Tuesday 29 September 2015

Tuesday 29 September 2015 – Leros Marina

A strange day today.  The plan was to leave Arki fairly early.  Despite our worries the anchor held well. But I don’t think it ever dug in properly.  When we took the anchor up there was a huge ball of weed on the chain, but that is jumping ahead of the game.

We were woken fairly early by the goats.  I didn’t mention them yesterday.  There is a flock of goats that wanders around the bay.  They all have bells on and as they go back and forth they jingle.  It is an extraordinary sound.

Despite the goats we didn’t actually get away until 10am.  But we didn’t have far to go.  We were recommended to go to an anchorage on the south of Lipso.  Jonnie sent us an e-mail saying that it is lovely and has a nice restaurant.  Having cooked the last of our fresh food last night, the plan is to eat out. 

The wind has been building since yesterday.  As we leave the anchorage we find that it is blowing a good force 4 and for a change it is in the right direction.  So we are able to sail all the way to the anchorage, which was only just over 8 miles away.    The pilot book said the holding here is poor in sand and weed.  But to the contrary we find it to be good and much better than last night.  We set the anchor first time and it digs in well into sand. We are quite close in to shore and not far from a pontoon where you can take your dinghy to go ashore.  R says it is so close that there is no need to put the motor on the dinghy, and he can row.  I am less convinced, but we shall see how the weather progresses.

Although the sun is out and there are not many clouds, with the wind building it still feels cool.  However  most of the other people in the bay (and there are 6 or more boats including a Gulet) seem to be swimming.  So it being one of our last chances to swim off the boat we go in before lunch.  It is cool but nice.  Richard confirms he can see that the anchor is well dug in, so we seem fine for the night.

We laze around a bit after lunch, but then decide to row in to the shore to make a reservation at the restaurant and maybe to find some WIFI.  But we are in for a shock.  The restaurant is closed.  It looks like they have given up for the rest of the year.  So, no WIFI, and no supper!  All I have on board is pasta with the possibility of at least 4 sauces.  So we won’t starve, but it is a disappointment.

Back on the boat we decide to try R’s English phone to get some internet.  He cannot download the paper or the Archers, but he is able to get a weather forecast.  Now we are in for our second shock.  The forecast has deteriorated since we last looked on Monday morning and now says that the wind will build up over night to a force 6 with waves in the morning of over a metre.  The wind will be northerly, which means the journey to Leros will be downwind, but it could be quite uncomfortable.

So we make a hurried decision to leave and go to Leros.  It means getting there a day early, but that is preferable to 2-3 days late!  It is after 3:30 when we finally leave.  It is blowing up to the top of a force 5.  This makes for quite a good sail.  It starts out as a beam reach, and then turns into a run.  But we never go much below 5 knots in speed and usually are closer to 6.  We sail all the way up to the entrance to the harbour, where we finally put the engine on and take down the sails.  R is very pleased with this final sail of the season.

They were not expecting us at the marina until tomorrow, so they took some time to find us a berth.  But here we are in our temporary home.  We have sorted out the contract for leaving the boat here.  Tomorrow we shall organise the work we want done on the boat over the winter and start to pack up.  The boat comes out of the water on Monday morning and we fly home Monday afternoon.  The boat is provisionally booked to be refloated on 4 May!

Well, that is just about it for the season.  When I get home I will write a little epilogue, but in the meantime goodbye to you all.

Monday 28 September 2015 – Arki

There was supposed to be a lunar eclipse last night.  So we set the alarm to wake us up at 4am to see it.  When we got up we could see no moon at all, but that had nothing to do with the eclipse.  It was entirely clouded over.  Not only that but as we put our heads outside the cabin it began to rain!  So we gave up, took down the wind scoop so that rain did not come in through the forward cabin hatch and went to bed.

We were awakened by a lot of noise and shouting on the shore.  When we went to see what it was about we saw a large group of immigrants, presumably rescued from the sea last night on the balcony of an official building (Police Station?) with policemen trying to organise them.  Eventually they all seemed to have been accounted for and then they went to the ferry terminal.  There was the usual majority of young men, but also this time a lot of children and some women.  On shore Richard heard someone say that over 100 had arrived over night.  That is probably more than the population of this small island.

The morning was very grey with a bit of rain.  So we took it easy and had a very late start and did not get away until 11:30.  When we got up to the cockpit we were a bit surprised to find it covered in bits of black thread-like bits.  We thought at first that is might have been left over from the BBQ last night.  But as we left the harbour we saw that there was a big bush fire on the hills outside and the bits were from that!  Later we saw a seaplane scooping up water from the sea and dropping it on the fire!

We were pleasantly surprised to find 11 knots of wind blowing just outside the harbour and for a change it was not exactly on the nose, but was an upwind sail.  However we were able to sail all the way to the island of Arki, about 15 miles away.  It was a nice force 4 all the way.  We only had to turn the engine on to get into the bay itself.  We are in a little place called Port Stretto.  There are two parts to the bay.  We went into the first, which has a taverna which has mooring buoys.  We hoped to be able to pick one up, but found there were only 4 and they were all occupied.  The book suggests you can anchor there, but there was little room and the bottom seemed to be mostly weed.  So we went to the other side where there were 4 or 5 boats anchored.  The book suggests that the holding is good, with sand and weed.  This was not our experience.  We tried three times to get the anchor to bite, only to find it dragging.  We then went further in and put the anchor down, but we are still not entirely convinced that it has dug in well.  We are swinging a lot and there has been more wind than expected - about 10-13 knots.  The real problem is that we are quite close to another boat behind us.  We have set the plotter to show if we move and so far it looks OK, but we might have a worrisome night!

This would have been a lovely spot to swim off the boat, and a number of the occupants of the other boats were swimming.  However, it really is too cool for me.  There has been a lot of cloud, so the sun hasn’t warmed things up a lot.  With that and the wind, I am quite chilled and neither of us fancied a swim.

This is another episode which won’t get posted for a couple of days.  We have certainly used up all our credit on the internet machine.  Richard used his UK phone, paying the £3 a day charge for international access.  That was OK in Agathonisi, but here there is no 3G signal!  So we are not connected to the outside world.

One other small matter.  My telephone with the Greek Sim has lost its telephone function.  It is nowhere to be found on the machine.  We don’t know how it got turned off – or how to turn it back on.  A phone that doesn’t make calls is not a lot of use.   Another reason we need to find a Vodafone shop!

Sunday 27 September 2015 – Agathonisi

We spent yesterday in Vathy sightseeing.  We did get to the archaeological museum which had some wonderful statues from the temple of Hera.  Then Richard decided that it was necessary to see the old town.  It turned out to be very difficult to find and a very long walk up the hill.  When we finally go there nothing much was going on.  There were no shops or cafes.  The only two restaurants were not open.  There were a couple of general stores which had ads for ice cream outside, but none inside.  The weather had turned very hot and of course it was midday (mad dogs and Englishman time, as I call it).  We finally bought a bottle of water in one of the shops and sat in terrace in the shade in the square.  The buildings are interesting, but frankly not worth the walk in the heat of the day.

Back to the boat, did some shopping for food for the next couple of days and then eventually dinner out.

Today we have decided to start back south towards Leros where we will leave the boat.  The weather forecast is for the wind to go around to the west and then the north and be very gentle.  So we can go to the places which were exposed to southerly winds on our way up.  The plan is to go to the harbour in Agathonisi.  It is a long hop, so we start early on.

We expected to be able to sail a bit, but the wind is still in the south as we go along and is only 4-5 knots.  So it is another motoring job.  We again see dozens of life jackets strewn on every headland. 
We get here at about 2:30pm.  It is a tiny place.  There is a harbour wall and some boats are moored there, but we want to anchor, so we do.  The idea is to swim off the boat, but I am not warm enough to do so.  There has been a lot of cloud around and it is quite cool.  Richard does go in to check on the anchor, which is not dug in as well as we would hope, but seems to be OK, especially as the wind has died completely.

We should really have rowed ashore, but I was too lazy.  We just stayed on the boat and eventually lit the BBQ and cooked our steaks on it.  We will go ashore in the morning.  We seem to have run out of credit on our internet machine – or there is not a good enough signal here, which would not be surprising given the tiny size of the village.  I did suggest to R that he pop into the Vodafone shop yesterday morning, but he poo pooed the idea and now we can’t connect.  So I won’t be able to post this tonight.  Maybe in the morning.

Friday 25 September 2015

Friday 25 September 2015 – Vathy, Samos

We tried to get away early again, but as usual were a bit dopey in the morning and didn’t get away until nearly 10am.  But it really didn’t matter.  We were only going 15 miles around the island to the town of Vathy.  The day is very bright, but there are quite a few big fluffy cumulous clouds around.  There is also very little wind.  For a change the wind is behind us, but was too weak to help us along.  We tried to sail at one point when the wind got up to 10 knots, but it didn’t last long enough to get us anywhere.  So we motored all the way.  It got very hot at one stage, but then the sun went behind the clouds and it was quite cool. 

On the way we saw much more evidence of the migrants.  As I have said, this island is only one mile from Turkey so it attracts a lot of boats of migrants.  So at every bit of the coast we saw discarded life jackets and some deflated ribs.  At one small headland Richard counted over 35 life jackets.  So in all we think there must have been hundreds, even possibly thousands of them.  We have said that we haven’t seen any actual migrants so far, but more of that later.

At lunchtime we arrive in Vathy.  We are a bit surprised at the facilities.  The pilot book had suggested that there were two places to moor.  A town quay where there were no facilities and you have to put out the anchor and a small boats harbour, which may be limited to local fishing boats.  But it is very different when we arrive.  The town quay has been done up.  It has pick up lines and water and electricity.  The only problem is that there does not seem to be anyone running the place or anyone to take your lines.  So Richard gets prepared to jump off to deal with the lines when a kind Englishman comes and helps us.  The only problem is that we make a mess of moving to a suitable pick up line and cut one of the lines!  We feel terrible.  But there are plenty more and not many boats, so we manage to moor safely and securely.  We are told that they are developing the town quay.  Last year there was nothing here and it was all dug up.  Now most of it is done, but they are not charging anything and even the water and electricity are free!  So this could be a good place to stay for a couple of nights.

After lunch and settling in we go for a walk.  We know there is a very good archaeological museum here, but we don’t know where it is and our guide book says it closes at 3pm.  We try to find a tourist office and do succeed, but only to find that it is closed.  The shop next door suggests it will reopen at 6pm, but when we go there at that time, it is still closed.  We will have to do all those things tomorrow.

So we have an ice cream and then go to the local café for a drink to get their WIFI password.  As they are right across the street we hope to use that instead of the dongle while we are here.

We then wash the boat with our free water.  Now we can see evidence of the migrants.  There is no tent town we can see here, but there are groups of what look like feral young men speaking Arabic and looking shabby.  They are very polite, smiling and saying hello, but there presence is a bit disturbing as we are rather exposed here in the centre of town.  But we have not heard of any problems.

We have dinner on the boat.  I am nearly out of provisions, so we shall have to shop tomorrow.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Thursday 24 September 2015 – Samos

We are still in Samos.  We were woken up at about 7am with a terrible shower.  The rain was pelting down and we had left all the hatches open to get some air through the boat.  So Richard had to run around closing things and mopping up. We just went back to bed.  When we got up an hour or so later the sky was very dark and threatening.  Also I had another terrible attack of sciatica, such that I couldn’t walk for about 2 hours until the pain killers kicked in.

So with all that going on we decided not to move on.  When I felt better we walked into the town, Pythagorio.  As the name suggests this island was the home of Pythagoras, him of the right angled triangles.  The town is really cute.  The pilot book suggested that we should stay in the town on the town pier.  But when we got there the pier was full and a lot of boats are anchored in the bay.  So as the town is only about 10 minutes walk from our boat we are pleased we moored in the marina.

We had expected to see signs of the immigrant influx here as the island is only one mile from the Turkish mainland.  On the walk to the town we did see some signs of the migrant problem.  There were at least two, if not three deflated large ribs and a number of life jackets discarded on the shoreline.  However, we saw no actual migrant people at all.  We have no idea where they could have gone.  We are also perplexed about what propels the boats.  They have transoms on which one would put an engine, but we have seen no engines and no oars.

In town we got to see most of the sights.  There is a castle with some old ruins nearby.  Then we went to the archaeological museum, which was very nice.  One really good aspect was that it is attached to a dig of the site of the old city of Samos and it puts the ruins in context.  We then saw the sculpture of Pythagoras.  We couldn’t see the ancient tunnel, which is closed, but that was OK.  I was getting tired.

Then we went back to the boat for a rest before going back to the village for dinner.  All very nice.  We will go to the next town on this island tomorrow.  The weather forecast looks much better.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Wednesday 23 September 2015 – Samos

There was no rain last night.  This morning the sun is shining and the winds seem light.  Our next door neighbour, an English couple, said their weather forecast was for more southerly winds with a rather big sea of up to a metre.  But Richard does not see that on his forecast.  We have been here three days and pretty much exhausted the place.  So we decide to move on.

It is agreed that the winds will continue to be southerly and there might be the odd shower of rain.  So we need to find somewhere sheltered from the south, again not easy to do as the prevailing wind is from the north and most harbours face south because of that.  But R does identify an anchorage on a very small island called Agathonisi.  So we will head towards that.  It is about 20 miles away, which isn’t too bad.

We finally fill up on water.  It cost us 1 euro!  The cost of mooring here is 6 euros a night and the electricity is also 6 euros.  We were also charged 4 euros for the help we received coming into the harbour.  All in all it is ridiculously cheap.  But it doesn’t pay to help arriving boats with their lines, which yachties do everywhere else.  Someone did this yesterday and the locals complained to the police that he was taking their living away from them and the last we saw was the poor man being driven away by the police – we don’t know if he spent a night in the cells for his act of kindness.

I buy a bit more food to keep us going for another two days as we are planning on anchoring in a fairly remote place.  We get away after 10:30, but it doesn’t matter.  We have no trouble taking up the anchor other than the fact that when it comes up it is so full of muddy sand and weed that I have to play with it dragging in the water for a least 5 minutes to clean it off.  Anyway we were well dug in!

The day progresses better than expected.  The wind is from the south or southwest at force 2 to 3 and we can put up the sails, but the winds are so light that we spend most of the time motor sailing.  We do sail for about an hour over lunch with the genoa poled out, but when we are down to doing less than 3 knots, we give up and put the engine back on.  As we approach our destination, we see what look like some white horses which normally only appear when the wind gets up to force 4 and Richard wonders if there are dolphins and looks again and there are 6 to 8 dolphins jumping across the bay.  It is rather a disappointment not to have them come closer, but they are always lovely to see.

We get to Agathonisi at about 3pm, but we are unimpressed with this alleged anchorage.  Most of it is too deep to anchor in and does not seem very protected from the wind.  When we find a couple of places where it is sheltered and not too deep, they do not look like there is sand on the bottom.  The whole area is very rocky and we are worried about the holding.  Finally it is not very attractive.  There is no one here, other than a rather shabby moored fishing boat.  On the land there are a couple of dilapidated structures and a digger!  There is evidence of immigrants having been here in the form of a few life jackets strewn on the rocky shores.  So we decide we do not want to stay here and continue on to Samos (where Pythagoras lived).

We will get to Samos fairly late (nearly 6pm is anticipated) so we decide to make for the marina.  It will be dull, but comfortable, and closest.  On the way the weather starts to close in.  There have been cumulous clouds around all afternoon, but as we approach Samos, it is clear they have turned into storm clouds.  We can see several places on the island where it is raining quite hard.  So we are prepared to get wet.  I get so cold at one point with there being no sun and a nice force 4 that I put on my waterproof jacket!  We are fairly lucky with the rain.  We get a very light fall from one cloud, but the sun soon comes out and there is the most spectacular rainbow.  It is a full arc right across the sea and the colours are very bright.  We have great fun watching it for some time.  A little later a second rainbow appears above the first one.  We have never seen this before and do not understand how it could happen.

By the time we get to Samos, the rain and the rainbows have gone and the sun is shining.  We are shown into a berth, where we get in very well.  After us three motorboats (all crewed by Turks) make a real mess of coming in.  So for a change we feel somewhat superior!

We have a drink in the marina café and then dinner on board.  We are not sure what we should do tomorrow.  The local village is a bit of a walk away.  We could walk there, or take the boat and moor in the harbour.  But our original plan was to go around to the north of the island to the main town, Vathi.  We shall think about it then.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Tuesday 22 September 2015 – Lipsi

Well we are still here in Lipsi.  Rather like Ulysses we are detained here longer than we hoped.  Yesterday was warm and sunny.  The forecast rain from 6pm onwards didn’t materialise.  We took an umbrella to the restaurant, just in case, and were the only ones to do so.  The bad weather didn’t arrive until about 5:30 this morning when we had a thunderstorm with huge amounts of lightening but very little thunder.  We do not know if it was a Sirocco as suggested by one of the mooring men. What it was, was heavy rain all morning and an afternoon with winds blowing between 8 and 20 knots.  The boat was moving around a bit and by the afternoon, when it stopped raining I was glad to get off and have a coffee in the nice bakery.

With this bad weather, and this being one of the few local harbours protected from a southerly wind, a lot of boats have been coming in.  The normal pontoon filled up on Monday afternoon.  They then put about 14 more boats on a wall on the opposite side of the harbour, usually used by fishermen.  Even more boats came in this morning and many are just anchored all over the place.  We are not sure what happens when the ferries come in!

With the heavy rain we of course discovered that we have a couple of leaks in the boat.  One, from the main hatch we knew about.  The padding on the top of the hatch has deteriorated and we had to pull it out.  That lets a drip in over the companionway.  Not dire, but annoying and we doubt there is much we can do about it without dismantling quite a lot of the boat.

The second leak is one we thought we had fixed last year.  That is water coming in through the mast fitting.  Richard tried to put some more sealant on, but only did it after it stopped raining and he is not entirely sure exactly where the leak is.  More rain is predicted for tonight and maybe he can then work it out.

The weather forecast isn’t great for tomorrow either.  So we are undecided whether we should go then or stay another day.  We do have lots of time before we need to be in Leros to put the boat away for the winter and we are running out of local places to go.