Walking Through History
22 September 2019 | Ormos Eleftheriou - 8,210NM
Lorraine Chapman | Warm and Calm
Just an hour and a half around to the north of the island is Thassos town, our next destination. We moored in the new port which is lots of concrete but secure and sheltered - apart from when the hydrofoil comes in a few times a day! Thassos was a bit late joining the Greek island tourist invasion but it has now caught up and has ferries going back and forth all day. It is full of the same tavernas, tripper boats and tacky souvenir shops selling the same as everywhere else. The crowds are different though - all Eastern Europeans as Thassos is a relatively short journey and only a few miles from the mainland for Bulgarians and the old Yugoslavian countries. The island is beautiful though, mountainous and very green and so we needed to get out of town.
We hired a car and set off to circumnavigate the island which is straightforward with just one road going all the way round and just a few roads leading up to mountain villages. We headed off in an anti-clockwise direction and discovered stunning scenery all the way around with rocky cliffs, turquoise sea and pale green olive groves. The seaside villages were all overdeveloped and so we gave them a miss but we found a couple of beautiful mountain villages with fresh air, forests, lovely views and stunning old houses with stone roofs. We stopped at Giola, a natural rock pool and as we were specifically told we couldn't take our car off tarmac roads, we had a very steep, rocky walk down to the pool which was very impressive in a lovely setting but more than a bit crowded. Our next stop was Alyki, our intended but abandoned anchorage the day before, which is a beautiful small cove blighted with end to end sun beds! There is however an archaeological site on a peninsula with ruins over several periods - a huge Roman sarcophagus, a temple to Apollo from 6C BC and a huge basilica from the first century AD. Very interesting, free and a lovely wander around a beautiful spot. The east coast of Thassos appears to be made entirely of marble which is scattered everywhere and used in very ordinary projects such as edging a road or for breakwaters. There are also huge quarries some of which are still working - we stopped to see one where the colossal face was solid blocks of white marble and huge cubes cut alongside. The mountains of chippings glow white in the sun and are used to gravel gardens! It was a lovely but full on day and we returned the car exhausted!
In started raining in the night! - A boat day mostly on board catching up with chores and a trip to the supermarket when it went off plus a diesel delivery by tanker. The sun was shining again next morning and our final day in Thassos was spent visiting the antiquities around town which were much more extensive than we'd imagined. We started with a visit to the museum and were greeted by an amazing 5m high marble statue in the foyer of a man holding a ram which dated to 600BC making it 2,600 years old! The rest of the museum was interesting and gave us clues as to where else to go. Right next to the museum is the roman agora which is a large area but not a lot left. Next was the ancient port which had a new port built over it but you could see the old port with the bases of round towers on the corners under water beside the new walls - possibly it had sunk in an earthquake. Out on the point we found the remains of a small fortification with an ancient light house in the corner and a new church built in the middle. There was a path going up hill, through pine forest to an amphitheater which was undergoing restoration but we could still see it, plus it had amazing views over town and the port. What an amazing place it must've been to watch a play.
On up the path which was getting steeper and we came to the ancient acropolis of Thassos. There was quite a lot left and it was very atmospheric as the forest was slowly taking over. On up again and we came to the Pytherion temple where the statue in the museum was found. What was left was a huge platform which presumably held an equally huge temple but what was amazing was the walls built with huge blocks around the hill to support it - and again the amazing views. Finally up again to the temple of Pan where little remained apart from a large carved alter and, of course, at the highest point the best views.
What an amazing walk through forests and ruins with fantastic views over turquoise sea, the mainland, islands and port. But it wasn't over. The official route back was back the way we came but that seemed a bit disappointing and we were sure there must be another way! We scrambled down a steep, overgrown, rocky hill and hoped we would find a path at the bottom - which thankfully we eventually did as we had no idea how we would get back up! It wound through an olive grove (in the wrong direction) until we came out onto a track (filled with marble chipping) which wound down the hill back to town where we found yet more ruins - a marble city gate with carvings, a temple to Hercules and a basilica. This had all taken a lot longer than expected as we had no idea there was so much to explore. We'd missed lunch and needless to say had no water with us and so when we reached the port we headed to a taverna for a drink and a yummy late lunch. A great day.
18 September 2019
By clicking on the link below you can load an interactive map to see our route and explore the places we stopped at.
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18 September 2019 | Thassos - 8,190 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Hot and Calm
We spent a day in Myrinas in the spring and now we have chance to explore a bit more. We moored stern-to on the quay under the spectacular castle and although the quay is lined with bars it's very quiet once the evening perambulation has finished. We had quite a few chores to do - another attempt at repairing the dinghy, laundry (in a self service launderette!), shopping - all very exciting. We were very sociable having drinks with Steve on a tiny Westerly Tiger who came via the Danube - he stayed for dinner. We also had drinks with Americans Larry and Linda on their large cat - followed by dinner out. There is another British couple here, on holiday, but sailors in the UK who we chat to regularly. The old shaded shopping street is lovely to wander and there is also a beach for swimming. Unfortunately (or not) after a couple of days the wind and sea have picked up again and so we had to stay a bit longer.........
Larry and Linda had a friend visiting, Debbie and rented a car for a few days and we were invited to join them. Our tour started with wine tasting at the Chatzigeorgiou winery. We were surprised as we arrived that there were no vines on the estate, but were told the Muscat of Alexandria grape is grown in small vineyards all over Limnos and collected for the winery. It's a low growing vine - presumably well suited to the wind. With this knowledge we could then see small fields of them everywhere. We tasted several wines and of course bought a few bottles at a very reasonable price. Next was lunch in Moudros, which we loved when we stayed there earlier in the year. Steve had gone cycling and we found him 40 km away in Moudros and so he joined us before cycling back. We told the group about ruins near by that we'd tried to visit before but had been closed and so we tried again - and they were closed again!
The next morning we tried again - and it was open - third time lucky! The ruins of Poliochne date back to 3,700 years bc, over 5,000 years old and are claimed to be the oldest city in Europe with up to 1500 inhabitants. It was fascinating. The buildings were only foundation level but you could clearly see defensive walls, streets, houses, meeting rooms with benches and storerooms and could imagine life there. So much organisation so long ago! On our travels we passed the village with the stone wine vats in the ground which we stumbled upon in the spring and so had to share it as we knew they would be interested and then a petrified tree on the side of the road. We next found lunch in a small taverna in a village we passed through before heading for another winery. Unfortunately, after trying very hard, we couldn't find it! We kept passing signs for another which didn't have as good reviews but we thought deserved extra points for having directions but when we got there it was closed! Finally, we found a wine cooperative come warehouse- but that was also closed! The others had spotted what looked like a winery across the bay and so we stopped there but - it was closed! There is a church on a hill very close to it and so we went up there and enjoyed lovely views over Myrinas, the bay and the castle. We decided to head back to the boats and try tasting at the cooperative in the evening but when we arrived they weren't doing tasting this time of year! Back to town and supper by the harbour where Steve joined us.
The forecast was saying we could all leave on Sunday when the wind and sea subsided and so on Saturday we stocked up again ready to go. We went to the beach bumping into Linda and Debbie before we all drove to a lovely restaurant out of Myrinas where we had a lovely dinner with a blood moon rising over the sea. After coffee and goodbyes on Harmonia they set off but we received a text an hour later saying they had high winds and rough seas. An hour later another arrived saying it was worse - another night in Myrinas was looking good! But lunch time the following day we did manage to leave and motored to an anchorage on the north of the island in flat seas and light winds where we had the darkest night we've ever experienced at anchor. The stars we're very bright but the rocks seemed to close in around us as they disappeared - a bit spooky! It was a peaceful if a bit of a rolly night though. We left the anchorage early in the morning for a boring 41 mile motor to Thassos. The anchorage we chose didn't offer the shelter we were expecting as the wind was not from the forecast direction. It was also small and noisy and so we added 10 more miles and went around the east coast where we spent a very peaceful night in the large bay of Potimias.
For the Greek sailors amongst you, you might recognise the view of Myrina in the photo. It's on the front cover of the Hiekel pilot book, but he hasn't got Freya in his picture
Going Where the Wind Takes You
09 September 2019 | Marini, Lemnos - 8,123 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Hot and Windy
Sigri is very interesting as it's the site of a petrified forest created millions of years ago by a volcanic action. We visited the museum in the spring and discovered they ran boat trips to the island just offshore where there are lots of examples but it hadn't started running yet. We thought we would be able to go this time - but no, it's too windy! Never mind there is a park with more examples on the hill a short walk from town and so off we went - closed! But it does apparently open on Wednesday (this was Monday). Never mind it was a nice walk which we finished with a walk around the very pretty village, a drink in the bar overlooking the bay and a swim. We finished the day with one of those perfect evenings which is what our life style is all about - we sat in the cockpit with a nice dinner and a glass of wine as the sun set over the island and the stars all come out while listening to Pink Floyd. So peaceful, stunning.
Day 2 in Sigri was very hard - sat on sun beds on the beach which was more sheltered from the wind. We did manage to solve a mystery from the spring though. While sailing along this coast we heard a huge explosion making Freya shake and us run around looking for damage and wondering what had happened - apparently nothing! While sitting on the beach it happened again making all the happy sunbathers jump and sit up. It was a sonic boom as a Greek fighter jet broke the sound barrier and was amazingly loud. Mystery solved. The day finished perfectly again.
On our second attempt the Geopark with the petrified trees was open. There were a couple of amazing specimens - the root and base of a laurel with a 16 metre circumference, just imagine how tall that would've been and a 14 metre trunk on the beach going out to sea. There were lots of tree bases all looking very similar but it did give more of an impression of the original setting being a vast forest. Really interesting and worth the walk up hill and the 2 euro entry fee. A shopping trip followed which is very limited in Sigri. We found a very small fruit & veg shop which amazingly had most of what we wanted plus a mini-market - sorted for a few more days. After lunch in our usual bar, where they kindly let us fill our water carriers, we headed back to the boat for a relaxing afternoon of reading, painting and swimming. It's the first time I've looked at Freya's bottom this trip and have never seen her so dirty - not weed but a complete, hard covering of crust! Just as well she's coming out in a November. Finally, another of those perfect evenings.
Our final day in Sigri and we went for a walk north around the coast. They're doing a lot of building on the harbour and so it's very dusty but we followed the road around the bay stopping to watch windsurfers enjoying the breeze and then a little inland where we climbed the steps to a pretty little white church with stunning views over the islands, bay and Sigri. As it was our last night we thought dinner out was called for.
In the morning we were up early, lifting the anchor at 7.00 am. We motored out of the bay setting the sails as we left the narrow north channel. For the first half an hour we had a lovely sail at 5 knots in a flat sea but then the sea began to build and the wind went further forward until we were in a very rough sea and fighting to keep to course close-hauled. We realised that if we came off the wind a bit we would arrive on the island of Agios Efstratios and have a more comfortable sail. Good plan but unfortunately the wind moved further round again and so we ended up in the same situation. The journey was 51 miles which we did in 8.5 hours sailing all the way but we were exhausted when we arrived in the pretty little port and discovered all the sheltered berths full! We ended up mooring on the outside of the fishing harbour which was still inside the breakwater but there was a really uncomfortable swell making us roll and the lines snatch. We couldn't be bothered to cook and so had a wander around the very small, pretty village and enjoyed a delicious dinner before realising all the rolling and noisy lines were not enough to keep us awake!
Agios Efstratios is a tiny island, just 5 miles long and 3 miles wide at its widest point and has a population of just 300. It's very brown and barren with little to offer other than the port but we explored further in the morning finding an amazingly well stocked little shop and a small Democracy museum, as this was one of the islands where political prisoners were imprisoned until as late as 1964! Interesting. Later in the day we walked up the hill overlooking the harbour and village to explore the ruined castle - which turned out not to be a ruined castle at all but the remains of a very grand church with marble pillars and floors destroyed in the earthquake of 1968 and surrounded by the ruined village which had been largely rebuilt in the valley below.
We left the next morning and did a very bumpy motor sail into the wind for 24 miles. Very uncomfortable! But now we're moored on the quay in Mirinas, Lemnos.
Everything is Leaking!
02 September 2019 | Sigri, Lesvos - 8,049 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Very Hot and Very Windy
We arrived back on Freya in Mytilini, Lesvos a week ago on Saturday evening. All was remarkably well - just a fine coating of dust. Our first day being a Sunday, and in Greece, meant we couldn't do any shopping and so started with a very nice breakfast in the marina restaurant. We then gave Freya a good scrub so that she looked totally shipshape and Bristol fashion but we were totally unacclimatised and it was so hot and humid we needed to hide from the sun. Not a lot else happened until later when we ventured into town for souvlaki on the harbour.
When we left in May we discovered our port water tank was slowly leaking causing a puddle in the bilges for some time - mystery solved. Stratos, in the marina chandlery, thought it could be welded and so we left it with him. We sent him an email a week or so a go reminding him and letting him know when we were returning and he replied letting us know it was ready. We could now see nothing had changed! First job on Monday morning was visit Stratos - 'no problem. Will be done today'. And it duly was but when we got it back it still leaked. The welder was duly summoned - the next day it still leaked! We concluded that it was just too old and the stresses of us carrying it around and being welded was just too much for it and we were just creating more leaks. Paul smothered the problem area in sikaflex (solution to most boat problems!) and its now back in place - still leaking but a very slow drip and so it's on the list of jobs for the winter.......
The rest of our time was spent sorting out Freya ready for sea and a visit to the beach. One of those jobs was to get the dinghy out of the forepeak and inflate it. This is always awkward but went to plan apart from finding part of the floor completely unstuck and until we realised an hour or so later one tube was leaking badly! The next day it came off the davits and we spent some time crawling around with brush and soapy water finding the source. It was, of course, tucked away in a difficult corner which we patched as best we could and stuck the floor back together again. We then had to leave 72 hours before inflating........
We went out late one afternoon in search of wheat free food which was surprisingly easy to find. Even the supermarket had a section! The evening ended with dinner at Nan, a non profit restaurant run by locals and refugees cooking dishes from their home countries. It was delicious.
Despite the high winds (which at least made it feel cooler!) we decided it was time to move on. Our first stop was Scala Loutra where we've been before. It's a beautiful, peaceful, sheltered bay but this time it didn't offer the shelter from the winds we expected although the sea was calm and to add to that there was a wedding party in a hotel on the beach. It looked lovely with fairy lights in the trees and white table cloths but the music (very loud and lots of base) went on until 5.00 am! Very bleary eyed the next morning we set off again to Kompos Kolloni where, again we we've been before. It was 34 miles and forecast winds gusting 25 knots on the beam and so we left with both sails reefed. We had a fantastic sail although it was very gusty and so we sailed at anywhere between 3 to 7.5 knots! We had a very peaceful night just inside the lagoon - which we needed after the night before! The final leg brought us back to Sigri. The forecast was the same as before and so we left for the 20 mile trip with both sails reefed but once out of the lagoon the winds were so light we were struggling to keep the sails filled as we motored the first hour. As we approached the first headland the wind built and we had a lovely sail but it kept building as we neared the far west of Lesbos until we had gusty 25 knot winds and a 2 metre swell. All very exciting for a while! Our anchorage is very protected thankfully. It's still windy but the sea is flat as we're well protected by the castle right in front of us.
We could now inflate the dinghy which hopefully meant we could go ashore. It was quickly obvious that the floor repair was unexpectedly successful but the tube not so. Before going out in the evening we pumped it up again - but took the pump with us just in case! We had a lovely evening wandering the narrow streets of Sigri, having a beer overlooking the bay and Freya and yummy dinner in a restaurant again with views over the bay - and WiFi we can pick up from the boat. We managed to get back with a saggy dinghy and I think this may be a theme for the next few weeks!
21 May 2019
By clicking on the link below you can load an interactive map to see our route and explore the places we stopped at.
Click here for the interactive map
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