving in the morning. I went snorkelling and thought I could see it in the rocks but it was very murky and so Paul tried to pull it from the dinghy but all he managed to pull was his back! George and Gia came for drinks in the evening followed by dinner in yet another lovely taverna but Paul's back got worse. In the morning we thought it wiser to stay put and so just when they thought they'd got rid of us George came to collect us and we spent another lovely day relaxing in their home. Early in the morning we were dropped back on Freya and put in place the plan we'd hatched to raise the anchor but it was all unnecessary as it came straight up! We had a lovely, but uncomfortable, for Paul's back, downwind sail (with engine to charge the batteries) to Ikaria where we moored in a new (unfinished) marina which despite having had a fortune spent on it, is still to be adopted yet and so is free!
Dodgy mountain roads - again!
14 June 2018 | Karlovassi, Samos- 7,150 NM
Hot and Sunny - Northerly Winds
We had a very unpleasant passage to Samos just a stones throw from the Turkish coast. We left very early in the morning, because of the arrival of the water tanker, and initially it was a beautiful still morning as we left Patmos. The wind picked up a little and the sails came out and we thought we were going to have a lovely sail but then the sea became very choppy as we cleared the island and then the wind dropped, the Genoa was furled and the engine came back on with the sea still being very choppy making it very uncomfortable and boring. Then the wind returned but right on our nose making it very slow as well as uncomfortable and boring. Anyway, we eventually got to Samos and moored on the quay in Pythagorio which was a relief.
Pythagorio is the birth place of Pythagoras hence the name - and sadly exciting! It's a really pretty harbour where the summer season is definitely underway and so very lively. We really like it apart from the loud music from the tavernas lining the quay until the early hours of every morning! We will be here for a few days waiting for a weather window enabling us to head north to Chios. We've cleaned the boat which was very necessary, been to the small beach and explored the town which again has so much history with piles of stones (ruins) everywhere. Nearby are the Eupalinus tunnels which are 2km long and were literally chiselled from the mountain 2,600 years ago channelling water from a spring to the city. The project started from both ends and managed to meet in the middle. There are 2 tunnels - one with the water that flowed through terracotta pipes and a service tunnel above it where 4,000 slaves lived and worked for the 10 years it took to build. They believed they were working for their freedom but were all murdered at the end as the tunnel was to be secret!
On our tour we were joined by a Turkish couple who were great fun. As we left and started to walk back to town they offered us a lift which was very welcome as it was very hot. Once in the car they invited us to join them to visit a cave church and a village in the mountains - and so off we went. The church was in a very big, deep cave and was fascinating but the village which was supposed to be famous for ceramics was a bit disappointing. There were a few potteries spread out along the main road but the village itself, although very pretty was very closed and dead. We suspected it was all holiday homes which is very sad as there is no life left. We invited our new friends to join us for a drink when they dropped us off - several bottles of wine later and long chats about our lives in England and Turkey and of course putting them all right we said good bye. We will try to meet up with them again when we get to their home town in Izmir.
Freya needed diesel and it couldn't be brought to the quay and we needed to explore the island and so a hire car was the answer. The day started with huge thunderstorms which was not part of the plan. After filling the fuel cans our first stop was Vathi and Samos town on the north of the island. It was remarkably untouristy compared to Pythagorio. It's setting is spectacular and it has some 'normal' shops and not a lot to see but we enjoyed exploring while dodging the showers. We'd thought about volunteering in one of the refugee camps and there's a big one on the outskirts of Vathi. Considering there are thousands of people in it it was very well hidden but eventually and by accident we passed a building with a big sign 'Samos Volunteers'. We stopped for a chat but discovered that their main focus is entertaining and educating the refugees. The aid agencies deal with day to day needs and nothing more can be done as they are at the mercy of politicians. Probably not for us!
Next was Kikkari which was so pretty and made a very nice lunch stop. Samos is very green and fertile compared to most of the Aegean islands we've visited. The drive into the mountains was stunning with grape vines mixed in with olive groves, cypress trees and forest as well as the stunning views of blue sea. While in the mountains we saw a road sign to another village on our map and so we headed that way - mistake, we were having another Nisan Almera moment! It was only 6 km but the road had turned into a track in no time with no turning spaces. We were getting out to see if the car could clear the boulders and holes but after 3 km we simply couldn't persuade the car to climb a steep, dusty patch and we had to admit defeat. Luckily there was a sort of turning point and so after a 15 point turn, back we came to continue our way along the coast.
We had a quick stop in Karlovassi, potentiality our next sailing stop, as it had mixed reviews. There was nothing there apart from the ferry harbour and a couple of bars, so it didn't take long. Finally, Potemi waterfalls - except we missed them! We found the sign, parked and walked through a lovely forest passing an old church and a castle. Eventually the path stopped where the stream went into a canyon filled with water. There was a steep, very rickety staircase to a cafe on one side which Paul climbed part of but still no sign of the waterfall. On the other side was a signpost saying waterfall in several languages and a very steep, rough path up the mountain. We decided that must be the way - we climbed up and up through the trees and it got rougher and rougher - we were wondering how we'd ever get down! Eventually we came to a road! With a sign pointing down the way we'd come to the waterfalls - we'd missed them! We had read a review that said 'don't forget your swimsuits' but we'd assumed that was for a swim in the probably freezing pool at the bottom of the falls but we then realised it was because you had to wade through the canyon to the falls! We weren't going back down that 'path' and so we walked down the road which we figured had to take us back to the sea - which it did and it was a lovely walk if a bit long. On the way back over the mountains to the south coast we stopped at Marakompos, a pretty little village with a small port before taking the main road through the mountains, one of the most spectacular drives we've done, to Pythagorio dropping our car off with 4 minutes to spare and getting back to Freya just as the heavens opened.
We had a couple more very pleasant days in Pythagorio going to the beach, drinking wine with our South African neighbours and doing boaty things while waiting for our weather window to go north. A few days later the wind had gone and so we motored 33 miles to the port of Karlovassi on Samos' north coast. The journey was uneventful, apart from four separate sightings of dolphins, as always quite magical
11 June 2018 | Samos - 7,117 NM
Very Hot and Sunny
The wind blew so hard we were boat bound in Kalandhon, Naxos. We were safely tied up in the fishing harbour but the wind made any ventures ashore horrible. We managed a little stroll later in the day and miraculously the wind dropped just as we decided we'd had enough of hiding on the boat and we had a lovely 10 minutes on the beach in the evening sun - just 10 minutes though - then we had to hide from a sand storm and get back to Freya! Our French neighbours had asked Vassilis to take them on another excursion the next day and asked if we'd like to join them - of course we did.
This time we went to Apeiranthos which again included the stunning drive through the mountains and sea views of both sides of the island. It was another beautiful white village and again, we really enjoyed exploring its cobbled alleys and marble steps. We walked up to some nearby windmills for the fantastic views of the east coast and nearby islands before a really delicious lunch followed by coffee and a bit of people watching.
When we woke the following morning it was quiet - for the first time in 13 days, the wind was gone! Wow, it was amazing. We could've set off but we thought we should have a 'quiet' day enjoying Kalandhon without hiding from the wind. I had a lovely long swim, the first since we'd arrived and even Paul got in under protest! In the evening we walked up the hill to the "taverna" that in truth was a shack and a few tables under a makeshift roof. It's run by a father and daughter who grow all the produce on their farm next door. There is no menu - they bbq the meat which had been running free on the hill and what ever veggies they have, washed down with their home made wine. Delicious.
The next day we were off, motoring, as still no wind. Our first stop was just an hour away in Mersini on Skinousa a few miles south of Naxos. We moored alongside on the small quay in the little sheltered bay with turquoise sea, beautiful. Chora, the island capital was a 20 minute walk uphill but had to be done. It was very hot without the wind! The town was very pretty and had a few shops open, even on a Sunday, which was useful. While exploring we had 360 degree views of the island from different spots in the village. When we got back to Freya the little quay was filling up, well 2 boats, so we decided to move around to one of the beautiful bays we'd seen from the village and anchor. It was so peaceful and after lunch I had to go for a snorkel. At first there wasn't much to see but I checked the anchor, looked at the hull which was looking a bit greener than last time I'd looked and then headed along the coast towards a sunken quay which I thought looked like a perfect home for fish. I was right there were lots, all sizes and colours and so I was returning to Freya happy when something very big appeared in front of me. I was so excited when I realised it was a big turtle who had no concerns about me being there and we swam together for ages until he surfaced for air and swam off into deeper water. I was so excited and really didn't think things like that happened in the Med!
No wind again - or so we thought! The next day, we left our anchorage after a very peaceful night and motored around the island towards Donousa, another small island and 20 miles from anywhere else. As we went between the islands the sea picked up and we slowed down and then the wind picked up, but it was on the nose and soon we were down to only 3 knots. Again, we were totally unprepared and so we turned off and went behind one of the islands to prepare Freya and get the sails up. We had a very lively close hauled sail all the way to our destination at a more respectable speed. Unfortunately Donousa wasn't as we'd imagined - the bay wasn't as big as we thought and there were already 2 boats in it meaning we had to anchor further out. It wasn't as pretty, the village was a long walk up and down a very steep hill and worse of all, there was a big swell working its way in meaning we had a very rolly night. We were up very early and on our way to Patmos the next morning.
This time we did motor the whole 6 hours with a little assistance from the Genoa. We moored on the quay in the port of Skala. Patmos is in the Dodecanese rather than the Cyclades and has a different feel. Skala isn't as old and quaint with the narrow streets etc but it has a nice feel and lots of nice shops and tavernas. We celebrated my birthday there. The day started with tea and pressies followed by breakfast out. Then we took the bus to Chora which was pretty with white houses in narrow streets (another!) and had views over the island. Stunning. In the centre is the huge monastery of St John which dates from 1080 and still had the original papal document creating it in its museum. The monastery was so pretty with lots of passages and stairs and flowers everywhere. The chapel had amazing frescos. We don't go to many monasteries anymore but this one was special. The reason it is on Patmos is because John the Divine sat in a cave below it and God supposedly told him about the Apocalypse which became the book of Revelations in the Bible. We walked back to Skala to visit the cave on the way. So much history in these parts. Back in Skala we had an ice cream and later I had a pedicure and manicure, well it was my birthday, followed by a lovely dinner in a taverna by the sea.
Patmos is a really hickledy pickledy shape and so there are lots of lovely sheltered anchorages to enjoy - it would be a pity not to and so in the morning we moved a few miles to Grikou. It was a bit deep but we found a corner that suited us and had a peaceful afternoon and evening until there was a knock on the boat...... We were told the water tanker would arrive in the morning at 7.00 and needed our spot. Oh well an early morning, and sure enough, when we got up at 6.30 for our passage to Samos, there he was waiting.
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