Gladlee of Guernsey
Monday 6th May, Patitiri, Alonnisos
We arrived at Patitiri this morning after a couple of changes of plan within the space of a few hours. Yesterday morning at Nisos Xero we thought we were going to head further up the channel inside the island of Evvia: this route involves passing the narrow bridge at Khalkis and then continuing north-westwards, with a final stretch north-eastwards round the top of Evvia to emerge just opposite the Sporades. Fortunately we happened to hear from “Explorer” on SSB yesterday morning that the bridge at Khalkis is closed for lengthy repairs, thus saving ourselves us a trip of 60-odd miles to a dead end! This left no alternative but to take the open water route up to the Sporades via Skiros, and we duly set off yesterday afternoon to head round the SE end of Evvia and northwards to Skiros. By early evening we had a flat calm and several sightings of dolphins, and it was at this stage that Nigel realised he’d completely miscalculated the distance to Skiros, which we were now due to reach sometime in the small hours of the morning! A further change of plan and a slight adjustment of course had us heading for Alonnisos instead, and after a very calm night we anchored stern to the quay at Patitiri under a rather grey sky in time for a latish breakfast this morning. We’ve had a quiet day catching up on sleep, doing a bit of shopping, getting some fuel from the local tanker and exchanging a word or two with some Bulgarians on a charter yacht (the only other foreign visitors were a German couple who made a sorry meal of trying to anchor in the harbour and eventually left). Patitiri was one of our ports of call during our flotilla holiday in 1989, but neither of us has any very clear recollection of it beyond the corner of the harbour where our fleet rafted up.
The month started with a pleasant holiday atmosphere on the waterfront at Tinos. We relaxed writing letters and watching the comings and goings, not least of the frequent inter-island ferries which charged into the harbour, turned to back into the quay and decanted their cargo as quickly as possible before leaving again. On the other side the occasional “Flying Dolphin” jetfoils came in and left even faster, so it was quite a lively scene. We helped a couple of yachts in as well, one of which (“Karyn Mor”) provided the rare sight of a CA burgee - we invited Norman and Yvonne Crabtree over for a drink later. The water man turned up during the afternoon and so we had some hasty showers and filling of water bottles before topping our tank up. The price demanded for the water was ludicrous and Julie set about bargaining this down, eventual success being achieved with the help of some sympathetic Greek tourists! Thursday brought a normal atmosphere again, except for the extraordinary sight of a penitent elderly lady crawling on hands and knees up the long main street to the shrine on the hill - this is a fairly normal occurrence, it seems, and nobody else seemed to be giving it a second look. We shopped, put through a call to James and gave the Crabtrees some information on Turkey over a cup of coffee before heading off mid-morning in what looked a promising SW breeze. This typically died a short distance out, and we were headed along the coast of Tinos until we got to the channel separating Tinos and Andros. This gave us the SW again and a little over an hour’s sailing before even the main had to come down. We looked into Batsi, but there was scarcely any room behind the small quay, and a substantial swell ruled out anchoring anywhere else in the bay: we pushed on to Gavrion. This is a well-sheltered natural harbour with quite a substantial commercial quay, but we were happy to anchor out of the way at the end of the bay and had a quiet night.
Next day brought another mixed-up lot of wind for the crossing from Andros to Evvia. We got an hour and a half’s sail in southerly F3/4 as we passed the Doro Strait between the two islands (often a lot of wind and a strong current here), but it died as we headed up between Evvia and the Greek mainland. Earlier on off Andros we’d had the main up and down within 20 minutes, and a brief last puff of Evvia saw us try the genoa for a minute or two before giving up for the day. By late afternoon we’d manoeuvred ourselves past the bar and into the lovely scenery of the Petali Islands, where we found a cove on the W side of Nisos Xero. The only other inhabitant was an American fishing boat, and they left on Saturday morning. The view across to mainland Greece was fine enough, but the shore was a spectacular carpet of spring flowers and our walks ashore were a real delight. Considering it was weekend we had a reasonably quiet time on Saturday, but weekend visitors started to turn up in greater force yesterday, and after a final stroll ashore we decided to get going - to Alonnisos, as it turned out!
Monday 13th May, Panormos Bay, Skopelos
We’ve based ourselves here at Panormos for the past few days, having the southern anchorage more or less to ourselves for much of the time. We spent our first couple of nights out here on our Sunsail flotilla in 1989, and the scenery seemed a lot more familiar than that of Alonnisos when we sailed in from Vasiliko last Thursday. It’s pretty and still unspoiled, though inevitably there seems to be rather more traffic on the coast road. We went over to Skiathos on Friday to do some shopping for the weekend: the quay was quite noisy and crowded even at this early stage in the season. A Sunsail girl gave us some helpful advice on supplies, and just opposite our mooring we found the café where we’d had our first briefing in ‘89, with the same family still running it. We had a good morning in town, exchanging faxes with James, talking on the phone to Jo and Margaret Wildig (the latter about our contribution to Tony’s birthday album), getting good food supplies and picking up a fresh gas bottle - the beers were good, too! Otherwise Panormos has been a very pleasant pause, with catching up on admin and playing about with the radio. Apart from listening to the FA Cup Final on Saturday we also picked up Russ of “Hygelig” reporting his arrival at the Isle of Wight, which was the first news we’ve heard of him since our cruise in company in the Black Sea almost two years ago. The odd Sunsail and other charter boat has been in, but we are further in than where they’re briefed to park and our corner is quite peaceful.
We had sad news this morning when Gisela told us over the radio that Wally of “Maid of Chips” had died from his leg injury - not the easiest man to get on with, to put it mildly, but you couldn’t fault him for guts and he was fun to be around when sober. Enid must have had quite a time trying to manage him, and one wonders whether she’ll miss him a lot or eventually breathe a sigh of relief! Arrivals during the day included a Sunsail flotilla, which brought back memories as they rafted up along the west side of the creek. We went over to the restaurant at Panormos for dinner and chatted to some of the Sunsail crowd, who’d set out from Lavrion. Unfortunately they hadn’t been as lucky as we were with information on Khalkis and had done the “falsie” all the way up to the bridge!
Another arrival today was a very small German yacht with whom we’d shared our anchorage on the south side of Vasikilo on Peristeri before making our way to Panormos. We motored up there from Patitiri, passing on the way another remembered stop on the flotilla cruise, the little harbour at Steni Vala. Vasiliko proved to be quite hard work for anchoring in relatively deep water, and we ended up a little closer to the Germans than was ideal, but we seemd to hold all right through a couple of days of fairly stiff N to NE wind gusting up to F5 at times. There was a little settlement at the end of the creek with some friendly ducks, and there were lots of gulls about as well as a pair of Eleanora’s falcons. Julie spent some time on Wednesday making a Madagascar ensign (there’s planning fior you!) while N. got on with some notes for the CA. J. rowed ashore later but didn’t find anything particularly interesting. The Germans had left earlier in the day and the only other boat in sight was a Sunsail charter which came into the creek but pushed off again. The trip westwards down to Panormos was a funny old mixture, with all sorts of wind until lunchtime, when we picked up a WNW increasing to F4, then a NNE out of the channel between Alonnisos and Skopelos (memories of the blow when we’d crossed that stretch with our flotilla......) and a final few gusts up to F5 before we lost the wind in mid-afternoon on the SW side of Skopelos. It was quite a fun trip on what turned into a fine and sunny day.
Saturday 18th May, Ormos Sikias, Khalkidhiki
We’re making our way up the NE side of the central promontory (udder?) of the Khalkidhiki after leaving the Sporades yesterday. The Khalkhidiki has much richer vegetation than the Greek islands we’ve been more used to, and the coastline promises to be as lovely as we’ve been led to expect. The bay here at Sikios has some tourist development round its shores, and unfortunately (for us) there’s some rather noisy further road construction going on involving an earthmover. Otherwise its an attractive enough shoreline, though the most striking thing in sight is Mount Athos across the water to the NE, a very handsome mountain of which we’ve had a magnificent view in the day’s sunny weather. We had a straightforward 9-hour passage yesterday, sailing the first four hours in a gentle WSW to W breeze before it packed up to leave us in a flat calm by lunchtime. Our landfall in the Khalkidhiki was at Porto Khoufo on the SW tip of the middle promontory, and as we neared it we passed through several shoals of tuna frolicking about on the surface in the calm conditions (we failed to catch any, needless to say!).
Porto Khoufo is a virtually landlocked natural harbour, and the end next to the small village is busy with fishing boats: there’s also a resident yacht charter fleet, much of the remaining quay is fouled with wreckage and rubbish, and there’s a few laid moorings about as well. There’s not much room left for visiting boats, but we found a space reasonably out of the way, and Julie managed to get the anchor in a space free of weed at the second attempt. We found a “supermarket” on shore which didn’t seem to have a lot to offer, but at least there were beers at the taverna by the harbour. Fishing boat activity went on well into the night, so we were quite pleased not to be moored alongside. This morning Nigel set off to do some shopping and get some cash at the more substantial town of Nea Marmara, a few miles along the coast. Getting there was easy enough, thanks to a lift from a passing small truck, and the shopping at the town wasn’t at all bad, with quite a pleasant low-key holiday atmosphere. The problems started with trying to get back to Porto Khoufo, though. N. waited for a bus which he’d been assured was due in half an hour, only to discover from another informant that it wouldn’t show up until mid- afternoon. He started walking out of town towards the junction with the main coast road, getting a lift for the last mile or so from a friendly travelling salesman. Unfortunately this Good Samaritan was heading north instead of south, and everyone passing southwards on the main road was either going to the resort a couple of miles away or wasn’t interested in picking up even a quite respectable-looking hitchhiker. After three-quarters of an hour of fruitless thumb-waving N. gave up and trudged back to town, where a sympathetic restaurant waiter produced water and rang up a taxi agency along the road - maybe a taxi would be free in half an hour...... At this point the Fates relented: an off-duty taxi appeared on the scene and consented for a vast fee to deliver N. back to Porto Khoufo!
Our last three days in the Sporades were spent getting up to our jumping-off point for the Khalkidhiki, the island of Pelagos where we also had some happy memories from our flotilla holiday. We had a brief sail in NNW F4 on the way back round to Patitiri, where we’d decided to call in again to get food and water (the latter exorbitantly expensive on the quay at Skiathos - we were quoted the equivalent of £16 for a minimum of 1 ton!). We moored on the quay again at Patitiri and did food shopping before casting off before going over to the very shallow jetty across the way for water. At this point we’d discovered that we’d fouled the next door motor-cruiser’s line, but Julie managed to dive and sort it out with the minimum of fuss before we just squeezed into the opposite jetty. Here a very friendly and cheerful lady in the café over the road produced a rather decrepit hose and we duly tanked up: we were charged the same rate pro rata as we’d been offered at Skiathos, but at least we were only paying for as much as we could carry! It was looking overcast and there were showers about as we made our way up the channel north-eastwards again: the wind was a bit erratic, but we managed to sail most of the way from just past Steni Vala across to Ormos Paignio (Kira Panayia) on Pelagos, where we anchored in a lovely bight with crystal-clear water in the late afternoon. The weather cleared up and it was a beautiful evening: apart from some handsome goats it felt as though we’d got the whole expanse of hills, islands and sea to ourselves (there were actually three yachts at the end of the bay, but they were out of sight from our deck!). Wednesday morning was sunny, and we motored up the rugged west side of the island in light wind, eventually making our way through the channel leading into the huge bay of Planedhi and anchoring more or less where we’d stayed in company with “Niki” during our free-sailing on the flotilla. A few small fishing-boats were coming and going to the shore opposite, and we were startled at one point by a couple of Greek air force F-16s which came through the bay at a few feet above the water. Otherwise it was a lovely day, with the ubiquitous goats sharing the shore with lots of Eleanora’s falcons. We got unusually good propagation on the radio, talking to “Tunnix” in the morning and picking up the UK net (including Ken and others) as well. We even managed to get a fine evening for one of our rare barbecues, and if Thursday took a little longer to brighten up it was still lovely to take a day off and a break from travelling.
Thursday 23rd May, Nisos Ammouliani
We haven’t had a particularly happy evening here at the small harbour of Ammouliani island, just south of the landward end of the Athos peninsula. We arrived at 17.30 and moored in a space off the small quay, finding that there was very limited food shopping ashore and virtually nothing fresh. Beers were at least available at the bar on the quay, but we had to abandon these in a hurry after a ferry made it clear (politely enough, in the circumstances) that we were in his space. We moved out and re-moored, rather efficiently in the circumstances, then returned to our beers. When the bill was presented it turned out that there was a large surcharge on beers in a “bar” (which we were apparently at) as opposed to a taverna. None of this has particularly endeared us to Ammouliani, and we’ve decided to leave early tomorrow for Limnos.
Our home for the past few days has been the lovely island of Dhiaporos, which lies in a miniature archipelago off the coast southwards of Ammouliani. We settled ourselves into the bay that faces the mainland on the SE side of Dhiaporos last Sunday, after making our way up the coast from Sikias bay (we’d moved over to the N side of Sikias to try and get out of earshot of the earthmover, but it got too windy to stay). The coastline is very attractive, with lots of green trees and hills behind, and the occasional beach with a bar or small campsite but no serious development. Progress was gentle with the genoa, but we made better headway after setting the ‘chute and had a good sail, even meeting some dolphins on the way. We had a hesitation or two before we found the channel through the reefs to go inshore of Dhiaporos (the Wittons’ sketch in Heikell’s pilot seemed a bit off beam), but eventually we were comfortably anchored in only 3 metres by soon after 17.00. The island is a great place to explore, with paths across it but nobody about, and a variety of greenery, trees and wild flowers. There are lots of nice views of the anchorages and of the mainland beyond, too (the mainland’s far enough away that traffic noise hardly ever percolates as far as the island). On the northern side of the island there are a couple of very wealthy looking properties, which we took a closer look at during a lunch stop in the N cove today, but no-one seems to be in residence at the moment. There are scarcely any other boats around the area, and the peace, quiet and shelter of the SE anchorage were really wonderful, not to mention some lovely clear water. Our stay in this paradise was made all the more memorable by the company of Rob and Suzanne on “Caviar” for a couple of days, Australians who are doing the circuit of the northern Aegean in the opposite direction to ourselves (we’d been in touch on the radio for some time). We had a couple of good evenings together, with a BBQ on “Gladlee”, a curry on “Caviar” , and lots of good chat late into the evenings - we were particularly interested in their Red Sea experiences, of course - and we were sorry to wave goodbye to them this morning.
The weather’s been variable but never unpleasant, and the one really hot and sunny day was Tuesday, when we motored round into the next bay and anchored off the small hamlet of Panayia. We’d hoped to get supplies from the store there, but they didn’t have any fresh meat or veg. We understood from the pilot that it wasn’t far to the village of Agios Nikolaos, so we set off up to the main road. Fortunately we got a lift here from some German tourists, because it turned out that Ag.Nik. was a good 6 kilometres away! It turned out to be a pleasant village with good shopping, and we didn’t have too far to walk before we got a lift back down the main road to the turn off for Panayia. There was beer at the store, fortunately, so we rowed back to "Gladlee" and set off back to Dhiaporos, quite well stocked and just in time to welcome “Caviar”.
Monday 27th May, Mithimna, Lesvos
We arrived here late this afternoon, after a long day’s motoring from Moudhros on Limnos in light winds and a fair amount of course changing to avoid coastal traffic. It’s a shame to have had such a long passage with only a brief half-hour’s attempt at sailing, particularly after a similarly disappointing effort from the Khalkidhiki to Limnos. We thought that going roughly west to east across the Aegean we might have got some decent sailing wind from one direction or another! Anyway it’s nice to be in Lesvos again, which we liked very much when we visited the east and south sides of the island on the way back from the Black Sea in 1994. Mithimna, on the north-west corner of Lesvos, has a pretty harbour with a steep road leading up to the narrow winding streets of the village above, and at the very top of the hill there’s the remains of a castle. The views are attractive and the place is well kept and clean. The only slight fly in the ointment was the appearance of an official who summoned Nigel to his office to pay a harbour charge, but since this was the first time we’d had to pay since our original arrival in Simi we couldn’t complain too much! We decided to treat ourselves to dinner out on our last evening in Greece, and we chose a small restaurant on the harbour front with tables outside. We ordered stifado from the friendly young couple running the place, whereupon we noticed that it was called “O Pharos” - a curious coincidence, since it was at “O Pharos” at Plomari, on the southern end of Lesvos, that we’d had our previous outstanding stifado (no connection, we were told). Certainly this matched up to Plomari’s effort, and it was a delightful setting for what we suppose will be our last evening in Greece for a long time to come.
Our farewell to the Khalkidhiki involved our sailing gently along the spectacular steep coastline along to Mount Athos, passing about half of the monasteries on the northern peninsula, which is a self-administering religious community. Some of the monasteries are magnificent, originally built for large communities, but there are also small settlements housing a handful of monks pursuing their own particular rite. There are even hermits dotted about the peninsula in greater or lesser degrees of isolation, as well as artists of one sort or another. Unfortunately we had to leave very early to make sure we got to Limnos in daylight. This wasn’t the best time of day to see the coast, but it was still an unforgettable sight. Mount Athos itself looked progressively less spectacular as we approached it, thanks to our closeness to the shore and some unsettled weather. We started to get gusts up to F5 and put a reef in, but 20 minutes or so later we were in a virtual calm and had to resort to the engine. Only half an hour later we were back in F4/5 from the east, and as we came clear of the headland into the open sea the swell got quite uncomfortable for a while. Eventually the wind settled down to ENE F4, and it was clear that we were going to have a tedious motor-sail all the way to Limnos. Apart from a sighting of dolphins the only event on the passage was the sight of “Salvation Jane” passing in the opposite direction: we had a brief chat on HF, and the encounter did at least alert us to the fact that our VHF radio wasn’t working (probably the aerial disconnected). We did get a brief sail on the genoa as we approached Limnos - the wind backed to NE before dying altogether - and by 1930 we were anchored in Ormos Plati on the SW side of Limnos. It was nice to get a call from “Caviar”, who’d got as far as Pelagos in the Sporades.
There wasn’t anything very exciting about Plati, where we stayed on Saturday. It was a surprise to find that the hotel/holiday complex at one end of the bay had recently been taken over by a British group and was full of Brit staff and holidaymakers. Nigel had a quick look inside in the course of a wander ashore to test the VHF (he’d found and fixed a break in the co-ax connection on the deck), and it looked quite a well-equipped place. J. spent the day making up some straps for the storage lockers and an ingenious bottom catch for the bottom of the fridge. After a reasonably leisurely start yesterday we motored the few miles round to Moudhros, the huge inlet which has featured in several famous episodes in naval history, most notably in the First World War Dardanelles campaign. We made our way up and into a side channel leading to Ormos Vourlidhia, which looked as if it should be well sheltered in the current conditions. The pilot reported that there was an island in the bay, while “Caviar” had been adamant that there wasn’t. (We decided in the end that both were right, since the island disappeared at high water!). A pleasant enough place, but not worth staying for another day today.
Friday 31st May, “Shelduck Island” (Kumru Koyu), Ayvalik
We’re back in one of our favourite anchorages on the Turkish coast, in the large inlet of Kumru Koyu at the SW end of the sheltered “lake” at Ayvalik. This is an area which has so far been spared development, though it’s within sight of the busy waterfront of Ayvalik. At the far end there’s a small island, which we named after the family of shelducks living there when we first anchored nearby. Happily the shelducks are still in the area, now with a family of nine chicks whom Julie found on a nearby lagoon yesterday. They are occasionally taken out for exercise on the main water in a gaggle, even in the quite choppy and windy conditions today. There are other birds about which Julie spotted during her expedition ashore this morning, such as a Black-winged Stilt, a Little Plover and a Green Woodpecker. Otherwise we’ve had quite a busy couple of days’ work in unsettled conditions: we’ve cleaned woodwork, polished whitework and metal, painted the dinghy seat, varnished the cockpit table and the ensign staff, as well as changing all the oil and filters. We’ve had the place more or less to ourselves, except for a brief visit from a motorboat, the occasional fishing boat as well as a British yacht at anchor some way away. There was chat with several friends on the 1800 radio schedule today, including a fun-sounding American lady (Pat) on “Laura Lee”, whom we hope to meet a little further down the coast. “Tunnix” came up yesterday morning: they’re in Latakia.
Our departure from Mithimna on Tuesday followed some final shopping and a radio contact with “Sunshine”: The wind looked quite good at first, but as we got round the cape outside Mithimna we got headed and ran into some quite unpleasant seas and gusty wind (the local fishing boats knew a thing or two and hugged the shore. We tacked frequently down the N coast of Lesvos and across to the Ayvalik archipelago, where we decided that Poyraz Adasi was too open to stop at. Once inside the archipelago the wind came round S, and we managed to sail through the buoyed channel as far as Alibey - the buoyed channel was handy for adjusting the alignment of the radar as we read the buoys on either side. It was too late to start checking in at Ayvalik, so we made our way down to Kumru Koyu. We’d meant to stop Ayvalik’s harbour while checking in the following morning, but the harbour was in a mess while being converted into a yachting marina. We went on along Ayvalik’s waterfront looking for anywhere to stop, and were beckoned in to a quay which turned out to be the Customs’. This all seemed remarkably convenient, and the friendly chap who’d helped us in took Nigel off to do the circuit of the officials. It was a few minutes before it dawned on N. that our friend was an agent rather than an official, and it was to the agent’s credit that he took being dismissed without any fuss (he even greeted N. quite cheerfully as N. made his way back to the boat after completing the formalities himself. After a quick shop we made our way up to the fuel jetty, where we were delighted to find that the bus station (where we were to meet the Tebbits) was just across the road. We got fuel and water, Julie did a lot of laundry while N. went over to find out about buses, whereupon there was a violent thunderstorm and a downpour, followed by F5/6 as we made our way across to Alibey harbour. The weather stayed thoroughly unsettled, but N. got ashore later to phone James and Alison T., also catching a miniature ceremony in Alibey’s small square in honour of a local hero (some slightly comic, not to mention damp, goings-on!). Alibey’s quite an interesting place - a former Greek town - but the harbour’s not all that a comfortable place to stay, and we were quite glad to get back to our favourite “Shelduck” anchorage yesterday morning.