2014 Log: Italy & Islands

18 July 2014
06 July 2014 | Trapani, Sicily
02 July 2014 | Ragusa to Trapani, Sicily
21 June 2014 | San Vito lo Capo, Sicily
04 June 2014 | Padova and Venice
03 June 2014 | Marina di Ragusa, Italy
01 September 2013
31 August 2013
29 August 2013
13 August 2013
27 July 2013
25 July 2013 | (In 200 BC, that is!)
24 July 2013 | Samos, Greece
24 July 2013

Crete's North Coast

22 July 2011
This is a REALLY long but FANTASTIC Blog. It's got lot's of pictures and not one, but TWO (Count 'em) Video Clips. So get a BIG Cuppa or Sundowner and sit back and enjoy!

When last we left you we had "gorged" at Samaria, so to speak, and sent along a Chania Encore, just about three weeks ago! Since then, we've sailed the north coast of Crete and enjoyed a nice mix of anchorages and discovered old towns and ancient Minoan ruins, although the strong Meltemi winds of 20 to 35 knots are a challenge and the thermometer pushes 95 most days; hot, but not as bad as what we've read about the heat waves in the US!

After our Harbormaster and Port Police check-out from Chania, we anchored for a couple of days off Milati Island on the northeast end of Souda Bay. Our 4th of July holiday highlight was a visit to Sangaris by four young US Navy Lieutenants - fresh out of Annapolis on their first cruise. They were on leave and seen Sangaris' big "Stars & Stripes" from the beach, so they swam about a mile out to greet us.

Our guests, like hundreds of other US and NATO military personnel, were in Souda for a strategic stopover at a base that is a huge operations center for current air & sea activities. Our safety assured, we swam, BBQ'd and watched the "air show" - a constant traffic of military fighters and transports going in and out of the air station - as we happily swung on our "hook" for the first time in more than a week.

RethymnoRethymno was our next stop and an easy stern-to tie-up in the town's public marina - amazingly, only €1.50 per day! Again, there were very few neighboring cruising boats, perhaps because everyone else knew that Crete would be too hot and windy in July? We entertained ourselves with morning walks, long lunches in shady tavernas followed by naps, frequent cool-off dips and evening strolls.

It was friendly and we think a recommended stop. In fact we know several folks who found its attractive old town, festivals, cultural events and university energy a draw for an appealing live-aboard over-wintering location.
In the montage, above, you'll spot two classic views of Rethymno: the ornate Rimondi Fountain with spouting lion heads and Corinthian capitals attests to former Venetian rule, and the massive 16th c. fortress with great views from the ramparts. The true classic, of course, is Craig enjoying the local octopus luncheon!

Making our way east we spent a rolly night at anchor in Bali. It was picturesque with homes perched on steep cliffs, but sleepless. Iraklion, Crete's big city, was next on the itinerary, but we took a pass on touring the ancient Minoan Knossos Palace, what with a heaving tourist trade, unshaded ruins and 100° temps - we hope to see it some other time - off-season!

So on to a 5-star anchorage where we could cool down & swim before heading into the small fishing harbor of Palaiokastro - a common name you'll see later that simply means "Old Castle". There we squeezed into a surprisingly tight space between local fishermen. The town seemed a bit remote but had a good internet connection to make some Skype calls, having learned that our dear Auntie Jean was hospitalized.

Our base for the next few days was the "Spinalonga Lagoon", near the resort town of Elounda and a short bus ride north of scenic Agios Nikolaos (Ay Nik). We needed a Meltemi-protected anchorage and internet access to be in touch with family and healthcare providers in Florida. The Lagoon was safe, but not calm and would have been a fabulous area to explore had the winds not been howling up to 35 knots! Only after letting out 200 feet of chain (in only 15 feet depth) did we feel comfortable enough to leave the boat for a couple of day trips to visit the Ay Nik marina, buy fresh fruit and veg and tour the renowned Spinalonga Island.

The two photos below, one with Sangaris in the very far left corner (if your eyesight is really sharp!), give a good sense of the place.
84938534 View from Spinalonga
Like most of Crete's headlands or peninsula points, Spinalonga was a strategic fortress site built by Venetians as a trading point and also had huge salt flats nearby. A Turkish seige in 1715 displaced the Venetians and the Turks carried on to the 1900's through the declining Ottoman era; the more modern painted buildings in the photo are from the tail end of Turkish rule. After Crete joined Greece in 1913, the island became Europe's largest leper colony; the last leper died there in 1953 and it's been uninhabited since. It was an eerie but interesting walk around what locals refer to as 'the island of the living dead'.

Now here was a fun interlude - 8503 ELLI'SAfter spotting "Elli's Cafe" (Katherine's mother's name having been Ellie) we just had to stop - incredibly Elli's daughter was also named Katherine (Katerina) - so we struck up a fun connection over a traditional lunch.

An interesting sidelight we heard from Elli's "other daughter" Katerina, was that many Elounda and nearby Plaka residents were featured in a recent documentary about the island ... something to check on Netflix next winter.

From the lagoon we set off for Sitia, our last stop in Crete. What a restful place to be, for another week(!) while we continued to get updates on our Aunt's post-stroke status in rehab, tended to some boat chores and enjoyed frequent cycling outings to explore and provision. Sitia
The harbor was well protected and pretty with palm trees, sidewalk tavernas and small fishing boats lining the circle of aqua blue water. Here's a short video clip of the harbor.

Hippopotomus Ivory.
By the way, we'd recommend the small archaeology museum here, the highlight of which was this old boy - Palekastro "Korous". The statue of "Kouros" was painstakingly pieced together from fragments of ivory hippopotamus tusks from which it was carved and adorned with gold and other decorations some 3000 years ago.

So, trusting the boat's secure side-tie at the gusty pier, see the top right pic in the montage above, we hired a car for a day to see the dense fields of olive trees, palm groves and ancient sites on the northeast coastland. It was a great day out with some trail walking high above the little town of Zakros where we discovered "The Source". It's an amazing , abundant natural spring that supplies all the local towns and irrigates vast olive tree acreage. Amazing, because it starts at about 2000 feet above sea level in desert-like mountain terrain and just flows from under the rocks - ain't nature grand! Also amazing is the world-renown Sitia Olive Oil - green, fruity and super-low acid (0.3%) - a gourmet's delight.

Goat & HerbsThe sights and sounds along the mostly non-irrigated terrain were typical of Eastern Crete and the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean. This image gives you an idea of Crete's dry, rocky and windblown land with cicadas buzzing (I can't believe we finely spotted one of these stealthy critters!) and ubiquitous goats bleating and munching on the prickly ground foliage.

arch dig
At ancient Palekastro (remember "old castle" mentioned about an hour ago?) we found an active dig, open to the public where a major Minoan palace is being unearthed - it's where they unearthed the old boy Kouros whom we had met in the museum.

From there the road led past touristy but beautiful Vai Beach with its unique palm groves and on to a lovely taverna on the sea at Ancient PaleKastro. taverna lunchThe crew's lunch was fab - complete with fresh seafood risotto, homemade myzithra cheese and veg pies, a scrumptious salad of assorted local greens, all washed down with a carafe of a local monastery's biological white wine and topped off with slices of ice cold watermelon for dessert. A beach walk, swim and peak at the monastery completed our afternoon before another grocery store load up and rental car return (we never pass up the chance to schlep heavy groceries in an actual automobile - much easier than our bikes!) As usual, the photographer's clicking was a bit out of control, so check out more pics in the Eastern Crete Photo Gallery.

Now, if you think we're going to let you off the hook about now - NOT! We just couldn't resist one more super bit. Seems we're always on the lookout for the perfect combo B&B/Gourmet Restaurant for our pals Gina and George to take over in semi-retirement. Well we found it! But rather than bore you with more verbiage, we actually made a video clip - so just click here and be amazed.

Next stops Karpathos and Khalki in the Dodecanese Isalnds!

Cruiser's Notes: "Marina" and dock side charges varied from Rethymno's €1.50/day and a small surcharge for water & electricity to free at Sitia (water only, no elec for us). However, port fees were collected at all and the price was consistent: a one-time harbor fee of €4.20, calculated for our 14m length (€0.30 cents/mtr) and then a daily fee of €0.45 cents/mtr plus 23% VAT. Each port therefore was €8 to €9/day for us. Very good holding in the lagoon near Elounda and Spinalonga, but very gusty winds off the mountain sides each afternoon and most nights. Provisions were easy to find in most every area: local markets and a Carrefour in Rethymno, mini-markets with good supplies in Elounda and great options in Sitia: just two blocks north the pier and a couple west a cluster of very good veg shops, fish markets, butchers and bakeries supply most everyhting you need. But if you're looking for more, the Supermarkets "Ariadne" and Super SPAR are near by and easy by bike; the Lidl, however, requires a car which we hired for €28/day.
Vessel Name: SANGARIS
Vessel Make/Model: Amel Santorin - a 46'/14m Ketch
Crew: Katherine and Craig Briggs
In 1999, Katherine and Craig "sold up" to go cruising aboard their 46' Amel Santorin ketch "SANGARIS" and since then have sailed some 25,000 miles. Leaving Florida they headed south to the Caribbean, then west along the "Spanish Main" coast of South America to Colombia and Panama. [...]
SANGARIS's Photos - Main
55 Photos
Created 3 June 2014
9 Photos
Created 11 May 2013
66 Photos
Created 11 May 2013
A tour around the North Dodecanese islands of Greece
59 Photos
Created 11 July 2012
"On the hard" and around Leros Island, Dodecanese, Greece
30 Photos
Created 9 July 2012
30 Photos
Created 22 June 2012
October 2011
35 Photos
Created 17 October 2011
September/October 2011
16 Photos
Created 9 October 2011
September & October, 2011
43 Photos
Created 9 October 2011
16 Photos
Created 19 September 2011
27 Photos
Created 26 July 2011
25 Photos
Created 8 July 2011
23 Photos
Created 7 July 2011
9 Photos
Created 27 June 2011
22 Photos
Created 26 June 2011
Anchored in Navarinou Bay and free marina in town - walks to castle, bay north, Nestor's Cave and Giavola Lagoon.
25 Photos
Created 23 June 2011
train trip from Katalolon, west coast Pelopponese, Greece
19 Photos
Created 11 June 2011
Inland trip with Sandra & Chris April 2011
40 Photos
Created 18 May 2011
Return to Sangaris via Athens
11 Photos
Created 16 May 2011
two day tour of ancient city before departure from Athens to USA
30 Photos
Created 16 May 2011
Arrival October 2010 and April/May 2011 in Marina Messolonghi
27 Photos
Created 16 May 2011
30 Photos
Created 8 October 2010
4 Photos
Created 5 October 2010
3 Photos
Created 23 July 2010
25 Photos
Created 16 July 2010
37 Photos
Created 7 July 2010
20 Photos
Created 25 June 2010
Marina & town resources
9 Photos
Created 20 June 2010
An inland touring day in Slovenia's capital city
21 Photos
Created 19 June 2010
Day trip in wine country
14 Photos
Created 19 June 2010
57 Photos
Created 18 October 2009
13 Photos
Created 21 August 2009
Old town & Gelato
4 Photos
Created 14 July 2009
Otranto's Aragonese castle and Romanesque Cathedral with 12th C Floor Mosaic
8 Photos
Created 14 July 2009
4th of July at anchor at the "Heel" of the "Boot" of Italy
6 Photos
Created 13 July 2009
Wash-down at the marina and a day trip to the hillside village of Stignano in search of a friend's ancestral roots
12 Photos
Created 13 July 2009
Escape from Siracusa ... and an unexpected detour to Catania
7 Photos
Created 12 July 2009
Trip to Palermo for a notarized signature plus some sightseeing
7 Photos
Created 12 July 2009
Launch day at Cantiere Navale di Benedetto
4 Photos
Created 12 July 2009
New Bikes to the Amphitheater for Greek Drama - in Italian!
7 Photos
Created 12 July 2009
"Infiorata" Flower Petal Art Competition and Noto's Baroque Architecture
10 Photos
Created 12 July 2009
Friends and sights in Siracusa, Sicily, May 2009
14 Photos
Created 12 July 2009
Siracusa and the boatyard
21 Photos
Created 11 July 2009