Log Book: Greece: July 26 to August 16th
Corfu to Aigina: July 26 to August 3
Our last log ended with our landfall at the Greek island of Erikousa off the north coast of Corfu on Sunday July 25th. We met Rob and Jo at Gouvia Marina near Corfu the following day as planned. Despite the various reports I had had of difficulties with Greek customs, we had no such difficulties. We went to the customs office at the Old harbour by taxi from the Marina and in less than 30 minutes we had our Transit Log which cost Euro 30. The Police stamped our passports and the Harbourmaster added Rob and Jo to the crew list. All quite efficient. Perhaps with Greece now established in the EU, the formalities have been streamlined.
We enjoyed dinner at a restaurant in the old town of Corfu. But unfortunately we had no time to do any real site seeing. We are at the hurry up and go stage of our trip as we have a deadline to get to Marti Marina near Marmaris in Turkey by August 12th which is less that 2 weeks away. So we departed Corfu and had a glorious sail down to Ormos Lakka at the north end of Paxoi. We swam in crystal clear water and went ashore to the local taverna in the evening. Unfortunately quite a swell works its way into this anchorage so we rolled all night long.
Next day up and off on the 50 mile trip to Ormos Vlikho on Levkas. We started out motoring and reached the Levkas canal which separates the island of Levkas from the mainland. This was interesting. We had to time our arrival because the swing bridge opens on the hour to allow boats to and from the canal. It would be so easy to build a permanent bridge to the mainland here, but apparently it is an advantage to be an island with no permanent link to the mainland because of Greek or EU tax rules. In the afternoon the north westerly came in strong and we sailed briskly. The anchorage at Levkas is very large indeed and it needs to be as there were a lot of boats there. We chose not to anchor in Tranquil Bay because of the crowd and instead went on into the inner bay, called Ormos Vlikho. We anchored in thick weed and when the wind swung around to the north our anchor dragged. We were all below deck and were alerted by shouts from the neighboring boat. We re anchored and watched for several hours to make sure that we were well and truly held. Rob and Jo climbed the local hill above the bay. Once again dinner at the local taverna called Dimitri's. The wind blew hard all night and we rolled in the chop which was setting into the bay.
The following day, was just a short hop down to Ithaca, the island where Odysseus was supposed have come from. I am trying to read the Odyssey, but haven't got past Chapter 3. I seem to specialise in equipment manuals at the moment. In the strong north westerly of 18 to 24 knots, we clocked speeds on our knot meter of 10 knots and averaged around 8.5 knots. We should have reefed the mainsail, but chose to keep going and enjoy the ride as we didn't have far to go. Rob and Jo rented a moped in the village and spent the afternoon exploring the island which they said was most interesting and definitely worth revisiting. We stayed aboard, concerned about the anchor in such strong winds. In the evening we ferried ashore in the dinghy in relays and enjoyed a peaceful dinner at the Taverna.
From Ithaca we headed east. A short run to the mainland in a fresh northwester to anchor in a quiet bay called Luca Petula, well protected from the strong wind which persisted until sunset. Rob, Jo and I climbed the hill that protected the bay and enjoyed spectacular vistas of the outlying islands of Ithaca and Caphelonia as well as inland views of the rugged mountains that run down the east coast of the Greek mainland. The following day was a long 56 mile trip to the remote village called Kallithea, on the north shore of the Gulf of Corinth. Just our luck, there was no wind and we motored almost the whole way; through the Gulf of Patrias, under the new suspension bridge at Patrias and finally to anchor at 16.30. It was a pleasant enough anchorage although there was music blaring from the taverna on the beach. A very friendly young Greek girl swam over to the boat and engaged in a long conversation. She was studying pharmacy at Athens University and her dream was to have her own sailboat. Apparently we were only the 3rd boat to have visited the town in a week. She recommended a taverna run by “Mika”. Mika turned out to be a Greek lady who spoke no English, but we ordered Calamari and fresh fish and had a great dinner for 50 Euro including a litre of wine.
From Kallithea it was another long day motoring the 50 miles to the east end of the Corinth Canal. We were however, compensated for the motoring as we were visited by a pod of Dolphins that swam with us for at least a half hour, diving playfully under the bow. They do seem to be genuinely friendly and just enjoyed themselves. I am sure they talk amongst themselves. Perhaps laughing at our slow progress! The Corinth Canal was also interesting. Apparently, Octavius one of the Roman emperors first began digging a canal across the isthmus. But he ran out of money and had to go fight some more wars. It was only in 1897 that the canal was finally completed. It is surprisingly narrow and steep sided. The process for going through the canal is relatively straight forward. We called the Canal Authority on Channel 11 from about 5 miles out. They advised us to contact them again when we were 1 mile off. This we did and they advised us that there was a 20 minute wait before we could proceed. While we were waiting a single dolphin came by and swam to and fro under the stern brushing up against the rudder rubbing its back. Indeed, after about 20 minutes, first the power boats, then a small freighter went ahead, then we were summoned over the radio to follow the Freighter. We had been warned to keep well astern of the freighter because the propellers can cause a “washing machine “ effect. This we did, but not far enough as the man at the control tower indicated to me to slow down and widen the gap. This I did. Later however, he called us over the radio. “Ocean Harmony, Ocean Harmony, Ocean Harmony: Full speed ahead please!!” At the east end of the canal, we tied up at the pier as instructed and went to pay for the use of the canal. For our 12.9 metre boat we paid EURO 159. It was a Sunday so we may have paid extra according to the pilot book. We anchored in Ormos Kalmaki just north of the canal and had dinner at the local Taverna as usual. The waiter had spent six months in Toronto working at his Uncle's restaurant and told us how much he had enjoyed it there and thought Canadians were very pure and genuine people.
On Monday morning we left the anchorage early and caught a morning breeze and sailed most of the way to the island of Aigina where Robert and Jo were leaving us to return home. The so called Marina is not much to talk about. No one around to help and when we called the Harbour Police over the VHF, as suggested in the Pilot, we received no answer. Eventually we found space at the marina on the inner harbour side. We moored Med style dropping our own anchor about 4 boat lengths in front of the quay and then backing in. It was the first time we have done that but it went off smoothly. Only trouble was that it was very shallow right against the pier and we actually grounded the rudder. No problem, moved the boat forward a little but then had to step across using the dinghy to get ashore. We had a busy afternoon in the hot, slightly smelly town. We re provisioned, we went to the Harbour Police to take Rob and Jo off the crew list, and got tickets for Rob and Jo to take the Hydrofoil to Athens on the 18.30 crossing. ( it takes just 20 minutes to do the crossing!). In the end getting the crew list changed was not that difficult, but when we went the first time they were on siesta, even although there were lots of staff around. When I returned at 17.00 as requested, I found that they needed to check my boat insurance, which had already been checked when we entered Greece. So back again to the boat to get that. So by the end of the afternoon it was all completed. We saw Rob and Jo off and dined at the Taverna. Rob really enjoyed the opportunity to sail again and spent a lot of time at the helm. Jo, also, is getting more comfortable with life afloat and Rob is a diligent, patient instructor.
Aigina to Marti Marina: August 3 to August 16
From Aigina, our plan was to sail roughly south east with the normal summer Meltemi allowing us to broad reach through the Cyclades. The Meltemi blows hard at this time of the year and we had anticipated some hard fast sailing. In Aigina, the Frenchman on the boat along side us said that he had experienced Force 8 and 9. But, strangely, the Meltemi went to sleep and we have been motoring for 2 days now! This is really annoying in the sense that we had hoped to make progress as we island hopped across the Aegean Sea. However, there is consolation in that we have had comfortable, peaceful anchorages.
The first night at Kithnos was breathtaking. Imagine your typical barren Greek island with white sandy beach, turquoise blue water and so clear that you can see the anchor and chain below the water. Swimming was beautiful and we ate dinner aboard for the first time in a while consumiing the last of our tasty Croatian chicken legs that I have mentioned in previous log book. After a morning swim, it was once again time to move on. The Raymarine 3 day weather forecast was for light variable winds. And so it was for the next 3 days as we did 40 mile daily trips stopping at Vathi (Sifnos), Manganari (Ios) and finally Vlikadha (Santorini).
Santorini (it is also known by its ancient name as Thira) is spectacular. We entered the Caldera from the north. Immediately one is struck by the white villages which cling to the volcanic cliffs, looking almost like snowcapped mountains. It was quite eerie sailing through the caldera knowing that underneath us was an active volcano! We finally tied up at the dock at marina Vlikadha. We were lucky to arrive just as a boat had vacated the outer wall of the quay so we did not have to stern moor. It was not a good situation for stern mooring as the central part of the marina is oval shaped. Not only is it crowded with local fishing boats and a large charter catamaran, but all anchors are dropped in the middle, so one is almost guaranteed a fouled anchor. I would have been very nervous about leaving the boat unattended if we had been in that situation. But we were lucky.
We had dinner in the main town of Fira overlooking the caldera. Stunning views which you can see in our pictures. The next day we visited the Archaeological Museum (excellent) and the Archaeological dig site at Almyra disappointing). When I was at Kearsney, I was the curator of the Archaeological Society and very interested in archeology. I was given a book called the Voyage to Atlantis, which is all about the digs on Thira that have been used to support the theory that the lost island of Atlantis is in fact Thira. We know that Thira erupted in an enormous explosion around 1450BC. The Minoans who had lived on the island had developed a rich and highly developed culture and the eruption destroyed that civilization. In the museum, there are exceptionally well preserved frescoes which are ample evidence of the sophistication and wealth of this island before the eruption. The dig site was not so interesting. Unfortunately, they are installing a new roof over the site and this limited access to many areas. However, there is much to look forward to because they have so far only uncovered a fraction of the ancient city so the archaeologists will be busy for many, many years to come.
Saturday night was Susan's last night as she had an early flight out of Santorini on Sunday morning. We had dinner at the local taverna and enjoyed reminiscing about the trip. She really enjoyed her 3 weeks sailing experience. She is an enthusiastic crew member, always willing me on to get more sail up and stop the motor!
Next morning after seeing Susan off at the airport we left Santorini on the last leg of our trip to Turkey. Prior to leaving, I had been talking to Greg who is a Canadian from Vancouver aboard Sherpa. He said that the 5 day forecast that he had received from the Med net indicated stronger winds were on the way. So we were not surprised when, soon after leaving the marina, the wind began to build and by mid morning we had 20 knots north westerly. We double reefed and enjoyed the downwind sail, averaging 7knots for the 60 mile crossing to Astipalaia where we anchored in Vathi on the North East end of the island. The wind blew all night and when we left at 0700 the next morning we were immediately confronted with strong winds and an ugly short rough sea. We almost turned back but we were soon able to bear away at the north end of the island and head east to the island of Kos. Once again we averaged 7 knots over the 40 mile trip. We reached Simi the next day after another quick sail. The harbour at Simi is a bit scary. So many boats. The Tripper boats cause all kinds of problems as they drop their anchor all the way across the narrow harbour. We saw several boats foul their anchors because of the Tripper boats. We explored the town which is vibrant and very popular with tourists who visit from neighboring Rhodes. Next morning we cleared Greek customs and left for Datca in Turkey, just 7 miles away. But 7 miles with 25 knots of wind on the nose was not pleasant and we pounded into the seas for 3 hours to cover the 7 miles. At Datca we stern berthed in 25 – 30 knots. Clearing customs was relatively easy once I had been directed to the agent who for a fee of 20 euro's does all the paper work and gets the transit log.
The next day we left early to cover the last 25 miles of our trip. The wind which was 25 knots when we left Datca, gradually died away as we approached the eastern end of the inlet. We dropped our anchor in a deserted cove and enjoyed lunch and swim before motoring the last mile into Marti Marina, which is Ocean Harmony's home for the next 8 months. The marina is surrounded by pine covered mountains that resemble parts of the west coast of Canada. We had three days to ready the boat for winter storage. We pickled the water maker, serviced the engine and cleaned and cleaned. On Sunday we hauled her out and she is resting on the hard in amongst the pine trees. The marina staff were very helpful and we have hired one of them to look after the boat and charge the batteries once a month. Hopefully we will not have our batteries die like last winter.
In all we covered 1650 nautical miles from Portoroz to Marti marina, in 9 weeks. We have visited towns and cities, we have enjoyed peaceful anchorages and have gained confidence in the boat and in our sailing skills. Next spring we plan to continue our odyssey.