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 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.