Starting from Crete in early May, we plan to explore the Cyclades until the Meltemi kicks in. Then at the end of June we'll make our way close to Athens to leave the boat in August ready to Jet off to our daughter's wedding. We will return in September and, return to Crete - circumnavigating if the weather permits - returning to Agios Nikolaos for the winter.

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

The argolic Gulf

This is the right-most gulf of the three on the Peloponnese. We have gone past it lots of times but haven't actually seen it. So we decided to give it a once-over while we wait for the trip back to the UK for Charlotte's & Merv's wedding.
We did a long hop from Poros to Porto Heli in 10 hours and managed to sail nearly all the way. That must be some sort of a record! We anchored in our usual spot near the wreck.
Visited the excellent A&B supermarket and also topped up the Diesel Tank with the cheapest fuel we have seen for a long time. The wind seems to be alternating each day with a Northerly in the morning and a Southerly in the afternoon with some spots of rain around 1600. We're only doing short hops so we have been able to plan voyages to match the winds and hardly use the motor at all.
First stop was behind  Korakonisi Island - only about 8 miles. It was well sheltered from the Southerly that took us in but we had a bit of a chop overnight as Northerlies started up again. We could have avoided it in the channel between the island and the mainland if we had but known. The bay had a large and beautiful house obviously housing someone pretty wealthy. You can tell that because their boats are all registered with flags of convenience to avoid taxes.
On Saturday, we headed around to Kioladhia - a large, shallow, well-sheltered bay another 8 miles on. The fishing town is small and very Greek - hardly a word of English spoken. There was room on the quay but we prefer to anchor. We hoped to pick up some fresh water but found it has been permanently turned off. The baker is good, and the little supermarket is also not too bad. Nice tavernas overlooking the harbour and even a chandler/hardware store.
Opposite the town, on the NW tip of the peninsula, there is a huge cave which was inhabited for 10,000 years. We took the dinghy over to the tiny beach below it and tied up on the small wooden quay. It's well worth a visit although it is locked unless you call someone specially (sounds expensive). You can see quite a lot through the bars and there is a large set of excellent notices telling the story of its habitation and the excavation (which is still continuing).

.......

Well that's a long gap when I haven't got around to writing anything. So a summary for completeness...
Next day, we passed Tolly by as it looked far too touristy for us and anchored at the north end of Karathona bay. Holding and shelter were good and the beach bar played nice music so we lazed in the sun, swam and turned in at 10.00. We nearly jumped out of bed when very loud rap music started at 23.00. Never mind, we thought it'll stop soon when they get tired - and it did - at 0600 next morning. Next day we walked up to the fascinating cave-church above and on the way down, noticed a poster advertising the music but only each Wednesday. So we decided to stay another night and were rewarded by blessed peace.
Next day was Navplion. We had high hopes of a lovely town but were sadly disappointed.  The holding was poor and when we did eventually get the anchor to hold, the wind blew a vicious chop onto the quay. We hung on till the water man came ( and charged us €12.00 for 300 litres!) then decided to go back to Karathona.
Big mistake! at 22.00, in pitch black, it started again. We couldn't face another night so upped anchor and went to the south end of the bay and dropped the hook with no trouble. We had a much quieter night but were horrified next morning to see that we were in a field of bathing-beach and mooring buoys (any one of which could have snagged our prop) but which had been completely invisible in the moonless night.
We looked at the pilot and decided to go to Astros on the other side of the gulf. It turned out a nice little place although light on facilities and the holding was only moderate.
Started the engine next morning to find no cooling water - the fan belt had broken. No prob - I had a spare. That's when I found I had been sold a size too big and I couldn't tighten it. It got us out of the harbour where we put the sails up and set off very slowly in very light winds for Port Heli where we hoped to get another belt. After an hour, the wind dropped completely so I gingerly put the engine on. It ran for 1/2 hour and then the belt stopped working. It took 13 hours to sail and anchor in Porto Heli. Sadly, next day, we found no sign of anyone who could help. I looked on the web for a Yanmar agent and found one in Kioladhia so we decided to sail around. The wind managed to be on the nose all the way around through 270 degrees so it was beating all the way - initially in light airs but in force 6 by the time we got there. We anchored under sail again and next morning went in search of the engineer. It turned out that he had trained and set up a business but couldn't get enough custom so was now managing a metal-bashing workshop nearby.
He was hugely helpful and endued up driving me around half the Peleponnese to find a shop that could get one - I ordered three.
Finally back in operation 3 days later, we toddled up to Poros via "frog island" and Spathi and anchored in Ormos Vidhi. We toyed with going to Methana but in the end lazed around, socialised with Sue and Ian and with Poly Argo. One day we walked up to Trizina and Devils Bridge - a very worthwhile trip.
And so to our buoy rented for only €120 from Nakis (one of the water taxi drivers) in the Poros channel. And then the long trip back to UK for the wedding.
We took the fast cat to Pireus (carrying the slow one in a basket miaowing all the way). We intended to take the Metro but ended up using a taxi who did us a very good deal - first to Markopolou to drop Lucifer and then to Piri's hotel for the night.
Had a great time in England with Charlotte and also spent some time in New Milton for L's 60th birthday. Then off to France for the wedding - a wonderful occasion in a Chateau near Bordeaux.

Goodbye to Argosea

I realise that I have got terribly behind so this is going to be a quick catchup.
We sailed to Naoussa on the North side of Paros to catch up with Anne & Tony on Argosea. A heavy sail with heavy swell and a cat throwing up all over the place. Lovely! The anchorage is great but in a Northerly the harbour has a nasty swell and we bailed out. Pity because the harbour master (who has a 10 year lease) is nice, the facilities are good and reasonable. Apparently they will extend the breakwater even further this autumn and solve the problem for next year.
After Paros we went up to Delos - one of the main religious centres of the ancient world. Well worth a visit although the museum is poor and the signage is dreadful. We anchored at the South of Rinia - a lovely spot -and took a dinghy but we could easily have anchored much nearer the site (don't be put off by Rod Heikel).
Next stop Siros where we anchored in Finikas. A good safe anchorage with a nice little town. L and the others went off to Ermopoli (the capital of the island and of the whole Cyclades archipelago) but were very disappointed. I'm glad I stayed put on the boat.
The crossing to Kythnos was "stimulating". Winds on the beam up to force 6 and a heavy swell. We made it in 8 hours and moored in the "sand-bar bay" on the West side. Sadly Tony and Anne didn't make it and spent a night on the East side before joining us the next day. We had a nice quiet couple of days at anchor waiting for a better wind - including wallowing in the hot spring - and then crossed over to Spathi at the South Eastern tip of the Saronic. We stayed overnight in this tiny isolated anchorage then set of for Hydra. Argosea chickened out and anchored in Mandraki. We waited to give them a lift into the port but after 3 tries their windlass overheated so we went in alone and they caught a water bus later.
We were dead lucky to get the only quay berth under the breakwater. We love Hydra so it was a pleasure to wait until Anne & Tony turned up in the afternoon. We had a good & very reasonable meal up in the square and would definitely go there again. A & T finally took a taxi back at 23.30. Next morning, we waited until the boats in front of us left and then let go to pull up the anchor. Disaster struck! It was hooked under a huge mooring chain that runs across the harbour in 10M of water. It was so heavy that we could only lift it about a Meter off the bottom. At that depth, the anchor was barely visible and the hook with which I was fishing for the chain couldn't be seen at all. It took over an hour to get it so we could free the anchor!
Next stop Poros where Spiros in the Chandlery was his usual helpful self. He supplied several hard-to-get items and found us a mooring buoy for when we leave the boat in August for the wedding.
Argosea intended to head for Korfos ready to go through the Corinth Canal and we were set to go along and have a last meal and say our goodbyes. In the event, the wind wasn't playing and we both ended up in Aegina. There are worse places! We had a really nice meal together in the taverna on the quay by the Marina. Good menu, good prices good service - thoroughly recommended.
And so Goodbye. They sailed off for the Caribbean at 0700 as we waved from the quay - wet hankies all round.
We decided to head back to the Poros Bays as the wind was forecast a bit heavy for the next few days. Just as well we did as the jib refused to come down which would have been very difficult in a port. We met Ian and Sue on Pulsar 2 who we know from Malta and shared a couple of days meals and sun downers before heading off for the Argolic gulf.


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Slow route to Ios

L in going to learn to scuba dive in Ios and this seems like a good time to do it. The Summer winds haven't kicked in yet and the water is starting to warm up. We decided to circumnavigate Milos as some of the coastal scenery is spectacular and Argosea have not seen it. It lived up to expectations other than my internal compass failed miserably and I failed to recognise the spectacular anchorage of  Kleftiko and we went right past it!

We arrived at Manolonisi - a lovely little bay tucked underneath a small island. Warm(ish) clear water over gorgeous white sand. The wind was not the same direction as the slight swell so, really more for practice than anything, we decided to put out a kedge anchor. This involves letting out a lot more chain on the main anchor, backing up to the end of it, chucking in the kedge and then winding in the main anchor again so we're balanced between them. After a bit of discussion on what was the best way to organise chucking in, we figured it out and all went smoothly. We were very smug when we rolled around a lot less than any of the other boats. But...
What a nightmare the next day. The wind had strengthened and gone round to the side so both anchors were pulling hard sideways. So hard in fact that I couldn't pull in the kedge. We tried sterring the boat backwards over it but, apart from the danger of getting it round our prop, it is very difficult indeed to make the boat go where you want it with the bow anchor still attached. We couldn't let it go or the wind would have swung us onto the rocks. In the end we managed with a cats cradle of line around 4 separate winches. Took us over an hour to get the damned thing back on board!

And so off to Sifnos. Its only about 10 miles but was dead up wind. We beat until about half way when the wind died on us. Anne and Tony took a more southern route though and sailed virtually all the way. We planned to go to Faros which is a 3 headed bay on the South East tip of Sifnos. Unfortunately we were unable to get the anchor to stick anywhere in the East or North bays despite an hour of trying. We eventually managed to get the hook down in the West bay which ha slots of good clean sand - but there was enough of a swell to make it worth deploying Kay and Peter's "Flopper Stopper". Worked a treat. There is a lovely church in the bay which I took the opportunity to paint.

By 0700 today (Sunday) we were sailing with a lovely 10-15 knot wind behind us. With the Spinnaker up, we made well over 5 knots most of the way. Lovely! We dropped into Ios town to pick up water and milk and get our papers stamped and we're now anchored in a bay just south of there where we expect to stay for a week while L takes her PADI course.

Paros

We weren't looking forward to the voyage to Paros. We were expecting strong wind and swell on the nose and a long slow uncomfortable passage. We only went because the forecast for the next week was even worse.
The plan was to go into the port at 0800, do a quick shop then back to Milopotomas for L's last diving lesson. But the conditions in the port were horrible so we decided to go as soon as we had supplies. As we came out of Ios port, all our misgivings were confirmed. It was horrible. The only good thing was that Lucifer, having had a pill shoved unwillingly down his throat, slept through it all.
Luckily, after a couple of hours, once we got away from Ios and Sikinos, the wind moderated quite a bit and as we got closer to Paros the swell died away too. I couldn't decide whether to go between Paros and Antiparos or between Paros and Naxos - there were advantages to both. In the end, we let the wind make the decision and did the first. I had been worried that we would hit breakers in shallow water as we got beyond the shallows in the middle of the straight. I needn't have worried though, there weren't any!
We finally pulled into Naoussa bay and anchored in the North West corner and anchored on strong safe sand. And here we have stayed for 5 days, safe and comfortable, while the first Meltemi of the season has whistled round our ears.
The only short interlude was an abortive attempt to spend a night in Port during a lull. Unfortunately, it turned out that Northerlies send a vicious surge in and yacht moored where we were (under the new breakwater) are rolled and shoved sideways. With a forecast of it getting worse over night, we bailed out and went back to the Anchorage for a comfortable night.
We will probably stay here tomorrow too and then set of for Delos on Monday.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Milos

It's a long way to Milos so we got up at 0500 and left half an hour before dawn. The wind was whistling at 30 knots in the rigging which wasn't predicted. I guessed that it was a mountain effect as it was coming from the South through a valley. The good news was that as soon as we were out of the harbour it would be behind us all the way to Sikinos and I guessed it would die down as soon as we were clear of Ios.
Wrong!
It blew 30-35 knots until we rounded the top of Sikinos. We soon began to wonder if we were mad and should turn back. Luckily I was right about the direction and with just our pocket-handkerchief jib up, we were whistling along at over 7 Knots. Being with the swell, it was quite gentle. As we rounded Sikinos, it moderated a bit and the swell was stopped by the Island. We put up a double-reefed main and were soon glad we did as 35 knots came screeching out of a valley - and then again a few miles later.
Polonia Harbour
Once we cleared Sikinos, the wind dropped and turned westerly (on the nose). What with left-over swell and light winds, we had to hoist the iron topsail all the way to Kimolos. We had a look at Aliki beach where we had anchored on a previous trip but the residual swell from the wind overnight looked uncomfortable so we tried Polonia a mile away on Milos itself. Swell was OK but no room to swing because of laid moorings everywhere. In the end we anchored uncomfortably close to a large concrete barge 1Km South of Polonia, stayed for the afternoon then went back to Aliki where the swell had died and we had a comfortable night.
Day boat from Adamas
On our previous trip to Milos we had an uncomfortable time on the outside of the harbour wall. As we were expecting strong Westerlies the next couple of nights (it never seems to stop!) we tried to find an anchorage on the west side of the caldera. Some nice places but none with good holding so toddled over to Adamas to take a look. Surprise! The have added a huge new pontoon - very heavy and deep - which provides excellent shelter, free water and electricity and a modest charge (€23 for 3 nights regardless of size). It has good lazy lines but for reasons we never fathomed, everyone uses an anchor too and is encouraged to do so by the harbour master). The anchor has to be dropped in 2-3 Meters avoiding the huge concrete blocks and chains of the lazy lines.
We had a comfortable, if occasionally choppy, 3 nights whil a Westerly 6-7 howled round our ears - the worst direction for Adamas.

We thoroughly enjoyed Milos along with Anne & Tony of Argosea. They hiked up to the Chora one day then we hired a car and toured the island seeing amazing volcanic landscapes early Christian catacombs and re-visiting Polonia by land. We also ate a good meal reputedly cooked by volcanic heat under the restaurant and searched for a hot spring in the sea - unfortunately it turned out to be tepid at best although slightly sulphurous. A lovely place to swim though. Rather than a tedious write-up, I've just put some pictures below.
Catcombs
Lane in the Chora
Windmill
Caldera from Chora
Eastern Milos
Papafragas
Sarakiniko


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Santorini

Tris Klithies
We headed off at the crack of dawn to get a gentle northerly wind through the notorious straight between Paros and Naxos. It turned out to be a gentle Westerly but it would be churlish to complain. The wind gradually strengthened from the West (as expected) as we approached Ios and we had already decided to anchor in one of the deserted bays on its East coast. We headed for Thodotis which look great on Google Earth. Unfortunately, we didn't get around to looking at the charts till we were almost there only to find that the bottom is covered by disused submarine cables (otherwise known as anchor traps). So we headed down to Tris Klises which turned out to be much nicer than expected. Almost deserted, clear turquoise water and good holding. Had a nice relaxing evening and night before cracking on next day down to Santorini to meet Anne and Tony on Argosea.
Oia from the crater
We sailed through the crater on a gentle breeze. What a way to see this most spectacular of Greek Islands! Vlichada is the only safe mooring on the island and we knew serious winds were arriving the next day so we headed there nice and early to be sure of getting a good berth. We arrived to be greeted by a "marinero" who was a complete waste of space - knew nothing about how boats worked and kept pulling the wrong ropes and telling us to do things which were plainly impossible. We ended on a concrete wall with chop and winds grinding us on and were in serious danger of damage. I finally managed to get off the wall again with great difficulty (he wouldn't put the ropes where I wanted them to spring off - thank heavens for the trusty bow thruster and even more trusty L with a balloon fender. We re-moored on a hammer head which was much better. Argosea came in an hour later after a very long run from Crete and were rafted up outside a yacht about half their size - by the same "marinero".
All this didn't bode at all well for the next day when an easterly gale was expected which would blow big waves straight into the entrance and onto our boats. Luckily the manager was on and he arranged for us all to be moored inside on safe moorings and all was well in both the Easterly and an immediately following Westerly.
The house of the Ladies - Akrotiri

4500 year old house at Akrotiri - complete with plumbing
We hired a car for a day from Dimitri's for €30 and set off to see the sights. The most impressive was the ruins of Akrotiri which is a pre-eruption city buried by volcanic ash. L and I had been to Santorini before but this site was closed as the roof had collapsed and killed a tourist! The new building which completely encloses the huge site is itself pretty impressive. Much of it has only been partly excavated and typically, in this country, nobody had bothered to try and tell a story with signs and posters. Still we speculated a lot, read what little was available and earwigged on some guides shepherding Japanese tourists around and got a pretty good impression. Some of the houses wouldn't have been out of place in the posher parts of London - they were complete with rainwater guttering and plumbing. And all this 4500 years ago!










Oia - Santorini
We went on to Oia, a spectacular little white-washed and blue painted Cycladic village perched on the Northern tip of the crater. It's very touristy but beautiful for all that. We avoided one very expensive restaurant by the skin of our teeth and found another just down the lane with a better view, nicer stall and much cheaper. It certainly pays to shop around. After a leisurely drive up the east coast, we did some shopping (there is a Lidle) and then went back for a snooze before eating a good meal back at Dimitri's above the marina.




It looked like we were going to be trapped in Santorini by winds for several more days but fortunately a very short weather window opened up for us to rush back up to Tris Klithies on Ios again - this time with Argosea in tow. After another good night, we set of for Sikinos on our way to Milos -only to be hit by a horrible wind and swell on the nose. The cat was sick, lots of things fell on the floor and we eventually gave up and headed back to - guess where - Ios again, this time the town quay where we waited out the wind for a couple of days. I though it would be awful but turned out to be surprisingly nice. Good quality harbour, pretty little town with an even prettier (if touristy) Chora above it.





Friday, 31 May 2013

Paros


We made landfall on Paros at Aliki. It's a large, fairly nondescript bay on the South side. It has good holding but not really any facilities. The tiny quay is choked up with local boats and the surroundings are full of permanent moorings. It made a good enough overnight stop ready to go on to the main port (Parikia) and then Naoussa bay.
We had a lovely calm Spinnaker run up to Parikia. We moored stern to on the outside wall of the harbour as all the lazy lines inside were taken (including one selfish devil who had taken two leaving a gap in the middle). It was OK for a shopping trip but we were expecting big winds at midnight so L did shopping and then we sailed most of the way to Naoussa.
We initially anchored in the hooked-around bay at the North West tip with several other boats. It was so shallow that we bumped our keel. The holding was OK but not great. Suddenly at about 3.00, everyone disappeared. We enjoyed our isolation at first but then began to wonder if they knew something we didn't. Re-checking, we decided the South West bay was a much better bet and sure-enough, there they all were and some other boats besides. It's a large bay with plenty of room and a strong mud bottom about 8-10M deep. Perfect!
At midnight the promised wind arrived and climbed up to 8 gusting 9! Seriously nasty. The anchor held though except for one tremendous gust when we moved 30 Meters. Fortunately, the gust went and we dug in again. It made us get the Fortress anchor ready to chuck in as a second anchor if it happened again. The blow lasted 48 hours and we just hunkered down.

Next day, we needed supplies so considered anchoring closer to the town but ended up deciding to go for a bit of luxury and went on the quay. We were so glad we did! Its a little gem - nicely built and maintained, good lazy lines and everything is free including water, electricity and mooring.
The town is charming with a small river with an actual clean running water and Geese. It has lots of alley ways, tavernas galore and an Italian ice cream shop to die for - and you will when you see the prices. The pretty little Venetian harbour is full of local boats and surrounded by tavernas, a church and is complete with a fort. Above the town is a large church with a beautiful peaceful cemetery beside it. There are plenty of supplies including an AB supermarket. L was in heaven!
The petrol station is out of the port, turn right and walk about 1Km along the road.


We were sorry to leave, but we needed to get down to Santorini to meet Anne and Tony.