Logbook: Sailing the Greek islands 2005

This logbook consists of 5 chapters. Please click below to go directly to the chapter.

1) Northern Sporades

2) Cyclades

3) Crete

4) Rhodes

5) Turkish Coast

1) Northern Sporades

June 20th to July 10th 2005

After the busy time in Istanbul, followed by the 60 mile crossing from Canakkale to Limnos, we decided to take time out for a rest and tidy up before Susan's arrival on the following Saturday. Therefore we spent 2 days anchored out in Moudros Bay followed by another 2 days at Ay Pavlou before heading into the main harbour of Myrina where we were to meet Susan. There is little to report about the anchorages except to say that they are totally devoid of other boats, but there were plenty of flies to keep us company. We attributed the flies to the animal farms around the anchorages. We put up screens to keep them out of the boat and fortunately the flies disappeared at sunset leaving us in peace. I wondered if other sailors were aware of this problem and stayed away, hence the deserted anchorages. We also experienced 180 degree wind shifts from north easterly to a south westerly every afternoon which necessitated us re anchoring to the opposite shore of the bay. Then, next morning the wind would switch again forcing us to move back to where we had been previously.

At Myrina we cleared customs and immigration and re provisioned the boat. We found a great hairdresser in town where John had his hair cut and Harmony had a colour and cut. Also found a laundry where they washed all our sheets, towels etc in three hours which was great. On Saturday evening we took a taxi out to the airport and awaited Susan's arrival. Her flight was a half hour late, but she was in surprising good shape considering the 24 hours of flying since leaving Calgary the day before! Myrina is a delightful Greek town with one long narrow street linking the two ends of the town. We enjoyed several good restaurants around the harbour.

On Sunday, we rented a car and drove from one end of the island to the other. We visited a couple of archaeological sites at Pollochni and Ifaisteia. There really wasn't a lot to see and we soon tired in the heat. We visited the town of Moudros and enjoyed a very nice lunch overlooking the small fishing harbour. Just a few 100 yards outside of the town is the largest Allied War cemetery in Greece with the graves of 887 allied sailors and soldiers who died in the Gallipoli campaign. Moudros Bay played an important role in the campaign as it was the staging area for the Allied forces at Gallipoli. The graves were those of the unfortunate ones who were brought back from Gallipoli either sick or wounded and then died on the island. On our drive back we saw the NATO military base with a few planes parked on the runway. The barracks looked deserted so it is not clear the extent to which this is still used as a base. However, we saw fighter jets over the islands almost every day.

On Monday morning we climbed to the top of the hill overlooking the harbour where there is an imposing Byzantian fort. The views across the island and the harbour are spectacular. We left Myrina mid morning and Susan enjoyed her first sail of the trip as we covered the 10 miles around the point to Ay Pavlou where Harmony and I had anchored the previous week. The evening weather forecast for the next day was North East Force 4 to 5.and so we decided to make the 60 mile crossing from Limnos to Nisos Pelagos, in the Northern Sporades. We left early the next morning at 0600 hours and as predicted enjoyed perfect downwind sailing conditions with 15 to 20 knots. We covered the 60 miles in exactly 9 hours at an average speed of 6.5 knots. We anchored in a totally enclosed bay at the north end of the island called Ormos Planitis. We enjoyed a well deserved swim in the 26 deg C water followed by BBQ Chicken. By evening we were surrounded by fishing boats which all left the next morning at about 0600hours.

The Northern Sporades comprises a group of islands that stretches out in a north easterly direction from the north end of Evia. The islands are surprisingly green although water is normally in short supply. The islands are also blessed with numerous sandy beaches. We spent the next week with Susan cruising south through the islands anchoring out every night until we reached Skiathos. One memorable afternoon was spent at the pretty anchorage at O. Planitis on the south end of Nisos Pelagos. Susan and I launched the Tinker dinghy and rigged the sails which we haven't done since we were in Sweden two summers ago. We had a fun afternoon sailing around the the anchorage. At one point the wind was so light that we couldn't make any progress to windward and after tacking back and forth in front of another anchored boat flying a French flag, the skipper offered to tow us back in his dinghy. The French lady said that we looked “very funny”, which I am sure we did!

Susan's favorite anchorage was at Petras Cove just south of Steni Vala. It was well protected and surrounded by steep wooded cliffs with several villas. The crystal clear water was a refreshing 26 degrees C and the snorkeling was excellent with many different species of fish. In the morning, when the water was still, it was possible to look over the side of the boat and see the anchor on the bottom. No wonder Susan remembers this spot. At O. Tzorti we anchored in a small cove with a white sandy beach. It was only later in the afternoon that someone noticed that the half dozen sunbathers on the beach were all nude. No worries; as they say; anything goes in Greece! Another anchorage that stands out for its beauty was at Amarandos ( just south of Agnondas ) where we stern tied in a tiny cove. A stern tie is used where there is limited room to swing free on the anchor (eg: small cove). The technique is to identify a rock or tree ashore and then drop the anchor directly off the rock/tree and back the boat towards the shore. When the anchor is set and you are the desired distance off the shore, you dive in with a long line and swim ashore with it and attach it to your rock/tree. Unfortunately, when I dove off to swim the stern line ashore, I forgot that my sunglasses were on my forehead and so they fell off and ended up on the bottom, 10 metres deep. Next morning, I swam around the boat for ages staring down at the bottom trying to see them. Just when I was about to give up, I spied them and managed to dive down and get them back. At O. Platanios, we visited a marvelous restaurant overlooking the bay called Blue Infinity and we celebrated Susan's last night with fresh lobsters and spaghetti washed down with some excellent white wine. We topped that off with crème caramel and Muscada wine which is a Greek desert wine made from the Muscat grape.

The next morning we had a fine sail around the southern end of Skiathos on our way to Skiathos harbour. I made a mess of stern berthing the first time around. We had a cross wind blowing and I somehow hooked our anchor under the anchor chain of a yacht that was already stern moored to the dock. This is actually not that unusual as we have often seen anchors crossed up before. But just our luck we were hooked in such a position as to partially block the approach for the very large ferries that call at the adjacent dock. And at that critical moment a very large ferry entered the bay and began backing into its berth, threatening to collide with us. The officials on the shore were blowing their whistles and gesticulating for us to move, not realising that we were hooked to this other anchor. In desperation, I told Harmony to let the anchor down more and we motored the boat forward over the top of the anchor and out of the path of the ferry. All of this was being watched by several hundred passengers on the ferry as well as the crews on the other sailboats tied up at the dock. And then fortune smiled on us because when we tried again to haul in the anchor it came free. I think that going forward over the top of our own anchor must have pulled it clear of the other anchor chain. Worth remembering for the future. We then proceeded to perform a near perfect Mediterranean mooring,dropping the anchor 40 metres off the dock and backing her in beautifully in a straight line without another hitch. What joy.

We had a quiet afternoon and cocktails on deck before a light dinner at one of the restaurants right opposite the boat and then it was time to take Susan to the airport. Fortunately her flight was on time and she left on her long haul back to Calgary via Athens and London. We were a bit concerned about connecting through Heathrow because it was only the day after the terrorist attacks in London but she did make her connection in London without delay. The boat feels a bit empty without Susan now. It was so great having her aboard. She is always so enthusiastic about the boat and sailing that she gets us more motivated as well.

After Susan left, we spent two more days in Skiathos. It is a pretty town albeit with a lot of tourists. The main street is a long narrow pedestrian walk way with boutiques and other interesting shops. Lots of restaurants. We took a long walk up the hill overlooking the ocean and loved the Greek houses with the whitewashed walls and the sharply contrasting bright blue or green trim on the shutters and doors. Some of them enjoyed spectacular views out over the ocean. We came upon a small restaurant overlooking a little bay and enjoyed Mousaka (John) and Grilled Prawns (Harmony) before returning for a siesta on the boat. Around 1600 I was catching up on the logbook when we were hailed by a couple who were from Nova Scotia. They thought we were really Americans flying a Canadian flag. They seemed really pleased to see Canadians so we invited them aboard for a a cup of tea. Michael and Marilyn are from Nova Scotia but they are currently living in Moscow. Michael is the Canadian Defence Attache. He had some interesting experiences to tell and in particular, his recent responsibilities as head of the security for the G8 conference that was held at Kananaskis in 2002. It also turns out that he was a fighter pilot at some earlier time in his career and showed a keen interest in all the electronics on the boat. They are thinking of getting a boat when they retire back to Nova Scotia in 7 years time. Yes, unlike Shell, he knows his next two assignments and his exact retirement date!

Tomorrow we leave Sciathos and head north to the Khalkidhiki, the area best described as the three fingers on mainland Greece that reach down into the North Aegean Sea. Apparently the Meltemi does not blow much up there and in fact southerly winds are more common. It is interesting that the Meltemi stayed away for all the time we were in the Northern Sporades. We had mostly 10 to 15 knot south westerlies which was fine except the pilot book only really identifies anchorages that are safe for the prevailing north easterly Meltemi. However, we were able to find reasonable shelter in most places by tucking into the southern corners of the bay. We did experience some swell particularly at O. Stafilos on Skopolos.

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2) Cyclades

July 11th to August 15th

This section of the log covers our trip from Khalkidhiki in the northern most part of the Aegean, to Spinalonga Lagoon on the north eastern coast of Crete. We visited several of the islands in the Sporades and Cyclades on the 350 mile trip.

Our 60 mile trip north to Khalkidhiki took us 8 hours. Motoring the first half and then sailing as the wind built to 15 knots from the ENE allowed us to reach closed hauled to Porto Koufu on the southern tip of the Sinthonia peninsular. Portu Koufu is a well protected bay safe in all winds. We anchored off in 6 metres and after a swim and a shower we rowed ashore for our dinner at the local Taverna. We were both surprised and delighted to be greeted as we stepped off the dinghy by Mary Lou, from Samarinda II that we had last seen at Limnos!

We sailed north into the Gulf of Singitik, that is formed between the second and third fingers of land that point south into the Aegean and anchored off a beautiful sandy beach at O. Sikias. But unfortunately a nasty easterly swell was being driven into the bay and after about 30 minutes we decided it was too uncomfortable. So we upped anchor and motored further north to O. Dhimitriaki where we found excellent shelter off the camp site. The weather was a bit unsettled and when we left the anchorage to sail down the gulf back to Porto Koufu there were heavy dark clouds over the mainland. Initially we were heading east toward the Akti peninsular, or third finger, so that we could see the Monasteries that are located there. There are 17 monasteries and it is forbidden for boats with women aboard to approach closer than one mile off land. We were sailing in a 15 knot south easterly wind under leaden skies with lightning and thunder in the distance. We were approaching the coast and could see some of the monasteries about 4 miles distant, when we noticed a heavy black cloud moving our way. Suddenly we were hit with about 30 knots of wind. Ocean Harmony heeled over dramatically and then she headed up into the wind as she is supposed to under these conditions. We quickly dropped the sails and changed course away from the land. Already the land was obscured by the driving rain. The storm soon passed and so we hoisted sails and set course for Porto Koufu. As the sky cleared Mount Athos, which dominates the end of the peninsular, was revealed. The view made up for not having seen the monasteries close up. We anchored in Porto Koufu in the same place and rowed ashore for a meal at the Taverna. At 0300 we were awoken by thunder and lightning followed by heavy rain and when dawn came it was cloudy with a fresh wind from the north east. Rather than sit around we decided to leave anyway and make the 50 mile crossing back to N. Pelagos the northern most of the Northern Sporades.

We left under 8/8ths cloud and as soon as we cleared the shelter of the mainland, we encountered heavy swells and rain began to fall. The wind built to 20 knots and we raced away southwards. The sound of thunder in the distance kept us on edge but we did not run into any squalls as we had the previous day. It was a rapid if somewhat uncomfortable downwind sail all the way to N. Pelagos where we dropped anchor at 1600 in O. Paigniou, the same anchorage we had stayed with Susan 2 weeks previously. It is one of our favourite anchorages in the Norther Sporades and we lingered for an extra day before sailing down to Skopolos.

Skopolos town is a delightful spot The whitewashed Greek houses with their bright coloured trim, are packed closely together all the way up the side of the steep hill overlooking the bay. The waterfront has an array of tavernas and the food was always good. We were stern berthed on the quay opposite where the ferries dock and we did get some of the wash from them when they arrived and departed, but otherwise we were comfortable. On the first afternoon we were entertained by the arrival and stern berthing of a flotilla of seven Moorings charter boats. They were helped into their berths by friendly Moorings staff. Moorings Flotilla sailing appears to be well organised and is well suited for anyone who does not have a lot of sailing experience.

On Sunday we rented a Suzuki Jeep and explored the island. We took the coast road on the west side of the island, where there are several spectacular beaches, ending up at the town of Glossa overlooking the harbour of Loutraki. We had an excellent lunch at Agnanti restaurant which the Greek Pilot describes as having “views and food to die for.” We can vouch for this. Rather than taking the coast road back to Skopolos, we drove back across the island on a dirt road that climbs almost to the top of Mount Delfi before descending to the east coast down a very steep winding road. The vegetation is lush green pine with some olive plantations. Before returning to Skopolos we stopped at Glysteri beach near Skopolos, had a swim and a drink at the beach taverna before returning the car in the evening. We have done these day car rentals a couple of times and it is a good way to get around and see the island provided it is safe to leave the boat unattended.

On Tuesday 19th July we departed Skopolos having really enjoyed the 4 day visit. We were heading south to the Cyclades via the islands of Skantzoura and Skiros. Although we motored the 20 miles to Skantzoura on the first day, the next day brought northerly winds and we sailed down to Skiros anchoring in a cove on the south side of Skirophla, which is a small island on the approach to Skiros. During the night we had strong gusts of wind and next morning we sailed across to Linaria on Skiros in a 15 to 20 knot wind. But when we arrived at Linaria we could not find space on the dock and with the wind really blowing we decided to abort our visit and instead sailed further south to a well sheltered bay O. Glyfapa on the small island of Sarkino. The anchorage looked like paradise and the water temperature of 27 degrees was perfect. But within an hour we were infested with biting flies that attacked us relentlessly. There appeared to be some sort of animal paddock ashore and, like Limnos, perhaps that was the reason for all the flies. What a sad waste of such a beautiful place. Late in the evening a British boat, Garillion, arrived and anchored astern of us.

Our next leg south was a 60 mile trip to Andros, the northern most Cycladean island. We checked out the Poseidon weather forecast on the Internet and learned that the next day was forecast to be north east Force 4 to 5 (15 to 20 knots ) followed by 2 days of light southerlies. We planned to make an early start the next morning to take advantage of the favourable winds that were forecast. In the early hours of the morning the wind picked up and when we prepared to leave at 0600, we began to have second thoughts as the wind was blowing up to 25 knots in the anchorage. However, trusting in the forecast, we left and as soon as we were a few miles clear of the land the wind settled in at about 20 knots. We enjoyed a good downwind sail with a single reefed mainsail and jib. As we approached the Doro Strait between the south end of Evia and Andros Island the wind began to build further and at 1415 we double reefed with the wind over 25 knots. Then as we approached the land we experienced over 30 knots, so we dropped the mainsail and continued on under jib alone. The Greek Pilot explains how the Doro Straits “funnel the meltemi through the straight causing steep confused sees,” and that is pretty much our experience. It was only us and one large dolphin off our port side going through the straits – always comforting to have them around. We arrived at our destination, the small town of Batsi on Andros Island at 1530 and anchored off the sandy beach in 5 metres, with the wind still blowing over 25 knots. Fortunately, the forecast held good and the wind soon dropped so that we were able to have a restful night. We then experience 2 days of light variable winds just as the Poseidon forecast had predicted.

The small resort town of Batsi turned out to be really special. The beach is fine white sand and the town itself is not over burdened with tourists, but there are enough visitors to ensure that there are a selection of Tavernas and even a newspaper stand selling one day old English newspapers. We dined out at the taverna both nights and had two wonderful days doing a few boat chores, swimming and exploring the village. On the second day the British boat, Garillion, that we had seen at our last anchorage arrived and anchored astern. We invited them over for drinks and had an interesting chat as they had circumnavigated sailing first to New Zealand in a 42 foot Hallberg Rassey and then completing the trip in a 53 foot New Zealand built wooden ketch.

We left Batsi on Monday 25th July in a fresh north easterly as the meltemi had returned after its 2 day respite. We sailed the 25 miles to Ormos Delfinno on the west coast of Siros Island and anchored in the north west corner of the cove. The wind blew strongly all night and we determined to head further south around the southern cape and head into Finikas which was reported to be well protected from the meltemi. We stern tied at the pier alongside a 60 foot powerboat and were welcomed by Canadians from Montreal who we think were chartering the boat. Our decision to go in to Finikas was a good one because the meltemi continued unabated all the time we were there. With Force 8 gales forecast we hunkered down to stay a while. We got lots of boat chores done: drained the fuel filter, topped up the oil, serviced the outboard motor and made up 4 new sets of dock lines. This latter exercise afforded us the opportunity to learn how to splice a loop at the end of the line to attach to the cleats. We were quite proud of ourselves.

We rented a car and drove to Ermoupolis which is the main town on the island. As we descended down a steep road into the town we were afforded amazing views of the harbour and the sea, which was white capped and angry with gale force winds causing the seas to break over the top of the breakwater. When we parked the car in the parking lot spray and waves were coming over the top of the retaining walls and landing on the car. We spent several hours exploring the town which is famed for its marble main street. We had lunch at a small restaurant in a lane off the main street and were served up very large portions of Mousaka and Meatballs. Later we drove up to the western hilltop town of Ano Siros and walked through a maze of whitewashed passages, arches and steps forming a huddle of interlinking houses. The Church of St George holds the prime position on the very top of the hill. Inside the church it felt eerie,with the wind whistling outside contrasting with the stillness of the church. We returned from Ermoupolis along the coast road and were surprised when we came across some very large mansions in the town of Poseidonia. We learned from the Guide book that they are the country retreats of of wealthy islanders.

And still the wind was blowing! Every day we checked the forecasts and every day it was Force 7 or 8. Very few other boats left the dock. The Canadians on the 60 foot powerboat took a ferry back to Athens because the winds were too much even for it. On Saturday, the forecast was a little better and the powerboat captain, who we were now quite pally with, decided to make a run for it and departed at 0600. At 0700, he was back and as I helped with the lines he relayed how the waves were so big that they were breaking over the fly bridge and he was soaked with seawater! We stayed.

Finally on Sunday, with a forecast Force 5 locally 6, we decided to go. Before leaving, we put a 3rd reef in the mainsail for the first time ever. Once we left the shelter of the island we encountered 20 to 25 knots which is Force 6, with large waves on the stern quarter. After an hour the wind was up to a steady 30 knots (Force 7) so we furled half the jib sail as well. We were still making 7.5 knots and sailing comfortably, considering the size of the seas. We were happy to reach the shelter of O. Nauossa on the north end of Paros Island after our 4 hour heavy weather experience. We anchored in 7 metres of water and were well protected from the meltemi which continued to blow for another 4 days, making it 10 days of non stop meltemi. But our enforced stay was not all bad O. Nauossa is a large bay with a sandy beach at its head. It is a very popular tourist destination and every day people were ferried across from town of Nauossa. In the afternoons there was bedlam with water skiing of all varieties and many, many speeding powerboats diving in and out of the anchored boats. All this was accompanied by load music from the bar ashore. Fortunately, in the evenings all returned to normal as the crowds headed home and leaving us “boaties” to enjoy the tranquility.

On Thursday August 3rd, the winds dropped and we sailed to the town of Naxos where we were fortunate to get the last berth at the crowded marina. The island of Naxos is the second biggest of the Cyclades and is a popular tourist destination. We spent the first day doing the usual boat chores: cleaning, laundry and re provisioning. We explored the local town which is a delight. The waterfront is busy with many tourist shops, tavernas and bars. The harbour is a constant buzz of activities with the frequent arrival of the ferries and the shrill whistles of the police hustling the people and traffic. At night there is the sound of music until the early hours of the morning. Above the harbour, the narrow twisting alleys, lined with more restaurants and shops, wind their way up the hillside to the imposing medieval fortified castle built in 1207. The 13th century Catholic Cathedral sits within the castle walls and has some interesting art work. We were both most impressed by a pamphlet that was handed to us in the church that contained an open letter from the Archbishop of Naxos, welcoming the visitors and tourists to the Aegean Islands. The opening lines were” Together with you, we thank the Lord, Who gave you the chance to spend your summer holidays on our islands, free from the tension and everyday cares.”We visited the archaeological museum and did a tour of a 13th century Venetian home that used to be a fort and still had the original walls and wooden support beams. We went to some excellent restaurants, the most memorable being Kastro, which is in the square leading up to the Castle.

On Saturday we rented a Suzuki jeep and spent the day exploring the island. The island has a dramatic landscape with high mountains and wild crags. On the coast there are spectacular views looking out from the high winding road over the sea. There are several Venetian watchtowers still dotted along the coast. The interior is very rugged and on the day we were there, it was foggy at the higher elevations. We stopped at the town of Apeiranthos, high in the hills. The town was colonised in the 17th century by Cretan refugees fleeing Turkish oppression. They came to work in the emery mines. The mines are now shut down, but we saw stockpiled emery rock at the mine site and the original cable car system that was used to carry the emery from the mountain top to the waiting ships is still clearly visible. The town has marble streets which is not surprising as everywhere we looked in this part of the island was marble. We bought a marble rock engraving from a local artisan. The lunch was interrupted by the rain which was with us for the rest of the day. On the return drive, the rain was heavy and our Suzuki Jeep which had a canvas rooftop, leaked profusely. We arrived back at the boat wet and tired.

We left Naxos next morning. Our 3 nights at the marina cost us 18 Euros, including electrical hookup, which is ridiculously cheap. We headed south to the small island of Iraklia where we anchored in a small cove adjacent the hamlet of Ayios Yeoryios. We had chosen this anchorage as it afforded shelter from the forecast south westerly winds. It is unusual for the wind to blow from south west and it is surprising how few anchorages there are that actually offer shelter from southerly winds. Two days later the northerlies were back and we moved to the south end of N. Skhinousa where we sat anchored waiting for the winds to slacken before making our next step to Ios and Santorini. After 3 days our patience had run out, so we sailed to Manganari Bay on the south end of Nisos Ios. This is the same anchorage we visited with Susan last year on our trip to Santorini, but whereas last year it was calm and peaceful, this time we were confronted with a very rough anchorage with winds gusting over 30 knots. We put out 35 metres of anchor chain in 6 metres depth and were well held on a sandy bottom. We have finally learned, from bitter experience, that the south side of many of these islands are prone to very strong, gusty winds that are often much stronger than they are on the open sea. Indeed when we left Ios the next morning, the wind dropped as soon as we were 2 miles off the island. We ended up motoring most of the 20 miles to Vlikadha Marina on the island of Santorini. It is worth mentioning that Vlikadha Marina is much improved since last year. There is now an attendant on the dock and the northern quay on the inner harbour is available for visiting yachts. There is work in progress to build a marina office with toilets and shower facilities.

Santorini is the southern most island in the Cyclades and we were anxiously awaiting a favourable weather forecast before embarking on the 65 mile crossing of the Sea of Crete to Spinalonga Lagoon on the north east coast of Crete. The 3 day weather forecast on the Poseidon website indicated a “window” with westerly winds Force 4 (11 - 16 knots) and so after just two nights in Santorini, we departed on Monday August 15th for Crete. We left early at 0650, and as we were leaving the marina, we went aground lightly. We were going very slowly and putting the engine in reverse was enough to pull us off. A warning to anyone entering Vlikadha Marina, the depths are quite shallow and word is that it is silting up at the entrance. Within an hour of leaving the marina , the wind began to fill in from the west and we were soon broad reaching in a 15 to 18 knot breeze. It turned out to be the best sail of the season as the wind held steady all the way to Spinalonga, our landfall on the north east coast of Crete. Ocean Harmony thrives on a broad reach and once we had trimmed the sails and set the autohelm, she sailed herself, doing 7.5 to 8.0 knots hour after hour. All we did was keep a lookout and check that we stayed on course. We saw two ships, two dolphins, and several Cory's Shearwater gulls. These beautiful birds are brown coloured and swoop along the waves, just inches off the water. We arrived at Spinalonga Lagoon at 1600 and anchored directly below the fort on N. Spinalonga.

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3) Crete

August 15th to September 7th

The last log book entry described our 350 mile sail to Crete. This log is a little different in that it describes our 3 week stay on Crete during which time we explored much of Crete by rented car. Although our original plan had been to sail further west across the Aegean and then make our landfall at the western end of the island, we changed our plan for 2 reasons: Firstly, we were held up in the central Aegean with the meltemi and secondly, several sailors had commented on the lack of good anchorages or harbours along the north shore of Crete. This latter point we were able to confirm when we drove along the north coast of Crete. Only at Charnia was there a reasonable harbour for yachts.

After our excellent sail across the Sea of Crete, we anchored in Spinalonga Lagoon for 4 days. It is a large, well sheltered anchorage. Initially we were anchored under the formidable 16th century Venetian fort. So well fortified is the fort that the Turks, who ruled Crete up until the Greek revolution in 1862, maintained Spinalonga fort until 1903. The Turkish houses are still there and some of them have been restored. When the Turks finally left Spinalonga island in 1903, the Greeks converted the fort into a leper colony and so it remained until 1955 when the cure for leprosy was discovered. Much of the fort remains in good condition except for the fortification walls on the north and east sides that were broken down by the lepers to make a pathway all the way round the island. The old leper colony buildings are in a state of disrepair and in some places are falling down, although there is some evidence of restoration work being done.

We took the dinghy for a 3 mile trip to the town of Elounta at the southern end of the lagoon. In Roman times there was city here and some of the ruins are visible just below the water close to the isthmus. We think we saw them! Today Elounta is a thriving tourist town. On the second day, the wind picked up and we moved to anchor in a cove south of Spinalonga Island where we were well sheltered and also, a bit out of the way of all the tripper boats that visit the fort at Spinalonga every day.

On Friday, we motored the 7 miles to the Marina at Agios Nikolaos. We had to wait, tied up to the outer breakwater, until 1900 when we were allocated a berth in the marina. It was not clear why we were left there all afternoon as there seemed to be plenty of spaces available. The Marina attendant gave us a story that lacked conviction about having to wait for some other boat to arrive. The Marina, our “home” for 2 weeks, is well sheltered with easy access to the town. A swimming beach is adjacent the marina. The marina itself was being thoroughly modernised, with a new shower/toilet block and new office. Grass and trees were being planted. The only problem was that all the new facilities were not yet in operation, so we had to make do with one, temporary toilet! Why they would have decommissioned the old facilities before the new ones were complete remains a complete mystery to us! During the two weeks we got to know some of our neighbours quite well. It is definitely one of the advantages of spending time in a marina. Peter and Chris Heinzel aboard Talisker will winter in the Marina. They liked Agios Nikolaos so much that they bought an old Greek farmhouse in a nearby village and will be renovating it over the winter. Peter was born in Danzig which is now part of Poland but spent many years in Aberdeen and speaks English with a hint of a Scots and German accent. He built his own boat, Talisker, a 45 aluminum ketch, in Scotland. Another boat neighbour, David, aboard Boedicia is also leaving his boat at the marina over the winter and plans to sail via the Red Sea, across the Indian Ocean to Thailand next year. I have bought his pilot books on the Atlantic crossing, which might provide inspiration for us to do the Atlantic crossing one day!

Agios Nikolaos turned out to be a pleasant town with excellent Tavernas and all amenities. We can recommend the Sirocco Cafe above the marina where Nico and his wife Marian serve excellent breakfast and Greek coffee. They provide internet access for 2 euros an hour. The Sports Bar around the corner is run by Manos. He was very kind in letting us watch the 4th cricket test between England and Australia, for hours on end. The feed was from Supersport in South Africa so it was fun watching it including all the South African ads.

We had decided to rent a car for the 2 weeks so that we could explore the island thoroughly. My brother David and his wife Mary were staying in a holiday apartment for the second week of our stay so we were able to do a lot of exploring together. Crete is a very diverse and scenic island with a ridge of high mountains running east-west dividing the island in half. Crossing the mountains affords fantastic views of both coasts. We drove to the remote Lasithi Plateau, a bowl shaped plain 2600 feet up in the Dikti mountains. Although there is now an asphalt road over the mountains to the plateau, the towns still remain isolated and it was interesting to see women dressed in traditional Greek dresses, often leading a donkey. Some of the farmlands are still irrigated by cloth windmills that date back to the Ventian occupation. The windmill design struck me as being quite sensible, with each spoke of the windmill having its own sail which can be “reefed” by rolling up the sail on some of the spokes, depending on how hard the wind blows. We also explored the coast around Agios Nickolaos with its fine beaches and stunning mountain scenery.

One of the highlights was a visit to Knossos Palace, the Minoan ruins that were excavated by Sir Arthur Evans from 1900 to 1930. What made this particularly interesting was the fact that he had rebuilt sections of the palace according to what he found and thereby recreated something that the layperson can more easily comprehend. The Archaeological Museum at Iraklion houses many of the Minoan artifacts found at Knossos and elsewhere and is well worth a visit.

Harmony and I did a very interesting trip to Chania on the west side of the island where we stayed for two nights at a Best Western Hotel on the waterfront. Chania has had a long and bloody history fought over and controlled by Romans, Byzantines Venetians Turks and Egyptians. Venetians left the biggest architectural mark with a fine fort and many Venetian mansions. We also visited the ports of Rethymno and Iraklion, both boasting Venetian harbours and fortifications. But for us Chania had the most appeal with its ancient streets and interesting architecture. Chania was also the centre of action during the famous battle for Crete during the second world war and I have written a separate section on the Crete campaign below for those interested.

Crete in 1941

This section of the log focuses on the events of 1941, so those of you not into WW2 history should skip on. In the battle for Crete, the British Naval Base at Souda Bay, and the aerodrome at Maleme, both near Chania played pivotal roles in the battle. On our trip to Chania we stopped at Souda Bay, which in May 1941 was the scene of massive air attacks by Stuka dive bombers on the British ships in the bay. Photographs of the ships under attack, which we saw later in the excellent Naval Museum at Chania, contrast with the peaceful scene today. We visited the Allied war cemetery at the head of the bay. Once again we found the cemetery to be beautifully kept, just as we have found in all the ones we have visited on this trip.

The Crete engagement began in November 1940 when the Allies occupied the Naval base at Souda Bay at the invitation of the Greeks. An Allied army was sent from North Africa to the Greek mainland to help fight the advancing Germans, but almost immediately came under the full force of the German army and retreated to the Peloponnese coast where most of the army were evacuated to Crete. Now, Crete was supposed to be reinforced to become, as Churchill called it, “the Singapore of the Eastern Mediterranean”. But unfortunately, owing to lack of leadership, the island was only modestly defended and there were only a few antiquated tanks and aircraft on the island in the Spring of 1941 when the German attack came.

On May 19th the Germans landed their crack paratroopers near the key airports at Chania, Iraklion and Rethymno. Their landings were strongly resisted by Allied forces and initially it seemed that the Germans would be repelled. The Allies had acquired copies of the Paratroopers instructions, and furthermore, because of Enigma, were fully aware of where the Germans would land. One New Zealand soldier described the landing in his area: “Suddenly they were among us. I was watching the area and a pair of feet appeared through the nearby olive tree. They were right on top of us. Around me rifles were cracking. I had a tommy gun. It was like duck shooting” The Germans suffered their biggest losses since the war had started and their advances were checked everywhere except in the area around Maleme.

Meanwhile the British Navy intercepted the seaborne landing forces in the Sea of Crete. One landing force was sunk and the other forced to turn around and return to the Greek mainland. However, just when it seemed that the Allies would prevail, the Germans refocused all their efforts on the one place where they had had some success, namely, Maleme airport. The Allied commanders failed to take the initiative to counter attack with force when they still had superiority and so by the 3rd day, German reinforcements were sufficient to take and hold Maleme airport perimeter. Meanwhile the Navy was taking an appalling beating from Stuka divebombers and were forced to withdraw to the waters south of Crete. By 28th May it was all over and the Allies fought a rearguard action ad they evacuated their troops from the island.

We actually retraced the evacuation route of the soldiers from Souda Bay to the beaches at Sfakia on the south coast of Crete. The modern asphalt road to Sfakia is still daunting as it twists and climbs over the central mountain range before descending steeply to the coast. In 1941 the march in the heat, with no supplies must have been horrendous. One account of the retreat describes how “the marching columns would often be passed my trucks that careered along the narrow track trowing up clouds of choking dust. But as they limbed higher the lorries would run out of petrol , and the slower moving columns would come upon the abandoned vehicles and push them over the cliff to clear the way, so that the gorge was dotted with broken upturned trucks, “like great khaki beetles with their stunted legs in the sky.” At the top of the pass is the flat plateau of Askifou. We visited a museum at Askifou where a charming old Greek gentleman named George Hatzidakis showed us around his museum which contained all manner of wrecked armaments, from Stuka Propellers to British tank tracks. He did not speak English but he had written on a postcard “1941 10 years old” He showed us a deep wound on his forehead and said “Stukas” I was not absolutely sure but I think he was also trying to tell us that his father and brothers had been killed at that time. I wish that we could have understood his story.

Our exploration of the scenes of this epic battle was fascinating and for anyone interested in the subject I would refer them to two books that cover the subject: Crete 1941; The battle at Sea by David Thomas and The Fall of Crete by Alan Clark.


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4) Rhodes

September 7th to September 22nd

Rough seas and a gale in Karpathos straits

After three very pleasant weeks in Crete, exploring the island with my brother David and his wife Mary, we were anxiously studying the weather forecasts looking for favourable winds for our crossing to Rhodes. Finally on Tuesday 6th, my birthday, there appeared to be a moderating of the winds and so we decided to do the 25 mile sail to Sitea near the eastern end of Crete. David and Mary joined us for their first ever sail and we enjoyed fine sailing in 15 to 20 knots of wind, arriving in time for a late lunch at one of the tavernas that line the palm fringed harbour. David and Mary departed by bus back to Ay Nikolaos.

Between the eastern end of Crete and the southern tip of Rhodes, is a 120 miles stretch of angry seas where the meltemi blows its hardest and the waves pile up across the long southern fetch of the Aegean Sea. The windswept islands of Kasos and Karpathos lie midway between Crete and Rhodes and we were planning to break the crossing on the southern end of Karpathos island. Although the meltemi normally drops off in September, this year was different and the one day of moderate winds was only temporary with the forecast showing Force 6 or 7. With trepidation, we departed Sitea at 0730 the next day and immediately set a triple reefed mainsail and furled up half the jib. The wind was WNW between 25 and 30 knots. After two hours, we rounded the north eastern point of Crete, Ak Sidheros, with the lighthouse perched on end of the long peninsular, and set our course, due east, for Karpathos Island. The sea was rough, but with the wind abaft, we made 7.5 to 8.0 knots, arriving at O. Amorfos on the south eastern coast of Karpathos at 16.30. The wind blew 25 knots all evening. It was a fitful night with the wind gusting and Ocean Harmony tugging at the anchor.

The forecast for next day was unchanged and so, gritting our teeth, we left at 0730 for the 60 mile crossing to the southern tip of Rhodes. We employed the same sail set up as the previous day, but the course for Rhodes was north east rather that due east, which meant the wind and waves were directly on the beam. We made about 7 knots with plenty of water and spray over the decks and cockpit as the 4 metre waves came on our beam. Also, as we cleared the lee of Karpathos, the wind built over 30 knots with gusts up to 35. No kidding, we were in a gale! Not what we had bargained for! We evaluated our options: turn back to the anchorage at Karpathos and wait for several days or keep going. Although it was rough, the boat seemed to be handling well. The sails were balanced with no weather helm and the autopilot was keeping us on a steady course. So we decided to keep going. For the next 3 hours we sailed across the boisterous sea. As we approached the coast of Rhodes, the wind strengthened to 35 knots with gusts up to 40. We started to bury our lee rail and at one point we washed our seat cushion off the lee side, but managed to catch it before it went overboard. Down came the mainsail and we furled the jib leaving just a third out. Even with just a “hanky” sized jib, we maintained 7 knots with the wind on the beam. We sailed like that for two hours until we got into the lee of Rhodes and the wind dropped to a seemingly gentle breeze of 20 to 25 knots and we hoisted the mainsail again. We arrived at 1645 hours in the delightful bay O. Lindou below the town of Lindos on Rhodes. For dinner we ate tinned meatballs and mousaka on board before collapsing into bed, dead tired.

The town of Lindos is dominated by the Acropolis, perched on top of a 400 foot high precipice, above the village. Although one can hire a donkey to take you up the winding path to the Acropolis, we chose to hike up early one morning before the bulk of tourist buses arrived. There are remains of a 4th century BC Temple but most of the structure you see today dates from the 13th century AD when the Knights of St John fortified the city with battlements much higher than the original walls. The views from the battlements are stunning as you look down over the turquoise blue bay with beautiful white sandy beaches and the yachts anchored. The town itself consists of narrow cobbled streets where tourists bustle among the many, many shops selling lace, embroidered tablecloths, jewelery and every manner of touristy items. The town is a National Historic Landmark and development is strictly controlled and this means that when the tourist buses leave in the afternoon and head back to Rhodes, the town resumes a more leisurely pace and there are many good restaurants and bars to enjoy in the evening. We even found a pub that was showing the final cricket test match between Australia and England. We witnessed England regain the Ashes after 18 years.

The water in the anchorage was the clearest, blue-est we have yet encountered and we thoroughly enjoyed swimming. So much so that we prolonged our stay until Tuesday. We were delighted to meet up with Peter aboard Talisker, who had been our neighbour at Ay Nikolaos marina for the 3 weeks that we were there. We had dinner with him and his sailing colleague, Heinz, who hails from Germany. They had also experienced wind and heavy seas on their crossing from Crete.

On Tuesday September 13th we reluctantly departed Lindos and sailed north to Rhodes in company with Talisker. She is a gaff rigged ketch and she sails very well proving to be quicker than us on a downwind sail. But once we put up the Genniker we were able to pull away from her steadily. We took several photographs of her which I later put on a CD and gave to Peter. He has mailed us the photographs he took of Ocean Harmony. We both arrived in Mandraki harbour at the same time and were lucky to find the last two berths available. As the Pilot Book suggests, the harbour is chaotic. These was no one there to direct or assist in the mooring, but we were both soon stern berthed and tidy. Peter and Heinz from Talisker and ourselves explored the old town in the early evening before enjoying dinner together. They were leaving for Marmaris next morning and we were delighted when Peter presented us with a ink and watercolour sketch that he had made of Ocean Harmony at anchor in Lindos Bay. It turns out that he is a talented artist and has his work shown at several art galleries. The sketch is now framed and hangs in the main saloon.

Our friends, Greg and Val Charalambous arrived on Thursday from Vancouver for a one week visit. Greg was born in Cyprus and speaks Greek, so we were to benefit from improved communications at restaurants and marinas! After a day of exploring Rhodes we departed Mandraki and headed west to the small island of Simi which is cradled in the pincers of the Turkish mainland which is easily visible just 3 miles away. We anchored at the south end of the island in Panormitis Bay which is well protected from all winds. Ashore is a monastery which has a museum housing interesting church artifacts. Around the bay is a paved walkway which is nicely landscaped, culminating at a Byzantine windmill overlooking the entrance to the harbour. We remarked that the monks must have money to burn. Adjacent the windmill was an old gun emplacement which could well have been WW2 vintage. I peeked through a crack in the chained metal door and was surprised to see a gun carriage covered with canvas. We stopped in the main harbour of Simi which we had visited last year. It was just the same, with a mess of anchors in the middle of the narrow harbour. We were entertained in the morning watching how many anchors were fouled: we counted 4 fouled out of the first 7 boats to leave! Fortunately, our anchor was not fouled and we departed without incident.

On our way east from Simi, we were very close to the Turkish coast and decided to anchor off in one of the bays on the Turkish mainland, called Buzuk Buku or Citadel Bay. We tied up to a mooring buoy in front of the restaurant called Coban Ali. After an afternoon of swimming in the clear, warm water we were ferried ashore to Coban Ali by the restaurant owner Mustafa. We enjoyed an authentic Turkish dinner with fresh fish and metses (cooked vegetables). Greg and Val really enjoyed their first Turkish meal. We sailed back to Mandraki the next day in a gentle 12 to 15 knot wind. The week went by very quickly but we enjoyed being re-acquainted with old friends. Val, who has not previously done much sailing was enthusiast about the experience and says she would definitely do it again. Greg enjoyed the break from his business in Vancouver and was very interested in the sailing. We were sorry to leave them on Thursday morning, but we were headed for Turkey and a rendezvous with more friends from Vancouver.

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5) Turkey

September 22nd to October 14th

The crossing to Marmaris was uneventful with winds of 10 to 15 knots. We tied up at Yacht Marine which had been recommended to us by several cruising boats over the summer. The facilities are excellent and very well organised, which it needs to be with a thousand yachts in the Marina. We had been toying with the idea of leaving Ocean Harmony on the hard at Yacht Marine, but we felt that because it was located on a low isthmus, it would be fully exposed to the southerly winter gales. Also, the scale of operation meant that there was no personal contact with the staff which we had so much appreciated at Marti Marina last winter. So we decided that we would return to Marti again when our cruising was over.

Our friends Gerry and Maxine from Sidney, BC arrived the next day. They are both sailors and we met them as a result of being moored alongside their yacht, Rampart, when we were at Van Isle Marina. We left Marmaris on Sunday and sailed, somewhat sedately, in a light southerly breeze to Ekincik Bay where we stern tied at My Marina restaurant dock. The restaurant proved to be good, but very dear. Next morning we took a boat trip up the Dalyan River to visit the ancient city of Caunos and to see the Lycenian tombs at Dalyan. The boat trip is quite interesting in itself as one passes by large caves on the shoreline and sandy beaches at the estuary where loggerhead turtles lay their eggs and then a winding route up river between tall reeds. Caunos has ruins dating back to Helenistic times, but most of the ruins are Byzantine. Caunos suffered the same fate as Ephesus. When the river silted up, the maleria caused the population to decline and the city was eventually deserted. The Lycenian tombs are shaped like houses with Ionic columns and triangular pediments and are cut into the side of the shear rock face. We explored the attractive town of Dalyan and had lunch at a riverside cafe before returning by boat to the My Marina restaurant dock. The boat rental cost 80 euros and is well worth the cost.

From Ekincik we sailed to Fethiye Bay in a good southerly which gusted up over 25 knots as we approached the Bay. We anchored with a stern line at Pilloried Cove. Next morning we crossed the bay to Tersane Creek where we stern tied in the narrow inlet. Later in the day, the wind picked up and was blowing directly on the side of Ocean Harmony. The anchor dragged and we had some anxious moments as we drifted sideways towards a neighbouring boat. I was forced to cut the stern line as we did not have time to go ashore and untie from the rock. Gerry and Maxine later retrieved our stern line and chain. We decided to head into Gocek Bay where we tied up at Club Marina. The marina is well sheltered with good facilities. They provide a free ferry service between the marina and the town. Gocek town is worth visiting and, given its close proximity to Dalaman airport, would be a convenient place to leave one's boat over the winter. After a two day visit we left the Marina and motored the 6 miles across to Fethiye where we moored at the brand new marina. On our last day together we experienced a mighty thunderstorm and were very glad to be tied up at the dock rather than anchored out someplace. The rain was torrential at times but it cleared up by the evening. Gerry and Maxine left us early next day. We enjoyed sailing and exploring together and look forward to seeing them in Sidney. Gerry and Maxine wrote a contribution to the log which follows.

Prior to our Turkey visit our expectations were: very dry climate, little vegetation, heavy military and police presence, burkas, a few gullets, Sunsail type charters. Arrived at Dalaman Airport-customs entry visa about 50$ U.S.. At least twice as much as any other country (probably Chretien's fault). Arrived Marmaris Yacht Marine to meet John and Harmony and their beautiful boat Ocean Harmony. Power winches,teak decks,computers, email communication systems that would have made my life as a wireless op in the parachute regt pathfinders a lot easier.

The most exciting sail was on approach to Gocek with a strong “meltemi” wind pushing our speed to 9 knots at times(I pretended I was in control at the helm). After a stay in several anchorages,and spoiled by poor holding and strong winds, Gocek at beautiful Club Marina was a 2 day destination. Then on to Fethiye. Woke up at 6a.m.to what I thought was someone with serious stomach pains then I realized it was just the local Imam reminding us that the crusade was not over and they may be winning!

Most of my expectations were wrong. Little military/police activity,lush vegetation in marina and town sites,few burkas, and millions of gullet charters.

A great visit in total comfort on a lovely boat with good friends. Gerry and Maxine.

At Fethiye we changed crew once again. Our good friends Tim and Maureen Bancroft from Calgary joined us for the last leg of our cruise back to Marti Marina. After the torrential rains the day before we departed under clear skies and sailed across the bay to Kapi Creek where we stern tied to the dock in front of the restaurant. Next day a 25 mile sail in light winds to Ekincek where we tied up at My Marina again. Tim and Maureen were really keen to visit Caunos so we rented a boat and did the same trip as we had done previously with Gerry and Maxine. It was just as interesting the second time. We enjoyed a peaceful sail in light southerly wind to Gerbeksi cove where we anchored with a line ashore. Although the days were getting shorter the temperatures remained warm enough and the water was a pleasant 25 C We all enjoyed the afternoon swimming off the stern of the boat. Showers and a few G and T's was followed by dinner and several hands of bridge. Cruising in Turkey in October is definitely recommended.

Another day of light winds. We sailed along at 4 to 5 knots with Tim at the helm for much of the time. Maureen was content to relax and commented that she had never felt so relaxed. So much so that she felt compelled to take the occasional nap! We tied up to the mooring buoy in front of Coban Ali, the restaurant owned by Mustafa, that we had visited with Greg and Val a few weeks earlier. Another great Turkish meal was served. One of the servers at the restaurant was a lady from Belgium called Danielle. In conversation we learned that she was an archaeologist living in the local village of Serci with a Turkish family. She had spent several years exploring the area around Bozuk Buku and kindly offered to take us on a tour the next morning, which we quickly accepted. For three hours next morning we followed her around the bay clambering over the rocky hillside, stopping from time to time as she pointed out the many Byzantine remains. She showed us many burial sites that were alongside the path that runs parallel to the bay. Each grave consists of a burial chamber covered by a large, heavy stone block which was carved in such a way as to blend into the hillside. The inhabitants of the town would have walked by these graves every time they took the path along the bay and perhaps paid tribute to their ancestors as they went by. Danielle's enthusiasm was contagious and we found ourselves imagining the busy harbour and the surrounding village with its many inhabitants living their lives all those years ago. It was with some reluctance that we bid farewell and motored the dinghy back out to the boat. We cast off our lines and motored out of this most attractive bay dominated by the Byzantine fort overlooking it, before rounding the point between mainland Turkey and the island of Simi We sailed in light winds into the bay and anchored behind the island of Kizil Adasi south of Bozburun. We swam and ate dinner on board followed by another evening of bridge. Next morning we dallied with a late breakfast and a swim, reluctant to depart on our last short sail back to Marti Marina, Ocean Harmony's home for the winter.

We arrived in the marina at about 1500hours. It felt like a home coming as we were greeted enthusiastically by the staff who we had last seen 6 month previously. After sorting out the boat we showed Tim and Maureen around the Marina. We enjoyed sundowners on the deck as we watched the sun setting behind the hills. The Marina is idyllically situated in a tranquil bay surrounded by pine forested hills. We dined at the local restaurant which is excellent and as usual had lots of laughs together. We bade Tim and Maureen farewell next morning as they were heading back to England and then Canada.

Harmony and I spent the next few days cleaning up and preparing the boat for winter storage on the hard. This involved pickling the watermaker, engine service and overall cleanup and packing. Ocean Harmony was hauled on Thursday afternoon and put in a steel cradle on the concrete pad next to a large power boat. She looked a bit sad sitting motionless with not even a flag fluttering. Soon she will be surrounded by several hundred other yachts that will keep her company for the winter.

We flew out of Turkey on Friday October 14th, a beautiful sunny fall day in a reflective mood. Ocean Harmony was our home for the past 183 days during which time we sailed 2135 nautical miles, or about 4000km. We visited remarkable historic sites in Turkey and Greece, we saw beautiful scenery and enjoyed sailing with dolphins in the clear blue sea. We also gained enormously in sailing experience. Our relationship has stood the test of what Harmony calls “too much togetherness” and we now look forward to being with family and friends for a while, but I think after a few months ashore, in the damp of England and the cold of Calgary we will soon be thinking ahead to blue seas and warm waters next year.

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