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.
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19 May 2019 | Mytilini, Lesvos - 7,977 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Sunny, warm but no wind
With a flight home booked in 10 days from Lesvos and the weather so unsettled it was time to head back or risk being stuck on the wrong island and missing the wedding! First we needed to visit the Port Police again to pay our fees - so much form filling, it takes ages but all very friendly. Next coffee and then a 3 mile motor to a sheltered anchorage which made our 50nm passage the next day a little shorter. The anchorage was lovely and totally undeveloped and peaceful. Unfortunately it wasn’t as sheltered as we’d hoped. It was rock solid and sheltered from the swell but the wind, which wasn’t that strong, accelerated down the hills and howled through the rigging all night jerking the anchor chain - not much sleep!
We’d been worried about the reported sea state the next morning but the updated forecasts looked OK and as we raised the sails and left the bay all looked good. Venturing out of the shelter it got more and more uncomfortable and the wind dropped so that we could only motor sail. We were both feeling a little sea sick! But after a couple of hours the wind on the beam picked up and things looked better as the engine was turned off. It was still rough but we were now sailing at an average of 6.5 knots and in the right direction - much better. We headed for the small village of Gavathas on the north west coast of Lesvos where we anchored in the bay and had a good night. In the morning we were hoping to head around the coast towards Mytilini but Freya had other ideas! We pressed the button to start the engine and just got a click and a whirring noise! Sounded like the starter motor and so Paul hit it with a hammer a few times but no change. Luckily we had a spare on board and so he managed to change it quite quickly - but still it just whirred! We were then at a loss and so rang Arran and after a long conversation he realised it was a battery problem. Turning to the engine battery the engine it started first turn. Phew, but we now had a power issue to sort which sounded expensive!
Anyway, moving on while analysing the problem, we headed into our 2nd and the biggest lagoon on Lesvos, Kolpas Kolloni and after negotiating the buoyed channel anchored in a pretty, sheltered bay just inside. We paddled ashore and checked out the taverna on the quay. It was closed and so we thought we’d be eating onboard but as we left 4 women flew around the corner in a small battered car leaving rubber on the way and screeched to a halt scared that they were losing customers and said they’d been to church (while crossing herself) and would be open shortly. After a walk along the coast we had a dinner in the taverna by the bobbing fishing boats.
A 4 mile motor across the Kolpas in the morning took us to Skala Polichnitos where we anchored just outside the fishing harbour. Such a lovely place, we fell in love with it after a walk around the village and then along the coast. On the edge were salinas and the huge piles of salt in the distance. A perfect place for flamingos we thought - and as we said it we could see 2! Seconds later there were a huge flock, bright pink with black wing tips flying overhead calling to the 2 in the salinas who quickly followed. They did a circuit and then all landed close by. Amazing! Wandering back we found a taverna who happily put the tv on so that we could watch the Grand Prix- we had the time wrong and so ended up staying for hours and having dinner. When we got back to Freya we were a bit worried about the sloppy sea building up but we had a lovely evening watching the view in the sunshine as the sea settled down for a peaceful night. We realised the batteries were now failing fast and keeping the anchor light on all night was going to be an issue. We had to use the lantern we’d bought for that purpose back in Swansea when we the anchor light had broken.
Moving on again and with no wind, we motored to Plomari on the south coast. Everything we’d read said the the harbour was only tenable in very settled conditions but luckily, or so we thought, that was what we had. We moored alongside the quay and went to explore. As we’d approached the town it looked stunning winding up the steep hill with pretty pastel coloured houses and, of course, the big cathedral. It didn’t disappoint, we loved it as we walked around the narrow cobbled streets with balconies almost meeting in the middle. There were so many empty and sometimes derelict houses too - by the time we’d finished we’d almost moved in! We were joined by a few other yachts in the harbour and we all dutifully visited the Port Police in the office as seems to required in these islands. He was very nice and friendly and all was sorted, inefficiently as always, but with a smile. Later in the evening he came back and told us all we couldn’t leave until we’d all registered for the new cruising tax, recently introduced. We explained that as we had 10 days to do it we’d planned to do it when we got back to Mytilini where we would have better internet on board but this wasn’t good enough - it had to be done now! Paul went back to the office and after lots of phone calls by the policeman they eventually managed to complete our online form. We then had to wait for a number via email. Once this arrived he went back to the office to be told the advice he’d been given was wrong and we didn’t need to do it now and it could wait until Mytilini! Having got this far with the process we thought we may as well finish it which we did meaning all we had to do now was go to a bank to handover the cash which we duly did once we got to Mytilini. It was now almost 11.00 and so off to bed - at about 2.30 the wind picked up to a huge 5knts, nothing, but the swell rolled into the harbour and we rocked and rolled all night! In the morning it had become almost untenable and very uncomfortable. We’d planned another wander and a visit to the bakery but we just got up and left. The harbour is very new but seems to have been built facing the wrong way and with no protection - only in Greece!
And so back to Mytilini for a few days where Freya will stay for a while as we fly home for Lucas’ and Hannah’s wedding. The first job was getting new batteries ordered which we did - but they haven’t arrived! We need them to ensure the automatic bilge pump works if necessary and so the guy in the chandlery is going to fit them after we’ve left - he promised as Paul is his friend! Other than that we did lots of socialising as Gordon is still here with Lily mog plus a German couple we met on route and our new neighbour Ross. Ross has been working as a volunteer at the refugee centre for the last year and offered to show us around. It was really interesting, not least because it’s called One Happy Family and surprisingly it definitely has a happy feel given the dire circumstances of many of the refugees. There were lots of facilities there including a school, clinic, and vegetable garden all run by NGOS plus a kitchen, workshop, gym etc. Definitely food for thought. Just before we left it was Paul’s birthday. We had a very pleasant, relaxing day (mostly waiting for the batteries that didn’t turn up!) including posh birthday breakfast, a huge ice cream on the harbour and a lovely dinner by the sea - clearly mostly eating!
Limnos, windswept and closed
12 May 2019 | Skala Polikintiou - 7,936 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Summer is finally here
We left Mytilini early in the morning heading for a sheltered anchorage in Kolpas Kolloni on the south coast 35 miles away. As we expected, for the first part of our journey, heading south, the wind was on the nose making sailing in the right direction impossible and the sea was lumpy. Progress was slow but once we rounded the corner we should be sailing - or so we thought! The wind dropped and stayed on the nose and the see became more lumpy. Despite his usual seasickness pills Paul began to feel a bit queasy and so we thought we'd go into Kolpas Yeras rather than endure an additional uncomfortable 4/5 hours. The anchorage outside Skala Loutra was perfectly still and so pretty and peaceful, definitely the right decision. Shortly after, we were joined in the anchorage by Margaret and Glen on Cynosure and we had a very pleasant evening catching up.
We decided to do a longer hop to Sigri on the southern corner of Lesvos in the morning so that we would be able to get to Limnos before our weather window disappeared giving way to more high winds and rain. Again, we didn't have the wind to sail but at least it was more comfortable. On route we were both startled by a huge bang, sounding like an explosion and making Freya shake. We were both suddenly alert and checking for damage as we were sure it was onboard and something major had happened, but after a few minutes we realised all was fine - but what was it? I guess we'll never know! After trying out a few possible anchorages in Sigri we settled for a spot just off the beach which seemed the most sheltered and we had a very comfortable night.
The 50 miles to Limnos took all day. We had assistance from the Genoa but had the engine on for the whole trip - not unpleasant but a bit boring until the dolphins came to play as we approached our destination. Limnos didn't look like any other Greek island as we approached, with flat hills rather than mountains and no trees. There was no sign of life anywhere as we entered the gulf which almost cuts the island in two. Even as we approached the harbour of Moudros we couldn't see a town - just a church perched on a hill. It all felt very desolate! The harbour was very shallow making the entry a bit scary but all was fine and we tied up alongside a pier where we found ourselves the only visitors! There were a few tavernas hidden by trees along the harbour and so we enjoyed dinner in one after our long day. In the morning, before the forecast storms arrived we went into 'town'. It was deserted - like a ghost town! We found the big church and searched around, finally finding a few shops - but it was so quiet. During our 6 day stay it grew on us - there was nothing particular of note, just a Greek village but pleasant and friendly with everything we needed (once we got to know it). Later in the afternoon the wind and rain arrived and we hid for a day and a half. During the next afternoon we had 55knt gusts of wind for several hours. Even with extra lines on, we weren't sure we wouldn't be flying across the harbour any minute!
Once it was safe to leave Freya we hired a car and set off to explore the island which turned out to be quite pretty with spring flowers and fantastic views everywhere but few trees which we discovered was probably because of the constant winds! We started in Maryna, the island's capital which was lovely to wander around - once we'd found somewhere to park. It has a spectacular Genoan castle high on promontory offering fantastic views of the town and coast. After exploring we had a lovely lunch by the sea in the sunshine. Our next stop was a church in a cave in the hills. We followed the signs and parked the car to walk with no idea how far it was and as usual took no water! We climbed for about half an hour enjoying amazing views of the island and coast before finding it nestled in a cave. The island also has lots of windmills we discovered- a clue to the winds. Next we headed north and followed dusty roads to the coast where we founds giant sand dunes and beautiful sandy beaches - again, very unusual for a Greek island. As we were driving along this stretch we saw lots of red snakes squashed on the road andantes very cute (and alive) tortoise.
Our second day with the car turned out to be very windy again making walking quite unpleasant. Limnos was the base for the Gallipoli landings of WW1 and there are lots of reminders of the campaign around the island including several cemeteries for the fallen soldiers. Very moving, what a waste! Our goal was to visit several archeological sites but we arrived at the first dating back to 1800 BC to be met by a workman and told it was closed as it was Tuesday, despite the sign on the gate clearly saying open daily! I'm sure it was very interesting! The next was an amphitheater by the sea - also closed despite a sign saying open daily except Monday but it was Tuesday! Luckily we could see it well through the fence and it was impressive. The final one was not surprisingly also closed but at least the sign did say it closed on Tuesdays! Feeling a bit dejected we found a cafe which was open for coffee and would also do lunch after 2.00. After coffee we headed to the northern tip which was so windy we didn't want to get out of the car although it was stunning and so we did the very British thing of enjoying the views without getting out! We did find one interesting piece of social history. Looking for windmills in a village we passed several areas marked as open air museums which appeared be pillar bases. After further investigation we found out each pillar base covered a pit which was for wine. Firstly to hold grapes, then to tread them and then the wine. We'd never seen anything like it before. After going back to the cafe for a very enjoyable souvlaki, we drove to the only sizeable supermarket we'd found on the island before home and returning the car.
A couple of miles from the harbour is an island joined to the mainland by a causeway. Our map told us it was an archeological site. We walked along the coast in the sunshine (yes, the wind had temporarily dropped) to the island which was amazingly green and so pretty with all its spring flowers. Unfortunately the flowers completely covered the island making it impenetrable and so we never discovered the history they covered but we walked around the beach, had a picnic and thoroughly enjoyed the outing!
Wild Flowers and Lily
05 May 2019 | Moudrou, Limnos - 7,847 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Very Windy
We had a few lovely days in Skala Loutra with Dee and Kevin. We walked up the steep path through the spring flowers and olive trees to the pretty little church perched on the hill above the bay for wonderful views of the green hills and the bay as well as the boats on the quay. We could also see some of the ruined buildings with chimneys which are dotted all over Limnos, so on our return tried to find out more. We were told by a local that the one in the village made petrol(!) and another which was renovated to holiday accommodation appeared to be an olive oil plant - not sure that fully answered the mystery. The day finished with dinner and games on Kestrel.
The village of Loutra is about a 30 minute walk from Skala Loutra and so the next day we headed that way, uphill, along pretty lanes to the village nestled in the hills. It’s a very pretty village with all the shops you could need and a church with views but not touristy at all, lovely. Dee and Kevin were heading south and so were leaving in the morning as the wind changed northerly and we spent our last evening together eating and playing rummicub on Freya. Early the next morning we waved goodbye before doing chores - we patched the dinghy which seemed to be deflating rather quickly, whipped mooring lines damaged on the quay in Chios and went for another beautiful walk along the coast to the next bay.
Lorraine needed to return to the UK and so we took Freya around to Mytilini marina. It was a very lumpy motor sail (mainly to dry the sail after all the rain as it wasn’t really helping) but thankfully it was only 2.5 hours. The marina was very welcoming and has finger pontoons - just like home! Gordon and Louise, who we wintered with in Kalamata last year, were there with their new adopted crew member - Lily the cat who definitely liked Freya more than us! We had a very nice few days exploring Mytilini, shopping (including an interesting hour in a lingerie shop!) and socialising, finishing with a lovely, long Sunday lunch by the sea before Lorraine flew home early on the Monday.
Paul spent the week discovering all the back street hardware shops with lots of hidden, dusty treasures, ticking off lots of chores and enjoying lots of drinking with the neighbours! One of the chores was to investigate a fresh water leak which turned out to be coming from under the tank in a completely inaccessible place without dismantling Freya’s saloon - a job that needs some planning..........
Louise and Gordon left to go cruising, just one day before Lorraine got back and so Paul wasn’t alone for long! We celebrated my return with dinner on the harbour where we were entertained by the soldiers marching with their band - part of the Easter celebrations presumably. We decided on one more day in Mytilini before we too went cruising and headed for the Archeology Museum - which was closed - and so we went on a lovely walk around the castle buying pastries on route before climbing the steep hill to the ancient theatre. This was closed too but we climbed through the fence to find there wasn’t a lot left. The shape of the amphitheatre was clear but no seats remained, just the stage at the bottom. It was worth the climb though for the spectacular views of the castle, Mytilini and Turkey across the Aegean as we sat and enjoyed our lunch.
Wet but beautiful Lesvos
17 April 2019 | Skala Loutra, Lesbos - 7,722 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Wet and Cold followed by Sunny, and Warm
After a day of torrential rain, with thunder and lightening thrown in, we woke to a much brighter day. We understood there was a bus from Skala Loutra to the island's capital, Mytilini, at 10.15 and so the four of us collected at the bus stop next to the quay and waited. 10.15 came and went with no bus and we entertained ourselves with short walks and photos while enjoying the sunshine, after all, it was a very pleasant place to wait. 11.15 came and went and we were still there but a passing lady told Paul there would be one at 11.30 and sure enough it arrived - old and battered with a very lively character at the wheel but a bus nevertheless. Half an hour later we were deposited on the quay in bustling Mytilini after a beautiful drive over the verdant green hills.
Mytilini is home to the University of the Aegean and feels like a city with a buzz. We start by wandering the narrow streets full of interesting shops - but we were on a mission to buy the parts to make "splitters" for our single electricity supply, so that we can share it, rather than swapping the cable over when one boat gets too cold! We found a shop that had most of the bits and they directed us to another shop to complete it. By then the shops were closing for the afternoon and so we sat down for lunch on the quay (which was a bit average!) before heading off to find the castle we could see on the other side of the port. It's a huge castle. The biggest in the Med apparently and dominates the city. We found the entrance after exploring more windy cobbled streets but, of course, it was closed! We were able to walk all the way around it however which was lovely. It's in various states of ruin with some parts sliding into the sea, but you could easily imagine how threatening it would have been to approaching enemies. As we approached the end, the heavens opened (we knew it was too good to be true!) and so we donned our waterproofs and headed for a coffee shop conveniently situated next to a car hire shop where we'd booked our transport for the next few days. After we collected the car we headed for a very "exciting" stop at Lidl's before going back to the boats via a detour to a huge Roman aqueduct spanning a valley. This was near Lesvos' huge refugee camp and at this time of day we were stunned by the number of refugees lining the road walking back to camp after their day of doing what! We had no idea other than it must be so frustrating and boring.
Our first adventure in the car took us west to Sigri. Lesvos is stunning, so green and mountainous. Wherever we went over the next few days the drive was always amazingly beautiful and full of spring flowers. Our first stop was to the Lemonas Monastery. It was in a beautiful location overlooking the huge Gulf of Kolloni and had lots of baby churches in the fields around the monastery itself which had monks cells going back hundreds of years. It is a working monastery but we didn't see any sign of life except for a very vocal peacock full of his own importance guarding the entrance.
Our destination today was a petrified forest. 20 million years ago before Lesvos was an island volcanic activity buried a huge forest petrifying it's trees. It's a huge area including several parks but also fossilised trees along the road. Unfortunately most of the parks are closed this time of year as the trees need to be covered as protection against the rain but Sigri has a museum plus a 2 hectare park to visit. The uncovered trees included huge sequoia and cinnamon (which no longer grow in Europe) as well as those still around plus ferns and nuts and root systems. Absolutely fascinating!
Our next day was a wash out - literally! We thought we had to go out as we had the car and to avoid another day hiding from the rain on board but it was difficult to see anything. We stopped for coffee in the seaside town of Petra where the highlights were a man riding along the sea front on a donkey carrying an umbrella (the man not the donkey!) and a church perched on a huge pinnacle of rock in the middle of town but it was too wet to climb the 114 steps to the top where the view would've been obscured anyway! Next was the castle and old town of Molyvos right at the north of the island which I'm sure was beautiful but after a very wet walk around the port and a damp lunch we decided to head home. We spent the evening playing Rummicub in the taverna next to the boats followed by a simple but delicious dinner.
Our last day with the car was much brighter and we headed north. We had an impromptu stop at the ruined city of Thermi which was really interesting but I think the most amazing thing was the liberal covering of spring flowers. We detoured to see a waterfall further up the coast. The road was a bit rough and so we parked and walked a kilometre up a lane surrounded by olive trees and spring flowers as well a a pond with terrapins to the spectacular waterfall following all the rain. We stopped on an old stone arched bridge to eat our picnic lunch of Greek pastries. Next was the Taxiarhon Monastery which is a major Orthodox pilgrimage site which was a bit disappointing after the beautiful monastery a couple of days before. Strangely there was a fighter jet at the entrance - the Archangel Michael is the patron saint of the Greek airforce. After some difficulty on the way back we eventually found the sanctuary of Zeus at which we peered through the railings as it was closed. Looked quite interesting with pillars from what we could see! Finally, we dropped the car off in Mytilini, wandered around town and the marina and had a gyros to end our tour.
Things that go bang in the night
09 April 2019 | Skala Loutra, Lesbos - 7,722 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Rain and More Rain
What started as 'joggling' around on the quay in Chios Town turned into chaos as the day progressed! Necessity dictated a supermarket trip in the rain and, of course, coffee - a very long one as the boats were getting more uncomfortable. Getting on and off the boats was becoming increasingly challenging as the swell increased and by the time we went out in the evening it was almost impossible as the gang planks flew around in all directions! We had a very nice evening but getting back onboard was terrifying and we now understood why Stellios, the marinero, had insisted on lazy lines as well as our anchors out. As the totally sleepless night progressed the rocking, rolling and jerking got worse and worse until we were worried about the boats holding together - but at least it drowned the loud music from the bars opposite. Finally, at 4.00 in the morning there was a loud crunch as if Freya's stern had hit the harbour wall! Paul flew out of bed, bearing in mind moving around the boat was difficult and I took a little longer! The anchor chain had bounced off the gypsy and the lazy line wasn't holding us far enough off the wall. In those conditions it seemed to take ages to get the anchor chain back onto its gypsy and for us to winch the lazy line, which was too fat for our cleats, secured further back on the boat to keep us in place. All this while Freya was bouncing and jerking all over the place and the noise was deafening. Luckily it was only the swim ladder bouncing about that had hit the harbour wall and Freya was otherwise undamaged. Back to bed to wait restlessly for morning - the sea finally calmed down about 5.30 - but then the bar was in full swing! I think we finally drifted off to sleep about 6.00 waking exhausted at about 9.00.
We'd all had enough of Chios Town quay even though it was calmer later in the morning. We wandered around the harbour as we needed to get off the boats and stretch our legs and decided to move up the coast to Langada which should be totally sheltered from any swell. We had a lovely, relaxed, albeit slow downwind sail in the sunshine before motoring into the very pretty fishing harbour and mooring alongside the quay. It got a little choppy for a while and we all began to panic - oh no, not again! But it calmed down to a very peaceful night after a lovely dinner on Kestrel.
We knew we didn't have a very long weather window to get north (in the dry) and so set off early in the morning for Lesvos, 41 miles away. As we left we were joined by a large pod of dolphins who had clearly got bored of patrolling the fish farms and decided to entertain us instead - always a fantastic start to any passage! We even managed to get a picture of the dolphins with Dee and Kevin on Kejstral. We didn't quite have enough wind from the right direction to sail without the engine but we averaged 7 knots with the Genoa out ensuring we arrived before the rain. Lesvos has 2 huge lagoons or inland seas and we moored near the entrance to the Gulf of Gera after negotiating the beautiful, green, hilly, island strewn channel to Skala Loutra, and our second dolphin sighting of the day. On arrival it didn't look exactly as we'd imagined, as it had been recommended. It's in a very pretty spot but there is very little here - a couple of closed tavernas, a fisherman's quay and a rundown boatyard giving the feel of a scrapyard! We moored stern-to on the outside of the quay, it's very sheltered and we have free electricity even if we do have to share a single working socket! The rain duly arrived with thunder and lightning not long after we enjoyed our arrival beer and carried on into the next day and again we hid onboard.
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