Istanbul

After five days in Canakkale it was now time to start making tracks north towards Istanbul. I was a bit nervous about actually going into Istanbul, with it being a big city and was concerned about how many people would be there having managed to avoid crowds pretty much so far and the dreaded corona virus. We decided to play it by ear when we got there. Istanbul was about 130 miles away.

We left on an overcast day and as we approached the new “1915 Canakkale” bridge that is being built across the Dardanelles it was thundering and lightening. The length of the bridge’s main span will be 2023 metres and the significance of this, is that is when the centennial of the Republic of Turkey will be marked. The towers are 318 meters high and will be the longest suspension bridge in the world.

We arrived in the Sea of Marmara 10 hours later and moored up alongside in an abandoned marina on the Island of Avsa. We ended up staying here for four nights sitting out the winds. There was nothing around where we were so we took the bikes and rode to the town of Avsa which was about 2km away. It was a tourist town for the Turkish. Talking to a waiter apparently 50,000 people would descend onto the island the first week of July, so glad we were there the week before!

We had three more long sails until we arrived in Istanbul. We eventually stayed for 11 nights here, one because there is lots to see in Istanbul and two there was more wind and they were now in the opposite direction to the way we were going. The Northerly winds were in, these being the predominate winds for this time of year.
The marina was in Fenerbahçe, home to one of Istanbul’s top football teams, we passed the stadium on quite a few occasions, on the Asian side. Most of the sights were on the other side of the Dardanelles, the European side. We took a taxi which was about 10mins to the ferry port which set us back the princely sum of £3. The ferries run backwards and forwards and it is hectic. They moor the ferries like they are parking a car in a car park, no waiting for one boat to finish mooring they just slot in alongside.

Hagia Sophia

We were probably two of the last westerners to visit the Hagia Sophia as a museum. On 10th July a Turkish court struck down the 1934 cabinet decree that made it a museum and restored its status to that of a mosque with the first prayers to be held on Friday 24th July 2020.  It was built as a Christian church in the 6th century but became a mosque in 1453 after the Turkish conquest.  In 1934, President Ataturk, changed its status from a mosque and in 1935 it became a museum. 

Tombs of the Sultans

Blue Mosque

Unfortunately for us, the Mosque was having work done and so there wasn’t much for us to see as most of it was covered in scaffolding.  It was built between 1609 and 1616 and is still a functioning mosque.  It is known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles surrounding the interior walls. 

Basilica Cistern

The cistern is located nearby to the Hagia Sophia. There are hundreds of ancient cisterns underneath the streets of Istanbul. The Basilica Cistern is the largest. It was built in 532 during the reign of Emperor Justinian I to meet the needs of the Great Palace. The Cistern is 143 metres long and 65 metres wide. It is supported by 336 columns, each 9 metres high and spaced at four meter intervals arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns.

 The Süleymaniye Mosque 

The mosque is located on the Third Hill of Istanbul. The mosque was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid 1550’s. It is the second largest mosque in Istanbul.

We decided that we should go for a drink, and take in the view across the Golden Horn of Istanbul. “There is a very expensive beer with my name on it” said Ian. No there wasn’t. Only fruit drinks here. Wasn’t always easy to find places that actually sold alcohol. On the way back down the hill on another day we passed a bar, which had football scarves hanging everywhere and here we did get a beer, although, you could touch the trams as they went by if you stuck your hand out.

Topkapi Palace

The Palace was home to the Ottoman Sultans for nearly four centuries.  It housed between 1000 and 4000 people.  The Harem was the living quarters of the Sultan’s family, it supported as many as 300 concubines (mistresses).  The Sultan, under Islamic law, was allowed four wives but clearly no restriction of concubines.  The Queen Mother, was the central power in the Harem, she was the chief consort whose son had ascended to the throne. She also had influence over the Sultan.

In the Domed Chamber (also known as the Council Hall) council members met to discuss state affairs. The Grand Vizier led state meetings and sometimes the Sultan would listen  through a grilled window from a small room above. 

The Ceremonial Throne

We thought we’d take a boat trip down the Bospherus, as we hadn’t spent enough time on boats! However, we ended up taking more trips that we originally anticipated going backwards and forwards as we hadn’t appreciated we had to change at Eminuou. So 90 minutes later we eventually headed up the Bospherus. Ian was checking the current as it rips along here so we knew which parts of the channel to sail up when we left to go up to the Black Sea.

We really liked Istanbul and it is definitely somewhere we’d recommend a visit.

July 2020

Gallipoli & Troy

The Dardanelles is a narrow natural channel of water (3/4 to 4 miles wide) which leads from the Aegean Sea through to the Sea of Marmara and connects to the Black Sea via the Bosporus Strait which we would later sail along.


There are many ships to navigate between whilst sailing along here. We were headed to Çanakkale but it was too far in one hit so we stopped at quite an open bay, which you can only anchor in if the wind is in the right direction and thankfully it was. We thought we would get a swell from the ships going backwards and forwards but surprisingly we didn’t. Standing imposingly overlooking Morto bay is the Çanakkale Martyrs’ Memorial, which stands 137 ft high and is dedicated to the Turkish soldiers who participated in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915.

We saw the biggest group, in one place, of jelly fish. It was like they were streaming along off for a day out.

Gallipoli

We arrived at the marina in Çanakkale which was right in the centre of town. More sightseeing here. Someone had recommended that we should have a tour guide for our visit to Gallipoli. We were their first customers of the season. We arranged our tour guide and we left at 9.15am on the ferry to Eceabat where we picked up the minibus to start our tour around the Peninsula.


We visited a number of War Grave Cemeteries, including 57th Infantry Regiment (Turkish), Lone Pine (Anzac) Lone Pine Memorial (Anzac and British), Helles Memorial (Commonwealth) and Çanakkale (Turkish). The Helles Memorial commemorates more than 20,000 servicemen of the British Empire who died during the campaign and have no known grave. Each of the graves at the Çanakkale Cemetery has 36 names and the background of the headstone depicts the Turkish flag.


Alongside the 57th Infantry Regiment Cemetery is a large statue of a Turkish Soldier carrying a rifle. The guide asked us if we knew what was wrong with the statue. Clever Clogs Ian, had the answer. The soldier was holding a Lee Enfield rifle, which was you probably know, a British rifle.

Part of our tour included the Gallipoli War Museum. They had various British notices encouraging men to enlist. Also there was a museum set up as a field hospital.

We visited where the Anzac front line trenches were, there wasn’t much to see but the tour guide told us some interesting stories. He then suggested that we might like to have a wander about. I was OK until he said “beware of the snakes”. “There are vipers and they are vicious”. Well that was it for me. I was back the minibus like a shot. A major phobia of mine. We then went to Walkers Ridge, which was mostly eroded now. We followed the guide who stamped his feet as he walked along. I looked Ian and said “is he doing what I think he is?” Yep! He was just warning the slithery things that we were there. Lost my concentration at that stage and kept looking about just in case!


Included in the tour was a three course lunch which was very nice. I would definitely recommend visiting with a guide to give you the history and our guide certainly knew his stuff. We arrive back in Çanakkale at 6.30pm, it had been a long day but worth it. So we thought we’d finish off with a couple of beers.

Troy

The other sight to see here is the ancient city of Troy. It is not your typical ancient ruins, or as some would say – pile of rocks. It is very incomplete but there are nine layers of Troy dating back as far as 5,000 years ago to 3,000BC.

Made famous by the legend Helen of Troy and the Trojan Horse. The original Trojan Horse used in the film “Troy”, is outside the marina in Çanakkale.

The landscape in this part of Turkey is surprising as it looks very much like parts of the English countryside.


June 2020

Kusadasi to Ayvalik

Kusadasi is a normally a busy tourist resort which is a regular stop for cruise ships, with approx 600 ships visiting annually, so this gives you an idea of how rammed it would be pre Corona Virus.  Whilst here we were asked on many occasions “where have you come from?” we clearly didn’t “look local”. Since then we’ve had to repeat the story many times, that we come from London (no-one knows where Canvey Island is) but we’ve been in Kas for the winter.

One of the reasons to go to Kusadasi is to visit Ephesus an ancient Greek city which later became a major Roman settlement.  It attracts about 10,000 visitors per day, yes per day.  This photo is the Street of the Curetes, which is 210 metres long, with not a soul to be seen.

There must have been possibly 50 people wandering around the whole site it was wonderful for us, but not for the local economy.  The Library of Celsus is magnificent.  The ruins also has public toilets, how civilised you would think, yes and no, they are open air and very public!

The House of the Virgin Mary is also at Ephesus, but unfortunately this was closed so we’ll call in there on our way back down to Kas. 

We also visited the Ephesus Archaeological Museum where there are two statues of the Artemis.  The first the Colossal Artemis dates back to the first century and the second, known as the Beautiful Artemis was made in the second century.  The signs of the zodiac are shown on her neck, symbolising her power over the heavens. 

The name Kusadasi means bird island and the small island that is connected to the mainland by a walkway is called Pigeon Island and has a castle that sits on it. 

The Caravan Saray, no it’s not a caravan park, was built in the 16th Century and was a place for travellers to stay.  Travellers would stay in the rooms on the first floor and the animals and goods were accommodated on the ground floor.  This particular Caravan Saray was also a fortress.

After a week here, time to move on.  We anchored in a couple of different bays one of which was an inlet where the boats for the fishing farms which were along this stretch moored.  Very pretty and sheltered.

Ayvalik

Ayvalik was in a bay that was reached by a narrow waterway.  It reminded us of Poole Harbour but on a bigger scale and it was much deeper.  Ian, who constantly wants tea, Cay here in Turkey, spotted a café in a little square.  I thought it looked like a working man’s club, but he insisted it wasn’t.  The clue being there were only men sitting at the tables.  I translated the sign which is behind Ian’s head and it reads “Brothers Challenge Tea House”! I rest my case.

We spent just a few days here, we would pop back but as I mentioned before we wanted to get as far north as soon as we could before the prevailing northerly winds came in.  Ian had been looking at Google Earth looking for places to anchor/moor.  Babakale was one of those such places.  It was a fishing port and due to the pandemic didn’t have many boats in it.  An interesting fact we discovered is that Babakale sits on a cape that is the western most point of mainland Asia. 

Just one night here and we were headed to the Dardanelles strait which separates European Turkey from Asian Turkey. 

June 2020

We’re off for the season – Turkey

Finally we had been given the green light to travel and so on 14th May us and Copycat waved goodbye to Kas until later in the year. 

There was absolutely zero wind and it was hot!  We had planned to make our way to Fethiye, well we were in for a little surprise.  Four hours in and we were called up on the radio by the coastguard telling us that we need to turn around and head back south.  At that moment we heard a loud bang, which confirmed that yes there was firing practice going on.  So backwards we went, two and a half hours to Kalkan, which is about 16 miles from Kas.  It was a lovely bay and we ended up spending four nights here as the firing practice was going on for this long.  It gave Ian plenty of time to clean the bottom of the boat. 

We next headed to a little bay called Akvaryum Koyu, which is just three miles from the well known tourist resort of Olu Deniz and only reachable by sea.  There is just one restaurant here.

We anchored just outside the Blue Lagoon at Olu Deniz, as boats aren’t allowed in there.  There were a number of other boats there, and a couple of Aussie guys helped tie our ropes to the rocks, this was after Karen on Copycat had already jumped in the water to tie their ropes off.  We went ashore here and at this time beaches were closed and we had to try and get the Jandarma (police) to understand that we weren’t planning on sunbathing but that we had just come off the boat so it was our only way to get ashore across the beach.  IOlu Deniz is normally packed but it was eerily quiet, like a ghost town.  We got some strange looks from the few people about as to how we had got there.

My cousin Sue and her husband Rick joined us for a day.  Ian picked them up from the beach and they had to make the same explanation to the Jandarma. 

We dropped Sue off at the end of the day and then headed round to Fethiye where we anchored in the bay.  The following day we spent a lovely day at Sue’s and got to go swimming in the pool. 

There were some strong winds, the bain of a sailor’s life, coming through plus there was a four day curfew coming up so we headed to one off the islands by Gocek, us and umpteen others had had the same idea.  There were a number of pontoons here belonging to a restaurant which we tied up along side.  We were having a heatwave too, temperatures were in the mid 30’s, which is unusual for this time of year so Ian decided that he would cook a beef wellington, just what you need.  He’d seen some nice fillet in the butchers at a reasonable price and decided that it had to be beef wellington.  It was very nice.

We went for a walk and there was quite a bit of rubbish so Ian collected some of it, it was Trash Tuesday after all.

Our next port of call was Marmaris, which is a big yachtie place.  There are several streets of shops selling everything you could want for a boat.  Ian was and Ronnie, as you can imagine, like kids in a toy shop.  It’s normally the guys that stand outside shops waiting, well this time it was Karen and I.  This is another place that in normal times would be rammed.  We walked up to the castle but that was also shut.  We had a day of rain here, yes we do get it, the countryside is green, so it has to rain some time.  We need shopping so we went off in our pac-a-mac’s and our face masks which were mandatory in public places in the region of Mugla. 

We were due to leave Marmaris at about 8 o’clock.  Ian is in the wide awake club at 7, so that’s that, he springs out of bed and we’re off.  He, unbelievably I know, has a habit of doing this.  We had more strong winds coming through so we headed off to Bodrum to hide for a couple of days which we did in two hops as it was too far a trip in one day.  We left our Mahe Mates behind.  We wanted to get moving on as far north as possible sooner rather than later as Ian wanted to get into the Black Sea, to visit Bulgaria and Romania, alas at time of writing this, it’s not meant to be.  There are quarantine restrictions by them and Turkey which has just been extended.  Also the prevailing winds along the coast of Turkey are northerly which normally start mid-end of June, so it’s worth getting as far north as we can so that when they do start we are heading south with the wind behind us.  As Ian would say “Gentleman don’t go to windward”, I have to remind him of that on occasions when we are going to windward.  We anchored in the bay next to Bodrum, which wasn’t quite what we expected.  There were rows and rows of concrete blocks of apartments.  I expect in normal times, will things ever be normal again, this is a busy resort with loud music, jet skis and speed boats whizzing people about.  None of this on this visit. 

We were planning on going to Kusadasi and staying there for about a week as we wanted to see some of the sights there, Ephuses.  We thought we’d do it on the way up rather than on the way down as with no international tourists or cruise ships which dock here regularly it would be much quieter.  More on that next time.  We hopped along the coast over the next couple of days before arriving in Kusadasi. 

May- June 2020

Kas

Cuffysark arrived in Kas (pronounced Kash) on 25th October 2019 to settle down for the winter.  We purposely arrived now as we wanted to be in Turkey for Republic Day which was 29th October and is in celebration of Turkey’s independence and as you can imagine is a big event.  There are processions and bands.  The square of Kas was filled with tables for people to eat.  We managed to book a table at a restaurant just off the side of the square

We also arrived in time for the Six Nations rugby so we gathered together to watch the games.  Something we took for granted pre CV!

I was due to fly back to the UK again on 4th November unfortunately I had to dash home before that as my Dad, who was terminally ill, had taken a turn for the worse and so I flew home on 31st October and didn’t return again until the end of February.  The world once being a small one, it was easy to jump on a plane and be home within 24 hours of booking a flight, not necessarily the case in these strange times of the Corona Virus.  Sadly my Dad passed away on 16th December, but I was able to be there and look after him at home and spend the last weeks of his life with him.

Ian and I arrived back to Kas on 27th February, it was strange to be back home on the boat after four months.  I was looking forward to discovering Kas and some of the surrounding area before the start of the sailing season.  “All best laid plans  ….”! Well it wasn’t meant to be as on 16th March the lockdown began in Turkey.  Only supermarkets and such like would be open.  They later announced a total curfew for people under 20 and over 65, they weren’t allowed out even for exercise.  We did get a chance just ahead of the lockdown, to catch up with my cousin Sue and her husband Rick who lives just up the coast which was really nice and got to have our last meal out as the following day they closed the bars and restaurants.

We could have been in worse places for the lockdown so we are definitely not complaining.  During lockdown we could go out for shopping and exercise but we also had regular curfews where you weren’t allowed out at all, these normally co-incided with the weekend, when the authorities anticipated more people would be out and about.  It also become compulsory to wear masks in public places and in supermarkets.  In late April we were given permission to go out to an anchorage so we left for Kekova which is about 20 miles from Kas.  We went out for just the one night as another curfew was due and we had to be back in the marina for this.  Before we left the Marina, they checked that we were in fact 65 and under, cheek do we really look 65, yes I know they were just doing their job.  On arrival at Kekova the coastguard came alongside and again checked we weren’t 65 or over as this age group was still on permanent curfew. 

At Kekova is the sunken city of Simena which was destroyed by an earthquake in the 2nd century.  On the opposite hillside is the Castle of Simena.  Normally it would be possible to look around it but the Coronavirus put a stop to that.

In preparation of the hope that we would be able to travel within Turkey in the next few coming weeks we started going through our final list of jobs that we needed to do before we could leave.  Washing, polishing and putting all the equipment back on the boat which Ian strips off at the end of the season. 

It was announced early May that we could travel AND barbers and hairdressers were going to be allowed to open on the 11th May.  So myself and Karen from Copycat, were fortunate to have our hair cut on 12th.  Two days later on 14th May we set off and left Kas behind until later in the year where Cuffysark would spend its second winter.  Hopefully we will get to see more of Kas in the winter. 

October 2019 – May 2020

The Penultimate and Final Greek Stops – Rhodes & Kastellorizo

October 2019

Our penultimate stop in Greece and of the season was in Rhodes, where the outlaws, John and Irene would be joining us for a week. 

Rhodes Old Town is fabulous and takes a while to walk around it.  There are over 200 streets and alleys, some bustling with shops and restaurants and others much quieter. 

Within the walls of the Old Town is the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes.  It was largely destroyed in 1856 by explosives, that were hidden in the basement of the church of St John. The palace was restored by the Italians in 1940 who occupied the Dodecanese islands at that time.

The Archaeological Museum of Rhodes is also located in the Medieval City of Rhodes. The museum is situated in what was the hospital of the Knights of St John. On our visits we see lots of statues and you do tend to glaze over at another one however, you have to remember that some of these statues that are completely preserved are nearly 2000 years old.  The detail in them is quite astounding.

As always we have to visit the main port and look at the boats and the sea, as it’s not like we’ve seen much of this! The entrance to the Port is where the Colossus of Rhodes, representing the God Helios, stood in 280BC.  According to myth it stood 108 feet high (33 metres).  It collapsed in 226BC when an earthquake hit the island.  There is some debate as to whether it stood astride the entrance. 

There is a row of windmills on the outer wall of the harbour and at the end is the Fort of St Nicholas which was built by the Knights of St John in the 15th century.

We visited the Monastery of Filerimos in Rhodes which is located on a hill above Lalyssos.  It gave us very good views.  The monastery was built again in the 15th century and  by the Knights of St John, they were certainly busy bees.

Talking of Bees, we also visited the Bee Museum which gives information on the tradition and history of beekeeping in Rhodes.  We could see the bees in transparent observation hives. We also took a trip to Rodini Park where Peacocks were wandering about, a little unnerving when there are so many of them.

The Castle of Kritinia is situated on a hill approximately 131 meters above the village of Kritinia, northern Rhodes.  It was a long walk up to the top but the outlaws made it.  The castle was built by the Knights of St John. It was originally built on three levels and each level was assigned to a different Grand Master. 

Lindos is a popular tourist town with small windy roads, lots of restaurants and gift shops.  There is the Acropolis of Lindos on the clifftop.  We decided that we’d give it a miss going up to the top and admired it from a lower level.

We’d had a full week of discovering Rhodes, so it was now time for John and Irene to return home.  The following day we departed Rhodes at the most unearthly hour of 5.30am in convoy with CopyCat, Ula and We Dun It ,for the final island of Greece Kastellorizo  (Turkish call it Meis) where we would check out of Greece to head to Cuffysark’s winter home of Kas in Turkey which was a stone’s throw away.  Kastellorizo is a delightful place with lots of coloured houses scattered along the hillside.

We checked out that evening and had to be on our way by 10am the following morning.  It’s strange how close some of the Greek Islands are to Turkey.

This was now the end of our 2019 sailing season.  We started in Sicily and travelled through quite a lot of Greece but there is still so much to see so in the words of the Terminator “I will be back”!

October 2019 – Posted June 2020

The Dodecanese Islands

Astipalea AKA Butterfly Island

The final set of Greek Islands that we visited were the Dodecanese which are located on the south east side of Greece, between the Cyclades and the coast of Turkey.  Our first stop was Astipalea which is in the shape of a butterfly, so Ian subsequently now refers to it as Butterfly Island.  We anchored in a bay at Livada and took the long uphill walk to the Chora.  Chora means town in Greek and is often used as the name of the main town on an island.  We had a great view of Cuffysark at the top.

As you arrive in the Chora, there are eight windmills.  There is also a castle which sits on top of the hill and is Venetian and was constructed in the early 1200’s.  The one thing that does strike you when visiting some of these sights is that you can get very close to the edge and the signs just say to be careful, it isn’t sectioned off so you can’t get to it.  Not much “elf and safety” here!

There was a cat taking refuge in the castle wall, to try and keep cool.  We also had a good view of Cuffysark from here.

Nisyros  AKA Volcano Island

A couple of hours into the trip to Nisyros we found we had a stowaway, who disembarked on arrival.

We hired a car here and took a ride out to the Volcano.  We got so far along the road and then it became a dirt track road, then it only resembled a track here and there.  Most people at this stage would have turned around and gone the other way to the volcano, but oh no not us.  I kept my fingers crossed that we didn’t come to a dead end thankfully we eventually joined up with the road again.  The volcano is dormant but you can see it bubbling and the steam coming up from inside the crater and there is a very strong smell of sulpher. There was some “elf and safety” here as this part of the crater was roped off.  The crater is called Stefanos and is about 1,000 feet in diameter (300 m) and 80 feet (25 m) deep. Ian ringed in the photo below gives you an idea of the size of the crater.

We had a drive around the Island, stopping off for ice-cream in a lovely square.  We came across this cat who obviously got the cream, looking very content.  A thing that is strange here is the size of the glass they give you for your wine!

Symi

We first went to the bay of Panormitis where the Monastery of Panormitis is situated and is dedicated to the Archangel Michael.  We were able to have a look around. The monastery sounds the bell each time a ferry arrives and departs.

We then went to Symi town which is not how you imagine a Greek island to be as it has lots of different coloured houses which is in stark contrast to most of the rest of Greece.    There are lots of ferries and even cruise ships that visit here, which is amazing as it’s not that big a place.  It must be crazy in high season.  No cheap harbour wall mooring here either and they were wanting the mooring fee before we’d even finished mooring up.  We had a visit from an Island Yacht Club member who happened to be on holiday and was as surprised to see us as we were to see him and his wife. Symi town is very touristy with lots of shops and restaurants.

October 2019

The Cyclades

The next set of Islands are the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, which is much windier however, at this time of year it should be more settled.  There are a lot of small islands which are off the beaten track and so much quieter than the larger islands that most people have heard of such as Santorini.  The islands are just as you imagine the Greek Islands to be, everything white washed, houses, churches and roads. 

We hopped around the islands, first arriving at Fikiadha on Kythnos.  We anchored in a bay that had two sides to it which was separated by a sandbank.  Unfortunately, the weather the next day was rain, yes we do get some here, so we only stayed the one night.

The next island was Syros we anchored at Finike.  We took a local bus to the main town, Ermoupolis, on the other side of the island. 

We next headed to Paros, where we met up with some of the Licata Crew and anchored at Naoussa, a large sheltered bay and then from here we went round to the main town of Parikia which is very well connected with ferries.  We had to dodge five of them in the first hour.  There was zero wind. 

Parikia had lots of narrow whitewashed streets and churches, everywhere has at least one church! Also seem to be more windmills in this area.  There is also a castle sited amongst the streets, The Frankish Castle, built in the 1200’s.

We had a meal out and we got chatting, and no I don’t know how this subject came up, very random I know, about the TV programme “Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?” and how it wasn’t possible to fold a piece of paper in half eight times.  So much to the amusement of the other people in the restaurant, Dave attempted to fold a tablecloth eight times and no by the time you got to the eighth time, the tablecloth was too thick. It kept us and the other diners amused for a while!

After a few days we decided to go a small stretch of sea between Tigani and Theodotis, Nisos Iso which was deserted.  It looked a bit foggy in the distance, Ian not to be deterred, we left the rest of the gang behind and headed off.  Half an hour in and there was nothing but clear blue skies.  So now the rest of them followed.  Tranquillity was broken particularly that evening with our boat party! 

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The forecast was for some strong winds, so we headed to Irakleia to hide, and the others went off in the other direction, was it something we said.  Irakelia has just 141 inhabitants, so if you want to get away from it and the rest of the world this is the place to be.

Koufanisi was our next stop, in the harbour, which had quite a bit of surge, so not the most comfortable place to be.  Another unspoilt place.

Our final stop in the Cyclades was Amorgos, the eastern most island .  We hired a car here so we could explore the island.  There is a shipwreck, the Olympia, which sank here in 1980.  You had to walk down the hillside, which was very muddy, as we’d had quite a downpour, so after going along and gaining 6inch platforms of mud on my shoes I decided to turn back and left Ian to go down. 

One of the most spectacular and memorable sights of the season was here on Amorgos, the Hozoviotissa Monastery. It is built into the side of the cliff and is the second oldest in Greece built in 1017 and renovated in 1088.  It is 300m above sea level.  The monastery is 40m high and 5m wide and has eight stories.  The monastery is open to visitors twice a day.  There are three monks that live here.  It is a steep walk of 300 steps up to the entrance. 

March 2020

Athens and the Saronic Gulf – September 2019

We are now moored in Zea Marina, which is in Piraeus, the biggest passenger port in Europe (September 2019) and spending a few days here before my next trip back to the UK.  We took a tour bus as we find this is one of the best ways to get your bearings of a place.

The main attraction is the Acropolis.  We were fortunate as although it was hot, there was some breeze, a few weeks earlier the site had been closed because it was too hot. 

The Parthenon is dedicated to the Goddess Athena, the patron of their city, and was built between 447 and 438 BC.

The Erechtheion is on a slope, so the west and north sides are about 3 m (9 ft) lower than the south and east sides.  On the south side, is the “Porch of the Maidens”, with six draped female figures as supporting columns.  One of those original six figures was removed by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century and is now in the British Museum in London. The Acropolis Museum holds the other five figures, which are replaced onsite by replicas. 

Whilst we were here they were setting up for an event at The Theatre of Dionysus.

There were good views of Athens from up here.  An interesting fact we learnt on our tour was that the Marathon was changed from 25 miles to 26 miles and 385 yards as a result of the 1908 Olympics held in London.  Originally the course was to be from Windsor to White City stadium. However, a request was received from the Queen asking to locate the start line at Windsor castle so Princess Mary and her children could watch from a window.  A change to the finish line was also requested so that the finish line could be in front of the royal family’s viewing box inside the stadium so the course was further extended.  It was 1921 before this became the official length of the marathon.  So there you go!

We had a nice evening out with Karen and Ronnie in Pireaus and had to have a photo taken under the Clock Tower just to prove that Karen does stay up late sometimes. 

I left Ian in Athens and headed off to the airport back to the UK.  Ian made his way to Poros where he was going to sit out the Meltemi that was forecast whilst I was away.  He found himself a nice spot in Russian Bay where he managed to tie the boat up to the rocks, not an easy task when you are single handed.  He then made his way to Navy Bay where I would meet him.  I arrived at Athens airport, then took a bus to Pireaus and finally a ferry to Poros where Ian was waiting dockside to meet me at about 9.00pm.  We took my stuff back to the boat and then headed back to Poros to eat.  Poros is a lovely island but can be very busy. 

After a couple of days we headed off hoping to take the route between the island and the mainland but unfortunately the power lines had come down in a recent storm and so we had to take the long route round to Ermioni adding 2.5 hours to our trip.  To keep the power line out of the water a mobile crane had been placed on a ferry to hold them up in the air but not high enough for us to take this route.

Ermioni is another popular place and we anchored in the bay.  The harbour wall on the other side is normally rammed but today whilst having some breakfast, ok it was brunch, was empty.

Another Meltemi was forecast so we headed to Port Heli which is situated in a very sheltered bay although there is a shipwreck here. 

After a few days here the next group of islands we would visit would be the Cyclades

March 2020

The Sporades Islands – the land of Mamma Mia

The first of the Sporades Islands is Skiathos.  This is a popular resort as it has its own airport.  The harbour is full of bars and restaurants and pleasure boats offering trips to places where Mamma Mia 1 was filmed.  We anchored in the bay around the corner where it was a little quieter and met up with some people who we wintered in Cartagena with, Steve and Gill on Coriander. 

We then hopped across to an anchorage at Skopolos where we stayed just the one night (we did return to Skopolos but later in the month) and then off to a small island opposite Allonosis (are you keeping up with all these names) called Peristera.  We anchored in a small bay where there was one other boat a catamaran, at least there was for a while.  As the day wore on there were a few more but most disappear at the end of the day.  Ashore there was nothing apart from goats.  We tied to the rocks here so the boat didn’t swing around. 

Our next stop was to Vitso on Allonosis.  It is a small village with a small harbour.  The harbour wall is full of small boats so we anchored up and tied to the rocks of the hillside behind us.  We were told that there is room for approx six boats to tie up to the rocks.  There were eventually 14 boats.  They kept coming and coming, in fact a couple came in and had to leave.

The capital of Allonosis, Patitiri, was a 30 minute walk so off we went.  Patitiri was destroyed in the 1965 earthquake so it’s not so quaint as it’s modern.  We discovered there was a Pirate Museum here.  We could see it from the harbour up on the hillside but it took a while to find how we actually got up to it. It was easier coming down.

We did more island hopping from here, which is easy to do as the islands are fairly close together.  Anchoring in very picturesque bays.  From Allonosis back to Limnonari on Skopolos and then back to Skiathos.  We met up with some of the crew we wintered with in Licata, Dave and Vickie on “We Dun It”, Colin and Maggie on “Serafina” and Clare and Andy on “Ula”.  After a lovely few days catching up off we hopped again to Millia and then to Loutraki, Skopolos. 

The town of Glossa is up on the hillside from Loutraki.  Some say you can walk it but having taken the bus up we realised that bus or taxi was definitely the better option.  The narrow streets were quite steep in places and you do wonder how the elderly manage. We were pretty puffed out by the time we got to the top! With three quarters of the Licata Crew from Skiathos (minus Ula) we found a restaurant that wasn’t your usual Greek cuisine, which made a real change.  You don’t get the choice of food types like you do in the UK. The view from Glossa was amazing, one of the best we’ve seen so far. 

We left here and headed back to the bay at Vasiliko, with just the goats.  We picked up a stray on the way in the form of a “Praying Mantus”, fascinatingly strange looking insect.  From here to the island of Panagias in another bay with nothing more than goats.  The crossing, albeit short thankfully, was awful with big swells and gusts which meant we had lots of water over the boat. 

I was flying back to the UK again for a week so we needed to head back to Athens, so we were on a timescale again.  We left Ula and We Dun It behind and headed to the island of Skyros which is known to be windy.  Our route to Skyros meant we had to go through the Stenon Valaxa Strait which at its narrowest is just about 500ft wide and only 2-5m deep.  It was quite stunning.  Unfortunately, as I was on Facetime at the time I don’t have any photos but my Mum and Dad got to experience the trip through with us albeit remotely. 

We moored up on the Harbour wall at Linaria.  The harbour has an excellent reputation for being very helpful and good facilities.  The harbourmaster came alongside and directed us where to go and offered help with getting in and mooring up.  Linaria is where the ferries come in.  The harbour front is very pretty with lots of tavernas.  Everything was close by, petrol station, bus stop, shops and harbour front.  Every evening between 7 and 8pm the showers has a bubble disco.  So yes we did go and have a shower at this time and bubbles and music was what we got.  The showers were very nice too, which is not always the case. 

We took the bus into Skryos Town, where I’ve never seen so many boutiques.  It was very touristy but pretty.  There is a statue of the poet Rupert Brooke, who died on Skyros and is buried there.  He was known for his poems of the First World War.  

Waiting for the bus we met the Scarecrow Family, someone certainly has a sense of humour.

We now had to push on to get to Athens as we had a few days in the marina to see the sights of Athens before I headed to the UK.  Not the best conditions as it was windy and gusting up to 26 knots and with big seas of 2 /2.5 metre swells.  Not the best trip I’ve had.  The wind was behind us, we had various reefs in the sails to reduce the power of the boat but we were still hitting speeds between 9 and 14 knots which Ian thought was great but not me!  Pictures and videos never show quite the extent of the conditions.  Very pleased to anchor up eventually after 11 hours.

We made two further hops to Zea Marina, where we were greeted by Karen on CopyCat.  It was nice to be in the marina for a while. 

August 2019