Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Sailing home from Samothraki

We left Samothraki at 7 on Tuesday, May 16th, to sail back to Limnos. We said goodbye to Paddy and Sally, who were going on to Thasos. The wind was stronger than forecast, a solid Force 5 from the south, but we managed to keep good speed with half the genoa until the wind went round and just had to motor into the wind. As we approached Limnos a coastguard boat roared across our bows.

We got to the corner of Limnos at 12.30. About a mile down the coast the engine died! Fortunately, we were not being blown onshore so we could just drift while Simon fiddled in vain with the engine. We had to release the jack stays to get the main up downwind, then the reef-line snagged so we had to strap the sail down with bits of rope. Eventually we got sailing again to beat down to Myrina. Simon fiddled around and got the engine going again for half an hour, then it died completely, so we had to sail in to Mirina. We tried to get the coast guard to warn them that we were coming in without an engine, but they didn't answer on Channel 16 and the phone number we had didn't work. Lin phoned Costas, a guy we had met in a cafe in Myrina who is something to do with tourist promotion, and he phoned the port police for us, who phoned back. In the end we sailed in OK and anchored in the bay at about 4.30. The Port Police told us to report to them when we got in and the policeman, John, who spoke very good English, was very helpful, calling their chief engineer.  Once they had checked our papers Simon chatted to John while we waited for Costas, their engineer, to arrive. John had learned English at school and then at the American College in Thessaloniki, where his Business Studies course was taught in English, but he never realized his ambition to become a big manager and ended up in the port police, being assigned to Limnos. He was glad to have a steady and relatively well-paid job (1200 euros a month), but could only just manage on his salary – he was glad he did not have a family to support. He told me that 80% of the tourists on Limnos are Greek, but Nielsen and Mark Warner have two hotels and weekly charter flights. Costas arrived, but he was a petrol engines person, so he called his friend Tassos, who specialized in diesel engines, who arrived soon after. Simon rowed Tassos out to the boat, and he fixed the problem. We knew it was a fuel problem and after sucking and blowing the pipes to the fuel pump he decided that the problem was the tank. Sure enough, the feeder pipe was clogged up with plastic scarf, which Simon thought he had got rid of when he cleaned the tank after we had the same problem before (Simon had checked the feeder pipe when he fiddled around when we were drifting and that was when the engine started, but it must have got clogged again). Tassos was delighted with 50 euros and we were delighted to have the engine fixed! We had a quick pasta supper and collapsed into bed exhausted.
Next morning we tidied up the boat, restored the lazy jacks and went onto the quay. 

The Boris bikes have now arrived, though we decided not to try one.

Simon took some photos of the shopping street and square, with their clear Ottoman legacy.

We took in a big bag of washing to the wonderful laundry, did the shopping, and called the diesel truck, which actually arrived as promised, at midday, though he ran out of diesel before our tank was full. In the evening we went for dinner at To Limanaki, which Tassos had recommended as the best of the fish tavernas. At first Lin was unhappy because they did not have kolokithokeftedes or sardines, which was her first choice, or Tsipoura, her second choice, but we had delicious courgette chips and a big skorpios, an ugly red fish, which was delicious.
We left Myrina at 6.45 on Friday, 18th May, at 6.45 to motor the 58 miles to Sigri, on Lesbos, because there was virtually no wind. We reached Sigri at 14.30 and anchored again in the south bay, where there was already a Belgian yacht at anchor. 
On the way up to town we saw a cactus rose

and a Turkish fountain.

We rowed ashore and walked up to the park behind the geological museum, where there were a lot of petrified trees and tree roots in situ. A couple were cleaning one of the roots with toothbrushes! 

 We then walked back down to the beach and round to the Plaka park, with more petrified trees. We got there just before closing time and we didn’t have tickets, but the custodian let us in for a few minutes to look at the largest petrified tree in the world. 

We walked back down, rowed back to the boat and had dinner on board of roast lamb, potatoes and courgettes, though the leg of lamb we had bought in Myrina was very small!
After the heavy sail down from Samothraki there had been quite a lot of water in the bilge. We have always taken in water and never managed to find the source, but it was important to do so now as we were planning to leave the boat in the water in July and again over the winter. Simon checked all the seacocks, but could not find any trace of water coming in and on the sail down from Myrina there was no more water in the bilge than when we had left Myrina. This suggested either that the water was coming in through the chain locker or over the decks, or from the front sink outlet when the boat was healed over, or from the watermaker, which we had not used on the way from Myrina. So more research is needed!
On Saturday, 19th May, we left Sigri 

at 6.50 for the 40 miles to Psara and Anti-Psara, small islands of the northwest coast of Chios. At first there was no wind, but then a breeze filled in from the northwest so we could motor-sail with the genoa. We visited Andipsara, which looked uninhabited (confirmed by Nikos in the taverna), 

but we did not land and got to Psara at 1.20. The bottom of the harbour was soft mud and the anchor did not hold the first time, so we had to re-anchor. 

Once tied up we went for an excellent lunch at Aldebaran, a recommended taverna on the front.
Psara played a leading role in the Greek War of Independence and was once, with Hydra and Spetsi, one of the three leading maritime powers in Greece. In 1824 the Turkish Pasha ordered the destruction of Psara in revenge for its role in the war of independence. Some people escaped, but 124 Psariots established a redoubt on top of the hill above the town. As the Turks were about to overwhelm them they set off their gunpowder store and all were killed in what the Psariots call the ‘holocaust of Psara’. One observer reported the explosion as like an eruption of Vesuvius. The remaining inhabitants were killed or enslaved and the island completely depopulated. The island was recaptured by the Greeks in 1912. The flag of Psara includes the phrase that the defenders threw down to the Turkish invaders: ‘Freedom or Death’. The flag was carried during the War of Independence by Psariot ships

Today Psara has a population of 448 and 67 churches. It lives mainly by fishing, with slipper lobster its speciality, and a little tourism, but we had the impression that it has been quite substantially renovated since our last visit in 2010.

After lunch we walked up to the Mavri Vrakhi (Black Ridge) 

where the Psariots made their last stand, which now has a small church, a tatty memorial and wonderful views. 

Hot from the climb, we walked straight down to the beach for a swim, where the sea was remarkably warm. 

We went back to dinner at Aldebaran, where we had a delicious local saganaki tyri and a wonderful lobster spaghetti before collapsing into bed.

On Sunday morning, 20th May, we left Psara at 7 to motor down to Emborios at the southestern corner of Chios (there was only a light following wind, which died to almost nothing). On the way we met a school of young dolphins, who played around the boat. 

When we got to Emborios we found that there was no room. Rather than going up the coast of Khios, we decided to go directly to Fourni. We had a good Force 3-4 northwesterly wind so we made very good time motor-sailing with the genoa and anchored in the bay at the south end of Fourni at 6pm, after a sail of 82 miles, averaging 7.5 knots. 

We didn’t see a single yacht sailing all day, indeed we have seen very few yachts sailing on the whole journey, so it was a surprise to find Emborios full, with four yachts anchored. In the evening a little fishing boat came in, greeted us, tied to a buoy for an hour, and then left again.

We had a wonderfully peaceful night anchored in the bay. In the morning we did some odd jobs. Simon topped up the gearbox oil – we have decided that the juddering noise when we go astern is probably a problem with the gearbox, because it only happens in reverse when the gearbox is hot, although Agmar removed and checked the gearbox 18 months ago (or at least we paid them to do it!). He then emptied and dried out the bilges and removed the starboard sofa cover so that we can see if there is a leak where the watermaker feeds into the tank.
We left for Agathonisi in a Force 4 northeasterly, but motorsailed because we wanted to make water and check the watermaker for leaks. As we left the anchorage, there was a coastguard boat hovering just offshore, behind Anthropofagou, a little island southeast of Fourni. As we sailed towards the gap between the island and a rock to the north, the coastguard boat belted up to us and told us not to go through the gap, but to go either north of the rock or south of Anthropofagou. 

We couldn’t see that there were any dangers – there are no charted rocks or shallows. Soon after we passed Anthropofagou to the south a low flying military jet roared past, so perhaps the coastguard wanted us to keep out of the way of a military exercise!
We had a gentle motor-sail over to Agathonissi 

arriving at 1 pm and saw five yachts on the way, more than we saw at sea the whole time north of the Dodecanese. We free anchored in Spilia 

and walked over to Yanni’s for the usual excellent lunch: kolokithokeftedes, spanakopitakia and keftedakia. Yanni’s back is bad and Voula has just had an operation to free a trapped nerve on her back, which has worked, but otherwise both are well. We also saw the guy we had met on the ferry from Athens, who had forgotten our names so could not give our greetings to Yanni and Voula. There were three yachts in the bay when we arrived, two of whom left soon after, and three more came during the afternoon. After lunch we had a swim and tried out the outboard, which worked first time, and Simon fixed a leak in the watertank, where the depth gauge is fitted, which involved unscrewing and removing the starboard sofa base. We motored the dinghy over to dinner at Yanni’s, where we had another delicious meal of revithokeftedes and a big sea bream each. The bill for lunch and dinner together was less than 50 euros.

We left Spilia at 7.20 next morning, Tuesday May 22nd. All the forecasts were for next to no wind, but we came out into a Force 5 northeast. We unfurled the genoa, expecting the wind to drop, but it never did. When we switched off the engine, we shot along under genoa, at a maximum of 7.5 knots. We got to the anchorage at Porto Stretto on Arki at 9.15. The buoys in the north bay were both taken, so we anchored in the south bay.

We walked over to Tiganaki for a swim and collected some white stones for Anna at the marina, who decorates them. On the beach was a sculpture of objets trouvées, worthy of the Turner Prize. 

We then walked back for lunch at Nicholas, where we were very warmly greeted by Nicholas, Christos, his dad, Maria, his mum and his aunt. But Charlie’s friend, Alexandros, was indifferent. He had more important things to attend to.

We had a delicious lunch of kolokithokeftedes, fava and tyropitakia. We then walked and rowed back to the boat to chill for the afternoon. We decided not to swim again because of the cold wind and in the evening we ate tuna pasta aboard.
We decided on Wednesday morning to head back towards Leros because we were anxious to get our gearbox fixed. In the morning we walked over to the village, collected some thyme, Simon had bacon and eggs at Nicholas and we said goodbye to everyone, including Mikhailis and Stephanos, whom we had not seen the day before. We left under sail at 10.10 to sail down to Arkhangelos along the East coast of Lipsi in a light breeze, but the wind died and we had to motor the last few miles.
We got to Arkhangelos about 1, completing our round trip of 600 nautical miles in three weeks. 

We picked up one of Georgios’s buoys and went to lunch at Stigma. This time everyone was there – Georgios and Evropi, Tassos and Dimitra. Just as we sat down with our beers, Ray and Carol and Nigel and Anne arrived for lunch, so we all had lunch together.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Our Northern Tour – Part Two

We were woken at 4am on Thursday, May 10th, at Evstratios by the arrival of the Hellenic Seaways ferry, as promised by the port police. We went back to sleep and got up early to leave for Myrina, Limnos at 7. We had a speedy motor-sail in a Force 3 southeasterly and arrived at Myrina, having covered 21 miles, at 9.50. We went stern-to the quay in Myrina, where there were already four yachts,

including Paddy and Sally on Skylark, who had gone from Mytilene to Ayvalik, to check out of Turkey, then back to Lesbos before crossing to Myrina the day before.
Myrina is a very attractive, very Greek, quite large and apparently prosperous town, with a big castle up on the hill, big beaches and narrow winding streets. It even has municipally-owned Boris bikes, though the bikes had not yet been installed.

We walked up narrow lanes, over the hill, 

to look for a laundry, stopped at the promenade on the northern side of the town,

then went shopping, before having an excellent lunch of grilled sardines and baked feta at a taverna in the little fishing boat harbor.  

During the afternoon more yachts came in – the Russian skippered charter we had been alongside in Plomari; Miguel, a Spanish fisherman in a Dutch registered yacht who had been with us in Agios Evstratos; and later a huge new Bulgarian Moody 54DS. Sally and Paddy came for a drink before we had dinner aboard and an early night.
Friday, May 11th, was a grey day with more wind from the north and spots of rain. After breakfast we walked up to the enormous castle on a large rock outcrop, which divides the town in two. 

The castle was originally Byzantine, started in 1186, and probably built on the site of the ancient acropolis. It was then expanded by the Venetians and later by the Ottomans.  It was damaged when it was besieged by the Russians in 1770 and occupied by the Germans in the Second World War, when it was bombed, but it is still very well preserved, with very good information panels and fantastic views of the town and surroundings (and across to Athos when the visibility is good).  On the way up we met some of the little wild deer who live here, and we met more inside the castle. 

We walked all the way around the castle and up to the top,
The entrance

The Mosque

The barracks

The top of the inner castle

taking in the views.

We came down from the castle, collected our laundry, went shopping and pottered around until lunch. After lunch we walked all-round the bay on the north side of town. The Archaelogical Museum was closed for restoration, but we visited the very interesting site of prehistoric Myrina, with the remains of houses dating back to the beginning of the third millennium BC, together with Polyochni, the oldest city in Europe. 

At its peak it is estimated to have had a population of 3,000. When we got back to the boat we did some odd jobs, had drinks with Paddy and Sally and had dinner aboard. By amazing coincidence Paddy had been at school with Lin’s brother, John, though he is a few years younger, and Sally had run a lymphoma charity, so supporting Simon.
On Saturday, May 12th, we hired a car for the day and drove around the island. We went first to Moudhros, where we stopped at the East Moudhros military cemetery, mostly filled by those who died of wounds from Gallipoli, but also a group of White Russian refugees from the civil war. 

Moudhros Bay was where the ships supporting the Gallipoli campaign were based and to which the hospital ships brought back the wounded. Moudhros town was not very interesting – a scruffy town with a scruffy harbor. There was just one yacht there, the Dutch ketch that we had been alongside in Plomari – an indicator of how few yachts there are up here is that we keep meeting the same people.

After Moudhros we drove over to Poliochni on the east coast. This was settled at the beginning of the third millennium BC, about the same time as Myrina and earlier than Troy. The city had a population of up to 1800, with defensive walls, paved streets, drainage and two large communal buildings, one probably a grain store and the other an assembly hall. It was abandoned after its destruction by an earthquake around 2000BC. 
Part of the defensive wall

The main street

One of two large wells

 There was a building on the site for storing tools which was probably a reconstruction of one of the ancient houses.

The city sits on a hill overlooking a windswept bay. 

The remains were well preserved and well signposted, with a very informative little museum.
After Polichni we drove up to Kabireio, a sanctuary of the kabiroi, originally dating from around the seventh century BC with later additions, including a Roman sanctuary. 

There was not very much to see, though the setting was dramatic, on a clifftop with views over to Samothraki and layers of volcanic rock in contorted shapes. We then climbed down some steep steps to see the cave in which Philoctetes, the Trojan War hero, was abandoned by his comrades until his gangrenous leg healed. There was a sign forbidding us to go the cave, 

but the custodian told us that we could get into the cave by wading through the sea, but the water looked quite deep and was rough with waves rolling in.

The rock formations were very striking, with layers of contorted volcanic rock.

By now it was lunchtime and we were getting hungry. We found a café in the small town of Kondopouli, 

where we had a beer and club sandwich, before driving down a dirt track to Ifestia, the most important city on Limnos in classical times, the other side of the bay from Kabireio. Most of the city is unexcavated, but there are the remains of the theatre. 

As at the other sites, we were the only visitors, and this time there was not even a custodian there, although we spotted him walking over to the site with his dog. When he arrived we offered to pay, but he just said ‘no tickets’. We drove back to Myrina, passing the reputed volcano,

around the south coast, with views of Ag Evstratios and Mount Athos, getting back to the boat in time for tea.
Limnos is mountainous, with dramatic volcanic outcrops, on the western half and pretty flat on the eastern half, indented, with a lot of sandy beaches. In the east there were large wheat fields, quite a lot of cows, sheep and horses, and lovely wild flowers in the meadows and along the roadside. 

The roads were almost empty and we saw very few tourists or tourist facilities. There was an incomplete resort on the hill at Kabireio, which seemed a strange place to build a resort, and beach resorts on the west coast, but it is amazingly undeveloped for tourism, despite having an airport with the longest runway in the Aegean.
When we got back, two Russian charter boats arrived, having had a wet and windy passage from Halkidiki. In the evening, we went out to dinner with Paddy and Sally in an indifferent restaurant on the northern beach.
On Sunday morning, May 13th, we got up to be treated to a trumpet serenade from a ragged military squad who marched along the quay to their drums and stopped facing a closed up building opposite our mooring place (we later discovered that they were saluting not the closed-up building, but the raising and lowering of the flag on the castle above!). 

In the evening they marched with drums and trumpets from the end of the quay to the same place, singing as they went. We had a quiet day, in the morning walking over the headland to the south to look down on the next resort, then up to the church overlooking the harbor. In the afternoon we did odd jobs and cooked dinner aboard. Sally took our picture,

We got up at 6 on Monday, ready to sail to Samothraki. The deer from the castle had come down to the quay where they were eating the grass. A passing car frightened them off and they started walking back to the castle, when Simon managed to get a picture of them. 

We set off at 6.50 with a light south wind, motoring half the way and motor-sailing the other half. We arrived at Komariotissa, the port of Samorthraki, just before 1, but then had a problem deciding where to moor. In the end we decided to go stern-to the outer quay, but there was a crosswind of 12 knots, the quay was high and there was no one to take our lines. We dropped the anchor and ran back onto the quay, where Simon tried to get ashore. He got a foothold on a ring halfway up the quay, but there was nothing to hold onto on the top, so he fell into the water. Fortunately, there were steps a little way along, so he could get out, and Lin backed the boat in and threw Simon a line. The wind was too strong for Simon to pull the boat across, so he tied the line to a ring and Lin passed another long line, which she winched in once Simon had tied it off. So in the end we were safely berthed.

Paddy and Sally arrived from Limnos in Skylark at about 3.30. Soon after that the car hire man drove along the quay to offer us a hire car and promised to arrange for the fuel tanker to bring us diesel at 5.30. Needless to say, it did not come. Paddy and Sally came for a drink at 6.30 and the car hire man came back to tell us that the tanker could not come now, but he would get them to come at 8.30 in the morning. We went for a very good and very cheap dinner at a fish taverna on the quay.
On Tuesday, May 15th, we got a hire car with Paddy and Sally, with Paddy offering to drive. We drove first to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, on the north coast. Sally had been told by some Italians that it was closed because of flooding, but they had managed to walk around the fence and find a way in. True enough, the path had been washed away by what had obviously been a torrent running down the mountain and there were two diggers at work repairing it. 

We walked across the debris and up the remains of the path to the museum which was ‘closed for renovation’, a traditional Greek euphemism. We then followed the path to the sanctuary, which was even more damaged than the path at the bottom, so we scrambled over the debris and got up to the entrance to find that it was indeed closed. We followed rough paths round most of the perimeter, but could not find any way in. However, we could see a lot of the site through the fence and the most attractive thing about it was the location.

After failing to get in to the Sanctuary or the museum, we drove up to the Hora, which is built up the sides of a gully on the side of a mountain. 

We parked in the centre of town and walked up to the medieval castle, which has been recently restored. 

By now we were getting hungry, but could not find a functioning taverna so we bought some pies in the baker, which we took to a bar, To Meltemi, with a terrace overlooking the village,with a great view down to the sea, where we ate them with bottles of the very good, though expensive, beer from the local micro-brewery. 
The bar owner had been born in Germany, where his parents had lived and worked for 35 years. He told us that much of the population of Samothraki had gone to work in Germany, mostly in Stuttgart, and many had now returned. He also told us that they had had a catastrophic storm last September, the run off from the mountains having destroyed the paths round the sanctuary and damaged many of the roads, as we were to see when we drove along the south of the island in the afternoon. He recommended the two best tavernas on the island, O Brakhos in Profitis Ilias for grills and To Akrogiali in Lakoma for fish, but by now we were full of pie and beer!

After lunch Paddy drove us through the narrow winding streets of Hora, over the pass and down to the south coast, which was amazingly green, with beautiful wild flowers. We drove up to Profitis Ilias, a mountain village, which had wonderful views along the coast, 

but O Brakhos did not look as though it was functioning. We drove back down a rugged windy to the coast road and turned east. The road went up and down over the hills, and in every gully the road was damaged, with masses of rocky debris around, and at one point a bridge had been destroyed, with the river temporarily filled with rubble and rough service on top.
We drove all the way along to the beach at Pachia Amos, a long sandy beach with a closed taverna, which was deserted. 

According to our old Rough Guide there is a hidden spring at the end of the beach. Simon set off to find it, but found nothing but a dried up gully. After a paddle and pushing the car out of the sand we drove back to the harbor, where we returned the car at about 4 o’clock. After drinks with Paddy and Sally we had bacon and eggs for dinner and an early night.
The outer quay was full by the evening, with most boats alongside. At about 7.30 a big Turkish catamaran came in and went alongside the inner quay. They left their servant washing the boat, while they went ashore. Sometime later they were told to move and went and anchored outside the harbor. Two large trawlers came in and went alongside where the catamaran had been, though they left early in the morning.
We got up early on Wednesday, May 16th, ready to leave at 7 for our return journey to Leros, with Limnos as our first stop. We said goodbye to Paddy and Sally, who were leaving for Thasos at the same time, and set off to sail into a stiff southerly wind.