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Month: May 2017

Stunning Katapola on the Island of Amorgos – 25th to 27th May 2017

Stunning Katapola on the Island of Amorgos – 25th to 27th May 2017

012 - 2017 - Amorgos - 00What a find, we really enjoyed our time on Amorgos, with its uncompromising mountains dropping vertically into the Aegean, the welcoming village of Katapola and the amazing Monastery of Panayia, impossibly suspended near the top of an almost vertical cliff face.

The Island is incredibly rugged, uncompromising slabs of rock are the main feature of the landscape which explains the lack of cultivation except in the few fertile valleys, sheltered from the winds and baking sun. In the past the islanders have had a reputation as pirates and wreckers which is not surprising considering that other ways of providing an income were limited.012 - 2017 - Amorgos - 02I am also told the island is famous as the location for Luc Besson’s film, Le Grand Blue … it seems everyone expects recognition when the films name is mentioned, but I’m afraid, not one I have seen or heard off.10.jpKatapolaWe arrived at the bay of Katapola, with its high mountains encircling and protecting it, at the respectable hour of 10.30am (thanks to Mark …. hmmm). Luckily we found a mooring on the town quay to the left of the small ferry dock, the pilot book stated this area had very limited depth but it was absolutely fine with a good 4.5m and because it wasn’t on the angled section of the quay, you could avoid crossed anchors.

On arrival we took advantage of the water on the quay, with Mark washing the outside of the boat and me tiding up the inside. The quay filled up pretty quickly, with the British outnumbering the other nationalities except for our neighbours, we had Australians on both sides. Jobs done Hudson and I went off to explore the village whilst Mark had his daily afternoon siesta.

The village itself has a relaxed and “local” feel to it with the usual pretty bars and restaurants encroaching onto the quay and discrete walkways running behind the main street. Despite its size, katapola had all the necessities, a laundry, butchers, bakers, car hire and of course a clutch of mini markets – the opening times were based on the slightly confusing “Greek time” world clock.

On the Friday (26th May) we hired a car at the very reasonable rate of 25 euros, our Australian neighbours had recommended a few sites to see around the Island, with the Monastery of Panayia a must. Map in hand, we set off to the northern end of the Island to the small village of Aigiali, which has a lovely sandy beach and a quay, but unfortunately, lacking the welcoming charm of Katapola. So we gave Hudson a walk around the village, stopping for an orange juice, and then onto the hilltop town of Chora for lunch – a very large tasty omelette (more like a frittata) with everything on.012 - 2017 - Amorgos - 03Next was the Monastery of Panayia, which unfortunately was closed for siesta. Having seen the amazing facade of the monastery chiselled out of the cliff face, we knew this was a site not to miss, so we returned to the boat for a couple of hours, planning to return at 17:00 when it opened again. To reach the Monastery, you ascend an impressive rock stairway, winding back and forward as it climbs up several hundred feet and constructed from great slabs of rock hewn from the cliff face.012 - 2017 - Amorgos - 05You can’t help but wonder how they lifted the materials to construct the building and even today how they get day to day supplies up the rock face especially during the storms of winter …. and who made the decision to build in this inhospitable location. On a tiny grassy ledge, just below the monastery itself, some of our questions were answered, as we discovered two donkeys with the hair on their backs rubbed bald by the travels up and down the stairs, loaded with provisions and over weight monks.012 - 2017 - Amorgos - 04The front elevation of the Monastery is substantial, however front to back is quite narrow, the back wall is quite literally carved from the cliff face, as you can see from the picture of the steps leading up to the main chambers. At the top are two prayer rooms, decorated elaborately with chandeliers and religious artefacts painted on wood, incense tickles your senses. Dress code is strict, with ladies having to be covered, wearing skirts not trousers. When it comes to heights Mark and I are wimps, but you cannot help be staggered by the breathtaking view from the balcony at the top of the monastery – photography cannot really reflect the true scale of the building and the view.012 - 2017 - Amorgos - 06The Priests indicated for us to join them and 6 other visitors for refreshments, a shot of cinnamon floured Saki (produced locally) and some Greek Delight (Turkish Delight). Seated around a grand oak table, the amiable rotund priest entertained us in broken English. He was keen to get our thoughts on Brexit, as well as the German and French couples opinion on the merits of the European Union – although answers were constrained by language to yes and no and thumbs up or down. We concluded by inadequately attempting to describe our visit in the visitors book, it was impossible to put into words the grandeur and humbling nature of the achievement to build this place …. let alone any religious sentiment.012 - 2017 - Amorgos - 08We finished our evening off next to the boat, with dinner at a restaurant on the quay called “Capetam Dimos”, Dimos the owner, was proud of his Greek food with a twist and happily explained the merits (or not) of the local wine and calamari – which apparently is caught in the winter and spring time, and then frozen i.e. there is no fresh squid in summer in Greece … so he claimed. The wine (still at a reasonable price) was the best Greek wine I have had; it was so nice Mark insisted on sharing it. I had the Moussaka (which was made with a few different ingredients such as yogurt, so was lighter and tastier) and Mark had the Lamb in Ouzo sauce, both dishes were presented beautifully and tasted yummy, some of the best Greek food we have had.

We left Katapola the following morning content and happy that we had stopped for a few days and enjoyed this lovely island.

The Island of Patmos – 22nd to 25th May 2017

The Island of Patmos – 22nd to 25th May 2017

011 - 2017 - Patmos - 00As I sat enjoying a freshly squeezed orange juice looking out on the picture perfect bay of Katapola (Island of Amorgos), I had time to savour our time on the previous island, Patmos. Originally it was not on our “to visit list”, being described as a “tourist destination”, with twice weekly hoards of Nikon wielding pensioners disembarking (or being wheeled) from their cruise ships (Tuesdays and Saturdays being the days to avoid). However, 28 knots of wind and 2 metres of swell on the nose, had dictated a change in plan, Patmos was now the most sensible destination to hide from the weather.011 - 2017 - Patmos - 03The Island is 25 km long with a permanent population of about 3,000 which is larger than most islands this size and as with most of the Aegean islands, tourism seems to be their main occupation. The impressive Monastery of St John is the major attraction, perched high on the mountain dominating the skyline above Skala (the main port and largest town on Patmos) and a magnet for cruise liners and ferries from neighbouring islands. The Island is obviously affluent and as such well maintained with the buildings all well painted, streets kept clean and beaches well manicured.

We moored on the town quay in Skala for two days which is not the prettiest of locations, but there is plenty of activity, good people watching from the back of the boat and it is only a very short walk to the picturesque main square with its surrounding shops and restaurants. Directly behind us was the inevitable cafe where we enjoyed a morning orange juice and caught up with our emails.011 - 2017 - Patmos - 09Day 2 ( Tuesday 23rd May) we were up bright and early for a run, there was a perfect’ish route around the bay with “only” one steep hill which Mark insisted we run up to see if it was worth carrying on over the other side, which it wasn’t … mad … I hate hills. So having completed 4k and with a feeling of accomplishment, we set off to explore the island in our noddy size hire car which cost the princely sum of 25 euros for the day.

The first stop was the Monastery of St John, arriving mid-morning as we had been warned a cruise ship was due in and the serenity of the place would be disturbed by the loud clumping of walking sticks. The monastery is circled by traditional Aegean style blue and white painted square topped houses in a labyrinth of narrow streets, originally built in medieval times to protect the monastery from attack.011 - 2017 - Patmos - 05The monastery is a world heritage site housing its own museum, which holds religious artefacts dating back to the 6th century; however the majority were a mere 4-500 years old and in amazing condition. Climbing to the top of the monastery walls you are presented with a breathtaking view over Patmos and the surrounding Islands. 011 - 2017 - Patmos - 04The road layout on the island is simple with two “main” roads, one going north and one going south. Driving north past Meloi, we arrived in Agriolivado, a large bay protected by a small Island, Agia Thekla. It was perfect, a long sandy beach, a discrete bar and restaurant (essential for our daily 5pm card game) and only a handful of people enjoying it all, just what we like.  To add to its charm, the beach attendant, a character straight out of Treasure Island had obviously been shipwrecked here many years ago (without a razor), was raking up the pebbles from the seabed several metres from the shore, what dedication or madness!!011 - 2017 - Patmos - 10We stopped for a long leisurely lunch, enjoying the tranquillity of Agriolivado before finishing our exploration of the island, arriving back at the boat mid-afternoon ready for a well earned siesta.

We could not wait to get to our bay, so on Wednesday, we motored the 3 miles round the coast and were delighted to find no other boats at anchor. We dropped the hook and set about relaxing. Mark went for his first dive with all his own equipment, including his shiny new 16 litre air tank – it did however seem a lot of hard work getting dressed and kitted out, but what do I know about boys and their toys. Mark enjoyed his dive even though there was very little fish life and it was a little chilly, so next time full wetsuit and gloves. Hudson was lifeguard sitting up front the whole time, watching Mark’s red dive ball move around the bay, saved me a job.011 - 2017 - Patmos - 13As usual we finished the evening off with a sunset beer and a game of cards in the bar on the beach, what a view and to be able to sit back and enjoy our first proper anchorage of the season. We both felt so relaxed. Patmos was worth the visit.011 - 2017 - Patmos - 17Supper on board was an excellent Spicy Paella, even if I do say so myself. The sea was flat calm, the night was cloudless and with very little light pollution, all the billions of stars came out to play. All was set for a peaceful nights sleep. Unfortunately it was so quiet that a dog insistently barking 5 miles away, just on the edge of hearing, kept Mark awake …. how annoying, so wide awake Mark came up with the bright idea of setting off at 2am for a night sail, 50 miles south-west to Katapola on the Island of Amorgos – not my idea so Hudson and I stayed in bed till 6am, missing the beautiful sunrise although Mark captured it for us.012 - 2017 - Amorgos - 01

Agathonisi – 21st to 22nd May 2017

Agathonisi – 21st to 22nd May 2017

010 - 2017 - Agfathonisi  - 00We left Arki at the civilised time of 9.40am travelling the 17 miles north east to Agathonisi. We were able to sail the whole way at 6-7 knots – Mark was happy.010 - 2017 - Agfathonisi  - 05The planned anchorage did not have enough swinging room so we opted for the deserted quay, which also doubled as a landing for the ferries. The village was incredibly well maintained, with some pretty apartments and amazingly, a short road connecting the village to the nearby beach …. with no potholes, a visible white line down the centre and a barrier with no dents – unheard of in Greece. However, Agathonisi did seem to have a deserted, slightly depressed feel to it. We later found out that, because of their proximity to Turkey and the subsequent invasion of Syrian refugees, all the cash paying tourists had been driven off, and even though the influx of refugees had stopped 2 years ago, the tourists had still not returned. The only paying guests seemed to be the few soldiers left over from the refugee invasion.010 - 2017 - Agfathonisi  - 04During the night, the southerly swell took us side on making it very bumpy, this was compounded with heavy rain, thunder and lighting at 2:00 am in the morning – not fun. As the southerlies were set to continue and increase significantly we decided to leave early to go north to Samos. This decision was rapidly reversed as we left the bay to be greeted by 28 knot winds and 2 metres of swell on our nose, we about turned and headed south west with the winds and swell behind us, heading for Patmos. We were interested to see what Patmos was like, as we had deliberately avoided it before, principally because of its touristy reputation and it is on the ocean liner stop list – hmmm. However, can’t argue with the weather and this is the best place to hide for a couple of days.

Port Augusta on the Island of Arki – 17th to 21st May 2017

Port Augusta on the Island of Arki – 17th to 21st May 2017

009 - 2017 - Arki - 00Following two days of strong north westerly winds, the sea calmed and the winds dropped to a lovely 10 knot south westerly, perfect for our short hop 9 miles north to Port Augusta on the Island of Arki.

It has two very pretty taverna’s and a bar (totally supported by visiting yachts) and the most mini of mini markets which never seems open. There are only four roads on the Island, all up-hill and none go very far, so it does not take too long to explore the accessible bits, the rest of the island is incredibly rocky and barren and given over to a large herd of goats.009 - 2017 - Arki - 07Arki has a minute population of 38, concentrated around Port Augusta. The kids (currently two) go to school till the age of eight and then, if they stay on the island, decide on their future career, choosing between fishing or helping to manage the goat herds – some choice!!009 - 2017 - Arki - 02

009 - 2017 - Arki - 11None the less, we all fell under the spell of this tranquil place, happily planning to stay a few days hiding from the 30 knot winds.  The gang (Hapatoni, Spirit 3 and Shiraz) moored up side by side on the short quay which is so well protected from the swells created by the northerlies.009 - 2017 - Arki - 10The mornings are announced by the tinkle of goat bells, the insistent cock-a-doodle-DOOOOOOOOOOOing of the cockerels and the cycle bells of the two kids joyously announcing their arrival as they cycle the couple of hundred metres to school each morning.

We would have spent our time walking the Island, which doesn’t take too long and relaxing, but Alice showed us how to use our old ropes to make mats. It takes a lot of rope and time, none the less Mark decided to have a go and I have to say, the finished product was brilliant. I wanted to join in, so whilst Mark made his second mat (table mat this time), Alice taught me how to do monkey ball knots – honestly, it didn’t hurt the monkey at all – and a very fruitful couple of days resulted in some excellent and useful decoration for the boat.009 - 2017 - Arki - 01

009 - 2017 - Arki - 12In the afternoon, one of the local (and ancient) fishermen entertained us by enticing a large wild cormorant out of the water, imitating the guttural noise the bird makes, and then in pied piper fashion led it across the quay. He then sat and with a piece of fish, persuaded it to stand on his capped head, whilst he fed it – absolutely fabulous.

The second night Mark and I went out for a meal. We had some meze starters – Greek salad (compulsory), zucchini balls and a bean dip, followed by a massive slab of tasty home made moussaka. We were so impressed that on our last night we revisited the same taverna and meze’ed once more.009 - 2017 - Arki - 06We relished our time on Arki, but it is tiny, the walks are limited and you certainly could not go for a run. So with the weather improving on Sunday we have all reluctantly decided to move on, Shiraz and Spirit 3 to Samos and we are going to try Agathonisi, an Island off the main flotilla routes. We hope to be able to anchor for the night, Mark fancies a swim off the back of the boat.009 - 2017 - Arki - 05

Lipso – 14th to 17th May 2017

Lipso – 14th to 17th May 2017

008 - 2017 - Lipso - 00We arrived in Lipso mid-morning, welcomed by the harbour master (who charged 3 euros for the privilege of taking our mooring lines) and our friends, Tina, Tim, Alice and her new crew member Christine. Alices’s first crew, Robin, had abruptly left having decided our style of Mediterranean cruising was not for him … oddly he was struggling with basic sailing skills such as the use of a winch, so not much help to Alice. Christine has cruised with her previous husband on their own boat, so has all the knowledge and experience, perfect.008 - 2017 - Lipso - 01Lipso is in the Northern Dodecanese, it is a very small island with a total land mass of 17.3 sq km and a population of 610. It is reputed to have a Church (each dedicated to a different saint) for each resident family on the island. It is incredibly peaceful and tranquil, the ideal place to escape the noise and bustle of the towns and cities and just enjoy the sun and the beach – in reality, there isn’t a lot else to do, except of course the mandatory daily pilgrimage to the taverna’s. The island has started to acquire a following of holiday makers returning year after year, although at the moment all the visitors seem to be yachties.008 - 2017 - Lipso - 04

008 - 2017 - Lipso - 05The colourful town, with the white-washed houses and blue shutters are a short walk up the hill from the town quay with its bars and restaurants overlooking the water front. There is a butcher, baker, supermarket, a couple of gift shops and even a nail bar (which I did not get to try out this time). They produce their own fine foodstuffs and beverages and have a reputation for “good wine” such as the Fokiako sweet black wines, they also used to produce the sweet red communion wine for the neighbouring, and much larger island of Patmos. Obviously I had to test out the quality and sampled several glasses of the recommend dry white, it was very passable.

On the first night (Sunday 14th May), the gang went up the hill to a charming restaurant, the chef and owner was so keen to impress us, he invited us en masse into his kitchen to see all his speciality dishes on offer that night. First up were huge slabs of freshly caught tuna, cooked rare, almost raw – absolutely delicious. Five of us were sold on this without looking any further at the range of local meats and fish on offer. Mark insisted that we stop off on the way home for a night cap at the Ouzo Bar, so he, Alice and Tim sampled a few different types of the local paint stripper. The first was “interesting”, but the second one was so strong they sensible decided to call it a day and we all headed back to our boats. It was a very pleasant evening, a chance to catch up and get to know Christine.008 - 2017 - Lipso - 07Monday started well, up early for a run with Hudson along the coast to (surprise, surprise) another church, once more in the middle of nowhere, miles from any other habitation. Mark had a more leisurely “ouzo’ed” start, which stumbled un-enthusiastically into a bit of dent filling and polishing. The gang met for Boules and a bbq at 6pm. Mark and his team won the first game and in his usual modest way, he ran in circles around my team making an “L” sign on his forehead, and joyously chanting “loser, loser, loser, etc, etc” – hmmm, not impressed. We sat protected from the increasing winds, enjoying the bbq and watching the sun set before retiring to prepare the boat for a very windy night – earplugs at the ready.008 - 2017 - Lipso - 13There is a fish restaurant in a small Blue Shack on the quay, famous in the village for its octopus dishes, which have to be dried in the sun for four days before cooking – the roof is as good a place as any I guess!!008 - 2017 - Lipso - 02Our last day passed quickly, the wind had calmed from the previous night to a steady 20 knots. Mark had a go at fishing off the quay, but only managed to catch the end of a diesel spill from one of the local boats, still no fish for dinner….I live in hope.008 - 2017 - Lipso - 03We took Hudson exploring, up the steep hill out of the village to the other side of the island. Goats are everywhere, I guess not a lot else would survive on this rugged landscape, although we did come across a couple of donkeys and two cows. The goats’ skulls are recycled as “decorative” pieces adorning the entrances to the small holdings!! Tomorrow we head for the even smaller island of Arki.008 - 2017 - Lipso - 10

Port Lakki on the Island of Leros 13th to 14th May 2017

Port Lakki on the Island of Leros 13th to 14th May 2017

007 - 2017 - Leros - 00We left the bay of Emborios at the extremely civilised time of 9.15am, as it was only a short 9 mile hop to the next Island, Leros. We had originally planned to sail to the picturesque village of Pandeli on the eastern side of the Island, but were advised by friends that the harbour was full with local fishing boats and there was very little room (or welcome) for visiting yachts. So with this in mind, we headed for Lakki marina in the main town and ferry port. The marina which was really just the town quay but looked ok, with a few other mainly English yachts tied up. It had acquired the status of “marina” because there were lazy lines and power/water laid on and it was reasonably priced at 27 euros plus electricity. So we settled down for the afternoon, enjoying a relaxing lunch before taking Hudson for a stroll around the town.

Lakki is home to the main naval base of the Dodecanese area, it was built at the top of the bay reflecting the Art Deco style. The pilot book talks flatteringly about wide boulevards, shopping and a superb market, but that must have been many years ago before Mark and I arrived. What we saw was a run down, neglected and scruffy town. It didn’t look like anyone had really taken any real care of the place for a long time and this was reflected in one of the monuments to the Battle of Leros which took place in the bay during WWII. The Greek battleship Queen Olga and the British battleship Intrepid were both sunk by the Germans with the loss of many lives – the issue was the marble monument was engraved in Greek and English, but with several spelling mistakes … and someone had subsequently carved “war no more” very crudely into the marble. They should care more about such monuments to important historical events.

Disappointed by the town, we headed to a local cafe for an orange juice and the internet to check out the weather and review our options. Other parts of the Island are supposed to be beautiful and our original plan had been to stay here and explore them, riding out the next few days of stronger winds forecast for the area – but the idea of staying in Lakki for a week was instantly dismissed. A quick call to Tina and Tim from Shiraz, who were on the next Island, Lipso and the decision was made, we were leaving the next day sailing the 16 miles north to join our friends and ride out the weather with them, a much prettier town and certainly more fun.

Only picture taken is of the freaky Ice cream cone below…007 - 2017 - Leros - 01

Emborios on the Island of Kalimnos – 11th to 13th May

Emborios on the Island of Kalimnos – 11th to 13th May

As we left the protection of the Vathi Fjord, the wind strength surprised me, with up to 30 knots gusting on our starboard beam and a sea swell over one metre high. I did think if its going to be like this, maybe we should detour to Kalimnou, but as we sailed to the west with a couple of reefs in, the wind calmed down to around 23 knots with the occasional gust. It was a little lumpy and bumpy, but that didn’t disturb Hudson – I think having the rib at home has helped him to ignore the bangs as you crash over the waves, now as a hardened sailor he just slept.

The western coastline of Kalimnos is baron, stripped of any trees by the ravages of the Meltemi, but stunning and dramatic with high mountains rising directly out of the sea – which by the way, appears to be a bit of a magnet for the climbing fraternity. In many places along this rugged coastline, the only sign of habitation is an isolated Church painted in the white and blue of Greece, clinging to a rock face and always located in the most desolate and remotest of places.006 - 2017 - Kalimnos Emborios - 04We arrived in Emborios, a small bay with a scattering of mooring buoys planted by the two local tavernas, with the expectation that, if you use them, then you will spend a few euros on food and drinks in their premises. Emborios is described in the pilot book as “a useful stop on the way north”, we think that is an understatement as the area is very picturesque and dramatic, being hemmed in by mountain ranges. It is peaceful, with the only noise coming from the cockerels announcing the arrival of a new day and the bells of the goats as they graze on the mountain sides, also the click of the occasional cricket that managed to find one of those scarce bushes to rub its hind legs in. The trade here is mainly from visiting yachts, it is very easy to relax and chill for a few days. We arrived around lunch time, secured ourselves to a buoy and after lunch, Mark went for the first swim of the season. He claimed it was ok once you had lost all feeling in the body parts numbed by the cold. “Refreshed” it was siesta time.006 - 2017 - Kalimnos Emborios - 01As I was dozing on deck, whilst Mark napped below, I was aroused by a loud bang, to see another boats anchor resting on our guard rail. It took me a few seconds to register what was happening, I shouted for Mark and turned the engine on. The wind had got up quite a bit and our mooring buoy had parted company with its concrete anchor on the sea bed. We had drifted into and past a 38ft Moody sail boat owned by a New Zealand couple, Murray and Mandy, who watching helplessly from the shore, saw us bounce of their boat and run aground – fortunately in sand.  A local rib which was used to service the local fish farm, was quickly on the scene offering a tow, but with our engine hard in reverse, we managed to extricate ourselves from the predicament and go in search of a larger buoy, hopefully with a stouter chain. Luckily we sustained no damage, but it was a shock and unnerving experience.006 - 2017 - Kalimnos Emborios - 02Later that afternoon we went ashore, taking Hudson for a stroll around the small village. Most of the dwellings are clustered close to the pebbly beach and tavernas, one of which is called “Captain Kastos”. It is this family run taverna that owns our current buoy and the dodgy one that gave way, so we expressed our extreme “disappointment” at the accident, only to be told that this had also happened three times last year and so, over the winter they had checked all the buoys except for two, one of which was the one that had given way – Greeks!!! We stayed for a few drinks, a game of cards and supper of fresh tuna, salad and chips. The tuna was enormous although a little overcooked but still delicious and all for 12 euros.005 - 2017 - Kalimnos - 08Friday 12th May, Mark started with his new regime of a daily swim, it is still far too cold for me, another month yet I think before I’ll venture in. We decided to stay another day as the weather looks good and it is such a pretty spot.

In the early evening, we met up with Murray, Mandy and her mother (the New Zealand family who we had “bumped into” yesterday) in Captain Kastos’s taverna and enjoyed a very pleasant couple of hours, and a few jugs of wine. We enthusiastically recounted stories of our travels through the Med, it seems we have been to many of the same places and Mama’s bar in Sivota in the Ionian is a firm favourite of theirs as well. They are heading south tomorrow and we are continuing north to a safe mooring on the Island of Leros to wait out a week of strong winds.006 - 2017 - Kalimnos Emborios - 03

Vathi on The Island of Kalimnos – 10th to 11th May 2017

Vathi on The Island of Kalimnos – 10th to 11th May 2017

005 - 2017 - Kalimnos Vathi - 00Finally we escaped Kos, we were keen to start our travels again, so with a calm sea (no swell, a surprise following the previous day’s strong winds) and only a light breeze on our bow we set off heading north to the next Island, Kalimnos. On route we had such a surprise, a pod of dolphins, our first sighting this year and they were the largest we have ever seen. Hudson has to be on a short leash when they appear, as he gets so excited, barking insistently and desperate to get in and play. The pod of about eight were very entertaining, getting so close to the bow that there could have only be inches between them and the boat …. and spookily, turning on their side to look up at you …. I wonder who is watching who. We joyously passed 20 minutes going round in circles encouraging them to come and play, but eventually we reluctantly decided to leave them, so just for fun, a pair of them jumped clear of the water and did a synchronised 360 deg somersault as a parting gift (sorry we were not quick enough with the camera).004 - 2017 - Kos - 07

004 - 2017 - Kos - 08We had debated whether to head for Kalimnou, the main port town of Kalimnos, but after Kos we needed to find something with a bit more “charm” and neither the picture nor the description in the pilot book looked too inviting. So we headed for Vathi on the SE side of the island instead, a tiny village which you approach through a narrow channel, edged by vertical cliffs. The town quay can only accommodate about 15 yachts and there are boulders in places along the edge of it, so caution is needed when you moor up.005 - 2017 - Kalimnos Vathi - 01As we gingerly nosed in, bow first to check the depth, the harbour master materialised from nowhere to assist us – he was straight out off a Popeye movie with the captain’s cap, pointy beard and moustache and roll neck jumper typical of that classic cartoon. We dropped our anchor right next to the rock face opposite the quay, and let out 35 metres of chain, not really enough if a big wind came down the valley from the northwest, but there was no choice and we couldn’t really pull in like we normally did to check that the anchor was dug in. As there was no wind expected today, we decided to stay put, but head off tomorrow when the Force 4’s and 5’s were due on our starboard beam.005 - 2017 - Kalimnos Vathi - 06Vathi is an extremely pretty village in a very dramatic setting. It has the obligatory taverna’s lining the quay, a “supermarket” (basic supplies only) and a stall selling wind chimes made from sea shells and run by our friendly harbour master, which Mark reckons is probably just a front disguising his real occupation of master spy. There are also several “tasteful” touristy shops – one of the main local products is sponge which is harvested from the depths and goes through a few vital processes to turn it from a brown or black 200 year old colony of animals, which after a few hours in the sun smells quite disgusting, into something much sought after for your bathroom. Kalimnos used to be regarded as the centre for sponge fishing in Greece, by the end of the 19th century there were hundreds of boats in the sponge fleet exporting throughout the world. Today there are only a couple of boats left, the decline has been attributed to many things one of which was the proximity of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, but is most likely due to global warming and the increase in sea water temperature.005 - 2017 - Kalimnos Vathi - 07The locals rely on the tripper boats that visit during the main season and a few tourists who drive over from the main town in their rented cars and on dodgy motor bikes. Whilst we were there, only one yacht and two tripper boats visited, staying for about an hour and then leaving. At this time of year business is slow, the hordes are yet to arrive … luckily for us.

We walked Hudson around the village and out into the valley, which is full of citrus orchards and fields of vegetables – this is the only valley on the island where water is abundant. We finished off the evening at one of the local taverna’s having the local fish, it was similar to mackerel in appearance and flavour, with a very dark, chunky, meaty texture like tuna, all served with traditional vegetables, rice and chips.005 - 2017 - Kalimnos Vathi - 08We were so pleased we came to Vathi, it is a beautiful spot and we definitely would have stayed longer but with stronger NW winds due the next day, we decide to move on towards Emborios on the north of the Island.

Kos – 4th – 10th May 2017

Kos – 4th – 10th May 2017

004 - 2017 - Kos - 00We set off for Kos, 23 miles northeast of Nisyros, with a favourable north westerly blowing at about 12 knots. So with all the white flappy things unfurled, we managed to achieve over 7 knots ….. hoorah. Well at least for an hour before the high peaks down the backbone of Kos blocked that lovely wind and becalmed us. The east end of the island is only about 8 miles from Turkey, so we had to be careful not to step into Turkish waters, we haven’t done any of the paperwork and don’t want to be mistaken for refugees. Interestingly, Greece and Turkey have agreed that international waters are only 6 miles off their coasts and this also applies to the whole of the Aegean, which means you are in International waters for a lot of the time as you sail through the Greek Islands …. I’m not sure if that really is interesting, or just another useless fact from Mark!!004 - 2017 - Kos - 01We arrived at midday in Kos Marina to be greeted by the gang who had been having a cuppa in a local cafe. Fortunately, under their watchful eyes, Mark executed a perfect stern mooring … mind you there was no wind and no neighbouring boat on the entry side … but we’ll take any help given. So after a few hellos and hugs, we agreed to meet up for a beer later that evening, prior to them sailing north the next morning, to the Island of Kalimnos – we’ve noticed that they tend to leave as we arrive …. do you think they are telling us something?004 - 2017 - Kos - 02Mark didn’t waste any time and phoned Bob the engineer. Unbelievably he arrived promptly and took a look at the engine mounts, after a few seconds of deep thought and that previously mentioned head scratching, he thought of a number, multiplied it by two and gave us a quote – got a Captive audience hasn’t he!

Kos town is tourist central with an “old town” and a fort protecting the entrance to the harbour. Shiraz and Spirit 3 are stern moored under the imposing castle walls …. but this is where any nice bits end. In the old town, you are accosted by touts trying to sell you boat trips to somewhere you have already been, or lure you into their bars where the price of a large beer (2 euros on the main strip) is one of the key advertising tools. “Kiss me quick” shops are the norm and you can just imagine the hordes of tripper boats spilling out their drunken tourists after a day out on an “all you can drink” booze cruise.004 - 2017 - Kos - 03

004 - 2017 - Kos - 04Fortunately, at the moment it is not high season, so most of the tourists are of the more mature sober variety and mainly German with only a few English voices to be heard. In the early evening, we strolled up to the old town with Hudson, made a detour round the back of the castle and stumbled on a lovely square with a few stalls selling better quality jewellery (well no tat) and a cute bar with “chilled” music wafting out over the patio, all protected by the huge umbrella of a shady tree. It costs a bit more for a cold beer but it was a tranquil spot and worth the extra.

004 - 2017 - Kos - 05The marina is far enough away from the old town so that there is no party noise to interrupt the night. The staff are very helpful and the marina seems well run, the facilities are good and the cost is reasonable for a busy marina at 38 euros per night, so we’ll get the repair, stock up on supplies, enjoy the sunshine which seems to be permanently in the mid-20’s, and leave on Wednesday morning following a windy two days with gusts over 40 knots and rain.

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Paloi on the Island of Nisyros – 1st to 4th May 2017

Paloi on the Island of Nisyros – 1st to 4th May 2017

003 - 2017 - Nisiros - 00003 - 2017 - Nisiros - 00We were up bright and early just before sunrise, ready to leave with the fishermen at 6am. We motored the 44 miles east to Paloi on the Island of Nisyros, hoping as always to get the white flappy thing up, especially as winds are expected to be from a southerly direction at this time of year …. but it was not to be, we had the wind on the nose for the whole trip. We arrived in Paloi at 1.30pm with our friends Tina, Tim, Alice and Robin waiting on the Town Quay, ready to take our ropes. It was time for my first stern mooring of the season, so with a little trepidation, a light breeze on the beam and an audience (why is there always an audience when I am at the helm?), I with great relief, moored Hapatoni perfectly, even if I say so myself.01Mark and Tim got straight to work, trying to determine the source of the vibration. They do what men do and turned a few nuts, scratched their heads and turned a few more. After much turning and scratching, the vibration was reduced but not disappeared so we will unfortunately have to hire an engineer to fix it. Whilst the boys were working, Hudson and I went exploring the village and outskirts. The mini market (very mini and very expensive) is right behind us, and the baker is on the outskirts of town. The village is petite, but immediately you can feel it has a pleasant vibe to it, with a selection of restaurants surrounding the town quay and a steady flow of visiting yachts with their crews making the obligatory pilgrimage to the volcano. That evening, it was nice to catch up with the gang over dinner in the local restaurant with the customary few beers and wine.02Nisyros is one of the smallest islands of the Dodecanese archipelago, it has a population of less than 1,000 and is very green compared to its big neighbour, Kos. The island is a volcano rising straight up from the sea floor, everywhere there is evidence of volcanic activity, with hot springs bubbling and natural saunas hidden in the rocks. Despite this activity, the last major eruption was over 20,000 years ago, but the island, like most of Greece, has suffered from major devastating earthquakes in much more recent times.

On Tuesday 2nd May we hired a car to explore the island, Mike the very chatty owner of the car hire company gave us a step by step guide and map to follow, so no excuses for missing any of Nisyros’s attractions. Mike was born on the island but moved at a young age with his parents to New York. Then 35 years, one divorce and a shiny new second American wife later, the two of them moved back to the island he loved, to the village of Nikia perched on the very edge of the volcano crater – I can’t imagine two more opposite places … quite romantic really? Tina and Tim kindly offered to baby-sit Hudson for the day and so we started the tour which began half way up the volcano at a natural sauna. 04It is on the side of the road, a small cave hollowed out of the rock and framed by Freddy Flintstone size rocks around the entrance, with steam seeping through the cracks in the rock, the heat and humidity hits you immediately.

The next stop is at the deserted town of Emporios. A major earthquake a few decades ago collapsed most of the buildings and sent the inhabitants scurrying for the coast to Paloi, where they stayed, leaving Emporios virtually empty. A few of the buildings have been restored, but only a handful of houses and the church look liveable. It does however have some amazing views over the Volcano crater, but keen to get to the volcano itself before 11am, we press on. That is the time when the fleet of coaches arrive, bringing the hordes of tourists who have day-tripped on the ferries from Kos.

05Our timing was perfect; we were the only visitors in the crater which was guarded by two Greeks in a tiny “shed” collecting the 3 euro entrance fee and a small slightly dilapidated cafe that seemed to blend into the landscape. There was little other evidence of human presence which gave the site a completely authentic feel, almost as though you were the first person to discover this place.

As we descended into the smoking crater the temperature increased and there was the ever present smell of rotten eggs to remind you there is a furnace smouldering below your feet. OK, the lava is 2 kilometres down, none the less your footsteps definitely have a lighter touch as you walk gingerly across the once molten rocks, coloured vivid yellow and red by volcanic activity.  In the very centre, there are smaller smoking craters, a few metres across, that seem to have a direct connection to the inferno below. There is a real feeling of anticipation, it is an eerie feeling and an amazing experience.v4

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Then just as we were leaving, at 11am on the dot, six coaches arrive spilling out hundreds of day trippers, we timed that perfectly. Next on the tour is a Chapel just above the village of Nikia, both perched precariously on one of the highest parts of the volcano looking into the crater. At this height, you can normally see across to Turkey, Kos and way beyond to many of the islands in the eastern Aegean, unfortunately there was a sea mist, but that didn’t detract from the grandeur of the spot where we were standing.

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7Nikia is a very pretty village, very clean and well maintained and as with several towns and villages in this part of the Aegean, the buildings are painted white with their doors and shutters painted the same shade of dark blue. Narrow alleys between the houses shade you from the heat of the day, all leading to the square in the heart of the village where there is one tiny shop and two cafes. You can imagine the elders of the village gathering here in the cool of the evening to discuss the day’s events. Curiously one side of the square should have an incredible view over the ocean to Turkey, but it is obscured by buildings, but then we remember that for several months of the year the Meltemi blows and winters can be very fierce, so the buildings do a very important job of protection around the area where the village congregates. We had a small meze lunch, choosing home made humus and local chick pea balls, whilst soaking up the relaxed atmosphere in the square, again we were ahead of the tourist bus’s so pretty much had the town to ourselves.08We did a quick tour of the village church, which was small, well maintained and incredibly ornate, with its three large candelabras, ancient paintings and large chunks of finely crafted silver on display.09The final stop on our travels was the main town of Mandraki, with its painted narrow streets. It is very tourist focused, as the Kos day trippers disembark here from the ferries. The houses and walk-ways have a charm about them, but the shops are all tourist “tat” (as Mark would say), so following a short refreshment break we headed back to our little village of Paloi to collect Hudson. We all had dinner on our own yachts, and then met on Hapatoni for an evening of the card game UNO. There was lots of cheating (mainly Alice) and laughter, Mark took great pleasure in the playing the “Stop” card and “pick up +4” card, a fun night.

Wednesday (3rd May) morning all the yachts departed, leaving Hapatoni on her own on the town quay, Shiraz and Spirit III headed to Kos old town and we plan to follow on Thursday. Mark got to work once more with Mike (from the car rental, an ex-engineer) to try to address our vibration issue but where unfortunately unable to fix it, however, they have been finally able to identify the problem, one of the engine mounts has collapsed – sounds expensive to fix doesn’t it …. boats!!! We have the name and number of an engineer, Bob in Kos, we now need to get him to answer his phone, best not try at lunch time.03