Libby, Penny and Rich go sailing………

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September 2010



September 22nd

Now in Turkey! Please note the Greek mobile is not currently active. Feel free to send texts to the UK number, (doesn’t cost you any more than if we were in England) but please refrain from calling it as it will cost us a fortune now we’re outside the EEC. We have a Turkish Vodafone mobile number which as I write isn’t quite online yet, but should be any moment.


Here’s Penny:


Sept 5th – 19th – last weeks in Greece!

So our first long haul passage on our own was okaaay. The wind didn’t get over about 23kts but the sea was rough and very uncomfortable for most of the trip. We covered 60 miles in 10 hours and were very glad to arrive at the harbour of Loutra on Kithnos which is a windswept island with jagged hills and lots of bare scrub, so typical of the Cyclades. Kithnos is famous for its food and rightly so. As usual after a long trip we all rushed ashore to stretch our legs and get something to eat and were pleasantly surprised by fabulous grub at the Sofrano yacht club. We stayed in Loutra for a few days waiting for a weather window to make for Paros and really enjoyed ourselves. The beach was awash with tiny, beautiful shells and there were hot springs right next to the beach where one could wallow in 38 degree water whilst the now cooling sea washes over you. Even the Gyros were better than most places and so we left Kithnos a few days later definitely a few pounds heavier!



Sandcastles on a windy beach.

Loutra, Kithnos.



Libby’s in hot water again!


Relaxing in a hot spring after a – dare I say it – somewhat chilly snorkel.






From Kithnos we made for Paros, some 40 miles South East and it seemed a real breeze after our first lumpy 60 mile leg. Paros is a fabulous island, quite touristy but with not many of them (tourists) and beautiful Cycladic architecture. It was a bit like Poros in that you felt like a local very quickly but as pretty as Mykonos with some gorgeous creperies and bars. The shopping was better than we have seen for months and so we ended up buying some rather beautiful but very impractical cushions for the cockpit (cream) as even my amply covered bottom is completely numb from sitting on the deck. I also splashed out on what I think is a very beautiful piece of sculpture. It’s completely impractical in that it’s lump of marble but I love it! We also managed to find a swimming pool for Libby which we haven’t seen since we left Poros and also splashed out on a great meal at a really unusual place called the Happy Green Cow (not surprisingly, a veggie place).


It was hard to leave Paros but in the end we stayed just 2 nights before heading further South. Having put up with 2 longish passages we decided to break up the journey to Amorgos by stopping at a tiny island called Skinousa. What a treat it was, a super anchorage with beautiful water to swim in and a typically Greek village at the top of the hill. We dined that night on my current speciality; Pork fillet in a mustard, onion and pepper cream sauce. It’s cheap, pretty tasty and can be whipped up in 20 minutes!! Cooking is just so much easier now the weather has started to cool down, this alongside the constant 20 knots of wind which blows around here! The following morning we hauled our bums up the hill to the village and were more than pleasantly surprised by its beauty and the hospitality of the people. I yomped up the hill as fast as I could – a. To get the blood pumping and b. So I didn’t have to listen to Libby’s whining about being hot and thirsty. Anyway as I reached the top of the hill I was seriously sweaty but was immediately taken in by a sweet old lady who fed me water and Turkish delight until I could speak again! The Greeks really are very lovely people indeed and it’s always a pleasure to enjoy local life without the input of mass tourism.


After Skinousa we made for Amorgos but decided on another anchorage before heading to the main town to hunker down for a few days while some extreme weather passed. Amorgos is famed for pirates and also for the movie “The Big Blue” which I haven’t seen yet, but will do at some stage. We stayed nearby one of the main filming areas and enjoyed a lovely little beach bar, some fishing boats and little else. Libby and Rich did a great job of cleaning the underside of the dinghy, using sand as a scrubber. It was peaceful and pleasant and the pork fillet with mustard sauce was enjoyed once more! Cooking in bulk rocks my world but I wish my freezer was bigger!





The next morning we made for Katapola which was just 5 miles to the East and moored up on the town quay with power, lovely power! As we head further East the food seems to definitely improve with Turkey and their influences kicking in. However I have to say that Amorgos wins the prize for best Gyros in Greece. We spent longer than we would have preferred here as the Meltemi was fierce for a few days but nevertheless enjoyed swimming and exploring the very pretty town. It’s only mid Sept and already the islands are running stock down in preparation for Winter when most of them disappear to Athens or the like. In Amorgos we also picked up JB (Jean Baptiste) a young French backpacker attempting to spend a few years abroad on 6,000€. He had cycled through France and then made his way through Italy to Greece camping and is now boat hiking through the islands. We agreed to take him to our next stop of Astypaleia and enjoyed his company very much. He was great with Libby but did end up needing rather more tending to than we had planned for. Another lesson learnt; our budget is just too limited to look after more than ourselves.



Our sail from Amorgos to Astpaleia was uneventful but it was nice to pass by several of the small Cyclades en route. We enjoyed Astypaleia very much on our last visit on s/y Cyrano in 2002 but my how it has changed from a yachting perspective. A whole new mole has appeared as well as water and power which was great. Skala, the main port, is a gorgeous spot. The water is crystal clear with a taverna right on the beach, so the whole family is happy. There is also a rather random antique shop on the quay where the prices are sky high, the cheapest thing in the shop being about 550€! We reckon he only sells something once every couple of months but expect this can keep him in Ouzo for rather longer than this! We walked up the hill on our second day to explore the castle at the top of the hill which was interspersed with various chapels. It was a steep climb but well worth it in the end for the views and the history. As some of you will know, I am not famed for my love of “piles of old rocks” but I did enjoy this site. I think when marauding pirates are involved, it does make things a bit more exciting!




We decided that we would like lunch at the top of the hill and scoured the hillside for somewhere which was prepared to offer us more than just cake and Ouzo. We finally alighted upon a tiny, family run restaurant which had just opened and had the most magnificent views of the castle and sea.




The proprietress spoke absolutely no English and we just couldn’t understand what her daily offerings of food were. Having opted for the safe option of Greek salad, dolmades and omelette we were delighted to hear that she had called her husband to help translate for us. It turned out that he had been in the Merchant Navy and was easily able to help with the menu. Even having spent the last 5 months in Greece the dishes were all unfamiliar to us but yet again were a fabulous surprise. We had amazing homemade dolmades with meatballs in a potato and lemon soup! All gorgeous.



After Astypaleia we decided to make for Kos instead of Tilos as planned. It was a bit closer and more likely to offer a swimming pool for the long suffering Libby who has found the passages between the Saronic and Turkey fairly hard work. JB joined us again and for the first time, we sailed the whole passage on a beautiful beam reach. We were hoping to get onto a dock when we arrived in Kamares on Kos but this just wasn’t an option. We found a nice spot at anchor and enjoyed an unusual evening of pie and chips, pool and UK tourists generally. It seemed very peculiar after our previous few weeks of basic Greek villages. The next day we decided that it was time to move Continent and head for Turkey!`


We checked in at Datcha which is where we are now. It’s a busy but picturesque port with crystal clear water. Just as well…

We’ve noted, possibly harshly that folk we’ve met at the beginning and end of season are much nicer people. A couple of elderly chaps stopped at the end of the boat this evening and wanted to share their reminiscences of Emsworth – the home town written on the back of the “Bird”. Libby engaged them and showed off her “worry beads”, recently donated by a grateful Vodafone salesman. Ping, the trinket flew off her finger and went “plop”. Daddy donned mask and snorkel for some 20 mins but failed to find it. Just as I was towelling off, the old gents re-appeared with a gift for Libby – a beautiful little charm bracelet as compensation! How very kind they were, and Libby was immediately appeased and delighted.



September 7th

Loutra Harbour has been our haven from the relentless Cycladic winds these last three nights. Tomorrow we face a hopefully slightly less windy and certainly shorter passage to Paros, at 40 miles distant. However the seas are short, steep and confused. Most uncomfortable.


Penny’s (finally) updated her bit of the blog, but it goes all the Way back to July. Here it is:


July 10th – July 24th

It was with pleasure that we finally left Vounaki – it’s been fun, but cruising is what we are here for! Instead of heading up to Levkas as planned we first moored off Pogonia to have a bbq with Brad and Mandy (Vounaki base managers). We picked up their mooring (which made life easier than ever) and pootled ashore with the dinghy. What a place they have built themselves, totally tranquil with a beautiful garden, deck and plunge pool. It’s just a perfect haven from the hustle and bustle of Vounaki – they can see the place easily but it takes 20 mins to drive around the bay by car.


We had a great trip up to Corfu, taking 2 weeks to get there and calling in at every available port to “check it out” in advance of our first guests arriving. One of the highlights included a couple of pleasant nights in Vonitsa, parked right under the castle which was floodlit at night and stunning. Unfortunately our rudder was too long to park right next to the quay so we had to use the dinghy as a stepping stone from the transom to shore. If only we had thought to tie the dinghy to shore as well as to the boat as we looked like a right bunch of Charlie’s looking at our tender floating gracefully around mid-ships, completely out of reach as a stepping stone to the boat. Eventually a kindly Swede came to our assistance with his spinnaker pole and all was well, but a lesson was learnt!


Having enjoyed Parga in the past, we called in for a couple of nights but to be honest, the last time we visited was BL (before Libby) and the crowded anchorage/town just wasn’t our bag this time though Libby and I spent a pleasant couple of hours “mooching” around the town together. We did shopping, then lunch, then ice cream, chatting away like a couple of girl friends, it was lovely.


Aug 26th!!!!

Off air has been the order of the day for me for the last 6 weeks. Rich has made the effort to update the blog but as you can see from the above, I have completely failed in my online diary commitment. It’s hard to know where to catch up after such a long time but I think that a few choice memories from our time with guests on board will have to suffice.


Hen, Si and Phoebe joined us from July 23rd until Aug 6th. It was so bloody lucky that, having spent a leisurely 2 weeks cruising up from Vounaki to Corfu, I finally got around to checking their flight details. Oops, they were a day earlier than I had been planning for which resulted in rather frantic final preparations for their arrival!!!! We had spent the previous few days enjoying the company and hospitality of Mick and Jules (our Sailing Holidays friends) and were more than a little hung over....


After a totally WINDY sail down to Paxos we alighted onto Mongonissi, which is now one of my favourite places in the Ionian. It just has everything one might want in a port – a small quay/anchorage with a great beach, turquoise water, sun loungers and dappled shade where required (Henri!), 2 tavernas with great food, showers and wi-fi! They also put on a spectacular Greek dancing show! The funny thing about Mongonissi is that said with vehemence, it sounds like a swear word (as does Paserelle!) and it amused us for days to come, especially in front of the kids! We all loved it and stayed for a couple of nights. It was in Mongonisi that “Nibbles the Treasure Hunter” was born after Libby and Phoebe spent hours combing the beach for pretty shells.


 After this we went to Paleros, Spartahouri, Vassiliki (where poor Libby suffered the indignity of me sitting on a deck chair whilst her toe was underneath) and Kalamos before starting the return trip up North. On the way back we called into Levkas, Gaios (which wasn’t a success -  too hot), Sivota Mourtos (which was a success – water park) and finally Petriti. Our third trip to Petriti revealed the Panorama restaurant which is quite frankly the prettiest taverna I have ever visited in Greece. It is set on a slope, covered in every flower imaginable with flocks of ducks, kittens and statues scattered around the grounds. The Eggs loved it and it was a perfect end to their 2 week cruise, especially as they were kind enough to foot the bill.






It’s fair to say that we were pretty knackered after our first couple of weeks with guests aboard. I don’t know why I was surprised really because having anyone to stay for a fortnight (even family) does create the odd challenge – and that’s without floating AND without all the mod cons of home living! Still, we all had a ball as I hope they did. As an aside, thanks to Phoebe on board, Libby now attempts front crawl, turns an underwater back somersault and can draw a very respectable flower!


We had just a week after the Eggs left before the Lavers arrived and we spent our time wisely doing cleaning, laundry, re-provisioning and hanging out drinking Mojitos in Agios Stephanos. It was here that we got our first fright whilst ashore. One moment Wild Bird was anchored splendidly in the prime spot of the bay and the next she had drifted around 500m and was only moments away from being on the rocks on the other side. Rich raced to the boat in our high power RIB (3.5hp!!!) and got there just in time to start the engine and save her whilst Libby and I watched anxiously from the shore. We had seen a charter boat tooling around trying to get their anchor up but hadn’t imagined for a moment that they could possibly of picked up ours from where they were moored. It just shows you that you can’t take your eyes off the yacht in high season when anchorages are so busy and the clients so inexperienced.


Aug 14th – 28th

The Laver’s trip was superb, we really did achieve an awful lot in the 2 weeks they were with us. We travelled down from Corfu to Big Vathy stopping at all our favourite haunts but failing to find much in the way of wind and it was with great pleasure that we saw Dimitris again. He is the most perfect host and I feel sad that we didn’t see more of him this summer.


Big Vathy was our jumping off point for our first night sail on Wild Bird. Despite my protestations of strong Easterlies being forecast (we were heading due East!), we set off anyway. It was fine and certainly gave me more confidence with all the electronic widgets on board but frankly motoring into 25kts of wind is never much fun, but at least Libby slept through it all, bless her. We had a few “moments” on passage which included the loss of the tender after the painter snapped. I was delighted that it was me that spotted the loss and me who spotted the itinerant dinghy – it’s good to sometimes feel more than just the cook/cleaner on board. Towards the end of mine and Graham’s first watch, just before heading into the Gulf of Patras, Graham said – “You know this bridge we have to go under, it is a full suspension bridge, no pillars or anything? As far as I know I replied....”  Luckily dawn was looming as we approached, as were several massive pillars, which we of course found our way safely through! One’s head does do funny things in the middle of the night, of course there are ruddy pillars.


After a rest in Trizonia, we pushed on to the Corinth canal which as usual was magnificent. For the first time I can remember, the Greek paperwork we needed to complete after the Corinth was a breeze. Instead of hours waiting, stamping in quadruplicate and a surly official, we were greeted with an efficient, nice young man and a slice of birthday cake which his buddies kindly delivered while we were there. A pleasant surprise indeed. A few more hours brought us to the pretty port of Old Epidavros. We arrived late and anchored off with just enough time before a well earned to rest to grab a few beers, a butterfly balloon for Libby and several Gyros ashore. STOP PRESS – GRAHAM FOUND THE LEAK IN THE DINGHY. FABULOUS NEWS!! The next morning we went onto the dock to get water, breakfast and to chill out (aka downing a lot of Mythos) whilst the Lavers did the cultural thing at the famous amphitheatre.


After a gentle stroll to the local amphitheatre we headed to Poros where we said goodbye to the Lavers and stayed on the dock for 4 days enjoying power, water and excellent shopping. It’s a great place where you feel at home after just a few days and we particulary enjoyed Niki’s pool and hospitality. We didn’t however enjoy the continuous wash from the passing ferries which made the boat jump up and down like a kangaroo. Having had our fair share of breakages and losses over the last few weeks, we were delighted to find an excellent chandlery in Poros which supplied us with almost everything we needed including another Hella fan (thanks Lavers) and some not terribly nautical green tomato netting to act as a sun shade. I really had forgotten how hot this blessed country gets and I don’t care in the slightest that we look like a garden centre when it’s up!


Aug 28th – Sept 5th

After the Laver’s left we decided to spend a few more days in the Saronic before finding a weather window to head East through the Cyclades and Dodecs to Turkey. It really is an incredibly windy stretch of water and I confess I’m not looking forward to it.


Our first stop was Hydra which I was really looking forward to but just hadn’t anticipated quite how small the port was. We found a spot right on the main dock and were enchanted by the complete lack of cars, all transportation being carried out by donkeys but were saddened to find that thanks to all the ferry and water taxi wash, it was more bouncy that Poros! Hydra is probably a better place to visit without a small child as aside from the donkeys which she enjoyed it is really just beautiful architecture in a tiny shopping Mecca which roughly translated means “I want this and I want that” without let up!


(Please see photos near the bottom of the page.)


We stayed just one night in Hydra before realising that an anchorage was what was called for. We made for the island of Dhokos and found an idyllic spot on the North West coast with just a couple of other yachts in situ. The water was crystal clear and there were no sign of the large brown jellyfish which have been with us since Corinth. They are harmless but horrible!!! We all snorkelled for hours and just revelled in the peace and quiet of it all. We are really enjoying some short hops before heading East where we will have to average 30-40 mile days and so from Dhokos we made for Ermioni, some 8 miles away.


Ermioni is a pleasant working town with little tourism but everything a long term cruiser enjoys including a very amiable Belgium chap called Phillip who we spent a bit of time with. We relaxed here for a couple of days but with a fair wind forecast we decided to sail over to Spetse which is renowned as the island for the rich and famous and had the previous week hosted the wedding of some Greek prince. We had a lovely sail over and found a great spot on the quay on the opposite side of Batiza creek from all the action. Having found ourselves a quiet spot we were disappointed to see a noisy 52ft Princess motor yacht trying to rather inexpertly squeeze it’s way in next to us, right at the end of the day. After a shaky start they turned out to be a nice family from Athens with a little girl called Alexandra who was the same age as Libby. We dutifully toured their new vessel, cooing in all the right places and enjoyed some small talk, wine and nibbles while the girls played together beautifully.


The next day we went into the main port of Dapia and Liiby and I enjoyed a quick tour in a pony and trap or Princess carriage as she prefers  to refer to it.






That night our sleep was blighted by music from the other side of the bay which was so loud it made the boat shake and even with ear plugs and a pillow over my head, I couldn’t drown it out – our neighbours on the Princess even called the Police!


For me Spetsai has been completely ruined by exceptionally loud music at night, but worse than that during the day there is an ENDLESS cacophony of mopeds. REALLY loud ones. You can’t take a peaceful stroll anywhere without having to be on constant alert lest one of the family be flattened by one of these infernal machines. I’m not rightly sure when motorised transport was first admitted to the island, but I’m certain it wasn’t long ago. What a disaster! We curtailed our visit to “town” and fled for the relative (daytime at least) tranquillity of Wild Bird. Honestly, it makes me SO cross I just have to just share with you a picture of the offending machinery that you might share in my sorrow for paradise lost. - Rich



……and they reckon the Elgin Marbles would be in better hands…….!



We decided that with the weather forecast looking ok we would bail to Ermioni to re-provision and set sail for Kithnos in the Cyclades or Ki-kla-des as it is actually pronounced.





September 1st.


A pinch and a punch and all that……


It’s getting cooler, thank God. We’re in Ermione on the East quay. We were feeling smug yesterday when the wind was howling from the West. Now it’s howling from the East, and we’re all alone, bouncing up and down. To us though it just feels all too familiar – we were on the North Quay in Poros when the North wind blew, the South Quay in Idhra, (or Hydra) when, well ANY wind can blow it’s the taxi-boats that kick up the swell there. In short we’re used to bobbing about on our mooring, and it’s really quite good for toning the stomach muscles! The Girl we’ve observed, is developing quite a six-pack!


The local self appointed cruiser rep has been to visit. “You don’t want to be on THIS quay mate, move to that one, side-to.” He’s probably right, but we’ll ride it out for now. After all the anchor’s holding well and we have a lovely breeze coming through the boat.


After seemingly weeks of being on a town quay of some sort, we anchored in a small bay on Dhokos island the day before yesterday. Suddenly life got “real” again. It was utterly peaceful; the boat wasn’t leaping about, there were no mopeds screaming around or vans throwing up great clouds of dust just us, and a couple of other boats at a respectable distance. I finally riveted (!) Libby’s diving mask together (the strap is at the extremity) and she and Penny spent an age snorkelling among the varied and colourful fish around the boat. Then it was MY turn to snorkel with the Girl, and we must have drifted around for an hour or so. It was pleasure beyond measure. Suddenly the little three-year-old was a fully participating dive companion, pointing out fish and enjoying the underwater serenity like anyone else. We held hands for a bit and at one point she clambered onto my back for a rest. Then I could feel her little head creeping over my shoulder so she could get an underwater view without having to swim…..I just cracked up and in my laughter my mask seal was compromised and I got a nose full of seawater. This happened a few times, and I finally had to disengage and throw my head back and laugh and laugh and laugh. I haven’t been happier for a long time.


It’s been a real pleasure getting the Girl to enjoy the pleasures of the sea. I bought her a kiddies mask and snorkel back in early July and she seemed to take to it immediately in a pool. But then there were teething troubles – the strap kept coming undone, she got a nose full of water once too often and that was that. Now however, her confidence is returning and I’m on the lookout for a decent “gel” mask and self-purging snorkel that will fit her. Probably have to wait for the winter and our brief return to consumerism. (I tried to avoid the word “civilisation”.)


We appear to have an unwelcome visitor aboard. It’s that thing we all dread, and it seems to be our turn. We awoke yesterday morning to irrefutable evidence that we’d been visited by a RAT. A crisp packet had been tampered with in the saloon, and there were tell-tale droppings in the cockpit. Now as a flotilla skipper years ago, I’ve had some experience with vermin. The ONLY solution is a good old-fashioned spring-loaded death machine. However, nobody in Ermione seems to sell them. Consequently, Penny came back from the shops with a tube of something sticky and some bits of cardboard. The instructions were to put the sticky stuff on the cardboard, bait it, and leave it somewhere prominent. The rat should then await the hours of darkness, emerge from his new nest, make for the bait and get stuck in the sticky stuff. So………


Well, I’m not sure if there IS such a thing as “Ectoplasm”, or if it only exists in Sci-Fi films. But, this is the description I would give to this wretched stuff which this morning had dribbled WAY beyond the cardboard and down the engine-bay bulkhead, the companionway steps, around the inverter control panel, and all places in-between. If you TOUCH it you can’t get it off your hands. If you try to wipe it up it simply shreds the cloth. WHAT a pickle!!


What’s in a name? Ermione, (sometimes written “Hermione”) by the way is pronounced “er-me-own-ee”. Not having had a classical education, nor having mixed in circles where I might have met a real-life “Hermione”, I read the Harry Potter books pronouncing the principle girl’s name in the same fashion, “Her-me-own-ee”. It was only when a real-life “Hermione” came to work with Penny that I realised my mistake. My mistake……?? The older I get the more I realise how unimportant these things are; what most people accept to be correct should be de-facto regarded as correct. Discuss!


Haircuts abroad can be traumatic experiences. The WORST experience I ever had was actually in Germany some years ago. She was a pretty thing, but couldn’t speak a word of English; my German was very limited indeed. For some reason she took umbrage at my inability to communicate and I spent the time looking at the reflection of a very sour face indeed.

My first Greek haircut, circa 1993  was awkward in a different way. I hadn’t been briefed that you’re supposed to just get up when you feel enough has been trimmed! Maybe someone was pulling my leg.

At any rate, I needed another trim just now, so last week I went into a suitable establishment in Poros. The timing was perfect – the previous client was just leaving and I was first in line – possibly the last cut of the day. The barber had a shaggy head of hair and an unkempt beard. Around the walls of the tiny narrow salon hung the usual photos; Marilyn Monroe & James Dean etc. I told myself that a good mechanic tends to overlook the upkeep of his own vehicle. All went very well, but again the language barrier proved awkward. He was clearly not wanting to make too much of an effort this late in the day, and once I’d got past a brief exchange about the weather, we fell silent. Have you chaps ever wondered about etiquette at the barbers? I set on my face what I hoped was an encouraging but not-too-distracting demeanour. I wanted to convey that I was pleased with progress thus far, yet hoped for a great end-result, when the time was deemed appropriate by the man with the tools. Attempting to curry favour I responded like a well-oiled marionette to sideways pressure on my head as required. I looked at my reflection, modified my expression a tad, glanced at Mr Shaggy – he was using those scissors which don’t really seem to cut, just snip at a space just beyond one’s split ends. I gazed at the reflection of Ms Monroe, her skirt blowing up in that classic pose – “what big knees” I thought. This was the era before air-brush and photo-shop! The barber finished off the job with the cut-throat razor. I knew I couldn’t prevent my expression from stiffening a little, and I thought ahead to Turkish barbers – that breed who consider the job unfinished if they haven’t at least set fire to your ears!

Anyway, I guess I just think too much. The barber is a professional. It says so (I imagine) on numerous auspicious-looking certificates pinned prominently around the mirror. He’s a performer with an audience of one – or sometimes of course a full house. He’s seen it all, from grumps to plain idiots. I looked at myself again. I wonder if I appeared to be in the latter category………?



And now from recent archives………….


Penny – feeling light-headed about being in the saddle once more.

In the same way that some fast boats have to show a yellow flashing light – so it is with tourists who look like they may break unexpectedly into a gallop…….



There are no vehicles in Hydra, (Idhra) so Penny and the Girl went shopping by pony:








Law and order appeared a bit extreme on the island of Lakka, but then the notice on the old shop door gave us more of a cloooo!