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  • Brexit Break

    Who leaps higher?

    Tied up in Aegina Harbour, ‘my bête noir’ or should I say ‘το μαύρο μου θηρίο’? We were in position to meet Nick and Lachie. Little did we know of the total travel chaos that had engulfed the UK. 

    Waiting in ignorance of UK travel melt down

    Their Whizz Air flight was delayed FIVE hours.  As this registered we realised that they would be hard pushed to catch the last ferry to the island.  Clickety click while the brain cells activated – supper out or set sail? – a miniscule  pause and then it was all four hands on deck as we prepared to leave and race their flight to Athens! I have still not overcome the fear that leaving Aegina brings and it happened again.  Another boat had laid his anchor chain over ours and we had to disentangle it.  Meanwhile the usual enthusiastic afternoon breeze had whipped up, threatening looking men appeared at the bows of their boats – in my mind waiting for a mistake to be made and their anchors to be threatened.  I don’t like this stress.

    The arrival race, top shows the less than Whizz air journey and below our ‘Navionics’ track

    Once free of all the hazards we set off at a brisk pace sailing a lot of the way while watching on ‘Flight Radar’ as our paths converged.  Modern communications being what it is I could ‘track my son’ on their taxi journey from the airport to Zea Marina. If we were to make the most of these few days we had to set off straightaway so there was not much time for ‘ the briefing’ only life jackets being considered essential at this stage, everything else on a need to know basis.

    Lachie checking for exit hazards
    Saturday setting sun en route Aegina Island
    Saturday night sail

    So they were launched into a 20 nm night passage to make sure they would wake up at anchor.  It was exciting to leave, weaving through the tankers at anchor off Piraeus, watch the setting sun and becoming aware of small islands we should avoid en route.  It soon became apparent that we had a nascent navigator on board.  When not asking ‘how much longer’ and having found a screen that was second nature to him, he was issuing instructions.  From down below came a small voice ‘I’ve added some way points! Turn right a little bit grandpa then sharp left!’  Lachie also reset the navigation lights from ‘under power’ to ‘under sail’ after that it all got a bit boring!

    We had an early morning swim after gaping at the most elaborate motor yacht which you can rent for €1,000,000 per week or, on further investigation, we found her sister ship was for sale at a cool €89,000,000.

    Super Yacht O’Pari – its sister ship O’Ptasia for sale!

    We lifted the anchor and set sail for Epidavros.

    Lifting the anchor team
    Anchor lift

    When we got to Epidavros we anchored and tied back to the shore where we had been just a week earlier.  There was a threat of thunderstorms so we stayed with the boat while Nick and Lachie went off in the kayak to suss out the area.  They returned having had the obligatory ice cream and had arranged a diving expedition for the next day.  We barbequed that night, first night out for the barbeque in three years and thinking about it Nick and Lachie are our first guests since the plague hit!

    The days were simple, mucking around in boat, dinghy and kayak, snorkelling, swimming, playing in the water, attempts at fishing……..

    messing around at Epidavros
    Diving techniques demonstrated
    Epidavros big splash coming….
    Big Splash!

    Off to dive
    On the way to the dive
    In sync with the paddles
    Sharp shooter drops the rhythm
    Food always important

    Nick and I walked to the little amphitheatre, Lachie showed zero interest although his knowledge of the Greek God hierarchy amazed us all.  He and grandpa locked horns over maths homework!

    All too soon it was time for the return to Zea Marina and Piraeus.

    Lachie’s spot
    Lunch on the go
    Extreme reading

    Once in the marina we enjoyed street food and cocktails.

    Street food, Piraeus
    Choosing our Street cocktails, Piraeus
    Trireme Piraeus

    The day of their departure we walked around to the trireme which had been brought here for a Festival of the Sea.  We were not allowed on, it was guarded by a sailor but he handed us leaflets with facts about the vessel.  Before Covid you could pay to take to the oars and experience what it would have been like as an honoured Athenian to carry the battle to the Persians (Battle of Salamis 480 BC)

    All too soon they were gone.  It’s very quiet.  It’s hot, 33′, so actually I look forward to the cooler Burntisland summer. We are preparing to leave the boat.  We are sad but it is not a complete shut down as we will be returning at the end of September.  I have left my flowers by the rubbish bins and hope they will find a home. 

    So irritating now, to have to count our days in Europe and be limited to how much we can travel.  I feel like an unfairly trapped bird.

    Andy’s Schengen shenanigan calculations…..
    Last night a Basil Smash cocktail – I can do this at home!
    Last morning – bikinis drying and flowers to go….

  • Paros to Poros

    wonderful sunset from Paros

    These two ports separated by a single letter, sounding so similar must have been confused more than once but famously by Joanna Lumley who starts her Greek travel series oozing off the ferry in Poros under the illusion, swiftly cleared, that she was in Paros.  No matter, both places are very charming.  Paros is in the Cyclades, east of Siphnos, south of Mikonos and west of Naxos.  Poros is 100 miles to the west and 40 miles south west of Athens. Our trip to Paros was not our first but in previous times we were under pressure of either weather or time and had not been able to fully explore the town.  We really liked it; typical Cycladian white houses, narrow winding streets, bougainvillea cascading over walls.  The white so dazzling it hurts the eyes.  The corners of the streets have rounded edges from the times when loaded donkeys and mules passed by.

    colourful street in Parikia
    Arched ways in Parikia
    Staircase
    Gentle colours out to sea
    Ukraine support
    Kafeneio – is it open?
    looking down to a church at the end of the street

      Having deposited our laundry for a ‘wash only’ we wandered and settled under a shady canopy to have a good coffee and watch people go by.  We weaved our way up past the Kastro by steps of translucent Parian marble.  Parian marble is considered to be the best quality marble for sculpture in the world.  We found ourselves overlooking the bay to the west beside the church of Aghios Konstantinos.  There is a cross above the entrance made of Iznik tiles, only the upper arm is antique the rest are modern.  To the side is a pretty portico.

    Aghios Konstantinos
    Iznik tiles
    Portico
    Portico looking out to sea, a peaceful spot

    Time for the laundry to be picked up and hung around the boat, it seems to dry in an instant at this time of year. There is something uplifting and joyous about laundry dancing on a line but even more on a boat in the middle of an anchorage.

    Monday wash day
    Laundry dancing

    Inside the complex of the Monastery of the Capuchins, there is a church that is, and again I quote from McGilchrist, ‘the oldest and the most historically important church in the Aegean Islands’.  There was a service going on.  Greek Orthodox churches don’t seem to mind, in fact it appears quite normal that one can wander in and out and not even be connected to the event that is happening.  It was a funeral so we didn’t linger but returned later to take in the luminosity and brilliance of the light inside and notice the stone arched women’s gallery running around the interior as you enter.

    Interior Church of Panaghia

    This is Parikia, I forgot to say!  It is the main town of the island.  As in ancient times it still seems quite well to do with masses of individual little shops; clothes, souvenirs, clothes, jewellery, art, leather, more clothes, exclusive and expensive.  Later we had Margaritas as the sun went down, so delicious, limey and salty.

    I realise I have been making a bit of a boob in Greek, not the first, in fact one of rather too many.   Sometimes the rhythms and sounds of a particular word get stuck in my head and then get associated with the wrong meaning.  So it appears to have been with the word alcohol or non alcoholic.  For a while now I may have been asking for analgesic beer or, horrors, anal beer.  No wonder the confused looks.  The words sound so similar and I got the wrong one!  I know now – χωρίσ αλκοόλ – no confusion!

    sunset Parikia

    The following day we captured a great photo of the ferry whose company strap line writ large on its side declares “Sailing together to the sustainable side of life”  which was a laugh because as he left he was engulfed in a cloud of dirty black diesel smoke.

    Caught in the act

    We stopped in the bay of Kolona on Kythnos on the way to Poros.  I found the hot spring on the beach and had it all to myself.  The sea had been a shock to my warm body but settling into the little pool, crudely surrounded by rocks and stones I stretched and relaxed listening to the waves rippling onto the shore – pretty special.

    A large catamaran anchored nearby appeared to be doing a ‘wellness’ sailing week and we were treated to the sight of  eight women  led by a muscular young man in red going through their sun salutations in varying degrees of co ordination.  As was fitting it was  a peaceful boat with no loud music and in the early morning, as we left, some of them were meditating in the rising sun.

    Yoga boat

    Weather, Weather, Weather, it is a constant feature in our narrative.  Andy pores over it endlessly.  There was a warning of strong northerly winds, yet again.  So we had to find a safe and comfortable place to be for the two day duration, the town quay is not such a place.  Just west of Poros town we dropped our anchor and took ropes back to the shore in a little nook.  There is a narrow channel that takes you through Poros, past the buildings and boats anchored along the south west.  It is such a pretty town, rising up a wooded hill and the shutters in absolutely every colour all effortlessly blending harmoniously.  As we came past on the way to our little nook we were hailed by Andromeda or rather our friend Nick. We were asked to lunch the following day and so having spent a night aboard and assured of her security we left Selkie Dancer and took the hour long walk to the town. 

    Along the walk toward Poros town
    Walking barefoot therapy

    It was lovely, it is still not high season and I’m really liking that.  Lovely lunch and company and of course technical issues to discuss….

    Deep in technical discussion

    The following day was spent on the boat, the only disturbance, the wake from the Flying Cats and Dolphins – the ferries that roar between Athens and Porto Xeli – which you hear rather ominously gathering speed to a crescendo as waves advance crashing along the shoreline to rock the boat furiously.  Other than that we had bird song, the occasional goat bell and a lovely lunch.

    Our little nook
    golden rocks
    colourful lunch

    Once the wind had died we went onto the dock for a night for water, hair cut and another lunch! And we saw such a sight, an influx of young men in navy uniforms, streaming through the town with their friends, with mum and dads or with their girlfriends. There is a Military School here on the island and this was basic training before they are dispersed to one of the three services. Conscription still happens for a short period. This was the first ‘break’ in the middle of the course and they were allowed ‘out’. There were queues outside the ATM’s, outside the laundries and the cafes were full of chatter and life.

    release!
    and another thing………….
    bags of laundry, masks, eager to meet with friends
    reunion

    So now we are away from Poros and in Epidaurus, one of our favourite places and here we are pulled back on the rocks for the first time. We are busy planning and sussing out suitable places to take Nick and Lachie. They have such a limited time and all depends upon, guess what? the weather! We have a variety of plans and places to take them to and will just react in the moment. We are so looking forward to it!

  • Cycladian Circle

    Birthday donkeys!

    At Rema beach on Kimolos the land curves around the sea and offshore, a scatter of small rocky islets, give a little protection from the open sea to the east.  76 nautical miles to the south is Crete!!! – The temptation!

    Rema beach and Selkie Dancer
    Looking out from Rema

    What a jewel of a place.  We are the only yacht in the bay, a bay, surrounded by cliffs.  In those cliffs I see millennia.  There are expanses of copper green; chalk, white, brilliant in the sun; seams of harder grey stone; dark, pock marked volcanic rock and the remains of rust coloured dry stone walls that resemble cobblestones, very regular in construction but precarious now in their position.  I don’t understand them.  At sea level, gauged into the cliff face are caves that have become fishermen’s huts.  The doors are varying shades of blue, green and grey, some freshly painted others faded to distress.  Only a couple of old men of the sea are busy in their caves today, they move slowly, purposefully.  Outside there is a washing line, an old T-shirt hanging on it, cats scamper around, a red, red life ring adds a splash of colour.  Seagulls wheel overhead and a small  upturned verdigris boat is this morning being slowly covered in brilliant orange, an anti fouling, keeping the barnacles from his bottom for another year.

    The rock arch and the fishermen’s huts
    Note the orange hull
    Rema village

    Most of the white blocks of houses are rooms or apartments to let during the summer, the windows shuttered for now.  Hardly anyone stirs but the appearance of four or five workers suddenly makes the little place seem busy as they ply their way up and down the white steps, shouldering buckets, carrying materials, wheeling barrows like a line of busy ants.

    Busy builders

    We walked up to the Xora and found a mini market and an overpriced tavern (so it was back to the boat for beans and egg!) It is so quiet, we are not in the season yet.  There was a nice church and some remains of the Kastro. 

    The church in the Chora
    Details of church

    It was lovely being here and I was able to swim every morning.

    Swimming every morning

    And so to Milos which is impressive as you enter the bay and take in the sweep of the caldera.  There is a church, as usual, at the highest point and the cubic white houses hold the ridge as they descend to the bay below.  The anchorage, off the town of Adamas, is wide and shallow and there were only a couple of other boats at anchor.

    Milos anchorage – zoom in and find the triangular anchor sail
    Around Milos
    shadows in Milos – a study in grey
    Milos

     On our first visit ashore we failed to find a decent chandlery or an open laundry and couldn’t find any camping Gaz however the skipper reassures me that we have enough to last until Poros which is familiar.

    I had a wonderful birthday and was thoroughly spoiled.  A lovely postcard of two donkeys nuzzling, that was the birthday card – he is soppy!  I got fridge magnets and postcards to colour in when I get stressed, a very pretty ring and a children’s book in Greek.  At first I was dismayed and discouraged by the font but with glasses on and brain switched in I amazed myself by reading AND understanding the first paragraph.  OK, I know it’s only a paragraph but it’s a start.  It is a beautifully produced publication with lovely illustrations.  We went out for breakfast and the most precious of presents, calls from all three of my sons wishing me happy birthday.  That means the world to me.

    Birthday me

     Andy took himself to the Milos Mining Museum, I declined the kind offer to accompany him and instead mooched around the town, bought some earrings and a cheap and cheerful dress before finally settling down with an ice cream and my new book whilst waiting for Andy’s return.  We had coffee on the boat and generally relaxed.  In the evening we went ashore to O! Hamos!  This taverna had been recommended by Andy’s brother Tom and it was a good one and everything was very tasty.

    Birthday us
    sunsetting on a lovely day

    From Milos we returned to Siphnos’ east coast and an anchorage off the beach of Apokofto looking across at the monastery of Panaghia Chrysopigi.  We have had some idyllic anchorages this year and this was yet another.   McGilchrist has much to say about this monastery but best, I love the story about how there came to be  a cleft in the rocks making a gap of about two metres between two pieces of land, now joined by an arched bridge.  Apparently The Virgin Mary, horrified by the plight of some pious women who were being chased with lusty intent by pirates sundered the land thus maintaining their chastity, for a while anyway.

    Selkie Dancer and the Monastery of the Chrysopigi
    Looking into the sundered rock that saved the virgins
    Looking out into the bay from the sundered land

    Inside the monastery work is going on to the restore the iconostasis.  It is extremely picturesque. 

    Monastery of the Panaghia Chrysopigi
    Detail of the door
    Renovations
    Peaceful and cool interior

    We walked around into the next bay and here there is exactly the kind of settlement that comes to mind when you think Greece – fishing village, turquoise sea, sand, slow life, off the beaten track- perfect and not overcrowded. We had lunch in a restaurant shaded by tamarisks, looking out at the boat. 

    Our lunch spot with a view of Selkie Dancer

    Extraordinarily as we made our way to recover the kayak from underneath a tree someone said ‘Hello Guys’.  We stopped in our tracks.  Who could we possibly know here on Siphnos?  We know no one.  It was Gianni and Despina, whom we had talked with exactly a week ago in Kamares.  Quite bizarre.  What are the chances? And what an intriguing character he is.  We asked about the funding of the renovations in the monastery.  Last week he had described Greece as the Africa of Europe now he tells us that Greece is like Iran in respect to religion.  The state funds all these things and the church pays nothing!

    After much hand wringing and discussion about possible strong winds – Should We? Shouldn’t we? Today we have dared to venture further east and are in Paros.  Nick and Lachie will be with us in 13 days time and we want to be well situated to meet them in Aegina so don’t want to get trapped by a strong, Cycladain, Meltemi. 

  • Seriphos and Siphnos

    The beautiful square in the Chora, zoom in……

    We had a good nine hour crossing from the tiny island of Spathi to the west coast of Seriphos;   sailing most of the 47 nautical miles in a friendly force 4.  My step count is 16!

    We anchored first in a small bay, Megalo Livadi on the west coast.  It was mined intensively for iron during the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries.  The old workings and buildings are still in evidence.  A coast guard boat swung by to check us out.  The whole conversation was conducted in Greek!  They wanted to know where we’d come from, where we were going and how many people were on board.  The next day we sailed along the south coast. So much of the terrain reminds me of the west of Scotland, mountains and valleys, crags and pockets of cultivation and a few scattered crofts but here, white Cycladic cubes.  While in Livadi, the main port, strong northerlies blew most of the time and we were glad to be tied securely alongside.  Only two of us in the harbour on arrival, confirming our thoughts that Seriphos is generally quiet and peaceful Oh! Oh!  Wednesday afternoon saw a steady stream of large boats and ever larger catamarans – monsters;  one of them parked their backside so close to ours it seemed they were almost part of us, very intimidating and not very private.  However the next day saw the port return to the sleepy place we know and love.

    We made the stiff walk up to the Chora and revisited Tou Stratou for lunch and wine.

    Enjoying the local wine
    The most beautiful square in the Cyclades
    Interior with the little niches called Θιδυρα common in these tiny houses
    Colourful flowers, new paper hat

    The view from the Chora
    my kind of garden
    Kalderimi track from Chora back to the port

    The following day we had breakfast with our feet in the sand before calling one of the two local taxis. 

    Breakfast with warm feet in the sand

    Eirini agreed to meet us by the bus stop and take us to the Monastery of the Taxiarches, we had to hurry though, as she needed to be back to meet the ferry.  A few yards down the road and we picked up Spiro, an old gentleman I had engaged with earlier in the day.  After we had dropped him at his house which was along the route I talked to Eirini saying that I could understand what she was saying but hopelessly lost listening to Spiro.  She confessed she didn’t always understand him either and what made it more difficult was that he didn’t have any teeth!

    Do you know what Taxiarches means? I didn’t but Wikipedia has enlightened me

    Taxiarch, equivalent to brigadier in ancient and modern Greek military terminology.

    Archangels Michael and Gabriel are called the Taxiarchs in Greek Orthodoxy because they lead the heavenly host”

    The monastery looks like a fortress and would have been one to protect it from pirates.  There are stairs now where there would only have been a ladder. 

    Stark exterior
    Stairs not a ladder

    Once through the strong fortified door we come into the most beautiful, calm space.  A space filled with the square building of the Catholicon, surrounded by brilliant white walls, tiny brown doors that give onto the monk’s cells and on every wall pots of geraniums, marigolds and other plants.  Stately old trees shaded and protected the courtyard below.  There is one monk and luckily he was there, so he opened the church, dark with icons, a soaring dome and a musty smell of incense.  What a gem of a place.

    Strong pirate proof door
    Looking in
    Looking out
    Catholicon and shady pine tree
    So well kept

    Although graded ‘easy’, this walk was far from the well maintained mule track we had anticipated.  It varied from river bed to asphalt road and scarcely marked track where the prickliest of prickly bushes were set to ensnare you.  However the views, the smells and sights were just heavenly and outweighed any discomfort and bare bleeding legs.  The waysides were stunning; wild flowers in abundance, there must have been at list 50 different varieties.  There was a woman out on the hill, calling her sheep. In places frogs made a huge din.  When Perseus lived here, he couldn’t sleep for the noise they were making so he got his Dad, Zeus, to render them mute. The ‘silent frogs of Seriphos’ became proverbial but obviously they have found their voices again. 

    Flowers and monastery
    Waysides
    wild flowers and where’s Wally
    Doocotes in the valley

    There were doocotes in the valleys, a very sleek looking donkey and comfortable cows. Despite the frogs, most of the time, high up, the utter silence and peace was bliss. The occasional buzzing of a bee, a tardy cockerel crowing in the distance or a faint goat bell just added to my joy.  Joy, bliss and heaven are words associated with Seriphos!

    That evening the wind completely vanished and the harbour was uncannily still, boats were sitting on a mirror image of themselves on glassy water and a crescent moon hung in the dark night sky and the Chora above seemed like so many fireflies glowing down the hillside – stunning

    So still

    Seriphos has always been one of my favourite islands and staying here longer, getting to know the island better has really nudged it up the list.

    Siphnos is not far away, only about 10 nautical miles and we sailed the whole way.  We had a nasty moment when the ferry, Jet 2, seemed not to have seen us and to be coming straight at us – we got our flares ready and altered our course slightly (we shouldn’t have had to as we were sailing, but the sea state was such that he may well not have seen us)

    Kamares, port for Siphonos

    We dropped our anchor at Kamares and went stern to the quay. There was one other yacht.  A cross wind, lack of mooring rings and the height of the quay all added to our difficulty.  Then an old guy pitched up on a motor bike and started berating us, he didn’t seem to have much English and he didn’t acknowledge any of my attempts at Greek.  In fact he ignored most of what I said and only addressed himself to Andy.  So I have him, not Andy, down as a rude and awkward person.  So what with him and the wind that blew constantly and the ropes that squeaked all night long, I didn’t feel much at ease.  At supper that night the rude person was there too, sitting at a table with the German couple from the next boat.  I think it was their payment to him for ‘helping’, she thought he was a ‘sweetheart’ – er…… I beg to differ.  We had a really excellent pizza.

    We got into conversation with a couple next to us, he thought he knew me from somewhere – I simply have a common face!  He described ‘lock down’ on the island which sounded awful.  Nobody could go anywhere for two years and the police patrolled all this time in what he described as a sinister and dystopian manner.  Bureaucracy taken too far, on a small island, total population two and a half thousand you would not think this necessary.  He was a bit of a cynic describing Greece as ‘The Africa of Europe’, in reference to corruption. Also Siphnos was losing its former ‘eco’ halo; the locals were selling up land to French people in the main.  A bit gloomy but maybe that was his nature. 

    The following day we took the bus to Apollonia, the capital.  The bus made a slow and royal progress along the narrow sea front, the driver calling out, tooting his horn, bestowing gracious waves, blessings and jokes to all his mates along the way.

    We wandered in the town, going totally up the wrong street but found good coffee with a view.  We found the top of the main, narrow winding street that descended to the north flanked by brilliant white houses with colourful shutters and punctuated at frequent intervals by blue domed churches.  Most were shut but the 17th Century Church of the Taxiarches (another one) was open and it was really very nice; the iconostasis depicting the usual reminder of what might happen if we live a sinful life.

    Church of the Taxiarches Apollonia
    Interior
    Detail of the amazing floor
    Oh dear………………

    Most of Apollonia was not open for business yet but was busy sprucing the place up with fresh coats of paints as we have observed in other places, preparing for summer.  But there were pretty glimpses into courtyards, pops of yellow and nice wall details.

    Pops of yellow
    ‘It’s weird with dreams…to see them you have to sleep and to live them you have to wake up!’

    We started our intended walk back down a mule track to the port but about two miles into it, Andy hollered for me to stop.  He did not have his mobile phone; he had left it on a wall by the car park.  What a heart stopping moment, we carry everything in these tiny devices.  We turned and retraced our steps; I get there first and find it.  Luckily its cover is white and so it was not obvious on the stone wall.  We got a taxi back.  So all in all a frustrating time and we must return.   

    The only photo of the aborted walk

    On the bright side, we found a lovely ring for my birthday present, made by, in English translation, George Goldsmile – loved the name, loved his green glasses and wide smile and really liked his jewellery. In Greek Χρυσόγελος Γιώργος…….he said maybe his ancestors had gold teeth and a wide smile.

    We decided to leave so in a lull between scary ferries coming in to dock we loosened our lines, lifted our anchor and left heaving a sigh of relief.  What a great decision.  We found ourselves about eight miles south in a beautiful deserted inlet called Ormos Fykiada.  At least it would have been deserted had it not been for the 60 or so people crowded into the little white chapel.  There was singing and music, the bored kids played along the rocks and the adults clapped and sang on.  It was not a wedding or christening, no fancy clothes, they were simply having a get together on some, unknown to us, occasion – Andy suggested it was digging up Grandma’s bones!  They all left by various boats and were gone, in convoys and relays by about 8pm and we settled into the silence.  In the morning we were treated to a great grey heron, walking imperiously, cautiously along the rocks, hunkering down from time to time to watch for fish – at a noise from afar his long neck shot up as if it was elastic then slowly retracted.  There were three goats high up on the rocks, two the sandy colour of the stone and another – the apparent aggressor, a bigger dark brown chap.  These two were rearing up and locking horns.  I think one was protecting and keeping for himself his lady friend.  Eventually the dark brown one was successfully seen off and the two remaining goats nestled into a cave which made them almost indistinguishable in the rock face

    Looking west from Ormos Fykiada
    The chapel Ormos Fykiada
    Oh Yes we do!!!
    Latest favourite portrait of the captain, pity he’s never ever learned to rub the sun cream in effectively but I still love him!
  • Pausing in Porto Cheli

    Detail of fishing boat

    We had a brief stay here in Porto Cheli/Heli/

    We were met by a youth who knew nothing about boats or taking lines but still asked for money for ‘helping’.  I explained I had hardly any cash and he had the cheek to point out the cash machine and suggest I visit it!

    The laundry done, a sun hat purchased, there was time for two lovely walks.  The good thing about this time of year is that we can.  In the heat of summer I could not countenance it.

    I saw a lorry going past carrying olive trees, roots and all.  Bound for who knows where, but it reminded me of the opening scene from a really lovely book, The Fair Botanists, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57012610-the-fair-botanists   If you love Edinburgh, plants and strong women, read it!

    Olive trees on the move

    Our first walk took us south west, the sea on one side, olive groves and the occasional scattered holiday developments in various stages of completion on the other.

    Boats in the bay
    Boats and wonky pontoon
    Another wobbly pontoon
    and another…
    We love olive trees
    Looking south west from the top
    Curious little building
    giant seed heads
    Peering cat

    The other walk took us west around the bay before having brunch and setting off once more towards the Cyclades

    Qi Gong in the morning, with the wreck behind…definitely not in front!
    A discouraging wreck
  • Education & Exploration

    Old Batteries waiting to be replaced

    Greece is the most fantastic country.  Wherever you find yourself you discover a myriad of diverse places, history and nature – it is ever giving and I love it.

    But to start where I left off, in Nafplion in the week leading up to the Orthodox Easter, a very important week culminating in the sombre mood of Good Friday making way for a joyous explosion and cries of ‘Χριστός Ανέστη’ ‘Αληθώς Ανέστη’ (‘Christ is risen’ answered by ‘Truly He is risen’).

    This is the week of my intensive language and culture course with Omilo – www.omilo.com

    The Omilo Team

    What a wonderful week I had, nervous to begin with, we were set tests to determine our level and I found myself in a lovely group with five other participants from Germany, England, Norway, Austria and France.  We had two sessions of teaching every morning, conducted in Greek, really testing my concentration and listening skills and by the end of it I wanted to continue as I felt I was just beginning to loosen up.  I so want the language to flow and it’s not there yet.  After the moment, when I have time to think, I know exactly what I should have said but that doesn’t help.  I become a bit tongue tied in class and forget the simplest, most common verbs.  Oh well, not so bad, it just means that I have to do the course again.  Two weeks next year maybe on the island of Lefkada, if that fits our plan – I’ll make it fit the plan.  The teachers were empathetic, clear and inspiring.  I loved the dancing and singing and finding more about the Easter traditions and of course meeting such interesting people, all with a common love for Greece.

    Our class
    …and when we weren’t learning we were playing
    Taking a coffee break in the rain

    The weather was a bit of a challenge as the first few days were windy from the north making it a little turbulent. The air was still cold – we had sun but as they say in Greece it had teeth in it! Along the quay at intervals there were very smart looking electric plinths that suggested we could connect to a power supply. We could have had hot water, a cool fridge and a heater perhaps, but on enquiry we were told that they were still not connected – I think five years late! Things were also complicated by the fact that our batteries had decided that now was the time to go into a severe decline, which meant we didn’t have a fridge and Andy worried. Our position on the town quay was sometimes interesting…….

    As part of the cultural events we were taken by Dimitris on a walk around the town, the place that became the first capital after the declaration of the Greek State in 1821.  Sadly the innovative Kapodistrias , first head of state  was assassinated here by disaffected Maniots.  We had spectacular views over the area from Acronafplia; looking north past the Bourtzi, over the shallow sea beyond and to the fertile plain and to the south a pebbly bay and the sea.  Returning to ground level was a little exciting.  We took an elevator down through the rock which deposited us at the end of a wide dark utilitarian tunnel like something from a James Bond film. Outside the light and warmth were welcome.

    View from Acronafplia to the north

    The afternoons were free and so Andy and I climbed the 900++ steps up to the Palamidi fortress, more stunning views. 

    From the bottom
    Can you spot me?
    Looking West….. photo by Lisa
    Looking North…………..photo by Lisa

    Another day we took the southern route around the isthmus and down to Karathonas Bay where we had anchored maybe seven, eight years ago – ah time what are you playing at?

    Towards Karathonas
    Looking south to Karathonas
    The path to Karathonas

    I took other opportunities to meander through the old town which is extremely upmarket. Nafplion is a popular destination for Athenians and at Easter it becomes even busier. I never did get to the new part of town which is quite substantial and might have had more useful shops for me. The old town has a large square which was a nice place to plant oneself and have a drink and watch the world go by. The usual vendors of belts and bags, large helium balloons swaying in the breeze and toys to tempt the children, toys that catapulted into the air and gratifyingly, most times anyway, came safely back to earth; boys and girls played football, roller bladers had a good route around the square and families promenaded.

    Square, must be early morning………………photo by Lisa
    Palamidi from the square by night………………photo by Lisa

    We bought the correct candles and holders to stop wax dripping down our hands, to keep the candle lit and to stop us setting fire to anyone’s hair which in the crowded streets was quite a possibility. The correct candles are…….brown ones for Friday and white for Sunday. Throughout the day the church bells tolled in a desultory manner and even the sky seemed to darken. On this day, the women and girls do not work but pick or buy flowers with which they decorate the Epitaphios.

    Decorated Epitaphios

    When evening came we positioned ourselves to watch the procession. Everyone held brown candles and we shared our light.  The streets by the church were jam packed with people of all ages, some masked some not.  Every church had its own Epitaphios and there are at least four in the old town alone.  The Epitaphios was preceded by a crucifix.  Bells rang and singing started, very soft and soulful as the Epitaphios was paraded along the street and around the town.

    Deatail of the Epitaphios
    Procession Good Friday

    With the solemn ritual over, churches visited, icons kissed and candles planted, normal Friday evening activities resumed.

    Planting my candle

    People went home for a meal or to restaurants with friends and family and some repaired to cocktail bars to continue their Easter holidays.  We sat and enjoyed a Campari in a comfortable bar with a view.

    Campari Spritz
    View of the Bourtzi

    Classes were as normal on the Saturday and finished with the presentation of certificates. We had been going to move the boat out but two flotillas of charter boats arrived unexpectedly and we decided against it. Some of our group were leaving but others were staying on for the evening meal preceding the Resurrection Service. Most Greeks eat after this service which doesn’t begin until 23:30! Just for us the restaurant had us seated for 21:00. We sat with new found friends outside and happily filled in the time until we were kicked off the tables as they had to ready them for the next sitting!

    New friends

    We followed the crowds once more to stand outside the main church for the ringing of the bells and the resurrection service. The light spread from one to another as darkness was extinguished, our white candles lit and we wished each other a Happy Easter. Χρονια Πολλα! Χριστός Ανέστη!

    Taking the light
    This little light of mine………….

    We took our light back to the boat, it is lucky, but my luck did not run to an Easter Egg, I did get a basket of flowers though which may be evident in some of the photos.

    Hmmmm!

    The following day we motored away and anchored very near in Karathonas Bay where we relaxed and watched preparations for the summer as sun umbrellas were planted and deck chairs brought forth

    Placing the umberellas
    Adding the sunbeds

    I also had my first swim – brrrrr! The usual acceptable temperature for me is 20’ and it was 17’! I know I’m a wimp but I let out more than a whimper as my body sank into the cold, there were a series of squeaks and gasps. It was perfectly lovely once I had regained feeling in my body, in fact it was glorious and I repeated it the following day. As long as the wind is not up to cool you and you have the sun to warm you all is well.

    Preparing for the plunge
    EEEk!

    We left this anchorage early in the morning, breakfasting on the way en route for Koilada where Andy had been assured that he would be able to get the batteries that we need. All was still and it was a pleasant three hour motor. Years ago we had visited here and I remember it being gloomy and a bit depressing, just shows, what a difference the weather makes. The sun was shining on the large church, colourful fishing boats lined the edge and two shipyards were at the edge of the silting bay. It is shallow with a muddy bottom perfect for peace of mind and the anchor. We even got excited as we thought we saw a baby seal, it later turned out to be a large turtle!

    Koilada Bay
    Koilada Sunset
    Busy shipyard
    Detail
    Shipyard
    Dead Boat?
    Boat work is never done
    colourful protection

    The yard couldn’t have been more helpful www.basimakopouloi.gr from the lovely girl in the office, Konstantina, and the guy who offered to recycle the four batteries we were taking out. In no time they had been ordered and amazingly arrived the following day. In the morning I walked along to the boatyard and took a high route through the village; it is a rather sleepy place. Two small mini markets, always in darkness as electricity is used sparingly. The shelves were erratically filled, lots of empty spaces and little choice here but enough for our needs. There was a butcher, a laundry and a baker and that was it, a bigger supermarket fallen into disuse and disrepair. The view from my walk to open country side was lovely and the waysides full of flowers; deep intense red poppies, bright yellow daisies, thistle and grasses

    Wayside and countryside
    How do you keep pebbles bright?

    The batteries paid for I returned to Selkie Dance who was now alongside the quay – batteries are REALLY heavy.

    Alongside Visitors Quay Koilada for delivery of batteries

    Konstantina’s cousin, Dimis, delivered the batteries and as Andy immersed himself with difficult, heavy and technical things and had taken away the companion way, I sat upstairs learning Greek verbs, reading, wordling and worldling – yes work that one out! And all the time I had to fend off the scavengers who swooped when they saw the old batteries. Like crows picking a body clean they relieve any object of the useful metal or other material that may prove saleable. I had promised the batteries to someone else so I kept having to send them away. I took a walk and found an Old Boatyard

    Old shipyard sign
    Boats on the old slip

    After five hours the batteries were in place and connected but now the solar panels weren’t working.  No worries as after a night’s sleep, the solution had come, a connection has been made and now everything is packing in the energy.  We have the fridge on, I am charging my computer. 

    Beach under the cave

    It’s a lovely morning so we have motored over to visit a cave. As we entered the bay I had noticed fresh white paint splodges at intervals on large rocks along the edge of the north side. What on earth were they? Later I noticed people scrambling along a path and even later in the darkness we saw an illuminated cave. I absolutely love these. Ever since I read the series by Jean M Auel ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’ I feel I can imagine being in those times. This is called The Franchthi Cave, it is, “one of the most important prehistoric sites of the Greek area and one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe” It was first inhabited by Neanderthals 40,000 years BC and later by Homo sapiens from 30,000 BC. Isn’t it quite incredible to think about? What a nanosecond are our lives. But today, on a perfectly still morning with the sun warm on my neck, the smell of herbs in my nose I am very happy to be here now. I can sit and gaze for hours, at the tiniest of things, ants moving to some mysterious order, a purpose known only unto them; I can watch a minute leaf swirling in the wind; Insects are buzzing and the swallows scream with delight as they swoop and soar. In the cave it is darker, cooler and I imagine myself here as Ayla, having collected my berries, prepared the meal and settling into my animal skin for the night.

    Caveman
    Franchthi Cave looking out
    Top Girls – according to Andy

    Wonders! We have mating turtles at the back of the boat. No wonder we thought it might have been a seal. These are huge; they are having a blissful time. ER, maybe bliss isn’t quite the right word as now we have read a bit more and realise that the male has been hanging on, even having to repel rival males while the female is desperately trying to breathe. The process, we read, might take a few hours and afterwards the male will hang on to his mate to prevent other randy turtles in the area from taking advantage – all to keep his genes alive! I have never seen such big turtles

    Mating turtles, believe me
    Coming up for air
    this could take some time
    In no way related to the previous aquatic antics!
  • Springing Off

    Springing Off

    Around Zea there are the usual signs and smells of spring; scraping and sanding, water splashing liberally onto Saharan sand coated decks, sails being raised and checked, banter across boats and over all of this the aroma of orange blossom and the sound of birds.  The smell of orange blossom amazingly overcomes that of diesel and cooking gyros.  Some botanist is going to have to explain to me why there are trees with both mature oranges and blossom.  I thought one came before the other.  The white waxy blossoms are iconic and they smell divine.  A sad sight however was my favourite boat, now drowned, joining the rest of the detritus in the harbour.

    For 7th April we had booked Panorama, a restaurant high above Microlimano for the birthday lunch.  Nick and Deborah from Andromeda joined us.  Getting there was not as simple as we thought it would be.  After an anxious wait we eventually hailed a taxi that would take four of us together (Covid Rules). I gave him the name of the restaurant and said it was in Castello.  Off we went, quickly realising he was the colourful, impatient type; abrupt hand gestures and continuous expletives which I am not advanced enough to understand.  When we passed the road where I thought he would turn up and climb to the restaurant I realised that I had credited him with more knowledge than he had.  We were going in the wrong direction now; we were getting the giggles, which didn’t help his mood.  I had made the mistake of saying Castello when that is a rather large area.  I had not pinpointed the restaurant. Eventually of course we made it and piled out leaving the now relaxed driver with a very generous tip.

    7th April Panorama Restaurant
    with my Sunrise Bakery Burntisland bag

    We left Zea on the Saturday to head in the direction of Poros.  I have cracked or bruised my ribs, no doubt about it.  And this is how it happened…….we had forgotten how suddenly a boat can rock when hit by a wake or even a small wave.  I had brewed tea and had the mug in my hand.  My husband was down below momentarily and I, being full of the joys of being out on the sea at last, leaned over to give him a kiss.  At that moment the boat lurched, our eyes met in disbelief as in what seemed like slow motion we descended ignominiously onto the floor.  I saved the tea, did not squash Andy too badly but hit my ribs as I tried to ameliorate the fall.  Pride hurt, ribs hurt plus i have developed  a sore throat and cough – oh no!  Is it the dreaded Covid?  So far all lateral flows are negative and I am inclined to think I don’t.  The coughing does not help the ribs and it is depressing to think how long they take to heal and how sore they are, serves me right.  What an amorous donkey!

    We anchored in one of our favourite places, Russian Bay.  We had a peaceful night and a calm breakfast before motoring up to Poros.  It is too cold for me to swim yet although hardier souls are doing it.

    We tied up safely alongside the visitor’s pontoon.  Lunch with a little bottle of retsina sitting pretty in the sunshine and then as sometimes happens, the wind and the sea got up and it became very uncomfortable if not dangerous, for the boat, not us.  The force of the pounding waves was so fierce that we lost a few teak slats from our swim platform.  We decided to leave.  Andy gave military style instructions to our German helpers who followed him admirably to the letter and we left safely to anchor in another bay.  This is one of the many wonderful things about Greek waters, that, no matter what direction the wind is, you can always find an alternative anchorage that will give shelter.

    Rudder Up! Rudder Down! Splash!

    We stayed for two nights in the anchorage before returning to the pontoon again, this time facing out toward a swift exit.  We had a successful time here, ridding ourselves of some things and taking on others.  We gave some surplus dinghy rubbing strake to the chandler where we bought 50 metres of new chain.  I said a reverential goodbye to the ‘comfort seat’ that has served me well for many years and with whom I had a love hate relationship, very comfortable but large and unwieldy. While in another chandlery I spotted a smaller version and we snapped it up and the next day took him my old faithful.  He will sell it if he can and give the money to the special school – yay!  Andy then asked him if he wanted a guitar – a step too far at the moment even though I have not picked it up in ages.    Maybe on the way back……. happy to give things away in the knowledge that they can be put to good use.  We filled up with diesel and went on our way.

    We stopped in the bay on Spetzes where we saw a Selkie a couple of years ago – no luck this time.  Then into Porto Heli and as we lined up to moor we were told that it was a private marina – nearly empty – and that it would cost 40 Euros for the night, we hastily gave our thanks for the information and made for the town quay that had just been pointed out.  I bought some medicines at the pharmacy in a final bid to rid myself of the very heavy cold – yes cold – really not Covid – lateral flows all negative although dear Andy does keep telling me the tests are not reliable and I’ve got Covid but no fever, no tiredness, nothing but stuffed nose, cough and general snottiness.

    We are in Nafplion now checking out one anchorage on the way in case we need to evacuate from here because of weather.  I am attending an Intensive Greek Course this coming week, this Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα before the Greek Orthodox Easter.  This weekend it is the ‘Catholic Easter’!  Nafplion has its marathon today; the weather is kind to runners in that it is overcast but not good for us on boats as we have wind, bringing sloppy seas, torrential rain one minute, thunderclaps and the occasional streak of lightening the next.  One bonus is that we are discovering leaks!!  And in the process are removing old wiring so not all bad.  Well Andy is, I’m making soup.

    While tracking down leaks we can remove old wiring
    Nafplion marathon in the rain
  • Packing and Dreaming

    Kythnos stones

    We are packing and dreaming, dreaming of warm waters (perhaps a little much to ask in April) blue skies and the simple pleasures of fresh air and little responsibility.

    Excited about the prospect of two months on the water, we are gathering the things we think we need and bolstering myself for the pre departure tensions.

    Packing

    I have booked into a week of intensive Greek in Nafplion.  First we have to get there, on the way buying new anchor chain in Poros from our favourite chandlery and tweaking any bits and pieces that may be needing attention.  The delight is that the course takes place in the week leading up to Easter so there will be lots of celebrations to witness and take part in.

    So the next post will probably not be until the end of April.  I look forward to it.