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