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.
31 May 2018
Our first Meltemi
31 May 2018 | Kalandhon, Naxos - 7,006 NM
We really enjoyed Naxos. From our anchorage we could see the old town, castle and temple to Apollo. On shore the old town was very interesting and beautiful. It turned out to be 2 old towns - one inside the Venetian castle walls and the other one Greek and sprawling over the hill below. It was really atmospheric and we spent ages lost in the maze of alleyways. Just around the bay was a lovely beach completely sheltered from the wind - heaven for a few hours. Desperately in need of a hair cut we ventured further afield to the ordinary side of town where we had hair cuts and found a proper supermarket. We thought we should explore the bay around the headland in case it offered more shelter than our anchorage which meant a bus ride. Very conveniently, all buses went from the end of the ferry quay which was right next to us. While waiting we ventured out to the unfinished Apollo's temple on an island joined to town by a breakwater. Very photogenic but very, very windy and wet as we crossed! The bus took us around to Agios Anna which has a beautiful, long sandy beach lined with apartments and tavernas. It was a bit more sheltered but wouldn't have been a comfortable anchorage but we had a very pleasant couple of hours on the beach.
We stayed in the anchorage for 4 nights but we'd had enough! The noise of the wind in the rigging, the joggling around, the occasional swell from the ferries gets to you after a while. Plus the soaking going ashore in the dinghy. We'd get there drag the dinghy on to the beach and then join the smart tourists in town looking like drowned rats! We'd visited the marina a few times but it was always full as most boats were hiding from the wind. Paul rang before we set off on the day's adventures and we were told, yes, they had a place for us and so up came the anchor and off we went. As we entered in 30knt winds we were told to go back out and wait as he was busy undoing rafted boats. We circled in the wind and waves avoiding 2 ferries for 20 minutes or so and when we eventually got inside he didn't really have space for us and wanted us to raft in a very dodgy place against a boat much smaller than us using our anchor to keep us there. We left but a few minutes later the harbour master was chasing us in his rib very concerned - very bizarre!
Anyway, having got that far we decided to move on. We were planning on exploring more of the island but thought we could probably do it from somewhere else. Unfortunately we weren't really prepared for sea and as we left in 30knt winds and 2m waves. Paul was trying to run around the boat catching everything flying around, stowing it away and closing hatches while I was battling the waves and getting soaked! We hoped that once we got out into the channel between Naxos and
Paros and turned south and downwind things would be easier and it was. We still had the big winds but the waves were now only 1.5m but going downwind we were no longer getting soaked and Freya was happy. We had a lively sail to Kalandhon. The bay was beautiful but any hopes of exploring the island from there disappeared as there was next to nothing there - a ramshackle house on one side that turned out to be a taverna, a modern taverna on the other and a small fishing harbour in the corner. We loved it straight away. Dropping the anchor between 2 other yachts we were happy but a bit later it became very uncomfortable and we decided we'd have to move. Our choices were a small island 5 miles away or the fishing harbour which we assumed was full of fishing boats but we had seen 2 yachts go in - must be full now. We pulled up the anchor and put our nose inside and it wasn't full. The harbour master, Vassilis helped us moor alongside and it was lovely - not very sheltered from the wind but the sea was flat. Vassilis was very helpful and friendly. He didn't speak much English but chatted away with Paul, stayed for a beer and sold us some of his scrummy home made cheese before leaving to milk his goats. It was heaven and we went for a lovely evening walk around the bay finding terrapins in the marsh and listening to the music of hundreds of goats bells!
The following day we went for a lovely walk around the coast dismantling goat defences and putting them back as we went. It was beautiful with the turquoise clear sea, the little white church on the point and a little beach just for us. On our way back we popped into the more modern taverna for a drink. It was so lovely sitting there sheltered from the wind with views over the bay that we stayed for dinner.
We were clearly going to be stuck there for a few days as there didn't seem to be any end to the Meltemi and we were running low on essentials. We looked into getting a taxi to a town but as the road was so bad through the mountains it would cost 70€ each way. Vassilis said he would do it for 60€ both ways, which Paul negotiated down to €50. Then our French neighbours joined us and shared the now slightly higher cost. Vassilis took us to Fitoli which didn't look very inspiring on first impressions but was a lovely little Greek town nestling under mount Zeus, the highest point on the island - a bit chilly in fact. We spent a pleasant hour wandering around the steep narrow streets before walking a few kilometres to Halki which used to be the ancient capital of the island. The walk was beautiful through olive groves with several very old churches hidden on the way. Halki wasn't so nice, definitely on the tourist trail and very expensive with crowded tavernas serving uninspiring food. We found a backstreet bar for lunch before continuing to walk the mountain paths and returning to the supermarket where Vassilis picked us up. A very nice day, a very scenic drive and we did get to see more of the island.
On the way to Kalandhon from Naxos town we passed a milestone. We have done just over 7,000 nautical miles since we left Portishead in June 2013. That's just under one third the way around the world (21,639 NM).
The Meltemi is still blowing and so it looks as if we'll be here for a few more days..........
Be careful what you wish for!
25 May 2018 | Naxos - 6,988 NM
Very Windy, but Warm
After a really peaceful night in our anchorage the Meltemi was still blowing in the morning. Mykonos was only 5 miles away and had a sheltered marina and so we bit the bullet and off we went. As soon as we left the bay we were being soaked by the waves as we crashed through them. It took 1.5 hours to do the 5 miles! When we arrived in the marina, dodging ferries and cruise ships as we went, the sea flattened but the wind was still around 30knts - this would be interesting. There was a berth we could get into relatively easily and the harbour master was waving at us from there and so we got ready and went for it but no, he didn't want us in that one and waved us to one tucked away in a corner. Freya really doesn't like reversing at the best of times and we knew that if we turned to have the wind beam-on we were lost and would never be able to get her stern back into the wind. There was a lot of waving and shouting and in the end we decided we'd have to go for a slightly easier birth further out and hope he'd get the message. Fortunately he did although he clearly didn't understand! Phew, welcome to Mykonos.
After recovering from our soaking, joggling and stressful mooring we got the water bus into Mykonos. It is beautiful if a bit too manicured - an old town with lots of white houses, blue doors and windows, winding narrow streets. It's easy to see why it became so popular, but popular it is, packed with the passengers of 4 cruise ships that day exploring its expensive boutiques lined up with the tourist tack. And all very expensive. After a gyros dinner we walked the mile or so back to the marina and got totally blasted by the wind and dust!
On an island between Rhinia and Mykonos is the ancient city of Delos. You can anchor there during the day to visit but given that it's very exposed, and so with the strong winds, we decided to take the tripper boat which left from Mykonos harbour. It was chaos there when we arrived with all today's cruise ship passengers being shuttled ashore and stopping in the middle of everything for photo stops - arghhh. Anyway, we got there and Delos was fascinating. It's 3-4 thousand years old starting with the Mycenae and becoming very cosmopolitan including an Italian quarter and an Arab quarter. We found it really interesting because although the temples, and there were lots, were not in great condition the streets, houses and shops were clear and it was easy to imagine people living here and imagine the splendour of the villas with their mosaic floors. It's also huge showing how important it was occupying the centre of the Med and controlling trade. We got back to Freya feeling totally battered by the wind again but a great day.
The wind feels relentless, every time you venture outside you get blasted and when inside it's howling through the rigging and joggling you around. The boat is filthy inside and out from the dust and salt blowing around. Wednesday was forecast to be a little less windy and so we decided to make a run for it and head south where it was a bit calmer. Paul fell out with the harbour master as our water, which we'd paid for didn't work and he said we'd used it. Paul became very Greek and in the end we got our water but it all took ages and the wind wasn't getting better but now we were definitely going! With the wind behind us at about 28knts we flew out of our berth once the lines were released and just made the turn before hitting the pontoon opposite or getting tangled in all the lazy lines. Phew! Once out of the bay we turned south, reefed the Genoa and had a wonderful downwind sail all the way to Paros. The further south we went the calmer the sea became and all was good again. On the way we had a very close call with a very big, very fast ferry bearing down on us and heading our way. We watched as he got closer, his huge engines getting louder and realised he hadn't seen us! Engine on very quickly and a quick jibe just got us out of the way in time! But he clearly hadn't seen us and would've gone straight through us without even noticing. We wished we had a photo as he passed so close and we were tossed around in his wake. Anyway back to our peaceful downwind sail.......
We anchored off Parokia, the capital of Paros, which is very sheltered but the wind dropped and so it didn't matter. Parokia was lovely - another old town with white houses, windy streets etc. They are all beautiful and we still love wandering around them but there really isn't anything thing else to say about them. They are very Greek and gorgeous.
Leaving the bay in the morning we saw a turtle raise it's head a few times, very special. We motored around the north of the island in zero wind spotting a dolphin on the way, also special, and to our destination Naxos. We anchored behind the breakwater and set to cleaning the dust and salt from the boat.
A few hours after we arrived, a charter boat crewed by Americans anchored in front of us. They felt a little close but we thought it was OK. Feeling very virtuous after our hard work, we had a relaxing evening while waiting for more wind in the morning. It didn't disappoint!
In the morning, in the heavy winds the Americans were now even closer, so we let some chain out to increase the distance between us. All OK we thought. However while we were eating our breakfast we noticed they were awfully close again, their anchor must have slipped and then reset itself. The American crew had gone ashore, so we pondered for a bit and felt uncomfortable enough not to leave Freya. After a bit more pondering we decided to move.
Raising the anchor would mean getting alongside and quite close to them, so out went the fenders and we went for it. We almost had the anchor up, but then the charter boat gently swang into us, the fenders did their job but our flagpole hit their stern and was slightly damaged. Anyway we got the anchor up and dropped it again further inside the breakwater, where there was now space after a few boats had left. A few minutes later the flagpole was repaired and our position further inside the breakwater was much calmer than the one we just left. Minor crisis (at least in Paul's head) over.
We decided to spend the rest of the morning onboard until the Americans returned just in case anything else went wrong...
21 May 2018 | Rhinia - 6,938 NM
Very Very Windy
The passage to Kythnos was 46 miles in a straight line and we started in a flat calm sea with no wind - set Flossy and that's it. Right in the middle was a huge lump of rock, the island of Agia Geogios, totally barren and uninhabited apart from lots of windmills. Later the wind picked up a bit and we unfurled the Genoa giving us a bit more speed. Our destination was the beautiful and very sheltered bay of Fikhiada where there is a small island joined to Kythnos by a sand spit. I had my first swim of the year and it was lovely swimming to the sand spit and wandering along the beach. There were a few more boats in the anchorage than we'd expected for this time of year but other than that lovely with amazing stars and we could see the twinkling red lights on the windmills of Agia Georios 23 miles away.
We then went to the east coast of Kythnos to Loutra to partake of the hot springs. The little harbour was packed when we arrived. There was room for us but way too busy and so we went to a little bay around the corner which was more sheltered and anchored with lines ashore. The hot springs we indeed very hot - almost too hot. They came down a channel coated with orange minerals into the sea and into a man made rock pool. As we walked past the tavernas on the way all the waiters were saying they wouldn't recognise us on the way back as we'd look so much younger - ummm, not sure it worked! When we got back to our bay we weren't alone anymore, there were another 6 boats lined up with us including a huge superyacht across the entrance, but still plenty of room.
We thought we'd stay another night and explore inland but there are only buses in the 'summer'. We had orange juice (power cut and so no coffee) in one of the tavernas and they rang for a taxi to take us to Hora, the capital. It was a really pretty town with the usual white buildings squashed together along narrow streets. The streets were painted with white lines suggesting big stones but also, in places with white flowers, boats etc. Unfortunately, as it wasn't 'summer' Hora was mostly closed. It was difficult to even find lunch. We were going to try to go to another town but thought that was bound to be closed too and so walked the 5km back to Loutra instead. It was a lovely walk but very hot - considering it isn't summer! I think what we'll remember about Kythnos is the beautiful dry stone walls everywhere. So many - can't imagine what they were all for.
We headed to Syros and Finekas bay which is where we would spend Paul's birthday. The little harbour was full of boats that clearly lived there and so the only place for visiting boats was on the outside of the wall - luckily it was very calm! It's a very small but lovely fishing village with a choice of tavernas for birthday dinner. We planned the day - breakfast in a beachside cafe, beach, dinner - best laid plans! After presents and tea we realised it was overcast and not really a beach day and so it all changed. We headed to the bus stop for Ermopouli, the capital if the Cyclades only to find our German neighbours sitting on the bus stop where they'd been for half an hour with no idea when the bus would come. We decided to share a taxi and off we went and started with a full English breakfast with a Greek twist on the harbour front. Ermopouli is a big city for such a small island because of its capital status. It has a very cosmopolitan feel with lovely pastel coloured Venetian architecture, remnants from their occupation. We started in town around the port and looking in the shops which weren't all full of tourist tack. Then it was up hill, lots of steps, through the old town which was still very lived in and pretty to the Catholic Church on the top, again a throw back to the Venetian occupation, where we had great views over the bay and of the neighbouring hill topped by the Greek Orthodox Church - and both hills covered in the pastel coloured houses. So different, we really enjoyed it. Finally, an ice cream, before getting the bus back to Finekas via a scenic tour of the island. After chilling and showering we had cocktails by the beach and dinner in the taverna overlooking the bay. A lovely day. The next day we enjoyed our day on the beach followed by a very joggly night as the swell found its way into the bay.
That was Syros, the next day we sailed, really sailed at up to 6knts in up to 20knts of wind, to Rhinia, a tiny island with a very rugged shape offering lots of anchorages giving shelter from all directions which was just as well as we now had 25knts of wind to hide from. Our anchorage was rock solid. The wind blew through the rigging but we barely moved and had a very peaceful night. The island only has a few farms on it despite being opposite Mykonos and our bay was beautiful with sandy beaches and ruins all around - a pity it was so windy! Looks like the Meltemi may be coming early........
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