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Winter Quarters

December 2, 2016

The past six weeks we have been stopping and starting up and down the Dodecanese, finally deciding to stay in Rhodes for the winter.  And it is raining again – the first rain since the last blog!

Kos Marina

Kos Marina

The day after sending out the last episode of our travels, Brian started with stomach pains – similar to those he had last February.  It wasn’t food poisoning.  We waited a couple of days to see if it got any better, then I headed off to the marina office to find out if he could see a local doctor.  Christina was very helpful and referred us to her own doctor just around the corner.  We had hired bikes and set off straight away.

Putting a brave face on it!

Putting a brave face on it!

After a short wait, Dr Papakristos saw Brian and prescribed painkillers and sent us off to a choice of clinics to get X-ray and Ultrasound carried out.  Christina gave us the map references and some advice – if the waiting room looks full, go to the next clinic!  Which we did.  Fortunately Brian wasn’t suffering too much and we discovered parts of Kos town we had never visited before.  Greek opening times apply to clinics as well as shops!  By 7pm we had managed to get the relevant tests done and headed back to Dr Papakristos armed with a large envelope full of X-ray and Ultrasound film.  On the basis of this he decided Brian needed stronger painkillers and a CT scan!  We dashed to the first clinic we had tried which was now empty.  I had to go to the pharmacy over the road to get some chemical to pump into Brian for the scan.  That done, and with instructions to collect the results on the next Monday (all this was done on Friday evening) we went back to the boat for a relaxing weekend!  We were both very impressed with the efficiency and speed of service, all done in a very relaxed and informal setting.

Kos old harbour

Kos old harbour

The painkillers seemed to work, and we headed off to the NE tip of the island against the wind, to watch the waves and look for any unwary birds – of which there were few, but we did see a spotted flycatcher as well as the usual assortment of crows, gulls and sparrows.  A sheltered spot on the east side harboured a small beach café where we stopped for a welcome frappe and a rest before cycling back to the marina with the wind behind us.

Kos old harbour

Kos old harbour

Kos has a really good set of cycle paths around the old town and out to the beaches north and south, so cycling there is quite a joy even in the wind.  It wasn’t such a joy for the charter yachts coming back in (weekend changeover) with the marineros working hard to push them into their berths.

On Monday we picked up the CT scan and had another consultation with Dr Papakristos.  He decided to send us off to a pneumologist along with all Brian’s films!  After some discussion in which we dissuaded Dr Korotzanis from referring Brian to a specialist in Athens (!) he prescribed some antibiotics and sent us away with a note to get another X-ray done in a week.  We duly did that, and the infection had cleared up a lot, so another course of antibiotics was prescribed and since then Brian has been fine!  Phew.

Pretty ship!

Pretty ship!

I had researched claiming for all this treatment under our health insurance, but in the end decided it wasn’t worth it – the surprisingly low costs of the X-rays etc and consultations weren’t sufficient to warrant the hassle!

Kos old town main square

Kos old town main square

Meantime our friends Kevin and Ann had referred us to their friends Susie and Micke on Razmataz, who had booked into Rhodes marina for a whole year.  They responded to my email and said they were enjoying it here, so along with further potential health issues we decided we should stay in Greece for the winter!

In between checkups, we headed out on bike excursions, down to the lagoons one day.  Dry lagoons I have to say!  One shrike.  Another day we cycled up to the Aesclepion – the ancient health centre on the hills outside Kos.  After sweating our way up, it was nice to relax in the shade of the trees at the entrance.  The ruins are dramatic with all the steps leading up to the main temples at the summit of the site.

We explored other ruins just outside the town as well – more Agora’s and public buildings – just the foundations still there, but buried deep with about 3m earth above them, so you are looking down into the excavations from a great height.

Ruins in Kos

Ruins in Kos

For the first time for at least a couple of months we made a big sausage stew as the “emergency” supplies were rapidly going out of date!  Most of the time however we ate out at various tavernas, each with a variety of dishes.  One near the marina that we hadn’t visited previously turned out to be very good.

More ruins in Kos

More ruins in Kos

We made plans to head north as far as Samos, against the wind but going for calmer days, and then taking advantage of the predominant northerlies to .  After stocking up with more emergency rations we set sail again on Wednesday 5th October with a push from the marina dinghy.  With the mainsail up we motored against a light NW wind, grabbing a buoy at our favourite Palionisos bay.

Yachts on buoys, Palionisos, Kalymnos

Yachts on buoys, Palionisos, Kalymnos

After putting away the sail and turning everything off, we rowed up to the small jetty and walked up the hill where visiting climbers had parked their motorbikes.  Two large raptors (Bonelli’s eagles?) flew over the top of the mountain, mobbed by crows.  We never saw them again – they might have been migrating.

After frappe on the beach from the small café where we spied tiny willow warblers flitting around the tamarisk trees, we returned to “dress” for dinner and had excellent meals at the taverna.  The father runs a herd of goats – the goat stew is amazing.  I hope they don’t have names.

Grotto in Palionisos bay

Grotto in Palionisos bay

Every morning we were serenaded by the bells of the goats and sheep setting off to their various rocky pastures at daybreak.

From the hill above Palionisos bay

From the hill above Palionisos bay

The next day, after a lazy morning drinking tea and coffee and reading, we headed back up the hill.  Brian spotted movement in the gully next to the road and saw a small owl blinking, sitting on a rock!  This time we followed the climbers’ path off the road at the top of the hill.  At the summit, the path continued down again and around the corner to the cliffs that they climb.  We were happy to sit at the top and admire the view! The next day we sailed past the cliffs and saw them all queueing up for their turn.

First of the autumn flowers

First of the autumn flowers

After a pleasant morning swim and In warm sunshine we motorsailed up to Xerokambos bay on Leros and tied up to another buoy, going for dinner at the Aloni restaurant and staying for two nights – very relaxing.

Our next stop was Ormos Grikou on Patmos – just south of the main town.  Again we found a buoy (marked Private, but no-one came to object).  We put the outboard motor on the dinghy this time and headed up to the head of the bay where we saw a taverna looking inviting.  There was a taverna on the shore near our boat, but it looked shut.  However it was decked out with white gauze and tables being set out with fancy decorations.

Alixora, Ormos Grikou

Alixora, Ormos Grikou

The Greek traditional music started at 10.30pm and didn’t stop until dawn!  A big fat Greek wedding we presume.  The music was really loud, so neither of us got much sleep.  However the band was really good – lots of swooping violin and bouzouki playing with a great rhythm backing.  So I just dozed off and on, enjoying the riff!

The next day we walked around the bay, spotting warblers and flycatchers again in the tamarisk trees, before retiring for a siesta to catch up from the previous night.  With strong southerlies on the way, we needed to hide somewhere safe, so booked a place in Samos marina where we tied up and had lovely hot showers – first on land for a week!

Passing islands

Passing islands

We had a huge dinner at Casa Roma – salad and seafood platter between us.  Some of the cafés had closed down but there were still plenty of tourists around.

With coin operated washing machines I took the opportunity to get some washing done, we washed the muck off the decks as well and generally chilled out.  The forecast looked good to go to a small island called Marathos the next day, so we tidied up and had a not great dinner in the marina as it would be an early start the next day.

Friday dawned, we checked the weather forecast and it had changed considerably with strong northerlies forecast with the attendant big waves.  So we didn’t leave as planned, but hired a car instead!  We drove all the way to the west end of the island, past the high mountain and dramatic cliffs to the end of the road.

Returning, a stop in a pretty harbour at Marathokampos for coffee and a look around, then back for gyros for dinner – yum!

Marathokambos

Marathokambos

Having a car meant we could visit the big supermarket a few kilometres north of Pythagorio to stock up with heavy stuff like water, milk and beer.  After unpacking and a quick lunch we headed off to Mavratzei where there seemed to be a nice walk up a valley.  We passed an abandoned quarry with old earth movers and trucks just left to rot.  At the top of the valley a footpath led up to the saddle leading down to the next valley.  By the time we got to the top the wind was blowing so hard we could hardly stand up!

The abandoned quarry workings, Samos

The abandoned quarry workings, Samos

We were looking at a boggy part of the footpath, when a hoot behind us made us jump out of our skins!  You wouldn’t credit that a small van could make its way up there, but it did with grinning driver and his missus coming to check out the water pipes laid down from the top of the hills.

Top of the hill, Samos

Top of the hill, Samos

Hole in the mountain, Samos

Hole in the mountain, Samos

We were definitely leaving the next day in a lull between more strong winds predicted, so headed down to Lakki marina on Leros once again with a very early start.  Marathos will have to wait for another year.  The winds were still strong for the first 10 miles or so, but after that we had a great sail, if rather cold, arriving in Lakki in good time.

We enjoyed the hot showers after the cold trip, and re-introduced ourselves to Caliope who was very pleased to see us, and to the young waitress at the cheap gyros café.  I was able to get even more washing done, and spent quite a few hours trying to use the marina wifi to download Microsoft updates to one of our laptops.

While waiting for the winds to die down we took a few walks along the road around the bay.  The small bays and pine trees are so pretty here, very Japanesery.  We also discovered a very good taverna next to the post office and had a couple of meals there.  It is getting cooler now, so we are happy to find places where we can eat indoors.

Red Beach, Lakki bay

Red Beach, Lakki bay

Another task was to get a top up to our diesel tank.  A small tanker comes to the pontoon, which makes life much easier than having to negotiate our way into fuel pontoons which we would have had to do if we waited until Kos to fill up.  It is good practise to overwinter with a full tank to prevent the dreaded diesel bug getting a foothold.  It creates a black gooey slime that gums up the fuel lines, something that many of our friends have suffered from.

It was approaching “Ochi” day which commemorates the Greeks denying Italy free passage in 1940.  The bands and dance groups were practising in the hall near the marina.

We were aiming to get to Rhodes some time before the end of October, so set off south again on the 21st, tying up at our favourite taverna’s buoy in Palionisos bay again.  It is so peaceful there – watching the tiny figures of the climbers dangling on cliff faces, listening to the goat and sheep bells, lying in the sunshine.

Twisted olive tree

Twisted olive tree

I treated myself to the last swim of the year and cleaned a bit of green slime off the waterline.  Dinner was as good as usual.  They treat us to a thick yoghourt topped with sweet preserved grapes for dessert.  Lovely.

It was getting cool at night so I dug out the duvet and put its cover on.  A couple of days later we had to take it off as it had warmed up.  Tonight I think it will be back on again.  The temperatures vary with the direction of the wind – but most of the time we are still in shorts and T-shirts during the day.

From Palionisos we headed back to Kos for a couple of nights and had a great sail that day.  Then a long 8 hour motor sail from Kos to Panormitis bay on the west side of Simi but again with a few hours of excellent sailing without the engine.  Here we anchored – first time for a while but the windlass worked fine, surprising me.

Safe anchorage in Panormitis bay, Simi

Safe anchorage in Panormitis bay, Simi

Panormitis bay is the location for a famous monastery, which has loads of visitors every day.  A trip boat left as we arrived, and then the place was deserted.  A taverna that obviously caters for the day trade was closed, so after a walk around the bay in the dark we returned to the boat where Brian served up our emergency hotdogs!

The weather was looking a bit iffy again, so we headed off the next day, quickly getting the boat ready to avoid the ferries bringing in the monastery visitors.  We weathered strong northerly squalls off the coast of Turkey as we headed east towards Rhodes, and more strong winds as we approached the tip of the island.  The waves were a bit big too, so it was a relief to get into the lee of the island and calm water.  But it was a great sail to finish the season.

Our newer laptop started to play silly games with our navigation software just on this last leg (although it had been acting up for a while) so that needs to be sorted out.  Windows 10 – we hate it!

We were guided to a berth against a rather tall quayside, went to check in after sorting out sails and getting everything switched off.  We had a frappe at the marina café where Susie and Micke were sitting with a group of friends.  We quickly introduced ourselves, but left them to continue their conversations.  After a long time without speaking to other people, it is a bit overwhelming to suddenly find yourselves in a large group!

Rhodes Marina - view from the stern

Rhodes Marina – view from the stern

Since then they and their friends have given us lots of advice and information, including taking on an apartment that is being vacated this week.  This will be a big relief – the wind turned to the north with the rain this afternoon and the swell in the marina is terrible.  It is difficult to stand up some of the time.  We will have to see if we can move somewhere more sheltered, although we had been told that it is better where we are than some of the other positions.

View from Alixora, Rhodes Marina

View from Alixora, Rhodes Marina

Update 3 days later – we have moved ourselves closer to the long pontoon to one side and have lots of ropes at every corner!  After an horrendous night on Tuesday 1st November, when lots of boats broke their ropes etc, we are staying put – we were safe if uncomfortable!

We have managed to hire a couple of bikes until we can find 2nd hand ones, and are still working out the schedule of what we will do this winter and when we will visit friends in Turkey, but bottom cleaning is a definite chore for the last couple of weeks of March as usual.

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