The island comes alive early, fishing boats chugging past our sleepy bodies, it sounds perfect, seagull calling for the unwanted tit bits discarded by the whistling fisherman. Engines of varying tones and the sound of a slight breeze flowing through our rigging.
We surface and investigate our new home for the next 24 hours, that is what becomes a special part of sailing, waking up in new surroundings. When you feel the need to move on, we just go at our own pace in the direction that we choose, ok, perhaps the wind chooses as we would rather sail than motor. Some yachts travel for miles on their engine despite a perfect wind which we generally cannot understand, however, they may be on a time schedule or perhaps cannot sail for some other reason. Why waste fuel and listen to the constant drone of mechanical parts when you can enjoy the sound of the sea as the hull slices through each wave, the wind whipping around our ears, flapping misbehaving sails and a cargo ship roaring behind you, of course it isn't all perfect!
Today we are going walking, with decent shoes a must when sailing, most sailors also enjoy walking, they don't always have any other choice, some have push-bikes, we like walking and have limited storage for bikes therefore our legs carry us to most places. Can cooked breakfast comes first with yummy bacon, eggs toast and beans in our full tums we set off.
The coast is very pretty with those great views all around, Chios on our right and Turkey on our left. The Coastguard office sits on the water's edge scanning every vessel on its journey past their island, one of the officers appeared beside the boat last night, an extremely polite chap asking where we have travelled from and how long we plan to hang around. He asked for no paperwork or passports which is fairly normal so early in the year. By May the official paperwork begins, charges will apply for mooring, electric and any water used, at present we are able to do all of these at no cost which is incredible.
Passing there office we realise that there are a lot of young guys and a few young women milling nearby, we work out that the buildings we are meandering around, are actually the Naval college! We adjust our route out of their territory, don't wish to become an example of an interfering pair of sailors!
Next to this expanse of official constructions we see a sports stadium from the 2004 Olympic games, here on this pretty little island it is the last thing we expected. Then we realise that when we were in Langadha on Chios island, a small boat came from here across with a group of sportily dressed guys, now it makes sense.The stadium is tired but functions perfectly, paint flakes litter the pathways outside, grass grows through the fencing and rusty patches form the Greek writing informing us of this once proud stadiums use. Very sad to see the deterioration of something so costly and useful.
Small informal roads wind around the hillsides, one of which I decide looks interesting, well, it does have a lovely church perched on the top, Kevin awaits my return.
The road becomes a gentle climb then degenerates into a track which then finalises in a sturdy white painted wall. Peeking over the stoney edge the church stands beautifully within an amazing cemetery, it is pristine, clean, with white marble headstones everywhere. Flowers adorn each of the carefully laid burial sites, large leafy trees form perfect shade over this lovely peaceful resting place. They certainly know how to maintain this cemetery and care for their loved ones with so much dignity.
Kevin has parked himself, legs swinging on a wall, clearly bored waiting for me! We carry on our route passing various homes, and farmland stretching over huge expanses of this coast. Some of the buildings we pass are really old stone cottages, these must have once been fabulous sandstone structures overlooking the ocean, now in their dilapidated state of disrepair is beyond a "doer upper" but they are such strong walls with the perfect view, why have they ended up in this sorry state.
Goats bleat and baa nearby where they chew through the undergrowth, they stare are we wander by still chomping on anything edible, two grey and white very cute kids bounce around beside their elders, clearly not at all interested in our intrusion.
From the pathway we look down to where the gentle white frothy waves wash over rocks and pebbles, creating a low rumbling sound. The sea looks so inviting yet it is pretty cold when dipping our tentative toes, a small wooden white lean to structure stands swaying in the slight breeze, we guess this was a beach bar in its previous life. I am positive that in a month or so, it will once again serve the holiday makers on their day of sunbathing and swimming, for now, it sits forlornly awaiting that coat of paint a few nails or screws and of course it's guests.
This lovely island is one which I would be happy to return to, even at this early part of the season it has an air of relaxation and beauty without the hustle and bustle of the larger towns and islands.
For now we head back to Kejstral for tea and a catch up with our sleep having walked a few miles and seen some fabulous scenery on Oinoussai.
Our final day in Lesvos consisted of a short walk up to the tiny church which overlooks the bay of Skala Loutra, with tee shirts not winter coats for a change we worked our way through the little streets of Skala, dogs barked, yapped and some even kept us company up onto the deep steps which form the slabbed pathway uphill. Taking a moment to admire the growing view as we climb higher, we begin to notice the heat, the route is steep yet not actually very far. At the top of this hillside we see the village in its entirety spread out around the harbour and stretching back as it adjoins the farmsteads and fields. The bay resembled a lake, very calm with still waters, a town on the opposite shore seems so close from this perspective yet we know it is far enough away to warrant an additional can of fuel in our dingy, should we venture across. What an incredible sight, the lush landscape could easily be mistaken for a piece of English countryside, in a few months time in that crispy dry sunshine it once again will feel like Greece.
The remainder of our day we spent relaxing until our final evening meal with Lorraine and Paul, which was great. Having spent around three weeks travelling and sharing these lovely islands with our friends, we will be sad to leave their company. We have had a great time despite the cold and rain, but we must head south once again and Lorraine and Paul are continuing north over the next few weeks. Thank you for your company, great meals and plenty of fun...... and for catching our lines of course! 😁
Monday 15th April
Our water tanks are full as are our cupboards and fridge, it is time to move on towards our next port. Oinoussai island 41 nm south from Lesvos, with winds evading our canvases the journey was disappointing, 8hrs on the engine. The forecast suggested 12 knots from a northerly direction which would have been a slow but manageable journey, what we experienced was a measly 5-6 knots of wind and a very swelly sea. For hours we bounced around assuming the sea state would ease and hopefully the wind would consider coming to a generous 12 knots, but no, it was not to be. Having said our goodbyes at 08.00 hrs we arrived in Oinoussai at exactly 4pm.
The island does look very inviting on first inspection, a long thin strip of land which we must travel around to its southern edge, with not one gust of wind to help us on our way!
The entrance to the port appears rather shallow and even though our charts and navigation inform us that we have sufficient depth below our 1.74 metre keel, the clear turquoise water and easily visible sea bed do not have us entirely convinced. We are wary, the fact that there are no other boats on the suggested pontoon for yachts, (it is only April remember) and the starfish staring up at us from their sea floor, we convince ourselves that it is better to moor stern to rather than alongside. Less chance of running aground!! We moor with no problem and no one around to assist with ropes, Lorraine and Paul, where are you when we need you?
Feeling exhausted and hungry we sit in our cockpit enjoying the lovely town in front of us. Terracotta roofs, churches, fishing boats, the Coastguard boat pulling up right next to us........ he moored alongside, clearly he knows this harbour and he has no keel. Feeling a little nervous when these boats show up is quite normal, they generally have no real interest in yachts, yet it's difficult not to feel intimidated by their presence especially when they park so close.
They go about their duties while we watch, but try not to stare, they are very laid back in attitude yet when you as a sailor are approached, they are pretty scary initially until they are confident that your paperwork is in order, then they change to happy chatty chappies.
We decide to explore before dinner and the sun descends, we have been sitting down all day, so need a bit of exercise. The town is small and quaint, a few small market shops, a couple of bars and most other buildings are closed. Mid April sees most of these islands beginning their seasonal clean up, Oinoussai doesn't appear to have much to open and even less to titivate. Beautiful views across towards Chios island on the west and the Turkish coastline on the east capture our gaze as the sun dips gently over Chios. Silhouettes begin to form from the tiny rocky outcrops, clouds throw sun rays across the sea where they shimmer into the gentle waves. What a glorious time of the evening, the air becomes cooler as we wander back to Kejstral, we do call into a cafe to take advantage of their internet. As we order our coffees we are informed that the island has free internet, fabulous, what a bonus.
Tomorrow we will explore a little before travelling to Samos the following morning.
Well the rain has stopped finally.......we hope!
Our last day with the car should be a little better than yesterday's complete disaster.
Lorraine has planned the stops, Paul is navigating and Kevin is driving, I chill, no use interfering with a well laid out schedule. First stop was a prehistoric city named Therma an early form of urbanisation due to the islands rich vegitation and copious rain (so we found out)
The site was initially excavated by an English archeologist in 1929 but re covered with earth for protection. In 2005, the site was re examined and further excavation took place. The city's construction came in phases as most cities do, but each phase demonstrated an educated plan for defenses and an organised structure to the streets, quite sophisticated planning in such an early era. The city was finally destroyed by fire in 1300 B.C. Not only has this excavation shown a well thought out development throughout the phases of construction, it has established the work of potter's, metal crafting and woodworking. A pretty advance city for its age and situated in a beautiful setting by the sea on the eastern coast of Lesvos. A short video explained all of this, in addition, the importance of this city and it's strategic position between Asia and Europe on the edge of the Turkish coastline near where Troy would have been situated.
The remains of these strong, well built walls are now mainly overgrown with the most picturesque yellow wild flowers. Plaques enlighten us to each home and workshop, kiln and place of worship. You may think that time should be taken to tidy and weed this extraordinary place, yet the pretty spring flowers are stunning and provide a beautiful background to this ancient historical site.
We investigate another monastery, this one named Taxiarchis, founded by St Ignatius in 16th century. It is one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in Lesvos. Outside this impressive stone building with flowers adorning each pathway and doorway, is a jet plane. This unusual item is something to do with St Michael being the patron saint of Taxiarchis.......I cannot actually find the relationship between the two written anywhere that makes sense! Either way the fantastic monastery is worth the visit, it's church has the most fabulous interior even if you are not religious, it is worth a visit. As for the plane, well that is rather impressive too if not a little bizarre!
Lunchtime called for a slightly different location, this time a waterfall called Mankatsa. Leaving the monastery we head towards the countryside once again, the signs indicate that a short walk from the roadway we will come across Lacos Mankatsa. We abandon the car on a narrow road, well not really a road, more of a dirt track, we seem to go off road rather a lot. Not quite sure who is the irresponsible one, the driver, the navigator or the route planner, but we seem to end up in a little wilderness and no where near a normal piece of tarmac! To be honest, this is what we enjoy most, the best places are usually off the beaten track and we have certainly seen a lot. 😁
A small stone bridge stretches across a gentle flowing stream. Trees and shrubs surround us as we follow the track on foot towards what we hope will be the waterfall. The spring flowers are really pretty mingled into the undergrowth, butterflies are everywhere I have never seen so many in the sky, presumably a hatching recently.
Puddles from our recent rainfall see us tiptoe carefully along the stoney path, a terrapin stood, head facing the sun on a grey rock alongside a large puddle. He takes no notice of our cameras, barely even raising a smile as he soaks up the warmth from above.
As we wind our way through the increasingly tree lined track we notice the water gushing forcefully that initial steady trickle has increased in momentum. The sound is growing yet we cannot yet see the waterfall, it takes a few places more for us to reach its source. From between bent tree trunks and leafy shrubs we see the gushing flow of this rather impressive waterfall, we wobble on rocks and perch on tree roots to each see a better glimpse of this lovely sight. It was worth the walk to see the great scenery and nature at its best, now can we have lunch?
We brought a picnic courtesy of lidl supermarket to enjoy in the bright sunshine and fresh air, having spent so much time avoiding the rain and hiding from winds, we needed this outdoor experience.
Post lunch the Ruins of Messa await our archeological minds, unfortunately no one told them we were visiting therefore the great big metal gates were firmly padlocked. Cockerels and turkeys watched from an enclosure nearby as we balanced on walls and peered through fences to see a little bit of ancient Messa, the fowl clucked loudly as our attempts to get a better view became pointless, we were locked out for the day!
The day was coming to a close and our car had to be returned to its rightful owner, we left the cockerel and Turkey to squalk to each other.
The day had been another success, and our plan for the evening was a meal at one of the local taverna in Skala Loutra before bed.
Tomorrow a walk to the church high above the little harbour in Skala Loutra.
Our drive today took us towards the west of Lesvos, the plan was to head out and see the petrified forest in Sigri, unique to Lesvos following volcanic eruptions 20 million years ago, ash was thrown over trees of various variety which then became caked in mud from heavy rainstorms afterwards. Each of the trees essentially baked and mummified with the chemicals seeping from volcanic materials into their cells. The trees which were left standing, few I might add, actually absorbed the chemicals and minerals through the root systems. Excited to see such a magnificent sight, were were then pretty disheartened to read that the forests were closed! However, there is a museum dedicated to this incredible petrification process, hopefully we will not be too disappointed.
The drive through spectacular countryside was breathtaking, green fiends in abundance, pretty spring flowers bursting into colourful carpets, yellows and whites, purple and reds, the scenery is beautiful. Rocky landscape blanketed in foliage and trees remind us of our home in the UK, Dartmoor national park. Most Greek Islands have huge barren areas around the mountains and more remote regions, whereas Lesvos is completely the opposite.
En route we pass a sign for one of Lesvos lovely monasteries, this one appears to be dedicated to meadows, hmm an interesting but not the most bizarre dedication!
When we follow the brown historical signage towards this monastery we begin to realise exactly why it has its unusual dedication, it is gorgeous.
A collection of minature churches and little religious buildings are scattered across the brilliant green landscape, constructed in old stone, slate and red bricks they resemble a little Hobbit village. In the background of this panorama is the most idyllic monastery I have ever seen. With wisteria and minature roses draping themselves across ancient wooden beams and fencing, the buildings couldn't look any more picturesque if they tried. The main monastery building is actually dedicated to three saints and its name Limonos Monastary means meadow as it is snuggled perfectly into one. Founded in 1527, these buildings nurture frescoes dating back to 16th and 17th century, monks accommodation and of course the main church building are open to visitors. Unfortunately women cannot enter the church until 14th October, feast day. We were all completely captivated by this stunning place and I recommend a detour if ever on the island.
We travel around 90 kms before spotting the evidence of the historical forest site, large tree trunks laying by the roadside capture our interest. They are surrounded by mesh fencing and some of these tree like structures are caked in plaster of paris material, presumably to protect their aged mummified contents. What we don't at this point realise is that these are examples of the petrified trees uncovered through excavation. Until we reach the museum we are unsure just what these trees might actually look like.
The museum is fantastic, a great exhibition of the volcanic eruptions and the unique process that caused this whole natural phenomenon, there are other sites internationally, mainly in America.
We are shown to a small lecture theatre where we learn about petrification and how the area 150,000 metres square, has been affected on this third largest Greek island in addition, animal and plant fossils have since been discovered making this an incredible archeological find.
The exhibits of both trees, fossils and volcanic materials are incredible and well worth the €5 each to experience. The actual forest is closed in order to protect the exhibits as rain and presumably cold weather clearly has a destructive effect and it will reopen at an appropriate time, just not this week!
Sigri village nearby was a perfect lunch stop, we parked our trusty wheels at the top of a hill and followed the winding roads towards the waterfront. This small collection of houses and a sprinkle of cafes on the hillside led us to a building site, a new harbour was under construction. Concrete hosed from lorries while men in wellies directed the flow, huge slabs of harbour wall were developing as we took our seats for lunch, not the prettiest view but I am sure in the not too distant future it will look very impressive.
With such a long journey back towards Skala Loutra, we meandered through yet more beautiful countryside and greenery, albeit a slightly different route east.
What a fabulous day, we have seen some of the best places and scenery in the islands so far and we still have another two days with the car. Tomorrow we head to Petra which boasts an impressive castle and town with a picturesque cobbled street down towards the harbour.
The following morning our weather forecasts, all four of them, state showers intermittently. They lied, all of them.
From the moment we woke until late afternoon it absolutely threw it down, occasionally it abaited enough for us to leap into shore from our boats then we made it into the car in another momentary break. For the entire day we ducked into cafes and doorways assessing every puddle depth as we sploshed our way through the heavy droplets. Pedi looked lovely, we drove there anyway anticipating an improvement in the black ugly sky. With each mile that we drove, the mist covered our tracks and probably laughed at our attempts to outrun it's outbursts.
We actually walked towards the harbour having driven as close as possible given the narrow streets ahead. We pulled our waterproofs tightly around us as we quickened the pace, what a pointless trip. Such a pretty place with its dominant stone castle peeking at us through the cloud. We stopped for lunch in a roadside bar, which was great but what we really wanted to do was sit at the top of this lovely town looking over the sea munching on whatever was on offer. Our day of driving ended early, we at least tried to see the sights, tomorrow should be an improvement...... we hope!
Back to Skala and relax on board with hatches closed and the heater on, great fun.
Our first day in Skala Loutra was a washout, literally. The heavens opened and forgot to close again, thunder rumbled in the background, small flashes of lightening brightened the otherwise dull drizzly sky in little bursts. We stayed on board through the boat cleaning rain, sea sloshing us around just enough to illicit that nausea feeling, lovely! Going outside would have been awful, not just because we would get wet, mainly its the drying issue on our return to the boat, damp clothing hanging in a small confined space with little chance of getting anything dry. The only electric point on the small quay, was having to be shared by our two boats meaning that putting a heater on was not really an option as we did not have the cabling to split the power.
We created our recent video, logged our previous photos and wrote about the journey so far before the boredom set in forever.
Fortunately, Paul and Lorraine on their yacht were have an equally dull day and by the evening we thought it best to eat together and play a few games of cards, neither of which I won I might add. That night, rain dripped even more angrily onto the boats disturbing our nights sleep however, tomorrow we had a plan....regardless of how many meters of rain fell between now and the morning, we are going outside.
Today the 10th April, we are catching the local bus into Mityline then having booked a car online, we are going to see the sights of Lesvos, unless we get washed away first!
Waking up to a bright quiet day was so lovely, we all slept soundly once the rain had dropped its final annoying drip. The bus is due around 10.15 am from just behind the quayside, very exciting!
By 10 am we were loitering around the terminus, by 11 am we were still idly making little tours of the bus stop and by 11.30 am we were ready to give up and climb into the back of a local truck anticipating a lift to.....anywhere. Finally by 11.30 a rather lively personality turned up in his slightly beaten up coach.
We clambered on board despite the scratched dented and battered exterior, which gave us a little insight into the drivers skills and possible behaviour on these roads. However, the sun was out and the sky hinted at a day without rain, we were ready for adventure.
First stop Mityline, the islands capital. From the top of the hillside looking down over this large city we see the port complete with a ferry moored ready for its next journey. The sea looks relatively calm and the sky is a fabulous blue, ok not all of it is actually blue, there are some grey, blackish looking patches which I refuse to make eye contact with hoping they won't see us.
The buildings are mainly terracotta roofed and white painted exteriors, a main thoroughfare takes cars out and around the huge outer castle wall. As we step onto the streets the bustling town engages our attention, bars and restaurants line the promenade, busy people moving through their working day skirt around us as we leisurely amble along. A few tired yachts sit forlornly on the harbour wall, possibly having been there all winter undisturbed, two naval vessels sit proudly along the quayside their crew nowhere to be seen.
Our first purchase were various electrical parts to attempt to construct a few splitter cables, as mentioned previously, should we find ourselves on a quayside with only one power source, these cables with a variety of connecting end pieces, will allow us to share the power between two boats. The parts were found easily with the help of Paul's Greek/Cypriot language skills and even more fortunately, he is capable of working out how to construct them! The streets are very quaint, some unique little boutique style shops with most unusual gift ideas kept our attention while we located our electrical parts. Some shops are seasonal, and April I am afraid is a little early for their door opening, there are some very quirky items on display, from door knockers to what look like Fabergé eggs! A very attractive town with plenty to see which we must visit again, preferably outside of siesta time.
We decide on a coffee break before checking out our car hire which is booked for this evening, both of which turn out to be neighbouring buildings, rather handy for us. Our ability to assess coffee and other beverages is becoming quite a skill, we have had some, interesting flavours and now have the knack of rating each even before the taste test, the things you do for amusement!
A castle visit is obviously necessary, the wall which could be seen as the bus brought us into Mityline is huge, apparently the largest in the Mediterranean. Mainly the outer wall with a few ruins from the ottoman empire invasion are left pretty much intact, a section towards the port has some of the old brothel buildings from a later era. During the last few year's the construction of a new ring road began in order to alleviate the congestion within the city. Unfortunately this involved destroying a part of the castle perimeter. During the construction of this road, the castle took a further assault from vibration which damaged both part of the wall and the new road itself. The ring road idea seems to have been shelved ever since.
Our walk around the wall was joined by a few stray dogs, each of them were friendly, clean and certainly well fed. They even had kennels dotted around the grounds with food nearby, clearly well cared for by the locals. As we near our final section of circular walk the skies darken once again just above our heads, coats on and we quicken our pace before those big wet splashes dampen our otherwise great day. Towards the port entrance a small bronze statue of liberty built in 1920s stands welcoming visitors to Mityline, the young girl apparently symbolises a figure of freedom and holds the similar pose to the American version of the statue of liberty.
Our car hire is ready and the rain is intermittent, we decide to collect some provisions before heading back to Skala loutra. A Roman aquaduct hides nearby according to our map, we make a detour to investigate. The seventeen arches of this highly impressive structure stand beautifully within the trees and hillsides. A section of 170 meters in length constructed with local grey marble is left standing for the world to see, and it is rather stunning.
Our day is done, plenty more to see tomorrow now that we have wheels rather than sails!
Set out 08.00, cloudy with very little wind. Managed to unfurl the genoa 15 mins later in 10 knots of gentle breeze which gradually increased over the hour. By 09.00 we were moving along beautifully at 6.2 knots. Lorraine and Paul flying off ahead as usual, probably on the engine! A pod of dolphin join us very soon after our departure dipping and diving through our spray, they appear to have been loitering around the fish farms at the entrance to the bay.
Out in the open sea yet another small batch of dolphin played around in the surf at our bow, weaving and nudging our hull, they are such beautiful creatures.
Clouds break up in front of us but also hang around behind, they sneak up on us gradually to empty their contents over us, fortunately only for a few moments We managed 3.30 mins sailing before the sea became sloppy and the wind subsided, then the dreaded engine was put back into use. Four hours left to go and we would hate to have to rely on fuel to take us there unfortunately this was the case.
A fender cleaning session followed as the tyres on Ikaria marina left a horrible thick black residue on our port side fenders, white spirit or acetone works well to remove the mess and of course a bit of elbow grease!
Kevin leapt from his seat, the fishing line was being torn from the reel at a great speed, fish on! The battle commenced, what a fight. I ran to collect our net, sought out our biggest bucket in view of the challenge facing Kevin, after a good ten minutes of sweat and grueling work he managed to reel in with as much strength as his muscles would allow............................a damned plastic bag, a sign of the times I suppose!
Needless to say he was not thrilled.
As we near the coast of this large very green island we see small patches of terracotta roof tiles peering over the mass of shrubbery and foliage, in stunning landscape. Most of the islands even in April have large expanses of barren land, here the scenery is totally different. Our passage takes us up into the channel to the eastern side of Lesvos, and our plan is to moor is Skala Loutra. Friends have spent many weeks in this small fishing village claiming its beauty and facilities are second to none, we are excited to see our new home for the next few days stay.
To our surprise rusty fishing boats, clearly at the end of their sea worthy days sit sadly against the pretty green shores, an unused cruiser which in its youth would have been rather spectacular, lies abandoned against its iron buddy previously yet another elderly vessel. It was not what we expected at all, perhaps the grey/ black heavy clouds and sloshing sea gave us a slightly tainted view of the bay and it's little fishing village.
Dropping anchor we moored stern to against a very tidy pontoon, power and water were available, but we had to split the powers as only one socket appeared to function.
Having caught our lines once again we settled with Lorraine and Paul in the cockpit for a well earned beer, we were all weary from another day on the waves. Soon the electric was hooked up and our individual heaters on for tea a film and relax in our separate boats listening to the drip drip drip of rain, before the full downpour began. Hopefully tomorrow will bring us better weather!
What a night, huge ungainly swell, loud music until 06 00 am, this happened on both nights spent here, rain intermittently and not a good place to be basically. We did think that when Stellios handed us a huge lazy line to go with our anchor, that it was a bit of overkill.... now we know why!
Our day in Chios town was somewhat sedate the rain depicting when we went outside and even then we only managed a supermarket shop and the nearest coffee shop, which did serve a very good coffee and free cake!
Our decision as to where to head next was somewhat guided by the incoming weather forecast. Each time we perused the pretty coloured pictures and charts our minds changed, winds in a weeks time are likely to reach 45 -50 knots therefore we must seek a good safe mooring, yet we cannot rely on that, it is a week away after all. If we go north with the southerly wind, how do we get back down in the time frame we have allocated. It isn't a particularly difficult decision, just a confusing one. We aim to be back in Turkey for the end of April, just for convenience and beginning our new Marina contract, bear in mind we messed the marina around last year by not arriving at all. They very kindly held our space open even though we could not actually bring Kejstral into Turkey. In addition, they allowed us to use some of the payment from last year to help finance this year's contract. So, we basically didn't want to irritate them once again.
We did go out for a lovely meal on our second evening to celebrate Lorraine and Pauls anniversary, which was the one time the rain held of thankfully.
During one of our coffee stops, one that allowed us to walk around the harbour without a huge downpour, we finally decided to keep heading north.
Next plan, this afternoon, we will go further up the coast to Langadha, on Chios which will shorten our next passage to Lesvos.
Having paid our small port fee of €6 per night and 24 hours worth of electricity €2 we thanked our very helpful harbour master and set off in 6 knots of wind.
Our sails were unfurled as soon as possible, but with such a gentle wind, the engine was fired up once more. Only 8 nm away, Langadha is a very pretty bay on the north east coast, even though it is tucked in very snuggly, the slight Easterly wind caused some sea disturbance for a while.
What a lovely town, coffee shops and restaurants galore, very pretty harbour area and full of people, both Greek and Turkish, (Turkey is only two miles across the water.)
We pulled up alongside the town quay in view of the fact that 15 meters of water is a little too deep to drop anchor for a safe stern to mooring, so we took advantage of the space available. Apparently the small mini market can supply water and electricity via key or card payment. We needed neither but very handy to know.
On arrival we had drinks on board Freya with Paul and Lorraine then set off for a walk around the small but pretty little harbour. It didn't take long, especially as the sky darkened with ominous looking black heavy, water filled clouds!
Tea and sleep came early that night, we had missed a few good sleeps in Chios town, we really needed to catch up.
After breakfast and a bakery visit we let loose our stern lines, a 09.30 start today as we have 30 nm to cover and are expecting a good sail. The wind
reaches 16-25 knots but the sea chose to gradually build and give us a rather lumpy ride.
A cold wind has us wrapped up in thick coats, hoods covering our ears especially when on the helm. We steer most of the way as the auto pilot struggles with the swell when Kejstral bashes into the waves. It is such a fabulous feeling to sense the wind and feel the most comfortable sail position, despite the swelling sea. No tacking required at all over the distance, the wind slowly edged around from a more northerly direction to the east as we neared the island, which allowed us to steer straight into the marina on one tack. Even caught a bonito on the lumpiest windiest section of the route, he did have to be dropped unceremoniously into the lazarette (storage compartment) at that point........sorry fish!
Lorraine and Paul took a different line yet managed to leave Patmos and arrive in Ikaria at virtually the same time, 15.00 hrs (just early enough to stand and catch our lines!)
The marina is small, perfectly situated next to the bustling town but electricity is not available, water was, which came as a nice surprise. Toilets and showers have never been opened and there is no charge to moor.
Paul and Lorraine expertly cooked a risoto and following a few drinks we headed off for sleep.
We chose to stay in Ikaria for a further 24 hours until the winds could push us up to our next island therefore a day of exploring and stocking the fridge followed.
Internet access for us comes in the form of data SIM cards, we choose the temporary option as we have internet already set up in both UK and our Turkish home. €10 for 5gb, could work out a little expensive if used continuously but we try to use cafe restaurant internet where possible.
Lorraine suggests following the coastal path towards Itherma, the small spa village nearby, not a great distance but we do climb high above ground level for some spectacular scenery. Pretty churches balance on rocky outcrops, while spring foliage line our pathway, their leaves and shoots stretching out towards that warming sunshine. Looking down over the precarious rocky cliffs the sea froths around pebble beaches, huge rocky surfaces reflect the wash like shimmering glass. From our vantage point the breeze whips around our necks yet as we round the coast, sheltered little sun traps find us stripping down the layers of clothing. Itherma is closed for the winter, or so it seems, as we gently wind our way down through steps and narrow walkways we glimpse the few locals opening doors and windows in an attempt to let in spring. Those few residents who have escaped their hibernation have dusted and mopped, painted and polished we must seem too keen as we enter their sleepy village.
A cafe serves us refreshments as we chatter away, yet more sweeping and gardening going on around our words, a few people stare but most say "kalimera", while probably thinking, "you are mad to be here so early".
The thermal spa is yet to have it's seasonal titivation, we sneak into the hot sticky cave like building, I nearly disappear down a section of broken flooring but manage to (not quite elegantly enough) save myself, more bruises!
The town is so quiet with very little open which is a pity as the museum and spa look very interesting, we must venture back a little later in the year.
From here we head back up the steep incline towards those superb views and our boats. Supper on board Freya, BBQ fish, prawns and roasted vegetables, perfectly finishing the day.
5th April 2019, we set off for Chios Island.
Woke early for an 08.00hr sail, calm night with no wind. 49.3nm to get to our destination which should take... 8 06 mins hours.
Untied just as it turned 8 o'clock, from our alongside position. Freya just a few minutes behind.
Wind picked up to 10 knots as we skirt Ikaria and head north. Genoa out on a broad reach, expecting a southerly wind for the next few days aiding our passage, even though it will only be around 10 knots!
As we round the headland away from Ikaria we turn north with a beautiful following sea, quite rolly at times though. The wind stayed at 5-8 knots just not enough to hold the genoa in place but we persevered.
Freya has a spinnaker pole, allowing the sail to maintain a better position yet the top or head of the sail continued to wilt with the rolling sea.
Very few boats joined our journey, a cargo vessels sauntered alongside us for a while, clearly in no hurry to arrive at her destination.
Transit time we estimate to be 8 hours hence the early start, our engine is running at its best between 5 and 6 knots so a long day ahead! No chance to turn off engine at all. No fish or dolphin to entertain us and very little sail adjustment required, what a shame after our two previous journeys.
Arriving at Chios harbour the wind had its usual final blow just to make our entrance a little more complicated, fortunately it had the grace to settle again prior to our final manoeuvre!
What a beautiful afternoon brilliant blue sky, virtually no wind and the sun to warm us perfectly, it could be a great few days on Chios, if it wasn't for the weather forecast. Rain for the next 48 hours at least and winds picking up, not pleasant for sailing. For now we enjoy the warmth and a walk around our new destination.
We let lines loose at 09.20 to motor across the bay, met Freya by the marina attached to Artemis yard. Soon after leaving the bay our sails we're out, the main first, unfurling gently into 11 knots of breeze, next the genoa soon followed. The wind gathered momentum within a few moments we had a beautiful shape in the canvas. Clear blue skies above us yet a cool wind reminding us yet again that we are just into April. The sea bobbed us around initially in 0.5 meters of swell which grew over the distance towards Patmos, reaching a meter and sending cold spray over us as we splashed through the waves. Our main needed reefing as we heeled over with each gust, spray washing our decks and fenders perfectly. Soon the genoa had to be downsized too, but what a fantastic first days sail. 22 nm, three hours under sail and it couldn't have been more enjoyable, at times when hanging on for dear life, I wonder why we do this saily thing, but today it was great. We didn't even have to change tack throughout the sail. Our friends Paul and Lorraine sailed alongside us the whole way on Freya, arriving into Patmos just ahead of us, great timing and it meant they could take our lines!
The harbour was pretty deserted other than the coast guard boat guarding it's domain, with a few fishing boats tied up nearby, we are quite possibly the first of the seasons sailing community to moor. Locals watch as we tie up and discuss our voyage, they must not only love these money spending holiday makers, yet almost definitely dread the chaos and upheaval we visitors bring to their little quiet Island.
We are all exhausted from fresh salty air, sea spray and concentration, lunch and a sleep is needed.
When we surface our bodies need a walk and to feel solid ground beneath our feet, a beer and of course some internet access. Patmos town is one of our favourite places, lovely gift shops line the narrow streets, little snack bars nestle into the old stone walls and it feels lovely. The town is still opening its doors, painting it's plant pots and generally preparing for spring and the influx of holiday guests over the coming months.
As we make our weary way back to our vessels, one of the large cruise liners rounded the headland and stuck it's huge white bow into the bay, before it even dropped it's massive anchor, the little shuttle boats sped out to greet their excited passengers. No wonder the shops and bars were so eager to open!
Tea was chicken fajitas cooked on board Kejstral, which of course was washed down with a little wine and beer.............well, we couldn't finish the day without!
The winds are coming back and with avengance, we won't be going anywhere few a few days.
Sadly our plans to set sail this week have been thwarted, we are not too stressed though. Leros has everything we need for comfort and warmth, not only do we have our good friends Paul and Lorraine here for company, we are sitting in the marina which gives us electricity, water, good showers and toilets. The shops provide everything we could possibly need, with a few good eatery's pretty close. Of course, we also have a few small but essential tasks to do onboard, which we no longer need to rush through now.
I have decided to re cover our sofa/ salon cushions which meant a day out to Soke town whilst we were back in Turkey. We drove the 30 minutes to Soke with our dear friends Andrew and Helen, calling in for a Starbucks en route back, (obviously!) Managed to pick up 15 meters of lovely material for a whole £65, just got to fit it into our bags in order to lug it across to Leros. Hmmm it could be a squeeze as we also needed to pack a quilt, thick woollies and lots of teabags, well, you cannot expect us Brits to use any other teabags (brought all the way from the UK I might add.)
Now that we managed to get safely across the water to Greece without sinking the ferry, and now that the more messy engine, toilet jobs are complete, I can start the hand sewing marathon. Just before we left Turkey almost two weeks ago, Helen and I spent a week sewing furiously the new cushion covers for their lovely yacht Kouros, therefore our fingertips from pinning were rather tender and even the thought of sewing again have sent my poor digits into panic mode.
One cushion done, ten to go!
Kevin has been busily scrubbing the deck, literally, the dust from a few months of weather changes our teak colour to a dull miserable grey, the difference is incredible.
Otherwise our time here has been rather leisurely, wandering into town for a gyros and shopping as needed, having drinks with our friends and waiting for the weather to change to a more settled state.
Our initial plan was to head north however the winds are coming from exactly where we want to go, meaning we either motor or tack continuously, neither of which are really what we want. The next plan was to head south which is a little disappointing as we have seen all of those islands quite recently, but it wouldn't stop us going. Currently, the winds have changed again to a southerly, this is exciting as we might get north after all. Unfortunately that is not what is actually stopping us leave Leros this week, it is the 45 knot winds begining tomorrow and staying with us until Tuesday which pose the problem. Whilst we are moored securely with good facilities, why move.
Today we decided to go on a good, scenic walk towards the town of Pandeli which also happens to be the capital town in Leros. As we have only ever driven there, we are hoping to take a less known path and see a little wildlife on the way and head around the coast. On most of these islands there is a main route from north to south by road, in order to access the villages around the edges, we first have to get back onto the main road. Leros apparently is no different, as we head into the spring flower filled hedgerows and farmland, we quickly find our lovely path directs us back to the main road. Cars zip past speedily and dogs complain loudly as we ease our way along the narrow roads, poppies and daisies litter the grass banks around us. As we climb towards the next turning the road winds back down towards the cool blue sea, the glistening water is so clear towards the shore. Turquoise edges invite us closer but the chilly wind warns us that is only March, we do not relish the thought of stepping into the sea at this time of year. Steps take us upwards once again where the views are simply stunning, this time into the town of Pandeli. The harbour is predominantly for fishing boats, beautifully painted, in white with blue, yellow and red stripes, these little boats are bustling. Nets are being cleaned and emptied of their days catch, in this gorgeous sunshine it seems the perfect lifestyle. Fishing in the early hours, bringing back the catch to sell to the local restaurants and shops then the afternoon washing the boats and repairing nets. Yet the reality of this life is far from its sweet sunbleached image, freezing winds, rough seas, minimal catches and possibly poor payment for a long days work. Yet these fishermen all appear content with life and its repetition, perhaps we expect a little too much from ours sometimes!
We enjoy lunch from a cafe on the beach, chairs precariously perched on the stoney floor and the view is glorious. What more could we want, warm sun on our skin, good friends for company and a beautiful island to enjoy.
Two cushions done, eight to go!