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

Evia

Evia is the second largest Greek Island after Crete.  It is 110 miles long and between 31 and 4.7 miles wide.  It is not a usual tourist destination other than by the Greeks themselves, so it was much quieter than the Islands south of Athens.  Much more up our street. 

The Euripus Strait that separates it from the Greek mainland at its narrowest is just 130ft at Chalkida where the bridge is and only opens at night to let us Yachts through. 

We left Porto Raft (29th July 2019) and made our way to Panagia which was a very small village.  We anchored for one night on one side of the bay and the following day with the change of wind direction moved to the other side.  We anchored in the deepest water we have so far which was 14m. 

Our next port of call was Eretria.  We pulled up the anchor and along with it was a drum whether it was something to do with fishing or a cable drum we didn’t know but it was a b*****r to get off. 

Drum attached to our anchor

Eretria

Eretria is where the Greeks go on holiday.  We ended up spending five nights here as our next stop would be Chalkida where we needed to go though the  bridge.  The bridge wasn’t open on the first Friday of every month and we arrived on Wednesday 31st July and didn’t want to rush off.  Plus the weekends incurred a premium of 75% to go through the bridge so hence why we stayed for so long. 

There are Greek ruins and an archelogical museum which we visited. 

We were planning on leaving a day earlier than we did to get up to Chalkida but in the end we were settled so stayed another night in Eretria.  Well with what occurred that last night we were so glad we stayed.  At about 9.30pm we noticed that there were small boats starting to arrive and hover about.  Now this normally means one thing, FIREWORKS!!!  This display was different,there was a small wooden boat left in the middle of the harbour, a flare was thrown into it and this set off fireworks that were in the boat.  The boats who had come to watch the display also had flares which they held in the air.  The ferry not to be left out also had a flare and it spun round 360 degrees twice with its horn blaring.  It was quite a spectacle.

Chalkida

The next morning we left for Chalkida.  There are two bridges that connect Chalkida to the mainland.  One a suspension bridge which is 45m above the sea level, so plenty of room to go underneath it.  The other is a sliding bridge and as I mentioned only opens once a day and always at night.  We had to visit the Port Authority Office to pay to go through the bridge.  We were told we couldn’t pay until we had been to the Port Police for them to check our papers.  So off we went.  They looked at our papers only to check we’d paid our cruising tax, which we had.  We were then told we should go back to the Port Office to pay but we needed to come back after 4 o’clock and see the Port Police to give us instructions and check all our papers.  Back to the Port Office where we were asked did the  Port Police check your papers we said yes and so he processed our payment!  At 4 o’clock off we went back to the Port Police who checked all our papers and were given instructions that we must be on our boat at 9.30pm with the radio on and to wait to be told when we could transit through the bridge.  It could be anytime from 10.00pm to 2.00am when we could go through.  There is an electronic sign on the bridge which tells people when the bridge is closing that day so we knew it would be after midnight, we went through at 12.45am watched by crowds of people lined along the bridge.

There are very strong tidal currents that reverse direction every six hours and you can see the water whirling round and round.  We moored up on the wall on the other side of the bridge.  Chalkida is the capital of Evia and so busy.  There are lots of jellyfish here so not the place for swimming.  We stayed a couple of nights here to stock up before leaving for Theologos on the mainland. 

Theologos

Theologos was a small town with a few bars.  Here we saw the largest power boat trimaran which is quite a sight.

After a short stay overnight at a small bay near to the tip of Evia we headed to the Bay of Velos as we were expecting some very strong winds so we were looking for shelter. 

Bay of Velos

August  2019

Gulf of Corinth Part II – July 2019

Itea and Delphi

We left Trizonia Island and our Mahe Mates, Copy Cat and headed to Itea.  It was forecast to be quite breezy and it was gusting up to 27 knots.  We were on a deadline as I was flying back to the UK on 19th July so had to get a bit of a move on.  The wind was due to increase as the day went on so we left first thing before the worst of it.  We moored up on the harbour wall at one o’clock and the wind steadily increased. 

Our reason for heading to Itea was to visit Delphi, the site of the Temple of Apollo and home to the Oracle.  Delphi was considered to be the centre of the world and where the Priestess Oracle received messages from the God Apollo and gave advice.  Someone, can’t remember who, recommended that we get there early and before the crowds.  So unbelievably there we were waiting at the bus stop at 7am, yes 7 am!  The ride took us up into the mountains and the views were quite spectacular. 

Corinth Canal

Our next destination was to the Corinth Canal.  It was a day sail of eight and a half hours.  We arrived in the pouring rain and a cool 25degrees.  We moored up in the Corinth Harbour for the night.  It rained constantly, at times torrential, that we never ventured off the boat here. 

The following day (Tuesday 17th July 2019) we radioed up the Canal whilst we were still in the harbour to ask them what time we can transit through.  We were told to head to the Canal straight away and radio when close by which we did to be told to wait within a certain area.  Ian drifted out of that area! We then got a call on the radio telling us to get back in the designated area where we waited nearly an hour.  There was only one other boat waiting to go through and the only advantage of milling about for an hour was that we were the first to be called to go through, so got an interrupted view.

The Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf on the Aegean Sea.  The canal cuts approx. 185nm of the journey.  It is 4miles long, just 70ft wide and the surrounding walls are 170 feet high, so boats can only travel in one direction at a time.  With hindsight, a wonderful thing, we should have checked the AIS (Automatic Identification System – tracking system on boats) to see if there was anyone coming through from the East.  We would have then known that we would have to wait for them to exit on the west side before we could enter. 

Signs show a speed limit for transiting the Canal, however, once inside we were told basically to “get a move on”.  It took just 40 minutes from one end to the other and cost a £140 for the privilege.  Apparently mile for mile it is the most expensive canal in the world but it was worth it for the experience. 

Once through the Canal we headed to the small island of Salamina which is about 12 miles from Pireaus, (main port for Athens – where all the ferries depart and there are a lot of them).  There was nothing much onshore by the anchorage other than two bars and of course a church.  It was very quiet here and we could see lots of ships anchored by Piraeus.

We spent a couple of nights anchored at Salamina and then it was time to get me to the mainland for my flight. We set off to one of the marinas in Pireaus where Ian pulled up alongside, I stepped off and off he went back up to Korfos, near to the Cornith Canal to meet up with Copy Cat and hide from the Meltemi (strong wind) that was forecast.  It was hot in Greece and I was quite looking forward to some cooler weather in the UK, well that didn’t happen the weather slipped into my suitcase and a heatwave ensued whilst I was back in the UK.

It’s always a dilemia knowing where to be dropped off and picked up, without booking into a marina.  The choice for my pickup was made and it was Porto Rafti which is to the East of Athens Airport and just a 20 minute taxi ride.  I confused the taxi driver( i spoke no Greek and he spoke no English) by being asked to be dropped off on the beach where my carriage awaited, the dinghy!  Our next trip would be up the Evia Channel and onto the Sporades Islands.

July 2019

Gulf of Corinth Part 1 – July 2019

Messolonghi was our first stop which is actually in the Gulf of Patras.  The Gulf of Patras becomes the Gulf of Corinth after passing under the Rion bridge.  Messolonghi is on a sea lake formed by the endings of two rivers.  To get to the town you have to go down a small canal past the islet of Tourlida which is linked to the mainland by one road.  The houses are on stilts.

We moored on the harbour wall here along with four other boats.  Unfortunately, there was a large group of youngsters making a nuisance of themselves so we moved off the wall and anchored, we were soon followed by the other boats.  We took the dinghy ashore and wandered into town which was quite a lot bigger than it looks from the anchorage.  There were lots of bars, restaurants, supermarkets etc we were pleased we ventured into town.  We were walking to the supermarket and on the opposite side of the road was a rather imposing statue ( I haven’t been able to discover who it is) so I thought I’d take a photo, I got myself in position waiting for the traffic to pass in particular the bus, when to my surprise the bus driver stopped and waved at me to take my photo.  Messolonghi is also the place where Lord Byron, the English poet died. 

PATRAS

Patras was our next port of call, which is the third largest city in Greece. I have to admit that I’d not heard of Patras before visiting it.  Patras also has the largest church in Greece, the Cathedral of St Andrew.  Building started in 1908 and was inaugurated in 1974 and can hold up to 5,000 people.

Our main reason for visiting here was that we could take a ride on the rack and pinion railway, yes I can hear most of you asking what is that.  A rack and pinion railway goes up and down slopes with a steep gradient.  It has a toothed rail rack trail, usually between the running rails.  The trains are fitted with cog wheels or pinions that mesh with the rack rail.  It begins at Diakofto, on the coast and climbs up to Kalavryta (which is a ski resort – yes in Greece).  It runs through the Homonymous Gorg.  The ride was stunning and lasted about an hour. 

Kalavryta

This was the final destination of the train and was a lovely town in the mountains.  Before the war it was a very wealthy town.  There is a museum here dedicated to the awful events which took place on December 13, 1943 The Massacre of Kalavryta, also known as the Holocaust of Kalavryta, which was carried out by the German Army’s 117th Jäger Division. The extermination of the male population of Kalavryta was in retaliation for the execution of 68 German soldiers who had been captured by the Greek Resistance.  The clock of the church is stopped at 2.35pm, the time of the massacre.   

On the morning of December 13, the church bells rung and everyone was ordered to gather in the school, bringing with them a blanket and food for one day.  The men were separated from the women and children. The males over 14 were led in groups to the nearby field called Kapi Rake which gave a full view of the town. The Germans then set the school on fire so that the men could see.  Moments later the men were shot by machine gun.  The women and children who were trapped in the school managed to escape by breaking the windows and doors. There is a rumour that an Austrian soldier, who had been entrusted with their custody, left one door open so they could flee. 

The town was burnt to the ground and so everything was destroyed in the fire.  This shows a woman dragging her deceased husband in her coat from where he was killed to the cemetery.

The final room of the museum is particularly harrowing as the walls are covered with the pictures of those killed. 

Nafpaktos

We left Patras and crossed under the Rion Suspension Bridge leaving the Gulf of Patras and entered the Gulf of Cornith arriving in Nafpaktos a couple of hours later along with CopyCat.  Now this was one of those Alghero moments, meaning there are only two spaces for boats on the harbour wall and amazingly we got them just as we did in Alghero.  Well we thought we had, until an 85ft power boat squashed himself against CopyCat, which he shouldn’t have done.  The harbour firstly isn’t meant for boats that size and there really wasn’t room and as a result damaged CopyCat’s passerelle (aka gangplank).  The town is a very pretty tourist place with people arriving by coach. 

Trizonia Island

We next headed to the only inhabited island in the Gulf of Cornith.  We moored up in the harbour. Now we ‘ve been warned that, not necessarily here, but in some places people demand money for mooring and they are not the official rep.  So, when a guy rocks up on his push bike you are never sure, so CopyCat quite rightly asked for his ID which he duly produced and we paid the princely sum of 8euros for the night.  It was very hot here so we all decided to go for a swim, now the sea is normally quite warm,  NOT so here, it took your breath away as to how cold it was and in the middle of July.

We wandered around to the other side of the Island which looked like it was quite “the” trendy place to be and certainly would make a great backdrop for the wedding photos.  A boat arrived carrying flowers and two candles that were about a metre long and took them along to the church.  They decorated the trees outside the church.  We found out that the wedding was taking place at 7.30 that evening so we wandered back later, minus Ian! The bride arrived with her entourage on a boat from the mainland. They walked from the boat to the church being serenaded by a guy playing a mandolin.  It is tradition that the Bride’s father hands his daughter over to the groom at the entrance to the church who gives her a bouquet.

August 2019