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Cyclades to Dodecanese

September 21, 2016

Finally after more windy weather in Amorgos we saw a few days when the meltemi dropped down a bit and we could head for Levitha and then to Leros.  The weather forecast stayed constant for a couple of days too – so we planned to leave on Thursday 18th August.

Rox Star dwarfing the rest of us

Rox Star dwarfing the rest of us

In the meantime, we had been squished by Rox Star – a huge yacht that squeezed in next to us, we watched a big ferry heeling over as it came into port, and generally mooched about.  I took the bus up to the Chora one day – a small village on the top of the hill and very pretty.

Alixora squished by Rox Star

Alixora squished by Rox Star

One day (Assumption day) a stage was set up on the quayside for a concert.  Fortunately the sound didn’t carry too far and our night’s sleep wasn’t disturbed.  The music was OK anyway and Brian got interested in the history of guitars and balalaikas……

For some reason I had been checking passports – and found that Brian’s expires in February 2017!  That meant that we wouldn’t be able to get a Turkish visa as the passport needs to have 6 months before expiry to get one.  I put that on my “to do” list as something to urgently sort out.

We were idly scanning the harbour the day before leaving, when we saw a familiar blue yacht approaching!  Craig and Corinne on Sea Too (C 2 – get it?) and their dog Molly tied up near us and we arranged to have drinks and dinner later.  They had been a major force in the social scene in Licata and we had seen them in Vathi, Ithaca too.  We had a good evening out catching up on some of their, and our news.

We had noted that the yacht next to us had let out a lot of chain while tying up, and it looked as if it was lying over ours.  We had words with the young skipper who said he would move – and did so when we wanted to leave.  However he was on his own (his guests had disappeared in a taxi early that morning) and was rushing forward and back to get his anchor up – ending up heading back inshore and almost ramming Sea Too and messing up their and the next boat’s chains!  No idea what he thought he was doing!

Levitha

Levitha

We upped anchor avoiding his antics and set off having raised the mainsail – still on 2nd reef!  It was rather choppy for the first few miles – and then I noticed that there was a burning smell in the boat.  I looked in the engine compartment and it was a bit smokey.  Brian checked it out and cleaned up some oil that was in the engine compartment and all went well after that.  He never did find out where it came from.

The wind turned and picked up so the genoa came out, the engine got turned off, and we had a following current, so we were speeding along at 7 knots or more at times.  Way to go!   We arrived in Levitha around 3.30pm, to find most of the buoys had already been taken – obviously everyone else had picked up this weather window.  But we managed to find a vacant buoy and tied up without any difficulty.  The farmer who manages the buoys came and got our7€ and we settled in for the night.  No phone or internet signals out in the middle of the Aegean – so very peaceful!

In the morning I was watching the shore and saw groups of fat birds launching themselves off a small bank down to the rocks below, then disappearing.  Once I found the binoculars, I found they were Chukka partridges!  They were heading up a stream bed in the hill that was green with bushes.

Amazing colour

Amazing colour

We set off for Leros around 10.30, finding a lovely north wind so we had a great beam reach (i.e. on the side) for most of the trip, with only a short period of needing the engine.  Once we started to get phone signals, I called ahead to Lakki marina and booked a place for a week or more – I had to get this passport problem sorted out.

They gave us a nice place on the north/south pontoon, we signed in and I had a lovely shower – the first on-shore shower in a nice big room for a while!  I know – small things…..  We had a light dinner and drinks at the closest café to the marina which turned out to be a regular haunt.  The marina also has washing machines that I made full use of.

Lakki marina

Lakki marina

The next day we headed into town to remind ourselves of what was where.  If you remember from previous blogs (a few years ago mind) we had been to Lakki a few times but we stop in so many places we forget a lot!

House painting, Lakki marina

House painting, Lakki marina

An English chap had helped with our ropes as we tied up and I noted they were also Cruising Association members, so we introduced ourselves to Simon and Lin who use Lakki marina as a base for summer cruising.  They know Philippe and Conceciao who also leave their boat in Leros.  Lakki marina has a base at the top of the island where boats are hauled out for the winter.

Brian fixed a loose battery connection and we washed off all the grime accumulated in Amorgos.  The following days were taken up with fixing bits and pieces around the boat and having a bit of a relax.  It was the first time we had been on a secure mooring for a few weeks (with lazy lines on the front of the boat) and therefore not having to worry about crossed chains and anchors.

Lakki bay

Lakki bay

I went off with Simon and Lin and some of their friends a couple of times to the Moreno café that we had visited on the first night.  The head waitress there they call Poppy – but that is her surname (Popei or something like that probably)!  We English are so bad at foreign names.  I found out that her first name is Calliope – so I endeavoured to call her that for the remainder of the time we were there.

Calliope is supposed to be the most important of the Muses, supporting eloquence and epic poetry.  Our Calliope was a hive of industry – always rushing about serving people and was very friendly.  She had various assistants who didn’t seem to do much!  I think one of them was her son, filling up his summer vacation time I guess.

My major task was to sort out how to get Brian’s passport renewed.  A trawl of the HMPO website revealed that we could get one sent to us, but needed a proof of an overseas address.  An enquiry to their office resulted in a helpful reply (on a Sunday no less) and then various follow up confirmations that if we could get a marina mooring contract and a letter from a marina confirming that they would accept receipt of a passport, that would do.  Brian is officially “of no fixed abode” in their eyes!

Oh no - new passport needed!

Oh no – new passport needed!

The website said to allow 4 weeks for delivery, so we decided that Kos marina would be the best place to get it sent to.  I then got the marina to provide the official letter (more emails to and fro) and paid over the phone for a week’s mooring from 30th September – giving us the four weeks grace.  I filled in the online application for the passport, got the final documentation printed off for his signature, and also composed a letter explaining all the above for Brian to sign.

Brian needed new pictures with a grey background but the local photo shop said Greek passports have to have a white background so they didn’t have the right kit!  But we were directed to a larger shop in Platanos where we got the pictures taken with the appropriate background.  Phew.  Then off to the post office to send it all registered post, which we did on 31st August, tracking it to find it was delivered to HMPO on 5th September.

Palinuro

Palinuro

On about 3rd September a three masted tall ship (a barquentine) arrived in the harbour and tied up to the commercial quay.  It is an Italian training ship, crewed for this trip by 200 trainee petty officers we found out.  They opened the main deck to visitors so I toured around – amazingly intricate.  They had replaced the old engine room with a modern one though!  And air conditioning……I commiserated with one of the trainees on the amount of brass they had to polish.  He said it took all of them two days to complete before they came into port.

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On a couple of days they got the trainees running up to the spars to work on the sails.  Every morning at 8am the Italian National Anthem blared out followed by lots of bosun whistles.

We explored Leros and Lakki by foot and by car.  I started hearing Bee-Eaters after a week and thought they might be migrating birds.  Lin said, however, that she had seen them flying in and out of burrows in soft mud cliffs – so perhaps they breed in Leros too.

The big castle on the east coast looked really impressive from a distance – but wasn’t that interesting when we went to look at it close up!

I managed a walk along the coast to the west of the marina – about 5km, and spied a red backed shrike – apart from all the sparrows, crows and collared doves!  When we went out in a car we saw more shrikes, as well as Eleanora’s falcons, a couple of ravens, kestrels, a spotted flycatcher and possibly three Golden Eagles.  But the latter were so far up in the sky it was hard to tell.  We needed our friend Andrea to help us!

Coffee before a hot walk

Coffee before a hot walk

Between Mainland Greece and the Dodecanese we have lost all trace of swallows, swifts and martins – migration time already or are they just not endemic to this area?

Red Beach, Lakki bay

Red Beach, Lakki bay

It was very sad on several of our walks to find huge bomb craters around the wartime concrete defence bunkers and their remains.  One particularly poignant place on the cliff walk at the northern entrance to Lakki harbour has a small gravestone on the edge of a crater recording the deaths in 1943 of a man and his two children.  In the history, not that many local people died in the various battles so they were unlucky.

Lakki bay

Lakki bay

We discovered that the film the Guns of Navarone was based on some of the history here.  I hadn’t known that before.

Pistachio tree

Pistachio tree

It is also sad to hear of the fate of the refugees who have ended up on the Greek islands.  Various factions are fighting between themselves – those who want to help and those who want to get rid.  Simon and Lin have worked to help in one of the smaller refuges (there are also huge compounds where many of the refugees live, although they are allowed out, but most have no money) and they gave us a brief story of some of the politics involved.  Essentially they just have no knowledge of what is going to happen to them, which is totally dispiriting.

Pretty collar and bell

Pretty collar and bell

I was checking the progress of Brian’s passport application on the HMPO website, and on Friday 9th September they updated the status to despatched!  Oops.  That was 4 days for processing, not 4 weeks!  So we quickly sorted ourselves out and made arrangements to head for Kos early the next week.  We were under the impression that Brian would have to physically be present to sign for it when it arrived.

As it turned out, Simon and Lin were also on their way to Kos to meet their son for a few days.  He had a few days climbing in Kalymnos booked (just north of Kos).  They very kindly offered to book us a buoy in Palionisos bay on the east side of Kalymnos as a mid-point stop on the way to Kos.  We had never been there before and it sounded nice.  They had got there a day before us and found it was packed with Turks celebrating Bayram (Eid al-Adha) so emailed to advise us to get there early!

Small procession, Lakki

Small procession, Lakki

We turned up just before noon and saw Simon heading towards us in their dinghy.  The bay has both red and white buoys – for each of two restaurants.  He had reserved us a white one next to their boat by tying on the restaurant dinghy – neat!  We picked up the buoy and he and Lin took the dinghy back.  We relaxed for the afternoon – I swam for a change – and then went out for a very good dinner with Simon and Lin.  Three of us had goat stew which was excellent, with a couple of shared starters.  Lin had ordered fried little fishes, but the waiter (son of the goat herding owner) forgot to write it down – so she filled up on starters and Simon’s chips until the forgotten plate finally arrived!  Brian and Simon had to help finish the fishes in the end.

Palionisos Bay

Palionisos Bay

The next day they set off early, but we lazed about until about 11am, casting off in a bit of a breeze and then having a great sail down to Kos, only putting the engine on as we turned the corner into the bay.  It was pretty breezy then, and it was a relief to have the marina rib attach itself to our bow to manoeuvre us into place on B pontoon.  It was a bit of a walk to the facilities but closer to the exit and town.    The marina was very busy due to the Bayram influx from Turkey, so we were lucky they managed to change our dates. Again once we had booked in, we toured the town to remind ourselves where everything was – especially the ice cream shop on the seafront!

On Thursday 15th September the marina office called to say that Brian’s passport had arrived by courier.  In the end he didn’t need to sign for it personally – so that was a hurdle we didn’t have to cross.  What service – just over 2 weeks for a new passport to be delivered to the back of nowhere!

We are dithering on where to spend this coming winter.  On one hand Kas, in Turkey, beckons as we know it well and have friends there.  The marina suits us, is well run and there are social events – not least the Sunday walks which we really enjoyed.  On the other hand, it is much harder and expensive to get temporary resident permits to allow us to stay more than the 3 months in six that are allowed on visitors’ visas.  On the plus side, the cost of living is much lower and the exchange rate is good.  And don’t mention the politics.

Romanian Tall Ship in Rhodes harbour

Romanian Tall Ship in Rhodes harbour

The other option is the new marina in Rhodes.  I got a reasonable quote from them for the winter and we decided to get a ferry and go and have a look.  So we headed off to the ferry last Friday and booked into a pleasant hotel close to the marina.  On Saturday we went to have a look.  It all looks very nice, despite being a bit of a work in progress.  Similar to Kas though, there is no community area.  I am currently sitting in a very nicely appointed yacht club room in Kos – settees, carpets, computers and book swap shelving.  It makes all the difference.  As we headed into the office we met Graham Horne coming out!  He and Vicki were friends in Kas so we hadn’t seen them for 2½ years!  We had a quick chat and then met them for lunch at a harbour front restaurant for more updates (mostly about boats breaking down!).  They have decided to leave Turkey after 8 years and are off to Preveza for winter.

We explored Rhodes a bit in the evening – the old walled town is amazing (a maze too) and the island is large enough to be able to explore further.  However there won’t be many (if any) other people overwintering.  It is very lonely if there is no-one around to chat to, and I find it hard to go out and find new friends at every turn – a bit of a “Billy No Mates”.  Brian doesn’t much care although he did suggest setting up the skippers’ meetings last year.  We are likely to rent an apartment this year – wherever we end up – and that seems quite possible in both places as many will be empty in winter.  One option is that we can get a ferry from Rhodes to Marmaris and visit our friends in Kas quite easily as well as tour a bit more of Turkey!  The down side is the current exchange rate with the euro.

On Sunday we headed back into the old town to look at an exhibition on Nelson in the castle.  We were distracted by an archaeological exhibition in the basement before heading up to the rather grand 1st floor to look at the Nelson artefacts – which were very interesting and added a bit more flesh to the rather sparse details I had remembered.

The castle is very grand, but when you read the notes it appears that the Italians had reconstructed a lot of it pre-war – and not particularly in keeping with its original appearance.  Ah well.

On the way back through the serpentine wall gates, we did see some swifts of some kind – yet to be identified.  The first we had seen for a while.

It was soon time to catch the ferry back to Kos, we spent Monday recovering from sore feet and woke up to heavy rain today (Tuesday).  The first rain we have had since Vathi, Ithaka!  There have been a few cool days, but in general it remains rather hot and humid.  In the few weeks of sailing left to us I hope the weather holds enough to tour a bit more of the Dodecanese.

"The World" - apartment ship

“The World” – apartment ship

By the time I do the next blog, we will have decided where to stay over winter. The voting is open……..let us know your opinions.

Hello!

Hello!

 

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