Sunday, 29 July 2012

Mooching about

After John left on July 13 we decided to hang around Lakki, waiting for our new mattress, cleaning up and doing some maintenance. The town quay was too hot, and the water had been disconnected, so we went out to anchor in the bay, which was much cooler. The mattress was promised for Wednesday, but did not arrive on the ferry, the next one not being due till Saturday, so we went into the marina for a couple of days to get water and electricity and to clean and polish the hull.
In the marina Simon went up to the top of the mast to change the bulb of the anchor light for an LED bulb and to try to change the bulb of the deck light half way up the mast.

Ian and Jo came over for a drink and a good meal at To Petrino – we each shared a steak, which was enough for two. Ian and Jo had heard the latest story from Agmar, that there had been an emergency management meeting to see if they could ask the workers to work for six months without pay to save the company. How stupid can you get! Russian managers, who are experts in non-payment of wages, just tell the workers at the end of the month ‘sorry, we can’t pay you this month, but just hang on and we will pay you when we can’. People then keep working because if they quit they are afraid they will never get their back pay.
After two days in the marina we went out to anchor again. On Saturday (21 July) we were walking back from the greengrocer's when we were almost run over by Yanni, the mattress man, driving back to his shop with a load of foam. At last the mattress was ready. We went onto the town quay, filled up with water from Costa's tanker and Yanni delivered the mattress at midday. We decided to stay another night, and left early on Sunday morning for a windy beat up to Arki.

We stayed two nights on the quay in Arki, having dinner both nights at Nicolas.

On the second day we were asked to move along the quay to make room for the ferry. The little ferry came alongside the quay, perilously close to us, but with brilliant driving he managed to avoid both us and the boat behind him.

On Tuesday we left Arki for Agathonisi. The wind died on us so we had to motor most of the way. In Agathonisi we managed to get onto the town quay, but on Thursday morning were asked to move off to make way for the boats coming in for the festival that night, so moved over to anchor with a line to the rocks. The festival that night was as good as last year - good cheap food and drink, a great band and energetic dancing, though not for us!

We got home about 1 am and collapsed into bed. Next morning the beach was littered with bodies sleeping off the night before.

We left early on Friday morning to come up to Pythagorion ready to meet Becky on Sunday night. Simon went off in the dinghy to take off the lines from the rocks. As he came back, ducking under the lines of the neighbouring French boat he did a backward roll into the water. As he surfaced he saw our boat swinging onto the French boat - Lin had not realised that the engine was in neutral. Fortunately she reacted fast and drove us off very neatly, avoiding the French boat's anchor chain. Meanwhile, Simon revovered the dinghy and swam back with it and we were on our way. What wind there was was on the nose, so after a vain attempt at sailing then motorsailing we dropped the sails and motored.

There was no room on the quay in Pythagorion so we anchored off. A short time later the port policeman whistled at us to move - we were in the way of the ferry coming in. We upped anchor and moved over, only to drag on the weed. Just as we got the anchor off and cleaned off the weed we saw a couple of boats coming out of the harbou, so we belted in and got a good spot on the quay, with free water and electricity (free so far, the port police have not come by). Pythagorion is a bit of a shock - a busy tourist resort - the St Tropez of Samos - with noise, crowds and prices to match. Becky will love it, but it is not quite our cup of tea!

On Saturday evening a large (36 metre) Russian flagged motor yacht, Esperanza, came in. Boats were told to leave the quay to make way for him - money talks - and he dropped his anchor just off us and drove back over about 20 boats' anchors, so that nobody would be able to leave until he did.

Fortunately he left early next morning - probably just coming in to pick up his owners/punters, though we didn't see any.

Today, Sunday, Becky arrives in the evening and we have booked in to the garden restaurant that gets top marks on Trip Advisor. We shall see!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

John's visit

We took the night ferry back to Piraeus on Wednesday June 13 - the ferry was almost empty, no more than 100 people on a giant ferry. We had booked a cabin for two, but we had a four berth, which was the height of luxury. We got the ferry from Piraeus to Aegina to spend a day with Hilary, Rosa, Fleur and Mick (though Mick went off to Athens in the afternoon to go to the Syriza pre-election demo and do some work with his Greek colleagues). Shock horror, Nikos's warning was confirmed - our favourite restaurant in all the world, Ippocampos and the restaurant at Brown's Hotel had closed and Petros had done a runner - it seems that he had borrowed a fortune from the banks, no doubt on the strength of his rave write ups in Greek gastronomy magazines, and had not been able to pay. Still we had a delicious lunch behind the fish market, then went to the beach at Marathona and back to the beautiful house that Mick, Hilary and Rosa were borrowing, where we played with Fleur and Hilary made a lovely dinner.

The contrast between Aegina and the Dodecanese was amazing. Hardly any of the Greek population in ther Dodecanese can afford to go to cafes or restaurants, but in Aegina they were heaving with the beautiful people, no doubt flush with their foreign bank accounts.
On Friday we got the ferry to Piraeus and bus to the airport and flew home for two weeks, to do hospitals, dentists and Simon's mum's 90th birthday party, which was a great success.

We flew back to Athens with Lin's brother John on June 29th and got the night ferry back to Leros from Piraeus. This time the ferry was jam packed, though a lot of people got off at Syros - probably weekenders, so we had to sleep on chairs (or in Simon's case on the floor) in the bar. We got to Leros at 5 am and collapsed into bed on the boat. Saturday was shopping and a celebratory dinner with Sue and Steve and Ian and Jo, the latter celebrating their last night in Lakki marina before moving over the bay to Evros (see my last post about the scandals and ructions).

We stayed in Lakki for the Sunday and motored up to the quiet anchorage at Arkhangeli at the north end of Leros, where we swam and chilled – Simon was still very tired from his last dose of Rituximab. The one thrill was a Greek exhibitionist, who arrived driving a small motor boat naked, anchored right behind us and spent a couple of hours displaying his large belly and appendages below before driving off into the night (no photos!).

On Tuesday we had a hard beat up to Lipsi with two reefs in the main and half the genoa (it was still very windy but it was not far), which was again a day of swimming and chilling and a nice meal at Manoli’s up the hill.

On Wednesday we had a short motor-sail up to Arki, where we tied up on the quay. Soon after we had tied up a large Turkish motor yacht arrived. He first dropped his anchor over ours and our neighbour’s, but re-anchored when we yelled at him. He then came into the gap just down from us at an acute angle and attempted to straighten up by accelerating in reverse, only to crash heavily into a moored French yacht. There was no visible damage, but the sound was the crunch of fibreglass breaking, so it is very likely that the hull was damaged beneath the gel coat. After some yelling, ‘you fucking bastard putain’ as the Frenchman put it, insurance details were handed over and it was all settled amicably. We spent two nights in Arki, with excellent eating in Nicolas’s tavern, good swimming,

and a walk over to the idyllic beach on the south of the island, only to find two Italian couples already encamped there.

Our French friend was staying in Arki till Monday because he said that force 8-9 gales were forecast, though we could find no such forecast anywhere. When we told him that we were going to Fourni he had a fit – he thought we must be mad, Fourni is hell on earth (it has a reputation for being very windy).

We set off for Fourni on Friday, with two reefs in the main and half the genoa, sailing into a force 4 northerly wind no sign of a gale. We passed several bays marked as anchorages, all but one of which were empty – the bay at the bottom had one motor yacht in it. We came to the last anchorage, south over the hill from Fourni town, to find Sue and Steve’s boat tied onto the fisherman’s quay.

It turned out that they had come up the night before, dragged the anchor overnight, then the engine wouldn’t start because the starter motor had failed again, so they had had to be rescued by a fisherman. The fisherman told Steve that there was a wizard mechanic in Fourni, who fixed their starter motor in no time.
Fourni was, as promised windy, with occasional vicious gusts, so we anchored and took four lines to bollards on the rocks, which seemed to have us secure.

On Saturday we all went into Fourni town to shop (a steep climb over the hill)

to find it is a lovely place, just like the Greece we knew nearly fifty years ago, with very few tourists. After shopping we had coffees in a little café under a big plane tree by the town square.

Suddenly there was an almighty crash and a scream – a thick branch had come crashing down from the tree and just missed an old woman who was walking past – it just grazed her ankle. The square was being filled with chairs and tables – the café owner told us that it was a ‘honeymoon festival’ and everybody was invited.

We had drinks with Sue and Steve in the evening, but decided not to go the ‘festival’, though we could hear exciting bangs, which sounded like gunshots and the occasional stick of dynamite. It turned out that it was a wedding – Sue and Steve went and left at 3 am when it was still in full swing. It was lucky we did not go. Soon after we had gone to bed there was an almighty shaking and rustling – a gust of wind probably 50 knots or more shook the boat like crazy. Lin went up and thought at first that two of our lines had broken, which would have been odd because they were not the lines that would have taken the strain. In fact we found when we pulled on them that they had just gone slack. Anxious to get back to bed we convinced ourselves that they had gone slack because of the strength of the wind, but in the morning we found that we had moved closer to the cliff – we were just off the rocks – and when Simon dived to investigate it was clear that our trusty and expensive Rocna anchor had dragged – or at least had pulled a couple of metres back through the sand.

We had planned to stay another day in Fourni, because Lin wanted to explore the town a bit more, but we decided that rather than bothering to reanchor we would move on, so we set off to Agathonisi. The forecast strong wind did not materialise but we had a very pleasant gentle sail to Agathonisi, where we anchored off the village with two lines to the rocks. We spent two days in Agathonisi doing the usual nothing much, with the usual dramas of people cocking up their mooring (fortunately not us this time). The old tavern/shop on the quay that was being painted when we were last here has now opened as a shop. Apparently the son of the old man who used to run it has taken it over after leaving the army, though the license is still in his father’s name so technically it is illegal. Construction is continuing with the six new apartments and restaurant just back from the quay.

We walked up the hill to mikro hora in the morning and over to the fertile hidden valleys, now very dry, the other side of the ridge.

The second night (Monday) a lot of charter boats arrived and tied up on the ferry quay, behind two navy boats. They were turfed off at about six o’clock because a freighter arrived to tie onto the quay to offload sacks of food for the fish farms onto a lighter. The charter boats all had to leave, milling around, dragging anchors until they finally all settled down, though they did not look too secure. Fortunately the expected wind did not blow up overnight.

On Tuesday we left after breakfast for a fast off-wind sail to Arki. We had planned to anchor in the bay by our idyllic beach, but the most sheltered spot was taken and it was still pretty windy, so we decided to come instead to Lipsi for water and electricity, where Lin and John walked over to the anchorage in the south for a swim, while Simon caught up with the blog.

On Wednesday we motor sailed down to Arckhangeli, the quiet anchorage at the north end of Leros. Lin  swam ashore to feed the goats with our old bread.

In the afternoon a small boat arrived and three men went ashore and walked over the ridge. We heard three shots - mafia execution? Goat rustling? Or just shooting rabbits (we heard four more shots early next morning).
Thursday was John's birthday. We motored down to Lakki and went on the town quay, where Sue and Steve joined us for a beer. In the evening we went to Dmitri's in Vromolithisos, where we had booked a table on the balcony with a beautiful view of the bay.

On Friday John was taking the early afternoon flight to Athens so we hired a car for the day and drove round to Alinda, where had a drink at the barrel and an excellent light lunch at To Steki before putting John on the plane and saying good bye ti Sue and Steve. After a swim at Xerocampos we returned the car and settled in to our chilling, cleaning and repairing routin to get ready for Becky, Andrew, Kai and Charlie to come in a couple of weeks time.

Friday and Saturday were very hot - up to 39 in the saloon, so we decided that we will go and anchor in the bay where it will be cooler. On Saturday morning Simon went to Yanni, the upholsterer, to collect the new mattress we had ordered. But he had forgotten to order the foam from Athens, though he promised to have it for us on Wednesday - we will see!