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MELTEMI MADNESS

July 16th, 2011 No comments

The island of Samos, lying close to the Turkish coast, is in a part of the Aegean called the Eastern Sporades, and like other parts of the Aegean this time of year, the prevailing wind is the meltemi.  The meltemi is notorious for blowing Force 5 through 7 on the Beaufort Scale (17-33 kts.) from the NW for days on end, particularly in the Cyclades islands which is our destination.

We left Samos on July 5th with the intention of going to Patmos which is south of Samos only to change course and go to Fournoi more to the east due to the wind direction.  We were making 7 kts. under sail in 20+ kts. of wind leaving Samos and by the time we arrived in Fournoi we were flying along at 8-9 kts.  Kent was a happy man. 

After spending one night anchored in Fournoi we left for Mykonos.  The wind had died overnight and we motored for about 60 NM on flat seas.  Not a breath of wind, and when a little did come up it was from the west and directly on our nose.

Motoring to Mykonos--looks more like a lake than the Aegean Sea

Since we wanted to stay in a calm weather anchorage on the south side of Mykonos that we had visited on Kent’s 60th birthday trip to Greece, the weather was good for anchoring if not for sailing.

Destiny anchored off Mykonos

One night in Mykonos surrounded by mega-yachts, jet skis and water ski boats, was enough.  We had fulfilled the “I want to go back here in my own boat” pledge and were off to one of our favorite islands—Paros.

We arrived in the pristine anchorage in Ormos Ay Iannou on the northern end of Paros in the Cyclades on July 7th.  We had visited this bay last spring and had hoped to return during the summer season when they have concerts in the little amphitheater in the park at the head of the bay. 

We also wanted to hike to the lighthouse along one of the many park trails.

The lighthouse is a long walk. . .

but the views are spectacular. . .

even straight down.

We made it!

The next night we sat in the amphitheater under a star-studded sky listening to a jazz ensemble from Paris while the lights of boats in the bay and the town of Naousa twinkled in the distance. 

First the jazz ensemble rehearses. . .

next the stage is set. . .

and finally. . .Bewitched by Paris Paros Project!

When the US born chanteuse who performed with the group belted out “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”—we had to agree—it was a magical night.

The wind did not abate overnight and by the next morning the entrance to the bay was filled with short, choppy whitecaps.  We headed out only to turn back to the protection of the anchorage and settled in to wait out the wind.  By mid-afternoon it appeared that the wind had lightened and we set off yet again. 

Outside the bay the lighthouse looked small and the waves HUGE!

Once outside and past the point of turning back we realized that it was a mistake.  The seas were very confused and rolly.  We couldn’t carry a sail and ended up motoring 10NM to Paroikia in conditions that caused me to say “what were we thinking.” 

Actually, I was thinking "I would rather be on the ferry" that passed us along the way.

On the other hand, while the meltemi makes for some wild sailing (or motoring) it also makes the days more temperate and the nights cool for sleeping.  This time last year in southern Turkey we were sweltering in 100 F days with not a breath of wind and only able to sleep if at a dock with the air conditioning running. 

Upon entering the bay at Paroikia that we realized we had been there before—again on Kent’s birthday cruise in Greece in October, 2005.  This time we anchored on the north side of the bay with good shelter from the meltemi. 

Paroikia is a ferry hub for the Cyclades--you can get to Athens or Santorini from here.

Ferries are very busy this time of year

The first full day in Paroikia we got reacquainted with the town. 

The streets of Paroikia reflect Cyclades architecture. . .

with ubiquitous chapels. . .

ancient windmills. . .

and every shade of blue. . .

and white. . .

including the sky and sea.

We wandered into the historic Panayia Ekotontapyliani (Hundred Doors Church) on Sunday at mid-day and saw preparations for baptisms that were taking place that day.  Multi-generational families, milled about posing for pictures under the dome of the basicila built by the Emperor Justinian who ruled the Byzantine Empire in 527-65.

Under Justinian's Dome. . .

preparations for baptisms. . .

as professional photographers record the event.

 There have been several additions to the church over time, as well as the creation of a museum for eccelesiastical exhibits.

A later addition to the church. . .

and one of the 99 doors--according to legend the 100th will be discovered when Constantinople is Greek again.

In the church museum are clerical vestments from the 16th century. . .

and Byzantine artifacts.

When the meltemi kept us pinned down for a few days, rented a car and explored the island.  We visited the monastery of Saint Anthony sitting high atop a hill overlooking Marpissa.

We hiked up a steep path. . .

only to find the gate locked. . .

but a pile of rocks conveniently placed next to the small wall of the courtyard was a "God send" so to speak.

We could at least admire the gleaming white exterior of the building. . .

cool off in the shade. . .

enjoy the view. . .

and the tranquil setting.

Our hike left us hungry for lunch in the small mountain top village of Lefkas with views down a valley to the sea.  Our server turned out to be a Greek/American who grew up in both Athens and Chicago and was now married to the restaurant owner.

View down valley from Lefkes

After five days we thought the seas had subsided because the wind in the bay was light.  Not so.  The thing about the meltemi is that once it has blown for a few days it takes time for the seas to abate.  We were barely out of the bay when we were confronted with HUGE seas that tossed Destiny about like a toy boat.  Not intending to repeat our last passage, we turned around and were back at anchor within an hour.

Another day in Paroikia means another opportunity for good food.

Jolie and I like outdoor dining. . .

Jolie and I like outdoor dining. . .

in a garden setting.

Our weather window to go to the next island finally arrived on Friday, July 15th.  We were up early and ready to get underway when the generator overheated.  Now we had a mechanical instead of the meltemi to contend with.

We spotted a boat leaving the town quay, and quickly pulled anchor to capture the coveted spot that would protect us from the wind and allow us to plug into shore power while we diagnosed and fixed the problem with the generator.

Destiny safely moored at the Paroikia quay

A couple of hours later the problem was diagnosed, the parts ordered and hopefully before the wind comes up to full meltemi strength again we will be on our way.  In the meantime, there are worse places to be stuck than Paroikia which bustles with shops and restaurants.

As we leave the Cyclades and head to mainland Greece the meltemi will be less of an issue.  It tends to blow the strongest through the islands in the middle of the Aegean than along the mainland coast. 

At Paroikia the sky glows pink at sunset. . .

and then night settles over the town.

The meltemi is a blessing in a way—it makes us slow down a bit and see more–like the famous pink sunsets at Paroikia.

Categories: Europe, Greece Tags:

SENSUOUS SAMOS

July 10th, 2011 No comments

Sailing to Samos

 

After a quick passage, mostly under sail, from Kusadasi we arrived in Samos on June 30th.  The first night was spent in a little cove at the northern end of the Samos Straits called Posidonion, where we met friends Bill and Bunny on U.S. flag boat, Onset.  Bill and Bunny have been cruising the Med for 10 out of the 17 years they have been living aboard Onset and are a wealth of information.  We first met them at Marmaris Yacht Marina where they have wintered for several years. 

The next morning we went to the town quay at Pithagorion and officially checked into Greece.  We were glad we arrived early because the town quay was filled to overflowing by late afternoon and many boats anchored out.  The waterfront is lined with cafes and restaurants, and unlike some vacation destinations, the quay is reasonably quiet at night when it becomes a pedestrian only street. 

One of the best things about being in Greece is the food.  Turkish food is OK, but we really miss pork products and most Turkish bakeries do not have a clue how to make a croissant   Also, Turkish ice cream has a texture like gum—not at all the creamy delight we are used to in the States.  In Greece, however, the have real ice cream and it is displayed so succulently that it is near impossible to pass by a shop without indulging. 

On Saturday we rented a car with Bill and Bunny and traveled across the island to Vathi to set up our internet connections.  

Vathi waterfront

 

From there we traveled along the coast into the mountains.  When you are accustomed to seeing a country at sea level, it is sometimes shocking to see how much you miss.  The sweeping views of the island and sea from high up were spectacular. 

Mountaintop view of Samos

 

We stopped at a little taverna in the mountains that had been recommended.  The single car wide road makes a sharp left turn, and suddenly you have arrived in the parking lot.  In typical Cylades fashion, the buildings are brilliant white with bright blue accents. 

Lunch at a mountain taverna. . .

 

with distant waterview.

 

Whats for lunch?

 

Traveling further west along the north coast of Samos we saw several beaches of various sizes, some tucked into little coves.  Our destination was the waterfalls near Karlovasi. 

A footpath leads from the heavily traveled beach road gradually uphill along a small river bed to the entrance to the falls.  

A sun dappled path. . .

 

past gnarled tree trunks. . .

 

along timber walkways. . .

 

and a hint of what is to come. . .

 

until we finally reach the entrance to the falls.

 

Getting to the falls requires swimming upstream and then some climbing, I am told.  Kent stripped down to his skivvies, while Jolie and I opted to stay dry and take pictures instead.  Bill and Bunny came prepared with swim suits. 

Kent's cute butt!

 

Jolie rests from her hike

 

On the way back to the car, we passed a Byzantine Church hidden in the trees with soaring ceiling and ancient chandelier. 

Chapel among the trees

 

The next day we explored the town of Pythiagorion on foot.  There is a very well done Archeological Museum adjacent to some unimpressive ruins just steps from the quay. 

Archeological Museum

 

A famous attraction in Pithagorion is the underground aqueduct which is considered the Eighth Wonder of the ancient world.  The Efpalinio tunnel was completed in 524 B.C. and provided water to the town of Pithagorion during attacks.  It is believed that 1,000 slaves took fifteen years to complete its construction and it was used as an aqueduct for more than 1,000 years. 

The entrance to the tunnel. . .

 

opens on what appears to be more crevase than tunnel. . .this is looking down the steps.

 

Entering the tunnel, 1,000 feet of which can be viewed, is not for the faint of heart, or anyone the least bit claustrophobic. 

This is a tight squeeze for broad shoulders. . .

 

not so broad shoulders.

 

We decided to stay in Samos through the July 4th holiday, since it would be nice to spend it with fellow Americans.  Destiny and Onset both “dressed ship” in honor of Independence Day. 

Destiny and Onset, July 4, 2011, Pithagorion

 

Kent and I spent the holiday strolling through the town.  Pythagorion also has a Byzantine fortress or castle facing the harbor.  

The church and fortress sit along the shore. . .

 

and from near the church clock tower, you can see the harbor in the distance.

 

Inside the Greek Orthodox church is very ornate. . .

 

as are the graves in the adjacent cemetery.

 

The door was open and there was someone sitting at the desk inside, but we were informed that the “kastro” is closed on Monday—as tourists ready to pay to get in milled around—only in Greece. 

We celebrated July 4th with  hot dogs and homemade potato salad on Destiny, followed by homemade apple pie and watermelon on Onset.  Aussie friends, Corinne and Philip on S/V Fabuloso joined our celebration. 

Recipe for a perfect July 4th holiday. . .hot dogs, homemade potato salad and good friends to share it with.

 

Our original plan was to leave Samos for Patmos on July 5th, but that morning the wind said better to head east rather than south, so we went to Fournoi about 23 NM from Samos.  Next stop, Mykonos where we plan to anchor in a small bay on the south shore that we visited on Kent’s 60th birthday cruise. 

More Greek islands to follow, and many will have the same sensuous allure as Samos—clear sunny days, followed by cooler, breezy evenings; dark star studded skies, and succulent food. 

Life is good.
.

Categories: Europe, Greece Tags:

FINAL DAYS IN TURKEY. . .MAYBE

July 7th, 2011 No comments

Our original plan had been to go as far north as the Dardanelles and possibly Istanbul, but the time we spent going east to Kekova Roads meant that we were heading north in mid-June when the meltemi starts blowing.  After a few days of 20+ kts. on the nose, we decided that north was not the direction to be traveling. 

Since we had purchased some boat parts in Turkey (including the windlass) we wanted to collect the VAT on those items when we left the country which meant checking out at Kusadasi about 70 NM north of Turgutreis.  Kusadasi is a cruise ship port and is one of several locations in Turkey where VAT can be reimbursed.

Kusadasi has ancient forts. . .

and modern cruise ships.

Along the way we visited an out of the way ancient site at Iassus, which is a small harbor sitting at the head of a very large bay. 

The ruins of a Byzantine tower sits at the entrance to the ancient harbor of Iassus.

A tiny fishing village now sits at the head of the narrow harbor. . .

replete with tiny fishing boats. . .

and fish vendors--this was dinner!

This site is so “out of the way” that it has more cattle grazing among the ruins than visitors and the Lonely Planet guide devotes about two paragraphs to describing it,  including a mention that “the admission is $2US if anyone is there to collect it”.

At the highest point on the penisula stands the ruins of a Byzantine fortress. . .

with turrets. . .

and steps.

We saw no other visitors while we were there, but had plenty of company.

The ruins are now inhabited. . .

grazing cattle. . .

some of whom aren't too fond of visitors. . .

and more docile sheep.

We came upon a fenced, roofed area that looked like an excavation, but proved to be an exhibit, although not well maintained of the interior portions of what appeared to be a an ancient residence.  There were several conjoined rooms each with beautiful mosaic tile floors, mostly in black and white motif and walls with remnants of paint.

Mosaic floors. . .

with intricate designs. . .

have been covered with roofs, but lie unattended.

We anchored at the head of a large bay that is also a weather refuge for large ships awaiting their next trip. 

In the distance one of many freighters anchored in the bay.

We left in light winds expecting an easy sail to our next stop, Altimkum.

Once outside the meltemi was ferocious and we pounded into 25-30 kt. winds and large, close swells for about 20 NM dodging massive fish farms–I stopped counting at 35. 

The fish farms. . .even in calm weather

are big business here--and dangerous to navigation!

Altimkum was a beach town with hotels, bars and restaurants lining the shore and we got little sleep as the euro-beat rocked the town.

Anchored off Altimkum. . .

there was lots of music from day trip boats . .

not to mention dancing girls!

The next day the wind was still howling from the northwest and we moved a few miles to an anchorage that was quiet, if not a little rolly.  At least we didn’t have to contend with daytrip boats anchoring in front of us and dragging anchor.

To head for Kusadasi meant heading straight into the wind, still strong from the north, so we diverted to a little Greek island 17 NM off the Turkish coast which we made in a fast sail.  Agathanisi was a gem.  We anchored in a small harbor on sand in crystal clear water.  No need for Kent to dive on the anchor—you could see it from the boat.

The yellow umbrella is at Seaside Restaurant--good food!

There were several little tavernas, a small market and a concrete quay where a ferry arrived once at day at 3:30 p.m.  Private boats lined the quay other times, but we anchored out and then tied to shore when the wind came up.

The restaurant where we had both lunch and dinner (it was so good) served all organic produce.  The goat and cheese on the menu were both local to the island as well.  Hard to imagine given the rocky, desolate terrain.

When we woke the next morning, the meltemi winds had subsided and we were up early for a 33 NM motor trip to Kusadasi.  We went through the Samos Straits, less than one mile separating Greece and Turkey at its narrowest point, and were checked into the marina by noon. 

Turkey on left--Greece on right, passing through Samos Straits

With the help of the customs agent at the marina (55 euros worth of help) we checked out of Turkey and collected the several hundred dollars of VAT.

The last time we were in Kusadasi it was on a land tour and we experienced our first earthquake in a hotel on the waterfront.  We couldn’t help but wonder how an earthquake feels on a boat as we watched sunset over the Kusadasi marina.

Kusadasi Sunset

We are sad to be leaving Turkey.  It is the place we have spent the most time so far, and where we have made so many cruising friends.  Many of them have said “you’ll be back”—meaning that we won’t be able to stay away from Turkey.

Admittedly, Turkey is the best cruising venue we have encountered in the Med.  The Turkish people are friendly and industrious.  There are countless anchorages, lively cities and quaint seaside restaurants.  Goats roam the hillside and farm tractors compete for space with cars on roads.  Turkey is a crossroads of ancient history and its ruins and museums are some of the best in the world.  It would be very easy to spend 5 to 10 years here as has been the case for some friends we have met.

For now we are heading west and will winter in Sicily—next year, who knows?

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