06 April 2017 | St Lucie Inlet, Florida
02 April 2017 | Stocking Island, Exuma
01 April 2017 | George Town, Exumas
30 March 2017 | George Town, Bahamas
22 March 2017 | Elizabeth Island, Exumas
09 March 2017 | George Town, Exumas
04 March 2017 | Thompson's Bay, Long Island
03 March 2017 | Stella Maris, Long Island
02 March 2017 | Long Island
26 February 2017 | Crossing from Water Cay to Comer Channel, Jumentos
25 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay to Thompson's Bay, Long Island
23 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay, Jumentos
19 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
16 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
14 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
10 February 2017 | Hog Cay, the Jumentos
06 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
05 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
05 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
Musings about Greece, from a Cruiser Perspecive
29 August 2012 | Pylos, Pelepennos
Halekai has been berthed next to SV Mindedal in the Pylos marina for over a week now, enjoying our last days in Greece before our visas expire. The marina is a sort of no man's land, built with EU money to help stimulate the economy, but never completed by the locals. Electric and water lines were installed but never hooked up. No one is in charge, so fishing boats and private yachts tie up for free wherever there's space, and everything is becoming dilapidated from lack of maintenance. Abandoned, derelict boats are starting to clog up the dock space. Sadly, it's the third such aborted marina we've come across (the others were on the islands of Rhodes and Patmos), and friends have shared accounts of yet others. What does this say about the Greek state of affairs?
As yachties we have to clear Customs & Immigration upon entering and leaving each country, and we're expected to check in with the Coast Guard office at each harbor we visit. A small fee per night is due for tying up to the town quay. But there's little enforcement, so most boats don't bother to check in. In the harbors where we've done so, there were typically half a dozen young uniformed men and women hanging out, talking on their cellphones and trying to look busy. One person could have easily handled the meager workload. There were no computers. Since the Coast Guard offices are manned 24/7, that means several shifts of underemployed people on the government payroll. If this is typical of Greek bureaucracy, it's no wonder the government is in financial crisis.
But as tourists we've been relatively unaffected. We loved our time in Greece.
Our Last Greek Castle
25 August 2012 | Navarino Bay northern castle
still hot but windy
One more "must-see" on our list before leaving Pylos turned out to be my favorite. The wind was unfavorable to take the boats and we didn't want to lose our spots in the marina, so instead we rented a car with Gini and Manfred and drove around to the north end of Navarino Bay. There we parked near the gorgeous, crescent-shaped Voidokilia Beach, its white sand and turquoise waters reminiscent of the Bahamas.
But before taking a dip, we circled the rim and through the sand dunes to the steep trail up the hill behind it, first to Nestor's Cave of Odysseus fame, where we took refugee from the sun. Then we continued on up to the ancient castle that guards the north entrance to the bay, not much more than outer walls and foundations in ruins but with spectacular views. We could see smoke from a wildfire in the distant mountains.
Having earned our reward hiking to the top, the cool water felt like velvet. We lunched at our favorite taverna in Yialova, where we watched colorful kite surfers dancing in the waves, then saw yellow firefighter seaplanes scoop up water and fly off to douse wildfires. Now we know what that droning sound was that we've heard for days, it was the seaplanes!
After lunch we had yet another swim off the beach at the narrow north entrance of the bay. Burger and I walked and paddled our way across the shallows to the island on the other side of the inlet, underestimating the strength of the current running through it. On our return we were swept into deeper water (luckily in, not out of the bay) and had to "power swim" to make it back across. After all the sun and exercise, we slept well that night!
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS
The Brits and the Turks Battled for the Greeks
24 August 2012 | Bay of Navarino, Pylos, Peleponnes
sunny, hot, no wind--enough of this!
6000 men died the night of October 21st, 1827, right where we are aboard Halekai in the Bay of Navarino on the southwest corner of Greece. The semi-circle of 89 Turkish and Egyptian naval ships must have felt smug and invulnerable when the British fleet of 26 boats entered the harbor, their flags flying and bands playing on deck. Outnumbered and surrounded, there was no need for the Turks to worry.
Little did they know that below decks, British sailors were secretly aiming their cannons. In a surprise attack that night, the British Navy managed to sink 53 ships, shooting at close range with not one loss of their own, winning the battle that soon led to Greek independence.
Together with Manfred and Gini, we hiked up to the 16th century walled castle in Pylos for a better view of the bay. Standing on the ramparts on a sunny, windless day, we watched as a sailboat motored out of the harbor. it was hard to imagine the famous battle which must have turned the water red, or another battle fought here centuries earlier, between the Athenians and Spartans.
When the heat started to take its toll on our energy, we visited the blissfully air-conditioned little castle museum with its relics of the past brought up from the bottom by teams of scuba divers led by archeologists. Then it was time for lunch at our favorite beachfront taverna. Grilled octopus is right up there among our favorites, tying with lobster for first place (it's also much cheaper; we haven't had lobster in ages). Cold beer hit the spot.
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A Visit to the Birthplace of the Olympics
22 August 2012 | Olympia, Peleponnes, Greece
sunny and hot, 90's
We set off bright and early, 7:30 am, for a daytrip with Manfred and Gini to the famous ruins of Olympia. Determined to get us there before the cruise ship tourists, Manfred drove the rental car at breakneck speed, while Burger navigated with the iPad and Gini and I bounced around in the back seat. And they call the Greek drivers crazy! We made it in record time (less than two hours) but alas, a row of huge tour buses already filled the parking lot.
Wanting to take advantage of the cooler part of the day--though it was already quite hot--we paid our entrance fees and trooped around the ruins, seeking the shade of the many trees wherever possible. What were they thinking those many centuries ago, scheduling the Olympics during the hottest month of the year?? It must have been brutal, for the athletes as well for the estimated 45,000 spectators!
Originally held in honor of Zeus, the Games were held here every fourth August for over eleven hundred years, when they were discontinued to suppress paganism by the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. The extensive site was then plundered and damaged by earthquakes and floods. By the time German archeologists began excavating in the 1870's, it was completely covered by 20 feet of silt and sand.
The modern Olympic Games were started again in 1896 and today the Olympic flame is lit at the ancient site and carried by runners to the city where the games are held.
Though the signage was good, so much of the excavation is rubble that it wasn't until we visited the museums (there are three of them, all blessedly air-conditioned) that we could envision and appreciate the original extent and historical importance of the place. It comes as no surprise that Olympia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
CLICK HERE FOR CAPTIONED PHOTOS OF OLYMPIA
On the drive home we stopped at our favorite supermarket chain, Lidl, and stocked up on German bratwurst, smoked ham and pickles. Then a wonderful sunset dinner at a waterside taverna in a little beachside resort village on the north end of Navarino Bay.
The Giant Hand
16 August 2012 | Peleponnes, Greece
Here's the route we took around the southern coast of the Peleponnes. Doesn’t it look like a giant hand, with one finger missing? Technically it’s a peninusla, attached to the rest of Greece by a tiny bit of the thumb. That bit of thumb has been cut through by the Corinth Canal, effectively creating an island, albeit artificially. And indeed, the Peleponnes feels like an island, separated from the mainland by the Corinthian Gulf.
Piggy Feast, Greek Style
12 August 2012 | Methoni, Messenia Peninsula, Peleponnes
On Saturday night we went together with Manfred and Gini to a pig roast festival held at the school grounds, sponsored by a local sports club. Banners and posters in Greek, English and German advertised the event all over town, yet we seemed to be the only foreigners there. The posters promised a live band and were decorated with dancing figures. It didn't start till 9:30 pm, typical Greek dinner time especially in the heat of summer. The pig was roasted on a spit and was delicious, along with French fries and ice cold beer. The tables filled quickly, and then the band began to play. But what a disappointment: the music was melancholic and dreary, not at all what we had expected. There was no dancing. Does this reflect the Greek national mood right now?
Just as I aimed the camera at the pig, the chef chopped off its head!
Mellowing Out in Methoni
08 August 2012 | Methoni, Messenia Peninsula, Peleponnes
sunny, warm, sometimes windy, sometimes not
We're now at anchor in the lovely bay of Methoni on the west coast, where we'll remain awhile till we're ready to sail across to Italy. It's nice to take a break after being on the move for four months. Our old friends Manfred and Gini of sv Mindedal are in the marina in Pylos, a few miles to the north. We prefer to anchor and they prefer to berth, and since there's no marina here nor anchoring there, we visit each other by bus or taxi every few days.
Methoni is a great place to hang out. The sandy beach is full of sunbathers and frokicking children during the daytime, and the tavernas and cafes are filled with holidaymakers each night. There are a few low-key hotels and a row of small RV's camping along the shore. Yachts come and go, stopping by to enjoy the shelter of the bay on their way east from Italy or west from Turkey.
The major attraction is a huge fortified Venetian castle, surrounded by a now-dry moat. Since it's at ground level it's easy to explore, with no climbing hills in the heat. It's so large that it creates an effective breakwater for the bay.
Much of the castle is in ruins, but there's a well preserved round tower connected to it by a little land bridge. It was once used as a watchtower to guard the bay, and to house prisoners. Cervantes was supposedly imprisoned by the Turks here.
Once there was a Venetian cathedral, replaced by a mosque and Turkish "hamam" baths. The baths are still standing. The centuries of history are quite bloody, with even a massacre, hard to imagine as we enjoy the illuminated view of towers and turrets from the cockpit each evening.
CLICK FOR CAPTIONED PHOTOS OF METHONI CASTLE
Mani Towers and Bloody Blood Feuds
06 August 2012 | Port Kayo, Mani Peninsula, Peleponnes
sunny and breezy
From Githio we sailed south along the Mani peninsula, the middle finger of the southern Peleponnes. The steep-to coastline makes it inaccessible except for a few small settlements in bays of questionable protection, and fierce downdrafts off the high, barren mountains are common. So our next stop wasn't till the end of the finger, in the sheltered bay of
Port Kayo, not much more than a cluster of tavernas and low-key beach tourism. A few brave RVers make their way down the steep winding roads and park along the beachfront.
What makes Port Kayo special are the apparently abandoned Mani hamlets perched high above the bay. The Maniot architecture is unique to Mani, with its drab grey square buildings, some of which were once used as battle towers for blood feuds between clans. The men would shoot at each other, sometimes carrying on for weeks or even months. The women were allowed to visit the men to bring them food and ammunition. The remote, isolated hamlets existed in a time of piracy and lawlessness that lasted for centuries.
Photo: Mani tower hamlets are well camophlaged to blend into the surroundings. Can you see the two of them, on the left and right?
CLICK FOR CAPTIONED PHOTOS MANI TO KORONI
Mistra, A Medieval Ghosttown
04 August 2012 | Sparta and Mistra
hot hot hot!
We tried to rent a car in Githia, but the sole rental agent said no-deal, as Americans we needed an international driver's license. So instead we took the 7:30 am bus next morning to Sparta and nearby Mistra, bright and early to beat the heat and the crowds. The heat did beat but there were few other tourists when we reached our goal by 9 am. In fact, we were the only two people on the bus at the last stop, the lower entrance to the ruins of Mistra.
Built by the Crusaders in the thirteenth century, the fortified city of Mistra was once an important political center and home to 20,000 people. We hiked up and around the medieval ghost town, the views of the countryside growing more expansive the higher we climbed.The valley is full of olive trees, surrounded with forested mountains. The highest mountain of the Peleponnes, the Taygetus, towers just west of Sparta at almost 8,000 feet.
We took our time cooling off in the blessedly air-conditioned archeological museum, then visited the active nunnery, with pots of red geraniums and a cat posed in front of each door. A toothless, wizened little nun covered head to toe in black (how could she stand the heat!) beckoned us into her chamber to admire her embroidery and artwork for sale. We bought a small oil painting of Mistra as a memento of the day.
The day grew even hotter as we walked through ancient arches, past the ruins of courtyards, fountains and columns. We took refuge from the sun inside the crumbling walls of Byzantine chapels, some with colorful frescoes still intact. Despite sipping from our water bottles continuously, the heat got the better of me and we didn't continue on the trail to the top of the hill. Instead we took photos of the ruins of the citadel from below. Had we come by car we would have been able to park at the upper entrance, close to the citadel. Oh well, we've been to plenty of castles lately, with more to come.
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03 August 2012 | Githio, Gulf of Lakonika
hot and sunny
Photo: Burger enjoying his favorite food. Lover's Island in background.
Next day we moved on to Plitra, a tiny, hot beach town with no redeeming features other than a strange babbling Greek man who sold us fresh vegetables from his pickup. From there we moved up the head of the Gulf of Lakonika to Githio, aka Yithio (there are no standard spellings to Greek places), a small, dilapidated town with no anchorage, so we had to med-moor to the town quay. The mooring rings were so full of old rope debris that it was hard to pass our lines through them. We paid EUR 10 per night and had power and water, a nice treat. Finally we were able to wash salt and sand off the deck.
Githio has dozens of waterside tavernas and cafes, with noisy motorbikes and cars passing right next to the tables. The town's only claim to fame is tiny Lover's Island, said to have been where Paris of Troy brought Helen after abducting her from King Menelaus in Sparta. We walked around the islet, with its little red-tiled chapel and a museum that looks like a miniature medieval castle. It was closed for renovations. Dinner at the only taverna on the islet was blessedly peaceful, away from the traffic in town. Our candlelit table was nestled under flowering trees, fittingly romantic.
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Land of the Lotus Eaters
31 July 2012 | Elafonosis, Peleponnes
Clouds for the first time since April!
After nearly two months of hopping around the Aegean, it is time to move on. We will miss the windmills and the the white-washed, blue-domed chapels, the monasteries perched atop mountaintops, the ancient castles and the ubiquitous cats. We'll even miss the dreaded Meltemi wind, which has kept us cool much of the time. Despite it being high season summertime, the anchorages have never been crowded. But the islands are beginning to all look alike, and the cloudless blue sky is becoming monotonous. The clock is ticking and the Peleponnes are calling.
It is nearly 90 miles from the caldera of Milos to the notorious Cape Maleas, where Odysseus was blown offshore to the Land of the Lotus Eaters. We had a good weather window for our crossing, and we had two choices: leave at night and arrive in the morning, or leave early and hope to arrive before dark.
With 14 hours of daylight in our favor, we chose the latter, and set sail just before dawn. The wind soon died as we left the islands behind us, and we motored the rest of the way, with no problem rounding the rugged Cape by late afternoon. We anchored in the beautiful circular, sandy cove of Sarakino, on the little island of Elafonisos just offshore of the cape. The cool, clear water was delicious after the long, hot trip, and once the tourists left the beach for their hotels, we had the place to ourselves. Little wispy clouds dotted the sky over the distant mountains as we sat in the cockpit, enjoying our sundowners. Welcome to the Peleponnes!
Photo: dramatic colors of volcanic Milos, as we sailed by
Crisscrossing the Cyclades
30 July 2012 | Cyclades, the Aegean, Greece
Here's the route we took through the Cyclades during the month of July. The yellow line is the ferry day trip we took from Paros to Santorini.
Meltemi in Milos
28 July 2012 | Kimolos, Cyclades
Meltemi wind, gusting to 30 knots
After refueling from a mini-tanker that came to the marina harbor, we sailed 25 miles around Naxos to a lovely bay between Despotiko and Antiparos. The water was inviting for a swim and together with a handful of other yachts, we spent a calm night at anchor.
Next day we moved on another 25 miles southwest to Poliegos, an uninhabited little island near Milos. Our cruising guide described it as a good anchorage but it was small and a bit creepy, with cliffs on one side and sharp iron rock on the other.
With a captain's sixth sense, Burger awoke at midnight and realized we were drifting toward the rocks. The wind had died and the anchorage proved too small to swing freely. Thank goodness for electronic navigation! Our Navionics program on the IPad helped us move safely from Poliegos a few miles across the bay to the roadstead anchorage on the south of Kimolos.
This morning the wind picked up, and up and up, and we're glad to be snug at anchor, riding out the Meltemi. We welcome the cool breeze and chance to relax for a couple of days, catching up on chores and email.
Late afternoon we dinghied ashore and swam off the beach with the locals, a first for us since it's easier to swim off the boat. Fried calamari (with tentacles, of course), Greek salad and cold beer at the taverna hit the spot.
Here's a photo of octopuses, hanging out to tenderize in front of a taverna.
26 July 2012 | Naxos, Cyclades
hot and sunny
We anchored inside the breakwater, below the ancient arch of the Temple of Apollo, which has been greeting visitors to Naxos for 2,500 years. The whitewashed buildings of town are nestled all around the grey-brown Venetian Kastro (castle) overlooking the harbor. We spent the afternoon walking up and down the narrow streets, not as nice as some of the other island "horas," but still worth a visit.
Next morning we rented a car to explore the island, the largest of the Cyclades. The roads are steep and windy, and crazy drivers (not Burger, of course!) hardly slow down while passing in narrow streets. My white knuckles took awhile to recover their normal color! We lunched in the village of Halki, in the shade of a wine arbor brimming with clusters of green grapes. Then we visited the kitron distillery, a tourist attraction. Kitron is a Greek liquour made from the leaves of the citron tree. It wasn't bad, but we decided we prefer Cointreau.
Thus refreshed we drove on, admiring the scenery with views of monasteries on mountaintops and ancient marble quarries, where layers of huge slabs of white marble have been cut out of the mountainside. We stopped in the village of Apiranthos, known for its Cycladic and Venetian architecture, for iced coffee (ice cream for Burger). Then we visited Melanos and hiked a short, thankfully shaded trail to an unfinished statue, abandoned where it lay in the 7th century BC, due to a broken leg.
Our car rental agent urged us not to miss the beaches on the south end of the island, so late afternoon we drove down to the end of the road at Alyko. And we're glad we did, as it was unlike any of the hard-packed brown pebbly beaches we've seen elsewhere in the Cyclades. Instead, there were lovely sand dunes covered in green shrubbery and inviting coves. Not many people, as the beach-goers congregate at the crowded beach towns further north. We hiked around but didn't want to deal with wet bathing suits and sand in the car, so we didn't swim. Not really beach fans, we prefer to bathe off the boat instead. Which felt wonderful, after the long hot day. What could be more romantic than dining in the cockpit, in view of the illuminated Arch?
CLICK FOR NAXOS PHOTOS
Sunday in Santorini
23 July 2012 | Santorini, Cyclades
sunny, warm and breezy--perfect!
Showered, dressed and ashore by 6:30 am ... a big feat for us, but necessary to catch the bus to the ferry for our day trip to Santorini. As we walked through town to the bus stop, we were amazed to see the cafes full of young people, quietly sipping coffee and munching croissants. How did they get up so early, were they catching a ferry too? No ... it was Sunday morning, and as we learned, the bars and the discos are open all Saturday night. Amazingly, they didn't even look tired. But then, they hang out and sleep at the beach all day.
After two hours speeding across the blue Aegean, our ferry entered the dramatic caldera of Santorini. A gigantic volcano created two crescent shaped islands long ago, forming a large deep bay. Another gigantic eruption in 1600 BC wiped out the population of not only Santorini, but of coastal Crete as well. The most recent eruption just 56 years ago created a new island, a heap of black lava that sits in the middle of the bay.
A few months ago while we were in Turkey, international headlines reported that the Santorini caldera was slowly filling with lava. This caused major headaches for Greece's struggling tourist industry, right in the middle of the Euro crisis. But the next day the threat of an impending eruption were ameliorated by interviews with eminent geologists, who defused the fears. We chose to believe them.
High cliffs of grey, black, brown and red pumice layers rise 2,000 feet straight out of the sea. They are topped with closely packed white-washed houses that from a distance could be mistaken for snow. Impossible to anchor (1400 feet deep), FOUR huge cruise ships floated in place while launches carried the hordes ashore to the base of the main town of Fira. The tourists then have the choice of walking up the 578 steps that zigzag up to town, riding a donkey up, or standing in line in the hot sun for the the cable car.
We were glad to bypass the cruise ship route and arrived instead in Athinios, from where we were bussed up first to the lovely clifftop village of Ia in the north. We also got to see the other side of the island, with its flat agricultural fields rimmed with black sand beaches. Santorini is known for the quality of its wine today, and was once famous for its tomatoes, grown in fertile volcanic soil. The grapevines sprawl flat on the soil to absorb the morning dew, since it doesn't rain from May to September.
Both Ia and Fira have the typical Cycladian mazes of narrow alleys, filled with fashionable boutiques and tacky junk shops. We were among the few to enjoy the excellent, air-conditioned Museum of Prehistoric Thira, with its amazing collection of decorated pottery and other artefacts that were discovered intact beneath volcanic ash. The oldest pieces date back to 3000 BC!
We then had a quick gyro pita lunch before walking through the winding ways, window shopping and snapping photos. When the crowds grew unbearable and with another hour to kill, we decided to walk to Lidl's, a German discount supermarket chain that we passed by in the bus. There are very few Lidl's in the Cyclades and we were happy for the chance to stock up on imported cheese, salami and smoked ham. We worked up a sweat on the return hike and were just in time for our bus back to the ferry.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS
Lazy Days in Paros
22 July 2012 | Paros, Cyclades
The town of Parioikia stretches along the waterfront, and gets quite busy at the ferry dock, with tourists coming and going and hanging out in the tavernas and cafes. It would be easy to travel unscheduled around the Cyclades by ferry, as agents meet the ferries with signs of rooms and scooters to rent.
Luckily the anchorage off the beach is far enough away from the hustle and bustle as to be mostly unaffected. The water is clean and clear for swimming, and the dinghy dock is close and convenient. In the five days spent here waiting for the wind to abate, we've done chores, the laundry, shopping, a haircut, and a couple of meals ashore. I've come to welcome Meltemis, as the wind takes the heat away, and it's great sleeping weather.
One day when the wind was at its strongest, we took the bus to visit the nearby town of Naoussa. We're glad we didn't take Halekai there this week! The boats tied up behind the breakwater were bouncing and rolling around, and there was no good anchorage close to town. There was quite a swell and breaking waves at the beach. We walked along the waterfront, where octopuses were laid out to dry in the sun.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF PAROS
Partying in Paros
20 July 2012 | Paros, Cyclades
No sooner had we anchored at Paroikia, the main port of Paros and a wonderfully sheltered bay from the Meltemi, than a couple in a dinghy knocked on our hull and introduced themselves. They were former world cruisers lonesome for cruiser company, and they invited everyone in the anchorage to a cruisers' potluck at their house that evening. What a treat! Robin and Di are originally from the UK, and divide their time between France and Greece. He's a retired physicist who worked in Geneva for CERN. They recently became local reps for the Ocean Cruising Club, the British equivalent of SSCA, and it was the first time they did such a thing--serendipitously the very day that we arrived.
CLICK FOR PARTY PHOTOS
Over ten nationalities were represented among the guests that evening, from about as many boats. Our host entertained us with sea shanties after dinner, and a good time was had by all. Since then we've met some of the group again, trading cruising info and stories over sundowners in the cockpit. This is typical of the cruising lifestyle in the Caribbean and South Pacific, but unusual in the Med. It certainly made our visit to Paros special.
Hiking with Hippies
14 July 2012 | Sifnos, Cyclades
sunny and too hot, 90's
Another day, another island ... The islands of the Cyclades are barren and mountainous, and have monasteries, windmills, towns ("horas") with labryinthine alleyways, the stones outlined in white; whitewashed cubicle houses with blue shutters, white chapels with blue domes, and lavishly blooming magenta bougainvillea. Cats are everywhere, especially at tavernas, posing prettily in hopes of a hand-out ... All these similarities, and yet, each island is unique.
White chapels atop cliffs on either side of the entrance led to the pretty little bay of Faros, on the southeast coast of Sifnos. As soon as the anchor was down we donned masks and took a swim in the clear water, both to cool off and to check the anchor. No longer is it hard to take the first plunge, as air and water temps are rising.
We could see one way that Sifnos is different soon after sunset: a lighted pathway climbed from the village along the side of the cliff, out to the church that we passed on our way in. We could see several people hiking up and down the trail. Later we learned that there's an extensive network of hiking trails around the island, including a steep climb to the monastery on top of the mountain, over 650 high. There may be trails on other islands, but they aren't being promoted as on Sifnos. No package tourism or large beach resorts here (due no doubt to a lack of large beaches!); it's a very pleasant, unspoiled place.
Next morning we caught the bus to Apollonia, the small capital of the island, with its ceramics shops (for which Sifnos is famous), its cafes and museum. We discovered the most wonderful shop selling fancy marzipan and nut concoctions, and couldn't resist buying a sample of several, which sustained us on our hike to Kastro (castle), an hour away. It was a hot, windless day and when we got there, we ordered iced fruit tea at the first cafe we came to, a fancy New Age place with annoying music. We didn't take note of the price when ordering: 4 EUR ($5) per glass, no free refills!
Thus refreshed, we explored the winding alleys of the hora, encircled by walls of an ancient castle. While waiting for the bus to take us back to Faros, we struck up a conversation with two Americans. The woman, late 50's, was a bona fide hippie from the 70's, still wearing tie-dyed clothes, long hair and jangle jewelry, who had spent much of her adult life in India and Greece. Now she's an ESL teacher in Washington State. Her partner was a primary school principal there, widely traveled and interesting. Both were very fit and up to hiking in the heat. We enjoyed dinner with them at a taverna in Faros that evening. They told us about a big festival taking place at the monastery the following week, but alas, we needed to move on. A strong Meltemi was forecast and we wanted to spend the time at the next island on our itinerary, Paros.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF SIFNOS
Syros in the Cyclades
12 July 2012 | Aegean Sea, Greece
sunny and hot, no wind
Sailing due east in light NW wind from Rhinia to Syros was a piece of cake. We anchored off the beach in the protected bay of Finikas, a small resort town of no special character, but with a small marina, several tavernas, a good supermarket and a great bakery. Chocolate croissants, homemade marzipan, and crusty multi-grain bread more than met Burger's high standards!
Next morning we caught the hourly bus to Ermoupolis, the largest city and capital of the Cyclades with over 20,000 people. The large bus was surprisingly luxurious, the type usually used for long distance travel, with even a restroom, for the half hour ride to town. We got off at well-stocked Maistrali Marine near the boatyard. Some days everything goes right: we found everything on our shopping list. Then we walked through town and had our favorite pita gyros for lunch, Greek's answer to fast food (similar to Turkey's doenners). We didn't know the bus schedule for the return trip, and by pure coincidence we arrived on the bus stop just as it was about to leave.
We've been on the move so much since leaving Marmaris six weeks ago, that it's nice to slow down and spend a couple of quiet days at anchor, giving us time to catch up on our blog. Burger proofreads and arranges the photos in albums. We were going to move on tomorrow but I just realized that tomorrow is Friday the 13th! Not that we're superstitious or anything, but we'll probably hang around here another day ... Time for a swim, then sundowners. Jamas!
Myconos to Rhinia
09 July 2012 | Cyclades, Greece
sunny and hot
When we returned from Delos to Mykonos, three giant cruise ships were in port, and the town was teeming with tourists. We jumped on our quad and got out of Dodge!
Next morning we motored around to South Bay of the tiny, nearly uninhabited island of Rhinia, right next to Delos, where we saw the cruise ships disgorging the masses at the ruins. We sure timed our Delos day right! We spent a quiet day at anchor, swimming, sorting photos and catching up on this blog. Now if I can only keep it up to date from now on!
08 July 2012 | Delos, Cyclades
sunny and hot
We took a ferry for the short ride across to the small island of Delos, a sacred ancient site dating from 3000 BC, with remains of temples, sanctuaries, shrines, amphitheaters, and the famous Terrace of the Lions. Delos was the mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Later on it became a thriving trading port of the Romans, with ornate tile floors of wealthy mansions still visible. It was completely destroyed during war in 88 BC.
The Windy Cyclades: First Stop, Mykonos
07 July 2012 | Aegean Sea, Greece
sunny and warm, what else?
We left early for the 65 mile stretch from Patmos, the northernmost of the Dodecanese, to Mykonos, the first island of the Cyclades to the east. The Cyclades are a circular group of many islands that we'll be sailing in a big backwards "Z," east, west, east, for an optimal angle to the prevailing northwest wind.
Mykonos has a reputation with the "in crowd," many of them gay, as the party island, with its many beach resorts, fancy shops, bars, restaurants, and nightlife. We anchored in Ornos, a protected bay off a beach resort that was booming with music in the late afternoon. Luckily it died down by nightfall, when party-goers made their way across the isthmus to the Hora, or main town. Several large private motoryachts were anchored in deeper water behind us, and we were awakened at 4 am by noisy guests being ferried back to their yachts. High life in all corners!
We survived our adventure with a "quad", aka ATV, which we rented to go to town and tour the island. Cars and quads are rented with nearly empty fuel tanks when you get them, a profitable secondary income for the rental agency, since it's hard to calculate how much fuel you'll use. Extra fuel is siphoned out upon return. So the first order of business was to find a gas station. But the agent had siphoned so much gas out of the tank that we ran out before getting to the nearest one! Luckily it wasn't far ... I don't like motorcycles, Burger doesn't like quads. ("It feels like it's castrated," he kept complaining, as we crawled up the hills.) So we'll stick to cars in future. Or buses. Or feet.
We wandered around the quaint alleyways with its trendy boutiques and shops. In front of one of them we found the famous pink pelican, mascot of Myconos who we later saw meeting the ferry guests.
St. John the Divine Slept Here
03 July 2012 | Patmos, Dodecanese
The weather report sounded benign for our northwest course from Leros to Patmos, and we left Partheni Bay in light wind. Then no wind, with engine. Then building wind from the north, 25 knots, gusting to 35. Burger reefed the mainsail and staysail way down to reduce heeling, and still we bounced along at 7.5 knots. Thank goodness this is as far north as we're going!
We anchored in the main harbor of Skala, and went ashore late afternoon to wander the town, have dinner and do some grocery shopping. Greek shops typically close for a long midday siesta and then reopen from 4 or 5 pm till 8 or 9. Greeks typically dine late, 9 or 10 pm, but the restaurants cater to tourists like us who eat earlier.
We were awakened at 6 am next morning by a man in a dinghy who directed us to a mooring ball, to make room for the fuel barge that was on its way into the harbor. The fuel barge turned out to be a fairly large fuel tanker, which towered over the anchorage! The crew on sailboats med-moored to the town quay scurried about their decks, holding puny little fenders should the tanker come too close. Once anchored and secured to the quay with aft lines straining in the side wind, a not very large fuel hose was brought out to transfer fuel to the city tank farm, a process which took all day. We were happy to be on the mooring out of harm's way.
After breakfast we dinghied ashore and hiked up the ancient cobblestone path to the Cave of the Apocalypse and the huge grey Monastery of St. John the Divine, who supposedly wrote the Book of Revelations there. The Monastery, which evolved over the centuries into a massive castle built for defense, is surrounded by a labryinth of whitewashed cube-shaped houses called the "hora," originally the main town of the island. Typical of many Greek islands, the maze was built to confuse attacking pirates and other enemies. Today the winding narrow alleyways are filled with shops and cafes and blooming bouganvillae, to the delight of visiting tourists. It's easy to take good photos in such a beautiful place.
Wanting to get away from the town bustle we moved next door to Meloi Bay, a protected cove with good swimming. While there we met Californians Madeline and Ken of the tugboat cruiser Mamma Mia, and had a fun visit with them aboard Halekai. While Burger and Ken discussed boat electronics, Madeline and I talked and talked about our children and grandchildren and our pets and our travel, etc. etc. etc. We were so hungry for talk that we forgot to have dinner!
Ioannina and Corinth
29 June 2012 | Mainland Greece
sunny and warm, low 80's
On our return trip to Athens we drove west through mountain tunnels and had lunch in the lakeside town of Ioannina. There we visited the monastery where the brutal nineteenth Ottoman ruler, Ali Pasha, was killed. He was featured in the Alexander Dumas' novel, The Count of Montecristo.
Then we made our way south and crossed the Gulf of Corinth on the Rio-Antirrio, the longest multi-span cable-stayed suspension bridge in the world. We were now on the northern shore of the large peninsula of the Peloponnese. We stayed overnight at the small Hotel Lido resort in Melissi and swam off the pebbly beach.
On our way to the Athens airport next morning, we exited the highway and visited the Corinth Canal, a shortcut from the Aegean to the Ionian Sea. Four miles long and 70 feet wide, it is no longer viable for the larger freighters of today, but is still in use for smaller tourist ships and yachts. It was dug in the 1890's, effectively creating an island of the peninsula. We stood on the pedestrian bridge and looked at yachts passing under us, some 300 feet below! Our sailing itinerary takes us further south so we won't be transiting it with Halekai.
It was great to return to Halekai and find her bottom freshly painted, ready to launch. What a luxury! We spent another couple of days enjoying Craig and Katherine's company, catching up on laundry at their cottage yet again. Two weeks had flown by since we first arrived in Leros, and it was hard to say good-bye.
Ancient Monasteries Atop Pinnacles
28 June 2012 | Meteora Valley, Greece
sunny and warm, of course
Having our day's exercise behind us, we drove on to the beautiful valley of Meteora, a few hours' further north. We stayed at the Doupiani House in the village of Kastriki, away from the noise of buses and motorcycles, within view of the strange smooth rock pinnacles the area is known for. There were very few other guests and the village restaurants were nearly empty. Food and service were great!
METEORA VALLEY PHOTOS
Next morning we hiked up to four centuries-old monasteries perched on top of the pinnacles. Once there were two dozen monasteries, today there are only six major ones remaining. A couple of them are still in use. Monks climbed rope ladders or were hoisted up in nets, allowing them to survive in isolation while warfare raged below. The interiors of the chapels were covered with frescoes depicting early Christian torturing of saints and martyrs: there were portrayals of death by crucification, beheading, chopping off body parts, drowning, burning, crushing, hanging, hanging upside down, boiling, stoning, squeezing in vices, what have I forgotten?