25th September – 1st October. Vathi (Ithaca) to Levkas. The final leg this year.

It had been a still, peaceful night in the anchorage at Vathi and we departed mid-morning on the 25th.  Leaving the harbour we were spotted by Lee and Tara who we had met in Keffalonia the previous week.  We had a quick chat and they seemed to be enjoying their charter boat and kindly took some pictures of Doris on the move.

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Unusually, the day was a bit overcast.  We started off motor-sailing but by midday the breeze picked up so we were able to sail.  As has often been the case, our lack of ability to sail to windward meant we ended up nowhere near where we originally intended to go.  We’d hoped to go Nisis Kalamos, but ended up on the east side of Levkas.  We turned into the gulf where the town of Nidri is located.  The whole area was crammed with yachts of different types, sizes and shapes.  We continued past Nidri, further down the gulf to the far end.  We were surprised at how full the anchorage was, but being shallow drafted, we were able to virtually drive up the beach at the far end before dropping anchor.  Despite the number of boats, we were treated to another peaceful and calm night at anchor.

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Looking back towards Nidri

We spent the first part of the next morning engaged in the usual chores …

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Having been anchored for a couple of nights, we quite fancied heading into a harbour.  The island of Meganisi was close, so we thought we’d head into Vathi (not to be confused with Vathi, Ithaca!).  It was a quick trip across and we pulled into the harbour entrance just after midday.  The Northern Ionion is by far the busiest area we have been in for the whole trip and getting a spot in a harbour is not guaranteed.  In fact,  it can sometimes be quite difficult.  As we entered, we could see two spots, only one of which was wide enough for us to get into.  Great!  Then another yacht overtook us inside the harbour entrance and nicked it!  Cy was a bit concerned that I would enter into a yacht rage incident and took the swift decision to leave before I started hurling insults and/or blunt objects (the toilet bucket was mentioned…).

Still, every cloud. As we left, a light breeze picked up and we were able to enjoy a beautiful, if slow sail.

Later in the afternoon we tried Nikiana harbour.  We wanted to check it out as we had friends visiting the following week that would be staying in Nikiana.  It is a small quay and there was no space – it wasn’t really our day.  Feeling slightly disgruntled, we formulated plan c for our overnight stop.  It looked like it would be another night at anchor.  A bay called Ormos Varko was close so off we headed again.  It turned out to be a great choice.  The bay was well sheltered and we were anchored with only a few other yachts a few hundred metres from the beach.  The water was clear and beautiful to swim in.

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Evening at Ormos Varko

We spent the whole of the following morning enjoying the setting.  Cy got on the paddleboard and had a go at scraping off some barnacles.  They are keeping him awake at night with all their noise (honestly!!).  The town of Palairos was nearby and we did manage to get a place in the harbour there OK.  It’s a small town but had a decent grocery store which was the main point.

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Palairos harbour

Apathy ruled the following day (28th) and we didn’t go anywhere.  It turned out to be a nice day though, we invited our neighbour, Lars, for lunch, and he spent the afternoon with us exchanging sailing stories over a beverage or two…  We have been blessed on our travels to meet some really super people from all walks of life.  The sea and rivers are great levellers.

We did manage to leave the following day.  It was quite breezy inside the harbour and proved quite difficult for me to pull the anchor up.  Still ,I got there eventually and earned a round of applause from our neighbours who had been enjoying the spectacle.  It’s unusual to see someone pulling up an anchor by hand, most people have an electric winch.  It’s fair to say I have an unusual technique, a little like twerking.

Typically, once we were out at sea, the wind disappeared.  We persevered crawling along under sail while all the boats nearby gave up and put their engines on.  Eventually we had to do the same.

It was to be our last night before heading into Levkas town where Doris is staying for the winter.  We thought we’d give the island of Meganisi another go, but an anchorage rather than the harbour.  Meganisi has a number of beautiful bays but they are a bit limited for space.  This means it’s best to take a long line to the shore to stop your boat swinging around which happens when anchored.  We hadn’t actually done this yet so wanted to take our final opportunity but were a bit apprehensive.  Of course, it was fine.  I went scooting off on the paddleboard and put a rope around a large rock on the beach.

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It was a gorgeous setting, a great place to spend our last night out travelling this season.

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Anchored at Ormos Abelike, Meganisi

I managed to retrieve our rope in the morning without incident and we headed north towards Levkas town.  Our booking in the marina was from the following day, but we were meeting up with friends so hoped to get a place on the town quay for the night.

Levkas is separated from the mainland by a short canal and Levkas town is close to the top of the canal.  It felt a little like being back on the Danube.

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Levkas canal, heading north.

We were in luck and managed to get on the quay.  It was fairly busy due to it being changeover day for the charter boats.  We spent the afternoon having our first peek at Levkas town, which will be home to Doris (and Cy) for the winter.  First impressions were definitely good – the town has a lovely feel.

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Exploring Levkas town

The evening was spent in great company – with Kev and Linda who live in the marina.  Cy worked with them years ago – Kev was skipper of Hartlepool Renaissance (try spelling that phonetically!), one of the boats Cy worked on back in the day.  They had very kindly arranged our winter berth as we were fairly clueless about the need to book yards etc early in the season.

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Catching up/meeting new friends

So, that’s it for this season.  Needless to say, we had sore heads the following morning, but  eventually managed to get Doris moved into the marina.

What a year it has been.  A quick look at our log books revealed we have covered over 2100 nautical miles  at sea and another 3700 km inland.  We have taken Doris through 323 locks and put a few hundred hours on our poor engines Pat and Suzy.  More importantly, we have met some remarkable people, seen some amazing sights and coped with more challenges than we expected.  All that whilst living together in a confined space!

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Courtesy flags from this year

Cy will be staying and working on Doris for a large part of the winter whilst I will be heading back to the UK.  There might be the odd update from Cy, but the blog proper will recommence next spring for the next stage of our journey…..

Thank you for following along and for your encouragement and lovely comments. Hopefully we’ll catch up with some of you over the winter.

Until then

Sarah, Cy and Doris xxx

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16th-24th September. Vasiliki (Levkas) to Vathi (Ithaca)

After a peaceful night anchored at Vasiliki, we headed off early down the west coast of Kefallonia towards Argostoli. Cy was very pleased with himself after managing to leave the anchorage and get out of the bay entirely under sail; no need to wake Pat and Suzy. Unfortunately, the wind was very light and it was necessary to motor once we were out of the bay to make sure we reached Argostoli before dark!

We reached the gulf at the bottom of the island mid-afternoon and decided to look at Lixouri harbour instead – it is just opposite Argostoli and there is a regular ferry across. There was plenty of room in the harbour and some nice tavernas along the quay with a decent supermarket nearby. Perfect!

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Doris in Lixouri harbour from the ferry

Our friend Helen-Marie arrived for a visit the next day so we hopped across on the ferry to meet her and have a nose around Argostoli.

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On the ferry -lucky there was room!

It was a little sleepy on a Sunday afternoon but lovely.

Doris stayed for a well earned rest in Lixouri while Helen-Marie was with us. It was a good base, with some beaches nearby and plenty of amenities. One day was spent driving round the island in a hire car which was great. We managed to see a fair bit of Kefallonia including Ay Eufimia, Sami, Melissani cave, Fiskardo and Assos. It is a beautiful island and we all really enjoyed exploring.

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Out and about in Kefallonia

We said goodbye to Helen-Marie on the 21st and left Lixouri on the 23rd (the weather was unsuitable on the 22nd). We still had a week or so cruising time before our winter contract started in Lefkas. It was a big mental adjustment for us to get into the ‘cruising’ mindset rather than a linear journey which had made up the majority of our trip. From Lixouri, we went back to the port of Poros on the south eastern side of Kefallonia, our first circumnavigation! Little steps…

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Sunrise leaving Lixouri

After being static for a few days, we needed to recharge Doris’ batteries, so motored rather than sailed for most of the way. Conditions became difficult as we turned the corner at the bottom of the island with wind and waves against us so we tacked out and back again to avoid heading directly into the elements. We managed to get to Poros safe and sound in the middle of the afternoon. Not long afterwards, Paul and Tracey arrived in their catamaran, Blue Tattoo. We had met them in Lixouri and chatted a bit. They had friends onboard and invited us for drinks later in the evening. It turned out to be a rather late night….

Despite feeling a bit delicate on the morning of the 24th, we did manage to get going and leave Poros at around 10:30. Just before we departed, one of the other boats was having a problem getting out. The med-style mooring involves dropping anchor, reversing back to the quay and tying a couple of stern lines to the rings or bollards. Inevitably, in a busy harbour there will be boats whose anchor chains cross and get tangled, leading to fun and games when people leave. On seeing a boat having difficulty pulling up their anchor, everyone who is still moored stands at the front of their boats waiting to see if theirs will be affected. Our neighbour, a lovely German gentleman called this ‘harbour cinema’ which was a great description and the phrase has stuck. Fortunately, we did not get to join in on this occasion and left shortly afterwards.

Kioni, on Ithaca, quite appealed to us, however when we got there, the harbour was full and although it is perfectly possible to anchor in the bay outside the harbour, we couldn’t find a suitable spot. It was all too deep for us. It wasn’t a problem though; Vathi, where we had already been, was close by. We headed there and anchored in the bay. Previously, we had tied to the quay but decided to save the mooring fee and anchor instead. It suited us perfectly. We were all settled by about 16:30 and able to sit back and enjoy the ‘harbour cinema’ with all the other boats arriving. An altogether satisfying end to the day…

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Anchorage in Vathi harbour

 

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9th-15th September. Galaxidhi to Vasiliki (Levkas)

We took a stroll around Galaxidhi early in the morning, before it got too hot.  The village is on a small peninsular with the main harbour on one side and a smaller fishing harbour on the other.  There is a strong seafaring tradition here and until the arrival of the steamship there was a significant shipbuilding industry.

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Doris from across the bay – next to a big sister

Later, after breakfast on Doris, we went to visit the nautical museum.  We both found lots to entertain us.  Cy enjoyed the bits and bobs from the old sailing ships and I was very taken with the enormous collection of nautically themed stamps (guess my childhood hobby!).

We departed from the harbour at Galaxidhi at around 11:30.  Cy managed to get us out and around the islands in the entrance under sail, but the winds were so light that motoring became necessary.

Our next stop was Trizonia, an island a bit further west in the Gulf of Corinth.  We had been told by a number of people that Trizonia is a wonderful place and we were looking forward to it.  The marina was a bit of a surprise to us – it had the feel of abandonment with lots of boats looking like they had not moved in a while and even a shipwreck.

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Twin masts of a sunken ketch

Still, we managed to find room to tie alongside and went for an explore.  The ‘marina’ itself is one of a number in Greece which remain unfinished.  The quays are built and in place, but services such as water and electricity never got connected.  As such, they are perfectly usable but unmanaged, hence the feel of abandonment. From the marina it is a short walk through to the old harbour, which is stunning.

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Trizonia harbour and mainland opposite

It’s close to the mainland and is connected by a regular small ferry service.  Whilst we were there, preparations for a wedding were underway.  The small church was being decorated and the ferry was regularly disgorging guests in their finery.  The island has three hotels and they were all fully booked for the nuptials.  The atmosphere was great, and Cy was especially taken with the six pigs slowly roasting in readiness for the evening.

The wedding celebrations also involved a huge fireworks display which we had a great view of from the deck of Doris.

Trizonia seemed to be a place worth investigating so we stayed for the 10th as well, enjoying a walk around the island and soaking up the beauty and relaxed feel of the place.  In the evening, we went for dinner with Derek and Thea who we had met in the marina and kindly invited us out to play.  We had a great time swapping sailing stories and some of their experiences were of particular interest to us as we begin shaping the itinerary for next season…

We left Trizonia at 7am on the 11th heading towards Navpaktos.

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Leaving Trizonia

Navpaktos has the most amazing medieval harbour.  It is small and we weren’t particularly expecting to be able to berth there, but we did want to see it.

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Approaching the harbour entrance

As it happened, we did manage to get in and tie up, but decided that it was not the best mooring for an overnight stay so decided to continue on towards Patras.

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The left ‘arm’ of the circular harbour

We carried on heading west, the breeze was fairly feisty so we were flying along under sail.  We passed under the Rio-Andiron bridge at quite a rate, well over 8 knots which is considerable for Doris.  Altering course for Patras proved a bit tricky so a quick change of plan took us to Mesolongion instead.  It is an odd place, the habour is reached by a dredged canal section lined with small bungalows on stilts.

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Approach to Mesolongion

We made it into the harbour and tied alongside the quay.  Once everything was secure we headed to a nearby establishment for a cool beverage.  Our enjoyment was curtailed by the sudden arrival of stormy weather. It was blowing hard straight up the canal sending large waves across the harbour and slamming Doris into the quayside.  We returned to the boat quickly and did what we could with our fenders. A kind fellow boat owner loaned us a couple more to help.  There was nothing else to be done except wait it out.  The next few hours were a little anxious but the weather eventually calmed at around 11pm.

We were eager to escape and left as soon as the light was sufficient in the morning. I returned the borrowed fenders with a thank you note and a couple of cans of beer whilst Cy was prepping for departure.  Hours later, well after we were out of VHF range, we discovered I had misunderstood and actually returned them to the wrong boat.  I can only hope that the boat owner realised the error and the fenders and beer found their way back to their owner.

Emerging from the Gulf of Patras into the Northern Ionion we had a number of options, depending on the conditions.  After a bit of trial and error with wind direction and sea state, we decided to set course to Poros, Kefallonia.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride initially but did settle into being a good sail after all.  The harbour still had plenty of spaces when we arrived in the middle of the afternoon and Cy reversed beautifully into a gap between two boats.  Stern-to mooring is still a bit of a novelty and it’s always nice when it goes well.  We soon retired to a taverna overlooking the harbour where we able to watch all the other boats arriving.

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Poros yacht quay

We stayed put in Poros on the 13th giving us the chance to catch up on a few jobs – email, laundry, shopping, refuelling……  Cy managed to help a couple who had discovered a problem with their steering (like none at all!) when they tried to leave the harbour.

We departed Poros at 08:30 the next morning (14th).  Once again, we had a few different options on where to go depending on what offered the best sailing conditions.  The wind was non-existent in the morning and we motored over to what sounded like a lovely anchorage.

The Northern Ionian is a hugely popular sailing area, much busier than any of the other areas we have been through and we were not entirely prepared for how full the anchorage was.  It was early afternoon and the wind was picking up, so we decided not to bother fighting our way in and went sailing instead.  It was a good decision as it turned out to be a super sail, really blasting along.  We eventually found our way into the harbour of Vathi, Ithaca in the late afternoon.  It was blowing over 20 knots on our approach and we were apprehensive as we entered as to what the conditions would be like.  It turned out to be a large harbour with loads of room and reasonably well protected.  Once again, our stern-to mooring went well and it transpired that the couple on the boat next to us were friends of Derek and Thea who we had met in Trizonia.

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Vathi, Ithaca

Ithaca was the home of the mythical hero Odysseus and we were impressed that we had sailed from Canakkale (close to ancient Troy) to Ithaca in one month, rather than the 20 years it had taken Odysseus, and with a little less tribulation.

The plan the next day was to go to Fiskardo, Kefallonia, but once again the wind conditions were slightly different from the forecast (you would think we’d learn), and we adapted accordingly.  Instead we ended up on the south coast of Levkas and anchored just off the beach at Vasiliki.  It is a busy water sports area and we were able to spend the latter part of the afternoon watching the dinghy sailors and wind surfers flying up and down the bay.

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Vasiliki beach in the evening light

It was fairly windy with a bit of swell when we arrived at 16:00, but settled in the evening and turned out to be a still and quiet night.  Lovely!

 

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3rd-8th September. Aegina to Galaxidhi.

After a final stroll around Aegina and saying goodbye to Natalia who runs one of the fruit and veg boats (she somehow managed to sell us far more figs than we could consume in a month!), we departed at around 9am.

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Natalia’s fruit and veg boat

It had been a fabulous few days and will be remembered fondly by us both.

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Last look at Aegina

Our next stop was Nea Epidhavros, a small harbour not too far away on the east Peloponnese. As there was no wind it was a motor over. On arrival, the harbour was lovely – nestled at the bottom of green hills.

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Inside the harbour

We were directed to an alongside berth which took a bit of moving of fenders as there were mooring rings sticking out at the perfect level to punch a hole in the hull. Once settled, the berth was fine, a bit of swell in, but nothing significant.

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Doris at Nea Epidhavros

There was a promising-looking taverna close by which overlooked the harbour, and we whiled away much of the afternoon sitting on the shady terrace watching other boats arriving.

Later on we chatted with some of the other crews, a small flotilla and a British couple with their own boat. Boaty types are generally friendly and keen for a natter, its a great way of picking up tips on various places.

Our departure the following day was amidst chaos, there were two motor boats waiting for our place and some arguing going on with the harbourmaster trying to give instruction from the shore. We slipped our lines as quickly as we could and escaped the frenzy.

There wasn’t a bad breeze and we managed to get Doris sailing a bit, she prefers not to go to windward, but we persuaded her to have a go. We were heading north, to Korfos, and arrived in the middle of the afternoon. The quayside is owned by tavernas and we tied stern-to where directed. We met an interesting couple, Judy and Giannis, who lived in the village and spent some time chatting with them.

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Korfos

After a walk around the bay we felt we should eat at the taverna. This was an eventful evening as there was a coach load of formidable ladies from Athens who were proving quite demanding. The waiting staff were literally running around trying to get everything out. We were in no hurry and were quite content to observe the drama, this only increased when the kitchen caught fire. The old ladies were left unattended whilst the staff were re-deployed to extinguish the flames. The amount of smoke pouring from the building was considerable but they did eventually get it under control and somehow we even got our food. The fire brigade put in a cursory appearance once everything was back to normal.

We spent the next morning (5th) doing a few jobs and set out in the early afternoon. The plan was to get close to the entrance to the Corinth canal, spend the night at the anchorage there and go through at first light so we had plenty of time to find somewhere to stay once we were through. Getting close to the canal entrance seemed like a good photo opportunity and at this point, it dawned on me that I had left my camera at the taverna (my back-up camera, I had already drowned my other one earlier in the trip!). It was close to 6pm, so we turned round and high tailed it back. We were lucky as the wind and waves were with us. Cy had to gun both the engines for the entire 15 or so nautical miles to get us back to Korfos before nightfall where I was reunited with my camera.

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On the way back to Korfos

Our second departure from Korfos took place at first light and we arrived at the entrance to the canal at around 9:30. I went ashore to pay the (rather high) transit fee and we were told to standby for instructions on VHF channel 11. By this time there were four or five yachts all waiting to head through. It wasn’t too long before a tug and a large motorboat passed us and we were called to follow them. All the vessels were sent through in a convoy. The canal is quite an experience, cut through a narrow part of the land, it is steep sided with bright blue/green water sparkling in the sunshine.

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Once through, we slowly headed towards the Gulf of Alkionidhon north of the canal and checked out places to anchor. The first bay we tried was too deep for us so we carried on round and found a spot in about 4m depth just off the village of Alikis. It had been a still day with no wind for sailing, but a strong breeze developed in the evening. Our anchor dragged a little, but re-set itself and we remained secure for the night.

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Anchored at Alikis

Thursday 7th September was another windless calm day, so more motoring. We had decided not to rush through the Gulf of Corinth so it was another relatively short hop to the town of Andikiron. The town has a super harbour but seems to be off the popular route as we were the only yacht there, amongst the local fishing boats and small ferry. We were able to top up on groceries, diesel and have a pleasant stroll along the quayside in the late afternoon. It is a fairly busy place and I suspect the local economy is based around the two large factories on the opposite side of the bay rather than tourism.

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Andikiron harbour

It was a bit noisy during the night with a few lads drinking on the pier, and at 3am we were woken by what sounded like intruders on the boat. After a bit of yelling through the hatch at them, we realised it was another yacht tying alongside us. In the dark, this would have been a much easier way for them to moor. We duly apologised and went back to sleep.

The next stop on our slow cruising was Galaxidhi. Again, it wasn’t too far so we didn’t rush in the morning. It was necessary to motor most of the way, but to Cy’s delight, a strong breeze developed for the last couple of miles and we were able to sail.

We arrived into Galaxidhi along with two other boats and although the inner harbour was full, we all found space on the quayside at the entrance. Not long after, a huge motorboat also arrived and then a big catamaran squeezed in the space next to us.

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Doris in Galaxidhi next to a much bigger catamaran (actually taken the following morning after the superyacht had left, hence the big space!)

It was another lady harbourmaster and she did a great job of directing people and finding space for all the boats. Cy spent a while chatting with her finding out some of the history of the place and we resolved to get up early the next day and have a good explore before leaving.

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22nd August – 2nd September. Psara to Aegina.

We left Psara mid-morning on Tuesday 22nd heading for the nearby island of Khios. The wind was variable – there seem to be a lot of localised effects from the islands so it can seem very windy close to the land and then drop significantly at open sea or vice versa. The direction can be changeable too. The majority of the journey was under sail although the engines were required now and then.

The notable event of the sail was a near miss with a cargo vessel. There are very well defined regulations for avoiding collisions and in open water, vessels under sail have priority. The AIS showed a collision course and we were taking compass bearings. The ship ‘Lion’ did not appear to be altering course. As it started to get close and still showing no signs of having seen us, Cy called them on the radio. It took a few goes for them to answer and the captain said he would alter course to port (which, as we were approaching from his right (starboard) didn’t seem the most appropriate option). Unfortunately, this was too little too late and the course alteration kept him in front of us and did not remove the collision risk. By this point Cy had already started the engines just in case we needed them and it was apparent that some evasive wiggling was required. A “swift” gybe turned us parallel with Lion while we waited for it to pass. 100m from a container ship feels very close and I was pretty freaked out, unlike Cy who wasn’t the least bit bothered, just annoyed at the lack of professionalism shown by the skipper of Lion (in his humble opinion).

The anchor went down at around 5pm in a bay on the South Eastern side of Khios, Ormos Salagena. The night was pretty windy and there was some swell into the bay but the anchor held.

The island of Mykonos was the destination for Wednesday 23rd, a longer run of some 55 nautical miles. We left the anchorage at sunrise.

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As on other days, the wind was a bit up and down and there were a few periods where it was necessary to motor but it picked up later in the day and Doris was flying along. We even hit 10.4 knots momentarily, which for our Doris is quite a feat!

Parking at Mykonos marina was a bit tricky as the wind kept blowing us sideways as Cy was trying to reverse in to pick up the mooring. A crowd of ‘helpful’ bystanders appeared to give instruction (they always seem to appear, no matter how deserted a quay looks). The harbourmaster directed us to a berth but gave up and left us to it after our second try at getting in. A skipper from one of the local day trip yachts was extremely helpful and managed to give some useful instruction whilst keeping the shouting from the others at bay (for the duration of our stay in Mykonos we (Sarah!) referred to him as ‘Mr Hunky’). The combination of the gusty weather and the significant swell from the ‘Seabus’ as it passed us en route from Mykonos town to the cruise ship terminal made it an uncomfortable mooring.

In total, we were stuck in Mykonos for five days waiting for the weather to settle. The strong winds and rough sea made it impossible for us to move on in any useful direction. Crete or Libya would have been fine but we thought we’d leave them to another time…

Mykonos is a very popular island – ferries and cruise ships were coming and going constantly and there seemed to be flights arriving every hour. It is possible that our judgement was coloured because of being stuck and not feeling safe enough on the mooring to leave the boat for too long (we did snap a mooring line over the course of our stay), but we found little to love in Mykonos.

Mykonos town itself is architecturally beautiful – narrow paved alleys and streets with whitewashed stone buildings. However, each and every one of these was a tourist shop of some sort – designer jewellery, clothing, trinkets, handbags etc. It felt to us like a place with its heart ripped out.

The area around the marina was a bit desolate but had a small cafe, Maistros, which we visited every day. The owner, Kiki, was warm and welcoming and we could enjoy a beer whilst still watching Doris from her balcony. There was also a bit of a community on the pier, with a fair few local yachts friendly crews. They were also stuck as the weather was too windy to take holidaymakers out for the day. The main entertainment seemed to be watching the arrival and departure of any other yachts (and the inevitable assistance of “Mr. Hunky” – Cy).

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Mykonos marina 

We eventually escaped at midnight on Monday 28th August. The forecast showed a brief window in the weather, so the decision was made to do a long passage and get to the island of Aegina if possible. The course was to windward, so we were not certain that Doris would be able to make it. Cy had a plan b,c and d ready just in case. We started out fairly well but soon the sea state became problematic. The design of Doris means that in the wrong conditions, the bit between her hulls slams down on the water, sounding and feeling like she will rip apart with every one. We had to endure this for a good few hours. Large waves crashed over the deck and water was leaking inside in several places. Not the most fun we have had overnight and the arrival of the daylight was most welcome indeed. The conditions did improve during the course of the day, and we were able to snatch a bit of rest when off watch.

We reached the southern edge of Aegina in the late afternoon and began looking for an anchorage. The first couple were a bit too deep for us. We also passed the harbour of Perdika which is renowned as being a busy place and difficult to find a space. It certainly looked chaotic with yachts piling in from every direction.

We carried on and anchored in the next large bay. The anchor was set at around 18:30 and as usual, Cy gave it a good blast in reverse to dig the anchor in and check it was holding. Everything was fine. We had a quick swim then had dinner and crashed out – we were exhausted from the long trip and all the associated stresses. Close to midnight, the anchor alarm went off. When Cy went to check, we had not only dragged our anchor, it looked like it had completely given way and we had rapidly drifted backwards a few hundred metres and were still doing so, at a rate of knots! We managed to get the anchor up quickly (40m of chain and rope) and reset but decided that it would be necessary to maintain an anchor watch for the rest of the night. Thankfully, there were no further problems. Cy fell asleep on his anchor watch (don’t tell my old skippers…). I managed to stay awake by doing yoga on the deck and crocheting by the light of a head torch.

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Cy on anchor watch (before falling asleep)

It’s easy to lose track of time with overnight sailing but this was now the morning of the 30th August and there was a bit of rain, which was lovely – the first we had seen for some time. I even caught a glimpse of a small rainbow.

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We left the anchorage at 11:00 and headed a couple of miles up to the harbour at Aegina town. It is another busy place – the close proximity to Athens make it a popular weekend destination for yachts and lots of the charter boats head here. Fortunately we found a space and were all secure just after midday. Shortly afterwards, a Danish flagged boat came in next to us. Cy helped with lines (who needs Mr. H – Cy) and got chatting. They were a really lovely couple, Orla and Isse-Lotte and invited us for beers on their boat which we naturally accepted.

Later in the afternoon, once the temperature had dropped slightly, we explored the town and were completely charmed by what we saw. So much so, that we decided to hang around for a few days.

A 24 hour scooter rental seemed like a good idea, so we picked one up in the evening for use the following day.

We set off before first light on the 31st, aiming to find the Temple of Aphaia and watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, the temple is fenced in and locked until 8am but we were able to climb a hill and watch the sun come up over the temple.

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As the temple still wasn’t open we decided to have a wander and stumbled across a small monastery where we were welcomed in and shown into their chapels. It was shortly after sunrise and there were no other visitors about – the feeling of peace permeating the place was extraordinary; a delightful experience.

By this time, the temple was open to visitors. Once again, we beat the rush and were the only people there.

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Afterwards we headed into a small town nearby for breakfast and then back to Aegina town via the monastery of St. Nektarios. He is a relatively modern saint with an interesting story and the monastery was full of people on pilgrimage to his tomb where miracles have been said to occur. It was much ‘busier’ and for us, not being up to speed with Greek Orthodoxy, a little baffling.

The scooter was great fun if a little terrifying at times and a super way to explore the island.

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Safety crocs always worn..

We had definitely fallen a little in love with Aegina. The evening ended having dinner in town with Orla and Isse-Lotte, a great finish to a great day.

We spent another couple of days in Aegina mooching around and taking advantage of the chandlery and hardware shops preparing for our next leg.

 

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15th-21st August. Canakkale to Psara

I spent the morning of the 15th buying and setting up a new (second hand) phone after my misadventures in Port Marmara. This left Cy to get on with double checking weather forecasts and completing the passage planning for our overnight sail to Limnos.

Canakkale is the closest major town to the ancient site of Troy and they even have the horse used in the Brad Pitt film on the waterfront.

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Sadly, Brad Pitt was nowhere to be seen

Of course, the Dardanelles was also the location of the Battle of Gallipoli.

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Across the water from Canakkale

There are numerous hotels in the town and ferries and trips available to explore the history of the area. Canakkale is also the finishing point of an annual swim across the Dardanelles in which the shipping lanes are closed for the event. Maybe we will visit again some time, I would love to do the swim but it would require a lot of training as it’s pretty gruelling with the current to contend with.

With the marina handling our exit paperwork (for a fee, of course), we were free to spend the last of our turkish lira on lunch and ice cream. Departure happened at around 4pm and it took around three and a half hours to traverse the rest of the Dardanelles and reach the Aegean. On the way we passed the imposing war memorial, dedicated to the Turkish soldiers who participated in the Gallipoli campaign. There are memorials and acknowledgements of all the others that lost their lives but they are not quite as prominent.

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The night passage was fine, with us taking turns ‘on watch’, allowing the other to have periods of rest. Shortly before leaving Turkish territorial waters we were joined by a pod of dolphins. I have said it before, there is something truly magical about these night time visits, the phosphorescence is remarkable. What a wonderful goodbye. Not long after that it was time to change the courtesy flag for the last time this year.

We reached the Eastern tip of Limnos at daybreak, although it was still a few hours before reaching Mirina which is the capital and base for the port of entry to complete formalities. Passing the island, we were welcomed by some Greek dolphins.

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First look at Limnos

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Doris turned into the harbour at Mirina, Limnos at around 9am on Wednesday 16th August. The yacht quay was jam packed but there was a bit of space to tie alongside the coastguard pier.

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Yacht quay, Mirina

A guy in uniform from the large coastguard vessel came over to tell us we could not stay but after a bit of negotiation, we were given permission to use the berth to get our paperwork completed and then leave. This was fine, Limnos has plenty of anchorages. Clutching our file of boat documents, I headed to the coastguard office. It was a bit of a deceiving place, there appeared to be nothing going on until you went through an unmarked door inside the building and stumble across a huge team of uniformed and armed officers all rushing around. It all appeared to go smoothly, although we were informed we had to purchase a ‘DEKPA’ document. It was all helpfully explained that we needed to walk into the town, which wasn’t far and go into one of the banks with the paper he had given me. They would take the money and issue a bankers draft. We would then have to walk a bit further to a government tax office to pay in the draft (they don’t handle money) and receive an official receipt. Once we had this, we should return to the coastguard and the DEKPA would be issued. This didn’t sound too bad……

Hot and exhausted, we wandered around hopelessly trying to locate the small square where the three banks were located. Having been told that we could use any one of the banks, we went into the one that looked the least busy. The Greek banking system has been under a lot of strain and the chaos with enormous queues bore this out. After a significant wait, we were directed to another bank. After a significant wait there, we were also sent away and directed to the third and final bank. At this point, Cy returned to the boat in case of any problems as this was all taking longer than anticipated. I headed into the third and final bank. Mercifully, it was a less significant wait to be told they couldn’t help. Unsure how to proceed, I returned to the coastguard office to explain my predicament. Another gentleman told me to go directly to the tax office to pay, and not a bank!

Off I trudged. I managed to locate the correct office – it was the one with the enormous queue. After patiently waiting my turn, I was directed to another counter in the office and yes, you’ve guessed it, another queue. After waiting (less patiently), I struck gold. There was a lot of typing and scrutinising of paperwork but eventually I was able to hand over my 50 euros and receive the official receipt. Phew…

Triumphantly, I returned to the Coastguard only to face another half hour of form filling but eventually, some four hours after arriving, clearing in was complete.

We left Mirina at around 2pm and sailed a couple of hours around to a nice anchorage where we swum, showered, ate dinner and collapsed!

It was a windy night but the anchor held and we both slept. It was a slow start on Thursday 17th and we left the anchorage after lunch heading to the small island of Ayios Estravatios which is only 20 nm or so away. Unfortunately, there was no space inside the inner harbour and instead we were directed to an alongside berth in the outer ferry dock. The swell was significant and poor Doris was being thrown around a lot. It took quite a while to get the lines and fenders all sorted before going ashore. It is a small island with one little village by the harbour. The permanent population is only 300 or so, but the ferries in the summer bring some visitors and there were a few tavernas. It was a charming place, the only downside being the unpleasant berth. We shared a fabulous pizza and drank beer in one of the cafes watching the sun go down.

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Ayios Estravatios

Next stop was the island of Lesvos, and we left promptly the next morning. Just as well, as no sooner were we out of the harbour than a huge car ferry arrived which would have made our mooring more uncomfortable still.

The wind was a bit up and down, requiring periods of motoring but overall the sailing was good. We arrived at our intended anchorage on the south side of the island at around 19:30. The anchor set first time and it wasn’t long before we were relaxing on deck with a beer.

From our pilot book, the town of Plomari sounded lovely and so that’s where we made for the next day. It was just a few hours further east along the bottom of the island and we arrived in the middle of the afternoon. There was plenty of space in the harbour and it was another stern-to mooring using our anchor, Once again, this proceeded without incident. Plomari did credit to its write up in our book and was lovely. It is a small town but has plenty of places to stock up on provisions and some great places to eat. Our initial exploration led to a delightful taverna a way back from the main town along the edge of the harbour. We had a beer and I decided it was where I wanted to come for dinner the next night (my birthday).

Sunday 21st, my 41st birthday… We started early and went for a long walk up a dusty track winding amongst olive groves, into the hills above Plomari to an ouzo distillery. According to the website, during July and August, it opens at 9am for a few hours on Sundays. After standing outside a locked gate for a while, it dawned on us that perhaps the website needed updating. Oh well; back down the hill to find somewhere for a birthday breakfast instead. The views from above Plomari were fantastic and it would not have been possible to walk up later in the day due to the heat so it definitely wasn’t a wasted trip. Breakfast was leisurely and lovely.

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The afternoon was spent onboard in the shade. We did a few bits and pieces, including ordering some diesel and firming up our overwintering plans, then got glammed up(?) and went out for the evening.

Dinner was marvellous. Taverna Hermes is run by a husband and wife team. It is small and friendly with good food, wine and ouzo. I couldn’t have asked for more!

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It was goodbye to Plomari the next morning and hello Psara. The distance was close to 50nm so we left at 07:30 to ensure getting to Psara in daylight. A couple of hours later, in a patch of calm water, we saw the biggest pod of dolphins yet. A couple broke off briefly to say hello but they were definitely working a shoal of fish as they all stayed in this one particular area leaping, splashing and causing a general kerfuffle. We didn’t get too close as we didn’t want to disturb their feeding.

Once again, the wind was variable during the journey and the engines were used a bit. We have come to realise that the forecasting in the islands is a bit hit and miss – the localised effects must be very difficult to account for and the wind strength and direction can sometimes be unpredictable.

We arrived at the small island Psara at 18:30. Happily there were no problems mooring and it seemed to be the best protected harbour we had visited yet. Psara is another tiny island with the permanent population (450ish) based in the settlement by the water. It used to have a much larger population but the invasion of the Ottoman Navy during the Greek War of Independence in 1824 left few survivors.

Once again, we were completely charmed by the place. There were a few little tavernas and a shop or two, although the village is a bit of a maze and the shops are not as easy to find as you’d think!

The protection of the harbour gave us the calmest and most restful night we had enjoyed for a while and we both slept well. We were ready to continue our travels across Greece.

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8th-14th August. Heybeliada (Princes Islands) – Canakkale

The anchor was hauled at 8:30 on Tuesday 8th August and we left the bay on the island of Heybeliada. The day’s sailing went reasonably well, although we were shouted at on the radio as we were passing through a large ship waiting area. The radio operator from the traffic separation scheme in the area seemed to think we were on a collision course. The ship in question was purposely drifting (we were in a ‘drifting zone’, kinda like an anchorage but 1km deep..) and we were passing close to it, but it seemed a bit of an overreaction, we weren’t even sure which one he meant!

During the afternoon, we altered course around a peninsula heading for Narli. The change of direction made for quite difficult conditions with the wind and waves. Our Genoa sail came down (Kindly put Sarah. It broke because I was having too much fun and had too much sail up) but fortunately did not go overboard.

We tried to anchor in a small bay for a bit of shelter whilst the wind abated but the anchor dragged, so we turned tail and made for a small fishing harbour we had seen earlier.

It was after 7pm when we pulled into Fiskali. It is very much a commercial fishing harbour with just one small yacht. There was no space but we were directed to tie alongside a large fishing vessel. It was a great relief to be safe and secure and to have somewhere for Cy to replace the damaged sail with a smaller one (should’ve done that earlier and saved all the excitement!).  It appeared to be run by a co-operative of fisherman who were very helpful. Within half an hour, a hosepipe had been found for us to fill our water tanks and a plate of fresh watermelon had been delivered to us by Murat, who is the cook for the co-operative. On the downside, it was quite smelly and there were lots of flies. I guess this is inevitable in this type of port.

Fiskali Harbour

The next morning Cy went for tea with Murat, who couldn’t do enough for us. He is from Izmir and sails up to work for a while and then sails back again. He gave Cy a couple of boiled eggs for us to have for breakfast – Fiskali had been a wonderful refuge and once again we were delighted by the warmth and friendliness we experienced.

Our next stop was Calkikoy, around 40 nautical miles away. It was a reasonably uneventful sail across but a bit choppy at times. We arrived into the harbour during mid-afternoon. Once again, it was primarily a fishing harbour, so a bit dusty and smelly, but there was quayside available to tie to.

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We were invited for vodka on the boat behind us, which was owned by Cako and his brother Sabri from Istanbul. They showed us the weather forecast and the next day was pretty strong winds, so it looked like we were staying put for another day.

Calkikoy is a small, traditional fishing village. Male and female society seemed very separate and much to our dismay it was impossible to purchase alcohol in any of the small shops. I was really amused to see the women of the village driving up and down the quay in unusual transportation.

Sometimes there were kids on the trailer, sometimes rubbish, sometimes branches and even a cow being led along

We spent Thursday 10th doing a few jobs and providing entertainment for the kids in the village.

Cy talking Coca Cola and football

Our destination for the 11th was Port Marmara, the main town on Marmara Island. It wasn’t too far, around 25 nm and with a prompt start we managed to get there in the early afternoon. It was a stern-to mooring using the anchor, our first time mooring in this way. Port Marmara is a bustling, lively little place with plenty of cafes and restaurants. A bit of a change from our previous stop. We had a bit of an explore during the afternoon and made use of the petrol station and supermarket that were close.

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Our first stern-to anchor mooring at Port Marmara

From Port Marmara we planned to go to Erdek. As this was another short-ish hop, we decided to go out for an early morning walk before departing on the 12th.

The style of mooring means that the back of the boat is a little way from the quay and in this case the quay was quite high. I am still unsure what possesed me but rather than wait for Cy to tie the wooden plank in place to get ashore, I thought I could jump across. The result was predictable. I didn’t quite make it, crashed into the rough concrete quay and slid into the water. By the time Cy was alerted to my predicament, my shoes had floated away and the contents of my bag were well soaked (camera, phone and passports included). I was pretty shaken by this and only realised once back on the boat that I had hurt my leg quite badly with deep gashes and significant bruising. The early morning walk was cancelled. Despite our efforts with rinsing and a bowl of rice, the electronics did not survive their immersion.

After all the excitement, we left at around 10am. The winds were light and the sea calm which was beautiful but did require motoring at times. We had a lovely visit from a small pod of dolphins during the trip.

Erdek has quite a large harbour and ferry port. On arrival we were directed, by a couple of nice young men (still no idea if they were official), to tie alongside on the old ferry pier.

Doris in Erdek

As soon as we were secure and tidy, we headed off to explore the town. It is described in our pilot book as being a popular resort but not yet discovered by international tourists and this description matched our experience. We loved it, there was loads going on and a vibrant feel but still with a local vibe. The summer visitors are mainly from Istanbul. We had a good old mooch around visiting a few shops and Cy even managed a much needed visit to the barber.

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Another blinkin’ sunset….

Later on we had a great meal in a restaurant and were particularly pleased with how inexpensive it was.

During our exploration of the town, we had seen a nice looking place on the waterfront that did a cheap breakfast platter, so we made a beeline for it in the morning (Sunday 13th). We weren’t in a hurry as we had quite a short sail planned, back to the Marmara Islands to an anchorage on Pasalimani Adasi.

 

The breakfast was wonderful – tea, cheese, eggs, bread, chips, tomatoes, olives, jams, honey, melon and a bit of salami for Cy, all beautifully presented for the equivalent of £10. Even between the two of us we couldn’t eat all the cheese…

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The sail across to the island took around three hours and with our leisurely departure, we arrived at around 16:30. The anchorage was beautiful – still and calm. We were a bit concerned that we might be in the way of the ferry that comes in but our presence seemed to cause no problem so a swim seemed a good idea (planned this time).

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Anchorage at Pasalimani Adasi

The night proved to be quite windy, but our anchor held firm. We started early on the 14th as we wanted to get to the start of the Dardanelles.

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Leaving at sunrise

We maintained reasonable speed under sail and entered the Dardanelles at around 15:30. It is quite a narrow passage and it is necessary to keep to the edge and clear of the shipping lane. We had been told by the harbour master in the marina at Istanbul that it is not permitted to sail through (although we have not seen this written anywhere!), so we dropped sail and proceeded with the engines (not a happy skipper).

There were a couple of options for stopping points – an anchorage at Cardak. On arrival, this didn’t look great as there were a lot of ferries passing by and it looked quite open. The other option was the harbour at Lapseki, a couple of miles further on. We turned in at 16:30. It is quite a small harbour and no place for us to tie. We had approximately four hours of daylight left, so decided to push on for Canakkale. This would be the last port of call in Turkey and where we would complete the exit formalities. We ran both engines to keep the speed up as we wanted to be sure of arriving in the daylight. Just before we arrived, at around 7pm we were approached by a Coastguard boat for a routine check of paperwork. I asked nicely but they said I couldn’t take a photo, maybe it was something to do with the Turkish navy in the background!

We managed to get to Canakkale before nightfall and were all secure by 8pm. We had covered 65 nautical miles to get there and were pretty knackered. We did manage a quick look at the town, quite a major one, and I noted quite a few shops where a second hand phone could be purchased in the morning. After such a long day, it was an early night for us; our last one in Turkey.

 

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