Monday, 22 June 2015

Our Southern Tour

Our Southern Tour was not quite as momentous as that of Deng Xiaoping in 1992, but I am sure that it was much more enjoyable.
We left Lakki at half past eight in the morning of Wednesday, June 10th, expecting a good wind to sail the 20 miles west to Levitha. In fact there was very little wind to start with, so we motored for the first hour. As we came out of the harbor we were passed by a Greek warship leaving its base. An hour later we met a similar (the same?) gunboat coming the other way. This one was the Navmachos.

Once the wind got up we had a good fast sail the rest of the way to Levitha
We got to Levitha at lunchtime and in the afternoon went for a walk up to what everyone calls the pirate castle, but judging by the stonework it was probably originally an ancient signal tower to relay from island to island.

On the top was a cairn with a goat skull

And a good view of the farm

And the anchorage (we are the boat on the left).

Simon found it a bit of a struggle scrambling up and down the steep scree and clambering over the rocks with his stick, but made it in the end. When we passed through the farmyard it seemed that there was nobody but an old man there, so we decided that we would probably eat on board rather than in the farm’s tavern. Our decision was confirmed when two large Italian chartered catamarans with about twenty very noisy Italians parked behind us and went up to dinner there.
A favourable forecast meant that we decided to leave the next morning to sail the thirty miles down to Astipalaia. We left at 6 in the morning and had a very good sail downwind, arriving in Astipalaia at lunchtime, where we got a space on the new quay.

That evening we got a text from Simon and Christiana to say that they were going up to Nissiros the next day. Since this would be our last chance to see them and the forecast was good we decided to sail over to meet them.
We left at dawn on the morning of Friday, June 12th, to find another (the same?) gunboat anchored in the bay, with the sun rising behind it.

We had a very good fast sail the forty miles to Pali on Nissiros and again arrived at lunchtime, just after Simon and Christiana, with whom we had lunch at one of our favourite tavernas, Afroditi, where we were welcomed like old friends, particularly as Simon and Christiana really are their close friends.
Panoramic view of Pali harbour
Mia Hara in Pali, Afroditi on the right
Pali town beach
Simon and Christiana left next morning as they had to get to Leros to pick up new batteries. They had come up from Tilos, where they had been parked next to Frank and Lin. Frank and Lin had told us they were staying in Tilos for a few more days but, just as we were planning to set off to meet them there, they sent us an email to tell us that they were on passage to Pali, where they arrived at lunchtime, so we all went off to Afroditi again for lunch and a few beers.
Lin did a lot of washing in Afroditi, which was then dried naturally.

On Sunday, June 14th, we hired a car for the day with Frank and Lin to drive around the island. It turned out that the car hire man, Mike’s, daughter was going to Warwick in October to read English and Creative Writing, having just graduated from the English school in Athens. We told him she must be a very clever girl, which pleased him no end.
We had all been to the volcano, which is very hot and sulfurous, so we skipped that bit and drive round to Nikia, a very picturesque village on the rim of the crater, with great views. 

Frank and Simon walked up to a chapel on the top of a hill above the village, with even better views.

 We then walked around the village, getting back to the car just as two tour buses disgorged their loads of day trippers from Kos.

Mike had told us to take a road to drive up to a wonderful panorama. We found the road, drove up and found that it was the same chapel that Frank and Simon had walked up to earlier.
We then drove back to Emborios, on the other rim of the crater, much of which is still in ruins from an earthquake in 1931, and stopped at the natural sauna on the edge of town.

With lunchtime approaching and Frank gasping for a beer we drove to the main town, Mandraki, where we had lunch by the sea. After lunch we went to the fairly new archaeological museum, which is beautifully laid out with very information panels. The Byzantine collection downstairs was closed because they could no longer afford the staff. Irini, who now works in Afroditi, her family’s tavern, told us later that she had worked in the museum, which she had loved, but now Maria, the curator, is the only remaining member of staff and has to do everything on her own.
After the museum, and getting more reserve cash from an ATM, we drove up to the ancient fortification walls, which have recently been very well restored and are very impressive – we were the only people there, apart from one young man who was leaving as we arrived and chided us for driving as he had walked up (in the heat) from Mandraki.
Lin on the walls looking across to Giali (settled in prehistoric times, now a giant quarry)

reconstructed tower with original stones

Frank and two Lins at the ancient city gate

Mike had insisted that we should see the sunset from Mandraki, but as that was not until 9 pm and we were already hot and tired we went back to Pali and handed back the car. Soon after getting back on the boat Simon realized that he had left the ipad in the car. When he went back to Mike it turned out that he had already rented the car out to another British couple, but he told us not to worry, they seemed very honest. Simon tried the find my phone up, which reported a couple of hours later that the ipad was back in Pali. Simon went along to Mike’s, but as he passed Afroditi Krysanthi called out that she had the ipad – Mike had left it with her.
Lin and krysanthi
We had lazy days on Monday and Tuesday, reading and swimming and working through the menu at Afroditi. Frank and Lin set off on Tuesday on their journey north. We decided to go down to Tilos on Wednesday, June 17th. When we said goodbye the night before, all our friends in Afroditi, Nikos, Krysanthi, Irini and Tsambika, said goodbye with hugs and kisses and gave is a two litre plastic bottle of their house wine and a little bottle of ouzo.
We left Pali at 7 on Wednesday to sail the twenty miles down to Tilos in a moderate north wind, arriving at 10.30. There was plenty of room in the harbor at Livadi, but when we picked up the lazy line a gust of wind caught our bows and swung us round so that Lin had to drop the line before her arm broke. The same happened the next time, when Simon could not hold the line. The wind dropped a bit and it was third time lucky, Simon holding the line and then winching it in. 
The next morning, Thursday, June 18th, we got the bus to Megalo Horio, the main town on the island. The bus was packed, mostly with walkers, but Simon’s hip is not up to ambitious walking, so we just walked around the town, 
Megalo Horio from the bottom - a steep climb to the castle at the top
first up steps to the top of town, then down to find an art gallery, advertised as being 100 metres down the road out of town. The streets were lined with very impressive displays of flowers.

It was certainly a Greek 100 metres to the art gallery, and when we finally got there we found it closed and locked up, so we walked back up to a taverna, with wonderful views, for a beer before getting the bus back. 

We had dinner in a taverna in Livadi that Frank and Lin had recommended, but we probably chose the wrong things because it was not a very good meal.
The forecast was for moderate winds on Friday, increasing over the weekend, so we decided this was the time to go back to Nissiros, which we much prefer to Tilos because it is friendlier and, in Pali at least, less touristic. We made our usual early start, only to find that the wind was much stronger and more northerly than forecast, making the trip one into a wind on the nose and quite big seas, so we decided to motor. The engine was overheating, so we had to keep the power down, which meant that we were sometimes only doing 3-4 knots into the seas. We eventually got to Pali at 11 and got onto the quay without any trouble, though as the wind got up in the afternoon a lot of boats had difficulty getting in – one which had been swept alongside onto the quay was taken over by a gullet skipper.

The wind got up through Friday and Saturday, so we did not swim until a lull on Saturday afternoon, but we walked up for a view of the harbor from the headland. 

Simon checked over the raw water intake to try to cure the overheating. He found a small hole in the end of the intake hose, so cut the end off and refitted it, hoping that would be the cure.
We met a British couple who were reaching the end of their sailing years, though they were only 73. They had spent six years sailing round the world, but were now finding it very stressful sailing short hops in steep short seas and getting in to tricky harbours.
On the Saturday evening before we left Pali we were again showered with kisses and gifts – another bottle of ouzo and a scarf for Lin that Tsambika had made over the winter.
We left Pali just after six on Sunday morning, having been woken by the next door gullet leaving, intending to go to the anchorage on the east end of Pserimos. We had a good sail on the wind for an hour or so, then the wind did so we motor sailed with just the main. The wind got up again, howling round the point at the southeastern end of Kos, so we kept on motorsailing. Once we got round Kos we found the wind decreasing, but on the nose, so we dropped the main and motored. Since the wind was less than forecast, but was expected to increase over the next two days, we decided to go directly to Palionissos. We texted Frank and Lin to let them know our change of plan, in case they were intending to meet us in Pserimos, but they texted back to say they were on passage to Palionissos. We arrived after forty miles, mostly driving, to find that the last free buoy was reserved for us – lucky we had phoned ahead. We picked up the mooring and Frank immediately radioed to suggest going ashore for a beer, which we did, Simon supplementing his with a super burger from the beach bar. During the day new charter boats flooded in, some anchoring and some going away to try their luck elsewhere (the holding here is notoriously bad).

On Monday morning Frank and Lin called to say that they had decided that they would go straight up to Leros before the wind got up tomorrow. At lunchtime we rowed ashore to pick some more wild sage and have a beer in the taverna.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Another little trip

After a few days cleaning the boat of Sahara dust we left Lakki on June 1st and motored up to Arkhangelos in no wind, using the conditions to swing the compass, which we have never done before, finding big deviations in the ship's compass, though the hand-bearing compass is pretty accurate.
We anchored in Arkhangelos, which kept on filling up during the day. Usually a lot of boats leave in the afternoon, but today nobody left, so there were eighteen boats anchored in the small bay, which usually has only a handful of boats in it, though Dimitra in the taverna told us that in August they sometimes have 50 boats there.

We had planned to eat at the taverna, but it had been packed at lunchtime because it was a public holiday and we thought it would be packed in the evening so we ate on board. Instead we went the following evening, when there were still as many yachts, but few ate at the taverna.

We set off early on June 3rd to sail up to Arki, but the wind died after an hour or so and we had to motor. We went on the quay at Arki, which was very quiet. Nikolas pointed out Dimitra's boyfriend, his cousin Spiros, and told me to go and tell him that I bring kisses from Dimitra. He looked first surprised and then pleased! We spent the next three days on Arki, chilling, swimming, reading and meeting new friends. We collected more thyme to add to our wild herb collection, thyme, oregano and sage (collected from Palionissos).

Nikolas's dad has renamed his model boat that was Varoufakis, so it is now called Poseidon. Nikolas felt that the crisis would not really affect them too badly, because they always had fishing and their vegetable garden, but he felt very sorry for people in Athens. His dad went rowing around us in his fishing boat with its long oars.

We had planned to go to the anchorage on Friday June 5th, but the wind was getting up so we decided to stay on the quay. Our German neighbours, a very nice couple with two small girls in a Swan 42 (a racing yacht hardly set up for family crewing - flat decks, no spray hood, no bimini) had planned to go to Agathonisi, but got a message that Agathonisi was swamped with refugees - 300 had just arrived, so they too decided to stay another day. While we were there they had their anchor pulled up three times by other yachts. The third time a large charter yacht came in, laid its anchor across ten other yachts and just as they reached the quay their anchor chain ran out - it had not been tied on. Fortunately for them the harbour is very shallow, though the water is murky, and they were able to recover it.
We sailed down to Lipsi on Saturday June 6th, mainly to do some washing at the excellent laundry. As usual the wind died and we had to motor, though we needed to charge the batteries anyway. We walked round to the further beach for a swim - the water is colder now than it was a couple of weeks ago - where we met Sally. She had come to Lipsi as the Laskarina rep in 2001, married a local and stayed. We have met her before in her brother-in-law's shop. She and her husband used to grow vegetables, but have now planted vineyards and established the Lipsi winery, which has been very successful, with their wines now having a national distribution. Lin bought some new flip-flops and a blouse.
We motor sailed (again very little wind) down to Lakki on Sunday June 7th and went back in the marina. The costguard boat came in soon after we arrived, crammed with refugees. The majority looked to be Syrians and Afghans, but quite a few looked to be Somali. The port police yard is now absolutely full of refugees. A little later a coastguard RIB came in towing a very large rubber dinghy. They lifted it out onto the road, tied it to the back of a car, and dragged it along the road to dump it with all the others in the Port Police yard.
Everybody in the islands knows about the pernicious and mendacious article in the Daily Mail (, which has received wide publicity in Greece, and they are very worried that it will lead to a big drop in tourism. We have tried to explain what the Daily Mail is and that these claims have been widely refuted, but that is not much consolation.
On Monday we cycled round to Merikhia for a swim and went for an excellent dinner in Ostria restaurant with Richard. I took the IKEA/Raleigh bike to the bike shop for a new gear cable, because the old one had seized over the winter. The bike man replaced the cable and lubricated the brake cables within the hour. They charged me 3 Euros. I said 'that is ridiculous', they said, 'is that expensive?, I said 'no,it is too cheap' and gave them 5 Euros.
We are planning to set off on a Southern Tour on Wednesday, to Levitha, Astipalaia, Nissiros and Tilos before getting to Kos to pick up Jade and Elliott on 25th.