Sunday, 10 May 2009

Headıng North through Greece ... May 2009

26Apr - 03May

***Lookıng thru the monasteries ancient doorway down onto Skala Harbour*** Mark & Gord stop to take ın the view wıth the Monastery and Hora Village high on the hilltop***A snapshot of the anchorge ın Patmos - fıshıng boats, Balvenie, Cruıse shıp, town, monastery and hılltop village***Insıde the monastery on Patmos***

Time to leave Turkey for a while, our plan is to thread our way north through the Dodecanese and Eastern Sporades, trying to zig-zag our way up depending on the winds. Good plan, just not always so easy to put into practice as the wind gods always have the last laugh!

From Bodrum we cleared the south western tip of Turkey and stuck our bow out into the South Aegean Sea. The Aegean has a nasty reputation, especially over summer, with the "meltemi" winds building most afternoons, sometimes nonstop for days and nights, whipping its way south and churning the seas with a mean standup wave, oh so reminisent of travelling up the northern Red Sea and Gulf of Suez. Even this time of year, if the wind is strong from the north the seas build very quickly. Day 1 was not too bad, from the north but about 15knots and we managed on a very tight reach to arrive into the lovely little bay of Atki on Kalymnos. There is nothing there except a few fish farms and goats climbing the cliffs, their bell collars clanging every step they take. The next day was forecast to be stronger winds so we stayed the day and went for a long scenic walk around to the next bay and village of Vathi and back. The conditions out at sea looked to be perfect from our view high above the bay, oh well. With winds forecast to ease we left the following day, yuk, should have gone yesterday. We had very strong north-easterlies and a big sea quickly developed. We shortened sail and ended up motor sailing through it to calmer waters on the east coast of Leros and anchored in the large sheltered bay of Lakki. Unfortunately our wind instruments did not cope well with falling off some of the waves and the constant variation of wind speed this brings and have died on us, they have done this before and required new parts, heres hoping this time it will be an easier fix.

We dinghied ashore in Lakki and tied up at the town quay, called a marina which charged €18 (not for the dinghy!!). Lakki Town is a somewhat ramshakle place, built by the Italians in the 1940's along with a naval base. It probably looked beautiful in its heyday, but now has somewhat fallen into a state of total disrepair. It reminded us both of the bombed out and crumbling Italian buildings in Massawa, Eritrea. Probably not a fair comparison but certainly the same feel to it. Still, it had a few shops, bank with ATM, internet cafe and a few cafes.

Another day, another island - next stop was Patmos. We had light winds and flat seas, sailing when we could then motoring the rest. The main harbour of Skala on the east coast is a cute little place, dominated by the Monastery set high above in fortress like surroundings. We anchored the first night at the head of the bay. Things ashore were busy with two cruise ships in, all the little shops and cafes open and peddling their wares. The next day we moved onto the town quay as our Canadian friends Gord and Ginny arrived on their yacht Ascension and tied up too. It's great to be tied up, so convenient just to be able to jump on and off to go ashore, especially with friends there, not having to dinghy backwards and forwards. We split our time between boat jobs and having fun. The repair of the wind instruments saw Mark dangling at the top of the mast removing bits and pieces for much longer than he cared for, unfortunately we still have no wind instrutments, emails have been sent requesting help!!!

On a beautiful clear and sunny afternoon, with the med looking its postcard perfect blue, the 4 of us had an excellent afternoons excercise and excursion walking up the hill to the Hora (the village atop the hill and the main Ayiou Ioannoa Theologou Monastery. Just on halfway (time for a much needed breather!) is the Monastery of Apokalypsis built around the grotto of St John the Evangelist (St John the Divine) where John supposedly heard the voice of God, and he wrote the Book of Revealations for the New Testament and also his Gospel, circa 95AD. Then for the final push up to the main monastery, with a magnificent old church covered inside with frescoes, a prominent bell tower, several terraces, covered walkways and the original kitchen with a petrified wood hollowed out tree trunk used for kneading dough for the bread. Outside the monastery the narrow alleys of the Hora are a delight to spend some time getting lost in, peaks of the sea, whitewashed buildings with blue shutters, wildflowers growing everywhere, cats lazing in the sun - unforgettable images of Greece.

After 4 nights in Patmos and with a good weather forecast we left Gord and Ginny. They plan to cross to the Caribbean later this year so we might not catch up with them again, for a while anyway. We have known them since July 2006 when we did the Darwin - Kupang rally together, the definate downside of cruising is the goodbyes when you stop going the same direction or at the same pace, still the reunions are great, hopefully we will find Ascension at anchor in an idilyc Caribbean anchorage one day, good luck guys, we will miss you!

After an excellent sail in a steady light breeze with flat water we arrived back in Turkey on the southern Cesme peninsular in the large bay of Agriler Liman, it was a big day 65 miles and 11 hours, due north and taking a big chunk out of our journey. The following day dawned clear and bright yet again, still with a definate chill in the air, and light winds. We left early and had another excellent sail in the sheltered waters between the Cesme Peninsular, Turkey and the Greek Island of Khios (Hios, Chios). We have now left the Dodecanse Group and entered the Eastern Aegean Island Group called the Sporades.

We stopped at a tiny island just north of Khios called Oinoussa (Inousses). We tied to the wall in the little shallow harbour along with another couple of yachts, had a walk through the almost deserted town that tumbles down a small hillside and pretty much saw it all in about 30 minutes! The claim to fame for this tiny island is that it has produced most of Greeces wealthiest shipping magnets, it was very sleepy, I suspect they have all left town for the bright lights!!
After quite a windy night, and on receipt of conflicting weather reports we left the harbour to continue north. One weather report said 15-20knots Northwest, the other 25-30 Northeast, we shouldn't probably have left in either but there was an anchorage back on the Turkish mainland just 8miles away if conditions weren't good so we gave it a go and made excellent progress in flat seas for the first couple of hours heading Northeast to Lesvos.

Ole Huey must have decided we had been having too many good days of sailing and it was time to put an end to our fun so sent down the 25-30 Notheasterly to sort us out. It just amazes us how quickly the sea state changes around these parts once the wind starts building, and heading to Lesvos was really no longer an option without falling off waves which is not one of our favorite pastimes. Back out with the Turkish Cruising Guide and a change of course to a more comfortable due east heading and a couple of hours we arrived into the sheltered waters of Eski Foca, Turkey.

Cruising Info:

Atki Liman - East Coast of Kalymnos. 36 57.51N 27 01.96E 16m Very clear water, could have gone closer in. Good holding, beautiful spot
Lakki Harbour - West Coast of Leros. 37 07.59N 26 50.82E 10m Outside wall used for ferries so keep well enough clear
Skala Harbour - East Coast of Patmos. Anchored one night 37 19.70N 26 32.74E 10m good holding not much swinging room. Then 3 nights on the wall side tied, 3.5m. Did not check in with harbour master, no charges collected
Agriler Liman - Cesme Peninsular. 38 15.24N 26 23.41E 8m good holding, also marina there. Beware charted shallows on way in on port, no danger marks on them
Mandhraki Harbour - Southern Coast of Oinoussa. Side tied on wall 38 30.85N 26 12.98E only 2.4m, nudged bottom on way out. Asked to check in with port police in morning and asked to leave for Chios or Lesvos to check into Greece (we had done well getting this far unchecked)
Money - Saw ATM's on Leros and Patmos
Provisions - Leros had a few small stores. Patmos good selection of meats, groceries and alcohol. Oinoussa had a small supermarket and veg shop up the hill but were closed. Bread had to be ordered in advance
Sightseeing - Patmos Monasteries well worth it, free entry
Internet - Leros, internet cafe on shorefront 1€ for 20minutes!! Patmos, got wifi on boat. Nothing at the others
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