Tag Archives: Thassos

Anavissou to Thassos by Steve Parks

There was no sign of liveliness in the water from the storms the night before, and it was crystal clear. The winds had dropped away completely so we motored out of the harbour that we’d sheltered in.

We were all a little groggy from the interrupted sleep of overnight watches — and welcomed the soft early sun, and the fresh breeze on our faces.

A pair of boats crossed our path in the distance, but fairly soon we were well away from the island, and the only vessel in sight.

The favourite moments of the trip for me were like these. Wide open sea, big blue sky, and the sound of the twin bows breaking the waters as we skimmed the surface.

I was on watch and spotted something in the water at twenty degrees port (as we’d been taught by Chris to say, rather than something like “at eleven o’clock”). I took the binoculars and found slick black backs breaking the surface.

“Dolphins!”, I gave the alarm, and the others rushed up to the bow.

A short while later we could see them with our own eyes, jumping and diving. Playing, or fishing? But then they seemed to spot us too, and the pod dived and swam together under the surface towards us.

One by one each dolphin burst from the surface in front of the boat, and we could watch through the clear water as they dived and rolled beneath us. They seemed to be playing with the boat, racing us.

It was both hypnotic and exhilarating to watch, and something we were lucky enough to see a few times in our week on board the Windependent.

And what a special week it was. We’re keen to learn to sail so Chris very kindly spent a lot of time coaching us through what we need to know to be good sailors, and to pass the RYA Day Skipper exam. We learned about the boat, navigation, the rules of the water for avoiding other craft, knots, man overboard, using the dinghy and much more.

As well as learning it, we got to try it out too. He would let us take time at the helm and on watch. We had some days where we had to motor because the winds didn’t favour us, but others where we’d have the mainsail and code zero up, and making over 5 knots. That was exhilarating. It was so lovely to switch the engines off and only hear the sound of the sea.

But even better, Chris and Valeria are fantastic hosts, so there was great food and good conversation on board too. How Valeria manages to cook full meals in the tiny galley as the boat rides their waves is a minor miracle, and that the food is so tasty just makes it more so.

Our journey took us to a few different islands (you’ll find Chris’s own blog documents the places and journey better than I can, so I’ll just share our experiences), but one of our favourites was the port of Linaria on Skyros. It was tended by a dedicated and kind harbourmaster called Sakis, who took great care of the water, the quayside, and the visitors.

We stayed a few days here, relaxing in the little port’s cafes and restaurants, and then hiring a car to explore the island.

The sailors on the neighbouring boats were also lovely and joined us on board Windependent for a barbecue one night, during which a lot of Greek wine was consumed. It was a great evening.

But the biggest adventure came near the end of our time on board. To boost our experience we decided to do a night sail. The forecast was good, there was an ideal route to take, and the plan was set.

We adopted watch shifts, so that we could take clear time to rest and sleep between being on shift — and then be very focused when we were on watch.

At some time after midnight, I was off shift in my bed below deck, dozing. I notice that it was getting really quite bumpy. The boat must be riding some higher seas than we’d seen so far, pitching and yawing. I could hear the waves smacking the bow.

But I knew that Chris and Zeynep were on shift, and the best thing a crew member can do when they’re not on watch is to stay out of the way, resting so they are fresh and ready to take over later. I dozed back to sleep.

I was woken a while later by Zeynep who asked me to come upstairs because there was a storm.

When I got on deck the view was scary and beautiful. There were separate local thunderstorms in different places on the horizon, their lightning intermittently illuminated the dark rolling sea beneath us. The winds had reached 30 knots, whipping up the water, and adding to the noise from the thunder.

We’d roll over the high swells, and back down.

I took a seasickness tablet, and put on a harness so I could clip onto the boat — to ensure I didn’t have to be one more thing for the skipper to worry about.

Chris consulted the chart and the horizon, and developed a plan. But the storms were moving around, and the effect between them made the wind and sea unpredictable. In the end he decided we should head for a harbour rather than continue on — but the harbour was still a few hours away.

Zeynep went to bed at this point so she could sleep and be fresh for taking an anchor-watch shift once we got to shelter. Chris was keen for us to keep watch as we’d have laid anchor in the dark. She slept well, despite the storm — probably because she was being rocked so much.

It’s wise to be wary of the sea and the weather, but a boat like this is built for much harsher conditions – and Chris is a very experienced sailor. So I just kept calm and enjoyed the view. There was a rare and raw beauty to it all. The power of the sea, the isolation of being so far from shore.

We’re keen to sail more in future, and will be sure to encounter storms — so I was actually really glad to have our first storm experience now while Chris was the skipper.

We eventually made harbour in the early hours of the morning and managed to get a few hours kip.

But then the sun was up, the water was smooth, and it was time to get out there again — and see the dolphins.

Thanks to Chris and Valeria for an amazing week, great hospitality, and delicious food. We can’t wait for a chance to get out on the water again.

Steve.

Chris in the tender, motoring back to Windependent at dawn after dropping us off at the start of our journey home

Anavissou to Thassos by Zeynep Yalcin

It took me a while to get used to being on land after we left Windependent… I still remember the last time I saw her from the ferry… She was beautiful.

Time to time when I close my eyes I feel like I am rocking on a boat. I smell the sea when I take a deep breath in. I cannot help myself but smile when I think of the dolphins racing with Windependent. I keep having flashbacks of beautiful sunsets, waves, colourful skies, moonlights, delicious meals and great conversations.

One month passed and I clearly remember the delicious Martinis, Greek wines, Turkish song playing in the showers of Lineria port on Skyros, beautiful Greek coastline reminding me Turkey, colourful and beautiful cruising sail which became remedy for my sea sickness within seconds, Valeria’s deliciously cooked meals that made it even more like at home ( I did not know Brazilian and Turkish cooking have so many similarities), pretty Greek restaurants, fried feta cheeses, fried calamari, Greek salads, barbecue night with Paul, June, Claude, Sakis, his wife and daughter, blue lights of Lineria port, disco music keeping me awake from 3am to 5am while anchor watching in Limnos, narrow & pebble stoned streets of Greek islands, the view from the castle on top of the Skyros island, Valeria’s arrival location instructions (was very informative!), learning how NOT to start the engine of a tender, laundry compartment of Windependent where I could easily adapt to as a home, diving to see the hulls and engines of Windependent and swimming to see other boat’s engines and hulls to compare – something I never thought would be interesting.

I started to take a few photos of Windependent the first day and then I could not drop my camera. Every time I looked around, I found something else beautiful. I wish I had my other camera and underwater case for it to take the photos of the hulls, keel, rudder and the engines.

Being an advanced diver who is in love with the sea, I always wanted to learn sailing but could not find a chance for years. It was very special to learn sailing from Chris and I cannot imagine a better way of learning it. I cannot thank enough for the time he dedicated to show us almost everything. I still remember the knots and I can do them behind eyes closed :).  I hope one day we will dock our own sailing boat next to Windependent and invite Chris and Valeria for a barbecue.

What if we need to navigate without electronics?
I can’t stop smiling…
My final shot of Windependent from the ferry.

Thassos with Dave and Jane

Thassos has been one of our ‘destinations’ since we bought Windependent, not from an overwhelming desire to visit the island itself, rather to visit an ex colleague who was due to retire here a short while after I retired. Just over 2 years ago as I left work I said to Dave “See you in Thassos!”, and here we are.

After dropping Zeynep and Steve off in Prinos we waited a short while for Dave and Jane to join us for a trip round to Liminari, the new marina 1 mile from their new home. Although the Pilot Book description of Liminari referred only to the small inner fishing harbour Dave assured me that bigger boats were using the newly built outer harbour.

Liminaria harbour

Dave was correct on both accounts; the marina is very new, in fact a building site, but you can tie up to the brand new quayside. It is so new in fact that there is no water, electricity, diesel or anything other than construction plant! But as there is nothing here it is free to berth and we do have a generator and watermaker!

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and, for the first time in ages we have no specific plans for our next voyage, other than ‘sailing south’. We’d come all this way to meet up with the newest residents of Thassos and, having not seen Dave in 2 years we had no intention of rushing!

Right from the off we were made so welcome. Dinner with the ex pats on Sunday, use of Jane’s washing machine to save our water, being taken to the supermarket for a big supply run, meals both at their house and a selection of their many local restaurants. Having been visiting here for so long they know all the right people as well; for instance a local hotelier who arranged a delivery of 200 litres of diesel for us within 5 minutes of being asked! And his cousin owned a hotel close to the marina who was happy to let us fill our 10 litre ‘water bags’ a few times giving us an extra 60 litres of water. It is always who you know!

We hired a car on Wednesday and took a tour of the island. The scenery is more dramatic on the eastern, more mountainous, side whereas the west side is relatively flat.

We briefly visited a Greek Orthodox monastery but our main destination was ‘Old Thassos’, Nea Limani or Limenas depending on who you spoke to or what you read. This was the location of the archaeological museum and some unexpected ruins. Archaeological sites here are mostly unimpressive, but this was a surprise. We found our way in by accident by the back gate and turning a corner in the field of rocks we found monumental pillars and foundations. Quite impressive.

But the museum was even better. Thassos has been of strategic importance for millennia. In antiquity when sea trade operated almost exclusively along the coast a large island on the coast between Greece and the Levant controlled those trade routes and prospered. The island became a trading centre, had its own navy and established trading posts as far afield as what is now southern Bulgaria. I could have spent all day there! Really very unexpected.

Village of Kastri
The Road to kastri

On Thursday Dave and Jane drove us up into the mountains to visit the old village of Kastri. The village has been occupied since antiquity as a safe haven from pirates and raids on the coast; common with all the places we have visited recently. It is a collection of stone built houses, standing and collapsed, with magnificent views. It has benefitted from an EU funded new road, being a tourist site, and has also acquired some new houses, holiday home it would appear, but it is still very isolated.

The village also has an Ossuary next to its church; we’ve never seen one of these before. Probably because soil is so valuable fro crop growing, you don’t want to pollute it with dead bodies, so after 5 years the graves are opened, the bones removed, placed in the Ossuary and the grave site reused. Families can maintain a box in the Ossuary but many don’t and the building is filling with loose bones. Ironic that on an island with so much marble, there are no graves for head stones!

We also visited a small restaurant, way off the beaten track in an old mill near to Theologis. A lovely spot for lunch. On our way we had a look in a folk museum, all wooden farm tools and looms, but I did learn that until Greek Independent in 1821 the island was ruled by Egypt!

On Friday Dave and Jane came to join us for the day and we went for a motor around to Aliki. Aliki itself was full with day trip boats so we anchored in a bay next door and spent the afternoon swimming, having a BBQ and sunbathing before returning for a couple of beers in another of their haunts close to the marina.

Saturday was supposed to be our day of departure but thunderstorms were forecast so we decided to stay one extra day. Although we were in no hurry to move, the construction crews had had enough of us ……. on Saturday they put up “Construction Site -No Mooring’ signs beside the boat and on Sunday the red and white tape appeared! No rush until Monday, but it looked like it was time to go.

The thunderstorms never materialised but we did spend a very entertaining last night with Dave and Jane, playing a rather complex board game called Tic Tac, I think, and sampling some of Dave’s port; a great end to a brilliant week. So a big thanks to Dave and Jane for making us so welcome. Thassos is a lovely island and we can see how it would be very easy to retire here.

Farewell to Zeynep and Steve

We had a late start on Friday only intending to make our way round to Nea Limani, or the town of Thassos, a 5 hour trip. I sent Dave a text telling him of our plans and he sent back one saying ‘we had a thunder storm here last night, shook all our olives from the trees’. Do tell ……….

As this was to be the last day of my temporary promotion to Senior Crew Guy, heaving up the anchor was simple, I just gave the tool bag to JCG Steve and asked him to do the honours! Dead easy.

We left Akili at 1130 and immediately found sailable wind, but we had to motor after an hour or so as the wind dropped and moved round to the south east, behind us.   This unfortunately left the swell which simply had the main sail banging from side to side, so we lowered it completely.

But the wind kept rising and, having mentioned the Cruising Chute often enough to Zeynep and Steve I figured we’d get it out and try to fly it. Unfortunately the motion of the boat in the swell had got to Zeynep, strange on her last day, but she perked up at the mention of the Chute.  Steve and I dropped the Code Zero into the sail locker, hauled out the Chute, rigged it, hoisted it and deployed it.   The wind was only about 8 or 9 knots but it was quite enough to fill the sail and get us moving.   We had it up on its own and even managed a gybe, Senior Crew Guy on the helm, Junior Crew Guys on the sheets. Again Zeynep was taking fantastic photos!

We reached Nea Limani at 4 pm and tied up. There was nothing on the jetty at all in the way of electricity or water and no sign of a Harbour Master. I figured they’d find us and Steve and I started bagging the Code Zero and the Chute. Next thing we knew was Dave and Jane arrived!  My last words to Dave as I left work 2 years ago were “See you in Thassos!”, and we did!!   They came on board and we showed them around

In planning our arrival I figured that Nea Limani, a ferry terminal, would be ideal for Zeynep and Steve. However; with local advice and some Internet research it transpired that Prinos, about 10 miles further round the island was better and if we got there that evening they could get the 7.30 ferry on Saturday morning, giving them more time in Thesaloniki. Apparently Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, was born there and Zeynep had always want to visit his museum.

So, Dave and Jane left, we slipped our moorings and motored swiftly round to Prinos and anchored for the night, going ashore for dinner, beaching the tender directly across the road from Zorba’s Taverna. It was a pleasant last evening together, but not too late as we had an early start in the morning.

I was up early to make sure the tender had fuel and was clean then at 6.30 started ferrying Steve, Zeynep and their bags ashore to the jetty directly opposite the ferry.   We said our goodbyes and that was it, back to being just Crew Guy.   I returned to the boat and began to write up the Log from the day before and read the last log entries by Steve and Zeynep saying how much they’d enjoyed their trip. Very touching and much appreciated.

Windependent from the morning ferry from Prinos

Thanks to Zeynep and Steve for their company and help (and my temporary promotion) making for a great trip through the Agean.

Overnight passage to Thassos; thunderstorms and dolphins

Last morning coffee in Linaria

After 3 days in Skyros it was time to move on towards Thassos.  We had spent slightly longer here than was originally planned and so we decided to skip our stop over in Limnos and head straight for Aliki, a small anchorage on the southern coast of Thassos.   As Steve and Zeynep both wanted to do some night sailing we decided to do an overnight passage and spend the following day in Aliki, resting and swimming.  That was the plan at least.

Stenon Valaxa

We slipped from Linaria at 10 on Wednesday, the 14th, and set off west across Kolpos Kalamatsis towards a narrow channel between Skyros and the island of Valaxa, the Stenon Valaxa.  This is 125 metres wide and has 5 metres of water and, although we went cautiously, it was far from the Pilot Book description of ‘scary‘.

Steve checking the set of the sails

Once through we hoisted the main sail and turned to a more northerly course and motor sailed passed the bays we’d visited yesterday.  By mid-day we were sailing along the north west coast of Skyros and heading for Thassos with the Main and Code Zero set making 5 knots.  We were in no real hurry, as long as we arrived before sunset; I don’t like entering small bays at night!  Zeynep and Steve started their watch keeping routine of 4 on 4 off during the day and 3 on 3 off over night.

By mid afternoon the wind had died away and we motored. I took the opportunity to show both Junior Crew Guys how to plot Latitude and Longitude on a chart and how to take visual positions with a hand bearing compass.   We then went through their RYA Competent Crew book to make sure we’d covered as much of it as we could.  Between lessons Zeyep took more photos.

As the sun set the wind died away even further and Valeria noted thunder storms and lightening away on the horizon to the north and west, we had calm seas, good visibility and partly cloudy skies. .

The calm before the storm

I was called at just after 11  pm as the wind suddenly shifted to the east and began to increase.  We began to lower the main sail and as we did so a squall hit us, and that set the tone for the rest of the night.   The thunder storms were now on top of us with wind now gusting to 30 knots carrying rain.  Although the sea was not that bad we were making little head way north and I decided we’d make for Limnos after all and hide in the port of Merini.   With the wind now mostly behind us we were flying along at up to 7 knots, rather than the 3 knot struggle into the wind.   By 3.30 we were entering Merini harbour (so I got my night entry as well) with the weather dying away as we anchored with a couple of other yachts in the harbour.

The thunderstorms had moved down to us with no warning at all.  At 11pm Zeynep had written in the Log “winds dying away”. Thirty minutes later we experiencing 30 knot winds!  So it looks like we were destined to go to Limnos after all.

Although a little scary, Valeria would use differant adjectives,  the boat is capable of weathering such conditions with ease.  But thinking of the Ancient Greeks in open boats with no navigation aids it must have been a pretty terrifying experience.

By daylight the storms were gone and calm weather had returned so we decided to push on for Thassos as originally planned, heaving our anchor at 7.30 and resuming our passage.  There was no sign of last night’s bad weather, the wind was absent, the seas mirror smooth and best of all we had dolphins.  The water was so still and clear it was as if the dolphins were flying alongside us rather than swimming below us.   You only knew there was water there when they broke the surface! Magical!

The rest of our run up to Aliki was calm and uneventful and we arrived at 4.30, anchoring in a very small cove off a beach covered in sun umbrellas and beds.  We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling and then went ashore in the tender for dinner in a Taverna over looking the cove.

Not exactly as planned, and a bit more stressful, but that was all a distant memory now, filed away for the next time we need some stories of daring do!