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Life in Rhodes II

February 26, 2017

Oh dear, I really meant to get this done earlier this month, but didn’t.  Good thing I had no New Year resolutions!

A Rhodian deer - symbol of the island

A Rhodian deer – symbol of the island

So again, just an account of our “doings” here in Rhodes, from Christmas to now.  You will be pleased to hear that Alixora is now out of the water (a week ago) and safely installed on land in a safe yard.  More on that later.

So we put the Christmas lights up – both on the boat and in our apartment – and prepared for our luxury few days in the old town.  I had caught a cold but the runny nose didn’t last long.  However the lingering effects are only just abating!  Of course Brian caught it too – a couple of weeks later.

Fort at entrance to Mandraki harbour

Fort at entrance to Mandraki harbour

The day we were off to the Allegory Boutique Hotel it poured with rain.  A phone call to the manager resulted in our later arrival as he had to go and collect his child from somewhere earlier in the afternoon.  He told us that a taxi would be allowed into the old town (normally traffic is restricted to vehicles with a permit).  There is a small taxi rank close to our apartment, so I went to get one, picked Brian up with the case of clothes and we eventually arrived down narrow cobbled streets.  The room was lovely and warm, very modern with “rain” effect shower.  A lady called Voula was there as well as Nikos, to welcome us.  She directed us to a taverna Ta Petaladika for our dinner.  We got soaked both going and returning, but the food was excellent.

That should be enough!

That should be enough!

Next morning (Saturday 24th) it was still pouring with rain.  The hotel, we discovered, really only caters for visitors in the warmer months.  Breakfast would be served outside on the patio! No, we said – it is pouring with rain and freezing cold! So Nikos brought the food (mountains of it) into the room and we had a rather uncomfortable but very tasty meal – enough for both breakfast and lunch.

Eventually the rain stopped and we ventured out, walking back to the apartment to get our bikes which we parked on the lower patio, and managed to procure a few things for our lunches and snacks.  We then went for a walk finding the Grand Master’s Gate not far away which leads out to the top of the new town.

Grand Master's gate

Grand Master’s gate

Turning right, we found ourselves in the middle of the real shopping centre of Rhodes!  All the big name shops including Marks and Spencer – wow.  We didn’t know it existed! A bit more wandering around located the old market, bus station and then back to our room to prepare for Christmas Eve dinner.

This I had booked at L’Auvergne – a restaurant at the bottom of the Knights road up to the castle at the top.  It was all lit up with fairy lights, gas burners inside to keep us warm and a set menu of around 7 courses, including a bottle of wine all for a very reasonable price.  It was a long wait to get started as they waited for other diners to arrive, but was delicious when it did. Of course with 7 courses it was far too much, and we got thoroughly over full.

Christmas Eve - course 1

Christmas Eve – course 1

Christmas eve - course 5!

Christmas eve – course 5!

Towards the end of our meal the advertised pianist started – and was far too loud especially as the speaker was just by my head!  The staff moved us to another table – and later admitted that it had been too loud for them too!

Auvergne restaurant

Auvergne restaurant

Christmas Day dawned bright and sunny.  We did have breakfast outside on the patio this time, it was just warm enough in the sunshine and very sheltered.  We saved pie for lunch to go with the fruit and almond biscuits that were also part of the breakfast feast.  The previous day we had noted the moat surrounding the walls of the old town, so we headed in that direction and walked both clockwise and then anticlockwise to both ends – about 4 km in total and a lovely day to boot.  Brian went and checked the boat – we decided to go and move it further away from the quaysides as strong winds were predicted.

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Again I had booked L’Auvergne for Christmas dinner – a much more relaxed deal this time with an a la carte menu so we didn’t have to wade through mandatory courses!

Christmas dinner at Auvergne

Christmas dinner at Auvergne

Boxing Day dawned bright and sunny again.  After our usual gargantuan breakfast we turned left and headed up the hill to visit the Acropolis – a few columns surrounded by scaffolding – most disappointing.  But we headed downhill to find a huge stadium – the size on a par with the largest we had seen before.  It seemed to be extraordinarily well preserved – perhaps it had been buried under earth.  The area is a large parkland – with old rocks scattered around of course, but a very pleasant place to stroll.

In the afternoon we cycled down to the marina and moved the boat away from the quayside, changing ropes around.

For dinner I had booked a table at Koukos – a famous restaurant in the new town.  As we walked there I was feeling a bit woozy – but thought perhaps I had just eaten too much at lunchtime.  The restaurant was packed and very loud.  The food on offer wasn’t particularly enticing and just seemed to be single plates of meat or fish – not really what we wanted.  However we ordered – expecting the usual water and bread to be provided but found that it had to be ordered separately – weird.  I ended up eating half of the dish I had ordered and some bread and was feeling definitely under the weather as we returned to the hotel.  I fell into bed, curled up and stayed there for 24 hours!

Our patio at Allegory hotel

Our patio at Allegory hotel

The next day was our last day in the hotel.  Brian went down to the marina, leaving me to suffer quietly and sleep.  Voula came in the evening and was kind enough to bring me some plain bread and sesame biscuits, which was all I could stomach.  She said it was a 24 hour bug that was going around.  Brian went back to Ta Petaladika for his dinner!  The next day I felt a lot better, vindicating Voula’s diagnosis, but it was time to leave.  We cycled back to the apartment, then I walked back to collect our case and get a taxi back.

Banana tree

Banana tree

We were back in normal mode again after a very pleasant break.  Brian has been clearing out his “workshop” (as you may remember, this is in the head (toilet) outside the forward cabin). He has now taken out the toilet and pipework, giving him a lot more storage space under the worktop.  He had found some nice beechwood spars (an old chair) which made good supports for the netting that will keep everything in place.

Some days the swell in the marina was just too bad to get onto the boat.  With it pulled out away from the quay, the only access is via dinghy.  To get into the dinghy is a performance and the quayside is just too high for me to manage it, so I had essentially given up going to the boat.alixora-access

When Brian wasn’t able to get on the boat, he set himself a task to clean all the grouting in the bathroom in the apartment, and scrape and chisel away a large amount of limescale that had been building up in inaccessible places.  It looks very shiny now.  He also attacked the marble doorsills which had had old cement and varnish disfiguring them – again much improved.  I did a little bit too to clean up the tiles in the little passageway – but then it opens up into the living room and I decided it just wasn’t worth continuing!

Poinsettia tree

Poinsettia tree

And don’t you know it – the new (very cheap) kettle broke again on New Year’s eve!  I returned it to the shop a few days later.  They happily took it back and I picked a more expensive model – that one is still working.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve by going to Perche No – the Italian pizza restaurant.  We ate fairly early, and as we were about to leave, friends from the small yachting community arrived so we stayed for another few minutes to catch up on news.

Our stay at the Allegory hotel had left us with various gifts – including a bottle of white wine and blocks of chocolate that were supposed to be drunk and eaten together – some fancy foodie nonsense.  Anyway we had saved these and toasted the pre-New Year before I retired to bed before midnight!  I was awake though for the fireworks, but there weren’t many.

The A1 shipyard - before they hauled any boats out

The A1 shipyard – before they hauled any boats out

Early in the new year we had made an appointment to see the managing director of A1 Yachting Consortium.  Makis Pavlatos is also the Honorary rep for Rhodes with the Cruising Association and had offered to assist us when we reported the issues with the new Rhodes Marina.

Due to a misunderstanding of where his office was, he sent a car to collect us.  We could have cycled it turned out, but being transported was very comfortable.  Makis explained that he has taken over the old harbour south of the new marina from the local authority.  It is just next to his office building. His company is worldwide – built up from small beginnings in Rhodes, and they charter out luxury motor yachts and run marinas.  Why he hadn’t managed to do anything in Rhodes is probably due to local politicking.  I didn’t press the issue.

Such a huge travel lift

Such a huge travel lift

Anyway, he has now purchased a huge travel lift for lifting boats out, and is sorting out the harbour and yard.  As soon as they were ready they would take Alixora out of the water and assist with repairs.  The harbour is currently full of decrepit boats – from big ferries and hydrofoils to an assortment of yachts and motorboats that have been impounded over the years.  Some are sunk or sinking!  They have a lot of work ahead of them.

Motorbikes hauled out from the harbour bottom

Motorbikes hauled out from the harbour bottom

To cut a long story shorter, he has appointed a harbour manager, John (Giannis) Tsitses, who called us last week to say that they would be ready to lift Alixora on Thursday 9th February all being well.  He confirmed it the next day and suggested that we be there by 9.30am.  Hmm – feelings of panic – I negotiated for 11.30 instead!  It had rained solidly the day before, starting with a massive thunderstorm and hail at around 5.30 in the morning and not letting up until midday, continuing to rain thereafter.  So we couldn’t do any preparation beforehand.  But we managed to get down to the marina early on Thursday and it did take us over 2 hours to sort out the cat’s cradle of ropes and devices that had built up over the months.  Fortunately, the sun had got its hat on again and it was quite pleasant if hard work.

Ready for lifting

Ready for lifting

We managed to cast off with all our bits and pieces back on the boat by 11.45 with phoned apologies to John, and arrived in the slipway by 12.15 – not far.  It took another hour or two for them to sort out the lift, then another hour or so to get the cradle installed.  We were the first small yacht they had lifted, having previously taken out some big trawlers that were well away at the end of the yard.

Out of the water

Out of the water

When Alixora came out of the water there was remarkably little growth on the underneath.  The following day the yard guys pressure washed it and really there is very little we need to do to clean it up.  Amazing – thanks to the super Ecofleet 530 that Geert organised for many boats last year in Licata.  Also it seems that there is little flaking so far – we had painted the hull in epoxy primer over the remaining antifoul last year and that seems to be working. Crossed fingers!

Not a lot of week this year

Not a lot of week this year

The young guy who was operating the travel lift was really proud of his dexterity in coping with such a small boat in a big lift – he said he had trained in Italy for two months, and had been aware that small boats have a tendency to swing if movements are too fast.  They had also designed and made special supports that he declared were proof against both gales and earthquakes!  The whole support structure is bolted together to make it quite rigid.

Stands going in

Stands going in

Hulks lining the A1 shipyard harbour

Hulks lining the A1 shipyard harbour

So we were placed in solitary splendour in this huge yard.  It was very muddy and wet from the rain the previous day, so we were squelching around a bit.  John’s assistant Alex has been set up with an office in the yard, so I was able to sign contracts etc. without having to hike up to the office at the top of the hill.  We have also worked out a route that isn’t quite so strenuous to get there – but the hill out of the yard is still a chore.

The only downside is that the yard is surrounded by gypsy shanty encampments – another story of Greek laissez faire which is the subject of much shrugging and sighing.  The kids make a nuisance of themselves accosting people and begging on the main road but other than that they don’t seem to be a major issue.  The yard is surrounded by a high fence and locked gates with razor wire strung along the top and a permanent guard is now in place so it is quite secure.  Makis’ own beautiful wooden boat that Mara’s partner Ali captains is now also out of the water, so he will be making sure it is all safe.  Slowly we have more company.

Vesta preparing for lift out

Vesta preparing for lift out

We cleaned the dinghy bottom and I have brought the rather wrecked dinghy cover back to the apartment for repair.  A couple of days later I went down to help Brian fold the dinghy up and put it in its cover.  We noticed a man bringing his goat into the harbour.  He dragged it down to the quayside, threw it in the sea, and then pulled on its rope to make it swim around to the slipway they use for hauling out small motor boats.  The poor goat staggered up the ramp and stood there looking sad. The man gave it a treat, then repeated the process another three times!  So funny. We have no idea of the purpose.

I never did get a group together to harangue the new marina about the damage issues.  I went back to sort out our final power charges, and to see if we could get a refund for the last two months of our contract.  They have offered us a partial credit instead, so we can use that to take a berth at any time during the next season.  The marina is fine in the summer so we may well take advantage of it.

The harbours of Rhodes - we are now in the one near the bottom of the picture.

The harbours of Rhodes – we are now in the one near the bottom right of the picture.

Late December I had received a quote for a new mainsail from UK Sails in Turkey.  UK does not stand for United Kingdom by the way, but they have facilities across Europe.  We decided to go ahead and arranged for their representative Baris to come and measure up.  He managed to get a ferry booking after a delay caused by bad weather, and arrived one fine Friday morning in January, with an hour and a half before he had to catch the return ferry.  All went well – he was most helpful.  He had remembered us from when I got the genoa repaired at their sail loft a few years ago!  The final thing he wanted to do was to check that the triangular board that stiffens the top of the sail was the right shape or something.  He had a template that he hauled up to the top of the mast, attached to his tape measure and another line.  Then he couldn’t get it down again – oh no.  In the end we rushed around and got out our bosun’s chair and Brian and I hauled him up to the top of the mast to retrieve his template!  By this time it was almost time for the ferry, so he rapidly gathered up his stuff and we ran down to the road.  I had dashed up to the marina office to try to get a taxi – Susie happened to be in the marina café and kindly called her taxi driver friend.  Baris found the taxi and managed to make it to the ferry – apparently they waited yet another ten minutes for someone else to turn up.

Its all Greek to me!

Its all Greek to me!

Our Greek tutorial group continued for a while – then various issues meant that Mara and Elisabeth could not make it anymore.  Elisabeth has since passed on the name of her private tutor – Areti.  I have just been for my first lesson which was great – and she has given me a pile of homework that I have to complete before the next lesson on Tuesday – plurals – oh dear!  So I had better get on with this blog quick…..

One day, Mara and I went up to an apartment owned by Natalie – a Swedish lady married to a Greek.  Natalie helps Mara with her Greek – we ate crispbreads and cheese and stuttered through a few Greek phrases – many corrections on pronunciation.  Another bright and sunny day Mara and I hiked up to the Acropolis, visiting an old church in a cave and some of the underground ancient workings around the Acropolis.  It was great – we ended up back in the new town, walking back around Mandraki harbour and stopping off for coffee in the old town on the way.  A very pleasant day.

The predicted cold weather set in around the 2nd week of January.  I had joined a Facebook site called Living on Rhodes – the members were all complaining about the cold and even reported some snow on the top of the mountains.  We can see across to Turkey from the harbour and on clear days can see snow on the mountains there – it is still there and very pretty.  Everyone has said that this winter has been unusually cold – it still is but the temperatures look as if they are going up next week.

The last two weeks of January set in with rain and wind.  Brian headed down to the boat most days to check ropes and work on what he could in the interior.  He spent quite some time reorganising the eberspacher heating ducts with new piping that we had acquired some time before.  That all went well and he could at least keep the boat warm.  Another fairlead broke – this time on the side – and Brian managed to retrieve the broken bit before it fell in the sea.

Church in cemetary

Church in cemetary

Eventually we managed to get our apartment contract sorted out.  Maria, our landlady, insisted that we had to have an account on the tax office internet (Taxisnet) in order to accept the contract.  This meant finding an accountant (again Mara was so helpful with that) and getting documents to take to the tax office, get account numbers assigned and then returning to the accountants to set up our access.  Then I couldn’t work out how to access the contract anyway – so Maria’s husband dashed in one evening and with the help of a friend on the other end of the phone managed to get to the right page. Phew, that was all a bit overwhelming.  Especially as they had put the contract in Brian’s name – so patriarchal here.  Of course, the contract shows the rental amount as a much lower figure than we actually pay – no wonder the economy is in dire straits.

Cemetary near the market

Cemetary near the market

On a rare warm and sunny day towards the end of January Mara and I visited Susie – she and Micke were our first contact as you may remember they used to live on their large steel yacht in the new marina.  They now have a very nice apartment in the old town with a sunny patio where we had coffee, then for lunch went to the popular “Way Inn” in the square we had visited in September, under the huge Ficus trees.

Meeting with Susie in the old town

Meeting with Susie in the old town

We decided to give up on Windows 10 so got the HP laptop off the boat and took it to the local computer shop.  They had fixed our other laptop – twice! Once to put in a new DVD drive, and later to replace the keyboard – I had spilt coffee on it and it wouldn’t type some of the letters and numbers.  It was only a small splash but obviously fatal.  At the same time they cleaned it – it runs a lot quieter now.

Cyclists in the modern stadium

Cyclists in the modern stadium

So the HP laptop is now back to Windows 7 and we have to download all the drivers to connect up our navigation software to the GPS and AIS systems on the boat.  That is taking a while to sort out.

Arabic inscriptions at one of the old town gates

Arabic inscriptions at one of the old town gates

The last exciting thing we have achieved is to get Greek residency permits – so we can stay here forever, Brexit notwithstanding.  Reading news items, our process was a great deal simpler than that in the UK.  One side A4 application form, a load of financial documents to prove we can support ourselves, the apartment contract, translated and notarised copies of our EHIC cards and our health insurance that we have on top, four photos, and copies of our passports.

It had taken me 3 goes to find the Immigration office, but they were most helpful when I finally got there, showing me where to find solicitors for the translation stuff.  Elisabeth lent me a printer for the documentation I needed and we found a photo shop nearby.  I guess it took a couple of weeks to assemble all our documentation. When I passed it over, they were amused at the amount of financial stuff and said it was a bit overkill!  All they wanted really was the bank statement for the account we use in Greece.

These balconies are a bit shaky!

These balconies are a bit shaky!

We took our forms and papers in early February and our cards were ready by 15th.  What service!  I quietly laughed at their systems – big ledger books to note our applications and then another ledger to note that we had received our cards.  They did have computers there too but I didn’t see them being used much!

One of the big pluses of finding the Immigration office was that it was near the optician’s where I had made an appointment for eye test and eventually new specs – major expense.  And then I found Starbucks just down the road!  Bliss – latte grande with extra shot and a cake for elevenses.  What a treat.

Sunshine in Starbucks

Sunshine in Starbucks

The seafront in that area (west side of Mandraki harbour) is lined with imposing 1930’s Italian buildings housing the Port office, Post office, Police station etc, with an imitation Arabic construction incorporating a big church and presumably some administration offices over the road.  I had not realised that the Dodecanese had been taken over by the Italians way back in the 1920’s, only being seceded to Greece after the 2nd World War.  So that is why they had time to build all these imposing structures, and muck about with the Grand Master’s Palace!

Entrance to Mankraki harbour with deer statues

Entrance to Mankraki harbour with deer statues

So that is a summary of the last two months.  The lemon trees are flowering as are the almond trees, we are slowly sorting ourselves out and my Greek is coming along.  Next episode hopefully will have more news on further developments.  Our cruising plan for this year is fluid, but we will likely stay in the Dodecanese and Turkish waters  – mindful of only being allowed 90 days in Turkey.

Lemon tree flower

Lemon tree flower

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