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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