Saturday, 31 May 2014

The young and the old

Beers on the beach at Livadi, Astipalaia

There's a new reason for coming ashore now that Freddy's on board. He likes to run. Correction, he needs to run. Uphill, for preference. Potential for hill sprints is not something that Alex and I usually give much thought to in our chosen destinations,  but fortunately the south-eastern Aegean islands have obliged with roads of acceptably steep gradients.

Just enough depth for Enki at Palon harbour, Nisyros

Volcanic craters in the interior of Nisyros

The road above Livadhi anchorage is perfect for running

Above Katapola harbour, Amorgos

The south coast of Amorgos

Freddy also likes his food. I knew this in theory, and had stocked up the freezer in anticipation, but I admit I had forgotten how much bio-fuel young men need just to keep ticking over. Then you throw in the hill sprints...Freddy has been hungry sometimes, I think, but I'm getting into the groove (up early to make fresh bread and a batch of hummus before breakfast) and Freddy's learning to accommodate our oldster ways.

In Greece, the drinks are out in the open

After brekky snack - bread and honey

We've thrown him a few curly ones. Two fouled anchors in Symi harbour and a fishing net tangled in our anchor chain. Just to keep things interesting. Oh, and a very strong blow from the south-west which we weathered in an isolated anchorage at the top of Astipalea island. I suspect we probably do seem like a couple of stress balls when it comes to setting the anchor, but we learned a valuable lesson in that place, called Panormos.

Freddy finishes cutting net out of anchor chain

It was a spectacularly wild anchorage, populated only by goats and birds, and protected from every direction but the north and north-east. The bottom was sand and weed and the anchor pulled up strongly after skipping along for a few metres. The skipper was happy. We'd had three attempts to set the anchor in the previous anchorage, underneath the chora and Venetian castle of Astipalea.

Enki sits below the chora and castle at Astipalaia

Old windmills on Astipalaia

The season is nearly upon us - Astipalaia harbour

I have new goggles, and the water was fabulously blue, so at Panormos I did what we should always do, and jumped in to check how well the anchor had dug in. Actually, it hadn't dug in at all. It was caught on a rock.

Checking the anchor in Panormos

Freddy chooses not to use the outboard

We re-set the anchor, re-checked it, and when gusts of 40 plus knots came barrelling down the hills a few hours later, we were sitting much prettier than we would have been if we hadn't got in the water.

Settling in for the storm (and below)

So now, having done the wonderful thing of sailing 30 miles north-west across the Aegean (you have to pick your weather to do that), we're on the easternmost Cycladian island of Amorgos, best known for its spectacular monastery which clings to the cliffs like an icefall.

The monastery of Panayia of the Presentation

Track up to the monastery

Living quarters - 3 monks only live at the monastery now

The patriarchs of Amorgos

We came into Katapola harbour after a longish sail and found the inn was full. After the obligatory "tiki tour" of available options, we put down an anchor, just off the beach. The wind was blowing straight in. A lee shore - not ideal. "Oh well, at least if we drag, we'll go up on the beach," Alex said. He's not really a cavalier guy, so I figured he could live with the forecast wind strength.

This morning we came onto the town wall, and learned that a Moody yacht had been anchored off the beach in Katapola harbour on the night when the big gale blew through. Its anchor didn't hold, and yes, it ended up on the beach. Not nice.

No room on the wall at Katapola

Petrol tanker entering Katapola harbour

No-one eats lamb in the Greek islands, we were told on Amorgos

There's some luck involved in keeping your yacht from dragging at anchor, but there's also a large component of due diligence. I know Alex is a worry wart when it comes to anchoring, but I kind of like it that way.

Slowly does it....Symi tortoise

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Flag fall

We did leave Marmaris. Not without regrets, and not without a minor operational glitch, but hey, who ever leaves port without something not working the way it did when the boat was tied to the dock?

And look where we find ourselves... Could it be anywhere else but Greece?

Enki in Symi harbour

Enki (right) alongside Nutmeg (Malo 39)

Real estate sign going up signals the opening of the season

Evening in Symi harbour, near the customs house 

We spent our remaining lira on 2nd hand books in Datca
Datca, the charming coastal town where we checked out of Turkey, is so close that you feel you might hear the call of the muezzin if the wind were blowing from the right direction (mosque loudspeakers are certainly pitched loud enough these days). Symi is one of those Dodecanese islands which fit inside the curves of the Turkish coastline like a ball cupped in the hand. From Symi harbour, the Datca peninsula looms hazy blue in the afternoon heat, thunderous-looking clouds rising like souffles above its jagged ridge lines. Ah, but that's Turkish weather over there, isn't it?

Enki at anchor in North Bay, Datca

Between Datca and Symi we crossed a line on a chart. What of it? The sea which traditionally provided a living for Symi sponge divers and shipbuilders is the same brilliant blue as along the Turkish Aegean coast where the same wild herbs grow out of the rocks - oregano, thyme, sage. But there is no denying that we are in another country here. You can manipulate the physical boundaries, but religion, and the history of religion, draws heavy lines between peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean. We've left the strictures of Islam over the water. Tomorrow no doubt church bells will ring out across Symi harbour.

The best view is always from the church

I fell hard for the beauty of Turkish ceramics

The ferry from Rhodes arriving in Symi harbour
We're waiting for Freddy. He'll be here soon, on the evening ferry from Rhodes. I can't think of a more perfect Greek harbour in which for him to arrive. The English couple whose Malo 39, Nutmeg of Poole, is tied to the sea wall alongside us (yes, we still burn a candle for Malo yachts) say it's the loveliest one they know of. Their opinion has some weight - they've been sailing the Aegean for 17 years.

You could stick around Symi for a lot longer than we plan to. But if that were to happen, I'd want to get off the boat, rent a pastel-coloured house high up above the harbour, and....well, who knows what would happen then.

Let's not deviate.

Mehmet (left) and Ismail (right, and below) figuring out the autopilot installation

He's done it

There's more to tell about our last weeks in Marmaris, but I'll let Alex go into detail on a separate boat page. He's the one wiping the white board clean on the day we left the marina.  It's his list. He's solved the problems, some of them expected, some of them quite unexpected, around the installation of a new (spare) autopilot.

We prevaricated about whether we would spend the money on a back-up unit but as ever, we decided in favour of safety and paid the money. We might never use this expensive piece of gadgetry, so we're thinking of it (like all spares) as insurance. Ironically, just as we were leaving Marmaris, we bumped into American friends, Bill and Bunny Bailey, who were bringing their Norseman 447 cruising yacht, Onset, back into Marmaris because their autopilot had died a few miles down the coast.

Cathy (Waverunner) and Bunny (Onset) at happy hour at Yacht Marina

Saturday, 17 May 2014


A Saturday afternoon in the marina, and along all the pontoons men (mostly men) are bending over tools and hoses and paintbrushes. The internet labours too. Must be all the summer people back on their boats, playing with their phones and iPads. They're waiting for the weather to settle. Next week, everyone is saying.

 Our sails, stored in a loft over winter,  go back up (and below)

The feeling in the town, and in the marina, is one of expectation. There won't be many more quiet days in the covered passages of the bazaar. Soon the crowds will come surging in from the north-east and from  the north-west. Out in the Aegean the boisterous meltemi wind is building from those quarters too.

Nosing into the pond with a clean bottom

A thing of beauty

Seval Guven - Guven Marine did our dirty work

For us, it is nearly time to be gone from here. Three more sleeps, we are hoping. The sails are back on, the annoying leak in the dinghy appears to be fixed, the new clamp to hold the hefty Rocna anchor fast in a big sea has been fitted by its designer and maker, stainless wizard Ergun of Erinox. But what's that? Turkish voices in our aft cabin? Ah, still one outstanding job to finish - don't say. It's one dear to Alex's heart for reasons we won't go into.

Ergun (left) of Erinoks fine-tunes the new anchor clamp (below)

Clamp holds anchor down firmly

Clamp unscrews and twists away from the shank

New season garlic
Tomorrow I'll cycle up the valley, past the saniyi (the light industrial area), to the Beldibi Sunday market. I want a last fix of spring produce.

For me, the artichokes and the melons, the berries and the broad beans are an antidote to the tedium of boat maintenance. Alex is making a strong finish, but I'm a little bit over the boat-as-a-workshop phase.

Early melons and cherries at Beldibe

Artichoke hearts in a bowl of acidulated water

Plenty of time, and the roses have a smell

Enki's sister ship Sea Cloud was in town for a couple of nights this week, getting a spinnaker pole fitted (amongst other jobs) before heading down to Gocek to join the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally. We had a fine time with Ian and Cathy, our two lovely boats squeezed fender to fender on K pontoon.

Sea Cloud bows in, Enki stern in - a snug pair

Popping over...

Dr Fixit and the pesky dorade

...and popping in

Productive too. After a couple of winters in Marmaris, we've collected a few good addresses around town. I took Cathy and her shopping list into the town's crooked byways, while Alex and Ian rode the bikes to the saniyi. The prof may not be the handiest on two wheels, but when it comes to examination techniques, he's thorough. "Oh yes," as his wife and manager likes to say, with feeling. The saniyi's bargains and the sheer variety of its hardware delighted him. He and Alex (who's pretty thorough himself) were "like boys in a sweet shop", she reckons. Alex has been picking over the saniyi's treats for long enough, I say. Time to go sailing.

Sea Cloud moves on
It's a shame they're going east this summer and we're going west, but that's the way it has to be. Perhaps we'll meet Sea Cloud on another continent, or another ocean in another season....We'd like that.