Category Archives: 2019 Greece

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! 

Insert a1-4

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

Through Lefkas and Beyond, July 2019

We left Preveza on 25th June and we thought we’d timed it so we would go through the Lefkas Canal at 12.00 noon when the bridge is lifted.  Now I mentioned that from our experience so far there is little wind in the Ioninan, well not today and so we arrived too early and the wind near the entrance seemed to come out of nowhere and was gusting up to 26 knots.  Just what you want when you are having to mill around. 

Our destination was Nidri Bay, AKA Velcro Bay, as people tend to be drawn back, we were too but more on that later.  In the bay were some more of the Licata gang, CopyCat, Ula and We Dun It.  It was nice to meet up with everyone.  We anchored down at the far end of the bay at Vlychos opposite the Yacht Club which we visited and had a very nice meal. The water at this end of the bay wasn’t quite so nice for swimming, although Ian thought it was ok, but he would. There was a pool bar on the other side of the bay which we visited a few times, Stella’s Apartments. 

From Nidri Bay we went to a small bay on the island of Meganissi. They bay was a 20 minute walk up and down hills to Vathi and a 40 minute walk back by moonlight along the flat main road, well it was a main road of sorts.  One night here and then we were meeting the Licata Crew in Syvota, (this is a different Syvota to the one we’d visited twice before) on Lefkas.  We had a reservation on one of the Taverna pontoons’ where we were eating. 

Our next stop was like mooring in a parking bay just off the motorway, it was literally just off the channel between Lefkas and Meganissi.  Lovely spot apart from the 20 million, a bit of an exaggeration, but there were lots of them, pesky WASPS! Someone suggested leaving a bowl of water out for them, but no they were more interested in the tap.  The photo shows three of them with their heads inside the tap and backsides sticking out. 

We were pulled back to Nidri, but only because we were waiting for a delivery, which the Yacht Club at Vlychos were happy to accept for us.  As we expected the package hadn’t arrived when it was supposed to so off we went north to Vathi Vali on the mainland behind a fish farm which we had all to ourselves.  Then back to Nidri to collect our parcel and then off to a small bay just before Atherinos on Meganissi.  A boat was already there anchored in the middle of bay with three stern lines going in different directions and two anchors out. Perhaps the theory was it would keep others boats away, well that’s a challenge, so yes we did anchor there. 

Next we were off to Porto Leone, Kalamos where we met up with Artic Fern and the 20 million pesky wasps had followed us.  In fact I think the pesky wasps had multiplied as they were worse than before so we only stayed the one night and sailed, yes sailed, there was very little wind but we were in no rush, to Astakos on the mainland where we moored up on the harbour wall.  There was a beach a short walk away so late afternoon we went for a swim to cool down.    Our final stop, before making our way to the Corinth Canal was an anchorage behind the Island of Oxeia where we met up with our Mahe Mates, Karen and Ronnie on CopyCat. 

Porto Leone, Kalamos

The next stage of our journey takes us into the Gulf of Corinth and through the Corinth Canal but there was lots to see before we got to the Canal. 

August 2019