Thursday, May 22, 2014

Trapped By the Meltemi

And actually, couldn't be happier. The Meltemi is the dominant north wind that sweeps down the Aegean regularly in the summer time when a big high is established over the central Med. It typically blows twenty-thirty knots although if it gets reinforced by another system it can go to strong gale force easily enough. It usually lasts for several days although it can go on for weeks.
Katapola Harbor, Amorgos
We're nicely stern tied to the quay at the Katapola port of the island of Amorgos and it is a lovely place we like very much. We've been here three days now and there's probably another coming. This  Meltemi is supposed to blow out tomorrow night. In the central area of the Aegean, the central Cyclades, the Meltemi tends to swing in from the NW and since our next planned destination is the island of Naxos, forty miles to the NW,  we don't feel like beating to weather. The first rule of cruising, "Gentlemen never sail to weather.", can be applied very nicely here. We are in no hurry. We like where we're at. So why go out and beat up the gear when in a couple days we'll have a nice trip? 

East Coast Amorgos
It seems the summer systems may have finally arrived. We're still sleeping under blankets at night but the days have lost their chill. The only clouds are the lenny stacks over the islands and the humidity is nearly zero. Soon it'll be plenty hot but for now it is lovely.
The quay, Katapola, Amorgos
Amorgos is one of our favorite places ever. Its a very, very rugged and mountainous island.  The east coast is entirely cliffs two to almost three thousand feet falling nearly vertically into the sea. Its barren of all but the most hardy vegetation. But it is starkly beautiful surrounded by a sea of every possible shade of blue. We're out of the Dodecaneses and the Italianate architecture. These islands are the Cyclades and the villages are classic Cycladic, what most people think of when they think "Greek island". Nearly all buildings are cubist white washed with blue shutters and doorways. They are very beautiful and either  well kept or total ruin. Bougainvillea and Geraniums (and cats) are everywhere.

The Chora, Amorgos
This time of year, before "the season" has really begun, things are pretty quiet and us yachties have the place almost to ourselves. There are ten yachts here in the harbor right now, the most we've seen since departing Symi. We're reasonably well protected but enough wind funnels in to make watching the few charter boats that came in last night and attempted to stern tie very interesting. As is sometimes said, the only real damage was to the ego. We've all been there a time or two. We have very nice French neighbors tied up alongside.
Hotzoviotissas Monastery

On the way up
 Yesterday we rented a "Smart" car, a motorized roller skate IMHO but Janet thinks they're cute, and drove the island. The chora (main village) is quiet and beautiful with the remnants of the usual castle above. The main destination was the Hotzoviotissas, the monastery of the "Panayia of the Presentation" which sits on an east coast cliff with a thousand feet vertical above and below. A truly spectacular site and a great visit if you don't mind a little climb. Built and occupied since the ninth century the monastery's few monks  are  friendly and welcoming. 

Monastery hospitality, Rakomelo.
Beyond yesterdays  drive we've been just exploring around the bay and relaxing. There's enough open here now to get good food and goodies. This is a great island and I think even in the height of the season it would be a fine visit. We arrived here after leaving Symi and going to Tilos and Astipalaia.
Airstream at Tilos
Tilos was very nice and very quiet. Almost nothing going on yet. We were actually side tied, a real rarity, to the nice quay. Unfortunately it got  chilly and rainy and with only one taverna and one small store open we moved on to Astipalaia.
Lunch at the chora, Tilos
Astipalaia is western most of the Dodecaneses and, like Tilos, more Cycladic in character. The Venetian Castle above the chora is magnificent and the Skala port was lovely. Again it was uncrowded and quiet and a beautiful island. Heikell uses a photo of the Skala harbor at Astipalaia as a cover shot for his "Greek Waters Pilot" for good reason.
Venetian Castle and the Hora, Astipalaia
Skala harbor, Atipalaia
So it'll probably be Amorgos for another day. Tough duty. We have found a place with perhaps the best baklava we've ever had for a little treat. Fifty feet across the quay is as good a gyro place likely to found anywhere. The liquor unique to the island, Rakomelo, a kind of raki flavored with honey and spices, is delicious. There is a nice bakery, a laundry, a hotel with great showers available for a few bucks, some really nice restaurants and a friendly local population. Why leave?

Construction equipment, Katapalo
REALLY good baklava!


Restless soul I guess. But we plan on heading for Naxos and taking the ferry from there down to Santorini, Santorini is not a good place for yachts,  for a little revisit of the place we got engaged twenty four years ago.  Should be fun.

Love to all,
Bill and Janet

PS: Click on any photo for a larger view.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Janet arrived without any more trauma then might be expected from missing a connecting flight in Istanbul making her half a day late. Don't ask why. It happens. Its great to have her here.
Janet's here in Symi!
We're now in a very pleasant and familiar setting at the Pethi Anchorage on the Greek island of Symi, one of our all time favorites. Getting out of Yacht Marina and Turkey and into Greece is a pleasure in itself. The Turks are OK and Turkey is a fine place for a visit but we both much prefer Greece. That's strictly a matter of personal preference of course and not all would agree. We have very nice friends who have spent years along the Turkish coast and keeping their boats at Yacht Marina. It just isn't going to be our thing. 

Departing Marmaris
Yacht Marina itself managed to make me pretty unhappy by the time we had departed. Little things like getting overcharged for marina materials, having arrangements made for a decent berth and having the "arrangements" ignored when the time came and having a nice little LED headset/ flashlight "go missing" after some workers left the boat. This stuff, and mostly the way it was handled, made me think about  "happiness"  being somewhere else and the chances of us ever returning to Yacht Marina are fading with each mile we get further west. I will say that Riza at Sharp Marine did some very good canvas and sail repair work for us. The DT Marine machine shop guys were always very good. The guys from VS Marine did a nice job of installing our new windows but left a mess that took hours to clean up. CE Marine did a nice hull polish job and repainted the waterline stripe very well but I paid the Turkish version of top dollar for that work.
Symi Harbor
We left Yacht Marina directly for Datca and checked out of Turkey after spending a very nice evening with Sandra Crossan,  a Scottish friend who lives in Datca. We actually sailed about half an hour before the wind died away in the channel between Symi and mainland Turkey. The nice thing was that almost everything on the boat seems to be working. "Almost" is the best that can be hoped for after several months on the hard.

Departing Datca it was a short motor over to the Pethi anchorage at Symi and a smooth check in procedure for Greece. Symi remains as beautiful as ever and we're tied up alongside the unfinished wharf at Pethi. Securely tied up I might add. We don't need no stinking anchor dragging like we had last year at this anchorage. Especially since we left the boat for the entire day yesterday and took the fast ferry to the nearby island of Rhodes.
Dodecanisos Seaways, impressively fast!
The scoop we had on Rhodes was that the island itself was not particularly interesting but that the old city of Rhodes was well worth a visit. Its not a particularly welcoming place for yachts so traveling there by ferry from Symi seemed the thing to do. The fast ferry, and these big catamarans really do move out, takes abut forty-five minutes from Symi town.

The Marine Gate, Rhodes
We went over at 0745 and came back at 1900. All that worked fine but the old town itself was the single most heavily tourist oriented place I've ever seen. There are miles and miles of "tourist crap" shops packed against one another. Absolutely every form of junk for sale in every possible space. 

A quiet moment in Rhodes
OK, it is true that there are a few back street areas where, for a few hundred feet, one might be free to see what the town once offered in the way of beauty and character. The archeological museum was pretty good, actually exceeded expectations.  We might be pretty jaded as tourists but it seems that almost any place in the Aegean that has an airport should be viewed with extreme suspicion for over tourism. And Rhodes is supposedly the most heavily visited tourist island in Greece. Oh well.
Back in Symi town
So we're back in beautiful and relatively unspoiled Symi. Tomorrow we'll probably make a thirty mile jaunt over to Tilos for a day or two, then Astipalaia, then Amorgos, then Naxos, etc, etc.  As the weather permits, westwards!

Love to all,
Bill & Janet

Saturday, May 3, 2014

We're Back! Marmaris 2014.

Well, I'm back at least. And I have been back for three weeks now getting the boat ready for the season to come. Janet arrives tomorrow night, the 5th of May, if she gets on her flight out of Portland to Amsterdam. It's looking pretty tight but hopefully she'll luck out and get a nice World Business Class seat on good 'ol DAL. Then she has positive space tickets, a 'real' person,  from AMS to Istanbul to Dalaman on Pegasus Airlines and surface transport to Marmaris.
Marmaris Yacht Marina
The boat is ready to launch tomorrow morning. I've worked down two pages of "to do" lists. What's left "to do" is stuff that needs to wait until the boat is back in the water. That's not too much actually and with a little more luck no new disasters will rise up to smite me after launch. It's nice if the water stays on the outside of the boat for instance. Nice if the engine starts and very nice if we have both forward and reverse from the transmission. After years of experience you understand that nothing is a given in the boat business.
Cleaning the Racor fuel filter assembly

It hasn't been all work, I will admit. We have some nice friends here. The social scene centers on evenings at the marina restaurant which is really very, very nice with an excellent menu and cheap prices. No yachtie could resist.  One of my younger friends calls it the "old folks bar and restaurant" but even he admits it's the best place around. And the 'old folks' at this place are a pretty sprightly bunch.  
The old folks bar and restaurant
Today would be an 'interesting' day to launch. The wind has been blowing hard out of the south all night.  Gale warnings are posted at sea and here in the marina on the hard its blowing 20-25 knots. That's enough to make maneuvering in very tight marina quarters a little dicey. It's supposed to be calmer tomorrow.  When the big southerly blows  the wind off the North African coast is full of dust and the generally excellent visibility is restricted and everything, including my nice boat polish job, gradually accumulates grime. It'll wash off.
Airstream, age 29. Note the spiffy new windows!
The plan for the year is not yet finalized but the latest thoughts include heading east a for a week or so along the south coast of Turkey and joining friends. Then heading over into Greece around Rhodes and moving west through the central Cyclades to mainland greece. Then north up into the Ionion and maybe the Adriatic before returning south to round the Peloponneses and return to Marmaris. We have considered continuing west to Sicily but the difference in boat accommodation between there and here in Marmaris adds up to about $3000 for the winter, about 50% less. Since this is a pretty good place to keep a boat, that's very tempting.
Tim Lucas of SV Slick replaces his Perkins
Yacht Marina's 330 ton travel lift
So please stay tuned and give our blog an occasional visit. We love to read comments. I apologize for the lack of great photos but the head photographer and her gear arrive tomorrow.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet
SV Airstream