Catamaran cruising

Who: Carolyn & Chris Gebbie
11 July 2019 | Poros
11 July 2019 | Finikas
04 July 2019 | Ay Ioannou Bay, Naoussa
28 June 2019 | Ay Ioannou Bay, Naousa
28 June 2019 | Aliki
22 June 2019 | Anti Paros
22 June 2019 | Sifnos
22 June 2019 | Serifos
15 June 2019 | Cyclades
15 June 2019 | Lavrion
04 June 2019 | Porto Rafti
04 June 2019 | Voukaris
04 June 2019 | Sounion
04 June 2019 | Ay Marina
27 May 2019 | Epidhavros
22 May 2019 | Galaxidi/Delphi
20 May 2019 | Rion/Navpaktos/Trizonia

Heading West

11 July 2019 | Poros
Chris Gebbie
We needed to get ourselves more to the west to get out of the strong northerly wind systems through the Cyclades, so headed off back towards the island of Kythnos. We revisited the bays of Stefanou on the east coast and Sandbar Bay on the west coast over a couple of days as we positioned ourselves for the step across to the eastern Peloponnese around the Poros peninsula.

It's about 50 miles so we left early, anchor up at 06.30 and breakfast once the sails are set and we are underway on our course. The main complication of the trip is that you need to cross the end of the TSS (the big ship motorway) heading south from Athens. There's a lot of ships heading through these waters, we had up to three vessels bearing down on us from different directions at times. However, with the AIS system that shows heading and speed information it's much easier than it used to be just with Mk1 Eyeball. We had to alter course/slow down twice for cargo vessels that were determined not to shift their course by even a degree but comfortably kept the big stuff at a decent passing distance.
With a F2 forecast most of the voyage was under motor but we had the occasional period of 12-14 knots on the beam and the genoa came out to support the mainsail. Halfway across Chris noticed that we had a small split in the mainsail near to a batten car, luckily just below the first reefing point, so the main was reduced for the rest of the journey (and until we can get the tear sewn up).

Poros is a very busy port with hundreds of yachts and ferrys charging around the harbour. We chose to stop initially just outside the main area in a small bay on the Peleponese mainland called Aliki. It's a pretty place when you arrive from the sea, much greener than the islands of the Cyclades and with space for a number of yachts with reasonable shelter. We will use this to rest tonight and then take a look around the Poros area to see what the berthing options are and also find a good bay to hide in when more strong winds come through again on Thursday.

The view as you enter Poros harbour from the east

It's been a year of hiding from the winds here in the Aegean. We knew there was more wind but hadn't factored in the number of days when you really can't leave the harbour, around 40% of the time it's not been sensible to go sailing so far this season.

Main Picture: our anchorage at Aliki, Splice second left of the boats

Finikas, Nisos Siros

11 July 2019 | Finikas
We moored to the quay in Finikas around 15.45hrs and neighboring boats helped us get the lines on. Very quickly the port police were at the stern 'requesting' the skipper to visit their office with the ships papers. The Harbour Master turned up shortly afterwards and was helpful enough to organise a diesel delivery for us the next morning. The 'PP' were quite happy with our documents, well, we have got our Dekpa and paid the TEPAI tax so we are 'good sailors'. It cost about E16 per night on the quay so we paid for two nights thinking we would probably extend that later.

That night we found a taverna along the harbour front called Calmo Mare. As we entered and looked around for a table an American couple spoke to us and we ended up joining Rick and Barbara from 'Far Out' for a chat. The food was good, a tasty plate of tapas and a quarter litre of wine was E3.50 and all we needed after that was to share a grilled mackerel, although a bit salty, we enjoyed the meal and the company. As we all walked back towards the harbour there was a very professional band playing 'Rembetico' music (a romantic Greek style) so we stayed and watched for a while.

'Far Out' were anchored in the bay, as is their normal habit and the next day when the swell started to affect the quayside we decided they were right and after our two nights on the quay, went out to anchor off. Finikas is a nice place with a great bakery, a fruit and veg shop and a butcher a short walk away. We managed to stock up a little though the supermarkets were basic.

We spent two evenings chatting on board each others boats with 'Far Out' and made a joint expedition by local bus to the main town of Ermoupoli and its medieval 'Chora', the old settlement high on the hills away from the threat of seaborn raiders, which we visited using the free shuttle bus. It's a very pretty place and we wandered around, often lost, in the narrow alleyways but managed to find the cathedral of St George and a pleasant coffee stop before eventually finding the exit!

A dwelling in the ancient town

Once back in Ermoupoli Rick and Barbara suggested eating at Loutra Taverna which is located a street back from the bus station. Another excellent lunch - we ordered four tasty different dishes squid, chicken, beef and mushrooms which we shared and even had some leftover all for a very reasonable E34.

The harbour at Ermoupoli has a repulation for swell and we saw it was well deserved, as we watched the large ferries come charging into the same harbour as the yachts, pushing huge stern waves as they swung around to berth. We were glad we hadnt made the mistake of berthing there.

'Maltese Falcon moored in Ermoupoli

If you are big enough, however it is less of an issue and one of the biggest and most complicated sailing yachts in the world was berthed there. 'Maltese Falcon' is 88m long (8 times the length of Splice) Chris remembers reading all the news about her as she has three self supported masts and 15 electrically controlled furling sails. She didn't seem troubled by the swell but we couldnt help noticing that not all the sails were furled as neatly as they could have been! Trying to keep 15 automatic furling mechanisms working well must be tough job.

One of the better furled sails on Maltese Falcon

We enjoyed our visit to Finikas and would recommend it as a stop for a few days, probably at anchor unless you need diesel or water supplies.

Main picture, Ermoupoli from the harbour. The 'Chora' we visited is on the hill to the left.

Delos - Ancient Centre of Greek Culture

11 July 2019 | Delos
After eight days in Ay Ioannou (aka Monastir Bay) we decided to have a go at leaving. The winds were still from the north but had dropped to 10 knots, which made the 15 miles north to the group of islands which includes Delos a possibility. We were rather concerned that we might not have given the waves sufficient time to die down, but we wanted to get away and with the way the wind systems were coming through we were a bit anxious about our time to get back north to Zea Marina near Athens for our trip back to the UK.

We left at 08.00 hoping to visit Delos the same day. The first hour was more than a little bumpy as we crashed through the northerly swell. As the old sailors saying goes 'the seventh wave is always the largest' and as usual every few minutes we were stopped in our tracks by a curler rather bigger than its siblings. We kept at it and gradually the protection of the approaching islands reduced the wave size and we had a reasonable final hour.

To visit the site of ancient Delos you anchor in the channel between that island and the next, unfortunately when we arrived the wind was accelerating through the channel (which is open to the north and south) and gusting to 20 plus knots and the waves in the anchorage were not suitable to leave the boat. We retreated to South Bay on the adjacent island of Rinia and spent a more relaxed day there. Well, other than when two more idiot motor boat skippers insisted on forcing their craft between us and the shore, over our anchor to tie back to rocks together. 'It's the only place I can get the two boats together' was his rationale. Luckily they only stayed a few hours.

Another UK flagged boat came and anchored behind us later in the day. We had seen 'Hamble Warrior' (a Cruising Association couple) around in the Ionian the previous year and decided to swim over to say 'Hi'. We had a good chat and a couple of beers with Magpie and Jamie followed by a comfortable night.

The next day the wind was more westerly and we were the first boat anchored in the Delos channel. By the time we had had a coffee and dived to check the anchor there were 5/6 more and they kept arriving, as did the tripper boats from Mikonos. Large ferrys with hordes of day trippers descended on the place cutting up the water and paying no heed to the anchored boats. We had to queue to get a ticket but once through into the site it was large enough for the crowds not to be a major problem.

The Skipper surveys the scale of the site at Delos. This shows approximately 60% of the structures

The remaining stone lions from the 19 that originally guarded part of the Sacred Way

The scale and size of the site and the buildings are impressive for what was for most of its time a place for festivals not a working town. The theatre and the Sacred Way particularly must have been spectacular for their time. The edifices were constructed by wealthy city states to show their power and allegiance to the gods.

The central courtyard of one of the finer houses in Delos

We enjoyed looking around the houses, the larger ones built around a courtyard with multiple rooms off this central space. The preservation of much of the stone walkways between the houses gives you the sense of what the street would have been like. We spent two rather hot hours walking around but needed to get away to make progress to the west.

We left Delos around 12.30 hrs heading to Finikas on the island of Siros almost directly to the west. Guess where the wind was coming from.... yep, bang on the nose, though only around 5 knots. The engines did their job.

Main Picture: Part of the Sacred Way in Delos, to the left was originally a large columned building

Chaos in 'Lost Anchor Bay'

04 July 2019 | Ay Ioannou Bay, Naoussa
We had had a couple of comfortable days in the bay as the winds had not been as strong as forecast, but on Saturday night things changed. There had been two yachts moored together at the head of the bay for a day or two. They clearly belonged to the families that ran the two local water-skiing boats and we assumed that they had local knowledge that made this a safe thing to do in that location as it's normally very risky in any wind. At 03.00 hrs Chris heard voices and got up to investigate. The two yachts were clearly in trouble with anchors giving way and lines tangled (exactly why you don't do this 'double anchoring' thing). They managed to release one yacht that went behind us to re-anchor but the other had had his anchor out the wrong way (downwind) as part of their set up. He couldn't control his boat in the winds and crashed into the yacht moored behind him. This carried both vessels down onto the rocks behind them and into the lines of the motor yacht (see below - competitor 3). It took them about 30 minutes to free the initial yacht and tow it to windward, but then for some reason it broke free and hurtled back onto the poor victim with a crash that most of the bay heard.

Another 30 minutes saw another attempt and the yacht was towed clear and 'Victim' managed to escape and re-anchor, albeit with a badly smashed push-pit (the front bit of the yacht). Now the original yacht was being towed in front of us by the ski-boat. After two close misses as they struggled in the 25 knot winds, they lost control and this yacht ended up sitting back on our 'bridle' (two ropes that we use at the front of the catamaran attached to the chain to spread the load of the anchor and reduce swinging). So now we have another 10+ tons of boat, side on to the 25 knot winds, putting stress on our anchor and threatening to crush our bowsprit and bring down our rig. It became clear that the yacht had no power, presumably having lost or broken her propeller in the encounter with the rocks. So for 20 minutes we struggled to keep her clear of our bows and eventually they managed to tow her away again without any damage to us (other than lose of sleep and excess stress!). We got back to bed around 05.00 hrs so we were a touch tired the next day, but very thankful that our anchor held despite the excess loading. Our rating of 'Rocky the ROCNA' has increased substantially!

There is something about being the captain of large motor vessel that makes people lose any sense of consideration for others. We have seen this many times before but this weekend in Ay Ioannou aka Monastiri Bay has surpassed anything we've seen in the last 5 years since we left the UK.

There is a large rock at the head of the bay, in the centre. It seems to be a magnet for 100 foot plus motor yachts wanting to tie back to it. They don't seem to care that to do so they have to reverse back through the assembled yachts, drop huge anchors next to them and then tower over the nearest small boats. But, then it gets worse, the winds in the bay are unusual as a gap in the surrounding hills means the western side of the bay gets the predicted northerlies. In the eastern side, however the wind whips around the high curved cliffs there, accelerating the very strong gusts, and making them effectively westerlies, thus putting the wind on the side of unwary motor yachts!

When we arrived there was a gulet style yacht moored back there. He had taken account of the winds and moored at an angle to minimise the problem. He lasted a couple of days before his anchors dragged and he left. Then another huge monster came in and did the same. He lasted overnight before he left, narrowly missing two yachts as he tried to recover his anchors.

The third competitor in the 'large yacht silly anchoring' competition arrived in a 100 foot dark grey thing called 'Admiral'. I called his crew over and explained what had been happening, reminded them that the winds were getting stronger and advised that mooring there would put them and the yachts in a dangerous position. Of course he took no notice and squeezed their 'megabugger' (our term for monster power boats) into the space. By the next morning their anchors were askew (with a little help from the ski boat drama) and they decided to leave. With 20 knots of wind this is not easy and they drifted down onto a nearby charter yacht called "Beijing'', tangled their anchors in his and started to drag him around. Naturally they didn't actually notice such 'small fry' as a 45 ft yacht hanging off their bow and were merrily maneuvering until the shouts of the other boats brought their attention to the problem. Eventually they launched their rib and managed to release the yacht. Poor 'Beijing' re-anchored in the centre of the bay where he had been peacefully before.

Whilst this was going on a rib was hanging around with the sort of large straps these ships use to secure back to the shore. We guessed he came from the next 'competitor' who was loafing around at the back of the bay. Chris called them over and this time the captain was in the rib. Chris explained the past few days antics, reminded him of what had just happened and that the strongest winds were to come over the next two days. It would be very dangerous to moor back there, for him and the yachts around. The answer....'yea,yea, OK' and off they went to continue their madness. It took him two hours and a number of tries to get his ship secured back (that should have told him something) and he completely failed to account for the direction of the wind gusts, placing his ship with the winds fully on the beam. It was clear as soon as he stopped his engines that his anchors were under significant stress from the side pressure. Chris hailed him twice more pointing out that his anchors were likely to drag overnight but he was ignored.

It was a windy night with gusts in the high twenties and by morning it was clear that megabugger 'Erossea' had dragged her anchors to port as we predicted. It also looked likely that she had hooked 'Beijing's' anchor chain in the process.

Erossea catches Beijing and starts the tangle

The wind was still in the mid/high twenty knots range and we could see a dangerous situation developing as 'idiot captain' would now have to leave. He did, and immediately it was clear that 'Beijing' was again being dragged by the larger vessel. Unfortunately idiot captain (IC) didn't seem to have any idea what to do and was randomly accelerating to no effect whilst he drifted down on other yachts and his crew just stood there. 'Beijing' managed to free herself just before the assembly ploughed into the next yacht - 'Feisty' an American flagged vessel. Her anchor chain became hopelessly caught and the waltz continued towards the next victim, American flagged Oyster called 'Lulu'. She was caught as 'Erossea' continued her slide through the anchorage and her chain added to the 'cats-cradle' that IC was weaving. The unfortunate 'victim' of the previous night was now in his sights as the carnage continued and he joined the morass of meggabugger and three yachts drifting down towards the rocks at the end of the bay in a hopeless tangle.
By now Chris and 'Feisty' were calling the local coastguards and port authorities on the VHF but got no response. 'Beijing' who had re-anchored again, seemingly in safety, were the next target as Erossea ploughed on. Chris called them on VHF and suggested they got the anchor up....now! They just made it, escaping past Erossea's bows as the tangle continued on.

The lads from the water-ski boats now re-deamed themselves, jumping from their small boats onto the stricken yachts and working with the crews to do the only thing possible, cut away their anchors. Any boat should have the far end of its chain secured to the boat by rope (not for example a shackle) so that in emergency it can be cut free. With the help of the two lads all three boats were able to cut their anchors free and escape from Erossea's clutches. She continued down the bay seemingly out of control. We thought she would hit the rocks but eventually IC must have cut away his own anchors and started one engine. Amazingly he then started to drive the vessel back in to the anchorage though he clearly had no anchors and only partial control. Cue lots of caustic comments on the VHF but he continued to do this until, a few hours later, divers freed his other prop and he accelerated out of the bay into what we all hoped was a very uncomfortable passage in the strong winds!

It then took a number of hours and help from the water-ski lads before the three yachts had secondary anchors fixed to mostly rope rodes and were secure in the still difficult conditions. The night passed without further event!

We have seen a number of incidents since we left the UK but never the complete lack of consideration for others safety in combination with very little skill shown by this fool. 'Feisty' are submitting a complaint to the port authorities and Chris happily submitted a statement to support this. IC did turn up and apologise, but only to 'Lulu' for some reason, and a large recovery ship arrived to search for Erossea's anchors the next day. They promised to look for the other boats' anchors and pay for the damage as well but we don't know the outcome. The owner is clearly local and rather wealthy, lets hope he finds himself a better captain.

The crews gather for the 'post-stress dinner'

There was one good outcome, the victims gathered for a 'post stress' dinner and we were invited for Chris's contributions, playing 'harbour-master'. It was a fun evening with crews of four boats joining in and a good time was had by all.

These large mega yachts (ships really) have two massive anchors and could easily drop these in clear space, we don't understand why they all insist on mooring back to rocks. If anyone knows what drives this behavior (other than the owners insistence) we'd be interested to learn.

Main Photo: Erossea commences her assault on 'Feisty' (behind yacht in foreground) with 'Lulu' to right of shot. The rest of the tangle occurred too far away for photos and was only clear using our binoculars.

Ay Ioannou Bay, Naousa, Nisos Paros

28 June 2019 | Ay Ioannou Bay, Naousa
We left early the next morning to motor the 20 miles around the island of Paros to the large bay at it's northen end called Naoussa. This bay is shaped a bit like a crabs claw and therefore provides good shelter inside each 'pincer' though the town itself, which is on the shore at the south of the bay and facing the opening, is very exposed. There are lots of reports of damage in the marina in town and we had no intention of joining those statistics.

We anchored in the western anchorage which is called Ay Ioannou. It's a lovely bay with excellent protection from the north and a sandy bottom which provides good holding. It also means it's popular and as usual there were a number of boats already in place. We found a suitable position towards the front of the fleet and dropped the hook.

The view across Naousa bay from the roof of the church on the nearby hill

For the next two days boats were arriving and we had to defend our anchor a couple of times. We also needed to move twice, once as the fluky winds in the afternoon seem to push boats more to the east than expected and we were getting a bit near a gulet which had moored back to the rocks. We shifted 15m west to ensure there were no close calls. Then a motor yacht tried to go stern to the shore in high winds, lost control, wrapped a line around his propeller and ended up almost on the rocks. The dive boat pulled him off but left him dragging his anchor towards us with his engines out of use. He just missed us but ended up nearby with lots of chain out. We know these motorboats swing wildly at the best of time and with the predictions now up to 40 knot winds we decided to move ourselves further away. We now have a good position in the bay with 45m of chain out in around 6m of water and decent space around us.

As usual though there are some real idiots. A ship, too big to call even a huge motor yacht, decided that he was going to squeeze past all the moored yachts and anchor back to the rocks. Not only would this manoeuvre have been dangerous in the winds, but this massive vessel mixed into a fleet of small yachts would have caused chaos if it had broken loose or had problems in the winds to come. (The gullet had suffered just such problems the day before and had to re-anchor further out, fortunately he managed to avoid the other boats). Chris gave the 'Orient Star' the benefit of his experience as he passed us, but in the end the wind conditions deterred them and they retreated. They did come back in a rib on two further occasions to check out whether they could moor there though. The complete lack of consideration for other boats that these big monsters show still amazes us, even though it probably shouldn't do by now! Whilst I am typing this there have been two other large motor yachts trying to moor back to the rocks near us, one failed in the gusty winds, the other seems to have got his lines onshore now, at least he's only half the size of the 'Orient Star'.

Chris expresses his opinion as the Orient Star squeezes by Splice

The forecast since we arrived has extended the period of strong winds to over a week now so we will have to stay here at least that long. Whilst we have been getting gusts in the high 20's the worst winds are now expected to be Saturday, Sunday, Monday with gusts of over 40 knots from the north. We hope that the seas will subside by Wednesday allowing us to get north to the next island.

It's not all bad here though, it's a good place to be 'storm bound'. The water is clear and warm for swimming. There is a taverna/beach bar on the shore though it's expensive and we haven't tried it. A ferry runs from the nearby quay to the main town when the weather permits and Carolyn has been shopping on a couple of occasions whilst Chris minds the boat. We've been for a short walk ashore in the very rugged rocky surroundings, theres a local fisherman who comes around selling his catch each day, we've had some lovely fresh Dorade from him. We do manage to eat well on board, carrying lots of fruit and salads (though those do degrade very quickly in the heat)

Fresh Dorade roasted with fenel, lemon, rosemary & thyme and white wine

The Splice version of 'Salade Paysanne'

There are two other British boats near us, both Moody's ('Tiger Bay' and 'Patience') and we have had drinks with them on a couple of evenings and we have been able to get on with a few 'boat jobs' when the heat is not too bad. It's been in around 36-7 degrees here in the afternoons! Lets hope the 'Meltemi' gives us the chance to get out of here in the next week!

Main photo: The anchorage at Ay Ioannou Bay

Aliki, Nisos Paros

28 June 2019 | Aliki
We went ashore on the Sunday morning and were relieved to find the small supermarket was open, stocks of beer, wine and food were replenished as all were running somewhat low and we knew we had strong winds to hide from in the next few days.

On Sunday evening we decided to conserve our stores and eat ashore. Aliki is somewhat touristy but not unpleasantly so. They are building a large extention to the harbour wall which will provide more shelter, but it's a long way from finished. We strolled along the quay and chose to have a beer at a taverna near the beach, noticing as we sat down that there were microphones and amplification equipment being set up opposite. We asked the waitress who told us there was a local festival that night to celebrate the 'St Jean'. They make wreaths of local flowers on the 1st of May and let them dry, then on the 23rd June they make a bonfire on the beach, burn the wreaths and it's the tradition to jump over the bonfire. With Carolyn's French links we are well aware of the French festivities for 'Saint Jean' on the same day which involve burning things so we decided to stay and watch.
The food was good with taramasalata and a local dish of peas and potatoes in a tomatoe sauce which was nice for starters and a 'special pizza' with homemade dough - one of the best we have found in Greece. (We haven't found many decent pizzas actually, pizza is not a major food here).

Festivities at Aliki

We had to wait until 21.30 before anything happened, but after speeches (also in English and French) there was a display of local dancing and then they lit the fires on the beach and mostly young men were jumping over the flames. They also launched the small fishing boats and lit red flares to illuminate the proceedings. Unfortunately the crowds had simply flooded to stand in front of our table so what started as a front row seat became a 'see nothing seat' and we were limited to peering over heads.
An interesting evening anyway.

Main Photo: The Skipper was pleased with his pizza!

Vessel Name: Splice
Vessel Make/Model: Broadblue 435 Catamaran
Crew: Carolyn & Chris Gebbie
We have been married for over 25 years and have two grown up sons. Carolyn has dual English/French nationality and speaks French well. [...]
Extra: Contact us at splice435(the at sign)gmail.com
Splice's Photos - Main
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Created 15 May 2015
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Created 15 May 2015
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Created 14 April 2015

Who: Carolyn & Chris Gebbie