Turkey and back to the Dodecanese (14 August – 6 September)

We left Bozburun on Monday 15 and this time the start boat was Lana, rumored to be Bill Gates boat and 107m long. Qi, with its superior upwind pointing, pulled away. A cunning move by Epicurios to stay closer to shore meant that by the time we reached the end of the peninsular, Epicurios had a slight lead. When we turned the corner, with the wind behind us, the boats we neck and neck until we reach Ciftlik when there was only a half boat length separating us after 32 nm. It was a fun day and both crews tried their darndest to knock off the other. We berthed at Mehmet’s taverna and enjoyed a swim and a delightful meal.

A couple of days later and we were berthed at Yat Marin, Marmaris. Along the way we were berthed next to a boat full of young Lebanese folk, and lo and behold, one couple decided to get engaged on the forward deck! So we celebrated too and Jane presented them with a packet of Tim Tams. We said our farewells to the Qi crew and flew to Istanbul for six days. We initially stayed 2 nights at Hammamhane, Beyoglu, in their new apartments that they had just finished. While there, we indulged in a hamman next door and listened to music into the night. We ate at a wine bar around the corner and also at Number 19, returning after several years. Istanbul was crowded as we walked about, shopping and reacquainting ourselves with the neighbourhood. The wharf area of Karakoy has undergone a major redevelopment and given the name Galataport. All nice but soulless, as is usual with such developments.

The following two nights we visited our friends Lale and Serhat on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. It’s always great to catch up with them and they are so generous with their time. We took a road trip up to the Black Sea and ate at a fabulous fish restaurant in a port town Sile. The port is for fishing, and it was quite refreshing not seeing yachts and power boats. Driving in Istanbul is challenging at the best of time but on a Sunday when everyone is out and about, it is insane. The beach was packed and the carparks chockers. Some Istanbulians took to picnicking on the side of the road or in vacant blocks completely void of any aesthetics or shade!

The last two nights we returned to Hammamhane and walked to the spice market to stock up and up the hill to the Grand Bazaar where Jane bought a bag and Stuart a wallet. We dined at Karakoy Lokantasi, a past favourite, which had moved to a new premises. Unfortunately, we missed the old tiling and ambiance of the old premises and the food didn’t seem so special. Our last dinner was at a kebab place called Kevok Ocakbasi, recommended by Lale and Serhat’s eldest daughter. The meat was sensational, tender and smoky, and we will visit again when we return. 

Epicurios was waiting for us on our return to Marmaris and the following day, Thursday 25th, we set off to retrace our steps to Datca to check out at the end of the month. We brought a present for Epicurios, a wind sock made by Serhat. The number of Turkish boats has dramatically increased since 2019. Some anchorages are so packed we could not squeeze in. We stayed two nights in Kuruca bay and were joined by a flotilla of Turkish yachts who were flying flags and images of Ataturk to celebrate the 100 years anniversary of Victory Day, when the Turkish army defeated the Greeks and allies. This was the birth of modern Turkey and Ataturk is still revered in these parts. 

Inflation in Turkey is rife. Thankfully for us the exchange rate has tripled since 2019 and we enjoyed a rate of $1 to TL12.7. For the Turkish people, though, they have no such relief, and it is said that the rural folk, Erdogan’s base, are not happy as the price of potatoes etc, has gone through the roof. Many Turkish people hope that this will be the end of Erdogan at next year’s election, but many also think that he will not give up power. We will wait and see.

Our last night was at Knidos having spent time with an English couple, Boyd and Debra, who sail an Oyster 49. We watched a guy sail his 6 m yacht into the anchorage with his cat sitting on the boom surveying the scene and anchoring where a 60 m gullet just left. Talk about contrasts and who was enjoying themselves more?

On the first day of September we arrived at Kos marina to greet Anne and Terry who are joining us for three weeks. Fortunately, the weather is cooling, particularly at night, which allows for a good sleep. We headed off to Palionnisou, Kalymnos, where we ate at Kalidonis taverna and had a wonderful and peaceful night. The next morning Stuart went up the mast to fix new spreader boots and remove the broken wind indicator. We are now anchored at Xirokampos on the southern end of Leros, sitting out, and you guessed it, a meltimi! We have had quite a good time on yachtie TV, watching charter boats arrive, anchor and then drag their anchor. Well, it is reality TV! We intend to motor to Lakki tomorrow to provision before setting off to who knows where!

Dodecanese to Turkey (16 July – 13 August)

Even though it is now over 3 weeks, the sail across from Rineia to Patmos is etched into our addled minds. The wind abated somewhat but still blew somewhere between 20 to 30 kts from the north, while a week’s worth of meltimi waves bore down on us, also from the north unless they were being reflected or refracted by the islands we passed. Epicurios, with 2 reefs in the main and sometimes quarter genoa, and the crew handled the conditions well but it was a long day covering the 74 nm in 10 hrs. Lynda achieved a PB of 9.5 kts while under the shadow of Ikaria and we were all glad to reach the relative calm of Livadia bay in Patmos.

The following day we caught up with David and Yol in Meloi bay and ate at the only taverna, which happens to be next to their lovely rental shack. The wind continued to blow, but not nearly as hard as we had experienced. We had to move on as we needed to be in Kos to pick up Steve so we upped anchor and set off to a favourite anchorage, Archangel, to the north of Leros. Lynda had been missing the bells of goats so we knew that Archangel wouldn’t disappoint with plentiful goats and bells. What we didn’t reckon on was the swirling winds around the bay, and after a pleasant dinner at the taverna, we spent a horror night being buffered from all sides. Suffice to say for Lynda, the goats were drowned out by the howling winds! Poor TT was flipped 3 times, thankfully without the engine. Disgruntled, we set off to Lakki the following day to attend to some business, stock up on alcohol and other essentials and dine out at Pirofani in Panteli, which somewhat settled our sleepless nerves.

Steve joined us in Kos on Thursday 21 July. Kos marina is much improved on what we can remember, and Ali’s restaurant always delivers great food and pleasant service. Jane returned to her favourite fruit and vege shop and we set off the following day. It took two days to get to Symi, sailing via an anchorage on the south of Kos, Kardamaina, and a beautiful but rolly bay, Kamara bay, on the south of Tilos.

At Symi we stayed at the new marina in Pedi bay and caught up with Justin and Pam, whom we had met in Kos, and sail a Beneteau called Tag and are enjoying their first Med season. We checked out of Greece on Monday afternoon, but could stay overnight and enjoyed an excessive night with Justin and Pam at one of the local taverna’s. The next morning we set off to Datca to check into Turkey. Datca hasn’t changed much and we were fortunate enough to get a berth at the wharf and quickly bought new Turkcell sim cards as we were beginning to get internet withdrawal syndrome. Both Turkcell and Cosmote now have apps so they can be topped up online, rather than having to go to a counter and hope that the person has enough English to enact a transaction.

The following day we set off on a slow sail and eventually motored to Knidos, the Byzantium port west of Datca. It really is a special place, even more pleasant when there are calm winds. To anchor in an ancient port, surrounded by ruins and enjoying a lovely fish meal at the only taverna is an experience not to forget. Its popularity is such that there are plenty of boats jostling for an anchorage. Unfortunately a Turkish yacht was robbed that night, while they were asleep on the boat! 

We set off the next day with the Code 0 set in light winds. We headed north, passing the eastern tip of Kos. We could see that the wind was quite a bit stronger on the other side of Kos so we furled the Code 0 and set the Genoa. Suddenly the Code 0 started to unravel resulting in us struggling to lower and store it away. Thankfully no damage was done and we reset the genoa and sped off to our next destination some 10 nm north called Aspat Koyu. We also call this coup bay as this is where we were anchored on the night of the attempted coup on Erdogan in 2016.  

We continued northward until we reached a small bay next to Didim where the winds were hot as they blew off the land. The temperature in Turkey has been noticeably hotter than Greece. Along the way we stopped at another set of ruins called Iasos, a mixture of Byzantium and Norman ruins and includes a house with intact mosaic floors. We stopped both ways at Yalikavak and ogled at some of the superyachts anchored. Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s motor yacht My Solaris is anchored there but unfortunately we were not invited on board. We liked Yalikavak with its mixture of upmarket shops and local working town centre. We ate at J Joe’s on the water’s edge and were served by giggling staff who were enjoying their hooch in the back of the taverna. The food was great, particularly the octopus and mushrooms.

After Yalikavak we sailed to a bay just outside of Bodrum called Pabuc Bay. The water is clear and we were able to have a decent snorkel and were pleasantly surprised over the plentiful fish. Steve cooked chicken and chorizo ragu and we settled into a peaceful night, being Lynda and Steve’s penultimate night on the boat. The following day we sailed to Bodrum and tied up at the very expensive Bodrum marina so we could clean the boat, get laundry done and farewell Steve and Lynda the next day. They left early the next day to catch the ferry to Kos, leaving us feeling a bit glum that they were leaving. 

Bodrum hasn’t change that much but we were overwhelmed by the number of people about. We trudged miles to stock up on food at the fresh food market and restocked the wine cupboard because we were about to join John and Terri on Qi who were also sailing south from Didim.

On Saturday 6 August we anchored alongside Qi at an anchorage called The Aquarium just west of Bodrum. True to form we were a bit shabby the next day after we ate prawn risotto on board Epicurios before sailing south towards Datca. Just like before the wind to the north of Kos was stronger than forecast and we had an exhilarating reach. Epicurios and Qi were neck and neck and then, when we crossed Kos, the wind dropped out until we had to turn the motor on and continue to a small town called Palamut. We ate an excellent but expensive meal at Liman where they cooked the octopus and fish in a pizza oven with the octopus draped over a hot rock! That night we rolled about and woke the next day grumpy from our disturbed sleep and motored into Datca, anchoring in the bay.

Compared to two weeks prior, Datca was packed, mostly with Turkish boats. Jenny, from Perth, joined John and Terri and we set off eastward down the gulf of Hisaronue anchoring at Kuruca, Selimye and Orhaniye. At Orhaniye, we berthed at Ersoy pension for a night and had a lovely meal in their rustic grounds. 

We are now anchored at Bozburun where we will sit for a few days. Yesterday, Epicurios and Qi had another epic race with Qi, with it’s deeper keel enabling it to point higher than Epicurios, getting the upper hand. Last night the Qi crew joined us onboard Epicurios and lo and behold, we are feeling shabby again. Some things never change.

Cyclades (4 July – 15 July)

The centre of the Cycladic group, Delos, is just to the east of our anchorage. In the distance we can spy Cleopatras house and the Temple of Isis, but that is as close as we can get. Its day two of another meltemi, with yesterday gusting to 40 kts and today, an abatement of sorts, 34 kts. We are anchored in a bay on the island of Rineia with another boat. The wind has been so strong we dare not launch TT as it could flip. So, its reading, cooking, snoozing and the occasional scrabble game.

Lynda joined us in Poros on Wednesday 6 July. Epicurios was all spick and span so the following day we headed north to Sounio bay southeast of Athens and anchored under the Temple of Poseidon, along with 40 other boats. Lynda and Stuart strolled up to the temple while Jane prepared scrumptious pesto chicken. That night it was truly magical anchored under the temple which was lit up in all its splendor. 

We set off early for an enjoyable sail across to Kea and anchored in Voukaria harbour, revisiting a now-favourite anchorage. Dinner at the ‘world famous’ Aris taverna didn’t disappoint and Jane enjoyed a spot of retail therapy.

We had an awkward sail to Loutra on the east coast of Kythnos the following day with a mixture of big swells, strong and dying winds coming from different directions. Loutra is a small tourist village with an equally small harbour which is fabulously run by a young couple. (Stavros is bit of a legend in yachtie circles). We berthed on the outer wall which was subsequently, a bit rolly polly as the winds outside the harbour steadily increased. We had some fabulous seafood and accompaniments at the two restaurants by the water. It was also where we declared a sports day, with Lynda ensconced in Carlton vs West Coast and Jane and Stuart taking a calmer view of Wimbledon.

After two nights we proceeded down the east coast to another delightful bay called Stefanos with an even smaller village. In contrast to Loutra we experienced a very calm night and enjoyed an exceptional meal at a farm to table taverna called Kantri. Mum and grandma cook, the daughters serve and dad comes and get you on your boat if requested.

From Kythnos we sailed eastward to Siros and anchored in the harbour at Foinikas on the southwest corner. The sail across was another great beam reach and Lynda’s smile on the helm says it all while Jane looks on approvingly. Another meal ashore at Calmi Mare, and another pleasant meal. We had been to Foinikas in 2019 and there are noticeably more houses on the surrounding hills. Either the Athenians or Europeans are moving in.

An early start the next day to beat the building meltemi. We set a reef in the main, rare for Epicurios, as the wind increased, we had to partially furl the genoa, unheard of for Epicurios. On arrival at Miso bay, Rineia, we even set a second reef in the main to prepare for our onward journey, 70 nm to Patmos. Hopefully tomorrow.

Peloponnese (10 June – 3 July)

About the only upside to a blow is that you have time to write the blog! We are on anchor in Ermioni harbour, south of Poros, on the Peloponnese, with the meltemi gusting to 35 kts. While the anchor is well secure, it is still nerve wracking when you hear the drone of the oncoming gusts and as Epicurios pulls one way to the next, the anchor thumps to attention. We were contemplating a long lunch onshore, but this has been duly postponed until the wind abates.

Even though Jonathan and Christine had jumped ship we enjoyed a day touring with them on the island of Skyros. The hire car from the lady, who seems to run everything around the harbour, was tired and Jane took a while to get used to the nonexistent clutch, so the day began with the occasional kangaroo hop. We visited the Mycenean ruins of Palamari which are of the same era as the ruins on Limnos. The site is well presented and is known for its geometric shaped buttresses. We continued and circumnavigated the island, even swimming in the cool waters of the Aegean. Our car really struggled on the hills, and I do not think we got out of third gear the whole day. We farewelled Jonathan and Christine again and readied ourselves for departure the next day.

Leaving Linaria was eventful, to say the least. As we left the wharf, there was a gradual buildup of clouds. By the time we had raised the mainsail, the sky had blackened behind us. Then the thunder and lightning began, but fortunately we were in front of it. Then Jane said something like, oh, there’s a waterspout. And then Stuart said, wholly sh.., or something like that, and turned up the engine to full revs. Thankfully we were able to outrun the spout and lightning but we were feeling very anxious.

We decided to go to the island of Kea, 2 or 3 nights away, staying on the east coast of Evia. We found a delightful bay opposite Andros, within the Steno Kafirea, the channel dividing Andros and Evia. The channel is renowned for wind, but we thought we would be OK snug in our bay. We were, but it didn’t mean we slept that well as the channel lived up to its reputation. The next morning, we cleared out and headed to the island of Megalonisos, an island we had visited with Qi almost a month prior. The weather app indicated the wind should be less, but as we got closer, this was proving to be a fallacy. We became ensconced in a yacht race who were being battered by the 25 to 30 kts winds.  Our supposed haven was not to be, and we continued downwind to Kea, experiencing some terrible cross swells that tossed Epicurios about in a most ungracious way.

Kea was a delight. The French have taken to the island and spent quite an amount renovating and building houses. The Chora, up on the hill, affords wonderful views across to the mainland and maintains its quaint cobbled streets and houses. Through the town and beyond there is a path that leads to a carved lion. Along the path, someone, sometime, became industrious and erected stone walls, which were either to deter the goats or the marauding pirates. We had a pleasant two days anchored in the harbour called Voukari eating fish and even managed a long lunch.

On the way to Poros we had some great sailing with Jane managing a PB of 9 kts. Anyone who has followed this blog knows Poros and its significance to Stuart. Known as ‘the toe incident’ in 2016, we were careful not to repeat bad decisions and moored on the south wharf, not the north wharf which is exposed to the weather and ferry surges. We sighted and spoke to Dr Peter, who says he remembered us, and spent 4 nights with all digits present and accounted for. 

On Monday 20 June we headed to Spetses and anchored in a delightful bay, Zageria, on the northern side of the island. The Peloponnese, when not being hammered by the meltemi, develops a southerly sea breeze, so we enjoyed north facing bays. In Zageria we were accompanied by a couple of traditional design motor yachts. At one stage we got very worried as we saw a stampede of catamarans, belong to the Party Charters, head our way but, thankfully, continued onto Spetses town.

We were heading to Nafplio, the Venetian town that was once the capital of Greece. Along the way we stopped at two more bays, one of which contained a house that we would love to own, but definitely out of our price range. The waters here were clear and we could see our anchor from the boat. The water had warmed considerably so swims off the back of the boat became routine.

Nafplio is dominated by the fort 1000 steps up the side of the cliff and consisting of 5 bastions. It is renowned for its design, particularly its defensive capabilities. This confused us, as when the Venetians were building the fortress, the Ottomans were able to overrun the walls because they were unfinished. Then, 350 Greek soldiers were able to take the fortress from the Ottomans overnight!  The old town is Venetian and a real tourist trap. Thankfully the season is yet to really take off, but buses and cruise ships were arriving. More pleasant eating and late nights with new boating friends. 

We left Nafplio on Sunday 26 and crossed Argolikos Kolpis to Astros. We had intended to stay in a bay but the swell was consistent and annoying. Astros was a pleasant surprise, with a good harbour, thanks to the Euro, and pleasant village. After two nights we continued towards Monemvasia, stopping over in a bay called Georgios. Both of us remarked how the Peloponnese peninsular reminded us of Turkey. The bays are beautiful, although somewhat exposed, relatively quiet, and dominated by the spectacular mountain range running lengthways down the peninsular.

Monemvasia is another Venetian town, fortified and built on a peninsular. It consists of boutique hotels, cafes, restaurants and churches. Why so many churches? It is beautiful, but you wouldn’t want to be one of the delivery lads, who have to cart the luggage and other goods on wheel burrow like carts, along narrow, steep and sometimes stepped pathways to and from the hotels. The harbour is non-descript, but attracts a lot of yachts, motor yachts and cruise ships. Monemvasia reminded us of Dubrovnik. 

We stayed one night and again another late night with Harry and Tarik, whom we had met in Nafplio. Our return northward began at Gerkaras, two hours motoring away. Gerakas is fiord like and special. We awoke to a very long Greek orthodox sermon on the Friday morning. The village has about 30 people, most of which attended the sermon, or at least the lunch afterwards. So why would the sermon have to be broadcast across the village? What ever happened to voice projection.  

After a long day yesterday, when we sailed from Kyparissi, we are now holed up in Ermioni harbour. Even though forecast, the wind has yet to abate. Over the next couple of days we will return to Poros, berth on the south wharf, and welcome Lynda who joins us on Wednesday. Then its across the Aegean towards Turkey!

Westward with Qi (9 May – 9 June)

Well, it’s a month since our last entry with some 500nm passed under the keel of Epicurios. We left Lakki and met up with John and Terri from Qi at Archangel to the north of Leros. It had been over two and a half years since we had caught up with our Perth friends and there was much to discuss. A dinner at the taverna on the island and it was agreed, we will travel together over the next few weeks. Epicurios and Qi are great rivals and we had some fantastic sails on our way westward. 

Apart from revisiting some favourites, such as Lipsi and Fornoi, we visited new places. One highlight was the small village of Magganitis on the south coast of Ikaria. It is a place where you can only go when it is calm, but the water is crystal clear and the scenery breathtaking. It was too early in the season for the few restaurants, apart from a small café up the hill where we enjoyed fish and hospitable conversations from the locals. 

We were stuck in Tinos harbour for four nights sitting out a meltemi blow. We registered 45kts at one stage. We hired a car and visited some of the charming mountain villages. Tinos is renowned for wine, craft beer and cheeses, which to our surprise, we indulged in and enjoyed. It is a pretty island with the most extensive terracing we have seen. While not hot on the tourist trail, it attracts expats and Athenians who buy and do up houses. There are some stunning houses and dovecotes on Tinos.

Our journey continued westward until we entered the channel between the Greece mainland and Greece’s second largest island, Evia. To the south there are some lovely anchorages on the islands of Megalonisos and Styra. We stopped at Eretria and visited a small museum and somewhat disappointing but significant ruins. Eretria has been occupied since the Neolithic period and any renovation or building site affords archeological ruins! It is also where, in 1824, the few survivors of the Turkish massacre on the island of Psara to the east, were granted land to resettle.

The wind was light, and it was in the channel that Terri introduced us to the term “bimbling”, the art of slow moving. Apparently, we are good at it! We continued northward, motoring, until we reached the pinch point of the channel at Khalkis. As an aside, the spelling of Greek places is many and varied and depends which book, map or website you look at.

There is a low bridge that spans the channel at Khalki, which opens at slack current in the middle of the night. There are four slack current periods during a typical day and timing depends on the period of the moon.  A vessel must first register with the port authority during the day and then anchor or berth until you are called via radio sometime after 11pm. We were called at 1.45am and joined the procession of boats moving northward. On the other side, the southward bound vessels, including a somewhat large tug, waited until the bridge area was cleared. In between slack periods the current can run up to seven knots and they have set up a canoe slalom course under the bridge!

Unfortunately we could not find suitable berthing at Khalki as it sounds like an interesting town. We proceeded north, stopping over at another island, Atalandi, which is also a seagull rookery. Well, that was a noisy spot to stay! At least it blocked out the howls of the westerly wind that was blowing. We also befriended a couple of fishermen who insisted on giving us octopus because one of them had a brother in Sydney. Suffice to say, once they departed we returned them to the sea, probably to be caught the following day.

On Tuesday 31 May we finally reached the small village of Oreoi where Jonathan and Christine joined us. We also were boarded by another potential crew member of the 4 legged kind. It took some encouragement to get our doggy friend to leave! Oreoi is on the northern end of the channel and has a nice little marina and is used as a charter base. We were glad to be through the channel as it tended to drag on, particularly when we had to motor much of the way. Evia is a pretty island, covered in pine trees and substantial mountains, but for yachties, we also need good anchorages and there were periods where the anchorages were sparse and unattractive. We were expecting to see evidence of last year’s devasting fires, but these were only visible as we left the channel after Oreoi. Having said this, the town of Oreoi had been blanketed with smoke and ashes for days on end.

By now it had turned hot. On 1st June, with Jonathan and Christine on board, we waved farewell to Qi, who were having battery issues, and set off to Mamma Mia land, the Sporades. The wind was to the north, and with Jonathan on the wheel, we set off chasing the competition who had a couple of nautical miles lead on use. It has taken a while, but Epicurios is starting to behave going upwind, and we set about catching up. All too often, though, the competition drops their sails before we catch them, and go off to berth in some town or anchorage. Disappointing and cowardly. Hence, we sailed on until we reached the island of Skiathos and anchored in a bay called Koukounaries on the eastern side. 

From there we went to Skopelos anchoring at Limnonari bay, where we witnessed some chest beating over anchoring protocols, and then onto Skopelos harbour. By this time, Jonathan and Christine were well and truly ensconced in onboard life, cooking, swimming and actively participating in cocktail hour. We enjoyed a lovely meal uphill in the old town called Alexanders, with a delightful garden setting. In the morning a Black Crowned night heron decided to perch itself on the rudder of our neighbour and our chain. Between boats, it perched for more than an hour.

We ventured further along the Sporades chain enjoying delightful flat water sailing and anchoring at Panagia, a national park and the bay we saw a monk seal in 2019. Unfortunately we did not see a seal but we did see a small Sea Sheppard boat and wondered why they were there. After a peaceful and isolated night, we motored around to visit the Monastery of Kira-Panagia. It is currently occupied by two monks who visit during the summer months and belong to a large monastery on the eastern slopes of Mount Athos. We met one monk who spoke excellent English and was more than willing to sit down with us and share the history and discuss what produce they were growing. It was a real treat and the history of the order goes back to 980 AD. As we approached the monastery we believe we saw a fluke of a manta ray!

We motored southeast to Peristera where we anchored for two nights. John and Terri from Qi joined us for another farewell dinner onboard Epicurios. Late afternoon we were hit by a massive lightning storm and torrential rain. This was totally not predicted by any of the forecasts and just goes to show, the weather can be unpredictable at the best of time. The wind blew but we were snug on Epicurios and Jane cooked a lovely lasagna for dinner. We drank too much, but it was in the spirit of farewelling John and Terri again and it being Jonathan and Christine’s last night on the boat. 

An early start the next morning saw us off at 7.30am and we had a fabulous sail across to Skyros. We arrived in Linaria harbour, one of our favourite marinas, approximately 1pm. A late lunch and then Jonathan and Christine jumped ship leaving us to reacquaint with our neighbour and meet others. It was fun having Jonathan and Christine aboard and we appreciated their willingness to jump in with the cooking, sailing and chores on board Epicurios. We are now in Linaria harbour for a few more days as we will be sitting out a southerly blow. 

Northward from Arki and returning to Leros (25 April – 8 May)

We are feeling less than average today having done our best to repair relations with the Irish, mopping up after the Morrison government. We finally got to eat at Jane’s favourite restaurant on Leros, Mylos, and they have upped the anti on fine dining since we were here last. We ate with Aodan and Richie, our new found Irish friends, and well, the rest is history. 

Finally, the weather is warming and we are in T shirts, for the second day running. It hasn’t been that way as even the locals have been saying is bloody cold and we haven’t really packed for the cold. Patmos, in particular, was cold as we sat out windy weather from the north.

After Lipsi we sailed to Arki and berthed in Arki harbour alongside Garreth and Christine from the UK. They have a problem. They have a rat on board who has outwitted all the traps and baits they have laid. Urrrgh. We spent a night there and ate at Nikos, one of three restaurants in the small village. Arki was host to a photo shoot with young models looking glamorous and thin.

We motored the 24 nm to Pythagoria harbour on Samos on Tuesday 26. It was great to be back in the harbour and we ate out at Pergamonto, another favourite, tucked in one street back from the harbour. Pythagoria was just beginning to open up and we were allowed to stay there free of charge for two nights.

The weather was favourable to set off to Ikaria on the Thursday and we motored along the south coast of Samos and then unfurled the genoa and sailed for the rest of the trip once we were clear of the wind shadow caused by the mountains. We berthed on the south side of Ikaria at a small marina adjacent to the capital Agios Kirykos. We moored alongside the wharf, a rarity in the med, and stayed for four nights. True to form, the wind kicked in and the mountains of Ikaria were shrouded by cloud. 

We took the opportunity to hire a car and spent the night at an organic winery, Karimalis winery, run by George, Eleni and their family. (https://en.ikarianwine.gr) George and Eleni have an international reputation for sustainable farming practices and cooking, known as the Blue Zone. The property has been in George’s family for 500 years and our guest room was almost as old. We ate with the family for dinner and breakfast and walked to an old monastery nearby. We drove the length of the island on roads characterized by having switchback corners and precipitous drops. Thankfully there were not many cars and fewer trucks! Ikaria is green, apart from the stoney mountain tops, with pines filling the valleys, occasionally interrupted by villages hanging onto the side of the valleys.

On Monday 2nd May, the wind abated enough for a thrilling sail south to Patmos. Epicurios loves a broad reach and we knocked off the 27 nm in four hours. We berth in the harbour of Skala alongside Topher and Michelle from NZ. A couple of nights in the harbour and then another two nights in Meloi bay, just around the corner and a favourite of Melbourne friends, David and Yol, who rent a shack there. 

As mentioned before, it was cold and windy, so on Friday 6, we had another fabulous broad reach to Leros and back to Lakki harbour to catch up with the Irish and restock. There are more boats here now and even more arriving, with folk busily fixing and preparing their boats for the new season.

2022 (7 April – 24 April)

Season 6 begins

There is a small fishing vessel in Lipsi harbour that is painted blue on the port side and yellow on the starboard side, a yin and yang of sorts. Which brings us to the yin and yang of owning a yacht. Not only had we not seen Epicurios for two years, but we were apprehensive on what we would find, but more on that later.

Yin and yang fishing boat

We touched down in Athens lunchtime on Thursday 7th April and made our way to the Athens Way apartments not far from the city centre. We had been there before and like the area, a mixture of university and grunge. The police stood guard on the same corners we saw 3 years prior, and the graffiti is ever present. That afternoon we attended to Sim cards at Cosmote and ate locally. The Greeks seemed to have the same protocols as Melbourne regarding masks and COVID, so we felt comfortable getting about.

The following day we visited the Basil & Elise Goulandreas modern art museum near the Olympic stadium. It was a real find with the usual array of modern European and American artists and a large collection of Greek abstract artists. That night we ate at Yiandes restaurant around the corner, situated in an old school building and serving organic food and wine.

An early start on Saturday morning had us on the plane to Leros at 6.30am. We arrived at 7.30am and were met by the car hire lady and packed our oversized suitcases (all 70kgs) into our small car. Jane took control and off we motored to the Alidian Bay suites on the water and opposite Agia marina on the east coast of Leros.

That morning we arrived at Artemis boatyard to finally step up the ladder and onto Epicurios. She looked in great condition and we were both relieved. For the next couple of days, we set about preparing the boat, feeling confident we would be in the water on the Tuesday, that is, the Yin. Then we heard an alarm warning of overcharging on the batteries and noticed that the wind instrument was not displaying any wind data. Monday the electrician arrived and proceeded to test the batteries declaring they all had to be replaced. That is 5 house batteries, 1 engine battery and 4 bow thruster batteries, ouch! The Yang.

Anyway, it’s a boat and there was nothing we could do until the batteries arrived and the wind instrument part called an ITC 5. By Friday everything was installed, and we could have entered the water on Saturday but chose Monday due to inclement weather forecast for Sunday. During the week we had the dirtiest rainfall we have ever experienced, condemning the decks to a layer of brown mud. Another Yang.  

Meanwhile we set about meeting other yachties: Aodan and Richie from Ireland, Michelle and Topher from NZ and Ric from Tassie. We reacquainted ourselves with some favourite restaurants and tried a new one. Unfortunately, Mylos, Jane’s favourite, was closed so we are hoping they will be open on our return to Lakki.

There is always a sense of apprehension seeing your boat being skillfully trucked through the crowded boatyard and into the water. The engine started, bow thrusters worked and instruments turned on and seemed to be doing there thing. We are nervously sitting on a tank full of diesel that is 2.5 years old. I had used a small pump to extract some diesel to see if there was any gunk but it seemed to be OK, but only time will tell. We cautiously motored over to an anchorage called Archangel, some 2 nm away and anchored for the night. The anchor winch worked!

The following day we slowly sailed to Lakki, some 12 miles down the coast, reminding each other on what we must do to sail and operate Epicurios. At Lakki we had to back in and attach ourselves to the wharf unassisted. Even though everything worked, we both were very very relieved when we had finalised the berthing. We spent two nights at Lakki town provisioning and drinking with our newfound friends Aodan and Richie and their friend Michael. One day we discovered the end of the vang had broken with the swivel frozen from years of inactivity and corrosion. Some 6 hours later of bashing, swearing and persuasion, the task was complete. TT was launched and with 3 year old petrol the engine easily started but ran a little rough. 

On Thursday we set sail for Lipsi in light winds flying the Code O and main. A very pleasant sail indeed with a broad reach most of the way. It was then Jane made her comment that Stuart is about the journey and Jane is about the destination! And what a destination it was, Nisis Lyra, a beautiful bay on the southwest side of Lipsi which is usually crowded but which we had to ourselves.

The following day the wind picked up creating a swell that spelt disaster into the night, so we upped anchor and motor around to Lipsi harbour, some 2 nm. Being the start of Greek Easter, there were fireworks, loud banging and gun fire into the night and the revellers were still at it past 3am. We berthed stern to in Lipsi harbour joined only by a handful of other boats. Aodan, Richie and Michael joined us in their Amel and we also caught up with their UK friends Gareth and Christine who own a Bavaria and finding it difficult adjusting to post Brexit Schengen regulations. We ate at Manoli’s restaurant which was delicious, Saturday night.

Easter Sunday seems to be a quiet family affair. However, the ring of gun fire and crackers which are in fact shot gun pellets rings out all round the harbour. 

We have been in the harbour for two nights and will be setting of north tomorrow.

The weather has been cool but sunny. The water is still too cold although the Irish tell us that it is pleasant once you get into the water. They also tell us that they swim in 9 degrees water in Ireland! The islands are gradually opening but we have noticed some businesses have permanently closed. More COVID victims. 

The Cyclades to Leros (September 15 – October 4)

With Larry and Cath on board we set sail from Linaria, Skyros, on Tuesday 17 September across to Evia and anchored at Ormos Petries. The wind was light and we motored the whole way. At Petries we spotted a turtle and settled down to GnT’s with Larry promising to tone down his infamous proportions of gin. Dinner that night on board was a prawn, mint and pea risotto. The following day we motor/sailed southeast towards the notorious Kafireas Strait that divides Evia with Andros. We managed a sail across the strait avoiding many cargo ships. Any thought of tacking down the strait were put to rest when the Admiral suggested we should get this leg over and done with ASAP.

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We arrived in Batsi on the south coast of Andros early evening and with the assistance of Nikos, the man at the harbour, we squeezed into the narrowest of gaps between a very accommodating Austrian crew and the harbour wall. Batsi is a delightful village where we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Dolphins Taverna. We would have liked to stay another day but another meltemi was coming and we wanted to be a bit more snug than where we were so we set off to Delos to visit the ancient ruins.P1090021Delos is an amazing site with its iconic lions a stand out. You can only visit by boat or on the ferries that come across from Mykonos and other islands. The site consists of temples from different civilisations and communities. It’s a bit like the World Trade Fair of worshiping made possible due to its tax free status during the ancient Greek and Roman periods. Many of the antiquities remain in the museum on the island and excavation is ongoing by the team of archeologists who are the only residents. Yachts are not allowed to anchor overnight so we skipped across to Delos’s neighboring island, Rinia, and anchored in Miso Bay and settled down to a beautiful sunset, G&T’s and dinner cooked by Larry and Cath.

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As the meltemi was forecast for the following day we motored west to Syros to moor at Finikas on the south west of the island. Another Nikos tied us up at the wharf and we stayed three nights while again the wind blew from the north. We hired a car and toured the island and the capital, Ermoupoli, which is also the commercial and administrative centre of the Cyclades. The vegetation is starkly different to the lush green of the pine covered northern Aegean islands. Syros is dry, rocky and devoid of pines. Whilst it is the most populated of the Cyclades, much of the island is sparsely populated giving it a wild and remote feel. Modest resorts are tucked away in small hamlets while Ermoupolis seems to be more about commerce, rather than tourism. We managed, maybe to the readers’ surprise, to eat lovely fish at the local restaurants and restocked the boat for our final leg across to Leros.

On Monday 23 we set sail to Paros, some 26 nm. We anchored in Ormos Naouisis at the north of Paros, a place we stayed at in 2016 during Stuart’s toe incident. This time we stayed in the south west corner of the bay in calm peaceful surroundings, somewhat different to our last visit.

With the promise of good winds later in the day we motored down the still passage between Paros and Naxos. Unfortunately the wind did not fill in until late in the day so we motor sailed along the south coast of Naxos and eventually anchoring at Pori beach, Koufonisi, one of the islands that makes up the Little Cyclades group between Naxos and Amorgos. True to form the wind picked up as we anchored, this time from the west, not the north. The temperature had definitely cooled and swimming was not an agenda item.

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The relatively short sail across to Kolytri, an anchorage to the north east of Amorgos, was blessed with a stiff northerly giving Larry a champagne reach averaging 8 kts. Finally, a brief but exhilarating day of sailing. Kolytri is remote and surrounded by the tall mountains of Amorgos. The colours at sunset are breathtaking. We celebrated our penultimate night with sausages in a mediterranean stew and freshly baked ciabatta bread for the Captain’s table.

Unfortunately our winds died the next day and we had a long motor across to the remote island of Levitha, halfway between Amorgos and Kalymnos. This is our third time at Levitha and the first time we ate at the restaurant run by the family who are sole residents during the summer season. On the walk up we noticed goats taking flight, something we remembered as we sat down to a delicious meal of slow cooked goat! It was here that Larry and Cath had their first and last swim.IMG_1121

Our final sail across to Leros was a pleasant broad reach in light conditions. We sailed into Lakki harbour and pulled up to Lakki marina to begin the decommissioning of the boat. On the Saturday we took a long lunch at our favourite restaurant Mylos, where Cath and Larry we able to taste the delights of “drunken mushrooms”, mussels saganaki and sea bream. As we were travelling by taxi we ate and drank too much, celebrating our final days in true style. We farewelled Larry and Cath the following morning and they flew on to Athens and then home. They are always a delight to have on board.

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Basil, our trusted crew member since the beginning, took its final dive on the way to Archangelos

On Tuesday 1stOctober, Epicurios was lifted out of the water at Artemis boatyard. The previous night we had anchored nearby at the island of Archangelos and enjoyed a meal of calamari and slow cooked lamb at Taverna Stigma, another restaurant we have been wanting to try over the years.

 

Epicurios is now snug on its cradle and packed up for winter in the Artemis Boatyard, Leros.

This year we have motored/sailed 1,807 nm between Turkey and the Aegean, Greece. We used 245 litres of fuel reflecting the number of hours we had to motor but still consuming at an efficient 2.3 l per hour. This was our fifth year, the milestone we set ourselves as to whether we would continue. With a total of 8,570 nm under our belt we have agreed that we want to continue this lifestyle for a while a least. This year we were joined by Deb, Lynda, Steve and Adam, Greg and Jen and Cath and Larry. We sailed in company/competition with John and Terri from Qi and caught up with Lale and Serhat. We met many other sailors, particularly from Australia, and noted that yachties are returning to Turkey. All in all a great 2019 sailing season.

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The coastline of Turkey from Kokova to Didim where we sailed

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Our route in the Aegean from Samos to Leros

Next year? Hopefully the Cyclades, Peloponnese and Ionians.

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The Sporades and that monk seal (August 27 – September 14)

We said our sad farewells to Greg and Jen this morning at Skyros airport after an eventful fortnight. Their plane took off into headwinds, which have gusted to over 40 kts in the past two days. Port authorities have even cancelled today’s ferry, which, according to the harbour marinara Sakis, is a first for September. This is a fierce late season meltemi. Thankfully Epicurios is secure in Linaria on the south side of Skyros, but more on that later.

With Lynda, Steve and Adam in tow, our sail from Kalamitsi, the nudist beach, to Liminaria, Thasos island, was long and frustrating. A distance of 53 nm, we had the motor on for 7.5 of the 10.5 hours duration. As we sailed past Mount Athos we were mindful to stay at least 4 nm out but, of course, the wind and waves blew up and Epicurios pounded its way into the swell and head winds. The wind then dropped out, but not the swell, and at one stage we sailed into a 180 degrees wind shift, miles from any interfering land. Go figure. Finally we squeezed into the harbour at Liminaria, and settled into cocktail hour, or two.

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The following day we hired a car and set off to circumnavigate the island. Our first stop was the village of Theologos, which was at one time the capital of Thasos. It’s a favoured boozy lunch spot for Romanians and Bulgarians, something to be mindful if you are driving up to the village in the late afternoon. Our next stop was the temple, sanctuary and marble quarry on the Alyki peninsula. This is a beautiful spot and it retained an air of peacefulness despite the tourist beach adjacent.

Onwards we drove to the capital on the north coast called Thasos, which sites the Archeological museum and ruins of the ancient city of Limenas. The museum was another good example of a regional museum with quality exhibits and good interpretation. Thasos was an important and strategic island and has featured in many of Greece’s struggles dating back from the Persian wars 500 BC to the Greek civil war last century. It was blessed with forests and mines of ochre, silver, lead, gold and Thasos marble which is still prized today. We drove through bushfire scarred forests along the south coast and fertile valleys to the west of the island.

On our return we welcomed John and Terri from Qi who had arrived from Kavala. We agreed to accompany them for 2 nights to the bay of Alyki, where the water is crystal clear and good snorkeling over the marble quarries. The compulsory race was again won by Qi although Epicurios did have the lead for a good part of the journey. The snorkeling was the best we have had this season with large schools of fish and an octopus. Just off the quarry there is a large slab of marble, which became a focus of speculation on what were the repercussions of loosing a slab like that over the side of the ship, death?

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On the last day of August we set sail to Kavala while Qi set off to Limnos on a trip to hell with 35 kts and fuming waves soaking John and Terri. In contrast, our sail westward was pleasant and calm and we arrived in Kavala around 3 pm.

Kavala is located on what was the Roman road called the Via Egnatia and has a well preserved section of a via duct in the centre of the town. A local artist paints eyes on buildings around the city. The marina is occupied by charter and long-term private yachts and there is little space for transient yachts. Thankfully Nikos, the local “arranger”, found us a berth for 3 nights, which allowed us to farewell Lynda, Steve and Adam and welcome Jen and Greg. We hired a car for the day and drove to the ancient site of Phillippi of Greek, Roman and Byzantium origin. We drove onto the town of Drama and ate at Entrades restaurant, an absolute gem and a surprise in such a non descript town.

On Tuesday 3 September we set off with Jen and Greg back to Liminaria on Thasos. It was a pleasant introductory sail for them both and the following day we sailed back to Alyki to sit out some weather for 2 nights before the long crossing south to Mount Athos and the Sinthonis peninsula. Another long day of 66 nm but this time Mount Athos was on good behavior and we were able to view up close the monasteries at the tip of the Akti peninsula before enjoying a great reach across to the Sintonis peninsula, past Kalamitsi, and around the tip of the peninsula to Koufos. Along the way we were joined by a pod of 20 dolphins who played with us for 15 or so minutes.

Koufos is in a well protected beautiful bay. It is a sleepy hamlet that punches above its weight in restaurants. Come sunset and there are traffic jams with folk arriving from who-knows-where to enjoy the seafood on offer. We spent a delightful two nights at Koufos before setting off to the third peninsula, Kassandra. We decided to stay a night at Miraggio marina to enjoy the pleasures of a resort. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. We were moored along side a cement pier and were not offered access to the pools. It was expensive and we all had a disrupted sleep due to slapping waves and jerking mooring ropes. The only good thing was that Jane and Jen were able to have beauty treatments at the resort spar, at a price. Not happy Jan!

The following day, Monday 9 September, we set of at 7.30 bleary eyed and cranky. We had a 43 nm crossing to the Sporades. It was a fabulous reach all the way to Nisos Kira Panagia with Epicurios easily riding the cross waves at 7/9 kts. We arrived at Ormos Painiou on the south side of Panagia having seen a small swordfish jump out of the water along the way. Panagia is a marine park and habitat for the endangered monk seal. There are no inhabitants on the island and Painiou is a beautiful spot.

The following morning a monk seal turned up and promptly started to play with the swimmers in the water. Its familiarity with humans leads us to believe it was a seal that had been rehabilitated and released. It hung around for about an hour interacting with folk and other boats. Finally it swam off, leaving all of us in the bay aware that we had just experienced something special. Reluctantly we left around midday and sailed under genoa to the delightful Ormos Peristeria, on the south side of Nisos Peristeria. Jen spotted an octopus preying on fish on the sea grass below the stern of the boat!

After a pleasant night in Peristeria we set off to Skopelos town on the island of Skopelos. The harbour is big and can cater for many yachts, although it is daunting when the large ferries arrive. The purpose of the visit was not only to see the town made famous by the movie Mama Mia but also to have a long lunch, an Epicurios tradition that has been sadly lacking this season. We settled on Muses restaurant and were not disappointed.

After an early night we set off again at 7.30 am for another fabulous reach across to Skyros, some 43 nm east. Skyros is where Greg and Jen depart and where Cath and Larry will join us for the final leg to Leros. It is also where we wanted to hold up for the forecast meltemi having been recommended to go to the southern harbour of Linaria. We were greeted by Sakis and guided into the last berth in the protected section of the harbour. The harbour is a gem and, in contrast to much of the Greece we have seen, it is clean, well organized and promotes recycling. Sakis has a quirky sense of humour as he explains to us that in the showers between 7 and 8 at night there is a disco and bubble bath. Well, he is right! Yesterday we walked around the Chora and have had two sumptuous meals in the restaurants at the harbour.

We will miss Jen and Greg, Steve and Adam and Lynda. Bring on Cath and Larry!

North and West Aegean, Greece (August 14 – August 26)

16nm across the gulf lies the might of Mount Athos at the tip of the Akti peninsular where Zeus reigned and is now the domain of cenobite and idiorrhythmic monasteries numbering approximately 20. This all male preserve is autonomic and has existed prior to the 10thC. Ironically, across the gulf, we are sheltering from the weather in a pretty bay called Kalamitsi, which is the domain of nudists, male and female. Two contrasting folk separated by far more than the water between them. Tomorrow we hope the wind will abate for our 53 nm voyage to Thassos.

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Steve and Adam arrived on the 13th in Mytilini and we stayed another night to explore and stock the cellar and fridges. The following night was their anniversary so we took the advice of our friends from Sea Fox 1 and sailed in light winds to a group of islands called the Tomaria on the northeast tip of Lesbos. It’s a beautiful fare weather anchorage and we celebrated with a nice bottle of champagne and dinner cooked by Jane and Lynda.

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The following day we motored along the north coast and around the north west corner of Lesvos to the town of Molivos, also called Mithimna. Molivos is a delight with a prominent castle on the hilltop and the added bonus was that there was a music festival over the weekend. Adam and Stuart enjoyed 3 classical performances while Jane, Lynda and Steve went off for a drive to explore western Lesvos checking out the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest, the town of Sigri and the Monastry of Ypsilou built in 1101 . We dined at the Womens Cooperative and were introduced to the delights of Limnos wines, our next destination.

On Sunday 18 we were confident of a brisk crossing over the 53 nm that separates Limnos from Lesvos, but off course all wind models were wrong and, while we had some pleasant sailing, we were forced to motor sail for too long. Along the way we saw dolphins and sent our sighting to the Archipelagos Institute of Marina Conservation who is asking yachties to forward their sighting of dolphins and turtles to contribute to the conservation of these creatures.

We anchored in a bay called Ormos Moudhrou, an anchorage used by the allies in the Gallipoli campaign. We were the only yacht, something we would have to get used to as this area is less crowded than Turkey and the Dodecanese Islands. After a brisk sail under genoa and still managing 7 kts we moved around to the next bay called Ormos Kondia. Limnos in these areas is stark, brown with low lying saltbushes and hedges, a contrast to the green of Turkey. Limnos is also a major military centre and we were startled when two low flying jets screamed overhead and then flew vertically up into the heavens.

Another brisk sail under Genoa took us to Myrina, the capital of Limnos. We stayed two nights anchored in the harbour, hiring a very small car for a circumnavigation of the island on Wednesday 21. We enjoyed Myrina and our travels across the island. We drove to the east military cemetery where English, ANZAACs and other nationalities are buried from the Gallipoli travesty plus other casualties from the Russian revolutions and other sorties. From there we visited the ancient ruins of Poliochne credited to be the first prehistoric settlement in the Aegean, the salt lakes on the east coast and the sanctuary of Kabeiro to the north east where a major attraction is the Hellenistic temple with 11 partial columns. Here is the Cave of Philoctetes, which you can swim onto, where this Trojan war hero spent 10 years recovering from a snake bite. Our last stop was the volcanic rock formations at Faraklo beach to the north of the island (another suggestion from Sea Fox 1).

Produce and wine in Limnos is excellent. We also managed to fit in a wine tasting at a very nice winery on the road trip. We will go back again to Limnos as it has much to offer in a very relaxed mode.

 

Our planned itinerary to Samothraki took a wide deviation westward to avoid the strengthening meltimi. We set off at 6.15 am, an interesting prospect for the crew, for a 63 nm sail to Nisis Dhiaporos on the western end of the middle of three peninsulas within the Khalkidhiki region on the Greek mainland. The peninsula of Sinthonia is covered with pines and the lush green contrasts the sparse islands we had just left. Unfortunately the pines attract wasps and for the next two anchorages we were beset upon, particular when food is being cooked. Apart from that the area is a wonderful protected playground for families enjoying all forms of watercraft.

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After two nights we crossed the gulf enjoying pleasant sailing conditions and anchoring at a beach on the south side of Nisos Ammouliani, adjacent to the northern peninsular Akti. This beach was dominated by a camping ground which had an unlikely restaurant that served the best fish we have had this trip. We were also treated to a visit from a lone juvenile flamingo.

P1080813We set off early yesterday to sail along the south coast of Akti to view the monasteries perched on the cliffs and hills above. What started off as a pleasant sail soon deteriorated to gusts of 30 kts plus. With memories of the “south side of Amorgos” we persevered as Zeus and the Greek gods threw bullets of wind at us, no doubt punishment for daring to have two women onboard so close to this male only domian. Yachts, if there are females onboard, must maintain a 1 nm distance from the shore. The sea spumed across the boat and eventually we called it quits and set off across the gulf to seek refuge finally in this nudist cove.

The monasteries are amazing, some dating back to the 10th century, their architecture, position and size, and all seem to be well kept. Apparently there are 2500 monks on the peninsula living either communally or solitary existence.

After  Thasos we continue onto Kavala located on the mainland to bid farewell to Adam, Steve and Lynda and pick up Jenny and Greg on Sunday. We will miss the fab, troublesome?, three.

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