Endless summer on SCII

It is hot!

19 July 2024
Nerida Matthews
The weather here is hot, with day-time temperatures reaching 37-39 degrees and overnight lows of 29-30 degrees. Last night the overnight temperature did not get below 32 degrees. The fans in our cabin are getting quite a workout overnight and help us stay cool. We have good shade covering for SCII, which allows us to keep out of the sun. We are constantly having regular dips in the water, 5-6 times a day, including a swim and shower before going to bed. At the time of writing this blog, we had already had our second swim of the day at 10am. The digitallybcalibrated toe suggests the water temperature is about 25 degrees, the meat thermometer suggests it is a bit warmer at 26.7 degrees.

We have spent the last couple of weeks exploring the gulfs and bays of the eastern Peloponnese. We have spent our time mainly anchored in picturesque bays with crystal clear water rather than in towns, as this allows us the opportunity to jump off the back of SCII for a swim. Sometimes we have had bays to ourselves and in other bays it has been quite crowded, especially on the weekends.

We did spend two days in the village of Ermioni. This allowed us to reprovision, get washing done and the mandatory visit to the port police. As a foreign boat we have a transit log that needs to be regularly (about once a fortnight or when we are in a port) checked by the Greek port police. We need to identify where we have come from and what will be our next port. For every visit to the port police, they photocopy our documents (boat papers, insurance, crew list etc), nothing is recorded electronically and every visit is different. Some are very friendly and helpful, while others are grumpy and rude. At Ermioni, Glenn rang the door bell on the office to be greeted by the port police officer with a mask, explaining that he had Covid. Glenn waited outside while he processed the paperwork and received our transit log with the appropriate stamp. That was five days ago and thankfully there have been no signs of Covid on SCII. Something that we have both managed to avoid so far.

Ermioni is a pretty town and most of the tourism is from visiting yachts. Restaurants line the waterfront, which has lovely views across the gulf to the islands of Dhokos and Hydra. We enjoyed some lovely seafood meals including local muscles which were steamed, with a rocket salad and saganaki.

We have been asked how we go with our internet connection. Both of our phones have what is called eSIM capability. We both have purchased an international roaming plan for our eSIMs that gives us a data connection anywhere in Europe. We have found these quite reliable and it is rare that we do not have a connection, even in some of the more remote areas. We can listen to the ABC radio in the morning, read the news to catch up on what is going on at home, upload YouTube videos, update our blog and most importantly get the local weather forecast.

Tomorrow we will be heading to the Saronic Gulf and the island of Poros. We hope we can get into the harbour. Not sure how that will go as you can't book a place and we expect it will be busy.

The Eastern Peloponnese

08 July 2024
Nerida Matthews
We have escaped the windy Cyclade islands and after a seven-hour sail, we arrived at the eastern side of the Peloponnese.

Our last night in Serifos was lovely. We had a sensational seafood dinner of fish, shrimp, scampi, muscles and octopus with a fresh salad. Probably our best meal so far. We are enjoying the healthy Mediterranean diet, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and seafood.

The Peloponnese is a peninsula located at the southern tip of mainland Greece and is separated from the rest of the mainland by the Corinth canal. The Peloponnese has an indented coastline, so there are lots of bays and anchorages for us to explore. We have had several nights anchored in bays with crystal clear water, often having the bay all to ourselves, once the day-trip boats leave about 4pm. We expected this area to be very busy, due to the proximity to Athens, but this has not been the case. On the weekends there are lots of small boats out for a day-trip but during the week it has been quiet. We are doing lots of swimming, which is good exercise but also helps us keep cool.

We visited the town of Astros, mooring in the town harbour. Astros is a fishing village and tourist resort, although not very busy compared to some of the islands. It is a charming Greek village. High above the town is a Medieval castle. We walked up the hill to the castle in the morning, before it got too hot, (temperatures are currently in the low to mid 30s). The view from the castle was worth the climb. We could see the town and harbour as well as the surrounding farm land and orchards. The area is noted for its peaches.

The second day in Astros, the clouds were building up during the day, which resulted in a large thunderstorm later in the afternoon. The sky become very black, we had strong winds for about half an hour and very heavy rain, which gave SCII a good wash.

We are currently anchored off the town of Khaidhari in a very protected and enclosed bay. The bay is spectacular, as it is surrounded by large cliffs. The town is a holiday resort with fish tavernas lining the shore. Yesterday we took the dingey ashore and had a seafood lunch at one of the tavernas. We had fresh shrimp, a small bream and salad for lunch. Being Sunday lunch, it was quite busy, with lots of locals. Most of the local wore their bathers to the restaurant and went for a swim before their meal and in between courses. Some even sat in the water with a glass of wine or beer, a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Not having worn our bathers to the restaurant, we had to wait until we got back to SCII for our swim.

Thank you to everyone for your comments on the blog and Facebook. In response to some of your questions, here are our answers.

Life jackets - Yes, in some of the videos we are wearing life jackets. We tend to wear lifejackets when the wind is strong (over 20 knots) or the sea state is rough. Especially if going up to the mast, to bring in the main sail, Glenn will use the lines on the lifejacket to tether himself to the boat. If the weather is calm, we are well protected in the cockpit area, so tend not to use them.

The empty plate in front of Glenn in the last post - had contained dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and yes they were delicious.

Fishing - yes, we have tried to catch fish but with no luck. We often tow a lure if motoring but despite seeing fish jump in the water, we have not been able to catch anything. Most of the fish in restaurants here is farmed, the locals tend to catch very small (whitebait like) fish.

Time on SCII - This year we will spend about 5 months on SCII. We will be lifting her out of the water in mid-August at the Greek island of Aegina where she will stay until April next year. We will have two weeks in Bulgaria before flying home at the end of August.

Chaos in Serifos

26 June 2024
Nerida Matthews
This episode's video tends to say it all - sailing in the Greek islands is not always calm waters and having fun.

We arrived in Serifos, which is in a very windy part of the Cyclades. When the Meltemi blows, Serifos tends to be right in the middle of the strong winds. When we arrived, it was only meant to be about 15 knots but we had gusts over 25 knots as we entered the bay. We anchored in the bay for a short time until the wind settled down before going into the harbour. The harbour is small and requires boats to drop an anchor and reverse up to the harbour wall. The harbour has a big chain down the middle, which used to have lazy lines attached, but these have been long gone. The chain means that great care needs to be taken not to catch your anchor. The local scuba diver makes a lot of money diving to untangle anchors at €150 per anchor. This is typical of many Greek harbours, that let their lazy lines deteriorate. Lazy lines mean than you do not need to drop an anchor, which would have prevented much of the chaos shown in the video.

We dropped our anchor, which seemed to hold for the first day but on day two we had a cross wind and it became evident that our anchor was dragging. A yacht moored next to us on day one, had a long line attached to the chain in the harbour as their anchor was also dragging so we knew this was an option. When a diver was in the water untangling an anchor from the chain in the harbour, we asked the habour master if he would thread our rope through the chain to make us secure. We negotiated a price, which was significantly less than the €150. This turned out to be an excellent move as on day three, when we planned to leave, the wind unexpectedly came up, gusting at 37 knots. This made it impossible for us to leave the harbour, not to mention all of the tangled boats opposite us blocking us in. We were tied up very securely, which meant we were mostly immune from the chaos that unfolded.

The video only shows a small portion of the chaos, as we had to stop filming as we were helping other boats whose anchors were not holding. We also had an Italian boat that managed to catch their rudder on our mooring rope. We were worried that their propeller was going to cut through our ropes that were holding us securely. We managed to get through the communication barrier and explain what they had done, there might have been some raised voices though!. There was some frantic times while we attached a rope to their boat to hold them secure, while we lengthened our lines so that they dropped down below the depth of their keel. The Italian boat was not able to drop an anchor, so they ended up being tied up to SCII for the next two days. It was a very stressful 30 minutes but we survived unscathed. The Italians presented us with a bottle of wine to thank us for our assistance, which was very nice of them. The harbour master saw us in the bakery later in the day and patted Glenn on the shoulder saying 'Well done Captain'.

Today it is still blowing with gusts up to 40 knots. We just have to sit it out and wait for the wind to die down. The island of Serifos is very pretty, so there are worse places we could be to sit out the Meltemi. We have enjoyed eating out at the restaurants that line the shore. We have reprovisioned including filling up with diesel, which is delivered to SCII by tanker. In typical Greek fashion, the driver is smoking a cigarette as we fill up. We have also enjoyed the local bakeries, including trying the local speciality of Serifos almond biscuits.

The forecast for tomorrow is for lighter winds, so hopefully we can get out of the harbour. Our plan is to head for the more protected waters of the Saronic gulf and out of the very windy Cyclades.

On the Move – Samos to Paros

20 June 2024
Nerida Matthews
SCII is on the move, as we make our way from Samos to Paros. We have left the Dodecanese islands behind and we are now in the Cyclades.

Thank you for your comments on the blog. We love reading them. We ended up spending four days in Pythagorian harbour on Samos. Matt asked how we sleep when we are in ports such as Pythagorian? Even though the harbour is busy with tavernas and lots of people, it is very quiet once we go down into the cabin. Even when tavernas are playing music, we tend not to hear it in the front cabin, so we sleep well.

On leaving Samos we spent a couple of nights anchored out at the islands of Agathonisi and Arki (there is drone footage of the bay at Arki in video below). When we anchor out, all cooking is done on board. If the weather is not too windy, we will use our charcoal barbeque on the back of the boat, otherwise we cook inside. We roasted a chicken roll and vegetables in the Remoska, which gave us left over chicken for salad for a couple of days. This was good given the weather was starting to warm up.

We have only had one night in a harbour since our last blog post and that was in Lipsi. Lipsi is not the prettiest Greek islands but it has a lot of Greek character. Quaint little fishing boats, octopus hanging outside restaurants and a multitude of small churches (see the video). The town has a wonderful bakery and a well stocked mini-market for reprovisioning. We also managed to get washing done. We dined at an ouzeria on the harbour. Our meal consisted of grilled octopus, eggplant dip and fried muscles. We ordered zucchini fritters but were informed 'due to technical issues they were unavailable'. We were not sure what the technical issues were but ordered tomato fritters instead. The meal was delicious and washed down with local Lipsi red wine.

The next morning, we were up early and left Lipsi harbour at 6.15am as there was a good weather window to travel the nearly 50 miles to Amorgos. We had a good sail, although the winds were a bit variable, arriving at about 1pm. We even spotted dolphins off Amorgos, but were unable to capture them on video.

The weather forecast was telling us that the strong wind called the Meltemi was about to blow in a few days' time. So, we headed for Naxos or Paros, via Skhinousa. Naxos and Paros tend to be in a wind shadow, therefore provide a more protected anchorage when the Meltemi blows. We tried to get into Naxos harbour, with no luck, but at the northern end of Paros there is a big bay which provides good protection. We are anchored in 6m water depth, with 40 m of anchor chain, which is well dug in. The Meltemi is predicted to blow for about five days, so we will probably be here until Sunday. With the 20 to 30 knots of wind, the seas here can get very rough so we would rather wait the weather out. This has given us time to catch up on boat chores as well as catch up on the blog. Probably a fair bit of reading too.....

With the Meltemi has come cooler temperatures of about 30 degrees during the day and 22 degrees as the overnight low.
When we leave Paros, we will be going to islands that we have not visited before. So, hopefully many new adventures.

Exchanging call to prayer for church bells – Exiting Turkiye and entering Greece

09 June 2024
Nerida Matthews
We have now exited Turkiye and have entered Greece. As Australian's we can only spend a maximum of 90 days in the EU zone, which meant we needed to be in Turkiye until 1 June. This is what the non-European yachties refer to as Schengen shuffle - shuffling your time between EU and non-EU countries.

We had a few days anchored out in a Bay near Bodrum (photo above) before going to the marina in Turgutreis, where we will exit Turkiye. Our time in Turgutreis was devoted to completing boat chores and reprovisioning. In the evening we walked into the town and had a lovely seafood meal. The waiters in the restaurants here walk you down the street to the fish shop, where you select your seafood, which is taken back to the restaurant for cooking. When back at the restaurant, you then proceed to the meze fridge to select your entree. We had a delicious meal of pickled octopus, pumpkin dip (although it did not taste like it had pumpkin in it), grilled shrimp and salad. (Yes, there will be lots of foodie pictures in this blog post)

The next morning, we were woken by the call to prayer at about 5am. We met the agent at the customs dock at 9.30, before the rush caused by a ferry from Greece arriving and checked out of Turkiye. The day was calm, so we motored the whole hour and half trip to Kalymnos. We crossed the dotted red-line on the map that marks the boundary between Turkiye and Greece. We lowered the Turkish flag and raised the Greek flag as we entered the Greek waters. In Kalymnos, we were met by our Greek agents to check in. The whole process went very smoothly. As we arrived in Kalymnos, it being a Sunday, we were greeted by church bells.

One of the good aspects of being in Greece is the Greek food and drink. On arrival we were both craving spinach and cheese pie but being Sunday the bakery was closed. As we walked along the waterfront, a waiter asked what can I get you. We replied spinach and cheese pie. He said 'we do not have but I will arrange', so we sat down with a cool Mythos beer and ten minutes later a man on a motorbike arrived with two pieces of spinach and cheese pie. We were not sure where it can from but it was delicious.

In Kalymnos we find the best tavernas for an evening meal are in the back streets away from the water front. We found this tiny taverna called 'Bottoms Up'. We ordered half a litre of house wine and a few small dishes, as we had a filling lunch not realising that a range of complementary dishes come when you order drinks. This included a fava bean dip, crab salad, pork stew and another salad. We had ordered saganaki, calamari and a Greek salad, so we ended up with a huge meal but delicious.

From Kalymnos we headed to the town of Lakki on Leros, where we spent two days. Here we stocked up on foods that we could not get in Turkiye, especially pork products, such as pork souvalaki, bacon and ham. There is a great butcher here, who is Australian-Greek. They make their own sausages and other products, so we have left Lakki with a full freezer. We had some delicious meals here, including the best pork gyros plate, which we shared, as it was way too much for one person.

From Lakki we sailed to a stunning bay at the bottom of Arki, where there was another Australian boat, Daydreamer. It turns out they are also from Melbourne and sail at Sandringham YC. We met up with Phil and his crew again in Samos.

We have a couple of large service batteries that keep everything running on board. They were OK at the start of this season but were starting to rapidly run down being flat after keeping the fridges running overnight. Having been in this situation before, we knew there was a good place in Samos to get all things boat related for a reasonable price. We had not planned on going as far North as Samos but our plans can easily be changed! We placed an order and arranged for them to be picked up a week later. So, we have ended up at Samos island at a harbour called Pythagorian (Yes, after Pythagoras the mathematician). It's a good place to spend a few days, right on the harbour front ringed by restaurants. We now have a set of good working batteries!

While at the harbour we contacted a mechanical repair guy we knew here to see if he could fix our broken anchor roller assembly. After waiting all day for him to turn up on Friday, he eventually showed up on Saturday. After a bit of head scratching, he came up with a plan that sounded good to us and promised to return on Monday with it fixed. This did mean we had to stay an extra day than planned but there are worse places we could be!

We are now 9 days into summer and it felt like the weather gods turned the temperature up, starting on 1 June. The day-time temperatures are now in the mid 30's, with 40 degrees predicted in a couple of days' time. We plan to be anchored out, so that we can jump off the back of the boat into our private swimming pool.

Ruins and engine issues

30 May 2024
Nerida Matthews
Ova Buku is a stunning location with sheer rock face and beautiful clear water. The beach is lined by restaurants but it is still very quiet as the holiday season is yet to start. As we came into the bay the town jetty appeared to be in ruins. The jetty had been dismantled for repairs after winter storms. As we were about to turn around and go a man was waving us onto the harbour wall where they had set up some temporary planks of wood to enable access ashore, it was all very rustic. He helped us tie up and we were all very secure. We had our first 30 degree day here and spent some time swimming. The water has also warmed up to about 23 degrees. We had planned on spending two days here but the weather forecast changed, which would have meant wind blowing into the bay and given the rustic nature of the jetty, we decided to move to a more secure location.

So, we traded ruined jetties for the ancient ruins of Knidos. We first came to Knidos 20 years ago, when we first chartered in Turkiye, and it is always a magical place. As we sit on the back of SCII we can see an ancient Roman amphitheatre, remnants of houses and shops as well as stone terracing all around the bay. It is interesting to imagine what Knidos would have been like 2000 years ago. We did not walk the ruins, as we have done this a few times before, but we just sat back and enjoyed being surrounded by history.

Sailing up the gulf of Korfezi (we thought...)
There was a forecast for 3 days of strong winds coming up so we decided the best place to be was right up in the top of the Gulf we were currently in. This would have been about 4 or 5 hours of travel from our current anchorage. About one hour into our trip we were motor - sailing as there was only a light wind behind us. We noticed that there was no cooling water coming from the engine, just steam. Not good! So off with the engine and down below to look for the problem. Nothing was obviously wrong but to re-prime the seawater cooling system means first closing off the water intake valve. When doing this, the handle broke off with the valve almost closed - kind of an oh s*** moment!

We were not able to run the engine as it was so looked for the closest place we could sail to. Fortunately, there was a marina not far away but not one we were familiar with. We sailed in light wind to just off the marina while trying to contact them on the VHF radio. After no reply we hailed down a passing yacht who gave us a different channel to what we believed was correct and also he phoned up the marina for us to let them know we were there. He advised us to contact the local coast guard but they did not respond. Lucky we were not sinking! When we eventually made contact with the marina asking if they could tow us in, the reply we got was "we are too busy now". After sailing around in circles for a while a boat came up from down the coast and towed us in. Turns out it was a friend of the marina manager. After towing us into a berth, the marina manager contacted a mechanic, who arrived reasonably promptly to have a look at SCII's water cooling system on the engine. Long story short, after about 5 visits from mechanics, they replaced the broken valve and cleaned out the blocked intake pipe below it, which turned out to be a build-up of lots of small shells. The mechanics were very good at resolving these issues and it was not too expensive. At least where we were in the marina was sheltered, as now we were experiencing 3 days of very strong wind. The marina restaurant had a few visits!

We are currently anchored on the other side of the Gokova Korfezi (gulf), in the bay of Alakisla Buku. The bay is lined with ruins from the Byzantine era. The town was settled in the 5th century BC and abandoned about 700 AD, when the Ottoman's invaded the area. While some of the ruins are fenced off, you can still see the remnants of houses and other buildings around the bay. While the information plaque says this was the ancient city of Anastasiololis, which probably was more a small town or settlement in today's terms.

Last night we had a very large and intense thunderstorm at three in the morning, which went for an hour. There were huge flashes of lightning that surrounded the area. The lightening was very spectacular but quite high up, so we were not in danger. Glenn got up and closed the hatches, and not long later the rain started. We might need an afternoon nap today to make up for the interrupted sleep last night!

We only have a few more day in Turkiye, as our current plan is to check into Greece at Kalymnos on 2 June.

Today the weather is forecast to be a bit windy this afternoon but at the time of writing, it is 26 degrees, light wind and sunny. Perfect!

Vessel Name: Southern Comfort II
Vessel Make/Model: Bavaria 47, 2009
Hailing Port: Melbourne, Australia
Crew: Glenn and Nerida Matthews
About: Having almost completed the charter yacht catalogue over the last 25 years, we are fulfilling our long term dream of living the endless summer. In April 2017 we purchased our yacht and plan to spend several months every year in the Med.
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