Tag Archives: Thassos

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!