Sea Clouders in Sydney

January 24, 2014

Summer in Sydney. We forget how lucky  we are to live in this wonderful city. A visit from our very good friends Bev and Dwight from Oklahoma City gave us the opportunity to explore the city and its surrounds.

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A cool and rainy Christmas was spent with the extended Cook family at Robertson in the Southern Highlands.

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Walk from Elvina bay (Pittwater) to aboriginal rock carvings and spectacular view over Pittwater.

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The result of the October fires at Palm Beach was very evident.

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It was so fortunate that they stopped when they did, disturbingly close to the wonderful old lighthouse, such an important landmark for sailors approaching Pittwater.

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Palm Beach

Palm Beach

Back to Sydney for New Years Eve on Sydney harbour – a must do for any visitor to Sydney.

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The Spit to Manly walk was another highlight. It is a 10km hike which hugs the waterfront, providing wonderful views of the city and the harbour.

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North Head

North Head

These cheeky waterdragons were not put off by the many people trekking along the path.

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Flannel flowers

Flannel flowers

Reef beach – one of many beaches along the walkway. Hard to believe this is the middle of the city on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

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Cappadocia

January 24, 2014

Sea Cloud safely up on the hard, we flew to Cappadocia, a place which has been on our bucket list for a few years. The Kelebek Hotel in Goreme was a very convenient and lovely base for exploring this geographically stunning area.

Kelebek Hotel

Some wonderful short hikes are within walking distance of  Goreme.

Love Valley

Love Valley

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The Goreme Open Air museum is a complex of monasteries and churches carved into the rock. The frescoes decorating the from the 10th-12th churches are remarkably well preserved. The site is  best visited late in the afternoon as understandably is a extremely popular and crowded.

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An day tour with a guide facilitated a visit to Rose Valley, aptly named for its beautiful coloured rock.

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Pasabag, or monks valley was a popular wedding spot. It was not wise to pass too close to this not so friendly camel.

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Lunch in the spectacular Kings Canyon was a treat. A fabulous meal from grown vegetables, eaten in a cave restaurant with our group of americans, aussies and local Turkish people.

It is hard to imagine how life must have been in the Kaymakli underground cave city which extends 8 floors below the ground. The city,  expanded over the centuries, has provided  its inhabitants with protection from the marauding tribes.

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Hot air ballooning is a must do for visitors to the area. Unfortunately it was not an option for us because of the weather. However, we were treated to this magnificent site as we left Goreme heading for the airport, and Australia.

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Season end

October 16, 2013

Our friends and family back in Aus, we headed to Deep Bay, a new favourite in Fethiye Gulf, where we picked up a mooring buoy beside  Enki, to sit out a gale and ‘do some jobs’. What a wonderful  end to the season,  an opportunity for lively conversation (and not all about the problematic Volvo D3 engine) and  fun dinners with Diana and Alex, whilst anchored in the most beautiful bay.

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Once Enki had departed for Marmaris,  we worked through the list of jobs necessary to complete before putting Sea Cloud away for the winter.

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The resident turtle was a lovely diversion as he surfaced close to our boat many times daily. Unfortunately, I haven’t been treated to a swim with him yet, only Diana has been so lucky.

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As our one or 2 planned days turned into 10, I suspect the couple who deliver our bread each morning (even in the windiest  weather) think we have taken up permanent residence here!

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39 Deep Bay

They run the restaurant in Tomb Bay, a pretty spot offering all sorts of services!

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The  Lycian tombs overlooking the bay can be reached via steep walking/ goat tracks. The view at the top is certainly worth the climb!

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Jobs finished, we reluctantly return to Gocek to get Sea Cloud ready for haulout and to visit our favourite places.

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It is Kurban Bayram (Sacrifice Holiday)  in Turkey, a 10 day holiday this year. Gocek is full of visitors and the usual Gocek market has a supplementary goat/sheep market across the road where we assume the locals buy their animal to be sacrificed.

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Sea Cloud has been hauled out to spend the winter again in Gocek.. We will head to Cappadocia and then home for another few months of work.21 Bday bay

Friends, Family and Favourite bays – Southeastern Turkey

October 16, 2013

Following completion of our engine repairs  in late July, we sailed across the Aegean in 2 days, bypassing all of the wonderful islands that we had hoped to visit.  Still unsure that we had got to the bottom of our engine problems, we left Sea Cloud in Gocek  in the hands of the very capable Huseyin Ay of HMS Yacht services while we headed back to Sydney for  August to work. Huseyin  did a wonderful job, coordinating the  cleaning of fuel tanks and lines,  replacement of injector nozzles, new filters and leaving Sea Cloud looking sparkling clean. Hopefully this work would mean that we could enjoy September and our planned visitors, rather than constantly worrying that the engine might not start.

Huseyin

Huseyin

 We had 2 weeks planned with our good friends David and Jenny Harris and Jen’s brother Tony Brunskill. Unfortunately as David’s mother was very ill he and Jenny headed back to Australia, leaving Tony to cruise the Turkish coast with us. The plan was to sail from Gocek to Phaselis (near Antalya) then back to Kas to meet our next group of friends, Suzy and Paul Tait, then sail back to Gocek to meet my sister, Bron and brother in law, Tim Hand. 

Credits to Tony, Paul and Tim for photos included in this blog.

 After a few lovely days relaxing with Tony in the bays around  Kas we sailed to Kekova  and its wonderful ruins.

Tony - Woodhouse Bay

Tony – Woodhouse Bay

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It was great to catch up again with Vivienne and Paul from Walkabout Too (HR43) on our morning walk and swim at the ruins at Aperlae.

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Kastellorizon was a favourite with all guests, such a pretty town with a great walk to the top of the island to visit the monastery. The 400 steps are a bit of a killer, but the view from the top fabulous. All good exercise before a hearty Greek meal.

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Mandraki Bay Kastellorizon

Mandraki Bay Kastellorizon

The early morning visit to the Blue Grotto with Sprios gave us an opportunity to see the spectacular cliffs and caves from the water, all too difficult to do in Sea Cloud.

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Kas markets were as good as we had remembered, although the gozleme weren’t nearly as tasty as the ones in Gocek. Kas marina was a safe place to be in the strong winds that came through, and for a change over guests. Such a lovely town.

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Back to Kekova and our new favourite, Woodhouse Bay to take refuge during some more windy weather. Snorkelling over the ruins in Aperlae was a highlight for Suzy, who had been so keen to do this after seeing our photos of our previous visit.

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Suzy & Paul visited the Simena fort and ruins, while we sat in the blowy (but sheltered) bay of Ucagiz, where our anchor dragged, the first time this had happened in Sea Cloud.

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13a Kale

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Back to Kastellorizon & those killer stairs!

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Cold Water Bay was an ideal place to anchor to visit the ruins of Gemiler island and Kaya and for Suzy and Paul to ‘do the jump’ from the mountain behind Oludeniz. The restaurant at the top was lovely with beautiful views over the bay – a  good spot for breakfast before the walk over the hill to Kaya.

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After windy, bumpy sail back into Fethiye bay we anchored amongst the stink boats, which are so numerous here. They seem to get bigger and more outrageous by the year.

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Ragged Bay (aka Birthday Bay) was a real treat-  secluded, with crystal clear water and a delivery of fresh bread each morning.

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There are some wonderful walks ashore through the small village on the top of the hill where about 20 families still live a very simple rural life. They are very welcoming, offering tea and sharing their spectacular views. Their closest town is Dalaman, a walk, boat ride then car trip taking about 40 minutes. Makes getting to Scottie look easy.

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Suzy and Paul left us in Gocek and we were joined by Bron and Tim for a week pottering around Fethiye Gulf anchoring in some beautiful bays, and of course, fitting in some shopping.

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Below are Tim’s impressions of a week aboard Sea Cloud.

Bilge Boy Tim

Bilge Boy Tim

Dear readers, you’ll notice a change of literary style as I, bilge boy Tim, pen this from my fogged brain at 4am in a Singapore flight lounge. It was on a sunny but windless morn, my soul companion, Bron and I exchanged our services with that now twice seasoned pair the Taits  on the infamous Sea Clod (sic) with its even more infamous regular crew.  Destination: 8 days of graft in the gulf of Fethiye. Before casting adrift though, as is custom all crews both past and present undertook the regular cleansing in the local Hamam (the captain’s fondness for anal ablutions being legendary).

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Always a blur of sails, sheets, winch whirls and abuse aboard the boat, we set out for our first of many little anchorages, shared amongst the other foreign flags of stink pots and Gullets. We found solace in the first mate Catherine’s always cheerful barbs with capt Cooks constant demands. But with nightfall we were invited to the capts table where the first mate always managed the finest offerings in food and liquor. It was at these occasions the captain was found in good humour and we talked well into the night. With our bellies full and mind addled by the Efes and Samos Nectar, talk easily turned to tales of the exotic – of Ataturk’s deeds, Ottoman conquests, Saracen myths, harems and Turkish delights.

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There were days too when due to boredom or misplaced confidence, the capt allowed one to skipper the good ship Sea Clod. One was always in for a flogging or tongue lashing if the vessel wasn’t making good passage, but it made a change from emptying the bilge waters or polishing the upper stays. There were nights we were granted leave to go ashore and enjoy the hospitality of eating houses such as Armhet the dreamer in Seagull bay.

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Ahmet the dreamer (?a 200 berth jetty in Seagull Bay next year)

Ahmet the dreamer (?a 200 berth jetty in Seagull Bay next year)

Ahmet's kitchen and blue washing up sink

Ahmet’s kitchen and blue washing up sink

So too we took tea with a local imam and family, finding ourselves sharing discourse on a higher plain than that found in the tea houses back home. 

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The Imam

The Imam

Then there was the chance to go aloft on wings of air off Oludeniz. This heavenly experienced was somewhat tainted by an encounter with the true awfulness of  ‘Little Britain’ abroad. Such rank, vile and sorry creatures I had not witnessed anywhere in Christendom. And so dear reader it was with heavy heart we took our final leave from the Cook’s fine company to embark for home shores. Though sullied by the days, vowing to return again beckoned by the call to prayer.

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Evia

July 23, 2013

 After leaving the Northern Sporades, we had the choice of sailing south down through the channel between the island of Evia (second largest Greek island) and the mainland, or taking the faster route straight south to the Cyclades (from Skyros to Andros). Evia sounded interesting, so we chose that route, but ended up with far more challenges (and sleepless nights) than anticipated. It proved to have significant tides, currents and more pilotage issues not to mention tricky tiny harbours, really too small and too shallow for Sea Cloud.

The northern end of Evia is very green with towering mountains which always seem to be shrouded in clouds.

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Shoe-horned into the tiny harbour of Limni, between a fishing boat and a not so happy Frenchman with parts of Sea Cloud overlapping at both ends.

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Limni

The most disconcerting part of the harbour is the extremely narrow (and shallow) entrance. We were horrified when we snorkelled over the entrance to see just how narrow and only a 2 feet or less of clearance under the keel – no room for error.

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By the time we returned to the boat after dinner, the water level had dropped by about 30cm – but we were still floating. For the first time in the Med we had to think about real tides!

Limni town

Just south Limni there were strange dense clouds above the mountains. Wondering about the notorious katabatic winds in the region we headed well off shore in 20 – 30kt winds while watching the boiling foaming white water being whipped up creating impressive willy willies just off the coastline.

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Our next challenge was getting through the Khalkida bridge which is affected by very strong currents and only opens briefly in the middle of the night (4am for us).  None of the pilot books were specific about depths and we were not convinced that our 2.4m draft would not ground at low water. The harbour at Khakhis looked a bit like a huge washing machine and it was quite disconcerting finding ourselves moving sideways at 5kts while trying to get close to the wall with indeterminate depths under it! One can see why it is crucial that the bridge is opened only at slack water.

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Another tricky bit of  pilotage is required to pass under the next bridge with shallow water either side – the good old plotter had us skipping over the land again – a reminder to avoid this at night and always rely on mud maps, bearings and ones eyes!

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Eritrea (Greece, not Africa) a small town with an attractive safe bay, has a modest but wonderfully organised and illustrated archaeological museum containing items from nearby excavations dating back to 9th C BC.

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So that’s how they built those temples!

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The nearby excavations with clearly visible domestic housing (4C BC) with preserved mosaic floors, and remains of the amphitheatre are well  worth the visit. The town itself is incredibly friendly – a good place to stop and re-provision. It is well connected by car ferry with the mainland – hard to believe this lovely place is only 45km by road from Athens.

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Not far from Eritrea the winds hit, we are in the Cyclades weather zone again. Anchoring under a row of wind generators sitting atop a bald hill is always a bit disconcerting! We didn’t know it at the time, but the bay of Agios Dimitiros in Ormos Almiropotamos where we had planned a one night stay was going to be our home for the next few nights.

Agia Dimitirios

The wind steadily increased overnight and when it hit 42 knots, we decided to put out even more anchor chain at 3am – only to find the engine wouldn’t start. Planning to sail off the anchor the next day, we were dismayed to see that the local fisherwoman had thoughtfully laid her net all over it during the night -now completely  encasing the anchor chain, making it impossible to use the anchor windlass.

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With knives working hard, we quickly realised that the extent of the problem required help of a diver and obviously postpone our departure. The wonders of modern internet –  within 2 hours, George from Petries Diving  School from the East coast arrived to help.

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After nearly 2 hours and 2 tanks of air, George cleared the chain.

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To give an idea of the wind strength and shifting direction, the anchor alarm had Sea Cloud travelling 7Nm over the ground overnight with 60m of chain out.

7Nm overnight

Waiting another 48hrs for easing winds we were able to sail off the anchor, pick up 15-20kts of breeze in the channel and sail the 40Nm down to Lavrion Olympic Marina where we entered the marina under sail and berthed alongside trying not to let our blood pressure get too high! Now – to unwind a little, wait for engine parts and do some sightseeing.

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With parts on order from the UK, we headed to 400km northwest of Athens to see these world famous monasteries perched atop impossibly high rocky cliffs. The monasteries were built between the 14th -16th Centuries. Most are still occupied today, although apparently monks wanting more peace and quiet have moved to the more remote Athos peninsula. It is very popular tourist site, with tour buses lining the roads, especially to the largest Megalo Meteoro, and Varlaam.

Megalo Meteoro

Megalo Meteoro

Agia Triada

Varlaam

Agia Triada

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The Roussanou monastery and St Stephens are both convents and have lovely gardens tended by the nuns. They are very serene places, or would be once the crowd of tourists leave at the end of the day.

Roussanou Monastery

Roussanou Monastery

Rou garden

It is not a place to go if you are afraid of heights. Re-roofing, as they are currently doing to Varlaam Monastery must be a nightmare. Most monasteries today are accessed by civilized paths and stairways, quite unlike the ladders and baskets hauled up by long ropes in days gone by.

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One of our favourite monasteries was the smaller Agios Nikolaos dedicated to the patron saint of ships – obligatory stop to see if we could expedite things with Volvo and keep the ship running!!

St Nikolas

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Apart from the monasteries, the landscape in the area is stunning.

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Back at  the marina, we had dinner near the wonderful Sounion temple, only a few miles away from Lavrion. Our last visit to   Sounion was in 2009, strangely enough, with another  Volvo engine failure.

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Northern Sporades

July 15, 2013

Turquoise water, and plentiful wildlife were our first impressions of Kira Panayia, the most northern of the Northern Sporades islands. Sighted a rare and endangered Monk Seal on the way into the anchorage at Planitis – very exciting as there are only 600 of these seals remaining, 300 of which live in Greece mainly around these islands.

Plantitis

The only human inhabitants of this island are the monks in the monastery above Monastery Bay – a lovely lunch time & swim spot.

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Our initial excitement at being the only boat anchored in the beautiful Ormos Kira Panagia was quickly dispelled as 6 more yachts followed us in to this beautiful spot.

Kira Panagia

Skyros is the southernmost island of the Northern Sporades group. We had a wonderful sail down to the island, anchoring in the bay. We were sorry we hadn’t gone into the port, Linaria, which appeared to be the best organised of the Greek island ports that we had seen, with laid lines and a pleasant and organised harbourmaster, a peaceful and pleasant ambiance despite the daily arrival of the large ferry, and some good tavernas.

Skyros port

The main hilltop town (chora) was beautifully well tended, with winding streets, a castle and monastery on the peak of the hill (both closed for renovation) and views over the rolling hills down to the sea.

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After a not so good sail into the prevailing NW wind and horrible lumpy sea back to the Sporades chain, we were rewarded by the near-empty bay of in Ormos Tzorti on Alonnisos Island – our favourite island in the group. A large bay, crystal clear water, a white sandy beach, striking red cliffs.

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Seeking out the Monk Seal (Monarchus Monarchus) rehabilitation station in the tiny but rustic bay Steni Vali, we decided to anchor in the adjacent uncrowded bay and take the tender around the corner. No seals in rehab right now but directed to the Monk Seal information centre in Patriti – the main port on Alonnisos. This centre is full of information about this marine park and the seals in particular – well worth a visit.

Steni Vala wall

The coastline of Alonnisos is spectacular. It’s hard enough for people to get to not to be over-run by tourists and hasn’t yet been messed up with excessive doses of “villa pox” from Athenian weekenders.

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Rousoumi, the bay next to Patitiri (beautiful and calm in this picture), was a convenient spot to leave Sea Cloud while we made a quick visit to the old hilltop town of Alonnisos. This village was virtually demolished in the 1965 earthquake but has been largely rebuilt in the past 10 years. It has been well restored and although a bit touristy, it has a very good mojito bar at the top commanding spectacular views over both east and west sides of the island. Obviously the small chapel here is also a popular wedding spot.

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Rousoumi was not so pretty at midnight when we had to up anchor and move out due to rising winds and swell coming into what had now become a very crowded bay. With high winds and the sight of lightning to the north we needed somewhere safer – albeit requiring a disconcertingly dark motor up the coast on a moonless night back to Tzorti where we dropped anchor for the next few days waiting for the blow to finish.

Tzorti

It was very exciting to see Diana and Alex in Enki come around the corner into the bay next evening. Our twin HR48’s, both with Australian flags, were the only 2 yachts in the bay for 2 nights of strong winds, eating, drinking, and good conversation. It has been great getting to know Alex and Diana, and having them at the end of email, phone or Skype to which we frequently use to discuss mechanical issues, or even the joys of cruising.

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Alex's bday Enki

We had a challenging sail tacking up to Skopelos, against the current and dodging 4 ferries in the narrow channel between Alonnisos and Skopelos. Skopelos harbour was busy with ferries and yachts – this brave yacht pictured seemed oblivious despite the ferry tooting and holding its course.

Skopelos harbour

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Skopelos, (aka the Mamma Mia) island, is very pretty with its white houses with red roofs, many small churches and cafes and bars overlooking crystal clear waters.

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This mojito bar has a million dollar view, a kitten on death’s door a feisty pooch  and Abba playing in the background.

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A touching photo – a minute later the dog having had enough of kitten rehab, tossed it to the ground.

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Skopelos has some spectacular bays such as Ormos Siferi. Although this is crowded during the day, we were the only boat overnight – very impressive in mid July!

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Skiathos, the southernmost and most developed of the Northern Sporades chain was our least favourite island – although obviously very popular with some well heeled Athenians.

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It does have some spectacular bays but we’re a long way back to Turkey and we need to get moving to Evia.

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Northern Greece

July 3, 2013
Red line = our route

Red line = our route

Leaving the northernmost Aegean island of Thassos, we headed across to the Greek mainland for an unplanned brief stop (minor engine issues) to Kavala with its aqueduct running through the middle of town and the Turkish fort on the hill.

Kavala aqueduct

Kavala fort

We were very much looking forward to rounding the Athos peninsula soon, having heard a lot about its spectacular monasteries. Skala Marion on Thassos was a good overnight, calm weather only anchorage with spectacular sunset – an ideal jumping off point early the following morning for a 60Nm day west to the Athos to catch it in daylight. This was one day we were glad to have no wind and glassy seas, as the tip of the peninsula is notorious for its turbulent seas and currents onto this lee shore in any wind.

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One’s first view of the coastline is spectacular Mt Athos (higher than Koscziusko) with a wisp of cloud hanging off the peak.

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The Agio Oros peninsula, with Mt Athos at its southern tip, is home to about 20 large monasteries, currently inhabited by 1,450 monks. The first monastery was established in the 9th Century and since the 10th Century, the peninsula been an Orthodox monastic republic. While most of the monasteries are Greek, Orthodox monks from many places in northern Europe and as far away as Argentina, have built very imposing monasteries in this very isolated place. The peninsula is closed to land visitors and strictly forbidden for women. It is only possible to visit the peninsula by land with special permission if one has religious or academic affiliations. Until recently, not only were women prohibited, but also female animals and even clean- faced men!

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The monasteries on the eastern side are very grand, with most lying quite close to the water. As well as the large monasteries, there are a few larger houses & little villages with churches tucked into lush green, steep countryside.

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Koutloumoussiou

As you can imagine the maintenance of these imposing structures is constant and ongoing. The huge cost of this is borne by income of the large and valuable properties held elsewhere by the church itself as well as EU and UNESCO funds. A number of the monasteries are foreign owned.

Panocratoros

The southern coastline, the most inaccessible part of the peninsula has a large number of small dwellings, many little more than shacks (presumably housing hermits) in the most unimaginably inaccessible places tucked into small holes in steep rock faces! Although there were some small landing jetties, most of the buildings were perched on the rugged cliff faces high above the sea, with no way to easily access the sites visible with very few roads on the peninsula.  We wondered how they get provisions, let alone build and renovate here.

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On the western side is the only significant port of the peninsula.   In the flatter areas, vineyards and hot houses are evident. Also visible were cars, cement trucks, solar panels ++ the trappings of modern life. In the 70′s there were no roads nor electricity.

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The largest of the monasteries on the West side is Russian covering more land than most small towns!

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Along the entire 50Nm of this coastline we saw only one other yacht. A couple of tripper boats access the very northern monasteries from the mainland. It certainly was a wonderful day – 65 miles which seemed to go in a flash.

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As yachts can’t anchor on the peninsula, we dropped anchor under Ammouliani island, in a bay with beautiful white sand and turquoise water, but unfortunately, a rather noisy beach and equally noisy seagulls swamping an obviously successful fishing boat!

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O Tsarki Ammouliani Is

Obviously the fishing is really good in this gulf, I have never seen so many birds around a fishing boat!

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The small town of Panagia on the eastern shore of the Sithonia Peninsula was a very pleasant spot. To Ian’s delight we found plentiful fresh fish and prawns for the barbie from the local fish cooperative. Although fish is always on the menu in Greek restaurants, it is always too expensive.

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A night in Kriftos bay at anchor – the only boat in the bay, fresh fish and prawns on the BBQ – who needs to dress for dinner?!

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The water around Diaphoros Island is the most beautiful turquoise colour, wonderful for exploring in the ducky.

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With the sun overhead and perfectly clear water through the narrow channel it was a timely reminder never to trust the GPS plotter for pilotage in tight spots. The C-MAP chart was 360m in error (see our tracks over the land), while the iPad Navionics was much more accurate.

Diaphora Is

Jorge and Zoufan, who we’d met in Molivos (Lesvos Is)  and again in Limnos dropped anchor in the bay next to us. Jorge, who is Greek told us many humorous stories of his 3 months hiking as an 18 yr old between monasteries on Athos in the 1960s. He had spent 3 months there as an 18 year old as a ‘journalist’ doing a story on the monasteries. He spoke of the long distances walking between the monasteries worrying about wolves and bears and the need to be in by 7pm or the doors would be locked. As a young man, it was not always safer indoors either…!

Zoufan & George

The coastline further south on the Sithonia peninsula is very beautiful, with forests down to the edge of the white sandy beaches. It is also very popular, fortunately many places have camping sites rather than built development along the shores. More dolphins!

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Porto Kuofo a beautiful harbour on the western tip of the Sithonia peninsula, was our last stop before heading to the Northern Sporades.  Although it is a large land locked natural harbour, it is also a tricky anchorage as it is very deep at one end and has a huge shallow spit in the middle of the bay.

Porto Koufo SC

Here we had encountered our first charter flotilla for the season. It must have been the first time out for this flotilla leader, as 4 of the 10 boats managed to ground themselves on the sandbar in the middle of the bay!  Seeing so many boats was a bit of a surprise but a reminder that low season is almost over. This area has been fantastic for cruising this time of the year. Some days we only saw one or 2 other boats and had many nights alone in bays.

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North Aegean Islands

June 16, 2013

With Sea Cloud up and running again, we left Kalymnos, keen to get as far north as possible before the Meltemi, (strong prevailing, northerly, summer wind) sets in. We planned to get to Thassos, about 400 nautical miles north of Kalymnos, with quite long legs between the islands.

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The North Aegean Islands are quite different to islands south and central with fewer tourists and only a handful of other yachts at this time of year. Of course the strong Turkish and in parts, Italian influence on the islands’ architecture is apparent. With plenty of bays in which to anchor, and by and large, good winds it is a sailor’s paradise. Food is cheap and fish more plentiful than in other parts of Greece.

Fourni

Dropping anchor in the isolated bay of Fimaina off Fourni, we were surprised to hear “Hey Sea Cloud” in Diana’s Aussie accent from across the bay. She had brought her group of painters up from Kalymnos to sketch the sites. We took her excellent advice and had our annual dose of (Aegean) lobster that evening in the charming nearby village (with its sophisticated modes of transport) – superb!

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Fimaina

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Chios

Once we got over the angst of our berthing in a 24kt southerly cross wind against an unforgiving jagged concrete wall in the EU-funded, but typically unfinished Chios ‘marina’ we enjoyed this picturesque and friendly island.

Marina

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Chios is famous for its mastic – a tree resin used to make everything from gums, alcoholic drinks, sweets and cosmetics.

Mastic tree

Chios also has a number of charming small towns, and beautiful swimming bays. The decorated houses in Pyrgi look as though they have been there for centuries, but most are quite recent.

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It is easy to get lost within the fortified medieval town of Mesta with its very narrow passageways and small, I suspect extremely dark houses and a surprisingly elaborate church.

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Nea Moni, a fortified monastery first built in the 11th century, once housed 400 monks – isolated and serene, typical of Greek monastries, high in the hills above Chios town. The fires which had ravaged great portions of Chios last year had come disturbingly close to this lovely place.

Nea Moni monastery

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Oinoussa

Very pleased to depart the uninspiring Chios “marina” we dropped anchor behind the small island of Oinoussa just off the northern tip of Chios.

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Oinoussa

Lesvos

With favourable southerly winds and a good sail north to Lesvos we initially anchored in Plomarion, a small town on the southern coast, famous for its ouzo – the best the Aegean has to offer. What we didn’t realise, it was also famous for its production of olive oil soap in the 19th century. According to the locals, the soap was so good that Ataturk organised one of the local soap makers to move to Turkey. Now all of the soap sold in this part of Greece (labelled as local) is actually made in Turkey.

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Moored behind Alex and Diana on Enki II in Lesvos  marina in Mytiline – 2 HR 48’s with Australian flags side by side – you don’t see that too often. We spent an enjoyable day in their company albeit exchanging stories about engine woes as Enki still trying to sort theirs out.

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Molivos harbour at the north eastern tip of Lesvos was  surprisingly quiet and one of the most pleasant small fishing harbours encountered this season. Good shelter and spectacular views to and from the castle overlooking the village. Source of superb local produce (eg famous olive oil) and one can even find a great mojito here!

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Limnos

With strong northerly winds predicted in a few days time, we left Lesvos expecting to do some work but lucked out with a brisk southerly (not predicted) for most of our sail north to Limnos. Myrina harbour was a great place to settle into for 4 days of strong wind, rain and thunderstorms (is this really June in  Greece??). Rather than anchor in small bays as we had planned instead we explored the island by car. Limnos has a wonderful small archaeological museum in Myrina – great to visit before seeing the source of its contents – the Poliochni, site (3,500 – 1,400 BC).

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Visited the Commonwealth war graves at Moudros, adjacent to the large natural harbour that housed the Allied Fleet in 1915 during the Dardanelles campaign.

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We were very lucky to meet Andrew and Mary, Aussie-Greeks who spend 3 months a year in Mirina, the rest of the year in Sydney. They very kindly invited us over to share a dinner of Andrew’s wonderful stuffed tomatoes and to sample the local ouzo Tsipouro.

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With the emergence of the sun, the yachts emptied and there was quite a gathering in the Ottoman fort on top of the hill which commanded superb views of the harbour and adjacent beaches.

Copy of Myrina

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Thassos

After a long and bumpy sail into strong northerly winds, we anchored in Aliki bay with its crystal clear water and marble outcrops. The sand and water are unusually white and turquoise as the island seems to be composed almost entirely of white marble.

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In fact in Thassos, everything from cobblestones, to kerbstones (even harbour wall ballast) is marble! After a quiet motor in mirror calm seas the next day, accompanied by dolphins in the bow wave, we arrived in Thassos harbour on the north shore, with mainland Greece just 20miles to the north.

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The Hellenic amphitheatre and ruins on the peak above the town provided wonderful views over the crystal clear blue water and the heavily forested island, so unlike many other Aegean islands.

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Looking at the weather forecast for the next few days, we were very pleased to have made it so far north before the Meltemi – all downwind sailing from now on!

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Kalymnos – Be thankful for “Greeks bearing gifts”

June 2, 2013

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Wishing to get well north before the Meltemi sets in, we hadn’t planned to spend  more than a day or two in Kalymnos. A broken alternator bracket, shattered adjacent pieces of alloy, sheered bolts and a disabled engine changed all that! The next 2 weeks in Kalymnos sorting parts and repairs gave us a very personal insight into Kalymnos, its generous and hospitable people and, at the same time, restored our faith in human nature. There are many people to whom we owe heartfelt thanks.

Iannos (harbourmaster; mob: +30 6944816743) swung into action on our arrival and interrupted his dinner at 9pm to assist our relocation to a safer part of the harbour as a SE blow was imminent. He monitored our circumstances and repairs throughout.

Ioannis introduced us to a superb mechanic, Bayramis Mices  (Mob: +30 6936826268) who dropped everything to assess the damage that first night and got to work on the problem the next morning. Bayramis enlisted the help of his brother Manoli to provide an extra mind and pair of hands when needed while Ian acted as general gofer, helper and sourced parts from the UK.

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Manoli coaxed out the sheered bolt form the engine block after due preparation and care (with a hail Mary just in case!) with finesse that would put many orthopaedic surgeons to shame. We adapted to Bayramis’s work hours and got use to the site of he and Ian lying on the cabin sole at 8pm with bottoms up and heads down in the bilge with lights, mirrors and spanners! It was a slow, difficult and frustrating job requiring lateral thinking and jacking up the engine off its mounts to remove the broken bits – a full day’s work. While waiting for new parts to arrive from the UK (Paul Jenkins at Volspec very generous with his time and sourcing precise parts), Cathy did some internet research to source clippers to shear Manoli’s 800 goats! Thinking that was the least we could do for him after his masterful removal of the sheared engine bolt, we were taken by surprise when he arrived the next day bearing gifts – lovely (famous Kalymnos) sponges and a large bag of fresh apricots from his trees.

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George Hatzisimalis  from the Tourist Office near the port  was also very helpful and generous with his time and acted as liaison person and destination for parts arriving by air freight from UK and France. George was also provided a lot of information about local sites and things to do in the interim.

Monastery above Pothia

Monastery above Pothia

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Climber Masouri

Climber Masouri

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Whoops!

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Emborios

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Babi and Diana (Babi’s Bar and Grill, Myrties) were also very kind and extended us typical Kalymnian hospitality. We spent a marvellous evening with their guests and danced the night away in traditional style. Diana originating in Australia means that Babi’s stages a hugely popular Babi’s BBQ every Sunday evening (on a genuine Aussie barbie from Bunnings!). Unfortunately we didn’t get to try Babi’s breakfast which is legendary throughout the eastern Aegean!

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For most of our 2 weeks stay, Sea Cloud was alone in this part of the harbour – a very central, albeit noisy spot.

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Surprisingly, it was a great fishing spot, with the man in the striped shirt bringing in fish this size a few times each day.

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As well as sightseeing, we spent time doing maintenance on Sea Cloud, and ourselves. While Ian fixed the watermaker, I visited Club Mode in Pothia (Kalymnos main town) for a Greek hair style!

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Another two days of parts installation by Bayramis and we have a functioning engine – just before another predicted force 8 SE blow. On our day of departure, Bayramis arrives to check engine trials went well. He also arrives with a gift – a to die for Kalymnian desert pie! We sat for some time chatting about the future of Kalymnos, Bayramis’s family and future plans and assisted him with some ideas as to how his son could get him connected to the internet to source parts. In fact it took a very long time to get him to come around to talk about his (very modest) bill for his hard work!

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Bayramis – excellent mechanic!

We had arrived in Kalymnos thinking we’d be “stuck” for 2 weeks. Instead we departed with some sadness after a most fulfilling visit and with our faith in human nature restored.

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“Cruising – the gentle art of repairing boats in foreign ports”

May 20, 2013

May 2013

Vero and Ruedi, Sea Cloud’s previous owners met us in Kos for a few weeks sailing around the Dodecanese Islands.

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They were pleased to see Sea Cloud in good condition although Ruedi very politely asked if we would mind if he cleaned some of the stainless on the mast fittings. This is the first and possibly the only time we will have such a generous offer from our guests! We had a wonderful sail to Knidos where we anchored in the virtually empty bay – one of the pleasures of cruising this early in the season. We had time to potter around the ruins, have a great Turkish meal in good company and enjoy views of the ancient site on waking the next morning.

Ruedi and vero favourite spot

We were spoiled by another good sail from Turkey to Tilos, where we tied up alongside the wall. Southerly winds were predicted and according to the pilot book, Tilos bay was not the ideal place to anchor in a southerly. Although the wind reached 25 knots, it would not have been a problem in the bay.

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After a brisk sail to Nisyros and a day of exploration there we headed back to Kos marina hoping to replace the turbo for our engine which has been leaking a small amount of oil.  Not unexpectedly, the parts had not arrived as promised, so decided to postpone repairs. After 3 visits to Kos, we finally managed to see the inside of the Castle on the waterfront, rather than just anchoring below it. Kos is a charming island, the evidence of its former occupation by Turkey is evident, although these days, the mosques and hamam are used as trendy cafes rather than places of worship.

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Kos old town

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On our approach to Kalymnos harbour, the engine started to rattle terribly. Ruedi quickly diagnosed the problem spotting fragments of metal and screws in the engine bilge. Engine off, we made a rather dramatic entrance to the port, tacking up and down the harbour, dodging ferries, trying to find Sea Cloud a sheltered spot in the harbour, where we anticipated we would remain for the next few days. We caused a bit of excitement, other yachties watching anxiously, the harbourmaster blowing his whistle and gesticulating on the dock and the blue lights of the harbour police flashing. Fortunately, the last few minutes of engine life were sufficient to Med moor stern to in a sheltered but noisy section of the town wall.

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Sea Cloud is the only yacht on this stretch of the waterfront, so we are on our own, with just constant presence of the local fisherman for company. Sensibly, after a day of sightseeing Ruedi and Vero headed off to Rhodes. We were very sad to see them go only half way through their planned holiday with us. If this had to happen with guests aboard, they were the best possible guests.  Ruedi’s  experience of this recurring problem, and his analytical mechanical engineer’s mind  were invaluable in work-shopping potential solutions.

Shattered engine parts dominating saloon table

Shattered engine parts dominating saloon table

Bayramis, our mechanic has been terrific, achieving the tricky job of removing the broken parts very well.  It took a while to get used to his working hours. “I will be there at 9am” (means 12md, works until 2pm), “I will be back after lunch and a sleep at 4.30pm”  (6pm , works until 8.30pm). Luckily the restaurants are open late!

While Sea Cloud has been turned into a workshop, our current cruising plans are on hold. Hours have been spent on the internet, speaking with Volvo, emailing Hallberg Rassy, and the HR chat owners chat site. The shearing bolts and 110A alternator bracket failure  is an ongoing problem for Sea Cloud, and as it seems, for other HRs. Alex from Enki (HR48 2005) has been marvellous, sending us photos of his engine and chatting and emailing Ian providing wonderful input, support and suggestions.

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We could be in a lot worse places. The people in Kalymnos (as all of Greece this time) have been extremely helpful, friendly and accommodating. A mixed blessing of an big Aussie flagged boat is the constant “hello, I am from Australia too” that we hear many times a day – either from local Kalymnians with roots in Australia or Aussie tourists . So many Australian/Greeks living here – the tourist office staff had lived in Darwin & Sydney, the waiter in the local restaurant (who is an unemployed microbiologist) was born in Sydney etc etc. Kalymnos port is a busy, bustling place crowded late into the night.

Kalymnos harbour

Kalymnos, as other parts of Greece is obviously really hurting. Many of the locals have gone overseas to find work, those who are here still here have had their salaries reduced, making daily living much more difficult. Life for us is cheap – we can have a good meal with 2 courses, wine (with a free dessert thrown in) for about 25 Euros for two. Luckily Kalymnos attracts many tourists as it is well known as an excellent climbing destination.  We are looking forward to seeing more of the island over the next week or so, rather than just viewing the town from inside Sea Cloud whilst discussing 8 digit part numbers with Volvo dealers in the UK!

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Sunday was a welcome day off from maintenance chores. We caught the ferry to Leros,  to visit our favourite bay, Pandeli. How nice it would have been to be anchored there in such a peaceful place. Unfortunately the mill restaurant was not open, but we enjoyed our other favourite place, Zorba’s at Pandeli.

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Andrew eat your heart out - found ideal Scottie commuter!

Andrew eat your heart out – found ideal Scottie commuter!

Next blog, hopefully all will be sorted and we will be on our way to the Eastern Sporades, hopefully before the meltemi sets in.


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