Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Winding down

On Wednesday 10 September we motored round from Lakki to Agia Marina to meet Annie, who was coming from Kos on the catamaran. We tried tying up to the quay, but found it was too shallow, so we went and anchored off. This meant that we greeted Annie with a climb over a wall onto the beach and a climb in and out of the dinghy to get on the boat, which she managed brilliantly considering that she only had a major operation on her back four months ago and now has a rigidly straight spine.
To break Annie in easily we motored for an hour up to the anchorage at Arkhangelos, where we stayed for the night.
The next day, Thursday, we again motored, as there was no wind, and went onto the quay in Arki. The bushes behind the town beach had all been burnt - they had had a fire at 3 am a few days before and everybody had turned out to beat it to death. Nikolas was very tired - Maria, his mother and chief cook, was still in Athens recovering from her operation, so Niko was having to manage the taverna and the cooking on his own. Richard and Ron arrived soon after us and we had a very enjoyable dinner with them at Nikolas's. Annie was able to advise Richard on treatment for his wife's back, which was giving her crippling pain.
On Friday we went round the corner to anchor in Porto Stretto with Richard and Ron, to give Annie a taste of something new. We walked back to Nikolas's for lunch and went back for more swimming and chilling.
On Saturday 13th we motor-sailed to Lipsi and picked up a buoy off Katsadia beach in the South of the island. We rowed ashore for a big and delicious lunch in the taverna and then had an afternoon swimming off the boat and chilling. In the evening we heard live piano music from the taverna, but were eating aboard and it had got a bit windy to row ashore. Annie had a disturbed night with the noise of the mooring lines grating as the boat swung around to the shifting wind.
On Sunday morning we had a good sail down to Pandeli, where Bob and Lidia were due to arrive on Monday morning to stay in the Castelo Beach hotel. Annie slept most of the way, despite the rolling and the noise of the engine. We anchored with a line ashore, then the anchored dragged on the weed so we had to do it all again.
Bob and Lidia arrived next morning. After having coffee with them we motored around to go on the town quay in Lakki, as Annie was taking the catamaran back to Kos the next day. In the evening we took a taxi up to Dmitry's to meet Bob and Lidia for an excellent and enormous dinner.
We had had a great week with Annie and were amazed at how well she coped, with her new back. Moving on each day meant that Annie felt that she had had six different holidays! She took the catamaran to Kos in the afternoon to get her flight home. In the evening we went over to Pandeli to have dinner in their hotel with Bob and Lidia to celebrate her birthday.
We had planned to do some day sails with Bob and Lidia, as Lidia gets quite seasick, but the forecast did not look too promising, with a lot of strong winds. Nevertheless, we managed to take them for a day trip up to Arkhangeli on Wednesday, though Lidia was obviously feeling pretty queezy on the way up. In the evening we went to To Petrino to pig out on their enormous and delicious Bon Filet.
On Saturday 20th we hired a car for the day to give Bob and Lidia a tour of the island. We drove up to Partheni, where we checked out the new marina and went to the church in which political prisoners had painted wall paintings under the Junta. They were rather disappointing as they depicted religious scenes rather than political statements. We then drove round to the little church of Aghios Isidoros on an island at Kokali in Gourna Bay. This is the most photographed sight on Leros, but we had never been there before!
 We then went for a slap-up lunch at Sotos, at the other side of the bay. We had a huge plate of mixed shellfish, a bowl of moules mariniere and two portions of Kalamari, all very fresh and collected and caught by the owner.
On Sunday 21st we met Bob and Lidia for another evening in To Petrino - they couldn't get enough of those steaks - and on Monday 22nd we motored up to Arki for a last visit - again no wind. The quay soon filled up and we found everyone very excited because Maria was on her way back from Athens on the Blue Star and would arrive home next day on Nissos Kalymnos.
Next morning, Tuesday, everybody but us left early, so that we were the only boat on the quay, for the first time since our first visit in 2000.

We joined her family in welcoming Maria back - she looked incredibly well considering her recent major operation (sorry the picture is sideways!).

We then walked over to Tiganaki for a swim. Soon after we arrived a RIB came from a ginormous motor yacht anchored off the beach and deposited seven chairs, which they lined up on the beach before driving off. Presumably this was in case their masters wanted to come to the beach, rather than a surrealist art installation.

In the afternoon the wind got up from the south and there was pandemonium on the quay as yachts tried to get in, while others anchored out in the bay. That evening we had a farewell meal at Nikolas's and said our goodbyes, promising to be back next year.
On Wednesday morning, 24 September, we motor sailed back to Lakki with a decent following wind and went into the marina to start preparing the boat to lift out at Partheni on Monday 29th. At the moment the forecast is for very strong winds on Sunday and Monday, so we may see if we can lift on Saturday instead. Then we fly to Athens on Thursday, to stay with Lena, before flying home on Saturday October 4th, Kai's birthday.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Cheating death

Simon took Kai home on Saturday 28 August, leaving Lin on the boat in the marina, and came back overnight on 2-3 September. We then spent a couple more days in Lakki for Simon to catch up on his sleep, to do some shopping and to have dinner with Simon and Christiana, who had just returned from the UK.
On Friday 5 September we sailed and motored up to Arki for a few days of quiet relaxation. We found that Frank and Lin had arrived just before us and managed to squeeze in next to them on the quay.
There was a lot of activity in the square and we learned that the daughter of the head of Greek Pepsi (or Coca) Cola was getting married the next day and we would all have to get off the quay. As soon as they tested the sound system we decided not to contest the order as we would never sleep through the racket.
Nikolas was very stressed. On 23 August his mother, Maria, who is a workaholic and does all the cooking, had found herself paralysed. She did not get any better, so they had taken her to the doctor in Samos. After some tests she was transferred to Athens to have a tumour removed which, fortunately, turned out not to be malignant. She was recovering in hospital, but was still very weak. At the same time Mikhailis, Nikolas's brother, who does the grilling, had gone with his mother and his aunt to Athens. Nickolas's partner Carolina had gone back to Poland with her mother, leaving Nikolas to run the restaurant, and to prepare a mass of food for the wedding, on his own.

Having taken a photo together,
next morning we, and Frank and Lin, motored round to the anchorage, Porto Stretto, just over the hill from Port Augusta, which was beautifully peaceful.

In the afternoon, Simon walked over the hill to check out the preparations for the wedding.

Frank and Lin invited us to join them for a barbecue that evening. We rowed over at 6 o'clock to find that Frank had caught quite a big fish,
an unprecedented event, which Lin (Priddy) suggested we put on the barbecue. Simon agreed, rashly thinking that it might be disgusting, but there were no harmful fish in the Mediterranean. Frank was more cautious, since he did not know what the fish was and could not find anything like it in his fish book. We decided to leave it in the fridge and take over to Nikolas and ask him what it was and, if it was edible, cook it for our lunch the next day. The barbecue was delicious - we couldn't have eaten the fish as well, we were so full.
The wedding seemed to go off well and fortunately we could barely hear it from over the hill, as the enormous speakers were pointing in the opposite direction.
Next morning we went over to Nikolas for lunch. Nikolas took one look at Frank's fish and said, 'throw it away, it is lethal'. He told us it was a lagopsaro. When we looked it up on the internet we found that it was a pufferfish (Lagocephalus sceleratus), which had only recently entered the Mediterranean through the Suez canal, the Japanese fugu, eaten by suicidal Japanese gourmands and lethal if not prepared by a trained and licensed chef (and lethal even then if he makes a mistake). Frank's caution had saved our lives!
Next morning, Monday 8th, we all had a slow downwind sail to Lipsi, where we had to do a lot of washing. We were going to top up our water tanks, but Frank's meter showed that the water was not drinkable, and we saw a lot of muck coming out of the house, so we did not do so.
On Tuesday we had an other slow, but very pleasant, downwind sail to Lakki, where we had to get ready for Annie's arrival on Wednesday morning.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Home again

On Saturday 23 August we left Pethi just before 7 and motor-sailed to Cnidos, on the far Southwestern tip of Turkey, arriving about 10.30. Cnidos was one of the great cities of the ancient world but was destroyed by an earthquake and evacuated. The site is only partly excavated but the view from the bay and the atmosphere walking around the ruins is wonderful. As we were undocumented immigrants we decided to anchor off, rather than going on the jetty.
Sergio arrived an hour or so later and went alongside the jetty, so Kai asked that we should do so too. We surprised Kai next morning, who had already proved himself an excellent oarsman rowing across to see Sergei,
when we decided it would be more convenient and worth the 20 euro charge to go alongside. On Saturday afternoon we took Kai around the remains of the ancient city. As usual, he was very reluctant to come but when we got there he declared that it was awesome, really appreciating the historical significance of the site
and finding it perfect for parcours as he leaped across the stones with no custodians to stop him.

We had both lunch and dinner in the excellent little restaurant.
We stayed, chilling, in Cnidos on Sunday and in the evening we were invited to dinner with Sergio and his family, with an excellent collection of hors d'oeuvres and a delicious Spaghetti Matriciana.
We left early on Monday morning to motor up to Kos, into a force 5 wind on the nose. We had expected Sergei to follow us, but Kai received a Snapchat message from Gaia to say that they had gone to Nissiros, rather than battle the wind and waves. We stayed in Kos marina and at Kai's request had an excellent dinner in the marina restaurant, which we had never been to before because we had assumed it would be bad and expensive.
On Tuesday morning we set off early on a wet and windy (force 5-6) beat to Paleonisos, arriving at midday. When we went below we found that the anchor locker and forepeak hatch had leaked with the water constantly washing over the bow and the sheets and mattress were soaked. To our surprise and joy Sergio arrived from Nissiros a couple of hours later as we were having lunch at the beach cafe. After lunch the girls came over and played Cluedo with Kai. When they went back to their boat we had dinner and Kai then kept us up playing Cluedo late into the night. I rashly said that we would play until Kai failed to win a game. In fact, through the evening and the next day Kai just kept on winning. Just once he failed, when he made a false accusation.
We had a quiet day on Wednesday, reading and playing Cluedo, and in the evening we went to the taverna for a farewell dinner with Sergio and his women. We were going our separate ways the next day, as we were going to Lakki and they were going to Xerokampos, so we said our farewells and went off to bed.
On Thursday 28th we set off for Lakki, with the wind as usual on the nose. This time we motored as Lin was anxious to get the first load of washing into the laundry. We arrived about 10.30 and tied up on the town quay - our favourite spot was taken by another smuggler's yacht that had been impounded by the coastguard. Apparently 100-200 refugees had arrived yesterday.
P.S. our video of the Theodorakis concert has now been uploaded to youtube.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Heading south

We stayed in Lakki for a Theodorakis concert, part of the three moons festival, on the evening of Wednesday 13th August. Kai was very resistant to going, he thought he would be bored stupid and wanted to stay to play with his friends, but we took a taxi to Crithoni Paradise, where he swam in the pool, then walked round to Agia Marina,

where we had dinner. The concert started at 9 and Kai was soon entranced. His final judgement was that it was awesome, and it was.
 The setting was magnificent, in the primary school yard with the castle behind.

The music was great, the musicians brilliant and the audience, mostly locals, enthusiastic.

By 12.45 Lin was close to collapse with exhaustion, but Kai wanted to stay to the end. He finally agreed to leave and we walked up to Platanos, where we had to wait fifteen minutes for a taxi home, by which time the concert had finished. (Kai adamantly refused to hitch).

On Thursday 14th we left early for the 40 mile sail to Nissiros with quite a good following wind. Kai slept for the first three hours but woke up in time to do the anchor when we went on to the quay - to the last remaining comfortable place, though it was only midday. An Italian man from a neighbouring beautiful schooner took our lines and commended Kai's anchoring - 'perfect'. His wife came over soon after to invite Kai to play with their girls, Galia, fifteen, Viola, twelve, and Lea, seven. Sergio explained that he wanted a man aboard to give him some company. We have been with Sergio and family ever since!
That evening Sergio invited Kai to go with them to Mandraki for the festival of Panagia. They were going to go by motorbike. Kai had no hesitation. He got a helmet

and off he went.

The next day, Friday 15 August, Sergio invited Kai to go with them, again by motorbike,
 to the volcano. As soon as Kai went down to the crater he felt faint from the bad egg fumes, and had to go back up.

He said it was much worse than the last time we had been there, three years ago.

They came back as night fell.

On Saturday 16th August we and Sergio sailed from Nissiros to Livadhi, Tilos, where we managed to get in to the tiny harbour.  Gaia asked Kai to help her with her English homework, As You Like It, explaining English words that she did not know. He managed to do so with the help of Google Translate. On Saturday night Kai had Gaia and Viola for a sleepover, explaining to us that a sleepover did not involve sleeping. Next morning we gave them all bacon and eggs for breakfast, which they loved. Then it was down to homework again.

In the evening as we were walking home we saw a man putting out food for the local cats.

On Sunday Sergio invited us all to join them and their friends for dinner at Eristos, on the other side of the island, where their friends were staying. Ka went with them in the afternoon, to swim in the hotel pool, and Lin and Simon followed on the bus in the evening. Eristos is a beautiful bay, very quiet, with just one quiet and cheap, but comfortable hotel. We had an excellent dinner with us and 21 hospitable Italians before being driven back to Livadhi by the waiter (we had missed the bus and there are no taxis on the island).
Monday 18th had been forecast to be very windy and it was, though not as bad as had been forecast. Yachts crammed into the harbour for shelter, but we were well sheltered and very secure.

On Tuesday 19 August we left Tilos for Khalki, which we had never visited before. We moored to a pontoon, but did not much like Khalki. It is very picturesque, with all its restored villas,

but has the feel, and prices, of a resort for the rich. So next morning we left to anchor in the bay of the uninhabited island of Alimia, between Khalki and Rhodes. We anchored in the bay and, soon after, Sergio arrived and picked up a mooring. When we went swimming we discovered that we had anchored just clear of a substantial wreck - if we had caught the anchor on it we would have had trouble retrieving it. In fact, as we swung with the wind, the anchor chain did coil around the wreck, which stopped us swinging onto Sergei's boat, which was close alongside us.

Kai spent most of the day with Sergei and the girls.
Although there were a few other yachts in the bay it was wonderfully peaceful 

and the night sky was astonishing.
Alimia has the remains of a barracks for German soldiers, left from the war, 
with wall paintings left by the soldiers on  the walls otherwise smothered in modern graffiti.

On Thursday 21st August we motorsailed in a dying wind up to Symi, where we anchored in Pethi, a bay with a small village just over the hill to the East of the main town of Symi.
Lin and Simon had lunch ashore, leaving Kai in charge of the boat. As we finished lunch, Sergio arrived and anchored just behind us, to Kai's and the girls' delight.
In the evening the wind got up and we found ourselves very close to Sergio. We were not sure whether the anchor had dragged, or it had just pulled back to the full length of the chain. We thought it was the latter, but we did not want to take any risks, so we reanchored, putting out our full 60 metres of chain.
On Friday we all took the bus into Symi town to go shopping. We had never been here in the summer season before - the town was heaving with crowds of day trippers from Rhodes, Datca, Marmaris and other places far and wide. We were glad to get back for lunch and a swim.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Back to Lakki

We left Agathonisi in the morning of Friday 8 August and motored across to Lipsi as there was no wind. In Lipsi we tied up to the quay, which filled up during the day, and got our first load of washing in to the excellent laundry. By the evening the wind had got a lot stronger and the quay was full on our leeward side, while around midnight boats on the windward side were having a lot of trouble with their anchors dragging. One motor yacht went out and, after two attempts at re-anchoring, took up its anchor to come back alongside. A larger, very posh Italian motor yacht also dragged while its owners were in town, leaving the crew with a real struggle to get off the quay. at one point the driver reversed hard, instead of going forwards, and smashed into the quay, badly damaging their bathing platform. Eventually they got off and went to anchor on the other, more sheltered, side of the bay. Kai, of course, insisted on staying up to help and, as he put it, to learn, and we didn't get to bed until well after midnight.
On the Saturday Lin took another big load of washing in and we chilled until evening, when there was the annual Wine Festival, with wine, kebabs and music and dancing, with the proceeds going to the primary school. But first we had long speeches. The mayor talked about the importance of wine to Lipsi and their commitment to sustainable development and combining work and education, noting that when he talked like that in the 70s and 80s he was branded a leftist, but now everyone recognised that there was no alternative for Greece. It also sounded very good, but who knows what is the reality in Lipsi.
The mayor's speech

The dancing began with local kids dancing in their traditional costumes,

and after a few dances everyone was invited to join in, with the mayor leading the dance.

On Sunday 10th August we had a good brisk sail with a Force 4 northerly down to Leros, where we planned to stay until the Theodorakis concert on Wednesday night. We had thought of stopping at Arkhangeli, but decided that it was a bit windy to anchor there so went on to Lakki, where we tied up on the town quay. Over Sunday night another group of Syrian refugees were brought in by the port police.

Kai complained how bored he was during the day, but had a great time in the park with his Greek friends every evening.
On Tuesday afternoon Kai went to the top of the mast
to take panoramic photos of Lakki for his school photography project.

He stayed up there for almost two hours, making a blog

and phoning his friends.

Thursday, 7 August 2014


We left Arki on Monday 4 August and had a good brisk sail to Agathonisi in a NNW Force 4-5 wind. There were only a handful of boats in so we were able to get our favourite spot on the corner of the fisherman's quay. It is too shallow to get right back to the quay so we have to use the dinghy to get ashore. We were immediately greeted by Kai's Italian friends, who we meet every year, and Kai went off to play with them. In the afternoon they all came back to the boat for their favourite pastimes, fishing from the bows and jumping off into the sea. Katerina caught a fish big enough to eat, but the others were all tiddlers.
On Tuesday morning there was a group of refugees, probably Syrian, who had been landed on the quay overnight, where they sat waiting for the Nisos Kalymnos ferry to Samos,
 onto which they were herded unceremoniously.

After lunch the Italian girls came aboard for some fishing

and swinging on the spinnaker halyard.


In the evening we went to George's taverna - he had complained to some friends of ours that we come every year and never eat at his place. Kai was also insistent that we should go there because Kai claimed that he had the best meat ever. We had rabbit, which was tasty but not as tender as Kai had remembered. We felt very bad abandoning Yanni and Voula, especially when we saw that they had only three customers that evening while George's was full. However, George was very welcoming and obviously delighted that we had come to him.
We went to bed while Kai went off to play with his Italian friends. About 1.30 Lin woke in a panic - where was Kai? She couldn't see him anywhere below and woke Simon to go and search for him. As Simon was getting dressed Kai popped his head round to door - what's up? he said. He had been sleeping on deck.
Kai woke at 5.30 on Wednesday morning to see two coastguard boats bringing in more refugees, who were led up to the port police office.
 During the day two more boatloads arrived, while another large group had to walk the length of the island from the beach where they had landed, because there were not enough boats to ferry them all. In total 140 refugees arrived on Wednesday, almost as many as the total population of the island, including quite a few children and at least two babies. The port police could not accommodate them all in their yard and there was no ferry that day, so half of them were shipped out on three coastguard boats.

We ate with Yanni on Wednesday evening, who was swamped with about 50 customers, against the three the night before, and having had to cook for the refugees, who were being fed by the port police. Poor Voula was alone in the kitchen, her mother not being there that evening, but she managed to serve her usual delicious food to everybody.
Thursday was a quiet day, swimming and reading and getting ready to leave for Lipsi on Friday, with no new refugees.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Peace at last!

We left Lipsi on Monday 28 July and motored down to Lakki, where we planned to put Becky, Andrew, Jade and Charlie on the catamaran to Kos to get their flight on Thursday, but the catamaran was fully booked, so we had to change our plans and take them to Kos. In Lakki Becky, Andrew, Jade, Kai and Charlie took a taxi over to Crithoni Paradise for Charlie to swim in the pool with his armbands while Lin and Simon did shopping and clearing up. We got our outboard back at last - it had been waiting for parts - and it stalled almost immediately. The repair people took it back and returned it within an hour - they had cleaned an amazing amount of muck out of the fuel pump, apparently a result of having got seawater in the fuel. They had been reluctant to open the fuel pump before because the diaphragm is so fragile, but did it very carefully and it was OK and the outboard ran perfectly - better than new. On Tuesday all except Kai went back to Crithoni, where Charlie became rather over confident in the pool, took off his armbands and sank. Fortunately Andrew got to him in time to bring him up with a lot of spluttering, but it did not put him off swimming. After lunch Simon took Andrew and Charlie in the dinghy round to Merikhia bay, where Charlie did not want to go in the sea because the waves were a bit big and the shore a bit stony.

On Wednesday 30th we set off for Paleonisos on the East coast of Kalymnos in company with Richard, who was sailing down single handed to pick up his son and grandchildren from Kos. We picked up a mooring buoy and helped Richard pick up his. Andrew and  Charlie went over to Richard's boat to have a look around, and Richard later took Charlie to the shore in his dinghy,
where we joined them to have the most fantastic hamburgers in the beach cafe. Charlie went into the sea with his rubber ring and decided to swim out to the boat on its mooring, about 100 metres away, with Lin and then Simon keeping him company. Having arrived at the boat he decided to swim over to the taverna quay, now against the wind, and then back to the beach. That was still not enough for him - he decided not to come back with us in the dinghy but to swim back with Andrew - a good 300 metres swimming.
We all had dinner in the taverna, on whose mooring buoys we had parked, and set off next morning to motor sail to Kos.

We soon passed Richard, who was sailing down
and went in to Kos marina. Lin and Simon stayed on the boat to do the usual clearing up while the others went to the nearby hotel pool for their last swim.
Becky, Andrew, Jade and Charlie got a taxi to the airport at 5.30 pm and had a smooth flight home, though Becky and Jade had to get up for work at the crack of dawn next day. While Lin went for a long shower, Simon and Kai washed down the boat and we went for a light dinner in the marina cafe.
On Friday August 1st we set off early to go back north. Kai was keen to meet up with Richard's grandchildren. We hadn't managed to make any plans in advance, but we guessed they would be going to Lakki, where we went on the town quay, but they were not there. Having stocked up, tidied up and done the washing we set off next morning in the hunt for Richard. We looked in at Lipsi, but he was not there, and then went on the quay in Arki. A while later we spotted Richard coming round the corner - mission accomplished. Kai had a great time with his grandchildren, doing what kids nowadays do when they are socialising, sitting together, each watching a video or playing a game on his or her tablet.
On Sunday Richard set off for Patmos, but we decided to stay in Arki for another day to rest.