Thursday, 25 June 2009

Westwards thru the Corinth Canal ..... June 2009

19 - 23 June 2009
***Transiting the Corinth Canal, with the steep walls and a couple of bridges high above***The cute harbour of Galaxidi***The gymnasium area at ancient Delphi***Higher up at Delphi, overlooking the amphitheatre, Temple of Apollo and the gymnasium in the distance with the valley full of olive trees as the background***

After our 4 nights in Aegina is was time to move on again and head further west. We pulled out of the harbour without drama, not always a sure thing when you stern tie to the town wall, as anchor chains often get laid over each other, and can make for a very messy tangle often when leaving.
We sailed, then motor sailed as we lost the breeze and headed to the end of the Saronic Gulf, and the entrance to the Corinth Canal, till there was only land ahead. We anchored for the night, still not having spotted the gap for the canal - we hoped it was still there as it's a long way around! The canal is not busy at all, very few large ships can fit through it and it seems to serve mainly yachts, smaller coastal traders and a couple of tour boats that offer the 'canal experience'. Next morning with a light westerly breeze we headed for the breakwater, tied alongside the empty dock, Skipper went ashore with boat papers and credit card and the paperwork was completed in under 5 minutes. Maybe they could bring the Egyptians that run the Suez Canal up here and show them a thing or two on how things can be done efficiently! Then we just had to wait for them to lower the road into the canal, and off we went. The canal is 3.2 miles long, 25m wide and the limestone walls rise to 79m. At €177 for our transit it is quite an expensive half hours entertainment and we popped out in the Gulf of Corinth in no time at all.

With a building nor'wester and gathering thunder clouds we had full days sails to our destination of Galaxidi . We spent much time dodging lightening strikes and squalls, and realized it was the first time we had sailed in the rain since our passage from the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal to Sri Lanka in January 2008!! We weren't surprised by the rain, after all we had just paid for water to hose the boat down in Aegina, oh well.

Galaxidi is a delightful spot, visited mostly by cruising yachts as its out of the way for the charter fleets and a little off the beaten track for holiday makers. There is a small town basin to stern tie or if plenty of room side tie to, cafes and bars along the quay but its very peaceful and surrounded by a young pine forest. We spent 3 nights here, sitting out stormy weather, and spent one day visiting the ancient ruins of Delphi.

We caught the bus around the large bay to nearby Itea where we changed onto another bus and started the climb up the valley through acres and acres of olive groves, into the mountains to Delphi. This is where Zeus declared the centre of the world to be and the Sanctuary of Apollo was built here. This is one of the most important ancient sites in Greece, and although we have seen better preserved ruins the site is absolutely stunning, perched high on the mountain slopes with a stunning vista down to the Gulf of Corinth. There are still the remains of the gymnasium and running tracks, this was more a place of relaxation and leisure rather than a bustling city. It has done well to survive the earthquakes that shake this area regularly. The adjoining museum is excellent and houses treasures unearthed in the 1930's under the 'sacred way', artefacts are well displayed and documented.

The westerly winds eased a little so time to keep going but sad to leave, Galaxidi is a favorite. We spent the afternoon covering the 18 miles to our next destination of Trizonia, we had 20 knots, of course on the nose, but with relatively flat seas and after 11 tacks dropped sail outside this small island, just 1 mile off the mainland. There is another of Greeces unfinished marinas here, they receive money from the EU for various projects, start the building then when the EU money runs out the Greek Government is supposed to finish the project off, but it seems that alot of the time they don't. So there are a few of these little marinas around, with all the docks, cleats, dock lighting etc, but no power, water or staff and generally in a state of disrepair, and they are free and most welcomed by us cruisers. Yesterday we got a ride to the mainland and onto Nafpaktos to look around this bustling little town and tiny ancient harbour then caught the bus and ferry back. We have side tied to the end of a dock and here we will remain until the unseasonal thunder storms abate and the strong winds from the west ease, so we can make our way out into the Ioanian Sea.

Cruising Info for Eastern Corinth Canal, Galaxidi, Trizonia and Itea:
Anchorages -
Corinth Canal Eastern Side .. 37 55.25N 23 00.83E 6.5m and and weed held ok
Galaxidi .. 38 22.62N 22 23.26E 3.8m Stern tied to harbour wall, some holding not too good as continual dredging but we held well. Most likely very helpful Angelos will be there to direct and assist you. No charge for tying up, but pay extra for power and water
Itea .. We didn't stay here but it is a little closer to Delphi if you are wanting to go to the ruins. The marina is right by the bus stop. It has now been completed and we believe they charge €8 per night to dock, unsure of power and water. Although calm water inside it is much more exposed than Galaxidi to all but a northerly wind. Bigger town with all the facilities
Trizonia .. 38 22.15N 22 04.57E 2.5m side tied. Find wherever you can. No charge for tying up but no facilities and plenty of big holes in the dock to break an ankle on!!!!
Internet - Corinth .. nothing, Galaxidi .. OK Cafe has good signal and excellent coffee, have a coffee and get the code. Trizonia .. Posideon Cafe good signal in marina, charge is €2 1hour, €5 1 day or €10 3 days and skype worked well. Possibly free while having something at the cafe but need to pay if using onboard.
Money - Galaxidi ATM machines, nothing at others
Provisions - small stores at Galaxidi, tiny minimarket at Trizonia.
Fuel mini tanker on the dock at Galaxidi, water and power available 5Euro for each I believe
Formalities - Tried to check in Galaxidi 3 times, no one home. Nothing others
Sightseeing -
Galaxidi .. Buses to Itea from square slightly up the hill at 10am then onto Delphi 1045, return 1545 to Itea and about 20minute wait. €3.20 through tickets per person each way. Entry to Delphi €6 site only or €9 site and museum See for more on Galaxidi
Trizonia .. Bus back from Nafpaktos at 11am connected with 12noon ferry which waited for it. Bus was €2.70 each ferry €1. Got ride to Nafpaktos kindly from Spiros one of the restaurant owners.

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Friday, 19 June 2009

The Saronic Gulf Islands and Athens..... June 2009

12 - 19 June 2009
*** Mark relaxing with a complimentary glass of ouzo on the harbour front in Poros***The "changing of the guard" in Athens***Look what they found when they tried to dig an air shaft for the Athens metro***Our neighbours on the wall in Aegina - a wooden replica enacting a voyage from Izmir in Turkey to Marseilles in Southern France - tied up awaiting repairs after being beaten up in the Aegean***

As we approached the eastern entrance to the island of Poros after a fast beam reach sail across the Western Aegean from Sifnos, a procession of large and extremely large launches crossed our path, it was late Friday afternoon and it appeared that everyone in Athens with a launch was on their way down to the swanky island of Hydra for the night. It was non stop, about 3 minutes apart and the wash from these beasts travelling at considerable speed was very messy.

We dropped sails and motored the last couple of miles and then negotiated the very narrow channel, which has you almost touching the boats tied stern to the wall. We successfully completed that little challenge and popped out into the sheltered and enclosed harbour. Along with several others we anchored off, the town wall overflowing with more enormous launches, a phenomenal display of wealth!!!

Poros is just half a mile off the northern coast of the Peloponesse Peninsular, its waterfront lined with cafes, bars and souvenir shops, but it has a laid back feel to it, despite all the glitz tied up to the town quay. Come late Sunday night all the launches had gone, the weekend holidaymakers from Athens had left on the regular ferries and it reverted back to a quiet island community. You can catch the little passenger ferry or dinghy across to Galatas on the Peloponesse for a change of scenery but there wasn't much there, its also a good spot to hire a car to explore the peninsular, but we didn't do this.

After 3 nights the winds had dropped enough for us to make a dash due north to the island of Aegina. We motored up in sloppy seas, and winds on the nose, of course. Our aim was to get in early as we heard the harbour wall got very busy, we did find a spot on the southern wall but abandoned it when out depth gauge showed 2 metres and we were still 20 metres off! We went out and anchored for the night but the wash and wakes from the countless ferries and hydrofoils in the outer harbour made this reasonably uncomfortable. Aegina is not a densely populated island, around 15,000 inhabitants, but the frequency of the ferries to and from Athens astounded us. Next morning we got a spot on the northern wall, backing onto the road and cafes, somewhat noisy but certainly in the middle of all the comings and goings and very little ferry wash.
Aegina is a lively spot, the harbour side again brimming with wall to wall cafes. Greece certainly is a cafe society, from early morning coffees to midnight glasses of ouzo and meals served non stop throughout the day, it emits that lazy carefree atmosphere that if it doesn't get done today, there is always tomorrow. Maybe that is why we feel so much at home here!!

Instead of sailing Balvenie to Athens where marina berths are hard to find and very expensive we decided to take the ferry for the day, along with our carefully packaged broken wind instrument in the hope of getting it repaired or replaced at the local agent there. By 11am we had a fix, just €440 for a new 'brain' about the size of my little finger, oh well there goes another NZ$1,000 boat unit, but if it works I guess it's worth it. So the rest of the day was spent 'doing Athens' (with fiercely protected wind instrument). As we had both been before we just did a mini refresher and walked the suggested Lonely Planet 4 hour walking tour in 38 degrees heat and searing sunshine, taking in the main sights, the changing of the guard, and as much shade as we could find!!

The next morning it was time for skipper to head for the skies again and refit the wind instrument to the top of the mast. All was going well until just past the 2nd spreader when it caught on something and came nosediving down in freefall, crashing to the deck, oh my god!!!! After a quick inspection I thought it was all ok, so repackaged it very securely, attached it to another halyard and sent it up to Mark, patiently dangling aloft, not believing it could have survived such a fall. I realised quite quickly when he received it that things were not at all well, 'where is the other end?' he shouts. Good question, where is the other end????? Oh dear, that's it dangling precariously over the side of the rail. Quickly retrieved before going overboard and
moved to a much more secure spot we independently surveyed our snapped off ends, mmmmm time for skipper to come back down I think. Now exopy glue has many uses, but gluing together a wind instrument that has a tiny rotating bearing in it, to the other end that has the circuit board 'brain' in it capable of reading the signal from this rotating bearing may not be one of them, but really, just what did we have to lose? So exopy glued it was, and then a little sleeve added for extra support, followed by hours of uncertainty while we waited for it to cure. Early evening we couldn't stand the suspense any longer so up he went again and reattached it in place. The moment of truth when I came below and turned on the instrument's all working, wind speed and direction, wow, who'd have believed it. Plenty extra rations for the crew tonight!!!!

We enjoyed Aegina, We stayed 4 nights, we didn't get to the ruins which are supposed to be very good, but in Europe there will always be more ruins, but there was a window for getting on westwards. Next stop the Cornith Canal.

Cruising Info for Poros and Aegina:
Anchorages -
Navy Bay, Poros ... 37 30.27N 23 27.02E 16m held well. Good shelter
Aegina Anchorage ... 37 44.46N 23 25.64E 4.6m sand and weed, took 2 attempts but then held well. Totally exposed to west, alot of wash from large ferries that dock on outside harbour wall
Aegina Town Wall ... 37 44.76N 23 25.69E showing 2m but we were still afloat. Cost €20.66 for 3 nights, 1st night costs most. Water and power available, water was €10 for 150-1000 litres.
Internet - Nothing in Poros. Free Port wifi in Aegina but I couldn't get it to work
Money - ATM's in both
Provisions - Everything you need within walking distance. Diesel mini tanker to dock €1.06 per litre
Formalities - didn't do in either

Sightseeing - Ferry Aegina-Athens €9.50 metro downtown €1 per person each way Posted by Picasa

Friday, 12 June 2009

Santorini - The Jewel in the Crown ..... June 2009

08 - 11 June 2009
Just how to choose 4 photos to capture this amazing place is totally impossible, these are just a snapshot
***Skipper on the bow gazing in awe at the surroundings***Balvenie resting way down there***At the fort in the small western village of Ia, famous for its sunset views***Every shot of Santorini includes a 'med blue' church dome and the very blue med sea below, this is our contribution!***

With just enough breeze to fill the mainsail and poled out headsail we had good downwind sail the 40 odd miles south to Santorini (Thira). The island group has a somewhat explosive past. Once upon a time, Santorini and the surrounding islands were all one, well populated and with a bustling port. Then in around 1650BC, recent enough to be well documented, the very big bang occurred, the crater blew, part of the sides collapsed, islands were formed where the rim once was and water filled the crater, producing most of what we see today.

This makes anchoring there somewhat problematic as there are depths of around 50m right up to the crater walls. The cruising guide offers a couple of possibilities which we didn't feel comfortable with, and there is a small marina but it is around the bottom of the island and outside the crater and it is only 2 metres deep, so not an option for us. So while our eyes were feasting on the incredible vista surrounding us we tried to find somewhere to settle for the night.

We had heard a waterfront taverna had put in a few moorings but we didn't know where but saw some yachts so had a little tiki-tour along the shoreline and found them, unfortunately all occupied. There was however a couple more buoys a little further along with no lines on them but looking big and solid so we backed up to one, hitched a line through and tied on. We went ashore to the small taverna nearby to check if it was ok, he made a phone call to a friend and said no problem, yippee. We have found the Greeks to be so friendly and helpful everywhere we have been, nothing seems too much trouble, they are great. So after a celebratory dinner ashore we headed back to Balvenie and watched the full moon rise above the crater, just priceless.

Next morning, armed with plenty of water, we dinghied ashore and climbed the 276 steps up to the village of Ia. Now 276 steps is bad enough, but between some of the steps you had to walk 3 paces uphill to get to the next one, this was serious exercise. Arriving at the top looking and feeling very much worse for wear, we had a very leisurely look around Ia, enjoying its winding little alleys, stunning views, tasteful boutique shops and cafes with balconies suspended out over the steep crater walls.

We caught the local bus to Fira, the main town and got a circle trip sightseeing tour enroute. Santorini's non crater side slopes gently to the sea, offering a totally different terrain to the one she is famous for. There are volcanic sand beaches, some vineyards and a few crops growing, but tourism certainly is the mainstay. There were 4 cruise ships in port, and everywhere was bustling, cameras snapping, I cant think of anywhere as stunning as Santorini. Fira is just a larger version of Ia, we had a good look around, stopped for a rest and lunch then headed back on the bus, this time it took the crater rim road with stunning views, magical.

It was back down the steps to Balvenie for a swim and siesta before round two up to the top to catch the sunset. Unfortunately not spectacular but we sure got plenty of exercise.

Next morning the weather forecast was not good, our window of calm winds was closing rapidly and we had had some gusts during the night, so we decided to leave with a forecast of 10-15knots from the Northeast and head Northwest as far as we could. An hour out we were having second thoughts, very confused and lumpy seas, a double reefed main and reefed headsail and winds from nothing to 30knots - up and down, all day long. It made for a very uncomfortable, difficult and extremely wet sail, we do not remember when we last had so much salt water over the boat. We finally got in the lee of Sifnos, flatter water but mega wind gusts, the tops being whipped off the waves. We got the sails down and motored the last couple of miles into Vathy Bay, quite a wind tunnel unfortunately, and busy with charter boats dragging anchor. After a very long and tiring day we did anchor watch till around 3am when things settled enough for us to feel comfortable enough to go below.

Ole wind god Huey had thought it was time to remind us the infamous 'meltimi' was coming, and this cruising life is not all bikinis and martinis. Time to leave the Aegean. So with two more days before the 30+knot northerlies were due to arrive and settle in for at least a week we sailed northwest, first to a quiet remote bay on the southern side of Serifos where we had 12 hours sleep to recharge our batteries and then we had an excellent beam reach in comfortable seas across to Poros. It's a small island only half a mile off the northern coast of the Peloponnese peninsular, just 35 miles south of Athens, and most importantly out of the Aegean. Mission accompolished - extra rum rations for skipper and crew!!!!

Cruising Info for Santorini, Sifnos and Serifos - Greek Cyclades:
Anchorages -
Ia, Santorini ... 36 27.56N 25 23.08 on large red buoy in 50m. Taverna buoys are slightly west, there is also a dock you can tie to temporarily so enquire, not sure on depth. No charge for buoy but we dined one night in their taverna. Nothing flash but ok and not expensive
Vathy Bay, Sifnos ... 36 55.72N 24 41.42E 18m. Well held ok but others were dragging in strong bullets
Koutala Bay, Serifos ... 37 08.14N 24 27.62E 7m in sandy patch. Slight roll overnight, didn't seem to be affected over in western part of bay by it
Internet -No wifi onboard at any. Didn't look for internet ashore in Santorini
Money - ATM's at Ia and Fira on Santorini
Provisions - Small supermarket and bakery by bus stop in Ia
Formalities - did not do any
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Thursday, 11 June 2009

Aeolian Islands, Italy's Volcanic Island Chain ... June 2010

04-10 June 2010

***From the rim of Vulcano looking down into the anchorage of Porto Levante, Stromboli is in the far distance***Right in amongst the steam at Vulcano***Time for a relaxing mud bath***Peter, Bridget, Mark, Amanda, Helen and Ian on top of Vulcano *** Vista from Vulcano***

After our early start from Naxos, long day up through the Straits of Messina and into the Tyrrhenian Sea we pulled into the eastern anchorage of Porto Levante on the stunning island of Vulcano at 7.30pm. This compact anchorage is set at the bottom of Gran Cratere, an active crater still steaming away up on the rim, clearly visable above the anchorage. It last erupted in 1890 so we hoped it would stay settled for a couple more days so we could enjoy the area. We finally found a spot in shallow enough water that we would be able to swing in and settled in for the night. Not an easy task as its a small area, half filled with local moorings and the seabed drops off dramatically - we didn't want to get blown back to Messina during the night. One poor latecomer came heading at speed into the moored boats area just on dark, only to stop very quickly and noisily as they ran aground onto a rocky ledge. No amount of forward, reverse, bow thruster, sails up with the 6 burly blokes onboard hanging off the boom was going to shift them and eventually in the dark they put their anchor light on, surrendered to their fate and went to bed. They were gone in the morning (never to be seen again) so just enough tide must have come in to free them from the rocks clutches.

Next morning we went ashore with Peter and Bridget off White Rose and Ian and Helen offSundancer II for the climb to the summit of Vulcano the Volcano. It was certainly a good workout with some very steep sections, made more difficult as part of the base was lose scree but it really was worth it. The skies were blue and it had warmed up, maybe the snowing on Mt Etna had finally cleared the spring air and summer was coming after all. The views were great, northeast across to smouldering Stromboli, and west out to even more coneshaped islands rising out of the very blue med. Parts of the rim were alive, so much steam in places that you couldn't see through it, bright yellow and lime green deposits of sulphur were in abundance, and bubbling puddles of mud just to remind us of home. Then of course there was the smell, you sure could tell it was volcanic, it does a great job of clearing the sinuses!

The weather was settled so we stayed another day, more Australians arrived! Andrew, Clare and friend Colin on Eye Candy popped up again, just in time to join the rest of us for a relaxing theraputic wallow in the warm, muddy, murky, slimy waters at the Mud Bath. Not everyone could quite bring themselves to partake, sliding down into the slippery and smelly unknown, but for those of us that did, well we had a great time. We scooped up all the gooey mud, plastered ourselves and laid back to let nature take its course. The baths are adjacent to the beach, so once rejuvenated by all those natural minerals we took a dip in the salt water, taking care not to burn our toes on a hot jet spurting out! All in all it was fun outing, and it got me in for my first swim of the season. We later had a swim off the back of the boat, even though the water temperature was still a chilly 21c, we headed towards shore with snorkels on and floated in awe, watching the air bubbling up from the bottom catching the late afternon sun, it was quite magical. I now know just how a goldfish feels surrounded all those bubbles!! We were rewarded for all this activity by an excellent gelato, siesta and then cruisers happy hour ashore on the beach. What a great stopover

We moved on a couple of miles north to the next island of Lipari. We had hoped to anchor off the town and go ashore to visit the highly recommended museum there but it was very deep water close inshore and there was much wash from the ferries so we abandoned that idea. The settled weather was continuing so we headed south around the island onto the west coast and pulled into a deserted bay along withSundancer II. We didn't expect to find empty anchorages in Italy in June, what a treat. We went ashore to see if we could walk over to the town, but after a big climb to the top of the hill no obvious way down was apparent, so we abandoned that idea and went back for a swim instead. We were later joined by White Rose and Eye Candy, more cruisers happy hours followed!

Cruising Info for the Aeolian Islands:-
Anchorages - The Italian Waters Pilot recommends the Aeolian Group as fair weather anchorages only. We felt they were as good as any, and there are choices to move if the wind changes direction. They are really worth the stopover.
Porto Levante, Vulcano: 38 25.040N 14 57.658E 4m sand

Valle Muria, Lipari: 38 27.550N 14 55.944E 9.5m sand 
Communications - We had Vodafone and TIM coverage on our phones at both anchorages but no WIND for our dongle at either. But could get WIND at Vulcano East anchorage apparantely and probably ashore.
Sightseeing - €3 entry fee per person to climb Vulcano and €2 per person for the mud bath 

Money - Don't remember seeing an ATM but I'm sure there would have been one
Provisions/Fuel - A couple of reasonable supermarkets, excellent butcher and good fruit and veg shops all ashore in Vulcano, small place all easy enough to find. Fuel Dock over in Lipari town at location in Cruising Guide which White Rose used. €1.32 per litre
Formalities - still none in Italy

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Mykonos - Anchored in Millionaires Row ..... June 2009

05 - 07 June 2009

***Mark, relaxing with a cold beer in 'Paradise', don't miss the go-go dancers in the background***Balvenie, looking somewhat small in Superyacht alley!***The little church overlooking the anchorage on Paros***

Finally we left our little sheltered and very friendly harbour of Finakas on the Cyclades Island of Siros and headed due east. Heading east is not a good thing when you are circumnavigating in a westerly direction but sometimes you just have to make these sacrifices to ensure you do not miss any of the best bits. It was a beautiful day, the strong winds had abated, the seas flattened and we had a very pleasant but slow sail the short distance across to Mykonos.

We anchored in the southern bay of Ormos Ornos amongst several other yachts and sat back and watched the procession of superyachts arrive on this sunny Friday afternoon. This was our first taste of the big boys and their bigger toys in the Med, as most of them don't seem to go the extra miles to Turkey, I don't know why as I suspect it is not because they can not afford the fuel!!

One of the top stops on Greek cruise ship itineraries, Mykonos boasts a lovely cute little old town around the port area (yachts not permitted), with white sugar cube buildings which I thought looked more like marshmallows as all the buildings edges were nicely rounded, most of them displaying 'med blue' shutters and trim, with blossoming bougainvillea cascading down, all picture perfect postcard scenes. All the tiny boutique shops, bars and cafes welcome the arrival of around 4 cruise ships a day in summer, there was just 1 in while we were there at that was busy enough.

We had heard about 'Paradise', an area on the southern coast not far from our anchorage so decided to catch the bus and check out Paradise. Basically its a beach resort that could have been in Thailand or the Caribbean, with thatched umbrellas, sun loungers and many many people. Its a major party spot, loud music, cocktails aplenty, go go dancers, partiers dancing on the table tops - and we went at about 5pm!!! We didn't stay for the full moon party, this was way out of our league.

2 nights and one full day seemed enough for Mykonos, so we lifted anchor and motored south in no wind and glassy seas to Paros. There is a small harbour on the northern coast, but with 3 over 20m power boats tied up it didn't leave much room for anyone else, so we anchored off in a Plastiras Cove a nearby sheltered bay for the night. The plan was to spend a couple of days here, then go across to the neighbouring island of Naxos and leave Balvenie tied up for 3 days while we caught the ferry down to Santorini. However we are ever flexible and after hearing the morning radio net which gave a 5day weather forecast of very light winds we decided to point the bow south, ever conscious of the fact that we would have to put the miles back in north again. The weather was warming, the dreaded meltemi winds possibly about to strike at any time, we knew we would not be able to seek shelter in the small marina as we draw too much, but life is full of gambles and sailing our own yacht into the crater of Santorini appealed, so south it was!

Cruising Info:
Mykonos.. Ormos Ornos - 37 25.14N 25 19.37E 13m sand & weed but can see bottom, can go further in but quite busy and more noise from the shore
There is a free dock on the inside of the cruise ship dock which many were using, you need to catch the bus to town from either and Ormos Ornos was closer for us to leave heading south
Paros.. Plastiras Cove - 37 07.56N 25 13.17E 7m sand Harbour wall would have been good if room, some parts closed off for charter fleets
Internet - Unlocked Wifi onboard in Ormos Ornos most of the time, no signal on Paros
Money - ATM's in Ormos Ornos
Provisions - Small grocery and bakery Ormos Ornos. Good Fruit & Veg shop Mykonos town just by bus station
Formalities - none
Sightseeing - Local buses around Mykonos 1.40Euro, most hourly but not regular times past the hour

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Mykonos ..... June 2009

When we bought Balvenie there was a framed photo print on the bulkhead in the forward "guests" cabin. It looked great there, quite colourful and peaceful, and it made us dream of faraway places, way over the horizon. It is a photo of Mykonos, in the Greek Cyclades Island group.

So here we were in Mykonos, at last after over 5 years of heading over many horizons we have made it so we set out on our quest to find the shot of our print.

We headed into Mykonos town and down to the waterfront area, really not knowing where to start. It is an island after all, it could be anywhere.

And there it was, just like that, looking just a little different but certainly still recognizable. Unfortunately our camera doesn't have quite as wide an angle but we have got it, mission accomplished. Another one on the list of must do's successfully crossed off!!
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Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Cyclades at last, Aegean Sea, Greece ..... June 2009

31 May - 04 June 2009

***The town wall harbour at Ermoupolis, Siros***After several 100's of steps the stunning view back down looking southeast*** Bourangvillias in full bloom on Siros***Meze taster of famous Syrian (from Siros not Syria!!) sausages***

We had enjoyed our stay at Skyros, despite our midnight harbour excursion to re-anchor, but there is always somewhere else to go and explore and we wanted to start heading further south into the Cyclades Island Group, famous world wide as home to Mykonos and Santorini. The infamous northerly "meltimi" winds start to kick in by mid June as things warm up, and our goal is to be out of the Aegean by then. With all this in mind we did another long day and knocked off 65 miles, in reasonable downwind conditions and put in plenty more practice gybing the pole (unfortunately there were islands in the way we had to go around, and of course the winds keeps changing directions around these islands too!!).

We just did an overnight stay in the harbour of Gavrion on Andros, at anchor, as suggested in the Greek Waters Pilot "as far out of the way of the ferries as possible". It was Sunday night, and a ferry had left as we arrived so we anchored as suggested all tucked away but not expecting to even see another ferry. Well we arrived at 7.30pm - 3 more huge ferries came in before dark, bearing down on us at what seemed great speed then stopping, turning reversing, unloading and refilling in minutes and off again. One more overnight and then the previous nights 3 back again for seconds before we left at 9am, plenty of action. It isn't a very big island, heavily populated or very touristy, heavens know why so many ferries.

We left and headed for Siros, sailing again most of the way in variable light conditions. We pulled into the small harbour of Finikas on the southern coastline, amazed to find over 15 other yachts, we have found the charter boat route at last, hours of entertainment watching their comings and goings. We went ashore and spoke to the extremely helpful Harbour Master to see if we could get a berth on the inner harbour wall for a few nights as a very strong southerly was due the following night for 48 hours and there is a real lack of protected southerly anchorages around the islands near us. Next morning he moved some boats, changed some mooring lines and created a space we squeezed in to, his explanation as to why he had gone to so much work "you have sailed here all the way from New Zealand, we must look after you". What exceptional service, and for a port fee of 1Euro a night!!!

Today we caught the bus into the capital of Ermoupolis, what a great place. A grand neo classical Town Hall and surrounding square area, a rabbit warren of multi coloured houses - some beautifully restored, others crumbling around them, and if you need to do a serious hill session, look no further. We climbed steps, up and up, then up some more (Lonely Planet suggests catching bus up and walking back down, probably a good idea!), until we were up at the top. There is a large church up there, unfortunately locked, but the vista was worth it overlooking Tinos to the north, Mykonos, Delos and Renia to the east and Paros and Naxos to the south. Down the countless marble steps was much easier but we built up a healthy appetite so stopped in a little cafe, on yet another marble paved alleyway, overhung with vines and bougainvillea and sampled some Syrian sausages for lunch, somewhat unusual but very tasty. Then we had an hour to kill before our return bus so gravitated to the quayside for a drink, watching the yachts and ferries coming in and enjoying all the related activity.

The bus trip alone was worth the outing, as it goes round in a circle, so we got an island tour thrown in as well, lots of tiny vineyards, many shade houses with tomatoes inside, some small tourist accommodations, a few sandy beaches - all in all if you want to get off the main Greek Islands tourist trail and find somewhere more Greek, this would be hard to beat.

So we sit here still, tonight will be our third night on the wall, the winds have come and gone and really we should move, ah maybe tomorrow, the sun is shining, the sea still brilliant blue, and its really warming up now - currently 27degrees at 8pm.

Cruising info:
Anchorages -
Gavrion, Andros ... 37 53.152N 24 43.897E 3.5m sand. Very little ferry wash. Go in as far as you can in the northwest corner. There was no room on the wall as boats were side tied and not very big
Finakas, Siros ... 37 23.693N 24 52.555E 8.8m find sandy spot outside moorings Holding good
Finakas, Siros ... 37 23.827N 24 52.601E 3.4m on inside wall, bow to with stern mooring line. Great spot. Outside berth untenable in strong southerlies - easterlies. Anchoring marginal unless you tuck in between mooring buoys (very few boats on buoys). Over on eastern side of bay, just north of Navy dock there is a new concrete jetty which some boats stern tied to during over 30knots southerlies, they were in flat water with very little swell.
Following for Siros as didn't go ashore in Andros
- Unlocked Wifi on and off at anchor, all the time on the wall. Internet cafe at little chandlery
Money - ATM machine on seafront, 2 minutes walk
Provisions - Excellent Bakery and adequate supermarket. Small chandlery (has Croatia courtesy flags for 3Euro) Fuel Mini tanker comes around dock at .96c euro per litre
Formalities - No port police, transit log not looked at. Wonderful Harbour master and his assistant. Power and water on the dock were charged, we didn't need them so just 1Euro p/n for berth
Sightseeing - Bus just by chandlery, catch it going either way. We caught 12.05pm to Ermoupolis and 4.30pm back. Cost 1.60Euro p/p o/w. Bus timetable on wall in taverna opposite ATM, not the easiest timetable to decipher. Ermoupolis very worthwhile, very "mediterranean"

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