Sunday, 27 July 2014

Happy families

We left Agathonisi for Pythagorion on Monday 21st into a northerly force 6 wind on the nose. However, as we motored out of the bay we found that the engine was shaking like mad and we could only get low revs. We motored slowly back into the bay and anchored. When Simon dived to check the propeller he found about 5 metres of our webbing mooring line and the 1 metre chain on the end wrapped around the prop shaft. He had thought that he had put the line safely in the dinghy when he had retrieved it, but at some point it had fallen out and fouled the prop. Fortunately it all unwound fairly easily and we set off again, with a wet and bumpy ride (motoring) up to Pythagorion, where we found a space on the quay – as everywhere else in the Dodecanese it was much quieter than usual – room on the quay and just a few boats anchored off.
In Pythagorion we cleaned up the boat and did the shopping ready for Becky, Andrew, Jade, Kai and Charlie’s arrival on Wednesday morning. They arrived just before 8 on Wednesday morning after a smooth but tiring trip, flying into Athens at 4 am and out again at 6.30. 

We decided to get away from the noise and crowds of Pythagorion and motored straight to Agathonisi into a light southerly wind. Charlie was soon taking his favourite position behind the wheel.

Halfway across we had our first proper meeting with dolphins. Andrew saw them a long way ahead and when we reached them they swam for a while on our bow wave before swimming away.

When we got to Agathonisi we found the water tanker and fuel tanker on the quay and the little harbour sealed off, so we had to go and anchor in Spilia, which is a beautiful peaceful little bay. Kai and Charlie had a good time in the hammock, 
though Kai decided not to sleep there after all, because of the rocking.
The mystery of the new road to Spilia, built at huge (EU) expense appears to be solved. Someone (a friend of the mayor, what a surprise!) is building something at the back of the beach. The building will cut off the cooling breeze that comes down the valley, but the locals hope that it will be washed away by the stream that turns into a torrent with the winter rains. Again there were very few yachts in Agathonisi and very few people staying in rooms, so the tavernas are almost empty, with depleted menus, and the little shops have very little stock, putting them into a vicious circle of decline.
Under pressure from Jade and Kai we decided to move on to Arki after one night in Agathonisi, motoring as again there was no wind. Charlie and Andy slept

while kai listened to music on the boom
and Jade on the bow

In Agathonisi we found that the rear toilet would not pump out. Simon dismantled it and all the valves were OK so there was nothing for it but to remove the outlet pipe and clean it out to clear the blockage, which took the best part of the first day in Arki. Fortunately it was the rear toilet, which we only use for peeing because it does not have a holding tank, but the stench was still pretty awful. Simon got out about 5 kiles of limescale, which had built up over the year since we had installed a new pipe. We obviously have not been flushing enough sea water through to prevent the build up of limescale.
We had two nights in Arki, where Charlie loved the little beach and playing with Alexandr. Charlie walked (and ran) up the steep hill to the farm with Lin and Simon

to see the goats and sheep.

He was a bit wary of the goats.

Of course, Jade and Kai wanted to move on again because they complained that they were bored – not surprising as they played with their phones all day (they managed to us up a month’s data allowance, 5Gb, in less than two days) – but we got them to the beach and into the sea.
The wind blew hard from the north on Friday and Saturday. We left Arki early on Saturday morning, before the wind got up, for a fast sail down to Lipsi, where again we found space on the quay. Eventually everybody got off to the beach, while Lin and I stayed to tidy up and fend off new boats coming in. In the evening we went up to Manolis for a good meal, with his usual enormous portions so that we left a lot of food!

On Sunday we filled up with water and went over to Katsadia beach for the day. Lin and Simon walked over, while the others took a taxi.

Charlie continued to be reluctant to go into the water until we dragged him in with his rubber ring, after which it was almost impossible to get him out of the sea.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Home sweet home!

We went back home for the first week of July to see family and friends, doctors and dentists and flew back from Birmingham to Rhodes on July 9th. We stayed in a little pension in Rhodes old town for two nights so we had a day to look around the old town.
Rhodes old town from the catamaran
The town was packed with tourists, with two huge cruise ships in the harbour, but the museums were very quiet and beautifully laid out, so we spent most of the day in them. We took the catamaran to Leros on Friday 11th July. Mia Hara was filthy after being left for ten days, covered in dust and pollen from the trees. Angiris told us that a lot of the muck came from bees, which fed off the pollen then dropped the residue as they flew past.
Syrian refugees continue to flood in, more arriving every day and camping in the garden of the port police until they are shipped off to Athens.
On Saturday night we went to a wonderful concert in Evros boatyard. It was a musical biography of Manos Khatzidakis (best known outside Greece as the composer of ‘Never on Sunday’, which must have been his worst song judging by the music we heard). The concert was part of the Three Moons Festival, which is an arts festival that has been running for a few years and has events coinciding with the full moon in June, July and August, and had been organised by Takis Fragkous, a double bass player who had returned to Leros and recruited his friends to play. The lead singer and guitarist was Vasilis Giadakis, who was brilliant, and Deopoina Stefanidou, singing and playing the piano, was fantastic (you can catch bits of their work on Youtube). The audience was nearly all locals and was very enthusiastic, singing along beautifully to some of the best known songs. The group played for three hours, with a short break, and were as full of energy at the end as they had been at the beginning.
On Monday night we had planned to go to a performance of Aeschylus’s Persians in the castle, but it started late and we were too tired, but afterwards we heard that it was another fantastic event.
Before we left for England we had taken our outboard in for repair. It turned out that it needed a new float valve, which had to be sent from Athens. When we got back it had still not arrived because they had also been out of stock in Athens, so we had to leave without it. We had also been waiting for a new part for the watermaker, to double its capacity as we do not motor very much so were not making enough water. Unfortunately it was held in customs in Athens and we got a demand for a massive amount of paperwork, including the original invoice, a Paypal receipt (we hadn’t paid by Paypal), our tax number and registration, a copy of my passport and an authorisation with signature certified by the police. Fortunately Anna in the marina let me use her scanner and the port police were very helpful so we got together the documentation we could and sent it off. It turned out to be enough for them to release the parts once we had paid 25 euros in import duty and 85 euros in fees to the agent, but we decided not to wait for it to arrive before we headed north to pick up Becky, Andrew and the kids from Samos.
We left Lakki on 15 July and had a lovely sail up to Lipsi, where we anchored overnight in the bay to the south of the island. We left early next morning to motor up to Arki, where we got a good spot on the quay. After a couple of days swimming and chilling we sailed across to Agathonisi to sit out the forecast stronger winds before going on to Samos.
Agathonisi was almost empty when we arrived. There was one Russian crewed Turkish charter anchored in the bay, who left in a hurry soon after we arrived when the Port Police called across asking for their papers, and one million pound Turkish catamaran which had overtaken us on the way in and whose owners were very helpful getting us in alongside them – it turned out that they knew us from last year, when they had had a rather less fancy yacht.
We had already noticed in Arki how few yachts there seemed to be compared to previous years and Maria and Voula both told us that it had been very quiet all summer. The shops and tavernas are clearly struggling. Maris told us that she is thinking of leaving because the school cannot get a teacher for its kindergarten (4-6 year olds). A young teacher only gets 700 euros a month after the cuts and at least 300 has to go immediately to pay rent, so it is not surprising that they can’t get anyone.

We will leave for Pythagorion on Samos on Monday 21st to get ready for the arrival of Becky and co first thing on Wednesday after their overnight flight via Athens.