Our Ever-Changing Backyard

10 June 2024 | Ҫeşme Marina and Goldensands Beach, Turkey
03 June 2024 | Aegean Sea
18 May 2024 | Saronic Gulf, Greece
14 May 2024 | Porto Montenegro to Athens
14 April 2024 | Zakinthos to Sounion, Greece
13 November 2023 | Orikum, Albania
30 October 2023 | Durrës, Albania
29 October 2023 | Porto Montenegro to Athens, Greece
22 August 2023 | Montenegro
18 April 2023 | Monopoli, Italy - Zadar, Croatia
09 April 2023 | Korčula, Croatia
01 April 2023 | Otok Badija, near Korcula, Croatia

Ҫecking into Ҫeşme

10 June 2024 | Ҫeşme Marina and Goldensands Beach, Turkey
Vandy Shrader
July 23, 2023

After a leisurely breakfast, we pulled up Awildian's anchor and headed across the narrow passage between Chios Island (part of Greece) and the Turkish mainland. For the entire time that Eric and I were in Turkey, we found it interesting that almost all of the islands that lay just offshore of the Turkish coast belong to Greece, even those that were only a few miles away - like Chios. We wondered why Turkey hadn't gained possession of any islands when the divvying up of land happened between Greece and Turkey.


A sketch of the area from the Awildian Journal

Anyway, during our trip across the passage, we prepped Awildian's fenders and docklines for a starboard side-tie at the Customs dock. As we approached Ҫeşme Marina, I called the marina office on the radio (VHF 72 for those who might care), letting them know we were looking to clear in with Customs and Immigration. The woman told me that she would send someone out to direct us where to go.

A minute later, a marinero came out in a small boat and followed us. "I will take you to your berth," he said in halting English.

"Wait," I said. "We're clearing in. We want to go to the Customs dock."

"I will take you to your berth," he repeated. Clearly we were not going to have a discussion about it.

"OK...is it a Med-moor berth?"

"Yes," he said, zooming off to guide the way.

Bugger! I hate it when all my careful planning is for nought. As Eric slowly followed the marinero, I scrambled around switching half of the dock lines and fenders to the opposite side, getting Awildian ready to back into the berth and tie fore and aft.

After we got Awildian tied up at the berth, Eric took our binder of ship's papers and left for the marina office, where he checked in with them and found that we got a free berth for four hours while clearing in. Surely we wouldn't need that much time...would we? The wind was calm at the moment, but was forecast to fill in quite a bit in the afternoon. I was hoping that we'd be out of the marina when that happened. It was only 9:30 am; I expected we'd be done way before noon. Turns out I was wrong.

After checking in at the marina office, Eric went a few doors down to the office of the yacht agency we were using, Pianura Marine. In Turkey, yachts are required to use an agent to check into and out of the country. Our agent, Onur, with whom we'd exchanged emails and some documents over the previous days, was out of town, but his colleague, a friendly woman named Busé, was busy helping several sets of people. She added Eric to the bunch.

When Eric returned to Awildian about a half hour later, I expected him to tell me that he was done and we could be on our way. But no, we were just getting started. I needed to come to the agent's office and then the three of us would walk to Passport Control, in the ferry terminal, about a five minute walk down the road. After the immigration officers were convinced that we were who our passports said we were, they stamped our passports and sent us on our way. Busé told us that she would see us back at her office in about an hour, which would be 1pm.

Eric and I found lunch at a small pizzeria along the main street near the marina. I was beginning to get a bit antsy about the wind: we still needed to go to the fuel dock after clearing in, and I wasn't looking forward to maneuvering in the confines of the marina in 25 or so knots. But it didn't do any good to stew about it. There was nothing we could do to speed up the process.

During lunch, we bought a Turkish e-SIM for my phone. E-SIMs are amazing! Now we don't have to find a cell phone store, where the employees may or may not speak English, to buy a physical SIM card.

Just before 1pm, we parted ways. Eric went back to Busé's office, to see if she was ready to continue with our clearing in process. I went back to Awildian to use the marina water to clean his decks.

At 2pm Eric still wasn't back, so I busied myself writing in Awildian's journal and adding some details of our recent travels to the log on our spreadsheet.


Robert and Robyn Kiwi having a look at Ҫeşme Castle while we wait for Eric to return

At 3pm there was still no sign of Eric. According to the forecast, the wind should have been blowing 25 knots from the north by now, but we seemed to be catching a break: the wind was still very light. I began hoping that the four free hours offered by the marina was a loose amount of time. Marina prices in Turkey are exorbitant; I didn't want to be charged for the day!

Eric showed up at 3:15, all finished with the clearing in. We called the marina on the VHF and told them that we'd like to go to the fuel dock. Two marineros came to untie Awildian, and two more tossed us lines when we arrived at the fuel dock. That was a nice treat! We put about 250 liters in each of Awildian's diesel tanks, for $1.22 a liter. That's pretty good for diesel in the Med.

We cast off at 4pm (the marina hadn't charged us for our berth, or for the water I'd used), and headed out of Ҫeşme Marina, past the 16th-Century castle that looms at the entrance to the marina, juxtaposed with lots of modern construction, which seems to be the norm in Europe.

Two views of the Castle:





Though the wind was still very light in the marina, there was about 12 knots in the channel between Ҫeşme and Chios - still nothing like the 25 knots that had been forecast - but as it was coming from behind us, it just pushed us along to the anchorage we had chosen.

We made our way around the small peninsula to the south of Ҫeşme, and dropped our anchor in 20 feet of clear water off of beautiful Goldensands Beach. With a name like that, how could we not check it out? And it did live up to its name.


Goldensands Beach [Photo from Trip Advisor]

Only a few other boats bobbed nearby, but the beach and water were packed with sunbathers, swimmers, jetskiers, inner tubers, and parasailers, all enjoying the sunny Sunday afternoon.

As jet skis zipped by and the sun set, Eric and I stretched out on the seats on our back porch, feeling relieved: over the past two days, we'd crossed the Aegean without encountering the meltemi, we'd cleared out of Greece, and into Turkey. Now we had a couple of months to explore Turkey at our own pace, going where we wanted to, and staying for as long as we wanted to. Just the way we like it.

Crossing the Aegean

03 June 2024 | Aegean Sea
Vandy Shrader
July 21-22, 2023

We didn't have to wait long for the meltemi to take a break. Three days after Annie and Liam boarded their flight in Athens, we pulled up our anchor in Sounion and headed east across the Aegean Sea.

Where to go in Turkey?
Eric and I had talked about where we wanted to go in Turkey. Every place sounded interesting. Most of the cruisers we knew spent the majority of their time in the southern part of Turkey, but we were open to trying something different, especially with a relatively long trip back across Greece and then north to Montenegro in a couple of months. We decided to cross the Aegean Sea at the approximate latitude of Athens, about halfway up the coastline of Turkey.

Countries generally have only a handful of places where you can legally clear into or out of them (these are known as "ports of entry"), so we'd have to aim for one of these in Greece (to clear out) and another in Turkey (to clear in). We'd clear out of Greece at Chios (on Chios Island) and clear into Turkey at nearby Ҫeşme Marina, on the Turkish mainland.


Our route

Chios was about 120 miles away, and since some strong headwinds were forecast for the afternoon, we wanted to leave early to avoid those and find a place to stop along the way. Agios Pyrgos, a small cove near the northern tip of Andros Island, would suit us fine.

Crossing the Aegean
We left Sounion at 6:30 am, just before sunup, planning to make it to Agios Pyrgos before the strong NE headwinds arrived at around midday. The first few hours were beautiful and calm, the early morning sun gleaming on the water, our only company the many ferries that crisscrossed this piece of water on their way between Athens and the islands of the Aegean.



Though we made it to Agios Pyrgos by 12:30, the headwinds had arrived at 11 am, the choppy waves treating us to a jouncy ride for awhile. Agios Pyrgos is a beautiful cove, with a white sand beach, and clear water that allowed us to find a good sand patch to drop our anchor in.


Agios Pyrgos sandy beach

Best of all (and one reason why we chose it), the anchorage provides excellent protection from the NE, so while the wind and waves were snotty outside the cove, Awildian was floating calmly inside.


Agios Pyrgos closeup with Greek fishing boat

We spent the afternoon relaxing, and went to bed early, since we planned to get an early start the next morning - at 3 am!

The next morning, I happened to wake up at 2:15 am, so I just stayed up. I'd volunteered to do the 3-6 am shift - I don't mind getting up early, and I like being up at dawn. We'd set things up for a night passage before we went to bed last night: setting night mode or red lights on all our technology, charging my new headlamp (and reading the instructions), putting our red flashlight in an easy-to-find place, getting our PFDs out...

We were underway by 2:55 am. I was a bit tense about navigating so near shore in the dark (the first hour of our 13-hour trip would be around the northern tip of Andros Island, through the sometimes-busy passage between the island and the mainland), where I was concerned there might be fishing floats or other unmarked hazards lurking in the dark. We had the radar going, and I could clearly see the lights on even the smallest boats, so that was reassuring.

My journey in darkness didn't last long as the sky began to lighten by 5 am. The weather was calm, the ship traffic was light and mostly confined to the middle of the passage, and Awildian didn't encounter any unmarked hazards.


Sunrise

While underway, I pondered how many hours I've traveled by boat in darkness. The answer is, a lot!
I decided that it's probably been about 10-15% of my boat travel time, almost all of it done in open water, away from land; not close to shore, like this. This is only the second time we've moved Awildian at night - the other time being our trip across the Adriatic Sea from Monopoli, Italy, to Cavtat, Croatia, in June of 2022.

MAGICAL!! That's what I wrote in our journal, to describe being greeted by a pod of exuberant dolphins, who came to play in Awildian's bow wave at sunrise. We never get tired of seeing dolphins! What a lovely way to begin our day!

And what a very long day it was! With the usual "feast or famine" wind conditions in the Med, we were served "famine" today, and ended up motoring the whole 85 miles, arriving at the port of Chios at 3pm. We weren't sure exactly where we were supposed to tie up for Customs clearance. One place that seemed likely already had two big ferries tied up there, with only a small patch of dock available between them.

We drove around a little and then pulled alongside a big juicy clear length of dock off to the side of the ferries. Just as I was finishing tying Awildian to the shore, a man in a uniform came to tell me that we couldn't tie up there, because it's the spot for the Coast Guard boat (which happened to be out at the time). He couldn't tell me where we should tie up, just that we couldn't tie up there.


Chios Port

In the photo, "1" marks the first place we tied up, and "2" is where we eventually tied up. You can see from all the ferry tracks what a busy place this is!

OK. So we untied and went back over to where the ferries were docked. Eric maneuvered Awildian into the small space along the dock between the two ferries (fortunately, Awildian is very maneuverable), and while I hung out on the boat, Eric took our boat documents and went to figure out where and how to check us out of Greece. I took photos of the ferries in front of us and behind us. They were actually closer than it seems from the photos.


Behind us


In front of us

The officials checked our passports not just to make sure that we'd cleared into Greece properly, but also to calculate the number of days that we'd been there, to make sure that we weren't overstaying, before stamping them. There was some confusion among some of the officials, concerning what to do with our Greek transit log (the record we're required to keep, of the places we'd checked into and out of, during our stay in Greece). Phone calls were made, documents were shuttled between various offices, and in the end the appropriate authorities kept our transit log and we were free to go. With the stipulation that we call the port control on VHF12 when we were ready to leave the dock.


The Customs building/ferry terminal

We untied Awildian and then I called the port control. As I was waiting for them to respond, a huge ship loomed into my vision: a big ferry was entering the port, almost filling the narrow entrance. So we held our position along the dock until the ferry had entered the port, done a slow pirouette and backed up against the shore to disgorge its vehicles and passengers.


A very large ferry in a not-very-large port

When port control called to tell us we could go, we left Khios port, heading around the corner of the island to a nice, big, open anchorange called Paralia Megas Limnionas , which basically means "Big Limnionas Beach," where we dropped our anchor, finally able to relax after a very long day.

Just across the water, about 4 miles away, we could see Turkey. Tomorrow we'd head over there, to Ҫeşme Marina, where we'd meet up with our Turkish agent, and clear into the country. For now, though, our thoughts were only on dinner and sleep.

Saronic Summer

18 May 2024 | Saronic Gulf, Greece
Vandy Shrader
May thru July 2023

Here's a fun animated travelogue of our Saronic Summer, with pictures from our adventures. Remember to turn the sound on (icon in lower right corner).

Saronic Summer Animation

Want more details? Keep reading...

Summer 2023 was an extravaganza of friends and family who came to see us. Between the end of May and mid-July, we enjoyed visits from our daughter, Kelly, and her boyfriend, Daniel; our German friends, Heike, Felix, and Milena; our American friends, Debbie and Morris; and our Australian friends, Annie and Liam. We had a great time exploring islands, towns, and archaeological sites of Greece together.

We'd decided to spend most of our time in the Saronic Gulf, the large body of water bordered by the Attica Peninsula (where Athens is located) to the east, and the Peloponnese Peninsula to the west.


The Saronic Gulf

The Gulf has many beautiful and interesting places to visit, and it's also sheltered from the brunt of the meltemi wind, the strong summer breeze that blows from north to south down the Aegean Sea and can last for days or weeks at a time. Being in the Saronic Gulf ensured that our visitors were comfortable during their visits, and that they could also reliably reach their travel connections without worrying about disruptions due to the meltemi.

We were also able to pop over to two of the closest Cyclades Islands, when the meltemi took a break. We visited Kythnos twice - once with Kelly and Daniel, and once with Heike, Felix, and Milena - and Kea once, with Morris and Debbie. These islands have a very different vibe and architecture from the mainland (including those iconic blue and white houses),



and some spectacular beaches,

Kolona Beach

so they were especially fun to visit. We got the name and phone number of a taxi driver on Kythnos, who took us all over the island. We toured a cave where an entire town used to shelter from marauders,


Katafyki Cave near Dryopida

strolled charming streets,



and had lunch in the shade of some beautiful bouganvillas.



Kythnos and Kea are also criss-crossed by hundreds of stone walls (ancient and modern) built without mortar, a fascinating construction technique known as drystone.

Greek drystone

Some of the places we visited in the Saronic Gulf include:

Poros, a quaint island town with lots of good restaurants and shops, cute cobblestone paths, and hikes with stunning vistas. We brought everyone here except for Kelly and Daniel, who had only a very short visit with us. Dozens of ferries visit Poros every day, and their wakes routinely rock the boats on the town quay and in the anchorages as they pass by. Even Awildian, with his wide, stable stance, had some occasional bronco rides from the ferry wakes, one of which caused an unattended and (fortunately) empty wine glass to fall off the counter and smash on the floor.

As is our habit, we avoided the crowded town quay and instead anchored just across the channel from Poros, near the town of Galatas. From here, a short dinghy ride took us to the Poros town quay, or into Galatas, where we did our grocery shopping, got haircuts, and took care of other non-touristy activities.



Aegina, known for its excellent pistachios, ancient ruins, and lovely beaches. We visited Marathonas Bay and Agia South, depending on which was more comfortable in the current wind and wave conditions.


Marathonas sunset

Epidavros, where ruins of a submerged ancient Roman villa, lay just beneath the clear water in a pretty bay, and are easily explored by kayak or snorkeling.


Snorkeling the ruins

The larger, more famous Epidavros ruins are farther inland, but we didn't get there.

The water was so clear you could even see our anchor - which wasn't having to do much at the moment - dug into the bottom.



As we were leaving Epidavros with our friends, Annie and Liam, we got a call on the VHF: our Belgian friends, Cindy and Geert, on the boat, Zensation (whom we'd all spent time with in New Zealand and Fiji), were approaching Epidavros. So we turned around, re-anchored, and spent another day and night in Epidavros, with Zensation anchored nearby.


A fun surprise

Some Belgian teenagers, who happened to be camping with friends on shore, and saw Zensation's Belgian flag, swam over and joined us on Awildian for the afternoon. Fun times!

Korfos is a tiny town off the beaten track, where Eric and I spent a couple of weeks between visitors. We got to know some of the locals there, including Anna, the town's young pharmacist, who helped us sort out medical care - including a taxi ride to the small hospital in Corinth, 45 minutes away - when Eric's back unexpectedly packed up. (Not a fun thing, when you're on anchor and have to dinghy in for medical care.)

Anna had recently opened a small pharmacy - the only one in town - in one corner of the building that houses her family's bakery. She speaks excellent English, and told us that some pharmacists, such as herself, have training and knowledge beyond just drugs, and act as first responders in small villages like Korfos, which don't have a doctor of their own.

Because it was so difficult for Eric to get around, Anna came out to Awildian three times to administer the daily injections that had been prescribed for him. I taxied her in our dinghy from the town quay to our boat, where she enjoyed the new experiences of seeing her town from the water and being on a catamaran.


Us with Anna

If you find yourself in Korfos, requiring medical care or prescriptions filled, Anna will most likely be able to help you. Korfos Pharmacy +30 274 109 5300

We anchored at Sounion, on the very southern tip of the Attica Peninsula, five times. It provides shelter from the north wind, has good holding in sand, and of course is overlooked by the gorgeous and interesting Temple of Poseidon high on a bluff. It's also a good jumping-off point for visits to the Cyclades, or to visit Athens, both of which we did with Kelly and Daniel.

Besides looking impressive and being very old, the Temple of Poseidon also sports a lot of cool graffiti, some of which is many centuries old. One notable bit of graffito (which I marked in the photo below), was inscribed by none other than Lord Byron, who was apparently a scofflaw, as well as a poet, back in 1810 or 1811.


Lord Byron the bad-ass

Athens. After surviving a terrifying taxi ride to Athens, during which the driver routinely went twice the speed limit and weaved in and out of traffic, we climbed up to have a look at the Acropolis. This was early enough in the year that the massive crowds that descended on the site later in the summer hadn't yet arrived, so we could walk around freely. The vibe there was eerily powerful, as a very active thunderstorm loomed over us, spewing bolts of lightning, that I could almost imagine were thrown by Zeus himself, followed by growling thunder.



We were particularly impressed that the large amphitheater, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which was built in AD 161, is still in use as a music and theater venue. In fact, when we were there, workers were in the process of collecting seat cushions that had been used for an event the previous night.


Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Vari, just south of Athens, was a good place for us to hang out with Annie and Liam during some particularly strong north winds during the final days of their visit. The bay was spacious and sheltered from the north; the holding, in sand, was excellent; and Annie and Liam could easily catch a taxi to the airport from shore.

The bay was popular with wind surfers and kite-boarders of every skill level; we enjoyed watching them zip by (or plod by, if they were new to the sport) with their bright colors, and checked in on them when they occasionally bumped into Awildian. Also, sadly, while we were there, the strong winds fanned some devastating fires just to the south of us.



In mid-July, when our friends, Annie and Liam, left to continue their travels, and our Greek visa was in its third (and final) month, Eric and I headed back to Sounion again, where we waited for the meltemi to take a breather so that we could cross the Aegean Sea, check out of Greece, and head to Turkey, where we'd spend the next two or three months.





Awildian's Animated Travels - May 2023 - Montenegro to Athens

14 May 2024 | Porto Montenegro to Athens
Vandy Shrader
Hello!

Here is an animated recap of Awildian's travels from Porto Montenegro to Athens, in May 2023.

Montenegro to Athens

Remember to turn on the sound (icon in the lower right corner of the screen).

Enjoy!

Racing to Athens - Zakinthos to Sounion

14 April 2024 | Zakinthos to Sounion, Greece
Vandy Shrader
May 11-27, 2023



Key to the Map:
1. Laganas 2. Methoni 3. Elafonisos
4. Kremmidhi 5.Porto Cheli 6. Kapari
7. Poros 8. Aegina anchorage 9. Portes
10. Voula 11. Sounion

Pedal to the Metal
The second two weeks of May were pretty much like the first. We continued our trek toward Athens, scooting around the southern end of the Peloponnese Peninsula. A much shorter route, through the Corinth Canal in the northern part of the peninsula, wasn't an option for us, as it was closed for repairs due to a big landslide, and wasn't scheduled to reopen until June 1.

As we headed south, and then east, we watched the weather carefully. The wind can really pick up around here, roaring around the Peloponnese from the east or from the west, and we didn't want to experience any of that. For the time being, the wind was mellow, and in fact we had to motor most of the way. We didn't dally, but kept our pace up, so that if the weather did change and kept us in one place for awhile, we'd still be near Athens by the time that Kelly and Daniel would arrive on May 27.

Methoni
Our first stop, after a 68-mile trip from Zakinthos, was the anchorage at Methoni, on the tip of the first "finger" of the peninsula. The aptly-named, and really interesting-looking, Methoni Castle welcomed us to the anchorage, but since we were arriving late in the day, and had plans to leave early the next morning, we didn't check it out.





As with most of our anchorages on this part of our travels, we hoped to come back another time when we'd have a chance to really explore.

Elafonisos Island
The next day, seventy miles and about ten hours after we left Methoni, we dropped anchor in a beautiful bay on the south coast of Elafonisos Island.



This anchorage was beautiful, with a crescent of white sand on shore, and clear, turquoise water.



With the Corinth Canal closed until June 1, any shipping traffic had to come around the bottom of the Peloponnese, as we were doing. There was plenty of traffic. All those ships gave us something to look at along the way, and some obstacles to avoid.



After Elafonisos, we dipped around the southernmost finger of the Peloponnese Peninsula and turned north. This was a shorter trip, only about 33 miles, taking us along the rugged coast, past the sixth-century town of Monemvasia, perched on the end of a short, rocky peninsula (another place we hoped to explore another time). We considered anchoring at one of the two anchorages near the town, but decided to continue a bit farther north to anchor in Ormos Kremmidhi.

Ormos Kremmedhi
Ormos Kremmidhi's white-rock cliffs provided good protection from the forecast north wind, and its sandy bottom, shining through the clear water, held Obama snugly.



Since we'd arrived in the early afternoon, we had time to take the dinghy around the headland to a cute little restaurant at the Annema Hotel, where we enjoyed a tasty and inexpensive Greek dinner. Since we were the only two customers, our waiter sat down to chat with us for awhile.



Porto Cheli
When we arrived at Porto Cheli the following day, we did a little happy dance. Why? We'd achieved our goal of being within ferry distance from Athens. From now until Kelly and Daniel arrived in Athens in about two weeks, no matter where we happened to be between here and there, they could easily get to us. Taking our foot off our virtual accelerator, we allowed ourselves to enjoy a couple of days in Porto Cheli. In addition to having a cute town, and a marina, Porto Cheli's anchorage is a well-known hurricane hole, where boats can shelter from strong winds and waves within its large, nearly-enclosed bay, with its bottom of thick, anchor-holding mud.


Photo from MarinaTips.com

Meandering to Athens
Our goal having been reached, we continued moving toward Athens, though at a much more leisurely pace. Our next stop was Ormos Kapari, a mere 15 miles away, near the town of Ermione. We arrived here during the afternoon thermal period (AKA sea breeze), and dropped anchor near the lovely beach. We did a bit of boat maintenance and spent one night there.



Poros
The next day we traveled to Poros, a quaint Greek town that we'd heard a lot about from our cruising friends. Poros didn't disappoint: from the moment that we rounded the eastern end of the island, motoring along the narrow channel, passing dozens of sailboats moored along the town quay, with the town providing a picturesque backdrop, we were charmed. We returned to Poros five or six times during the summer.


Photo from SailingIssues.com

Rather than jockeying for a spot along the crowded town quay, we continued past the town and dropped anchor in pretty little Neoriou Bay. Quiet, uncrowded, and ringed with a white sand beach, Neoriou was a relaxing place to hang out for a couple of days, watching the parade of sailboats heading away from Poros every morning, and toward Poros every afternoon. It was convenient, too: from here, it was just a five-minute dinghy ride to the town quay.



Friends of ours had told us that "the best chandlery in the world" was located in Poros. We were looking for a particular boat part, a line clutch, to replace one that had broken, so we visited this chandlery to find out if they had it. Our opinion: it may in fact be the best chandlery in the world.

The walls of the small, narrow shop were filled with all kinds of boat parts, from the floor all the way up to the ceiling. Eric and I had a look around, and then, completely overwhelmed by the collection of items on display, none of them the one we wanted, showed a picture of the part we were looking for, to the shop keeper. He didn't speak much English, but he held up a finger and said, "Wait." Getting a ladder, he climbed up to the top, reached his hand up to a high shelf, where he felt around and retrieved something. When he came down the ladder, he was holding the exact model of line clutch that we'd needed.

Unlike what we were used to in the rest of the world, in Greece, diesel isn't usually sold at fuel docks. Instead, tanker trunks deliver it to boats at the town quay. Awildian needed his diesel tanks filled, so we got the number of the local tank truck and gave him a call. The price per liter was about the same as the price as at the gas station pumps, which surprised us, considering that it was being delivered.

Since Awildian wasn't staying on the town quay, we'd need to bring him there to get filled. Though packed like sardines by late afternoon, most boats left by 9 or 10 in the morning, on their way to their next destination, leaving empty spots on the quay. On the morning that we were going to buy diesel, we scanned the quay through our binoculars. A big gap had opened up - big enough to tie Awildian alongside, rather than stern-to. Perfect!

We pulled up our anchor, motored over to the quay, tied Awildian to the wall, called the diesel guy, and told him where we were. He came along in a few minutes and filled Awildian's tanks. A half hour later we were on our way, with less money but more diesel.

Aegina
Months earlier, while we were still in Montenegro planning our trip to Greece, we'd decided to have Kelly and Daniel take a ferry from Athens, and meet us on the island of Aegina. When we left Poros, we headed to Aegina. Though we still had more than a week until they arrived, we wanted to get there, check out the anchorage, and do some exploring. We also had to have our "transit log" stamped by the port police there, as we'd listed Aegina as our destination, when we'd left Preveza. We chose the anchorage closest to the port where the ferries docked, and where the bulk of the main town lay. The anchorage was open to the entire western sector, on a broad shelf of sand and weeds in shallow water. The comments on Navily mentioned, and Google Earth showed, a submerged stone wall that bisected the anchorage, with a depth of less than one meter. We made sure to avoid that area when we were anchoring.

We put our dinghy in the water and zipped over to the port, checking out the submerged rock wall along the way, and tying up among some small fishing boats in the marina.


Photo from iStock.com

Walking into town, we found the port police office and had our transit log stamped. For our next destination, we listed the island of Kythnos, since we hoped to get there with Kelly and Daniel. We checked out the small grocery stores, and discovered another chandlery, which is also now in the running for the best chandlery in the world.

Why?

For months, we'd been looking for some 2-inch (50 mm) sanitation hose, to replace the hoses of that size in Awildian. (Yeah, I know, the cruising life is all glamour, all the time.) These were the only sanitation hoses we hadn't yet replaced, because we hadn't been able to find any. Eric had looked online, in Montenegrin chandleries, in Greek chandleries...no luck. The Best Chandlery in the World in Poros hadn't had any. So we weren't hopeful when he asked the man in the small, cluttered Aegina chandlery whether he had some 50 mm sanitation hose. To our surprise, instead of telling us no, he asked us how much we needed.

"Six meters," Eric told him. The man nodded and disappeared into the back room. A few minutes later he returned with a coil of hose. Was it...yes it was! He happened to have a piece of 50 mm sanitation hose that was just shy of 6 meters long! Halleluia!

Figuring that he was on a roll, Eric then asked the man if he had a grease gun (something else we hadn't been able to find anywhere). He walked to a shelf, reached into a box, and pulled out a grease gun.

It was really too bad that we didn't have a lottery ticket to buy.

Aegina, it turns out, is famous for its pistachios. We discovered this when, on our way back to our dinghy, we bumped into a small wooden booth that sold pistachios. The extremely enthusiastic woman who was in the booth offered us some pistachios to try. They were really good, and we said so.

Without missing a beat, she then held out a tiny spoon to each of us, loaded with a dollop of tan paste:

"Try some pistachio butter," (we did),

then another loaded spoon: "try some pistachio cream" (we did),
then a small plastic cup: "try some pistachio liquor" (we did),

then a napkin with a small bit of something nutty "try some pistachio roll" (we did).

We stopped sampling after that, content to leave with a kilogram of roasted pistachios and a couple of pistachio rolls. I don't know what was different about those pistachios, but they were the best we'd ever had.

During the night, waves began to roll into our anchorage from the northwest. At first small and polite, they became larger and more noticeable as time went on, so that by morning, they were truly annoying. At first we thought they were ferry wakes, but we soon realized that they continued even after the ferries were tucked into port. The wind was calm, and Awildian was turned beam-on to these suckers. Being a catamaran, he wasn't rolling with the nausea-inducing, metronomic gusto of the monohull who was anchored nearby, but it was still unpleasant enough that we decided to move on after breakfast.

Portes Cove
Since the waves were coming from the northwest, we scooted around the southern end of Aegina, and about halfway up the eastern side, until we came to a pretty little indentation in the shoreline called Portes Cove. We enjoyed one sunny afternoon, and a clear, starry night here, the only boat in the place.


Photo from EcoTourismGreece.com

Since we still had a few days before Kelly and Daniel came, and we preferred not to hang out in the Aegina anchorage, we decided to move closer to Athens, and find a good place to meet them.

Voula Beach
The Voula Beach anchorage looked promising. On the west coast of the Attic Peninsula, in the outskirts of the Athenian suburbs, it provided good protection from the forecast wind, and might be a good place to stage for Kelly and Daniel's arrival. The busy shipping lanes running north and south between Aegina and the peninsula provided us some focus, as we navigated west to east across them, carefully avoiding the steel behemoths. Arriving at Voula, we found a big sand patch among the fields of weeds, and buried Obama in it. Again, we were the only boat.


Photo by Greeka.com

It was time to do some reconnaissance. On shore were several sandy beaches, bristling with beach umbrellas, and packed with people. This was just down the road from Athens, after all. It looked like this particular beach area had seen better days, as several of the buildings sported graffiti, and some were boarded up. Some of the beachgoers were walking along the beach and disappearing up a path toward the main road. There didn't seem to be any good places to park and lock a dinghy along there, so we took our dinghy and scouted further south along the shore. Here, we found some large culverts with criss-crossed rebar blocking their seaward openings, and a set of stairs going up to a parking lot. It was sketchy, but it would do for now.

We locked our dinghy to one of the rebar gates, walked down the beach, and up the stairs to the road. Kelly and Daniel could take a taxi to here from the airport, if we decided to meet them here. Across the street, we could see a small grocery store. We crossed the road, bought some items, and returned to our dinghy...which was now getting doused with waves from the afternoon sea breeze. Ugh. We unlocked the dinghy, turned it around, climbed in, and pushed it out away from the rocky shore.

Even though Voula Beach was convenient to the Athens Airport, it really wasn't going to work as a place to pick up Kelly and Daniel. Maneuvering their luggage down the stairs, across the beach, to the skanky drainage pipes, was far less than ideal. Also, since we were hoping to get Kelly and Daniel to the island of Kythnos during the three days they'd be with us, we wanted to find a starting place that was closer to the Cyclades.

Sounion
And we found one. At the very southern tip of the Attica Peninsula, presided over by the Temple of Poseidon from high on a bluff, was a big, lovely anchorage called Sounion.



We anchored Awildian on the western side of the bay, away from the bluff, and the glut of charter boats that for some reason preferred to anchor on that side. We dinghied to shore, and enjoyed lunch at one of the two small seafood restaurants there. This would be a great spot to pick up Kelly and Daniel!

Two days later, Kelly and Daniel's taxi pulled up to the restaurant. After hugs all around, we helped them bring their luggage down to our dinghy, which zipped us back to Awildian, beginning three fabulous days together.





Continuing toward Athens: Preveza to Zakinthos Island - the Levkas Canal, a rare sighting, Kastos Island, sickened honeybees, Zakinthos Island

27 January 2024 | Preveza to Zakinthos Island, Greece
Vandy Shrader
May 9, 2023
Preveza anchorage to Nisaki Sarakiniko, Kastos Island
28.7nm


The Levkas Canal

As soon as we got back to Awildian with our exit paperwork, we rushed to leave. With less than an hour to travel the 8 miles to the northern entrance of the Levkas Canal, with its floating bridge that opened on the hour, we were in a hurry. If we missed this opening, we'd have to mill around for an hour, wasting time while we waited for the next one. We pulled Obama up out of the mud, tucked him into his spot under the foredeck, and headed out.

We made it, arriving just as four or five boats who'd been milling around outside the entrance began making their way toward the narrow channel.


You don't want to cut corners here


Levkas Canal, north entry


Old castle at the north entry

The floating bridge is really neat! It's basically a rectangular barge whose short ends consist of hinged ramps that, when they're down, form part of the road that crosses the canal. To open the canal, the floating bridge rotates and moves out of the way, lying parallel to the shore until the last boat passes through. But not a second longer.







Transiting the Levkas Canal, at a leisurely 5 knots, took most of an hour. Along the way, we enjoyed looking at the scenery.


Levkas Canal

The Canal has been around for a long time, having been dug in the 7th Century BC, separating the island of Lefkada from the mainland. It's still hard for us to get our heads around the age of some of the construction in this part of the world.

Eric was steering, and he was careful to stay inside the markers - just outside was a sunken wall of corrugated steel, whose top was just inches below the surface and could inflict a lot of damage to a boat's hull.

A Rare Sighting

Beyond the Canal, the waterway opened up again, with the Greek mainland (the Peloponnese Peninsula) and its huge mountains to our left, and numerous islands to our right. After the relative exposure of the Albanian coastline, I was glad to be back among islands again, with the shelter they offer.

The wind was calm, and the water was flat and glassy, as Awildian made his way south. Up ahead, breaking the surface of the water, I saw what might have been a log floating in the water. But then it moved! Grabbing my binoculars, I had a look. I saw a long rounded section, and a smaller round section that had a bulbous snout and big, black, soulful eyes. It was a seal! A seal?! I didn't know that seals lived in the Med. Apparently they do, well, one species at least: the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), though there aren't many of them. In 2015 their population was estimated to be fewer than 700 individuals. I always feel thrilled when I see a seal; I felt honored to have seen a Mediterranean monk seal.


A Mediterranean monk seal, image from NOAA

Anchoring at Kastos Island

The rest of our afternoon was uneventful. Along the way, we'd perused the selection of nearby anchorages listed on Navily and chosen one that looked good, on the western shore of Kalamos Island. When we arrived, we agreed with the reviews that it was beautiful, and we were charmed by the goats cavorting on the hillsides, but we found the anchoring area to be a bit too small for our comfort. So we consulted Navily again and pushed on to another anchorage a few miles farther along, called Nisaki Sarakiniko, on the west side of Kastos Island.

This anchorage suited us better: it was a lot bigger, with more swinging room; was shallow enough to anchor a good distance from shore; had lovely scenery, including a cute little island in the middle;



and yes, there were even goats on the beach. There was a small pier, some nice houses, and a shiny Airstream camper on shore.



We dropped Obama in 28 feet of clear water onto sand, and relaxed.


May 10, 2023
Nisaki Sarakiniko to "Keri" anchorage, Kólpos Lagana, Zakinthos Island
61.5nm


Honeybees

I want to talk about the honeybees I encountered yesterday and today. It's not unusual for honeybees to come to visit: over the years in our travels, we've hosted many of the gentle insects when they stop for a rest during their flights across the water. I'll soak one end of a Q-tip (cotton bud) in water and the other in honey, and put it near them so they can have a drink or snack. Usually, they'll have some sips of one or both and then, refreshed, continue on to wherever they'd been heading.

What was notable about these honeybees was that they completely ignored my offerings, stumbling around as if they were blind or disoriented, occasionally buzzing their wings but not lifting off. They kept trying to "clean" their antennae, their eyes, and their protruding tongues, rubbing them continually with their forelegs. I wondered if they had been poisoned by something. They wandered around for hours, even after darkness fell. In the morning, some had died; others continued their dazed meanderings until they, too, perished. It made me sad, to see them in such a state. I thought of reporting this to some authority, but I had no idea where to begin, how to bridge the language gap, or if they would even care.

Traveling to Zakinthos Island

Our night in the Kastos Island anchorage was serene; silent, except for the soft, rhythmic hoots of a tiny scops owl (Otus scops) from somewhere on shore. We had a long way to go today, to the anchorage where we'd chosen to stop for the night, so we left relatively early, at 8:15 am. Along the way we had a smorgasbord of wind and sea conditions: no wind, 18 knots of wind, flat seas, lumpy seas, beam-on seas...No rain, though, which was nice. We sailed, we motored, we motor-sailed.

We arrived at Kólpos Lagana in the late afternoon.


Islands in Kólpos Lagana

Kólpos means "gulf." The gulf, which is a sea turtle sanctuary, is divided into zones with varying levels of restrictions: Zone A, Zone B, and Zone C. The entire place has a 6 knot speed limit, which we adhered to. It was ignored by the tourist boats that went zipping around with their paying customers, who were hoping to view turtles (while hopefully not chopping them up with their props).

We chose a spot off a beautiful sandy beach to the west of the Cameo Island Beach Bar, with its fanciful fabric sculpture that wafted lazily in the breeze.


Cameo Island Beach Bar


Closeup of the beach bar

It took Obama two tries to sink his point deeply into the sandy bottom, but eventually he did. Other Navily users had mentioned having a hard time getting their anchors to bite here; some who had dived to the bottom found a thin layer of sand over rock in some places, which would explain Obama's difficulty.

We didn't see any turtles while we were anchored at Kólpos Lagana, but to be fair, we were only there overnight, with most of our stay in the dark. It would be nice to come back here again when we have some more time to explore and enjoy the place. This was true of all the places we'd visit on our way to Athens.




Vessel Name: Awildian, previously SCOOTS (2012-2021)
Vessel Make/Model: Leopard 48
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA
Crew: Eric and Vandy Shrader
About: We've been living aboard full time since September 2014. We sailed our Able Apogee 50, SCOOTS, from 2012-2021, and are now aboard our Leopard 48, Awildian, since March 2022.
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