The Saronic to the Ionian

John left us in Poros where we picked up Tine and Gordon, Danish cruisers we met in Pittwater. Having sold Ansoba, their lovely Island Packet  in Australia, they are keen for more sailing experiences.

The big excitement was the arrival of our daughter, Emily who hadn’t been on Sea Cloud for a couple of years. P1040223Emily, unlike us, loves cats. This one was pretty cute

P1040229Tine enjoyed being back in the sun

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and Emily the swimming in our first bay in a small island off Angistri. It was incredible to have a bay hours from Athens all to ourselves in early July.

IMG_2378 Gordon loved getting behind the wheel of Sea Cloud and helping Ian sort out many technical issues.

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IMG_2376A sail to Epidaurus, then a tour of the ancient theatre

P1040232We anchored just off the entrance to Corinth canal, ready for an early morning start through the canal which was even more spectacular than usual in the calm early morning.

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P1040270Galaxhidi was a good base for visiting Delphi and an enjoyable place to revisit.

P1040283 P1040281 P1040277Under the  Rion bridge,

IMG_2390then on to Patras Marina, where we were to pick up Sam drop of Tine and Gordon.

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Downtown Patras was lively and attractive, with some lovely old, but many derelict buildings and many small bars 

IMG_2415 IMG_2416Emily and Sam headed for Istanbul, Roumania and Berlin, we spent a night chilling out at the beautiful Mare Dei resort overlooking the Ionian. It seemed very empty for mid July – but understandable as it was the week of the Greek referendum when some serious economic decisions had to be made by Greece. The owner said she hoped that the tourists would come back..

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IMG_2428Leaving Patras, we headed back up the Ionian. The Lefkas canal was very beautiful in the early morning light.

IMG_2462This scene could easily be in Australia….

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The Peloponnese

After a dawn departure from Milos and then a brisk 60Nm  sail, we made landfall at Monemvasia a spectacular town on the southeastern coast of  the Peloponnese.

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IMG_2162IMG_2163IMG_2166We rounded the notorious Cape Maleas in absolute calm and headed for Yithion (aka Gythion). This was reported to be a harbour infrequently visited by yachts, but a safe place to leave a boat while exploring the Mani peninsula and the town of Mystras. The harbour is currently being converted into a cruiseship port so is rather dusty, noisy and dirty. We squeezed Sea Cloud in between  a fishing boat and a small motor boat and set off to rent a car to explore the Mani Peninsiula.

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This was the first place in Greece where they would not accept an Aust drivers licence, so those plans dashed and we caught the local bus to Mystras, a Byzantine town set in hills high above Sparti.

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Ian loved the church named Peribleptos (translated as looking good from every side)

P1040159 IMG_2198 IMG_2202Back to Yithion for what had become our usual dinner – marinated anchovies, horta (local cooked green veggies) and grilled sardines.

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A treacherous place to work – waiters have to cross the road with our dinner, and not so relaxing for us. Luckily there was the sea on the other side of our table.

P1040148With strong winds predicted, we headed back around Cape Malea, stopping for all too short a time at the lovely Ormos Frangos, on Elafonisos Island.

IMG_2224Sea Cloud was the only yacht in Sabatiki a small fishing  harbour. It was beautifully calm after the boisterous sea outside. The local fishermen were friendly and the meal at the only taverna surprisingly good – a great find.

IMG_2245After a night at Astrous, a lovely town with a newly completed marina, we sailed to Napflion at the top of the Argolic Gulf where we met John Dent who joined us for 2 weeks sailing. The Peloponnese is a region of market gardens and fruit trees. The Napflion saturday market was one of the best we have found in our travels. Beautiful fresh fruit, veg,  and the best citrus honey Ian has found anywhere, and believe me he is always buying or tasting honey.

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We managed to squeeze in a quick trip to Mycanae before John arrived – another must see ancient site in this area.

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IMG_2273 An attempt to anchor in Hydra, a beautiful island we had visited by ferry a few years ago almost ended the marriage. All we wanted to do was get out of the Saronic  (so full of selfish charterers) and back into the much less crowded Aegean.IMG_0020Despite a fishing new rod (thanks to Sel at Pruva Hotel in Gocek) and reel (thanks to John Bowyer), we still have yet to catch a fish. I’m not too heartbroken as I’m not sure I could cope with blood all over the teak. Ian continues to try daily…..

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Sounion, with its beautiful temple on top of the hill

IMG_0038 IMG_0040We managed to find the lion of Kea, something we had missed when visiting here with Andrew in 2009

IMG_0088Kea,  an important place for John (and his daughter Kea) has a charming chora

IMG_2286and wonderful traditional butcher, who,  not surprisingly seeing the size of his knife, was missing  half a finger…

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The lovely Sand Bar Bay in Kythnos, although  full of boats, was still delightfulIMG_2299IMG_2298Our old favourite bay Kavea was not so delightful as it is now a watersport centre. Having jet skis and people towed around screaming on large inflatables is not very relaxing. Luckily the high winds the next day prevented their fun and increased our level of enjoyment.

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Seriphos was our last Aegean island before heading back to the mainland.

IMG_2314 IMG_2325The local delivery man in the Serifos chora

P1040205 IMG_2329John and Ian looking pretty relaxed on our last night in Koutala bay – southern shore of Serifos – 3 boats only.

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South Western Cyclades

Sea Cloud 2015 travels so far – for those who want to know where we’ve been!

2015 Sea Cloud map

More detailed map of our trip through the Cyclades

Sea Cloud's route through the Cyclades 2015

Sea Cloud’s route through the Cyclades 2015

The anchorage of Vathy on Sifnos, with its all round shelter, lovely swimming , good tavernas and proximity to the local bus was an great place to anchor Sea Cloud while we set off to explore Sifnos. The well marked walking trails and lush green hillsides make Sifnos an ideal place for hiking.

IMG_1858 The walk from the Chora to Vathy has spectacular views.IMG_1881

Vathy anchorage - Milos and Kimolos in the distance

Vathy anchorage – Milos and Kimolos in the distance

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In Sifnos we witnessed the annual celebration of ‘the lighting of the towers’. In earlier times fires were lit in these towers (the ruins of which can be seen throughout the island) to warn islanders of the approach of pirates.

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With only moderate complaints from Ian, we hiked from the Chora to the monastery of Profitas Ilias, the highest point of the island.

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IMG_1922and then to the Kastro on the other side of the island – a wonderful defensive spot.

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The islands in this group are so close, especially when you are going downwind. We had a  brisk sail to Kimolos, then the following day to Milos, another volcanic island, with a huge safe anchorage. After negotiating the horrible sea to the north of the island (for which Milos is famous) we settled Sea Cloud on the pontoon in Adamas for a few days of touring, socialising with some Kiwis on another Hallberg Rassy and waiting out some big winds. Milos, another spectacular island, is a favourite of the younger set (how old do I feel when saying this) and Italians, who apparently love the many good beaches, such as XXX on the south of the island.

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The island’s capital, Plaka and Kastro at the top of the island provided great views of the rugged coastline being hammered by the strong northerly winds.

IMG_1950 Milos also has some some very quirky places, such as the brightly coloured fishing sheds at Klima

IMG_2026 IMG_2039and the tiny harbour of Mantrakia.

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Sarikiniko, on the northern coastline has some wonderful rock formations.

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Folegandros, an island further east has an anchorage that is not tenable in big winds. We were lucky enough to have a good sail across and back, and a few calm days to anchor and explore this beautiful island. At first glance, Folegandros is rather barren and inhospitable, but the green leafy (and very classy) chora perched on the top of the cliffs has the most incredible views down to the seas below.

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We found a small hotel, great for our usual freddo cappuccino in the morning and Ian’s favourite, a really good mojito in the evening.

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IMG_2078 - Version 2Although not as extensive as Sifnos, Folegandros also has some excellent walking trails, and beautiful beaches.

IMG_2094 The walk from the Chora to the other side of the island was rewarded by a swim and then lunch overlooking the most divine beach.

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On the way we found a great spot to stay, adjacent to its own almost private beach.

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The port of Karavostassis,  well connected to the Chora by bus, was a lovely anchorage – as long as you found a patch of good sand on the rather rocky bottom.

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Our last island before heading back to Milos and then the Peloponnese was Sikinos, a small island next to Ios. Uncrowded, with wonderful views and good walking trails, it would be a good place to spend a few days.

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Sea Cloud's route through the Cyclades 2015

Sea Cloud’s route through the Cyclades 2015

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Cyclades

We thought we had picked a good  weather window for the sail to Mykonos. We set off from the north of Patmos at 4am and had a great sail across to Mykonos with Sea Cloud flying along.

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All went well until we turned north into the channel between Mykonos and Delos to find we were in Bondi –like surf and had 37knots on the nose. Not fun.

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Sea Cloud behaved well and after a pretty scary hour we tied up on a lazy line in Mykonos Harbour. Phew!! Should have taken more notice of the sea state off the island – you don’t want to be anywhere there is red or yellow…

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It was great to catch up with Sue and Ian Rewell, who unfortunately were leaving the next day for Paros.

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It was very tempting to head south with them, but we wanted to take advantage of the winds and head to Tinos and Andros, two islands we had been hoping to visit for a few seasons.

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They don’t call Mykonos the windy island for nothing.

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The old days (taken from a restaurant menu)

The old days (taken from a restaurant menu)

Unfortunately Mykonos  is a cruise ship destination – 4 ships in port =11,000 people in town. It was so peaceful when they all left. You could tell that this punter was a charterer, why would you anchor so close to the rocks in a 30knot breeze? Close to the restaurant I guess.IMG_1581

You can see the attraction of Mykonos, it has beautiful beaches on the south side of the island.

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The wind, which had been blowing furiously for a week finally stopped giving us the opportunity to visit the ruins of Delos, the commercial and religious centre of ancient Greece.
P1030932IMG_1612P1030934P1030962P1030974Mykonos looked so different in the calm.

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Lunch in Mykonos overlooking the windmills with the beautiful people.

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The resident pelican, seen pottering through the small streets of Mykonos.

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On to Tinos, a modern day religious centre of Greece. It is famous for the pilgrims who crawl from the port up the street (carpeted) and up the stairs of the Church of Panagia Evangelista on the hill.

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There were many shops selling goodies for the pilgrims, seemed that the more religious you were, the bigger the candle purchased.

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The island is also incredibly lush and beautiful, with lovely small white towns scattered throughout the hillsides. It is also known for the large number of dovecotes, some dating back to Venetian times. A more recent addition to Tinos is a great museum of marble located in Pirgos.

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Visiting these towns at this time of year is great, no problem getting a berth – there was only one other boat (another Hallberg Rassy) in Tinos.

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From Tinos, to Andros, another windy island, the closest one to the Greek mainland. The harbour of Batsi where we moored was a pretty place. Andros town, the capital of the island has a big harbour, but on the windy side of the island. It was calm the day we visited, but would be a terrible spot to be with the meltemi blowing.

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Kavea Bay on Kea was our next anchorage. We’d spent 4 days in this bay in a big blow on our first foray into the Aegean. It was lovely to see it in the calm and to be able to go ashore and wander around. Kea, with its small crystal clear bays and sympathetic cycladic architecture is on our short list of ideal Greek islands.

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Anchored in the bay at Finikas, Syros, we caught the local bus to the island’s capital, Ermopoulous. It is the capital of the Cyclades and was also briefly considered as a potential capital of Greece.

IMG_1773It has a very grand main square and Town Hall and some charming small streets. Ermopoulis harbour is a large working port, busy with ferries and yachts. Ian managed to have a stainless fitting fabricated, the only problem was that by the time they finished it, we were in Paros, so had to sail 25 miles each way to pick it up!

P1040031IMG_1786A planned 2 day stay in Paros turned into five, such a lovely spot. The wonderful large bay at Naoussa is a perfect all weather anchorage.

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There is also a busy small marina, which was full most nights. The town is charming, with small winding streets, a pretty small harbour and restaurants with great grilled octopus.

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Spring 2015

Turkey

After a busy few months in Sydney we arrived back in Gocek to find Sea Cloud looking beautiful , shiny and ready for launch.

Sea Cloud gocekAfter three seasons wintering in Gocek, the plan is to head west through Greece, to leave Sea Cloud in Brindisi. After  a  wonderful sail we docked at Netsel Marina in Marmaris, ready for a few days of tradespeople crawling over the boat, doing the many ‘jobs’ Ian had lined up with Erdan from Marlin Marine, Ali from Elvstrom sails and Rashid from Anil canvaswork.

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Sea Cloud now has solar panels (sort of – still not working properly), a new genoa, a furling staysail and a great new bimini, that actually shades us when at the helm. Our guests will be pleased to hear we also have a new electric toilet. Ian made sure he took all the working bits from the old one before disposal!

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The more time we spent in Marmaris, the more we enjoyed it. Out of season, Marmaris is rather charming, a busy, ‘normal’ Turkish town, with some great restaurants, and to Ian’s delight, a terrific range of chandleries.

Pineapple - Netsel

Pineapple – Netsel

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Apart from the bi weekly cruises ships, the usually busy Marmaris Bay was quite empty.

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A sail to Selimiye and Bozburun were great opportunities to try out the new sails.

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Being late April, most of Selimiye was in preparation mode, with many restaurants closed. Luckily, Sardunya with its great restaurant and lovely dock were open.

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Selimiye 002After visits to our favourite anchorage Kiseli Adasi and nearby Bozburun we returned to Marmaris for some more rig tuning and to check out of Turkey. Always feel sorry for the sheep in the boats!

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Entering Greek waters

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Nicolas at Navigo yachting helped again in  finding a berth for us in Mandraki Harbour in Rhodes. The new Rhodes marina which they hoped to be completed for this season is still being built – maybe opening in June 2015. Ian’s birthday was celebrated with an amazing seafood dinner at a local restaurant recommended by Nico.

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Local ‘oysters’

Birthday feast Birthday boy

Symi harbor as usual was lovely, but a challenge. Fortunately it was a calm night –the charterers on the other side of the harbour had out enough anchor chain to barely touch the bottom of this deep inlet.

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We moved quickly north, trying to catch up with our EMYR rally friends on Skysong, Michael and Christine who were in Lipsi harbor. We spent a memorable few days with them in Lipsi and then Leros. They are great company and we enjoyed stimulating conversation, lovely food, wine and of course, pink gins!

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Skysong – Lipsi

Chris and MichaelAy Marina

First swim of the season - Pandeli

First swim of the season – Pandeli

Michael and Christine left us here in Xerokambos, at the bottom of Leros where we are anchored, trying to work out how to get across to Mykonos or Paros to meet friends Sue and Ian Rewell – not easy with a winds and big seas separating us! It has been very windy this season, with more strong northerlies this early than in previous seasons.

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Pandeli

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Autumn – Turkey and the Dodecanese

August  was a good month to be in Sydney – it had been 45degrees in Gocek. September is lovely in Turkey, the weather had cooled slightly, the water is warm and wonderful for swimming. David and David arrived in Gocek to sail with us for a week in Fethiye Gulf. We enjoyed days relaxing in our favourite bays – Deep and Seagull, walking and enjoying meals of fresh local Turkish produce prepared by David LJ.

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David and David headed for Istanbul and we to Greece – we only had a few weeks left on our Turkish visa. The plan was to visit our favourite bays in the Dodecanese and maybe get to Mykonos and Delos, which have been trying to do for a few seasons. Pandeli (of course), a walk to the castle and lunch at the wonderful Mill restaurant were high on the agenda.

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A few days in Pithagorian in Samos, then to Marathokambos, a very pleasant little harbour town on the western corner of Samos. We were surprised to find a newly built ‘marina’ there, due to be opened in the next month or so. A great facility, although unfortunately not many spots to fit a boat the size of Sea Cloud as most mooring blocks seemed to be set for 12m maximum. We anchored in the bay. Unfortunately Ian still had lots of work to do, so this was an all too common site.

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We had hoped for some Aegean lobster in Fourni, a trip to Ikaria and then Mykonos, but unfortunately strong winds were predicted, so we headed for Patmos.

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Fourni

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We anchored for a few windy days on Ay Yerios, a gorgeous, bay with a fabulous fish restaurant ashore.

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Patmos harbour  caused a few headaches, a dragging anchor at midnight, re-anchoring then having our anchor uprooted while we were stern to the town wall (by a catamaran with a ‘professional’ skipper), all within 24 hours! Lunch at Jimmy’s at the Chora, then a delightful walk down to the harbour via the ancient pathway made the hassles at the harbour worthwhile – what views!

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Lipsi, which we hadn’t really enjoyed on a previous visit, was a pleasant surprise. After a few days of calm weather anchoring in the beautiful bay on the south of the island,

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we moved to Lipsi harbour for the next predicted windy patch. Luckily we arrived early enough to get a good spot on the pontoon – 57 boats were in the harbour by the end of the evening! There was a bit of carnage on the other side of the dock as the wind changed direction (from southerly to Northerly – as predicted) in the middle of the night.

Lipsi has some great walks, wonderful restaurants and the best coffee shop/bakery we have found in Dodecanese.

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Strong winds were certainly a feature our 3 weeks in Greece, with 3 gales during that time. Our itinerary, adapted to ensure safe anchorages, meant that we moved south quickly through Leros (Pandeli again!),

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to Kalymnos and Nisyros heading back to Panorimitis on Symi – a great spot to sit out the next gale. The waves and 30+ knots in this very calm anchorage made us wonder about the conditions elsewhere.

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We found this sad sight on arrival in Rhodes, an unattended yacht (the owner had been taken to hospital) ended up on the rocks during the gale.

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A few calm days predicted we had a wonderful sail back to Tilos, were we enjoyed a few days of spectacular walks while Sea Cloud was safely tied up in the harbour. Tilos looked quite different on arrival, with lots of Syrian refugees around the harbour, waiting for the bi-weekly ferry to Athens. The most recent arrival was a this small yacht (now impounded) which ferried 44 people across from Turkey in pretty horrendous conditions. Apparently the boat was half full of water on arrival, with many people very unwell. The refugees – who arrive almost weekly, are taken to one of the local monasteries where they are cared for by the local community while they are processed before leaving for Athens.

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The walk from Livadhi to the ruins of the ‘summer capital’.

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Walk from the Chora to the monastery – much longer than advertised on the Tilos walking map!

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Fortunately, spring water was available at the Monastery, necessary before the long (fast), hot, and at times precarious walk back to catch the last bus back to the harbour.

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Our neighbours on either side in the town harbour, a Spanish sole sailor and 3 Israelis were lots of fun. Roy, from Tel Aviv, made us all the best shaksuka for breakfast, while Luis, a professional skipper was a fountain of information about sailing in the Mediterranean and beyond.

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Checkout completed in Rhodes, we headed back to Fethiye bay to meet up with Lissa, and Anne and Michael in Gocek. After the weeks of gales, we (they) were so lucky – calm winds – but enough to sail, warm days for swimming and cool evenings.

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We had a wonderful week, pottering around the bays with a visit to the Imam above Seagull Bay and a dinner at Amigos being highlights.

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We celebrated Anne’s birthday in Eckincik,

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then (motor) sailed to Gerbeske.

IMG_8318They were treated to a bit of excitement when a thunderstorm hit us at anchor– 0 to 32knots in minutes straight in to the bay, pulling our stern line off the rocks. Anne cooked up a storm in the galley while we planned our way out of the bay to Marmaris in the dark (just in case) and watched the storms on the radar. Luckily the wind settled so their last morning could be spent in this beautiful spot before leaving us in Marmaris for their travels around Turkey.

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IMG_8333 IMG_8342Back in Netsel, we spent a few frantic days achieving lots – a new bimini frame and quotes for the solar panels and hydrogenerator which will be installed in the spring.Many thanks to Alex and Diana on Enki for their tips on these wonderful tradespeople in Marmaris.

 

We also caught up with some of our EMYR friends –  great to see them again.

Sea Cloud is now back on the hardstand for her last winter in Turkey, and we are on our way to Sydney for yet another summer. Our plans for next year are still a bit vague, but we are definitely heading west maybe to Croatia, Italy who knows…

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Post EMYR – Jordan

A small group of 7 of us –a Swedish and a Canadian couple and a Frenchman participated in a carefully planned and orchestrated Cook’s tour through Jordan. The superb Roman ruins at Jerash, not far north of Amman was our first stop. It is probably the largest and best preserved site we have seen, with enormous Hadrian’s arch at the city gate, an unusual oval central piazza, a well-preserved amphitheatre, temple and paved colonnaded streets. The Jordanian bagpiper was a surprise playing in the amphitheatre – a legacy of the British occupation.

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Amman the capital, is a bustling mix of old and new and poor and very affluent. Of course it also has its own impressive Roman ruins – a sharp contrast with the new glitzy city of shining white marble and limestone buildings and the ‘downtown’ area, which was lively, congested and rather grubby. We stood out amongst the locals in their long black decorated robes and dark features. Mike, our guide was fantastic, a low key (ex-accountant). He was knowledgeable, educating us not only about the ancient sites, but of life in Jordan, and the art of making good Arabic coffee.

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IMG_7492 IMG_7496 Between Amman and Petra are a number of the important sites. Mt Nebo – where Moses looked over the Promised land to direct the Israelites across Jordan.

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Madaba, famous for its mosaics. Both the ancient mosaic map in St Georges church, and the modern mosaics being made in Queen Noor centre by people with disabilities were very impressive.

IMG_7519 IMG_7518 IMG_7517 Our night in a desert camp in Wadi Rum was well worth the long drive south. A 4 wheel drive into the relatively cool desert evening to watch the sunset and spectacular evening desert light was pretty special. The colours and the landscape are spectacular (and the young drivers very handsome!).

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IMG_7560IMG_7578 IMG_7603 After a Bedouin style dinner at the camp we retired to our 4 star tents (complete with ensuite) to ensure we were up early enough to enjoy the colours of the sunrise before our drive to Petra.

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IMG_7651 IMG_7574 IMG_7653 Petra was not to be missed. The first glimpse of the Treasury through the narrow gorge at the end of the long Siq was wonderful. It really is an incredible site, so expansive, and to think it was basically a burial ground! The structure is 50m high and took 25yrs to carve out of solid rock.

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IMG_7695 IMG_7709 IMG_7732  Camels, donkeys, horses and children selling postcards are everywhere, adding lots of colour and movement to the site.

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A few of us braved the 1,000 steps to the Monastery in the heat of the afternoon. It definitely was worth the climb. The beer back at the cave bar of our hotel was most welcome at the end of the day, about 8 hours of walking and climbing in the June heat is pretty exhausting. Another day in Petra would have been great as it is such an extensive site.

IMG_7763 IMG_7748IMG_7779 A visit to the Dead Sea and Masada was the last on our itinerary of must – do’s before we left Israel. The Dead Sea is 420m BELOW sea level – and is the lowest point on earth. Although this extremely hot arid region fringing the sea consists mainly of salt pans, there are several oases fed by natural fresh water springs growing groves of date palms – such as Ein Gedi Kibbutz where we stayed overnight.

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The ‘spa’ where we accessed the beach was built on the shore of the Dead Sea 20 years ago. It is now 1.2km away from the waters edge. From the photos one can see the “high tide” mark over 1km above the current waterline – emphasising that this (490m deep) lake is dropping by 5m per year and if unchecked will be dry in 25yrs!

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Masada a 500m high desert plateau surrounded by sheer cliffs was the site of the last stand of 1,000 Jews exiled here after the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 70AD. As temperatures were close to 40, we caught the cable car to the top so that we could enjoy the excellent audio tour of this interesting site. The story of the Roman siege, building the colossal sand ramp to attack the walls and the mass suicide within at the eleventh hour were well depicted in the Hollywood version (Peter O’Toole) in the 80’s.

IMG_7855 IMG_7860 IMG_7857 Back in Herlizya, a quick tour and late lunch in Jaffa and Tel Aviv before our sunset departure and long sail back to Turkey.

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