Milos. We had planned to start our cruise around the islands with a visit to Milos but as it turns out we ended it here. Milos is a large island, with an airport, close to the mainland and that adds up to ‘tourist destination’.
The port of Adamas is the island capital and is obviously set up for tourists, busy but not in an ‘in your face’ way. It is not exactly picturesque but is pleasant enough and would perhaps fall into the ‘vibrant’ category in the evenings.
But with only one day free here, we needed the other day to do cleaning, laundry and shopping, we decided to hop on the bus to the village of Trypiti which boasts an amphitheatre, catacombs and the ruins of the ancient city of Melos where the Venus de Melo was unearthed.
And what a surprise! We got off the bus in Trypiti and had a stroll along the main street which revealed a typical Greek island town. From there we followed the signs for the Catacombs and the Amphitheatre. It was hot and all down-hill, which meant hot and all up hill on the way back!
This was the site of the ancient city of Melos which thrived between the 9th century BC to the 7th century AD. The site overlooks the small village of Klima, the site of the original port and only small sections of the city wall still remain. It was in 1820, whilst ploughing a field beneath these ruins, that a farmer found the statue that we know now as the Venus de Milo. After some disagreement over ownership the Ottoman Turks gave the statue to the French in 1821.
The amphitheatre was a complete surprise. Suddenly we were looking down and there it was! It is Roman and dates from the 1st to 4th centuries AD. Only a few rows of seats have been excavated and renovated and a section of ‘mural’ has been restored to give an impression of the original backdrop. The first rule of building an amphitheatre appears to have been ‘find a hill with an awesome view’ – if the production was awful at least you’d have something to look at!
From there it was further down hill to the Catacombs. These were an early Christian cemetery dug about 200 metres into the hillside in a number of ‘galleries’. Each tomb was in the form of an arch above the actual tomb, some larger than others accommodating whole families, rich ones obviously. When they ran out of space in the walls they dug down into the floor to accommodate more. There were some 2000 tombs but many had a number of occupants.
The walk back up to the bus took us past a very welcome taverna, the Methismeni Política. We had a gallon of water each and a light lunch, which was really delicious, included something, not entirely unlike pastel and included complimentary ice creams.
On Monday, 20 August, we spent the day doing ‘housework’ in preparation for our next overnight passage to Porto Kayio, the bay north-east of Cape Matapan. We loved our last visit and had planned to be there for Valeria’s birthday, but may use the coming settled weather to push on around the Peloponnese towards Cephalonia.
We spent another 5 days in Pali waiting for a break in the wind to allow us to continue westwards and eventually we had to settle for a ‘least worst’ option.
But staying a few extra days allowed us to enjoy one of the parties associated with the festival of the Virgin Mary. Although the main event takes place in Mandraki we were advised to head for the monastery close to Nikia for the evening. Following the religious service there is a meal of bean soup followed by Greek dancing. The meal was simple, but free, apparently sponsors wait years for a chance to provide the meal! The dancing was very informal, everyone just having a good time. What struck me was the number of youngsters taking part in these traditional dances. And it was busy, maybe a couple of hundred people and every hire car on the island parked for a kilometre along the road leading down to the monastery. The only transport we could get was a small quad bike. Very under powered and not suitable for the mountain roads. Suffice to say, never again!
Our constant examination of the forecasts gave our 24 hour window of opportunity as Friday and Saturday and we decided to make the trip to Milos, some 140 miles in one over night, 27 hour passage. The forecast was for head winds the whole way, but less than they had been, or would be.
So we were up early on Friday and set off at 6 am, just after it was light enough to see the harbour entrance and its sand bank. It was not a particularly pleasant passage. The wind was building the sea into a short chop over an existing residual swell which resulting in a short, confused sea. As the day wore on the wind was gusting to 18 knots requiring both engines to stay on course and keep up any speed, 4 knots was the best we could do!
We passed north of Astipalia at lunch time and at sunset we were passing the south western tip of island of Amorgos. As the sun went down the wind and sea dropped away a bit and our speed increased slightly. We passed north of Ios at 2 am and as the sun rose we were approaching the island of Polyaigos , just east of Milos.
Despite the less than favourable weather we arrived at the port of Adamas, as planned, at 1130 and moored to the yacht pontoon. A tiring passage and not the most comfortable but we are back on schedule with a day or so in hand, although had to skip Astipali, Santorini and Ios.
We’ll be in Milos now until probably Monday or Tuesday before the wind dies down again a bit although this next leg should see the winds from the north as we head south of west. That is a good point of sail for us, but we’ll see !!
We left Naoussa on Wednesday 13 June heading for the island of Patmos one of the northern island in the Dodecanese chain which runs down the coast of Turkey to Rhodes. It is a trip of 70 or 80 miles or 16 hours and so rather than do an overnight passage we decided to break it into two and stop over night on the island of Denousa 10 or so miles east of Naxos.
We arrived at Denousa at 6.30 pm and anchored in a small bay called Ormos Dhendro. Valeria informed me that it was a nudist beach – I had to take her word for it as there was no way I was going to grab the binoculars and give a second opinion.
But the reason we were there was that this bay was sheltered from the northerly winds which were due to die out overnight. However, just in case the wind hadn’t checked what it was supposed to be doing I set loads of alarms on the Navigation Computer and slept in the saloon where I could hear them, then got up every so often to double check.
The bay was deserted except for one other yacht and the only lights were our anchor lights. It was a cloudless night and the Milky Way was easily visible, worth loosing sleep for! Thursday saw us up at 6 am for the 8 hour passage to the town of Skala on Patmos.
Leaving Mykonos in the late morning we set off south for the port of Naoussa in a big bay on the north end of the island of Paros.
Ormos Naousis offers lots of different anchorages depending on the wind and for our arrival we had light south westerlies forecast so we found a spot directly outside Naoussa harbour and ‘dropped the hook’. We launched Windy and sought out the Harbour Master, who would help us tie up, if we arrived after mid day. The harbour was full but on the following morning a couple of catamarans were due to leave so we formed the queue and at lunch time on Friday, 8 June we shifted onto the Town Quay. Being at anchor is fine, but there are times when it is nice to sit on a Town Quay and watch the world go by. In this case it also meant unlimited water for our €15 per day and the boat was absolutely filthy. We also did a fair amount of laundry and I rinsed all our ropes; they get heavily encrusted with salt after a while!
Many places we go in Greece there is some form of dispute between the Marina developers and the Town Council resulting in a partially completed marina or one where there are berths but no facilities and no one to collect fees. On Friday morning, before we went into the port I rang the Harbour Master on the off chance there was someone in the office who could tell us if there was space. It turns out that he was the previous HM and has been ousted; he is taking court action over the running of the port. (Seriously? In Greece? How long has this guy got?) He bent my ear about the moorings not having been tested, there being no port insurance, and urged me to get a receipt! Duely warned we went in.
The set up did seem a little amateurish but they had keys to the office, right next door to the Port Police office and they have sign up saying you can pay by credit card or bank transfer to the Municipality. But the card reader seemed to have broken when the last customer used it so there was no receipt until tomorrow ……. ‘Oh really?’ I thought. But yes really! The following day the HM’s assistant came and asked me to pay by card and get my cash back! Apparently the entire system is very new, it is all electronic and there are teething problems. Not sure I hold out much hope for that Court Case!
So Naoussa. The port is very busy. It is split into three sections, one for the local fishing boats, one for yachts and one for Gin Palaces. And there is a ferry quay too. It is a really pleasant town, all narrow streets with white washed buildings and blue windows and doors The whole place is a ‘tourist trap’ but it is very nicely done and wandering the narrow streets of an evening browsing the boutiques is very pleasant. we took a wander up to the church and even found a group of teenagers practicing their traditional Greek dancing!
There is a tiny ruined Venetian Fort dating from the 14th century at the old harbour entrance and every premises on the harbour front is a restaurant, wine bar or taverna! The narrow back streets are alternating eateries and boutiques. During the day the town is pretty quiet but at night it is quite busy and to judge by the number of tables set out, in peak season it must be heaving!
Our plan was to spend the weekend here enjoying the ambience whilst waiting out the Meltemi again. But the Meltemi took the weekend off and started again on Monday so we ended up staying a few extra days. The Town Quay is not too well sheltered from the northerly winds so we spent a few rather uncomfortable days with the swell surging us around on our moorings. The boat was moving so much at times that getting on and off the gangway was an exercise in athletic coordination; the end of gangway is 35 cm wide executing a random spherical motion with a 50 cm radius as the boat surged.
And of course being on a town quay we had fun with Charter Boats. Add to the usual confusion a selection of missing mooring lines and rings and brisk winds and it was entertaining!
Scouring the weather forecasts it seemed that Wednesday was our day to push on eastwards. The winds were predicted to reach 15 knots, which means 20, from the north west, and were forecast to back further to the west and drop slowly. It looked like we may actually get “fair winds and a following sea”!
We had a nice time in Naoussa, but we’re looking forward to moving on again to the island of Dhenoussa and then Patmos, our first stop in the Dodecanese Islands on our way to Kos.
Mykonos, for me, is a bye word for the party excesses of Greek Island holidays and, although we found a couple of beach front hotels which would qualify, the actual old town of Mykonos was a complete surprise. A pleasant one; crowded, crammed with shops overtly aimed at tourists but retaining it’s original charm.
We left Delos in search of an anchorage from which we could go ashore to visit Mykonos. We tried two on the south west corner of the island but the first, in Ormos Ornos, was in front of a noisy hotel, full of private mooring buoys or too deep to swing to our anchor. The next bay along was fronted by another loud hotel and would have required using my new long mooring lines to tie back to the rocks, a lot of work for an unappealing location. Plan C was Mykonos Marina. No answer on the VHF and it was packed when we got there so we headed south, passed the Old Port (only allows super yachts dharling) and found an anchorage a half mile further south. (Plan E was Return to Rinia) We spent the night there and set off ashore in the morning.
We’d initially planned to take the tender into the Old Port but passing what is apparently called ‘Little Venice’ we saw a beach with a tender hauled up on to it; we went for that instead and dragged ‘Windy’ up onto the beach and left her tied to a rock right below the line of old windmills which are a bit of an icon in Mykonos.
The old town itself is really quite pretty, all narrow streets, white washed buildings with, generally, blue doors and windows.
Having come almost directly from the Theatre Quarter of Delos it wasn’t hard to imagine that this was how Delos may have looked back in the day!
When we found our way to the old port I was glad we’d not come this far in the tender. Very picturesque but no where in the small fishing harbour I’d have felt happy to leave ‘Windy’.
We had a rather expensive (tourist prices) lunch and then came back to the boat.
Returning I discovered that as the wind had shifted around and picked up a touch we had in fact dragged our anchor. We had made sure it was well dug in, as we do each time we drop it, and used a generous amount of chain but when there is a significant wind shift this will twist the anchor out of the sea bed and until it digs back in it drags. We gave it another good hard pull to make sure it was well and truly dug in again, and I went to physically look at it. Then we rigged the awning and spent the afternoon reading and blogging.
I have to say that Mykonos was a really pleasant surprise. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the narow back streets browsing in the shops.
Tomorrow we’re heading south to Naoussa, a town on a large bay on the north coast of Paros, to spend a few days there as the Meltemi returns. From Paros we are within an overnight passage of Kos so even if the Meltemi sets in for a fortnight we will still be there for the 22nd to meet Lu.
Our actual destination was Delos and its ancient ruins. This visit required an overnight stop on Rinia. Delos is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a 500 metre exclusion zone around it prohibiting access except during the day when yachts are permitted to anchor off the site to visit it.
Rinia, immediately west of Delos, once played the supporting role to its more prestigious neighbour. Delos has water but no other natural resources, unless you count the ‘fact’ that Apollo, and his twin sister Artemis, were born there. Their mother, Leto, promised the inhabitants good fortune there after and to an extent made true on her promise. The worship of Apollo brought Delos fame and fortune and the Oracle at Delos came to rival the Oracle at Delphi.
The bay on Rinia we chose was not without excitement. The Pilot Book mentions an under water rock in the middle of the entrance which is not on the chart. Luckily as we were approaching our chosen anchor position Valeria was forward and saw the rock just as I did, resulting in frantic hand waving and a big swerve. We could see it was a big sandy coloured rock but what wasn’t clear was just how little water there was over it. That evening we saw one departing yacht give it a really heavy clout with its keel; it did what can best be described as a cartoon ‘stop’, a loud clunk with the bows almost burying themselves in the water! Then a small power boat actually ran aground on it!!! Needless to say we left very cautiously in the morning.
But now to Delos. On Tuesday morning we anchored a short distance from what used to be the main harbour wall of Ancient Delos but which is now simply charted as ‘reefs’. As we took the tender ashore other ‘reefs’ became apparent and I assume these were the remains of the other walls which divided the harbour into five seperate basins. Once ashore and in the site we had hoped to find a tour guide, but were out of luck, there weren’t any. There wasn’t even a shop selling guide books, so all we had was a map and, basically, a very extensive pile of rocks.
The first part of the site reached from the docks is the Sanctuary. What is left is a basic ‘floor plan’ of the Sanctuary with blocks of dressed stone piled on the ground next to the buildings they probably came from. The docks stretched further south to where we were anchored, and inland from them was the Theatre Quarter.
This part of town below the Amphitheatre actually has walls still standing and you can walk along the narrow streets and into some of the villas.
There are a lots of mosaics still in place and render and plaster is still evident on some of the walls. Apparently the outsides of the buildings were painted white, while the insides were more richly decorated, depending on your wealth!
Some buildings actually reach roof height and have been re roofed for protection. Unfortunately the remaining plaster on the walls inside has been allowed to rot and collapse onto the mosaic floors which are virtually indistinguishable now.
Overlooking the Theatre District is the Amphitheatre, still impressive but much degraded and above that, on the slopes of Mount Cynthus, are a series of temples dedicated to foreign gods. On top of Cynthus is a temple to Zeus, Apollo’s father.
As with other sites we’ve been to there is little in the way of explanation. There are no guide books on site and what plaques there are simply describe the building. The museum houses a host of sculptures, statues and mosaics, but again little information; there wasn’t even a gift shop on the way out!
(I found a Guide Book in Mykonos and this is a summary of the history of Delos) There were people living on the island in 2500BC and a thousand years later the Mycenaeans adopted the island as the birth place of Apollo. It retained it’s religious significance through the political upheavals of the era apparently maintaining a general neutrality, although the primary influence on the sacred island was Athenian.
In the mid 6th century BC the first of a number of ‘cleansings’ took place; it was decided that no one should polute the sacred site by being born or dying on the island. Eventually all the graves were emptied and moved to Rinia, apparently on the bay in which we anchored. Pregnant women and the dying were transported to Rinia to give birth or die. There is a suggestion that allowing no births there also prevented hereditary claims to the island.
By the 6th century BC Delos had its own coinage and became so important to the Athenian League that they established their Treasury there, moving it to the Acropolis in 456BC for security. As Athenian power waned the Macedonians held sway and in 345BC Delos declared it’s independence. The islands prosperity increased and wealthy merchants and ship owner from all over the world flocked there.
In the3rd and 2nd centuries BC Delos became a thriving centre of trade, including the slave trade, laying in the middle of the major north /south and east / west trade routes. In the 2nd century BC the Romans took over the island having defeated the Macedonians and promptly gave it back to Athens. Athens declared it a free port and it’s fortunes continued to rise; until 88BC. Delos appears to have abandoned it’s neutrality and sided with Rome in their war with Mithridates, the King of Pontus, who sacked the island and virtually destroyed the city. The Romans began to rebuild Delos but in 69 BC it was attacked again by any ally of Mithridates who destroyed most of what was left. The Romans, rather belatedly, built a wall around what could be saved but the city’s declined continued. Other ports and trade routes developed in the wider world around Delos and it’s religious significance dwindled. In 3AD came the final insult when Athens tried to sell the island, but no one was interested.
The island then slipped into obscurity. It was settled sporadically in the following centuries until the Turkish occupation in the mid 16th century when the island became a base for pirates during the Ottoman period. It also became an important source of building material, the marble was used for making lime and the Bronze clamps used to secure the marble blocks were also recycled! It is quite amazing there is anything left at all really.
Delos is a magnificent site, although we couldn’t truly appreciate it without a guide or a guide book. It was well worth the visit but I had to wait until visiting Mykonos before I could find a guide book!
Finikas is a small port in a bay on the south west coast of Syros and offers shelter from the Meltemi. We planned to spend the weekend there before moving on to Rinia, Delos and Mykonos.
Although there is a town quay, with memories of Merikha still fresh in our memories, we prefered to anchor and watch the fun. It also transpired that to berth there would cost €23 per night, including water and power. Not a fortune but it is a light meal with wine at a taverna, and now the generator and water maker are fully operational we are self sufficient in water and electricity as long as we have diesel.
There is not really much in Finikas but it is a very pleasant spot to spend a weekend. It is small with a lot of hotels and holiday villas, has a nice beach, a few tavernas and a supermarket (with lettuce). There is a small chandlers where I managed to find two bits I needed and a bakery for a cheese pie!
We went ashore in the tender, had a walk around, took some photos then sat in a taverna, with it’s own quay, and used their WiFi over a glass of wine. First thing Monday morning we visited the supermarket then headed for Rinia, the island close by Delos.
We have spent almost 2 weeks with Graeme and Jayne but Friday morning, 1 June, it was time to say our farewells. The Meltemi was abating slightly and we both wanted to be on our way, Scarlett headed north to Olympic Marina to collect a package and ourselves east towards Syros on our way to Kos.
After our farewell meal the previous night we said our good-byes again and then set off. It was rather a sad departure as we’re not entirely sure when we’ll see them again as our plans diverge significantly now, but you never know, it is a small world.
Syros is the next island east of Kythnos and we expected it to take us 5 hours to get there. We left Merikha dead on 9 am knowing we’d have to motor into the wind along the north west coast of the island. Once clear of Kythnos we were expecting northerly 20 knots winds which would enable us to sail across to Syros. The wind picked up as expected, died away then came back with a vengeance, hitting 30 knots with a few stronger gusts. This required both reefs in the Main Sail and taking in some of the Jib too. Suprisingly our weather forecasts didn’t predict Force 7 winds, if it had we’d have stayed put. So we had a bit of a rough ride for a few hours although the boat was handling well, even reefed down we were making 5 knots.
As the afternoon progressed the wind began to drop to a constant 23 knots, Force 6, from the north and then dropped to 16 or 17 knots, a gentle Force 4 or 5, from the north west as we approached Syros. As the wind dropped so did the sea and the ride became easier. I rolled out the Jib fully and we should have taken out the reefs in the Main Sail as the wind dropped, but I decided not to suggest this to Valeria as she wasn’t enjoying herself that much. So we bimbled along in gradually smoother and more comfortable seas, still making 4 knots, until we arrived in the lee of the headland sheltering Ormos Finikou, our destination for the weekend.
Dropping the Main was easy as it was mostly down any way and we found ourselves a spot to anchor off the town quay on the edge of a field of mooring buoys. We had no intention of going onto the quay after our week in Merikha. As soon as we anchored Valeria produced a delicious chicken curry she’d managed to prepare once the conditions calmed enough to allow her to stand in the galley unaided!
We will now wait here until Monday as the Meltemi does an encore before it takes a well earned rest for most of next week but it is scheduled to return at the weekend.
Arriving in Kythnos was ‘officially’ the start of our summer cruise and, after cutting through the Corinth Canal, we were back on schedule. Moving from our over night anchorage into Merikha we found ourselves somewhere sheltered from the Meltemi. The forecasts suggested we’ d be there for 4 or 5 days ……. 1 week later we were still there, waiting.
The plus side to this enforced stay was that we could spent the week with Graeme and Jayne as neighbours, going out for meals, entertaining on board and generally assisting each other with the ‘challenges’ presented by the dreaded Charterers. It was really great that our paths crossed for so long.
Merikha is a relatively new town built around the port catering for the ferries and coasters which keep the island supplied. It also provides a small harbour for fishing boats, a town quay and an anchorage for visiting yachts. Ideal we thought. Shelter from the weather, a pleasant town and the opportunity to explore a bit of the island. Oh how wrong were we! Well, sheltered yes, pleasant town, yes but the place is infested with charter boats whose anchoring and boat handling skills are second to everyone’s, absolutely everyone’s.
It was such an issue that we were not willing to leave the boat during the day in case boats arriving or leaving hit us or took out our anchor! When not directly involved it was rather amusing!
Merikha is quite busy but pretty quiet despite all the comings and goings. Mercifully there are plenty of tavernas in which to recover from a stressful day; our favourites were the Ostia Restaurant, and Taverna Yalos Byzantino.
The Ostria was our ‘local’, not 40m from the boat. Their WiFi wouldn’t quite reach across the road so we had to go there to get a signal, and a glass or two of wine, and a snack, or a coffee; it would have been rude not to!
The Taverna Yalos Byzantio was our favourite place for meals. The owner, Costas, was a very engaging character who promised we would pay nothing if we didn’t like the food. Well, obviously we told him the food was terrible ….. but the empty, licked-clean plates told a different story! Twice we ended up with a bottle of wine on the house! Excellent place! One of his waiters by the name of Sam, a good old London boy, was thrilled that he could pick Valeria’s brains about Brazil. He’s a bit of a world traveller in the winter and has been to Rio and São Paulo but wants to visit Manaus and ended up with a few pointers! We had a couple of excellent nights there and had our farewell dinner with Graeme and Jayne there too.
I found a great bakery and went there every morning for my breakfast cheese pie. He had a whole variety of these, including one with a beef burger inside, and I managed to try one of each in our 7 days there, so, yes I did eat all the pies! The mini markets had all the supplies we needed, although the lettuces were very poor; Valeria can’t wait to get to Kos!!! The butchers were very simple, a shop with a large cold storage, a counter and a meat mincer; and you can buy what they have in the fridge, right down to the last half chicken in the village!
There are worse place to be stuck for a week waiting out the Meltemi. Although the harbour offers protection from the wind, the swell it pushes into the harbour makes the quayside a sometimes uncomfortable place to be. But the real aggravation was the frequent arrivals and departures of the charter boats which effectively kept us on board, on watch, and meant this was not our most relaxing port of call!
Merikha is really nice, in calm weather it would be lovely, but then that is why it is so popular with Athens based charter boats.
We left Korfos mid morning on the 22nd and headed east for the island of Aigina, planning to anchor on the south coast, but the weather had other ideas so we ended up in a bay on the west coast just north of the town of Perdika for the night.
Grahame, Jayne and Islabela came to us for an early BBQ. They brought Isabel across in her cat box because apparently she was crying when they left ……. worse than having kids! But once on board Isabel went exploring, then had a well earned rest, while we ate and chatted before having an early night ready to set off for Kythnos at 6.30 the following morning; a 50 mile, 10 hour passage with the likelihood of some 10 to 15 knot winds from the north and north east.
Wednesday started calm and hazy and, although we set off together, we soon lost sight of Scarlett as Graeme and I had differing sailing plans. With the expected winds I planned to head north to get up wind for an easier sail when the wind picked up. It almost worked. When the wind did start it was a steady 15 to 20 knots but for most of the trip the wind was exactly on the edge of our ‘no go zone’, effectively in front of us, rather than the forecast favourable beam winds. It did move round just enough for us to be able to motor sail into it and keep up our 5 knot average; trying to simply sail in these winds gives us about 2 or 3 knots, depending on the sea state, but not in the right direction! So we slogged it out and in the last hour or so, just to make a point I suppose, it started to rain! Nothing torrential, just enough to cover the decks in fine red sand, which began to ‘bake on’ when the sun came out and the wind dropped as we got into the lee of Kythnos and we met up with Scarlett again.
Our intention had been to spend the night in Ormos Fikiadha, the famous and picturesque Sand Bar Bay. This is effectively a channel between Kythnos and a small island but the channel is blocked by a narrow sand bar beach making two bays. The trouble with picturesque bays are that they are popular and on arriving we found the bay a jumble of anchored yachts, two of which managed to foul each other’s anchors and were laying rather haphazardly alongside each other. Most amusing from where we were, but this prompted us to shift to Plan B and go along to Ormos Apokriosis, not half a mile east. This is a large, quiet a bay which boasts 3 tavernas, a church and a scattering of 6 houses, and lots of goats!
In the morning we set off again at a more reasonable 10 am for the half hour run round to the port of Merikha intending to settle ourselves on the Town Quay to wait out the expected Meltemi due to blow in force until early next week. Just as we arrived a number of boats were leaving, exactly as we’d hoped, and both we and Scarlett tied back to the quay next door to each other …. and then went for a debrief in the nearest Taverna, the Ostia Restaurant.