Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Sporades, Part 1

Janet's off on a little photo safari to the town of Skopelos. Bernie and Di just took off on their bikes for the village of Glossa and I'm 'home alone' trying to stay out of trouble. That's not too hard here in the tiny harbor at Nea Klima on the island of Skopelos. About the worst I could do is make some bull move doing boat jobs but my little tasks so far this morning have been a success and its time to write.
Loutraki Harbor, Glossa above
We had a nice sail down from Nea Skioni in the Halkidiki about a week ago. We left motoring and not expecting any decent wind. So when it began to pipe up a little from aft the port beam I rolled out the genoa and thought we'd just motor-sail for awhile. Low and behold, the wind kept building and we had a lovely sail under genoa alone at 6-8 knots  to  Loutraki Harbor on the island of Skopelos in the Northern Sporades. Lovely place with the village of Glossa on the mountainside above the bay. First LIght III (Bernie and Di) were there with their son Simon and his girl friend Noelia. We went up to the village exploring, hiked the hills and took the bus to the main town on the island, also called Skopelos. All very mellow.
Street scene, Skopelos
The Sporades, technically the "Northern Sporades",  are an island group off north central Greece that are not what might be what comes to mind when thinking of "Greek Islands". They are rugged and mountainous with ancient mountain villages and more modern coastal towns and ports. But these islands are heavily wooded with lovely pine forest. Where the forest has been cut back there are olive groves and occasional viniculture. The Sporades are a little west of the mainstream of Meltimi winds. Summers are a little less hot than further south and we've had warm days and cool nights  with nice breezes that are prefect for sleeping on board. From the fall of the Roman empire until almost modern times the islands were a notorious pirate hangout. So the villages were away from the shore on high defensible positions. They are very picturesque places with narrow lanes between white washed homes with tile or slate roofs, cool and shady, with views to die for. 
Street scene, Glossa
  The coastal port towns are equally lovely once you get away from the tourist scene in larger places like Skiathos and Skopelos towns. Its  amazing that you can be in the midst of tourist bedlam on the waterfront in Skiathos and walk a couple hundred yards back into the village and never know the other world existed. Rather nice.
Janet in Glossa
We did take the boat over to Koukounaries Bay on the island of Skiathos. Interesting change of scene to say the least. Skiathos is sometimes flogged as the "Greek Riviera" island. We visited twenty years ago and could recognize nothing. Bus loads of eastern European tourists are now ferried over from the mainland and then bussed to the beaches. They spend an afternoon, thousands of them packed onto a lovely beach,  watching each other turn red, swimming a little and participating in every form of motorized water sport while listening to absolutely deafening Bulgarian (?) rap from huge boom boxes at the beach kiosks. It was so bad it was fun to watch. Luckily as the sun sets the beaches immediately empty, the hoards disappear into their busses, and quiet descends onto the bay. Actually not bad at all.
Koukounaries beach
We did have a bit of a cluster getting off the hook the next morning. When we set the anchor on arrival we  hooked up very solid. I snorkeled the anchor. The water was crystal clear and I could see we were wedged under the edge of a large sheet of rock which looked like ancient dead coral growth. We definitely weren't going to drag but I thought we might have a little problem on departure. Yes indeed,  it wouldn't come up and we tried  about every angle and trick we knew. Finally I free dove the anchor, it was only about twenty five feet, and could move it a little towards the one direction which had made no sense but might work. Next try we got it freed and up and we were outta there for the town of Skiathos a few miles to the east. So far I've never had to get out the scuba gear to free an anchor, may that good luck continue!

Skiathos, away from the madding crowd
We dropped the hook off the yacht quay at Skiathos and went ashore for a few hours. As described above, tourist chaos on the waterfront and a lovely place once you escape into the town itself. But not a place we wanted to stay so we pulled anchor and moved back over to Skopelos to anchor off the village of Nea Klima. And that's where we are now, a very lovely spot. There is a tiny harbor here and a breakwater which seemed a little suspect shelter wise. We anchored out for a couple nights in a nice spot. We took the bus into Skopelos town and explored some more. 

Church above the quay in Skopelos
We swam in great water. We enjoyed the very laid back local atmosphere. Yesterday we decided to come to the quay and I actually hooked up shore power for the first time in months. The port facilities  are free of charge, very unusual, there is usually a small charge. And there is water and electricity and showers on the beach a few feet away. The small quay is pretty tight and the daily show is watching boats arrive and get stern tied without catastrophe. Interesting variety of boat handling styles to say the least. So far, no actual deaths witnessed.
Yacht pontoon at Loutraki
So the plan is to move on tomorrow. Bernie and Di will head east and south towards the gulf of Volos and then down the inside passage between Evia and the mainland. Their daughter is coming in later in the month and they want to do some of the Cyclades with her. We'll head northwest to the next island of Alonnisos and explore there a few days before heading down to Skiros, the southern most island of the Northern Sporades. In a few weeks we'll cross back over to the eastern Aegean stopping at Psara and Kios before going  down to Samos. We have family coming into Samos on the 10th of August and we're very much looking forward to having them onboard.
Loutraki sunset
Its been great cruising with Bernie and Di the past few months. We'll miss them but in early October we'll be back together  in Marmaris, Turkey. Hopefully we'll see Sabbatical III and other friends there before we all head for home.
Janet's "Cats of Greece" album candidate
Please stay tuned for "Sporades Part 2" . Love to all!

Bill & Janet

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