Tuesday, June 24, 2014

To Athens and Beyond


Athens sprawling beneath the Acropolis
Thirty-three years ago, almost to the day, I first stepped out of the cockpit into the  heat of an Athenian afternoon.  It was really really  hot and there was a white haze.  I thought, "This is NOT western Europe!" The tarmac was like an oven . The old airport at Athens was a pit. Customs and immigration was chaos,  the cab ride to the hotel  death defying. I loved the place. And I've loved it ever since. Of course I've refined that "love" statement over the years to include Greece as a whole and many places there to be found. I usually qualify that by saying I don't really like Athens and that Thessaloniki is a much better city. But  we hadn't seen the place in over twenty years. The five days in Athens this year was actually better than I expected and maybe I do like Athens, after all these years.
At the quay, Poros
We got into Piraeus, the port city for Athens, after a thirty mile motor job up from Poros across the Saronic Gulf in flat calm conditions. There is a lot,  the most we've seen since Singapore, of shipping around the port but we had no problems entering the Zea Marina in Piraeus and getting comfortably situated. Poros had been nice enough for an evening stay. Kind of a pleasant holiday place for Athenians but one night was enough. Zea Marina is very decent and if not actually luxurious it is also not nearly as expensive as most big city marinas around the world.
Hazard to navigation, Saronic Gulf
Our plan was to stay three days and do the usual tourist stuff. We did our three days of that, the acropolis, the National Archeological Museum (redone on 2009 and now quite wonderful), the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, the changing of the guard at Syntagma Square, etc. All very nice to do again after twenty years.
The Parthanon
Temple of Poseidon, Sounion
Changing of the Guard, Syntagma Square
We did make arrangements with the Royal Hellenic Yacht Club to have lunch at the club. It sits alone on a hill above its marina in Piraeus, old,  posh and elegant. Also very friendly and welcoming to yacht club members around the world. The food was excellent and the setting magnificent.

Lunch at the Royal Hellenic Yacht Club
We also took a couple days to solve a little boat problem that had been getting worse. We'd been getting fresh water slowly accumulating in the bilge. It had gradually become apparent that we had a fresh water leak in our system somewhere. And we had finally eliminated every possible source other than the aft main tank itself. We have another tank and this looked like a problem to be fixed after the end of the season. But I was referred to Motomarin, a marine contractor on the marina property and they were highly recommended by a friend. I had them come look at the tank. Luckily our tanks are not as difficult to get to as on some boats. We decided to pull the tank out the next day and repair or replace as necessary. Next day we pulled the tank in about three hours. 
Out with the old
It was in bad shape. Even 316L stainless can corrode after 29 years and that was the case. They asked me how much time I had and when I wanted a new tank. I said yesterday. They laughed and said tomorrow. That afternoon they had the material and started welding. Next morning the tank was done and we did pressure testing.
About ready to pressure test
In the afternoon we took about three hours to install the new tank. Guess what? No leaks! Wonderful! So these guys were great. Veggetis spoke good English and the other guys improved on my Greek. We had fun and they worked their tails off doing a nice job for us. The cost was 1400 EU which I considered very reasonable for a 316 stainless tank, labor etc.  I highly recommend Motomarin at Zea Marina.
In with the new
 Athens has changed a bit like everything does after a couple decades. I'll go into all that at the end of the year. But we did have a good time and left with a kind of warm fuzzy about the city, something I'd never felt about Athens before.

So now we're in Galaxidhi, a lovely small town on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth not far from Delphi. We've had absolutely flat calm conditions since motoring out of the Piraeus shipping to the Corinth Canal. We did the canal passage easily. And the canal is a really cool experience. Makes the 206 EU they charged for the passage a little less painful.
Through the Corinth Canal
Exiting the canal we headed to the Nisos Alkonidhes Islands to the north. There we had that rarest of Mediterranean experiences, an anchorage all to ourselves. Ashore there was a deserted monastery and a very active seagull rookery, thats all. A lovely spot. Next day we motored again in flat calm conditions to our Med tie on the quay here in Galaxhdi, an ice cream cafe directly across from our boat
Sunset in the Nisos Alkonidhes
 The Gulf of Corinth can be rather nasty for boats heading west because the prevailing winds are westerlies funneled into the gulf. We've had none of that so far. The gulf has been like a huge and beautiful alpine lake. Mountains to five thousand feet rise out of the sea all around us. It is quite lovely.
Janet and friend, Galaxihdi
We'll do Delphi today. Galaxidhi is a quiet, pretty town in itself. Tomorrow the plan is to move westwards to an island anchorage called Trizonia, then on to Patras, then Mesolongian (where Byron died in the war for Greek independence) and then into the Ionian.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet

1 comment:

Carmen Meyer said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to share.......LOVE following you guys! Have fun!